Friday, September 9, 2011

News, Blues & Reviews

Has it really been four months since I promised "to check in again before winter"?

There is much to say but first some important news. If you haven’t yet heard, RockSaw Press temporarily suspended publication. In addition, it cancelled its annual Blue Skunk Poetry Series Contest and returned the submission fees to entrants. From Jorge Evans, the managing editor at RockSaw: “Due to financial limitations, it is not possible at this time to keep producing the high quality chapbooks that we’ve become known for. Rather than lessen the quality of the books we produce, we’ve decided that it’s in the best interest for the press and all those involved to put a hold on all operations at the moment.”

RockSaw is not the only press currently on hold. Quercus Review has, since 2010, cancelled its annual book contest and its annual literary journal.

These are just two examples.

With Republicans across the country attacking the arts and with the continued economic recession, now more than ever those of us who love the arts must support them.

But, hope. Again from Jorge Evans of RockSaw Press: “We plan to reopen in the near future. We can’t be beat that easily.” I hope we all feel the same way. After incredible response from writers and readers, RockSaw has worked out a plan to reopen to new submissions, which is spectacular news since they are one of the best chapbook publishers out there. I would tell you to go and buy copies of any of their books that are still in print, but the website is temporarily  down while they prepare to reopen. Again, from Evans: “Look for the site to reopen in early September with guidelines, deadlines, and more announcements.” Once the site is back up and operational, buy everything they're selling.

Less blues, more news. I have a lot of poems recently released and forthcoming and, because I’ve been pretty crappy at updating this site, none of those acceptances/releases have yet been announced. So here goes:

Tulane Review  has published my poem, “Exodus Laughing” in their Summer 2011 edition.

The new issue of Blue Collar Review which includes my poem “Toledo in April” (accompanied by a cool little picture of a cockroach) is now available and should be purchased by anyone with a pulse and a couple bucks.

And Adroit has released its second issue, which has three of my poems (and two of my wife’s).

Accents Publishing is going to include two of my poems, “This small poem” and “Furlough Days,” in their forthcoming anthology of very short poems, titled Bigger Than They Appear: An Anthology of Very Short Poems.

Any day now, Pemmican will publish four poems: “Work,” “Elegy for My Last Name,” “Truth,” and “Self Portrait Through Social Network Status Updates.”

The Floorboard Review will include “Warming Trend” in its next issue.

And, lastly, Pirene’s Fountain will publish “The Legal Team of Nietzsche, Freud, Darwin and Marx” in their October Issue.

I’ll post as these become available.

Some more blues:

It might just be me, but it seems more and more like the only way to publish a first book of poetry is through the contest system (and here’s one person’s response to that).

I’m not opposed to contests, but this continued trend continues to concern me. The expense is high and I fear this will prevent some really great poets from finding a home for their work.

I’m not opposed to reading fees, by any means. Even for open book submissions. Especially with the arts receiving so little private and public support (see above). But it does make things difficult. I will say this, there are presses who make the reading fee very worthwhile. I’m thinking of Cooper Dillion Press, Sarabande Books and, the publisher of my chapbook, Imaginary Friend Press. Here, you pay a "reading fee" and in return you get a book. And this practice has introduced me to some killer poets I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

Nevertheless, if I’m going to be able to afford to continue to submit my book, I think I’m going to have to quit smoking again (yes, I’m smoking again. To quote Kurt Cobain, “I have never failed to fail.”)

Alright, good news. My mailperson brought my wife and I a present recently (and by "recently," I mean months ago): In the Carnival of Breathing, the new chapbook by my friend, Lisa Fay Coutley. One of these days, I’ll have the linguistic facilities to say something other than “brilliant, breathtaking and beautiful” about this and her previous chapbook, Back-Talk. Until then: brilliant, breathtaking and beautiful. Buy them both immediately (even if you don’t have a pulse or a few bucks).

I get a half hour lunch every day at work. How I spend it depends on where I’m at. The other day, I was near a local used books store, A Novel Idea. I did not eat. I bought Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems and a hardcover copy of Louise Gluck’s Meadowlands. Both for only 7 bucks! Good news, indeed.

I think I’ve re-finished my first book manuscript. It has a new title, which is really an old title (its original title).

Here are a couple books I’ve read recently and a few words about them:

Man on Extremely Small Island by Jason Koo (C&R Press, 2009). Koo’s poems manage to be both tight and expansive (which I guess is kind of what I image being on an island feels like, though I wouldn’t know, having never been on one). They also manage to be seriously, seriously depressing but also seriously, seriously funny. The angst in this book would make the best grunge singers tear up and the humor had me laughing out loud at 5:30 in the morning while waiting for my next customer to show up. Take, for example, the first few lines of the cooly titled “How to Watch Your Team Lose Game Seven of the World Series”: “You can’t. And because you can’t, make sure/ To watch the game alone. A sports bar filled with frat boys/ Is not a good idea.” Koo is surreal but with a Midwest sensibility (he grew up in Cleveland) and I certainly appreciate and respect his ability to manage both of those.

This clumsy living by Bob Hicok (University of Pittsburg Press, 2007). I think this was Hicok’s fifth book (but I could be wrong). I first started reading him when I picked up a copy of Plus Shipping (BOA Editions, 1998) at the used book store mentioned earlier (I was as taken by the title and the few poems I skimmed on the floor of the store as I was by the fact that, according to handwriting on the inside flap, the book was previously owned by someone named Tim Curry). His earlier work is full of deeply meditated narratives that open in on themselves, creating a narrative cavern that the poem works through. This clumsy living (and, I understand, other new work by him) is very different. Very different. It is the kind of surrealism that happens when Salvador Dali has an illegitimate love child with Quentin Tarantino. Which is to say it’s damn good. I think I read the opening poem, “Twins” about ten times before I moved on to poem number two just because it was so cool and weird and exciting. Here is a sample from “Twins”:

She has a dream and she has the same dream.

She says moon and she says moon and both put their she-phones to their chests.

She says in my dream I slept between your mattress and box spring and she nods and she hears her nod.
It continues and grows and never lets up.  Hicok has the balls write a poem titled “Poem with a poem in its belly.” He has the brains to make that poem more than just an experiment or a cool idea or a farce. It is brilliant.

(Incidentally, Hicok wrote one of the blurbs for Man on Extremely Small Island).

I’ve also recently read, and will write about Versus by my friend Stacia M. Fleegal (BlazeVOX Books, 2011), Apocalypse Ranch by Sara Burge (C&R Press, 2010) and (re-read) The Water Between Us by Shara McCallum (University of Pittsburg Press, 1999). But another time.

I am currently reading Lord of the Flies (at my wife's request, since she can't imagine I managed thirty years without reading Lord of the Flies) and will probably read Just Kids by Patti Smith after that (assuming I can find it at the library).

I need another poetry bookshelf.

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