Thursday, December 07, 2006
Recommended reading, 4
Papermill: Poems, 1927-35 by Joseph Kalar, edited by Ted Genoways. (University of Illinois Press, 2006). These are tough raw poems, and a few prose sketches, of hard life by a man who worked during his younger years in the paper mills and lumber mills of towns in northern Minnesota. Kalar published a little of his work during his lifetime -- mostly in the handful of literary magazines and anthologies that were actively committed to giving a voice to left-wing political working-class writing (New Masses, Morada, the Daily Worker, the Unrest: Rebel Poets anthology series, and a few others). After the mid-1930's he apparently stopped writing poetry (or if he continued, none of it has turned up). Includes an introduction and biographical sketch by editor Genoways. Papermill is part of the University of Illinois Press's excellent American Poetry Recovery Series. The publication of this book is an invaluable act of preservation of a part of our culture constantly threatened with burial in right-wing versions of history. I strongly recommend it, and encourage readers to check out the other books in the series.
Traces in Blood, Bone, & Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry edited by Kimberly Blaeser (Loonfeather Press, 2006). Wonderful anthology, includes fine work by Louise Erdrich, Heid Erdrich, Marcie Rendon, Jim Northrup, Gerald Vizenor, Linda LeGarde Grover, Alice Bird, Jamison Mahto, Kimberly Blaeser, Pauline Danforth, Anne Dunn, Gordon Henry, Denise Sweet, and many other poets. It will leave you wanting more.
The Ice House by Floyce Alexander (Red Dragonfly Press, 2006). Another solid collection of poems by a poet I've been reading for more than 30 years. Poems of fire and sky, blood and gleaming rock, burning with the energies of geology and lightning. Poems made of the daily news that explodes the dormant mind into wakening. I read Floyce Alexander's poems to find the trails he has marked into the way ahead in our times.
Leftover Ordinary by Scott King (Thistlewords Press, an imprint of Red Dragonfly Press, 2006). Carefully shaped poems King began bringing into the world after much reading of the 20th century Greek poet Yannis Ritsos several years ago. Two sections of the book are made up of short, subtle poems -- reminiscent of much of the work of poet Ritsos -- that offer glimpses, sometimes odd and oblique, at moments from daily life heightened by the pulsing of the explosive world in the background. The middle section is a longer poem (also similar in manner to many by Ritsos), "The First Interview," written as a monologue of an aging and dying man who has lived and worked hard and long in hard rough country. The poems in this book have a cumulative power that builds and leaves deep tracks in the memory.
Of the Same Mind by Johann Hjalmarsson, translated from Icelandic by Christopher Burawa (Toad Press, 2005). Remarkable poems, quiet and meditative, by a poet of contemporary Iceland, filled with ocean waves and rock, gray sky and birds' wings, blackberries and silence, mingled with sudden scenes of the modern busy world. The poems are selected from a period of more than 40 years of the poet's life of listening to the life around him with an uncanny ear for the gritty essence.
Spout # 30 (the most recent issue). Of the literary magazines currently alive and publishing in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (where I've lived most of my life), Spout is one I particularly like. The current issue features poems by Josie Rawson (featured poet), Joe Hall, Jennifer Rogers, Dan Raphael, David Wyman, Christopher Citro, and others; Fiction by Rosalyn Orr, Martin Brick, Kim Venkataraman, and Judith DeBrosse; and essays and commentary by Howard Zinn, Beadrin Youngdahl, Stephen D. Gutierrez, Evan Kingston, Donora Hillard and Rob Ramer. The editors of Spout have a keen sense for the most exciting writing that passes through their hands. I've found many poets and writers in Spout over the years whose work I continue to seek out and read. Spout Press also publishes books of poetry and prose on occasion; check out their main page, here.
Howl on Trial edited by Bill Morgan and Nancy J. Peters (City Lights Books, 2006). This is a fascinating documentary account of the trial in 1957 of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (publisher of City Lights Books) and Shigeyoshi Murao (employee of City Lights Bookstore) on charges of obscenity, for selling Allen Ginsberg's now-legendary book Howl and Other Poems. Includes a basic chronology of the events; excerpts from the trial transcript; a selection of letters between Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, and others during the time period when the book was first published, and leading up to the court case; newspaper articles and commentary on the case; a brief summary history of the censorship and repression of literary works in the United States from the early 1800's to the present; several short essays by various writers reflecting on the aftermath and significance of the Howl trial in the years since; and a selection of photographs of people involved in the events. This book presents gives a useful and fascinating look at the political and cultural climate of those years, and of courageous and determined people who helped keep the fires of the mind alive during a cold time.
For anyone interested, two of my books of poems are currently available from Red Dragonfly Press: If There Is A Song (you may have to scroll down a little in the page) and What Is Buried Here. The pages at the above links include links to ordering information.
One other recent book of my poems, The Idea of Legacy, is available from Musical Comedy Editions (the book itself isn't a musical or a comedy). The publisher is somewhat low-tech -- no website. The book can be ordered from: Tom Cassidy, Musical Comedy Editions, 5136 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55419; the cover price is $8.00.
I also liked the Adrienne Rich interview.
Happy New Year!
I tried buying What is Buried Here from Red Dragonfly link & got an error message from Paypal. You might want to alert them.Your book cannot be purchased because of it.
Anywhere else I can get it?
Take care & I hope to read you in the new year,
Tom, I checked out your website briefly, will go back and look some more.
Ann, I posted a comment in your blog. Just in case you find this first (and for anyone else interested), two of my books I mentioned in this post -- What Is Buried Here and If There Is A Song -- can also be ordered from Red Dragonfly Press by paper mail. Info is at the Contact and Ordering page.