Contributing Editor Helen Bar-Lev, IL




Interview with Stanley H. Barkan, US

Question: Where do you live? Tell us a little about your family?

I live in Merrick, New York, with my artist-wife, Bebe Barkan. We have a daughter, Jacqueline Mia Barkan Clarke, a poet-artist-art therapist, and son, Joseph Scotte Barkan, computer engineer, and between them there are five grandchildren

Question: What is your profession?

I’m a retired teacher of English, English as a Second Language, Creative Writing, and various languages (beginning Spanish, Swahili). I’m a poet and small press publisher of Cross-Cultural Communications, now in its 41st year. CCC started in 1971 as an Institute, which I initiated and chaired, at Long island University’s Brooklyn Center.

It was based on the naïve idea that, if people would be exposed to the best that the different cultures of the world offer in their essence, their Art, regaled by the beauty and significance of their words and images, they might be less inclined to harm each other. Well, it’s been 41 years now, and, alas, I fear, human beings are just bent on destroying each other. One day, some extraterrestrial may come to Earth and find the artifacts of CCC’s efforts, and say, “What a wondrous thing was Man. Whatever happened to him?”

Question: In which country were you born?

I was born in Brooklyn—when Brooklyn was the world—New York, USA.

Question: When did you begin to write poetry and what prompted you to write?

I began writing poetry seriously, just after receiving an early-out to attend college, from the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Question: How long have you been a member of Voices?

Just the last two years.

Question: Do you belong to any other writing/poetry groups? Please tell us a little about them.

Yes, The Sicilian Antigruppo, The Seventh Quarry, ImmaginePoesia, and ALTA (American Literary Translators Association). The Sicilian Antigruppo is or was (as it is now basically defunct after the death of its primary spokesman, Nat Scammacca) a Sicilian-based literary-arts group against groups, which for half a century impacted significantly on the international literary arts scene, The Seventh Quarry is both a magazine and a small press publisher located in Swansea, Wales, edited by poet Peter Thabit Jones. Imagine&Poesia is a literary-arts group located in Torino, Italy. ALTA is the main literary translators association based in Texas.

Question: What are the most important changes you’ve seen in Voices in all this time?

Producing a significant annual anthology and being open to new types of submissions (e.g., translations).

Question: What inspires your poetry?

Mainly people, family, and people of many different cultures.

Question: Which forms do you prefer? Why?

I choose to write in what has been called “Free Verse,” preferring my poems to find their own form, forms whose sounds echo the sense. I also like to write several Japanese forms: haiku, senryu, tanka, and renga.

Question: Who is your favorite poet?

Dylan Thomas.

Question: Where have you been published?

In fifteen individual-author books, including several bilingual (Bulgarian, Italian, Polish, Russian, Sicilian). Also in many national American poetry journals, such as Bitterroot, Confrontation, Home Planet News, Lips, Paterson Literary Review, Rattapallax; and many international newspapers and journals, bilingually, such as Korean Expatriate Literature (California-based), The Seventh Quarry (Wales), “Terza Pagina” in Trapani Nuova (Trapani, Sicily), and numerous publications in Holland, Japan, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine. Also in many anthologies, such as ABC Bestiary, Blood to Remember, Long Island Sounds, Paumanok.

Question: Anything else you care to tell us?

For 40 years, I’ve directed an International Poetry Festival at venues throughout the United States, including a series at the Dag Hammerskjöld Auditorium at the United Nations in New York, as well as in other countries (e.g., Puerto Rico, Sicily, Wales).

Also, I’d just like to say something about the true reward for being a poet. I think that writing a poem that would stir a reader to laugh, cry, or sing, or touch him in the deep heart’s core, or just to cause the river of his own remembrance or imagination to flow is all the prize that any poet need care or hope for. The so-called “prizes” are really tinsel tiaras which glitter but are not gold.


Poems of Stanley H. Barkan, US


Free Verse

Forgetting Jerusalem


My tongue is stuck
to the roof of my mouth.
I cannot speak.
I have forgotten . . .

No. I remember
a wall with papers
stuffed into crevices,
black caftaned,
men & boys.

Women on the other side

Streets labyrinthine,
winding through
memories of visitors:
Those who came to see.
Those who came to conquer.
Those wo came to wander.
Those who came to destroy.
Those who came to study.
Those who came to claim
and counterclaim.

My right arm
still has its cunning,
and so I write
but cannot speak.
I cannot shout
from the tops of minarets,
cannot go up & down a ladder
with other angels.

I have a mark on my thigh
as a sign that something
took place
--then--but not now.

I struggle
through a mist of memory . . .
move my right arm
up & down,
extend my fingers,
stretch my toes,
swing my hips
from side to side,
turn my head
around and around.

But still I cannot spoeak.
My tongue cleaves
to the top of my mouth.

Something it is
that I've forgotten . . .




On the Brink


On the brink of fall,
the leaves decide their deciduous fate.

Autumn comes like a red-haired witch
riding the winds on a thick-strawed broomstick.

The forests stun the eyes, visioning postcard vistas:
layers of gold and orange, reds and purples.

Soon all the trees will shake off their colored complements,
and the black bony fingers will thrust themselves stark

against the whiteness of the brink of winter.




The Cats of Brooklyn


Brooklyn cats breakfast on birds.
No canned wet pet food for them,
nor kibbles & bits of dry food.

Brooklyn cats are street cats.
They rule rooftops, fire escapes, and fences.
They roam backyards and alleyways
and won't be confined
in condos, cages, or courtyards.

These are the cats of Brighton, Borough Park,
Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Bushwick.
There are not the cats of Manhattan,
Queens, Staten Island, or The Bronx.

These Brooklyn cats are tough, not even
the big dogs of Bed-Stuy will tangle with them,
knowing they, like their cousins of Tel Aviv,
fiercely fang and claw all comers.

You can take the cat out of Brooklyn
to Long Island, Westchester, or Connecticut,
but you can't take the Brooklyn out of the cat.




As Yet Unborn


Oh to be Adam
with all his ribs
yearning for a woman
as yet unborn,
mouth free
of the taste of apples,
ears without
the hiss of snakes,
mindless of
nakedness and shame
in the garden
of gentle creatures
waiting for a name.



(a “footnote” after Donald Lev)


I jumped off
the Brooklyn Bridge.
But I failed.
I didn't die.
The Guinness Book of World Records
called me up,
said I should try again:
If I lived,
I'd set a record.
So I jumped a third time
and succeeded.
At last I've achieved . . .



on Lévanzo, Sicily,
for Nat Scammacca


High over the clear
blue waters
of the Mediterranean
surrounding this island
risen out of the imagination
of the great blind poet of Greece,
I struggle upwards
over the broken stones,
the hot sun glowering over
the bones of a hobbled donkey
covered with great snails
crawling in and out
the remnants of flapping skin.
Above, just beyond my reach,
a large wall of rock blocks
the entrance to the cave
where long, long ago
some ancients sought
to make their mark,
to leave some notice
that they were here.
Down below, a friend
urges me onward,
to reach up and over
and into the place
where I could see
testaments of immortality.
But, looking back
at the remnants of the poor
hobbled creature covered
with crastuna, I think
perhaps it is enough
only to come so close
and to have faith
that there are marks
on a wall in a cave asserting:
“We were here!”



Some Books Published by Stanley H. Barkan, US









 About Stanley H. Barkan, US


Stanley H. Barkan, born in Brooklyn in 1936, is the editor/publisher of the Cross-Cultural Review Series of World Literature and Art in Sound, Print, and Motion, which includes some 50 different ethnic, language, national, and cultural groups. In 1976 and 1978, he represented the United States at the “Struga Poetry Evenings” in Macedonia. Also, in 1978, he was a Fellow of the Stichting/Amsterdam and was awarded a medal for his contribution to the arts in Sicily. In 1987, he was one of ten American editors invited by Teddy Kollek to represent the United States at the Jerusalem International Book Fair. In the summer of 1990, he was the American Director of the World Odyssey Conference in Trapani, Sicily. For the past 40 years, he has directed the International Literary Arts Festival, which, from 1990-91, included (with David Curzon) the Reading Series at the United Nations in New York City, where he featured such literary luminaries as Isaac Asimov and Allen Ginsberg. In 1991, Poets House and the NYC Board of Education presented him with the Poetry Teacher of the Year Award, and, in 1996, he received the Poor Richard’s Award, a bust of Benjamin Franklin, “for a quarter century of high quality publishing” from the Small Press Center in New York. From 1992–95, he directed the Multicultural Poetry Series at Barnes & Noble and Borders superstores and the International Poets & Writers Literary Arts Weeks in New York, featuring Italian, Israeli, Latin American, and Cajun Writers. He is the editor of Sicilian Antigruppo (1976), To Struga with Love (1978), and ABC Bestiary (with endless-line drawings by Alfred Van Loen, 1990), the co-editor (with Joost De Wit) of 50 Dutch & Flemish Novelists (1979), and (with Laura Boss) Lips 17: International Women Poets.

To date, he has published some 400 titles in 50 different languages, including bilingual editions by Joan Alcover, Isaac Goldemberg, Hafez, Stanley Kunitz, Harry Mulisch, Vinícius de Moraes, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Preil, Louis Simpson, Edith Södergran, Henry Taylor, and Leo Vroman. In 1978, he was a Fellow of the Stichting/Amsterdam (The Foundation for the Promotion of Dutch & Flemish Translation) and was awarded a medal for his contribution to the arts from the City of Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, and, in 1998, he received the Brandeis National Women’s Association award for Poetry. He maintains membership in the American Literary Translators Association and, was chosen to be on Advisory Board of The Americas section of Texas Tech University Press. Voices Israel, He is the author of 15 poetry books, including The Blacklines Scrawl (1976, 2004), O Jerusalem (with photographs by Ron Agam, 1996), presented by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani at the Tweed Gallery at City Hall, “in celebration of the 3000th anniversary of Jerusalem,” and Mishpocheh (with paintings by Bebe Barkan, 2004), and his poems have been translated into 25 languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Macedonian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Sicilian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Turkish, and Yiddish. His bilingual collections, include Under the Apple Tree / Pod jablonia (translated into Polish by Adam Szyper, 1998), Bubbemeises & Babbaluci (translated into Italian by Nina & Nat Scammacca, 2001), Naming the Birds (translated into Bulgarian by Vladimir Levchev, 2002), Pàssuli cu mènnuli / Raisins with Almonds (translated into Sicilian by Marco Scalabrino, forthcoming), and Crossings (translated into Russian by Aleksey Dayen, forthcoming). A recent collaborative work (with complementary photographics by Mark Polyakov) is Strange Seasons (Sofia, Bulgaria: AngoBoy, 2007).

Daniel Weissbort, editor of Modern Poetry in Translation, praised Barkan’s poetry as being “subtle and convincing . . . about real things, not just themselves, as so many poems are.” Gregory Rabassa, foremost translator of Spanish and Portuguese literature, whose translations have resulted in both Asturias and García-Márquez receiving the Nobel Prize, says, “Barkan has a way about him that gets the best out of people and out of words.” And Alfred Kazin, foremost socio-literary critic of our time, selected a poem by Barkan, “As yet Unborn,” from Modern Poems on the Bible (edited by David Curzon), to cite in his review and to read at New York City’s main public library and on the radio.

In May 2006, Barkan was invited, under the aegis of The Seventh Quarry, edited by Peter Thabit Jones, to be the first solo featured poet at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, Wales. Two years later, he became co-publisher of the new Quarry chapbook series. His recent projects include organizing the Spring 2008 Dylan Thomas Tribute Tour of America, featuring Aeronwy Thomas and Peter Thabit Jones and “A Dylan Thomas Walking Tour of Greenwich Village,” and co-hosting with Peter Thabit Jones the first International Poetry Festival in Swansea, Wales, June 15-19, 2011. In celebration of CCC’s 40th Anniversary, Barkan received two plaques awards: one from The Faculty of the Creative Arts Department at Siena College, New York: “In Sincere Appreciation of 40 Years of Success in the Art of Publishing” (April 11, 2011); the other from the Korean Expatriate Literature Association, Los Angeles (June 26, 2011) “for his contribution to the promotion of the globalization of Korean literature through exchanges of Korean and American poetry.”

Barkan lives with his artist-wife, Bebe, in Merrick, Long Island. Their married children and spouses with their children—Mia & Steven and Natasha & Roxy; Scotte & Jackie and Mattingly & Jeremy—live nearby in the same town.









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