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The BEST Best New Poets

I’m bias.

Best New Poets 2014

Best New Poets 2014

Dorianne Laux was my professor for advanced poetry (3 times because I’m an overachiever) in college and so any poems that she chooses, I will probably prefer as well.

Even so, I found that this poetry collection was a really wonderful “sign of the times.” Cue Ace of Base here for the beats.  There are poems about the future, NASA, the metric system, first person confessional via metaphor, black girls, black girls who riot, guns, gun rights, holiday season (late fall edition), the words of grandparents, reasons why we can’t sleep at night, orgasms (female form), the blood vessels of a mother doing the exact opposite of developing cancer, the nature vs. nurture of marriage, burial rights, rights of passage, writes of passage, a girl in the middle of a night viewfinder on a sniper, the idea that fields grow up, whispers from the earth’s heart.

Estetinė visuomenės saviraiška chorinio meno procese: ANKSTYVASIS CHORINIS SINKRETIZMAS (Creative Commons)

Estetinė visuomenės saviraiška chorinio meno procese: ANKSTYVASIS CHORINIS SINKRETIZMAS (Creative Commons)

If I haven’t exhausted a list on the life that we lead (as a collective American whole) then I’m not sure what else would need to be added.  This just proves that poetry really is the chorus of the human world.  In Greek and Roman dramas, the chorus might seem to a modern reader like a break to the play’s action, but truly the chorus is the mirror of the play.  The chorus is the way that we look at the characters through the lens of a collective whole, a society, a viewpoint that’s beyond just being an audience member, but instead a participant.  That is poetry.

Coin Vortex Funnel Spiral Wishing Well-Great For Charities & Fundraiser

Coin Vortex Funnel Spiral Wishing Well-Great For Charities & Fundraiser

Poetry is a place where the voice can circle like a penny in a whirlpool wishing well (at the children’s museum of my childhood).  It causes vibrations, but rises only to the sound of a whisper, or the thwack of a fist against wood.  There is a voice through poetry that can’t be told through fiction, or any other source.  It must be stated with fewer, but more specific words, and the author must hold several cold glasses at once, a juggler of words and sounds.  Poets are beautiful, and broken, and the sounds they make seem like a thimble, but work like a thunder streak.

And this is why I so loved this collection.  It was such a story of our world in 2014.  I had many favorite poems.

Nightstick (Creative Commons)

Nightstick (Creative Commons)

One of my favorite in the news poems was “Nightstick” by Joy Priest (8).  In this poem a nightstick becomes a character and in the life of the young Kentucky girl who is “a Black girl, but don’t know.” I found this poem impossible to not ingest with the rebellions (some say riots) happening all over cities that are facing both class system stereotypes and race stereotypes.  Right now, the hot news is Baltimore, a city where years of pent up anger (in my opinion) has been unleashed on a CVS.  I’m a little bias to the side of the Baltimoreans because I teach those children in my classrooms everyday.   In fact, I’m going to be using this poem with my students to analyze the use of the nightstick as a tool to get at that voice that has been perpetually silenced in history.  This is a poem of protest.  A poem of emotional carry-ons.  A poem for my students who have never once used “your” and almost always use “you.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 7.37.33 PMAnother poem I starred was “Anaphora as Coping Mechanism” by Ocean Vuong.  I’m not sure why.  It’s a sort of prosy structure and I think Vuong gets the closest that I’ve seen (after Larry Levis) to the reaction of death.  There’s the psychologists seven steps of grief, and then there’s Vuong’s “Your tongue is a lit match.” The even though and the afterwards.  The continuous, sometimes monotonous circle of death, as if the person keeps dying in every place that they are not.  This is captured elegantly, but with a certain rawness that I just loved.

“In Allepo” by Daniel Bohnhorst gains honorable mention for giving the side of Syrians through the eyes of a little girl nightmaring through hope.  I could feel her search in my chest.  It’s a really strong glimpse into “the other,” and I appreciate that in my poetry.

Dorianne Laux, Guest Editor

Dorianne Laux, Guest Editor

My most favorite poem in the collection was “Life on Earth” by Amanda Jane McConnon. It made me feel like I wasn’t just a speck in the grand history of things, which isn’t a feeling I usually feel because us humans we always think we’re leading some very important life filled with very important things and our religious values (majority of the party) tell us that we are so loved, so vital. Really, we’re sand (with brains).  This poem though, makes me remember I’m something, a fleck of gold, but something.

This is just a highlight of the goodness in this hot pink poetry collection. If I haven’t yet sold you, here are a few of my favorite lines from a randomly selected group of poems:

Our guns softly touch their bark, / barrels quiet white with failure. It was morning. – “My Father Named the Trees” by C.L. O’Dell

Night stains the bookshelves. The moon, / white and swallowed. – “Peter” by Peter LaBerge

They knew routine and pattern; they did what they were told by instinct / what to do, / just like the sheets that have always made certain shapes when hit by / the wind, / a series of wings naming the thing that unfolds inside me. – “Leavings That Change the Future” by Erin J. Mullikin

Or maybe it’s the taboo allure of the island women, / of the luxury of fooling them / into thinking his body, / even after a decade of fighting, / is still as whole as it was in Ithaca. – “Erasures” by Rosanna Oh

Newsday Tues(wednes)Day


Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • true fortunes promise is a redhaired madonness.- french proverb: This will be my quote of the day for the rest of the week at school. YES.
  • perks of being a wallflower multiple choice test: This just makes me want to say, “yuck.”
  • grammar in beasts of no nation: You must be reading this in school because this is a strange search term.  This reminds me, just once I would like the person who searched this to return to my blog and tell me what they were thinking.  We could have a blog every week called, “What were the searchers thinking?”

Book News:

Newsday….Errrrr…. Tuesday: Slacker Edition


Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • bookshelves with books: Did this really need googling?

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday (Internet Outage Edition)


Along with the internet outage, my town has no “boiling water” due to City restrictions.  Yes, this is real.  If I had a hash tag, it would be a belligerent one.

Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • kareena zerefos wolf and child for sale: Whatever this is, I need to read it.  Immediately.  It’s like Hemingway’s six word story.
  • “once sold tales” craigslist: This is SUCH a Rumpelstiltskin move.
  • thumbelina subliminal messages: Women should be tiny with really big hair.  Basically, let’s all just revert back to the 80’s.

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday


Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • on the moon we have everything lettuce and pumpkin pie quote pg#: I’m obsessed with this book and I feel that my mom would definitely live on the moon.
  • slam poetry on self respect: Look at Katie Makkai “Pretty”
  • women fart more than men: A good dose of potty talk for the bowel movement viewers of this blog.  Make sure you reenact the moment by using your mouth to create a voice for the flatulence.

Book News:

Oh, Pish Posh Darling.

I didn’t really want to like this book.  Penguin sent it to me as an ARC and like my current high school students, I hate reading books that are forced on me.  Why you ask, do I accept review requests if I don’t really want to read the book?  Well, it’s Penguin, people.  If they even know I exist, I’m quite happy to relish in that glory for a few reviews.

The Darlings by Christina Alger

Plus, this book was actually really decent.  Decent is the only acceptable word for a book about the financial crisis/economy/Wall Street.  I’m going to be really upset if Alger decides not to write about Occupy Wall Street as her second novel.  In The Darlings by Christina Alger, we see the Ponzi scheme come to life and shake up the Darling family of New York City.  Don’t you just want to hate them already because they’re so “darling?”  I can just see them at cocktail hour in their black tie, perfectly pointed heels, and tight-bunned hair.  The girls are debutantes and have played tennis in slick white shorts for their entire upbringing.  All the best riding camps, all the best boarding schools, all the best Harvard acceptance letters for the Darling girls.

And that’s when I realized that I actually really liked Merrill.  But OH, how I wanted to hate her.

From NYU @ Tumblr

I did a lot of hoping to hate in this book, that actually turned into self-loathing for being the kind of person that automatically judges books and people by their covers.  The cover has one sentence blurbs from Publishers Weekly, Entertainment Weekly and USA Today.  I found it surprising that it was an LA Times Bestseller, but no mention of NY and the homage paid to it.  I’m a stuck up cover reader.  If I see a sentence in a blurb that is incredibly manufactured like, “One of the first novels about the 2008 financial crisis…Alger has what it takes, in the best sense.”  I want to know what those “…” are.  What are we missing that wasn’t pertinent to the back cover of this glamorous book, and yet the author in all her blown-hair glory is serious-faced on the back of the cover.  She’s wearing a white button-up, looking like a Darling herself.  I want the full sentence, people! I want to know what happened between “crisis” and “Alger.”  What’s being hidden from me?  I get the sinking feeling that USA Today didn’t give as flattering a review as they were expecting.  Or what about, “Alger…knows her way around twenty-first-centruy wealth and power…a suspenseful, twisty story.” – The Wall Street Journal.  A double dot, dot, dot is even worse.  It’s like the other player getting a double, or dare I say a triple, in scrabble.

Artists Space staff, 1979. Photographed by Cindy Sherman as part of a photo shoot for Cover Magazine.

I digress.

The Darlings is fast-paced. While I wasn’t dying to read what happens next, I did want to finish the book and I was enjoying it as I read in bed.  I pushed myself through while my students were testing today and managed to get to the speedy part at the end where characters I’ve come to respect are getting thrown to the sharks because of Wall Street investors, sleazy lawyers and bad plot situations. Don’t you hate a manufactured plot where you know the good guy is going to win, but you have to read the forty pages until he actually sees that glimmer of hope?

Damn it.

Los Angeles Times: Lizards of Wall Street @ Horsey

I think Alger knows how to write a story.  She changes characters chapter-by-chapter which gives you the feeling of how many people are involved in this scheme and who’s the most to blame, or the hero.  It also makes the story much more snappy.  It leaves a little to be desired in the characterization, but I think she still captured the essence of every person on the page.  I wouldn’t be opposed to her now writing Ines story because she was the character I wanted the most out of and yet, she fell flat.  I also HATED her by the end.  Some of these female characters, not all, make women look like real dodos and I don’t appreciate ever looking like a dodo.  I also didn’t appreciate the biblical and/or boy band names used throughout the book, but what are you going to do with the rich hedge funders of NY?  Kyle just runs in the family.

I’m not going to jump off the cliff for this book, but I recommend bringing it to the beach for vacation and soaking up the rays while feeling like you’re getting a Wall Street education.  Really you’re just reading a stock “rich-in-NY-epic-downfall story.” Hey, nothing’s wrong with that every once in a while.

Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday

Favorite Tweets:

Favorite Search Terms:

  • bfg roald dahl monopoly: WHAT! WHERE!  Would the pieces be “BoneCruncher,” GizzardGulper,” and MeatDripper.”  And what about the places: SnozzCumbers Country, FrobScottle Stage, Phizzwizard Land.  How wonderful.
  • man in holden caulfield winter hat: I feel like this is a want-ad on Craigslist (pre-Craigslist-killer era).  Look on e-harmony, hipsters really like to look like Holden Caulfield.
  • cassie hunter gives a boy a terrible clanging: I’m just glad that there are powerful Cassie’s out there.
  • books with “bird” in the title: Ah, so there are others like me.
  • two birds were sitting on a barbwire fence and one had a typewriter and one was eating food, the one said pass the salt: this is a literal google.  (google as verb).  Someone has too much time on their hands.

Book News:

Letters of Note has a letter from Sendek’s editor to a librarian who burned In the Night Kitchen.  Here is Sendek’s obituary in the NY Times and his interview with Fresh Air (NPR) in December.  The wonderful thing about Maurice Sendek is that he was always humble about his art, which makes him even more of a legend.  Thank you Tea & Paper for sharing these links.

Lastly; if you are a follower of this blog from NC, please vote today.  I would particularly like you to vote AGAINST Amendment 1 – The Marriage Amendment because NO ONE should suffer, or be treated unfairly, under the freedom of the US.  If anything, do your research.

Newsday Tuesday:

Click this photo to go to my nominee page

I have some fun things to share for April 10th.  First, go without shoes tomorrow for TOMS’ One Day Without Shoes.  They can say it better than me so check it out to the right. The other thing is the Goodread’s Book Blogger Award.  I really wasn’t going to enter myself in this because I do not have the luck of my Irish ancestors, but I would love to go to the book convention and take my mother on a trip to NY.  If you like this blog, please just take the time to vote for me.  I will go as low as putting cherries on top to earn your vote.

And now for the usual:

Favorite Tweets

Favorite Search Terms

  • The big sleep bookstore: sounds like a store in Sleepy Hollow.  Maybe I should hibernate there in the winter instead of wearing scarves, turning red, and shivering.
  • “blog” tights: I need these.  I commenced in googling until I found any reference to blogging on a pair of tights.  I’m pretty positive that they don’t quite exist yet – blogging tights, or blogging leggings, in case you’re wondering.  What we need are “blogging is sexy” tees.  Yum.
  • poems about liking a boy: Aren’t you cute.  Look up Romeo and Juliet, buy a dagger.
  • why is carolyn forche a good poet: WHOAREYOU.  And you can’t capitalize a name (even in a google search).  You’re hearby kicked off this blogging island.  Banned.  Banished. Exiled. Removed by deadly force.
  • wwjd bracelet font:  One thing you don’t know about me… since I was fourteen I’ve worn a WWJD bracelet on my left wrist.  When one breaks, I immediately run out to the Family Christian Store and get a new one.  I used to have a rainbow one – it was my gay pride Jesus bracelet, now I just have black.  I like the person who googled this, they get me.
  • my rabbit’s ears are gleam:  poet?

Book News:

If you’re new to my blog, I’m obsessed with Alice.  There really only is one Alice, so I can’t really elaborate.  I need to go to bed.

Christopher Lee reads Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”

A Short History of Women | Rant

Sometimes you read books that don’t have a conclusion but they tell you something about the world. A lot of bloggers have said “this story has no point” and while it has no points plot-wise, or nothing to tell you in a sort of moral conclusion, it has a lot to say about women and womanhood.

A Short History of Women gives the story of four generations of women, some suffragists, some trying to find themselves, and some a hollow bone.  It’s painful, it’s a painful symbol for how the world sees womanhood, or how the world expects women to be.

I certainly do not have the strength of a few of these characters.  I could burn a bra against a metal barrel in the back woods of North Carolina, or a field grown over with weeds and clovers.  I could throw eggs at protestors and watch the clear jelly slide down their cheeks.  It’s yellow round – in a pan glowing white, rosing over, sunny side.  Enough of that though.  I’m saying I’ll hold a sign to get the vote, I’ll stand in the silent line to protest invasive sonograms.  But would I ever starve myself for the cause?

How far will I go for my own rights, if starvation…after passing – was the fact my ribs showed and my voice sunk to nothing even worth it?

These are the questions Kate Walbert asks.  How much is too much?  How far will we go and how will we do it?  And why?  When your son is buried in the desert mire during war, or the metal fence boasts “No Photographs after this Point” will you barge through, will you weep, will you seek arrest and council?  What do we do for the control of our bodies…

I think I liked this book so much, not for it’s story climax, or “point,” but because I was forced to ask myself these questions.  What morally is my duty to my body – this body filled with pores, causing hips to round in its shadows, asking for motherhood and spreading it’s legs against the ash of men (or women).  I’m not sure at this point what my duty is to my body.

I rise with the times, I suppose – I expect to be paid the same as a man in the same job, I expect to be judged on my hard work and not what my body was born into, and I believe in poetry and women’s place in literature, although articles are coming out announcing men’s publishing rates are rising higher than woman’s and this great article about chick lit @ Huffington Post. (Thank you Unputdownables).

I believe in Sylvia Plath’s words:

“Out of the ash I rise with my red hair
and I eat men like air.”
― Sylvia PlathAriel: The Restored Edition

If you need to ask yourself these questions – answer them with the literature, read this book.  Ask yourself what your mother, or grandmother has taught you about being a woman.  What did they instill in you – a sense of urgency, kindness, sexuality?  My grandmother instilled power, erratic driving, perseverance, self-teaching.  My mother instilled everything – the idea to be fierce, but soft.  I often think about what my daughters will think when they read my journals (if I have daughters) or what I will teach them in actions, and then later how they’ll discover my voice on paper.  I’m not sure what they’ll say about me – that I over-analyze, I scribble, I make lists.

At least though, I’m thinking about it, and thinking about it more after A Short History of Women.  Thinking about my contribution to not only my own line of females, but my voice in the public sphere (on women).

This brings me to: Samantha Brick, the woman too pretty and attractive to have any female friends.  If you haven’t read it, her article can be found here.   Here is the premise of the article: other women hate me because I’m beautiful and they treat me unfairly due to my stunningly good looks.  She’s a free lance journalist in France.  While I think her discussion is important, I don’t think she went at it the right way.  I believe pretty woman probably do struggle with making friends and it may be that other women are jealous, or it may just be that attractive women constantly discuss their looks, and their suitors and other women get bored with the conversation.  It’s strange how she writes this article with so many stories of hatred from other women who in secret praise her.  Last year, I wanted to watch the Victoria Secret Fashion Show for several reasons.

1. The women are absolutely stunning and they’re fun to look at, their hips ticking like a grandfather clock and those giant wings sparkling along the runway.

2. I like to know what bathing suits will look like next season.

3. I like to have inspiration to continue on my exercising journey.  My favorite model, Miranda Kerr, recently had a baby before the 2011 show and yet she looked flawless.  I did find myself saying, “I’d love to look like that,” but that doesn’t mean I’m jealous, it means I’m appreciative.  Sometimes, I bite down on the strong urge to yell at women running the neighborhood with me, to cheer them on.  It’s good when we can find something in common like loving ourselves instead of constantly putting one another down.   Have I been catty in my lifetime?  Sure.  Have I ever been cruel to someone because I thought they were prettier than me? No.  I don’t think that’s fair, when society is so much more cruel to those who don’t solidly fit its standards of beauty.  What we should be talking about is Bully, not some pretty Brit who’s having a hard time being pretty.

It’s a shame we can’t chalk all this up to: we can’t all be the same, we have different genes, different geographical locations, different unique and beautiful physical qualities.  When I read the article I kept thinking, “it’s not because you’re pretty, it’s because you’re rude about it.  You’re narcissistic.  You live in a house of mirrors and yet throw stones.”

I think this states to me that we’re living in a world where women think they can use their looks against each other.  I have news for people out there: you’re born with looks.  Very few women get nose jobs (unless they play Baby in Dirty Dancing), or liposuction  to suit themselves more firmly in the attractive.   Can you name one friend who’s had breast implants, I can’t.

Slam Poet Katie Makkai – “Pretty”

Why is it that we’re still talking about looks anyway?  Did you know that in England circa 1800 women being overweight and pale was popular?  In fact, if you were skinny or tan, it was considered that you were a maid, or a slave of some sort (often working in the sun, or not getting enough nourishment).

Obviously Samantha Brick has done well in her career with all of the possible promotions she mentions and yet we hear nothing about how she strives to pass the glass ceiling, or how she competed easily with others in her position (regardless of gender, or physical attraction).

It’s sad when high school girls are going through life considering eating disorders because their self-esteem isn’t concerned with how many poems they can quote, or how they understand the periodic elements and their functions, or how improved they are in a chosen sport, but instead how formed their abs are, or how straight their hair.

It worries me.   I was that girl who got up an hour earlier on non-swimming days to straighten my hair.  I had and have quite high self-esteem.  I swam year round all through high school, five hours a day and always had a boyfriend, so I wasn’t supremely concerned with my body but I did concern myself with these golden sea weed strands on my head and the acne forming on my chin.  I wanted straighter teeth, hair, legs.  I wanted less thigh, and didn’t laugh when my mother told me I had birthing thighs given from my grandmother.

So, this all comes back to our bodies.  How will we respect them and use them in the world.  How much do we fight with our minds and how much with our physical womanhood.  Earlier this week, I read a great nonfiction piece in Revolution House.  You can read it by Chelsey Clammer,  titled “Body Home” here.

I’d like to quote just a piece of it,

“I am on my way to work, getting on a train in Chicago. My commute has become a ritual of sitting in my body, mapping out the space she inhabits.   Each day I go through the obstacles of my mind as I judge the way my body moves. At the train stop, I go through the turnstile, and it rushes up behind me as I push it with my hand. The metal bar hits the back of my bag, an overstuffed messenger bag that bustles with snacks for the day, with notes for my job. The metal hitting my bag does not indicate to me that I am carrying a large amount of stuff to work, but it means I exist too much, that I take up too much space, that there is too much of me in the world” (Clammers, 48).

I think Clammers gives us a deep and revolving look at the female psyche.  I don’t want to feel like I am too much in the world because of how much seat I take up on a subway, or how deep a trampoline dips as I’m jumping into the blue air.  I want to feel too much in the world because I’ve written an overwhelming amount of words, because I’ve spoken loud enough for the world to hear, because my journal is so filled with scraps of lettering that it is bunching out, papers are crowding the spine.  I want my body to be my words, my hips small syllables, my eyes rhymes, and my fingers every sweet curve of my unsmooth handwriting.  This is how I will be too much in the world: too much voice. Too fierce.  Too alive with expression, with correspondence, with this, here.

Here is the main question though: What do these messages say about womanhood.  Ask yourselves.

*Next week I will be in Philly working at St. Francis Inn.  I may not be able to blog — head’s up.