Straight Labyrinth: János Pilinszky in the Poetry, Music, and Thought of Three Hungarian Artists is now available

Straight Labyrinth
János Pilinszky in the Poetry, Music, and Thought of Three Hungarian Artists

March 20, 2022 at 3 p.m. EDT
a Zoom event hosted by Diana Senechal
and the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers


Click Here to access the recording. Passcode: zAwt7!e6 (requires Zoom sign-in to access)

Pilinszky, music, poetry, discussion, all in one! Please join the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW), our host Diana Senechal, and our three featured guests—the poet Csenger Kertai and the musicians Gergely Balla (Platon Karataev) and Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly (Platon KarataevCz.K. Sebő)—for an online discussion, recitation, and performance honoring the Hungarian poet János Pilinszky (1921-1981).

“A Line that Bears its Leveling Pain”: The Craft of George Kalogeris’ Winthropos

by George Kalogeris
(LSU Press, 2021, 106 pages, $20.95)

Winthropos, the title of George Kalogeris’s brilliant and moving new book of poems, signals in that one word its project: to explore the poet’s hybrid existence, straddling two cultures, Greek and American, and to try to make sense of a home that is, uneasily, but invigoratingly and profoundly, always “in between.” So, in the title poem, deceptively light and simple, the poet’s father asks him (he’s a child), what he will do if he gets lost:

Time Sits High on a Throne of Calcium: An Interview with Robert Mezey Part II

As an undergraduate in the late 1970’s, I studied modern and contemporary American poetry and formal poetics with poet Robert Mezey at the Claremont Colleges. Ten years later, I undertook a series of interviews with Mezey, all informally conducted in my cabin perched high in the Angeles National Forest in southern California. Part I of our eight-hour interview, which was published in Issue 14.1 of Literary Matters, covers a broad range of topics, including Mezey’s groundbreaking Naked Poetry anthologies, various literary movements, and contemporary poets. The discussions in this second half of our conversation focus primarily on Mezey’s own poetry.

Not Even the Future’s Like It Used to Be: Rita Dove’s Apocalyptic Anthems

Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems
by Rita Dove
(W.W. Norton, 2021, 128 pp., $26.95)

You start out with one thing, end
up with another, and nothing’s 
like it used to be, not even the future. 

—Rita Dove, from “Ö”

Good Girl

Once she handed me
her just-lit cigarette
so she could do

some backyard task.
I was maybe ten
and all my life so far

that totem of the forbidden
blazed all around me
in the mouths of adults.

Smoke clung to my clothes,
gathered on long car rides,
every ash tray overflowing

and the crushed butts,
their foam filters
lipstick smeared,

the softly crumbling ash,
its variations on a theme of gray,
stirred in me a mingled

fascination and revulsion
so even though this once
I was not just permitted but bidden

Ode to Sao

You bought farm equipment for the earth
And went into debt, cleaned for decades
To pay it off. Now you collect cardboard

With scarred hands cut, in the deep heat
Of Japanese summer. In a rich land,
Old and thinking of others, you work

And pull your cart, load and unload,
Cut, flatten and fold, lug and tilt
And smile, Stoic, more philosophical

Than philosophers. You say, amid your pain,
That we will understand if we have children
That a parent cannot take money from them,

Women Pruning Pear Trees

When someone in the grief group shared,
Some mornings, I don’t get out of bed,
or I hate my body; I wonder if my husband
will leave me; I don’t know my purpose in life;

I listened. Both hands in my lap, left
on top of right, palms up. I read aloud
newly written poems about autumn rain,
apple pie, walking my dog Shana.

At the end of the eight-week session,
Jan invited us to her house to prune
pear trees. It was February, snow possible,
the weather perfect for cultivating hardiness.

Nguyen Quang Thieu: Chapter 6 (from Slaughterhouse)

The slaughterhouse disappeared.

He could not understand, in the field at night
Like a miracle, someone took the slaughterhouse away.
He hears a call resound through the windows. The voice of wild cats
Don’t answer him. He sits silently on the wall about to fall off
Like the artful old men who are sometimes rather deaf
With the eyes of wild animals – the eyes of a despairing lover —
With the smell of wild animal casting something so familiar
With blood that flows torrentially under the peaceful fur,
Flows to a place far away in memory where he could reach even into his dreams
Calls him in the night. Calls his full name, his birth place,
Calls the exact names that he tried to call but suddenly
Stopped in his mouth because of fear

Nguyen Quang Thieu: Chapter 5 (from Slaughterhouse)

The pottery vase drinks fire
The child drinks milk
Fire is blood flowing undyingly in the flesh and bone of the vase

The old wooden table
The huge roses.

Like the first cold breeze she glides through the half-open door. She takes the roses with her. The crimson dawn. The vases were born in the deep soil where the dead woman wanders. The fetuses grow slowly in their graves.
He woke up. Roses covered the entire night. The rose petals are wet, soft with tangled veins.

More patient and silent than the farmers on the fields.