Category Archives: Poetry reading

Poetry Book Reviews: Goodwin and Swartwout

I’ve been doing some more reading again lately. Here are two poetry books that I swooned over.

In Caroline Goodwin’s new poetry collection, the elegiac The Paper Tree, language seeks to locate and identify. This is where and what, the poems seem to say. The mood can be mournful, commemorative, meditative.

Images from nature are seeds blown into the wind by the poet in an act of claiming. The urgent need of the poems, intense as it is, ebbs for a moment when hope soars for “a new kingdom . . . where the need to name the shape / does not even exist.” For now, the kingdom itself does not exist, but the glimpse of it has been noted.

Ultimately, the outward gestures of naming and sowing images lead to a necessary inwardness: “hold out your hands / open your heart / here’s where the world slides in.” The Paper Tree will present you the world if you open yourself to its wonders.

 

Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, Susan Swartwout’s latest poetry collection, finds the beauty and pathos in the oddities of life. Family history, carnival performance, time spent in Honduras—the subjects are varied, which further emphasizes that our lens can be adjusted to spot the strange and wonderful—or the pitiful—anywhere we look. The language is gutsy, the images sometimes grotesque and sometimes mystical. I found this collection impossible to put down, and poems like “Five Deceits of the Hand” where “we” are betrayed into aging and death thrilled me with jealousy.

Friends vanish like misplaced directions

into skies you used to claim. Age begins

sucking your bones until you lean shriveled

into the mouth of harvest.

In case you’re worried that the book ends on a dark or depressing note, the last word is salvation. I guess you’ll have to read the book to see if that means things work out ok or not.

###

Maybe I finished my diamond poem (the one I mentioned in Typical Tuesday). Letting it rest right now.

I used #amwriting as a tag this week because I started looking through my memoir manuscript with an idea to restructuring it AGAIN. This is so insane. But look at it this way, what happens over many decades has to be structured in a way that is easy for the reader to follow and stay engaged. Most memoirs take place over a much briefer period of time (is briefer a word?), but the story I want to tell begins at least when I was 11, but truly long before I was born, and doesn’t end until this past decade. PULLING MY HAIR OUT.

Which reminds me that I wanted to share that Perry is in absolute love with his hairbrush. Yup. He hugs it.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing Talk

Sunday Compulsion: Luanne Castle (Why I Write) — O at the Edges

Thank you to Robert Okaji for interviewing me for his beautiful poetry blog. He made me think about one of the hard questions . . . .

Welcome to “Sunday Compulsion,” in which creatives answer one question: Why do I create? Here’s poet Luanne Castle: When I pondered why I write, my mind flipped the question to why I don’t write during so many fallow periods. There have been so many reasons over the years: school, work, social life, teaching, raising kids. It’s not that I […]

via Sunday Compulsion: Luanne Castle (Why I Write) — O at the Edges

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Filed under #AmWriting, Family history, Inspiration, Kin Types, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing, Writing Talk

Reading from Doll God and Kin Types

If you happen to be in the Phoenix area this Friday, please come hang out with me at {9} The Gallery! There will be an open mic, and then I will read from Doll God and Kin Types. I’ll have copies of Doll God to sign for a discounted price of $10 (regular $14).

Link to info: Caffeine Corridor Poetry feat. Luanne Castle

This series is pulled together by the wonderful Phoenix poet Shawnte Orion.

Let’s hope I don’t screw up too badly.

Make it a great week!

 

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Filed under Arizona, Book promotion, Doll God, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Reading, Writing, Writing Talk

The Place of Poetry: Tony Walsh Understands

Can we think about the place of poetry in our world? After listening to (watching, also) Tony Walsh share his stunning occasional poem “This is The Place,” I do wonder what people think about the importance of poetry (an occasional poem is written for an occasion). Not that many hours after the tragic bombing outside the Manchester Arena, poet Walsh recited a poem that gripped me with its significance and intensity.  Listen here if you have not yet had the opportunity.

Notice how his rhythm and, yes, rhymes, work to fire up the pride and hometown love of the people of Manchester. The poem takes the power away from the terrorist, away from those who want to harm our civilization, and gives it to the people of Manchester (and in a way to all of us for our hometowns). This is one of the powers of poetry: that it can allow us to assert our own power.

Poetry is power. Poetry is political. Poetry is today, this minute, right now.

But do people understand that? Maybe I’m imagining it. Because I looked at a different youtube clip of the same event and look at the comments from people! They are a mean, small-minded crowd, waiting to be thrown more and more red meat. Wait for it: the coliseums will be built.

Most of the comments on that clip are hideous. They completely miss it all.

But all is not lost. These commenters seem to understand.

What IS the place of poetry in our world?

 

* If the tone of commenting changes on any of these that will change the story, of course.

My prayers are with Manchester and, in fact, with us all.

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Filed under Poetry, Poetry reading, Writing Talk

Guess Where Perry is Now?

Don’t tell my mother, but Perry moved in here Friday evening. She told me once that she didn’t think she should tell anybody I have five cats because it was embarrassing. I know what she would say about six, even if #6 is a foster cat and not for keeps. I simply cannot have another “foster failure,” which is where the person fostering the cat cannot give him/her up and adopts the cat. My five old cats would not forgive me for that.

Since he got here, it’s been exactly four days.  This is how he looks now, in his 3 tier cage (identical to the one at the shelter) and in his little cat den.

 

The room Perry is in is quiet, and he has a window, although he hasn’t seemed to notice it yet. He eats, drinks, and uses the litter box when nobody is looking. He moves between his cat den on the bottom floor and the top shelf which has a little thin blanket around part of it so he feels secure.

Notice how he looked at the shelter. See how his ears were flattened. Now they are raised up more and one of them faces forward and the other partially forward. His whiskers might be a bit more relaxed. When I hold a treat and offer it to him he actually looks as if he is considering it now. Slow baby steps, but I think we’re moving forward.

AT THE SHELTER

Most of my time with Perry is spent with me lying on the floor on two big pillows, reading poetry to him. We just finished the March issue of Poetry, which we both enjoyed although two of the poems confounded me (but not him). I also read him a poem Dianne Gray mentioned: “THE TRIANTIWONTIGONGOLOPE” by C. J. Dennis.

Perry doesn’t require a lot of attention, but I try to go in with him every couple of hours or so, if I am home. After all, the way he will become more social and attached is by our interaction.

Closing comments because this was just a little update. Hope your week is a happy and healthy one!

 

 

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Filed under Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Poetry reading

If You Were Stranded on a Desert Island Would You Have Any Poetry Memorized?

In fifth grade, we had to memorize a poem and recite it to the class. I loved doing that (like that shocks you) and won second place for “A Fairy Went A-Marketing” by Rose Fyleman. I was ticked off that I didn’t get first place and told myself that it was because my poem was longer than the one recited by the girl who took first place. Hahaha. Actually, I don’t know how she did because we had to go in the hall and recite our poems privately to the teacher. This was a kindness on her part, but it would have been great to listen to all the poems.

When my kids were little I had a handful of poems I’d memorized by accident that I used to recite to them with all manner of sound effects and gestures. One of my favorites was the “Double Double Toil and Trouble” passage from MacBeth. I also loved “The Spangled Pandemonium” and “Keep a Poem in Your Pocket,” as well as a couple of e.e. cummings poems. But after fifth grade, I was neither required nor encouraged to memorize poetry. A generation or two before my time students were routinely required to do so.

In that way, they would have literature to keep them company if they were stranded on a desert island or taken as a POW. Memorization of literature is good for the mind in a way that Google can never be good for us. Here’s just one article about the subject: Why We Should Memorize.

I’ve also heard that poets who recite their own poetry at readings, rather than reading them from the page, are electrifying performers. The thought of that terrifies me. What if my mind goes blank?

AS IT SO OFTEN DOES AS OF LATE. Either my brain is suffering from an overload of iPhone, iPad, computer, and social media–or it’s starting to decay. That is why I now can be sure to complete only one poem from beginning to end without ever reading it. And it so happens that little Perry loves to listen to it ;).

THE SPANGLED PANDEMONIUM

 

by Palmer Brown*

 

The Spangled Pandemonium

Is missing from the zoo.

He bent the bars the barest bit,

And slithered glibly through.

 

He crawled across the moated wall,

He climbed the mango tree,

And when his keeper scrambled up,

He nipped him in the knee.

 

To all of you a warning

Not to wander after dark,

Or if you must, make very sure

You stay out of the park.

 

For the Spangled Pandemonium

Is missing from the zoo,

And since he nipped his keeper,

He would just as soon nip you!

I figure Perry imagines himself as the Spangled Pandemonium, wanting to nip all of us if we go after him after he breaks out of his cage and the shelter.

*I tried to look up Palmer Brown and although he wrote five books for children and apparently lived from 1920-2012 I couldn’t even find an obituary for him!

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Children's Literature, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Poetry reading, Writing

Find Poems Here!

Two copies of the new issue of CopperNickel arrived in my mailbox. This beautiful journal is housed at the University of Colorado, Denver.

I have a prose poem in it about a woman getting a divorce in 1895. It is based on, among other information, two newspaper articles. The woman was my great-great-grandfather’s sister.

 

A feature of this journal that is particularly special is that they ask all contributors to recommend other books of poetry. I recommended Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello’s book Hour of the Ox. Her collection won the prestigious Donald Hall Prize for Poetry in 2015–a well-deserved honor. Her book seems to me to be an excavation into what was, what would have been, what could be and could have been, and what isn’t. Marci, who in the past has published a poem called “Origin / Adoption,”  is a Korean-American poet who might be inventing a family in her first book. I find that all interesting because of my sympathies for adoptees and for anybody searching for their origins.

Here is a little taste of her lines:

Counting the breaths in the dark, my fingers crept lightly

across the floor and against my father’s calloused palm,

willing his lifeline to grow long as a stream

of tea poured green and steaming and smelling of herbs.

(from “The Last Supper”)

I’ve also recently read other books of poetry I want to recommend.

Nandini Dhar’s Lullabies Are Barbed Wire Nations is packed with lively and vivid prose poems. I found their form to be a great choice because of the narrative energy of the book. Lots of stories in here!

The Well Speaks of its Own Poison, by Maggie Smith, follows in the path of poets like Anne Sexton who explore the dark shadows of the fairy tale world to create magical poems.

I fell in love with Wendy Barker’s One Blackbird at a Time because every poem is about teaching literature. They re-created a world for me that I once knew so well. Anybody who has ever taught English or anybody who majored in English will probably feel the same way. You have to have a little familiarity with some of the more well-known texts read in the classroom: Whitman, Thoreau, Dickinson, Williams, Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop, are a few of those mentioned. These are the opening lines of a poem that is a tribute to Bishop and her poem “One Art” (the formatting is completely off here; I can’t get WordPress to do it properly!!!):

It’s a perfect poem, I say, and though no one

In the class is over twenty-five, everybody

nods. They ‘ve all lost: the Madame

Alexander doll fallen into the toilet, silky

hair never the same, the friend who

moved away to Dallas, a brother once again

in juvie. So many schools—thirteen in

a dozen years—I lost each friend I made

till grad school.

 Notice the doll, too. That leads me back to–wait for it–Doll God ;).

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Filed under Book Award, Book Review, Books, Doll God, Literary Journals, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Reading, Writing

My Poem about Mac-the-Cat at Katzenworld

Hi everyone, Please find below the latest entry in Purrsday Poetry by Luanne Castle. Cat on the Window Seat The old cat cases through the glass a long-tailed lizard scuttling across stones, twisting side- to-side, sending stones down the gravel hill to the quail cocking its headgear, which flushes the rabbit that springs off […]

via Purrsday Poetry: Cat on the Window Seat — Katzenworld

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Poetry reading, Writing

Book reminiscing: Doll God by Luanne Castle

To celebrate this charming and personal review of Doll God by Robin at her blog, I am offering for one last time a donation event to receive a free copy.
For one lil ole donation of a minimum of $10 to Home Fur Good no-kill animal shelter in Phoenix, you will receive a signed copy of my book and a cat or elephant charm with free shipping (and tax write-off from the shelter).
My book is valued at $14 and the charm at $5, plus I am picking up the shipping myself. All I am asking is that you donate a minimum of $10 (for shipping to US address!!! (For international, please email me to discuss shipping costs). Feel free to donate more if you can, but only one package deal per person, please.
CLICK HERE TO DONATE: Home Fur Good donations

Go here for full details including how to email me the information.

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image

I read my friend from Michigan’s book,

“Doll God,” over a period of days.

Luanne Castle heads off on some

interesting, curious, twisted paths

in numerous directions taken.

Natural, mystical and physical

worlds inexplicably melded,

in her 2015 prize-winning

book awarded by the ~

“New Mexico – Arizona

Book Awards.”

All found within a collection of

54 deeply moving, tense and

alternatively relaxing, poems.

I had wished to write with parts

of each poem originally to intrigue

and entice you with snippets

but we had to cut back

featuring several instead.

Partnering up with my mother,

past 30 year teacher of high school

English, World Literature and Spanish,

we tackled thought-provoking poems.

Floundering a bit in our lack of abstract-

thinking abilities, both more practiced

in concrete-level of comprehension.

Quick summaries may also

provide clues to what hidden

gems may lie underneath the

piles of pages, like leaves, which

hold…

View original post 796 more words

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Filed under Book Review, Doll God, Dolls, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Writing

Talkin’ Poetry

Talkin’ trash here is more like it. So. You know how I’ve been working on poems and flash prose based on my research into my family history? Well, I have been. I’m working toward a chapbook–maybe 25 pieces.

One of my favorites was taken by a new magazine that looked great. They had one issue out with some excellent and even well-known poets, and I loved what I read, so I was excited for the 2nd issue with my poem in it. It was due out in December.

It’s now April and has not yet been published. And they don’t respond to my emails or my tweets.

If they had to fold, I feel bad for them, but it’s so unprofessional to accept work for an issue that will never be and not to notify the writers. I did send an email accepting their acceptance, so am I stuck now with a poem I can’t send out elsewhere?

I say NOT THE CASE. They seem to have broken any possibly contract that could have existed. But I was happy to have half my already-written pieces accepted and now this sets me back. I need another acceptance to catch up to that halfway point ;).

If I’m not going to name the offending journal, I guess I’m not even talkin’ trash, right? I’m just talkin’ poetry.

 ***

In 2004 I wrote a poem that took honorable mention in a competition that had an interesting reading venue. The poems that placed or were awarded honorable mentions netted their poets invitations to read at Carnegie Hall.  That impressed me. I always wanted to play Carnegie Hall, but I thought you had to be a musician! I was not able to attend, sadly, and that meant that somebody else read this poem on my behalf.

Super Nova

 

After the fires came mudstorms

Bulldozing bodies into the mix.

Weeks spent crumpling like dying stars,

Families’ children into science,

Into candlelit commiseration.

Pressure builds in a cauldron

With boiling tar, the three virtues tied

To a wheel and beaten with rods.

Small skulls of infants and bonobos

Commix in the pasteurized fields.

These offerings burst into flame

Larger than Santorini.

Rebuilding over brick, concrete, bones.

And the moon moves farther from us.

The event that inspired the poem was a horrific mudslide in San Bernardino County on Christmas 2003. Nine children and five adults were killed as they ate their holiday luncheon.

***

Weirdly, although it’s National Poetry Month, I picked my memoir manuscript back up last week. I feel a little split down the middle . . . .

Handsome (and mild-mannered) Rex dreams of a loving home in Arizona

@ Home Fur Good

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Filed under #AmWriting, Flash Nonfiction, Literary Journals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry reading, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk