Mellisa Green: Born in Boston. Author of The Squanicook Eclogues, recently reprinted by Pen & Anvil; and Fifty-Two, published by Arrowsmith, both books of poetry. Color is the Suffering of Light, a memoir, was published by Norton. Her work has been published by Agni, The Paris Review. The New Republic and the New York Review of Books.
Wintrhop, MA, is an island. It maybe connected to the mainland and appear to be a peninsula, but it is an island. The roads are difficult to navigate and construction is rampant. The locals say that if you don’t know your way around Winthrop then you aren’t meant to be there.
But, Winthrop is beautiful. The ocean teases the developing ‘burbs roughly, and the sprawl taunts back, it’s foundations nearly encroaching on the way. This strip of coast maintains an atmosphere of planned tempest; expected, and accepted, and lived. It is here that Melissa Green and Joseph Brodsky would walk.
In a place that is before words. It is where Melissa Green crafts words to life.
A Sea Change
Portrait of an Artist: Brodsky
The Splendor Father
More to come: a selection from Melissa’s most recent work Alkedema…
It was perhaps on the rainiest day of the summer that I met Leah Falk outside of the Harvard Science building. There were children playing in the fountain. The heat brought on a storm. Leah had spent the day at Singing Beach and had been burdened by a shard of glass or a bee sting sunk in the sole of her foot. The rain had no effect on her reading nor did the pain in her foot. We found a quiet corner and she read for The Ottoman Estate.
She has written beautifully about her formation;
How was I formed? Head first; then by the walls of my parents’ house; by the wheels of small vehicles running over my body; by paintings of toast and jam; by my mother’s hand cupping my waist; by the words of songs I would not sing in the synagogue; by the sun that burned me; by liner notes of my parents’ records; here by a birch, black squirrel, an empty trail, then only by distance. What shape does distance make? An asterisk; lines crossing and stretching blindly. Like the beach, formed every day by the ocean.
Re-formed, we are not necessarily reformed. Hunks of clay thrown on a wheel. When I was fifteen, a rabbi lectured me on the distinction between Reform (the branch of Judaism) and the word “reformed,” which I had confused in an essay. Reform referred to constant change, as aware of its own wake as a curve on a graph, whereas a former drunk or heathen was reformed, the old parts cut away, in order never to look back.
I have my doubts about the preservation of the spirit of Reform in the eponymous denomination of Judaism. But if the definition can be extended, there are some moments in my life as a reader and writer of poetry that I would like to include in a curve of Reform. I remember the mysterious emergence of sounds, with no past of their own. This led me into the hyperactive, nonsensical arms of Gregory Corso, the yelp of Ginsberg, and the little-brother aping of them both by the young Bob Dylan. Later, when I learned to sit quietly with poetry—with poems of Etheridge Knight, E.E. Cummings, Jane Cooper, Lucille Clifton and Robert Frost—I knew nothing except to wait for the moment of revelation at the poem’s end, by which I measured the poet’s worth and took my own emotional temperature.
I cannot pretend not to also be reformed—to have moments to which I’d rather not return. One of these is a period during which I held my body’s response to poems beneath the surface of the text. I felt the push to be a critic with my eye only, so imagined away the necessity of my body to poetry. But later in college I was fortunate to study with excellent teachers who at last introduced me to form and criticism not as traps but as topographical maps, surfaces over which one could travel at leisure.
George Kalogeris teaches English Literature and Classics in Translation at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the author of a book of poems based on the life of Albert Camus, Camus: Carnets (Pressed Wafer, 2006). His poems and translations have appeared in Literary Imagination, Poetry, The Oxford Gazette, Agni, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. He recently completed a collection of paired poems in translation, Dialogos.
George Kalogeris’ Formative Moments:
I can’t say that there was a single definitive experience that drew me to poetry, but three “formative moments” come to mind.The earliest came when I was child, in an elementary after-school Greek language program at my church. We used a text that was a collection of Homeric vignettes, adapted and vastly simplified, from The Iliad. One of the similes described the contending Argive and Trojan armies as being like stones on a seashore, washed over by a wave. In Winthrop, Massachusetts, where I grew up, the ocean was at the end of my street. Walking by the waves, as the waves raked over the stones of the shore, I could hear the clattering sound of shields, and I could see how the stones, with each successive wave, moved barely a few inches, back and forth, like armies in stalemate. Even the foam of the surf was like the manes of the horses, or the plumes of the helmets. Each time I heard the rhythm of the Atlantic’s breaking current the sound washed over me, and I was reminded of the movement of the language, in the simile.
Much later I was very lucky to study with Derek Walcott, and from the first line of the first poem he discussed in class (Dylan Thomas’ “Twenty-four years remind the tears of my eyes’”) I knew that I heard the kind of serious, brilliantly meticulous attention to the craft that I had been thirsting for. When Derek brought Joseph Brodsky to our class for a reading, I was thrilled to hear a healthy Brodsky’s spellbinding, incantatory recitation of Auden’s “September, 1, 1939”, and thrilled to feel how much he wanted us to hear how much was at stake, for him, in every word, which crystalized for me in the quavering pitch he gave to the lines: “The lights must never go out, / The music must always play.
Now, a series of poems by George Kalogeris:
Mandlestram: As I was washing myself in the dark. Translated by George Kalogeris
Lost in Translation
Puasanius: Daedalus. Translated by George Kalogeris
Leopardi: Saturday Night in the Village. Translated by George Kalogeris
I was told that I would know him by his unruly hair, beard bare face, and gray tie. We met at the Esspresso Royal cafe. A five shot cappuccino whet Ilya’s poetic flute and prepared us to read from his found Blue Books. He discovered the collection of poems in Hamilton Hall of Columbia University buried in a book donation box. The invocation of the books reads;
Here is a Bluebook for the City
Examination in Old Age:
I’d put some markings on each page
A few of even have some meaning.
I wish you, Reader, some enjoyment
At least a little as you read
(Since you’re the one who speaks the word if
It’s a long afterlife I lead…)
I wish you well, I wish you happy,
I wish you happy with me, too;
And if of friends you’ve got a few,
I’d wish your friends would get a copy.
But I am not pretentious after all;
Or if I am then cavemen were pretentious
When sharing markings for each other’s wall.
Is facebook progress? For your wall: my pictures.
Ilya Gutner is studying the Classics as a graduate student at Columbia University. His reading does the poetry justice below.
The National, a brooklyn based quartet, will release High Violet tomorrow. The Band’s previous album’s Boxer and Alligator were conglomerations of jack-and-coke anthems, and step-down-the-ballroom-stairs swaggers that established their distinctive sound. This sound is evolved and perfected on High Violet.
Songs like “Daughter’s of the SoHo Riots” and “Fake Empire” submerged the listener in a New York City sound tracked by melodies of pondering. High Violet feels as though the City were scoring the sheet music of one’s brain. The album is consistent with The National’s musical diction and tact, but has pulled away from the single throbbing line of the band’s previous albums. The poignant reflectiveness remains, but seems to have adopted a more global weight on the grains of Matthew Berninger’s baritone. His voice stands solitary and eager to react to the delicate rising of the strings.
The album is like a family of seals swimming in interweaving harmony.
The old National is apparent on High Violet. Songs like “Sorrow” are reminiscent of “Slow Show”; the steady stroke of the guitar, the emphasizing send of the snare, and the lugubrious rumble of the baritone. However, songs like “Afraid of Everyone” establish a previous un-sprung freshness. A subtle morphing that rivals the screaming power of Alligator’s “Mr. November,” is built into a crushing anthem, and then effortlessly wound into a tight percussive drive.
High Violet categorizes The National with Radiohead, Coldplay, Iron and Wine, and Modest Mouse. The National’s success with High Violet is not exclusively the effortless perfection of their brand of music, but their ability to innovate within their own territory and sacrifice nothing to redundancy or chicanery.
I arrived in the city where no one stays on a Sunday afternoon sunk in drizzle. ‘People come to work for or go to school and then move on, nobody stays in Boston,’ says poet Zachary Bos. People here are like smart free range chickens when it comes to Boston; they take flight.
This transient trend is the cause of the decline of scene and the strangling of artistic endeavor in the Boston area. In comparison with New York or Philadelphia there are no scenes. And how could there be such an environment in a city dominated by tourism and higher education. The nurturing of the creative soul is dependent on the teet of thriving community and Boston folds barren. The bewildered artists that remain slaver upon their meager reservoirs.
Zachary Bos has decided to be a poet in residence for the city of Boston. He and a group of other literary figures aspire to create a community that caters specifically to the Bostonian’s unique nature. Through journals, meet-up groups, literary events, and small presses Zachary hopes to create a port for the creative mind; a place where a person can be dock and discover what they need quickly.
Les Reves Tigres. Ils e placer en face du la porte! La guache vers la driote; Josh Hester, John Misarski, Jake Woodruff, Joel "madge" Costanzo, Andy Gary
On rainy night that not even sponges dared to venture out into a gathering of musicians, barristas, friends, photographers, and lovers occurred in a blue Colonial neh-ng-lend-ome. The aged wooden floors of the apartment slanted smoothly as though age, gravity, and the circle of life had produced the effect after a discussion on the concept of “cool.” Our once damp coats, and dreary spirits were warmed by the good graces of our hosts, schlitz, and mellifluous tunes. The melodies were those of Beverly, Massachusetts’ Dreamtigers. The band, Jon Misarski, Joel Costanzo, Andy Gary, Jake Woodruff, Josh Hester, delighted the audience with V-strings, Guitars, Maracas, a suitcase, a tambourine, and an oven rack. Here is the live set;
This weekend hundreds of men, women, and children will wait in line to buy the Ipad. The release has been hailed by the Financial Times as a, “polariz(s)ing moment,” for Apple as well as technological progress. A touch based product has been released before and failed, but not by Apple. There is hope for touch technology’s advancement.
The device operates on a platform that is navigated by touch. I am neither a tech-shaman nor electric historian- Clipse spits, “touchscreen component\makes ya hot don’it.” Yes, I am warm.
However, these advances cause me to wonder are we giving too much humanity to technology? Will history, in a Lepidoptera effect, remember this as an irreversible and a “so much depends upon a red wheel barrow,” event? Will this further contort, and warp the expectations of the common person? Let me elaborate:
Touch is a two part phenomenon; there is a catalyst and there is a reactor. A husband brushes the back of his wife’s neck. A jealous meatball pops a guy who was hitting on his girl in the face. An older divorcee’s fingertips linger as she places quarters in an attractive vendors hand. The nature of each situation is contingent upon both elements. With this technology one half of this equation is already calculated. Nothing that does not breath has been able to be able enter into this experience with us. Sylicon, plastic, glass, and metal now receive our touch, and from that information (to call touch information!) deduce our wishes. If a man did this to a human it would be strange slavery. If he did it to the raw materials in an Ipad he would be a lunatic.
There is suspense in the exchange, and humans cannot deduce, rely, or calculate the outcomes of touch. This technology provides the interaction with a reaction guaranteed.
I am not decided as to what I feel about the Ipad. I dislike the name (cringe at the obvious jokes that everyone knew long before they were made), but understand that there are only five vowels and that the letters i, p, and d need one. (ipud sounds like a mini-golfer with a lisp). I am interested to see what psycho-socio repercussions this technology will have on our everyday life.
As President Obama passed his health-care plan I felt full of emotion. The feeling was reminiscent of the time I won a hundred and fifty dollar gift certificate to JcPenny’s. My mind tells my body to react, but without a clear understanding.
Additional emotion filled me when I read that Obama had dedicated the signing of the bill to his mother, who had haggled with insurance companies around the time of her death. I was gripped by the revelation that perhaps Barack Obama was driven by a lust for vengeance. Does he hate insurance men? I thought. Is there such a demographic? If there is and they are anything like banks I also dislike them. However, I felt betrayed that the governing voice of the nation could be motivated by so exclusive a stimulus. Is this Healthcare bonanza fueled by a personal vendetta?!
I caught myself. Here is a man defending his mother. I rescind my hesitancy and I applaud President Obama. I will clap for any son that has a vehement actions on behalf of his mother.
Legislation and national action has been sparked by a parent before in out nation’s history. Former President Bush had lingering doubts about his father’s Arch-nemesis, Saddam Husein. America is fortunate that our President’s mother-inspired-action (M.I.A.) that is neither foreign nor violent. In fact, this bill to my mind seems flawless. This fact is the origin of my JcPenny’s emotion.
JcPenny's. Home of equivocal emotions.
It is speculated that the plan will insure 32 million previously uninsured Americans. I am one of those previously uninsured and am thankful that I will be covered as a result of my citizenship and age. For students there will be loan forgiveness, for each state there will be a different health system approach, and we will have universal health-care, the best in the world. There is speculation that America is too big, that there is not enough money nor doctors nor good will, but such speculation seems silly in contrast with the beneficial possibilities. The magnitude of America was conquered by two of the first Americans and should no longer be a problem. Not enough Doctors will initially make a couple hundred thousand individuals very busy for ten years, but four new medical schools have opened, which is an encouraging trend. As for money I don’t think that anyone is afraid of inflation any longer. It works in Belgium why not here?
What bothers me is if this plan is as good as it seems why is there so much opposition? Thirteen states have filed suit against the national government. In Rochester, NY a brick was thrown threw a window at the local democratic-headquarters! Senator John McCain is complaining that someone, “poisoned his well.” The opposition is entirely Republican, and it seems unlikely that they are all off their elephants.
It seems like there must be a serious flaw that I just can’t see and as a regular American adult this makes me worry. Insurance companies certainly see the end of their profit, but who had any affinity to those monsters? Those for bill might be myopic, but it seems to me that the Republicans are furious not for justice’s sake, but because definitive action was taken, and might end up being remembered as Democratic progress.
Pondering the possible outcomes of this bill is worrisome, but the future of America is always shaded gray and a little rainy. However, I am confident, because Obama is acting with his mother in mind. How can anything evil come of that?