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.

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.