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We are currently accepting poetry submissions until 11/1/2014.

Radha Says

The final collection by award-winning poet Reetika Vazirani, published by Drunken Boat.

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Annotations of contemporary poetry edited by Lisa Russ Spaar, published by Drunken Boat.

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FEST – New Directors|New Films Festival is announcing an open film submission period, currently accepting feature and short films in different categories.

The short film competition is only open for filmmakers up to the age of 30 in the categories of Fiction, Animation, Documentary and Experimental filmmaking.

 

The fiction or documentary feature film competitions are reserved for first and second feature directors.

 

Film submissions may be either completed online or physically via post. Submit via www.fest.pt or http://www.filmfestivallife.com. Both submissions forms are available on the submissions section of the FEST website.

 

The FEST – New Directors | New Films Festival, will take place in Espinho, Portugal, June 24 through June 30.

 

No entry fee!

 

www.fest.pt

 

FEST – New Directors | New Films Festival

Apartado 234, 4501-910

Espinho, Portugal

 

 

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Published Jan 31, 2014 - Comments Off

41SWOgsKy3L-1._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Martín Espada, whose work recently appeared in the DB #18 Librotraficante folio, will offer a     workshop and reading at the upcoming Medicine Show Theatre in New York on Saturday, February 8. He’ll be reading from his newly released collection, The Meaning of the Shovel. Lauren Schmidt will join him for the reading.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8

Workshop 2-5 PM

Reading & Book-Signing 7-9 PM

MEDICINE SHOW THEATRE

549 West 52nd Street, 3rd floor (between 10th & 11th Avenues)

New York, New York

Cost: $25 for the workshop and $7 for the reading.

Reservations: Chris Brandt, cbrandt@medicineshowtheatre.org

Not to be missed!

 

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Published Jan 30, 2014 - Comments Off

 

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl

 

For the last few winters, I’ve found myself, in between semesters, reading a lot of mystery novels. I think I remember reading somewhere that the lot of us is pulled towards mystery books around the holidays because that’s when Agatha Christie novels were first released: our movement towards murder writing apparently a new kind of collective holiday memory. I could, of course, be remembering all of this wrong. Maybe, Christie released most of her books in the summer, which somehow and strangely accounts for why we all might want to go read about European trains while sipping Mai Tais on some American beach. In any case, I’m going with the former, because, in winter, there are just too many bleak landscapes or the fireplace I once knew/ I wish I had. Last winter, in a fell swoop, I pretty much read all of Judy Blume’s Ramona Series (another trend of mine in winter: to reread and catch up on children’s lit). Still, this January, it’s a mystery novel I’m really wanting to read, and I find myself finally getting to a book I was several-times recommended and finally gifted over a year ago: Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. The hype, if you’ve heard it, is deserved. The language is awesome and the relationships believable. The complications (even in the first few chapters, as far as I have read) make me, pretty much, want to continue reading the book instead of writing this bit piece about it.

 

Megan Kaminski’s Desiring Map

 

I’m new to Kaminski’s poetry, but I’m enjoying the quiet accumulations of her first book Desiring Map. Most of the poems in this collection are untitled, and all are free of punctuation. The result is a kind of opening up of landscape, sometimes even to the point of erasure or, at least, to a distancing or softening of place. This is especially true in her section, “the prairie opens wide,” but it’s also prevalent throughout the book and often coupled with the same field-of-vision orientation in relation to the personal: the I-as-eye filter that processes the see-able, knowable world and one’s place in it. Let’s just say, I appreciate that: I feel like there’s room for me to breathe as a reader and real person. Two lines that particularly strike/stick with me in this way: “We fence livestock close to house walls for warmth/ leaving little space for strangers”

 

Gregory Orr’s The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems

Right now, I’m also rereading a lot of poetry books for some workshops I’m teaching at UCA this spring. Gregory Orr’s Selected is one I return to often. Even with its publication date coming in at a good twelve years ago, this book is generous, both in depth of coverage and the range of work it showcases. Right now, I’m reading the book’s selections from Burning the Empty Nests and Gathering the Bones Together, two of my favorite poetry collections, all-time, period. I think what continues to draw me in, and even surprise me as a reader, is the way in which imagery and sound unfold in Orr’s poetry. There are these lines from the poem “Transients Welcome”: “Frying pan in hand/ padding down the hall, you turn a corner/ and find an old woman asleep on the stove (ln  6-8). I think it can be incredibly difficult to turn a real, let alone figurative, corner in a poem, to have a reader truly experience the startle of the poem in a genuine way. Orr does this time and time again—he morphs images in a way that feels both absolutely and unexpectedly necessary. One of my favorite poems from Burning the Empty Nests is “Making Beasts.” About this poem, let me say this: 1. I believe everyone should go (!) and read it & 2.  To quote even a line or two of the poem would be a disservice to how well “Making Beasts” makes beasts. I mean, it really, really does.

 

Jericho Brown’s Please

Jericho Brown’s Please starts with a section of poems called “Repeat.” If I can be a little too cutesy-clumsy with my noting of it, this section of the book really does make you/me read and reread it for its musicality and musculature. Right now, my poetry workshop and I are on our third day of reading the book entire in class— we haven’t made it much past this first section. Why? That first day— well, we were supposed to look at the first half of the book, and I wanted to start with the first poem, and so we did.  Then a student wanted to look at the third poem, because we had used its opening line for an in-class writing exercise (and that line, by the way, is fantastic: “Dangerous men park carefully”).  And then, as we supposedly moved on through the book, another student wanted to go back and look at the second poem “Prayer of the Backhanded,” and so on and so forth: too much goodness.  By day 2, this class and me, we had read near-exactly 5 poems because the book really does make you “pause” on each and every poem. There has, of course, been a lot written about how startling and needed Brown’s treatment of identity and violence is— violence against family and self, between lovers and about sexual orientation, from received culture and social norms and the church. I don’t have much more to add to this, really: the book is simply and beautifully constructed, an urgent text. Or, I do have something to add: today, when my class finally got to “My Name is Jericho”— that poem at the end of Brown’s book— well, it was all chills: gorgeous, earned, questioning-of-voice-and-autonomy: chills.

 

Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading and (sorta) Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred

I realize this last entry is a bit of a cheat (or maybe a two-for-the-price-of-one tell?), but I am rereading both books in tandem for a graduate course I’m teaching for the Arkansas Writers MFA Program. The class is in the form and theory of poetry, and to start with Pound, I don’t have a lot to say: his is such an integral work. I think I’ve returned to it now, a book on reading especially, because so much of my identity as a teacher, while not always happy with my life as a writer, has come down to “Read, read, read. Read closer” and “It’s a conversation” and “We’re all writers together here.” ABC is one of the books that absolutely articulates this necessity. With Rothenberg— well, in my head these two books are talking to one another, but my history with this book is specific.

 

Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred

A friend during my MFA days really did just lend me Technicians of the Sacred. This was without request but undoubtedly with warrant: the book suddenly appeared in my mailbox and that happenstance struck a chord, it was necessary. That’s one of the things I continue to appreciate about my own grad school experience and just how spot-on, in the most unassuming of ways, dedicating oneself to writing, with other writers, can be at times (but man, not all times) in graduate school. In any case, Technicians was immediately, a game-on, game-changing text for me: it changed the way I read or even knew how to read a poem. Viscerally, gutterly, even intuitively, etc. there was/is this one poem in Rothenberg’s anthology I immediately reacted to, one before I really started looking at all the ways in which poems might translate spiritual and communal experience, one that made me a goner for poetry et al.  It’s the Cherokee poem “The Killer” which starts like this:

“Careful:     my knife drills your soul/ listen, whatever-your-name-is/ One of the wolf people/ Listen     I’ll grind your saliva into the earth.” That, still, pretty much says it all for me.

 

 

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Published Jan 29, 2014 - Comments Off

The Witchery of Sleep (Willard Moyer, Miller Press, 1902). To create an “exhaustive” study of sleep, Moyer said, one would have to be part poet, part philosopher, part scientist, and part occultist. Though he claimed none of these professions, Moyer had a ranging curatorial spirit. Sections include The Phenomena of Sleep, Sleeplessness, The Habit of Sleep, The Importance of the Bed, and The Poetry of Sleep, with selections from Blake, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Wordsworth, and others. And Moyer’s own prose vision of The Palace of Sleep is hard to resist: “The space is vast, peopled by many. Poppies are everywhere. Innumerable forms lie postured in all the abandonment of unconscious sleep. Arch upon arch rises on after the other. Ever the shadows are deepening…”

 

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Friday (Michel Tournier, translated from the French by Norman Denny, Johns Hopkins UP, 1967). I am re-reading this retelling of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe for a seminar I will be teaching this spring. We will be considering how writers construct  home, and how they construct opposite, or in between categories such as exile, immigration, internment, shipwreck, marginality, etc. Tournier alternates close third person narration with first person journal entries from Crusoe (who learns how to produce ink from a sea porcupine). The first half of the novel is dedicated to shipwreck and solitude; the second, to transformative encounter. Winner of the 1967 Grand Prix du Roman of the Académie Française, Friday is a lyrical meditation on language and dwelling. Though Tournier clearly delighted in undermining—even caricaturing—Enlightenment Man and his order-establishing projects, he doesn’t ultimately sneer at his protagonist, but takes him through a careful and credible alteration.

 

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Upstate: a North American Journal (Jeremy Hooker, Shearsman Books, 2007). British poet Jeremy Hooker spent the academic year 1994-1995 as a visiting professor at Le Moyne College near Syracuse, NY. Hooker credits English nature writer Richard Jefferies (1848-1877) as a shaping influence on his own forms of natural observation. For Hooker, as for other exemplary journal-keepers, the task is not to dwell on the self, but to find the self in relation to the other, to bring to light the relationship between the seer and the seen. Natural observation is not merely note-taking or picture-making, he says, but involves “an acute sensitivity to the life in things, to the quick of sentient existence.” Like those of Ruskin, Thoreau, Hopkins, Cather, Woolf, and Berger, Hooker’s descriptions dilate by way of precision. The son of a landscape painter, and a poet deeply tuned to place, Hooker reminds me that attention is harder than invention. With his steady, stripped down perception, he reminds me that relation is a form of maintenance, a practice to be practiced daily, not just when the spirit moves me.

 

(on visit to Cape Cod) “On Nauset Beach on a brilliant, cloudless morning, sun shining on the sea. As far out as we could see the ocean was blue-black. Big waves rolling in broke with manes of white spray, & in the spray, fleetingly, rainbows appeared & disappeared. Seagulls—wing curve, gliding, ocean riding—you can see how they are made for it.”

 

(at Round Lake in NY) “Rain dimpling the water, which was grey except in a few places at the edges, where the beautiful turquoise could be seen. A day of round waterdrops hanging in rows from twigs & from buds & thorns…Cloud light as mist among the cedars & drifting across the water—grey on greeny grey, diaphanous & at the same time utterly real, water of water, earth of earth.”

 

(NY in February, following a white-out snowstorm) “Fir trees laden with snow, as if sculpted on the branches. Smooth drifts against banks & walls…Birch bark looks white until seen against snow that partially encrusts it, and then it appears a very pale yellow-gold.”

 

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Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology (Adam S. Miller, Fordham University Press, 2013).  Miller seeks to model an object-oriented approach to grace, to “port” it from a theistic operating system reliant on a hidden, supernatural “macro” force to a post-Darwinian operating system of small-scale, heterogeneous forces. With a nod to Stephen Jay Gould, Miller explains how the Darwinian shift “operationalizes” the world: “What was inert, opaque, and secondary now comes to life as the potentially intelligible sum of its own life and being.” Ours is a pluriverse, not a universe: the world is capable of producing and explaining itself. In addition to evolutionary theory, Miller draws on Bruno Latour’s experimental metaphysics (“replace the singular with the plural everywhere”) in order to think through the implications of an operationalized grace. The task is not just theoretical. Miller states a very practical aim: “I mean to bring more clearly into focus the nature of suffering, its root causes, and—most importantly—the relationship of such suffering to grace.” This is a marvelously compact, eloquent book that parses and extends Latour’s thinking. What happens if we take a “longhand” approach to metaphysics, Miller asks, as opposed to a reductive, hierarchical one? Offered in FUP’s Perspectives in Continental Philosophy series, this book is at once heady and plainspoken, visionary and conversational. I like that it fits into my coat pocket.

 

Tantivy (Donald Revell, Alice James Books, 2012). I love reading the poems of Donald Revell, who seems idiosyncratically equipped to see where communication forms in words. Years ago I read about Snowflake Bentley (1865-1931), a Vermonter credited for proving the idea there are no two snowflakes alike in this world. A pioneer in photomicrography, he photographed the first snow crystal in 1885, and went on to capture and study over 5000 more. Crystals could be a good way of thinking about Revell’s style of lyric, which pair intricacy with simplicity, and indelibility with dissolve. I think of Wallace Stevens’ prescript: “The poem must resist the intelligence almost successfully.” Some poets bring us to that borderland, that precarious equipoise, asking us to feel the very perimeters of our intelligence, its powerful extensions and necessary failures.

 

Let us be friends and not die

Let us mow the bright ground bare

 

These are the poets I love to read and return to. A friend of mine joked that Donald Revell and I must have crossed paths in a shared dream of Tennyson. In my own readings in and around Tennyson, I mused a long time over the backward compliment Eliot gave “In Memoriam”: “Its faith is a very poor thing, but its doubt is a very intense experience.” Revell’s Tantivy edges doubt into faith habitually, which is to say, reverently. “These mysteries must suffice/In the absence of Mystery” he writes in one of his softened sonnets. We are asked to see the world doubly, in both possible lights.

 

There is snow and there is snow.

 

Lake Michigan is Lake Michigan.

 

Revell, like Tennyson, places us at “the quiet limit of the world.” His poems are torn between seeing and listening. That is a weird thing to say, but that is what I feel about this beautiful book.

 

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Published Jan 16, 2014 - Comments Off

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiuchie is the first novel of hers I’ve read; friends of mine rave about her previous novels, so I plan to read those, as well. I found myself very drawn to her head-on explorations of race and class in Nigeria and the U.S. The novel is also a love story about a couple, Ifemelu and Obinze, whose lives, over time, radically shift and change and by doing so, reflect the politics of the world(s) they inhabit. Very impressive, too, is the innovative use of Ifemelu’s blog about “Racial Disorder Syndrome” that’s interspersed and integrated throughout the text. I’ve not seen a blog used this way in fiction before.

 

I’ve also recently read Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles, which takes place in a gloomy, unnamed, Eastern European country. The nameless narrator – who is not a sympathetic character – agrees to housesit for his friend, Oskar, who’s in California getting a divorce. Oskar is obsessive-compulsive while the narrator is a slob who brings “chaos” with him wherever he goes. At the heart of the book is the question of why Oskar would ask such a messy soul to take care of his precious, obsessively neat and ordered home.  The answer, when it comes, is unexpected and strange, and yet totally believable within the context of the novel. I love the non-clinical glimpses into the mind of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I also love the fact that neither the narrator nor Oskar is a conventionally likeable character. The narrator’s voice is truly compelling, and the story that unfolds is both macabre and humorous.

 

Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father, by Alysia Abbott, is another compelling read. Alysia lost her mother at age two, and her father, an openly gay man who was also a serious (and perpetually struggling) poet, raised her in nomadic fashion as a single dad in San Francisco during the 70s, those days of freewheeling sex among the gay community. Alysia attended poetry readings with him, learned to be fiercely independent, and played “DressUp” with her dad’s friends’ flamboyant clothes. When AIDS ravaged her father’s community, Alysia and he had to learn to cope in this new, grim landscape. I identified with both Alysia and her father: he, for his struggles with parenting while trying to remain a fully engaged writer and sexual being; her, for her life as the child of an unconventional father, trying to find her own way. Abbott, never sentimental,  writes with lively, clean prose that makes the story far more heartrending than if she’d told it as a four-hankie, weepy, woe-is-me tale.

 

The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande, is another clear-sighted memoir about a struggling family, this time a Mexican family. For many years, I owned a home in Mexico, and considered it my second home (I still do). Therefore, I’m always fascinated by stories of Mexico, whose culture is so different from that of the U.S. Grande’s childhood was torn between two parents and two countries, as she followed her father to “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) – aka The U.S., where he tried to build a better life. However, her family was irrevocably fractured by poverty, distance, and alcohol. It’s a brutally honest book, lifting the curtain on a kind of Mexican family we rarely read about. Grande’s burning desire to live a radically different life from that of her family is powerful, and well realized, thankfully.

 

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus is a kind of horror story told in exquisite, lilting prose. A terrible epidemic has struck the country and the sound of children’s speech has become lethal to adults, so that the sound of your own child’s voice can kill you. What an ingenious metaphor for the trials of raising children, whom, no matter how much you love them, will inevitably wound you at times. It’s also a metaphor for the need to truly communicate with those around you in order to survive. It’s an intellectually stimulating read, with the beautiful, underpinning horror making it emotionally stirring.

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Published Jan 01, 2014 - Comments Off