November 19, 2014

The Tao of Humiliation is a ‘Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014′

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Lee Upton’s The Tao of Humiliation has been named to Kirkus Reviews‘ Best Books of 2014!

Called “masterful stories by a writer of great lyrical gifts” in a starred Kirkus review published earlier this year, “these 17 tales explore personal and familial relationships with both pathos and humor—and all are well worth reading.”

Alternately chilling, funny, devastating, and hopeful, these 17 stories examine the course of humiliation, introducing us to a theater critic who winds up in a hot tub with the actress he routinely savages in reviews; a biographer who struggles to discover why a novelist stopped writing; a student who contends with her predatory professor; and the startling scenario of the last satyr meeting his last woman. Upton’s characters backtrack into the past, then make their way forward with humiliation as their guide.

Congratulations to Lee Upton for this amazing honor!

See the entire list of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Fiction Books of 2014.

The Tao of Humiliation is in stock now at the BOA Bookstore!

 

November 14, 2014

News Alert: Marsha de la O wins Isabella Gardner Poetry Award

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We are thrilled to announce that Marsha de la O is the winner of BOA Editions’ Isabella Gardner Poetry Award for her new collection, Antidote for Night!

Antidote for Night will be published by BOA Editions in fall 2015, within the American Poets Continuum Series. This award is given biennially to a poet with a new book of exceptional merit. Manuscripts are solicited; there is no formal submission process for this award.

Poet, actress, and Associate Editor of Poetry magazine, Isabella Gardner (1915-1981) published five celebrated collections of poetry, and was the first recipient of the New York State Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poetry. She championed the work of young and gifted poets, helping many of them find publication. This award carries an honorarium of $1,000 and is sponsored by the Gardner Charitable Trust. Poets Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Michael Blumenthal (both former recipients of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award) assisted in judging the award, and the final selection was made by BOA Publisher Peter Conners.

The most recent winners of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award are Jillian Weise, for The Book of Goodbyes, and Aracelis Girmay, for Kingdom Animalia.

Marsha de la O’s Black Hope won the New Issues Poetry Prize from the University of Western Michigan and an Editor’s Choice Award. Her work appears widely in such journals as Barrow Street, Passages North, Solo, and Third Coast, and has been anthologized in Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals (Ballantine), Saying What Needs to Be Said (Solo Press); Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (Greenhouse Review Press); the poetry workshop handbook One for the Money: The Sentence as Poetic Form (Lynx House Press), and the forthcoming Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Pacific Coast Poetry Series). A multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, she is the recipient of the 2014 Morton Marcus Memorial Poetry Prize, the dA Poetry Prize, the Ventura Poetry Prize, two cultural arts grants from the City of Ventura, and a Tumblewords Poetry Residency. With her husband, poet Phil Taggart, she publishes the poetry journal Askew.

Congratulations, Marsha, and welcome to the BOA family!

November 11, 2014

A poem for Veterans Day, by Hugh Martin

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In honor of Veterans Day, we want to thank those who have bravely served our country with a poem from Hugh Martin’s The Stick Soldiers (BOA, 2013).

The War Was Good, Thank You

—In the college cafeteria, a freshman girl asks, So, how was the war?

1.

We live in small steel hooches
shaped like boxcars. We fill bags

with sand and sweat
to pile beside us. Our rifles collect dust

when we sleep. Our rifles collect dust
when we fire them.

2.

In Jalula, I stood in the turret, hands
on the Fifty. I looked over mud walls and fences

into backyards, alleyways. A man
and a woman backed from a doorway; I watched them

through dark sunglasses and the sight aperture.
They kissed, then turned—they saw me. The man smiled,

as if wanting me to keep it a secret. I didn’t tell anyone.

3.

Some afternoons, I lay outside shirtless
and set ice cubes

on my closed eyelids. I let them melt.

4.

After weddings, people point rifles
to the sky, and fire,

as if wanting to put holes
through heaven.

5.

Groups send care packages. There’s always so much
ChapStick, baby wipes; we pile it in boxes

or throw it to the children. I spoil myself
with ChapStick, balm my lips

even when it’s not needed. Outside the wire,
I raise my chin to the sun, flex

my lips, kiss them together, not afraid
of anything, not afraid at all.

November 11, 2014

Rain Taxi ‘uncovers richness of meaning’ in Copia


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Erika Meitner’s Copia “uncovers richness of meaning in plain American language,” according to a recent review by Rain Taxi Review of Books.

The review notes Meitner’s focus on how “common objects and signage become mediums for recovering history and personal memory” in the face of decaying landscapes that are both barren and overabundant, from the aisles of Walmart to the city of Detroit.

Meitner is the guide through such “barren surfaces” as American suburbs and cities, and emphasizes that “’The truth is / even cities / are ephemeral.’” What becomes important in the face of decay is recovering the stories of the people who inhabited the city when it was alive.”

The collection introduces readers to the objects and the people who populate these landscapes. “Meitner does this most effectively in ‘All that Blue Fire,’ in which she draws out the lyricism of an autoworker’s voice as he tells the story of why he came to Detroit. Through repetition and line breaks, she gives the language of a common person the quality of a blues song.”

“The idea that spirituality manifests itself through common things runs through Copia, suggesting richness underlies an apparently barren surface.”

Click here to read the full Rain Taxi review.

Copia is available at the BOA Bookstore.

November 11, 2014

LA Review: Revising the Storm is ‘a compelling story through verse’

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The Los Angeles Review is calling Geffrey Davis’ Revising the Storm “a compelling story through verse,” capable of making readers “stop for far longer than punctuation warrants in order to fully appreciate a single couplet.”

Revising the Storm reverberates with the voice of a young man emerging from a boyhood plagued by hunger, loneliness, and pain into a new life as a man who finds peace in reconciling with the past. The cyclical passage of life, love, and responsibility from father to son is measured in its varying degrees.”

In these poems, readers come to see the development of the speaker, less in the vein of the situational episodes that have historically made up the roman à clef, and more as lucid, telling odes with a familial focus. “A mother crying alone in her kitchen, a hungry boy unable to sleep in his bed, the unbearable weight cast by an absent father—these quotidian and universal miseries are by no means exclusive to the world of poetry, but when rendered in verse by a talented poet such as Davis, readers bare witness with new eyes.”

According to reviewer Michael Luke Benedetto, the poems construct a distinctive arc and chronology: “the three sections of Revising the Storm build upon one another and out of one another until the reader begins to see glimmers of calm amidst so much hardship.” The tone of the speaker seems to suggest that, in spite of longing and “an absence so strongly felt,” the passing of time and meditation on the past are sufficiently regenerative.

Revising the Storm is a considerable collection replete with the dark troubles and misfortunes of life that only serve to make its moments of beauty that much brighter.”

Click here to read the full piece by the Los Angeles Review.

Revising the Storm is currently in stock at the BOA bookstore.

November 07, 2014

Lee Upton on humiliation, epiphany, growth, and selfies

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In a recent Late Night Library interview by Joanna Kenyon, author Lee Upton talks about her new short story collection, The Tao of Humiliation, as well as her use of humiliation as a shot at redemption, literary epiphany, the body, and why we take so many selfies.

“It’s as if humiliation teaches us how to be human among other humans,” says Lee, “—that is, humiliation can teach us a humbling awareness of our flaws. Our idealized self is crushed in a moment of humiliation—as if humiliation is a ‘way’ of sorts, a way toward or through experience, a kind of stripping down as the social self isn’t accepted or is derided or held in contempt. We can’t be humiliated alone; it takes other people.”

The forms which humiliation takes in her stories force Upton’s characters to “stand outside themselves and see what others see.” And, that instead of a superficial embarrassment, it’s really an opportunity for redemption: “Humiliation may even turn them against solipsism. They are forced to move outside themselves, to be shocked into a recognition.”

This shocking and sudden recognition, is a lot like literary epiphany, a topic on which she also lights:

“The nature of an epiphany in actual life—at least as I’ve experienced epiphanies myself—is transitory and fragile, a fleeting experience that eventually has to be rediscovered and reclaimed. Not all of my characters experience epiphanies, but when they don’t I always hope that the reader will. . . . Even epiphanies are only partial. As in most experiences, there’s always something more to discover beyond what’s been revealed.”

Kenyon perceptively recognizes the motif of body, saying that Upton’s “characters often long for the physical, even as they feel disconnected from or discontent with physicality.”

As featured in these stories, the body (much like the epiphany) is always a process. Recalling Yeats’ famous line about humans being “fastened to a dying animal,” and relating to the epiphany—itself a brief moment of relief in an ultimately transitory or continually shifting life, where upsets and adjustments are the proper mode of being—Lee makes more connections than expected.

“I can’t help but think of bodies as mysterious. It’s as if the body, which is always with us, is elusive. You learn to walk, and before you know it you hit puberty and can hardly recognize yourself. Every decade—it’s like slow motion surgery. . . . Our bodies are time stamped, and we don’t ever get entirely used to them, given the rate at which they surprise us. . . . Maybe that’s why people take so many selfies. There’s the repeated and always dashed hope that maybe we’ll at last capture our own physical image.”

Click here to read the full Late Night Library interview with Lee Upton.

The Tao of Humiliation can be purchased online at the BOA Bookstore.

November 07, 2014

Copia is ‘large, oversized, commanding’ at The Rumpus Poetry Book Club

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Erika Meitner’s new book Copia was chosen for the September Rumpus Poetry Book Club!

In the essay that kicked off the month-long discussion for the virtual reading group, Camille Dungy responds to the question “Why I Chose Erika Meitner’s Copia for The Rumpus Poetry Book Club” with a barrage of ‘because’: “because this book is written with the attentive eye of an unrequited lover,” “because there is hope amidst the dissolution,” “because that’s how life looks sometimes,” and most notably, because “the poems in Copia are poems we need right now.”

Why are they poems we need right now? According to the review by The Rumpus‘ Julie Enszer, it is because they make readers ask important questions about the world we live in right now: “what is enough? In a world where anything and everything a human might desire seems to be available for purchase twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week…When is plenty enough?” Both Dungy and Enszer remark on the way the poems ask readers to navigate profound and paradoxical experience. Enszer notes how the poems demonstrate that “the copious availability of consumer products does not diminish loss,” while Dungy says, “these things she writes are just what they are: mundane and miraculous. Like Niagara Falls, which, one poem reminds us, is bleak and also one of the wonders of the world.”

Much of the month-long discussion hinges on the “playful” quality of the poems and on the overwhelming feeling of being swept away with Meitner’s long, breathless lines that “cannot be contained in the usual trim poetry books.” But, as Enszer recognizes, this playful overwhelm is tempered by the largeness of the themes that are at the heart of Meitner’s book: “the relationship between physical objects and ideas, between things and emotions, between the detritus of life and the ephemerality of humanness.” It is this interplay that makes Copia “large, oversized, commanding.”

Click here to read the full The Rumpus essay by Camille T. Dungy.

Click here to read the entire The Rumpus review by Julie Enszer.

Click here to read the full The Rumpus interview with Erika Meitner.

Copia is available at the BOA Bookstore.

November 03, 2014

No Need of Sympathy insists that poetry ‘is ceasing never’

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A recent Miramar review is calling Fleda Brown’s No Need of Sympathy “ambitious … the work of a mature and retrospective poet.”

In No Need of Sympathy, Brown concerns herself with poetry’s current position in the cultural landscape. She rounds off the collection with a sequence of conventional, personal poems.

If a poet can be said to have a thesis, Brown’s would be in her collection’s second poem, “The Purpose of Poetry.” According to reviewer Elizabeth Dodd, poetry is “perhaps in a bit of a mid-career crisis, surprised by the many challenges and changes time keeps working on us.” But for all the admonishing of lazy habits—including a penchant for dreamy, navel-gazing questions—the book is considerably upbeat.

According to Dodd, No Need of Sympathy does not argue whether or not poetics is hobbled (Brown herself actually writes that poetry—the poem—is going “to try singing again”). In spite of its focus, and form (an aesthetic which works through the very medium it critiques and evaluates), the book retains the common qualities that mark Brown’s works: her associative power, and consequent gift for resolution.

Featuring “Walmart, Heraclitus, child workers in Vietnamese garment sweatshops, and the concepts of heaven and hell reassembled in a summer picnic: throughout this fine book, Brown sweeps a seine net through what might seem like only loosely-schooling facts of the world, but through each poem’s intelligent movement and construction, the vibrant connections emerge.”

Brown makes it seem as though poetry is coming back to this “music of accretion,” encouraging us to return to what has appeared to be barren grounds. She engages in “re-examining form: rhyming quatrains; unrhymed couplets; a single unfolding, enjambed sentence; sonnets rhymed and unrhymed; tercets; the dropped lines of prose paragraphs.”  It’s “the making of that music—accumulative and reflective—that is the connective essence of Brown’s eighth collection of poetry.” It is Brown’s insistence on what has been abandoned, and what can be salvaged from it.

In spite of the qualms Brown has about the tropes of contemporary poems, the patterns they comply with, and the ruts they’ve been falling into, these aren’t enough to cripple the art. According to Dodd, they couldn’t be: “Brown’s work insists that the poetry of the earth—that is to say, poetry itself—is ceasing never.”

Click here for Miramar‘s online content and subscription information.

No Need of Sympathy is available for purchase at the BOA Bookstore.

October 31, 2014

A poem for Halloween

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Happy Halloween from BOA!

Here’s some spooky verse by Michael Waters, from his collection Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems, to get your spine tingling:

Morpho

In his Journey to the Jade Sea,
“one of the world’s greatest walkers,” John Hillaby,
tells the story of the ebony child
raped and strangled
near an acacia tree in the bush in Kenya.
The game warden who found her was mesmerized
by two large, blue-green, rarely seen butterflies
trembling upon her glazed, staring eyes,
opening and closing their wings.
Those butterflies were attracted to moisture,
lapping with their spiked, black tongues
the shallow lagoons of primeval water.
Hillaby doesn’t specify, but they were probably

the Morpho butterfly,

each lulled in the mirror of her dissolving eye.
Beauty and beauty often go hand in hand—
“what an attractive couple,” we say—
but some beauties are too terrible to bear.
I’ve only seen a dead woman once
outside of the Ridgewood Funeral Parlor.
In Amsterdam I wandered into a bar
where a three-hundred-pound, nude, quite dead woman
shaded the jungle of a back room pool table.
The club was hers, and she’d left provisions in her will
for the local populace to swill
the remaining stock in a sort of wake.
She was doused with beer
—the felt was soaked a deeper green—
and there, between her enormous thighs,
one silver-blue, scratchless, polished and buffed billiard ball
was blazing!

I was hypnotized.

I think that combination was beautiful,
or was near to what we think of as beauty.
Still, I couldn’t look for long.
My duty was to accept another beer
and hoist it, in her dubious honor,
remembering, in another pocket of the world,
the mutilated girl with butterflies upon her.

October 24, 2014

LARB calls The Stick Soldiers a ‘knowing authority’

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A new Marginalia, Los Angeles Review of Books essay by Christopher Kempf discusses the art of war poetry, looking to five “critically-regarded books of poetry by veterans” which have been “released by distinguished presses”: Hugh Martin’s The Stick Soldiers (BOA, 2013); Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise by Brian Turner; Bangalore by Kerry James Evans; and Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Powers.

According to Kempf, we can better understand, “through poetry, ‘the causes and the crimes’” of conflict.” He adds, “the relationship between war and its poetic representation is also one of poetry’s newest, most pressing problems, particularly at a time when our own War on Terror continues to render language itself suspect.”

“Martin’s book, The Stick Soldiers, released in 2013, is filled with this kind of comédie noire, a knowing authority which seems deeply suspicious not only of its own attempts to reduce the war to language but also of the capacity of its civilian audience to comprehend this language.”

The review compares Martin to renowned author Brian Turner: “Both of these poets style themselves as reluctant witnesses to a historical event irreducible to language, an event that at once resists poeticization and yet, given the current vogue for veterans’ poetry, seems remarkably generative of it.”

Called “the most complex of these veteran poets,” Martin is noted for his “treatment of the War on Terror’s collateral damage … Rather than glossing over the violence elided by other veteran poets, Martin self-consciously renders his own titillated witness to this violence, suggesting the mediation implicit in any attempted witness to war … Martin gestures in these poems, as his fellow veteran poets rarely do, toward his own active yet self-critical participation in the War of Terror.”

It’s Dodge Poetry Festival weekend, and Hugh Martin will be a special guest, reading with a veterans’ writing group, and with Yusef Koumnyakaa and Brian Turner, on Saturday night (October 25). Don’t miss it! Click here for more details.

Click here to read the full Marginalia, Los Angeles Review of Books essay: “The Art of War Poetry.”

The Stick Soldiers is in stock at the BOA Bookstore.