Archive for May, 2010

Saturday Silt

I admit it.  I purchased Erica Wright’s chapbook Silt because of its cover. Light gray with a simple design — it looked like a soft, but sturdy read. I didn’t know this poet’s work until I read Silt — and I found that the poems inside were sturdy — in a stubborn, edgy sort of way. But, there was nothing soft about the works.

There’s no other way to describe the characters found in Wright’s chapbook but to call they surly.  Sure of themselves, they are not afraid to take chances.  For example, the narrator in “Taking a Punch” explores her life among men.  In the opening lines, the persona explains that after her father and uncles install an electric fence she explores the new addition: “When left alone, I threw sticks at it/then grabbed hold, felt my skin snap, released.”  Later, when she fell from a tree, she listens to a brother who explains, “it would hurt less if I didn’t cry.”  The narrator in this poem seems to take these physical lessons with her for even harder life lessons: “And later when someone I loved/said he didn’t and never had, I managed//to nod, numb myself until morning/when I learned that whiskey’s a lousy anesthesia.”

Not only are the characters not afraid to take chances, but the poet herself is not afraid to use uncommon metaphors to explore life’s events.  For example, in “Anniversary of Sorts” the narrator uses a messy house (with such images as “caked cough syrup bottles” and a “garage floor dirty despite the brooms” to explain the darker life of marriage and family and note “There are some places/not meant to be clean for very long.”  In another poem, “Night Sweat” the speaker trades descriptions of physical discomfort for more emotional distress: “My body, assassin, is a night hunter/makes me see serpents.”

Wright’s chapbook is a recent purchase I made from dancing girl press.  As I noted, I was not familiar with her work, and a quick search revealed that she has many poems online.  My favorite poem, “Taking a Punch”  can be read/heard at From the Fishouse.  Click here to listen to Wright’s fantastic work.

CFS: Whiskey!

I was floating through literary journal websites today, and I found this interesting call for submissions on The Burnside Review.  The editors are holding their second ever themed issue: “We’re looking for poetry, fiction, non-fiction and artwork, all around theme of whiskey. We’re looking for work covering the gamut. Pieces do not need to be about whiskey, they just need to have whiskey in them (glass rings of Wild Turkey on the paper doesn’t count). Author of the best piece in the issue will be invited to come to Portland, get drunk with the editors and then pass out on one of their couches (flight not included, whiskey is).”  There’s no deadline posted, just a note that reads “Submissions will be accepted until the issue fills up, with a hopeful release date around New Years.”

Spring Sale!

It’s that time of year again!  Dancing girl press wraps up its spring sale on May 31.  Five chapbooks for $20!  I put my order in about two weeks ago, and my five collections came today: This Room Has a Ghost by Stephanie Goehring; The Blue Grotto by Rachel Jamison Webster; Elpenor Falls by Elizabeth Barbato; Silt by Erica Wright; and Sawdust, Sugarcube by Sarah J. Den Boer.  If you have ordered from dancing girl press before, you should check out the new selections.  If you have never ordered from this great press before, you should stop by to see what’s offered. 

Two Blurbs, Two Books

Dedicated readers of The Scrapper Poet know that I am a big supporter of Seven Kitchens Press.  So, I have to report that this past week I received copies of two chapbooks I blurbed.  Yes, of course, I have read both works — but not in finished book format.  Both collections are fantastic.  Here is what I said:

The Schwenkfelders by Rebecca Lauren

Part history, part folklore, part personal narrative, The Schwenkfelders tells the story of a persecuted people and a narrator who seeks answers to the stories of these people.  Blending the past with the present, poet Rebecca Lauren grapples with the questions of how to record family history, while contending with the present.  This collection travels from the outskirts of Hades to the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, but no matter where the poet takes us, we will never the lives of a father who sings along the river’s edge, a woman who cures whooping cough with a strand of hair, or even the narrator who skips stories and wishes across still water.

The book of small treasures by Christine Klocek-Lim

Christine Klocek-Lim’s collection relays the lessons of motherhood we all should learn.  Her poetry quietly observes the way children explore our world.  Sometimes, the results are violent and disturbing; other times, there is only beauty.  Step inside this book.  You will want to experience those first swimming lessons, learn what hides in the darkness of caves, understand why it is important to keep dead frogs in the refrigerator, seek beauty in the destruction of a flood.

If you have not yet made your summer reading list, please put these two chapbooks on your reading list.  And if you already have a summer reading list, consider adding both of these works to your list.

Finally, Finals

So, I spent the morning putting my final grades in our Banner system.  Tomorrow is graduation, and then, I am free for the summer (except, I really need to spend a day or two cleaning my office).  The temperature outside is 80 degrees — I’m looking forward to summer plans.

Weekend with Girl on a Bridge

The women found in Suzanne Frischkorn’s Girl on a Bridge, are strong, smart, sexy, and…just a little lost.  This was my initial reaction when I read Frischkorn’s second collection of poetry.  When I went back through this past weekend to re-read my favorite poems, I found that I had this same reaction.  Plus, I discovered  that I wanted to be these women.

Frischkorn opens her book with a poem titled “Great Lash” — in many ways a poem that is the perfect prologue to this work.  The girls in this poem wander cornfields that are “paved in asphalt”  and walked barefoot on streets “laid with tar.”  These girls, as described by a sharp decisive voice, say “We cut school and watched Foxes/We cut school and drank vodka/We cut school and got stoned/ did our makeup, walked the streets.” 

What follows is a collection of women’s voices.  Sometimes, these women are mothers, sometimes they are daughters.  (Sometimes, they are both)  Sometimes, they speak about the physical.  For example,  in “A Comfortable Pair of Pants” the speaker explains her pregnancy: “I knew I was having a boy/by the size of my ass–/the eager way it grew out of my pants.”  She then compares her body to her days as a younger girl: “My hipbones jutted dangerous angles/when I was a girl.  I spent days/in front of a mirror/thinking of ways to stop by body/from becoming a woman.”   Other poems focus on the more abstract.  In  “The First Signs,”  for example, the persona explains that “When I was seven a wasp/landed on my lip/drawn by the sweetness/of my mother’s red lipstick” and that the same day “a child next door/squeezed six new kittens dead.”  The speaker concludes that was the day she understood “There were two shades of still.”

While many of these poems offer strong commentary on women’s lives, other are softer, more contemplative of the physical world.  My favorite poems are the ones that catch glimpses of our natural world in an urban setting.  For instance, in “Public Transportation” the speaker sees a cornfield grow in a “yard no bigger than my bathroom.”  In “When the Sun Came Out They Disappeared” the poet describes a town (through sestina form) that has disappeared “draped in white winged moths.”

I read Frischkorn’s first book, Lit Windowpane, a few years ago and have been quietly anticipating her second collection.  I was not disappointed, and while I always hesitate to compare a poet’s works, I have to confess here, that I simply liked Girl on a Bridge more.  Why?  I have been asking myself this question for most of the weekend.  The answer is simple: in spite of the fact that the poet draws women who teeter on the edge of the domestic and the dangerous, they are women who choose not to play it safe, no matter the consequences.  And, really.  Deep down inside, who doesn’t want to try this balancing act in our own writing and in our own lives?

Update: I just found out today that The Red Room (a new site to me) has picked up my review at the Review of the Week. 

RIP: Rane Arroyo

I heard through the blogging world today about Rane Arroyo’s death.  I waited until I had actual confirmation before I posted this note.

Rane is one of the few poets I met through reviewing — well, I didn’t really “meet” him — we corresponded through email.  Because I am a closet X-Files junkie, I desperatly wanted his collection, The Roswell Poems, and I was having a hard time getting a hold of a copy, so I contacted him directly.  He sent me a copy — in record time!  When I thanked him, he wrote, “I try to be an honest man — in my life and in my poetry.”

My review for The Roswell Poems is still up on Strange Horizons.

Besides The Roswell Poems, I have read Rane Arroyo’s other poems, and have enjoyed them.  He will be missed.

An Experiment in Poetic Form

Poet Michele Battiste is currently conducting an experiment in poetic form.  She gives background to this experiment on her webpage link below. There’s no wrong way of participating — so please, stop by the experiment on survey monkey and try it out!  There’s three templates to choose from — it’s almost like MadLibs with poetry.

http://www.michelebattiste.com/templates.html

And I’m going to make a soft plug for both Michele’s book of poetry, Ink for the Odd Cartography and her chapbook, Slow the Appetite Down, both wonderful reads.

 

Happy May!

I just found out that I won a copy of Allison Joseph’s My Father’s Kites from Martha’s site.  The giveaway was part of the great 2010 NPM Book Giveaway event, and I have to admit that I feel a bit guilty about not taking part.  It’s just that with the move (I know, I am using THE MOVE once again for falling behind with everything) I didn’t know if I could even find my poetry books that I wanted to give away!  But next year, I promise, if another such event is organized, I am in.

Watching the thunderstorms roll in from the west.  It’s going to be a soggy Sunday.

Still Life with Boxes

Everyone tells me that it takes months to unpack boxes and get organized in a new home.  Unless you are super organized (which I am not), I believe it.  We are experiencing summer like weather, and of course, everyone is breaking out the sandals and casual clothes.  I have no idea where my summer clothes are at this point, even though I need to find them fast.  Summer is coming.

It’s the first of May! It’s hard to believe we had snowflakes the other day, but spring is here.  I have to say that the month of April (poetry wise), was a complete washout.  I wrote two poems and revised one.  I sent out one small submission package.  I barely read any poetry.  But hopefully, even among all the boxes, I can get back on track, soon.