Archive for December, 2011

2012: Poetry Collections to Come

It’s hard to believe that 2012 is just around the corner!  For the last month or so, I have been collecting and/or researching poetry titles that will be out in the upcoming year.   And here is the long-awaited list:

  1. O Holy Insurgency by Mary Biddinger
  2. Natural Causes by Brian Brodeur
  3. The Children by Paula Bohince
  4. Breakdown: Banjo Poems by Dave Bonta
  5. Our Lady of the Ruins by Traci Brimhall
  6. An Amateur Marriage by Jessie Carty
  7. A Hotel Lobby At the End of the World by Adam Clay
  8. Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral
  9. Gods of Water and Air by Rachel Dacus
  10. Red Army Red by Jehanne Dubrow
  11. Friday in the Republic of Me by Justin Evans
  12. Plume by Kathleen Flenniken
  13. Far from Sudden by Brent Goodman
  14. Early Creatures, Native Gods by K.A. Hays
  15. Skin Shift by Matthew Hittinger
  16. Spot the Terrorist! by Lori Jakiela
  17. Black Crow Dress by Roxane Beth Johnson
  18. Nocturnes by Kathleen Kirk
  19. Lacemakers by Claire McQuerry
  20. Home Burial by Michael McGriff
  21. Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah by Patricia Smith
  22. Murder Ballad by Jane Springer
  23. Woman with Crows by Ruth Thompson
  24. Thrall by Natasha Tretheway
  25. Afterimage by Benjamin Vogt
  26. The Water Books: Poems by Judith Vollmer
  27. The Death of Flying Things by Gabriel Welsch
  28. Notes from the Journey Westward by Joe Wilkins

Holy Cow!  And do I dare bring it up again on this blog?  My second chapbook, Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, winner of Main Street Rag’s 2011 Chapbook Contest, will be published in January!  (You can preorder a copy if you like –information can be found to the left)

Finally, rumor has it that Erin Coughlin Hollowell, January Gill O’Neil, and Collin Kelley will have new collections out in 2013!  (That is, of course, if we all survive the end of the world that has been predicted for 2012)


2011: Best Poetry Collections of the Year

As a follow up to Monday’s post listing the best chapbooks of the year, here is my list for the best collections of poetry for 2011.  In order to challenge myself, I wanted to keep my list to 10 books, and I did, but in doing so, I left a lot of great reads off this list.  All in all, I read 42 books of poetry published in 2011 and have several others waiting to be read (I got several poetry collections for Christmas).  It should go without saying, that it was hard for me to keep my list to only 10 books!

The Lifting Dress by Lauren Berry (Penguin) Poetic Southern Gothic at its best, Berry’s collection documents a young girl’s flight from the dark fury of her swampy and sultry town. Berry’s narratives are so rich with lyrical language, you will forget that you are reading a collection that explores the unapologetic darkness of violence.

The Book of What Says by James Crews (University of Nebraska Press) Crews’ debut collection explores secret places and hidden lives. The middle section of the book, which chronicles the art and voice of artist Feliz Gonzalez-Torress whose work often acts as a commentary on the AIDS epidemic, is the best sequence of poems I have read in a long time.

She Returns to the Floating World by Jeannine Hall Gailey (Kitsune Books) Gailey’s strength is the persona poem, and in her second collection, she invites readers into the stories and fairy tales of the Fox-Wife, Yuki the Snow Maiden, and the Crane Wife – all figures from Japanese folklore. But don’t worry if you think that you will get lost in the collection’s magical realism, for intertwined in these fairy tales, are poems that explore our own precarious relationship with the Atomic Age.

Neighborhood Register by Marcus Jackson (CavanKerry Press) In his first collection of poetry, Jackson chronicles the lives of a working-class city neighborhood. In his narratives, we learn about “the Baddest Kid in the neighborhood,” “Mary at the tattoo shop” and even “Mr Bernard” a teacher assigned to speak about the wisdom of correct grammar to an eighth grade class. Especially wonderful are the odes sprinkled throughout the book – odes that seem to praise relatively mundane things, such as Kool-Aid or scholarships, yet in the hands of Jackson are deemed wonderful and spiritual objects.

After the Ark by Luke Johnson (NYQ Books) Combining the domestic with the spiritual, Johnson, in his first collection of poetry, explores both grief and celebration of life in his elegies (or elegy – some readers may read his book as one long elegy). Johnson avoids sentimentality, and instead focuses on the wisdom of looking for closure in the world around us.

Hurricane Party by Alison Pelegrin (University of Akron Press) Pelegrin’s third full length collection of poems celebrates today’s Louisiana – yes, we get the post Katrina poems, but we get odes about booze and pelicans (not in the same poem), poems about getting the “creeps” (a personal favorite), and narratives where the characters tubing on a river “toss hot dogs/to a coon hound abandoned/on the bank.” I’ve always admired the way that Pelegrin explores place as both a physical landscape and a specific cultural space, and her newest book did not disappoint me.

Predatory by Glenn Shaheen (University of Pittsburgh Press) Winner of the 2010 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Shaheen’s work explores the silent and often forgotten places in America. Minimalism at its best, Predatory chronicles the solitude of what might be considered another lost generation.

A Witness in Exile by Brian Spears (Louisiana Literature Press) In his semi-autobiographical debut collection, Spears documents his religious upbringing as a Jehovah Witness while intertwining his present life in the landscape of the South. Spears’ work shows a deep vulnerability and reminds us that finding peace with our own lives, our own pasts, and our own spirituality is always a struggle – but a struggle that is of great importance.

Wait by Alison Stine (University of Wisconsin Press) Stine’s terrific follow-up to her first book, Ohio Violence, follows a young girl who seems to live in a midwestern Gothic fairy tale, plotting an escape with or without the help of those close to her.

Killing the Murnion Dogs by Joe Wilkins (Black Lawrence Press) In many ways, Wilkins’ first full length collection of poetry is a road trip through the back towns and dusty places in America. Most surely semi-autobiographical, Killing the Murnion Dogs takes the reader through struggling ranches and farms, old bars, and back alleys, all the while questioning what it means to go home, what it means to escape.

2011: Best Chapbooks of the Year

It’s been a great reading year!  While I know many of you are a bit tired of the Best of…. lists that follow headlines this time of year, I couldn’t resist sharing my own lists.  Today, it’s the best chapbooks of 2011!

The Scientific Method by Mary Alexandra Agner (Parallel Press) Exploring subjects ranging from the earth to the sky, Agner reviews the scientific world through a feminist lense, giving voices to women scientists including Florence Nightingale, Barbara McClintock, and Caroline Herschel. If you don’t know as much about science history as you should, (and I am placing myself in this category), then you will find yourself googling the women in Agner’s poems, learning about your scientific world through both history and Agner’s poetic praise.

I Stand Here Shredding Documents by Kristin Berkey-Abbott (Finishing Line Press) In her collection, when Berkey-Abbott asks, “How can I be a woman of mystery/when you see the contents of my grocery cart?” she is asking can we find contentment in today’s modern world? And I believe that the answer is yes! Through descriptions of crowded cubicles, boring office meetings, and traffic jams, the narrators in Berkey-Abbott’s world find a spiritual happiness in what many people may consider the most mundane aspects of our world.

Saint Monica by Mary Biddinger (Black Lawrence Press) Through the persona of Saint Monica and set in the Rust Belt Midwest, Biddinger chronicles the dilemmas and desires of today’s women through poems filled with both innocent longing and unflinching violence.

Fat Girl by Jessie Carty (Sibling Rivalry Press) Stripped to their own nakedness, Carty’s poems explore the struggles of us all as we try to fit into our own bodies. My favorite poem is “Fat Girl on Air Travel” where the narrator is a pro at passing through security by traveling with empty pockets and a full backpack, by holding slip-on shoes in her hand, by explaining, “You just want to pass.”

Anchor Glass by Karen Dietrich (Finishing Line Press) Dietrich’s chapbook debut is a respectful homage to little factory towns – especially little factory towns in Pennsylvania. See my complete review of this chapbook here.

Illinois, My Apologies by Justin Hamm (Rocksaw Press) Hamm’s portrayal of a rough and gritty Midwest will make any reader fall in love with the land and the men who toil there. See my complete review here.

The Mill Hunk’s Daughter Meets the Queen of Sky by Lori Jakiela (Finishing Line Press) Jakiela chronicles both her life at a flight attendant along with her relationship with her factory worker father in this collection of stark, narrative poems. My favorite work? In “My Father the Machinist Said” the narrator of the poem bluntly tells his daughter: “See the world. Fly right/Watch out for cockroaches.//Use your brains, princess./Don’t be like me.//Don’t work with your hands.”

Slow to Burn by Collin Kelley (Seven Kitchens Press) Part of Seven Kitchen Press’s Rebound series, Slow to Burn was originally published in 2006 by Metromania Press. Kelley’s slim volume of narrative poetry explore struggle and loss, and ultimately what it takes to unearth our own identities.

Foreclosure Dogs by Andrew Rihn (Winged City Press) Rihn’s collection of political narrative poetry engages the struggles of the working-class/blue collar people of America.  Working with both landscape and profiles, Rihn never fails to deliver the hard narratives of ordinary, every day lives.

Here Along Cazenovia Creek by Ruth Thompson (Saddle Road Press) Nature poetry at its best, Thompson explores the world of Western New York (Cazenovia Creek is a real place). Perhaps because I personally know the harsh winters of the Snow Belt, I am even more amazed about how she can make a gentle and lyrical poem from a Buffalo snowfall.






White Christmas?

That actually remains to be seen. Last weekend, we had a bit of snow, but during the last few days,  it’s been spring-like weather here in Western Pennsylvania with rain and warm temperatures.  Yes, this kind of weather has made the flurry of last-minute shopping and holiday visiting a bit easier — but it doesn’t feel much like Christmas.  Still, rumor has it we might get an inch or two of snow on Saturday, just enough to cover the mud, and perhaps coat the world in a bit of holiday spirit.

This blog will be quiet until after the holidays when I start posting my Best of 2011 lists and my 2012 collections to come. Anthony and I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday!

ASA Conference

A few days ago, I received some great news — at the end of March, I will be reading with one of my favorite poets, Paula Bohince, at the Appalachian Studies Conference in Indiana, Pennsylvania.  Fans of the Scrapper Poet know how much I love Bohince’s work (and so excited that her next book, The Children, will be out in spring 2012!), so I’m thrilled (and a bit nervous, I must admit) to read with her!  The conference also holds other great writers including poets Maggie Anderson, Peter Oresick, and Lori Jakiela. 

This is the first time I have ever planned on attending the Appalachian Studies Association Conference, and I’m really looking forward to the event.  The Appalachian Studies Association is much like the Working Class Studies Association — that is, it’s an interdisciplinary conference, so there will be films, readings, panels about pedagogy and literature, plus panels concerning history and sociology.  I always love these kinds of conferences because I learn so many new things.

I don’t know how many readers I have in the Western/Central Pennsylvania area, but if you live in the area — I would think this is a conference well worth attending, even if you can only make the Saturday events!  Here is the link to the ASA’s website, along with the conference schedule. 

Weeding in December

Last year at this time, we were battling feet of snow — but it’s been a snowfree December, until today — today, we may just have to find the snow shovel.  Anthony and I did have some holiday shopping to do, but it’s really a good day to stay home.   Instead, I’m going to spend the day spring, ah…winter cleaning.  And weeding out my book collection.  Although I am not anticipating any kind of e-reader for Christmas, I have made it a goal to get rid of three boxes of books.  That will be a challenge because I hate getting rid of books. 

Still, I am offering ways to weed a personal library (I wrote the list in second person point of view — but it’s really ways I download my library. I’m sure you can adjust this list for yourself):

  1. Give your history books to your older brother who loves history.  (John, I know you never read my blog, but in case you do, expect some good reads for Christmas).  After he reads them, he will find good homes for them.
  2. Donate. Donate. Donate.  My local library loves donations, plus they have a book cellar — a room in the library where they sell used books for money for the library.  And with budgets for public libraries shrinking (don’t get me started..) it’s a win-win situation all around.
  3. Place books on your Paperback Swap Account.  That way you can get rid of your books to trade for ah…more books.  (I know that it defeats the whole purpose of trying to get rid of books, but hey, it’s fun, and I’ve gotten some great finds!)

Breaking Into the Weekend

Finals are done, final grades are in, my desk is (almost) cleaned off!  I am ready for the Winter Break! 

Two pieces of good news to share this week:  I got an acceptance note from Sugar House Review — one of my favorite literary journals.  If you don’t know the work published in this wonderful journal, you should subscribe.  And according to the website, they will be open for submissions in January 2012.

I also got my contributor’s copy of River Styx in the mail.  River Styx is also one of my favorite literary journals, and I am so excited that my poem “All My Boyfriends Wore Beer Labels for Nicknames” is found within its pages.

2012 is coming quickly! I’m taking up Mary Biddinger’s challenge to see if I can write at least three new poems before the new year.

The Ways We Work

Everyone is posting recommendations for holiday lists, and the collections all look great, but I want to offer two suggestions for the blue-collar worker that is probably in many of us.

This past March marked the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.  If you don’t know much about this event, you can check the information found here.  Some working-class historians suggest that this tragic event is one of the most written about, and it’s certainly a topic of many poems.   A slim chapbook of poems, Walking Through a River of Fire: One Hundred Years of Triangle Factory Fire Poems, edited by Julia Stein and published by CC Marimbo, was released earlier this year commemorating the anniversary.  Stein includes some of the classic Triangle poems by Chris Llewellyn (from Fragments from the Fire) and Mary Fell (from Persistence of Memory), but there are many other poems that may not be so familiar, even to the working-class literature scholar. 

Another great collection?  Just last week I got a copy of Motif 3: All the Livelong Day edited by Marianne Worthington (MotesBooks). In this collection, the reader will find great poems from such poets as Barbara Cooker, George Ella Lyon, Clay Matthews, and Erin Keane.  (Yep — you will also find one work by yours truly.   “The Union Steward Switches Back to 3rd Shift” can be found on page 213.) 

Overall, What I liked most about this anthology was the sheer variety of poems and short stories about different types of work — there was domestic work, factory work, retail work. My favorite poem is “What Is Not There” by Eileen Malone about a young woman who shucks oysters for a living: “The owner pays her by the plate, replies/of course she can keep any pearl she finds/although there are no pearls in these oysters”.

You can find more information about Walking Through a River of Fire here.

You can find more information about Motif 3: All the Livelong Day here.

New Review Posted at Rattle

I interrupt this grading frenzy weekend to announce that my review of Before I Came Home Naked by Christina Olson has been published on Rattle.   I read this book a few months ago — and I fell in love with her work.  I recommend this book as a great Christmas present — for yourself or for others (non poetry readers will enjoy her work, too!).  Christina is also a somewhat local poet (remember — I live in rural Pennsylvania, so anything under two hours is local to me!) having grown up in Buffalo, New York.  I always try to support local artists (in this area, there are so few, and those of us who are here are often in hiding).

Unfortunately, right around the time that I finished the review, I found out that Spire Press is no longer in business.  However, I believe you can still find copies of this book on Amazon. Also, more information can be found at Christina’s blog/website.  Take a look here.

When She Woke

I’ve noted on this blog that I like to read updated/revised works of literary classics (updated Wuthering Heights/the sequel to Dracula, etc..).  Most of the time I don’t enjoy the book — my expectations are always a bit high, I’m afraid.  However, I did just finish a book that lived up to my high expectations, and from what I understand, the critical response has been great, also.

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan, is a sci/fi, dystopian look at what could be a possible (and scary) future of the United States.  In this book, Hannah Payne, a young religious woman, is convicted of the murder of her unborn child.  For her crime, her skin is colored red — in this society, criminals are colored according to different crimes; for instance, child molesters are colored blue.  She refuses to name the baby’s father who is a prominent religious leader in the country.  She also refuses to name the doctor who performed the abortion.  She must serve her sentence (I think it was 20+ years) in the color of red.

This is not a novel debating the pro-life/pro-choice dilemma — instead, it is a novel that very much looks at the nature and definition of crime, who is in power to define crime and punishment, and the people who are caught on all sides.  The main character is not a saint.  In fact, she does many things that I did not like — but I still found her to be sympathetic. 

Readers of this book may liken Jordan’s work to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  And I did see the similarities.  Of course, the main references are towards Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter (Believe it or not, I didn’t read this classic until college.  Unlike most high school students, I loved the book!)  I don’t know what Hawthorne would think, but I thought that Jordan did a great update of his classical work! 

For those of you trying to find time to read during this busy season, you may want to push and shove time in your schedule for this book.  I sat down Monday night (yes, when I should have been grading papers) and read the whole book in just under three hours.

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