Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Ron A. Kalman author of the new poetry collection "Appearance of the Sun"

Ron A. Kalman, author of his first poetry collection "Appearance of the Sun" ( Main Street Rag Publishing) will be released in the coming months but can be pre-ordered now. Kalman is a graduate of Emerson College (MFA), a Somerville Bagel Bard, and has been published in numerous publication including Somerville's Ibbetson Street magazine, and the Lyrical Somerville in the Somerville Times.

Interview with John Wisiewski

What was it like growing up in Budapest, Ron?

It’s true that my family is from Budapest, but I wasn’t actually born there. My parents fled Budapest during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. During that year, there was a period when the borders were loosely guarded, and my parents trudged across the fields from communist controlled Hungary to Austria.

They settled in Israel, and that’s where I was born, though I don’t have any memories of that. My first memory, perhaps appropriately, is of being on a boat as we were heading to Paris. We lived in a house in the suburbs. It had a fenced in yard with lots of fruit trees, and I attended kindergarten where, as I recall, there wasn’t much playtime. I vaguely remember sitting behind a desk and studying trigonometry.

It was only a few years later that we were on the move again, this time via an ocean liner headed for the United States. One morning, my mother dragged me up on deck so I wouldn’t miss seeing the Statue of Liberty as we arrived in New York. The statue didn’t impress me much. But I was only six years old so what did I know?

We stayed in New York just long enough so that I could taste a real New York hot dog from a real New York street vendor. Then we boarded a plane and headed out to Boulder CO where my father was a physics professor at the university. There I attended first grade. Fortunately, there was a girl in my class who spoke French, and I shadowed her for the first couple months until she got sick of me. But by then I’d more or less figured out what was what and managed to survive on my own.

The following year we moved to the Boston area and that pretty much ended our global roving. Still, we continued to move from house to house and from school district to school district. I counted that by the time I reached 7th grade I’d attended 6 different schools. And, if my experiences instilled in me nothing else, it was that being observant was more than just a useful skill. It amounted to something of a survival tactic.

When did you begin writing?

I wrote my first poem in 7th grade for an assignment, and I’m happy to report it was a big hit with both my teacher and my mother. But that pretty much ended my poetry writing for the next fifteen years. I liked reading novels much more than poetry, and in high school I started writing short stories.

After college I had no real plans and bounced around for a few years until, finally, I decided it would be a good idea to write a novel. There was nothing that I’d done up till then that would have led anyone to think I’d be successful. And, in fact, I spent a wretched year living in a moldy basement apartment in Brighton failing to put together anything even remotely coherent.

Right about then, just when I’d pretty much packed it in as far as writing was concerned, I happened to move to Harvard Square and a buddy of mine convinced me I should sign up for a poetry writing class. And Voila! I instantly felt a confidence using the poetic form that had eluded me the previous year.

What may inspire you to write?

I don’t think that’s a constant, though I do have an aesthetic I sometimes like to follow. My poems tend to be autobiographical and outside the academic mainstream. When I was working on the novel, I’d hoped to write something that captured the immediacy and vibrancy of everyday experiences similar to what I’d found in Tropic of Cancer. When I started writing poetry, I was delighted to discover a similar type of thing going on in Frank O’Hara’s I do this I do that poems. So, when I started working on the poems that would become my chapbook Appearance of the Sun, many of the poems were based on whatever was happening at the moment.

. You have done translations as well as poetry. Could you tell us about this.

I started doing translations quite by accident. One day, my father showed me a book that used a short poem by the famous Hungarian poet Attila József as an epigraph, and I thought the translation had completely lost the essential feel of the original. So naturally, I had to try my hand at it. Since my Hungarian is not very good, I do the translations with my father and, over the years, we’ve accumulated a small bunch of translations of József’s work.

Perhaps more interesting is that my translations are very different from my own writing. József’s poems are strictly metered and rhymed. I do the translations, and I try to adhere to the original form as much as possible. People who look at my translations first are often surprised that my own writing looks quite different.

Could you tell us about you latest chapbook just published?

I’ve already alluded to it. It’s called Appearance of the Sun, and it’s being put out by Main Street Rag Publishing. It should be out maybe in January or February of 2021.

The collection contains poems I wrote when I first started writing poetry, and it owes much to the novel I had wanted to write before that. Some of the characters in the longer poems are characters I had wanted to put into the novel. And as for the shorter poems, I wanted for them to have an episodic feel to them even while maintaining the integrity of each poem as a separate entity. I was going for something that might approach an extended narrative in the life of the narrator.

6. You have moved to Boston later in Life. Do the people of Boston inspire you to write?

Yes, of course. I would have never written Appearance of the Sun if I hadn’t fallen in with a great group of friends and acquaintances when I moved to Harvard Square. I lived in a big apartment complex right on Mass. Ave., and I was friends with a bunch of people in the building. Every Friday night, one of them would hold a political/literary gathering in his apartment that would go on well into the early morning hours. Add to that that if I went out of for a walk, I was just as likely as not to bump into someone I knew and end up in an hour-long discussion about Nietzsche or the Beats or politics.

This all changed when rent control was abolished. Rents, of course, started to rise precipitously and that’s when I and just about everyone I knew moved out of Cambridge. And Harvard Square itself has become a shadow of its former self. Gone are most of the things I thought made it such an interesting place, the artists, the eateries, the movie theaters and countless bookstores.

. Any future plans and projects, Ron?

Thanks for the question. What writer wouldn’t want people to be interested in what he or she is working on? And I do have projects lying about in my drawer, some being closer to completion than others. But I think talking about them might be bad luck. It might take away my impetus to actually finish them.

And, John, I’d just like to add that I much appreciate the effort you put into doing this interview with me. It’s been a great experience.

To order go to: https://mainstreetragbookstore.com/product/appearance-of-the-sun-ron-a-kalman/

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