Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

The BIG Poetry Giveway 2013: Winners!

16 May

Back in April, I participated in the Big Poetry Giveaway (more about this here) as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month.

The winners were chosen using an online randomizer (random.org, to be exact).  Drumroll…

Daniela Olszewska will receive a copy of Katie Ford’s wonderful book, DepositionJeannine Hall Gailey will receive a signed copy of my second book of poems, The Wishing Tomb.  If you are one of these winners, please contact me with your mailing address so I can send you your book!

Thank you so much to all who entered!  As this was my first year participating, there were a LOT more who entered that I expected.  I look forward to doing this again next year!

Top 20 Books of Poetry

28 Apr

National Poetry Month is coming to an end and I couldn’t let it end without posting my Top 20 favorite books of poetry of all time.  These are books that I’ve returned to again and again, books that have helped me through some rough patches in my life, books that have inspired me to look at poetry in a new way, books that have formed me, books that I have said, “you must read this” to complete strangers.

My Top 20 Books of Poetry

My Top 20 Books of Poetry

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

This is a no-brainer.  I have been a Plath devotee for going on 15 years now and I’ve read this book no less than a dozen times.  Quiz me on it. Go ahead — ask me anything.

Cusp by Jennifer Grotz

Not only is the cover of this book gorgeous, but the poems inside are simply stunning.  I love how Grotz takes the reader on journeys from Texas to France.  Favorite poem: “Kiss of Judas.”  Fun fact: Grotz was my third reader for my undergrad creative honors thesis at the Univ. of Houston in 2006.

Ordinary Things by Jean Valentine

I love Valentine’s poems because of their strangeness and brevity.  Her word economy inspires me again and again.  This is my favorite book by her.  Favorite poem: “After Elegies.”

What the Living Do by Marie Howe

It doesn’t get better than this book by Marie Howe.  This book makes me weep and has inspired me in innumerable ways.  I turned to this book again and again when writing The Glass Crib and helped me come to terms via writing with the death of my brother when I was 16.  Favorite poem: “For Three Days.”

What is this thing called love by Kim Addonizio

This is such a smart, sexy book by a smart, sexy poet.  Favorite poem: “What Was.”

Deposition by Katie Ford

The Catholic girl in me loves how Ford dissects Christian narratives (Catholic ones, primarily) and weaves them with narratives of trauma.  Her fragmented writing helped me move from clear, straightforward narrative to a wilder, broken lyric.  Favorite poem: “The Shroud of Turin.”

Forth a Raven by Christina Davis

I love this book for many of the same reasons why I love Katie Ford’s book (and really, Jean Valentine’s).  Her poems are tiny, fragmented, but have a dazzling attention to detail.  Favorite poem: “Forth a Raven.”

Broken Helix by Dina Ben-Lev

My friend Matthew Siegel turned me on to this (out-of-print) book/poet when I was at Houston and I’m so very thankful.  No one else I know has ever heard of her, which is a shame.  This is the only full-length collection she’s done, and that was back in 1997.  It focuses on her search for identity as an adopted person, which, of course, if you know me, you can easily see the draw.  You can still find used copies of this book on Amazon or ebay for anywhere form $10-$40.  Favorite poem: “The Adopted Daughter’s Lucky Loop.”

Indeed I Was Pleased With The World by Mary Ruefle

Who doesn’t love the weirdness and lyricism of Mary Ruefle? This is by far my favorite book of poems by her.  Favorite poem: “Kiss of the Sun.”

Here, Bullet by Brian Turner

This book has been touted so many times, but if you’ve never heard of it, get thee to a bookstore right now! Turner’s work centers on his experiences in the US Army in Iraq and Bosnia.  This is a book of grit and no other book (except maybe Neon Vernacular from Yusef Komumyakaa) discusses war or a solder’s life better.  Favorite poem: “What Every Soldier Should Know.”

The Subsequent Blues by Gary Copeland Lilley

No one I know has ever heard of Lilley, and that’s a shame.  This is actually my husband’s book, which he bought at AWP in New York several years ago after hearing Kim Addonizio read from it.  This book is dark, witty, important, and just plain amazing.  Favorite poem: “Prayer to Saint James Byrd of Jasper, Texas.”

Sad Little Breathing Machine by Matthea Harvey

My friend Halli and I were Matthea Harvey groupies in college.  We took her Forms of Poetry class at Houston and fell in love with her way of looking at the possibilities of language and poetry.  This book is genius and if you’re trying to move yourself forward in writing, this will do the trick.  This is another book that helped me break out of my boring, staid narrative form.  Favorite poem: “Not So Much Miniature As Far Away.”

Stubborn by Jean Gallagher

This book is so important to me and gave me great inspiration for the writing of my first book, The Glass Crib.  Gallagher’s book creates interesting narratives that focus on Christian symbology, art, mysticism, and theology.  Favorite poem: “Stigmata.”

The Descent by Sophie Cabot Black

I’ve read this book at least half a dozen times and each time I discover something new.  I think that this is an important book due to the way it uncovers the human spirit in terms of nature, psyche, faith, damage, renewal.  The cover of the book actually inspired one of my own poems, “The Wounded Angel, 1903,” which appeared in The Glass Crib and on Poetry Daily in 2007.  Favorite poem: “Done For.”

The First Four Books of Poems by Louise Gluck

The essential Gluck.  I bought this after reading it in June 2005, when I was a fellow at the Bucknell Younger Poets Seminar at Bucknell University.  Consider it a primer.  If you’re a new poet, or a scholar of Gluck, it’s a fantastic resource.  Favorite poem: “The Egg.”

Some Ether by Nick Flynn

Like Matthea Harvey, my friend and I were Nick Flynn dorks as well in college.  I took two classes with him as an undergrad and during that time, I bought this book.  I really think I’ve read this book around 10 times.  It was inspiring to me because it helped me understand how to weave personal narrative without being melodramatic and how to break a line in an interesting way.  I think everyone needs to have this book.  Favorite poem: “My Mother Contemplating Her Gun.”

Song by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

BPK is awesome.  That is all.  And she’s the kindest soul I’ve ever met.  My love for her is unending.  Favorite poem: “Song.”

Trouble in Mind by Lucie Brock Broido

Claudia Rankine turned me on to Broido when I was her undergrad thesis advisee at UH and I’m eternally grateful.  This book helped me, in many ways like Flynn’s did, understand line breaks and form, but also how to build a broken lyric narrative.  Favorite poem: “The Halo That Would Not Light.”  That poem kills me.

To the Place of Trumpets by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

This book is long out of print, alas, but when my friend Matthew Siegel told me about it (and had his own copy), I dashed to Amazon.com used and ebay to find my own copy.  I got it for around $30, but I’ve seen people selling it for upwards of $800.  I highly, highly recommend this book, Kelly’s first, and in some ways like it better than Song.  Favorite poem: “Doing Laundry on Sunday.”

The Country Between Us by Carolyn Forche

There are so many reasons why this is one of my favorite books of all time.  It’s important for how it tackles the intersection of culture and politics, but tender in its discussion of human love.  While “The Colonel” (in this book) is one of my favorite poems in the world, I would have to say that my actual favorite poem in this book is “For the Stranger.”

Poetry Month: Voices Seasonal Reading Series

15 Apr

National Poetry Month has been slow-to-no going for me thus far due to unforeseen circumstances (a family illness and the recent stabbing spree at the campus where I teach), but things are gradually getting better and I hope to make a turnaround this month, soon.

Despite everything that’s been going on, I have one Poetry Month-related event to announce: I will be one of the featured readers this coming weekend, Saturday, April 20, at the Voices Seasonal Reading Series (curated by poet Clare Martin).  As this event will be in Lafayette, LA (at Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar, 7PM), I will be reading from my newest book of poetry, The Wishing Tomb, which is a book of New Orleans-inspired poems, (and a little from my first book, The Glass Crib).




I will be reading with Michael Allen Zell, whose first novel Errata was named a Times-Picayune Top 10 Book of 2012.  He was a finalist for the 2011 Calvino Prize, finalist for the 2010 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition, and was nominated for the 2012 Best American Short Stories.

If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you!  I will also be signing/selling copies of my book at the event.  If you can’t make it, you can get a copy of The Wishing Tomb here or a copy of The Glass Crib here.  Also: don’t forget to enter The Big Poetry Giveaway for National Poetry Month — I’m giving away a signed copy of The Wishing Tomb as well as a copy of Katie Ford’s Deposition.  Details here.

Poetry Month: Ideas for Non-Creative Writing Students

2 Apr

I’ll be the first to admit it: getting non-creative writing students to read, much less love, poetry is quite the challenge.  Most of my students think poetry is written by old white men from the 1500s or by guys with berets beating on bongos.  When they say this, my heart dies a little because this is so often how poetry is portrayed in the larger American culture.  We in the profession know, however, this is absolutely not the case.

image c/o the Poetry Society of America

image c/o the Poetry Society of America

So how do instructors get non-creative writing students to appreciate poetry?  By nudging, prodding, showing our own enthusiasm, and yes, by educating.  Here are my jackpot, tried-and-true ways of introducing poetry into the non-creative writing classroom:

1. Introduce students to National Poetry Month.  Explain the significance of NPM and show them a few great websites (some even have apps!) and examples of poems at each site.  The ones I use are: the Poetry Foundation website (here) and the Academy of American Poets site (here).  Play around with the sites with your students in class.  Show them different types of contemporary poetry on varying subjects that a non-writer can relate to (love! baseball! pets! holidays! music!)

2. Put a face to a name.  If there is time in the syllabus, I show my students the wonderful documentary put together by The Academy of American Poets, The Poet’s View, which showcases notable contemporary poets such as John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Anthony Hecht, W. S. Merwin and Kay Ryan.  The video goes behind the poems to show who these poets are — real people (shocking, I know) — who love the business of language and books.  It also features a few poems being read by each poet.  If there is not enough time, I offer it as extra-credit by letting students check it out from me, watch it, return it the very next class meeting (I also suggest that students have viewing parties on their own time as I have found that this video is quite popular), and write a 1-2 page review.  The video has proven so popular, in fact, that I recently purchased a second copy.  The DVD is available here for $22.95.

3.  Host a Reading Challenge.  Prepare a list of 15-25 books of poetry that you think a non-creative writing student would not only enjoy, but should read.  Present the challenge to the class (either as a graded assignment or as extra-credit).  I have extended extra credit to any student who checks out one of the books (either from my personal library or the college’s), reads it, and writes a 1-2 page review/annotation by the end of National Poetry Month.  The response has been tremendous!  Out of my list of 22 books, so far nearly 50% of the titles have been claimed in the past few days since introducing the challenge.  On my my recommended list: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Clauda Rankine, Elegy by Mary Jo Bang, Crush by Richard Siken,  Dearest Creature by Amy Gerstler, The Dirty Side of the Storm by Martha Serpas, Please by Jericho Brown, Cusp by Jennifer Grotz, Queen for a Day by Denise Duhamel, Shahid Reads His Own Palm by Reginald Dwayne Betts, Here, Bullet by Brian Turner, Black Blossoms by Rigoberto Gonzalez, Cocktails by D.A. Powell, Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky, The Wild Iris by Louise Glück, Ultima Thule by Davis McCombs, What Narcissism Means to Me by Tony Hoagland, The Dead and the Living by Sharon Olds, Mosquito by Alex Lemon, Rose by Li-Young Lee, On Love by Edward Hirsch, In the Middle Distance by Linda Gregg, What is this thing called love by Kim Addonizio, All My Pretty Ones by Anne Sexton, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, and Indeed I Was Pleased with the World by Mary Ruefle.

4. Get Involved and Get Them Involved.  Each year, my college hosts a college and community-wide Poetry Slam (I have been a faculty judge for the past five years).  I am not a performance poet, but younger adults love the energy that Slams bring and it gets them thinking creatively, which is the goal, isn’t it?  Every year this event boasts a large audience turnout with about 20-25 competitors.  A few weeks before the event, I bring the flyer in and pass it around to my non-CW classes and explain what a Slam is and how it works.  Every year, I’ve had scads of my students show up and even a few sign up to perform!  I think that by getting involved at the local/college level, starting a NPM event or program, and getting your students involved can go a long way to influence their thinking about poetry and creative writing — in all of its forms.  More details about the Lone Star College-CyFair Annual Poetry Slam here.

What do you do to bring poetry into a classroom of non-creative writers?


As day two of National Poetry Month draws to a close, don’t forget to enter the BIG Poetry Giveaway 2013 here! You can win a signed copy of my newest book, The Wishing Tomb, or Katie Ford’s first collection (unsigned), Deposition.

The BIG Poetry Giveaway 2013

1 Apr

If you don’t know it already, April is National Poetry Month!  To celebrate NPM, I will be blogging about all things poetry such as ideas for students, NaPoWriMo (God help me), favorite poetry books, and more!  You can read The NPM FAQs from the Academy of American Poets website here.

To kickoff National Poetry Month 2013, I’m following the lovely poet Bernadette Geyer’s lead and participating in the Big Poetry Giveaway!


Let the BIG Poetry Giveaway 2013 begin!

Let the BIG Poetry Giveaway 2013 begin!


Details: The Big Poetry Giveaway is a giveaway of free poetry books, one of our own and one of our favorite poetry books.  More details and how to participate can be found on the poet Susan Rich’s blog here.

I’ll be giving away one signed copy of my newest book, The Wishing Tomb, which was awarded the 2012 Perugia Press Award.  Patricia Smith of this book, “in these textured, deftly-crafted stanzas, Amanda Auchter romances the grit, the rampant spice, the twang, the mystery, the brick, the swelter, and the insistent hallelujah conjured by the Crescent City. This sparkling, defiant love story pays tribute to NOLA on the upswing, while remembering how often it has teetered on the edge of descent.”



I will also give away a copy of one of my favorite books of poetry of all time, Katie Ford’s first collection, Deposition.   Jorie Graham writes that, “Here is a poetry of witnessing—theological, emotional, intellectual—a private end to a century’s horrors, a reminder that not all things begin again, and that from some reaches of experience instruction shines far less than the beauty of the survivor’s report.”  This book was a great inspiration in the writing of my first book, The Glass Crib, and is something I return to again and again.


Graywolf Press, 2002

Graywolf Press, 2002


To Enter:  leave your name in the COMMENT section of this post and I’ll choose a winner for each book on May 1st or 2nd.  In your comment, please include your first name and email (or some way to get in touch with you).  The giveaway ends April 30th, 2013 at midnight.  Happy Poetry Month!