Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hyacinth Girl Press and other updates

I've decided to start up a poetry chapbook micro press - Hyacinth Girl Press. I'll be printing 1-2 hand-bound chapbooks in the next year. The press plans to focus on bringing science and spirituality together, enjoys mythology, mysticism, and the avant garde, and hopes to look at all the aforementioned things through a feminist lens.

Submissions are open until March 31st.

Also! I'm still taking submissions for Make It So, which I'll be printing as a sort of preview of the kind of chapbooks I'll be making with Hyacinth Girl Press. There is some awesome-tastic ST:TNG poetry coming in, let me tell you, but I still need to read your poem about Captain Picard, Klingons, and/or Data's pet cat.

In other news, I'm currently working on a review of Sugar Means Yes and reading through the entirety of Loba. God, I love reading. I'm so glad that it seems like I've been able to pass on my love of story and word to my son - we read together every night and he loves to tell stories. He is also obsessed with outer space and can name all the planets in order, so he's well-rounded, too.

My favorite barista, Jen, is moving to central China to teach English. Go favorite barista! I will miss her insane levels of energy in the morning. Co-worker Phil and I are trying to think of something to get her. So far we're stuck at Target gift card.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Small notes of update

- I wrote my first poem of 2011 and sent out my first submission of 2011. I am quite pleased with the poem. I read it to my husband, and he loved it, too, but noted that if/when I publish it, it will make public something about myself that I'm a little iffy making a public thing. I think the trick, for this particular poem , will be the right venue of publication. I'm sorry I am not more specific. That is the nature of such issues.

- AWP is coming up and for the first time in what feels like a lot longer than it actually is I will not be attending. The reasons are multiple. Not enough money. Not enough motivation. Not enough reason. I'll miss it, to be sure, especially when everyone is tweeting/facebooking about how simultaneously awful and awesome the official dance parties are, but some of the friends who I go in order to see aren't going to be there, and DC is expensive, and I have a child in school, and blah blah blah. I was not upset about it, then I was really upset, then I was sort of upset, and now I'm not upset again. I've not been as active in the "literary world" in the past 365 days as I was during the 365 days before. The reasons are multiple. I am happier now.

- I love writing reviews for this blog. I think I might be getting better at it? You know who writes really amazing reviews and I am humbled by? Phoebe North. I was all proud of my skills, then I read her latest review. Har.

- I considered installing a hit counter on my blog, but then decided that I already make up enough reasons to be depressed without creating more for the sheer masochism of it.

- It is about the time of year when Winter issues of literary journals start pouring out. New Goblin Fruit is up (with amazing art/design in addition to lovely poetry, as always). PANK's latest print issue is heading out to contributors and their January online issue is up as well. Artifice just reminded me I need to renew my subscription. I have realized that, in spite of being all online-y I am not hip to the hippest online lit mags. I will rememdy this in the following year, but that is not a resolution, dammit.

- When will the weather be nice in Pennsylvania again? I'm not 100% certain I can wait 5 months to go camping and hike and take walks in my neighborhood and not be freezing my ass off every morning when I get in my car. Listen to me whine. Whine whine whine.

- If anyone knows where I can locate a good recipe for gluten free chocolate chip cookies, I will be very happy and will immediately throw away the monstrosities that I made last night. Good lord. Bob's Red Mill usually does all right, but not in this case. Maybe I'll start reviewing gluten-free baking mixes. I sure use enough of them, and seem to select them completely at random.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review - The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar

It's been a while since I have written a long review, and longer still since I have posted one on this blog. Amal El-Mohtar's The Honey Month has been waiting patiently for its turn to be reviewed, and at long last I have written.

The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar (Papaveria Press, 2010, 73 pp.) - Amal El-Mohtar has been making a name for herself in the science fiction/fantasy writing community over the past year or so, winning the 2009 Rhysling Award in the short poem category for her poem Song for an Ancient City, continuing to co-edit the journal Goblin Fruit (of which I am a rather large fan), publishing her poetry and fiction in multiple journals and anthologies (including two appearances over at Podcastle), and publishing her first full-length collection, The Honey Month.

The first thing you notice when you pick up The Honey Month is the gorgeous design and artwork. Amal is now connected in my head with the artist Oliver Hunter, who not only creates original artwork and design for most of the issues of Goblin Fruit, but has created cover art and beautiful interior color and b&w illustrations for The Honey Month as well (I want Oliver to illustrate my book!). Taking a peek at Papaveria's website I see that they specialize in small handmade editions of books, so it does not at all surprise me that the design for Amal's book (which is not handmade, I suspect in order to make it easier to have a much larger print run) has been done with exceptional care.

The concept behind The Honey Month is an intriguing one. I follow Amal's blog, and actually read the project in its first incarnation. A friend of hers had gifted her with a set of 28 different honeys and Amal decided to taste one honey each day for the entire month of February and write a response of some sort to each honey. Some responses were poems, others short fiction, and other a melding of the two. She posted the responses on her blog, much to the delight of those of us reading, and after the project's completion, ended up with a publication deal from Papaveria. I love the idea of writing "projects", though I'm not particularly good at timely follow-through (the chapbook I most recently finished took me 4 years to complete) and am extremely impressed by Amal's work on this lovely project of synesthesia.

Each piece is titled with the day, and the name of the honey sampled on that day (ex. Day 9 - Zambian Honey). Amal then describes the color of the honey ("Sunshine in Ottawa, and a little paler still"), the smell ("More than a flower, something else, something earthy and nutty and malty at once. Hints of green and smoke, substance") and the taste ("A burnt wood taste, hints of anise; this is a honey that tastes very brown and black, dark with slants of light in it"). In some cases, the descriptions were my favorite part of the day's piece. Amal's personality and voice come through remarkably well in these short lines.

The creative works that follow the honey descriptions range from 6-line poems to 4-page stories, and most of them carry the fantastical element found in much of Amal's work. I particularly enjoyed the very-short fiction that accompanied Day 25's Raw Manuka Honey - essentially a story of the regret of a woman who has given up freedom in exchange for stability (of course, with a magical twist), the playfulness of the story for Day 7's Thistle Honey, and the simple bittersweetness of the poem of Day 20's Blackberry Honey (2). Not all 28 offerings were as strong as these - there were a couple that I felt would have benefited from a bit of expansion - but then, I do not expect to love every piece when I read a book, and do have an admitted bias against rhyming poetry (which pops up once or twice in The Honey Month). However, each piece did (quite successfully) give me a greater sense of having shared in Amal's experience of the honey.

It was also particularly nice to see a collection that brought poetry and fiction by the same author together - too often the two are kept away from one another, and it was pleasing to have the chance to read Amal's poetry alongside her fiction. As a poet I am usually much more partial to poetry than fiction, but will say that I found myself as drawn in by the fiction in The Honey Month as I was by the poetry, by the evocative and lush language found in both.

Unfortunately, I did stumble across one or two typos while reading, but they were but a mild distraction and will perhaps be corrected in a second printing. Papaveria Press notes that with a future edition of The Honey Month they will be including a sample of one of the same honeys written of in the book. As I have no idea where one would obtain the honeys written of by Amal, I can't wait to see this idea developed.

On the whole, The Honey Month is a conceptually beautiful, well-written, well-designed book put out by a press that clearly puts great care into the artistry of their books, and written by an author I would love to see get attention not only from the speculative writing community, but from the literary community as well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Micro Reviews - Diane DiPrima and Juliet Cook

I'm still playing catch-up with review writing and not doing a terribly good job with it, honestly. I read a lot, then I got really sick, and now, because being sick for 3+ weeks means I didn't exercise in 3+ weeks I'm in that emotional funk that, for me, goes with it being winter and not exercising. It's an amazing cycle that gets me watching multiple episodes of The Office in one sitting rather than doing what I ought to do which is get off my butt and exercise.

However! Yesterday I briefly got off my butt and exercised for about 40 minutes (and could tell that it had definitely been almost a month since my last spin on the elliptical machine because at 40 minutes I was sweating way more than usual) and I read Planchette by Juliet Cook (pretty sure this is the last chapbook of hers I own and still had to read) and Loba, Part 1 by Diane di Prima (it's a first edition and I found it at Caliban Books a while ago. Very exciting. It does not exist on Goodreads.)

I'm not really sure how to deal with the awful funk I get into when I don't exercise regularly. It's amazing how that exercise, though, is more effective than therapy or medication ever were - you know, presuming I keep up with it. As someone who sits at a desk for 8+ hours a day, I don't really get much in the way of exercise unless I purposefully pursue it, and while when I'm on a roll with the exercise it is extremely easy to motivate myself to stay in the habit, but when illness hits me, after I recover I'm usually a bit down, and with that and lack of exercise comes a lack of energy and a vicious cycle that I really end up clawing my way out out.

Okay. Enough complaining.

Loba, Part 1 by Diane di Prima (Capra Press, 1973) - Diane di Prima is one of the most well-known women of the Beat movement and more people should really be reading her/knowing about her. Her poetry is beautiful - Crystal and I have performed her "More or Less Love Poems" at Kerouac Fest and for The TypewriterGirls Save the Libraries, always with an enthusiastic audience response. I've been meaning to read Loba for a while now and honestly, am a bit embarassed to admit that this is my first dive into the series. This was a great chapbook to start off 2011 with. Lately, I've been drawn more and more into shamanism, mysticism, and earth spiritualities and these things are hard to find in poetry that I also feel is well-written. These elements are certainly present in Loba, Part 1 as di Prima follows the Loba, an otherworldly she-wolf, through the book. Perhaps my favorite piece, though, was the one that opened the chapbook, a poem to the speaker's "lost moon sisters" - all the women who have lost their way, their sense of self, who the speak has not met, who the speaker mourns for. Definitely a poem that I will force my husband to listen to me read aloud. I am very very excited to read the complete Loba which is sitting on my shelf, waiting for me at home.

Planchette by Juliet Cook (Blood Pudding Press, 2008) - anyone who has read previous mini reviews by me knows that I love Juliet's poetry, and of course Planchette was no exception. Perhaps my reviews of Juliet's work should simply read "It was Juliet Cook. What do you think?". But no, I will be more descriptive than that. In this collection, I was particularly impressed with how well each poem fit together with the others. The entire collection was pale and haunted. There were hauntings of the body, hauntings of food, hauntings of dolls, hauntings of furniture, hauntings of spiders, and yes, hauntings of homes. I enjoyed how poems would reference one another, yet not be dependent upon one another in order to be understood and appreciated. I felt as though I was being lead through a tour of quiet madness by someone who, themself, was quite mad. As is always a strength in Juliet's writing, there is beauty in the grotesque of Planchette, and, I feel, a strong feminist undertone to her writing about women made pale with blood made thin and fingertips snipped off (though Juliet herself has told me she's been called everything from a radical feminist to an anti-feminist by those who have read her poetry). You can purchase a copy of Planchette at the Blood Pudding Press etsy store, as linked above, and I highly recommend it.

I am working on what I think is the title poem for my full-length collection. As of right now, that collection is one of poems on women of spiritual power, but we shall see how it evolves.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

the thing with feathers

No new reviews yet - I was sick for a little while last week (making it 3 straight weeks of illness altogether) and then a few friends came into town from Chicago and I spent the past 3 days with them and some amazing people from Pittsburgh and actually ignored the internet entirely for about 36 hours. It was beautiful.

New Years was so very interesting and lovely. I got phone calls from people who never call me. I cried twice. I braided someone's hair. I learned a song. I felt love.

I know the whole year won't be like this. I know difficult things will happen. I know I will not always be crying because I am grateful and I am being hugged by someone who has changed my life in ways I don't even understand yet. I also know that I have a husband who loves me, a child who I love, and more things to be grateful for than I could list here.

I dislike New Year's resolutions (does anyone really like them?) - I inevitably forget about them/fail at them. I do like hope, though, so here are my hopes for 2011.

- I hope that I can have radical spiritual experiences. I don't write about my spirituality much here - it's sort of a private, non-internet aspect of my life. However, I can say that in the past 4 years my spiritual journey has lead me back to a place that is closest to how I understood spirituality as a very young child, and this makes me more at peace than I think I've ever been.

- I hope that I can read more poetry.

- I hope that I can write more poetry.

- I hope that I can grow as a parent, as a partner, and as a woman.

- I hope that I can gain deeper understanding of myself and where I am most needed.

Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul,/And sings the tune--without the words,/And never stops at all - Emily Dickinson