Tag: Writers

Focus on Four: Reading Women Online 

There are some fantastic women writers writing interesting, enlightening, bold stories online but, sometimes, its not so easy to find those voices among the cacophony that is the internet. So. I’m going to share four women whose stories and poems stood out for me recently. Oh, I could share so much more but, if you’re like me, posts with a long list of  “what I read online” can be daunting. Why not focus on four gorgeous women and their writing?

First up is Lori Sambol Brody, a writer of incredibly good flash fiction that I discovered this summer. Lori has blown me away with her style, her subjects, and her innovative use of language. The story I’m linking to is the cream of the crop, IMO. Do google her to find more of her flash gems.

I Want to Believe the Truth is Out There” by Lori Sambol Brody in Jellyfish Review

“I will explore the basement of a cabin in the woods, the halo of my flashlight illuminating faint footprints, bleached femurs, vertebrae. I will drive down the Extraterrestrial Highway and sneak into Area 51. I will not remember how many times my memory has been wiped. On on-line forums for UFO abductees I ask: have you seen her?”

Julie Kane is one of my favorite poets and was Louisiana Poet Laureate for 2011-2013. She’s also an incredibly nice and giving person. I interviewed her for my now defunct blog, NOLAfemmes (do click over and read it), and was honestly surprised someone with her chops agreed to be featured in my little blog. I’m linking to her recent piece about studying under the great Anne Sexton. It’s not to be missed!

Last Class With Anne Sexton” by Julie Kane in The Dark Horse

“After collapsing into a chair, the first thing Anne did was to kick off her shoes. Then, with a husky voice and great cackly laugh, she asked us to go around the room introducing ourselves and reading one of our poems out loud. I hadn’t brought any poems with me that day, so I recited one from memory, about the women in my family at an Irish wake. Anne chortled her approval. But when a classmate’s poem responded to an ambulance siren with the line “that little thrill when they enter your neighborhood,” Anne let out a shriek. “No, no, it’s not thrilling at all!” she protested. “I should know. I’ve been in the back of too many of them myself.”

The next writer is Alexis Rhone Fancher whom I only discovered last week via a tweet. Her poems in Diode Poetry struck me as honest and fresh. Read and see what you think.

Two poems, “The Famous Poet Apologizes For Not Coming On To Me Sooner” and “The Famous Poet Asks Me For Naked Photos”, by Alexis Rhone Fancher in Diode Poetry

“4. The famous poet swears his wife

is cool with his serial betrayals,

that they inhabit different countries

in the same, small house.

But I’ve seen his wife at parties, how

his philandering makes her flinch,

the face of desperation, choked down,

Sylvia Plath style.”

Another writer I discovered last week is Elissa Altman. I don’t remember how I found her and her blog but I’m very excited I did. She’s an accomplished chef and food writer and I’ve become obsessed with reading her blog. I’m going into her archives to read and every single entry is a big wow. My link is to the first story I read and it’s all about letting go of  the material stuff on your life and the hurdles we face in letting go. It’s so good.

Cleaning the house, tending the weeds” by chef and food writer Elissa Altman in her blog Poor Man’s Feast

“After the painters left, we began to put things away. We stopped. It was overwhelming. A week went by. We couldn’t face the task. What to keep; what to weed out.

What are the memory triggers that bend our hearts? What are the things that break them?”

Such wonderful writing and reading is really an inspiration to me as a writer. We can learn so much from these and other writers about the craft of writing. Aren’t we the lucky ones?

Happy reading!

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Feature photo is a close up of zinnias in my garden.

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WWW Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Taking on a World of Words hosts WWW Wednesday each week, I’m told. The objective is to answer the following questions, leave a link to your post, and read the posts of other participants. It looks like a great way to find some good books to read because we all need more good books, right? Thanks to Marina Sofia at Finding Time to Write for sharing this meme.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading Revenge by Japanese author Yoko Ogawa for Women in Translation Month. It’s a book of short stories which is my favored genre lately, especially when the stories are a bit on the dark side. I’m finding the writing crisp yet nuanced. A good choice. 
  

The last book I actually finished was The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick, a memoir set in New York. It chronicles a 20+ year friendship between Vivian and her gay friend Leonard, her daily life as a single woman in an urban setting, and meditations on what is means to be a feminist. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a finialist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2016. 

Also for WiT Month, my next planned book is Eve Out of Her Ruins by Mauritian author Ananda Devi, awarded the prestigious Prix des cinq continents upon publication as the best book written in French outside of France. It tells the story of four young Mauritians and their lives of fear and violence in a tourist-driven country. I’m looking forward to it. 


What are you reading? 

Women in Translation Month 2017: My Reading List

August is Women in Translation month and this will be my third year participating. I really enjoy reading books by writers from other countries and highlighting their translated books. I’m also quite impressed by the translators. I only speak English and have always been in awe of those who can speak multiple languages.

WiT Month was created by Meytal Radzinski on her blog Biblibio and you can read all about it here. There’s also a Twitter feed where you can find book recommendations and keep up with all the activity during the month. Thanks to WiT Month, I found what has become one  of my favorite authors, Magda Szabo and I highly recommend her books, The Door and Iza’s Ballad. 

So, after a bit of research, I’ve decided on four books for this year. I wish I could read more but I know my limitations and so I prefer to keep my list attainable.

  1. The True Deceiver by Finnish author Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal.
  2. Eve Out of Her Ruins by Mauritian author Ananda Devi, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman.
  3. Umami by Mexican author Laia Jufresa, translated by Sophie Hughes
  4. Revenge by Japanese author Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

And I hope to read Khomeini, Sade and Me by Iranian author Abnousse Shalmani , translated by Charlotte Coombe, during the month but, if not, definitely after.

I really encourage you to make a point of reading at least one translated book by a woman. I remember the first year I decided to do this how I felt completely at a loss as to how to find these books. It’s easier now with the #WiTMonth hashtag on Twitter so I recommend checking it out.

Happy reading!

Happy birthday, Lucille!

Lucille’s mother was a gifted poet with only an elementary school education. Her poetry was offered publication but Lucille’s father wouldn’t allow it and forced her to burn the poems in the fireplace. It’s said Lucille never forgot it and I’m sure it shaped much of her own poetry. About the incident, she wrote a poem called “fury”:
“her hand is crying. / her hand is clutching / a sheaf of papers. / poems. / she gives them up. / they burn / jewels into jewels.”

She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for two separate books in the same year: Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir (1987), and Next: New Poems (1987). She won the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats (2000); the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2010, just before her death.

When I discovered Lucille’s work I felt energized. Her messages of empowerment and self-love are lessons every one of us should take to heart and put into practice. How great it must have been to hear her read in person. 


Photo via The New Yorker

Inspiration Interlude: Diane Ackerman

“There was nothing to do but wait. It is always like this for naturalists, and for poets–the long hours of travel and preparation, and then the longer hours of waiting. All for that one electric, pulse-revving vision when the universe suddenly declares itself.”

― Diane Ackerman, The Moon by Whale Light and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians and Whales

***

Imagethe lagoon at Audubon Park, New Orleans / Photo by me

Poetry Wonderment

One night in April I stumbled on the  livestream of a poetry reading program on Twitter, put together by Maria Popova, named The Universe in Verse. For over an hour and a half I listened in wonderment to a clatch of beautiful poetry read by some wonderful writers. Now the program is available as a video which I’ve posted here along with the playlist. I loved the whole thing but especially the readings by Diane Ackerman and Tracy K Smith. I hope you’ll find some time to listen to at least some of the readings. It will inspire you, I promise! Read more about the evolution of The Universe in Verse here

Playlist:
“Planetarium” by Adrienne Rich from Collected Poems: 1950–2012 (public library), read by Janna Levin

“My God, It’s Full of Stars” by Tracy K. Smith from Life on Mars (public library), read by the poet herself

“Power” by Adrienne Rich from The Dream of a Common Language (public library), read by Rosanne Cash

“The Venus Hottentot” by Elizabeth Alexander from Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990–2010 (public library), read by the poet herself

“Cosmic Gall” by John Updike from Telephone Poles and Other Poems (public library) read by Brandon Stanton

“We Are Listening” by Diane Ackerman from Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems (public library), read by the poet herself

“On the Fifth Day” by Jane Hirshfield, read by Emily Levine

“For Oliver’s Birthday, 1997” by Steven Jay Gould, published in On the Move by Oliver Sacks, read by Billy Hayes

“Euclid Alone Has Looked” by Edna St. Vincent Millay from The Selected Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay (public library), read by Sam Beam

“Jane Goodall (1961)” by Campbell McGrath from XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century (public library), performed by Sarah Jones

“The Habits of Light” by Anna Leahy from Aperture (public library), read by Ann Hamilton

“Address: The Archaeans, One Cell Creatures” by Pattiann Rogers from Wayfare (public library), read by Jad Abumrad

“Pi” by Wisława Szymborska from Map: Collected and Last Poems (public library), read by Maria Popova

“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman, read by Amanda Palmer

Happy Birthday, Sylvia


“The hardest thing is to live richly in the present without letting it be tainted out of fear for the future or regret for the past.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Happy birthday, Sylvia.

I’ve been reading her poetry this morning – so relatable, so poignant – and thought I’d share one of my favorites. There are so many opinions of Sylvia: that she was a genius, that she was tragic, that she was only an appendage of Ted Hughes. I think she was a woman, flawed and beautiful, like most. I think she did the best she could. There’s no doubt she made her mark on contemporary poetry and for that I’m grateful.

I Am Vertical

But I would rather be horizontal. I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.
Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them–
Thoughts gone dim. It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

***

Photo via The Early Hours.

Inspiration Interlude: Diane Ackerman


“The sensory misers will inherit the earth, but first they will make it not worth living on. When you consider something like death, after which we may well go out like a candle flame, then it probably won’t matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, enjoy a nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly.” ― Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Happy birthday, Diane.

Inspiration Interlude: Louise Beech

image
C.Hamrick 2016

“Isn’t all writing life writing? Life made us who we are and so it makes us what we write. We’re influenced (both consciously and subconsciously) by what has happened to us. Every word we put down we expose ourselves in some way. Writing our stories helps us to look at things more clearly. We can make sense of what has happened to us by recording it.”  – Louise Beech from her wonderful essay “On Life Writing” in Women Writers, Women’s Books

My Book List for Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation Month, a movement originated by book blogger Meytal Radzinski in 2014 which she details here. Basically, it’s an effort to encourage and spotlight translated books by women which are severely underpublished as compared to men. Meytal has posted supporting statistics for the past year on her blog here.

2015 was the first year I participated in WIT month. I chose and read three books and enjoyed them all. Honestly, what initially drew me to this effort is that I enjoy reading about other cultures and hadn’t read many books by non-American authors. I didn’t even know where to look for a book list or reviews. In case that’s your problem as well, check out these two lists: here and here. I often buy my ebooks from Amazon and another way to find translated books is by clicking their “other books like this” link.

I’ve been perusing books and authors for a few days and have settled on four books to read during August. As much as I’d like to think I’d read more than four, I know my limitations!

My Mother is a River by Italian author Donatella Di Pietrantonio, translated by Franca Scurti Simpson – I actually found this book through posting a tweet asking for WIT book suggestions. Calisi Press replied suggesting this book and, after reading a synopsis of the story, I decided to buy it. mymother

ladavine
Marie NDiaye Credit Catherine Hélie/via New York Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladivine by French author Marie Ndiaye, translated by Jordan Stump – I learned about this book and author from Tony’s Reading List blog.

The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa  by Japanese author Chika Sagawa, translated by Sawako Nakayasu – I stumbled on this on Amazon while looking for translated poetry. I ordered the paper book and have peeked a bit inside. I can tell it’s a great choice.

The Lost Daughter by Italian author Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein – Again, Tony’s Reading List reminded me that I haven’t read this Ferrante book. I read the four books in the Neopolitan Series in late 2015/early 2016 and was ready for a break from the two protagonists by the end of the last book. lol. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them, I absolutely did, but I think maybe the story was stretched out just a little too long. JMO. Anyway, I plan to read Daughter last, just to be on the safe side.

Iza’s Ballad by Hungarian author Magda Szabo, translated by George Szirtes (pre-ordered, release date October 18) – So, when I decided to begin looking for books for this list I immediately searched Magda Szabo. I read her book The Wall last year and was just blown away by it. Her latest book, Iza’s Ballad, won’t be out until October but I wanted to list it here anyway. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I encourage anyone reading this little post of mine to participate in WIT Month in some way. Even one book read is one more step toward showing the publishing world that readers want more translated books by women. Follow and participate on Twitter with the #WITMonth hashtag.

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