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Leah Halk

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.

She Reads Her poems:

Theories of Wormholes

Borders

Covenant

Fidelity

Selection Theory

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George Kalogeris

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

Origins

Lost in Translation

Puasanius: Daedalus. Translated by George Kalogeris

Viel

Leopardi: Saturday Night in the Village. Translated by George Kalogeris

Mark Stevick center, Catie Porter on the left, Nora Messier on the right

Here is a version of Jonathan Busch’s ten minute play “The Case of the Missing Butler,” read aloud by Mark Stevick, Catie Porter, and Nora Messier.

Jon Busch is the author of several award-winning plays including “Laying the Smack-Down in Cambridge” which will be published by Smith & Kraus this Spring. He lives in Beverly, MA and pays the bills by writing copy for advertisements.

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Your Inheritance