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Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 Poet Crush List Six-Pack

In 2011 I decided to compile a list of poets that were at the time prime on my list people doing excitable work. I believe that first year I had a list of 10 such poets. Six of the ten were poets I had heard read in person. Eight of them I owned books they had written. But all of these poets were people that  I would from time to time revisit their work.

Each year since then, (except 2014) I have revisited the poets that were getting my attention. Over the years there have been numerous that  were close to making my list but last year last year I shortened the list from 10 to a Crush List Six Pack. Of course that  doesn't make the decision easier, but perhaps the choices more significant.

There are some that have been held over from year to year and with good reason.  Kelli Russell Agodon  is an example of a repeat for several years Her writing  and energy has been especially inspiring and I have three of her books each of which I revisit from time to time and her most recent one, quite often.  You can see the 2015 list linked here.

And so, now I give you my 2016 Poetry Crush List. Again, a Six-Pack. And there are in not particular order of significance.

1. Marie Howe - author of three poetry books the most recent The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, a book that I have read and found a great deal of kinship with. Howe grew up in a Catholic family and Catholicism culturally informs her work. I read a number of interviews of her and was enthralled with her interview by Krista Tippett on the podcast On Being. I've noted with interest books that have won contests judged by Ms. Howe, It seems that  I generally  enjoy the same kinds of writing that  she finds worthwhile.

2. Richard Siken - author of  Crush and War of the Foxes. I've read both of these books. Crush I felt was the bolder of the two but  War of the Foxes has it's points.  Siken impresses me because he can deal well with the abstract and I'd like to feel I could write with courage that his work exudes. Ah, maybe someday...

3. Rachel Mennies - author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backward. Much the same way I am intrigued by the Catholic culture that  can be found in  Marie Howe's The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, I am fascinated at the impact of Judaism in Rachel's book. Perhaps even more that  Howe, she has woven this deeply into this collection of poems. Jewish culture is less familiar to me, but I find it's imprint on her work appealing. That said, I've read a number of her poems aside from the book and have enjoyed the versatility she demonstrates. Some examples:

As an interesting sidelight, I discovered Rachel by way of an advertisement in the Writer's Chronicle. They had a full page ad with her picture saying that she was one of the volunteer mentors that participated in the AWP's relatively new mentor-ship program. I had applied for the program but was not accepted that  round. When I saw the ad however, I googled her  to find out more about her  work out of curiosity to see what kind of experience such a volunteer might bring to  the AWP program. Needless to say I was impressed with what I saw, realizing  someone surely had a most positive mentoring experience. And me, I found another  really  cool poet and that isn't  half bad. 

4. Shaindel Beers - author of two poetry collections - The Children's War and A Brief History of TimeI've had the opportunity to read both of these books. Children's War was an impressive project and a read that will touch you in a very raw way. History of Time is both simple and eloquent in it's frankness.  I've observed recently that  Ms. Beers has been having a hayday with new work croppping up all over the place. An energy you have to admire of any poet. Maybe, just maybe I can learn something from her work ethic. 

5. Michael Schmeltzer - author of Elegy/Elk River and Blood Song.  I read both of these books this year and I couldn't put either down till I finished. Schmeltzer collections are both very lyrical and gripping. Blood Song was published by Two Sylvias Press (an Agodon connection) and this was a super sweet book for them to have a part in. Looking forward to more from Schmeltzer.

6. Suzanne Frischkorn - author of Lit Windowpane, Girl on a Bridge and Red Paper Flower. Of these, I have read Red Paper Flower which I believe is out of print. This book was funny and hard hitting at the same time. I desperately wanted to read more when I finished. I'm assuming  Girl on a Bridge is also out of print. On Amazon you can find copies priced between $146 and $374. Ouch. But seriously I keep hopeful that we will see some more work from poet soon. Real soon!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Confession Tuesday - Love & Kindness Edition

It has been too much tragedy & two weeks since my last confession.

Please follow me to the confessional....

Dear Reader,

Where do you start when you don't know what to say? What do you say when basically anything said is not adequate? It's especially hard to think about yourself at a time like this. To think about  what your  last two weeks have been like. What has gone wrong or what has gone right.

I didn't  personally know any who died in the Orlando shooting. At lease I don't believe I did. But everyone whose life was snuffed out, every person who was wounded by bullets, and everyone across this country whose heart was wounded by loss from the mass shooting has no doubt  been profoundly impacted by the events. Indeed this nation grieves. We grieve once again for the senseless loss of  lives by weapons that have no place in a civil society aside from the military.

The one thing I try to think about as I reflect upon the past two weeks is love. Who have I shown love to? What stranger  have I smiled at? What doors have I held open? Who have I gone out of my way to help?

I also feel compelled to think about the exact opposite of love... hate. Have I really truly hated anyone? Sadly, the answer to this is honestly  yes. I don't  want to hate someone. I can rationalize perhaps why they may be unworthy of love. But hate, hate is a powerful poison. The funny thing (which is not really funny at all) is that  most people that I hate are so remote that they don't  really know who I am, much less that I actually hate them. And clearly one in particular, really exhibits by action a good deal of hate by their own right.

I suppose it  is easy to rationalize that because one person does hateful things that  it is justifiable to  hate them back. It is truly easy to see that hate begets hate.

As much as I have decided I need to work on saying things that exemplify hate (and I have been guilty of this) I have also thought  that  for those out there that fall into that  void somewhere between the two extremes, I need to be more open to just being a person who can share a smile, extend a greeting. Look for loving acts of kindness without  regard for who these people are.

Life is short. We don't generally know expiration date. Our examples of kindness may be the last thing someone recalls.

I confess that there are things we as citizens can do about the issues of gun violence. And these are things that we should do.This is a fight we all need to wage for the sake of our future, our  children and grandchildren. I have done some of these things in the past and I will continue.

I confess that I see that we all need more kindness. Everywhere!  Kindness at home, at school, at work, on the street corner, while driving, I confess that I have a role to play in introducing  more kindness to others.

I confess that these past two weeks I've had some positive things happen. There is the Paul Simon Concert at Starlight, and the Poem of mine appearing in The Best of Boston Literary Magazine, but it's just hard to focus on anything else.

Peace, Love, and Kindness

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Honored to Have A poem in The Best of Boston Literary Magazine - Vol 1

Boston Literary Magazine is just released Vol 1 of  their Best Of  Boston Literary Magazine for over the last  decade. BLM has published several of my poems over the years and I am excited that  this Best Of Collection contains one of my previously published works, a poem titled Toy Soldiers..

There are some really cool work in this book. Great Job by Robin Stratton

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Confession Tuesday - Neon Lights Edition

It's been one Democratic Congressional District Presidential Caucus, one poetry reading at the Neon Gallery, one finished diary and another one started, a double platelet & red cell donation, and several full skies of rain  falling in our part of the world since my last confession 6 weeks ago.

To the confessional....

Dear Reader:

The rain has stopped. Our lawn has been mowed. I can hear the grass growing  again already.

I confess six weeks is a long time between confessions. I guess that makes me a fallen-away blogger returning to the fold or something like that.  I could say I will try to do better, bet we all know better. The fact is that  I tend to be more selective about saying something  in my  blog than in the early days. Maybe I'm getting wiser and figure no one really cares, but who knows.

On  Friday, May 29th  I had a reading at the Neon Gallery that was sponsored by the Writers Place. The Neon event is a quarterly music, poetry and art event at a downtown Kansas City location. I've attended many of these, but  I confess this was the first one in which I was on the program. The Neon reading was really good. Those that missed it, well, they missed some good music, some really cool art, and well the readings were great. I confess I'd even rate my own as pretty damn good and I tend to be my harshest critic.  The poet Pat Daneman (who I had never heard before) was magnificent. Sara Nicole Glass AKA Miss Conception both sang and shared poetry. While I've heard her before, she has a couple of pieces that really resonated with me. I confess that each time I hear the River Cow Orchestra I think I enjoy them more. Bob Savino was quite animated, but then when isn't he.  The evening was closed out with music by Rick Malsick.  This event is sponsored by the Writers Place and I was honored to read with the other talented artists.

I've said it before and it's worth repeating. As someone who journals on a regular basis I always love the feeling when I complete one journal and replace the leather binder with a fresh new one. I confess that I am not sure, but I belief it must be the starting over with clean pages that gets my emotions flowing.

When donating  platelets at the Community Blood Center recently I was asked to do a double platelet and red cell donation. I've done double platelets before - my count is always high and they  love to be able to double down. I've never done red cell at the same time. I confess that I spent that whole day really drained. I'm usually a wee bit sluggish after the platelets but this was way worse. I confess I may not feel I can do that much again. Probably just the platelets and maybe back off the red cells. It's really a beneficial thing to do and I would always encourage those who can, donate blood and or platelets whenever possible.

I did a lot of writing this past weekend and it's tugging at my heartstrings again tonight, so I'm off to see what I can put together.

Until next time, be yourself. No one does it better than you!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Confession Tuesday - why am I doing this edition?

Dear Reader,

It's been one new poetry book, and a week since my last confession.

I confess that I am tired tonight and I'd rather not be confessing. Mostly because it's late and I'm tired.

I've been glued for the most part to the primary election returns from five states. DEL, CONN, RI, MD, and PENN. I was hopeful that Hillary would sweep all five but figured we had four in the bag. RI was up in the air and in the end it was the only one of the five that Hillary lost. Not a bad night at all, and it really makes the math for Bernie Sanders really insurmountable.

I was excited to get a new poetry book in the mail this week. "A Brief History of Time" by Shaindel Beers. Getting poetry in the mail is such a rush. I confess that it never grows old.

We have a storm going on presently. The dogs are unnerved by it, especially Soles. In some ways we are really making progress with him, but I confess I wish I felt he was less impacted by anxiety.

That's all for this week. May the muse be with you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Confession Tuesday - A Time Out Tonight

Dear Reader:

It’s been a week of writing and rewriting, but now it’s confessing time. On to the confessional.

Reader, I confess that I am taking a break from writing tonight.  I am planning to be immersed in the New York Democratic Primary returns. I’ve spent a lot of this during this past week cranking out material, much of it  has some promise – with additional work, but tonight I put all that aside.

My expectations for tonight are a Hillary win in New York. I anticipate her margin will be somewhere between a 9 and 14 point spread. Of course I can hope for more J   I will follow the returns on MSNBC as the usually have the best coverage.  I was invited to a party to watch the returns but I decided to pass on it and stay home.

For some time now I have been using the Poet Tarot Cards by Two Sylvias
Press as a spark for my creative process. For a while I blogged elsewhere on this weekly but after over a year I stopped the blog. Sunday I pulled the T. S. Eliot card from the deck.  Yes, Eliot, the key keeper of language is to be my guide this week.  I don’t think of Eliot as being a prolific writer. Rather I consider him a rather picky craftsman.  Kind of the was Elizabeth Bishop was – wanting “perfect poems” before they could be published.  I confess that at times I become impatient with the process. Drawing this card reminds me of the value poets like Eliot and Bishop placed in patience.  If I were looking for a characteristic that I could perhaps learn as a result of the King of Quills – Eliot tarot card it would perhaps be allowing myself more patience.  This is not always easy. I confess that I am often driven in my anxiousness around my writing by the fact that I did not start writing until late in life and I always feel the clock of life ticking away.

Until next time, may the Muse be with you….

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Confession Tuesday - Sharks are People Too - Edition

Dear Reader:

It's been two readings since my last confession. First I drove to Lawrence, Kansas to hear Ada Limon, Adam Clay, and Michael Robins read on the KU campus. I admit It would have been simpler if they had been in Kansas City, but sometimes you just have to go where good poetry is.

I mostly went to hear Ada. I first became aware of here sometime back from a podcast done on NPR and I hear her poem Sharks are in the River.  More recently Ada published her book Bright Dead Things. The title pulled me into it like a magnet and I got a signed copy from her before it was shortlisted for a National Book Award for Poetry. I am not surprised that it received such acclaim as it is very deserving.

I must confess that the reading  had the bonus of introducing me to two other very outstanding poets. Both Adam Clay and Michael Robins resonated well with me.

The three poets took turns reading a poem each and usually selected something to read riffing of the poet before. I didn't think I would like this method at first but it added an interesting dimension as each looked for a poem in response to the one read before.

I was indeed fortunate to attend this reading and the drive was well worth it.  In addition, I picked up a copy of Ada's earlier book, Sharks are in the River.

Sunday afternoon, I attended a reading of some of the poets with work in the 10th Anniversary issue of Kansas City Metro Verse's anthology. The even was very nicely put together and everyone seemed to enjoy the event.

Until next time, the Muse be with you!