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On Poetry and Poets
Avocations collects the best of Sam Hamill's prose on poetry over the last 18 years, presenting insightful readings of Kenneth Rexroth, Denise Levertov, Odysseas Elytis, Matsuo Basho, Kobayashi Issa, John Logan and many others together with critical commentary on poetry in translation and the practice of poetry in general.
Beasts and Violins is a collection of American narrative poetry addressing themes of life and work in the western United States. The poems read like broken country songs sung from a paved farm: dead deer and train trips, a dog at the edge of the fire. Beasts and Violins begins with a dark birth and finishes at peace on the water, with the necessary stops in between.
The first published collection of poems by Ron Egatz presents a host of narrators describing encounters with characters ranging from washed-up rock musicians to former lovers, airline stowaways to family members. A poet for 25 years to the month of publication of this book, Egatz explores the limits of the lyric narrative poem with subject matter spanning historical events to family snapshots. This collection is a rallying cry for poetry unafraid of being understood, yet not sacrificing lyric quality, music, or emotional depth.
"The poems in Elise Paschen's Bestiary explore domestic preoccupations set against the backdrop of the wild-heartedness, real and imagined, of the animal world," praises the poet Jason Shinder. In this modern-day Bestiary, or "Book of Beasts," the line between animal and human is thinly-drawn. The daughter of a Celtic king, through love, is transformed from beast to human; lovers take flight as moon and owl; manatees transform, before the explorers' eyes, into mermaids. This dynamic runs throughout the collection: taking flight, hovering between air and earth, plunging, and then resurfacing from water. The poems create a constant engagement between what tethers us to our daily lives—marriage, motherhood, raising a family, the loss of parents in old age—and the desire for other worlds. Exploring notions of transformation, these poems cross thresholds between animal and human, between death and life. Award-winning poet, Elise Paschen, creates in her third and most complex poetry collection, work which is elegant and passionate, preternaturally still and reckless all at once. Paschen displays a variety of form and nuance from ghazals to long-lined free verse poems. Writing out of a distinct Western literary tradition, but tapping into her Native American (Osage) roots, Paschen celebrates the mythic, the unusual, the magical glimpsed in the everyday.
& Other Stories
Welcome to the peculiar and headlong world of Brian Doyle's fiction, where the odd is happening all the time, reported upon by characters of every sort and stripe. Swirling voices and skeins of story, laughter and rage, ferocious attention to detail and sweeping nuttiness, tears and chortling—these stories will remind readers of the late giant David Foster Wallace, in their straightforward accounts of anything-but-straightforward events; of modern short story pioneer Raymond Carver, a bit, in their blunt, unadorned dialogue; and of Julia Whitty, a bit, in their willingness to believe what is happening, even if it absolutely shouldn't be. Funny, piercing, unique, memorable, this is a collection of stories readers will find nearly impossible to forget.
The thirteen stories in Birds of Paradise Lost shimmer with humor and pathos as they chronicle the anguish and joy and bravery of America's newest Americans, the troubled lives of those who fled Vietnam and remade themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area. The past--memories of war and its aftermath, of murder, arrest, re-education camps and new economic zones, of escape and shipwreck and atrocity--is ever present in these wise and compassionate stories.
A Romilia Chacon Novel
A child dies on the border between California and Mexico. This is nothing new: immigrants die crossing the border all the time, escaping from poverty and violence in Latin America. They bake in the desert. But this death is different. Someone has taken body parts from the child. FBI Agent Romilia Chacón, a Salvadoran American, follows this case into a world that swallows her with its horror, a world that exists alongside ours, where children are bought and sold like cattle and shipped to men all across the country. The dealers in this blackest of markets have no moral barometer, only the lust for cash. And one among them has taken murder to a level beyond serial killing. Romilia comes to this case already broken: the man she loved and yet had to hunt—drug runner Tekún Umán, a regular on the FBI's Most Wanted List—is gone. Romilia has two friends, her partner Nancy Pearl—who lives a double life between the Feds and the cartels—and a bottle of booze. Romilia's mother is on her back to get sober; her son drifts further away. And the killer is taking away pieces of Romilia's life, day by day.
In Bone Light, Orlando White's debut volume, he explores the English language from a Diné (Navajo) perspective. He invites us to imagine that we, as a people—all people in this imaginary country called the United States—are speaking an Indigenous language and that the English language exists merely as a remnant of the colonial past. Despite its tenuous existence in this re-imagined present, English remains a danger to Indigenous thought, as it threatens to impose an alien worldview through its vocabulary and syntactical maneuvers. Historically, English was used by non-Natives to document Indigenous cultures; against this historical backdrop, White also writes to document, but he works to create something more beautiful than harmful. He does not attempt a critique of the English language; he works with it and against it to gain a better understanding of its peculiarities and limits, creating a relationship through these sometimes humorous, sometimes irreverent acts of exploration. Throughout Bone Light, Orlando White approaches the English language as if he has just encountered it, as if it were a mysterious set of symbols. Focusing on the particles of the language, the punctuation marks, the letters, the spaces between words, he turns them a while in his hand like strange inexplicable artifacts from a lost world, then sets to work, refashioning them into something he can use.
Books would seem to be one thing, and rough business another—except that the life of Tullio Pironti has brought both together. This mover and shaker in Italian arts and publishing began as a scuffling street kid in Naples, then enjoyed a boxing career that included two trips to the nationals, and only after that entered the book business. Yet in the decades that followed, he ended up working with the likes of the Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfuz and the Maestro of Italian film, Federico Fellini. Not surprisingly, then, Pironti’s memoir won wide attention in his home country, with more than 100 notices. Before anything else, the young Pironti had to survive a war. His memoir begins with a refugee experience, as he and his family are driven out of their homes in downtown Naples by the American bombing of 1942-43. Then after the liberation, Pironti must make his way with his wits and his fists, amid a colorful array of Neapolitan street figures. His recollections of youth provide rare insight into coming of age in a culture so ancient, so full of secrets. Anyone who wants to know the real Italy, and what it’s been through over the last half-century, will find Books & Rough Business a source of endless fascination. On top of that, this autobiography offers the timeless pleasures of watching a wily player work his way from next to nothing to great success, overcoming just about every kind of adversity along the way.
and Other Poems
Bristol Bay is the easternmost part of the Bering Sea and the site of the largest Salmon run in the world. It is also home to some of the highest tides and roughest water on the planet. In winter, ice storms freeze the riggings of fishing boats and the added weight of the ice, if not chipped off and thrown overboard, is sufficient to sink all but the largest of boats. The working conditions are brutal and the Bay itself as unforgiving as it is lovely. If it were a town, its name would be Deadwood or Tombstone, a place where life is measured in sunrises, not years. The title poem, “Bristol Bay,” is autobiographical. Much of what is described in the poem is true and not hyperbole or metaphor. The author worked two seasons on the 420 foot floating processor, the All Alaskan, now a partially submerged wreck outside of Kodiak, Alaska, and the poem speaks to that almost apocalyptic experience. The poems in this book are thematically aligned with the title poem in that they share a willingness to explore the potentially fatal, often unknown body of the individual. Homelessness, war, the blue collar work ethic, the love of all things opposed by the hatred of one thing—mothers and fathers—all of these become touchstones through which greater awareness may be experienced as a spiritual participation in building and sustaining human communities.