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Friday, April 29, 2016

Maze of Blood - reader voting

Two of the unluckiest things that have happened in my life happened on a May 20th, so I'm hesitant to mention this, as it closes on that date. I tend to dive through that date on the calendar in hopes that nothing bad happens.

But if you are a fan of Maze of Blood, you have the chance to vote on the book for a new readers' award. The book is currently a finalist for the Foreword indie awards in the literary fiction category--as were Glimmerglass and A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, the latter of which won the Silver prize for fiction. Here is the page for my book.

Evidently voting is done by leaving a comment plus hashtag #INDIEFABFAVE; if you're a Facebook member and check the box, it'll also post a notice to Facebook. If not a Facebook member, I think that you have to create a Foreword Reviews account, an easy thing to make, in order to vote. Foreword says, "The book with the most reader endorsements will be named the INDIEFAB Reader’s Choice Winner." And that's the story. Thanks to any kind souls who fly that way and vote.
And it's a two-post day; see below....

X, with squirrels

Yeats, Poems, 1899
Design by Althea Gyles
A memory of a famous author just floated by. I'll call him "X." He had come to visit a poetry workshop of grad students and undergrads. I was there, and curious; I knew that X was sometimes mentioned as headed for a Nobel.

The first thing he did was to shred a poem by a freshman into something else entirely: burning fire slaw, perhaps, or poisonous confetti. She was a pleasant young woman, and she had written a poem about a squirrel. The subject met disapproval. No doubt the poem needed shredding, and perhaps there are instances when a fine, fierce shredding can be salutary. I fear this one was not. It seemed a rather loveless incident. I couldn't help imagining or discerning (which?) that there was a desire to obliterate the young woman--a girl still, she seems, a child in memory. I can dimly conjure her face, and some of the grad students smirking and exchanging glances in what must have been satisfaction. I doubt that such pleasure is good for human beings of either sex. Their poems were, in fact, better--they were young men who, after all, were four to ten years older than she was--and received a modicum of praise.

What surprises me in the memory is my attitude. I was a sophomore and didn't have a poem in the batch being considered that night. While sympathetic to the plight of the unfortunate, upset freshman, I remember wishing hard that a poem of mine had been up for consideration. It seemed to me that I would not be easily torn to pieces. And if ripped and my limbs scattered, I would be quite able to put myself back together. Or so I believed.

I feel a little strange, recalling the young person who was me, so secretly confident and determined. Perhaps one needs to be so inwardly bold in order to pursue the craft of words in our time. But I can't remember if I thought of "To a Squirrel at Kyle-na-gno" from The Wild Swans at Coole, and how a squirrel runs "through the shaking tree." Did I recall "An Appointment," which finds Yeats turning from the being "out of heart" with government to the leapings and delight of a squirrel (Responsibilities and Other Poems.) Did I volunteer that Yeats, whose poems I loved, had not been too grand and proud to write a poem about a squirrel, and not only once?

I hope so.

Kyle-na-gno is one of the seven woods of Coole... Yeats names them in the dedication to Lady Gregory in The Shadowy Waters:
Shan-walla, where a willow-bordered pond
Gathers the wild duck from the winter dawn;
Shady Kyle-dortha; sunnier Kyle-na-gno,
Where many hundred squirrels are as happy
As though they had been hidden by green boughs,
Where old age cannot find them; Pairc-na-lea,
Where hazel and ash and privet blind the paths;
Dim Pairc-na-carraig, where the wild bees fling
Their sudden fragrances on the green air;
Dim Pairc-na-tarav, where enchanted eyes
Have seen immortal, mild, proud shadows walk;
Dim Inchy wood, that hides badger and fox
And marten-cat, and borders that old wood
Wise Biddy Early called the wicked wood:
Seven odours, seven murmurs, seven woods.
We move from shade to sun, from Kyle-dortha to Kyle-na-gno. There's a poet watching, but no chance of a workshop. Kyle-na-gno means "the nut wood" or "the hazel wood." No wonder so many squirrels are happy there in a flourishing green, hid from death and change. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dreaming back

Making Manuscripts from the Getty Museum.
Well worth watching...

I'm surprised by how many times the medieval world has crept into my books (perhaps most obviously in The Foliate Head, Val / Orson, and The Book of the Red King, but elsewhere as well) and into many of my blog posts. Perhaps I really am living in the wrong century, though I would not have lived long in the medieval world and am grateful to modern medicine's influence in matters of bad bacteria and childbirth.

My own possibly-quirky explanation of why green men invaded European churches here.

Druidic verse from Amargin, and a link to Yeats here.

"The Annunciation Carved in a Medieval Prayer-nut" here (and in the print edition.) And no, you're not missing anything; it ends with "stumbles--"

And here's one where þa middangeard crept in. "Vermont Kingdom."

And a bit of The Book of the Red King here or here. Some of these will be a little altered when the book appears.

A favorite medieval-mad website: Jeff Sypeck, Quid plura? Here are his medieval-inflected posts.

And here is Jeff's Beallsville Calendar, now in progress, inspired by medieval calendar poems.

Christmas at Camelot from Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Clive's posts on Gawain and the Green Knight are here
Information on ordering the Gawain prints (more to come) at The Penfold Press

The medieval world is still with us. I just went to the door for mail and found a box of wine and New Selected Poems by Les Murray. Looking up an interview, I see him talking about influences: "Various Scottish and Irish medieval poets too, Dunbar and the poet of that mighty anonymous hymn from Ireland, "Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart," hymn 31 in John de Luca's Australian Parish Hymn Book" (Image Journal.) And here's this, a comment I might have made, from another interview: "the deadliest inertia is to conform to your times" (The Paris Review.)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Austen and transformation

Watercolor of Austen
Rohan Maitzen asks the question of whether Jane Austen is a romance novelist. I, not being in want of an opinion, answer....

Austen's landscape has always seemed to be far more treacherous and dangerous for a young woman than seems apt for a "romance novel" label. A young woman may fall very far, may plunge entirely out of her world. The stakes are far higher in Austen's books than any of our contemporary romances can attain, given the mainstream beliefs of our society.

Likewise, the meaning of the marriage plot in Austen is much grander than "romance novel" can convey. The pressing human question of how to live is, I find, often answered in Austen, and it is presented in the framework of the desire of men and women to become "one flesh." How strange that wish must often appear today, so unfashionable, so spiritual in nature! Yet clearly many, many people are still drawn by Austen.

With a sometimes-satiric pen, Austen offers a range of unions, from shattered or quietly failed to perfect, but a young woman (and her somewhat-less-young man) only makes it to perfect union by making mistakes and learning from them. On the way to her perfect marriage, Elizabeth Bennett turns down both an offer of pedantry and silliness and an offer of wealth and increased reputation; she learns about her own errors of discernment, and she changes, as does her future husband, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, each one schooled by the other and by the painful results of mistaken ideas.

In the course of events, both Lizzie and Darcy are forced to contemplate what it means for a life to hold truth and virtue, and by the time they do marry, the reader is quite sure that both have increased in understanding. They have each become more generous and more clear-eyed about what is true beauty and goodness. They come together without anger, without scorn for the one of less wealth and standing or the one who is less socially adept, without conceit, without impediments of conventional thought. Each sees the other clearly. They are at last ready for a marriage.

Austen's books possess heroines who are coming to wholeness and seizing the great transcendentals of truth and goodness within a certain societal framework--one that is relentless in its demands and sometimes cruel--the need of genteel (though lively) Christian gentlewomen to marry and so find a safe place in the world. The novels are alchemical vessels of transformation and coming to knowledge. Their heroines are learning how to live and contemplating the promise of becoming one with another human being, their struggles set in a world where most unions don't work, and most people don't know how to live.

Monday, April 18, 2016

In Limerick Town

public domain, Wikipedia
Here are four after-dinner limericks, written while drinking a wee glass of Seven Kingdoms, part of the Game of Thrones series, product of one of our local breweries. Ommegang calls it a “hoppy wheat ale,” and it’s pretty good for an accompaniment to limericks. One would like a bit of hoppiness with a limerick.

I dare you to write a few of your own, with or without a Seven Kingdoms. Go on!

* * *

First up. No cartoonist can resist this subject, and neither can somebody daydreaming a limerick of the political persuasion:

Copious Poof

There once was a brash billionaire
Who was blessed with abundance of hair—
Like a sweet guinea pig.
Or a polyester wig,
Or a billow of very hot air.

My natural bent tends to be apolitical, and I have to force myself to take “an interest” in the current slate of candidates. Luckily for cobbled-up interest, a traditional limerick should be a bit scurrilous….

Game of Thrones

Just imagine the spunk it would take
To be on the political make,
Always ready to hump,
To grind and to bump,
Like a frenzied, concupiscent snake.

Although I am not particularly a fan of politics, I am a fan of Emily Dickinson. Also frogs in bogs. And of fancy words in humble limericks. Dive in!

Dinner with the Stars 
After Dickinson

How delicious to be a Candidate,
And to gasconade, guzzle, and prate
Like an eminent frog
In a notable bog,
For one hundred thousand a plate.

Perhaps 100K is a bit inexpensive these days? And here's a little bit about the jumble of promises abroad in the world in election year....

The Bait of Siren Songs

So you promise us borderland walls
And a passport to ivory halls
And no taxes, and we
Are to have health for free:
Like a Siren's, your come-on appalls.

Now it's your turn. Pay a visit to Limerick Town--it's a quick anapestic jaunt!

With forays into politics, always end on cake, if possible. So here's something sweet to end on: yesterday's pear cheesecake, made for Michael's birthday by our middle child. Was it good? Yes, it was!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Elizabeth Adams on printmaking and more

Pulling a print for the Annunciation anthology

Elizabeth Adams, artist, writer, designer, singer, publisher at Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal: what an interesting woman she is! Here's an interesting, down-to-earth interview with her on the subject of printmaking and making art over time:
  Part 1 

She is not yet old enough to include in the posts on "elder artists," but here's a great quote from her that applies to the topic of making art and growing older:
Printmaking always carries technical challenges, and I continue to improve my skills and experiment with new materials and techniques. There's no substitute for experience. In all of the arts, we face the challenge of not becoming discouraged, and the risk of "failure," whatever that means to each of us. We need to continually push ourselves in new directions, and not get stuck in repetition. I'm happiest when I am learning new things and pushing myself, so I try to remember that. I'm over 60 now so I've been at this a pretty long time, and hope to be a creative person until my last breath!
Beth is a great publisher / designer (my book with her press is the gorgeously-produced Thaliad with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins) who is very particular about projects she takes on--that they "fit" her sensibility and vision for Phoenicia. She is also just a wonderful person to know.

Another one from Annunciation

Friday, April 15, 2016

Jeffery Beam, "Beyond the Green Door"

Jeffery Beam, reading and singing--listen up, world! In our culture, poets tend to be invisible, but here's a good look at Jeffery. Links below.

"This [3-part] reading offers a range of poetry, songs, and reflections from Jeffery Beam’s career – from the age of 17 to the present – as well as poems and songs from others, to illuminate his life-long conversation with the Divine in Nature. A troubadour poet, he is the author of over 20 works of poetry and sung poems in books and CDs, and is a photographer, editor, and critic. The reading was part of the Faith and the Arts series at St Matthews Episcopal Church, Hillsborough, North Carolina. Recorded October 18, 2015."

Four recent books by Beam at Lady Word of Mouth:…/four-recent-books-by-  Jeffery's website at UNC: More poems by Jeffery, picked by former NC poet laureate, Kathryn Stripling Byer of Cullowhee, here:…/poet-of-week-jeffery-b

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Elder artists, 3: Yeats

Poetry Ireland

Maurice Harmon, "Old Age and Creativity"
Poetry Ireland May/June 2012

The question is what happens when the poet reaches old age. Does he discover new subject matter and different techniques? There are no simple answers. Very often the subjects that preoccupied him in the past still interest him although he may approach them from a different angle and in a different tone. W B Yeats made growing old itself an issue. He did not like it, hated the loss of physical strength and the waning of sexual energy. In ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ he declared, ‘An aged man is but a paltry thing’ unless ‘Soul clap its hands and sing’, unless he can counter physical decline with imaginative intensity. He proceeds to make conflict central to his later work, dramatising and imagining the contrast between youth and age, past and present, stability and change. In the process his style changed from the ringing declarations of ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ to the compressed power of ‘Leda and the Swan’ to ballad forms in Last Poems. He was that kind of poet, constantly remaking himself and becoming remarkably vigorous in old age. In these years he also extended his intellectual range, placing his sense of personal loss within the contexts of civilisations rising and falling.


The wonderful Louise Bogan on Yeats,
The Atlantic 1938

Muse and poet
William Butler Yeats, at the age of seventy-three, stands well within the company of the great poets. He is still writing, and the poems which now appear, usually embedded in short plays or set into the commentary and prefaces which have been another preoccupation of his later years, are, in many instances, as vigorous and as subtle as the poems written by him during the years ordinarily considered to be the period of a poet's maturity. Yeats has advanced into age with his art strengthened by a long battle which had as its object a literature written by Irishmen fit to take its place among the noble literatures of the world. The spectacle of a poet's work invigorated by his lifelong struggle against the artistic inertia of his nation is one that would shed strong light into any era. The phenomenon of a poet who enjoys continued development into the beginning of old age is in itself rare. Goethe, Sophocles, and, in a lesser degree, Milton come to mind as men whose last works burned with the gathered fuel of their lives. More often development, in a poet, comes to a full stop; and it is frequently a negation of the ideals of his youth, as well as a declination of his powers, that throws a shadow across his final pages.

Yeats's faith in the development of his own powers has never failed. He wrote, in 1923, after receiving from the King of Sweden the medal symbolizing the Nobel Prize:—
It shows a young man listening to a Muse, who stands young and beautiful with a great lyre in her hand, and I think as I examine it, "I was good-looking once like that young man, but my unpractised verse was full of infirmity, my Muse old as it were, and now I am old and rheumatic and nothing to look at, but my Muse is young." I am even persuaded that she is like those Angels in Swedenborg's vision, and moves perpetually "towards the dayspring of her youth."

Monkey postscript

Despite the proliferation of testicular tales, no "monkey glands" were involved in Yeats's self-renewal. He did have a vasectomy, an enactment of what Susan Johnston Graf called "sexual magic," evidently a belief that the "vital energy of procreation would be channeled into imaginary, literary, and visionary work" (W. B. Yeats: Twentieth-Century Magus, p. 203)

Graf suggests that, as Kathleen Raine--a follower of Yeats and Blake, and a poet worth reading--pointed out, the operation (and other sometimes-embarrassing-to-scholars facts like an interest in the occult) may have been one element that allowed a new flowering. His belief in its efficacy, that is, may have contributed to his powers in his late writing. If you really (really, now!) want to know more, you can google "Yeats" and "Steinach operation" to find out heaps more. Richard Ellmann and others have attempted to put the wilder stories to bed, so to speak, but it seems the rumors are a bit too lively to suppress.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

3 readings in time and art

Wikipedia Commons

Literature in time
Sven Birkerts at LitHub:
"Can the 'Literary'Survive Technology?"

Sven Birkerts has been depressing me--stylishly so--for many years. Here's a recent clip:
...I don’t see the literary as we have known it prevailing or even flourishing. With luck, it will survive for some time yet at the present scale, which is, in terms of societal influence and prestige, already much diminished from former times. But we should keep in mind that those were times when the seemingly sedate verbal art was not yet beset on every side by the seductions of easily accessible entertainment. In the future, literature will likely not command enough marketplace attention to make it commercially viable at any corporate level, but might rather become (and this is not a bad thing) an artisanal product that functions either as a vital inner resource or else as a status marker for its reduced population of consumers. What we might think of as old-school “serious” literature may come to function as a kind of code among initiates. At that point charges of elitism will not have to be defended against—they will have been fully earned.
Elder artists, 2
Elder Eden:
clips from Art News

Here's more on artists (sculptors and painters in this case) continuing to work well into old age:
A historical look reveals that a striking number have been highly productive and turned out some of their best work late into old age, including Bellini (who died at 86), Michelangelo (d. 89), Titian (d. between 86 and 103, depending on your source), Ingres (d. 86), Monet (d. 86), Matisse (d. 84), Picasso (d. 91), O’Keeffe (d. 98), and Bourgeois (d. 98).

“Working becomes your own little Eden,” Thiebaud says, while acknowledging the challenge of overcoming the traps of what others think and say. “You make this little spot for yourself. You don’t have to succeed. You don’t have to be famous. You don’t have to be obligated to anything except that development of the self.” 

Obliterating the past
"The Anomaly of Barbarism":
John Gray at Lapham's Quarterly

And here is a clash between ancient art and year-zero desire:
 The destruction of buildings and artworks, which ISIS has perpetrated at the ancient site of Palmyra among other places, has several twentieth-century precedents. Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks razed churches and synagogues in Russia. Mao Zedong demolished large parts of China’s architectural inheritance and most of Tibet’s, while the Pol Pot regime wrecked pagodas and temples and aimed to destroy the country’s cities. In these secular acts of iconoclasm, the goal was to abolish the past and create a new society from “year zero”—an idea that goes back to “year one” of the calendar introduced in France in 1793 to signal the new era inaugurated by the French Revolution. Systematically destroying not only pre-Islamic relics but also long-established Islamic sites, the aim of ISIS is not essentially different.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Elder artists

"Born around 1910, Loongkoonan is the oldest living Nyikina speaker
and one of Australia’s oldest practising artists. A revered matriarch
in her community her life experiences inform Loongkoonan’s
shimmering and delicate paintings of Nyikina country."
-Mossenson Galleries

I am fond of and heartened by stories of older people making their art--tales that suggest it is quite possible to keep on keeping on (even without Yeatsian monkey hormones!) Take a peek at Mossenson Galleries to see the work of Loongkoonan, who at somewhere over 100 is lively and active as a painter.

Elizabeth Adams recently pointed to the writing of retirement home resident Mary McPhee. Her latest book is in the nomination process at Kindle Scout, and you may see a sample and vote here.

And here is a picture of my mother's hands at work--hands that are still weaving and gardening and helping others at 87:

Unfinished work from her 4-harness loom
Another glimpse of works in process.
Leave a name or a link if there's anyone you especially admire in the over 80 crowd...

Friday, April 08, 2016

A Throne in April

April is poetry month: I've already posted about special April sales for The Foliate Head (Stanza Press, and now the second printing is out of print) and Thaliad (Phoenicia Publishing), and thought that I should add a post for The Throne of Psyche, still in print in both hardcover and paperback from Mercer University Press. Both versions are handsome books; the hardcover won an Abby design award for Mary-Frances Glover Burt and the company of Burt and Burt. The cover image on both hardcover and paperback is by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

At various times I've posted copies of poems, and so here's a little batch of samples from the book. The collection runs to more than a hundred pages, so this is just a snip:

originally published in Mezzo Cammin,
from the title poem


A Fire in Ice (riposte to Billy Collins)
originally published in The Raintown Review
originally published in storySouth
originally in Mezzo Cammin

originally in The HyperTexts

originally in Mezzo Cammin

Tears of a Boy, Age Six

originally in Books and Culture

A Child at the Tropic Pavilions
originally in Mythic Passages

In Extremis
originally in storySouth

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The world and words this morning

After reading student calls for "reporting and tracking microaggression from faculty" and the need for "cultural humility training" for professors, and after reading the morning news of the latest people murdered for their incorrect thinking, incorrect beliefs, or incorrect efforts to help the plight of others in their faraway countries, I felt a little beaten down. The world seemed lacking in beauty and goodness.

Being rather silly at times, I had the urge to eat the last chocolate bunny. Unfortunately, the consumption of chocolate bunnies solves very little. Doesn't help.

Coming across a little passage of Nabokov helped. It had beauty. It had goodness. It was suffused with love, the work of a creative being reaching toward someone he cherished.
Three years have gone--and every trifle relating to father is still as alive as ever inside me. I am so certain, my love, that we will see him again, in an unexpected but completely natural heaven, in a realm where all is radiance and delight. He will come towards us in our shared bright eternity, slightly raising his shoulders as he used to do, and we will kiss the birthmark on his hand without surprise. You must live in expectation of that tender hour, my love, and never give in to the temptation of despair.
Now this praise and image of glory expresses a son's love for his father. It also expresses a Christian belief in a creative, bright realm beyond this life--not a very popular concept among intellectuals when he wrote those words. Although you may be thinking that I'm wandering away from the original topic (the effect of too much chocolate, perhaps), this homage does have something to do with free speech, correct or incorrect thinking, and variety of opinions:
V. D. Nabokov, a lawyer and professor and athlete and editor of a progressive newspaper, was a liberal who was convinced change was overdue in Russia, but he eventually came to abhor and then oppose the bloody revolutionary chaos that arrived. Elected to the first provisional parliament ever formed in Russia, he was a courageous man, a hero to some. When he leaped up to shield a political enemy who was speaking at a rally in Berlin, he was shot to death by a pair of assassins. Their intended victim walked away unharmed    --both passages from a review of The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov by Larry Woiwode in Books and Culture
First, I note again the beauty and goodness and warm love in the passage of a letter written to Vladimir Nabokov's mother. Second, I note that V. D. Nabokov was a liberal and a progressive who lost his life--who gave his life--in defending a political enemy. Third, I note the calls for campus tribunals and training. Fourth, I note the slaughter going on around the world in the service of abolishing incorrect beliefs and thinking.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Never shave a cat until May and other morning thoughts

The problem for a woman in contemplating how she feels so very out of sorts with her own time is knowing that in order to succeed in any other time, she would have had to be a man of a certain class, and also to possess a certain amount of luck in escaping bacteria and viruses. Maybe she doesn't want to be a man, despite the helpfulness of the right body parts in most eras. And maybe she doesn't have a time machine, anyway.


I'm grateful to Dickinson for staying home and for avoiding publication and the tidying-up of her work to fit the times. How terrible it would have been to have had the sharp edges ground down. How terrible to have a Mrs. Emily Dickinson Somebody who died in childbirth and never reached the ecstatic heights of later years.


When I woke up this morning, I read John Simon's post on rhyme, which I recommend to anyone interested in the subject. He left out the crazy freedom of rhyme, though, and I find that people generally do leave out rhyme as way to freedom. Following rhyme is like swinging out on a trapeze bar with the choice of innumerable other flying trapezes to grab--at its best, the chosen one will sail the poet away into new thoughts and new places never dreamed in free or blank verse philosophies.


The last steps before sending out a manuscript are the easiest and the hardest. The writer already feels done with the book after grinding through it many times, and so it's hard to push through one more time to check for errors introduced in revision and small, overlooked problems. No book has ever matched the fire in the head (though I suppose a downright narcissist might believe in that burning achievement), so a final read is inevitably a mixture of pleasure and pain.

I shaved the blue persian for spring but now it is winter again, and the poor Puffcat is chilled. Meanwhile, Theodora, the long-haired calico with prodigious whiskers, knows a shaved cat is wrong and bites her. Now the Puffcat spends all day on my bed, curled in the down coverlet, or else pressed close to a little radiator. Theodora hisses and spits, still indignant, and bounces out of the bedroom. The Puffcat is now a quarter of her former size. She seldom moves from her nest in the coverlet, and I wonder if she is, in fact, dying. She does, after all, have a heart murmur. Or is she just cold? She has always been a cat of little brain (though her heart is full of love) with a liking for sleep. I feel a bit guilty. Never shave a cat until May.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Phoenicia, April sale, and Elizabeth Adams

Bookplates by Elizabeth Adams

Here's a little bit about Phoenicia Publishing and the current poetry-month sale, text drawn from The Cassandra Pages, the blog site of Elizabeth Adams.
All the full-length books are on sale, including Annunciation and How Many Roads?

Bookplates and prints are also for sale in the new Store on the website. Hope you'll take a look.

You know, I feel so fortunate to be able to work with the authors and artists whose work we have published. I wish I could bring out more books each year but it's just too difficult - this is basically a one person operation, with some generous help in certain areas from my partner, and it's time-consuming and costly, while being extremely rewarding from all other points of view. I know a lot of you have supported this endeavor over the years and this is a chance to say, again, thank you - both from me and from the authors themselves.

I love what Dave Bonta wrote on Facebook when he shared the announcement: "These are all good. Some are down-right great. (I know because I have read all of them.)" That's about the most straight-forward recommendation I can imagine!
Beth Adams is a stellar publisher with many talents, including wonderful design work, a thing often missing in new books. She works hard, and I'm hoping that word of mouth is kind to her press--if you're an admirer of Phoenicia, why not write some Amazon reviews, post about the press (feel free to copy anything in this post) and its books, or simply tell people you know? And of course, the purchase of a book sends a message to the publisher that says you support the kind of work she is doing and hope she will keep adding to the sum of what's worth cherishing in the world. Being a small-scale publisher is not easy, and I am glad that Beth continues to make beautiful books.

The new Phoenicia store has the book plates above, as well as some lovely prints from the Annunciation anthology. Take a look!

Why not sign up for the newsletter?
And see the complete catalogue of books and music here.

April sale. Books shown are the Annunciation anthology,
poetry by Rachel Barenblat, Claudia Serea, Luisa Igloria,
Magda Kapa, and me, and Jonathan Sa'adah's
photographs from the 60's and early 70's.

You may also visit Studio Cassandra at Etsy
to find Beth's watercolors, prints, pastels, and more.

Monday, April 04, 2016

April! A very big poetry-month sale at Stanza Press

UPDATE 4/5: So sorry, I think we may already be sold out of the second printing! There are a few copies left at online sellers but not at sale price.  UPDATE 4/20: I understand that the above may be wrong, and that there are 60 copies remaining, but the site still says out of print. They've promised to look into the situation... More when I know! The Foliate Head, a hardcover poetry collection normally selling for £15.00, is on sale for a paltry £4.00; some of the other books are on sale at Stanza for a mere £2.00, including Matt Bialer's Tell Them What I Saw and Jo Fletcher's anthology, Off the Coastal Path. See the whole sale list here.

The Foliate Head is a gorgeous-looking little book with profuse green man art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins and design by Andrew Wakelin. I'll add some poems below so you may judge whether it is also good in other ways; there are a few on the page for the book as well. 

Thank you to publisher Pete Crowther for asking for a book, and for allowing the threesome of me and Clive and Andrew to have our way with it! I'm very glad that it went into a second printing.

"Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote / The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote, / And bathed every veyne in swich licour, / Of which vertu engendred is the flour," then we simply must have a poetry-month sale. (Thank you, Geoffrey Chaucer and Pete, again.)


Now the catamount will scream,
Now the bears awake from dream
That the winter’s night prolongs
Till the ice dissolves in songs.
Now the daybreak fires the mist
By the mountain ridges kissed.
While the crocus blossoms yield,
Opening along the field.
Now it is the hour in spring
When the jetting sap will bring
Fresh desire to boy and girl
Waking to a brighter world.
And the fairies hunting shade,
Finding meadow grass arrayed
With the bloom of early bells,
Creep inside the fragrant cells.
Now in clearing, vale, and slope,
All the land is drunk with hope—
In the ancient greening weald,
Now is loosed what once was sealed.
Why, the very mountains reel
At the turning of the wheel.

“I Heard Their Wings Like the Sound of Many Waters” 
In the dark, in the deeps of the night that are
Crevasses of a sea, I heard their wings.
I heard the trickling of tiny feathers
With their hairs out like milkweed parachutes
Floating idly on the summer air,
I heard the curl and splash, the thunderbolts
Of pinions, the rapids and rattle of shafts—
Heard Niagara sweep the barreled woman
And shove her under water for three days,
I heard a jar of fragrance spill its waves
As a lone figure poured out all she could,
Heard the sky’s bronze-colored raindrops scatter
On corrugated roofs and tops of wells,
I heard the water-devil whirligigs,
I heard an awesome silence when the wings
Held still, upright as flowers in a vase,
And when I turned to see why they had stilled,
Then what I saw was likenesses to star
Imprisoned in a form of marble flesh,
With a face like lightning-fires and aura
Trembling like a rainbow on the shoulders,
But all the else I saw was unlikeness
That bent me like a bow until my brow
Was pressed against the minerals of earth,
And when I gasped at air, I tasted gold.


She climbed the great magnolia tree
To learn the ways of bird and bee,

And there the Prince of Darkness came
To tempt her with delicious shame.

He bore her up and bore her down,
He let her try his royal crown

While leaves went clattering-a-clack
Like gossips warning at her back.

A burst of starlight from his face,
His every move a sigh of grace—

Could you resist his lightsome wiles,
Or stop the arrows of his smiles?

What was a tendency to hiss
When set beside a glowing kiss?

In long-ago and far-away,
She danced her dance the livelong day—

She showed him all her naked skin,
And what they did was mortal sin.

When boredom dulled his passion’s rage,
The Serpent Prince desired a cage;

He jailed her in the blooming tree
And spread a lie that she was free.

Addicted to the streaming light
From which her lover once took flight,

She now repents those leisure hours
Misspent among magnolia flowers. 

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Hysteron proteron

Mother Nature: "Let us have spring, and then a good winter's snow!"

Small imp: "Let us have first colors, and then freeze them into crystal."

Smaller imp: "Spring magic and then tricksy snow magic! Snowflakes as big as quarters, and close together, so that nothing can be seen but the crows on the white roofs and a few black branches!"

Me, 8:00 a.m., thinking: What a starry, thickly-falling snow out of a dead white sky... onto the just-opened daffodils, the carpet of scilla, the brave little crocuses, the head-bent Lenten roses. Drat, where are my boots?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Wishing for Randall Jarrell

I've been thinking about Randall Jarrell, one of the poets I knew well as a child--I had a copy of The Complete Poems in high school (soon after it appeared--thank you, mother-librarian!) and knew them well at that time. He wrote in many different genres, and so I trailed after him into novel, children's books, and criticism. I believe his was the first criticism I enjoyed. I've been thinking about how strongly he felt about about the changes in culture, back in the 1950's, and how much of what he says could only be repeated or made stronger now. He was certain very able to empathize with the person (or the bat) who was lonely and desperate, longing for more in life and for change. ("Oh, bars of my own body, open, open!") And he thought that a poet's role was, in part, braving and living up to the lonesome idea that being misunderstood might be part of the call: "If you never look just wrong to your contemporaries, you will never look just right to posterity. Every writer has to try to be, to some extent, sometimes, a law unto himself."

Here's a comment from Suzanne Ferguson that shows how critical Jarrell was about the trajectory of cultural change. (Elsewhere, he lamented, "The climate of our culture is changing. Under these new rains, new suns, small things grow great, and what was great grows small; whole species disappear and are replaced."*)
The magnitude of what had been lost in American culture reaffirmed for Jarrell "the final, important, intense value" of art, of poetry for making sense of that loss. Paradoxically, his depression about the political climate, the devaluation of art in a consumer culture, and the plight of undereducated, oversocialized*** children created a need for him to write the tales, the now-classic children's books, and the late poetry in which he gives voice to the extraordinary feelings of ordinary people trying to transform their lives that are "commonplace and solitary." More and more it is the strength of this last creative work, after a struggle with what he saw as "ominous" changes in "the climate of our culture" (Sad Heart 86)*, that makes Jarrell a central figure in mid-century letters, one who cannot be relegated to the margins, where off "in a bright spot somewhere in the corner / Is the small radioactive planet men called Earth" (CP 333).* --from Jarrell, Bishop, Lowell, and Co: Middle-generation Poets in Context
*A Sad Heart at the Supermarket.
**The Complete Poems
***Somewhere he complains about American children being raised on applause, rather like current complains of an "everybody gets a prize" sort of schooling.

There's a grand bouquet of flowers to chose from when we think about American poets. But who is the most important critic in the states? It might be Eliot, though he left us. Or Auden, who is ours and not ours. But it just might be Randall Jarrell. I hope we grow some more poet-writer-critics of his kind.

The soul has no assignments, neither cooks
Nor referees: it wastes its time. It wastes its time.
Here in this enclave there are centuries
For you to waste: the short and narrow stream
Of life meanders into a thousand valleys
Of all that was, or might have been, or is to be.
The books, just leafed through, whisper endlessly.
            --from "A Girl in a Library"

Friday, April 01, 2016

Spring sale at Phoenicia

Now through April 15, with a special gift for the first five who order.
Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal)

"Mystery is in the morning, and mystery in the night,
and the beauty of mystery is everywhere." 
–Melville's The Confidence-Man, published today in 1857