a pic & a review

so the other day i saw my book in a bookstore! pegasus, on solano ave. a rare occurrence. but at least my book is nestled comfortably between my girl mary oliver and my boy stanley plumly. click on image to enlarge.

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my review of javier o. huerta’s some modifications y otros poemas is now live at THE ACENTOS REVIEW. if you dont own this book, you must! buy it here.

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Wednesday Website Wars 3: Clarence Major vs. Major Jackson

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so please do comment on the post below, but in my haste i totally forgot that today is wednesday! which means website wars! and since in the post below i mistakenly types ‘major jackson’ instead of ‘clarence major’ i thot we might compare their websites. in the last website wars, ‘roz’ made a comment about the ‘personality’ presented thru the websites–so we’ll add that to our list of what we consider. again, a reminder:

same rules: which author website do you like better and why. or, if you are not into competitions, tell me one thing you like about each. or, if you havent had your morning coffee yet, tell me one thing you dont like about each. let the fun begin!

major jackson

vs

clarence major

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Contest-ing Race, Activist Judges, Numbers Trouble?

things have been hectic over here with school and a few achiote press projects, but i did want to respond to pam’s comment (below) and i do hope other will chime in if you have a chance 🙂

first, pam writes: though I don’t think National Poetry Series can really be fairly compared to Cave Canem or Kundiman or Andres Montoya. these orgs/contests are explicit in their charter to promote writers in their respective communities and are therefore activist by definition.

this is, of course, true. my point in the comparison was to exaggerate one possible consequence suggested by ethnic judges choosing non-ethnic writers. this also points to my reference to (clarence) major, who was the judge of the cave canen prize who did not choose a winner (nothing was good enough i suppose–tho i dont know the circumstances). so even in an org/contest that is supposedly ‘activist by definition’, aesthetics trumped identity. or, perhaps, aesthetic activism trumped identity-based activism.

the reason i find this annoying is that i would wager (tho i havent done the numbers trouble) that 95% of all poetry contests in the united states are judged by white poets. would you agree with this number? has someone already looked at this? of course, there are still many ethnic writers who would submit to these contests and win them–but i know many folks just won’t submit to a contest judged by a white poet, even if the aesthetics might relate. so when ethnic judges do judge open contests it creates a interesting phenomenon. no doubt, more ethnic writers will submit to this contest. no doubt, the judge’s choice will be more scrutinized.

think about the 2009 Walt Whitman Award, judged by Juan Felipe Herrera. i know there was a lot of buzz about that year’s award because it was the first time since 2002 that the contest was judged by a writer of color. and is it any surprise that the last ethnic writer chosen was also in 2002 (komunyakaa chose sue kwock kim)? anyways, what i want to note is not that herrera chose a latino poet (J. Michael Martinez–who wrote the dialogue mentioned in the post below), but that Martinez’ book was a finalist from the year before. apparently, his book was the first that won the year after he was finalist. so clearly, his work is amazing–but why didnt it win the year before? and what wouldve happened if herrera chose a white poet? is it so much different than major not choosing any winner?

pam also writes: the expectations of NPS are different. ideally the playing field there should be wide open, separate from allegiances to identity-based communities. in reality of course, the field is never totally open and other allegiances (collegial, style- or aesthetics-based) come into play. historically each judge/press supposedly represents a particular “aesthetic,” and the resulting selection supposedly represents the “aesthetic diversity” of poetry from that year.

the NPS is strange to me. here’s their statement of purpose from their website:

The National Poetry Series is a literary awards program which sponsors the publication of five books of poetry each year. The manuscripts, solicited through an annual Open Competition, are selected by poets of national stature and published by a distinguished group of trade, university, and small presses.

The specific purposes for which this organization is incorporated are:

— To add in a meaningful way to the number of poetry books published each year, making possible books which might not otherwise be published by providing both financial support and assistance in the process of manuscript solicitation, selection, and promotion.

— To support poetry and increase the audience for poetry by heightening its visibility among readers, broadening publisher involvement with its publication, and increasing booksellers’ willingness to display and promote it.

— To give American poets of national renown in the identification of emerging or less well-established poets.

— To provide the conditions and mechanisms for a group of trade, university, and small press publishers to work together on the promotion and marketing of five poetry books each year, thus providing a structural model for collective literary publishing ventures.

this does not necessarily suggest “aesthetic diversity”…but the NPS does present a kind of “publishing diversity”, which does lead to some aesthetic diversity & sometimes ethnic diversity. and i wonder how the participating presses are chosen? why not alternate presses every year?

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more on the rest of pam & barbara’s comments soon.

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Identity/Aesthetics

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wanted to post the three comments from below to continue the discussion here. please feel free to comment.

comments in response to this:

“attention to all esteemed poetry prize judges of color: you are supposed to choose writers of color as the winner of the prize you are judging! hello & WTF! jk

Barbara commented:

Oy! Yeah it’s that thing: not all authors of color are activists, widening the opening into the literary world for their respective communities. OR perhaps they try very hard not to appear as if they are using their positions for the benefit of their “friends,” don’t want to appear “small,” and here I use “small” the way Jamaica Kincaid does in A SMALL PLACE.

csperez said:

haha i am too much of a young’in to remember foetry.com 😉indeed, not all authors of color are activists. soon, the cave canen or kundiman or andres montoya prize will be awarded to a white poet! jk. yeah, it’s a tough position for a judge of color. damned if you do damned if you dont.

AND TODAY, Pam commented:

well, “damned if you do damned if you don’t” is right.

though I don’t think National Poetry Series can really be fairly compared to Cave Canem or Kundiman or Andres Montoya. these orgs/contests are explicit in their charter to promote writers in their respective communities and are therefore activist by definition. the expectations of NPS are different. ideally the playing field there should be wide open, separate from allegiances to identity-based communities. in reality of course, the field is never totally open and other allegiances (collegial, style- or aesthetics-based) come into play. historically each judge/press supposedly represents a particular “aesthetic,” and the resulting selection supposedly represents the “aesthetic diversity” of poetry from that year.

I feel like that last paragraph sets up a problematic dichotomy btwn “identity” and “aesthetic” that I feel genuinely torn about. on the one hand I want there to be spaces for both the activist promotion of writers of color and other minority writers, and the (non-activist? or “purely” artistic?) promotion of various aesthetics, quite possibly some historically under-represented aesthetics. but under our current institutional systems it seems like these spaces are necessarily divided and separate. on the other hand, I hate going back to that infamous 1980s Silliman comment (which he’s since revised and redacted in various forms) where he declares a dichotomy between identity-based, narrative lyrical writing (read: non-aesthetic poetry) vs. formally innovative, non-narrative non-lyrical writing (read: aesthetic poetry). naturally there are tons of writers associated with CC, K, AM and elsewhere who defy this categorical exclusion. and now that we’ve all read Tim Yu’s book we also see that aesthetic schools can be just as identity-based in their po-politics self-positioning as ethnic communities.

I’m glad to see Martinez and Windholz reclaiming the narrative lyric as a vehicle for both aesthetics and activism. no movement that has the political in mind can possibly reject the content of “the stories that need to be told” and hope to stay relevant to the world.

so I’m thinking about Barbara’s comment to the post below, and I’m thinking yeah, the question really is about this line between the aesthetic and the political. if students are reading radical poetry purely on the basis of form, then it’s probably the fault of the instructor who isn’t framing/contextualizing the text effectively. on the other hand, some people will try to divorce form from content (either explicit content or other implied expressions of content) no matter what, and so you will always get monstrous hybrids like neo-con poets inspired by Language writing or businessmen aping Audre Lorde.

but, but, but… I still believe/want there to be spaces for “pure” aesthetic experience, apart from allegiances to a particular school or community. political formations are dependent on the group, but I want writing & reading (some writing & reading at least) to be dependent on the individual. ergo narrative lyric.

*the reference to “narrative lyric” comes from this post.

b’s comment to that post:

Hm, still sorting this out and may blog about it soon if I have time. Reminds me of something Joel Brouwer wrote on the Poetry Foundation blog – in a comment not a post – about how some/many of his students are attracted to language poetry and avant garde poetries, for purely aesthetic reasons, and not for political reasons. So that’s one big thing: the disconnect *manufactured* btwn poetic and political concerns. I tend to wonder though, if this means avant garde poetries are being taught in a flawed way (i.e. educators stripping the poetries of their political significance) OR if it’s the students doing this in their reception of the texts.

Now, in terms of that “narrative lyric,” I have a question: does that meandering Billy Collins style poetry that always starts with the I, meandering through some mundane thing and into a profound realization – does this qualify as the narrative lyric? If so, then I think of this more of a mainstream poetry phenomenon rather than something predominantly poet of color.

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Department of WTF

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so i’ll keep the voting open for the Battle below. and will draw up the discussion from 2 posts down in a bit. for now, wanted to throw a few WTFs around.

the first comes from the wonderful poet John Yau’s review of Michael Gizzi’s new book from Burning Deck (i’m also currently reviewing this book). now i love yau’s work, but this review deserves a big fat WTF, especially this most unfortunate passage:

“(Here I would like to make a small aside. Recently, I was in Berlin for a poetry festival. After all the readings were done, we were invited to have dinner in the cafeteria of the Akademie der Künste, where the readings took place. Rita Dove, the former poet laureate, sat at a small table with her husband and two friends, and didn’t talk to anyone else, while Rosmarie sat at a large table surrounded by people, many of whom were meeting her for the first time. She was cheerful, friendly, and open.)

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so apparently northeastern university has canceled their contest ! WTF! usually if a press is in trouble they start a contest! here’s the thing: with the proliferation of contests and the economic difficulties of submitting to 20 contests a years, contests have to contest with other contests–especially hurt are the small contests from whos-heard-of university presses (i’m sure univ cuts are in play here as well).

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speaking of contests, WTF is up with Tupelo downsizing their 10,000 Dorset prize to a mere $3000 dollars! i was planning to win this prize next year but now forget it! those fancy pants french flaps dont make up for it! here’s what they say:

“A note from the publisher about our Dorset Prize cash award:

As the economic upheaval continues to take an enormous toll on all publishers, particularly nonprofit literary presses, we have decided that, for the time being, it does not make good sense to offer a $10,000 award for the Dorset Prize as in recent years. We must husband all of our resources in order to honor commitments already made, and to enable us to make further commitments to superb manuscripts. When the economic climate shows a marked improvement — when we begin to see significant increases in book sales and nonprofit giving — we will, of course, consider restoring the Dorset Prize to $10,000. Meanwhile, we believe that $3,000 represents a substantial honorarium for a writer, especially combined with the editing, design, printing, and distribution of one of our extraordinary volumes of poetry. The Dorset Prize continues to offer a fitting and substantial award to a deserving poet. This continues to be the preeminent open poetry award.”

Besides the Dorset Prize, Tupelo has three other prizes: chapbook, First Book, and July Open Submissions ($25). four contests in all!

(don’t be fooled: the july open submissions is simply a contest (by any other name) without the $10,000, i mean $3,000 award)

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attention to all esteemed poetry prize judges of color: you are supposed to choose writers of color as the winner of the prize you are judging! hello & WTF! jk

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Wednesday Author Website War Round 2: Cathy Park Hong vs Sandra Beasley

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before reading, please do check out this post, where barbara has made an interesting comment–feel free to respond and i will respond also.

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so as you might remember, i recently finished my review of cathy park hong’s DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION, which won the barnard women poet’s prize. so i became curious as to who won the most recent barnard prize. the winner was: sandra beasley! i read some of her poems online, and they are fantastic–perhaps she will be kind enough to send me her books! i’ll trade!

so let’s battle. same rules: tell me which author website you like better and why. or, if you are not into competitions, tell me one thing you like about each. or, if you havent had your morning coffee yet, tell me one thing you dont like about each. let the games begin!!!

cathy park hong

vs

sandra beasley

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Department of WTF

*

so i’ll keep the voting open for the Battle below. and will draw up the discussion from 2 posts down in a bit. for now, wanted to throw a few WTFs around.

the first comes from the wonderful poet John Yau’s review of Michael Gizzi’s new book from Burning Deck (i’m also currently reviewing this book). now i love yau’s work, but this review deserves a big fat WTF, especially this most unfortunate passage:

“(Here I would like to make a small aside. Recently, I was in Berlin for a poetry festival. After all the readings were done, we were invited to have dinner in the cafeteria of the Akademie der Künste, where the readings took place. Rita Dove, the former poet laureate, sat at a small table with her husband and two friends, and didn’t talk to anyone else, while Rosmarie sat at a large table surrounded by people, many of whom were meeting her for the first time. She was cheerful, friendly, and open.)

*

so apparently northeastern university has canceled their contest ! WTF! usually if a press is in trouble they start a contest! here’s the thing: with the proliferation of contests and the economic difficulties of submitting to 20 contests a years, contests have to contest with other contests–especially hurt are the small contests from whos-heard-of university presses (i’m sure univ cuts are in play here as well).

*

speaking of contests, WTF is up with Tupelo downsizing their 10,000 Dorset prize to a mere $3000 dollars! i was planning to win this prize next year but now forget it! those fancy pants french flaps dont make up for it! here’s what they say:

“A note from the publisher about our Dorset Prize cash award:

As the economic upheaval continues to take an enormous toll on all publishers, particularly nonprofit literary presses, we have decided that, for the time being, it does not make good sense to offer a $10,000 award for the Dorset Prize as in recent years. We must husband all of our resources in order to honor commitments already made, and to enable us to make further commitments to superb manuscripts. When the economic climate shows a marked improvement — when we begin to see significant increases in book sales and nonprofit giving — we will, of course, consider restoring the Dorset Prize to $10,000. Meanwhile, we believe that $3,000 represents a substantial honorarium for a writer, especially combined with the editing, design, printing, and distribution of one of our extraordinary volumes of poetry. The Dorset Prize continues to offer a fitting and substantial award to a deserving poet. This continues to be the preeminent open poetry award.”

Besides the Dorset Prize, Tupelo has three other prizes: chapbook, First Book, and July Open Submissions ($25). four contests in all!

(don’t be fooled: the july open submissions is simply a contest (by any other name) without the $10,000, i mean $3,000 award)

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Wednesday Author Website War Round 2: Cathy Park Hong vs Sandra Beasley

*

before reading, please do check out this post, where barbara has made an interesting comment–feel free to respond and i will respond also.

*

so as you might remember, i recently finished my review of cathy park hong’s DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION, which won the barnard women poet’s prize. so i became curious as to who won the most recent barnard prize. the winner was: sandra beasley! i read some of her poems online, and they are fantastic–perhaps she will be kind enough to send me her books! i’ll trade!

so let’s battle. same rules: tell me which author website you like better and why. or, if you are not into competitions, tell me one thing you like about each. or, if you havent had your morning coffee yet, tell me one thing you dont like about each. let the games begin!!!

cathy park hong

vs

sandra beasley

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS: ACHIOTE PRESS & KUNDIMAN READING 9/17/09 at UC BERKELEY

Dear Friends of Achiote Press,

You are invited to Part 1 of an exciting poetry reading and collaboration between Achiote Press, PAWA, & Kundiman:

Readers: Joseph O Legaspi, Oliver de la Paz, Ching-In Chen, Debbie Yee, and Neil Aitken

Where: UC Berkeley at the Barbara T. Christian Room, 554 Barrows Hall
When: Thursday, Sept 17th
Time: 11:30: Chapbook & Book Sale and Light Reception // 12 – 2: Reading

UC Berkeley Campus Map (Barrows is in D4 quadrant of map): http://berkeley.edu/map/maps/large_map.html

This reading celebrates the publication of Achiote Press’ newest chapbook-anthology: “Here is a Pen:” An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets, edited by Ching-In Chen, Margaret Rhee, and Debbie Yee (the cover is pictured above)

Chapbooks will be available for purchase at the reading. All proceeds will go to Kundiman.

Kundiman is a dynamic arts organization dedicated to fostering Asian American poetry. As part of their mission, Kundiman provides a retreat for emerging Asian American poets at the University of Virginia every summer.

Special thanks to: UC Berkeley’s Asian American Studies Program & Asian Pacific Islander Working Group

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Reader Bios:

Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of Imago (CavanKerry Press), winner of a 2008 Global Filipino Literary Award. Born in the Philippines, he currently resides in Manhattan and works at Columbia University. A graduate of New York University’s Creative Writing Program, recent works appeared in Callaloo, North American Review, Poets & Writers, New York Theater Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gay & Lesbian Review and the anthology Language for a New Century (W.W. Norton). A recipient of a poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts and an Urban Artists grant, he co-founded Kundiman (www.kundiman.org), a non-profit organization serving Asian American poets. Visit him at www.josepholegaspi.com.

Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry, NAMES ABOVE HOUSES, FURIOUS LULLABY (Southern Illinois University Press), and the forthcoming book REQUIEM FOR THE ORCHARD which was selected by Martin Espada as the winner of the 2009 University of Akron Poetry Prize and will be available in the Spring of 2010. He is a recipient of grants from the Artist Trust of Washington and from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He teaches creative writing at Western Washington University and is the co-chair of the Advisory Board for Kundiman.

Debbie Yee is a trusts and estates attorney, Kundiman fellow, arts enthusiast and crafts explorer. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, OCHO, Fence and The Best American Poetry 2009. She received her undergraduate and law degrees from UC Berkeley. Debbie blogs irregularly at www.debbieyee.com.

Neil Aitken is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review and the author of The Lost Country of Sight, winner of the 2007 Philip Levine Prize. His poetry has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, The Drunken Boat, Ninth Letter, Sou’wester and many other literary journals. He lives in Los Angeles where he is currently pursuing a PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.

Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart’s Traffic and a multi-genre, border-crossing writer. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is a Kundiman, Macondo and Lambda Fellow. A community organizer, she has worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Boston. Her work has been recently published in journals such as BorderSenses, Rio Grande Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, OCHO, Iron Horse Literary Review, Water~Stone Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, Verdad and the anthology Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves. A co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities, forthcoming from South End Press, Ching-In is currently in the process of editing an anthology on gender, militarism and war from the perspective of women and non-gender-conforming people of color. In Riverside, California, Ching-In is a member of the Save Our Chinatown Committee, a grassroots organization focused on the preserving the archaelogical heritage of Riverside Chinatown.

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Part 2 of our collaboration features another wonderful poetry reading on Saturday, September 19th. Details here:
http://pawainc.blogspot.com/2009/09/pawa-arkipelago-reading-series-saturday.html

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