Dear Friends of Open Books,
March is here at last, and with it comes an abundant calendar of events: readings, discussions, book launches—even a full day of Italian poetry through tarot. Head over to our events page for all the details. For those who like visual reminders, we have March bookmarks (bright! pink!) at the till ready to help you plan ahead for a delightful month of poetry. And when you’ve finished planning your March calendar, be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming April and May events as well. Rae Armantrout, Kaveh Akbar, and Jennifer S. Cheng are just a few of the poets we’re thrilled to be welcoming to the store.
We’re also excited to announce our new Dictionary Drive for Books to Prisoners. Your generosity in donating books during the holiday season was tremendous—so we figured, why stop there? Books to Prisoners says dictionaries are high in demand and low in supply, so starting now, we’ll be happy to accept new or used dictionaries for donation. You can either bring in your own, or pay for a dictionary at check out. We’ll take care of the rest! And while you’re here, ask us to point you toward the “Please Take a Book as Our Way of Saying Thank You” shelf!
Now, onto the books! Here are just a few of the really new, the relatively new, and the not really new but still worth noting collections enlivening us of late:
Carolina Ebeid’s debut collection You Ask Me To Talk About the Interior (Noemi Press, 2016) lifts up sorrow and turns it—gently, gorgeously, unceasingly—before the light of her gaze. Paradoxical and true to life, these poems sprawl to encompass more distance the deeper inward they retreat. The interior, for Ebeid’s speaker, appears to be everything—drowned dogs, Paul Celan, autism—that swirls around and among herself and those she holds dear. “Echolalia sounds more like a concert flute,” Ebeid writes in her long, sectioned poem “Veronicas of a Matador.” “Lackofempathy could be a fern.” I am astounded by the tension Ebeid is able to maintain between inside and outside; her language is simultaneously one with the world and far, far from it. – Gabrielle Bates
In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae (Wesleyan, 2017): The fifth exquisite collection of autobiographical, historical, and verisimilar narratives from a premier poetic mind. In the Language of My Captor is a suite of poems of freedom, ownership, identity, and fear, interlocked. McCrae is creator and curator, maestro of the subtle coherence of several vantages and revelations, whether they’re those of the eponymous Black captive, of the mixed-race “adopted son” of the President of the Confederacy, or of a young, beleaguered McCrae himself. These voices belong adjacent—these vivid personae restricting one another’s movements in the interest of finer motion entire—disquieted psyches finding themselves in sync. — Alexander Moysaenko
Jennifer S. Cheng’s House A (Omnidawn, 2016): Akin to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen or Maggie Nelson’sBluets, this book brings poetry to prose and prose to poetry, layering visual image, epistle, and essay into sequences of oceanic depth; many of its subjects—migration, history, homeland—feel especially relevant and crucial today. — GB
The poems in Krysten Hill’s How Her Spirit Got Out (Aforementioned Productions, 2017) have been described by Jill McDonough as “a middle finger tucked in the hip pocket of your favorite dress.” Yep. — GB
Trébuchet by Danniel Schoonebeek (University of Georgia, 2016): An ambitious, accomplished flyby of the dark tracts of contemporary politics—and of the personal inherent to the political—careful in its path, unforgettable in its execution. — AM
Eleni Sikelianos’s collection Make Yourself Happy (Coffee House Press, 2017) is a beautiful object sure to please the visually inclined as well as anyone who loves formally inventive, brain-tickling, and allusion-rich poetry. — GB
Seed in Snow by Knuts Skujenieks (BOA, 2016), translated from the Latvian with an introduction by Bitite Vinklers: After enduring a Soviet labor camp from 1963-69, Skujenieks emerged bearing these sanguine poems of autonomy, universality, and light, now available for the first time in the U.S. — AM
Well Well Reality: Collaborations by Rosmarie & Keith Waldrop (Litmus, 2016): Like demolition tapes played in reverse, the Waldrops’ shipshape, solid share crystallizes common language into colorful being. — AM
In addition to books, books, and more books, we also have beautiful framed artwork by local poet and poetry-comic artist Catherine Bresner on display and for sale (prices range from $35 to $70) throughout the end of March. Don’t miss your chance to see in person Catherine’s surprising, darkly humorous experiments with erasure and collage, which have been published widely in literary journals such as The Offing, BOAAT, and Ink Brick.
So there you have it: Your poetry calendar and reading list for March is complete. Now, on to April, our National Month of Poetry! Next month’s newsletter will be replete with Poetry Month festivities and offers, but for now we’re excited to announce an April-long discount of 15% for students and educators.
Though it’s been seemingly quiet on the used books front these past two months, we’ve in fact been working steadily to bring you a (benign) tidal wave of the recently acquired! Some of you may know from visiting the shop or from January’s newsletter that we’ve created dedicated $5 and $10 bookcases, which already house anything from first editions of early James Merrill to 2016 National Book Award finalist Solmaz Sharif’s debut. Much, much fantastic poetry to be had. And, as you’ll no doubt find, most of the titles fall into these five- and ten-dollar categories. Peppering the pot are special books, delicate books, rare books that will be found amidst our “stacks” or up front behind the glass.
For those of you who wonder if working in a poetry bookstore means sitting around reading poetry to each other, the answer is, yes, sometimes it does. Every now and then one of us will pull a book off the shelf, start reading, and find a poem that steals our breath. We’ll call each other over and read the poem together. And sometimes it takes a little while for us all to start breathing again.
Rain Moving In
The blackboard is erased in the attic
And the wind turns up the light of the stars,
Sinewy now. Someone will find out, someone will know.
And if somewhere on this great planet
The truth is discovered, a patch of it, dried, glazed by the sun,
It will just hang on, in its own infamy, humility. No one
Will be better for it, but things can’t get any worse.
Just keep playing, mastering as you do the step
Into disorder this one meant. Don’t you see
It’s all we can do? Meanwhile, great fires
Arise, as of haystacks aflame. The dial has been set
And that’s ominous, but all your graciousness in living
Conspires with it, now that this is our home:
A place to be from, and have people ask about.
— John Ashbery, A Wave (Penguin, 1985)
Your Friends at Open Books