Ukraine Fundraiser and Reading in Philadelphia by the Cheburashka Collective on March 24

Our friends The Cheburashki, “a growing collective of women & nonbinary writers who are emigres/refugees/first-generation from countries that were once a part of the Eastern bloc,” are hosting a reading in Philadelphia next week. Here’s a great place to find some camaraderie in this time of war and donate money for Ukrainian refugees.

This event is happening in conjunction with AWP, a poets and writers conference that will include several important events with USSR diaspora writers. We made a list.

Here’s their flyer and details of the event:

Details:

Poems and Stories by the Cheburashka Collective

March 24, 6-8 pm

Slought
4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Voices for Ukraine: Video from the Words Together Worlds Apart Reading

Here’s a video from yesterday’s poetry reading featuring poets from Ukraine and their English-language translators. Thanks to poets Olga Livshin and Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach who organized this event 800 people from across the globe came together for Ukraine. This event, put together as a part of an ongoing poetry series Words Together Worlds Apart was a fundraiser, and it’s not too late to DONATE to UNICEF.

Here’s a more comprehensive list of organizations that accept donations for Ukraine.

*Words Together Worlds Apart spearheaded by poet Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach is a virtual reading series. Its mission is: “To maintain & build literary community across distance through our shared love of words. Featured readers will share their work around a weekly theme, followed by interactive discussion.”

Voices for Ukraine: A Words Together Worlds Apart Reading

Many of us have been wondering how to help Ukrainians who are under a renewed attack from Russia. Poets Olga Livshin and Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach have put together a reading by poets from Ukraine writing in Ukrainian and Russian, and translated to English. Read the event description below and register for the event happening March 1 at 12:30pm ET. This message includes links to organizations where you can make donations to support Ukraine in this time of war.

*Words Together Worlds Apart spearheaded by poet Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach is a virtual reading series. Its mission is: “To maintain & build literary community across distance through our shared love of words. Featured readers will share their work around a weekly theme, followed by interactive discussion.”

From Olga and Julia:

Amid the current catastrophe in Ukraine, a brutal invasion of a sovereign nation, it is more urgent than ever to listen to the voices of its people. While media provides overwhelming coverage, literature, poetry, and art are just as important for processing, coping, and surviving trauma.

Hosts Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach and Olga Livshin unite Ukrainian poets and their translators alongside US poet-allies in Voices for Ukraine–a transatlantic reading spanning from Kyiv, Odesa, and Lviv, to LA, Atlanta, Philly, and Little Rock, as well as recordings Ukrainian poets have sent in the event they are unable to join us live due to internet outages and air raids. 

***Please note that you need to register on Zoom. Another way to register is through event page on Facebook.

Readers include:

Ilya Kaminsky
Katie Farris
Carolyn Forché
Boris Khersonsky *
Lyudmyla Khersonska *
Lyuba Yakimchuk *
Iya Kiva *
Oksana Lutsyshyna

Oksana Maksymchuk *
Dzvinia Orlowsky
Vitaly Chernetsky
Yuliya Chernyshova *
Danyil Zadorozhnyi *
Ostap Slyvynsky *
Katherine E Young

Boris Dralyuk
Olena Jennings
Amelia Mukamel Glaser
Yuliya Ilchuk
Hilah Kohen
Joy David
Victoria Juharyan

We need their voices and they need our support and collective action. Our solidarity! (*indicates poets speaking from Ukraine).  

There is a suggested $5 donation to support the reading series, which can be paid via Venmo @ Julia-Dasbach or PayPal: jkolch@gmail.com. Contributions are always welcome but never required, anything you give, big or small, helps. 90% of all the funds collected today go towards https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/unicef-children-are-bearing-brunt-intensifying-crisis-ukraine/39481 getting humanitarian aid to the children in Ukraine. For more reputable organizations you can donate to, see the following list: https://helpukrainewin.org/?ref=producthunt&fbclid=IwAR0z0tCZO_rqfVKHThRbwptC3VaSwVC9aHrXxFvTwsn550f7jjxk-UYtOMU

Even through this unbearable ache, let’s try to find solace in each other’s words together, as we stay worlds apart.

Going to AWP22? Panels not to miss!

Annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs is coming up March 23-26, and will be held in Philadelphia as well as online. The conference will include a number of events featuring writers that we follow, writers with a connection to the former Soviet Union and diaspora spaces. Take a look at our list, and please note that some of these will be in-person, while others are virtual.

T119. Publishing Your First Story Collection (Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry, Matthew Lansburgh, Caroline Kim, Rachel Swearingen, Jen Fawkes)

Finding a publisher for a collection of short stories continues to be a daunting task. Five prize-winning authors lead a discussion detailing their journeys to publishing their first books. They will talk about how they landed their first publications, how they developed and shaped their short story collections, how they began to look for publishers, and other related topics such as submitting fiction to journals and national contests, querying agents, and overcoming rejection.

T145. Artist & Scholar: What to Expect & How to Thrive in a Creative Writing PhD (Tatiana Duvanova, Afua -Rachel- Ansong, Jerriod Avant, Sue Y. Kim)

PhD programs require artists to deftly navigate academia in ways that are distinct from MFA programs. Panelists will share what aspects of the PhD experience can aid the creative process and prepare candidates for post-PhD careers. Topics include how to utilize critical research—such as course work and comprehensive exams—to build a creative bank, how to establish a committee, and how to fashion an inspiring writing community while fulfilling the challenging requirements of a PhD program.

T177. Re-Presenting the Past: Poets Writing the Holocaust Toward a Humane Future (Maya Pindyck, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Elana Bell, Luisa Muradyan, Alicia Ostriker)

What can writing poetry about the intergenerational trauma of the Holocaust do to address white supremacy? How can Jewish poets—specifically mothers—rewrite a narrative of exceptionalism for future generations while staying true to the particularities of Holocaust trauma? This panel takes up these questions through the voices of five poets, all mothers, whose writing explores intersections of Jewish trauma, inheritance, motherhood, and poetry’s capacities for antiracist work.

T184. L’Chaim! Celebrating Jewish Poetry in the Third Millennium (Matthew Silverman, Nancy Naomi Carlson, Ilya Kaminsky, Joy Ladin, Zilka Joseph)

What is a “Jewish poem”? Come find out as we read from 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium, a new anthology, featuring voices that range from emerging to established, both Jewish and non-Jewish, as well as several translations. The themes range from observing Jewish traditions to more modern ones, such as same-sex marriage and nonfaith. With the rise in anti-Semitism and other hate crimes in this country, it is more important now than ever before to celebrate diversity.

F127. Admit It, You’re Writing a Poem: Ars Poetica & the Awkward Confession (Chloe Martinez, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Diamond Forde, Rachel Zucker, Matthew Olzmann)

An ars poetica is a poem about poetry, one that makes an argument about what poetry should be or that explores why we write. In writing an ars poetica, though, poets must also confess to craft, artifice, and intention—to this strange thing we’re doing, making art out of life. What else comes out when we pull back the curtain on our own making? What does this form give us permission to say? Panelists will read and discuss both their own work and key examples by others; audience Q&A will follow.

F142. Writing Resilience: A Reading by Neurodiverse Writers (Larissa Shmailo, Jonathan Penton, Meg Tuite, Anna Fridlis, Sandra Kleven)

This reading features writers affected by trauma, addiction, and/or mental illness. Panelists will present their stories to empower themselves and others who have these stigmatized disabilities. Panelists will come out as neurodiverse as they inspire their listeners with their literary memoirs; audience members, including the neurotypical, will be able to identify with their struggles, triumphs, and resilience. The panel will demonstrate that mentally ill does not mean mentally weak.

F207. Translingual Philadelphia: A Reading by the Transversal Translation Collective (Elizabeth Rose, Hilah Kohen, Nicholas Glastonbury , Meg Arenberg, Carlos José Pérez Sámano )

Transversal is a translation collective formed during the pandemic to give translators in the Philadelphia area and across the world a virtual place to form connections, build accountability, and share work and resources. A diverse assemblage of language pairs, backgrounds, and abilities, Transversal has quickly become an important gathering space for many. Five translators from the collective will contextualize their work, share insights into translator solidarity, and give a bilingual reading.

F208. Expanding the Fictional Terrain: Four Writers, Four Collections, Four Awards (Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry, Caroline Kim, Michael X- Wang, Rachel Swearingen)

From social realism to speculative fiction, from American tales to immigrant lit, from heterosexual narratives to LGBTQ stories—Caroline Kim (the 2020 Drue Heinz Literature Prize), Michael X. Wang (the 2021 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize), Rachel Swearingen (the 2018 New American Fiction Prize), and Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry (the 2020 Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction) will read from their award-winning collections on themes of love, loss, and cultural identity.

S112. What Kind of Times Are These?: Immigrant Poets & the New Politics of Resistance (Olga Livshin, Mariya Deykute, Lana Spendl, Larissa Shmailo, Anna Halberstadt)

Adrienne Rich writes: “I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled / this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here.” This panel is about English language poets from Eastern Europe writing about the parallels between their homes and the US: nationalism, nativism, homophobia, and human rights abuses. We discuss new strategies of resistance for more than one culture and explore how poets co-opt the language of oppressors for their own power.

S159. The Art of Pitching Nonfiction: How to Sell Your Essays, Reporting, & More (Caleb Johnson, Irina Zhorov, Jenny Tinghui Zhang, Latria Graham)

The first impression a writer makes on an editor happens in the pitch. But what exactly does a successful pitch look like? How long should one even be? What elements should a pitch contain in order to get that coveted assignment? Four writers with experience publishing reportage, essays, profiles, and other nonfiction discuss how to grab an editor’s attention with a pitch that tells a compelling story and how to pivot if a pitch gets turned down.

S161. The Lyric Field: The State of Indie Poetry Publishing Now & in the Future (Marc Vincenz, Dennis Maloney, Matvei Yankelevich, Peter Conners)

Established indie publishers White Pine Press, Ugly Duckling Press, MadHat Press, and BOA Editions discuss the ins and outs of the current sphere of independent poetry publishing. Topics willl include the manuscript selection process (including contests and open submissions), layout and design, PR, marketing, distribution, reviews, the real economics of running a successful poetry press, current trends and waves, technology, and the future.

S177. Deep Vellum Presents: First- & Second-Generation Immigrant Writers (Sebastián Páramo, Fowzia Karimi, Sophia Terazawa, Taisia Kitaiskaia, Mike Soto)

In 2020, Deep Vellum, a press with its origins in publishing works in translation, made the decision to publish stateside authors. By happenstance, many of the debut authors were children of immigrants. Panelists discuss their work and what it means to be American authors publishing alongside works in translation.

Got more? Share them in the comments. And if you attend and want to share your impressions, please send your notes and pictures to puncturedlines [at] gmail.com.

Soviet Diaspora Poetry Reading by the Cheburashka Collective

We love seeing creative artists adjust to the current time. Being on the West Coast, I have often regretted not having access to the literary events that take place on the East Coast (to speak nothing of events in Russia proper.) Here comes the recording of the Cheburashka Collective reading recorded on April 1st, 2020 on Zoom, via Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania.

Virtual Happy Hour of writers with the former Soviet Union connection

This week AWP, or Association of Writers and Writing Programs, is holding its annual conference in San Antonio, TX. Many of the attendees, however, have opted to stay home due to the increased risk of the corona virus outbreak. An important component of this conference is a massive book fair, at which hundreds of independent presses and literary journals sell their stock. To compensate for the losses of this already financially strained community, people are organizing several initiatives.

First of all, there’s #AWPVirtualBookfair Twitter hashtag, under which you will find links to lots of publishers who are offering significant discounts of their stock. Trevor Ketner started the #AWPVirtualBookfair Google Doc, where you can find a comprehensive list of participating publishers, and Natalie Eilbert creating the AWP Virtual Bookfair for Authors Doc. Justin Greene created a handy list of publishers on Entropy, that includes the discount codes. Point being: the best way to support literary arts and independent publishing is to buy our books.

One of my plans for this conference was to co-host a happy hour for writers and translators working on material related to the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, both my co-host Olga Livshin and I decided to cancel, as did most of the people we hoped would take part. I envisioned that this happy hour would help us, in part, to build a sense of community and help us brainstorm ways in which we can support each other’s work. So, in that spirit, here is an image gallery followed by a list of these titles with links, where you can buy the books.

Gala Mukomolova, Without Protection, from Coffee House Press

Irina Reyn, Mother Country, from St. Martin’s Publishing Group

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Don’t Touch the Bones, from Lost Horse Press

Olga Livshin, A Life Replaced, from Poets & Traitors Press

Olga Zilberbourg, Like Water and Other Stories, from WTAW Press

Katherine E. Young, Day of the Border Guards, The University of Arkansas Press

Larissa Shmailo, Sly Bang, from Spuyten Duyvil

Marina Blitshteyn, Two Hunters, from Argos Press

Mariya Deykute, her website

Mary Jane White, Starry Sky to Starry Sky, from Holy Cow! press

Ruth Madievsky, Emergency Brake, from Tavern Press

Valzhyna Mort, Music for the Dead and Resurrected, from FSG

* If you don’t see a book that you wish to be included, please leave a comment!

Q&A with Olga Livshin: A Life Replaced (Poets and Traitors Press, 2019)

Today on Punctured Lines, our Q&A with Olga Livshin, author of the recently released A Life Replaced: Poems with translations from Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Gandelsman. We announced the book’s arrival here and you can listen to a podcast discussing it here. She and Olga Zilberbourg will be reading from their collections at an upcoming event in Rochester, NY on November 9, 2019. Olga answered our questions by email.

You wrote a book in which you both translated Akhmatova’s and Gandelsman’s work and wrote original poems that are, directly or indirectly, in dialogue with them. Describe, briefly, your writing process. 

I like the idea of going beyond the one voice–the idea of poetry as a play, and of a book as a porous object, absorbing other energies. There are three characters here: I translated two modernist Russian poets, and then I wrote responses to their work, some of which are imitations. Poets & Traitors Press has this format that fit what I was doing really well. They publish poems based on translations, poems that speak to these translations. So rather than publish a typical poetry collection, which, if you think about it, is this continuous solo for something like 50 or 80 pages, these Poets & Traitors books are a bit like jazz. They’re inclusive. They invent and improvise. Their dynamics are pluralistic and lively.

What were the differences in how you approached writing vs. translating poetry? 

It’s pretty seamless. When I translate, it’s a bit like giving a voice, and it’s also implicit dialogue, of course, since translation is interpretation–it’s full of choices. And when I write back, or talk back, the dialogue goes further. All of this, though, is part of the same kind of play: where the characters depend on one another and echo each other.  

What about translating/“talking to” Akhmatova? 

Yeah, “talking to,” for sure! Akhmatova is an author that a lot of mothers who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s quoted to their daughters–my mom quoted her to me. And I think a lot of people thought–still think–of her as a symbol of stoicism and of grieving wisdom, a model for how to live with dignity and defend fellow others under repressive regimes. In our family, she was like this Lilith, great mother, forever strong and even raging. It was rather difficult: you know, she was someone you could quote, but never be, right? Then I went to grad school to get my PhD in Slavic Studies, and I learned that some prominent literary scholars had showed that she was no angel, she was a full human with flaws, and–they wished to show–that she was rather a monster. I think both of these extremes are kind of silly. In my book I don’t so much aim to dethrone as to discover.  There’s a different Akhmatova than the one people know: brazen and humorous behind all that mighty moral raging. She’s a perpetual child, even in her later work, trusting love for love’s sake, no matter what life did to her. “To me, in poetry, everything should be out of line,” she writes, “Not how these things are done. / I wish you knew what garbage sprouts poems….” I want to know about this bold, hidden girl, and I want people to know her.

How about translating/“talking to” Gandelsman?

He is closer to me and thus less hidden. Vladimir Gandelsman was born in 1948 and came of age in Leningrad before it turned into St. Petersburg and before he left for the United States, where he lives now. He’s an immigrant like me, and he has similar instances of alienation. So when it comes to his work, I’m basically a devotee. I aim to push this writer forward and amplify his voice. Gandelsman’s work has such a unique way of balancing human emotions such as irritation and anxiety with this amazing appreciation of small joyful moments, which are just sublime in his work. Gandelsman, to my eye, transcends what so many poets and writers in Russia had: this hatred of byt, the everyday.  There was a bunch of visionary philosophers a hundred years ago, they all wished to go beyond our biological and biographical limitations. Beyond the body, beyond the home. On the other hand, Gandelsman is the supreme discoverer of light in the dust of the domestic. And in nature, which he paints in some beautifully minimalist ways. And in one’s own family, even in some difficult moments. He is a very generous poet. Where I write in parallel are poems of small joy: he has a small bird in the sky, I have little mushrooms; he has a hallowed moment of immigrant recognition of oneself in an American-grown boy, I have recognition of a Syrian immigrant’s stories in our own tales of self. I want to help this voice be in the world and take on new forms, in English, and in my little sprouts off it.

Other than Gandelsman, what is your relationship with contemporary Russian literature in general?

I enjoy some voices. Maria Stepanova. Vassia Borodin. Polina Barskova, in the US. And then in Ukraine, so much great and heartbreaking poetry in Russian is coming out from people writing about the war. Boris Khersonsky and Lyudmyla Khersonska. I really like Anastasia Afanasieva’s work. Iya Kiva’s poetry. There is an incredible urgency to these voices, and they’re profoundly intertextual, in dialogue with other language about war and violence, going all the way back to the Bible and all the way forward to how Russian and Ukrainian TV talks about war.

In addition to the two in your book, who are some of the writers that inspire you?

There is a flowering of immigrant and first-generation American poetry now. So many rich voices. From the better known, such as Chen Chen and Ocean Vuong, to those that should be better known. Ahmad Almallah’s recent book Bitter English addresses issues of writing in English as an immigrant. Jenna Le has gorgeous poems that capture the intersection of girlhood and growing up Vietnamese-American in Minnesota. Ananda Lima has made fine, strange, surrealist prose as well as poetry that looks at issues of home and motherhood in the context of being an immigrant. I love how these poets echo certain ruins of their cultural past with not-quite utopias of their American present. 

Do you find yourself working against some Russian cultural stereotypes?

Ha! I have carried so much shame about these for so many years. It’s kind of gone, but of course you can’t quite get rid of it. But that’s what writing is for–finding a voice that is more complicated than these stereotypes and insisting on maintaining that voice. Both in your writing and also, once you find it, the beautiful thing is, you can take it wherever you find it relevant. 

As a writer one of whose major topics is immigration, do you find yourself connecting with other diaspora writers?

I like Boris Fishman’s prose. Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach is one of my favorite Russian American poets. A fellow Russian-speaking Ukrainian Jew, she just published a fiery poetry collection called The Many Names for Mother. It’s such a bittersweet exploration of motherhood and the infinite in the context of her origins, both feminine and Soviet/ Ukrainian/Jewish. It’s so, so good.

How do you relate to feminist ideas and navigate the gap between the different gender expectations in American vs. Russian cultures? Do you see any shift of Russian gender norms in the diaspora?

So I got pretty lucky: I grew up with a mother who has a strong personality and who worked at this beautiful glorious music school in Moscow, where we lived from when I was 7 to when I was 14 and we moved to the US. To me, she channeled powerful feminist thought, although that’s not language she used. Yes, we dressed up, but it was to strut our stuff and have fun, not in order to please a man. I also grew up in a family where everyone had worked: both grandmas, my mom, all her female ancestors were peasants. So there was a version of Soviet and Russian homespun feminism that may be problematic and all, it wasn’t perfect, the guys didn’t necessarily help out, but at least there’s that gender modeling of strong women. There is this concept of the matriarchy, and also of women working for generations. 

I find it more irksome to navigate some situations with expectations for women from white Anglo-American upper middle class and upper class backgrounds. There’s an awful lot of stuff that I have trouble relating to, not only helicopter parenting or beautiful thin appearances in beautiful thin yoga pants, but also stay-at-home motherhood. That stuff is hard! It’s really a terrible thing when you know people who live according to those expectations–fraught with depression and with not being recognized as a human being. And when I was a stay-at-home–uh, poet–in our rather affluent suburb, I didn’t wear that identity, but the expectations were quite definite. But I think that the Russian strong woman, not unlike one that Akhmatova wanted people to think she was, wanted people to believe she could be, it’s an ideal and all, but it’s really a fantastic thing to embody. It’s a bigger expectation than the “little woman” that’s stuck around in our America. The resilient, powerful Russian lady–that’s a tall expectation, and it calls on us to stand tall, and I’m proud of that idea.