Active Voice | Lynn Lovegreen: The Fellowship of Words Year

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In a year where it seems like there’s a new issue or story in the news to divide us on a daily basis, Lynn Lovegreen has made a commitment to reach out to new people through books in 2017.

What’s the perfect book to recommend to a stranger who disagrees with you? Do you believe that reading can help us all find common ground? Has being part of the writing community helped you to reach out beyond your normal social circles?

Who will be in your Fellowship of Words?

Post your replies in the comments!

Charles Boyle
Active Voice, 49 Writers 

Last year, I declared it A Good Year for the Arts, and posted about once a month about what I experienced in the arts that moved me and helped me understand other people. While I still think that is valuable, I didn’t want to repeat myself online this year. So I declare 2017 the Fellowship of Words year.

Like J. R. R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, we all come from different places (geographically and ideologically) and look at life through different lenses. But as human beings, we have a lot in common, and reasons to work together. We need to become friends and neighbors again, to solve our problems and face the future as one. In order to do that, we need to remember our commonalities, our compassionate values, and make connections with each other again. We need fellowship.

I define fellowship as a friendly group of people connected by common interest. While many of us have a fellowship in one sense or another, I think we need more fellowships, more ways for people to connect with each other. Love wins over fear when we know our neighbors, when we see others as part of our community. And books are a natural way to create fellowship. Words are powerful. That’s something I can work with to create fellowship in my little corner of the world.

I plan to build fellowship by reaching out to others and bringing people together through books, in my personal and professional lives. For example, as an individual, I’ve committed to leading a teen book club at a local library. We’ll be sharing books with each other, and finding common ground in our discussions of those books. I also plan to participate in the planning committee for a librarians’ conference in my hometown, which will help school and public libraries continue their work to bring people together. As the American Library Association states, “Libraries are uniquely positioned at the heart of local, campus and school communities, enjoying public trust as repositories of knowledge and offering democratic access.” Libraries, and books in general, build fellowships that can lead to a better world.

In my writing career, I want to build fellowship, too. As James Baldwin said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” I hope to show readers and fellow writers how much we have in common, across time and space and all the other things that seem to separate us. That is one of the themes in my writing, and will continue to be so. As I write and speak to groups this year, I will make a conscious effort to create fellowship with my words. It’s my small way of making the world a better place.

What will you do this year to create fellowship or bring people together? Let’s use this opportunity to make a difference, through books and the written word. Feel free to use my graphic (created with Canva.com with book photo by banholio via Morguefile) and the hashtag #FellowshipofWords to continue this conversation online.

First published on Lynn Lovegreen’s blog on January 13, 2017. | Lynn Lovegreen grew up and remains in Alaska. She taught for twenty years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult/new adult historical romances are set in the Alaska Gold Rush.


Our new series, Active Voice: Writers Respond, asks Alaska writers to explore how current events and issues are shaping their work and their perspective on the state of our democratic values of justice, freedom, equality, and liberty. The series consists of 1) a blog series and 2) in-person events featuring local and visiting writers. The specific ideas of individual writers in this forum are not necessarily espoused by 49 Writers. Rather, we espouse the inherent worth of respectful expression, discussion, and debate.

The most important role in this new Active Voice project is yours: we want to hear from you. Do you like a post, or disagree with it? Do you see a point the author missed? Or do you want to turn one of their points on its head? Comment directly on blog posts, submit your own thoughts to info at 49Writers.org with “Active Voice” entered in the subject line, and consider participating in an event in your community. ~ 49 Writers, Inc. 

Literary Roundup | April 21-May 4

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Have news, events, or opportunities you’d like to see listed here? Email details to info (at) 49writers.org, preferably with “Roundup” as the subject. Items might get edited for length. Your message must be received by close of business the Wednesday before the roundup is scheduled to run at the latest. Unless your event falls in the “Opportunities and Awards” category, it should occur no more than 30 days from when we receive your email. Thanks! 49 Writers Statewide Roundup appears biweekly, on the first and third Friday of each month. If your short-notice event occurs between a missed deadline and an upcoming Roundup, email us a heads up anyway, and if we can help spread the word in other ways, we will.  

 EVENTS and ANNOUNCEMENTS

Michael Engelhard‘s essay collection American Wild just won the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards’ bronze medal for travel writing. Following Bob Dylan’s lead, the author will not travel to NYC to receive the award in person.

Alaska author Rosemary McGuire‘s book Rough Crossing won the Riverteeth Literary Nonfiction Prize and is now available! (See ad in sidebar)

49 Writers has just one class ahead during our Spring term… Screenwriting with Douglass Bourne in Anchorage in May… and our Tutka Bay Writers Retreat will be here before we know it this September, along with a fall and winter line up of classes and events. Stay tuned, and get in touch if you want to propose a class to teach or have any input about what you hope we schedule.

Stream this West Texas Talk radio interview by Laura Copelin with Joan Naviyuk Kane, the current Lannan Fellow. Kane is a poet from Anchorage, Alaska and is the author of the poetry collections Milk Black Carbon (2017), Hyperboreal (2013), which Arthur Sze chose for the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, and The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife (2009). Her honors include a Whiting Writers’ Award and a Creative Vision Award from United States Artists as well as fellowships and residencies from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and the School for Advanced Research.
We invite submissions to our new Active Voice blog series. Suitable crossposts and formerly published pieces are welcome, assuming you retain the rights.
SOUTHCENTRAL

Anchorage | Monday, April 24 from 5-7 pmKate Troll presents The Great Unconformity: Reflections on Hope in an Imperiled World at UAA Campus Bookstore. The book is an adventure memoir wrapped up in the global events of sustainability and climate change. Kate Troll is an activist on the front line of climate change. With twenty-two years of experience in fish politics, coastal management and energy policy, as well as being an elected official, her insights, advice, and guidance—including “hope spots”– on how to proceed in our changing times will be shared. Free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

Anchorage | Wednesday, April 26 from 5-7 pmThe Life and Poetry of Randi Owens | A poet since childhood, Randi Owens shares her three collections of poetry dated 1969-1973, 1974-1995, and 1996-2016. As a young child Randi survived the death of both her parents and a disparaging upbringing by writing poems, reading books, and discovering that “there is more to life than what I was living”. Her poetry lives beyond the page and is full of deep thoughts, meaning, and emotion. Everyone is encouraged to attend this event. Free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

ANCHORAGE | April 27, 2017 at 7 pm, at Great Harvest Bread Co. (570 E. Benson) | National Poetry Month reading featuring poets participating in the 3rd Annual Savor the Rising Words Poetry Broadside Invitational ExhibitMore info about the exhibit and reading.

 

The 2017 Mat-Su Young Writers Conference, April 29, sponsored by Publication Consultants and the Mat-Su School District

Registration is open for a Screenwriting class in ANC with Douglass Bourne on May 6, 2017.  Learn more and register now! Also, Doug’s screenplay The Mountain in Alaska won an Honorable Mention at the 2017 Mountain Film Festival and also won the Feature-Length category in The West Field Screenwriting Awards (WFSA), who describe this season as being “WFSA’s largest competition to date, with scripts from four continents and over twenty countries!”

3rd Annual Alaska Audiobook Narrator’s Workshop, presented by Basil Sands. “This could be your ticket to making a good living as an audiobook narrator. Thousands of new audiobooks are being produced every year and the demand keeps growing. And with modern technology, narration work that was once only available if you lived in LA or NYC is now available even here in Alaska!” Friday, May 26, 2017, 9 am until 5 pm, Alaska Communications Business Technology Center, Anchorage. $150. If you are interested email to basil at basilsands dot com with your name and an indication of your experience level, if any, in the following areas: audiobooks, stage acting, on camera acting, radio work. https://www.facebook.com/alaskanarrators/ | Read his blog post about it

INTERIOR 

 

Poetry at the Dredge at ChatanikaApril 29, 2017, 2-4 pm, Mile 29 Steese Highway | Fairbanks Arts invites you to an open air, open mic celebration of poetry and lyrics! Bring poetry to read or an instrument to accompany your song lyrics, a picnic lunch, a cushion or camp chair for comfortable seating, lots of warm clothes, and maybe a blanket or two. Fairbanks Sketchers will also be drawing at the event. Wrap up National Poetry Month in a beautiful outdoor setting. More

SOUTHEAST

JUNEAU | Woosh Kinaadeiyí Open Mic and Poetry Slam occurs every third Friday. The next event is Friday, April 21, 2017, at Perseverance Theatre. Community members of all ages and experience levels are encouraged to attend. Signups to perform start at 6:30 pm. Woosh Kinaadeiyí is a nonprofit organization committed to diversity, inclusive community, and empowering voice and organizes these free to low cost monthly events for the community. Learn more at www.facebook.com/wooshpoetry

                                                                   SOUTHWEST

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ARCTIC 

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CONFERENCES, RETREATS, and RESIDENCIES

Break Up & Break Out of Writer’s Block Retreat for Writers and Illustrators | SCBWI and Alaska Writers Guild, May 5-7, 2017 at Knik River Lodge. More info and registration.

North Words Writers Symposium will be May 31-June 3, 2017 in Skagway, Alaska. This year’s keynote speaker is world world travel and fiction writer Paul Theroux. After writing nearly fifty books of nonfiction and fiction set in the most exotic of locales, America’s greatest travel writer is finally headed for one of Alaska’s most notorious: Skagway. Paul Theroux will lead a faculty of seven acclaimed authors at the 8th annual North Words Writers Symposium. A maximum of 50 registrants at the 2017 North Words Symposium will also engage with a faculty of Alaskan writers that includes John Straley, Sherry Simpson, Deb Vanasse, Tom Kizzia, Andy Hall, and Lenora Bell. Learn more and sign up soon; 50 participants max. northwordsinfo@gmail.com

2017 Kachemak Bay Writers Conference will occur June 9-13, 2017 in Homer, Alaska. Keynote speaker will be Jane Smiley. Details and more. SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE: May 1st.

The Wrangell Mountains Center presentes Writing on the River: RiverSong from July 26-31, 2017, a six-day, five-night adventure in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This year’s workshop will feature river sprite and musical poet David Grimes, songwriter and journalist Brad Warren, and workshop director Nancy Cook. Together we will explore the ways wilderness can help inspire songs, stories, poems, and essays. Activities include an opening reading/performance and craft sessions in the comfort of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s facility in McCarthy, followed by three nights and four days of creative inquiry along the Kennicott, Nizina, Chitina, and Copper Rivers. Space is limited to nine student writers/ songwriters. More info

2017 Writers Tutka Bay Writers Retreat will occur September 10-12, 2017. Faculty to be announced very soon. Details.


OPPORTUNITIES and AWARDS for WRITERS

Anyone in Alaska is eligible to enter Fireside Books’ essay contest, which offers a prize of $500 dollars and $500 worth of books for the best “thoughtful, well-researched, forward-thinking essays that map out a new citizen-based ethic of communication, mapping the porous boundaries between weaponized propaganda and honest, authentic persuasion.” Your essay should be publication ready, about 1000 words, plus a bibliography and notes. Deadline: May 31, 2017. Click here for full details. Click here for Jeremy Pataky’s Anchorage Press column which focuses on the contest.

The 3rd Annual Savor the Rising Words Broadside Invitational Exhibit will be displayed during National Poetry Month. Learn more: http://49writers.org/special-events-and-salons

Alaska Women Speak is now accepting submissions till May 15, 2017 for their next issue. Also, check out the Anchorage Press write up of their The Living Room Reading Series event.

The Northern Review seeks submissions for their third literary issue (as opposed to scholarly issues), to be published in Fall 2017. Details below. Submission accepted through May 31, 2017

Thank You for Your Support! 49 Writers members and donors make this blog, our workshops, Crosscurrents events, Readings and Craft Talk series, and other special programs and activities possible. Not a member yet? Join Us 

Thank you to those who included 49 Writers in your Pick.Click.Give. choices this year! 

Guest Blogger Julie LeMay | Working at Literary Citizenship

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Julie LeMay reads from The Echo of Ice Letting Go at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, February 2017.

As an Alaskan writer, one of my goals has been to foster literary citizenship. But what does that mean?

Literary citizenship can include everything from promoting fellow writers to attending readings to volunteering in schools or for a literary journal. For me, an important criteria is to do what I enjoy. There are so many opportunities, so why do something I lack the expertise for or I find stressful?

Here are my top ways of engaging. But I’m also interested in what others are doing and how you each perceive the idea of literary citizenship.

  1. Buy Books. What’s not to love about this? Buying books, especially from a local independent bookstore, is a win-win-win. I get a new book, support another writer, and support my local bookstore, which for me is Fireside Books in Palmer.
  1. Support Writers on Social Media. Whether you go to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or some other site, this is an easy way to get the word out about your fellow writers. It’s even easier if you just share what others have posted.
  1. Donate Your Time at a Jail or Treatment Center. Although this can take a lot of effort, I’ve also found it the most rewarding. Often, the biggest challenge is simply getting in the door. Most institutions have an abundance of regulations that can make setting up a program difficult. That being said, I’ve taught workshops at Clitheroe Inpatient Facility, McLaughlin Youth Center, and North Star Residential Treatment Center. I think what I love the most about working with people in transition is their delight in discovering language and writing. In meditation there is the phrase “beginner’s mind” and that’s that I see working in these situations: there are no preconceived ideas or expectations. I also think writing can be another tool in the toolbox for change and for dealing with stress.
  1. Volunteer at Schools. Whether you’re helping judge a writing contest or you’re taking part in a reading for National Poetry Month, giving time at a school is a way to instill love of literature and to support young writers and readers. This is an area that I hope to explore more in the future.

What ways have you found to be a good literary citizen? What’s your favorite way to engage in the literary community?

Julie Hungiville LeMay is the author of the poetry collection, The Echo of Ice Letting Go (University of Alaska Press, 2017). She holds an MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles where she served as poetry editor for Lunch Ticket. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Julie has lived in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley since 1978. You can find more information at julielemay.com.

 

Basil Sands | Voices in My Head: the Wonderful World of Narrating Audiobooks

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I have a confession to make. I hear voices in my head. Male, female, young, and old. Since I was a kid, they’ve spoken to me for hours on end telling stories. It’s like magic. In 2006 I learned the secret of the magic, the secret that enabled me to actually become one of those voices in other people’s heads. Suddenly other people were walking around, wide eyed with wonder as my voice unraveled the mysteries of the world in their minds.

Don’t worry, no need to call the men in white jackets, I am talking about audiobooks, something I have loved with a passion for most of my life.

After I wrote my first novel, Karl’s Last Flight, in 2006 I knew I had to create an audiobook version of it. Learning of a website called Podiobooks, where you create a serialized audiobook that is given away in weekly twenty minute podcast episodes, I set out for glory. Now, I have always enjoyed telling stories. Once I was even awarded the “Wizard of The Campfire” award by the Great Alaska Boy Scout Council here in Anchorage. But telling stories professionally behind a mic is not as easy as acting out an abridged version of Beowulf for a troop of Boy Scouts on a rafting trip. That said, the podcast did really well, as a matter of fact it, and the next couple of books after it, all did well enough that I was able to earn enough dough to build a real, professional recording booth… in my walk-in closet, with my wife’s clothes and stacks of blankets and pillows surrounding me for sound proofing, and my gun safe… in case of, you know, the apocalypse or something.

I was having a blast narrating my own books, without of course realizing that, according to the industry, very few authors should actually undertake narrating their own work. It is not because they can’t tell their own story; rather it is because telling it in writing versus telling it orally are two entirely different realities. And when I say entirely different realities I am thinking as in multi-dimensional, Dr. Who, alternate universe kind of different, where you’re on what appears to be the same planet, in the same year, and even with the same manuscript in front of you, but every other paradigm, such as how to phrase words, how to draw attention to a scene, how to raise or lower the stress levels of the story are like two alien languages trying to vie for your brain’s communicative power.

Luckily for me, I had been a stage actor off and on for most of my life since about age twelve and knew something about oral communication versus written word communication. That background in acting, while not necessary, really helped. After having performed audiobooks for my own novels and short stories, some author friends from a blog I was a regular on asked me to narrate an anthology of their short stories. That was a major step, as shortly after one of them, best-selling author John Gilstrap, said “Hey, the guy doing my audiobooks really isn’t that great, do you think you could do better?” To which I replied “I don’t know about his work, but I can certainly give it a go.” Next thing I know, his publisher contacted me and BANG I was hired for my very first International Bestselling narration.

Whoa…. That was cool.

Then the work started pouring in and next thing I knew, I hardly had time to write my own novels which were still pouring into my head and had to get on digital paper ASAP. That was 2011. Now, in 2017, with over 80 narrations since the big leap, I find that I am loving this job more and more every day even as I struggle to keep up with writing. My current novel series was recently picked up by a major—

not big six but still pretty impressive—publisher, which means now I have real contracted deadlines to keep up with, but I also have to keep recording audiobooks to make a living till the novels make me millions… er… whatever.

With all that said, and the experience under my belt that can speak to bits and pieces of life in this fast lane, I will close with this. Audiobooks are an amazing piece of our future literary world. You as an author need to think about grabbing a piece of that pie because 30% plus of the market prefers getting books in that format. Some authors may well be able to narrate their own books and do a great job, but most can’t, so be willing to look into resources that can get your work out there. And more than anything else in the big wide world of reading, writing, and stories… be willing to look beyond the space you think your reader may lay, and dive in to new realms reaching folks who would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you can do the narration yourself, good on you… I might even be able to help you toward that goal with my third annual Alaska Audiobook Narrator’s Workshop this summer.

No Experience Necessary!

This could be your ticket to making a good living as an audiobook narrator. Thousands of new audiobooks are being produced every year and the demand keeps growing. And with modern technology, narration work that was once only available if you lived in LA or NYC is now available even here in AK!

DATE: Friday, May 26, 2017
TIME: 9AM-5PM
WHERE: Alaska Communications Business Technology Center (Anchorage)
COST: $150 per person
WHO: Anyone interested in becoming an Audiobook Narrator or Learning how the industry works.

Topics:
1. What is involved in becoming an Audiobook Narrator
2. Building a Home Studio
3. What is the best software for recording audiobooks
4. Getting Paid to Act Without Memorizing a Script Or Doing Improv in a Smoky Bar
5. One on One Sessions with Johnny and Sean (and a live studio audience).

If you are interested please send an email to basil at basilsands dot com with the following information: name, email address, Phone # (optional), Experience, if any, in the following areas: audiobooks, stage, on camera, radio

If I don’t respond to your email with an acknowledgment that I received it within 48 hours please send me a FB Messenger message with that information (just in case the internet gremlins sent your email into the spam folder by mistake). https://www.facebook.com/alaskanarrators/

Basil Sands is the author of action packed thrillers, novellas, and short stories as well as a single foray into romance. He is also a professional audiobook narrator. From his home in the foothills of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, he gets inspiration from his surroundings, as well as an exciting past. Born on a homestead outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, he served in the Marines, was Chef to the Spies (dining manager at the NSA), owned a computer shop, worked as a lumberjack, ambulance driver, Boy Scout leader, radio host, and government IT guy. He lives in Anchorage with his Porsche driving Korean wife, and has three grown sons and a four pound Yorkie named Heimdall, The Norse Dog.

Jeremy Pataky | Once Upon Right Now

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This was originally published last week in the Anchorage Press, the first in a new column there called Yeah Write.

April’s half spent, early gulls have been showing up, and the sun is off and running on its night-eating, post-hibernation binge that will last till solstice. Proper spring’s not here yet, but it’s coming on fast. Gravel-crusted snow piles heaped like mine tailings slowly shrink in wet parking lots. Our ears relearn the sounds of liquid water. Exotic license plates crop up at REI, Fred Meyer, and the Moose’s Tooth—Nevada, Colorado, Vermont.

T.S. Eliot could have written that famous line—“April is the cruelest month”—during an Anchorage interlude. April here is a bit cruel, erasing winter routes the way it does, unmasking long-hidden thawing dog shit, icing the odd intersection or two. It’s a useful transition, though, between the only full-fledged seasons we’ve got—winter and summer.

Perhaps it’s fitting that breakup, that micro-season hinging winter to spring, happens during National Poetry Month. There’s time, yet, to chase the last spring-fevered winter dreams with some final Poetry Month yawps. Alaskan Poems in Place signs, installed by Alaska Center for the Book across the state at places like Beluga Point, are melting out of snowbanks, cropping up like crocuses. The Poetry Parley gang is gearing up for their next group reading. Julie LeMay will discuss her debut book of poems, The Echo of Ice Letting Go, on Thursday the 20th at Indigo Tea Lounge.

I suppose the middle of this poem-bent segue month is as good a time as any to humbly proffer a new little weekly column. In Yeah Write, I’ll spotlight literary culture in and around Anchorage, sometimes conscripting friends to share the mic. It’ll be a little like a writerly Headlamp column (which reminds me that I have yet to respond to Zack Fields’ email about his favorite W.S. Merwin poems… appropriate for #npm17). I’ll spotlight books, profile authors, spill beans, report on events and gatherings, and tease out threads of people whose stories, poems, and drama help make this place itself.

We’re lucky our literary wilds match our geographic wilds. Though we’re light on people relative to acres up here, we’ve got a hell of a lot of fantastic writers. Alaskans know how to read, too, though you might not guess it at a glance from the Lower 48, where over two dozen reality TV shows paint Alaskans as backward and out of touch. Flipping channels, we might catch a news flashback of Katie Couric stumping Sarah Palin by asking her what periodicals she actually reads.

I first moved to Anchorage at this time of year in 2003, when John Haines was still alive and Title Wave still hosted events. He read there that winter, as did Anchorage-based poet Olena Kalytiak Davis. Those two—radically different from each other—framed part of a continuum in my mind that was useful to a young, new-here writer.

Haines, even then, was a grandfather of Alaska lit, grown hard of hearing and long on opinions and publication credits. Olena’s second book was just out—Shattered Sonnets, Love Cards, and Other Off-And-Back Handed Importunities—and she hadn’t yet won her Guggenheim. Though she’d lived in Bethel, her AK was urban. She wasn’t writing about the land (though it makes its cameos). She hasn’t live a trapper’s life. Her writing isn’t “about Alaska.” Yet they both fit here, each in their way, and they both were writing.

And, like me and many, they were both white people from Outside who moved up. It took very little time to begin recognizing distinctions between those who adopt this place as home and indigenous people who’ve always known it as a homeland. Despite colonization’s tropes and the piles of writing that for a long time painted Alaska as a wilderness awaiting newcomers, our northern canon has changed to reflect and include those who were here all along. Indigenous writers have built on rich oral traditions, adding written literature that sheds meaning on life here, and that informs all our collective identities.

People from all over the world call Anchorage home. ASD tallied a remarkable 107 languages either spoken by its ELL students as their first language or their families’. It makes sense that London-based scholar Tim Lomas and artist Marek Ranis came here last week to collect “the untranslatable words of human connections and experience.” They presented the project last Friday at the Anchorage Museum, called “Cafuné” after the Brazilian Portuguese term for the act of running a hand through a loved one’s hair. Simultaneously, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a surprise stopover here on the way home from seeing Trump in Florida, further emphasizing our increasing position as a crossroads, instead of a frontier.

Sometimes when I tell people Outside that I work for an org called 49 Writers, they say “Huh? There’re 49 of you?” Folks here know the name references Alaska’s role as the 49th state, of course, and that there are certainly more than 49 of us. I’ll look forward to writing about many of them and their ilk in the weeks and months ahead. They’re an interesting and diverse bunch that tend to churn up stories—

Once, Nicole Stellon O’Donnell flew down from Fairbanks, cabbed to the Taproot, performed as the featured poet in the Classic Poetry Slam, returned to the airport, and flew home.

Once, Andromeda Romano-Lax and Deb Vanasse started a simple blog that grew into a full-blown literary organization.

Once, I collaborated with artists Craig Updegrove and Jimmy Riordan to organize a poetry reading for Olena and Seattle’s Kary Wayson. Craig and Jimmy printed 300 letterpress posters with lines lifted from Olena and Kary’s poems. Using water as glue, they pasted them all over our frozen town to advertise the event, held in Mountain View at the MTS gallery on a stage that Craig and Jimmy built of books covered in parquet-patterned paper. When the reading ended, we went outside and used body heat to melt posters off the building to take home.

Once, a crowd gathered at Bernie’s to see the JCPenny parking garage come alive with a site specific performance called “Transactions”, choreographed by Becky Kendall after a piece Bruce Farnsworth wrote.

Once, a born-and-raised Palmer bookseller, Eowyn Ivey, wrote a novel inspired by a Russian fairy tale she found at Fireside Books. Her book was published in over 25 languages and 30 countries and became a finalist for the Pulitzer, a UK National Book Award winner, and a New York Times bestseller. It’s about to become a musical debuting next year in Washington, DC.

Once, the Anchorage Press realized this city’s awash in literary energy, and floated a column to plumb that. See you here next week.

 

Jeremy Pataky is the author of Overwinter and Executive Director of 49 Writers. He migrates between Anchorage and McCarthy.

North Words Writers Symposium | What A Few Can Do

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Glacier hike, North Words 2016. One of many adventure options for writers at this unique symposium!

Perhaps you’ve heard how this statewide organization, 49 Writers, got started. Two people who’d never before met—that would be Andromeda Romano-Lax and me—joined forces to encourage and promote the work of Alaska writers.

North Words Writers Symposium followed a similar trajectory although, in truth, their origin story is even cooler than ours. Years ago, Skagway’s legendary tourism director, Buckwheat, made a human-powered trek from Miami (FL) to Nome (AK) in order to raise money for a medical facility. Dan Henry joined him for part of the excursion. As they walked, they spoke at length about how an annual symposium could turn Skagway into a gathering place for writers.

Knowing a thing or two about turning ideas into action, Buckwheat convinced tourism folks that a writers symposium was a win-win for the community. With the help of Jeff Brady (Skaguay Books, Alderworks) and Dan Henry, North Words Writers Symposium (NWWS) launched in 2010. Owing to the allure of Skagway, the team (which now includes Katrina Woolford) recruits top-notch keynote speakers—this year, author Paul Theroux.

What makes North Words unique among writers’ gatherings is the controlled ratio of participants to faculty and a program that optimizes opportunities for faculty-participant interaction. Year to year, organizers refine the schedule, adding more workshop consultation options to the lively panels and field adventures for which the conference is known.

Every year, North Words puts together a congenial, spirited, talented faculty. For 2017, that includes Sherry Simpson, Tom Kizzia, Andy Hall, Lenora Bell, John Straley, and Paul Theroux. I’m honored to be included among them.

As we happily discover with our own writing, ideas grow as we devote ourselves to their nurture and sustenance. North Words Writers Symposium is proof of a good idea that gets better each year. On behalf of everyone at North Words, I invite you to join us in Skagway May 31 – June 3 to nurture and grown your own best ideas.

Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored seventeen books. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography  Wealth Woman. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives on the north coast of Oregon. She’s looking forward to reconnecting with Alaska writers in May at the North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway.

Guest Blogger Julie LeMay | Don’t Slam the Door on Your Way Out

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As a poet, I am endlessly fascinated by questions of how to create poetry that has mystery without obscurity, how to be plainspoken without being prosaic. How do we give the reader room for thought but not leave them lost in confusion? This will be the focus of my craft talk later this month.

In this blogpost, I’m going to explore one aspect of this topic: endings. As we know, while a great ending might not save a mediocre poem (your reader probably won’t even make it to that last line!) a weak ending can definitely ruin a good poem.

Linda Gregg’s “Trying to Ripen” ends with a snake “and a covey of quail / strong enough now to fly over / the fence. I saw distance.” She leaves the reader literally looking off into the sky and reflecting. Ending with an image like this is a good way to add mystery to a poem.

Give Eavan Boland’s powerful poem, “Quarantine”, a read. It has a firmer ending but she also manages to leave room for the reader. At the beginning, Boland places the reader firmly in the story of a couple during the potato famine in Ireland. She then hits hard with the final stanza:

“Their death together in the winter of 1847
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and a woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.”

Boland uses several techniques. First, she provides a definite sense of slowing down in the last two lines through the use of more single-syllable words, which slows the rhythm.

In Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End (University of Chicago Press, 1968) literary critic Barbara Hernstein Smith wrote about the technique of closural allusion:  “Allusions to any of the ‘natural’ stopping places in our lives and experiences – sleep, death, winter, and so forth – tend to give closure force when they appear as terminal features in a poem…” Boland’s use of “darkness” relies on this device.

Boland also uses a shift in her poem, the thematic change of switching from the very personal story of a couple, to the larger issue of what is real love between a man and a woman. A thematic shift, or a shift and return in a poem makes for strong closure.

But Boland doesn’t slam the door shut at the end of the poem. Smith also talks about “a gesture of exit” as opposed to the door “locked and bolted.” Boland’s ending gives room for the reader to reflect on what is being conveyed in the poem. It is not direct; it comes at a bit of a slant. There is a resonance at the end that the reader will take away with them. There is clarity, but still a sense of mystery.

Using short syllables, structural changes to form, closural allusion, and thematic shifts at the end of a poem are all great ways to improve an ending. In general, modern poetry has moved away from the tendency for a firm closing. But it’s still important to give the reader more than just the white space at the end of the poem to signal that the poem is coming to a close. We want to leave an echo or resonance that stays with readers. Maintaining clarity does not mean that the poem answers all the questions for readers; allowing ambiguity means giving readers room to reflect on the poem and discover something of their own.

I’ll be discussing this and various other techniques that help to make a poem more clear or give it breathing room. Please join me for an evening poetry reading followed by a craft talk, An Alchemy of Words: Mystery and Clarity in a Poem. We’ll meet at the Indigo Tea Lounge in the Metro Mall, 530 E. Benson Boulevard in Anchorage on Thursday, April 21st at 7pm.

Julie Hungiville LeMay is the author of the poetry collection, The Echo of Ice Letting Go (University of Alaska Press, 2017). She holds an MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles where she served as poetry editor for Lunch Ticket. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Julie has lived in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley since 1978. You can find more information at julielemay.com.

Literary Roundup | April 7-20, 2017

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Have news, events, or opportunities you’d like to see listed here? Email details to info (at) 49writers.org with “Roundup” as the subject. Spread the word. Your message must be received by close of business the Wednesday before the roundup is scheduled to run at the latest. Unless your event falls in the “Opportunities and Awards” category, it should occur no more than 30 days from when we receive your email. Thanks! 49 Writers Statewide Roundup appears biweekly, on the first and third Friday of each month.  

 EVENTS and ANNOUNCEMENTS

A musical version of Eowyn Ivey‘s Pulitzer Prize-nominated 2012 novel The Snow Child will premiere at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage in April 2018, co-produced by Juneau-based Perseverance Theatre. Read the ADN article.

Congrats to Hannah Moderow, whose debut book, Lily’s Mountain, will be published this winter by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!

Congrats to Vivian Faith Prescott on the publication of her book Traveling with the Underground People from Finishing Line Press.

Alderworks Alderworks Alaska Writers and Artists Retreat announced their 2017 summer residents:
X̱ʼunei Lance Twitchell, a Tlingit originally from Skagway/Dyea and now assistant professor of Alaska Native languages at University of Alaska Southeast. He will be completing his dissertation on a project that is vital to the heritage and people of our region. (Mary Jane Cabin)
Gaylord Brewer, a poet, professor of English, and director of the writing program at Middle Tennessee State University, who will be working on a new poetry collection. (Mary Jane Cabin)
Mary Catharine Martin, currently editor of the Capital City Weekly in Juneau, who is working on her second novel. Alderworks will be her first stop on a journey to the Klondike. (Bea Cabin)
Jeanette Morrisett, a high school English teacher and writer from Fort Yukon, Alaska, who is at work on her first novel. (Bea Cabin)

Jessica Rader, a former math teacher who is now immersed in the world of poetic forms through the graduate writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi. (Margaret Cabin)
Kristen Phipps, an artist from Kansas who earned her painting MFA from the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. Using camera obscura techniques, she combines fragments of memory and nature into beautiful, unique pieces of art. (Margaret Cabin)

First place-winners of the Fairbanks Arts Association’s 23rd Annual Statewide Poetry Contest talked with KUAC’s Lori Neufeld about what inspires them and then offer a reading of their works. Neufeld’s interviewees include, in this order, this year’s judge, Jeremy Pataky; elementary school winner Darcy Misel; high school winner Sasha Gorda; and adult winner Kersten Christiansen. Stream the story here.

We wrapped a second year of Danger Close: Alaska, a special partnership with the Alaska Humanities Forum. Events included a public Crosscurrents event and a Juneau writing workshop and public Reading and Craft Talk at Mendenhall Valley library. All events featured Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk and All the Ways We Kill and Die. This program falls under AKHF’s Duty Bound initiative. The latest issue of Forum, the magazine of AKHF, includes an interview with Castner (as well as an excerpt from Ernestine Hayes’s new book, and tons of other great content). Go down to the AKHF offices and get a copy (they’re beautifully designed and are now printed perfect-bound by the same shop that prints Edible Alaska), or read up online here.

We are so grateful for your support, Alaska! Thank you for investing in our work through Pick.Click.Give.

SOUTHCENTRAL

ANCHORAGE | April 11, 2017, 6:30-8 pm | Anchorage Public Library hosts I Read What I Want Book Club at Mexico in Alaska.

EAGLE RIVER | April 12, 2017, 7 pm | The final Living Room Reading Series reading of the season, Jitters in Eagle River.

ANCHORAGE | April 20, 2017, 7 pm (come early for tea or snacks) at Indigo Tea Lounge (530 East Benson). 49 Writers Reading and Craft Talk Series presents Julie MeMay, “An Alchemy of Words: Mystery and Clarity in a Poem”. The best poems create a sense of mystery without being obscure or unfathomable; they provide a sense of discovery for both the writer and the reader. As a writer what can we do to foster this in our own work? This lecture will discuss the use of imagery, metaphor, and other poetic techniques that can help balance the abstract and concrete. Julie will also discuss methods for generating new poems and honing one’s writing strengths. Brief reading, craft talk, Q&A, and signing. FREE. More info about this series

ANCHORAGE | April 27, 2017 at 7 pm, at Great Harvest Bread Co. (570 E. Benson) | National Poetry Month reading featuring poets participating in the 3rd Annual Savor the Rising Words Poetry Broadside Invitational ExhibitMore info about the exhibit and reading.

The 2017 Mat-Su Young Writers Conference, April 29, sponsored by Publication Consultants and the Mat-Su School District, seeks speakers to present on a number of writerly topics. To apply as an author speaker, contact Evan Swensen at evan@Publication Consultants.com.

Registration is open for a Screenwriting class in ANC with Douglass Bourne on May 6, 2017.  Learn more and register now! Also, Doug’s screenplay The Mountain in Alaska won an Honorable Mention at the 2017 Mountain Film Festival and also won the Feature-Length category in The West Field Screenwriting Awards (WFSA), who describe this season as being “WFSA’s largest competition to date, with scripts from four continents and over twenty countries!”

3rd Annual Alaska Audiobook Narrator’s Workshop, presented by Basil Sands. “This could be your ticket to making a good living as an audiobook narrator. Thousands of new audiobooks are being produced every year and the demand keeps growing. And with modern technology, narration work that was once only available if you lived in LA or NYC is now available even here in Alaska!” Friday, May 26, 2017, 9 am until 5 pm, Alaska Communications Business Technology Center, Anchorage. $150. If you are interested email to basil at basilsands dot com with your name and an indication of your experience level, if any, in the following areas: audiobooks, stage acting, on camera acting, radio work. https://www.facebook.com/alaskanarrators/

INTERIOR 

 

FAIRBANKS | Fairbanks Statewide Poetry Contest winners will read in the Bear Gallery, April 14, 2017, 6 pm.

DREDGE at CHATANIKA | April 2, 2017, 2-4 pm, Mile 29 Steese Highway | Fairbanks Arts invites you to an open air, open mic celebration of poetry and lyrics! Bring poetry to read or an instrument to accompany your song lyrics, a picnic lunch, a cushion or camp chair for comfortable seating, lots of warm clothes, and maybe a blanket or two. Fairbanks Sketchers will also be drawing at the event. Wrap up National Poetry Month in a beautiful outdoor setting. More

SOUTHEAST

JUNEAU |  2017 Tidal Echoes journal launch, Friday, April 14, 2017 at 7 pm in the Egan Lecture Hall. Rico Lanaat’ Worl and Lynn Schooler | Facebook event

JUNEAU | Woosh Kinaadeiyí Open Mic and Poetry Slam occurs every third Friday. The next event is Friday, April 21, 2017, at Perseverance Theatre. Community members of all ages and experience levels are encouraged to attend. Signups to perform start at 6:30 pm. Woosh Kinaadeiyí is a nonprofit organization committed to diversity, inclusive community, and empowering voice and organizes these free to low cost monthly events for the community. Learn more at www.facebook.com/wooshpoetry

                                                                   SOUTHWEST

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ARCTIC 

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CONFERENCES, RETREATS, and RESIDENCIES

Break Up & Break Out of Writer’s Block Retreat for Writers and Illustrators | SCBWI and Alaska Writers Guild, May 5-7, 2017 at Knik River Lodge. More info and registration.

North Words Writers Symposium will be May 31-June 3, 2017 in Skagway, Alaska. This year’s keynote speaker is world world travel and fiction writer Paul Theroux. After writing nearly fifty books of nonfiction and fiction set in the most exotic of locales, America’s greatest travel writer is finally headed for one of Alaska’s most notorious: Skagway. Paul Theroux will lead a faculty of seven acclaimed authors at the 8th annual North Words Writers Symposium. A maximum of 50 registrants at the 2017 North Words Symposium will also engage with a faculty of Alaskan writers that includes John Straley, Sherry Simpson, Deb Vanasse, Tom Kizzia, Andy Hall, and Lenora Bell. Learn more and sign up soon; 50 participants max. northwordsinfo@gmail.com

2017 Kachemak Bay Writers Conference will occur June 9-13, 2017 in Homer, Alaska. Keynote speaker will be Jane Smiley. Details and more. SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE: May 1st.

2017 Writers Tutka Bay Writers Retreat will occur September 10-12, 2017. Faculty to be announced very soon. Details.

OPPORTUNITIES and AWARDS for WRITERS

The 3rd Annual Savor the Rising Words Broadside Invitational Exhibit will be displayed during National Poetry Month. Learn more: http://49writers.org/special-events-and-salons

Permafrost literary magazine wants your experimental, weird, and best writing for its New Alchemy Contest. Deadline April 15, 2017, fee: $15.

Alaska Women Speak is now accepting submissions till May 15, 2017 for their next issue. Also, check out the Anchorage Press write up of their The Living Room Reading Series event.

The Northern Review seeks submissions for their third literary issue (as opposed to scholarly issues), to be published in Fall 2017. Details below. Submission accepted through May 31, 2017

Thank You for Your Support! 49 Writers members and donors make this blog, our workshops, Crosscurrents events, Readings and Craft Talk series, and other special programs and activities possible. Not a member yet? Join Us 

Thank you to those who included 49 Writers in your Pick.Click.Give. choices this year! 

Andromeda Romano-Lax | Forgiveness, redux

Andromeda Romano-Lax49 Writers1 Comment

We originally published this post on March 7, 2012

It’s about 11 am, and I already have several things to forgive myself for.

I intended to get cracking on a novel revision by 9 am. (First draft completed on Dec 31, and two months later, I still haven’t finished even the first round of editing I intend to do before letting the project sit again for a few months, pending solicited critiques and further, deeper revisions.) Instead, I read email, including a request for some Alaska photos to accompany an article I wrote for another website. What should that take, 5 minutes?

Nearly an hour later, I’ve finally found a handful that might do. Digging into the old online folders, I found myself looking at images that have nothing to do with work– hiking photos like the one above (will summer ever come again? so beautiful!), pictures of my kids when they were younger (look at those sweet, un-self-conscious, pre-adolescent smiles–how I miss those days), and at myself just two and three years ago. (There are those jeans I can’t fit into at all now, despite endless trips to the gym and several diets. What the hell happened? To make things worse, I recently injured my hip and have had to stop running and skiing, my favorite stress-relief activities. Argh!)

Yes, I actually leave my desk to go weigh myself. The number on the scale does nothing to cheer me.

And so on, down into a spiral of distraction, started by a genuine work request, but ending in sweet contemplations of times past and sorrowful self-recriminations about times present.

Never mind the twenty minutes spent washing some pots and pans that could have waited, because I really wanted to listen to a little more political coverage on NPR.

There’s lots on the agenda today: freelance work already paid for but not wrapped up, new work in the pipeline, emails, a reading assignment, teaching prep, all the typical errands, and–oh yes–even a little bit of creative work, if I haven’t blown it. Have I already blown it? I get so mad at myself, sometimes!

Here’s some wisdom from Eric Maisel, author of Coaching the Artist Within, an inspirational book I discovered last month. “Every day is a day to restore hope. … Your self-coaching persona must get in the first word each morning: ‘I have hope for this day.’”

Well, I had hope for this day. But no (my newly employed self-coach says): forgive and get over it.

Does this seem like too petty a context for using the word “forgiveness”?

My recently published novel, The Detour, takes place in 1938 Germany and Italy, and includes mention of Dachau concentration camp. Online and in interviews, I’ve already got into some thorny discussions and debates about the Holocaust, political guilt, complicity, and forgiveness — on the big scale.

My new novel project, tentatively titled “Annie and The Wolves,” is about sexual abuse and revenge — or rather, the impossibility of revenge. That too, encompasses some sensitive discussions about forgiveness. (My two main characters are more interested in shootin’ than forgivin’.)

For most of my life, I’ve tended to think about forgiveness at that level. Lingering trauma. Potentially unforgivable actions.

This year, with two teens in the house–including one itching to leave the nest–I started thinking more about smaller examples of forgiveness. Trying to forgive them for their everyday, normal teen transgressions (lack of gratitude, basic adolescent self-absorption) wasn’t getting me anywhere. Then I started thinking about forgiving myself. I’m not a perfect parent, it should go without saying (though my kids seem to think it is worth saying). I can be too sensitive and, on a daily basis, I feel my patience dwindling. I had gotten to a point where I was actually less aggravated at my own kids than at myself, for not responding to them in the way I know a parent should: with an almost oblivious sense of serene, compassionate authority. Forgiving them wasn’t really the point at all. It was more about forgiving myself, so I could start each new day with a clean slate, and try to be a better parent. Again.

Eric Maisel’s book took this subject a step further, into a realm I hadn’t considered before: the role of forgiveness in a creative life. On a daily basis.

Maisel writes: “Every day you will need to reflect on your life and chart your course. Every day you will have to renew the pact you made with yourself to act as if you matter. Every day you will need to forgive yourself and others to release your pent-up pain and disappointment. Every day you will need to surrender to the facts of existence while doing your damnedest to realize your dreams.”

My self-forgiveness list isn’t just about wasting a few hours here or there, mind you. It’s also about forgiving myself for not being a better writer, period. For having taken too long to get to this place. For not doing what it takes. For worrying too much. For envying the success of others. For not appreciating my own success. For letting the errors and the typos and the clichés creep in. For publishing too soon. For not publishing soon enough. For failing to listen. For talking too fast. For taking too long to mail that thank-you letter or respond to that reader. For not taking enough risks. For taking so many risks I’ve at times imperiled my health and my basic security. For caring too much about security. For being afraid.

Last night, I happened to read a wonderful essay by Jonathan Franzen called “Scavenging,” in his collection, How to Be Alone. Written in 1996, five years before Franzen’s fame for The Corrections, it captures the despondent voice of a gutsy but exhausted young writer living on a “four-figure income” and at the end of his rope, fed up with his graduate students (“who can’t distinguish between ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ and have never read Jane Austen”), older readers (“distracted and demoralized”), younger readers (“bred on television”), society at large (hooked on Prozac) and many other overlapping categories of people. Really, of course, Franzen was mostly fed up with himself. He was depressed. He was struggling as a writer. He had things to say but at that time, he was not the Writer he wanted to be, not the kind of person whose commentary would be read and heard (and certainly not the Writer who would later win the National Book Award and end up on the cover of Time Magazine).

At his lowest point, Franzen writes, “I gave up. Just gave up. No matter what it cost me, I didn’t want to be unhappy anymore. And so I stopped trying to be a writer-with-a-capital-W. Just to desire to get up in the morning was all I asked.”

Which is not to say he gave up writing: a best guess, based on other timeline clues in the essay, is that his second novel, Strong Motion, had been out for maybe a year. Though his personal life was a wreck, he was just beginning The Corrections, a novel in which he would depart from his original post-modern style and write something more grounded in realism, and also closer to his heart. In the mid-90s, Franzen began to see writing as a salvage operation. After hitting bottom, he was ready to accept fiction as refuge, rather than as a way to make grand social change (or to find success on a grand scale).

At the end of his “Salvage” essay, Franzen is rescuing a chair from a garbage heap, watched by a student who asks, “This is what my life will be like if I write fiction?” Franzen isn’t just rescuing broken furniture, of course. He is rescuing himself, ready at least to take things day by day, to move on. Franzen writes, “After years of depression, I didn’t care how forgiving of myself I sounded.” And also: “I prefer to live among the scavenged and the reborn.”

Seize the day. I always liked the sound of that. But perhaps, borrowing from Franzen’s essay title, Salvage the day is more fitting for most of us, most of the time. We have much to regret from our past– serious things and silly things. We may have something to regret just in the last few hours. I know I do.

Look at that — almost lunchtime. But lunch can wait. Still some time to copyedit 30 or 40 pages, and to do some tough revision on at least one scene before turning to all those other less-creative tasks that must get done.

Andromeda Romano-Lax is a co-founder of 49 Writers and the author of Behave. Her next novel, set in Asia in the years 1934 and 2029, will be published in 2018. Meanwhile she is writing two nonfiction books, including a memoir about running public lands in all 50 U.S. states during a year in which she grappled with mid-life health and aging issues.

Guest Blogger Julie LeMay | Recommended Reads for National Poetry Month

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Happy National Poetry Month! In honor of the occasion, I want to share a few books that I’ve read that you may have missed. These three collections stood out for me because of their surprising use of language.

The first is Revising the Storm by Geffrey Davis (BOA Editions, 2014). This collection is the winner of the 2013 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and was selected by Dorianne Laux. Terrance Hayes blurbed the book, saying among other things, “Urgent, tender, imaginative: this is a tremendous debut.” Davis holds an MFA and a PhD from Penn State and is a Cave Canem fellow, but it wasn’t these accolades that drew me to the book. Actually a friend and poet, F. Douglas Brown, posted a link on Facebook to Davis’s “From 35,000 Feet/Praise Aviophobia” as featured by Motionpoems. Click here to see the film. This gives you a feel for Davis’s work.

The book is so grounded, has so much heart, but is also gritty and unexpected. The second poem of the book, “King County Metro,” begins:

“In Seattle, in 1982, my mother beholds this man
boarding the bus, the one she’s already

turning into my father…”

It continues:

“…The air brakes gasp
as he approaches my mother’s row,

each failed rehab and jail sentence still
decades off in the distance. So much waits

in the fabulous folds of tomorrow.”

Davis’s inventive use of imagery and line breaks adds to the tension and vividness of his work. Whether he’s writing about his father or his son, family or marriage, Davis brings us into his world. You can read more about Davis at his website.

The other book I’d like to recommend is Porridge by Richard Garcia (Press 53, 2016). In the light of full disclosure, I have to say that Garcia is a former mentor of mine from Antioch. There he was known for his outlandish writing exercises and for forcing students to write in a variety of different forms: sonnets, sestinas, etc. We often grumbled about this, but we learned a lot. Garcia has authored seven books of poetry and is a recipient of a NEA fellowship. He is fond of prose poems and his work is often quirky, surreal, humorous, and full of humanity; Porridge is no exception. Poet Gary Young wrote that this book is “a fractious mash-up of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, cartoons, games, dances, popular songs and the Bible… Imagine Shakespeare, Walt Disney, and the Brothers Grimm on a road trip….” I would say this is a very apt description of the wild ride this book takes the reader on. Some poems made me laugh out loud while others crept up on me with their sly insight. The title poem, “Porridge” begins:

“Little Miss Blonde Breaking and Entering. Lock-
picker. She touched our chairs. Slept in our beds.
Burn it. Burn it all.”

These prose poems will delight you and may turn your world upside down. Read more about Garcia at his website.

The last book I want to recommend is Tales of a Severed Head by Rachida Madani, translated by Marilyn Hacker (Yale University Press, 2012). Although I read this several years ago, it has really stayed with me. The book is set up with three sections or “tales.” While the poems often shift in subject or voice, this remains a very cohesive work. Madani uses the Scheherazade figure in modern Morocco to take on the corrupt political and social conditions. Although the book is one of protest, the voice is passionate, personal, and prophetic. Madani uses repetition and sound well, which add to the feeling of prophecy.

I say I
and my hatred bursts in this glass garden.
Here transparency is not for seeing
                                            more clearly

is not for seeing further.

The consistency and power of the imagery make this a compelling and inspiring read.

I’d love to hear what gems you’ve read that perhaps the rest of us have missed!

Julie Hungiville LeMay is the author of the poetry collection, The Echo of Ice Letting Go (University of Alaska Press, 2017). She holds an MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles where she served as poetry editor for Lunch Ticket. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Julie has lived in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley since 1978. You can find more information at julielemay.com.