Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Getting Inspired: Evan Czmola on Robert Bové

A Life of Inspiration

Interview with author Robert Bové

By Evan Czmola

"A morning prayer before the cats start complaining. They cry for food each morning. Robert Bové is always willing to get up, but the miscommunication between the motivated mind and the exhausted body always creates a struggle."

To Read the Full Piece, click HERE

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Poems by Milorad Pejić


Hyperborea (Aula, Prague, 2011) / Hyperborea (Fondacija Mak Dizdar, Sarajevo, 2013)

Translated from the Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian
by Omer Hadžiselimović


The sun descends into Geiranger every day like
into a well. Like a needle onto a gramophone record,
the beak of a gull slides down onto the water, green
and blue.

The same age-old idyll. Only the houses under the sky
are empty, not a wisp of smoke. The people in them
Geiranger has used up, but it still watches over the
houses and cultivates them like mushrooms. Nailed
on the precipices they suffer from gravitation like
from a headache.

Tour buses crawl up the serpentines like ants at dusk.
There’s no panic in the harbor either: unhurriedly,
the campers with their doggies go out for a walk,
the fishermen shower their boats. No one suspects
that the sun, like a dropped sequin, is sinking for the
last time into the dark-blue depths of Geiranger,
forever and irrevocably.

* A fjord in Norway



I don’t ask questions, but answers come to me
from your students, Albert! Albert, I know less and less!
What are they seeking in the dark?  Light?

With every new discovery I am a step closer to
the already seen.  The mathemathics of the future takes me
back to your childhood, to a sunny fair on Schrannenplatz.
Sibylle the Gypsy had stolen you for a moment, that
famous-fortune teller who reads palms as if she were
reading poetry.

Sibylle the witch enticed you for nothing, just for play,
to amuse the brutes.  But when you reached out your hand to her
and when she brushed the dust off, she fell silent.  She gripped
the counter with the skins on it.  Everything stopped, everything
turned to ice, as in the tale of Sleeping Beauty.  Only, from a different
fairy tale, the dripping of chestnuts here and there on the green could be
heard.  She was looking for the light in the gloom but, like a
merry-go-round, there was a black hole spinning in your tiny palm.
Something not yet seen! And Schrannen Square was tumbling
into it as into a concrete mixer.



Simple is the mathematics of life and death:
it is enough for place and time to coincide.
Odd Knutsen, a physical laborer at the Stavanger
canned-fish factory had planned his vacation
at a warm sea.  On his way home from third shift,
he would check the status of his credit cards, and
around noon, before going to bed, he would sniff
his sunscreen lotion.

At last the day arrived and snow-white clouds
stuck on the peaks of the Alps reminded him of
cotton candy amid little children’s hats at spring
fairs in Boknafjorden.  A wonderful sight, an
unplanned opportunity for a break will be rejected
for the sake of travel discipline.

What we learn we learn too late.  That black
point, that magnet in which place and time overlap,
you can’t fool.  The mustached driver of the
Greek rig had decided for the sake of travel
discipline to forgo his habitual steak
at the little restaurant with plastic ivy
near the small town of Airolo.  Those clouds 
reminded him of the toxic fumes around exhaust valves
in the industrial zone of Milan when a white
Volvo, blinded by the setting sun at the
St. Gotthard Tunnel exit, crashed under his feet.
When leaving its own it vanished into universal darkness.



All my life, when awake, I’ve sought a small plateau
from a dream of long ago, a place for a house by a thin
cataract, white like a ribbon from a half-opened book.  
I saw such a clearing when traveling once over the
“Sju søstre” waterfall, but I couldn’t recognize it, blinded
by the sequin of the sun in the dark-blue and dark-green
depths of Geiranger.

From time to time I open my bird-cage of wishes, but
my birds do not fly out any more.  I’m too old to begin
and to dream ahead.  I don’t see well any more.  I cut
my nails from memory and voices, too, come to me
colorless, as if from the loudspeaker at railroad stations:
the clamor of children on the precipice above the “Seven
Sisters” waterfall.  When we played in the yard, they
used to tie us around our waists with a clothesline so we
could withstand the magnets of the abyss.  So we could
keep together.  Today we are scattered out across countries
like crabs across fjords.



Copyright©2013 by Milorad Pejić

Milorad Pejić was born in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 1960. Since 1992 he has lived in Sweden. His published books of poems include:

The Vase for the Lily Plant (Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1985)

The Eyes of Keyholes (Bosanska riječ, Tuzla-Wupertal, 2001 and 2012)

Hyperborea (Aula, Prague, 2011)

Hyperborea (Fondacija Mak Dizdar, Sarajevo, 2013)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Getting Involved: The Empathy of Arthur Powers

What follows is from an interview with Arthur Powers:

In one sense, I have been interested in writing ever since I was in junior high school and became intensely interested in reading. There was a “classics” section in our school library, and I gobbled the books up one after another: Dumas, Jules Verne, Sir Walter Scott. I did some writing then, and in high school took a creative writing class.
But in another sense, I did not see myself primarily as a “writer.”  I loved (and still love) history – I wanted (and still want) to be an active participant in society – in the history of our times. I believe that living life – being involved – comes first. If someone asks me, I am a husband, a father, a grandfather, a Catholic, a lawyer, vice-president of a public safety communications company, member of the pastoral council, former lay missioner in Brazil, a poet & writer.
As a young person – as with most young people – I wanted to express myself. As I matured (I’m sixty five), I became much more interested in other people. My grandfather told me that one can never be bored if there are people to watch. I find people fascinating – I love to observe them, to hear their stories, to listen to the way they say things, to enter their world.
I also love words. I grew up in a family that loved words. My father was a wonderful punster, and my mother was always finding and introducing to us new vocabulary. My early writing is poetry – I started publishing poetry in the late 1960s, and by the 1990s (when I began publishing fiction) my word skills were well honed. I had the privilege of not having to earn my living through writing, so that I could focus on writing things I really wanted to write, and could take the time to craft my work. Some of my writing is better than others, but – on the whole – I am very satisfied with the craftsmanship of the work I have published.
I always have more ideas than I have time to write. Ideas come in many ways. I’ve woken in the morning with a complete story in my head (for example, the short stories “Thorn” and “Sonata on a Michigan Night”). Others grow out of a single line, or – more commonly – seeing a person in a particular situation (“The Moving” and “Switzerland”). They can be developed from a story someone tells me (“The Healer”), or from an experiences I’ve witnessed (“A Hero for the People” and “Two Foxes”), or from an almost geometrical idea (“Commedia Dell’Arte” and “Four Litres of Honey”).
In terms of what makes a good story, characters are the most important element in fiction, and next in importance is atmosphere. How characters confront situations and one another in that atmosphere is the essence of the story. (I know this because I read and write stories.) I want my readers to be drawn into the world of my characters – to understand, even empathize with, the characters’ situation and world view. Much like a “method” actor, I essentially become my characters as I write about them. I see them – but also see the world through their eyes.
I firmly believe that good writing is inspired – inspirited – by something greater than the writer. Often a reader will point out some meaning or nuance in my story that I never thought of, and I will immediately recognize that the comment is valid. Of course, at times I am completely bemused by a reader's interpretation of a story and his misunderstanding of what I had in mind. But that happens to all artists.
Most of what I write is either realistic or what is called in the United States “magical realism.”  I spent most my adult life in Latin America, so I tend not to distinguish between the two. Latin Americans do not draw a line between the “natural” and the “supernatural” in the same way that North Americans do. Natural and supernatural are two interrelated aspects of life. A faith healing (“The Healer”) or an angel (“Padre Raimundo’s Army”) is as real as a stone or a chair.
Everything in life is an act of self-discovery. More importantly, there is a discovery of ourselves in relation to others and with God. Writing and reading are part of life. Of course we grow through them. Good writing makes us grow in good ways (which doesn’t mean that it only deals with good things happening to good people). I heard recently that there are studies showing that fiction readers tend to be more empathetic than other people – I haven’t seen the studies, but it doesn’t surprise me. Reading fiction is a way of getting into the experiences of people whose world is different from our own.
Stories are like children. You love them all. All of those that have reached publication I feel to be well crafted. Some are light (“Grace & The Chickens”), some more profound. It is interesting to see how different stories touch different readers. A story I am very fond is the title story in “A Hero for the People.”  Yet only one very discerning reader – Debra Murphy – has remarked to me on the story’s underlying architecture, social message, and gentle humor – noting that it is her favorite in the collection. Most people focus on other stories in the collection – which is fine. They are all good stories.
Concerning my work schedule, I have a demanding job, a family, and an active life. I write when I can. Usually I will conceive a story in my head, ponder it, work out details – then write it down when it is ready. I’ll put it away and pull it out a few weeks (or months) later, make some revisions, and send it out. I try never to talk about the stories before I write them – I find that, if I talk, the stories are diffused and lose their immediacy.
I don’t think much about genres. Generally I suppose, for that reason, my stories would be labeled “literary.”  I’ve written some science fiction, some fables, and have a pretty good mystery in the works. I enjoy reading mysteries but, except for the very best writers (Marjorie Allingham, Ellis Peters), most writers end up twisting their characters and situations to fit the mystery plot and, in the end, that is not very satisfying.
In addition to my professional work and own writing, I’m also the “contemporary” editor for CatholicFiction.net – a site that reviews books of interest to Catholics (which is a broad category). So I read quite a lot of contemporary (roughly anything written since 2000) Catholic fiction. I also mentor a number of other writers, and read their work. In my spare time, I read history, biographies, some philosophy, some classics, short stories, poetry, and a few of the better mystery writers. A great number of writers have influenced me over the years. Notable among them are Willa Cather, Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, and Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis.
Until recently, I have not belonged to writing groups. This was partly due to circumstances – I was living in Brazil (much of the time in remote locations), so there were no writing groups. But it is also due to my nature. I’m a very social person, but I find that writing is, for me, an individual endeavor, not a social one. I find that talking about what I write (before it is written) draws away from the actual writing. That being said, I truly believe writers can reach out and help each other through encouragement. I am a founding member of the Catholic Writers Guild: I regularly lead workshops and I mentor a number of writers.
Some have asked how technology (since most people over the age of forty have lived through dramatic changes) has affected my work habits. I used to carry around notebooks and writing pads, and write everywhere. I now find that I need a laptop to write. It has made it easier not only to write, but to revise. Currently I am working on a number of short stories. I am also seeking to publish my novel, Shadow Companion, set in Brazil during the military dictatorship. Portions of the novel have appeared in the journal Dappled Things. It is very good, but it crosses genre bounders (literary, political thriller), which makes it hard for publishers to classify.
Copyright 2013 by Arthur Powers - All Rights Reserved