Monday, June 6, 2016

April Ossmann Explains Organization of a Poetry MS from Poets & Writers Archives

While working on a new manuscript, working title "Medicine Wheel," I came across this excellent article
by Aprill Ossmann. April Ossmann is the author of Anxious Music (Four Way Books, 2007), an independent editor, and former executive director of Alice James Books. 
I have about 80 pages of poems, and it is incoherent, a set of poems, with a variety of themes, tones, and forms. No, I did not start with a clear project in mind, but rather gathered these as they came over the last few years. 2/3 of the poems have been published in Ezines or journals. That has not helped in this process! 
My first sort was for quality--some pieces never gelled, some are just lame. My next sort was for tone. I have some protest pieces that are sardonic, hot peppery poems that relate to particular political/personal issues. These are in a pile waiting to go in their own book, or not. So how to make order of chaos? I have no firm answers, but this advice has been very helpful, from “Thinking Like an Editor: How to Order YourPoetry Manuscript" by April Ossmann in Poets & Writers: The Practical Writer (March/April 2011). Some MS orders she recommends are:  “. . . creating a narrative line or arc (regardless of whether the poetry is narrative) and grouping or interweaving themes to create a sense of evolution or growth, proceeding toward a conclusion—not resolution. Another strategy is a lyric ordering, in which each poem is linked to the previous one, repeating a word, image, subject, or theme. This sometimes provides a continuation, sometimes a contrast or argument. Other times I follow one or several emotionally charged poems with one that provides comic or other relief; sometimes I work to vary (or interweave) the poetic styles, individual poem length, pace, tone, or emotion. Some orders build toward a narrative, emotional, or evolutionary climax or conclusion (a “Western ending”) and some end deliberately unresolved or ambiguous (an “Eastern ending”). . . .” Do check out the entire article for much invaluable wisdom. 
So far I have five thematic piles: history/landscape; generative process; language; bestiaries; visual points of view. Now I might reshuffle and try a "faux narrative." Thank you April Ossmann! Onward!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Juan Herrera to read at the KC Public Library May 27, 6-7:30 pm

Thank you to Gloria Vando as she honors her husband Bill Hickok’s memory. They co-founded The
Gloria Vando Hickok
Writers Place. Now she is sponsoring a new reading series through TWP. 
Here is the press release: “TWP is pleased to announce the inaugural event in the series honoring our late co-founder, Bill Hickok. His legacy will continue with this public reading bythe 2015-2016  Poet Laureate of the United States, Juan Felipe Herrera. Public reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by a reading. The event will be held at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. There is no charge for the event, but registration is required. Read more about Mr. Herrera at the Library of Congress. . . . ‘Waking up is the biggest thing. I'm a political poet - let us say a human poet, a poet that's concerned with the plight of people who suffer. If words can be of assistance, then that's what I'm going to use.’ -Juan Felipe Herrera.”
Special funding for the 2016 William H. Hickok Series has been provided by the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Ramon Murguia, Kansas City Southern, Latino Writers Collective, UMKC, and Gloria Vando Hickok on behalf of the N.W. Dible Foundation.

Read a related article from KCUR: The Kansas City Public Library hosts An Evening with Juan Felipe Herrera, Friday, May 27, 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., Kansas City, Missouri, 64105.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Modern Times Bookstore in San Francisco presents Denise Low June 12

Denise Low presents trickster Jackalope’s gender-bending narratives in the GearsTurning Poetry series, hosted by Kim Shuck, June 12 Sunday, 4 to 6 pm at Modern Times Bookstore in the Mission, San Francisco with music by Ed Dang. 2919 24th Street San Francisco, CA 94110

About Denise Low’s Jackalope: "JACKALOPE is a perfect blend of stories, poetry, and strangeness. Denise Low has created a collection that is simultaneously myth and not-myth, a shining delight."—Kij Johnson, Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards winner
"Trickster takes center stage in Denise Low's JACKALOPE, a collection of prose and poetry recounting the adventures of its title character, Jackalope Kelley. This anthropomorphic animal is the cryptid on postcards you see at gas stations across the American Midwest—a rabbit with two iconic pronghorn antlers. Jackalope Kelley shifts between male and female identities: Jack when he's a man, Jaq when she's a woman. He drinks a gin and tonic in a Twitter bar. She passes through Seattle, Santa Fe, Minneapolis, Colorado, and Roswell, among other places. He vomits when he sees the head of one of his ancestors mounted above the door in a Wyoming bar. And she searches for a gynecologist—or does he need a urologist? All of these scenes give the book a playful feel, but there's also plenty of time for reflection. In quieter moments, Jackalope tries to explain his complicated heritage to others. ... This merging of shape-shifting identities with shape-shifting trickster narratives is no accident. The language of the book is steeped in the Native American mythologies and vocabularies that Low understands so well."—Ben Pfeiffer, Interviews Editor, The Rumpus Reviews and Other Links  Ben Pfeiffer @ KCUR Public Radio  Lisa McLendon @ The Wichita Eagle  Fred Whitehead @ Penniless Press
 Denise Low, Ks. Poet Laureate 2007-09, is award-winning author of 25 books, including Melange Block (Red Mountain Press, 2014), and Kansas Poems of William Stafford. Her fiction has earned two Pushcart Prize nominations. Low is past board president of Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She blogs, reviews, and co-publishes Mammoth Publications. Her professional workshops have national reach, and she teaches at Baker University. She has British Isles, German, Delaware, and Cherokee heritage. She has an MFA and PhD. 

About Kim Shuck: Kim Shuck is a poet, weaver, educator doer of piles of laundry, planter of seeds,
traveler and child wrangler. She was born in her mother's hometown of San Francisco, one hill away from where she now lives. Her ancestors were and are Tsalagi, Sauk and Fox and Polish, for the most part. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in weaving in 1998 from San Francisco State University. As a poet Kim has read her work around the US and elsewhere. In late 2005 she toured through Jordan with a group of poets from all over the globe in the interest of peace and communication. Shuck reads her work on local radio frequently. Kim's visual art has been included in shows both locally and abroad such as a textile show at the National Museum of Taiwan in Taipei and Art, Women, California at the San Jose Art Museum. She consults with museums and galleries around California on the subjects of Native artwork and community inclusion. Kim continues working in schools and has taught at all levels: at San Francisco State University as well as many elementary schools. Her work with the Exploratorium, a hands on museum in San Francisco, is included in that museum's "Across Cultures" series. She's been teaching since 3rd grade when she organized and taught a class on crochet. Her work generally touches on poetry, art, math, storytelling, humor, and whatever else seems useful at the time. 
About Rabbit Stories"What Kim Shuck is writing is vital and vibrant. She is blending tradition with modernity, history with humor and her own Indigenous perspective witheverything else. She is kind enough to invite us all into her mind, her life and her tribe through her writing and to smile at us when we realize that we are glad we came, glad we read this evocative book and glad that we met this powerful and significant poet."—Dr. Dawn Karima Pettigrew, author of The Marriage of Saints: A Novel (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006) 

About Modern Times Bookstore: “Our politics also shape the organization of our business. Modern Times has operated as a collective since the very start. All important management decisions are discussed collectively, and staff members are eligible to become worker-owners. Modern Times is a member of NoBAWC, the Northern California Alliance of Worker Collectives. We’re happy to be a part of a larger network of independent businesses working together to create worker friendly, conscientious, alternative models of business. And it’s Modern Times’ collective management structure that allows people to give so much of themselves, and pour so much of their creativity into a store that truly reflects the personalities of everybody who works here. Modern Times is a member of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, Calle 24 Cultural District and Merchants Association and the United Booksellers of San Francisco.”- See more at:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mammoth Publishes Author Denise Lajimodiere's Poetry about Boarding School Experiences

BITTER TEARS, 36 pp., poetry, staplebound, $12.00 ISBN 978-1-939301-72-7  

Online orders $2 off. PayPal Click Here or email for multiple copies or information. International orders, add postage amount.

Denise Lajimodiere spent years interviewing boarding school survivors for this  poetry project of moving verse,
 Bitter Tears. The poems describe the experiences of children who experienced the wrenching trauma of assimilationist boarding schools. Denise Lajimodiere, an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is past President of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (N-NABS-HC) and present board member. Denise works as an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at North Dakota State University, Fargo. Her current research agenda includes the history of American Indian boarding schools and also Native female leadership and Horizontal Violence. Her first book of poems is Dragonfly Dance (Michigan State University Press). Denise is also a Birch Bark Biting artist and traditional Jingle Dress dancer.

Full-color cover, After Boarding School: Mourning, is copyrighted by Klamath-Modoc artist Kaila Farrell-Smith, used with permission. It is in the permanent collection of the Portland Art Museum, purchased with funds from the Native American Art Council.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Peter Balakian wins 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Press release: "The title poem of Peter Balakian's Ozone Journal is a sequence of fifty-four short
sections, each a poem in itself, recounting the speaker's memory of excavating the bones of Armenian genocide victims in the Syrian desert with a crew of television journalists in 2009. These memories spark others—the dissolution of his marriage, his life as a young single parent in Manhattan in the nineties, visits and conversations with a cousin dying of AIDS—creating a montage that has the feel of history as lived experience. Bookending this sequence are shorter lyrics that span times and locations, from Nairobi to the Native American villages of New Mexico. In the dynamic, sensual language of these poems, we are reminded that the history of atrocity, trauma, and forgetting is both global and ancient; but we are reminded, too, of the beauty and richness of culture and the resilience of love.

from Ozone Journal

Bach’s cantata in B-flat minor in the cassette,
we lounged under the greenhouse-sky, the UVBs hacking
at the acids and oxides and then I could hear the difference

between an oboe and a bassoon
at the river’s edge under cover—
trees breathed in our respiration;

there was something on the other side of the river,
something both of us were itching toward—

radical bonds were broken, history became science.
We were never the same."

Peter Balakian (born June 13, 1951), American poet and nonfiction writer. Balakian was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, and grew up there and in Tenafly, NJ. He attended Tenafly public schools and graduated from Englewood School for Boys (now Dwight-Englewood School) before earning his B.A. from Bucknell University, an M.A. from New York University, and a Ph.D. from Brown University in American Civilization. He has taught at Colgate University since 1980 where he is currently Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities in the department of English, and Director of Creative Writing. He was the first Director of Colgate’s Center For Ethics and World Societies.

He is the author of five books of poems, most recently [before Ozone Journal] June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000. The others are Father Fisheye (1979), Sad Days of Light (1983), Reply From Wilderness Island (1988), Dyer’s Thistle (1996), and several fine limited editions. His work has appeared widely in American magazines and journals such as The Nation, The New Republic, Antaeus, Partisan Review, Poetry, and The Kenyon Review; and in anthologies such as New Directions in Prose and Poetry, The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, Poetry’s 75th Anniversary Issue (1987), The Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry, and the four-CD set Poetry On Record 1886-2006 (Shout Factory). Balakian is the author of the memoir Black Dog of Fate, winner of the PEN/Albrand Prize for memoir and a New York Times Notable Book, and The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, winner of the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize and a New York Times Notable Book and New York Times and national best seller. He is also the author of Theodore Roethke’s Far Fields (LSU, 1989). His essays on poetry, culture, art, and social thought have appeared in many publications including Art In America, American Poetry Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The American Quarterly, American Book Review, and Poetry. Balakian’s prizes and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; Emily Clark Balch Prize for poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review 2007; Movses Khorenatsi Medal from the Republic of Armenia 2007; Raphael Lemkin Prize, 2005 (best book in English on the subject of genocide and human rights); PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for Memoir, 1998; Anahid Literary Prize, Columbia University Armenian Center, 1990. 

Balakian has appeared widely on national television and radio: ABC World News Tonight, The Charlie Rose Show, Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air”; NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” CNN, C-SPAN, Celeste Quinn’s “Afternoon Magazine,” “Literati,” (BRAVO Canada, PBS, New York City); WAMC, New York, Leonard Lopate’s WNYC, and others. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Nick Twemlow, Kevin Young, Amy Fleury, Gary Jackson, Ed Skoog--Topeka Poets

Why do so many poets of note come from Topeka? Fellow poet Michael Harty brought to my attention the recent article about Robyn Schiff's new book of poetry and the New Yorker article about it. Then he mentioned her husband Nick Twemlow, filmmaker and poet, is from Topeka. I was not
familiar with Twemlow, who now teaches at Coe College in Iowa. He co-edits 
Canarium Books, a publisher of contemporary poetry in English and translation, and he is a senior editor for The Iowa Review. He is author of Palm Trees (2013), which won the Norma Farber first book award from the Poetry Society of America. Michael, and I discussed Topeka, a city of 123,000, and what water everyone must be drinking. Lawrence, just downriver 20 miles, does not have this kind of record for townies--the University of Kansas, of course, fosters many wonderful poets. Harty, though, has perspective on the Karl Menninger Foundation, where he once worked as a psychologist. When it was at its height, many well known doctors staffed the facility. Their offspring are some of the most gifted poets working today. Harriet Lerner (The Dance of Anger) and Steve Lerner are parents of Ben Lerner.  Other Menninger babies are Kevin YoungCyrus Console, Thomas Fox Averill (yes, he also writes poetry), and maybe others I am not aware of (please add comments). Many other poets in Topeka do not have direct Menninger connections. Perhaps I need to give credit to Topeka schools and the library, which has always been a bright spot. I'm not sure the state government contributes much, since most of the legislators are transients. 
For an article about the amazing number of poets to come out of Topeka,  read "Is Topeka the Most Poetic City in America," by Amy Brady. She has four theories: the contradictory nature of Topkea, political resistance, Menningers, and Esprit de Corps. Whatever the causes--perhaps a synergy of several lay lines--viva Topeka. More Topeka poets are:

Poet Laureate of Kansas Eric McHenry , Anne Boyer, C.A. Conrad,  Amy Fleury Leah Sewell

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Poet Ross Gay described his third collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude as a sustained meditation on that which goes away—loved ones, the seasons, the earth as we know it. “This is a book that studies the wisdom of the garden and orchard,” he said, “those places where all—death, sorrow, loss—is converted into what might, with patience, nourish us.” Gay hopes his exploration of gardening and planting will intrigue readers who ordinarily might not reach for a poetry book. . . . and thank you to the man all night long / hosing a mist on his early-bloomed / peach tree so that the hard frost / not waste the crop, the ice / in his beard and the ghosts / lifting from him when the warming sun / told him sleep now; thank you . . . “These poems are shout outs to earth’s abundance: the fruits, blooms, meals, insects, waters, conversations, trees, embraces, and helping hands—the taken-for-granted wonders that make life worth living, even in the face of death,” said Evie Schockley in praise of Gay’s work. “Lyric and narrative, elegy and epithalamion, intoxicated and intoxicating—expansive, but breathlessly uttered, urgent. Ross Gay has much to say to you—yes, dear reader, you—and you definitely want to hear it.” Aimee Nezhukumatathil commented, “Gay offers up a muscled poetry of a thousand surprises, giving us a powerful collection that fireworks even the bleakest nights with ardency and grace. Few contemporary poets risk singing such a singular compassion for the wounded world with this kind of inimitable musicality, intelligence, and intoxicating joy.”
Gay is assistant professor of English at Indiana University and the author of two other poetry collections: Against Which and Bringing   the Shovel Down. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Harvard Review, Gulf Coast, and Ploughshares, among other publications. Gay also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at New England College and is a Cave Canem Fellow.

Los Angeles Times article and interview with Ross Gay
National Book Critics Circle on Ross Gay

University of Pittsburgh Press. 112 pp. ISBN 978-0-8229-6331-8 Paper $15.95  

Ross Gay (b. 1974) is the author of two previous collections, Against Which and Bringing the Shovel Down. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Orion, the Sun, and elsewhere.  He is an associate professor of poetry at Indiana University and teaches in Drew University’s low-residency MFA program in poetry. He also serves on the board of the Bloomington Community Orchard.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mammoth author Maryfrances Wagner publishes new chapbook POUF

Maryfrances Wagner, Mammoth Publications author of the collection Dioramas, has published a new
chapbook of monologue poems in the voice of Aunt Mary, an Italian woman with one foot in America and one foot in Italy. Pouf is from Finishing Line Press. Wagner and William Trowbridge, Poet Laureate of Missouri, read together for the Thomas Zvi Wilson Reading series March 15, 6 pm, Johnson County Central Library on 87th St., Overland Park.

The character Aunt Mary is in a nursing home but does not have dementia other than a couple of hours a day she suffers from Sundowers. During those times, she thinks she's at home, in a hotel, a motel or anything on television is in real time and happening to her family. Her niece can become her mother, her son a doctor. The poems are humorous, but there is an underlying current of what it's like to be in a nursing home. This Italian American writer explores identities as they shift among geographies and inner landscapes.

See poems from Dioramas at the We Wanted To Be Writers website. 

Maryfrances Wagner has taught creative and academic writing for over twenty years, taught workshops at all levels, served as President of The Writers Place and is currently chair of TWP Programming Committee and board secretary for KC Creates. She is co-editor of I-70 Review and co-edited Whirlybird Anthology of Greater Kansas City Writers. She has published six collections to include Salvatore's Daughter, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award winner for literary excellence), Light Subtracts Itself (A KC Star Notable book of the year), and Dioramas. She has edited or co-edited three anthologies and also served as co-editor of New Letters Review of Books. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Michael Harty, poet, reads April 17 from THE STATUE GAME

Michael Harty, one of my students in the KC area master workshop, will be featured with Walter Bargen, former Missouri Poet Laureate, at the Thomas Zvi Wilson reading 6 pm on April 19, Johnson County Central Resource Library, 9875 W 87th St, Overland Park, KS 66212.

Harty’s tight-knit poems are full of details, always honed to a purpose, as in this poem:

Later Vision

In the end we just get tired
of keeping things straight
when time insists on folding
back on itself like a tissue pattern
pinned today to some petrofiber
as yesterday to woven wool.

All day in our minds we hear
old songs new-written for today:
as it is in dreams, when we see ninety
and twenty at once, smooth faces
overlaid on those long ruined.
The cataracted eye sees
through the ceremonial wall
dividing was from what-could-have-been.

Michael Harty lives and works in Prairie Village, a suburb of Kansas City. He has had a long career as a psychologist and psychoanalyst. He started publishing poetry in 2005. They appear in New Litters, Kansas City Voices Amoskeag, San Pedro River Review, Coal City Review, Texas Poetry Calendar Midwest Quarterly,1-70 Review, The Lyric, and others. Two have been nominated for Pushcart prizes, and he won the 2015 2015 Anne Dittrick Sonnet Writing Contest. His chapbook The Statue Game is available online:

© 2014 Michael Harty. Reprinted with permission and 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Penniless Press in UK reviews JACKALOPE: Short Fiction by Denise Low

Fred Whitehead for Penniless Press reviews Denise Low's recent book of short fiction (and some

"Jackalope is a collection of short chapters, centered around one such creature and its experiences in a range of western locales, especially bars, saloons and beer joints, of which more in a moment.  I say “its” because it takes two forms: Jack (male) and Jaq (female).  Rumored to be hermaphrodite, our ‘lope prefers the word intersex, because it can switch genders.  Feeling uneasy and threatened in a rough bar, “Her testosterone surges as well as adrenaline, and she begins to shift into masculine mode . . . Jaq feels electrical energy travel from her head to her toes.”
There’s a lot of that electrical energy in these stories: sand storms, solar flares, lightning strikes, the buzz of alcohol, barroom brawls, video games: everyone and everything is wired someway.  Feelings themselves, I suppose, are a form of energy.  The book takes shape in a series of episodes, drawn together by the appearance and re-appearance of Jack/Jaq.  Much energy manifests itself in conversations—tall tales, and jokes (“A jackalope comes into a bar and orders . . . “). " 

See more at: