Monday, December 31, 2007

How to Build a Compelling Collection: Laura Kasischke, LILIES WITHOUT

When you write fiction, you need to know at least three times as much about the scenes, characters, maybe even about the plot, than you're going to actually put onto the page.

When you build a collection of poetry: What's the magic ratio? Twice as many poems as you'll end up using? Three times?

What I'm sure of is, Laura Kasischke must have an enormous stack of well-worked poems on hand -- because there are at least three threads linking the pieces in her new collection, LILIES WITHOUT (Ausable Press, 2007). One is dresses and fashionable clothing; one is the titles of prize positions for women in a beauty pageant; and the third is prayer, as in, what happens to the used ones, and is anybody listening?

I could add "family" (she lives with her son, in Michigan), and I could add "growing up in pain" -- but there's no need. The three sets of guiding images wrap around all other strands here, binding the entire book into a powerful rope of conversation and image.

There are three "New Dress" poems here -- a nice touch of continuity from her preceding collection, Gardening in the Dark (Ausable, 2004), which included the poem "Black Dress." Here's the opening to the first "New Dress" poem in LILIES WITHOUT:

Dress of dreams and portents, worn

in memory, despite
the posted warnings
sunk deeply into the damp
all along the shore. (The green

tragedy of the sea
about to happen to me.) Even

in my subconscious, I ignored them.

"Plot" may be an unexpected component of poetry, but it's abundantly present in the twists and surprises of these pieces. Death and danger take turns hiding behind and in front. Another new dress gets rejected, "Don't bury me in this / dress," my mother said." Kasischke's also the author of four novels, including a "young adult" suspense page-turner. The voice echoes in these poems, making them page-turners also.

"Miss Congeniality" reflects a compromise of at least winning some title, even if not the desired one -- and then the thread continues in "Miss January," "Miss Brevity,' even "Miss Estrogen." So by the time the book flowers in "Miss Consolation for Emotional Damages," the frame supports the revelations of childhood humiliation at the hands of neighbors and broken parents. Sorrow is a blossom in the garden; there's no denying its spreading roots.

Kasischke's half-voiced conversations with God crop up in many of the poems, with the inner/outer voice rapping for her attention: "will you please listen to me?" But it's the fifty-nine section poem "Warehouse of Prayers" at the center of the book that tugs the conversation squarely into working terms. Orpheus and Eurydice wander through the passageways, leaving each other voice messages -- and the heap of accumulated prayers becomes a problem for solving by a contractor, it seems:


"Okay, now
what we need here
is a warehouse,
or an abyss, Which
one of you guys
can get on this --


55. [...]

"Hello. Yeah. It's me. Is he in? We've got a major mess on our hands."

Is he ever in?"

I love the twists of humor as much as the twists of plot; this is a book to read and re-read, discovering more winks and wonderings among the lines. Kasischke's forms, open and direct, seem to offer space for reader response, perhaps even participation in the conversations of the volume. I plan to keep my copy on the nearest shelf, ready for more.

PS: In case, like me, you just have to know how to "read" the book's title, consider the epigraph from Andrew Marvell's poem "The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn": "Had it lived long, it would have been / Lilies without, roses within."

Thine Embers Fly, Kevin Goodan: New from Factory Hollow Press

Let me give the "housekeeping" details first: Kevin Goodan's new 10-poem book, in its crisp tan wraps and elegant letterpress pages with lush textured endpapers, is available for just $7 plus shipping, from Factory Hollow Press -- a collaborative effort led by Dara Weir and now offering ten different books, as well as Weir's broadside. Visit the press site at -- here's its statement of purpose:

Factory Hollow Press publishes chapbooks and broadsides in limited editions. Factory Hollow is the publishing division of Sleepy Lemur Quality Enterprises which is the production division of The Meeteetzee Institute. The press is located in North Amherst, Massachusetts. Works published are gathered by invitation; unsolicited work won't be returned or acknowledged, not that we mean to be unfriendly, it's just that we are a very small, private operation. We hope our work encourages others to themselves publish work in small editions.

Goodan's first collection, In the Ghost-House Acquainted, braided the Montana landscape of his childhood and years as a forest fire-fighter with wintery tragedies and successes of lambing and, as a third strand, his adopted landscape of Amherst, Mass. He spoke also from family ties within the Flathead Indian community and named much of the grief in the losses that Western tribes suffer. This first book (Alice James, 2004) won the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award.

In contrast, THINE EMBERS FLY is a small 10-poem collection with an outer calm and neat format, elegantly but sparsely decorated. The opening acknowledgments give both a heart's lurch of delight and a warning of soul work to come:

The author would like to thank Factory Hollow Press and the following people: Theodore Roethke, John Clare, Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Merton, Henry David Thoreau, the authors of the Nag Hammadi Library, and Kimberly Burwick.

The poems that follow are interrupted with short feathers of text from each of these except Burwick (a poet in Goodan's closest circle). The first is, "And our thoughts became lambs," from Merton.

Goodan's opening poem is "We Pass and They Pass / And Slow the World Abides." It places him lost in a ruined harvest field, mouldering from rain.
[...] I stood still long enough
To see each history and each bird,
The ones that appear
Tattered from some journey
Which is their final going,
Those that will reach
The end.

And to the questions that follow these images -- questions like "Do you want to outride / The riders of your life?" -- Goodan poses the next piece as reply: "Thus I Am Called, / Thresher to the Fields." Is it Goodan or God replying? Hear the resonance of the King James Bible: "For I am the link / And the radius of the link / That bears the reduction of complication." "For I am a beam-axle glowing / With spiral roll and rigid pinion / To counter the slant of sidehills / Should I be forced to shift / Into the Lord's high gear."

Then through pages that draw on lambing in snowy season, and a barn fire, and the absence of God on a dark rainy morning, we reach with Goodan "A Sigh for Avila" -- "Grackle will grackle, no matter, the sun / And weeds, our lovely strangers / Will come to us with love." He queries Teresa of Avila herself, the "little sister" to St. Francis, noting the possibility of being one with something even as abandonment settles into the bones.

And when this fierce small collection ties its final knots of invitation, it does so first with "Come Take These Words From Me," a mournful reflection on what and who used to be there, compressed as in an engine cylinder until it explodes in this central question:

Our saws are sharp, never idle long
And through the day we feed fires
Transforming field-jumble into lines.
Far faces bleared by fire, who are you
That the bright mares of language stride forth in their flames?

Fighting fires in the West surely fueled this writing, and I pondered for some time the contrast between facing a fire alone -- whether on the hearth or in a house conflagration -- and being part of a team of friends, allied against the towers of flame. Which are we as we seek meaning in our lives? As this year of war and rumors of war wraps up, do we take "the scent of flesh carbonized by flame" -- as in Goodan's final poem, "Something Is Always Saying Hello" -- to be the wind of Baghdad pursuing us across the ocean? Or the soul-sign of Joan of Arc?

This precisely framed collection fosters intensity in both its questions and its very personal answers. Its use of language and the bird presences in particular ignite joy. It's well worth adding to the shelf, placed perhaps between Hopkins and Auden, or between Dylan Thomas and Donald Revell. The words of others are of great help as we struggle to make sense of our lives. Still, it is our own words that define us at last. In placing his on the pages for us all, Goodan has lifted his lines toward prayer or praise.

May the new year ahead be as rich for us all.

Imperfect Rhyme: Paradise = Is; New Poems from Donald Revell in A THIEF OF STRINGS

Donald Revell's 2007 collection A THIEF OF STRINGS (Alice James Books; tenth collection from this Utah professor) lays out a landscape of the absurd -- one where Jack and Annie in a children's book rescue a bear and give it to Wm Shakespeare, while outside the pages a Hasidic child is stolen and killed by a bear -- one where military action in Baghdad is somehow Andy Warhol's war -- and step by page, transforms the twists of life and poetry into an argument for Paradise and the practice of the presence of God.

Revell's lines and rhythms are far from the sprung rhyme and intense metrics of Gerard Manley Hopkins, but his arguments of text are true descendants. In "Delirium: A Landscape," he offers us a rabbit at Christmas:

The rabbit is not cold because the orchard is on fire.

When I was a sunbeam
I landed in a tree.
I could see the president dying.
I could see the wolves come out of his mouth,
And the rabbit was ashes in their mouths,
Love is a thing for my sole pleasure and for yours.
I am violets. You are broth.
God walks on earth.

The poem leads inexorably to its final line, as though it had presented a tightly reasoned syllogism. Yet God, if the God-ness must include all we know and love and fear, may indeed be such an addition of lines. At least for Revell, this comes with an expressed certainty.

The first section of this volume is a prism of poems refracting landscape and "God's lathe" (I think of the demand regarding the Torah scrolls, "Turn it, turn it, for everything is in it). A second section erupts into "14 for Robert Creeley," jostling landscapes with animals, flowers, mythos (the fall of Icarus), a golden poem called "After Williams" that tests a notion of heaven, and at last, "What if Christ Were a Snowflake Falling into the Sea?" I give in complete here, as it offers a powerful example of Revell's juxtapositions:

The water is taller than itself,
Covering spirits of the air beneath.
And so the land, so mountainous beside,
Does not exist.

Have you thought about the future?
Take your finger and rub it across a stone.
Do you feel it>
Heat where nothing but cold most certainly is.

The water does not suspect.
A distant star is plotting with the center of the Earth
Against the Earth.
And the lake rises. The outlet rivers rise.

There is also an uprising in Kiev.
God is love.

The third section of A THIEF OF STRINGS opens with an epigraph from California poet Jack Spicer: "This is where my love, somehow, stops." The opening poems rip forth: "To the Christians," "To the Jews," "To the Muslims," "To the World" -- which opens with the announcement, "You are the last guitar," and proceeds to list agonies of life followed by a sureness of goodness made from trees, oceans, and at last into guitars. These form a provocative harrowing of the ground before the concluding masterpiece of the collection, the thirteen-part poem "A Thief of Strings." The opening begins with addressing "Sky" by name, then frames an indelible moment:

The poor thief running out of the guitar shop
Was stopped and searched and humiliated
Not ten feet away from me as I waited
For the train. Down on his knees he gave up
A pocketful of strings, and I couldn't see any more
When the train came. I was safe on board.

But this is a train journey from the safety of childhood to the challenge of being an adult in an often unjust world. Revell draws in Dylan Thomas with the Welsh poet's near-death comment, "I want to go to the Garden of Eden to die." Thoreau's Johnny Ruyaden (young Irish Johnny Riordan) comes into this. The poet offers flowers and passengers as tokens of progress toward the Garden, framed also in a small cemetery viewed from the train. And after punching sequences of language that summon up the "piebald beauty" of Hopkins, he pushes to the heart at last in calling forth a car trip he recalls taking with his father. Picture Revell as a five-year-old, secure with mother and father and his fondly embraced Catskill Mountains. Now see the screen of the mind's film turn a glowing white-silver, erasing all color, so that the leaves of the trees and even the road itself are mirrors -- and most strange of all, embrace an understanding among Revell and his parents that the swiftly motoring car has driven into Paradise itself for a this part of the journey.

It's a memory of Paradise (which Revell rhymes with "Is") that he's explored before, most lucidly in an essay called "Wine Instead of Whiskey for Awhile." And whether it's "true" or a child's misunderstanding or an adult's fabulation, the power of it hovers in the poetry and the choices of how to paint the importance of life, and afterlife.

We who read this may not buy the point -- and for those of us beyond the "easternmost angel" of the Garden of Eden, Revell offers a conclusion that brings God-ness a bit closer, a bit more accessible:

When I left the train I could hear
Singing in the trees. It was the trees
Who sang. When I was a boy
It was the trees who sang. My whole life
From the end of childhood
Until this very moment
Is one bird nowhere.
Not forgotten. Free.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Poetry and the African Diaspora: EEL ON REEF, Uche Nduka

There is all the difference in the world between travel in the relative anonymity of white skin and male and middle-class privilege, and movement within diaspora. Linton Kwesi Johnson brought his dub poetry to England; now Uche Nduka, born in Nigeria, propels his innovative work from the Bremen, Germany. Written in English, without Johnson's deliberate orthography of difference, Nduka's poems in eel on reef invite at first a straightforward reading for the shape and taste of language in familiar form.

But Nduka pushes against his African background and gains a fierce energy from this resistance. He salts some of the work with Nigerian references ("do i mistake the scene / for the mudland irokos of agbor?") while pounding blunt rhythms and fragrantly familiar riffs (the same page of poetry ends with "the bite of bile widens the / jazz of his voracious nights").

Nduka is in fact a percussionist as well as poet and essayist. And the parallel with jazz throughout this volume helps to draw the less straightforward passages into a kind of improvisational music.

there are addresses in trees
where rains go to die.

there are spousal tents
where halo-seekers
wash their toes
and house their grudges.

you're moaning again.
no. i'm like a cat. i'm
purring. i'm happy.

The threats of diaspora's perils also come through clearly. This is from a night poem later in the volume:

brown hairs, black legs
under them,
bootprints bootprints.

There are no titles, no headings, few guidelines other than line breaks and page breaks, and I found the collection felt best to me when reading it as a sequence, a long dance in and out of the shadows. For instance, the next page includes "furtive massacres / amputated legs /swollen necks" and I connect the two pages via the kick of those legs.

Often sexual, always sensual, the lines climb in and out of daily life and its precedents in myth and history: "chibuzo oguekwe, / prepare the cassava / stir the bitterleaf sauce. // nobody crosses the knees / of streams anymore / or waits for us after / school, the way they did / when we were mornings."

Ah "when we were mornings." That's one of the gems here, and there are many.

Chris Abani is the series editor for Black Goat, an independent imprint of Akashic Books -- "The series aims to create a proportional representation of female, African, and other non-American poets." That's a long way from the 1988 formation of the Dark Room Collective, and even a giant step beyond the opportunities flowering from the grounds of Cave Canem. I wish this collection hadn't been freighted with the long and overdone explanation by Kwame Dawes at the start -- so I recommend skipping past those pages and plunging directly into the waves of the poems instead.

Bright, Beautiful, and Bouncing: The Modern Sonnets of Judith Goldhaber

Judith Goldhaber's 2005 volume of SONNETS FROM AESOP coupled a round hundred verse-form fables with bright, bold paintings by her husband Gerson -- and won a IPPY in 2006, the Independent Publisher Book Award for Most Outstanding Design. A big friendly book, easy to enjoy, it's a dandy gift for giving or receiving. The cover art is from "The Fox and the Grapes" (remember the frustrated canine declaring that those grapes beyond his reach are probably sour anyway?). Sure, the race between the tortoise and the hare is here. But my favorites turned out to be ones where Judith found cute ways to twist the language and her own humor, like the finale to "The Fox, the Cock and the Dog":

"I would," the fox cried, as he started running,
"but sometimes I'm outfoxed by my own cunning."

I also appreciate Goldhaber's willingness to speak the "morals" clearly in others, like "The Dog in the Manger":

... But dogs, like men, will oft destroy
the pleasures they themselves cannot enjoy.

A quick two years later, Goldhaber brought out her next collection, in 2007: SARAH LAUGHED: SONNETS FROM GENESIS. And here the delight is the braid of quirky mirth, daring imagination, and matter-of-fact exploration from this scientifically trained grandmother (she's a former science writer for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California; her artist husband is a physicist at Berkeley). For instance, the sonnet sequence opens with the little-mentioned existence, especially in Jewish lore, of Adam's "first wife" Lilith. In Goldhaber's hands, Eve's obsession with her predecessor becomes the drive for consulting the serpent, who admits, "victims always get my sympathy." Alas, a sympathetic serpent isn't a very helpful friend to this curious foremother of the tribes to come.

Then there are playful renderings of Sarah's laughter at her late-life pregnancy, with God's own sense of a joke; and of the rivalry between Joseph and his brothers, with its bitter fruits. Goldhaber doesn't flinch from the tortures and deaths of Genesis, but she spins them onto the page with the calm acceptance of someone who already knows that life comes in light and shadow, never one without the other.

So it is that at times, the poetry dips its tongue into the stronger brew that runs through this opening book of Western history of God and the people. Probably the most poignant is Goldhaber's rendering of "The Ignorance of Cain," which opens with

Ignorance of the law is no excuse
you say, but picture yourself in my place --
the firstborn offspring of the human race,
guileless and raw and ignorant as a goose.

... and then concludes after Cain's murder of his brother Abel with,

I propped him up and called him by his name,
blew in his ears and warmed him with my breath,
I never imagined such a thing as death.

Goldhaber's books include warm words on the wraps from Willis Barnstone, and are available through the publisher's web site:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

James DenBoer: Sacramento Poet and Bookseller

Sandra McPherson's Swan Scythe Press is recommending its September delight, the new collection from James DenBoer. Here's the press announcement -- I find a strong connection between DenBoer's voice and the Vermont that I love:

James DenBoer

Stonework: Selected Poems

Swan Scythe Press has published this volume as
The Walter Pavlich Memorial Poetry Award 2007
from 4 first-rate collections.

James DenBoer is one of my favorite poets—
He is the awake one, and vulnerable to his awakeness. In this physical
world he has ties to the comic and to the suffering. He
pays tribute, he asks for counsel, and a great spirit is born
and sustained. Stonework exhibits the bonding of difficult material
to lucid expression. What an artistic fulfillment! —Sandra McPherson

Please order from our press,

Cover Art: Clarence Major


Our own water, from our own well,
hard, mineral, rusty—
turning the tap just to taste it,
I can feel cold behind my eyes,
can smell how many miles
it ran from high snow
past deep and mountain quail.

I have to sit down for a minute
when I taste bear dung
in our water—it’s the old male,
brown, dusty, back of Wellman Burn.

Our water has moved pebbles
shaped like hearts (I found one
in San Ysidro Creek), boulders,
whole mountains, shaped
the earth—taste it, taste it!

In my blue enameled cup, our water
is white as milk at first;
clearing, it whispers at the edges
of my mouth, runs in my neck
under my shirt, cool as a lizard.

Sometimes I go in the kitchen,
only to taste our water; I have to sit down
and look out the window for a while,
watch air opening leaves.

It turns down the drain
with the turning earth, our water,
running away to rain.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

January Poetry Readings, Henniker, NH

New England College in Henniker, NH, offers an all-poetry intensive master's program, and the following public readings (all at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Room at the Simon Center, 98 Bridge Street) are planned:

Friday Jan. 4, Paula McLain, Gerald Stern, Ross Gay
Saturday Jan. 5, Maxine Kumin, Joan Larkin
Sunday Jan. 6, Kurt Brown, Carol Frost, Malena Morling
Tuesday Jan. 8, Peter Campion, Alicia Ostriker, Anne Marie Macari
Thursday Jan. 10, James Harms, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Jeff Friedman
Friday Jan. 11, Ilya Kaminsky, Michael Water

We'll be there once or twice -- it's worth the drive.

A Book of Protest: WASTE INCANT, Janus Press

Claire Van Vliet's close friend and collaborator Susan Johanknecht has released a startling new 2007 book through Van Vliet's Janus Press. Titled WASTE INCANT, it's a page-by-page confrontation of the issue of nuclear waste -- specifically, nuclear waste that's being stored in plastic (yes, really) in our oceans and our landscapes.

To this end, the book arrives in a clear acrylic slipcase, 11.75 by 7.75 inches, about an inch in depth). A "petticoat" of flexible vinyl wraps the book within the case, and the covers and alternating pages are made of the same rippled vinyl, its swirls wavering like water as you page through the work.

Interleaved among the vinyl sheets are pages printed on Barcham Green Cambersand and Cairo; type was computer prepared by Ellen Dorn Levitt and printed by Andrew Miller-Brown, who also did the binding with metallic shiny strips that speak of aluminum and other technological "solutions" to waste storage.

On each printed page are wavering images drawn by Johanknecht from a children's textbook, Science from the Beginning (eds. B. L. Hampson and K. C. Evans, Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, 1962). Johanknecht's other resource for the format and materials is her earlier work Hermetic Waste, which she issued through Gefn Press in 1976.

She writes:

The collograph prints in Hermetic Waste were derived from alchemical engravings--here the calligraphic line drawings are derived from science illustrations... Redrawn and merging, the pictorial 'facts' depict a disrupted 'nature.' Poetic texts sit inside the imagery, functioning as an integrated caption. They describe processes by which toxic material enters into the environment. The back of each pages lists hazardous wastes.

She challenges the reader/holder of the book to search online using the keywords: nuclear waste storage in plastic.

The edition is limited to only 150 copies, numbered, with the twelve leaves printed in black and silver. We are honored to have one copy available for sale at $290 plus shipping.

Friday, December 07, 2007

More Calendar Alerts

Okay, so you missed Tony Hoagland at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson this evening (Vermont poets Baron Wormser and Susan Thomas were in the crowd, though). This strong and steady writing and arts center posts its readings online at -- but the schedules change often enough that if you're traveling any distance, it's a good idea to phone the center on the day of the reading and be sure the author has arrived and is still scheduled for that date: 802-635-2727.

Coming soon: January 10, Martín Espada; January 28, Eric Pankey; March 24, Alice Notley; May 15, Fanny Howe.

See you there.

Tony Hoagland Warms Up the Crowd in Vermont

Poet Tony Hoagland's reading at the Vermont Studio Center this evening kept the crowd giggling, chuckling, and occasionally exploding with full-volume guffaws. He opened with a poem he said he'd writen in response to Robert Pinsky's quoted assertion that "American poetry would be much more widely read if it had more sex, violence, and jokes in it." Hoagland's responsive poem, called "People Magazine," is crammed with celebrity names, and the lively reactions in the crowd helped keep the town-hall-style building warm (a feat in itself). He followed up with "A Meditation on the Entity Known as Britney Spears." And then he teased the writers in front of him by saying the following poem was directed to the oversensitive among them (ahem!):

I Have News for You

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures irrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their tuberous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
unpacking the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after love or fame or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;

Thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you:
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

Between poems, Hoagland played with the old-fashioned atmosphere of the hall in Johnson, Vermont, where he admitted he felt he should be gathering the town into some political movement, like banning all heterosexual latte shops in town.

But despite the teasing and satire, the poetry was tight and pointed. Within each line, the next word would arrive as if inevitable - yet be surprising at the same time. And each full-length poem mirrored this care and precision.

Hoagland's two final offerings belonged to what he called "landscape poems": ones that wrestle with time and space and keep getting deeper. "A Color of the Sky," the longer of the pair, drew the most attention, and I heard someone ask for a copy. So here it is:

A Color of the Sky
by Tony Hoagland

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn’t make the road an allegory.

I should call Marie and apologize
for being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I’d rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

Otherwise it’s spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.

Last summer’s song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I’m glad.

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Calendar Alert: PMC January Readings

[poet Wyn Cooper]
Pine Manor College, just outside Boston, has a January MFA program that sponsors a series of readings, Friday January 4 through Saturday January 12. For full details, see the web site, -- and here are some highlights.

Jan. 4 Jacqueline Woodson, author of Miracle's Boys, winner of the 2003 Horn Book Award.
Jan. 5 Ray Gonzalez and Helen Elaine Lee.
Jan. 6 Tanya Whiton and Michael Steinberg
Jan. 8 poets Wyn Cooper and Marie Harris
Jan. 9 Meg Kearney and Sandra Scofield
Jan. 10 Dzvinia Orlowsky and Sheree Renee Thomas
Jan. 11 Joy Castro
Jan. 12 An Na and Randall Kenan

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Local Authors Launch Medieval Fantasy Series

With the recent release of their book THE STORMCALLER, Vermonters Jacob L. Grant and Mark T. Russell have launched a medieval fantasy series "The Legends of Turmak." I won't do a review here -- the book's outside our areas of mystery and poetry -- but it's great to have another offering from the region. For an in-depth look at what the author team is up to (they are writing "redemption" from their viewpoint as ardent Christians), see Locally, the book can be purchased at Boxcar & Caboose in St. Johnsbury, which also has a few copies of Grant's earlier, hard to find title, THE MAKER'S CHILD.

Star Von Bunny: A Playful Adventure

For years, Kym Canter photographed her stuffed bunny rabbit with top entertainment personalities and in supermodel situations -- and last week her whimsical book STAR VON BUNNY: A MODEL TALE was launched on Amazon and in the Style pages of the New York Times (where else?!). It's hard to say what genre STAR belongs in; she's a bit poetry, certainly stylish, and definitely a gentle tease on the entire fashion industry. Star Von Bunny and Kym have already appeared at Barneys New York; Kym sent an invitation today to their West Coast party, which I'm passing along here!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Giving Books, Giving Care: Making It Matter

Our blow-out Vermont Day was a huge success today at Kingdom Books, so I won't write for long -- I need sleep! -- but I just dashed over to the blog where poet Brian Turner often writes,, and saw this bit, which I want to pass along for the holiday season:

BRIAN TURNER: I’m a big fan of (I received books from other kind Americans while I was deployed to Iraq.) I’m also a fan of (They adopted me as one of their soldiers and incredibly kind and caring people from many parts of America sent packages and more to me and the soldiers I served with.)