May 1999 Café Society's Poetry News Update
Do you have any poetry news? Do you have any comments for the Readers' Letters section? If so, mail me on the email link at the bottom of this page. This is a non-commercial site - competitions and calls for submissions can be announced here free.


Marek Lugowski by B. Callaghan at the Mass Carnage,
a rec.arts.poems picnic organized in Massachussets by
Robin Sommo and Bettina Callaghan, Summer '98
Marek Lugowski, born February 15, 1959, Warsaw, Poland, works currently in computer programming, analysis and design at Northwestern University's Institute for the Learning Sciences. He has been doing this since August 1992.

Marek graduated with an MS in 1984 in Computer Science from Indiana University, and worked until 1990 on his doctorate, without ever finishing. During that time and later he worked in the industry (Texas Instruments) and the academia (University of New Hampshire) in the fields of neural networks and artificial life technology.

He likes to think that his computer immersion shows in his poetry as precise treatment of language. For example, he spent the 1983-1984 year at the Massachussets Institute of Technology's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory accompanying Douglas Hofstadter on his sabbatical, translating and corresponding with the Polish Science Fiction and philosophy writer Stanislaw Lem, as well as learning about fluid analogies, an area of research by Professor Hofstadter and a model of how humans think.

Now, as a poet and editor, Marek writes and posts poems on rec.arts.poems, as well as edits a small volunteer-staffed press, A Small Garlic Press, a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Illinois Corporation. At ASGP Marek co-edits its magazine, Agnieszka's Dowry (AgD) with katrina grace craig. Other members of ASGP perform webmastering and other tasks such as minding the accounting and finances.

Marek also contributes editing and poetry to CrossConnect, a journal and a paper anthology at Kelly's Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

These days Marek is a translator of modern literature from the Polish, concentrating on the late great Halina Poswiatowska. His translations can be readily found on rec.arts.poems through and other internet browsers. Marek is hoping to publish these translations as a facing-edition book, together with the original Polish.

A Small Garlic Press in its three and a half life-span has put out 22 titles, all of them beautifully and professionally printed chapbooks. They can be obtained directly or as special order from or any bookstore via Books in Print.

ASGP started in 1995 with Marek's own first chapbook, Utah Poems. His second chapbook for ASGP is Selamat Jalan, Mate, his poetic impressions from Indonesia and Australia. It is one of the 1996 ASGP books.

ASGP's current officers include katrina grace craig (VP editing), jen jensen (webmaster and VP technology), and Rene Rivera (treasurer). All of the officers of ASGP live far apart from one another, except Marek and Rene who live in Chicago. Several other people help ASGP as friends. All are geographically dispersed. ASGP is a true Internet press in all its manifestations.

In addition to his ongoing translation of Halina Poswiatowska shown only on Usenet, Marek has translated a play with embedded poems of Agnieszka Osiecka, "The Drunken Hare", as well as 25 poems of Wislawa Szymborska (with Joanna Trzeciak). The Halina Poswiatowska effort is a multi-year on-going one, all the way back to 1990: 324 poems have been shown on rec.arts.poems, together with the original Polish, for inspection and to facilitate scholarship. This is a pro bono effort, dedicated to scholarship and making Halina Poswiatowska's poetry available to the American reader in a clean, idiomatic American translation.

Marek's own work, collaborations with other authors, both on-going and past, polemic, criticism, amusements and all manner of lexical intercourse can be found often on Usenet's rec.arts.poems. An occasional poem or featured collections have been solicited by and placed in Beloit College's High Beans, The Astrophysicist Tango Partner Speaks, Imps in the Inkwell, Loose Ends, Conspire, UPenn's CrossConnect and Poetry Cafe's Anthology, and a handful of little presses. Marek's earliest multi-poem installation is to be found in the 1982 Collage, the creative writing annual anthology of Northern Kentucky University, Marek's alma mater.

Poetry L & T:When did you first start writing poetry, Marek, and what inspired you at the time?
Marek Lugowski: This question should be addressed to my mother -- she is my best fan and archivist. I suppose in some early grade of grade school or other, in Polish. But I can categorically answer that it had to entail women. My fellow third grader women, that is. And our fabulously long-legged woman teachers, towering over us.

I rememer love notes smuggled in class containing all sort of figurative language about our forces advancing. Looking back it's amusing to me that I co-opted military language to be my language of love. I hope this is amusing, anyway. Military love, victimless but full of conquest...

Poetry L & T:Yes, it is a fun way of looking at it. And did poetry help you conquer the old enemy of teenage self-consciousness, in approaching girls?
Marek Lugowski:Certainly not! I think writing about women and chasing them go hand in hand as they do with any shyness about it, teenage or otherwise. I should simply say that women were and are the main theme - themes? - of my poetry.
Poetry L & T:As a bilingual poet, do you find that some Polish words have a rare beauty or qualities that do not translate so well into English?
Marek Lugowski:This is necessarily true and goes both ways. I should note that I am skewed towards being an American English poet. My command of the lexicon is far better in English. This is why I dare translate only from the Polish to the English - in literary translation.

I recommend Douglas Hofstadter's various writings about translation and analogies in this regard. When one can't get it right directly, one has to artfully step back and try a different route to render the problematic idiomatic meaning via different target language. I am a great disbeliever in the "untranslatable". Things should at least be explicable -- and I am restricting myself to Polish and English, since that is all I know.

Poetry L & T:What do you find is the hardest thing about poetry translation?
Marek Lugowski:Getting the thing finely right. There is an overarching sense of best choices. I am not saying that there is always one best choice, but there clearly is a concentric target, or perhaps lumps of concentric targets, and one can fall further from grace than closer. :)
Poetry L & T:No doubt the early days of "A Small Garlic Press" going online were exciting. Was it easy putting the first chapbook into production, or do you have any cautionary tales for anyone going into similar ventures?
Marek Lugowski:Anyone going into printing poetry is clearly in it for the trouble of it. :) It's very rewarding in trouble, especially with the printers. Printers, I am convinced, are a diabolical invention to keep publishers from thinking they are demigods. Our first venture was not on-line poetry. It was in fact Utah Poems, my first chapbooks, and we premiered it at the Underground Press Conference in Chicago at Depaul University in the summer of 1995. It was great fun. Preparing the book for print and fussing with the cover as copier art was a great deal of fun, too. I lucked out in hooking up with a fellow expatriate Pole for printer and he was very good, so much so I was left unprepared for what was to come since, which is to say, 22 lovely books. :)

Cautionary tales? Nah. Do it cuz you want to. In our case it involved incorporating as a non-profit organization and obtaining ISBN numbers and printing digital-direct from files on Xerox Docutechs. Every one of these items, some perhaps incomprehensible to our readers, felt like a martial arts degree of attainment. Are we black belts yet? :)

Poetry L & T:I was impressed when I went to the website. I like the corporate style as well as the poetry. Who designs the covers and format of the books?
Marek Lugowski:We as a group do a lot of second-pass deciding but I suppose I should take credit for most of the books. LeeAnn Heringer when she was part of the press also designed some. I suppose it was mostly LeeAnn and I switching off on things. But now it's just me. On the other hand, we all generate art for our covers or ask outsiders or our authors for elements of same.
Poetry L & T:What special qualities do you look for in the work of a poet wishing to be published by ASGP?
Marek Lugowski:It's simple: Both katja and I have to love it. People without a strongly discriminating sense of I-love-this have no business editing poetry. This means predominantly rejecting things. It gets downright agonizing when rejecting almost-shoe-ins. Sometimes katja convinces me, and sometimes I katja. I suppose it's like refined fishing. You basically wait and reject - keep catching 'em and throwing back.
Poetry L & T:Is there any bad writing habit that really irritates you, making you reject a poet almost immediately?
Marek Lugowski: There are too many to list. Compare the process to shopping for produce in a supermarket. But really, given that our on-line issues are open for public inspection while we fill them with acceptances, it is exceedingly difficult to complete them. Most submissions will be immediate rejections. Then we agonize endlessly over the ones we care about.
Poetry L & T:To tie in with this month's poetry theme, Marek, what is your personal definition of poetry?
Marek Lugowski:I don't have one. I used to joke that poetry is anything with a title, underlined all the way to the right, everything tabbed in two tab stops.

Looking back it's not so much a joke but a bleak formalist definition that has some utility. It's the "what is good poetry" that makes sense to ask, anyway. I would then try to answer it as whatever succeeds in transplanting the mind. I have a firm sense of loving poems. Perhaps I edit a press and co-edit its magazine because doing so is the most economical answer to your question. There is simply no lapidary answer. I answer by doing.

Poetry L & T:Would you say that while we can analyse each other's work, looking too closely at our own might endanger the spontaneity of inspiration?
Marek Lugowski:No, I would not say that at all. I am all for looking closely. And if someone's spontaneity of inspiration is that fragile as to become endangered by looking too closely -- they are second-rate as creators and need to beef up that aesthetical backbone of theirs. I am simply against pat encapsulation.
Poetry L & T:Who is your favourite classic or modern well-know poet and what do you like about their work?
Marek Lugowski:Anne Sexton. I like how it puts me in her mind -- or should I say, her mind in mine.
Poetry L & T:Lastly Marek, do you have any advice for anyone wishing to begin writing poetry or poets wishing to be published for the first time?
Marek Lugowski:Sure. Come to rec.arts.poems and write the bejesus out of yourself. Sooner or later you will get approached by various participating e-zines, or possibly earn forever-lasting ridicule. I've seen both happen.

Rec.arts.poems is a spontaneous free marketplace albeit full of flowing sewage. Yet that is one of its strenghts - flowing sewage is a mark of accessibility. The economics of writing poetry as a newbie indicate a total absence of market, unless one goes out to read one's poetry at open mikes or some such. So by posting to rec.arts.poems one gets a leg up on readership - and possibly on criticism. Go for it.

Poetry L & T:Thank you for the interview, Marek.


                in eggshell, egg 

     	moment one
     	i spy you out
     	you with a blonde smile
     	i latch onto your prairie warmth
     	like a kiss
     	anxieties of recognition
     	i want to kiss you
     	we lock our cold warm hands
	moment two
     	we're in the yale marble eggshell
     	nearby, the cubist egg of old books
     	is incubating stacked memories
     	under sodium
     	glowing behind glass
     	so does your white courduroy
     	and your white knit sweater
     	and your wheat prairie hair
     	your reflections let me know
     	what not to bump into
     	moment three
     	we have pizza and beer
     	we are aware and aware
     	of our supreme fit
     	we glow like coals, like pizza oven coals
     	our prairie warmth is one flame now
     	this is the seventh hour of ours
	moment three be
     	train station goodbyes
     	i do kiss you, delicately, deliciously, not enough
     	it's there
     	in my bearhug
	i do love you
     	i know
     	moments can be so
                                © Marek Wojciech Lugowski  
                                13 December 1988
                    	Greenwich Village, New York City

		at three and one time only
		you've such a slender wrist dawn
		i can brace it enclose it encircle it my
		thumb opposes its fingers and meets them
		see, middle ring index even the little one.
		you've such a mauvemelt voice dawn
		i can stir it recall it imagine it or
		furrow it into a sunlakegleam
		with a quip or a pun.
		you've such a shiny gown of black dawn
		i can lift it let go of it twist it or tuck it
		behind your bonsai ear
		sweep across its curtain, my hand a key
		of geese against your rising sun.
		not quite the northbound key, maybe
		for your eastborn secrets dawn
		but i do talk dusklakeloud and i do
		handsomely show
		against you.
		you've such an erotic arch dawn
		like the one in st. louis i went to see
		at three and one time only.
		to enter you to cross the sacred line of you
		to make that special find of you
		or hang around you
		watch you race in soft reflections
		suffuse me, run your course through me
		in turn
		to warm you smoothen you cherish you
		obey all physical laws with you
		while stirring you
		with that special gift of unjaded fingers
		to so accompany the stars whose sound-off
		we await some 19 years on average
		stars who measure our time
		boiling off their hot coronas
		like there's no tomorrow.
		the stars are astride abright
		even in the lightstained skies
		singing mightily if off-key (doppler shift)
		heard only faintly
		in st. louis at three, somewhat crisper
		in santa fe at two.
		nonetheless these sunken drunken stars
		potluck their choicest stories
		for our dim sung dinners light as always
		glistening, glowing, gliding blackbodies
		cascading like pointilistic water,
		smoothening the bone within you
		smoothening the bone within st. louis
		our ornery mothers, these stars, steady and explosive
		corrosive stars crosseyed under our checkered flags
		like the surly bulls at the floodlit mesquite rodeos
		the checker waves them in
		with stationary tiles
		in standing waves of liquid artificial life
		they file in under no protest
		like cattle unwavering
		in their staunch mute opposition.
		embarrassed by our stars' stubborn drinking
		we look the other way, referring to their fiery belching
		as twinkling.
		given such brouhaha, how am i to petition these stars
		for a discrete dispensation from gentle protocol
		and a special spicy permission
		to befriend your stationary pores
		all of them
		without limitations and exclusions
		a heartrending heartpounding admission.
		what sweet ache it would be
		to cross underneath your arch, maybe
		-- stars permitting
		to enter you, yes
		-- stars twinkling
		to cross your sacred line, perhaps
		-- stars flying
		with my own.
		arrest that thought.
		perish its consequences.
		there is a wonderful reason for the protocol
		to hold.  it's a green day where i write from
		i breathe in
		the smell of morning roses and afternoon lumber
		though she's not here to remind me
		i stand so reminded
		on my wobbly own.
		you're such a star, marek...
		oh dawn
		i did inhale you exhale you eclipse you
		in a christening hug
		i did not write these inflammatory words
		to mock.  this is not
		enough of a communion for us two
		i know.
		one of these days one
		of these...
		like canadian geese
		only slightly off course
		we shall go, take the hajj
		to st. louis
		at three and one time only
		to court and spark
		the bone within st. louis
		with our shared birthday
		thirteen years slender
		no match for any cosmic wristhold
		for a moment of peace and infinity of
		commitment glimpsed forever thataway
		though here unknown in this space
		beneath the bone we shall glimpse
		for a moment of good
		for unbordered yet bounded love
		(says stephen hawking)
		for euphoric ether in volume sold
		to educational institutions at a discount
		for once that instant
		for ever and ever and ever
		(okay, okay -- for 19 raised to the 31st power)
		and there we will be told
		by the steering committee
		and we will believe them
		welcome home
		and we will properly welcome
		our home.
		   Marek Wojciech Lugowski
		   10 - 14 May 1990
		   Evanston, IL / Cincinnati, OH / Lake Monroe, IN

	black pepper grrrl (one.  two.)
	i met a grrrl and her name is
	not important.  i've been thinking of
	her.  but now i can taste.  this grrrl on my mouth.		
	the grrrl glows like jaunty-arsed black pepper.	
	i know cuz i just had some.
	just had some.  just now
	she's glowing me hot.  and i wonder what if she can't sleep.
	just now.  would that not.
	one.   she couldn't sleep here.  would that not.
	two.   be asking no fair.
	Marek Lugowski
	one.  two.   September 1994
	Chicago, Illinois


		when nothing poignant or funny
		comes to mind
		the first next thing that comes to mind
		is to ask the psychtrix to relent
		and do away with the daily poem

		dear psychtrix
		although you won't see this until monday at 5
		i dearly ask -- am i not well enough already?
		don't i strike you as having healed?

		i would like to return to my happy blocked state
		occasionally punctuated by a brilliant poem

		i find that this daily scheduled writing
		is maybe okay for my fans and lurking perverts
		but is taking me out of the contention
		for the really fine occasional poem

		like too much steady sex
		like being marrieds

			Marek Lugowski
			18 February 1999
			Chicago, Illinois

Click the above banner for full details of an exciting new poetry competition by Katja. She runs a website that features performance-based poetry, including RealAudio and animated illustrations.

The winning poem will be hosted in audio/graphic performance format at her site (read and designed, as much as possible, by the poet). She will also help the winner to launch a site at geocities or a similar free space with the poem if desired. May 31st is the deadline for submissions. Since Katja is not charging a contest entry fee, unfortunately there is also no prize money for this contest. But her site has hundreds of hits on a regular basis and your poetry could have a chance of being seen by publishing editors.


Dear Poets,

This issue features an interview with poet Marek Lugowski, an American/Polish poet who is a regular on the newsgroup rec.arts.poems. As editor of the online "A Small Garlic Press" website, he has some interesting comments for anyone wishing to bring out a poetry chapbook for the first time.

There is also news of a poetry competition, which closes at the end of May. It is all about animated or performance-based poetry. See Katja's banner, above.

The theme for this month's poetry section is the definition of poetry and what it means to each contributor. Many thanks to all who sent in their work. I have enjoyed reading all the submissions.

Any comments on this issue or back issues can be emailed to me on the link at the bottom of the page.

Best Regards,


Josh Hill

JOSHUA P. HILL was recently interviewed by Welsh poet Mop from alt.arts.poetry.comments on her April edition of The Cauldron, which also featured above picture. More of his poetry can be found on the site and on the alt.arts.poetry.comments newsgroup.
© Josh Hill

A tea club poet laureate,
At all the best Chautaquas trained,
Whose "ohs," "alacks," and gleaming "thous"
Win honors from the slightly brained;

A fat gray-bearded beatnkik dude
Whose tats have faded with the years
As has his verse, once oh so lude,
Now long dissolved in endless beers;

A weary aged courtesan,
Her face new sewn with surgeon's string,
Yet earning just despising glance,
A sad and desperate painted thing;

If you were birds, the lot of you,
You'd all be shrink-wrapped chicken breast!
So sing the praise of Frank Perdue,
And count yourselves sublimely blessed.

© Josh Hill

Could I encompass in my unstaved line
The sum complete of mankind's joy and woe,
And every day upon which sun did shine
Or glowered clouds poured chilling rain below;
Could I conjure from tears a blood dark sea,
And with a smile, endow a waste with blooms,
Or with a wave all blessed ends decree,
Proclaiming heaven where dark shadow looms;
But I cannot. Mine is a fiddler's bow,
That scrapes at best a merry country dance,
And leaves the dancer with a pleasant glow
That passes like a summer eve's romance.

Until, that is, I hear your noble line;
Then mankind's all is for one moment mine. [email protected]

Colour Tip Bird by Jan Sand

JAN SAND, poet and illustrator from New York, is a regular contributor to Poetry Life & Times. and the newsgroup alt.arts.poetry.comments. A great deal of his work is about animals, or science fiction.

To see more of Jan's poem and illustrations, visit the November '98 issue of Poetry Life & Times, and scroll down past the Editor's Letter.

© Jan Sand

Words are the footsteps
Of ideas across the mind.
Ideas can walk softly, surely,
Or stumble as if blind.
They may make pathways straight
From precept to conclusion
Or struggle around rocks and crags
Gaining bruises and contusion.
Some ideas fly far overhead
Into and out of clouds
Calling words almost unsaid,
Shape forms and hues from mystery,
Flash by at the corners of the eye,
Trailing evanescent history,
Speak quick hellos, a faint goodbye.
But my favorites swirl and dance,
Sometimes stomp, sometimes leap
From glowing rocks, blooming plants
Or somersault from out of sleep.
They sing, they laugh, they grin in glee
From stories, songs, sagas, books
Holding hoards of poetry.

© Jan Sand

The words gather at the poet's feet.
They yip, they yap, stand on hind legs
To lick his face. He gently strokes their vowels,
Feels the strength of their consonants,
Laughs when they nip each other's heels
And they bark, they leap in eagerness,
Yelp when they bang into each other.
"Come," he cries, "run with me!"
And the obedient pack, fiercely aroused,
Runs with him across the sunlit fields,
Through dark forests and over streams
Into nightmares and sweet dreams.

© Jan Sand

There are days when I go hungry for ideas.
Modules of innovation seem mass produced,
Over-worked, preprocessed, replete with culpa meas,
Contours flattened, colors grayed, energies reduced.
It's then I sit with listless pen and vacant head
To doodle stars and labyrinths. I nibble fingernails,
Finally to decide there's not much more to be said.
Hands pocketed I walk away. Silence prevails.

Other times, I sit, a sleepy lion in the sun.
I lay my unsuspecting head down for a nap.
And then, like a herd of deer out for a run,
Inspirations crowd out in a thunderclap.
My whole being tenses for the spring
To bring down one trophy from this rush.
I sharpen metaphors, flex my similes and quickly fling
Myself upon a hapless concept from the bush.

[email protected]

Julie Damerell

published in various internet journals:
Café Society Guest Poets,
the June '98 Pigs 'n' Poets,
Michael Stephen's Avalon,
and the Nov~Dec '98
Wired Art From Wired Hearts.
Her column for
Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture,
is titled Rural Route Two.
Two of her essays are included in
Mother Voices, an anthology published by
Rose Communications in March 1998.

Julie Damerell 1999

A hole I didnt see
until you filled it
and blossoms grew

A silence I didnt hear
until you read
and music played.

A hunger I didnt feel
until you fed me your poem
and I ached for more.

[email protected]

John Holt

, a poet from Essex, England, is active on alt.arts.poetry.comments and has appeared in the December issue of Poetry Life & Times, also on Buttonpresser's poetry site, on his alt.arts.poetry.comments showcase. John has recently put together his own webpage, with the help of a friend, "Poet on a Small Island".

W o r d s O f A r t
© John Holt 1999

Mention the subject of "poetry"
to some people and watch them
go slack-jawed and glassy eyed.

There are even those who think
that if all poets emigrated to the
Third World overseas aid would
increase because disasters
attract public sympathy.

But... I'm from Essex
and my mind is simple.
I have this belief that "poetry"
is a work of art, a symphony,
a tour of imagination,
not a travail of depression

and writing it involves creativity,
performance - a Grand production,
in which the Poet is often bard,
minstrel, troubadour, or all three.

In "poetry" one may contemplate,
consider, ponder, think, brood,
reflect or muse on conundrums
great and small, and answer questions
laid as deep as politicians' lies.

And when a nation's conscience sleeps
the language of poetry points the way,
to reawaken thoughts and feelings
lost or hidden.....

To read more of my poetry visit:

John [email protected]

Back Issues of POETRY LIFE & TIMES:

September 1998

October 1998

November 1998

December 1998

January 1999

February 1999

March 1999

March 1999

Mail me on: [email protected] with any poems, comments for the letters page, news about your poetry site, or forthcoming poetry events.

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