Saturday, May 31, 2008


British poet and filmmaker Tom Pickard was asked to write a libretto for an opera -- "The Ballad of Jamie Allan." The folk opera was commissioned by The Sage Gateshead and performed there, practically on top of the location of Jamie Allan's last crime. A gypsy whose career was notorious, beginning as a flamboyant lover and merry thief and ending in malice, jail, and death, Allan endured in Northumbrian histories, and even more so in the music of the pipes and fiddle, where tunes named for him recall his initial merry musicianship as well as the songs sung of his life of crime.

Pickard went on to issue a book of poetry in late 2007, BALLAD OF JAMIE ALLAN, that become a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. It's not esoteric, or confessional; it can be read with pleasure and then fascination by even someone not familiar with issues of form and line; and yet it's a bundle of forms and approaches to both the gypsy and the ballad -- as well as many other shapes and notions of poetry. I spent a week enjoying it.

they said no jail could hold me
at the age of twenty-five
but now I am past seventy
and chained up to my lies…

The snippets vary from page to page, as eyewitness accounts, Jamie's own voice, and dark wondrous portraits of the wild north country. I'll read it again for enjoyment of the way it approaches, dances back, twists, angles. It might be a film in poetry form, complete with close-ups and wide shots. And I love best the bits from the voices of the women on the scene. Here's the opening of "Annie Bennett, Her Information":

The sound of deep waters sang in my sleep
so I followed the stream to search for a thief.
I followed a dark stream that ran underground;
by the sound of deep waters my lover was found.

For an extra touch of wonder, check out the blog for the folk opera at

Friday, May 30, 2008

Paula Gunn Allen, Poet, 1939-2008: Loss of a Clear Voice for Native Americans and Many More

Last night, poet Paula Gunn Allen died of lung cancer; her background includes many ethnic and geographic identities, but she has been best known as Laguna Pueblo, Sioux, and Lebanese.

Born in 1939 in Cubero, New Mexico, her publications list is astonishing in its length and diversity. Most knew her as poet, novelist, and critic. In 2001 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writer's Circle of the Americas; in 2004 her POCAHONTAS was a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and in 2007 she won a Lannan Foundation Fellowship.

I quote here from what I believe was her first appearance in print, in FOUR INDIAN POETS (1974), from the poem "Deep Deep City Blues: Elegy for the Man Who Owned the Rain":

Cold wind kicks up dust, smells of rain.
Inevitably the mesas (aloof) call to me.
Invariably, I can't go to them-- such
is the nature of our understanding --

(Coyote caverns haunt the mounds and
Thunder-hollows curve around the mind
to bend it to their will.)

It will rain again tonight.
Then the clouds will be able to be still.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Today's New York Times has a stunning review of Alan Furst's newest espionage novel, THE SPIES OF WARSAW. Calling the novel a "brooding, sophisticated period piece," reviewer Janet Maslin gives it unstinting praise, and says of Furst's work, "His stories combine keen deductive precision with much deeper, more turbulent and impassioned aspects of character. Since they are also soigné and seamy, there is the inevitable woman in the dining car, with whom --"

I halt here, because I haven't yet read the book, and want to follow Maslin's with my own response to it, later in June. Kingdom Books expects some signed copies to arrive here by the middle of the month (yes, we accept reservations).

If you find me a bit hard to reach over the next week, it'll be because I'm re-reading Furst's other novels. Yesterday, here at the shop, one of our favorite collectors said to me, "I've decided Ted Allbeury goes into my top five for espionage." His other listed authors for the category are Deighton, Forsythe, Follett, Le Carré, and Ludlum.

But mine at the moment are Furst and McCarry. Feel free to mention your own nominations, and reasoning.

And while you're waiting for your copy of THE SPIES OF WARSAW, you may want to visit Furst's web site,, which includes the following teaser:

The Spies of Warsaw
An autumn evening in 1937. A German engineer arrives at the Warsaw railway station. Tonight, he will be with his Polish mistress; tomorrow, at a workers’ bar in the city’s factory district, he will meet with the military attaché from the French embassy. Information will be exchanged for money. So begins The Spies of Warsaw, the brilliant new novel by Alan Furst, lauded by The New York Times as “America’s preeminent spy novelist.”

Monday, May 26, 2008

The League of Vermont Writers: Still Kicking

Dorothy Canfield Fisher (photo at left) is a name that, for Vermonters, calls forth another century, as well as this year's school projects: The Vermont author was a peace activist before and during World War I, and her children's books later brought her (and the state) so much attention that Vermont's "middle grades" book reading list and award each year are named for her (more commonly called "DCF"!).

Her heritage also continues in the form of the League of Vermont Writers. Because the group is not specific to poetry or mysteries, I won't mention it often here -- but I've had several notices for its summer events and want to pass along this one, as the agencies involved are indeed interested in mysteries that New Englanders are writing.

So ... The LWV's "Writers Meet Agents Conference" is scheduled for Sunday July 19 in Burlington and will feature representatives from Curtis Brown Agency (New York), Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (New York), Fairbank Literary Representation (Massachusetts), The Fischer-Harbage Agency (New York), The Nancy Love Literary Agency (New York), and Spectrum Literary Agency (New York). For more info on the event, keep an eye on the LWV's web site, There will be one-on-one pitch sessions, rounddtable discussions, workshops, and more.

Nope, no poetry agents.

A bit of history of the group, from the web site:

The League of Vermont Writers
— Then and Now

In 1929, luminaries Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Helen Hartness Flanders helped establish what would become the League of Vermont Writers. In the 21st Century the League's membership includes such well-known names as Chris Bojahlian, Joe Citro, David Huddle, and Ellen Bryant Voight. Early speakers such as Frances Parkinson Keyes, Robert Frost, and Dorothy Thompson, were eminent figures in their day. These days our speakers include nationally known authors Archer Mayor, Tim Brookes, and Katherine Paterson.

Continuity amid change is a hallmark of Vermont's oldest state-wide writers' organization. While the League continues to adapt to changes in the publishing industry and advances in technology, as Karen Lorentz wrote in her history of the League's first 75 years, "one thing has remained steady — the desire to promote education and networking among members so as to inspire writing and expand opportunities for publication." The League of Vermont Writers invites you to join an organization that has been working with and for writers in the Green Mountain State for nearly 80 years.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tadeusz Rózewicz, Poetry Plain and Far From Simple

One of the enigmas of poetry is that it takes enormous effort to pare down the line into essentials. Charles Simic and Ted Kooser offer vastly different examples of what can result. Newly available, thanks to our "global" existence, is the work of Polish poet Tadeusz Rózewicz (there should be a dot over the first Z but my keyboard doesn't have that option, sorry). Bill Johnston's translation of Rózewicz's NEW POEMS is a quiet best-seller, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award in poetry.

For an enthusiastic biography of this post-war poet, try; he served in the resistance as a teen in World War II, suffered the death of his brother at the hands of the Gestapo, and has published more than 20 collections of poetry. He's also noted as a playwright.

Johnston's translation of NEW POEMS is available through Archipelago Books, in a solid, chunky, 258-page book in soft blue wraps (a bit too soft in texture, as the edges wear rapidly). The pages are well formatted to present the quiet short lines. Three of Rózewicz's books -- the professor's knife, gray zone, and exit -- are comined in this volume.

I especially like the poem "gray zone," with its twin epigraphs from Wittgenstein, situating gray "between two extremes" and asking whether it is physiological or logical. Rózewicz enables grayness much further in a handful of rapid statements about movement away from the absolute, about depression, about German language which takes on immediately an oppressive weight. Here's the center segment:

the world we live in
reels with color

but I don't live in that world
I was only impolitely wakened
can one wake someone politely

I see
a ginger cat
in green grass
hunting a gray mouse

the artist Get
tells me he cannot see colors

he distinguishes them by the labels
on the tubes and tins

he reads and knows that this is
yellow red blue

but his palette is gray

he sees a gray cat
in gray grass
hunting a gray mouse

Rózewicz challenges art, ideas, and "neutrality" in the balance of the piece. Johnston's translation feels as deft as a good actor's portrayal of character on stage, and the flow and interruptions of these poems taste of fine language, clean without being barren, lush without being flowery.

Here is one other taste from later in the collection; how can one read this scrap without wanting to have the entire volume in one's hand, at one's side, on one's table?

I was born a rhinoceros
with thick skin and a horn on my nose

I wanted to become a butterly
but I was told
I have to be a rhinoceros

then I wanted to be
a songbird a stork
but I was told it wasn't possible

I asked why -- the answer was
because you're a rhinoceros

I wanted to be a monkey
even a parrot!

but I was told ... NO

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Jane Austen Fans: Next Vermont Meeting

We're glad to pass along word for lovers of Jane Austen's fiction and poetry: The next meeting of JASNA-Vermont is Saturday June 22, 2-4 p.m., at the Hauke Conference Center, Champlain College, 375 Maple St, Burlington. Here's the full info:

You are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s* June Meeting on ~ BEGINNINGS ~ “Northanger Abbey”: Dramatic Readings & Discussion
& JASNA ~ A Brief History with Lorraine Hanaway & Mildred Darrow

Lorraine Hanaway is a former President of JASNA who lives in Hew Hampshire; Mildred Darrow is a JASNA Life Member of our own VT Chapter: they were both there at the beginning of JASNA and will share some of t memories. Light refreshments served.

RSVP: Kelly McDonald,, or Deb Barnum, 802-864-0517,

JASNA-Vermont also has a new blog:

Upcoming Events:

September 14: A Talk by John Turner on Austen’s England (place TBA).
December 7: Annual Birthday Tea & English Country Dance with members of the
Burlington Country Dancers (at Champlain College).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Calendar Alert: Chris Bohjalian, 5/28; Poets Dubroff and Fogel, 6/25 (Norwich, VT)

Chris Bohjalian's newest novel, SKELETONS AT THE FEAST, doesn't have a thing to do with Vermont -- except that the book began with a carefully preserved World War II era diary that had been handed down in the family of one of his Vermont neighbors. Addressing the finale of the war from an unexpected viewpoint, that of a young woman in an upper middle class family, forced to flee during the Russian advance on her home, it's a great summer read. Meet Chris and dig into the background at his reading at the Norwich Bookstore on Wed. May 27 at 7 p.m. (reservations recommended).

Also well worth marking on the calendar, this two-in-one reading next month at the same shop:

Wednesday, June 25, 7 pm
Suzanne Dubroff | Alice Fogel

Two creative New Hampshire poets share the podium. The sensual poems of Susanne Dubroff’s The One Remaining Star are as palpable as the objects they invoke. Susanne’s translations of René Char, as well as her own poems, have been published in many journals and magazines. She has taught literature courses and led poetry workshops. Alice Fogel is a teacher with many publishing credits, as well as the creator of LyricCouture, clothing from “reprised” materials. Her new collection Be That Empty has been well reviewed by many, including Charles Simic: “Her poems shine with intelligence. Brooding and meditative, Fogel is a poet alert to every nuance of the inner life, a true phenomenologist of the soul.” (Reservations recommended.)

Bookstore contact info: and 802-649-1114.

Jay Wright: Born in New Mexico, Now in Vermont

Poet Jay Wright was born in Alburquerque, New Mexico, in 1934. After a set of careers and studies ranging from professional baseball to theology, he developed a body of potent and elegant poetry. In 2005 he became the first African American to win Yale University's Bollingen Prize.

Wright now lives in Bradford, Vermont. Here's a portion of his poem "The Healing Improvisation of Hair," which can be read in full on

How like joy to come upon me
in remembering a head of hair
and the way water would caress
it, and stress beauty in the flair
and cut of the only witness
to my dance under sorrow's tree.
This swift darkness is spring's first hour.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Just In: New European Mysteries, Signed

The global marketplace is a delight when it lets us quickly bring in new mysteries, signed and dated by the authors. This month has been especially notable for the European ones coming in:

Denise Mina, SLIP OF THE KNIFE. Dark, often violent, immaculately plotted, with the tang of an acrid Glasgow (Scotland) fog -- Mina's work continues to be at the top of the field. Her signature here is dated 31st March '08.

David Michie, CONFLICT OF INTEREST. We've got the British edition of this intense thriller, complete with the red promotional band. A gem of a copy. Michie lives in both London and Australia and has signed this.

Alexander McCall Smith, THE MIRACLE AT SPEEDY MOTORS. Warm, reassuring, a satisfying "cozy" featuring Mma Ramotswe and her estimable husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni -- signed neatly by the Scottish author and dated.

So -- there's another reply to the folks who worry that the Internet and electronics are spoiling the field of book collecting. Not at all! Ten years ago, we would have sweated bricks to get signatures like these. Now we expect them each month. Some changes are definitely for the best.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Australian Mysteries, Part 2: Arthur W. Upfield, 1890-1964, and the Bony Books

Arthur W. (William) Upfield was born in England, and first came to Australia at age 20; it was a moment in his life when he was ready to adopt this complex land for his own, and although he returned briefly to England, he soon brought his wife and growing family to the land of kangaroos and the Outback.

His mystery novels fastened squarely on the racial prejudices he saw around him, enacted through a "half-caste" (half White, half Aborigine) detective inspector that he named Napoleon Bonaparte. The mystery series is often called the Bony books -- and Bony is used as a nickname in the stories -- but some versions of Upfield's life say that was a typing error by the publisher, and the author's original version had been Boney. This spelling reemerged when the books began to be turned into films.

Upfield's handling of the stresses and strengths of D.-I. Bonaparte reflect what might now be regarded as racial essentialism: He presumed that the Aboriginal "half" of Bony would be fierce and inclined to inflict death when enraged, and the white "half" would be civilized. Upfield's principal violation of this assumption, and a fascinating one, is his construction of the character as drawing his intelligence from both sides of his genetic inheritance, as well as from the odd circumstances of his upbringing.

There are 29 Bony books, and they are considered the best of Upfield's work; his first book, THE HOUSE OF CAIN, was published in 1928, but the first Bony book came out a year later, to much acclaim. Here's a list of the Bony titles, courtesy of Robert Wilfred Franson:

1929 The Barrakee Mystery = The Lure of the Bush
1931 The Sands of Windee
1936 Wings Above the Diamantina = Wings Above the Claypan;
= Winged Mystery
1937 Mr Jelly’s Business = Murder Down Under
1937 Winds of Evil
1938 The Bone Is Pointed
1939 The Mystery of Swordfish Reef
1940 Bushranger of the Skies = No Footprints in the Bush
1943 Death of a Swagman
1946 The Devil's Steps
1948 An Author Bites the Dust
1950 The Widows of Broome
1955 The Mountains Have a Secret
1951 The New Shoe
1952 Venom House
1953 Murder Must Wait
1954 Death of a Lake
1955 Cake in the Hat Box = Sinister Stones
1956 The Battling Prophet
1956 Man of Two Tribes
1957 Bony Buys a Woman = The Bushman Who Came Back
1958 The Bachelors of Broken Hill
1959 Bony and the Mouse = Journey to the Hangman
1959 Bony and the Black Virgin = The Torn Branch
1959 Bony and the White Savage
1960 Bony and the Kelly Gang = Valley of the Smugglers
1962 The Will of the Tribe
1963 Madman’s Bend = The Body at Madman's Bend
1966 The Lake Frome Monster [posthumous collaboration]

Note that many of the books had multiple titles. Among them, THE BONE IS POINTED is often a readers' favorite; I am currently enjoing THE BATTLING PROPHET.

Upfield's books are increasingly harder to find in early editions, and the hardcovers are scarce; sometimes the softcovers are nearly as collectible. A solid reference on the author and books is THE SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA: THE CRIME FICTION OF ARTHUR W. UPFIELD, by Ray B. Browne (Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988). Browne's detailed analysis of the work delves into Upfield's exploration of the half-castes and of the independent men who labored to eke out a living in the Outback; it also gives details of the individual books. It's becoming almost as hard to obtain as the Bony books themselves.

Although the language in the books is now dated (definitely 19th century in its structure), the plots are generally well done in the British style, and the insights into Upfield's perception of the bush and its inhabitants are compelling, quirky, and an added plus to the series.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Calendar Alert: Three Poets, A Magician, Lots More, at Sterling College, Craftsbury Common, VT, 6/3

[photo, poet Sandra Steingraber]

Craftsbury Common, VT – For a week each June for more than twenty years, people from around the country have come to Sterling College as participants of the Wildbranch Writing Workshop. The workshop, co-sponsored by Orion Magazine, targets writers interested in outdoor, natural history, and environmental writing, as well as environmental educators and activists who want to bring better writing to their work.

On Wednesday, June 4, at 7:00 pm, in Simpson Hall, Wildbranch faculty will present an evening of readings from their own works. These faculty include: David Abram, Janisse Ray, Scott Russell Sanders and Sandra Steingraber. The readings are free and open to the public.

Biologist, poet, and environmental writer SANDRA STEINGRABER is the author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment, Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood, and Post-Diagnosis, a volume of poetry. Steingraber's investigative writing has received recognition from the Jenifer Altman Foundation, Ms. Magazine, the American Medical Writers Association, and Rachel Carson's alma mater Chatham College, which, in 2001, selected Steingraber to receive its biennial Rachel Carson Leadership Award.

Holding a Ph.D. in biological sciences and a master's degree in creative writing, she is currently a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Ithaca College and serves as a contributing editor at Orion.

Cultural ecologist, writer, and philosopher, DAVID ABRAM is also an accomplished storyteller and sleight-of-hand magician. He is the author of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World, for which he received the Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction. His essays on the cultural causes and consequences of ecological disarray have appeared in such journals as Orion, Parabola, Environmental Ethics, and The Ecologist as well as in numerous anthologies. The father of two small children, David lives at the edge of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northern New Mexico.

JANISSE RAY is a writer, naturalist, and activist. She is the award- winning author of three books of creative nonfiction—Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, and Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land—and the editor of three others. More than personal narratives, her books are commentary on social and ecological life and calls to action. Her essays, poetry, and fiction have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies.

SCOTT RUSSELL SANDERS is the author of nineteen books, including Staying Put, Hunting for Hope, and A Private History of Awe. Winner of the Lannan Literary Award and the John Burroughs Essay Award, he has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Since 1971 he has taught at Indiana University and has lived in the watershed of the White River in the hardwood hills of southern Indiana.

H. EMERSON BLAKE was trained as an ecologist, and his first editorial job was with a biology journal. After a decade as an editor at Orion, he assumed the role of editor-in-chief at Milkweed Editions, a book publisher. In 2005 he returned to Orion to serve as the magazine's editor-in-chief and as the executive director of The Orion Society. He is the editor of hundreds of magazine articles, as well as many books of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children's fiction.

JENNIFER SAHN is editor of Orion magazine. Articles she has edited have won John Burroughs Essay Awards, Pushcart Prizes, and have been reprinted in the Best American Science and Nature Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction. She has been on the editorial staff of Orion for the past fifteen years, during which time she also worked closely with the education and outreach programs of The Orion Society. Her writing has been published in a variety of print venues and she has served as the editor for several book projects.

For more information on the Evening of Readings, please contact Sterling College at 802-586-7711, ext 159.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Book Arts: A Singular View of Process at Blue Hour Collective

A poetry publisher who'll remain nameless e-mailed here last week and wondered what the world would be like without printed books. The blog and the web site continue to expand as forms of delight for communication, raising such concern.

What many of us endless readers say is that we can't imagine taking an electronic machine to bed with us, much less to the beach, or the dentist's waiting room. Yet Amazon's Kindle warns us that in this case, it's our imagination that may be hesitant, and the future is racing toward us.

Nonetheless, books retain a physical form that's pleasing in the hand (at least, if one's grown up reading them that way!), and it's a sure bet that even as reading for information or pleasure spreads across multiple forms, books-with-pages will continue to exist for generations.

One more excursion before getting to the point: I also had word this week, via both e-mail and paper correspondence, of the continued regret, even grief, over the demise of our nearby neighbor in the book arts, The Stinehour Press. One baffled mourner said to me, "How could this happen? The Press has made such beautiful books!" Well, beauty on the page is not a requirement for information-handling. But the elegance and paper-laid presence of metal and wood type won't be lost -- they will remain as tools and skills of artists of the book.

A wonderful example of the continued growth of the book arts comes in the form of the Blue Hour Collective:

... an anonymous collective that will publish one chapbook a year, created like a limited-edition piece of art, and distribute it free to subscribers. We are very excited about our first little book -- new translations of Lorca poems with drawings by yours truly [bluehour1]. We encourage people to follow our progress as we work on our project.

The number of copies will be limited- the number of books and our time~frame for all of this is still being hashed out. But a start, no matter how humble, is still a start :)!

The site for following the creation of this artful book is, and it's well worth regular visits. E-mailed conversation with "bluehour1" resulted in an item on the Blue Hour Collective blog about Federico García Lorca's stay in Vermont, a curious detail in the life of the flamboyant poet. Also posted this week is a draft cover design for the chapbook-in-process.

Thanks, Blue Hour folks, for generously providing this window into your work!

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Poetry of Listening: Fanny Howe

In a meticulously crafted set of poems at the Vermont Studio Center this evening, Fanny Howe showed how important it can be to hear a poet -- that is, sit close by, and listen to the lines in the voice of the person who wrote them. I suspect reading Howe's work aloud in a room alone, or listening to a friend read them aloud, might have similar power. The point is literally to hear the way the words slide against each other. Although Howe spoke of "the subliminal desire for narrative underlying much work that I feel is fragmented on the surface -- it's crying to be let loose," the threads of narrative in her work can be interrupted, stitches that rise through the fabric, then vanish under the fabric to knot or writhe beneath it before rising again. To have one voice and one face express them holds them close together longer, I think.

Howe opened her reading with a reflection affected by location: "What we really want is to return to an agricultural, cyclical world and us in it ... that our purpose is physical and real, and not what we imagine it to be. You get that from being in a place like this while the trees are in bloom."

Reading from her Selected Poems, she offered the poem "11/11" in which the lines repeatedly explore "I don't believe," and conclude:

Some of the others believe in food & drink & perfume.
I don't. And I don't believe in shut-in time
for those who committed a crime
of passion. Like a sweetheart
of the iceberg or wings lost at sea

the wind is what I believe in,
the One that moves around each form.

Wind, breath, spirit: The Irish storyteller, the translator of Holocaust poetry, the Boston-raised rebel, the whole-hearted mother and grandmother. Howe brings it all together, and the spaces of silence or disconnection among her lines allow echoes and reflections from one to another.

This evening she soon segued into her newest collection, THE LYRICS, from which she chose a poem that honored Robert Creeley (long a voice of the Vermont Studio Center). She noted her reversion to series of poems that "have as their beginning and end either an emotion or a place I've been." This, she said, corresponded with an Arab concept of a "day" being the period from the beginning to the end of an experience.

Rhyme, especially internally, peeked through in bright moments. Meter became clear in Howe's voicing. Her use of repetition emphasized the question/answer patterns within the poems. Equally, the lines become the call and response of liturgy.

Howe concluded her reading with a poem from THE LYRICS that she wrote when leaving the Benedictine monastery where she goes often to stay in Ireland; we sold all our copies of the book this evening, so I am without line breaks but offer here what I heard: "but a guest must leave her host / in order to remain a guest" and at the final section of the poem, "no sons / no daughters / no poets / no more house."

With a kind smile, she closed the book and declined a request to "read another" -- allowing a form of silence to wrap around the set of poems and reassert its position as the object of desire for The Lyric.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Adrienne Rich, TELEPHONE RINGING IN THE LABYRINTH, Poems 2004-2006

I've come to this collection a bit late, and there's a raft of reviews already out there: They wrangle over what Rich represents and what she has become in this collection. Some sputter over the handful of notes at the back, and the need to know the war news that Rich alludes to in the poems. Others assert she's lost her feminist stance, by taking a political one that assails the Iraq war and occupation without specifically claiming a woman's perspective on the disaster. Reading a dozen essays on the book gave me the notion that read established poets with a mirror in one hand, looking for similarities. Perhaps it's easier to directly experience the words when the poet is less painted into our own interiors.

Rich, now 80, spoke on April 28 at her alma mater, Radcliffe. The article provided by the college (here) recaps the poet's awards, including the one she declined in 1997 because of her profound abhorrence for the actions of the nation's politics and its Administration. It outlines her continued tie to Radcliffe through poet Elizabeth Alexander, and gives honor to the Radcliffe poet/professor who mentored Rich, F. O. Matthiessen (1902-1950). Please do read the article, in full.

Then, if possible, I recommend reading the poems of this newest collection, reading them for themselves, not trying to link them to past volumes or statements. The jagged lines, insistent rhythms, and fierce breaks beg to be read aloud. A sample from "In Plain Sight":

... Ice-thin. Cold an precarious
the land I live in and have argued not to leave
Cold on the verge of crease
crack without notice
ice-green disjuncture treasoning us
to flounder cursing each other
Cold and grotesque the sex
the grimaces the grab

This is fresh language with a fierce edge -- and in fact, the one thing the reviewers agree on is that Rich is not writing "like an old lady" but like a powerful poet. Even when "Ever, Again" calls up at a summer spent in Vermont when her sons were boys, the crisp images and sensory overload have nothing to do with nostalgia.

Most of all, these two years of poems frame protest against the war, and The War: every one that Rich has witnessed. That includes America's disastrous failures in the war on poverty, too, as displayed after Hurricane Katrina (the poem is "The University Reopens as the Floods Recede").

But it's the finale I love most, the poem "Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth," which makes up the sixth of the books six section. The tension in it of I and you, of desire and distress, of a myth come alive in urgency and breath, this shakes and awakens me. The final section of this final section is:


I would have wanted to say it
without falling back
on words Desired not

you so much as your life,
your prevailing Not for me
but for furtherance how

you would move
on the horizon You, the person, you
the particle fierce and furthering.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Calendar Alert: Pine Manor College Poetry

Here's one last set of dates to mark on the calendar, and then it's time to resume reviews. (Dave and I have been on a Martin Limón mystery binge this weekend, and I've been enjoying Adrienne Rich's new collection... more on that, tomorrow.)

Pine Manor College, a small liberal arts college just outside Boston, stays off the radar screen for much of the year, but its Solstice writing program always draws solid poets who are generous as teachers. Here's the list of the public readings that the program will offer at the end of June:

[Chestnut Hill, MA, May, 2008] Pine Manor College announces its annual Solstice Summer Writers’ Conference Reading Series. All readings begin at 7:00 p.m. unless *otherwise noted, and are held in the Founder’s Room of Pine Manor College, located at 400 Heath Street in Chestnut Hill. Copies of the authors’ books will be available for sale after all readings; cash-bar receptions will follow the readings on June 22, 27, & 28. *Plenty of free parking!

Sunday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. Francisco Aragón & Julia Glass
Francisco Aragón (author of Puerta del Sol; editor of The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry) & Julia Glass (author of The Whole World Over and 2002 National Book Award winner Three Junes).

Monday, June 23 at 7:00 p.m. Cleopatra Mathis & Tor Seidler
Cleopatra Mathis (author of White Sea and What to Tip the Boatman? winner of the 2001 Jane Kenyon Award) & Tor Seidler (author of the forthcoming Gully’s Travels; Publisher’s Weekly Pick of the List The Wainscott Weasel; and Mean Margaret).

Tuesday, June 24 at 7:00 p.m Meg Kearney & Steven Huff
Director Meg Kearney (author of An Unkindness of Ravens and The Secret of Me) & Steven Huff (author of the forthcoming A Pig in Paris and More Daring Escapes).

Thursday, June 26 at 7:00 p.m. Patricia Spears Jones, Lee Hope, & Eric Gansworth
Patricia Spears Jones (author of Femme du Monde and The Weather That Kills), Lee Hope (Pushcart Prize-nominee and winner of the Theodore Goodman Award for Fiction), & Eric Gansworth (author of Indian Summers and Mending Skins, winner of the 2006 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Award).

Friday, June 27 at 3:15 p.m. Brenda Prescott & Tanya Whiton
Program Administrator Tanya Whiton (published in literary journals including Northwest Review and Crazyhorse 63) & Brenda Prescott (published in literary journals including Crab Orchard Review and The Louisville Review).

Friday, June 27 at 7:00 p.m. Marina Budhos & Stephen Dunn
Marina Budhos (author of The Professor of Light and House of Waiting; Rona Jaffe Award winner) & Stephen Dunn (author of fourteen collections of poetry, including Everything Else in the World and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Different Hours).

Saturday, June 28 at 7:00 p.m. Barbara Hurd & Dennis Lehane
Barbara Hurd (author of Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains and Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark, a Library Journal Best Natural History Book of the Year) & Dennis Lehane (author of the forthcoming The Given Day, Mystic River, Shutter Island, and Gone Baby, Gone).

Directions to Pine Manor College, complete bios of our authors, and more information about the Solstice Summer Writers’ Conference can be found at

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Calendar Alert: Alicia Ostriker, Brattleboro VT, 5/15

[press release] MACDOWELL COLONY POET, NATIONAL BOOK FINALIST TO READ AT BROOKS: Alicia Ostriker, a major American poet and critic, will read from her works on Thursday, May 15, at 7 PM, in the Main Reading room. Ms. Ostriker has published eleven volumes of poetry, including The Volcano Sequence and No Heaven. Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Paris Review, Yale Review, Ontario Review, The Nation, and many other journals and anthologies. Twice a National Book Award finalist, she has also received awards from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the Poetry Society of America, the San Francisco Poetry Center, and the Paterson Poetry Center, among others. Ostriker’s most recent book of poems is No Heaven, described as powerful…delicately balanced” in The Southern Review, and “deeply compelling” by Maxine Kumin. Ostriker lives in Princeton, NJ and teaches in the low-residency Poetry MFA Program of New England College.

Location: Brooks Memorial Library Main Room; for more info call Jerry Carbone, 802-254-5290.

Calendar Alert: New England College Poetry Readings

One of my favorite signs of summer is the announcement of the reading series at the New England College (Henniker, NH) MFA in Poetry program. Here is the schedule. I'll be there are least once, maybe more -- it's worth the gas to get there.

All readings begin at 7:30 PM in the Great Room, Simon Center, 98 Bridge Street, Henniker, NH. Please call 428-2000 to confirm. The New England College reading series is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Paula McLain and Joan Larkin

Wednsday, June 25, 2008
James Harms and Michael Waters

Thursday, June 26, 2008
Brian Henry and Malena Morling

Saturday, June 28, 2008
Maxine Kumin and Alicia Ostriker

Sunday, June 29, 2008
Carol Frost and Jeff Friedman

Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Eleni Sikelianos and Ilya Kaminsky

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Charles Simic: SIXTY POEMS and a Departure

This evening, US Poet Laureate Charles Simic gives a lecture on poetry translation in Washington, DC: "The Difficult Art of Translation," it's titled. The lecture concludes his year as poet laureate, and unlike many of his predecessors, he's declined a second year, saying he wants to now spend more time writing poetry.

During Simic's tenure, Harcourt brought out a slim paperback of his work called SIXTY POEMS, to celebrate. It draws from nine of his better known collections, but not the one that earned him a Pulitzer Prize -- the collection of prose poems THE WORLD DOESN'T END. It's a bare-bones book: no commentary, no bio, not even an introduction. On the other hand, it's dandy for tucking into a beach bag or placing next to a comfy chair, to nibble on a poem now and then. I'd recommend against trying to read the entire selection in one setting, because almost all of the poems assert a surreal balance of observation and eccentricity. Even the love poems tilt darkly. One that particularly tickled my fancy is "At the Cookout," a loose, looping poem that paints secrecy and desire like pastel shadows over a suburban scene, and wraps up with:

The husbands drinking
And saying nothing,
Dazed and mystified as they are
By their wives' power
To give
And take away happiness,
As if their heads
Were crawling with snakes.

Twists like this finale have given Simic a reputation for darkness and for being something of a curmudgeon, but in fact, poets who study with him often retain a loyalty and affection that has good basis in the careful attention that he offers to his students.

Tomorrow, May 9, will be Simic's seventieth birthday. He's now spent more than half his life as a U.S. citizen and, despite the urbanity of many of his poems and the sophisticated music of their composition, he lives in the small town of Strafford, New Hampshire. It's a good reminder not to place poets into a Robert-Frost-nostalgia box just because they're living "in Frost's landscape." As Simic pointed out in an interview in The New York Times, Frost explored the dark side of New England life, too, probing the eccentricities of backwoods families and rocky farms. Simic adds a dash more of European background to the mix, shakes it up, and offers a cocktail for sophisticated tastes. Here, from "The Lives of the Alchemists":

In the meantime, the small arcana of the frying pan,
The smell of olive oil and garlic wafting
From room to empty room, the black cat
Rubbing herself against your bare leg
While you shuffle toward the distant light
And the tinkle of glasses in the kitchen.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

BETRAYAL: John Lescroart Returns to His Dismas Hardy/Abe Glitsky Series

John Lescroart created a tough, dramatic crime series with attorney Dismas Hardy and police investigator Abe Glitsky, combining the best of police procedural with legal thriller. Three years ago, though, he stepped "off series," so the February 2008 release of BETRAYAL, promised as a Dismas-and-Abe return (number 12!), made a huge splash.

I just got around to reading this one, and I'm still mulling over what Lescroart did. It's not as if I didn't have some warning: We were in California in January '07 for one of his readings at M is for Mystery in San Matteo, and reported the following:

As a result, he's 75 percent done with the next book already, which opens in Iraq. The research (he's not actually going there) has involved people freshly returned, and Lescroart says it's been "pretty disturbing ... the people that come back are a lot more emotional than we realize or read about in the newspaper."

Well, BETRAYAL is in fact deeply disturbing. For all the heroism and idealism that's been invested in enforcing a regime change in Iraq, Lescroart's novel suggests and equal amount of greed, meanness, and downright evil, thriving in the high-money stakes of controlling, occupying, and rebuilding the nation.

The California team doesn't go out of the country. Instead, the betrayals and threats of a notorious set of psychopaths -- the kind that, unfortunately, get hired sometimes as mercenaries -- invade the professional and then private lives of Dismas and Abe. Even the FBI isn't on their side when things get tough.

It's not unusual for a book well along in a successful series to change viewpoint and construction, and that's happened in BETRAYAL. Rather than narrate the twin lives of Dis and his law-enforcement colleague, as he had earlier, the new frame that Lescroart adopts is to write a military thriller and frame it with his series characters around the edges. A National Guard reservist and an ex-Navy SEAL wrestle for the attention of a beautiful -- and war-opposing -- teacher. Their competition flashes from a fire-war in Iraq to serial murder in California. And Dismas gets in the way, risking his family in the process.

I found the plot intense and tight, the level of threat pounding and insistent, the Iraq sequences and exploration of traumatic brain injury compelling. Moreover, I found myself thinking more about the superstructure of a series, and wondering where Lescroart's hunger for character-driven plot will take him next.

For reference, here's the list of the books so far:

Dismas Hardy (featured protagonist)

* Dead Irish (1989)
* The Vig (1990)
* Hard Evidence (1993)
* The 13th Juror (1994)
* The Mercy Rule (1998)
* Nothing But the Truth (1999)
* The First Law (2003)
* The Motive (2004)
* The Second Chair (2004)
* Betrayal (2007)

Abe Glitsky (featured protagonist)

* A Certain Justice (1995)
* Guilt (1996)
* The Hearing (1999)
* The Oath (2002)

Wyatt Hunt

* The Hunt Club (2005)
* The Suspect (2007)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Calendar Alert: Frost Place Free Public Poetry

When the Frost Place opens for the season at Memorial Day weekend, two weekends away, my calendar turns heavily to poetry. Sure, it's my turn on the board, so that first weekend, I'll probably be at the house where Frost lived while he wrote his most noted poems ... except I'll be sweeping, raking, fetching trash bags, whatever the site stewardship team needs. Although I hope to take a few minutes to sit on that inspiring front porch and overlook the mountains in Franconia Notch, I won't be writing poetry just then -- or even reading it.

But the poetry unfolds from there. Here's the action-crammed schedule of free public poetry readings that executive director Jim Schley has planned, with an amazing group of top contemporary poets. I'll try to post reminders on the blog now and then, with some samples of their poetry.

And when do I write my own? Usually after one of these readings. They're so provocative that it makes my fingers itch to shape my own lines and stanzas. I figure it's a lot like going to church or synagogue: I disagree at least half the time with the sermon, which pushes me to realizing and putting into words what I really do believe. In the same way, once the elation of listening to strong poets mellows to plain ordinary joy, I find I want to get my own style working again on paper.

So in case you have the same pattern -- or just like to know what's hot in the poetry evenings coming up -- here's that list of dates. Hope to see you on the hill at The Frost Place this summer.


During the Conference on Poetry and Teaching
June 30 – July 4, 2008

Readings at 7:30 pm:
Monday, June 30: Shara McCallum
Tuesday, July 1: Mekeel McBride
Wednesday, July 2: Alice B. Fogel
Thursday, July 3: J. D. Scrimgeour

Frost Day
Sunday, July 6, at 2:00 pm: James Hoch and Sydney Lea reading,
and a celebration of Dave Schaffer, founder of The Frost Place

During the Festival and Conference on Poetry
July 27 – August 2, 2008

Readings at 8:00 pm:
Sunday, July 27: James Hoch and Cook Fellow from Dartmouth (to be announced)
Monday, July 28: David Wojahn and Linda Susan Jackson
Tuesday, July 29: Jean Valentine and Jim Schley
Wednesday, July 30: Festival Participants Reading
Thursday, August 1: Susan Howe and Ilya Kaminsky
Friday, August 2: Chase Twichell and Patrick Donnelly
Saturday, August 3: Cornelius Eady and Ellen Doré Watson

[at left, poet Cornelius Eady, co-founder of Cave Canem, and at right, Frost Place board member and poet Major Jackson]

Monday, May 05, 2008

Australian Mysteries, Part I: Garry Disher

One of the newest arrivals at Kingdom Books is a fantastic reference on Arthur Upfield and his Napoleon Bonaparte ("Bony") mysteries, and I'm working my way toward discussing all of that -- but first let me step into the field of Australian writing through a current author, Garry Disher.

Disher's books are so highly valued in the US among the few who know them, that it's been a challenge for us to get a good set of them. But as soon as we pulled together a well-stocked shelf, a collector arrived and literally cleaned out all except one title. Heartbreak! (Browse our holdings by going to our web site,, and use the Search function, which takes you directly into our ABE listings). Soho Crime has been a lifesaver in getting these into the US market.

In Australia, Disher is referred to as a "novelist" rather than as a mystery or crime fiction writer. He's been known to refer to himself, though, as wearing three hats at once, for the three genres in which he's won acclaim: young adult fiction (especially the award-winning The Bamboo Flute), literary novels, and crime fiction. But he also says that for him there's no huge division among the forms of writing -- they are all equally part of him.

Within the crime fiction area, Disher's work comes in two forms: the Wyatt series, which are thrillers, and the Hal Challis series of police procedurals. His work is strongly rooted in the northern region of South Australia (that's a province there), where his family has lived for generations.

I've just read my first of the Hal Challis series -- I chose SNAPSHOT. It turned out to be a gripping page-turner, where the emotional struggles of Challis and his police colleagues are as compelling as the plot twists. The title captures the complications raised by a set of sneaky photographs at a sex party, and the deaths that ensue. But it's also a good description for Disher's ability to seize a moment or situation in a person's life and spell out the physical and emotional intensity of it. Rarely have I read such a clear description of the complexity of modern life between and across genders in the workplace, for instance, as well as stresses among levels of authority. Here's a sample from the book:

Is McQuarrie simply waiting to be told the worst? wondered Challis, or does he know something that we don't? 'Whatever it is, we'll find it,' Challis said. You had to say things like that to your boss and a fearful public. He meant it, but he was saying it to shut McQuarrie up. Anxious to get going, he finished the conversation and returned to his office in CIU and a backlog of paperwork that owed plenty to the superintendent's cost-cutting measures. The budget destroys resources, Challis thought, the paperwork destroys time, and the jargon destroys reason.

SNAPSHOT maintained a jagged, relentless tension throughout, although I didn't feel any urge to make sure the doors and windows were locked, or to turn on more lights. Instead, I wanted, very much indeed, to know how each of the investigators would sort out the life issues that were being jacked up into pain and threat through the kind of work they did, the hours, the tragedies. Well worth reading, and I'll be fitting another Disher novel into my reading schedule as soon as possible.

Here's a list, for reference:

The Wyatt Series
Kickback 1991
Paydirt 1992
Deathdeal 1993
Crosskill 1994
Port Vila Blues 1996
The Fallout 1997

The Detective Inspector Hal Challis Series
The Dragon Man 1999
Kitty Hawk Down 2003
Snapshot 2005
Chain of Evidence 2007

Dave cautions that the Wyatt series has not been issued in the US; he's placing one Australian copy online tonight, and hopes to soon restock our shelf of the Challis series, though.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Fiction Set in Vermont, For Kids and Teens: Ann McKinstry Micou's Marvelous Guide

The Vermont Humanities Council just brought out its second comprehensive guidebook by Ann McKinstry Micou, A GUIDE TO FICTION SET IN VERMONT FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULTS. It's a marvel of Micou's comprehensive gaze over the wide range of such books, from Rose Lucia (a Montpelier school principal who wrote "readers" set in East St. Johnsbury around 1910), to Katherine Paterson (award-winning author of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA and many other beloved books, several of which are indeed set here), to Robert Newton Peck's classic A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE.

Particularly enchanting is the way the book can be read and plumbed from so many directions: from the initial listing by age of audience (first picturebooks and easy readers, then children's and young adult fiction); or by genre (science fiction or historical fiction or humorous or realistic or romance); by author name; by year of publication; even by "real location" (a great way to find fiction that's set near a child's own home). And collectors will appreciate the listings by award, too.

Micou's most scarce gift is her masaterfully honed ability to give a single long paragraph for each book, revealing plot and characters, rich with colorful detail, and narrated so well that reading through these summaries is almost as enjoyable as reading -- well, fiction! The book also spins an enchantment in its positioning of authors: The picturebooks section, for instance, begins with Jim Arnosky, Jay Avery, and Mary Azarian; if you've raised kids in Vermont (as I have), just the names tripping from the tongue bring back hours of fun and exploration and thoughtful pondering with children.

I did find a couple of items that raised questions in the Bibliography near the end, where author details are quickly brushed in. There are also some authors missing who have places of honor on my shelves (some of which just may not fit Micou's final criteria for inclusion). However, these are small flaws in such a comprehensive resource, and knowing already the kind of writer and reviser that Micou is, I expect she'll welcome any corrections and of course additions in the second edition, as she is already doing for her first volume from the Humanities Council, A GUIDE TO FICTION SET IN VERMONT.

And the best, most wondrous aspect of this two-volume set is exactly what Humanities Council executive director Peter Gilbert says in his Preface: "Both books encourage reading and life-long learning, and, by encouraging pride and connectedness with one's community and state, they also promote civic engagement."

In other words, there are so many books, so little time -- and Micou's guides to fiction set in Vermont provide the tools for choosing among them, broadening one's choices, and appreciating the riches she describes.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Post-Poetry: John F. Deane's Vermont Reading, 5/2

Galway Kinnell delighted the Northeast Kingdom poetry fanatics this evening by bringing to Vermont his friend John F. Deane, noted Irish poet and collaborator on behalf of the abolition of war. Deane gave an hour-long reading at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, with the wild wonder of Bierstadt's "Domes of Yosemite" rising behind him out of the darkness. Raised as a "militant Roman Catholic," Deane often shapes his poems around elements of the Mass, as well as its great works of music. I picked up a copy of his 2003 volume MANHANDLING THE DEITY, which opens each section with an Officium and braids into the sequence a "Processional," "Magdalene," even "Recessional" and "Canticle" (one of Deane's few happy poems, he confessed -- saying that in a nation of endless rain, he writes a happy piece about once in 14 years).

Enunciating carefully to keep his readers on track around the variation of an Irish way of speech, Deane noted that he expects poetry to change people's thinking, and gave generous descriptions of landscape, custom, and language. With his wife in the audience, he also delivered a love poem, "Late October Evening," which could have been spoken from a Vermont landscape too, and which concludes:

You and I drew closer still
in the fire’s glow, grateful this far
for love and friendship, while the low hill
melded with the dark and a perfect star

swung on its shoulder. When I turned back,
near sleep, to hold you, I could pray
our dead content again under black
sails, the tide brimming, then falling away.

Deane writes fiction and essays as well as his poems, and is a leader in Irish and European poetry organizations. His web site is well worth exploring:

If You Know a Kid Who Draws...

[Lemons, by Mark Leithauser]

Here's a quick recommendation for a book that David R. Godine brought out in 2007 but that I've just caught up with: TOAD TO A NIGHTINGALE by brothers Brad (the poet) and Mark (the artist) Leithauser. Its tongue-in-cheek poems, strongly rhymed, are accompanied by amphibians, flowers, birds, fruits, all in the warm personal style of the pen-and-inks that accompanied the children's books of a hundred years ago (Wind in the Willows, for instance). Give it to a boy or girl who can't stop drawing; see what the kids make of it. My guess is, they'll hunger to craft their own versions -- and may even begin to draft poems to go along with the images.

One of my favorite poems in the collection is "Gnu," which opens:

No news of gnus is good news, it seems clear,
Since anything you're apt to hear
Will deal in shrinking habitats,
Declining populations...

The Changing Face(s) of Black Sparrow Books

David R. Godine now uses the imprint for Black Sparrow (, with a poetry publishing corner that's somehow snugged up against the rest of his gorgeous books. Reliably well designed, with elegant pages and sturdy bindings, Godine's creations are a good sequel to John Martin's West Coast line.

New from the press is METROPOLITAN TANG by Linda Bamber, whose poetry and fiction have been widely published. This is her first collection, and it's full of urban portraits and sensory appeal. The opening of the title poem, "Metropolitan Tang," gives a good sense of the wide-eyed enthusiasm here:

Across the street
in the green-signed Alamo/National lot
a Greek Orthodox priest has just exchanged his high black
hat for a close-fitting beanie;
hugged a man in a purple parka
and driven off in sunglasses
flowing beard and robes.

I like that!
I like living someplace
people come!
bringing their beliefs.

Bamber's urban existence is occasionally punctuated by trips into the countryside, like the one with a woman friend that becomes a poem in memory of Grace, presumably Paley, and a poignant clinging to friendship: "The best writer living in America today," Bamber reports, "may well be a woman; but she won't be that / much longer, because, you told me then, / she's dying." Summer meadows are backed by winter cities; warm friendship by chilling death. Long views can be distressing, short ones sweet and even amorous.

In "Homage to Frank O'Hara" this university teacher of poetry and Shakespeare braids Thich Nhat Hanh, her own mother, and the New York School poet:

had lots of friends
and was always reading something choice.
His bed floated on a sea of books
into which
he trailed his hand when he woke up

for something to stay conscious for.

In fact, Godine's web site offers a shared compliment to O'Hara and Banber at once, from Tony Hoagland, who read the book in manuscript and continues to delight in it: "As a reader I have often wished, over the years, for a female poet in the style of [Frank] O'Hara: bopping but sincere, humanistic and grounded but exuberant and irreverent. Linda Bamber may be that person," he wrote.

I like in particular Bamber's swan dives into that sea of literature, splashy and bright: "Ulysses came home, and things got better," is the opening for her "Penelope." And she darts among ordinary moments of teaching, making love, and answering the phone, taking each one observantly and with gusts of laughter, sweeps of pleasure, dollops of irritation and realization.

Is she today's Frank O'Hara? Hmm. Worth reading again, thinking about that -- or not thinking about it at all, just enjoying this bright fresh collection. Thanks, DRG.

John Hart's DOWN RIVER Wins Edgar Award

Last night the Mystery Writers of America announced the 2008 book awards, and John Hart took "Best Novel" for his dark Southern crime novel, DOWN RIVER. Hurrah!

Kate Mattes of Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, one of our favorite shops, received her Raven award, Bill Pronzini became a GrandMaster, and Harlan Coben took over as new president of the MWA.

For a complete list of award winners, click here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Calendar Alert: Fanny Howe at Vt Studio Center, Friday May 16 (Date Changed!)

If you keep track of the poets coming to the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, you already know the center's schedule is subject to change. Gary Clark, director of the writing programs, just announced that Fanny Howe's open-to-the-public reading schedule has change and will be on Friday May 16 at 8 p.m. in the Lecture Hall on Route 15. I plan to be there for this often provocative California poet with strong Boston Irish roots.

Here's part of her entry at

Fanny Howe was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1940. She is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose. Her recent collections of poetry include On the Ground (Graywolf, 2004), Gone (2003), Selected Poems (2000), Forged (1999), Q (1998), One Crossed Out (1997), O'Clock (1995), and The End (1992).

Howe is also the author of several novels and prose collections, most recently, The Lives of a Spirit / Glasstown: Where Something Got Broken (Nightboat Books, 2005) and Nod (Sun & Moon Press, 1998). ...

Howe was the recipient of the 2001 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her Selected Poems.

For some lively insight into Howe's work and personality, check out Justin Taylor's correspondence interview with her.