Ilyse Kusnetz on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Ilyse Kusnetz by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Ilyse Kusnetz

Poet and journalist Ilyse Kusnetz is the author of Small Hours, winner of the 2014 T.S. Eliot prize from Truman State University Press, and The Gravity of Falling (2006). She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and her Ph.D. in Feminist and Postcolonial British Literature from the University of Edinburgh. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Guernica Daily, the Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, Stone Canoe, Rattle, and other journals and anthologies. She has published numerous reviews and essays about contemporary American and Scottish poetry, both in the United States and abroad; she has served as a guest editor at Poetry International and the Atlanta Review for feature sections on Scottish poetry.

She is currently at work on a new poetry manuscript—Angel Bones. She teaches at Valencia College and lives in Orlando with her husband, the poet and memoirist Brian Turner.

__________

HARBINGER

Just another day           in hyper-capitalist society—
in my Facebook feed,           news of rabbits and
chickens tortured on meat farms,           but I’m still not
vegan and I’m waiting           to die myself
from cancer I may have gotten           from soil or ground water
contaminated by nuclear weapons,           and no amount
of posting uplifting stories           is going to fix that.
And lord, let them cease           trying to control women’s
bodies, people’s genders,           people’s desires,
let them stop hating people           because of their color
and ethnicities. I want to shake           the bigots and racists
till their teeth come loose           and they lose their bite,
till their tongues           swell up in their mouths
and they’re stricken mute.           I want to save
all the slaughtered animals,           save the seas and their
inhabitants—whales, birds,           the tiniest bivalve—
from choking on plastic.           I want to purify the air
of sulfur and carbon dioxide,           scrape the lead
from plumbing pipes,           god I need to do something
besides dying, besides           thinking about death
and the neo-fascist           politicians who lead
a nation of people           unable to think critically
after 40 years’ systemic           dismantling
of the education system           by the rich
so their lackeys           can make it
illegal to prosecute           corporations for poisoning
the air, earth, water—and Jesus,           isn’t it
a kind of           mental illness
annihilating what you need           to stay alive
for the accumulation of           blind profit—
and in the process killing           and killing and
murdering me,           along with the people and animals
I can’t save but want to,           with all my goddamn
fucking heart, but instead           I’m waiting to die,
trying to find some           last meaning in all of this.
A warning, perhaps.           You’re next.

—First published in Rattle, 2016

Mario Feninger on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Mario Feninger by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Mario Feninger

BORN IN CAIRO, EGYPT in 1923, Mario Feninger received his early music training from his mother, Teresa de Rogatis, a noted pianist, guitarist, composer and teacher. He made his debut at the Salle Gaveau, whereupon the Figaro declared him “a remarkable artist… an important musical personality (with) a very beautiful, powerful tone.” From Paris, Mario proceeded to London’s Wigmore Hall, where the Daily Telegraph proclaimed him to have “found the essential poetry in Chopin.”

Mario made his GRAND NAPLES DEBUT at the Sala del Conservotorio San Pietro a Majella, performing the Busoni Konzertstruck, Op. 31a with the A. Scarlatti Orchestra. The Italian press lauded Mario’s “brilliant virtuosity,” celebrating him as “a complex artist searching for his soul and animated by a great ideal.”

PERFORMING his extensive repertoire in the great halls of Europe, North Africa, North and Central America and the Middle East, Mario established a distinguished international reputation as a soloist and recitalist.

“A powerhouse virtuoso in the grand manner.”
~ New York Times

“Urgent style, comprehensive technique and command of tone and color, won repeated cheers and standing ovations.”
~ Los Angeles Times

“Feninger belongs to a distinctive part of European pianistic literature.”
~ Il Giornale De Bergamo – Oggi, Italy

Performs as guest artist with:

• Centre Culturel de Valprivas
• The Castle in Baja (Naples)
• Summer Musical Festival at Sorrento, Italy
• International Festival at Echternach, Luxembourg
• Liszt Festival at Angers, France
• American Liszt Society in San Francisco
• Mozart & Company in Beverly Hills

The first American performance of Busoni’s Concerto, Op. 17 for piano and strings

Performed an entire program of Busoni in Empoli, Italy (Busoni’s native city)

Busoni program performed at Schoenberg Institute

Performed at Busoni Festival in New York

MARIO FENINGER currently resides in Los Angeles, California where, in addition to his performance schedule, he conducts master classes and continues his research into piano technique. www.mariofeninger.com

__________

CAN WE CREATE ARTISTS?

THE VARIOUS musical seasons, with all the marvelous artists we have the opportunity to hear, give rise to some thoughts that I would like to share.

IT IS more and more self-evident that, as the civilization of leisure is brought into existence, we shall need more and more great artists.

THERE ARE three communication lines from the performer to the public: Technique, Expression, and Presence.  A performer with any one of three lines “well in” is a good performer; a performer with any two of these lines in will be an arresting performer; and a performer with the three lines in could be called a genius.

WHY IS the public thrilled by technique?  Why do thundering octaves, pearly scales, fleeting arpeggios, etc., leave them agape?  Why is it that technique by itself is sufficient to create an impact?  The answer I found is that technique represents the mastery over and control of those parts of the physical universe involved in the performance; and those parts are the instrument and the body of the performer!  Technique also presumes certainty.  It is a science in that it has very precise laws that work every time.  This is true of a juggler, a car racer or a pianist.

AS REGARDS expression, Busoni gave a very exhaustive and impressive description of it as poetry, imagination, elegance, sense of style, of form, or colors, feeling for distance, for volumes, etc.  In other words, anything dealing with the mind, the mental machinery and the emotions would pertain to expression.

THE THIRD line, presence, would be the being himself, his ability to command attention, to hold together, spellbound, three or four thousand people, all stranger, and infuse them with a unanimity of feelings and reactions.  This is the least visible ability, but one that makes the difference between Busoni, Horowitz, etc., and most pianists.

IT MAY APPEAR that I am an optimist. How many times have I heard that without “talent” or “gifts,” there is nothing in the way of greatness.  However, I say that anybody with interest and persistence should be given the chance of reaching the heights he has perceived or the goals he has formulated.  In fact, it is my experience that although “gifts” may help at the start, often the so-called “gifted pupil” is fixated in his gifts, and cannot change and/or beyond them.  Of course, there are no gifts that cannot be expanded or improved upon.

TECHNIQUE, expression, and presence have each their own separate technology, but it is impossible in a short article to describe in detail each one.  One thing is certain, though:  when one has applied a new true datum, the piece that was once difficult has now improved, at least in some respect.  It is definitely not the number of hours of practice that will create audible technique, but intelligent practice in the right direction.  No amount of drudgery will ever produce a lovely tone, but know-how will!

ARTISTS ARE, after all, creators of universes and it is indisputable that any training insight, revelation, etc., into the world of personal magic associated with a grounding in the natural technique would create artists.  We must not forget what Schoenberg said: “The laws of the man of genius are the laws of future humanity.”

Ami Kaye on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Ami Kaye by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Ami Kaye

Ami Kaye is the author of What Hands Can Hold. Her poems, reviews and articles are forthcoming or have appeared in various journals and anthologies including Comstock Review, Amore: Love Poems, Naugatuck River Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Eyewear, Kentucky Review, Iodine, Tiferet, East on Central, First Literary Review- East, Cartier Street Review, Peony Moon , Diode, and The Dance of the Peacock among others. Ami edited Sunrise from Blue Thunder in response to the Japan 2011 disasters and is co-editing Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace, as well as Collateral Damage, a benefit anthology for disadvantaged children. Ami is the editor of Pirene’s Fountain and the Aeolian Harp Series, and the publisher and founding editor of Glass Lyre Press.

Glass Lyre Press is an independent publisher with a catalog of technically accomplished and stylistically distinct literary work. Glass Lyre seeks diverse writers with a dynamic aesthetic and the ability to emotionally and intellectually engage a wide audience of readers. Glass Lyre’s vision is to connect the world through language and art, and expand the scope of poetry and short fiction for the general reader through exceptionally well-written books which evoke emotion, provide insight, and resonate with the human spirit.

__________

Shadow Nocturne

You were a skein of nerve, blood from my marrow,
sliver of bone, a silver weave of luminous cloth,

fire that spread through electric nerves.
Your little core palpated in its fine mesh,

its tremolo of strings could not hold you.
You shrugged off my body and slipped seamlessly,

knife-edge moon in the water, final glide from the womb,
before dissolving into a blossom on the snow.

Against the light I thought I saw your tiny fist,
too quickly pulled back before I could grab you.

Skin-tight storms ripped a trail of fireflies from the sky
but I remember only the ripe weight of grief, an ocean,

with you curled underwater as if you could breathe
at all from pinched blue nostrils.

Fallen sparrow, tiny creature I could hold in my palm,
I thought I could reach out and kiss your delicate eyelashes

but they were air-brushed with disappearing ink
on a fluttering moth that vanished into the remnant of night.

—First published in Kentucky Review, 2015

Fereidun Shokatfard on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Fereidun Shokatfard by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Fereidun Shokatfard

Fereidun Shokatfard is a native of Iran. He is an artist, educator and accomplished businessman. His love for poetry of Rumi and Hafiz was inspired by the teachings of his maternal grandfather, who often gathered the children and played the tar – an ancient Persian string instrument and recited poems from Rumi and Hafiz. Fereidun’s love for nature and the outdoors led him to study agriculture. He graduated from Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany with a Ph.D. in Agro Economics. During his graduate studies, he also studied Art at the Pedagogic Institute in Giessen. Fereidun taught at Pahlavi University in Shiraz, Iran.

Dr. Shokatfard is an author of three books: Colors of Paradise, a collection of his art work and poetry; Colors of Love and Peace, a which brings together artwork of the students of 186th St. Elementary School in the LA Unified School District; and Colors of Joy and Happiness, an instructional art book. The Dalai Lama graciously wrote a foreword for the latter two books. These collections are part of the permanent patient library in local and national children’s hospitals.

In 2012 Fereidun created Heartful Children’s Foundation to help children with cancer through art. He agrees with the medical community that “children need more than medicine to get well” and conducts art shows to highlight the work of patients and share what is going on inside these facilities. Some former patients are familiar faces when he conducts workshops for children at his home.

__________

 

No more room

Somewhere at the edge of the emptiness
Layers of images coming to focus in my mind
Finding myself in the children’s cemetery
Graves of little angels as far as eyes could see
Fear no more heart, if you don’t hear the laughter
of Lily, Patrick and Paul
Where are Kylie, Jasmine and Laura
They all faded away
The killer, the cancer took them away one by one
The four year old Lily who looked like a porcelain doll
with her dark brown eyes, radiating life was a promise
If you overlooked her bald head and the tube in her nose
and just saw the pretty tiara on her head
and the fluffy petty coat bouncing when she came to the playroom,
with such an enthusiasm
You could hear her shouting in silence,
I will make it
she didn’t
O heart that led me to Laura’s bedside
to tell her that I brought the book of her art work
while my wife and her mom, who could not speak
a word of English were hugging and sobbing
I knew that the end was near
but I had to tell her what was in my heart
Te amo Laura, I love you
She opened her eyes slightly, smiled and softly replayed, me too
and went to a deep sleep
I need to take my mind off the cemetery
I have half an hour to rush to the hospital
to do art with those kids
They are waiting for me
And this time I am convinced
They all going to make it
Because we are going to love them a bit more
I told the Drs and nurses do your very best
I just passed the cemetery
There was a big sign in front of the gate that read
No more room

Austin Straus on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Austin Straus by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Austin Straus

Austin Straus was born in June 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. He has lived in Southern California since 1978. His poems and illustrations have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Alcatraz 3, The Maverick Poets, Men of Our Time, New Letters, Plainsong, Stand Up Poetry, and This Sporting Life, among many others. He is an accomplished painter, printmaker, and book artist with work in several private collections, including The Ruth & Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry. His one-of-kind books combine poetry and graphics and are in many art collections throughout California and elsewhere. He frequently, informally, exhibits prints, drawings and paintings in conjunction with readings. As the host of Pacific Radio’s The Poetry Connexion, he directed the show on KPFK from October 1981 through June of 1996 with co-host Wanda Coleman. Drunk with Light, a book of poems, was published by Red Hen Press in 2002. Intensifications, his second book from Red Hen appeared in 2010. The Love Project, A Marriage Made in Poetry, poems written by himself and his wife of 32 years, Wanda Coleman, also from Red Hen, was published in 2014, after Coleman’s death. He continues his life-long exploration of visual poetry with paintings, collages and unique books.

__________

Pictures of You

The thing is to paint as if no other
painter ever existed.
—Cezanne

1.

You break no Kodaks, so camera
friendly, the lens loves you.

Painting is another story…you are
variegated, light and dark browns
tinged with ochres, reds, oranges, siennas,
umbers, maroons and salmons, all blended,
everything but green and blue!  What you wear
changes your skin tone, and where you sit
and how you hold yourself, look up, down,
sideways and your expression, sad, meditative,
thoughtful, worried, calm, delighted,
and is it sunny or shady or rainy, and
what’s the atmosphere, the barometric pressure,
humidity…the very air and light change you,
my brown/black, Indian red, multi-colored,
multi-brained, multi-sensed multiple, my
million women in one, my elusive, changeable,
unpindownable, ever unpredictable, highly
unpaintable you.

2.

No one ever saw an apple before
or that mountain

and I never saw you, try now
to see you as if no one
has ever seen you, see you new,
from every possible angle and
nuance, real and surreal, flat,
round and cubed, collaged and
montaged, in shadow and light, color
or black and white, etched, sketched
and painted, in delicate pencil,
charcoal and pastels, or hard, linear,
contoured, barely seen or superreal,
totally, to all your levels, with all
the depths, complexity, truth and care
you have always deserved…

 

The Love Project, A Marriage Made in Poetry
(Red Hen Press, 2014)

Pam Houston on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Pam Houston by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Pam Houston


Pam Houston’s most recent book is Contents May Have Shifted, published by W.W. Norton in 2012.  She is also the author of two collections of linked short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, the novel, Sight Hound, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me, all published by W.W. Norton.  Her stories have been selected for volumes of Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Awards, The 2013 Pushcart Prize, and Best American Short Stories of the Century.  She is the winner of the Western States Book Award, the WILLA award for contemporary fiction, The Evil Companions Literary Award and multiple teaching awards.  She is Professor of English at UC Davis, directs the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers and teaches in The Pacific University low residency MFA program. and at writer’s conferences around the country and the world.  She lives on a ranch at 9,000 feet in Colorado near the headwaters of the Rio Grande.

__________

  1. Lhasa Tibet

At Drepung the monks are at morning prayer.  Mao’s face, ten times bigger than life, is stamped all over the giant stones of the fallen monastery and red writing covers the crumbling walls.  Tsering says the Red Guard knocked the stones over because the Buddha on them was smiling.  When no one is within listening distance I ask him if they are forced to leave Mao’s picture on the wall and he says, “No, we leave it there to remember.”

In the Housewives Room the lama says, “If you touch this stone you will be a good housewife.” and Hailey and I both take huge steps back. There is one temple we are not allowed into and when I ask Tsering why he says,  “Because women have a month, you understand what I mean?” and I do.

At the Sera Monastery we get to sit in on the Monk’s Debate where a hundred or so monks pair off, and one asks the question over and over and the other answers just as many times, all the while hitting himself in the arm with his own prayer beads, thereby sending good skyward and evil below.

Tsering keeps making eye contact with me like, let’s go, and I pretend not to see him because I want to sit in that courtyard for the rest of my life listening to the sounds of their voices that are really more like hyenas or snow geese, imagining all of the things I could be learning that afternoon if only I spoke Tibetan, could be hearing the questions and answers, could be learning what is big, or how is attachment, or why is the path to a valuable life.

Yesterday, on the way into town there was an overturned tractor-trailer (which here means a farm tractor hooked to an uncovered diesel engine with a flatbed on the back that hauls everything from people to animals to rocks to tumbleweed).  There was corn scattered all across the road, one man kneeling over another man who had one shoe on and one shoe off and looked dead.  The kneeling man had his hands over the dead man’s mouth and I wondered if he was feeling for breath, or holding his face together (literally) or if it was some Buddhist thing, like keeping his soul in there until the proper holy person arrived, and I thought, what happens now? and wondered if it was like Lat said it was in Laos, “You know this life?  It is nothing.”

Later, at the Fill Up The Room With Gold restaurant (for the first half of dinner we think Tsering is saying Fill Up The Room With Goats), eating momos and potato soup with cardamom and yak 15 ways, Denzing asks Hailey to sing the theme song from the Titanic.  We teach them to say, Go Broncos, and Tsering says, “I love Michael Jackson until he change his skin.”

Denzing runs outside to find an old person who can write our names for us in Tibetan.

I say, “Why are you guys so nice to us?”

Tsering says, “When you do something nice for somebody, it is just like walking around the temple.  It is just like saying a prayer.”

From Contents May Have Shifted (Norton, 2012)

Mary Kay Rummel on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Mary Kay Rummel by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Mary Kay Rummel

Mary Kay Rummel is the first Poet Laureate of Ventura County, California. The Lifeline Trembles, her seventh book of poetry, won the 2014 Blue Light Book Prize and was recently published by Blue Light Press of San Francisco. That press also published her previous book, What’s Left Is The Singing. Her first poetry book, This Body She’s Entered (1989) was a Minnesota Voices Award winner at New Rivers Press. Her poems recently won prizes poetry contests sponsored by Irish-American Crossroads of San Francisco and by Ventura County Writers’ Club and the Great River Shakespeare Festival sonnet competition. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, most recently in Nimrod, Pirene’s Fountain, Askew, Persimmon Tree, Miramar. Recent anthology publications include Creativity and Constraint (Wising Up Press), Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior (Holy Cow! Press), A Bird Black As The Sun (Green Poet Press); Meditations on Divine Names (Moonrise Press); Woman in Metaphor (inspired by the paintings of Stephen Linsteadt) and River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century by Blue Light Press. Often performing poetry with musicians, Mary Kay has read in many venues in the US and London. She is professor emerita from the University of Minnesota, Duluth  and she teaches at California State University, Channel Islands, dividing her time between Minneapolis and Ventura, CA.

__________

Palimpsest  

If by truth you mean hands
shaping the vertebrae of stars

If by hands you mean oak branches
scratching the moon’s face

If by branches you mean that sickle moon
lying on its side as if asking

If by moon you mean pillow, expectant
as we, fingers laced, walk dim streets

If by pillow you mean feather words
the breath of fasting lovers

If by words you mean answers
where the moon tilts on its side,
like a burning blade

If by answer you mean bruised trees
clouds, lights of a far-off city, or the way
your finger slides into my closed fist

trembling the lifeline, the way
your palms resurrect my breasts.

Diane Frank on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Diane Frank by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Diane Frank

Diane Frank is an award-winning poet and author of six books of poems, including Swan Light, Entering the Word Temple, and The Winter Life of Shooting Stars. Her friends describe her as a harem of seven women in one very small body. She lives in San Francisco, where she dances, plays cello, and creates her life as an art form. Diane teaches at San Francisco State University and Dominican University. She leads workshops for young writers as a Poet in the School and directs the Blue Light Press On-line Poetry Workshop. Blackberries in the Dream House, her first novel, won the Chelson Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her new novel, Yoga of the Impossible, was #3 on Amazon’s bestseller list for metaphysical fiction, and #1 on their Hot New Releases list. To schedule readings, book signings and workshops, and to invite her to speak to your book club, contact www.dianefrank.net.

__________

Iowa Omen

Three hawks fly south
as your voice trembles
across the great plains.

Fields of sleeping cows
a gentleness in the land.

Here is the omen:
Sky splashed with aurora,
blue stars, curtains of light.

The letters are gold
on red silk –
Japanese calligraphy.

If I had the right kind of ink
I’d write them
on your skin.