A Break in the Drought

Oh it’s been a crazy busy couple of weeks, but to make up for the stress of work, work, and, uh work, we received a refreshingly large pile of reading material here at the library of Winkelman Abbey.

Top left is the latest issue of Dreamforge. Next to it is the latest issue of Rain Taxi, which means I will probably soon be ordering a few more books, based on the reviews in Rain Taxi. Third is The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain, which I picked up from Amazon on a whim. Last in the top row is the latest Tensorate series book from Jy Yang, The Ascent to Godhood.

Bottom row left is She Had Some Horses by newly-installed Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo. I am somewhat embarrassed to say this is the first of her poetry I have read. Next is the Ted Chiang’s newest collection Exhalation. Second from right is How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This one has been on my radar for some time, and in anticipation of its arrival I have watched several of Kendi’s lectures and interviews on YouTube. Dude has some seriously powerful things to say about institutional racism.

Rightmost in the bottom row is the newest book from my Patreon subscription to Apex Books, Ration by Cody T. Luff.

I haven’t had much time to read this past week, what with work hours and the run-up to the release of the next issue of The 3288 Review. I am about 30 pages from the end of Jin Yong’s A Hero Born, and about a dozen poems from finishing Lynn Breedlove’s  45 Thought Crimes. After that, the next thing on my reading list is sleep.

It’s the Little Things In Life

Not much to add to the stack at the Library of Winkelman Abbey this week. The latest issues of The Paris Review and Two Lines arrived a few days ago, but life has been so busy I have not even had time to look through their tables of contents.

For reading, I finished The Hammer by Brazilian poet Adelaide Ivánova. It was quite an experience. The poems deal with rape and assault and infidelity and rage; what Tom Waits would call “beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” Highly recommended.

Right now I’m reading A Hero Born by Jin Yong. I won it a couple of months ago from a sweepstakes held at Tor.com. I have practiced martial arts for thirty years and seen scores of martial arts movies, but until now I have never read a wuxia novel. It’s great! Good characters, an interesting plot, and loads of great fight scenes.

I am also browsing through Andrés Neuman‘s book How to Travel Without Seeingwhich I received in September 2016 as part of my subscription to Restless Books. This is a travel book of sorts. Neuman wrote it as a collection of sentence- to paragraph-sized vignettes describing scenes and moments in his travels throughout Central and South America.

I have read other books written like this – Trysting by Emmanualle Pagano (excerpt). Notes From a Bottle Found On the Beach at Carmel and Points for a Compass Rose by Evan S. Connell. I love this technique – collections of notes, distinct in themselves, which when assembled create a compelling narrative. And the writing is beautiful; each vignette could be a short poem; each chapter a lyric essay.

Now that Autumn approaches my reading time will be in short supply, with the deadline for the next issue of The 3288 Review arriving in October, and National Novel Writing Month in November.

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate already.

Entering the Home Stretch of Summer

Yes, Summer doesn’t technically end until September 20, but this is the last week of August, so it’s the last week of Summer.

Not a lot happened this week, library-wise. I received the newest issues of Jacobin and Poetry (two great tastes which taste great together), but no new books.

In reading news, I finished A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, whose stories are wonderful and weird and strangely satisfying. Châteaureynaud has an interesting writing voice which feels like it came out of the late 1900s, even in his stories set in contemporary times. I am not entirely sure how much of this is Châteaureynaud’s own aesthetic and how much of it is a quirk of the translation process. I expect it would read much the same in French. Recommended for anyone looking for an unusual collection of short stories which skirt the edge of genre; like, say, Ivan Turgenev writing episodes of The Twilight Zone.

I am about half an hour from the end of Daâood’s The Language of Saxophones, and will likely finish it tonight. And I just started Snow over Utopia by Rudolfo A. Sirna, which arrived here a couple of weeks ago from Apex Publications. Only a few pages in, but I like it so far.

Namaste, yo.

Vita Brevis, Ars Longa

I can only guess that the current lull in books appearing on my doorstep is due to the end-of-summer doldrums currently afflicting (and affecting) the entire Midwest. The air has a noticeable weight to it which makes simple tasks like breathing and moving difficult. The only book to so far wing its way to my house is the one pictured, Snow over Utopia by Rudolfo A. Sirna, published by Apex Book Company. When Apex cancelled their superb magazine I tweaked the amount I contribute to their Patreon, and now I have a de facto subscription to the Apex Book Company catalog. Win!

No update last week as I was too busy with the ten thousand tasks which encumber the life of a homeowner and diligent boyfriend in these perilous times. I did manage to write a few poems, two free verse and two villanelles, which were both fun and useful for providing constraints which freed up the creative process.

In reading news I am working my way through two books – A Life On Paper, a collection of the stories by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, published by the always-excellent Small Beer Press; and The Language of Saxophones, a collection of the poetry of Kamau Daáood, which I picked up from City Lights Books during last month’s vacation to San Francisco. Both are brilliant, but my reading time has been been nearly non-existent this month so I probably won’t finish either until Labor Day weekend.

 

Back From San Francisco

Z and I returned home from our second annual trip to San Francisco early Sunday morning. Like, really early. 2:00 am, which was 23:00 San Francisco time. And since we had been staying up late there, our internal clocks were completely out of whack.

Of course we visited City Lights on one of our peregrinations around the city. How could we not? I was much better with my buying urges this time, as I didn’t want to be hit with the outrageous “heavy checked bag” penalty at the airport. I made it by one pound, too!

So. At top left is Rad Women A-Z, which I picked up because Grand Rapids recently commissioned 27 artists to paint 27 electric boxes around downtown. Many of these are in my neighborhood or on my route to work, and they are wonderful! I absolutely love public art projects like this, and I hope the city continues to commission work like this.

Top center is We the Resistance, a collection of essays and stories about nonviolent resistance, which is much needed, as, since the entrenched (e.g. Caucasian, male, conservative, christian, capitalist, etc) power structures default to violence in their enforcement of the status quo, it is easy to want to meet force with force, and that is by definition a limited and self-limiting toolset.

Top right is The Hammer by Adelade Ivanova, one of three books of poetry I picked up more or less at random, from the “recommended by the staff” shelves. The other two are Kamau Daaood’s The Language of Saxophones at bottom left and Lynn Breedlove’s Forty-Five Thought Crimes at bottom right. I have only started Daaood’s book, and it is superb! I have always loved jazz poetry, and my first forays in to the form were fun to read and write but, well, not good. These are extraordinary.

Bottom center is another impulse buy, this one based on the title alone: The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism. This is some heady reading. I was not at all surprised, given the title, that I opened to a random page and found a quote from Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. It just seemed like that kind of book. And it is the third in a series, which means, once I finish it and scraped my brain off the ceiling, I will need to go back and read the previous two.

This visit reinforced my opinion that City Lights is the most finely curated bookstore I have ever visited, and bookstores nationwide could take cues from their selection and public engagement.

San Francisco was not all books, but the food and art will need to wait for additional blog posts.

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.