Hot Reads 8/14/14

It’s been a slow reading week for me what with slogging through a week of extremely oppressive and dank humidity which exacerbates my penchant toward sinus blockage and headache. Ah, September in New Orleans. I’ve been spraying my clogged nose, snorting and snotting and dreaming of a tiny drill boring into my face to let the pressure out. The glowing iPad screen does nothing to soothe stingy, itchy eyes and a pounding head either so I’ve not been online much lately. This week’s offering of Hot Reads is a little smaller than usual but none the less enjoyable. So. Enjoy. And pray for cool, dry air and clear nostrils. 🙂

From The New York Times: The Death of Adulthood in American Culture
Favorite quote: “Similar conversations are taking place in the other arts: in literature, in stand-up comedy and even in film, which lags far behind the others in making room for the creativity of women. But television, the monument valley of the dying patriarchs, may be where the new cultural feminism is making its most decisive stand.”
Note: while I didn’t agree with everything in this piece it is an entertaining read on social and cultural trends in film, TV, and music. Good read.

Photo via uinterview.com

Photo via uinterview.com

From Cosmopolitan: Why I Hate Writing About Janay Rice
Tag line: This is a story about failure, compounded — failures in decency, judgment, compassion, empathy, ethics, and jurisprudence.
Favorite quote: “We demonstrate so little empathy or kindness for women in abusive relationships. We don’t want to hear real stories about what it’s like endure such relationships. We don’t want to hear how love and fear and pride and shame shape the decisions we make in abusive relationships. We don’t want to hear the truth because it is too complicated. We leave these women with nowhere to go. We force them into silence and invisibility unless they make the choices we want them to make.”
Note: I admit I only read this piece in this magazine because the author is Roxane Gay who I consider the biggest voice of common sense and equity for women today. If she writes for Cosmo, I can put aside my opinion of the magazine and give it one more try. I’m glad I did.

From Bustle:15 CONTEMPORARY SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS BY WOMEN YOU SHOULD REALLY READ
Note: I can vouch for #1 on the list, Every Kiss a War. It’s crazy-good and should be on everyone’s list who loves fresh, original story-telling.

Brave-Miss-World From Women’s Voices For Change: Wednesday 5: The Netflix Five—Films Featuring Inspiring Women
Note: I’m so glad I found this list of films and plan to watch them all.

Our book list this week comes from Poetry Magazine : Reading list, September 2014“The Reading List is a feature of Poetry magazine’s Editors’ Blog. This month contributors to the September issue share some books that held their interest.”

Poem of the week is “Violence, Interrupted” by my online buddy Amanda Harris. Amanda has just published the first issue of her new online literary journal The Miscreant. Congrats, Amanda! I hope you’ll click over there and show her some love.

Violence, Interrupted
by Amanda Harris

Here is the broken thing I am learning to love,

here is the mouth that says nothing.

I wanted a god shaped from iron,

but here you are, straw, blood and bone,

my dirty-haired rascal, wrestling

shadows in a football field.

Last night, found you unconscious in a ditch,

unstitched sweatshirt, cracked bottles for pillows.

All of your old words felt inadequate,

so I coaxed new sounds from dead fists.

My fingers spoke of chest compressions,

of 1, 2 counts and lips that never stopped shaking.

In the language of breath, the only certainty is that

at some point, anything will want its body back.

Here is where you say you are only loveable broken.

Here are all the places I mouthed yes, then no, then yes.

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Hot Reads

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Pinterest. I think there are a lot of people out there who think Pinterest is for housewives to post recipes and baby stuff but it’s so much more! The idea of a virtual bulletin board is so much fun and that’s what Pinterest is. There’s so much I run across on the internet that I want to keep. In the past I’ve used Delicious and Instapaper which are good sites in their own way but I rarely went back to look for anything I kept there. I don’t use them anymore because I’ve started using Pocket where I’ve been very diligent about proper and useful tagging so I can find something when I want it. So far, so good. But the thing I love about Pinterest is the dominant visual aspect of it which makes it so easy to find stuff. I’m a very visual person and Pinterest is perfect for cataloging the gorgeous photography and art that I love, for giving me the push to try that new recipe (yes!) that I saved that looks so damn good. (See previous post!) It’s great for so many things and now I’ve started a new board which is what this post is about.

On my personal Pinterest account I’ve started a “Hot Reads From NOLAFemmes.com” board. I’ve been keeping articles from the internet that grab me on Pocket since I opened the account but I really like, again, the visual aspect of Pinterest that helps to pique your attention. These are pieces I want to share with our readers so I hope you’ll follow and enjoy the board. I also plan to try to post my Hot Reads here every week (or so) with a link to the board.

So what were my Hot Reads last week? I thought you’d never ask!

hotreads11. From Mother Jones, “Lidia Yuknavitch Flicks Off Frued.
Tagline: An irreverent remake of a renowned case, the new novel “Dora: a Headcase” delivers a gritty take on girlhood.
My favorite quote: “I want to create new girl myths,” she says of Dora. “Instead of always talking about how women struggle in the face of certain models, what if we spent more energy highlighting all these great other possible girl-paths, and turned away from the dominant culture?”

2. The Wall Street Journal: “Maggie Gyllenhaal on The Honorable Woman.”hotreads2
Tagline: Just as war in Israel and Gaza fills the news, a drama on SundanceTV explores the region’s turmoil.
My favorite quote: “Behind my intention in making this is compassion and, maybe it’s naive, a belief in the possibility of reconciliation, which our show never takes off the table.”
Note: I watched the premiere of this series and it’s looking really promising.

3. From The New York Times, “Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminism.”
Tagline: The author speaks with Jessica Gross about her favorite definition of feminism, ‘‘Sweet Valley High’’ and the fetishization of bad writing.hotreads3
My favorite quote: “I think that narrative is a fetish among faculty, not a reality. They fetishize the idea of bad writing, and they are more interested in the lore of bitching about students’ writing than they are in actually evaluating students’ writing as it is.”
Note: Gay’s Bad Feminist comes out this week and I can’t wait to get my pre-ordered copy!

4. From HuffPo, 8 Great New Books By Women You Should Definitely Readhotreads4
Every Hot Reads list has to have a book list and this is the one that intrigues me the most.
Maddie Crum begins by saying, “2014 has been deemed the Year of Reading Women. I wholeheartedly support this movement; after all, only diminutive steps have been made towards gender parity in the literary world since the institution of VIDA’s annual book review count (with the notable exception of the New York Times book review, which bounded towards equal coverage in just one year).”
I say, Yep! Read women! And follow the Twitter feed.

hotreads55. From Brain Pickings, Vacation Sex: A Poem by Dorianne Laux
Every Hot Reads list MUST include a great poem and this is a great poem and a great way to end the list. The piece includes text and video and, damn, who doesn’t want to read about vacation sex?

Women Who Write: Valentine Pierce

This is the final interview in our four-part series featuring Louisiana women poets in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each profile has featured a poet from New Orleans or Southeast Louisiana including interview, biography and an original poem selected for this feature.

Valentine Pierce

Valentine Pierce

Valentine Pierce is a New Orleans poet, writer, graphic designer, visual artist and actor. A bit of her wisdom: “We are all many things, a vessel of triumphs and trials, worlds within the worlds of all the people in our lives, singular wonders and curiosities of humanness.” Pierce’s debut book, Geometry of the Heart, was published in 2007 by Portals Press. She has been a resident writer at A Studio in the Woods in 2006, had her artwork displayed at Tulane’s Carroll Gallery, and performed in several productions at Ashé Community Art Center. She even won two awards from the American Academy of Community Theatres—to her surprise.

Fishwife

Melissa is a late baby,
Born in the waters of the Atlantic off the U.S. coast.
Her mid-November birth so far from land destines her
To be a fishwife, to hurl her insults at and spin herself down
Back into the waters from which she came.
No land is near enough to this child of the waters.
Even though her foul-mouthed sputterings
Come as tropical storm winds
And sheeted rain far across the waters,
By the time they reach us they are merely a severe rainstorm,
An accustomed annoyance;
Her voice echoes in the thunder but rallies no fear.
We will feel her wet, latent fury but no one
Will be running for higher or distant ground.
She will die as she was born—helpless and hopeless
In the mid-Atlantic waters in late November.

(Note on this poem: A couple of years ago I heard meteorologist Margaret Orr call a storm a fishwife. I’d never heard of a fishwife and didn’t know how it applied. I did some research and learned about fishwives and why some storms are called such. In November 2013 I finally got to use that word, which had been sitting in the word box of my mind.)

 

What is your earliest recollection of the desire to write down your own thoughts?
I don’t recall when I started writing—grade school, I guess. That’s what we called elementary school back then or grammar school.

Do you remember your first poem? What was it about?
The first poem I ever had published, according to my mom, was in the school bulletin at Joseph S. Craig, when I was in the second grade. The only line I remember is “on the outside looking in.” I remember the first poem I ever got published, in 1983. At that time it was titled “Always Strong.” I revised it so the theme was more universal and retitled “Soul of the Universe.” It was published in the now defunct Day Tonight/Night Today.

Is writing your full-time occupation?
Writing was my full-time occupation. I was a journalist for about 30 years. I was a journalist, photojournalist, layout person, editor, managing editor and press chief. I also had a weekly column, “Marrero Musings,” in the Times-Picayune for seven years. And I did freelance writing. Now my full-time job is graphic design and most of the published work is poetry. I also have odd jobs including freelance graphic design, sewing, and crafting.

Is poetry your primary genre? Do you work in any others?
Poetry is my primary genre but I write in a variety of genres from simple prose to essays to plays, to one-act-shows. I really don’t categorize my work in the sense of right now I am going to write an essay or now I’ll write a poem. I just write and let it happen. I even have a novel in progress—since July 2005. It is called “Dead North.” It got it’s name from the Federal Flood commonly known as Hurricane Katrina. It is a novel about a major hurricane. I’ve been interested in hurricanes all my life and said to myself, hey, “No one has written a novel about a hurricane.” It seems centuries ago that I read a book about a major storm that brought a bad spirit to a certain island. That was part of my inspiration. Hurricanes were the other part and I had tons of secondhand research. A month later I began to get firsthand information. I am not sure that that novel will ever be finished because going from poetry-length to book-length is a feat.

I write short stories, too. They have never been published because most need a tremendous amount of work. I did have one critiqued about 10 years after I wrote it. The ending was weak but the person who critiqued it, a writer I respect, said it would only take me about 20 minutes to fix then ending. He was right but I’ve never had it published. I have a three or four other books that are laying around in a bin somewhere, too.

I even have a whole book, a short one, called “Boundaries of a Life,” which is journaling and poetry about coping with grief. Hmmm, perhaps I need to pull that one out.

As you can see, writing is my life—paid or unpaid.

Do you have a favorite place to write or a routine that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?
Generally, whenever the muse strikes. I don’t usually decide to write, that is decided by my muses, my environment, my mood. Writing just happens for me. But, if I were to choose a place, it would be my home because there are no interruptions. I don’t have to be concerned with time, place, space. When my children were young, it was after they went to bed. Generally thought, poetry hits me in the midst of everyday living and I write it then to keep from losing it.

Where was the strangest place that inspiration hit you for a poem and how did it turn out?

Probably the seafood market that was once on St. Roch at St. Claude. I wrote a poem on a napkin with a burned out match. I can’t remember the name because I was a teenager but I still have it somewhere.

Oh, wait, once, in a restroom I pulled a paper towel off a shelf. When I had entered I wondered why so many of them were on the floor. When I pulled mine, a second one just floated down like a butterfly so I wrote a brown butterfly poem about it. Don’t know where that poem is right now.

Are there any recurrent themes in your poems? If so, why do you think that is?
I think the only recurring theme in my poems is life. That’s what I write about. The here and now, the hurt and happiness, the smiles and tears.

I am somewhat a collector of words. Do you have any favorite words?
I collect words and phrases. Often they end up in poems. Can’t think of any phrases to share but some of my words have to do with poems like Onomatapeia and iambic pentameter. I also collect names because they are amazing Like Beth Kneebone, She Ping, Cleopatra Pendleton, William Dear, Freeman A. Hrabowski III., and Jacqueline Goodchilds are just a few I have on my desk right now.

Do you have any tips to share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a piece?
I don’t know what tips would be useful because writing is such a personal art. Sometimes you have to stay still, stay home, skip the television program to work through a piece, sometimes you have to set it aside long enough for other things to fill you mind and then go back to it because it becomes fresh again that way. Sometimes you have to leave home and go to a park or a retreat. When I had the opportunity to be the writer-in-residence at A Studio in the Woods in 2006 it was the first time in my life that I could spend every waking moment writing. And I did. I was amazed at the amount of work I completed in one month. I wish I could do that all the time. I have several friends to thank for that for constantly telling me to submit until finally I gathered up my courage and did it. My fear was that I didn’t stand a chance because there are so many great writers in New Orleans. I came back from Phoenix, AZ, where I was living with friends after the storm.
(Editors note: the storm = Hurricane Katrina)

Who are some of your favorite poets and why?
Goodness. That list is so long: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, all of the Black Renaissance poets, just about every poet in this city, the poets I recently met at the Acadiana Word Lab, most of the poets I’ve met in my life. What I like is the work, the words they put down, the sound, rhythm, music of the words, how they approach their topics whether main stream or taboo, the many ways writers write. I am probably not explaining this well because it is impossible to say exactly. I just know that poets inspire me, cause me to challenge myself, bring me great joy and sometimes bring tears to my eyes.
I have been inspired to write many poems based on hearing other poets read their work.

Finally, do you have any upcoming readings or appearances you can share with us?
My next events are workshops at the Algiers Regional Library April 19 and 26, 2p. It’s called “Stand Up, Look Up, Speak Up: How to present your work in public.”
__________________________

Thank you, Valentine, for sharing your work and your thoughts with us today.

Thanks to all of the wonderful women poets that participated in this series. It was great!

To read all interviews for Women Who Write, click here.

Women Who Write

Audubon Park Labyrinth, New Orleans

Audubon Park Labyrinth, New Orleans

 

During the month of April, Poetry Month, I’ll be featuring four women poets from Louisiana. They will tell us their writing process, what they read, who they admire, what their favorite words are and many, many other things. They will share a poem with us. They will be beautiful examples of why you should date/love/marry/admire/emulate women who write.

It’s going to be great.

“You should date a girl who reads.
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”
Rosemarie Urquico