Monthly Archives: April 2011

Of Poems and Awesome

Another blog post, you say? When will this bounty of awesome end, you probably don’t say? Well, I did just find out that my readership is up to 3 people (yes, 3!!! And each one gets an exclamation point) and I mustn’t keep the people from what they want. So, I decided that I would celebrate a very special event (okay, so I am going to go ahead and give away my oldness here, but does anyone remember Blossom and how in the later seasons every episode was a very special episode of Blossom according to the previews? Well, this blog is kinda gonna be like that, only actually special.) which is going on over at Women in REDzine (WIRZ)….We at WIRZ are hard at work putting together the very first issue of the newly revamped magazine. AND it’s a special staff only issue which means it contains so much awesome that I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t glow like the Lost Ark (well, hopefully, not quite like that as that didn’t end so well for people who saw it)….So, maybe, it’ll just give off this really impermeable air of cool…. But, anyways, before my mind drifts any further from the matter at hand….So, basically it will be the best thing ever that has been printed and bound, so if you my precious 3(!!!) readers happen to be at a festival where WIRZ is showcasing our awesome then you should most definitely pick up a copy.  Reading it will be the literary equivalent of climbing into a big, comfy chair with a  mocha and and a piece of marble cake with orange frosting (or, you know, whatever is your idea of bliss). It will contain some of the best fiction and poetry ever.

And this brings me to my actual topic: poetry. I hates it! But sometimes a poem is so freaking good that I, for a brief millisecond, won’t hate poetry. I feel ridiculously lucky to work on the staff of WIRZ alongside some of the best poets that I have ever had the luck to meet and to read. So whenever I think about how much I love their poetry I always come up with the question of why I hate so much of other poetry. When I was a kid I had tremendous love (see, I’m using the past tense, but please know that this love stays strong to this day) for Ted Hughes’ Ffang the Vampire Bat. I also have read Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf and verse translations of Le Morte D’Arthur. And I love them. But, the majority of poetry just strikes me as not something that I enjoy reading. And, what makes this hatred worse, is that I can’t figure out why I have it. Okay, occasionally, I’ll stumble across a poem that makes me want to race outside and jump up and down with absolute excitement, but that feeling is rare (the Paul Guest poem that begins “Almost I rushed from home to tell you this…” is one example of a piece that gave me this feeling). I have some poets who I adore, the aforementioned Guest, some of the WWI poets such as Ivor Gurney and Wilfred Owens, quite a bit of Alice Notley’s work, Jesse Ball, Ander Monson, most of Nick Lantz’ writing, but still…..I feel like I should really LOVE poetry. I write it, certainly, but I don’t like writing it. When I write poetry I’m always struck by how much it seems to be an act of exorcism for me. It’s like I’m not really even involved and, frankly, that disturbs me (did anyone see that old horror movie about the pianist whose hands turn against him? Yeah, it’s kind of like that). This, unfortunately, leads to me being unable to revise poetry in any way because I feel like I’d be revising the work of someone else… So, questions for my three(!!!) readers, are there poems out there that will make me change my mind about poetry? Is the fact that I’m being “possessed” by poetry more or less frightening then if I was possessed by a giant chipmunk? And should I go ahead and join PHA (Poetry Haters Anonymous) or can I solve this on my own?

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A really utterly absolutely incomplete book list

Okay, so I was asked by my dear lone reader to provide a book list of recommendations. As I tend to get a little carried away with book lists (and by a little I mean ridiculously). I thought that I should instead keep the list to 10 really excellent reads from the last five years. That should be simple enough, I thought to myself (not very brightly). So, here is my attempt:
1.) Apex Hides the Hurt By: Colson Whitehead. This is the first book that I read by Whitehead (after reading an essay he wrote for the New York Times and getting freakishly intrigued by his writing style). This is one of the rare books that has made me both laugh out loud (I refuse, absolutely refuse, to use “LOL”) as well as make me get a little choked up at the end.
2.) Ghosts and Lightning By: Trevor Byrne. I picked this book up on a bit of a lark (basically I always pick up books by new Irish authors) and quickly fell in love with it. Byrne manages to be simultaneously haunting, a little scary in a slow building sense of creepiness way, and hysterically funny. I didn’t want this book to end.
3.)Once the Shore By: Paul Yoon. Paul Yoon makes me want to stop writing. He uses language so beautifully and so effectively that it makes me furious that I can’t do it a tenth as well. It also makes me want to read his stories until the end  of time…
4.) Brodeck By: Phillipe Claudel. Did I completely understand this novel? No. But, this darkly fable-istic story is beautiful and startling and exquisite. Only read if you are willing to sob uncontrollably (yes, even ol’ heartless me was caught out by the imagery and emotion). It’s also a book that stays with you. I read it well over a year ago and I still find myself running through this book and stopping, sadly quite literally, in my tracks to consider something that I may have missed in my initial reading.
5.) Ray of the Star By: Laird Hunt. I read something else by Hunt and I thought ‘meh’. But this novel is so good that it makes me want to cry. Check out the run-on sentences that are phenomenally perfect and you’ll see why. Also, the shoes. The shoes! Just trust me. They are one of the best concepts ever.
6.) Tokyo Cancelled By: Rana Dasgupta. So, it’s basically Canterbury Tales at an airport. I have a fondness for frame story novels, it’s true. But, I still expect the stories to be kick-ass and Dasgupta delivers. There’s even one piece that is downright glorious: “The Rendezvous at Istanbul.”
7.) The Ministry of Special Cases By: Nathan Englander. Nathan Englander is a god! If, lone reader hasn’t read “The Twenty Seventh Man” then lone reader simply must run out and do so because it is one of the ten best short stories ever frakkin’ written! And this novel, while not quite the perfection of that short story, is still lovely and wonderful and amazing.Truly, Englander could walk up to me and slap me in the face and I would still say something along the lines of: “I love you! Sign my book!”
8.) In the Woods By: Tana French. Bad mysteries are like being forced to eat bitter melon soup (a torture too heinous to ponder for very long) but good mysteries make me insanely gleeful (yes, I have a bizarre fixation with mysteries. Seriously, I am devoted to BBC Mystery! It is my…My precious! [Okay, yeah, a lot of things are my “precious”. I am like Gollum’s totally less picky cousin—Cnc0eagol, but…] In fact, I will go ahead and recommend French’s entire mystery series so far.
9.) Kraken By: China Mieville. Mieville does to Urban fantasy what Proust does for writing about memory and Shakespeare did for whatever he was writing about.. He makes it sing. I think Mieville deserves to be in his own genre—The genre of AWESOME.
10.) The Wizard of the Crow By: Ngugi wa Thiong’O. This book is Thiong’o’s masterpiece. And trust me when I say that that is saying a lot.
Okay, so ten books was not nearly enough. Damn me and my need to give myself limits! There is not enough space in the world for all of the recent books that I wish to write not so poetically about. But can I just say: Neil Gaiman, Nadeem Aslam, Daniel Alarcon, Paul Guest, Kate Atkinson, Patrick Somerville,Alejandro Zambra, Jesse Ball, Ander Monson, Anthony Doerr, Kevin Brockemier (oh my gods I forgot Kevin Brockemier), Kelly Link, and now I am really going to stop myself, but—

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Lots of good news is good news

Okay, so second post, no more hiding behind the pretext of writing about what this blog will be about. Now I actually have to write something. So Women in REDzine (WIRZ) news, it is! This weekend saw me enjoying a cup of coffee while eating a slice of gingerbread carrot cake (this awesome carrot cake with dried cranberries and freshly grated ginger in it that is topped with an apricot-orange frosting) and somehow the WIRZ news is just as exciting (thought I was going to say “more exciting”, well then my love for carrot cake has just not been expressed enough). WIRZ staff are getting the AMAZING (and awesome, take that EIC) chance to meet with Jensine Larsen. Jensine is the lovely and wonderful founder of World Pulse magazine. World Pulse is a magazine which focuses on global women’s issues. I am ridiculously proud that WIRZ will get a chance to meet Jensine and I am also proud to push this magazine to anyone who accidentally (looking for pint cupcake, were we? Mmm…. That reminds me I still need to try out my new recipe for Stout cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting) reads this blog.

AND, there is more WIRZ excitement. The staff of WIRZ have been invited to participate in Baraboo, WI’s Summerset Festival of the Arts 2011. This is exciting not only because it gives me another chance to hang out with the staff of WIRZ (who are seriously the bestest people ever) but we get to push WIRZ while doing it!

Since this blog has been all goodness I might as well keep that up: The Celtics are still in the playoffs and I know that they will crush Miami when needs be (but, I have a small, I’m sure irrational fear, of the Bulls). There is a new Colson Whitehead novel coming out later this year which makes me smile uncontrollably. Hey, accidental reader, if you’ve never read anything by Whitehead then please go out and do so as he is one of the greatest writers ever. There are few authors who have never published anything that was less than perfect. Whitehead is one of those few.

Plus, I’m working on my post-apocalyptic novel (my epic, which will never see the light of day) and I’m actually making progress.

Hmm…All of this good news makes me want to cook. So, perhaps a baked pasta and carrot salad with black bottom cupcakes for dessert is on the horizon.

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Helloooooooo!

I think that first blog posts should probably include some sort of information about the blogger…A sort of disclaimer, so that when ten blogs down the line you find out that I use the word “frak”, qoute Lord of the Rings incessantly, and discuss coffee in excruciating detail, you really can’t say that you weren’t warned. And then everyone (that one sole reader who isn’t me comprising “everyone”) stops reading.

So some facts: this blog will, of course, be about pints and cupcakes. But also about cooking and baking, writing and the creative community of a Wisconsin college campus, my work as Assistant Editor in Chief of the AMAZING Women in REDzine, and the nightmare process that is applying to MFA programs this coming fall.

And, now, if you need (really simply must) know some random facts: I like magicians, Rasheed Wallace, Bright Eyes, Terry Gilliam films, Battlestar Galactica, Neil Gaiman, and mochas. I live with an evil cat that is not mine. And I’m in love with the staff of Women in REDzine. Seriously, this magazine will be the best thing ever to exist.

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