Archive for August, 2009

CFS: Southern Review’s Issue on Baseball

The Southern Review is compiling a special issue on baseball.  Deadline for poems, short stories, and essays is November 1, 2009.  The issue is due out in spring 2010.  Look here for guidelines.

And thanks, Eduardo, for the link!

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Slipstream & Other Notes

I got my contributor’s copy of Slipstream on Thursday and I haven’t had time to look at the contents.  But I’m sitting here on a rainy Saturday morning, skimming the pages, pleased to see that I am joined by spectacular poets Brent Goodman, Katie Cappello, Jim Daniels and Sean Thomas Dougherty. As always, the guys at Slipstream did a beautiful job, and I can’t wait to go to the release party in Buffalo in September.

I’ve been trying to gather up my work for the summer in order to revise.  I have been browsing the blogging world noticing that many poets have already dived in to the “Big Fall Submission” period.  Not me.  I will be lucky if I have 3 packets sent out in September. 

Still behind on my book reviews.  Sigh.  Don’t worry — if you sent me a review copy, a review you shall have!

CLSC Book One: The Spiral Staircase

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had joined the CLSC — the oldest continuous book club in America.  And I have to say that I picked a great book to start.  Last night, I finished Karen Armstrong’s The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness.   Armstrong is a common presence on the Chautauqua grounds.  For those who don’t know her work, Armstrong is most widely known for her books on religion and its place and history in our world.   I’ve always thought her books were a bit daunting, so I never read any of her work.  However, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness is not daunting at all — in this book, Armstrong chronicles her journey out of the  convent and into the world.  At the age of 17, Armstrong entered the convent because she wanted to develop a spiritual relationship with God.  Seven years later, she left, disillusioned, tired, and physically sick.  As her book describes, her life outside of convent is not easy.  She has to cope with her dwindling faith as well as health problems and the rough world of academics. 

I found Armstrong’s book to be very honest.  I am not Catholic, but I grew up in a small Catholic town, and the nuns were always very mysterious to me.  I never actually knew a nun until I came to Jamestown (I know, I know, I have led a sheltered life). Here, I found out that one of my colleagues was once a nun.  When we got to know each other (well enough so I could ask her a personal question), I wanted to know Why?  She told me that she became a nun because she had to and she left the convent because she had to.  After reading Karen Armstrong’s book, that answer makes so much more sense to me.

Dust, Settling

Wow.  Crazy startup.  Enrollment reports at JCC suggest that we are seeing a 17 percent increase in full time students and a 19.7 (.7 of a student?  I will never understand statistics!) increase in first time full-time students.   Newspaper headlines are screaming across the state of New York that community college classes are bursting at the seams.  And yes, I am feeling that stretch — it’s nice to have full classes, but in many ways, it’s sad why I have full classes.  I have students who lost their jobs.  I have many, many students who left their four year college or institution because of tuition increases.  Still, it’s nice to feel wanted.

And speaking of feeling wanted…tonight, when I looked at my blog statistics, I noticed a sharp spike in hits.  Really sharp. I haven’t written anything really interesting lately.   Hmmm..could my students be googling my name?

Weekend Reading

So, classes start Monday and my syllabi are ready to go.  This is my last weekend of true freedom.  Then, I woke up this morning with a sore throat.  And I keep sneezing.  Go figure.  I’m going to try to stop whatever it is I’m coming down with, but who knows if I will succeed.

But I have lots of reading to keep me company.  I got two books from Amazon today (I know, I know — evil Amazon, support local independent bookstores — the problem is that we don’t have any here except used book stores, and believe me, these used book stores are regular hangouts for me.) I also got the first installation of Spire’s new chapbook series,  the  inSPIREd poetry series.  You should check this out — I preordered the set in the spring and even though I have not read any of the books yet, I am already impressed at the handsome editions and the poets.  Included are poets Megan O’Reilly Green, Michele Battiste, and Maureen Alsop.  Definitely good reading ahead!

Back to the Day Job

Tomorrow, I’m back to school, although classes don’t start until Monday.  I’ve been super busy scheduling students, working with new courses, and prepping for my own classes (I got a neat new idea for using poems as prompts in a developmental writing class — we will see how it goes…).  I will probably disappear from blogland until the weekend, so I will leave you with this:  take a look at Jim Daniels’ discussion of his poem “Explicit” over at How a Poem Happens. 

CFS: Chautauqua

Chautauqua has just opened their window for submissions for the next issue, which will focus on “the large theme of music and words, broadly conceived.”   Check here for guidelines.  I have to admit that I am a bit biased; however, I believe the past issues have been great — featuring the work of Philip Terman, Jan Beatty, Neil Shepard, Lucille Clifton, and Sandy Longhorn (and of course, many others…)  Submit! 

Emily’s Ghost

A few weeks ago, I mentioned wanting to desperately read this book, and somehow I found time to finish it today.  For all you Bronte fans, I have to say that Emily’s Ghost by Denise Giardina  is a must read.  Giardina presents a fictional account of the Bronte sisters, focusing especially on Emily, Charlotte and Emily’s mysterious lover, William.  The Brontes, of course, have always been surrounded by a vast mythology — a mythology that has been dispelled and revamped in many different ways.  Probably the best researched attempt at the “true” Brontes was published in The Brontes by Juliet Barker (although if a true Bronte scholar were to read this blog post, he or she may disagree).    If you are a true fan of Charlotte Bronte, you may not want to pick up this book, for the loving and caring lore of Charlotte is quickly dismissed!

Two things that I wish Denise Giardina would have done better.  First, the writing process that Emily Bronte went through in Wuthering Heights.  I wish Giardina would have slowed down just a bit.  Second, I’m a fan of the underdog, so Anne Bronte has always been my personal favorite.  However, while I like her “character” in this book, I wanted more. 

Reading Emily’s Ghost has got me thinking about other works of fiction I have read which are based on a literary history of some sort.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I loved Drood (a novel that explores the last days of Charles Dickens) by Dan Simmons.  Other favorites included The Dante Club (a fictional book of murders taken out of Dante’s The Inferno; poets Longfellow and Holmes are main characters) by Matthew Pearl and Finn (a retelling of Huck Finn’s life through his “pap”) by Jon Clinch.  If anyone knows of other books like this that I can add to my reading list, please let me know.

My Life Besides Rain

If you come to Western New York, you will hear everyone complaining about the wet and cool summer we have been having.  The truth is that I don’t mind cool summers at all.  I don’t even mind the rain.  However, the last few days have been crazy.  We’ve had flooding (we,  meaning people in Western New York; Anthony and I are fine) and dangerous thunderstorms.  I have been wading through streets and sidewalks of water way past my ankles.  I would like some dry weather.  And I know I have readers who could use the rain, so I am wishing some of our moisture your way.

In other news, I am in my last week at Chautauqua working under poet Julia Kasdorf.  Julia is discussing both prompts and poems based loosely on various elements from Richard Hugo’s The Trigging Town.  Good fun, so far.  I already have two new drafts of poems.

Finally, I have decided to join the Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle, which is a book club considered to be one of the oldest (if not the oldest), continuous book club in America.  So, if you ever see me marking a blog site as CLSC, you will know what I am talking about.  What I like about this book club is that it will force me to read books I don’t usually read (but probably should), such as books about politics and economics.  But I’m not too worried.  There are also biographies, history books, poetry and fiction on the list!

Entering The Doors of the Body

It’s hard not to instantly compare Mary Alexandra Agner ‘s new chapbook, The Doors of the Body (Mayapple Press, 2009) to  Transformations  by Anne Sexton.  Sexton’s book retold many popular fairy tales, while Agner’s collection dives much deeper, exploring the voices often silenced in women’s history, folklore and myth.

These voices are thoughtful, intelligent, and assertive.  Sometimes, they are sad, but they are always strong.  For instance, in “Ellen” we read the story of Helen of Troy says she “had to change my name and cut my hair.”  In “Minerva,” we see the goddess who “sprung fully formed, they say, the spitting image/with spear for stand in phallus and an owlet/to hold my wisdom, since my little female/noggin couldn’t hold the liquid measure”  face her father to say “You never asked if I had longings/exceeding your narrow-minded need for power.” 

It would be misleading, however, to say that Agner just uses classic mythology as a starting point of all her stories.  Fairy tales are present, as well as history.  My favorite poem, “The Harvest I Desire” makes references to the symbolism of apples (from various sources) where the persona says, “I know my ancestors/the wicked stepmother still plots, and Eve/has seen this fall before.”

What is the most amazing thing, however, about Agner’s collection, is the lyrical voice in each and everyone of her poems.  Her female characters are not just telling stories, they are singing.  When you are done reading this collection, you will know more than just stories.  You will have read a musical retelling of women’s history.

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