“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…

How Langston Hughes saw the Soviet Union and how it changed my life

Langston Hughes (left) and Arthur Koestler (right), from A Negro Looks at Soviet Central Asia (1932) by Langston Hughes.

We are all colonized.— marginalia in a library copy of Dominance Without Hegemony by Ranajit Guha, Indian historian

The reader of Langston Hughes’s writings on the Soviet experiment is bound to be confused. In the 1930s, during the peak of Stalinist repression, Hughes produced volumes praising the Soviet Union, particularly the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan where, as he writes in the second volume of his autobiography, I Wonder as I Wander (1956), “the majority of the [Soviet Union’s] colored citizens lived” (123).

When Hughes penned these words, his sporadic involvement with the Communist Party and the Soviet…

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…

Instead of suffering from sleeplessness, find joy in being awake at night

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night (1889), via Wikipedia

This article won’t tell you how to get back to sleep if you find yourself unable to sleep at night. But it may help you enjoy your wakefulness.

I have nothing against sleep. As Blanchot said, sleep transforms night into possibility. But in order to appreciate the possibilities created by sleep, it is necessary to be awake.

I love being awake even more than I love being asleep. Not awake any time, but specifically at that time when, according to the opinion of the world, I should be…

The first translation of the Kalevala by a Finnish poet is finally available

Covers for different translations of The Kalevala

This volume is a reissue of Eino Friberg’s translation of the Kalevala, the first major published work of secular poetry in Finnish. The Kalevala was originally compiled by Elias Lönnrot, who travelled through remote areas of Karelia, Finland, during the 1800s, transcribing poems recited by rural women and men, whom he compared to the Homeric bards of Greek antiquity and to the Icelandic bards whose poetry comprised the Edda.

When Lönnrot first published these poems in 1835 under the title The Kalevala, or old Karelian Poems about Ancient Times of the Finnish People, it was a watershed moment in Finnish…

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…

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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