Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Death of small press publication, or a chance for resurrection?

A fellow poet recently passed along an article about e-publishing, which suggested that the internet is the beginning of the end of small press literary journals. We both attended a recent publishing workshop in which the leaders expressed the exact opposite opinions of this particular article, and now I find myself with mixed feelings.

I like paper. I like books. I'm a tactile person. I like to be able to hold a book, to turn the pages, to underline sentences. You can read a book anywhere, anytime. If the batteries run out, you can still read a book...because it doesn't run on batteries! Maybe I'm clinging to dinosaur sentimentalities, but I like being able to hold something that exists in the "real world", something that we might be losing touch with. So much of life right now takes place on a computer screen. It's where we conduct our relationships (i.e. FaceBook, MySpace, even this blog!), how we work, how we watch movies and television, how we attend classes, how we listen to music, how we receive our news--heck, you can even order dinner from your computer and have it show up at your door! There is very little that a person cannot do with an internet connection. I don't know that I want it to also be the place where I need to go to read my books.

Aside from that, there's the practicality and solidity of a book. You can loan a book to a friend, and unlike with the fiasco earlier this year when e-books bought for Kindles were being subsequently wiped, it's much harder for someone who sold you a book to then creep into your house and steal it back. And of course, with the internet, we've been told over and over again that publishing your work online leaves you infinitely more susceptible to plagiarism and theft of your intellectual property.

That being said, in case you haven't noticed, the internet is growing faster than any technology we've had to date and is solidly rooting itself in human life for the forseeable future. If you don't believe me, check out this video. So what does this mean for the small press industry and poetry publishing?

Poetry is already an artform with several strikes against it in terms of popularity and sustainability. Do we dare add one more by clinging to the small press format and shunning online publishing?

How much entertainment can be found (legally) for free on the internet right now? But small presses are still asking five, ten, twelve dollars, or even more for an issue of a print journal. I know that all writers would love to subscribe to as many journals as possible and support the organizations that support our work, but most can't afford to subscribe to dozens of quarterlies. So then we must ask what is more important? Getting money for our work from the handful who will pay for it? Or getting our work into the hands (or screens, as it may be) of eager readers?

Human beings are the most adaptable creatures on the planet. We have managed to survive in the hottest deserts, the coldest tundras, mountain regions, grassy plains, swamp lands, coastal regions. We can outlast hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires, and anything else that Mother Nature throws our way. So why is it that we as writers--not the entire human population, but only a very specialized segment of it--are having such difficulty adapting to this brand new terrain and climate called the internet?

I don't think that this means that all print publications should surrender all to online publication. I'm sure the answer lies somewhere in the middle, somehow creating a mutual relationship between the online world and the print, such that each can feed and nourish the other. The music industry is working hard to adapt to a new environment spawned by the advent of Napster and the like. There is an equally viable solution somewhere out there that the poetry world could employ to its advantage. We just haven't engaged our creative forces in that direction yet.

If smaller, struggling literary journals take notice and act now, this could be the opportunity to resurge and reach widespread audiences that formerly wouldn't take notice of a tiny little poetry mag. Or, this could be the end of the small press. But one thing is for certain: hiding in a fortress of paper and ink, hoping that all the ones and zeros will go away if we wait long enough, is guaranteeing extinction.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reading at Joseph-Beth...January 6th 7 pm

Larry Smith (fictional character) in his novel THE LONG RIVER HOME will read from the novel and from THE KANSHI POEMS OF TAIGU RYOKAN (translator with Mei Hui Liu Huang) at Joseph-Beth Books in Legacy Village Wed. Jan. 6th 7 pm. It's a break for Bottom Dog Press to be welcomed by Joseph-Beth, so try to attend if you can. It's a nice place in out of the cold and you may meet a fictional character.

Also, see these YouTube videos for each book. And Thanks....Larry

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from Clevelandpoetics the Blog

Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Theory: In Which Skeletor Learns the True Meaning of Christmas

A William Burroughs Christmas



Wear your red suit and your boots
And that repulsive white beard
With the hardened saliva of sick nights in countless tenements,
That same red suit you bought at Woolworth's
With the money you made
From the flesh of the elves.

Poems That Were Considered and Rejected Before 'Twas the Night Before Christmas Was Established as "the Official American Christmas Poem."

True to its title, the new Romanian film “Police, Adjective” is a story of law enforcement with a special interest in grammar. Its climactic scene is not a chase or a shootout, but rather a tense, suspenseful session of dictionary reading.

Disturbing snowmen

Winter Night

(Boris Pasternak, 1913)

The day cannot be fixed with hymns of light.
The shadows cannot raise Epiphany’s white covers.
On Earth, it’s winter, and the lanterns’ smoke
Is powerless to raise the fallen buildings.

Streetlight-buns and donut-roofs, and black
On white, the villa’s doorjamb in the snow.
This is a rich man’s home, and I am just a tutor.
I am alone; I’ve sent my pupil off to bed.

No one’s expected. But—the drapes shut tight,
The sidewalk and the porch are all in snowdrifts.
Oh, memory, stay calm! Grow into me! Believe,
And make me, too, believe, that you and I are one.

Again you talk of her? But that won’t worry me.
Who told her dates and times, who set her on my trail?
That blow’s the root of everything. As for the rest
I, by her grace, have no more business with it.

The sidewalk’s all in drifts. Amid the rivulets of snow
Black chunks of naked ice are frozen in, like bottles.
Streetlight-buns; just like an owl, the solitary smoke
Is perched, engulfed in feathers, on the chimney.

"Then the clocks go haywire. Sometimes a day is like nothing at all and then right on its heels comes a night that is like . . . a thousand days." from
Sixteen of twenty numbered sections from a piece composed by Rilke in 1898, when he was twenty-two, and never published in his lifetime.

"The cream in the instant coffee is always 'slightly sour' (100), the ice in the whiskey melting (159), the lunch hour nearly over." Marjorie Perloff on Frank O'Hara • Lana Turner

from the Poetry Foundation Staff: The Best Poetry of the Year

Here, in order, are the best selling books of contemporary poetry published in 2009

Watch as Skeletor learns about the true meaning of Christmas
...The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Theory: How God Taught Us Planning

When geometric diagrams and digits
Are no longer the keys to living things,
When people who go about singing or kissing
Know deeper things than the great scholars,
When society is returned once more
To unimprisoned life, and to the universe,
And when light and darkness mate
Once more and make something entirely transparent,
And people see in poems and fairy tales
The true history of the world,
Then our entire twisted nature will turn
And run when a single secret word is spoken.

-Novalis 1800
translated by Robert Bly

From Thomas Aquinas and John the Baptist to cellular automata and intelligent design: How God taught us planning, and where we went wrong.

Electric Literature logo
Electric Literature’s mission is to use new media and innovative distribution to return the short story to a place of prominence in popular culture: Video Poems.

25 Important Books of Poetry of the 00s

The 50 Best Comic Book Covers of 2009

I am locking the Wikipedia Article on our sex life

“Oh, isn’t it a lovely sunset?” a young woman asked Robert Frost.

He said, “I never discuss business after dinner.”

The Transcript of Our Live Chat with Lydia Davis

Monday, December 14, 2009

Intrinsic Cinquains

image of the cover of the book Intrinsic Night
Some of the Cleveland-area speculative poets have been experimenting with the cinquain, a short poetic form similar in some ways to the haiku.
Prominent among these cinquainistas have been Joshua Gage and J. E. Stanley, and now they've collaborated on a book of cinquains, Intrinsic Night, just out from Sam's Dot (available here, or look for it at Mac's Backs).

The cinquain (sometimes called the "American cinquain," to distinguish it as a definite form, distinct from other five-line forms) is a verse form invented by Imagist poet Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914). She was one of the very early admirers of Japanese poetry forms, and came up with the cinquain partly as an American analogue of these haiku and tanka forms. Like Japanese forms, it's distinguished by a pattern of syllables: the five lines consisting of a line of two syllables, four, six, eight, and then back to two.

Vertigo cinquainmoon cinquain
More complicated cinquain forms, like the mirror cinquain, butterfly cinquain, and so on (which Jim and Josh also use), build on the basic 2-4-6-8-2 structure.
As the poems in Intrinsic Night demonstrate, the cinquian builds up momentum and complexity of imagery as the length of the lines build up, and then detonates in a short final line. There's a lot that can be said, stories told and whole worlds built, in just 22 syllables!

Kerouac cinquain

Of the poems in Intrinsic Night, in the Simmons' Voice reviewer Stefanie Maclin wrote:
"Part science, part science-fiction, heavy on the folklore, the unexpected, and the odd shapes, findings, and beauty of everyday life, Intrinsic Night fits into no clear genre. But it also doesn't need to. Its unexpectedness defines the collection's true character."

Check it out.

Some links:

The poems from Intrinsic Night, with image layout by Joshua Gage, are used here with permission of the authors

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rammstein VS Cookie Monster

Wonder where all the readers went? Virtually everywhere in the world people tend to be more educated than their parents. This is no longer true in the United States. A report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities indicates that the U.S. is one of only two nations on Earth in which people aged 25 to 34 have lower educational attainment than their parents.
full cartoon here

History of the Scienceers - The First New York City Science Fiction Club, 1929

"Gustave Flaubert. . . said, 'I can imagine nothing in the world preferable to a nice, well-heated room, with the books one loves and the leisure one wants.'"

After much mulling and culling, we've come up with our list of the twenty best books of the decade. The list is weighted towards science fiction, but does have healthy doses of fantasy and horror.

Some Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009:

San Fran Chronicle 2009 Best of Science Fiction Books and Poetry Books

Best of Crime B&N LA TIMES

Best of 2009 from Salon and The Millions

Worst of the Decade list

Margaret Atwood's “Ten Gifts to Give Beginning Novelists”

Analyses of works by Herman Melville, Thomas Hardy, and DH Lawrence showed these "unique word" charts are specific to each author.

What is it about poetry that brings out the worst in people?

"It was already clear that his own special study would be the physics of light, and he was naturally drawn to the poem of that name, and learned its last dozen lines by heart."

"The great work of 'saving nations and people'": In his Irish Human Rights Commission lecture, Seamus Heaney pairs human rights workers and poets in bringing "to light violations and injustices done to human beings by others."

Cookie Monster sings with Rammstein

Love Winter Too

Dear Earth take in this fairy breath. Let it
seep into the mischievous crannies, the
rooks and rocks. What is behind the lily,
the foregone conclusion? If we look
at the interstices, the common lines be-
tween sheets of rain. I wanted to write in-
to your heart but the chambers are closed. What
freedom in the rain when memory is for
sale? What response to give a fairy? We
manage, nonetheless, a raucous cheer
with the Daily Show, a tempestuous
cloud of letters. Even with pomegran-
ate molasses to soften the duck: we
cannot change, the most we can do is see.

They dance the serrated edges of the leaves, the milky surface of the pond.

--by Sarah Riggs

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Final Second Thursday poetry reading @ the Lit Cafe

Here’s a dozen pics from the final installment of the Second Thursday Poetry Reading @ the Literary Cafe. Thanks to you – Andy, Linda, Steve and Nick for four years of blood sweat and beers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On the Verge of Expression…

Here’s a dozen pics from the Black Poetic Thursday 7pm series On the Verge of Expression at JOVELLE BREWERS 12204 Larchmere. This edition featuring Cleveland to New Orleans transplant Kelly Harris. Enthusiastically hosted by Clevelandpoetics the Blog’s own Kisha Foster.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Macs Backs 12-09-09 gottl - greenspan - tabasso

mb05Winter’s been laying low so far this year but it has finally started sending out scouts. The kind of wind that immediately changes the pressure in a room swooped onto the north coast yesterday. I had to fight with the steering wheel of my toaster inspired Honda Element  to keep the green box on the road as Sara and I drove to Cleveland Heights to catch the December edition of the Macs Backs Wednesday reading series.

The estrogen enhanced trio of features this evening were T.M. Gottl, Sammy Greenspan and Gina Tabasso.  Suzanne – proprietor of the book shop – got things rolling by welcoming folks to the reading and then taking suggestions from the readers and audience as to what order the poets should present their work. After an overtly civilized deliberation – alphabetical by last name was chosen.


Ms. Gottl opened her set by thanking the crowd of about twenty five for braving the howling December winds in order to attend the event. She read from her book Stretching the Window as well as some newer work which I noticed was still marked up with revisions on the page.

mb01 Much of the work Gottl presented this evening would fall into the realm of list poems if I were to be bold enough to categorize her poetry. Rich complicated and occasionally complex imagery, lotus blossoms making an appearance in a couple of the works. Stuff one might like to hear a second time . I consider this a good thing considering how many times I have been to a reading and wished I had the time back after listening to some pieces for the first time. She introduced her piece Throwing Rocks by talking about how interesting she found it when people offered up interpretations of her poems. How sometimes she was surprised by the meaning others attached to her work.

This is something to be expected when one threads images like popcorn on string for a Christmas tree. I found myself thinking about a documentary about the Jonestown suicides when she mentioned the smell of almonds (an odor I learned from the show very similar to cyanide.) Absolutely nothing to do with her poem and an idea lasting only a nanosecond – but this is the type of gut interpretation one inspires with a shower of images that are capable of soaking narrative.

Sammy Greenspan began her set with a piece of hers from an anthology of work inspired by Bruce Springsteen eliciting a hearty whoo hoo from a fellow fan of the boss afterwards. She than read a piece about peace coming ashore in Cleveland “dripping oily footprints”  as it walks through town “measuring our compassion in loose change”

Greenspan’s work came across more narrative in nature than the preceding reader. One piece she read about death though, I thought carried the story on maybe a stanza too long. Or rather her ending line appeared too soon in the work – one of those aha moments that one looks for in a poem that invites the reader to linger a bit but is pulled away like subtitles flashing by too fast in a foreign film.

Ms. Greenspan read a poem about driving between Cleveland and Columbus describing her reluctant East Coast transplant love affair with Ohio, it’s cows, soybean fields, and perpetual losing sports teams.

mb04 The final featured reader of the evening was Gina Tabasso who predictably opened with an equestrian themed poem. Anyone familiar with this woman’s work knows to expect equine oriented verse. This though, she informed, would be the only horse piece of her set and switched up a bit continuing by introducing what she termed as vignettes – snapshot writing. This plucked a chord with me because it is what I stress when teaching poetry, the capturing of an instant.

For me, this evening, Ms. Tabasso captured that just right balance of figurative language and story. I was particularly taken by her piece about a ballerina juxtaposing the art one sees onstage with the pain suffered in years of rehearsal by the artist. Her reading style was classic, even paced, dropping a bit at line breaks. She buffered the poems she presented with stories that didn’t so much explain the poem as the impetus for their genesis. Snippets about her grandfather and her visiting Rockefeller Greenhouse or her leading a lame horse back to its stall related in that casual way encouraged by the comfortably low ceilinged venue.

After the featured readers there was an intermission and Sara and I took the opportunity to sneak into Tommy’s next door for a snack before braving the blustery night for the drive home. Bellies full of humus and meat pies and our  minds rolling over the reading we had just been to we pointed our tires home – managing to keep the toaster on the road the whole way.



Black Poetic
Presents "On the Verge of Expression" Thursdays

Return of the Queen! Kelly Harris MFA
JOVELLE BREWERS 12204 Larchmere
Hosted by Kisha Nicole Foster
$3 Cover :: Doors open at 6:45pm

The Cleveland native returns home to read her poetry and share her
New Orleans experiences. Her poems have most recently been published in
Yale's Cadecus Journal and Southern Women's Review. Her dynamic
performances and poetic insight are what made her one of Cleveland's
cherished talents. The Cave Canem Fellow and MFA grad will surely warm
us again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NEO Poet Field Guide: Cavana Faithwalker

Full name: Cavana Ibeji Opo Faithwalker, aka Cavana Faithwalker
Age: 53
Habitat: Cleveland Heights
Range: The Nia Coffeehouse, The Lit Café in Tremont, wherever Vertigo goes, there go I.
Diet: Jonothon Kozol, Frank Herbert, Octavia Butler, Jack Kerouac, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovani, Langston Hughes, Gil Scot Heron, Countee Cullen
Distinguishing Markings: The Heights Observer, Muse magazine, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
Predators: lungs
Prey: oxygen
Predators: trees
Prey: carbon dioxide
Predator: man
Prey: trees
Suicidal souls enjoy paper products
On cold winter nights
in front of a warm fireplace.


If I could I might
for a start…
thinking it right
crawl inside your heart
on my hands and knees
and stand and move
to make room
for me, maybe
build an indestructible
soft spot
to which I was the key

Contact info

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Contemporary poetry

I'm sure that I've seen all of these at one open mike or another. You?

(courtesy of Anitra, and friends)

Theory: In which we wash our hands

This month we’re traveling in the world of science fiction. From nineteenth-century Pakistan to twenty-first century Russia, authors rocket through time and space to explore worlds uncharted yet oddly familiar. Replicants and aliens, spaceships and shapeshifters are all in play; the future mirrors the present, and the intelligence is anything but artificial. Lift off with Stanisław Lem, Tomasz Kołodziejczak, Olga Slavnikova, Zoran Živković, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Machado de Assis, Liu Cixin, Pablo A. Castro, and Muhammad Husain Jah, and prepare to be launched into the fantastic.

From the American Book Review:

100 Best Last Lines from Novels

The Atlantic's Literary Interviews

This exhibition explores the life, work, and legacy of Jane Austen (1775–1817), regarded as one of the greatest English novelists.

For the goth/horror/dark fantasy lit lover -
the Black Quill Awards

Shakespeare's trash

Speaking of Trash:

Sales boost for the physics book found in Tiger's car

More companies, including McDonald's, are being moved to verse to advertise their products. Is this a welcome development for poetry?

“Waste is good, important. Especially in art. It’s not the perfectly placed and chosen object that rules. It’s a pile of things and one might catch your eye but its always in context. We need too much. As long as we have hands and bodies.” - The Rumpus Interview with Poetry Rock Star Eileen Myles

A hopeful note:
Poems can stop bulldozers.

A Winter Evening
Georg Trakl

Window with falling snow is arrayed.
Long tolls the vesper bell,
The house is provided well,
The table is for many laid.

Wandering ones, more than a few,
Come to the door on darksome courses.
Golden blooms the tree of graces
Drawing up the earths cool dew.

Wanderer quietly steps within;
Pain has turned the threshold to stone.
There lie, in limpid brightness shown,
Upon the table bread and wine.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau