Free Book from Sarabande!

I was looking up Gabriel Fried’s book of poems, Making the New Lamb Take (Sarabande Books, 2007) (he’s coming to read at Amherst College on April 22), and stumbled on this tidbit from Sarabande Books’ blog:

April is National Poetry Month, and Sarabande is celebrating by offering a free book for sharing your favorite poem with others. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

1. Chalk two or more lines of your favorite poem on the sidewalk (or anywhere others can read it) during the month of April.

2. Take a picture.

3. Browse through the Sarabande catalog and select a book you’d like to read.

4. Send the photo no later than April 30, along with your book selection, to or mail it to:

Chalk It Up!
Sarabande Books
2234 Dundee Road, Suite 200
Louisville, KY 40205

5. Sarabande will mail you the book of your choice, free of charge!

NaPoWriMo 2.

I stopped by Arts & Letters Daily and my head almost exploded. Seriously. Have you ever been there? All that text…my brain is bleeding.


Now that I’ve decided to trail along behind the NaPoWriMo bandwagon in my own little red wheelbarrow, I’m, well, dare I admit, feeling excited, like I’m catching a wave(let) on the ground swell of anticipation rippling through the blogosphere. Which is a metaphorically messy paragraph and perhaps does not bode well….


ReadWritePoem has a post today with a few form ideas to help keep the poems flowing, and, as someone who generally doesn’t find prompts helpful, these are great — I will definitely use at least two of them.


Poems have been bubbling up of late, words, phrases — this could be just the impetus I need to get to work.


I don’t know who started it, (Maureen Thorson?) or when, the first time I remember hearing about it was last year — National Poetry Month has been transmogrified into National Poetry Writing Month. One poem a day for a month, to be exact.

Unlikely? No — impossible, in every way — I can promise to merely draft lines in my head every day and attempt to write them down on discarded bookshop receipts. Much as I do now, only more so.

But the idea is so tantalizing. An Event, with a finite and clearly defined time span. And plan. The whole goal-orientation aspect of it is strangely appealing. And communal.

So, while I cannot commit to 30 poems in 30 days, and I will not be posting drafts here, no sir, you can find your crappy poems elsewhere, I’m on board with the whole let’s-celebrate-poetry-by-writing-a-lot-of-poems-this-month notion:  I’ll try to do more. How about you?

Ham & Okra & Joanna Klink

A great Easter! Everyone was there, even my dad, in the guise of a bunch of old pictures my cousin had passed on to my eldest brother, who then fashioned them into two framed collages to present to Mum. And Mum not only cooked a ham and the usual fare, but she also fried up some okra this year that she’d been saving in the freezer, and boiled green beans with the hambone and some ham — oh so decadent! And one sister supplied a coconut cream pie and strawberry cheesecake, and the other chocolate cupcakes, plus Mum’s apple pie — a cacophony of calories! But there’s a lot of us, so there wasn’t very much left over to take home. Vincent was in his element, being doted on by his older cousins — they’re a very affectionate bunch. I hope you all had wonderful holidays as well!


Lance was concerned that no one at the store has remarked on my black eye: “See, they think I did it!” he said.

Eldest brother assured us, “If anyone asks, you can tell them that I said you probably deserved it.”

Lance laughed, then quickly said, “Don’t you dare!”


There are still piles of snow in Shelburne Falls, but it’s slowly receding, the ground visible around the edges. I’m a born & bred New Englander, but I confess, I prefer the idea of winter over the reality. To me, winter is best as a view from a warm room. Maybe that’s why I love winter poems, there’s something about them both lush and austere at the same time.

It’s spring at last, but I want to share one last winter poem by one of my favorite poets, Joanna Klink, from her newest collection, Circadian (Penguin, 2007). And if you want a real treat, Ron Slate has a wonderful discussion of this book here.

Winter Field

What better witness than this evening snow,
its steady blind quiet, its eventual
completeness, a talc smoothing every surface

through the lumen tricks of ice.
No one who comes here hastens to leave,
though the mineral winter makes a dull

math of cold inside the bones, a numbness
thinning into each fingertip and eye.
Faint injury traveling toward earth

in shifting silence, a softness in the weather
passing through us, dark moods of snows–
a sense of peace so deep we extend out

into the blackness of our lives, dread and failure,
and feel no hint of terror, only the premonition
of drift-design, the stars behind the snow

burning in ancient immanence over the field.
What lights a world gone blank with despair?
You were here once; you will be here again.

Black Eye of Night.

For the past month or so, I’ve been working on weaning Vincent — he’s 2, it’s well past time. When he was born I thought he’d have been weaned many moons ago, but this last year has been full of changes, which he’s been a really good sport about, so it just wasn’t going to work to deny him his one constant comfort. I also hoped he’d wean himself, some babies do, but no, he’s interested in giving it up not at all.

So I hardened my heart and began a new ritual: every night at bedtime, we still go to his room and say good-night to Pooh & Elmo & Tigger & Doggie, and he nurses and goes to sleep. But when he climbs into our bed 4/5/6 hrs later and tugs on my shirt, whispering, “Please?” (think Earl in “Waitress”), I whisper back, “No, go to sleep,” and give him a kiss.

What follows varies, according to his level of fatigue and health. On good nights he only whines for a minute or two, before giving up, turning over, and going to sleep. But bad nights are bad. Like Monday night.

It was around 3am. Vincent’s nose has been running like a spigot, he’s developed another hacking cough, so he’s not feeling very well. Thus, when I said, “No, go to sleep,” he did not react as a tired mother would wish.

He cried loudly, kicked his feet, and when none of it worked, he got up on his hands and knees and used his head as a battering ram, giving me a nice little shiner. Then he put his hands to his own head and moaned, “Boo-boo!” Indeed.

Luckily, between my glasses & the dark circles already ringing my eyes, it’s not been noticeable, though it’s taking on a yellowish cast now. He did go to sleep, almost instantly, after giving my boo-boo a kiss, and he’s kissed it at least once every day since. But this is certainly not how I envisioned the weaning process.

I would absolutely do it all again, yes. Nursing has been not only rewarding, but very convenient: I don’t know how I would’ve been able to bring Vincent to the bookstore those first 8 months if I’d had to deal with bottles etc. in addition to everything else. We’ve been very lucky.

And let me add that on those good nights, right before he gives up and goes to sleep, he whispers, “Kiss!” whispers, “Hug!” and must have both before he turns over.   Very very lucky.

As I slowly slowly detach my little barnacle boy (yes, I’ve used this in a poem), here is a poem I love by Naomi Guttman from her collection, Wet Apples, White Blood (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007), for which nursing and motherhood are driving forces:

Milk Muse

Morning’s palest hour wakes me —
the baby takes my dripping lumen
then sleeps again.

I open the door to hear the tide.
Nothing moves, not even the rabbit
paused by the clothesline,
not the beach grass, cool in the dew.
The sky is close.

Copernicus displaced us
sending Earth adrift —
no more circles, but ellipses,
no crystal spheres,
but planets tethered to the sun.

I want to hear sky music, a concerto
made of partial light and shadow,
available to all who wake
between two stillnesses, to climb
into Orion’s outstretched arms,
lean my head against his giant shoulder,
and be lit within —
a brand new constellation
nursing the stars.


Nick Bantock’s Griffin & Sabine books were the first, I think, to grant us the voyeuristic thrill of opening and reading other people’s letters. Many books have built upon the concept since, creating innovations of their own, notably Candlewick Press’ -Ology Series, but for the first time that I know of (please tell me if there are others!), poetry has gotten into the game with Dancing Girl Press‘ limited edition collection, billet-doux. And I am so excited about it!

billet-doux, originally planned to arrive by Valentine’s Day, comes in a shallow brown box: Fifteen different poets contributed one poem each, and, as I understand it, each poet was responsible for her own poem’s design. Fonts, type size, everything varies from poem to poem:

Enclosed in the taupe envelope (with a cool watercolor-redacted-poem label) with Bronwen Tate‘s “Dear Caleb, It’s 4:13 PM” is a recipe for zuni gateau victoire. Annie Finch‘s “Letter for Emily Dickinson” also makes use of watercolor, this time a sunset-colored palette.

The poem styles also run the gamut, from Annie Finch’s sure-footed rhymes to one of the best prose poems I’ve ever read, Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis’ “Dearest Mistake,,” printed on green opaque paper with the faint silhouettes of trees.

Suzanne Frischkorn‘s “Window” has one of the sparest designs, printed on the back of an index card, a pale blue swirl flanking the title, but this is not a criticism. It somehow matches the simple beauty of the poem: “Thrush birdsong: lacey throated stars.”

“Postcard with Language Barrier” by Kelli Russell Agodon comes in a printed air mail envelope addressed to Pablo Neruda, and the poem is indeed on a postcard whose picture looks to be an old black and white ad for the Smith Premier No. 4 Typewriter. “And when we love/ together, the bees groan.”

Emma Bolden‘s “Epistle I. Why I Can’t Write You a Love Poem” has a clever and skillfully drawn picture of a bird in a ribcage, which dovetails perfectly with her poem: “The heart itself knows/ it’s not a red-barred bird.” Dancing Girl Press is slated to publish a chapbook of Emma’s Epistles in the fall, and after this taste, I can’t wait.

Not everything works. There are a few whose designs may have sounded neat as ideas but whose executions made reading good poems difficult. And I didn’t love every poem. But that’s all to be expected with such a wide-ranging and adventurous collection. This is a limited edition, so I don’t even know if or how many copies are still available, but if you can swing it, I definitely recommend ordering one for yourself. I’ll be looking through mine, (taking care to keep it from Vincent, who cried a delighted, “Mail!” when he saw me open my box) for a long time to come. Congratulations to Dancing Girl Press and all the poets involved!

Le Bossu Quartre.

I’m sorry, it’s a full-blown obsession now.

It’s a shame I can’t actually read or speak French, because there are boatloads of Paul Féval novels available in his native tongue. But there are no English editions available that I can find, just this:

Brougham, John, 1810-1880.
The duke’s daughter, or, The hunchback of Paris : a drama, in three acts, and a prologue / dramatized from M. Paul Feval’s Le petite parisien by MM. Anicet Bourgoise and Feval as Le bossu ; adapted for the English stage.
New York : Samuel French & Son, [ca. 1883]

It’s miraculously available at the Amherst College library, but for use in the library only — it’s with the Archives and Special Collections. Foiled again!

Le Bossu Trois.

“If you do not come to Lagardère, Lagardère will go to you!” Those are the words in the form of oath taken by Lagardère to Count de Gonzague, who plots a conspiracy against his friend, the brilliant Duke de Nevers, to capture the wealth of his rich cousin. It will take sixteen years for the Knight Lagardère to avenge his friend, save his honour, and find love.

I cleaned it up a little, but that is the Google translation from the French about the film. It was the rollicking adventure that I remembered, with funny & smart dialogue. I was swept up all over again.

Until the end. I didn’t remember that at all.  Those French! I don’t care if he’s not her father after all, that does not mean they can be together. Some things just aren’t done. It’s creepy.

So that meant I had to Google Le Bossu and see its history — from the extras it was clear that it’s a remake. And not only is it based on a cloak-and-dagger novel series by Paul Féval published in 1858, but the first film version was in 1910! There have been 7 film versions in total, and 2 TV movies. So everyone in France must know this story — does Foster Dad always get the girl in the end?? Marianne? Andrew?

Now I have to see if there’s an English edition of the novel…

Le Bossu Deux.

For two nights now it’s been sitting in its envelope on top of our DVD player.  But for one reason or another we still haven’t had the time to watch it.


I guess after ten years I can stand the suspense another day.  Tomorrow night for sure.  I’ll make Vincent watch it if that’s what it takes.  Besides, if memory serves, there are no guns, just sword fights.


Le Bossu et Tim Mayo.

Labor Day weekend in 1998 I was in Montreal. As it happens, that’s also the weekend that they have a film festival every year, which I discovered accidentally walking down Elizabeth St. in the evening: a film was being shown against a building, just beginning, actually, and people were sitting all over. So I sat down too, not initially realizing that not only would the film be in French, but there’d be no subtitles.


But it was exciting, suspenseful, Daniel Auteuil and Vincent Perez were in the cast, and though I didn’t follow the finer points of the plot, I was completely swept up.

About a half hour before the movie ended, we were drenched by a raging thunderstorm. Big thunder booms, flashes of lightning. But no one moved. Not a single person. We, all of us, had to see how it ended. It was that good.

For all these years, I’ve been longing to see this movie again, this time with subtitles, so I could understand what the stakes were, the story beneath the action, but the only thing I could discover was the title, Le Bossu, which translates to “The Hunchback.”

But thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have at last the information I needed — and I know why I couldn’t find it before. Literal-minded me, I was looking all this time for a movie called, “The Hunchback,” but the English title is “On Guard.” Stupid title, but there it is. Anyway, I shall have it safely placed inside my DVD player tomorrow night, and all its secrets shall be revealed….


Tim Mayo read last week as part of the Collected Poets Series, and I wanted to post one of the poems from his new chapbook, The Loneliness of Dogs (Pudding House, 2008) for those of you that weren’t able to come, a taste of what you missed:

Confession to the Dark Lady

Now I am an old man touching desire
like the
nombril of my body,
picking lint out of the center of my being,
folding myself to sleep like a towel.
I dream of your lips red as welts
against your white face, and I cannot
imagine your teeth, because the redness
of my dream blooms so vermilion–
but you must have smiled at me, once,
making the measured grimace of my face
relax its muscles, letting something,
hard as a pearl, go limp in my brain.