Saturday, February 27, 2010


Galatea--where nature, art, poetry and wine converge... Sounds good, but now: CITY SLICKER ALERT! To wit,

To wit, the hubby has decided that he and Michael (well, they asked Moi but Moi ran screaming out of the room) will be beekeepers; that's the Hijo above, obviously, trying on his new buzz suit. Colony Collapse Disorder, the hubby noted as ponderously as CNN's Rick Sanchez, is a big problem and we should all do our bit to make the planet more welcoming to these precious pollen distributors.

Fine sounding but lookit: we're the city slickers living in one of earth's most fertile places and we can count the tomatoes we manage to grow (sometimes in one hand!) and I often round up said number to lessen my shame over the matter! I can just see adjusting my Relished W(h)ine list to account for, say, half-a-teaspoon full of honey harvested. But, fine, onward to battling Colony Collapse Disorder!

Meanwhile, here's latest update on Relished W(h)ine List:

Hay(na)ku for Haiti:
#1: PARTICLE AND WAVE and FROM THE CHAIR, two hay(na)ku sequences by Jean Vengua
#2: On A Pyre: An Ars Poetica by Eileen R. Tabios
#3: Hay(na)ku for Haiti by Tom Beckett
#4: when the earth moves by Lars Palm
#5: After René Depestre’s “My Definition of Poetry”, as translated by Edwidge Danticat, with lines at the end by Lafcadio Hearn by John Bloomberg-Rissman
(Please click HERE for your participation!)

THE HOUSE OF MAE RIM / LA CASA DE MAE RIM, poems by Mariano Zaro (beautifully spare)

AFTER RIMBAUD'S ILLUMINATIONS, poem by David-Baptiste Chirot (beautifully resonant)

SUBMISSIONS, poems by Jared Schickling (beautifully intriguing)

SHOULDER SEASON, poems by Ange Mlinko

INSIDES SHE SWALLOWED, poems by Sasha Pimentel Chacon

GREEN CAMMIE, poems by Crysta Casey

AGE OF THE DEMON TOOLS, poems by Mark Spitzer

STARTING TODAY: 100 POEMS FOR OBAMA'S FIRST 100 DAYS, edited by Rachel Zucker and Arielle Greenberg (it's really moving to see the Hope For Change undertones--this note of cautious optimism, much more than revelry, is also poetically refreshing)

GURLESQUE: THE NEW GRRRLY, GROTESQUE, BURLESQUE POETICS, edited by Lara Glenum and Arielle Greenberg

GIVING THEIR WORLD: CONVERSATIONS WITH CONTEMPORARY POETS, interviews of William Stafford, Mary Oliver, John Montague, Charles Simic, Seamus Heaney, Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin, Carolyn Forche, Martin Espada, Marge Piercy, Rita Dove, Bei Dao, edited by Steven Ratiner

THE OTHER BLUEBOOK: ON THE HIGH SEAS OF DISCOVERY, novel by Quill Berenkoff "As told to Reme Grefalda"

JUST ONE LOOK, novel by Harlan Coben (it's very kewl how the author incorporated poems by a child-relative -- daughter? -- into the character of a tween in the novel)

PROMISE ME, novel by Harlan Coben

DEAL BREAKER, novel by Harlan Coben

FADE AWAY, novel by Harlan Coben

THE LAST BRIDGE, novel by Teri Coyne

SIX, novel by Rick Mofina

2007 Salmon Creek pinot noir
2007 Tra Vigne cabernet
1995 Togni Cabernet
2004 Saxum "Bone Rock" James Berry Vineyard Paso Robles
2008 Frei Brothers Reserve Dry Creek zinfandel (lovingly served at the Flamenco Poetry reading--thank you Edwin!)
2006 Long Meadow "house red" cabernet blend
2004 3 Rings Shiraz Barossa Valley

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Thursday, February 25, 2010


Meritage Press Announcement

A Special Release Offer for AUTOPSY TURVY, collaborative poems by Thomas Fink and Maya Diablo Mason

Collaborative Poems by Thomas Fink and Maya Diablo Mason
ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-4-6
Price: $16.00
Release Date: Spring 2010
Distributors: and

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of AUTOPSY TURVY, a collaborative book of poems by father-daughter Thomas Fink and Maya Diablo Mason. A book of "utterly wishful miraculously wistful costumed poems" (Tan Lin), AUTOPSY TURVY gathers terse, springy, psychologically intense eleven-line lyrics and hay(na)ku-based pieces, a 15-poem series called "Bee" that spells out the tangles of family and finances, a surreal poetic play entitled "Invisible Surgeon," and much else. According to Denise Duhamel, Fink and Mason's "poetry. . . goes to the brink, peering off the cliff, before they pull one another back to safety."

Thomas Fink’s fifth book of poetry, Clarity and Other Poems, was published by Marsh Hawk Press in Spring, 2008. His chapbooks, Generic Whistle-Stop (Portable Press at YoYo Labs) and Yinglish Strophes 1-19 (Truck Books) appeared in 2009. A Different Sense of Power (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2001) is his most recent book of criticism, and in 2007, he and Joseph Lease co-edited “Burning Interiors”: David Shapiro’s Poetry and Poetics. His work is included in The Best American Poetry 2007 (Scribner’s). Fink’s paintings hang in various collections.

Maya Diablo Mason was published in The First Hay(na)ku Anthology (Meritage, 2006) and her collaborative work has appeared in Otoliths, 21 Stars Review, BlazeVox, Of(f) Course, Long Island Sounds Anthology 2008 and 2009, Marsh Hawk Review, Pinstripe Fedora and EOAGH. A high school student in Long Island, New York, she plans to pursue a career in drama, visual art, or writing.


To celebrate the release of AUTOPSY TURVY, Meritage Press is pleased to announce a SPECIAL RELEASE OFFER good through March 31, 2010. Through this offer, you may order the book for $12.50 (a 22% discount from the regular retail price of $16.00) per book. Those who live in the U.S. also will receive free shipping/handling (usually a $5.00 charge). Please make checks out to "Meritage Press" and send to

E. Tabios
Meritage Press
256 No. Fork Crystal Springs Rd.
St. Helena, CA 94574


In AUTOPSY TURVY, Thomas Fink and Maya Diablo Mason (a father and daughter collaborative team) give us poetry that goes to the brink, peering off the cliff, before they pull one another back to safety. These poems—about death and dying, inheritance (monetarily and otherwise), and family—put the “Pan” in deadpan. AUTOPSY TURVY is as magical and mysterious as the Greek god of nature or the moon of Saturn. This poetry pair is funny, smart, and profound.
--Denise Duhamel

These utterly wishful miraculously wistful costumed poems are made up--of messages, notes, offhand remarks, smiles, half anecdotes, beautiful smirks, let-downs, put-downs, winks, disgust, jokes and riddles—that pass between child and parent, father and daughter, and everything said between a laugh a yawn a cry. “Forgot my ocean.” I cried. I laughed. I read “I have something sleepy to tell you.” And then I read “Some of those flowers could crack abstruse dance codes.” And then: “Girls get their food from tulips.”
--Tan Lin

AUTOPSY TURVY is the record of a series of remarkable poetic jam sessions between (father) Thomas Fink and (daughter) Maya Diablo Mason. Tom and Maya work together in the way that family members do: finishing one another's sentences. And they finish them to a high sheen.
--Tom Beckett


AUTOPSY TURVY is also available directly from Meritage Press' Lulu Account

For more information, including international orders or requests for review copies, please email


Click HERE for book's cover image. I'd rather post this endearing photo of the father-daughter poets:

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I just got my author copies of THE THORN ROSARY. O. Moi. Gawd. I did anticipate it'd be a brick, as it clocks in at 336 pages. But I didn't expect it to have such a BIG OL' ASS! (It's the WIDE-est book I've released.) My publisher diplomatically ripostes, "....big ass, yes, but lovely nonetheless..."

Well, if you want to check out Moi Ass, then, THE THORN ROSARY is now available at Amazon-HERE (ignore the message about it being "temporarily out of stock"; you can still order through there).

It'll probably be available at SPD by early next month.

But this post is also about -- I'm ever interested in expanding my read of poetry books. If you would like to trade a poetry collection for mine and I don't already have a copy of your book (which you can check by looking up your name in my personal poetry library), drop me an email at

So what should we call this ONE then? I already have BRICK. I already have SON OF A BRICK. Hm. I know! (But of course I know!) Let's call this one:


(and just forgive the disco reference pleaze).

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010


UPDATED ANNOUNCEMENT (with newest titles in series and free book offer) available HERE.


Open Palm Press (an imprint of Meritage Press), is pleased to announce the series:

Hay(na)ku for Haiti

-- a fundraiser for Haiti, edited by Eileen R. Tabios and blessed by support from

Poets who write in the hay(na)ku form (about which more information is available at have consented to create hay(na)ku for helping Haiti's recovery efforts. The results are to be released as "pocket poem booklets" by Open Palm Press. Each will be sold for $3.00, reflecting the hay(na)ku's three lines, with all proceeds to be donated for Haiti relief.

The first five of the series are:

#1: PARTICLE AND WAVE and FROM THE CHAIR, two hay(na)ku sequences by Jean Vengua
#2: On A Pyre: An Ars Poetica by Eileen R. Tabios
#3: Hay(na)ku for Haiti by Tom Beckett
#4: when the earth moves by Lars Palm
#5: After René Depestre’s “My Definition of Poetry”, as translated by Edwidge Danticat, with lines at the end by Lafcadio Hearn by John Bloomberg-Rissman

Over time, more releases will occur as it is anticipated that Haiti's relief requirements will be prolonged and deep. Poets interested in exploring the hay(na)ku through this fundraising effort may contact the series editor at

"H for H" booklets are lovingly produced by on lilac-colored paper to fit, at 2.75" x 4.5 X 2", on an open palm -- ideal for giving engagements.

To order some or all of the series, please send checks made out to "Meritage Press" for $3 per booklet and send to

Eileen Tabios
Meritage Press
256 North Fork Crystal Springs Rd.
St. Helena, CA 94574

For more information:


Hay(na)ku for Haiti is the second of my ongoing project: "Poetry Feeds World in Non-Metaphorical Ways". The FIRST is HERE. The All of It makes Moi Purrrrr....

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Monday, February 22, 2010


I don't take THIS for granted -- people I don't know talking about my poems (viz comments section). Thank you, Universe.

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Today, some discusson occurred on a repeat-performance of Flamenco Poetry reading (or a variation thereof) New York! Not sure yet if it'll happen, but it's just an indication of how fabulous it was yesterday -- and thanks again to all those who made it happen. Now, some images!

Here are all the participants, Michelle Bautista, Moi, Edwin Lozada, the flamenca "Alicia," and Sandy McIntosh:

Here's Edwin Lozada who not only read fabulous poems but gave beat-based explanations of flamenco, as only a flamenco dancer can!

Here's Michelle who wielded some mean fan-openings to interpret Sandy's "Ernesta, in the Style of the Flamenco":

Here is the fabulous "Alicia" again with her dance:

Michael and another taking photos of the very visual proceedings indeed:

Here we are at the Q&A afterwards; Edwin and Sandy were quite educational with their replies. My contribution was apologizing for finishing the wine from the refreshment table...

We end with lemon meringue pie with Sandy at Napa's new -- and fabulous -- Farmstead Restaurant. Flamenco, too, makes the bitter sweet (oh, work with Moi -- I just wanted to include this photo from the duende-filled, wine-flowing weekend!):

Amidst emptied-bottles, The End:

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Sunday, February 21, 2010


What a blessing. Thank you to Cynthia over at PoemFlesh2 for caring about my poems, specifically the ones in my BRICK--Cynthia interviews me and features two poems....but I'm also moved by the action in the comments section. And it all began from reading my poems -- that's a true gift.

And I'm really feeling blessed from having had such a powerful engagement today during the Poetry Flamenco reading--Salamat & Gracias to Edwin Lozada and PAWA. Nothing less than duende permeated the room. No wonder I had a feeling I should forgo my farmer's flats for wearing Italian leather to the gig:

I was taking photos with my Iphone and when I lowered it, it took a photo of my stilettoed boot and, well, I liked how it captured the shades of death's presence...

I hope to post more photos later but, for now, here's "Alicia" while sharing her dance, in front of an absolutely stunning embroidered shawl from (I think) Edwin's collection:

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Saturday, February 20, 2010


In tomorrow's Flamenco Poetry Reading, all the poets are starting by sharing a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca. So, looking for teachable moments as I always am with Moi hijo, I asked Michael this morning to listen to my Spanish pronounciation -- I thought it'd be roundabout way to expand his exposure to poetry. I moved from having him listen to me, to asking him to read the poem.

Well, perhaps four lines into his reading of the Lorca poem, Michael stops, looks at me with a frown and states, "This guy doesn't write well. He should have said ____ instead of this"--and he points to the problematic line in question.

My son is now editing Lorca?!!

I immediately thought, Sheeesh--everyone really is a critic! But you know what? I think this indie thinking... is just GREAT! From the mouth of babes, as they say! And here's the babe at a local art gallery sketching what he sees:

What do you bet Michael would have improved whatever he was copying?

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Duende Within: Flamenco Inspired Poetry

You are invited to the PAWA Arkipelago Literary Series

Sunday, February 21, 2010
2:00 PM
Bayanihan Community Center
1010 Mission Street, San Francisco

A free event.

Sandy Mcintosh
, managing editor of the New York City poetry press Marsh Hawk Press. His poetry collections include the just-released ERNESTA, IN THE STYLE OF FLAMENCO.

Eileen Tabios, whose publications includes 18 poetry collections, including a flamenco-poetry collection in NOTA BENE EISWEIN. She just released THE THORN ROSARY: SELECTED PROSE POEMS 1998-2010, with essays by scholars Thomas Fink and Joi Barrios. She once took flamenco classes in New York City, and failed with much enthusiasm.

Edwin Agustín Lozada, author of Sueños anónimos/Anonymous Dreams and Bosquejos/Sketches. He produced Field of Mirrors, PAWA's 2008 anthology. He was a member of Rosa Montoya Bailes Flamencos from 1998-2003.

With special guest performers
Roberto Campos, flamenco guitar

Alicia, flamenco dance

Michelle Bautista, poet and kali martial artist. She has released a poetry collection entitled KALI'S BLADE (Meritage Press).

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Friday, February 19, 2010


The hay(na)ku -- it's always been about Toi, not Moi.

To wit, I'm swamped but could not turn down the opportunity to create an imprint "Hay(na)ku for Haiti" that would be a fundraiser for Haiti relief. Thanks to Dan Waber's chapbook-publishing group for the opportunity.

More deets later on this project but, I just had to pause to relish how I love projects like these -- they are real, not simply metaphorical, manifestations of how Poetry Feeds the World. Engagements like this are made possible because the Word matters.

And because the Word, too, is often Holy.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010


Meritage Press Announcement

A Special Release Offer for traje de boda, poems by Aileen Ibardaloza

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of traje de boda, a first poetry book by Aileen Ibardaloza. "Advance Words" include:
"Aileen Ibardaloza’s first book is a charmer more than a disarmer of the complicated relationships between men and women, mothers and daughters, or colonized and colonizer. The intensity of her voice is not unlike the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral with llantos like these: 'I say it’s all right./Yes, if I ever lose my mouth,' and 'My old same hides/her face behind a fan.' traje de boda belongs on any serious bookshelf of contemporary poetry."
—Nick Carbó, author of Chinese, Japanese, What are These?

Aileen Ibardaloza is a poet and memoirist who first trained as a molecular biologist. She grew up in Manila, and studied and traveled around Asia and Europe before joining her family in the United States in 2000. She was married in 2009; she and her husband live in the San Francisco bay area with their two cats. Also the Associate Editor of Our Own Voice Literary Ezine, she has seen writings appear in various online and print media including Manorborn; 1000 Views of Girl Singing (Leafe Press, U.K. and California, 2009); A Taste of Home (Anvil, Manila, 2008); Fellowship; Moria Poetry; and Galatea Resurrects.


To celebrate the release of traje de boda, Meritage Press is pleased to announce a SPECIAL RELEASE OFFER good through March 31, 2010. Through this offer, you may order the book for $12.50 (a 22% discount from the regular retail price of $16.00) per book. Those who live in the U.S. also will receive free shipping/handling (usually a $5.00 charge). Please make checks out to "Meritage Press" and send to

E. Tabios
Meritage Press
256 No. Fork Crystal Springs Rd.
St. Helena, CA 94574


traje de boda is also available directly from Meritage Press' Lulu Account.

For more information, including international orders or requests for review copies, please email



Someone I don't know asked me to pass on the word about someone I don't know. But, ya know, I'm always beneficent to fellow small press poetry publishers. To wit, Arlo Haskell of Sand Paper Press notes this lovely review of Stuart Krimko's THE SWEETNESS OF HERBERT over at the reachingly-named The Best American Poetry. Check out the review HERE.

Having said that, that's not why I'm blogging about it -- after all, we ain't talkin' Galatea Resurrects here (grin). I'm blogging about it because, in going further to read some of Krimko's sonically-ecstatic poems online, I learned this about the poet:
Stuart Krimko was born in Great Neck, New York, and was Director of Exhibitions at Max Protetch Gallery for several years. In 2006, he received a grant from the Fund for Poetry for Not That Light. He has recently moved to Los Angeles, where he works on a novel tentatively titled I Died So Far East It Was West, along with translations of the works of Argentinian writers Osvaldo Lamborghini and Hector Viel Temperley. Krimko also writes about art and wine and is the food and wine editor for Embury Cocktails.

Dude--that's an enviable life!



Which cast do you prefer? The polka-dots emblazoned with a heart?

Or the smiley faces?

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


See -- this is what I mean. I've long detested the poetry contest infrastructure (I don't count the poetry contests I do for Filipino poets through Meritage Press' "Babaylan Speaks" performance as that's a different animal altogether). The last thing I was interested in doing, therefore, was getting involved in said infrastructure as a judge. But what poetry's also taught me is that if I'm reluctant to do something, I should try it. So I did and, whoah, to my surprise, the process wasn't such a slog because, ultimately, it's about reading poems!

Of course I did it Moi way -- no screening. I read every single book entrant. And I have this to say about the results which I will announce when the contest sponsors say it can go public:

1) While reading every book, I placed 3 checks by each book: An A or A+ for a group of potential winners; a check by often lovely poetry collections but which aren't likely to win the contest; and an F by those books which clearly have no shot. Of the total, 11% got an A/A+, and 15% got an F. The bulk of entrants got a simple check. Judgment is subjective but if backed up against a wall and forced to articulate what I looked for the most, it'd be for those poems that are not just effective but also seems *fresh* (e.g., they're not derivative, or come off as the same ol', same ol' poems one gets the sense is being written by 94% of poets (see #6 for explanation of "94%"), etc). Most of the poets are writing perfectly wonderful poems, but which aren't the type that would be "better" than their peers.

2) Most of the poetry books provided perfectly fine experiences. That they would not have won a particular contest don't detract from the validity of their engagements. This is probably the way these poetry books should be read/enjoyed -- unless one is deconstructing them for some class or attempting to be a gatekeeper.

3) Nearly 20% of the entrants are books which became published as a result of winning a manuscript-based poetry competition. Based on my judgment of this contest, I'd say to such poets -- you already won once; quit while you're ahead. Only 25% of these manuscript poetry-prize recipients got an A or A+. One got an F. In a way, I quite like this result -- it validates the idea that poetry books should still be published for other reasons than by winning a poetry contest. This result also validates my earlier sense that poetry-contest winning books are not necessarily doing something extra special than books published outside the contest system--this is not a diss at the contest-winning poets but a cogitation over whether, in an industry where it's difficult to get published, many of those still getting published are the more seasoned and experienced poets (and perhaps such seasoning, especially if with bagoong, counts...?).

4) Although small presses sent in their books for consideration, almost none of my own personal favorite publishers -- typically the indie publishers -- participated in this contest. Most are university presses and the more established poetry presses. Among the university presses, which I highlight as they do seem to produce many, uh, like-minded writing, one will be able to glean from the results which press is clearly doing more interesting work than others -- "interesting" being defined here as a press publishing poets who are creating *fresh* poems.

5) Still mentally cogitating as to why this would be the case -- but I found judging books to be different than judging manuscripts.

6) By doing this competition, I discovered several poets whose work I would be interested in following in the future. Actually, this makes me think that this may be the most meaningful statistic. Of all the poets I read through the competition, only six percent of the poets interest me in continuing proactively to follow their works (for one of them, I've already ordered earlier books).

7) The experience makes me want to immerse myself for a while in COLLECTED and SELECTED POEMS. I have to say I wasn't much satisfied, generally speaking, with the COLLECTED/SELECTEDs that I read through this contest, but there weren't that many among the entrants...

Results no doubt to come. Meanwhile, Kudos to you Six Percenters! Thank you for your palabras.


Sunday, February 14, 2010


Well isn't that special! Someone relished 1000 Views of Moi! That's worth interrupting our regularly scheduled programming of THOUGHTS WHILE JUDGING A POETRY CONTEST! To wit, David Hart of Stride Magazine (scroll to bottom) reviewed 1000 VIEWS OF GIRL SINGING and had this to say:
"When I received [the Laâbi] in the post, I saw at its endpaper an advertisement for Leafe Press's 1,000 Views of "Girl Singing", edited by John Bloomberg-Rissman, which caught my imagination strongly enough for me to send a cheque for it. It was money very well spent, it's a unique book, if in uneasily small print, of many invited responses, by way of poetry or visually, to a poem by Eileen Tabios.

It has led me to speculate about early modern, say 15th-16th centuries or earlier, whether there were, along with circulation of poems by hand, also response-poems and perhaps drawings: exchanges and additions verbally and visually. The book implements a fertile present and suggests a future for such intermingled new work. A delight."

And it's a delight to be doubly-relished, first with a book and then the review of the book! Thankee John or instigating!

And here's moi latest Relished W(h)ine List -- if the poetry publications seem to comprise a paltry list, it's because I'm also reading books for a poetry competition I'm judging, which I won't be listing here):

TEXTURE NOTES, poems by Sawako Nakayasu (intelligent luminosities!)


SO FORTH, poems by Joseph Brodsky

ASHES GIFTED, poems and painting reproductions by Joshua Abelow (a witty and funny self-awareness)

A SCRIPT, poems by Joel Chace


TIE ONE ON 1 and TIE ONE ON 2, conceptual art by Alex Gildzen (very entertaining -- RECOMMENDED and AVAILABLE FOR FREE AT ungovernable press. I thought Bill Allegrezza was HOT until I saw Kevin Killian. Grin.)

THAT BOOK WOMAN, children's book by Heather Henson with pictures by David Small

INVISIBLE, novel by Paul Auster

SILENT KILLER, novel by Beverly Barton

HOW SWEET IT IS, novel by Alice J. Wisler

HEROIC MEASURES, novel by Jill Ciment

NOT MY DAUGHTER, novel by Barbara Delinsky

NO SECOND CHANCE, novel by Harlan Coben

TARGET, novel by Catherine Coulter

A CREED COUNTRY CHRISTMAS, novel by Linda Lael Miller

2002 Dominique Laurent Nuits-Saint-Georges les Saint-Georges Vieilles Vignes
2002 Eitelsbacher karthauserhofberg Riesling Eiswein Mosel Saar Ruwer
1997 Clarendon Hills Shiraz Piggot Range Vineyard
2005 Ovid "Experiment"
2001 Clerico Ginestra
2005 Araujo Estate Viognier
1996 Jones Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
2003 Jones Family Estate "The Sisters"
2003 Rieussec
2006 Trefethen pinot noir
2006 Culler syrah
2006 Dr. Loosen Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Stablay parcel
2006 Napa Cellars Zinfandel NV
1994 Vega Sicilia
2004 Dancing Hares
2002 Blankiet Cabernet
2000 Colgin cabernet
Schramsberg sparkling wine
2008 Vineyard 29 29 Estate cabernet (barrel sampling)
2007 Vineyard 29 29 Estate Blanc
2006 Vineyard 29 29 Estate cabernet
2007 Vineyard 29 Aida Estate Late Harvest zinfandel
2005 Bressler Vineyards cabernet
2007 Bressler Vineyards pinot noir

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Saturday, February 13, 2010


I just read a prizewinning book (in an earlier manuscript competition) where the judge chose, in hir introduction, to raise the tension between linguistic surface and meaning. Yawn. This is why I wonder if many "established" poets read enough, specifically beyond the circles in which they choose to be stuck -- if one pays attention to contemporary poetry, one might realize that this faux binary ceased to be of concern a long time ago to many poets (and among certain, ahem, non-colonized poets of color, this binary was never relevant).

I wish (yet again) poets read more poetry.


Friday, February 12, 2010


Self-publishing has an honored history in poetry -- it's not something to disdain automatically. But is it a paradox for a self-published collection to be entering itself into a poetry prize competition?

As I was saying, self-publishing has an honored history in poetry -- it's not something to disdain automatically. What can undercut a self-published collection's effectiveness, though, is an authorial introduction explaining why the collection is self-published. I've yet to see such a prose exercise avoid coming off as (unnecessarily...and, at times, bathetically) defensive.


There's obviously a logic to a COLLECTED (and some lengthy SELECTED) POEMS inevitably including poems that acknowledge (whether with humor but often more with resignation or bitterness et al) the world's indifference to the poet's avocation.

But I just read a COLLECTED where this type of poem doesn't get any play. Worth nota bene-ing as this resulted, moithinks, from this poet's incredible discipline. Over several decades, this poet consistently adhered to hir position that the poem is not about authorial autobiography (not to say there's anything wrong with that, but this poet chose a different poetics and was able to manifest it completely...and with much intelligence and luminosity). As my son would say,

"Good for you: CONGRATULATIONS!"

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Thursday, February 11, 2010


Another interruption from my thoughts on judging poetry -- these two press releases just came out, which is to say,


PAWA Arkipelago Literary Series
Sunday, February 21, 2010
2:00 PM
Bayanihan Community Center
1010 Mission Street, San Francisco
A free event.

Duende Within: Flamenco Inspired Poetry


Sandy Mcintosh is the managing editor of the New York City poetry press, Marsh Hawk Press. His poetry collections include the just-released ERNESTA, IN THE STYLE OF THE FLAMENCO.

Eileen Tabios' publications includes 18 poetry collections, including a flamenco-poetry collection in NOTA BENE EISWEIN. She just released THE THORN ROSARY: SELECTED PROSE POEMS 1998-2010, with essays by scholars Thomas Fink and Joi Barrios. She once took a flamenco class in New York City, and failed it with much enthusiasm.

Edwin Agustín Lozada is the author of Sueños anónimos/Anonymous Dreams and Bosquejos/Sketches. He produced Field of Mirrors, PAWA’s 2008 anthology. He was a member of Rosa Montoya Bailes Flamencos from 1998-2003.

With special guest performers
Roberto Campos: flamenco guitar

Alicia: flamenco dance

Michelle Bautista is a poet and kali martial artist. She has released a poetry collection entitled KALI'S BLADE (Meritage Press).



Boog City presents

d.a. levy lives:
celebrating editors from
Northern California renegade presses

Wed. March 17, 7:30 p.m. sharp, free

Books and Bookshelves
99 Sanchez St.
San Francisco

featuring readings from

Albert Flynn DeSilver
editor The Owl Press (Woodacre, Calif.)

Travis Ortiz
co-editor Atelos Publishing Project (Berkeley, Calif.)

Jill Stengel
editor a+bend press (Davis, Calif.)

Eileen R. Tabios
editor Meritage Press (San Francisco/St. Helena, Calif.)

and from New York City

David Kirschenbaum
editor, Boog City

and music from
The Chris Stroffolino Pop Snob Sideshow

Curated and with an introduction by Boog City editor David Kirschenbaum

For more info call Books and Bookshelves at 415-621-3761 or Boog City at 212-842-BOOG (2664)


**Boog City
Boog City is a New York City-based small press now in its 19th year and East Village community newspaper of the same name. It has also published 35 volumes of poetry and various magazines, featuring work by Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti among others, and theme issues on baseball, women's writing, and Louisville, Ky. It hosts and curates two regular performance series--d.a. levy lives: celebrating the renegade press, where each month a non-NYC small press and its writers and a musical act of their choosing is hosted at Chelsea's ACA Galleries; and Classic Albums Live, where 5-13 local musical acts perform a classic album live at venues including The Bowery Poetry Club, CBGB's, and The Knitting Factory. Past albums have included Elvis Costello, My Aim is True; Nirvana, Nevermind; and Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville.

**Albert Flynn DeSilver
Albert Flynn DeSilver is a poet, teacher, visual artist, and publisher living in Woodacre, Calif. He is the editor and publisher of The Owl Press, which publishes innovative poetry and poetic collaboration. He received a B.F.A. in photography from the University of Colorado, and an M.F.A. in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Letters to Early Street, (La Alameda/University of New Mexico Press), and Walking Tooth & Cloud (French Connection Press, Paris). He has published more than a hundred poems in literary journals worldwide including Zyzzyva, New American Writing, Jacket (Australia), Poetry Kanto (Japan), Van Gogh’s Ear (France), Hanging Loose, and Exquisite Corpse, among others. The most recent Owl Press title is Bill Berkson’s Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently.

**David Kirschenbaum
David Kirschenbaum’s work has appeared in The Brooklyn Review Online, can we have our ball back, Chain, Pavement Saw, and unpleasant event schedule, among others. He is the lyricist for the band Gilmore Boys, and the editor and publisher of Boog City, a New York City-based small press now in its 19th year and East Village community newspaper.

**Travis Ortiz
Travis Ortiz is a writer, publisher, dj, and designer living in San Francisco. Ortiz has work in various publications including Bay Poetics and Poetics Journal, and has written two books, Geography of Parts (Melodeon) and Variously, not Then (forthcoming, Tuumba). He is the co-director (with Lyn Hejinian) of Atelos, a literary project commissioning and publishing cross-genre work by poets. Atelos was nominated as one of the best independent literary presses by the Firecracker Awards in 2001.

**Jill Stengel
Jill Stengel is a poet, publisher of a+bend press, and parent of three young children. Formerly of San Francisco and Los Angeles, she now resides with her family in Davis, Calif. Several of her serial poems have appeared in chapbook form—cartography (WOOD); History, Possibilities (a+bend press); ladies with babies (Boog Literature); lagniappe (Nous-Zot Press, Dusie Kollektiv); late may (Dusie); may(be) (Dusie); and the forthcoming and I would open (Ypolita) and wreath (Texfiles). Some of these chapbooks, and individual poems, can be viewed online as well as in print, and she has new work in the forthcoming anthology Kindergarde. Her first full-length collection is forthcoming this year from Black Radish Books.

Begun in San Francisco in 1999, a+bend press published 40 chapbooks in its first 20 months of existence. Stengel produced the chapbooks in conjunction with her reading series, Second Sundays at BlueBar, held in the poetically historic North Beach district of San Francisco. The press took a chapbook-publishing hiatus for nine years, during which time she produced three children and five issues of the journal mem, focusing on writing by women mothering young children, and page mothers. Now the hiatus is on hiatus: a new a+bend press chapbook was released at the end of last year.

**Eileen R. Tabios
Eileen R. Tabios has released 18 print, four electronic, and 1 CD poetry collections, an art essay collection, a poetry essay/interview anthology, a short story book, and two novels. She has also exhibited visual art and visual poetry in the United States and Asia. Recipient of the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry, she’s just come out with The Thorn Rosary: Selected Prose Poems 1998-2010, edited with an introduction by poet-critic-painter-scholar Thomas Fink and with an afterword by poet-scholar Joi Barrios. In poetry, Tabios has crafted a body of work that is unique for melding ekphrasis with transcolonialism. Her poems have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Tagalog, Japanese, Portuguese, Polish, Greek, computer-generated hybrid languages, paintings, video, drawings, visual poetry, mixed media collages, Kali martial arts, music, modern dance, and sculpture. She’s the publisher of Meritage Press (St. Helena & San Francisco).

**The Chris Stroffolino Pop Snob Sideshow
Chris Stroffolino writes: "I dedicate this bio note to the late Vic Chesnutt, who died on boxing days eve 2009, as a direct result of American health insurance business. A quadriplegic since 1983, Chesnutt's 'pre-existing condition' prevented him from receiving adequate treatment. He could have received SSI Disability because of his condition, but his accident also awakened his songwriting ability, and he heroically battled his condition for 25 years--releasing many albums (the most recent one produced by Jonathan Richman)--and, though he never made enough money to pay for the exorbitant costs of his health treatement, he made TOO MUCH to be eligible for Social Security disability support. It's a sad cruelty of America that had he had not tried to make something of himself after his accident, and achieved success as a songwriter (at his best, he reminds me of what I love about Townes Van Zandt), he would have received more economic support for his 'health issues.'

"Of course, the basic obituaries will just say, 'he died of an overdose of pain killers,' but read his statements about his health care, and you tell me if this beautiful heroic survivor's death was 'suicide.' I am absolutely sure that Vic would not mind being used as a rallying cry in his death. He's so much more--but another reason to step up the fight for Single Payer."

Oh, as for Chris Stroffolino--he likes to think you can trust him, and says you might even like his new solo album, available at the above url.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I interrupt moi regularly-scheduled programming on judging a poetry contest to BRAG!

To wit, today was Michael's middle school's awards assembly for the first semester of 7th grade. He got an Honor Roll Certificate for his A average!

But then, unexpectedly, he also got three Outstanding Student Certificates! The first in Spanish (one would think that obvious but he was just at the C+ level in the first quarter). The second in English (as 2nd language). The third was in the form of a gift certificate to a local bookstore because he was cited as, ta-dah, Outstanding in Reading!!!!

All this from a kid who, less than a year ago, was in fourth grade in Colombia!
Moi am so Mama-proud!

Well then! Here's The Second Coming as he soothes Artemis in a cast:

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Philip Guston comes to mind -- specifically how I have so much respect and admiration for his development of his art...and specifically how he wasn't afraid to switch directions from abstraction expressionism to what might have seemed its antithesis at the time: cartoony depictions. I admire the expanse of his mind and heart that allowed him to grow, as much as I admire the results of what Willem de Kooning aptly described at the time as works reflecting "freedom."

Philip Guston comes to mind as I've just read the first two SELECTEDS from the pile of COLLECTEDs OR SELECTEDs in this poetry competition I'm judging. While, as I said in my sixth post in this series, I try not to bring any criteria to a book but instead try to understand it on its own terms, assessing SELECTEDs/COLLECTEDs is a unique situation (for me) where I do bring a criteria to my reading of them -- even as I gently insist that this criteria surely should be inherent in the nature of a SELECTED or COLLECTED.

To wit, I view a SELECTED or COLLECTED as also something that offers something about the poet's development in addition to what else that book offers.

And so, Philip Guston comes to mind because the first two SELECTEDs I've just read disappoint, in terms of this particular perspective. That is, there seem to be no meaningful shift in how the poems were written over a prolonged period of time. Regardless of how lovely individual poems are, the collections overall are one-note wonders. The thing is: a poetry book can be a one-note wonder. But if a SELECTED or COLLECTED is just a thicker one-note wonder, is that a lesser achievement because of the nature of being a SELECTED or COLLECTED?

Of course both approaches (and many others) are valid. Going back to the visual art metaphor (how 'bout those monochromes after monochromes after monochromes...?!), there are plenty of artists who spend their lifetimes painting the same painting again and again and, somehow, there's both a logic as well as sublimity to the existence of such a body of work. But that I'm mentally cogitating over this, I concede, relates to the one bias I concede in terms of how I am operating as a judge:
I have a bias towards ambition in what an artist is trying to create. For poetry, I have a bias to those poets who write as if they make language and not just inherit it.


Relatedly, Catherine (hi Kasia!) Daly's posted another response, and I excerpt from it where she quite intriguingly says:
I think it is actually more ethical to say, ok, these are all ones I would publish. Rather than leave it to some sort of chance operation, I will choose among them with a motive.

What's interesting about Catherine's post is she's had occasions to talk confidentially with some poetry competition judges about the final stages of judging -- the motive (good word) for choosing the final one winner among a group of noteworthy finalists. And one of the reasons conceded by those judges is the identity of the publisher -- e.g., that an award would "help out" a particular press!

I was perversely tickled to see that example. Because I know of a contest winner who I'd long suspected received hir award due to the identity of hir (beloved in some circles) publisher. The problem is that the award had a, um, obnoxious effect on the poet -- the poet now believes s/he is an Artiste Who Knows More Than Others And Now Should Be A Gatekeeper Of Sorts since, after all, said poet got this big award! So I only have one plea to future poetry judges -- if you're going to turn to an *external* factor such as the identity of the publisher to make a decision, can you also please pay attention to another external factor as to whether an award would make a poet even more insufferable than usual?

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Monday, February 08, 2010



On a pyre—

eating my body
hotter than fire

for the poetry
in burning books

ravage more
than a drought-stricken forest’s revenge

for the creation of


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Sunday, February 07, 2010


I enjoyed reading one book so much I ordered the poet's other, older books. Very kewl.



Perhaps blogging this series wasn't such a great idea. I'm looking at the last post and thinking, Well ain't you a tedious pedant!



My 8 millionth Peep just backchanneled with some questions about my ongoing process of judging a poetry contest:
1) What kind of criteria might be brought into play when judging a poem or a book of poems? I've never understood judgment to be anything other than purely subjective, in spite of all the theory that surrounds judgment and attempts to ground it.

2) So here's a question for you: what kind of criteria do you use? Is it something "formal"? Is it "the little hairs on the back of my neck go all aquiver?"

3) And here's another: how can you (how can anyone) be sure you're applying the same criteria at 2 pm that you did at 10 am the day before?

4) Finally, does it just come down to "I liked this best"? Which is fine, but is really different than "this **is** the best?"

Let me address the last question first. Of course it comes down to "I liked this best." I believe any contest result should be viewed as "The Winner According to Contest Judge ____" (and this contest's website will depict both winner and judge). But that's why I said (did I already say this?) that any poetry competition result is only as good as the poetry judge. (And I'd posited in my second post in this series that a judge's reading list, especially absent knowing anything else about that judge, might be a good way to understand something about that judge's points of view.) For example, if the judge is someone known for being open only or primarily to a certain group/aesthetic/et al and the winner is someone within that group/aesthetic/et al, then I personally don't give that result much credibility. AND what's hypocritical is if the competition is supposedly open to all poets (who will send in the competition entry fee) from all sorts of poetries.

Note that I say "being open [to]", versus, practicing a certain aesthetic. There are poets who write a certain way who are open to being moved by various poetries that aren't at all like they write -- those can be ideal poetry judges.

By the way, this also means that I suspect -- were I to devote more time to thinking about the matter -- that I would criticize the structure of keeping judges' identities confidential in poetry contests. Because saying a book is No. 1, according to CONTEST NAME instead of CONTEST NAME AS JUDGED BY JUDGE'S NAME, implies some objective standard. I've heard of arguments for keeping judges' names confidential, but the problem is the result is the implication of there having been an objective process; nor can one assess the significance of the winning choice absent knowing anything about the judge's predilections. It'd be like someone believing the choices in the Best American Poetry volumes without contextualizing the choices as the decisions of specific judges (how's about that BEST OF BEST OF AMERICAN POETRY volume, eh?).

As an aside, I just thought of another issue percolating on some blogs recently -- about whether judges of color are more likely to be more receptive or sensitive to authors of color. Well, I'm "of color" and I sincerely can say that I'm not paying attention to authorial biographies as I read through the poetry collections. Having said that, one of my top three favorites from what I've read so far has to do with the African diaspora (though I feel I immediately should say the book attracted me mostly for how the poems were made versus the subject matter). Would this book have surfaced to the reading of someone else not "of color"? I don't know, of course. But I do know that the content/topic of African diaspora, by itself, was not something that made me less (or more) receptive to the poems. Meanwhile, the other top two books are both by (I think) white poets -- one is overtly "political poetry" and the other is lyrical imagism. Go figger.

First question: So, for criteria used to judge poems, it depends on the judge.

Second question: I (deliberately) didn't bring any formal criteria to the judging process. The books with A-rankings do have to set my lovely hairs aquiver, but, you know, my hairs quiver for many reasons. When I read a poem or poetry book, I try not to set its terms for it -- I try to understand the terms on which the poems were created and see if the results are effective, by the standards of its own terms. (The worst criticism is when someone says of a poem, It should have done this, rather than looking at what is actually done.) A quick example might be one that I've been hearing lately about contemporary poems presumably not being sensitized enough to the politics of their times. Well, despite some empathy with that point of view, I'm still not going to lower my regard for a book that's all about, say, birding. I'm going to read those poems about birds and see if they end up not just being for the birds because they -- in that space of experiencing the poems -- move me to care about birds, learn from birds, get off on birds, etc.

Having said that, it is possible -- and, as I go into the judging process, it's looking to be the case -- that I will come up with a group of lovely A-rated poetry collections, each of which will be different from each other. If I like them all, how would I judge what's better than the other? I likely will then pay attention to its underlying (conceptual) terms. If books X, Y, and Z, for instance, are all about birds and I love them all, I might take note that X is about sparrows and Y is about eagles but Z -- that Z! -- is about sparrows, eagles, owls .. and then a hyena! In such a situation, I'm likely to give the award to Z. If I'm coming off as flakey, let me sum up by saying: if all books' quality seem otherwise equal/equivalent, my bias would be to the ones with the most ambition in what it was attempting to do...or be.

Third Question: Before I began this process, this factor actually worried me a little and that's why I always anticipated doing some re-readings of books. But I've been pleasantly surprised to find that as one is forced to choose one top winner from a gazillion poetry books, the bases by which books rise to the surface in my reading (by which it gets an A rating vs a mere checkmark, according to my preliminary look-see) are holding fast. So this question's concern seemed to be more valid in theory than practice -- at least it's coming out that way for me.

Also, I think the context here matters -- I'm judging a group of books for which one would become the sole recipient of a poetry prize, which is not quite the same as assessing a poem/poetry book and getting different reactions at different times of the day or while having different moods et al. The two can overlap but, this factor doesn't seem to be a strong one for purpose of judging a competition.


Yes, I'm reading tons of poetry books as we speak. But do feel free to send me questions by back-channel. Moi is all about Toi.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010


Catherine Daly has a reaction to my first post on THOUGHTS WHILE JUDGING POETRY. Very interesting and I excerpt:
.. a prize people outside the specialty on a hiring committee, or grant committee, or whatever, a sense of peer review, a sense that this is work that is somehow "approved"

Catherine's assessment is undoubtedly true, but it's another bankrupt assessment based on how people don't care enough about poetry to do their own direct due diligence. Let me put it this way--I've read about 25% of the entrants so far and ... Wait, let me explain first what I do after reading each book:

I have a list of all entrants. After reading each book, I place marks by their titles: a check, an "F" or an "A"...and now I've expanded it to include "A+" as I discovered that within the original "A" group, there still can be a stand-out or two which presumably could become the one winner. (I'd asked the contest administrator if I could choose more than one winner as I suspect there could be more than one winner, but I was told to limit moiself to one top choice.)

A book that gets a check-mark means, for my purposes, that it's a perfectly legit -- often wonderful -- poetry book, but isn't necessarily a cut above other lovely poetry collections to be the competition winner. The "F" doesn't necessarily mean the book's poems fail but that it's not going to have a shot at winning the competition despite how many re-reads I will do (and I plan to do some re-reads later in the process).

So, after reading about 25% of the entrants so far, I've got an "A" or "A+" after four books. Most books get a check. Check this out: none of the books which won manuscript competitions that I've read so far are among the A/A+ rated books. And one of them actually got categorized as an "F".

In past readings of poetry books, I can't say I discern consistently-higher quality among prize-winning books relative to other books not published through contests. Judging this competition continues to validate my sense that if a particular poetry book is going to be privileged over other poetry books, it shouldn't be because it won some competition (whose field of entrants is never going to be all-encompassing anyway).

As an aside, I'm sort of amused by these manuscript-competition winners participating in another contest. If a manuscript won a contest, the resulting book is No. 1, so to speak. If that same book now doesn't win another contest, doesn't that cheapen the worth of the earlier prize? I mean, the public may not know since competitions don't usually publicize the identity of all entrants -- but the poet or publisher would know that hir prize-winning book lost elsewhere. So why not quit while the book's ahead? (I'm probably over-thinking this point...)

Here's another point that may be related -- I mentioned in my first post on this series that I'd requested to read ALL books submitted to the contest, rather than judging what might be sent to me after some screening. Based on the poets participating in this contest, I'm fairly sure that my eventual choice of winner would be different based on whether I read all the books or allowed some screening. So, don't many contests screen entries before a selected group is send over to the final judge?

That's the thing about poetry -- if you don't experience it directly for yourself (if you don't actually read the book), you have no business making any sort of comment (let alone judgment) on it. If there's one creature that often belies its reputation, it's that poetic critter.

If poetry contests are here to stay -- if only because poetry contest fees are a major source of revenues for many presses which are located in an industry that doesn't enjoy humongous sales -- then maybe judges should be forced to address all entries. I anticipate the (logistical) objections (none of which I consider insurmountable) many might raise to my suggestion. But given the nature of poetry, how can it be otherwise?

I say this to my son all the time: whatever it is you're going to do, always try to do it right. Aw yeah -- we just got his second quarter grades: he got an "A" average. Poetry judges should get an A, too, for their approach/efforts before they begin to grade other poets. Give judges a bigger cut of the funds raised from contest fees, if necessary, but have them address all entries. Fairness is possible, even in a world greased by cultural capital.

Lastly, as another aside, this post would not have been written in this manner if current poetry economics weren't so moronic.

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When I first opened the boxes of books for the poetry competition I'm judging, I noticed several COLLECTEDs or SELECTEDs by reputable poets. And I wondered how it would be possible for a one-project (so to speak) poetry book to compete against such tomes. It's like a slice of a poet's life competing against an entire life, isn't it?

Well, I just read a book -- let's call it ABC -- that's not a COLLECTED or SELECTED (by a poet whose name was previously unknown to me) which blew away everything I'd read up to that point. I can easily see how this would compete against a poet's life work. El punto has several implications which I don't have time to write about right now ... but I'll share a couple of thoughts:

-- sometimes, when a poet is so blessed, hir poems are able to sustain for a period of time a certain vibrancy/energy/frisson. I thought that it would be this type of book that would overcome the weight of a COLLECTED or SELECTED. But ABC, while certainly vibrant, is not in this category for the category is too limited to encapsulate its achievement. ABC shows a different path of how to create a stellar poetic achievement. And its path? Something that shows the limits of imagination and that I would categorize as -- for the moment of the poems' creation anyway -- Poetry as a Way of Life where intellect and heart marries to make each other bigger than before.

But it's still early in my reading of all entrants; let's see what future reading will undercover. And this is also a moment for me to say:

I felt conflicted when I decided to judge this poetry competition, but the experience to date is a reminder: it's a blessing to read many poems -- and one blessing is certainly to come across previously unknown poets' works -- and I am grateful to ALL of these poets.



Some blurbing patterns and observations as I go through the process of reading books for judging a poetry competition:

The BIG NAMES (like a Nobel Prize winner) can practice brevity or generality, because who cares what's said -- the point is their names are on the book as recommenders.

Some small names act like BIG NAMES.

Those who are experts in some field but not necessarily in poetry are often the most earnest -- and (relatively) long-winded -- as they craft a blurb that will show that their expertise elsewhere translates in sufficient poetic expertise such that they are legit blurbers for poetry (got that? Good).

It's quite clear that no one is discussing the purpose of blurbs. The point, as I once understood it a long time ago, is that a blurb is supposed to help persuade someone to actually buy the book. Now, poets are getting blurbs from even names which probably will be unrecognizeable to many (yes, Honey, your teacher may be known in your classroom but ...?) -- so who would care that Missy X thinks, to quote from one blurb, "[This book] is one of the most unsettling, timely, and technically marvelous new books I've read in a long, long time." But no one is really thinking to check this practice because (1) poetry doesn't sell much anyway and (2), to paraphrase that saying, The most famous poet is anonymous.

Another result of the above is that people don't bother to note, Conflict of Interest!, when authors blurb other poets who are published by the same publisher. Then again, I don't know why I bother nota bene-ing this when poets blurb folks they've slept with (not referring now to the books I'm reading but to other past incidents) .... Or maybe this is more honest: to wit -- if a poet blurbs another poet with whom s/he's had sex, is it likely that the lay was great? Now, what's the correlation between great sex and great writing? It's a reverse correlation, isn't it, when it comes to poetry....forgive Moi, I digress...

Actually, maybe there's another result of blurbs (whether or not such helps in selling a book). Someone once said that certain places don't review books that don't carry blurbs.

Does John Ashbery really hold the Guinness World Record for having provided the most blurbs? Coz lovely Denise Duhamel seems to have a shot at that record...!

One can tell if a blurber gave a close reading to a manuscript -- a give-away against a close reading is if the blurber uses the blurbing opportunity to fight one of the many tedious battles in the poetry world, e.g. something that starts, "If you think New Formalism is dead....." bla bla. If I never thought Formalism, old or new, is dead, does this mean I shouldn't continue reading the blurb? But a blurb that actually engages matters specifically in the book at least is respectable.

Many blurbers confuse "engages matters specifically in the book" with quoting excerpts.

I don't understand why many don't understand that the least effective blurbs are those that are offered by poets who *share community(ies)*. (Oh, I implicate moiself in this, too, but: think about it, will you!)

Still, most blurbers, I sense, are actually sincere in trying to be helpful and honest with their blurbs. I feel like I should praise these good-hearted people (and I do), but I also feel, um, pity and such sorta overwhelms the praise-gratitude I'd be inclined to give these people for trying to help out. Perhaps it's because the matter of blurbs is one of the many reasons that make me feel that poets need to have more pride than to allow themselves to abide by, instead of challenge, certain practices on how we're supposed to promote poetry.

I should get back to my BLURBED BOOK PROJECT....if only because THIS may be a false start to it. The adoption really upended this project, among others.

There's enough hot air in blurbs to create an alternative energy industry -- at least to power things like my son's holiday present of hand-made rockets. We set this one off recently at one of vineyards supplying the HIGHLY-RECOMMENDED!(I promise that "blurb" comes without prior sex even though their wines are great facilitators of such) Dutch Henry Winery:

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Friday, February 05, 2010


I've decided to blog selected thoughts while reading the books for this poetry competition that Moi is judging. I say "selected" because I don't wish to blog thoughts that reveal the identities of those who've chosen to submit books for the competition. So, Moi second public thought (the first being the prior post):

I think that (named) judges of poetry competitions should make available their (poetry) reading lists. For Moi, I do so intermittently through my "Relished W(h)ine" posts (if you want to know the poetry publications I read for 2009, check HERE). Any competition winner is really only as valid as the validity of the competition judge, isn't it? Well, I'm thinking a poet's reading list would reveal something about hir qualifications to judge a competition that notionally is open to all sorts of poetries (as long as the contestants paid the entry fees, that is).

So, for example, if a judge only read "nature poetry" (and, by implication, that would mean only wanted to read "nature poetry"), then it's highly unlikely that the competition's winner would be, say, a spoken word collection or an ekphrastic poetry collection based on Dutch paintings of tavern interiors.

Not to say that a reading list would show the all-encompassing portrait of a judge's aesthetic taste. Were I to be looking and assessing such a list, for instance, I'd want to at least see that there's indication that the judge is open to many poetries -- as open as many of these competitions are for purpose of taking manuscripts/books to which are attached competition entry fees.

And if a judge doesn't read much (contemporary) poetry, well, yes -- then I say that poet has no business judging a competition (I am thinking of certain poet-teachers I know who don't read much outside the works that they teach their classes, for instance. They can have legit reasons for not reading much, like book budgets and time constraints -- which is fine but don't even think of judging one of these national or international competitions which often don't limit the type of poetries that can be submitted for consideration). Anyway, I'ma jes sayin'...

Transparency -- let's take that word back from Washington, shall we?

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010


So I’ve just received the books that I need to read for judging a poetry contest. Unlike with many other competitions, I accepted the invitation to judge only if I read every single book that entered the contest (i.e. no prior screening between the poetry books and my loving eyes). I am busy, but never too busy for Poetry -- without which I wouldn't be the fabulous Moi that we all adore.

That said, I guess I'm surprised to see how so many of the submitted books have already won national competitions in order to get published. Yet now, the authors or publishers or publicists submit them to a new book contest for published books?

Somehow, it strikes me as a bit much (like, such a neediness for awards!) -- it seems to me, if you already won one prize and got published as a result (the most important reward, it seems to me, unless the prize money is at least seven figures…), why continue to submit to prize-contests? But, lookit, I’m just observing, not really being that critical -- I’m like Philip Lamantia in this fashion: I don’t judge how poets make money. And it’s undoubtedly true that prizes can bolster resumes and affect how some poets pay their rent…

No coincidence, I'm sure, that there's a high preponderance of academic presses in the mix...

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Hope you join Moi as I'LL BE WINGIN' IT AT

Flamenco Poetry (Pawainc Reading Series)
with Sandy McIntosh, Ed Lozada, Michelle Bautista and a flamenco guest artist
Sunday, 2:15 p.m., Feb. 21, 2010
AT: Bayanihan Community Center
1010 Mission St.
San Francisco

Boog City Bay Area Reading
with David Kirschenbaum and editors of publishers featured through his Boog City's "levy lives: celebrating the renegade press" Reading Series in NYC including Jill Stengel of a+bend, Albert Flynn Desilver of Owl Press and David Buuck of Tripwire.
AT: Books and Bookshelves
99 Sanchez St., San Francisco
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., March 17, 2010

Literature Panel @ Babaylan Conference
with Evelina Galang, Marie Therese Sulit, Aimee Suzara
AT: Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park
Saturday, 1:45-3:15, April 17, 2010

Book Launch for Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous at Babaylan Conference
with anthology contributors and editors including Leny Strobel
AT: Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park
Sunday, 1:00-2:00, April 18, 2010

"On Empire(s)" (Small Press Traffic Reading Series)
with Susan Gevirtz
1111 -- 8th Street, San Francisco
Friday, 7 p.m., May 7, 2010

Marsh Hawk Press Book Launch
with Philip Lopate, Sandy McIntosh and Neil de la Flor
Venue TBA (but you know Marsh Hawk serves the best reading appetizers complete, but of course, with wine...!)
New York City
May 13, 2010