Karen Thompson Reviews November 2012 Bathhouse Events

Day 1

On the first day of the Bathhouse readings we listened to Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Camille Roy, and Rachel Letvisky read from some of their past works as well as new pieces either recently published or currently being written. Having four creative writing classes this semester I’ve read pieces from every one of those writers.

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Contemporary sestina by Ava Haberkorn Halm

Enjoy an expressive approach to the sestina form by Creative Writing student Ava Haberkorn Halm, created for Carla Harryman’s CRTW 426: Contemporary Forms

Ava Haberkorn Halm – Speak Truth To Power

   He said Ava; you must speak truth to power.

And I felt my grandma’s screams attach to my blood.

Old Hebrew Scriptures, frantic Yiddish songs, trudged my veins.

Her deep shrapnel wound cut the left side of my face.

My throat opened to guttural trope sounds

And my knees bent as my body davnened to past prayers.

  He said power is the geography of silenced prayers.

Truth is the body remembering power.

  Knuckles clicking, my body sings in arthritic sounds.

Souvenirs from the war, where the earth’s soil, was soiled with blood.

    A blood that once stained the back of her skirt, reddening her face

And is now dried, brown, a flaking emptiness in my veins.

I used to shnaydn myself just to see  blood  in  my veins.

 Imyirzehaschem,  I was blood – letting cursed prayers

  where  I saw my  Foter’s  oygn  in  my  moyek’s ponem.

Mayn guf is robotic, mayn muscles have no makht.

Mayn guf is spilled on Eyrope, where is mayn blut?

I blaybn khey by davnening to my eltem fading, gayst batonen.


Who am I within this body of awakened sounds?

Am I but an oxidized story traveling through veins?

 Are ancestral desires the cells of my blood?

Does my tongue strain, under the weight of old prayer?

Could this be why my written words must have more power?

Where am I in this mirage (collage) of face?

He asked where  do you feel the worth in the forgotten face.

 And my ears filled with learned, Shabbat sounds

 Like the “Ch” in ‘Baruch’ that once gave my saliva power.

My arms burned as  chicken broth drained in my veins.

 Waxy stickiness  grew on my fingers; did they hold candles for prayer?

  And  on my lips I could taste cabbage soup stirring my tomato blood.

If I am nothing but bones, organs, flesh and blood

then, I am their story wrapped around a found face.

My skin is a faded sentence -restored by silenced prayers.

My hair follicles are chronicles of their yiddishe sound.

My tongue calls to Moshe, Chaim, Ruchel, they are my – veins.

  Their ghosts are my cartilage, within which I have power.

  But can power exist in the genetics of blood?

 Can the poetry in my veins, generate features on a face?

Can my body become an ancestral sound?  Oh, let me be a prayer.

Contemporary sestina by Karlton Dardio

Enjoy a conceptual approach to the sestina form by Creative Writing student Karlton Dardio, created for Carla Harryman’s CRTW 426: Contemporary Forms.

Karlton Dardio

In the rise of Modernist (and consequently Post-Modernist) styles of poetry
It has become something of a fashionable display of talent both to employ a traditional form
And to ameliorate those forms to better suit the author’s particular style, resulting in a renovated form
            which is an homage to, and deviation from, the proclivities of another movement.
These renovations work to varying levels of renown, but are, in my opinion, successful
In illustrating precisely what it is that defines modern poetry as opposed to classical.

Ashbery’s sestina, Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape, is an appropriate example of this
            manner of adaptation.

Ashbery, in his adaptation,
Does not adhere to the rhythms usually reserved in this form of poetry
(The decasyllabic meter popular in many classical
Styles.  However, he maintains the most noticeable and distinct aspect of the form
By using the retrograde cross structure (ending each line of each stanza with the same six words in a
            predetermined pattern) he is successful
In distinguishing his piece as a sestina in layout, if not necessarily rhythmic movement.

There is significance to the abandonment of arsis and thesis in the poem’s movement.
Which helps to differentiate the modern adaptation.
It allows Ashbery to establish the text as an assemblage of reference and tone.  The successful
Allusions to both Popeye and ancient mythology alters the reading of the poetry,
And the ambiguous details of the story’s narrative structure force the reader to form
Their own opinion regarding the actual purpose of the tale.   By straying from some tenets of classical

Poetics while still making a formal sestina, Ashbery both acknowledges the influence of the classical
On his own form,
And differentiates his adaptation
From them.  Compared to an Alighieri sestina, Ashbery’s poetry
Is more organic, less rigid, and in establishing the poem as a more loosely defined object, Ashbery is

Berrigan’s sonnets are similarly free-flowing, and they are similarly successful,
Though there is no definitive classical
Sonnet (there already being many forms, such as the Shakespearean, the Spenserian, etc), Berrigan
            crafts a renovation of the sonnet that leaves an indelible stamp on the poetry
Of the Twentieth Century.  The relatively recent genesis of free verse significantly affected Berrigan’s
            interpretation of modern trends and antiquated movement,
And his adaptation
Of the sonnet’s form

Would reflect not only the worldly influence of Shakespeare, but also the intensely personal,
      autobiographical form
Of poetry favored by the then still-developing Beat scene.  Berrigan is successful
In both relating the troubles of his own love with more timeless matters.  His adaptation
Of the sonnet defies many of the classical
Rules regarding the structure, but he also imbues his sonnets with imagery and intimate feelings that
            would resonate with more than one subsequent movement
In the field of poetry.

The two authors discussed here make, in their work, an argument for successful poetry
Being achieved not through the dogmatic adherence to classical form,
But through the willing adaptation of forms to the needs of a more modern movement.

Work from CRTW alumnus John Biando in Digital Artifact Magazine

Check out work from John  Biando, alumnus of EMU’s Creative Writing Graduate Program, in the third issue of Digital Artifact.

Digital Artifact is an online magazine.  Find it here:

In this issue, works by twenty-eight writers and artists take up the problem of how to make art, and make meaning, in a time of scarcity. The fictions, videos, audio pieces, and visual works explore ways to make meaning and tell stories in the midst of the worst global recession since the Great Depression. As many artists struggle with financial precarity, is it possible to make more out of less and find inspiration in shared or salvaged materials? Can there be a productive relationship between economic anxiety, uncertainty and the ephemeral impulses that give rise to our work?

Including work by: Ida Acton | Cesar Alvarez | Judith Jordan | Ariel Goldberg | Jeremy Krane | Miranda Mellis | Christian Nagler | Matt L. Rohrer | Jacob Evans | Sunita Prasad | Rebecca Alexander | Lily Baldwin | Dillon de Give | Craig Goodworth | Monica Regan | Celia Rowlson-Hall | Bruno Dicolla | Jesse Nathan | Tucker Nichols | Brent Armendinger | Catherine Daly | Mary Burger | Zoë McCloskey | Gregory Turner | Matthew Alexander | Adrian Alexander | Isaiah Alexander | John Biando