Sunday, December 21, 2008

Poet and Poetry: Elizabeth Alexander Prepares for Inauguration of President Obama

Today's New York Times has a nice piece on Elizabeth Alexander and her preparation for writing the premier "occasional" poem of 2009: the one that she'll read at Barack Obama's Presidential inauguration. A professor at Yale University and author of four collection of poetry and one of essays, Alexander maintains a web page that's easy to explore:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Four Way Books and a Truly Free Gift of Literature

As Four Way Books celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, poetry events brought fresh attention to its authors. But in addition to single-author collections, mostly of poetry, Four Way has produced some great anthologies. Thanks to a generous gift of books from the press, Kingdom Books is making two of these available for FREE (really truly) with any order placed here between now and March 2009 (or until we run out of copies0. Just ask for one with your order, and tell us which one you'd like.

The first is Laure-Ann Bosselaar's entertaining collection NEVER BEFORE: POEMS ABOUT FIRST EXPERIENCE. The anthology includes poems from strongly established poets like Ellen Bass, Robin Becker, Kimiko Hahn, Edward Hirsch, Philip Levine, Thomas Lux, and Carol Moldaw; from New England poets whose work deserves more attention, like Joan Aleshire, Meg Kearney, Dzvinia Orlowsky, and Jim Schley; and from people who both write and teach the craft, like Anne-Marie Macari and Baron Wormser. There are 104 poets contributing, so ... the diversity is terrific and there's plenty of humor, as well as insight. A great book for a winter afternoon!

The second is the first volume in Four Way's series of Shade anthologies, SHADE 2004. This one includes both fiction and poetry. Here's the list of authors:

Claire Bateman
Michael Burkard
Tina Chang
Paula Cisewski
Kevin Clark
Cynie Cory
Jim Daniels
Nancy Eimers
Chad Faries
Judith Hall
Mark Halliday
Forrest Hamer
Terrance Hayes
Brian Henry
Bob Hicok
Christopher Kennedy
Ted Kooser
Jaimee Kuperman
Patrick Lawler
Louise Mathias
Gretchen Mattox
Pablo Medina
Lydia Melvin
Donna Munro
William Olsen
Dzvinia Orlowsky
Kevin Prufer
David Rivard
Dana Roeser
Mary Ruefle
Catherine Sasanov
Hugh Seidman
Elizabeth Skurnick
Maura Stanton
Thomas Swiss
J.C. Todd
Robert VanderMolen
Karen Whalley

Stephen Beachy
Lewis Buzbee
Kristy Eldredge
Amy Holman
Samantha Hunt
Jonathan Pugh
Ron Rash
Christine Schutt
Diane Williams
Edra Ziesk

How can you resist? Many thanks to Four Way for this exciting gift. Claim your copy now, please, so we can spread these around.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Countering Conspicuous Consumption: A Poetry Event Reminder from the CPS (Shelburne Falls, MA)


On Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 pm, we are hosting the amazing Dzvinia Orlowsky, prizewinning poet, translator, and author of four poetry collections including her most recent, Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones; the award winning poet, translator and author of four books of poems, most recently, Black Threads, the out-standing-in-his-field Jeff Friedman; and the terrific poet Alice B. Fogel whose most recent book of poetry is Be That Empty.

Free at Mocha Maya's, 47 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370, 413-625-6292. Wheelchair accessible. See for additional biographical information about each poet~

Red and Gold Tinsel Thursday—a reprieve from Black Friday and a Way to Soothe Yourself before the Hordes of the Holidays Hit.

A little taste of what’s to come:

Be broken in bright light,/ a drain in your back, your body/ releasing its deepest red,/ a cardinal opening a wing/ within. —from “Nude Descending” by Dzvinia Orlowsky

I hope my daughter doesn’t grow up thinking her body’s/ childlike/ except for one obscene brushstroke,/ but that she’ll pull that first tongue that enters her/ deeper – her head falling slowly back,/ eyes closed, and will let stars be stars, unnamed,/ above their parked car. —from “I Hope My Daughter Doesn’t” by Dzvinia Orlowsky

Say a blessing for the/ body with its narrow caves,/ for the clattering cups, the noisy/ prayers, for the heat of the eyes,/ the wild burning, the sweet/ smell of flesh, the rain/ ripping up the rusty river. —from “Blessing for the Hats” by Jeff Friedman

Up here, it is a vibrant repose./ This room, that is not a room,/ never echoes the sound of living wood splitting./ Awash with wind, it blows open every door. —from “The Lightning Tree” by Alice B. Fogel

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Forrest Gander moves into fiction -- like a poem

Reading at the Vermont Studio Center on Saturday night, Forrest Gander -- poet of the South, but long in residence at Brown University, Rhode Island -- showered the space with new work from his ongoing collaboration with photographer Lucas Foglia. Foglia has been capturing images of utopian communities; with those images at his mind's eye, and full of words from the community members, Gander constructed "Moving Around for the Light: A Madrigal." Slight of build, dark haired and dressed in black, but with an open and lit face, Gander stood at the improvised podium and delivered the words with a rhythm and vibration that came as much from the lines on paper as from his right leg moving, his careful phrasing, the tension of the lines against the tension of the language. Eventually the spoken paragraphs of the communities began to separate into their own lines and fragments, and Gander braided them as if providing a new form in which lines appeared in a mysterious but powerful new sequence.

A quick dip into his newest poetry collection, EYE TO EYE, shook Gander -- he said they were still "too painful" to read aloud -- and he responded to an audience request for "Anniversary" (from SCIENCE AND STEEPLEFLOWER) by rendering the poem from the heart rather than from the page. A hand, a leg, a pause, again the tensions and ties.

Then Gander offered his very newest published work, his novel AS A FRIEND (New Directions, 2008). "I've written the world's smallest novel," he announced; "it took me twenty years to write." After noting how differently our culture treats fiction and poetry (this book has already captured a December review slot at the New York Times), he added, "Poetry is definitely -- it lives in the shadows. It's still the thing that feeds me the most." Inevitably, then, AS A FRIEND invests each word and line with significance. Set in the Ozarks of Arkansas, where Gander used to live, it offers three powerful characters and a death. After reading a portion from the book's center passage, Gander moved into the final section, "Sara's Tale," which he described as the most poetic portion of the book. It is in fact written in lines, and again, Gander separates strands from powerful cords -- those of love, loss, betrayal, lies, and underlying truths -- and rearranges their sequence until each strand shines as if it were a lock of hair, brushed, oiled, gleaming.

New from poet Lyn Lifshin: NUTLEY POND

Lyn Lifshin is an amazingly productive poet, and her upstate New York landscape (she's also a Southerner part-time) overlaps on Vermont's -- especially in her new collection, NUTLEY POND. Her recent work has followed the lives of horses she loves; now here's a book that draws the life of the geese on the pond, onto her pages. She's presenting the book via Goose River Press for $12.95 plus shipping (there's also a limited-edition hardcover); details at the press web site,

Here's a bit of the press description:

From winter fields smoldering with light and temperatures falling though spring with geese honking the light back and summer's wind of white rose petals, Lyn Lishin's images, her snapshots and freeze frames, pull you into fall's ruby oaks and the coming blue sack of cold. She chronicles life at the pond, layer by layer, the inner and outer landscapes of this almost hidden refuge where deer and beaver, fox, herons, gulls, geese, mallards and even one of the geese featured in Fly Away Home and Father Goose landed for a few days. Nutley Pond is the only place this one goose appeared again in US after being trained with other motherless geese to follow an ultra lite plane to learn to migrate. Like so much at the pond, this goose, with her silver band and tame approach, was breath taking.

The poems from Nutley Pond will pull you into the last flaming maples and glistening gold fish into the shallows and shadows where stars swim in blue black ripples. You will be wrapped in garnet and turquoise sun rises, goose music and the rustling willows on the walk close to the pond. Experience the beauty and terror as light and dark braid and the birds rustle through leaves while the sound of water is a dark whisper though wet stones and crickets get louder and louder and then, stillness.

quilt exploded,
a white you can't
see in the dark
but breathe, a
wind of white
rose petals,
a wave of fog
in the shape of
flying things.
Like radio
voices on
the pillow,
lulling, keeping
what's ragged
and tears at
bay, the geese
pull sky and stars
in thru glass,
are like arms,
coming back
as sound

Copyright © 2008 by Lyn Lifshin

Published by: Goose River Press, 3400 Friendship Rd., Waldoboro, ME 04572-6337.

Calendar Alert: Burlington VT, Dec. 3, Daniel Lusk and Angela Patten

This just came in from Major Jackson, who hosts the poetry series at the Fleming Museum called THE PAINTED WORD POETRY SERIES, crafted to highlight established and emergent New England poets whose work represents significant explorations into language, song, and art.
Daniel Lusk and Angela Patten
6:00 - 6:30 PM: Music
6:30 - 7:30: Poetry Readings

Daniel Lusk is the author of Kissing the Ground: New & Selected Poems (Onion River Press, 1999). His poems have been published in Poetry, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, American Poetry Review, North American Review, and other literary journals. A native of rural Iowa, Mr. Lusk has worked as a ranch hand, laborer, door-to-door salesman, preacher, clerk, sportswriter, jazz singer, teacher, and administrator. He teaches creative writing and poetry at the University of Vermont.

Angela Patten is the author Still Listening (Salmon Press, 1999). A native of Dublin, Ireland, she emigrated to the United States in 1977. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Vermont in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from Vermont College in 1996. Her poems have appeared in poetry journals, including Calyx, The Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Michigan Quarterly Review and others. Her work is included in Onion River: Six Vermont Poets. She teaches creative writing and poetry at the University of Vermont.

Directions to the museum:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Catching up with British Mystery Writer John Lawton

John Lawton's newest police procedural, SECOND VIOLIN, has drawn terrific reviews and a lot of attention. It jumps back in time within his Scotland Yard series featuring Frederick Troy. So I found myself picking up an earlier volume that's in fact set at a later point in Troy's life: the 1950s. A pair of flashback moments at the start of FLESH WOUNDS signal clearly, though, that Troy's actions during World War II connect somehow with the case unfolding around him, seizing nearly every corner of his personal life as well.

A few strands of the plot of FLESH WOUNDS include Chief Superintendent Troy's near death as his colleague is killed by a car bomb; the determination of the wife of a U.S. Presidential candidate to find some escape from the pressure around her, through reconnecting with a very old friendship with Troy; an endearingly eager U.S. "gumshoe" who tracks the lady, once known as Kitty Stilton, know as Kate Cormack; and the political pressure of Troy's brother Rod, who appears bound for leadership in Britain.

But the book runs far deeper than its pounding plot. There's a complex braid of lust, sin, and tenderness that has Troy bound to the past, tied on such a short lead that he's a sitting duck for further homicide attempts. And how can he lead his officers when he keeps being pushed out on sick leave, even encouraged to take early retirement?

Lawton's family has Irish-American roots, although he lives in the Derbyshire Pennines (in a "hilltop village"). A former television producer, he's now writing full-time. The "Troy" series, where British titles are given first if they differ from U.S. ones, is:

1. Black Out (1995)
2. Old Flames (1996)
3. A Little White Death (1998)
4. Riptide (2001)aka Bluffing Mr. Churchill
5. Blue Rondo (2005)aka Flesh Wounds
6. Second Violin (2007)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mystery Review: Leighton Gage, BURIED STRANGERS

I've had a copy of Leighton Gage's second Mario Silva police procedural for about a month now, which has given me time to enjoy it twice over. It won't be on the market until January, but here's a heads-up: Gage's Brazilian investigation series is solid, intense, and an introduction to a complex social structure driven by class, immense poverty contrasting with extreme power, and often a hunger for the perceived privileges of American life.

BURIED STRANGERS takes its title from a passage in Matthew 27: "They took counsel and bought ... the ... field to bury strangers." And it opens with a delegado titular -- what I gather is a precinct captain -- accompanying a medical examiner in examining, literally, a field of buried strangers. Yoshiro Tanaka gets an adrenaline rush from visiting crime scenes.

Are you new to Brazil? Does a Japanese name for a police officer startle you in the context of this Portuguese-heritage tropical nation whose native populations have been overrun and nearly destroyed?

Get used to it. Gage, whose passion for his adopted land allows him to write with full knowledge of its beauty and its violence at once, offers constant shifts in view that peel back the layers of a harshly stratified society. From the Japanese presence in the nation (and its roots in indentured servitude), to the interplay of tourism and politics, to the ghastly conditions within Brazil's city ghettoes (called favelas), Gage unfolds scene after scene of extreme contrast.

He writes with two principal investigators' voices: that of Chief Inspector Mario Silva (featured in the publisher subtitle), and that of Silva's nephew Hector, also a seasoned investigator but often overshadowed by his well-known and television-featured uncle. Silva's difficult marriage made up a powerful thread in Gage's first in this series, BLOOD OF THE WICKED. In BURIED STRANGERS it's Hector's romantic life that keeps coming into the business, as he explores whether an attractive medical investigator can become a woman friend, or even a namorada -- a girlfriend.

Another contrast between the two volumes lies in the form of violence exposed: The first one involved many firearm deaths and threats, while in the second, it appears that some person or persons are murdering impoverished families with an eye to mutilating their bodies after death. A cult? A coven? Hector and his not-yet-namorada have other suspicions that hint at an even more immoral purpose to the deaths.

Don't count on any relief from that stress as you meet the Americans in this investigation, though. Advance galleys are prone to change, and the text isn't supposed to be quoted, for that reason -- but a sample of dialogue from one of the less likeable figures here includes, "Why the hell would you want to go out of your way to help a cleaning woman? They're supposed to serve you, not the other way around, right?"

So hold some space on the shelves for Leighton Gage's expanding series. Yes, his third Silva investigation is well underway, and with characteristic good sense, Soho Crime even has his fourth one under contract.

Calendar Alert: Naomi Shihab Nye

I know, the holidays are upon us (happy Thanksgiving to you all!), and it seems impossible that we'll ever reach January -- but this is worth marking on the calendar, as it's rare in northern New England for us to spend time with Naomi Shihab Nye. Here are the details for an entire wonderful week at Pine Manor College, just outside Boston:


The Solstice MFA Program announces its Winter Reading Series, taking place January 2–9 in the Founder’s Room of Pine Manor College, located at 400 Heath Street in Chestnut Hill. Authors’ books will be available after all readings; cash-bar receptions will follow the readings on January 7 and 9. *Plenty of free parking!

Friday, January 2 at 7:30 p.m. Amy Hoffman & Dzvinia Orlowsky

Amy Hoffman (author of the memoirs Hospital Time and An Army of Ex-Lovers) & Dzvinia Orlowsky (author of four poetry collections, most recently Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones).

Saturday, January 3 at 7:30 p.m. Meg Kearney & Laura Williams McCaffrey

Director and poet Meg Kearney (author of An Unkindness of Ravens and The Secret of Me) & Laura Williams McCaffrey (author of Alia Waking and Water Shaper).

Sunday, January 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tanya Whiton & Sandra Scofield

Program Administrator and fiction writer Tanya Whiton & Sandra Scofield (National Book Award Finalist for Beyond Deserving; author of seven novels, a memoir, and a craft book).

Tuesday, January 6 at 7:30 p.m. Ray Gonzalez & An Na

Ray Gonzalez (author more than 15 books, including The Underground Heart: A Return to a Hidden Landscape) & An Na (author of The Fold; Wait For Me; and A Step From Heaven).

Wednesday, January 7 at 7:30 p.m. Terrance Hayes & Naomi Shihab Nye

Terrance Hayes (author of Hip Logic, Muscular Music, and Wind in a Box) & Special Guest Naomi Shihab Nye (author and/or editor of more than 20 volumes, including the National Book Award Finalist 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East and the recent Honeybee).

Thursday, January 8 at 7:30 p.m. Laban Carrick Hill & Venise Berry

Laban Carrick Hill (author of America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60s) & Venise Berry (author of four novels, including the forthcoming Pockets of Sanity).

Friday, January 9 at 7:30 p.m. Steven Huff & Randall Kenan

Steven Huff (author of two poetry collections and the forthcoming short fictions, A Pig in Paris) & Randall Kenan (author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, including Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century and The Fire This Time).

Directions to Pine Manor College, complete bios of these authors, and more information about the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program can be found at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

National Book Award in Poetry: Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems

Awestruck, exhilarated, emphatically celebrating: that's the mood here at Kingdom Books, as we pass along word of last night's announcement: Mark Doty's capacious collection FIRE TO FIRE: NEW AND COLLECTED POEMS has been accorded the National Book Award in Poetry. We hope this means Doty will make more public appearances this year, because he's one of the best storytellers we know in terms of his own work. Our advice: get a copy of the book right away, watch for readings, and travel far and wide to be there. Well worth the effort.

The other genres of the award this year are: Young People's Literature, Judy Blundell, for What I Saw and How I Lied; Nonfiction, Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family; and Fiction, Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country. Kudos to all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Calendar Alert: Poets Kevin Young, Forrest Gander

Vermont Studio Center's public poetry readings this month are at 8 pm in the lecture hall on Main Street: 11/17, Kevin Young, and 11/29 (new date), Forrest Gander. Be sure to call on the day of the event to confirm that it's on, as the VSC often has to change schedules, especially in winter: 802-635-2727. Kingdom Books plans to be there!

Calendar Alert: Jane Austen in Vermont, Events

The annual birthday tea and dance for the Jane Austen Society (JASNA) of Vermont is Dec. 7, in Burlington. The group also has two significant lectures planned for 2009. Full details, see Don't forget, Austen was also a poet!

Calendar Alert: Nonfiction at Dartmouth

I can't help thinking that these Nov. 13 presentations might provide a good research start for a mystery!

As part of the Dartmouth College English Department's Poetry and Prose Series, Pagan Kennedy will be reading from her current work on Thursday, November 13 at 4:00 pm in Sanborn Library, Sanborn House. On the bill along with Ms. Kennedy, Jack Beatty will be reading from his recent book with a talk entitled, "Homestead, Bloody Homestead" about the 1892 strike in the Carnegie Steel Mills of Homestead, PA.

The author of nine books, Kennedy has won numerous literary prizes, among them the NEA Fellowship in Fiction and the Massachusetts Book Award in Nonfiction. Her current book, The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories, was published this fall. During the winter term, Kennedy will be a visiting professor teaching Creative Writing, Literary Non-fiction in the English Department.

Jack Beatty is a Senior Editor of the Atlantic and News Analyst on the National Public Radio program "On Point." He is the author of The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley, 1874-1958 (1992), The World According to Peter Drucker (1998), and Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900 (2007). He is currently teaching a non-fiction workshop for the Creative Writing Program in the English department at Dartmouth College.

This event is free and open to the public. For further information contact the English Department at 603-646-2316.

For directions, use the college web site:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Half Price Sale, Books from the Stinehour Press

We've had snow for the past two days! And we've had a steady stream of readers purchasing poetry and mysteries during our e-mailed sale (25% off unsigned books, 10% off signed ones). Now we're ready to add one more component: 50% off any bookprinted at the Stinehour Press.

Why? Well, the shelves are jammed, and we're expecting a very large addition of poetry later in the season. We need to let go of something -- and it seems that with the demise of the press, now is a good moment to encourage the movement of these beautifully designed and executed books into other hands.

E-mail us. Oh yes, need to know how to see the list? Click on our web site,, and once there, use the Browse & Buy button -- which puts you idrectly into our listings on ABE Books. Then simply type Stinehour in the publisher box, and you'll have the list in front of you. There's some gorgeous photography, a nice run of poetry, and of course a number of books on art and on the world of books.

Just be sure to place your order via e-mail or phone, NOT via the ABE site, as we can't do the discount through its check-out system.

How long will the sale run? Hmm. Let's say, two weeks. Hope to hear from you.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Today's Quotes from Charles Simic, The Monster Loves His Labyrinth

The kindness of one human being to another in times of mass hatred and violence deserves more respect than the preaching of all churches since the end of time.

The poet is a tea leaf reader of his own metaphors: I see a dark stranger, a voyage, a reversal of fortune, etc. You might as well get a storefront and buy some Gypsy robes and earrings! Call yourself Madame Olga.

Calendar Alert: Poet Cynthia Huntington, Friday 11/7, St. Johnsbury Academy's Library

Award-winning Vermont poet Cynthia Huntington, a Dartmouth professor, will read from her book “The Radiant” at St. Johnsbury Academy on Friday November 7 at 3:30 p.m.
The event, the first in this year’s Fireside Literary Series, is free and open to the public. The Academy Department of English co-sponsors this series and encourages students and the wider community to engage with this powerful literature. The reading will be held in the fully accessible Grace Stuart Orcutt Library in the Mayo Center on campus.
Huntington has already seen three of her collections of poetry published, most recently “The Radiant,” which won the 2001 Levis Poetry Prize. In awarding the prize, Susan Mitchell noted, “This is a book about human spirit and intelligence wrestling with the terrible, struggling not to be broken, admitting ‘I am that stuff that can be destroyed,’ yet through that very admission becoming, at least for this reader, ‘the stuff that cannot be destroyed.’ Disturbing, even harrowing, these poems are also ravishingly beautiful and deeply felt meditations on the world, meditations enacted by a poet who is highly intelligent and emotionally complex, equally capable of detachment and intensity.”
In addition to her lyric and exhilarating investigations of life and its meaning, Huntington tackles the impact of chronic illness in her work.
She is also the author of a work of prose, “The Salt House.” Kingdom Books will provide copies of Huntington’s work for purchase before and after the reading.
For more information, contact library director Jean Fournier at 802-751-2100.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thriller Author Michael Crichton Dead at Age 66

When THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN came out in 1971, I wasn't drawing genre subdivision lines of thriller, police procedural, cozy, and so on. If it was a plot-driven mystery, I read it -- and so I read this medically based thriller and soon persuaded my mother, also a mystery reader, to do the same.

I was shocked and saddened to learn that while election fever gripped up yesterday, this best-seller's author, Michael Crichton, quietly died of a private and personal battle with cancer, at age 66. Most of the obituaries at this point are on news web sites, but here's one from the Chicago Tribune. My sons will remember him more for his novel JURASSIC PARK and the film made of it; I was startled to read that he also created the TV series "ER."

What a loss of a creative mind.

Calendar Alert: Hayden Carruth Poetry Celebration, Sunday November 16, Montpelier

[photo by Ted Rosenberg]

Poets, friends, and family of Hayden Carruth will gather on Sunday, November 16 from 3 to 5:00 p.m. for a public celebration of the Vermont poet’s life and work. The celebration will take place in the College Hall Chapel at Vermont College of Fine Arts, 36 College Street, Montpelier, Vermont.

Hayden Carruth, a nationally recognized poet, had a strong presence in Vermont. Carruth, who lived in Johnson for nearly twenty years, became friend and mentor to a generation of younger Vermont writers, maintaining those relationships even after he moved to Syracuse in the 1980s. In his own work, Carruth's depiction of the Vermont landscape and its people was so accurate and indelible that a statewide tour was underwritten by the Lannan Foundation in 2002, during which he and dozens of admirers read his poems in four significant Vermont venues, including the State House. During the tour, Governor Howard Dean proclaimed November 12, 2002, “Hayden Carruth Day” in the state of Vermont.

After Carruth died in September, many of his fans and friends began planning the November memorial celebration. Members of Carruth’s family will also be present for the tribute.

“This event will be an expression of joy to honor Hayden’s memory and the enormous body of work he has left,” according to Wolcott poet David Budbill, one of the event’s organizers. “We’ve been lucky to find the perfect venue for this afternoon tribute in the Chapel at Montpelier’s Vermont College of Fine Arts. We have half a dozen poets lined up for brief readings of some of Hayden’s best poems, then we’ll open it up to anyone else who has brought along one of his shorter poems to read.”

Budbill and his organizing crew have crafted the event to reflect Carruth’s deep feel for music as well as poetry. “Hayden loved jazz and the blues,” Budbill said, “and they’ll figure prominently in the celebration. The afternoon will end with a reception provided by the New England Culinary Institute, during which we will all lift a glass and send our friend Hayden on his way.”

Providing support to the event have been a number of Vermont arts and educational organizations, including New England Culinary Institute, Vermont Studio Center, Vermont Arts Council, Johnson State College, Marlboro College, Bear Pond Books, and Vermont College of Fine Arts.


If you never met Carruth, it's not too late to be a friend to his family:

As you may imagine, the loss of Hayden Carruth has left his immediate family with some financial strains. Anyone wishing to help may send a check payable to HAYDEN CARRUTH MEMORIAL FUND c/o Paul V. Noyes, Esq. 131 Sherrill Rd, Sherrill, NY 13461. The fund will remain active until January 15, 2009; you may request anonymity or your name will be added (without the amount of your gift) to a list of contributors when Mr. Noyes gives Jo-Anne the proceeds (and any messages included with the donations) shortly after January 15. Please accept your canceled check as notification that your gift has been received.

~~The Hayden Carruth Memorial Fund Committee

Poetry Events, Shelburne Falls, Mass: Soon and Later

Many thanks to Lea Banks for circulating the following:

We're back with our regular scheduled program time starring the amazing Amy Dryansky and the equally-amazing Wyn Cooper. On Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 pm, Wyn and Amy will read from their work. Free. Mocha Maya's Coffee House, 47 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370, 413-625-6292. Wheelchair accessible. See for more info.
Amy Dryansky’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, including Orion, The New England Review, Nerve and The Women’s Times. Her first book, How I Got Lost So Close To Home won the New England/New York award from Alice James Books. She’s been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, awarded fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center, Villa Montalvo and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She’s also a former Associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center at Mt. Holyoke College, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on the work of women poets. Amy’s just completed her second manuscript, Grass Whistle, and a children’s book. She lives in Conway, leads writing workshops in the community and is a consultant and grant writer for arts organizations.
Wyn Cooper has published three books of poems: The Country of Here Below, The Way Back, and Postcards from the Interior, as well as a chapbook, Secret Address. His work appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, Agni, The Southern Review, and more than 60 other magazines. His poems are included in 25 anthologies of contemporary poetry, including The Mercury Reader, Outsiders, and Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms. His new book of poems, Chaos is the New Calm, will be published by BOA in spring 2010.Wyn has taught at the University of Utah, Bennington College, Marlboro College, and at The Frost Place, where he now serves on the advisory board. He is a former editor of Quarterly West, and the recipient of a fellowship from the Ucross Foundation. He lives in Halifax, Vermont, and helps run the Brattleboro Literary Festival.
In 1993, “Fun,” a poem from his first book, was turned into Sheryl Crow’s Grammy-winning song “All I Wanna Do.” He has also co-written songs with David Broza, David Baerwald, and Bill Bottrell. In 2003, Gaff Music released Forty Words for Fear, a CD of songs based on poems and lyrics by Cooper, set to music and sung by the novelist Madison Smartt Bell. The new CD by Bell and Cooper is Postcards Out of the Blue. For more information, music, and photos, go to or
The Collected Poets Series highlights the work of established and emerging poets. Each event showcases the remarkable local poets of Western Massachusetts and the finest regional, national, and international talent. The series is usually held every first Thursday of the month
Check out our new 2009 series. Happily, the board has chosen all of the poets for 2009. To be considered for the CPS in the future, please see for more information and guidelines.

The rest of the 2008 Series

Dec. 4 — Dzvinia Orlowsky, Jeff Friedman, and Alice Fogel

The 2009 Series

Jan. 8 - Patrick Donnelly, Jeffrey Levine, Art Opening by Liz deNiord: Art + Poetry = Excitation
Feb. 5 - Mary Clare Powell and Diane Lockward
Mar.5 - Nikki Finney, Tara Betts and poets from The Holyoke Care Center for Teen Mothers
Mar.29 - Martha Collins and Lynne Thompson
April 2 - Carey Salerno and Anne Marie Macari
May 7 - Genie Zeiger, Dorianne Laux, and Kerry O'Keefe
June 4 - Two Massachusetts Poet Laureates: Gertrude Halstead of Worcester and Lesléa Newman of Northampton
July 2 - Dara Wier, Lesle Lewis, and Elizabeth Hughey
~ no CPS for August and Sept. ~
Oct. 1 - Patricia Smith and Annie Finch
Nov. 5 - April Ossman, Peter Waldor, and Pamela Stewart
Dec. 3 - Mary Koncel and Kate Greenstreet

Monday, November 03, 2008

Patricia Hall, By Death Divided

Last week, finally back in the "lots and lots of reading" routine, I devoured a book by a British author I hadn't heard of before: Simon Becket's WRITTEN IN BONE. Set in the Outer Hebrides and featuring a forensic anthropologist, the book takes a classic suspense paradigm -- being trapped in an isolated place in a defined group of people, at least one of whom is a killer -- and issues it with compelling and suspenseful personal issues as well. And I loved the setting, off the coast of Scotland.

Unfortunately, I was so enthusiastic about the book that I sold it the next day. Such is the complexity of being a bookseller.

So for my weekend reading, I devoured another British one that's a first for me in an author's work: BY DEATH DIVIDED, by Patricia Hall -- a pseudonym of journalist Maureen O'Connor. This is the 2008 (Allison & Busby British publication) member of an acclaimed series that Hall provides, featuring reporter Laura Ackroyd and DCI (er, criminal investigator) Michael Thackeray. Bluntly, romance between a police officer and a journalist is a mine field of conversations that have to stop midway. But it's not the underlying stress between Ackroyd and Thackeray that makes this such a powerful read. Instead, there's a fast-paced plot that weaves together domestic violence and racism, topping it off with what the police need to do when faced with a potential terrorist threat, just because a victim is Pakistani.

Yes, I'll be looking for more in this series. I've already noticed, though, that they're not always easy to find.

Getting into Gratitude Mode

I confess I'll be grateful when the election news subsides (I hope) on Wednesday. And I've got a list of "attitude of gratitude" items most of the time. But for a jump start into the Thanksgiving spirit, within a framework of "praise poetry," here's an engaging series coming up in Johnson, VT:

River Arts and LCCDRJP (Lamoille County Court Diversion) are putting on a free poetry workshop on three Wednesdays in November: Wednesdays the 12th, the 19th, and the 26th of November. Julia Shipley -- a published poet, River Arts instructor and Sterling College Professor -- will lead the free workshop.
Please come eat lunch, and then work on poetry together. The theme of the workshop is praise poems, and it will be held at the Johnson (VT) Community Meal. The Community Meal takes place every Wednesday and is free to all: 11:30– 1:00 at the United Church of Johnson 100 Main Street, Johnson, VT Special thanks to the Vermont Arts Council for making this event possible!

More info:

If you missed Marilyn Nelson's reading...

Marilyn Nelson's reading at the Vermont Studio Center last week was more than worth the drive (105 miles round trip for Kingdom Books). A poet laureate for Connecticut for five years, she said the state and its history seem to have taken over her work during that period and continuing. So she first gave the well-bundled-up audience a taste of a few poems from her picturebook CARVER, a delicious series of narratives from some of the faces and hearts in the life of scientist and humanitarian George Washington Carver )he left home at age 10, alone, to find a school with more to teach him). Then she slipped into some work that celebrates the recently identified remains of a Connecticut slave named Fortune, who died in 1740 -- the work is being set to music by Isaiah Barnwell of "Sweet Honey in the Rock" (watch for a symphony performance next year). And she dipped into yet another historical persona as she offered "The Keeper of the Keys" from her newly released collection THE FREEDOM BUSINESS (yes, we have a signed copy here at Kingdom Books).

The highlight of the evening unfolded as she announced she'd conclude with a "long poem" that would take 12 to 15 minutes to read -- the entire text of her 2005 book A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL, a children's book that grapples with the horrible lynching of a black child by five white men -- five white monsters, as the poem proclaims. The book is made up of 15 interlocked Petrarchan sonnets, forming a heroic crown sonnet. Nelson explained that the publisher had already asked her to plunge into the work of exploring the lynching, and "I knew if I was going to write it, I'd need some way to insulate myself and the readers from the pain. And I chose form."

Fortunately, if you weren't there -- or even if you were -- you can still hear Nelson read the work at this NPR web site. Then you may also want to purchase copies of the book, for the hearts and minds around you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Calendar Alert: Marilyn Nelson, VSC, 10/30/08

Connecticut poet Marilyn Nelson gives a public reading at the Vermont Studio Center on Thursday October 30 at the lecture hall on Main Street, at 8 p.m.

Because the VSC often has schedule changes, and because it's snowing up this way already, it's best to call and confirm: 802-635-2727. Kingdom Books is planning to be there.

Nelson is a three-time National Book Award finalist.

Tony Hillerman, Mystery Author of the American West, Dies at Age 83

[photo by Janis Turk]
Honor to Tony Hillerman upon his death this week came Monday in the New York Times, as long-time mystery critic and reviewer Marilyn Stasio provided his obituary. In discussion groups all over the Net, readers marveled at his age, mourned his passing, and exchanged comments about his popular mystery series featuring Navajo police officers Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn.

Here's a checklist of the Chee/Leaphorn series:

Leaphorn & Chee books

1. The Blessing Way (1970)
2. Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
3. Listening Woman (1978)
4. People Of Darkness (1980)
5. The Dark Wind (1982)
6. The Ghostway (1984)
7. Skinwalkers (1986)
8. A Thief of Time (1988)
9. Talking God (1989)
10. Coyote Waits (1990)
11. Sacred Clowns (1993)
12. The Fallen Man (1996)
13. The First Eagle (1998)
14. Hunting Badger (1999)
15. The Wailing Wind (2002)
16. The Sinister Pig (2003)
17. Skeleton Man (2004)
18. The Shape Shifter (2006)

Hillerman also wrote several off-series mysteries, saw at least four films made from his writing, and there are a number of critical and biographical volumes that discuss the author and his work.

I found the complex relationships between Chee and Leaphorn and the women in their lives to be a constant in the books, and combined with Hillerman's detailed exploration of Western Native American spirituality and life, these made the books deeper and more re-readable than for their plots alone. The emphasis on a harmony of one's spirit and one's life is best reflected in the greeting phrase that Hillerman's characters used so often: May you walk in beauty.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Poetry of Love: Gary Metras, FRANCIS D'ASSISI 2008 (Finishing Line Press)

I'm a bit late getting this written -- but for the best of reasons: The new Gary Metras book moved me to multiple readings, and I've wrestled with how to present this.

Metras' name isn't at the top of the charts unless you treasure small press poetry. A gentle, well-read man who teaches at the local college and acts as a mentor to many a poet, Metras is the publisher of Adastra Press. He's brought out some eighty neatly crafted, carefully designed letterpress books, almost all of poetry, and a charming photo of him working with his type box recently ran in Poets & Writers.

I particularly like Metras' own work in DESTINY'S CALENDAR, which he printed at Adastra. It's an exploration, in fifteen poems, of what it is to be human. Many of the poems are long, with numbered sections. In "Five Yearnings," the first section, "I. Nature's Models," begins:

Burning inside,
the sun feeds on itself
and licks planets
with soft winds of fire.
In the third orbit
temples of fusion
are thrown together.
Everyone wants his own sun.

Then the poem moves to the speaker, and visits multiple settings, until it concludes with a trek up a mountain and a ramble alongside the ocean.

In other poems, Metras explores fatherhood, a woman's pregancy, aging, faith ... in simple language and loose forms.

But that collection came out in 1988. Now, twenty years later, Metras dares to create a book-length poem in FRANCIS D'ASSISI 2008. Beginning with an interior look at the life of the beloved saint, Metras outlines in short stanzas how Francis came to understand his life and his mission:


Because his thoughts could be unclean,
the young man built a stone chapel

in the wilderness of the Umbrian Plain
to pray and purge himself,

to contain that other wildness, that doubt,
within those short walls

of gathered stone and wood, earthen floor
to rest his head.

There are delicious sequences in the poetry's lyrical flow. I like this one: "Came Bernard of Quintaville. / Came Sabatinus and Moricus. / Came Ferdinand from Lisbon / who went for to convert the Muslims, / but got sick. Yet still he believed, and worked, / sacrificed, and became Saint Anthony. / Came John of Capella, who afterwards went away." And it keeps getting better, with the maidens, the jester, the companions. An outline of community emerges.

Then Metras elaborates on the history of Assisi's chapel, then church, then tourist destination.

And in the great age of global leisure,
tourists came, more and more each year,
and with them hotels, restaurants, laundries.

Came Coca Cola, Levis Jeans. Came iPod.

And somewhere in this story of faith
the hill of hell was made heaven
in the name of Francis.

Finally Metras reveals that he and his wife have made a pilgrimage to this site, "Because we honor the years of our love." They've taken time to feast together at a place that, in spite of the tourists, speaks to them of faith and humility and sweet love. And although Metras reports that "If you talk to animals they lock you up" -- well, he also can move to the child who ignores the tourists and sees the white stones on which to step in entering the cathedral, and then to sheep on the hillside, and to being loved by his wife.

At last, then, this is a poetry of love and faith. It comes in a shape that, like the recently concluded Days of Awe for Jews, may be unfamiliar to many. But the grace of Gary Metras is that after so many years of writing, he is willing to tell a story that's both simple and brightly decorated with hope.

Looking to purchase a copy? Finishing Line Press.

2008 National Book Award Finalists in Poetry

Just announced by Scott Turow, the finalists in poetry are:

Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)
Reginald Gibbons, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press)
Richard Howard, Without Saying (Turtle Point Press)
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press)

Hurrah!~ And to see all the finalists for the four categories, visit the National Book Foundation web site, Winners will be announced on November 19 in NYC with Eric Bogosian as MC.

Hayden Carruth Poem, "The Cows at Night"

For me, a good start to the day can mean having enough caffeine or sunshine to be well awake by the time Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" airs on the local public radio station. I know there are people who don't care for Keillor's reading style, but I don't have a problem with it, and I like the way the program choices often point me toward poets that I wasn't aware of or had forgotten to keep up with. There's such a variety available! At any rate, if you happen to check today the GK web site, the poem is there -- and if you go to the site later, you can quickly look it up.

For another radio insight into Carruth and his life, try this: -- the plus is, if you click on the audio version ("hear this"), you'll hear Carruth himself reading "The Cows at Night."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Calendar Alert: Ravi Howard, New Voice in Fiction

Although Kingdom Books is mysteries & poetry, now and then I confess that literary fiction draws me in, especially when the topic is this close to my own writing interests. So here's a notice from Dartmouth for Ravi Howard:

Ravi Howard will read on October 16 at 4:00 pm in Sanborn Library at Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH). Howard's first novel Like Trees, Walking was published in March 2007 and is a fictionalized account of the true story of the aftermath of a lynching of a black teenager in Mobile, Alabama. The novel was a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for the best first fiction book for 2007.
"Like Trees, Walking is a not only a great novel by a talented writer, it's a book that will endure and adds to our knowledge the American story," said Ernest Hebert, Professor of English at Dartmouth and one of the judges for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.
Howard is from Montgomery, Alabama, and graduated from Howard University in 1996 with a degree in journalism. He earned his MFA in creative writing at the University of Virginia. Howard is a former television producer for NFL Films and received a 2005 Sports Emmy for his work on HBO's Inside the NFL. He currently lives in Mobile with his wife.

For directions, use the college web site:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bouchercon Note: Laurie R. King Receives Jack Reacher Award

While the literary world rocked on Thursday with the news of the Nobel Prize in Literature (see previous entry), the community of mystery lovers gathered in Baltimore at this year's Bouchercon embraced Laure R. King with its Jack Reacher Award. King, who just finished her latest manuscript, described the result in her e-list MUTTERINGS: "it was an absolutely unexpected prize, and a considerable honor." Actually she had a lot more to say, and it was funny and fun -- so I'd suggest subscribing to her e-list ASAP! Sign up at her web site,

2008 Nobel Prize to J.M.G. Le Clézio Delights U.S. Independent Presses

Thursday morning's announcement of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature to J.M.G. (Jean-Marie Gustave) Le Clézio is bringing American recognition to a novelist whose sense of wonder and delight is well known in Europe. Two small independent American publishers are especially exuberant about the award: Curbstone Press (Willimantic, CT), which published Le Clézio's most recent book, WANDERING STAR -- a pair of connected stories of two young girls, one Jewish, one Palestinian -- and David R. Godine (Boston), who published the author's novel THE PROSPECTOR in 1993.

Publisher's Weekly told Godine's story about finding the work, saying that Godine has consistently asked European publishers for the names of their great writers whose work hasn't been available in English. Le Clézio was one of the names he received from Anne-Marie Solange at Gallimard. Out of his 1993 print run of six thousand copies, Godine was delighted to find he still had five hundred in stock at the time of the award announcement. Since then, he's also announced that he'll issue a paperback edition of THE PROSPECTOR and will publish another Le Clézio novel, DÉSERT, in English.

A third publisher racing to fill orders this week is the University of Nebraska Press, which is even shipping orders to Europe for two Le Clézio titles: ONITSHA (1997) and THE ROUND & OTHER COLD HARD FACTS (2002).

Here's the Godine description of THE PROSPECTOR:

The Prospector is the crowning achievement from one of France's preeminent contemporary novelists and a work rich with sensuality and haunting resonance. It is the turn of the century on the island of Mauritius, and young Alexis L'Etang enjoys an idyllic existence with his parents and beloved sister: sampling the pleasures of privilege, exploring the constellations and tropical flora, and dreaming of treasure buried long ago by the legendary Unknown Corsair. But with his father's death, Alexis must leave his childhood paradise and enter the harsh world of privation and shame. Years later, Alexis has become obsessed with the idea of finding the Corsair's treasure and, through it, the lost magic and opulence of his youth. He abandons job and family, setting off on a quest that will take him from remote tropical islands to the hell of World War I, and from a love affair with the elusive Ouma to a momentous confrontation with the search that has consumed his life. By turns harsh and lyrical, pointed and nostalgic, The Prospector is "a parable of the human condition" (Le Mond) by one of the most significant literary figures in Europe today.

Congrats to the author, and to the publishers who added his work to their lists.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Think Spring" -- especially if you write picturebooks

Hard to believe that there are plans to be made for next spring already, but I suppose it's a bit like the vegetable garden outside, which I'm in the final stages of clearing and putting to bed for the winter ... pull out the finished material and think about seeds.

So this announcement from Pine Manor College, a snug and friendly haven for growing writers, just outside Boston, comes with thoughts of winter's freewheeling slide into a green and blossoming season, in that magical time After The Election and After the Economy Recovers! Here we go:

The application deadline for admission to the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program’s winter 2009 residency/spring semester is November 15, 2008 (not a postmark date; materials must be received by our offices before or on November 15). Spread the word!

We are pleased to welcome three new MFA faculty members:

Venise Berry is the author of four novels: So Good, An African American Love Story; All of Me, A Voluptuous Tale —recipient of a 2001 Honor Book Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association— Colored Sugar Water, and the forthcoming Pockets of Sanity.

Writer and community activist Amy Hoffman is currently editor in chief of the Women’s Review of Books. She is author of two memoirs, Hospital Time —about taking care of friends with AIDS in the late 1980s and early 1990s— and An Army of Ex-Lovers: My Life at the Gay Community News.

Children’s book writer and illustrator Grace Lin is the author of over a dozen books for young people, including The Ugly Vegetables —an American Booksellers Association’s “Pick of the List”— Dim Sum for Everyone!; Fortune Cookie Fortunes; Olvina Flies; and The Year of the Dog.

We are also pleased to announce that Donald Hall will be our commencement speaker at the January, 2009 residency. The celebrated author of fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and fifteen volumes of poetry, including the recent White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006, Donald Hall has been the recipient of numerous accolades, including The Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America and The National Book Critics Circle Award. He was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States in 2006, a position he held for one year.

More info:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Archer Mayor, THE CATCH: The Gang's All Here

It's October, and the leaves are red and gold here on the mountain (a lot of them are already on the ground), frosty nights have arrived, and so has this year's Archer Mayor police procedural, THE CATCH. The book is Mayor's 19th in his Joe Gunther series, and it's a gem for those who enjoy the characters that have kept Gunther company over the long haul: Sammy Martens, Willy Kunkle, and the later team member, Lester Spinney.

Starting with a traffic stop of a speeder on Route 7, at the west side of Vermont, the team and particularly Joe himself find themselves lured toward the distant seacoast, the rugged, cold ocean waters off Maine. Tracking down means and opportunity for the multiplying crimes then scatters the team members. But to find the motive for the first murder is tougher than expected, and Mayor leads a good chase through clues and pursuits.

... he felt a true weariness with the nature of this call. Murders in Vermont were few, averaging perhaps seven or eight a year -- rare enough to make it standing protocol that he be called to the scene regardless of time or location. But the killing of a cop? That was virtually unheard of -- a once-in-a-decade event, at least so far.
As a result, Gunther knew that the entire state would be watching every detail of this one...

There's good news for Joe personally in THE CATCH, and enough sweet solutions to counter the darkness of New England's crime network. It's a good, swift read, and -- it's an autumn tradition. I wouldn't miss it.

Unforgettable Moment: Robert Pinsky and Alan Cheuse, Reunion of Jersey Boys, at Brattleboro

It's the best literary festival around, because it's small enough for every author to be accessible, compact enough so you don't have more than one or two impossible choices between fabulous readings happening at the same moment -- and large enough of heart (thanks to great staff, authors, and supporters) to draw great established and new voices each autumn. It's the Brattleboro Literary Festival, and for 2008, it's now over.

But Dave and I will keep on talking with each other about the amazing first public event of the weekend: seeing Alan Cheuse and Robert Pinsky reconnect at the front of the room, in a reunion of New Jersey writers who were born there just two weeks apart, only 20 miles from each other -- and who have rarely met since then.

Cheuse presented his formidable fictionalized biography of Edward Curtis, TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING. But he preceded it with a witty short story, "Ben in Amboy," to honor the Jersey component. If you don't know Jersey, "Amboy" refers to Perth Amboy, where Cheuse was born.

And Pinsky, who arrived at the podium looking like a fresh-scrubbed boxer with a wide and crooked grin, tossed an amazing collection of poems and one-liners to the audience, reading especially from his 2008 collection, GULF MUSIC. Part of the collection is represented at his Academy of American Poets site. This is his ninth collection, and it's a keeper.

Pinsky is sometimes better known for his advocacy than for his poems, a situation that does him honor but also means people miss out on the bluesy, rhythmic treats that his work provides. He was especially on a roll on Saturday with both his humor and his confident proclamations like this one:

"If it's wearing sandals and looking up, it's not the sacred. If anything is sacred, dog sh*t is sacred, and jokes. Either everything is sacred, or nothing is."

And he made a darned good case for the "Everything" version. Watch for his upcoming readings: this Saturday Oct. 11 at 8:30 pm with Lucie Brock-Broido and Martín Espada at the first ever Massachusetts Poetry Festival ( - you need tickets, $10 each); and October 22 at the University of Cincinnati, with a 3 pm Q&A session at the Stratford Heights Grill and 8 pm reading at 427ERC.

Calendar Alert: Poet Ellen Bryant Voigt, Oct. 9

This Thursday, October 9, Ellen Bryant Voigt will read her poetry at 4:00 pm in the Wren Room in Sanborn House on the campus of Dartmouth College.

Voigt will be reading from her most recent collection of poetry, Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006, published by Norton in 2007. Voigt is a resident of Cabot, Vermont, and was Vermont State Poet from 1999 to 2003.

There will be a small reception after the reading. For campus directions, click here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Farewell, Hayden Carruth

On Monday September 29, Vermont Poet Laureate Hayden Carruth died. The Washington Post offered an obituary that laid out the markers of his career.

But the greatest significance of Carruth's life here in the north country lies in his immense generosity of heart: Every recent gathering of poets around him has included many who told of being accepted, adopted, and nurtured by this powerful poet. His door and his life were open to people who hungered to write honest, rich poetry and who sought him out.

Dave and I traveled to Bennington earlier this year to attend Carruth's reading there, an event coordinated by Wyn Cooper as part of the college's anniversary celebration. Carruth's wife JoAnne McLaughlin, another poet, accompanied him, teased him gently, made sure he had the support he needed for the effort -- he was nearly blind and on oxygen; yet as poets and friends arrived and talked with him and hugged him, his voice and energy rose and inflated, and when he took the stage, he seized it and almost wouldn't let it go, offering poem after poem. And McLaughlin, in vivid silk garb, was a flaming presence in the room.

We already miss him. Thank goodness, he's given us a wide body of poetry to hold and repeatedly savor.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Calendar Alert: Brattleboro Literary Festival

It's hard to pick out the top names and books for this year's Brattleboro Literary Festival because there are so many! The festival takes over the downtown of this fun and funky town for October 3-5, with readings, discussions, even this year a panel on Robert Frost.

Among the poets on hand, surely the top name for recognition is that of Robert Pinsky (photo above), whose term as US Poet Laureate was 1997-2000. For fiction, Dave is eager to hear Charles Bok. And we are both looking forward to listening to Anne Fadiman, a "must" for thoughtful interludes with "books on books."

Here's the full list of authors:

William Akers
Kazim Ali
M.T. Anderson
Emily Bernard
Natalie Bober
Charles Bock
Annie Boutelle
Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Alan Cheuse
Susan Cooper
John Elder
Anne Fadiman
Castle Freeman, Jr.
Carol Frost
Peter Gilbert
Sheridan Hay
Beth Kanell
Kathleen Kent
Mac Maharaj
Tim Mayo
Sy Montgomery
Cathie Pelletier
Robert Pinsky
Jim Schley
John Burnham Schwartz
Susan Shilliday
Wesley Stace
Ilan Stavans
Elizabeth Strout
Melissa Sweet
Ellen Bryant Voigt
Daniel Wallace
Michael Waters
Tim Wynne-Jones

For schedules and such, hit the festival web site,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

NH Governor Proclaims Donald Hall Day!

This evening's 80th birthday salute to New Hampshire and U.S. poet Donald Hall, held at Plymouth State University and including a reading from Hall's new memoir UNPACKING THE BOXES, also included a declaration from the N.H. Governor John Lynch that Saturday September 20, 2008, Hall's actual eightieth birthday, is Donald Hall Day for the state. Hurrah! Might be a good day to pick up some more of his poetry, too.

B. H. Fairchild, Friday Sept. 19, VSC, 8 p.m.

Note that the date for the Vermont Studio Center reading by poet B. H. Fairchild has been CHANGED to Friday September 19 at 8 p.m. in the lecture hall on Main Street. Call to check that there are still seats available if you decide to attend (802-635-2727). Kingdom Books will be there with some of Fairchild's books, as well as New England poets' work.

If you need to brush up on Fairchild's work, here's a quick summary:

His Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest (New York: Norton, 2003) won the Texas Institute of Letters' 2003 "Best Book of Poetry" Award, a $5000 prize, as well as the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Of this work, Anthony Hecht wrote, "There is no more lyric celebration of America's grandeurs and desolations than in this superb collection of poems." The Art of the Lathe (Farmington: Alice James Books, 1998) received, among other recognition, the William Carlos Williams Award, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the California Book Award, the Natalie Ornish Poetry Award, and the PEN Center USA West Poetry Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Calendar Alert: National Book Award Finalists, Oct. 15

Scott Turow will announce the 20 finalists for the National Book Awards on October 15. One way to be instantly updated is to sign up for the Twitter alerts on these, at I just did; turned out to be very easy indeed.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Word Play, Intelligence, Irony: The Poetry of Harryette Mullen

UCLA poet/professor Harryette Mullen opened her reading Thursday at the Vermont Studio Center with two poems from BLUES BABY, "some of the first poems that I published," she said. Right away she put the audience on notice: laugh with the absurdities and familiar quandary (girl gives away too much of herself to lover) in "Omnivore," then grapple for the implications threaded through "You Who Walked Through the Fire."

Mullen's confident, lyric reading proceeded through a wide selection of the poems in SLEEPING WITH THE DICTIONARY. She'd made notes of which poems, which pages, but soon found the numbers a tad off -- so resorted calmly to locating the poems by title in the volume, since they're arranged alphabetically in this abecedarian collection.

After spilling merrily the poems "All She Wrote" (a great series of excuses for not having replied!), "Coals to Newcastle, Panama Hats from Ecuador," "Junk Mail," and "Dim Lady," she began to draw the mixed audience of poets and artists into the fabrication processes behind the poems. For instance, for "Dim Lady," she started by playing within the rules she set for her creative writing students at UCLA, showing them that "found poetry" was all around them and could be used as a springboard into writing. As she went into "Present Tense," she explained, "I think a lot of the poems actually just come from the noise of Los Angeles, which comes from the film industry and the celebrity machine," and the noise leaks past her "walls" and enters her writinng, so that the poem concludes, "our story unwinds with the curious twist / of an action flick without a white protagonist."

But don't take the "found poetry" and accumulated noise notions as a description of this work, which is clearly well honed and meticulously crafted (as well as side-splittingly funny; wish you could have seen how surprised some listeners looked as laughter exploded from them at several points!). I especially enjoyed "The Anthropic Principle," with a title of which Mullen said, "As I understand it, it's the idea that the universe revolves around us." She called the poem a kind of collaboration between her and public radio. It begins, "The Pope of cosmology / addresses the convention" -- and ends, after a body that's funny and thoughtful at once, "like the arcane analysis / of a black box / full of insinuations of error."

Mullen's poetry is not simply a playful display of language; its multiple layers and sideways assertions about race, ego, and politics demand attention and effort. She also feeds off her own sense of language that twists through misunderstandings. Her poem "Denigration" allows a potential reading even of the title as De-Negration: it's a tongue-leaping exploration of words that spill around the sound and meaning of "nigger" -- or, as she said, "about someone who was fired for using a word that sounds like another word" (remember? -- that was last year's scandal of talk TV).

Near the end of the reading, Mullen's choice for a powerful assertion of self against social/political structure (that's my phrase, not hers -- her language is much more fun than that!) was "We Are Not Responsible." The poem begins, "We are not responsible / for your lost or stolen relatives."

Finally, even if Mullen's name is new to you, you may have already run into one of her best known poems: "Wipe That Simile Off Your Aphasia." In addition to multiple pulications, the poem was displayed on the buses in Santa Monica, California, as part of that region's version of Poetry in Motion. And "poetry in motion" is a good description of Mullen's work. Interested in reading some of the poems in full, or hearing one of her bright, clear, good-humored readings? Check her web site (, which has several pieces to read and one to listen to.

And oh yes, of course, Kingdom Books is excited that she kindly signed two of her early books for us. Check out and click on Browse & Buy, then type Mullen into the Author search box.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

September Poets at the Vermont Studio Center

Kingdom Books will be at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson this evening for the 8 p.m. reading by Harryette Mullen, and again on Sept. 22 for B. H. Fairchild, also at 8 p.m. For the Fairchild reading in particular, do check the day of the reading on time and availability of seating -- 802-635-2727.

I'll post later tonight or first thing tomorrow about Mullen's reading; looking forward to getting better acquainted with her work.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Vermont Poet David Budbill: What a Season Ahead!

Here's word from David Budbill with his fall schedule. If you haven't yet read them, I especially recommend his two recent books, MOMENT TO MOMENT: POEMS OF A MOUNTAIN RECLUSE, and WHILE WE'VE GOT FEET: NEW POEMS. Kingdom Books has a wide selection of Budbill, from his early poetry-plays based in the fictional Judevine (Hardwick, Vermont) to his collections, and also a nifty piece of language poetry by his daughter, Nadine Wolf Budbill; look also for the items illustrated by Budbill's artist wife Lois Eby. Use the link to Kingdom Books, and click on Browse & Buy to access our ABE listings -- and in the search box marked Author, type in BUDBILL to get the full range.

* * *

Dear Friends,

This is to let you all know what is coming up in the next month or so.


September 19 thru Oct 5: JUDEVINE returns to Lost Nation Theatre, Montpelier, VT. For curtain times, days of the week and ticket information contact: or call: 802-229-0492.

For a synopsis of JUDEVINE, its production history around the country and excerpts from reviews go to:

To purchase the DVD of the Lost Nation Theatre production go to:

September 25-30:


Sept 25, Thurs--The Hardwick Townhouse, 7:00 p.m., Hardwick, VT, contact person: Shari Cornish: followed by a parade, led by William and David through Hardwick to Claire's Restaurant, where David and William will do another set from about 8:45 to 9:30. Contact person at Claire's is: Christina Michelsen:

Sept 27, Sat--performance at The Flynn Space in Burlington, VT, 8:00 p.m. Contact person is: Leigh Chandler:

Sept 28, Sun--performance in Woodstock, VT, The Little Theatre, 4:00 p.m. Contact person Buzz Boswell:

Sept 29, Mon--performance, Marlboro College, Marlboro, VT, Whittemore Theatre, 7:00 p.m., Contact person: Chris Lenois:

Sept 30, Tues--workshop in poetry and music at Marlboro College in a.m. time and place TBA. Contact person: Chris Lenois:

For more about ZEN MOUNTAINS-ZEN STREETS go to:

and later in the fall:


October 10 & 11: JUDEVINE is at the Paramount Theatre, Rutland, VT

October 16, 17, 18: JUDEVINE is at the Middlebury Town Hall Theatre, Middlebury, VT

October 24 & 25: JUDEVINE is in Newport, VT, location TBA , TENTATIVE

November 6, 7, 8: JUDEVINE is in Woodstock, VT, location TBA, TENTATIVE

November 14 & 15: JUDEVINE is at the Bellows Falls Opera House, Bellows Falls, VT


Summer people gone.
Kids back in school.
Fall coming fast.

Leaves turning.
Birds going south.
World getting quiet.

Chinese melancholy.
Sweet Zen emptiness
here again this year.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

80th Birthday Reception for Poet Donald Hall

New Hampshire resident and New England poet Donald Hall co-sponsors a literary series at Plymouth State University (Plymouth, NH), and the university is throwing a birthday salute for his 80th birthday.

The timing is perfect, because Hall's new memoir is being released on September 2, and the event at Plymouth State is on Thursday September 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets are free but call to reserve your seats: 603-535-ARTS. The evening will include a reading from the new book, time for having the books signed, and a festive reception.

I haven't yet seen the book, UNPACKING THE BOXES: A MEMOIR OF A LIFE IN POETRY, but I look forward to reading and reviewing it. Meanwhile, here's the book description from the publisher:

Donald Hall's remarkable life in poetry -- a career capped by his appointment as U.S. poet laureate in 2006 -- comes alive in this richly detailed, self-revealing memoir.

Donald Hall's invaluable record of the making of a poet begins with his childhood in Depression-era suburban Connecticut, where he first realized poetry was "secret, dangerous, wicked, and delicious," and ends with what he calls "the planet of antiquity," punctuated by his appointment as poet laureate of the United States.

Hall writes eloquently of the poetry and books that moved and formed him as a child and young man, and of adolescent efforts at poetry writing -- an endeavor he wryly describes as more hormonal than artistic. His painful, formative days at Exeter are followed by a poetic self-liberation of sorts at Harvard, where he met lifelong friends Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, and George Plimpton. Then he is off to Oxford, where the heady friendships and rampant poetry careerism of the postwar university scene are brilliantly captured.

At eighty, Hall is as painstakingly honest about his failures and low points as a poet, writer, lover, and father as he is about his successes, making Unpacking the Boxes -- his first book since being named poet laureate --
both revelatory and tremendously poignant.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Henri Cole: Birth, Death, Love, in Spare Elegance

[photo courtesy of Star Black]
If you missed Henri Cole's reading at the Vermont Studio Center last night, you still can catch up with his poems -- and his web site,, will even let you listen to some of them. This is not the same as being at a reading, clearly; but you will be doing honor to his craft. He explained last night: "I've been striving in my poems to break out as much artifice from the language as possible," so he prefers "to frame the poems in silence."

Cole read from his two most recent books, MIDDLE EARTH and BLACKBIRD AND WOLF. He described MIDDLE EARTH as having been written largely in Japan, where he was born in Fukuoka. He returned for his 45th birthday and attempted to write a timeline of his life, particularly in the poem "Self-Portrait in a Gold Kimono." Also in this collection is the poem "Olympia" (found on Cole's page at and "Original Face," which he describes as a poem that attempts tenderness.

BLACKBIRD AND WOLF embraces different ground, although the soft and sensuous lyrical lines echo the earlier work. But in this more recent volume, Cole presented the "self" as composed of air and earth, Ariel and Caliban -- blackbird and wolf. The mixed audience of poets and visual artists reacted especially strongly to "Twilight," a poem set in the Adirondacks that features both a black bear and "postmodern sexuality" -- well demonstrated within its body.

Most striking was Cole's movement into his newest (mostly unpublished) work. Much of what he presented seemed lush tropical blossoms unfolding on the roots and stems he established earlier, particularly in terms of his mother, his birth, and now her death; she died about six weeks ago (our condolences to the poet). He offered the poem "Sunflower," which probed the discussion he and his mother had about a "do not resuscitate" order; delighted listeners with "Myself Departing," in which "My hair went away at night, while I was sleeping"; and splashed deliciously through "Car Wash," with "I love the irridescent slime that squirts all over my Honda..."

The Atlantic just printed one of the new poems, "Quai aux Fleurs," in which Cole's nieces make a cameo appearance. Then, without question, he captured the evening in his finale, a poem in two voices -- loosely speaking, the voices of pain and love -- for which an audience member, Lynn Powell, assisted, making the poem dramatic in two very different voices indeed. The poems is "By the Name of God, the Most Merciful and Gracious" -- and now, indeed, you'll want to catch a live reading or at the very least a recorded one, because I can't capture the power of this piece on a flat screen. At one point, "love" speaks the words "I don't feel guilty. Guilt is a wicked ghost." At another point, "pain" says "after my duration at school, I worked as a carrier of pebbles and sand." The scene is ineradicably part of the Iraq war, and it ends with the stunning request: "Be so kind to review my case."

I've rarely heard the studio center applause last as long as what this final poem elicited. If I received word tomorrow that Cole would be offering the poem again within a few hours of here, I'd probably try to fill the gas tank again, to get there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Calendar Alerts: Poetry, Fiction

Spending vacation time in northern New England? Or here for the duration? My calendar is jammed with events lately.


Thursday August 21, 7:30 p.m. at Peacham Library, Peacham, Vermont (802-592-3216): "Who Is Robert Frost and Who Are We?" presented by Geof Hewitt, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Vermont and Vermont College (and better known locally as an award-winning slam poet, a skill that probably won't be on tap that evening).

Monday August 25, 8 p.m., at Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, Vermont (802-635-2727; be sure to confirm on that day, as schedules may change), poet Henri Cole reading from his work, in the lecture hall at the east side of the village on Route 15.

Thursday September 4, 8 p.m., at Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, Vermont(802-635-2727; be sure to confirm on that day, as schedules may change), poet Harryette Mullen reading from her work, in the lecture hall at the east side of the village on Route 15.

September 12-14, Burlington Book Festival (

Thursday September 18, 7 p.m. at Plymouth State University, Plymouth, New Hampshire, poet Donald Hall (

Monday September 22, 8 p.m., at Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, Vermont (802-635-2727; be sure to confirm on that day, as schedules may change), poet B. H. Fairchild reading from his work, in the lecture hall at the east side of the village on Route 15.

Friday September 26, 8 p.m. at Plymouth State University, Plymouth, New Hampshire, poet Lucie Brock-Broido (

October 3-5, Brattleboro Literary Festival,, including poets Kazim Ali, Annie Boutelle, Carol Frost, Tim Mayo, Robert Pinsky, Jim Schley, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and Michael Waters.


October 3-5, Brattleboro Literary Festival,, including novelists Charles Bock, Castle Freemen, Cathie Pelletier -- and on Sunday Oct. 5 the first public reading by yours truly Beth Kanell, from THE DARKNESS UNDER THE WATER (


JASNA-Vermont (Jane Austen Society of North America) just announced its upcoming events, starting on Sunday September 14, 2-4 p.m., at Vermont College of Fine Arts, The Chapel in College Hall, 36 College Street, Montpelier: ~ Austen’s England ~ with John Turner, a Vermont Humanities Council lecturer, often speaking on Jane Austen. He has also conducted numerous tours to the England of Austen, the Brontes and Thomas Hardy. His talk will be accompanied by a visual display. RSVP: Kelly McDonald at More events announced at the group's blog,


Watch for our upcoming review of Archer Mayor's newest Joe Gunther police procedural, THE CATCH, coming out this fall.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When a Poem Cycle Erupts, Is That by Definition a Spiritual Experience? Lia Purpura, KING BABY

The poems in the cycle that became Lia Purpura's KING BABY (Alice James Books, 2008) erupted over a period of four months. They range from short and direct to long exchanges of multiple voices -- and they are haunted by the different, the exotic, the alien, and the mystical.

From the start the narrative evokes the eerie and unsummoned:

...I was talking with my friend
when my child interrupted.
With much effort he called me down
to fish the emptiness that would become
his brother from the river.

This mysteriously arrived "brother" is a totem of some other land, some other set of gods: a pair of gourds decorated with small dangling shells, and shaped to resemble a crying baby. Or is it a household god, crying out from its coner? A voice of the hidden? Its wide mouth and vulnerably bared skeleton demand care; its blind eyes and self-sufficient roundness, no limbs, no history, perform an opposite gesture and cut off interaction.

Purpura's name for the object, "King Baby," captures two separate demands: the requirements of an infant to be carried, fed, listened to, and those of a king or god, to receive admiration and commitment and obedience. Mother of a young child, Purpura captures both of these, as well as the otherness of the object and its arrival in her life and the life of her son.

Baby found among the tangle, dried
and set upon a shelf, the crack in your head
lit in the early light of promise,
and again at nightfall, so that your white spine
carved and smoothed,
is a filament, scepter, sword conducting us all.

Soon the poet's interactions with the object morph into prayer and paean -- not to King Baby perhaps, but to something larger and stranger than daily life. From the image of a hammer striking stars from a stone, Pupura proceeds into longing, including the longing to be of use:

Like a fork, like a candle, a glove
to glove a hand in cold, I want
to fall into particular use.
I want my heart to be an awl.

Eventually she circles to the wants and desires that might be embedded in the dark, strange object.

Are you hungry, King Baby? I haven't even asked.
There are two of us in the kitchen tonight,
and you are not one of us.

Where was the totem made? What did it mean, there? Who brought it back from what far land, what journey? Each set of questions outward boomerangs back within, to human longing and confusion.

Here are some distinctions I've been thinking about:
grief and sadness, and the rift between
the dramatically used "weeping" and more familiar "crying."

And when Purpura moves from emotion to the structure of life, she lays out assertions, often dark as the hollow within King Baby's form:

Let me confess—I don't believe
things happen for reason.
I believe we bend events around to meaning
or recline with them and mystery at once.
I think we say things happen for a reason
if we don't believe the making is important.
But it is.

Eventually a similarity between the speaker and the object emerges: the flare, the thin skin, the dark center. Purpura addresses her own shaping as she speaks to and about King Baby. Preparation for death, an inner hollowness: day after day, the relationship of observer and observed changes both.

Echoes of the mystical and mythic probing of poets Bridget Pegeen Kelly and Anne Marie Macari are here, but so is the dark wilderness of the great painters like Alfred Bierstadt ("The Domes of Yosemite") and photographers like Ansel Adams. Purpura steps well beyond the powerful questions, into the potent ways to ask them. Hunger, song, solitude, love: they're woven here into a tapestry as fiercely wonderful as King Baby itself.