What are you reading on the subway or in the waiting room today?
Poetry was made for the wiggle room in a tight day. Today, I wanted to live my life without a purse (“like a man”), so I picked up a parka pocket-sized book that I bought this summer in Havana: Juegos de Agua by Dulce María Loynaz.
“No cambio mi soledad por un poco de amor. Por mucho amor, sí.
Pero es que el mucho amor también es soledad…”
She says she wouldn’t trade her solitude for a little bit of love. For lots of love, yes. But great love is also solitude…
I subscribe to the same flawed philosophy. Now I’m thinking of Anne Carson, like:
“My religion makes no sense
and does not help me,
therefore I pursue it.”
Other people’s poems pass through my mind on the subway, in class, at the bar. Mostly I post them with the hashtag #poetryforever. Instagram is my notepad.
What book popped for you in 2015?
I’m lost in the sauce with this year’s South American translations. Yvette Siegert has done beautiful work with Alejandra Pizarnik’s poems in Diana’s Tree at Ugly Duckling and A Musical Hell at New Directions. In March, she’ll be out with a bigger volume of translations from Pizarnik’s middle period called Extracting the Stone of Madness. Even though I can read Spanish, reading Pizarnik through Siegert’s English attunes me to new frequencies. For example, now she’s funny: “Maybe someday we’ll find refuge in true reality. In the meantime, / can I just say how opposed I am to all of this?”
Moving on to the Lusophone, we have Katrina Dodson’s monumental volume of Clarice Lispector’s The Complete Stories. Clarice Lispector is the queen of my bookshelf right now and she seems cool with it:
That said, I wonder about the politics of translation. Are Pizarnik and Lispector receiving so much mainstream literary support because they seem easy to assimilate into a Eurocentric canon? What would it mean to disrupt that narrative by claiming them, paradoxically, as women of color? What would it mean to let them lead us elsewhere in Argentina, Brazil, beyond? My hope is that a new wave of diverse translations is just one high tide behind this new wave of American poetry. So many of the words I love best are remixed from other worlds.
Beyond translation, I’d be a liar if I did not sing along with the choir of praise for Robin Coste Lewis and her radiant debut, Voyage of the Sable Venus. I’ve read “The Body In August” out loud to everyone I love, including my therapist: “Because if the planet had a back door we’d still be there, waiting for the air to approve our entry.” But there isn’t a back door. We’re already gone with the wind.
Whose words do you return to regularly?
Jean Valentine: “Are all the things that never happened, ok?” I love some poets for their questions. Lucille Clifton‘s questions are always with me:
surely i am able to write poems
celebrating grass and how the blue
in the sky can flow green or red
and the waters lean against the
chesapeake (!!!) shore like a familiar,
poems about nature and landscape
surely but whenever i begin
“the trees wave their knotted branches
is there under that poem always
I’m loyal to that “other poem” that speaks both against and through beauty. Maybe that’s what Borges had in mind when he wrote about “el otro tigre, el que no está en el verso.”
My long term language teachers have included Bob Dylan, Jamaica Kincaid, Lucie Brock-Broido, Linda Gregg, Kenneth Koch, Tomas Tranströmer, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Walter Benjamin, Toni Morrison, Lucinda Williams, Edouard Glissant, Emily Dickinson, Basho, Mark Strand, Mary Ruefle, Gal Costa, and the so-called “Wisdom Books” of the Hebrew Bible (The Book of Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and the Song of Songs). Plus, for phrasing, all the R&B greats, from Barbara Lewis, Otis Redding, and Lee Moses, through Lauryn Hill, Brandy, and D’Angelo.
Every time I read “The Glass Essay” by Anne Carson I enter a new chamber of hurt.
I’m loyal to the ones I love and I’m always cruising for a fresh line. I don’t care where it comes from. Right now I’m with Justin Bieber when he says, “If you like the way you look that much, you should go and love yourself.” That’s a line that’s useful to me.
Is there an author you can’t wait to read next?
I can’t wait for the 2016 debut collections from friends whose words make my way: Carolina Ebeid‘s You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior, Lauren Hilger‘s Lady Be Good, Vanessa Angelica Villareal’s Beast Meridian, and Jordan Zandi’s Solarium.
Is it wrong to say Yotam Ottolenghi? Because I’m inspired.
What are you working on now? What can VIDA fans look forward to from you next?
Right now I’m revising a long essay about Alejandra Pizarnik, Clarice Lispector, and the perils and promises of silence as a feminist practice. How do we balance Audre Lorde‘s wisdom—”your silence will not protect you”—with silence as a source of spiritual sustenance and gesture of resistance? This essay is still “single” and looking for the right magazine match.
I have an essay on M. NourbeSe Philip forthcoming in Boston Review—such a dreamy poetry section—and some musings on “why poetry matters” forthcoming in The Point. I’m grateful to The Point for publishing my first longform essay this past summer—it’s what Maggie Nelson Maggie Nelson might call a piece of “autotheory” on depression.
Otherwise I’m sitting in the cold nook by my window writing poems about Anna Karenina:
Sometimes I draw near a woman
who never was, I slip my hand
around her throat to feel
if it flutters at my touch.
I want to rescue her, not from death
but from having been invented…
CARINA DEL VALLE SCHORSKE is a poet, editor, translator, aspiring psychoanalyst; currently, she is a PhD student at Columbia’s Institute for Comparative Literature & Society. She was born and raised in the Bay Area and enjoys appearing “chill” by New York standards. She is the recipient of poetry fellowships from CantoMundo and the MacDowell Colony, and her poems appear in Prelude, The Acentos Review, The Awl, and elsewhere. Find out more @fluentmundo on Twitter, at carinadelvalleschorske.tumblr.com, or in her one true home on Facebook.