Indie Lit Award Poetry Winner: Catalina by Laurie Soriano

Indie Lit Award Poetry Winner Catalina by Laurie Soriano, which was selected unanimously as the winner and also is published by Lummox Press, is a cohesive collection that maintains more than one theme throughout and simultaneously.  The narrator travels from east to west coasts and from innocence to corruption and recovery; the journey is bumpy and fraught with obstacles and stumbles.  Soriano uses imagery that jolts readers to the heart of her themes; parts one and two focus on how the narrator grows up in an abusive home with an alcoholic parent, while the final two sections focus on parenthood and how the past can shape us, but should not rule our actions.

There are some satiric qualities to these poems as well, like in “Betty’s Dive,” where a young woman takes on a dare and pays the ultimate price, and those issuing the dare laugh at what they think is her mock “dead-man’s float” until realization slowly creeps over them.  There is a great sense of irony in some of Soriano’s poems as well, such as the “no dogs” sign that is clearly the subject of many dogs’ walks in “Venice After Work.”

In addition to the deft use of these literary devices, the poet also clearly ties her poems together as a story unfolds, and it is most prominent in the movement from “Red Wine” to “Crash.”  In “Red Wine” (pages 44-5), the narrator is descending into the alcoholic abyss of her father: “. . . My hands/grip the flesh of their waists as I stumble/further toward the land of my father,/the shifting land of regret and soggy laughter./” and “I ask daddy if we want win.  He fills/our glasses like love, daddy never loved me/like wine, and we start thinning our blood/with this red stuff, our words flow/like liquid, we laugh fit to bust, and/we walk home arm in arm,/like we never did.//”  In “Crash” (pages 46-7), the narrator has followed the path of her father with her drinking and now driving along, experiences the worst kind of regret and shock:  “the effect of all our causes,/you and I shuttle separately to the spot//where our masses would marry/and your blood would stain the street./For a moment, one of those out of time,/we hung in the air, as breathless as sweethearts,/before we came together, your motorcycle/tearing a path through my car,/as your body flew/three car-lengths forward.//”

Soriano’s poetry is highly emotional, leading readers into tumultuous memories and through happier times, and in many ways, her poetry reminds me of the poetic prose of Beth Kephart.  Each writer’s words are chosen carefully and it shows — quiet little powerhouses of emotion that grab the heart strings and do not let go, though they may release their stronger grip for a moment or two depending on the mood of the poem.  In Part three — “Being Here” — Soriano emphasizes the “in-the-moment” nature of experiencing new life and parenthood, which can include struggle and joy.

Catalina by Laurie Soriano is more than stunning; it’s luminescent.  It’s a collection that will stay with readers long after reading, and will share a space on the shelves with those books that you’ll want to re-read again and again.  One of the best collections of the year, and unconventionally, this review is going to end with my favorite lines:

From "To the Attacker" (page 42-3)

You've slashed apart the ripe
abandon of my trust, torn away
the quietude I wore like a dress.
I am left with what is in the box.

Other Indie Lit Award Poetry Panel Reviews:

Diary of an Eccentric
Necromancy Never Pays

Poet Laurie Soriano

About the Poet:

Laurie Soriano is the author of Catalina (Lummox Press 2011). Her writing has appeared in Orange Room Review, FutureCycle Poetry, Flutter Poetry Journal, Gloom Cupboard, Heavy Bear, and West/Word, among others. She is also a music attorney, representing recording artists and songwriters and others in the music industry. She lives in Palos Verdes, California with her family.

Please also check out her interview for the Indie Lit Awards.


***For Today’s National Poetry Month blog tour post, visit Mr. Watson.***




This is my 30th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is the 12th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Interview With 2011 Indie Lit Awards Poetry Runner-Up Edward Nudelman

What Looks Like an Elephant by Edward Nudelman, published by Lummox Press, was the runner-up in the 2011 Indie Lit Awards Poetry category.  I reviewed the collection yesterday as part of the National Poetry Month Blog Tour, and today, I’ve got a special treat — an interview with the poet himself.

Please give Edward Nudelman a warm welcome.

1. Could you explain the process of selecting the poems for your collection and how it felt to be nominated and then to be the runner-up for the 2011 Indie Lit Award?

Selecting poems for a collection is an important process, dictated not only by the quality of the poem, but also its cohesiveness with respect to the book’s theme and tone. I started with about 100 poems and then tried to select those that fell into one of several criteria I had predetermined to be important. In What Looks Like an Elephant, I was interested in comparing elements of experience dealing with certainty and doubt, the often contradictory and counterintuitive process of both finding comfort in what we know (or feel) to be true versus the angst of coping with the fear (or dread) of what we don’t know. Also, for me, not only is the selection process important, but also the ordering and presentation of the poems so that a story is told with the unfolding of the poems.

It feels great to be nominated and then be runner-up for The Indie Lit Award. To be more specific, the feeling falls somewhere between having a root canal without Novocain and winning the Lotto for 250 million dollars.

2. What events, books, or teachers turned you on to writing and/or inspired your writing? Would you count Robert Frost as an influence (particularly given your poem “Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Garage”)?

Although I read a good deal of Frost in my younger years, and one teacher said I was a “Frost-incarnate,” I can’t say that he has been a major influence on my development, though probably to some degree. The poem you cite does riff off of one of Frost’s great poems, but that’s about all it does in association with Frost. Of course, like everyone else, I love Frost’s storytelling and his deeply committed allegiance to locality; I suppose I draw on that by default.

3. Tell us a little about your career as a scientist and how it finds your way into your poetry?

I have been a scientist in the field of cancer biology for over 30 years. It’s been a wild and fun ride, both immensely rewarding as well as frustrating and often demoralizing. I have had the fortune of being mentored by a twice Nobel nominee and have been able to publish over 60 papers in top-tier cancer journals. I only mention this because it’s important for those reading my work to know that I’ve been immersed in the field, and, as a poet, I’m often trying to bring to the reader certain elements of this world (i.e. the scientific community, scientific method, etc.) in an accessible and hopefully alluring fashion. I’m interested in exploring topics of fear, separation, temporality, loneliness as well as triumph and exhilaration. I find fascinating parallels in what I do as a scientist, and what I struggle with experientially.

4. Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth and how do you think it could be accomplished?

Well, I come from the land of elitism (the science world), so I’m well versed in its rules and regulations. However, I think if you look for it, you can find examples of elitism in practically every vocation. In poetry, you can find enclaves of elitism, but I don’t think it’s as big problem as sometimes reported. How does one define elitism? Making oneself inaccessible? Do poets really do that intentionally? I doubt it, and if they did, they wouldn’t write very good poetry.

Interpreting or even enjoying poetry often takes considerable effort, and perhaps this is interpreted by some as being elitist (why don’t they just come out and say it!). But, I think the issue and the resolution more relates to education. And we’re getting better at explaining what poetry is, what it aims to do, and what it never purports to do (i.e. be self-defining). So, in short, I’m not too worried about whether a particular poem or poet is considered elitist. Actually, I’m more worried about the opposite: the dumbing-down of poetry and the resultant acceptance of mediocrity.

5. Poetry is often solitary, more so than other art forms on occasion, because it is deeply personal, but there are efforts like the Split This Rock Poetry Festival and others that attempt to bring poetry to the masses and to bring about a social connection and call attention to a particular cause. Do you feel the need to do the same in your work? If so, why or why not? What do you think of these poetic movements?

Poetry movements are fine and serve a purpose I suppose, to punctuate any particular time or place something that needs to be brought into focus, into awareness. Poetry can do this, I think, in a way in which no other written medium can accomplish. Poetry has had a long rich history in the halls of social referendum and the people’s cry for change either from the street, the pulpit or in the workplace.

However, poetry should never be railroaded into a certain raison d’etre. If you do that, you begin to etch away at its power, which is the explosiveness of a single voice. [see the latest uproar over Gunter Grass’ critique of Israel in poetic form]

For me, it is that personal expression that pleases, that keeps me going back through my mind and emotion to form words in a language I’m just beginning to understand.

6. What are you reading now in poetry and what poetry would you recommend others read and why?

Lately, I’ve been reading a good deal of Denise Levertov, a poet who interestingly (as per above), wrote poems early on in her career addressing political problems (Vietnam, women’s rights, etc.), calling forth public action over individual apathy. In her later years, however, her poetry evolved into a much calmer voice that I really love, dealing with more fundamental and universal issues in a refreshing way. I’m also reading Simic, Bishop, W.C. Williams, Wallace Stevens.  These are contemporary poets I read and like on a day to day basis and most are fairly well known:  David Yezzi, A.E. Stllings, Stephen Edgar, Jane Hirshfield, W.S. Di Piero, Daisy Fried, Ange Mlinko, D.A. Powell and Sasha Dugdale as well as a host of modern poets whose names you might not readily recognize.

Thanks, Edward, for answering these “probing” questions.

About the Poet:

Edward Nudelman is a poet, scientist and literary critic from Seattle.  He has two poetry books and his latest collection was runner-up for book of the year.  Check out his Website.

***Today’s NPM blog tour stop is at Bookalicious.***

Seuss and More

I’ve dropped all reading today

because today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday

or so they tell me

those bloggers I see.

Let’s celebrate

his wit and fate

to entertain children and adults

with whimsical words to exult.

He’ll be 108

isn’t that great.

Come share your rhymes

on Twitter; we’ll have good times.

Hashtag #SeussDay

Come and Play.

For the LOVE of Seuss

In all Seussiness, please join us and share your Seussian memories, favorite books, favorite rhymes, politics, and more today.  I’ll tell you that my love of poetry started with Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, which he didn’t have published until 1958!  If you have no idea why Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) is so fun, you should check out Seussville where you can learn about the author, his life, his politics, and just have fun creating your own Whoville character!

In a twist on Necromancy Never Pays‘ weekly trivia game, I’ve crafted a set of Seussian lines for you to check out and tell me which book they came from.  A Seussian prize will be given to the winner who will be drawn at random from those who get all the answers right.

1.  “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

2.  “They kept paying money.  They kept running through until neither the Plain not the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one . . . or that one was this one or which one was what one . . . or what one was who.”

3.  “‘I will not let you fall.  I will hold you up high as I stand on a ball.  With a book on one hand! And a cup on my hat!  But that is not ALL I can do!'”

4.  “I hate this game, sir.  This game makes my tongue quite lame, sir.”

5.  “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.  You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.  And your gang will fly on.”

My daughter’s room is homage to Seuss in his books, his famous quotes, his color palette, and his characters.  I wanted her to be secure in her imagination, and I think that room will help her see that imagination can be

instrumental in success and happiness.  What I always loved about Seuss — besides his poetic rhymes — was the limitlessness of his imagination in the worlds and characters he created.  Worlds I just wanted to jump into and lose

myself in as a kid.  He showed me that life was full of possibilities as long as I was willing to grab onto opportunity or create it where there was none.

For some fun with kids older than mine, you should check out the Seuss crafts on CoffeeCupandCrayons (Mulberry Street, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Oobleck)!

***Also today, I wanted to let everyone know that the judging process is still going for the Indie Lit Awards, and that the winners will be announced this month.***

Announcing the 2011 Indie Lit Awards

Ironically, following my idea to celebrate small and independent presses this month, I discovered the Indie Lit Awards online. However, I did notice that the awards did not have a poetry category, so I started inquiring about it.

This year, I was asked to take part in the 2011 Indie Lit Awards (click for the history of the awards) by Wallace at Unputdownables, and I agreed to be director of the newly added category — Poetry — because it was a natural fit for me, and I knew some great people who could participate as voting members.  Want to see whose on the team?  Check them out and the teams for Biography/Memoir, GLBTQ, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Speculative Fiction.  Poetry, Biography/Memoir, and Mystery are categories that were added this year.

Wallace explained the process of nominating books much better than I ever could, so please check out her explanation or refer to this portion below:

When do nominations open?

September 1, 2011- December 31, 2011.

Can I nominate?

Nominations are open to book bloggers who do not make their income through the sales of books (i.e. not authors, publishers, or publicists) — hence “independent” from the publishing industry. You must provide a blog address when nominating to prove that you have a currently running book blog.

I am a book blogger and I want to participate in nominating. How do I get books that were published in 2011 (I don’t want to spend all of my money on hardcovers)?

There are several ways. First, you can purchase new books on your e-reader of choice… these are usually $10-$15 cheaper than print versions. Second, you can borrow them from your local libraries. Third, you can contact publishers and let them know you are interested in reviewing their books. Lastly, we are hoping to open a list on our site that shows which bloggers review in which genres so publishers can more easily find who to send their newest books to. (Keep your eye out for that — it’s not available right now, but should be coming soon.)

There are other ways to support the awards as well, please check out the post from Wallace.

Please follow the updates from the Indie Lit Awards blog or on Twitter. There are some great buttons for the awards and the poetry nominations to display as well.

I hope that many of you, who should be participating in my 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge, will participate in the nomination process!

Also, please do not forget that next month, April, is National Poetry Month, and we’re hosting the annual blog tour here at the blog. I hope you’ll all be participating with guest posts and reviews!