Saturday, July 26, 2008

New chapbook: A Stranger Here Myself by Niki Nymark

Cherry Pie is pleased to announce a new chapbook by Niki Nymark! A Stranger Here Myself is funny, tragic, warm and wise. Steven Schreiner (University of Missouri-St. Louis MFA program, and Natural Bridge) says it best:

"Niki Nymark's beautiful poems revel in the relationship between hardship and humor. Whatever this poet learned in childhood from the quiet sorrow and disappointment of parents, she turns into joy and wisdom through her skill. These poems are defiantly youthful, passionately observant, and tender as a bruise."

Read some sample poems:

In Praise of Prose

Forsake poetry.
Prose is better—
more dependable,
less dangerous,
like that nice boy
your parents hoped
you’d marry.

Poetry is the one
you’d climb
out the window
to meet at midnight.

For Moishe

What have we found,
seventh decade love,
on the phone at night
telling jokes so old
no one else would laugh,
the Laurel and Hardy of ecstasy.
I slip on a banana peel;
you catch me in your arms.

I Regret Nothing

Turn and it’s gone,
the anatomy of youth
with all its succulence
and warmth.
Agreed, it took an eon
to make all the blunders
that etch my face.
Je regrette rien, rien.
Gravity tugs at
my attention,
hangs on my crumpled chin,
frightens me at night
from the mirror.
The brown spots
on my hands
are shaped
like little broken hearts.

A Stranger Here Myself (ISBN 978-0-9748468-7-3) is $10, is now available. Email Cherry Pie ( or call Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid, St. Louis, MO 63108 (ph 314.367.6731). (Left Bank will have the chapbook in stock soon -- ask them to hold a copy for you if it's not on the shelf yet.)

Life and Death and Poetry - Julie R. Enszer

As part of the upcoming web-based WOM-PO poetry festival, Julie Enszer has contributed an article on women poets that should be required reading. It is incisive and expansive (as Julie usually is) and thought-provoking. She writes of poets who have committed suicide and our need to see the cultural conditions surrounding them, and understand them as a way to see our own future as "one that is released from these oppressive narratives. Our future is--and must be--one where we are the recorders, not the suicides. Our future is--and must be--where we bear witness to death and to life so that we can all live inspired, not shackled, by the poetic muse."

Enough said. Go read it.

Kay Ryan, new poet laureate

Surely you've heard by now that it's time for a change of hands at the post of Poet Laureate. Kay Ryan is the new one -- the Washington Post has an article and video of her reading a wonderful poem (although beware that the video quickly spins on to the next one on file so you might suddenly be listening to John McCain!)

The Post article describes Ryan's long path to seeing herself as a writer, the longer path to getting anything published, anything recognized, and the support from her partner of 30 years, Carol Adair, and how that solid support helped organize a private campaign to keep sending out poetry submissions through the usual swamp of rejection letters. That long swamp is where most of us begin to limp, to say it might not matter, and turn inward or away. Luckily, Ryan kept going. The last few years have been a long-awaited carnival of recognition -- I saw her work first when it became a regular feature of Poetry magazine -- but that's just the last few steps on this long path. Her story is an inspiration for poets still in the swamp of despair. Take heart!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Small publishers and the chapbook marketplace

Looking for a small press? Here's one more place to browse if you're trying to find one that fits your aesthetic (and might be interested in your poems):

Books and chapbooks are listed for about a year after being received. Links are provided to books available through Amazon (so only those from the larger presses, since Amazon has locked out the small low-budget presses that can't afford to pay the fees and 40% cut to Amazon).

You'll see this year's Cherry Pie chaps listed on, but without, of course, the Amazon links.

Oh Canada

A few weeks ago I mentioned the fun you can have entering poetry contests that force you to write quickly. The one I'd entered was from a Canadian journal, Contemporary Verse 2, and supplied a list of challenging words to use in a poem written under a 48-hour deadline. The words ranged from "buckle" to "thorax" (no, I'm not kidding -- oh those Canadians). I had been reading a biography of Walt Whitman, and although he is an un-Canadian theme he was thoroughly ensconced in my mind at that point, so the poem ended up being about Whitman. Well, results are in and my Whitman poem placed on the "longlist" of 17 runners-up. I'm delighted! It was thoroughly fun.
See the poem here:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Assembling the Poems - The Map Yeats Left Us

As I'm going through the process of reading poems for the next chapbook and making suggestions about how to order the poems -- oh, there are so many ways to do it -- I found a captivating presentation by the National Library of Ireland on exactly this topic. William Butler Yeats' volume The Tower is traced from original poem drafts through publishing in periodicals through publishing in separate volumes, culminating in the collection called The Tower.

To find this "map" go to the National Library of Ireland website, and in the Yeats exhibit look for the "Interactives" link at the bottom of the main page, and follow it to Poetry in Process: Building the Tower. You'll get a map of the poems, and you can trace each one through drafts and publications. Look especially for the poems that display a little reel-shaped icon -- these take you to a "tutorial" which is an extended walk through the drafts of the poem, showing how Yeats revised, in many cases going back to his original word or stanza pattern after many revisions. Such tutorials are included for Leda and the Swan, Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen, and Sailing to Byzantium.

The other parts of the exhibit are interactive and allow you to tour all the rooms and display cases of the exhibit, with detailed information for each piece you click on. It is beautifully done, a wonder to behold for anyone interested in Yeats. This is a far cry from women poets in the U.S. midwest, to be sure, but I found it a trip worth the taking.

The exhibit:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Gloria Gordon!

Gloria Gordon, treasured member of Loosely Identified writing group (and many other writing, social and political groups) is celebrating a well-earned birthday, and in honor of that I'm posting one of her poems that appeared in the group's anthology, Breathing Out: Poems by Loosely Identified.

Ode to the Refrigerator
(after Neruda's Odes to Common Things)

How noisy you are!
I forgive you because you are old
with surgical scars
yet still keep working in summer heat.

Your faithful heart beats
even when no one is here
putting carrots in, taking tomatoes out;
more vigorous this summer than last!

You are a miracle from Pre-Plastic History--
metal drawers open and close with authority;
the solid clink of your glass shelves.
What persistence!

Thank you Gloria Gordon, for a terrific poem, and all your terrific years.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Urge to Believe - noted by Left Bank Books

Left Bank Books has picked The Urge to Believe is Stronger than Belief Itself as a 'recommended pick' in its July newsletter. A short review by Left Bank staff member Erin Quick:

St. Louis poet Erin M. Bertram's latest chapbook, The Urge to Believe is Stronger than Belief Itself, is a collection of prose poems grounded in the experience of dealing with cancer--namely breast cancer, though it largely goes unnamed in the book. With a daughter's kind, eager eye, she looks at what safety can be found in a name, gleaned from the seeming order of definition (whether from a dictionary or medical pamphlet) even when faced with the treachery of meaning. From the opening lines of Rilke to the book's final words, the solid actuality of language belies our frankly human experience of loss and its echo, pain. In such a world, where we are always reaching, even our mother's breasts bear the fragility of existence. In such a world, "any change is worth noting."