July 14, 2010

Help Salt Publishing

Economic times are tough. These are even tougher times for traditional publishers. And for publishers of poetry...

Here's a letter from Chris at Salt Publishing asking for your help, and it can be as simple as buying one of their books of poetry.

I hoped I'd never have to write this note. The recession has continued to have a very negative impact on sales at Salt and we're finally having to go public to ask you to help support us.

Our sales are now 60%... down on last year and have wiped out our grant and our cash reserves as we continue to market and publish what we can from what we believe is a great list. We've plans in place to help secure the business from November 2010 — though the books we'll be publishing won't deliver any real revenue until 2011. We're sorry to ask, embarrassed to ask, but we need your help to survive until then and if you were considering purchasing a Salt book, we'd dearly love you to do it right now. We've less than one week's cash left.

If you can help us, please do two things:

1. Buy one book from us — we don't mind from where, it can be from your local bookstore (they need your support, too), it can be from Amazon.com or the BookDepository. It can even be directly from us. But please buy that book now.

2. Please tell everyone you know to do the same. Buy just one book and pass it on.

If money is tight for you, too, you can simply write a review of any Salt book you love on Amazon. Or recommend a book to a friend.

You can visit our Web site right now, simply go to http://www.saltpublishing.com/
and buy Just One Book.

Remember too, that every book you buy directly from us gets a raffle ticket in our Big Summer Raffle — and you could win one copy each of the next 20 books we publish from 1 September.

Thanks for continuing to support us.

Chris Hamilton-Emery
July 14

Support the publishers of poetry.

July 6, 2010

Another Summer

Another summer is in full swing. Last weekend was fireworks and lots of 90 degree days and people heading to the beaches.

A friend suggested that I do myself a favor and read Mary Oliver's Evidence.

I know what he likes in her poems - God, creation, the birds and rivers and otters and grass and wolves who are all singing songs of wonder. And she is wondering about those big questions of death, life, love, and purpose.

She gets it. If not the answers, at least the right questions. In her poem "I Want to Write Something So Simply," she says:

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.
June was a month where I attended too many wakes and funerals. I guess I am at an age when a lot of people I know and have worked with are old enough that it's not so shocking to get that news - and yet, it still is a shock.

My mother will be 92 this year and she talks about her last Mother's Day, last visits and such. She wants me to write up the papers for her funeral now, so she knows it's done right.

I'd like her to listen to Oliver's "Another Summer Begins," but I don't think it will console her.

Summer begins again.
How many do I still have?
Not a worthy question,
I imagine.
Hope is one thing,
gratitude another
and sufficient
unto itself.
The white blossoms of the shad
have opened
because it is their time
to open,
the mockingbird
is raving
in the thornbush. How did it come to be
that I am no longer young
and the world
that keeps time
in its own way
has just been born? I don't have the answers
and anyway I have become suspicious
of such questions,
and as for hope,
that tender advisement,
even that I'm going to leave behind.
I'm just going to put on
my jacket, my boots,
I'm just going to go out
to sleep
all this night in some unnamed, flowered corner
of the pasture.

My mother would say that she doesn't want to sleep in any pasture. And I might flip a few pages and say that the poet is just saying to follow that "holiest of laws: be alive until you are not."

How many summers do I still have? Not a worthy question, I imagine.

More Mary Oliver poetry books

July 5, 2010

Getting Nude With Jan Beatty

This month we look at Jan Beatty's poem "Sitting Nude" from her collection Red Sugaras part of our current writing prompt.

In the book, she says that red sugar is "the sweet, deep inside of the body." Some reviews of her poetry point out that her poems are often sexually explicit, gutsy, or revealing. I think those are labels that limit poets.

The poems in the book that got me thinking about this month's prompt included one about a six year old girl encountering a naked man in the woods and running away. ("It's the body inside me that's running, my red sugar body that shows me the brutal road to love.")

In most of the poems, it's the inside of the body, not the fleshy outside, that carries the poem.

In another poem, a waitress sees a woman she believes is her birth mother. ("When I saw her up close, I knew she was blood.")

Yes, there are poems that are more blatantly sexual - meeting Eros at a downtown peep show and poems about kinds of sexual acts - but I was looking more at poems about wanting "to be the red sugar of the pomegranate."

With all that, it still surprises me that a bookseller found her poems too "erotic" for a reading.

Read a few of her poems, like "I'll Write the Girl" or "Report from the Skinhouse"

I went looking for the body.

The apple, tree, the river.
Gliding voice, curve of arm,
pearly blue uterus.

Muscled calf, the neptune green
eye, blood with the same
taste as mine.

Why do I write my report this way?
An adopted child needs to find a face.

What does a real mother's body look like?
River, chalkline, bloody cave?
and I think you'll probably agree.

For our July prompt (deadline August 1), we ask that you write a poem on nudity. It's a topic that easily goes in many directions - the sensual, the innocent, the erotic...

Books By Beatty

Boneshaker (Pitt Poetry Series)

July 1, 2010

W.S. Merwin Appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate

Merwin photograph © Matt Valentine
via http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-157.html

July 1, 2010

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced the appointment of W.S. Merwin as the Library’s 17th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2010-2011.

Merwin will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary series on Oct. 25 with a reading of his work.

"William Merwin’s poems are often profound and, at the same time, accessible to a vast audience," Billington said. "He leads us upstream from the flow of everyday things in life to half-hidden headwaters of wisdom about life itself. In his poem ‘Heartland,’ Merwin seems to suggest that a land of the heart within us might help map the heartland beyond—and that this ‘map’ might be rediscovered in something like a library, where ‘it survived beyond/ what could be known at the time/ in its archaic/ untaught language/ that brings the bees to the rosemary.’"

William Stanley Merwin succeeds Kay Ryan as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, Rita Dove and Richard Wilbur.

During a 60-year writing career, Merwin has received nearly every major literary award. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, just recently in 2009 for "The Shadow of Sirius" and in 1971 for "The Carrier of Ladders." In 2006, he won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress for "Present Company." His retrospective collection "Migration: New and Selected Poems" won the 2005 National Book Award for poetry.

Born in 1927, Merwin showed an early interest in language and music, writing hymns for his father, a Presbyterian minister. He studied poetry at Princeton and, in 1952, his first book, "A Mask for Janus," was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award.

The author of more than 30 books of poetry and prose, Merwin’s influence on American poetry is profound. Often noted by critics is his decision, in the 1960s, to relinquish the use of punctuation. "I had come to feel that punctuation stapled the poems to the page," Merwin wrote in his introduction to "The Second Four Books of Poems." "Whereas I wanted the poems to evoke the spoken language, and wanted the hearing of them to be essential to taking them in."

Merwin also has been long dedicated to translating poetry and plays from a wide array of languages, including Spanish and French. "I started translating partly as a discipline, hoping that the process might help me to learn to write."

In 1976, Merwin moved to Hawaii, where he and his wife Paula have fashioned a quiet life in beautiful, natural surroundings. An avid gardener, he has raised endangered palm trees on land that used to be a pineapple plantation.

"Although his poems often deal with simple everyday things, there is a nourishing quality about them that makes readers want more, "said Patricia Gray, head of the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center. "Like William Wordsworth, he is passionately interested in the natural world."

From 1999 to 2000, while Robert Pinsky served as Poet Laureate, Merwin along with Rita Dove and Louise Glück were named as Special Bicentennial Consultants in Poetry to help celebrate the Library’s bicentennial.

Merwin’s many honors also include the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the Tanning Prize for Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, the PEN Translation Prize, the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, and the Governor’s Award for Literature of the State of Hawaii. He has received a Ford Foundation grant and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation. Merwin is a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

The Shadow of Sirius
Migration: New & Selected Poems
The First Four Books of Poems
The Rain in the Trees
The Second Four Books of Poems: The Moving Target / The Lice / The Carrier of Ladders / Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment

Migration: New & Selected Poems    Summer Doorways: A Memoir   The Ends of the Earth: Essays   Unframed Originals: Recollections   The Rain in the Trees