Bobcat and Other Stories

Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories from Algonquin Books: Wow. If you’ve been looking for a book about our insecure world that doesn’t blow something up on every page, this is it. Fabulous writing. Review coming up. 

Interview with Sandra Lambert: Discipline, Self-Love, and and Permission to Write

An Inspiring (and so unstuffy) Writer

<a href=””>An Inspiring (and so unstuffy) Writer Sandra Gail Lambert is one of the most disciplined and productive writers I know. And trainer of Pippin, the Wonder Dog. I’ve just had an opportunity to record an interview with her–thirty minutes of laughter and good advice! She’ll be reading on Jane’s Stories Women in Hot Water Tour at Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate, 48 SW 2nd St  in Gainesville, FL [Call (352) 271-4361] on April 14 at 2:00 pm, along with Pat Spears, Katie Riegel, Leny Kaltenekker, and Tricia Booker. I’ll be there. Come visit with us!

Which magazines or journals earn the most Pushcart Prizes?

This interesting blog tallies the nominations by journal or magazine. If a Pushcart is what you’re after, it could make an interesting submission list.

blog

Which magazines or journals earn the most Pushcart Prizes?

This interesting blog tallies the nominations by journal or magazine. If a Pushcart is hat you’re after, it could make an interesting submission list.

blog

PW’s Year-end LIst

I’m looking forward to the Perillo.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2012/top-10#list

Shopping List #1

Love the year-end lists–both for holiday shopping and my own reading assignments for the year. I’m always behind, of course, and they help me catch up to what I’ve missed. This one has the latest from favorite authors Carol Anshaw, Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Munro, and Sherman Alexie, plus some unknowns I’ll be pursuing. Have fun with your own lists!

NY Times Notable Books of 2012

2012 Pen Awards

Get your reading lists here:

2012 Pen Awards for Literature

So many worthy recipients here. Particularly happy to see Toi Derricote named. From their citation:

http://www.pen.org/page.php/prmID/1351

Toi Derricotte

The judges wrote in their citation:

“We are very proud to name Toi Derricotte the winner of this year’s PEN/Voelcker Award. Derricotte is the author of five books of poetry:The Undertaker’s Daughter; Tender; Captivity; Natural Birth; The Empress of the Death House; and the literary memoir, The Black Notebooks. Her poems carry both truth and a higher knowledge in scenes of everyday life, consistently depicted through taut language. And her voice is, at once, tender and unflinching. A voice that she has honed over her long career from poem to poem and book to book as she investigates a distinctly American psyche rendered by experiences of race, color, gender, and grief, however blatant, however nuanced. The poems remind readers that personal and societal histories intersect sometimes in the most brutal, the most tender, and the most surprising of ways. In Tender she writes, “‘At the still point of the turning world,’ the job of the artist is not to resolve or beautify, but to hold complexities, to see and make clear.” Derricotte’s poems push readers and practitioners into the hard work of seeing with rigor, intelligence, and grace. Her intellect and her imagination continue to forge new territory in the field of poetry, challenging what we think a poem might be and what we think it might do in the world.”

A Survival Guide: Smith Blue, by Camille Dungy

ImageSmith Blue, by Camille Dungy. Crab Orchard Series in Poetry/Open Competition Award. Crab Orchard Review, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 2011. ISBN-13:978-0-8093-3031-7.

When you marry an ambitious poet with solid craft and intense passion, you almost invariably get a great book. Perhaps the most intriguing poetry to cross my desk this year is Camille Dungy’s Smith Blue. I admire Dungy’s work not only for what she accomplished in this offering from the Crab Orchard Poetry Series, but for what she attempts, no less than to “Wizard a track through our own screaming weeds,” a quote found in her opening citation from Gwendolyn Brooks (“XV,” The Womanhood). Following Brooks’ admonition that there are “no magic or elves/Or timely godmothers to guide us. . . ” Dungy cobbles together an extraordinary view of modern life, it’s foibles and distractions (“At Costco, everything comes cheap”/A Massive Dying Off) and most of all, its harsh realities and tremendous losses.

Much of this work is elegy, whether societal (“I ate the last orange in Nebraska /Post-Modified Food) or personal (“The poet’s hands degenerate until her cup is too heavy”/Arthritis is one thing, the hurting another), but none of it is polemical in the least. Dungy accomplishes this with a breathtaking grasp of the details, large and small, of contemporary life weighed down by war, economic distress, political intransigence, and material envy, yet she avoids the merely partisan by turning every personal loss into an observation about a greater grief, and every social issue into a challenge to be lived out, worked out, in individual choices that cut to the bone.

“This is not the year for palliatives. It is not the year for knowing what to do,” she writes in the latter poem, which begins with the suffering of arthritic hands, and ends with the trenchant observation: “Many are dying for want of a cure, and the poet is patient/and her hands cause the least of her pain. ” In between, there is a cataloguing of ills–burning women in schoolyards…tarped bodies on runways and in restaurants…three ancient cities met their ruin…third and fourth tours–and a warning not to let one newsreel image slide into the next: “This is not one thing standing for another.”

See each moment, each disastrous occurrence; notice everything, the poet tells us, though it hurts to feel the weight of the world’s grief.

“…Shame fits comfortably/as my best skirt, and what can I do/but walk around in that habit? Turn the page (After opening the New York Times I Wonder How to Write A Poem About Love).

Come back to the Earth itself, “to the rock, dissimulated by the rush but still/loved. …Before things are muddied/before/the turbulence recalled by walls that they have built” (How She Keeps Faith).

Change is inevitable, and not all of it is doom. Some of it is human spirit rising up, “to get to the places beyond the places we know. This is the way, /how we have always found more . . . . ” and, in case we missed the point, there are lessons from our elders’ wisdom:

“–and of course you won’t let me see you/ neglecting to serve,whatever that means/don’t let me catch you neglecting to serve.” (Prayer for P)

It was about here that I saw the thread of American poetry running clear, Robert Frost to Ms. Brooks to Lucille Clifton to Camille Dungy. I have said nothing yet about Dungy’s craft, but she does not remind one without cause of those American originals: Clear, concise, articulated lines of fierce imagery draw one in from the first page.

From a tiny, impossibly elegant butterfly, its founder and namesake tragically lost in the practice of his calling, comes a title that is appropriate to the huge scope and delicacy of this work. California in all its diverse beauties and unfathomable contrasts breaks into life on these pages; the whole of the human dilemma whispers through it’s lines. Camille Dungy is among the most accomplished of our poets, a treasure we must not let slip. Call her an antidote for the times.

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