Talia Lavin - the journey
Talia Lavin is a talented, well-educated poet and spoken-word artist, who can not only spin a web of wonderful words, but she also taught herself Russian among other languages, just to better understand poetry in its proper tongue. We had the opportunity to sit down with Talia and hear about how she got from Harvard University to Mister Rogers.
Talia began her compulsive writing habit when she was just a little girl, pacing her bedroom and muttering rhythmic rhymes under her breath. When asked who her greatest influences were, she painted a picture of a quaint used bookstore in Teaneck, New Jersey where her first exposure to poetry began with the selected writings of Guillaume Apollinaire.
" I liked the bowler hat he was wearing on the cover and bought the book because of that - I was literally bowled over by these writings and fell in love with poetry." - Talia said
She went from discovering Apollinaire and his coining of the word "surrealism" to finding the Dadaist movement, an avant-garde art movement in the early 20th century. Dadaism was created as a reaction to the terror of World War 1 and was said to have brought an air of silliness or nonsense to try to brighten up what was going on through literate and art publication and discussion. She continued to tell us of how people reacted strongly saying... " ...how can you create art that's so beautiful and peaceful when the world is so crazy?"
Talia began to call herself a Dadaist and ran a student government campaign in her school. She didn't get any votes, but credits that to her running-mate being a sneaker (Adidas Barricade 4)to inject a note of absurdity in line with the Dadaist belief.
Her love for poetry didn't stop there, she was visiting a friends room and saw a verse written in Russian with green sharpie. Talia looked up the poem and found it to be Ilya Kaminsky, a former Soviet Union, born in Odessa in 1977, arriving in the U.S. in 1993. He writes odes to other poets and Talia got turned onto these incredible writers, hungrily reading as many as she could in Russian translation.
Talia found herself to be extremely engaged with Russian literature and to be true that, you cannot read Russian poetry in translation and she explains why. Russian is a case language, words may be similar but have different endings depending on the structure of the sentence, therefore making it easy to rhyme in Russian, but extremely difficult to portray that message in translation. "Rhymes within lines, delicate rhyme structures - the poetry is hard to render." are her exact words.
When asked about her influences, she credits her English teachers and these profound Russian poets. Talia tries to write accessible poems, wanting to leave readers with a good taste in their mouth - as if they've eaten a beautiful meal. Or perhaps she will leave you wanting more, using longer words that have something elevated about them. Her endeavors in spoken word and in what she writes poetically are usually two different things. Spoken word is more a raw and emotional in performance, so for her and had to become comfortable with performing it, she uses stand-up comedy gigs as a platform to practice.
In her free time Talia is a journalist and writes in a blog called "ChicknKiev", a pun on the popular Russian dish. Apparently, it's chicken cutlet with melted butter inside - delicious. We asked her to share a piece of work that's most meaningful and recited a poem in memory of a friend's passing.
'poem for 2 film stills'
The last time I saw her she was quiet between three paintings,
still as a frame
between a Trinity’s clasped hands.
a de Kooning woman, huge
with a blood-bright color or two.
I thought I saw her again
in another museum, in a dark room full of video'ed stars and fantail fish, and my throat cramped around her name,
catching the sound in close. The stranger’s jaw wasn’t hers, the glasses’ frame
too tight at the head
the shoulders too broad
and besides, she’s dead—
But love of the dead doesn’t cease, It keeps on, brined in the dark jar of the heart.
It flows in to the absent shape, keeping the form, restless and still, it is the way the light is.
Catch Talia at our upcoming For Locals By Locals xi event on Tuesday, March 18, at Mister Rogers. Doors open at 8pm.
Article written by Rikki Kaplan - Photos by Ruvi Leider Photography