But As For You, With What Are You Pregnant?

The following is the third in a series of five poems I am posting from The New Russian Poets: 1953 to 1966: An Anthology, selected, edited, and translated by George Reavey. I am also including my original photography with the posts.
This is a poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, a man with a story nearly as complex as the 20th century Russian politics in which he was entwined. As New York Sun journalist Michael Weiss wrote of the poet in 2008,

In truth, Mr. Yevtushenko’s politics have always been a complicated mixture of bravery, populism, and vulgar accommodation with dictatorship. “The writers who had briefly flourished [under Khrushchev’s thaw] … went two different ways,” the great Sovietologist and literary critic Robert Conquest put it in a 1974 profile. “Solzhenitsyn and his like into silenced opposition; Yevtushenko and his like, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes in the hope of still influencing matters a little, into well-rewarded collaboration.”

Yevtushenko died in 2017 at age 83.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

I’ll never forget about Ksiusha,
who looked so like a ninny,
with her squinting eyes,
her pockmarks.
And how was she to blame?
Her blame
lay in her pockmarks,
her squinting eyes,
and the unsightly dresses she wore…

What did she really want of us?
A kindly smile,
a glass of lemonade,
that we print her verse from time to time
and accept her, Ksuisha, as a writer…

In general, we gave her the lemonade,
but as for the kindly smile–
hardly that.
We even paid her an occasional small fee,
but we wouldn’t accept her as a writer,
because our moral guardians
had decided
she wasn’t normal.

who are so revoltingly normal,
are abnormal from birth.
How could you understand that Ksuisha
was full of courage
and pregnant with music?
Thus, our Ksuisha lay in her coffin.
She held her hands clasped on her belly,
as though she were gently protecting
an infant in it…

But as for you,
with what are you pregnant?
With music maybe?
Or merely with the bones of contention?
Why do you brag of denying your bodies,
who are pregnant only with barrenness?
You shall not be forgiven
on poor Ksuisha’s account.
You’ll have to pay
for Ksuisha’s soul.


Bridge Motel in Red n.2, 2007

Bridge Motel in Red n.1, 2007Bridge Motel Room, n.1 & n.2, 2007.
Taken with Holga 120, modified for 35mm film.

Reavey, George, ed. The New Russian Poets: 1953-1966: An Anthology. Comp./Trans. George Reavey. 1st ed. New York: October House Inc., 1966.
Weiss, Michael. “A Citizen of Human Grief.” The New York Sun. 11 Feb. 2008. Web. 22 May 2017.

Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “But As For You, With What Are You Pregnant?.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 24 May 2017. Web.

I, He Says, Am No Warrior

(The following is the second in a series of five poems I am posting from The New Russian Poets: 1953 to 1966: An Anthology, selected, edited, and translated by George Reavey. I am also including my original photography with the posts.
This is an early poem by Novella Matveyeva, written well before she had established herself as an award-winning poet, screenwriter, literary theorist, and Russian
bard, which in this context refers to one who wrote songs with styles and topics outside the Soviet status quo. Matveyeva died in 2016.)

I, HE SAYS, AM NO WARRIOR20170514_205940
Novella Matveyeva

I, he says, am no warrior,
I, he says, am split in two,
I, he says, am disturbed,
You, I say, are no warrior,
You, I say, are split in two,
Crucified and quartered,
But you are no bungler.
Puffing at a pipe,
Taking yourself apart
As one does a meat-grinder,
You may well be right.
But you had better know! This night
Enemies will come to you;
I see them very plainly,
I hear their footsteps approaching…
You hear them!
You don’t hear them?
They’re already hurrying…
Like mice, they’re scampering
Towards your spiritual larder.
And briskly they will steal
In darkness and in quiet
The splintered portions
Of your ailing spirit.
“And what will they start doing
To this soul of mine?”
And what will they start doing
To that soul all smashed, but ample?”
“They’ll paint the second part,
And they will rule the third;
The fourth they will ferment,
And they’ll inflate the fifth,
The sixth they’ll set on fire,
And then take to their heels.
There was a man, no warrior,
There was a man who’s split in two,
There was a man that’s incomplete,
And all the time he must have lied:
Then hearing of disaster,
He began to wink more often,
And raked these parts together,
And — passably! — gathered them into one.


Statues, 2007

Reavey, George, ed. The New Russian Poets: 1953-1966: An Anthology. Comp./Trans. George Reavey. 1st ed. New York: October House Inc., 1966.
Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “I, He Says, Am No Warrior.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 23 May 2017. Web.

Horses in the Ocean

20170522_101622(The following is the first in a series of five poems I am posting from The New Russian Poets: 1953 to 1966: An Anthology, selected, edited, and translated by George Reavey. I am also including my original photography with the posts.
In Reavey’s introduction, he writes of the poet Boris Slutsky:
A certain almost crude directness and economy of means are the characteristic of this poet who sees his function as a “telegraph wire” which carries messages in Morse about “events.” Slutsky avoids poetic embellishments and ornaments…thus he hits straight from the shoulder and insists on “sense.” Slutsky’s dry and laconic poetic comments have an interest of their own.)

Boris Slutsky
To Ilya Ehrenburg

20170522_101520Horses know how to swim,
But not so well. Not too far.
In Russian, “Gloria” means “Slava.”
That you can easily remember.
The ship sailed on, proud of its name.
The ocean tried to get the better of it.
In the hold, shaking their heads,
A thousand horses trampled day and night.
A thousand horses! Four thousand hooves!
All the same they brought no luck,
A mine ripped out the bottom of the ship
when it was a long way from the shore.
The men piled into boats and sloops.
The horses could only swim.
What else could they do when there was no room
For them in the boats and on the rafts?
An island of bays was swimming in the ocean.
In the sea, the blue sea, swam an island of grays.
To swim seemed simple in the beginning.
To them the ocean seemed a river.
But it was a river that had no bank in sight.
When their equine strength was failing,
The horses suddenly began to neigh, protesting
Against those who were drowning them in the ocean.
The horses sank to the bottom, neighing, neighing,
Until they had all gone down.
That is all. Nevertheless, I pity them,
Those bay horses, that never saw the land again.


Crows on the Hill n.1, 2007

Reavey, George, ed. The New Russian Poets: 1953-1966: An Anthology. Comp./Trans. George Reavey. 1st ed. New York: October House Inc., 1966.
Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “Horses in the Ocean.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 22 May 2017. Web.

Patroness of Those Who Suffer With Nervous and Mental Afflictions

There is a place in Belgium called Geel with a special community practice toward the mentally ill faithful. So many pilgrims flock to the site for the healing of mental afflictions that extra housing had to be built. When that overflowed, patients were taken into the homes of townspeople, a tradition that continues to this day. The “boarders,” as they are called, are treated as members of the town, and do simple labor in the community, as their afflictions allow. Some stay only a few months, others settle there permanently. The success of the Geel program is studied to this day.

The pilgrimage is made to Geel because of a young girl named Dymphna, patron Saint of runaways, psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, those suffering mental illness, and survivors of sexual, emotional, and/or physical abuse, especially that which has been perpetrated by family members.

St. Dymphna, 2016St. Dymphna, after a prayer card. From the 2016 series.

Dymphna was born in Ireland in the 7th century to a devout Christian mother and a pagan father. When she was 14 years old, she consecrated her life to Christ and took a vow of chastity.
According to her legend, it was around this time that her mother died, and her father made plans to marry again- and to make Dymphna his new bride. When she learned of her father’s plans, she escaped her home with the help of a priest named Gerebran. They sailed for what is now Belgium. Hiding in Geel, Dymphna used her wealth to build a hospital for the destitute.
Within a year, her father tracked her down in Geel. He had Gerebran beheaded and insisted Dymphna return to Ireland and marry him. She refused. Her father murdered her as well, cutting off her head. She was 15.

Gerebran and Dymphna’s remains were gathered and laid to rest in a cave in Geel. (They’ve since been moved to church reliquaries.) In the 1300’s, both Dymphna and Gerebran were sainted, and in 1349, a church was built in Geel in honor of St. Dymphna.

Prayer for St. Dymphna

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body,
I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary,
the Health of the Sick, in my present need.
(Mention it.)
Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity,
patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions,
beloved child of Jesus and Mary,
pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)

Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.

Jay, Mike. “The Geel Question.” Aeon. 09 Jan. 2014. 10 Oct. 2016
Kirsch, Johann Peter. “St. Dymphna.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 09 October 2016
Citing this page:

Solomon, Alana. “Patroness of Those Who Suffer With Nervous and Mental Afflictions.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 15 May. 2017. Web.


No Sisters, No Dentist, No Bourbon

Let me tell you a story about Braddock.

When I was 27, I scheduled, booked, and promoted a four-month, cross-country round-trip/tour. In addition to playing shows, I volunteered at a couple of WWOOF farms along the way, in exchange for a place to stay. That’s how I wound up working the urban farm in the mostly abandoned town of Braddock, PA, right beside their last operating steel mill, and staying in a former convent.

Continue reading “No Sisters, No Dentist, No Bourbon”

And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well

May 13th is the Feast Day of Julian of Norwich: 14th century mystic, theologian, anchoress, and author of the first English language book known to have been written by a woman.

An anchoress was a hermit of a sort, confined to an enclosure: often merely a cell, or at most a tiny cottage with a tiny solitary enclosed garden. By the Middle Ages, a Rule of Life had been developed for the anchoress (there were anchorites, but it was primarily a practice of women), and the cell was typically attached to a parish church. The structure would include a tiny window for hearing the Mass and receiving communion, as well as another window to communicate with an assistant and speak with members the community who may visit for advice and prayers.

AnchoressThe Enclosure of an Anchoress

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Stitching Things Up

I grew up surrounded by artists, art supplies, art in progress, art books, in galleries, and in museums. I grew up seeing furniture repaired and made fabulous, plain walls in little homes elevated with bold colors or faux finishes. I grew up with an appreciation for the vintage, for the carefully selected and well-built. And I grew up with the whir of a sewing machine in the background. As I am currently working on a few sewing projects from my 100/1000 list, namely the quilt, shower curtain, and misc. mending, I’d like to write a bit about sewing projects and working with fabric in general.

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The Beautiful and Strange Creations of Harry Partch

For M.’s birthday, we are going to the University of Washington to see Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama, as imagined by composer, inventor, musician, Depression-era hobo, philosopher, and instrument builder Harry Partch. Here are some photos I snapped of a couple of his instruments, which are now housed at the University and which we were able to see (and touch, and play!) a couple of years ago:

harry-partsch-exhibit_22988541722_oCloud Chamber Bowls and Bamboo Marimba II (or, “Boo II”)

Continue reading “The Beautiful and Strange Creations of Harry Partch”

Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer

Taking a daily self-portrait is a challenge, because you must be disciplined and patient enough to set aside the time to work for a decent result (unless you’re just aiming for a daily “selfie,” which is fun too!) The greatest challenge of the project, for me, was to keep things interesting, since every day the subject was the same. I also wanted to make sure they didn’t all look like self-conscious self-portraits, but that maybe another hand had been involved.
For n.10 on my 100/1000 list, I’ll only be taking weekly photos, but for nearly three years. That comes out to 144 photos. To kick off the project, I present a series of self-portraits taken over the years.

This first set was taken with an Oktomat camera. I used to collect and repair vintage and experimental cameras, and still enjoy playing around with them from time to time. The Oktomat takes eight sequential shots within about 2.5 seconds, and they’re all printed on the same frame.


Continue reading “Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer”

The Star of the Sea, the Sea of Sorrow

Today, in honor of the special devotion of the Church during the month of May to the Blessed Virgin, I offer a five-day prayer to Mary with St. Catherine of Siena:

Continue reading “The Star of the Sea, the Sea of Sorrow”