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Made in Michigan Writers Series

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Made in Michigan Writers Series

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The Bird-while

Poems by Keith Taylor With illustrations by Tom Pohrt

"A Bird-while. In a natural chronometer, a Bird-while may be admitted as one of the metres, since the space most of the wild birds will allow you to make your observations on them when they alight near you in the woods, is a pretty equal and familiar measure" (Ralph Waldo Emerson's Journal, 1838). Without becoming didactic or pedantic about the spiritual metaphor hidden in the concept of the "bird-while," Keith Taylor's collection evokes certain Eastern meditative poets who often wrote in an aphoristic style of the spirit or the mind mirroring specific aspects of the natural world. The Bird-while is a collection of forty-nine poems that meditate on the nature-both human and non-human-that surrounds us daily. Taylor is in the company of naturalist poets such as Gary Snyder and Mary Oliver-poets who often drew from an Emersonian sensibility to create art that awakens the mind to its corresponding truths in the natural world. The book ranges from the longer poem to the eight line, unrhymed stanza similar to that of the T'ang poet Han-Shan. And without section breaks to reinforce the passing of time, the collection creates greater fluidity of movement from one poem to the next, as if there is no beginning or end, only an eternal moment that is suspended on the page. Tom Pohrt's original illustrations are scattered throughout the text, adding a stunning visual element to the already vivid language. The book moves from the author's travel accounts to the destruction of the natural world, even species extinction, to more hopeful poems of survival and the return of wildness. The natural rhythm is at times marred by the disturbances of the twenty-first century that come blaring into these meditations, as when a National Guard jet rumbles over the treeline upsetting a hummingbird, and yet, even the hummingbird is able to regain its balance and continue as before. At its core, Taylor's collection is a reminder of Emerson's idea that natural facts are symbols of spiritual facts. These well-crafted poems will be easily accessible to any literary audience, with a more particular attraction to readers of contemporary poetry sensitive to the marriage of an Eastern sensibility with contemporary American settings and scenes.

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Bob Seger's House and Other Stories

Edited by Michael Delp and M. L. Liebler with a Foreword by Charles Baxter

Bob Seger's House and Other Stories is a collection of short stories written by some of Michigan's most well-known fiction writers. This collection of twenty-two short stories serves as a celebration not only of the tenth anniversary of the Made in Michigan Writers Series in 2016 but also of the rich history of writing and storytelling in the region. As series editors Michael Delp and M. L. Leibler state in their preface, "The stories contained in this anthology are a way to stay connected to each other. Think of them as messages sent from all over the map, stitching readers and writers together through stories that continue to honor the ancient art of the fire tale, the hunting epic, and all of the ways language feeds the blood of imagination."The scope of this project reflects the dynamic and diverse writing that is currently taking place by people who consider their home to be the Great Lakes state. Stories are far-ranging, from the streets of Detroit and the iconic presence of the auto industry to the wild tracts of the Upper Peninsula, to a couple on the west coast trying to figure out parenting. The book vibrates with that tension, of metal versus rock and human frailty taking on the pitfalls and hardships of living in this world.In his foreword, Charles Baxter asks, "Does a region give rise to a particular kind of literature? Michigan is so fiercely diverse in its landscapes, its economy, and its population demographics that it presents anybody who wants to write about it with a kind of blank slate. You can't summarize the state easily." These storytellers exude a "Michigan aesthetic" in their writing, something that cannot be learned in a textbook or taught in a classroom but can be felt through the tales of these storytellers.The experience of picking up this collection is akin to taking a drive from the mechanized world and arriving several hours later in one of the wildest places on earth. Readers of short fiction will enjoy the multitude of voices in this anthology.

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Earth Again

Poems by Chris Dombrowski

The second full-length collection from award-winning poet Chris Dombrowski, Earth Again transports readers to an imaginative world where identity is explored and expanded. With a mixture of long poems and shorter pieces, Dombrowski probes birth, death, sex, memory, and our blessed but treacherous engagement with the natural world. While he writes from a number of points of view and employs both male and female speakers, much of the collection's singular insight centers around masculine identity and being a husband and a father. Readers come away transformed, "like the land / gasping as it does each late winter evening when / the sky at tree line, nearly sapphiric, goes black," as these poems prove Dombrowski to be a truly original American voice. Comprised of three sections-each of which concludes with a long poem-Earth Again presents a range of narrative and emotions in dexterous rhythms, unexpected shifts, and unforgettable metaphors. Dombrowksi introduces readers to arresting images like "the parataxis of her ass," "cerulean, alchemical light," "Molly with the sun in her mouth," and "labyrinthine, lanky-stemmed, dew-magnified" leaves. These details combine with Dombrowski's note-perfect language, which alternates between the most colloquial and the most elevated of diction. Readers will be challenged to consider spirituality alongside Scooby-Doo Band-aids, and to meditate on death after the mower has chewed up a plastic dinosaur, as Dombrowski revels in exploring our connection to the environment and one another. Fans of Dombrowski's previous collection, By Cold Water (which was noted as a contemporary poetry bestseller by the Poetry Foundation in 2009), along with other poets and poetry lovers will appreciate the attention to detail and the imaginative intensity of the poems in Earth Again.

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Eco-dementia

Poems by Janet Kauffman

Janet Kauffman describes "eco-dementia" as a paradoxical condition of humanity-a love of the living world while simultaneously causing and suffering from its destruction. Like other dementias, losses are profound. We lose touch, we forget. We don't recognize our own home-the habitat that sustains us. What has driven us to exploit more and more resources, even when risking self-annihilation? Eco-dementia is not nature poetry, but an immersive language in the tangle of the living world that begs the question: can we survive this relationship? The poems in Eco-dementia took shape in one decade of the author's life. In three sections, Kauffman reflects on insanities and devastations, from the personal to the global. From her father's Alzheimer's and the ravaged world of his mind to the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Hurricane Katrina, and toxins in Lake Erie, as well as the planetary-wide ecological catastrophe of climate change. Yet despite this devastation, it is possible to surround ourselves in light and air, to touch the tall grasses we love, to step into water and shade and feel an intense, momentary joy. Kauffman's poems show the bliss within the elemental richness of the natural world and also the violent distortions and grief at its devastation. Like learning a new language, we can see and hear words, sometimes understanding so clearly and other times not at all. Or as Kauffman's father puts it, "I know where you live, but I don't know who you are." The language of these poems is the physical material of a damaged world. Readers of modern and experimental poetry will treasure this collection.

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Garden for the Blind

Stories by Kelly Fordon

In Garden for the Blind, trouble lurks just outside the door for Kelly Fordon’s diverse yet interdependent characters. As a young girl growing up in an affluent suburb bordering Detroit, Alice Townley witnesses a tragic accident at her parents’ lavish party. In the years that follow, Alice is left mostly in the care of the household staff, free to forge friendships with other pampered and damaged teens. When she and her friend Mike decide to pin a crime on another student at their exclusive high school, the consequences will reverberate for years to come. Set between 1974 and 2012, Fordon’s intricately woven stories follow Alice and Mike through high school, college, and into middle age, but also skillfully incorporate stories of their friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers who are touched by the same themes of privilege, folly, neglect, and resilience. A WWII veteran sleepwalks out of his home at night, led by vivid flashbacks. A Buddhist monk is assaulted by a robber while seated in meditation. A teenaged girl is shot walking home from the corner store with a friend. A lifelong teacher of blind children is targeted by vandals at the school she founded. Garden for the Blind visits suburban and working-class homes, hidden sanctuaries and dangerous neighborhoods, illustrating the connections between settings and relationships (whether close or distant) and the strange motivations that keep us moving forward. All readers of fiction will enjoy the nimble unfolding of Fordon’s narrative in this collection.

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The Goat Fish and the Lover's Knot

Stories by Jack Driscoll

Elmore Leonard said about Jack Driscoll's stories, "The guy can really write." And in The Goat Fish and the Lover's Knot, he once again demonstrates in every sentence the grace and grit of a true storyteller. The ten stories are mostly set in Michigan's northern lower peninsula, a landscape as gorgeous as it is severe. If at times the situations in these stories appear hopeless, the characters nonetheless, and even against seemingly impossible odds, dare to hope. These fictional individuals are so compassionately rendered that they can hardly help but be, in the hands of this writer, not only redeemed but made universal. The stories are written from multiple points of view and testify to Driscoll's range and understanding of human nature, and to how "the heart in conflict with itself" always defines the larger, more meaningful story. A high school pitching sensation loses his arm in a public school classroom during show and tell. A woman lives all of her ages in one day. A fourteen-year-old boy finds himself alone after midnight in a rowboat in the middle of the lake with his best friend's mother. Driscoll is a prose stylist of the highest order - a voice as original as the stories he tells. Lovers of contemporary storytelling will revel in Driscoll's skill and insight on display in this unique collection.

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Harborless

Poems by Cindy Hunter Morgan

Harborless, a collection of poems informed by Great Lakes shipwrecks, is part history and part reinvention. The poems explore tragic wrecks in rivers and lakes, finding and forming artistic meaning from destruction and death. Each poem begins in a real, historical moment that Cindy Hunter Morgan transforms into an imagined truth. The imaginative element is essential to this work as it provides a previously unseen glimpse into the lives affected by shipwrecks. The poems in Harborless confront the mysteries surrounding the objects that cover the floor of the Great Lakes by both deepening our understanding of the unknown and teaching great empathy for a life most of us will never know. Morgan creates a melodic and eerie scene for each poem, memorializing ships through lines such as, "Fishermen wondered why they caught Balsam and Spruce / their nets full of forests, not fish," and "They touched places light could not reach." Most of the poems are titled after the name of a ship, the year of the wreck, and the lake in which the ship met disaster. The book's time frame spans from wrecks that precede the Civil War to those involving modern ore carriers. Throughout this collection are six "Deckhand" poems, which give face to a fully imagined deckhand and offer a character for the reader to follow, someone who appears and reappears, surfacing even after others have drowned. Who and what is left behind in this collection speaks to finality and death and "things made for dying." Very little is known when a ship sinks other than the obvious: there was a collision, a fire, a storm, or an explosion. Hunter works to fill in these gaps and to keep these stories alive with profound thoughtfulness and insight. Tony Hoagland said that one of the powers of poetry is to locate and assert value. This collection accomplishes that task through history and imagination, producing lake lore that will speak to historians and those interested in ships, poetry, and the Great Lakes.

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I Want to Be Once

Poems by M. L. Liebler

In I Want to Be Once, M. L. Liebler approaches current events with a journalistic eye and a poet's response. Part autobiographical, part commentary, the lines of Liebler's poems come hard-hitting, but not without moments of great tenderness and humanity. Ordered into three sections, I Want To Be Once provides readers with a look into the author's personal life, as well as our collective history as a nation vis-à-vis the American media. The first section, called "American Life," captures the experience of coming of age in working-class 1960s America and helps to paint the picture of Liebler's early political involvement. The poems in the second section, "American War," focus on the author's cultural work in Afghanistan for the U.S. State Department; Liebler successfully captures the sad realities and fleeting stability of everyday life in Kabul, Jalalabad, and Kandahar. In the final section, "American Psalms," the short, satirical poems muse on present-day American society, culture, and the arts. In these poems, Liebler remarks on everything from public education to public radio to Russia's feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot and more.The poems in I Want to Be Once are emotionally grounding but punctuated with a humor that keeps things in perspective. Readers with an interest in poetry and social commentary will be drawn to this engaging collection.

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Know the Mother

Stories by Desiree Cooper

While a mother can be defined as a creator, a nurturer, a protector-at the center of each mother is an individual who is attempting to manage her own fears, desires, and responsibilities in different and sometimes unexpected ways. In Know the Mother, author Desiree Cooper explores the complex archetype of the mother in all of her incarnations. In a collage of meditative stories, women-both black and white-find themselves wedged between their own yearnings and their roles as daughters, sisters, grandmothers, and wives.In this heart-wrenching collection, Cooper reveals that gender and race are often unanticipated interlopers in family life. An anxious mother reflects on her prenatal fantasies of suicide while waiting for her daughter to come home late one night. A lawyer miscarries during a conference call and must proceed as though nothing has happened. On a rare night out with her husband, a new mother tries convincing herself that everything is still the same. A politician's wife's thoughts turn to slavery as she contemplates her own escape: "Even Harriet Tubman had realized that freedom wasn't worth the price of abandoning her family, so she'd come back home. She'd risked it all for love." With her lyrical and carefully crafted prose, Cooper's stories provide truths without sermon and invite empathy without sentimentality.Know the Mother explores the intersection of race and gender in vignettes that pull you in and then are gone in an instant. Readers of short fiction will appreciate this deeply felt collection.

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Living Together

Short Stories and a Novella by Gloria Whelan

We all have to live together, whether we do it with enthusiasm or grace, reluctance or despair. In this skillfully drawn collection, National Book award-winning Michigan writer Gloria Whelan presents short stories and a novella that look at people living together who have reached a crisis point. Whether her characters are old or young, male or female, in settings that are urban or rural, they wrestle with anger, loneliness, and frustration, but ultimately demonstrate bravery, trust, determination, and, often, the ability to learn something new. Whelan considers a variety of narratives about people coexisting, breaking apart, or coming together. The subdued lives of older women are shaken by a scandalous invasion; a man looks around him to discover he will be living the rest of his life in the wrong place with the wrong people; a married couple, grown apart, find themselves locked together; suburbanites reach out tentatively to the distant city; a house and the ghosts who inhabit it change lives. A final section contains Whelan's novella, "Keeping Your Place," which follows a family as their lives and their home change during the years of the Vietnam War. After the loss of her husband, a mother and the three children must make a final visit to their beloved cabin in the woods and come to a crucial decision. Well known for her writing for young readers, Whelan's stories in Living Together will be a welcome surprise for adults who may be new to her quirky, relatable characters and quietly powerful narrative.

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