Content Tagged ‘poetry’

House Guest with Lesley Wheeler: every literary world is imaginary

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors and cover artists, as well as editors from peer presses and magazines, to tell us what they’re working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask.

Lesley Wheeler’s poem “Grant Report, New Zealand” appears in Ecotone’s Migration Issue, and her entry in our Poem in a Landscape department appears in Ecotone 19, our tenth-anniversary issue. Radioland, her fourth collection of poems, is newly out from Barrow Street Press.

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Editing a book of poetry is probably not on most people’s list of terrors, but I’d rather face public speaking any day, or maybe an egg sac bursting with baby wood spiders. You’ve been web-spinning for years and the results are almost ready for the public, but first you have to make sure the spacing and em dashes are just so. And that’s the easy part: it’s much harder to read your poems freshly again and again during the brief window your overworked editors allot for the process. If you don’t, however, you won’t catch the word whorl on three pages running, or a slightly bungled Dickinson quote, or the dropped italics. Then one day when, overcoming the existential nausea of book promotion, you stand at podium before those raised expectant faces, you’ll turn to page seventeen and the error you finally spot will break your heart.

Well, maybe you wouldn’t burn in shame about an em dash, but certain slips are more dreadful. While combing through Radioland, I worried particularly about my references to New Zealand. I spent several months in Aotearoa in 2011, and since then I’ve been negotiating my right to write about it: living there remapped the world for me, but I feared exoticizing the islands’ green cliffs and wild shorelines, skimming over pretty surfaces like a tourist. I quadruple-checked diacritical marks in Maori words, as well as facts about the 2011 earthquake. Differences between New Zealand and U.S. English also created quandaries. Maori would take a macron over the a in many contexts, for instance, but it doesn’t in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the reference my press uses to settle spelling ambiguities. One poem triggered copyediting marks with a reference to “the mad jangling / of tui in the punga.” Tui, the name of an extraordinary New Zealand bird, which can be seen and heard in the New Zealand encyclopedia Te Ara, appears in U.S. dictionaries, but punga does not and therefore must be italicized. The contrasting fonts looked distracting, plus I realized how difficult punga would be for an American reader to look up, so I ended up changing the latter to “tree ferns” (fortunately metrically similar). Cultural respect, levels of correctness, confusion for readers, elegance on the page—they’re tricky to balance.

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Save Your Place: Out the fire road

Ecotone15_Cover-325x480Ecotone’s tagline is “reimagining place,” and we love work that brings us to a specific location, real or imagined. In this new department, Save Your Place, we’ll highlight our favorite descriptions of place from work we’ve published at Ecotone and Lookout.

This is from Cynthia Huntington’s poem “Boletes in September” from Ecotone 15.

“Home is knowing how the land can feed you, he said. He had / known hunger. And now I wander, out the fire road giving way to sand / where the dunes open and trees part to sky.”

Introducing “At the Cultural Ephemera Association National Conference” by Robert Olen Butler

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Last week I did an exercise in the poetry class I teach: we came up with ten lists of ten words that could fall under the category of love. In the first column, we started with some familiar images, like “heart-shaped boxes of chocolates” and “roses,” but by the tenth column we had images like “garlic” and “spider webs.” In the wake of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be useful for my students to remember that love can be “butterflies” or “light,” but it can also extend into stranger, more complex notions, ranging from “cold potato soup” to “stretch marks” (their suggestions, not mine).

When I think of uniquely expressed love, I think of Robert Olen Butler’s short story, “At The Cultural Ephemera Association National Conference.” The story explores the familiar concept of love, but does so in an unfamiliar way. Butler details the meeting of the two main characters, Bill and Cleo, alternating between their voices to create a complete narrative. Each character is at the conference referred to in the title to present on a piece of paper ephemera—Bill’s is an advertising card featuring a caricature of nineteenth-century actress Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, Cleo’s is a Bourneville cocoa trading card depicting the Titanic. Upon my first reading, I was immediately struck by how the story made the delicate moment of connecting with another person so personal, yet accessible. The language, characters, and emotional impact are spot-on, and while it’s technically fiction, this four-and-a-half-page piece has the linguistic punch of a finely tuned poem.

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John Rybicki Begins North Carolina Book Tour

Lookout is proud to announce that poet and Lookout author John Rybicki will be heading out on a North Carolina tour this coming week. The tour, made possible with generous support from the North Carolina Arts Council, will include stops at oncology centers, a library, and a bookstore.

Planning this tour for John has been such a pleasure, and we are so excited about creating some new platforms for him to read his incredible work and to share his powerful messages of grief, hope, and healing.

(For the full tour details, including venue addresses, please go to http://www.lookout.org/Rybickireadings.html.)

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Above: Tour kits sent to reading venues

On the evening of Sunday, April 7, John will be a guest on “That Cancer Show,” which airs from 8 – 9 p.m. on WPTF 680 AM in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and WSJS 600 AM in the Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point area. You can listen to the program on the “That Cancer Show” website: http://www.cancersupport4u.org/that-cancer-showtrade.html. “That Cancer Show” is a program from Cornucopia Cancer Support Center in Durham.

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