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Archive for September 2015



Our goal is to model a collaborative editorial venture that breaks with the anemic capitalizing tradition and goes ahead of institutional efforts that rank poems as the “best”. The “best” hides the subjective goals and values of the few determining what work should receive visibility and reward. The “best” implies that some voices should be prioritized over others. We wish to challenge the idea that a few gatekeepers should oversee the publishing order each year by actively defining and maintaining a hierarchy of voices, an order that replicates the status quo that tokenizes and marginalizes difference. Our efforts will intentionally shift favor so that the literary landscape within this anthology reflects a ranging plurality of voices in American poetry and illuminates the possibilities of sharing space. 
To this end, we have decided to call our endeavor Bettering American Poetry. For us, this means that rather than seek out the kind of work that best exemplifies “American poetry” as such, our task is to spotlight the poems that are working to radicalize and reinvigorate our American imagination. We feel that to “better” American poetry is to jam dominant systems of taste to the best of our abilities, and to resignify the very phrase “American poetry” with the languages that it so desperately lacks. We intend to center voices of resistance, subjectivities that emerge from the radical margins, artists whose Americanness transcends nationalism and other borders, perspectives historically denied institutional backing--in short, poets and poetries that are urgent and necessary but do not get along nicely with Power. And in this process, we recognize that “bettering” is, always, an ongoing act: it is a struggle against the obliterating forces of American history, politics, imagination and poetics. We don’t pretend it is possible to have finished bettering American poetry, which is why we dedicate ourselves to the task anew, daily. This anthology represents just one, concerted effort to better American poetry, but it is one that we hope will resonate.
As editors, we share a collective spirit but represent an array of tastes, visions and desires. Please check out our bios below for a glimpse into our poetry predilections. Several of us have also made statements included in “What Is Literary Activism?” at Poetry Foundation.
For an outline of poems we hope you’ll nominate, consider:  We want work that is unafraid to look, to shake shit up, to speak. We are interested in poems that challenge patriarchal and white supremacist power structures. We love poems that burn misogynist, homophobic, ableist, transphobic, racist, xenophobic attitudes and behaviors at the core. Poems that critique the dominant culture and flummox the status quo, that speak with voices historically misrepresented, underrepresented, censored, and silenced make us sit up and listen hard. We want poetry that revolts, disobeys, mucks up the accepted order and betrays nepotistic allegiances. We long for poems that sting, love without fear and exist without fear. We want to swoon over your clashing engagements with the world.
      Nominate poems published in 2015 in any format, small press ventures included. Send poems to BetterAmericanPoetry@gmail.com
      Include poet’s name, title of poem, date & title of publication the poem appeared in, and online link to the published poem or to the publication the poem appeared in.
      You may nominate your own work or someone else’s but please limit nominations to three poems.
      U.S. citizenship NOT required.
      Due to time & space constraints, please avoid nominating exceptionally long poems.
      Deadline to nominate is November 30, 2015.
      The anthology, BETTERING AMERICAN POETRY 2015, will be published in print by BlazeVOX Books in February 2016. 
Kenzie Allen is a descendant of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. She is a graduate of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan where she was the recipient of Hopwood Awards in poetry and non-fiction, and she has been awarded an Emerging Writer fellowship to Aspen Summer Words and the Littoral Press Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Drunken Boat, SOFTBLOW, Apogee, Boston Review, and elsewhere, and she is the managing editor of the Anthropoid collective. She lives in Norway, and on her tribe’s reservation in Green Bay.
Eunsong Kim is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, San Diego. Her essays on literature, digital cultures, and art criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in: The New Inquiry, Model View Culture, AAWW’s The Margins, Art in America, and others. Some of her poetry has been published or will be in: Denver Quarterly, Seattle Review, Feral Feminisms, Minnesota Review, Iowa Review, and Action Yes. Her first book will be published by Noemi press in 2017.
Amy King’s forthcoming book, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. King joins the ranks of Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt & Rachel Carson as the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the WNBA Award (Women’s National Book Association). She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is currently co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology, Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.
Jason Koo is the founder and executive director of Brooklyn Poets and creator of The Bridge. He is the author of America’s Favorite Poem (C&R Press, 2014) and Man on Extremely Small Island(C&R Press, 2009), winner of the De Novo Poetry Prize and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Members’ Choice Award for the best Asian American book of 2009. He earned his BA in English from Yale, his MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston and his PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The winner of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center and New York State Writers Institute, Koo is an assistant professor of English at Quinnipiac University and lives in Williamsburg.
David Tomas Martinez's debut collection of poetry, Hustle, was released in 2014 by Sarabande Books, winning the New England Book Festival's prize in poetry, the Devil's Kitchen Reading Award, and honorable mention in the Antonio Cisneros Del Moral prize. Features or reviews have appeared in Poets & Writers, Publishers Weekly, NPR's All Things Considered, NBC Latino, Buzzfeed, and many others. He is the reviews and interviews editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. He has been a Breadloaf and CantoMundo Fellow, and is finishing his Ph.D. in the University of Houston's Creative Writing program. Martinez is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of creative writing at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX.
Airea D. Matthews is a 2015 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow. She is the Assistant Director of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she earned her MFA. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming inBest American Poetry 2015, The Missouri Review, The Baffler, Callaloo, Indiana Review, WSQ, Kinfolks and Muzzle. Matthews' prose appears in SLAB, Vinyl, Michigan Quarterly Review and VIDA: Her Kind. She is the co-executive editor of The Offing, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Héctor Ramírez is a writer and teacher living in Boulder, CO. He received his B.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He reads fiction submissions for Timber journal and is an editor and staff writer at Vannevar(www.vannevar.net). His work has been published in The Café Irreal, Buffalo Almanack, American Book Review, The Poetry Foundation’s “Harriet” blog, and elsewhere.
Metta Sáma is author of le animal & other creatures (Miel Books), After "Sleeping to Dream"/After After (Nous-Zot), Nocturne Trio (YesYes Books) & South of Here, published under her legal name, Lydia Melvin, by New Issues Press. Her poems, fiction, and creative nonfiction essays have been published in Heir Apparent, Valley Voices, Puerto del Sol’s Black Voices Series, Literary Hub, Kweli, bluestem, Apogee, All About Skin (edited by Jina Ortiz & Rochelle Spencer), Please Excuse This Poem: 100 Poets for the Next Generation (edited by Lynn Melnick & Brett Fletcher Lauer), among others. She has served as special guest editor for Reverie, Black Camera, RedLeaf Poetry Journal and North American Review. She serves on the advisory board of Black Radish Book and the Board of Directors at Cave Canem and VIDA and is a Fellow at Black Earth Institute. Sáma is the director of Center for Women Writers and an Assistant Professor and Director of Creative Writing at Salem College.
Vanessa Angelica Villarreal's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Poetry Foundation Harriet blog, The Feminist Wire, Caketrain, DIAGRAM, The Western Humanities Review, NANO Fiction, The Colorado Review Online, and elsewhere. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and her book, BEAST MERIDIAN, was a finalist at Nightboat, Futurepoem, Saturnalia, and Willow Books, and is forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2017. Her hometown is Houston, Texas.
Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work recently has been featured in Storyscape Journal, Dusie, Fanzine, The Enemy, The Brooklyn Rail & others. She is the author of the chapbook I Would Be the Happiest Bird (Horseless Press) and her first full-length book of poems, Houses, also from Horseless Press in 2015. Her graphic chapbook I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel is forthcoming from Bloof books. You can reach her at http://nikkiwallschlaeger.com/
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Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani Now Available!

 Praise for Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish

“Startlingly fecund, culturally shrewd, grounded in bright particulars and sly juxtapositions, Anis Shivani shows us with diamond brilliance what happens when language takes leave of its day job to exult in its real power. No longer the bean counter of ordinary doings, it becomes its own freedom, conscious of itself as beacon of what we could achieve, were we to realize the wisdom of Emerson’s remark that the ultimate American trope is surprise.”

— David Rigsbee, author of School of the Americas and Not Alone in My Dancing: Essays and Reviews

“These poems are an homage to all that is ‘great’ about humanity, but, and maybe more importantly, they are also a skeptical, intelligent, and necessary confrontation with that greatness. Which is to say, Anis Shivani is in conversation with the best—the best poets, writers, and thinkers, from antiquity to now—and he is handling his own, with gravitas, humor, and originality.”

— Hayan Charara, author of The Alchemist’s Diary and editor of Inclined to Speak: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry

“Writing to, about, after and through poets and poetry, picking through erotic detritus and stylistic loot, all’s unfair game in Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish. Somewhere between a cry in the wilderness and a survival guide, taking whatever it takes from colonizers who themselves took it from the colonized, glutted with image and strung together with deadly sense: this is a big book, a full book, fevered and horny and tired. A cry is a compromised song, or a song is an ornate cry. Anis Shivani is a poet calling out to poets, seeking how a poet can and won’t survive.”

— Kate Schapira, author of How We Saved the City and The Soft Place

“Both arresting and inventive, Anis Shivani’s new poems reveal a rich sense of wonder at this complex thing we call humanity. Smart, unflinching, and relevant—this book demands rereading.”

— Ryan G. Van Cleave, author of The Florida Letters and editor of City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry

Anis Shivani is the author of several critically acclaimed books of fiction, poetry, and criticism, including Anatolia and Other Stories (2009), Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies (2011), The Fifth Lash and Other Stories (2012), My Tranquil War and Other Poems (2012), and Karachi Raj: A Novel (2015). Both Anatolia and Other Stories and The Fifth Lash and Other Stories were longlisted for the Frank O’Connor international short story award. Forthcoming books include Soraya: Sonnets and Literature in an Age of Globalization. Books in progress or recently finished include Death is a Festival: Poems, Plastic Realism: Neoliberalism in Recent American Fiction, and the novels A History of the Cat in Nine Chapters or Less, Abruzzi, 1936, and An Idiot’s Guide to America. Anis’s work appears in the Yale Review, Georgia Review, Boston Review, Iowa Review, Threepenny Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Antioch Review, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Fence, Epoch, Boulevard, Pleiades, Denver Quarterly, Verse, Colorado Review, Quarterly West, New Letters, Subtropics, Times Literary Supplement, London Magazine, Meanjin, Fiddlehead, and other leading literary journals. Anis is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, and his reviews appear widely in newspapers and magazines such as the Huffington Post, Daily Beast, In These Times, Texas Observer, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Austin American-Statesman, Kansas City Star, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, St. Petersburg Times, Charlotte Observer, and many other outlets. Anis is the winner of a 2012 Pushcart Prize, was educated at Harvard College, and lives in Houston, Texas.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 124 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-227-3




Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani Book Preview

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Aaron Simon & Kit Robinson Read from their New Books in San Francisco


Thursday, October 8, 7pm
Poets Aaron Simon & Kit Robinson
Read from their New Books
Introduced by Alan Bernheimer  

Aaron Simon: Rain Check Poems   

Throughout these subtle yet seductive poems, materiality—both grand and ordinary—opens a route of return, the oceanic fullness one feels while 'waiting for the kettle to whistle.' Aaron Simon's poetry whispers to me of what it means to be alive, really alive."—Dodie Bellamy
Aaron Simon is the author of Periodical Days (Green Zone Editions, 2007), and Senses Himself (Green Zone Editions, 2014). His poems have appeared in several publications, including Like Musical Instruments: 83 Contemporary American Poets (Broadstone Books, 2014), Shiny, Exquisite Corpse, Sal Mimeo, Across the Margin, Nowhere, and Harriet the Blog. He has lived between San Francisco and Brooklyn since 1999.

Kit Robinson: Marine Layer

Kit Robinson is the author of Determination (Cuneiform, 2010), The Messianic Trees: Selected Poems, 1976-2003 (Adventures in Poetry, 2009), Train I Ride (BookThug, 2009), and 17 other books of poetry. He lives in Berkeley, where he works as a freelance writer and plays Cuban tres guitar in the Latin dance band Bahia Son.

Poet Alan Bernheimer, often associated with the San Francisco Language Poets, lives in Berkeley. He performed for Poets Theater and produced and hosted In the American Tree, a radio program of new writing by poets on KPFA.

Rain Check Poems and Marine Layer are published by BlazeVOX Press.

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Limitless Tiny Boat by Ruth Danon Now Available!

 By investigating the minutiae of life—the stuff that anchors us, a stone and its echo, paradoxes constructed by language—Ruth Danon investigates nothing short of Thanatos and Eros. The journey of the Limitless, Tiny Boat is fierce and fearless. Watch out! These poems expand and contract—breathe—as they are read. A substantial achievement.

—Martine Bellen

Ruth Danon seems to gather all of life into her Limitless Tiny Boat—or to explore every corner, every inch of the limitless, tiny boat that is life. In these flawlessly sculpted, deeply considered and compelling poems, Danon probes the machinery of life—how it sputters, hums along, gets stuck, stops, then restarts, hums along again. She shows how we must reckon with the terrors and consolations of the physical world, make an existential tally, and move on. “Words are / the only boat I have,” she writes. And then, “Really the trick is to estimate / from here, the journey outward.” This book is a beautiful reckoning, an astute tallying, and a profound journey through the dark and bright corridors that make up a life.

—Laura Sims

I’ve been reading Ruth Danon’s poetry for many years, always with pleasure. She is one of the most honest and affecting poets on the current scene, a writer more than willing to take deep emotional risks, bringing the reader close the flame. She says she is "lucky knowing / that everything tends / to a particular moment” in her latest collection. I suspect that much of her work as a poet has tended toward the moments gathered in Limitless Tiny Boat. It’s important work, and Danon takes us far beyond the fringes of thought and feeling.

—Jay Parini

Like any passageway between the profane and the sacred, Ruth Danon's poems keep looking for home: "Words are the only boat I have," she writes in her second collection, Limitless Tiny Boat. Danon's voice is intimate, wary, disarming, alive with intelligence and "the extreme urgency of patience." Though she claims that "three lines suggests a narrative," she also admits that "Narrative eludes me...." The material facts of a body in pain, in danger, in love find expression in the book's central sequence, a meditation that swerves from a "small cooking pot" to peristalsis: "The rose opens and closes its little mouth." As in the book's title, contradictions abound: what is called "tiny" is also "limitless" in these profound itineraries that float between story and song, hope and hopelessness, mind and body.

— Catherine Barnett

Ruth Danon’s poems manage to fuse seemingly irreconcilable qualities: they are both erudite and colloquial; concerned with ideas yet frankly personal; they have the reach of abstraction while also being tactile and concrete. The result is a shimmering originality that makes Limitless Tiny Boat a marvel to read.

—Jennifer Egan

Ruth Danon is the author of the poetry collections Living with the Fireman (Ziesing Brothers, 1981), Triangulation from a Known Point (North Star Line, 1990), and a book of literary criticism, Work in the English Novel (Croom-Helm, 1985). Her poetry was selected by Robert Creeley for Best American Poetry, 2002, and her poetry and prose have appeared in Versal, Mead, BOMB, the Paris Review, Fence, the Boston Review, 3rd bed, Crayon, and many other publications in the U.S. and abroad. She has been a fellow at the Ragdale Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, the Ora Lerman Foundation, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She teaches in the creative and expository writing programs that she directs for the McGhee Division of the School of Professional Studies of New York University and is founding director of the Summer Intensive Creative Writing Workshops at NYU’s School of Professional Studies. She is a member of the Urban Range Poets Collective. Ruth Danon grew up in upstate New York on the grounds of the Binghamton State Hospital, where her mother, a Hungarian refugee, worked as a psychiatrist. She is completing a memoir about that experience. She received her B.A. at Bard College, her Ph.D. in literature at the University of Connecticut, and received certification as a psychoanalyst at the Object Relations Institute of New York. She lives with her husband, who’s a painter, and their two magnificent cats. They divide their time between New York City and Olivebridge, New York.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 104 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-209-9



Limitless Tiny Boat by Ruth Danon Book Preview

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Patient Women by Larissa Shmailo Reviewed in Books for Readers #179

 Hurray and congrats to Larissa Shmailo, her new novel Patient Women was reviewed in Books for Readers #179. Here is an extract:

Probably the biggest surprise of my summer reading was Patient Women by Larissa Shmailo. Shmailo is a highly accomplished poet, editor, and translator (see my review of her poetry in Issue # 169) . She does a lot of so-called "mixed" media, and she blogs at larissashmailo.blogspot.com. She is productive and successful, and lives a rich life in the arts. 

She is also a survivor and child of survivors, and in her new novel Patient Women, she fictionalizes pieces of her life and recreates passages from her parents' lives as well as creating searing poems ostensibly written by her character Nora Nader.

There is plenty of recreational sex and drugs and drinking and also sex work, and brilliant recreations of the downtown milieu of New York City in the nineteen seventies. Much, much sensation and despair and struggle. There are whorehouse discussions during down time about what you want in an ideal client, and there are stunning shocks: at one point, Nora finally finds a man who has potential as a long term partner. They marry-- and he drowns on their honeymoon. 

Nora's life is out of control, but the novel is completely in the novelist's control. In her great confidence in her own powers, Shmailo moves towards the end out of the straight narrative into a series of experiments in story telling and genre. 

The bulk of the book is the grim narrative of Nora's dive into the lower depths and her grumbling return to sobriety through the efforts of a saintly trans friend who is dying of AIDS. Then, Nora begins to press her mother to repeat and explain family stories of their time in concentration camps under the Nazis: how they survived intact. She includes her mother's stories as free-standing short works, and it becomes increasingly clear that the family was not intact at all. The stories throw Nora into a near psychotic state of remembering that seems like too much for one person to bear. She says goodbye to Chrisis, her dying sobriety sponsor. She gives support to a dying stranger, money to a beggar. She notices that the world is still around her. And then come the poems, which act both as a reprise of the themes and events of the novel and also also as unnarrated evidence of Nora's talent and hopeful future. It is a gamble, to end a novel with so many passages in a different genre, but it pays off beautifully: Nora doesn't forget, perhaps doesn't even move on completely, but she can be with people. She can create.

Read the whole issue here! 

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Photos on flickr