Well, my dears, my friends, soon December and 2021 will be a wrap. Here I am one more time this year to say hello and share of myself and my practices of writing and reading books.
I took December entirely off from any other word-work (as editor, mentor/teacher) to make way for my own at-home writer’s retreat. During the month, I planned to work with the poems I wrote between January 2020 and January 2021—about 120 of them or about 150 pages—with an eye on assembling a second manuscript of poetry. I made the time and space and set my intentions. Even so, I did not know what I would get done.
A lot got done! The reason I know about how many poems and pages I have is because I compiled, read, and revised all of them. Some poems arrived at more wholeness than others, some were set aside because they did not inspire me to further engagement, some are resting after word-surgery. I am saying I worked on all of the poems to one extent or another, arranged them in groups according to where they are in the “done” continuum, and now have a working draft of a new manuscript. What a marvelous month of devotion to my imagination it has been. Tra La La!
Thank you so very mucho to everyone who supported me during the days and weeks of words this month, especially JRW.
To support my composing and revising and organizing, I read a bunch during the month—and throughout the year—and found a lot of good company. If you have been following me here, then you know this is year four of #mypersonalBigRead.
Drum roll… I did it; I read an average of one volume (full-length collection of poetry, chapbook, magazine, memoir, fiction) each day of the year. Actually, I read a smidge more than that; I read a total of 374 volumes in 2021! The four year tally: 1,185 volumes. Here are the stats…
May the last few days of 2021 surprise you! And, may 2022 unwrap and unfold in surprise for all of us!
I send you my very best of everything for health, happiness, safety, and creativity.
+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!
+ Thank you bows to all of the writers whose books, chapbooks, stories, and novel I read; your efforts inspire me to bring my words into the light.
+ Thank you bows to all of the editors whose support brought forth the books, chapbooks, stories, and novel I read in 2021.
+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to my 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 (2020) with me.
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.”
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.
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.
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!