Summer Reading Pile – PoetrySummer Reading Pile – Poetry

As a follow-up to my Summer Reading Pile – Fiction post, here is my list of poetry-related work that I’ve been reading and some from my TBR pile. Again, not full on reviews, but some comments and suggestions.

I recently finished “In the Palm of Your Hand” by Steve Kowit. This is a great book on writing poetry. I think my favorite thing about this book is the section on writing experimental poetry. He gives several exercises for loosening up one’s writing style and I’m working on a couple of poems based on some of his exercises. I highly recommend this book.

I also recently read Jane H. Fitzgerald’s “Notes from the Undaunted” which is a book of poems and photographs lovingly encompassing Jane’s husband’s fight with cancer. Jane and I recently met at a poetry open mic and wound up exchanging copies of our books when she found out that I am a cancer survivor.

The other day, I had to wait for a tire to be delivered for some work to get done on my car. I took the time to stop at the nearby Books-a-Million, which is always bad for my budget and good for my bookshelf. Several volumes of poetry came home with me. The first one, “Take Me With You” by Andrea Gibson is a quick and glorious read. Andrea’s poems are short and insightful. The book has three sections, On Love, On the World, and On Becoming. There are many poems in this collection that made me go “oooooh” in recognition and appreciation.

Next up in my TBR is “Wild Embers” by Nikita Gill. Just starting this and already love it.

After that is the brilliantly titled “The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One” by Amanda Lovelace. I’ve been meaning to pick up Amanda’s “The Princess Saves Herself in This One” but there was only one copy of the Witch left on the shelf and I couldn’t pass it by.

Also in the TBR is “Not Without Our Laughter,” an anthology from the Black Ladies Brunch Collective and “The Smallest Talk” by Michael McFee.

What are you reading? What would you recommend?

Summer Reading Pile – FictionSummer Reading Pile – Fiction

As many of us are in the midst of our Summer Reading Piles, I thought I’d talk about mine and make some other suggestions. I’m going to break this up into a list for fiction and a list for poetry. These aren’t full-on reviews, especially as some are still in my TBR pile.

The first book is Hard Time by Sara Paretsky. Over the years I’ve gone on “mysteries with female protagonists written by women” binges. Forgive me that I am way out of date on some of them. V. I. Warshawski is the protagonist of my favorites series. “Hard Time” is the 9th in the series and came out in 1999. As always, the story is great and V.I. is right on target. The series is still going strong and the newest book will be out in October (“Shell Game”)

Last weekend, I read Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs. This is book 10 in the Mercy Thompson series and is awesome. I describe Patricia Briggs’ urban fantasies as gourmet popcorn. When I get one, I just want to curl up on the couch with it until I’m done. Mercy is the queen of snark and I love the depth of the world that Briggs has built.

Etched in BoneI’m in the midst of Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop. This is the fifth book in the Others series. This alternate vision of our world, in which human beings are far from being the top predator, is marvelous. This world is detailed and the characters intriguing.

On my TBR list, I have several books that I found on lists on Unbound Worlds. Unbound Worlds is a great site for anyone interested in fantasy and/or science fiction. They have a batch of suggested books for different sub-genres. The books in my pile are “House of Stairs” by William Sleator, “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley , and “Gardens of the Moon” by Steven Erikson.

“Leviathan” by Neil Aitken – Review“Leviathan” by Neil Aitken – Review

Neil Aitken’s “Leviathan” (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2016) has an intriguing focus. This poetry chapbook is about Charles Babbage, considered by many to be the father of the computer for the work he did with his analytical engine. I bought this book because, as a software developer myself, I found the subject interesting, even though I knew relatively little about Babbage. “Leviathan” was a more than pleasant surprise.

Babbage was a scientist and mathematician. He saw the world through his calculations. On the other hand, he loved his wife and children. He outlived his wife and four of his children. The push-pull between an analytical, scientific approach to the universe and the needs of, and desire for, human connection is a struggle that is shown at a deep level. It is a conflict that was strong in Babbage but is not unknown in today. This is from the first poem in the collection, “Cast.”

“Just as the compiler now ponders like a god at judgment, weighing
each line of code with what it means or fails to mean.
How each casting of a thing engenders the creation of another.
Nothing is ever the same after translation, after the name
has been hefted, then posited to the waves. The dark world dimming
in its simple downward trajectory of terms, the endless run of zeroes
widening back to the farthest shores. This melancholy of form.
To be. To become. The shape of nothing, how it is skinned
and laid to rest. In the hour of our words and their departures,
we are captive here to whatever comes, whatever returns,
be it beauty or love, or the unfurled wings of their manifold ruin.”

Aitken touches upon the highlights of Babbage’s life, meeting his wife, her death, and other events, as well as his meeting with Ada Lovelace. Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, was the one to recognize the potential of Babbage’s analytic engine and is considered the first computer programmer. This is from “Babbage Circumnavigating the Room, Encounters Ada, 1833.”

“…And now, three-quarters of the way
around this milling mass, you find Lady Byron again, and the girl who asks
the most remarkable questions. Who stops you with a calculated word.
In her eye, the same fire as yours. The same urgency to be understood.
How is it that the poet’s daughter is so attuned to number, to the secret language
of order, the unheard symphony of the machine you have been composing
in your mind all these years? How is it that you know instantly that in her
beats the same heart of pain, the same proclivity for loss and disaster?”

All of the poems are written in couplets, some with a single line to finish. The lines are relatively long and it seems to give the words room to maneuver, allows the reader time to ponder Babbage and his dream. It’s masterfully done. I highly recommend this chapbook.

You may find “Leviathan” at Hyacinth Girl Press and check out Neil Aitken at his Facebook page.

R.I.P. Ursula K. LeGuinR.I.P. Ursula K. LeGuin

One of the legends of science fiction passed away on Monday, January 22, 2018. Ursula K. LeGuin was a strong pillar of my sci-fi universe. She was not afraid to take the tropes of the field and toss them out the window. To me, her feminism shown through her fiction without hitting anyone over the head with it. I’ve been meaning to reread (again) both “The Dispossessed” and “The Left Hand of Darkness,” which posits what happens when a human meets up with a world without gender. I’m also very fond of her translation of the “Tao Te Ching.” She approached that translation as a poet and a student of the Tao and her talent comes through. If you haven’t encountered her writing, treat yourself.

Ursula K. LeGuin obituary

Honoring Your RealityHonoring Your Reality

Gabriela Pereira talks about honoring your reality as a writer (DIY MFA Podcost #47, that is understanding that each person has their own way to be a writer. Sometimes what works for someone else isn’t going to work for you and what worked for you in the past might not work today.

I bounced up against something that made me take an unplanned time out. In August, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily, it was stage 0, but I still knew that I would have a bunch of doctor appointments, radiation appointments, and some surgery to deal with. I had been working on a non-fiction project and on poetry. I looked at all that and gave myself a timeout until the new year. Even though my available hours might not change much, and it wasn’t constantly on my mind, I felt like I had a balloon taking up space in my head. When the seed of a poem came to me, I wrote it down in my notebook for use later. By not putting pressure on myself to get writing done, I did still get several first drafts written. I gave myself permission to leave the book alone, and now that I’m past all the big stuff, I anticipate starting back up on it over the next week or so.

I think being gentle with myself was less stressful and gave me maneuvering room when I really needed it. It also means that I don’t see the book as a burden, which might have been the case if I made myself continue when my head was not in the space. So now, onward and upward!

My Writer’s Origin StoryMy Writer’s Origin Story

I joined the DIY-MFA Book Club this month and the first question/prompt is “How did you become a writer?”

I’ve said that my love of poetry comes from a mix of Mother Goose and Edgar Allan Poe. I remember sitting with my big book of Mother Goose poems and reading “The Lion and the Unicorn.” I knew that there was more to the story than what was told in that poem. Many years later, I learned that it referred to England and Scotland, but at the time, I just knew there was more. There were layers, there were symbols, even though I might not have known that word either. This fascinated me. Rhyme and rhythm and meaning all came together.

When I was eight or nine, my mother had a big Royal typewriter. It was on a table in my room. I remember standing there and typing out something, my first poem, although today I couldn’t tell you if I was more in love with the idea of writing a poem or just looking for an excuse to use that big, beautiful piece of machinery. I’m pretty sure the poem wasn’t very good, but also fairly sure that it is in a notebook somewhere in my basement.

In high school, I discovered “The Raven” and, like so many others, fell in love with it. Memorizing that poem helped me solidify my relationship with writing. It showed me the complexities of emotion on the printed page. While I’ve penned fiction and am working on a non-fiction book, poetry is my first love.


You may see a few odd posts, here or on other social media like Twitter, as I am doing some updates to the website and tying some functionality together to make life a bit simpler.

As we move from 2017 to 2018, I hope this finds you well. I have plans to include reviews of chapbooks in the coming year, so keep your eyes open. If you have a chapbook that you would like me to review, PM or email me.

Ghosts of My Own ChoosingGhosts of My Own Choosing

Flutter Press has published my first chapbook, Ghosts of My Own Choosing. I am extremely grateful to Sandy Benitez at Flutter Press for accepting my work and working closely with me this past week to get everything sorted out for publication. Please visit the Flutter Press website and check out the great poetry available there. My chapbook, as well as many others, are available for sale through the website.

Flutter Press
Ghosts of My Own Choosing cover