Kathy Engel is a poet, essayist, convener, educator, organizational strategic consultant, and co- founder of numerous organizations and projects including MADRE, the international women’s human rights group, which she also directed. She’s worked in nearly every major social justice, peace, and human rights movement in the U.S. over the last 38 years. In 2014, Engel performed her elegiac suite of poems, “The Lost Brother Alphabet,” with choreographer/dancer Suchi Branfman at the Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, California. She currently serves as Chair and Associate Arts Professor in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Department of Art and Public Policy and the Masters Program in Arts Politics. She co-founded Riptide Communications (a public relations consulting firm established to service social change organizations), the Hayground School, East End Women in Black, Poets for Ayiti, Lyrical Democracies, and The Center for Poetic Healing. Engel has given workshops, talks, and readings nationally, and her poems, essays, and reviews are widely published and anthologized, in The Iowa Review, The Nation (online), Poetry Magazine, Poet Lore, The Wide Shore, and elsewhere. Recent books include Ruth’s Skirts (available at Amazon), IKON, The Kitchen, and We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon, co-edited with Kamal Boullata. Author website: www.kathyengelpoet.com
I was taken with Ernst Jandl’s “the usual rilke.” [This poem appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Poetry] It gave me permission, or reminded me, of the richness of writing in conversation with poets, even though my poem is so very different from Jandl’s. So my poem is in conversation with Jandl somehow, and of course Neruda as well, expanding the dialogue. My leaning towards Neruda has been a long time coming, an ongoing nourishment and sense of the possible. The physicality presented itself and then intertwined with urgent present and past struggles. I’m hearing the next one might be in relation to Mahmoud Darwish . . . maybe. In an earlier version there were shoes, and then no shoes.