Mailbox Monday #754

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 its 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.

Emma, 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:

Musical Tables by Billy Collins for review.

You can spot a Billy Collins poem immediately. The amiable voice, the light touch, the sudden turn at the end. He “puts the ‘fun’ back in profundity,” says poet Alice Fulton. In his own words, his poems tend to “begin in Kansas and end in Oz.”

Now “America’s favorite poet” (The Wall Street Journal) has found a new form for his unique poetic style: the small poem. Here Collins writes about his trademark themes of nature, animals, poetry, mortality, absurdity, and love—all in a handful of lines. Neither haiku nor limerick, the small poem pushes to an extreme poetry’s famed power to condense emotional and conceptual meaning. Inspired by the small poetry of writers as diverse as William Carlos Williams, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, and Charles Simic, and written with Collins’s recognizable wit and wisdom, the poems of Musical Tables show one of our greatest poets channeling his unique voice into a new phase of his exceptional career.

Bullet Points: A Lyric by Jennifer Sutherland for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

Part prose poem, part lyric essay, BULLET POINTS considers an American courthouse shooting, its aftermath, and its echoes in law, history, and capitalism. Tracing a woman trial lawyer’s experiences of violence–from the intimate and domestic to the national–attorney and poet Jennifer A Sutherland brings a deeply perceptive tenderness to the reality of historical abuses grounded in law and capitalism. Drawing on acts of language and power, art and trauma, BULLET POINTS raises questions about the systems and structures that enable violence via a poetry brilliantly awake to this truth: “Language is one way of doing business across time and into spaces. Image is another.”

Night Life: A Folk Horror Collection by Alba V. Sarria for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

Tucked away in the mountains lays a small town where old gods, demons, and creatures with long forgotten names live frighteningly—and hopelessly— entangled with the humans who call it home. Quick, take the clawed hand of your guide, slip into the skins of the town’s inhabitants, and let this eerie collection of folk horror poetry ensnare you in the tales of the town, and awaken you to the coming rapture of the world.

Containing new and previously published poetry, multi-award winning poet Alba Sarria debuts a narrative folk horror collection spoken through the unusual eyes of 2nd and 1st person. This is a read for a lone dark night.

Rescue Is Elsewhere by Donald Illich for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

In Rescue is Elsewhere, humans are abducted by disappointed UFOs, an astronaut is returned home to Earth by aliens, moon creatures steal our comedians, and a boy dreams of building a rocket to fly to another planet. Alternately serious and satirical, Donald Illich explores the phenomenon of UFOs and how they shape our imagination and lives. His poems unravel from the outer reaches of space to the neighborhood that you or I might live in, and the magic of language brings to the page multiple worlds hidden in the universe. Illich’s collection belongs in the sci-fi section of the library, where its tales can rub up against the fiction in classic pulp magazines of the 20th century.

Homeland of My Body by Richard Blanco for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

In this collection of over 100 poems, Richard Blanco has carefully selected poems from his previous books that represent his evolution as a writer grappling with his identity, working to find and define “home,” and bookended them with new poems that address those issues from a fresh, more mature perspective, allowing him to approach surrendering the pain and urgency of his past explorations. Pausing at this pivotal moment in mid-career, Blanco reexamines his life-long quest to find his proverbial home and all that it encompasses: love, family, identity and ultimately art itself. In the closing section of the volume, he has come to understand and internalize the idea that “home” is not one place, not one thing, and lives both inside him and inside his art.

The poems range in form, voice, and setting, showcasing his command of craft, but in essence they are one continuous reflection on the existential question at the core of all of Blanco’s poetry: how can we find our place in the world. All are characterized by his keen eye, deep sensibility, and polished craft, without pretense. This volume is a gift to Blanco’s many readers but even more to those who have yet to discover that they can understand, and fall in love with poetry, that a poet can speak to them about his own and their own lives so profoundly, and that this poet, as Barack Obama discovered, can speak for all of us.

Richard Blanco has been justly celebrated for his poetic gifts and his command of the many forms poetry can take, from the finely structured to the prose poem formats. His previous volumes have been praised by Patricia Smith, Eileen Myles, Sandra Cisneros, Elizabeth Alexander, and many others. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and dozens of other publications.

What books did you receive?

Check out Amazon’s Top Lit Fic

Mailbox Monday #351

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

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

Here’s what I received:

Nine Coins/Nueve Monedas by Carlos Pintado, translated by Hilary Vaughn Dobel, introduction by Richard Blanco for review from Akashic Books.

Nine Coins/Nueve monedas is a palimpsest of love, fears, dreams, and the intimate landscapes where the author seeks refuge. These poems appear like small islands of salvation, covered with the brief splendor of the coins people sometimes grab hold of, taking the form of a very personal and often devastating map. Each poem is a song at the edge of an abyss; an illusory gold coin obtained as a revelation; a song of hope and understanding. The volume’s dreamlike geography prompts the reader to revisit the thread, the labyrinth, and the Minotaur’s legends. The night streets of South Beach, Alexandria, and many other cities, lit by the fading torches, seem to guide us in conversation with characters who are long dead.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and more for review from Penguin for review.

1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel’s portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room? 

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King from my mom as an early Christmas present.

Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.

There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.

What did you receive?

186th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 186th 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. Please visit the stops on the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

Today’s poem is from Richard Blanco, (Click on his name to read an interview with him about the process) and it’s the inaugural poem for those who missed it on television — see the video below:

Also, see the full text:

One Today

 One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day. 

 One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day's gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience. 

 One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn't give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

What do you think?

National Poetry Month Winners . . .

It’s time to announce the winners of the National Poetry Month giveaways.

First up is the winner of L.A. and the Dog Years / I Can Be One split-EP by Luke Rathborne.  My husband selected a random winner, #4 Brittany Gale.  Congrats!

The second giveaway was for one book of poetry that I reviewed over the course of April and entrants had a choice of five books:

1. The Poets Laureate Anthology edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
2. City of Regret by Andrew Kozma
3. Bone Key Elegies by Danielle Sellers

4. City of a Hundred Fires by Richard Blanco
5. White Egrets by Derek Walcott

My husband again selected a random winner, #3 avalonne83, who selected City of a Hundred Fires by Richard Blanco


Big Thank You . . .

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who participated and commented during National Poetry Month. The blog tour was not as well organized this year given I’ve had a few life changes in recent months, but overall, everyone who participated did a great job and made me smile with each comment and contribution.

As a thank you, I’ve extended two poetry-related giveaways until mid-May. One is US/Canada only, the other is international.

Please feel free to check out the giveaways and spread the word:

******L.A. and Dog Years and I Can Be the One EP by Luke Rathborne; Deadline May 14 (US/Canada)

******Choose 1 of 5 poetry books to win; Deadline May 14 (Global)

You must enter through the links provided, NOT on this post.

City of a Hundred Fires by Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco‘s City of a Hundred Fires is a collection published by the University of Pittsburgh Press about the Cuban-American experience, which won the 1997 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.  (You can check out one of his poems in the 40th Virtual Poetry Circle and my take on a reading he did at the local Writer’s Center in 2009.)  The collection is broken down into two sections and each poem contains not only English, but also Spanish phrases, which readers may or may not know offhand.  Readers who are bilingual will have little trouble, though those who have a working knowledge of Spanish or don’t will be able to gather what Blanco is getting at from context clues.  Poems are either in traditional short narrative lines or in longer, more paragraph-like lines, but each tells a story, reveals a memory, and explores a bit of the Cuban-American experience.

“Crayons for Elena” on page 13 is one of the most poignant poems in the collection as it uses the box of 64 crayons to illustrate the differences in skin tones and cultures of the people the narrator encounters and the colors that represent elements from the narrator’s own culture, including pinatas and mangoes.  “. . . All these we wore down to/stubs, peeling the paper coating further and further, peeling and sharpening/until eventually we removed the color’s name.  This is for leaving the box in/the back seat of my father’s new copper Malibu, the melted collage, the butter/”  It seems that though these differences confuse the narrator and cause discomfort, eventually, these differences are forgotten and life moves beyond those variations and instead absorbs the similarities, “melting them into a collage.”

Blanco continues to straddle the Cuban culture — kept alive in family traditions such as Quinces balls — and his new home in American culture.  In a way, his traditional family culture seems foreign to the narrator as he assimilates to American traditions of turkey at Thanksgiving and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Unlike the older relatives talked about in the poems, the narrator does not kid himself that he will be returning to Cuba after the revolution; he knows that the dream of returning to the old country is just that — a dream.

At times, however, the narrator does experience moments of nostalgia, in which he remembers family events or moments.  There are other moments in which the voids left by an American culture that does not feel exactly like home are filled with reminders of a culture left behind whether those voids are filled with sake by a Japanese immigrant or by dark rum with lemon for a Cuban-immigrant.

Unlike in part one where the narrator delves into familial memories and the confusion of bridging two cultures, in the second part, the narrator has become more observant of how his home culture is mutilated and warped by the American idea of capitalism to create a caricature of Cuban life and culture, like in “El Jagua Resort” (page 43):  “where Canadians and Italians step out/drunk congas from megaphone instructions –/side-to-side, kick-then-kick, hand-to-hip;/caught in spells of tabaco, dark rum,/brown sugar, and the young mulatas/”  In a way, the little Havana created in America by the narrator’s parents’ generation is fading and being replaced, but the second part also illustrates more historical details of Cuba, the revolution, and other events.

For a slim volume of poems at 74 pages, City of a Hundred Fires by Richard Blanco will knock you on your butt with its passion, anger, and disbelief.  But it also will drag you to your feet as it clings to hope and harmony.  Overall, Blanco has crafted a diverse collection of poems on the Cuban-American experience that delves below the surface struggles of bias and loneliness to the internal struggle of one narrator and how he copes with those struggles and more.

This is my 6th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 12th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.



***This is a part of the National Poetry Month 2011 Blog Tour.