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Life-List made the Small Press Distribution bestseller list for July alongside these other amazing books of poetry!
An archive of poems about bodies and geographical space and a Calvino-esque trip through the architecture of dreams inspired partly by the visual art of Noah Saterstrom, Dream House investigates the fantasy of “home.” Each chapter has its own personality, and most have been previously published.
“The Fortune Teller” layers lives and memories and traumatic experiences mapped onto specific architectural spaces (previously published by as a chapbook by dusie/a+bend). “City Poems,” is a series of derives through Buffalo streets as the city plan maps feelings and memories on the flaneur (previously published in kadar koli). “Other Testimony of Summer Nights” is a record of the detritus I found on my walks to and from home while living in Charlottesville and attending school at the University of Virginia. A redux of “Other Testimony of Summer Nights” was published in Cannibal in 2008. Although I usually write about the “real”—nonfiction accounts of memory etc. — the eponymous “Dream Houses” section features the “surreal,” the subconscious, if there can be said to be a line between dreaming and memory. Finally, in “Daughter,” the body is literally the architecture for new life (winner of the 2002 Academy of American Poets prize at SUNY Buffalo, judged by Myung Mi Kim).
Dream House was a semifinalist for the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize.
Part of what is remarkable about Smith’s work is her use of fragment and space, allowing the poems such a breadth of multiple readings and meanings, even while allowing a strong intuitive narrative grounding. There is something lovely and deceptively light in the way her poems accumulate so subtly into such hefty, serious weight, pinging across the margins of the book in ways that deserve as much to be heard aloud as experienced upon the page.
I received an email from editor Charles Alexander on Wednesday, appropriately while I was in the air, that Life-List, my second book of poetry, was alive! When I arrived at the AWP Book Fair on Thursday morning I took a bunch of copies to sell to friends at the Fair and I was excited to see who bought the first copies– every purchase seemed special and personal. The first part of Life-List is from my chapbook bird-book, which was the first really sustained poetry “project” I undertook and feels like an integral part of my body at this point, so handing someone a copy of Life-List is richly personal and meaningful to me.
If you’re at AWP, I have copies of Life-List on me (I can take cash or card) and Charles has copies at Booth 1809. If you’re in Birmingham I’ll have copies at my upcoming readings. If you’re not in Minneapolis or Birmingham, please purchase a copy of Life-List through the Coven Press online store until Chax and Small Press Distribution have it listed on their sites:
After the Book Fair the Chax/Lavender Ink/Dialogos reading started at the Segue Cafe. I was happy to see some old friends and meet some people I’d only known online (one of the particular joys of AWP). My friend Amish Trivedi took this brief video of part of my reading from Life-List:
I recently edited The Women in Visual Poetry: the Bechdel Test for Essay Press; it contains conversations between me and K. Lorraine Graham, Michelle Detorie and Gillian Devereux, and Sheila Murphy and K.S. Ernst on the art of visual poetry, as well as an afterword by Maureen Thorson. Thanks to everyone who assisted with this project, especially Essay Press editor Andrew Fitch.
8 new poems from The Daybooks project are up at Opon, including 25 December 2007, which is one of the critical “keys” where the project explains itself.
Two new poems from The Daybooks are out in the Spring 2015 issue of MiPoesias, edited by Sarah Blake! This issue has a lot of interesting use of narrative/line/space.
To try to render memory in poetry, I want to disrupt the conventional “look” of the poem in favor of fragmentation and multilinearity, although I know that the reader must follow one track at a time through the poem. I want the reader to try to hold multiple threads and possibilities in her head at one time and to reside in the pleasant ambiguity of unresolvable fragmentation. I know that the reader brings her own thoughts and memories to the poem as well, and the white space of the page echoes, for me, that blank possibility, as well as the blanks in my own personal narratives.
My colleague Douglas Ray and I are teaching book review writing through our respective classes, Writing Workshop and Experimental Literature. The first book review published through this initiative is now up at Galatea Resurrects.
I started a press, Coven Press (FB), through which my friends and I will spearhead individual and group publishing projects. The first project is Annual Books, which will publish one full-length experimental poetry book annually, beginning with Amish Trivedi’s Sound/Chest (about which you can read more here). Sound/Chest will be out in January, at which time Annual Books will announce the details of the Annual Books Prize.
I’m curating the Delirious Hem Advent Calendar this year with help from its founder, Dusie editor Susana Gardner. The series will run every day from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25 (like an Advent Calendar). This year, we’re addressing rape culture with poems about rape as a response to the recent Rolling Stone article about rape culture at the University of Virginia, which I attended for two years as a Ph.D. student. The University of Virginia’s response to rape allegations has been brutally insufficient, and I honestly can’t understand why President Sullivan still has a job after all the holes she’s dug during her tenure. I feel no pride about being a University of Virginia alum, as I spent only a brief time there and, with the exception of a couple of classes and the friendships I built in the face of disliking the program, did not enjoy that time. I did not enjoy walking past fraternity houses every day to get to school, their red solo cups littering the ground, the boys with lewd comments and privileged airs. I did not enjoy how the entrenched local sexism often trickled into the classroom. UVA is just one University, and maybe it’s not so unique. I didn’t feel the same way at SUNY Buffalo, though, so I know it can be different.
More recently, the poetry community has been rocked by allegations of rape in San Francisco and New York. We’re not surprised by all this. But we’re responding to it with at least 25 poems this month.
Poetry Editor Michelle Detorie has published a suite of 7 poems from The Daybooks at Entropy as the first in a series of zodiac poems; I represent the Scorpio poet. If you’re a Sagittarius, send her poems.
The Daybooks, a massive set of poems addressing the micro- and not-so-microaggressions against women in everyday life, is now scattered in the following places:
Boston Poetry Magazine (Pushcart Prize nominee)
More Daybooks poems are forthcoming in Open Letters Monthly, Touch the Donkey, Drunken Boat, Delirious Hem, Mondo Bummer, and MiPoesias. Variety is the spice of life.
Poet Michael Wells tagged me to answer some questions for the Writing Process Blog Tour, a linked meme of interview questions for writers to get a chance to reflect on their work.
QUESTION #1: What are you working on?
I have a job and a family, so I am working on keeping those things in order. In terms of poetry, I am working on a very long manuscript that addresses “micro aggressions” and the sexual politics of everyday life called The Daybooks (you can read excerpts at Bling that Sings, Boston Poetry Magazine, Newport Life, The Rumpus, and Zigest). I’m also working on a chapbook-sized set of 30 poems with 30 words each (kind of like this series) about dreams of architecture called Dream House. I started Dream House to flesh out a manuscript that’s kind of about bodies, families, organization, architecture, and fragmentation that I’m currently calling Shards & Parts (but that might change).
QUESTION #2: How does your voice differ with others of its genre?
I don’t know how much my voice differs from others in the genre. I write very un-dreamy poems, usually, by which I mean I write about everyday experience and memory, not about imaginary or made-up things– of course that’s a hard distinction to try to draw, but I admire a lot of poetry that is more “imaginative,” like Michelle Detorie’s After-Cave and CAConrad’s A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon. My style is different; my toolbox is different. I want to capture the moments of thinking that are pre-narrative, confused, lapsed, dirty, soft around the edges, vague.
“‘Thinking’ as the conceptual basis of literary production suggests the possibilities for leaps, jumps, fissures, repetition, bridges, schisms, colloquialisms, trains of associations, and memory; as a literary mode it would rely on concepts related to spontaneity, free association, and improvisation.”
Recently I have been interested in poems by Dorothea Lasky, Sandra Simonds, Gina Myers, Natasha Tretheway, Sandra Beasley, and Hoa Nguyen, which is a little weird because their voices are so diverse. Each of them speaks to me in a different way, and I feel like I’m in a conversation with them where we are each bringing a piece of a massive puzzle that will never form a whole image.
”It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that every piece you put in fits, and then when you finish it, you see that it’s not the picture. That was the idea. The jigsaw puzzle, everything finishes, and it’s not the picture. Then you do another version, and it’s not the picture. Finally you realize that you are not going to get a picture.”
QUESTION #3: Why do I write what I do?
It changes depending on what I’m writing. When I wrote Organic Furniture Cellar (Bootstrap/Outside Voices 2006), I was in love and exploring new worlds for the first time– it records youthful exuberance. When I wrote Life-List (Chax Press 2015), I was dealing with grief and memory through an obsession with birdwatching. The Daybooks was born out of a desire to talk about what really happens to women in everyday life– not just love, or grief, or violence, or sex, but a more inclusive and textural “real life.” Dream House is a constraint-based exercise to keep myself writing when I’m not inspired to work on The Daybooks; I started working on it because of a brief conversation I had with artist Noah Saterstrom about the recurrence of specific houses in dreams.
QUESTION #4 How does your writing process work?
I’m a librarian. I like things to be organized. First I have a plan: I want to write about x. I make notes about what kind of information I want to cover. For Daybooks, I have a huge Excel spreadsheet where I plan out each poem. This allows me to write the content later– I sketch out what I want the content to be, and I can do the work of making the content when I feel inspired or find interesting source material to use. This method became essential when I became a mother and never had time to write. When I did get a few minutes of free time, I didn’t have the wide brain-space to wait to get inspired. So I started keeping more notes to refer back to when I had time to write the poem. There is a lot of planning, but the actual poem-writing takes perhaps an hour. Then the poem morphs through small editorial changes over a series of months as I keep staring at the file when I write more poems.
When writing a particular poem, I have a vision– a phrase, a line, a group of shapes. Usually my poems begin with an image of one phrase or word and its particular placement on a page. Once the first mark is made, I fill in around it. If you imagine a page divided into quadrants, I often start in the middle of the upper right quadrant and work from there– usually up, counter-clockwide and around, like a nautilus.
NEXT: Follow K. Lorraine Graham’s and Michelle Detorie’s blogs to see their answers to these questions!
K. LORRAINE GRAHAM is the author of Terminal Humming from Edge Books, and a second collection forthcoming from Coconut Books in 2015 that will be called 1) Meta Horror 2) The Men Are Etcetera or 3) The Rest Is Censored. Occasionally, she gets excited about transnational theory, network analysis and the relationship between technology and affect. Her current writing projects are about debt, anxiety and operatic suffering. She has work forthcoming in Postmodern Culture and suddenly lives in DC. Wherever she lives, she lives with Lester Young, a pacific parrotlet, who is featured regularly on her Tumblr.
MICHELLE DETORIE lives in Santa Barbara, CA, where she edits Hex Presse and coordinates the Writing Center at Santa Barbara City College. She is the author of numerous chapbooks including Fur Birds (Insert Press), How Hate Got Hand (eohippus labs), and Bellum Letters (Dusie). She also makes visual poems, poetry objects, and time-based poetry. In 2007, Michelle was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship, and in 2010 she won a direct-to-artist grant from the Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative for her public art project, The Poetry Booth. Her first full-length collection, After-Cave, is just out from Ahsahta Press. Her current project, The Sin in Wilderness, is a book-length erasure project about love, animals, and affective geography.
Charmed by this little write-up by Kayleigh Reed for The Spectrum, the student newspaper of my alma mater, SUNY Buffalo (UB). I started name magazine with $300 from Robert Creeley’s endowed Chair funds when Jorie Graham cancelled her reading at UB due to illness. The first issue was loose-leaf paper printed for free from the school’s computers and housed in a translucent plastic envelope. The second, third, and seventh issues embraced experimental book arts with advisement from editors including Chelsea Warren, Aaron Lowinger and Julia Purpura. Prior to name, there had not been a student literary magazine in a number of years; the previous one was edited by Anselm Berrigan. Happy to see that name is still standing and still celebrating the marriage of poetry and book arts!
Time, which eats its own children, wants to pull everything in, and Silliman’s revelator fights back with the same weapon.
A new mini-chapbook of mine is out from Phafours Press, where $10 will get you all 7 of the mini chapbooks in the series. Cicada Radio is a series of square handwritten poems (like this one at Apocryphal Text but smaller). Perfect summer porch reading as this year’s cicadas emerge!
In 2007, I made a book called Z:En. It is available as a free .pdf from Lulu.com and is now up at Eileen Tabios’s Bibliotheca Invisibilis. John Bloomberg-Rissman has reviewed it at Galatea Resurrects.
Some mini ekphrastic poems about the Nazca lines and Nazca pottery are up at 17 seconds. These are part of a series of little “light-touch” ekphrastic poems, some of which were recently in The Brooklyn Rail and some of which are forthcoming in The Hat.
A handful of my recent ekphrastic poems are up at The Brooklyn Rail. These are from a series about mothers and their children inspired by an old book discarded from our library, A Gallery of Mothers and their Children* (Marian King, 1958). My favorite is “Saskia, Rembrandt (1636)“, which I recorded here and which is based on this Rembrandt sketch. The poems comprise my own writing, excerpts from the book, and descriptions of the paintings (ekphrasis).
I’ve been talking to some of my poet friends lately about how my poems are kind of post-sonnet sonnets– they don’t have the meter or rhyme scheme, but they have the volta, and to my mind they have the “weight” of a sonnet on the page (think of the “afterimage” of a sonnet). “Saskia” is a good example of what I’m talking about, and if it were a sonnet it might be a Petrachan sonnet because it’s divided nearly evenly between theme and resolution.
Derek Fenner’s The Emerald Tablet, a collection of writing responding to the Emerald Tablet, was initially published in a small run and only available to contributors and friends– a kind of “secret book.” It is now available to the general public through Lulu.
Contains work by Nora Almeida / Micah Ballard / Gerrit Lansing / Cedar Sigo / Whit Griffin / Christina Fisher / Joseph Torra / Alli Warren / Patrick Doud / Peter O’Leary / Jim Dunn / Jason Morris / Jackson Meazle / Rebecca E. Wenrick / Sunnylyn Ballard Thibodeaux / Dana Ward / Julien Poirier / John Sakkis /Brian Lucas / Jessica Smith / Sara Larsen / Garret Caples / Geoffrey Young /Rod Roland / Geoffrey Dyer / Patrick James Dunagan / Nick Whittington /Rebecca Maillet / Sirama Bajo / Ryan Gallagher / Jai Arun Ravine / Andrew Schelling / David Brazil / Lindsey Boldt / Hermes Trismegistus COVER ART BY Thorpe Feidt & Brian Lucas
I work in a library that has been weeding thousands of books (outdated, water damaged, and otherwise in poor condition– it had not been weeded in years and we’re downsizing as our research/space needs change), so my friends and I have been reusing some of the old books for art/poetry projects. Some of the books have become hollow books, illuminated books (a la A Humument), and erased texts (a la Radi Os). I have been working on a series of erasures from a book called Animal Camouflage; the erased series is called Exact Resemblance. A few of these erasures are now up at La Vague Journal thanks to editor Jennifer Pilch. Continue reading
From 2006-2008, Maureen Thorson published small chapbooks called “tinysides,” which began as a large folded sheet of paper with a colored cover, saddle-stitched into an uncut codex with binding thread. If I remember correctly, she got the idea while trying to read a large broadside on the subway. The plan was to make small broadsides, so these little books were like a cross between a broadside and a chapbook. tinysides led to an explosion of small artists’ book publishing, such as Foursquare (4″ sq folded broadside zine in a fabric sleeve, 2006-2008), dusie “wee” (the tiniest of tiny handmade ephemeral chapbooks, mostly 1-3″ sq), coinsides (tiny broadsides in coin envelopes) and eventually things like LRL Textile Series (2011-present). Micro-publishing has many iterations, but this was one “genetic line” of where the editors were working in a particular communal/conversational zeitgeist to make limited edition poetry art object publications. Maureen is now working to put all the tinysides online. Since they were initially handmade in small runs, the audience was limited, but you will now be able to access the digital versions online for free here.
After some time off from my own poetry,* I pulled together a book manuscript last Fall and have spent 2013 editing and adding to it, entering it in contests, writing new poems, and otherwise newly engaging in the poetry community as an author. It’s been awhile.
The book manuscript, as yet untitled, was a finalist for the Nightboat Book Prize and in Tarpaulin Sky’s open reading period. Chax picked it up with a tentative release date of 2015. Since we haven’t settled on a title, I describe this as my birds/love/memory ecopoetry project; it’s my normal visual/plastic style, and the subjects are birds/love/folktales/how we remember things. Life-list as mnemonic device. (Samples)
Some of the poems from this manuscript were published by above/ground as Mnemotechnics; here’s a review. rob mclennan’s support this year has been invaluable for getting me back in the game. Not only is he a good friend and editor, but he keeps track of all the above/ground authors’ activity, which is pretty rad.
Thanks in part to a productive NaPoWriMo and kind editors, my poems have been published in aesthetix, The Chapbook , Cordite Poetry Review, The Emerald Tablet, N/A, Open Letters Monthly, Tarpaulin Sky, The Volta, and Word for/ Word in the past year. (Of these, OLM, N/A, TS and The Volta have poems from the new book.) More poems are forthcoming in La Vague Journal (erasures), The Hat (ekphrastic), and as an installation in a walnut grove outside Smiths Falls, ON. Two of my new ekphrastic poems were featured on dusie’s Tuesday poem series and in the Delirious Hem Advent Calendar. I also contributed to the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange (brainchild of Melissa Eleftherion Carr) and to a chapbook called Z”l to benefit the family of CJ Martin and Julia Drescher (ed. Ash Smith)
I read in Ottawa, ON (after honeymooning in relatively nearby Lake Placid, NY) and Oxford, MS. Both communities were wonderful and I got to meet a lot of people I’d only previously known online. (Thank you, rob mclennan and Michael Martin Shea for inviting me!)
In an attempt to integrate my love for poetry with my job as a librarian, I was the first libraries editor for Boog City, I guest blogged for The Library as Incubator Project, and I co-curated another year of the Indian Springs School Visiting Writers Series with my wonderful colleague, Douglas Ray.
I think my favorite project this year was editing the Women of Visual Poetry edition of The Volta. After reviewing part of The Last VisPo Anthology in The Volta Issue 32, I wanted to show that there were a lot more women creating visual poetry than had been featured in The Last VisPo (itself an amazing collection of visual poetry, but as editor Nico Vassilakis sees it, “the genre of visual poetry has primarily been a sausage fest“). I had six weeks to solicit, curate, respond to, and prepare poems for publication before Afton Wilky took over the web design portion of the show; I then spent three weeks gathering the poems and the next three preparing them for Afton. The result is an astounding collection of the works of 63 female poets who work with the visual space of the page. I am proud of this collection and overwhelmed by its beauty and the resulting community of poets. Although I don’t want to edit a journal full-time anymore, I enjoyed the guest editing experience and am hoping to do more of it.
* Since my first book, Organic Furniture Cellar, came out in 2006, I’ve changed careers, lived in 4 different cities, started and ended a poetry magazine (Foursquare), married, had a baby, started a poetry reading series… it’s been a busy 7 years, but not busy with my own writing.
While working at the SFSU Poetry Center, Melissa Eleftherion Carr developed the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange, a digital repository of chapbooks that she intended to function by exchange: when you uploaded your own chapbooks, you would gain access to the others. The Chapbook Exchange chapbooks are now available to the public. The site currently features chapbooks by Stephen Ratcliffe, Caroline Goodwin, Maureen Thorson, Michelle Detorie, Alli Warren, Jess Heaney, Lara Durback, Frances Richard, Donna de la Perriere, Gemma McGrath, Kristy Bowen, Jennifer Firestone, Andrea Rexilius, Maya Weeks, Eve Wood, Christina Lloyd, Mary Burger, Carrie Hunter, Aja Couchois Duncan, Steve Gilmartin, Maw Shein Win, Evan Karp, Melissa Eleftherion, and Patrick Dunagan.
The chapbook I uploaded is butterflies, which was originally published in 2006 by Big Game Books as their first tinyside. tinysides were large broadside sheets folded into pocket-sized books with gorgeous covers designed by editor Maureen Thorson. The limited edition (50 copies) tinysides are sold out now, so the Chapbook Exchange is the only access points for butterflies.
The Chapbook Journal is a periodical that collects new and reprinted chapbooks in one codex. Vol. 2 focuses on Alabama writers and includes chapbooks by Patti White, Emma Bolden, Jim Hilgartner, Jennifer Horne, Laura Hendrix Ezell, and Michael Martone. My included chapbook, The Fortune Teller, was published as a pack of tarot cards by a+bend press (ed. Jill Stengel) in 2009 as part of a dusie collaborative. It has since been out of print and is rereleased here for those who didn’t get a copy of the original. You can order a print copy of The Chapbook ($7.89) or read it online (free!).
To access the original artists’ book/chapbook, visit the Poetry Library at Buffalo.
When Derek Motion asked me for poems for a special issue of Cordite Poetry Review on Gondwanaland, I combined geological research with the acupuncture maps of the body and my physical experience of memory, pain, and desire. Here is the result, lovingly programmed by editor Kent MacCarthur to reproduce my original formatting.
My colleague and friend Douglas Ray and I went to Oxford, MS yesterday to read in Michael Martin Shea‘s Trobar Ric reading series (which he inherited from Tim Early; recent readers have included Adam Clay and Ada Limon, and Douglas and I were scheduled with TJ Beitelman and Andrew Freiman). It was a beautiful warm autumn night, and the reading took place in an old shed with decor, seating, and podium made from reclaimed materials– kind of what you’d imagine a magical Mississippi poetry setting to look like. We had a good turnout and the audience was really friendly and supportive. All in all a great experience.
My friend Robin Brox, who is a poet/organizer/small force of nature/educator on the Buffalo scene, has started performing bpNichol’s “pome poem” before her readings in Buffalo, and it was running through my head yesterday as I tried to calm myself before the reading, so I decided to give it a go. I don’t have enough wind power to perform this as well as Barrie or Robin, especially when nervous, but I enjoyed opening with it and will probably do it again.
A memorial book for the family of CJ Martin and Julia Drescher, now available for pre-order here
1. Read poetry
2. Listen to poetry
3. Disseminate poetry
4. Write poetry
5. Remain open to learning more
1. Don’t bully other poets online or in person
2. Don’t write bad reviews of a poet’s work out of personal spite for the poet
3. Don’t make definitive lists of poets or poems
4. Don’t take on more than you can handle
5. Don’t over/under-estimate the value of poetry in the world
I spent the first three weeks of June guest editing the September issue of The Volta/Evening Will Come, which focuses on visual poetry created by women. Thanks to Joshua Marie Wilkinson and Noah Eli Gordon for letting me put this issue together and to Afton Wilky (who should also be in the issue– check out her vispo on her website) for creating its web presence!
I had fun reading poetry in Ottawa last weekend and meeting a bunch of cool poets, including my publisher rob mclennan and my co-readers Amanda Earl and Marilyn Irwin. I read from my recent chapbook mnemotechnics (available here). Recording here.
I’d love to just talk about my poetry/methods for the entire reading period instead of reading the poems aloud; I prefer readers to encounter the poems for themselves in a reader-page affair. There’s more time to linger, reread, sit still with phrases when you’re reading to yourself.
5 poems from my birds/memory project in Tarpaulin Sky Magazine (thanks Christian!)… if you like these, consider checking out poems from the same manuscript in N/A and my recent chapbook, mnemotechnics (above/ground press). Ottawa! I will be reading in your fair city this Saturday, 7/13.
With each line as deliberate as a brushstroke, Smith constructs scenes on standalone details, which – like the birds she muses – contribute insights best when taken as a flock.
Some new excerpts from my ongoing birds/memories project are in the first issue of N/A, Ed. Amish Trivedi.
Creativity is something that is inherent in everyone, but it gets beaten down a lot in our production-focused educational and economic systems. The library remains a democratizing and nurturing environment where creativity can thrive.
New Boog City (.pdf) with an interview with The Library as Incubator Project’s Erinn Batyfeker (turnabout is fair play).