Quantcast

Book News: National Book Festival 2013

The 2013 National Book Festival will be in D.C. again for the 13th year, and there is a stunning lineup.

I usually spend most of my time in the Poetry & Prose tent, and that’s unlikely to change this year, as the Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey will be there on Saturday.  One of my early morning favorites is also in the same tent, Poetry Out Loud, which is a bunch of high school students performing their own poems or those of others.

Sunday, if anyone likes Joyce Carol Oates, she’s scheduled to appear, but I’ve had bad luck with her at events — i.e. her not showing up as scheduled or at all.  But on Sunday, Alyson Hagy will be in town with her new book, Boleto, which I just received in the mail from the publisher this month.

For the rest of the lineup this year in the Poetry & Prose tent, check out this Washington Post list.

I’m also glad to see that Scholastic will be back with fun activities for kids, since my daughter will be old enough to enjoy them more this year.

“Scholastic will showcase a sneak peek at artwork by beloved children’s illustrators who were asked to demonstrate what “Read Every Day” means to them and will ask kids and parents at the festival to share their thoughts on why they love reading on a giant chalkboard. Festival-goers can visit Scholastic’s Storia™ reading corner for e-read-alouds from its new e-reading app, showcasing Scholastic’s exciting digital offerings and delighting kids. Scholastic also will host the popular “Build-a-Book” station that lets visitors turn a blank book into a masterpiece.”

And beyond Scholastic, PBS is always on hand with a variety of show characters for pictures, which enabled my daughter to meet the Cat in the Hat and some others.

What will you be seeing at the book festival this year?  I’d love to get some recommendations.

Poetry for Your 2012 Holiday Shopping List

Savvy Holidays!

I’m sure all of you have either completed or have nearly completed your holiday shopping, but I wanted to recommend a couple of poetry books for the readers on your lists.  These books are accessible and could widen the scope of reading of your loved ones and maybe even yourself.

Wild Place by Erica Goss is a stunning chapbook collection that visually renders the wildness within ourselves through a series of images stick with you long after you read the verse.  One look at that cover can tell you the kind of raw power Goss uses in her poetry to explore how humanity can impair nature, but she also talks a little bit about history, particularly in her poems about Berlin, and the hardships of emigrating to another country.  In my review, I said, “Wild and untamed, the verse sings the beauty in the blame as humanity encroaches on nature, sometimes leading to its destruction and at other times unveiling the beauty beneath the scars.”

 

When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz examines the often ignored struggles of Native Americans in the modern world, particularly as they try to integrate into mainstream society.  The kids who are around white students in school are looking to be like their peers, while at home, their parents trying to hold onto their cultural traditions.  Diaz has a frankness in her verse as she not only tackles drug addiction, but also Native American myths and ancestry.  While these poems are steeped in culture, there also is a universality to the lines that make them accessible to people of all cultures.  I consider Diaz’s book “a glimmering debut collection that hums in the back of the mind and generates an emotional aftermath that will leave readers speechless.”

Of the two Natasha Trethewey books I’ve read this year (though one was a reread), this is the one that has impressed me the most and has caused me to reassess some things.  Thrall is an even more mature combination of the personal and historical than Native Guard is.  While her earlier collection examines the struggles of a mixed race child, the latest collection builds upon those insights to create a wider historical record of mixed race children and how they are viewed by their parents and history.  My review indicated, “While her reading can enthrall you and bring you near tears, her careful word selection in each poem will ensure that you reflect on the meaning of each line in each verse before you even think about the overarching themes of separation and connection as well as their juxtaposition.”

I hope that you’ll consider these collections as you do your holiday shopping and have a great holiday, everyone.

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, is sliced into three sections with the first section paying homage to a mother who has passed from this world into the next.  In “The Southern Crescent,” travel plays a particularly prominent role, with the train “humming like anticipation” as the narrator and her mother travel east and she sees her mother in the window clearly.  Trethewey’s poems are concise and filled with imagery that anyone can connect with on a visceral level.

“Graveyard Blues” screams loss and regret from the “stone pillow” for the narrator’s head at the end of the poem to the “hollow sound” of the mud as it sticks to mourners shoes during the funeral in the rain.  And “Myth” is a heart breaking poem, an elegy to the narrator’s mother — a hope that she can pull her from the other side into the real world through her dreams.  Many of us can relate to deep loss and the desire to change that loss and bring back loved ones from the dead — as if we could resurrect them.

In the second section, Trethewey tackles the oppressive memory of history in the deep South and how it is celebrated, feared, and hated for its bigotry and death.  From the prosperous hills of cotton harvested to the humps on the children’s backs from years of hard labor in the fields, the lines draw parallels in different segments of the poem to shed light on oppression — its costs and rewards.  The narration in these is a bit removed, more like an observer commenting on the events.  In the final section, Trethewey melds the personal stories with the historic events of the South and slavery to reveal a love-hate relationship with her native state Mississippi.  In many ways these poems reflect the tension between the white ancestry and the black ancestry of mulatto children from the south.

Even from the point of view of a child learning history and it is depicted as though slaves were well-treated and happy, it is hard to counter the widely held belief even if ancestry tells the student otherwise.  From “Monument” to “Elegy for the Native Guards,” there is a desire on the part of the narrator to pay homage to these pillars of the black community who stood up for what they believed in and made the best they could from the hands they were dealt.  At the same time, there is this reality that sinks in and mars any monument that can be resurrected, especially when made as an afterthought or belated gesture.  Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey tackles not only the sense of identity these biracial children struggle with, but also the struggle of Southerners to explain their pride in their history when it is so riddled with hatred.

About the Poet:

Natasha Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1966. She earned an M.A. in poetry from Hollins University and M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts.

This is the 25th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Thankfully Reading Weekend 2012

I’ve unofficially participated in Thankfully Reading Weekend, finishing Keys to the Repository by Melissa de la Cruz, beginning and finishing The Ghost Runner by Blair Richmond, and starting the book club pick Ripper by Stefan Petrucha and Misguided Angel by Melissa de la Cruz.

Challenge #1 was what is the perfect book recipe or reading recipe:

My favorite place to read is on the couch, generally lying down but propped up on pillows and with a glass of something ice cold (usually water) or something piping hot (like coffee or hot cocoa) — the beverage often depends on the weather.  The blanket can be fluffy, fuzzy, or just plain warm as long as the legs are covered.  As for a book…generally the writing has to be easy to follow, absorbing, and about things I enjoy reading about, which can either mean poetry, the environment, vampires, Ireland, Boston, or those struggling to find their identities or home.  I love internal struggles most of all, so books where the character is having an internal struggle are the most appealing.

Challenge #2 was about the book we’re most thankful for, and I have to say that its Thrall by Natasha Trethewey because it made me think about race and father-daughter relationships in a new way.  I loved that she used paintings and other artwork to illustrate her points, but that she also drew on the more personal aspects of father-daughter relationships.  And when you hear her read in person, you can just feel the emotion of these poems.  It has inspired me to find more books that move me in that way and to write poetry that will carry a more emotional rather than theoretical weight.

For Challenge #3, we were asked about our family reading traditions or memories about books; here’s what I shared:

Our family didn’t read much, but my nana read to us all the time and she let me loose in the library at a very young age, and I would beg my mother to take us many days of the week to reload my shelves. The love of reading is something I hope to pass onto my daughter, who already knows the word “read” and says it every time she picks up a book from the shelf and hands it to me. And when I’m working or busy with dinner, you’ll often catch her in a sea of books on the floor saying the few words she remembers from the books — reading to herself or her stuffed animals. Too cute. And it makes me proud.

I hope to at least get partially through a third book before the end of the weekend, so wish me luck.  I also cheer on everyone who is participating or not even participating, but reading.

Thrall by Natasha Trethewey

Thrall by Natasha Trethewey examines the lines between father and daughter and the African-American experience through a set of personal and analytical poems focused on race and culture.  In “Miracle of the Black Leg,” Trethewey examines the juxtaposition of white and black men in paintings and other artwork in which the leg of one man is taken and attached to the thigh of another man.  There are similarities in pain stricken faces in some images, paralleling their similar situations, but there are also clear disparities in how each man is treated, even if the leg is taken from a newly deceased person.  The imagery she chooses in this poem is particularly haunting, especially when taken in the historical context of how the images are presented throughout the years — with the black donor swept to the side and only the black leg as a representation of the whole.

"See how the story changes:  in one painting
     the Ethiop is merely a body, featureless in a coffin,
so black he has no face.  In another, the patient --
     at the top of the frame -- seems to writhe in pain,
the black leg grafted to his thigh.  Below him
     a mirror of suffering:  the blackamoor --" (page 11)
". . . The black man, on the floor,
holds his stump.  Above him, the doctor restrains
    the patient's arm as if to prevent him touching
the dark amendment of flesh.  How not to see it -- 
    the men bound one to the other, symbiotic --
one man rendered expendable, the other worthy
    of this sacrifice?  In version after version, even
when the Ethiopian isn't there, the leg is a stand-in,
    a black modifier against the white body," (page 12)

The title of the collection tells readers all they need to know about the topics covered, including the moral, mental, and physical slavery or servitude as well as the complete emotional absorption that can happen in relationships. As Trethewey examines works of art through a lens of racial demarcation, she also looks at daughters’ relationships with their fathers, which can sometimes be congenial and at other times turbulent. In “Knowledge,” she is looking at the dissection of a woman and the men who stand around her as the cut is made into her flesh, and Trethewey’s narrator concludes that her father was not just one type of man, but each of the men in the room — all at once contemplative, scientific, and artistic, even though at times she felt he were just one of those men.

It is easy to see why Thrall by Natasha Trethewey could captivate a packed audience at the Library of Congress when she was inducted as the newest U.S. Poet Laureate, and hearing a poet read their own work can be the best gift.  While her reading can enthrall you and bring you near tears, her careful word selection in each poem will ensure that you reflect on the meaning of each line in each verse before you even think about the overarching themes of separation and connection as well as their juxtaposition.  A collection that will be on the best of list for sure.

Check out the recap of the U.S. Poet Laureate Event.

This is the 22nd book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #198

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. This month’s host is the Mailbox Monday blog.

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:

1.  Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey, which I bought at Novel Places.

Through elegiac verse that honors her mother and tells of her own fraught childhood, Natasha Trethewey confronts the racial legacy of her native Deep South — where one of the first black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards, was called into service during the Civil War. Trethewey’s resonant and beguiling collection is a haunting conversation between personal experience and national history.

2.  Thrall by Natasha Trethewey, which I bought at Novel Places.

Natasha Trethewey’s poems are at once deeply personal and historical—exploring her own interracial and complicated roots—and utterly American, connecting them to ours. The daughter of a black mother and white father, a student of history and of the Deep South, she is inspired by everything from colonial paintings of mulattos and mestizos to the stories of people forgotten by history. Meditations on captivity, knowledge, and inheritance permeate Thrall, as she reflects on a series of small estrangements from her poet father and comes to an understanding of how, as father and daughter, they are part of the ongoing history of race in America.

What did you receive?

19th U.S. Poet Laureate Named: Natasha Trethewey

The newest U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry was announced as Natasha Trethewey, author of the award-winning collection Native Guard.

Last week, I was able to head into Washington, D.C., to the Library of Congress with a friend and see Trethewey give the inaugural reading for the literary season.  She read from her latest collection, Thrall.

There is nothing like hearing a poet read from their own collection to make you want to buy it and read it for yourself and see the words drape the page.  If you’re interested, here are my impressions of the event.

154th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 154th 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 2012 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please visit the stops on the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

Today’s poem is from Natasha Trethewey, our new U.S. Poet Laureate:

Pilgrimage

Vicksburg, Mississippi


Here, the Mississippi carved
            its mud-dark path, a graveyard

for skeletons of sunken riverboats.
            Here, the river changed its course,

turning away from the city
            as one turns, forgetting, from the past—

the abandoned bluffs, land sloping up
            above the river's bend—where now

the Yazoo fills the Mississippi's empty bed.
            Here, the dead stand up in stone, white

marble, on Confederate Avenue. I stand
            on ground once hollowed by a web of caves;

they must have seemed like catacombs,
            in 1863, to the woman sitting in her parlor,

candlelit, underground. I can see her
            listening to shells explode, writing herself

into history, asking what is to become
            of all the living things in this place?

This whole city is a grave. Every spring—
            Pilgrimage—the living come to mingle

with the dead, brush against their cold shoulders
            in the long hallways, listen all night

to their silence and indifference, relive
            their dying on the green battlefield.

At the museum, we marvel at their clothes—
            preserved under glass—so much smaller

than our own, as if those who wore them
            were only children. We sleep in their beds,

the old mansions hunkered on the bluffs, draped
            in flowers—funereal—a blur

of petals against the river's gray.
            The brochure in my room calls this

living history. The brass plate on the door reads
            Prissy's Room. A window frames

the river's crawl toward the Gulf. In my dream,
            the ghost of history lies down beside me,

rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.

What do you think?