Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Books and Chapbooks I read in 2010

Everybody's doing it!

I read a lot more books and chapbooks this year than I did last year. A lot more. Because I was editor of a literary journal last year, though, the volume of writing that I read probably went down a little bit. I'm okay with that.

Anywho - the list in no particular order and probably not completely complete!

1. Cyborgia by Susan Slaviero - one of my most recent reads and one that I am in the process of reviewing. Review preview - Buy This Book Now.
2. Soft Foam by Juliet Cook - In my top 5 reads for the year.
3. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut - My favorite book in high school. It is still awesome.
4. A Pint for the Ghost by Helen Mort - Another one that I need to finish my review of. Another amazing chapbook. I'd also put this one in my top 5.
5. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood - It may come as a surprise that before 2010 I had only read Margaret Atwood's poetry. I enjoyed this book a lot and will probably read the prequel very soon.
6. Pink Leotard and Shock Collar by Juliet Cook - I loved this chapbook, too. I love pretty much all of Juliet's poetry.
7. Glass City by John Grochalski - one of my most recent reads and a change up from my usual reading. I like change sometimes.
8. Instructions from the Narwhal by Allison Titus - Another top 5 read. You are all so unlucky to not be able to go buy a copy of this chapbook as it is sold out. So very unlucky.
9. Angel Face Trailer by Juliet Cook - Juliet Cook, love love love, etc.
10. Virginia is for Lovers by Karen Lillis - great story telling in poem series form.
11. The Spare Room by Dana Guthrie Martin - A top 5-er. Dana's poetry is amazing and you should be reading it right now instead of reading my self-congratulatory list.
12. Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties by Nicole Kornher-Stace - lovely chapbook. I do enjoy good fantasy poetry and hope the Goblin Fruit girls put another one out.
13. Exit Wounds by Kevin Finn - I got back in touch with Kevin this year and read his chapbook! Yay!
14. An Introduction to the Archetypes by Susan Slaviero - Susan is another one of those poets whose books you can just assume I am going to love.
15. All the Little Red Girls by Angela Veronica Wong - my copy has tragically gone missing. Lovely, often brief, poems.
16. Fabulous Essential by Niina Pollari - I also got to (briefly) meet Niina this year!
17. At Night, the Dead by Lisa Ciccarello - haunting and extremely well-written poems.
18. Maria Sabina: Selections by Maria Sabina - Amazing amazing amazing. Go buy this book now now now. Top 5.
19. Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25 edited by Naomi Shihab Nye - I'm in it but it still counts because I read it cover to cover.
20. How to Take Yourself Apart How to Make Yourself Anew by Aaron Burch - I think I may have scared him at the AWP with my enthusiasm for all things that he does in the literary world.
21. Manatee/Humanity by Anne Waldman - I got to meet Anne Waldman at the AWP, too! I don't think I scared her...
22 & 23. 2 volumes of the Selected Works of Margaret Atwood - I do love a good Margaret Atwood poem.
24. Natural Language edited by Renee Alberts - a collection of poetry by all the poets who have read at the Carnegie Library. I'm also in this one. Renee is pretty damn awesome.
25. The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar - I read this one on the way home from NYC a few weeks ago and really need to get on my review!

I also read about a metric ton of literary journals including but not limited to;

Versal (some day they will love me as I love them)
Goblin Fruit
Pear Noir!
GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator
Pedestal Magazine
Puerto Del Sol
Fairy Tale Review

and many, many more.

I hope I will read even more in 2011, though I am pleased to learn that, with just what I can remember off the top of my head, I read about 2 books a month. I'm already excited to read Sally Rosen Kindred's book No Eden and all the other amazing poetry I hope I will discover.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Micro Review - Glass City by John Grochalski

I picked this book up at about 5:20pm last Thursday and had it read by 8:00pm. How's that for speedy?

Glass City by John Grochalski (Low Ghost Press, 2010) poet, former editor of The New Yinzer, dude behind the counter at Caliban Book Shop, my favorite poetry reading host to shout obscenities at, and fellow Pittsburgher Kristofer Collins recently started up a new press venture called Low Ghost, and John Grochalski's Glass City is the second book to be published by the fledgling press. The first was Kris' own The Book of Names and I'm a bit cross with him for not being more all over the web with that information, but Kris is not as big a fan of the internet as I am, so there's that. Glass City is on the long end of what I'll read during my exercise stints coming in at 70 5x6.25 inch pages - very similar to a City Lights book. John is not a fan of the long line, so I was able to read it all aloud in a little over 40 minutes.

I would say that this book is a collection of poems about bardo, the liminal states we all find ourselves in at some point in life. In the particular case of Grochalski's narrator, he is in the in-between place of no longer feeling as though he is within his "youth", yet at the same time not wanting to take the step into what those around him seem to view as "adulthood" - children, office jobs, fancy gadgets, and a decided lack of Kerouac-esque road trips. In response, the narrator builds for himself his own waiting space - one of dingy-seeming bars, multiple bottles of wine, cheap beer, and urban wasteland where he reminisces about his life in Pittsburgh (There were a lot of Pittsburgh-location Easter eggs in this book. I got to say "I know exactly where that is!" more than a handful of times) while living in New York City, but without the desire to return to that former life and not being sure what might be the next step forward.

I have to say that from the place I'm in, personally, I sometimes found it difficult to relate to the narrator's fears. Consciously I understand them and had them myself at one point, but I kept wanting to tell the character "It's okay - I have a kid and I work in a cubicle and I'm more productive and awesome and bohemian than I ever was before I did either of those things - don't worry!"

My favorite poem in the collection, by far, was conversations with henry miller, a piece about a man the narrator sees on the subway and then proceeds to have an imaginary friendship with, complete with anecdotes such as - "rick's girlfriend would be named saffron/it would be annoying at first/but she'd be so down to earth my wife and i/would get over it". I really appreciated the realness of the relationship he builds up in his head with this person he never even speaks to, and the acknowledgement at the end of having absolutely no idea what it is to make a friend any more. These moments of self-knowledge are what shine throughout Glass City.

Thematically and tonally this was definitely a step outside of what I usually read and in many ways was a complete switch from the previous day's reading of Afterpastures by Claire Hero. That's part of what I love about chapbooks/short books and trying to set aside two or three 40-minute periods of time each week for exercising and reading - it has begun to allow me to step outside of the type of work that I am usually drawn to - this is, I believe, the 14th review I've written this year (they keep getting longer and longer. At this rate I'll have to drop the "micro" from the title soon.), and so at least the 14th short book I've read in that time. I've had to seek out chapbooks to read while exercising, and I really like where that's taken me as a reader.

So go check out Glass City and Low Ghost Press!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Micro Review - Afterpastures by Claire Hero

Afterpastures by Claire Hero (Caketrain, 2008) Caketrain is one of my favorite journals out there - Amanda and Joseph put together beautiful books full of lovely/weird/experimental writing, and I've never come away from an issue of Caketrain feeling let down. They also hold a chapbook contest each year, alternating between fiction and poetry, and in 2008 they published Claire Hero's Afterpastures. I read the chapbook once before when I first picked it up over a year and a half ago, and I recall feeling utterly lost on the first read-through. Not disliking the experience of being lost, per say, but being lost nonetheless. With this in mind, I selected this chapbook along with a few others to take a go at last night on my elliptical machine, reassuring myself that if I was too lost I could always just put the book down.

The first thing that struck me is that Hero's language is absolutely beautiful. She has an economy with words that I doubt I ever will, and I loved rolling each lovely one over on my tongue. There is certainly a dream-like quality to her work, a level of unrealness that perhaps tripped me up last time. In Afterpastures there is a strange and magical shifting between landscape and human body, human and wild beast, wild beast and domesticated, domesticated and wilderness, wilderness and urban landscape, and back to the human body again, each transformation crossing over into others. These themes, this transformative process, touched me this time in new ways. I loved watching the shifts and mutations of the speaker and her world throughout this book. I will say that there were still one or two places where I felt as though there was something going on that I had been left out of the loop on, but the sheer beauty of the out-of-the-loop-ness helped me drift through those spaces without frustration.

I highly recommend this chapbook, particularly if you're willing to spend some time getting to know it - it's well worth the knowing. It is presently out of print, but Caketrain often brings back books in a second printing or through free PDF versions on their website. I definitely would love to read more of Claire Hero's work (she has a full-length collection out from Noemi Press that I've linked to at her name) and am very glad I can back to Afterpastures.

Also! I am still on the lookout for more chapbooks to read and review! I've ordered a few this week, but would love suggestions for more - leave me a comment or drop me an email at myhyacinthgirl (at) gmail.com. I also have a couple full-length collections I'm working on longer reviews for, but those are longer in coming as they take longer to read and longer to write and cannot easily be finished on the elliptical machine.

Also also! Karen Lillis has added Virginia is for Lovers to her etsy shop! Yay!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Micro Reviews

I've got 3 reviews today, mostly because I read a lot and slacked when it came to review writing. Three very different poetry chapbooks by three awesome lady writers.

Instructions from the Narwhal
by Allison Titus (Bateau Press, 2007) I picked this chapbook up at Bateau Press’ table at the AWP this past year. I love the journal Bateau (it is one of the very few journals to which I always am sure to subscribe) and wanted to check out their chapbooks, all of which are selected through their annual Boom Chapbook Contest, which, I found out upon looking at their website for this review, is open right now. I believe it was Ashley Schaffer, the managing editor of Bateau, who directed me toward Instructions from the Narwhal, and for that I am in her debt. As you may or may not be aware I read these chapbooks aloud to myself while working out on my elliptical machine. I read through the entire chapbook in order (if I find myself unable to get through a poem or two I usually drop the chapbook and start on a new one) and I try not to go back and reread anything until I’ve read the whole chapbook once. Often I will reread poems silently later, but I try to base these reviews on the impression I get from these books from one straight through out loud read. This was extremely difficult with Instructions from the Narwhal, in part because the poems are complex and more interconnected and multi-layered than I think I’ve perhaps even realized yet, but mostly because they were just so goddamn good and I wanted to reread every single one as soon as I’d finished it.

The chapbook is broken up into two sections. The first is made up entirely of a series of poems with the overarching title of Instructions from the Narwhal, with subtitles for each piece. Now, in addition to being poems addressed to the audience from a pretty badass looking animal, this series of poems was absolutely lovely in that it seemed to mix magic and science, myth and history, man and nature, seamlessly and beautifully in its puzzle-like instructions. Narwhals live in cold northern waters, and a sense of the silence of ice and snow permeated this entire chapbook. Even the feelings of the words on my tongue seemed round and soft. Though there may have been a chilly melancholy to the poems, they were far from cold, and while the thread of each poem may have doubled back over on itself, twisted around, and run me through complicated sailor's knots, each poem seemed to be less a tangle, and more a complex and powerful spell. The second half of the chapbook shifted from the voice of the narwhal to the voices of men and women, but still with the chill of cold water and the silence of snow in them. In fact, it was not until the final poem in the chapbook that I felt sharp sound in the poems, like the snap after hypnotism. I don't know if I am doing a particularly good job of describing this, but I did feel as though I was discovering some soft mystery throughout Instructions from the Narwhal, and I can't wait to reread it and hopefully experience that sensation all over again. This chapbook is neck and neck with Soft Foam for my favorite read of 2010.

Angel Face Trailer by Juliet Cook w/translations into Italian by Letizia Merello (Blood Pudding Press, 2010) I've reviewed Juliet's work before, and if you've read those reviews it should come as no surprise that I greatly enjoyed Angel Face Trailer. The poems in Angel Face Trailer start out reading as a call for women to participate in the filming of what is to be a strangely sexual and exploitative film. With the eye for gross-beautiful imagery that I so appreciate in Cook's work, she describes women desired and devoured in this slim chapbook. In addition to some pretty awesome poetry, what's interesting and different about this chapbook is that Juliet's work has been translated into Italian by Letizia Merello. Now, being unable to read Italian I cannot comment on Merello's translations, but in spite of my only speaking and writing in English, I do firmly believe that poets should translate more work and read more poetry in translation. I also understand how difficult and time-consuming it is to translate poetry having worked on the translation of some Buddhist texts a couple of years ago. But whether you read Italian or not, Juliet Cook's Angel Face Trailer is definitely worth picking up - and, per Blood Pudding Press usual, it's a lovely art piece to boot.

Virginia is for Lovers by Karen Lillis (Words Like Kudzu, 2007) Virginia is for Lovers is not a collection of poems about a beloved so much as a chronicling of the beloved's absence. It is clear, in reading this collection, that Lillis is both a skilled poet and fiction writer. The poems are written in a narrative style and set up in such a way as to tell the story of a young woman, the man she falls in love with, his sudden departure, and, perhaps most prominently, her despondence at the void he has left in her life. One thing I noticed while reading this chapbook is that Lillis really has a way with endings. She knows precisely both when and how to end a poem, and I never felt like she rushed an end or tacked anything on unnecessarily. Lillis' main character falls passionately in love with a man who hops a train, and she spends the remainder of the collection trying to come to terms with what he has done - the why, the wherefore, and even the how. Each poem following his departure chronicles a way in which she experiences aloneness, though not necessarily loneliness. While a part of me wanted to see the collection end with the main character definitively "getting over" the man who abandons her, it is perhaps more honest what Lillis does - show how often, there is not a point where we turn a sharply defined corner but rather a slow process of the edges of things getting worn smooth.

Both Lillis' Virginia is for Lovers and Titus' Instructions from the Narwhal are sadly not available online at this time, and it doesn't seem that Titus' collection will be available again any time soon, which is truly a tragedy. Lillis, however, is in the process of putting together an Etsy shop for Words Like Kudzu, which I linked to the in the review, so Virginia is for Lovers might show up there!

In other news, after a bit of a dry spell I've had three poems accepted for publication in the past week! Hooray! Two will appear in New South, and the third in Barge Journal. I'm excited!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Whale Sound and more

A poem of mine, Things of the Earth, first published in Brink Magazine (and one of my earlier publications), was read by the lovely Nic Sebastian and posted on the website Whale Sound. You can take a listen here. There's also a link to the text posted on the site.

I really love what Nic is doing - the internet is such a place that can promote poetry not only through text but also through reading and performance. To me these are both very important aspects of a poem (see much of my work with the TypewriterGirls). However, very very few journals/lit venues take advantage of this. What Nic is doing is truly awesome because it is a collection, not of poetry text with reading, but poetry reading with text (if that makes any sense. I haven't had my coffee yet this morning).

Also, Nic has awesome taste and has published/read/posted a bunch of poets I simply love:

Sandra Beasley
Mary Biddinger
Juliet Cook
Juliet Cook again!
Crystal Hoffman
Dana Guthrie Martin
Sarah J Sloat
Sarah J Sloat again!

There are a couple of other journals I enjoy that also post readings of the poetry contained therein on their websites:

Goblin Fruit - Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica P. Wick edit this fantasy poetry 'zine and I kind of love it. Amal and Jessica have the poets themselves record the reading of their poems, and it's optional, so not all of the poems have an accompanying reading, but I very much enjoy having the chance to hear a poem in the poet's own voice. Their fall 2010 issue just came out a couple of days ago and 5 out of the 9 poems published in it are accompanied by readings. As a bonus, the website gets a new design with each issue, and the designs are simply beautiful, which most of the time is thanks to resident artist Oliver Hunter. Even if you aren't a fan of fantasy poetry you should really browse through the back issues just to see how lovely a literary journal's website can actually be. And if you aren't a fan of fantasy poetry Goblin Fruit might very well change your mind.

The Dirty Napkin - This journal is more traditional literary journal in content than Goblin Fruit. In order to listen to all of the readings you need to subscribe (a year is $16), but each issue contains a few pieces that can be listened to for free. They require that all accepted work be recorded, and do so over the phone, so sometimes the quality of the recordings is not quite as high as in Goblin Fruit or Whale Sound, but you are always guarenteed readings here, and I do like much of the work that they publish. You can check out their archives and listen to all the free readings there, too. I'm not sure how one gets ahold of the readings in the archive. Another really cool thing that they do is they select one piece each issue to be featured as the cover piece and have it written on a napkin and then photographed.

So go forth and listen to some bad-ass poetry!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Make It So - because you need more proof of my geekitude

A series of events, most of them in my imagination, have lead to the creation of Make It So - a collection of Star Trek: TNG-inspired poetry.

You know you are a geek, deep down. You know you've written your own Ode to Spot, your own Klngon epic poetry, your own Darmok and Jelad at Tanagra.

Get the deets below or at www.makeitsomag.blogspot.com

I've been writing poetry about Captain Picard since I was about 8 years old (no, you may not read it). Now I'm a grown-ass poet, and I still want to write poetry about Captain Picard. It turns out that a fair number of us poets do. So I'm doing what any sane person who reaches this conclusion would do - I'm going to put together a collection of what is sure to be the most amazing poetry in the Alpha Quadrant, a collection of poetry about Captain Picard, the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D, and their crew.

My goal is to get this fine collection of literature out by June 16, 2011, aka Captain Picard Day.

"Margaret, how may I contribute to this amazing collection?!" you are surely screaming at your computer right now. Well, let me tell you in my best Majel Barrett voice.

I will actually be editing this - I'm not taking everything that is sent my way. If you want your poetry to be considered for Make It So, please email me up to 10 poems in a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file by, oh, let's make it February 14th, 2011 for fairly obvious reasons. Send them to makeitsomag (at) gmail.com.

Now, for other things you're probably wondering about. Defying logic, Make It So will be a print collection, hand-made by yours truly. There might be an online version. It's a one-shot. Don't expect this awesomeness on a yearly basis. Also, it's Next Generation only. I don't want TOS, I don't want DS9 (though that's a thought for the future. Mental note.), I don't want Voyager (though if you sent me an amazing poem about the doctor I'd weep silently as I wrote your rejection), and I'll probably get Klingon on your ass if you send me poetry about Enterprise. It doesn't have to be set in the Star Trek world - it can mention Star Trek, use Star Trek as a metaphor, describe your dream in which Patrick Stewart featured (well, up to a point. ahem.), etc. No porn, please (unless it's really hilarious, but then I'll probably reject it anyway - but it will be a good laugh!).

Make it funny, make it serious, make me really really wish that we lived in the same city and could dish about our old fanfic together (shut up - you know you wrote some awesome self-insert fanfic in the 5th grade), but above all, make it high freaking quality poetry about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Bonus points for Klingon epic poetry with original text and translation.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm a bad blogger and I'm cool with it

Recently, I've had to come to terms with certain things. This past year has held a lot of growth for me as a person, and I've changed a bit. Not in ways I've expected, but in ways that have made me really damn happy.

1. I'm okay with being a quitter. - You know that stupid-ass phrase "Quitters never win and winners never quit!"? Bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. Only since I have realized the power and joy that can come from quitting have I truly become not a complete horror to be around.

2. I've begun to stop caring about "success" as a writer. - I got myself way too caught up in what would make me "well known", what would get me "recognized", what journals would be "good for my career". Ugh. Talk about needing an attitude adjustment. Thank Ganesha I've adjusted that crap. I'm a poet now. Which means I write poems. Period.

3. I really suck at blogging. - I don't update enough, I write whole entries and delete them, I don't comment enough on other people's blogs. Oh well. I'm not saying I'm abandoning this blog completely, but I've completely stopped stressing about when was the last time I updated. I really enjoyed writing the short chapbook reviews, and I'll probably do some more of those soon, but I also want to write longer reviews of a couple particular books, and sometimes when I'm exercising I really want to chatter at my husband. And that's cool.

4. That husband guy I mentioned is actually kind of important. - And by that, I mean really important. And by that I mean that he's the most important person in my life, tied with my son. He deserves my love, my time, my attention, and my care. I really wasn't giving him nearly enough of that. Now I am, and it's awesome.

5. I'm a very spiritual person, and yeah I'm a little new age-y. It's cool. - Up until about the second grade I just believed that reincarnation was what happened. I didn't question it at all until my parents took me to church and they told me I was wrong. That screwed up my world view for years. Then I became friends with a number of people who thought that all spirituality was weakness/a crutch. Now I'm more or less back to where I was when I was little, and I'm much happier. I believe in reincarnation. I love Ganesha. I don't meditate in the traditional sense but I treat writing poetry as communion. I think your cat might be enlightened.

So I'm happier now, I'm less stressed now, my relationships with my husband and with my son are stronger now, and I'm a poet. This pleases me.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Elliptical Poetry, furries, etc etc etc

There's been silence over here, but with good reason, I swear!! Last week I was deep in the throes of planning/rehearsing/freaking out over TypewriterGirls Gone Furry. All elliptical time was spent memorizing my lines. Pretty much all my time for about three days straight was spent memorizing my lines, really.

It was all worth it, though - in spite of some minor snags (which all shows have, really) the show went amazingly well. Pittsburghers appreciated it, furries appreciated it, Ohioans Mary Biddinger and Juliet Cook appreciated it, and my brother made a damn fine Sidney Crosby. Also, I wore a gorilla suit in 85 degree + weather and did not pass out. That was more or less an act of god. We had the largest turn-out that I believe we've ever had for a show, and at least ten people have approached me since the show to make sure we'll be reprising this performance for next year's Anthrocon.

Speaking of Anthrocon, I have to say, I do <3 me some furries. Every one that I met was nice and helpful and the ones in fursuits pretty much all let me pet their fursuit, pull their tails, and get pictures. I can't say I personally will be going furry any time soon, but I'll totally hang out downtown when they're back next year.

I'm finally feeling like I'm getting back into the creative swing of things a bit. I say that tentatively, because I haven't seriously worked on anything for so long that I was starting to question labeling myself "poet" (not really, but you know...), but some things have occurred that have pushed me back toward my writing space, which is a space that I need to be in. I love writing and am at my happiest when I am writing and creating. I wonder if my discontent over the past 6 months had more to do with not writing and less to do with any other factor in my life.

A chapbook project I've been working on off and on over the past 4 years is taking off in my mind again. I used to be worried about some of the content, but I'm not now. If you want a small preview of my new old project, check out the newest issue of Pear Noir! - it's got three poems in it from this project, and I'm pretty darned excited about them. With that said, I was on the elliptical machine for 50 minutes yesterday (in spite of Ben's best efforts to distract me) and I read some of that issue of Pear Noir!

Pear Noir! #4 (Summer 2010) - One really great thing that I must say about Pear Noir!'s fourth issue is that it has an amazing sense of cohesion. I find that to be a very difficult thing to find in a literary journal - they're usually much more scattered than, say, a single-author collection or themed anthology, but the folks over at Pear Noir! pulled it off. There's a gritty darkness to every one of the pieces I read (even one about baking a pie). There is some weird shit in here. There's a fiction piece called The Robot Vampire Lioness, and yes, it is odd, off, and borderline-ridiculous (okay, maybe it did a flying leap over the border), but I liked it nonetheless, in that "what the fuck am I reading? This is absurd!" kind of way, and isn't that the best way, in the end? Go get yourself some Pear Noir! and not just because I'm in it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Readings, Reading, and Furries

No elliptical poetry lately, not because I've been slacking on the exercise front, but because I was in New York City all last weekend for performances with the TypewriterGirls, so no elliptical machine there (though Crystal, Sneaky, and I did do yoga in Central Park and danced like maniacs two nights in a row!), and this week I used the elliptical machine but read something that I wasn't a huge fan of (a couple of times, upon finishing a poem I exclaimed "Really?! Really??!!") and, while I understand the "necessity" of writing a not-glowing review every so often, this was not a particular piece that has yet received much in the way of reviews, and I would hate to be the jackass who reviews the piece first and it's, well, not particularly nice. Also, I don't see myself as knowledgeable as I could be about this particular kind of poetry, so there's that, too. I might just be missing something.

Part of the reason I've been loving everything I've read up until now is that it's been selected entirely by me. They're chapbooks by poets or presses that I know I appreciate, small parts of it is work I've read before when it was previously published in literary journals. No one has asked me to do these reviews or sent me books for free. I bought all of them with my own money (with one or two exceptions) because I knew I would think they were awesome. So there's that.

I'm doing a reading tonight! At 7:30pm I'll be joining the super-talented Karen Lillis and Margarita Shalina (who's in all the way from New York City) at ModernFormations in Garfield. I'm very pleased that they asked me to read - Karen and Savannah (the other woman who runs the series - Seasonal Shorts) are both amazing ladies who add a lot to the poetry/reading scene here in Pittsburgh with their writing and with the multiple projects they both work on.

Also coming up next weekend is TypewriterGirls Gone Furry!! Crystal and I have busted our butts over this show and we have some spectacular performers. Anthrocon is coming to Pittsburgh, and what better way to find an excuse to hang out with the furriest than to do a show less than a block from the convention center?

Friday, June 11, 2010

TypewriterGirls NYC Weekend!

Crystal and I have been fortunate enough (and have busted our butts enough) to perform in New York City twice now, once at the Bowery Poetry Club, and the second time at the Cornelia Street Cafe, and this weekend we will again be heading to that mecha of everything to perform at the Figment Festival on Governor's Island and at the Second Saturday Staten Island event with a lovely Dada group Day de Dada.

Because we're awesome, we'll be leaving Pittsburgh after Ben's graduation from preschool ceremony at about 5:30pm, and hope to arrive in New York City by 1am and hunt down some karaoke, because we're rockstars like that. We'll be coming home Monday evening, hopefully with tales of glory and poetry awesomeness, as well as with a case of whiskey, kindly donated by Tuthilltown Spirits for TypewriterGirls Gone Furry.

I'm excited to go on a little road trip and perform in New York again! Also to get some tasty New York sweets. I have yet to find a bakery that I truly love here in Pittsburgh. Oh, the tragedy of it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Elliptical Poetry, Part 5 (1 of ??)

So I'm trying something new - I've decided to attempt to read a full-length book of poetry while on the elliptical machine. Of course, I can't be exercising for the hours that this would take, so I'll be reading a bit at a time. I'll probably go back and forth a bit - I've been enjoying chapbooks too much to let them go for more than a couple days. We shall see how it goes. Monday (yes, it's taken me that long to post this) I was on the elliptical machine for about 50 minutes, but I would guess that only about 20 of those were devoted to reading, the rest to chatting with Mihnea and Ben.

Manatee/Humanity by Anne Waldman (Penguin Poets, 2009) I got to see Anne Waldman and Gary Snyder read at this year's AWP and it was pretty fantastic. Quite different performances from two legendary poets. Of course I got in line for the book signing, and of course I paid a slightly inflated price so I would be able to grin like an idiot and ask Anne Waldman to sign my book (which she did, quite graciously - both she and Gary Snyder were extremely kind). So it is to my shame that only now have I cracked open Manatee/Humanity and gotten past the introduction. My excuse is that, because this book is based on the Kalachakra, I was hoping to read it with Mihnea. I got through the first two sections of the first part of the book on Monday - about 12 pages. Now, what I am about to say, I say in all seriousness - it is fascinating to read this particular collection while planning a TypewriterGirls show about furries. In the section that I've read so far, Anne Waldman is looking at the lines between humanity and the animal kindgdom, as well as what makes us the same. She purposefully blurs the animal with the human and sets her reader in the position of questioning why we treat animals so differently, so horribly, after all. While I will say that, for the most part, I do not see furries as a philosophical movement, I do find that desire to become an animal most intriguing, and not necessarily a deplorable thing. I'm very interested to continue on reading this book.

Yes I did just take one step from Anne Waldman to furries. What of it?

God I hope Anne Waldman isn't reading this...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Elliptical Poetry Part 4

I can feel life beginning to even out, new routines beginning to take hold in my mind, and my body responding joyously to the combination of warm (if not sunny these past two weeks) days and exercise.

On the exercise front, I danced like a maniac on Friday, and on Sunday I walked a lot with Crystal and then hopped on the elliptical machine for about 26 minutes. Saturday was lazy/drowsy/hang out with Mihnea day. And it was good.

Of course, while elliptical-ing I read one chapbook.

1. The Spare Room by Dana Guthrie Martin (Blood Pudding Press, 2009) What can I say, really? I love Dana's writing. I also think she is a beautiful being. Read her blog a bit and you will (I believe) see why. These poems were heart-wrenching (and I say that in the least ironic way possible), disturbing, confusing (and I say that in the best way possible), and lovely. Dana was one of the very first (possibly the first) poets I solicited for the first issue of Weave, and I desperately wish she lived closer to Pennsylvania and I could bring her to Pittsburgh for a TypewriterGirls show. I was particularly tickled to see my absolute favorite of the pieces we picked for Weave featured in The Spare Room. I love the way she uses pauses, breaks, and delineation in her work, visually and within the text. I read everything by Dana that I can get my eyeballs on. You should, too. Unfortunately, this particular chapbook is sold out, so it's another one where you'll have to borrow from an obliging friend.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Elliptical Poetry Part 3

After a tragic weekend, during which I thought the elliptical machine was broken, lost to me forever, my husband Mihnea has used the magical powers of superglue, and we're back!

Yesterday I was on the elliptical machine for 52 minutes and I read two chapbooks!

1. Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties by Nicole Kornher-Stace (Goblin Fruit, 2009) I love Goblin Fruit - it's one of my favorite online journals, for its content, for the amazing layouts designed special for each issue, and for its offering of audio recordings of the work published in its virtual pages. When I heard they were making their first foray into the world of printed publications last year, I lined up to get my copy of Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties. I hadn't read much (any) of Nicole Kornher-Stace's work before, and I think this is because she is more part of the fantasy/sci-fi community of writers - one I often gaze at from afar, but have not delved into, perhaps, as much as I ought. These poems are about what happens off-stage in fairytales - the experiences of the women and men who marry otherworldly creatures, have children with them, and watch those children grow up. There are four poems in the collection titled "The Demon Lover's Child Grows Up" which form the main story arch of the collection, each one documenting the life of the son of a human and demon lover, which are quite well-done - Nicole has quite a voice. If you have any inclination whatsoever toward fantastical poetry, I would definitely recommend this chapbook.

2. Soft Foam by Juliet Cook (Blood Pudding Press, 2010) Before you even read this (tiny) review, I need you to go purchase this chapbook. Immediately. I'll wait. Okay. I am going to go ahead and assume you did as you were instructed, and now I'll tell you why. From the very first poem, Semi-Extraneous Consort (page 12 of the link), I knew I was going to adore this chapbook. I think, sometimes, that Juliet (or at least the persona Juliet writes in) and I have some of the same neurosis. I feel like she gets me and all the fucked up little things that go through my head. Much of this chapbook is a meditation on life and death - particularly that of of the speaker's husband's previous wife, who, it is revealed in the chapbook, has died. I, too, am my husband's second wife, and while his previous wife is not dead (and is a lovely person - I don't wish such things upon her in the least), when we first got together it felt different from him just having ex girlfriends. I feel like Juliet has an acute understanding of this and paints this relationship that her speaker has with her husband's dead first wife in such a painfully beautiful way that I couldn't put the chapbook down. I had some serious "goddamn! I want to write like this!" moments while reading Soft Foam. All the poems were, as I've now come to expect from Juliet, a treat to read aloud. I had some serious fun while elliptical-ing. Add in some creepy/lovely sea creatures, and you have my favorite chapbook I've read so far this year, hands down.


I haven't done any of my own writing since my last update, though I did have my son (birthday party, Kennywood trip, and kid shopping extravaganza) all weekend, so that seriously cut into all of my "me time". Things have been in a bit of an upheaval/shift mode in my life lately. I'm attempting to re-organize pretty much everything, and it's been a rather horrendous process in some ways. In other ways it's been great for me, but the in-between time is never easy, and that whole "figuring out what you really need to be doing/want out of life" thing is hard. Go figure.

I'm also trying to dress better. I got extremely lazy with my clothing over the past few months - I think it all started over the winter, though. Then I bought a new skirt and shirt and realized how fabulous I looked for once when my friend Damien was in town a couple weekends ago. It was a big wake up call in regards to how utterly blah I had let things get. So, over the past two weeks I've also been trying to dress cute, look at my closet from a new angle, and read some fashion blogs (yes, you read that correctly - but not big scary corporate ones - the little ones by people with budgets like mine) and today I would almost venture to say I look stylish. Mihnea commented upon my elevated levels of cuteness before I left the apartment this morning. Even co-worker Phil noticed that I'm not dressing like I don't have light in my closet any more. Progress!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Elliptical Poetry Part 2

41 minutes on the elliptical machine last night and two chapbooks. This time we had more of a gender balance; Kevin Finn's Exit Wounds, and Susan Slaviero's Introduction to the Archetypes.

1. Exit Wounds by Kevin Finn (Amsterdam Press, 2009) I wrote poetry on bar napkins with Kevin Finn at Gooski's in Polish Hill back in the day (5 years ago). We had great fun, and I have any number of hilarious Kevin Finn stories that have followed. He's a weird guy, and, as it turns out, is a pretty darned good poet with or without dive bar napkins involved. The poems in Exit Wounds almost universally dealt with themes of decay of one kind or another - urban decay, decay of the mind, decay of nature, and so on. There's also a certain mournfulness in the voice of these poems - a sense that he's not sure that what he is telling you is the truth, but it certainly is his truth. If you are in the Pittsburgh area and get the chance, I highly recommend seeing Kevin read - I promise he'll tell at least one story that you will be telling your friends for years to come. I can vouch for this. As can my friends.

2. An Introduction to the Archetypes by Susan Slaviero (Shadowbox Press, 2008) Another beautiful chapbook that has sold out since I purchased it (bwahahaha!), but that I, shamefully, had not read in its entirety yet. I have always loved how Susan takes archetypal/mythological/fantastical women and shows us another side to them - not one that is a stranger to or devoid of the magic we imagine that they possess, but rather one that gives them the face that we know each person in this world has - one with small things in their lives and thoughts of that which is other than what they symbolize. I loved reading each of these poems aloud (even if there was a collating error toward the middle of the book and I got a bit confused for a moment), and really wish that Chicago and Pittsburgh could migrate closer to one another for a little while so I could go see Susan read. One of the poems in this collection had been published in Weave's first issue, and it made me extra-happy to get to that poem. Next up - Susan's full-length collection which currently resides in my purse/2009 AWP bag! An Introduction to the Archetypes is another chapbook to beg from a friend, if you have giving friends who are Susan Slaviero fans. And you really should.

A few quick notes concerning elliptical poetry: 1. Elliptical poetry is not a super-close reading of any of the work in these chapbooks - it's an attempt to see what I get out of these books in an out-loud read through while exercising on my elliptical machine. Poems rarely get more than one read, and with only a one-time out-loud read through, I'm sure I'm missing a lot. Don't take any of my rambling as super-serious critique. Read the books.

2. Elliptical poetry has already hit a major snag! The elliptical machine is malfunctioning - one of the pieces falls off if I hold onto the right-hand bar (I've been "fixing" this by holding on only with my left hand and holding poetry in the right. Shhhhhh!) and as my elliptical machine, per google, stopped being manufactured in 1998, a spare part is probably not forthcoming. The husband and I are already scouring craigslist for another <$100 machine.

3. This "project" (presuming something I've done 3 times may be termed that) has already begun to have one of the desired effects! I hadn't written anything in quite some time, and had hoped that reading poetry would help. In the past 6 days I've done 5 pages of freewriting on my new typewriter, Judith. Success? Time will tell.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Elliptical Poetry

So, after months of complaining that, as an editor, I don't get to read a nearly high enough ratio of good poetry, and after months of complaining that my ass is expanding by the week, I've decided to kill two proverbial birds with one stone: I'm going to use my elliptical machine at least twice a week, and read poetry that I've been meaning to read forever while on the elliptical machine. I'll post what I've read here (hopefully), and maybe say a little bit about each book/chapbook/fistful of papers that I read.

Sunday's elliptical poetry consisted of three chapbooks. I was on the elliptical machine for about 45 minutes, and read each of the chapbooks aloud in the following order:

1. Pink Leotard & Shock Collar by Juliet Cook (Spooky Girlfriend Press, 2009 - $3) While it's awesome that this chapbook is sold out (only 25 copies were made, and I'm pretty sure that those of us who are familiar with Juliet's poetry snatched them up pretty quickly back in July), it's also sad, because this short chap (10 poems altogether) was by far my favorite of the three to read aloud. Juliet has a great ear for sound and that really comes through in the poems in this collection - "Purple Speculum" in particular was fun read-out-loud poem. She unsettled me more than a few times, and often those were the same times I found myself nodding in agreement and understanding as I read. I can't wait to meet her and to hear her read next month when she comes into Pittsburgh for TypewriterGirls Gone Furry. I would highly recommend picking this up, but as it is no longer available, I suggest borrowing it from a friend who was lucky enough to snag a copy.

2. All the Little Red Girls by Angela Veronica Wong (Flying Guillotine Press, 2009 - $8.50) This gorgeously designed chapbook was probably the most thematically strong of the three. Wong brings together, in a beautiful/disturbing/oddly loving way the themes of pregnancy/childbirth and Red Riding Hood being devoured by and then freed from the wolf. I loved, loved, loved "The Aftermath", which closes out the chapbook. Some of the poems were a little too short for my tastes - or rather, there were too many very very short poems all in a row at certain points, and this was possibly accentuated by my attempts to read the chapbook aloud, straight through. Like Cook, Wong has a wonderful grasp on sound in her poetry and I will most definitely be seeking out more of her work.

3. Fabulous Essential by Niina Pollari (Birds of Lace, 2010 - $5.00) I've been following Niina's blog and her poetry for the past two years or so, and, as I expected I would, greatly enjoyed Fabulous Essential. One thing I really appreciated about this collection was how Pollari seemingly effortlessly included within her poetry bits of modern technology/social media in such a way that was non-intrusive and that would certainly not lead me to say that she was attempting to write a pop culture poem or a poem about technology and modernity. I think sometimes poets have difficulty with things like that; mentioning the television and email without the poem becoming about those things. A fine read to finish out my elliptical time with.

On Thursday I read aloud The Mushroom Valeda and about half of The Folkways Chant from Maria Sabina: Selections (University of California Press, 2003) by Maria Sabina, which actually took longer than reading all three of the above chapbooks combined. My husband and I have a Maria Sabina project in the works and I will write more on her later.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Alive!

Dave Bonta over at Via Negativa read Barefoot and Listening as part of his "book a day" challenge for National Poetry Month!

Read his thoughts (which made me smile lots) right here!

Thank you, Dave!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

National I-haven't-written-a-damn-thing-all-month Month

You know, I could make a million excuses about the AWP, about how Weave is in that period of crunch time leading up to our next issue's debut, about how I've got approximately eleventy billion TypewriterGirls shows this spring/summer starting this week (you should come to some of them!), about how I'm trying to spend more time with my long-suffering husband and child, but the truth is that I'm just a lazy fuck.

I have ideas - a plethora of ideas. Ideas are not poems.

I might be heading out to the Grand Midway Hotel this weekend. That usually forces me to write. Ah, old haunted hotel in a dead coal mining town - what would I do without you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pretty much an entry where I geek about the awesomeness of other editors

AWP was, of course, a fantastic time. I always worry about it and then it's always in the top ten favorite weeks out of the year. I realized while I was out there that I absolutely love other editors. Matt and Roxane of Pank are lovely, lovely people - they put so much work and time and energy and awesometude into Pank and it really, really shows. I endeavour to be more Roxane-and-Matt-ish.

Also, shout out of Aaron Burch of Hobart (who I may or may not have creeped out by declaring "oh my god, be my new best friend!" mid-panel). I certainly hope that he is able to make it out to Pittsburgh and read his amazing work at a TypewriterGirls show in the future. I was gunning for his presence at TypwriterGirls Gone Furry, but we shall see.

Bill and Lisa of Slack Buddha are also on my The AWP Would Have Been Significantly Less Awesome Without You list. They made the TypwriterGirls show at the Mercury a fun time. Lisa is one sexy whiskey runner. Also, good at quieting down a drunk and rowdy audience.

Also! Ohmygoodness! I got to meet Yusef Komunyakaa, who has been my favorite poet for about ten years. He was gracious and very kind and he signed my book happily and was touched when I told him that reading his poetry about the Vietnam War has made me feel closer to my father and he's going to be in Pittsburgh this year!!!! I'm really hoping that, if nothing else, they will need volunteers to help out with that reading. 'Cause I'll be first in line.

Also also! I got to meet Anne Waldman (who is lovely and sweet, too) and Gary freakin' Snyder! Gary Snyder. For reals. More book signing occurred. More rambling by me. More gracious and kind reactions from totally awesome famous poets who are probably used to fangirls like me at this point.

At some point I'll make a more substantial post wherein I talk about Deep Things regarding writing and poetry - but for now, people are awesome. Editors are awesome. I love Yusef Komunyakaa, Anne Waldman, and Gary Snyder. Yay, AWP.

Monday, March 29, 2010

On the radio!

I had the great honor and pleasure of being part of an interview on The Moe Green Poetry Show with Naomi Shihab Nye and two of the other lovely poets in Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25.

I didn't ramble too embarassingly, I don't think, though I did babble a tiny bit about Facebook (ah, the youth of today!). I also talked about my ex-boyfriend's cat. And Mihnea's ex-girlfriend's cat. And the universal cat. It totally applied to poetry. For real.

Some semi-intelligent things came out of my mouth too, about the concept of the other in the anthology, and I might have called Naomi the nicest poet ever (I stand by this statement).

Also, Naomi Shihab Nye called my poetry edgy. I've wondered before if I'm an edgy poet...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm a little sick today, but that's not going to stop me! I feel better than I did yesterday and am going to trust that a good night's sleep tonight will fix me right up.

Tomorrow my super-talented friend Crystal Hoffman and I will be heading to New York City to perform at the Dada Poetry Salon at the Cornelia Street Cafe. Crystal is my partner in crime for the TypewriterGirls, and is an amazing poet to boot. (You can read her poetry in Weave issue 01 - only 7 copies left!, FRiGG, and soon in A cappella Zoo's sure-to-be-fabulous 4th issue! I do love A cappella Zoo. If you order issue 4 by March 20th you can get a free copy of issue 1, and, lo and behold, that's the one I'm in! It's the TypewriterGirls Special!)

In less than a month the AWP will be upon us. Weave and the TypewriterGirls will both be heading to this writer party to end all writer parties. Weave will be sharing a table with Open Thread, Caketrain, Pear Noir!, and a couple other Pittsburgh literary lovelies and I will be speaking on the panel The In Sound from Way Out: From Submission to Publication along with editors from Pank, Hobart, Lumberyard, and Bateau. It's way more fun and awesomeness than should be allowed on a Thursday morning, quite frankly.

That very same day Crystal and I will have to crash in some famous poet's hotel room for a nap (we're thinking Gary Snyder), because Thursday night the TypewriterGirls are performing at the Mercury Cafe along with an eclectic array of poets, including TypewriterGirls favorite, Sandra Beasley! Yay! Come witness TypewriterGirls Do Dead Poets - we promise to be entertaining. Also to give you whiskey.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just a very quick post to say...

...the anthology's out!

Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25 edited by Naomi Shihab Nye

I'm in there along with a whole bunch of other super-talented ladies and gentlemen. I actually haven't received my contributor copy yet, but I've seen a copy and it is quite lovely. A local bookstore has already agreed to carry it. Hooray and joy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


It's snowing here in Pittsburgh again. If I look to my right and crane my neck a bit I can watch it fall against the backdrop of the red brick office building across the street from my red brick office building.

I want it to snow and snow and snow and snow and never stop.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The TypewriterGirls Save the Libraries video footage!

At long last there is video footage of the sketches from The TypewriterGirls Save the Libraries!

I'm especially happy with how these came out. Really, who can resist pink footie pajamas, the cell poeterrorism organization, 1970's Romanian communist party films, and bad monkey fun houses all in the name of saving the Carnegie Libraries?

The numbers on the videos themselves are a little messed up -- the order they are in below is the order which they appeared in during the show.

This show features acting and writing not only from the lovely Crystal Jean Hoffman and acting by myself, but also the writing and acting skills of the very-talented Sean Collier. Also some narration by Dave Doyle, who is an official TypewriterGirl. Also a guest appearance by the lovely Franco Dok Harris, who puts up with my and Crystal's shenanigans quite graciously.

So watch! Enjoy! I'm still working on that entry on mentorship.