“Pessimism of the Will & Optimism of the Intellect” (Antonio Gramsci)

Rebecca Ruth Gould in Isfahan (Iran) in 2016. Photo by the author.

Hello! Welcome to this short summary of myself. I define myself as a writer, reader, translator, teacher, lover of staying up late at night, of wandering through cities and watching the stars, coffee, documentary films, medieval ruins, and poetry in languages other than my own. My reading ranges across novels (Fyodor Dostoevsky and Virginia Woolf are among my favorites), philosophy (I adore Giambattista Vico and Walter Benjamin), and poetry (I love Mahmoud Darwish and Zbigniew Herbert, among others).

Instead of trying to summarize my life, I will show some…

The long-term income potential of your writing depends on it

Photo by Vish K on Unsplash

As someone who has recently been immersed in several contract negotiations for my books, I want to share here some of what I have learned. Although these guidelines are intended primarily for book authors, they apply broadly to any kind of rights to your work. I have included a few tips for selling the rights to your articles as well. They are based on my experience as a published author, translator, and editor of over ten books (some of which are currently in production). Learn from my mistakes!

Negotiate and contract with the words “all” and “exclusive”

In my first book contract (with Yale University Press) I was so…

The meaning of solidarity with Palestine

Mural of Solidarity with Palestine via Pixabay

The world’s attention has been transfixed by Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza. Palestinian voices and narratives have begun to filter through the mainstream American media channels that have suppressed their voices for decades. When the Israeli military bombed al-Jalaa Tower, which housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices in Gaza on 15 May 2021, it seemed to mark a turning point in wider public opinion. …

She wanted to make love to books, with her hands

Photo of Budapest’s Chain Bridge by Daniel Olah via Unsplash

When she was awarded a year-long fellowship in Budapest, Sarah Wallace was given the opportunity to invite anyone she wanted, anywhere in the world, to visit her during her stay in Hungary. She invited a famous scholar whose book she adored, and he declined. And then she remembered Yasin, the Uzbek scholar with whom she had crossed paths a decade earlier, in Amman. True, he might have no interest in Budapest, but what was the harm in asking? They shared a passion for manuscripts.

She searched her apartment for his number and came across a piece of scrap paper on…

What you can learn from the injustices done to other writers

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Having a literary agent is the dream of many writers. Countless blog posts, forums, and writers’ handbooks begin with the question: How do you get a literary agent? To these sources, it seems that all a writer needs to do is secure an agent, and every other problem, from finding a publisher to making a living as a writer, is solved.

However, there are many ways in which your relationship with a literary agent can go wrong, and end up causing more damage to your career than if you had never contracted to have that person represent you. This applies…

Vocal Media is censoring content related to Muslims and Islam

Image by Author

The more platforms for writers to share their work, the better. In the wider scheme of things, Vocal is definitely a good thing for writers. Even if it is hard to compete with what Medium has to offer, it is in our interest for there to be multiple platforms on which to share our work, in part because it reminds the platforms we publish on that we may choose take our work elsewhere.

Yet, so far Vocal has not lived up to expectations. Others have discussed its merits elsewhere on this platform. …

Found Poems from the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002)

Cover of Testimony (art by Papay Solomon)

Shanee Stepakoff’s Testimony is an extraordinary assemblage of “found poems” taken from the official transcripts of the war crimes tribunal established by the United Nations and the postwar Sierra Leonean government to assess and document the trauma inflicted on innocent civilians during the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002).

In a detailed introduction that also serves as a guide for how these poems ought to be read, Stepakoff, who worked as the court psychologist for two years, tells of being traumatized by the stories she encountered and of turning to poetry in order to process her verbal paralysis.

The poems are…

Vietnamese poet Tran Le Khanh shows us how to reimagine time

Cover of The Beginning of Water

The poetry of Vietnamese author Tran Le Khanh has appeared in English for the first time in this volume, which won the Cliff Becker Prize in 2020. Translated from the Vietnamese by the author and Bruce Weigl, these poems introduce us to a temporality at many removes from the fast pace of everyday life.

They are inspired by Buddhist teachings and mostly consist of just four lines. They point to a poet who, as Weigl notes in his preface, has found in his verse “a way to offer true expression of the Dharma.”

The poem “process,” which can be read…

White supremacist violence gets a free pass while Muslims are persecuted

Robert E. Lee Monument as it stands after the Floyd Protests (2020) via WikiCommons

Almost immediately after it emerged that a white supremacist had stabbed three men who were trying to prevent him from attacking Muslim women in a Portland train on 26 May 2017, killing two of them, the police force began to mitigate the brutality of what had happened.

“We don’t know if he’s got mental health issues,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said in the first public statement about the incident. The perpetrator’s childhood friend added: “I hope this brings attention to the need for mental health facilities and more outreach.” …

Rebecca Ruth Gould

Poetry, politics, author’s rights, the Caucasus, Iran, Palestine. Writer. Educator. rrgould.hcommons.org. Support my work ☕ https://www.buymeacoffee.com/rrgould

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