A Little Post-Holiday Pick-Me-Up

We are slowly catching up on sleep here at the library of Winkelman Abbey. Fortunately the poorly-socialized idiot who lives across the street didn’t blow up as much of the block as he has done in years past. Then again all of those tickets for disturbing the peace are probably beginning to add up.

A small stack of books this week, but two of the three include work created by friends, so what the pile lacks in height it more than makes up for in importance!

On the left is the latest issue of Amazing Stories. I don’t know anyone therein, but if I did I am sure we would become fast friends. In the middle is local poet Kristin Brace‘s new collection, Toward the Wild Abundance. Kristin is a superb poet and a wonderful human being who for many years worked at the Creative Youth Center here in Grand Rapids.

On the right is Mustapha Panda, from a recently-completed Kickstarter, with words by Karim Jallal and artwork by Teresa Zbiciak. I met Teresa recently, and in addition to being an extremely talented artist, she kills at karaoke. I love this book! It is a super-simple story about non-violently standing up to bullies and how to show compassion in the face of cruelty. I want to buy a copy of this book for every first grader in the state.

On that note…

Recently Michigan was recently ranked the worst state in the nation for bullying. Having lived here for most of the last fifty years, I can confirm that bullying might as well be Michigan’s official state sport. And as bad as it was for me back in grade school in the 1970s and 1980s, it is immeasurably worse for kids now, with communications technologies providing ever newer and more inventive ways for one person to torment another from the safety of distance and anonymity.

It’s no wonder the majority of voters in Michigan cast their ballots for Trump in 2016. Bullying is made up of equal parts sadism and cowardice, and Trump has both in such abundance that it leaves little room for anything else. The bootlick attitude of bully appeasers comes from the same place, psychologically, as does the compulsion to show contempt toward and victim-blame people less fortunate than ourselves. Cower upward, kick downward. That, in a nutshell, describes the entirety of the puddle of dog vomit which is the administration of our odious 45th president, his supporters, admirers, appeasers, enablers and lickspittles. As was pointed out nearly a year ago, the cruelty is the point.

And that concludes the political commentary portion of this post. At some point I will do some long-form essays on the stochastic terrorism which our emasculated president commits with his every tweet, word and action.

(Maybe I should break the non-book commentary out into separate posts.)

The Music Issue

So a few months back I was meandering around Kickstarter, as one does, and happened upon a project concerned with music. Specifically, punk music. More specifically, punk music in Russia and the history thereof, as told by members of The Scene.

So I backed the project. As one does.

A few days ago, the postperson dropped off a package which included not only What About Tomorrow, but FIVE ADDITIONAL BOOKS about punk, music, samizdat, resistance, and various aspects of the scene of which I was previously completely unaware. Suffice to say, I, with my minimal punk experience and only moderate anarchist leanings, feel like something of a poseur. If, as Martin Mull posited, writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then these books are in the pit, head-butting the speakers.

The bottom two rows in the above photo are the contents of that Kickstarter package.

In the top row, on the left is a recent issue of Split Lip Magazine, to which I submitted some poetry recently, and to their credit they rejected my submission in less than three days. That’s service! On the top right is Each Darkness Inside, the new chapbook from local author Kristin Brace, which I read over the weekend and quite liked.

I haven’t had a lot of time for personal reading this past week, other than the poetry chapbook. I am 100 pages from the end of the beta read of the historical novel, and have just started a collection of essays for which I have been asked to contribute a blurb. The collection will be published later this year, at which point I will talk ALL ABOUT IT!

Work has been busy, and to keep myself focused I have been listening to a lot of music on Pandora. Pandora recently added new listening modes to their stations, in particular the “discover” and “deep cuts” lists. While at work I mostly listen to the ’80s Alternative station and have long since heard everything thereon. I explored the “deep cuts” option which I quickly realized was more for superfans of specific bands than general listening. But the “discover” option was like starting over from the beginning where everything was new and shiny. Or at least as shiny as 80s alternative music ever gets.

One of the best bits was (re)discovering The Stranglers, who I had only ever heard of through their song “Golden Brown” which was part of the Snatch soundtrack. But on Pandora I heard “Skin Deep” and O, my brothers and sisters, it was GLORIOUS. Such a beautiful, strange songs, with echoes of Van Morrison’s “All Over Now, Baby Blue” which gets me every time.

Now I bounce back and forth between the “discover” mode of the 80’s Alternative, New Wave and Pop stations, and the standard version of the Strangler’s station, and they are largely compatible, with a wide variety of truly excellent music, much from bands I had never heard of, or only knew from moments from poorly-tuned car radios in high school and college (I was kind of square back then, and on the farm there was active social pressure to not listen to anything good). Bands like Blancmange, Love and Rockets, Ultravox, The Sparks, X, XTC, and Tubeway Army. Just to name a few.

While poking around on YouTube, chasing down more Stranglers music, I happened upon a fantastic station called Bostonian Bob’s Midnight Music. At present it has well over 150 punk, noise, alternative and, uh other genres I couldn’t begin to name. And it is BRILLIANT. With a couple of exceptions I have never heard of any of the bands therein, and have only come across a single track so far which I actively disliked. Click the above link to go to the first song in the list, “Open Wire” by Melted Mirror.

So, yeah. Not much reading, but a lot of listening. And so much good stuff out there, waiting to be discovered.

 

Kummerbücher

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks here at Winkelman Abbey, so I buried myself under a new pile of books. Between family, class, Caffeinated Press duties and work, I haven’t have any time to decompress, other than spare moments with my girlfriend at the beginning and end of the day. So my brain has unravelled a bit and lost some data.

If you are looking at this post through an Esper you will see that there are two copies of the Jim Harrison book. I was so distracted by events I ordered a copy from the publisher, then went out and bought a copy at Books and Mortar. When the publisher copy showed up in the mail I was both confused and elated, because multiple copies of a collection of Jim Harrison’s poems is inarguable a Good Thing.

(Plus, to crib a joke from My Blue Heaven, I might want to read it more than once.)

Starting from the left side, going clockwise around the circle, first is Outside the Gates of Eden by Lewis Shiner. I have always been fascinated by events which seem to be the nexus or apotheosis (or both) of cultural movements, and Woodstock is one of the most important of the post-WWII era. This will be a good autumn read, I think.

(I like my beer like I like my books – too thick to see through.)

Next is the most recent issue of Rain Taxi, which I hesitate to read until I get a couple more paychecks, as the reviews therein are just that good.

Third, at the twelve o’clock position, is Nineteen Letters by West Michigan poet Kathleen McGookey. This book is gorgeous! Hardbound and composed of a variety of types if paper, seemingly random. And the poetry therein is, of course beautiful.

Next is volume 3 of the Breakbeat Poets series, Halal If You Can Hear Me, full of poetry written by Muslim women and queer, non-binary, and trans writers. If it it anything like the previous two volumes in the anthology series, this will be a helluva read.

On the far right is the newest issue of The Paris Review. Next to it, in the four o’clock position is The Fall, the sequel to Tracy Townsend’s The Nine, which was a wild ride. Probably dig into it later this summer, and will CERTAINLY bring it to ConFusion 2020 for a signature.

At the bottom right is my current day read, Jim Harrison’s The Essential Poems, newly released by Copper Canyon Press. I have probably read every one of these poems at some point over the past quarter century, but they are good to revisit.

At the bottom left is an impulse purchase, the chapbook Dragonskin from the superb Michael Swanwick.

On middle-left is Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse, which is the sequel to Trail of Lightning.

In the middle are two new books from Apex Publications – the kickstarter-funded anthology Do Not Go Quietly, and Maurice Broaddus‘s new book Pimp My Airship.

Yeah, that’s a good haul. Just reciting them makes me feel a little more…stable.

In reading news, life has been chaotic and I haven’t read much other than a few dozen more pages in my role as a beta reader. I did finish Here: Poems for the Planet, and I offer my whole-hearted recommendation that everyone in the world buy a copy and read it cover to cover, twice. I originally planned to open some nonfiction next, but with the Harrison book it will be poetry for at least a couple more weeks.

(The title of this post is a play on the German word Kummerspeck – “sorrow bacon” – the weight gained through stress-induced overeating. Hopefully stress-induced book buying is less damaging, other than financially.)

Rainy Days are Good Days for Reading

An interesting mix of reading material arrived here last week, fueled in part by a friend purging her collection and sending some books my way.

On the top left is the latest title from Two Lines Press, The Skin Is the Elastic Covering That Encases the Entire Body, by Bjørn Rasmussen. Next is the latest issue of Poetry Magazine. The last two in the first row are from Rudy Rucker’s most recent Kickstarter.

The three in the second row are the books from the friend who studied English and literature and the interpretations thereof, many years ago. She actually sent a large stack my way, but these three were the only ones which seemed like I would be able to make sense of them without a Master’s Degree.

In reading news, I finished The Nine by Tracy Townsend. It was fantastic! I’m looking forward eagerly to reading the sequel. I am not going to pick up another long novel until I finish the initial read-through of a draft of a book one of my oldest and dearest friends sent me a few weeks back. Once that is done, I will dive back into long-form fiction.

But I am still reading poetry. I just started Here: Poems for the Planet, edited by Elizabeth J. Coleman and published by Copper Canyon Press. The work contained herein is, quite simply, extraordinary. I usually write about nature and the environment in my own poetry so I find myself continually inspired by this collection. And I’m writing more too. Maybe one of these decades I’ll even get published!

The Books of May

Some interesting additions to the library this week. I took advantage of the Mayday sale at OR Books and picked up some titles to help give me some perspective and energy in this, the most stupid and sadistic timeline.

The top row is all OR Books books. on the left is Beautiful Trouble, a primer for “carnivalesque realpolitik” which seems like a more and more necessary aesthetic as fascism reasserts itself in the Western world.

Next to it is Dream or Nightmare, an exploration of taking the struggle against ascendant fascism to the realm of stories and myths. This makes sense, as there are no rational versions of pro-fascist/alt-right/neo-feudalist thought or actions, so applying reason in the fight against right-wing theocracies simply doesn’t work. Fight stories with stories.

On the right is Welcome to the Greenhouse, a collection of stories exploring various facets of climate change. Also necessary, and not shelved in “current events.”

In the second row, on the left, is Here: Poems for the Planet, a new poetry collection from Copper Canyon Press. Timely, all things considered, and a good companion to Welcome to the Greenhouse.

In the middle is the latest issue of Poetry, which actually arrived a couple of weeks ago. I simply forgot to add it to that post.

On the right is the newest issue of Pulphouse Magazine which I hope to dive into this weekend.

On the reading side of things, what with upgrades to my relationship, as well as some upcoming family stuff, I have not had a lot of reading time. Still working my way through The Nine by Tracy Townsend, and so far it is excellent, interesting, and occasionally very weird. I am still also working through Jessica Comola’s poetry collection. With a little luck I will complete both this weekend. Then on to, uh, something new. Selah!

On a side note, last night I watched the season finale of Game of Thrones, and I overall enjoyed it, though it did have some flaws and the last two seasons felt quite rushed. Scientific American has a long write-up about GoT and storytelling which puts a lot of my feelings in context. Definitely worth reading.

Appropriate Cover Art

Books acquired week of April 20, 2019

Spring is in full bloom here in Grand Rapids, which means we need to pull plants indoors overnight on account of random catastrophic snowstorms. Fortunately I have enough books in my house to keep us insulated in the event of an April snowpocalypse.

The May 2019 issue of Poetry is the only reading material to find its way to my house this past week. Fitting, I suppose, for the last full week of National Poetry Month.

In reading news, I have been burning through poetry collections as fast as I can turn the pages. In the past week I completed Wyn Cooper’s Postcards from the Interior and CJ Evans’ A Penance. I am now about halfway through the superb Gestures by Artis Ostups, published by Ugly Duckling Presse. I should have it completed before the end of the month, just two days away.

Three days ago I finished Laurus, and am still processing my emotions. I can’t describe the book without running out of superlatives. It is magnificent. I would put it on a shelf with Eco’s Name of the Rose, Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, any of the fiction of Borges, and probably (and of course) Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. Vodolazkin’s particular use of the holy fool (юродивый) characters blurs the edges of reality and moves Laurus well into the real of magic realism. I will certainly be reading this one again in the years to come.

With Laurus done, I have just begin D. Thourson Palmer‘s Ours is the Storm, which I picked up at ConFusion this past January. Though I am only about twenty pages in I am already hooked. It’s a good one so far.

Over at The Ringer, Brian Phillips has written a wonderful remembrance of Gene Wolfe.

Books From Near and Far and In Between

It was another quiet week here in the library at Winkelman Abbey, which is good, considering that, as far as I can tell, I own about a thousand more books than I have actually read. Per Umberto Eco’s antilibrary, I don’t actually consider this to be a problem.

On the left is the newest book published by our very own Caffeinated Press: Trust, the first book in Jean Davis‘s new trilogy The Narvan. Davis is one of the brightest literary lights here in West Michigan. She is a consummate professional, a dedicated booster and supporter of the West Michigan writing scene, and a superb writer.

In the middle is Elemental, a collection of nonfiction writing by Michigan writers, published as part of the Made in Michigan Writers Series of Wayne State University Press. This was an impulse buy of sorts; I noticed it on the WSU Press website when I pre-ordered Jack Ridl’s Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, and added it to my order on a whim. It’s on the top of my stack of to-read books, starting in May.

On the right is Bright by Duanwad Pimwana, the most recent delivery from my subscription to Two Lines Press. I’m looking forward to this one in particular because, as near as I can tell, this is the first book in my collection from a Thai author.

In reading news, I continue to burn through my collection of poetry. Since my last post I have read When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering by Ruth Ellen Kocher, and The Somnambulist by Lara Mimosa Montes. I admit I had a hard time getting into the Kocher poems, and finally gave up about halfway through the book. This is not a slight on the quality of the poetry; the type of poetry she writes was simply not where my head was when I was trying to read it.

The Somnambulist, on the other hand, was great! It can be read either as a long poem broken into fever-dream fragments, or a many short poems assembled into a barbed narrative. Had I the time I could easily have read it in one session.

I would also like to give a shout out here to the publisher of The Somnambulist, Horse Less Press, a Grand Rapids outfit which is currently on indefinite hiatus from publishing. They turn out some top-notch work — full length poetry collections and hand-stitched chapbooks. Being part of a publishing house myself I understand the need for breaks from the work routine, and hope they find the mental and emotional energy to resume work. The world needs what they have to offer.

In the evenings as I drift off to sleep I am still working my way through Laurus, and it continues to be a remarkable book. I suspect I will revisit this one again and again in the years to come.

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.