For a closer view of our most recent book and the people behind it, you might like to listen to the podcast published last week by Dave Bonta at ViaNegativa. It's an interview/discussion with Rachel Barenblat (left) author of 70 Faces:Torah Poems, and me, Beth Adams, the book's editor and publisher (at right above). Dave is a great host, and the three of us had an excellent time talking about Rachel's new book, listening to and discussing some of her poems and the texts they respond to, and the often-difficult subjects they bring up and address.
We talked about the patriarchy and violence of the Bible and the problems modern people have relating to a God who supposedly ordered/allowed the wholesale destruction of groups of people, or the dispossession of their land, and how these scriptures relate to the current political situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories -- all subjects that Rachel takes on in her poetry, and are of great interest and concern to me because of my long-term marriage into an Arab-Armenian family. In fact, this sense of grappling with difficult issues and trying to build bridges is a big part of my purpose here at Phoenicia, and one of many reasons why I wanted to publish this book of Rachel's.
At the end of the interview, the conversation turns to publishing and we talk about Phoenicia's first year, what we've learned from it, and our plans for the future. We thank Dave for his generosity in hosting this interview, and hope you'll enjoy it.
Note: if you don't want to download the whole podcast, there's a "pause" button on the audio player window, and you can listen in sections if you wish - it will start up where you left off.
From Clayton Michaels' Watermark:
These are the days that call
for a bottle of Sonoma zinfandel,
that beg for the black pepper,
for the anise. Flavors that at least
warm the mouth. I savor each sip
for as long as I can, until the
astringency makes my tongue
feel like cotton.
Snow again today,
then rain, then snow.
These are the days I need
a woman without edges, without
unexpected corners that could
tear or scrape. She might taste like
black pepper and anise,
maybe sandalwood incense,
or blackcurrant with a hint of cinnamon.
All flavors to delight in and hold.
We could ride out
the gathering storms in bed,
getting drunk, reading poetry.
From a distance,
the black type on
the white paper
looks like animal tracks
on the freshly fallen snow.
The Berkshire Eagle has just published an appreciative review of Rachel Barenblat's 70 Faces:Torah Poems by a writer of a different faith tradition, who says, in part:
"She has also taught me the depth and variety and compassion in the way she practices her faith. It is not the one I grew up with, but she and I think about faith in very much the same way, and reading Rachel's prayers and poems and open letters has shown me a faith that opens continually, that shuts no one out, and that insists on honesty, effort and care. "
An excellent new review of Dave Bonta's Odes to Tools has just appeared on the blog of poet, theologian, creative writing professor and college administrator Kristin Berkey-Abbott, who gave several copies as gifts this Christmas. She writes:
"It's a great book for those people on your list who see poetry as a hoity-toity exercise that rarely speaks to regular people.
Bonta writes a poem for every almost every tool in the shed (unless you've got a really well-stocked shed). His poem "Ode to a Hoe" envisions the hoe as an agent of beginnings--not only the new garden, but also those worms that you chop in half. "Ode to a Measuring Tape" comforts me by asserting "In an old house like this, nothing is square." "Ode to a Shovel" uses the metaphor of stew and of dancing to make me see a shovel in a whole new light. "Ode to a Claw Hammer" ensures I will never see the hammer in the same way again, once I've read Bonta's description of the hammer as "the first / perfect androgyne," a creature that can "give birth to nails."
His chapbook is wonderfully accessible, and I mean that in the most positive way. Even those of us who haven't used the tools will likely understand the poems."
Starting this week: a series of blog posts containing excerpts from our titles, with occasional images.
From Words of Power, this haunting poem by Dick Jones. You can hear it read aloud by the author by clicking on the link at the end of the poem.
Strange word, ‘stroke’ — a gentle sleep
and then you wake up,
changed. Caressed by infirmity
on the brown hill, kissed
by disability as you climb
the long drive. The farmhouse tips
and, heart in crescendo,
you embrace the grass.
Indifferent sheep manoeuvre,
crowding out your sky.
You lie in a lump, adrift
at the field’s edge, floating
on the dead raft
of your limbs.
The sun nails light
into your one good eye.
Near dusk her scarecrow voice
scatters your crowding dreams:
she calls you from the house,
the sound of your name
curling out of the past,
a gull-cry, fierce, impatient,
tearing at the membrane
that has dimmed your world.
you are another species now.
Your medium is clay and saturation.
Mummified, like the bog-man
trapped by time, you lie dumbfounded,
mud-bound and uncomprehending
as the sun slips down
behind the hill.
The urgent fingers
scavenging for a heartbeat,
fluttering like bird-wings
at your throat,
are busy in the dark.
You feel nothing
of their loving panic,
All love, all optimism, pain,
all memory, desire coarsen,
thicken into vegetable silence.
A dim siren wobbles in the dark.
And then rough hands manhandle
your clod-heavy bulk.
Night swallows the spinning light
and closes in like smoke.
Download the podcast
Dick Jones writes, “Initially wooed by the First World War poets and then seduced by the Beats, I have been exploring the vast territories in between since the age of 15. Fitfully published in a variety of magazines throughout the years of rambling — Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Ireland Review, Qarrtsiluni, Westwords, Mipoesias, Three Candles, Other Poetry and others. Grand plans for the meisterwerk have been undermined constantly either by a Much Better Idea or a sort of Chekhovian inertia.
We were happy to receive word recently that two of Phoenicia's books have been ordered as texts by professors for their college poetry classes. Clayton Michaels' "Watermark," will be taught and discussed in a poetry/creative writing class, and soon-to-be-published "70 faces: Torah Poems" by Rachel Barenblat, will be used in a class on Feminist Methodologies.
One of our goals at Phoenicia Publishing is to encourage greater use of contemporary, edge-pushing texts in poetry and writing education - students respond positively to these texts, they have few of the biases of older readers against unconventional publication methods - quite the contrary - and they are encouraged by works such as Clayton's and Rachel's toward greater freedom and experimentation in their own work and thinking.
We've asked the teachers to share their experiences with us after the classes have read and discussed these books, and also to allow us to publish some of the student's work -- so there will be more on this topic here in the spring!
On her "Women and Books" blog, respected poet Glenda Bailey-Mershon recently published a list: "Books I Loved in 2010 and Think You Will Too." Her top ten list included "A Walk through the Memory Palace" by Pamela Johnson Parker. Here's what she said about it:
"Artful and precise in their construction, these poems won Johnson Parker the Chapbook Prize from qaartsiluni, a small press doing some of the most innovative issues on the web (and, in the interest of full disclosure, a publisher of some of my own work.) I include the Memory Palace here because I believe it will please those who favor poems that catalogue, parse, and sliver the human experience in ways that reflect like shards of glass. While I prefer poetry that is more accessible and wholistically illuminative, I couldn’t help but admire this poet’s skill. I know why it was chosen, and I think it’s important to all writers to examine carefully that which challenges as well as pleases."
As 2010 draws to a close, we're delighted to launch this new website -- please take a look around! -- and to share lots of exciting news for the New Year!
-- The latest qarrtsiluni print edition, Words of Power, will be available for order in a matter of days. (See the HOME page for a view of the cover.)
-- In early January, we'll be releasing 70 Faces: Torah Poems, a full-length collection of poems engaging the five books of Moses, by Rachel Barenblat -- known to many of you as the Velveteen Rabbi, and soon to be ordained as a real rabbi: an event this publication celebrates. More on this wonderful book very soon!
--In late February or early March, we'll be publishing Mercy Island, new and collected poems by Ren Powell, whose finely-crafted, extremely beautiful writing has been published in three translated books in Norway, where she lives and works, but never before in an English edition for North American readers.
--And Phoenicia is thrilled to be planning the publication, later in 2011, of Marly Youmans' astonishing book-length epic poem of apocalypse and hope, Thaliad.
So it's going to be a very full and exciting New Year at Phoenicia, and we welcome you to sail with us, discovering the worlds revealed by these remarkable authors with whom we're so proud and happy to be working.
The latest news and commentary about our plans, events, authors, and titles!