Saturday, December 29, 2007


Thanks to the good folks at Bat City Review for taking two of my poems. I've been slow-pokey about sending work out this past year. A couple of other poems should be out soon in CrossConnect, but that's about it.
* * *
I don't know John Vincent's work, but this evening as I was sorting through a box of old files, I found this poem in an old issue (summer '98) of the Beloit Poetry Journal:

Clear Cut

While I was chopping
there was plenty of shade . . .

emerge, dustballs at an estate sale,
their cries are baby cries.

I forgot its name,
but it's half-otter
half-human, calls from the forest
in the voice of someone you love,
someone you love in trouble.

Amid log smell
and saw leavings puffed to oyster crackers,
in the drizzle, I hear it still.

That thing,
it'll lure you into the forest.
I mean: metaphorically.
* * *
I've commandeered the dining table for the weekend, where Harry's chapbook is being assembled. Randy's loaned me his excellent paper cutter, for which I'm grateful, because it allows me to trim each folio precisely. Also his beading awl. I'm tying the books with a nice dark green fishing line--it has a slightly waxy texture and is easy to work with, threads smoothly through the needle and knots very neatly.
* * *

Friday, December 28, 2007


This week's chapbook is Sonnets by Richard Jones, a beautifully hand-constructed book from the remarkably fine Adastra Press. I bought this book back in the early 90s (it was published in 1990), having accidentally found information on Gary Metras and his press on the internet (this is so much easier to do nowadays that I shudder to recall the hours I spent back then, chasing one dead link after another). The title is somewhat deceptive, as each poem is a deconstruction of what one would usually consider a sonnet (certainly not a new idea, even in 1990), but Jones is more successful, I think, than many others have been at crafting poems with a lingering "sonnet essence" (if you will): unlike, for instance, Gerald Stern's "American sonnets" (which I love), which represent a kind of tightening of the rhetorical reins but which still manage to canter along, I get the distinct sense that these sonnets have gone through careful excisions.

If you haven't checked out Adastra Press, do look them up. Each book is a labor of love.

Here's one poem from the middle of the book:


Knowing our desire for details,
the evening news tells us
how the man died, and even a little
of what he did, his work, and whom he loved.

He worked in an office downtown.
At night he rode the train home.
There’s the point of entry: the broken window.
There, the bed where he was sleeping

just as he left it when he heard the intruder.
The camera hurries through the house
like a reader skimming pages
to the place where his life

is outlined in chalk,
the knife held up to the lights.

Monday, December 24, 2007

7KP update

The initial set of Harry Humes' Underground Singing was printed last week. I spent the evenings cutting the pages to size and tying up a few mock-ups (the photo at left shows copies of the cover hanging up to dry above my corner desk after being run off on my inkjet printer). The publication date was set for December 21 (Yule) and everything was ready except the cover stock, which I ordered online and which still has not arrived from Texas. The post office is closed tomorrow, so my best guess is that I'll be assembling the book and mailing out copies by Friday.

New Richard Tayson

I'm very excited to hear that Richard Tayson has a new book coming out next month: The World Underneath. I've been a fan of Richard's poems since I first read them in the old James White Review (way before it was taken over--and ruined--by the Lambda Foundation); many of those early poems ended up in his first book, The Apprentice of Fever.

You can follow this link to pre-order Richard's book. Click here to view his home page, which includes a schedule of spring readings.

Happy Yule--

--to everyone, a couple of days late, but good wishes to you just the same. We had a quiet holiday at home and spent much of it quilting. R and I have tag-teamed on a special quilt that I'd originally hoped to finish last month--it's my fault for getting a late start on it. We finished the quilting last night, and I cut and pressed fabric for the binding and managed to complete one side. There will be photos of the finished quilt soon.

Yesterday I got the urge to make a Sawtooth Bars mini, and after some trial-and-error piecing on the sewing machine (the triangle squares are less than one inch across and I kept getting them turned the wrong way), I finally got the hang of it and knocked this one out. It measures about 12 x 14. We made a large version two years ago in brown and indigo blue; my mom has that one now.

Meanwhile, I have been working on a small whole cloth quilt, about 14 inches square, and making good progress: it's much easier to quilt when you don't have to stitch through seams. I'll post photos of this one, too, as soon as it's finished (end of January, I'm guessing).

Friday, December 21, 2007

"To the Moon Over the Mountain"

I've decided to "regularize" my posts about others' chapbooks as a Friday feature. Tune in every week for a cover image and sample poem (or two) from the selected chapbook.

This week's entry is Burning the Fake Woman by Susan Yuzna, published by GreenTower Press. My copy cost $6, a first edition published in 1996. Hand-tied, 39 pages, with a two-color cover.

Here's a sample poem:

To the Moon Over the Mountain

They say you are old hat.
On TV tonight, they claim you were conquered
by the men sitting there, white-haired now,
lightly bouncing off your body
in their thick-soled boots
like boys on a trampoline.

Twenty-five years ago
and what do we know about the nature of anything?
There was a saint, once, claimed
more demons work between us and the moon
than move through the entire rest of the cosmos.
St. Jerome, I think it was.

But what I know is
when you let loose your fullness
and allow me no sleep, I must leave my house.
I must walk around and around
the door of the beloved,
for mystics have said

it is most foolish
to presume entry: a ferocious, white fire.
That shadow on the wall
was once a person
walking forward, hand outstretched.
Once a person coming toward you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Halo Rule

I've been waiting for the publication of Teresa Leo's The Halo Rule ever since I heard she won the Elixir Press Editor's Prize last year. I've read and admired Teresa's bold poems for years--she's one of the poets I would have loved to have published in West Branch--so this book's release feels like a celebration. Join in. Buy the book from SPD here or from Amazon here.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I turned in my grades yesterday. They've made grade reporting a breeze: it's all done online, which works for me, because I keep spreadsheets all semester and can simply toggle between windows, tap in the grades, and be done.

We watched a Netflix DVD last night, House of Sand and Fog, about which I knew nothing except that Ben Kingsley had been nominated for an Oscar for his role. I vaguely remembered a snippet from the movie, that little bit they play at the Academy Awards when they read the list of nominees--Kingsley's character shouting "This is our house!" Our house!" at a distraught Jennifer Connelly--but that's really all. I didn't even know that it was based on an Andre Dubus novel.

So we were a bit open-mouthed at the last few scenes, where things just keep going from bad to worse (that's all I'll say--don't like spoilers--but don't look this movie up on Wikipedia if you want to be at all surprised during the film). What a downer! It reminded me of the time I mistakenly brought home Interiors one day when David was home sick from work: I'd thought a nice Woody Allen flick would cheer us up, but by the time the masking tape came out, we were both fully in the doldrums (and yet, as with House, we couldn't tear our eyes away until the bitter end). (And it wasn't entirely my fault with the Woody Allen mistake; it was his first serious drama.)

A Dream of Adonis

A Dream of Adonis is the title of a new poetry collection by David Brendan Hopes. I don't know his work, but I received the postcard at left this past week from the good folks at Pecan Grove Press, who published my third chapbook back in 2001. I'm happy to pass along the news.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"My hands know/ so little of your hands."

I sleep late. I get up. We eat a late breakfast. I settle in to grade papers from the diminishing stack on my desk, here in the corner of the bedroom. My laptop is set up on a small folding table. As I grade each essay, I fold it in half with just the writer's name visible and staple it closed. I add it to the growing stack against the wall. So pass the days, with breaks for tea or something light to eat. We fix dinner sometime around six. We eat and watch the television. I move to the Shaker rocker in the corner of the living room, turn on the lamp, and pick up my quilting--sometimes for an hour, sometimes more. The current quilt is starting to near completion; I'm still hoping to finish it in the next week.
* * *
Here's a poem by Tim Seibles, from his chapbook Ten Miles an Hour, published in 1998 by Mille Grazie Press:
Not Spoken

As if thirst were not a wound.
As if the thirst for company were not a wound.

Consciousness the one shadow
from which light grows.

As if all ache flowed from the same bruise.

Near dawn. My blood caught in its circle.
I think of your body your legs opening.

And the light hairs strung along your wrists.

As if your shoulders.
As if the muscular turn of your hips.
As if I could tilt your mouth
to this dent in my chest.

So, bit by bit, it becomes unmistakable.
This not knowing how to say.

As if I had already broken
into the last room and found the words
still not English.

As if being flesh were not call enough.

Why stay here to be American?
Where what is exactly sexual has no country.

Let’s go.
Whole words. Whole worlds slow
between us. Trying to pronounce themselves.

The body, the one sacred book.

My hand. My hands know
so little of your hands.

The names of pleasure held
in chains taken in ships.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Say it isn't so

I don't want to talk about it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Aleda Shirley

Back when the Stanley Hanks Chapbook Series was running, I could think of no other chapbook series that I dreamed more of entering (and winning, of course: I wanted a book as beautifully made as H.L. Hix's Kindling Point or Aleda Shirley's Silver Ending). Today there are probably hundreds of small and micro presses turning out chapbooks--some of them (like Tarpaulin Sky) truly beautiful at the Book Arts level, and others (like Pudding Press) (forgive me, but it's true) cranking out quantity over quality. Still, I go back to the Hanks Series often, not only to reread the poems, but also to hold these books in my hands and aspire to making something at their level.

From Aleda Shirley's Silver Ending, published in 1991:


The day before Christmas it was fifteen below, and windless,
the river willows perfectly still in a light coating of snow.
Early that morning I stood on the shore and watched steam rise
off the river, mistaking its movements for the river’s, which was still,
the surface threaded with thin and delicate scratches
as if skaters had glided through an endless series of school figures
all night while we slept. Nothing moved, except the steam
which moved in one direction only—up—into a sky
smoking back at it like dry ice. Nothing was moving
except the moment, and my hectic sense that it was over,

that the moment would change even before the weather did.
But I wanted to hold this moonscape fast in my mind
where it would join other ghostly postcards, like a sunset
off Key West a year ago, as we returned from a snorkeling trip
out on the reef. Everything was painted in simple colors:
the blue water, the red sun, Mike’s yellow shirt.
And the deaf scuba diver I’d watched all day signing
to his hearing girlfriend signed something to her again
and she asked if I’d snap their picture as they posed
in the stern of the boat, the sunset behind them. It’s a picture

so vivid, even now, that I expect to happen upon it
when I leaf through the pages of my photograph album.
I used to think I understood this, the rapt attention
at which I stood during certain moments of transition:
the bright-gray color the air has in the spring, right before
it rains, when the grass and budding trees are too green,
their lushness somehow scary. I thought I knew the reason
I sometimes set the alarm for hours before I have to get up,
just so I can re-set it and linger for a little while
in the blue light of dawn and listen to the mourning doves

as they begin to grieve in the trees outside the window.
I thought it had something to do with those years of my childhood
spent in the tropics where, like any place near the equator,
the duration of dawn and dusk is so brief it’s easily missed.
There, twilight was an afterthought of day, an aside,
and the heat so relentless I moved through my life
as if I were drugged from wine. But now I wouldn’t swear
I ever noticed those twilit moments brief as rain,
that this theory isn’t just something I concocted later,
from a book I read. The Japanese call it

that feeling engendered by ephemeral beauty, the way
some things are beautiful because they will change
with the passage of time. I’ve scores of other examples at hand:
just last night, driving home from work, I saw a huge
pale-yellow moon rising in a sky still pink with sunset.
It was so strange, so like the sky of another planet,
that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see other moons,
two or three of them, rising there too. But
the moon, I know, doesn’t rise, not really, nor does the sun
set: the moon moves, moves around us. And we’re turning.

CFS: PSA Chapbook

The Poetry Society of America Chapbook Contest:

Four renowned poets will each choose a winning manuscript for publication and distribution by the PSA. Each winner will receive $1000.

The Two Categories: The PSA National Chapbook Fellowships, judged by Mary Jo Bang and C. K. Williams. This contest is open to any United States resident who has not published a full-length poetry collection. The PSA New York Chapbook Fellowships, judged by Terrance Hayes and Fanny Howe. This contest is open to any New York City resident (in the five boroughs) who is 30 or under and has not published a full-length poetry collection.

Note: Winners will also have the option of teaching a single class at Purchase College for $1,000 under the sponsorship of the Royal and Shirley Durst Chair in Literature. Poets may apply to one contest only. Deadline: December 21st, 2007.

2 0 0 8 Chapbook Fellowships GUIDELINES FOR BOTH CATEGORIES:

1. Manuscript page length: between 20-30 pages. Poems must be typed on 8 1/2" x 11" paper and bound with a spring clip. No illustrations may be included. Do not include photocopies of poems from magazines or journals. Please submit only one copy of your manuscript. Manuscripts should include no more than one poem per page.

2. A complete submission should include: (a) Title page with contest name (The National Chapbook Fellowship or The New York Chapbook Fellowship), your name, address, telephone, email, and any other relevant contact information. Your name should not appear elsewhere in the manuscript. (b) A title page with just the title of the manuscript. (c) An acknowledgements page. Poems included in your manuscript may be previously published, but please include an acknowledgements page listing specific publications. Note: previous publications and/or the inclusion of published poems will not serve as a determining factor in the screening or judging of manuscripts. (d) A complete Table of Contents. (e) Payment of a $12.00 non-refundable entry fee (check or money order payable in U.S. dollars to Poetry Society of America). This fee is not waived for PSA members. Please do not send cash. While you may not submit to both The National Chapbook Fellowship and The New York Chapbook Fellowship, multiple submissions to one contest are accepted. Please note: we require separate entry fees for each manuscript you submit.(f) Self-addressed stamped post card for confirmation of receipt and a self-addressed stamped envelope for announcement of the winners.

3. Manuscripts by more than one author will not be accepted.

4. Translations will not be accepted. Entries will be accepted between October 1st and December 21st, of 2007. Entries postmarked later than December 21st, 2007 will not be accepted. Manuscripts will not be returned. Electronic and faxed submissions will not be accepted. If your manuscript is accepted for publication elsewhere, you must notify the PSA.

Monday, December 10, 2007

CFS: Washington Prize


The Word Works announces its 28th annual Washington Prize competition, offering $1,500 and publication for a volume of original poetry by a living American writer. Previous winners of the Washington Prize include Prartho Sereno (the 2007 winner for her book Call from Paris), John Surowiecki, Richard Lyons, Carrie Bennett, Ron Mohring, Fred Marchant, and Enid Shomer.

Send manuscripts of 48 to 64 pages between Jan. 15 and March 1, 2008, inclusive. Please do not send manuscripts before Jan. 15 or after March 1. Author’s name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and signature should appear on the title page only. Please include a table of contents containing the manuscript title, as well as a cover letter containing your bio and publication acknowledgements. Biographical and publication information must not appear anywhere in the manuscript except the cover letter, which must be detachable from the rest of the manuscript. Use a binder clip to fasten the manuscript. No manuscripts will be returned, but please include a self-addressed, business-sized envelope for notification of contest results.

The winner will be selected by July 1, 2008, and all entrants will receive a copy of the winning book when it is published in January 2009. The entry fee is $25 U.S., by check drawn on a U.S. bank only and made payable to The Word Works. Mail manuscripts to:

Steven B. Rogers, Director
Word Works Washington Prize
3201 Taylor St.
Mt. Rainier, MD 20712

The Word Works is a non-profit literary organization devoted to the dissemination of the best contemporary poetry. It publishes books of poetry in collectors’ editions featuring original artwork. It also sponsors programs such as the Joaquin Miller Cabin poetry reading series in Rock Creek Park and the Cafe Muse Literary Series in Chevy Chase, Md. The Word Works celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2004, and has sponsored the Washington Prize since 1981. For more information about The Word Works and the Washington Prize, please visit

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Pear Slip

Matthew Hittinger's lovely chapbook, Pear Slip, arrived yesterday at the office. The book is beautifully made and perfect bound, with a full-color cover, and so it's a shame that the gutter margin is so narrow--this makes the left-hand margin of the right-hand pages virtually disappear into the book's centerfold, and is very irritating, because I'd rather not destroy the book in order to read it comfortably. A word to Spire Press: redesign your product!

That being said, it's a lovely collection. It's good to see Matthew getting some well-earned recognition, and I'm very happy to have ordered this chapbook.

Designing books is not easy. It's not that hard, really, but there are so many niggling little details to tweak and adjust. My first chapbook turned out well, as far as I can remember, but the second one had two typos (even though I'd corrected both in galleys). Ander Monson and New Michigan Press did a super job on the third one, but the fourth--well, just ignore the cover.

It's almost always something.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tomato names

Torbay. Shady Lady. Biltmore. Sophya.
Flavorburst. Mohawk. Big Bomb. Tormenta. Tumbling Tom Yellow.
Goliath. Early Goliath. Bush Goliath.
Cluster Goliath. Sunny Goliath. Italian Goliath.
Big Zac. Carolina Gold. Big Beef. Better Boy.
Abraham Lincoln. Celebrity. Heartland. Floralina. Jet Star. Keepsake.
Lemon Boy. Pink Girl. Sun Leaper. Pilgrim.
Tomande. Kada Hybrid. Super Marzano. Quimbaya.
Sweet Cluster. Tomcat. Mountain Fresh. Tolstoi. Totem.
Amana Orange. Anna. Beefsteak. Box Car Willie.
Black Krim. Aunt Ruby's German Green.
Brandywine. Cherokee Purple. Dinner Plate. Cuore de Toro.
Caspian Pink. Druzba. German Head. Giant Belgium.
Georgia Streak. Kellogg's Breakfast. Lillian's Yellow Heirloom.
Mister Stripey. Mortgage Lifter. Old German. Omar's Lebanese.
Oxheart. Pineapple. Prudens Purple. Ponderosa Pink.
White Potato Leaf. Amish Paste. Arkansas Traveler. Black Sea Man.
Bonny Best. Wins All. Homestead. Legend. Golden Jubilee.
Mule Team. New Yorker. Nebraska Wedding. Rutgers. Opalka.
Saucey. Striped Stuffer. Taxi. Vera. Tigerella. Sunray.
Silvery Fir Tree. Garden Peach. Banana Legs.
Bloody Butcher. Green Zebra. Hard Rock. Moonglow. Porter.
Oregon Spring. Red Pear. Roman Candle. Stupice. Sub-Arctic Plenty.
Amish Salad. Brown Berry. Grapette. Cupid. Fond Red Mini.
Chocolate Cherry. Sugar Lump. Jenny. Juliet. Marcellino Hybrid.
Snowberry. Red Star. Riesenstraube. Small Fry. Micro Tom.
Tumbler. Velvet Red. Tami. Sungold. Sweet Million.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Where the World Is

I migrate from one office to the next with some regularity--at least once a year for the past seven years--and though it can take me a while to settle in, one of the first things I do is transport some books. It's just not "my space" without them. I put mainly poetry on my shelf, but also some prose: even though I never have time to re-read it, I still like to glance up and see some of these books near at hand. A quick sampling of what's on my office shelf includes Robin Becker's The Horse Fair, Joe Bolton's The Last Nostalgia, Norman Dubie's Radio Sky, Roger Fanning's The Island Itself, Rigoberto Gonzalez's So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks, Linda Gregg's The Sacraments of Desire, Kimiko Hahn's The Artist's Daughter, Terrance Hayes' Hip Logic, Lyna Hull's Star Ledger, Cynthia Macdonald's Living Wills, Dionisio Martinez's History As a Second Language, Molly McQuade's Barbarism, and Adam Zagajewski's Canvas; in prose, I can't live without Flannery O'Connor's The Habit of Being or Adrienne Rich's What Is Found There. This is just a smattering of the books here in my office, and though I rarely have time to pull one down and read a page (or poem) or two, I feel better knowing they're around.

I have one small shelf in my other office. It's loaded with about ninety chapbooks.
* * *

I became a fan of Janet Kauffman's stories back in my Houston days, when someone recommended Places in the World a Woman Can Walk. I was excited to find a book of her poems, Where the World Is, at Half Price Books in Houston back in 1995--in February, to be exact--and if I have nothing else to thank Tim Liu for, I'm still glad that he got rid of this book (his name's inscribed inside the cover). I've worn this book out. It travels from office to office. Here's one of the poems:

Watching the Body

They know it’s not death, this yellowing
shaking in sleep, the nurses and fathers,
the husbands who sit in small chairs or travel
room to room. They know that the body is healing.

They believe that it heals throughout a cold night
while the garden is blackening, wherever it is, low in a hollow.
The dark of tomato and pumpkin vines, the armfuls
of spined leaves, blink into ghost and black paper.

They say when the body is healed and walking
deliberately through green grass, and down the long hill
into the garden that’s gone, it will lift up these vines
and find for itself a tomato, some few, under leaves,

red and whole, they promise it, untouched
by any veil, or obliteration. But the body, the stubborn bride,
sends her kisses around the room, aimless, incontrovertible.
She’ll walk in her flesh until it has all but worn away.

: Janet Kauffman, Where the World Is (1988)

[photo: snow on geranium]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Order yours today!

Underground Singing: Poems by Harry Humes

Winner of the inaugural Keystone Chapbook Award, selected by Jeff Mann.

Publication date: December 21, 2007.

Now accepting preorders: please e-mail me to order your copy for $8 postpaid.


Answer Me This

How do you like this caved-in bedroom,
plaster all over the floor, wall paper hanging loose,
the onyx cuff links in their velvet box,
and how do you like the attic, Mickey Spillane novels,
shoe boxes of photos and Boy Scout knives,
and the view from the attic window
toward the torn-up railroad tracks,
and how do you like the beautiful Irish girl next door
grown old and screeching, and what was the name
of the family with the ugly pony,
how do you like the old sofa,
the hand-painted tea cups from Nova Scotia,
the dirt cellar with its spiders and rats,
always winter there, broken ax and shovel handles,
rusty nails, the bucket of pigeon bones,
how do you like this moaning and tears,
doors clicking shut, someone always leaving?

: Harry Humes, Underground Singing (2007)

Saturday, December 01, 2007


The first seed catalogue has already arrived: Totally Tomatoes' 2008 listings are already tempting me to order a few peppers and maybe one or two tomato varieties. We really don't have room to grow good tomatoes; we're low on space, and the garden area we might devote to veggies doesn't receive enough sun. It's not hard, though, to imagine building a few trellises (there's more sun the higher the plants climb, and at least one of the indeterminate tomatoes is reported to grow several feet tall) (it's actually billed as a "tree tomato") or hanging a few more hooks for the mini "tumbler" varieties. . . I always get this way after the first couple of hard freezes: it's like not being able to take a good deep breath--give me GREEN!--but fortunately, I don't (usually) give in to the catalogs' zazzy colorful pics and hyped-up descriptions ("produces in all kinds of weather conditions!") ("delicious TRUE TOMATO flavor!"). Just once, I'd like to see an entry that said yeah, these pretty much taste like wet cardboard, but they're a nice shade of pearlescent pink, and your neighbors will oooh and ahhh over the five measley fruits that finally ripen in mid-September.

In homage to the other garden--those early lettuces and greens that never fail to grow like they're supposed to (am I the only one who dreams of pizza smothered with arugula?), here's a poem from Jody Gladding's out-of-print chapbook, Artichoke, one of the truly beautiful chaps put out by Chapiteu Press:


Thinnings from young lettuces
So bitter, to make up for their tenderness.

Don’t say green like apples, and the stems
aren’t hollow as quills.

All summer the deer wait for the night
to grow dark, for the morning fog to grow
thick in their leaves.

Tatsoi and mizuna
Spoon and fork.

Ornamental kale
Nothing is ornamental.

Crushed lightly. What it’s like
lying down with a man.