Tag Archives: Mihaela Moscaliuc

Immigrant Model by Mihaela Moscaliuc

imm modelSeries: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 112 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (January 7, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822963345

ISBN-13: 978-0822963349

 

Review by Dennis Daly

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Like mythological werewolves rising from musty crypts, these passionate poetic lines of Mihaela Moscaliuc’s Immigrant Model prowl over page warmth feeding from the flesh of grim fables and drinking the metallic blood of modern mechanistic life.

Moscaliuc mixes unfortunate history, the unhappiness of others, and bleak folklore in her labyrinthine journey into the heart of gothic darkness. Along the way her persona develops a survivor’s surreal logic of alternating stoicism and fear, tempered by acute powers of observation. The poet’s major pieces are cosmopolitan in nature, set in Madagascar, Romania, Spain, the Ukraine, America, and even Ireland.

The first poem after the introductory piece Moscaliuc entitles Self-Portrait with Monk. She describes a monk festooned in garlic and pushing a wheelbarrow. Then the poet invokes that strange novel of murder and mysterious mayhem, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, for atmospheric effect. The narrative quickens, alters its flight, and changes into something wicked or wonderful that comes our way. The poet describes her ownership of the action as follows,.

He cooks and feeds and scrubs but never eats, my monk,

spends lunch elbow-deep in suds or scratching the bellies of cats.

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No wonder he’s so famished by the time Cassiopeia arrives.

Then black chiffon and ivory flesh stream upward,

shape-shifting in flight: raven, whiskered bat, pricolici, varcolaci.

At dawn, he lands between two rose bushes, soot in his mouth,

weeping who knows why, my celestial monk,

torn cassock glistening with spent saliva, rapture in upturned eyes.

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In Turning the Bones, Moscaliuc uses straightforward narrative to relate a seemingly ghastly ritual practiced by villagers in Madagascar in which the shrouded bones of relatives are temporarily disinterred and danced with. The occasion calls for good food, local brews, and colorful dress. Carthusian monks would understand this ceremony of remembering death and examining mortality. Here is the heart of the poem,

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… bundles heaved up

onto woven straw mats, names coursing the cheering crowd.

Perfumed and swathed in new damask, bodies are invited to dance.

In this hummock of tall grass, in the eye of the Indian Ocean,

the living and the dead reclaim themselves, flowery skirts

flapping against the bouquet of bones, bones reshuffling

as they warm to the tunes of trumpets and clarinets.

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The lengthy poem Ana to Manole reinterprets a chilling Romanian folktale that certainly rings true in the art world of today. Eyes wide open, the artist—here a mason—sacrifices his family to the needs of his patron, his ego, and his audience. He walls his pregnant wife up, betrays her for the ephemeral, only to be destroyed himself, turned into a cheap tourist destination. The poet describes Manole’s fate through the eyes of Ana,

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You raised the wall till it cinctured me whole,

silt shored against carcass, and for the glory of what?

A toe ring in the god’s trinket box, this masterpiece

you then bragged you could outshine.

I say it was the jaded gods having fun.

To think you could win their grace

with gilded turrets, dream yourself

a welder of shadows.

You fashioned the voice out of fear

you’ll stay a mason, master bricklayer

instead of Creator, so here we are:

you, water fountain fed pennies by tourists

too sated to invent their own myths

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For harrowing detail and lyrical fury very few poems can touch Moscaliuc’s sectional poem entitled Radioactive Wolves: A Retelling.  Divided into two major parts the poem first relates the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986 and its aftermath and then tells a fictional tale based on real events that occurred at an infamous Romanian orphanage. Both sections deconstruct misery into detail packed with dread, often lyrical. Consider this comment from the Chernobyl section on government helpfulness,

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All books disappeared, all important ones,

on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on X-rays.

The medical bulletins too, vanished.

Those who could took potassium iodine.

For that, you really needed to know someone.

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A sign we could follow, live by:

as long as there were sparrows and pigeons in town

we could nest there.

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My favorite poem in this haunting collection, Memoir, combines righteous anger with passionate celebration. Nothing surreal here, the nerve endings are too raw. Moscaliuc portrays the despicable and wealth-besotted dictators of Romania, Elana and Nicolae Ceausecu,  after twenty–five years of terrorizing their people, denying the obvious. Dragged before a firing squad of machine gunners they collected their well-deserved rewards. And, yes, Elana, did indeed actively participate in the countless atrocities. Both the abbreviated show trial and the execution were filmed. The piece ends in catharsis and relief,

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You may have understood the story of the firing squad,

how, fearing clones, we measured and re-measured the corpses,

shot and reshot them. We each craved a bit of dried blood,

a frayed cuticle, an eyebrow stump, a finger

on the trigger, so we replayed the execution all through Christmas,

kissed our informers, broke bread with strangers,

stopped stoning strays, begged Gypsies for forgiveness.

We loved as only people who cannot get enough of death love,

we loved unconditionally for one long day that Christmas of 1989.

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Immigrant Model, the final and title poem in this collection works wonderfully. The poet infuses her protagonist with mystery and sensuousness. Models, at least the very best of them, channel natural processes in ways unknown even to them. They connect with an artistic perception and stoke it further. Add in the immigrant’s complex and sometimes fluctuating identity and an interesting, often darker, dynamic occurs. Model perceives her artistic interpreters and then seeks to judge them in these lines,

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… as students sketch, she re-roots:

the desiccated belly of her Moldavian village creek

toothed with rocks, eyed with shriveled minnows,

but she can still feel their eye, the hammock of her body

swayed by the screech of charcoals’ smooth incisions.

Tonight she steals in to see herself in various stages

of completion, looks for the hand knowing enough, kind enough

to release her…

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Bats flitting in from the night sky, Moscaliuc’s poems may startle. Mornings after, one remembers only their magic.

You can check out the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Immigrant-Model-Pitt-Poetry-Series/dp/0822963345

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Dennis Daly

Dennis Daly

-Dennis Daly has been published in numerous poetry journals and magazines and recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Ibbetson Street Press published The Custom House, his first full length book of poetry in June, 2012. His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012. His third book of poems entitles Night Walking with Nathaniel was recently released by Dos Madres Press. A fourth book is nearing completion. http://dennisfdaly.blogspot.com/

Alice James Books Celebration – November 19th

 ajbooks
Tuesday, November 19th at 6:00pm
ALICE JAMES BOOKS CELEBRATION
Featuring Shara McCallum, Richard McCann, Mihaela Moscaliuc, and Lisa Sewell
Co-sponsored by: the Creative Writing Program
KELLY WRITERS HOUSE
University of Pennsylvania
3805 Locust Walk Philadelphia, PA 19104
Alice James Books is a nonprofit cooperative poetry press, founded in
1973 by five women and two men: Patricia Cumming, Marjorie Fletcher,
Jean Pedrick, Lee Rudolph, Ron Schreiber, Betsy Sholl and Cornelia
Veenendaal. Their objectives were to give women access to publishing and
to involve authors in the publishing process. The press remains true to
that original mission and to publishing a diversity of poets including
both beginning and established poets, and a diversity of poetic styles.
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Alice James Books is one of the original and few presses in the country
that is run collectively. Our cooperative selects manuscripts for
publication through both regional and national annual competitions. The
cooperative offers two book competitions a year: the Kinereth Gensler
Award and the Beatrice Hawley Award. The winners of the Kinereth Gensler
Award competition become active members of Alice James Books and act as
the editorial board after their manuscripts are selected for
publication. The winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award is exempt from the
cooperative work commitment.
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Originally from Jamaica, Shara McCallum is the author of four books of
poetry: The Face of Water: New and Selected Poems, This Strange Land, a
finalist for the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, Song of
Thieves, and The Water Between Us, winner of the 1998 Agnes Lynch
Starrett Prize for Poetry. For her poems, she has received awards and
fellowships, including a 2013 Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library
of Congress and a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry
Fellowship. Her work has appeared in journals, anthologies, and
textbooks in the US, UK, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Israel and
been translated into Spanish and Romanian. She lives with her family in
Pennsylvania, where she is Director of the Stadler Center for Poetry and
Professor of English at Bucknell University.
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Richard McCann is the author of Mother of Sorrows, a work of fiction,
and Ghost Letters, a collection of poems (1994 Beatrice Hawley Award,
1933 Capricorn Poetry Award). He is also the editor (with Michael Klein)
of Things Shaped in Passing: More ‘Poets for Life’ Writing from the AIDS
Pandemic. His fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in
such magazines as The Atlantic, Ms., Esquire, Ploughshares, Tin House,
and the Washington Post Magazine, and in numerous anthologies, including
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007 and Best American Essays 2000. He is
currently working on a memoir, The Resurrectionist, which explores the
experience and meanings of illness and mortality through a narrative
exploration of his experience as a liver transplant recipient. For his
work, Richard McCann has received grants and awards from the Guggenheim
Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Christopher
Isherwood Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, Yaddo, The MacDowell
Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Fine Arts
Work Center in Provincetown, on whose Board of Trustees he served from
2000-2008. He earned his MA in Creative Writing and Modern Literature
from Hollins University and his Ph.D. in American Studies from the
University of Iowa, where he was a Rockefeller Fellow. He grew up in
Silver Spring, Maryland, and he has lived in numerous places, including
Sweden, Germany, and Spain. He now lives in Washington, DC, where he
teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University.
He also serves the Board of Directors of the PEN Faulkner Foundation and
is a Member of the Corporation of Yaddo.
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Mihaela Moscaliuc is the author of Father Dirt, winner of the Kinereth
Gensler Award from Alice James Books and translator of Carmelia Leonte’s
The Hiss of the Viper (Carnegie Mellon UP, forthcoming). She is the
editor of a collection of essays on poet Gerald Stern (Trinity
University Press, 2014). Her poems, translations, reviews and articles
have appeared in Arts & Letters, America, Mid-American Review, The
Georgia Review, TriQuarterly, and Poetry International among others. Her
articles on Roma/Gypsies and on poet Kimiko Hahn appear in History of
the Literary Cultures in East-Central Europe. Junctures and Disjunctures
in the 19th and 20th Centuries, in Soundings, An Interdisciplinary
Journal, and in Orient and Orientalisms in American Poetry and Poetics.
She is Assistant Professor of English at Monmouth University and core
faculty in the MFA Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation at Drew
University.
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Lisa Sewell is the author of The Way Out (Alice James Books), Name
Withheld (Four Way Books), and Long Corridor, which won the 2009
Keystone Chapbook Award. She is also co-editor, with Claudia Rankine, of
American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics and Eleven More
American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Poetics Across North American,
both from Wesleyan UP. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in
Ploughshares, Harvard Review, The Fox Chase Review and Drunken Boat. She
teaches in the English Department at Villanova University.