Anis Shivani

Anis Shivani’s poems appear in Threepenny Review, Iowa Review, North American Review, Harvard Review, Poetry Northwest, Fiddlehead, Meanjin, Washington Square, Verse, Stand, Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere.  A debut book of criticism, Against the Workshop:  Provocations, Polemics, Controversies, will appear in July 2011, and a second collection of short fiction, The Fifth Lash and Other Stories, will appear later in 2011.




The Death of Li Po


Li Yang-ping, preserve my poems.  The emperors,

on whose behalf I wandered, are jealous like wives.


To travel a thousand rivers upstream or down, in a

moon’s half cycle, is only to deliver one’s true debts.


In Ch’ang-an, the winehouses gave me a special name

I both abhorred and loved at the same time:


Banished Immortal, meaning he who imagines life

as a continuation of the mountain’s other side.


Long ago, in the gibbons’ shrieks I heard in K’uei-chou,

a passage of sorts was enacted.  I lost my strangeness.


Now, on this river that beckons to the civilization

still remnant in the shrunken land, land of half-sight,


I embrace the moon, its diffuse wavy pattern, its

silken bodice, its talkative-silent recital – a poem


inherited among the thousands I most love,

to live through the tough interrogation ahead.


Li Yang-ping, preserve my poems.  If I drown,

in the brown depths the poet’s only disguise flutters. 




To Orhan Pamuk


You have the hüzün, the melancholy

of undying empires piled on each other,

the intrigue of the word-defying holy,

the torture-games of brother by brother.

You strand the Bosphorus on feet of clay,

an Istanbullu fifty years on the same street,

seeing the Golden Horn as on the first day,

nodding to the names behind the retreat.

We, loud exiles and immigrants, toss-offs

and runaways, our good parents’ heartbreak,

dig for first and last names in the old troughs,

defend to the death our identifying stake.

Your loneliness is spared the daily death.

We, the free, delineate each new breath.




Dear Paul Muldoon


Barricade the America behind the Princeton

oaks, behind the New Yorker’s gates, in a-technical

language of your aged-youth, steeped in the tragedy of

loaves and laughing sciences and lush O’Casey;

barricade it from the striptease of hidden views

familiar from publishing’s megacelebrities touring

the country in birdcages lined with squawk;

barricade America’s broken highways and silenced

cancer wars with ribbons of your faltering

precious dialogue with Heaney and his forefathers

and theirs, buried deep in the potato fields from

whence no man emigrates sans soul in a coffin box;

barricade America whose gift to herself is platitude,

toward blue Eden, soaked with irony,

a flatulent brig staggering onward to foggy coasts

borrowed from other continents, land masses

whose shape resembles fractured skulls.