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I want to begin praising If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova, translated by Steven Seymour (her husband, her muse! how romantic, how intrinsic!) released last month from Knopf, her first collection published in English. These one hundred poems go so far so terrifically fast (almost all under ten lines) that Pavlova seems to intentionally strive to increase poetry’s audience and relevance—this is, after all, Love in the Time of Tweets and Text Messages—with brevity and bravura; meditations for our culture’s dwindling (and, mostly, already shallow) attention spans. This Valentine’s day, send an entire poem to your dearest—take number 14 for example: the lengthy course of a relationship in eighty characters:

No love? Let us make it!
Done. Next? Let us make
care, tenderness, courage,
jealousy, glut, lies.


Now I want to follow Simone’s lead and leave you with a letter, from James Schuyler to Frank O’Hara, found in a charming pocket-sized edition from Turtle Point Press edited by William Corbett. Schuyler writes O’Hara with advice on what poems to include in the manuscript of Meditations in an Emergency, and in the process gives him the kind of generous encouragement we all need from time to time.

New York, New York

1956

Puss-in-boots,

The old crank would like to see “in,” 3 Penny, Now I am quietly waiting, and There I could Never be a Boy.

Can you really leave out Debussy, which I love?

And there’s Les Etiquettes Jaunes, The Starts are tighter (with or without its last stanza, if its last stanza bothers you), and I like Morning very much.

Personally, I like My hearts a-flutter better than the one called Spleen.

And we don’t want to be unfair to “He can rest.” Do we now? Of course we don’t.

Well, give my love to the sky children. We’ll have good times talking about all this.

But mercy, don’t think the straight bolts you shoot from your crystal bow are tipped with marshmallow! They’re unbending yew fletched with eagle feather. (That means, don’t be silly and mistake sincerity and inspiration for sentimentality and goopiness.)

Je t’adore, fils du Baltimore, mon oriol, oiseaux sauvage!
Jimmy

PS I fainted twice and then ascended into the sky (just to the left of the UN Building) when I got to the lines in “There I could never” about “as if I were Endymion. . .”

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Zachary Pace lives in Brooklyn, works at Akashic Books, curates the Projection reading series, co-edits Bridge collaboration journal, and teaches at Mercy College.

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  • Stuart Krimko February 12, 2010, 2:17 am

    fainted just to the left of the UN building, “The Dark Apartment,” heartbreaking:

    Coming from the deli
    a block away today I
    saw the UN building
    shine and in all the
    months and years I’ve
    lived in this apartment
    I took so you and I
    would have a place to
    meet I never noticed
    that it was in my view.
    I remember very well
    the morning I walked in
    and found you in bed
    with X. He dressed
    and left. You dressed
    too. I said, “Stay
    five minutes.” You
    did. You said, “That’s
    the way it is.” It
    was not much of a surprise.
    Then X got on speed
    and ripped off an
    antique chest and an
    air conditioner, etc.
    After he was gone and
    you had changed the
    Segal lock, I asked
    you on the phone, “Can’t
    you be content with
    your wife and me?” “I’m
    not built that way,”
    you said. No surprise.
    Now, without saying
    why, you’ve let me go.
    You don’t return my
    calls, who used to call
    me almost every evening
    when I lived in the coun-
    try. “Hasn’t he told you
    why?” “No, and I doubt he
    ever will.” Goodbye. It’s
    mysterious and frustrating.
    How I wish you would come
    back! I could tell
    you how, when I lived
    on East 49th, first
    with Frank and then with John,
    we had a lovely view of
    the UN building and the
    Beekman Towers. They were
    not my lovers, though.
    You were. You said so.

  • Florencia Varela February 12, 2010, 10:02 pm

    For all you Vera Pavlova lovers: The Poetry Society of America will be hosting her reading this month! Details:

    “Thursday, Feb 25, 7:00pm
    New York, NY
    AN EVENING WITH VERA PAVLOVA

    A reading, in Russian and English, celebrating the publication of the celebrated Russian poet’s first book in English, If There is Something to Desire (Knopf).
    Co-sponsored by The Russian American Foundation.
    $10 / Free for PSA Members and Russian American Foundation Members.

    Grand Gallery, National Arts Club
    15 Gramercy Park South”

    *wonderful site by the way!

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