I find I’m drafting poems again, though most of them fall on the melancholy side of tonality. It’s odd because I’m not feeling exceptionally melancholy myself. Granted, the news cycle’s enough to make anyone feel a bit low; but my internal weather isn’t so bad, and the end of February has arrived with peculiar mildness this year. Last year, we were still covered in snow at Valentine’s Day. Could still happen–but the snowdrops and the crocuses are open, as are the iris reticulata.
Spending time reading contemporary poetry books may be a contributing factor to my flurry of new drafts. In the past two weeks or so, I’ve enjoyed perusals of books by Ocean Vuong, Lynn Levin, Jaan Kaplinski, Cleveland Wall, Kim Addonizio. I’m also reading Ian Haight’s newer (unpublished) translations of some Nansorhon poems, a process accompanied by research into the precepts of Taoism and its heavenly denizens and hierarchies. I need some context if I’m going to get as much out of her Taoist poems as I’d like. Thanks to Ian’s research and translations, I did some study of this poet and her work ten years ago; but I focused more on her family situation and constraints and did not examine the most religiously-influenced poems.
One Taoist goddess whose realms and attributes intrigue me is the Queen of the West, also called Queen Mother of the West, or Xiwangmu 西王母. She’s the mythical source of the peach of immortality and was likely important to Nansorhon as a powerful, much-worshiped female deity. Indeed, she’s invoked in several of the Nansorhon poems.
Other translations I’m reading are from Ukrainian. One of my husband’s colleagues is working in exile on Vogue Ukraine, and the magazine plans to publish a print anthology of contemporary Ukrainian writers–as early as next month!–marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the Russian hostilities aimed at Kyiv. She sent me a few selections of the poems and prose that will appear in the book, and I’m impressed by the writing and the breadth and depth of the literature. And also heartbroken.
Vogue UA had been planning its 10-year anniversary celebration when Russia invaded. The magazine rapidly pivoted to online-only, and its editorial team decided to publish a commemorative print book titled, rather significantly, 9 1/2 Years of Vogue Ukraine (and if you are curious, you can purchase it here). Yes, it’s a high-end fashion magazine–not my usual jam. Proceeds support various Ukrainian cultural organizations (museums, libraries) and female veterans.
The forthcoming book, featuring contemporary Ukrainian prose and poetry, will appear on the Vogue UA site in March or April. I’ll keep my readers apprised…from what I have seen so far, the anthology will be well worth reading.