Archive for March, 2010

While I’ve Been Packing…

…the world of writing still turns.  I received news that Harpur Palate will be publishing one of my poems in the summer issue!  Also, just in time for National Poetry Month, the newest issue of Poets’ Quarterly is now live.  My review of Timothy Green’s American Fractal is there, along with other reviews including Sarah J Sloat’s In the Voice of a Minor Saint, January O’Neil’s Underlife, and Karyna Mcglynn’s I Have to go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl.

Everyone is talking about AWP.  I was supposed to go to AWP this year — but with the move, I called off my plans a few weeks ago.  I just couldn’t see traveling right now — any plans would add to my stress level.  Maybe next year. 

Finally, congrats to both M.J. Iuppa and Suzanne Frischkorn.  Their books are on my shopping list…as soon as I can actually find my book shelves, I am going to order copies. 

It’s Official

Anthony and I are now officially homeowners.  The closing went smoothly, and no, we have not moved in yet.  Our current lease is not up until the end of April, so we have plenty of time.  However, this blog will be on hiatus until things settle down a bit.  As always, if you need to contact me, please use my email.

Happy Spring, everyone!  I saw my first robin today — at the new house.

The Problem With Packing Poetry Books…

…is that I keep running into old favorites I haven’t read in forever.  For instance, Blue on Blue Ground by Aaron Smith, the fever almanac by Kristy Bowen, and Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields by Ashley Capps all  jumped out of my boxes and ran for my nightstand.  I swear.  And then I keep running into books which remind me that I haven’t exactly kept up on my reading.  For instance, I love Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest by B.H. Fairchild, but I haven’t read any of Fairchild’s work since the publication of this book.  Shame on me.  Finally, I keep finding books I can’t pack because I need them for my creative writing class, since we have finally entered the poetry unit of this course.  I mean, really, how can I possibly teach contemporary poetry without reading some of Jan Beatty’s poems out loud to my class?

One Week From Today…

Anthony and I will officially be home owners.  Our closing date is next Friday.  We are all set.  The past owners are moving out this weekend.  Needless to say, I am excited.

Precious Thoughts, Part II

A few months ago, I spoke of my longing to see the movie, Precious. I was right — the movie didn’t come to any theaters even near Jamestown.  But, just the other day I was able to rent the movie, and I was not disappointed.  Not at all.  In fact, I think that the movie was one of the better novel adaptations I have ever seen.  Yes, it is true that the movie did tone down the language and the violence.  It’s also true that the movie does play into certain stereotypes that may make many people uncomfortable.  But I thought the performances were the best — including Mo’Nique’s role at the main character’s mother, who is cruel, but somehow (at least in my mind) comes off as a bit sympathetic.  Has anyone else seen this movie?  What did you think of Mariah Carey?  Did you even recognize her?  As for the ending scene — I was not startled by the content because I read Push, but I bet that people who have not read Sapphire’s novel were a bit shocked.

What I really liked about the movie (besides the main character’s resilience) was the depiction of teachers and social workers caught up in trying to help the many, many victims of poverty.  As a whole, I believe that this nation is very hard on both people who work in social services and teachers in public education, and most people really don’t realize how noble these positions are — and they are jobs with many, many disappointments and little to celebrate. 

My viewing leads me back to whether or not I will ever teach Push again.  The answer is yes — and I don’t want to focus on just the main character, but also the other roles in the novel and the movie.   I want to go back and read Push again through new eyes and think about all the supporting parts.

Ahead of Schedule

I have come to the conclusion that spring is ahead of schedule this year.  Yes, we usually get an early melt — but then we have a major snowstorm soon afterwards.  This year, everything has melted, and looking at the forecast, I see no snow in sight for the next week or so.  Good News.  My colleague always tells me that we have St. Patrick’s Day snow — but this year, the forecast is calling for sun.

What else is ahead of schedule?  Sandra Beasley’s I Was the Jukebox arrived in my mailbox today.  The book was not supposed to be released until April, but like Jehanne Dubrow’s Stateside, Beasley’s book is way ahead of the original release date.  I have been eagerly awaiting this book since I fell in love with the poem,  “I Was the Jukebox” originally published in 32 Poems

I guess grading will wait a bit this week.  I have too much reading to do.

Spring Fever

Spring has sprung here in Western New York.  The snow is almost gone, except for those dirty piles here and there.  I have even broken out the short sleeves (but not the sandals, not yet).  Today, my students spent classtime staring out the window.  I wasn’t mad — it’s just that I wanted to spend time staring out the window, too.

With spring, comes new poetry books and new poetry news.  First, I preordered two poetry books the other day.  I have never preordered anything — I always wait for the magic words, “In stock.”  But I couldn’t resist.  One book was due out at the end of March; the other was due out in April.  Guess what?  Jehanne Dubrow’s Stateside arrived in my mail today — so yes, this third collection from this talented poet is out on the streets.  I know what I’m going to be reading tonight!  More good news:  I also preordered Sandra Beasley’s I Was the Jukebox — and according to a recent email, this book will also be sent out earlier than expected. I should have this second collection by the end of March.

And have you checked out Alison Stine’s news?   Ohio Violence was one of the best books I read last year, so of course, I’m looking forward to Stine’s second collection.  Want to know a secret?  I’ve heard that Stine is going to be reading at SUNY Fredonia in a few weeks — that’s in my backyard.  So I guess, I will have to trek up there to see her….

On a Mission

My colleague is currently teaching an American Literature II this semester (second half of a survey class that many of our Humanities and Education majors take).  Today, I received an email from her telling me that she is a bit dismayed about how many of our students hate (not merely dislike) poetry.  I’m not surprised by her email — or by her students’ reactions.  I have known my students hatred of poetry mostly because I teach creative writing which yes, does indeed, incorporate poetry.  Most of the time I can get them to at least appreciate poetry.  But not always.

My colleague is on a mission.  She wants to post one poem on Angel (It’s our school’s online course management system) for a month to get our students to read more American poetry.  I have lots of poems in mind for her — but for those of you who teach undergraduates (either at the four-year, or two-year/community college level), I would be interested in seeing titles (and maybe links if they are online) of poems (along with poets) that your students have especially liked.  Or maybe…if you can remember the first poems you personally fell in love with, that would be great, too!

Reading Barefoot and Listening

I have always been fascinated with women poets who reach back into the past, snatch both history and myth, and retell stories that have been buried or pushed aside by time.  (See my review of the Mary Alexandra Agner’s chapbook, The Doors of the Body). Margaret Bashaar with her first chapbook, Barefoot and Listening, (Tilt Press) is one of those poets. 

Bashaar starts out her collection with a poem titled simply, “Sita”.  In this work, we see a being “found at a construction site of 376, unearthed by a backhoe/naked kicking infant with no mother but the dirt she breathed/skin the color of red clay.”  Already, we know that the women in this collection are not the traditional women of myth — they are beings of grit and dirt, real flesh.  And what follows are other poems that take on various myths.  For example, Kalypso makes two guest appearances in this slim collection.  In “Kalypso,” the heroine is described as a devoted being: “She has cut her feet/on forest paths that lead her to him/with fistful of constellations to lay at his left/while he sleeps and his hair is like fire.” In another poem,  “Kalypso Speaks” she says this about Odysseus, “I do not need winged feet/to tell me I am just a stop/on his journey home.”  

I enjoyed all of the familiar characters found in Bashaar’s poems; however, I must say that my favorite poems were the ones that place seemingly contemporary women in more surreal situations.  For example, in “The Girl Who Would Blot Out the Sun”  she depicts a girl who “hates the dark spots the sunlight makes/so she’s building a satellite/to block it out.  She hides it in her garage/under a blue tarp between/the tool chest and the lawn mower.”  In “After the Cold Snap” a lonely figure explains that “everything is like breathing when she sits alone” and with “Forehead pressed to the window/she breathes on panes of glass, ties knots in the curtain tassels.”  And finally, “Barefoot and Listening” is a love poem of sorts, opening with the lines,  “When I do not know if I am a stone or a doe/you gather up handfuls of pebbles/give them to me to collect in my pockets.”

I cannot end this short review without mentioning my absolute favorite poem, “The Giraffe Girl.”  This poem begins with the lines: “April wears a garland of dandelions/on Sunday mornings and sits/with her legs open, strips/oranges with her teeth while she waits/for sweet potatoes and ovulation.”   This poem displays a young woman — a little lost, a little dreamy — who finds hope and protection in her imaginative “blue-haired girls who slid/across her knuckles like silk/a Padaung woman” yet returns to the reality of her life to count “brush strokes on the ceiling.”

Whether she is looking at past myths or capturing the abstract feelings of contemporary women, Bashaar excels at the surreal.  In spite of the fact that Bashaar chooses to write about feelings and ideas that could easily fall into  categories of cliches’, every image, every line is surprising.  In my opinion, Bashaar, whose work has also just appeared in the poetry anthology, Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25, is one to watch.

CFS: The Laurel Review

John Gallaher, co-editor of The Laurel Review and Green Tower Press, has recently announced on his blog that The Laurel Review is updating its website.  Besides regular submissions, the staff is also looking for book reviews.  Finally, The Midwest Chapbook Contest is now accepting submissions.  This year’s judge is G.C. Waldrep.

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