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The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec

Source: the poet
Paperback, 30 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec is a chapbook that melds imagery with poetry so that readers look beyond the confines of structure to see the potential in each poem and drawing. Fox’s poems explore reality with surreal or dreamlike sequences, but they also are grounded in situations that readers will recognize from their own lives.

In “Ribs, Cat Claws,” Fox examines the notion that we all must “grow up sometime” with a cast of characters who on one hand seem to be out of their minds with mental lapses and disease and on the other hand lament the dreams they once had that are not fulfilled. Other poems delve deep into the unwritten rules of following doctors’ orders, only to secret believe they are useless orders — like many of the unwritten rules of society we follow. Should we just blindly follow them? Question them, only to follow them anyway? Or simply throw the rules out the window?

Fox’s slanted perspective on life and how rules guide us and are so easily set aside — our societal structures are artificial and yet they confine us. Where is the “real sky?” How do we break those invisible binds to see the light and the expanse of possibility? Niemiec’s sketches dovetail into these themes nicely, painting a physical picture for the readers.

The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec is a multilayered collection that bends genre to incorporate not only the visual, but also fictionalized accounts and reality into a surreal mesh for readers to fall into and explore. A great deal of food for though in this slim volume.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Authors:

Valerie Fox’s most recent book is Insomniatic [poems] from PS Books, and her other volumes include The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Books) and The Glass Book (Texture Press). Her poems and stories have appeared in The Cafe Irreal, Juked, Sentence, Across the Margin, Cleaver, Hanging Loose, West Branch, Ping Pong, and other journals.

She has taught at various institutions, including Peirce College (Philadelphia) and Sophia University (Tokyo). Currently she teaches writing at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she is a writing fellow with the Writers Room. Much interested in collaboration, Valerie has published writing (poems, fiction) with Arlene Ang in journals such as Blip, Cordite, Apiary, Qarrtsiluni, and New World Writing. Ang and Fox also published Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press).

Jacklynn Niemiec teaches with the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University in the foundation year design studios, and coordinates their architectural representation sequence. Her creative interest and research lies in developing visual methods for understanding and representing space with the added and intangible layers of time, movement and memory. Her current creative work and interdisciplinary research project is Variable Space.

Jacklynn is a Registered Architect in the State of Pennsylvania and is LEED Accredited. She received her undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania State University and Master of Architecture degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mailbox Monday #520

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:

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters from the publisher and due out in March.

The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec from the poet.

“This engrossing hybrid collection of prose and poetry carves out a compellingly eclectic style of its own. In The Real Sky Fox adroitly employs dramatic monologues, testimonials and vignettes (among other forms) and uses imagistic and rhythmic language aplenty. The drawings by Jacklynn Niemiec help lend this fine chapbook an airy, almost whimsical quality. A must-read for fans of hybrid literature.
”
Nathan Leslie, author of Three MenRoot and Shoot and Sibs (Texture Press & Aqueous Books)

“Valerie Fox creates new spaces where words turn surreal and then back again, and narrative structures literally awaken the inanimate. Each page contains a surprise and a delight. Fox creates new pathways for language to shape our identities, while breathing life and a new power to transform bodies, flesh, bone, and spirit. These fresh new fictions are glorious, and beautifully accompanied by bright, evocative sketches by Jacklynn Niemiec.”
Susan Smith Nash, founder & managing editor, Texture Press

What did you receive?

 

Insomniatic by Valerie Fox

Source: the poet
Paperback, 36 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Insomniatic by Valerie Fox is a unique chapbook in which readers are subject to a disjointed world where reality creeps into dreamlike sequences and hallucinations. An insomniac generally does not get a lot of “good” sleep, and these poems illustrate that electric energy of someone on the verge of exhaustion and their scattered thoughts. These thoughts are sometimes dark, but also playful and absurd, pushing readers to wonder if one could get addicted to such oddities of sleep deprivation.

From "Incorruptible" (pg.24)

On nearby Hanover Street a once inviting and
cared-for house has been recently demolished. An upright
piano stands slightly elevated at the top of the front
steps. Someone should remove it, but it looks nice there,
surrounded by blue skies and summertime.

Fox crosses the line between wakefulness and dreaming and re-crosses it again and again. A bewildered reader needs to commit to simply being along for the ride, rather than parsing out reality from dream. Insomniatic by Valerie Fox is a search through the dreaming wakefulness that is playful and disconcerting all at once.

Some recent poems can be found here.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Valerie Fox’s books of poetry include The Rorschach Factory (2006, Straw Gate Books) and The Glass Book (2010, Texture Press). She co-wrote Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets with Lynn Levin. Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (2011, Texture Press) is a collaborative book with Arlene Ang. “Scarecrow Lists of Failures and Grocery Items” (a collaboration with Ang) may be found here, at Thrush.

Her work has appeared in many journals, including Thrush, Painted Bride Quarterly, Hanging Loose, Apiary, West Branch, Sentence, and Qarrtsiluni. Originally from central Pennsylvania, she has traveled and lived throughout the world, and has taught writing and literature at numerous universities including Sophia University (in Tokyo) and currently at Drexel University (in Philadelphia). Visit her at Texture Press.

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?

The Rorschach Factory by Valerie Fox

The Rorschach Factory by Valerie Fox is a collection of poems that are left up to the interpretation of the reader in many cases.  Much like the inkblot test, these poems provide snippets of color, image, and story to provide an outline for readers, and those readers are then tasked with filling in the blanks and interpreting what is there.  Some poems seem to carry a personal history in many of the lines, while others are whimsical in their interpretations of pop culture and real-life relationships.

From “This Is Not My Cousin” (page 9):
This is not the sensational human
condition.  God is not in the picture
just me and trees and my cousin’s shadow.
We like how I am standing on the high place
a smiling paperdoll propped up on the edge
about to step back, waving to Columbus.

From “You’re No Axl Rose” (page 43):

You’re no Axl Rose but your sentences are
as complex as your hair, in an unintended,
wiry, I will live forever way, the way Axl
swings his hips and smokes just enough
to achieve his pristine scratchy scream.
You’re no James Dean but when you can afford
to drive a Porsche I’ll let you drive me
to the Acme to buy aspirin or milk.

Fox’s writing style leaves room for the imagination of the reader so that each new audience can take their own journey.  In other poems, there is a clear tone that shines through the lines, like in “The Temple” (page 37) where the narrator talks about her time with a poet who thought of himself as upper class, but of her as much lower.  The poet was slumming it with the narrator, but you can tell from turns of certain phrases that this view was not accurate:  “He’s my essay.//Soon enough/he ran out of money./I’m a poet, and I’d squirreled a bit of currency away./This became my motto-//’I got mine.'” (page 38)

Broken down into four sections — Out of Time, The One Who Leaves You, Accomplice, and Unrest — the narrator has set up a collection of poems that would appear to be drenched in despair and regret, but readers will be surprised by the not only whimsical poems but also the humor with which she highlights pop culture and elements of the ridiculous in intimate relationships.  Overall, The Rorschach Factory by Valerie Fox is a collection that you can read in one sitting, piecemeal, and revisit over and over, finding nuances to each poem that may not have been as prominent upon first reading.

About the Poet:

Dr. 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.

She was a founding co-editor of 6ix magazine (1990-2000), and currently edits Press 1, a journal featuring poetry, short fiction, opinion, and photography.  Very involved in collaborative writing, she and Arlene Ang have collaborated in the writing of poetry and fiction, publishing in magazines such as Admit 2, Origami Condom, Per Contra and Qarrtsiluni.  At Drexel, Dr. Fox teaches Freshman Writing, Creative Writing (poetry), and Readings in Poetry. She’s particularly interested in experimental poetics and online teaching/e-learning.

About the Indie/Small Press:

Straw Gate Books published Valerie Fox’s The Rorschach Factory and was founded in 2005 by poet and co-founding editor of 6ix magazine (1990-2000) Phyllis Wat in Philadelphia, Pa.  Here’s a snippet of their mission:

“We are particularly interested in works by women and non-polemical writing with an underlying social content. We also feature new authors and authors whose work is underserved.”

This is my 3rd book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

 

 

This is my 9th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

 

 

Here’s a confession, I’ve had this book for a couple of years, and I believe it came from the author or her good friend Arlene Ang.  I’m just now getting around to it.  This is my 5th book for the 2011 Wish I’d Read That Challenge.

84th Virtual Poetry Circle


Welcome to the 84th 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.

It’s a new year, and if you haven’t heard there is a new feature on the blog this year . . . my first ever, poetry reading challenge.  Yup, that means everyone should be signing up because all you need to do is read 1 book of poetry.

I’ve been reading The Rorschach Factory by Valerie Fox, and I thought I would share a sample of her work.

Intruder (page 41)

I didn’t eat the food in your refrigerator or turn on the spigot, or
track mud through the hallway.  I wouldn’t do that.

I went through your art books and attached paper clothes to photo-
graphs of naked ladies. Sometimes also I covered their eyes. To one I
gave mittens — she looked cold.

The cracker-box girl had a shadowy face. She looks back to the 19th
century. I put her in a boxy suit jacket with concealed buttons.

I adorned one blond bomber with a diamond necklace. No glue
smudges — I used sticky office notes. Surrealists can be such peep-
holes.

A certain double exposure blends body with hand. One droll hand
reaches out from a shell. Some round and flat breast-laid tabletops I
dressed in checkers, like in Italian restaurants.

Also I took away for myself a few unobvious items. You’ll see but it
may take you a while. I did not leave you this note.

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions.  Let’s have a great discussion…pick a line, pick an image, pick a sentence.

I’ve you missed the other Virtual Poetry Circles.  It’s never too late to join the discussion.