Welcome to our newest column, Big Loves, brought to you by our contributing editor Hadara Bar-Nadav. We don’t have to explain it to you, do we? Our first guests for this column are Simone Muench and Stefi Weisburd.
When I was nine years old, my mother presented me with two books for Christmas: a book of Russian fairy tales and a book of Chinese fairy tales, both translated by Marie Ponsot. (I know they were gifts because they were inscribed to me, “Christmas—for Simone from Retta”). On the cover of Russian Fairy Tales, a Slavic prince holds a firebird in a garden with golden apples, while the other book displays a young woman with red chandelier earrings seated in a blue Hanfu near a watery vista. The pages are animated with illustrations of green cranes, crystal tortoises, silver horses, witches and Tsars donned in yellow and cerise silks. For a child they were arcane books, not just the stories but their marvelous entirety: their heaviness, the black latticework of letters, the serif font the size of apple seeds for easy reading, the fricative sigh of pages as I flipped through them in wonderment. It is in these tales that I discovered poetry in the transmogrification of frogs into princesses and falcons into princes, as well as in the various sonic textures: from the match-striking repetition of “She saw a red horseman, on a red horse,” to the marching assonance of “I ask it. Pike, do it. Hatchet, cut the wood.” I loved in these lines how language spins to create frisson and aural electricity. Struck by the spectacles in the stories, like the vertiginously strange, “The cottage spun on its chicken legs,” I think it is these stories that laid the groundwork for my career in poetry as well as led me toward a love of surrealism, especially the poems of Robert Desnos, which similarly are full of whimsy and weirdness, the marvelous and the magical.
Love Whoop For Mary Ruefle
I take off my hat and stay awhile eating pistachios and blood soup because that’s what M. Ruefle serves up in her poems. I am a Great Admirer of M. Ruefle, how she assigns sentences to adjoining desks, how her hair has a lot to say about fire & her dress willows over the reed of her body. When the Maestro of Wite-Out cuts into a pomegranate, I dream of being a pomegranate too; I’m fond of the red aftermath of finitude, which, like pomegranate seeds, go on ad infinitum if fertilized and properly watered. And isn’t that what we all desire? A little nitrogen, a little admiration in our cabbage bed, noticed even after death by M. Ruefle, our dry-and-withereds shepherding memory to the brilliant bloom of the past? Mausoleums and DVD snippets of the departed do nicely for some. But for others, it’s au naturale in organic cardboard buried vertically by a California funeral mogul going green. Planted upright, the corpses slump into the fetal position, which has a nice ring of symmetry to it, going in, going out hunched like M. Ruefle’s ear. I mourn at these graves, sprinkling pomegranate seeds into the loosened earth, while gently holding the arm of M. Ruefle who is wearing a white dress just to attract the most interesting stains.