29 September 2012

Welcome to our October issue of PQ!

We want to thank everyone for making our relaunch in July such a great success! 

Here's what we have for you in our October issue:  


 The Clock of The Long Now by Annabelle Moseley
reviewed by PQ Contributing Editor Leya Burns

On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths by Lucia Perillo 
reviewed by PQ Contributing Editor Arthur McMaster

Victory by Ben Kopel 
reviewed by PQ Contributing Editor Brian Fanelli

Phyla of Joy, by Karen An-Hwei Lee 
reviewed by PQ Contributing Editor Ann E. Michael

Our Lady of The Ruins, by Traci Brimhall 
reviewed by PQ Contributing Editor Brian Russell

The Commute, by Susan Scutti
reviewed by PQ Contributing Editor Dawn Leas


Rachel Eliza: Past, Present and Now
by PQ Interviews Editor Millicent Accardi 

A Man With a Beautiful Mind
by Sonya Sabanac for Poets' Quarterly

Making Poetic History—Interview with Shaindel Beers
 by Kathi Stafford for Poets’ Quarterly


Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Creative Writing Classroom
by David Wright for Poets' Quarterly 

The Triggering Tune: Springsteen Songs as “Places” of Inspiration for Poetry
By PQ Contributing Editor Ann E. Michael

We have lot of new things happening at PQ!  We want to send out a welcome to our new Contributing Editors: Dan Coffey, Ann Michael, Shauna Osborn, Felicia Elam and Leya Burns. As well as a big thank you to all of our editors and contributors for another great issue.

We also want to thank our Department Editors: Tasha, Millicent and Leslie for another group of intriguing reviews, interviews and essays.

We are always grateful for all of the hard work and time our Contributing Editors put into getting all of those lovely submissions to PQ. So here's a big thank you to: Brian Fanelli, Dawn Leas, Arther McMaster, Brian Russell and Elizabeth Switaj.

Of course none of the would be possible without our founder and publisher Lori A. May.

We hope you will enjoy our new issue of PQ.

Joan Hanna
Managing Editor

06 September 2012

Getting by with a little help from friends, neighbors and even strangers

By PQ Contributing Editor Dawn Leas   

When bad things happen to good people it takes the wind out of summer sails. Dark clouds roil across a blue sky. You are left feeling flat, shivering in the shade, wondering if the sun will ever return, asking why. That is how I felt when I heard about what happened to the Czarnecki family and their business.
FootHills Publishing began in 1986, and is completely family-run. Michael Czarnecki oversees the editorial side. His wife Carolyn handles the business end of the press. Their sons, Grayson and Chapin, help with production.  Grayson also does some of the design work. It is a press that publishes books that are not only beautifully written, but are also hand-stitched, artistically designed and gorgeous to look at before a reader even turns to page one.
Michael is known as a poet, oral memoirist  and editor/publisher. He has traveled around the country giving readings and workshops. His calm peacefulness and passion for writing and for FootHills are evident from the first moment you meet him - I had the pleasure of meeting him briefly at AWP in Washington, DC in 2010.  His personality and passion are woven into the books he publishes and the connections he makes with his authors.

Mischelle Anthony, author of [LINE], a FootHills's book, said of Michael, “He is such an inspiring person; such a calm energy and creativity emanates from him.”
Jennifer Hill, another Foothills author (Book of Days) who has collaborated on several projects with Michael, added, “Michael pays close attention to detail and understands that it's the little things that matter..he connects with people because he is honest and kind, and he pays attention to what people have to say. He is not dismissive. He listens.”
In July, a devastating fire destroyed the Czarnecki's home, which was also the press's home – a double whammy for a family who lives and works simply in rural New York state. Many people might put plans on hold to rebuild a business and focus on family first. But, for  Michael, Carolyn, Grayson and Chapin, FootHills is a member of the family. Since the fire, they have been working on plans not only for rebuilding their home, but also to get Foothills reprinting current books and publishing new releases again. And they are doing it with the help of friends and neighbors and even strangers.
Currently, they are living and working in a pop-up camper, travel trailer and and silver bullet Airstream. The home they lost was built several years ago with the help of Amish neighbors in a house-raising. Their new home will be built in the same way. Since the Czarnecki's live “off the grid,” they were unable to get insurance. They are in the process of trying to raise the necessary funds for materials for the new house.
“I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the support we've received from so many people! From the friends who set up the flowers and "kitchen" before we returned to the people I've never met who have contributed to our rebuilding efforts,” Michael shared. “There are so many experiences that have already created new memories. Almost all we have left of our lives before the fire are memories. Part of my creative work is being an "Oral Memoirist" so I've always valued the memories. Now I do so even more than before.”

How can we help?

The Czarnecki's have received grants from Poets in Need, a non-profit organization based in California, and from the Book Rockwell Memorial Fund in Corning.  Several fundraising events have already taken place in Ithaca, Watkins Glen and Rochester. Another is planned for September 8th in Corning:

Never Stop Asking for Poems
Benefit for the Czarnecki Family
Saturday, September 8, 2012
7-10 p.m.
An evening of poetry readings, musical performances
and silent auction of artwork
171 Cedar Arts Center
Drake House Studio Theater
171 Cedar Street
Corning, NY 14830
An Indiegogo fundraising project called “Raise the Roof for the Czarnecki Family”  is in full swing at  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/202058?a=1013758. Please consider donating and spread the word.  Also, please check out: http://foothillspublishing.com, and follow the progress of the rebuilding project at:  http://www.facebook.com/CzarneckiRebuilding.

If there is a ray of light in this dark event, it is the fact that Michael did not lose his laptops or a back-up drive in the fire.

"Obviously, our schedule has been totally disrupted. Immediate production will be of books just recently released or were scheduled to be. These include Mark Gibbons' Forgotten Dreams, the third book in the Montana Poets Series 2 (http://www.foothillspublishing.com/2012/id56.htm) and I Was Indian Volume 2 edited by Susan Deer Cloud. Other books that have been released and need to be reproduced are The Joe Poems by John Roche (http://www.foothillspublishing.com/2012/id55.htm) In the Spirit of T'ao Ch'ien edited by Charlie Rossiter and contains poems by Sam Hamill, David Budbill, Antler, Charlie Rossiter and me (http://www.foothillspublishing.com/2012/id53.htm),” Michael explained. “Beyond these there are numerous others than we'll be working on asap. We are limited in production capability until the house and FootHills space is rebuilt. But, we'll do what we can.”

Every day, we are bombarded with news of people committing horrible acts and saying hurtful things. It is stories like the one of the Cznarnecki family and FootHills that restore my optimism and rejuvenate my faith in humanity. Reading about friends, neighbors and strangers rallying around a family in need is simply inspiring.  I can feel the wind kicking up its heels again, filling the sails. The black clouds are dissolving. The sun is finding its way back into a cerulean sky.

01 September 2012

The Journey: An interview with Laurie Ann Guerrero

By Kathi Stafford
Laurie Ann Guerrero has recently been honored as the winner of the Andres Montoya Prize. Guerrero’s full length poetry manuscript will be published by the University of Notre Dame Press next year. The judge of the fifth edition of the Prize, Francisco X. Alarcón, will participate in a public reading with Ms. Guerrero at Notre Dame upon the publication of her first book: A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013). 

Q. What were your first introductions to story-telling and to poetry?

I got my love of story from my mother—who still cuddles up with and reads books to me. But, it is my grandfather who holds stories in his body.   I grew up in a house he and my father built, which was on the same property as his own.  Between our houses was a large field where he grew vegetables.  In those vegetables, while we watered and weeded, I heard stories of picking cotton, making pies, brothers, sisters, love, vanity. There was magic in his hands when he described fishing trips, and his eyes twinkled when he spoke of his cowboy days.  

I understood three very important things when I was very small: One— grandpa didn’t go to school, but he was the smartest man I knew. Two—I wanted to share him with everyone. And three— I was going to tell stories like that. I see now that because we spent small amounts of time together—the hour between homework and dinner, Saturday morning before chores— and also because he told his stories for years, his stories were tight, well thought out, precise.  When I discovered poetry in middle school, I recognized my grandpa’s style: whole worlds in bite-sized bits. Grandpa, who learned how to record and revise in his head because he didn’t know how to write, was a poet. 

Q. Given my own heritage from West Texas, I would be especially interested in hearing how the geography and myths of Texas have influenced your writing. 

This is a great question— I think the geography of South Texas influences my writing more than I was consciously aware of or had ever articulated. I have deep, deep connections to this land by way of ancestry—we are Tejano: native. I’m still learning what this means— being able to trace our heritage back many, many generations to about 10 miles from where we live now, and having great-grandmothers who were full-blooded American Indian (Comanche, according to my own research) and Mexican and great-grandfathers who were Spanish and German—and what it means to be speaking from this place of ethnicity and race. I feel ties to the land where I was born, where I birthed my children, where our dead are buried. While Texas itself has been appropriated by Spain, France, The Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, Mexico, and eventually the US, the land never changes. And it is a beautiful land, and it is tragic. And I can feel the same hot sun my great, great grandparents worked under while they raised their babies, and I can grow the same resilient roses that grow alongside the cactus. Here, we walk in-between things all the time: languages, allegiances, spiritualties. Sometimes a life between worlds is very confusing and chaotic; this land is the only real thing I know for sure, even if the powers that be think they know it better than we do.
It’s very similar to being a woman. 

Q. What writing habits do you try to encourage in your students at Palo Alto College? 

One thing my students respond well to—I think this has everything to do with the in-between space we occupy— is getting them to dig deep to discover their truths.  When we live in two (or more) realms it can be hard to know which voices to hold onto and which to let go.  It becomes such that one’s own voice often gets muffled and drowned out by our own desires to be loyal, to belong to something. In my classroom, I try to help my students strip that away. And usually, their truth rises to the top.  My goal is to give them the tools to articulate and document this in a way that helps them see themselves as one whole self, not segmented or torn. 

Q. Please tell me about CantoMundo and its influence on your writing.  

Until recently, I had only ever had 2 Latino/a writing mentors. Being a part of CantoMundo has given me access to an abundance of Latino/a mentors who’ve experienced the kinds or racism, sexism and classism I have. I say an abundance, because as fellows from different places—in terms of geography, spirituality, sex, family, age, experience—we are brought together in our desire and ability to mentor each other. We take care of each other, and while I have participated in various groups, I have never felt as respected, as cared for, as inspired, or as capable of accomplishing my goals as I do here. 

Q. Who are some of the top influences on your work—both in terms of poetry and prose authors? 

I am most inspired by writers who explore and navigate hard realities, truth-seekers who are brilliant craftspeople.  I am definitely influenced by contemporary poets like Aracelis Girmay, J. Michael Martinez, Valerie Martinez, Rachel McKibbens. And I often go back to Pablo Neruda, Lucille Clifton, Robert Hayden. I do LOVE to read prose written by poets—at my bedside, I keep Adrienne Rich’s On Lies, Secrets and Silence and Of Woman Born, Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, Naomi Shihab Nye’s Never in a Hurry, Carl Phillip’s Coin of the Realm, Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera and Thich Nhat Han’s Miracle of Mindfulness. I want to be learning always. 

Q. In one of your especially lovely poems, you note:
Put attention, grandma would say, as if attention
    were a packet of salt to be sprinkled, or a mound
           we’d scoop out of a carton . . .”
How much does the question of dual meaning across languages influence your writing style? 

Dual meaning across languages is part of that in-between space I mentioned earlier. It’s never a question. It’s a fact—one no border-walker would ever even think of examining until it’s brought into focus by outsiders, which is how I came up with the idea for this poem. Thinking back to the time when we as children laughed at our undereducated grandmother, how we wanted her to speak clear English because that’s what they wanted in our Texas public schools—I was very ashamed.  No one would know my parents’ first language was Spanish, and that because of this, my first language was English.  There is still a very real stigma that affects my generation, my parents’ generation, even my children’s generation. Already as children we had internalized this racism, and it is still being perpetuated in the community. It’s heartbreaking. And it really has nothing to do with language.   Banning languages—first indigenous languages then Spanish— is an easy way to render a people powerless. Centuries of powerlessness create men who do not see themselves worthy of education, voice, voting rights, and counter this worthlessness with surges of ridicule and anger at anyone who is different. To be a woman in this culture is to feel even less worthy, to be the receiver of most of that ridicule and anger. This is our history. 

Q. In your poem, “Wooden Box,” you write “When he is gone,/he will be gone./ I can make the box/myself . . .” This is such a moving work. Are you able to share more with us about your inspiration or the background of this poem? 

When I moved home from Massachusetts, my grandpa and I built a table for my dining room out of salvaged lumber. It is the most beautiful object I own. When we were building it, he was already very frail and talked about how he should just build himself a coffin.  We sat in his workshop and cried as he described the kind of funeral he wanted: nothing fancy. It struck me, though, that working with his hands to him was like painting to me—he could lose himself, clear his mind. I knew then his plea to work toward a coffin was really a plea to help him keep his mind from becoming overrun with worry or loneliness until it was time for him to leave this world. It affirmed my own need to hear the stories, write the stories, praise him now instead of at the time of his death. 

Q. It is so impressive that you managed to go back to school with three young children. What advice do you have for other women who want to go down that path? 

First: “The Journey,” a poem by Mary Oliver. I think it’s important, too, to trust your gut. As women, we are not taught to believe in our instincts. We’re labeled emotional or overly ambitious or just plain crazy.  These are all things I’ve been called—by those I love and strangers. Because I was moving 2000 miles from home to go to college, I was told I was “acting white.” Because I was taking a 7 year old, a 4 year old, and a newborn, it was said I had post-partum depression and was not thinking clearly. Because my husband was not divorcing me meant that I had emasculated him and that he had no voice. But none of this was true, and in my gut, I knew it.  I trusted it. It was never easy, but it was never wrong. I’ve been told I can’t or I shouldn’t all my life and for a while, I believed it. I don’t have to challenge that anymore.  My life speaks for itself. 
 One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
 ---Mary Oliver 

Q. How do you recharge your batteries, given the many demands on your life? 

Physically, I clean my space so that I can rest in order and not chaos, which is unending with my babies now 14, 11, and 7. I like lavender oil in every room in my house, food with different textures, because it helps me write (I love food). Mentally, I listen to music—sometimes the Beatles, sometimes Nina Simone, sometimes Guns & Roses— or I paint.  Setting up my easel and painting for 5 hours forces me to focus on what’s in front of me and not what is happening outside my home. I’m not very good, but I will paint as long as I live. I get the same effect when I spend the day with my grandpa and listen to his stories.Spiritually, I spend time with my textual support system—Hahn, Lorde, Rich, Shihab Nye— which is how I meditate: I read, I write, I think, I praise, I write some more. And when I’m done, I curl up in the arms of my husband, Dave, or curl up with one, two or all three of my babies. Being connected to them is being connected to the earth. 

Q. Where do you go for inspiration, when you hit the infamous wall and can’t write anything at all?

I read work from another era—Shakespeare, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Lewis Carroll, Mary Wollstoncraft.
Or another place—Mahmoud Darwish, Lorca, Basho, Forugh Farrokhzād, Helene Cixous.
Or I read the journals of Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf. 
Or, I go to the market to buy fresh beets. Their jeweled color, their earthy taste, their unwavering solidity and firmness—whole worlds in a small fruit—so inspiring!  

Laurie Ann Guerrero holds degrees from Smith College and Drew University and teaches writing and literature at Palo Alto College and the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Author of A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), her work has appeared in Bellevue Review, Feminist Studies, Huizache, Meridians, and Women’s Studies Quarterly. www.laurieguerrero.com. 

Kathi Stafford has served as poetry editor for Southern California Review and is a contributor to the Portuguese-American Journal. Her work has appeared in Rattle, Hiram Poetry Review, and Connecticut River Review.