Archive for December, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011!

I’ve been blog reading this morning, looking at bloggers’ reviews of 2010 and their resolutions for 2011.  I have to say that 2010 was a quiet year for me, and not as productive (in the writing sense) as I would have really liked.  Of course, I did some traveling, and we bought a house and moved, and that certainly was a big transition, so perhaps I should be a bit more forgiving.

Resolutions for the new year?  Last year, I noted that my resolutions were rather vague.  Perhaps that is why I wasn’t that productive.  For those of you involved in teaching, you know that right now, assessment and the language of assessment is the big “trend” right now.  Certainly, my resolutions for 2010 were not “measurable” by any means.  So, this year, I am going to try a bit harder.

Resolution Number One:  I have always admired the way that Sandy talks about the drafting/writing process on her blog.  While I can’t promise that I will write weekly posts about my own personal writing process, I am making a commitment to draft at least one poem a week.  That, I think, I can do.

Resolution Number Two:  I am constantly amazed at the number of literary journals that are out there that I don’t know about.  While I do support the literary community (I have a number of subscriptions to journals of all shapes and sizes), I want to read a new journal (new to me) once a month and post my reactions on this blog. 

Resolution Number Three:  Last year, I joined a GoodReads Poetry Group where we were asked to read to read at least 20 poetry books and post reviews of these books online.  I made that goal — and I want to do the same this year.  I didn’t always post my reviews on my blog, so this year I want to make sure that I do record the review here as well as on GoodReads.

Resolution Number Four:  This is an easy one.  I want to continue to keep track of what I read.  Again, I did that last year, and it was fun following my reading patterns.

It’s going to be quiet tonight, but Anthony and I are traveling again tomorrow.  Have a safe and happy New Year!

2011: Poetry Collections to Come

Here’s the eagerly anticipated look (in sort of a haphazard modified ABC order) at what is ahead for 2011.  Of course, I don’t know all  poetry books that are forthcoming, but here is great start for what is in store for poetry lovers:

  1. The Glass Crib by Amanda Auchter
  2. The Northerners by Seth Abramson
  3. The Scientific Method by Mary Alexandra Agner
  4. I Stand Here Shredding Papers by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
  5. Saint Monica by Mary Biddinger
  6. Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry by Jim Daniels
  7. Sanderlings by Geri Doran
  8. She Returns to the Floating World by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  9. Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  10. Poetry in America by Julia Spicher Kasdorf
  11. The Book of Men by Dorianne Laux
  12. Hurricane Party by Alison Pelegrin
  13. The Little Office of Immaculate Conception by Martha Silano
  14. Wait by Alison Stine
  15. Killing the Jackal by Erica Wright
  16. Torn by C. Dale Young

*I have to put a disclaimer note for Kasdorf’s collection and Pelegrin’s collection.  I know that both books are coming out soon, but I am not sure when — I’m hoping it’s 2011!

**I just found out by looking at Kitsune’s website that poet Helen Ruggieri will be publishing a book this year, but I don’t know the title.  Helen is a “neighbor” of mine — she lives only about an hour away! (That’s close in rural PA)

What I Read in 2010

Last January, I made a note on my blog that I wanted to list all the books I read in 2010.  Not only did I remember to keep up with the list, but I was actually a bit surprised at some of the results.  Total Books Read: 196.  Now that includes everything from books over 800 pages long to chapbooks that are around 20 pages.  In a year that included buying a new house, moving, and teaching extra classes, I didn’t think  I really spent that much time reading.

 I mostly read poetry.  According to my list, I read 81 collections, including chapbooks.  What did surprise me is that I read just as many fiction books as nonfiction (memoir, history, etc…): 46 in each category.  I also read 23 young adult books.

In the past, during this time of year, I usually posted my favorite poetry books of the year.  Today, however, I am going to do things a bit differently.

Best Nonfiction Book I Read This Year: It’s a tie!  I really liked the book, Half the Sky: Turning oppression Into Opportunities for Women by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  I didn’t think that a book that explored the world’s crimes against women (rape, violence, sexual mutilation, poverty) could be an uplifting read, but it was. This book offers portraits of women survivors around the world — while some parts were hard to read, I have to say that as a whole it was a wonderful and inspiring read.  I also loved, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  Over 60 years ago, Henrietta Lacks died and her cells were taken from a cancerous tumor in her body.  These cells, considered to be the first “immortal human cells” are still alive today  and have helped find treatments and cures for both viruses and different types of cancer.  Skloot’s account of this woman’s life (and her death) is part history, part memoir, part biography — a fantastic read!

Best True Crime Book I Read This Year:  Fans of the Scrapper Poet may not know that I read a lot of true crime books, and this year, thanks to a different public library in my new home town, I brushed up on a lot of my true crime reading.  I really enjoyed Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen and I Am Murdered by Bruce Chadwick, but my favorite read was The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall.  Imagine trying to forger an Emily Dickinson poem.  Then, imagine almost getting away with it!  Worrall’s exploration of criminal Mark Hofman is fascinating.  I admit that the whole book does not dwell just on the Dickinson’s forgery, but dives into Hofman’s shady background and his own personal vendettas against the Mormon church (something I found less interesting than the material about Emily Dickinson).  Still, all in all, an interesting read.

Best Book of Fiction:  I have to say that I did read a lot of fiction, but when I looked over my list, all I remember is being very unimpressed with most of the novels.  However,  I found the book, The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent, to be a great exploration of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. 

Best Collection of Short Stories:  Last summer, I mentioned how much I loved American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell, and that book is still my favorite short story collection of the year.  However, I have to say that The Name of the Nearest River by Alex Taylor comes in at a few close second.  Taylor’s book includes depictions of rural poverty and violence so graphic that it was hard for me to turn away.

Longest Book Read:  Stephen King’s Under the Dome at over 1,000 pages.  Was it worth it?  I’m a King fan, but I have to say, No.

Biggest Disappointment:  Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  I waited forever to get my hands on this book, and then I could barely drag myself through it.  In spite of the critical praise and the glowing recommendations from friends, I really had to drag myself through this novel.

Best Young Adult Book:  I have always enjoyed young adult books, before I was a young adult (when I was in elementary school, and young adult books were supposed to be too hard for me to understand) and now that I am an “old” adult.  Many of the books I read were fantasy or science fiction genre.  I started reading a series by Susan Beth Pfeffer — the first book titled Life As We Knew It about the world in a small Pennsylvania town after the moon gets hit out of orbit by a meteor.  I also read a dystopian book titled The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan about a young girl living inside a village who has only known a world protected within walls against the greater “universe” of zombies.  Now, I am not a zombie reader — but I thought that Ryan’s book was a great read — somehow the book reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s latest work.

But recently, I finished Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddox, a historical fiction look at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The book doesn’t just explore the fire, but the trials and tribulations of striking girls and immigrant life.  It’s a great book to add to my working class literature collection.

Best Collection of Poetry:  Of course, my readers know that there’s no way that one book is really going to stand out as the best.  2010 gave me new collections from some of my favorite poets, including Brandi Homan, Barbara Crooker, Jake Adam York, Jehanne Dubrow, Pamela Gemin, Allison Joseph, and Carrie Shipers.  However, I was also introduced to many other poets’ work that before this past year, I did not know, including fellow bloggers January O’Neil, M.J. Iuppa, and Diane Lockward.  I’m going to take the stance that I just don’t have time to list all the great poetry collections I read this year.

I’m going to keep a list of books read for 2011 — I am not trying to break any type of personal record.  I just want to see if my reading patterns change at all in the upcoming year.

Holiday Sale at Tupelo Press

While you are recovering from the holiday craziness, take a look at the great sale at Tupelo Press! Buy one book, get another free!  The sale ends on December 31, so there’s no time to lose.   I already placed my order.

Happy Holidays!

Alas, I couldn’t get the cats to wear Santa Claus hats, and when I tried to take a picture of Charly “helping” me wrap presents, she came out in one big gray blur.  The best I could do was this snapshot of Lola, who is looking like a real Scrooge in this picture.

Here, in Western Pennsylvania, it looks like we are going to have a White Christmas and good traveling weather.  Trust me — that does not happen very often.

This blog will be quiet for a few days.  Anthony and I will be out and about visiting family members and friends. We wish everyone out there a safe and happy holiday season!

From Milltown to Malltown

I have always been fascinated with collaborations between writers and visual artists, and I have always loved the work of Jim Daniels (he was one of the first poets I discovered who wrote about the “stuff” I knew — working class life, factory work, etc..) so of course I picked up From Milltown to Malltown (Marick Press) by Jim Daniels, Jane McCafferty (the poets) and Charlee Brodksy (the photographer) to add to my collection.

What has happened to the Rust Belt?  From Milltown to Malltown explores one possible answer to this question. This collection explores Homestead, Pennsylvania.  For those of you who need to brush up a bit on your working class history, Homestead is the site of the famous strike of 1892 when the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers fought for better wages.  A battle took place when 300 Pinkerton detectives arrived to fight the union and the strike. 

Today, according to the introduction of the book, there is little left to remind us of that famous event in American history. In 1987 the mill was closed for good, and razed.  Now, the Waterfront shopping center stands in its place. 

This collection places photographs of physical landmarks (chainlink fences, closed shops, old homes, churches) next to photographs of people (workers, mothers, children, etc..) who either work or live (or both!) in Homestead. Every photograph has its own poem.  One poem is a villanelle about shopping; another poem is a prose poem that speaks about the past.  Some poems take on Homestead and its place in history; other works focus on individual lives of the present.  My favorite poem is titled “Hello, My Name is Eric and I’m…” is about a minimum wage worker. 

Poet Dorianne Laux on the back cover blurb calls this collection “Disturbing, elegiac, and at times, wickedly wry, the chemistry between Brodsky’s bleak, beautiful spare photos and the poets’ renegade imaginations jolts us in the way art must.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Reporting from Inside the Snow Globe….

Today, I am seeing blue sky, something I have been missing for the last week (maybe even two weeks) or so.  I have lived in the Snow Belt most of my life, so I am used to days upon days of gray; however, usually the major snowstorms wait until the end of December. (Where I live — just an hour or so north, by Lake Erie, the towns are used to three to four feet, at once!)

Still, my grades are in, and besides wading through the holidays, I have major goals for my three weeks of break.  First, I want to finish working on my manuscript.  Second, I have to finish a review I started six months ago (yep — you heard it, six months — talk about being a little behind).  Third, I have to work on a conference proposal.  Finally, I have to get an application together for a grant which means updating my vita, something I haven’t done in two years.

If I get through two of these goals, I will be happy, because on top of all these, I have stacks (not one stack — many stacks) of books to read.  Ron introduced me to Paperback Swap, and now I am addicted.

Todd Davis at How a Poem Happens

Because of our blizzard like conditions here, JCC has closed its doors for the day — no final today.  Since this is a once in a lifetime experience, I am spending my time productively: catching up on my blog reading.  I just discovered that Todd Davis is up at How a Poem Happens — and he discusses one of my favorite poems from his last book. 

If you are reading this post from a cold and snowy place, please drive safely and keep warm!

Stealing Dust at The Centrifugal Eye

Special thanks to Sherry for her thoughtful review of Stealing Dust published in the latest issue of The Centrifugal Eye (click on page 98 and 99 to see the review).  I know how much time it takes to review a collection of poetry, and I’m always touched when my readers take time out to say something (nice or not!) about my work.

In the final paragraph of her review, Sherry notes, “Weyant’s poems are populated with characters who share hand-me-down clothing, and hand-me-down roles and positions in a blue-collar town.  A quiet strength weaves its way through her poetry, revealing a grounded voice rooted in the power of humanity and nature’s cycles.  There were times when I hoped Weyant would reveal more of the poet who grew up and left such a town.  What became of the dust of the mill when she moved on?” 

What does become of the rust, the debris, the dust — in general, the remnants, of a Rust Belt little town?  In many ways, nature reclaims the ruins.  People move out and on, or stay behind to help build some kind of stronger future.  Some places die — but as poor as the economy is, I have seen the little towns of rural Pennsylvania perk up.   I’m not always the “I” in my poems — but I feel like I am on a first name basis with the girls and women found in my poems.  The review ends with a look to the future:  “Perhaps there will be a sequel, another volume of poetry.  Another book written, another page turned.  Another calendar pinned above the kitchen sink.”

I’m hoping there will be such a sequel.

CFS: PCEA’s Annual Conference

I don’t usually post call for submissions for conference proposals, but I am very excited by the fact that PCEA’s annual conference is going to be in Erie, Pennsylvania ( about 45 minutes from where I work) this upcoming spring.  PCEA stands for Pennsylvania College English Association and it’s this organization and its conference that helped guide me through the first steps of taking part in the professional academic environment.  When I taught in the Penn State system, I presented at three PCEA conferences — and one such presentation, regarding Stephen Crane’s depiction of prostitution in his novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, caused great arguments in my audience.  What fun!

I haven’t been to PCEA in years.  Ten years, to be exact, and I’m hoping that when I go this year, I will get to see some old friends.

Anyways, here are the guidelines for the conference. Author Dinty Moore is the keynote speaker.  Consider submitting a proposal, especially if you live close by — you don’t have to teach in Pennsylvania to join in the fun.

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