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Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Coming in Fall 2021

Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag, 2021), the debut poetry collection by AE Hines, presents a memoir-in-verse as told by a gay man raised in the rural South who comes of age during the AIDS crisis. Flashing back and forth in time, a cast of recurring characters and circumstances are woven into a rich tale of survival and redemption, exploring one man’s life as a queer son, father, and husband, over a span of more than thirty years.

Preorder at Main Street Rag


Early reviews

“This compellingly candid work speaks the language of
courage, of breath-taking transcendence. Finely crafted, it is a
remarkable debut collection. Take note, world: a powerful
lyric poet has emerged. Take note and rejoice!” ~ Paulann
Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita

“I was amazed over and over at the bravery of these poems,
never shying from the difficult moments in life, and all the
while staying true to the clear-eyed, fearless vision of their
author.” ~ James Crews, Editor of How to Love the World:
Poems of Gratitude and Hope

“With a strong gift for storytelling and an eye attuned to
detail, Hines ultimately shows us the beauty and knowledge
made of experience.” ~Richie Hofmann, Author of Second
Empire


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Hello, friends! My guest today is Ren Powell, who is here to share a poem from her new collection, Impermanence, and a little about how it came to be. Please give her a warm welcome!


This/that now has already
flowed like a river around your waist
and into your hands
– you caught what you could and braided it

like water flowing into the patterns
     of fish bones
like mycelium routing nitrogen
     favoring a sapling

you created one identifiable
                    X
from the infinite possibilities

But it spilled from of your tongue
slipped through your fingers

the X you wove into the world
warping and shapeshifting
so inevitably, incrementally
that you look up day after day
surprised by the foreign landscapes
of your own making

The poems from Impermanence aren’t easy to tease apart. They speak to one another. All of them grew out a year of daily meditations on the theme of inevitable change, and how we suffer when we resist it.

This was one of the first poems I wrote for the collection. The morning I began the draft, I’d run along the trail by the lake and I stopped to watch a small creek flowing into it. I noticed how the water mimicked a fish’s soft skeleton in the shape it formed. I loved the parallel realities – it was more than a metaphor. The idea that this is like this in fact, not in concept.

The water-skeleton disappears instantly if I step in the stream. The fish bones will decay over time. I think it’s an illusion that one is more real than the other. We give time too much importance when we make our value judgements. Especially when we consider that every moment is already over by the time we’ve acknowledged its existence. We work so hard to make sense of things that we want them to stay as we’ve determined they “are”.

The trail around the lake also has groves of trees. The trees with the saucer-like mushrooms wedged in the bark are dying. I can’t see it, but I know the network of mycelium under the ground is already moving the nutrients from the dying trees to the new trees. The fungi don’t recognize ownership over the requirements of life. The shape of the forest shifts so slowly that we think we see trees dying instead of a forest growing.

We impose our will on the world every moment. We tell ourselves a story about every passing instance: an X of meaning.

I think of the pride of a small child finally getting the family dog to “stay”, and then the frustration and anger they experience when the dog runs off.

I think we contribute to the world, but we don’t shape it as we think we do. We might set something in motion, but the river of time – like the dog – doesn’t “stay”. 


About Impermanence

The poetry collection is actually a conceptual poetry book. The artwork in the hand-bound and paperback versions aren’t illustrations. They are integral to the book. The bust in the photographs is covered with lines of poems found as text in the book. The handwriting on the photographs present erasures of the same poems.

The bust was filmed disintegrating under a waterfall once the book was finished. It was a practice in the kind of attitude I was exploring in the book: letting go is a healthy thing.

The book (both hand-bound and paperback versions) can be purchased at renpowell.com.


About the Author

Ren Powell is a writer and teaching artist. She is a native Californian – now a Norwegian citizen settled on the west coast of Norway. Ren has been a member of The Norwegian Author’s Union since 2005 and has published six full-length collections of poetry and more than two dozen books of translations with traditional publishing houses. Her poetry collections have been purchased by the Norwegian Arts Council for national library distribution, and her poems have been translated and published in eight languages. Ren is currently focusing on handbound poetry collections and mixed media experimentation as Mad Orphan Lit. Learn more about Ren Powell. Follow her on Facebook.


For more about Impermanence and to follow the blog tour, click the image above.

Thank you, Ren, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your latest book!

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Hello, friends! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Sherry Quan Lee to the blog to celebrate the release of her new poetry collection, Septuagenarian. Sherry is here today to share a poem and its inspiration. Enjoy!


The World Is Heavy

One doesn’t have to imagine good and evil amidst

all this terror.

Sadness, the bones and the blood surrender

but, we can make a difference we are all somebody

we are not on the backs on the backs on the backs

of sorrow

that preceded

head separated from body

body separated from country

family separated

love guarantees memory    

guns in white rooms the ghost

of a man an unholy ghost trying to rewrite the story

what if what if what if asking the questions is [not] enough?

sometimes madness

I feel like a boxer punching  the world

is heavy that’s when the silence is broken

not with words but with images  children

didn’t know what to make of the bickering

children got lost in the silence suffering;

the father the mother the siblings gone

a newspaper headline.

To the wicked and the wise there is a difference

between opinion and truth, a space where

freedom is clearly not where in the world  we are

divisive and our lives are at risk.

Tolerate is a difficult word. Racism, white men

with assault rifles. Death

is temporary.

History implodes on a regular irregular heartbeat

like a sorcerer reads palms this is love choking on air

ready to survive   pedestals 

collapse amidst a pandemic       

as I sip my morning coffee the heart/broken

is what saves us. The charade is over

this year. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!


How “The World is Heavy” Came to Be” and a Challenge to the Reader

January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, death—lies. A culmination of four frightful years. How, as a poet, can we respond? We could use the fast and flowing media coverage to write a found poem rearranging and reformatting what has already been written by journalists, by reporters, by politicians. Or, we can turn to our own writing.

Using only text from Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die, I randomly chose words and phrases and strung them together. What might be hidden if we break apart the whole? Have I, unknowingly, moved beyond the personal—have I entered the world?

I discovered within my memoir of verse that I was saying more than I had said, that for me the personal continues to be political, and all things are temporary. The memory of what has preceded me implodes and love is my act of survival.

Use words and phrases from what you have previously written and find a poem. Perhaps you will discover what you didn’t know you knew. It may not, at first, make sense, yet it will.


About Septuagenarian

Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die is a memoir in poetic form. It is the author’s journey from being a mixed-race girl who passed for white to being a woman in her seventies who understands and accepts her complex intersectional identity; and no longer has to imagine love. It is a follow-up to the author’s previous memoir (prose), Love Imagined: a mixed-race memoir, A Minnesota Book Award finalist.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Sherry Quan Lee, MFA, University of Minnesota; and Distinguished Alumna, North Hennepin Community College, is the editor of How Dare We! Write: a multicultural creative writing discourse. Her most recent book, Love Imagined: a mixed race memoir, was a 2015 Minnesota Book Award Finalist. Previous books include: Chinese Blackbird, a memoir in verseHow to Write a Suicide Note: serial essays that saved a woman’s life; and a chapbook, A Little Mixed Up.

Quan Lee was a selected participant for the Loft Literary Center Asian Inroads Program, and later was the Loft mentor for the same program. Previously, she was the Writer-to-Writer mentor for SASE: The Write Place, at Intermedia Arts. Also, she was the 2015-2016 Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series poetry mentor. Visit her blog.


To learn more about Septuagenarian or to follow the tour, please click the button above.

Thank you, Sherry, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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Last month, I read and reviewed Cheryl Wilder’s new poetry collection, Anything That Happens (click the link to read my thoughts), and I’m delighted to have her as a guest today. Cheryl is here to read a poem from the collection and share her inspiration. Please give her a warm welcome!


Inspiration for “As We Believe”

I worked for North Carolina architect Ligon Flynn (1931-2010) from 2007-2009. Ligon was at the end of his career, and my job was to help him write his architectural philosophy. But, the ideas expanded, and the project became more in-depth. At the same time, I went to graduate school at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Poetry and architecture became my passion.

Ligon’s architecture firm was a large open workspace. I listened to the sounds of design: shuffling of blueprints, tapping on keyboards, squeaking of chairs—the “work” of art and engineering. My workspace was full of books. I was studying architectural space, beginning with the first Ziggurat in Mesopotamia. It got me thinking about human evolution. We became emotional animals that are vulnerable in ways other animals aren’t. That’s how the poem starts:

                                    I’m hunched over, hairless,

                                    nails short, teeth dull,

                                    a delicate creature 

                                    in work boots—

The delicate creature—the artist—needs protection. The work boots allow her to begin working. And the first thing she does is compare her body to that of a building—her self compared to her art. The poem then moves into the work of the artist and architect, excavating and exploring, making something out of nothing.

The penultimate stanza introduces “God’s Architect,” Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). When Gaudí was alive, his contemporaries gave him that nickname. Gaudí believed he was serving God through architecture. He was deeply devoted to his last project, La Sagrada Familia.

Gaudí’s death fascinated me as much as his architecture. He was on his daily walk to the Saint Felip Neri church for prayer. A tram hit him, and he lost consciousness. The famed and beloved architect, having devoted day and night to his work, looked haggard. People who walked by him on the street thought he was a beggar and didn’t stop to help. By the time he was recognized and brought to the hospital, it was too late.

Artists are relatively unrecognizable. What the public sees and knows is the art. Most artists prefer it this way. At the same time, Gaudí’s story highlights the solitary nature of being an artist. I knew this from my own experience. I also witnessed it in Ligon’s firm—everyone working quietly on their own.

So, what do we believe in? How do we spend our time? What will we leave behind? (Gaudí believed his architecture served a greater purpose. He knew his “soft tissue” wouldn’t outlast a “load-bearing wall.”) None of the questions are new. And an artist is confronted with them at some point. Some struggle with it throughout their lives, a nagging voice in their heads, “Is all the work worth it?”


For more about the book and to follow the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

Thank you, Cheryl, for being my guest today and sharing a poem with my readers!

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Hello, friends! I’m happy to welcome Kathy Davis to the blog today to celebrate the release of her poetry collection, Passiflora. Kathy is here today to share a poem from the collection and its inspiration. Please give her a warm welcome!


Snapped

Her daughters shocked

to a splay-footed

standstill,

hair bows askew,

ears cocked as if wary

of what’s happening

behind them. 1914

and the family fruitcake

recipe says:

blanche the almonds,

shell pecans,

crystallize the cherries,

then call a man

to stir the heavy batter.

But they are too full

of four- and six-year-old

giggles and squirms

to pose pretty and smile

for their mama

who has finally snapped,

Turn around

and face the bushes!

and is taking a picture

of the backs

of their new white

summer Sunday dresses,

of the rows of tiny bone

buttons scavenged

from an old blouse,

the flounces crocheted

by kerosene light,

the cropped sleeves

trimmed with lace bartered

from the pack-peddler

for a skillet supper

and a spare bed. No

running water, electricity,

phones or paved roads; no

self-timer to unchain her

from the tripod; no

click and share,

but one snapshot

and generations of us

see: This is a woman

who could wield a needle.


“Snapped” is about a photograph I found among my mother’s things after she died. I had no idea who the two little girls were, why they were standing with their backs to the camera, or who took the picture. It was a puzzle until I came across a handwritten reminiscence about family by my great-aunt Agnes, as well as a copy of an article about I. George the pack peddler that she wrote when she was 92 for a local magazine.

Agnes is the older girl in the picture and my grandmother, Etta, is the younger one. The photograph was taken by my great-grandmother who apparently tended to dress these two alike. I loved the story of her determination to at least capture a record of her handiwork if she couldn’t, at that moment, get a good picture of two of her youngest girls. She was a schoolteacher and at 27 considered an “old maid” when she married my great-grandfather. He was a 44-year-old farmer and widower with only one arm and six children. They had five more children together. Living in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century meant the pack peddler and repurposing what was already had on hand were Great-Grandma Emma’s main sources for sewing supplies. Given all she had on her plate raising eleven children, I was so inspired when I learned she was such an accomplished seamstress and took pride in it.

The family fruitcake recipe with the direction to ask a man to stir the heavy batter also was something I found among my mother’s papers. It came from a different family member who was of the same generation as my great-grandmother and offered a good example of how women were viewed at the time, despite their daily accomplishments.

Finding out the story behind the photograph reinforced that I stand on the shoulders of a long line of determined and resourceful women. Agnes put herself through college and later farmed alongside her husband. My grandma Etta became a nurse in the 1920s over her older brothers’ objection that “only bad girls went to nursing school.” (Her father settled the matter in her favor saying he “knew as many bad girls who were teachers as nurses” and that you could be what you were regardless of what you did.) My mother and her sister also became nurses. All provide inspiration and, for me, that legacy is what “Snapped” celebrates.


About Passiflora

Advance Praise:

“In this gorgeous debut collection, Kathy Davis announces, ‘I’ve no illusions of control’—yet even as this book celebrates profusion, it manifests aesthetic control, unsentimental intelligence, and tightly leashed feeling. In fields of fleabane and wiregrass, women are taught to suppress their own wildness but burst out anyway in appetite and laughter. Cancer grows inside, jasmine tangles outside, yet this ecopoetic book cultivates restoration and consolation. Reading it is to imagine healing.” —Lesley Wheeler, author of The State She’s In

“Kathy Davis’ poems may begin in the domestic, but almost invariably end in a place that is startling, unfamiliar, and quietly estranging. And, thanks to the exactitude of her style, these transformations never seem less than inevitable. Hers is a voice of unobtrusive confidence, whether she is fashioning wry character studies or stern self-reckonings. These are haunting, bittersweet, and slyly consoling poems. Passiflora is a debut collection of the very first order.” —David Wojahn, author of for the scribe, World Tree and Interrogation Palace

“Intelligence, in its best meanings. The radiant presence of an informed and informing sensibility. An authentic voice with plenty of attitude. We hunger for these characteristics in our engagements with all the arts and hope for nothing less in what we’re willing to call poetry. In Passiflora we encounter the attentive eye of a passionate naturalist in poems that bring light and color—along with ironies and pain—into realizations of human lives reflected and rooted in the eruptions of wild life: the seeds, plants, animals, and landscapes that are the foundations of survival and the potent wellsprings of wisdom and joy. Kathy Davis weaves the most sophisticated, intimate variety of braided poem, as in the consummately crafted ‘For My Son’s Birth Mother,’ an invitation to the vivid observations of a woman walking through a San Diego art exhibit in a poem that subtly yet poignantly reveals the inescapable undercurrent in her thoughts—the intensities of caring for an adopted child. Davis brings to her revelations a kind of taste and judgment that is not about regulation or limitation, but about courage and respect. In these devotional poems, the erotics of the human body are intertwined with the perfumes of flowers and healing herbs in a collection whose every page brings an awakening, an expansion of experience, acutely satisfying a yearning of which we had been unaware.” —Gregory Donovan, author of Torn from the Sun and Founding Editor, Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts.

Available at Cider Press Review and Amazon


About the Author

Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer from Richmond, VA. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, storySouth and other journals. Davis holds a BA and MBA from Vanderbilt University and an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction.


For more about the book and to follow the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

Thank you, Kathy, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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Source: Review copy from author

Book Blurb:

At the age of twenty, Cheryl Wilder got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive. She emerged from the car physically whole. Her passenger, a close friend, woke up from a coma four months later with a life-changing brain injury. Anything That Happens follows her journey from a young adult consumed by shame and self-hatred to a woman she can live with…and even respect. Along the way, Wilder marries, has a son, divorces, and cares for her dying mother. Anything That Happens examines what it takes to reconcile a past marked by a grave mistake, a present as caregiver to many, and a future that stretches into one long second chance.

A debut poetry collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance. Cover art, “In bloom” by Coleen Tagnolli.


I am two people now —

the before and the after; one I’ve already

forgotten the other I have not met.

(from “Bailed Out”)

What is

left but a future where I am not worth saving.

(from “For What It’s Worth”)


My thoughts:

Cheryl Wilder’s poetry collection, Anything That Happens, is a poetic memoir that details a drunk driving accident that leaves a friend with brain damage and all that guilt and blame that accompanies it. The poems make you ask: How does one come to terms with a bad decision with life-changing consequences? How does one move on from that and live a full life when burdened by questions about what they deserve? And is it wrong to find love and have a child, and how does guilt affect those relationships?

Wilder also delves deep into the emotional turmoil of being abandoned by her father and the weight of caring for a dying parent. These poems are heavy, they are hard to read, but at the same time, they pull you in and make you think. There is something real in these poems, in Wilder’s search for “home,” something that is both haunting and cathartic.

Anything That Happens prompts you to remember a time in your own life when you were young and foolishly believed, like Wilder says in the title poem, that “anything wouldn’t happen to me.” Maybe that “anything” is a traumatic crash that leaves you questioning how much guilt one should shoulder for an “accident.” Maybe your “anything” is a lot less devastating, but still it is the turning point, where there is only “the before and the after.” That is what Wilder explores in these poems, bravely sharing her story and laying bare the conflicting emotions of getting a second chance.


For more about the book and to follow the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth Kropf to the blog today to celebrate the release of her chapbook, What Mothers Withhold. I hope you’ll check out the featured poem, and stop by again in February for my review. Please give Elizabeth a warm welcome!


My chapbook “what mothers withhold” has just been published by Finishing Line Press. I would like to share the title poem of my chapbook “what mothers withhold” and discuss the inspiration and how it relates to the chapbook.

what mothers withhold

my four-year-old says she does not like when Elsa is mean to her sister

I try to explain that she is only trying to protect her

as I protect her with a sanitized, joyful version of her birth

as my mother protected me

leaving out for so long life-threatening hemorrhaging 

as mothers have always withheld splinters of pain

unwilling to prick innocent skin

until the moment the child is ready to hold truth tenderly

accept blood trickle from sharp edges

until the child has eyes to see translucent change from shard to jewel

glistening with amniotic fluid, with the deepest shade of ruby,

with the shine of unbreakable diamonds

© 2021, what mothers withhold, Finishing Line Press

When my oldest was a toddler she wanted me to tell me the story of her birth every day. I had a difficult birth with her and omitted many details when telling the story. This paralleled with me becoming an adult and hearing more about my mom’s much more difficult delivery with me. Becoming a mother has helped me appreciate my mom so much more and has brought us closer. Many of the poems are about pregnancy and birth, but there is also a theme of a desire to protect our children, and that is my most primal desire. I hope that readers will either be able to connect to their experiences as parent or child or have a window into the perspective.

Elizabeth Kropf


Thank you, Elizabeth! I definitely can relate to wanting to protect my daughter and withholding truths until she grew up. This sounds like a poignant collection of poems, especially for mothers. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the chapbook next month.


About What Mothers Withhold

The poems of “what mothers withhold” are songs of brokenness and hope in a mother’s voice, poems of the body in its fierceness and failings. Elizabeth Kropf’s poems revel in peeling back silence, and invite us to witness a complicated and traumatic world that is also filled with love.

–Cindy Huyser, poet and editor, author of “Burning Number Five: Power Plant Poems.”

With these visceral poems, poet and mother Elizabeth Kropf has composed a chant of the vocabulary of vulnerability. From fertility to conception to birth—or not—and into motherhood, Kropf’s recounting of her experiences compels the reader to enter and acknowledge the power of what mothers endure and withhold.

–Anne McCrady, author of Letting Myself In and Along Greathouse Road

Amazon | Goodreads


About the Author

Elizabeth Kropf earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Perelandra College and is widely published in literary publications, including The Texas Poetry Calendar, The Penwood Review, and Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature.  A dream called her from California to Texas where she now lives with her husband and daughters.


For more information about the book, and to follow the blog tour, click the button below.

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I’m delighted to welcome Arisa White back to Diary of an Eccentric today to share a little about her upcoming release, Who’s Your Daddy, a poetic memoir due out in March 2021, and a video poetry reading. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Who’s Your Daddy started as a series of epistolary poems when my mother first asked me if I wanted to write my father in Guyana. He was deported back there for involvement in a criminal case. Because I did not know what I would say in the letter—in part because I didn’t know what my feelings were—I needed the space to reflect, feel, and prepare for language.

At its root, the work is personal, it requires a telling, and it’s seeking to know something and someone. I was wondering how the poem could hold this journey that would be expository, observational, interrogative, and self-reflective. I was pushing the poem to its extreme, asking it to come explore with me as I figured out my relationship with my father, his absence, and the woman I’ve become in this estranged dynamic.

I wrote the epistolary poems for nearly two years, all of which were addressed to Gerald, my father. Fortunately, I received a grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation, which allowed me to create a self-publication of the poems, host a series of letter writing workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area, and take a trip to Guyana where I met my father after 30-plus years of his absence from my life.

The self-publication is called Dear Gerald, and I gave out these chapbooks in exchange for letters addressed to absent, distant, dead fathers and patriarchal figures. This resulted in me collecting eighteen letters, one came as far as the Philippines and two from inmates sentenced to San Quentin. My mom even sent in a letter.

When I went to Guyana in 2015, I kept a journal and read the newspaper every day I was there, so when I returned back to the States, I now had notes and reflections from actually meeting Gerald, being in his home country, in the neighborhood in which he grew up. All these pieces felt necessary to the book.

The project was expanding and broadening. Throughout it all, I was reading articles on father absence, the historical role of the father, pieces on Black fatherhood and The New Jim Crow, books on endarkened feminisms, Afrofuturism, neoliberalism, Black death, as well as poetry collections that employed documentary poetics. Reading works like Zong!, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, and You Da One, I was intrigued with how to include all the ways I was responding to (and how life around me was helping to answer) the questions of what do I feel when it comes to my father? Who am I as a result of his absence? What is love in abandonment? What role does disappearance serve in my intimate relations?

After the trip to Guyana, I felt physically done with the project. I was exhausted from it. And it wasn’t until 2017, when writing with my friend Emerson Whitney (who has an amazing lyrical memoir out called HEAVEN) that it started to make sense how I could integrate these different pieces together. Emerson’s style is wonderfully lyrical and fluid. He pulls in and weaves citations along with personal memories and his sentences have strong poetic sensibilities. What you get is an autotheory that feels more authentic to how a life lives, learns, senses, and makes meaning.

In the writing game of tag with Emerson, where I would send a prompt (photograph, quote, etc.) to him, and then he tagged me with a prompt, I started to push the length of the line and challenged the function of the sentence. I became less afraid of the sentence as a thing of prose writers, and started to feel it as a way to communicate with my father–off in another country, miles and miles away, with decades between us. The sentence was a way to connect, it was a conjunctive experience.

Who’s Your Daddy finally took a coherent shape while curating a reading series, and being in residence, at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco for eight weeks. I wrote a twelve-page piece that included citations from writers like Henry A. Giroux and Christina Sharpe, the artist Meleko Mokgosi, the letters received from folks, prose poems, all of which comprise the final section of the book. Writing that twelve-page piece taught me how to develop the rest of the collection, and with the help of my editor Kate Angus, I was able to recognize which narratives I needed to include from childhood and young adulthood. Now, as I look over the book, the opening sections of Who’s Your Daddy are more poetry, the shorter lines, and then as the collection progresses, the genres blend, the sentence takes over as I make my way to the father.

****

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About Who’s Your Daddy

A lyrical, genre-bending coming-of-age tale featuring a queer, Black, Guyanese American woman who, while seeking to define her own place in the world, negotiates an estranged relationship with her father.

Advance Praise:

“Arisa White channels the ear of Zora Neal Hurston, the tongue of Toni Cade Bambara, and the eye of Alice Walker in the wondrous Who’s Your Daddy. She channels Guyanese proverbs, Shango dreams, games of hide and seek, and memories of an absentee father to shape the spiritual condition. What she makes is “a maze that bobs and weaves a new style whenever there’s a demand to love.” What she gives us are archives, allegories, and wholly new songs.” —Terrance Hayes

“In these crisply narrative poems, which unreel like heart-wrenching
fragments of film, Arisa White not only names that gaping chasm between
father and daughter, but graces it with its true and terrible face. Every
little colored girl who has craved the constant of her father’s gaze will
recognize this quest, which the poet undertakes with lyric that is tender
and unerring.” —Patricia Smith

“Somewhere nearing its end, Arisa White says of Who’s Your Daddy, it’s
“a portrait of absence and presence, a story, a tale, told in patchwork
fashion . . .” This exactly says what Who’s Your Daddy is, though it
doesn’t say all it takes to do justice to the mythic paradox an absent
parent guarantees a child, young or grown, or what it takes to live with
and undergo such birthright. There’s not only a father’s absence and
presence, there’s a mother who says “you raise your daughters, and love
your sons,” there are stepfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, a grandmother,
brothers, lovers, all of whom leave their marks and give and take love.
Surrounding the whole book hovers the questions do I forgive him, and is
forgiveness possible? This beautifully, honestly conceived genius of a book
shook me to the core.” —Dara Wier

Goodreads | Pre-order

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About the Author

Arisa White
Photo credit: Nye’ Lyn Tho

Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow and an assistant professor of creative writing at Colby College. She is the author of four books, including the poetry collection You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, and coauthor of Biddy Mason Speaks Up, winner of the Maine Literary Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the Nautilus Book Award Gold Medal for Middle-Grade Nonfiction. She serves on the board of directors for Foglifter and Nomadic Press. Find her at arisawhite.com.

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For more about the book, and to follow the blog tour, click the button above.

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I’m delighted to welcome Rojé Augustin to Diary of an Eccentric today as part of the blog tour for her poetry collection Out of No Way, which has received rave reviews. She is here to share a guest post, but before I have Rojé take over, here’s a little about the book:

Author, producer and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter A’Lelia Walker. Out of No Way: Madam C.J. Walker & A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Dramatracks Walker’s phenomenal rise from penniless orphan to America’s first self-made female millionaire in dramatic verse.

Born Sarah Breedlove to former Louisiana slaves in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, became a mother at 17, and was widowed at 20. After the death of her first husband, Sarah moved to St. Louis with her daughter where she earned $1.50 a day as a washerwoman. When her hair starting falling out she developed a remedy and sold her formula across the country. In the process she became the wealthiest Negro woman in America. Rojé’s highly original and accomplished poetry is written through the lens of the mother/daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric poems to haikus, blackout poetry to narrative (one poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’) — with each chapter addressing issues relevant to their lives at the time.

Written against the backdrop of the Jim Crow era, Out of No Way is ultimately an examination of what W.E.B Du Bois called “conflicting identities.” Sarah was a proud African American on the one hand and a woman seeking America’s acceptance on the other. She was a pauper who achieved the American Dream while denied the rights and protections of the American Constitution. She was a wife, mother, and businesswoman who juggled the demands of family with the demands of career. And she was an orphan who had to transcend a brutal childhood in order to be a loving mother to her child. As Du Bois stated at the time, “One ever feels a two-ness. An American, A Negro…Two warring ideals in one dark body.” Indeed Madam C.J. Walker/Sarah Breedlove was an American and a Negro, as was her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, both of whom likely viewed herself through their own conflicting identities. What did they see?

Out of No Way tells Walker’s remarkable rags-to-riches story by exploring thoughtful questions — What impact did Sarah’s busy work life have on A’Lelia? What was the bond between a mother orphaned so young and the daughter who might wait days or weeks for her return? Could the death of her parents when she was a child have compromised Sarah’s nurturing instincts? How did A’Lelia feel about their newfound wealth? What, if any, were the drawbacks of that wealth?

Amazon | Goodreads

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I’ve asked Rojé to address the following: Explore how your research into the mother-daughter relationship informed your poetic work, and has it given you greater insights into how you, as a working mother, tackle your responsibilities? Please give her a warm welcome!

As a working mom, you often feel torn between giving your all at work and giving your all at home, particularly where your children are concerned.  You feel torn because you quickly realize that being a great mom and being a great (insert profession here) cannot happen simultaneously, the two goals are mutually exclusive.  In other words, you can’t give your all at work, while also giving your all at home because doing so only supplies divided attention, which causes both work and home to ultimately collapse, not to mention you.  At some point, you start to feel you have to make a choice or else risk losing it all — work, family, sanity.  But even when you do choose one, assuming you have a choice, there is always a sacrifice.  Always.  I think this is true for most working parents.

Having experienced this conundrum myself, I wondered quite a lot about Madam C.J. Walker.  Here was a woman who, like the vast majority of her peers, actually had no choice.  She had to work and she had to raise her child.  What then were her particular sacrifices?  What were her sufferings as a result?  It occurred to me that family is often the first sacrificial lamb for any parent who has no choice but to work fifty, sixty, or seventy hour work weeks, as Madam C.J. Walker had when she was Sarah Breedlove, washerwoman & cook.  And children especially are the frontline.  The first to feel the gaping hole left by a parent’s absence.  A’Lelia must have felt this, too.  What did that look like?

Filtering my research through this line of inquiry informed my work tremendously because it offered emotionally rich possibilities with which to write the poems.  The mother-daughter relationship is an inherently complex and poignant affair often explored in the novels of black authors — take the works of Jamaica Kincaid for example — but less so in poetry.  I wanted to convey a sense of what their dynamic might have been given their unique set of circumstances.  Madam Walker was orphaned at age seven, a mother at seventeen, a widow by twenty.  She was only one generation removed from slavery, she had to navigate life through the whip of Jim Crow, and the lynching of black people carried out with impunity.  And yet she had the awesome resilience to raise herself and her child out of poverty and into prosperity in less than ten years, by working really hard and working all the time.  One goal was very clearly achieved.  What of the other?

As for myself, I discovered through this creative exercise that I am guilty of tackling my working-mom responsibilities with the pressure of perfection weighing heavily on my psyche.  But it never works.  I inevitably spin myself into exhaustion.  Best to just strive for balance and hope for the best.  Which, I guess, for me is perfection.

Thank you for sharing your story and Madam Walker’s with us, and thank you for my guest today!

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About the Author 

Rojé Augustin

Rojé Augustin is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her first novel, The Unraveling of Bebe Jones, won the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award in African American fiction. She wrote the novel while living in London and Sydney as a stay-at-home-mom. She established Breaknight Films shortly after her move to Sydney in 2009 to develop and produce television projects across a range of formats, including television, web, and audio. Her first Sydney based project was a podcast and visual web series called The Right Space, which explores the relationship between creatives and their workspace. Rojé continues to work as a television producer while also writing in her spare time. She is an Australian citizen who currently lives in Sydney with her Aussie husband and two daughters.

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, there are two copies of Out of No Way up for grabs (digital for international entrants; print for U.S./Canadian entrants). This giveaway ends Oct. 31, 2020, and you must enter through Rafflecopter. Good luck!

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Click the button for more about Out of No Way and Rojé Augustin, including video readings of her work, and to follow the blog tour.

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Source: Review copy from publisher

Elizabeth Hazen’s Girls Like Us is a collection of poems that packs a punch from the start. (You can read the collection’s opening poem, “Devices,” and Hazen’s inspiration in last week’s guest post.)

Hazen writes about the power of language, and that power radiates through every poem in the collection. These poems are honest and brave, shocking and edgy without feeling forced. There’s a heaviness to these poems, but moments of empowerment as well.

As a woman, it was hard not to feel like the narrator was telling my story.

What simplicity
to be as silence or as air — there yet

not there. But it takes such work to disappear,
and secrets threaten to spill from you like liquor
you can’t hold. You tell yourself you’re someone else.

(from “Against Resignation”)

 

How do words —
lacking form beyond the curve of font, the flick

of tongue, the measure of my breathing — break,
so easily, a bond?

(from “Diamond”)

There were many poems like these, where a line would just hit me in the gut and I recognized myself on the page. The narrator’s experience is not exactly my own, yet I understand, have felt that precise feeling.

Know that your body may be numb awhile,

and when you see yourself revealed in paint,
note the proportions, but ignore the faint

glimmer he put in your eye that isn’t you.

(from “Times from a Nude Model”)

Hazen’s poems are personal yet universal, strong yet vulnerable, and she deftly packs so much emotion and meaning into a few words.

and though she scrapes away the corrosion, a new battery is not
enough, and the hours pass, though not exactly as before.

(from “The Clock”)

Girls Like Us is a collection of poems that begs to be read multiple times. I spent a few hours with these poems and took away so much, yet I feel I only scratched the surface. Hazen’s unflinching take on the female experience is one that I won’t soon forget.

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Giveaway

Two copies of Girls Like Us are up for grabs as part of the blog tour. To enter, you must use this Rafflecopter link. The giveaway runs July 24, 2020. You must be 18 or older and have a U.S. mailing address to qualify.

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Click the button below for more information about the book and the author, and to follow the blog tour.

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