Articles by: M. ZobelM. Zobel
Monika Zobel is the author of a book of poems, An Instrument for Leaving, selected by Dorothea Lasky for the 2013 Slope Editions Book Prize (Slope Editions, 2014). Her poems and translations have appeared in Bayou Magazine, The Cincinnati Review, Four Way Review, Redivider, DIAGRAM, Beloit Poetry Journal, Mid-American Review, Drunken Boat, Guernica Magazine, West Branch, Best New Poets 2010, and elsewhere. A Fulbright alumna and recent finalist for the first Write A House residency, Zobel currently lives in Bremen, Germany.

Gymnastics in Language: Herta Müller

Gymnastics in Language: Herta Müller

Looking at these collages—complete with peculiar drawings and colorful wording—one cannot help but picture a madman/woman hunched over a desk while cutting up words for ransom letters. These poems are in fact ransom letters to an oppressive regime that can only be criticized and exposed anonymously.   What do gymnasts and poets have in common? They both have to bend […]

Po-Chop: Kathleen Graber: The Telephone

Po-Chop: Kathleen Graber: The Telephone

  … once I fell in love with a beautiful voice passing through the wire. I remember the drop of it, a man talking about something he’d read, turning to a page with an audible rustle & breath, whispering, Listen. These are the lines that haunt. It’s not that the skin has no function, only that the tongue can play […]

Po-Chop: Lidija Dimkovska: National Soul

Po-Chop: Lidija Dimkovska: National Soul

And we look for the Macedonian soul among the number-plates on God’s East-West highway in cardboard boxes labeled ‘Do not open! Genes!’ loaded on the backs of the transparent dead. But one cannot rely on the dead. The dead are illegal immigrants, their swollen organs penetrating other peoples’ lands . . . Lidija Dimkovska’s collection of poems pH Neutral History (Copper […]

More German Idioms

More German Idioms

We Germans are selfish at times and always desire to have the last word. In fact, adding our mustard to everything—not only to a delicious pork chop—is a typical trait.   This is a follow-up to our previous post on German idioms. everything is in butter Don’t think twice about your figure if asked by a German person whether everything […]

Po-Chop: Jennifer Kronovet: I Talk to Another More Than Myself

Po-Chop: Jennifer Kronovet: I Talk to Another More Than Myself

“I wield a dull knife / to my way of seeing: / the cloud-thoughts, not muscles, / feel the threat.”   Jennifer Kronovet’s poems from her prize-winning collection Awayward (Boa Editions, Ltd. 2009) are neatly carved sculptures, in which every single word exists for a reason—mainly to hone in on our somewhat strained relationship with language. Reading Kronovet’s collection is like […]

German Idioms

German Idioms

Be aware of the following idiom! If a German person ever calls you a bottle, don’t think you have a long neck or a nice figure. Being a bottle simply means that you’re a loser; perhaps we’re speaking of an empty bottle here.   I recently moved to Austria to translate poetry on a Fulbright Fellowship. Being immersed in a […]

The Sorrow Gondola by Tomas Tranströmer

The Sorrow Gondola by Tomas Tranströmer

What Tranströmer expresses so eloquently in these lines is the idea that our lives are fleeting in relation to our history—the “cold sphinx, / empty arenas”—and even more so in relation to “Light and silent constellations. / The cold sea.” We are ultimately condemned to silence and have to make do with “the small script of the grass / and […]

Po-Chop: Olena Kalytiak Davis: An Imaginative Study in Degradation

Po-Chop: Olena Kalytiak Davis: An Imaginative Study in Degradation

“The rest of the day is a slanted floorboard. The rest of the day is the color of absinthe. Note the personal and detached attitude. Note the application of arbitrary color. The tilted perspective. This poem is all surface. You may stand where you choose. This poem has no vanishing point.” Olena Kalytiak Davis’ poem “An Imaginative Study in Degradation” […]

In a Beautiful Country by Kevin Prufer

In a Beautiful Country by Kevin Prufer

The reader of these poems will sift through the radiant ashes of a country that has set itself on fire, as Prufer unburies the rotting bodies of a recent history.     Kevin Prufer’s fifth collection of poetry, In a Beautiful Country, depicts a startling landscape that is eroded by war, violence, grief, and alienation. Prufer populates this landscape with […]

Po-Chop: Jeffrey McDaniel: The Forgiveness Parade

Po-Chop: Jeffrey McDaniel: The Forgiveness Parade

“There’s nothing like a full moon, reflected in the eyes of a blind man, using a telescope to stir a bowl of Russian alphabet soup for the cosmonauts . . .” Jeffrey McDaniel’s poem, “The Forgiveness Parade” (The Forgiveness Parade Manic D Press, 1998), is an excellent example of how poetry can serve as nourishment and push the boundaries of […]

An Interview with Katie Farris

An Interview with Katie Farris

So much of the book is about being comfortable with paradox, especially the paradoxes that surround us every day but we prefer not to consider—for instance, what is the experience of a person who is both girl and boy? What is the experience of unexpectedly falling in love with someone of the same gender?   Welcome to The California Journal […]

Paul Celan Revisited: Moving from Silence to Speech

Paul Celan Revisited: Moving from Silence to Speech

In his famous “Meridian” speech Celan confessed that poetry is ultimately “an eternalization of nothing but mortality, and in vain.” The contradictions between silence and speech, between human consciousness and death are present in his poem “Chanson of a Lady in the Shade.”   One of Celan’s earlier poems, “Chanson of a Lady in the Shade” (Mohn und Gedächtnis, 1952), […]