|Nine Toes Press, an imprint of Lummox Press|
Monday, April 28, 2014
About the anthology - Robbi Nester, editor
Art is made from the substance of our everyday lives. Anything that occupies us is fair game, from our relationships to the places we inhabit, the ideas we entertain.
For those of us who live with radios and televisions pre-set to our favorite public media programs, these stories become an integral part of our lives, the stories we share with our friends at dinner parties, the tidbits of information we stash away for safekeeping.
On any given day, news programs alone provide a wealth of tantalizing angles on events. Then there are documentaries, scientific, and cultural programming, making for an almost endless array of subjects writers can draw on in their work.
I had been writing poems about the stories I was hearing on public radio for years when a conversation with poet and publisher R.D. Armstrong alerted me to the fact that I might not be the only person engaged in such an activity.
Sure enough, it turned out that many poets out there were writing work inspired by public radio and television, spanning national shows like All Things Considered, Nightly Business Report, RadioLab, and Prairie Home Companion as well as local and regional shows aired on individual public stations.
The work came in every variety—topical and political, humorous, narrative, and personal, having in common only that they were all based on these stories and were written by poets from nearly every corner of the United States.
This diversity delighted me, but I found that writers returned especially to a few chosen programs, like RadioLab, which merges science with story-telling in a particularly vivid way.
I had myself written a poem, “Fistulated Cow,” inspired by a RadioLab story, “Holey Cow,” in which science writer Mary Roach explored the innards of a cow with a fistula as a way of discussing digestion. So I was not surprised to see that other writers chose to focus on other RadioLab stories, like the one about Lucy, the chimp raised as a human child by a benighted psychologist in the 1950s, and the two poems inspired by the “Seeing in the Dark” episode of the program, about a man who, after he lost his sight entirely, stopped trying to envision the people and things he was now no longer able to see.
Kris Bigalk’s poem “Seeing” explores the story from the perspective of the blind man himself, examining his motivations for embracing the new limitations he experiences rather than denying them, and the consequences that arise from this change in perspective.
In contrast, Christina Lovin’s poem “The Forest of Her” approaches the subject in a very different way, from the third person rather than first. The poem creates a resonance by offering an epigraph within an epigraph.
Lovin reminds us of other blind men in the tradition, citing Marvin Bell quoting from The Gospel of Mark, a line that suggests that the sight Jesus restored to the blind man was perhaps not as complete as we might assume. Following this, she offers Bell’s own assertion embracing blindness: “ truly, one must close one’s eyes to see.”
Bigalk’s poem retells the story told on the radio, capturing its rhythms of speech and details. At 15 lines, the poem retains the compactness of a sonnet, though it lacks a sonnet’s formal elements, its turn or meter.
Lovin’s poem too dallies with form by repeating lines in each succeeding stanza, a pattern that fits nicely with its epigraph, echoing a theme.
As this formal element suggests, Lovin’s poem takes on a less personal tone than Bigalk’s, applying the blind man’s situation metaphorically to our own, while Bigalk’s poem hews closely to the radio story itself.
These are only two poems of several written about the same stories. Reading them together reminds us that our lives are made, after all, of the same elements, but that what we make of those, out of the stuff of our own characters and experience, makes all the difference.
I have probably not responded here to Marly’s question about my objective in compiling this anthology. What purpose, aside from the “purposeful purposelessness” of all art, does any volume of poetry have?
By way of excuse I can offer only the desire to meet others engaged in the same pursuit--to discover the work of writers I have not as yet discovered, and to introduce them and their work to the world.
Monday, April 14, 2014
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The editor travelled for several decades throughout the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and Australia (with side trips to Finland, France, and Greece) to collect the rarest, most beautiful, most irresistible contemporary sonnets. The trip was fruitful. Among many colorful characters, the editor found Old Tom in the garden, a bull rider from the American West, God's secretary in His Office, the magician's bashful daughter, and Aunt Mim and Uncle Jimmy at the Rehab Lounge. Published by Headmistress Press on March 31, 2014, Irresistible Sonnets consists of 71 sonnets by 71 living poets. There are city poets, country poets, older poets, younger poets, 43 women poets, 28 men poets, rising poets, and poets laureate.
This is a treasure that you must allow to ravish you slowly.
--Robin Williams, Author of Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?
Irresistible Sonnets has a personality, at times whimsical, at times serious, but always passionate.
--Quincy R. Lehr, poet, critic, and general man-about-town
This stunning collection of "Irresistible Sonnets", like a handful of snowflakes, contains no two alike.
--Rayne Allinson, Author of A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I
Meriam has assembled a collection of arresting, frequently astonishing poems that prove the sonnet is still alive and well, emotionally urgent, linguistically inventive, and, just as the title promises, irresistible.
--Joy Ladin, American Poet
Note: I feel compelled to say that I did not in any way suggest to Mary Meriam that she use my sonnet here, but I thank her for the kind surprise and am grateful to her for the work she put into this lovely book! --Marly
by Marly Youmans
Let it go, let it all go down the drain—
The forest ashes where a witch was burned,
Dirt from the cellar where a queen was slain,
No heir escaping death, and nothing learned,
The crescent moons of darkness under nails,
Ditch-digger’s drops of sweat, the blood from soil
That sprouted fingertips, the slick from snails
Where the butchered peasants were left to spoil:
Let it swirl, let it all swirl down the drain—
Let murderous grime be curlicues to gyre
Around the blackened mouth, let mortal bane
Be gulped, and waste be drink for bole and briar.
Here’s a new-washed babe; marvel what man mars,
The flesh so innocent it gleams like stars.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
|A Pocket Book of Forms, available in a variety of colors, |
with or without a slipcase. Pink. Brown. Blue. Orange.
Gold leaf! And made at the wonderful Penland School...
I just ordered one--why not you? --Marly
A Pocket Book of Forms
A Pocket Book of Forms is a letterpress-printed, travel-sized guide to poetic forms, a reference to be used on the train, on adventures, or when a small book is all that's needed. It covers some usual suspects—sonnets, pantoums, ghazals, blues—as well as an assortment of French repeating forms, among others.
The book was printed by the author at Penland School of Crafts. The text is set in Bembo and Twentieth Century, with hand-drawn headings, and printed on Legion Bamboo paper, with covers in Canson Mi-Teintes. The standard edition offers three cover options: pink, brown, or blue. The fancy edition has orange covers, hot-pink title text overlaid with faux gold leaf, and hot-pink lokta endpapers. It includes a bookcloth slipcover for safekeeping. Both editions are pamphlet stitched, with rounded corners.
“This book is the best reason to go out and buy anything with pockets—especially if you are a poet. Elegantly designed and printed, it is a portable prompt and expander of your repertoire of poetic forms.”
—Thomas Cable, author of A History of the English Language
About the author:
Anna Lena Phillips is a . Her other projects include the endearments, a group of anagrammatic poems, and Forces of Attention, a series of letterpressed objects designed to help people mediate their interactions with screened devices.
A Pocket Book of Forms is available for preorder through April 15, 2014, at Indiegogo—
—and thereafter at its permanent home: