Jam Tree Gully: Poems by John Kinsella
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It is a pleasure to thoroughly enjoy a book so different from anything you would normally read. I have a tendency to read the poets from the contemporary American South (where I live), but this time I dove into John Kinsella’s rural landscape of Western Australia where I still found myself feeling at home.
The dedication and table of contents of “Jam Tree Gully: Poems” set up a chronology of place. Kinsella’s poetic speaker is moving to the Australian countryside where he and his family must contend with the wildness of nature as well as the urban (and/or unsavory) parts of life sneaking in to their Walden.
My reference to Walden is no mistake because even if Kinsella never quoted from Thoreau (he uses several quotes as epigraphs for this poems), you’d still get the sense of the man trying to find peace with nature that definitely resonates with the famous essayist.
Kinsella is skillful as he plays with free verse, rhyme and intricate word play. It is hard for me to pick a favorite piece because this is a pretty good sized poetry book with a wide variety of poems, but I want to mention “Greedy after this gossip” because it is so fun to read out loud: We don’t need to meet each other // to know each other. Sheep at goats far down low / are suddenly bleating at your door though // nowhere to be seen.
I found myself writing down page after page that I enjoyed, especially in the first 3/4 of the book (which is impressive) but the final 1/4 seemed to become a bit repetitive which is pretty understandable given the heft of the volume at over 150 pages, but stick with it to the end. You will enjoy the journey, the landscape and especially the Red Cloud poems that close out the collection.
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My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In high school one of my English teachers wrote a Pat Conroy quote on the board. I don’t recall what the assignment was in relation to the quote, but I knew I had to read the book. The quote was from “Prince of Tides” (paraphrase): My wound is my geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.
Maybe a 15 year old shouldn’t have been reading “Prince of Tides” but it was the book I needed to read at the time. I had been writing (or attempting) to write in response to the books I loved as long as I could remember, but there was something about the beauty that came out of a dysfunctional childhood in Conroy’s writing that made me feel I had something I could share.
Granted, my teacher seemed kind of annoyed that I read the book. Or maybe that was my perception. Perhaps I gushed too much. Perhaps she didn’t believe that I didn’t have a typical home life since I was in a higher level English class (no I wasn’t physically abused as Conroy discusses in his books and in the reading memoir I’m getting to…) because I had also been admonished that the stories I wrote weren’t real enough, yet, they were almost always autobiographically….
In a round about way what I’m trying to say is that Conroy’s fiction touched me when I was young and I almost came to tears reading how authors like Thomas Wolfe did the same for him when he was young. I also found myself jealous of the amazing teachers he had and the import of those relationships (positive ones).
If you love to read, love memoirs, and/or are a fan of Conroy I think you will enjoy this book. I really found it moving (and physically beautiful – great artwork) and I may pass it on to someone, but I’m tempted to keep it in my greedy, reading loving hands
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Last week I mentioned a mission that Bryan Borland, the publisher of my chapbook Fat Girl put me on: Make a soundtrack for your book! Now Bryan isn’t one to do something he hasn’t done so he had examples of two soundtracks for his book My Life as Adam. One was by a reader and the other he created.
I asked if anyone had suggestions for a soundtrack to Fat Girl and I received a little bit in the way of suggestion, but mostly I found my own. I didn’t end up putting down lyrics (and/or video links) for all the poems, but see what you think. It was a fun project!
Now that I’ve posted this, if any of you come up with other suggestions let me know and I’ll change the post!
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a quick fun read! I have read almost all of Maureen’s books now and this one did not disappoint. Scarlett is a somewhat naive character that you really can’t help but fall in love with. On the writing side, the first chapter should be a great example to writers on how to set up characters. All in all a fun read and I’ve added the second in this series to read.
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I really want to make a book trailer for my upcoming chapbook but finding the time has been a bit beyond me. Although, I did have a few moments to put together a writing prompt based on the upcoming chapbook over at Writing Prompts for Writers. Maybe if I was watching a little less TV? I really don’t feel I watch that much but I did rewatch the 80′s movie The Boy Who Could Fly because I thought I might work on an essay about it for another blogsite. I ended up not writing a complete essay, but I fell in love with the movie all over again in all its cheesy wonderfulness. It is on Netflix streaming.
Speaking of cheesy (and video) I also watched The Man on Earth which a student suggested to me. It feels like a play that was converted to film, but it isn’t. The philosophical discussions in it, however, were pretty fascinating. Maybe a little too corny (and slow moving) to use in school though . . .
And, before work, I have fit in a few funny YouTube videos including one with everything you ever wanted to know about Honey Badgers:
Or how about a video about the worst typos? thanks to the Green brothers of vlogbrothers again
For some miscellany: Recently I’ve also added Linkedin and Pinterest to my online presence. You can find the links in the sidebar or on the about page if you haven’t tried those sites out yet. And, I’m happy to have a shout out on Robert Brewer’s blog as he thinks about the submission process because I actually did submit some work finally after about a month of not doing so and I’ve had some acceptances so Yay!
Now – do I have a poem to post today? because I post and you can post and we can chat about the poems and then take them down a week later . . .
How about a short one as I try out the Korean form Sijo again.
–and my short poem is gone!
So – what have you guys been up to?
This is my third year of making a literary shopping guide. I really wish I’d had time to make it a bit earlier, but there is still plenty of time to shop; then again maybe you are just watching this list for items after Christmas once you have your gift cards and holiday cash . . .
Full Length Poetry Collections
Chapbooks and Magazines
A Variety of Prose
Here are my shopping guides from 2009 and 2010 if you are curious to see what I was reading and/or suggesting in previous years.
Of course, I have written books, too In fact – if you pre-order my next chapbook An Amateur Marriage and let me know before let’s say 12-15-11 then I will send one of my other books (your choice) to the gift receive of your choice! I’ll sign it, make it out to them, put it in a cute envelope perhaps….you let me know.
And VAST apologies to any of the awesome books I read this year and couldn’t fit, didn’t quite remember while typing (cause my memory is SOOO not that great!) this
There are a ton of great things going on with Sibling Rivalry Press (publisher of my chapbook “Fat Girl” but I wanted to mention two things; one of which I need help with!
First up is a reading that poet Megan Volpert has set up for Sibling Rivalry writers in April. Megan’s book, btw, is now on pre-order at Sibling Rivalry so you might want to mosey on over to order a copy.
Bryan, the founder of Sibling, has also asked his writers to come up with playlists for their books. Think of it as a soundtrack. Bryan has two examples of how this worked with his own book. One that someone else did and another he did for himself.
So, dear readers, what I need/want/hope is that you’ll help me come up with a playlist for “Fat Girl.” You can leave suggestions in comments or you can drop me an email and I’ll compile the list and make a new post to share with you. I’ll leave this request (DJ calling for all requests!) up for at least a week, but I’d love to have your responses ASAP. You can just send me suggestions for one poem or for multiple poems. You may want to stop by Smashwords to look at the poem titles (and see a few poems). That is where you can get the e-book version of FG.