Monday, November 19, 2012

The Dark Snakes Coiled on the Cover

It's been a startlingly long time since I've posted anything here. I plead work, (Oh those very long days, and loss of the self  and goals as I fret over job stuff) I plead a new house and all the attendant duties and tasks involved.  But here I am back.  With several enthusiasms to share:

1.  Mary Ruefle's new book, Madness, Rack, and Honey.  I already posted once about this book. If it does not get you excited by the art and craft of poetry, then  I give up. Here are two snippets from her essay "On Secrets" that I love:

"The words secret and sacred are siblings."


"Colette calls a poem, 'that secret, that scar, that sin.' James Tate uses as an epigraph for one of his books a line by James Salter: 'Here, then, faintly discolored and liable to come apart if you touch it, is the corsage that I kept from the dance.'"

See?  Just write for five minutes about the word corsage and all it conjures for you, and then get back to me.

2. Dobby Gibson's forthcoming book It Becomes You from Graywolf Press.  I got a sneak peak at this thanks to the fine folks at Graywolf when I hit them up for new books at a recent bookselling conference.  I may not get a lot of financial reward as a bookseller, but I sure get a lot of free books.  Dobby Gibson is Billy Collins if Mr. Collins were a generation younger, a tad more adventurous, and stopped writing poems about writing poems. (Note to Billy Collins: you have used up your allotment of poems about writing poems.) One of the many delights of Gibson's book is the poem "40 Fortunes," which will make you want to run away and become a fortune cookie writer.  But what's the use, Dobby is already in that room, his lips pursed in concentration as pens your future on that wee rectangle:

"Only fools ride the rain facing backwards."

"No matter who walks with you into the woods, you walk into the woods alone."

"Do not aspire to be the tiger. Aspire to be the sparrow who sits upon the tiger's back."

3.  Karen Finneyfrock's forthcoming YA novel, The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door.  For my job as a buyer for an independent bookstore, I read a LOT of YA novels, and I am allergic to books about teens who want to be poets, or think they are poets, and let's also throw in there YA novels-in-verse, which are so hard to do well that the writing of them should be rationed.  Finneyfrock's (and isn't that about the best last name ever) book is thankfully NOT in verse.  It's told in the voice of Celia, a girl who, due to the general (and specific) shittness and mean-spiritedness of her high school peers, has decided to be "dark." To dress darkly, to remain apart, and be a poet.  Like many high school girls suddenly befriended by a hot cool boy of her dreams, Celia finds that instead of the boyfriend she wanted, she has a gay best friend. Unlike many novels of this sort--the whole oh-my-god-he's-gay-and-why-didn't-I-know part is quick and easy. Celia has a friend, suddenly, something that's been lacking in her life.  She's been bullied, and hurt, she wants (very understandably) revenge, and her voice, and the poems in her voice, will win you over.

4. Slow Lightning, by Eduardo C. Corrall.

The dark snakes coiled on the cover gave me a good feeling about this book--Corral is inventive, he is not shy about changing form and pattern, and the only poet I can think of to compare him to is Lorca, for his passion, commitment, and dedication to the song of the work.  (And I jut now looked at his blog, which says, "Eduardo Corral is the love child of Robert Hayden and Federico García Lorca." So I guess he won't mind the Lorca comparison." This is a book of complexity--with layers of discomfort and arousal built into poems of sex, gender, shame, and homosexual love that are astonishing in their power.  I am going to return to this book again and again.  I can't imagine quoting from a poem without either giving you the whole thing or giving you the poems around it for reference.  So how about if I just share a few of his great titles:

"In Colorado My Father Scoured and Stacked Dishes"

"Self-Portrait With Tumbling and Lasso"

"All the Trees of the Field Shall Clap Their Hands"

All the time I have been away I have been grabbing snippets of time, mostly on the train on my way to work, to write poetry.  Today I had to stay home in case the house painters needed anything, so I have been at the keyboard al day, typing rough drafts from yellow legal pads into the form of rough drafts on a laptop, and it felt industrious and pleasurable.  I hope some of these (short for me) poems will be out in the world on webpages and paper pages before too long.

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