Divine host Christine Chui brought four complete strangers, writing in different genres together to talk about the theme of Friendship & Connection in our writing. Each of us talked about our new-to-the-world books. For Melanie, that was her novel The Likely World (Red Hen Press, 2020); for Naomi that was her picture book My Best Friend, Sometimes (Pow! Kids Books, 2020); for Thaddeus that was his poetry collection Tricks of Light (Great Weather for Media, 2020); for me, of course, that was my poetry collection The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020).
In anticipation of the conversation, I felt some shyness and hesitation. I had the feeling that our meeting would be a bit awkward like how it feels to be at a cocktail party at which I know no one. You know, it can be a thing to sit down with a stranger and strike up a conversation about something that matters as much as a book does to its author.
My hesitation was near to instantly allayed. Christine was a warm host; the other authors were open to conversation. I must say it was remarkably easy to talk with these delightful writers about their work and to share mine. We discovered many a confluence between our works.
Though in 2019 I had published a poem of Susana’s in The Maynard, we didn’t know each other. Again for this event, we were three women poet strangers, sharing the intimacy of our work with one another.
This reading came to be rather magically. Here’s how. I was reading a Facebook feed belonging to a women’s writers group when I happened upon a post bemoaning publishing a book in the time of Covid-19. There are many of us for whom this is a tough reality! Such a time doubles the already hard work of bringing a book to the attention of variously distracted and gravely preoccupied readers.
By the time I arrived at the Facebook post, Susana had commented that she was in the same boat; then Dayna had added her voice. I was third to join the chorus on their boat, asking: “What should we make together?” Susana answered: “A reading,” and away we three went.
Powerhouse Susana took the lead of locating a host and venue. In fact, it was also Susana who connected me with Christine Chiu’s “Let’s Talk Books.” I came up with the event title–a sort of neologism of our three book titles–wrote the event copy, and made a poster of our three books. We all worked tirelessly to promote the event.
I may have had the easiest time in promoting the event and bringing people to virtual seats at it–because the event fell on my birthday. Many blessed souls showed up for me, which made it feel like a party! It was a truly wonderful way to spend my birthday.
These two events enact for me the generosity of strangers, the special magic of collaboration, and the creative powers of community. You see, dear reader, that’s why the energy and spirit of these events are still alive for me. Friendship and connection abound!
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+ Thank you bows to Christine Chui for hosting me at Let’s Talk Books, and to authors Naomi Danis, Melanie Conroy-Goldman, and Thaddeus Rutkowski for sharing themselves, their books, and conversation with me.
+ Thank you bows to the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association for hosting the July 23 reading; to the lovely Caitlyn Shea, who emceed the event; to sister Goddess poets Susana Case and Dayna Patterson for making a reading with me.
+ Thank you bows to the many souls with their beautiful ears and minds who joined me et al for the July 15 (some 100!) conversation and for the July 23 (some 70!) reading.
+ 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 to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!
Canadian poet Daphne Marlatt is a plus around The Minuses! I love her poetry and person very much. On and off for the last 15 years, we’ve met for coffee and conversation about poetry and spiritual practice. Our conversations have been sites of candor and infusions of hope.
During the fall of 2018 our exchanges became more frequent. Her wise counsel and cheerful shoulder were of special support to me during the summer of 2019 when I was despairing that The Minuses was still publisher-less.
So, of course on September 3, 2019 (Labor Day!), when I learned from Stephanie G’Schwind that the Center for Literary Publishing wanted to publish The Minuses, Daphne was at the top of my list of those with whom to share the great good news. During that celebratory conversation I asked her if she would endorse my book.
I use the word “endorse” instead of “blurb.” Why? Because “blurb” sounds like spit up to me. I don’t want to associate spit up with my poems. This may be a form of superstition. Poets can be superstitious. I can be superstitious. I’d rather associate enthusiasm with my poems.
Anyway! Daphne said Yes!
After she read The Minuses Daphne sent me a note that included these words, which made my poet’s heart explode in bloom:
Hi Jami, Well, you have a marvellous ms. here! I was totally immersed in it. A blurb has been difficult to word to do it justice…
Daphne uses the word “blurb.” So, I looked it up in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. I thought its first use would be quite recent. However, the first known use of “blurb” as a noun is 1907, while the first known use of “blurb” as a verb comes eight years later in 1915. The neologism was coined by American humorist Gelett Burgess. I’m not convinced. After typing the word this many times, my stomach is turning. You see? The word has that affect on me. I remain resolute in not using it.
Here’s the form of enthusiasm Daphne offered for the back cover of The Minuses:
Jami Macarty’s poems draw us into the vagaries of human love, just as they implicate us in the “menagerie of the surviving world.” These marvellously immersive poems of the Sonoran Desert and of our human deserts of the heart insist on each step taken, each present moment’s opening perception. Macarty’s lines nudge us toward non-dual Buddhist emptiness in each gap, each leap beyond wording. A must-read.
I wrote it once, but it’s worth writing again. I love Daphne Marlatt’s poetry. I have loved it for a long time. For me, Daphne’s poetry is a horizon. So, it’s especially special to have her endorsement and energy with me and the poems of The Minuses.
Even though I received the copy of The Minuses earmarked for Daphne in mid-February, travel and Covid-19 postponed our celebratory get-together for months.
On July 13, we finally felt it safe enough to commune at our favored outdoor café, Wilder Snail, for an afternoon coffee and conversation—and so that I could bestow on Daphne her copy of The Minuses.
Here’s the photographic record I made of Daphne unwrapping…
The Minuses is unwrapped and Daphne’s mask is off!
Don’t you just love the look on her face?
That’s my poetry book The Minuses in Daphne Marlatt’s hands!
A poet is happy!
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+ Thank you bows to Daphne Marlatt for her support to me over these years, for reading The Minuses, and for offering her special words in support of the poems.
Continuing, dear reader, with the pluses congregating around The Minuses. You may be wondering what are “the minuses” and how do the poems of the book address and express them… To satisfy your wondering, here’s an encapsulation of what the poems take on and talk up:
The Minuses beckons attention to ecological and feminist issues and the co-incidence of eating disorders, sexual harassment, family and intimate partner violence, homelessness, suicide, environmental destruction, and other forms of endangerment. Seeking escape from relationship, belief and self, multi-perspective survivors claim voice as contemplators of natural splendors, and as seekers of incarnate desires. These voices amplify the precariousness that predicates women’s lives and the natural world, laying bare the struggle and faith required to endure with integrity and spirit intact.
The duality between “the minuses” and “the pluses” is an aspect of the physical word being lived and survived within the poems of The Minuses.
That there are pluses occurring around the poems of The Minuses and in a continuum of readers and their responses given to the poems. Well, that’s everything to a poet. By which I mean: an expansiveness, transcending the physical world and belonging to the spiritual world.
Here, I give you an excerpt of Paul’s “Some Notes on The Minuses,” which he posted on his site on July 10, 2020. Click on Paul’s blog title or the date to read his notes in full; it’s worth the click (!) because of the context he offers on Postmodern poetics and Charles Olson’s “dodge of discourse.” Here’s the excerpt of Paul’s “Notes”:
Notes on The Minuses: Paul Nelson
To celebrate that 5% of North American poetry (a number I simply pulled out of some wet, warm place) one must savor the books that go beyond the dodges of discourse. One which came across my desk a couple of months ago is The Minuses by Jami Macarty…
As I was reading The Minuses I took some notes as if I were going to interview her. So, this is not a “review” which is not my forte, but some notes on The Minuses.
First note is from the poem Two-way:
In many North American indigenous cultures Raven is associated with death, or transformation. A trickster like coyote in some traditions. In J.C. Cooper’s book An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols (a go-to book for me) Raven represents prophecy, is a symbol of “blackening and mortification” in alchemy and also “The raven sent out from the Ark by Noah represents wandering, unrest and the unclean.” Here’s where we remember the allusion to violence in the back blurb and recognize the divinity the author sees missing from the situation. I love how she ends the poem, referring to a helicopter taking off, leaving “the earth-abandoned swirl.”
There is the poem Site Record:
Take THAT you SOB!
And one could go on like this, pointing out the very sharp perceptions, the moments where one feels aligned with the poet, perhaps re-experiencing the worst moments of relationship (though as a straight man, I am much less likely to experience physical abuse or violence in a relationship) … In the notes at the end of the book, which are helpful and not “here’s what this poem means” which is what you might find in a book of naïve or “workshop” poetry, she writes that the poem is “indebted to Leslie Scalapino and Rosemarie Waldrop.” Here are two poets that are both well known in “outsider” North American poetry circles and gives you some sense of the poetry ancestors she has allied herself with...
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I feel very lucky to have Paul’s “Notes”; these are the sort of thoughts-in-action, reader’s response most precious to a poet. You are most cordially invited to go directly to Paul Nelson’s site and read the entirety of “Some Notes on The Minuses.”
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Also on July 10, as luck would have it, Talking Poetics #22:How Poems Begin, a piece I offered to ottawa poetry newsletter, curated by rob mclennan, was published.
How does a poet begin a poem? Does the poet begin a poem or does the poem begin itself? These questions are the basis of my inquiry on how “my” poems begin and from where, from what energy and impulse. Read what I wrote on the matter of beginnings:
Talking Poetics #22 : Jami Macarty
How poems begin
Nuts and bolts. Which comes first? The answer interests me. Sometimes bolts; almost always nuts! At other times, especially when writing is happening in real time, the question is forgotten…. When a poem is beginning or middling or ending then there’s no need for the question. Questions about how a poem begins seem especially instrumental as points of departure when no poem is forthcoming or beginning. If I can know how a poem begins, then maybe I can begin one. A poem, it seems to me, is always beginning.
From another angle, who knows how a poem gets started? When confronted with this question, I don’t. In so many ways and a lot of the time, the beginning arises out of mystery. Some immaculateness.
If a poem’s a living thing like a plant, then its beginning is a seed. Or, the beginning is a bird that eats and passes the seed on, somewhat fortified, to a locale where conditions are more favorable and growth more likely.
This process may suggest silence, but monitor for heartrate and you’ll hear one. Ah ha! That seems to be the way a poem gets started for me—auditorily. Via a seed sound, word, or phrase. I hear something whispered, overhear speech or a birdsong or a gate creak—flints that spark my mind or serve like a hand shot straight up inquiry.
As I think about these spokens and overheards some qualities emerge. They are typically the most obvious things said: Something is not right here. Often declarative. Ambiguous. A double entendre. Often paratactic: I’ll be mercy if you be a killer whale. Sometimes mishearings: Age of Aquariums. Alliterations. Assonances. Aphorisms given new life. Chiasmic reversals and antimetabolic turn abouts—Let me go, so I can come back, my mother said. Repetitive echophenonomena like the Gila woodpecker beak-banging the corrugated roof. Syllogistic.
So, there’s a sound, a phrase, a statement, an utterance of varying qualities whose wind thrums my mind. I use a notebook. The words get written down. Often there is more listening and recording on the page. Collages of meaning and tone. If not then, later.
A parallel visual process may also unfold. Instead of hearing the phrase, it’s read or misread. It gets written down. That may lead to an on-the-spot erasure or mining of language, words, word pairings. More phrases written down.
Mood may dictate. Mood of listener, reader. Mood of what’s heard and read. Or, is that intuition talking. Both filter and factor the selection process while ‘I’ stays in the background. One part of the brain is occupied with listening or looking, the other finding. If the spell breaks and self-consciousness or willfulness interrupts this program, then it’s over for that sitting.
There isn’t necessarily sitting to make this happen or even with the intention for it to happen. There’s only openness to happening, then noticing when it does. A going with that.
It has always been like this. Since I was a kid, writing things down as if transcribing the sounded world. Writing things down because of how they sound. The pleasure of sounds coming together in meaning, in a way that interests. Of course, this implies that there’s an awareness of interest. An awakening alertness to sound, to how something sounds.
When considering starting a poem with a “loose structure” it takes a while for an example to arise. It happens, but not often. When it has, the structure is anaphoric: I’ll be… if you be…; I’ll be… if you be… “Ideas” tend not to be my flints either. If ideas, then they tend to reference subject matter. Maybe I’ll write about bees… Honestly, though, I can’t make anything happen in the beginning or ever. If I try or force bees, I get stung. Writing and beginning to write work in flow and flight and if I get out of the way of words. Plenty of sparks from words themselves. Their sounds unbound and bounding.
At the beginning, in it, there’s not the presence of knowing whether it’s the middle, beginning, or end. Order is a thing later discovered. The beginning is often the end, and then writing that proceeds is often writing to a beginning. Knowing where, when, what next, that can be a thing in the revision process. Often what feels satisfying is only so to no one else.
Reading. Reading takes place to sprout language, tone. To get in word mood. To warm up eyes and ears. To see if the conditions for writing arise. It’s the ears again; they have to hear something. When they do, the language boat is underway. Could be a short writing-reading spell or a day or night.
Bits, pieces, get assembled. Reorder can be a thing. What comes out is often disrupted on the way, so attention is given over to discovering what’s backward, diagonal, and sideways. From there line breaks.
At first, when typing from notebooks, assembling fragments onto a screen page, line breaks and lengths are left as is. In subsequent drafts and the more the assemblage is heard, the more apt the breaks and length are to be changed.
There’s a favoring of line as unit of meaning. One that adds to or contradicts the conveyance of the whole. Lines tend to accumulate via caesura and hemistich. All line lengths are to be loved equally. For breath rhythm and visual intrigue, a poem may mix line lengths. Love sentence as much as line, but sentences save themselves for prose poems. Delineated poems tend not to be made up of sentences. When they are the sentence is disrupted, disguised, an intervenor and sometime conscious objector.
Some of this is true. Some contradictory. Unkempt. Am I always excavating language? Not always. I think of relative. I think of instinct. I know that place. You know that place. You’ve been there. We recognize the artifacts.
I like beginnings, but can’t pretend I understand or know them. I think there may be a simple answer to the question how my poems begin—they just begin—but I only just thought of that—at the ending.
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I hope you will check out rob mclennan and his various projects supporting poetry in North America, including his ottawa poetry newsletter and Talking Poetics series. There, you will find, a cornucopia of inspiration! You may also read my contribution to Talking Poetics #22:How Poems Begin, in situ there.
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+ Thank you bows to Paul Nelson for reading The Minuses, offering his beautifully personal, contextualizing reading “Notes” on the poems, and for featuring The Minuses on his Cascadia interviews blog.
+ Thank you bows to rob mclennan for including me in the Talking Poetics series in ottawa poetry newsletter and for publishing my Talking Poetics #22:How Poems Begin.
Dear Reader, an interview is a chance to practice the high art of conversation. A conversation is a plus!
I bring to your attention the June 9, 2020 plus of an interview that the most lovely human and excellent poetry reader, Dayna Patterson conducted with me and The Minuses. Dayna and I met in our conversation on the Poetry Hour (4-5pm PDT) that she hosts for Western C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Activities, Resources, Education, Support) at Western Washington University.
Watch and listen to conversation here (use password: 8Q.A!M.?)
The Poetry Hour interview took place over Zoom, of course. The photos and compilation above are by Vincent K. Wong, my good pal and a terrific experimental photographer. Vincent attended the event, with 40 other souls, and took these photos of Dayna and me.
I didn’t realize the background image of Sonoran Desert and its saguaro cacti came through and interpentrated the live image of me, shifting foreground and background, the live and the still until Vincent sent me the series of photos he took during the event. I love the photos and the special effects are a perfect visual component to a quality of feeling I’m trying to get at in the poems of The Minuses.
We’re here to discuss your recent collection, The Minuses. When I think of the phrase, “the minuses,” I usually hear it in conjunction with “the pluses and the minuses.” With that title holding only the last part of the phrase, I expected that the book would press into themes of loss, negation, and deprivation. It certainly did that, and in ways that surprised me. For example, the book seems to be built from the scrap of a wrecked relationship. Is that an accurate description? Would you read the first piece for us and talk about why you selected this title for your book?
There’s a lot of verticality in this collection, a motif that in some places conjures, for me, a feeling of vertigo, and in other places a kind of longing to be detached, above the fray, so to speak. How were you working with notions of verticality vs. horizontality in this collection? (Read “Flight Hours,” “Mountain Hypotenuse,” and/or “Nor’easter”)
How and when did you become so intimately acquainted with the landscape of the Sonoran Desert and its environs? What was your research process for the poems in this collection? (Read “Monsoon Desert,” “At Gravity’s Feet,” & “Music 5:30.”) I’m particularly interested in the phrase “I sent myself into the desert to become a third person” in “At Gravity’s Feet.”
Can you talk about the way these poems lean into the colon and the double colon? For you, does the colon represent a kind of mathematical equation rendered into syntax? (Read “By Virtue of And”)
A poem that really resonated for me from this collection is “Door Ratio.” Would you mind reading that one for us?
Your notes section is expansive, specific, and generous. Why include the Latin name for each species you mention in the notes? How do you decide what to put in the notes to a collection?
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the making of this book?
What are you working on now or next?
Who are some of the writers or artists that inspire you? In particular, are there contemporary poetsyou’d like to recommend to our audience today?
And, here I am endeavoring to arrive at answers, to be responsive.
Dayna’s and my conversation was followed by a Q&A with our audience of listeners and joining souls.
Watch and listen to conversation here (use password: 8Q.A!M.?)
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+ Thank you bows to Goddess Dayna Patterson for reading The Minuses, for her thoughtful questions, and for featuring and hosting me on the Poetry Hour for Western C.A.R.E.S. at Western Washington University.
+ Thank you bows to Western C.A.R.E.S. at Western Washington University and Goddess Athena Roth for offering her very fine administrative support during the event.
+ Thank you bows to the 40 souls with their beautiful ears and minds who joined me et al for the June 9 interview and conversation.
+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, editor Donald Revell, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses with me.
+ Thank you bows to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!
Dear Reader, I want you to meet some of the wonderful people who, along with you, are the pluses, congregating around The Minuses.
March 5-7: The Minuses debuted at the Association of Writers & Writing Program (AWP) conference, which took place in San Antonio, Texas.
There, publisher Stephanie G’Schwind hosted me for a book signing at the Center for Literary Publishing booth. In the photo above: the Center for Literary Publishing booth all set up and ready for the conference. That’s The Minuses centered on the table! Below, that’s the lovely intern (name lost in the shuffle, on left) with publisher, Stephanie G’Schwind (right).
At the beginning of March were early days and much about Covid-19 was still unfolding. There had been much debate about whether or not to cancel the AWP conference. When the conference went ahead, thousands of registrants cancelled their attendance. Imagine a poet’s heart. A poet has waited for years to find a publisher for her book, and that’s finally happened, only the world is cancelling. Of course, my poet’s heart is only part of the equation. Many others had a change of heart, deciding that conference attendance was too risky. As I assessed the risk for myself, my gut guided me that it was safe to go. So I did! Others join me there…
I’m glad I went to the conference. Lovely people were seen and communed with (picture above): Danielle Hanson, James Arthur, John Barger, Trish Hopkinson in a Plath (!) T-shirt, Beth Ann Fennelly, Stephanie G’Schwind, Rusty Morrison, Andrea, Jim Johnstone (w/John Barger), Kenneth Pobo, Adrienne Drobnies, and Sean Singer. Special others (not pictured): Emily Perez, Sara Meeks, Desirée Alvarez, Aaron Graham… et al. Typing their names, remembering them fills my heart again with the pleasure of their company. Plus, my publisher sold all the books she brought, which I happily signed. Smiles all around.
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March 22: The celebratory reading of The Minuses in Tucson, Arizona was planned. Joining me: long-time poet friend, Eleanor Kedney, whose poetry collection Between the Earth and Sky was released in early March. With a lovely venue booked, invitations to 125 people sent, and cupcakes ordered, Eleanor and I were excited. So was Covid-19; cases were on the rise. So to be sensitive to our guests’ concerns and still hold our event, we decided to move the reading online to Blackboard, a platform available through Simon Fraser University. This was before Zoom!
My generous partner, John Welch, set up the event and hosted me, Eleanor, and 50 supportive souls who showed up for us and our poems. The event came off with ease and joy. Plus, our gathering together let me know that my community was still there, congregating around me and my poems.
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+ Thank you bows to Stephanie G’Schwind and each of the interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) booth at AWP for making The Minuses available and for your support to me during the conference.
+ Thank you bows to everyone who visited me at the CLP booth, who bestowed the best of all book-buying support, and who shared conversation and meals with me at the conference!
+ Thank you bows to John Welch for setting up and hosting the March 22 reading!
+ Thank you bows to Eleanor Kedney for reading with me!
+ Thank you bows to the 50 souls who attended the March 22 reading!
+ Thank you bows to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!
Allow me to share with you some of the words that have congregated around The Minuses during the intervening months since my last post.
Some of those words took air in interviews; interviews, those blessed conversations—
February 13: With Susan Gillis on her blogspot, Concrete & River, Susan and I talk about the forces that bring us to poetry and the movement that combines ecological and feminist concerns—ecofeminism.
Of the ignitions to poetry, I talk about a begining bird, the color yellow, and the first formerly memorized poem of my life, which is from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. Here’s an excerpt of “Time to Rise”:
A birdie with a yellow bill Hopped upon the window sill. Cocked his shiny eye and said : ‘Ain’t you ’shamed, you sleepy-head ?’
after burning the owl-high stack of manuscript versions,
after disposing of every last ashen comma and colon,
after the boxes containing the books arrived at my door,
after the boxes containing the books were opened,
and, after eyeing and drinking in the realization that The Minuses is in print! is published! books are in hand!
I’m resting on my laurels*.
*After spontaneously using this phrase, I did a bit of reading on the orgin of the laurel wreath and its associates in Greek mythology, namely Eros, the god of love, Apollo, patron of archery, and Daphne, a river nymph. The story: Apollo made fun of Eros’ use of arrows, so Eros took revenge by shooting Apollo with a gold arrow, instilling him with love for Daphne, and shot Daphne with a lead arrow, instilling her with hatred for Apollo. To be free of him, Daphne was turned into a laurel tree, which is evergreen because Apollo rendered it thus. Fashioning himself a wreath out of the laurel branches, Apollo turned Daphne into a cultural symbol for him and other musicians and poets. Rather perfect, yes?
Current mood: a yellow rose and desert monsoon, gratitude-infusion!
Thank you bows to my publisher: Stephanie G’Schwind; the photographer of the cover image: Liz Kemp, and the horizon of poets, who offered their endorsements to the book: Gillian Conoley, Claudia Keelan, and Daphne Marlatt.
It is the MusesWho have caused meto be honored: they taught me their craft
First the possessive. My books. The Minuses, a full-length collection forthcoming (Feb 2020) in the Mountain West Poetry Series published by the Center for Literary Publishing joins my three chapbooks, Instinctive Acts, Mind of Spring, and Landscape of The Wait.
Don Revell and I would very much like to publish your manuscript as the spring 2020 MWPS title if it’s still available…
I received the offer to publish on Labor Day, September 2 at 4:29 PM (PST). I had spent the entire day laboring over a new version of the manuscript, inputting edits and so on. At five O’clock I saved and closed the file, then checked email. A half hour earlier, Stephanie G’Schwind, director of the Center for Literary Publishing wrote to me: Don Revell and I would very much like to publish your manuscript as the spring 2020 MWPS title if it’s still available…
What to say. This. I’m over Saturn’s moon. Over Jupiter’s moons.
The autumn months were a happy flurry of editing, proofing, selecting the cover, and various other things that go into making a book a book. Tuesday, December 17 at 2:25 PM (MST) I signed off onThe Minuses. The book is scheduled to be out for Valentine’s Day. Can you think of better sandwich for a poet than one made between Labor and Love? More and more soon, soon…
After I signed off, I became aware of how mentally fatigued I was. The months of proofreading and decision-making took a toll. When I looked within for words and that feeling I have for them–a love affair–it was absent. Where was it? Tired!
But nothing a ritual fire couldn’t clear!
I gathered all of the hardcopy (used on both sides) versions of the manuscript I could find and burned them! As I sat in the heat of the fire I chanted gratitude to the poems that are The Minuses and welcomed those that may come:
if you will come I shall put out fresh pillows for you to rest on
Second books written by others. As in 2018, this year I intended to read a book a day. With travel and the vicissitudes of life that became read as much as I can when I can.
Above some of the books that I look up to from 2019…
I resolved to start this reading practice (at the close of 2017), after becoming acutely aware of the sky scrapers of books surrounding my desk. I seemed to be coveting books, but not reading them–at least not at the rate I was buying them. Simultaneous to this awareness was the co-arising of anxiety at how many books there were towering, looming. After the overwhelm subsided, I decided to start reading… just to see what I could do. Et voila!
From this reading practice, I have learned about:
Attention–what keeps mine
Comprehension–it’s dependent on attention
Taste–how not to judge myself for what I like or don’t
Company–what I read for
Inspiration–o, to read what hurries me to the page
Above some more of the books that I look up to from 2019
[ the Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2019
166: Full-length collections of poetry
64: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
22: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
Total = 303 individual volumes in 2019!
[ last year’s Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2018
205: Full-length collections of poetry
67: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
7: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
Total = 300 individual volumes in 2018!
Notably, I read more than twice the number of journals, more than three times the fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and three more titles in 2019. The stacks in all categories continue to melt and so does the anxiety and overwhelm. Replacing them: confidence and the knowledge gained from the experience of this deep reading practice. There are still some hours left in 2019. To books!
Hello, dear reader! As 2019’s 11th month nears end, I’m thinking about space—being made for my poems and me—and those who generously made it .
I’ve offered this before and I’ll offer it again: Making space for makers is a community-minded, inclusive action of high order!
Gratitude all around to those generous souls who have made space for my poems and me the months of this year in their readings series, at their microphones, around their fires, in their ears, in their eyes, in their bookshelves, in their imaginations, in their conversations, in their publications…
Come with me on this tour of gratitude for makers making spaces for me, my poems…
In reading series–
Most of the readings I offered and participated in this year took place in October and November, and of those, two took place on islands.
First island hop, Gabriola Island
Nice poster! Right? Poetry Gabriola asked if they could use the cover image, taken by Vincent Wong, and the title of my 2018 chapbook Instinctive Acts for the poster. How could I refuse?
Hosted by Poetry Gabriola at the Roxy on Friday, October 4, 2019 at 7:30 p.m., Lawrence Feuchtwanger, a terrific poet, former student, and new resident of Gabriola Island opened our joint reading to a beautiful poetry audience of ~40 souls with attentive ears and big hearts. Lawrence read from his collection Refugee Song (Signature Editons, 2014) and from newer work. For my part of the evening, I read poems from Landscape of The Wait and Instinctive Acts, followed by a handful of poems from The Minuses. I loved how Lawrence’s and my poems conferred, sometimes joining , sometimes diverging—and it was heart-gratifying to be in conversation with Lawrence and his poems again.
Lawrence, I hasten to add, not only invited and hosted me for the Poetry Gabriola reading, he and Deb, his partner, also put me up at their marvelous wood-frame house in the woods. O, the quiet! The fire place! The bright, open space where I offered the workshop the next day was absolutely perfect for our conversation about radiances—the brilliances of light, heat, emotion, etc.—within poems. Lawrence even baked gluten-free brownies to provide nourishment to me and workshop participants. I returned to Vancouver from my 24-hours on Gabriola, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Thank you Lawrence, Deb, The Poetry Gabriola Society, The Roxy, and the lovely, welcoming residents of Gabriola Island for hosting me!
Second island hop, Orcas Island
This warm and warming poster is designed by Jill McCabe Johnson. As well as being a graphic designer, Jill is also a terrific poet (we’re Finishing Line Press sisters), an editor, and with her good partner Charles, an innkeeper of Kangaroo House B&B.
Hosted by Artsmith on Saturday, November 16, 2019 at 7:00 p.m., Debra Babcock opened the salon by reading two excerpts from her memoir-in-process, focusing on her relationship with her mother, a polio survivor and hearty soul. I read poems from Landscape of The Wait and Instinctive Acts, followed by a handful of poems from The Minuses. Surrounding Debra, me, and our words were the warmth and light from the fire, and the open and welcoming attention of listeners. Following our readings, the audience joined us in a special conversation that got at the core of writing impulses, subjects (especially related to family), and connections between writing, ecology, and spirituality. Then, we supped on delicious potluck fare and continued our delving conversations.
Salon reading from Landscape of The Wait
Salon reading from The Minuses
Salon Q & A
reading from The Minuses
Salon Q & A
Not only did Jill and Charles host me for the salon series reading and potluck, they hosted me and John for two nights in their B&B, Kangaroo House. We were very well taken care of; these two whip up three-course breakfasts! We loved the quiet, the hottub soak in the rain, and the king-sized bed. We returned to Vancouver with our hearts filled. Images: John R. Welch
John & I after a yummy 3-course breakfast at Kangaroo House
Jill & I on the front porch of Kangaroo B&B
November’s grounded leaves…
Jill & I
an coveted adress on Orcas Island
Thank you Jill, Charles, Artsmith, Kangaroo House, Debra, and the salon’s generous audience for sharing word-love with me! Images: John R. Welch
In celebrations of diversity and language–
with Tasai Collective & Soramaru Takayama
Hosted by Tasai on Saturday, July 20, 2019 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Vancouver Art Gallery, the second annual perfomance of the poem “Tower of Babel” by Soramaru Takayama took place. Once again this year, it was my honor to participate in this powerful, heart-expanding poetry reading and performance that seeks to honor diversity in a city of immigrants who live on the unceded lands of First Nations peoples. I gave my voice in American English to the poem, just as the speakers of 15 other languages gave their voices and first languages to celebrate diversity in Vancouver on a hot summer’s day.
Thank you bows to gracious hosts: Tasai Collective, Steve Frost, Yurie Hoyoyon, Soramaru Takayama, Vancouver Art Gallery, and the people of Vancouver who joined their voices with ours! Images: John R. Welch
with Nomados Literary Publishers, Meredith Quartermain, & Peter Quartermain
Nomados Literary Publishers titles!
Nomados editor, Peter Quartermain’s letter press bookmarks
me as I deliver my pop up panel remarks on nomadism and flaneurism
The 3 Nomados titles of the evening’s readers
Hosted by Nomados Literary Publishers, Meredith Quartermain, and Peter Quartermain at People’s Co-op Bookstore on November 14, 2019 at 7:30 p.m., a community of writers and readers gathered around Meredith and Peter Quartermain and their 51-title publishing endeavor, Nomados Literary Publishers. The evening opened with a slide show, featuring the Nomados’ titles’ covers, most authors, the printers, the publishers, and everyone else who contributes to the success of the chapbook series, including Rolf Maurer, who runs People’s Co-op Bookstore, where the readings by Nomados authors typically take place. After the slideshow, Meredith Quartermain offered her humble remarks, followed by those of humourously askew Peter Quartermain. Then, Judith Penner, Jacqueline Turner and I, offered a pop-up panel on nomadism. Images: Meredith Quartermain
Some Nomodos titles from my library
My comments focused on the flâneuse, walking in the poems of Instinctive Acts, my chapbook published by Nomados (November 2018). This walker is a woman, considering home, violence, and belonging in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Flâneur, from the French, meaning “stroller,” “lounger,” “saunterer,” or “loafer” (Merriam Webster), has long been seen as a man’s role…, but what, I asked in my five-minute comments, about the transgressive work of the flâneuse? She is every bit the wanderer, wondering. “Sometimes she would like to be a settler, but curiosity, grief, and disaffection forbid it” (Deborah Levy, Swallowing Geography, Penguin, 2019).
Thank you to Meredith, Peter, Nomados Literary Publishers, my press colleagues, including Joanne Arnott (#50), Renee Rodin (#16), and Fred Wah (#25), who offered the evenings readings, plus John Welch and SFU’s Archeology Department for the loan of the projector screen, Rolf and People’s Co-op Bookstore. Images: Jami Macarty
posters for The Capilano Review Launch
The Journal 43.3
Autumn in the East in The Journal
The Capilano Review
Inexorably Tangled in The Capilano Review
Lucky I have been this year to have poems and an essay accepted for publication. Published in 2019: Autumn in the East / The Journal 43.3; Inexorably Tangled, a collaborative poem written w/Jacqueline Turner / The Capilano Review 3.39; Who The Strummer in Vallum 16:1 (digital extras); three poems from A Body in Liberating Strife in Another Way Round. Forthcoming: The Daughter / Dusie Blog; Cultivated Aftermath of Posts & She-Civilian in Tiny Spoon; Letter in Name of Country in Global Geneva; The Shelter in The Rumpus: ENOUGH column; Memory Predator & Neighbors in EVENT; Digging for Heart, a chapter in Archaeologies of the Heart.
Thank you to editors Molly Brown and Robert J. Schumaker, Jr. at The Journal; to Juliane Okot Bitek and Matea Kulic at The Capilano Review, to Eleni Zisimatos and Leigh Kotsilidis at Vallum, to Edward Wells at Another Way Around, to rob mclennan at Dusie blog; to C. M. Chady and Stephanie Hempel at Tiny Spoon; to Carla Drydale at Global Geneva; to Marisa Siegel at The Rumpus; to Joanne Arnott at EVENT, and to Kisha Supernant et al. of the volume Archeologies of the Heart for their support of and confidence in my work.
In ears, eyes, reviews, & bookshelves–
Kevin Spenst offered to Instinctive Actsa brief, but salient review in subTerrain #81 “Chuffed About Chapbooks” column…
Kevin Spenst on INstinctive Acts in subTerrain’s Chuffed About Chapbooks column
Dr. Martin St. Andre gave Landscape of The Wait 5 out of 5 stars, and in November on Amazon, offered the poems a full, most thoughtful, expansive, and most special to me review. I include it in its entirety here…
Landscape of The Wait
Martin St. Andre in the waiting landscape of Ste Beatrix, Quebec
“Jami Macarty wrote this collection of poetry in honor of her nephew William who was hospitalized in an Intensive Care Unit after sustaining multiple physical and neurological injuries following a car crash. Her series of poems conjure up the harrowing experience of accompanying a loved one during a coma episode: the inability to validate any form of communication with the person, the enforced passivity, the entrapment in a highly technological environment, the dependency on a dazzling number of healthcare professionals, the repetitive attempts to create a coherent trauma narrative, the exhaustion, the resurfacing of family tensions–and solidarity–in the midst of forced hospital cohabitation, the sense of time unfolding and yet somewhat stagnating.
That great beauty could emerge from such an apparently bleak landscape speaks of Macarty’s literary brio, exquisite observational skills, deep capacity to straddle ambiguity and appreciation of life as it is. The superb visual layout of words on the page creates intriguing associations and conveys the sensory choppiness of traumatic experience. The percussive alliterations, the reiterations and the stuttering quality of certain passages convey the attempts to transmute disparate sensations into words. The repeated references to scientific terminology illustrate our striving to overcome ignorance and to conquer reality; yet this very quest acutely shows how language is but an island in the midst of the unknowable.
This series of poems should join the expanding literature in narrative medicine and be recommended reading for anyone involved in critical care medicine. For family members and friends of patients, this text could provide hope about creating meaning in traumatic circumstances. For writers, this series will demonstrate how technical breadth can be used graciously and purposefully. And for the rest of us readers, this series will have us marvel at the power of poetry for expressing the inexpressible.”
Thank you very dearly Kevin and Martin for offering my poems your special attention and thoughtful reader’s responses.
On day 334 of the year 2019 and all seven days of each week in these 11 months, dear reader, I thank you for welcoming the words of this blog, and thank you to those of you who have purchased my books and read my books, welcoming my poems and me into your ears and eyes and bookshelves. Thank you with my whole heart for your welcoming! Poetry Love! Love Love all around you!
As the sand drains to the bottom of December 31’s remaining hours, and just like the end of 2017, lasts, like this day, point me toward reflection and acknowledgment, announcement and celebration. In my previous post, I took stock of my year in poetry, bowing to those who joined and supported me.
In my first chapbook,Landscape of The Wait(Finishing Line Press, 2017), a poetic response to my nephew William’s car accident and year-long coma, the landscape is hospital and waiting rooms on the Atlantic coast in the Northeastern US, where I grew up and where my family still lives, and the conceptual landscape waiting carves in the minds and hearts of the waiters. In my second chapbook,Mind of Spring(No. 22 Vallum Chapbook Series, 2017), the landscape is the Sonoran Desert that surrounds Tucson, Arizona, and includes streets and neighborhoods (Barrios) of the city’s Downtown. This long poem in three parts also takes place in corporate America and oil-rich Middle Eastern countries surrounded by the Arabian Desert.
The landscape of Instinctive Acts is Vancouver, British Columbia’s Downtown Eastside and Gastown neighborhoods. In these poems, I’m writing to locale/dis/location; place/dis/placement; neighbor/neighborhood. The poems are written as taking place in the city and so by that association they are of a city. Weirdly perhaps, I do not think of them as commentary on city (the urban) or in contrast to the (suburban) small village I grew up in on the other side of the continent or to the desert. Place is important because of a feeling of exile, displacement, immigrant status, and, the loneliness that comes with being new and other in a place, especially one that tends to remind you of your otherness.
Everyone has their pre/occupation. In these poems, mine is: How do I and my neighbors live together? What is neighbor/neighborhood? Who belongs–the geography of self? Who is inside/outside–figuratively and literally? How do we connect? Where do we find community? What is home? Where is it found? To what elements of deconstruction are connection, community, and home vulnerable?
The vulnerabilities are revealed through: Woman walking. Violence–against women. Writing on the wall, as literal and metaphoric implication. Talking to walls. Speech. Communication. Listening/watching in order to locate. In order to be. In relationship. In community. With self, other, streets, alleys, restaurants, birds (nature), and rain. It wouldn’t be Vancouver without rain.
In Vancouver, rain is often a source of complaint, keeping residents inside. By contrast, in Tucson, rain is a cause for celebration, dancing residents into the streets. I’ve always loved the rain. Rain that washes but that’s not what it’s for. Rain that punctuates but that’s not what it’s for. Rain no matter what. Rain on everything. Rain indiscriminately.
Rain–its absence or presence. Birds. Location. These are three constants in my work.
I want to tell you a bit about how the cover came to be.
As with the other two chapbooks, I wanted a photograph for the cover. Meredith Q. was hesitant, so I was in the process of accepting a text only cover for Instinctive Acts when I had a dream in which a photo of the gargoyle, as I call it, in an alley near where I live became the cover of the chapbook. The next morning, I contacted Vincent Wong, my friend and a wonderful photographer to see if he’d come take the gargoyle’s picture. He agreed!
Here are some of Vincent’s beautiful captures of the day.
Once I had Vincent’s wonderful photographs, I selected the one (bottom left) and mocked up a cover for Meredith to see. She loved it, and when I told her about my dream, the new cover was born!
What a joy it was to collaborate with Meredith and Vincent on the book! I bow to them, and to Joanne Arnott and Wayde Compton, who offered their endorsements for the poems. Terrific artists all, who make Vancouver’s arts and my community more vibrant.
With the book all together, it was time to celebrate!
Rolf, the owner of People’s Co-op Bookstore, where we gathered to celebrate Instinctive Acts welcomed us. First up: Jacqueline Turner, a new friend and wonderful poet read from her new work forthcoming from ECW Press. Next Jacqueline and I read part of a poem we wrote in collaboration for Pandora’s Collective Poetic Pairings reading (October 30, 2018). Then, it was my turn! I read 10 poems from Instinctive Acts. The reading closed with Japanese poet, Soramaru Takayama and I reading two more poems from the chapbook. I read in English, Sora read his translations of my poems in Japanese; then, we read the poems in our respective languages simultaneously (Go to this post on my Facebook page to listen to Sora’s and my performance).
There’s another chapbook of my poems into the world. Tra la! Will you read it and then share with me your response? That’s a poet’s hope! Happy All Year!