Warm Days are Good Days for Reading

A little while ago, and for the first time this year, I sat out on my porch and wrote in my journal. The warm weather isn’t expected to last, but I will take every minute I can get.

The first week of April was another fairly quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey. I picked up four new books, three of which are new purchases.

On the left is issue 2 of Michael J. DeLuca‘s fine journal Reckoning, which publishes “creative writing on environmental justice.” I picked up issue 1 at ConFusion back in January, where I also met and shared beers with Mr. DeLuca (as well as several other excellent folks from the genre writing community).

Next is the second volume of the Breakbeat Poets anthology, Black Girl Magic. I picked up volume 1 when my significant other and I visited City Lights Books in June of 2018. I love these anthologies! They are full of powerful, important work which I would almost certainly have never encountered otherwise.

Third up is the revised edition of Conversations with Jim Harrison, a collection of interviews with the late poet and author. I picked up the first edition seven or eight years ago, and read it ferociously, writing down every book, poet, writer and recipe Mr. Harrison mentioned through several dozen interviews. This edition includes additional material up to Harrison’s death in late March of 2016.

Last up is I Am the Abyss, a collection of dark fiction novellas from a Kickstarter campaign I contributed to about three years ago. Things (as they often do) Happened, and production was delayed and further delayed. But the book has finally been released, and it is a thing of beauty! Nine novellas, each with its own custom artwork, all in a very well-produced, high-quality paperback.

In reading news, I finished The Monster Baru Cormorant at around 10:30 in the evening on March 31, thus opening the way for the stack of poetry books I am working my way through during National Poetry Month. So far I have completed the fiftieth anniversary edition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind; Jack Ridl’s latest collection Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, and sam sax’s remarkable book madness. I am currently partway through When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering by Ruth Ellen Kocher.

Speaking of Jack Ridl, this past Friday I attended the Saint Peter and the Goldfinch book release party in Douglas, Michigan. It was a small quiet affair – Mr. Ridl and his family and over 200 of his closest friends filled the Douglas UCC Church to overflowing for a three hour event full of music and poetry and good fellowship. Jack was accompanied on stage by the superb John Shea Trio, who occasionally joined him for, as he put it, “poetry with jazz, rather than jazz poetry.”

Best of all? Jack signed my book.

During National Poetry Month I am tweeting brief snippets of poems from each of the poets we have published in the pages of The 3288 Review. I was going to do one a day but, well, we have published far too many poets for that to work, so each day I am tweeting out, oh, several, give or take.

It feels good to go back through the several years of publication and see the work which has inspired me to participate in the West Michigan literary community. It really feels like…home.

Cold Days Are Good Days For Reading

Books for the week of March 24, 2019

It’s been a quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey, in the literary sense. My subscriptions came through, of course, but no new purchases or Kickstarter releases. On the left is the latest issue of Poetry Magazine. Next to it is the new Amazing Stories, which is actually a Kickstarter originated subscription. Third in line is the most recent New Ohio Review, which I subscribed to when I submitted a few poems to NOR. I haven’t heard back yet, but it is a very well put together journal so it is already a positive experience. The last is The Polyglot Lovers, the latest from my subscription to And Other Stories. According to LibraryThing I have 19 books from And Other Stories, of which I have read several, though not all. One of these days…

In reading news, I am less than fifty pages from the end of The Monster Baru Cormorant. I still plan to finish by the end of the month, which gives me (checks clock) slightly less than seven hours.

In the spare bits of time I have read two books of poetry, Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver, and Ha Ha Ha Thump by West Michigan poet Amorak Huey. I also read a few more pages of Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin, which is still extraordinary.

National Poetry Month starts tomorrow and, Laurus notwithstanding, I plan to read only books of poetry for the month, with the occasional dip into the contents of journals. There’s just so much good poetry out there, and I have a lot of catching up to do.

Links and Notes for the Week of March 24, 2019

Over the past couple of weeks I have resurrected an old Flash experiment from back around, oh, 2007: The Lindenmayer Explorer. The image at the top of this post was created in the Explorer. Head over and check it out! If you create anything interesting, post it online and add a link in the comments here. Basic instructions are on the page. More detailed instructions and notes to follow.

The First Book Post of Spring

The first (partial) week of spring brought with it only two books, but really, no book is *only* a book.

On the left is Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, the new collection from West Michigan’s own Jack Ridl. I will be attending the book launch party in a couple of weeks and am sincerely looking forward to seeing Jack again, as well as the other members of the West Michigan literary community.

On the right is The Boy by Marcus Malte, the latest delivery from my subscription to Restless Books. According to LibraryThing, I now own 34 Restless Books titles. One day I may even read all of them.

Today is the 100th (!) birthday of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. That he is still alive is extraordinary. That he is still writing is astonishing! His latest book, Little Boy, was released just a few of days ago. I have not yet picked it up. In reviewing my collection I see that I am unfortunately light in the Ferlinghetti department. I have the fiftieth anniversary edition of A Coney Island of the Mind, and his book of travel journals, Writing Across the Landscape. I should probably pick up a couple more in the near future.

Ferlinghetti was never a tremendous influence on my, directly. Indirectly, of course, with the creation of City Lights Publishing, as well as his involvement with the beat poetry scene, and the broader scene in general, it was impossible to NOT be influenced by him in some way or another.

Not long after I started working at Schuler Books & Music (which at the time was simply called Schuler Books), a bunch of us writerly employees got together to watch Poetry in Motion. I had had very little experience with poetry (other than a brief overview of The Canon in college) at the time, being much more interested in high fantasy and hard science fiction, so this film blew my mind wide open. I think we watched it not long after Charles Bukowski died. Definitely before Ginsberg died. I was grabbing coffee in Socrates Cafe here in Grand Rapids when I heard of Ginsberg’s passing. I was only passing familiar with Ginsberg’s work at the time, but it still had an impact.

In reading news, I am approaching the end of The Monster Baru Cormorant. I expected to be finished by now, but I have been distracted by poetry collections from W.S. Merwin, the aforementioned Jack Ridl, and Mary Oliver. Also on a whim I pulled down Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin, and immediately fell in love. I still plan to finish The Monster Baru Cormorant by the end of the month, but now my plan of only reading poetry for the upcoming National Poetry Month is in jeopardy. Laurus is just that good.

Finally, here is Ferlinghetti’s poem “I Am Waiting,” from A Coney Island of the Mind.

Time Keeps On Slipping

Another quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey, as we approach the end of winter. On the left is Surreal Expulsion, the newest collection from excellent West Michigan poet D.R. James, who has been published in two issues of The 3288 Review. On the right is the new issue of Rain Taxi, about which I cannot say enough good things. I have to keep my wits about me when reading Rain Taxi or I might accidentally purchase every book they review in every issue.

Just above the poetry book is the stone I use to massage by head when struck with a tension (or other) headache. Seriously. It feels good to work the locked-up tendons and muscles on the side of my head with a smooth, cool piece of rock. And of course it also feels good when I stop.

In reading news I finished A People’s Future of the United States and can whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone and everyone who has an interest in superb speculative fiction. It is a masterful collection. I am now about halfway through The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. This is the sequel to The Traitor Baru Cormorant, which I read a couple of year ago. Monster is every bit as good as Traitor, and I recommend both to anyone who likes dense, intricately plotted fantasy history novels. These books would fit comfortably on the shelf next to Umberto Eco‘s The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, and K.J. Bishop‘s The Etched City.

I am also browsing through The Essential W.S. Merwin, in order to re-familiarize myself with the work of the former poet laureate who passed away a couple of days ago. With Mary Oliver‘s death back in January, this makes two towering figures of arts and letters who have left us behind this winter. I have a sinking feeling that 2019 will be for poets what 2016 was for musicians. I hope I am wrong.

Here are some Merwin links:

Links and Notes for the Week of March 3, 2019

A Big Book in a Small Stack

It was a quiet week for the acquisitions department here at Winkelman Abbey. But what it lacked in the X axis it more than made up for in the Y. From left, we have A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, followed by the most recent issues of Jacobin, Willow Springs, and Poetry Magazine. On the right is To Leave with the Reindeer by Olivia Rosenthal, the latest from my subscription to the catalog of And Other Stories.

All of which is to say, one deliberate purchase this week.

I feel like I have been orbiting Deleuze and Guattari for a very long time. Back in my Angry Young Man days in the late 1990s I amassed a collection of titles published by Autonomedia and Semiotext(e), publishers of very wild and far-out titles from a wide variety of unconventional, leftist and radical writers and thinkers. One of those books (unfortunately lost in a long-ago purge) was Nomadology: War Machine, from the chapter of the same title in the then-unknown-to-me A Thousand Plateaus. I understood very little of it at the time, but it haunted me. These were words from thinkers operating on a plane of existence so far above my own that they might as well have been performing magic.

Over the years I forgot their names but the sense of the conversations stuck with me. It felt like peeling back a layer of reality and seeing some of the inner workings of the universe.

This past summer my girlfriend and I traveled to San Francisco where we made a pilgrimage to City Lights Bookstore, which had been a goal of mine for some decades. Wow, what a store – probably the best-curated bookstore I have ever seen. The Philosophy section held scores of titles and thinkers which were new to me, or which I had only ever seen as references in other places. And of course. A Thousand Plateaus was one of them. That brought Deleuze and Guattari back into my awareness.

Shortly thereafter I borrowed Plateaus from the Grand Rapids Public Library, attempted to make sense of it, and made almost zero headway. Then I did so again, a month later. Then I resigned myself to the fact that I will be forever haunted by D and G if I did not add this book to my personal library, and so here it is.

In the reading side of things, I finished The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark this past Thursday, and absolutely loved it. Probably my favorite read of the year so far. Clark’s use of language and patois in world-building is wonderful and, though this is not precisely the New Orleans so near and dear to my heart, it is close enough to make me feel some serious longing and wanderlust.

Currently I am a little over halfway through Scarborough, by Catherine Hernandez. I picked this one up several months ago and attempted to read it while on a business trip to Las Vegas. Reading that book in that city made me want to burn everything to the ground. So I set it aside. Now that I am not in the worst city in the world I am able to read and enjoy this beautiful, heartbreaking book.

Links and Notes for the Week of February 3, 2019

Hot Books for Cold Days

Only a few additions this week, but what they lack in quantity they more than make up in quality. First is The Hole by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, a graphic novel delivered from Rosarium Publishing, which arrived as part of the Sunspot Jungle Kickstarter reward. Next to it is Lord by João Gilberto Noll, the latest from my subscription to the catalog of Two Lines Press (part of the Center for the Art of Translation). In the bottom row we have A People’s Future of the United States and Marlon JamesBlack Leopard, Red Wolf, followed by the Winter 2018 edition of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine.

In reading news, I am about a hundred pages from the end of The Blood-Tainted Winter. I would be done, but I keep getting distracted by, well, book like A People’s Future of the United States. There are just so many good books out there, and so little time for reading.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 27, 2019