Mirrors

by Rick Bursky

Someone once wrote, “everything I ever learned about myself I learned while looking in a mirror.” Hmmm, interesting. For years I thought it arrogant. Followed by a couple of years thinking it was stupid. For the last few days I’ve thought about it and now I might actually understand. Every morning I brush my teeth while looking at myself in a mirror. Then I shave. Looking in a mirror. Occasionally, I think about what I see. Occasionally, I write about it.

The mirror was invented by accident, or so the story goes. I’ve written poems about/with mirrors. None were accidents. Pliny mentioned mirrors in his Natural History, written in 77 AD. Mirrors date back to 2000 BC in China. People have been looking at themselves for a long time.POST -- Bursky Rick Mirrors poem gray

Confusing the subject is easy. The poem was invented by accident, or so the story goes. Pliny mentioned poetry in his Natural History, written in 77 AD. Poetry date back to 2000 BC in China. People have been looking at themselves for a long time. Poetry.

Frustrated with a poem I was writing, struggling with, I held it in front of mirror and read it backwards. I was hoping some revision revelation might occur to me. It didn’t.

Mirrors are important to me. I don’t know why. Poetry is where you discover what’s important to you. Writing is exploring. But you already knew that.

There was a time I thought that the invention of photography should have made mirrors obsolete. I started to calculate how many hours I’ve spent looking at myself, in mirrors. While doing the math I started to become nervous and abandoned the idea.

In its simplest form, a mirror is a sheet of glass with a piece of aluminum or silver attached. Staring into a mirror for too long causes headaches and sadness. (Dr. Gorlick told me this.) There are occasions when staring into one is appropriate.

It is unfortunate the requirements of modern grooming have made mirrors a necessity. A world without mirrors would require more trustworthy friends. There’s something completely inappropriate about putting mirrors in wide, gold frames.

Mirrors should never be used as decorations. Large mirrors on the walls of restaurants make them appear larger, and to tell you the truth, I like that. Large poems on the walls of restaurants, I would like that, too.

We painted our faces in shades of green and black. This was when I was a rifleman in the army. Some of the soldiers used small mirrors from cosmetic compacts or signal mirrors from survival kits. Some soldiers preferred to avoid the mirror and have other soldiers paint their face. I was one of the latter and avoided the mirror. And after my face was painted, I painted his. Soldiers are like mirrors, you look closely at them you’ll discover a poem.

There was a mirror store on West Third Street in Los Angeles. Large mirrors in elaborate frames sat on the sidewalk and leaned against each other. A man walking past stopped, looked at himself in a full-length mirror and punched the mirror. A large piece of the mirror crashed to the pavement. He shook his fist and walked away. I was leaving the ice cream store across the street as this happened. I can’t tell you why he did this or what sort of damage he might have done to his hand. This is something better explained in a poem.

agni blog logo smaller

bursky_bio_photoRick Bursky teaches poetry for the Writer’s Program at UCLA Extension. His most recent book, I’m No Longer Troubled By the Extravagance, is out from BOA Editions; the previous book Death Obscura, was published by Sarabande Books. Find out what he’s published in AGNI here.

Van Winckel, Chang, and Mills: New Work up on AGNI!

We’ve got great work up on the main AGNI website—excerpts of an essay by Nance Van Winckel, two poems by Victoria Chang, and fiction by Bronwyn Mills. Check it all out!

 

AGNI NVW“From hour to hour I’d long first for more of Me-In-Charge, then for less, then please, none. This lasted weeks. I’d stand in the purply dark—that swirling admixture of all colors—until the stars of bulbs in other houses flickered on.”

 

from the essay “Sister Zero” by Nance Van Winckel

 

AGNI VC“Control—died on August 3, 2015, along with my mother. Suddenly I was no longer in the middle of the earth. Suddenly I could change the angle of the liquid pen so that the rocket went the other way.”

from the poem “Obit” by Victoria Chang

 

AGNI BM“One night in Lisboa, Ö. went into a fado bar. He went in late, to take shelter from cold, damp weather. The place was darker than the grave; and inside sitting at a table, he saw an older man eating a lovely fish soup. The music was rising to a wail. The singer was only practicing, so the music would stop now and then, unexpectedly, in the midst of an anguished cry. Wanting to strike up a conversation, Ö. sat down next to the old man.”

from the story “The Story of Ö” by Bronwyn Mills

 

 

agni blog logo smaller

In and Out of Books: Kinds of Poetic Knowledge

by Rachel Hadas

Robert Frost wrote in “The Figure a Poem Makes,” “Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields.”

Like burrs…or maybe more like ticks, which are plentiful in the long grass this early July in Vermont. But we don’t want burrs and ticks to adhere—we strip them off when we come in from the fields—whereas presumably we do want knowledge to stick. So that (as Frost observes in his talk “Education by Metaphor”) at some point the analogy breaks down. Ticks and burrs don’t nourish us (on the contrary); knowledge does.

“Knowledge” is a clumsy and imprecise term for the kinds of connections I find myself making when, every summer, we come up here and I find myself walking through the fields. One kind of connection is derived from poetry. In the silence as I walk or pick wild strawberries or weed the vegetable garden, a line from some neglected corner of my memory will suddenly detach itself and slot into place, lighting up the moment.

Last week I was fretting about the long-neglected flower gardens my mother dug and planted here half a century ago. If my mother, who died in 1992, is anywhere, I believe she is here in these gardens, now overgrown and bushy but still retaining more than a hint of their original beauty. And I think of e.e. cummings’s poem that begins “if there are any heavens my mother will(all by herself have/one.” But “all by herself” sounds lonely, solipsistic—even though cummings then swiftly corrects that solitude by introducing the courtly ghost of his father into the paradisiacal setting the reunited lovers share.

When I think of my mother’s gardens, when I think of this house, I think of people—family, children, grandchildren, friends, various connections rippling out from a center of, yes, spacious solitude and meditative silence. Gardens and houses create space both for solitude and for company. But as the Greek poet George Seferis notes, in another line that came back to me recently, “Houses, you know, grow resentful easily when you strip them bare.” (The poem is “Thrush,” translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.) Part of the furniture of this house, and of my mind, inheres in poems. So that’s one kind of knowledge.

I’m also thinking of another kind of connection for which, again, “knowledge” isn’t quite the right word. The idea is captured, though, in phrases my father, the classicist Moses Hadas, used in the titles of two of his books: Old Wine, New Bottles and the subtitle of his

Hellenistic Culture, which is Fusion and Diffusion. For Moses, who had a strong impulse to democratize the study of the classics, those new bottles would be the fresh container of translation. According to the parable, new wine will burst the old bottles; but Moses saw that the old wine would benefit from a new delivery system. And Fusion and Diffusion aptly evokes both the transformation and the expansion that attend on cultural transmission. If fusion suggests a coming together of previous separate entities and the possible creation of something new, then diffusion evokes an opposing outward movement. In the 21st century, surely the digital world is both the new bottle and a powerful new diffuser.

The apple (as Frost might have said) doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’ve recently completed verse translations of Euripides’s two plays about Iphigenia, spellbinding dramatizations of war and politics, family dynamics and trauma. As I worked, and particularly when I was finishing the translations and teaching “Iphigenia in Aulis” last November, there was no need to underline the alarming yet also perennial relevance of a story which was already old wine when Euripides decanted it into the new bottle of drama.

Another recently finished project sprang into being unexpectedly in January 2017, when our granddaughter was born. We knew the child would be a girl; and according to the custom of her father’s Guyanese family, her name would begin with the same initial letter as her mother’s. A C-name then; and (I proudly claim credit here), I thought of Camilla, the warrior maiden, the swift runner, in Virgil’s Aeneid.

The name met with approval, and soon I found myself returning to the Aeneid, particularly to the poem’s dark second half, which one rarely reads in high school. It didn’t hurt that I was on sabbatical and had no classes to prepare or papers to correct. Almost every day I’d read a few pages in Sarah Ruden’s translation, moving to the Latin whenever something struck me. Here were extraordinarily vivid depictions of war fever and hysteria, anxiety attacks, sleepless nights, fearful mothers standing on the battlements watching their sons march past.

If the cummings and Seferis poems cited earlier were already somewhere in my mind, the Aeneid was more like a field through which I found myself intentionally but unhurriedly striding, always ready to pause and pick up a treasure.

Poems for Camilla consists of twenty-nine poems written between January and May 2017. Some of their titles have a contemporary ring: “Poetry Out Loud,” “Filing System,” “Weaponized,” “Special Effects,” “Anxiety Attack”; some, like “Iron Sleep,” go straight to their Virgilian source. Neil Gaiman and David Copperfield, Riverside Park and Central Park, all make appearances, and the unnamed menace of President Trump broods over several of the poems. Camilla is there—both Camillas—and my husband’s beloved younger brother, his fidus Achates. Lavinia, Amata, Latinus, Euryalus, Nisus, the Sibyl, and of course Aeneas are recurring presences.

Poems for Camilla will be published around Camilla’s first birthday. Will she read these poems when she’s older? The intention is there, at the very least, the possibility. When and if Camilla is ready or curious, the poems will be available. I love this durability of the intangible. Last week, in the first reclamation project of this particular summer, we replaced the grubby old kitchen stove (had mice been nesting in the oven or in the burner coils? So it seemed, but who wanted to know?) with a new one. “This should last your time,” said the cheerful Sears delivery man. The bittersweet expectation is, of course, that the next stove, the next roof repair, the next revisioning of the garden will be the task of the next generation. Whereas the beauty of poems, of the classics, of the kind of knowledge we accumulate without having to go to the appliance store, is that that they never need to be replaced. By definition, they outlast our time.

agni blog logo smaller

rachel_hadas_hiRachel Hadas’ verse translations of Euripides’s two Iphigenia plays are forthcoming in 2018, as is a poetry collection, Poems for Camilla. Find out what she’s published in AGNI here.

Dances Danced on Country Roads

by Sven Birkerts

Every summer for some years now we’ve been taking our family vacation on Caspian Lake in northern Vermont. Most of our rentals have been along the same little peninsula, and have had the same basic amenities—lake access, kayak or canoe, grill, internet. This year we were late in reserving and ended up taking a new place on the far shore and I’ll confess I did a little double-take when my wife inspected the rental sheet and announced that this year’s house had no internet. What quicker way to get a read-out of my convoluted psyche. I was at once relieved and anxious, idealistic and craven. Wonderful, I thought, I’ll read, I’ll walk and think, I’ll shed the news-cycle toxins…And then: Shit!

I had brought enough reading to see me through the week-long blackout. I had two books for eventual reviewing, John McPhee’s Draft No. 4 and a novel by Laurent Binet called The Seventh Function of Language, and then the book I’d been saving as my special reward, Adam Zagajewski’s new memoir, Slight Exaggeration.

But about that internet issue…Critical as I have been—and in my deepest convictions remain—I am as enmeshed as anyone, checking e-mail and Instagram, tweeting, tracking the daily outrage. I do this mainly in syncopation with the ongoing work of writing, and editing, both of which have me at the screen. So this week away was going to be a deprivation, never mind those ‘deepest convictions.’

One summer, early on, we had also been “without,” and back then we had dealt with what internet needs we had by parking outside the Greensboro library and borrowing its signal. We were not alone. Whatever the hour, you could always find a row of cars idling in the small library lot, see the silhouettes of summer people getting their fix. I supposed I would be doing the same thing this time when I needed connection.

The day we arrived it was drenching rain and nobody stirred. The next morning, though, the sun was out, and I set out to check out our new, unfamiliar place. Taking a left at the drive, I walked down the road toward the lake. After a few hundred yards the road ran out and became someone’s yard. Stopping, I looked over to my right and saw a beautiful stretch of pastoral. I took my iPhone from my pocket and framed a few shots. Then I headed in the other direction, back up the hill toward the bigger road.

I had gone only a few yards past our driveway when I felt it—a distinct burst of vibration in my front right pocket. I stopped and once again took out my phone. Where all along there had been no reception, the little abacus now showed one bar of reception. Showed it, and then, as I took a small backward step, disappeared it. Up again, back again— anyone watching me at this point would have thought I was practicing a dance move. I could not figure it out. Sometimes a single bar appeared, then it disappeared. Yes, no, yes, no, no, no…When it was on, I checked my internet. I saw I had a few new messages. One opened for me. But when I wrote a few words in reply nothing happened. No little whooshing sound to signify ‘sent,’ no small arrow icon indicating success…

Next I checked Instagram. There I had slightly better luck. I selected the picture of the field I’d just taken and tapped. The image posted.

FullSizeRender (1)

I could make my way further into this realm of psychological minutiae, but life is short. The point I want to make—the upshot—is that into my long-anticipated break from the agitations of daily modern life had arrived the whimsical and irrational goblin of signal. Standing on the side of a rutted dirt road, with woods on one side and a open field on the other, I was, by turns, connected to he world at large, the universe of all potentiality, and then abruptly barred (or “unbarred”) from it. And, fool that I was, and remain, I persisted, stepping outside again and again to try my luck, each time hoping that the exact right location, or angle, or some mysterious shift in atmospheric ions, would plant me inside the signal. I did this intermittently for a full week, and I was in every attempt both tantalized and frustrated.

I certainly don’t want to make it seem that I did nothing but dance from side to side in my flip-flops looking for deliverance. No, I did also make peace with the contemplative man. I sat for hours in an overstuffed armchair, reading. Lessened screen activity made for heightened concentration. I finished the Binet, and then, rather than turning right away to the McPhee, I decided I could treat myself and picked up the Zagajewski instead.

And what a delight that was, to be inveigled by degrees into the mentality of a truly poetic sensibility—observant, psychologically shrewd, alert to idiosyncrasy, brooding in the best ways. The pages were filled with Zagajewski’s reflections on the artistic vocation itself—on beauty, on what might be the proper expressive balance between the material and the ethereal.

And then this. Zagajewski is writing about inspiration, its unreliability—the great good days when it comes, and the bleak days when the “tremendous plans, the expansive hopes from those moments when everything starts afresh, all quickly deflate, leaving you to protect your abruptly diminished empire in despair.” I closed the book around my finger. I could not help but make the link. Between the all-too-familiar sense of the writer at his desk, waiting to see if the word-fall would happen, if the spark of cadence might arrive, and—

No two things could be more different than internet connectivity and artistic inspiration, yet I confess that after reading Zagajewski I found myself making analogies. Which is both ridiculous and untenable. The internet signal is a thing outside, a projected energy that reaches its user through specifically engineered channels. Artistic inspiration, meanwhile, manifests mysteriously in the psyche, opaque to psychoanalysis and neurobiology. Freud famously wrote that “before the mystery of the creative artist, psychoanalysis must lay down its arms.”

I don’t intend to settle the matter here, far from it. But I want to bring into momentary focus the particular feelings, the anticipation and doubt—the anxiety—that we register in the face of our larger unknowns. Not just creative inspiration and connectivity, though these have been prominent in my thoughts, but, via the most basic extrapolation, our anticipation day by day—moment by moment—of the unknown future. We often forget our existential situation, and it is our hubris as well as our salvation that we do, but inevitably there come moments, sometimes little dances danced on country roads, that remind us once again.

agni blog logo smaller

FullSizeRender Sven Birkerts is the editor of AGNI. Formerly director of the Bennington Writing Seminars, he is now a member of the Core Faculty in Nonfiction. He has published ten books, most recently Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age (Graywolf). 

My Heroes Haven’t Always Been Real

By Andres Rojas

My father learned chess as a political prisoner in Cuba. (The metaphors practically write themselves.) Once out of jail at age 26, he read as many chess books as he could and got to know and played against just about every chess player in his town of 30,000. He got pretty good at it, too.

I was little more than a month old when he had a chance to be in Havana for a few days during the 17th Chess Olympiad, held in late October and early November, 1966. He desperately wanted to meet Bobby Fischer and get an autograph—my father had just turned 28; Fischer was 23 and had already become the U.S. chess champion at age 15. On his last day in Havana, my father went to Fischer’s hotel and camped out in the lobby, keeping an eye on the elevators. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday, and being Jewish, Fischer stayed in his room all day. My father never got his autograph.

Or so goes my father’s story.

Playing chess against my father was an exercise in frustration: he beat me, badly, always. He did love to talk about chess, when he was in the mood, and I had his José Raúl Capablanca stories memorized by the time I left his and my mother’s house. Over the years, I continued to read about chess, being more interested in its history and mythologies than in the actual gameplay. I did play my father a few more times before his death in 2003, but I lost every time.

In mid-2013, I read Frank Brady’s excellent Fischer biography Endgame. Even before I had finished the book, a poem about Fischer announced itself. I finished writing the poem, “Fischer in His Island Kingdom,” shortly after finishing the book. No journal I sent it to (over 30) took it, but that’s a different story.

It took reading a book about him for me to write a Fischer poem. My father’s stories didn’t do it. My playing his games over to try and learn from him didn’t do it. Listening to the Chess soundtrack ad nauseam didn’t do it. Watching Bobby Fischer Against the World didn’t do it.

It took reading about him in a book.

**********

I grew up in a religious household and was raised on the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Old Testament and the apostles and disciples of the New. I also grew up in a communist society, where the martyrs of the Cuban revolution (Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, and of course, José Martí) were a daily presence in schoolrooms and billboards, on TV and on the radio, and on newsreels at the movies. Growing up, I was surrounded by heroes and a few heroines (not enough), both mythical and historical. They were as real to me as my family and friends, perhaps even more so. Though I loved stories about Abraham and King David and later Alice (of Wonderland) and Sherlock Holmes, I came to be most fascinated by history, that is to say, by stories about real people.

In retrospect, I can see that as I began to study and try to write poetry, I was most attracted to poems I perceived were about actual people: I preferred “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to “The Waste Land” because I intuited, rightly or wrongly, that the former was about a real person: its author. Eventually I realized the later was also about Eliot, but its many voices managed to fool me longer. The same rationale attracted me to the confessional poets, who were clearly writing about themselves, and, later, to poems about poets. (Debra Greger’s “Envoi” still resonates.) Among my early favorites were Anthony Hecht’s “The Cost” (Trajan, Dante, Gregory the Great); Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Dead” (“Colonel Shaw and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry”); and Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” (herself, her father, the Nazis, Hitler by implication).

Naturally, I emulated the poems I loved. Among my earliest was “Carlos Gardel Sleeps Under My Bed,” an impossibility, since Argentina’s definitive tango singer died thirty years before my birth, but perfectly acceptable in poetry. The first poem I wrote for my M.F.A. workshop was “What Vallejo Calls Notre Dame Bridge.” My thesis had poems invoking Alexander the Great, St. Augustine of Hippo, Emily Dickinson, Keats (living in St. Augustine, Florida), Chekov (visiting Venice, Italy), Verlaine (and by extension Rimbaud), Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, and Caroline Forché. I’m pretty sure there were others, but I no longer have a copy of my thesis. It wasn’t particularly coherent, but that also is a different story.

**********

Other than poetry, I overwhelmingly read non-fiction. Consequently, the snippets of text I carry in my memory are overwhelmingly about real people. Those are the words—and ideas—that tend to trigger my poems or graft themselves onto them as they grow. Not surprisingly, fictional characters almost never show up in my poetry, though I once wrote a poem with the Biblical Cain as its speaker. I tread with due care here: Gardel or Rimbaud (or Fischer) can be as much creatures of myth as Adam and Eve.

Almost without fail, I most desire to address real (meaning at least demonstrably historical) people, to talk to them, or at them, or through them. Or at least about them. I want them to inform my world, and the best way I have of doing that is to put them in my poems. My poetry is my very own social network where I can interact, however obliquely, with Matías Pérez and Hannah Arendt. Alternatively, I think of it as a sort of fan fiction.

But really, I am most interested in including the world as it is outside my life—the world of Syrian refugees and Black Lives Matter—in my poetry, at least as best as I can perceive and understand that world. And that means writing about real people. Iago may horrify me, but my lessons in treason are drawn from Arnold and Quisling, and of late, maybe even from certain of our elected officials. I love Jane Eyre, the character, but my poems gravitate towards Ada Lovelace and Allegra Byron, or for sheer heartbreak, Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland. Life doesn’t imitate art. Art massages bloody life into edible morsels. I’d rather go to the source. But, of course, my poems aspire to art and can’t help but turn the real into something else: in a poem, is a real person not part of the poem now?

That leaves me with an image of the ouroburus and all that it entails. I well know August Kekulé first dreamt of a snake devouring its own tail, and then (and only then) did he manage to draw the circular structure of benzene. Producing a model of a given molecule may not be art (I say it can be) but it’s certainly the work of the creative imagination. And one constrained by fact, no less. I prefer my imagination to be so constrained. Having real people in my poems does that for me. It’s a kind of formal structure, even if applied to content.

**********

At a recent reading, someone did in fact note how frequently my poems name-check historical characters.

“That’s because,” I answered, not altogether unseriously, “my poems are the only place my name is ever going to be alongside theirs.”

And, at least in my Fischer poem, I brought my father along to the gathering. His name was Oscar—as in Wilde, who, as best as I can tell, cared little for chess, either as art or otherwise. He (my father) died at 64 of hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver. Fischer died five years later, also at 64—one year for each square on a chessboard—after refusing life-saving treatment. Reputedly, his last words were, “Nothing is as healing as the human touch.”

agni blog logo smaller

RojasAndres Rojas was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. at age 13. He holds an M.F.A. from the University of Florida and is the author of the audio chapbook The Season of the Dead (EAT Poems, 2016). His poems have previously appeared in AGNI, and have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in, among others, Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, New England Review, New American Writing, Notre Dame Review, and Poetry Northwest. Find out what he’s published in AGNI here.

Revisitations: Two Questions with Dilruba Ahmed

AGNI: You use repetition to great effect in your poem “Choke” (AGNI 85). How do you know what bears repeating in your work, and how does the repeated word or phrase change (for you, hopefully for a reader) as you bring it back again? In other words, what do you expect repetition to do?

Ahmed: First, thanks for your kind words about my poem, David! My poem “Choke” is sort of a retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” in two voices: an unidentified interviewer, and a rural Indian farmer. I can’t say I really know what bears repeating in my poems, but in this case, the voice of the interviewer seemed loud and insistent as I wrote, as though the urge to repeat the questions arose from the interviewer’s dissatisfaction with the initial response. So maybe the interviewer’s repetition stems from a desire to both clarify and undermine the farmer’s replies. At the same time, by giving the farmer a chance to reply more than once to the same question, I think I hoped to create a sense of accumulation, with a larger story emerging bit by bit from snippets. I also hoped to convey a kind of layering and revision that would compel the reader to question both the interviewer and the respondent, with the farmer at times responding to the inquiry with a kind of counter-inquiry. In addition to repeating some of the interviewer’s questions and part of the farmer’s replies, I tried playing around with the repetition of the word “choke.” I was interested in thinking about the various connotations and uses of the word, both the physical act of choking or being choked, as well as the more abstract uses of the term in “choke off” or “chokehold.”

AGNI: One of the things that stands out in your poem “The Feast” is your use of camerawork; you use description to move the reader’s attention from the speaker’s father to the food, from the food to the river, and then on to the children, and so on. How conscious were you of this camerawork in the writing process? How did you know what needed attention, and when?

I wrote “The Feast” about a year and a half after my father died of multiple myeloma. I was visiting a new river park with my kids, the kind of picnic spot my parents visited frequently when I was a child. For a long moment, I felt as though I had somehow stepped outside of time as we conceptualize it, as though the past and present had collapsed. While I did not actually “see” him, I felt my father’s presence very deeply in that park. I suddenly became hyper-aware of all of the seemingly concrete, physical details of the setting: the grass, the trees, the moss, the water. But all the while, I was aware of something else happening. The experience was strange but somehow comforting, as though I’d been given a chance to revisit a familiar dream that was meant to represent real life. So I think that, as I wrote the poem, I was compelled to convey the sensory details of the land and water, perhaps as a counterweight to the strange alteration of time that I had felt.

agni blog logo smaller

Ahmed_photo_COLOR_med
Photo credit: Mike Drzal

Dilruba Ahmed’s debut book, Dhaka Dust (Graywolf Press, 2011), won the Bakeless Prize. Her poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, New England Review, and Poetry. New work is forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Copper Nickel, 32 Poems, Ploughshares, and Aquifer. Her poems have been anthologized in Literature: The Human Experience (Bedford/St. Martin’s), Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas), and elsewhere. Ahmed is the recipient of The Florida Review’s Editors’ Award, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Prize, and a Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellowship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Find out what she’s published in AGNI here.

Abildskov, Berry, and Tandon: New work up on AGNI!

We’ve got great work up on the main AGNI website—an essay by Marilyn Abildskov, two poems by Ciaran Berry, and two poems by Jason Tandon. Check it all out!

Marilyn-Abildskov“When you were a Mormon girl, your future was mapped. You knew that one day you would live in a two-story brick house, that the house might be on Emerson Avenue or Logan Avenue but wherever it was, there would be a vegetable garden in the backyard, a soft-spoken priesthood-holding husband inside, ginger-haired children you drove to swimming practice and piano lessons and skiing trips on the same slopes where you learned to ski so many years before. In addition, you would probably have a cabin in the mountains, one with a lofty fireplace in a family room spacious enough for everyone to stretch out and play Monopoly. And on Sundays? You would all sit together on one of the front pews, sharing hymnbooks, the older kids holding the younger ones in their laps.

“And when you’re not a Mormon girl?”

from the essay “And Who Can Say It Will Not?” by Marilyn Abildskov

 

Ciaran-Berry“you yelled out ‘right leg’ and I answered ‘green.’
We both waited for the other to topple onto an elbow or a knee

as the updraft passed through Jonesboro and Pinckneyville,
gathering to its core a rowboat, a rocking chair, a woman on a bicycle.”

from the poem “Twister” by Ciaran Berry

 

Jason-Tandon“Rolling and
unrolling the scroll

I don’t know
which
to prefer.”

from the poem “Having Forgotten to Put out Fresh Towels, I Run Naked and Wet to the Bedroom” by Jason Tandon

 

 

agni blog logo smaller