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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Samiya Bashir, Gospel

from RedBone Press
Gospel is an ecumenical resistance song in four parts. We enter at the crossroads, tripped up by trickster deity Eshu-Elegba. A chorus of crows, led by Norse god Odin’s raven messengers Hugin & Munin*, guides us into each movement. In this passionate follow-up to 2005’s Lambda Literary Award finalist, Where the Apple Falls, Bashir’s poems challenge truth to stare down the power of fear and paralysis.

"We intended gospel to strike a happy medium for the down-trodden," said gospel music pioneer Thomas Dorsey. "This music lifted people out of the muck and mire of poverty and loneliness, of being broke, and gave them some kind of hope anyway. Make it anything but good news, it ceases to be gospel."

The good news is that we are neither alone in our mess, nor alone in our grasp of the tools to heal. In this pull-no-punches collection Bashir lays down a road map, a portable flashlight, and a shaky-legged escort to usher the way toward recovered sight and strength.

Mosaic Magazine
Bashir gathers stories and language from a range of cultural locations and weaves them into the imagistic and sonic qualities of the poems. The Norse gods make a dramatic and cacophonous appearance and, in one of her most effective rhetorical moves, Bashir utilizes a Ghanian call and response sequence that both effectively heightens the drama and energy in the poem and then brings it to rest at its conclusion. The poems of Gospel are rife with layered meanings while they immerse the reader in a landscape that is both familiar and reassuring as well as deeply unfamiliar and strange.

Gospel, like all good preaching, is both deftly reflective and full of rafter-rattling truths. In a voice stamped with her definitive, soul-drenched signature, Samiya Bashir blesses us with a roadmap for the living of our fractured and uprooted lives, forcing us to take an unflinching look at faith and the way it’s defined. This is a grandmama-braiding-the-hair book, a rev-ripping-up-the-pulpit book, a book you'll constantly come back to for both beauty and guidance.
—Patricia Smith, author of Blood Dazzler

Luminous and deeply shadowed, at times gravely playful, and always intimate, Gospel sings through—and beyond—ancestral and personal terrains simultaneously mysterious and revealed, to achieve a richness that is both exhilarating and sublime. Here are movements that, through rhythm, language, and light, become exactly what the poet envisions: gospel.
—Thomas Glave, author of The Torturer’s Wife

--from Samiya Bashir dot com

Dawn Lundy Martin, A Gathering of Matter / A Matter of Gathering

from University of Georgia Press
Dawn Lundy Martin is scholar, poet, and activist.

Dawn Lundy Martin teaches in the MFA program at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and her PhD in literature at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, with a dissertation titled, “Saying I Am: Contemporary Experimentalism and Subjectivity in Poetry by Myung Mi Kim, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Claudia Rankine, and Harryette Mullen.” Her book, A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering: Poems (U of Georgia Press), was selected by Carl Phillips for the 2006 Cave Canem Book Prize. She has also published two chapbooks: The Undress (belladonna books, 2006) and The Morning Hour (Poetry Society of America, 2003), the latter of which won the Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. Dawn has published essays and poems in magazines and journals, including Crossroads Magazine, Nocturnes and Callaloo. With Vivien Labaton, she also co-edited The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism (Anchor Books, 2004), a book which both describes and theorizes current activist work in the U.S. She is the co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation (New York), an organization designed to “articulate a feminism appropriate to changing culture,” and she is a founding member of The Black Took Collective, an experimental performance art/poetry group. She has taught at Montclair State University, at the New School, and at the Institute for Writing and Thinking, Bard College.

Dawn Lundy Martin’s work is neither language poetry, which rejects the speaking subject, nor strictly lyric, which embraces the speaking “I.” It might best be described as poetry where, in the words of Juliana Spahr, “the lyric meets language”—both an investigation into the opacity of language and the expression of a passionate speaker who struggles to speak meaningfully.

Martin’s poems bend the form into something new, seeking a way to approach the horrific and its effect on the psyche more fully than might be possible in the worn groove of the traditional lyric. Her formal inventiveness is balanced by a firm grounding in bodily experience and in the amazing capacity of language to expand itself in Martin’s hands. She explodes any pretense at a world where words mean exactly what we want them to mean and never more nor less.

The poems are neither gentle nor easy, but they make a powerful case that neither gentleness nor easiness is appropriate in the attempt to contend with the trauma and violence that are an inescapable part of human history and human experience. Martin’s book acknowledges the difficulty but not the impossibility of utterance in trauma’s wake, and it ventures into the unimaginable at many levels, from the personal to the cultural.
Nicole Sealey - Mosaic Magazine

It is the leap, not necessarily the landing, that forces risk and invention. Martin has taken such a leap and, in the process, invented new ways in which to engage and experience language. A Gathering of Matter is an ambitious debut book of poems that does not consult with convention, but rather vehemently argues with it. And, there is something very elegant, ugly, honest, unpleasant and right-minded about Martin's reasoning... With ingenious forms that will test the patience of the most delicate reader of poetry, hers is a persuasive, alternative version void of pretension and artificiality. The authority with which Martin, a newly published poet, writes will astound readers and reviewers alike. And, by the likes of A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering, we can expect many more pleasant surprises from this promising, award-winning poet.
More Reviews and Recommendations
from Barnes & Noble

Adrien Matejka, Mixology

Selected for the 2008 National Poetry Series by Kevin Young

The poems in Adrian Matejka’s second collection, Mixology, shapeshift through the myriad meanings of “mixing” to explore and explode ideas of race, skin politics, appropriation, and cultural identity. Whether the focus of the individual poems is musical, digital, or historical, the otherness implicit in being of more than one racial background guides Matejka’s work to the inevitable conclusion that all things—no matter how disparate—are parts of the whole.

-- Penguin Books

Adrian Matejka is a graduate of the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is a Cave Canem fellow and his poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among other journals and anthologies. His first collection of poems, The Devil’s Garden, won the 2002 New York/New England Award from Alice James Books. His second collection, Mixology, a National Poetry Series winner (selected by Kevin Young), was published by Penguin in May 2009.

-- From the Fishouse

Thursday, December 24, 2009

tara betts, arc and hue

i've been introduced to the concept of the 'book trailer' and i'm fascinated by it. tara betts introduces herself to us as a poet, as a social media 'maven,' and an orchestrator of delivery with the various online outlets in which we can find her sincere work and warm certitude. welcome her book to the forever family of books:

Tara Betts, Arc and Hue
You can network with Tara Betts here
Willow Press

New Fiction from Elisabeth Sheffield: Fort Da

A psychological and linguistic exploration of obsession and illicit love.

While working at a sleep lab in northern Germany, Rosemarie Ramee, a 38-year-old American neurologist, falls in love with Aslan, an eleven-year-old Turkish Cypriot. To get closer to the boy, RR undertakes a "marriage of convenience" to the boy's uncle. But when the uncle suddenly disappears, Ramee, alone with Aslan, must take the boy to his relatives in northern Cyprus. A train journey ensues, chronicled in RR's psychological reports and neurological inquiries.

But what begins as an objective "report" breaks down as the story progresses: RR's voice, hitherto suppressed and analytical, emerges hesitantly and then erupts, splintering every conception of inner and outer lives, solipsistic reality, and the irrevocable past. Consistently surprising and unrelenting, Fort Da turns one woman's illicit affair into a riveting exploration of language and the mind.

Elisabeth Sheffield is the author of the novel Gone. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

This is Lemony Snicket retelling Lolita for an audience that insists it isn't already hopelessly tangled up in the essential American fairy tale. Fort Da [is] brilliant in a careless way, and written even better.

—Stephen Graham Jones, author of Led Feather, The Bird is Gone, Bleed into Me, and All the Beautiful Sinners.

A literary high–wire performance with stunning language. Sheffield makes psychological sense of an ‘aberrant’ sexual behavior and the condition of longing, along with a chase, a European travelogue, and a parody of academia.
—Stacey Levine, author of My Horse and Other Stories, Frances Johnson, and Dra–.

from the
University of Alabama Press

Selected for the 2009 Sawtooth Poetry Prize by Rae Armantrout

100 Notes makes use of multiple sources, and so is not merely a subjective account of violence and its effects, but also a research project. For example, I quote from such authorities on violence as Elie Wiesel, Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, Dostoevsky, William T. Vollmann, and Georges Bataille. I also include information from books and websites on issues such as childhood depression, child abuse, and gun control. I have also sourced material from many stories told to me in person, over email, or discovered in fiction and film. Included as well are events from the news.
-- Julie Carr (from
Author Statement)

100 Notes on Violence
Julie Carr
Ahsahta Press

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Split This Rock and Chris Abani

Split This Rock Poem-of-the-Week: Chris Abani

The New Religion

The body is a nation I have never known.
The pure joy of air: the moment between leaping
from a cliff into the wall of blue below. Like that.
Or to feel the rub of tired lungs against skin-
covered bone, like a hand against the rough of bark.
Like that. "The body is a savage," I said.
For years I said that: the body is a savage.
As if this safety of the mind were virtue
not cowardice. For years I have snubbed
the dark rub of it, said, "I am better, Lord,
I am better," but sometimes, in an unguarded
moment of sun, I remember the cowdung-scent
of my childhood skin thick with dirt and sweat
and the screaming grass.
But this distance I keep is not divine,
for what was Christ if not God's desire
to smell his own armpit? And when I
see him, I know he will smile,
fingers glued to his nose, and say, "Next time
I will send you down as a dog
to taste this pure hunger."

-Chris Abani
From Hands Washing Water (2006). Used by permission.
Chris Abani's poetry collections are Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon, 2006), Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne's Lot (Red Hen, 2003), and Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001). His prose includes Song For Night (Akashic, 2007), The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007), Becoming Abigail (Akashic, 2006), GraceLand (FSG, 2004), and Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985). He is a Professor at the University of California, Riverside, and the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize, and a Guggenheim Award. Library Journal says of Hands Washing Water, "Abani enters the wound with a boldness that avoids nothing. Highly recommended."
Abani will be featured at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, March 10-13, 2010, in Washington, DC. The festival will present readings, workshops, panel discussions, youth programming, film, activism-four days of creative transformation as we imagine a way forward, hone our community and activist skills, and celebrate the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for social change.
For more information:

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem-of-the-Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

Split This Rock