On this 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination in Dallas, Texas, I offer you my poem, “The Pink Chanel Suit,” which was published in Rattle in 2011. You can find it here.
After a horrendous past two months (mysterious illness-like symptoms, numerous tests, doctor’s appointments, plus the government shutdown which assisted in preventing me from traveling to LA to receive my PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry, etc.), I am looking forward to next week, where I’ll be traveling to MA for a series of three Perugia Press-related readings to celebrate my book, The Wishing Tomb, and Gail Martin’s Begin Empty Handed, which was awarded this year’s Perugia Press Award. If you’re near any of the places on the itinerary below, I hope you’ll come out and join us:
The Collected Poets Reading Series
w/ Gail Martin & Lori Desrosiers
Thursday, November 7, 2013, 7PM
Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St.
Shelburne Falls, MA
Friday, November 8 at 7:30 PM
w/ Gail Martin & Joan Barberich
The State Room
35 State Street (behind India House)
Saturday, November 9 at 7:00 PM
Salon Reading w/ Gail Martin & Frannie Lindsay
While in MA, I also am hoping to have a little excursion time to see Emily Dickinson’s house, the Plath archives at Smith College, and to have dinner with my sweet cousin, Hope, who lives in Boston. I can’t wait!
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again: I am a list maker. Call me OCD and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. I love lists. This type of list (below), however, is one of my favorites. It’s my reading list. I thought I would share my fall reading list with you:
The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano (this is a new release by two wonderful poets, both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of publishing in PLR)
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (recommended by my mother, who is perhaps the most widely read person I’ve ever known, except for maybe my dad, who actually reads the encyclopedias).
Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio (anyone who has known me long enough knows that I have a Kennedy-history obsession that is not limited to the assassination history. This Nov. marks 50 years since the assassination of JFK, and this new book has been released just in time).
Ain’t No Grave by TJ Jarrett (this is probably one of my favorite books of poetry to come out this year, and I’m in the process of reviewing it for a journal).
Begin Empty Handed by Gail Martin (this is a wonderfully crafted new book, and I’m looking forward to reading with Gail next week)!
Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky (I first read this book as an undergrad, so it’s been about eight years since I poured over its perfection. I love this book, as does almost everyone who has read it. I read it in tiny slivers and ruminate. It’s best digested that way so the foreign story will unfold carefully, and not all at once).
I was invited to record a podcast for Arizona State University’s wonderful literary journal, Superstition Review. My podcast consists of me reading a handful of poems that have been published in SR, included a few from my second book, The Wishing Tomb. You can listen and read more, here.
I’ve been teaching Intro to Creative Writing at my college for five years and I’m so fortunate that for the first time, I’ve been given the green light to choose my own texts beginning in 2014. I just put in my book order and would like to share the selections that I made (and some that I didn’t, but that I still highly recommend).
I teach the Intro to Creative Writing section, which is a mixed genre class that is part workshop model and part lecture/in class work. For reference, the majority of my students have very little experience with writing, but are interested in it. Many of these students are also unfamiliar with contemporary work and have never picked up a literary journal or been to a reading (which is something that I have them do). In deciding which books to use, I had to take all of this into account so as to not scare them off of literary writing nor overwhelm them straight out of the gate. It is my sincere belief that if you, as an instructor, overwhelm students who are just getting their feet wet, you’re not doing the student any service and in fact, many may end up so overwhelmed, that they may never return to writing or reading.
Here are the books I chose to use in 2014 (starting in the Spring term):
The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo: this is a classic resource used in CW courses nationwide, and my department has been using it for as long as I can remember. It has wonderful essays on writing in it, and I always begin the semester by having my students read the one titled, “In Defense of Creative-Writing Classes” as this begins the discussion on why CW courses are important and what gain be gained from taking them.
The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland: I used this book in a CW course when I was an undergrad in English/CW at the University of Houston. I found this book to be exceptionally helpful. The book not only showcases traditional forms (sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, etc.), but also includes “open” forms as well. Each section of the book focuses on one form and gives a page of information/”how to,” a page or two about the history of the form, a page or two about the contemporary use of the form, and then quite a few pages of examples from both canonical and contemporary poets. I highly recommend this book for beginning-intermediate undergraduate CW classes.
A Short Story Writer’s Companion by Tom Bailey: As my class is a mixed genre class, I needed to find a book that would function in a similar manner to The Making of a Poem, and this book fits the bill. It discusses and gives examples of the basic elements of fiction writing, which is something beginning CW students need. It also discusses the importance of drafting and revision, which is something that I teach in my class as well. I have found that first time CW students are not in the habit of drafting and revision, so this was a great selling point to me for this text.
There are so many texts I would love to use, but I just can’t justify having my students plunk down loads of cash for a lot of books. However, if I could use more books in a perfect world, here are the rest of my recommendations:
On Looking: Essays by Lia Purpura: I went back and forth on this book, and I ultimately decided against using it (even though I love it so) because they style of writing might be a bit over my beginning CW students’ heads. In past semesters, my CW have read one of the essays in the book, “Red,” and it was near-mutiny. I’m all about challenging my students, but sometimes you have to ease them into the challenge for best results. I do recommend this book for intermediate-advanced CW classes. It’s a wonderful book on inspiration and looking at things from a writer’s eye.
An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art by Annie Finch and Kathrine Varnes: I also used this book when I was in my CW classed at UH and found it helpful. It’s very similar to the The Making of a Poem book, but is slightly more advanced in that it delves deeply in the specifics of form, meter, etc. For an Intro to CW course where students are not very familiar with poetry at all, I think that introducing them to anapests, trochees, and syllabics might be a bit much. We do discuss some forms in my class: sonnets, villanelles, and occasionally the ghazal in particular, as well as some contemporary forms (the found poems, contemporary ekphrasis, the cento), but this book is definitely for the more advanced student. I recommend this book, however, for use in a forms class or an intermediate CW course.
American Women Poets in the 21st Century by Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr: Claudia Rankine had me read this book when she was my senior honors thesis advisor at UH and I loved it. The reason I didn’t choose this book is because it didn’t offer the breadth of “lessons” that The Making of a Poem did. This text is wonderful and offers a wide variety of voices from contemporary American women poets and annotations of their poems. I would use this book for a class on American Women’s Lit, Contemporary American Poetry, or an intermediate-advanced CW course.
The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux: This is another great stand-by and I have been using it for the past 5 years, which is why I decided to switch it out for the The Making of a Poem text. I love this book for how it discusses inspiration and breaking boundaries (death, love, etc.) and offers writing prompts/suggestions at the end of each chapter, but I think that the specifics that The Making of a Poem offers might help a beginning CW student a little more. My previous students have enjoyed this book, but have also commented on how they would like a book that has more examples and “how-to” instruction than TPC gives. I do highly recommend this book for any intro-intermediate CW course and I am very likely to use it again in the future.
Contemporary American Poetry edited by A. Poulin, Jr. and Michael Waters: I used this book when I was in Jericho Brown’s advanced CW workshop at UH. It’s a great book, but is actually more of an anthology (similar in the manner of Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, edited by Michael Dumanis and Cate Marvin, which I also highly recommend). It’s a great assortment of contemporary poets, such as James Dickey, Kimiko Hahn, Robert Haas, Louise Gluck, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, Naomi Shihab Nye, David St. John, and others), but there isn’t any discussion of the poems, the forms, etc. that I wanted for my beginning students. That said, I think this would be a great book to use for an intermediate-advanced CW and would be great even for grad students in poetry to use as a model and launching point for discussion and critical analysis of contemporary poetics.
I hope these recommendations help you if you are building a CW course or looking to purchase books on writing, whether fiction or poetry. What are your must haves when it comes to books on writing? What texts have worked for you in previous courses that you’ve taught? I’d love to know!
This year’s award recipients include Joan Didion, Lifetime Achievement Award (to be presented by none other than Harrison Ford!); Filmmaker Sonia Nassery Cole, Freedom to Write Award, Kickstarter founders Perry Chen, Charles Adler and Yancey Strickler, Award of Honor, Ramona Ausubel, fiction for her novel “Nobody Is Here Except All of Us,” Seth Rosenfeld, research nonfiction prize for “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power”; Joy Harjo, creative nonfiction for “Crazy Brave”; Mark Boal for his screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty; Danny Strong, who wins for his teleplay for HBO’s “Game Change”; Amanda Auchter in poetry for The Wishing Tomb; Philip Boehm, for translation of “An Ermine in Czernopol,” originally by Gregor von Rezzori; Michael Harmon in children’s literature for “Under the Bridge”; Ed Leibowitz for journalism for “The Takeover Artist” in Los Angeles Magazine; and Dan O’Brien for drama with “The Body of an American.” Here’s the first official write-up in the Los Angeles Times.
First and foremost, I want to thank each and every one of you for your support over these past few years. It has meant so incredibly much to me. The last two years have been strenuous and difficult to say the least, and even a five minute phone call from some at one time or another has made all of the difference.
Here’s the kicker: PEN Center USA will be giving out “swag bags” at the awards dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel in October. They are requesting 500 copies of The Wishing Tomb to include in these bags. However, Perugia Press, which is currently celebrating its 16th Anniversary, is a smaller press, and 500 additional copies is a lot to give away for free, even to such a prestigious event such as the PEN Center Awards. Perugia Press, as a result, is holding a fundraiser to help offset the costs of sending so many copies of my book to the awards festival.
How you can help: Here is the link to the information about the Perugia Press Fundraiser to send The Wishing Tomb to the 2013 PEN Center USA Literary Awards Festival. Any amount will help, if you can. The cost to Perugia is $5/book, so even $25 will add up. I dislike asking for donations in general, but I think it’s important to get not only my work out there, but to have a smaller press represented on a national scale. Let’s get poetry in the hands of the 500 attendees!
Thank you, again, for your support and encouragement. I hope you can help send this book to the PEN Center USA Literary Awards Festival this October! If you have any questions, please contact me!
I realized that it hasn’t been since I did my post on my top 20 books of poetry for National Poetry Month that I’ve talked about what I’m reading/what I recommend reading. As this is summer and as this blog is titled “Books & Baubles,” I think it is the appropriate time to talk about my summer reading list.
I love reading lists — I think it’s the literary voyeur (or just the voyeur) in me that like peeking in other people’s shelves (selves) to see what books they’re devouring at any given moment. I think summer reading lists are the best because they often include “light reading” (and what this “light reading” may be varies, of course, from Stephen King to Anna Maxted) if the one doing the reading is being honest. I want to be honest: I am reading these books (and yes, some haven’t been started, yet, but are on the near-horizon) and I am not ashamed in the least of what my summer reading list entails. There is no War and Peace. I’m not kidding myself. There is no way that I will read a heavy text when it’s 100 degrees outside. Nope. Not going to happen.
What I am reading (listed from top to bottom):
Something From The Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro
I love this book! It’s a culinary history of sorts of 1950s American “cuisine.” It focuses its attention on the rise of packaged food items, corporate food writing and advertising, home cooks and their unwillingness to chuck traditional methods for meals from a can or a box, and the incredibly role of Poppy Cannon.
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds
This won the Pulitzer for Poetry and is a book of poetry by the force that is Sharon Olds. Need I say more?
Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife by Anne Fogarty (Author) and Rosemary Feitelberg (Introduction)
If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I’m on a bit of a 1950s vintage kick. This book was released in 1959 and re-released in 2007 with the Feitelberg introduction. Wife Dressing influenced a decade of style, social mores, and thinking about well, wife dressing. As “quaint” as some of the advice may be in this book, there are some excellent reminders about body image, not comparing yourself to anyone else (especially fashion models), and dressing for your body type, not your fantasy body type.
The Exchange by Sophie Cabot Black
I haven’t started this book, yet (it was recently released by Graywolf), but I am a huge Sophie Cabot Black fan and I can’t wait to read her newest collection of poems. If you haven’t read her second book, The Descent, you must run out and do so. That collection has inspired me in immeasurable ways.
Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson
I am so excited about this book! I’m a Plathophile and literally own every book written by or about Plath. This book is exciting because it focuses on Plath’s life before Ted Hughes, which I think adds much to her narrative. While the Plath-Hughes drama is interesting, I think that story is a bit played out. This book also illuminates her early beginnings in terms of childhood and young adult traumas and mental illness.
Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder
This is another excellent Plath text and one that entirely focuses on Plath’s pre-Ted life. What I love about this book is that not only is it about Plath’s Mademoiselle summer and subsequent breakdown, but it also offers the vintage-loving reader an insight into early 1950s American life in New York and the issues that plagued young, college-age women during this decade.
Inferno by Dan Brown
Don’t judge me! This is my official “light summer reading” and I’m loving it. I have actually read several Dan Brown novels (Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code), but this one is by far the best and the most intelligent. I felt that, in particular, The DaVinci Code was written on an eighth grade level. In contrast, I applaud Brown’s use of exceptionally high vocabulary, artistic and literary references in his latest novel. Inferno uses Dante’s famous work as the backdrop to this fast-paced mystery, which to a literary-lover such as myself, I find especially intriguing. I also hope that people who have never read Dante will now be inspired to do so. It’s amazing sometimes what pop fiction can do to the average reader.
Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook
This is a fabulous eBay find for me as it is the original 1950 edition. The book itself is in very good shape (I don’t think anyone even cooked out of it, it would seem). I actually purchased two of these — one to keep and one to use. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I recently posted a photo of one of the recipes I used out of this cookbook — blueberry muffins. This might seem an easy from-scratch recipe, and the use of shortening might scare you (and gentle reader, shortening is NOT lard — it’s solidified vegetable oil that actually has less transfat and calories than butter), but with the added fresh blueberries, these were the best muffins I’ve ever made.
This book by Lois Banner (photographs by Anderson) is another one of my summer indulgent reads and if you’re a MM fan, you’ll love it. It features numerous photographs of Monroe’s letters, receipts, telegrams, cosmetics, clothing, etc. and wonderful stories to accompany each item. I just watched HBO’s documentary, “Love, Marilyn,” last night, so this is a perfect time to flip through this book. It’s a gorgeous coffee table book and perfect for any Marilyn aficionado.
When I went to Atlanta last month to read from my books at Charis Books, my friend Julie (who I also read with) had this waiting for me on the guest bed, all tied up with a little bow. It was a wonderful house guest gift! This double-issue journal reads like a who’s who of contemporary writing: Kim Addonizio, Madison Smart Bell, Billy Collins, Barbara Hamby, Edward Hirsch, Jane Hirshfield, Alice Hoffman, David Kirby, Thomas Lux, James May, Sharon Olds, Tom Perrotta, Elizabeth Spencer, Elizabeth Spires, and more. I don’t see it on the Five Points website, yet, so I don’t how you can get a copy of it. Julie got a copy at a literary event and I’m so thrilled to add it to my collection.
What’s on your shelf this summer?
Let’s start with the holy grail, shall we?
I am in LOVE with LUSH’s Retread deep conditioner. At $29.95 for 8.4 oz., it’s not cheap, but I can honestly say that it’s the best deep conditioner I’ve ever used, hands down. For the record, I have long, curly hair that is generally fine in texture, but gets gnarly frizzy at the ends. It is also routinely color processed, which can leave it parched.
Enter Retread. I purchased a few items from LUSH a few weeks ago and even though I love everything I got (especially the Popcorn Lip Scrub), I am dying over this deep conditioner. It’s so good, that I don’t have to use any product on my hair for a few days after using at all to style. You read that right: at all. And here is the kicker: yesterday, I tried a new hair color (Revlon’s Luminista in shade Golden Brown). Bad idea. This hair color from Revlon was the worst hair color in the world. Not only did the product leave my hair looking like barbed wire, but it turned my roots (and just the roots) orange! Like pumpkin orange. Disaster. Today I touched up the roots with Clariol’s Root Touch-Up in Dark Golden Brown and it was perfect, but rather dry as you’re not supposed to color your hair two days in a row. I followed the coloring process with LUSH’s Retread and presto! My hair texture was restored to its normal silky, healthy state. Retread is available at LUSH stores and online here. I will always have this on hand from now on.
While reading JGIWC’s blog (aka Teddi Ginsberg), I saw this recipe (from the Pioneer Woman, available here) for Simple Sesame Noodles and thought two things: 1) how easy this looked to make and 2) OMG, this looks freaking amazing! I love Asian dishes (noodles especially) and sesame anything is on my list of top favorite flavors.
Between many things to do, Jeff’s work schedule, and a book I’m having a hard time tearing away from, I thought today would be a perfect day to try this dish. Here is the method and results (with my modification as noted):
- 12 ounces, thin spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained
- 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 4 cloves Garlic, Minced
- 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons Pure Sesame Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Hot Chili Oil
- 4 Tablespoons Canola Oil
- 4 whole Green Onions, Sliced Thin (I omitted this in favor of veg below)
- Steamed broccoli florets* (my addition)
Whisk all ingredients (except noodles and steamed broccoli) together in a bowl. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed. Pour sauce over warm noodles, broccoli, and toss to coat. Serve warm.
This was the perfect blend of flavors and was sweeter than I thought. Jeff loved it (as did I), but added that he wanted a little more spice next time, so I’m going to play around with the hot chili oil a bit to get the perfect blend of flavors. I really enjoyed this delish dish and it only took me about 10-15 minutes to make, prep time included. There was enough left over for lunch tomorrow (and I’m trying to ignore it beckoning me from the fridge right now). I do recommend the broccoli if you want more veg than just the green onions and I’m sure any green veg (such as edamame, pea pods, baby corn, etc.) will do. I love the simplicity of this dish and can’t wait to experiment with it further!
Anyone who knows me know that I am a planner. I plan nearly everything and write down these plans in calendars, journals, and notepads (and iPads). I’ve started keeping a monthly goals list to keep me on track through this summer. I find that if I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist. I have so many things I want to do this summer, that I need something to look at and check off to keep me focused. Here are my May goals:
I saw “Gatsby” a few days ago and enjoyed it. I though DiCaprio was Gatsby and I liked the cinematography (and of course, Fitzgerald’s plotline). Is it the best movie ever? No. Do I recommend seeing it in the theatre? Yes due to the “bigness” of the movie in parallel to the Roaring 20s. You have to see it on the big screen if you love Gatsby.
Vegas, baby! I’ve never been, but Jeff and I want to go for our anniversary. We plan to stay in one of the lush resorts. Vegas recommendations?
And “Wicked!” I can’t wait!
(And the arrival of the new issue of PLR in mid-June. Be sure to look for it! Until then, check out the Fall/Winter 2012 issue if you haven’t already).