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.