! BOOKS !

Happy April!

Hurrah dear reader, you are here!

In these monthly ish dispatches I share with you my writer’s and reader’s experiences—about my books, about the books of others, about my writing practice, and my reading practice.

Happy National Poetry Month!

“April is the cruellest month, breeding” is the line that opens “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot. Ninety-nine years after the publication of the seminal, Modernist poem that opening line is the prompt for the celebration of the twenty-fifth annual National Poetry Month in the United States of America. Since 1998, Canada has also been celebrating poetry during April; this is the 23rd annual celebration of National Poetry Month across the ten provinces and three territories in Canada.

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In March, my during-the-pandemic-published poetry collection, The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), celebrated its first year anniversary. What a year! The pandemic has left me reeling. The tremendous amount of loss—of precious lives and of the smaller stuffs of my normal way of life. With the grief and reckoning ongoing, I’m finding it harder to take pleasure and feeling lethargic. Of course, that’s playing a role in my sense of being in flow with my writing and reading practices, and in my sense of productivity and accomplishment.

And. Through this stream of loss and lethargy flows some “pluses” around The Minuses. What are “the pluses”? Reviews, interviews, and events I and my poems have been lucky to receive. In this post, I share with you excerpts from the review Lacy Aul, aka Claudia Keelan, offered The Minuses in Interim. Though the review was published late December 2020, I’ve been revisiting it as a lethargy-booster, to remind me of what I seek in language. Below, I also share with you the YouTube link to the year anniversary reading I gave for the Tucson-based poetry group POG. And, I take account of some of the books I read in March, the third month of my fourth annual personal Big Read:  #mypersonalBigRead2021.

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What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macarty—a review by Lacy Aul, aka Claudia Keelan

The Minuses is a collection of poems that locates origin in the ongoing energy of the physical world. Dedicated to “The One who renders this ground known and unknown,” The Minuses renders such a ground by showing how the phenomenal nature of wind, trees, birds, plants—in essence all vegetable, mineral and nonhuman entities—exist in parity with the contingent nature of their function in time. Indeed, while even human-made-things—such as doorways, windows, and public parks, also provide insight in the transparency of their use value—human beings in The Minuses are often dependent upon an a priori understanding of existence, which hinders them from observing their likewise conditional roles on the earth we share.” —from What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macartyby Lacy Aul

Lacy Aul, Claudia Keelan‘s penname, offered The Minuses a review that made birds fly out of the top of my head in Volume 36: Issue 5 of Interim, the all women’s 2020 print issue, whose publication is supported by the English Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and by the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute

Interim, edited by Claudia Keelan, gave a home to two poems from The Minuses: “Reverse of Shadow” appeared in Volume 27 / Number 1 & 2 / 2009. “You Is to Door as I Is to Door” (retitled: “Door Ratio”) appeared in Volume 30 / Issue 1 & 2 / 2013.


The presiding spirit of inquiry in The Minuses would make such a world where oppositions parlay to form a whole… The urge towards completeness in the book finds itself in constant combat with a counter spirit whose innate, if cowardly, function is to further divide—human from earth, self from other, man from woman, body from soul—into the ultimate opposition that is war. The proponents of subtraction deals in the language of one to one comparison: “I cannot say who you are without saying who I am” (21, “Reverse of Shadow”). Unstuck in time where impossibly “The past increases within the present,” (30, ”Equals Rain”) and “What you say is our future / is your future” (31, “Door Ratio”), the protagonists of opposition bully those whose loyalty towards the possibility of the “all” insures their victimization and silence.—from What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macarty by Lacy Aul

Interim and Claudia Keelan have been wonderfully, indispensably supportive to me and my work. Claudia also wrote a generous, sweet something for the back cover of The Minuses.

The poems in Jami Macarty’s devotional collection swing upon a hinge that is the recurring site of the poet’s perception in time, where what is seen shows the inherent connection of each thing to its other: “honey given : honey taken.” The Minuses’ brilliance lives in what the poet is able to give up for the possibility of finding a wholeness that is ongoing: “I come and go / from myself as I am / I will not return.” A seer is, after all, one who sees. Jami Macarty is one who sees.
—from Claudia Keelan for the back cover of The Minuses.

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POG Arts Tucson Reading, March 20, 2020

Jami Macarty lives and writes very much in the world you and I occupy, one in which we entangle with each other, have mutual responsibilities, give incredible gifts, yet don’t always treat the other or even oneself so well… There is no avoidance of the world in Macarty’s work, that world which may be disgraced and marked by serial killing, and be in need of painkillers. Yet there is also a mind intent on salvaging what is of use, a practice that will bring us tiger stamina to survive, a certainty that we are and can be though perhaps “a burning fragment,” still a fragment, “in the menagerie of the surviving world.” Macarty understands the wonders of place… One constant in her writing which seems to embrace her sense of place, literal and metaphoric, is a persistent dwelling in and within the sounds of language, sometimes expressed in a marvelous consonantal barrage of alliteration… I think we are fortunate tonight to walk our ears and minds in her particular “circus circumstance.” from Charles Alexander‘s introduction

On March 20, 2021, I celebrated the one year anniversary of The Minuses by giving a reading with Jeanne Heuving for the people of POG: Poetry in action! This is the second time I’ve read for the Tucson-based poetry group. The first reading was in 2005, a month or so before I moved from Tucson to Vancouver. For that reading I was live and in person, standing at a microphone at Cushing Street Bar in Downtown Tucson. For this second reading, fifteen and a half years later, I offered my poems over Zoom from my apartment in Vancouver. Jeanne Heuving zoomed in from Seattle, our hosts from Tucson, and forty souls joined us from locales in between.

Jeanne Heuving and I had been trying for a reading together for a while, so I was happy to finally roost at POG with her and her marvelous poems from Mood Indigo.

Listen to the POG Arts Tucson reading on YouTube!

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What I read in March: #mypersonalBigRead2021

Now, allow me to share with you what I read during March. Because March is Women’s History Month and because I had not yet read a single chapbook, I read mostly chapbooks and mostly volumes by women during the third month of the year.

In the photos above are some of the chapbooks I read in March. Let me fill in the blanks of the peeking titles at the edges. In the third photo: on the left edge, Paper Work, by Matea Kulić, and on the right edge maybe, basically, by Tracy Waide Boer, both published by Anstruther.

Other wonderful chapbook publishers of the above: Effing Press, Finishing Line Press, Frog Hollow Press, Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies Press, Madhouse Press, Nomados Literary Publishers, Omnidawn Publishing, Porkbelly Press, and SpeCt! Books.

Among the women writers above who most inspire me: Nicole Brossard, Daphne Marlatt, Hoa Nguyen, Dayna Patterson, Emily Pérez, Christine Stewart, and Lissa Wolsak; I thank them for their ongoing support and inspiration and conversation.

Chapbooks! I used to think lesser of them. That is, that they were lesser forms of publication. I think I picked up that judgment from the prevailing winds within poetry… Over time and reading, my attitude evolved… Then, between 2017 and 2018, three chapbooks containing my work were published; I found that process completely gratifying. Now I feel the complete opposite; “lesser than” has morphed to “more than”—enough. I find chapbooks special and exciting and enchanting. I respond especially to the short but intense spell they cast. Right now, with my mushy ish, hard-to-keep-interested-brain (what others are calling “pandemic brain”), the length, intensity, and ephemerality of chapbooks are a perfect match. They are a manageable read, and that makes me feel like I can accomplish some reading. Hurrah chapbooks!

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+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

+ Thank you bows to poet and reviewer and horizon Claudia Keelan, for her expansively attentive, made birds fly out of my head, generous review of The Minuses, and to Interim for ongoing support of my poetry.

+Thank you bows to Charles Alexander et al at POG for making space for me to read my poems; to Charles again for his charming introduction, and to Jeanne Heuving for sharing her poems and the Zoom stage with me on March 20, 2020.

+ Thank you bows to the writers and publishers who brought their grand accomplishments of chapbooks and books into the world for keeping me company and inspiring me in March.

+ 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!

! Books !

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.

As of today, March 1, 2021, I have read 65 volumes, with #66, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, on the go. The recently released The Selected Works of Audre Lorde, edited by Roxane Gay, is on my list!

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!