Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Great Day at the Writer's Almanac

"April in Maine" by May Sarton, from Collected Poems: 1930-1993. © W.W. Norton & Company, 1992. (buy now) 

April in Maine 

The days are cold and brown,
Brown fields, no sign of green,
Brown twigs, not even swelling,
And dirty snow in the woods.

But as the dark flows in
The tree frogs begin
Their shrill sweet singing,
And we lie on our beds
Through the ecstatic night,
Wide awake, cracked open.

There will be no going back.

It's the birthday of expatriate writer and literary confidant Alice B. Toklas— (books by this author) the partner of Gertrude Stein—born in San Francisco (1877). In 1907, she went to Paris and there she met Stein, whom Toklas described as wearing "a large, round coral brooch, and when she talked &$8230; I thought her voice came from her brooch. It was unlike any other else's voice — a deep, full velvety contralto's, like two voices." She immediately thought Stein was a genius.
The two became lovers and on a trip to Tuscany a few years later, Stein proposed to Toklas. They returned to Paris and moved into 27 rue de Fleurus, dislodging from the apartment Stein's older brother. The place became a social center for various artists and young writers, and Toklas regularly prepared elaborate meals for Picasso, Hemingway, Matisse, and Fitzgerald. She later included some of her recipes and stories in The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (1954), in which she wrote, "In the menu, there should be a climax and a culmination. Come to it gently. One will suffice."
Stein proposed that Toklas write an autobiography and suggested that it be called "My Life with the Great" or "My Twenty-Five Years with Gertrude Stein." But instead, Stein herself wrote the book she called The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). In the book, Stein writes in the voice of Alice:
"I am a pretty good housekeeper and a pretty good gardener and a pretty good needlewoman and a pretty good secretary and a pretty good vet for dogs and I have to do them all at once and I found it difficult to add being a pretty good author."

It's the birthday of Annie (Doak) Dillard, (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1945). After writing a master's thesis on Thoreau's Walden, she moved to a cabin along Tinker Creek in the Virginian Blue Ridge Mountains. There she wrote poetry and also kept a daily journal of her observations of nature and her thoughts about God and religion. She wrote in old notebooks and on four-by-six-inch index cards, and when she was ready to transform the journal into a book, she had 1,100 entries. The result, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, was published in 1974. It became a Book of the Month Club selection that year and received the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1975; she was only 29 years old.
She has published collections of essays and of poetry, as well as an autobiography. Her most recent work is a novel, The Maytrees (2007).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Publishing Triangle Awards announced

The winners of the Publishing Triangle Awards were announced last night:

The Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry: Joan Larkin, My Body (Hanging Loose Press)

The Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry: (tie) Steve Fellner, Blind Date with Cavafy (Marsh Hawk Press); Daniel Hall, Under Sleep (The University of Chicago Press)

The Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction: Myriam Gurba, Dahlia Season (Manic D Press)

The Ferro Grumley Awards for LGBT Fiction: (tie) Peter Cameron, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Ali Liebegott, The IHOP Papers (Carroll & Graf)

The Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction: Janet Malcolm, Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (Yale University Press)

The Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction: Michael Rowe, Other Men's Sons (Cormorant Books)

Also awarded, and previously announced:
The Publishing Triangle Leadership Award: Richard Labonte and Carol Seajay
The Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement: Katherine V. Forrest

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What I Am Reading

A stack of books about Sappho - Yopie Prins and Ruth Vanita, in particular, I am deeply enamored with.

Fidelity by Grace Paley. This book is so wise in it's content it is nearly heartbreaking to read, but more than the opportunity to spend some time with the poet's mind and think about what she was thinking and feeling, she is doing very interesting things with lineation, spacing, and punctuation in these poems. Reading it has made me savor the conversation at WOMPO about lineation.

Unmentionables by Beth Ann Fennelly. I just read some of this today and it is a delight. The first thing that has struck me about this is what she is doing with poetic sequences and how engaged she is in dialogue with other poets. More to come, I'm sure, I've really only begun it, but am quite enchanted.

Woman Reading to the Sea by Lisa Williams. This book won the Barnard Poetry Prize and again, I've just been grazing in it, but there are some lovely poems in here, particularly ones engaged in midrash - though Williams probably wouldn't call it that - which also makes me think about conversations at WOMPO.

Red Bird by Mary Oliver. After Thirst, which I think in many ways was a departure from her other work, this book seems like a return to many of her themes and is going to delight fans in a major way.

Waiting for my attention are Longenbach's book on the poetic line, Reginald Shepherd's essays newly out from UMich, Orpheus in the Bronx, and the new Jeanette Winterson book, The Stone Gods (a novel), which someone just raved to me about.

This week I am defending my MFA thesis, doing a reading in Maine, and then on Saturday traveling to Mexico for a much needed vacation (and carrying along a big stack of books!)

New Columns Live

I have posted a few new columns for CIVILesbianIZATION. For regular readers of this blog, I’d love to hear your comments about what you think I should be writing about. Meanwhile, check out these new columns.

Sappho - The Mother of Us All

The Rotten and the Bliss

And a replay of one over at the Edge Network:

Tell Your Children about Gay and Lesbian People

The Edge Network is really growing with city portals all over the country. Bookmark them and check back regularly.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In Memoriam: Rochelle Ratner, 1948-2008

I was shocked the other week to learn that Rochelle Ratner died. I had been in email correspondence with Rochelle as a result of reviewing a number of her books for Galatea Resurrects. You can see my reviews of her work here, here, and here. A few months ago, she sent me a copy of a book of reviews that she had published from the 1970s. As women’s writing in that time period is one of my key interests academically, I was grateful for her gift.

As with many acquaintances, I did not know that she was ill, and I was shocked by her death.

This obituary was distributed by her latest publish, Marsh Hawk Press. At the end are links to her writing and website, I miss her and the world misses her. I hope you will join me in remembering her work.

Our friend and colleague, Rochelle Ratner, passed away on Monday, March 31, 2008, She was 59 years old. She was born and raised in Atlantic City, but came to live in New York City as an aspiring writer in her early twenties. She published more than twenty-three books of poetry and fiction and was afforded many honors. Her most recent book, Balancing Acts, was selected as a Favorite New Title for National Poetry Month. The honor was announced on the day of her death.
Her childhood experiences in Atlantic City, N.J. played a large role in much of her writing. The landscape and tenor of the deteriorating resort in the 1950s and 1960s, before gambling was legalized, form the backdrop for her first novel, Bobby's Girl, as well as the poems in Sea Air In A Grave Ground Hog Turns Toward. The sea and beach have served as inspiration for other books of poetry, including Pirate's Song, and Combing the Waves.
Over the years her writing expanded to include short stories, memoirs, articles, criticism, visual work, and editing, with poetry remaining a firm, and continual, base. [For detailed information on her life and writings click here.]
She is survived by her husband, Kenneth Thorp, and by her father Herman Ratner. Her internment was April 3, 2008 in Westerley, Rhode Island.
For details on her life and publishing click here

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Why Study Women's Poetry

On Saturday, I’ll be attending this fabulous conference at St. Francis College in Brooklyn on Why Study Women’s Poetry. In the afternoon, I’ll be presenting a paper, “Meeting Loving, and Losing the Beloved Muse: Thinking through Lesbian Relationships in the Poetry of May Sarton and Marilyn Hacker.”

If you can’t be there, you can take a peek at the paper here:

Why Study Women’s Poetry Paper

or at the handout here:

Why Study Women’s Poetry Handout

Take a look at the agenda, it looks to be a very stimulating day.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Photos from Text and Techne Conference

A good time was had by all on Saturday at our panel on the long poem. Here two photos. First, my colleagues Gerald Maa and Hannah Baker and then me and Laura Leichum. Special thanks to Anthony Punt - who will be joining the Maryland program in the fall focusing on post-colonial literature.