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.