Category: USA

David Garyan’s Visual Poem “Italianarsi” Translated into Italian by Emilia (@the.misfit.polyglot)

David Garyan’s Poem “Italianarsi” Translated into Italian by Emilia (@the.misfit.polyglot)


Thank you so much to Emilia (@the.misfit.polyglot) for translating!


Original English Text


Walk slow.
Talk fast.

Drive fast.
Live slow.

With great people.
With bad bureaucracy.

Be true—
honesty is key.
Make good impressions—
bella figura must agree.

You’re late?
We’re flexible.
Cappuccinos after lunch?
You must not be Italian!

You make mistakes?
We forgive them.
Chicken on pasta?
Beyond redemption.

Be relaxed. Be informal …
… titles, status, and age
are vital.

On buses,
the young give
their seats to the old.
In life, they leave
Italy to find jobs.

Italians are masters of romance.
Birth rates are declining.

Italians are all about family.
Europe’s lowest marriage rate is in Italy.

Be kind—say permesso
when you must pass.
Be passive—form queues
however you want.

Improvise and innovate.
But don’t change tradition.

Don’t leave the house
with wet hair—
colpo d’aria,
but smoking …
… even near your kids,
is okay.

We’re open
and curious about you.
Best not bring foreign food
to our dinners.

Drink in moderation.
Don’t share your pizza.

Never break spaghetti,
even if no one’s looking.
If you see no cars,
cross on red,
and don’t stop
at stop signs—
some laws are meant
to be broken.

Italians are gentle,
Italians are kind—
Italians have the harshest
prisons in Europe (41-bis).

have no time
letting people cross.
have much time
staring at strangers.

Homes are very clean,
locals well-dressed—
you’ll often see both
on neglected streets.

There’s campanilismo—
pride for one’s town—
yet dialects are dying …
… it’s discouraged to speak them.

If you come to Italy,
you’ll love it right away,
but, in the end,
love is always hard.

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

An Update on Interlitq’s Californian Poets, by David Garyan

An Update on Interlitq’s Californian Poets Feature

For the past two or so years, Interlitq’s Californian Poets has brought together some of the representative voices of this vast state. When Peter Robertson and I first conceived this feature, it was our intention to assemble twenty to forty writers who could best represent what was being done from the cliffs of Crescent City to the beaches of San Diego. In reality, what ended up happening is that we managed to compile twelve solid names, but most of them were from LA. One has to start somewhere, but not necessarily finish where one started. In short, we decided to put together another installment—and we noticed results: Two additional names, and more poets outside of LA, though the enterprise was still heavily Southern California. For better or worse, the old mantra wouldn’t leave us: No reason to stop where the second part started. Suffice it to say, we’ve been doing just that—building momentum with each subsequent feature, which keeps on growing. We now have over 90 writers, and, it’s not that—in the beginning—we couldn’t imagine going for as long we did; what surprised us was the poets’ enthusiasm and willingness to send work; there was, likewise, a desire to bring greater attention to those who had passed on (we’ve featured tributes to Holly Prado Northup, Scott Wannberg, and Shelley Scott).

Why all this at this moment? Simply to say—again—that one doesn’t have to stop where one starts. There have been many different anthologies dedicated to California poets. Some have been big; some have been small; some have devoted themselves to a city, a region, or perhaps even a geographical feature. Indeed, they were all different, but there was one thing that made them the same: They all had natural beginnings and a deliberate end.

There were also communities—some of which disappeared quickly, and some of which lasted. Those that lasted created generations, like the Beats. At this point we’re not sure where Interlitq’s Californian Poets fits on this spectrum, but after two years of publishing and interviewing poets, the enterprise is certainly no longer an anthology; likewise, after 800 or so days, it’s also not the Beat Generation—indeed, nowhere close it. The fact, however, remains: Roughly 30 months of collaboration—along with starting the concurrent Californian Poets Interview Series—have contributed to bringing this endeavor out of the terrain of traditional anthology parameters and causing it to approach something akin to a “community,” though it’s still ways away from that.

Considering all that, Peter Robertson and I have decided that stopping at this juncture wouldn’t symbolize the achievement of creating a nice representation of Californian Poets, but rather, it would entail losing the chance to build what truly matters—a dynamic space. And so, we have chosen to try and continue this project indefinitely. Naturally nothing can last that long, but it’s our intention to go beyond the circumscribed “anthology” boundaries for two reasons: The first is simple—technology simply allows us to do it; secondly, this project is already beginning to leave those aforementioned borders anyways, though it may still be far away from what many might call a community. To get to this latter point, we’ll need everyone’s help, and what this help entails is really no different than what contributors have already been doing before—recommending names and spreading the word, with the former being of utmost importance.

We hope to keep this going for as long possible. We extend our kindest gratitude in advance for all your help.

David Garyan, General European Editor

Photoschade, an Essay by Arthur Ovanesian and David Garyan

Photo by Arthur Ovanesian


an essay by Arthur Ovanesian and David Garyan

“It’s strange. I look so different here.”


Have we misread it?

The product of the phenomenon that creates a record of the past, captures history in the frame—with what appears to be unremitting truth and accuracy.

But what if the photograph is a vain (hopeless? self-centered?) attempt to retain what could never be—because it was never meant to be—held in unmandated suspension? Does the photograph rescue memories from oblivion, or does it in fact lead them there?

The French philosopher Roland Barthes believed that photography irrevocably implied death because “it records what was there and is there no longer” (Eliza Richards, “‘Death’s Surprise, Stamped Visible’: Emily Dickinson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Civil War Photography,” 13). We, however, have been given to assume that what has disappeared in the physical sense can now forever stay unchanged simply because it has been photographed. In this sense, the photograph claims to resuscitate the past, but in reality, most of what it does is connected to death. Thus, what we would like photography to do is not recovery of moments (i.e., exact replications of reality, which would be impossible, precisely because reality is a sequence of moments, whereas the photograph is merely one moment—supposedly suspended in time).

Since photographs cannot offer the so-called recovered moments, we attempt to use them to relive instances as they were originally experienced. Yet it is not clear whether that desire is good for us, mainly because it is based on an unconditional trust that photographs will accurately represent what we felt at the time. The very desire to discover the original experience inside a photograph can become openly harmful because it is, in fact, an unfulfillable fantasy. Why? Repeated viewings of the image destroy the sequence of moments surrounding the “one” instance captured in the photo, to such an extent that the individual abandons the interpretive fluidity around the entire event in favor of the coveted initial sensation offered by the supposedly stable photograph. You want what the photograph claims it can give you: the authentic memory of the past stored within. But the photograph has no memory to begin with. All it can do is testify to the disappearance of things around the moment it has captured—the gloomy, inscrutable twilight that settles over what has been.

There are four words related to photography whose definitions clash internally with one another (much like photography, in a real sense, opposes itself to memory rather than enhancing or facilitating it). These words are “mold,” “quick,” “specimen,” and “negative.”

Emily Dickinson, nineteenth-century American poet, was once asked for her portrait by someone she knew. She wrote back refusing, stating that, “could you believe me—without? I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well? It often alarms Father—He says Death might occur, and he has Molds of all the rest—but has no Mold of me, but I noticed the Quick wore off those things, in a few days, and forestall the dishonor.” The words “mold” and “quick” stand out in this passage. “Mold” refers here to the photographic image; it’s the ‘material’ which has the power to preserve, and yet this very material is also an agent of deterioration. In other words, Dickinson argues that whatever superficial preservation photography gives us, its real nature lies simply in erasing the photographed subject and replacing it with the photograph—that is, the photograph becomes the new subject. This contradiction is for Dickinson what informs the entire medium: to mold the image, but the image itself begins to suffer from mold. How and why does the image begin to “mold?” Because the photograph becomes the object of attachment, while the person fades into the background: a kind of idolization, if you will, the consequence of which is that the person suffers an implicit death and can no longer be brought back—a photographic acknowledgement, yielded by the photograph itself, of loss and departure. The same is true of the word “quick.” “Quick,” according to one scholar, referred to “any substance which increased the sensitivity of the light-recording compound and thus very materially reduced the time of the exposure in the camera” (Robert Taft, Photography and the American Scene: A Social History, 1839-1889, cited in Richards, “‘Death’s Surprise,’” 18). It eased the process of taking a photograph, but it also expedited the very erasure of identity that photography sought to capture, because the “living essence, or “Quick,” of the pictured subject fade[d] even faster than the picture” (Richards, “‘Death’s Surprise,’” 18). The photograph is produced more quickly, but even faster is the loss of the reason, the essence, that informed its taking in the first place. The living essence is emptied out, and what remains is a slain presence, or an animate absence. Photographs without reasons or essence—and, by implication—without people in them either.

Instead, Dickinson would like to see her loved ones “believe her without” (to use their memory in order to visualize her, because the alternative entails losing both the person and the ability to recall them). Photograph means “sun picture,” but its ultimate effect is to lead people into darkness. The photograph occludes memory because it already preconditions the mind by way of looking at the image. More genuine memories might be displaced and cast aside, because the photograph makes a totalizing claim to truth, while your memories cannot do so. If all this seems harsh on photography, it is only because we all lack the recognition that “we photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds.” It is to avoid having to do the critical work of remembering, calling back to mind the possibilities of the past and confronting its attendant ambiguity (for the past is never something to be wholeheartedly embraced or totally rejected). It is not for nothing that an individual in one of Dickinson’s poems found themselves startled, because they could no longer distinguish: is your memory the photograph, or is the photograph your memory? Is there even a difference? This is what concerned Dickinson, and it is indeed no small worry.

Walt Whitman, also a nineteenth-century American poet, offered interesting insights about photography as well in his 1882 autobiography, Specimen Days. Whitman was interested in the simultaneous potential and limitations of photography, in the sense that he would put words to photographic use, seeking within them an illumination of the “relationship between the positive identity represented and the means—call it the negative—of its representation” (Sean Meehan, “Specimen Daze: Whitman’s Photobiography,” 481). Delving into those means was for Whitman the first step in overcoming the limitations of photography (better elucidating its real nature), because the first and most important point to grasp was the following: all that the “negative” (the means of representation, whatever they may be) had to offer were “glimpses.” Glimpses, because, obviously, memory cannot remember everything, but more because, even if it could, no moment can ever be recovered fully—the reality of its having vanished is already past restoration. By having words do the job of the camera, Whitman reveals those aforementioned limits of representation in their fundamental nature. He evokes photographic images in our minds of things he “wish[es] he could convey”; for instance, the creases and bloodstains of his Civil War notebooks (Whitman, quoted in Meehan, “Specimen Daze,” 483). This already is a demonstration of the vulnerabilities of photography: how can it be that an image is evoked that one wishes could be conveyed? A photograph would, therefore, obviously be no more successful in evoking the departed feeling of the photographer than a writer wishing to communicate an emotion he felt long ago, and perhaps even less. In both cases, the reality refuses totalized representation.

Whitman’s glimpses are the “specimens” indicated in the title—the parts that Whitman hopes might put readers within view of the whole: out of reach, but able to be comprehended in some sense. “Specimen pages,” as stated by one scholar, “best represent the type of war they portray by reproducing some of the actual traits of the physical specimens that the war produced…the text remembers by gesturing toward what can no longer be restored…whether reproduced in writing or seen firsthand…specimen cases are primarily visual representations, as the etymological ‘spec’ of the word specimen (Lat. specere: to look at or behold) would suggest” (Meehan, “Specimen Daze,” 484). The representation that is based on specimens would by necessity be incomplete, but the whole point is that a complete story can be incompletely told, leaving the reader with enough of a feeling to understand what it is the writer wanted to share. Authentic, but incomplete: you understand what I wanted to share. Here at last the limitations of photography are overcome: revealing through words that its truth claim is partial. But, having consulted the word for guidance through the mist, and mystery, known as the photograph, we get closer to a resolution. The “negative”—the renunciation of the notion that there can ever be a complete representation of the truth—to arrive at a “positive,” a more faithful rendering of it.

Reading photographs—for the photograph is the word too, enigmatic though it may be—involves acknowledging the unfulfilled certitude of the medium. It acknowledges it by itself. Hence people’s visceral reactions at times to photographs of long ago: “it’s strange. I look so different here.” Strange—as if almost to say, I’m unrecognizable to myself. And so, we have to ask: when we stare at a photograph, what is it that stares back at us?