Sunday, April 28, 2013

Two More Days: Why Not Play?

Two more days, two more days!

There are two more days for you to win free poetry books in the Big Poetry Giveaway. Over 50 bloggers from Canada to South Africa, New Zealand to the USA are waiting to share there favorite poetry books with you.

Here are some things you should know:

1. You do not have to leave your email to play; just leave your name and sign in as "anonymous." Then just check back to the blog during the first week of May to see if you've been chosen.

2. No one will put you on an email list or try to sell you a thing. The bloggers are acting out of generosity; wanting to share their love of poetry with you. Just look at the 110+ books on offer.

3. You can live anywhere in the world. Bloggers will post the winning book anywhere in the world at no cost to the winner. I'm excited to have an entry from Italy, for example.

4. The book selection is vast and wide. For example, Katharine Whitcomb is offering Nicky Finney's Head Off & Split, winner of the National Book Award right here along with her superb chapbook, Lamp of Letters.

5. In 99% of the cases, these are brand new! Need a present for your mom for Mother's Day? Is there a writer in your world that you would like to support? Here is your chance.

I'll be honest and say that it's been fun and frustrating running this giveaway. I thought there would be hundreds, if not thousands of people signing up for free books. Is it that no one believes you can actually get something wonderful for free? Actually, for the next two days, you can!

Check out the list to the left of this posting. You will find over a hundred poetry books to choose from. If you can't make Jeannine Hall Gailey's book launch today, you can win a copy of Unexplained Fevers right here.  These two birds are most interested in Peggy Shumaker's Tucan Nest: Poems of Costa Rica which is available from Erin Hallowell, author of Pause, Traveller available right here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tuesday is World Book Night: An International Holiday for You

Happy World Book Night eve! This is a holiday conceived of at the London Book Fair that is now celebrated in several different countries including Germany, Ireland, and the United States. 

As if the Big Poetry Giveaway is not enough!

I've volunteered to giveaway books tomorrow to people who are neither friends nor family. My plan is to bring books to the campus where I teach, to handout the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood to students interested in reading for pleasure, not as a course requirement. 

Will people be more open to receiving prose than poetry? The information I've received asks that the person receiving the book promise to read it; but who can say whether they will? 

The goal of this international holiday is to put books into the hands of adult readers --- adults who otherwise might not have a chance to read. 20 books were chosen as the 2013 World Book Night Books. I'm feeling both excited and a little shy in terms of my part in this grand experiment.

Wish me luck! And perhaps you will be volunteering next year?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston: My Hometown; Heavy Hearted Tonight

Boston Public Library Courtyard, March 2013

Boston is where I'm from. It's not only the geography of my first eighteen years on this planet, it's also shaped who I am. I owe Boston my direct, no b.s. approach to people and my sense of the world as inclusive of many different nations. Growing up, my neighborhood was a mixture of Chinese, Jewish, and Irish Americans --- all more or less getting along together. There were also African Americans who I babysat for and German Americans across the street. I was a kid, what did I know? I somehow knew I had a pretty good life.

Boston is a small town with a big town reputation. When I worked at the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) on Arlington Street (a couple of block's from today's bombing) I would walk through the Back Bay, through the Gardens and the Boston Commons. At Park Street Station I turned left to Government Center and then under the freeway via tunnel to the North End. I was never in a hurry as this was one of the best parts of the job: delivering course catalogues to the North End Community Center which doubled as a BCAE satellite campus on weeknights. In just forty-five minutes I could cover all of downtown. My town.

Last month I returned to Copley Square to participate in the Associated Writing Program Conference (AWP) along with 12,000 other writers. The weekend was also a celebration of my partner's birthday. On our last afternoon in Boston we strolled through the neighborhoods together under a perfect sky --- snow still fresh enough to look picturesque.

I could never have imagined that five weeks later downtown Boston would resemble Beirut.

Tonight no one knows who is behind the bombings targeting the Boston Marathon --- an event that is both local and global at once. My heart goes out to  to the city that has always seemed indestructible to me, to the people that are the toughest and kindest of any I've known, to the two people killed and 86 injured (these numbers are early estimates) at the Marathon today.

My heart is bruised.

However, I know Boston will not be defeated . One of the stories I heard tonight was from a doctor who was treating people brought in from the areas hit. He said there was a sense of everyone helping each other. Whether this meant dressing wounds for one another or helping people contact loved ones on borrowed cell phones, the doctor said it struck him that people were in this together.

All my love and prayers to you tonight.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Celebrating National Poetry Month at Highline Community College

Karen Finneyfrock with her poem "Ghosts" and me
What a fantastic event! This year for the first time, Highline Community College is putting on a grand celebration for National Poetry Month. It's less than halfway through the month and we've already put on three events: we've had a reception for the "Words on the Wall: Broadside Exhibit," which features broadsides by Highline students, faculty, and friends of the college --- including Karen Finneyfrock, Rachel Kessler, and Roberto Ascalon.

On Tuesday, the campus was treated to a reading/lecture/visual art show and writing workshop by Rachel Kessler. Her theme was water which included hand-washing poems, water fountains, and a history of the toilet. The students were thrilled --- who knew 16th century wise men pontificated and defecated  together while sitting on wooden boards?  I know this sounds stranger than strange; a juxtaposition of poetry with the profane, but in Rachel's hands --- all was gold. And speaking of hands, here is a copy of one of her pubic health hand-washing poems.

Example of Rachel Kessler's hand-washing poems
  Rachel's project of Public Health poems means that you can find her deceptively simple words in bathrooms all over campus. 20 seconds is how long a person should spend washing their hands and so Rachel wrote poems that take exactly that long to read. The bathroom at my house now boasts a few of Kessler's pieces.

On Thursday, Karen Finneyfrock performed to a standing room only crowd at the Student Union. Her balance of humor and pathos, darkness and light, poetry and prose was electric. Perhaps my favorite part of her presentation (but why would I choose just one?) was the question and answer session with my students. Karen let them know how many hours of practice are poured into acting "natural" and that she is vulnerable in front of them; that sharing one's poetry (or prose) is always going to make one vulnerable no matter how famous they are. Students told her and later, wrote about, how hearing Karen perform made them want to write their own poems.

Finally, it was the rush of students who surrounded Karen afterwards to have her sign a copy of her first novel The Revenge of Celia Door or to just tell her how much they'd loved her reading that made me  happiest. For most of my students this was the first time hearing a poet read her work aloud (unless they heard Rachel on Tuesday) and it is an experience that they deeply enjoyed.                                                                                                                                                                  

Poets Across the World Unite: Over 100 Ways to Share the Love

Poetry Lovers of All Ages Unite!

Wow. My heart is filled with appreciation for the 55+ bloggers that have offered books, journals, and full magazine subscriptions to poetry lovers anywhere in the world. Anyone, anywhere, can play.

What can you win?

Brand new books by Catherine Barnett, Erin Hollowell, Kelli Davio Marj Manwaring, and Jeanine Hall Gailey, for five examples.

Or international poetry books from generous bloggers in New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada -- if you want to learn more about international poets.

If you like poetry journals: Crab Creek Review or Los Angeles Review are two you can check out.

Look at the list of 55 poetry lovers (you don't have to be a poet to take part in the giveaway as non-fiction writer, Wendy Call, has demonstrated -- just one example) on the lefthand side of this blogpost. Click on the link to see what you can win.

How can you win?

I'm so glad you asked! All you need to do is leave your name and some way for the blogger to contact you in the comment area of the blog post you want to win. It's true that you may need a gmail account to leave a message on blogger -- but it's free to sign up and many other bloggers use wordpress and other systems. You can also simply email the blogger if you are having trouble posting. Bloggers want you to participate!

There's a catch right? Why would anyone give books away to strangers and promise to mail them anywhere in the world? 

No catch. Your email address will not be sold, mined, shared, or sent to anyone at all. No one is "selling" anything other than a love of poetry. Last year I sent my book to a young man in the Philippines; it makes me happy that my poems can travel to a country I have yet to visit. Sure, I'll spend a few dollars buying a copy of a book I love (and supporting poetry!) and another couple of dollars on postage, but the feeling of sending poetry to a someone you don't know and not expecting anything in return is strangely powerful.

Anything else I need to know?

You don't need a to be a poet to enter; there is no age requirement; no height or weight requirement either. You can go to as many blog sites as you want -- there is no limit. Enter all 55 --- why not? Show your support for poetry. During the first week of May bloggers will contact you if you've won a book.

Oh yes, one thing you could do...

Help us spread the word! If you are a teacher, tell your students; if you are in a poetry group, tell your group members. We want to show that people love poetry and that poets are cool enough to share work they love with the world.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Today is the Final Day to Send in Your Blog Posting for the Big Poetry Giveaway

50 bloggers from New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States have already joined in our third year of the Big Poetry Giveaway. We'd love to have you join, too.

I've been surprised that only 50 generous bloggers have joined us. I somehow thought that everyone who loved poetry and had a blog would be into this celebration.

Maybe you've just been waiting for the very last minute? Martha Silano joined today --- you can, too!

Here is the link for adding your blog post!

The Big Poetry Giveaway

And if you want a chance to win poetry books --- well you're in luck because the bloggers are not doing their drawings until May 1st. Come play!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My favorite images of the day: Matteo Massagrande's work

credit: Matteo Massagrande from Padua, Italy
Matteo Massagrande paints interiors of abandoned modern day buildings as if they were palaces. His angles shift and meet in unexpected ways. I've just discovered his work this afternoon. I'm very taken with it but wonder how he feels about poetry? I feel as if I should contact him before I fall in love.

I can imagine any of these as my next cover. And there are still more paintings to discover. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article on Massagrande and his work. Here's an excerpt:

The artist’s “Interiors” inescapably bring to mind the mysterious stillness and atmospheric lights of some of the great masters of this genre, like Vermeer and Hammershoi, but are nonetheless highly individual.

Part of the secret of Mr. Massagrande’s intriguing interiors is that they are as much invented as real. Both the artist and his wife are connoisseurs of abandoned and derelict buildings. Said Angela Massagrande: “If we see one, we can’t resist going in and taking a look.”

Drawing on such chance visits and personal memories, Mr. Massagrande constructs his images often from quite disparate buildings and locations. So, for example, part of a picture might be inspired by an old apartment block in Budapest, while the garden seen in the watery sunlight glimpsed outside might be somewhere in the Veneto or even his own garden in Padua. “I sometimes feel more like an architect than a painter of pictures,” he said.

Another gorgeous painting by Massagrande

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Poet Amber Decker with The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders

Poet Amber Decker Begins Her Journey
There is nothing like receiving a photo in your inbox of a friend holding your new book in her hands. Poet Amber Decker sent this lovely photo of herself along to me this afternoon. Since The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders is less than a month old, I'm not used to seeing it anywhere other than my computer screen. To know that Amber is reading it on the other side of the country makes me ridiculously happy. To hear from her that it contains "incredible stories and is full of good advice" is cool, too. A few weeks ago I met with the lovely Seattle poet and pie maker extraordinaire, Kate Lebo, to brainstorm travel ideas with her after her reading of the book. It's pretty cool to bring two things I love so much --- poetry and global travel --- into one gorgeous volume.

This was my first experience editing an anthology and I learned so much! I worked with a fantastic team of people including Catherine Barnett, Ilya Kaminsky, Brian Turner, Beth Allen, and Jared Hawkley. And then there were the leagues of fact checkers, proof readers, permissions coordinator --- and a host of other key players. I can't imagine doing such an undertaking alone.

The idea for this book came from a conversation Ilya Kaminsky and I had a number of years ago when he came out to Seattle to give a reading at Highline Community College where I teach. We bemoaned that fact that young poets wanted to get out and see the world but had little idea how to make this happen if their pockets weren't lined with gold. Surely, there must be a book that could inspire poets to do what other American poets had done before them. Elizabeth Bishop, W.S. Merwin, Phil Levine, and Yusef Komunyakaa all spent considerable time living outside the United States. And they wrote about it -- how it influenced their poetics and their worldview.

The book also contains a large resource section with information on how to apply for grants, fellowships, and jobs abroad. It's a book I plan on using as I dream about poetry trips to India and Italy, Turkey and Thailand. Happy travels!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thank you to CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art and Action for Publishing "Invention of Everything Else"

Thank you to CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art and Action for publishing a recent poem that will be published in CLOUD PHARMACY next year. I seem to write less and like less of what I write these days; I wonder if it is a sign of aging? However, this is a poem that satisfies me; I can read it without wincing. A strange test but it's one I use frequently. I hope you enjoy.


Once a man offered me his heart like a glass of water

how to accept or decline?

Sometimes all I speak is doubt

delineated by the double lines

of railway tracks; sometimes

I’m an incomplete bridge, crayon red Xs extending

across a world map.

A man offers me his bed like an emergency

exit, a forklift, a raft.

The easy-to-read instructions

sequestered in the arms of his leather jacket.

Sometimes a woman needs

small habits, homegrown salad, good sex.

Instead, she cultivates cats and a cupcake maker,

to continue reading this poem click here

Lovely art work from the current CURA

CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art and Action is a multi-media initiative based at Fordham University committed to integrating the arts and social justice. Featuring creative writing, visual art, new media and video in response to current news, we seek to enable an artistic process that is rigorously engaged with the world at the present moment.

Contact Information
Sarah Gambito, Editor in Chief
441 E. Fordham Road
Dealy Hall 541W
Bronx, NY 10458