Happy third month of 2021! Dear Reader, I am grateful for your lovely company here, where I share information about my books, the books of others, and my reading practice.
Since the publication of The Minuses a year ago this month, I’ve been writing to you to share “the constellation of pluses” around my during-the-pandemic-published poetry collection. What are “the pluses”? Pluses take the form of reviews, interviews, and reading invitations I and my poems have been lucky to receive. In this post, I will also take account of books I’ve read so far this new year as I begin reading my way through my fourth annual personal Big Read: #mypersonalBigRead2021.
Bill Neumire on The Minuses: “Macarty theorizes, “The poem exists, arises with and between the poet and the reader; the poem could be thought of as the meeting bridge.” Flannery O’Connor, drawing from Pierre Chardin, told us everything that rises must converge, and in the Sonoran Desert, described with replete taxonomical detail covering its flora and fauna, Macarty gives us a persona that sends herself “into the desert to become a third person.” If, as Don Paterson tells readers in his tome-length new reflection on the very nature of a poem’s exigency, “silence is the space in which the poem makes its large echoes,” this book is humming with desert silence, and forcefully compelling in its echoic impact.”
Bill Neumire offered The Minuses an expansive, attentive, and thoughtful review in issue 17:2 “Space” of Vallum, a magazine of contemporary poetry published in Montreal, Quebec. Vallum, edited by Eleni Zisimatos and managed by Leigh Kotsilidis, gave two poems from The Minuses a home: “Nor’easter” and “Helicopter” appeared in issue 13:1 “Open Theme.” Vallum is also the publisher of Mind of Spring, my second chapbook of poetry and winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Vallum and the good people who edit and manage it are special and important to me.
Set in a desert borderland, Mind of Spring, a poem in three parts, uses contemplation as a compositional element to call to attention the social, cultural, environmental, and personal mechanisms of war. Written across borders—both visible and invisible—between homelessness and home, estrangement and intimacy, lyric and language, the poem reflects on an accreting grief for the world and meaning of the observed, while offering the reader an alternative to the commodified and monetized.
Mind of Spring, #22 in Vallum Chapbook Series, sold out of hard copies, but is available in digital format at either Vallum or 0s&1s, literary playground. Consider yourself invited to visit Vallum—to check out Mind of Spring and to read Bill Neumire’s review of The Minuses in issue 17:2 “Space”!
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Now, to my reading practice, which consists of challenging myself to read a volume, or part of one, each day of the year. For me, a volume is a collection of poetry, a chapbook, a magazine, a literary journal, a novel, memoir, essay collection, etc. I’ve written about why I’m doing this in other posts. The main impetus that prompted this Big Read was the realization that books were stacking into to-be-read towers around my desk. I seemed to be buying books, but instead of reading them I was coveting them. The mounting stacks were causing anxiety about when and how I would ever get to all of the books. Rather than pull out my hair, or do nothing, I decided to just start reading and see what I could read. The first year, 2018, I read 300 volumes. In 2019, I read a few more than 300, and in 2020, I read 200 volumes. I have to type it out: I read 800 volumes in three years. That number also gives you a sense of the to-be-read towers to which I’m referring.
The stacks have dwindled considerably, but there are still more books to read. In 2021, I intend to keep reading.
Here are some of the volumes I read in January 2021. For the first month of the year, I had the loose intention to read mostly writing by women, and that’s what I did. Seventeen of the twenty volumes of poetry and nonfiction essays depicted are written by women. The remaining eleven volumes I read during the month were written by a mix a binary and nonbinary writers, and were read in digital formats. Included: ~250 poetry submissions of three to five poems each—that’s about 1,200 poems!—for The Maynard, the poetry magazine I co-founded and edit.
Reading is, of course, teaching me a lot about myself, writing, the world—and about reading. There are times when I think about reading to such an extent that I no longer quite grasp what it is or how to do it. Reading is getting weirder for me. During a recent think on reading, I came to realize that reading scares me. I’m not convinced I can do it or be good at it. Every time I pick up a book I have the question: Will I be able to read and understand this? Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me; I just keep reading.
Here’s February stack! For February I made the intention to read Black and biracial writers. I wanted to do something tangible to celebrate, honor, elevate, and be an ally to Black poets and writers. This stack contains 23 (one volume is three-books-in-one!) volumes of poetry, stories, essays, and memoir—all by Black and biracial writers from the US, Canada, Kenya, Ghana. Additionally, I challenged myself to write a reader’s response to each book; you can read those on my Facebook page.
I acknowledge that reading and having the time to read are privileges.
I’ll be back in touch soon with more reviews of The Minuses and to share more about my reading practice in 2021.
Thanks very much for joining me here, for reading me! I’d love to hear about what your reading practice and what you’re reading. Leave me a comment!
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+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!
+ Thank you bows to reviewer, Bill Neumire, for his attentive, thoughtful, generous review of The Minuses.
+Thank you bows (continuous!) to Eleni Zisimatos and Leigh Kotsilidis et al at Vallum for their confidence in and support of my writing.
+ Thank you bows to the writers and publishers who brought their grand accomplishments of books into the world.
+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, and Mountain West Poetry Series editors Donald Revell and Kazim Ali, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses with me.
+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Beth Svinarich et al at University Press of Colorado for their beautiful support to me and The Minuses.
+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to monsoon storm chaser and marvelous professional photographer, Liz Kemp whose monsoon photograph storms the cover of The Minuses.
+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Vincent K. Wong for his friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.
+ This bears repeating: Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!