Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seattle Bookfest begins in challenging business climate

Seattle Bookfest, a new event for local authors, booksellers, publishers and readers, began Saturday and continues today in Columbia City.
By Amy Martinez, Seattle Times business reporter

In the past week, a price war has erupted on the Internet over popular new hardcover releases among, Wal-Mart and Target. Amazon declared the Kindle e-reader its best-selling item. And the owner of Elliott Bay Book Co. said the store might move from its longtime home in Pioneer Square partly because of financial difficulties.
So how are mom-and-pop booksellers holding up? It seemed an obvious question at this weekend's Seattle Bookfest, a new event in the Columbia City neighborhood.

read more here


Dean and I took Light Rail to Seattle Bookfest Saturday. The "New" bookfest has a fun funky feel to it. It was located in an old Elementary School (formerly The New School?) in Columbia City. Each little classroom held 3-4 press/bookseller tables. And then there were author readings and panel stages located in the larger gym and auditorium spaces, and in some of the portable buildings outside the school. It was a nice layout in that it divided the crowd up. It felt more intimate, less noisy and oppressive, then when the event was in more of a "big box" "convention center" type of space. But it also felt small: you never could get a sense of the whole extent of the event; and very DIY: handwritten signs taped to hallways and doors. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just different. I think for next year (and I hope there is a next year!) Bookfest needs to have a little bit better signage, perhaps get a few more "big name" out-of-town writers to come out to read, and maybe have a few more panels and/or group/theme readings, as those seemed to be the most popular (my personal favorite: Urban Nature writing, with Lyanda Lynn Haupt of "Crow City" fame, Kathryn True, Maria Dolan, and D Williams).

Some of the books I went home with:

The Circle of Fate, Tara Press (a lovely hand-made silk-screened book from India)
Upgraded to Serious, Heather McHugh
The Dance of No Hard Feelings, Mark Bibbins
Nature in the City, Maria Dolan and Kathryn True
In Love with a Hillside Garden, Ann, Daniel & Benjamin Streissguth
Greening Cities and Growing Communities: Learning from Seattle's Urban Community Gardens, Hou, Johnson and Lawson
Willy and Nilly in NUMBERS UP!, Stephen Mooser
Willy and Nilly in TONS-OF-FUN FROM A-Z, Stephen Mooser (some children's books to palce in the clinic exam rooms, only $1 at the Seattle Library book sale).


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Upcoming 10-24/25: Seattle Book Fest! Hope to see you all there!

At this weekend’s Seattle Book Fest, the focus is on locally produced lit. The festival will include more than a hundred local writers and more than fifty local businesses. Although it is possible to catch many of the writers at various venues during the year, having all of these writers, presses, magazines, and nonprofits in one place at one time makes this an event that can not be missed for anyone interested in the books being written in and around Seattle-and you will likely discover many new voices.

Jut a handful of the well known local writers include Garth Stein (The Art of Running in the Rain), Stephanie Kallos (Sing Them Home), William Dietrich (The Dakota Cipher), Randy Su Coburn (Owl Island), and Pet Dexter (Paris Trout). The list of writers who may not be well known (yet) but will be include the likes of Jonathan Evison (All About Lulu), Ryan Boudinot (The Littlest Hitler), Margot Kahn (Horses That Buck), and Midge Raymond (Forgetting English). And there are dozens of local writers who have been steadily producing great books, writers such as Jerome Gold, Ron Darkon, Sibyl James, and Peter Pereira.

There will be lot of fiction and nonfiction writers, but the poetry program also happens to be strong and includes big names in local poetry such as Sam Hammill, Judith Roche, and Paul Hunter, but also a number of experimental poets who are also great performers of their work (such as John Olson, Paul Nelson, Sarah Mangold, and Larry Laurence). If your taste is lyric poetry your bases are covered. If your taste is not lyric poetry your bases are covered.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Finalists for National Book Award in Poetry Announced:

Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again (Viking Penguin)
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)

I'm sorry to say I've only read one of these: Armantrout's. Still, it's nice to see someone besides the usual nominees here.


Wanna see some pics from my Vacouver trip? Check 'em out here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The reading last night at UBC Robson was really fun. A great turnout. So good to meet all the other writers. And quite a diversity of voices: a new novel from a young woman, about a man who looses his job and starts to de-evolve into a pig-like creature, and his wife who at first hates it, but then starts to like it, and to de-evolve a bit herself. Poems made from wordplay, tabloid titles, serial killers' lives, and Penny Dreadfuls (yes sounds like mine, but this was from Shannon Stewart). A wonderful essay written using the form of a "Table of Figures" to tell a woman's coming of age story, and to explore her single adulthood. I read some cross-cultural poems, in honor of the "Border Crossing" theme, as well as some new stuff. A nice panel discussion and reception/chit-chat after. I think all in all it was a really good event all around! Thanks to Rachel Rose and UBC for having me.


I'm giving a workshop out by UBC tonight. On line endings, line breaks. A mention of it here on the local blog Geist.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Dean and I are having a great time in Vancouver. We took the train up Thursday morning. Just gorgeous out, the Pacific coast going by as we watched from the comfort of our coach seat. Such a genteel way to travel. I wish America had not gone so wrong with all its cars and highways, and had instead constructed more rail travel.

Our first night we had a quick bite at the hotel before taking a taxi (I wish we could have taken a sky train, our Ethiopian taxi driver nearly got us lost!) out to Jericho Arts Center to see two one act plays, titled "The Gift of Screws" -- the title taken from an Emily Dickinson poem:

Essential Oils—are wrung—
The Attar from the Rose
Be not expressed by Suns—alone—
It is the gift of Screws—

The plays were billed to be about the price we pay for truth, in art (in the hands of a tyrannical director) and in politics (the torture of political prisoners). The first play "What Then Must We Do" was incredible. A sort of Brechtian situation, with two actors, a director, and a dramaturge, playing out the conflict between their roles. Very metaphysical. Can the play exist without the vision of the director, without the embodiment of the actors, without someone watching that the script is followed? Pretty amazing stuff. And a little on stage nudity to boot.

The second play, "Muzzle of Bees" was less successful. But my oh my the eye candy. I had never seen anything quite like it -- five men, entirely nude except for black hoods over their heads (imagine Abu Grhaib) together on the floor of a prison, acting out the conflict of being made to do things, of being watched, being made to submit. It was oddly unsettling. And missed the mark, for me.


Spent part of today out at Capilano and Grouse Mountain. Vancouver has such great public transportation. We took the water ferry, then a bus, then the gondola up the mountain. Great views, a very clear day. All sorts of these athletic types having done "The Grind" (running up the mountain and taking the gondola down).


Reading tonight. Hope it goes well!


Sunday, October 04, 2009

I can hardly wait to read this. What a great cover! I can only imagine what fun is in store . . .

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Here are a few recommendations from what I've been reading lately:

First up, Unrest by poet and Master Gardener Joanna Rawson. I love the look of this book, from the wide format of the pages, to the amazing cover photograph of a swarm of bees in flight. It practically jumped off the shelf and lit into my hands. (I am reminded of something a publisher at CCP said once, "You don't judge a book by its cover, you sell a book by its cover.") Anyway, the poetry here is what I mean to recommend. The second poem, "Killbox" totally blew me away. It uses the story of 11 Mexican illegal immigrants, who get locked into a grain car by their "coyote", cross the border and end up in a rail yard in Oklahoma, in sweltering June heat . . . but miss their connection . . . and aren't discovered until October. It's riveting and tragic stuff. The story haunted me for days. And Rawson uses it as a framework to explore larger issues of fate, nature, the garden, changing of the seasons, death. Other poems use language from our current state of war and terrorist events in general, as well as images from bees and hives and natural disaster, as a trellis for her philosophical musing. It's pretty heady and intense stuff.

I picked up a copy of BAP 2009 at Bailey Coy Books a week or so ago, and have been enjoying dipping in here and there, and reading the sometimes-annoying sometimes-interesting contributor's statements. Some fave poems so far: Mark Bibbin's "Concerning the Land to the North of our Neighbors to the South" is a delightful collection of oddities (real and imagined) about the 50 states. It's very similar to the 50-state poem in Matthew Dickman's "All America Poem." And in the contributor's note, Bibbins reveals it also bears some resemblance to a 50-state poem of John Ashbery. Who new?! Other fun poems in this issue of BAP: Martha Silano's paean to Hate, titled "Love," Marianne Boruch's "The Doctor," and Barbara Hamby's wild "Ode to Airheads, Hairdos, Trains to and from Paris."

Campbell McGrath's Shannon. It's a booklength poem, all in the voice of George Shannon, the youngest member of the Lewis & Clark expedition, who becomes separated from the rest of the group, and wanders the Missouri plains for 16 days alone. These are pretty amazing and entertaining linked internal monologues (no small task), as Shannon talks to himself, perhaps writes in a diary, perhaps becomes a little disoriented and loopy (one poem just says "buffalo buffalo buffalo" cascading across the page), and nearly starves before he is reunited with the group.

Finally: the latest issue of Prairie Schooner, the Baby Boomer issue, is just a hoot, I love the groovy wavy trippy cover. Perhaps because the poets here are in my birth cohort I naturally relate, but I think it is more than that, there are a lot of good poems here. Check it out.