Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Everyman's Library: "Villanelles"

Got my copy of Villanelles yesterday, edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Published as part of Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series, the book has a lovely cover and handles well. More books of poetry should be published in this handy format. My poem "Novenary with Hens," written so long ago for PFFA's Apprentice Challenge, nestles between Carolyn Kizer's line from Valery and Steve Kowit's grammar lesson. Besides the (largest) section on contemporary villanelles, there are sections on the (brief) tradition, villanelles about villanelles, and variations on the villanelle. A little treasure chest.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gypsy and Porgy and Bess

Watched Gypsy in school last Thursday. A very engaging student production. Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents. Mother Rose was hungry for stardom for her daughters. When the older one June eloped, the younger one Louise bore the brunt of maternal attention until she gained fame as a stripper and renamed herself Gypsy Rose Lee. The musical also bore witness to the fall of vaudeville and the rise of burlesque.

Then on Sunday, with TB I watched The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, directed by alumnus Diane Paulus, and adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks and Diedre Murray from the original folk opera by George Gershwin, DuBose, Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin. Crippled Porgy took Bess in after her man Crown killed someone and had to flee. Crown returned to claim his woman, and Porgy killed him after a struggle. I have not watched the original, but was told by a colleague that the adaptation cut a few of Porgy's arias, and so shifted the attention to Bess, who was also given a more sympathetic treatment.

Audra McDonald sang Bess superbly, though her operatic singing did not quite gel, to my ears, with Norm Lewis' musical theater singing as Porgy. David Alan Grier was a slick Sporting Life, who succeeded finally in tempting Bess to escape Catfish Row for the bright lights of New York City. Phillip Boykin played Crown with real menace. He was the force of chaos in the tight fishing village. Of all the songs, "Summertime," "A Woman Is a Sometime Thing" and "My Man's Gone Now" were sung most memorably.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mary di Michele's "The Flower of Youth"

You read up on a great writer and director, what he wrote and what others wrote about him. You find affinities in thought and temperament, though you live in different times and places. You fly to Italy for an academic conference and make the pilgrimage to the writer's grave at Casarsa. There, sitting on a bench shaded by cypress, weeping for a man you have never met, you hear a voice whispering to you in Italian, which you don't know how to write, but find yourself transcribing. Translated into English, the voice said,

I leave the city and discover the sky,
The world is bigger than I realized,
Where there's nobody the stars are myriad.

That was what happened to Mary di Michele, according to her book's prologue, and what inspired her to write The Flower of Youth. The title is the same as that of the volume of verse Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote in dialect about his coming of age in the countryside during World War II. The verse that di Michele heard at Pasolini's grave speaks of the affinities that she found in the Italian writer. The usual migration goes from the country to the city in the search of a bigger world. di Michelle and Pasolini, however, found their world enlarged by leaving the city for the country. In her case, that journey is also a return, a homecoming, from Canada to Italy. Born in Lanciano, Italy, in 1949, she moved with her family to Toronto when she was six.

The Flower of Youth is organized in four parts. The Prologue narrates in verse and prose di Michele's journey to Pasolini's grave. Part II "Impure Acts," the bulk of the book, speaks in the voice of Pasolini about the struggle between his sexuality and his faith. Instead of fighting in the war, he followed his mother into the countryside to set up a school for boys too young to be conscripted. di Michelle's poems take off from his own memoir about that period of sexual awakening. In Part III "After Pasolini," she translates the two very different versions of the poem that Pasolini wrote about his death, and she adds what she calls a permutation, a poem of her own about the reported circumstances of his death that deploys motifs from his poems. Part IV the epilogue explains the structure of di Michele's book.

The poems in Part II reproduce what di Michele discovered to her surprise when she read Pasolini's memoir. The World War is sidelined in favor of the internal battle. The bombs keep falling, but the real devastations are those of the heart and its desires. Most of the poems are written in quatrains with the last line of each quatrain shorter than the rest and indented. This stanzaic form proves to be admirably malleable and musical in di Michele's hands. The opening stanza of "Postscript(s)" introduces gently yet pointedly Pasolini's story in di Michelle's chosen form:

The fall of '47 I was 25 and still living
in Viluta. What made me stay so long?
What made me linger in that nothing place,
          that hamlet of ten houses?

The enjambment after "living" subtly reminds us of the casualties of war. The repetition of "What made me" fills out the entire length of the third line and the next, which also contracts to round up the small hamlet. di Michelle is also fond of breaking a line between an adjective and its noun. That device works  well in many instances to maintain narrative momentum, but may seem arbitrary in some places.

The sentiments traced in these poems are not extraordinary, but they are delicate. Sexual rendezvous takes place in discreet fields and secret woods, to which the reader's eyes are not privy, though enticed. In a few places, the plain language descends into conventionality, as when de Michele's Pasolini complains of a boy that "He erected invisible walls/ against me" ("Spring Far Behind"). The same poem, however, quickens in the end when Pasolini dreams of lying with him again in "a familiar bed," which for them is "some ditch fragrant with primrose." The invisible walls are unreal, a mere idea, but the ditch smelling of primrose brings the country and the sex to the nose.

In like manner the best poems of the book bring to life the physical environment in which the drama of love not only takes place but finds its embodiment. In "Hidden Corners/The Earth Moves," spring has returned and so has B. naked to the waist. He leads Pasolini into the woods, where

The dew had dried but the stones, gravel
from the river bank, still glistened; in the grove
where we lay together the Earth trembled
          with the passing trains.

The trains unexpectedly and perfectly convey the temporary vibrations of the encounter. In "A Thousand Birds," it's summer and the boys go back to swimming naked at the pit, their playful cries harmonizing with birdsong. Sitting by the pit, distracted from his Tasso and Tommaseo, di Michele's Pasolini is keenly aware of his envy "for those meadows where B. stepped/ shoeless into the long grass." The mixture of the sacred ("shoeless") and the sensual ("the long grass") is captured vividly in a memorable image. With such images the book convinces us that the country is more bountiful than the city.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sam Mendes's "Richard III"

Last night, at the BAM Harvey theater, Richard III, directed by Sam Mendes, played to a full house. The production was the last to be mounted as part of The Bridge Project, a British-American collaboration. I enjoyed the Project's King Lear last year, the eponymous hero played by Derek Jacobi, and so looked forward to the play about the infamous, hunchbacked king. 

Kevin Spacey, as Richard, was disappointing. His performance stayed on a single note, that of a growling menace, that did not have any shade or space in it. His seduction of Lady Anne was utterly unconvincing because there was no charisma or sex appeal in the portrayal. The humor when speaking lines that are not supposed to be humorous was broad, almost farcical. Richard was almost a cartoon character in Spacey's hands.

The other actors were not particularly memorable, except two. Chandler Williams played the Duke of Clarence with restrained dignity. The scene of his execution was poignant, the tragedy accented by the comedy of the bumbling murderers. I also enjoyed watching Haydn Gwynne play Queen Elizabeth, wife of Edward IV. She was a survivor, hard and wily. In the end she outmaneuvered Richard by marrying her daughter to Richmond, future King Henry VII, first of the Tudor kings. 

The attempt to make Shakespeare our contemporary was heavy-handed. In the scene when Buckingham and the Lord Mayor of London begged Richard to become king, Spacey appeared, in a weird self-reflexive move for the film actor, on the projection screen. While Buckingham, played by the black actor Chuk Iwuji, rallied the crowd in a tone resembling that of a black preacher, Spacey refused the crown with the transparent dishonesty that recalled present-day two-faced politicians. We got the message, and then wished that we had gotten the message from the play by ourselves. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Poem: "Emphasis"


Poem written on January 13 and revised two days ago, after reading it at Cornelia Street Cafe.


Emphasis

The night when the nuptial song inside the body had to be taken out by emphatic sign language

              Kim Hyesoon, “Ghostmarriage”


Sign language had not meant to lay a hand on her
but song looked only in the mirror when she sang.
After crossing his heart seven times and still failing
to turn her face, he reached for her with his hands.

She looked at him from eyes as placid as a cow’s
while her mouth squeezed the udder of her body.
The squirts of sound tasted warm, and for a while
he did not know to thank his hands or her singing.

He thanked her the only way he knew, shuddering
into the soft places where his hands had pounded.
The song wrapping its tenderness around the sign,
when he spilled his seed he could almost speak.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Loved and Lost

WL and I watched the French movie Domaine (2009) at the IFC last Monday. A story about a gay teenager (Isaïe Sultan) who loves and then leaves his glamorous aunt (Béatrice Dalle) when she descends into alcoholism. Trust the French to glamorize a woman by making her a Math whizz. There is insufficient substance in the plot to hold the attention, but the cinematography is beautiful. The script, written by the director Patric Chiha, is rather self-consciously literary, with stage-managed echoes and parallels.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Steam: The Turkish Bath"

Directed and co-written by Ferzan Ozpetek, this is a subtle and beautiful film about waking up from one's unhappiness. Francesco and Marta run a small design firm in Rome. Marta has been cheating on her husband. When Francesco's Aunt Anita dies in Istanbul, she left to him one of the few remaining hamam or Turkish baths in the city. Intending to sell the bath at first, Francesco is warmly welcomed into the family running the bath, attracted first to the daughter, then to the son. Seduced by Istanbul, he decides to stay and re-open the bath.

His affair with the son is discovered by his wife who breaks up with him. To help her understand his feelings, Francesco shows her the letters his aunt wrote to his mother about falling in love with Istanbul. After he was stabbed by a hired thug of a ruthless developer and died, Marta finds herself staying on to complete Francesco's project, the re-opening of the hamam. I like very much how the film shifts midway from Francesco's perspective to Marta's, the real successor to the indomitable Anita who never appears in the film but whose spirit presides over it.

Alessandro Gassman plays a very believable Francesco, whose happiness is so sadly short-lived. Francesca d'Aloja is a memorable Marta, very French in her self-possession. Mehmet Günsür plays the very attractive son, also called Mehmet. After watching the movie, GH and I talked about visiting Istanbul, so drawn we were to the muted, crumbling, sensual images in the film.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Poem: "A Town Called Road" (first draft complete)


A Town Called Road

After the departure of the gods resembling desire

            Tada Chimako, “The Town of Sleep”


First Report

The town looks open as the moon looks open.
It shines faintly and faraway even on the inside.
A silver road cuts through the heart, if a heart
can be called a heart when it heaves like a ship.

In the north, the local woods are taciturn
unless they are asked for a light,
and they will unfold from their sleeves a light
and their mouths will open.

It is easy to take a wrong turn.
The south, also called misleadingly the port side,
tilts towards the ships.


Second Report

The trade in hearts
is thriving like nowhere else. A full-grown heart
goes for a thousand dollars in broad daylight.

It is considered an act of deep friendship
to bring out from the kitchen and open
a fresh heart. Feelings, however, must be put aside;
a gift is a favor to be returned.

On TV public men speak by turns
of the nourishing taste of a good heart.
Down by the docks, on the far side,
I have seen a young woman’s face alight,
a moon-glow openness,
when hearts come in on a tanker ship.


Third Report

A full report will leave by the next ship.


Fourth Report

Every three months, the town turns
invisible for a full day, unopened.
Like a blood clot spreading through the heart,
a thick, black light
invades from the inside.
There are no more outlines and outsiders,
only the whisper of worship.

What is the changing light
of the seasons, the trees’ attention-seeking turns,
compared to the heart
when it closes and opens.


Final Report

I should turn myself in for going over to the other side
but the ships show a red light. To the quiet woods
I will bring the moon lady and to her mouth open my heart.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Poem: "A Town Called Road: First and Second Reports"


A Town Called Road

After the departure of the gods resembling desire

            Tada Chimako, “The Town of Sleep”


First Report

The town looks open as the moon looks open.
It shines faintly and faraway even on the inside.
A silver road cuts through the heart, if a heart
can be called a heart when it heaves like a ship.

In the north, the local woods are taciturn
unless they are asked for a light,
and they will unfold from their sleeves a light
and their mouths will open.

It is easy to take a wrong turn.
The south, also called misleadingly the port side,
tilts towards the ships.


Second Report

The trade in hearts
is thriving like nowhere else. A full-grown heart
goes for a thousand dollars in broad daylight.

It is considered an act of deep friendship
to bring out from the kitchen and open
a fresh heart. Feelings, however, must be put aside;
a gift is a favor to be returned.

On TV public men speak by turns
of the nourishing taste of a good heart.
Down by the docks, on the far side,
I have seen a young woman’s face alight,
a moon-glow openness,
when hearts come in on a tanker ship.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Poem: "A Town Called Road: First Report"


A Town Called Road

After the departure of the gods resembling desire

            Tada Chimako, “The Town of Sleep”


First Report

The town looks open as the moon looks open.
It shines faintly and faraway even on the inside.
A silver road cuts through the heart, if a heart
can be called a heart when it heaves like a ship.

In the north, the local woods are taciturn
unless they are asked for a light,
and they will unfold from their sleeves a light
and their mouths will open.

It is easy to take a wrong turn.
The south, also called misleadingly the port side,
tilts towards the ships.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Poem: "One More Dispatch from a Distant Land"


One More Dispatch from a Distant Land

When I was fifteen, becoming a woman frightened me. When I was eighteen, being a woman struck me as loathsome. Now, how old am I? I have become too much of a woman. I can no longer return to being human; that age is gone forever. My head is small, my neck long, and my hair terribly heavy.

            Tada Chimako, “From a Woman of a Distant Land”


It was the most exquisite form of torture yet invented. The schools trained us to be rigorous scientists, subtle logicians, discriminating literary critics, scrupulous theologians. We were given every form of encouragement. Then we were overtaken by our bodies. We bled heavily without a wound. We joined with men, hoping to be shattered, but only mild pleasure, if not disgust, happened. They, on the other hand, cried like babies or dogs and wanted the same for us.  So we faked it and after a while could not tell the body’s rumor from the world’s reality.

I am one of the luckier ones. I stopped dating and threw myself into teaching. I have found some measure of satisfaction in seeing my charges flourish. This one will be an earthbound astronaut strapped to her seat of her skirt. This one will write poems about “women’s issues,” which will be anthologized in volumes of women’s writing. This one, the most intelligent of her class, will devote herself to raising her kids. She and I will meet occasionally for coffee and debate passionately the merits of marriage. She will succeed in making me doubt my luck.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Jorge Luis Borges's "Labyrinths"

There are marvels in Borges's mazes, but there are no monsters, or more precisely, the monster is the maze. The thin line between fiction and fact, the multiplying paths of choice, the confusion of chance and fate, the interdependence of memory and forgetfulness, the regressions of infinity: these are the speculative themes embodied in his short stories, which are ostensibly about secret cabals, German spies, an endless library, ancient sacrifice, murder mystery, theological controversies, and the failure of a medieval Muslim intellectual to understand the Greek categories of comedy and tragedy. Borges takes a popular genre, such as crime thriller or science fiction, and, by exploring and subverting its conventions, exposes our assumptions about reality. My favorite stories in this collection are "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius," "The Garden of Forking Paths," "The Library of Babel," "Funes the Memorious" and "Death and the Compass." In these the starting premise is developed to the fullest extent; the mazes are not only complex but shapely.

A few of the stories, such as "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" and "Three Versions of Judas," read like essays. I find them unsatisfying as stories, but wonderfully teasing otherwise. This collection does give a selection of Borges's essays written as essays. The two essays that shed the greatest light on his stories are "Avatars of the Tortoise," which is about Zeno's paradoxes, and "A New Refutation of Time" about his idealistic outlook. The essay "The Fearful Sphere of Pascal," which traces the evolution of the image of "a fearful sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere," reads like one of his stories.

In the essay "The Argentine Writer and Tradition," he argues that the Argentine writer should not limit himself to local or national subjects. Instead, the whole world lies at his feet. "For that reason I repeat that we should not be alarmed and that we should feel that our patrimony is the universe; we should essay all themes, and we cannot limit ourselves to purely Argentine subjects in order to be Argentine; for either being Argentine is an inescapable act of fate--and in that case we shall be so in all events--or being Argentine is a mere affectation, a mask." The sentiment here resonates with me. A writer "creates" his own predecessors, as his essay on Kafka argues, and the writings finally create a symbol of a man, like the infinitely sensitive Paul Valéry or the liberating George Bernard Shaw, who wrote in a letter, quoted admiringly by Borges, "I understand everything and everyone and I am nothing and no one."

Friday, January 06, 2012

Labyrinths: Buenos Aires

Laid out in a grid, the streets of San Telmo should have been easy to navigate, but the perfectly symmetrical arrangement meant all intersections looked roughly the same. All corners were right-angled. Inside the maze, it was hard to remember what direction was North or West. The streets were named after countries in the Americas, and so we wandered all over the map, in Peru, Bolivia and Estados Unidos. In which state was the old-styled parilla we liked at which we had dinner one night? What was its name? On our last afternoon in Buenos Aires we stumbled on La Poesia Cafe.

*

Friday afternoon milonga at the Confiteria Ideal. The mazy footwork of tango crossed the palatial dance hall. After a set of songs, the dancing couples separated and returned to their own tables. The women sat along one wall like a gallery of yellowing portrait photographs. The men hardly touched their beer. A short elderly woman threaded her way through the small tables to ask me to dance. I shook my head and smiled hard so that she would not be offended by the rejection. She slunk back to her seat. I was terribly sorry to let her down. I could not look at her again.

*

We searched for the resting place of Eva Peron at La Recoleta. She was buried in the Duarte family vault.

*

Alejandro Xul Solar (Oscar Agustin Alejandro Schulz Solari, 1887-1963) is one of the most singular representatives of the vanguard in Latin America. In 1912 he went to Europe where he stayed until 1924, living in Italy and in Germany and making frequent trips to London and Paris.


At his return he participated actively in the esthetic renovation proposed by the editorial group of the Martin Fierro journal (1924-1927).


Fried of Jorge Luis Borges, he illustrated several of his books and collaborated in various of his editorial enterprises such as the Revista Multicolor de los Sábados y Destiempo.


With a vast culture, his interests took him to the study of Astrology, Kabbalah, I Ching Philosophy, religions and beliefs of the Ancient East, of India, and the Pre-Columbian world, besides Theosophy, Anthroposophy, among many other branches of knowledge.


He remained busy as well with the creation of two artificial languages, the "neocriolle" and the "panlengua", and the "pan-chess"' he proposed a modification of the musical notation and the piano keyboard, and conceived the idea of a puppet theatre for grown ups, among many other things.

*

So many Caucasian-looking porteños. Blond hair, skin. Where are the Indians?

Back in New York City, I made the observation to a school colleague who asked about my vacation. My colleague, who teaches history, explained that the European immigrants killed the Indians off to clear the pampas for cattle-rearing. Charles Darwin wrote about a Spanish governor putting out the eyes of an Indian with his thumbs.

*

The Rochester Concept Hotel, where we stayed, did not have a gym. To get to the gym, you have to go around the block to the Rochester Classic Hotel. To change hotel rooms, you have to pay US$30.00 more for each night. The leg of our bed flew out one night. We changed hotels. The new room was bigger, it has a bath, but we lost our private balcony. Gym, bath and balcony, which of these would you refuse to give up?

A hotel is a labyrinth with a room key.

*

We were used to seeing old Chinese women rummage the trash for recyclable bottles and cans on the streets of New York City. In Buenos Aires boys did the same, looking for paper, sitting on the sidewalks amidst the spilling garbage.

Downtown Buenos Aires celebrated New Year's Eve by throwing confetti, made from shredded office documents, down the streets. A holiday from work created work for others. Somebody had to pick the bits of paper up. Send in the boys, now grown into ashy men hanging off the municipal dump trucks.

*

In the painting Manifestación by Antonio Berni, the demonstrators pushing towards you look in every direction. You are relieved to find a pair of eyes looking at you, as if to say this is the way out.

*

They walked through the train cars and left whatever they were selling on the thighs of the seated commuters: lottery ticket, pocket guide book, page of stickers. Then they re-treaded their steps and retrieved their wares. It was a kind of contact, closer than a pious plea or a strumming guitar.

Our longest train journey was our trip to Tigre, a town built on the Paraná Delta. The way to explore the web of rivers and streams is by boat. But the vintage mahogany commuter launches will not ferry you up and down every waterway; they ply a route. They have found a gold thread and they hold to it. They have rendered the labyrinth navigable.

"Tigre" means jaguars, which used to roam the area. Perhaps they still do.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 Highlights

I have always thought of this blog as my electronic memory, but I don't often call up earlier posts, unless I am searching for something specific. Coming back today from Buenos Aires, where the new, and not a review, was uppermost on the mind, I do not want to let the first day of this new year go by without summarizing 2011, the first year of the second decade of the old-new century. So I trawled the blog-posts of this past year, to remind myself of last year's highlights.

The most momentous event in my personal life was moving into a new apartment with GH at the end of February. I re-discovered how little patience I have for home decoration. Fortunately, GH had all the talent and passion necessary for doing up the UWS apartment on 86th Street. We threw two parties and everyone was full of praise for his taste. He knew when to leave well alone. On living together, we complement each other when we are not fighting. I am very thin-skinned. At school, I received a very appreciative evaluation as a "senior" faculty, having taught for fifteen years altogether in Singapore and New York. The school's sponsorship of my green card has passed the Department of Labor and now waits for the approval of the State Department.

Re-reading Coleridge, Wordsworth and Keats during the summer to prepare for my new Romantic Poetry elective, I found myself transferring my preference for Keats to Wordsworth. I was somewhat repelled by the adolescent gorgeousness of Keats's language. I now like Wordsworth's plainness better. He also has more to say about human and familial relationships. Another poet with whom I spent much time was Anna Wickham. She is not a first-rate poet, but her feelings are indomitable and true. She is an original, like Stevie Smith, though they strike very different tones. In the pages of PN Review, I found Raymond Queneau's wonderful poems about Paris. In prose, I continued to read and admire John Updike. I read Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, and then In the Beauty of the Lilies. He is tremendously life-affirming. The other prose discovery was Simone de Beauvoir's enlightening The Second Sex.

The de Kooning retrospective at MoMA was tremendously powerful.  It bore out Peter Schjeldahl's assessment of him as the greatest American painter. I also enjoyed very much the Cone sister's collection of modern art at the Jewish Museum, and the complementary show of the Steins' collections at the San Francisco MoMA. Matisse is still my favorite Master.

In music, the All-Sibelius program by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Colin Davis, was memorable. Nikolaj Znaider played the Violin Concerto in D minor beautifully. Most thrilling, however, was the Miro Quartet's performance of Beethoven's late String Quartet in A minor.  I lost my feelings for Eliot's "The Four Quartets" but made an incomparable gain. Listening to the late string quartets while walking to school in November and December remains enfolded in my memory. I did not care for the adaptation of Bach in the White Light concert Passio-Compassio, but the whirling dervishes were special. After the excitement of Strauss's Rosenkavalier last summer, I swore I would watch more Strauss. I did not do so in 2011. I must this year.

I watched a lot of bad films this year. Judging the Lambda Awards this year, I read Paolo Pier Pasolini's poetry. It led me to his challenging films: political, allegorical, provocative. I enjoyed Joseph Marston's Maria Full of Grace about drug mules, and Azazel Jacobs' Terri about an overweight boy. Rustin Bayard was rescued from relative obscurity by the documentary Brother Outsider, shown at the People of Color Conference in November. Katori Hall's play "The Mountaintop" focused on the face of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., but Angela Bassett, as the chambermaid and angel, stole the show from Samuel L. Jackson. The best theater I watched this year was courtesy of SW: The Classic Stage Company's production of Anton Chekov's Three Sisters. Has mildew been sadder?

Last year was not outstanding for travel, partly because of the cost of renting and furnishing a much bigger apartment. During the summer, we went to SF, and had a wonderful few days driving around Napa Valley. VM and JF drove us to Storm King on a beautiful sunny fall day. The weekend trips to Woodstock and Kingston were always a welcomed change of air. This last week was spent in Buenos Aires, which I will say more about soon.

I did go back to Singapore this year, after a two-year absence. It was good to catch up with family and friends, harder now with my sister and her family since they are living in New Delhi. I was very happy to read at Books Actually from my new book of poems Seven Studies for a Self Portrait, published in January 2011, and launched in two book parties in the homes of HS and VM. Last year I read at bigger venues out-of-town than in previous years, at Salem's Peabody Essex Museum, at the Asian American Studies Conference in New Orleans, and at the American Literature Association Conference in Boston. The readings saw a deepening association with Asian American poetry, a connection strengthened by reading Tim Yu's book of criticism Race and the Avant-Garde. My poetry was anthologized in Carcanet Press's New Poetries V. I did not achieve my goal of publication in a major American journal. Perhaps this year.