Poe Approves of Poetry and Translation

Poe is recovering nicely from her spaying and wants you to read the latest issue of Poetry, as well as That We May Live, a collection of Chinese speculative fiction in translation from Two Lines Press.

The big news from this past week is that I was notified that two of my poems have been accepted for publication! I will announce the venue when the publication date approaches. I can say that the journal which selected them is of the highest caliber. This will be my first unsolicited acceptance since the 1999 issue of Voices.

Reading and writing have both been mostly on hiatus for the last week, due to family duties, taking care of a recovering cat, and general exhaustion from extreme lack of sleep. I have managed to read a few stories from Varlam Shalamov‘s collection Kolyma Stories. This has done nothing for my peace of mind, as they are set in the gulag where he spent more than a decade of his life.

I have begun the process of turning my NaNoWriMo 2019 project — lightly-fictionalized writing about my terrible neighbor — into a series of short stories, and should hopefully have at least one of them whipped into shape before my birthday at the beginning of June. Would be nice to have at least one more publication under my belt by the end of the year.

Non-ConFusion Books is a Relatively Small Stack

While digging out from under the post-ConFusion pile of books I set aside two new additions to the Library of Winkelman Abbey. On the left is the latest edition of Poetry magazine, and on the right is The Best of Uncanny from Subterranean Press. This is a Big Gorgeous Book and I will likely be reading the stories therein for several weeks.

Speaking of reading, I am working through the stories in the various Long List Anthologies of runners-up in the Short Fiction category from the Hugo Awards. Five of these anthologies have been published so far, and I hope the series continues as long as the Hugos are awarded.

Writing has mostly involved a few short poems and a lot of editing of the large stack of short stories. I have about half a dozen submissions out there and I have already received three rejection letters in 2020, so I am off to a rocking start!

Paws for Poetry

First, the most important news of the year. As of Christmas day, 2019, we have a cat! Internet, meet Poe, our Yooper ginger kitten. As near as we can tell he is about five months old. We adopted him from my girlfriend’s sister’s farm in Rudyard. Or rather, he adopted us. All of the cats were approachable, but Poe was the only one who stuck around to socialize after being fed.

Zyra named him after Edgar Allan Poe. Addressing someone as “po” is also a sign of respect in Tagalog and other Filipino dialects. And before anyone asks, no the cat was not named after Poe Dameron from the latest Star Wars trilogy.

(When I announced the kitten acquisition on Facebook the fine folks there suggested names like “Gravy”, “Pasty”, and “Poutine”. Poutine would in fact be a good name for a cat.)

Unless something exciting happens in the next two days, the January 2020 issue of Poetry will likely be the last acquisition to the Library at Winkelman Abbey for 2019. And that is fine. I have more than enough to read over the next few months, and since I want to hit the ground running on January 2 with lots of writing, editing and submitting, I won’t have as much time to read and catalog. I think of all my various subscriptions I will only be keeping three going into the new year: Poetry, Paris Review and And Other Stories. I might renew the subscription to Restless Books, but I need to draw the line somewhere.

In reading news, I haven’t done much in the past week. Still working through Gore Capitalism and occasionally edging carefully past my copy of A Thousand Plateaus on the way to and from the kitchen, lest I startle it into attacking me.

I doubt I will start reading any new books before the new year; too many and-of-year projects to complete, too much food to eat, and wow, do kittens require a lot of attention.

Happy New Year, everyone!

(PS: You cant have Poetry without Poe! Poetry without Poe is just “try”.)

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.