Collected Poets Series, A New Season begins.

This Thurday at 7:30pm we’re kicking off our third season of the Collected Poets Series with two amazing poets: Annie Finch and Lisa Olstein.

Annie Finch is the author or editor of fifteen books of poetry, translation, and criticism. Her books of poetry include Eve, Calendars, The Encyclopedia of Scotland, and the forthcoming Among the Goddesses: A Narrative Libretto. Her music, art, and theater collaborations include two operas. Her poems appear in anthologies, textbooks, and journals including Agni, Fulcrum, Kenyon Review, Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, and Yale Review, and her books on poetics include A Formal Feeling Comes, An Exaltation of Forms, The Ghost of Meter, The Body of Poetry, and the forthcoming A Poet’s Craft. Annie’s book of poetry, Calendars, was shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award and in 2009 she was awarded the Robert Fitzgerald Award. Annie lives in Maine where she directs Stonecoast, the low-residency MFA program of the University of Southern Maine.

Lisa Olstein is the author of Lost Alphabet (Copper CanyonPress, 2009), Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), winner of the Hayden Carruth Award. Cold Satellite, an album of songs based on her poems and lyrics, is forthcoming from singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Centrum. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals including The Iowa Review, American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Fairy Tale Review, and elsewhere. A contributing editor of jubilat, with Dara Wier and Noy Holland, Lisa co-founded the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts & Action at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is Associate Director of MFA Program for Poets and Writers.

For more information on the Collected Poets Series, please visit our website.  And don’t miss this first reading of what promises to be another exciting year!

Note: As I’ll be without a laptop to call my own until early next week, attending NEIBA in Hartford on Saturday, in addition to the CPS reading above, if you’ve sent me an email, please be patient while I scramble for the means of accessing the interwebs.

billet-doux.

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!