NEWEST RELEASES FROM THE BITTER OLEANDER PRESS
The Little Book of Passage by Franca Mancinelli ($16.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-2-0
Translated from the Italian by John Taylor
Franca Mancinelli was born in Fano, Italy, in 1981. Her first two books of poetry, Mala kruna (2007) and Pasta madre (2013), were awarded several prizes in Italy. In 2018 appeared the original Italian edition of this new collection of prose poems, Libretto di transito. The Little Book of Passage represents the first appearance in English of writing that has made Mancinelli one of the most compelling voices in contemporary Italian literature. Her writing has been translated into Spanish, Arabic, and Slovene, and her first two books have been recently reprinted as A un’ora di sonno da qui (At an hour’s sleep from here) by Italic & Pequod..
The Little Book of Passage is the story of the crossing of an inner fault line, a travel diary through the territories of the psyche: presences close to disappearing and dreamlike atmospheres act as a deforming mirror in regard to the gestures and happenstances of everyday life. Allusiveness and precision, density and evanescence, are juxtaposed and integrated in this continuous attempt to focus on and pronounce the world. As in a rite of passage, Franca Mancinelli, who lets herself be visited by shadows, recomposes the fragments of an open identity, which has never abandoned the origin.
Remembrance of Water / Twenty-Five Trees by John Taylor ($21.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-1-3
In collaboration with the paintings of Caroline François-Rubino
John Taylor, born in 1952, is an American writer, critic, and translator who has lived in France since 1977. His most recent books of poetry and short prose are If Night is Falling (Bitter Oleander Press), The Dark Brightness (Xenos Books), and Grassy Stairways (The MadHat Press). As a translator, he has won grants and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sonia Raiziss Charitable Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets. In 2015, his translation of José-Flore Tappy’s poetry (Sheds, Bitter Oleander Press) was a finalist for the National Translation Award of the American Literary Translators Association. For the Bitter Oleander Press, he has also translated generous selections of the poetry of Jacques Dupin (Of Flies and Monkeys, 2011) and Pierre Voélin (To Each Unfolding Leaf, 2017). His other recent translations include books by Philippe Jaccottet, Pierre-Albert Jourdan, Pierre Chappuis, Catherine Colomb, Georges Perros, Alfredo de Palchi, and Lorenzo Calogero.
The poetic sequences in this book have all stemmed from collaborative projects with the French artist Caroline François-Rubino. As with our earlier books, sometimes a sequence of poems has stimulated a series of drawings; at other times, it is a series of paintings that has provoked poetic responses.
Moreover, some of our joint efforts originally appear in unusual handmade forms. A few poems in this book were first used, alongside an ink drawing or a watercolor painting by the artist, as "livres pauvres," an international project conceived by Daniel Leuwers and associated with a special collection at the Pierre de Ronsard House near Tours. As to the sequence Remembrance of Water, it was conceived as a "livre unique," in other words a single book consisting of both poems and original drawings. In some cases, we have initially agreed upon a general theme: "trees," for instance, with the result that, in this book, the poems are often (but not always) linked to my American childhood memories, whereas the drawings take their inspiration from the artist's own emotions about trees intimately related to her life in France. Trees, like some of the other subject matter dealt with here—water (and memory), the haunting word "ever," or a "last" element of nature: to wit, another tree—provoke thoughts and feelings which may differ in their sources but which ultimately enter into dialogue.
Whatever the impetus of the collaboration, our goal is indeed dialogue, not illustration. Whence the underlying wish that these poems and images be appreciated on their own terms as well as in their interrelation.
Night Farming in Bosnia by Ray Keifetz ($12.00) ISBN # 978-0-9993279-0-6
Winner of the 2017 Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award (BOPLOPA).
Night Farming in Bosnia is Ray Keifetz's first collection of poetry to be published in a standard edition. This year's judge of the competition, Silvia Scheibli, remarked: Ray Keifetz obviously has a great passion for language, image & depth perception. His ability to maintain intense feelings throughout his poems & yet bring some restraint to his language in order not to give in to the all encompassing terror he could have written is amazing. He uses nature to make his suffering bearable, yet it is just this insight into nature which makes his language so poignant. In fact, every poem starts with a light observation of some daily occurrence yet this immediately falls under his spell. His mature use of language is evident in every line. Everything around him bends to his vision. Incredible talent. I am impressed with his strength of words that invoke his suffering, yet not make it his goal. The poems stand above his suffering.
Starting in the Northeast, Ray Keifetz has crisscrossed the country multiple times and currently resides in Northern California. Along the way he attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, lived in Italy for a year, took up furniture building, and fell in love with words. His poems and stories have appeared in The Ashland Creek Press, Bitter Oleander, Briar Cliff Review, Kestrel, The Louisville Review, Other Voices and more and have twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. "Night Farming In Bosnia", his first poetry collection, grew out of the calamitous ending of the 20th century and the equally dark beginning of the 21st.
Keifetz’s precise, straightforward language articulates without usurping the voices of suffering, bewildered people who pay "the unbelievable price" for others' everyday privileges. In an era of staggering cruelty, these gentle lyrics celebrate bravery and compassion: "We must follow in full light/ or no light/ the gaze of the trees/ down to the river," the final poem admonishes. The natural world still offers lessons for the sorrowing "of their vaunted patience,/ that resignation of... rootedness"; cycles of loss and resilience demand our sensitivity but need no further drama. With patience and sensitivity, Night Farming in Bosnia tenderly enlightens us that knowing and caring about others isn't only an obligation; it's also our reward.
--—Elizabeth Savage, author of Idylliad
Kissing the Bee by Lara Gularte ($14.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-7-5
Kissing the Bee is Lara Gularte's first and long overdue collection of poetry to be published in a standard edition. To gain access to the significance of her poetry requires an understanding of the poet's cultural heritage out of whose true diaspora of Portuguese and Lusophone speaking people molded her perception as a poet. Born in 1947 in San Jose, California where she grew up, her family came from the Azore Islands to look for gold in California during the 1800s and 1900s. Failing to find gold and "strike it rich," her family turned to ranching to make a living. Her great, grandmother Maria Cabral-Neves, came to Fort Jones, California as a mail-order bride during this period, and today her homestead, remains a local landmark. Lara has memories as a young girl of her great grandmother telling her stories about the old country. As an adult she became curious about her heritage and explored family history. In so doing, she used the writing of poetry as a means to express what she learned about her family and culture.
Lara is a member of a Facebook discussion group called Presence/Presença. Named by Frank X. Gaspar, the group formed in June 2011 at the DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal, in response to the relative absence of Luso-American voices in contemporary letters. Presence/Presença provides a community for North American writers of the Portuguese and Lusophone diaspora. This diaspora includes those with roots in Lusophone countries such as Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macau, and Galicia, as well other regions where Portuguese have migrated. Lara's poetic work depicting her Azorean heritage is included in a book of essays called Imaginários Luso-Americanos e Açorianos by Vamberto Freitas. Her work can be found in The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. She was a resident poet at Footpaths to Creativity Writer's Residency and Retreat on the island of Flores in the Azores, where her maternal grandfather was born.
Lara earned an MFA degree from San Jose State University where she was a poetry editor for Reed Magazine, received the Anne Lillis Award for Creative Writing, and several Phelan Awards. She was a second prize poetry contest winner for Empirical Magazine's 2012 contest, and nominated by Bitter Oleander Press to Best New Poets 2010. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Bitter Oleander, California Quarterly, The Clackamas Review, Evansville Review, The Monserrat Review, Permafrost, The Water-Stone Review, The Fourth River, The Santa Clara Review, and she has been published by many national and regional anthologies. She is currently an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine.
Reading Lara Gularte's poetry is to be aware of how thematic and formal consistency creates a personal canon, becoming then part of a language and cultural heritage of the country from which it comes. This is a poetry testifying our perpetual search for self, and also an eloquent voyage in search of inner liberation as it gathers or recomposes our own past. Her poetry is consistently one of great erudition, sensuality, and Catholicism’s role within the Portuguese-American presence in the United States. It is at times an excavation of a cold and frozen terrain, an attempt to reclaim all the homelands of our historical destiny.
--Vamberto Freitas, University of the Azores
Wondering the Alphabet by Roderick Martinez ($30.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-9-9
Like every alphabet, the origin of ours is vast and complex. It has grown from a determination of grunts and yelps of joyous wonder, through hollow reed pens pressed onto delicate papyrus, rubbed in ink across wood block carvings, shuffled around moveable type, all the way up to how our current hand-held devices and their design applications deliver us a constant barrage of typefaces, fonts and spatial designs. This book was written with that in mind as well as from a perspective of those writers, readers and designers who have spent their whole lives, in one way or another, focused on all the alphabet provides. Not only is there a chronology of our alphabet tracing graphically its changes over time, but this text also includes and combines tanka poems by twenty-six credited poets, each facing a visually translated composition of their work graphically rendered in full color by Roderick Martinez. In addition to these texts and graphics, every poet included has written his or her subjective thoughts about a specific letter assigned to them totally by chance. The beauty of these visual translations face to face with each poem, creates a most unique and heretofore unseen correspondence between both art forms. Each enhances the other, becomes a part of the other, allows for all ends to open up and flow between the two. Possibilities become infinite and Martinez's vision along with these twenty-six gracious poets, is both a sight to see and read!
For more information, go to wonderingthealphabet.com
Roderick Martinez has a MFA in graphic design from the Rochester Institure of Technology where he studied under R. Roger Remington. He has worked as a corporate graphic designer and creative director/designer for agencies in New York, before starting his own visual communications firm in 1998. His designs have won regional, national, and international awards. He has taught graphic design, advertising design, and psychology of advertising at Cazenovia College and is the current program coordinator and tenured associate professor of communications design at Syracuse University. He has served as faculty advisor of the Syracuse University AIGA (American Institite of Graphic Arts) student chapter. He has lectured on a range of design topics both regionally and nationally. Martinez has been awarded several Chancellor's Awards for Public Engagement and Scholarship. These awards recognize that his classes exemplify the highest ideal of sustained, quality engagement at Syracuse University. Roderick is a wonderer.
Shatter the Bell in My Ear by Christine Lavant ($18.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-8-2
translated from the German by David Chorlton
Born in 1915 on July the fourth, Christine Thonhauser (Lavant) was the ninth child of a miner, Georg, and his wife, Anna, and grew up in poverty. While the poetry she was later to write contained the language of spirituality, the pain she described in it came from actual conditions which she suffered: scrofula and tuberculosis of the lungs. Being disadvantaged in health also meant she could not complete her education as intended. Unable to do hard physical work, she earned a living with knitting and weaving until she gained a reputation as a writer. Along with these health problems, she had depression to endure. Poor hearing or blindness in her poetry were not conjured metaphors for a general condition. For example, the first stanza of a poem from Spindel im Mond:
Shatter the bell in my ear,
slash the knot in my throat,
warm my strangled heart
and ripen my eyeballs.
——David Chorlton, from his introduction
As with Rilke and Dickinson, Lavant addresses herself only to the highest tribunal. In her dark night, she lays bare what is most essential and most human. In this way, her work exists outside of time, and is always heralding the news of our raw incarnation. Written at the advent of an uncertain age, Lavant continues to accompany us with her fierce interrogations—which will also endure long after us—in these elegant translations by David Chorlton.
--Ellen Hinsley, Update on the Descent
To Each Unfolding Leaf by Pierre Voélin ($25.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-6-8
translated from the French by John Taylor
This book offers a representative selection of Pierre Voélin's poetry, ranging from his early books Sur la mort brève (On Brief Death, 1984) and Les Bois calmés (The Calmed Woods, 1987) to recent works such as Y. (Y., 2015) and Des voix dans l'autre langue (Voices in the Other Language, 2015). In other words, since La Nuit osseuse (The Bony Night) section of On Brief Death was written during the years 1976-1980, this Selected Poems spans four decades and reveals the Swiss poet's recurrent themes of amorous exaltation (and loss), an individual's relationship to nature (and especially to a rural environment), the possibilities of a spiritual quest in the contemporary world, as well as the writer's role (or vulnerability) with respect to political iniquity or persecution. Up to now, Voélin has remained very little known in English-speaking countries.
Yet he is one of the most important figures in contemporary Swiss francophone poetry. Born in 1949 in the village of Courgenay and then raised in the nearby small town of Porrentruy, both of which are located in the hilly Jura region of Switzerland, Voélin is a key poet in a generation that also comprises Frédéric Wanderlère (b. 1949), François Debluë (b. 1950), José-Flore Tappy (b. 1954), and Sylviane Dupuis (b. 1956). It is a generation that has sometimes chosen thematic directions differing from those taken by their Swiss mentors, namely Anne Perrier (b. 1922), Philippe Jaccottet (b. 1925) and Pierre Chappuis (b. 1930), and that has conceived new poetics to continue to question man's place in the cosmos.
——John Taylor, from his introduction
Call Me When You Get to Rosie's by Austin LaGrone ($12.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-5-1
Winner of the 2016 Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award (BOPLOPA)
Winner of the 2016 Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Award (BOPLOPA). Call Me When You Get to Rosie's by Austin LaGrone is a small package of poems which exudes a swollen intensity towards life and how it's immeasurably encountered the poet. Everything is in play for LaGrone, as in the back-cover comment by the poet Ronnie Yates: "These poems—an efflorescence of rogues, carnies, workers and mystics, all brandishing the ordinary talismans of the last junk shop in the Marigny, poems, which, as Austin once told me, he writes then whittles down to chicken bones—speak in the tongues of men and angels and strumpets in kimonos patrolling sun-lit prison yards, poems which radiate, rot and stink sweet among their reedy contemporaries. Austin tells us where we can find him, he's with her 'in the back pocket of the Oldsmobile.' 'I want to poke her with a cheap umbrella,' he admits, 'beneath a mutual communion of stars.' He'll poke you and you'll look up to receive the bread of the body and sidereal wine."
The Hunchbacks' Bus by Nora Iuga ($18.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-4-4
translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin & Diana Manole
"i’m sam," begins the first poem of Nora Iuga's The Hunchbacks' Bus (Autobuzul cu cocoșați). The book is a sort of family chronicle centered on the imaginary character sam and his life, much of which is in his head, his not very faithful wife minodora, his brother istovitu (the name means exhausted, worn-out). It's comic, though not often in a laugh-out-loud kind of way; surreal or fantastic at not a few moments, at others ribald, eccentric; perhaps even a little hard to cozy up to, since Iuga keeps everything at an ironic distance. Her style is rarely lyrical in a traditional sense. The syntax is direct but the imagery teases and surprises; the poetic voice is energetic, even audacious, with a delightful quirkiness.
In the first of five authorial interludes, short monologues in prose, Iuga addresses the reader, "you might find it hard to believe, but sam actually exists" (notwithstanding the fact that he's sometimes presented as a dog); and Iuga notes otherwise in "sam is an angel":
i'm still determined to find out who
sam is and what he does with his little stick…
i'm the most helpless text
in this city
Iuga's world may at times be one of loss, worry, proverbially a dog's life, but it spins away with exhilarating dreamlike absurdity.
—— Adam J. Sorkin & Diana Manole, from their introduction
Territory of Dawn: Selected Poems of Eunice Odio ($20.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-3-7
translated from the Spanish by Keith Ekiss with Sonia P. Ticas & Mauricio Espinoza
Eunice Odio (1919-1974) is considered the leading Costa Rican poet of the twentieth century. She traveled and lived throughout Central America and the United States before settling for much of her life in Mexico City. Her principal works include Los elementos terrestres (Earthly Elements, 1948), Zona en territorio del alba (Zone in the Territory of Dawn, 1953), El tránsito de fuego (The Fire’s Journey, 1957), and Territorio del alba y otros poemas (Territory of Dawn and Other Poems, 1974). In addition to her poetry, she was the author of short stories and numerous political and cultural essays. Her complete works were published by the University of Costa Rica in 1996.
Travelers to Costa Rica often depart the capital of San José as soon as they arrive, heading out for the cloud forest of Monteverde, the volcano at Arenal, or the waves at Playa Tamarindo, leaving behind the smell of diesel fumes and the city’s concrete architecture. But if you visit the National Theater, a civic treasure modeled on the Paris Opera, you will find a bronze statue guarding the building, the bust of a woman with a fierce, penetrating gaze, and hair of Medusa-like serpents: the mother of Costa Rican verse and the country’s most significant international literary presence, Nuestra Eunice, as she’s been called, the poet Eunice Odio.
Eunice Odio's poetry has thus remained almost wholly unknown to readers outside Latin America, obscured on the margins of the region's avant-garde and proletarian-poet traditions. A woman poet who lived a secluded life, Odio was born in a country with, at the time, an antipathy to artists and writers, who often relocated to Mexico City if they wanted to establish themselves as contributors to the vanguard. Odio herself was aware of her marginalized, self-exiled position. Octavio Paz once told her that she was "of that line of poets who invent their own mythology, like Blake, like St. John Perse, like Ezra Pound; and they are rubbed out, because no one understands them until years or even centuries after their death."
—Keith Ekiss, from his introduction
All the Beautiful Dead by Christien Gholson ($12.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-2-0
"Christien Gholson is the author of the novel, A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind (Parthian, 2011) and a book of linked prose poems, On the Side of the Crow (Hanging Loose Press, 2006). He has been many shapes before he attained congenial form: bookseller, union organizer, a black feather in a blue dumpster, farmhand, editor, a fish falling from the sky, and factory worker. He attended both Naropa University and the University of California at Davis. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Gholson’s All the Beautiful Dead (along the side of the road) is a harrowing, razor-biting collection which addresses the wounded and the outcast, in a landscape of boxcars, poppies, crows, empty fields, the lights of Las Vegas which can't overpower the open black mouth of the desert night, and the rusted lives and emotional shrapnel ranging from Wales to Colorado , New Mexico to Gaza. This poet's range is wide, able to enter the surrealist canvases of Remedios Varo, as well as everyday struggles, such as unemployment, the death of his father. The voice that immaculately gathers all of these rune-like fragments informs us how he has been "desperately trying to read them, knowing there is no answer." But the poems themselves are a candle, even if it's flickering. And Gholson's voice is a prayer "in the coldest of winters."----Anthony Seidman, judge of our 2015 award competition
Confetti-Ash: Selected Poems of Salvador Novo ($18.00) ISBN # 978-0-9862049-1-3
Translated from the Spanish by Anthony Seidman & David Shook
"I feel that poetry," Salvador Novo confesses in a poem from Espejo (1933), appropriately titled Poetry, "hasn’t come forth from me." That will prove to be a recurring theme in the intense and brief work of this sui generis poet, a member of that distinguished "group lacking a group," as the Contemporáneos playfully referred to themselves. Among that constellation of solitary souls there belonged some of the best Mexican poets and Spanish speaking poets of the 20th century: José Gorostiza, Xavier Villaurrutia, and Carlos Pellicer, to mention the more widely known among them. The Contemporáneos was the first generation of truly modern writers in Mexico, and in their eponymous journal they published the first Spanish translations of T.S. Eliot, just to give a quick example of their cosmopolitanism. Moreover, they also published D.H. Lawrence, Saint-John Perse, Langston Hughes, Jules Supervielle and Paul Valéry. All of those influences can be spotted in the youthful poetry of Novo. Moreover, as in the brief quote which opens this paragraph, there appears another distinct trait in his poetry: confession.
For the young Novo, passionately avant-garde, poetry was not only everything that tradition seemed to bypass, such as the unsacred, the free association of ideas, the prosaic, the unedited spaces of Spanish from the vast cities, fragmentation, irony, the uninhibited along with an acrid sense of humor, but also a poetry not detached from his lifestyle, which captured with an opulence in language, as well as a frankness, making one think of Oscar Wilde (one with whom Novo shares not only an emotive and aesthetic quality, but also a sexual orientation which he openly practiced in a society that was vehemently scandalized). The translations which Anthony Seidman and David Shook have done—-taken from two fundamental books by Novo, XX Poemas (1925) and Espejo (1933)—-offer an excellent way in which to appreciate the work of this radically unorthodox poet. ---—Alberto Blanco
Salvador Novo López (30 July 1904--13 January 1974) was a Mexican writer, poet, playwright, translator, television presenter, entrepreneur, and the official chronicler of Mexico City. As a noted intellectual, he influenced popular perceptions of politics, media, the arts, and Mexican society in general. He was a member of Los Contemporáneos, a group of Mexican writers, as well as of the Mexican Academy of the Language. He was well known for his wit. When a party, where young soldiers had been invited by gay scholar friends of his, had degenerated into a fight and a scandal, Salvador Novo brushed off the whole matter with a factual: "This is what happens when members of the intellectual elite try to enter military circles". In accordance with tradition, the street on which he lived was renamed after him when he assumed the role of Mexico City's official chronicler, a post held for life.
Ripened Wheat by Hai Zi ($21.00) ISBN #978-0-9862049-0-6
Translated from the Chinese by Ye Chun
Finalist for the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Award for 2016 through the American Literary Translators Association
For over two decades, March 26th has marked the day when college students across China hold vigils for the poet Hai Zi, reciting his poetry and sharing their own poems dedicated to him. Newspapers and magazines publish memorial articles and the latest critical essays on his work. People travel from far and near to visit his tomb in the otherwise forgotten village of Chawan. It was on this day in 1989 that Hai Zi laid his body down on a rail track near Beijing Shanhaiguan and ended his life at the age of twenty five.
In modern Chinese history, few poets have been revered to the extent that Hai Zi has. Not only is he one of the most read contemporary poets, but also one of the most imitated--his folkloric simplicity, imagistic clarity, his motifs of wheat, wheat field, village, and grassland have found their way into many Chinese poems written today. Mostly unknown during his lifetime, he has been posthumously crowned with such titles as "the genius poet", "the purest poet," "the poet martyr," and "the poet who has changed a whole generation's writing of poetry."
Ye Chun is the author of two books of poetry, Lantern Puzzle (Tupelo Press, 2015) and Travel Over Water (Bitter Oleander Press, 2005), and a novel in Chinese, Peach Tree in the Sea, (People's Literature Publishing House, 2011). A recipient of the NEA Fellowship, she is the poetry editor of The Missouri Review and teaches at the University of Missouri where she is a PhD candidate.
Puppets in the Wind by Karl Krolow ($21.00) ISBN # 978-0-9883525-7-5