Shop Talk

The demise of the written word (humanities in general) has been predicted for decades. Yet one literary magazine this year received more entries than ever before to its annual poetry chapbook contest; think about it: during the time of Covid, a poetry chapbook contest drew thousands of entries. Who these days would identify as a poet? Content creator, showrunner, influencer, blogger, streamer, etc. etc. But a poet? Calls for manuscripts clog my email box on a daily basis, There must still be a lot of sensitive souls out there, you just don’t hear much about them.

Go to the Sources page of my website and find the button for Calvert Journal (it’s in the middle of the page toward the bottom). Once in the Calvert Journal, go into the Arts and Culture section and click on Books. Or, click this link. Books — The Calvert Journal

You will find a compendium of articles and photographs and posts about the arts and culture of what we used to call Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union or the New Europe. It’s an interesting journey: Romanian poets, Albanian poets, Lithuanian poets, Slovenian poets, Georgian poets, Czech poets, Ukrainian poets, a wonderland of beautiful poetry.

The philosopher Richard Rorty wrote the following: “To create one’s mind is to create one’s own language, rather than to let the depth of one’s mind be set by the language other human beings have left behind.”

In his book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, George Saunders is conducting a seminar on “writing reading, and life.” The book was published in 2021. He uses Russian writers—Chekhov, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Gogol—as his examples. I found the Chekhov section to be the most valuable. Saunders himself is a great writer, and the insights in the book are worth getting through the pretense of the book as classroom.

Regarding Anton Chekhov (from Wikipedia): “He made formal innovations… to recreate and express the realism of how people truly act and speak with each other…which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.”

In her book Bad Girls Throughout History, Ann Shen chooses one hundred women she deems kick-ass for their contributions to the world we live in. The book was published in 2016.  My four favorites are: Khutulun (1260-1306) the wrestling queen; Hedy Lamar (1914-2000) the queen I’d love to have wrestled; Angela Davis (1944 – ) whose mind I’d still love to wrestle; and Phyllis Diller (1917-2012) whose childhood was tough, her looks being what they were. When they played “spin the bottle” if you really didn’t want to kiss the girl you had to give her a quarter. “By the time I was twelve,” Ms. Diller said “I owned my own home.” The four women I think should be included in the next edition are: The Fabulous Moolah, Serena Williams, Zora Neale Hurston, and Wilma Rudolph.

In her book Nobody is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood gives a fictionalized account of the birth, the six month life, and the death of a child born with Proteus Syndrome (Elephant Man disease). The author writes from the child’s perspective as well as that of the parents and surrounding family. It is a heartbreaking story. Ms. Lockwood writes poetic sentences.

© 2021 Randy Stark

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