PoetTreeTown!

Hello Michigan poet friends!

I’m very excited to be organizing the inaugural PoetTreeTown event for this upcoming April Poetry Month 2023.

What is PoetTreeTown? It’s a community-centered “poetry in public” celebration of Michigan-based poets, in which select poems will be printed and displayed in the local shop windows of downtown Ann Arbor businesses during the entire month of April! Participating businesses include Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor District Library, Downtown Home and Garden, 826michigan, Avalon International Breads, Third Mind Books, The Pretzel Bell, Blue Tractor, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, Bivouac Ann Arbor, Cherry Republic, TeaHaus, Vault of Midnight, Comet Coffee, Slurping Turtle Ann Arbor, FOUND gallery, Vinology Ann Arbor, Mindo Chocolate Makers, Ann Arbor Art Center, Bløm Meadworks, and more!

All folks based in Washtenaw County, Michigan are invited to submit an original poem for consideration. All ages welcome, no prior poetry experience required. I’m hoping we receive a range of submissions, from elementary school writers to debut adult poets to published Poet Laureates. Poetry is for everyone, of course!

Submissions are now open through February 15, 2023. I’ve included the form link here, which explains the submission guidelines:


And make sure to follow PoetTreeTown on Facebook for all the updates! https://www.facebook.com/PoetTreeTownA2/


I’d be so grateful if you could share this submission call with Michigan-based writers in your life. Questions can be sent to PoetTreeTownA2@gmail.com.

Thank you for helping us bring Poetry to the People!!!!

xx,
Cam

Let me sing to you now about how books turn me into other things

It’s always a bit staggering — to find oneself and the world arriving yet again at a December 31st. Here we are, on the precipice of hope, and yet, how easy it is to feel the loss of the year past — how we want to hold so much in ourselves at once.

It has become a tradition of mine to celebrate December 31st with a remembrance and appreciation for some books I encountered during the year, books that brought company, wisdom, linguistic splendor, and perspective — for in times of ever uncertainty, books are a stalwart, omnipresent friend. Throughout electric days, blue days, and the always-prowling fog, look — a book is here, waiting to sing to you as you hold each other close.

I want to acknowledge — there are dozens of books that are still stacked on my floor, yelping to be read. There are dozens (thousands?) of books I mightily wish I could have included in this year’s list, but alas I have not met them yet! For me, the prospect of meeting new books, new poetic or narrative friends, gives me great hope for the new year. So, with the fact that it is impossible to include every book that has made an impact on me, here is my annual sampling of a few books I would like to highlight: texts that were exquisitely staining and impactful to me in one way or another —  and have inevitably shattered and rearranged my glass body, my glass path … books that after reading, I will never be quite the same.

In 2022, I’ve been questioning everything lately. So it seems appropriate to question this project as well. Why do we make “end of the year” lists anyway? What is the purpose? Why uplift the books that we do and not others? Who does that serve? How do we make decisions for which books to include in our end of the year lists, and how influenced are we by the lists that others make and share?

I pose these questions to you, to consider and graze on your own.

Here’s how I approach these questions: Sometimes I think of books as bandaids, adhering to my body, healing me wherever I go.

Sometimes I think of books and their content as organic material invisibly floating through the air and collecting on my skin, in my bloodstream. These book particles are vital invigorators, as vital to life as yeast is to a sourdough starter.

In both scenarios, there’s something that sticks to me…for some scientific or spiritual or poetic reason beyond my knowing. It is up to me to pay attention to this adhesive phenomenon; to notice the words that beg to stay, the wisdoms that make a home in me.

Of course, there are some books that just enter into our lives, through trusted recommendation or by a life-changing sweep of the hand at the bookstore or library. There’s a fascinating tango of choice and serendipity that dictates which books we read in a year, the only kind of uncertainty and dare that my soul can bear to look forward to.

Perhaps most of all, my “end of the year” list is a memorial, a reverent bow towards my bethlehem which will forever always be a city made of books and language and the experimental living spirit.

So, on this pensive day of old and new, I give a fizzy thanks to those who write books, make books, bind books, share books, give books, read books, and love books! Happy New Year, and Happy Reading.

 

(in no particular order:)

Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad *

Manywhere: Stories by Morgan Thomas

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater *

My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga

There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness by M. Leona Godin *

feeld by Jos Charles

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi *

Call Me Athena: Girl From Detroit by Colby Cedar Smith *

How I Became a Tree by Sumana Roy

The Overstory by Richard Powers *

Moldy Strawberries: Stories by Caio Fernando Abreu, translated by Bruna Dantas Lobato

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit *

This Body I Wore by Diana Goetsch *

Autoportrait by Jesse Ball

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh*

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk *

The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade *

Everybody: A Book about Freedom by Olivia Laing

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi *

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong*

Read Dangerously by Azar Nafisi *

Voice of the Fish by Lars Horn

Plans for Sentences by Renee Gladman

* A star next to a book title means that I listened to and enjoyed the audiobook version, and you might enjoy it, too! (Hint: Did you know you can borrow audiobooks from your library system through the Libby app?)

** While there are select titles that I would have liked to include here from the publisher I work for, I have decided to not include any Atmosphere Press books in this particular end-of-the-year roundup.

International Translation Day!

Hello friends, and a very happy International Translation Day to you!

 

On this day (but really every day), we pause and celebrate what it means to be able to read a book or other text in translation or watch a film/show with subtitles or listen to a speaker with the assistance of an interpreter; how narrow our perspectives and understanding of the world would be without the gift of translators to somehow both expand and condense our world at once. I fear that translators don’t get nearly the amount of credit they deserve; yet their dedicated magicking brings brilliance originating from languages spoken near and far right there, into our homes, our book stacks, our ears, our brains. It is a gift. It is a gift!!

 

I believe translated texts and films are the closest thing we have to transportation portals, hurling us across time and space to discover linguistic, social, and cultural patterns from around the globe. The more I think about the wonder of this, the more awe I feel towards the act of translation itself.

 

So, thank you to all of the translators out there! Your work and passion and dedication to your craft, and the breadth of global human thought and innovation that you have made available to us, has made a great deal of difference in our lives and our world!
—–
Resources:
Sign up for a free weekly newsletter, “We Are All Translators”, brought to you by author and translator Jenny Bhatt
-Check out the latest translation news on World Literature Today and Words Without Borders

 

Where to Find Published Books of Translations (a few of my favorite presses) :

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Erin Stalcup

This is really just an elaborate love letter. Which I guess is my definition of ars poetica. And naming it autobiographical … I mean, it isn’t. But it’s the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever written, and I guess I want that label to reveal that.

I recently spoke with author Erin Stalcup about her newest novel, KEEN, performance, revolutions, gender, Tool, and more.You can read the full interview here at Heavy Feather Review.

I hope I’m not appropriating stories that aren’t mine. I am trying to imagine what it would be like to be someone other than myself. I’m always channeling the wisdom of my teacher and friend Robin Black who says no one can imagine her own life experiences that they haven’t had, but it’s worth it to try. I’m willing to be told I got it wrong.

Find out more about Erin Stalcup on erinstalcup.xyz. Erin’s book Keen (February 2022) is available from Gold Wake Press.

Anonymous Grocer 30/30!

Hello friend!
 
Welcome back to Anonymous Grocer, a 30-day audio adventure in backwards poetry. Each day: a new poem, a new collection of words in unfamiliar and spiraling patterns, a new audio message to ease you into your day.
 
It is so bittersweet to write this final Grocer gram, but I send you my greatest gratitude for coming along the journey with me, for listening, and for getting in the poetry spirit with me each day this month.
What a way to welcome spring, with the wisdom of Frank O’Hara, Lauren K. Alleyne, Joy Harjo, Sarah Howe, Christina Rossetti, Ai, CA Conrad, Rumi, Jihyun Yun, Ilya Kaminsky, Naomi Shihab Nye, Octavio Paz, Terrance Hayes, Jos Charles, Angelo Mao, Mary Oliver, Ocean Vuong, Lewis Carroll, Anne Carson, Sherwin Bitsui, Kazim Ali, Chika Sagawa, Kathy Jitñil-Kijiner, Czesław Miłosz, Renee Gladman, Emma Lazarus, Gertrude Stein, Oliver de la Paz, and Alice Oswald to provide us with beacons on even the foggiest of days.
 
For our last day, I’m shaking things up a bit. To honor each of the poems we’ve experienced this month, I’ve collaged one line from each featured poem to create a collective jubilee. It gives me such pleasure to witness the brushing of great poetic shoulders in one epic piece. Can you match which line belongs to which poet? (*Surprise, the audio is actually not read backwards this time…thought that would be too much of a shake-up!) 
If you ever need a backwards poetry pick-me-up, you can return to our adventures this April here on my writerly web corner: https://ccfinch.com/category/anonymous-grocer/. And of course, please feel free to share Anonymous Grocer with anyone in your world who might enjoy it.
 
I’m already looking forward to next April 🙂 
Peace and love and GO POETRY!
Cam

Anonymous Grocer 29/30: [Line broken … its over]

Hello friend!
 
Welcome back to Anonymous Grocer, a 30-day audio adventure in backwards poetry. Each day: a new poem, a new collection of words in unfamiliar and spiraling patterns, a new audio message to ease you into your day.
 
On our penultimate day of Poetry Month (sad!), we portal into the deliciously strange and bleak worlds of British poet Alice Oswald. Eet smakelijk! 
Discover more about this poet here.
Peace and love,
Cam

Anonymous Grocer 28/30: [Returned miraculously]

Hello friend!
 
Welcome back to Anonymous Grocer, a 30-day audio adventure in backwards poetry. Each day: a new poem, a new collection of words in unfamiliar and spiraling patterns, a new audio message to ease you into your day.
 
Today, we solve for X and other lifelong mysteries and queries with the poet Oliver de la Paz. His book, The Boy in the Labyrinth, brilliantly and empathically uses the Theseus-Minotaur myth as a metaphor for the difficulties and joys of parenting neurodiverse children.  
Discover more about this poet here.
Peace and love,
Cam

Anonymous Grocer 27/30: [Dash likely]

Hello friend!
 
Welcome back to Anonymous Grocer, a 30-day audio adventure in backwards poetry. Each day: a new poem, a new collection of words in unfamiliar and spiraling patterns, a new audio message to ease you into your day.
 
On Day 27, we poetize ourselves with a wee bit and tender of Gertrude Stein: prose poet, modernist, expat, lover of Alice B. Toklas, coiner of “the lost generation.” Stein’s poetry reminds me of a mixed-up Rubix cube — that is, all the more beautiful when filled with vibrant wildness and unexpected patterns.
Discover more about this poet here.
Peace and love,
Cam

Anonymous Grocer 26/30: [Door golden, the beside lamp]

Hello friend!
 
Welcome back to Anonymous Grocer, a 30-day audio adventure in backwards poetry. Each day: a new poem, a new collection of words in unfamiliar and spiraling patterns, a new audio message to ease you into your night. 
 
Well, folks — if you know me and you know that I have an affinity for a certain green giant, then you knew this day was a-coming. Tonight (because everyone needs a little night poetry now and then) celebrates Emma Lazarus, the Jewish-American poet who composed the instantly recognizable sonnet “The New Colossus,” to help fundraise money for the building of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal (one of the country’s original Kickstarters!) Lazarus was extremely active as an aid worker for Jewish refugees (fleeing anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia and Romania) at Wards Island, and her poem “The New Colossus” (1883) is said to have been inspired by the people she met on Wards Island and the stories of their lives. 
 
Discover more about this poet here.
Peace and love,
Cam

Anonymous Grocer 25/30: [Gone, something of half and loving]

Hello friend!
 
Welcome back to Anonymous Grocer, a 30-day audio adventure in backwards poetry. Each day: a new poem, a new collection of words in unfamiliar and spiraling patterns, a new audio message to ease you into your day. 
 
On Day 25, meet Renee Gladman, a poet-artist who is the creator of “Prose Architectures“: looping inky blueprints of imagined cities, all from squinted symbols and squeezed sentences beyond legibility, beyond comprehension. She writes her plans and dreams for her building blocks of language in short poetic lines. She’s literally creating a world out of words! Today’s backwardness are a few lines of Gladman’s “plans” for her drawing, “Fig. 14” (published in POETRY Magazine, March 2022). 
 
Discover more about this poet here.
Do you have requests for poems or poets you’d like to see featured in future Anonymous Grocer episodes? I’d love to hear from you! 
Peace and love,
Cam