Spiraling Poetry: Carla Drysdale


My mother                              Never understood

waits again for                        why I had to write

me to get                                 the truth

in the car                                  go to church

leave it all                                 to God

God is good                             to stay alive

I’ve forgotten                           to come home

again                                        drunk on words, wine

telling things                            I’ve written about

smelling the rich                      animal scent

honky-tonk song                     mother’s purple suede coat   

she wore                                   like a mantle

to cover herself                        all those pre-dawn mornings

pitching horse shit                   in the barn

About Carla Drysdale

Carla Drysdale lives in France. Her books are Inheritance and Little Venus. Her poems appear in PRISM International, The Same, LIT, The Fiddlehead, and other journals. Pulitzer-prize winning composer David Del Tredici set her poem "New Year's Eve" to music. In 2014 she won the Earle Birney poetry prize.

Spiraling Poetry: Liz Ahl

Aretha Drops Her Fur Coat to the Stage

as if it is the whole fallen world sliding
from her shoulders of grace

as if she has known this world
as broken and holy and shown us so

as if she has been coated
in golden promises but refuses

to let them keep her from praising
to the rafters with her joyful arms

as if she decided to sprout wings
from the gilt cap-sleeves of her gown

as if she decided to sprout wings
from the rich glory of her vibrato

as if she's showing the ghost of James Brown
how it's done — a simple drop, no melodrama

as if it really does make her feel
like a natural woman

as if that's her president up there
in the balcony catching some spirit

as if the whole world is sliding
from her shoulders

puny you and me clinging to the soft scruff of it
as we slide down together

dissolving into a pool of gold at her feet
where we belong

About Liz Ahl

Liz Ahl is the author of the chapbooks Luck, Talking About the Weather, and A Thirst That's Partly Mine, which won the 2008 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Contest. She lives in New Hampshire and teaches writing to undergraduates at Plymouth State University.

Spiraling Prose: Nan Parati


You know what is interesting? I used to always have the radio on, always on some NPR station, but now I don’t. If it’s on, I turn it off. I just can’t take the sorrow anymore. It may have to do with the Katrina coverage; I didn’t want to re-live that. It may be the combination of Katrina and ISIS, with some Boko Haram thrown in that takes me out. I think I’ve seen a lot of inhumanity in some of the places I’ve lived and traveled to, and if I’m going to continue in this life, I have to do what I can where I can to try and make the world a more humanitarian place. This is not to say that others have not experienced this, just saying that I’m full up. I am glad there are people out there who can take on the new sorrow and deal with it effectively. There’s too much of it in me now. It makes me sad that I can’t. I miss the happy stories on the radio, but there are too many of the others. Now it’s just me and the crickets in the morning. I can’t understand what they’re saying, but I pay attention if they get quiet. What just happened that made the crickets be quiet?  Oh, there they are again. Oh, thank goodness.

My friend Dwight Lebran slipped away from this earth on August 29th. At first it seemed an interesting irony that he passed on the Katrina anniversary, but as I thought about it I knew it was quietly intentional. Dwight was never big in body — HUGE in character, but skinny, skinny, skinny. Katrina chiseled his spirit away, and ten years later I think she took it all.

A year after Katrina, Dwight told me this story. He was outside the day after the storm, grilling because it was such a beautiful day, as the days immediately following hurricanes usually are, when all of a sudden he became aware of a large body of water rolling his way.  He heard it and then he saw it. Mysterious Lake Pontchartrain coming down his street.

That evening he and his family were in his house, sitting up on top of the furniture, with no idea what had happened since all electricity was out and with it, all the information. The storm had come and gone and everything seemed right with the world. And then it was not at all. It was hot, hot outside. So they had the windows open, the door open and the burglar bars on the windows and doors, closed and locked. 

Suddenly they heard a great rattling and banging and looked out to see a huge-ass alligator slamming his tail into the bars over and over, trying hard to get in. His tail was not as strong as the bars, but he was there, he was hungry, and he wanted in. Go to sleep after that.

The next day Dwight learned from a neighbor that several blocks from his house, there was dry ground near the levee and, ultimately, buses that were taking people to safety. Dwight and his family slogged through the water, Dwight going back and forth carrying the family members who were too short or too infirm to go on their own in the same waters that had carried the alligator to his front door. They made it to the levee, got on the bus, Dwight sitting on an over-turned milk crate. There were so many people on that bus headed to Houston. On a good day it takes 6 hours to get from New Orleans to Houston. That trip took many, many more hours, and every time they tried to stop for gas or anything else, they were met by white folks with guns who said, “Don’t get off that bus.” Dwight, who had (as one does) withdrawn a fair amount of money from his bank account pre-storm, told me, “I asked one man, ‘Mister, I got one-thousand wet dollars in my pocket — can I PAY you to let me use the restroom?’ Man told me to get back on that m-f-kin’ bus. And that was how we went to Houston.”

Dwight had health problems for a while, but after Katrina he got smaller and his problems got worse every year. That did not keep him from being one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and one of the smartest. But it finally took him out. 

About Nan Parati

Nan Parati is a writer, the co-coordinator of the art department for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the artist who creates signs for the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals. She publishes a column of personal essays in the monthly Ashfield News, and in her weekly emails for Elmer’s Store, the general store and restaurant she runs in the foothills of the Berkshires. Nan bought Elmer’s when vacationing in Ashfield at the time that Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, her longtime home. She worked as a playwright before Katrina, and plans to return to that chosen genre in the future.

Happy Birthday, Pablo Neruda: A Poem by Muriel Rukeyser to the Great Poet

Neruda, the Wine

We are the seas through whom the great fish passed
and passes.  He died in a moment of general dying.
Something was reborn.  What was it, Pablo?
Something is being reborn  :  poems, death, ourselves,
The link deep in our peoples, the dead link in our dead regimes,
The last of our encounters transformed from the first
Long ago in Xavier’s house, where you lay sick,
Speaking of poems, the sheet pushed away
Growth of beard pressing up, fierce grass, as you spoke.
And that last moment in the hall of students,
Speaking at last of Spain, that core of all our lives,
The long defeat that brings us what we know.
Meaning, poems, lifelong in loss and presence passing forever.
I spilled the wine at the table
And you, Pablo, dipped your finger in it and marked my forehead.
Words, blood, rivers, cities, days.  I go, a woman signed by you--
The poems of the wine.

"Neruda, the Wine" by Muriel Rukeyser (from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005).


A New Taste of Paris Press's Educational Outreach Programs

Click here, or use the media player below, to listen to Ruth Stone, Sharon Olds, and Kate Nugent read from Muriel Rukeyser's memoir, The Orgy. This recording is one of many programs the Press sponsored to educate the public about this important book. The Orgy, originally published as a novel, was banned in Ireland. It evokes Rukeyser's experience attending Puck Fair in County Kerry, Ireland. Puck Fair continues to be the last pagan festival of the goat.

Paris Press is adding links to our Lazarus Educational Outreach Initiative page to give you a taste of the events we sponsor throughout the U.S. We welcome your feedback.

Spiraling Poetry: Tanya Hyonhye Ko

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Paris Press includes a striking new poem by Tanya Hyonhye Ko, "Heo Nanseolhean," about the 16th century woman poet. Paris Press launched our new program, "Spiraling" on International Women's Day, Every month, the Press will feature original work by a contemporary woman writer. All genres may be sent to the Press through Submittable on this website. It is an honor to begin this new publication feature with the work of Tanya Hyonhye Ko.


Heo Nanseolhean  (1563-1589)

If women have han in their hearts 

            To be born a woman
To be born in the Chosǒn Period
            To be the wife of a husband 

 frost will come in May. 

Father let me study poetry with my brothers 
until I married Kim Song Lip and I put it aside. 
Waiting for my faithless husband, father said 

Write a poem 

ask yourself, 

Who am I?


Grandmother Talking Camptowns

At 77 years old all my teeth are gone
and the wind blows past my gums.
No windscreen in Dongducheon
where homeless live alone.

Rather than live alone
I wanted to be a monk in Buddha’s temple
but they kicked me out—
I sneaked the bacon.

The Deacon’s ad in the newspaper
offered a room at his church—
In exchange for cleaning I lived well.
One rainy night I drank Soju and smoked
so they kicked me out.

Damn hard work on my back for GIs—
pounded and pounded me inside
so one day it had to go.
The khanho-won removed my womb
no pension for sex trade
no yungkum.

American couple adopted
my half white son—
my half black daughter
I left at the orphanage door
and never knew her fate.

At one time I had money saved.
My brother came in his guilty face
Because I can’t protect you— you do this.
He used my handling money
to become a lawyer and soon removed
my name from the family—
like scraping a baby from the womb.

Still, on my birthdays my sister Sook
secretly came to see me,

came with seaweed soup—
Unni, Unni…
I waited for her to come
saved a gift chocolate so carefully wrapped—
gum, perfume, Dove soap…

Now that she’s engaged 
Sook cannot come again—
Why can’t you go to America like the others?
For the first time that day I was weeping,

Mother, mother, we should not live
Let’s die together! but Mother was already gone.

The time goes so fast that people on the moon
didn’t know where Korea was.

One day I met a man
and I am a woman making rice
washing his work clothes
submissive and joyful
until he found my American dollars
ran away and never came back.

Now in Dongducheon
stars shimmer in the wind.


Oxtail Soup

How does death feel?
I look at the bruise on my left hand,
dark purple, what is this called—

mung—holding in the pain, silence of sorrow,
ashes spread on the ocean settling in layers
palimpsest of lives—like maple leaf

            (Was I here before? Will I come back again?)

impressions left on the sidewalk after they’ve blown away—
like a raven on the roof that said
             Disconnect the phone

Turn on the gas
I was making Oyako Donburi
tears come…while cutting up the onions—
isn’t that the best gift?

I crack cold eggs,
pour over
boiling napa and chicken broth
close the pot lid
turn off the gas

pour over bowl of rice
feed child—

Empty unmade bed—
a summer river where
I didn’t want to see his body—

When I leave
I want to leave beautifully.

I remember one poet
saying that after his wife’s funeral,
he found a strand of her hair on the pillow and wept 

            (Was he crying, too, after I left?)

I made sukiyaki the day my father died—
I had to feed my children.

Oxtail soup,
that’s what Daddy made—
suck out all the dead blood
and boil until the broth turns milky.


About Tanya Hyonhye Ko

Tanya Hyonhye Ko, is a poet and translator who was born and raised in South Korea, and received her MFA at Antioch University Los Angeles. She is author of Generation One Point Five, and her work has appeared in journals such as Beloit, Two Hawks Quarterly, Rattle, and Writers at Work. She writes in English and Korean, and currently translates the work of Arthur Sze into Korean. As a woman who lives and writes in two cultures, Tanya Hyonhye Ko offers a unique, authentic, and courageous voice. Her poems create a voice for multiple generations of Korean women, especially for the “comfort women” who were silenced following WWII. Her poems will be published in 2015 by Purunsasang in Korea. She lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.

Virginia Woolf's Birthday!

Today is Virginia Woolf's birthday. It is such an honor to have published Woolf and her mother, Julia Stephen, in On Being Ill with Notes From Sick Rooms. As a special birthday present to all Woolf fans, read the letter that Virginia Woolf's great niece, Henrietta Garnett, wrote to Paris Press after she read our publication of On Being Ill in 2002. Henrietta Garnett granted the Press permission to use the beautiful Vanessa Bell cover that was created for the original Hogarth Press publication of On Being Ill in 1930.

Happy Birthday, Virginia! Thank you, Henrietta Garnett and Vanessa Bell.

Henrietta Garnett Letter to Paris Press.jpeg

Contemplating this unusual year

Joys of the Year

This year, 2014, was intertwined with the voices of Muriel Rukeyser, Julia Stephen, Virginia Woolf, Adrian Oktenberg, Nora Ephron, Emily Dickinson, Zdena Berger, Jane Cooper, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Audre Lorde, and many other great women. They offered transformative observations that are timeless in their poignancy and relevancy in our personal lives and the beauty and crises of our world.

We followed a year filled with celebrations: the centenary celebrations for Muriel Rukeyser at NYU, CUNY, Graduate Center, and Poets House; an extraordinary panel addressing the lives and relationships between Virginia Woolf and her mother, Julia Stephen, at NYU; and numerous Lazarus Educational Outreach Initiative programs springing from Virginia Woolf's and Julia Stephen's On Being Ill with Notes from Sick Rooms, co-sponsored by MassHumanities.

This year took a few unexpected turns — joyful as well as challenging. The winter and spring of 2014 included facilitating a course sponsored by MassHumanities in Literature and Medicine at Baystate Hospital in Springfield, MA. These inspiring discussions of poems, essays, and film leading to explorations of communications between patients and the medical world included individuals working in all capacities at the hospital. I, and Paris Press, greatly hope to continue these programs and public discussions in the future.

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference took place in Seattle, with Paris Press participating in the book fair, attending panels, speaking with writers, publishers, educators, and students about future educational programs, course adoptions, and publication projects. The Press was fortunate to have the help of an intern, Devon Walker. After the book fair closed, I had the wonderful good fortune of spending time with a true blue friend and college housemate, who offered insights about the Press, large and small.

Following the AWP Conference in Seattle, and our return to MA, I experienced a severe concussion that had unfortunate consequences through the year. Because I was unable to read or look at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time, the Press "refocused" with the assistance of intern Natalie Wisehart from Smith College, a new web designer Dara Madaragnoli, administrative assistant Marsha Lieberman, and many members of the Press's Advisory Board including Barbara Alfange, Kathy Service, and Marya Zilberberg. Paris Press concentrated on launching our long-awaited website and blog; applying for grants for future and ongoing book, event, and film projects; and soliciting new manuscripts online, with the thrilling goal of publishing a new book in 2015. The Press also continued preliminary work on our Muriel Rukeyser documentary.

As director of Paris Press, I am indebted to all who assisted the Press during this challenging year.

Sorrows in 2014

The spring included the death of poet and critic Adrian Oktenberg. The author of Paris Press's groundbreaking The Bosnia Elegies -- poems expressing empathy and compassion for the victims of war and honesty about war's terror, violence, heartbreak. and the hubris of those in power. Intertwined through the poems are lines by writers of war, including Cavafy, Charlotte Delbo, Whitman, Neruda.

Adrian Oktenberg was a close friend of Paris Press, proof reading manuscripts and offering feedback regarding books under consideration for publication. Her fierce agreement and disagreement assisted in decision making, books to consult, writers with whom to correspond and consult. The present Paris Press was founded after Adrian folded her own press "Paris Press," which was named for her mother, Roma Florence Paris. When I founded the nonprofit Paris Press in 1995, I honored its origin by maintaining Adrian's intent to honor her mother.

I have never known anyone as well read as Adrian Oktenberg. She offered literary, political, cultural, and historical discourse and education. She was a good friend and a brilliant one, and she has been deeply missed since her death in May.

The poet Galway Kinnell, renowned bard and teacher, died in November. Galway was teacher and friend to generations of poets, and he was my own teacher in the graduate program at NYU. In the summer of 2011, Galway and his wife, Bobbie Bristol, invited Paris Press to Vermont to film the first clips for our documentary about Muriel Rukeyser. Sharon Olds joined us as well, and we filmed Galway and Sharon for four hours, talking about Muriel, reading Muriel's poems and passages from The Life of Poetry, and reading their own work that is connected to Muriel in different ways. Galway's study, his library, his living room, and his two sheepdogs are generously included in the footage that we will edit and include in the Rukeyser documentary.

The following summer, in 2012, Galway visited Ashfield and offered an extraordinary poetry reading at Saint John's Church to benefit Paris Press. That poetry reading can be listened to here. Galway's expansive yet beautifully direct poems, his humor, his love of syntax and language, and his passion for his family and the natural world all appeared before the fortunate audience during that poetry reading, one of his last. His grandchildren Mirah and Ephraim joined him onstage to recite Keats and Shelley. Galway's generosity and warmth invited all present to gather, converse, and have their books signed at Gloriosa's next door to the church, where Paris Press and Gloria Pacosa offered a beautiful reception that lucky summer afternoon. Galway will be forever remembered and always missed by me, his hundreds of other students, Paris Press, the village of Ashfield, and lovers of poetry around the globe.

The most recent loss experienced by me and Paris Press, as well as the literary world, is the death of Allan Kornblum, founder and publisher of Coffee House Press. Allan served as a mentor to me in the world of independent publishing. With Sandy Taylor, co-founder and publisher of Curbstone Press, and following Sandy's death 7 years ago, Allan offered me advice about contracts, foreign rights, marketing, production, and authors. His attitude about small-press publishing was inclusive, serious, and profoundly generous. He shared his knowledge and decades of experience with many independent presses. Allan was inclusive not exclusive, and he valued the future of the printed book. His comments and questions at our distribution company's sales conferences addressed the well being of all literary presses in an era in which we are becoming an endangered species. He loved type, design, paper, binding, and original content. He accepted and encouraged acceptance of the electronic publishing world, but his background as a letterpress publisher with Toothpaste Press rooted his ideals and passions in publishing as he mastered the business side that enabled Coffee House to thrive and to stay alive beyond his death. Allan's legacy will be greatly valued by his coworkers, the independent-publishing community, and his writers. Paris Press and I will always be indebted to Alan and grateful for his longtime support of Paris Press.

The Future of Paris Press

The Press's future is full of great ideas for books to publish by overlooked living writers and forgotten, deceased writers. We have lists of ideas for outreach programs and readings. The Press continues to believe that our mission is essential — the publication of groundbreaking work by women and the public's education of that work and our authors. Much of our success has always relied on the generosity of individuals and public and private foundations. This continues to be true. While some independent publishers do not literally depend on outside funding, Paris Press always has relied on it. The Press began and it continues idealistically. As some have pointed out — this is not the foundation for a business plan, and the Press is a business. There are bills to pay even when we keep the staffing as minimal as possible: 1 1/3 employees.

Paris Press thrives through community. To continue our essential work, the Press needs new volunteers in all capacities, new additions to the Board of Directors, and an additional staff person who will focus on development and social media.

You are part of our community -- whether you purchased our books, attended an event or educational program, review our books, teach the books, donate to the Press, volunteer, submit your manuscripts, send us ideas for future projects, or simply peruse our website. We welcome you and I hope you will express yourself often in the coming year, and email me with your thoughts and ideas.

I thank everyone -- named and anonymous -- who have made this year possible. I wish you a new year filled with inspiration and cultural engagement -- the often-neglected food of our society.

Please donate to our year-end midnight match and ask others you know to do the same. With your participation, and the grounding support of those we have lost, 2015 will be the very finest year for Paris Press, leading to our 20th birthday on December 8.

With gratitude,

Jan Freeman, Director

The dangers of apathy

Post election, it's time to read Bryher's Visa for Avalon. As an introduction, check out Margaret Atwood's review and essay in The New York Review of Books, and Azar Nafisi's enthusiasm about the book -- placed right on the front cover, where it belongs: "Visa for Avalon is a testament to the power of fiction. It illuminates the truth at the heart of what is commonly called reality..." The dangers of apathy? We are living those dangers right now.