Monday, September 7, 2015

Great News!

I'm very pleased to announce that my second full-length collection of poems, Walking in Chicago with a Suitcase in My Hand, will be released by Knut House Press in January 2016.

This book was a finalist in six different poetry book competitions, including the 2015 Knut House Press contest. I'm extremely happy that it's "finalistly" coming out in print!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fistful of Comments about Books I've Read This Year 3

Van Gogh went hungry and what shoe salesman
Does not envy him now?

--George Oppen, "The Bicycles and the Apex"

The Satires, Juvenal, trans. Rolfe Humphries.  Juvenal is often portrayed as the proverbial old man shaking his fist at the clouds.  Reading him, like watching Fox News, is funny if you know how utterly nutsoid it is to rail against, say, budding democracy.  Yet some suggest that Juvenal didn't actually hate the changes underway in Rome, but was instead satirizing those who did.  If true, that makes reading him more like watching The Colbert Report (R.I.P.) than Fox News.  I like the Humphries translation, even though I'm cautioned that he often plays fast & loose with the original text.  I guess I like fast & loose.

A Good Man Is Hard to Find & Other Stories, Flannery O'Connor.  It's hard to think of a short story writer more gifted that O'Connor.  She has a flair for language & metaphor that is almost poetic at times. She creates characters that hover somewhere between realism & caricature, which is a difficult balance to carry off, yet she does it time & again in such stories as "Good Country People," "The Displaced Person" & the title story.  (If you've never heard O'Connor read, it's well worth your effort to click here.)  Yet I can't help but wish whenever I read her that she hadn't felt the need to utter [epithet deleted] as frequently.  If it speaks poorly of the people portrayed in her work, I'm not sure what to conclude about the character of the author herself who uses [epithet deleted] so often that she deems it acceptable to title a story "The Artificial [epithet deleted]."   I'm not saying, I'm just saying.  

Death in Venice, Thomas Mann.  In a sort of a NAMBLA version of Lolita--though, given the setting, perhaps EMBLA would be more accurate--a famous old artist lusts in his heart--not Jimmy Carter--after an adolescent Polish boy one summer in Venice,  spending his days watching "his lover" in swimsuit play with less attractive,less gifted, less knowing friends on the beach & in the evenings. exchanging furtive, loving, longing glances across the hotel's restaurant over, say, a  bowl of minestrone.  Or perhaps stracciatella or zuppa toscana. It isn't specified.  Most of the novella is about the celebrated old perv's unapologetic feelings about the young boy, although quite a bit of apologetic moralizing appears in the last few pages just before you thankfully slap the cover closed on this odd little number. (Spoiler alert:  If you're good at reading titles, you'll probably figure out how the story ends early on.)  Ah, I remember when I carried the torch for a cute little sixth grade minx who really knew how to fill a Brownie uniform.  Grr.  I accept this part of my life as part of what makes me human & forgive myself because--& this is key--I was 11 years old at the time.

Benito Cereno, Herman Melville.  Mr. Moby Dick's novella reads like a comedy of manners, minus the comedy, until the next to last chapter in which the actual story is retold via a deposition, which is--if I may provide a tip to writers everywhere--not a good strategy for narrative, for it violates a basic rule of writing:  show, don't tell.  I'd suggest that someone, since Melville can't do so posthumously, rewrite this story to tell it from beginning to end in an ABC manner.  Melville makes some mention of his reason for not writing the story chronologically, but it sounds more like an excuse to me, which, as a seasoned educator, I've learned to disregard.

Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon, Pablo Neruda, trans. Stephen Mitchell.  I've read this countless times, but who's counting?  The point is, I like Mitchell's translation very much.

Blasts Cries Laughter, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  While I agree with many of the sentiments put forth in these poems, they don't represent the best of Ferlinghetti's poetry.  In fact, they seem to resemble poems less than they do outbursts, as is, I suppose, suggested by the title.  I would recommend readers new to Ferlinghetti read Pictures of the Gone WorldLandscapes of Living & Dying, A Coney Island of the Mind or maybe Endless Life instead.

New Collected Poems, George Oppen.  It's disheartening--or perhaps encouraging, depending upon your perspective--to consider the number of critically acclaimed poets who over time have become largely forgotten.  An Objectivist in the cool Louis Zukofsky-William Carlos Williams sort of way, not the creepy Ayn Rand way, Oppen, whose collection Of Being Numerous received the Pulitzer Prize in 1968, is one of the those poets.  This collection includes each of Oppen's earlier books as well as poems, both published & unpublished, that hadn't previously appeared in any book.  Also, there's a CD of Oppen reading, which you can't get on the internet apparently or I'd post a link, but if you want to read a poem aloud yourself, then by all means, click this & have at it.

Read more:

Fistful of Comments about Books I've Read This Year 2
Fistful of Comments about Books I've Read This Year