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Mailbox Monday #414

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

As many of you may know, I attended AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference here in D.C. I attended a great many panels and readings and got a few books and journals free, as well as purchased some and met some authors I’ve read in the past and some literary friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Here’s what I received:

The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

The Bees is Carol Ann Duffy’s first collection of new poems as British poet laureate, and the much anticipated successor to the T. S. Eliot Prize–winning Rapture. After the intimate focus of the earlier book, The Bees finds Duffy using her full poetic range: there are drinking songs, love poems, poems to the weather, and poems of political anger. There are elegies, too, for beloved friends and—most movingly—for the poet’s mother. As Duffy’s voice rises in this collection, her music intensifies, and every poem patterns itself into song.
Woven into and weaving through the book is its presiding spirit: the bee. Sometimes the bee is Duffy’s subject, sometimes it strays into the poem or hovers at its edge—and the reader soon begins to anticipate its appearance. In the end, Duffy’s point is clear: the bee symbolizes what we have left of grace in the world, and what is most precious and necessary for us to protect. The Bees is Duffy’s clearest affirmation yet of her belief in the poem as “secular prayer,” as the means by which we remind ourselves of what is most worthy of our attention and concern, our passion and our praise.

The Far Mosque by Kazim Ali

These gently fragmented narrative lyrics pursue enlightenment in long, elegant yet plain-spoken, dark yet ecstatic lines. Ali travels by water and by night, seeking the Far Mosque and its overarching paradox: that when God and Self are one, an ascent into Heaven is a voyage within.

Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors by Leslie Heywood

Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors explores how we respond to violence, grief, and loss, and the ways animals are emotionally akin to us in those responses.  Driven by the ways those primary emotions get tangled with memory, the ways the body informs the mind, we end up feeling and repeating behaviors linked to original struggles long after they have passed. Fighting against what threatened to cageus, the fight itself becomes the cage, affecting our lives and relationships in the most visceral ways.  Yet it is the simplest things that promote recovery and survival:  a calming animal touch.  Simple presence.

Cattle of the Lord by Rosa Alice Branco, translated by Alexis Levitin

Love. Sex. Death. Meat. Traffic. Pets. In Cattle of the Lord, Rosa Alice Branco offers a stunning poetic vision at once sacred and profane, a rich evocation of daily life troubled by uneasy sacramentality.

In a collection translated by Alexis Levitin and presented in both Portuguese and English, readers find themselves in a world turned upside down: darkly comic, sensual, and rife with contradiction. Here, liturgical words become lovers’ invitations. Cows moo at the heavens. And chickens are lessons on the resurrection.

Over the course of the collection, Branco’s unorthodox — even blasphemous — religious sensibility yields something ultimately hopeful: a belief that the physical, the quotidian, and the animalistic are holy, too. Writing at the boundaries of sense and mystification, combining sensuous lyrics and wit with theological interrogation, Branco breaks down what we think we know about religion, faith, and what it means to be human.

Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn, who toured with Poetic Book Tours and signed my book for me!

Dear Almost is a book-length poem addressed to an unborn child lost in miscarriage. Beginning with the hope and promise of springtime, poet Matthew Thorburn traces the course of a year with sections set in each of the four seasons. Part book of days, part meditative prayer, part travelogue, the poem details a would-be father’s wanderings through the figurative landscapes of memory and imagination as well as the literal landscapes of the Bronx, Shanghai, suburban New Jersey, and the Japanese island of Miyajima. As the speaker navigates his days, he attempts to show his unborn daughter “what life is like / here where you ought to be / with us, but aren’t.” His experiences recall other deaths and uncover the different ways we remember and forget. Grief forces him to consider a question he never imagined asking: how do you mourn for someone you loved but never truly knew, never met or saw? In candid, meditative verse Dear Almost seeks to resolve this painful question, honoring the memory of a child who both was and wasn’t there.

Interrobang by Jessica Piazza, which I purchased from Red Hen directly and got a signature from my Poetry Has Value hero!

Existing at the intersection of darkness and play, the noisy, irreverent, and self-conscious poems in Interrobang take clinical “phobias” and clinical “philias” as their conceit. Each poem makes its own music, the crescendos and decrescendos born of obsessions over anxiety and lust. Encompassing a range of forms (but mostly sonnets), each piece toes the line between traditional meter and contemporary sonic play, while a tell-tale heart beats beneath the floor of the collection, constantly reminding us of our shames, fears, and the clock’s unrelenting ticking. Through individual stories about love, degradation of the self, the redemptive power of genuine humility, and the refuge offered by art and language, Interrobang, winner of the 2012 A Room of Her Own Foundation To the Lighthouse Poetry Publication Prize, illustrates how even the worst-case scenario of these pathologies are, fundamentally, just extensions of the dark truths to which every one of us can relate.

What did you receive?

Guest Post & Giveaway: Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn

Matthew Thorburn’s poetry has been reviewed on the blog before, and I’m happy to welcome him (whom I interviewed for 32 Poems) today as he discusses how he became a writer.

His latest collection, Dear Almost, recently toured with Poetic Book Tours this fall.  This collection is an emotional poem that reflects on miscarriage and its impact on those left behind and the small person who never fully developed to experience all that life has to offer.

About the book:

Dear Almost is a book-length poem addressed to an unborn child lost in miscarriage. Beginning with the hope and promise of springtime, the poet traces the course of a year with sections set in each of the four seasons. Part book of days, part meditative prayer, part travelogue, the poem details a would-be father’s wanderings through the figurative landscapes of memory and imagination as well as the literal landscapes of the Bronx, Shanghai, suburban New Jersey, and the Japanese island of Miyajima.

As the speaker navigates his days, he attempts to show his unborn daughter “what life is like / here where you ought to be / with us, but aren’t.” His experiences recall other deaths and uncover the different ways we remember and forget. Grief forces him to consider a question he never imagined asking: how do you mourn for someone you loved but never truly knew, never met or saw? In candid, meditative verse, Dear Almost seeks to resolve this painful question, honoring the memory of a child who both was and wasn’t there.

Please give Matthew Thorburn a warm welcome:

Thanks so much for inviting me to share a guest post for Dear Almost, my new book of poetry. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my reading/writing life and what led me to become a writer.

It’s hard to remember a defining moment—as if I have just always wanted to be a writer, which seems pretty much true. Books have been important to me for as long as I can remember. Many of my fondest childhood memories involve them: listening to my dad and mom read stories to me, listening to stories on records and cassettes (remember those?), working my way through The Wind in the Willows and The Mouse and the Motorcycle and, eventually, just about all of the Hardy Boys books as a school kid. (What a thrilling discovery it was to read my first Hardy Boys mystery, love it, and then see there were thirty more on the classroom bookshelf.)

I sometimes think growing up as an only child made me more likely to enjoy the worlds of imagination that books offer—and more likely to want to create my own as a writer—though of course plenty of wonderful writers have siblings. However, I can pinpoint two experiences that got me started on the path to writing poems.

First, I fell in love as a reader. I remember one day in eleventh grade literature class we were reading Antigone aloud. Since I hadn’t been assigned a part, and didn’t really like the play (Sorry, Ms. Sullivan!), I was flipping through our textbook when I happened upon Allen Ginsberg’s poem “First Party at Ken Kesey’s with Hell’s Angels” and, on the next page, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Fortune has its cookies to give out.” I had enjoyed reading Frost, Dickinson, W.C. Williams, and other poets in American Lit class the year before, but these poems were something different.

I was blown away by the sense of immediacy and the impressionistic details in Ginsberg’s poem, the way he telegraphs the scene to us in images—and I loved Ferlinghetti’s sense of nostalgia and romance, and the quiet, tender humor in his poem. Both poets made a place and time I’d never experienced feel familiar and immediate. It wasn’t long before I got my mom to drive me to Jocundry’s Books, out by the Michigan State University campus, where I picked up the pocket-size City Lights editions of Ginsberg’s Howl and Ferlinghetti’s Pictures of the Gone World. These books still mean a great deal to me as a writer.

Second, I found a supportive, encouraging community in which to write. In my senior year, our AP English class took part in the International Poetry Guild (IPG), an initiative run by the Interactive Communications & Simulations (ICS) group at the University of Michigan’s School of Education.

IPG brings together students at schools in the United States and around the world to write poems, share and discuss their work online, and give each other constructive feedback and encouragement. Students at the university also serve as mentors, critiquing the poets’ work and fostering an ongoing discussion of the creative process. Each school also edits, designs, and publishes a journal of student poems at the end of the year.

Keep in mind, though, that I went to high school in the late 1980s/early 1990s. IPG truly was an innovative idea in those days of dial-up modems and bulletin board systems. Today, IPG operates via the web. But amazing as it seems now, back then I’d never seen a website or sent an email. The whole enterprise had an air of mysteriousness and wonder. My friend Laura, our communications editor, would download and print out a new batch of poems and responses for us each day, then upload our latest poems so the other schools could read them.

Participating in IPG gave me my first real sense that there were others like me, at my school and around the world, who liked to write poems and were interested in reading each other’s work. It was also my first taste of how technology can bring writers and readers together—through a blog like this one, for instance. IPG provided an irresistible mix of opportunity and encouragement, a place and time dedicated to poetry.

I wrote so many poems that year. They were the poems of a seventeen-year- old, and I probably wouldn’t want to re-read them now (or have you read them). But IPG marked the beginning of my poetic apprenticeship, laying the groundwork for the nearly 25 years of poem-writing that have followed (and the many more years of writing I hope are still to come). I’ll always be grateful to my AP English teacher Jan Kesel, who got our school involved in IPG and encouraged us to make the most of it, and Jeff Stanzler, who directs ICS and was the guiding spirit behind IPG. They are two of the shining stars in my sky.

About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn is the author of six collections of poetry, including the book-length poem Dear Almost (Louisiana State University Press, 2016) and the chapbook A Green River in Spring (Autumn House Press, 2015), winner of the Coal Hill Review chapbook competition. His previous collections include This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, 2013), Every Possible Blue (CW Books, 2012), Subject to Change, and an earlier chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City Press, 2009). His work has been recognized with a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His interviews with writers appear on the Ploughshares blog as a monthly feature. He lives in New York City, where he works in corporate communications.

GIVEAWAY: U.S./Canada residents only. Deadline Dec. 7, 2016

Leave a comment below about your favorite poets.
For additional entries, please leave links to your FB or Tweets.
Or let me know you shared the giveaway on your blog.

Every Possible Blue by Matthew Thorburn

Every Possible Blue by Matthew Thorburn, whom I interviewed for 32 Poems, will be published by CW Books in May.  His poems read like paintings that visually leap from the page to create vivid scenes in the readers mind, from moments in a Jazz club with trumpets blaring to mannequins in the stores down Fifth Avenue in New York.  Moreover, these poems have the feel of the 20s and 30s with references to Greta Garbo and Barbara Bel Geddes.  It is like stepping back and forth in time to experience what has past and what is still vivid and relevant today, while at the same time creating a “blue” mood, a longing for the simpler moments of the past.

From "Now is Always a Good Time":

. . . But Hoagy Carmichael does
a funny thing at the piano and my heart

swings open like a Murphy bed.  Now a hint
of stale Nag Champa tickles my nose, or is this
Chanel No. 5 letting go of someone's taut tan wrist?"
From "Self-Portrait in Secondhand Tuxedo"

. . . Now he's breathing a sweet
something in someone's ear (only her ear
makes it into the picture) and there's

hardly room for me to pull up a stool
in this last corner I'm shading in: my antsy hands,
my waistcoat pooching over my waist.

I'm keeping company tonight with the bust
of Charlie Darwin, that lush.  He sniffs
the pale bud in my button-hole.  . . .

Readers will like when Thorburn directly references the paintings described or referenced in his poems as they can search the internet and gaze at images while reading. Like many of the scenes in his poems, there are mundane situations afoot, but with at least one element that is surprisingly awkward, which can be the narrator himself or other scene stealers.

There is a great deal of upheaval here and yet there is a sense of hope that continues to propel the narrator forward, and some of that can be attributed to the alliteration in some of these poems that make them musical and continuously moving (i.e. “Upper West Side Toodle-oo”).  What readers will love most about Every Possible Blue by Matthew Thorburn is the tug-of-war that happens between the past and future, lost faith and renewed hope, and failure and new opportunity.  A very human collection that delves into the internal struggles we face daily at every turn and yet still find a way to move forward.

Author photo by Takako Kim

About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn is the author of three book of poems, Every Possible Blue (CW Books, forthcoming 2012), This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, forthcoming 2013) and Subject to Change (New Issues, 2004), and a chapbook, Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City, 2009). He is the recipient of a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as the Mississippi Review Prize, two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prizes, and fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

His poems have appeared in literary journals such as The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Michigan Quarterly Review and Pool. He is a regular contributor to the reviews section of Pleiades. His critical writing has also appeared in Jacket, The Laurel Review, Poetry Daily, Rowboat: Poetry in Translation and Rattle, among others.

A native of Michigan, Matthew Thorburn has lived in New York City for more than a decade. He is currently working on two new projects: a book-length poem that tells the story of one year, and a collection of poems about losing faith and possibly finding it again.

 

***For today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop, visit Travis Laurence Naught on Facebook.

 

 

 

This is my 33rd book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

 

 

This is the 15th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #173

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Cindy’s Love of Books.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers, which I received for review in May.

2. Every Possible Blue by Matthew Thorburn, whom I interviewed for 32 Poems.

From the library sale:

3. The Accompanist by Nina Berberova, which is a translated work from Russian.

4. An Irish Country Village by Patrick Taylore

5. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

6. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

7. Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

8. A Tidewater Morning by William Styron

9. Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

10. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

11. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

12. No, David! by David Shannon

13. Elmo’s ABC Book

14. Big Bird’s Color Game

15. Nighty, Night (the one we got at the library sale had Big Bird and Radar on it)

16. LeapFrog’s Monster Faces, which I’ve already read a dozen or so times to “Wiggles.”

What did you receive?

Interview With Poet Matthew Thorburn

Poet Matthew Thorburn

This month at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Matthew Thorburn was posted. He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially given his passionate recommendations for books and art.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

I think the most powerful poems are those that really work in both mediums – as words arranged on a page and as words spoken or read aloud. As a reader/listener, I want both! After reading someone’s poems in a book or journal, I want to hear her or him read them. It almost always gives the poems an extra depth. I love to hear poems in the poet’s own voice – to see where she puts the stress, where she pauses, and so forth.

I agree that writing can help people feel more equal or become more tolerant, but the kinds of writing I see doing that are speeches and sermons, or op-eds and letters to the editor, not poems. In my experience, poems work on a smaller scale: one curious person opening a book or journal to see what’s inside.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

I do have a few. I’m fascinated by Vermeer’s paintings, the way he paints the light. Just recently I’ve gone to see those in The Frick Collection, in New York, and the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. I’d love to make the rounds and see all of his paintings eventually. (It’s probably do-able; there are only about 30.) I also love jazz, especially the recordings of Thelonious Monk, which I keep in more or less constant rotation on my iPod. And when it comes to fiction, I find myself doing more and more rereading of old favorites. I revisit Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe novels – The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land – every couple years. And I’ll never get tired of Penelope Fitzgerald’s nine perfect little novels – “little” in terms of their page counts, not their ambitions or accomplishments, which are tremendous. (Poets can learn a lot from the work of both of these fiction writers.)

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I participated in workshops as an undergrad and later attended an MFA program. One of the biggest benefits of these experiences was developing a feeling of community – getting to know other poets at a similar point in their writing lives, people I could talk to about poetry, and share poems and books with. The actual work of writing is solitary, of course, but it helps to feel like you’re not in it alone – even though you are, when it comes down to it.

I’ve also participated in the occasional class or workshop at the 92nd Street Y. A one-on-one poetry tutorial with Grace Schulman was especially helpful. She offered close critical readings and gave me very astute, specific advice on the poems I was writing then. A workshop at the Y on writing book reviews, taught by Ben Downing, was also very good, and helped me become a regular reviewer of poetry.

I’ve read my fair share of how-to books and collections of writing prompts and advice. But what I recommend is to read collections of essays by the poets whose work you love, to learn more about how they read and write poetry, and see what you can take away from that for your own work. I’d especially recommend Marianne Boruch’s collection, In the Blue Pharmacy.

When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

I used to listen to a lot of instrumental music (mostly jazz,  sometimes classical) when writing, but over the past couple of years  I’ve come to find it too distracting. Now I go for quiet.

As far as routines, I like to have my desk cleared off so I have room  to work. And I like to have a cup of tea (or a glass of iced tea)  within reach. Basically, my routine, such as it is, is about keeping it  simple and focusing in on the writing at hand.

He also included a poem for readers to check out:

Just Like That

God, I never felt lonelier
than when the shinkansen would pull in
and I heard that electronic chime—
the one to tell us passengers
here comes the next stop announcement
in Japanese. It almost sounded like
someone’s phone, because no one’s phone
sounds like a phone anymore,
or a ringtone version of a Milt Jackson line,
a vibraphone riff from somewhere
in the middle of one of Milt’s ten thousand runs
through “Django” or “Bags’ Groove”
or “Two Bass Hit.” I missed hearing him
twice back in Michigan, years ago
at the Serengeti Ballroom and the Bird
of Paradise, and now missed him all over again—
missed my cds and headphones, the live
and studio versions, the alternate
takes and outtakes, but especially his solos
that strayed beyond what I’d given up
precious brain cells to store away
so I could replay at will. My dream job,
back when Milt was still alive, would have been
to be John Lewis in his tuxedo at the piano.
To play like that, of course. To play at all.
But also to be so close I could listen
to Milt every night, every night—
those ten thousand sweet transactions
between the mallets and the vibes.
This string of four or five notes, not quite
a melody, not close to a song, might’ve been
a little something Milt threw in for flavor
or to egg John on, something to go back to
throughout his solo, like an inside joke
or an old lover’s name you can never
really let go of, just the way I keep hearing it
now, lonelier each time, as we slide
into Shinjuku, Shiojiri, Nara, Shin-Osaka.

Originally published in Brilliant Corners

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn is the author of a book of poems, Subject to Change(New Issues, 2004), and a chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City, 2009). His writing has been recognized with fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He lives and works in New York City.

Also check out today’s tour stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour at Necromancy Never Pays.