++ The Minuses ++

Welcome, dear reader! You are most welcome here, where I share information about my and others’ books. Topics such as my reading and reviewing practice, my composition methods, writing and publishing process are taken up here.

The Minuses, my full-length collection, was published in February of this year, so recent posts have focused on what I’m referring to as “the pluses congregating” around The Minuses. Like a constellation of plus (+) signs, reviews, interviews, and readings offered in support of The Minuses shine their positive light and sprinkle sparkling stardust made up of the wondrous generosity of strangers, the special magic of collaboration, and the creative powers of community.

photos and montage created by Vincent K. Wong

Speaking of creative powers, the images and montage of my book above were created by my friend and photographer, Vincent Wong, who also took the author photo on the book’s back cover. Vincent and I met in an Simon Fraser University course I offered in 2012. From that day forward, Vincent has generously shared his creativity with me. He is a front and center collaborator with whom I have expansive art-talk and fun art walks.

Speaking of the generosity of strangers, Holly Mason offered to The Minuses an absolutely gorgeous, close reading-review at Entropy on September 14, 2020. This review sprung into being, in part, from my wondering about reviews, which put to a women’s writers group to which I belong this Q: Does a poet ask, wait, or hope for a review? I was wondering how proactive to be in inviting a review. From that simple gesture of willingness to ask a question, I received an abundance of supportive responses, offering perspective, information, and ideas for actions I could take. This women’s group is amazing! My query also brought to me the lovely Holly Morgan Mason, who said she’d like to offer a review to The Minuses.

Turns out, Holly and I had brushed poetry paths a few years ago. I didn’t remember, but Holly graciously reminded me that our poems had both been finalists in the Real Good Poem Prize, hosted by Rabbit Catastrophe Review. Kiki Petrosino, the prize’s judge, ended up selecting the title poem of The Minuses as prize winner, and in the process began the bringing together of Holly and me to be fulfilled these years later. I love this connection through the years with Holly; it enriches my sense of the potential of community. It’s been a special delight to reconnect with Holly, and an honor to receive the gift of her attention to my poems. Here’s an excerpt from her beautiful review:

The poems in this book are masterfully calibrated. The pacing is slow, careful, meditative throughout. There is space to breathe around the lines. Macarty’s phrasing delights and surprises. Like in the poem “Equals Rain” with the line “We pace the aisle of what happened to the sky.” Or in “Related Sequence” which ends with these stunning and echoing lines: “Loosening September sky// The day feels its own weight and buckles// In a window, a lace dress hangs itself” and ends without punctuation, asking us to consider the implications of the image.

an excerpt of Holly Mason’s review of The Minuses, published in Entropy

Read the entire

Entropy review

by Holly Morgan Mason

here!

: : : :

photos and montage created by Vincent K. Wong

The above montage reveals the sort of artist Vincent is; the sort who takes a desert book to the water! Largely set in the Sonoran Desert, The Minuses dearly appreciates being at the beach, near the water, and in the rain from above. Quenching!

Speaking of being in service of writing community, rob mclennan, invited me to participate in his project 12 or 20 (second series) Questions. My responses were published on September 17, 2020. rob and I have known each other via discussions on first books of poetry since 2008 ish. He’s a deeply engaged and community-minded poetry soul.

rob put to me all 20 of his series’ questions, which spanned topics such as first encounters with poetry, how poems begin, engaging in public readings, theoretical concerns behind my writing, and the role of the poet/poetry. Spending time with these questions, allowed me to contemplate and consider the map my creative life, including coordinates associated with best advice, moving between genres, collaboration, and influence. I’m entirely grateful to rob!

Here’s my response to 12 – When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

For me, it’s not so much that writing stalls. Writing continues, is continuous. Instead, it’s the ego that intervenes and enforces its will on the words. Or, it’s attitude (for me, especially, frustration at how long it’s taking) that gets in the way of the flow and stalls it. I’ve learned (mostly!) to recognize when persistence will be a case of diminishing returns. So, rather than put up my dukes, I take a break. More often than not I go for a walk. Solvitur ambulando! During these times, I don’t have a sense of needing to be inspired, but rather needing to clear a clog or shift attention. Sometimes there’s this sense that what’s unfolding in the writing needs some privacy. So, stepping away, looking away can give it some necessary space. The break has to take place at the energetic, kinesthetic level. Taking a shower, preparing food might also provide space. That’s day to day. Thinking longer term, to meet a sense of staleness, I make visual collages. Often the collages provide an image and color palette for a poem. To bring energy and myself back to words, I invent wild, impossible, contortionist writing constraints that are part goose chase and part scavenger hunt. To meet loneliness, I collaborate with another writer, sending weekly responsive transmissions back and forth. Since September 2019, I and poet, Sean Singer, have been writing a poem together; it’s 36 pages long so far. Or, I may elect to write in community a poem a day with some other poets.

-my response to rob mclennan’s question #12

Read the entire

12 or 20 (second series) Questions

interview

here!

: : : :

+ Thank you bows to lovely person and fine poet Holly Morgan Mason for her gorgeous, full-of-care review of The Minuses; bows also to Entropy and staff for making a place for Holly’s review of my poetry collection.

+ In delightful association, thank you bows to Rabbit Catastrophe Review, the host of the Real Good Poem Prize, and the 2016 prize judge Kiki Petrosino, who selected the title poem of The Minuses as prize winner, and in the process began the bringing together of Holly and me to be fulfilled these years later.

+ Thank you bows to most generous, community-minded rob mclennan for the invitation to participate in his 12 or 20 Questions Series; bows also to rob for his immense support of the poetry community.

+ 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 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 artistic friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!

++ The Minuses ++

Continuing, dear reader, with the pluses congregating around The Minuses.

Two such pluses are a conversation and a reading that took place in July, but are reverberating their good, abundant energy of spontaneous community to me even now.

The banner for Let’s Talk Books w/some partial faces.

First, I bring to your attention the plus of the July 15, 2020 Let’s Talk Books conversation I joined with authors Christine Chiu, Melanie Conroy-Goldman, Naomi Danis, and Thaddeus Rutkowski.

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.

Watch & listen to the

Let’s Talk Books

conversation here!

: : : :

Walt Whitman Birthplace reading event poster.

Second, I bring forward for your listening and viewing pleasure, the plus of the July 23, 2020 Walt Whitman Birthplace Association poetry reading I offered with poets Susana Case and Dayna Patterson. Susana read from her collection Dead Shark on the N Train (Broadstone Books, 2020); Dayna read from If Mother Braids a Waterfall (Signature Books, 2020); I read from The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020).

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.

Watch & listen to the

Shark Minus Mother

reading here!

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!

: : : :

+ 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!

++ THE MINUSES ++

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.?)

photos and compilation by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

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.

photo by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

Here are the questions Dayna Patterson asked me during the interview:

  1. 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? 
  2. 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”)
  3. 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.”
  4. 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”)
  5. A poem that really resonated for me from this collection is “Door Ratio.” Would you mind reading that one for us?
  6. 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?
  7. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the making of this book?
  8. What are you working on now or next?
  9. Who are some of the writers or artists that inspire you? In particular, are there contemporary poets you’d like to recommend to our audience today?

And, here I am endeavoring to arrive at answers, to be responsive.

photo by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

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.?)

: : : :

+ 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!

The Minuses

 

After years of working on the poems,

after signing off on the final proof,

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,

The Minuses 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.