Action-Packed Post!

We’ve been plagued by squirrels dancing in our ceilings for several seasons now.  Back in April it seemed as if we had finally confounded them when Lance pruned the tree that gave them clear access.  But after a few weeks they figured out that they could climb right up the back staircase that leads straight up to the 3rd floor and onto the roof.  And then, as if to punish our efforts, they colonized the ceiling in even larger numbers.  Louder, larger numbers.

It’s not just that they’re loud.  It’s the nature of the noise.  Like a thousand fingernails scraping against a blackboard.

At last, our landlord has found someone to deal with the issue.  He’s assembled his crew and erected scaffolding all around the building.  Vincent loves all the activity, and calls the scaffolding “The Clocktower”, which I love, and talks about climbing up the tall ladders, which I don’t.

I know I have overprotective tendencies when it comes to Vincent, but I think they’re called for:  last week he got outside by tearing through the screen door.  It’s no wonder his birth is the guiding force behind Hunger All Inside.

Meanwhile, Aidan is 6 months old today, babbling a blue streak.  His eczema is under control, though not gone entirely.  His face and scalp especially require daily treatments.  But we can at last see and feel his beautiful baby face clear.

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I first learned of The Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions through Karen Weyant’s blog.  I haven’t yet taken advantage of this truly affordable service, but I plan to this summer.  They have fantastic writers on their roster, and even I can find some way to pay $30 for two hours of mentoring. And what’s more, that teeny tuition goes toward another great program:

The program is being offered at an extremely low rate — many of the instructing authors volunteering their time to Dzanc do similar work as freelancers and charge much greater rates than are being offered here through the DCWS. Other workshops and writing programs charge a lump sum of several hundred dollars up front. Not only does the DCWS allow you to control and target your expenses, but 100% of the money brought in by Dzanc by our DCWS goes to supporting the writing programs we run for students grades 4-12. These additional programs — currently being run nationally by Dzanc — are offered free of charge to students who would not otherwise be able to afford and experience these sort of writing programs.

I’d like to sign up immediately, but my computer mishap has knocked my budget for a very large loop.  (No, it’s not back yet, but I’m crossing my fingers for today.)  But I’m really excited about it, and can see myself signing up on a semi-regular basis in the future.  I don’t have a writing group, and this is a great way to get varied feedback.  If you haven’t already, you should absolutely check it out!

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My husband accuses me of burying the important news at the bottom of my posts.  I don’t think so.  But I’m now working for Tupelo Press.  I’m only mentioning this because Tupelo Press is one of my favorite small presses, and I’ve often talked about them or their books on the blog in the past, and I will continue to do so, and for the same reasons: because I love them.  As my friends Ann and Michael, who work for Random House, say over at their blog, Books on the Nightstand, this blog is my own personal blog, and in no way affiliated with Tupelo Press.  Just so you know.



Unexpected…

…news. One of the presses to which I’d submitted my chapbook for a contest (which I did not win or even place as a finalist) has accepted it for publication. I didn’t even know it was still under consideration, it’s been a number of months. And I’ve since revised the chapbook, retitled it, and submitted it to a handful of other contests. Bird in the hand…?

Sum-sum-summertime!

It’s official, and clinging to these new summer days is that summery languor, that eh, whatever, it can wait feeling. But I truly have done more than read novels and dip my toes in the kiddie pool, ensconced in my gestational cocoon — I have indeed read a lot of novels, but I had catching up to do! For a while I was reading nothing but poetry, and it’s mighty difficult to be a bookseller on a poetry-only diet.

But if you observed the several piles of books on the end table beside me, you’d see that, still, 90% of them are poetry-related. No photo, uh-uh, they’re far too ungainly and embarrassing, my piles of books. But I assure you it’s true. A few of the titles I’m leisurely reading: Colosseum, by Katie Ford; cloudlife, by Stefanie Marlis; Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns, by Michael Theune; Things are Disappearing Here, by Kate Northrup; and Return to Calm, by Jacques Réda, translated by Aaron Prevots. So you can see I am not neglecting poetry.

I must confess that I also read an advanced copy of Elizabeth McCracken’s upcoming book, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, which is a memoir. A quote:

A child dies in this book: a baby. A baby is stillborn. You don’t have to tell me how sad that is: it happened to me and my husband, our baby, a son.

It’s a heart-rending book, and probably not the best reading choice for me at this time, but McCracken is an exquisite writer.

This is also the season for fall/winter frontlist orders for the bookshop, so I’ve been on major catalog duty also. There are definitely some exciting books coming up, but for the life of me I can’t remember what they are — I order them, and then promptly forget all about them — unless I read an advanced reader’s copy, that is. I’ll try to post some forthcoming poetry titles when I get the chance.

I’ve been productive in my own work as well. This weekend I reorganized my chapbook, removing some poems, adding others, fine-tuning its arc, and now it’s off to a new batch of contests. May it find more luck in this incarnation! And there’s a new poem, which is turning out to be rather long-ish, that I’m drafting. I’m trying not to be too fierce with my editing scissors this go-around, let it flesh out and see what happens.

And lastly, but most importantly, I’ve been swept up in keeping the supply of sweet tea abundant enough to meet the very high demand! I’ll tell you, it’s very hard to find a decent glass of iced tea around here unless you make it yourself. Even with all the great coffeehouses about. They just get all frou-frou with it and muck it up. Or they simply don’t know what they’re doing.

Last week I despaired that maybe I’d gone “off” iced tea, the way pregnancy makes me go “off” pasta and hamburgers. One glass I bought tasted sour. The next, from another place, tasted like cigars. Seriously. That one I didn’t finish. And then the next one, which came sweet, tasted cloying and suspiciously citrusy.

The perfect iced tea is sweet and strong, and not herbal — and if you add lemon you should be fined, or at the very least strongly chastised. Thank goodness I had a fresh batch at home, which was perfect and perfectly reassuring.

Emma Bolden’s The Mariner’s Wife.

My daycare provider is down with the flu, and Vincent is still sleeping because he stayed up until I returned from the poetry reading last night, so I have this unexpected lovely time to luxuriate in this new book of poems.

Now I’m not going to pretend impartiality — anyone who reads this blog with any sort of regularity (anyone?) knows I’m a big admirer of Emma and her poetry — nor am I writing a review here really. I’m not especially good at that sort of writing, I’m afraid, which perhaps you’ve noticed — I’m too much the fan girl, and have no patience for things like plot summaries.

[Though I will insert here that I’m ever so sad that Michiko Kakutani gave Salman Rushdie a less-than-glowing review for his new novel, which I adored. But it was a well-written review, and while I disagree with her conclusions, it’s reasoned and respectful. This coming Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, on the other hand, includes a negative review that I just consider useless.]

That said:

It’s been a long time since I read a book of poems I felt so much affinity for and loved so much. The Mariner’s Wife, just released from Finishing Line Press, is about love, relationships, heartbreak, shopworn subjects that Emma invigorates by virtue of her rich language and the ingenious juxtaposition of the Mariner poems (“The Mariner,” “The Mariner’s Wife Dreams of Hands,” etc) with more seemingly personal poems, and others that tread the line between and bridge the gap. In fact, the sequencing of this chapbook is extremely instructive for any poet, it’s so masterfully done, with utterly seamless transitions.

I just love this book and urge everyone in the most strenuous terms to go to Finishing Line’s website and buy a copy for yourself — I promise you it will be the best poetry purchase you’ll make this year.

Below is one of those bridging-the-gap poems, which illustrates the energy and surprise of her lines, the sensuality and inventiveness of her diction:

What to Heed, What to Leave

In the first flush of fever I was a green dress
tying to be untied. You were fingers of pine

bark, a beard’s smooth scratch. You were the scent
of cardamom and silk. My pillows wore your name.

The village women called for amethyst, aventurine
for healing, an emerald disc over the heart o if

thine true love come. Too late. Packed my chest in ice,
my feet in snow. Bird wings circled a man

of danger. The stars spilled out the one
you’ll blame
. Too late. You were already a raw

wire within me, my own mind’s sputter and spark.

Le Bossu et Tim Mayo.

Labor Day weekend in 1998 I was in Montreal. As it happens, that’s also the weekend that they have a film festival every year, which I discovered accidentally walking down Elizabeth St. in the evening: a film was being shown against a building, just beginning, actually, and people were sitting all over. So I sat down too, not initially realizing that not only would the film be in French, but there’d be no subtitles.

Oh.

But it was exciting, suspenseful, Daniel Auteuil and Vincent Perez were in the cast, and though I didn’t follow the finer points of the plot, I was completely swept up.

About a half hour before the movie ended, we were drenched by a raging thunderstorm. Big thunder booms, flashes of lightning. But no one moved. Not a single person. We, all of us, had to see how it ended. It was that good.

For all these years, I’ve been longing to see this movie again, this time with subtitles, so I could understand what the stakes were, the story beneath the action, but the only thing I could discover was the title, Le Bossu, which translates to “The Hunchback.”

But thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have at last the information I needed — and I know why I couldn’t find it before. Literal-minded me, I was looking all this time for a movie called, “The Hunchback,” but the English title is “On Guard.” Stupid title, but there it is. Anyway, I shall have it safely placed inside my DVD player tomorrow night, and all its secrets shall be revealed….

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Tim Mayo read last week as part of the Collected Poets Series, and I wanted to post one of the poems from his new chapbook, The Loneliness of Dogs (Pudding House, 2008) for those of you that weren’t able to come, a taste of what you missed:

Confession to the Dark Lady

Now I am an old man touching desire
like the
nombril of my body,
picking lint out of the center of my being,
folding myself to sleep like a towel.
I dream of your lips red as welts
against your white face, and I cannot
imagine your teeth, because the redness
of my dream blooms so vermilion–
but you must have smiled at me, once,
making the measured grimace of my face
relax its muscles, letting something,
hard as a pearl, go limp in my brain.

Butterflies & Bulls.

I keep a certain picture of Vincent behind the counter at the bookshop: he’s sitting on the grassy lawn of our old house, studying a daisy in his fingers. Very sweet, yes?

Today, Lance took Vincent to the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield. It’s large, it’s warm (a nice contrast to the wind & snow & cold outside), and swarming with butterflies.

There was a butterfly on the floor when they walked in. The first thing my boy, Vincent, the darling lover of nature, did upon seeing this actual, live, beautiful butterfly is run over and stomp it.

Apparently no one caught him committing his violent act, and they were there a while. Vincent ran around, whooped it up, caressed a lizard, and murdered no more.

But still! Sometimes he’s such a boy.

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March is Small Press Month, and coincidentally enough I received my copy of Licorice, by Ellen C. Bush, published by Bull City Press, in the mail this morning. Licorice, at 24 pages, is, I believe, a chapbook, but it’s perfect bound, it has a spine, a gorgeous cover! If this is print on demand, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

Sorry if I’m spending too much time on its appearance, but I’m a bookseller, and I think what houses the poems should match the contents in care and attention.  And I’m really digging the poetry inside:

From “The Girl in Her”: That water is/ the cooled version of blood, running away from itself/ in a wet murmur.