My fourth article in this series on poetry features the greatness of Independent Bookstores, especially our very own Card Carrying Books and Gifts in Corning, NY. This article talks about building connections in the community and how the store’s willingness to feature local writers is helping to influence change and create awareness of poetry in our town. You can read the article at Southern Tier Life Magazine.
Please stop by the store from noon to 6 pm, meet Page the kitty and let Bethany wow you with some great book selections.
Thanks for reading. Read. Write. Be kind to each other.
I know I’m a little late getting these out as we are nearing the end of April, but work and writing articles has taken up a fair bit of my time as well as preparing for my boyfriend to move in and my adult child to move out into their first apartment. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but in all of this I was able to complete nine books! Here are some thoughts about each that don’t give away the books.
I picked this book up on a trip to Arizona just before the pandemic really reared its ugly head. I went to the famous Antigone Books and this cover jumped out at me. I’d never heard of the author before and didn’t bother to read what the book was about because I was captivated by the cover. When I first started to read it, I had to put it down for several reasons. There were no dialogue tags…at all. At the time, I was writing my first novel and this sort of shift from normal wasn’t something my mind could tolerate. Secondly, it is a book about a virus taking over the world. It felt a little to right now for me, almost like reading about a trauma just before it happened. Forward to a place where the pandemic is just everyday business and I was able to get through the lack of dialogue tags and traditional indentations for paragraphs and muscled my way through. It is a translated book and this sometimes makes the transition to English a little choppy. It was an okay read, but I can’t say that I’d want to pawn it off on just anyone.
For some reason I have had a love/hate relationship with Sylvia Plath for most of my adult life. I have always found her poetry hit or miss and maybe all the stories of her personal life pushed me further away from her work. I tend to shy away from those authors that other people demand I read. It’s childish, but I like my authors genuinely found. I want to stumble upon them of my own volition. But here this book sat on my shelf, staring at me. I decided to read it just to remove it. Actually, I listened to this one while cleaning the house. It was apropos in some ways. I enjoyed the book immensely and probably much more than if I would have read it when it was suggested. I could look back on having had these types of feelings as a young woman and identify with what it meant in my own generation. Definitely a surprise enjoyed read for me.
This book was an early morning need-a-book-to-listen-to-on-the-way-to-work selection. Again, I didn’t know anything about the author or what the book was about. Often I try to expand the genres and authors I read/listen to in order to keep myself moving forward. This was a touching book about a girl growing up in Germany and that time just as the war was brewing and things started to not be safe for Jews in that country. It is a book that is multi-generational of the women in this family, how the daughter married and emigrated to America. The idea being that at some point she would have enough money to send for her parents and the heartbreak of their separation in uncertain times. A tear jerker for sure.
I often like to take my non-fiction books as audio-books as they lend to being able to do other things alongside listening. Facts are easier to collate this way for me. I have had an obsession with birds this year and this did not disappoint. This book is a great recounting of a young man’s journey to Russia to find these near mythical Fish Owls that some have seen but haven’t really been able to study. He suffers harsh Russian winters to complete his PhD thesis on the habitat and hunting/mating habits of these birds. It was exciting to discover and learn with him about these owls I never knew existed.
This book of poetry from Kerry Trautman was utterly delightful, but also inquisitive. She bought this portrait of a woman she didn’t know at an auction and as she looked at it each day, she began to develop conversations with her. The book is filled with musings of what Trautman imagines Marilyn would say to her or how she might judge her everyday life. The concept worked very well for me and it lends the writer and the reader an opportunity to create an imaginary life together. I highly recommend this collection.
I first heard of Sarah Kay through her TED talk and was instantly amazed at the amount of lines she could remember. I have a difficult time reading from memory and people who can manage this when it isn’t put to music, impress me. She also has a delightful storytelling manner. Having only heard her read once, I was able to instill her voice and cadence into the lines of this book filled with memories and love and heartbreak. The book left me with so many lines to think about in the context of my own life. When my friend was recovering from surgery, I gave it to her to read because even in the dark moments of this book, there is a quality of uplifting that can’t be denied.
I found this book at a library book sale. It is an utter stroke of kismet to find Jack Gilbert anywhere. Many years ago I read his collection “Refusing Heaven” and fell into this sort of melancholy love with his words. He is both sharp and tender in the way he spills the lines onto the page and since that time, I have looked for his books wherever I travel and never seem to find any. This tells me that he is the sort of writer that once he is in your collection and on the shelf, he doesn’t leave. We could all wish to have that enduring quality. I read this book while wandering around by the river and getting muddy. Best consumed outside.
I have been acquainted with Schumejda for many years now and even had the grace given to me to read with her several times. She is well educated but down to earth. She often writes about the everyday man/woman, about those feelings we are all too afraid to write about. I expected this when I got this book, but what took me by surprise was that this entire book is one poem that works out her feelings of disbelief, anger, sadness, grief, and forgiveness for something terrible her brother has done. It was a journey through all the emotions at the same time. The writing experimental in form and context but very cohesive and strong. It lent itself to the complexity of emotions trapped in the front and back cover. The art of Hosho McCreesh is spliced in between the long poem giving you a moment to catch your breath.
This was another library book sale find. The cover made me smile, so I thought I would give it a chance. I had never heard of Morgan Parker and I am always trying to expand my knowledge of poets in the world. This is a collection that does have some poems about Beyonce, but more over it is a book about how a contemporary African-American woman navigates today’s society. It was an interesting book for me, because though we are both women navigating the same world, it isn’t the same. I have privileges that she might not and these are not brought to light for me in a meaningful way most of the time as I shuffle around in my rural river town. I enjoyed the perspective, but also was made to feel like I needed to pay closer attention the way society treats African-American women.
Thanks for reading and I hope you find a few of these books interesting enough to give them a chance. Keep reading and writing. Be kind to each other. Buy Books!!!
Do you know how sometimes you are resistant to buying a book? For some reason I couldn’t get myself to pick this one up despite LOVING the cover art. My local book seller had quietly nudged me toward this book several times and I finally caved. She is a voracious reader and said it was in her top 5. That day another patron had also sung this books praises, so it was time.
This book is a journey through the age old question of what happens after we die? This is a speculation of course because we don’t really know, but it is one that I would like to keep close in my memory. It is a book about death, the time after death, and grief that is present in both those who are left behind as well as those who have passed. It is also a book about friendship and selflessness. It is a book about how we keep going in the face of hardship. I cried for the last two hours I read the book. Sometimes they were tears of joy and others sadness. I don’t always recommend books, but I don’t think it matters what genre you usually love, you will love this book.
This is a quick read both because it is more novella sized and the writing is very good. I had never read a book by this author, but picked it up because I am a nurse and it sounded relatable. It is a story about a girl from an immigrant family who lives in NYC and works as an orderly in one of the county hospitals. It is a book about family and friendships and about having the faith in yourself to move forward and upward in life.
This book I listened to which was a good choice. The setting is India and there I’m sure the pronunciation of many of the cultural items and names of things would have been butchered in my mind. It was nice to hear them pronounced as they should be. This is a story about a girl and her mother living in Pune, India. The mother is a bit eccentric for the times and they lived in an ashram for some time. In the present day, the mother is showing signs of dementia and the daughter feels obligated to care for her. Their relationship, through their whole lives, had not been close or comforting. The daughter often left to the periphery of everything. It is a story about family dynamics, breaks from culture, and personal identity.
This is another book that I listened to and it was read by the author. I had no idea what this book was about before I chose it, but did so because I currently have an obsession with birds. It is non-fiction and discusses the life of the author as a naturalist and her memories of birds and green spaces in the UK as she was growing up. It chronicles some wonderfully personal accounts of her adventures in nature while also providing information on several species of birds and their migrations, and what this means for the lands we live in. It also looks at how urban sprawl has changed or destroyed nesting areas for birds and what this means for the species.
Come on, who doesn’t love Samantha Irby? I listened to this as an audio book because Irby reads it herself and the way she describes her own life is both hysterical and bold. This was a great book to listen to in February because I need as much laughter as I can get stuck in the gray days of Upstate New York. Her honesty about how she lives her life in such an unapologetic way is refreshing. It made me take notice of my own habits and procrastination and investigate their origin. And sometimes, I just looked in the other direction. A delightful book.
I found this book at last year’s fall library book sale. I often try to scoop up as much poetry as I can possibly find, especially by author’s I’ve never heard of before. I find that it helps me to look at my own words in different ways. This entire book of poetry is the imagining of Barbie in different life settings, with careers, with comical thoughts about articulated limbs. It made me nostalgic in a way. I had Barbies and yes, they did make me feel like I didn’t fit in the class of a pretty girl, but they were also my therapy. I could dress them how I wanted, they were stand ins for people I couldn’t really express myself to. Sometimes, when playing Barbie with other girls, we explored cultural, sexual, and relationship ideas that our mothers were not willing to speak about. They were an education on what we thought being older might be like. There are some great poems in this book.
This is a smaller book of poetry from long time small press writer Michele McDannold. The poems in here feel like that space in life where you disconnect for a minute to wonder why people do the things they do. Or why you do the things you do? It is a book of quiet interactions and self assessments. Definitely worth the read.
I picked up this book from the local library for two reasons. #1 My boyfriend loves Lorca. I thought I should read some of his work because this in turn tells me something about my boyfriend. I had heard of Lorca as a writer, but honestly, I had never taken the time to read his work. #2 “Little Ashes” was an amazing film about the connection of Lorca and Dali. It moved me and made me cry so again, I thought I should dip into the work. There is merit to his language and in some poems I felt connected, but like all poetry from a time when I haven’t lived, it is harder to find a passion in the stanzas because I didn’t experience the hardships and cultural restraints of the time. It was still worth it for reason #1.
I just finished listening to this book before opening my computer to write this blog. Listening to this book made me realize just how little they teach us in school about black history. I vaguely remember hearing about the great migration, but not really understanding how long it was. It ended only 3 years before I was born. How could it be so absent from our education?
This is a non-fiction book that chronicles the journey Morgan Jerkins took when trying to find more information about her family history. So much of the facts of family history come from oral tradition and this makes it harder to trace if your family isn’t willing to talk or the elders pass away without ever having been asked what they know. This book is about the great migration but it was also a history on blended cultures with Native Americans of the southern regions and the persistent racism present in this country. It was interesting to follow the journey as she gathered more snippets of family story or a random name of a distant possible relative. Definitely an eye opening historical story.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say these are deep dive book reviews. I have never been a fan of those because they ultimately tell me too much and then I feel like I don’t need to read the book. I like the adventure of figuring it out myself, but on the other hand, it is hard to branch out and find new authors and types of things to read if you don’t know just a smidge. And before anyone gets super excited and thinks I’m a freakishly fast reader, some of this months books were started last month and some are audiobooks. Enjoy my 2 cents.
All Around Cowboy by Scot D. Young (Spartan Press, 2021) is a collection of poems that spans this man’s life living in the heart of Missouri. Scot has a way of showing us hard topics with a soft hand. He is a storyteller. The way the book unfolds allows for traveling from a time long forgotten to the present. It’s like riding a train where one only catches some things in sharp focus, just enough to let the mind wander in that space and find a connection, on some level, to our own lives.
Memorial by Bryan Washington (Riverhead Books, 2020) is about the struggles in love of two homosexual men from widely different cultural backgrounds living in Texas. But, it’s more than that. It’s a book about family, about choices, about doing the right thing, about finding your way in the world. I listened to the audiobook which features Bryan Washington reading one of the parts himself. It had a different sort of life listening to the book instead of reading it as it is split into sections based on the perspective of each lover. I started out reading it and then switched to listening to it.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Simon and Schuster, 2020) is noted as a horror book which I didn’t find exactly scary. I used to read horror as a teenager and young adult, and I don’t think this book fits in that category. This book takes place on and off the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and is loosely about four Native American friends who go against tribal law and hunt on grounds they are not allowed to. To avoid prosecution, they have to waste all the elk they have killed and are banned from hunting on the rez. But one of the elk was special, one was pregnant. This book dives into dark fantasy and allegory. It didn’t scare me, but it definitely had me on edge. This was a book that I knew nothing of the author or the story before hand but loved the cover. It did not disappoint.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Random House, 2020). I had this book on my list from the previous year and my kid had given it to me for Christmas. I finally worked my way through the book stack to get to it. This book is full of snapshots of Doyle’s transition out of heterosexual married life where she was miserable into a same sex marriage that changed her life. It is a collection of stories about self integrity, about knowing who you are and going forward with that, and about the joy and the struggles of having a non-traditional family. This book really spoke to me about breaking down the barriers of tradition from times that are no longer relevant. How many times to I approach a situation with my mother’s or my grandmother’s voice in my head instead of my own? It is a book about letting your wild come to the surface.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron (Broadway Books, 1997). Every now and then I like to throw a non-fiction book in the mix to spice up my life…yes, that was comedy. I feel like non-fiction uses a different side of my brain than fiction or poetry and I like to active all the parts. My mother used to make fun of me and say I was “so sensitive” and it turns out that she wasn’t wrong. Some of the tenants of this book are a bit outdated for 1997 and not all together politically correct, but it did help me to understand some parts of my personality and how to help them heal from things I’ve experienced in my life.
Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey (Knopf, 2020). This was another book plucked from a list of books to read from 2020. I have been taking great effort to read authors I don’t know and genres that aren’t in my wheelhouse. Basically, I’m swimming outside my comfort zone. I listened to this one on audiobook because my library had it available and I wasn’t disappointed. The book follows a woman through her young adult life to almost middle age in vignettes of conversations she has with other women. There is a rawness to her perspective of herself, of other women, and of the environments she’s in. It is a book full of unapologetic inside talk that women have but don’t like to admit they have. There is a lot of alcohol featured in this book so if you are triggered by that or into sober living, it might raise some hackles, but I think it was true to the reality of life today.
A month ago I took a step back from producing fresh work on my novels. It has been a hard block of weeks and I wish I could say that my coffers were brimming with words, but they aren’t.
This week my two best writing friends had some exciting news. One agent took her whole book, the other had a few chapters requested. This is big news. This is years of hard work on both of their parts. This is motivation.
They have both been writing fiction much longer than I have, but it doesn’t take away that sense of feeling like I’m tagging along behind older siblings (though one of them is younger than I am). If I’m honest I have been sitting around feeling sorry for myself the last month which isn’t something I’m prone to doing. It needs to stop. Today.
I went back to the gym today and I know this bite of information seems incongruent to writing, but it isn’t. When I feel strong in my body, I feel more clarity in my mind. Though I have been active with disc golf, it hasn’t been enough to really given me the same feeling as lifting weights. A persistent foot injury because of increased outdoor activity has also made it harder to get out and play as much as I want.
Today at the gym, I got that old feeling back–the one that helps me push limits and reach for more. I started editing The Secrets of Womanhood again this morning, amid the kitten circus, but with headphones on. Sometimes I need to get out of my own way. I’m hoping to have the complete manuscript edited by November so I can have it ready for my next outside beta reader. This is my goal. Bigger muscles and bigger dreams.
My poems “The Fine Line” and “Filthy,” as well as my short story “Rancid Meat Fingers” will appear in the inaugural edition of Rogue Wolf Press. I will also have several photographs in that publication.
I will be sure to do official postings once all of these are live. Support small press and small press writers. We all want to swim in the big pond someday.
I have had a lifetime of powerful dreams. Many of these I can still remember in detail from twenty or more years ago. There was a time in my life where this ability was heightened and my recall fantastic. If I look back on these times it is usually when I am under great emotional duress.
Recently, I have not been under such stress and the dreams fade away without being remembered. The ones I do remember I interpret as I believe our own minds do try to tell us things. This isn’t a post about dream interpretation though, it’s about how some of those fantastical things can be turned into short stories! Think of the potential.
I’m going to share a dream from June of 2017 which was a very hard time for me. This will eventually become a short story along with the others. Maybe it will be a book of short stories. The world is wide open.
The Dream (6-8-2017)
In the dream I am standing in a parking lot without cars in the company of unknown people and I look around for someone I know. I don’t see anyone so I go to the side of the lot and start to do yoga. I feel like I am waiting for someone. The parking lot is near the ocean and I can see the sand. I stop doing yoga and go over to the beach and feel the sand under my bare feet. I can see a storm coming in the distance. The sky is dark and grey. I am standing alone. I hear people screaming and feel wind on my back. I turn around to see a tornado coming. People are running. I run from the beach to a long wooden bridge like a boardwalk or dock towards a group of houses. I am running with other people to warn others about the tornado. We run to the end of the boardwalk and there is a house. There are several people who tell me to go down into the basement via a ladder. They tell me when I get down there to move the ice around to make feathers. In the basement, it is a small room like a bunker with a chair and a bed that is made. I move the soft ice around with my foot and make patterns. It is not cold on my bare feet. We stood there for a while with no one talking. There is a dim light in the corner. Someone opens the hatch again and says we can come out. I do not remember climbing the ladder out.
When I am out of the basement, the storm is still going on and I can see two tornadoes. I walk down the boardwalk this time in no hurry. There is a car there which has my clothes in it and I am only half dressed after coming out of the basement bunker so I grab some clothes. I look tattered and disheveled. When we are walking I see a large wooden fence to my right and hear the wind loudly. I feel the wind pushing me from behind and I am watching green trees sway in the wind. We keep walking and on the boardwalk a man who is next to me wants to buy food from a man on the side of the boardwalk. The seller is standing under a white tent. I crouch down to look at what he is selling and it is hot dogs and some other meat. The man next to me grabs handfuls of meat and gives the man money. I buy nothing. I stand up and watch the man walk away with the meat.
Years ago I was challenged by my friend Joseph Bouthiette Jr. to create what he liked to call 55’s. These are pieces of fiction with exactly 55 words. He is obsessed with the number five. I have no idea why. He had invited me to be a part of an anthology that was made up entirely of 55 word stories. All the numbers moved around by five.
It seemed like a daunting task at the time as I was not a big fiction writer and had spent most of my time dealing in poetry. I had played around with flash fiction, but to be able to cut a precise piece of story out of the air in 55 words is exhilarating.
This challenge led me to write them all the time and honed the fiction I produce now. There was talk of another book, but it seems like his publishing days are on hold. Here is a story from what was supposed to be the final book in the collection:
I am haunted daily by his memory, knowing each thread was built on well crafted lies made to create a marble statue in his likeness. The truth has not set me free. Honesty has not made me stronger. Independence doesn’t feel courageous. Ghosts linger rattling chains made of spiderwebs. I should set myself on fire.
It has been awhile since I added anything to this account on Soundcloud, but there are several small stories that I have read which you could listen to. They are by no means a professional sounding quality.
If you want to hear more audio, please send me an email and let me know and I will work on making them part of this website. Thanks for visiting. Enjoy.