I started a Poetry Readers’ Group in February 2004. There were 8 of us at then; 3 of the originals remain and three others sit at the table now.
Each month, a member selects a book which we will all read and discuss over a long afternoon lunch. We’ve read everything from selected poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins to this month’s selection, Parts of Speech by Kyle Schlesinger. Needless to say, there have been some very intense dialogues and there is rarely a book of poetry that is either universally liked or disliked.
Thinking about the discussion we will have on Schlesinger’s book this month prompted me to consider which books of poetry I personally have found to be the most memorable over the years. Most of these books were not necessarily Readers’ Group selections though one is, Late Psalm by Betsy Sholl. This happened to be universally liked by the group members at the time.
As I pondered other books, I decided to compile my list based on certain factors: these books aren’t in the academic “canon.” Reading them forever changed how I approach as well as write poetry. They come to mind immediately when someone asks what my favorite book of poetry is.
In no particular order, here they are:
Late Psalm by Betsy Sholl
Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood
Song by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Late Wife by Claudia Emerson
The Selected Poems of Max Jacob (in translation)
From these come some of my favorite poems: “Half-Hanged Mary” by Atwood, “Song” by Kelly and “Hell Has Gradations” by Jacobs.
“Half-Hanged Mary” takes 10 minutes to read. I know because I did a dramatic reading of it at Rochester Institute of Technology several years ago.
“Song” is a poem I can no longer hear read nor read myself. To do so metaphorically scrapes the walls of the chambers of my heart.
“Hell Has Gradations” is prescient, an allegorical prose poem that saw the Holocaust coming. Jacobs, who converted to Catholicism from Judaism, died in a Nazi prison camp.
If you’ve not read these poems or the books in which they are found, I encourage you to seek them out and know that they may overwhelm you.
Despite the best efforts of bronchitis, I was able to travel to non-profit Bright Hill Press & Literary Center (www.brighthillpress.org) for the official book launch of my chapbook Language You Refuse to Learn last week.
Bright Hill, which is situated on the outskirts of the Catskills, reminds me of Doctor Who’s TARDIS. From the outside you see a lovely country house but inside is a lovely gallery space with a library of used books for sale and, beyond that, a new addition which houses private book collections donated to Bright Hill as well as a children’s space.
Bertha Rogers, the driving force behind Bright Hill, was a welcoming host, most gracious in extending an invitation to my friend Lorrie and me to stay in the literary center’s guest space where we could have spent days perusing all that the library has to offer.
I am extremely grateful to my friends Lorrie, Kathy, Donna, and David Michael who made the trip from Rochester to Treadwell for the book launch and reading.
Future readings will be Thursday, October 2 at the DeWitt Community Library (7:00 pm) and Thursday, October 9 in the Golisano Gateway at St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, NY (7:30 pm). Many thanks to M.J. Iuppa for arranging this reading.
The fall calendar has been rapidly filling with poetry readings, classes, and publications.
Here in Rochester, the second Fringe Festival begins this weekend. A group of poets, led by Wanda Schubmehl, will be reading the work generated from her latest project–a poetry chain gang. Participating poets responded to one poem from another participating poet. The poem generated was then be passed along to another poet. None of us (yes, I am a participant!) saw any other poem than the one given to each of us until the project was completed. The reading will be this Saturday, September 21 at Writers & Books, 740 University Ave., Rochester, NY. We’ll start at 4:00 pm, so arrive early for the best seat! This is a free reading. As a result of Wanda’s efforts, FootHills Publishing will also produce a chapbook with all of our poems.
Please head over to Conte Online where my poem “14th. St., Buffalo, NY” appears. I am grateful to the editors for including my work and for asking me to record the poem being read in my voice, something I have not previously done. Let me know what you think. http://www.conteonline.net/issue0901/
There are several poetry readings this week featuring local poets. Tonight, Karla Linn Merrifield and Catherine Faurot (a fellow Bennington alum) will be reading at Writers & Books for the Genesee Reading Series, 7:30 pm.
Thursday, Just Poets will hold a reading from their annual anthology, Le Mot Juste, at the Pittsford Library (second floor) at 7:00 pm. An open mic will follow.
Saturday, Patricia Roth Schwartz will be reading at Books, Etc. in Macedon at 2:00 pm. Pat has asked a few of her friends (I am among them) to read a couple of poems as well.
I’d also like to point you to a list of the top 25 writers of faith compiled by the editors of Image. Here’s a link http://imagejournal.org/page/blog/the-iimagei-top-25-contemporary-writers-of-faith-list. Post a comment if you agree/disagree with their selections.
As the fall 2013 reading period opens, I want to address the issue of online literary journals and the merits of having work published by them.
The most obvious benefit is the size of the potential audience. While print publications are, for the most part, quite limited in their press runs, online publications have the possibility of readership limited only by the scope of the Web. This potentiality is heavily augmented by the reach of social media: Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, RSS feeds, etc., where the Word of the Web spreads more quickly than the word of mouth ever could.
Another important consideration is the development of relationships with other poets, publishers, and editors outside of your immediate environs that can lead to further publication opportunities, invitations to read, and invitations to attend and/or lead workshops.
Then there is the Google factor. When a reader comes upon your work online, that reader is able to search the Internet for more of your work, an expanded bio, and your general reputation within the larger community of poetry.
Will your work be perceived as lesser in status by appearing online versus in print? The answer to that question differs with each reader. We all have that one friend or family member who refuses to enter the digital age but is that one person your target audience? Who is in your target audience? Could those individuals who might appreciate your work the most be the same people who spend their days connected to their technology simply because of its portability?
A friend says to you, “Hey, I just read the most awesome conceptual poem.” You ask, “So, can you lend me the mag?” She says, “No. But I can show it to you on my smart phone.” That poem is available for the reading anywhere there’s wireless, immediately.
An often-heard argument against online lit mags is their quality compared to print. I find this argument to be less valid as time progresses and as the quality of successful lit mags increases with each publication cycle. What matters and is key, is the reputation of the publication, whether in print or online.
Arguably, print publication is still far more desired for the purposes of academia, but even there the gap is closing.
Granted, online publication is never going to be the same as holding that perfect-bound journal in your hands. It is, however, the path of our words, at least until an electro-magnetic pulse shuts down everyone’s electricity.
I would be interested to read your feedback.
Harold Dill and I will be reading from our work Sunday, October 26 at Books, Etc. in Macedon, NY. Harold (a.k.a. H.B. Dill) and I are two of the founding members of Rochester’s largest poetry organization, Just Poets. If you have not heard his work, I encourage you to make the drive out to Macedon. He has a distinctive poetic voice and does not read publicly often. I will also be reading work that will be new to many of you.
Books, Etc. is a used book store and coffee shop located in the center of Macedon, east of Rochester. Click on the link for more information Books, Etc.
Hope to see you there!
Fellow Bennington College alum Jules Nyquist and I will be reading tonight at the Flying Squirrel Community Center, 285 Clarissa St., Rochester, NY.
I will be reading at 7:00 pm Friday, December 2 at Greenwood Books, 123 East Ave., Rochester, NY. This is part of the ongoing monthly First Friday series of events held in the arts district. I hope you’ll come out to support this independent bookseller.
It’s good to be back at my desk after a couple of weeks of medical leave. Thanks to all for your prayers and well wishes.
It’s the height of the fall reading period and if you are already in my queue, you will definitely have your submissions in hand well before the deadlines begin. If you did not queue up, many journals and presses will be reading through spring and there are always those that read year-round.
On a humerous note, it seems our military has decided that my web site is considered “entertainment” and therefore is not accessible to our troops overseas. I’m not certain I would catagorize poetry submission preparation along with Hulu or Netflix…
My poem “A Walking Tour of Central Europe on American Soil” appears in the I-90 Manifesto edition of Redactions: Poetry and Poetics, guest-edited by Sean Thomas Dougherty. http://www.redactions.com/
Poet Michael Meyerhofer will be in Rochester next week courtesy of Palettes & Quills, Poetic Effect, the Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College and Just Poets. If you’re in the area, he will be reading at the Golisano Gateway on Fisher’s campus Thursday, October 13 at 7:30 pm. Meyerhofer’s books include Blue Collar Eulogies and Pure Elysium, which won the Palettes & Quills Chapbook Contest judged by Dorianne Laux. I hope to see you there. http://palettesnquills.com/
The Artist Breakfast Group which, although “breakfast” is part of its name does not actually have breakfast at its early morning meetings, has an art show opening Friday, June 24 at the Williams Gallery located at the First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Rd., Rochester, NY. The show will run until August 22, 2011. Poets will be reading (myself included) at the opening which runs from 5:00 – 8:00 pm and refreshments will be served. I hope to see you there. http://artistsbreakfastgroup.com/ABG/events.html