Yes, it’s that time of year again. Those songs that come out only once a year have been blaring from supermarket speakers for over a week now, and even the craft stores are doing unspeakable things to holiday tunes with flutes.
However, there are ways to restore that Christmas spirit, so don’t despair!
Visualize yourself in slippers, wrapped in an alpaca blanket, leaning into the back rest of a stuffy, friendly armchair by the fireplace, and read / listen to this … And feel free to add to the list of poems or audio/video: share links in the comments! Continue reading
…Hawaii Pacific Review just published two of my poems. Here’s one:
Burke’s Handbook on Beauty
And the other:
A is for Atom — An Instructional Film (1952)
Hope you enjoy!
Let’s talk about the ghazal. Which, by the way (and I have this on good authority), is pronounced ‘guzzle.’ Originally an Urdu tradition, it has made its way via Europe (Germany) to the US, and that alone — the differences in culture — makes it very interesting to look at. Here’s a ghazal by teacher and poet Manoshi Chatterjee, performed by the author. Continue reading
graffiti modified from tmblr.co/ZTOYQqvIKL7N
Sharon Venezio’s collection of poems begins with a quote by English painter and poet John Berger: “Photography relieves us of the burden of memory.” The quote frames the poems in The Silence of Doorways very nicely, as they are organized into sets of photographs such as landscapes, portraits, over-exposures. Personal history, individual histories if you will, are at the focus of all of these poems, even the “landscapes.” Continue reading
Martin Espada’s Imagine the Angels of Bread is a collection of poem that speaks out on behalf of the ‘alien,’ the illegal immigrant who is used and abused. An example: In “Offering to an Ulcerated God,” a woman who does not speak English is sued by her landlord for not making the rent. She has with her several photographs of the place, which prove that it is not livable, but she never even gets the chance to show these to the judge. Even though there is a volunteer translator, who is supposed to give her a voice in court, he never gets a chance to speak either, to tell the court what the woman is saying. Continue reading
Poet Kevin Young
I just finished Kevin Young’s Dear Darkness, a relatively long collection of poems (almost 200 pages!) and very enjoyable. I’m glad I got to read it here and now, that is, in Mississippi, and during the monsoon-like rain that rings in the end of summer. This book feels Southern.
If there’s one thing Dear Darkness makes clear, even if you only look at the table of contents, it’s that Kevin Young likes his Southern food, fried, greasy, salty and rich. His odes to chitlins, okra, pork, chicken, gumbo, crawfish, even to greens and kitchen grease, closely tie food to family, comfort and love. At times, a food becomes a lover, a cousin, a friend. Continue reading
The third Latino novel I’m going to talk about is quite different from both of the other two (Dreaming in Cuban, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents). Unlike the protagonists of the other novels, Chino has spent all his life in the US, growing up in Spanish Harlem. The language of the neighborhood’s streets permeates his story, and he gives us first hand insights into the culture of his community. Continue reading
Dreaming in Cuban is very different from the last novel I discussed here, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. It feels like there is, somehow, more of everything. It’s rougher throughout, but smoother around the edges. Maybe this will make more sense once you know what the book is about.
There’s a grandmother (abuela) named Celia, she lives in Cuba, while her husband Jorge has moved to the US, supposedly to get better health care. The earliest events here are around 1930. Their oldest daughter, Lourdes, is born into a strained relationship: Jorge is away almost all the time, on purpose, because he knows it hurts Celia. He is acting out of jealousy, knowing that Celia fell deeply in love with another man before they got married.
I’ve always had a soft spot for used book stores, and if I ever go missing I suggest that’s the first place to look, since I can spend hours at a time inspecting book shelves. The smell of old paper, the sight of spine upon spine upon spine – there’s something sensual, visceral about all this. It’s basically a spawning ground for creativity.
Unicorn, by Tacoma Bookcenter, Tacoma, WA, USA.
Buying books online is, sadly, a very impersonal experience, and it would be nice if it were less so. That’s the rationale behind the Bookseller Art Project: to give online book shopping a more personal note, to humanize this computer-to-computer interaction.
It’s very simple. When you place an order with a book seller, use that ‘special instructions’ or ‘comments’ box and politely ask for a drawing, a doodle, a sketch, anything simple you can think of. There really are people at the other end of that order form, and they can produce art. Check out the growing collection here:
And if you have any book seller art you’d like to add to it, just comment / contact me. Anything creative that happens on the invoice or packaging can be part of this project. If possible, also let me know the name of the book seller or the store, so we can give credit where credit is due.
First off, let me say that McSweeney’s publish beautiful books. I’ve said it before, probably, but I’ll say it again: these poetry books are beautifully made. The latest one is Victoria Chang’s The Boss:
There are two central themes to the collection, namely ‘the boss’ and ‘the family.’ Interspersed between poems that describe, from the view point of an employee, the traits of the (bad) boss are poems in the voice of a daughter whose father has aphasia after a stroke. The daughter is also herself a parent, and at times the family and boss themes flow together into the same poem. Continue reading