Tag Archives: Immigrant

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Marcela Sulak

In Praise of the Keiffer Pear

You could bust your lip on it,
skimming its vast misshapen surface
for a bump you could plunge your teeth into.
Unburnished, yellow-brown as the front yards of August.
Drunk, the wasps would back out of it singing cells.
Ours was a shoot off grandpa’s tree, specially bred
to endure.  His pears made a satisfying clunk
in the coffee cans he raised on headless mops
among the highest branches. There was nothing
like that grainy crunch. The ones we couldn’t get
in time we gave to our slobbering cow.
In the spring the tree’s white flowers
fell and rusted at our feet. Somehow
that made us happy.

(Poem first published in the South East Review.)

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: The balcony of my apartment in Tel Aviv. I can see the windows of all my neighbors’ apartments from it, and a small park and library beyond, where a herd of wild rabbits somehow survives among all the street cats.  We’re moving tomorrow to an even nicer balcony that looks out on a beautiful Bauhaus neighborhood in South Tel Aviv. I hope this place will be good, too.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: In our small town library I came upon a book of Russian poets, and felt shaken by Anna Akhmatova’s “There’s a Secret Border in Human Closeness.” I was in sixth grade.

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?

A: I moved to Israel from Washington, DC, twelve months ago this April, with my daughter Amalia (who is now 4).  I’m directing the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University.

Marcela Sulak’s poetry includes Immigrant (Black Lawrence Press, 2010) and Of All The Things That Don’t Exist, I Love You Best (Finishing Line Press, 2008). She’s translated three collections of poetry from the Czech Republic and  Congo-Zaire, and she currently directs the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, where she is a senior lecturer in American Literature.

Jerusalem Poetry Slam

Marcela Sulak, author of Immigrant will take part in the first monthly poetry slam hosted by the US Embassy’s American Center in Jerusalem.

Date: January 6th, 8:30 PM
Location: 19 Keren Hayesod Street, Jerusalem


For the Emigrant or Immigrant in All of Us

There is a glowing review of Immigrant by Marcela Sulak in Quiet Mountain Essays. In it, reviewer Suzanne Sunshower writes:

Immigrant is for the emigrant or immigrant in all of us. It’s a heaping portion of culture stirred by memories, ladled from a huge melting pot that’s parsleyed to the hilt with wonderful imagery . . . Immigrant is not just about food; it is a book which reminds us that history is memory, too.

You can read the entire review by following this link.

Immigrant is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon.

Marcela Sulak on Verse Daily

In case you missed it, “Cabbage” from Marcela Sulak’s Immigrant was on Verse Daily last week.  Here’s the link: www.versedaily.org/2010/cabbage.shtml

Recommended Summer Reading: Immigrant by Marcela Sulak

Kim Roberts posted a list of recommended summer reading over at No Tells. We’re very pleased that Immigrant by Marcela Sulak was included. Roberts describes Immigrant as “(a) series of poems on the origins of fruits and vegetables that will make your mouth water.”

You can see the other titles that made the list here.

Immigrant is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon.

“Pick these poems, and savor each, one by one.”

There is a glowing review of Immigrant by Marcela Sulak on NewPages. Here are some of our favorite snippets:

The majority of the 40 or so poems in this book refer directly or indirectly to fruit, so Marcela Sulak risks, on the one hand, being a show-off – look how many oranges, dates, and Brussels sprouts I can juggle – and on the other, wearing out the reader’s appetitive welcome. This reader, however, savored almost all these poems for their pungency, variety, and strength.

Sulak not only knows food, and much about love and immigration, but her larger vision includes myth, history, the power of geography to shape destiny, the ceaseless movements, exterior and interior, of humanity, the boundaries and mysteries of words. She thinks by feeling, to paraphrase Theodore Roethke, thinks big, and observes senses, feels her way into thought, all with formal control and lively, precise language. Pick these poems, and savor each, one by one.

You can read the entire review here.

Immigrant is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon.

A Ripe Peach of a Book

We are very pleased to report that Neon has just published the first review of Immigrant by Marcela Sulak in which reviewer J.S. Watts refers to the collection as “a ripe peach of a book” that “deserves a readership as broad and diverse as its subject matter.” You can read the entire review here.

Immigrant is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon.

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Marcela Sulak


Sealed inside this yellow peel, beneath the heavy
clouds they call white skin, the wings
are bound and pressed. So when she feels the knife
she quivers, when the skin’s peeled back, oh ecstasy.
Yet when the wings are lifted out, they’re different
than they were before; instead of wind they’re filled
with water, sweet and bitter, each feather fitted
to a narrow juice-filled sac.
………………………………………They look like
the hands of an unripe bride, pale from waiting
in the dark, long slender fingers reaching,
ever unmet. Even if they were to dry a little
in the sun, like cicadas falling out before
they grow into their souls, these wings
won’t rise—they left in such a rush.  And she
has never learned wane and billow, what has tides,
and what a spoon is for.  The wet pomelo feathers
wink like the seven hundred eyes of flies
and scatter like dew, and here she is,
opening her mouth.

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A: I was sitting in the kitchen in Tel Aviv one morning in March. I’d just gone to the Shuk Ha Carmel, the largest outdoor market in Tel Aviv, where they sell everything from tea towels to jewelry, from cleaning supplies to rubber duckies. But mostly they’ve got all the local, seasonal fruits and vegetables. I bought a pomelo, which is an enormous, awkwardly shaped citrus fruit with a quarter-inch rind. It was my first encounter with this beast of a fruit. The juice sacs were so large they seemed to have a life of their own.  I’d never seen anything like it. It smelled like heaven. I began a draft of the poem that day. Originally I’d wanted to work in the fact that the pomelo is the ancestor of the common grapefruit, and that Israeli agriculturists are rethinking the citrus crops they’ve been planting, because they use up too much water. They’re experimenting with different kinds of African fruits and vegetables that seem to be more compatible with the dry and hot climate of Israel. However, the initial impact of the physical fruit on me was so powerful I couldn’t work with abstractions and facts. So I let the sensual experience of the fruit guide the poem.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: Since I’ve recently moved to Israel, I’ve wanted to read more Israeli writers, and I’ve been drawing inspiration from Dahlia Ravikovitch; her newest book in translation is “Hovering at Low Altitude. The Collected Poetry.” I’ve also been extremely moved by experimental work as Deborah Bernhardt’s “Echolalia,”  and Lynn Emanuel’s “Hook and Noose.” They’re  reshuffled my mind, so that the physical world feels as if it has acquired a couple of new dimensions.

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: The most sublime meal I’ve ever eaten? When I was 26 I was teaching Spanish in a German-Czech bilingual school. My colleague was a French woman named Sophie—we were both living in the boys dormitory, for some reason.  Anyway, she invited me to Paris for the winter holidays. So we went to Cannes for New Year’s Eve. The party was insufferable, and we had too much to drink. We took the 4 am train back to Paris where her father had prepared a dinner that was so exquisite I had to restrain myself from moaning aloud with every bite. It may have been the contrast to Czech dorm food; it may have been the dull party the night before, that gave the meal that hungry edge (I’m thinking of the platitude that hunger is the best sauce). But everything was so fresh you could almost smell the soil it came from. We started with smoked salmon, capers and bread, paired with a wine I hadn’t the sophistication to remember at the time. Then an artichoke soup, fresh asparagus and butter, grilled fish. Well, I’m a vegetarian, so I can’t even explain the main courses. But the mousse followed by cheeses and the wine pairings were ecstatic.

The most spectacular meal I’ve ever witnessed (I use the term “spectacular” as in “spectacle,” since I’m a vegetarian and keep a kosher diet) happened in a small village in the wine region of Hungary at a wedding. Really I felt like I was in a Dostojevsky novel. The meal was eight courses. It began at around 6 pm with wild game soup (and wild mushroom soup in heavy cream for me), followed by hot pickled vegetables, then game birds of various species in assorted poses.  There were many things in the middle, but the climax was a couple of carts featuring piglets with apples stuffed in their mouths, which were wheeled around the room a few times. In between the courses was dancing. The bride changed clothes three times. At some point we adjourned to a chocolate fountain. There were cheeses. The penultimate course was a wedding cake cut outdoors with a sword while fireworks exploded. Since I was 5 1/2 months pregnant, I was not able to stay awake for the final course at 6 am.

Other meals of note for their sheer strangeness are described in my book, such as the stew made spicy by the venom of ants on the Brazil-Venezuelan border, and the squid served live on the plate in Japan to guests who were expected to snip tentacles off with scissors and then swallow.

Marcela Sulak’s poetry collection Immigrant is available for purchase from the Black Lawerence Press website.

Hot Off The Presses: Immigrant by Marcela Sulak

Immigrant began as a collection of sonnets rooted in the history, myths and customs surrounding fruits and vegetables, and now it includes snapshots of displaced people recreating themselves and the world in which they find themselves. Marcela Sulak draws upon travels and research for a 500-year history of the Sephardic Jews of Venezuela, and her years in Central Europe as a translator, and her early years on a rice-farm in Texas, describing immigrants of all kinds, and showing how deeply connected we are.

About the Author

Marcela Malek Sulak is the author of the poetry chapbook Of All the Things That Don’t Exist, I Love You Best (Finishing Line Press, 2008). She has translated three book-length collections of poetry, Karel Hynek Macha’s May and Karel Jaromir Erben’s Bouquet, from the Czech (Twisted Spoon Press, 2005 & forthcoming in 2010) and Mutombo Nkulu-N’Sengha’s Bela-Wenda, from the French (Host Publications, forthcoming in 2010). Her poetry has recently appeared in such journals as Fence, The Indiana Review, Drunken Boat, River Styx and The Notre Dame Review.  She has lived and worked as a free-lance writer and instructor in Germany, the Czech Republic, Venezuela and Israel. She has worked as an Assistant Professor of Literature at American University and currently directs the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University.

Advance Praise

Raised to mend walls in rural Texas, Marcela Sulak in this startling first book offers us a new cartography where the senses she excels at making sense of render new and revelatory topographies and meteorologies of this vast human world. Here fallen fruit and workaday vegetables as well as the speechless and those stunned by the beauty of the world remind us of the world’s consummate sweetness and chafing griefs…Sulak’s poems, laden with precise and exquisite images and transcribed with deft diction and prosodic command, confirm to us that the heart is our deepest thinker, an immigrant displaying all her documents and remaining the indomitable keeper of our open secrets and secret joys. –Khaled Mattawa

In a book of visions, earth-fruits, and every kind of migration, Marcela Sulak writes poems that leap from place to place, from spirit to spirit, drawing connections where we would never have seen them. She is at home wherever she finds herself, and with her natural ability to identify with the exile and traveler, she never sees the world as exotic, instead her poems show us how deeply connected we are to each other, even to other creatures, even to plants.  These are poems that reach outward and inward at the same time, poems full of tenderness and love for the world.  –Anne Marie Macari

Marcela Sulak has done something very strange and wonderful.  She has given us a kind of history of humanity, or a history made human, as told through fruits and vegetables, often in sonnet form, though the ghazal, the haiku and the tanka sprout in this garden as well. These are poems of wild vegetable hair and sexy skin and fruit, like the radish that makes us recall “how Egyptian women dyed / their nipples scarlet.”  These are histories of roots and of the uprooting, of the migration of recipes and cultures and peoples.  These are the deep mind where Sulak plants her seed, and then the lyrical bursting upward of her words dazzling the palate, blossoming the tongue.  It’s a wonderful recipe that will feed you again and again.  Eat this book. –Tony Barnstone



Wound tight inside the avocado
we once found a perfect copy
of the tree in miniature,
pale, translucent leaves unfurling,
coiled strings of roots, a stem
that split the pit. We didn’t have
the heart to toss it out, crowned
with coffee grounds and newspaper.
In the end, the landlady took it
with the rent.  She said she’d plant it
among the rocks and jagged shade
against the southern slope for strength
since silky avocado flesh
thrives under adverse conditions.

Immigrant (ISBN: 978-0-982622-8-7, $14) is available from Black Lawrence Press.

Feb. 20: Four BLP Authors At The Bowery Poetry Club

Saturday, February 20th will be an all-star evening at The Bowery Poetry Club. The reading lineup includes Bruce Cohen, David Rigsbee, Marcela Sulak, and Kevin Pilkington and will be emceed by Associate Editor Angela Leroux-Lindsey.

Bruce Cohen’s book Swerve was released by Black Lawrence Press just last week. David Rigsbee, winner of the Spring, 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition, is the author of The Pilot House, which is forthcoming from BLP. Marcela Sulak’s collection Immigrant will be released later this month. And Kevin Pilkington’s The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree will be published as part of the 2011 BLP catalogue.

The event is $4 at the door and open to the public. We hope to see you there!