ALBERT RUSSO: A Letter to Authors, Artists, and Poets.

 

(photo by Per Eidspjeld)

 

Dear Readers and Colleagues,

These are challenging times for many — including for both well-known and lesser-known authors, poets, artists, musicians, etc. I have invited a few of my international colleagues to write short pieces or to be interviewed by me about how they are faring. My friend, colleague, and co-author Albert Russo has accordingly penned the following message to share with readers and followers of my blog:

 

ALBERT RUSSO: A Letter to Authors, Artists, and Poets.

Dear writers, poets, and artists,

I am writing to you because I consider you part of my extended family.  This will be an informal, intimate letter, for I empathize with you. It seems that we are all floating in what resembles a Noah’s Ark of the size of a mega cruise ship.  Most of us are struggling to get read and appear in the public scene; a happy few have ‘made it’, and so goes the world.  But we have to carry on in what we believe is most important to us and try to do the best we can.  Of course, we wish to appeal to the largest possible audience, of course, we hope to live from our work, it is only legitimate. 

Everyone has his / her writing discipline.  I, for one, start my work in the early afternoon and try to carry it for 6 or 7 hours, whether I write two lines or 2 pages.  Students have asked me whether I enjoyed writing.  My answer was, sometimes, but often enough, it is trying. Writing to me is existential, meaning that, I have to write like I have to breathe, I have to eat and I have to sleep.  Do we always sleep well?  Aren’t we sometimes out of breath?  Do we always enjoy our food, when we are in a hurry and need to run to an important appointment, or when there is an emergency?  

To you, aspiring authors and artists, I have one piece of advice:  enter this field with passion, only if you cannot live without writing or painting, or sculpting.  Your first motive should NOT be to succeed by making money.  Hone your art, become its muse, and if, later on, you are lucky enough to strike it big, then bravo!  

I, who am addressing you today, belong to the huge crowd of writers and artists, still trying to get the attention of those professionals who would allow me to reach a wider readership and audience.  It is, I must admit, harrowing at times, and frustrating, but such is our trade. And if we do not accept this, then we should try to turn to something else which is less stressful, more pleasurable.  During this terrible pandemic, some people have been able to turn around, discovering new ways of living.  No one says that it is easy. Be imaginative.     

 

TO MY FELLOW POETS

 

a scathing review

should not cast you in a trance 

tho your blood cries out

are you stuck with words? 

then string them around your neck 

they will set you free

whatever they say

remember Kipling’s advice 

about self-control

a drop of honey

a taste of eternity 

wrapped in syllables

thanks to the haiku 

you can recreate the world 

or leave not a trace

before man could speak 

he knew poetry 

by intuition

 

 

foreign relations 

is the language one uses 

when love has no place

like ships in the night 

like clouds shredding in the blue 

like your closing heart

the boat is sinking 

but who thinks of the havoc 

wrought in the ocean

travel to the stars 

with your bag of memories 

and earth’s illusions

in desperation

let dreams carry you away 

they’ll color your pain

 

I started writing poetry first in English when I was a student at New York University. When I moved to Milan I began to write short stories in French. I was writing more and more and liked business less and less. This was in part why I divorced the first time. After I spent 9 months in a psychiatric ward in Brussels, I moved to Paris, where I continued to write, but now in both English and French. I published my first poems, stories, and novels in France, while I sent my poems and my stories in English to American and British reviews. When I moved back to New York, I only wrote in English and began publishing in magazines nationwide, garnering many awards. I returned to Paris and continued to write in the two languages. Even though I did start my career in English, my first books were published in French. Since I write in my two mother tongues, I usually first write the original in English then I rewrite the whole story in French. More than a translation it is an adaptation.

My first novels were set in Africa, where I had lived for 17 years.  It was then much later that my original novels appeared in English, America, Europe, India, and South Africa. I write in three different styles.  Serious historical and autobiographical novels set in the Belgian Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and South Africa. They are the settings of my AFRICAN QUATUOR, in which two novels have important Jewish elements, especially in the Belgian Congo, which very few people know about. They are MIXED BLOOD / ADOPTED BY AN AMERICAN HOMOSEXUAL IN THE BELGIAN CONGO and EUR-AFRICAN EXILES. Another novel is I-SRAELI SYNDROME, set in Africa, Italy, and Israel. Then there is my novel in French only MOI, HANS, FILS DE NAZI.  Apart from my poetry written in both English and French – see my big book THE CROWDED WORLD OF SOLITUDE, volume 2 -, I write short stories mainly in English, – they are in my other big book THE CROWDED WORLD OF SOLITUDE, volume 1.  Finally, I write humorous stories; they have recently been assembled in the large volume GOSH ZAPINETTE! (almost 800 pages), the first-ever series of global Jewish humor.

My most recent novel, co-written with the excellent writer Jeanette Skirvin is TEL AVIV’S ETHIOPIAN QUEEN. Last, but not least, is the big book of poems, GAYTUDE, I wrote with my friend, the multi-talented Renaissance man, Adam Donaldson Powell. My work has been translated worldwide into about 15 languages, from Polish to Turkish, Bengali to Chinese, Greek to Dutch … but not yet in Hebrew, the language of my ancestors!  I hope some good publisher will put out some of my work here in Eretz Israel, my last and definitive home, after having lived on three other continents.

Albert Russo

www.albertrusso.com 

 

 

The author (Albert Russo) when he was a teenager — in his native Congo.

 

 

 

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