Archive for December, 2012

Poetry Books to Come

It’s the last day of 2012, and it’s time to look forward to the New Year.  For the past month or so, I have collected a list of poets and their forthcoming books.  The list (both chapbooks and full-length collections) is not in any particular order (mostly because I’ve been too busy/lazy to organize the litany of collections that are coming out in 2013).  I know that I’m still reading books from 2012, but I am eager to dive into this great list of titles!  (Disclaimer: I really tried to doublecheck names and titles, but if I made a mistake, please let me know.)

What if We Could Morph by Jessie Carty

Four Horsepersons of a Disappointing Apocalypse by Gabriel Welsch

In the Kingdom of the Ditch by Todd Davis

Unpressed by Tess Kincaid

Birth Marks by Jim Daniels

Render by Collin Kelley

The Scabbard of Her Throat Bernadette Geyer

Gold Passage by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Pause, Traveler by Erin Coughlin Hollowell

Frost in Low Areas by Karen Skolfield

Girl Show by Kristy Bowen

Burn this House by  Kelly Davio

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Supposed to Love by Jennifer Campbell

The Everyday Parade/Elegy for Sounds Forgotten by Justin Hamm

A Poet’s Sourcebook by Dawn Potter

Scoring the Silent Film by Keith Montesano

Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral by Gary L. McDowell

Butch Geography by Stacey Waite

The Year of What Now by Brian Russell

The Royal Nonesuch by Steven D. Schroeder

Unchecked Savagery by Glenn Shaheen

Starship Tahiti by Brandon Lamson

Great Guns by Farnoosh Fathi

Practicing to Walk Like a Heron by Jack Ridl

Earth Again by Chris Dombrowski

Sunday Rising by Patricia Clark

Earth, Mercy by Mary Rose O’Reilley

Little Oblivian by Susan Allspaw


2012: Best Poetry Collections of the Year

Wow.  It’s been another great year of poetry reading! On Wednesday, I listed my chapbook picks of the year. Below, I have listed some of my choice selections concerning full length collections of poetry, although I have to admit that it was hard to narrow my list down to ten books.  As noted, throughout this past year, I have provided longer reviews with some of these books, so you can click on the listed links for more information.

The Wishing Tomb by Amanda Auchter (Perugia Press)  New Orleans takes center stage in Auchter’s second poetry collection.   Exploring the Crescent City’s deep history through  a strong lyrical voice, Auchter presents a diverse and mysterious past that has created this resilient city.

 Notes to the Beloved by Michelle Bitting  (Sacramento Poetry Center Press)  Winner of the 2011 Sacramento Poetry Center Book Contest, Notes to the Beloved is collection that makes the familiar, including everyday fairy tales and portraits of wayward boys,  just a bit more surreal.

 Red Army Red by Jehanne Dubrow (Triquarterly) In her fourth full-length collection, Dubrow remembers the Cold War from behind the Iron Curtain in a variety of works intertwining coming-of-age stories with the larger, more political world.

 Plume by Kathleen Flenniken (University of Washington)  Flenniken grew up next door to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state and worked at Hanford for three years as a civil engineer and hydrologist. Plume is a collection of poems that explore both the poet’s place in this world, as well as Hanford’s role in a larger part of America’s nuclear history.  See my review here.

The Pattern Maker’s Daughter by Sandee Gertz Umbach (Bottom Dog Press) Part exploration of place and history, part coming-of-age narrative, Gertz’s debut collection of poetry brings the reader to the heart of working-class Pennsylvania with her thoughtful narratives of growing up near Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  See my complete review here.

In Broken Latin by Annette Spaulding-Convy (University of Arkansas Press) A woman’s spiritual journey is chronicled in Spaulding-Convy’s semi-autographical collection of poems that includes both narratives and lyrical musings.  See my complete review here.  

Paradise, Indiana by Bruce Snider (LSU Press) A book length elegy mourning the death of a beloved cousin, these poems also explore Midwestern life in its gritty elegance.  I posted a more complete review here.

The Death of Flying Things by Gabriel Welsch (WordTech)  Welsch returns to rural Pennsylvania (a favorite place of mine, if I do say so myself) in his second collection, where he explores both the wonder and tragedy of  rural life.

Notes from the Journey Westward by Joe Wilkins (White Pine Press) Blending both historical and personal pasts, Wilkins returns to the hardscrabble landscape of the American west, depicting the lives of the people who live there.

The Road to Happiness by Johnathon Williams (Antilever Press) In his debut collections, Williams goes on a road trip through the landscape of rural Arkansas, chronicling a family’s past through narrative poems full of gravel and grit.

2012: Best Chapbooks of the Year

Yes, this year I celebrated the publication of Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, winner of the 2011 Main Street Rag Chapbook Contest.  But, I found there was even more to celebrate.  Below is a list of my top 10 chapbooks of the year:

High Voltage Lines by Tiel Aisha Ansari (Barefoot Muse Press) Ansari, in her latest collection, practices the fine art of poetic form; exploring the villanelle, the sestina, and the ghazal, she twists verse through journeys that seek to find a deep spirituality in today’s world.

To the One Who Raped Me by Dustin Brookshire (Sibling Rivalry Press) Brookshire, poet and activist, was raped in 2006 by a former boyfriend.  His chapbook is a brutal but poignant journey of pain, rediscovery and hope in the aftermath of violence and in a world that often times, remains unforgiving.

An Amateur Marriage by Jessie Carty (Finishing Line Press)  Carty’s chapbook, Fat Girl, made last year’s list, and I’m thrilled to see her here again!  Her newest chapbook, An Amateur Marriage is an exploration of domestic life told through the position of the television set in the living room and the type of laundry soap used in the wash.  Some may be doubtful that such seemingly mundane details could make poetry happen – Carty’s work will convince them otherwise.

Braiding the Storm by Laura E. Davis (Finishing Line Press)  Davis’s first chapbook is a gritty collection of coming-of-age narratives, depicting a young narrator living through loss and personal struggles.  Set against the backdrop of Pittsburgh, Davis’s poems are both street smart and surreal. 

Friday in the Republic of Me by Justin Evans (Foothills Publishing)  Balancing the political with the private, Evans’ newest chapbook explores heroism in both war and on the homefront.  In many of Evans’ poems, he confronts contemporary America, in its flawed reliance on technology and fantasy superheroes.  Yet, this collection displays hope with the middle poem, “Ode to Neruda” that calls for change in a near future.

Nocturnes by Kathleen Kirk (Hyacinth Girl Press) Kirk delivers once again in her newest chapbook which explores the night in all its phantoms and dark mysteries.  Sometimes we see ghosts, sometimes we see familiar scenes cloaked in shadows, always we see wonderful lyrical verse.

The Story You Tell Yourself by Heather Kirn Lanier (Kent State University Press) In this debut collection, Lanier reinvents all the familiar stories we know, creating a surreal mythology we all want to believe, all stories we tell ourselves until we are sure they are true.

The Book of Women by Dorianne Laux  (Red Dragonfly Press) Detailing stories of women’s lives through roadtrips and second-hand clothes, The Book of Women is an excellent companion piece to Laux’s The Book of Men published last year.

Women Who Pawn Their Jewelry by Sheila Squillante (Finishing Line Press)  Squillante’s collection is more than depictions of women who pawn their jewelry. (Although the title poem is wonderful!) Instead, she offers portraits of contemporary lives told through everyday events: a teenager watches the relationship of her parents on a first family vacation, a narrator recounts wedding advice from her grandmother, a woman has lunch with her ex-husband. 

I Fall in Love with Strangers by Kelly Scarff (Nerve Cowboy) Loss haunts the characters who wander in and out of Scarff’s debut chapbook collection. Told with a blue-collar edge, Scarff’s litany of characters may have familiar tales, but the narratives depicted are haunting enough that the reader walking away from this collection will long remember both the voices and the stories.

The Good is There

In the last few days, Winter Storm Draco dumped about four inches of snow on us, just enough to make everything look pretty, just enough to cover the brown sludge that has covered our world. On the outskirts of town, snow has covered the split milkweed pods and cattail gone to seed that line the road. Dirty guardrails and road signs have been wiped clean. Yet, it’s sunny out today.  The sky is bright blue, the snow is glistening. It’s easy to believe that we could start anew.

When I went to the grocery store yesterday, the lines were crowded, but people were pleasant, as if suddenly realizing that shopping is a gift.  I saw two old friends embrace in the produce section (by the green peppers, if you want a specific image).

In front of our house, I saw a woman walk her little terrier.  The dog was wearing those plastic reindeer antlers and a Christmas sweater.  He looked very proud as he wagged his tail back and forth.  I had to laugh. (Small side note: no way would we ever get one of our cats to wear any sort of Christmas gadget. Nope. Not happening.)

When I drove through town early this morning, I saw kids pulling their sleds to the local sledding hill that is located about two blocks from where we live.  Their laughter made me smile. 

In spite of the recent tragic events, there are moments that make me believe that the world is essentially a good place. I’m not a romantic; indeed, Anthony calls me a pessimist (I prefer the term “realist”).  Still, when I stop and think about the good, I don’t have to think hard.  It’s there.

I will return after December 25 to post my “Best of 2012” book lists for the year.  Wishing all of my readers a safe and happy holiday season!

The End of the World

This past summer, I took a workshop with poet Gabriel Welsch and one of the poems we read was titled “Nineteen Thirty Eight” by Charles Simic.  The title gives the content of the poem away — in this work, the poet shares a litany of events that happened during that year.  One line reads, “People worried that the world was about to end.”  Someone in our workshop remarked that people have always worried about the end of the world.

Yes, certainly this is true, especially in light of recent events.   Even so, most of us have joked about the idea of the world ending on one specific day — December 21. Several literary journals have featured works about the end of the world.  River Styx, for example, published a special theme issue which featured some great End of the World poems including “Snowpocalypse” by Erika Meitner and “When the World Began to End” by Greg Pape.

My own, most recent Apocalypse poems are coming out  in several journals.  Caesura is on its way to my home and this issue will have my poem, “To the Farmgirl Who Believes the Apocalypse Will Begin in a Cow Pasture” . The newest issue of Spillway is also on its way to my doorstep and will feature my poem, “To the Girl Who Believes Roadkill will Rise From the Dead.”  Can’t wait to read both!

Finally, Escape Into Life has just published an issue celebrating (!?) the End of the World.  My poem, “Auditioning for the Apocalypse” is semi-autobiographical and actually looks back on the early 80’s — the Hal Lindsey era.  You can read the whole haunting issue here.

In the meantime, while waiting for the end of the world, we are bracing for Winter Storm Draco, which promises to deliver Western Pennsylvania a slushy mess of snow just in time for Christmas.

RIP: Jake Adam York

Today, when I received a note in my inbox from the New England Review mourning the loss of Jake Adam York, I couldn’t believe it.  I just couldn’t.  I searched the Internet for confirmation hoping that it was one of those cruel hoaxes.  But it’s not a hoax.  It’s true.

I have to preface my words here by saying that Jake and I were not personal friends.  Indeed, we only corresponded a few times through email.  We “met” when I first started my blog and I posted his book, Murder Ballads on my Christmas Wish List.  He contacted me and in his email, he offered to send me a copy.  While I thought that was very kind of him, I explained that Anthony, who saw my list, had already purchased Murder Ballads for me. Later, Copper Nickel (where he was an editor) accepted one of my poems, and we corresponded a bit then, joking about the weather in Western New York.  (Jake had attended Cornell)

Still, when people would ask me who I thought was the best  contemporary poet writing today, Jake would always be one of the first names I would mention.  While Murder Ballads is still my favorite book of his, I loved his other collections as well.  He approached the culture of the American South, in all its flawed yet in many ways, beautiful history, with a thoughtful, lyrical voice.  His poem, “Elegy for James Knox” is one of my favorites, and a work I return to again and again.

I never met Jake in person.  He was one of those poets I admired from afar. And lately, because I have been thinking a lot of the next life — where ever or whatever that may be, I do hope that somehow we will meet.

RIP: Jake Adam York

How the Healing Starts…

I woke up to a dark and gray day, much like yesterday.  No, it’s not the weather.  It’s not the Holiday Blues.  It’s not even because I’m buried in final grading.  Like the rest of the nation, I am mourning over the victims in the recent Connecticut School shooting.  There’s really nothing to say that will help those who lost family members in this tragedy.  We can talk politics and gun control laws and religion, and everything else that has come up in the news when I tried to wade through the various reports to piece together what really happened.  But, I’m not sure if that is where the healing will begin.  I need to clarify this last statement honestly.  I don’t know how the healing really should begin.

Still, although this act will not bring the victims back to their families, this article made me smile, just a little, today.

CFS: Writers Over 57

Nimrod is celebrating 57 years of continuous publication and in honor of this landmark, the journal is asking for submissions by writers who are 57 or older.  Submissions do not have to be about “aging.”  Take a look here for complete guidelines. Postmark deadline is January 15, 2013.

Home Stretch with Life of Pi

We are down to the last week of classes.  It doesn’t feel like December — it’s cold and gray and rainy. But little snow.  As always, it’s crunch time, with papers everywhere I look.  Obviously, I’m not going to get many new projects done this month, but I am looking forward to the time after the holidays when everything slows down just a bit. 

In the last few days, I did, however, make time to re-read Life of Pi by Yann Martel and am really curious about the movie.  I read Martel’s novel many years ago, and when I saw the previews, I thought, Uh oh…This is just not going to work.  I am very skeptical. Even  Director Ang Lee has been quoted about the movie: “When I first read Life of Pi…I remember thinking that nobody in his right mind would make this into a movie.”   Still, the reviews have been solid, so I may have to take a break from the end of the semester grading to catch this movie.  (Although, if Anthony has his way, we will be going to see The Hobbit instead.)

December Poetry Pick: Woman with Crows

Woman with Crowsruth-thompsonRuth Thompson’s first full length collection of poems, Woman with Crows, is a collection of place.  Readers first flipping through its pages, may recognize some of these places, even if they have not visited the depicted locations in their own lives.  We see old farm horses and the last dragonflies of the season.  We see the rolling hills of western New York and the landscape of Hawaii.  Indeed, Thompson’s images are so vivid that all a reader’s senses may kick in.  For instance, in “Fireworks” we hear the Fourth of July celebrations through the “rap thud and rocket/whine, and the spit of firecrackers.”  And in “Tradewind Rain” we feel the wind of a storm when  “Noise takes the house/the way a wave will take a thing/and leave it mindless.”

Still, there are other places as well.  In many of her poems, Thompson revisits old fairy tales and images of mythology and folklore we thought we knew well.  In “The Mermaid Sings” we hear song through “coiled muscle ripples” and in “The Real Story” the readers are treated to a vivid retelling of Grimms Cinderella where “It is reported by the castle press agent/that the stepsisters have cut off their toes/to fit inside a glass slipper/leaving a trail of blood behind their horses/by which they have been discovered.”

Most importantly, however, Thompson’s book is about the places we travel in our lives. Many times,  these places are revealed in narratives and memories.  For instance, in the poem “In My Grandmother’s Garden”  an unnamed narrator remembers working with her grandmother, saying “Each year I was taken/I wonder how I might have rooted, had I stayed.”  In perhaps my favorite poem in the collection, “Wise to Cinderella,”  Thompson combines her love of fairy tales with a distinct memory of a childhood friend and their playdates: “We dressed in women’s clothes/tried them on for size. No tulle or glass slippers/though we’d gone for a spangle or two/had anything shiny been in the box.”  The poem then briefly traces their lives through clothes ending with two women, fifty years later, looking at the camera: “No Cinderellas, just wiseacre heroines–/short on the spangles, shining like stars.”

Woman with Crows was a finalist for the AROHO Foundation To the Lighthouse Poetry Book Prize in 2010.  For more information about Woman with Crows, visit Ruth Thompson’s website here.

« Previous entries