Wednesday, February 3, 2016

From Volume 36: A poem by Rimas Uzgiris

by Rimas Uzgiris
were swept downstream
in a flood that began with small
buds of water blossoming
into wreaths of rain
that thrust us into a movie
that went faster as we approached the end
and you could scarcely keep up
or enjoy the scenery
passing the sand bar
it all seemed so arranged
driftwood skeletons draped
with souls like shredded sheets
and mewing gulls of memory poked
a sagging sky
then the sea
opened its mouth
O peace that passeth understanding
the part of us that is made of water
will be taken up into clouds.

In the Spotlight: Rimas Uzgiris

Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, editor and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Atlanta Review, Quiddity,The Iowa Review, The Hudson Review and other journals. He is translation editor and primary translator of How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets (Vilnius, 2015). He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark University. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, he teaches literature, translation and creative writing at Vilnius University. His poem "We" is featured in Volume 36.

First, what was your inspiration for your poem "We"?

I was reading and translating a Lithuanian poet at the time, Donatas PetroŇ°ius, who had written a series of poems in response to films. One of these was inspired by Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man". I recalled the river journey at the end of the film where the character William Blake floats out into the ocean to die. There is a dramatic and beautiful shot of his boat going out to sea with rain clouds looming beyond, sunlight breaking through. This image and the preceding journey triggered a strong personal response, which also struck me as archetypal. So I wrote the poem with that in mind--William Blake's journey is our journey. Hence the first-person plural, which I almost never use. The specific imagery of the poem is all from my own memories of rivers and seas. I made no attempt to comment on the movie because the thought of it had called up so many personal associations. The style of the poem was influenced by my reading W.S. Merwin's The Shadow of Sirius at the time. I was inspired by a number of his un-punctuated poems with no stanzaic form which seemed to fit the theme here of a continuous journey that is over so quickly you hardly realize what has happened.

How did you get into writing? When did you know that it was something you wanted to pursue seriously?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

From Volume 36: A poem by James McKee


by James McKee

The home seemed pleasant from the street;
Two weeks of rest and therapy,
No more, should put you on your feet.
It didn't sound too bad to me.

Yours was a quiet floor, except
For a lounge where house rules allowed
One shared TV, which the staff kept
Always turned on and always loud.

To reach your bedside, I passed through
Fifty residents slumped in rows,
Unknown to me, although I knew
You would never be one of those.

In the Spotlight: James McKee

James McKee and his wife live in New York City, where they each work as educators. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Virginia, he held a number of jobs before spending over a decade as a teacher and administrator at a small progressive high school in Manhattan. He currently works as a private tutor and spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help. His poem "Home" appears in Volume 36 of The Worcester Review.

Your poem "Home" describes a situation many people encounter, having a loved one move to a nursing home. What is your experience with this and how did it inspire you to create a poem about it?

When my mother became ill for what turned out to be the final time, I simply refused to acknowledge the gravity of her condition until the visit depicted in the poem, when at last I was forced to admit she was dying.  We were very close—I was her only son—and in recent years she had been hospitalized more than once, always returning home after a week or so.  This time was different, and I wanted the poem to present the speaker’s experience becoming irrecoverably aware of a loved one’s imminent death.  Once she knew that I had finally accepted, or at least understood, what was happening, there was very little time left; under the weight of what was soon to come, we were often unable to say very much to each other.  Somehow every trivial detail of the home, which was really not so bad as such places go even if my memories of it have a Grand Guignol savagery, exacerbated my grief at soon losing her.

A lot of people talk about the "sandwich generation" as being the generation of people that have to simultaneously care for their children and their parents. What's your take on that situation?

My wife and I don’t have children, and even though my mother continued to live on her own until her final illness, the strain of worrying about her all the time & checking up on her regularly took its toll on me (and on my wife).  On the one hand, I can only imagine how stressful raising children while caring for a declining parent might seem—yet I also think they would be, in their boisterous and uncomprehending way, a great comfort and source of strength, a distraction from grim clinical realities.

How did you first get into writing?

I have wanted to be a poet almost continuously since my teenage years, although it took me a long time to attain the discipline necessary to write in a sustained and artistically serious way.  Certain poems I read in high school, "Prufrock," "Dover Beach," "The Tiger," haunted me in a way that at the time I hardly understood, but that now I recognize as something like a summons.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pushcart Nominees

With no further ado, may I announce the 2015 Pushcart Nominees from The Worcester Review!


Polly Brown, “Mike Talks to Abe”

James McKee, “Home”

Jon Volkmer, “Vigil”

Len Krisak, “Verona: Sonnet #2”


Jarrett Kaufman, “The Son”

Congratulations and good luck to all!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

From Volume 36: A Poem by Len Krisak

Verona: Sonnet #2
by Len Krisak

The playground called "the park": three diamonds once,
Then, only one providing fans a cage.
Worn down to khaki talc, the other two
Survived in only faintly rhomboid traces.
On these, the five of us swung for the fences.
(There would have been no point to stolen bases,
Sacrifices, suicides, or bunts.
Besides, those were too hard for kids our age.)
A fly to right was out, force-outs were few,
And when it didn't rain, the skies were blue.
What girls we knew had not yet had their menses.
Well, Bobby's sister Betty--maybe--who
Could homer farther than you ever saw,
And rounding third, elicited pure awe.

In the Spotlight: Len Krisak

In this post, contributor Len Krisak tells us about his writing process and inspirations. Len Krisak is the recipient of the Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, and Robert Frost Prizes. His most recent books are Ovid's Erotic Poems (U Penn Press) and the Carmina of Catullus (Carcanet, U.K.). He is a four-time champion on Jeopardy! We re honored to share his poems "Maine Poem", "Verona: Sonnet #2", and "Continuing Evolution of the Pachyderm" in Volume 36. 

Two of your three featured poems in this edition relate to Maine. Do you mind sharing some of your past experiences with the state? Have you spent your childhood there or annual summers? And what inspires you to write poetry about Maine?

I met my inamorata in Maine and have returned to the state many times--Portsmouth for music and restaurants, Down East for hiking, summer rentals,  college and museum tours, etc. As for  inspiration: I tend to write heavily metaphor-driven verse. That is, I see or hear something striking and it makes me think of something else, which then marinates in my consciousness until I have the meter and first line that seem to go together and feel "right." They then pretty much dictate my forward progress.

Your poems evoke a sense of personal, intimate history, yet they can be applied to the lives of other people (such as the memories of playing baseball as a young child in a local park). When writing, do you try to include only your memories or do you try to include things that other people can relate to?