Sunday, January 24, 2010

Joseph P. Wood and Clancy Martin read in Lawrence Jan. 23

Clancy Martin is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His first novel, How to Sell, was released in May from Firar, Straus, & Giroux, and will be translated into five languages. His fiction also has appeared in journals such as NOON, 5_Trope, and Parakeet. He has authored, translated, edited several books on 'existential' philosophy. He lives somewhere near Kansas City with his wife, three daughters, and 4 toy poodles.

He read 3 narratives, both fictive and memoir, although the verisimilitude was such that all sounded equally plausible. He writes about family life with precision--not always pretty, but always compelling. He took me back to the intensity of parenting, the primal, critical times when someone's life was in my hands.

Joseph P. Wood is the author of the forthcoming collection of poems, I & We (CW Books), and of five chapbooks, including the forthcoming Gutter Catholic Love Song (Mitzvah Chaps), Urgency (Cannibal Books) and A Severing (Cinematheque Press). New poems can be found in BOMB, Boston Review, Cannibal, Hotel Amerika, Poetry London, Sycamore Review, Verse, among others. He teaches at the University of Alabama, co-edits Slash Pine Press, and coordinates the Slash Pine Poetry Festival.
Wood started out as a normal guy but shifted into overdrive for a performance stabilized by rocking and regular intakes of breath. He started with a story about his Italian grandfather, a roofer, who fell into a vat of hot tar & died at age 35. This and references to culture were embedded within sheets of images and syntax. It created its own web, and it is hard to pull out single pieces to describe.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pamela Alexander's SLOW FIRE is a poetry find.

At my local used bookstore last week, Dusty Bookstore, I found a 2007 copy of Pamela Alexander's latest book of poetry, her fourth (Ausable Press). Her name seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her. The biography on the back cover says she won the Yale Younger Poets prize and was nominated for a Pulitzer. She now teaches at Oberlin. The "glamour shot" author's photo was not glamorous: It shows her in a parka and headband on a mountain--pretty disguised. But the poetry was not camouflaged. It was stunning, like the first stanza of "What the Trail Says":

First, prepositions. Up, alongside,
under. Then noun: rock,
tree. Lizard.

Sentences take time. (p. 30)

I also like her ability to take my mind on a carnival ride with just a few phrases, like the first line of "Sonoran": "Sky tilts, the south enlarges." She also has one of the best jazz poems I've ever seen, "Couple at the Club," which begins:

The bass goes it alone. The bass goes
by subway. The trumpet shines and swerves,
yellow taxi breaking from the light.

There is more. This poet has been biding her time, spending time in Ontario as well as Ohio, and developing her own voice at her own pace--four books in 25 years. This is a poet.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Robert Day is best known as a masterful prose writer. His novel Last Cattle Drive is a classic of contemporary American frontier literature. Less well known is the fact that Day received his M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas in poetry writing. The grace of his style indicates serious study of language. Whether he writes essays, articles, novellas, or poetry, he understands aesthetics of style—balance, invention, and timing.
In “Teal Hunting with Two Old Uncles,” season and place are clear. The poem’s speaker has an easy assurance, inviting readers into his low-key drama. The young narrator contrasts with older uncles, as he performs the heavy work of sodding the duck blind. The early autumn day reflects the uncles’ mellow old age concerns of storytelling and casual drinking. For them, their weapon of choice is a “rolled up” magazine. They create their own oral history compendium, a parallel to the magazine, as the young hunter goes about business. Years later, like the uncles, the narrator remembers exactly what he shot on that trip, the “Blue wings” and “Cinnamon.” With his uncles, he becomes like “old hunting dogs loaded with dreams,” not so concerned with the hunt for meat as for the distillation of memories into fine narratives.

September’s never cold enough for ducks and whiskey.
I shoot in Tee-shirt and moccasins
as green wings hustle from pond to pond
in the yellow morning.

My uncles miss chances, drinking
on the bench deep in the blind
swapping stories about Cheyenne Bottoms
and Snow Geese bigger than the moon.

In the afternoon I work shirtless, laying
strips of sod on the blind’s roof,
careful as my mother tiling her kitchen counter.
My uncles sit on campstools whacking at wasps
with rolled up Ducks Unlimited.

That evening I shot two limits: Blue wings
came in low over the decoys. I dropped
a lone Cinnamon at sundown. My uncles
napped on their bench, twitching.

Like old hunting dogs loaded with dreams.


Education: Robert Day received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in English (University of Kansas 1964, 1966) and M.F.A (University of Arkansas-Fayetteville 1970). Career: Day has published We Should Have Come by Water (Mammoth 2009), The Committee to Save the World (Western Books 2009), Speaking French in Kansas (Cottonwood Press 1989), and The Last Cattle Drive (Putnam 1977). He taught at Fort Hays State University, Washington College in Chestertown, Iowa Writers Workshop, University of Kansas, and Montaigne College, The University of Bordeaux.
©2010 Denise Low AAPP 43 ©2010 Robert Day “Teal Hunting with Two Old Uncles”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

John Hoppenthaler Curates Women's Poetry for Connotation Press

In 2009, Publisher’s Weekly excluded women from its list of Top Ten Books. This inspired John Hoppenthaler to edit a special collection of women’s poetry for online journal Connotation Press http://http//

This issue features Maxine Kumin and Alicia Ostriker; I am honored to have poems in this e-zine (, along with Claudia Emerson (Pulitzer Prize), Fleda Brown (former Del. Poet Laureate), Annie Finch (founder of WOM-PO, the Discussion of Women’s Poetics listserve), Allison Joseph, Janice Harrington, Lola Haskins, Amy Newman, Martha Rhodes, Maureen Seaton, Erinn Batykefer, Joni Wallace, and Anna Akhmatova. Please visit this website, and many thanks to John for his “Poetry Congeries-January 2010.”