12 January 2013 § Leave a Comment
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I found this chapbook at an indie bookstore in Center Harbor, NH. I like to “vote with my dollars” and buy chapbooks any time I find them in shops. While some of the poems in this chapbook spent a little too much time calling attention to themselves (like mentioning the typewriter upon which they were composed or talking about the paper they were printed on), others were truly enjoyable. I loved how naturally certain aspects of New Hampshire’s culture were embedded in the poems. I mean really, how often do you read a poem about frost-heaves? My favorite poem in the collection was “farmer spring plowing” where he compares his writing with his neighbor’s farming—both of them working simultaneously in a kind of literary agriculture that was also mentioned in Robert Bringhurst’s What Is Reading For? All in all this chapbook was fun to read as I explore winter for the first time in my summer home.
7 January 2013 § 1 Comment
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My mentor suggested I read this book while on a retreat. He said it would help rejuvenate my creative spirit and help me guide my press into its fifth year printing books and chapbooks. He wasn’t wrong. Bringhurst’s lecture-turned-artifact is a feast for the eyes, hands, and mind. I especially enjoyed his comparison of books to ecosystems and agriculture, having grown up in farming communities and being trained as an ecologist. I read this book quickly. I read it slowly. I read it and took notes. I now plan to read it every New Year between now and the end of my dance with the written word. Because it will take me years to figure out what kinds of words are best to plant, what kinds of words are best to harvest, and how to properly celebrate that harvest by making an object worthy of the name Book.
31 December 2012 § 2 Comments
THIS is what I love about life in the woods:
- You’re playing bingo with your family.
- The phone rings. It’s your neighbor saying, “Come on out if you wanna join us for fireworks.”
- You throw on your coat, hat, and boots. Maybe your gloves.
- You walk down a snowy lane and stand in the road.
- Fireworks ensue, painting the snow.
- You walk back in the house—no traffic, no sweat—and resume bingo.
In the relocation tally, New Hampshire just scored five points in the bonus column.
20 December 2012 § 3 Comments
As I wrapped up the final book project for Folded Word’s 2012 list, I realized that my subconscious might be driving our paperback acquisitions. The last word of Guy Cranswick’s Nine Avenues (to be released by New Year’s Eve) is home. As is the last word of Mel Bosworth’s Freight (2011). Add to that the prevalence of homesickness and the redefinition of home that takes place in Smitha Murthy and Dorothee Lang’s Worlds Apart (2012) along with the analysis of childhood environs in Jessie Carty’s Paper House (2010) and you have the concept of home being central to every non-anthology paperback that Folded Word has published to-date.
Now I am a scientist by training (MS Biology 1995), so I understand that correlation does NOT equal causation. My search, whether conscious or subconscious, is not the only reasonable explanation for the prevalence of home in my print selections. Alternatives might be:
- Home is a central concept for most humans, therefore it plays a key role in most manuscripts.
- Being a competent writer requires a degree of “square peggedness” because the societal tension created by not fitting in allows a person to more objectively observe the world and its inhabitants, thereby creating a yearning to find a place to fit in (i.e. social/emotional home). The resultant observations form the basis of the conflicts that make written work interesting.
- The appearance of home in these books is mere coincidence. Random. A fractal-like artifact of our chaotic submissions queue.
- These books haven’t actually been about home at all, I just projected that onto them. [Any thoughts, my long-suffering authors?]
I’m not sure how aggressively to explore this. It’s difficult to design any kind of scientific analysis since there can be a 2-3 year lag between the time a submission is accepted and the book actually makes it into print. But I think it would be really interesting if, after the relocation issue is settled and I’m home (where/whatever that ends up being), Folded never publishes a home-centric book again.
I would love to hear alternate theories or support/rebuttal of the theories above. I’d also love to know if you’ve recently read any books that deal with the concept of home, or even if you are writing one yourself. The comments section below is ready and waiting for your input:-)
10 December 2012 § 3 Comments
HOME. It’s a Middle English word with Old English, Old Norse, and Old Germanic roots. It’s a word with a long list of meanings. It’s also a word that has consistently caused me angst, especially when filling in the “home town” blank on social media info pages. I have moved around quite a bit—not as much as military kids, but enough to make the concept problematic—and it always seems to me that to answer the question with one place denies the experience and friends of another place.
In a fortnight, I will embark on a year-long quest to answer the question: What is home? This is a personal journey (I would never presume to attempt tackling this in any universal sense) made necessary by a health crisis set off by my well-intentioned purchase of a memory-foam mattress 18 months ago. But more about that in the coming year. Right now I have to focus on packing for the first leg of this journey: six weeks in rural New Hampshire, beginning on Christmas Eve.
29 October 2012 § 5 Comments
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Many of us, myself included, have friends we only know online. Some are merely acquaintances or notches on a networking belt. But other online friendships are more substantial, built on honest communication and/or collaborating on real projects. For me, Jessie is one of these friends. And I have often wondered what life is like for her on the other end of cyberspace, in those moments where the computer is off and the smartphone is put away, in her “real” life.
This chapbook gave me a glimpse into her other world. A world filled with objects and someone to share them with. This world–—her nest, feathered and re-feathered as she moves from what she thinks is expected to what she knows is needed, is made so real on the page that I could feel her couch and taste her casserole. And yet.
And yet I started wondering what “real” life actually is. And whether this poetic construction of Jessie’s life is given to us to satisfy that voyeuristic tendency we all have at some level. That she, in her clever way, might actually be protecting the world she loves by showing him/it to us in a controlled context–—allowing her “Jack” to walk away “nimble and quick to situate himself without any light.”*
I may never know the truth, even if I do meet her in person someday. But in the end it doesn’t matter. The idea of “real” in this chapbook is so enjoyable that I’ll take it, believe it, and wait impatiently for what her next (chap)book will reveal.
*From her poem “What I fear”
28 October 2012 § 2 Comments
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had breakfast with Kevin this morning. Sausage and day-old pancakes with jam. And tea. We laughed as we discussed aging, travel, writing, and the odd mythology. When I say “we laughed,” I mean to say that I laughed and sensed that Kevin must have laughed as he wrote these pieces. Though I suspect with some he sighed as he revised. Or pondered. Or stewed. Because these prose poems seem to have the qualities of a mood ring: adapting themselves to the reader’s inner state so that different elements are highlighted accordingly.
I couldn’t put this book down—had to consume it in one sitting. It was every bit as engaging as the collection of his microfiction I had the pleasure of publishing (101 KINDS OF IRONY, Folded Word, 2012). Yet it had more layers, as poetry must. The same wit and wink were there, but also in attendance were beauty and insight. And a line I’ll never forget from “In the Town of the Fallen Angel”: If you are very lucky, you will see the angel himself, asleep in his chair, holding the open wings of a book in his lap.
Thank you, Kevin, for making me lucky today.