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text 2017-07-01 18:25
You Need this Weekend Read
Mr. Either/Or - Aaron Poochigian

Independence Day weekend is here in the U.S., and Canada Day weekend celebrations are happening 100 miles north of my location. There are still a lot of summer weekends to fill with reading at the lake, on the beach, or just on your deck or balcony. And have I got a title for you . . . 

 

My friend, Aaron Poochigian recently published "Mr. Either/Or," a novel in verse (Etruscan Press). Get it online from Powell's http://www.powells.com/book/mr-either-or-9780997745528/62-0 or have your favorite locally-owned, independent bookstore order it through Consortium. 

 

Now, I know what you're thinking: "A novel in verse? How can that possibly be a summer weekend read, Carissa?" Okay, imagine this: A classic film noir (Act I), combined with a super-episode of "The X Files" (Act II), with characters that will make you miss "Alias," and a climax worth of a Marvel movie. 

 

Mr. Either/Or is either an ivy-league college student soaking slacking his way through higher education, or he's a government spook, running business as a secret operative for some shady characters. Well, he's both. And this novel is a pretty rollicking adventure that makes full use of the classic landscapes of Manhattan. 

 

You've never read a novel in verse? Don't worry, I had only read one before this myself (more about that in a future post). You don't read much poetry at all? Well, I won't chastise you for that here. Just let me say: Don't let it stop you. 

 

If you're just getting started with poetry, read the novel sentence by sentence. Don't worry about things your Intro to Poetry teacher insisted you pay attention to - line endings, rhyme, rhythmic feet, caesuras (what the heck were those again?). Poochigian's sentences are not opaque, and you'll feel them fine. 

 

What the verse does here is provide a be-bop jazzy soundtrack to the story. It highlights fun word play and pop-culture references. And most importantly, it keeps the pages turning. 

 

Try "Mr. Either/Or" - you'll like it, and you'll be passing it around your campfire to other readers in your crowd before Labor Day.

 

-cg

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text 2017-06-14 14:02
Breaking Blog News: Brush with Greatness
Life on Mars - Tracy K. Smith

One week from today, I'm going to see Tracy K. Smith give a reading. That's not the breaking news - I've been planning it for months.

 

The news is, today she was named the new U.S. Poet Laureate. I was excited before. Now I'm on Cloud 9.

 

I'm also in the process of reading both "Life on Mars" and "Ordinary Light." Both so, so good.

 

-cg

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text 2017-04-24 01:06
Firsties
Afterland: Poems - Mai Der Vang

I usually don't much care if I'm one of the first to read a new release.

 

In fact, it's quite rare when that happens. I often go years before I "get around to" reading a book (although the release of a film adaptation can move a title forward quickly). 

 

But a rather unusual thing happened to me in the past month: I actually read a new title BEFORE its release date. Mai Der Vang, the newest Walt Whitman Award winner, appeared in our city in March, and her publisher, Graywolf Press, sent copies of her book, "Afterland," in advance of the official release date. My colleague, Paul, loaned me his copy when he was finished with it, and I dove in with gusto. 

 

Vang is a Hmong-American writer, and this collection speaks to the experiences of the diaspora that has occurred in the decades since the Vietnam war. The imagery is rich, the use of language creative and powerful.

 

But my best compliment is that the book is truly a collection, an organized, thoughtful representation of an overarching theme, rather than a compilation of individual poems. This is not surprising, because Graywolf-released poetry books generally have this kind of care in editing. 

 

So there - early adopter. Stay tuned - another opportunity may soon be coming my way. 

 

-cg

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review 2017-03-19 22:41
Notes on Adaptaion: Paterson/Tulsa Kid Rating
Tulsa Kid - Ron Padgett

Generally, I post a "Notes on Adaptation" column after seeing the adaptation, but this one's going to be a little bit different. 

 

After seeing the trailer for the film "Paterson" three or four times (in various theaters), I wanted to see this film about a poet. Being a faithful reader and sometimes writer of poetry made the urge even stronger. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8pGJBgiiDU

 

So I read William Carlos Williams' collected "Paterson" (more about that in another post), and I sought out something by Ron Padgett, the poet who contributed work to the film "Paterson." 

 

I have access to three libraries, two community, and one university. Among those three, only one had any Padgett books (the university), and the only one of Mr. Padgett's books they had was "Tulsa Kid."

"Tulsa Kid" was published in 1979, and I wish any of my local libraries would have had a more recent volume, because this one was an immature work. I guess that's all there is to say about it. 

 

Except to note that it is doubtful the film "Paterson" will ever be shown in my city. 

 

-cg

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text 2016-08-17 01:18
"Understanding" Sherman Alexie
Understanding Sherman Alexie - Daniel Grassian

What did I learn by reading "Understanding Sherman Alexie?" I learned I understand Sherman Alexie - or rather his writing - pretty well already.

 

This is a kind of lit-crit starter kit for those just learning how to read and use criticism. There were no startling insights in the book for me - in fact, I actively disagreed with the analysis a couple of times.

 

Reading this book brought back memories of discussions in graduate school about how to suss out a critic's theoretical stance when it is not openly given. How does the critic use the text in question? What sources does he or she quote? What is emphasized? What is ignored? A useful exercise. No reading is ever wasted.

 

-cg

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