Wednesday, July 04, 2018

My 2018 Poets Crush 6 Pack

It's an annual thing, my Poets Crush List. I'm back to let you know once again who is on my mind. Not an easy task when there are so many wonderful wordsmiths out there and I am sure there are likely many that would perhaps be on this list were they not yet on my radar.

This year's six-pack is all women. I probably read a disproportional number of women versus men poets anyway, I have had some incredibly accomplished men on my lists in the past.

For now, these are six poets that are rocking my world!

Francesca Bell caught a lot of attention with her poem I Long to Hold The Poetry Editor's Penis in My Hand.  I mean it's hard to overlook a good penis poem. Bell, however, holds a special place in this poet's heart because her talent has come without a formal writing education background. Reading her work you would never know it. She has carved out a very successful non-traditional road on her poet journey.  Her publication credits are lengthy and include River Styx, North American Review, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Crab Creek Review to name a few. She has had at 6 Pushcart Prize nominations and been a finalist in several notable poetry awards.
Francesca Bell

In December of 2014 Bell had five poems published in Pank that are riveting.  They touch on the delicate subject of children sexually abused by priests. These poems underscore something about Bell that  I especially appreciate in a poet, a fearlessness in writing. I want to write as fearlessly as Bell does. Who wouldn't, but it is not easy. In her poem Regrets, she talks about undressing every emotion and how silence is a too-tight dress I can't wait to escape. She is genuine. Her writing has a depth that can be peeled back like layers of an archaeological excavation, or she can turn one her humor on the page and entertain you.

Another remarkable thing about Francesca Bell is her translation. She translated the book A Love That Hovers Like a Bedeviling Mosquito by the Palestinian poet Shatha Abu Hnaish along with Noor Nader Al A'bed. This book is a collection of largely tender verse that  I often go to and reread parts of each night before I go to sleep.

Bell has a book titled Bright Stain that will be out in Spring 2019 by Red Hen Press. Just in time for AWP in Portland.

Laura Kasischke is a writer that I met as a reading in Kansas City more years ago than I can remember. What I do recall was her book Gardening in the Dark I fell in love with the poems in this book instantly. Hearing some in her own voice, I would reread them and her voice still resonated. I loved that the poems often would take the usual and make it quite unusual. I could not wait for more poems by this poet I had stumbled onto a reading.
Laura Kasischke

I for more of her work, another book, and what I found was White Bird in A Blizzard. It was a novel, I wasn't into reading novels at the time and thought to myself, why is she cheating on poetry?  I enjoyed the book but it wasn't poetry. I did find similarities in her language but Kasischke fell off my radar for a while and unbeknownst to me, she was busy writing. (my loss)

When her book Where Now- New and Selected Poems came out it was over 350 pages of poems. I was in heaven. I reacquainted myself with her work and was enthralled. My dog-eared copy of Gardening in the Dark could get a bit of a rest.  It was her, "...the eye maker, voice maker, the maker of stars, of space, of comic surprises."  Sometimes dreamlike, sometimes magical,

Kasischke was awarded a Pushcart Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award in 2011 and has many other distinguished awards and has had three of her novels made into movies. Another poet rocking my world this year.

Victoria Chang
Victoria Chang has written several books that I own. Circle (her first I believe), Salvinia Molesta, The Boss and her latest Barbie Chang. I met Chang in Kansas City at a reading and have always kept my eyes out for new work from her.

I've always viewed Chang as a very cerebral poet. This especially came through in her last two books, The Boss and Barbie Chang. Her wit come through in her poems that always seem to find a way to mix seriousness with just the right quantities of humor.

Tackling issues in the workplace, and feminism in culture, she is especially skilled in form and metaphor, She has a large toolbox and plenty of language to make her writing both pleasurable and meaningful.

Barbie Change came to me as a bit of a surprise, but it shouldn't have. With The Boss, (awarded the 2014 PEN Award) I felt Chang was able to successfully carry a very concise theme through the whole book and keep her ideas fresh and meaningful.  She has nailed this with Barbie Chang as well. I feel it 's one of the best blends of popular American culture and poetry. Victoria Chang is a Rockstar Poet!

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is yet another poet I met at a reading in Kansas  City. (hint: poets out there, if you haven't read in Kansas City, you need to start planning. I had a couple of Naz's (for short) books already. Miracle Fruit and At the Drive-In Volcano. At AWP in Tampa this spring I ran into Amiee and got her to sign my copy of her news book Oceanic,  which has been all the rage.

Nezhukumatathil has a skill not everyone has. Her superpower may well be writing about the most mundane in a way you would argue with me and say, "there is nothing mundane about a C-section scar, a manicure or a valentine."
Amiee Nezhukumatathil

In person, her voice is very soft spoken but as she read her poems you will see her eyes sparkle with delight. She is a gentle person, but her poetry is built from an amazing word bank.  She's a walking encyclopedia of natural history. Plants, fish, birds, she's on a first name basis with them. That doesn't mean she will not know their scientific name. Oh no, she's on top of that too.

The beauty of Oceanic is what is found from the ocean to the sky above; life.

Amiee Nazuhukumatathi is another poet rock star!

Rachel Mennies is back. She was on my 2016 Crush List. I've had only a handful of repeaters before.  Mennies wrote the book The Glad Hand of God Points Backward.,which I read that year. While I was captivated by her book I have seen a number of her poems since then and I I view her work much the same I do Francesca Bell's. Boldly honest and cutting.

Mennies has had poems appear in the Adroit Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Drunken Boat, Nashville Review, DIOLOGIST, Crazyhorse,  and Waxwing Magazine to name a few.

I met Mennies this Spring in Tampa at AWP and attended one of her panels. She impresses me as the real deal when it comes to poetry. She supports other writers - believes in a sort of literary stewardship and seems to stay abreast of things. She participated as a mentor in one of the earlier  AWP Writer to Writer sessions. A wonderful program I might add.

Mennies' writing style is the kind of forward-looking, authentic, uncut, writing I love and wish I could be turning out myself. almost everything I have seen of hers in the last 6 to 10 months has been poetry that makes me want to stand up and say, "That's what I'm talking about!"  She is once again, rocking my poetry world!

Beth Ann Fennelly is another poet who I've had the opportunity to hear read in Kansas City. She is also a repeat Crush Poet from 2012 when I did a 10 poet format. Her books Unmentionables, and Open House have been a part of my poetry collection for some time. Fennelly worked with husband tom on a novel together and I did not see any new poetry from her for a while..  Then she was named Poet Laureate for Mississippi, and also released a new book Heating & Cooling, a sort of hybrid book of micro memoirs.  Between the pages of this small book are 52 microbursts of whit and vulnerability that makes you want to both laugh and cheer at the same time.
Beth Ann Fennelly

Fennelly is a no-nonsense person that is living her writing life with husband Tom in the shadows of so many great writers that have called Mississippi their home in the past.

I was delighted to see her named poet laureate both because she has great energy and will make a good ambassador for poetry in the state, but also (and somewhat selfishly) because I am hopeful this brings back another renaissance of poetry writing for us all to enjoy.  She's a poetry rockstar as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Confession Tuesday - Flan Edition

Dear Reader: It's been one new riding mower, a San Francisco Giants 9-9 record, untold hours writing, slightly less reading, a nagging heel and 3 weeks since my last confession.   Come, follow me to the confessional.

Reader, I've been writing a lot, especially these past two weeks. I confess this is better than the alternative, But reading a Louise Gluck essay has taught me (and I should know this) the search for the ingredients of a poem never stop. I'm thinking today that it would wise for me to sit down and see if what I'm looking for is in any of these various pieces of writing and needs to be moved to a new environment and surrounded by other words that are more eager to play.

Being a poet is a condition. That's not an original thought, I confess that some poet has uttered those words but I don't recall who. Being a condition, if you believe that, and I do, then it is a lifelong journey or searches to find something that you don't know you are looking for. Once you are lucky enough to discover it and wrap a poem around it, the search begins anew.  It's a bit like government work. It's never finished. It just keeps going on and on and on.

Flan, are you for it or against it? I confess that I am way into it. We've talked about going to a Mexican restaurant and just ordering the flan. I haven't done this, but I have stopped on the way home to get flan carryout. I especially like the way the caramel dances around on my taste buds. It's texture custard-like, I want some right now.

As it gets later into the year there are things I am missing. No, I found my keys. I confess that I always looked forward to the iris that came up in our yard.  I also miss the geese that came in droves and would walk across the street in front of our house onto the open field These were little things that made me smile. That gave me hope. I miss those things as do I miss the house where we lived.  My wife got me a package of iris bulbs to plant - but it will be next season until I can lose myself just looking at the flowers when they come up.

June is my Poet Crush List month. I confess I've been tossing poets around in my mind and the list is not quite cemented yet, it's getting close. I always get excited about doing this. That's of course after the anxiety of making the selections when there are so many poets right now that rock!

First, it was my left knee. Then it was the tendons in the heel of my left foot. In one way or the other, I've been struggling with one or the other since back before I went to AWP.  The knee is doing better. The foot issue has improved but still far from 100%. I confess through all this my balance has sucked.

Till next time, stay safe and dance every chance you get in life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Confession Tuesday - The original lava lamp edition

Dear Reader:

It's been an extensive lava eruption in Hawaii, a 5 & 8 Record for my  Giants (who play tonight), an improving left knee, damage to a tendon in my left heel, some writing  frustration, a feeling of being overwhelmed, more to the ongoing story of Trump Fucks Up America, one more school shooting, sporadic reading, being out of control with my eating, and two weeks since my last confession.

Reader, it's been a strange beauty/horror as I watch pictures from Hawaii. The flow of lava seems to follow the path of least resistance and therefore threaten both people and man-made property that stand in its way. This is another reminder that mother nature holds tremendous power over both beauty and destruction. I confess this is the power nature holds over us, abundant beauty and terror.  Someone must be writing about this!

I am frustrated with writing and reading. I've been doing a fair amount of writing but not so good on reading. And to the extent that I am cracking out words, I don't feel I am happy whit what I am writing. Oh, sure there are bits and pieces that and extraordinary but things are not coming together.  I had planned on entering a contest this month and had pieces that I wanted to rework or polish up for it. I became so disillusioned with myself that as the 15th deadline came and went, I did not have it in me to work anymore on these pieces and I just chucked it all in. I told myself I needed to own this decision and not look back on it with regret,  I confess to being disappointed in myself but that is not the same as regret.

Another school shooting takes innocent lives. I confess that  I have more resolve to cast votes for candidates that reflect the belief we can make a difference - and this issue is guns, not exits, not arming teachers, not allowing more guns in the open community.

There is this reading issue. I'm not reading enough. It's not from lack of books. I confess that I subscribe to the adage that writers must be constantly reading far more material than the write. I'm going to do better on this starting today!

Last but not least, I confess that I have been far too enamored with potato chips and ice cream. These two items have become a food group ion my food chain.  Comfort food?  Items that I can't break away from because of the taste. I don't know. I confess it has just been a problem this past couple of weeks.

I had the opportunity to see several women that belonged to a poetry group that has not met in some time.  It was very nice to see Joyce, Brenda, and Mary (who I haven't seen in good Lord, maybe two years?

That's it for tonight. May you breathe in the fullness of life and watch out for the lava.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Confession Tuesday - Mail Edition

Hill of Slane - County Meath, Ireland

Dear Reader:

It's been one new, rear hatch door on my Scion, another  April - Poetry month has gone by,  a mixed bag of good on writing a poem a day in April, a mixed record of 13 wins and 8 losses for my San Francisco Giants, a somewhat improved left knee, not very good news at the dentists, a cool card from a friend, and 3 weeks since my last confession. 

Let me start with the card. On the left is a photo attached to a homemade card from someone who I believe I first had contact with several years ago as a result of an April - Poetry Month Book give-a-way. This kind person sent me this card wishing me a happy Easter, it went back to her because we had moved and the post office did not forward it.  She messaged me for my new address and resent it. There was a personal note in it, she shared a story about visiting the 9-11 memorial and enclosed a SF Giants window decal. Marianne is aware of my love of baseball and all things SF Giants.

Postal mail has changed so much over the years. I remember the dreaded reach into the mailbox expecting dreaded bills and junk mail. An occasional letter but those were infrequent. If I was lucky there would be a new book I had ordered. They always give me a thrill when they arrive.

Over the years the mail has changed. Drastically so.  In fact, I rarely if ever get so much as a bill in the mail these days. I'm not complaining. Part of that is because I have almost no bills any longer, but also because account statements are usually available to me online. What I do get, is an ever-increasing amount of junk mail. This mail offers me everything from hearing aids to timeshare get-aways. There are siding offers, new windows, funeral plans, car deals, and God knows what I've pitched without delving too deeply int to specifics. Rarely do I ever receive personal mail. Again, the arrival of a new book is about as good as it gets.

I doubt that my mail situation is much different from my neighbors, you, or anyone else. I don't believe this is unique. Sadly, it is a sign of the times. I long for the days that poets & writers wrote to others about their trade. Getting this card was a pleasant deviation from the sad commentary of what the mail has become. It made my day.

I confess that I did not write 30 poem drafts in April. Sometimes it happens that I do, but sometimes I fall short. What I can say, is that I have a few drafts that are keepers and may once cleaned up a bit, will be looking for homes.  So, I won't say that the April exercise was a failure. I will say that it fell short of expectations.  Or maybe plans is a more accurate description.

I confess that  My left knee is much better, but not 100%.

I confess that today I am off from work and I have received no less than 4 solicitation calls to my cell that is on the Do-Not-Call list. This has really ticked me off. They all start with how are you today and my response is, that depends on who you are and why you are calling. I get in my curmudgeon mode. Usually, I don't answer if I don't know the number, but I was anticipating a call that would likely have been a number unknown to me.

I'm totally angry with our government and I confess that I don't see much good coming of it until we can change what we've got.

As you can see, I am a bit cranky today. Hot weather will do that to me, but so will ignorant as well as unethical public officials,  as well as unwanted calls from solicitors.

On that note, I will sign off and hope that tomorrow Michael is less cranky.

Have a safe week, everyone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Confession Tuesday - Schizophrenia is in Full Bloom this Spring

Dear Reader:

It's been two snowfalls, an injection of cortisone directly into my left knee, 4 wins for the SF Giants and 7 losses, 14 more fucking long days of Trump, an air strike on Syrian targets, a lot of writing, and two weeks since my last confession.  Won't you follow me to the confessional? Come..

The poet community is one less. I confess I did not personally know Sam Hamil, but I knew of him. I knew some of his rugged past that probably had a lot to do with the person he was. I became acquainted with him during the Poets Against the War lead up to U.S. Bombing Iraq.  When I think of Copper Canyon Press I think of Sam. When I think of Sam, I think of Copper Canyon Press. It's that simple. Sam was all about peace. There was a quiet spirit that resided in Sam, but Sam also had the ability to unleash tremendous indignation where appropriate. One thing I don't think I ever saw in Sam was much optimism. His worldview of governments including and perhaps especially our own was highly pessimistic.  War, hate, violence, greed, corruption. These were things that kept his vision from seeing a reason for optimism. But Sam gave is poetry. His gift to us all, are words that will continue to speak to us if only we will listen.

We've had hot days & we've had cold and snowy days. We are deep in a schizophrenic springtime that has no clue what it is. I confess this is trying the patience of everyone I know locally.

What I've been thinking about lately is not the cesspool in Washington D.C. that is the Trump Administration, at least I've not been trying to, but rather poets. That would only be natural since it is April, but I'm contemplating what poets have I read and heard lately that are rocking my world? This is on my mind because June is not that far away and that is when I release my Poets Crush List. A six pack of poets that are wickedly awesome.  No hints. I couldn't if I wanted to as I am still mulling the possibilities. 

It has occurred to me that  I need to get out to more events. I confess that  I've sort of slacked off and part of that is because of this ongoing problem with my left knee, but more recently that has just been an easy excuse. I really have not been especially engaged in the community that much since the first of the year. Other than of course the time spent in Tampa for AWP.  There are some reading coming up I need to get on my calendar. I confess that I will try to step up my game and be more involved.

May each of you be touched by at least one poem this week. 

Be safe! Be at peace!

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Confession Tuesday, - NaPoWriMo 2018 Edition

Dear Reader:

It's been a dreary two weeks since my last confession. I think I may have seen sunshine twice, but I'm a little sketchy on it because it's been so long I'm not totally certain what it looks like.

Lent has come and gone, Easter has come, but we are still technically in the Easter season and spring is here. Spring and baseball. Ah, baseball. I confess that baseball, life, and poetry all three mirror each other. At least that is my perspective.  They all lean heavy on surprises. The seeing eye single that sort of rolls through the infield uninhibited for a base hit, when there are two outs, and 3-2 count wit hone of the lesser strong hitters at the plate. Or when the pitcher, faced with runners in scoring position strikes out the next three batters who all happen to be the heart of the order. Or the poem that started out of nowhere and ended in a manner in which the poet her/himself could not even have imagined. And there is life itself, that just throws any and everything your way. Coincidence that baseball and April both are a part of spring? I think not. April is national poetry month. I've already seen more than one smooth 6-4-3 double play and we are only 4 days in.

So, I am doing NaPoWriMo 2018. I'm posting the poems on a private Facebook group page that is set up especially for this annual event, that way the poem drafts are not published for public view and can be treated as unpublished should we decide to submit one or more to a journal. I confess that sometimes it's rather easy to do this and other times it is excruciatingly painful.  Some of it has to do with what else is going on that day and less to do with flushing the poem itself out into the world. But there are days the later is the problem.

The knee issue that I have written about in past weeks remains a problem. Just today I was back to bee my primary care and we are going to do X-rays and knee specialist. I'm told this guy is the "Rock-Star of Knees" -LOL.  I confess that I'm sort of tired of feeling like I am dragging my left knee around.

I have been writing a lot these past ten days or so. Some of it I believe is inspired by going to AWP18 and part is reading a lot more really good work by others. That always inspires me.  When I read other works, I confess it tends to pull me away from writing safe stuff. I suppose because when I am cranking out something boring, something that I see is not extraordinary, it causes me to stop and ask myself what and why am I writing? I truly believe that anyone who is not reading other people's work has no business writing.

My downfall of late is not submitting enough. I confess I know full well that I need to go back to my Submission Saturday every single week.

I'm all confessed out. Until next time, be safe, be kind, enjoy life!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Confession Tuesday - Hanging Tight Edition

Dear Reader:

It's been another week with a sore knee, but less limping, a string of dreary overcast days, several with rain, a visit to an Alpaca show, and a week since my last confession.

I'm still in a coming off AWP mode. What that is like is a mixture of highs and lows. I confess that one of the things that happen, is I tend to proactively think about things more outside the box. Something all artists should be doing a pretty much all the time. I become more aware of it at odd times like I'm driving to the office and things are turning on in front of me like lights bulbs.  It's a more, why can't this be a certain way as opposed to how you would normally view it. It has been a springboard for some things that I am in the process of trying.  But the other thing that happens is that I start that time frenzy all over. The one I've battled most of my life. Like I have a clock ticking against everything I want to do or achieve. This, I dread. This is a battle that is real.

We went with our grandchildren to an Alpaca show this past weekend and I confess I like Lamas more than I do Alpacas. I confess that their faces do not look trusting. Go figure.

I confess that  I feel like I am trying to come down with a cold or something more serious. I have had a flu shot, but there was that year I had a shot and got it anyway. I'm going to continue my routine of trying to deny it, but the nose, throat, combination stuff is not cooperating.

Thanks to AWP I confess that I have a ton of reading to do. This is not a bad thing.

I confess that I am reading a poet who is new to me Anne Barngrover. I like what I am reading so far. Maybe it's the way that Missouri keeps creeping into some of her poems. I'm sure it's more than that, but the Missouri stuff doesn't hurt.

I hesitate to bring this up, but if I do not say something here I fear my head will explode. Good lord, how has Donald Trump survived?  I seriously believe he is the biggest moron in the whole world. NEVER do I wake up in the morning with a good feeling about where this country is going. Each month he gets worse. He cannot sustain this presidency. I only hope that we survive his tenure and that he is gone sooner than later.

Until next time, hang tight!