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Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin

Source: Valerie Fox, one of the authors
Paperback, 150 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin is a short book that guides readers through a series of poetry forms from writing fake translations to writing poems from mathematical sequences.  The guide offers step-by-step instructions on how to write these kinds of poems and offers practical advice on how to avoid over-thinking each attempt.  Rather than over analyzing how to write a fake translation, the authors suggest that poets take a poem in a language they do not know at all and look for patterns in syntax or line breaks or to take a poem in a foreign language they have some familiarity with but don’t know well enough to translate it word-for-word.

“Teachers and workshop leaders can use the get-to-know-you cinquain, a lighter form of the cameo cinquain, as an introductory exercise on the first meeting of a poetry writing class.  Put the class members in pairs, and then tell them to interview and observe one another for material to put in the cinquain.”  (page 17)

While each of the poem styles is explained and the poems included are designated by style in the latter part of the book, readers may have found it more helpful if the poems followed the guidelines and explanations of each style, rather than be in a separate section after all of the styles are explained.  However, other writers might prefer this organization as it provides them with the simple guidance they need to begin their own work without relying upon concrete examples that could rein in their creativity.

Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin is a new kind of guide that strays from the traditional forms of poetry, like sonnet, and demonstrates the variety of poems that can be created that still involve structure.  From advice column prose poems to the I-hate poem and the one based on phrases that catch a researcher’s eye, the book offers exercises that will expand any poet’s scope.

About the Authors:

Valerie Fox’s most recent book is Bundles of Letters, Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press), written with Arlene Ang. Previous books of poems are The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Books) and Amnesia, or, Ideas for Movies (Texture Press). Her work has appeared in many magazines, including Hanging Loose, The World, Feminist Studies, Siren, Phoebe, Watershed, sonaweb, and West Branch.

Poet, writer, and translator Lynn Levin is the author of four collections of poems: Miss Plastique (Ragged Sky Press, 2013); Fair Creatures of an Hour (Loonfeather Press, 2009), a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in poetry; Imaginarium (Loonfeather Press, 2005), a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award; and A Few Questions about Paradise (Loonfeather Press, 2000). She is co-author of a craft-of-poetry textbook, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (Texture Press, 2013). Birds on the Kiswar Tree, her translation of a collection of poems by the Peruvian Andean poet Odi Gonzales, will be published by 2Leaf Press in 2014.

Book 3 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.

Mailbox Monday #253

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

In 2014, it was decided by the community to have the meme remain 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.

These are the books that I received this past week:

1.  House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield came unexpectedly for review from Kaye Publicity.

Jen Glass has worked hard to achieve the ideal life: a successful career, a beautiful home in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, a seemingly perfect family. But inside the Glass house, everything is spinning out of Jen’s control. Her marriage to her husband, Ted, is on the brink of collapse; her fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant each day; and her five-year-old son barely speaks a word. Jen is on the verge of breaking, but nothing could have prepared her for what is to come….

2.  Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, which I purchased from Amazon with my gift card from Anna and her family.  I’m not sure what else I’ll be buying just yet, but this is perfect for the February read-a-long at War Through the Generations.

Robin “Birdy” Perry, a new army recruit from Harlem, isn’t quite sure why he joined the army, but he’s sure where he’s headed: Iraq. Birdy and the others in the Civilian Affairs Battalion are supposed to help secure and stabilize the country and successfully interact with the Iraqi people. Officially, the code name for their maneuvers is Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the young men and women in the CA unit have a simpler name for it: War.

3.  Three Souls by Janie Chang for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours in February/March 2014.

We have three souls, or so I’d been told. But only in death could I confirm this….

So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends.

As Leiyin delves back in time with the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party, she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and instantly falls in love with him.

When Leiyin defies her father to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth—that she is powerless over her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife, Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she thought.

4.  Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin for review from the authors.

Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin’s “Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets” offers fourteen classroom- and workshop-tested writing prompts that will appeal to both beginning and experienced poets. Among the book’s inspiring and unusual ideas are the Fibonacci poem, advice-column poem, and spirit-of-names poem. The book lends itself to academic courses as well as poetry workshops in less formal settings, such as adult-ed, community-based, and “coffee-shop” classes. Individuals will find the book to be a helpful companion to their independent practice of poetry.

5.  When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka from the library sale for 50 cents.

On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.

In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today’s headlines.

6.  No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler from Anna.

Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He’s never kissed a girl, the popular guys get all the attention at school–but the worst part is the serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam, his grandfather is losing it to dementia, and he just learned that his mother was raped by a Japanese soldier during World War II. It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It’s not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom–no matter what it takes. And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he’s a man? Based on a true incident in history, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.

7.  Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon which we got at the library sale for 50 cents.

Nothing ever happens to Ralph. So every day when it’s time to write stories, Ralph thinks really hard. He stares at his paper. He stares at the ceiling. But he has no stories! With the help of his classmates, Ralph realizes that a great story can be about something very little . . . and that maybe he really does have some stories to tell. Debut author/illustrator Abby Hanlon’s endearing text and charming watercolor and colored pencil illustrations prove that writing can be fun! This story works nicely with Lucy Calkins’ Writer’s Workshop model of teaching.

8.  Ten Little Dinosaurs by Pattie Schnetzler, illustrated by Jim Harris for 50 cents at the library sale.

A pair of crazy eyeballs built into this boldly illustrated hardbound book jiggle and wiggle from page to page and dinosaur to dinosaur.  Both fun and informative, children and parents will be repeating this story’s catchy rhyme long after the first reading.  Reading Rainbow Book recipient Jim Harris provides his artistic excellence, humor, and stylistic integrity to this one-of-a-kind production.  A tremendously fun book for young dinosaur enthusiasts and an ideal counting book for younger ages as well.

9.  Color Your Own Matisse Paintings by Muncie Hendler for 25 cents and not colored at all from the library sale…an amazing find.

What did you receive?

203rd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 203rd 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 Lynn Levin’s Miss Plastique (my review):

The Notebook (page 33)
            An adaptation of Gaspara Stampa's Sonnet CXXXII

I ask for Love's attention through my tears--
Love who can scarcely turn his head my way
though I ask a thousand times a day.
The reason? Those other lips about his ears.
His silence rips my heart, it tears
my dress, the pages of my books. Pray
how can this be? I gave my heart and soul away
to him.  There's nothing left in me.  He cares
little for my grief.  I feel my blood run
like an icy stream of envy, dread.
He was my life's great joy and reason.
Now I die in love.  I live in pain.  In bed
I have a notebook and a quill.  Let him shun
me.  On these sheets he's mine, though I am dead.

What do you think?

Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin

Book Source:  Poet provided me with a copy
Paperback: 58 pages
I’m an Amazon Affiliate

Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin reminded me of the comic book character Plastique in that many of the female narrators in this collection are very explosive. And the cover of this collection is very ironic, with the sweet looking Barbie doll decked out in a corset-like shirt and chain necklaces, giving a hint of her edginess.  In one of the first poems, “Miss Plastique,” Levin references the explosive nature of C-4 and how it must be handled with care, much like the narrator. Levin examines the notion of judging a book by its cover, and how something that doesn’t look dangerous can be exactly that.

Some poems have a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, like in “The Foundations of Poetry,” the narrator recounts some advice from an English teacher long ago, “‘You should expose/your thoughts and feelings/when you write poems,’ taught Mrs. Hay./’In verse, a little thigh is fine/and you may dream your truth into your lines./Only do not lie to yourself.’//”  (page 16)  These poems contain material that can be explosive if not handled with care, but in Levin’s hands the tension in the poem is sometimes just enough to sustain it without a bomb going off, but in other poems, there is just no other way to express the emotion that has been building.

A selection from: Please Understand (page 39)

I love to say your name, it's like candy
in my mouth.  I love to say your name,
it's like saltwater taffy.
When I steal a look at your eyes
it's like I'm shoplifting in a jewelry store,
and my heart's arrested
when you catch me.

Levin has a gift in that she knows precisely when to change the mood in the poem, turning the tables on the reader, who thinks there is a love sonnet but realizes soon enough that the object of the poem is no longer a love interest but someone who has spurned the narrator. In the latter section of the book, Lilith appears — a long used symbol of rebellion for feminists — and she alongside Eve stands tall and ready to act, rather than simper and wait for things to change.

Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin is about taking charge, being a force to be reckoned with, and standing tall in the face of adversity — whether its a mundane as a dilemma as choosing the best outfit or as dire as escaping a violent relationship.  But there are moments of vulnerability in these poems as well as explosions.  These poems will make sure readers are kept on their toes.

This is my 22nd book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Mailbox Monday #219

Even though my Mailbox Mondays have been on hiatus for the most part this month, I wanted to share all the books I’ve received, some of which already were reviewed.

Mailbox Monday (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. May’s host is 4 the LOVE of BOOKS.

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.  Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris, which came unexpectedly from Little & Brown and may be passed along to someone else.

From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new book of essays taking his readers on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler’s experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist’s shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten.

2.  Pain, Parties, Work by Elizabeth Winder for review with TLC Book Tours.

In May of 1953, a twenty-one-year-old Plath arrived in New York City, the guest editor of Mademoiselle’s annual College Issue. She lived at the Barbizon Hotel, attended the ballet, went to a Yankee game, and danced at the West Side Tennis Club. She was supposed to be having the time of her life. But what would follow was, in Plath’s words, twenty-six days of pain, parties, and work, that ultimately changed the course of her life.

 

3.  Three-Ring Rascals: The Show Must Go On! by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise from Anna.

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls!

Step right up and hear the amazing tale of Sir Sidney’s Circus.

Listen to how Sir Sidney, a kindly old circus owner, needed a rest.

Read and weep when Sir Sidney leaves the circus in the hands of a big mean baddie.

Shriek with terror as Barnabas Brambles cracks his whip at Elsa the elephant.

Cry in horror when Mr. Brambles tries to sell Leo the lion to a zoo.

Hide your eyes as the Famous Flying Banana Brothers perform death-defying feats to get the circus train to the show on time!

Can they do it? Will they make it? They better, because THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

Black and white line drawings throughout.

4.  The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein for review with TLC Book Tours (2 copies — one will be passed on to someone).

In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.

5.  Emily & Herman by John J. Healey, which I received for review from Arcade Publishing.

The manuscript of this novel was discovered by John J. Healey in a box left by his grandfather, Professor Vincent P. Healey, after his death. This engaging work of fiction is a romantic account in which four iconic figures of American Letters play a leading role.

In the summer of 1851 Herman Melville was finishing Moby Dick on his family farm in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. Surrounded by his mother, sisters and pregnant wife, it was a calm and productive season until his neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne lured him to Amherst. There they met twenty-year-old Emily Dickinson and her brother Austin. On a whim the two distinguished authors invited the Dickinson siblings to accompany them on a trip to Boston and New York. In Manhattan they met journalist Walt Whitman and William Johnson, a runaway slave, and it was there, despite their efforts to control it, that Emily and Herman fell in love.

This, for the first time, is their story.

6.  Why Photographers Commit Suicide by Mary McCray from the poet for review.

Why Photographers Commit Suicide explores, in small narratives and lyrical poems, the American idea of Manifest Destiny, particularly as it relates to the next frontier—space exploration. Mary McCray examines the scientific, psychological and spiritual frontiers enmeshed in our very human longing for space, including our dream of a space station on Mars. These poems survey what we gain and what we lose as we progress towards tomorrow, and how we can begin to understand the universal melancholy we seem to cherish for what we leave behind, the lives we have already lived. McCray unearths our feelings about what it means to move ahead and stake out new territory, and what it means to be home.

7.  The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith, which I purchased from Novel Places.

Moving from the mundane to the profound, first through observation of fact and matter, then shifting perspective, engaging a deeper sense of self, these poems re-imagine things great and small, making us care deeply about the world around us. In this cultivated and intricately crafted collection, Sally Keith shows the self as a crucible of force—that which compels us to exert ourselves upon the world, and meanwhile renders us vulnerable to it. Force by which a line unfurls—as in Robert Smithson’s colossal Spiral Jetty—or leads with forward motion—a train hurdling along the west-reaching railroad; Edweard Muybridge’s photographic reels charting animal and human locomotion. With poems remarkable in their clarity, captivating in their matter-of-factness, Keith examines the impossible and inevitable privacy of being a person in the world, meanwhile negotiating an inexorable pull toward the places we call home—one we alternately try and fail to resist.

8.  Trace by Eric Pankey, which I purchased from Novel Places.

His arresting ninth collection of poems, Eric Pankey’s Trace locates itself at a threshold between faith and doubt—between the visible and the invisible, the say-able and the ineffable, the physical and the metaphysical. Also a map of the poet’s journey into a deep depression, these poems confront one man’s struggle to overcome depression’s smothering weight and presence. And with remarkable clarity and complexity, Trace charts the poet’s attempt to be inspired, to breathe again, to give breath and life to words. Ever solemn, ever existential, Pankey’s poems find us at our most vulnerable, the moment when we as humans—believers and nonbelievers alike—must ultimately pause to question the uncertain fate of our souls.

9.  Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin, which I received from the poet for review.

Miss Plastique, the fourth full-length poetry collection by Lynn Levin, invites the reader into a world of female bravado in which Miss Plastique and her many selves rant, fret, joke, fall in love, dress up, and do their hair. Poems in this collection first appeared in Boulevard, Artful Dodge, Hunger Mountain, Connecticut Review, Knockout, Nerve Cowboy, and other places. Lynn Levin, a poet known for her eclecticism, humor, and range of poetic styles, is the author of the previous poetry collections Fair Creatures of an Hour, a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in poetry; Imaginarium, a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award; and A Few Questions about Paradise (all from Loonfeather Press). Her craft of poetry book, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (with Valerie Fox) is forthcoming from Texture Press in 2013. Lynn Levin is also a writer and literary translator. She has received nine Pushcart Prize nominations, two grants from the Leeway Foundation, and Garrison Keillor has read her work on his radio show The Writer’s Almanac. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Levin has lived in the Philadelphia area since 1980. She is the 1999 Bucks County, Pa. poet laureate and currently teaches at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. Advance praise for Miss Plastique: Miss Plastique is a busy girl: giving it to her enemy in stiletto heels, giving it up to an Elvis impersonator, thumbing a ride across Texas. She has turned from the mirror and can’t look back. She’s sexy and seductive and refuses to be pinned down; she’s silk so fluid you could drink her-read her instead, but watch she doesn’t explode in your hands. -Meg Kearney, author of Home By Now

10. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, a surprise from my dear author friend.

Flavored by the oddities of historic personalities and facts, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent is set in Bush Hill, Philadelphia, 1871—home to the Baldwin Locomotive Works and a massive, gothic prison. Acclaimed writer Beth Kephart captures the rhythms and smells of an extraordinary era as William Quinn and his Ma, Essie, grapple with life among terrible accidents, miraculous escapes, and shams masquerading as truth.

11.  Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson, unexpectedly from the publisher Algonquin.

Catherine Strayed is living a quiet, un-
remarkable life in a secluded college town following the mysterious death of her husband, a promising writer whose death may have been an accident, a suicide, or perhaps even a murder. When her former mentor (and onetime lover)—a powerful critic who singlehandedly destroyed her late husband’s chance for success—takes a teaching job at the college, Catherine’s world threatens to collapse. For with him has come his latest protégé, an exotic young woman named Antonia Lively. Antonia’s debut  novel has become a literary sensation—but it is, in fact, an almost factual retelling of 
a terrible crime that she relates without 
any concern for the impact its publication will have on the lives of those involved.  As Antonia insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, mysterious and frightening things start to happen, because unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman intends to plunder her own dark, regrettable past—and the unsolved death of her husband—for her next literary triumph.

12. Beautiful Decay by Sylvia Lewis, which came unexpectedly from Running Press, though may be appropriate for some near-teenager I know….

Things have a way of falling apart around Ellie Miller. Literally. With a touch that rots, she keeps everyone at a distance—for others’ safety as much as her own comfort.

When newcomer Nate MacPherson makes it his mission to get close to Ellie, she does her best to steer clear. But as Nate reveals an unusual ability of his own, Ellie recognizes a kindred spirit who could accept her for who she is . . . if she lets him.

As family secrets unravel, Ellie will have to discover the beauty within her reach in order to save the ones she loves.

13.  The Look of Love by Bella Andre from Meryl Moss Media unexpectedly — this will likely be passed on to someone else.

Chloe Peterson has vowed never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Her reasons are as vivid as the bruises on her cheek. So when her car skids off a wet country road straight into a ditch, she’s convinced the gorgeous guy who rescues her must be too good to be true.

As a successful international photographer, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women. He’s satisfied with his life—until he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley.

With every loving look—and every sinfully sweet caress—the attraction between them sizzles, and Chloe can’t help but wonder if she’s met the man who may be the exception to her rule….

14.  A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb from HarperCollins for review.

In Half Forgotten Song, fourteen-year-old Mitzy Hatcher’s lonely life on the wild Dorset coast is changed forever when renowned artist Charles Aubrey arrives to summer there with his exotic mistress and daughters.  Mitzy develops a bond with the Aubrey household, gradually becoming Charles’s muse. Over the next three summers, a powerful love is kindled in her that grows from childish infatuation to something far more complex.  Years later, a young man in an art gallery looks at a hastily drawn portrait and wonders at its intensity. The questions he asks lead him to a Dorset village and to the truth about those fevered summers in the 1930s.

15.  The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas from HarperCollins/William Morrow for review.

Beautiful and mysterious, The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas follows a priceless violin across generations—from WWII to Stalinist Russia to the gilded international concert halls of today—and reveals the loss, love, and secrets of the families who owned it.   In 1939 Berlin, 14-year-old Simon Horowitz’s world is stirred by his father’s 1742 Guarneri del Gesu violin. When Nazis march across Europe and Simon is sent to Dachau, he finds unexpected kindness, and a chance to live.   In the present day, orchestra conductor Rafael Gomez finds himself inspired by Daniel Horowitz, a 14-year-old violin virtuoso who refuses to play. When Rafael learns that the boy’s family once owned a precious violin believed to have been lost forever, Rafael seizes the power of history and discovers a family story like no other.

What did you receive?

New Interviews With Jill Mansell, Garth Stein, Lynn Levin

I’ve been a busy bee over at D.C. Literature Examiner, interviewing fiction authors and poets.

Jill Mansell took time out of her blog tour schedule to answer a few questions about her latest U.S. invastion, Perfect Timing (click on for my review).

Jill talked about the book, her inspiration, her writing, and her reading habits.  Check out her interview, here and here.

I’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing Garth Stein (Photo Credit:  Frank Huster), the author of The Art of Racing in the Rain (click for my review).

You can find out what Garth’s working on now, what he’s reading, and his obsessions.  I also asked a bunch of questions about Enzo and his narration of The Art of Racing in the Rain.  Check out the interview here and here.

Most recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing poet Lynn Levin, author of Fair Creatures of an Hour (click for my review).

We discussed her collection, her obsessions, and her latest reads.  From John Keats and how he inspired her collection’s title to other poets that have influenced her, Levin clearly knows her poetry and her passions.  Check out that interview here and here.

Fair Creatures of an Hour by Lynn Levin

Lynn Levin‘s Fair Creatures of an Hour is a collection of poetry that draws on current events — Smarty Jones in “Little Red Telegram” and skydivers Sara Loshe and Ron Samac in “Freefall” — imagery, and culture to draw in its readers.  Levin intertwines traditional Jewish rituals and stories into her poems, and interjects a fresh perspective.  Readers will intimately understand her and mimic her lines.

“What finer thing is there than to pour out
your thoughts and have someone drink
of your meaning?
It is better than being loved
I sometimes think
for love is not everything.”  (Page 61, “I Wanted to Tell You”)

Levin creates a wistful atmosphere in some of her poems, but easily turns that into something playful.  Even in her most serious poems, Levin cultivates an undercurrent of sarcasm, playfulness, and hope.  From “Peace Is the Blithe Distraction,” Levin repeats the word “peace” and uses each subsequent line to illustrate what peace can mean to even the worst of enemies and how hope plays an integral role.

On the other hand, her humor is ever present as she begins more than one poem with horoscope predictions and planet alignments.  Readers will enjoy the wit shown in these poems and will nod in agreement with many of them.  Levin has an eye for the human condition and the emotions, even those not most desirable. 

The White Puzzle (Page 42)

To love jigsaw puzzles, you have to love trouble —
the mad messing of a picture, the slow steps back to art.
Years ago, my brother and I spent hours
breaking up then piecing back
The Skating Pond by Currier & Ives,
Remington’s The Old Stage-Coach of the Plains
the cardboard pieces colonizing
the game table in the family room.
There was satisfaction in the fitting together
the doing of the definite task
then some days of admiration
of the solved thing before the sundering.
Once someone gave us a white puzzle,
a real head-breaker, the blank pieces
many and small like the counties of a state.
This was fitting for the sake of fitting.
No art in it that we could see, but we stuck to it,
and after a while the pieces began to clump together
like new snow on the lawn.
I remember the way our small talk
scribbled itself over the gathering page:
something about a math bee and Old Man Sprague
who kept sheep in his backyard and had a gun.
We nibbled popcorn, made Montana take shape
with its three sides and human profile,
the pieces knit like bone.
When the white puzzle was complete
we loved the way it lay like moonlight on the floor
then sat before our conquered space,
two Alexanders wanting more.

The poet includes references and explanations in the back of Fair Creatures of an Hour, of which the title is taken from a John Keats poem, “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be.”  Levin’s collection is about embracing the moment and being comfortable with oneself before fate steps in.  Well worth reading again and again, Levin’s collection will leave readers wanting more.

Please check out 20th Virtual Poetry Circle for a discussion of Levin’s “Helium.”  Also, for another review, please check out The Pedestal Magazine.  Stay tuned for an interview with Lynn Levin.

I want to thank the poet, Lynn Levin, and Arlene Ang for setting me up with a free copy for review. 

This is my 7th book for the poetry review challenge.