It’s that time of year! We’ve asked guests and contributors we’ve featured on The Blood-Jet Writing Hour in 2014 to share with us their favorite books, literary magazines, and reading series from the year.
14 Things I loved in 2014
- Not to use terms like “fierce” and “stunning,” which are cliches of poetry-love, but to use those terms for the collections of my fellow Honey Badgers. We did an East Coast/South book tour in July; each reading was a chance to marvel at something new. Sally Wen Mao’s “Mad Honey Symposium,” Cathy Linh Che’s “Split” and Eugenia Leigh’s “Blood, Sparrows, and Sparrows.” Get ‘em.
- The Young Writers Workshop at the University of Virginia. I was lucky enough to teach there, or be taught, by my students – hilarious, odd, quirky, brilliant, raw. These high school students wrenched me out of any lingering cynicism about the “use” of poetry.
- On Being. It’s not just Krista Tippet’s dulcet voice. I turned 33 this year – the Jesus year, yes – and as I try and slow down and observe and construct meaning, these interviews, with poets, monks, yogis, scientists, on everything from the value of play to the importance of community, have been integral for my own spiritual quest. Jennifer Michael Hecht’s interview, against suicide, is a must-listen.
- Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for A Time Being. Each section of this complex, accessible, virtuosic novel spurred me to shake my head and wonder, how does she make it look so easy? I interviewed her for Sycamore Review and was humbled by her wisdom and authenticity.
- The Pratt Library – specifically, the Poe Room – in Baltimore. A dazzling space, housed in a former department store, and librarians and curators whose grace, warmth, and beautifully-crafted introductions left me wondering – for me? I read with Kamilah Aisha Moon, whose wrenching, lyrical work is another 2014 highlight.
- Drunken Boat. It’s difficult to choose what to publish from all the fine work we receive, but I’m particularly proud of the Debt folio, and the poems of Cynthia Cruz and Kara Candito.
- Politics and Prose in Northwest DC. It’s the Rolls Royce of independent bookstores. I spent a good portion of my nineties childhood lipping through From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in the dark, fragrant coffee shop below the store and eyeing, indiscreetly, the Eddie Vedder doppelgängers sipping chai . They’ve managed to retain all the magic of those early years, and their reading series, while VIP-heavy brings in Terry Gross’s co-conversationalist and provides an irresistible chance for Beltway-celebrity ogling.
- On the other end of the spectrum, the reading series Poetry Sucks! in Nashville, TN. Why don’t I live in Nashville? Go eat a meat and three, and hang out at this record store/music venue/poetry showcase. Tattoos, winged eyeliner, and genuine niceness
- Back to DC: Split This Rock is a wondrous organization. As is BloomBars.
- This poem, by Laura Eve Engel.
- I’ll be moving to Kazakhstan soon (a Fulbright), and although it’s not from 2014, this book by Professor Kate Brown – A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland – has been essential.
- The atrium of the American Portrait Gallery, for writing.
- With this album, by Aphex Twin.
Michelle Chan Brown’s Double Agent was the winner of the 2011 Kore First Book Award, judged by Bhanu Kapil. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Cimarron Review, Linebreak, The Missouri Review, Quarterly West, Sycamore Review, Witness and others.
A Kundiman fellow, Michelle received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was a Rackham Fellow. She was a Tennessee Williams scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and received scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Wesleyan Writers’ Conference. Her chapbook, The Clever Decoys, is available from LATR Editions. She lives with her husband, the musician Paul Erik Lipp, in Washington DC, where she teaches, writes, and edits Drunken Boat.