Sunday, March 29, 2015

After the APRIL Festival

The swag and books are all packed, Hugo House is once again quiet, and I've retreated to solitude and a hot tub with a glass of Côtes du Rhône. The APRIL Book Fair wrapped up a wonderful week of literature in Seattle.

So my first round of thanks goes out to the APRIL organizers, Tara Atkinson, Kenny Coble and Willie Fitzgerald along with countless other volunteers and the staff at Hugo House.

A logistical and moral thank you to Troy Kehm-Goins, my Sardine Comrade, driver and encouraging presence. If you didn't get a chance to pick one of his beautiful chapbooks, go to Troy's Worktable Publishing. (And if you live in the South Sound, bookmark the site to see where they will be available for purchase!)

And a very special thanks to all of you who stopped by the Hagengard Studio table, bought material, or just said hello to my tireless editor and illustrator, David Mecklenburg. Connecting with you all is what it is "all about."

If you didn't get a chance to come by, or come buy, I suppose, remember that my memoir The Nightingale's Stone is available at Elliott Bay Books, Third Place Books, Eagle Harbor Books, The Nearsighted Narwhal and King's Books!

Small Events can be found at Elliott Bay Books and Eagle Harbor. So keep the APRIL love and spirit alive by dropping by these independent bookstores.

I should add that work on getting our new book The Shadow Well is underway. The copy-editor is working at fixing unruly orthography and style issues and David is busy illustrating it. This is a longer book about memory, food, magic, music, and love of course. It covers events occurring after my return to Hagen when I was engaged as a secretary to Lady Trudi von Hippe. Look for more news later in the year.

Until then, I'm off to soak.

May small events of beauty overcome you.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Fist Full of Literature

"For a Few Books More"
On Tuesday, March 24th, the Authors, Publishers & Readers of Independent Literature Festival kicks off in Seattle. As I have said before, Seattle is a second home to me and I look forward all year to this celebration of grass-roots writing-&-organizing. A labor of love does not come close to describing the work that the staff, writers, publishers and volunteers put into this event which celebrates not only the written word, but the personal connection one can only find celebrating independent literature together.

I hope to catch Shya Scanlon, Emily Kendal Frey, Sarah Galvin, and a presentation from Tessa Hulls at the opening night party at Barboza, which starts at 7:30.

On Wednesday at Vermillion, Poetry Northwest will be curating the work of a number of poets including my good friend and fellow-sufferer-for-words Kristen Steenbeeke. What could follow that, but a feat of necromancy by Rebecca Brown at the Sorrento Hotel.

Thursday the feast of words continues again at Vermillion with the launch of the redoubtable Ross McMeekin & Co.'s Spartan, featuring work by Ann Teplick, Donna Miscolta, Erik Evenson, Jenny Hayes and Q. Lindsey Barrett. And later Wendy Xu, whose You Are Not Dead floored me, will be reading at an RSVP disclosed location.

Friday night, A Poet, A Playwright, A Novelist, and A Drag Queen will be entertaining (and schmoozing, no doubt) the audience in this fourth-annual story-telling competition.

Saturday, you can start off with brunch at the legendary Elliott Bay Books and later at Hugo House you can celebrate a Twin Peaks themed evening with the release of Shya Scanlon's new book The Guild of St. Cooper. Your Young Body will be providing the Lynchean electronica that goes with pie and coffee, though doubtless other beverages will be for sale at the bar.

And it all ends with an ecstasy of books on Sunday, March 29th. Nearly sixty small presses and publishers will be there including the one I am associated with: Hagengard Studio. We will be offering The Nightingale's Stone, Small Events, along with a few other surprises and artwork. Fans of Les Sardines will find vintage copies of Les SarZine.  Many wonderful presses that will be there: more than I can possibly list, so don't miss this chance to meet the editors and publishers in person. The question is always not where to start but where can one possibly stop?

It was this way at the first APRIL festival, where a few members of Les Sardines read at the open mic and sold some of our first "cans" of short work. I am truly happy to see festival's continued growth. Tara Atkinson and Willie Fitzgerald started it all back in 2012 and continue to helm the festival so it has never lost the personal touch that makes the festival a true pleasure.

Many others have noted this year that it is the last APRIL Book fair that will be at the Original Hugo House space. What will that mean for next year? I, for one, am not worried terribly about that because as already evidenced from the wide range of venues for this year that APRIL will do just fine. As the literary community of Seattle continues to grow and support itself, APRIL will no doubt be a cornerstone of events celebrating the written and spoken word.

For a full listing of events, go to the APRIL Calendar

For listings and profiles of authors, go the APRIL Blog

For a listing of the presses who will be at the Book Fair.

Follow APRIL on Facebook, watch for @APRILfestSea's Twitter feed and... oh I'm sure I'm missing something else. But do come out. The small events of beauty will be beyond count.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

APRIL 2015 Bookfair Notes

Hagengard Studio is very happy to be at the APRIL Book Fair coming up on March 29th at Richard Hugo House. There is a host of other fantastic presses and publishers for you to see, so if you haven't seen it already, please check out their listing here

(While there are many presses here I love, be sure to stop by Ravenna Press, Two Sylvia's Press and Troy's Worktable Publishing!)

Hagengard Studio will feature the following for sale:

The Nightingale's Stone (My memoir about a rotten boyfriend and a hungry troll)

Small Events (My new illustrated poetry book)

Fans of Les Sardines!  Hagengard Studio will be selling vintage editions of Les SarZine. (Sorry, Issues V and VII are totally sold out). 

I believe my illustrator will also be selling some artwork prints from the novel and short story work we've done together.

So please support a thriving independent literary festival, stop by and say hello!

May small events of beauty overcome you!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Nightingale's Stone Readers Guide Part 1

If you're planning on coming to the APRIL festival Book Fair on March 29th, you'll be able to pick up a copy of The Nightingale's Stone. Hagengard Studio will have it and Small Events along with some vintage SaZines available. I thought it might be a good idea to ask Ada a few questions about it that I've gotten from readers.

I don't think anything here is a spoiler, but there are a lot of different sorts of readers in the world and both Ms. Ludenow and myself are aware of that.

Some people like to plunge into a book. Ada will often skip any and all Introductions.

"Anything not written by the author, or integral to the story is irrelevant for the first reading."

"Does that include that whatever-it-is you wrote for the opening of The Nightingale's Stone? I aksed.

"I think the prologue should be read, but like the Iron Goddess of Mercy, it is better in subsequent brewings."

I'll spare you the rest of the stuff about the mind being a pot and the water of language and tea leaves… I’m not really sure what she meant by those. She kept waving her hands in the air and emoting, her eyes fixed on a point about 10 degrees above a non-visible horizon point. I knew that as her gaze ascended further that Ada was profoundly drunk on metaphor. It's just better to let her talk it all out. I'm sure she'll write it all down at some point.

I, on the other hand kind of like knowing where I'm going, so here are a few helpful gleanings.

The time and place of the book. From what I can tell, judging on contemporaries she has mentioned, the book takes place in the early 17th Century in what we would call Northern Germany. Remember, there was no "Germany" in the sense of a nation state then, which is why she refers to states such as Saxony, or free cities like Hagen.

And yeah, they're still all pagans. Ada points out that: "Where she comes from," Charlemagne did not conquer the Saxons, but there is Christianity, the Catholic Church and some form of Calvinistic Protestantism, although she hasn't explained that. The Gods are not Wagnerian, nor are they Norse, but there are "family relations." There is a Wotan-All Father figure, but also a Virgin Mary-Freya-Mother of the Gods. Ada doesn't go into this much because: "theology is fundamentally a speculative activity. Scrapbooking in your world is a more productive hobby. We can't know anything about the Gods, so we pretend to. At best we can ask for their indifference."

"What the hell is Anton, anyway?" We actually struggled over this because finding an exact term was difficult. Eddun is the word for such a being in Ada's cradle language: Hagentachte, which is remarkably similar to English, grammatically speaking.  I had originally offered Ettin, which is the Old English word for such a being, but test audiences didn't react well.  'Troll' was a long fought compromise.

"Trolls are buffoonish simpletons in most of the stories you know. Beings like Anton possess a different sort of consciousness and to assume it's stupid because its different is a grave act of hubris. The grave will be yours." Ada said.

"Yeah, but I'm thinking of the ones in Ibsen."

"Well, I suppose you're right if you're going to trot out Peer Gynt."

"We don't have to have him in there at all. The story about you and Modran is pretty good on its own."

"You idiot! Telling Anton all of it is the most important part of the book. That's how I 'figured it all out' to use your clumsy idiom."

"But there are no elves with big boobs or sexy chicks with bows and arrows. I mean, you beat up that chick in Spandau but it's a pretty lame fight. Couldn't you have something in there about a dynastic struggle that holds the fate of the world in its hands?"

"Perhaps you'd like me to go hopping from head to head on a bunch of dwarves in a river? Oh, wait, maybe I can join a group of lovable misfits and we learn the true value of friendship by defeating the Zombie Emperor of Kesslingburg!"

"It would be easier to market. And there should really be two different dudes who are interested in you."

At this point Ada broke into a harangue of profanity aimed at me and my suggestions. We try to keep this blog "safe for work" so I won't repeat all of it here. There was a lot about monkeys, posteriors, various tools and of course her usual Germanic bathroom language. Let's just say she finished off with:

"This isn't that kind of book."

"Well how are we going to sell it? People will take one look at Anton and it'll be shelved in Fantasy."

"That's not my problem, you'll have to figure that all out. What is it you say? 'It is what it is.'"

The APRIL Festival

Monday, March 9, 2015

You Are Not Dead

The Poetry of Wendy Xu

A poet like Wendy Xu makes a graceful demand upon us. As soon as I began to read her work, I recognized the words, the phrasing and even the context of much of it without being acquainted with her at all. Yet, unlike Troy Kehm-Goins or Emily Kendal Frey, I was unfamiliar with Wendy Xu until Kenny Coble recommended her new book You Are Not Dead (which you can purchase at Elliott Bay Books like I did).

What was this familiarity?

"Here in This New Place Is Your Memory" was the first poem that really unearthed the language that I use in dialogues within myself—when I'm paying attention—and Xu made me pay attention:
         "It is sad when you understand that nothing
else can come along. It is worse when you care
a little less. What you love requires a priortized list, thus
that nothing is equal but to itself."
At this point in my life the "nothing else can come along" is a frightening possibility. It is no longer that which can be put off from the safety of youth. But the following line draws this grief into sharper contrast, and I am left ultimately considering tautologies at the end of it all.

A poet has a certain skill, perhaps a certain ability to listen closely to this frisson point where an emotion becomes a word. Like God, she names them and they may now exist.

Xu's careful use of line breaks is a distinguishing part of her poetry: the "else" after "nothing:" the "a little less" following "care." Line breaks give a slight pause for a reader. I read the poem aloud and made definite stops between the lines and recognized my own language when navigating the point when mutability and our own stasis become a bewildering geography. Xu then ends the poem with not a castle, but "an altar made of sand. It dismantles/no less than itself to please the sea."

A fundamental idea to internal dialogues—these makings of poetry within the heart and mind—is that we ourselves are many beings. There is an I and a you. Sometimes a we. All of these pronouns find their places throughout You Are Not Dead. Their presence is perhaps the most reassuring confirmation of the title. And there are times when you may not hear an exact voice, but it reminds you of someone. I did not understand this until I found some place sunny to read them aloud once more, and then I heard it.

All of the pronouns I mention above occupy "Like Whatever Makes You Not A Statue." When I first read this poem I envisioned the I addressing a lover, but there is a turn of absence and exploration.
                          "Do you
want to come too? Do you feel particularly
attached to what you make? I have dreams
about a ferris wheel roling away from
its structural integrity."
I read the title aloud and again and wonder about this You. I have heard the other part of this dialogue somewhere before. I read Xu's poem again and then I feel like an idiot:
"Sonst stünde dieser Stein enstellt und kurz
unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

un bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du muβt dein Leben ändern.

"Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you: You must change your life."
* (Stephen Mitchell's translation)
Of course. The lines in Rainer Maria Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo" break my thoughts the same way. Rilke uses the same form, for "Like Whatever Makes You Not A Statue" is a sonnet, and addresses the reason the archaic torso is not merely a lump of carved rock. And Xu provides an answer for me to address Rilke:
          "My mouth is a peach pit of everything
I've ever said. Everyone is laughing but only
you should know why."
I close the book and think about Xu's poetry therein. Her poetry awaits further reunions, further recognitions and all the while speaking in a voice that is at turns playful, melancholic, ironic and profound. And even though she can conjure up the voice of one of my favorite poets, Xu's voice remains unique.

If you want a chance to hear Wendy Xu read her poetry, she will be doing so at the Authors Publishers & Readers of Independent Literature Festival in Seattle on March 26th, including a night of visual art inspired by her book You Are Not Dead. RSVP's are required so go to the APRIL Calendar to learn more!

The APRIL Festival

Monday, March 2, 2015

Troy's Worktable Publishing

"Even the rainbow bridge Bifrost
        sags in the sky
its icy particulates melting into drops
        of dew, unstable
and tentative,  waiting for the first
        careless footstep."
This is the slow collapse into fire and ice

This is your invitation into the work of Troy Kehm-Goins. Water is a cataclysmic force and while at times I feel as though I have been thrown upon the land from the realms of the Waterpeople, Troy still swims in the vast ocean.

I have known Troy Kehm-Goins nearly as long as I have known my illustrator and editor, David Mecklenburg. Together along with other writers, we formed the writing collective known as Les Sardines. He is a tireless defender and proslytizer of the written and spoken word, whether in libraries or reading venues throughout the Puget Sound. It has been 7 years before the mast with Troy, and now you will have a chance to enjoy a broader range of his work at the 2015 APRIL Festival Bookfair.

His atelier, Troy's Worktable Publishing will have several  chapbooks available for sale. A graphic artist as well as a poet, each book is handmade with an attention to detail and craftsmanship. No two are exactly alike. They are numbered, rare.They are artwork. Perhaps one of the greatest things about the APRIL festival is that it is place where you can touch the artwork, buy it, and keep it close by.

All The Heroes Are Dead and Buried is what I have quoted from above. The Twilight of the Gods, the Apocalypse, these encounters with sublime reflect both in our infinitesimal place in the universe, but also reflect the universe that is within each of us and our own Gotterdammerungs.

I cannot speak of Troy without swimming into the Cetacean World. Leviathan, Jormungandur, the vast inhuman beings that inhabit Troy's poetry swim throughout our dreams and our nightmares. These masculine deities are balanced by the cephalopodic Mother of Night and Ink.
"Ink is to Ambergris as Black is to White
and Mother swims the night of Sea
ghostly searching—
seeking Me"
And yet in this poem, Troy moves from the celestial octopus to his own mother in a turn that crushes me every time I read it. The cosmic becomes personal, turns within us as we are swallowed by the cosmos.

My favorite work that you will be able to purchase and enjoy revolves around this notion of a fluid self. My Two Melvilles is a love letter to America's great navigator of the sublime and vast waters where Leviathan sleeps. How to strip away the legendary, the analyzed, the ignored, and the celebrated Herman Melville? You need only listen "to the wind calling our names, to the ocean, to the vast ocean that awaits, and awaits."

I am thrilled and shocked at Troy's command of sensuality, and most of all the way in which he is able to make the dark and unknown knowable, but somehow blissfully un-human. What emerges in further readings is a keen awareness that we are creatures in a an enormous and unfathomable existence.

With a pen in his hand, I cannot imagine any other poet I would want in the bow of my boat.

The APRIL Festival

Friday, February 27, 2015

Poetic Valences

Observations on the poetry of Emily Kendal Frey

I dislike the phrase "higher meaning." There is something inherently misleading about any idea-system that relies on vertical metaphors. A higher meaning suggests that there are strata of meaning and we may dispose of Wittgenstein's ladder once we've gotten past the ground floor.

I need another metaphor to explain how I read or listen to poetry. Fortunately, since the world of literature continually grows and expands, I had faith I would find some path to another metaphor that would not involve the use of paths, or climbing, or other such workhorses. (Horses have their place as well, but not in this moment.)

As an introduction, I will say that I am not a poet. Others have told me this is not true. I do and I do not believe them at certain points. What has dogged me as of late is the fact my own poetic writing seems old-fashioned. I am not pushing any boundaries and I am failing Ezra Pound by not making anything new. Metaphorically I keep putting on the old dirndl of iambic pentameter while others are wearing the latest fashions. This ridiculous bit of self-remonstration usually comes about when I experience a poet who does what I cannot.

An introduction does not need to come at the beginning of an argument. Some may say it should, but I am feeling liberated by reading Emily Kendal Frey. Perhaps this is an answer I was looking for.

Cover for Sorrow Arrow
Circumstance is important. Whether it is destiny, coincidence, or the meaningful coincidence of synchronicity is not important. The State of Affairs is important. The 2015 Authors, Publishers and Readers of Independent Literature (APRIL) Festival is coming to Seattle March 24th through 29th and a highlight for me will be a chance to hear Kendal Frey. I have been a fan of her work since first hearing her read at Hugo House and I purchased a copy of The Grief Performance at a previous APRIL Bookfair. I am looking forward to hearing her read at this year's APRIL festival, and so I purchased a copy of Sorrow Arrow .

I neither know Emily Kendal Frey, nor have I read much criticism of her work and what I have read I seem to have utterly forgotten. I face Sorrow Arrow without a guide. I cordially dislike annotated versions of any work the first time I read it, because I dislike an editor shoving me around. This is alright. I was sure I could find a way. I found more than one way. These ways were the manifold I was hoping for.

Poetry is multivalent. Lucien Tesnière developed a useful system in his Elements of Structural Syntax regarding verb valency. Tesnière mapped the metaphor from science: like an atom, a verb may have several connection points to it. I won't trouble you with all of it here, but the most important part of the metaphor for me: there is no "correct" valence that supersedes any of the others. Poems, their constituent lines and even words can be described by the different valences we use to connect with them. I do not need a deep reading.

Depending on the audience, poems connect, or don't in different ways. Whether or not we connect depends on the words and their use—the constellations and molecules they form and our positions. Remember: we could not see Orion from Rigel.

Lines of poetry may connect, in that we perceive and create the valences between them owing to shared experience. Kendal Frey does not always link lines in sequence because the poem works better through its harmonic counterpoint. Consider:
"My sister has planted a winter garden/At night the icebergs/Cartoon characters/Constantly dancing, I hope to save at least one of us" 
I am reminded that what does not make sense when walking, makes sense when you are skipping...lines.  I go back and read, I think of my own sister. T'ang poetic parallelisms arise and reveal themselves in the truth that feeling pain is an intrinsic part of empathy. This is a sorrow arrow.

There is no beginning and end to Kendal Frey's poetry in Sorrow Arrow. It is a system that one may enter at different points, and yet there is a holographic sense that each word and line reveals the greater whole. And one may exit at different points.

Verbs are the nodes of valences. Consider:
Time stacks up then rises, steaming not-love/Eat it and love it/Hope is cabbage and rice/Death sweeps it away.
Throughout this poem there is a chromatic interplay of food, abstract conceptual frameworks, and personification. I listened for names first, bearers of my meaning, but Kendal Frey's verbal valences connect them all seamlessly. Hope appears in the offering of love, which occurs in the final lines, yet the minor key resonance of consumption and death from the previous lines renders the ending pensive.
"We stopped at Runza/Eat this, you said, I took a bite
Titles: The first lines of a poem are not necessarily a title. There is an index of first lines for the drowning traditionalist. Without a separate word string above each poem in Sorrow Arrow, Kendal Frey allows you to create the title from any of the lines that follow on a given page. Or others, if you connect the valences across the poems.

I no longer need the ladder, but I no longer need to dispose of it. It is a well made ladder, of richly textured and finished wood. It is a pleasure to climb as well as descend. Or sometimes just stop and consider the rungs once more. I look at the rungs and realize Kendal Frey can do in the briefest of lines what I labor through in paragraphs.

You can hear Emily Kendal Frey read at Barboza on March 24th at 8:00 as part of the APRIL Festival. Go to the website to learn more.