Thursday, March 27, 2014

Poetry Lovers Here: Sign-up Now for the Big Poetry Giveaway 2014 X 3

I'm happy to be participating in this year's creative event which sends poetry into the hands of the people (worldwide). Thanks to my friend, Kelli Russell Agodon for curating this year's Big Poetry Giveaway. I was the curator last year and I know how much time it takes to organize this.

One thing about me (per Poetry Giveaway request) is that I like to record poems. In a parallel life I would be a radio announcer. In this life you can hear me read "Blue Grapes" on Diane Lockward's wonderful feature the Poet on the Poem and "Mr. Saturday Night" about my former student, Khalid, right here in the Seattle Times

Since I have a new book this year I am happy to offer Cloud Pharmacy published by White Pine Press as one of my giveaways. I've just written about the book launch at Open Books (10 Tips on How to Give a Book Launch) and so it only seems right to feature it here.

At times surreal, often leavened with a wry black humor, echoing Elizabeth Bishop, these poems create an "ecstatic theology" in which ambivalence--does this passionate heady speaker want to live "jig-sawed together" or "lonely as brooms"?--is both song and argument. 
---Catherine Barnett, Game of Boxes

Of course the best way for you to see if this is a book that you'd like to own is to read one of the poems. Here is the title poem.

Cloud Pharmacy 

How many apothecary drawers 
could I fill with these deliberations? 

The pharmacist’s paper cone 
parsing out a quarter cup 

of love’s resistant drug, 
spoons measuring new prescriptions 

for my uncertainty, heartsway, gesture. 
Give me cobalt bottles 

leftover from aunt iska’s cures, 
albastrons of ointments, resins to resolve 

the double-helix of desire inside of me. 
Where is the votive, the vessel, 

the slide rule calculation— 
to know how much good love 

alchemically speaking is 
good enough? 

I want spindrift nights on swimmer’s 
thighs. I want an Egyptian 

elevator inlaid in camphor wood and ivory; 
a West African drumbeat, an eggnog, a god. 

I want waves and summer all year long. 
I want you. And I want more.

For a brief interview (5 questions) and to hear me read "Blue Grapes" you can check out Diane Lockward's blog right here. For Amazon reviews check here

Perhaps my favorite part of the Great Poetry Giveway is the project of giving away a book that I read and loved in the last year; a book that I just need to share.

This year I'm offering the new award winning collection by Madison, Wisconsin poet, Susan Elbe. I picked up a copy of A Map of What Happened at this year's AWP Conference and am falling in love poem by poem. 

The Nature of Memory

You must be a child of shadows, but not
rain, which erases everything.

You must be full of flit and vinegar, willing to
pull light from broken splinters in your palm.

You must be young and willing to be ruined,
in search of someone who will leave you.

You must love the green, sexy smell
of water, the wind of it,
blowing night across a city, no stars,

only tiles of light wavering in a black mirror,
and standing next to you someone

who knows hunger and arson, but nothing yet
about distance, heartbreak,
or the stark light which settles in the winter face.

You must be all hurry, sweat and borrowed sleep,
full of time to change your life.

You must grow old, having learned it takes stone
to break the water's dark, finally

realizing you're a northern country, full of forests
and lost ways, the moon so orange and torn
and heavy, you're not sure if it will ever rise,

the shadows with their needles and their sugar
creeping out to offer you themselves again.

                      Susan Elbe

Finally I thought I would offer a third giveaway of The Cartographer's Tongue / Poems of the World published by White Pine Press which won the PEN USA Award and the Peace Corps Writers Award.

Here is a poem from this, my first collection.

Love in the Time of AIDS

You are afraid
of a moist toothbrush, disposable razor,
fearful of the inside
of your lover's mouth.
Too terrified to pose an inquiry in short hand
positive, negative?
You imagine your date's response
I don't know.

Remembering the scent of one man
the finger tips of another
triggers the inevitable moment
when your eyes
search this new body, stop
and check for signs ---
like a pilot before the flight
records temperature and distance
knowing even this cannot ensure a safe journey.

The lovers he's had before
are now your lovers
and yours are his
their health and habits as migratory
as your own blood.

In the morning
you telephone for the test
anonymously. No way to study or plan.
The voice at the end of the line
gives you the number you will use
as your identity, sets a time and place
where you meet a man named Manuel.

No hint of this, no mark
will mar your records.
You bargain with yourself.
You'll give up kissing ---
no more dancing
of tongues. You promise to become
a condom connoisseur. Take six month tests
for HIV as if they were multiple choice.
As if the pilot knows whether or not the plane
will crash or glide across the sky
as if the sky knows what is written underneath its skin.

                                          Susan Rich

National Poetry Month is around the corner and for those of us who love poetry, poets, and their books, it's time for us to share our favorite books (and our own books) with you.
Anyone with a blog can giveaway 2 books of poems. Anyone with an email address can enter any or all of the giveaways. Yes, poetry is that easy! You can give it away and you can also sign-up to receive it! You don't need a blog to participate, you just need to visit different participating blogs.

To enter and win one of these books you just need to leave a comment in the comment box. You don't need to have a blog nor will you get any spam mail. This is one of the ways we can connect poems with poetry lovers or soon-to-be poetry lovers. There may be no such thing as a free lunch but there is such a thing as free poetry~ If you don't do gmail, you can still leave a comment as "anonymous" but you must  put your name and email in the comment box. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top 10 List for Listening and Giving Poetry Readings

Photographer: Logan Jenott
Just one week later and the glow of my book launch for Cloud Pharmacy at Open Books: A Poem Emporium is already beginning to fade; almost disappear really. This past Sunday was the book launch for Hourglass Museum by Kelli Russell Agodon and so I've had the chance to read as well as listen. Here is what I learned:

1. Plan ahead; even over prepare. The first reading for a new book is important --- like a party for a newborn --- everything needs to go right. Bringing a book into the world, your book, is no small matter and so it's worth all the extra time to get the introduction and the order of poems just right.

2. Flowers make everything better. I brought a spring bouquet of flowers to Kelli's reading and I was lucky enough to receive flowers as well. This gives a sense of the joyousness of the occasion; plus it's spring in Seattle and everyone feels better with flowers in their arms.

3. Don't be afraid to make people cry. This sounds a little strange to my ears but it's true. I think as readers we want to make people laugh when in reality it is the more intense moments that I usually remember. My reading began with the poem "Blue Grapes" which includes the line "Is it easier after you're dead?" The poem focuses on the relationship between the dead and the living. Two people close to me (and close to the front of the reading) had just lost loved ones and they both told me, in similar ways, that the poem healed something important --- even with tears. I suspect they were allowed to feel --- and isn't that what we want at readings?

4. As a reader, it's your job to provide something tangible for the audience, something that they couldn't get if they read the book alone. Of course there's hearing the poems in the poet's voice. I know after attending a reading it's easier to hear the poet's cadences in the lines and read the way (perhaps) the poet intended. But I also mean offering little pieces of information that might provide insight into the work.

5. Be sure you have a friend or two willing to take pictures. Trust me, you will remember so little of the actual day that looking at pictures afterwards is a must.

Selfie by Kelli Russell Agodon after her marvelous event
6. Let friends help out; they want to be involved. There are so many details to think about on the day of your reading (flowers, food, party favors) that it can be overwhelming. It felt so good to be the official ride to get Kelli from the bookstore to her after party. I liked being needed.

7. Have an after party! Another way to thank your friends and family is to throw a party immediately following the reading. Both Kelli and I did this by reserving a private room or a section of a local restaurant not far from the bookshop. It feels really good to extend the afternoon.

8. Give out party favors. For The Alchemist's Kitchen I wrapped pieces of lavender chocolate and left them on everyone's chairs. This year I printed out different photographic images of Hannah Maynard's work and offered them as artistic prompts to writers and artists in the audience. Kelli printed out postcards with a poem from Hourglass Museum and a personal note.

9. Remember to thank everyone! You will look out at the audience to former teachers, lovers, friends, and family. They've all helped you to become the writer that you are. Let them know that they are your community; that they matter so much.

10. Don't forget to enjoy your day! On the drive over to the bookstore, in real danger of being late for my own reading, I turned up my music and sang so loud the street lights took notice. I put on Lake Street Dive's "Bad Self Portraits" and I danced down the highway in the driver's seat. After all, the reading couldn't begin without me. A book launch is a culmination of many years of work, make sure to enjoy the sweetness as long as you can.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thank You Poetry Community ~ I Felt the Love ~

March 16, 2014 at Open Books
A day of poetry, friends, tears, laughter, and good Thai food. I can't wait to write more but for tonight I am just floating on air (and grading papers). There's so much I learned putting this reading together that I will share soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Short but Sweet at Open Books and in the Seattle Times

Another version of short and sweet for spring!

Thanks to Elizabeth Austen, Washington State Poet Laureate for alerting me to this Seattle Times capsule review of Cloud Pharmacy! I am especially happy that the Times mentions that I am reading 3:00 PM, Sunday, March 16th at Open Books in Seattle. Here is the link!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day Gift

The world is made of stories, not atoms.

           ~ Muriel Rukeyser

I want to honor this important day and offer something in celebration of all good, honest, strong, and amazing women that I've learned from and loved in my life.

Be Astonished is a collection of quotes by women writers that I have collected with the help of friends -- both men and women. There is very little gathered together of women writer's wise words. Please feel free to add your favorite quote --- or two.

And whatever you do; may you enjoy the day.

Free copies of Cloud Pharmacy, Happy Women's Day and New Review

Right now you can enter the GoodReads giveaway for a copy of Cloud Pharmacy that White Pine Press has going on. Even if you have a copy, why not enter and give one to a friend? There's no mailing list involved and no fuss -- although you may need a (free) GoodReads account. Five copies will be sent out to five poetry lovers --- this means your chances are excellent. Just click here to be taken to the page.

Perhaps you don't think you are in immediate need of a book of poems? Perhaps, like me, your house is overflowing with books --- that there are always more books available than snacks to eat or clean socks to wear. And yes, Cloud Pharmacy does have a pretty cover, but what's inside?

Today my publisher sent on a wonderful review from a man in Albuquerque who has been driving through his city reading my book and Kelli Russell Agodon's book, Hourglass Museum, during traffic jams. I love the diverse ways we bring poetry into our lives. George Ovitt's blog, a talented reader is one I will add to my list. He is indeed a talented reader of my poems and there's nothing that feels better than knowing my words have been understood by someone whom I've never met. He also provides the full text to "Abstract" one of my favorite poems in the book written at Anam Cara, in the West of Ireland. Enjoy!

Cloud Pharmacy Makes the Best Seller List for SPD -- Coming In at #9 / Writing Blog Tour of Writers, Too!

I am thrilled beyond thrilled that Cloud Pharmacy is #9 on the Poetry Best Seller List for Small Press Distribution. Sherman Alexie at #1 and Susan Rich at #9. Kind of lovely to put those two names in the same sentence. I'm guessing that next week --- or after my March 16th reading at Open Books it's back to obscurity for me --- but for now, I am going to try and enjoy this.

And for something else to enjoy, do check out Wendy Call's continuation of the Writer's Blog Tour at Many Words for Welcome. 
photo of Wendy Call by Kathy Cowell
I've known Wendy Call since she moved to Seattle; she is a fellow Hedgebrook alumna and has written movingly about global economics, grief, and a different view of our national parks. Wendy has been a fellow at Richard Hugo House and a writer-in-residence at Harborview Medical Center. She is a translator, an activist, and a most generous soul. Here is her honest and moving account of her life as a writer at Many Words for Welcome.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My First Interview for Cloud Pharmacy - Thanks to Diane Lockward at Blogalicious

Where is her ice cream?
Thanks to the amazing poet Diane Lockward, author most recently of The Crafty Poet - A Portable Workshop, for featuring me as this week's "Poet on the Poem." This is a wonderful series that Diane runs where she interviews a different poet each week (or so) asking them questions on just one poem. The feature includes a photo as well as a recording of the poet reading her piece. This week I am the featured poet and the poem is "Blue Grapes" which opens my newest book, Cloud Pharmacy.

Here is a little bit of the interview with Diane's cool question.

DL: There’s a surreal element in the poem. You give us “years unbalanced on the windowsill,” newspapers that appeared “like oracles on your doorstep,” and a God who “visited, delivered ice cream; returned your delinquent library books.” How do you achieve these dream-like moments? How hard is it to trust them, to allow them into the poem?

SR: Wow, I love this question, but I want to first turn it around. The dreamlike moments are the core of the poem; they are the force of the vision I’m trying to express. I think of Elizabeth Bishop saying that what she wants while reading a poem is “to see the mind in motion.” My mind goes to the odd and the unlikely. I’ve always been interested in the juxtaposition of the quiet of morning coffee with the news of the world. As a child the unfolding of the newspaper from itself taught me that the world was out there waiting for me to try to understand it.

Now to answer your question more directly: these “dream-like” moments come easily to me; they are the way my mind works, the way I understand the world. I find no tonal separation between the line “you stayed in bed, read novels, drank too much” and the next line “God visited, delivered ice cream; returned your delinquent library books.” In fact, I do not drink alcohol, so that first line seems more preposterous to me. Poetry works as an avenue of presences, a way to live in the world that exists beyond what we can actually know.

To continue reading my interview with Diane Lockward, click here!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Winners, Blog Tour of Writers, and an Invitation...

Cool, California. Now where else would Cool be located?
First and foremost the Writing Process blog tour continues with Katharine Whitcomb's contribution up at Poetry Is Cool I first met Katharine Whitcomb on the page. I am a board member at Floating Bridge Press and Katharine's book Lamp of Letters won the Floating Bridge Chapbook Competition. I admire Katharine's inventive poems very much. I also love her collaborations with the scent artist and her new "self-help" book for those that fear art. You really must check out her poems and her work. You can find out more about her right here.

I also want to congratulate Susan Elbe whose book A Map of What Happened was just chosen as the winner for the Julie Suk Prize from Jacar Press. I'm so happy that I picked up a copy (signed!) at AWP. The book centers on Elbe's hometown of Chicago --- I can't wait to read it.

Finally, I want to invite everyone within adventure distance from Seattle to join me 3:00 PM, Sunday, March 16th at Open Books for the launch of Cloud Pharmacy. This is the very first reading from my new book and I'd love so much to see you there!