Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

Words, Words, Words: Our Poetry Publishers on Their Favorite Poetic Lines

In case you haven’t heard, April is National Poetry Month, and today, instead of highlighting the poets behind your favorite works, we’re turning to the ones who make it all possible: the publishers.

With an inundation of social media, chapbooks, and more, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of poetry that exists. That’s when we look to the publishers – the few, the brave, the mighty, who wade through lines upon lines to raise up the best and the brightest of voices. O! Those careful curators, who show us new poetry that crackles with potential and remind us of the old favorites we hold close in times of need. We are eternally grateful to the endless hours they spend examining word after word to feed our literary souls.

We reached out to a few of those helming modern poetry publishing to find outwhat moves them? What are their favorite lines of poetry?

boa logoPeter Conners, Publisher at BOA Editions:

“I loved you before I was born.”

Li-Young Lee, The Word from His Song (BOA Editions, 2016)

BOA Editions is located in Rochester, New York. Their latest book of poetry is The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay.

 

Chris Fischbach, Publisher at Coffee House Press:

“In the Johannesburg minescoffeehouselogo
There are 240,000 natives working.

What kind of poem
Would you make out of that?

240,000 natives working
In the Johannesburg mines.”

Langston Hughes, from the poem “Johannesburg Mines” (1928)

Coffee House Press is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their latest book of poetry is They and We Will Get Into Trouble For This by Anna Moschovakis.

 

copper canyon

Kelly Forsythe, Director of Publicity at Copper Canyon Press:

“Don’t listen to the words—

they’re only little shapes for what you’re saying,

they’re only cups if you’re thirsty, you aren’t thirsty.”

— Jean Valentine, from the poem “as with rosy steps the morn,” from Break the Glass (Copper Canyon, 2010)

Copper Canyon Press is located in Port Townsend, Washington. Their latest book of poetry is Alamo Theory by Josh Bell.

 

Rebecca Wolff, Publisher and Founder of Fence Books:fence

“Cosmic potential–and–actualization!”

Rodrigo Toscano, Explosion Rocks Springfield (Fence Books, May 2016)

Fence Books is located in Albany, New York. Their latest book of poetry is Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror 2 by Paul Legault.

 

manicdJennifer Joseph, Publisher and Founder of Manic D Press:

“It’s not how far you fall, but how you land.
Are you here for the sowing, reaping, or the dead?”

Justin Chin, from Gutted (Manic D Press, 2006)

Manic D Press is located in San Francisco, California. Their latest book of poetry is The Roots of a Thousand Embraces by Juan Felipe Hererra.

 

Brittany Dennison, Managing Editor at Wavewave Books (Seattle, Washington):

“Hell, I love everybody.”

James Tate, from Riven Doggeries (Ecco Press, 1979)

Wave Books is located in Seattle, Washington. Their latest book of poetry is Olio by Tyehimba Jess.

 

There you have it, folks. The most beloved lines of poetry from the people who’ve seen it all. Thank you, publishers, for all of your time, taste, and dedication!

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Remembering the Great C.D. Wright

wright

When Carolyn Doris Wright died on January 12, 2016, tributes galore spattered the big media: the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many more praised this fabulous poet, better known as C.D. Wright, who dared to “braid research, reminiscence, and reportage with ode and elegy,” as an eulogy in the New Yorker praised. But that was January, and C.D. Wright wrote poetry, that hardest of all sells in the reading world. As we embark upon National Poetry Month, how should we reflect on C.D. Wright’s legacy?

Strangely enough, C.D. Wright’s life and words may now be as relevant as ever, as we tread through an inundation of creative expression and a fierce battle for human rights. Wright used poetry as a tool to make sense of these realities.

C.D. Wright was born January 6, 1949, in Mountain Home, Arkansas, a community of roughly 2,000 overshadowed by the Ozarks. She was the daughter of the judge and the stenographer of an Ozarks courtroom. Her upbringing fueled her interest in current events that would run through her poetry. Wright’s later work was fascinated with the tense injustices of our times: One Big Self drew from Wright’s numerous visits inside Louisiana state prisons to react against the prison industry, and in Rising, Falling, Hovering, Wright addressed (among other things) illegal immigration. In the meantime, the MacArthur Fellow wrote many other collections, arguing for the importance of poetry as an art in its own right.

onewithothers Guernica interviewed Wright in 2012 about her early life and work, and discovered that the poet always thought she would end up in a “plainly useful occupation.” And she started that route too, going to law school for a brief time before dropping out to get her MFA. She wrote that “a few carelessly set mental fires [including] a fateful encounter with a poet my age who wrote in a lexicon known to the marrow of my bones, lit for me, poetry.” That poet was another legend coming into his own: Frank Stanford. The two met in the mid-1970s and started their own poetry press, as well as an affair that would last until Stanford’s early death. Of her relationship with Stanford, C.D. Wright was quiet, but his influence carried into her stunning work One with Others.

One with Others was published in 2011 by Copper Canyon Press, which also published the majority of Wright’s work later in life. In a combination of investigative journalism and poetry, Wright tells the story of her mentor “V,” a white woman who fought for civil rights in the Arkansas of the 60s and 70s. The title won a National Book Critics Circle Award and secured a National Book Award nomination. The book opens and ends with a line from Frank Stanford’s poem “The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You,” which puts in short form the continued need for open minds when it comes to race relations in the United States:

I want people of twenty seven languages walking back and forth saying to one

Another hello brother how’s the fishing

And when they reach their destination I don’t want them to forget if it was bad.

poet lionAfter One with Others, Wright published the lovely, ridiculous The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, el Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All on January 5, the day before her sixty-seventh birthday. This love song to poetics illustrates what Wright told Guernica in 2012: “Even though I get blatantly sick of poetry. . . I cannot for the life of me imagine my life without it.” Wright saw her world through poetry, using it to interpret reality, to cultivate compassion, as “My American Scrawl” hints:

“My American Scrawl” (excerpted from The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, el Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All)

Increasingly indecisive, about matters both big and little, I have found that poetry is the one area where I am not inclined to crank up the fog machine, to palter or dissemble or quaver or hastily reverse myself. This is the one scene where I advance determined, if not precisely ready, to do battle with what an overly cited Jungian described as the anesthetized heart, the heart that does not react.

Seven days after this collection was published, Wright died, leaving a forthcoming collection with the prophetic title, Shallcross to be published during this National Poetry Month, on April 26. In line with Wright’s intense engagement with the hard issues of reality, this collection includes a collaborative suite responding to photographic documentation of murder sites in New Orleans.shallcross

Poetry is relevant, poetry is imperative to understanding our times and ourselves. Wright herself said it best: “[Poetry] could still galvanize people during a crisis, but let’s just say, as I heard Heather McHugh tell an ample audience, there are two points at which poetry is indispensable to people—at the point of love and the point of death. I’ll second that emotion.”

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Celebrate National Poetry Month with 10 New Must-Read Collections

Only a decade ago, if someone asked you what you thought of poetry, you may have thought of dust-covered textbooks, of droning professors, and of lines that you read over and over and still were unable to fathom. Sure, there were the outliers—Plath, Neruda, Angelou. But for the most part, poetry got trapped in the Ivory Tower of Academia; where you needed at least one literature degree to be trusted (or even want) to really engage with the art.

But with the onset of the digital and information age, poetry is not only surviving, it’s thriving. Now poetry is diving headfirst into this new flood of possibilities provided by the digital revolution and the information age, and it’s flourishing. In the past few decades, poetry has evolved and diversified to the point that an art form once dominated by “old dead white guys” is now being reclaimed by poets of all identities, from all backgrounds and experiences.

In honor of National Poetry Month, and in honor of a new age of poetry by and for the people, we present to you a round-up of contemporary poets from leading independent publishers to both soothe and trouble the soul. Because, after all, as the late and great C.D. Wright once said, “Poetry is not like, it is the very lining of the inner life.”

night sky with exit1. Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press) is is Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection. Vuong’s poems use his characteristic gentle (yet incredibly dynamic) cadence to explore the things that make us human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, and war. Night Sky with Exit Wounds is the kind of book that soon becomes worn with love. You will want to crease every page to come back to it, to underline every other line because each word resonates with power. Ocean Vuong is hot right now, picking up steam with a Whiting Award win, a roundup in Teen Vogue, and a recent excerpt in the T: the New York Times Style Magazine. Night Sky with Exit Wounds publishes April 5.

2. Olio (Wave Books), by Tolioyehimba Jess, is an exploration of black musicians and performers from the pre-Civil War Era to World War I. If you’ve been wanting to get into poetry but haven’t been willing to give up the power, characters, and length of a novel, Olio is the book for you. Clocking in at a whopping 256 pages, Olio sings with the same musicality it describes, from jazz and blues to work songs and church hymns, as it dissects the legacy of minstrelsy and blackface through the personas of almost a dozen artists. Olio will be published on April 5.

3. Scattering The Dark: An Anthology Oscattering the darkf Polish Women Poets (White Pine Press), edited by Karen Kovacik, is a collection of over thirty women poets writing before and after the fall of Communism in Poland. If you’re the poetry aficionado that’s read it all, Scattering the Dark is for you. The poets muse on universal topics—dreams, art, what “home” means—while revealing what it means to be both a woman and a writer in a time when both identities were practically forbidden. It’s a lyrical window into a previously unseen world. Scattering the Dark will be published on April 12.

4. The Spoons In The Grass Are There To Dig A Mspoonsoat (Sarabande Books) by Amelia Martens is a book of prose poetry that packs a mighty punch for such a slim volume (64 pages, folks). Her writing is unassuming and unpretentious as, again and again, she reaches into the mundane and pulls out the extraordinary. The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat will be published on April 12.

the black maria5. The Black Maria (BOA Editions Ltd.) by Aracelis Girmay is a lyric of history, of heritage and violence, and of building new futures. Girmay writes unflinchingly of America’s long traditions of racism against African Americans, her poetry infused with both a slow-burning anger and the ache of longing. The crowning achievement of this book is a jaw-dropping long-form poem which weaves together stories from the youth of astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Girmay’s dreams of her own future child. In its first-ever poetry issue, O Magazine included The Black Maria in a sampling of “recently published gems of the genre.” The Black Maria will be published on April 12.

6playdead. Play Dead (Alice James Books) by francine j. harris is not for people who like to enter poetry and come out unchanged. harris’s writing is raw, gritty, and unflinching. Her words will reach into your very core as she spins together difficult and necessary lyrics with shreds of hope. Play Dead has been praised by everyone from Ross Gay, who “read these poems not knowing they were possible” to Publishers Weekly, who gave it a starred review. Play Dead will be published on April 12.

7. The Big Book Of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books) is a nbig bookew collection of poems by Jamaal May. If you know what it’s like to miss a step going down the stairs and suddenly find yourself breathless, you know what it’s like to read a book by May. You can feel May’s yearning tugging at you from the page. His poems are often narrative, but that doesn’t mean they’re lacking in subtlety and intricacy. May is a master of images, drawing new meanings with each turn of phrase. They’re the kind of poems you whisper to yourself over and over again. The Big Book of Exit Strategies will be published on April 12.

8. Out Of Print (City Liout of printghts Publishers) is the third book of poet and publisher Julien PoirierIf you’ve ever had trouble getting into poetry because it’s too stuffy and scholarly, Out of Print is the perfect solution. It’s raucous, it’s uncensored, and it puts on no airs as it tap-dances over the notion of “high-brow literature.” Out of Print draws equally from absurdism and pop-culture. Poirier’s poems will make you laugh until your stomach aches, only to suddenly pause and think, huh. Out of Print will be published on April 19.

9. New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tatu) (Akashic Books) containew generationns eight volumes of poetry from eight different poets from across the African continent, plus an introduction by editors Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. The chapbooks work together like instruments in an orchestra, their unique tones and timbres coming together to present a work that is magnificent, both as a whole and in each part.  It is a love song, a lament, a history, a future, and a tribute to what Abani describes as Africa’s “unending lineage of light.” New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tatu) will be published on April 19.

shallcross10. ShallCross (Copper Canyon Press) is Wright’s seventeenth volume of poetry and the first published after her passing on January 12, 2016. It’s safe to say that ShallCross is one of the most anticipated books of this year. Wright draws from journalistic techniques and filmic narratives to range across seven poetic sequences, including a collaborative suite responding to photographic documentation of murder sites in New Orleans. ShallCross will be published on April 26.

 

Technically, this title was published on March 15, but we love it so much that we couldn’t resist throwing it into the mix…

11. They And We Will Get Into Trouble For This (Coffee House Press) by Anna Moschovtheyandweakis, is a series of three long-form poems tied together by a fourth poem, which runs along the bottom of each page in the form of bracketed words and phrases strung together like a row of lanterns guiding you. Moschovakis writes with an honesty and simplicity that is at once concise and lyrical. She muses on heredity, mental health, and philosophy in a stream-of-consciousness that is impossible to look up from until you realize you’ve reached the back cover. Anna Moschovakis and her beautifully designed, beautifully written collection also made Bustle’s list of poetry collections to read for National Poetry Month, and you can get a taste of it from this poem, excerpted in BOMB.

Find out where to buy Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Olio, Scattering the Dark: An Anthology of Polish Woman Poets, The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat, The Black Maria, Play Dead, The Big Book of Exit Strategies, Out of Print, New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Boxed Set (Tatu), Shallcross, They and We Will Get into Trouble for This, and many more books here at the Consortium website.

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