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An Interview with Kiriti Sengupta

Global Dimension To Bengali Poetry

Interview by Anit Mukerjea

kiriti 5Kiriti Sengupta, a Dental Surgeon and graduate of the University of North Bengal is also the author of other bestselling titles: My Glass Of Wine, a novelette based on autobiographic poetry, and The Reverse Tree, a nonfictional memoir. His other works include My Dazzling Bards [literary critique], The Reciting Pens [interviews of three published Bengali poets along with translations of their Bengali poems], The Unheard I [literary nonfiction], Desirous Water [contributed as a translator], Poem Continuous – Reincarnated Expressions [contributed as a translator]. Sengupta’s works have received critical acclaim Sengupta has also co-edited three anthologies of poetry; Scaling Heights, Jora Sanko – The Joined Bridge, and Epitaphs. His latest creative venture Healing Waters Floating Lamps is a collection of philosophical verses that delves into the magic of healing, complimented by photographs that are eye-catching. While appreciating the book K. Satchidanandan, the renowned poet has stated, “These poems are different from the run-of-the-mill Indian English poems in being far closer to our humdrum daily experiences and their baffling paradoxes and cruel ironies.” Healing Waters has been a bestselling title in the United States [on Amazon]. Here are excerpts from a personal interaction with the poet and translator, Kiriti Sengupta.

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Anit Mukerjea: What inspired you to base your present anthology of poetry on the theme of Healing Waters Floating Lamps?

Kiriti Sengupta: On a recent trip to Varanasi I observed the devotees of Lord Shiva floated tiny lamps in the Ganges. These lamps floated for a long time without extinguishing, the water having a healing effect and the lamps moved on. My present book of verses was first named Crucifixion Is Christ-Filled. This was inspired by one of my poems titled Namesake. However, I was not happy with the title, and I emailed the entire manuscript to Eileen Register, who is a brilliant writer and a poet, living in Florida. It was Eileen who carefully read my manuscript and came up with the title. You know, the title Healing Waters Floating Lamps perfectly compliments the poems that have been included in the book. Now, if you ask me the inspiration behind this anthology of poetry, it was Gopal Lahiri, one of my reviewers who strongly suggested that I must publish an exclusive collection of my poems, for he thought my other books have quite of a few of them woven in nonfictional memoirs. So, this has been the background score. Spirituality and Philosophy have always been an integral part of poetry. The book is all about the philosophies of my life, the way I look at my being!

Anit: You are a Dental Surgeon by profession. What made you choose poetry as your creative canvas?

Kiriti: Does one really enjoy an option of choosing poetry as his/her kiriti 2creative canvas? I don’t think so. Poetry is one of the most condensed form of literature, and it germinates within one’s existence. You don’t have a choice here. Either you have poetry in you, or you don’t. You can’t write poetry just for the sake of writing it. You may learn crafting, but poetry arrives naturally. I must tell you that a few months back I have interviewed the famous Bengali poet Bibhas Roy Chowdhury, and the article [interview] appeared on “Word Riot,” a well-respected, online literary journal published from the United States. In his interview Roy Chowdhury categorically stated, “Poetry involves eternity … I believe, poetry emerges from our lives quite helplessly…”

Anit: What is your take on the flow of ideas in poetry should be spontaneously backed by a stream of consciousness?

Kiriti: Ah! A relevant question indeed. If you ask me what consciousness is I would tell you that it is a larger perspective of your vision. I told you before, my poetry reflects the ways I envision life and its challenges. There is always a stream of consciousness irrespective of the tone, structure, and nuances of the language I use in writing poetry. You know, during the launch of Healing Waters Floating Lamps poet and academic Sharmila Ray read from the poem Evening Varanasi, and she interpreted the title first. She explained, “One must meditate on the title. Sengupta did not write ‘Evening In Varanasi,’ but he wrote Evening Varanasi. Readers have to comprehend the implications of such a title.” Sharmila is one of the prominent Indian English poets of our times, and she has been pretty quick and apt in identifying the ‘streams of consciousness’ in my poems.

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Anit: You have been known to have undertaken translation work of Bengali poetry into English in The Reciting Pens, Desirous Water, and Poem Continuous. What has been the response of these translated poems abroad?

Kiriti: Both The Reciting Pens, and Poem Continuous have been published by Inner Child Press, Limited. This is a small press situated in New Jersey, U.S.A. On the other hand, Desirous Water has been published by The Poetry Society of India, Gurgaon. Among them Poem Continuous has been widely appreciated and reviewed both nationally as well as internationally. I think, globalization of Bengali poetry can be achieved through translation work, and I have been considerably successful in my attempts.

Anit: Don’t you think translation work becomes difficult when two different languages with their distinct separate nuances and idioms whose meaning and dimension may be lost in translation?

Kiriti: You are right. Translators do suffer from apprehensions of conveying the exact nuances of the original language to the target audience. But you know, translators are primarily readers, and interpretation of poetry differs from one reader to another. Therefore, I consider “translation” as “transition.” My approach is to follow the original piece as closely as possible, and I seldom include my interpretations in the translated version, for a “faithful” translation is believed to be the best approach.  I make sure my translation hits the right chord of the target audience as I get my works edited by an expert poetry-editor. Unfortunately we don’t have many efficient poetry-editors in India, and poets at large refrain from getting their works edited. They fail to understand that an expert editor would not impose changes forcibly, an editor finely polishes the surface roughness of a work rather.

Anit: Until now you have collaborated with three American editors. Stephen L Wilson, Kate Lantry, and Don Martin. They have given the requisite edge to your works. Any plans to work with them again?

Kiriti: I’m eternally grateful to my editors. Both Kate and Stephen have been instrumental in editing The Reciting Pens, a book of translated long interviews of three published Bengali poets from Calcutta along with their translated poems. They taught me to identify “lazy words,” and helped me to get rid of irrelevant portions from the interviews in order to make them compact and sharper. Long interviews often tire the readers, but in The Reciting Pens my editors made sure that the interviews read smooth and fresh. I can remember while translating From The Crossroads, a Bengali poem by Ranadeb Dasgupta, I wrote: “During daytime the shops resemble lover boys, while under the halogen street-lamps they have conspiring eyes.” Kate aptly edited the line that finally read as: “During daytime the shops resemble libertines, while under the halogen street-lamps they have conspiring eyes.” From lover boys to libertines, you see, how a word-change rendered better perspective to my translation!

Don Martin, on the other hand, is not only an efficient editor, he is a bestselling author as well. I have worked with him for most of my books. Whether it is my translated work, nonfiction, memoir, or poetry Don understands my breaths quite well. I have picked quite a few of editorial skills from him, and Don has been extremely supportive to my literary endeavors. He is a nice gentleman, and we are now good friends.

my glass of wine

Anit: Your older books like My Glass Of Wine, and The Reverse Tree have done remarkably well in the market. MGOW has been a national bestseller while TRT has been a bestselling title in the United States. Both of these titles got you critical acclaim in several literary journals. Do you think marketing goes a long way towards the success of a book?

kiriti 4Kiriti: Marketing is indeed important to secure immediate readership, but it is the work that will speak for itself in future. In MGOW my objective was to bring more readers to poetry, and I proved my point. Poetry can be cherished even by the general readers of literature if it is presented with narratives or relevant nonfictional prose pieces. MGOW has essentially been a work that centers around poetry, written by me in English-language. In an article published in The Statesman [Delhi ed.] on 23rd of April, 2014 it was documented that MGOW has been a bestselling title across the online portals in India.

The Reverse Tree has been a work of nonfictional memoir that included a few poems. It got several interesting chapters on transgender/transsexual issues, scriptural verses and their influences in my life, racism, mimicry, among others. In a nutshell, TRT projected my journey towards understanding the quest of life. It has been appreciated in international journals like Red Fez Magazine, Word Riot, and I am expecting a review in Muse India, one of the most significant literary journals published in India. I’m thankful to my reviewers who have appreciated my works. Having said that I must add I have my share of negative or not-so-positive reviews, but they only made me alert of my limitations as an author.  

Anit: Tell me something about the anthology Jora Sanko – The Joined Bridge.

Kiriti: Jora Sanko has been a diligent effort of compiling and editing English-language poems by the Bengali poets across the globe. I co-edited the anthology along with Dr. Madan Gandhi, President of The Poetry Society of India, Gurgaon. In this book I have had collaborated with the big names and some extremely talented poets like Debjani Chatterjee, Sudeep Sen, Sanjukta Dasgupta, Sharmila Ray, Ranadeb Dasgupta, Ananya S Guha, Gopal Lahiri, Bishnupada Ray, Jaydeep Sarangi, Debasish Lahiri, Sutapa Chaudhuri, Sujan Bhattacharya, among others. Our effort received appreciations in The Hindu Literary Review, Muse India, among other places. Another exciting achievement is Jora Sanko has been placed in the Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall, London. I’m planning to bring out the second edition of Jora Sanko in order to include other Bengali poets who write in English-language.

Anit: What is the response of your present book of poems Healing Waters Floating Lamps? Your reviewers must have been happy with those spectacular verses.

Kiriti: HWFL got published only a few weeks ago. I’m yet to receive reviews, but I’m sure my work would be appreciated by the critics, poets and readers. Let me share the trade facts here: HWFL has been a best-selling poetry title in the United States in Indian Literature, and you know, it ranked first among the “Hot New Releases” in Indian Literature on Amazon [United States].

I don’t know if my verses are “spectacular,” I’ll rather term them “subtle,” or “humble.” You are perhaps aware that I am a spiritual person, and spirituality centers around one’s journey towards realization of the “self.” Spirituality has nothing to do with the so-called “religions.” Religions divide while true spirituality unites. My poems are to deliver certain messages to the readers. Above all, my poems speak about “simple living.”

Anit: When you are penning a Bengali or an English poem is there a subtle difference in the thought processes of those two languages?

Kiriti: Certainly yes. Languages have their characteristic nuances. The way I think when I write a Bengali poem is quite different from the way when I think in English. This is indeed a challenging task for any bilingual poet, but poetry in itself is a cardio-cerebral affair.

Anit: What are the projects you are currently working on?

poem continuous us edition

Kiriti: I’m trying to bring out the second edition of Poem Continuous. The first edition bore only thirty translated poems by Bibhas Roy Chowdhury. And now I would translate another thirty poems of Roy Chowdhury, so the target readers can read more works of this noted Bengali poet. I’m also planning for another book of my verses. I’m yet to finalize the manuscript, though.

– Anit Mukerjea is a poet, writer, and a painter based in Calcutta. He is a columnist with The Statesman for nearly three decades. He has extensively written in other journals and magazines published from Delhi and Mumbai.

Memorial Day 2015 – United States

Remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice . . . 

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Whats Going On?

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Loudenslager American Legion Post

Fox Chase/ Rockledge

Join us on Memorial Day Mon May 27th at 11:00 am for our annual Memorial Day Service in Lawnview Cemetery. The service is open to the public so bring your family and friends to help us remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. There will be a short procession from the entrance of the cemetery to the chapel with the Loudenslager American Legion Post members, the Son’s Color Guard, Boy Scout Troop 290, AOH/LOAH Div 25 and the NE Lions Club members. Those interested in joining our procession please meet at Lawnview’s entrance at 10:00 am. Lawnview is located at 500 Huntingdon Pike, Rockledge.

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An Interview with Karen Stefano

Karen Stefano 1Karen Stefano is Fiction Editor for Connotation Press: An Online Artifact of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, and book reviews. She’s published her stories in The South Carolina Review, Tampa Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Epiphany, and elsewhere. Karen was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize. Her collection, The Secret Games of Words, is available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon.com

Interview by Robert Hambling Davis 

Secret games of word

RHD: Karen, when I read The Secret Games of Words, I was immediately impressed by two of your many strengths as a fiction writer. I’ll address them separately. The first one, which I call formatting a story, I mentioned in my short review. Did the personality-inventory format of “Undone” come to you with the idea for the story? Or did you write a draft of the story first and then decide on the best format to present the narrative, for the most emotional impact?

KS:  I’ll spare you the details, but in 2007 I began seeing a therapist who would not take a new patient until said patient completed the MMPI. So I got busy with the test and found that the questions delighted me (Would I like to work as a librarian? Hell yes I would!! Do evil spirits possess me? I sure as hell hope not!! Do I hear voices? Yes, but fortunately only when I’m writing!!).  I thought every single question provided an excellent prompt for story-telling. It took me awhile to figure out how to put it all together, to make “Undone” work in terms of “the occasion for telling,” but actually taking the test is how this story came about. Reading the questions also harkened me back to my days as an undergrad at Berkeley, where I was a Psych major, so I suppose the MMPI and other diagnostic tools have always held a place in my heart.  

Generally speaking, format and structure are always difficult for me. I wish I could say I have an organized method for creating short fiction, but I don’t. The shape of my stories seemingly come about on their own, but only after many, many rounds of edits.

Karen Stefano reading at the Tin House Writer’s Workshop

RHD: Of the twenty-three stories in your collection, several are flash fiction. The collection is a mix of short and long, and I enjoyed the changeup. As a fellow fiction writer and editor, I’ve heard other fiction writers express their inability to write flash fiction, saying, “I can’t write short.” You don’t seem to have that problem. Do you read a lot of flash fiction? Do you conceive of a flash fiction piece the same way that you conceive of a longer story? Along these lines, I especially liked “Visitor,” which is a page and a half long, a complete story about a shoplifter who sells counterfeit Ray-Bans on the side of the road, to make enough money to pay her rent. By the end of the story, she’s no longer worrying about her rent as she feels compassion for an abused young girl.

Karen StefanoKS:  I had never written a word of flash before 2013. That year I joined a writing group consisting of myself and the uber-talented Meg Tuite, Len Kuntz, and Robert Vaughan, each of whom are masters of the form. Every week for an entire year we took turns providing the prompt, then we were expected to circulate a draft of a story not exceeding 500 words within the next week, then we had another week in which to critique each other’s work. The experience was immensely productive and satisfying.  “Look!” I could say to myself, “I finished something! I wrote a whole story in just a week!” You have no idea how great this feels when you are working on a novel, when you are a person for whom writing takes a long, long time. “Visitor” stemmed from one of those weekly prompts of 2013. Flash also teaches a writer that every word matters. It’s an incredibly disciplined form and I would encourage anyone who says, “I can’t write short” to give it another try. I am a strong believer that writing flash makes one a better writer overall.

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RHD: You have over twenty years of litigation experience, with a JD/MBA (specializing in law and business administration). How much does your day job inspire you to write fiction?

KS: Yes, and I want to note for the record that I started practicing law when I was just five years old, okay? But to answer your question: So far, very little. I did criminal defense for eight years and to say I met a lot of interesting people would be the understatement of the year. I was thrown into so many situations that touched me deeply. I’ve tried to write about them, but the experiences have just not translated onto the page for me yet. I also worked at a large civil litigation firm that was comically dysfunctional. I hope to make use of that pain on the page some day, but that hasn’t happened yet either. But with all of that being said, smidgeons of my life as a lawyer sometimes come through in my work. The prosecutor in “Undone,” for example, is based on a real life prick I used to encounter all too often in the courtroom.

RHD: Who are some of your favorite short story writers?

KS: Oh, there are too many to list, but I’ll try. Lorrie Moore, Deborah Eisenberg, Flannery O’Connor, Benjamin Percy, Steve Almond, Miranda July. There are also many emerging writers whose work I love. Donna Trump, for example, who we featured recently in Connotation Press, writes beautifully. I hope that in the very near future she gets the wide audience she so richly deserves. Robert P. Kaye (another Connotation Press alum!) is another of my favorites. His work is brilliant and with the right exposure I see him as the next Karen Russell (and no, I’m not overstating it).

Karen Stefano 5RHD: Aside from the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, you’ve been to the Tin House Workshop twice and to the Breadloaf Conference. What’s your feeling about writing workshops and conferences in general? Do you feel you’ve had stories published that perhaps wouldn’t have been published if you hadn’t workshopped them?

KS: Honestly? In my view, the most beneficial thing about workshops is the people you meet, the relationships that are formed. Take you and me, for example. We met at Squaw, in a workshop, which by definition can be a setting where one can feel pretty vulnerable. You and I connected because we enjoyed one another’s work and we stayed in touch and exchanged work for awhile thereafter. I’ve had similar experiences in other workshops and the results are amazing. I mean, I’ve formed some real friendships, friendships that have gotten me through some pretty rough times in the past year or so. That is a remarkable gift. We need each other. Writing itself is difficult. And the writing life is even more difficult. We need to cheer each other on, to help one another through the days of self doubt. 

And yes, getting edits and critiques from people I’ve connected with has definitely helped shape stories that would otherwise have been “DOA.” But that doesn’t always happen in the workshop itself. The reality is that not every writer in the workshop is going to have useful and productive suggestions for your work. You have to pick and choose what and who you listen to.

rhdavis-1 –Robert Hambling Davis is a fiction editor of The Fox Chase Review. He has been published in The Sun, Antietam Review, Memoir (and), Philadelphia Stories, Santa Monica Review, and elsewhere. He’s been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and received three Delaware Division of the Arts grants, two for fiction and one for creative nonfiction. He was a fiction semifinalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Contest in 2002 and 2012, and a creative nonfiction winner in 2013. Robert helps direct the Delaware Literary Connection, a nonprofit serving writers in Delaware and surrounding areas. He is a member of the Delaware Artist Roster, and has given writing workshops and readings in the Mid-Atlantic.

The Secret Games of Words by Karen Stefano

Secret games of wordPaperback: 126 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 24, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 150254413X

ISBN-13: 978-1502544131

Review by Robert Hambling Davis

I met Karen Stefano at the 2008 Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, where we were in the same critique group with nine other fiction writers. For her critique, Karen chose a story she calls “Undone” in her debut collection, The Secret Games of Words, which was published by 1 Glimpse Press in March 2015. “Undone” might have had another title when I first read it, but I remember being impressed with the format of the story, in which the attorney narrator, who works in the L.A. Public Defender’s Office, has to answer a personality inventory as part of her mental health evaluation, after a courtroom hearing which could result in her being committed to a California psychiatric hospital for a year. She must answer true or false to each of the nineteen questions on the inventory, which she does. She then justifies each answer for the reader, and these justifications are the meat of this tragicomedy about a woman who is coming undone in her love life and her professional life, and whose terminally ill father wants her to kill him.

The title story of The Secret Games of Words is written in the form of an email from the narrator, missusjack1, to her husband, JackLabRat, after he’s dumped her for his lab assistant. On a downward spiral, the narrator has been fired from her job as the mayor’s communications director, for making a typo in a press release, omitting the “f” in “Shifts,” so that the printed headline reads: “City Council Shits on Mayor’s New Policy.” She blames the typo on her stress over her dying father (a recurrent theme in Stefano’s stories), and as she drinks vodka to dull her pain, she entertains the following thought, which begins her “Period of Decline”:

“I realized then how consonants change lives. A shift turns to shit, friends turn to fiends, Native Americans with their proud heritage become naïve Americans, an epidemic. My mind flew in an endless loop, listing all the better mistakes I could have made.”

Later, when her husband comes home for the last time (he’s already shacking up with his assistant), the narrator tries to talk to him about the secret games of words, calling them “little pranksters wreaking havoc in our lives.” Then, attempting to make a joke over her misfortune, she tells him: “You got laid. I got laid off. One’s good, the other’s bad. Get it?” In the course of the story she loses her job, her husband, and her father, but the way Stefano has missusjack1 tell the story makes it comical, and this is a trait of most of the stories in this first yet accomplished collection: the main characters are haunted by bad luck, often forced into high-catastrophe-living mode, on the brink of madness, yet at the same time they have the ability to laugh at themselves. They don’t laugh at themselves, though. They’re in too much pain. Yet the way they tell their stories tells the reader that they are still able to see life as a comedy.

You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Games-Words-Stories/dp/150254413X/ref=la_B00U4YT9MW_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431957697&sr=1-1

rhdavis-1-Robert Hambling Davis is a fiction editor of The Fox Chase Review. He has been published in The Sun, Antietam Review, Memoir (and), Philadelphia Stories, Santa Monica Review, and elsewhere. He’s been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and received three Delaware Division of the Arts grants, two for fiction and one for creative nonfiction. He was a fiction semifinalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Contest in 2002 and 2012, and a creative nonfiction winner in 2013. Robert helps direct the Delaware Literary Connection, a nonprofit serving writers in Delaware and surrounding areas. He is a member of the Delaware Artist Roster, and has given writing workshops and readings in the Mid-Atlantic.

National Peace Officers Memorial Day May 15th

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Let us remember those who in keeping the peace lost their lives.

http://www.policeweek.org/

Philadelphia Mayoral Candidates on the Arts – Vote May 19th

Philadelphia City Hall '08

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On May 1st we sent out eight questions to the Mayoral candidates in Philadelphia concerning the arts. Questions concerned the poet laureate program, funding for museum/homes in Fairmount Park, questions about what books the candidates have read, visits to the art museum, who are their favorite poet/writers and artists. We requested the candidates respond by May 10th. We included all the Democrat candidates and the Republican candidate for the May 19th primary. Responses appear below in the order they have been returned. Those not responding appear at the bottom of the post. Remember to vote May 19th!

Anthony Williams courtesy Williams Campaign

Anthony Williams – Democrat, Philadelphia

https://www.anthonyhwilliams.com/about/

As Mayor would you continue the Poet Laureate position in Philadelphia?

Absolutely. As Poet Laureates, Sonia Sanchez and Frank Sherlock showcase the best of what Philadelphia has to offer. We should continue it, and highlight Philadelphia as a city that recognizes arts and culture as one of city’s strategic assets.

In recent years funding for the arts has substantially decreased. What is your position of funding of the arts and would you increase city funding?

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As Mayor, I will elevate city government’s commitment to the arts by creating a Department of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy. I will also commit to securing a dedicated revenue stream for the arts, as a part of a long­term strategic vision for how the sector can accelerate economic growth for artists and organizations alike.

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The museum/homes of Fairmount Park are jewels of the city. What would you do as Mayor to insure proper funding and maintenance of these homes visited by the public?

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I’m committed to increasing the operating and capital budgets for the Department of Parks and Recreation. Underfunding the basic capital needs of parks and recreation is short sighted. Thirteen percent of Philadelphia is parkland. Philadelphia has one of the top 5 highest total acreages of park land in the nation, and we spend less than almost every city to maintain it. This is to our detriment: the city’s parks generate over $40M in increased equity for homeowners that live near them. With a focus on strong programming in museums and homes in Fairmount Park, we can attract neighborhood revitalization, engage families, and activate community pride.

Who is your favorite poet/writer and why?

TS Elliott in high school, grew to love novels of James Baldwin and poetry of Nicki Giovanni in college- has an eclectic set of tastes in poetry and prose. 

Who is your favorite artist and why?

Henry Ossawa Tanner 

When was the last occasion you paid a visit to the Art Museum?

Art museum visit :  for official business but not in a while for pleasure, but visited the Barnes in 2014 with wife Shari, just before I started running for mayor

How many books do you read during the course of a year?

Reads at least 2 books a month

Do you have a personal passion for the arts and if so what discipline do you engage?

Has personal passion for the arts based upon discovering this was the best format to learn; arts and sports was what kept my attention in high school, that’s why I am so frustrated by the fact that the arts have largely disappeared from public schools, it is the only thing that motivates some kids to stay in school? Favorite discipline is music…loves to dance. 

doug oliver- courtesy of oliver campagin

Doug Oliver- Democrat, Philadelphia

http://dougoliver2015.com/who-am-i/

As Mayor would you continue the Poet Laureate position in Philadelphia?

Certainly. Our city has a rich history and exciting future rooted in written and spoken word. Those who have served in the official capacity – Sonia Sanchez and Frank Sherlock – as well as those who have served as unofficial cultural ambassadors like The Roots, Jill Scott, Linda Creed, Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff and dating as far back as Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allen Poe and our founding Father Benjamin Franklin … all of these amazing writers and poets have lent to the depth of our cultural richness and helped to put the city on the map.

Now, through the launch of the Youth Poet Laureate program and our city hosting the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival last year, spoken word has also emerged as a way to connect to the youth in our city, allowing their voices to be heard. Preserving the Poet Laureate position is a relatively small investment that renders massive tangible and intangible benefits for our city and our cultural economy. And even during times when tough decisions on our budget may have to be made, I think we could look to public/private partnerships to support and even expand the program. I applaud the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy for its work.

In recent years funding for the arts has substantially decreased. What is your position of funding of the arts and would you increase city funding?

Tourism has a $10 billion impact on the overall economy of the Philadelphia region. One of the most important draws for the more than 30 million visitors to the region each year is the strength of our arts and culture community. Much of that traffic has been confined to the many fine institutions in Center City. In our Beyond the Bell strategy, we look to expand the benefits of the tourism industry to our culturally rich neighborhoods.

One way we can support this is to increase targeted investment in thriving multicultural “Main Streets,” extending the same Business Improvement Districts that brought life to the Avenue of the Arts and University City into other neighborhoods. I would also like to consider strategies for bringing the Uptown Theater back into commerce and using it as a catalytic project that would spur growth along North Broad Street. We would also like to implement a tourism district “Round it Up” program for local businesses, offering customers an opportunity to designate their leftover change to our City’s Cultural Fund. Additionally, I would like to look at working with The Philadelphia Fund and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance on our city’s participation in Give Local America!, a national online single day of giving event that has worked well in Pittsburgh and New Orleans to spur individual donor support of our cultural institutions and other non-profit organizations.

The museum/homes of Fairmount Park are jewels of the city. What would you do as Mayor to insure proper funding and maintenance of these homes visited by the public?

Many of these history buildings date back to the centennial exhibition of 1876. Fairmount Park has some of the greatest architectural gems of any parks system in the country. I believe these capital projects require strong public/private partnerships between the philanthropic community and city government. I also believe in adaptive reuse of many of these historic buildings like the Please Touch Museum and Ryerss Mansion at Burholme Park.

Who is your favorite poet/writer and why?

Maya Angelou. Her life. The richness of her words. Her ability to persevere through incredible adversity, translate her pain into prose that have helped uplift generations of readers – across all walks of life – to become one of the greatest writers of our time is inspiring.

Who is your favorite artist and why?

I would have to say both Norman Rockwell and Gordon Parks. Both had a way of capturing their respective views of the American experience and every day life in ways that were both relatable and impactful.

When was the last occasion you paid a visit to the Art Museum?

It’s been a while since I’ve able to make it to the Art Museum. But the incredible thing about Philadelphia is that we are home to a rich, diverse collection of repositories for the arts. I recently visited the African American Museum of Art in Philadelphia for the opening of the exhibition Badass Art Man: Original Work of Danny Simmons.

How many books do you read during the course of a year?

10 to 15. I try to get in one a month.

Do you have a personal passion for the arts and if so what discipline do you engage?

I used to play the trumpet. One of the defining moments in my life was when I was student at Pickett Middle School and some guys stole my trumpet and broke it. I haven’t played since. However, I still remain extremely passionate about the Arts. There’s been a lot of focus placed on STEM industries – science, technology, engineering and math – as economic drivers. I’m in support of STEAM – those same disciplines with an added emphasis on the Arts. Some of our greatest assets are the many cultural institutions throughout our city. I believe it is important for us to include those institutions in conversations around preparing our children for the future, developing unique job and small business opportunities and ultimately building out a stronger and more diverse economy in our City.

jim kenney courtesy Kenney campaign

Jim Kenney- Democrat, Philadelphia

https://kenney2015.com/about

As Mayor would you continue the Poet Laureate position in Philadelphia?

Yes

In recent years funding for the arts has substantially decreased. What is your position of funding of the arts and would you increase city funding?

Yes through partnerships with corporations and large non-profits. Increasing access to the arts in to engaging our students and they will be a key part of my plan to expand the community school model throughout Philadelphia. schools are critical.

The museum/homes of Fairmount Park are jewels of the city. What would you do as Mayor to insure proper funding and maintenance of these homes visited by the public?

Private-public partnerships will be critical. I am dedicated to being a constant advocate for these and other cultural jewels that contribute invaluably to our tourism and local economy.

Who is your favorite poet/writer and why?

Langston Hughes, very lyrical

Who is your favorite artist and why?

Atkins, a Philly artist who despite an underprivileged childhood went on to achieve great things and give back tremendously to his community.

When was the last occasion you paid a visit to the Art Museum?

Last year for a benefit to support the museum

How many books do you read during the course of a year?

4-5

Do you have a personal passion for the arts and if so what discipline do you engage?

I participated in the New Year’s parade for many years, but these days I mostly just sing showtunes.

Nelson Diaz courtesy Diaz fro Mayor

Nelson Diaz- Democrat, Philadelphia

http://www.nelsondiazformayor.com/meet-nelson

As Mayor would you continue the Poet Laureate position in Philadelphia?

Yes I would. This is an important symbolic token of our support for the creative arts in Philadelphia, and I look forward to helping to select our third Poet Laureate as Mayor.

In recent years funding for the arts has substantially decreased. What is your position of funding of the arts and would you increase city funding?

The City should invest more in the arts and in parks because doing so would yield huge dividends for the city, on a financial as well as a cultural level. I’d much rather invest in the arts than in sports stadiums, for instance, because the arts generate so much more for our city than a stadium does. The arts are one of the key drivers of our economy and deserve our enthusiastic support as a city government.

The museum/homes of Fairmount Park are jewels of the city. What would you do as Mayor to insure proper funding and maintenance of these homes visited by the public?

City funding for our parks should be increased. I’ve repeatedly gone on record during this campaign pledging to increase city support for our parks department and invest more resources in maintaining and expanding parks and green space across our City.

Who is your favorite poet/writer and why?

My favorite author is Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Not just for her legal opinions, but for her inspiring and powerful memoir. As a fellow Puerto Rican from public housing in New York, I found it particularly meaningful to read her journey.

Who is your favorite artist and why?

Picasso. I’ve had the privilege of seeing his work around the world and always found it amazing.

When was the last occasion you paid a visit to the Art Museum?

I’m actually a member of the Board of Trustees of the Art Museum; I visit frequently, and was there a month ago for a presentation on the African American collection.

How many books do you read during the course of a year?

On average I read four books a year for pleasure and a number more for business and corporate law or governance.

Do you have a personal passion for the arts and if so what discipline do you engage?

I am a particular fan of dance and music, and enjoy salsa dancing. While my form is a little unorthodox, I make up for it with enthusiasm.

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No Response

Lynne Abraham

Melissa Murray Bailey

T Milton Street

 

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g-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

After the Gazebo by Jen Knox

after_the_gazeboPaperback: 185 pages

Publisher: Rain Mountain Press; First edition (May 31, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1495106128

ISBN-13: 978-1495106125

Review by g emil reutter

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There are many sides to life, Jen Knox, an observer, brings to our attention the stories of people we may not normally see. There is the lady on the bus who speaks to everyone on her way to visit her recovering daughter, not sure if the clean and drug free daughter will be there or the other daughter. Her nervousness results in speaking to people on the bus. She gets to know the regulars, speaks to new folks if they like it or not. She brings gifts to those she gets to know on the regular route of this bus. The character knows people who takes buses don’t have cars. The tension builds in the story, as in all stories in this collection, with an unpredictable conclusion. She writes of the perfect couple with the perfect small wedding with just a hint that something isn’t right. There is the wandering daughter who has left home many times only to return but never when she says she will arrive. Her mother makes excuses, her ill father knows why.

Knox is a master at character development in these very short stories, she brings us into their lives, we get to know them and then just as quickly she throws us out as we look for more. There is an electricity that flows through this collection, not a sedentary moment.

After the Gazebo is a collection of stories of people you may be familiar with in your own lives. Many of whom you don’t pay attention even though they live right in front of you, neighbors, may be in your family, or those you see every day on the way to work.  Knox writes of them, sometimes gentle, sometimes brutal, always in a forthright manner. After the Gazebo is a must read.

You can check out the book here:  http://www.amazon.com/After-Gazebo-Jen-Knox/dp/1495106128/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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g emil reutter '15-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. He can be found at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

A Door Somewhere by Jaydeep Sarangi

a doorPaperback: 69 pages

Publisher: Cyberwit.net (April 19, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 8182534909

ISBN-13: 978-8182534902

Review by P C K Prem
 
 Jaydeep Sarangi with four volumes of poems is widely anthologized in different continents. Latest collection of poems ‘A Door-somewhere’ was released at Rzeszow University, Poland when he visited the country as a visiting Professor in 2014. Fifth collection of verses The Wall and Other Poems is likely to be released in Norwich, UK in June 2015.
            Jaydeep Sarangi is perceptive and each moment makes an impression upon his gentle heart. As a man of emotions and delicate poetic thoughts, he tries to reach out to relations with warmness.  In prayers, he strengthens relations. A mother is a deity for the poet, for she acts as a refuge. Nostalgically, he goes back to ma so that she listens to what innocent breathings tell. Innocuously, he takes everyone to the lap of mother to seek relief when one fails to get succor outside, for the world looks callous and apathetic. Images continue to assault incessantly and the poet struggles hard to dispel darkness, ambiguities create.  In a single moment, he travels a long distance in experiences, thoughts and emotions. 
At times, innocent hearts carry a man to a land of mystery, and teach  lessons of life when a man is a simple visitor and looks out for a little divine and everything that takes place around puts a question mark, for in imagery you unearth many meanings and yet you understand nothing. Unlocking of past is a puzzling suggestion because it carries to eerie happenings where fairies, ghosts and strangers scare but excite.
            Experiences appear awe-inspiring as one remembers magnificent days as life moves and hints at a strange merger of ancient times with contemporary ordeals life faces and here, life seems hectic, and rotates around ‘tube and tyre’ 17, a monotonous innuendo to a dreamy sequence. 
Poet’s obsession with relations (?) extends to philosophic borders when he deliberates upon the land of birth. Everything gets life and confronts a sensitive heart and then, suddenly he connects heart and intellect to modern agony where –
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A roti for the hungry
A stick for an old man
In an alien shore
Ushering green plague
For the survival
Words written with embossed paper. 18
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The thought reemerges in “Mystery of the Land” and gets identity personified, for going back to past and land of birth grants peace, a truth many would accept and to this extent, the poet speaks for men, who love and value land, its people and relations.
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You illumine
My inroads
With blazing light from all sides.  23
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  A man gets relief, safe haven, light and wisdom as darkness diffuses and liquefies. Social realities disturb as insightful intellect tries to find solutions, which prove mirages –a genuine obstruction elite face, and at another moment, a door symbolically takes him to fresh vistas of fulfillment and delight that continue to linger on a stage of fantasy. Possibly, door signals openness, a life of anticipation and joy, of probable hurdles leading to ultimate enchantment though transitory but the poet refuses to confess. Door enshrines mysteries. One lives, for one believes life beyond death. Life is relaxed if a man lives in thoughts of gratifying indefinite. Man must open doors to knowledge and joy, and possible indeterminable salvation (?) if he seeks meaning. Surprisingly, the poet turns to the hard life some people live.
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I have seen the tears of the oppressed.
I know my weaknesses.
I don’t know his tomorrow, behind the door
Can’t predict anything beyond now
Of a tree of forbidden fruits… 25
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 The thought evokes finer sensibilities again in “Hunger” with a poignant message.  He eulogizes important people but one hardly notices 21, and like any other poet, he speaks for humanity as age knocks down body and intellect.  Life turns frenzied with chaotic undertones as one arranges inner formation in a disturbed contemporary living while making genuine efforts to find truth of self-image. (31)
In the reckless current chase, man is insensitive and crude, he points out, “Blood is sold at low price, all can buy it. /May be with a discount /One bottle free, if you buy one.” (41) It is philosophic and yet simple thoughts make life consequential. One looks beyond horizons of imaginings and illusions, returns to everyday surroundings, and picks up themes emerging out of ‘the living and the dead’, for in each, one finds relationship, and it is poetic strength beyond evaluation.  He observes-
I have written over generations
I save my ancestors as you save your missing links.
 When the crows fly over, your brother listen… 35
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 Life is enjoyable if one tries to find approbation even in indistinguishable relations, “Life’s acts are shadows of the past /Shadows are residue /Of light and lighted trajectory.” (39)
In life, words transform to images and fantasize living, and a man reflects over the impossibilities. He knows variations in little shades life offers because meaning in confusing situations has a different objective. In images, he tries to find undertones of mystery life contains but he understands life is not a dream but reality and to anchor it strongly, struggle must continue, for it sustains life.
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Causing oppression to the powerless,
But will turn again to re-establish
A just society
With a different key 47
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Sarangi plays with words even if the words create intended gaps in understanding the true import, and so connects incoherent tiny incident of life with images and still does not run away from bonds he wants to continue, “I waited till I could meet someone near the doorway /Of my dream /Wet trees looked at me in amazement.”  Personal agonies and wounds are much taller than one can imagine and here, the lyricist appears pathetic without knowing it. (48)
Poet’s lyrical journey to past and present and again to past, remains paranormal, and human ties carry the burden of delicate little thoughts and emotions tentative. He thinks of mother, land and a few relations when questions of earning livelihood engage. He wants to express, collects words but fumbles for a fulcrum, “She allows me to see the world /Through fissures in the dreamy wall /A matchless majesty fills my heart. / I demand to speak with God /I have business with him,” for he has yet to find answers to mystic questions about life that haunt and finally, when he returns, even the ancient path he left long ago, assists him in finding destination unspecified. He is hopeful, for ‘Each time I read history / I find a door somewhere’ and adds, “It’s a door between the self and the world, /Despair dances in Hope.” and that offers definite meaning to life.
A Door Somewhere offers enjoyable lines, for living in a world of fresh and exciting images is an experience. Transmitting sensory experiences in fine and definite word-pictures is an art and in this little lyrical book of images, one moves from nowhere to somewhere with a certain purpose where one finds life challenging, worth living and meaningful. 
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pck -An author of more than forty-five books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (p c katoch) a post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh   has  nine volumes of poetry besides books on criticism in Hindi and English.  Katoch Prem is a poet, novelist, short story writer and critic in English from Himachal Pradesh, India

Winter Stars by Larry Levis

winter stars 2Series: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 104 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (March 31, 1985)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822953684

ISBN-13: 978-0822953685

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Reviewed by Stephen (S. M.) Page.

When I wake I sip coffee and I am suddenly inspired to add a few more pages to my current poetry project, the verse play (or play-poem, a term I coined, I think).  Then I take a shower and decide I need to get out the house.  I have been inside for almost 48 hours.  I check the weather channel on the net and see that it is 97 degrees outside–with humidity.  I dress accordingly.  I put on a short sleeve linen shirt, linen shorts, leather sandals, a cotton baseball cap.  In the elevator I feel a trickle of sweat run down by belly from my chest.  The street smells of melting tar and car exhaust.  Buses rev their engines and taxis honk.  Angry drivers yell and swear at each other.  I walk quickly as I can to the Village Recoleta Cinemas, an air-conditioned, five-floor twenty-theater complex with seven restaurants, two cafés, a bookstore, a music store, and an ice-cream parlor on the middle floor.  Village Recoleta has the cleanest, coolest, best-view-seating theaters in the city.  Besides that, it’s the only cinema house that has numbered seats, so I can buy my ticket early and stroll in at the last minute and my seat will be open.  There’s no mad rush to get a good seat.  The movie I bought a ticket for does not start for one hour and fifteen minutes, so I take the elevator to the third floor, get in line at the MacDonald’s stand, order a MacNifica combo and leisurely eat it while seated in a chair by the window.  I watch the people walk by on the street.  I check the girls out in their summer dresses and sandaled feet.  I pick out a couple of people going by and watch them, note their dress, their walking style, their idiosyncrasies, and I try to imagine what they are thinking, what their speech mannerisms are, what their lifestyle is, where they are going.  Then I go to the Coffee Store (which is a chain store but has some of the best tasting coffee in the city) and order a cortado—that’s a small coffee cut with milk (Coffees in Argentina are smaller and more concentrated than in the United States.  No tall lattes here, and especially no non-fat cinnamon mocha Frappuccinoes.  The cups are espresso size and approximately the same strength. A customer has the choices of coffee, coffee with milk, and cappuccino.  Argentines are proud of their coffee and their cafés, but a connoisseur needs to shop around because some cafés have great coffee but bad ambience, and some have great ambience but bad coffee—really bad.  Some cafés are good for reading and writing; some are good for watching people.  After seven years here I am pretty much set in the places I like to frequent, but I always keep my eyes open.  Whenever I am about the city and I see a café that I have never been too, I usually stop in and give it a try.  It’s kind of an adventure for me).  After my coffee I stroll into the music store and after a little browsing, I find a CD I never heard before, ‘Jerry Mulligan with Strings.’  I wander to the concession stand and order a large bag of popcorn and a bottle of mineral water, then I casually ride the escalator up to room 16 on the top floor.  I hand my ticket to the ticket taker, enter the dark theater and take my seat just as the Spiderman 3 trailer is ending.  The movie I watch is ‘Hollywoodland,’ which is not especially great.  What weakens the movie are stock characters and clichéd dialogue.  It doesn’t matter that much to me, if I see a good movie I see a good movie (like Erice’s ‘Spirit of the Beehive’) and I feel enlightened, lucky.  I used to be a real movie snob, watching only art films, Sundance-type films, foreign films.  I’ve walked out of theatres in the middle of a movie about a thousand times the last decade or so, whenever a main character became stock, the language clichéd, the actions unbelievable.  Sometime last year I changed.  If I see a not-so-good movie, well: so what.  It’s the action of going to the cinema that I like, the experience, the visceral, sitting in my favorite seat in the sixth row of the middle section along the aisle, munching popcorn and watching the characters move on the big screen above me.  Monday is my movie day.  I usually find an excuse to slip away from home on Monday and see a movie alone.  I often go to the matinees because they are cheaper and there is hardly anyone in the theaters.  Anyway, after the movie I return home and eat dinner, then I unwrap Larry Levis’ Winter Stars, which just arrived that afternoon by DHL courier (it cost me 43 bucks, 12.95 for the book and the rest for shipping, so it better be good Timothy Liu).  It’s not at all good: it’s outstanding.  I especially like the first two poems, ‘The Poet at Seventeen’ and ‘Adolescence’.  The poems are devastatingly surprising, the language fresh, the imagery sharp.  In ‘Poet at 17’ Levis captures well the energetic recklessness and immortal feeling of youth, and juxtaposes it in perfect contrast to the fearful stasis of adulthood.  I notice by the second poem the idiosyncratic use of & for and.  I didn’t notice it at first, so he employs it naturally and stamps himself into the poems.  In all of the poems, Levis has a way of writing about himself but connecting to the reader.  He is an extremely gifted poet.   By the time I get to the end of the book I am exhausted and I fall asleep.

You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Stars-Poetry-Larry-Levis/dp/0822953684/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Stephen (S. M.) Page in a cafe writing ready to go see a movie– Stephen (S.M.) Page is from the Motor City. He is part Shawnee and part Apache.  He loves to take long walks, watch movies, read, and write.

 

 

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Northeast Philly – Get Your Recycle Bins – May 2nd

recy o'neil