Showing posts from 2010

Poetry for Christmas

1. The Forest of Sure Things , by Megan Snyder-Camp 2. Effacement , by Elizabeth Arnold 3. Poor-Mouth Jubilee , by Michael Chitwood 4. Pink and Hot Pink Habitat , by Natalie Lyalin 5. I Was the Jukebox , by Sandra Beasley 6. Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore , by Erika Meitner

Somewhere in San Francisco...

... there are three copies each of two of my letterpress broadsides. I submitted them to a really neat project pointed out to me by my printer-poet friend Emma Sovich: Papergirl San Francisco . People from all over the world donated artwork and prints to be rolled up and delivered by bike to strangers on the sidewalks of San Francisco. What an exciting and fun idea! Here's a gallery of all the submitted works and a list of participating artists. I only wish I could've been in San Francisco on October 3. Keep an eye out next fall for their call for submissions, fellow letterpressers!

Teaching poetry and folktales

An interesting opportunity has come my way recently. Although I've never, ever, ever wanted to be a teacher (seems like one of the hardest jobs in the world to me), I have accepted the invitation to be a guest teacher (of sorts) for the Extended Day program with Millington Elementary School. I was asked to talk about two of my great loves--poetry and folk/fairy tales--for an hour two Monday afternoons in a row. How could I say no? I'm actually pretty excited about it. I had a hard time, at first, trying to develop a lesson plan. But once I decided on the poem I would talk to them about, it all sort of fell into place. "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf" by Roald Dahl is such a fun and surprising retelling of the traditional tale and I'm sure the 8-10 year olds that I'll be working with will not be too shocked and appalled by the pistol in Little Red's knickers. Maybe they will understand how much fun both poetry and folktales can be--that, of cou

Open for business!

I don't know if anyone's noticed a new widget down the right margin of this blog... I finally set up my shop on Etsy! I've been thinking about it for about two years now and I finally did it. I'm going under the name of Thread Lock Press, the press name for my book collaborations with Emily Kalwaitis. But I've also included a couple older broadsides I made in college that I think fit in well. The name also allows for a little creativity elsewhere too. I'm hoping to list some of my sewing projects (preferably those with a printing, writing, or book-type theme) there as well. I'm calling these "collaborations in printing and sewing," a term that lends itself easily to loose definitions. It could mean anything from a handmade book to a hand-sewn typewriter cover (a current project in the making). So check it out! Maybe you'll even find something you'll like enough to buy? And I'm such a dork, I even made myself business cards:

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Oh, LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. You made my day when you selected me to win a free copy of a new Edward Gorey book--and one illustrating fairy tales, to boot. Here's what I thought of it: "Very well done indeed! James Donnelly's witty retellings of these three traditional fairy tales were well able to keep up with Edward Gorey's incomparable illustrations. Both Donnelly's and Gorey's storytelling capture the playful element of the macabre in these classic tales, a grim sort of whimsy, despite the inevitable happy endings. Putting the grim back in Grimm." Love, Lindsay

Epigraphs and illuminated chapbooks

I am finally out from under the Chestertown Book Festival and am attempting to focus again on my new illuminated chapbook project with Emily Kalwaitis . I don't believe I've talked about my illuminated chapbook concept here before. It's not really anything extremely new and innovative, just a new way of looking at an art form, I guess. My illuminated chapbook is really just a short collection of illustrated poetry. Sleight would have been one. I am designing Pastoral in full consciousness of this idea. It may seem rather simple and insignificant--a short book of illustrated poetry--but I like to think of it as similar to the ancient art of illuminated manuscripts. I feel that the poetry and paintings have a way of working together when placed side by side, that makes t hem more than what they can be alone. Words and art together are a powerful combination, I think. Illuminating. And while reading the new book by Fairy Tale Review founder and editor Kate Bernhei

Words I want to use in a poem

hatpin iron stray bellwether stitch confinement (the 19th-century noun referring to a woman's seclusion during her pregnancy)

Getting back on track

For the last month and a half, life seems to have taken over and poetry neglected. Sad times. But there have been books--lots and lots and lots of books. Although I have been shamefully absent from my personal blog, I have been frequently updating my professional blog for the Chestertown Book Festival (I don't mean professional in that I actually get paid, but in that it is a part of my job as Secretary to the Festival Committee). The second annual Chestertown Book Festival is almost here and we have been working our bibliophile-butts off to get everything together--but it should be wonderful! So, remember: October 8 & 9, Downtown Chestertown. Be there! In other news, I have been writing a little (as in one poem completed in the last month) and I am trying to get back in the swing of that submitting-thing. I have sent this one to Moon Milk Review , a great (mostly online) literary magazine with a focus on magic realism in the vein of Italo Calvino. So cool! I should he

How the book alters the poetry

I read a wonderful interview yesterday that was posted on the Poetry Foundation's website . Two fellow poets and book arts enthusiasts caught the attention of two graduate students (and the Poetry Foundation) when they visited Chapman University in Orange, CA. The resulting interview was illuminating and, for a poet-printer-bookbinder like myself, enormously encouraging. I feel like I was a part of a movement without even realizing it. Here's an excerpt: "[Nancy Kuhl] I do think it is clear that there is a strong and growing interest in alternatives to commercial publishing in poetry communities. That this interest is often coincident with an interest in broader book arts has resulted in a vast and growing body of compelling and often beautiful book works exploring the literary and aesthetic implications of different publishing models and the relationships between poetry and more visual and tactile art forms. And the notion that 'form is content' is evident eve

A Lady of Letterpress

This week my friend Emma and I were selected for the member spotlight on Ladies of Letterpress ! We were interviewed via email about our letterpress origins and what our press does. Sometimes it is fun to be in the spotlight.

A new project for Thread Lock Press

So lately, I've been rather restless: anxious to be working on something with no ideas for creative outlet. I've also been wondering what will be next for Thread Lock Press. With one book under our belt, we've established our existence (to ourselves, at the very least). But to be a true small press, we need to make more than just one book. Once we've made a second book, we'll have established more of a presence--creating a pattern that shows our style and vision. That's where I've begun funneling my creative energy the last day or two, and I think I've come up with a new project for Thread Lock Press: an illustrated chapbook of nine poems to be called Pastoral . It will be broken into three sections of three poems, each section ending with a triptych. This book will be a hardcover edition with illustrations that are a bit more integrated than our last book. I hope to have Emily incorporate paintings onto the same pages as the text. It will be an

Further Adventures in Bibliophilia

I'd seen these altered book purses many times on Etsy and looked on with envy. I probably would have bought one already except that they are so expensive and I could tell by looking at them that if I tried hard enough, I could make one myself (for a lot less expense). So while working on Saturday, I took a look through the piles of used book donations for the library's semiannual book sale until I found a hardcover book of suitable size and decoration. So many newer hardcover books are absolutely plain beneath their dust jackets--so it wasn't so easy to find one with a little bit of flair (even an e mbo ssed title!) on the actual hard cover. Just one of many things that disappoint me in modern-day book manufacturing. But eventually I turned up this older Webster's Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia and its raised viny patterning on both the cover and the spine and the colorfully embossed title seemed a perfect candidate for an altered book purse (especially sinc

Small Town News

Somehow my Sleight book project with my friend Emily was scooped by our local online newspaper: The Chestertown Spy . So exciting! I think the story turned out well, so anyone who actually reads this blog should take a look.

If at first you don't succeed: submit, submit, submit again

I have not given up on eventual publication in my beloved Fairy Tale Review . I have been positively glowing since the last lovely rejection letter I received from them. Their reading period for the upcoming The Brown Issue is now open and I have just polished up three new poems to send in. So, today I have submitted them--"Dark and Stormy Night" (written while reading Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door ), "Foxwife" (a parody of Anne Sexton's poem "Housewife") and "Into the Woods" (heavily influenced by strong doses of Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales )--and all that is left for me to do is wait.

Nerds just have more fun

This Sunday, the batch of dandelion wine that Emily and I started 2 weeks ago had finally finished fermenting. So to finish it up, we had to strain all the chunky fermenting bits out (raisins, lemon and orange slices) and then let it settle a bit and then strain it even further to separate as much of the cloudy yeast-silt from the golden liquid as possible. Finally, we bottled and sealed our herbal moonshine--but not without having a celebratory test sip of our golden wine. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did not hate it. It is very, very sweet and definitely potent--more of a dessert wine, I guess. And just a few sips will do ya'. P.S. I've decided to name my beloved typewriter Hildegard , after the sassy Medieval saint of Bingen, Germany who was part composer, part herbalist, part early-feminist, and known to have said: "Woman may be made from man, but no man can be made without a woman." That was one cool lady.

Snug as a bug in a rug

This weekend's crafty project was to make a cozy cover for my beloved typewriter. You might be surprised to discover that fashionable typewriter covers aren't easy to find for sale and the ones I have found are mostly opaque white plastic. Yuck. Anyway, it's more fun to make things yourself sometimes. My friend Emma, web-searcher extraordinaire, found an example online of what I was aiming to make. This gave me a bit more confidence, especially seeing as how I didn't have a pattern to use and I had never attempted any three-dimensional sewing project before. So after shopping for fun fabrics--a medium blue denim and a pretty illustrated patterned cotton--I set straight to work: measuring up my typewriter and cutting corresponding sections of fabric. I'm quite happy with the end product. But now I think my typewriter is deserving of a name. Any ideas?

Weeding by moonshine

It certainly is dandelion season. And I recently stumbled across a fun-looking recipe for dandelion wine that I thought I could actually manage. I love these sorts of experiments! Making fantastic new things from something we already have and have prematurely designated as useless. The inspiration for the dandelion recipe search actually came from a poem fragment I had been developing on my typewriter. It involved a character who had gathered a lot of dandelion blossoms, but then I couldn't figure out what the hell she was going to do with them: Rabbit (version 2) She fetches a few shaggy dandelions then off with their heads-- a collection of sallow plumes, skeletal stems tossed back to the yard. Blooms gather in her apron like buttons, blunt and beggarly. Common and curious as coins. So, when Emily came over for tea on Sunday, we collected a quart of dandelions from the yard on Goose Hill--blossoms only, there is no need of bitter greenery and roots in this wine recipe. I

National Poetry Month

Last April , I was surprised to find myself at a loss as to who my favorite poet was (is?). Over the past year, I believe, I've finally come to a conclusion. Although there are many poets who I adore fiercely (Anne Sexton, J. Allyn Rosser, Louise Erdrich, Sarah Lindsay, Sarah Hannah, Louise Gl├╝ck, etcetera etcetera), the one I love above all is Elizabeth Bishop. I can't say exactly why. There are so many things about her life and her work and her person that I admire. But as a poet, she is vivid in her description and images, yet always a bit subdued in tone; simple, but a bit complicated beneath the skin; precise and not always beautiful. This last might be her finest poetic attribute, in my opinion, that she focuses on things that aren't necessarily pretty and she doesn't romanticize them until they become so (in the traditional sense of beauty, that is). A celebration of plainness. My two favorite poems of hers are actually very similar to each other: "T

Process and Prosody

One of the questions most often asked of writers is: What is your writing process? By this general question, all of the following are really implied: 1. What time of day do you like to write? 2. What days of the week? 3. Where do you like to write? 4. What writing implements do you use? 5. Do you have any strange rituals or habits to stimulate your writing practice? 6. Etc. Even though I've really been writing poetry since I was a child, I never had a writing process. Even when I was taking writing workshops in college, my process consisted of just hoping something would "come to me" before the deadline. Whenever I sat down on the bed or the couch with the intention of writing, I would rarely succeed unless I already had the seed of something with which to start. Now, left to my own devices as an adult, I have no more excuses for this sort of laziness. So I've been trying out different practices with the hope of their turning into process. Finally, I think I

Words I want to use in a poem

primavera worms cut dirt flush thunder trees

Rejection never felt so good

When I decided I wanted to pursue a poetry career in my non-working hours, I knew rejection was part of the territory. It's just something one has to accept in order to stay mentally stable (relatively speaking). So I submit a few poems here and there to literary magazines and almost expect to be rejected. It hurts for a few minutes maybe, and then I move on and work on something else. About a year ago, I submitted a poem to Fairy Tale Review , a wonderful literary magazine edited by Kate Bernheimer of the Uni versity of Alabama. It is an annual publication completely dedicated to contemporary literature and visual art that celebrates folk and fairy tales. And each issue is designated a color, much like Andrew Lang's color-coded fairy tale collections. I submitted a poem called "Little Red Robin Hood" to be considered for their Red Issue, which of course is dedicated almost entirely to that most provocative figure, Little Red Riding Hood. I personally have a bi

In memory of the cranky and elusive Mr. Salinger

Franny and Zooey is one of my all-time favorite books. The dialogue is always the best bit. And as I was re-reading that novella last night, I came across a particularly memorable passage that, once I had finished, I turned off the bedside lamp and went to sleep: "'I know this much, is all,' Franny said. 'If you're a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you're supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page and everything. The ones you're talking about don't leave a single, solitary thing beautiful. All that maybe the slightly better ones do is sort of get inside your head and leave some thing there, but just because they do , just because they know how to leave some thing, it doesn't have to be a poem , for heaven's sake. It may just be some kind of terribly fascinating, syntaxy droppings --excuse the expression. Like Manlius and Esposito and all those poor men.'" Well said, J.D .

Ode to the Obsolete

I recently adopted a typewriter: a 1955 Remington manual typewriter (found and acquired for free thanks to the Kent Freecycle network--see link in right margin). Ever since reading Words In Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell last year, I have had this desire to write with a typewriter. It is really a magical piece of machinery. I imagine it as being halfway between a letterpress and a word processor, but mechanically it is a very different beast altogether. When I was testing my new old typewriter out, I felt like I was learning to play a new musical instrument. It even looks a little like a piano under the hood. Although the keyboard resembles those belonging to our modern computers, if you try to type as fast as you are used to with a computer keyboard, the letter-legs are likely to become tangled. So my first lesson was to type one key at a time--slow down a bit. Another thing, there is actually quite a bit of space between the keys, e