Katayoon Zandvakili

Poetry
July 2010, The Levantine Center Review
/ONE/The Journal of Literature, Art and Ideas
Poems about young love
Fiction
An excerpt from My Beautiful Impostor: A Story of Persia, Exile, and Faith, a work of fiction about a young woman of Persian heritage, who marries a man from the same, who turns out to be an impostor

Deer Table Legs

1998 Mercury News article by its Perspective editor and sometime poetry reviewer Minal Hajratwala, entitled "Finding the meanings in life: Poet offers insights and leaves readers seeking their own."

      There is a line that poets, and all humans, walk.
      Between randomness and meaning.
      Between the rush of details that make up everyday life and the abstractions (success, love, faith) that give it purpose.
      Between the five senses and the sixth.
      For a delicate stroll along that tightrope, see the first book by a lovely poet named Katayoon Zandvakili, born in Iran, now living in Piedmont.
      In her poetry, rushes of sensory details -- explicit, modern, seemingly random -- are interrupted by flashes of insight. These are lines to be intuited, not dissected:
      He is not desperate but there is a small orange square in him that's been ignited, it's alight; a small desperate square.
      If you start asking logical questions -- why orange? why square? -- you'll get lost and frustrated. Better to slow down, enjoy the language itself, the logic of metaphor. Notice what's repeated: ignited/​alight. Desperate/​desperate. Try to swallow the sentence whole.
      When you get it, a small aha! leads to richer questions: He isn't desperate, but part of him is ... and isn't that part vibrantly alive? And what does that say about the rest of him? Us?
      Lines like these add up to a book that is, more or less, a love story with its ups:
      You and me: the freelance romantics.
      I'll sell my stock.

      And downs:
      You and me like two engineers talking at a table

      (Isn't that a perfect, if scathing, description?) And deep disconnects, as in this untitled poem:

      Reading Sam Shepard plays
      in diners all over Tahoe --
      And he says, "Don't look at me like you're watching a movie.
      I'm not a movie. I'm really alone."
      How long did you wait for him? What was his name? (Twice.)

      Glenn Gould as an older man ["Motel Wawa"] standing next to the ocean from behind the window, connected on the telephone and saying it makes more sense to believe in the hereafter than in oblivion. Did it end on "demise"? We all have the same death.

      I was trying to explain that dull light, the looking away he gets in his eyes, and I -- we -- said Disappearing, and he said Yes, I know about that and did it some more.


      I can't pretend to understand everything about this poem, but I can tell you why I like it.
      I like it because I've watched another person as though I were watching a movie, feeling completely disconnected and knowing I should feel differently.
      Because I've watched a man do the Disappearing Act inside his eyes.
      Because I've watched a stupid scene in a stupid movie and veered off into thoughts of oblivion and death and why are we here anyway.
      Because I have my own answers to the questions, How long did you wait for him? What was his name?
      And because this is what I want poetry to do: Give me space to wonder about my own life. From randomness, bring forth meaning -- or at least the meaningful question.