Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Muse: Indiana's New Poet Laureate

I see poetry as an act of loving service — to people, to animals
and the planet, and to the culture at large. Poetry grants us 
the opportunity to practice a meaning-making activity in which
the smaller sense of self eventually dissolves into a more
expansive Self with a large sense of purpose beyond the individual.
~ George Kalamaras*

George Kalamaras has been appointed Indiana's new State Poet Laureate. He succeeds Karen Kovacik, whose two-yerm term ended December 31, 2013. (For my profile of Kovacik, see my post of May 16, 2011.) Kalamaras's own term of service is January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2015. (See my post of March 7, 2011, on Norbert Krapf, Indiana's state poet from 2008-2010, for background and other information on the official position.)

Kalamaras plans to launch in February 2014 "Wabash Watershed: Where the Rivers of Tradition Meet the Rivers of Innovation", which will function as a one-stop Website for information about poets who live in Indiana and list poetry-related events and activities. As he told The Journal Gazette, "Poetry is sometimes misperceived as only a high art, that not all people can understand it. My responsibility is to let the people in the state of Indiana know that poetry is for them. It's not beyond the common person. Poetry is for everybody."

* * * * *
We're, in many ways, born poets.
. . . Poetry . . . it's also play, and we forget that
poetry should be play . . . return us to those origins
of what's it's like to be our child-like selves again.
~ George Kalamaras, Northeast Indiana Public Radio Interview

Chicago-born, now Fort Wayne resident George Kalamaras, Ph.D., is the author of more than a dozen full- and chapbook-length poetry collections, most recently, Your Own Ox-Head Mask as Proof (Ugly Duckling Press, 2010), The Scathering Sound (Anchorite Press, 2009), Gold Carp Jack Fruit Mirrors (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2008), Something Beautiful Is Always Wearing the Trees (Stockport Flats, 2009), with artwork by painter Alvaro Cardona-Hine, and the full-length Even the Java Sparrows Call Your Hair (Quale Press, 2004) and Borders My Bent Toward (Pavement Saw Press, 2003).

Kalamaras's collection Kingdom of Throat-Struck Luck (Paperback, Elixir, 2012) was awarded the Elixir Press Poetry Contest; The Theory and Function of Mangoes (Four Way Books, 2000), Kalamaras's first full-length collection, was a Four Way Books Intro Series winner. Another book, The Recumbent Galaxy (C&R Press, 2010), on which he again collaborated with Cardona-Hine, won the C&R Press Open Competition.

Numbering among Kalamaras's other chapbooks are The Mining Camps of the Mouth (New Michigan Press, 2012), recipient of the DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press 2012 Chapbook Contest; Symposium on the Body's Left Side (Shivastan Press, 2011), the limited-edition Mingus Mingus Mingus (Longhouse, 2010), Beneath the Breath (Tilton House, 1988), and Heart Without End (Leaping Mountain Press, 1986). Excerpts from his electronic chapbook The Transformation of Salt are published in The Drunken Boat. He has contributed many articles to scholarly periodicals, including The International Journal of Hindu Studies. In addition, Kalamaras, who practices Yogic meditation, has written Reclaiming the Tacit Dimension: Symbolic Form in the Rhetoric of Silence (SUNY Series in Literacy, Culture, and Learning, 1994); available through resellers, it is a study of Hindu mysticism and Western discourse theory.

The prolific poet's wide-ranging interests in spirituality, Hindu scriptures, Zen Buddhism, blues music, science generally but biology and the natural world and animal behavior especially, Chinese poets and the work of Cesar Vallejo, whom he credits as his literary hero, and his deep relationship to Indiana ("Somewhere inside me a gray barn is rising") are reflected throughout his poetry. Pain, joy, celebration, sorrow — all work their way through Kalamaras's writing, underscoring his belief that beyond self-expression and communication, poetry is a means to "celebrate the various connections I have in the world."**

Kalamaras does not limit himself to any one structural form. He writes in couplets, in quatrains, in cut-up sections, with broken lines. Sometimes he addresses his words to "you"; at others, he uses "I". His enjambment is noteworthy.

When you read Kalamaras's poems, you notice at once how full of images they are (sometimes the images are entirely surreal, seeming to have no relation with each other), how they call from memory that lives inside us.  There is, on the one hand, Kalamaras the teller and, on the other, Kalamaras the rememberer of what is come and gone; what comes from that combination of narration and meditation can be stunning (see the last excerpt below). There is deep and close observation of nature, an attentiveness to self-scrutiny that never seems put-on or ironic. There is lyricism and physicality. And there is a feeling of self-containment, which may, perhaps, arise from the way the poems progress, sometimes mystical, sometimes wholly down-to-earth. This is a poet who's not afraid to contrast the complementary with the contradictory. He welcomes you to join him in his experience of the world.

To illustrate, here are excerpts from several of Kalamara's beautifully written poems.

All night wondering why you're here,
what you came to find. Something
to do with the bruise. That hole you carry
and get sick of so fill with clotted
cream, [. . . .]
~ from "Cut of the World" in The Transformation of Salt
(Electronic Chapbook)

This is where Gandhiji was burned at death.
What remains is a square of black marble

and where the head might be, an urn of ash
as a memento, for the Mahatma

now swims in the Jamuna and borders
New Delhi. So many deaths and burnings

glow in votive candles and marigolds [. . . .]
~ from "At Raj Ghat" in The Theory and Function of Mangoes

Charles Mingus was one-third Chinese.
He, too, came to the study of bones

His bass was a bone. His  toe was a bone.
He'd sit and pick chicken groans from his soup.
[. . . .]
~ from "Affirmation" in Your Ox-Head Mask as Proof

[. . . .]
In the mining camps of my mouth, I kept bending a pan of her purest gold. Leaping up
into me like wildfire. Even at high altitude columbine grow. The lung is an amazing organ.
An origami crane in the chest. We need new names just to breathe. Names of 
destruction and love. Names that wing us into the ever-hopeful West. [. . .]
~ from "The Mining Camps of the Mouth"  in The Mining Camps of the Mouth

(The long lines of that last excerpt wrap because of this post's column-width.)

A professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990, Kalamas is widely published in literary periodicals and magazines in the United States and abroad. Some of his more than 725 published poems have appeared in Arsenic Lobster Poetry JournalThe Bitter Oleander, BlackbirdChariton Review, Columbia Poetry ReviewConjunctions: The Web Forum of Innovative Writing, Copper NickelThe Cortland Review, Delaware Poetry ReviewDouble RoomThe Drunken Boat, The Florida ReviewGargoyleHunger MountainThe Iowa ReviewMalpais Review, New American Writing, New Letters, Parthenon West ReviewPavement Saw, Solo CafeStand Magazine (UK), Sulfur, TriQuarterly, Tupelo QuarterlyVert Magazine, VerseDaily,  Ur-Vox, and many others.

Work by Kalamaras is anthologized in Malpais Review Number 2 (Malpais Review, 2013), Malpais Review: Number 4 (CreateSpace, 2012), Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry (Somerset Hall Press, 2008), Anthology | Visiting Authors, 2006 | Syracuse YMCA Poetry (The Downtown Writer's Center, 2006), The Best American Poetry 2008 (Scribner, 2008), 2: An Anthology of New Collaborative Poetry (BookSurge Publishing, 2007), Intertexts: Reading Pedagogy in College Writing Classrooms (Routledge, 2002), Writing With Elbow (Utah State University Press, 2002), The Bitter Oleander Volume 4 Number 2 (The Bitter Oleander Press, 1998), The Best American Poetry 1997 (Scribner, 1997), and TALISMAN No. 16 Fall 1996 Special Boston/U.K. Issue: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and Poetics (Talisman, 1996), among others.

Kalamaras's honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Poetry Fellowship Grant (1993), Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship Grants (2011, 2001), the Abiko Quarterly (Japan) International Poetry Prize (1998), and an Indo-U.S. Advanced Research Fellowship to India from the Fulbright Foundation and U.S. Subcommission on Education and Culture (1994). In addition, Kalamaras has completed two writing residencies at Hambridge Center for the Arts and is the recipient of an Outstanding Research Award from Indiana University-Purdue University (2009).


Photo Credit: Indiana University-Purdue University Department of English and Linguistics

All Poetry Excerpts © George Kalamaras

* Quoted from Indiana Arts Commission News Release on Kalamaras's Appointment, January 9, 2014

Indiana Arts Commission, "Poet Laureate News" and "Verbatim: George Kalamaras of Fort Wayne Named State Poet Laureate" (IAC News Release at The Journal Gazette)

Keiara Carr, "IPFW Professor Named State Poet Laureate", The Journal Gazette, January 9, 2014

AmyJo Arehart, "Interview with George Kalamaras", Interview, Columbia Poetry Review, Columbia College Chicago, May 7, 2013 (Here, Kalamaras makes an important statement, "We need to look at the world and observe and feel the reciprocity of the inner and outer realms. . . to remain mindful that we respect poetry enough to embrace it as an attentiveness practice and not as a commodity.")

Claire Guyton, "Visiting with George Kalamaras", Interview, Hunger Mountain, VCFA Journal of the Arts

** Julia Meek, "Interview: Indiana's New Poet Laureate on Expression and Connection Through Verse", Northeast Indiana Public Radio, January 8, 2014 (5:52 minutes)

George Kalamaras Profiles at C&R Press, Four Way BooksIndiana Arts Commission, Indiana University, IPFW College of Arts and Sciences, New York State Writers InstitutePoets & Writers, ShadowplaysSPD BooksQuale Press,

George Kalamaras Poetry Online: "Heat", "Kali's Thigh", "Cut of the World", "And Finally, the Brides of Lust", "The Scrotal Itch", "At the Ashram of Trailanga Swami", Beloved Star", "Meeting Alison at the Malaviya Bhavan, Banaras Hindu University", "The Resurrection of Andre Breton's Ashes", and "Looking for My Grandfather with Odysseas Elytis", All at The Drunken Boat; "Tongues : 9" (from Scraps of Said) at Tarpaulin Sky Press; "I Make Easy Emptiness" and "The Antelope Tree", Both at Hunger Mountain; "Hall of the Imperial Silkworm" and "Sphex", Both at Blackbird; "Azoic Bottom" at The Cortland Review; "At Raj Ghat" at Four Way Books; "Unanswered Left Shoe" at OmniVerse; "The Theory and Function of Mangoes", "Hysteresis", and "Mud", All at Reading Between A&B; "Across the Great Divide", "Listening to Ramatam After Thirty-Five Years", and "So We Can Teach Ourselves Not to Bleed", All at Delaware Poetry Review; "Buddy Guy's Blues and the Discovery of Feedback" at Chicago Blues Guide; "On the Brink" at Tupelo Quarterly; "Letter to Phil From Manitou Springs" at Four Way Review; "Wasp Work", "Fiji Fright Wig", "Seven Minutes Twenty-Three Seconds", "Less Than Or Equal To", and "Tapeworms", All at Phantom Limb Press; "The Mining Camps of the Mouth" and "The Age of Bent Blood in the Throat", Both at VerseDaily; "The Pawnee Buttes" at Clade Song 2; "We Construct Many Mouths"and "The Hands of Drawn Space", Both at caffeine destiny; "Living in the Material World" at Double Room; "I Wore Monk Hair" and "Again and Again", Both at Word for Word: A Journal of New Writing; "Surrealist Inquiry" at Jacket Magazine; "One of Only Two" at Shadowplays; "Affirmation" at Galatea Resurrects; "Your Own Ox-Head Mask as Proof" and "From the Book of Tongues (32)", Both at The Hamilton Stone Review; "The Preparation of Bone Glue" at Your Chicken Enemy: Poets You Should Know; "Vasko Popa and the Myth of the Deadpan Myth", "A Barbarian from the Gobi: How Henri Michaux Kissed Us Awake", "Is Autoeroticism a Fierce Form of Incest?", "What the Aghoris Taught",  and "The Practice of Austerities", All at Tripod; "The Trouble with Being Human" at Barnstorm Literary Journal; "Hypnosis of Breathing" at Elixir Press and High Water Mark Salon; "Placental Chauvinism" at The Volta; "Francis Ponge Is on Fire" at a heap of broken images; "The Bluest Blues" at Chicago Blues Guide; "The Sense of Lost" at Pavement Saw Press; "The Birds Cannot Disappear" at Oyster Boy Review; "Queen of the Blues - For Koko Taylor" at The Bluegrass Special

Video: George Kalamaras @ Acoustic SpokenWord Cafe, March 10, 2012;

George Kalamaras's Blues Poetry Column at Chicago Blues Guide (Archive)

David Peak, "The Mining Camps of the Mouth by George Kalamaras", Review, The Rumpus, December 4, 2013

Brooks Lampe, "Hindu Surrealism: George Kalamaras", Review of Your Own Ox-Head Mask as Proof, The The Poetry, June 22, 2011

"George Kalamaras: Even the Java Sparrows Call Your Hair", Review, The Great American Pinup, April 1, 2011

Daniel Casey, "'Teetering on a Necessary Boundary': Tony Trigilio Examines George Kalamaras's 'God Carp Jack Fruit Mirrors'", Gently Read Literature, September 1, 2008

Except from Even the Java Sparrows Call Your Hair at Quale Press

Preview of Even the Java Sparrows Call Your Hair at GoogleBooks

Preview of The Mining Camps of the Mouth at GoogleBooks

Preview of Reclaiming the Tacit Dimension at GoogleBooks

Previvew of The Recumbent Galaxy at GoogleBooks

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a meritorious midwesterner