Wednesday, February 23, 2011

random convergences

Random Convergences is a selection of 60 poems in six parts.  Most of these poems reflect Andrej Karšai 's life experiences from childhood onward. Interspersed amoung these poems are 17 collages by Janet Lee. Both author and artist come from mixed cultural backgrounds. This book is a journey through their past, a rich sociological and cultural collage, filled with ramdom convergences.

beneath the till

I  never told you
the truth:
I loved you since the day
I was born

I touched your hands
beneath the gnawing till
I rubbed your palms
inside the talus rock

you were looking
for your dad
you were looking
for your mom

and they were not
they were not around

I never told you
the truth:
I loved you since the day
I was born

since then
you’ve been on my mind

iron ore dust

our clothes smell of iron ore dust
like the open belly of a mountain
someone stabbed you more than
a while ago
and someone stabbed me

come to me with your wounds
touch me with your green thighs
made of early apples

I will show you a runaway ramp
from this so called civilization
blind river arm
on the other side of the quarry

a lukewarm breeze
will hug our bodies
not just the sorrow
we always carry



public libraries
lend books with dirty pages
filled with black and white fingerprints
left by men without memories
left by hundreds of men without memories

they scratch
                 those pages
     rip corners
           or steal a picture
                 a trophy
     to take home

these books were once fresh
like your mind
like your body before labeled
by the black and white fingerprints
by men without memories
by men in sweaty underwear

about Andrej Karšai

Clearly "committed a crime" by virtue of birth in 1942. "Certain" birth certificates meant deportation and deportation meant annihilation. The titles Iron Ore Dust and Long Run address that part of history.

Andrej immigrated to Canada in September 1968, after "true friend" Soviet Union truly invaded Czecho-Slovakia to prevent an attempt at democratization. Suddenly the free world opened up for Andrej with its wide scale of opportunities and possibly a wider scale of trappings. He understood neither. The titles Blue Thirst and Positional Saves are glimpses into the excitement and also disappointment of relationships and friendships.

When looking outside and around even today, he is easily frustrated and/or downright skeptical, which is evident in Asphalt Tongue. Side Effects are benign observations, kind of a breather one can get from "one a day cartoon".

Long Run was first published in the Slovak language in Slovakia in a Lutheran weekly newspaper Evanjelický Posol Spod Tatier under the title Dlhý Beh. The English version of Long Run and some other poems were published in Zachor. Spring Delivery was published in Success including a translation into Mandarin.

about Janet Lee

My parental grandfather was born in a small village in southern China. He came to Vancouver to seek his fame and fortune. He ended up building a railroad, married a second wife, ran a restaurant, ploughed a potato farm and fathered 10 children. My father being one of the youngest was sent to boarding school in China when his parents died.

My material grandfather was a Scottish naval engineer who ventured to China, began a shipbuilding parts warehouse, reportedly opened the first pub in Shanghai and married a Chinese local. My mother had a charmed life, living in a mansion in the International Settlement and attending a French private school.

My father courted my mother for 8 years before she finally gave in to his marriage proposals. Just as Mao was closing the country's doors to the west, they managed to board one of the last ships leaving Shanghai. They landed in Vancouver on Christmas Day of 1948 wtih $200 in their pocket, eager to start a new life. Overnight, my father went from being an electrical engineer to bicycle newspaper delivery boy and my mother who was the executive assistant to many a high ranking American naval officer found herself a clerk at a Chinese Catholic mission. The next year, I was born.

I've been lucky. I've never had to experience the first-hand effects of war. The hardest political choice I ever had to make was deciding whether to vote Liberal or Conservative.