The Best of 2013 List…

In Descending Order (links to the reviews included):
  1. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
  2. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  3. Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy
  4. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
  5. The Time Between by Karen White
  6. Survival Skills: Stories by Jean Ryan
  7. Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  8. Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
  9. Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer
  10. The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer
  11. The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero, translated by Carolina De Robertis
  12. Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More
Here are my honorable mentions for this year, in descending order (links to the reviews included):
  1. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  2. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart
  3. Joyland by Stephen King
  4. Seduction by M.J. Rose
  5. Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
What books made your list of favorites this year?

202nd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 202nd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2013 Dive Into Poetry Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Check out the stops on the 2013 National Poetry Month Blog Tour and the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

Today’s poem is from Jeannine Hall Gailey’s Unexplained Fevers: (my review) (This one is for Ti over at Book Chatter)

Sleeping Beauty's Insomniac Twin
             an homage to Haruki Murakami's After Dark

I thought you might recognize me
without the dress and haircut.
Black eyeglasses and a thick book
are enough to dissuade most of the nightcrawlers,
the men looking for a good time and easy lay.
If you come with me, you'll cower at the mafia men
at midnight, pimps and broken prostitutes wrapped in sheets.
We'll narrowly miss being hit by a car.
The late night coffee shops croon their old, seedy jazz tunes.
Come with me, through the open mouth of the city,
where we will rescue the other half of our souls.
If you fall asleep, you'll miss what's right in front of you.

What do you think?

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey builds on the poet’s exploration of popular myths and legends centered on women, only unlike Becoming the Villainess (my review) where the characters become vengeful, these characters are striking out for parts unknown, examining their legends, and telling the real tales behind the fairy magic.  From Jack and Jill who vowed to stay together against all odds who find themselves in Ohio to Alice in Wonderland who merely gets lost in a coat closet, Gailey is poking fun at the fantasies that rely on women being beautiful and little else to prove their worth.  These heroines are set free, and outside the confines of their tales, they are able to contemplate their past choices and their futures in ways they never though possible.

She Had Unexplained Fevers (page 3)

some nights she just wasn't
herself, skin pale and damp as a child's
they lay her in a glass coffin
told me there was something in her throat
and I said yes we've all swallowed a lot of crap
choked down broken promises like apple.

In looking at these tales, Gailey is not only calling into question their validity but also their impact on the generations that have read them. Are women supposed to be only beautiful and only want that prince to come rescue them? And by the end of the collection, the poet asks readers to think about how much has changed even in the modern world. May be there are few princes with castles and white steeds, but don’t they have other “enticements” like good paying jobs and the house in the suburbs that women continue to gravitate towards as safe and what they should want from their lives?

Like “Alice, Through the Looking Glass,” there are poems that are more universal and do not stick as closely to the stories as some other poems do, and in these poems, Gailey raises questions about body image and the prevalence of women in advertising to not only sell products, but also to sell an idea of what beauty is and should be for every woman. The narrator in “Alice” asks, “What am I doing here in this white room/with no smell but dust and soap//” Meanwhile, Snow White asks the reader in “I Like the Quiet: Snow White” to get her out of our own looking glasses — break free from the need for a certain appearance — readers would see their true selves and who each of us really is and how we matter without the constant need to live up to a beauty standard. Snow White is just like all of us, wanting to spend time alone, wanting space to decide the course of our lives, wanting not to rush into a marriage even with a prince, and all the trappings and decisions we make in our lives.

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey easily parallels the myths and stories we’ve read and memorized as children with the current modern lives we lead.  Though lest you think all of the poem narrators are female, there are male narrators, including one knight who did not get the fairytale ending he was expecting.  In this way, Gailey is calling into question the fantasies that men are fed as children as well; must they be rescuers and be the strongest and bravest to get the girl?  A phenomenal collection from beginning to end — one that has a permanent place in my library, right next to her others.

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey is the Poet Laureate of Redmond, WA and the author of Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers, available spring of 2013. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, and Prairie Schooner. She teaches part-time at National University.

This is my 19th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Mailbox Monday #218

HAPPY EASTER to those who celebrate!

As tomorrow is the kick-off of National Poetry Month, I’m posting this meme early, and it may be on hiatus for the rest of the month until the blog tour is over.

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

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

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

Here’s what I received for review:

1.  Writers on the Edge:  22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown from Modern History Press for review.

Writers On The Edge offers a range of essays, memoirs and poetry written by major contemporary authors who bring fresh insight into the dark world of addiction, from drugs and alcohol, to sex, gambling and food. Editors Diana M. Raab and James Brown have assembled an array of talented and courageous writers who share their stories with heartbreaking honesty as they share their obsessions as well as the awe-inspiring power of hope and redemption.

CONTRIBUTORS: Frederick & Steven Barthelme, Kera Bolonik, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Maud Casey, Anna David, Denise Duhamel, B.H. Fairchild, Ruth Fowler, David Huddle Perie Longo, Gregory Orr, Victoria Patterson, Molly Peacock, Scott Russell Sanders, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Linda Gray Sexton, Sue William Silverman, Chase Twichell, and Rachel Yoder.

2.  Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey for review from the poet.

“Unexplained Fevers plucks the familiar fairy tale heroines and drops them into alternate landscapes. Unlocking them from the old stories is a way to “rescue the other half of [their] souls.” And so Sleeping Beauty arrives at the emergency room, Red Riding Hood reaches the car dealership, and Rapunzel goes wandering in the desert – their journeys, re-imagined in this inventive collection of poems, produce other dangers, betrayals and nightmares, but also bring forth great surprise and wonder.” – Rigoberto González, author of Black Blossoms “Unexplained Fevers begins with that most familiar of phrases, “Once upon a time,” but the world we find inside these covers is deeply defamiliarized. Trapped by physical ills, cultural expectations, and the constraints of marriage, these heroines interrogate the world and propel themselves through it with cunning and sass. We follow, for example, Jack and Jill though a prose poem where they “somehow turned thirty without thunderous applause,” after having sworn they “would follow each other anywhere, but anywhere turned out to be a lot like Ohio.” At the center of these poems – urgent, mysterious, evocative – we find the great topic of all fairy tales, transformation. Read Unexplained Fevers, and be transformed.” – Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Unmentionables.

What did you receive?

Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Jeannine Hall Gailey‘s Becoming the Villainess is a unique volume of poetry housing poems steeped in Greek mythology, comic book characters, and more.

Gailey’s images are crisp and immediate with recurring uses of pomegranates, wolves, and other items. Alice in Wonderland, Wonder Woman, Persephone, and many more make appearances in Becoming the Villainess, which is separated into five parts. At the end of the book, Gailey includes brief descriptions of the myths inspiring the poems enclosed within its pages.

From “Female Comic Book Superheroes” (Page 5)

Impossible chests burst out of tight leather jackets,
from which they extract the hidden scroll, antidote, or dagger,
tousled hair covering one eye.

They return to their day jobs as forensic pathologists,
wearing their hair up and donning dainty glasses.
Of all the goddesses, these pneumatic heroines most

resemble Artemis, with her miniskirts and crossbow,
or Freya, with her giant gray cats.
Each has seen this apocalypse before.

Each section in Becoming the Villainess examines the evolution of female characters from innocent girls to darker, vengeful women, but these characters are deeper than stereotypical comic book characters, mothers, and goddesses. While some of these poems have a lighter, tongue-in-cheek quality to them, some of them drive home the deep dark horrors found in many legends, myths, and real-life events. One particularly jarring poem in the collection is “Remembering Philomel,” in which a professor is asking for grittier details of the narrator’s sexual assault.

Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey is a wonderfully insightful collection that looks beneath the surface of myths and sexy comic book characters to find their motivation, their desires, and spunk. If this is your kind of poetry, you should pick it up. I count this among the best of contemporary poetry that I’ve read this year. If you missed my interview with Jeannine Hall Gailey, go check it out.

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey was born at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, and grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has a B.S. in Biology and an M.A. in English from the University of Cincinnati, as well as an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Pacific University.

Her first book of poetry, Becoming the Villainess, was published by Steel Toe Books in 2006. Poems from the book were featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac and on Verse Daily; two were included in 2007’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She recently taught with the Young Artist Project at Centrum. In 2007 she received a Washington State Artist Trust GAP Grant and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review, writes book reviews, and teaches at National University’s MFA Program.

Her inspirations often come from mythological sources, such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses or The Tales of Genji, folk and fairy tale collections, and of course, comic books.

This is my second book for the poetry review challenge.

Interview With Poet Jeannine Hall Gailey

When Red Becomes the Wolf

In my dream you brought me fried bologna sandwiches.
“But wait,” you said, “You don’t even like bologna.”
I wolfed them down without answering.

I have never owned a red cape,
that’s asking for trouble, I knew.
In the forest by your house,

I met someone gathering wood. “Nice axe,”
I said before wandering further.
I was obtaining samples for my botany class.

How many daisies make a statistic?
I thought of Persephone, her dark gash
that allowed Hades passage. Which flower?

I was hungry, and tired. I entered someone’s
cottage, it was dark, and there was an old woman.
I volunteered to take her to get her hair done.

Alone, I mentioned I was born under the sign
of Lupus. “No,” she corrected, “Lupae.”
Later, eating sandwiches, we discussed you

and also whether I could wear her fur coat.
“It makes you look feral, with your green eyes,”
she said. Oh grandmother, what a big mouth you have.

I recently had an opportunity to interview Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of Becoming the Villainess, in conjunction with 32 Poems. The interview will be partially posted at Savvy Verse & Wit and in full at 32 Poems Blog. Without further ado, here’s what Jeannine had to say.

1. Not only are you a contributor to 32 Poems, you teach at National University’s MFA program, have published several poetry books, and volunteer on the editorial staff at Crab Creek Review. What “hat” do you find most difficult to wear and why?

I found out that despite years of resisting it, I actually adore teaching, especially teaching poetry, so I feel really lucky to be doing a little bit of graduate student teaching at National University. For me, writing and reading poetry can consume all my time, so it’s important to balance out the poetry work with paying freelance gigs and volunteering – I’ve been a volunteer in some capacity for local literary magazines for about ten years, first with Raven Chronicles, then The Seattle Review, then Silk Road (out of Pacific University) and now Crab Creek Review, which is run by some excellent editors that are also good friends. I really want to help them succeed. My hardest hat to wear is usually whatever I’m doing for money – it’s easy to get distracted by all that unpaid poetry work! I’ve been trying to do more freelance work that involves poetry – essays, interviews, articles, etc. – to kind of stave off that poetry-addict problem.

2. Could you explain your shift from an interest in biology as an undergrad to your current proclivity to literature and poetry today as an MFA graduate?

Well, I wanted to be a holistic doctor – a bit of a weird goal for someone back in 1991 — but I ended up getting sick so often while volunteering for various hospitals around campus that my doctor advised me that medicine might not be an ideal career for me. So my health problems led to me become a technical writer after getting my degree in biology, combining my love of writing and science/technology, then to life as a professional writer, editor, and manager for some big companies during the tech boom, and finally to getting back to one of my early dreams – writing poetry.

As a kid my mother encouraged me to read and memorize poetry, and my fifth-grade teacher had me bring in new poems every day, to get me in the habit of writing and revising poetry. So I think I reverted to my early training in my late twenties, and ended up going back to school – first, for an MA at University of Cincinnati, then, some years later, for my low-res MFA at Pacific University. I was fascinated by the critical work at UC, where I found out about things like “feminism” and “intertextuality” but I have to say my experience at Pacific was much more liberating and, well, it was a lot of fun to focus on my own writing for two years.

I’m still very interested in environmental science, and things like the science of virology or medical botany. I still read a lot of academic science journals just for kicks. Science creeps into my poetry every once in a while.

3. 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?

I think that people who consider poetry elitist or difficult just haven’t been exposed to enough poetry. People often encounter poetry once, in high school – and form their opinion for life – probably from a sample of high modernism or poetry written hundreds of years ago; no wonder they consider it difficult!

In today’s poetry world, there are so many diverse forms and types of poetry, that there really is something for everyone. In my chapbook and first book, I worked consciously to write poetry that would be appealing and accessible to a contemporary high-school or college student – I thought poetry about superheroes and video game characters might be interesting to them. Of course, there are references to Greek and Roman mythology and 16th-century fairy tales in the book too, so I guess I couldn’t make it all too easy. I think I was using my little brother as my “ideal” reader – someone who is intelligent, who grew up playing on the computer, who was well-versed in popular culture, who was a reader, but might not pick up a book of poetry unless he liked the subject matter.

And, I should also say that when my little brother was 17 and a bit of a…hoodlum, I dragged him and some of his friends to a Louise Gluck reading – this was back when she was promoting Meadowlands. There we were in the back of the room, this bunch of teenage boys dressed in black and me. But they loved it. My brother still has her book. So you can never assume that you know what a reader might understand or enjoy. I believe we should trust readers more, not less.

I wouldn’t prescribe that all writers should try and be “accessible;” I actually like poetry that makes me work a little bit, hunting down references or making imaginative cognitive jumps. Every writer has to stay true to their own style.

4. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

I’m working on finding a good home for two manuscripts, one on Japanese folk tales and anime characters, another called “Unexplained Fevers” about fairy tales trapped in sleep states – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel. And I’m working on yet another manuscript that focuses on the history of Oak Ridge, Tennessee and my own personal history growing up there: my father, a robotics scientist and professor, consulted for Oak Ridge National Labs while we lived there. It’s probably the most personal work I’ve written.

I’d also like to get more involved in the local poetry community here in San Diego. It’s not quite as diverse or lively as the poetry community in Seattle, but I want to be an active part of it in some way. Someday, when I have enough money and time, I’d like to start my own press.

If you’ve enjoyed Jeannine’s answers so far, I suggest you check out the rest of my interview with her over at 32 Poems Blog. Once there, you can find out about her workspace, her obsessions, and much more. Feel free to leave me comments and discuss Jeannine’s work (sampled above), her interview, or your thoughts on poetry in general.

Also, stay tuned for my review of Becoming the Villainess.

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey was born at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, and grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has a B.S. in Biology and an M.A. in English from the University of Cincinnati, as well as an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Pacific University. Her first book of poetry, Becoming the Villainess, was published by Steel Toe Books in 2006. Poems from the book were featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac and on Verse Daily; two were included in 2007’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.

She recently taught with the Young Artist Project at Centrum. In 2007 she received a Washington State Artist Trust GAP Grant and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review, writes book reviews, and teaches at National University’s MFA Program.