Federico García Lorca, Poet in New York

lorcaYou still have two days left to see the fantastic and free exhibition at the New York Public Library dedicated to Spanish poet Federico García Lorca’s time he spent in NYC in 1929. Since April, a celebration of the writer has been going on in NYC. If you are unable to visit the exhibition, the Lorca in NY website is a plethora of illuminating images and information (the interactive map is worth a click alone but prepared to be distracted from any other business you were conducting–you were warned!).

The Lorca exhibition focuses on his time spent in NYC. He initially came to the US to study English at Columbia University but soon gave that up to work on his book of poetry. He communicated either in Spanish or in a less than stellar French. What I found most interesting about the exhibition was the fact that Lorca was so enthralled by Harlem. Usually, when reading works about Manhattan during this time period the lower part of the island gets the limelight with the upper neighborhoods being confined to the Harlem Renaissance. Lorca was a European who lived in a dormitory on Columbia’s campus. He was a hop, skip, and a jump a way from Harlem, a neighborhood that butts up against the university. He found friendship and inspiration from the people of Harlem and the neighborhood itself.

lorca2Besides having his words inspired by the city, the exhibition also exhibits Lorca’s artwork. It definitely had that Spanish Surrealism quality about it with its drooping figures and looping lines. Prior to his trip to NYC, Lorca was friends with Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel who had criticized his earlier poetry as being too traditional.

The exhibition is a lovely mash of Lorca’s letters to his family in Granada, artwork, information about his time spent at Columbia and NYC in general, his friendships with different writers in the city, and the overall influence New York had on him.

The exhibition is titled, “Back Tomorrow.” When handing in his manuscript for Poet in New York, Lorca left a note with these words to his Madrid publisher. Unfortunately, “he never returned. Weeks later, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he was brutally murdered by fascist elements in Granada, his body thrown into an unmarked mass grave.” Like all book blurbs these day, the entire exhibition was haunting. I think this was due to the surreal portraits he created and his enthusiasm and longing for the city mixed with his unfortunate and brutal death. If you’re able to see it, go immediately before the exhibition closes!

Acid Free Roundup

I’ve been pulled in a few too many directions as of late but I thought I would lay out what’s been happening recently and some of my to-do’s.

  1. New poem up at Translations of Dead German Poets.
  2. NO MORE BOOK REVIEWS! I swear this time. They take up too much of my free brain space. No more (well, at least not in the foreseeable future). A published book review really takes a lot of time. You have an initial draft, edits/back and forth with an editor, and also the time it took to read the book. My desire for my own writing and book choices certainly outranks that of publishing a measly review. Only books I have chosen for myself so be prepared for more write-ups for fiction coming soon
  3. Playing catch up on my favorite blogs. I’ve been a bit quiet lately. I’m not a big fan of the way that WordPress organizes the blogs I follow; plus I am sometimes negligent in pressing the ‘Follow’ button. I’ve always used Google Reader but now with its demise, I must find something new to organize everything. Suggestions greatly appreciated.
  4. Things I’m happy with: Writing! Yes, I’ve finally gotten some more words down on the page for a book I’m writing. This plot is a bit twisty, so may I share my new favorite virtual corkboard that helps me stay organized and it’s free? Definitely recommended. www.stixy.com/
  5. Even with all of this mind-stretching-in-different-directions, I still try to put up a few interesting writerly, bookish things on the ole Twitter feed even if I can’t get to the blog. www.twitter.com/AcidFreePulp

Translating Dead German Poets

Translations of Dead German Poets.So what happens when you’ve been super busy, not responding to emails, getting back to people or being a suitable human? Procrastinate, of course. I’ve decided to collect my three previous translations I’ve posted to this blog and create a new project. I have already put up the originally three and some new ones are coming soon.

Some people squish stress balls in their hands, others clean their whole home. I choose to translate poems by dead and forgotten (at least, forgotten in the US) German-language poets to refocus and forget about everyday stresses. So without further ado…


I Will Not Pay You To Read My Story

I am extremely adamant about not submitting my writing to any publication that requires a reader’s fee. 1) There are plenty of wonderful journals, magazines, and anthologies that accept submissions sans money and 2) I should not be paying anyone to read my writing. Like many others in the arts and humanities fields, writers are grossly underpaid or not paid at all (which is more frequently the case). As a publisher, it’s your choice to run a publication which means it’s your responsibility to find funding (whether it’s through grants, patrons, or your own stockpile of basement cash). Paying for a finished journal itself is, of course, acceptable, but I think the concept of a reader’s fee is a crying shame.

I recently decided to conduct a little experiment. I submitted a story of mine to an anthology that required a fee. You paid it separately via PayPal so you are able to email them first and pay later. I did only the former and purposefully neglected the latter. I was informed twice about my lack of payment. I received the final email today: “Just a reminder: We’ve received your story but not your fee. If we don’t get it in the next week or so (before the deadline), we won’t be able to accept your submission.”

Which leads me to my subconscious dismissal of publications that only publish work by writers that have paid to have their writing appear there. It wasn’t until recently that what used to be subconscious had surfaced to the front of my mind. As a reader, I avoid such publications. Why do I want to read writing that someone paid to have placed? It could be entirely well-deserved of publication but the nasty business of reader’s fee has blemished it all for me. When a journal, magazine, or anthology puts out a call for submissions, it should be just that. “Hey! We’re looking for some great writing. Send it our way.” It should not be a palm greasing monetary transaction that excludes those who cannot afford to send cash-in-hand to every lame publication out there.

It is a real disappointment that writers in general are always being asked to work for free (although, there are moments when it could be acceptable–for example, certain non-profits). I think, in a way, it is even more of a travesty to make them pay for their own work as well as narrowing the pool of submitted work to choose from. Just remember, there are plenty of wonderful publishers who are looking for exciting, new writing and don’t charge you to submit. Now, paying writers for their work–that’s a whole other story.

Anne Carson has been showing her face lately

Anne Carson’s black and white visage has been popping up a bit lately. Yesterday, I caught her on the front page of the New York Times website and now, today on the train, I was catching up on the double issue of New York magazine that included an article on Carson’s new book, Red Doc>.

Carson is one of those people who has slashes included in their profession: poet/translator/writer/professor. I really have a soft spot for The Beauty of the Husband, which can fall into the slashie category (is it a poem? a novel? what is it?). Carson, herself, subtitles this book “a fictional essay in 29 tangos.” Is it a dance routine? This book also begs to be reread (which I must do one of these days).

I am happy to see that Anne Carson has been popping up in national publications. With VIDA’s annual report out recently and the big hoopla about the recent NYmag spread on Philip Roth¹, I’ve been on hyper alert about the gender bias in publishing. So, on a normal day, I would probably just think. Anne Carson on the front of the Times website? Fantastic! A whole review (if flawed) of Anne Carson’s newest book in New York? Perfect! I’m just happy that a talented and not quite mainstream writer is getting some spotlight attention.
¹I’m totally on board anytime Alexander Portnoy feels the need to make love to his family’s liver dinner but this spread was a bit blah for my tasteA literary caucus…with James Franco! Come on. If you don’t have the time to read the whole spread, let me sum it up with one featured quote by Keith Gessen when asked if Roth is a misogynist, “Did Roth hate women? What does that mean? If you hated women, why would you spend all your time thinking about fucking them.”  [end scene]

Poetic Likeness: Modern American Poets

courtesy of NPR.orgI am incredibly jealous of anyone who lives or will be visiting Washington D.C. in the near future (up to 28 April 2013 to be exact). The National Portrait Gallery is having an exhibition that “is putting faces to lines like, I sing the body electric.” According to NPR,

Poets are not the world’s most visible celebrities. Their fame is tied to their verbal achievements, not the way they look… that, in fact, 20th century poets were public figures with vivid visual personas.

If you’re like me and won’t have the opportunity to see this in person, the National Portrait Gallery has supplied some of the photographs and further information on their website.

a poem by August von Platen-Hallermünde

August_von_Platen_by_Moritz_RugendasIt has been almost a year since I posted a translation. This is a poem by August von Platen-Hallermünde, an early 19th Century German writer. I dare say that I know very little about him but apparently his slim volumes of poetry caught the eye of even greats like Goethe. I don’t know if he is available in English (or in any other language besides the original German) but I hope you enjoy.
Specks of colors dust the wings
of summer butterflies.

They are fleeting and ephemeral,
Like the gifts that I bring,
Like the wreaths that I weave,
Like the songs that I sing.

Swiftly hovering above all,
Your time is scarce,
Like foam on a swaying wave,
Like a breath on a bare blade.

I do not desire immortality,
Death is the fate of all things,
My tones are as fragile
As the glass which I ring.

Farbenstäubchen auf der Schwinge
Sommerlicher Schmetterlinge.

Flüchtig sind sie, sind vergänglich,
Wie die Gaben, die ich bringe,
Wie die Kränze, die ich flechte,
Wie die Lieder, die ich singe.

Schnell vorüber schweben alle,
Ihre Dauer ist geringe,
Wie ein Schaum auf schwanker Welle,
Wie ein Hauch auf blanker Klinge.

Nicht Unsterblichkeit verlang ich,
Sterben ist das Los der Dinge.
Meine Töne sind zerbrechlich
Wie das Glas, an das ich klinge.

A Toast to Robert Burns


It is poet Robert Burns’ 254 birthday today and what better way to celebrate than with a Burns SupperAccording to Huffington Post UK, the “tradition began in 1801, five years after the Scottish bard’s death when a group of his close friends decided to commemorate his memory by hosting a dinner.”

To get in the spirit, you can take a gander at The Scotsman’s list of Five Whiskies to Celebrate Burns Night With. Never one to shy away from a drink or two himself, Burns penned the poem, “Scotch Drink.”

Thou clears the head o’doited Lear;
Thou cheers ahe heart o’ drooping Care;
Thou strings the nerves o’ Labour sair,
At’s weary toil;
Though even brightens dark Despair
Wi’ gloomy smile.

There is much show for a Burns Supper: reading his poetry, piping, singing, toasting, and don’t forget, the Address to a Haggis. And for the more intense Burns aficionados, head over to Project Gutenberg to read George Combe’s Phrenological Development of Robert Burns From a Cast of His Skull Moulded at Dumfries, the 31st Day of March 1834 complete with illustrations! Apparently, “Burns’ skull was bigger than the average man’s. After he died and was buried in St. Michael’s Churchyard in Dumfries in 1796, Rabbie’s body was exhumed in 1815 to be placed in a new mausoleum in the town. While the body was above ground, a plaster cast was taken of his skull for study and measured.”

So, eat, drink and be merry!

Oyster Pirate by day, Author by night

Or as the subtitle of this post should be: Day jobs of the aspiring writer. 

I find myself, like many people, in miserable unemployment and a frustrating job search. My mind keeps coming back to those lists that pop-up now and again about strange day jobs of the now famous. Some of the more well-known are Kafka’s employment with an insurance company which could easily be seen as a great influence in his writing or Stephen King, who was inspired to write Carrie while working as a janitor at a high school. Below, I have collected some of the more amusing.

The [International] Reading List

MH900400620If you just take a peek at the top of the blog, you’ll see that I added a new page: The [International] Reading ListIn response to a recent post, I’ve decided to publicly collect my the  list of international books-to-read. The purpose is to get some reader recs as well as shedding light on international books. Not enough foreign books are published in the US and I hope I can do my small part in bringing more attention to them.

Please take a look at the ever so small current list and if you have any recommendations, I encourage you to leave them in the comment section. I do not discriminate. Any genre is welcome whether it be “high literature,” mainstream fiction, children’s lit, sci-fi, etc. Contemporary or classic!