Feature, May 2001

Degrees of Affinity:
The Writing Division, Columbia University

Editors' Preface
Profile of The Writing Division by Alfred Corn
Poems
Contributors' Notes

"L'espoir"
(Artist: JOVAN ZEC)

Né à Belgrade en 1943, ZEC fait ses études à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts de Belgrade. Il soutient sa thèse de doctorat du 3e cycle sur l'histoire de l'art moderne à la Faculté de Philosophie de Belgrade. Carrière d'enseignement depuis 1968, plus de 45 expositions collectives et publications de nombreux travaux sur l'histoire, la théorie et la critique de l'art. Il vit et travaille en France. [Pour une explication de l'oeuvre, voir en bas. Ed.]
Renseignements: http://KaraArt.com

~ + ~ + ~ + ~

Editors' Preface

The "Degrees" series began with the December 2000 issue, in which we featured "Degrees of Apprenticeship", our compilation of poems by MFA students, grads and faculty at Brooklyn College with a program profile by director, Lou Asekoff. The variety, range, and authority of its faculty and grads next to the energetic promise of its young writers made for pleasure on the e-page. But even that display could not have prepared us for the close-quarter congregation of all those lively voices: The recording session held December 18 at the KGB Bar on East 4th Street was jammed. That night showed that a seemingly defined circle of writers closely knit by shared experience in fact has powerful concentric effects which enrich an extended local community.

As this month's feature collects the work of Columbia alumni, all of them journeymen certainly, and several perhaps even masters, the focus shifts from apprenticeship to mentorship, and broadens from writer-reader to editor-disseminator. Unlike the young poets in the Brooklyn College feature whose shared experience was marked by the added commonality of time and space, many of these writers have never crossed paths. Still, akin to the vivid colors in Jovan Zec's geometric painting, they echo a primary and parallel, albeit non-intersecting, experience within a larger collective.

At the recording session at Caffè Taci on May 10, we look forward to another lively, packed house, confident that those of Columbian stripe will fully manifest the affinities of what the French call the third, thus, the highest degree.

We express our special thanks to Alfred Corn whose word served as magnet in a forcefield crowded with other attractions.

--NJ/MH

~. ~ . ~ .

The Writing Division of the School of the Arts
By Alfred Corn

There were undergraduate writing courses at Columbia College as early as the 1920s, but it was not until Mark Van Doren taught poetry writing in the 40s and 50s that these attracted attention and admiration. Graduate writing courses began only in 1968 when Frank MacShane, a professor in the English Department, formed the Writing Division of Columbia's Graduate School of the Arts, with course offerings in poetry and fiction writing.

Under the umbrella of the School of the Arts there are several divisions, Music, Visual Art, Theater, Film, and of course Writing. Frank MacShane served as the director of that division until 1981, when Daniel Halpern assumed the post of Director. In that period, MacShane and Halpern were the only year-round faculty members. Most of the instruction was offered by adjunct professors, who, because of the large numbers of writers in New York City, were readily available. The main advantage of that system was that candidates in poetry could study with (in addition to Daniel Halpern) a wide array of some of our most prominent literary figures: Stanley Kunitz, Derek Walcott, Joseph Brodsky, Czeslaw Milosz, Quincy Troupe, and Richard Howard.

The disadvantage was that there was no continuity from term to term; as students assembled their MFA thesis (described as a publishable manuscript of poems), they had no adviser other than Halpern, who, because of teaching and administrative duties, would not have been able to devote many hours to assisting each of a dozen or more candidates developing a thesis portfolio to be submitted for the degree in a given year. Lucie-Brock Broido, currently the Director of the Poetry sector of the Writing Division, was actually a student in the MFA program in those years and has commented that students for the most part had to find their own way, without much guidance from their teachers outside the classroom. Still, many of them seemed to have managed very well, including Brock-Broido herself, Katha Pollitt, Henri Cole, Campbell McGrath, and Jorie Graham.

It was during Halpern's years that I first came to the Writing Division. In the spring of 1983, I taught a seminar on narrative poetry. Among the class members were Marie Howe, Sophie Cabot-Black, and Vijay Seshadri, all of whom have gone on to publish well-received books; and another class member, Sarah Arvio, has since become a noted translator. With absences of a term or even as much as a year or two while I held visiting posts elsewhere I've been at the Writing Division ever since.

When Daniel Halpern stepped down in 1984, Robert Towers was appointed Chair and, in that same year Richard Locke joined the faculty and initiated a degree program in non-fiction writing. In the years since, Michael Scammell and Magda Bogin have joined the permanent faculty, teaching courses both in literary translation and non-fiction. Though writing students may take courses in all three genres (and translation) offered in the Division, they must choose to specialize in either poetry, fiction, or non-fiction.

In 1989, Stephen Koch took up duties as Chair and brought about a number of changes, most important, solving the problem of continuity by arranging for long-term appointments for the faculty. It was at that point that Lucie Brock-Broido was named Director of the Poetry MFA and Maureen Howard as the Director of Fiction, with two other half-time appointees in poetry as well, Lucille Clifton and Alice Quinn. After Lucille Clifton resigned, Richard Howard was appointed a full-time member of the permanent faculty in poetry. Three years ago David Plante was appointed full-time as professor of fiction-writing, and this past year Michael Cunningham and Nicholas Christopher were appointed half-time professors of fiction. The balance of our poetry courses are taught by visiting adjuncts.

Our current Chair is Alan Ziegler, who came to the faculty when undergraduate Creative Writing at Columbia's School of General Studies was administratively joined with the graduate program several years ago. Writing, along with the other divisions of the School of the Arts, enjoys the energetic assistance of Dean Bruce Ferguson, who assumed his post in 1999.

Although the Writing Division has passed through many phases, it has kept a sense of continuity, one sign being the return of former students in the program as its current professors. Apart from Lucie Brock-Broido, these include Henri Cole and Marie Howe, who have taught as adjuncts in the program. Yet the schedule of the courses has become more definite than it was in earlier years. Incoming students (some fourteen to sixteen each year) take an introductory course designed by Lucie Brock-Broido, mapping out the general terrain of what it means to be a contemporary American poet.

In addition to taking regular poetry workshops, students enroll in special seminars, those taught every year by Richard Howard on various aspects of literary art the most popular. An unusual year-long seminar taught by Alice Quinn involves inviting each week a leading contemporary poet such as Anthony Hecht or Marie Ponsot or Billy Collins or Eavan Boland to discuss the work of a poet in the English-language tradition that they particularly admire. In this way, students get an introduction not only to important works from the past but also the contemporary poets who are carrying on that tradition.

Another unusual feature of our MFA is a course in meter, rhyme, and verse form, which I have taught each year since the requirement was introduced in 1990. (It was from teaching that course that I developed my prosody textbook The Poem's Heartbeat, used now not only at Columbia but also in writing courses at every level in dozens of programs across the country, and I owe a debt of gratitude to the Division for that.)

Finally, during their second year, students take two terms of a thesis workshop taught by Lucie Brock-Broido, during which they assemble the final thesis portfolio required for the degree. Emphasis is placed not only on the quality of individual poems but on the development of a coherent, shapely collection that might also lay the foundation for an eventual first book.

As an enrichment to regular courses, the Poetry program invites notable contemporaries for several sessions of "master classes," in which these poets discuss content and form, or whatever issues currently preoccupy them. Special programs or panel discussions with invited speakers are set up each year and held in Columbia's Miller Theater, one of the most memorable the celebration of poetry from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales staged several years ago with the joint sponsorship of The New Yorker. Recently a new series of readings by faculty members has been initiated, so that students will be able to hear, without traveling to other venues, the work of their own teachers read aloud.

The Writing Division also publishes Columbia, a lively quarterly magazine staffed by degree candidates in all three genres. It sponsors an annual prize in poetry and fiction and publishes work by celebrated authors (some of them faculty members) as well as beginners (some of them Writing Division students). Almost every year one of our graduates is named a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and thus sponsored for another two years to develop as a writer. Recent Stegners include Rick Hilles, Tracy K. Smith, and David Yezzi. As for other prizes, Jorie Graham and Campbell McGrath have both been named MacArthur Fellows; McGrath also won the coveted Tufts Prize for $50,000 a few years ago, and Graham, the Pulitzer. She is also the first Writing Division graduate to be named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Our program has a good relationship with the three main poetry organizations in New York City, the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Society of America, and Poets House. The Academy's current Executive Director William Wadsworth is a graduate (as was Henri Cole who served in the same capacity in the 1980s). Many of our students have worked part-time at the PSA, Poets House, and of course the Academy. They have also taken on jobs as interns at The New Yorker and beginning teachers at the Bank Street School.

Graduate David Yezzi, has just taken up duties as Administrative Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and several graduates are currently involved in publishing, for example, Katha Pollitt, who is a regular columnist for The Nation, and Ben Downing, who has recently been named co-editor of Parnassus magazine, serving with the founder Herbert Leibowitz. Both Yezzi and Downing regularly publish literary criticism in important journals such as Poetry and The New Criterion, and graduate Malcolm Farley has begun writing reviews for The New York Times Book Review. (Farley is also director of the prestigious Publishers' Triangle reading series). Daniel Kunitz, for several years Managing Editor of The Paris Review, was recently appointed Literary Editor of Details magazine. Neil Azevedo recently founded Zoo Press, which will publish new volumes of poetry. Mary Jo Bang and Timothy Donnelly are co-editors for poetry at The Boston Review, and Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Anna Rabinowitz serve as co-editors of the quarterly American Letters and Commentary.

Many of the graduates have gone on to teaching, most notably Jorie Graham, formerly on the faculty of the Iowa School of Writing and currently Boylston Professor of Rhetoric at Harvard. Campbell McGrath teaches Creative Writing at Florida International University, and Claudia Rankine teaches poetry classes and African-American literature at Barnard. Henri Cole has taught at Harvard and Brandeis.

Our graduates and even current students regularly publish in prominent magazines, and alumni continue to launch out with first and second books. Notable recent instances include Mary Jo Bang, Brenda Shaughnessy and Mark Wunderlich. Each year about fifteen new students are accepted out of about two hundred applications. Fellowship resources are limited, but the Writing Division has inaugurated a major fund-raising initiative to answer the problem of high tuition costs, and that effort is beginning to have results. There is no sense that the Writing Division is content to rest on its laurels. Instead, the coming years promise to be even better than a record that is already bright and shining.

Further information about current faculty and courses can be found on the Web at: www.columbia.edu/cu/arts/writing.

~ . ~ . ~ .

Poems
 

Alfred Corn
After Celan
Spell for a Safe Journey
Easter Eucharist

Lucie Brock-Broido
Self-Deliverance by Lion
Still Life with Feral Horse
Some Details of Hell
Lady With An Ermine

Neil Azevedo
from Witness
A Boy
From the Crowd

Jeanne Marie Beaumont
Chapter One
The Project Thus Far

Tina Chang
Episodes

Constantine Contogenis
Zeno's Arrow
Acting My Age

Sally Dawidoff
The Subordinating Conjunction
Union Street

Malcolm Farley
Roman Holiday

John Foy
Paterfamilias
Ice-Chopping Tool
To Christopher

Emily Fragos
The Art of the Insane
Logic

Tiffany Fung
Recovery

Elizabeth Grainger
To Take Bread At My Hand
Butch Purgatory

Rafiq Kathwari
Internet
Today Windy Then Showers
Passivity
Israeli Patrols Kill 90 Dogs in Arab Town

Dave King
Crocus
My Heart Disappears Among the Trees

Claudia Rankine
Intermission in Four Acts
(from PLOT)

Ravi Shankar
Sublime in Passing
The Field on the Horizon

Tracy K. Smith
Figure Crossing Sand

William Wadsworth
Bloom's Photograph

David Yezzi
The Graven Image
Conversation of the Pharisees

~ . ~ . ~ .

Alfred Corn
After Celan

Suns made of thread
above a waste land of ash and soot.
A tree-
high insight
holds the note the light strikes: there
are still texts to sing beyond
the confines of the human.
 
 

Spell For A Safe Journey
for R.C.

While love's light galleon plows the seas,
Steering both night and day toward home,
Canvas beneath the Pleiades,
Hold to your mast through storm and foam.
 
 

Easter Eucharist

Witnessing resurrection of the Christ,
Love's freshest morning brims and is outpoured:
What rose again again is sacrificed.

A cyclic, quickening narrative is spliced
With ours as flesh approximates a word
Witnessing resurrection of the Christ.

Some media event of the Zeitgeist?
No, and no bland diversion for the bored:
What rises rises to be sacrificed.

"Thanksgiving" roughly translates eucharist,
Which martyrs offered, pace fire and sword,
To witness resurrection of the Christ.

Seamless garment Roman soldiers diced
For, you were all that we could not afford:
Your loss our gain, and again sacrificed.

For that, what finite figure would have sufficed?
Attentive guests approach the groaning board
To witness resurrection of a Christ
Made new again because once sacrificed.

~ . ~

Lucie Brock-Broido
Self-Deliverance By Lion

To maul is to make a massive loss
Of the history of a body's history.

What will be taken will be the custody
of soft tissue, and astonishment.

Her hair was a long damp chestnut
River-pelt spilled after an enormous

And important rain. Her body was still sticky
With the lilac repetitions in her cotton dress.

She was found face-up on a cold March morning
By the menial and tender of the keepers

At the zoo, crewelled with frost marks, redolent
As the retractile dewclaws on a lion's forepaw, massive

and significant. I had hoped for, all that Serengeti
Year, a hopelessness of less despair

Than hope itself. The excellent repair
Of night fell cruel and quickly where

The lions had the mastery of me, aware
Their mastery was volitional, and fair.
 
 

Still Life with Feral Horse

It is love and its relinquish
I am discussing here,
A sorrel horse loosed

On a salt marsh island
Pelted by high storms,
And furious. He will not

Be handled by human
Hands, not in this given life
Of gratitude and tallow lamps

And famous churlishness.
I have heard tell

That you know how
To kill a man.
 
 

Some Details of Hell

         It is time now to turn off the devices in the wing
And listen to the rain. It is time, now, to sit still

         And run your finger along the suprasternum of
The truth as it arches above the viscera, and finally.

         It is a time when wires & catheters marked "single use"
Have most certainly been used before: cleansed

         And sterilized, but having spent time in someone
Else's heart, they have been contaminant &

         Ruined. I was strong and could lift half
Of everything. I was powerful and could be alive

         And lithe as tiny scissors used
To cut out tissue in a human that had gone wrong.

         Hell is a world of its own, with its own
Towns and country-side. There I stayed beside your nearly

         Warm-blooded form like a brook mink in the clutch
Of a slightly larger animal & sat still, having

         Spent a moment in someone else's marrow,
A diaphanoscope, catastrophic as the good love

         Of a tea-stained bride abroad in the rain
Of saxifrage and clove, tomorrowing.
 

Lady with an Ermine

         In the snow, white noise, a gathering
Of foxes oddly standing still in the milk broth of oblivion.

         In the keep at Castlestrange, an ermine in the shape
Of an ermine animal, but empty, slung over the carved

         Oak chair, carelessly & keeping no
One warm.

~ . ~

Neil Azevedo
(from Witness)

A Boy

Maybe it wasn't I who ran away,
young and surrounded by young men,
sincerely hidden but unable to abide
being outside his ken. I watched to see
the way, difficult to see the band
moving back over the way we came,
tried keeping pace with all of them.
So many left when he was silenced
and led down, but I strayed on, faithful,
following from shadow to shadow,
lasting past a burgeoning neglect,
advent of cerements. Beyond the gray
I vanished but managed to hang on, and
until one reached out, I did not run away.
 
 

From the Crowd

We must expect the one of whom we've heard
to really come now, rising from God's sleep
when everything will happen for the first time
and our children will not remember
chaos risen from a charismatic mouth.
We must invent our own secret evening
full of spring, our own collective power.
Goodness must be preserved, and it is good
because we cannot stop those who fea
why we must wait. Now, we must create
public opinion, gather in our throat
voices of our fathers now grown faint,
our tradition of saying what we say
in our belief and disbelief: Crucify him!

~ . ~

Jeanne Marie Beaumont
Chapter One

It was a dark and stormy night
in the dog's mind, therefore
he chopped the air into bits
and pieces with furious barking.
Shaddup!--his master's voice.
Sound of a tin can tossed down
like stage thunder and lightning
or it was the real thing as it was
indeed a dark and stormy--No,
the master protests the opening cliché
so it's the writer in the doghouse
hunching over the full mouth of keys.
Here's the hunger that devours all the days.
What will the mouth say now?
Click, click, click, click, click. . .
A dark night it was. It truly was, but
that's not a beginning,that's a mind
emptying itself, soul scouring itself.
It was a white and scary blank.
That was the truth, but the very truth
one had to hide, was hired to hide.
Try other keys. Three false starts
and you could be out for good.
The spotlight turns. . .
"For several dark years, I spent my nights in a doghouse."
Now a silence
in which a scent may be picked up,
a hook may be placed on which
the dear, rare, unsuspecting Reader
can be hung out to soak
on a stormy night,
at the head of a brambled trail
with--now, who erased the dog?--
with not even a damp dog to lead the way.
 
 

The Project Thus Far

I made of it a rough ball of fur, spittle, hairspray and wax.
I made of it a sheet I kept tearing and mending, splitting and
stitching
     until it were a quilted thing, a map of the intention to keep.
I made of it cheese.
I made of it a weak tea with no legible future but strengthening
warmth.
I made of it worn down, ie, I made of it a molehill.
I made of it a pyre, piling dried herbs, old hymns, curled shavings
from
     a wouldn't heart.
I made of it a recipe for steadiness including the latest disruption, the
wild
     oat flour, the pinch of salt.
I made of it hazard though I meant it to be entertaining.
I made of it a scroll that entrapped a keen disappointment exactly.
I made of it tidy piles hankering to be categories.
I made of it a belt of fear, tight-cinching, with a buckle that lit the
path.
I made of it porous, impure, a poor tent for rehabilitation.
I made of it a zoo of belongings and tended the erstwhile dust.
I made of it a hundred-button coat and wore it to my lover's who
wept that
it was good.
I made of it a tardy hourglass.

[Jeanne Marie Beaumont's "Bonnard", quoted on the homepage,
appears in this month's 12 section.]

~ . ~

Tina Chang
Episodes

I.
Slumber

I am lying in the knives.
In the shallows of piano music.
These are the elegant decisions I make:
walking past the clapboard houses
with my manners in my gloves
or underneath umbrellas,
leading into the steep violin mountains,
my childhood a darkly-lit hallway,
a fountain in the shape of a boy.
I always find myself back
in the Dust Room where
my face is broken in the reflection
of fine porcelain. I have so many
white dresses I will soil for no good
occasion. Common things
call to me: crickets, at night black ducks
drowning in the weeds.
There is nothing complicated about this
except sleep walks to lie down
in the shape of my body.
 
 

II.
Existing

Asylum when I lived there…
There were keys in my pocket,
elaborate, gleaming of entryways.
Hysteria dictated my hands,
ways in which to undress:
dark, corset, lacing, molecules
of breath floundering.
Never mind the me
making cracks in the walls,
the smallest kind of magic:
white flowers wrapped in brown paper,
fly trembling on a rift of wind.
I am taking the slowest way out and
down, noting the wooden bridge crossing
unmoving waters, noting
the wretched sky
I can't take my eyes off of.
 
 

III.
Extinction

Red door open.
They come from the trees hanging,
they come cheering,
they come silent.
Swishing, swishing.

A small cord around my neck
makes a kind of song like a flute.
A flower planted inside my mouth.
Let's say it was a rose.
Let's say it was noon,
time to swallow a pill, let's say valium.

Inside the exquisite whirling
there were places to get clean.
Washing the dishes with a rag,
washing the inside of a brain hemorrhaging.
The whole lot of it, sterile. Metal.

One moment after another:
lovers visiting, animals
to be fed, a scythe floating
on a cool ocean current.
 
 

IV.
Exiting

A tree collapses into the Atlantic.
A black cloud rests its enormous hand on my mouth.

The speckled egg rocks on a shelf
as the house shifts from the wind.
A mango-colored bird balances on a tree limb,
water rises up the length of bark.
The bird speaks:
ocean, lamentation, fractal.

My reflection is dissolving.
At the foot of the bed,
I watch the faint image of myself dreaming
as nightly my body wakes to itself again.

The butcher in the city
locks his gate a final time
and folds himself into a stained apron.
In the afternoon, I break the chandelier.
A glass fire breaks out in the green room.
I fight off the desire to flee.

~ . ~

Constantine Contogenis
Zeno's Arrow

I sail when I can, which is not an hour a week
but a day a year. It's plenty, really.
The days come quickly, and most every year
I make way against the wind. The masthead
tenses, sketches lines as high as I can see
but never flies. The boat keeps to water,
comes about to face the wind.

Just because I return to where I leave
doesn't mean I contradict the wind.
I don't believe it takes offense. We both obey
arbitrary laws. When tacking, we try
to keep the sail between us but -- each time
it seems unnatural -- the wind
can't help coming over to my side.
 
 

Acting My Age

Enrolled in Emotion School,
looking at eyes for a start,
I pass as a brute, no taste
for blood, no stomach for heart.

To gain some emotional
distance, I work for wages
plus tips, but read "On How to Tip"
so give more to youth, get less for age.

For mental balance, I under-
and over-tip, use book knowledge
against waitwomen making
a living, play with an edge.

For the tipping test, I compose
heartfelt napkins, leave just more than
double the tax, claim I'm not
just a customer but a man.

I meet myself through homework,
watch tapes from the course "Terror"
-- fear meets itself through belief
in self-evident errors.

I tell my fear no werewolf
can be in the living room.
Fear comforts, agrees with me,
chats about times in the womb.

Afraid to move or not move
I debate within my skin.
Conventions of realism
cock my sense of what's sudden.

For self control I let go
of differences between hungers.
For meaning, I memorize
thoughts caught under my tongue.

For attitude, I translate
Cavafy, find words to lose
cities, give words of courage
to Antony, take long views.

~ . ~

Sally Dawidoff
 

The Subordinating Conjunction

is a tire iron to the knees
of the independent clause.
Whereas it used to stand up, strong, now—
buckling—it's rendered incomplete.

Although I love you—"What?" my students know to ask,
having learned that's not enough.

Although I love you, we won't speak again.

Quote—Spirituality is the practice of opening our hearts—unquote.
I make lists and do as I'm told.
Tip the girls behind the counter at the Tasti D-Lite.
Though they are neither waitresses nor nice.

Although I have forgiven you that time
you kissed me and chipped my pretty front tooth and laughed,
I wish to say in defense of my sudden departure—

For God's sake. People are starving in the streets.

Although I loved you, how I was was no way to be.

The last time: a coffee shop, Brooklyn.
—But I've changed! (I actually said.)
—Good. For you.

Although I drove you away—
"What?" they chorus, knowing it's not finished—
losing you has brought me to my knees.
 
 

Union Street

I'll walk where and when I want.

Eleven o'clock by the casket company,
an unleashed dog is pacing.
(Sing to throw them off the scent.)

The air too mild for the month. The
impassive Gowanus.

Whisperin' breeze
Whisper to my love

If there's a figure approaching,
why shouldn't it be you,
your radiant face?

The dog starts.

Here I am in high, audible heels,
tripping over the bridge.

You never cared for me.

~ . ~

Malcolm Farley
Roman Holiday

1 – First Obsessions

The Pantheon with its lidless oculum — more heaven-hungering ear than eye — seemed permanently cocked for rumors of Jove’s drastic mood swings. (One morning a downpour through the roof’s great hole had shocked us, inundating the temple’s inlaid floor while thunder echoed through the dome, like anger feeding on itself and swelling…) You adored the atmospherics of that space so much, you made us visit it three times before I insisted

there were other monuments in Rome and dragged you past the grassy barrow of the Circus Maximus, the gap-toothed masonry in the Baths of Caracalla, and the dour unmythical apartment complex on the Viale Aventino so we could pause for twenty minutes in the Protestant Cemetery nearby. John Keats (an early god in my own pantheon)

lay "writ in water" there — at the end of a gravel path — and I wanted to offer his bitterness (which had gnawed him like the TB that ate away his lungs and stomach)

my gauche, implausible, imaginary rose.
 
 

2 – The Sleepwalkers

I realized I'd left you alone too long in the graveyard and ran to find you. In my rush, I nearly tripped over the headstone of unnamed son of Goethe’s who’d died in 1830.

The morning shower still dripped from the umbrella pines, and now and then the ivy shuddered under the stray drops. An intimate narcotic stillness settled over the low boxwood hedges, dampening the windblown cypress and hibiscus, blunting the prickly-pear and scarlet cyclamen.

I was under the influence, agog at the tiniest detail, muzzy-headed, half-afraid of losing you there. Then I spotted your red mitten on the path. Beyond, you stood staring through a breach in the Aurelian Wall. At first, I thought you marveled at the pyramid of Caius Cestius that rose from the rutted cobbles of an ancient street, now far below ground level. But no, you were staring

at nineteen scrofulous cats (you’d counted every one) that circled each other warily in the surrounding trench or sat alone, quietly, looking at nothing in particular.
 

3 – Where Seraphim

Making our way back to the hotel without a map through Roman chaos — the Fiats and foreign tourists; the schoolboys chasing soccer balls into the traffic rotary; gelato at a crowded kiosk in the Parco della Resistenza; a fine chill rain of early March and its empurpled oleander, already pungent in the wilds of the Testaccio —

we felt fictitious while we wound among the streets beside the Tiber, as if our characters had been waylaid by a masked contessa cloaked in flyblown damasks and rotten cloth-of-gold,

until we found ourselves again on the Bridge of Angels, facing Hadrian’s Tomb, and you took out your panoramic camera where seraphim on either side held tools of the Passion aloft: a crown-of-thorns; the centurion’s spear; a sponge glutted with vinegar and gall.

~ . ~

John Foy
Paterfamilias
(John C. W. Foy, 1919-1997)

I try to think of what I'd say
were you to come back tonight,
sublunary though not
entirely terrestrial,
wanting maybe to come home
and talk about the howitzers,
the shelling, and the hail.

I know that if I tried
to reach for you, to hold you in my arms,
I'd fail the way Aeneas did
in that pathetic underworld,
where three times he tried
to apprehend what he had loved,
and the has-beens laughed by Cocytus.

Clear headed now, with eyes rinsed out
by rain, no more the fool,
I wouldn't ask you why you'd come
or how it was contrived, though I
would tell you all about
Catherine and Christopher
--Christopher you never knew.
 
 

Ice-Chopping Tool

How unbecoming to be envious
of the rake's chatter, the sprinkler's voice,
the broom's moderate discourse with the dust
--all these languages with no more choice
than I, my winter tongue more capable
of celebrating this environment,
the gritty ice impenetrable
to all except an edge violent
and hard enough to meet its object face
to face and come away bright, unbent,
more punishing than punished by the ice,
a season, now, to test out temperament.
 
 

To Christopher
(my son, 15 months old)

Stones and water, water, stones
--a brute piece of planet
you can hold in your hand
and a splash you can bring about,
a clean hit
upon the cool and Heraclitean.

You fix a blue, absolving eye
on these elements that figure
pleasurably in the mind.
They've come to occupy your time,
as much as we can give you here
by a cognac-colored brook that goes along
beneath a wooden plank
quietly, as it has for years
that no one has seen fit to count,
its current here and now
shivered by the stones
you throw down purposefully,
like some commander high atop
the promontory of Chimerium.

Could it be that you would never stop,
if the pile of stones I put
by your right hand were always there,
and the light this April afternoon
were not bound to fail,
and my patience were without end?
You, a little hoplite throwing stones
at the brook for another thousand years.
It's only right, only fair
that we leave you for a time
to your stones and water,
your water and your stones.

~ . ~

Emily Fragos
The Art of the Insane

The good doctor Prinzhorn says it was the patent
that snapped me in two like a twig,
that shattered my lovely personality, so to speak.
I nod my heavy head.

Have you seen my machine, perpetually moving,
whirring, breathing? Made it out of cloth
and mud and dirt and spit and excrement.

Dear Diary: Dubuffet and Klee came last week
to copy my faces. Eager to meet me, touching
my creatures with their long, skinny fingers.

They smeared my orange chalk, calculating
what they could steal...And if anyone asks,

I am taking my pig Rafi for a walk.
With her hooves of long curls like a little girl's
mop, or Persian slippers, excellent for flying,

we are wind gone. We are kingdom come.

(The Boston Review)
 
 

Logic

I started smoking again after a long time
without. I don't remember why I lit up:

some envy, some fear I could not face. Went
to the corner and bought my brand and took it

up so easily in my hand, my mouth, I could
not imagine not ever performing this fluid

motion. It tasted bitter and my head
was dizzy but I kept at it until it changed

to smooth forgetfulness and warmth filled
my lungs. Fresh air was slim and common

compared to this, beautiful darkness.
And gone the enormity of quitting, how it was

suddenly always this powerless sweet hunger
so strong I wondered how I never ended up

with needle marks in some shooting gallery,
with dirty clothes and dirty hair, some

mountain-heavy man on top of me. It was
easier to imagine than me on some campus

with books in my arms taking notes with
a black felt-tip pen. Now I am up to two

packs a day. I can feel my body collapsing
as I walk the streets. I can feel people

staring at me, uncovering all my secrets
in broad daylight. Eventually I will have

to start thinking about stopping all over
again. And keep in mind this time what they

always say: Watch out for false highs;
there is another person with your eyes

hair and mouth on the other side of the room
whispering hurt yourself, starve, and it

will seem the perfectly right thing to do.

(The Boston Review)

~ . ~

Tiffany Fung
Recovery

I knew your face would look submerged,
A stone at rest beneath its lake.
No human heartbeat washes near,
But this is how you wanted it:
How little did you guess such blue
Would dress your veins and oil streams.

Your face has worn to shininess,
Your skin an old and weathered leaf.
Like forests all but logged, the stems
Of waterlilies crowd in fear,
Their shadowed pinks are witnesses
And try to turn their heads away.

They look hysterical for you,
And caught off-guard, as if to break
Your fall with plates of sky the size
Of one small, unframed photograph.
The accidental moment flashed:
Your flesh demanded to be rinsed.

[Tiffany Fung's "At the Cloisters" appears in this
month's 12 section. Ed.]

~ . ~

Elizabeth Grainger
To Take Bread At My Hand

Forget who was the deer,
         and who the hunter with salted palm.
                  Forget who bent to lick,
         and crouching, was transformed.

Still, the deer remembers
         the danger and the draw of hunger -
                  muzzle coaxed to trusting
         her body's slow advent.

It was no dream: she walked
         here then on human legs, in form
                  the hunter's dreaming eyes
         believed continual.

In these woods, nakedness
is prey. The hunter's vision, captured,
         is quick and lost in light.
What remains: the clouding

breath of deer who have lost
         their garment of enchantment, hair
                  and gowns returned to fur,
         and their bare feet, to hooves.

(Poetry)

~ . ~

Butch Purgatory

Yours is populated by women
from thirteen American states
and two Canadian provinces,

remarkable in that all were once
marked by you, by past insistence
of thigh or hand, or, more rarely, mouth.

They are your flock, though you cannot name
each pale ewe, and move to the nudge
of your crook. (From here their movement looks

pastoral.) Each appears as you last
saw her, paused when you shut the door.
Each remembers you, and three have played

Inez on the stage: one fat, one small,
one with uncombed hair. Ten long-haired
cats, tails high, navigate pairs of legs.

Each girl knows she'll have her turn with you
in time. Two art school suicides
compare methods: Dran-O, heroin.

A group of thirty hold letters (how
prolific was your hand!), letters:
boxed (fourteen); beribboned, kissed (just three);

taped reconstructions (six); burnt to ash
(five: someone has collected the
debris in five identical urns).

One woman trails the lamp and cord you
tied her up with, when you were young.
She offers you a glass of water.

Twenty file their nails and wait. You are
Asked to dance fifty-seven times.
You sneeze, comply, while above this I

(not last of your number) play Boggle
with your spinster aunt and clever
grandmothers, our counted words called out

to an egg-timer whose sands only
levitate. I wait for you to
touch me again, only when you rise.

~ . ~

Rafiq Kathwari
Internet

"From: Linda@coolmaildotcom
Dreamed about you and Nina.
Never thought I'd miss you.
Thanks for watering the palm."

"From: Sarah@flamemaildotcom
Bought you the perfect sweater,
It's Cashmere, large, maroon.
The best is yet 2B."

I float up Broadway
to tend to Linda's palm.
Kneeling by her kitchen island
last year I said: "Marry me."

Had she been cooking sole
in tangerine juice?
"O honey. How odd.
No. For the time being."

"To: Sarah@flamemaildotcom
Yearn for your hug, luv.
"To: Linda@coolmaildotcom
Chill out. Palm alive."
 
 

Today Windy Then Showers

Gold-plated heels
on heart-shaped leaves

Calf-highs below
slim band of flesh

Flirty pleats creased
above naked knees

Ruby clutch releases
jangling of keys

Wanton cornrows unbraided
in last night's storm
 
 

Passivity

Two Birds of Paradise
On the Tree of Life
Dazzle the wall above
His king-size bed

He names the female bird
After my cousin Sofia
Heartless tease at fourteen
I too fancy her

Feigning sleep in his bedroom
On a corner chaise
My fingers trembling
Above combed fringes

Perched on a branch
The male yearns for flight
His one-eyed gaze fixed
Upon Grandfather's hand

Fondling Sofia on the bed
The female flutters in midair
Plumes fanning out
Brilliant madder dyes
 
 

Israeli Patrols Kill 90
Dogs in Arab Town
-- The New York Times, April 14, 1995

Mother, I'm living in sin with an Egyptian
Jew raised in Paris. We stroll in Central Park.
Gaulois, her mutt, off the leash. Lucky he's
Not in Hebron, where gods kill dogs for sport.

[Rafiq Kathwari's "What Happened to a World" appears
in this month's 12 section. Ed.]

~ . ~

Dave King
Crocus

Truthfulness has never worked for me.
   Nor summer, bully season, when every sprig
and spore and pest competes for life. Nature,
   it seems, grades on the curve, but stages one stately,
democratic talent show
   in spring.

The snow—dirty old vaudevillian—withdraws
   and glowers from the wings at crocus time.
I'm quarrelling with my sister when I spot
   their citrine nibs, all neatly bound, each
in a single leaf, like so many small
   cigars.

Our argument is not resolvable.
   This is and isn't about a car and love
and temperament. For two exhausting days
   I watch the green points test the air and then,
fanning like Floradora girls,
   divide.

Green faggot bundles of white-striped leaves: I don't
   plant snow-drops, so the crocus claim the cold
earth unconcerned with sibling rivals.
   My tactic, too. I cede the fight, the car,
the other stuff, keep to myself.
   Meanwhile,

a greedy, red-leafed summer something spreads
   a stealthy thicket of roots between the bulbs,
around the succulents. Is nature truth
   or ruthlessness? How badly do I want
to see how ugly-honest we
   can be?

Christmas and August, our family cultivates
   some broad and baldfaced lies, in which 'respect'
and 'love' form decorous blooms. These always fail,
   leaving the equinoctial seasons for us
to nurse our grievances and lick
   our wounds.

The crocus rule their chilly world until
   a day of sudden, shocking wilting. The earth
is warm, I peel my shirt off as I weed.
   Red leaves cry out among the bright new shoots
of phlox. Summer is taking off
   its gloves.
 
 

My Heart Disappears Among the Trees

I was in the shower when I saw my heart
Crossing the yard in a fluorescent vest.
I wiped away a swathe of condensation and tapped
The glass, and my heart waved back.

Where are you going, Heart? To check
The hunting/fishing signs along the creek?
Are you walking the old railroad track
Where there's a new house now, with a corral
For ponies? Are you gathering wood?

I can dry myself and shave without my heart.
Check my profile in the mirror, suck in my gut,
Stick out my ass. Make coffee, dress—it's pleasant
Here with no one but the cats, and I can get
Some reading done before my heart bursts in again,
And stamps the mud from the treads of its heavy-soled shoes.

~ . ~

Claudia Rankine
Intermission in Four Acts
(from PLOT)

The thing in play (Act l)

A world outside this plot prevents our intermission from being
uninvolved—a present, its past in the queue outside the toilet,
in each drink dulling the room. Hence our overwhelming desire
to forgive some, forget others. Even so, we are here and, as yet,
I cannot release us to here, cannot know and still go on as if all
the world were staged. Who believes, "Not a big mess but rather
an unfortunate accident arrived us here." Our plot assumes
presence. It stays awkward, clumping in the mouth: I shall so
want. And this is necessary time. Only now do we respect
(or is it forget) the depths of our mistakes. There often rises
from the fatigue of the surface a great affection for order. Plot,
its grammar, is the linen no one disgorges into. Excuse me.
From that which is systemic we try to detach ourselves; we cling to,
cellophane ourselves into man-made regulations, so neatly
educated, so nearly laid: He maketh me to die down. But some
of us have drowned and coughed ourselves up. The deep
morning lifts its swollen legs high upon the stage. Some wanting
amnesia float personified abstractions. Some wash ashore, but
not into the audience, not able to look on. Help me if who you
are now helps you to know the world differently; if who you are
wants not to live life so.
 
 

Still in play (Act II)

On the street where children now reside, the speed limit is 25.
Green owns the season and will be God. A rain, that was, put
a chill in every leaf, every blade of grass. The red brick, the
asphalt, cold, cold. The front step, the doorknob, the banister,
the knife, the fork. A faucet opens and the woman, Liv, arrives
as debris formed in the sea's intestine, floating in to be washed
ashore and perfumed. In time she opens her mouth and out
rushes, "Why is the feeling this? Am I offal? Has an unfortunate
accident arrived me here? Does anyone whisper Stay awhile, or
the blasphemous Resemble me, resemble me"? Those watching
say with their silence, That is Liv, she has styes on her eyes,
or she needs to forget the why of some moment. She doesn't
look right. She is pulling the red plastic handle toward her,
checking around her. She's washing, then watching hands, feet
and shouting Assemble me. Assemble me. She is wearing shoes
and avoiding electrical wires, others, steep drops, forgotten
luggage. Those are her dangers. She cannot regret. A hook out of
its eye, she's the underside of a turtle shell. Riveted, and riven,
the others stare, contemplating the proximity of prison to person
before realizing the quickest route away from is to wave her on.
They are waving her on. Liv is waved on. Everything remains
but the shouting. A cake is cooling on a rack. Someone is
squeezing out excess water. Another is seasoning with salt. The
blacker cat is in heat. A man sucks the mint in his mouth. The
minutes are letting go. A hose is invisible on the darkened lawn.
 
 

Musical interlude (act 111)

A certain type of life is plot-driven. A certain slant in life. A man
sucking his mint lozenge. He is waiting for the other foot to
drop: his own, mind you. In a wide second he will be center
stage.

His song will be the congregation of hope. He will drain his
voice to let Liv know she cannot move toward birth without
trespassing on here: To succumb to life is to be gummed to
the reverberating scum seemingly arrested.

Erland knows Liv is as if in a sling, broken in the disappeared
essence, the spirit perhaps: catfoot in a moist soil, at the lowest
altitude or simply streamside, though seeming fine.

He knows he too, sometimes, is as if below, pained, non-
circulatory, in an interval, the spirit perhaps in an interval.
But then frictionized, rubbed hard—

sweet-life-everlasting, he is singing softly beneath his meaning
in the sediment of connotation where everyone's nervously
missing, so missed. His melody is vertical, surrendering
suddenly to outcome, affording a heart,

recalling, after all, another sort of knowing because some
remainder, some ladder leftover, is biddy-bop, biddy-bop, and
again. His voice catches. It feels like tenderness beckoning and
it is into her voice, rejoicing.
 
 

In mortal theater (Act 1V)

                                           blessedly the absolute miscarries

and in its release this birth pulls me toward that which is without
comparison. in the still water. of green pasture. Lord and Lamb
and Shepherd in all circumstances. daylight in increase. always
the floating clouds. ceaseless the bustling leaves. we exist as if
conceived by our whole lives—the upsurge. its insides. in all
our yesterdays. moreover

asking and borne into residence. the life that fills fills in a world
without synonym. I labor. this is the applause. This—mercy
grown within complexity. and in truth these lies cannot be
separated out: I see as deep as the deep flows. I am as willing
as is recognized.

                                           I am.

                                           am almost to be touching
~ . ~

Ravi Shankar
Sublime in Passing
(after Raymond Chandler)

Carbonated gurgle of seltzer,
Dishrag snap inside the abscess
Of each pilsner glass, the barkeep's
Broken whistle as he folds napkins
Into triangles -- such subtle ado
Resolves into bergs of anticipation
As night shatters serenity, draws us in,
Erratic as meteors. I order a Scotch
On stones, slouch towards sloppy
Jabber down the rail: one a few stops
Short of lit cradling his boilermaker
As if sprouted from the wooden stool.

Then you step in.

It's as though someone in back yanked
The emergency brake on the joint, lurching
The hum to a halt. The barman hangs
In mid-polish, the drunk swivels
Without swallowing, spittle dribbling
Down-chin, and for a flash, all sounds
Ebb, as when a conductor skims a gaze
Across the pit, taps on the music stand,
And holds two hands poised in the air.
So I sit wide-eyed, holding in breath.
It's not until you famously take a booth
That the dive once again expands.
 
 

The Field on the Horizon

Sitting on a wooden bench, in the surround
Of foliate faces, palmettos that fantail in midair,
Shivering leaves all wrapped in the bright shroud
Of early afternoon, I'm thinking of you my dear,

And how much history we share. Here, the living
Is done in the present tense, away from city teeth,
Daily irritants, a pace that insures even lounging
Is stressful. Here, I can't help telling the truth

To everyone I meet. Yesterday we went to see
The manatees, and instead saw mounds of rubbish-
Soda cans, used oil-filters, moldy paperbacks-
And two locals casting a line into the polluted rash

Of the Intercoastal. I hope they don't work
At Shell's Seafood, where we ate last night.
Have you been happy? I suppose that with a wick
I've melted away what wax we had. Now with a net

The man I've almost become is going in search
Of the man it seems I'm becoming. Can we follow
Each other through these changes? Ahead, a stretch
Of loam -- hard to tell if it's in bloom or fallow.

~ . ~

Tracy K. Smith
Figure Crossing Sand

Without bothering to dress, you emerge
from the mouth of our tent,
your head with its black curls,
your arms flickering with shadows
as the muscles steady you, first one leg
and its strong foot, then the other. You pause a moment,
an ancient sprinter, before rising.

I watch your body beneath you
for the twenty strides it takes to reach the sea,
and by the time you dive beneath the surface
and come up beside me,
my black trunks and black top
are knotted into a tight ball, which we hold
between us so it does not sink.

[Tracy K. Smith's multi-part poem, "Brief Touristic Account",
appears in this month's 12 section. Ed.]

~ . ~

William Wadsworth
Bloom's Photograph

In Reykjavik that year the bomb
talks failed, but we survived among
the sweet dead leaves that lay along
the esplanade before Grant's Tomb.

They spiralled into wind-banked heaps
between the benches and the faded
grass; the season escalated
elsewhere, but here the clever hopes

blew lightly down. Safe beside
each other, we were reading James Joyce
when across the street a white Rolls Royce
pulled up outside a church. A bride

walked out into the light, exalted --
as if the future, gowned in white,
had made a sudden promise in spite
of Reykjavik. This vision, gilt

by autumn light, had interrupted
Molly Bloom's adulteries,
had stopped the fading of the leaves,
until the newlyweds abruptly

went their way. That faded shot
of Mrs. Bloom her husband keeps
adulterates this bride: one sweep
of the wind and the greenest leaf does not

survive. The scene will change. Ulysses
Grant, in the heat of battle, was known
to sit absorbed, cool as stone,
composing letters home to Mrs.

Grant, to say all he privately
believed was going up in smoke.
Puffing on a cigar, he soaked
the fields with blood in Tennessee,

buried his conscience in each glass
of whiskey, and finally told Lee
at Appomattox that victory
was sad -- he did "not care to pass

humiliation on." -- he lived
without illusions. So grant us all
another cold and golden fall,
and knowledge as to how to leave

the scene. The bride took off her dress
that night while gangs of boys played ball
against the mausoleum wall.
We shut the book on Molly's "Yes."

(The Paris Review)

[William Wadsworth's poem, "The Snake in the Garden
Considers Daphne", appears in this month's 12 section. Ed.]

~ . ~

David Yezzi
The Graven Image

Hundreds of people stood . . .
in the courtyard of a Post Avenue
apartment building to see . . .
whether a bathroom window
shimmered with the image of
Jesus Christ or was just smudged.
--The New York Observer

Not that anyone made it, necessarily,
inlaid with enamel, cast in gold;
not painted like an ornament

or candlelit behind an altar screen.
It surfaced in the most mundane of spots,
at an ordinary hour, squibs of light

fracturing the unlikely vessel,
a window--not stained or even leaded--
just a pane of unimportant glass.

Simply appeared (Who knows how many weeks
it went unnoticed? Was it always so?):
the all-familiar image of the Christ--

long-haired, bearded like on the Turin shroud--
reflecting on the crowd that heard and came,
doubtless, to divine the glory there.

And they had known him. Perhaps it matched
the drawings in some illustrated text,
the pictures children seldom get beyond

in their barely hirsute search for holiness
(I was one of those). Or was it nearer
to the revelation witnessed on the road,

when nothing like himself, in foreign clothes,
he showed himself to several of his flock?
"Some people need a sign," the pastor said--

the inward search replaced by outward show--
as, overhead, high clouds betrayed the forms
of a whiskered face, an anvil, mountain, cow.

(The Paris Review)

Conversation of the Pharises
after Rembrandt's "Hundred Guilder Print"

Such upright citizens, all honest Joes,
         these legal men sketched in at left
so sparingly they almost blanch from view;
                            how they huddle,
                  dull to radiance

and fouled in the lines affixing them,
         oblivious to Christ's light caught
across their faces, like a harrowing
                           of their tight circle,
                  as they natter on.

A few, you say, acknowledge Him and turn
         intently or with skepticism
intact--still, they have understood more than
                           their purblind fellows,
                  who, while arguing

arcana of scripture with which to test
         the man, have left off noticing
what even children and the sick see plainly.
                           And we are quick
                  to read the gulf between

ourselves and those gray priests in antique hats
         (aligned instead with the heroes),
and wise to the fact of their ignorance,
                           though we, like them,
                  have missed the central point:

that they are there for us, to represent
         those from whom the truth's been held,
the more bemused, who lord the blameless life,
                           its sureties,
                  over the fallen ones.

We, too, have mastered certainties, taken solace
         in precision, keeping dates,
and the long code of standard practices
                           like compositions
                  bitten into brass,

while laws we've missed, or lapsed in looking for,
         remain of necessity
unremarkable and always close,
                           so many motes
                  adrift in dark corners.

(Parnassus: Poetry in Review)

[David Yezzi's "Woman Holding A Fox" appears
in this month's 12 section. Ed.]

~ . ~ . ~ .

Contributors' Notes

Alfred Corn's seventh book of poems, titled Present, appeared in 1997, along with a novel titled Part of His Story, and a study of prosody, The Poem's Heartbeat. His translation of Aristophanes' Frogs appeared in the Penn Press Greek Drama series in 1999, along with Stake:Selected Poems, 1972-1992, composed of work from the first six volumes of his poetry. In May, Abrams will bring out a collection of photographs by Aaron Rose, with an introduction by Alfred Corn. He has also published a collection of critical essays, titled The Metamorphosesof Metaphor, and edited another, titled Incarnation: Contemporary Writers on the New Testament. Fellowships and prizes awarded for his poetry include the Guggenheim, the NEA, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets. He has taught at the City University of New York, Yale, the University of Cincinnati, UCLA, Ohio State University, and the University of Tulsa and currently teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Columbia. He has written literary criticism for The New York Times Book Review and The Nation, and art criticism for Art in America and ARTnews magazines. He lives in New York City.

Lucie Brock-Broido is the author of three collections of poems, A Hunger (1988), The Master Letters (1995), Trouble in Mind (2002), all from Knopf. She is the Director of the Poetry MFA Program in the School of the Arts at Columbia.

Neil Azevedo is the editor-in-chief of Zoo Press (http://zoopress.org), and his poems appear often in The Paris Review and The New Criterion. Other parts of the passion poem, Witness, are forthcoming from Image and have appeared in First Things.

Jeanne Marie Beaumont earned her MFA from Columbia University in 1990. In 1996, her book Placebo Effects was a National Poetry Series Winner (W.W. Norton, 1997). She teaches at Rutgers University and lives in Manhattan. [Beaumont's poem, "Bonnard", is quoted on the homepage and appears in this month's 12 section. Ed.]

Tina Chang graduated with an MFA from Columbia University in 1997. Her poems have been published in Ploughshares, Quarterly West, Indiana Review, Missouri Review, Crab Orchard review, International Review, among many others. Her work has been anthologized in Poetry Nation (Vehicule Press), Identity Lessons (Penguin), and is forthcoming in Asian American Literature (McGraw-Hill, 2001). She has received awards and fellowships from the Academy of American

Poets, Villa Montalvo and Fundacion Valparaiso. She is currently a Van Lier Fellow.

Constantine Contogenis, poet-in-residence at SUNY Purchase, co-translated Songs of the Kisaeng: Courtesan Poetry of the Last Korean Dynasty (BOA Editions, 1997). His work has appeared or will appear in The Paris Review, Pequod, and Grand Street. His Ikaros was a finalist in Copper Canyon's 2000 Hayden Carruth Competition.

Sally Dawidoff (Columbia MFA 1994) has recently published interviews with poets Philip Levine and Yusef Komunyakaa. She is currently teaching English and writing to children and adults in New York City.

Malcolm Farley, who holds of an M.A. in English from Harvard University and an MFA in Writing from Columbia University, has studied with Seamus Heaney, Thomas Kinsella, Lucie Brock-Broido, Daniel Halpern, Helen Vendler and others. Poems from his first book manuscript have appeared or are forthcoming in the American Scholar, the Antioch Review, the Barrow Street Review, the Denver Quarterly, the Harvard Review, the Madison Review, the New Republic, the Paris Review, the "Poet's Corner" on FoxNews.com and the Sonora Review. He has also recently reviewed books for The New York Times Book Review, The New York Blade, The Lambda Book Report and other publications. [Including Big City Lit(TM). His review of Dana Gioia's Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf, 2001) appears in this month's issue. See Reviews. Ed.]

John Foy is a recent graduate of the Columbia MFA Program. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New Criterion, Parnassus, Southwest Review, Graham House Review, and other periodicals, as well as on the Poetry Daily web site. His essay-reviews have appeared regularly in Parnassus. [And in Big City Lit(TM). See Essays, April 2001 (Archive). Ed.]

Emily Fragos received her MFA in poetry from Columbia University in 1996. Her work was chosen by John Hollander for The Best American Poetry 1998 and her first manuscript, Little Savage, won the David Craig Austin Poetry Prize, judged by Ann Lauterbach. Fragos's poetry was featured and reviewed (by Marie Ponsot) in The Boston Review and has also appeared in The Three Penny Review, Chelsea, The American Voice, The California Quarterly, The Pacific Review, Salonika, Barrow Street, and is upcoming in The Paris Review, The Yale Review and The Southwest Review. She currently teaches poetry workshops and literature at Fordham University (Lincoln Center) and at NYU. She is an amateur pianist and cellist and is also a tutor in the Humanities at the School of American Ballet.

Tiffany Fung is a first-year graduate in the Poetry Division at Columbia University's School of Arts. As an undergraduate, she majored in English at Princeton and wrote a creative thesis of poems. She has studied with C. K. Williams, James Richardson, Laurie Sheck, Susan Wheeler, Chase Twichell, Lucie Brock-Broido, Richard Howard, and Billy Collins. [Fung's poem, "At the Cloisters", appears in this month's 12 section. Ed.]

Elizabeth Grainger earned a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and will receive an MFA from Columbia's School of the Arts in May 2001. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, PN Review, and The Berkeley Poetry Review, and are forthcoming in The Paris Review. She is working on a manuscript of poems entitled Women and Animals, and lives in New York City.

Rafiq Kathwari, born and raised in Kashmir, obtained an M.A. in Political Science from the New School for Social Research and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University (2000), where he translated selected poems of Sir Iqbal. Recent publications include Ravishing Disunities (Wesleyan 2000), an anthology of real ghazals in English, edited by Agha Shahid Ali.

Dave King was awarded an MFA from the Columbia Writing Division in 2000, where he was editor-in-chief of Columbia (1998-1999). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Western Humanities Review, Drunken Boat, The Paris Review, and Pierogi Press, and his review of the "In Pursuit of Beauty" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art appeared in The Village Voice. He teaches at Baruch College.

Claudia Rankine is the author of PLOT, The End of the Alphabet, and Nothing in Nature is Private. She teaches at Barnard College. [Rankine appeared March 30 on People's Poetry Gathering panel on experimental women's poetry, which is reviewed in this issue. See Series/Event Reviews. Ed.]

Ravi Shankar is a recent graduate of The Writing Division whose poems have appeared in various journals, including The Paris Review, Gulf Coast and The Massachusetts Review. He edits Drunken Boat. <http://www.drunkenboat.com> [Other Shankar poems, appeared in last month's 12 and Big City, Little sections. The May issue contains his reviews of various events from The People's Poetry Gathering, March 30 - April 1. See Series/Event Reviews. Ed.]

Tracy K. Smith holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from Harvard and Columbia. She is a former Wallace E. Stegner Fellow in poetry. Her poems have appeared in Boulevard, Callaloo, PN Review and elsewhere. [Smith's multi-part poem, "Brief Touristic Account", appears in this month's 12 section. Ed.]

William Wadsworth received his MFA in Poetry from Columbia in 1987. Since 1989, he has been executive director of The Academy of American Poets. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Electronic Literature Organization. His poems have appeared in The Paris Review, where he serves as an advisory editor, The Yale Review, The New Republic, Grand Street, and The Best American Poetry 1994, among other publications. [Wadworth's poem, "The Snake in the Garden Considers Daphne" appears in this month's 12 section. Ed.]

David Yezzi's poems and reviews are forthcoming in The Yale Review, Poetry, The New York Times Book Review, The New Criterion, and Southwest Review. His chapbook, Sad is Eros, is forthcoming from Aralia Press. An editor of Parnassas: Poetry in Review, he lives in New York City. [Yezzi's poem, "Woman Holding a Fox", appears in this month's 12 section. Ed.]
 
 

"L'épreuve"
(Artist: Jovan ZEC)

Né à Belgrade en 1943, ZEC fait ses études à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts de Belgrade. Il soutient sa thèse de doctorat du 3e cycle sur l'histoire de l'art moderne à la Faculté de Philosophie de Belgrade. Carrière d'enseignement depuis 1968, plus de 45 expositions collectives et publications de nombreux travaux sur l'histoire, la théorie et la critique de l'art. Il vit et travaille en France.

* * *

Sur ces tableaux, l'objet de la croix n'est pas seulement l'image, mais est aussi porteur d'une force allégorique qui justifie sa définition d'un symbole. Etant donné que ce symbole est investi par un système de croyance donné d'une signification qui le dépasse largement, cet objet-croix est censé véhiculer toutes sortes d'associations d'idées, allant du nommable à l'innommable.

Dans l'œuvre du peintre ZEC, la croix est destinée à ressusciter et renouveler la reconnaissance et la connaissance de soi. Cet objet-croix est un élément parmi d'autres mats, du fait qu'il appartienne à un système symbolique, il devient une totalité autonome. C'est là où s'arrête l'image et où commence une métaphysique de la croix.

La forme de la croix paraît au plus haut point étrangement inquiétante car elle se rattache à l'idée de la mort, mais la présentation de cette forme sur ces tableaux est poussée sur le terrain de l'amour illimité en soi, dans lequel domine la vie.

(Maria Biljana RADOJCEVIC, 1993)

Renseignements: http://KaraArt.com