Whispering under the floorboards… send out the sun.

In my most recent job, I replaced a rotten sill on an old New England house. Since I’m not the one with claustrophobia, my job was to crawl into the crawlspace, through an opening too small for inhalation. What did the sill look like? It didn’t take long to decide. A very, very bad decking installation under a standing-seam eave meant that all the roof’s water was redirected into the wall and onto the sill. A solid old 6×6 sill had been reduced to mulch.

But while I was under there, I saw some very old fragments of a newspaper still glued to the bottom of the building’s old hemlock or pine floorboards. There was just a slender scrap left. All the rest had fallen off and disintegrated in the dirt of the crawlspace. I carefully pulled off the remaining fragments and brought them, perhaps for the first time in a hundred years, into the light of the sun. We had all wondered how old the building was – when it was built.  Anything that might have identified the paper itself, or the date, was gone. Some other scraps hinted at news from New York or Boston. But here was the fragment of a poem – a little clue.

The fragment praises the sun. How quieting to think that a song like this had been hidden away in a dank darkness for so long.

Send out the sunlight it sings again and again.

So, as a kind of gift to this little fragment, here is some sunlight (and as a gift to the song’s author, surely long since received by a different kind of light).

Send out the sunlight! ’tis needed on earth,
…                                       afar in scintillant mirth
…     more than gold in its wealth-giving worth!

And it’s last words before it vanishes…

…send out the sun…

There will surely be some librarians among my readers. Take a look. If you ever discover the name of the poem or the author, leave a comment. In the meantime, a little fragment for the sun – after so much darkness.

From up in Vermont
June 5, 2010

Self Publishing: What Publishing Used to Be

Remember Dipthong?

How about the artist formally known as Prince?

Know why he changed his name? Because he was trapped in an onerous contract with the label who “published” his music. Here’s how Wikipedia sums it up:

In 1993, during negotiations regarding the release of Prince’s album The Gold Experience, a legal battle ensued between Warner Bros. and Prince over the artistic and financial control of Prince’s output. During the lawsuit, Prince appeared in public with the word “slave” written on his cheek. Prince explained his name change as follows:

“The first step I have taken towards the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the 130px-Prince_logo.svgLove Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros… I was born Prince and did not want to adopt another conventional name. The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about. This symbol is present in my work over the years; it is a concept that has evolved from my frustration; it is who I am. It is my name.”

Warner Bro. finally severed its contract with Dipthong and the public cheered. This year, Dipthong is self-publishing his songs from his own website:

On January 3, 2009, a new website LotusFlow3r.com was launched, streaming some of the recently-aired material (“Crimson and Clover”, “(There’ll Never B) Another Like Me” and “Here Eye Come”) and promising opportunities to listen to and buy music by Prince and guests, watch videos and buy concert tickets for future events. On January 31, Prince released two more songs on LotusFlow3r.com: “Disco Jellyfish”, and “Another Boy”. “Chocolate Box”, “A Colonized Mind”, and “All This Love” have since been released on the website.

Dipthong isn’t alone. A number of better known bands, like Radiohead, are increasingly severing their ties with the music industry (their publishers). Meanwhile, up and coming garage bands are “publishing” themselves on You-tube, distributing their own MP3s, promoting their own digital albums and printing their own CDs.

So, back in 2006, while Slushpile.Net can write a post entitled Why People Hate Self-published Authors, the responses to the post oddly sidestep the question of perception (which is what the post is all about). Whether or not Slushpile believes Indie publishing, for example, is the same as self-publishing, the perception of most listeners is not so refined. People don’t hate self-published bands or musicians even when they, mistakenly or not, assume they are self-published. Readers don’t hate self-published authors or poets. That’s sheer nonsense. Readers, if they hate anything, hate bad music, bad literature and bad art, but that’s separate from self-publishing.

The public s is always ready for good music and good literature.

They don’t care how it ends up in their hands.

So why the double standard? No one sniffs about “self-published bands” and yet that is precisely what many musicians are doing. They are self-publishing. Their version of  self-publishing might be a couple hundred dollars worth of studio and audio software, and maybe a decent webcam. And where, I ask, are the patronizing posts by bloggers and other musicians warning them that, without a producer and label, they’re headed for mediocrity at best, or worse, derision? They may be out there, but they’re drowned out by the public. Maybe times have changed since 2006?

Substitute editor for producer and publisher for label.

You get the idea. While bands are eagerly exploring ways to publish and disseminate their own work, poets who self-publish are treated like wayward children.

Meanwhile, the irony of bloggers sniffing about the self-published seems to be an irony universally (from what I’ve seen) unacknowledged and unexamined. How many self-published articles are there about the pitfalls of self-publishing? I can’t be bothered to count. They serve as their own best examples of what can go wrong.

The way it used to be

In the old days, the Elizabethans for instance, there was no established copyright law. Any play or poem that was popular and unpublished was a prime target for a printer. Many scholars assert that Shakespeare’s sonnets were published without his permission, by Thomas Thorpe. Plays by Jonson, Webster, Middleton and others were frequently printed without their knowledge or approval. A playgoer (or actor), with a good memory, might transcribe a play for a printer. Many “corrupt” copies appeared. The most famous example, perhaps, being from the Bad Quarto Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

Hamlet To be, or not to be, I there’s the point,
To Die, to sleepe, is that all? I all:
No, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,
For in that dreame of death, when wee awake,
And borne before an euerlasting Iudge,
From whence no passenger euer retur’nd,
The vndiscouered country, at whose sight
The happy smile, and the accursed damn’d.
But for this, the ioyfull hope of this,
Whol’d beare the scornes and flattery of the world,
Scorned by the right rich, the rich curssed of the poore?
The widow being oppressd, the orphan wrong’d;
The taste of hunger, or a tirants raigne,
And thousand more calamities besides,
To grunt and sweate vnder this weary life,
When that he may his full Quietus make,
With a bare bodkin, who would this indure,
But for a hope of something after death?
Which pusles the braine, and doth confound the sence,
Which makes vs rather beare those euilles we haue,
Than flie to others that we know not of.
I that, O this conscience makes cowardes of vs all,
Lady in thy orizons, be all my sinnes remembred.

Had the Author Himself Lived (Heminge & Condell Preface First Folio)While some scholars argue that this was an early version, most ascribe this passage to poor memory. The bad quarto comes from 1603, published by the booksellers Nicholas Ling and John Trundell, printed by Valentine Simmes.  (See Wikipedia for more information.) The printer, no doubt, was eager to make some profit from a very popular play.

A Note on the Folio introduction by Heminge and Condell: What’s so fascinating about the brief introduction to Shakespeare’s first folio (and something that, to my knowledge, no other scholar has commented on) is the implication, possibly, that had “[Shakespeare] himself… lived” he would “have set forth, and overseen his owne writings.” One frequently hears scholars question why Shakespeare showed no interest in publishing his own works, seemingly disinterested in his own literary heritage. But this impression may not be true. Shakespeare would surely have known of Jonson’s effort to publish his own folio. They were friends, colleagues and rivals. The impression that Heminge and Condell give (men who knew Shakespeare intimately) was that Shakespeare intended to self-publish his works. His death seems to have been unexpected by all.

For all intent and purposes, a writer’s work was public domain the moment his words spilled from his brain. Anything he wrote was fair game if he did not, himself, self publish. Shakespeare’s friend and contemporary, Ben Jonson, wasn’t about to let his hard labor become the catalog of an unscrupulous printer. The loss of profit to Jonson and his troupe was bad enough, but Jonson had other reasons. He was proud of his work. Jonson lavished tremendous care to make sure the text of his plays were clean and elegant. He was a bricklayer’s son but he wanted to be remembered as a great poet and dramatist. And Ben Jonson was, as far as Germaine GreerI know, the first self published poet to issue a collected edition of works and who wasn’t also a member of the nobility. Ben Jonson’s folios, published in 1616, treated his plays as serious literature, rather than ephemera. His folio possibly and probably served as an inspiration to whoever subsidized the publishing of Shakespeare’s plays (1623) – most scholars credit Shakespeare’s colleagues with the effort, but Germaine Greer argues that while Shakespeare’s colleagues may have assembled the plays, it was Shakespeare’s widow, Anne Hathaway, who actually subsidized the printing of the First Folio (an argument that appeals to me). In any case, the first folio was effectively self-published. Jonson knew that if he wanted his text printed cleanly and professionally, he had to do it himself.

Here is how the Encyclopedia Britannica sums up the free-for-all:

Publication of drama was left, along with much of the poetry and the popular literature, to publishers who were not members of the Stationers’ Company and to the outright pirates, who scrambled for what they could get and but for whom much would never have been printed. To join this fringe, the would-be publisher had only to get hold of a manuscript, by fair means or foul, enter it as his copy (or dispense with the formality), and have it printed. Just such a man was Thomas Thorpe, the publisher of Shakespeare’s sonnets (1609); the mysterious “Mr. W.H.” in the dedication is thought by some to be the person who procured him his copy. The first Shakespeare play to be published (Titus Andronicus, 1594) was printed by a notorious pirate, John Danter, who also brought out, anonymously, a defective Romeo and Juliet (1597), largely from shorthand notes made during performance. Eighteen of the plays appeared in “good” and “bad” quartos before the great First Folio in 1623. A typical imprint of the time, of the “good” second quarto of Hamlet (1604), reads: “Printed by I.R. for N.L. and are to be sold at his shoppe under Saint Dunston’s Church in Fleetstreet”; i.e., printed by James Roberts for Nicholas Ling. For the First Folio, a large undertaking of more than 900 pages, a syndicate of five was formed, headed by Edward Blount and William Jaggard; the Folio was printed, none too well, by William’s son, Isaac.

Ben Jonson's AlchemistWhat’s interesting is that it wasn’t until the 19th century that publishing became the industry that we recognize today. Britannica states:

The functions peculiar to the publisher—i.e., selecting, editing, and designing the material; arranging its production and distribution; and bearing the financial risk or the responsibility for the whole operation—often merged in the past with those of the author, the printer, or the bookseller. With increasing specialization, however, publishing became, certainly by the 19th century, an increasingly distinct occupation. Most modern Western publishers purchase printing services in the open market, solicit manuscripts from authors, and distribute their wares to purchasers through shops, mail order, or direct sales.

Walt Whitman came of age during this transition to modern publishing. Nonetheless, he self-published Leaves of Grass, and though he never became wealthy as a result, he became a nationally recognized poet. Today, he’s known as one of America’s greatest poets. Emily Dickinson didn’t try to court editors or publishers after her initial negative reception. After she died, her family friend Mabel Todd, and niece, Martha Dickinson, edited and published Dickinson’s poetry — in essence, they self-published. The first nationally known African American Poet, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, also self-published.  And here’s a list from John Kremer’s website, the the self-published hall of fame.

Margaret Atwood, L. Frank Baum, William Blake, Ken Blanchard, Robert Bly, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lord Byron, Willa Cather, Pat Conroy, Stephen Crane, e.e. cummings, W.E.B. DuBois, Alexander Dumas, T.S. Eliot, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Thomas Hardy, E. Lynn Harris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Robinson Jeffers, Spencer Johnson, Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, Louis L’Amour, D.H. Lawrence, Rod McKuen, Marlo Morgan, John Muir, Anais Nin, Thomas Paine, Tom Peters, Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander Pope, Beatrix Potter, Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust, Irma Rombauer, Carl Sandburg, Robert Service, George Bernard Shaw, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, William Strunk, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoi, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf.

The tradition of self-publishing is longer (if not richer) than the history of modern publishing. So when Slushpile.Net can ask the question: “And what is the ‘long and valued tradition’ exactly?” The answer is in that list of authors. Readers are reading self-published poets and authors every day.

The mediocrity myth

So, given self-publishing’s history, why do so many bloggers and pundits act as though self-publishing were a new development? — a modern day smear on the “tradition” of publishing? Why do they wring their hands warning us against an inevitable onslaught of mediocrity?

Probably because, along with examples of great literature, there are many examples of abject mediocrity.

But self-publishers hardly corner the market on mediocrity. Editors and publishers have published gobs of proof-read, clean and well bound mediocrity. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that if one has the title editor, then one is qualified to publish literature and naturally knows the difference between good literature and bad.

History disagrees.

Being a good editor is like being a good poet or novelist. Great editors elevate their profession to an art form. However ( just as there are only a handful of truly inspired poets and novelists in any given generation) there are only a handful of truly inspired editors and publishers. All the rest range from qualified to truly mediocre. (The same is true of critics, by the way. Many critics probably wouldn’t recognize a great author or poet if one bit them on their derrière.) Birds of a feather flock together. A mediocre editor, unable to perceive the difference between mediocre and good literature will publish reams of mediocre literature fully convinced that his dossier of poets and authors is the creme de la creme and that his or her judgment is unparalleled. A mediocre critic will sing the praises of a mediocre author and poet. A committee of editors is no better. If committees were insurance against poor judgment, the USSR would have conquered the world. While a good editor can be indispensable, they can’t transmute lead into gold (if they can even recognize gold).

“Between 1908 and 1930 the Rev. E.E. Bradford published some eleven volumes of verse in praise of adolescents and young men, each of which received respectful, if occasionally guarded, notices from the national and provincial press. Dr. Bradford was, I suspect, a uniquely English phenomena, in that no only had he managed to convince himself that courting adolescent boys was the purest activity known to man (much purer than pursuing women, for example), but he succeeded in getting the press to enter into a conspiracy of polite silence as to the obvious tendency of his verses. ‘His books were widely reviewed and widely praised, never, as far as I can judge, with the slightest hint of irony’, writes Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy. Here is The Westminster Review, but it is absolutely typical, on Passing the Love of Women: “Friendship between man and youth form the theme of many of Dr. Bradford’s poems. He is alive to the beauty of unsullied youth as was Plato.” [The Joys of Bad Verse p.293]

This is what happens when a mediocre author is met by mediocre critics. The book, The Joys of Bad Verse, is replete with other examples. And the collusion of mediocrity with mediocrity is as vibrant as it ever was. A reader can look at the back matter of any book, at any number of reviews, and be forgiven if they conclude that the literary world is awash with geniuses.

It takes herculean mediocrity to break through this morass. William Topaz McGonagall was one such poet, lovingly discussed in Parson’s book and elsewhere. It has been famously said of McGonagall: “He was so giftedly bad that he backed unwittingly into genius.”

  • Just because an author is published by a publisher doesn’t mean their work is any less mediocre.
  • And just because an author is self-published doesn’t mean an author’s work is any more mediocre.

All the while self-published authors are treated like wayward children. They are warned against sloppy editing and told  that they will have to promote their books without the aid of a publisher’s deep pockets. ‘Don’t expect easy success’ – they say.  (As though this thought had never occurred to the self-published author). If one is going to spend hundreds (sometimes thousands of dollars) publishing ones own work, these issues have indeed occurred to them. On the other hand, in fairness to bloggers, they don’t necessarily have to think about quality issues or “return on investment”. Most bloggers self-publish for free. They can afford to be mediocre, so maybe these constraints really are news to them.

Will there be mediocrity? Yes.

But so what? Great art, whether in poetry, music or art, was and is inspired by mediocrity too.

And, to be honest, for the majority of readers, poetry doesn’t have to be great to be enjoyed. Novels don’t have to be works of art to be enjoyed. The dread (that authors and poets might not be vetted by an editor) is based on an uninformed knowledge of literary history and an unfounded faith in the talents of editors and publishers. There are good editors and there are bad editors.

Why spend so much time discussing mediocrity? Because the idea of mediocrity and self-publishing is tightly interwoven and false. One frequently hears that the only reason an author choses to self-publish is because they couldn’t be “legitimately” published (they’re mediocre). Even a cursory glance at a list of the well-known authors who have self-published should dispel this myth. There are a variety of reasons an author may chose to publish his or her own work. And just because an editor rejects an author’s work  doesn’t mean the work is mediocre. It may mean the editor is mediocre. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time was rejected more than 26 times.  There’s a balanced view to be struck. While self-publishing has bequeathed the world plenty of mediocre literature, so has “legitimate” publishing.

Types of Self-Publishing

Rather than reinvent the wheel – here is Wikipedia’s overview as of October 8, 2009:

Vanity publishing

Vanity publishing is a pejorative term, referring to a publisher contracting with authors regardless of the quality and marketability of their work. They appeal to the writer’s vanity and desire to become a published author, and make the majority of their money from fees rather than from sales. Vanity presses may call themselves joint venture or subsidy presses; but in a vanity press arrangement, the author pays all of the cost of publication and undertakes all of the risk.

In his guide How to Publish Yourself author Peter Finch states that such presses are “to be avoided at all costs.” Because there is no independent entity making a judgment about their quality, and because many of them are published at a loss, vanity press works are often perceived as deserving skepticism from distributors, retailers, or readers. Some writers knowingly and willingly enter into such deals, placing more importance on getting their work published than on profiting from it.

Subsidy publishers

A subsidy publisher distributes books under its own imprint, and is therefore selective in deciding which books to publish. Subsidy publishers, like vanity publishers, take payment from the author to print and bind a book, but contribute a portion of the cost as well as adjunct services such as editing, distribution, warehousing, and some degree of marketing. Often, the adjunct services provided are minimal. As with commercial publishers, the books are owned by the publisher and remain in the publisher’s possession, with authors receiving royalties for any copies that are sold. Most subsidy publishers also keep a portion of the rights from any book that they publish. Generally, authors have little control over production aspects such as cover design.

True self-publishing

True self-publishing means authors undertake the entire cost of publication themselves, and handle all marketing, distribution, storage, etc. All rights remain with the author, the completed books are the writer’s property, and the writer gets all the proceeds of sales. Self-publishing can be more cost-effective than vanity or subsidy publishing and can result in a much higher-quality product, because authors can put every aspect of the process out to bid rather than accepting a preset package of services.

Print on Demand (POD)

Short run printing is also called Print-on-demand (POD) or Print Quantity Needed (PQN). POD publishers generally do not screen submissions prior to publication, and many are web-based. They accept uploaded digital content as Microsoft Word documents, text files, or RTF files, as printing services for anyone who is willing to pay. Authors choose from a selection of packages, or design a unique printing package that meets their requirements. For an additional cost, a POD publisher may offer services such as book jacket design with professional art direction; content, line, and copy-editing; indexing; proofreading; and marketing and publicity. Some POD publishers offer publication as e-books in addition to hardcover and paperback. Some POD publishers will offer ISBN (International Standard Book Numbers) service, which allows a title to be searchable and listed for sale on websites.

Many critics dismiss POD as another type of vanity press. One major difference is that POD publishers have a connection to retail outlets like Amazon and Books in Print that vanity presses generally do not.

Which do I recommend?

I don’t.

Let others who have had more experience do the recommending. There are some helpful websites I have listed below. None of them are ideal. The best information is from those who have actually gone through the process, and I’ve included some of their comments from Slushpile.net. (I self-published but that was almost ten years ago.)

I’m also attempting to create a new website, Self-Published Poets, devoted to poets who have self-published. It’s still in a formative stage. The purpose is to provide a centralized catalog where poets can find each other, find each others work – and readers can find us. The poetry of academia has its own network. Self-published poets need theirs. The point of this post was to spell out why self-publishers shouldn’t be embarrassed. I’ve self-published. I’m proud of it. I have books to sell and I consider myself to be in damned good company. Ben Jonson? Walt Whitman? E.E. Cummings? Mark Twain? Count me in.

I do think that self-publishing should be strongly considered by poets, perhaps more so than by authors writing in other genres. If a novelist is a good novelist, national ambition isn’t unreasonable. The broader public still seeks out and enjoys a good novel. I can’t imagine that the self-published novelist could ever match the promotional heft of a real publishing house – or realize the same financial gains.

The same can be said for children’s writers and YA novelists. If writers in these genres choose to self-publish, I’m all for it, but self-publishing should probably be considered a starting point rather than tLeaves of Grasshe end game. Again, nothing matches the reach of a traditional publishing house. They want to make money. And if you demonstrate that your writing can make money, they will want your work.

  • Self-publishing is a business decision.

That’s the bottom line, or so it seems to me. If it makes sense to self-publish from a business standpoint; if you have a plan and the commitment to follow through, go for it.

As for poetry…

The reading public is still buying lots of poetry, but not the verse of contemporary poets. Contemporary poets like to blame the public, but I blame the poets. In either case, a nationwide audience for a given book of poetry is a long shot.  If you have that ambition, I recommend genius – either as poet or self-promoter.

Short of that, if you can land a job in academia (a college or university), that’s probably the best way to advance your career. You have an instant audience (your students) and you will be expected to give readings. (The college or university will, in effect, promote you if they think you’re an asset.) And being a poet in academia has the added benefit of an instant network (both good and bad).   Another common option is to submit your book manuscript to contests. Many new poets see their first book published by winning such contests. Alternately, a small press might consider you if you have made a name for yourself in poetry journals and chapbooks.

These are all legitimate and time consuming ways to pursue a published book. But no matter which route you pursue , small presses reach a comparatively small audience. Don’t expect to make a living from your book’s proceeds.

If you can afford it, think about self-publishing. It’s a reasonable option for poets. If you’re energetic and committed, you can probably do as much for your poetry as any small press.  But don’t take my word for it. Check out the poets at Self-Published Poets. See what they say and take a look at their books.

Noteworthy Websites and Comments

  • Of all the links provided (and if you only read one) read Robert Bagg’s  essay, the last one listed.

Elderberry Press

“The prejudice against a writer who dares take the initiative with his book after a thumbs down from folks who never read a line of it also makes selling self-published books and small press books difficult.

Naida is right. The system is corrupt as is the world. Merit has nothing to with what is published. After spending a year sweating blood to write a novel, tossing it into a sock drawer isn’t easy if you know it’s good.

I published my own novel years ago and have since published two hundred books by other authors. It’s been a great adventure and I’m always looking for new writers to read and publish.” (…)

Bridge House Books

“THE TERM ‘SELF PUBLISHER’ MISSES THE MARK FOR MANY. My company has 5 titles in print – books written by me as well as others. I pay all costs. My books are distributed nationally. I hire professional editors and graphic artists. I use offset printers, not POD (used it once but the inflated price/unit hurt sales). My income after expenses is far more than most mid-list novelists in big houses. I spend beaucoup on printing and reprinting, but I’ve been in the black since the first six weeks. I employ an associate to handle much of the business. Despite these costs, a substantial savings CD informs me that readers like my books. To my other writers, I am a publisher (are they supposed to say, “I’m published by a self publisher?”—that would mean themselves). After I launch the 3rd novel in my trilogy, Bridge House Books will continue to publish fine literature.” (…)

Self Publishing

I unsubscribed from a trade author’s posts to my Amazon Plog today after he quoted from and linked to the blog post of another trade fiction writer beating up on self publishers. I’m not giving either of their names because I don’t want to generate publicity for them, but I thought the basic phenomena is worthy of comment. Why would a couple of successful trade authors feel they have the either the need or the expertise to write about self publishing? (…)

Self Publishing 2.0

“[I] recently published a blog post on why trade authors, in particular, hate self publishers. Part of it is sincere in the sense that they are trying to prevent people from getting ripped off by author services companies, but a lot of it has to do with the belief that self publishers haven’t earned the right to call themselves “authors”.

I’ve done both, and self publishing is more work and often more rewarding than being a trade author. Everybody needs some lucky breaks along the way for either career. Too many trade authors come to believe that they could start over tommorow with another name and no phone numbers or e-mails of editors and agents, and be right back on top in no time. They forget that timing is everything and times change.” (…)

Washington State University Press

“I work as the marketer for a very small scholarly press. We primarily publish regional non-fiction history and culture. I read most of the books we publish raw, as they were received, and very few manuscripts are publication-ready. Even when the writing is excellent, the books are still improved through the editing process and collaborative effort. Our editor brings decades of experience to the table. It is extremely difficult for many authors to view their own work in an objective manner. If self-publishers want to have more credibilty, then they must make the effort to produce the best book possible–using professional editors, designers, and illustrators–resources a conventional publisher would invest. Many do not, and the poor results are rampant in self-publishing. Until that changes, don’t expect distributors and booksellers to take the risk.” (…)

POD, Print on Demand Technology

I started out attempting to contact traditional publishers of chapbooks and small press publishers specializing in poetry, and other non-main street venues. I soon found out that most were associated with contests once a year to generate funds for the one publication printed per year; or no real interest since poetry as a general rule doesn’t generate the publisher money. It appears that self-help books and the occasional novel stand a better traditional chance of selling and making profit. Since I’m 59, soon to be 60, I didn’t want to invest more time into seeking out the slim hope of finding a traditional publishers, so I looked to POD, “Publishing on demand. “ The key feature of POD, is they print only orders as they have been ordered, when they are ordered. The wholesale cost is higher than a traditional publisher, but you are not stuck with inventory under your bed. Prices and services vary greatly from one POD publisher to the next; but most have a format or procedure they follow and most provide a rudimentary distribution process through wholesalers to get your book at least listed with some key players like Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Target.com, Baker and Taylor, Ingram, etc. But without the author self promoting himself with his own efforts, the book is likely to die on line without sales. With POD, you must market yourself right from the start if you have any hope of limited sales, especially on your first book as a relatively unknown author. One could write a book on POD, one key benefit is the author keeps control over his work. Some POD publishers are Author House, who recently merged with iUniverse, Book Surge. A more complete list with pricing and comparison of services can be found at: http://booksandtales.com/pod/index.php Overall, POD suited my needs to get established, retain ownership, with a quick, and easy procedures to follow to get the book published and assigned with an ISBN book number which is critical for creditability. (…)

Self Publishing Resource Guide

The term “vanity publisher” was actually coined by the publishing industry way back at the beginning of the 20th century.  It was meant to discourage competition.  Back then, publishers who could use an author’s money to print books (an expensive process) could take significant business away from the publishing companies then in business.  By suggesting that such publishers were unscrupulous and that the writers were egomaniacs, the existing industry prevented serious losses. (…)

Robert Bagg: Poems, Greek Plays, Essays, Novels, Memoir

Self-publishing has long been synonymous with vanity publishing of books that can’t pass commercial or literary muster. Most established authors recoil from going that route, though many will also have an unpublished, but cherished, manuscript on their hard drive or in a drawer. While it may never completely shake its historic stigma, self-publishing has become increasingly attractive, pervasive and successful in the present era. In 2008 more than 566,000 new books saw print; more than half, 285,000, were self-published, or available on demand. That year also saw declines in the numbers of poetry and fiction volumes published, as trade and university presses have become more reluctant to issue books whose sales prospects look marginal. Though it afflicts most genres, the reluctance poetry encounters is perhaps the most severe. (…)

On Imagery & Poetry: Ode to Autumn & the Five Senses

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Something Different

I’ve been writing a fair amount of analysis centered on meter. So I thought I’d take some time to focus on imagery, how it has been used during different times, what it tells us about poets, which poets use imagery well, which don’t… Etc.

I’ve been tempted to enter into some of the theoretical conversation surrounding current trends in poetry: poetry in academia; the various schools and their aesthetics; theories of composition, schools of criticism, etc… But, there are many other blogs devoted to these matters and, to be honest, the subject matter bores me. The posts that interest me the most are those that help me write better poems.

At the end of the day, all the chatter about schools, aesthetics and criticism will be relegated to graduate programs, as always. What’s left behind and what matters, to the rest of the world, is the poetry itself. Learn to write well and you will be remembered.

Anyway… somewhat like my first post on Iambic Pentameter, this ought to be a post on the basics of imagery.

What is it?

I’m sure, if you search thoroughly, you can find dazzlingly complex and arcane definitions of what does and doesn’t constitute poetic imagery. princeton-encyclopediaRather than begin this post with an exhaustive retrospective of what this or that critic, poet, dictionary, or encyclopedia considers imagery, I’ll limit myself to just one “official” source, then dandle with imagery on my own. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics starts with Image, then proceeds to Imagery – almost ten pages of double-column, small type explication. The subject deserves it and it’s worth reading. I’ll just offer up the first paragraph:

Image and Imagery are among the most widely used and poorly understood terms in the poetic theory, occuring in so many different contexts that it may well be impossible to provide rational, systematic account of their usage.  A poetic image is, variously, a metaphor, simile, or figure of speech; a concrete verbal reference; a recurrent motif; a psychological event in the reader’s mind; the vehicle or second term of a metaphor; a symbol or symbolic pattern; or the global impression of a poem as a unified structure.

The Encyclopedia then goes on to explain how imagery was used and understood from the Elizabethans through moderns. Good stuff.

My Own Take

I’m not sure how I’ll develop these posts, but the following seems like a good place to start:

  • At its most basic level, an Image is anything that evokes any of the fives senses:

Visual (Sight)
Aural (Sound)
Smell
Taste
Sensation (Touch)

If you are writing poetry, keep this list next to you. Princeton states that “although imagery has come to be regarded as an essentially poetic device, many good poems contain little or no imagery.” [p. 564] Note that Princeton does not say “many great poems”. All poems that have withstood the test of time, that are now universally read and considered to be great poems, are distinguished, in part, by the genius of their imagery. John Keats - StatueThe centrality of imagery to poetry’s power is not unique. Great novelists are also distinguished by their evocative prose .

While I don’t suggest you compulsively stuff your poem with one each of the five senses, keep the list next to you. Think about what senses you are evoking in your poetry. The vast majority of poets, especially those lacking practice and experience, will usually limit themselves to the visual.

Perhaps the greatest poet, in this regard, was Keats. He was keenly aware of the world: its sounds, tastes, texture and smells. His sensitivity and the delicacy of his imagery is part and parcel of his genius. I’ve color coded one of his most famous poems, the Ode to Autumn, to help readers visually appreciate his use of imagery. (I’ve already analyzed the poem for its meaning and meter in a previous post.) Considered among the greatest poems of the English language, it’s rich and evocative imagery is essential to its reputation.

All Five Senses

Notice how Keats touches on all five senses. The poet fully engages us in the experience of autumn. There’s nothing that will add more power to your poetry than inviting the reader into your sensory world. The range of Keats’s imagery adds immediacy. Without it, the poem would have the feel of an intellectual exercise – an essay.

Sensory Clusters

Notice too, by the color coding, that you can see Keats’s mind works. There are image clusters. The first stanza is primarily visual. Sight is our pre-emininent sensory experience, Keats knows it, and so the first stanza creates the poem’s setting. But before the close of the first stanza, he dwells on sensation (touch): the warmth of the day, the clammy cells, the soft-lifted hair. I’ve tentatively included the winnowing wind as a sensation since we can both see and feel the wind .

The second moves us back to the visual experience of autumn. The fume of poppies engages our sense of smell – which scientists claim to be our most associative sense.  But notice what happens in the third stanza. With a kind of deliberateness, Keats’s verse o’erbrims with aural imagery. Keats’s visual terrain is filled with sound: the wailful choirs of mourning gnats, the lambs loud bleating, the singing of the crickets, the treble-soft whistles of the redbreast as the swallows twitter.

The cluster of aural imagery is deliberate. Beginning with the wailful choirs and mourning gnats, they effectively communicate a sense of autumnal loss that would have been more difficult to communicate solely through visual imagery.

Verbal Imagery

Keats’s use of verbal imagery (and his use of anthimeria) is also worth considering. Consider the first stanza:

The use of swell and plump are visual cues, as is  the adverbial budding more. O’erbrimmed is a lovely example of anthimeria - “when adjectives are used as adverbs, prepositions as adjectives, adjectives as nouns, nouns as adjectives” (Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language p. 63) . O’erbrimmed is also an example of verbal metaphor – in that summer is “like” a cup that is overfull (though the words like or as are omitted).

The use of “verbal imagery” adds vitality and dynamism to the mostly nominal and static imagery. It is also among the most difficult of poetic techniques to master. Keats learned the technique from Shakespeare who, more than any poet before or since, could  brilliantly and ingeniously coin new words and put old words to new grammatical uses. When poets do it well, we see the world in new ways.

Visual(Sight)
Aural (Sound)
Smell
Taste
Sensation (
Touch)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think
warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,

Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the
soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft,
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud
bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

What’s Next

Examing more poems! I still haven’t decided on the next poet or poem , but the best imagery leads on to metaphor. And limiting myself to imagery means I can look at free verse poets too. So, if this has been interesting to you, helpful, or if you have questions or suggestions, please comment.

The Tao of Poetry

Or why I no longer seek publication.

In my early twenties I was a young acolyte and poetry was like a fish -

And submitting poetry was like trying to catch that fish. For twenty years I have been rejected by every publisher  – whether poetry, fables or children’s stories.  Just last year, in the Writer’s Market Guide to Literary Agents, I read that the two least desirable genres were poetry and children’s stories.

The music in the video below, a favorite of mine, is a set of variations on Corelli’s La Folia – itself a set Corelli wrote on the “La Folia” theme.

La Folia means folly or the madman.

I’ve been a fool.

But maybe, now, I’m becoming a little like that Monk in the final variation -

And my poetry like that fish,

Vermont Poetry Newsletter February 14 2009

[The Vermont Poetry Newsletter is not issued by me but by Ron Lewis, by whose permission I post this.]

Vermont Poetry Newsletter
Your Poetry & Spoken Word Gateway in the Green Mountain State
February 13, 2009 – In This Issue:

  1. Newsletter Editor’s Note/Notes to Otter Creek Poets
  2. Writing Assignments/Suggestions/Exercises/Prompts
  3. John Engels Memorial Reading
  4. New Vermont Lit Journal – The Queen City Review
  5. Geof Hewitt’s Slam Poetry Book
  6. Poetry Can Be Any Damn Thing It Wants
  7. Valentine Broadside from Copper Canyon Press
  8. Vermont Poet Plumbs Lake Champlain For Inspiration
  9. Talking Pictures
  10. Amazon in Big Push For New Kindle Model
  11. This Week’s Review: Khaled Mattawa
  12. This Week’s Review: Seido Ray Ronci
  13. Did You Know? Lucille Clifton’s Use of Punctuation
  14. Ponderings – How Can You Become a Poet?
  15. Poetry Quote (Carl Sandburg)
  16. US Poets Laureate List
  17. failbetter.com Poem
  18. Linebreak Poem
  19. Copper Canyon Press Poem
  20. American Life in Poetry Poem
  21. Vermont Poets Past and Present Project
  22. Vermont Poet Laureates
  23. Contact Info for Publisher of VPN: Ron Lewis
  24. Year-Round Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  25. Other Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  26. Year-Round Poetry Writing Centers in Vermont
  27. Poetry Event Calendar

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About the Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network

  • The Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network is made up of people of all backgrounds, ages and skills who appreciate the craft of poetry and want to promote it in the beautiful state of Vermont. The network consists of a free e-mail list, an eventual web site, workshops, open mics, poetry performances and other literary events.  The network provides opportunities to meet local poets, talk about and enjoy poetry, and motivate and inspire yourself in whatever writing projects you are involved.

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1.)

Dear Friends of Poetry:

Please note that my email address has changed again!  Sorry to do this to everyone.  My first couple of choices were taken, but another one of my top choices, which is being used by my poet friend Patrick Gillespie (but his host is different than mine), was available.  I decided to go with it.  So, my new email address is:

vtpoet@gmail.com

Vermont has added a wonderful new lit journal to its collection, The Queen City Review.  It was nice to see so many members of the Otter Creek Poets gobble up subscription applications after passing around a couple of samples of this fine journal.  Please see my description of the QCR below.

The Burlington Poetry Journal has indicated that at least 3 members of the Otter Creek Poets have had poems accepted for their 2009 issue.  Those poets are Ann Day, Ray Hudson and myself.  Congratulations to all!

April is National Poetry Month and it is sooner than you think.  David Weinstock of the Otter Creek Poets is now taking suggestions for guest speakers, guest poets, and other events in celebration of the art and its month.  They have four Thursdays to plan for, April 2, 16, 23 and 30. (April 9 is the first night of Passover.) If you have any interesting program ideas for us to mull over, please let me know and I will pass them on to David.  If you’re a poet and would consider providing a reading or program to the group, again, contact me.

I begin my new job as the General Manager of Rutland Natural Foods: The Co-op this coming Monday.  Trying to fit another 2,500 hours into my already difficult schedule will be an exercise in time management.  The Vermont Poetry Newsletter will probably become a bi-monthly publication from this date forward.  Wish me luck on both fronts.

I won’t be back with the Otter Creek Poets for some time.  At least I got to go out with a “bang,” you might say, after the reading of my poem, “Let’s Build a Bomb.”  I will indeed miss all the friendships I developed with the Otter Creekers.

Ron Lewis
VPN Publisher
247-5913

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2.)
THIS WEEK’S WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISE:

ASSIGNMENT: JUST-SO STORIES, or, HOW THINGS GOT THIS WAY.
The oldest stories we know are an attempt to explain how the world got the way it is. Genesis contains several stories of creation, including a flood story that may have come from earlier Babylonian sources.
Kipling wrote his whimsical Just-So stories about How the Elephant Got His Trunk, and How the Camel Got His Hump.
WRITE ONE YOURSELF: Take something, anything, about the world, or your life, and write a poem or story that tells how things got that way. Feel free to remember, feel free to invent.
HINT: Keep the poem free of apologies, winks, or other tip-offs that you don’t really mean it, because you do.
David Weinstock
02/12/09

LAST WEEK’S WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISE:

Bring in a poem “suitable for framing.”  Make it a good one, as you’ll be asked to read your poem, and the group will be listening to it with an ear bent to visualize it on a Broadside under framed under glass.

David Weinstock
01/29/09

Good luck!

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3.)

Please note the change of time for this event (from a 7:00 start, to 7:30)

John Engels Memorial Reading

Wed, Mar 11: Hoehl Welcome Center, St. Michael’s College, Colchester, 7:30 p.m – 9:00 p.m.  John Engels Memorial Reading.  In memory of longtime English Department member (and Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet), John Engels (1931-2007) the Department has established an annual  poetry reading. Poet, novelist and essayist David Huddle will give this year’s reading.  The first reading, in 2008, featured former Vermont Poet Laureate Ellen Bryant Voigt.  The English Department Reading Series invites poets, fiction writers, theater troupes, filmmakers, and the like to campus to give readings, talks, performances, screenings etc. In the last few years for example, they’ve hosted the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, novelists including Julia Alvarez, Russell Banks, and Pulitzer-Prize winner E. Annie Proulx, and poets including Pulitzer-Prize winner Louise Gluck, Chase Twitchell, Joy Harjo, and Galway Kinnell. Students are invited to these events, free of charge, and often have the chance to meet and talk to those visitors.  Sponsored by the Lecture Series.
Vermont had a few losses in 2007 and 2008, which were also losses to the entire poetry community.  John Engels, a professor for 45 years at St. Michael’s College, was one of those great losses.  For those of you lucky enough to have clutched a copy for yourself and read through “Remembering John Engels,” you will believe yourself a friend of John’s, as an admirer of his words.  I feel fortunate to have been been both a poet friend of his, as well as a friend of the stream, both of us maintaining a love of fly fishing and fly tying.  If you want to connect or reconnect with John Engels, I would invite you to come to this event, which is sure to be one of those incredible poetry moments.

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4.)

New Vermont Lit Journal
The Queen City Review

  • Burlington College’s Queen City Review, whose inaugural issue is labeled as Fall 2008, is a true Vermont gem, as much as is our fall foliage, or a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.  The founding editor, Heidi Berkowitz, who teaches in the college’s Interdisciplinary Studies program and coordinates its writing center, sent me three complementary copies, and I cherish each one.  Dartmouth lecturer Kevin McCarthy, who oversees the poetry, has gone out of his way to make ensure there are no loose gems in this first collection.  The familiar names, or at least they should be familiar to anyone who follows poetry closely, ring out clearly: poetry slam champ Geof Hewitt, fast-rising star Oregonian Matthew Dickman (he was just declared the winner of the 2009 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for his first book All-American Poem, which also won the APR/Honikman First Book Prize, and the inaugural awarding of the May Sarton Award from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences), and several others, including some nice surprises.  Between the lovely color cover, drawn by Aaron Mitton, and its last many brief bios, is a collection that will keep you entertained to the point of energizing you to submit your best unpublished work to them, or pick up your writer’s journal and get to it!  This is a lit journal that I will be glad to share with my close fellow poets, but one they will grudgingly give back to me.

Ron Lewis

Submission Guidelines

The Queen City Review is a yearly journal of art and literature and accepts the work of new and established writers and artists in the areas of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, photography, and fine art, as well as essays and criticism on all aspects of the aforementioned. They seek to publish high quality work that ranges broadly in topic and genre.
All submissions and queries should be emailed to:queencityreview@burlington.edu by April 20, 2009.
Their submission period is rolling and accepted writers and artists will be notified by email. All submissions must be in English, formatted in WORD or RTF, and previously unpublished. Please submit no more than three poems at a time, fiction and screenplays under 5000 words, and photography and artwork in JPEG format. Simultaneous submissions are also acceptable as long as they are notified immediately if the manuscript or artwork is accepted for publication elsewhere. Be sure to include phone, address, and e-mail contact information.
The Fall 2008 issue is on sale now. The 2009 issue is slated to come out in early autumn.

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5.)

Geof Hewitt’s Guide to Slam Poetry and Poetry Slam with DVD (Paperback)

In case you weren’t aware of or hadn’t seen this book, here’s what has helped to nuture (besides the Vermont poet himself) Slam Poetry.  If you want to grasp Slam, teach it, or write it, grab a copy of Geof’s book!

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6.)

Here’s a most-interesting article from The Poetry Foundation.  At the conclusion, you will find some hilarious blogs, commenting on the article.

Poetry Can Be Any Damn Thing It Wants

Introduction to a collection of eight manifestos commemorating the centennial of Italian futurists.

BY MARY ANN CAWS

In 1909, pamphlets were dropped over the town of Milan containing Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, the centennial of which we are celebrating. Everything about this piece was exciting, its pace, its over-the-top scenery:
We had stayed up all night, my friends and I, under hanging mosque lamps with domes of filigreed brass, domes starred like our spirits. . . .

An immense pride was buoying us up, because we felt ourselves alone at that hour, alone, awake, and on our feet, like proud beacons or forward sentries against an army of hostile stars.
Nothing is slow in this manifesto of speedy Futurism: “‘Let’s go!’ I said. ‘Friends, away! Let’s go!'” I love that kind of exalted certainty about a showy (manifest) endeavor. Of course, we have the right to ironize about the over-the-topness — who among us would so exaggerate the style and so magnify the substance as to make a larger-than-life-size poster, pointing at itself as a deictic genre? Look! Here! Now!

The rest of the article can be read here.

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7.)

Valentine’s Day

Yes, that’s today!  Many of you know me as a poet, or just the publisher of the Vermont Poetry Newsletter.  Well, another one of my hobbies is that of collecting antique Valentine cards.  I have one of the largest collections on the east coast, numbering 4,000-6,000 cards (I admit, it’s hard to count them all!).

With that, you might be interested in downloading a Valentine broadside from Copper Canyon Press, at http://www.coppercanyonpress.org/VDayBroadside/.  It’s a poem by Gregory Orr.

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8.)

Vermont Poet Plumbs Lake Champlain for Inspiration

BY MIKE IVES

Lake Champlain is so picturesque that its effect on viewers can defy description. But that doesn’t stop any number of writers from trying. To that number add Daniel Lusk. Since last spring, the poet and University of Vermont English lecturer has been reading maritime lit and visiting shipwrecks with guides from theLake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes. With financial support from the Vermont Community Foundation, Lusk plans to translate his experience and knowledge into a collection of poems tentatively called “Lake Studies: Meditations on Lake Champlain.”

Read the rest of the article here.

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9.)

Talking Pictures

“Picture That Poem,” multi-media show examining the relationship between visual imagery and poetry.

Main Floor Gallery, Studio Place Arts, Barre. Through February 28.

By Marc Awodey

The nexus of poetry and visual art encompasses more than vivid verbal imagery. “Picture That Poem,” at Studio Place Arts in Barre, demonstrates how diverse and thought provoking the two arts’ links can be.
SPA is known for strongly curated theme shows, and a great idea makes for a fascinating group exhibition. “Picture That Poem” is built on a fresh notion that gave artists plenty of room for creativity in addressing the call for entries, which requested visual art “utterances” and the poems that inspired them.

Read the rest of the article here.

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10.)

Amazon in big push for new Kindle model

By Brad Stone and Motoko Rich
Escalating its efforts to dominate the fledgling industry for electronic books, Amazon.com introduced on Monday a new version of its electronic book reader, called Kindle 2.
Amazon said the upgraded device had seven times the memory as the original version, allowed faster page-turns and had a crisper, though still black-and-white, display. The Kindle 2 also features a new design with round keys and a short, joysticklike controller — a departure from the previous version’s design, which some buyers had criticized as awkward. The new device will ship on Feb. 24. Amazon did not change the price for the device, which remains $359.

Read the rest of the article here.

POSTED BY BETH KANELL; for more Blogs, go to http://kingdombks.blogspot.com

  • (Beth Kanell is from Kingdom Books, which is a specialty mystery, poetry and fine press shop in Vermont.  Beth Kanell, Co-Owner with her husband Dave, is a published author and regularly reviews books for the Vermont Review of Books.  Kingdom Books offers mostly first editions, many signed, and often hosts author events.)

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11.)

THIS WEEK’S REVIEW (1 OF 2)

Khaled Mattawa

AMORISCO: To Enter Another World

Narrative, whether as prose or poetry, can paint another world in vivid colors, and can transport the emotions into new places, new situations. But how can a writer perform the complex alchemy of assisting the reader to let go of the existing self, in order to sample another tongue entirely?

Rarely leaving the English language, but twisting the verse forms and the continuities and jumps of imagery, Libyan-born Khaled Mattawa calls forth an edgily foreign experience in the poems of AMORISCO (Ausable Press).

Read the rest of the article here.

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THIS WEEK’S REVIEW (2 OF 2)

American Zen: The Poetry of Seido Ray Ronci

On a lifetime journey that led to the Naropa Institute and the metaphorical feet of Allen Ginsburg, and later to his present position as director of Hokoku-an Zendo in Columbia, Missouri, Seido Ray Ronci has shaped a trail of poetry and poetics as markers along the road. With the Ausable Press publication of THE SKELETON OF THE CROW: New & Selected Poems, 1978-2008, comes a map to that territory … or at least a wide selection of those markers.

Boston poet/publisher William Corbett wrote for the back of the book that reading it from first poem to last shows Ronci’s process of “shedding the impulse to tell stories while skillfully paring his poems to that he comes to say in the fewest words what is his to say.”

Read the rest of the article here.

POSTED BY BETH KANELL

For more Blogs, go to http://kingdombks.blogspot.com

  • (Beth Kanell is from Kingdom Books, which is a specialty mystery, poetry and fine press shop in Vermont.  Beth Kanell, Co-Owner with her husband Dave, is a published author and regularly reviews books for the Vermont Review of Books.  Kingdom Books offers mostly first editions, many signed, and often hosts author events.)

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13.)

Did You Know?
In Lucille Clifton’s (an absolute legend of a poet) latest book, Voices,
there is not a comma, period, colon, or semi-colon throughout.

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14.)
“Ponderings”
Reply to the Question: “How Can You Become a Poet?”

by Eve Merriam (1916-1992)

take the leaf of a tree
trace its exact shape
the outside edges
and inner lines
memorize the way it is fastened to the twig
(and how the twig arches from the branch)
how it springs forth in April
how it is panoplied in July
by late August
crumple it in your hand
so that you smell its end-of-summer sadness
chew its woody stem
listen to its autumn rattle
watch as it atomizes in the November air
then in winter
when there is no leaf left
invent one

from Rainbow Writing © 1976 by Eve Merriam.

  • Eve Merriam was a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for both children and adults. Her awards were many and varied, including the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1946, the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1981, and an Obie for playwriting in 1977. Ms. Merriam’s favorite genre was poetry, however. Of her writing career she said in Something About the Author,”I think one is chosen to be a poet. You write poems because you must write them; because you can’t live your life without writing them.”

Although Eve Merriam died in 1992, her poems are still being published in picture books for very young children.

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15.)

‘Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis
of hyacinths and biscuits .’

Poetry Quote by Carl Sandburg

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16.)
Poets Laureate of the U.S.A.

  • A Net-annotated list of all the poets who have served the Library of Congress as Consultant (the old title) or Poet Laureate Consultant (the new title). Biographies & general reference sites are linked to the poets’ names — for the recent Laureates these are our own poet profiles with book-buying links at the bottom. Many of the other linked biographies are pages from the Academy of American Poets’ Find a Poet archive, a growing & invaluable resource. If there is no general information site about the poet, we have searched the Net for sample poems or other writings or recordings & listed those below the poet’s name.

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17.)


failbetter.com

Leave It All Up to Me

By Major Jackson
All we want is to succumb to a single kiss…

Lorca in Eden

By Major Jackson

Squat by a roadside near Eden, prairie flowers…

  • Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry: Hoops and Leaving Saturn. His third volume of poetry, Holding Company, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton. A recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, he is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at the University of Vermont, and a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. He serves as the Poetry Editor of the Harvard Review.

failbetter.com is an online journal that publishes original works of fiction, poetry and art

Sign up in order to get their online newsletter: http://failbetter.com/29/AboutUs.php

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18.)
Linebreak is an online journal with a bias for good poetry. Here is a poem from their web site this week:

Dear Atamasco Lily
by Susan Meyers

Nothing else in the swamp rises beyond…

http://linebreak.org/

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19.)
Here’s a poem from Copper Canyon Press, not in its “Reading Room” (http://www.coppercanyonpress.org/) as I usually reprint in the Newsletter, but from another source.  It was such a find that I felt you should read it in this space usually reserved for a Copper Canyon poem.

Carolyn Kizer

Bits of Reminiscence
A toppled wine-cup,
A stone path floating beneath the moon
Where the grass was trampled:
One azalea branch left lying there…

The rest of the poem can be read here.

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20.)
American Life in Poetry: Column 203

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

To read in the news that a platoon of soldiers has been killed is a terrible thing, but to learn the name of just one of them makes the news even more vivid and sad. To hold the name of someone or something on our lips is a powerful thing. It is the badge of individuality and separateness. Charles Harper Webb, a California poet, takes advantage of the power of naming in this poem about the steady extinction of animal species…
Read the rest of the post here.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2006 by Charles Harper Webb. Reprinted from “Amplified Dog,” by Charles Harper Webb, published by Red Hen Press, 2006, by permission of the author and publisher.  Introduction copyright (c) 2009 by The Poetry Foundation.  The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.  We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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21.)

KEEP PAST VERMONT POETS ALIVE!  I’M SOLICITING YOUR HELP:

POETS OF VERMONT: PAST AND PRESENT PROJECT

I’m looking for a copy of:
1) The Literature of Vermont: A Sampler, University Press of New England, Arthur W. Biddle and Paul A. Eschholz, Editors, 1973
2) Poets and Poetry of Vermont, by Abby Maria Hemenway, 1858
3) “Driftwood,” a poetry magazine begun in 1926 by Walter John Coates
If you have any books of poetry, chapbooks, or just poems written by Vermont poets, dating 1980 and earlier, famous or not, I’d like to know about them.  I’m beginning a project that deals strictly with Vermont poets, from Vermont’s past, with summaries of the poets themselves, a portrait photo or drawing of the poet, along with a small sampling of poems.  If you think you can help, you probably can!  Please contact me by replying to this newsletter.

Ronald Lewis

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22.)

VERMONT POET LAUREATES

1) Robert Frost – 1961
2) Galway Kinnell
3) Louis Glück
4) Ellen Bryant Voigt
5) Grace Paley
6) Ruth Stone

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23.)

If you ever have a need to contact me, here’s how to go about doing so:
Ronald Lewis:
Phone: 802-247-5913
Cell: 802-779-5913
Home: 1211 Forest Dale Road, Brandon, VT 05733
Email: vtpoet@gmail.com

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24.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

BELLOWS FALLS

1) Great River Arts Institute – See details elsewhere in this newsletter

2) Poetry Workshop at Village Square Booksellers with Jim Fowler (no relation to owner Pat).  The goal of this course is to introduce more people to the art of writing poetry and will include a discussion of modern poetry in various forms and styles. Each week, the course will provide time to share and discuss participant’s poetry. Students should bring a poem and copies to the first class. The course will be limited to 5 to 8 students to allow adequate time to go through everyone’s poetry contributions and will meet in the cafe at Village Square Booksellers. James Fowler, of Charlestown, New Hampshire, has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science with a major in Nature Writing. He was the editor of Heartbeat of New England, a poetry anthology. Fowler has been widely published since 1998 in such journals as Connecticut Review, Quarterly of Light Verse, and Larcom Review. Fowler is a founding member of the River Voices Writer’s Circle, and a regular reader at Village Square Booksellers-River Voices Poetry Readings. The fee for this 6 week Workshop is $100, payable to Mr. Fowler at the first class. Pre-registration for the Poetry Workshop is suggested and may be made by calling Village Square Booksellers at 802-463-9404 or by email at vsbooks@sover.net or  jfowler177@comcast.net.

GUILFORD

The Guilford Poets Guild, formed in 1998, meets twice a month to critique and support each other’s work.  Their series of sponsored readings by well-known poets which began at the Dudley Farm, continues now at the Women and Family Life Center.

MIDDLEBURY

1) The Otter Creek Poets offer a poetry workshop every Thursday afternoon, from 1:00 to 3:00 in the basement meeting room of the Ilsley Public Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury.  This workshop, the largest and oldest of its kind in the state, has been meeting weekly for 13 years.  Poets of all ages and styles come for peer feedback, encouragement, and optional weekly assignments to get the poetry flowing.  Bring a poem or two to share (plus 20 copies).  The workshops are led by David Weinstock.  There is considerable parking available behind the library, or further down the hill below that parking lot.  For more information, call David at 388-6939 or Ron Lewis at 247-5913.

2) The Spring Street Poets.  This group is by invite only and consists of six members, Jennifer Bates, Janet Fancher, Karin Gottshall, Ray Hudson, Mary Pratt and David Weinstock.

NORWICH

This group meets on the first Sunday of every month at the Norwich Library, 6:30 p.m.

PLAINFIELD

The Wayside Poets share their poetry publicly from time to time.  They meet at the Cutler Memorial Library, 151 High Street, Plainfield.  Members include Diane Swan, Sherry Olson, Carol Henrikson and Sarah Hooker.  You can contact them through Sherry Olson at: solsonvt@aol.com or 454-8026.

STOWE

There is another poetry workshop happening in Stowe, but unfortunately I know nothing much about this group.  If you do, contact me!

WAITSFIELD

The Mad River Poets consists of a handful of poets from the Route 100 corridor.  More on this group in the future.

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25.)
OTHER POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

BURLINGTON

Scribes in the making put pen to paper as part of an open verse-writing session at the Fletcher Free Library, 235 College Street.  Three consecutive Thursdays, starting January 8, 2009, 5:00-6:00 p.m.  Free.  Contact information: 862-1094.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

Thinking Like a Poetry Editor:  How to Be Your Own Best Critic
(“The Ossmann Method” Poetry Workshop – Crash Course)
Instructor: April Ossmann
The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT  05001
Saturday, January 17th OR Saturday, February 14th
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$45

Learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. Participants will receive written editorial suggestions for both poems from the instructor. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8. Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

The Ossmann Method Poetry Workshop: Building Your Tool Kit
Instructor: April Ossmann
The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT  05001
Sundays, 8 weeks, January 18th – March 8th
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$200

Build or improve your poetic techniques tool kit and learn how to think like a poetry editor!  In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. This workshop will be both critical and generative, so I will assign reading and generative exercises meant to teach or improve writing skills. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8 (minimum enrollment for the course to proceed is 4). Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

  • Note: If you know of any others, or have personal information about the workshop in Stowe and Guilford, please send me that information.  I realize that there are several smaller groups or workshops around the state.  However, because of their intimacy, they are not posted above, allowing them to offer “memberships” to close friends or acquaintances that they feel would be most appropriate.

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26.)
YEAR-ROUND POETRY WRITING CENTERS IN VERMONT

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

The Writer’s Center is for serious writers and nervous beginners. It’s for procrastinators who could benefit from regular deadlines – and for the prolific who could benefit from quality feedback. It’s for anyone with a manuscript hidden in a drawer, or a life story or poem waiting to be written. It’s for people who don’t know where to start or how to end. And for writers who are doing just fine on their own, but would like the company of other writers.  The Writer’s Center is for anyone who is writing or wants to write.  One of the Center’s consultants is April Ossman (www.aprilossmann.com).  Founded by Joni B. Cole and Sarah Stewart Taylor, the Writer’s Center offers instruction and inspiration through a selection of workshops, discussions, and community. We would love to see you – and your writing – at The Writer’s Center!  For more info, http://www.thewriterscenterwrj.com/.

UNDERHILL


Women Writing for (a) Change supports the authentic experience of women who honor themselves through creative writing.  Our community supports reflection as we move into our questions and awaken to change.  Participants enhance expressive skills, strengthen their voices, deepen themselves as women as writers for positive change in all spheres of life.  Creative writing in all genres is our shared vehicle.  Women Writing for (a) Change is for women who, 1) dream of writing for self-discovery, for personal or social healing, 2) hunger for creative process in their lives, 3) yearn to explore their feminine voice, 4) crave reflective, space, and 5) are in transition.  For more information, go to their web site at www.womenwritingVT.com/ or contact Sarah Bartlett at either 899-3772 or sarah@womenwritingvt.com.

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27.)

Poetry EventPOETRY EVENT CALENDAR

Below please find the most current list of poetry happenings in Vermont for the near future.  Please be aware that these events can be found on Poetz.com, but there is usually additional information that is typed here that would be cumbersome to place on Poetz.com.  Please note all events are Vermont-based unless they are of extreme importance or happen to lie just outside our borders.  If you would like to save on paper and ink, please just highlight what you need, or perhaps only events for the coming month, and print that information.

Tue, Jan 27-May 10: Another Language, Another Soul

Another Soul

What happens when two languages and two fine arts mingle? Find out by attending:

OPENING RECEPTION: JANUARY 28th 5:30pm – 7:30pm
The Robert Hull Fleming Museum invites you to the opening reception of their spring semester exhibits. Cash bar and free hors d’oeuvres.

January 27-May 10: More Than Bilingual: William Cordova and Major Jackson
Although Peruvian-born visual artist William Cordova and African-American poet Major Jackson come from divergent backgrounds, both artists find inspiration and common ground in music, literature and the urban aesthetic. The fluency with which they navigate cultural signifiers and media, results in a shared visual multilingualism. The two artists have long admired one another’s work; the Fleming Museum is pleased to bring them together in a collaborative venture for the first time.

Robert Hull Fleming Museum
University of Vermont Campus
61 Colchester Avenue
http://www.uvm.edu/~fleming

Sat, Feb 14: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 1:00p.m. – 2:00 p.m.  Leigh Marthe Poetry Reading.  Westmoreland poet Leigh Marthe will read from her first published collection of poems, The Exact Life.  Marthe serves as President of the Monadnock Writer’s Group and has been on the Board of Directors for that organization for seven years.  Her work has been published in Cold River Review, New England Writer’s Anthology, Wind in the Timothy Press online, and Summit Avenue Express.  Marthe has had a career in higher education and is completing her PhD in Education with a focus on leadership for higher education.  She teaches part-time at River Valley Community College. To reserve a place at the reading, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Sat, Feb 14: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.
Sun, Feb 15: Warming hut log cabin at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm Street, Woodstock, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Winter Readings in the National Park.  Join a park ranger in sharing short stories and poetry about winter at the ski shelter warming cabin. Bring your own stories and poetry to share or just listen to others readings while enjoying the warmth of the cabin’s woodstove. Hot chocolate will be provided.  Cost: $5.00 trail pass from the Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center.  For info, Tim Maguire at 457-3368 X22 or Tim_maguire@nps.gov.

Wed, Feb 18: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.  “You Come, Too”: Winter with Robert Frost.  Robert Frost’s poetry is known, among other things, for its ability to evoke the seasons of New England in all their complexity.  Join Peter Gilbert, the Vermont Humanities Council’s executive director and the executor of Frost’s estate, in reading and discussing some of Frost’s winter poems.  Participants are invited to either read the poems in advance or upon arriving.  Refreshments served; free.  RSVPs are encouraged at 802.262.2626 x307. Walk-ins welcome.

Wed, Feb 18: Monkey House, 30 Main Street, Winooski, 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  Poetry Reading.  A new place for poets to read and hear new work.  This is a continuing series happening on alternate Wednesdays.

Thu, Feb 19: Studio Place Arts, 201 N. Main Street, Barre, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  Teen Slam.  Directed by poet Geof Hewitt.  Everyone is welcome, but only teens will slam!  Modest prizes and glory for all!  Teachers, please tell your students!

Thu, Feb 19: Parima, 185 Pearl Street, Burlington, 8:45 p.m. -10:00 p.m.  Poetry Jam.  This is a continuing series, happening on alternate Thursdays.

Fri, Feb 20: Outer Space Café, FlynnDog Gallery, 208 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, 7:00 p.m.  Poet’s Night.  Join in the growing popularity of this continuing series!

Mon, Feb 23: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Michael Waters to read. Michael Waters’ eight books of poetry include Darling Vulgarity (2006—finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems (2001), and Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum (1997) from BOA Editions, and Bountiful (1992), The Burden Lifters (1989), and Anniversary of the Air (1985) from Carnegie Mellon UP. His several edited volumes include Contemporary American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois UP, 2003). In 2004 he chaired the poetry panel for the National Book Award. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Foundation, Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, and four Pushcart Prizes, he teaches at Monmouth University in New Jersey and in the Drew University MFA Program.

Wed, Feb 25: Peabody Library, Route 113, Post Mills.  Reception and book signing by the authors of the literary magazine, Bloodroot.  Bloodroot Literary Magazine is a nonprofit publication released each December. Their mission is to provide a journal of high production values and quality material by established and emerging authors.  The 2009 issue of Bloodroot features cover art by Christy Hale and poems, short stories and creative nonfiction by 28 outstanding authors, many of them familiar names here in Vermont – Regina Brault, Carol Milkuhn and Nancy Means Wright.  The book is scheduled to be out and about in mid-December 2008.

Sun, Mar 1: Plymouth State University, Smith Recital Hall, Johnson, NH, 7:00 p.m.  Poet C.D. Wright.  2008 – 2009 Eagle Pond Author’s Series.  A compelling and idiosyncratic poet, C.D. Wright has twelve collections including Rising, Falling, Hovering (2008), a weaving of deeply personal and politically ferocious poems;  Deepstep Come Shining and Cooling Time.  Her collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana was awarded the Dorothea Lange-Paul Tayor Prize.  Her new and selected poems Steal Away was on the shortlist for the Griffin Trust Award.  She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the Israel J. Kapstein Professor at Brown University.  Free.  (603) 535-5000 to reserve spaces.

Tue, Mar 3: Farrell Room, St. Michael’s College, 4:30 p.m.  David Cavanaugh.  Local poet David Cavanaugh will read from his work.

Wed, Mar 4: Monkey House, 30 Main Street, Winooski, 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  Poetry Reading.  A new place for poets to read and hear new work.  This is a continuing series happening on alternate Wednesdays.

Thu, Mar 5: Middlebury College, Abernathy Room, Axinn Center, 4:30-6:30.  Richard Chess was born in Los Angeles. He spent most of his childhood and youth in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He is the author of three books of poetry, Third Temple (2007), Chair in the Desert (2000), and Tekiah (1994). His poems have appeared in many journals as well as several anthologies, including Best American Spiritual Writing 2005 and Telling and Remembering: A Century of American-Jewish Poetry.  An award-winning and much-sought after teacher, he is professor of literature and language at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  He directs UNCA’s Center for Jewish Studies as well as UNCA’s Creative Writing Program.  He has been a member of the low-residency MFA faculties at Warren Wilson College and Queens College.  He served for a number of years as writer-in-residence at the Brandeis Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, California.  He is now assistant director of The Jewish Arts Institue at Elat Chayyim, located at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, where he will be teaching creative writing in a two-year training institute that begins in August of 2007.  He is poetry editor of Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture.  He lives in Asheville with his wife, Laurie, and son, Gabe.  His two step-daughters, Alice and Margaret, are currently pursuing their careers elsewhere.  For more info, 443-5276.

Thu, Mar 5: Parima, 185 Pearl Street, Burlington, 8:45 p.m. -10:00 p.m.  Poetry Jam.  This is a continuing series, happening on alternate Thursdays.

Fri, Mar 6: Outer Space Café, FlynnDog Gallery, 208 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, 7:00 p.m.  Poet’s Night.  Join in the growing popularity of this continuing series!

Sun, Mar 8: Warming hut log cabin at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm Street, Woodstock, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Winter Readings in the National Park.  Join a park ranger in sharing short stories and poetry about winter at the ski shelter warming cabin. Bring your own stories and poetry to share or just listen to others readings while enjoying the warmth of the cabin’s woodstove. Hot chocolate will be provided.  Cost: $5.00 trail pass from the Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center.  For info, Tim Maguire at 457-3368 X22 or Tim_maguire@nps.gov.

Wed, Mar 11: Hoehl Welcome Center, St. Michael’s College, Colchester, 7:30 p.m – 9:00 p.m.  John Engels Memorial Reading.  In memory of longtime English Department member (and Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet), John Engels (1931-2007) the Department has established an annual  poetry reading. Poet, novelist and essayist David Huddle will give this year’s reading.  The first reading, in 2008, featured former Vermont Poet Laureate Ellen Bryant Voigt.  The English Department Reading Series invites poets, fiction writers, theater troupes, filmmakers, and the like to campus to give readings, talks, performances, screenings etc. In the last few years for example, they’ve hosted the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, novelists including Julia Alvarez, Russell Banks, and Pulitzer-Prize winner E. Annie Proulx, and poets including Pulitzer-Prize winner Louise Gluck, Chase Twitchell, Joy Harjo, and Galway Kinnell. Students are invited to these events, free of charge, and often have the chance to meet and talk to those visitors.  Sponsored by the Lecture Series.
Vermont had a few losses in 2007 and 2008, which were also losses to the entire poetry community.  John Engels, a professor for 45 years at St. Michael’s College, was one of those great losses.  For those of you lucky enough to have clutched a copy for yourself and read through “Remembering John Engels,” you will believe yourself a friend of John’s, as an admirer of his words.  I feel fortunate to have been been both a poet friend of his, as well as a friend of the stream, both of us maintaining a love of fly fishing and fly tying.  If you want to connect or reconnect with John Engels, I would invite you to come to this event, which is sure to be one of those incredible poetry moments.
Sat, Mar 14: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.
Wed, Mar 18: Monkey House, 30 Main Street, Winooski, 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  Poetry Reading.  A new place for poets to read and hear new work.  This is a continuing series happening on alternate Wednesdays.
Thu, Mar 19: Parima, 185 Pearl Street, Burlington, 8:45 p.m. -10:00 p.m.  Poetry Jam.  This is a continuing series, happening on alternate Thursdays.

Thu, Apr 2: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Rosanna Warren to read.  Rosanna Warren was born in Connecticut in 1953. She was educated at Yale (BA 1976) and Johns Hopkins (MA 1980). She is the author of one chapbook of poems (Snow Day, Palaemon Press, 1981), and three collections of poems:  Each Leaf Shines Separate (Norton, 1984), Stained Glass (Norton, 1993, Lamont Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets), and Departure (Norton, 2003).  She edited and contributed to The Art of Translation:  Voices from the Field (Northeastern, 1989), and has edited three chapbooks of poetry by prisoners. She has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, ACLS, The Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Lila Wallace Readers’ Digest Fund, among others.  She has won the Witter Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lavan Younger Poets’ Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and the Award of Merit in Poetry from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. She is Emma MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities at Boston University.

Sun, Apr 5: Plymouth State University, Smith Recital Hall, Johnson, NH, 7:00 p.m.  Poet Wesley McNair.  2008 – 2009 Eagle Pond Author’s Series.  Wesley McNair is the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Foundations and a United States Artists Fellowship to “America’s finest living artists.” Other honors include the Robert Frost Prize; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry (for Fire); the Theodore Roethke prize from Poetry Northwest; the Pushcart Prize and the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal.  McNair is currently Professor Emeritus and Writer in Residence at the University of Maine at Farmington.  Free.  (603) 535-5000 to reserve spaces.

Sat, Apr 11: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Mon, Apr 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Eric Pankey to read.  Eric Pankey is the author of six books of poetry: Reliquaries, Cenotaph, The Late Romances, Apocrypha, Heartwood and For the New Year. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award, and an Ingram Merrill Grant. His work has appeared in many journals, including Partisan Review, The New Yorker, Triquarterly, DoubleTake and The New England Review. He teaches at George Mason University and lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Thu, Apr 23: Middlebury College, Robert A. Jones ’59 Conference Room, 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.  A talk by Adina Hoffman, on her new book, My Happiness Bears no Relation to Happiness: Poet Taha Muhammad Ali and the Palestinian Century, (Yale University Press), the first biography of a Palestinian poet, and the first portrayal of Palestinian literature and culture in the 20th Century. Sponsored by the Program in Jewish Studies, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Middle East Studies Program.  For info, 443-5151, E-mail: schine@middlebury.edu.

Sat, May 9: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Thu, May 14: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Michael Harper to read.  Michael S. Harper was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1938. He earned a B.A. and M.A. from what is now known as California State University, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He has taught at Brown since 1970.  Harper has published more than 10 books of poetry, most recently Selected Poems (ARC Publications, 2002); Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems (2000); Honorable Amendments (1995); and Healing Song for the Inner Ear (1985). A new poetry collection, Use Trouble, is forthcoming in fall 2008 from The University of Illinois Press.  His other collections include Images of Kin (1977), which won the Melville-Cane Award from the Poetry Society of America and was nominated for the National Book Award; Nightmare Begins Responsibility (1975); History Is Your Heartbeat (1971), which won the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award for poetry; and Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1970), which was nominated for the National Book Award.  Harper edited the Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (1980); he is co-editor with Anthony Walton of The Vintage Book of African American Poetry (2000) and Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945 (1994), and with Robert B. Stepto of Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art, and Scholarship (1979).  Harper was the first poet laureate of Rhode Island (1988-1993) and has received many other honors, including a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Award. Harper is also a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, an American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow, and the recipient of numerous distinctions, including the Robert Hayden Poetry Award from the United Negro College Fund, the Melville-Cane Award, the Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award.

Mon, Jun 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Eamon Grennan to read.  Eamon Grennan was born in Dublin in 1941 and educated at UCD, where he studied English and Italian, and Harvard, where he received his PhD in English. His volumes of poetry include What Light There Is & Other Poems, (North Point Press, 1989), Wildly for Days (1983), What Light There Is (1987), As If It Matters (1991), So It Goes (1995), Selected and New Poems (2000) and Still Life with Waterfall (2001). His latest collection, The Quick of It, appeared in 2004 in Ireland, and in Spring 2005 in America. His books of poetry are published in the United States by Graywolf Press, and in Ireland by Gallery Press. Other publications include Leopardi: Selected Poems (Princeton 1997), and Facing the Music: Irish Poetry in the 20th Century, a collection of essays on modern Irish poetry. His poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in many magazines both in Ireland and the US.  Grennan has given lectures and workshops in colleges and universities in the US, including courses for the graduate programs in Columbia and NYU. During 2002 he was the Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University. His grants and prizes in the United States include awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Leopardi: Selected Poems received the 1997 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and Still Life with Waterfall was the recipient of the 2003 Lenore Marshall Award for Poetry from the American Academy of Poets. His poems have been awarded a number of Pushcart prizes. Grennan has taught since 1974 at Vassar College where he is the Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Professor of English.

Sat, Jun 13: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Thu, Jul 9: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Michael Ryan to read.  Michael Ryan has published three collections of poetry, including In Winter, Threats Instead of Trees, has been a finalist for the National Book Award, and God Hunger, as well as A Difficult Grace: On Poets, Poetry, and Writing, and the memoir Secret Life. His work has appeared in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, New Republic, and elsewhere. Ryan has been honored by the Lenore Marshall Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and a Guggenheim. Ryan is Professor of English and Creative Writing at UC, Irvine.

Sat, Jul 11: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Mon, Jul 27: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Doreen Gilroy to read.  Doreen Gilroy’s first book, The Little Field of Self  (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares.  Her second book, Human Love, was published by the University of Chicago Press in October 2005.  Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Slate, TriQuarterly and many other magazines.

Sat, Aug 8: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Mon, Aug 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Cole Swensen to read.  Cole Swensen is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver. She is the author of five collections of poems, including Try (University of Iowa Press, 1999), winner of the 1998 Poetry Prize; Noon (Sun and Moon Press, 1997), which won a New American Writing Award; and Numen (Burning Deck Press, 1995) which was nominated for the PEN West Award in Poetry. Her translations include Art Poetic’ by Olivier Cadiot (Sun & Moon Press, Green Integer Series, 1999) and Natural Gaits by Pierre Alferi (Sun & Moon, 1995). She splits her time among Denver, San Francisco and Paris.

Thu, Sep 3: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Marge Piercy to read.  Marge Piercy has published 17 books of poetry, including What Are Big Girls Made Of, Colors Passing Through Us, and most recently her 17th volume, The Crooked Inheiritance, all from Knopf. She has written 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS in Perennial paperback now.  Her memoir Sleeping With Cats is also in Harper Collins Perennial.  Last spring, Schocken published Pesach for the Rest of Us.  Her work has been translated into 16 languages. Her CD Louder We Can’t Hear You Yet contains her political and feminist poems. She has been an editor of Leapfrog Press for the last ten years and also poetry editor of Lilith.

Sat, Sep 12: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Thu, Oct 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Pattiann Rogers to read.  Pattiann Rogers has published ten books of poetry, a book-length essay, The Dream of the Marsh Wren, and A Covenant of Seasons, poems and monotypes, in collaboration with the artist Joellyn Duesberry. Her 11th  book of poetry, Wayfare, will appear from Penguin in April, 2008.   Rogers is the recipient of two NEA Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2005 Literary Award in Poetry from the Lannan Foundation, and five Pushcart Prizes.  In the spring of 2000 she was in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy.  Her papers are archived in the Sowell Family Collection of Literature, Community and the Natural World at Texas Tech University.  She has taught as a visiting professor at various universities, including the Universities of Texas, Arkansas, and Montana, Houston University, and Washingon University.  She is currently on the faculty of Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program.  Rogers has two sons and three grandsons and lives with her husband in Colorado.

Sat, Oct 10: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Tue, Oct 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Major Jackson to read.  “Jackson knows the truth of black magic. It is a magic as simple as the belief in humanity that subverts racism, or the esoteric and mystical magic of making jazz, the music of hope and love.” —Aafa Weaver.  Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry, Hoops (Norton: 2006), a finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry. and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), winner of the 2000 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.  Poems by Major Jackson have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, Post Road, Triquarterly, The New Yorker, among other literary journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has received critical attention in The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Parnassus, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.  Jackson is an Associate Professor of English at University of Vermont and a faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. In 2006-2007, he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Sat, Nov 14: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Tue, Nov 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet Sebastian Matthews to read.  Sebastian Matthews is the author of the poetry collection We Generous (Red Hen Press) and a memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps (W. W. Norton).  He co-edited, with Stanley Plumly, Search Party: Collected Poem s of William Matthews. Matthews teaches at Warren Wilson College and serves on the faculty at Queens College Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. His poetry and prose has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Georgia Review, New England, Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Seneca Review, The Sun, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Writer’s Almanac, among others. Matthews co-edits Rivendell, a place-based literary journal, and serves as poetry consultant for Ecotone:
Re-Imagining Place.

Sat, Dec 12: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

2010:

Mon, Feb 22: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined.  Poet David Shapiro to read.  David Shapiro (born January 2, 1947) is an American poet, literary critic, and art historian and . Shapiro has written some twenty volumes of poetry, literary, and art criticism. He was first published at the age of thirteen, and his first book was published at the age of eighteen. Shapiro has taught at Columbia, Bard College, Cooper Union, Princeton University, and William Paterson University. He wrote the first monograph on John Ashbery, the first book on Jim Dine’s paintings, the first book on Piet Mondrian’s flower studies, and the first book on Jasper Johns’ drawings. He has translated Rafael Alberti’s poems on Pablo Picasso, and the writings of the Sonia and Robert Delaunay. Shapiro has won National Endowment for the HumanitiesNational Endowment for the Arts fellowships, been nominated for a National Book Award, and been the recipient of numerous grants for his work. Shapiro lives in Riverdale, The Bronx, New York City, with his wife and son.

Again, if you become aware of an event that isn’t posted above, please let me know. My apologies if I have left off anything of importance to any of you, but it can always be corrected in the next Vermont Poetry Newsletter.

That’s about it for now. Again, keep your eyes peeled for poetry events.  I hope this email finds you all with good health and sharp pencils.

Your fellow Poet,

Ron Lewis

The Seven Tales of the India Traders: The Third Day

Told on third day, after Pu-liang Yi’s Story of the Second Day

Sun

Said one trader to another: “Mistress Pu-liang Yi’s has left me as thoughtful as the nightingale that sings of nothing but thorns and roses. Let’s hear a fable of amusement!” Then the other traders agreed that they should hear Liang-chieh next.  “It has been good day for travel, let’s have a goodly fable to match it.

Liang-chieh’s Story

I cannot match Yün’s thoughtfulness and I do not have Mistress Yi’s depth of feeling. I am as shallow as a ditch. But you say I have humor and wit! Ha! Didn’t we see the sun until its very nose sunk into the southern plains and didn’t we see how the birds followed after it? When I was a child I wished to be a poet but my father said he would sooner clothe an ox in tailored silk than raise his son a poet. He made me a merchant, bless him. Here is my tale!

The Monkey and the Crane

“Ha!” said the Monkey. “Love is just a word!
“What good’s a thing that can’t be seen or heard?
“What use? You cannot shake it from a tree
“Or root it from the earth. What use to me
“Or anyone? The tiger still must hunt,
“And if you cry out “Love!” it will not blunt
“Her appetite. She’d eat me all the same
“And leave me no one but myself to blame!”

*

The Crane was next. She said: “I know
“That love will never melt midwinter snow.
“It is not rain to April buds or earth
“To summer growth. The measure of its worth
“Cannot be judged by any worldly art
“Yet love is life and summer to the heart.”

*

The Crane and Monkey were the last to speak,
Then Lao-tsu said: “I see that some are meek,
“The lion and tiger proud. The hummingbird
“Is quiet. The elephant is loud. A herd
“Of bison will uproot a field. A crow
“Will squat unnoticed even in the snow.
“As all of you must know I have two suns.
“When one is in my hat the other runs
“From east to west. When one sun sets I lay
“The other in the east to rise. This way
“The sun is out no matter what the hour.
“Yet I have had no time to pick a flower
“No time to rest beneath a shaded wood
“Or sleep. Sleep would be nice. So, if I could,
“I’d like to find out two from all of you
“To whom I’ll give my suns. Between the two
“The world should still have sunlight while I rest.
“I cannot say which one of you is best
“Yet given what each said on love I’ll choose
“The monkey and the crane—the two whose views
“Were most extreme. I find each sun a jewel
“And hope if either animal’s the fool
“The other may be wise. At least one sun,
“That way, remains—a better end than none.”

*

Though the other animals feared the worst
The Crane and Monkey stayed apart at first,
Just as the Monkey’s sun set in the west
The Crane was taking hers from out her nest.
By turns they kept the sunlight round the earth,
That was, until, the Monkey’s usual mirth
Made his sun seem the brighter one to him;
And so, one day, he swung from limb to limb
Until he found the jungle lake he knew
The Crane most liked. From there he climbed into
A nearby tree until she was in sight.

*

“Ha!” He cried. “Your sun is not so bright!
“I’ve seen mine up when yours is in your nest
“And even when mine’s setting in the west,
“Yours rising makes not half the fire of mine!
“This afternoon I’ll climb a mountain pine
“That’s stretched its limbs as far as heaven’s roof
“And there I’ll lift my sun to yours as proof
“That mine is like a plate of beaten gold
“And yours a tarnished copper dulled and old.”
“Oh!” the Crane replied. “I had not thought
“To set one sun against the other! Not
“Because I was afraid! It may be true
“That your sun’s brighter, just that I know too
“It is not light but warmth that brings forth life.
“Yet if it puts an end to any strife
“I’ll grant your sun’s the brighter of the two.”

*

The Monkey thought on this. “This will not do!”
He said at last. “It stands against all reason!
“As any fool knows well the hottest season
“Is when the sun is brightest in the sky.”
To which the Crane responded: “Then why not try
“Your sun against my own where all can see?
“The world be judge instead of you or me.”
“Agreed,” the Monkey said, “as long as they pick mine!”

*

Instead of finding out a mountain pine,
When it was next the Monkey’s turn to take
His sun, he put it back instead to make
It climb again (though now from west to east!);
And to be sure its backward motion had not ceased
He sat and watched until he saw each sun
Was climbing slowly toward the other one.
The animals had never seen them both
At once! The smallest hid in undergrowth
And those that couldn’t just as quickly ran
Into the jungle fearing the work of man.
The Monkey saw and jeered at every one.
“Ha!” He said. “I see that even tigers run!
“Why if I’d known it was so easy, I
“Would long ago have put them in the sky
“And left them there.” To which the Tiger said:
“You silly Monkey! Tell us why instead
“Of gloating, why you’ve put both suns together.”
“Simple!” said the Monkey. “Tell me whether
“My sun’s the brighter or the crane’s!” And when
The Crane came next the Tiger asked again
The reason but she said the same. ‘The two
‘Of us alone could not decide. We’ve come to you!’

*

Then all the animals began to talk
And there were some who even dared to walk
From underneath the jungle shade till one
By one the others came to pick a sun
Until, as with the Crane and Monkey, they
Were at a loss to choose and could not say
Which one was best. The Snake, the first to speak,
Said: “I’ve seen both already at their peak.
“If any one of you were made to crawl
“As I, you’d know the earth is cold. For all
“The light reflected in a field of snow
“There’s nothing lives for long where those winds blow—
“The earth is made no warmer by that light
“When even through the longest summer’s night
“It’s warm. I’ll take the moonlight in July
“To January’s sun!” The Owl said in reply
That she liked neither sun. She said:“I knew
The world without them, for then I flew
“And there was never sun to light my way.
“What needed I the sun to hunt my prey
“Who hears the fieldmouse toeing through the wheat?
“In the dead of night the tiger’s not so fleet
“As I! Let all this daylight be undone!”
To which the Tiger said: “I like the sun
“That burns the brightest burning like my heart.
“I like it glistering on the breath at start
“Of day or brightly watching like my eyes
“At evening from the fields before it lies
“In shadow. When it speckles through the tree
“Against the forest floor it looks to me
“As though a tiger left his paw prints there,
“Aglow, before returning to his lair.
“I like the sun that’s burning like my heart.”
The Elephant spoke next, saying: “I part
“With all of you in what you’ve said. Of all
“I can remember best and best recall
“A time when there was both a night and day.
“The dust I throw atop my back to stay
“The sun was what the night was to the earth,
“A cooling balm against that heat as great in worth
“As all the world’s waters. There is none
“Who live for long where there is only sun
“And wind. This world without the passing night
“Is like a desert, the sun like a blight
“And all reduced to dust. Surely we must drink
“To live, and sleep at night. I cannot think
“The world was always meant to have two suns.”

*

“Ha!” said the Monkey. “Where all this runs
“Is anybody’s guess. It should be plain
“By now the sun belonging to the Crane
“Is neither warm nor brighter than my own!”
To which the Crane replied: “I should have known.
“To teach a Monkey reason can’t be done!
“Why I could sooner teach a snail to run
“Or an ostrich to dance a roundelay!
“If nothing else this, at least, is plain as day!”

*

The Tiger interrupted both. He said:
“You’d better look into the sky instead
Where both your suns have nearly reached high noon!”
Then both the Crane and Monkey saw that soon
The suns would have to meet! As if to flee
The Monkey clamored to the nearest tree.
The Crane cried out and leapt into the air;
Both knew well there was little time to spare.
The Monkey climbed the limbs by twos until
The suns hung just beyond his outstretched hand;
And even when he did his best to stand,
His tail wrapped round the branches topmost stem,
He could not grapple either one of them.
The Crane, as quickly as she could, tried too
And strained against the winds until she flew
Beside the suns but then she could not choose.
She cried “I cannot tell whose sun is whose!”
And sure enough the Monkey could not say.
He pointed, scratched his chin, looked this way
Then that. And by the time they both decided
It came too late for next the suns collided!

*

So much light none had ever seen. And still
The sky grew brighter by the moment till
There came a sound as if two great bells
Had each been struck. Then like cockleshells,
Each thrown against the other mid-air,
The smaller of the two was shattered, there,
In countless pieces, scattered through the sky!
Not a creature dared to lift an eye
But stayed where each had fled and not a sound.
Just the Monkey who’d fallen to the ground —
Felled branch by branch until he’d struck the earth.
He checked if he was still his usual girth —
His head and then his bottom. All was there.
And looking he could do no more than stare.
His sun now glowed a thin and papery light —
A watery silver hardly half so bright
As what it was. He saw the sky aglow
As with a sparkling dust. It seemed as though
The brilliance of his sun was swept away
And all the pieces sprinkled through the half-lit day.
His fiery sun was gone.
And yet the Monkey thought he’d never known
A sight as beautiful as stars and moon,
And felt content to stare all afternoon.
“Ha!” That’s all the Monkey ever said.
Some held it came from landing on his head.
But others said they’d rather grasp the joke -
And though they tried the Monkey never spoke.
“Ha!” he said. That was all. The other sun,
Jolted from its westward course, had spun
Unbroken far into the southern sky.
Yet even so the Crane still flew close by
As if she feared to let it from her sight
Unless it whirl unwatched into the night

*

Lao-tsu didn’t see the suns collide
But napping in a meadow close beside
A brook he’d woken up to find a moon
And stars had splashed the fading afternoon
With light — some stars were falling from the sky
And some left sparkling trails where they passed by.
He rubbed his eyes before he looked again
And stared, his mouth agape, and knew by then
Some unknown mischief had unfixed the world.
It looked as if a giant’s rage had hurled
The sun as far as earth and sky still met.
He thought it seemed to topple there and yet
He still could see the crane against its light
Before it finally rolled into the night.
“Where are my suns?” he cried and rushed to where
He’d left them in the crane and monkey’s care,
Yet not a single animal would say.
The snake lodged underneath a rock to stay
Until the sun returned. The owl had flown.
The Tiger skulked the jungle’s dark alone.
The elephant recalled a darker night
Before the monkey’s sun had left its light
In splintered pieces. Alone among them all
The monkey sat absorbed by what he saw,
Unmoved from where he’d fallen from the tree.
He’d curled and propped his head against his knee
To watch the spinning stars. Lao-tsu cried:
“I see the crane fly south and thought she tried
“To catch the sun before it slipped away!
“I see, as with the remnants of the day,
“The night is dusted with a glittering light!
“I see a ghostly ball ascend the night
“As if it were the shadow of a sun!
“From this I cannot reason what you’ve done!”
The monkey only looked dissatisfied.
“Ha!” he said before he moved a branch aside.
Then Lao-tsu stared at him a little while
And could not say if it were simply guile
Or if the monkey also couldn’t reason why,
Till finally both sat gazing at the sky
Together with their backs against the tree.
There was a moon and countless stars to see.
Then he finally spoke once more that night,
He said: “The sky and earth will of themselves be right.”

“Ha!”

Here Ends Liang-chieh’s Tale

Followed by Ji-Yuan’s Story on the Fourth Day .

stamp-copyright-2009

As on a sunny afternoon…

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