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.
We're proud to unveil our new website today, and hope you'll find it, as we do, a definite upgrade in both looks and usability.
CATALOG: Click on any book in the home page catalog to go to its full description, and ordering information.
BLOG: There's a blog where we'll be posting news, reviews, awards, and commentary, as well as the occasional essay, interview, or guest article about publishing and its future; writing and editing; and books in general.
GUIDELINES AND SUBMISSIONS: Please take a look at the Pages listed in the navigation bar at the top, and note that there is a Submissions page now and a revised "About Us"; together these two pages should give prospective authors a sense of what Phoenicia is looking for, and how to approach us if you're interested in sending a manuscript.
And please let us know what you think. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome!
Qarrtsiluni managing Editors Dave Bonta and Beth Adams have submitted six nominations for the 2010 Pushcart Prizes. While most of these fine poems will appear in subsequent print editions published by Phoenicia, Clayton Michaels' "Tantric" is from his chapbook, Watermark, currently available here!
As we often say, we have a love/hate affair with contests and awards. It's great to be able to nominate our authors, and even more wonderful when they win, but we see so much work that is deserving of greater recognition, so it's very hard to choose only a few pieces to single out. Our goal is to congratulate and encourage all writers -- but today, to give a special tip of the hat to these fine poets and their work, and to the qarrtsiluni guest editors who chose some of these poems for their issues.
“24” by Barbara Young (New Classics issue)
“Tantric” by Clayton Michaels (Watermark)
“Relics” by Sherry Chandler (Health issue)
“Sea of Stars” by Dick Jones (The Crowd issue)
“So soft his neck, so distant from the thought of stone” by Jee Leong Koh (New Classics issue)
“Apart” by Aline Soules (Chapbook Finalists 2010; originally published in The Houston Literary Review, May 2009)
We were pleased to learn that Kristen McHenry, an excellent poet herself and one of last year's runners-up in the qarrtsiluni chapbook contest, has written a review of Clayton Michaels' "Watermark."
These poems never explain themselves, instead allowing space for the reader to wander at leisure, viewing them through their own lens, invited into the memories of sound and image. Michaels quirky, yet personable voice makes “Watermark” a strong addition to any poetry collection.
Kristen's chapbook from last year, The Goatfish Alphabet, has been published by Naissance and I'm happy to recommend it to readers; I bought a copy myself and have enjoyed every poem in her strong collection.
The latest news and commentary about our plans, events, authors, and titles!