Commentaries

Rochelle Owens

'Everlasting Duration,' in memory of George

George Economou (1934–2019)
George Economou (1934–2019)

You are sitting down

to a late lunch

in my castle on a hill

 

while a jazz trio plays

You are sitting down

to a late lunch

in my castle on a hill

 

while a jazz trio plays

 

then suddenly

a chemical reaction

takes place —

 

Boat Ride on West Lake (Pastoral)

 Nie Zhenzhao asked me to write a poem about West Lake in Hangzhou, a frequent subject of Chinese poetry. He wants to do a collection of poems by foreigners about West Lake. 

Boat Ride on West Lake (Pastoral)

What happened to you?: On what is lost and what is possible in exile

An Interview with Sheila Black

Sheila Black, a woman with dark hair and a black top smiles at the camera

In the poem, “What You Mourn,” Sheila Black twists the notion of disability as loss: the assumption that all disabled people were once nondisabled and watched their ability slip away. This assumption is found within questions often asked of disabled people such as: “What happened to you?” What happened to Black, what her speaker mourns, is not becoming disabled but losing the body she knew well at the hands of a doctor who straightened her legs.

Crippled they called us when I was young
later the word was disabled and then differently abled,
but those were all names given by outsiders,
none of whom could imagine
that the crooked body they spoke of,
the body, which made walking difficult
and running practically impossible,
except as a kind of dance, a sideways looping
like someone about to fall
headlong down and hug the earth, that body
they tried so hard to fix, straighten was simply mine[1]

Review of Ahmad Almallah's 'Bitter English'

Review of Ahmad Almallah, Bitter English (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019), 87 pp.

He stumbles as he says pretty much anything to himself — always while successfully conveying such stumbling to us. He feels that he owes everything to one place but knows that that place is “not here”  not the here of the place where he writes, not even the new “here”-ness the poem makes. How can a poet occupying the space of a page, the classic “here” where even a lost poet can call home, be alienated even from that “here”? The typical poetic existential “here I am” becomes a matter, always, of forgetting and remembering both. (It’s significant that one of the muses here is the poet’s mother, she who suffers from memory loss.)

 

Review of Ahmad Almallah, Bitter English (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019), 87 pp.

Note: This review was given as an introduction to Almallahs reading at the Kelly Writers House on October 15, 2019.

Runa Bandyopadhyay: The Bernsteinian paradox

I very much appreciate Runa Bandyopadhyay's response to Near/Miss together with her translation and commentary on "Thank You for Saying Thank You" and "Thank you for Saying Your're Welcome," in Aparjan.com (Kolkata, W. Bengal). I initially posted a rough Google translation of the Bengali essay, which prompted  Bandyopadhyay to do her own quick translation. She writes:

The word Nirvana in the google translation triggers me to translate my Bengali commentaries into English because I feel the word Nirvana doesn’t go along with a poet. A poet always longing to reborn like a Bodhisattva, whose longing was not only for him but also for others, his desire of salvation along with all distressed creatures of the world on his way of enlightenment. A poet’s expansive consciousness puts him from certainty to uncertainty, from comfort to discomfort, from insanity to sanity and only he could see how the actual world revolves. A poet thinks that the interior of the boundary is the exterior and the exterior is the interior - I am free and you are imprisoned and so he always try to give a hand to distressed.