Holiday Literary Recommendations
The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! And, what better time to buy a book of poetry/fiction/non-fiction for your beloved bibliophile.
Below, are recommendations from other poets/writers/editors/publishers, who all took the time to share a favorite title, most of which can be found via small presses, Amazon.com, and in your local brick-and-mortar bookstore. Happy shopping, and, happy reading!
Glitter in the Blood, a Poet's Manifesto for Better Braver Writing by Mindy Nettifee. If this had been out earlier in the year, I would have set it as a required text for my creative writing class. It has courage, honesty, down-to-earth practical writing exercises (and exorcises!) with Mindy's trademark humor and compassion. If you've ever seen Mindy perform her poems, you'll already know how amazing this book is. Give it to your writing friends, your students, your mother -- and save a copy for yourself so you can drink a little celebratory Christmas cheer and propel yourself into another, brighter year of writing. - Sandra Hunter, author of Waiting For Heaven (forthcoming from One World Publications, 2013)
Czesław Miłosz: New and Collected Poems (1931-2001),ISBN 0 06 051448 5 (paperback), published by Ecco Press, an imprint of Harper Collins, is a book to sleep with on a blanket in your backyard, in the shade of a peach tree. It is an epic journey through two continents and through centuries of history and ideas, documenting a rich intellectual life of a poet who survived the tragic century of two world wars and the Cold War. Masterfully translated from the native Polish of the celebrated Nobel Prize Winner (1980), the poems open a window into a distant past of a small country that simultaneously reveals the gold of timeless grace and beauty. For every poet's library, available everywhere, waiting to be read... - Maja Trochimczyk, editor of Meditations on Divine Names (Moonrise Press, 2012),www.moonrisepress.com/divine.html
J.L. Talmon's The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (1960) is crucial read for anyone who wants to prevent themselves from becoming a boiled frog. It spiels on despotic tendencies (and results) in democratic societies. What do politicized/collectivized thought and behavior produce? Is genuine freedom possible in a secular "Messianic" program? In a time when "democracy" is treated as a magic, even sacred word without being understood, this book is quite relevant. Belongs up there with stuff by Dostoyevsky, A. Huxley, Hayek, Arendt, Pasternak, Koestler, any honest study of the French, Bolshevik, Chinese revolutions, etc. - David Herrle, author of Abyssinia, Jill Rush and Sharon Tate and the Daughters of Joy/editor of SubtleTea.com
Skye the Troll & Other Fairy Tales for Children by Apryl Skies offers a flurry of color, whimsy and magic. Her little troll Skye, epitomizes the awkwardness displayed and encountered throughout childhood, sweetly morphing into an acceptance of self. One of the beauties of this finely illustrated collection is the non-gender specific draw. Skye the Troll is a musical flute encouraging not only young children of body, but the young child in the mind of us jaded and cynical adults, to follow while dancing a melody too often silenced with age.
With Skye and friends, Skies, a brilliantly versatile wordsmith and artist of many genres, delivers to her readers the appealing, charming beauty of a story only she (or an impish little troll!) can offer up with such color and magic. A must have for the child in all of us. - Alicia Winski, Running on Fumes
LUMMOX magazine's premier issue features 206 poets from across America, Canada, The U.K. and Nigeria. It's a cross-section of 21st Century poetry, critical essays, reviews, artwork and interviews with G. Murray Thomas (Next...Magazine & My Kidney Just Arrived) and Rick Lupert (Poetry Super Highway & numerous chapbooks including Paris, It's The Cheese). - RD Armstrong editor/publisher, www.lummoxpress.com/journal)
Donna Marie Merritt's What's Wrong With Ordinary is a wonderful collection packed with the real thing, moving human experience artfully expressed. It is a brave piece of work that lets us witness the everyday struggles of healing, living, and moving forward. By turns gentle, tough, mournful and playful, poet Donna Marie Merritt draws the reader into one family’s arc: cancer and remission, layoff and temp jobs, growing children and changing landscapes. There is power in the simplest of poems, as they deal with the most powerful of feelings: the yearning for peace and normalcy, the sweet small celebrations of a cancer survivor, the joy of a family’s nighttime walk in the snow, holding on and letting go. The sparse architecture of the poems adds power, as there is so much unsaid, but felt, between the words. In “Temp Job” the poet seems grateful that when all else fails “helium / poetry lifts me”—these poems will lift you. ~Dave Morrison: Poet; Author of eight poetry collections, including fail
My recommendation is for an anthology of poetry called, If We Dance... edited by Joan Wines. It makes a great gift as it combines pages of poetry with blank pages on which a writer might compose their own work. Proceeds from sales go to the Jan Bowman Scholarship at California Lutheran University. The book is available at: (http://www.amazon.com/If-We-Dance-Joan-Wines/dp/1932688528/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1352065888&sr=1-1&keywords=If+we+Dance) - Maggie Westland, poet
Generally, East of Los Angeles by John Brantingham (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011) is a skilled yet accessible paean to the author's cherished San Gabriel Valley. In particular, this collection thoughtfully navigates the author's formative experiences, both at home and abroad, on his way to becoming one of Mt. San Antonio College's best-loved English professors and one of the San Gabriel Valley's foremost literary impresarios. We learn of Brantingham's early bout with deafness, his ecstatic migraine at the grave of Chaucer, but perhaps above all, his thoughtfulness, compassion, and insight into a region often underestimated and sometimes maligned. I recommend this book for both beginning fans of poetry and veterans in the field of verse. Buy a copy today. And if a loved one lives in West Covina, buy one for him or her, too.
Captive by Martin Ott (C&R Press, 2012) rightly won the 2011 De Novo Poetry Prize for its stirring meditations on family, politics, the military, and a world in which we are trapped by that which defines us, which keeps us secure in nets of meaning. Ott's unbroken stanzas similarly ensnare the reader as he artfully leads us around the globe — Moscow, Mexico City, Alaska, and Los Angeles come to mind — in language that is sometimes heartfelt, sometimes hallucinogenic, always compelling. He, our father, our son, our captor, asks Why? and we the readers find ourselves answeringThis. This book. Buy a copy to discover what happens when the interrogator administers truth serum to himself. - John F. Buckley (http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B009BIIES2)
author of Sky Sandwiches, co-author of Poets' Guide to America
Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins (Random House, 2001) is brilliant, yet accessible, poetry by a former US Poet Laureate. How can you not love lines like "Ordinary Time slouches past in a topcoat" or stanzas such as "But all they want to do / is tie the poem to a chair with rope / and torture a confession out of it"? - Donna Marie Merritt (author of What's Wrong with Ordinary? Poems to Celebrate Life, available from Avalon Press at (http://avalonpress.co.uk)
Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia, and Eat the Document are an inspired duo of books for any baby boomer, quasi-hippie, nostalgic rock ‘n’ roller who wishes to placate the aching part of his soul that keeps circling back to the ethos of 1967. They are also fit for those children who wish to better understand their parent’s preoccupation with latter 20th Century pop culture and politics.
In Eat the Document,” Spiotta explores the aftermath of ‘70s radicalism in contrast to modern consumerism and shallow protest. Living with the guilt of one idealistic action gone wrong, Mary disguises herself for twenty years as she seeks a sane life finally settling with her 15-year-old son in the suburbs of Oregon. The story juxtaposes Mary, her former partner Bobby and his current love interest with a guilty Vietnam draft evader and additional 1990s characters and memories of of their past. Without a cliché to be read, all parts come together after 28 years to a haunting yet satisfying ending.
Stone Arabia, which was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award and Spiotta’s third book, tells a riveting story of a brother and sister who barely survived the rock scene of 1970s Los Angeles. It is 2004 and Denise Kranis continues to look after her brother Nik, a would be rock star who chronicles his own fictional stardom while sometimes tending bar and living above a garage in Topanga Canyon. With visceral and honest prose, Spiotta transcends any corny idealism of their rock era and invites us to share a sibling relationship and all that envelops them with realism and resonance. - Jerry Garcia, Hitchiking With the Guilty
The Wishing Tomb,by Amanda Auchter (Perugia Press, 2012)
Horse In The Dark,by Vievee Francis (Northwestern University Press, 2012) - Lynne Thompson, author
Running on Fumes by Alicia Winski is a poetry collective powerfully driven by emotion and snake-bite witticism. Many of the poems celebrate the uninhibited and utterly unapologetic passionate sentimentality many female writers are not vulnerable enough to voice. As a writer she goes beyond the confessional by way of offering a look deep into the emotional confines of our precious flaws and realizations. In Running on Fumes she writes not only from a reflection of herself, but of the world and in doing so liberates those oppressed by the chains of injustice, uncertainty and unfortunate circumstance. Running on Fumes is a truly unique body of work, both fierce and unforgettable. - Apryl Skies, Song Beneath Silence ( http://www.amazon.com/Song-Beneath-Silence-Apryl-Skies/dp/1451501412/ref=tf_cw?&linkCode=waf&tag=wwwedgarallan-20 )
Heavenly Questions by Gjertrud Schnackenberg - John FitzGerald, author of The Mind (http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=218&a=194)
Wild Iris by Louise Glück - Hélène Cardona, author of Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry, 2013)
One of my most favorite books when I was taking poetry classes at CSUN was and still is Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry: Essays by Jane Hirshfield. These are essays written in a style to which anyone - even those not in college classes can relate, with many excellent poetic examples. I return to this book many times for ideas about and understanding of poems I want to write or that I read. While this is a college textbook, I would have liked to have received it as a gift, since it clarifies the craft of poetry in language that itself is almost poetic. - Rina Rose, poet
Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life an Poetry of Ryokan translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi. There are at least a half dozen translations of Ryokan's poetry in English, all with their own particular virtues, but Kaz Tanahashi's is by far the best. - Richard Modiano, author,
Glitter in the Blood is a rarity, a writing manual which is enjoyable to read on its own. As Mindy tells the background stories behind her poems, she accomplishes three things: 1. She gives great advice about writing; 2. She provides an entertaining and revealing look at her life, who she is, and how she came to be that person; and, most important, 3. She supports her thesis that, in order to write great poetry, one must be brave in confronting the reality of one’s feelings. This book is both a writing manual and an intimate portrait of one of today’s strongest rising poets. Should be included in every creative writing class anywhere.
-- G. Murray Thomas, My Kidney Just Arrived