Friday, February 26, 2010

Rod Smith & Mel Nichols to read 7 pm Fri. 2/26 at 803 Mass.

803 Massachusetts Street, at Wonder Fair, above/below the old Casbah Market

Rod Smith is the author of Deed, Music or Honesty, Poèmes de l'araignée (France), The Good House, Protective Immediacy, and In Memory of My Theories. A CD of his readings, Fear the Sky, came out from Narrow House Recordings in 2005. Smith's work has appeared in a whole bunch of magazines and anthologies. He is editor and publisher of Edge Books, which has established an international reputation for publishing the finest in innovative writing. Smith is also editing, with Peter Baker and Kaplan Harris, The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley, for the University of California Press. He is currently a Visiting Professor in Poetry at The Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Mel Nichol’s most recent books are Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon (Edge Books, 2009) and Bicycle Day (Slack Buddha, 2008). She teaches at George Mason University.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Jeanine Hathaway teaches writing and literature at Wichita State University. Originally from Chicago, she settled in Wichita over thirty years ago. In her writings, she explores the intersections between knowledge and belief. She was a Dominican nun as a young woman, and this experience informs her work. Keen observation grounds her poems, which create situations for exploration of faith.
“Reconnaissance,” a title that is also a synonym for exploration, focuses on a woman who could be a neighbor “across the street.” I suspect she could also be a guise of the poet herself. Scenes in Hathaway’s poetry could be set in Wichita, but they are made more general, to fit experience of any reader. The woman forays into dark morning, a time that should be sunrise, but instead she is immersed in a sightless darkness that reveals only self. The woman is like a fish, awake yet submerged in watery depths. Her heartbeat centers her own “atmosphere,” again in a pre-dawn and pre-creation setting. Yet in this dark place, she finds two things: body and grace. These create the paradox of incarnation.


Before dawn, before the first
hushed light causes her children
to stir, the woman across the street
rises, every morning, extending
her life backwards into night
as a fish sated at the surface
will dive deeper and darker
until even sight is a memory
floating off.

She is alert now, aware of
herself as out of proportion,
mirrored through water;
expansive, most reflective
and faithful, and still
surrounded, governed
by the immense heartbeat
of her own atmosphere,
the unsettling grace of morning
and her cold feet.

Education: Jeanine Hathaway earned a BA in English (Siena Heights College, 1970) and an MFA in Poetry (Bowling Green State University, 1973).
Career: This poet published The Self as Constellation: Poems (University of North Texas Press, 2002, 2001 Vassar Miller Prize for Poetry). Her prose includes an autobiographical novel, Motherhouse (Hyperion, 1992) and monthly personal essays for The Wichita Times. She published in numerous DoubleTake, The Georgia Review, The Greensboro Review, River Styx, The Ohio Review, and The Best Spiritual Writing. Hathaway is a professor at Wichita State University and received the Wichita State University Regents' Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1993.
©2010 Denise Low AAPP 44 ©2002 Jeanine Hathaway “Reconnaissance,” in The Self as Constellation (University of North Texas Press).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stan Lombardo Mesmerizes Raven Bookstore Patrons

Stanley Lombardo continues to publish readable translations of classical literature. His Iliad and Odyssey are vivid translations that emphasize dramatic storytelling. Ronald Myers descrbes his translation style as “minimalist and colloquial.” As a translator, Lombardo becomes the element of Mercury—a perfect catalyst who transforms one language to another, without drawing attention to himself. He returns these works to performance origins.

Lombardo performed selections from Dante’s Inferno at the Raven Bookstore ( ) Feb. 12 to a packed house. No one made a sound for the hour-long presentation, and the corner street musician’s saxophone was distant accompaniment. Lombardo punctuated the reading with a hand drum for ending points—unobtrusive emphasis. Also, he kept an almost subliminal beat as he voiced the lines. He spoke the beginnings in Italian, and then switched to English.

Here, from the net, is his opening:

Midway through the journey of our life
I found myself within a dark wood,
for the straight way had now been lost.
Ah, how hard it is to describe that wood,
a wilderness so gnarled and rough
the very thought of it brings back my fear.
Death itself is hardly more bitter;
but to tell of the good that I found there
I will speak of the other things I saw.

I cannot say just how I entered that wood,
so full of sleep was I at the point
when I abandoned the road that runs true.
But when I reached the foot of a hill
That rose up at the end of the valley
Where fear had pierced me through to the heart,
I lifted my eyes and saw its shoulders
already bathed in the light of that planet
that leads us straight along every path.
This calmed a little the lake of my heart
that had surged with terror all through the night
that I had just spent so piteously.

Ordering information: Dante. Inferno. Translated by Stanley Lombardo. Introduction by Steven Botterill. Notes by Anthony Oldcorn. 512 pp. Hackett Publishing Co. P.O. Box 44937, Indianapolis, IN 46244-0937. Audio versions are also available.

Lombardo has lived in Lawrence since 1976. He joined the University of Kansas Classics Department after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Texas-Austin. He has been an administrator—chair of the Classics Department and Director of the University of Kansas Honors Program. He is a serious practitioner of billiards and Kuan Um School of Zen Buddhism.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Iowa Poet Robert Dana Dies Feb. 6, 2010

I first met RP when he was a visiting writer at Wichita State University, early 1980s, through G. Barnes,a great promoter of the arts. He said I had to meet this guy, and we found him at an after-class party at a student's apartment. He was fun, witty, smart, and happy. I wanted to be like him, so I continued to read poetry.

He also read at the University of Kansas at the same time, and it was memorable. He discussed the works of Richard Hugo and his recent death. He read a delightful found poem from a camping catalogue about the pleasures of zipping together sleeping bags. Not long after, I attended my first Associated Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference, and over the years of those reading-eating-chatting-dancing fests, I joined Dinners with Dana. Usually I would fast and save my per diem for the one ultimate meal at a restaurant he pre-selected. He was a personage, and I have warm memories of him from our meetings. He was generous and threw great parties for his AWP friends. Wife Peg's parents live in Lawrence, so I had the chance to meet them occasionally at the Eldridge for drinks. These are cherished memories.

Most of all, though, when I heard he had died, I regretted he will write no more poetry. My first thought was this loss.

I'll reprint part of a review I wrote about his 2004 book The Morning of the Red Admirals (Anahinga Press), to illustrate my appreciation for his work (the full review is at ):

"Robert Dana’s fifteenth book of poems is iconoclastic. “Part of the poet’s task was to break the rules of language, to free it from the burdens of its history, thus acknowledging that history and revivifying it,” he writes in Ploughshares (1991). That paradox lies at the heart of his own poetics. He chooses words with full awareness of their etymology and then realigns them into present-time currency. He procreates poems with fossilized words, as in “Garden Fable”:
Aristoxenus, the Hedonist,
watered his lettuce with wine
and honey, knowing the difference
between nothing and something
is not just something, but some-
thing special . . . . (19)
The transformation of the commonplace into ecstatic, koan moments of understanding— “something special”—through word spells is the gift of this poet. How wonderful to revive the name of this nearly forgotten Greek author who wrote about excesses of Persian kings (in Bíos Archyta). Dana goes on to include related classical words such as “conundrum” and “sluicing,” alongside Anglo-Saxon, fist-like words like “sodden,” “gutters,” “scrape,” “pelts” and “drays.” And perhaps this mixture of measured Latinate terms amongst the workaday old English is what makes another level of paradox in American English poetics, the tension between the civilized and the blunt. Finally, after the word duels, at the end of the poem we are in Iowa, the storm vanished, the sun forming a “sheen.” All poems resolve in transformed solids of this world."


Cornell college page with video

Prairie Lights Bookstore readings

Weber Studies interview with Guy Wade Lebeda

Boundoff MP3 file of reading

Anhinga Press website and book ordering information

Order 30 min. reading/interview with New Letters on the Air, July 2008 or 1980