Monday, June 29, 2015


Who would have known this venture would tug me in so many directions at once? It's been a busy few weeks in these parts, and since I last ruminated, we've formed a board of directors, burst through our first goal in our Kickstarter campaign, I've spoken to a lawyer about nonprofit status applications, have toured an office space and put in a request (which would give us an Actual Address). There's also all of that actual bookwork, like acquiring new titles (Katharine Rauk's first book!) (and another that I will reveal once we hit $4,500 on Kickstarter!) and the editorial work (my favorite) and bustling about, brainstorming marketing plans. How can we expand the audience? How can we add to the community?

I also got this going today:

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Friday, June 26, 2015

book rec: interrobang

Donna Vorreyer, a Tinderbox Poetry Journal poet, has graciously written our first guest post for Friday's book recommendations. If you'd like to send in your own rec, head on over to the submissions page.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013) as well as six chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish (Red Bird Chapbooks). She is a poetry editor for Extract(s), and her second collection is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016.

I have a freakish love for the sonnet. Perhaps it stems from my equally freakish attachment to Shakespeare, but a well-written sonnet just does me in. My favorite gift from my husband is a silver mobius bracelet with Sonnet 116 engraved around its curves. Having said this, modern sonnets often leave me cold as they ignore many of the forms time-honored rules, keeping only the squared-off look of fourteen lines or the idea of a volta. So I was particularly delighted to pick up Jessica Piazzas Interrobang (Red Hen Press, 2013) at Prairie Lights while visiting Iowa City last summer. Named for the punctuation mark that is a combination of question and exclamation marks, the book earns the mystery and surprise that the mark entails. Since then, I have read it several times, most recently last week, as it is the best collection of sonnets I have seen in a very long time.

All the good ingredients are there: rhyme, meter, even CROWNS, people, well-written, clever crowns. But not one stilted obvious sonnet in the bunch. Not one. The organization of the book is unique, and it works - all poems but the three crowns are named for -philias and -phobias. The language is intelligent and fresh without being intellectualized, and I found myself starting to take notes on favorite lines and almost copying out entire poems. As an example, the first crown, entitled People Like Us uses brilliant reworkings of punctuation and enjambment to chronicle a difficult relationship and to make the repeated lines resonate in completely new ways when they reappear. For example:

End line And now our loves not whether, but how long until. leads into first lines It isnt whether. No. Only: how long until/how bad it gets.

End line “…a certain fade to blackOh fuck it. Holler back. leads into first lines Drawn curtain: faded, black. We fucked. We hollered. Back-/tracked and let sunlight in.

From the very first poem Melophobia, which gives us slant rhymes like flawed/wood, possible/steel, and slippery/sky, Piazza reveals herself as a poet with a gift for sound, a gift I could continue to praise, but I would end up retyping the entire book. After you read and love Interrobang, you could also become enamored with her newest chapbook This Is Not A Sky (2014, Black Lawrence Press). These poems also use her gift for sound in a series of ekphrastic poems based on artists from Raphael to Warhol. If you appreciate a poet who uses form and sound to write modern poems whose lines will follow you to bed and when you get up the next morning, these two books are a good place to start.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

book rec: mothers by rachel zucker

Yesterday I was at the North American Review conference where I presented on motherhood and poetics, and of course, in those six hours of driving, I fretted over a to-do list, and this little something came floating to the top. I had been thinking about literary citizenship (Jessamyn Smyth of Tupelo Quarterly called me this in a recent supportive post about our Kickstarter, and I thought, oh! that's exactly it! that's the why!).

So this was one of my ideas: start a Friday posting, make it regular, draw in other writers, have them write a little bit about a book they recently read that made the tops of their heads come off. Starting with me.

This week I read Rachel Zucker's MOTHERs in an attempt to draw in more voices to the panel paper I wrote, which was called "Out of the Bodies of Babes: The Ethics of Using Children as Subjects in Art." I talked a bit about stories and who has rights to anyone else's narratives, and there is much of this in MOTHERs, which is a lyric essay exploration of being a mother, of mentorship, of nonbiological mothers and loss, about facing her own family history, her mother as storyteller and the ways in which she tells her own story.

Here's the piece I shared with the audience:

One story she does tell is of her Iowa Writers’ Workshop mentor Jorie Graham, a mother-poet who does not tend to use her children as subject in her work. Zucker writes, “Graham feared that having a child might herald the end of her writing life. In despair she went on a pilgrimage to Emily Dickinson’s grave. It was storming, and Graham sought shelter in Emily Dickinson’s home. The home (also a museum) had shut down for the evening. Soaking wet and largely pregnant, Graham pounded on the door. A caretaker opened it. Graham begged to be let inside to see Dickinson’s desk. The caretaker nodded, and Graham rushed past her to Dickinson’s study. There, where Dickinson’s desk usually stood, was a small cradle. The caretaker explained that Dickinson’s desk was on loan to Harvard, and because the room seemed so empty without the desk, someone had put the cradle (found in the basement) in its place” (6).
Another moment that struck me was a passage where Zucker describes sitting in the audience in Tennessee while her mother performs stories on stage. She is writing in a notebook and her son pesters her about what she's doing. She tells him, I'm taking notes; it's what I do.

I can't help but think YES she's so right YES this is it YES. so often while reading the book. Or any of her books. I was a Rachel Zucker fan before our paths began to cross, and eventually, I learned the story of MOTHERs before it became a book--the things she reveals in the epilogue, the curse she feared from her mother, the struggle of what to do when one's parent passes away half a globe away. I remember the emails. I remember wishing the world was a rug and I could shake it, stitch it together, closer, just for a little bit of time. I wish closure came like breathing, or were something that could be wrapped and sent in the mail.

I wish everyone could read this book who has had some kind of complexity in sussing out feelings about Mother could read this book. But mostly, read it for the style: I'm in love with this form that is growing in popularity. My own Nestuary is a bit like this, and I think of Claudia Rankine's most recent two, of Eula Biss's essays at times, Christine Hume's Ventifacts. I'm hungry for this style of writing--for the disconnected essay shards that overlap and tease and tangle and drop off, maybe, maybe not come back again. How each feels like a worried, ocean-smoothed stone.

If you'd like to join this exercise in literary citizenship and write your own book recommendation, I've made a Submittable account, which will be most robustly used during contest periods for the press, but for now, I'll always take a look at book recs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


It has begun. Please follow that link and help get Tinderbox Editions off the ground!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

by its cover

"It's a piece of art that's in service to another piece of art."
-- Chip Kidd, Skillshare video on designing book covers

For me, I've bought so many books because of the cover. The horse skeleton. The one with the squid. Other reasons too, like which press it comes from, who blurbed it, who recommended it to me and why. For now, all I can do is make a book someone will want to touch.

I spent today playing around with the art of Louise LeBourgeois who has sold us the rights to use one of her paintings on Kelly's book. We just might have a cover both author and publisher love, which is one step towards book-as-physical-object. My biggest hope is that people, readers, will see the cover and want to pick it up. And even more immediate, see the cover, read a few of the poems, and want to donate to help get this press in flight. I cannot wait to see the view.

Monday, June 1, 2015

how fast it all moves, how many kettles in the fire

I've had to buy myself a physical planner, an analog thing with a zippered pouch, to store receipts (taxes!) and colored pens (green: the press; blue: the journal; black: family; red: my own writing life-do I still get to have that? yes, I think yes).

I've made myself write little goals for the days. Today, email people to garner interest in a board of directors. Finalize first round edits on the first manuscript. The end.

It's the first day of my daughter's summer vacation, and my son is at my feet, singing tweet tweet! I understand, now, why it is called "kitchen table press." Last night, my husband and I floated ideas, considered renting an office downtown so we could detach (me for the press, him for his contract work). Not yet. For now, I am once again turning to our sliver of a guest room, which doubles as my poetry books room, and I'm clearing shelves, clearing the desk. I won't hog this dining space for much longer. We have to put the operation on the floor at dinner.

Soon, shelves will be lined with backstock and postcards and other promotional material. Files. Soon, walls will be filled with framed things like first book covers and broadsides from our authors.

* * * * *

I've finished my first read-through of our first manuscript-that-will-be-book. I've physically felt it as I read it, felt my own heart swell like a slammed thumb, felt it ache like only an organ can do. I've gotten bleary at the beauty of it, at where it moves me. I've made that noise, you know the one, that sounds like mmmmm, like something has turned over inside of you.