Showing posts from February, 2009

Virtual Book and Birthday Party on March 20

I am planning a Virtual Book Party to launch Equal to the Earth on my birthday, March 20. Everyone is invited, and you don't even have to leave the comfort of your home, or wherever you find yourself that evening, at 8 pm (Eastern Standard Time). All you have to do is to visit the book blog or my Facebook page.

Latest: I hear you, and I am adding two more parties to the day: 8 pm (Greenwich Mean Time) and 8 pm (Singapore Standard Time/ Australian Western Standard Time)

I'm thinking of reading, in my sexiest voice, a selection of poems from each of the five sections of the book. If you have other suggestions for the party, do write them in comments. Virtual cheese and crackers will be provided. Bring your own bottle.

You may place an advance order for the book using Paypal (sidebar) or by mailing me a check for US$14.99 (3963 58th Street, Apt.2, Woodside, NY 11377).

You may also buy the book at the party, so don't forget your credit card or check book. I hope to see you there. …

Martin McDonagh's "The Cripple of Inishmaan"

Caught this play at the Altantic with TCH last night, the same black box theater where I saw another Irish playwright's work, Conor McPherson's Port Authority. Same theater, same man (TCH I mean), but all's changed.

The Cripple of Inishmaan (1996), the first part of the Aran Islands trilogy, is darkly comical, with a vein of violence running through its body. A teenage cripple Billy schemes to get into a Hollywood movie called Man of Aran. The play is as much about the representations of art, as it is about home, dreams, and disability. A self-reflexive scene: Billy rehearses his film part alone in a tiny bedsit in America. I didn't understand all he said, but the impact was visceral; the monologue was grueling for the actor.

Aaron Monaghan played a somewhat sweet and innocent Billy. Dearbhla Molloy and Marie Mullen, as Billy's adoptive aunts Eileen and Kate, were spot-on tough, tender and funny. David Pearse played Johnny PateenMike, the town gossip who, as it turns…

Shakespeare on Film

This time of the year I teach two Shakespeare plays, Macbeth to the ninth-grade, and King Lear to the eleventh. Last night I watched Richard Eyre's King Lear and Roman Polanski's Macbeth. Such different approaches to translating Shakespeare to film. I agree almost completely with what Bardolatry says about both films: the Eyre and the Polanski
Ian Holm as Lear is absolutely compelling, but I do not like Victoria Hamilton's performance as Cordelia much. The subplot involving Gloucester ( Timothy West) and his sons (Paul Rhys as Edgar and Finbar Lynch as Edmund) is moving and dignified, a worthy counterpoint to the tragedy of Lear. 
The direction of Macbeth is visionary: a case of overpowering force meeting immovable tradition. The film is extraordinarily bloody, but so is the play. The director does not spare the audience. The bodies clash, twist, pull, gush, fall, pierce. Jon Finch as Macbeth looks too young, but gives off a brooding intensity. Francesca Annis is too soft …

The Met Opera National Council Auditions Grand Finals Concert

It's a mouthful of a name, but the singing was wonderful, to these untrained ears at least. The Finalists, winners of regionals, came from all over the country. They are all doing graduate work or apprenticeship with opera companies. Appearing at the Met was the result of years of hard work; it was also potentially the launch of a brilliant career. 
Thomas Hampson, a past winner at these Grand Finals, hosted. Each of the eight Finalists sang two works, one before, and one after the intermission. Anthony Roth Costanzo, a countertenor from Durham, North Carolina, sang Handel's "Rompo i lacci" from Flavio and "Stille amare" from Tolomeo. Noah A. Baetge, a tenor from Seattle, sang "Fra poco a me ricovero" from Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti) and "Pourquoi me reveiller" from Werther (Massenet). Kiri Dyan Deonarine, a soprano from Fair Lawn, New Jersey, sang "Piangero la sorte mia" from Giulio Cesare, and an English piece "The tr…

Bonnard's Late Interiors at Met Museum

The exhibition tries to put the case for Bonnard as a modernist master, and not a mere Post-Impressionist working past the due date of the movement. Restricting the show to his late interiors, however, does not help to make the case. The color experiments look interesting, but not innovative; his pictorial language changed little in these paintings from 1927 to the end of his life in 1947. 
He painted the dining room, the breakfast room, the upstairs bedroom in his house at La Cannet, and the objects in them like a raffia basket of fruits, a vase of flowers, bottles of wine. The one still life that really held my attention was that of a bowl of cherries. And "The Breakfast Room" is noble. But I remember being bowled over by his paintings of the terrace and garden seen elsewhere. At this show I was underwhelmed. 
I don't understand why one critic called Bonnard "the most abstract of painters." These late interiors seem to me insufficiently abstract. They are conce…

Baldwin's Freedom and McEwan's Hum

TNY Feb 9 & 16, 2009
from Claudia Roth Pierpont's article "Another Country" on James Baldwin:
Feeling more than usually restless, James Baldwin flew from New York to Paris in the late late summer of 1961, and from there to Israel. Then, rather than proceed as he had planned to Africa--a part of the world he was not ready to confront--he decided to visit a friend in Istanbul.
It is an incongruous image, the black American writer in Istanbul, but Baldwin returned to the city many time during the next ten years, making it a second or third not-quite-home.
. . . Istanbul was unlike any place Baldwin had been before and, more to the point, unlike the places that had defined both the color of his skin and his sexuality as shameful problems. Whatever Turkey's history of prejudice, divisions there did not have an automatic black/white racial cast. . . . In fact, during his first days in the city, he was nearly giddy at the sight of men in the street openly holding hands, an…

Poem in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal

Cha, based in Hongkong, has just published my poem "Razminovenie, or Nonmeeting" in its sixth issue. The announcement from editors Tammy Ho and Jeff Zroback:

We are pleased to announce that the sixth issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal has now been launched. It features work by Inara Cedrins, Ching-In Chen, Kevin Hsu, Shara K. Johnson, Jee Leong Koh, Franky Lau, Jason Lee, Yew Leong Lee, Joey Li, Blair Reeve, Gillian Sze, Eddie Tay, Phoebe Tsang, Brian Urtz, Nicole Wong, Bryan Thao Worra, Xu Xi and Yuan Qiongqiong.

We would like to thank our guest editors for their efforts. Award-winning Hong Kong poet Arthur Leung generously lent us his time and expertise to help us read the poetry. Historian, writer and Cha regular Reid Mitchell provided feedback on the prose.

We would also like to let you know that Singapore-born poet and academic Eddie Tay has agreed to serve as our in-house book reviewer. Eddie has already written several excellent reviews for our journal, and we are e…

The Inner Classic, the Book of Hours, the Treatise and the Gospel

TLS February 6 2009
from Michael Stanley-Baker's review of A Dictionary of the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen:
The roots of Chinese medicine lie in the rich textual tradition that began with the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor, or Huang Di Nei Jing, compiled over 2,000 years ago. The first organized canon of medical theory, the Inner Classic describes a range of ideas about the structure and patterns of the universe and the human body, from five-phase correlative cosmology, to yin and yang, qi and blood, acupuncture meridians and the relationship between the inner organs. 
"Heaven" and "breath," for example, form the term "weather". Thus "breath" not only animates the human body, but also storms, rainbows and hazy summer days. Small wonder then that Chinese doctors use terms for weather patterns when diagnosing the human body as well. 
from Ronald Blythe's review of Katherine Swift's The Morville Hours:
A book of hours was an aid to per…

Dustin Brookshire's Project Verse

Just spent most of the morning putting together the application for Project Verse, a poetry competition modeled after TV's "Project Runway." From the website:

Dustin Brookshire, through I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin and Limp Wrist, is proud to announce Project Verse, the self-proclaimed “Project Runway” of the poetry world.

Project Verse is a free competition set to be a grueling but fun competition for poets. It’s a 10-week competition, and the winner will be announced week 11. Each Monday, an assignment will be posted in I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin. Poets will have to complete and submit the assignment by noon Friday of the same week. The judges will read and score the assignments over the weekend, and the judgment will be posted in I Was Born Doing Reference Work in Sin the following Monday.
Why am I doing this? Because I have discovered I write good poems to order. A number of poems from my forthcoming book Equal to the Earth came out of a similar m…

Leon Edel's "Henry James: The Treacherous Years"

Volume Four is such a gripping installment of this biography that on reaching the last page I wanted to read it all over again. It begins with James's horrific failure at the theater, when he was booed off-stage for his play, Guy Domville. He became depressed, confused and self-doubting. Aging did not help; neither did the rise of young Turks in literature and criticism, as the age of Victoria came to a close.

Edel explained, quite persuasively, that James re-lived childhood hurts in his writing of this period, in an attempt to heal his psychic wounds. Between 1895 and 1900, James wrote a series of stories about female children and adolescents.

Taking them in their sequence as he wrote them, we begin in the cradle with Effie, who is murdered at four (The Other House, 1896); she is resurrected at five (What Maisie Knew, 1897) and we leave her at seven or eight, or perhaps a bit older. Flora is eight ("The Turn of the Screw," 1898) and the one little boy in the series, Miles…

Tales by Augusto Monterroso

Practising my Spanish again. Here are my very basic translations of Monterroso:

The Mirror That Could Not Sleep

There was once a hand mirror who felt alone. Nobody saw himself in him, and so he felt really bad, as if he did not exist. The feeling was reasonable but the other mirrors made fun of him. At night, the other mirrors were kept in the same drawer of the dressing table. They slept profoundly, far from the concerns of the neurotic.

The Black Sheep

In a distant country there lived many years ago a black sheep. It was executed by firing squad. A century later, the repentant flock raised an equestrian statue that looked very nice in the park. Just so, ever after, every time black sheep appeared they were rapidly executed, so that the future generations of sheep, common and normal, could also be trained in sculpture.

The Imperfect Paradise

It’s true—the man said mechanically, without quitting the view of the flames that burned in the chimney that night in winter—in Paradise there are fr…

For a Limited Time Only

This art show, to be held in the Art Center Highland Park, Illinois, will feature ephemeral site-specific installations by Annie Heckman, Wendy Kveck, Marci Rubin, Shawn Stucky, and Jess Witte. (Jess and I met during my writing residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts) From March 6-29, 2009, the art works will disintegrate, dissolve, and disappear. In the words of its curator, Olga Stefan:

For a Limited Time Only concentrates on the urgency of the work, and encourages the artists, as well as audiences, to consider these projects philosophically, focusing primarily on the idea of the work as temporary experience rather than artistic mark, and memory rather than document.
The premise of the show so goes against my ingrained ideas about art that I am sorely tempted to fly to Highland Park to see the installations. Why create what will not last? Why create what is not portable, like a passport, but takes its very meaning from its location? There is a degree of intransigenc…

Art and Love in Renaissance Italy

I'm glad I caught this exhibition yesterday, appropriately V-Day, before it ends tomorrow. Approximately 150 objects were on show: maiolica, bella donna dishes, birth trays, gift coffers, erotic drawings. On one birth tray, Venus shoots golden rays from her pudendum into the eyes of heroes from Classical, medieval and Biblical writings. Achilles and Paris. Lancelot and Tristan. Samson. I forget the last one. My favorite object was a pair of waffle tongs that impressed the host's name on waffles that the guests could bring home with them. 
A number of the paintings caught my eye. I like very much Giulio Romano's painting of a Roman prostitute. She is wrapped in a suggestively diaphanous cloth, the end of which she holds up with one finger. A green cloth fallen by the right of the painting alludes to the practice of hiding erotic or mistress paintings behind curtains or screens. I was in the world of Browning's "My Last Duchess." Alessandro's (?) painting of…

Richard Greenberg's "The American Plan"

TCH and I watched this play, produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, and directed by David Grindley, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre last Thursday. At the Catskills, a strange young man, Nick Lockridge, woos a Jewish heiress Lili Adler, and they get engaged, with her formidable mother's blessings. Another man, Gil Harbison, appears, who turns out to be a lover the fiance fled. Gil proposes the American plan of the play's title: that they both marry rich women and be good husbands, while maintaining their "special" friendship with each other. 
As far as I can make it out, the play is about this devil's bargain. Richard Greenberg, the playwright, is gay and Jewish. Lili's father, a German Jewish refugee, gained his fortune by allowing manufacturers to sell his inventions without his stigmatized name. For closeted homosexuals and Jewish exiles, postwar America offers the good life in exchange for one's identity. A mentally capricious and compulsive liar, Lili c…

A Valentine's Day Poem

I received my first real V-Day poem ("Roses are red" does not count), from a student. It has a nicely ironic touch. Since we are reading the play now, King Lear references find their way into this confection.

A sticky red flows through the rooms, A corridor full of pink balloons. A box of chocolates, sickly sweet, Forewarns of future sickly teeth.
One needs to fill the hungry O's, And palliate their aching souls. A sugar sweetness is the thing To take the role of love and king.
Like Lear, this day attempts to bake A spiritual state into a cake-- Attempts to try, with all its might, To mold love out of rosy light.

Bull Eclogues: "The Brazen Bull"

Bull Eclogues
“There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."

The Cretan
The Island
The Drug
The Oracle
The Maze
The God

The Brazen Bull

Great story, Pasiphaё. Queen falls in love
with a white bull, and builds a wooden cow
she hides inside to consummate her lust.
She’s not the cow, you see. She just needs help.

This thing of darkness, we all have one. Or two.
I’m working hard on changing, with God’s help,
my harmful ways of thinking, and my wife,
bless her, has stuck by me throughout this time.

I want to speak a straight word to my past.
M.J., I know you’re watching this, my friend.
I believe we’re not the creatures of our genes,

we can change. Who could have imagined this,
a young black man would enter the White House?
This is the golden currency of dreams.

Bull Eclogues: "The God"

Bull Eclogues
“There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."

The Cretan
The Island
The Drug
The Oracle
The Maze

The God

Bullshit. I’ll make you eat your words. I’ll—
I’ll crush your balls and make you drink it up.
When I’m done with you, cunt, you’d wish
you could crawl back to the hole you came from.

I thought I couldn’t feel it any more
but shame covers its face from cameras,
cowers into the cave, thrusts out the man—
pastor, husband, father—to brave the light.

But my shame is a flame. It lights the hand
that crushes me so as to make me new,
the light that plays the lyre for his praise.

And for his story, I will drink your words,
will eat the goat who glorifies my God.
Who else could change you, Judas, to a judge?

Bull Eclogues: "The Maze"

Bull Eclogues
“There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."

The Cretan
The Island
The Drug
The Oracle

The Maze

Some say the puzzle is the palace. Home,
its gorgeous wall hangings, gold passages,
the hoofs stroll round, unable to kick down,
the kitchen an aroma of lamb stew.

Some say the world is riddled with tall caves
that beckon the explorer, strong and young,
deep into the intestines of intrigue,
and then the rectum's private resignation.

Between the world and home, I am lost to shame,
having given up the old habit, guilt.
What is this spool of red spun through the maze,

I cannot say but see it to the end.
The ball shrinks fast. The pattern almost done.
Why does the wool look so much like a web?

Mario Benedetti's "The Other I"

My Spanish tutor introduced me to Mario Benedetti, an Uruguayan fiction writer, poet and journalist. My homework was to translate his story "The Other I." I don't put my fingers up my nose, at least not in company, but I can certainly see how vulgarity could co-exist with poetry in the same person. Here's a fellow-exile.


It was about a common fellow: in his trousers mended with knee patches, he would read comics, make noise when eating, put his fingers up his nose, snore in his nap. He was called Armando. Common in every thing but one: he had an Other I.

The Other I used to have a certain poetry in his eyes, fall in love with the actresses, lie casually, get excited at dusk.

The fellow was very worried about the Other I, because the Other I made him feel uncomfortable in front of his friends. On the other hand, Other I was melancholic and, due to it, Armando could not be so vulgar as he wished to be.

One evening Armando returned from work, tired, took off his shoes, mov…

Cien Sonetos de Amor: XVIII

I read Sonnet XVIII on the train, and fell in love with it straightaway. It sings of ancient mountains and quarrels. It shoots the arrows of beauty into the heart. My overly literal translation follows the original. I'm learning Spanish, and would be glad to get some tips.


Por las montañas vas como viene la brisa
o la corriente brusca que baja de la nieve
o bien tu cabellera palpitante confirma
los altos ornamentos del sol en la espersura.

Toda la luz del Cáucaso cae sobre tu cuerpo
como en una pequeña vasija interminable
en que el agua se cambia de vestido y de canto
a cada movimiento transparente del río.

Por los montes el viejo camino de guerreros
y abajo enfurecida brilla como una espada
el agua entre murallas de manos minerales,

hasta que tú recibes de los bosques de pronto
el ramo o el relámpago de unas flores azules
y la insólita flecha de un aroma salvaje.


Through the mountains you move as the breeze moves,
or the brisk stream falling from the snows,
your fine hair, palpitating, …

Bull Eclogues: "The Oracle"

Bull Eclogues
“There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."

The Cretan
The Island
The Drug

The Oracle

I want to tell you how the White House calls
for faith to light again the public square,
and fight the culture wars: because of me
God has a hearing with the President.

I want to tell you thirty million heads,
chastised before the altar of great change,
pray after me, Your will be done on earth,
and watch the fire eat the ballot box.

I want to tell you all that I have done
but how can I? Outside this hotel room,
I am the man with no accent but God’s.

Inside I have no language except lust.
Outside I shout, God bless America!
Inside, Fuck my ass harder. Harder. Fuck.

Bull Eclogues: "The Drug"

Bull Eclogues
“There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."

The Cretan
The Island

The Drug

What do you have? Will you sell it to me?
This ecstasy fell from the sky one day
and pulverized to powder on the ground.
We snort into the brain dead snowflakes.

This liquid crystal slammed into the vein
like lethal waste pumped from cattle farms
in drinking water is forgetfulness.
Is this the speed you have? Will you sell it?

Or are you plugging that fool’s gold called love,
disguised as fucking bought and sold like fags,
lottery tickets, gum, or vitamins?

I puff a cloud and change into a herd
my human senses and intelligence.
My soul roots for a corn-fed meal, and squeals.

Bull Eclogues: "The Island"

Bull Eclogues
“There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."

The Cretan

The Island

From week to week I walk on water, fight
the urge to look down at the deluged faces
whose liquid hands support my stony feet
and hold on for the heart’s faltering hit.

When squalls rise up and shake the long-stemmed brain,
even the faithful look for land, and land
their bodies on the strong arms of a beach,
the grass of books, tobacco flowers, nightcaps.

Turned, blown, off-course, I throw me on this room.
For here the kri-kri leaps with the white mountains,
the citron bubbles in the hand, the olive branch

presented to a beast is not so beastly,
but promises a civilization
of the sea within, though not the sea without.

Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Mendelssohn

To put it in monetary terms, the first movement of Mendelssohn's Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 64, as played by Anne-Sophie Mutter with the NYP last night, was worth the price of the ticket. And more. It was piercing and sensitive. It was vigorous and delicate. Its softest note does not lose its expressiveness; its loudest chord does not lose its complexity. The other two movements were very fine, but the first was divine. 
I like too Overture to Ruy Blas, Op. 95, that opened the concert. Mendelssohn declared the Victor Hugo's play "beneath contempt," but did not want to disappoint the Leipzig Theatrical Pension Fund, the worthy organization that asked him for an overture to their performance of Hugo. James M. Keller's program note describes the piece: 
In the span of seven minutes, this angry, fiery work perfectly evokes the play's brooding atmosphere, with a stentorian motif of sustained chords for woodwinds and brass regularly punctuating…

Dear America, Don't Be My Valentine

From the press website:
The call for this edition of OCHO went out as a response to several political events in the Fall-Winter season of 2008-2009. The first, a moment in the Vice Presidential debates early November between Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden, in which both candidates seemed to befriend the gay community while denouncing our right to marry. What an awful laughter relieved both the candidates and the audience, as if everyone were too embarrassed to discuss the validity of a gay relationship in the national discussion. Then, the passing of propositions 8 in California, 102 in Arizona, and Amendment 2 in Florida changing state constitutions and making it illegal for gays to marry. This historic election brought with it the disappointment and dissolution of 18,000 marriages and families directly affected by the Prop. 8 vote in California and, in Arkansas, an amendment making it illegal for gay couples to adopt.....

Poems by Eduardo C. Corral, Mary Meriam, Jeremy Hal…

Bull Eclogues: "The Cretan"

Bull Eclogues
“There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."

The Cretan

You come out of the shower, warm and wet,
and towel your head with rough deliberation.
Those wide shoulders, untouched by a plough,
you wear like a smile, and the world is new.

I know I should have sacrificed you to God,
I should have raised the knife despite its stone,
and saved its bullion in your bull-cow heart,
I should have turned from fucking with a beast.

Instead I let you lash my legs to you,
haul me through contracting caves, and grind
into the ground the altar of my lust;

yet, stubborn, round and gold, the violence rises
from the deeps, the pressure lessening,
as if a treasure is dragged from the sea.

Robert Urban previews "Equal to the Earth"

Jee Leong Koh's new book of poetry EQUAL TO THE EARTH contains thoughtful meditations on the poet's social, sexual, ethnic and cultural impressions, relationships and alienations – presented in a unique style of wistful desire mixed with muted resignation. The book's title appears as a phrase in two poems – "Blowjob" and "Razminovenie, or Nonmeeting." By way of explaining EQUAL TO THE EARTH's overall theme, the title may be interpreted as meaning that the great longing one feels for that which one cannot have is equal, in magnitude, to the greatness of that which one cannot have.

Such has been the nature of The Muse for many a poet, and Koh is an inheritor of that venerable artistic sensibility.

Technically, many of Koh's poems read as non-rhyming prose poetically arranged into short lines and stanzas. Yet quite a few of the poems make use of clever, complex and well thought-out rhyme schemes. These include "Chapter Six: Anal Sex," …

HD's "Notes on Thought and Vision"

"Central to Notes on Thought and Vision is HD’s belief in the over-mind, a “jellyfish” state, a kind of lens which allows vision. This is complimented by another lens, the love-mind." Read more.

El papagayo disecado vive

Spanish Composition 3:

Me gustan los libros de Julian Barnes. Escribe muy bien para los lectores en Inglaterra y por todas partes, pero a los lectores en Francia les gusta más. ¿Por que los lectores francéses lo quieren mucho? El tiene una sensibilidad francésa. Es gracioso cuando escribe sobre las cosas serias y serio cuando escribe sobre las cosas graciosas. Su mejor libro es “El papagayo de Flaubert.” En este libro, una hombre enamorado con la escritura de Flaubert quiere encontrar el papagayo que se sentó en el escritoria de Flaubert por los dias último de su vida. El hombre se preocupa por la sobrevivencia de la papagayo aunque el pájaro es un criatura disecada. Le importa que el papagayo no cae en el olvido. Por suerte, porque es fan de Flaubert no pierde las esperanzas, el papagayo disecado vive.

Felix Mendelssohn and the Leipzig Tradition

Today is the bicentennial of Mendelssohn's birth. Last night I attended the talk "Felix Mendelssohn and the Leipzig Tradition," a part of New York Philharmonic's Insights Series curated by James M. Keller. 
Leipzig at the time of Mendelssohn's arrival from Berlin was a busy commercial center of population 45 000. It boasted a long musical tradition centered around St. Thomas Church, and the Gewandhausorchester. As Kapelmeister of the Gewandhause, Mendelssohn started a series of concerts that focused on important composers of the past. The practice was innovative since concerts then usually presented new works. Keller pointed to the music conservatism in the canonization of certain composers. For Mendelssohn, the three gods were Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. 
Mendelssohn would found the Conservatory, as a kind of third pillar of the scene, or as Masur describes it, as part of the music oikos. The motto of the Conservatory could be translated as "Joy is a very ser…

Sound Bites and High Lights

I read three of my poems on Soundzine: "Ribs," "New Year Resolution" and "Little Men." So if you want to hear how I enunciate every phoneme, check out the poems. The journal also publishes prose, video, art and photography.

The Cartier Street Review features me as their Emerging Poet, branded by my poem "Florida." I sit pretty under the smokin' hot goddess of American letters, Patricia Smith. My new book Equal to the Earth is also blurbed there as the featured release, but don't be misled by the Payday Loans cover.

Racine's "Iphigenia"

A colleague has invited me to attend a reading of Racine's "Iphigenie en Aulide," in a new English translation by Rachel Hadas. Presented by Verse Theater Manhattan, Rutgers University and Handcart Ensemble, and directed by James Milton, the reading will take place at Kirk Theater on Monday Feb 9, and is free.
I just finished reading "Iphigenia" translated by John Cairncross, the first Racine I have ever read. My first impression is that the play is a pallid thing compared to Shakespeare. The characters are rather flat, the plotting is tight but small, the imagery decorous instead of devastating. Long speeches take turns, and so the scenes lack the life-like spontaneity, the human contingency, the swelling progress, the ironic self-reflexivity of Shakespearian drama. The minor characters in "Iphigenia" are entirely negligible; in Shakespeare, even a nameless knight, in King Lear, is individualized through a brilliant speech.
Racine took Euripides for…