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A Note from Emöke: Poetry

Although “April is the cruelest month,” we wholeheartedly celebrate POETRY at Malaprop’s. First, we congratulate Carolyn Forché for receiving Yale’s prestigious Windham-Campbell prize. It’s the first time the award has been given to a poet! Forché’s Against Forgetting
 is the book I would take to an island. It is that important.

Closer to home, we have events that strictly address the marriage of illustration and poetry. Charles Vess is the artist, and many of us poets were honored to be included in his Walking Through the Landscape of Faerie. It is a book that will be treasured by young and old for many years. His art is well known throughout the world, and we celebrate Charles Vess and are thankful he is amongst us. We will have fun for sure. If Rosemary Harris is in town, this book is also perfect for your  grandchildren, young and old. In Burnsville, Rosemary met Charles at the literary festival. Our event is taking place April 4th, so please come to enjoy it.

Two of my fellow booksellers pushed a book entitled Bull into my hand and insisted I would like it. To my great surprise,David Elliott’s work promises to entertain with laughter and appreciation of lessons in Greek mythology. I am sure it is for young adults and people connected to poetry and mythology. Yes, I know it is “a novel,” but you must check it out yourself.

Marjorie Agosín, Pauline Kaldas, Dominica Radulescu and I will celebrate our anthology of essays and poems in Home: An Imaginary Landscape. It is about women who had to leave their birth country, but not by their own choice. Marjorie Agosín is well-known for her novel I Lived on Butterfly Hill and the new bilingual collection of poems called Harbors of Light. I like reading her poems in two languages.

The Asheville Poetry Review brings us a Marylin Kallet’s four-liner…

I love you to stay drunk
on love,

Like Baudelaire and Arthur,
but breathing.

See you at the readings, and immerse yourself in something fabulous, like poetry.

Linda-Marie: Midlife Journeys
I’ve gone through a number of big transitions during the last few years, and find myself very drawn to memoirs by women dealing with profound change. When a writer combines beautiful writing with transformative self-examination, I’m hooked. This month I’ve enjoyed reading The Middlepause: On Life after Youth by Marina Benjamin, and Guesswork: A Reckoning with Loss by Martha Cooley. Both books are published by one of my favorite small presses, Catapult, which also published Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton.

In MiddlepauseMarina Benjamin grapples with life after a hysterectomy. Her menopause is immediate and life-disrupting. She turns to hormone replacement therapy, but not without qualms. She describes its creation and disingenuous marketing, which prompts a resolution to go off it when she’s more prepared to deal with symptoms again.
Benjamin notes, “Menopause is a very rare thing among living beings” as most creatures do not live long after they stop reproducing. Ponder the following fact, which struck me as fascinating and amusing: “Only three species of mammal (experience) the menopause...humans, orcas, and short-finned pilot whales.”
Benjamin also relates the often conflicting medical and anecdotal advice women receive on how best to navigate menopause, much of it invoking negative stereotypes. She looks elsewhere for answers, including in the life and writings of the French author, Colette. She includes this passage from Colette’s Break of Day, about a sensual woman in her fifties who prefers to live alone, “I haven’t taken too long to understand that an age comes for a woman, when, instead of clinging to beautiful feet that are impatient to roam the world, expressing herself in soothing words, boring tears and burning, ever-shorter sighs--an age comes when the only thing that is left for her is to enrich her own self.”

Guesswork’s main theme is loss. The author grieves the death of a number of friends over the past decade, and contemplates how her mother’s loss of sight complicated their relationship. Cooley and her Italian husband, both writers and translators, live part-time in an Italian village. She’s on sabbatical, or caesura, as she prefers to call it, “a deliberate interruption, a chance to reckon with divisions imposed by loss.”  Her observations drift from lovingly crafted details about her Italian neighbors, their homes, and the feral cats who become part of the family, to meditations on those people no longer in her life, memories of growing up, and fears for her ailing parents’ future.
Her descriptions shimmer like light upon a lake and are richly layered with seeking and struggle. In the following passage, Cooley muses as she walks uphill, “I’m hearing my mother’s voice in my head. Not words; just tones, the music of it. As if she’s singing me into courage and calm. Anxiety is time’s useless cloak, she’s singing. And death’s trying to strip me of it. I should in any case let it go. I stop walking, close my eyes and inhale. An image arrives of the floor in the cool, dim room where Bononi’s body was laid out for viewing. The marble so soft-looking, as though he and the rest of us could sink into it. The floor might’ve been a cloud that had drifted down our way, settling beneath our feet.”
Enjoy both of these quiet, deeply satisfying books for the delicacy and sensitivity with which the authors approach their midlife journeys, and the wordcraft they spin to describe them.
Originally a 1996 initiative of the American Academy of Poets, National Poetry Month has since become an international celebration of poetry and poets each April. Small towns, cities, and a variety of institutions and organizations offer public poetry readings in bookstores, libraries, schools, cafés, restaurants, theaters, parks, street corners, and other spaces.
One way to start a conversation with a stranger or someone you know is to carry a poem in your pocket and read it to those whom you encounter. On April 27, the date for Poem In Your Pocket Day in 2017, you can be in the company of people throughout the country who will be reading a favorite poem to anyone who will listen. You can also reach others with a poem on Twitter or by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.
At Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café, we celebrate poetry throughout the year, beginning with a well-stocked poetry section in our store. You’ll find the work of classic poets, prize-winning poets from the United States and abroad, Malaprop’s favorites, and an excellent selection of books and chapbooks by local and regional poets. Remember there’s poetry for very young readers, too; you’ll find it in beautifully illustrated books in our children’s section.
You are invited to our regular monthly poetry events and to some extra poetry events in April; all are free and open to the public. We offer Poetrio, with readings from their recent books by three different poets each month, always on the first Sunday of the month at 3:00 p.m. in the store. The Poetrio readings are followed by a book signing with all three poets, and we always have the featured Poetrio books in stock well before the day of the event. Watch for them on the top display shelf in our poetry section; they’ll be marked with Poetrio bookmarks. Poetrio is next scheduled for Sunday, April 2, 3:00 p.m., when we will host Rickey Laurentiis (Boy with Thorn), Lauren K. Alleyne (Difficult Fruit), and William Wright (Creeks of the Upper South).
There are also two opportunities each month to attend a Poetry on Request event at Malaprop's. Poetry on Request is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on the second Friday and the second Saturday of each month. You will find more information about each event on our website.
It might be because I’m still in my early 20s, but there’s something fascinating and wonderful to me about reading brilliant work by other people in their twenties. I think on some level it serves as a gentle reminder (or maybe a vain one) that being young doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do important things or make beautiful art. In this case, the feeling has been brought on by reading Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, a 28-year old Vietnamese-American poet whose work has received much-deserved attention lately.
I fell completely in love with his voice: he writes these visceral, vivid, and often quite heavy poems, generally in first person, but not always as himself. In one, his first-person “I” is so distant that he writes it as if he were Jackie O as she witnesses the death of her husband in the Dallas motorcade. In another, he writes a poem to himself, “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong.” It contains two of my favorite lines in the whole collection, ones I feel encapsulate his gorgeous, unique style: “The most beautiful part/of your body is wherever/your mother’s shadow falls,” and, “The most beautiful part of your body/is where it’s headed.” The lines don’t follow each other but actually are embedded about one-third and two-thirds of the way through. They also typify the way he repeats ideas and sentence patterns within poems and throughout the whole collection in a fluid way, which builds throughout the collection (like the motif of stars as exit-wounds in the sky).

As the son of two parents born around the time of the Vietnam War, and he himself born in Vietnam (though they immigrated to the U.S. when he was two), his stories and perspective are deeply relevant right now. Images and recollections of his mother and father permeate the whole collection, painting a fascinating portrait of two people born under the shadow of one of our most shameful wars—and this, too, probably explains his hearkening back to the sixties in some of his poems.
I could read this kind of poetry book over and over again, enjoying the amazing layering he creates throughout, and letting his beautiful imagery and language carry me away into a poetic paradise.
Dear Patty

Dear Patty,
After the latest bone-rattling cold snap here, I’m ready start my new projects. With all sort of plans for growth (literally), any that I’ve shared with those around me result in criticism. Even when I mention that my new garden plot was in the ground with string and stakes, someone said, “I hate using those,” and I felt a little deflated. What do you suggest when your ideas, big and small, get trampled as if cows have stomped on the tender, green sprouts of your dreams?
Growing in Green Mountain

Dear Growing,

Allow me to add to your gardening metaphor, with my own brand of mulch. Gardening depends upon the appropriate amount of fertilizer, and I often wonder if there’s a such thing as too much manure. Criticism of every little thing we enjoy, from favorite tea flavor to music genre, makes me want to duck and cover and yell, “Incoming!” Why must some people plop their poop on our pleasures, plans and Sex Pistols? I could offer all sorts of psychological answers here, but we must be strong in the face of the indiscriminate turd tossers. Those pellets really cannot hurt...just a flesh wound! Negativity is a bummer, and I hope you will incorporate as much of that compost into the soil. It will allow you to grow an amazing garden reflective of what you love. Caveat: According to gardening experts, beware of overuse of poo. It can ruin a garden, too. (Shout out to National Poetry Month.) There are folks whose default position is criticism, so sparingly share your joys, big and small, in their presence. Only you know the condition of your garden; tend it with care. A parting question: What are we contributing to other people’s “gardens”? Consider this gentle reminder in book form: Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi.
Featured April Events
Tuesday, Apr 4 at 7 pm
Emöke + Charles Vess present Walking Through the Landscape of Faerie
Saturday, Apr 8 at 7 pm
Gay Romance Night!
Tuesday, Apr 11 at 7pm
Elizabeth Kostova launches The Shadow Land (offisite event at UNCA)
Wednesday, Apr 19 at 7 pm
Taylor Brown & Robert Morgan present The River of Kings and Chasing the North Star
Sun, Apr 30 at 2 pm
Serafina Book 3 Sneak Preview Party! with Robert Beatty

See Full Calendar 

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Malaprops Bookstore/Café  •  55 Haywood Street  •  Asheville, NC 28801

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