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I’ve been on a real Sandra Cisneros kick lately. I just re-read Loose Woman (one of my all-time favorite collections), I’ll be starting Woman Hollering Creek sometime this week, and I have My Wicked Wicked Ways on order.
Shannon Hardwick has a beautiful chapbook out. It makes me jealous that I don’t live in the desert.
I’ve been enjoying the work of my fellow poets participating in Pulitzer Remix.
Salon has a cool article on contronyms.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a reading report…well, it’s been a while since I’ve done any blogging! But March was a crazy month. Between travel, poetry readings, and getting into the busy season at work, I’ve barely had time for sitting down and writing poems, much less blog posts. But here’s an assortment of great books and articles I’ve read throughout the month.
Sandra Cisneros, Loose Woman. This is one of my all-time favorite poetry collections, and I find myself returning to it as spring really starts to emerge. I don’t do it consciously. But this time of year, this is the book I want to read.
John Darnielle apparently has a novel coming out. This is cause for much joy in my household. (And I am sure I’m going to love it, because John Darnielle made me interested in a novella centered around Black Sabbath, and I quite honestly have no musical interest in Black Sabbath in general. Nothing personal, Ozzy.)
Drew Myron wrote a beautiful post about being a good literary citizen. I’m glad to see I already employ most of these habits.
Poetry in Person: Twenty-five Years of Conversation with America’s Poets, edited by Alexander Neubauer. I just started this book yesterday, and don’t want to put it down. I love reading or listening to poets discuss the process of writing. Often, I enjoy the process more than publication.
Liliana Valenzuela’s Codex of Journeys: Bendito camino. Makes me want to learn Spanish. For real this time.
Poet and friend Debra Winegarten was interviewed for a book marketing blog last month, and I’ve been employing her advice to promote my chapbook. I often say I have to channel my Inner Deb to do the work of marketing. Some people love it; I am not one of them.
“50 Sure Signs that Texas is Actually Utopia” by Summer Anne Buton — The whole list is great, but #4 is where it’s at. I don’t want to live in a state without breakfast tacos.
Calvin & Hobbes photoshopped into real photographs. So wonderful.
“Janeites: The curious American cult of Jane Austen” by Jon Kelly — My enjoyment of Pride and Prejudice aside, I’m more fascinated by people’s interest in Jane Austen rather than her work.
Beloved by Toni Morrison — This April, I’ll be participating in the Pulitzer Remix Project and creating a poem a day drafted exclusively from the text of Beloved. Since I haven’t read the novel since college, I’m reading it this month, and then I’ll read it again in March. It’s an interesting experience to read a book for the purpose of making poems out of it. I’ll probably have more detailed reflections on that later.
“Tatau (Tattoo) Poetics” by Craig Santos Perez — I have a soft spot for literary discussions about tattoos. Here, Perez discusses poetics and postcolonialism.
“The changing face of ‘nerds’ (and autism) in popular culture” by Noel Murray — A thought-provoking look into comedy, nerdiness, and the autism spectrum.
“Dead Writers Perfume” by Amanda Nelson. I imagine that my own scent might be a mix of oolong tea, red wine, rosemary, and tea tree oil. An odd mix, to be sure, but it’s fun to think about.
Hilary Mantel’s Rules for Writers — I’ve never read Brande’s book, but I will now. At some point. My to-be-read list is very long.
New Goose by Lorine Niedecker — Spinoffs of Mother Goose poems based on life during the Great Depression and World War II. Disturbing, in a way, how the work is still thematically relevant.
“Our No Audio, Ourselves” by Natalie Shapero — A meditation on language, vulgarity, FCC, and the complicated regulations surrounding decency.
“The Roadside Assistance Prayer” by Susan Rooke — Yay local poets! I was also amused because my final poem for the 30/30 project mentioned roadside assistance, and when the poem was done, I opened up my Your Daily Poem email, and discovered Susan’s piece.
Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Widsom by Sallie Tisdale — I just started this book, which brings to life the stories of female Buddhist figures that have been otherwise obscured or ignored.
Another week has closed, and with it comes some excellent writing.
Patti Smith’s Horses by Philip Shaw — I just started this tiny volume about one of my all-time favorite albums.
Kate Greenstreet’s 104 First Book Interviews – the original series. All illuminating. I’m learning so much.
“Murmuration. The Poetry of the Morning Walk.” by Christie Aschwanden — It was only a few months ago that I learned what murmuration was. I hope to actually see one in action someday.
“The psychology of anthropomorphism, or why I felt empathy towards a piece of trash” by Brooke Borel — It’s nice to know that science shows I’m not the only one who has encountered this issue.
Paisley Rekdal’s open letter to Christian Ward – Really, this story is appalling. Good for Paisley for speaking up.
A wonderful interview with Sharon Olds – I especially love this: “A poem doesn’t intensify experience, it adds to it. And it is not about a different person, is it? It is the same person who has made a song.”
A Dance With Dragons — Yep! It’s in from the library. I find it annoying that I have to do thinks like go to work rather than sit around reading all day.
“Deep Thoughts With Muffie the Cat” — Grammar Cat is one of the best sources of grammar knowledge on the internet. And I don’t just say that because it’s authored by two of my friends from my writing group.
“The Lessons of Objects: An Interview with Mark Doty” by Andrew David King — Awesome discussion about poetry, and the things which inform creativity.
The Top 5 Most Expensive Liquors in the World — used as research while I was working on a poem.
This is a short post this month, because I spent all of December on one book.
George R. R. Martin – A Feast for Crows. Yes, I spent the better part of December on this installment of A Song of Ice and Fire. Like A Storm of Swords, I felt like it had a few issues, but Martin knows how to throw in surprises that make it all worthwhile. This volume is focused on King’s Landing, especially Jamie and Cersei Lannister. While Cersei is the kind of character I absolutely love to hate, the emphasis on the King’s Landing crew overwhelmed the other characters. The narratives of those at Sunstone, the Eyrie, Braavos, and the Iron Islands were so few and far between that by the time their chapters came back up, I was having trouble remembering what had happened to them 100 pages ago. (I’m focusing on locations rather than character names to reduce the possibility of giving spoilers.) Still, by the end, I was hungry for more, and can’t wait until A Dance With Dragons comes in at the library. Hopefully it won’t take too long. Of course, then I’ll be all caught up and have to wait for the next book with the rest of the populace.
Note: I’ve decided to do away with my monthly book listings. For 2013, I wanted to shake things up a little. So I’m going to try a weekly feature that is a smattering of things I’ve found in print and online.
Larry Gonick, The Cartoon Guide to Physics. I always thought biology was cool, but never had much patience for chemistry and physics. Plus, I hated labs, so I got very little in terms of formal science education after high school. These days, I wish I had been more open to science courses, not because I want to be a scientist, but because I find myself continually drawn to poets who incorporate math, physics, and biology into their work. Fortunately, there are plenty of science-oriented books available for those of us who skipped even the most basic intro courses, and this is one of them. I’m having so much fun reading it.
Kate Greenstreet, case sensitive. I first discovered Greenstreet through Fire on Her Tongue. I responded even more deeply to this first collection. I was drawn to the science, to the road imagery, to the consistent voice and character throughout. And it left me wanting more of her poems.
Language Log, “Literary moist aversion.” Personally, I tend more toward sound aversions (especially dull pencils) rather than word aversions. But I do dislike the word “chafe,” and resent when I find myself compelled to use it in a poem.
So much has kept me busy lately, so I’m getting to this list much later than I prefer. But here’s an update on what I read last month. You’ll notice that I’ve let go of my plan of one novel, one nonfiction work, 4 poetry collections, one literary journal, and one craft book. The length of time it takes me to read one of George R.R. Martin’s novels, plus the fact that certain books (or their library due dates) were calling to me means I’m pretty much done with that plan until I’ve gotten through A Feast for Crows (currently reading) and A Dance With Dragons.
Kim Addonizio, What Is This Thing Called Love: I picked this up at the end of September, and it was the only poetry book I read last month. But what a collection it was. The poems range from heartbreak to grief to parenthood, and yet all speak to each other despite the variations of subject matter, showing all the forms that love can take, and how it can affect our lives.
And then, of course, there are brilliant lines like this:
merciless, the way it travels in
and keeps emitting light. Beside the stove
we ate an orange. And there were purple flowers
on the table. And we still had hours.
This is the kind of poetry collection I aspire to write: one in which the collection has a theme, but has room to move and explore.
William J. Higginson, The Haiku Handbook: I recently submitted some haiku and haiga for the Dos Gatos Press Anthology of Haiku/Senryu and Higa (submissions stay open until January 15th, by the way). In the guidelines page, editors Scott Wiggerman and Constance Campbell were kind enough to list some recommended resources for learning more about haiku. I decided to read The Haiku Handbook as I was preparing my submission, and wow, am I glad! This book greatly enhanced my understanding of haiku and how it works. I ended up drastically changing my submission, cutting pieces that no longer worked in favor of new haiku I wrote that better reflected what I learned from this book. Of the original 8 haiku I had been preparing to send in, I only kept one. But I feel like I really understand haiku now, and I’m sending more engaging poems into the world. That’s a great feeling.
George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords (finished): Started in October, it took me well into November to get through this 1,100+-page literary behemoth. When last I mentioned it, I talked about how this novel felt heavier than the other three, how it seemed to drag more in the middle. I will say, though, that while it probably could have used a bit of tightening, the ending to this book is incredible. Totally worth the long road it took to get there. I closed the book anxious for more.
Gary L. McDowell and F. Daniel Rzicznek, eds., The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: I noticed recently that I hadn’t written many prose poems lately, probably not since July. While this isn’t a bad thing per se, it’s true that I love reading them and writing them. There are two prose poems in my chapbook, and a handful of them in the current draft of my collection so far. I’d had this book in my “To Read” stack for a while, and decided now was the time, in order to get some inspiration and make prose poems a regular part of my writing again. This collection of essays and poems really did the trick, too. Since reading it, I’ve done a few prose poems a week. I was also surprised how quickly I read this. But it’s so good, you will devour it.
December so far has been taken up by A Feast for Crows. If I finish this book before the new year, I’ll probably focus on poetry, but we’ll see. I hope during the busy holiday season, you find time for your own pleasure reading.
November was not a high-volume reading month, in part because I couldn’t actually read for one entire week. The other reason is because I’m under George R.R. Martin’s spell, and thus most of my reading time has gone to his epic series rather than anything else. So here are the two books I finished this month, and the one I started.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Pictures of the Gone World – The cover here is a bit misleading; I’m actually lucky enough to own a second edition of this text, which I found in a used bookstore in Philadelphia last year. I’m always on the lookout for early editions of books, and this was a great find. All in all, I very much enjoy this brief collection, but what most interests me is the historical perspective. Work that was shocking and controversial in its day doesn’t have that same power in 2012. It’s strong poetry, to be sure. It holds up. But it doesn’t have that shocking immediacy.
George R. R. Martin, A Clash of Kings — I’m glad the reading ban didn’t begin when I was partway through this book. I loved it just as much as the first one, and loved following the continued plot. While some character arcs were more compelling than others, I didn’t come away from this 1,000-page novel feeling that anything was superfluous. When it was done, I immediately put a hold on the next book at the library.
George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords – This came ix at the library the day the reading ban ended, and I dove right in. So far, this book seems slower-paced than the first two, but I’m still enjoying it. It’s frustrating to be so busy and only able to read a few chapters a day, because I really want to see where this is going, but hopefully I’ll get some long reading hours in this weekend.