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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Q&A: House of Mystery, Next Collection of Poems

House of Mystery

I was tagged by Kelli Russell Agodon for this Q&A on my next book.  
Here are my answers and you can go to her blog to see what she's up to (I will be tagging Susan Rich & Joannie Kervran Stangeland). 

What is the working title of your book?
House of Mystery

Where did the idea come from for the book?
This new book picks up where The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception left off, delving more deeply into mysteries large and small -- everything from The Big Bang to how a girdle disappeared from a childhood clothesline.

What genre does your book fall under?


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The part of Jesus could perhaps be played by Charlton Heston. Either Heston or my favorite sanitation engineer. 
It would be nice if Leonardo Da Vinci, The Mona Lisa, Frida Kahlo, and William DeKooning's women could play themselves.   Same goes for the Neanderthals. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

This book explores the mysteries large and small: Where do we come from? Is there a God? Who stole my girdle? 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Two or so years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My parents, Leonardo DaVinci, my children, the ancient Egyptians, and quite a few others.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There's a poem about ancient Roman sex smack in the middle of the book.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fall (Wendell Berry)

Wendell Berry visited Grinnell College when I was a student there in the early 1980s. It was thrilling to have a famous writer/farmer on our campus for a few days, an engaging and inspiring speaker, and a poet to boot. He participated in a student/faculty dinner at Grinnell House (which to this day I can't believe I got invited to, and unfortunately drank a little too much red wine at) gave the weekly convocation as well as a poetry reading, and dropped in over at Tofu House (where I was living at the time) to mingle with students as we engaged in our usual revelry on Saturday night. When I asked him how he was doing (I was a painfully shy 20 year old; I can hardly believe I had the courage to approach him), he expressed unease with being away from his family and their farm "in the middle of planting time." I was childless, spouse-less, my only obligation to attend classes more often than not, turn in papers when they were due, graduate in decent standing, and here was this man of the hour visibly ill at ease for abandoning his wife, his Kentucky home, his fields needing planting, to grace us with his thought-provoking and life-changing (at least for me) thoughts about the sanctity of farmland. The two of us couldn't have been in more different mindsets. At 51, I think I might have an inkling of where he was at, though I'm still not sure.


The wild cherries ripen, black and fat,
Paradisal fruits that taste of no man's sweat.

Reach up, pull down the laden branch, and eat;
When you have learned their bitterness, they taste sweet.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

from Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth

I was going to stop, but now I can't seem to. More poems this week from Kevin Young's bright and irresistible collection, The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink. [And Kevin, not that you will ever find my blog, but just in case, if there are copyright issues with this small bit of morseling I am apportioning, please let me know and I will cease and desist.]

from Letters to Wendy's
Joe Wenderoth

August 19, 1996
Today I was thinking that it might be nice to be able, in
one's last days, to move into a Wendy's. Perhaps a Wendy's
life support system could even be created and given a
Wendy's slant; liquid fries, for instance, and burgers and
Frosties continually dripped into one's vegetable dream
locus. It would intensify the visits of the well, too, to see
that such care is taken for their destiny.

February 14, 1997
It has taken me this long to confess  that I am not a fan of
the salad bar. That is, to openly confess it. Surely my silence
on the matter has created an impression already. I suppose
I've been ashamed to speak. I have this sense that in
speaking I will be led to something embarrassing, something
at odds with the uniquely liberal persona I prance about in.
This, though, this letter is a good first step.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wayson and Noel Read for Beacon Bards 12-12-12

Kary Wayson and Melanie Noel: two bright  stars in the cosmos of poetry on a chilly night made less chilly by their talent, strong ears, and stunning visions. 

Kary Wayson reads work in progress
Kary and Melanie lead the audience in a poetry round.

Four choices of red wine, but the Charles & Charles is best

January Readers 

David D. Horowitz founded and manages Rose Alley Press. His most recent poetry collections, published by Rose Alley, are Sky Above the TempleStars Beyond the BattlesmokeWildfire, CandleflameResin from the Rain; and Streetlamp, Treetop, Star. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including The LyricCandelabrum, and The New Formalist, and his essays regularly appear online in Exterminating Angel. David has edited two Northwest poetry anthologies: Limbs of the Pine, Peaks of the Range and Many Trails to the Summit. He frequently organizes and promotes poetry readings in the Puget Sound region and in 2005 received The PoetsWest Award for his contributions to Northwest literature and publishing. His website

Joannie Stangeland’s book Into the Rumored Spring was published last fall by Ravenna Press. She’s also the author of two poetry chapbooks-- Weathered Steps and A Steady Longing for Flight. Joannie’s poems have appeared in Floating Bridge ReviewThe Midwest QuarterlyValparaiso Poetry ReviewCrab Creek ReviewFire On Her Tongue, and other publications. Joannie’s the poetry editor for the online journal The Smoking Poet and an associate poetry editor at Cascadia Review.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Saint Vincent de Paul Food Pantry Stomp by Martin Espada

Ten or more years ago an issue of River Styx arrived at my door bundled with a CD recorded live at a contributor reading in St. Louis sometime in the late 1990s. It's a wonderful collection of readings by all sorts of great poets, including Martin Espada, who reads this poem with a great deal of exuberance and fervency (and perhaps some foot stomping?). It also appears in Kevin Young's wonderful new anthology, The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink, which I am featuring this week on my blog in honor of the holiday best known for indulging in food and drink.

 The Saint Vincent de Paul 
      Food Pantry Stomp

 Madison, Wisconsin, 1980

Waiting for the carton of food
given with Christian suspicion
even to agency-certified charity cases
like me,
thin and brittle
as uncooked linguini,
anticipating the factory-damaged cans
of tomato soup, beets, three-bean salad
in a welfare cornucopia,
I spotted a squashed dollar bill
on the floor, and with
a Saint Vincent de Paul food pantry stomp
pinned it under my sneaker,
tied my laces meticulously,
and stuffed the bill in my sock
like a smuggler of diamonds,
all beneath the plaster statue wingspan
of Saint Vinnie,
who was unaware
of the dance
named in his honor
by a maraca shaker
in the salsa band
of the unemployed.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks

I love hearing Gwendolyn Brooks reading "We Real Cool" because she does it in her own way, a way I never imagined when I first came upon that poem in high school English. Too many of us did not get to hear that poem being read in high school, and far too many didn't read another poem by Brooks because "We Real Cool" was the only one they ever put into our textbooks (it sounds like she was pretty sick of reading it too). Perhaps that's changed since the 70s; I hope so.

The Bean Eaters

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering ...
Remembering with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
      is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
      tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Digging by Rennie McQuilkin

It being the season of eating, I thought I'd share a few poems over the course of the next week from The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink, edited by poet Kevin Young and just out from Bloomsbury Books. It's a gorgeously designed book, especially in hardcover, which I rarely splurge on but couldn't resist what with titles like ""Beer for Breakfast" (Frank O'Hara), "Song to Bacon," (Roy Blount, Jr.), and "1-800-Hot-Ribs" (Catherine Bowman). Not surprisingly, the book has already been featured on NPR and is included in The New York Times' holiday gift guide. Having placed the book in the bathroom on many a sluggish November morning, I was delighted to learn I was not the only one!

So in the spirit of giving, today I share with you Rennie McQuilkin's "The Digging":

The Digging 

It's that time of year,
the hedgerows hung with bittersweet.
Potato time.

How early the freeze, I'd say
if we were speaking. We're not.
We turn our spading forks against

the earth. It's stiff,
the Reds and Idahos hard as stone,
a total loss.

Once it was us against the beetles,
blight, whatever was not potato.
How they flowered, rows and rows,

in white. Now look.
We give it one last try, and there
far down in softer soil,

a seam of them still perfect.
One after another
we hold them up to the dying day,

kneel down to sift for more.
In the dark of the earth, I come upon
your hand, you mine.