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Mailbox Monday #628

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

ALERT: We’re looking for a new host to help us with MM — if you have experience with WordPress or Mr. Linky, feel free to apply.

Here’s what we received:

These were all Kindle freebies at the time I got them:

What did you receive?

Virtual Poetry Circle: Liz Brownlee

With the return of the Virtual Poetry Circle, I hope that you’ll read the poem. Today’s poem is really an image or shape poem because today is World Penguin Day, which coincides with the annual northern migration of Adelie penguins.

Feel free to share poems you are reminded of, favorite lines, and whatever comes to mind when reading this poem.

This image was getting fuzzier and fuzzier as I enlarged it, so please click on the link and head on over to Poetry Roundabout to read the poem.

What animal shapes do you think would be fun to use to create a poem?

Acrostic

As you can see Acrostic poems are poems in which the first letter of each line spells out a word, message, or the alphabet. When I was a kid, these were one of the first poetry forms I learned, and I still write them from time to time as a way to clear out the cobwebs.

I hope you will check out the Acrostic poem generator.

Here’s what the generator came up with for me:

Sea

Seas saw.
Expanses seep.
American sailors slink.

I can’t wait to see yours. Hope you have a great weekend.

Interview: Caroline Bock, fiction editor of This Is What America Looks Like

This Is What America Looks Like, edited by Caroline Bock and Jona Colson, has been the talk of the Washington, D.C., area, with a number of readings and launch events.

The April 21 online event at the Enoch Pratt Library was a fantastic discussion about the creative state of our nation. I’ve even read my poem from the collection with The Inner Loop.

Today, I want to share with you an interview with fiction editor Caroline Bock.

Savvy Verse & Wit: Congratulations on the new anthology, This Is What America Looks Like, published by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, which is the first one they’ve published in decades. They also published your debut short story collection, Carry Her Home. How did you decide where you wanted the anthology to be published? Were there any other publishers you considered?

Caroline Bock:  I only considered The Washington Writers’ Publishing House – it was established in 1975 as a ‘hippie poetry collective’ (their description, not mine!), and it’s an all-volunteer, cooperative press dedicated to  publishing poetry and literary fiction.

SVW: As the fiction editor for the anthology, how much coordination was there with poetry editor Jona Colson? Did you both have a game plan in mind before submissions started rolling in or were their themes that emerged on their own as submissions were being read?

CB: I originally envisioned this as only a fiction collection until Jona raised his hand in a WWPH meeting and asked: “Could there be room for poetry? I’m happy to volunteer as the poetry editor.” And my reply was, “There’s always room for poetry!”

Now, I knew Jona well – his beautiful poetry collection, “Said Through Glass,” was the 2018 Jean Feldman Poetry award-winner the same year that I won the Fiction Award from WWPH.

I had come up with the general theme based on the Women’s Marches that I attended in DC – a literary response to the chant: what does America look like? However, as the pandemic closed in on us last March alongside an Administration in D.C. that seem to trump up more and more lies designed to divide us, as the Black Lives Matter movement became more urgent, as our racial and economic divides were exposed—the literary response became more critical. We increased the number of writers from 50 to 100.

We reached out to writers of color to ensure as diverse and inclusive anthology as possible. We looked for the political in the personal and deeply felt responses we received to This Is What America Looks Like, and we realized that we didn’t need the political—that the personal told the story.

SVW: How did you view your role as an editor of the anthology? Let us in on what your process was when selecting the fiction pieces. Did you have any criteria you followed specifically from the start? Were there criteria that evolved over the submissions process?

CB: We received over 500 submissions, and I read everyone, sometimes more than once along with Kathleen Wheaton, our publisher.

I love fiction that either dives deeply into a moment and/or takes chances – so “Smaller” by M.M. Bailey, which dives into the anger of the pandemic via a violent cough gripped me. On the other hand, Michelle Brafman’s ‘I Am Your Mask,” from the point of view of a mask, gave me, and I hope gives readers, a different perspective on the pandemic.

I looked for fiction that spoke to the moment that we are in now in America – but then, there were a few stories that so gripped me about the past. This was the case with the opening story by Mary Kay Zuravleff entitled “Myrna, 1934” – it’s set in the Depression, but this story of a struggling family so resonated to this struggling moment, I included it.

SVW: This Is What America Looks Like provides a very broad landscape in how writers could approach the topic, but how would you describe what America looks like? Does America’s description merely entail its mountains and landscapes or is it about the people within it?

CB: Based on this astonishing collection, I have questions and I have hope for the American people.

Here are some of the questions: Do we recognize that the unnamed, code-switching, bilingual narrator in Ofelia Montelongo’s wondrous story “Botones” is as critical to our society as the tough-talking waitress in Danielle Stonehirsch’s story “The Waffle House”? Do we recognize the anger in Amy Freeman’s “Spiralling” about the political moment or Christopher J. Gregg’s inventive “What I Read Between The Line or A Prose Erasure Of ‘Executive Order on Building and Rebuilding Monuments To American Heroes” or in Shelby Settles Harper’s “Colonize These Thighs,” as a sign that we must choose a new path forward? I think so. I am filled with hope after working on this collection. I hope readers will feel that way too!

SVW: Thinking about the writers in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region, how would you describe their writing styles and overall view as presented in their stories? Is there something that readers could immediately recognize as fiction from this region?

CB: There’s a heightened awareness of ‘power’ in the writing I saw in the DMV—who has it and who doesn’t.

For example, Gariné Isassi wrote in her sharply-drawn story, “In Lieu of Graduation 2020,” a mother and a daughter stumble on immigration detainees in a field in Montgomery County; her story is essentially about power the government has over these people’s lives. Willie Conley’s “Labels” writes about the power or control the healthcare system can have our very identities. On other hand, the landscape of the Capital becomes a character, exerting power over the narrator in Leslie Pietrzyk’s “Admit This To No One.”

SVW: What has been your fondest memory of your writing journey so far? And what’s next for you?

CB: I always thought I would be a short story writer or a novelist or a screenwriter, or all three. But I took a twenty years detour into corporate America. So, I’m grateful that my ‘second act’ is as a writer—I’m still in the middle of it, so I don’t have a ‘fondest’ memory yet.

This past year, I’ve been working on a new novel, which centers on the power, so perhaps, I am truly a DMV writer these days too. I hope this novel will be my first for adults—so stay tuned!

Thank you, Caroline, for stopping by the blog today to talk about This Is What America Looks Like.

Copies of the anthology, This Is What America Looks Like: Poetry & Fiction from DC, Maryland and Virginia can be purchased at www.washingtonwriters.org or at your favorite etailer.

Also note that the 2022 Washington Writers’ Publishing House prizes in fiction and poetry will open for submissions on July 1-November 15th . More information can also be found at www.washingtonwriters.org

About the Editor:

Caroline Bock writes short stories, novels, and more. She is the author of CARRY HER HOME, winner of the 2018 Fiction Award from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and the young adult novels: LIE and BEFORE MY EYES from St. Martin’s Press.

In 2021, she is the fiction editor of THIS IS WHAT AMERICA LOOKS LIKE, poetry and fiction from DC, Maryland and Virginia from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. She is a graduate of Syracuse University where she studied creative writing with Raymond Carver, and as of 2011, holds an MFA in Fiction from The City College of New York. She lives in Maryland with her family and leads creative writing workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda and at Politics & Prose in Washington, DC. Find her often on twitter @cabockwrites.

Earth Day Poem: If the ocean had a mouth by Marie-Elizabeth Mali

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Today is Earth Day where we advocate on behalf of environmental protection. We only have one planet on which to live, and we should be good stewards of that planet and its resources to ensure humanity has a future.

I found this poem on Poets.org and couldn’t wait to share.

Marie-Elizabeth Mali’s poem personifies the ocean into an entity with human-like qualities. An ocean with a mouth, who may bite her cheek and yell at the moon to stop pulling her hem. What does she want to tell us when she spits out that whale? I imagine the ocean is telling us that we need to take better care and learn to spread less waste in her waters.

According to International Union for Conservation of Nature, “about 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, and make up 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.”

I’d love for everyone to share their favorite Earth Day poems.

The Poetry Channel with Indran Amirthanayagam

As I took the time before the pandemic to get to know the local poetry community and listen to my fellow poets, I’ve by turns felt inadequate and welcomed. Indran Amirthanayagam has been one of the most open and welcoming poets I’ve met, and he started his own YouTube journey with The Poetry Channel.

Recently, Cornelius Eady has been a feature on the channel, and I wanted to share with you those readings because they are stunning. One of my favorites is “The Racist Bone”:

Yes, even I have been a guest poet on his channel, and I encourage others to send in their own to Indran. He would love more poets who write in languages other than English to submit as well.

Please share in the comments which of these poems were your favorite.

Everyone Disappears by W. Luther Jett

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Everyone Disappears by W. Luther Jett (full disclosure I am in a poetry work shopping group with Luther), published by Finishing Line Press, is a follow-up to Jett’s previous chapbook, Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father.

The opening poem, “Nepenthe,” refers to the drug that banishes grief or trouble from one’s mind as mentioned in the Odyssey (yes, I looked this up). Our narrator runs through the poem, looking for those memories in every room, rifles through drawers, unseals books — trying to uncover who did die of starvation, but he has forgotten. This opening poem sets the tone for the collection. It is the search for memory, even the most painful and a wish to hold those tight to almost make the lost corporeal again.

In "Why the Ocean Tastes of Tears"

....
    The snow melts slowly.
Everyone disappears.
    when you want them to stay
everyone goes somewhere
    else and that is why
      the ocean tastes of tears.
It's the one thing you can count on
    when you close your eyes --
      you dream and if
anyone is still there when you wake
  you've witnessed a revolution.

We all cry oceans of tears for lost parents, siblings, friends, children, and that salt is bitter and if often taints our ability to see the joy in what we’ve had. But what a revelation it would be to bring them back to life, even for a moment. “There is no returning,/yet we are always looking back/” says the narrator in “Days Like This.”

There are so many somber poems in this collection — ghost towns of bones, a brother gone too soon, a mother crying, and others — but “Remembrance” is the saddest poem, yet with a sense of humor. It begins, “This is the suit/I only wear once a year.” But you know by the end, a memory will surface where this truth is no longer true and it will break your heart.

Everyone Disappears by W. Luther Jett explores the saddest of truths with a sensitive hand and deep emotional root. His lines will lull you into a trance and gut you when you don’t expect it. But there is a hope, a “star’s kiss” that pierces through that dark shroud, and we shall not forget it.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #627

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

ALERT: We’re looking for a new host to help us with MM — if you have experience with WordPress or Mr. Linky, feel free to apply.

Here’s what we received:

The Understudy’s Handbook by Steven Leyva, which I purchased.

Drawing heat and music (and luscious food) from a New Orleans and Houston childhood, Steven Leyva’s poetry reveals a sensibility forged by a growing awareness of race and class: child’s joy and bafflement, a black Baltimore father’s worry. These gorgeous poems sweep the reader as into a parade, of memory, sensation, rhythm, protest.

a more perfect Union by Teri Ellen Cross Davis, which I purchased.

In the tender, sensual, and bracing poems of a more perfect Union, Teri Ellen Cross Davis reclaims the experience of living and mothering while Black in contemporary America, centering Black women’s pleasure by wresting it away from the relentless commodification of the White gaze. Cross Davis deploys stunning emotional range to uplift the mundane, interrogate the status quo, and ultimately create her own goddesses. Parenting, lust, household chores—all are fair game for Cross Davis’s gimlet eye. Whether honoring her grief for Prince’s passing while examining his role in midwifing her sexual awakening or contemplating travel and the gamble of being Black across this wide world, these poems tirelessly seek a path out of the labyrinth to hope.

On the House by John Boehner, purchased from Audible.

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner shares colorful tales from the halls of power, the smoke-filled rooms around the halls of power, and his fabled tour bus.

John Boehner is the last of a breed. At a time when the arbiters of American culture were obsessing over organic kale, cold-pressed juice, and SoulCycle, the man who stood second in line to the presidency was unapologetically smoking Camels, quaffing a glass of red, and hitting the golf course whenever he could.

There could hardly have been a more diametrically opposed figure to represent the opposition party in President Barack Obama’s Washington. But when Boehner announced his resignation, President Obama called to tell the outgoing Speaker that he’d miss him. “Mr. President,” Boehner replied, “yes, you will.” He thought of himself as a “regular guy with a big job”, and he enjoyed it.

In addition to his own stories of life in the swamp city and of his comeback after getting knocked off the leadership ladder, Boehner offers his impressions of leaders he’s met and what made them successes or failures, from Ford and Reagan to Obama, Trump, and Biden. He shares his views on how the Republican Party has become unrecognizable today; the advice – some harsh, some fatherly – he dished out to members of his own party, the opposition, the media, and others; and his often acid-tongued comments about his former colleagues. And of course he talks about golfing with five presidents.

Through Speaker Boehner’s honest and self-aware reflections, you’ll be reminded of a time when the adults were firmly in charge.

Kindle Freebies from Amazon’s World Book Day through April 24:

What did you receive?

Virtual Poetry Circle: Langston Hughes

With the return of the Virtual Poetry Circle, I hope that you’ll read the poem or listen to it if it is available.

I’ll leave the comments open for discussion, first impressions, emotional reactions. I’d love to hear what you think about today’s poem from Langston Hughes.

Feel free to share poems you are reminded of, favorite lines, and whatever comes to mind when reading this poem.

I look are the lines in this poem and they ring so true. Dreams can be hard to hold onto in the face of adversity, but without them, life seems empty.

Cinquain

The Cinquain is unrhymed and five lines that are broken down into syllables. The first line is two syllables, the second has four, the third has six, the fourth has eight, and the fifth has two.

These were the first poems I learned how to create as a teen.

Try out today’s Cinquain poem generator.

Here’s mine:

Peace

Peace
Calm, durable
Reposing, lulling, resting
I could never believe it
Tranquility

I can’t wait to see yours. Hope you have a great weekend.