Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mega-Confession On Tuesday

Dear Reader:

So it's been a while since my last Confession Tuesday and I'm not waiting any longer. I confess I don't know exactly how long it's been and I could look, but I'm not going to.

Reader, here are some of the things that have happened since the last confession: Call it the rebellious streak in me, or just plain lazy, your call.

  • My Giants did not make the postseason play this year.
  • I had another poem published.
  • I read in Liberty last month.
  • I got to see one of the poets on my 2018 Poet Crush List 
  • The Democrats in the house were part of a blue wave that may well give them a 40 seat gain in Congress, taking over that body as the majority. 
  • The big bad boogie caravan has not yet made it to the United States yet, but Trump has called up the regular military to protect us from gangs, bad dudes, murderers, rapists,  Leprosy, Small Pox, et al.
Please, join me at the confessional:

Dear Reader, all is not well. You know it (some of you anyway) and I know it. This country is ill. I've watched as the fever rises. I've observed its unsteadiness in the world community. I've seen its values denied by some. Hate is perhaps at an all-time high. The patient seems listless and those of us with concern are gathered with Lady Liberty at her bedside.  Who will offer blood for a transfusion? Who will give comfort and support? Who will help her stand again and walk? I confess it is so easy to be hateful at these times because one hate breads another. This is a challenge we face. But I think we have to be certain that not meeting hate with more hate means we simply roll over and do nothing. The absence of hates is not weakness. It is even a greater strength than the haters have. It is a will to defend, to support our democracy and that means be there for the inclusiveness of others. It is to have very wide arms.  

Now reader, on a lighter note, I have found joy in two things. One is that I have been working on my family genealogy. Working a little several times a week I confess that I have been making great inroads. I have the Wells family no going back to a fourth great-grandfather Freemon Wells, Sr born in 1770  and his wife Martha Combs born in 1774. It's fascinating and while it is perhaps not easy to learn intimate details about these relatives, some things will emerge. I confess that I would like to learn enough about these generations of the Wells family and some of their offshoots, Sartins, Keegans, Peachers, Masons, and Combs.  Or on the maternal side of my family.

Another joy has been the use of a family seal. I confess that in some mail, notes to others I have enjoyed doing a wax seal of the envelope. It's fun I think because it personalizes it, and it's a little bit artistic. I bet there are many of you out there that have never received a wax seal stamped envelope. I know I haven't. Maybe that is another reason I so much enjoy it. I know the person on the other end is getting something in the mail that even I have never seen in my mailbox. How crazy is that?

On Veterans Day our president did not even bother to go to Arlington National Cemetary. I confess that this seems to me to be outrageous. Wouldn't you think this would as commander-in-chief be a minimal thing he could and should do?

As to writing, least I close without confession that the struggle continues. But alas, I'm not looking for sympathy, If tomorrow I were to write the greatest poem the world has ever seen, picking up my pen the following day, the struggle would continue.  I am simply happy to write something better today than yesterday.

With this, I conclude this Tuesday's Confession.  May you all be safe and remain at peace!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Laura Kasischke Returns after 12 years

This week I had an opportunity to audit a Masters class taught by Laura Kasischke at UMKC and the next night attend a reading  followed by an interview with her for New Letters on the Air,

I first met Laura 12 years ago at a reading here in Kansas City. She captivated my attention with her book Gardening in the Dark, a book I would read and reread for inspiration from time to time when I felt stalled in my creativity.

What I liked about her poetry was the way she made me believe in the magic that can be found in poetry when the poet is so inclined to treat you to writing with twists and turns and language that will not stand still. There is a tactile quality to a lot of her work. It doesn't just lay on the page.

I picked up her book The Infinitesimals to read, which makes the third book by her in my poetry library.  You can expect a forthcoming review of it before the end of the year.

Also see:  My 2018 Poets Crush Six Pack

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Breaking Out of Boredom with Lola Haskins

Friday & Saturday I had the opportunity to hear poet Lola Haskins read and to teach a workshop.

It's my first exposure to Haskins though I had heard good things about her.  Her Friday night reading was remarkable in that she read everything from memory, her voice is soft and yet words chosen in her work are profound. Each and everyone with a purpose. It was especially intimate because she was so in tune with the audience and not a page in front of her.

Saturday she quickly set out to provide sound advise and tool for eradicating the dreaded boredom that creeps into our writing and takes over. To stop writing from safety and write from risk.

Haskins has over a dozen books to her credit and another on due in 2019.
You can see some of her work and books on her website

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Acceptance - Yeah!

Just a quick note to say I'm excited that my poem Ambiguity has been accepted for a fall publication date.  More, later.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Local Poet Sara Minges Brings Her Poetry to Print

Kansas City area poet Sara Minges brought out her new book at a well-attended reading at Prospero's Books.

Sara's book, Naked Toes, published by Chameleon Press,
is a splash of upbeat, witty, and sometimes cathartic views of the world around her, through her wide open and perceiving poet's eyes.

She mocks Barbie and Ken. She even tangles with Barbie; she will not be plastic or silent.

Her real-life role is that of Play and Happiness Expert.  No, Really. There is such a thing.

She shares exploits of "arse kickin," being handcuffed in the county jail, and her little black dress.

One gets the impression that publication of this book was perhaps a freeing experience. Like the freedom, she gets from naked toes.

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.