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Doreen Stock: California Poets Part 6, Three Poems

Doreen Stock

October 18th, 2023

California Poets: Part VI

Doreen Stock

Three Poems

Last Supper Washington, D.C. August 21, 2023

The sacrificed cow— Argentine, of course, as was the chalice, Malbecian & before the cock crows thrice the waiter who has walked all the way from El Salvador to serve us will be robbed on his way home on the bus and the esposa of the busboy who poured our water, here only seven days from Tijuana, will go over to another who also stayed behind, lacking the $10,000 for a coyote, and those golden eggs broken for the final flan will reassemble themselves within the black hole our sun will eventually fall into—this may not be geographically correct but surely some rough beast stalks the sands of the Hurricane Hilary-sodden Mohave toward Bebe-throttled Jerusalem to be born just in time to pay our bill with an Uberful of Argentine Pesos, 349.4202 to the U.S. dollar at this very second, but in the two minutes it takes for the Uber to get here with the pesos the cost will surely have risen trans-substantially… Hubby estatic w/his steak, y yo, about to test positive for Covid tomorrow morning!

On the Death of Milan Kundera

If I laugh today as a small beagle sniffs out a banana on my exhausted immigrant husband after we’ve been detained by Homeland Security while some jerk bad-mouther calls a whole gang of armed officers upon us, we who were just sitting there trying to get out to claim our forlorn luggage at SFO on our way home from Paris where, as soon as we landed, I heard you had died at 94–– it’s to you, of you, in memory of you, that laugh, stretched across the years I read you––constantly redefining itself, the Milan Kundera laugh, rigorous, acrobatic, moving from sex to politics to the philosophical, an agile, dark, unbearably light laugh as your thoughts (tho exposing your women in a most unkind way I thought) flipped the novel several generations ahead of itself and joked its way into dead seriousness, like the feeling after all this time that you’re absolutely and sadly and unretrievably gone…

The Conversation at Chasiv Yar

upright jacketed booted wool-capped on the icy road overhead lamps lighted–––dusk.

the target in the red jacket –––her hand outstretched as if to point the way to the other target and both shopping-bagged–––two women out for food in the midst of the great War where this conversation is carried out, each sentence punctuated: dead. dying. tortured. wounded. escaped…

The winter trees flank them arch over them on the long path sons, daughters,

soldiers marching into eternity


November 4th, 2023

California Poets Interview Series:

Doreen Stock, Poet, Translator

interviewed by David Garyan

DG: Let’s start with your work as a translator. You’ve brought pieces into English from Russian and Spanish—two great literary traditions. How did these endeavors start and what have been some of your favorite projects and pieces to work on?

DS: I was living in L.A. and nursing my third child. A local bookstore (Chatterton’s on Vermont. Ave., now defunct) advertised a poetry writing workshop. I walked in and there, at the back of the store, sat Paul Vangelisti at a small table with three other poets. He said he couldn’t really teach us to write poetry, but the single most important thing we could do would be to take a poet we admired in a language other than English and begin translating his/her poems. I had recently graduated from UCLA with a minor in Slavic Languages, so I began to work with a poem by Anna Akhmatova. While I was raising my three children translating from the Russian of Akhmatova & Marina Tsvetaeva, and the Spanish of Gabriela Mistral taught me how to render a poem into my language in its own voice. This work was invaluable, always returning me to my own writing with deeper awareness and possibilities.

DG: The late Jack Hirschman wrote an introduction to your 2015 collection, In Place of Me. His influence on your work is clearly present apart from this collection. When did you first discover his work?

DS: Jack Hirschman taught the novel primarily by reading aloud, mesmerizing our huge lecture class at UCLA. One day he walked into Royce Hall and announced that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. But it wasn’t until I moved to Northern California years later and met him again at a North Beach poetry reading that I began to read him. And I realized that the voice I had associated with James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Djuna Barnes—with all the urgency and drama of the moment when he announced that assassination—was actually his own poetic voice!

DG: In addition to poetry, you also write fiction. Three Tales from the Archives of Love blends three distinct time periods and narratives which touch upon the specific plight of women in relation to the periods they lived. How did you discover these stories? Had you known about them for a long time, or did the writing process begin shortly after the discovery?

DS: In each case, the writing process began shortly after the discovery. But completion of this triptych, which involved quite some research, took much longer. I first saw the beggars’ letters at the Israel Museum. I read a NY Times article about the discovery of a stone with its epigraph in a field in Naples, and viewed the Elephantine Papyri, on loan from the Brooklyn Museum, at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.

DG: Your memoir, My Name is Y, explores similar themes as Three Tales From the Archives of Love. The works were published two or three years apart from each other. Would it be right to say that the memoir was, in some ways, an extension of the fiction, despite it being stylistically and thematically different?

No, not really. The memoir was written much earlier and kept in the dark! Then after I completed Three Tales from the Archives of Love I took a second look at it, revised it slightly, and sent it forth. I think you are hearing my use of the first person in some of the archival stories and perhaps that leads to your impression?

DG: In 2017, you published Talking with Marcelo, a chapbook-length interview of six questions with Argentine journalist Marcelo Holot about his arrest during Argentina’s Dirty War. It’s a unique endeavor, given the literary format for a journalistic project. Can you speak about how you met Marcelo Holot, how the interview developed, and perhaps the thought-process behind choosing/leaving out questions?

DS: I met Marcelo Holot in an elegant tango palace, the Confiteria Ideal in Buenos Aires in February, 2008. I had never been there, and he rarely came there, so the hand of fate was definitely involved. After many emails and phone conversations I invited him to the U.S. He arrived full of huge plans involving me writing his biography! “I’m not a biographer, I’m a poet,” I maintained. But he would not let go of this idea, so finally I jotted five questions down on a pad of paper. The first one: “What Happened to Your Teeth?” And I told him to think about them and when he was ready to discuss them with me, to let me know. We sat at the Café Trieste in Sausalito for hours as I transcribed his answers long-hand. At some point I added the sixth question. Marcelo is an interesting subject. After a lot of meeting in airports, he finally emigrated, and we were married in 2021.

DG: You’ve done a great deal of traveling throughout your life. What are some trips or places that have affected your writing in a particularly strong way?

DS: The amount of travel is directly related to the number of offspring (8) my daughter and her husband produced in Paris. Each time a baby was born, I was there, then wandered off somewhere, then returned to see that baby one more time! So, Paris, but not as a subject, particularly, but as an undercurrent. In those years French Feminism was so vital, and I loved the writings of the French philosopher Hélène Cixous. Jerusalem, because I had the good fortune to meet the bookstore café owner, David Ehrlich, who introduced me to all of the wonderful writers who read at his café, and because I found their writing strong and fascinating. And Buenos Aires because—have you ever tango-ed to a live tango orchestra? It does something to your writing … as does love.

DG: Let’s return to translation, but in a different way. If you could have your own work translated by the writers you’ve translated yourself, who would that be, and why?

DS: Anna Akhmatova. Most definitely. Motherhood, Divorce. Lyrical grace. Political poetry at its most profound. I translated “Requiem” and it is the single poem I am most proud of translating. I visited her house when I was in Moscow and it seemed to be the only place where truth resided. It would be a great honor, and I would be in very high company, since she herself translated Victor Hugo, Tagore, Leopardi, Armenian, and Korean poets.

DG: The Bay Area has been a constant source of inspiration for you. Can you speak about some specific places, events, and/or people who’ve had a strong impact on your writing?

DS: North Beach in San Francisco where I re-met Jack and the many poets he loved and worked with including Stephen Kessler at that time, who has become a life-long friend; also Polk Street in San Francisco where the poet George Oppen and his wife, Mary lived. I loved to visit them there and I’m a great admirer of his work. Marin County, where I have lived for many years, because of the natural beauty that surrounds me and the many memories with my family and friends, and also the many fine poets, (including Jane Hirschfield, Cole Swenson, and Kay Ryan) I’ve met through The Marin Poetry Center—of which I was a founding member!

DG: What are you reading or working on at the moment?

DS: At the moment I am sitting here at my desk, staring at my garden and thinking, “What can I do to counter the profoundly deadly course our world is headed on? Could I read a book, write a poem, shout in the streets? I write a poem. I am trying to get a chapbook of my translations of the poetry of Gabriela Mistral published: La Cuenta Mundo, The World-Counting, poems to a newborn baby describing the things of our world. Mistral was Chile’s delegate to the UN … I think she would be advocating tirelessly for the children of the world had she been alive today. I just finished reading The Years by Annie Erneaux, and I am going to read more of her work. And in the light of the current political moment, I’ve returned to the poetry of Paul Celan.

Author Bio:

Fairfax, California poet and memoir practitioner, Doreen Stock, recently launched A Noise in the Garden, Kelsay Books, 2022 and Bye Bye Blackbird, The Poetry Box, April, 2021. Tango Man, a chapbook of love poems, was released by Finishing Line Press in August, 2020. Other recent works include: My Name is Y, an anti-nuclear memoir, February 2019, Three Tales from the Archives of Love, 2018, and Talking with Marcelo, 2017, all from Norfolk Press, San Francisco. In Place of Me, Poems edited and introduced by Jack Hirschman, was published in 2015 by Mine Gallery Editions. For more information please visit (


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