Posts Tagged ‘chapbooks’

With December Right Around the Corner….

In the last few days, we have survived Winter Storm Boreas, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday — a trio of events that have made the last week a bit more chaotic than normal (Although, I admit, while I have many family members who love Black Friday sales, I sleep in…actually saving a lot of money!). I have the rest of this weekend to catch up a bit with grading papers and reading a pile of chapbooks that are sitting on my nightstand.

And speaking of chapbooks, writer William Kelley Woolfitt has posted an interview where I talk, no gush, a bit about chapbooks.  Yes, I talk about Stealing Dust and Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, but I also spend a great deal of time discussing other poets’ chapbooks.  The website has other great interviews in its archives including posts by Justin Hamm and Michael Meyerhofer.  Take a look!

In other good news, the latest issue of Flycatcher is live!  It’s a beautiful issue featuring poems by Rupert Fike, Thomas Rain Crowe, Valerie Neiman, and Mike James.  And yes, two of my poems are also featured.  Happy Reading!


Because Chapbooks Need Love Too…

Weave has a great roundup of chapbook reviews published on their homepage.  Obviously, I am a fan of the chapbook, so I’m always thrilled when chapbooks get a bit of attention too!  Take a look at the reviews.  I just finished one of the chapbooks, I Fall in Love with Strangers by Kelly Scarff. I met Kelly at a recent reading (both of us are graduates of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg) and I love her work.

Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt

I am excited, excited, excited to announce that my second chapbook, Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, has won Main Street Rag’s annual chapbook contest.   I will keep everyone posted on publication dates, but for now, I just want to say thank you, my blogging poetry universe, for your support of my past work and your comments and questions here on my blog!


Fans of The Scrapper Poet know how much I love Seven Kitchens Press.  Besides the recent publication of chapbooks from two of my favorite poets, Gabriel Welsch and Todd Davis, Ron Mohring (editor) has just announced the upcoming publications of several chapbooks in the ReBound Series, including Collin Kelley’s work, Slow to Burn.  Congrats to all.

And Mary Biddinger is doing a different kind of rebounding — stop by her blog and wish her congratulations.

(Note to audience: WordPress has been a bit wacky today — I can’t provide links.  When I have more time, I will go back and make corrections!)

On the Ghetto Exorcist

Poems about violence are hard to write — and if they are written well, they are also hard to read.  I have just finished one of the best chapbooks I have ever read.  James Tyner’s The Ghetto Exorcist won The Coal Hill Review’s 2009 chapbook contest and I can see why. This slim collection explodes with sharp language and danger, somehow  finding the beauty of violence.  The bio note at the end of the chapbook calls Tyner a “struggling pacifist” and anyone reading his poems can see this struggle.  His work comes from the violence of the gang world where he came from — my favorite poem is “After Jumping Some Kids and Taking Their Money, 1988” where the narrator details the event with precision and even a sort of innocence, especially with the opening line: “We buy Cheetos and Fanta/with the money we stole./Took it as they cried/pried it loose with kicks to the stomach/and stomps to the face.” 

The Ghetto Exorcist is an ebook, and while I don’t usually read collections online (this is not a literary snob remark — I just have trouble reading longer works online), I couldn’t resist this collection. 

Here is the address:

I looked up James Tyner and couldn’t find any full length collection out there — I hope, I hope, one is coming soon!

Why I Don’t Quite “Get” the Prose Poem

In the last week or so, I finished two great collections of poems.  The Real Politics of Lipstick by Mary Carroll Hackett was a terrific exploration of women and their relationship to the world around them.  The other collection, Money for Sunsets by Elizabeth Colen was a great read about sexuality and danger even in the most everyday places.

So, I’ve been re-reading both books again and again, savoring specific lines and images.  For example, my favorite poem in Colen’s collection is “80 East” where the narrator states: “You’ve been sleeping since/Salt Lake — crescent lashes rimming your lids below the Ray Bans you/refused men when I took over the wheel.  I squinted from the bones of/light sliced off passing cars’ chrome.  You said you’d take the blame if/we became wreckage on the plains.”   What lyrical language used to describe a road trip!

So, what is the problem, you may ask?

No problem really, except that both of these wonderful collections are prose poems collections.  And I admit, dear reader, that I don’t quite get the prose poem.

Many times, poems are defined by the poetic line.  But the prose poem is not — in fact, my students would call a prose poem a paragraph, and yep, that’s right.  So if a prose poem isn’t really defined by the line, what is the definition?  Or does the prose poem, like so much else in literature, have only a fuzzy definition.  Perhaps the prose poem is not that concerned with the line, but wants to focus on the poetic language.  Then, where does the prose poem overlap with flash fiction?  Is it more concerned with language and less with plot and character development? 

I have too many questions, really, about prose poems. Too many questions that will not be answered today, so I guess I will go back to re-reading both of these great collections.

Or maybe, I should try writing a prose poem myself!

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.

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. 

On They Speak of Fruit

I have looked forward to finding and reading more of Gary McDowell’s poetry ever since his poem “How Mosquitoes Came to Be” was featured in the first issue of Anti-.  So, when I learned that Cooper Dillon’s debut publication would be McDowell’s chapbook, They Speak of Fruit, my fingers stood ready over my Paypal account ready to order.   And when They Speak of Fruit arrived in my mailbox this week, I was not disappointed.

In the hands of McDowell, the natural earth becomes a world of imagination and magic.   Sometimes, his images are harsh.  For instance, in the opening poem, “All Stones Are Broken Stones,” the speaker states that “Last night I dreamt of swallows/flying from her mouth/their slanted wings left cuts in her throat.”  Sometimes, they are much softer, more contemplative.  For example, “Ninth Morning in a Row with Binoculars” finds a lone speaker driving along a major highway, and when a bird is knocked into the passenger seat, the perplexed persona is left  wondering, “How does one/resuscitate a bird? How does one know when/to resuscitate a bird?”   Whatever the image, whatever the story, McDowell places the human existence into our world’s natural wonders,  crafting every surreal line and detail so that we too, as readers, believe in only beautiful things no matter how grim and serious our lives seem to be.   And of course, every poem makes me wish for Gary McDowell’s first full length collection!


Checking It Twice…

I haven’t thought too much about the holidays.  I haven’t even thought about Thanksgiving even though it’s next week.  However, many bloggers are starting to post their suggestions for holiday shopping.  Special thanks to Kristin for posting a chapbook list on her blog, and for including Stealing Dust!

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