Hello, my beloveds. Long time no see! My apologies for the absence. I’m sure many of you, like me, have been struggling with the continued pandemic, the back-to-school season, and the rather horrifying events taking place around the United States and the world, not least of which are the incidents in Portland and Kenosha, but also all of the climate catastrophes and natural disasters. Am I being uplifting enough? Ha!
As for me, personally? Suffice it to say, I’m busy, busy with the new semester. For some reason, I’ve overloaded myself by two classes (teaching 7 instead of the required 5) and, of course, they’re all online, which adds a particular level of difficulty. If the first ten days of term are any indication, though, I think it’s going to be an excellent, if overwhelming, semester. I’m just now starting to get over an ear infection and feeling well enough to add a blog update to my schedule, so here we go!
August was a pretty great reading month. I’ve continued to focus a lot of my attention on poetry. I’m also thrilled to report that I have a little poem appearing in October. You’ll be able to find it in the Autumn issue of Variant Literature Journal (Issue 5), available in October. I’ll be sure to link-up on my publications page when it becomes available. Receiving that acceptance was so reinvigorating because I’ve been focusing quite a bit on my poetry writing, lately, in addition to novel revisions. I had planned to submit a chapbook manuscript by end of August, actually, but with everything going on personally and professionally, I simply couldn’t manage to get it finished in time. Better to do it well than to do it rushed, right?
Also, without knowing it, I appear to have participated in “The Sealey Challenge,” which is a month-long poetry reading challenge hosted by poet Amanda Sealey. I didn’t discover there was such a thing until sometime around August 26th? So, I don’t count my accidental participation in any real way, but I thought I’d mention it here and spread the hashtag just in case any participants are still keeping up with readers’ adventures. Here’s what I’ve read in poetry this month:
Imago by Joseph O. Legaspi, which is brilliant and important. I’ve linked up my August 7th review of that one. 5 out of 5!
Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys by D.A. Powell. This is my first experience reading D.A. Powell, but I’m thrilled to say we’ve recently connected on Twitter. He’s an extraordinary talent and this one felt like such a personal event for me. 4 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Feed by Tommy Pico. I’ve been meaning to read Pico for a long time. I have two of his collections, and I’m sure I’ll get to the next one very soon. That said, I think this one is part of a series, perhaps the final installment? Which means I’m reading out of order. I have no idea if that matters. Pico’s voice is witty and restless. He’s creative in ways that are difficult to understand, nevertheless describe. A more comprehensible automatic writer than, say, William Burroughs, though not quite so audacious. 3 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Bury It by Sam Sax. So, Mr. Sax is another accomplished poet who is a recent discovery for me. I’ve got two of his collections as well, and I was admittedly blown away by this one. I marked so many poems in this one that I thought about just trying to re-read it again and again until I had them memorized. It’s safe to say that this one, along with Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds and Legaspi’s Imago, will be a repeat guest. 5 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Burnings by Ocean Vuong. Listen, I can’t even get started with Ocean Vuong. He’s too much. I don’t want to say he’s a perfect writer, but to me, he is. I’m drawn into his words so deeply every time. I was extremely lucky to be able to find a copy of this one, as it was a limited print and it’s terribly hard to find (and very expensive!) It’s worth both the hunt and the cost, though, to have one of these to call my own. I’m torn between wanting to be Ocean Vuong and wishing he’d get out of my head! 5 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Guillotine by Eduardo C. Corral. This one was strongly recommended by Vuong himself, and for good reason. Corral’s poems explore the gritty truths about migration and life at the southern U.S. border. He dances with issues of sex and romance, culture and individualism, and a quiet spirituality, the kind that belongs to an individual, not to a culture or organization. I enjoyed this one. 4 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Chelsea Boy by Craig Moreau. I think what I enjoyed most about Moreau’s poems are their playfulness with language and metaphor. Poetry is supposed to do that, of course, but I found myself often being surprised by the way Moreau saw or described something, usually something commonplace. I picked this one up because, like those listed above, it is a collection of gay male poetry, and that’s where my head and heart are at right now. It’s described as giving voice to “sex, sadness, beauty, and truths,” so how could I miss it? 3 out of 5 on Goodreads.
An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo. If you’re curious about why Harjo is the United States poet laureate, here’s a good place to find out. Wow. Somehow, whether it was coincidentally or subconsciously intentional, I ended up reading this one alongside of An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. Let me tell you, that was a powerful and maddening experience. I found myself designing a history-literature course while I worked my way through the two. Harjo’s poems are sometimes beautiful, sometimes almost prayerful, but often biting and brutal condemnations of what we have done to native North American people, and what we continue to do. “That’s how blues emerged, by the way– / Our spirits needed a way to dance through the heavy mess. / The music, a sack that carries the bones of those left alongside / The trail of tears when we were forced / To leave everything we knew by the way–” An incredible collection, and one that offers perhaps the perfect survey for political candidates’ fitness for office. 5 out of 5 on Goodreads.
Other books I read in August:
By the way, I’ve also started participating in a pen pal exchange. I’ve got two pen pals at the moment, but I’d be happy to take on more. If you’re interested, let me know. If there’s a lot of interest, I could even start an exchange system and share it here for anyone who wants to join. Snail mail is nice, when it’s not bills or junk! And it’s a great way to support the U.S. Postal Service.
How are you doing? Reading, writing, or watching anything interesting, lately? Staying healthy and safe? And, if you’re a U.S. Citizen, are you registered to vote? I’ve signed-up to be a poll worker this year, which I haven’t done in a very long time. It’s important, though, given the state of affairs in this country and due to the pandemic and its implications for elderly individuals in particular (those who make up the majority of poll workers). Please consider volunteering. I found out how to do so in my state by visiting http://www.powerthepolls.org.
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You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. Octavia E. Butler
My life as a black, disabled teenager
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