Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Poetry Collection TIGER FUR - A Friendship Between Poet & Translator

Christal Cooper

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The Friendship of Poet Salgado Maranhao and Translator Alexis Levitin:
The Impossible Translation of Tiger Fur from Portuguese to English Through Friendship, Language, & Love

     On October 6, 2015 White Pine Press http://www.
/catalog.php?id=280 published the bilingual Portuguese-English collection Tiger Fur written in the original Portuguese by Salgado Maranhao https://
com/Salgado-Maranhão-730706050352609/, translated to English by Alexis Levitin Introduction by Alexis Levitin, Afterward by Antonio Cicero Above Top Right 
http://antoniocicero.blogspot.comwith jacket cover art by James Fitzgerald. Above Bottom Right 
Tiger Fur was first published in the Portuguese in 2009 by the title A Pelagem da Tigra.
Professor Luiz Fernando Valence, left formerly the chair of the Department of Portuguese at Brown University, introduced Alexis and Salgado to one another.  In an interview, Luis described that introduction. 
“I had the pleasure of bringing Salgado Maranhão and Alexis Levitin together during ”A Moveable Feast,” a festival of poetry in Portuguese, held at Brown University in the spring of 2007. That introduction was far from fortuitous. I had known and worked with Alexis since the early 1980s, and had always been impressed by the combination of precision, elegance, and creativity displayed in his superb translations from the Portuguese, both in prose and in verse. And I had been an early admirer and, indeed, the first person in the United States to have taught and written about Salgado’s poetry. I believed that it was high time Salgado’s poetry became available to English language audiences. And I was convinced that only a translator with deep sensitivity to the nuances of both Portuguese and English poetic language would be able to do justice to the intricate syntax and imagery that is the hallmark of Salgado’s poetry.”
In an email interview with Chris Rice Cooper, Alexis right in April 2015 described their friendship as a decade of good will, collaboration, poetry, language and understanding one another’s home country and its culture. 

“In 2012, I spent 90 days driving all over the country with Salgado left in New York October 2017 and we never had an unpleasant interlude. He is companionable, relaxed, and wise, an excellent combination. Cementing our strong personal feelings for each other is our shared love of poetry and our shared feeling that the music of language is the living heart of real poetry.”
 Alexis translated Salgado’s works Blood of the Sun and Tiger Fur from Portuguese into English through his friendship with Salgado, observing Salgado’s personality, the way he spoke the Portuguese language, both verbally and on the written page, and with the support of his friend Valente.
“I found Salgado's poetry very difficult at first and would not have dared to try to translate his work without the fervent support and encouragement of Prof. Luiz Valente of Brown.”
The poem that compelled Salgado into writing Tiger Fur was a poem about his ex-wife called “Boundary Five/War Heads” from his earlier poetry collection Blood of the Sun.
On April 19, 2016 both Salgado and Alexis conducted a Portuguese and English poetry reading from Blood of the Sun and Tiger Fur at Lake Community College in Eugene, Oregon. Above Left.
 During the reading Alexis described Tiger Fur as a poetry collection trying to explain the possibilities and impossibilities of passionate relationships.  He further stated that the attempt to explain these passionate relationships is not found in the passion itself but in the words that describe the emotion that deal with the passionate relationship.  
These words of emotion in the passionate relationship can be described as a form of light that burns or heats, or leaves some kind of mark:  ablaze, amber, beam, blaze, branding, burning, burst, carved, chiseled, combustion, enflames, engraved, fever, fire, flame, flash, furnace, fused, glitters, halo, illuminated, lava, light, lightning, magma, meteor, moonlight, plasma, pulses, rays, scanning, scar, shimmer, smoke, spark, stars, sun, sunlight, tattooed, etc. Above left Graduation of Fire attributed to Rene Magritte in 1939. FU
       This passionate relationship itself could refer to humanity and the elements of the earth; two people in love; language; elements of the cosmos and earth; animals; and the mythological god Eros. 

Humanity and Elements of the Earth
Alexis stated at the poetry reading that his brother chides him on his chosen life of a bachelor and questions why he chooses impossible women.  Alexis’s response to his brother was that he built his life on impossible women:  I am the sailor who loves the horizon.”
        When Alexis stated this quote he was specifically speaking of the title poem “Tiger Fur” but it could be applicable to “Pre-Logos 1” where the speaker of the poem is awed by the horizon. Right Photoshopped by Chris Rice Cooper. 

Terror, lightning, fog
an ambiguous landscape
before my eyes. 

Two People In Love
       In “Sea of Flames 1” the speaker of the poem speaks of his need for his ladylove even before he meets her. When he finally sees her, the pupil of his eye literally goes through a transformation along with his libido.

or the flagrant moment (the flirtations look!)
in which the pupil
coagulates the gesture, the gestation.

       The poetry collection Tiger Fur sings and sites words of passion to language itself. 

what makes the lyric fertile (beneath
splinters of immutable
moons) I sing
to the sundered solitary heart.

Excerpt, “Sea Without Waves 1.”
Elements of the Cosmos (the sun) and Earth (lake)

By attachment, there will follow, to the
intimate lake (of mirrors)
this sun that breathes
stilettos, that lays waste
within, carnivorous
as a kiss.

Excerpt, “Sea Without Waves. 3.”

      There are numerous animals mentioned in these poems: dragonflies, dogs, birds, dinosaurs, jackals and serpents but the one animal that tops the list is that of the tiger which is depicted in numerous poems throughout the collection. Right Attributed to Marlene Thyssen CCB2.5

a sharper’s shimmering coat—
eyes that flow with couplets of light
and a blade beneath the fur in which it hides.

Excerpt, “Claws in the Iris”


Could it be the work of Eros
that has set the desert
there before us?

Excerpt, “Sea Drift VIII”

The last three lines of the poem “Tiger Fur” describe the impossibility of humanity trying to understand the impossibilities of these passionate relationships.  The last three lines could also be a warning to humanity to quit trying to figure out the impossible and just marvel and be in awe of the impossible. 
If we keep on trying to figure it out, as the last three lines state, we will only experience exasperation, dissatisfaction, and humiliation. Right The Lovers attributed to Ralph Magritte FU

The tracks, no more, of some forgotten tale
of treasure that bewilders us and takes us in,
so winning it we only win chagrin.

Instead the mantra of Tiger Fur can be found in “Solitude,” where we are told to always have our own individual beginning, different from every one else’s.

Mine is just a beginning
no footsteps to be followed.

We as individualas have our own impossibility, our own awe that can never be explained but forever will amaze, just like the words that describe the impossibility.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Melissa Ohden's memoir of searching for the truth about her existence in YOU CARRIED ME . . .

Chris Rice Cooper 

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Analysis by Chris Rice Cooper
Melissa Ohden’s
You Carried Me
a daughter’s memoir
“Pain Too Deep To Recollect!”

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if it there were
A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
No period of pain

--Emily Dickinson

In May of 2017 Plough Publishing House published You Carried Me a daughter’s memoir by Melissa Ohden below left with cover photo by Jude Mooney below right and jacket design by Emily Alexander.

On August 24, 1977 Melissa was born at 2 pounds and 14.5 ounces at St. Luke’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Iowa.  The baby had jaundice, respiratory distress and seizures and after three weeks was transferred to the University Hospital in Iowa.
       In late October the baby was now five pounds and was adopted by Christian farming couple Ron and Linda Cross who already had an adopted daughter Tammy age 4.  The couple was thrilled to have another daughter into their farmhouse in Curlew, Iowa where she was surrounded by church-going parents, numerous relatives and animals.

       They named me Melissa Ann, after a friend who had become a quadriplegic after an accident. They admired her strength and her tenaciousness fight for life.  They hoped for the same qualities in me.     
 And there would be tough times – in 1982 Melissa left in 1983  the Cross family lost the farm and had to move to Storm Lake where Ron worked at a meatpacking plant and Linda worked as a bookkeeper. 
       But there were miraculous times – such as in 1984 when Linda got pregnant.  Ron and Linda revealed the news to Melissa on her seventh birthday and she viewed Linda’s pregnancy as a birthday present.  And when her brother Dustin was born she described her life as a big sister as pure bliss.
She naturally became interested in her birth parents and her parents allowed her to see the adoption papers. She learned that both of her parents were college students, athletic, gifted. 
       The next seven years were financially difficult ones for the family but Missy was thriving and found herself drawn to the intellectual and artistic world.  She satisfied this hunger by checking out books from the Storm Lake Public Library.Above right
       When she was in the seventh grade the Cross Family moved into their very first home they owned.    They continued to make sure that their children attended the United Methodist Church and reared them in Biblical values.
It came as a surprise when in September of 1991 Tammy revealed she was pregnant and her parents offered their support of helping her carry the baby and raising it or giving it up for adoption; but abortion was something they could not support. 
Tammy chose to carry the baby with plans to keep it and it was while her sister was fully pregnant that Missy and her sister got into a heated argument.  Tammy in her anger revealed a secret about Missy’s parentage; a secret their parents only revealed to Tammy to discourage her from having an abortion.  Later that same evening Missy above left at age 15 and her mother sat on the living room sofa.

Mom’s voice was soft and low as she took my hands in hers.  “We never meant to keep this from you . . . We should have told you when we told Tammy, but there was just no easy way . . . We love you, honey, we’ll always love you. . .” She paused and took a deep breath.  “Missy, your birth mother had an abortion during her pregnancy with you and you survived.”
I sat for a moment in utter disbelief – how was this even possible?  And then I fell into my mom’s arms and sobbed.

This knowledge literally threw her into an all- consuming crisis:  by the time she was 15 she was living a double life; anorexia, bulimia, alcohol (she would hide bottles of vodka in her bedroom closet and underneath the backseat of her red Chevy Beretta);  and sex (though she was responsible enough to use contraceptives).  Above right attributed to Christal Rice Cooper.

Bulimia, alcohol, sex – these were my unholy trinity of coping mechanisms. They dulled, but didn’t deaden, my torment.   That all this suffering was hidden from everyone who knew me seemed to be the point – I was singularly chosen for misery; I was different, broken, unworthy. Alone.

 She also developed chronic nightmares where she was afraid to fall asleep.   To prevent herself from going to sleep she would read poetry and write her own poetry only to rip the pages to shreds. left her senior year in high school.

I couldn't bear to keep tangible evidence of my anguish and confusion.

The one healthy thing she did was to speak the truth about being an abortion survivor, which she did right away in front of her English class, which proved to be therapeutic; but her real freedom did not come into being until she finally submitted completely to the Trinity God.

At long last my heart and mind turned to the One from whom I could not hide my inner life and my secret sins – the One who alone had the power to set me free.
I began to cling to Jesus in prayer, and as I did, I felt the guilt and shame and self-loathing that had defined me for so long begin to slip away. Right Jesus Painting attributed to Christal Rice Cooper. 
       She found solace in other people’s stories such as Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom;  Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and particularly Alice Walker’s own personal story of having her own abortion while in college and writing poetry to deal with her own pain;  and Lois Lowry’s The Giver which helped Ohden understand that “the ability to feel pain and suffer is part of what makes us human beings able to give and receive love." 

By the time she graduated from high school in May of 1996 left she knew she would go to college and envisioned a career in politics and law perhaps working in DC. But  God had other plans – plans that far exceeded her expectations, plans that included the deep-seated secrets behind her biological parents relationship,  her conception and what exactly happened that made her an abortion survivor.

The secrets would almost take a full decade to unveil and would lead to devastating truths, criminal violations, grief for the dead, praise for the living, and the reunions that would reveal God’s ordained purpose and love in her life. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In Memoriam Poem by Alexis Rhone Fancher - dedicated to Lynn Cutolo murdered on October 3, 2007

Chris Rice Cooper 

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Chris Rice Cooper’s Scripted Interview with Alexis Rhone Fancher
Enter Here “For Lynnie in the Dark”

In May of 2017 KYSO Flash Press
published Enter Here by Alexis Rhone Fancher with cover design by Clare MacQueen in collaboration with Alexis Rhone Fancher

       In this scripted interview Fancher talks about her experience of writing the poem “For Lynnie in the Dark” which is one of the many elegy poems in her poetry collection Enter Here.  

Can you go into great detail about the writing of “For Lynnie in the Dark” from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form on the page?
This poem went through over 20 edits/rewrites and 8 drafts before I was satisfied. I worked from notes written as early as 2007, and up to 2016. It was complicated. I wanted to get it right, and there was such a huge saga, surrounding Lynn’s death. I waited a long time, even to begin crafting the poem. Then there were the ongoing decisions as to what to include and what could be left out. Every time I tried to delve deeply into my feelings about Lynn’s life and death, I fell apart.  Above Left:  Alexis Rhone Fancher at a poetry reading for Enter Here on September 10, 2017. Photo attributed to Lisa Segal.

Where were you when you learned that Lynn Cutolo had been murdered?
I’d gone to lunch with a friend. When I returned, there was an urgent email on my computer, from Marilyn, Lynn’s best friend since elementary school. The subject line said: “Call Me Now! Something Terrible Has Happened To Lynnie.” My mind went crazy. I imagined a horrible car crash, an armed robbery at a gas station, a freak accident on a plane. Never in a million years did I imagine she had been murdered. It was unthinkable.  Above Right:  Home in Daper, Utah where Lynn Cutolo was murdered.  

Did you know Lynn personally?  If so can you describe your friendship with her?
Lynn was a close friend. When we met in the mid-80’s, we bonded instantly. Lynn was lively, smart, successful and accomplished. Beautiful. Stylish. Great fun. Adventurous. She had a rapier wit and was funny as hell. She held regular lunches for her many girlfriends at her beautifully-furnished condo in Playa Del Rey. She called these get togethers “Ladies Who Lunch,” and we all dressed up and wore outrageous hats. Lynn made her signature martinis, lasagna and yummy desserts. All diets were off. Good times.  Above Left:  The Beach at Playa del Rey, California.  Attributed to Mike Izzy.  Public Domain. 

Can you describe the physical form of the poem?
“For Lynnie in the Dark” is written in sixteen, 3-line stanzas, and one, stand alone line at the end. It didn’t start off that way, but resolved itself into that form. It made the most sense to me that way.

Where were you when you wrote the poem?  Can you describe the environment you inhabited when you wrote the poem?
I wrote “For Lynnie in the Dark” where I write all my poems, at my computer in my studio. (Left) I save each draft, and am able to compare them as I edit/rewrite. I began working seriously on this poem in early 2015 and finished the final draft in August of 2016.

I am a bit confused – I remember when Ted Bundy was executed that Friday in January of 1989 in Florida. (I stayed up all night that Thursday well into Friday watching the news reports.) And that Daniel murdered his wife Lynn in Draper, Utah in 2007.   I took it that in your eighth stanza the last line “He Heard Ted Bundy was imprisoned nearby” suggests Ted Bundy was living when they moved to Utah? 
Sorry that’s confusing. Dan was morbid toward the end, and Ted Bundy seemed the proper image to convey that. Perhaps it would have been clearer if the line had read, “He heard Ted Bundy had been imprisoned nearby.” Sigh. Just goes to show you a poem can always be improved. 

Enter Here has been described as literary erotic book but I liked to describe it as psychological poetry.  I especially thought the elegies to individuals both living and dead were compelling.  How would you describe Enter Here?  How would you like your readers to describe Enter Here?
The words “honest, fearless, and sensual” come to mind. I would like my readers to describe Enter Here as a book that gives them permission to speak their own truth, and to be fierce. Above all, I want people to be empowered by my poems, and to own their lives. Above Left:  Alexis Rhone Rancher at a poetry reading.  

Can you share with me some factual/ backstory about the poem?
      Nobody had all the pieces. We put it all together at the memorial. Lynn had visited me in LA a month before she died. We had a lovely time together, hanging out on the beach, catching up. Since Lynn and Dan had moved to Draper, our time together was far less frequent. We made the most of those days, just fun at first, but on that last day before she went back home, Lynn’s mood turned dark. She shared that her marriage had taken a downward turn that Dan had lost his job and had severely damaged his back, resulting in opioid addiction. “He just lays on the couch all day, watching TV and complaining,” Lynn confided. She said she still loved Dan, but was no longer in love with him. That marrying him had been a terrible mistake. She said he’d been verbally abusive but had never physically touched her. She swore to it.
Lynn shared that she was putting money into a separate account, saving up enough money to leave Dan. She was going to ask for a divorce. I asked her again if he was physically abusing her. She vehemently denied it. If Lynn had told us the truth, we would never have let her leave LA and fly back to Utah. Her friends would have kept her safe from him, if any one of us had had all the pieces.
      At the memorial, the “Ladies Who Lunch” compared notes. Lynn had shared different parts of the story with each of us. No one knew everything. I knew about the bank account and the verbal abuse. Another friend witnessed the physical abuse, said Dan had pushed Lynn down a flight of stairs. Someone else told us about the threats. Another one knew about the financial devastation Dan was wreaking. Once we put it all together, everything was crystal clear. A pathway to brutal murder. Above Right - Image attributed to Alexis Rhone Fancher 

Anything you would like to add?

I wrote “For Lynnie in the Dark” to honor Lynn. She was a shining star, gone far too soon. I miss her.  I took this photo of Lynn Cutolo on Sept. 1st, 2007. She died a little over a month later.

For Lynnie in the Dark

She married him in Vegas.
She’d already paid for the chapel.
She did it to please her dying mom.

She fingered his photo in her pocket.
He gave her his adored mom’s ruby ring.
She didn’t know what synthetic meant.

She walked down the aisle in a panic.
He didn’t tell her he’d always been an orphan.
She had forgotten her bouquet.

He liked aimless drives in the desert.
He liked how she mated his socks.
He kissed her senseless.

Their bedroom was an illusion.
He stepped into his pants like a fireman.
He was in cahoots with the Lord.

She had an Italian complexion.
She’d recenlty lost her keys.
He had exceptional footwork.

She sold her condo near the beach.
She sold her Santa Fe-style furniture.
He allowed her to take both cats.

He paid for everything on her Visa.
He moved her to a small town in Utah.
He heard Ted Bundy was imprisoned nearby.

She got knee-deep into religion .
She got her real estate license.
He got a pink slip on Friday.

He blamed it on her and the meds.
He dreamed of red meat and hawks, circling.
She made more money than God.

She danced ino his head like a migraine.
He had his second stepfather’s temper.
She called Dial-A-Prayer, then hung up.

He followed the tele-novellas.
He was headed for a cliff when the car stalled.
She put Revlon concealer on her bruises.

He fell off the couch.
She was in L.A. when it hit her.
She opened a secret bank account and drove back to Utah.

He shot her the first time in the leg.
She didn’t move.
He watched her not moving.

She remembered she forgot to feed the cats.
She curled up.
She squeezed her eyes shut.

He squeezed the trigger.
He squeezed it again.
She knew her dancing days were done.

He shot himself in the head.

     --for Lynn Cutolo, murdered on October 3, 2007.  RIP