Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Minter’s Five Writers’ Journals That Illuminate the Writing Process

A Walk Between Heaven and Earth, A Personal Journey on Writing and the Creative Process by Burghild Nina Holzer (Three Rivers, $15.00)
Written as a journal, this book is about using a journal to help with the creative process of writing. It is beautifully written and there are also Buddhist elements.

Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton (Norton, $15.95)
A master of journal writing. This bestselling book shares the beauty and challenges that accompany being alone. She's a master at capturing daily life with all of its delights and sadness.

A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf (Mariner, $16.00)
This classic book shows the life of a writer unlike any other, both the internal and external experiences. In it, we see how she uses her journal to create material or as a way to respond to her world, relationships, and reading life.

Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck (Penguin, $14.00)
Written as letters to his editor at Viking, this illuminating book shows, on the left side page, his writing about the process and on the right side page, the actual finished book’s corresponding pages. A fascinating look at the creative process at work.

Daybook: the Journey of an Artist by Anne Truitt (Penguin, $17.00)
The journal of an artist coming to terms with herself and her responsibilities as an artist, recreating the demands of domestic life and motherhood.

October 2011, Minter Krotzer

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Janet’s Five Safe Picks for October

Not to be confused with other “safe activities,” safe books refer to those appropriate to reading while eating spaghetti or relaxing in a hot tub. I am not a sitter so eating and bathing are my times to indulge in my love of a good read.

Rub-a-Dub-Dub by Jan Jugran (Innovative Kids, $12.99)
Now this is not the most engaging plot but it is a perfectly safe read for potentially messy areas. Complete with three float-along pink pigs; one might choose to share this with a toddler of choice.

Creep! Crawl! by Amy Pixton (Workman Publishing, $4.95)
This series of truly indestructible books are charmingly illustrated. Intended as a supplement to a story line of your choice, they are chew proof, rip proof, nontoxic and 100% washable. Enjoy creating a fantasy for you or your baby.

Moonlight on Linoleum by Terry Helwig (Howard Books, $25.00)
One of the benefits of working in a bookstore is access to ARC’s (Advance Reader’s Copies). Terry Helwig’s memoir describes the triumph of hope over an early life of desolation. A safe read during all risky activities since with these free ARC’s, there is no return policy and no economic risk; sometimes one discovers a gem.

Wreck this Journal by Keri Smith (Penguin, $13.95)
Enjoy yourself by writing and spilling anything you desire. This journal encourages unique additions.

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro (Vintage, $15.00)
A second benefit of working at Big Blue Marble Bookstore is being able to borrow new books to read at home and return spotless. Alice Munro’s current collection of short stories is heartrendingly engaging but definitely NOT a safe read unless you’re actually sitting in a comfortable chair while you navigate the risky emotional landscape of her work.

October 2011, Janet Elfant

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Five Books Erica Eagerly Anticipates This Month

Ooooooh, kids! This month some of my favorite authors are droppin’ mad science! I will clarify. Usually, when I say “mad science” I am being very literal. I am talking Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lloyd’s bats@*t crazy Doc Brown from Back to the Future. But in this instance I am being idiomatic, using the Urban Dictionary definition of “droppin’ science” which is “to rhyme, or say or do something original or unique, especially when rapping or in music.” So this October happens to be when several of my go-to authors release new work. They will continue, as is their wont, to do something original or unique, and consequently blind me with SCIENCE!

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje (Knopf, $26.00)
Release Date: October 4
There’s a lyricism about Ondaatje’s writing and a beauty to his prose that makes me want to take any journey with him—especially this latest one chronicling a young boy’s voyage on a ship bound for England and the rag-tag band of boys seated with him at the titular table.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28.00)
Release Date: October 11
Last I saw Eugenides it was a few years after The Virgin Suicides and just before Middlesex and the Pulitzer Prize. I thought: this dude has style, from the rolled cuffs of the dark-wash jeans he was wearing, to the unexpected first-person plural narrative voice of The Virgin Suicides. I’m curious to see what his first novel in almost 10 years looks like, concerned as it is with the marriage plot—that weathered old chestnut at the heart of many a great English novel which chronicles courtship rituals (traditionally) between men and women on the way to the altar.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, $25.95)
Release Date: October 18
I’ve been a fan of Whitehead’s since The Intuitionist, his genre-bending exploration of racial congress and upward social mobility set within his brilliantly imagined, cutthroat world of elevator inspectors. Now that he has set his sights on deconstructing the post-apocalyptic zombie novel, I am all a-flutter.

In Other Worlds: Science Fiction and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese, $24.95)
Release Date: October 18
Sometimes Canada gets it right: maple syrup, hockey and the venerable Mags Atwood. What can you say about the woman who’s given us some of the greatest science fiction on the planet? This collection brings together heretofore unpublished lectures, essays and reviews in which Atwood discusses her relationship to the genre.

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, $30.50)
Release Date: October 25
At 944 pages, Murakami’s latest is being touted as a magnum opus. It’s his take on Orwell’s 1984, set in Tokyo in the same year and it follows the adventures of a young woman who discovers a parallel universe. Personally, I’d like to see this tome duke it out in a three-way death match with two other massive, recently-released tree-killers, Reamde by Neal Stephenson and A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. It has some serious weight, literary and otherwise, to throw around.

October 2011, Erica David

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Poetic Profile: Harriet Levin Millan

 1) How would you describe your poetry?

My poetry is hard to describe because it varies from book to book. I wrote my first book after grad school, (University of Iowa Writers Workshop) so I guess I was responding to what I learned there and trying to subvert that in some way. My second book was written also as subversion, largely as a response to a reviewer of my first book, who said I should stop looking out through the "lens of rape." At first I was horrified when I read this statement. I thought, "Oh yeah, right, I do that too much." Then I thought, "No, no, I don't do it enough."

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

 My poetry is my everyday. I think about poetry all day long. Instead of calling the book of my life PROZAC NATION, I would call it POETRY NATION, because I'm always carrying around lines in my head. Even though I write sitting down at a table or desk, I often take walks or walk with my dog and keep writing the poem as I'm going. I'm very interested in not just describing the physical world but entering it. The poetry I like best is what I call "inside-out," meaning that their is not longer a separation between the writer and her subject. The following lines that I wrote recently illustrate this concept: "Hopeful the artist wasn't/and on my bike ride amid cars I hear/the screeching that is not confined to the road/but surrounds art/especially when the artist enters/the cluttered shade of her garage/where her first brush/was a kiss..." These lines are from a poem about the artist Eva Hesse called "Eight Legs," which was the title of the final sculpture she made as she was dying from a brain tumor. The reason I think these lines illustrate the "inside-out" concept is because it's hard to tell from them where the subject of the poem starts and the object of the poem begins. In other words, is this poem about Eva Hesse or the speaker of the poem? A preoccupation of mine, since I was a teenager has always been how to get two people to take up the same space in terms of absolute understanding, and I think all of the poems I write seek to resolve this proposition.

 3) What poets and/or authors inspire you?  

The poets who inspire me are contemporaries, because I like to read what's fresh and new, but probably to go back to less contemporary voices, Elizabeth Bishop more than anyone else, because I love poems that are very physical yet are completely subjective in the way I've explained above and Bishop is a pro at this.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

The community in Philadelphia takes up my head space and since I live in Philadelphia, it's the place I write about. If I lived elsewhere, I'd be writing about that place. I don't usually write a lot when I travel. I need to have a long-standing relationship with a place.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

 The last book that I enjoyed was Martha Silano's THE LITTLE OFFICE OF IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. It's published by Saturnalia Press and I'm on the Board of Saturnalia so I helped read the manuscripts that became the finalists for the Saturnalia Book Prize, Martha's book among them. Her poems achieve the "inside-out" idea that I've talked about above in really cool ways, such as the final poem in the book which is an Ode to Gravy. Garrison Keillor chose "Ode to Gravy" for inclusion in his Poetry Almanac, so see, it is really good.

Prize winning poet Harriet Levin Millan is the author of two books of poetry.  Her debut collection, The Christmas Show, was chosen by Eavan Boland for a Barnard New Women Poet’s Prize. That book also won the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award.  The Philadelphia Inquirer named it a Notable Book of the Year. Her second book, Girl in Cap and Gown was a 2009 National Poetry Series Finalist. A PEW Fellowship in the Arts Winner in Poetry and a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, she co-directs the Program in Writing and Publishing at Drexel University.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poetic Profile: Iain Haley Pollock

1) How would you describe your poetry?

In general, I’m interested in poetry that acts as a witness and either tells a story that needs to be told or in the lyric mode, captures a feeling or mood that helps me understand what it is to be human in this time and place.

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

Most days I have a chance to teach, write or read poetry.  But even on the odd day when that doesn’t happen, I find that poetry often pervades my idle thoughts.  I’ll find myself playing with poetic lines in my head or evaluating experiences to see if I can mine them for poetic purposes.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you? 

My parents gave me a poetry anthology, I Am the Darker Brother,  when I was young and those poets continue to inspire me: Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, and especially Robert Hayden.  In graduate school my professors introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop and Hayden Carruth.  And some of the faculty from the Cave Canem workshop remain strong influences on my work: Elizabeth Alexander, Cornelius Eady, and Carl Phillips.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

Philly is a great poet’s town, and not only because it’s cheaper than it’s East Coast cousins. All the brick & rust could easily be construed as decay, but I find something beautiful, in an almost nostalgic sense, about the Philadelphia landscape and how the people here constantly reinvent different spaces.  But I’m most interested in human stories, and the (often eccentric) sights, sounds and stories of my neighbors move me to write.  My poems are littered with pit bulls, washing machines abandoned in lots, the exclamations of my fellow Philadelphians, cobblestone streets, folks riding the 32 bus, wasps nests, gunfire & sirens in the night.  On some level I want readers, now and in the future, to know the experiences and emotions of living in Philadelphia during the uncertainty of the early 21st century.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
I recently finished Robinson Jeffers’ Selected Poems.  This summer while on vacation, my wife and I happened to stay around the corner from Jeffer’s old place, Tor House, in Carmel, California.  Some of the language in his poems seems antiquated now – he was writing in the early to mid-20th century but purposefully evokes an earlier time – but when his poems worked for me, their awe at the power and permanence of nature humbled me and gave me a renewed sense of the brevity of human life.

Iain Haley Pollock lives in Philadelphia and teaches English at Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy. His first collection of poems, Spit Back a Boy (University of Georgia, 2011), won the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Pollock earned a bachelor's degree in English from Haverford College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University. He is a Cave Canem Fellow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jen’s Five Arguments Against Jingoism

Ten years after the fall of the World Trade Center, there are two particular moments that stand out for me. One was the bewildering electronic sign on rt. 76 in Philadelphia which read “AVOID MANHATTAN”. The other was the reaction of one of my coworkers at the time, who astonished me by immediately pinpointing al Qaeda (which I’d never heard of) in Afghanistan, and who then offered her response: “Nuke them. Nuke them all!” (And, yes, she clarified that she meant the entire country.)

Then I remember the flags. The flags that divided the world into Americans and everyone else. I couldn't help noticing that “everyone else” included a lot of actual Americans...

Jingo by Terry Pratchett (HarperTorch, $7.99)
In which a crime is disguised as an act of war.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by the Arbinger Institute (Berrett-Koehler Publications, $16.95)
In which parents of difficult teens (and anyone else who’s listening) are given an object lesson: The same interactions -- from domestic to international -- become wildly different depending on whether you see someone as a person or as an obstacle.

[The Anatomy of Peace is also among Nif's April 2010 Picks.]

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger (Margaret K McElderry, $8.99)
In which the political becomes very personal in the months following September 11, 2001.

[Shine, Cocomut Moon is also among Jen's April 2010 Picks and Janet's May 2010 Picks and is the Young Adult Book Discussion selection for this month!]

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen, $9.99)
In which Homeland Security goes too far.

Peace Week in Miss Fox's Class by Eileen Spinelli (Albert Whitman & Co, $16.99)
In which amazing things happen when students take time to think before they speak.

One more book that really belongs on this list is Fire Logic by Laurie K. Marks (currently out of print but due out in January in a 10th anniversary reprint from Small Beer Press): in which characters who should be enemies work instead to wage peace.

October 2011, Jennifer Sheffield