Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Poetry of Hope: Glass Factory by Marilyn McCabe




In this superb new poetry collection, the world is viewed through the metaphor of Saint Paul's: as though it were seen "through a glass darkly." But although McCabe's landscape is often dark, her language is quite clear, capable of letting through enough light to see that "sometimes / it is beautiful, framed in flame, / and [only] some days, as today, obscure." But even when it is totally dark, the poet assures us that "Hymn will lead you / humming," never straying far from her assertion: "I hope."

 And it is when McCabe writes about this hope that her poems truly sing. "Sometimes lying hours awake I can almost hear / the deer sweep through the undergrowth, / ring the house, its small barn, // past the apple tress, gnarled and spent." And even when "motionless at the window," the poet "can't really see them at all, only the absence of pine against // star spattered sky, the vague / recollection of light" shines through. This is because she is adamant about "the soul's / determination not to be alone." But even when most others would abandon hope as the light wanes, this poet tells us that "the sharp dark was revealed at last / to be curves and sweet tastes." And in the poem "Planting," we learn that even "in absence, something ...will branch. Bloom." 

Selecting a favorite poem is a difficult choice to make, but a strong candidate is "On Hearing the Call to Prayer over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning." In it, the poet reminds all nihilists as well as all saviors that "Things are seldom as hard as they seem. / I believe in this, called what you will; / and if a prayer can rise me bread like, // so the day is risen." Yet, it is "A complex equation, // x contains multitudes, contradictions, can be / both positive or negative, influenced one day / by the preponderance of greater than / nothing; one day by weight of less than." 

Although McCabe’s voice is original, I can hear echoes of poets who have come before her: the footsteps of Whitman, the self-reflective images of Levis as in the final line of “Boy in Video Arcade: "And it's slow work because of all the gauzy light. / It's hard to pick out anything."
 

Marilyn McCabe has done the hard, slow work of assembling poems with language that aptly describes a vision both memorable and mature, a vision that invites us in to recreate it in our own work, without vaunting ourselves up in pride or falling into the pit of despair.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Poets to See at AWP: Cynthia Alessandra Briano

I have yet to meet Cynthia Alessandra Briano in person, but from the energy she has exuded in our online communication about the Rapp Saloon Poetry Reading Series that she hosts the first Friday night of every month, I am convinced that she is definitely a poet to see at AWP this year in Los Angeles. She is fully engaged in the local poetry scene, and a hub for so many literary connections, as you will see in her biography below, that to miss meeting her would be to miss meeting an important connection in the SoCal poetry community. I hope that you will join me in meeting her on Friday, April 1, 8:30 p.m. at the historical Rapp Saloon (built in 1875) at 1436 2nd St., Santa Monica, CA 90401. I will be featuring, along with Ron Starbuck, Connie Post, and Anne Tammel. Music will be provided by Delonte Gholston.





For all that Cynthia is in terms of a connection to the SoCal poetry scene, she is far more--an award-winning writer and poet, a teacher, and a founder of literary organizations and journals that impact the world beyond her local environs. Here is one of her poems, along with the cover to These Pages Speak, a creative writing textbook where her work recently appeared.






     Solar Time--The Sundial, the Dial Plate, the Hours Marked Off 

     Our love like a horizontal sundial
     and God like the gilt brass gnomon
     casting the shadow, telling time,

     telling time—solar noon, like the Muezzin
     call to prayer, solar noon, the equation

     of our prayers angled North fifty one degrees, North
     thirty four, London, Los Angeles,

     when the sun crosses the Meridian of Greenwich— 
     come, the daily prayer. At sunset I touch my own knees,

     the spine of the earth a steady pull of grace, dark
     and your city a magnetic north, lunar noon now,

     lunar noon—when memory like the body begins its ellipse,
     and your absence like the spinning, steady tilt

     offsetting the length of night, memory like the dome
     of an observatory, collecting the apparent

     movement of your shadow like the sun,
     fifteen degrees westward in one hour, hands

     cupped beneath me like a celestial
     pull, the elliptic orbit of your mouth,

     the successive noons
     of our desire. Absence approximates itself

     like the day, a mean adjusted accordingly,
     the four days watches tell solar time exactly right,
     and God always like a pendulum

     forgiving the error in calculations.
     Solar time giving me twenty more seconds of you in December
     and in the sobering month of September taking them away,

     we add an extra second to clock time,
     we stick a single stick in the hard ground, watch

     for the lengthening, let it reach—what is there to measure, love
     accounting for the discrepancy of time

     spent and time remembered,
     moving faster when we near, slower at the aphelion,

     your mouth like the dark origin of all
     our existence,

     and love between us like the God-given shadow
     giving our bodies substance,
     the touch of your form without touch,

     your mouth on me like the single indicator
     of the universe collapsing—
     pandemonium


     pandemonium…pandemonium…  







Literary Biography

Cynthia Alessandra Briano is Founder of Love On Demand Global, an organization that creates custom-ordered poetry for charity, and aims to create opportunities for creative writers to contribute to causes they are passionate about. LODG hosts poetry booths, where members of the community commission portrait-poems from LODG writers that are composed on-demand and typed on vintage typewriters; LODG donates part of its proceeds to local and international charities.

Cynthia has run Love On Demand since 2005. It began as a one-woman poetry booth in Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade purely for inspiration. Her studies in Global Sustainability at UCLA Ext. gave rise to the idea of expanding this very personal project into a global one.

Cynthia is the recipient of the Lois Morrell & J. Russell Hayes Poetry Prize, a finalist in the national James Hearst Poetry Prize, and has been published in the North American Review and These Pages Speak, a creative writing textbook. She attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania where she received her B.A. in English Literature, with a concentration in creative writing. Cynthia has also studied Global Sustainability at UCLA Ext., has received a Community Access Scholarship to UCLA Ext. Writer's Program, and is part of the founding class of the Community Literature Initiative. 

As a student, she founded Enie, a Spanish Literary Arts journal, and served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Ourstory, a diversity publication, and Small Craft Warnings, the flagship literary journal for Swarthmore College. As an educator, Cynthia co-founded the literary arts journal, Treasure Chest, and serves as judge of the Onestep Young Adult Short Fiction Contest. 

She has been a featured poet at various libraries and venues including: The Natural History Museum, Beyond Baroque, and the on-air Inspiration House with Peter J. Harris on KPFK. Cynthia has also been co-sponsored by Poets & Writers, Inc. for a reading at the Sunland-Tujunga Library. She has served as Literary Programs Director and Poet-In-Residence at Self-Help Graphics & Art, and has worked both locally and abroad, teaching  creative writing, speech, and English Literature. She has given professional development workshops on creative writing and public speaking in Thailand, the Philippines, and most recently, the Getty Villa.

Currently, Cynthia is a college counselor, serves as Global Sustainability Curriculum Coordinator, and teaches literature and creative writing to K-12 students. She is Founder of Spitfire Literary Arts, which offers creative writing and public speaking workshops for young adults and adults, and where she serves as Editorial Consultant, as well as Content and Copy Editor for manuscripts.

Cynthia is Curator and Host of the Rapp Saloon Reading Series in Santa Monica on First Fridays, and is at work on her first collection of poetry, The Moving Parts Dismantled.

Links:

Facebook Invitation to AWP Offsite Reading Event
Rapp Saloon Poetry Reading Series
Love On Demand Global






Friday, March 18, 2016

Poets to See at AWP: Stephanie Barbé Hammer


I met Stephanie Barbé Hammer at the first annual San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival held in 2013. I walked into the make-shift bookstore before its posted opening time to see if the clerk would take my chapbook and broadsides on consignment for the Lit Fest. Stephanie was standing on the customer side of the counter, reading a book through her red-framed glasses. I discovered that she was there for the same reason as I. Recognizing her as a member of my clan--the rare group of people who show up more than fifteen minutes before the posted opening of any event or business--I immediately liked her. 

After she asked me who my favorite dead poet was, and we discussed the finer points of Whitman, I learned that she was a professor and a fiction writer, as well as a poet, with a new chapbook from the Chicago-based Dancing Girl Press (I went to grad school with its Editor-in-Chief, Kristy Bowen). I was ready to cancel whatever I was going to do next in order to attend her reading (which I did). 

I'll never forget the short story she read, and how every time someone came in late, she would stop, look up, re-state the title--"Having Sex With a Martian"--as if she were saying "Have a seat, and try to keep up," and then proceed with the next sentence. Her magical realism fiction is...well, magical. And her poetry sets its hooks deep into the marrow of what it means to be human, with language that is quirky, yet accessible, overall providing just the right mix of mystery, pathos, and humor, subverting readers' expectations without losing them in the process. You'll see what I mean when you read the sample poem that she sent me for this post, "Woman to woman," from her most recent collection, How Formal (Spout Hill, 2014).

 

          Woman to woman (for Alan Dann)

          A woman came up to me in Bloomingdales and said she liked my glasses and I told her 
          where to get them and she said, “what do you think I am --  a millionaire?” and stomped 
          off.

          A woman came up to me in grad school and said she wished she was as smart as I was 
          and I told her where to find the good theory books at the library and she said ‘what do 
          you think I am  -- stupid or something?” and threw down her copy of Derrida’s  On 
          Grammatology and stomped off.

          A woman came up to me in the airport in Montpellier and said “Ce livre --  De La 
          Grammatologie par Derrida – c’est à vous?”  and I told her I had picked it up off the 
          ground in North Carolina, and the woman said "Quoi?  Vous êtes un connard 
          Américain?” and lit a Gauloise and stomped off.

          A woman came up to me in the hospital and said “this is your baby,” and I took the baby, 
          but she said, “I can tell already you’re a terrible mother,” and threw the baby blankets at 
          my husband and stomped off.

          A woman came up to me at the swimming pool and wanted to know why my 2-year-old
          daughter was laughing at her classmate, and I explained that she had never seen a penis 
          before, and the woman said “DON’T USE THAT FOUL WORD IN MY PRESENCE, 
          threw a beach ball at my head, and stomped off.

          A woman came up to me at my house and said she wondered what all these little girls 
          were doing, drawing with chalk on the driveway, and I said they were friends of my 
          daughter and she said “YOUR CHILDREN ARE OUT OF CONTROL”, and the girls 
          started laughing, and they all took giant steps behind her as she stomped off.

          A woman came up to me at the university and said she wondered why everyone was so 
          mean to each other on campus, and I said “what do I look like – a therapist?”, and she 
          said “actually, yes, you do,” and stomped off.

          A woman came up to me at a shopping mall entrance, and gave me a Kleenex because I 
          was crying into the telephone fighting with my husband, and I said “thank you” and she 
          said “don’t mention it; I know how you feel; you just wish you could stomp off.”

          A woman came up to me at the Northampton bus station, and she said she knew me from
          somewhere, and I said “I am your mother,” and she said “I know -- I’m just kidding and 
          being weird!” and then she laughed and pretended to stomp off.

          A woman came up to me on the beach and she said she knew where all the magic stones were,
          and I put down my copy of Derrida, and laid out a beach blanket, and we took turns 
          stomping off and looking for magic rocks and then bringing them back, lying on the 
          beach, telling each other stories, while wearing each other’s sunglasses.


To catch Stephanie at AWP, plan to attend her reading at Chevalier's Books, 126 North Larchmont, Blvd., Los Angeles 90004, Saturday night, April 2, at 6:00 p.m. 











Biography

Descended from Norwegian plumbers on one side, and broke bohemian Russian aristocrats on the other, Stephanie Barbé Hammer has published short fiction, nonfiction and poetry in The Bellevue Literary Review, CRATE, Pearl, East Jasmine Review, Apeiron, and the Hayden’s Ferry Review among other places. Stephanie’s 2014 poetry collection, How Formal? is available from Spout Hill Press. Stephanie taught Comparative Literature for many years in the University of California system, where she won two distinguished teaching awards. She continues to teach writing and the love of world literature at nonprofits, writers’ conferences, writers associations, bookstores and religious centers. Most recently, she served as a writer in residence at two private colleges in the People’s Republic of China. She divides her time between Los Angeles and Coupeville Washington, where she lives with her husband, interfaith blogger Larry Behrendt. She is a 4-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Poets to See at AWP: Larry Eby

I met Larry Eby as a result of his manuscript, Flight of August, being selected by Joan Houlihan for the 2013 Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press. I had the good fortune of being the lead editor on the project of bringing the book to publication, along with the help of many other colleagues. In the process, I found Larry to be a poet with a voice and sensibility beyond his years. Since then, he has gone on to graduate from California State University, San Bernardino, with an MFA, and to be hired as an instructor at multiple Inland Empire community colleges in southern California, as well as write and publish a second full-length book, Machinist in the Snow (ELJ Publications, 2015).




Here is a sample poem from his recently-released book:

32. Machinist in the Snow

If I lift the ocean in an invisible cup, the root of water
would make a new home in the brain of oxygen. A barren

land emerges. Elephant tusks, radiator, the milk of all mammals
spoiled in jars. You emerge                          follow me

and where have I lost
the scent of the past. A television                  it's time

scuttles the cracked, evaporated floor. Who
are you? The shadows                                      you

have followed me till now then retreat         always you
into the propellers of time. No light from the sun,

it returns home to the underside of the earth. A music
bubbles like soap                                          have heard me

into my ears, a tambourine, snare. You with your
speaker of what I have left. I stand and what

now will I do? If you are here to tell me, then tell me.
If you are here to reset this body, then do so

delicately. The water is restless in its suspension. But this sand
is breathing again. To make one move, is to

terrify another. I cannot                                 you will
do this                                                             begin
again                                                               again.

(Previously published in Thrush Poetry Journal.)

During AWP, Larry will most often be found at the Book Fair Table (# 1132), for Orange Monkey Publishing (he founded the press). He will be reading at the Superstition Review reading on Wednesday, 5:00 p.m., at The Panorama: 1122 W 24th St, LA CA 90007, and also be at the Orange Monkey Publishing / ELJ Publications reading at Ham and Eggs Tavern, Thursday at 5:00 p.m., 433 W 8th St. Los Angeles, CA 90014. If you don't know Larry, stop by and meet him and try to make at least one of his readings. His award-winning first collection, Flight of August, will also be available at the Trio House Press Table (#1204).






Larry Eby is the author of two books of poetry, Flight of August, winner of the 2013 Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, and Machinist in the Snow, ELJ Publications 2015. His work can be found in Forklift, Passages North, Fourteen Hills, Thrush Poetry Journal, and others. He is the Editor in Chief of Orange Monkey Publishing, a poetry press in California. 




Monday, March 7, 2016

Poets to See at AWP: Dorinda Wegener

I met Dorinda Wegener in the winter of 2006. I was immediately taken with the artistry that permeates her poems, as well as the sensitivity with which she conveys her spot-on appraisals of other poets' work--mine included. Even while we were attending MFA residencies, there were no comments about my work that I valued more highly than Dorinda's. And so it was quite natural for me to continue to depend upon her feedback after graduation, which I continue to do. 

As you can read in her bio below, she is a Co-Founder of Trio House Press. What is not stated is that she is the Managing Editor who oversees all aspects of book design and production, inside and out, and is personally responsible for the press' beautiful and appropriately designed covers, portraying on the outside what is conveyed between them. It is no wonder that whenever my manuscript was accepted last year by CW Books that I hired her to design its cover, and many other poets publishing with other presses do the same. 

But it is Dorinda's poems that I want to introduce to you. They are smart poems that deal with significant issues in a diction that is both pleasing on the page and musical on the stage--something quite rare these days. Although she has yet to publish her full-length manuscript, Four Fields, she has a tasty sample of poems in her recently released chapbook from Damfino Press, Five Poems, that can be ordered HERE. 







Dorinda Wegener is a poet you should make plans to meet during AWP. Most of the time she will be found at the Trio House Press Book Fair Table (#1204), where she will be happy to make your acquaintance. If you don't know her work, you should get to know it, as she is an emerging poet who will soon be a force to be reckoned with. Here then is a sample poem that first appeared in Mid-American Review:


Noun : Adjective : Idiom : Verb


It’s the sound of ice from a tumbler: small
and round, but sure of how to care for itself—

It is a river of ink soft-seeping into the page.

It arrives in early morning; breaks
night down to shards of history—

It floats like a corpse: bobbing up, bobbing up.

It’s a slim paper-cut kiss upon fingertip.
A stone passed from tongue to tongue—

It is held in the left hand as the right takes fire.




Dorinda Wegener is Co-founder of Trio House Press, a non-profit publisher of distinct voices in American poetry. Her chapbook, 5 Poems by Dorinda Wegener, was solicited by Dămfīno Press for their Five Poems Series 2015. She is a former Showcased Poet selected by the NH State Council of the Arts and the NH Poet Laureate, now anthologized within Poet Showcase: an Anthology of New Hampshire Poets (Hobblebush Books, 2015). Wegener’s work appears in The Antioch Review, Indiana Review, and Hotel Amerika, et al.