Monday, December 31, 2012
Sunday, November 4, 2012
My reading material has exclusively gone down the "poetry" fork in the road, as of late, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but just the thought of reading fiction now seems unappealing and even overwhelming. I can definitely see myself getting back into some nonfiction, though, namely the newish Richard Brautigan biography. There's also Richard Dowden's Africa, which I never finished and would like to get back into. And, of course, the Dostoyevsky biography continues to stare me down.
Writing front is pretty tame, at the moment. I have a new batch of poems that is turning from a small batch into a big batch (I enjoy using the word "batch" for poems, I think, because I have no talent in the kitchen and therefore take the opportunity to steal that word from the kitchen and use it to my liking elsewhere). They need a lot of editing before I do anything with them, individually or otherwise, so I've been trying to scout out any large chunks of time I can get in the near future to work on that. Submissions have slowed down, since all this new stuff isn't ready. I have an itty-bitty group of poems called This Is Not A Well that I don't know what to do with...they might get folded into the larger thing. There is one really good poem in there that I will find a home for, somehow, as I'm very proud of it.
It should be evident that organization does not exist in my projects, at the moment, which is probably why I'm not a millionaire poet already. Obviously.
Thanks again to everyone who's bought Moon Law. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, you may do so here.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Those looking to purchase Moon Law can do so at Wild Age Press. To those who already got a copy, thank you so very much for the support. I've worked long and hard on my writing pursuits and gotten criticism here and there, over the past year, for taking on writing and parenting simultaneously, so it means more than you know to those who acknowledge that I'm still (and always will be) a writer with publishing goals, no matter what else is going on in life.
Friday, October 19, 2012
The Diary of Anne Frank
There isn't enough I can say about the ways this book shaped a large portion of my life, but it did, so much so that I considered divorcing the husband when he voiced his dislike of the book. There is a maturity and a childishness to Anne Frank that comes across in her words and stories, as well as wit and courage, all of which aided in my decision to start a diary at age ten and to someday be a writer. I don't care who you are, read it. Some things you just need in your life.
The Hobbit - J.R.R Tolkien
Bottom line, Bilbo Baggins was a BAMF. And I was enamored with the ring. For whatever reason, I couldn't get into The Lord of the Rings, but I read The Hobbit a few times before running into it on my school curriculum.
The Tillerman Series - Cynthia Voigt
I know a lot of people who can't read stories unless they can personally relate to them; not always the case, for me. And I think that's what drew me in about this series - that these kids' lives were so far different from anything I'd ever experienced. Abandoned by their mother and forced to find their own way, I remember how in awe I was of Dicey Tillerman (the oldest, but still a child, herself) and her seemingly natural step into her role as parent to her younger siblings. I knew it surely wasn't something I could handle, but she handled it with courage and maturity. The later books in the series followed the kids' into their adult lives and didn't have the same intensity of the first book, but I'm now trying to track them down, because I think I'd enjoy them more now.
Congo and Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton
The thing about Crichton's novels is that as awesome as the movie versions turned out, the books always seemed way better (particularly Jurassic Park and The Lost World). Congo and the JP novels were the only Crichton I read, but I read them many times and appreciated the accessible science thrown in with the story (because I typically need more than just a story, even a good story).
Sunday, August 19, 2012
This is kind of a hasty rant.* Something that used to nag me once in a while and now commands my daily thoughts is the lackadaisical, almost apathetic way we go about choosing what to feed our brains. I probably think into this too much, but it's hard for me to grasp how people can be more choosy over what color frame to put on their cell phone than what information they ingest and possibly commit to permanent memory.
The appropriate disclaimer here, I guess, is that I'm more than kind of a snob about this. My existence sometimes involves a struggle between strictly regulating what I see/hear/read and being open to new-to-me material (I believe I usually maintain a healthy 70-30 mix of both). And that's not to say all lowbrow stuff should be off one's radar; if I stumble onto a Keeping Up With The Kardashians marathon, I will, more often than not, watch an episode or two. It's those that limit the contents of their minds to reality television or other material that (arguably) isn't intellectually stimulating that worry me.
I don't usually like to judge people, for the most part; I'm a very "live and let live" person who celebrates differences over sameness and conformity, and passing judgement is just not what I do. Hence why I've been putting off writing this post. Because, why not let people take in utter drivel 24/7 for the rest of their lives, if that's what they want to do? Fair enough. But what happens when they breed, and we've got parents that don't know who Anne Frank is? Or, how would you feel if the lady teaching your kid at school spent her summer (whoa, True Story alert!) reading nothing but the Fifty Shades trilogy. Seven times. And nothing else.** It's become disheartening to me, maybe, because I no longer come across this suggested intellectual laziness once in a while - it's everywhere.
I read The Giver trilogy this past week and realized that if you go back far enough in time (which isn't that far, this one only being two decades old), you can find well-written fiction for young people. Fiction with plots that don't involve teens with perfect features and done-to-death love triangles. I wonder if people would see how disappointing contemporary YA/teen series are if they read something like The Giver series, because, negating the illogical premise - even with the suspension of belief Lowry requires - they are well-crafted stories with important messages (albeit hammered in pretty hard) and characters you can respect for having more on their resume than two attractive boys in love with them.
It's really about time we stopped allowing ourselves to be served our own intellectual makeup by faceless people and companies that determine what we should and should not be fawning over. I've lost count of how many customers I've served who buy a book for no other reason than, "I just want to see what all the hype is about." What? Aren't your money and time and mind more valuable than that? Just because something is at the top of a bestseller/box office/TV ratings list doesn't meant it's good or worth your effort. It's okay to seek out mental stimulation that people aren't talking about. I suppose that requires more work than saying, "Hey, I'll see the movie that's playing on four screens and everyone else is seeing." Not everything that goes mainstream is necessarily of poor quality, but more often than not, it can be watered down and effortless. And again, if that's all you're feeding your mind, I fear the loss of history and critical thought and intellectual progression for future generations.
I hope, someday, we can bring challenge back to the way we exercise, mentally. To possess something with such a seemingly endless capacity and capability as the human brain, I don't see how someone can't be compelled to discover all that it can do.
* Please, do tell me if I'm completely off the mark with all this, because I really do want to be wrong about it, I want someone to tell me I live in an unfortunate bubble, outside of which everything isn't altogether That Bad.
** It's possible an issue or two of People Magazine made it onto her Summer Reading List, as well.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I would think re-imagining the use of the page would be a cliche outside-the-box effort for anybody, really; we're all taught to read from left to right and write in paragraphs and stanzas. The idea that text can hold more power than just the meaning of its words - that the words themselves can visually coalesce into trails and shapes that contribute to the poem's message - is exciting. I've taken traditionally formatted poems that seemed like they were missing something and resuscitated them by allowing the words to escape onto the rest of the page.
I gather my faces
ride my Portuguese
out to sea
I gather my faces
ride my Portugese
I'm excited Wild Age Press chose to publish my work. They're just getting started, but I greatly admire their vision and commitment to the artistry of chapbook publishing. Many presses have a uniform design for the chapbooks they put out, and that's great, too; Wild Age's approach is to look at each work individually when determining how best to physically represent it, and as someone who takes an interest in book arts and handmade things, I love the idea of treating a written work not just as text on a page but as art.
Other projects are slowly in the works. I'm in the beginning stages of shopping around Memory These, another chapbook. Also putting together a draft of a chapbook called This Is Not A Well. I have a lot of scattered ideas for it; the challenge is knowing when an idea will/can be a chapbook-length work and when it will just be one poem. Or at least, that's the hangup I seem to run into, every now and then.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Been reading some good chapbooks and other small books in the past few days. Hooray for small presses. I really don't know what my brain cells and other organs would do without all the good work they produce.
Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell (Mud Luscious Press, 2012)
Become a father and read this book. In that order.
The Wilhelm Scream by Jeremy Behreandt (Plumberries Press, 2011)
Very awesome poems printed on gray cardstock cards wrapped in a piece of vellum. The packaging alone made me read them over and over.
How the Days of Love and Diptheria by Robert Kloss (Nephew/Mud Luscious Press, 2011)
Such a great, intense, language piece. Hoping this is the start of a lot more great work to come from Kloss. Can't wait for his novella, The Alligators of Abraham, later this year.
The Bible by Gregory Sherl
Not published yet, but it should be. The phrase I keep using is "quietly epic", as it takes on a vast story landscape and whittles all the overarching ideas down to the tiniest stuff. Because maybe it's the little things and not the all-encompassing weight of everything else. Yeah.
Treesisters by Joseph Rippi (Greying Ghost Press, 2012)
Very short, poetic piece that shot something new out at me each time I read it. Beautifully printed, too.
I don't have enough adjectives in my head to be reviewing things, at the moment, so these shoddy descriptions will have to suffice.
Still chugging along on NaPoWriMo. I think it's helped me get all the pop culture references out of my system...maybe. Almost.
Monday, April 2, 2012
On Books I'm The Last Person To Read And Books I'm Very Likely The Only One Reading...And Some Poems
I have a poem called TUNDRA BAR in Thunderclap! Magazine's eighth issue. You can purchase a print copy or download a free PDF here.
I have another two poems, CRACKS IN PAVEMENT and FAITH COUNTER, in the second issue of Emerge Literary Journal, which you can go here to read for free.
I haven't yet read both issues in full, but the stuff I've read so far is great, so check them out even if you don't want to read my little poetic morsels.
Finally hit the finish line on The Hunger Games trilogy, largely wondering why I decided to read it in the first place. As a bookseller, I guess you can easily be compelled to dive into something when you spend a single night selling dozens of copies of it; I don't recommend this decision process when it comes to reading material, for life is short and reading takes, you know, time and stuff. To spare you a thesis-length diatribe on the disappointing state of teen fiction (and fiction in general) and lack of desire from writers and publishers to challenge readers (again, life being short and all), I cut to the list form:
- Well-paced for action novels.
- Katniss/Buffy thing.
- Great mix of old and new world culture with the gladiator-meets-reality-TV backdrop.
- Too many plot turns for the sake of convenience.
- Rehashed love triangle of barf.
- Katniss/Buffy thing.
- Hard to ignore author's misuse of certain words.
- Allegorical/Social concepts not played up enough.
- Historical background is virtually nonexistent. Nonsensical evolution of language/culture.
It'd be interesting to see an early draft of the books; I almost wonder if Collins initially had more back story and social commentary to balance out all the action writing and was told to cut it. Haven't seen the movie yet, but I predict it'll be a rare occasion in which I enjoy it more than the book.
It took me a long time to read Ben Marcus's The Flame Alphabet. As I type this, I'm still not finished with it, and I've read of others' experiences in taking a while to finish it. The story doesn't arc perfectly, but I think that, among other things, is what I like about it. It's very wrenching and despairing in an un-sugarcoated way, which is what you want out of a novel about an epidemic of children's speech being lethal to adults. It's also refreshing that Marcus doesn't write an unusual concept for the sake of being experimental; the story is so thought-provoking you find yourself pondering the morality of characters' actions long after they've taken them...perhaps what action you would take in their situation, as well. It's been a long time since I've read Ben Marcus, and his novel renews my appreciation for his work. It seems this isn't an easy book to like, but it's worth the effort, as the writing is beautiful.
Monday, March 12, 2012
There were also numerous categories I wanted to add, breaking down the larger sections. I found myself wanting to separate young adult/teen fiction from adult fiction. I wanted to display short story collections apart from novels-in-stories. Novellas would have their own space, but who's to say whether Fahrenheit 451 would lie there or in fiction? And what of Steinbeck's volume of collected short novel(la)s? And if I owned enough of them, I'd definitely want to distinguish biographies from memoirs, a variance so many readers still don't seem to grasp even a little bit.
To get into the classic versus contemporary debate would complicate matters further, still. Does it bother me, on occasion, to see Carver's story collections seated next to Michael Chabon's A Model World and Other Stories? Mayhaps. But I'm not about to embark on a whirlwind reorganization project that undoubtedly ends with me sitting in the middle of the room wondering if Ellison and Eugenides can't just get along after all. And yet, there's something not quite right about the American style of placing contemporary authors next to their legendary counterparts on bookshelves.
In doing this, I realized that while I don't consider myself much of an equal-opportunity reader of every category there is, the new layout visualizes the fact that I don't stick for too long to one genre, the way other readers I know tend to do. Furthermore, it brought to my attention the refusal of a lot of the books I own to be shoved into just one category. And while that made reorganizing more of a challenge, I'm happy to celebrate, above all else, diversity in form. I think we're finally reaching a stage in literature where the understanding exists that a "novel" doesn't have to be a 250-300-page chaptered beginning-middle-end story with consistent font and a succinct genre. I can write a novel-in-flashes about a colony of vampires living in the body of a whale and searching for their soulmates that could feasibly whet a mainstream pub house's palate. I read Shane Jones's Light Boxes and was blown away, not just by the book, but that something less traditional was even sitting on the shelf of a chain bookstore to begin with. So. Long live hybrid books. Even better is I think they're just getting started.
Of course, now my Atwoods and Updikes and Bolanos and Roths are all over the map, so don't be surprised if/when I revert back to my old display a month from now. I'm OCD like that.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Haven't been reading much, lately, but what little I have delved into has been fantastic. Started The Flame Alphabet and have really been looking for a good chunk of time to speed through it. Ben Marcus is a language master. His words and sentences are like beef stew; and yeah, chicken soup is good too. But oh man, beef stew.
Daniela Olszewska's Halfsteps + Cloudfang is a good looking little book with amazing poetry and some really badass artwork by Melissa K. Dunkelberger. I don't come across books very often that are enhanced by artwork, but I'm in love with the drawings in this book.
Also read Jamie Kazay's Small Hollering and enjoyed it. Everything from Dancing Girl Press is tasty.
If there's one thing you spend your money on today, or this week, or whatever, buy Gregory Sherl's The Oregon Trail Is The Oregon Trail. His poems teach the humanity and despair and heartache the game was meant to and did not. My soul cries now for those oxen and Child #1 and Child #2. Beautifully done themed collection.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
I normally read the book before watching the show/movie, but didn't get around to the graphic novel until watching the first two seasons of the show. And unexpectedly, I found the show to be much better. Don't get me wrong, I reached the end of chapter eight in a semi-state of shock over the events that occurred in the book, which quite obviously carries the same intensity you get out of the show. The characters in the former hook you, get you invested in them, then rip them from your mind in horrific ways.
And yet. While I don't discount that achievement the book makes, I couldn't help thinking the melodrama was a bit overkill the whole way through, and that's where the show outshines the book. It sounds a little contradictory; of course there's drama, the whole premise of this story is a breeding ground for drama. The show succeeds more at keeping it authentic, though, whereas the book seems to enjoy descending into shock for shock's sake, a circus sideshow with a lineup of torture the writers can't wait to put these characters through.
I went into the book knowing it had different characters and plot elements from the show, but I had no idea how drastically the show diverted from it. Different characters die, different ones hook up, etc. Again, I think the show made some good choices in detouring from the book's plot, and I'd be interested in how they came to said creative decisions. Also interested to see how much the show sticks to the book from this point on, given all the Really Messed Up Stuff that goes down in the book.
All that said, read the book. Melodrama, yes, but it will suck you in.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
The only solution I've come up with is to take a week (or some period of time) to knock out a chunk of submissions, then go back to writing. Rinse and repeat. But surely, there's a way for me to rewire my brain to do both at once. Today alone, I did laundry and washed dishes and packed things in boxes, all at the same time, so I'm obviously a superhero in some sense.
Oh, and I hit another obstacle when I go to title poems. Or anything I write. I don't know why this happens, but there are two solutions. I either have someone else name them after I've written them, or I throw some adverbs and fruit words in a hat, blindly choose two, and put them together as a title.
Friday, January 6, 2012
You almost don't want to say too much about Slawson's work, for fear it'd take away from what his poems accomplish. As Markus makes clear, this book is not lighthearted. It's hard-hitting love confessions in inventive language, and I was struck by the effortless way Slawson gives so many words new purpose and therefore an atomic kind of energy. The whole book might as well be on fire, really.
I wish you'd say
something when I
key your name into
when I say slow
songs and cherry bombs
like so many teeth
squeezed into the shotgun
of my jaw
These poems are the opposite of flower metaphors and pink love. Read this book.
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