2014 Favorites, Poetry, Winter

2014 Favorites: Muriel Leung

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.

This post features poet and editor, Muriel Leung, poet and TBJ Contributor.  She writes:

“Four Chapbooks to Read by Four Badass Women Poets”

What are my favorite books that I have read this year? I have had Oprah-sized fantasies about being asked this question, and though I can promise no one in any audience anywhere their own personal copies of each book (or copper tea sets or computer tablets), I am elated to brag on behalf of the following below. These are chapbooks published by small presses—some are e-books, some hand-stitched—by amazing women poets. This year, I vote we give women’s poetry collections produced through small presses their due appreciation and recognize chapbooks for the artistry that go into making them. To boot, I want to make suggestions, in honor of the holiday season, of favorite food, drink, and music items to pair with each book—what else is reading if not an all-senses-on-deck experience? Enjoy!

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1. Was there once a leash that led to nothing other than my affection and around a rectangular pond we strolled in such fabrics as are assembled by people? No. There was just a hole. Hello in there. What time?

– from Danielle Pafunda, When You Left Me in the Rutted Terrain of Our Love at the Border, Which I Could Not Cross Remaining a Citizen of This Corrupt Land (Birds of Lace, 2014)

Pafunda’s chapbook possesses probably my favorite title of all time as it exquisitely portrays the repeated failures to reach out to a lover across obstacles that seem at once colloquial and fantastical and are nevertheless, relentless and devastating. Predominantly written in prose poem form, Pafunda approaches the form like a box, filling it with every object possible, teasing that boundary between emotional sufficiency and excess. The book is thrilling, sensationally intimate, and incredibly relevant to the fissures that have come to define the trouble of how we love and connect with each other in modern times.

Published through Birds of Lace, the feminist press is also known for its gorgeous broadsides and chapbook bundle offers. You can shop for Pafunda’s book as well as others here.

How to best enjoy this chapbook: Bake a five-layered funfetti cake with this suggested recipe. When you cut into it, a rabbit will pop out. Do not eat the rabbit. Eat around it. Put on Hole’s “Use Once and Destroy.” Make a White Russian—sometimes drink only the vodka; sometimes drink only the milk.

2. Let me tell you this secret                  all of my eyes had lived before me after 

me all of

These eyes had lived

– from Metta Sáma After “Sleeping to Dream”/After After (Nous-zōt Press, 2014)

Begin at either cover and read until the end. Turn the book over and read another collection entirely. I love a book that toys with the idea of how we traditionally read and Sáma’s chapbook takes the idea of what she calls the “reverse ekphrastics” to lyrically stunning new heights. In After After, Sáma fixates on Argus Panoptes, the hundred eyed giant of Greek mythology and in After “Sleeping to Dream,” the classical takes a modern turn with contemplations on art that traverses natural, bodily, and domestic planes. The level of play operates not only linguistically but also in the handling and reading of the book—a joy in each turn.

Run by poet Marthe Reed, Nous-zōt Press also features other great titles in its online shop here.

How to best enjoy this chapbook: FKA Twigs’ “Water Me” plays while you enjoy a piece of pineapple upside down cake, sliced horizontally from the middle first. Brew some mulled wine and invite a lover over at night. If they turn bird and disappear in the day, then so be it.

eraserpoems

3. the box is blank

tomorrow it will be blank

and everyday after

you must fill it with words

you do

you put words in

they are your words

you are anonymous

[erase]

– from Laura Theobald, Eraser Poems (H_NGM_N Books, 2014)

With expert economy of words, Theobald can make loneliness feel so raw to the bone. Direct and deceptively simple in diction, she exercises a vocabulary of pleading, wanting, and loving in a repeated attempt to fix hold of a “you” that consistently slips away. There’s a precision to knowing too that the language tries to access but before the knowing can be exacted, erasure occurs. This is a collection I can read sitting down in under an hour but I often return to it again and again, each time learning something new not just about erasure, but its other—what keeps.

You can download Theobald’s e-chapbook as a PDF file online here.

How to best enjoy this chapbook: Find two slices of olive bread and cut a hole in each center. Cut a hole in salami. Cut a hole in tomato. Cut a hole in spinach. Put them together to make a sandwich. Eat only the hole. Enjoy it while listening to Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang.” Drink all the dry Riesling you want.

minkang

4. I don’t think I like the feeling of this… this mascara in my eyes

it will go away soon. we’ve got bigger things to toast.

 

I am                              the gaps between your packed buttered

teeth

 

lmfao creying but this isn’t that funny

 

            lmfao but i’m creying

 

                        lmfao oh shit im really creying

 

– from Min K. Kang, The Diary of a K-Drama Villain (dancing girl press & studio, 2014)

I laughed out loud more than once while reading Kang’s chapbook, which parodies stereotypes of Asian women while flirting with technological interfaces as sources of humor and reference. In poems like “Occult Universe,” Kang refers to Yahoo! and tarot cards to find answers to the inanity of racist inquiries like “why are Asians so smart” and “I was asked if my vagina ran sideways.” While these gestures are violent in offense, Kang’s humor diffuses the rage of these inquiries to subvert the balance of power—that we, Asian women, get to laugh at the absurdity of racist mythologies is an empowering experience that we are rarely afforded.

Kang’s chapbook is available through dancing girl press & studio’s online shop here.

How to best enjoy this chapbook: Lechón. Take the whole suckling pig with you to your next bath. Eat slowly with your hands. Don’t share. If this is your first time, warm up with a Mariah Carey lip-sync to “Fantasy.” You can vogue, lapping up soap bubbles, but only if you want to.

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Muriel Leung

Muriel Leung

Muriel Leung is a multimedia poet and former teaching artist from Queens, NY. Her poetry and essays can be found or is forthcoming in Coconut, TENDE RLOIN, Bone Bouquet, Dark Phrases, and RE/VISIONIST. She is a recipient of a Kundiman fellowship. Currently, she is a MFA candidate in poetry at Louisiana State University where she also serves as the Assistant Editor of New Delta Review.

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2014 Favorites, Poetry, Winter

2014 Favorites: Michelle Chan Brown

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.

This post features poet and editor, Michelle Chan Brown, author of Double Agent.  She writes:

14 Things I loved in 2014

(left to right) Eugenia Leigh, Sally Wen Mao, Michelle Chan Brown and Cathy Linh Che are the Honey Badger Don't Give a B**k Tour!

(left to right:) Eugenia Leigh, Sally Wen Mao, Michelle Chan Brown and Cathy Linh Che are the Honey Badger Don’t Give a B**k Tour!

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(Books featured – left to right): Double Agent by Michelle Chan Brown; Mad Honey Symposium by Sally Wen Mao; Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows by Eugenia Leigh and Split by Cathy Linh Che

kundiman

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Kundiman
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. Back to DC: Split This Rock is a wondrous organization. As is BloomBars.
  11. This poem, by Laura Eve Engel.
  12. 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.
  13. The atrium of the American Portrait Gallery, for writing.
  14. With this album, by Aphex Twin.

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MichelleChanBrownBW-1

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.

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2014 Favorites, Poetry, Winter

2014 Favorites: Scott Wiggerman

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.

This post features poet and editor, Scott Wiggerman, co-editor of Wingbeats II.  He writes:

In no particular order, here are some poetry books published in the past year that impressed me in various ways:

boss

  1. Victoria Chang’s The Boss (McSweeney’s, 2013)

Once I got into the rhythm of Chang’s unpunctuated quatrains, I couldn’t put this book down. “The Boss” is a shifting character in every poem in this fascinating collection, sometimes literally a boss at work, sometimes a parent, sometimes the poet herself: “the square / root of 4 remains 2 just as the square root of / the boss is always the boss.”

  1. Max Early’s Ears of Corn: Listen (3: A Taos Press, 2014)

I came for the poetry, but quickly realized that this book was the perfect introduction not only to the culture of the Laguna Pueblo, but also to its language (many pages include a gloss to Laguna terms). An important, fascinating, and beautifully designed first book published by one of the best of the new small presses.

newtestament

  1. Jericho Brown’s The New Testament (Copper Canyon, 2014)

Indeed, Brown’s book does play off the Bible (and myth), but it’s also a testament to persistence despite the many obstacles that America places in terms of race and sexuality. Gorgeous writing throughout: “Because I am what gladiators call / A man in love—love / Being any reminder we survived.”

  1. Brian Turner’s My Life as a Foreign Country (W.W. Norton, 2014)

While not technically a book of poetry, Turner’s language is so poetic that I’m including this memoir in my list. Nor is it a typical memoir—Turner jumps in time and place, from Bosnia to Iraq to Cambodia, and from the perspectives of his forbearers, as well as “the enemy.” Strong and resonant, the book proves that one cannot leave war behind.

  1. Ted Kooser’s Splitting an Order (Copper Canyon, 2014)

A long time since Kooser’s last book of poetry, but this was worth the wait, and his brief but precise poems, often centered on time and aging, seemed perfect companions as I turned sixty this year. Deceptively simple, Kooser’s perceptions never fail to connect: “the tree makes its exit with grace, / going down slowly, one piece at a time.”

haiku-in-english

  1. Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton, 2013)

Editors Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns are to be commended for what is my favorite anthology of the year, a first-rate overview of the centennial of American haiku, from Pound and Lowell, through Snyder and Kerouac, to contemporary masters that most people don’t know (but should). Here’s Allan Burns’ one-word haiku: “leaflight.”

My favorite readings of this year? Two of my poetry idols, Jane Hirshfield and Sharon Olds, at AWP in Seattle—wow! Hearing Olds read “Douche Bag Ode” is something I won’t soon forget. Wang Ping reading from Ten Thousand Waves (Wings Press, 2014) was another AWP highlight. Joy Harjo at Poetry at Round Top was spectacular—a reading which included live and pre-recorded music (all Harjo)—and I loved getting to dance with her at the after-party!

Favorite websites? As someone who writes in form a lot and as someone who has been getting more and more into haiku, I’m often excited by the work in tinywords, The Road Not Taken, A Hundred Gourds, and the always quirky Right Hand Pointing. The Poetry Foundation’s “Poem of the Day” and the Writers’ Almanac are two indispensable sources of poems that come right to my inbox to start each day. And I love Diane Lockward’s wonderful monthly Poetry Newsletter, the basis for her recent book of prompts, The Crafty Poet.

Bookwoman in Austin, Texas

Bookwoman in Austin, Texas

Favorite bookstore? Just one year old, Malvern Books in Austin is truly an independent bookstore; in fact, they only carry titles from independent presses! Even more significant, they’ve quickly become one of the places to host poetry readings and events in Austin, though BookWoman, one of the country’s last remaining feminist bookstores, runs a close second.

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ScottForWebsite

Scott Wiggerman is the author of two books of poetry, Presence andVegetables and Other Relationships, and the editor of several volumes, including Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga, and the brand new Wingbeats II.  Recent poems have appeared in Decades Review, Frogpond, Pinyon Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Good Men Project website, and the anthologies This Assignment Is So Gay andForgetting Home: Poems about Alzheimer’s. He is chief editor for Dos Gatos Press in Austin, Texas, publisher of the Texas Poetry Calendar,now in its seventeenth year. He frequently runs writing workshops, many of which feature exercises from the two Wingbeats volumes.

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