Yesterday one of my poems, "Savasana: Corpse Pose," was selected as the poem of the day on the new website "A Year of Being Here," that publishes "daily mindfulness poetry by wordsmiths of the here and now." Phyllis Cole-Dai, the project curator, started this site at the beginning of the year, and it's clearly a labor of love based on all the work she's done selecting poems as well as stunning images to complement them. I enjoy subscribing to the site for free and receiving a daily poem in my email inbox that I read every morning as part of my yoga and morning meditation. I encourage you to subscribe, to read through the archives and to submit any of your own poems that might seem fitting.
A couple years ago I met Jason Freeman, a wonderful poet and an extraordinary person, at the John R. Milton Writers' Conference at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion. Since then, Jason has moved from Sioux Falls to San Diego to follow his dream of becoming an inspirational speaker.
To promote his new business, Jason writes a blog on his website, Heroic Yes! Productions. Check it out--well-crafted, fun, thought-provoking. And to spark your own dreams, read his free e-book "Who's the CEO of Your Life?" If you need an inspirational speaker who is professional, motivational and way outside the box for an upcoming group or event, I guarantee Jason will deliver.
James Lenfestey, the editor of Low Down and Coming On: A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems about Pigs, will host a reading on Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m. at the Litchfield Opera House (downtown, next to the post office--corner of 2nd St. and Marshall Ave. ).
Free will donations at the door. Refreshments will be available.
The anthology is dedicated to poet and essayist Bill Holm, professor emeritus of English at SMSU, whose idea it was before he died unexpectedly in 2009. In Bill's honor, over a dozen "pig gigs" have been presented in the Twin Cities area.
The book has been described on www.commongoodbooks.com as "a corpulent, beautifully designed hardcover anthology of 133 poems (and one recipe) by 103 poets (and one architect), edited with an introduction by James P. Lenfestey."
The Common Good Books website also states that "Lenfestey has done a yeoman's job gathering up poems from around the world and throughout literary time, including poems by a Nobel Prize winner (Pablo Neruda, in a new translation), two US Poet Laureates (Donald Hall, Ted Kooser), five state poet laureates (Robert Bly, Jane Gentry, William Kloefcorn, David Lee, Linda Pastan) and one Provincial treasure (John B. Lee). Plus nearly 100 others, some published here for the first time, others multiple blue ribbon winners. All the poets seem to find in our close porcine cousins something both delicious and dangerous, 'so right it's wrong,' as one poet says of his gourmand love."
The book contains funny, sad, and otherwise fascinating poems about pigs. Other poets include Carl Sandburg, William Blake, Joe Paddock, Bill Holm, James Lenfestey, Margaret Atwood, Wendell Berry, Robert Bly, Billie Collins, Louise Erdrich, Walt Whitman, Robert Service, Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes, and Shelley.
Those reading selections from the book include Joe Paddock, James Lenfestey, Nancy Paddock, Bill Peltier, Darlene Kotelnicki and Carole Wendt.
Micawber's Books, a popular book store in Minneapolis, has called Low Down and Coming On the best poetry book of 2010.
"This book proves that pigs do fly," writes Eric Utne, founder of the Utne Reader.
Jim and I won't be able to go because we have another commitment, but I hope a good crowd gathers. The reading sounds like a wonderful way to honor Bill Holm and celebrate world-class poetry by bringing it to the people. I look forward to buying a copy and reading it this summer.
Here is the trailer for a new book coming out in June 2011 by Minnesota State University, Mankato MFA in Creative Writing alum Bronson Lemer:
The Last Deployment: How a Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq.
Lemer is a creative writer, journalist, editor, and teacher. He spent six years as a carpenter with the North Dakota Army National Guard, including deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. His experiences in Iraq are the basis for his memoir The Last Deployment. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His creative writing has appeared in The Reykjavik Grapevine, Blue Earth Review, and Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers.
On Monday, April 18, SMSU students in British Literature Survey II with Dr. Jim Zarzana will present a reading of 19th and early 20th Century British poets in the William Whipple Gallery, BA 291, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Come to hear famous and well-loved classic poems such as "The Tyger" by William Blake and "The Daffodils" by William Wordsworth.
On Wednesday, April 20, English Professor Dr. Elizabeth Blair will read from her essays on her adventures in finding many of Minnesota's 42 species of wild orchids in northern Minnesota wetlands. Her reading will be in the William Whipple Gallery, BA 291, from 3-4 p.m.
On Thursday, April 21, SMSU creative writing students will host a reading and reception to celebrate this year's issue of Perceptions, SMSU's literary and arts publication, in the William Whipple Gallery from 4-6 p.m.,
For more information on the SMSU Fine Arts Celebration, which runs through to the end of April, check the website schedule.
SMSU is hosting its 5th Annual Fine Arts Celebration this month. Click on the name in bold for the full schedule. Here are the readings for this week:
English Professor Dr. Susan McLean will be giving a poetry reading in the William Whipple Art Gallery, BA 291 (next to the SMSU Library) on Wednesday, April 13 from 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Assistant Professor of English Marianne Murphy Zarzana (moi) will be giving a reading of poems and essays in the Whipple Art Gallery on Thursday, April 14 from 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Please join us!
My husband, Jim Zarzana, has started a new website (www.jamesazarzana.com) with The Eclectic Blog, laced with literary and political insights, and a page with excerpts from his science fiction manuscript, The Marsco Saga. I encourage you to check it out and share it with others you think might be interested. Jim has written a compelling and complex character-driven story of vivid speculative fiction that will hook readers and take them on an amazing ride. Of course, I'm just slightly biased.
Poems from Prison
This Tuesday, March 15 at 7 p.m., Jim Reese will be reading from his new book of poems, ghost on 3rd, in the Whipple Art Gallery at Southwest Minnesota State University. Jim has been the National Endowment for the Arts' Writer in Residence at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp since 2008. Here are two poems based on his experiences teaching at the prison. Jim is a terrific writer and performer. I hope you can join us. Please spread the word. Let's fill the seats.
Jesus Christ Pose
I walk both sides of the fence.
I have no sympathy for those who premeditate
and execute heinous crimes.
In a theatre practicum in San Quentin
I watch you, a prisoner, standing
in the center of the room.
You raise your hands, palms up,
head dangling down,
your Jesus Christ pose.
You begin to stand on one foot.
The room is quiet. People begin
shifting in their seats.
Minutes pass. You begin to lose your balance.
Every morning, you say, after my foster father left for work,
she made me stand in the corner like this.
When your desperate left foot
hits the ground
you scream in the voice of a child
And now I understand why
some of you are here.
* * *
I suppose it's just habit,
when I pass the guys in the yard that I ask,
How's it going?
Always since I was a kid, I'd ask,
How's it going? To strangers--to friends.
Today, as I pass men in their prison-issued khakis
and numbered shirts, one stops and tells me,
Don't you know--you're not supposed to ask us that?
And those few seconds that we stand face to face--
I try to conjure up what I should have said before a guard
orders him away.
What I should have said was,
No, I didn't know. How stupid of me
not to think of something smarter to say.
Me, the teacher, who can leave this prison camp
any time I like.
As part of the SMSU Visiting Writers Series, Jim Reese will read from his new book, ghost on 3rd, on Tues., March 15, at 7 p.m., in the Whipple Art Gallery at Southwest Minnesota State University. The event is free and open to the public, and Reese's books will be available to purchase.
Here's what Reese's website has to say about his new book:
Jim Reese’s newest collection, ghost on 3rd, is riddled with love, latent violence, humor, and prison life. Critics who said that his last collection kicked “like an old pump-12 gauge” will be happy to find the barrels sawed off in this book. Reese shows no sign of putting the hammer down—he takes his reader on the daily routine and long nights that are an inescapable part of raising two small daughters—shows us how family is not a burden but a complex source of joy. Ride shotgun with him down the lonesome byways of the Great Plains westward into San Quentin prison, where he has full access and isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. Author John Price writes: “Reese’s beautiful and powerful poems are born of ‘wish and skin and bone,’ of dirt and dignity, of faith and fry grease, of laughter and lament. To read them is to be carried to a place where risk is a promise fulfilled—whether it be the homing memory of a grandfather or eating suspicious pastries or raising children or teaching poetry to inmates. It is a place where the familiar opens into the extraordinary, and even, at times, the miraculous.”
We call it the heartland but we seldom drop by for a visit. Jim Reese catches the dying fire of the small town wasteland that staggers on with meth, desire, and neglect. These loving poems open the door to the real little house on the prairie. Time to step inside and finally have one honest moment with the forgotten center of our people. - Charles Bowden
author of SOME OF THE DEAD ARE STILL BREATHING: LIVING IN THE FUTURE
Here’s a poet of extraordinary talent who juxtaposes the voices of ordinary people with those of his young family. Reese is most moving, however, when he writes with tenderness about his wife and children, and the delicate place that the young husband and wife create for themselves in the midst of everyday small town life and in the odd, precious moments when their children don’t need them. These poems will make you laugh and cry. Ghost on 3rd is one of the strongest books of poetry I’ve read in a very long time. - Maria Mazziotti Gillan
winner of the 2008 American Book Award for ALL THAT LIES BETWEEN US
In Ghost on 3rd, everything is connected, and everything is fragile. In these poems, ordinary life with its children and neighbors crackles like a mirage, and shifts and opens, and we find we’ve been all along in San Quentin prison. What is it we just saw?—a five-year-old child swinging on the monkey bars, or a tattooed convict, crying? Reese’s eye is the eye of a father, and he finds his world both alien and comforting. These are poems of praise and poems of warning, infused with love and latent violence. Reese makes us feel the threat throbbing inside the song. - Kent Meyer
author of THE TWISTED TREE
I'm a fan of award-winning poet Dorianne Laux, and I enjoyed her poem "Antilamentation," which is posted on The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor today. It's from The Book of Men, her new book of poems just out this February. Here's what Zinta from Portage, Michigan, wrote on the Better World Books website about Laux's new book:
"Mushrooms and stamens and pollinating bees, all bursting from a man’s briefs … this new collection of poetry by Dorianne Laux. . . is as seductive and enticing a literary treat as one has come to expect from one of America’s most delicious poets. If a treatise on boys and men, men on their own, men in the poet’s life, men observed at a distance, men in the moon, then it is also very much a collection for women and by one."
I love to play with words. To capture moments on the page. To explore the physical and spiritual geography of what I call "fly-over country." I write from imagination, observation and my own experience of wandering in fly-over country--the literal, physical spaces of my life on the Minnesota prairie and the inner territory of the soul.