Sunday, September 18, 2016

Publishing Trends: Denise Low Gives Highlights of Panel

At the Wichita Public Library, Sept. 10, 2016, I was honored to be part of a panel associated with the Local Author Fair. WPL organizers included: Sarah Kittrell, Collection Development Manager; Julie Sherwood, Program & Outreach Manager; and Racine Zackula, Fiction Selection Librarian. These questions are from Racine. 
Wichita Public Library Panel: Publishing Trends, Comments  by Denise Low
Photo by Roy Beckemeyr

 ·         What are the biggest trends in publishing currently?  Brevity is the most obvious trend. The internet loves quick reads in social media format. Print media are following this trend, such as Kindle “singles” and the markets for novellas and short story collections. Social media encourages topical, newsworthy writing, relating to recent trends. There is a quick news cycle, so quick responses are popular, like poems about Prince’s death within a few days. Responses to deaths of black men in new recently have been effective use of this trend.
·         Have any of these trends been surprising?  One of the great surprises to me is the rise of the importance of radio—what I grew up with! Podcasts make radio long-lasting, beyond the live broadcast. People do want to hear the author’s voice. If a writer has not already posted some audio excerpts from writings, now is the time to do so. Of course every writer as a permanent website—not just a Facebook page. The websites are permanent and easily navigable.
·         Is the cross-pollination of writers who are self-published going to traditional publishing and established authors who are with houses going to self-published hurting or helping the industry?  Many self-published writers are breaking through; however, that is the exception. Fantasy and science fiction are areas where self-publishers are doing well. Still, the goal is to get the big contract with a national publisher.  Self-published writers need a large readership before they are taken seriously. Distribution and publicity are huge problems. The good thing about self-publishing is the democratization of writing. William Stafford said we all are poets; some people just stop writing poetry. So self-publishing gives everyone a voice. The result is quality is hard to sort out. Many self-published writers do not know the craft and rules of grammar that well. Self-publication has led to a lot of fragmentation.
·         Do you think that we are moving more toward a model of “renting” our book electronically?  I have noticed that some print books are only on a limited print run and if they are sold, they are bound in leather and signed and more of a collector’s item.  Several issues come to mind: (1) Print-on-demand, which is computer-based printing of books, has made printing of books much easier. POD is not self-publication—many university presses use POD, for example. This comes at a time just after the book industry started a negative cycle of profit-based, not quality-based, practices. The hardback book edition comes out first, at a high price, and if it sells, then the next year paperback editions may or may not come out. Only wealthy readers can pay $25-35 for a new bestseller. So when POD and electronic books developed, new formats reach more people. Rentals is a newish platform, and I’m sure it will be monetized as much as possible.  (2) I also think libraries and bookstores will become “sample” stores, where people can see the object and then order the electronic version if they are interested.  (3) the tradition of art books, print-media works created by artists, has not bled into coffee table books. The printed book in a fine edition is an art object. Fine arts editions, especially hand printed, have been collectibles for decades. (4) And finally, because platforms change so quickly, print is the standard for lasting. Libraries for archives
·         What have you or other writers you know, found helpful in developing their work? Use of libraries! Since I was a kid, the world of books—the scale of books found in the library—seemed like a replica of the whole world. It is. The two libraries in my small town were havens to me. Also as a writer I found classes, including academic instruction, invaluable. Groups, which often meet in libraries, were very helpful. A few dear souls reached out and mentored me. My appreciation to them. Still, one of the biggest influences was the library, for its resources; meeting spaces; events (conferences and readings), and archives.
·         In terms of poetry publishing, have you found that having multiple ways of communicating –
graphics, social media, videos and such has changed poetry.  Have you noticed changes in the way people approach the art of the words? (1) The biggest change I see is how poetry (and prose) readings are no longer literary events. They are TED talks, or rather sales pitches for book/poetry concepts. Multiple readers are on an evening’s slate, rather than one at a time—so there is a frenetic, competitive energy, like speed dating. Venues want to draw numbers to count for grants applications. This is the new climate. Self-published poets are put alongside established, credentialed poets. The hierarchy is breaking down, which may be a good thing. However, quality is less certain. (2) Multi-media and multi-genre in poetry change the craft of word arts. Performance and slam poetry are fairly new and have different rules of engagement and effectiveness. Also, genres specific to media are developing. Poetry that is left-hand justified with capitals at the beginning of each line are much more common. Whatever the medium, quality always shows—depth of detail, precision, pacing, content.
·         Why would someone go to a publisher when electronic forms are so readily available?  Publishers offer prestige (important to academics seeking tenure and promotion), expertise, promotion platforms, and community, for a start. Publishers endorse the quality of a writer’s work implicitly plus give their authors a team of experts. In some cases, a book even makes money.

·         What do authors do when they have a finished manuscript to publish besides polish it once more?  When you have a finished MS:  What is the audience? (1) The first commandment is to consider the audience. Is your work for yourself, or does it have a topic to share with others? Then find the right niche publishing platform for the audience. (2) Then what are motives? If you want to be an author and live the glamourous life of an author, great. Be clear. Decide a strategy. If you want to follow your heart, write for your family and community first, then expand if it happens naturally. Because I had a restrictive day job, for years I wrote what I could and wanted to write.  That was poetry, which has a terrible market. But I loved it, and it led to great experiences and community, including becoming Kansas Poet Laureate. Always, though, I understood there was no large audience for my writing. 
                        

Friday, July 22, 2016

Annie Newcomer Interviews Jeanie Wilson about poet Thomas Zvi Wilson

       
Thank you to Annie Newcomber for permission to reprint this interview she did with Jeanie Wilson about her husband, Thomas Zvi Wilson (1931-2012). The Thomas Zvi Wilson Reading Series of The Writers Place presented a tenth anniversary celebration of the publication of his and Jeanie's The Door into the Dream (Mid-America Press, 2006). The series Facebook page describes the series: "Mr. Wilson’s objective was to broaden outreach for The Writers Place and create an additional venue for poetry and prose writers to read. After Thomas’ health failed, his wife Jeanie Wilson, an emeritus board member of TWP and poetry and short story writer, curates this popular reading series in his memory." The free series, founded in 2001, is third Tuesdays of the month. The readings take place at Johnson County Central Resource Library, 6-8 p.m., 9875 W. 87th Street in Overland Park, Ks., 913-826-4600.
Jeanie, what led your husband to the idea of developing the reading series?  His primary 
Jeanie & Thomas Zvi Wilson
mission was simple: to help writers. He believed, in part, an additional venue would provide more opportunities for writers to read. Many writers who have read in this program have gone on to publish books of poetry and seasoned poets have shared from their already published works.
How did he become involved in The Writers Place (TWP)? Tom had turned his attention from visual arts to poetry and wanted to become involved in TWP, the rising hub of the literary community in Kansas City. Eventually, he served on the Board of Directors and eventually as treasurer.
What were some of his dreams for the Kansas City writing community? At the time, there were separate pockets of writers and locations, and Tom had hoped to provide opportunities for these various entities to collaborate and to bring writers together to share their writing. I believe that collaboration is happening with the help of so many writers, organizations, and volunteers.
Did he see himself as an artist first or equally as a poet and an artist? I believe for Tom the identities were integral and each art form fed off the other.
What do people not know about Thomas that you wish was known? As much as he loved to write, he had a passion to help other people: writers, visual artists, and inmates at Lansing Prison. It was a longtime struggle in his division of time. Also, he was unique in that he was able to use both left and right sides of his brain, synthesizing in poetry and art.
Do you have a favorite poem that Thomas cherished? Might you share?  I have selected a poem by Mark Strand, which Tom and I both treasured because it spoke of love late in life, which was our miracle.
 Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrows dust flares into light. . . .
 How did Thomas suggest that poets could best hone their craft? He recommended and practiced that a poet read other poetry, write constantly and revise methodically.  Some of his poems had been revised 40-50 times.
What did he want his audience to look like? What people was he trying to draw to the readings? All ages and ethnicities. The ideal audience member was hungry to hear the poems and to learn something new from the reading that evening.
What made him most proud of the Reading Series? He was very pleased when a new writer excelled and went on to publish.
What were some of his opinions on poetry? The poem should communicate the human experience or artistic idea to the reader. He had a great deal of poems on the artist, Edward Hopper. Poetry and art crisscrossed in his poetry.
Can you share a little bit about Thomas’ life and background? He was born in 1931 in New York. His family lived in a Jewish community. His parents abandoned him when he was about five to seven years old. He was extremely intelligent and thirsted for life in and outside the community. The community members raised him until at 14. He ran away and started a new life of his own. To him life itself was a gift not to be wasted. He never stopped learning and creating in some manner.
Poets often ask me how you select your readers. What do you suggest to someone who has this aspiration and goal? If they are interested in reading, I like to visit with them and read some of their work. In some cases, I know the individual and their work already. Similar to Tom, I do not require that a writer has published a book prior to reading. He enjoyed helping new writers of all ages and backgrounds.
What inspired you and Thomas to write your antiphonal poems? Initially Tom and I had paired our poems around a common theme or word and performed readings with these paired poems. Our publisher/editor, the late Robert Jones, approached us and asked us to write a book of these paired poems.
 What advice would he give today’s poet? First and foremost, he valued life and did not want to waste a moment or day. Regarding poetry, once again, he would recommend to read other poets, write constantly, and revise the poem diligently.
What do you see as Thomas’ legacy? Tom served as a model of friendship in helping writers and artists advance their art and writing. He set the standard in how writers should treat one another. The Thomas Zvi Wilson Reading Series serves as a vehicle to provide opportunities for writers and poets and stands as a testament to this extraordinary man. June, 2016

Annie Newcomer lives in Prairie Village, Kansas, with her husband of thirty-six years, David. Her two daughters inspire her to tackle new adventures such as triathlons and charity runs. She loves to travel and has had wonderful opportunities to see the world and to make friends from different cultures. She loves her involvement with Compassion International and sponsors a dear and serious young girl from India who wants to become a doctor and a young athletic boy in the Dominican Republic who aspires to play for the Boston Red Sox one day. Annie is blessed to have friends in Kansas City who support her writing interests. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

JUDITH ROITMAN WRITES EMOJI VERSE

For fun on a July afternoon, here are two poems made from emoticons or emoji. In 2008, I guest hosted an Academy of American Poets poetics forum. The program was discontinued after hackers attacked. But from that archive I found this commentary from Judith Roitman and her poems: 
Judith Roitman: "I find emoticons very strange, yet here they are to the left of me for my use, so I will try to write an emoticon poem. Why not?"

Cry oops Mr. Green.
Mr. Green roll wink.
Laugh. Smile. Frown.
That way.
That way.
!







Evil, very evil
Joy & happiness
The confusion of the world.
I know.
Embrace!






Copyright 2016 Judith Roitman. Reprinted with permission


Judith Roitman has published poems in various journals, including First Intensity, Black Spring, Locus Point (on the web), Bird Dog, and Wakarusa Wetlands in Word & Image (Lawrence: Imagination and Place, 2005). She has published: The Stress of Meaning: Variations on a Line by Susan Howe (Morris, Minn.: Standing Stones Press, 1997); Diamond Notebooks (Buffalo, New York: Nominative Press Collective, 1998); Slippge (Elmwood, Conn.: Potes and Poets Press, 1999); No Face: New and Selected Poems (Lawrence, First Intensity 2008); Slackline (Hank’s Original Loose Gravel Press, 2012).  See JudithRoitman’s essay about Susan Howe on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog (scroll down). She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a BA in English (1966) and the University of California-Berkeley (1974, mathematics Ph.D.).

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: http://moderntimesbookstore.com/about/history/#sthash.e11dNOTu.dpuf

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 mammothpubs@gmail.com 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
NickTwemlow
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

ROSS GAY WINS NBCC AWARD IN POETRY

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.