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April Poetry and Fiction Festival News

April is often the time when the Internet explodes with posts and articles celebrating poetry. This year is no different.

Even without April’s celebration, however, Split This Rock has been celebrating poetry and activism for 10 years. On this 10-year anniversary, some of the best poets will be flooding Washington, D.C.,  April 19-21: Elizabeth Acevedo, Kazim Ali, Ellen Bass, Sherwin Bitsui, Kwame Dawes, Camille T. Dungy, Ilya Kaminsky, Sharon Olds, Sonia Sanchez, Solmaz Sharif, Terisa Siagatonu, Paul Tran, and Javier Zamora.

Even if you cannot afford to go to the panels, there are open to the public readings in the evenings —  1201 15th St., NW:

    • Thursday, April 19 | 7-8:30 PM
      Camille T. Dungy, Sharon Olds, Javier Zamora
    • Friday, April 20 | 7-8:30 PM
      Elizabeth Acevedo, Sherwin Bitsui, Kwame Dawes, Solmaz Sharif
    • Saturday, April 21 | 4:15-5:45 PM
      Kazim Ali, Ellen Bass, Terisa Siagatonu
    • Saturday, April 21 | 7:30-9 PM
      Ilya Kaminsky, Sonia Sanchez, Paul Tran

I’ve attended this festival several times, and it is always a life-changing experience.

Beyond April and into May, literary festivals continue. In Gaithersburg, Md., residents and authors will meet on the City Hall grounds on May 19, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This is another go-to festival for me: Gaithersburg Book Festival

The authors I’m most looking forward to are: Kim Roberts and her Literary Guide to Washington, D.C., Gayle Forman and her latest I Have Lost My Way, Deborah Heiligman and her book Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers, Gareth Hinds and his illustrated book Poe, Alma Katsu and her latest The Hunger, and Kateema Lee, who read at the last DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, with Almost Invisible.

I’ll be there on May 19, will you?

Also, in case you missed it, there was a wonderful piece in The New York Times about our U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith and her work to bring poetry to rural areas as a cure for our currently toxic culture.

In the piece, she said, “I want to just go to places where writers don’t usually go, where people like me don’t usually show up, and say: ‘Here are some poems. Do they speak to you? What do you hear in them?'”

It’s a wonderful piece and well worth the read.

4th DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading Recap

Unfortunately, I missed the 3rd reading due to other obligations.

However, this past weekend’s DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and Open Mic at the Gaithersburg Public Library had a spectacular lineup with Marlena ChertockKateema LeeJoseph Ross, as well as special guest Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman, who spoke about the upcoming Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 19.

Ross kicked off the reading with poems from his collection Ache, many of which are written in the voice of famous civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. The collection touches on a great need for empathy and highlights some of the most horrible events in recent history, particularly the murder of black young men. I did want to ask how much consideration he gave to the community he was writing about when writing in these voices, but I’m not one to start controversial arguments in public settings. I did enjoy what was read from the collection and thought it well done. One beautiful thing about poetry readings is you can directly buy books from the poets you hear — no waiting, no forgetting their names (I’m horrible at remembering names) after the reading when life gets in the way…

Marlena Chertock’s poems were definitely different in that they exposed pain and suffering with the help of science and space exploration. Her poems immediately reminded me of the science-based poems of Jeannine Hall Gailey and others. Chertock’s style carries a very personal voice, a perspective from a short woman with bones that are older than her chronological age. Crumb-sized: Poems was the collection she read from the most and her “Application to NASA” had me hooked. Even the cover suggests “space” or at least “planets.” (my review forthcoming)

Kateema Lee has a new collection of poems, Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer, coming from Finishing Line Press that I just pre-ordered on their website. Her poems from this collection really caught everyone’s attention, especially with her rhythmic lines and humor. She also read from Almost Invisible, her first collection, and these were more sobering poems about her relationship with her Vietnam War veteran father. I had hoped to speak with her about the collection and her father, as well as buy a copy but she disappeared before I got to it. It was simply a busy reading. I know that she and Chertock will be at the 2018 Split This Rock Poetry Festival April 19-21 in D.C., so perhaps I will run into her again.

Lucinda Marshall, who has been the point person for these readings, solicited ideas from the audience about how to spread more poetry to the community. My daughter even filled out her notecard. You can find those ideas here.

Some of them are already being used in D.C., and it would be fantastic to see some of them used in Maryland’s Montgomery County.

For the special Mother’s Day poetry reading, check out the 2018 calendar of events. See you at the next reading.

Mailbox Monday #378

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, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Two Cool Coyotes by Jillian Lund from the Gaithersburg Book Festival second-hand book sale.

Frank the coyote is sad when his friend Angelina moves away, but then he finds a new friend when Larry moves into the den next door.

Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey by Martin Handford from the Gaithersburg Book Festival Politics & Prose tent.

Now in paperback for the first time!

The elusive little guy you loved as a kid has ventured into an affordable new format, ready to boggle a new generationl. Now he’s easier to carry around — but just as hard as ever to find!

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton, which I purchased in the Politics & Prose tent at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.  I gave my mom the ARC to enjoy but wanted this one for my personal library and the autograph makes this 5-star read even more of a treasure.

Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have already had to endure enormous danger and frustrating obstacles—including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can do. Even so, Liv wants more.

Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she’s determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.

Ah-Choo! by Lana Wayne Koehler and Gloria G. Adams, illustrated by Ken Min for review from Sterling Children’s Books.

When hunting for his new best friend, a boy goes through an alphabetical menagerie of animals. From an antelope, to bobolink birds, to wolves and zebras—and of course, a cat and dog, too—he brings them all home. But each creature just makes his sister go AH-CHOO! Will he ever be able to have the perfect pet?

Watch the Birdie! by Nancy Cote from Sky Pony Press for review.

Mousey was watching a baby bird when it fell from its nest. The baby bird is okay, but she can’t fly yet! So how will she get back up the tree to safety? Mousey may be too small to get the baby bird back up by himself, but maybe he can find somebody else who can! Maybe a frog can jump high enough. Or maybe a bunny can hop far enough. Maybe a snail will be able to crawl his way up the tree . . .

Will Mousey be able to save the baby bird? Or will the hungry cat get in the way of Mousey’s valiant attempts? Sometimes it’s just the size of your heart that really counts.

How the Crayons Saved the Rainbow by Monica Sweeney, illustrated by Feronia Parker Thomas for review from Sky Pony Press.

The Sun and the Clouds are best friends. Together they keep the world warm, the gardens growing, and the sky full of beautiful rainbows. But one day they get into a fight and refuse to be in the sky together. And that means there are no longer any rainbows. Without rainbows, the colors start disappearing until Earth was left with no color … except for one little forgotten box of crayons in one little school desk.

Determined to save the rainbows and fix the Sun and Clouds’ friendship, the crayons draw rainbows all over town. Their attempts go unnoticed. Soon they realize that they’re going to have to do something big to get the attention of the former friends. So, the crayons create the biggest rainbow they can and hope it’s enough to bring color back to the world.

My Amazing Dad by Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Tom Jellett for review from Sky Pony Press.

This dad is not like other dads. He is not good at:

Mowing the lawn,
Getting his children to school on time,
Baking cakes,
Fixing a leaky faucet, or
Remembering bed time

But….

My Grandpa Is a Dinosaur by Richard Fairgray, illustrated by Terry Jones for review from Sky Pony Press.

This little girl has been watching her grandpa for a very long time, and she is almost absolutely certain that he is a dinosaur. So why is it that nobody believes her? Why can’t anyone else see what she sees? He roars! (And no, it’s not just a snore.) He has green skin! (And no, he’s not from outer space.) He even has a tail! (And no, he’s not a horse!) Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the little girl goes straight to the source. It’s time to ask Grandpa once and for all: is he a dinosaur?

Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, which I won from Just Jane 1813.

At Netherfield, a glorious evening of music and dancing…

But out in the garden two men are arguing, while a ferocious rainstorm swirls round. And then the unthinkable happens: a lightning bolt from heaven strikes. In that instant everything changes.

Jane Austen’s heartthrob hero becomes the bumbling Reverend Collins.

Shorn of his fortune, his social standing, and his good looks, Mr. Darcy is trapped in Mr. Collins’ body. And Mr. Collins wakes up to discover that he is master of Pemberley. Could there be anything worse?

But the inner man is still Darcy. He is in love with Elizabeth Bennet. And now he is living in her house.

The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak, which came unexpectedly from Tandem Literary.

The rich and powerful Josephine Lazarow, matriarch of Fairham Island, is dead. The police say it’s suicide, but Keith, her estranged son, doesn’t believe it.

Keith bears scars—both physical and emotional—from his childhood, but he’s worked hard to overcome the past. After walking away from his mother and her controlling ways five years ago, he’s built a new life in LA. He’s also accumulated a fortune of his own. But as soon as he learns of his mother’s death, he returns to Fairham. He feels he owes it to his grandfather to put the family empire together again—and he’s determined to find his mother’s killer.

Problem is…coming home to Fairham puts him back in contact with Nancy Dellinger, the woman he hurt so badly when he left before. And digging that deep into his mother’s final days and hours entails a very real risk. 

What did you receive?

Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson

Source: Tupelo Press
Paperback, 114 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson, is a collection of poems written in French and Creole that have been translated into English. Dracius’s poems are very musical, and that musicality is carried over from the French and Creole by Carlson’s English translations.  Looking at the poems sitting side-by-side, readers can see similar rhythmic patterns.  French and Creole are very similar languages, which probably makes translation a bit easier.

Carlson, who I had the privilege of introducing, was at the 2016 Gaithersburg Book Festival to talk about her work in translation.  She creates sound maps of the poems using her limited skills in French, and from these sound maps she seeks out the best English words to use for the translation, keeping with the subject matter and feel of each poem.  Listening to her speak about the translation process she uses was fascinating, and audience members were thrilled to learn more about it.

From "Pointe des Nègres" (pg. 13-17)

"... from my rod driven
deep in the depths of the sea,
Negroes in lots, in piles were born
over and over again,
cargoes of Negroes
for the auction block,
from my seed in the fizz
of the ocean's womb
when I raped, without shame,
the immense Caribbean expanse."

Dracius’ poems speak to the experience of Calazazas, people who are of mixed race and have read or blond hair.  Dracius, a Calazaza herself, is considered too light to fit in Martinique but in Paris, where she spends some of her time, she is considered too dark.  It is this displacement, a feeling of not fitting in that permeates each of her poems. Her poems also talk of history and mythology and relate those to the experience of displacement, living without a home or somewhere to fit in.

From "To Cendra's Ashes" (pg. 85-89)

Cendra, her name was Cendra.
When he had consumed her in fires of false criminal love, did he look at her face?
The only object of his thoughts was Cendra:
Reduce Cendra to ashes like one is reduced to a slave.

There is unbound love, there is obsessive love, and there is profound loss in these pages, but Dracius handles these with care, shedding light on the darkness and the hope. Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson, is puzzle of emotions that will churn in the seas of the reader’s mind, only providing glimpses of hope in a stormy expanse.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Born in Martinique, a writer and professor of Classics graduate of the Sorbonne, Suzanne Dracius published in 1989 her first novel, L’autre qui danse, finalist for the Prix du Premier Roman (Seghers ; Editions du Rocher 2007. English translation by Nancy Carlson, Seagull, London, 2015). Her stories, which feature strong, rebellious women characters, have been published in her collection of stories, Rue Monte au Ciel, Coup de coeur FNAC (Desnel, 2003 ; English translation by James Davis Climb to the Sky, UVA Press, USA, 2012). In 2008, Dracius published Exquise déréliction métisse, collection of poems who won the Prix Fetkann (English translation by Nancy Carlson, Tupelo Press, USA, 2015 and Spanish translation by Verónica Martínez Lira, Espejo de Viento, Mexico, 2013). In 2010, Dracius won a Prix de la Société des Poètes Français (Prize of the Society of the French Poets) for its whole work. In 2014, she published Déictique féminitude insulaire, poems.

In 1995, Dracius stayed in the USA as a Visiting Professor, lecturing about her own books at the University of Georgia, and in 2006, at Ohio University. In 2009, Dracius is invited to a writer’s residency at Cove Park (Scotland). Dracius is FFRI (France-Florida Research Institute) Visiting Professor in February 2012.

About the Translator:

Nancy Naomi Carlson, Ph.D. has won grants from the NEA, Maryland Arts Council, and Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County.  Poet, translator, and associate editor for Tupelo Press, her work has appeared over 350 times, including Poetry and Prairie Schooner, and forthcoming in APR,  The Georgia Review, and FIELD.  She is the author of three collections of poetry and three translations, including The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper: Translations of Abdourahman Waberi (Seagull Books, distributed by U of Chicago Press).

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2016

gbfIt’s that time again for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.  I really love this festival because it’s very low key and includes activities for children of all ages.

Attendees can listen to authors speak about their books and topics, and they can get their books signed, among other things.

This year, I’ll be introducing two panels, and I’d love to see you there:

I’m also looking forward to these panels:

I hope to see you there.

Mailbox Monday #374

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, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

The Hundred Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey by Dawn Anahid MacKeen, a win from Reading Group Choices.

An epic tale of one man’s courage in the face of genocide and his granddaughter’s quest to tell his story

In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. He is separated from his family as they are swept up in the government’s mass deportation of Armenians into internment camps. Gradually realizing the unthinkable—that they are all being driven to their deaths—he fights, through starvation and thirst, not to lose hope. Just before killing squads slaughter his caravan during a forced desert march, Stepan manages to escape, making a perilous six-day trek to the Euphrates River carrying nothing more than two cups of water and one gold coin. In his desperate bid for survival, Stepan dons disguises, outmaneuvers gendarmes, and, when he least expects it, encounters the miraculous kindness of strangers.

The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals. Reading this rare firsthand account, his granddaughter Dawn MacKeen finds herself first drawn into the colorful bazaars before the war and then into the horrors Stepan later endured. Inspired to retrace his steps, she sets out alone to Turkey and Syria, shadowing her resourceful, resilient grandfather across a landscape still rife with tension. With his journals guiding her, she grows ever closer to the man she barely knew as a child. Their shared story is a testament to family, to home, and to the power of the human spirit to transcend the barriers of religion, ethnicity, and even time itself.

Jefferson’s America by Julie M. Fenster for review from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation.

Responsible for orchestrating the American push into the continent was President Thomas Jefferson. He most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the same time there were other teams who did the same work, in places where it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike—all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier and keep up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findings.

But they weren’t always well-matched—with each other and certainly not with a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. These tensions threatened to undermine Jefferson’s goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West. Deeply researched and inspiringly told, Jefferson’s America rediscovers the robust and often harrowing action from these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president’s vision for a continental America.

Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson from Tupelo Press in preparation for the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21.  BE There!

Poetry. Caribbean Studies. Translated from the French and Creole by Nancy Naomi Carlson. In her polyphonic poems, Suzanne Dracius creates protagonists usually calazazas, light-skinned mulatto women with red or blond hair who fight like Amazons against racial and gender discrimination. Dracius’ voice is leaping and exalted, often sexually charged, and infused with allusions to Greek and Roman mythology. Nancy Naomi Carlson has translated Dracius’s Exquise dereliction metisse, poems written in French yet including some Creole versions, and with Creole expressions sprinkled throughout. In French, this book was awarded the prestigious Prix Fetkann, whose judges cited the poet’s richness of language, with varied linguistic registers.”

What did you receive?

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2015

Every year in May I look forward to attending the local book festival of local artists, poets, and authors sharing their words and ideas with us.  Each year, there are writing workshops and activities for whole families, including young kids.  Click the image for this year’s schedule.

During the 2013 festival, I had the honor of introducing three poets — Eric Pankey, Sally Keith, and Sarah Arvio — which went well despite the rain when fellow book clubbers came to hear them read and me introduce them.  It was all very informal for Poetry in the Afternoon.

This year, I have the great honor of moderating a panel for two wonderful historical fiction authors — Sarah McCoy and Erika Robuck!  I cannot wait to introduce them to readers and then ask them questions!

If you’re going to be in town and want an easy way to navigate the festival and its panels, there’s an app for that — and it’s free — for Android and Apple phones!  I’ve been playing around with it and marking my favorite panels that I want to see.

Where: 

Gaithersburg City Hall
31 S. Summit Avenue
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Gaithersburg Book Festival

The Gaithersburg Book Festival is a family-oriented event, with a number of activities for kids of most ages.  From making crafts to enjoying story time with Dr. Seuss, kids were running around and laughing.

The layout of the tents is circuitous, but at least there were enough trees to provide shade.  A number of tents housed sponsors of the event, and some of them had nothing to do with books or reading.  However, this shows that support for reading is still out there among companies.  Members of First Book, the Writers Center (Hi, Kyle!), local authors, local publishers (Hi, Dan of Atticus Books), and more were on hand to discuss their various programs and books.

There were demonstrations, music, and readings, plus workshops.  Unfortunately, I was a bit distracted looking for a bathroom with a changing table for about 15 minutes as the information booth volunteers weren’t that helpful.  We ended up in city hall using a desk — a bit inconvenient.  We did get a chance to check out the book buying tent by Barnes & Noble and the Friends of the Library used book sale, which was mostly kids books — books geared for those reading on their own.  I did learn a little bit about the Reading Tree — Books for Charity and their drive to collect books and recycle them back into the school system and among disadvantaged/needy families in the local area.  What a great cause, and it keeps those used books out of landfills.

One of the most entertaining events in the kids tent was the Unicycle/Recycle lady.  I’ve included a picture of her, but you can check out more photos of her, here (you’ll also see some photos of us and Wiggles).  She had a dog/sidekick named Enzo, which I wondered if he was named after Garth Stein’s Enzo.  They fight against litterbugs together, and the dog does tricks…though not always when he’s supposed to.  It was certainly entertaining, but she was getting shooed off the stage because her program ran over.  We thought she needed an assistant to set up her juggling stuff and various unicycles for her, since that took the longest.

Overall, the event was a small family event that allows kids and parents some time outside on a nice sunny day.  Kids learn new things and enjoy crafts, while parents get to listen to their favorite local and not-so-local authors.

Gaithersburg, MD, Book Festival

Gaithersburg, Md., has its own book festival once a year, and this is the first time I’ve heard of it.  Thank goodness for Facebook!

The festival happens this Saturday, May 21, and will feature some old favorites like Aviva Goldfarb (with a cooking demonstration) and Sarah Pekkanen.  Check out the list of authors at the festival; here’s the whole list.  Also check out the book signing schedule.

Beyond the panel discussions, there also are free workshops and those you must pay for (and for $10 how can you go wrong?).

From young adult and children’s books to adult fiction and nonfiction, this festival has it all, and there are local authors leading workshops and panel discussions.  What I’m most looking forward to is the Friends of the Library used book sale (naturally) and the poetry readings at the Ogden Nash Coffee House.

What’s the best part?  The festival is free to enter and the parking is free too!

Have you been to the Gaithersburg Book Festival?  What are you waiting for?

Be there on the Gaithersburg City Hall Grounds, Saturday May 21, between 10 am and 6 pm.