1. How did you come up with the title for your book? Cello’s Tears is an image I use in one of the poems in the collection. The cello for me is the most evocative instrument, one that when playing a melancholic tune seems to be crying. The notes the cello produces are like tears.
2. What kind of reader were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood books?
I was a voracious reader. I loved authors such as Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days), Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers), Baroness Orczy (Scarlet Pimpernel), James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book), Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe). As a young child, I read a lot of Hungarian classics in the original; Hungarian literature is fabulously rich, with only some of it available in translation.
3. What are your current projects?
I am trying to get a trilogy of memoirs based on Cold War escapes I was involved in published. Two of these are completed and the third one still requires a lot of work. I am also working on a thriller that involves a coup d’etat in France; a first draft of this is three-quarters done. As well, another thriller―the second in a trilogy the first of which is currently being published―is in the works. I also might rework ARCTIC MELTDOWN, the e-thriller I published electronically in 2011 since much of what I envisaged in that novel is playing out today. When inspired, I also write poetry and will eventually put these together in a collection.
4. What was the last truly great book you read?
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt. It teaches and at the same time thrills. It is history, literature and thriller all rolled into one. It talks about the rediscovery of one of the great epic poems of antiquity, Lucretius’ De Rerum Naturae, in the early Renaissance and how that influenced modern thought thereafter.
5. The last book that made you cry?
Thomas Snyder’s Badlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. It truly brings home the brutality that the peoples of the countries between Germany and Russia suffered under those two dictators.
6. List five words that you feel best describes your book.
Multi-cultural, translations, experimental, musical, pictorial.
7. If you could only bring three books to a desert island, which would you choose?
Goethe’s Faust, Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (to get some tips)
8. Who is your favorite novelist of all time? Your favorite novelist writing today?
Graham Greene, Philip Kerr. Greene writes wonderfully, creating rich characters, dripping with suspense, evoking time and place. I love the thriller genre, particularly literary thrillers like Greene’s The Third Man. It is also my very favorite movie. Philip Kerr’s books are based on extensive research, and are a fun read with lots of intrigue; his detective character, Bernie Gunther, is brilliant. again, he evokes time and place so well that you are transported.
9. What are your literary guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre?
I love thrillers, historical fiction and well-written history. Poems. Some erotica.
10. Which book might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?
The Onion Book of Known Knowledge. I don’t know how it appeared on my shelf, but this book spoofs facts and knowledge – sort of like Monty Python or Saturday Night Live. I think it is a rare book; I haven’t seen it anywhere else.
11. What were the most influential books you read as a student?
Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species; Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness; Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies; James Joyce, Ulysses; D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterly’s Lover
12. Who or what has influenced the writing?
Some poems are influenced by the time I spent in different countries―Japan, Canada, Germany, France Hungary, USA etc. Artists such as Henry Moore, John Turner, Michelangelo, my good friend Jeremy Smith among others, musicians such as Mahler, Ravel and Schubert to name just a few, and other poets such as Bassho, Goethe and Nelligan (a French Canadian poet) have all been influencers.
13. If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
Arctic Meltdown (my e-thriller)―not because of the writing, but because it addresses a critical issue and is a fun read at the same time (also selfishly, beacuse if he read it and piad attention, others might as well.)
14. What kind of books do you like to read before bed?
Thrillers. Books that provide excitement / suspense and learning at the same time.
15. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
Fifty Shades of Gray. Boring. There is no plot to speak of, not even any good sex.
Geza Tatrallyay was born in Hungary before his family escaped the Hungarian Revolution by fleeing to Canada. After graduating from Harvard University and studying at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, he went on to earn a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics. An avid fencer, he represented Canada in the 1976 Olympic Games. Cello’s Tears, his debut poetry collection, is the culmination of his longtime fascination with poetic verse and human emotion.
The Joy of Writing
I have always loved language, experimenting with words, sounds, and combinations of these building blocks of communication. How they encode ideas and feelings, based on a common understanding chiseled over eons and still evolving, daily. Different languages will express the inner self differently; hence my passion for learning tongues, for the wonder of playing with their ability to convey thought and emotion.
Poetry was for me always the purest form of this game, where I could sit down, and with words, tease what was inside me onto a piece of paper, creating something of beauty. Then refine the product, sleep on it, rework the dough again, until―either as an incomplete fragment or as a fully rounded thought picture―I would stash it away in a drawer, or more recently, a file on my laptop.
Rediscovering these snippets from the inside of a self that was months, years, decades younger when these were crystallized, is akin to the wonder of love, and the older me would then relive these acts again, taking much pleasure in a slightly altered line, a more fitting word, a poised comma. And further delight would come at some point when I would take these disparate joggings, and assemble them into a coherent whole, a symphony of movements made up of melodies, phrases, and ultimately combinations of notes.
Thus was my collection of poems, CELLO’S TEARS, brought into the world. The sheer joy of creating it epitomizes what writing means to me. And many thanks go to Lucinda Clark and Rashida Weedon at PRA Publishing for serving as the very capable midwives for this birth.
Cello’s Tears will be released June 2015
Book Store Fantasies: On the Anticipation and Anxiety of Publishing My First Book—A Guest Post by Derek Berry
I press fingertips to book spines, dragging my palms against each title as I amble down the fiction aisle. The air inside the bookstore breathes Arctic chill, but among these paper lives, I don’t notice the cold. My fingers spark with ecstatic anticipation, and my chest burns like a furnace with pride. In less than a year, PRA will publish my first young adult novel. The Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County, a story about teenagers grappling with the aftermath of a hate crime while struggling to navigate the end of their high school careers, will appear in print alongside these other books.
Each time I return to the bookstore—a place a block away from where I live that sells new and used books, hosts readings, and employs friendly book-sellers—I stalk the shelves to search for that holy place along the spines between “Bea” and “Bet” where my book will appear. I navigate the aisles and stand in front of this soon-to-be-filled void with an air of inspiration and euphoria. Is it not the dream of every young writer to publish their first book? Growing up, I spent many hours and days in bookstores browsing. Aside from reading voraciously, I also entertained hopes that my work might join the shelves. Now that the dream is fast becoming reality, the visits have become different, a mix of hope and fear.
The vision blooms in the ether of optimistic yearning: some young teen, girl or boy, wanders by himself or herself in a bookstore, dejected by the saturation of vampire tales and romantic dramas. This teenager picks up my book from the shelves, drawn perhaps by the strange and beautiful cover, the long and suggestive title—that word Heathens tugging at a part of their heart recoiling from adulthood but drifting further from childhood. This teen flips casually through the first few pages, and a fishhook of intrigue snags the mind; in the next few weeks, he or she will find sanctuary in this story, reading about teenagers just like themselves—real characters rather than an amalgam of pop-culture tropes. The vision dissipates then, replaced by another dream: myself a rock star among high school and college students, the voice of a generation. At first book signings, awards plastering my walls, then maybe a crowd hoisting me on their shoulders, maybe next a private jet funded by book sales. My imagination spirals out of control, my elation unbounded.
As these fictitious scenes play out, I notice another emotion stir too, a deep unsettled dread become brittle as frost. My confidence dances atop a frozen lake, the ice cracking.
What if no one likes the book? What if no one buys the book? What is that fictitious teenagers shakes his or head in disgust, bored with my story? If I’m almost twenty-one, can I even claim to think like a teenager any longer, the mind and experience of the teenager? What if people hate my book and protest my readings? Or worse, what is nobody cares at all, if the book becomes a physical object only to sit on shelves collecting dust? Only to garner a few reviews and be forgotten in this maelstrom of publishing?
These fears seize me. Sometimes in the midst of joyous hope, I imagine everything that might go wrong. Insecurities about my writing, the world of publishing, and America’s declining readership assail me every day, and yet I remain excited for this book’s release. Despite doubts, I want the world to read me, to step inside my mind for a while and perhaps learn something new.
I balance idealism and anxiety on the fulcrum of my heart. I know that even if all else remains uncertain, the future holds its publication. The dreams and visions have not been completely fulfilled—I’m not lecturing or riding around in a private jet (yet)—but my first book will be available to the public. I can now proudly tell myself I’m an author. An author—to say this word is so sweet on my tongue. In a few months, I will again visit this bookstore and find my novel among the shelves. Not only will this be a reality, but I will also read at this bookstore and others across the country. I keep repeating this mantra: people will hear my story, people will hear my story. Naturally this idea of opening one’s self up to the world’s criticism or praise might be frightening, but there also exists exhilaration in this public vulnerability. Soon, you too, dear reader, will be able to consume The Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County. To find out more about the book, visit my blog Word Salad HERE. If you’re interested in the story, keep an eye on those lovely book shelves November 2015.
J.C. Elkin is a graduate of Bates College, Southern Connecticut state University, and the Defense Language Institute. Founder of the Broadneck Writer’s Workshop, she is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has been recognized by Poetry Matters, The Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Maryland Writers’ Association. An E.S.L. instructor at Anne Arundel Community College, she also works as a theater critic and singer, and makes her home on the Chesapeake Bay.
There are 325 languages spoken in the United States and over a million immigrants enrolled in federally funded English classes. Most are beginners. In this collection of poems, an ESL teacher and former expat illustrates her students’ struggles and triumphs by addressing their linguistic challenges and culture shock alongside broader social issues such as poverty, spousal abuse, religious traditions, illegal immigration, education, the role of women in other cultures, and the mental scars of war. Their stories are heart-breaking, uplifting, and tinged with unexpected humor that shines a new light on their place in America.
The book has received rave reviews from Sue Ellen Thompson and Newt Gingrich just to name a few, who found this work to be important. Below are more links on World Class:
This video was shared on our group Face Book page by 2014 Poetry Matters Lit Prize Winner Leah Smith. Share your thoughts on this blog or on Patrick’s Facebook page. Thank you Leah for sharing it. http://bit.ly/1hf0SXJ
Oh my,with all that is going on with us for Poetry Month we almost forgot to acknowledge this most important day. As always when I am short on time I refer to American Academy of Poets.
By the way, my favorite poem of all time is If by Rudyard Kipling, I alway change the end to woman, my daughter. I think she, my daughter, needs to have it shared with her today. To JCC
BY RUDYARD KIPLING
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)