Oh most powerful connective, a bead

to lie between continents through

which a string passes

(WCW, Paterson II)



September 2016

UPCOMING POETRY READINGS

On Sunday, Oct. 9 from 2:00 – 4:30pm
at Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village
Ragged Sky Press poets in the Above and Below Reading Series
with Hayden Saunier, Lynne Shapiro, Dean Kostos, Ellen Foos, Janet Chalmers and others
425 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

On Saturday, December 10 (correction: not Oct. 8) at 6pm
at the Cornelia Street Café with the Greek-American Writers’ Association
29 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014
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The 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival is Oct. 20-23.  Don’t miss this great gathering of poets and poetry lovers!

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#DPF16

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I have a new book out (as co-editor)–a poetry anthology: Dark as a Hazel Eye: Coffee & Chocolate Poems. More info here: http://raggedsky.com/dark-as-a-hazel-eye

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I also have poems in these two recent and notable anthologies:

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Rabbit Ears: TV Poems, ed. Joel Allegretti (NYQ Books)

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Recent readings:

Ragged Sky Press at the New York City Poetry Festival :

Saturday, July 30 at 11:30 am on Governors Island in New York City.

NYCPoetryFest

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Sunday, May 8 at 9:15am
A Festival of Faith and Poetry, reading with Elvis Alves
Nassau Presbyterian Church
Q & A follows
Assembly Room, Nassau Presbyterian Church
61 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ
with thanks to Rozlyn Anderson Flood

 

 

Please make note of these fine poetry magazines who have included my poems recently:

Georgic
was published at Curator Magazine

Primary, Elements and Unmined
appear at Contemporary American Voices

Flâneuse
appears in U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative Worksheets

 

For more images and inspiration, you can now also find me on Tumblr.

For updates on upcoming poetry events, follow me on Twitter.

Online Interview

I’ve been interviewed by Ghanian writer Geoffrey Gyasi on his excellent blog geosireadsRead it here.

 

I wrote this after attending a reading by Rae Armantrout and Norman Fischer at Poets House in 2010.   I thought it might be useful to reprint it here. From the Ragged Sky Press blog:

Lyric Persuasions at Poets House

by Vasiliki Katsarou

This spring, just before she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry, I went to hear Rae Armantrout read and discuss her work with Zen priest and poet Norman Fischer.  The program was organized by Poets House in New York, at its new, glistening home in Battery Park City.  The evening program was entitled “Lyric Persuasions” and its purpose was to discuss the contemporary lyric poem.

Armantrout is a West Coast poet who has been peripherally attached to the Language Poetry movement.  In recent years, there has been a development in her poetry towards an exquisite collage of “found language.”  From her latest book, VERSED:

The outer world means
State Farm Donuts Tae Kwando?

Thoughts as spent fuel rods.
—from “Outer”

The child fights cancer
with the help
of her celebrity fan club,

says,
“Now I know how hard it is
to be a movie star.”

*

“Hey,
my avatar’s not working!”

—from“Operations”

Armantrout began her talk with a nod toward the lyric as generally understood:  a refraction of personal sensibility and emotion through the singular consciousness and language of a “privileged” speaker:  the poet.  Armantrout went on to say that since the confessional poetry of the 60s and early 70s, this personal emphasis in poetry has essentially gone out of style, to be replaced by other concerns: be they political or more narrowly “linguistic.”  The philosopher Theodor Adorno’s warning “how can there be poetry after Auschwitz?” was reflected in an audience member’s observation that “language is always suspect and meaning is almost exclusively associated with propaganda.”  In the second half of the 20th century, and certainly since the Language poetry movement, contemporary poetry has been more and more infused with a sense of itself as a construct—and not any sort of transparent conveyance of the voice of the poet into the mind of the reader.

Armantrout gave an example from the poetry of Michael Palmer (an influential Language poet).  These lines are from his poem “And Sighs Again (Autobiography 15)”:   Did I say father and son // when I meant / farther and farther from the sun // Did I say fold / when I meant fault

Any meaning suggested in the poem seems to be undercut by the words themselves.  Meaning proffered is simultaneously meaning withheld, compelling the reader to step into the breach and (re)construct the poem for him or herself.  Armantrout described Palmer’s poem as an example of “artful self-erasure,” and Fischer agreed that this was essentially what Armantrout herself accomplished in her own work.  Armantrout noted that poetry that “opens meaning up” is preferable to poetry that “closes meaning”—that narrows it down to the personal intentions of any individual author.  Understood in these terms, poetry is theoretically more “democratic” in that it is open to the approach of any reader.

In the revealing Foreword to Rae Armantrout’s collection, VEIL, published by Wesleyan University Press in 2001, poet, critic and sometime collaborator Ron Silliman noted that Armantrout works with her poems over years, gradually eliminating personal indicators, and especially pronouns like “I, you, he, she.”  He observes that the resulting experience of reading her poetry is more “interior” for the reader.  Whereas at Poets House, Armantrout and Fischer framed their work in the context of the lyric, Silliman calls her poetry in his Foreword, “the literature of the vertical anti-lyric”; a “machine made of words”; “meaning management”; and poetry that is “directly opposed to the vignette school of suburban verse.”  Given the untenable speaker in her poems, they “don’t ever propose resolution.”

During the Q & A, I asked Armantrout and Fischer about implications:  if meaning is not “fixed” in any definitive way, how to know whether the poem one is writing is “done,” and how much responsibility and work is expected on the part of reader to “complete” the poetic process?  In answering the question, both poets gave a nod to Octavio Paz’ belief in poetry as something that protects an aspect of language that would otherwise be consumed by the everyday uses of language in media, advertising, and propaganda.  Fischer went further, referring to a sacred element in poetry that is offered up as if toward a god, and that as such, he imagined a reader as “overhearing” this one-way dialogue.

The contemporary poetry world is a vast place indeed, filled with myriad poetry circles that collide, cause friction and delight, but are not absorbed by or readily reducible to each other.  For some poets, language is a time-tested tool whose soundness has been long-demonstrated.  Like a shovel or a pail whose contours are recognizable to all, language can be counted on to support and move meaning from one location (poet) to another (reader).

For other poets, there is some wariness toward the tools themselves, some awareness of the cracks, the patina, the weaknesses.  These poets set out to create something less recognizable than a wall or a tower, but a more singular, imperfect, vulnerable structure—something like an artifact of our time.

—Vasiliki Katsarou (May 2010)

Tags: #Language Poetry, #Michael Palmer, #poetry, #Rae Armantrout, #Norman Fischer, Vasiliki Katsarou #lyric poetry #Zen #Ragged Sky Press #Adorno #Poets House

I have new poems up this January 2015 at Contemporary American Voices.  Many thanks to James Keane for the invitation and to editor Lisa Zaran.  Also, see my Workshops page for information on a chapbook manuscript workshop I’m leading this spring at Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey.

Happy New Year 2015!

Hello Friends,

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be leading another chapbook manuscript workshop at Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey this spring. In 2015, I’ll be joined by Brooklyn poet Regan Good who recently taught a workshop on poetry forms at Poets House. Registration is open now. More information is on my Readings & Workshops page.

If you’ve been contemplating chapbook publication, and would like to learn more about ordering your poems and what small press publishers are out there, consider joining us. Please note this is a first-come, first served workshop. No one with the requisite amount of poems and interest is turned away, but only the first 8 registrants will be accepted.

With best wishes for the the New Year,

Vasiliki

 

ChairWestSun

These ten questions were posed as part of a blog round robin and originally appeared on the Ragged Sky Press website. See below for the other interview links.

What is the working title of your book?
Memento Tsunami. I like that the title needs no translation. The words register in many different languages directly. “Memento” is Latinate and “tsunami” is originally Japanese and they are the same in English, Greek and French. I like to think the poems in my book are an attempt to create a bridge between two worlds, or two ways of being in the world.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The title poem refers to the tragic Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004. The poem was written soon after. But as the years went by, I came to think of the phrase “Memento Tsunami” not only in relation to an all-encompassing materialism, but also as describing a creative (and destructive) force.

What genre does your book fall under?
Lyric poetry with experimental aspects.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I would cast Monica Vitti of Antonioni’s L’Avventura, because she serves as a projection of interiority in that film. And she looks like Greek sculpture.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Memento Tsunami is a collection of abstract, lyrical poems that reflect a nostalgia for origins as well as a 21st-century visionary impulse to reconcile disparate worlds.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book was published by Ellen Foos of Ragged Sky Press in Princeton, NJ.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A few of the poems are from the beginning of my adult writing life, when I lived in France twenty years ago. But most were written and revised in the past 5-10 years.

What other books would you compare this one to within your genre?
I think Memento Tsunami has some kinship with the early work of Fanny Howe, Anne Carson and Gustaf Sobin. These poets were very influential for me.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve had many formative experiences in my literary life. The beauty and complexity of Proust and Henry James; the twisted idealism of New England Transcendentalists like Thoreau, Alcott and Emerson; and the testimony about “Greekness” from poet George Seferis, these all inspired me to write these poems.

What else about your book might pique the reader?s interest?

Having worked in the film industry in France and made short films of my own, I have many film references in my poems that might amuse a cinephile.

Two more poets have answered these same 10 questions. Check out their interviews by clicking on the links below.

Adrianne Kalfopoulou lives and teaches in Athens, Greece where she is currently on the faculty of Hellenic American University. She has taught in the Scottish Universities’ International Summer Schools Program at the University of Edinburgh, and is part of the adjunct faculty in the Creative Writing Program at New York University, and various creative writing workshops in Greece. Her most recent book is Passion Maps (Red Hen Press).

Lorraine Henrie Lins is the 2010 Bucks County (PA) Poet Laureate. Her first chapbook, I Called It Swimming, was published in 2011 by Finishing Line Press. Delaying Balance is her most recent collection.

Previous Interviews:
Kyle Laws’ poems, stories, and essays have appeared in magazines for thirty years, with four nominations for a Pushcart Prize. Her books include George Sand’s Haiti (Poetry West), Storm Inside the Walls (little books press), and Going into Exile (Abbey Chapbooks), among others. She currently is editor of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. A full-length poetry collection titled Wildwood (Lummox Press) is forthcoming.

Michael Hathaway works as Keeper of History for Stafford County, Kansas. He founded Chiron Review literary magazine in 1982 (currently on hiatus) and has published 12 books of poetry and prose available at Amazon.com. His most recent collection is St. John Pastoral from Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.

Lois Marie Harrod, a Geraldine R. Dodge poet and former high school teacher, teaches Creative Writing at The College of New Jersey. Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis from Cherry Grove Collections is her 13th collection.

Memento-Tsunami-Cover-12-28 resized - CopyMemento Tsunami is a collection marked by startling abstract and lyrical poems that draw from a wide variety of cultural influences.  These include my Greek heritage, background in European filmmaking, as well as a childhood among the ghosts of New England Transcendentalism.  My work reflects a nostalgia for origins as well as a 21st-century visionary impulse to reconcile disparate worlds.

Memento Tsunami by Vasiliki Katsarou
Ragged Sky Press, Princeton NJ
9781933974101, trade paperback, $16

Available from these independent booksellers:
Clinton Bookshop, Clinton, NJ
The Book Garden, Frenchtown, NJ
Panoply Books, Lambertville, NJ
Grolier Book Shop, Cambridge MA

And also from the publisher: Ragged Sky Press, Princeton, NJ 2011

Praise for Memento Tsunami:

“Reading Vasiliki Katsarou’s poetry is like watching an exquisitely made film: so beautiful are the images moving through time that you want to pause and let your eyes luxuriate over each frame; so beautiful is the music that you don’t want the movement to stop. We hear echoes of Sappho, Emily Dickinson, H.D., Mina Loy, and Lorine Niedecker, whose beautiful poetry, like Katsarou’s, is crafted with classical discipline, yet is not merely beautiful, nor merely classical. Memento Tsunami is breathtaking and reads as sustained filmic meditation on the woman artist, ancestry, the immigrant daughter’s unfixed, hyphenated identity, a world where an iPod becomes an i (a self, perhaps) and a pod (a natural thing, perhaps), where everything, each particular the poet places just so—sublimely—on the page might be poised for flight and the possibility to “embody // velocity.” —Aliki Barnstone, author of Dear God, Dear Dr. Heartbreak and The Collected of C.P.Cavafy: A New Translation

“These poems never say a word too much, but their language, by turns wry and musical, playful and gorgeous, is not minimalist at all. They are at once precise and vivid. They speak with an elliptical urgency.” —James Richardson, author of By the Numbers: Poems and Aphorisms

It’s a heady concoction Vasiliki Katsarou offers us in Memento Tsunami: musical, playful, polyglot, mindful of how history and passion are coming to overtake us. Supple and delicate, her poems speak the language of the world and time traveler who appeals to all ears and minds. After delighting in these poems, now tender, now elegiac, now goofy, now celebratory, the thankful reader may well echo one of those poems: “all this has been given for us.” —John Timpane, Books Editor, Philadelphia Inquirer

“In ‘Dab of Blue Paint,’ Vasiliki Katsarou asks, “What then are we to do/with all those moments/ when the eye stops the heart?” Memento Tsunami is her answer, poems that catch “that glint of beauty going by” as they tumble on the “giant wave” of memory.” —Lois Marie Harrod, author of Brief Term

“The denotation of “memento” is that it may be a keepsake, but it can also be a warning(… ) Katsarou’s poems are all of these, but coupled with the connotations of “tsunami,” they are also about what overtakes and overcomes us, what crashes through our lives, and what is left in the wake, how “all the homes of childhood are nowhere,” but in the morning after we “think…our selves more alive.” She seeks to connect dots across histories and memory in these “moon-loosened” lyrics rich with sensuality and image. —Laura McCullough, author of Panic

What other readers are saying about Memento Tsunami:

“I love the elegant multilingual vocabulary, your subtle word and sound plays, the surrealism and very cool use of film editing and film production references.”

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“A beautiful book. Seemed so wonderfully light-filled even as it asks many questions of language.”

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“I love the economy of language, those lingering silences, and the themes of motherhood, family, love and longing.”

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“I am a Sappho fan and often your poems had the feel of Sappho fragments.”

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“The collection is transformational.”

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“Nice, light touch that keeps resonating. Like a feather on an anvil.”

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“Worldly, funny, elegant, puzzling.”

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“Beautiful work. While completely authentic, it seems to stand at the interstices between all languages. And like Char and Ponge, you care about words as things in themselves, in the architecture of the natural world.  The poems are landscapes and the landscapes are poems.”

Anthologies

My poetry is included in the following anthologies:

_Eating_Anth_hires_coverEating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems
Ragged Sky Press, Princeton NJ.
Edited by Vasiliki Katsarou, Ruth O’Toole, and Ellen Foos.
Introduction by Vasiliki Katsarou. 2009.

100 contemporary poets—local stars and literary luminaries such as Kim Addonizio, Margaret Atwood, Billy Collins, Elaine Equi, Jorie Graham, Maxine Kumin, Paul Muldoon, and Charles Simic—join together to celebrate clothing in its many forms and functions: as desire, as ghost, as body, as poetry, as talisman, as transformer of the soul.

notsomewhereelseNot Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women & Place
Edited by Erin Elizabeth Smith, T.A. Noonan, Rhonda Lott, and Beth Couture

Eclectic and engaging multi-genre anthology of contemporary women writers. 300+ pages.

“The writing in Not Somewhere Else But Here is at turns haunting and infused with a deep magic. The work carries the reader from Beirut to Vermont, from Japan into dream worlds, bodies as maps. Landscapes are often treacherous, populated with ‘mouths of razor-wild men’, enchanted with ‘fists opened to explosions of diatomic stars,’ and each woman in this collection navigates those spaces with a deft grace. Step into the worlds they have summoned.” -Margaret Bashaar, Editor of Hyacinth Girl Press

Ode to Hunterdon: Poems by Hunterdon County Poets
Lucia Press, Clinton, NJ (2014)

Commemorative anthology celebrating Hunterdon County’s Tricentennial. Hunterdon poets share works reflecting the county’s beauty and its grit, from the extraordinary to the mundane. Poets included are Lois Marie Harrod, Juditha Dowd, John Richard Smith, MaryAnn Miller, Ray Brown, Vasiliki Katsarou, Basil Rouskas, Kathe Palka, Ravenna Taylor, Skye Van Saun, Paul Matthews, Warren Cooper, Gerald Stern, and Anne Marie Macari.

tin_rabbit_ears-1Rabbit Ears: The First Anthology of Poetry about TV
Edited by Joel Allegretti. Upcoming, 2014, Poets Wear Prada.
128 poems by 129 poets, with one collaborative poem.