I am currently living upstate, away from the city. I’ve been here for 4 years with my wife and boy after living in New York City my entire life. I commute almost everyday to my job and have found that my writing happens in between the places I land in. I am in a transition before and after I land, the kitchen table and the morning train are where I take my laptop. The city and the world have become my place to write. I used to have a more centered place, a desk and chair, when I lived in the city and didn’t have such a long commute. Now that it takes me awhile to get anywhere, my writing is sort of searching to find a place for me. My writing is telling me it’s okay to write wherever I can…like a constant companion, a nuisance, a lover, a muse. I am reminded of my transition every time I sit at my place of poetry, because that place has become the transition itself.
Edwin Torres, USA
Poetry made of charms
In order to write, I fill my room with charms. These magical objects transform my simple wooden desk into a space crafted from unknown magic, with no beginning or end. The east opens, and I can see a new world – reaching all the way to the dark edges of town.
I start collecting my charms: a vintage photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron entitled “I Wait”; An old photo of me standing next to Nadav Cohavi RIP, from the time we had a band in LA; A gray plastic elephant my girlfriend Ayala got me, a magical cat standing at the gates of the ancient world of eternity, which I bought during a visit to the Pyramids many years ago; a Palestinian postcard from old Jaffa to complete them all.
I look at them surrounding me, and start hearing an old but new melody of prayer.
A spirit of Love and social change.
Mati Shemoelof, Tel Aviv/Israel
Meanwhile, in Another Place
The Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli had three tables–one for each of the three languages between which he translated: Italian, Greek, and Latin. Translation took place in the interstices. Translation is vital. Come! We’re crossing over. Between the tables lies the most important thing. Between the tables, other languages grow. That is where you find the only worthwhile thing you can report on at home. At home? My desk! Every word a table. Excuse me. I’m all messed up: the desk is my head. I’ll tidy up in my head. Every surface is a potential table. Excuse me: a potential word. Operating table or altar? Card table in the control tower, life or death, here the battle has to be fought.
Askew in the skew, there is the laptop: a platform, a pulse. Where do I start? I tidy up. I lay the cards on the table. I move jerkily. Desk seismograph. Books push their way upward through the geological strata of the desk. I know what to do: write every day. Read every day. Hang in there. Read difficult books. Write good poems. It’s as simple as that. This morning, time feels a little more real. I wash down an aspirin with cold coffee. The house across the way washes over me. The desk grows upwards around me like shrubbery, and I sense my own musty odor. My desk is a mess. On it, are notes for poems, cups, wine glasses, books, scissors, headphones. Entrance ticket. Felt-tip pen. Toothbrush. Cell phone. Money, wallet, pencil. Where do I begin? Writing is tidying up. The ray of doubt encounters wonderful things.
In the Museum of Copenhagen, there is a Søren Kierkegaard exhibition. I lean against his desk, I catch myself doing it. Here, he moved between his pseudonyms, he wrote between the desks, he went from book to book. Each table was a new name and a new book. In the desks, there were secret drawers, places for papers, that shunned the light, letters, notes, dire and inaccessible. Søren Kierkegaard wore the engagement ring up to his death: “Since I have never known the date regarding the breaking off of my engagement, I made an attempt to calculate it. This attempt is on a slip in the older packet in gray paper, which lies in the small drawer in my desk, and on this packet it says: Destroy after my death.” There are traces of wear, traces of Regine, in the green felt of the desk.
We’re getting there. Not any place. Any place. In what state of any place? The place is a room, not under us, but above us. I see everything clearly and outside of myself, outside of the place. Unable, outside of the place until the place returns with its presence. The place is a warping, a wonder. As if one were to take an advance from another place. Another place, where something else happens. In place of. The place as an intermediary. As a rendezvous for many places. The place in place of the place. As long as it takes. The place is a bright spot between other places.
English translation: Sharmila Cohen
This is my place of poetry: behind the desk I can see some lonely concrete block of flats surrounded by trees, the built environment combined with nature. Something not too smooth and terder is just perfect for my writing.
I prefer darkness when I write. Autumns and winters are the most productive time for me. In the dark silent morning when I sit in the light of my laptop, I can hear words coming to me.
Olli Heikkonen, Helsinki/Finland
a prison woven from freedom.
Ghayath Almadhoun, Stockholm/Sweden
Primož Čučnik, Ljubljana/Slovenia
My studio is an unstable, expanding and contracting space that completely alters its shape depending on the stage and nature of a poem. Sometimes the entire room becomes an architecture of notes, drafts, folders, CDs and piles of books – a vertical chaos, perfectly ordered through the process of making. In the latter stages of a poem, the pages and books progressively disappear and my computer’s various text and sound software programmes become the primary places of writing. This ‘place of poetry’ embraces multiple spaces of change, renewal and abandonment. And for me, as for many writers, the first moment of the next poem can start anywhere – poiesis is omnipresent and the place we write is everywhere.
Amanda Stewart, Sydney/Australia
My working-place can be everywhere. I only need my set of instruments to perform an autopsy on images, texts and letters on the stage of my DIN A 4 white paper. Also I need several magnifying glasses for my eyes and the possibility to look behind all the material I am working with. I am not speaking about storerooms, cupboards, drawers and receptacles with lots of this material I am dealing with.
Klaus Peter Dencker, Ahrensburg/Germany
“Theorie” is the biggest paper I ever did, ca. 85 x 60 cm.
At the same time it is theory, biography and poetry.
First published in: Klaus Peter Dencker, Optische Poesie. Berlin 2011.
January— I eat books
swimming at the beaches
February— the world opens like a cut onion
and the cleaning guy heads home for the New Year
The Arctic freezes in ocean ice
Time is running out. I turn on the computer
to decipher a word: out
Downstairs buses run by
A Crow opens its black wallet
Poem about his “working room” by YAN Jun
Translated from Chinese into English by Mindy Zhang
Photo by Jiantao
i moved to this flat with my wife in 2007.
we have removed some walls to make the kitchen, living room and one bedroom open as one continual space. this corner on the photo is my working space. surrounded by books and cds as everywhere in the flat.
computer. sound card and monitor speakers. telephone. hand write notes. spice smell from kitchen some times.
Yan Jun, Peking/China
THE ONE WHO WRITES*
You write. About the things that already exist.
And they say you fantasize.
You keep quiet. Like the sunken nets
of poachers. Like an angel
who knows what the night may bring.
And you travel. You forget,
so that you can come back.
You write and you don’t want to remember
the stone, the sea, the believers
sleeping with their hands apart.
More often I think of the windows outside my room than of the writing desks inside. To be an observer of writing makes me more invisible than to write as an observer.
Nikola Madzirov, Graz/Austria
In 2007 Nikola Madzirov had a residency at IHAG (Internationalen Haus der Autorinnen und Autoren Graz)
* Translated by Peggy and Graham W. Reid
(From the book in English “Remnants of Another Age”)