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2020 Gaithersburg Book Festival Poetry Contest Winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered the Gaithersburg Book Festival High School Poetry Contest!

There were some fantastic poems.  Thank you to Shout Mouse and our first round readers. Thanks to Elizabeth Lund, our final judge and her director/producer who helped us put together an official announcement for our first, second, and third place winners, as well as our Fan Favorite.

Congratulations to all of the winners and this year’s fan favorite.

COVID-19 Choices: Virtual Events

As many of you know, I had been working on the poetry contest for the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which was scheduled for May 16. Sadly, COVID-19 changed all that and many of the spectacular events and discussions leading up to it, as well as the festival, had to be cancelled.

The Festival team, like many others, worked together to create a virtual program for our Festival attendees online. While the program has us socially distant in our homes and watching online, many of the great authors we wanted to see are still talking to us, sharing their books, and so much more.

Please do click on the banner and check out the programming. Or head on over to the Gaithersburg Book Festival YouTube Channel.

Here’s a run down of the program during the weekend, and special stuff happens every weekend:

Featured Programming Over Four Consecutive Weeks, Saturday, May 16 – Sunday, June 14.

  • TGIF Live! One live author presentation, streamed to the GBF YouTube channel each Friday evening at 5:30 pm
  • Saturday Night Premiere  A YouTube video watch party with the author in attendance, each Saturday night at 7 pm
  • Sunday Morning Kids  One children’s author presentation streamed to the GBF YouTube channel each Sunday morning at 11 am  
  • Wednesday Workshops  Writing workshops featuring a variety of topics offered each Wednesday morning and afternoon. Spaces limited. Registration required.

This weekend’s events are not to be missed:

Weekend of 5/22-5/24

Friday, 5/22

TGIF LIVE! at 5:30 pm with Louis Bayard – “Courting Mr. Lincoln.”  Bayard writes about the brilliant, melancholic future president and the two people who knew him best: his confidant, Joshua Speed, and the spirited young debutante Mary Todd. In conversation with author Jennifer Bort Yacovissi

Saturday, 5/23

Saturday Night Premiere at 7 pm with Jonathan Karl  – “Front Row at the Trump Show.” As the Chief White House Correspondent and Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News and the President of the White House Correspondents Association (2019-2020), Jonathan Karl delivers essential new reporting and surprising insights. He’s known and covered Donald Trump longer than any other White House reporter. In conversation with author and journalist Susan Page.

Sunday, 5/24

Sunday Morning Kids at 11 am, LIVE with Adam Gidwitz – “Unicorn Rescue Society #5: The Madre de Aguas of Cuba.”  In Cuba, it is believed that a mysterious water serpent–the Madre de aguas–is responsible for providing and protecting the fresh water of the island. But the serpent is missing, and a drought has gripped the island. Uchenna, Elliot, and Professor Fauna fly to Cuba and endeavor to rescue the Madre de aguas.

POETRY ALREADY AVAILABLE: (Bonus Author Presentations)

I hope that you’ll check out the great content. We know this isn’t the same as bringing the community to one place for an entire day of literature and connection, but in these times, this is how we continue to share.

Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri

Source: Purchased at Gaithersburg Book Festival
Paperback, 250 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri (listen to this interview), poet laureate of Maryland, is part of Alan Squire Publishing’s legacy collections and includes a selection of poems and plays, as well as interviews from her The Poet & the Poem public radio series.

I just had to get my hands on this collection when I was at last year’s Gaithersburg Book Festival and I had the honor of greeting her and escorting her about the local festival before her appearance was required on a panel and at the announcement of our 2019 high school poetry contest winners.

Selection from "Work Is My Secret Lover"

Work
takes the palm of my hand to kiss
in the middle of the night
it holds my wrist lightly and feels the pulse
Work is who you'll find with me
when you tiptoe up the stairs
and hear my footsteps through the shadows

I love that her poems take on a personality of their own and many of them are so different, tackling not only the angst of the writer’s life and the love we have for our work (which can take precedence over other things), but also the voices in which she speaks not for others but with them. From Anna Nicole Smith’s to Mary Wollstonecraft’s voice to poems styled after William Carlos Williams, Cavalieri’s imagination brings a new life to these women’s voices. Even the selections from her plays are lyrical and full of whimsy (in a way). Her persona poems imbue the public perceptions of women with a compassionate eye.

If you listen to her interview, at about 5:06, you’ll hear her read “Moderation,” which is my favorite poem from this collection. It’s deeply moving. A moment where a man knows it is time to pass into another world, and he hopes to never inconvenience anyone with his death. This silent man who doesn’t live outside the lines. Cavalieri displays her keen observations about her father and others, but she also observes herself as an outsider, an observer full of emotion. Other Voices Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri is a deeply emotional journey through her work, and it always rings true. I’ll be seeking out her other collections in the future.

Grace Cavalieri needs no introduction in Maryland as our state Poet Laureate, but damn she is smart, observant, kind, and deliciously cognizant of how to imbue others with humanity through her own compassionate lens.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Grace Cavalieri is an Italian American writer and host of the radio program The Poet and the Poem, presented by the Library of Congress through National Public Radio. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Poems: New and Selected (1994), Pinecrest Rest Haven (1998), and Greatest Hits, 1975–2000 (2002). Her collection What I Would Do for Love: Poems in the Voice of Mary Wollstonecraft (2004) was awarded the Patterson Poetry Prize; Water on the Sun (2006) won the Bordighera Poetry Prize. Further collections include Anna Nicole: Poems (2008) and Sounds Like Something I Would Say (2010).

Gaithersburg Book Festival Finalists 2020 & Fan Favorite Voting Now Open

UPDATE: VOTING CLOSED MAY 8, 2020

After all the hard work put in my local high school students in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., the Gaithersburg Book Festival will continue to run the high school poetry competition, even though the book festival itself has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click the logo to reach the page with the finalists, and please vote for your favorite. Voting is open to everyone, even if you do not live in the region. Show these poets some love — share the link on social media — cheer on your favorites.

Many of these students also took the extra time to create a video of themselves reading their poem, so please stop by and listen to these young artists.

We’ll be announcing poetry critic Elizabeth Lund’s top 3 winners on May 20, along with the Fan Favorite.

Due Today: D.C., Va., Md. High School Poems for Gaithersburg Book Festival Annual Poetry Contest

 

Today, Feb. 20, 2020, is the deadline for high school students in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., area to submit their poems for consideration in the Gaithersburg Book Festival poetry contest.

Qualifications

  • Author must be a high school student (public, private or homeschooled, grades 9-12, in the 2019-20 school year) at time of entry.
  • Author must live in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C.
  • Only one submission per author.
  • The entry cannot have been published elsewhere. It must be an original and sole work of the author.

For more information about the contest, go here.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 400 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a roller coaster of emotions, but provides a fictionalized look at the journey migrants endure to escape the horrors of their homes and the people that seek to murder, rape, conscript, or abuse them. Many migration stories speak to the economic conditions of the homeland or the volatile political world, but few take us into the emotional world of the migrants’ journey to the United States.

Lydia and Luca emerge from the most tragic day of their lives running for safety. Safety is not their home or another relative’s home in Mexico, but across the border into the United States where the cartel Los Jardineros cannot reach. These are the faces of migrants. Not drug dealers, not rapists, and not criminals, but honest people forced to flee their home because suddenly the cartel is at their door thirsting for blood.

Lydia and Sebastian would have been considered to be well off compared to others in Acapulco. She owned a bookstore, and her husband was a journalist. Although many of his articles were published anonymously, anonymity only works so far when your writing about the cartel Los Jardineros. Their son, Luca, is a typical 8-year-old who loves to play, but he’s also very smart about geography. But their relatively quiet life is obliterated in one moment.

In heart-stopping detail, Cummins endears Lydia and Luca to her audience. They are real people, fleeing real dangers. They just want to live beyond today. As citizens of the United States, it is hard for us to imagine leaving all we know behind and living elsewhere because we have no choice. This is precisely why these fictional migrants are so important. They provide us a window into the many individual stories and experiences of migrants who cross the U.S. border, and what we see will not only shock us awake, but force us to revisit our prejudices and malformed notions about immigrants and why they are in the United States instead of changing things in their own countries.

“In the road ahead, two young men, two teenage boys really, tote AR-15s. Perhaps it’s precisely because that make of gun isn’t quite as prolific or as sexy as the ubiquitous AK-47 here that Lydia finds it all the more terrifying. Ridiculous, she knows. One gun will make you as dead as another. But there’s something so utilitarian about the sleek, black AR-15, like it can’t be bothered to put on a show.” (pg. 82 ARC)

There is a deep sense of powerlessness but also a determination to retrieve some power over their own lives. As Lydia and Luca cross paths with other migrants, the picture becomes more detailed, more graphic, more upending. Even Lydia must come to terms with her own perceptions and pities she had for migrants…those views she had before she was forced to become a migrant herself. Her life as a bookstore owner, reader, middle-income mother blinded her in many ways to what was right in front of her until it is already too late. Much of her blindness is due to her inability to resist the charm of an educated reader, someone who clearly sees in her prey to be captured. The decisions she makes from the moment of tragedy until the end of the novel are governed by a her new perspective. Never take a mother’s love for granted; it is a powerful force.

Migrants from Mexico and Central America struggle to make it to the United States, many atop La Bestia. They face starvation, dehydration, robbery, rape, murder, human trafficking and so much more, as the cartels continue to carve up these countries and sell their people to the highest bidder. IS America the sanctuary that many migrants believe it to be? No. But Cummins highlights those moments too in the stories Lydia is told from migrants returning home and those returning to the United States even though they were kicked out. With American dirt in the title, readers must reconsider what “American” means. Not all of the dirt/borders are considered American in the United States, yet residents of North and South America are all American.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is the “IT” book for 2020 and without question all of the hype and praise is well deserved. This book has so many layers and would be a fantastic pick for book clubs everywhere. It is life changing; it is a book to open the eyes of the “America” we want to be to the eyes of the America we are. We are all American, regardless of the country in which we live or which country we came from.

RATING: Cinquain

***If you are in the Gaithersburg, Md., area, please join us for our first book club. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was selected as the first book for Gaithersburg Reads, a community book club read.

***Our big, giant book discussion event with Jeanine Cummins will be on March 31st, 7pm, at Gaithersburg High School Performing Arts Center.

 

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Jeanine Cummins is the author of four books: the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven, and the novels The Outside BoyThe Crooked Branch, and American Dirt. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Mailbox Monday #533

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.

Here’s what I received:

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, which I purchased at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness.

Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, which I purchased at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it’s like to be young and black in America.

From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country.

These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In “The Finkelstein Five,” Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In “Zimmer Land,” we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And “Friday Black” and “How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King” show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.

Entirely fresh in its style and perspective, and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black confronts readers with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.

Other Voices, Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri, which I purchased at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Other Voices, Other Lives is a selection of poems, plays, and interviews drawn from over 40 years of work by one of America’s most beloved and influential women of letters. Grace Cavalieri writes of women’s lives, loves, and work in a multitude of voices. The book also includes interview excerpts from her public radio series, The Poet & the Poem. Her incisive interviews with Robert Pinsky, Lucille Clifton, and Josephine Jacobsen offer profound insights into the writing life.

This series is devoted to career-spanning collections from writers who meet the following three criteria: The majority of their books have been published by independent presses; they are active in more than one literary genre; and they are consistent and influential champions of the work of other writers, whether through publishing, reviewing, teaching, mentoring, or some combination of these. Modeled after the “readers” popular in academia in the mid-20th centuries, our Legacy Series allows readers to trace the arc of a significant writer’s literary development in a single, representative volume.

Green Card & Other Essays by Áine Greaney for review.

In Green Card and Other Essays, Áine Greaney invites her readers to follow her three-decades’ long journey from Irish citizen and resident to new immigrant and green card holder to dual citizenship that now includes naturalized U.S. citizenship. These first-person essays offer an intimate perspective on the challenges—fear, displacement, assimilation and dueling identities—faced by many immigrants from all countries. They explore what inspires us to commit to a new country—and what holds us back. As a collection, Green Card exemplifies the power of storytelling to build bridges of understanding and a deeper joy in our shared humanity.

What did you receive?

DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry and More

This National Poetry Month, I was finally able to make it to the local reading at the Gaithersburg Public Library for the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg monthly poetry reading and open mic. It was amazing to hear Lalita Noronha, Marianne Szlyk, and Henry Crawford live. All three were fantastic, with Szlyk reading a poem about Worcester, Mass., which is near where I lived as a child. Crawford has a riotous presence at the mic and captivated much of the audience. Noronha was engaging as well, though I was a bit late to the reading and did not hear all of her poems (which made me a bit upset).

Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman also came to speak about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which many of you already know is one of my favorites. It happens every May, and it is free and family friendly. Kids activities, writing workshops, books, authors, and tons more. Ashman spoke about some of his favorite books and authors featured this year, as well as the National Poetry Month proclamation received by DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg founder Lucinda Marshall.

During the full open mic set, I was able to read one of my poems in the Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens. Check that out below:

Lastly, the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg event will be moving in the fall to the Quince Orchard Library. Readings will resume in September. Here’s the schedule, but keep in touch with schedules, etc. at the website:

  • September 8
  • October 13
  • November 10
  • December 8

Hope to see you there or at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 18, 2019.

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).