acrylic painting, Artists Galleries de Juneau, Beach Music, Chris Shook, Foothills Publishing, Geraldine Brooks, Japonism, Little Art Talks, Making a Mark blog, Mary Cassatt, Michael Czarnecki, oil pastel, Psalms, Sabotage Reviews, spontaneous poems, Studies in Biblical Poetry, swing dance, The Secret Chord, Twenty Days on Route 20, wild voices come when they will
For those new to the BoneSpark scene, the “Odd Bits” posts are meant to be glimpses of art/prose/poetry works-in-progress as well as tinder from things that strike my creative fancy: be it cereal boxes or books. So, like Forest says, you never know what you’re gonna get.
Everything is set for the Arts Evening on April 2. Trolleys will shutter patrons around the historic Olde Towne Arts District. My work is being hosted by Hair-Port on Robert Street. Contact City of Slidell for maps and parking details.
Started a new oil pastel series in the studio. Here’s two of the gals from that series:
On the acrylic side, I have begun a large canvas based on a montage of 1940’s swing dance photos. This is the start of a whole suite of swing dance scenes.
This past Wednesday, I attended a poetry reading at the Artists’ Galleries de Juneau, another Olde Towne small business. Poet Michael Czarnecki (who also founded and runs FootHills Publishing) read from several of his collections. I was especially intrigued by his book Twenty Days on Route 20, which is reminiscent of Kerouac and is being developed into a screenplay by a young woman whose name I did not quite catch. I took home a hand-stitched copy of Twenty Days and was gifted his most recent collection wild voices come when they will, which is a compilation of selections from his daily poetry practice. Check out his websites for both daily photos and poems. And stay tuned (here on the blog) for a short interview and a full review of the collections at Sabotage Reviews.
Czarnecki’s Asian-influenced poems led me to contemplate the Japanese influence on my beloved Mary Cassatt, Van Gogh, Monet and other Impressionists. The Making a Mark Blog has a great roundup of resources on both the fuller history of Japanese art and Japonism.
Little Art Talks also has some fab videos on both subjects free on Youtube.
I’m pouring through Robert Henri’s little gem, The Art Spirit. Here are a few choice passages on beauty, art and the bonds it creates:
When the artist is alive in a any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature…He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding. Whereas those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it, shows there are still more pages possible.The world would stagnate without him, and the world would be beautiful with him.
A work of art which inspires us comes from no quibbling or uncertain man. It is the manifest of a very positive nature in great enjoyment, and at the very moment the work was done.
It is not enough to have thought great things before doing the work. The brush stroke at the moment of contact carries inevitably the state of being of the artist at that exact moment into the work, and there it is, to be seen and read and by those who can read such signs, and to be read later by the artist himself, with perhaps some surprise as a revelation of himself … He who has contemplated has met with himself, is in a state to see the realities beyond the surfaces of his subject. …Through art mysterious bonds of understanding and of knowledge are established among men.
In other passages, he talks about “a song within us” evoked by beauty and the deep desire within every soul “to express..this song from within, which motivates the master of all art.”
Such a song motivated Israel’s King David and drew him back to the author of beauty (Psalm 27: 4) I have been drawn to this author lately as well, slowly absorbing Chris Shook’s Beauty Begins and Geraldine Brooks The Secret Chord, as well as Charles Swindoll’s David:A Man of Passion and Destiny.
For those who haven’t already read it, poet Robert Pinsky’s The Life of David is also a good read.
And for those who would like to go deeper into the Psalms, download my free e-book Studies in Biblical Poetry. [The link is at the end of that blog post.]
Alice James Books, Black Lawrence, BOA Editions, Carcanet Press, Curbside Splendor, Dancing Girl Press, Dialogos, Donut Press, Floating Bridge Press, Great Indian Poetry Collective, Lost Horse Press, LSU Press, Milkweed, NYQBooks, Omnidawn, Penned in the Margins, Persea Books, Red Hen Press, Sabotage Reviews, Santa Fe Writers Project, The Emma Press, What Books Press, Yellow Flag Press
2014 Poetry Collections, a note passed to superman, A Whole New World, Ahsahta Press, Aladdin, Alaska, Alice James Books, Anne Ferry, Apiology with Stigma, Bad NDN, Black Ocean, Carrie Olivia Adams, Claudia Emerson, Clay Matthews, Commonplace Invasions, contraband of hoopoe, Copper Canyon, Dan Vera, Dancing Girl Press, Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower, Ewa Chrusciel, Figure Studies, Forty One Jane Doe's, Graywolf Press, Hanging Loose Press, Happenstance, Helena Nelson, holiday gift giving guide, HOT TOPIC, How a Poem Happens, Jo Pitkin, Julie Funderburk, Kelly Andrews, Lavender Ink/Dialogos, Letras Latinas, Look Like You know Your Shit, Louisiana small press, LSU Press, Mad Honey Symposium, Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, Mule-Skinner, NOLA poetry, Omnidawn, Plot and CounterPlot, Poem for Plutocrats, poetheads, Rachel Piercey, Red Hen, Rivers Wanted, Sabotage Reviews, Sally Wen Mao, Salmon Poetry, Sarah Lindsay, Scandlous, sexy christmas elf, Sherman Alexie, southern lit, Southern Messenger Poets, Speaking Wiri Wiri, Split This Rock, Starlight on Water, Steven Scafidi, supernatural, The Cabinetmaker's Window, The Emma Press, The Leviathan of Parsonstown, The Light That Shines Inside Us, The Overhaul, The Title of the Poem, Thoughts to Fold Into Birds, To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire, Unicorn Press, What I've Stolen What I've Earned, women poets
Yes, it is that time of year again, friends….the time of ‘best of’ lists and holiday buying hives. Ok, maybe that’s not you, but you really, really want to impress that super hot poet that lives down the hall or maybe deigns to talk to you in the Starbucks line you happen to keep timing just right so as to consistently run into him/her.
Or maybe, you are married to one of these poethead monsters. Or gasp! You are one of those word-flingers.
Sexy-Christmas-Elf-me can practically guarantee to get you a good snog under the mistletoe, if you will wrap up a few of these (mostly) 2014 collections.
From AHSAHTA PRESS
This is actually a Spring 2013 release that made it into my basket early this year, but boy am I glad that it did. Combining a print book with a DVD of short films, this combo from Carrie Olivia Adams (better known as poetry editor for Black Ocean) is definitely a keeper.
Love this tagline: “A woman knows her body . . . until it is exploded into a multitude of Janes.”
from ALICE JAMES
I Know! Your eyes are totally blown out of your head.
Moving on to 2 Titles from COPPER CANYON
Sarah Lindsay delves into skeleton-eating worms, sweet potato and squid with brief jaunts to Iraq
Sun-Bear also from Copper Canyon
Matthew Zapruder‘s 4th collection, another zinger from one of Cali’s hottest poets
Check out “Poem for Plutocrats”
and don’t forget my go-to press DANCING GIRL bringing us…
Read a sample poem at the purchase link above.
And from (The) EMMA PRESS, one of the cooolest small presses in the UK…
Rachel Piercey’s 2nd pub with EP, but her first full-length pamphlet, bringing every bit of her gobsmacking wit and charm to a head.
Check out the great write-up from Sabotage Reviews here.
from GRAYWOLF PRESS
Ok, a bit of a cheat. This is forthcoming Feb. 2015, but I just love the Scottish hell out of Kathleen Jamie and couldn’t help but put this up even without a pre-order button. Why is there no pre-order button?
Oh well, buy this as soon as it’s out.
then there is this ball-buster from HANGING LOOSE PRESS
Sherman Alexie is hands-down the baddest NDN around with multi-genre superpowers, and I basically want to be him when I grow up, only better-looking in a dress, which should be red with imitation feathers.
from HAPPENSTANCE (another small press from across the pond)
These pamphlets are actually from 2003 and 2010, but I’ve only just discovered Helena Nelson through performance circles, so bear with me.
Both of these babies rock the cover art and feature marvellous poems.
from LAVENDER INK/DIALOGOS
Marguerite Guzman Bouvard‘s poems so good they should have their own shrine. And I am I totally not just saying that because this is like my favorite NOLA based press. Who Dat, Y’all!!from LSU PRESS (Purple and Gold, Baby)
Read “To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire” at How a Poem Happens and see. See!
Now buy the book and
also snap up
which pairs really well with Forty-One Jane Doe’s from above [top of the list]then again, you can’t really go wrong with most of the Southern Messenger Poets series
same goes for Ewa Chrusciel, whose latest from OMNIDAWN
contraband of hoopoe has just the right mix of art and ritual to make you want to do research and never stop traveling even if it’s all just in your mind
well, that doesn’t really do her justice. just pick up the book and work your way into her genius.
RED HEN also has a stunner with its 2013 Winner of the inaugural Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize
is good, good, good stuff
Hear him read here. Funny, charming. Brave experimenter with language.
[Dude, I know it was on Split This Rock’s recommended list from last year, but I just got it…so now I’m telling you it’s good. LOL]
from SALMON POETRY
Jo Pitkin, is a must-have. She has been accused of “bewitching” her readers, but in the best possible way. 🙂
Everything out of Salmon Poetry is top-notch.
and from UNICORN PRESS
“grounded in the coastal carolina’s wind, sun, and sea”
ahhhhhhhhhhhh. small press goodness from NC.
Also, you’ll look really, really smart if you buy and then read….
Seriously, though, this will open up a whole new world. Trust me!!!!
#ReadWomen2014, Andrew Wynn Owen, C.A. LaRue, craft essay, Crooked Roads, Formal Verse, formalism, ghazal, Mezzo Cammin, new formalism, poetry movements, Rambling Rose Kelleher, Raspberries for the Ferry, received form, Sabotage Reviews, sestina, silk-ribbon bondage of the sonnet, sonnet, The Emma Press, The Review Review, Unsplendid, Venues for Formal Poetry, villanelle, Women and Form, women poets
Skip on over to Sabotage Reviews (UK) where I recently analyzed the young Andrew Wynn Owen’s little gem Raspberries for the Ferry from The Emma Press.
And then pour through the resources, archives and stellar latest issue at Mezzo Cammin, an online journal devoted to formal poetry by women. I mentioned it briefly in speaking about the also gorgeous online formalist mag Unsplendid for The Review Review back in 2013.
Finally, if you’re a poet writing in received forms yourself (sestina, ghazal, villanelle, sonnet, etc…), use (Rambling) Rose Kelleher‘s handy-dandy VENUES FOR FORMAL POETRY submission guide. (Send updates to the email on her blog.)
Rose also has an interesting essay up from A.E. Stallings called “Crooked Roads Without Improvement:Some Thoughts on Formal Verse” which features insights such as this little zinger…
For me, however, to rule out meter or rhyme as tools available to the poet is far more limiting than the playful, silk-ribbon bondage of the sonnet.
Enticing. Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to see someone come up with a further reading list and/or a list of recommended formalist collections.
31 Days of Halloween, Abyss&Apex, Ada Hoffman, Alex Carrigan, All My Love to the Monster Devouring Me, Amazing Stories, At That Age When We Girls Become Fairies, Betwixt, Brooke Wonders, Carol Holland March, Carolee Sherwood, Clarkesworld, creepy poetry, David Kopaska Merkel, Day of the Dead, Devilfish Review, E. Kirstin Anderson, Edgar A. Poe, Eleonara, Erik Amundsen, Fish Boy Hits the Teen Years, Ghostweight, Goblin Fruit, Gorgon Girls, Graveyard Rock, halloween, Hand Me Down Halloween, Harvey's Dream, Headmistress Press, Helen Kitson, Henry Wouk Is Still Alive, Here Be Toothsome Wolves, Hilary Joubert, Inkscrawl, Judith Barrington, Kelly Link, Lilla Ashley, Liz Henry, Liz Kay, Luna Station Quarterly, Made of Lines blog, Maria Dahvana Headley, Menacing Hedge, Michael J. DeLuca, Mother Frankenstein, Natalie Diaz, NightBlade, Nightmare Magazine, Pat Cadigan, Poetry Society of America, Quail Bell Magazine, Real Witches Don't Wear Hats, Rose Red Review, Sabotage Reviews, Saira Ali, Samhain, Sestina at the Maldron Hotel Ireland, Shannon Hozinac, Small Beer Press, Soul Harvest, Stephen King, Stone Telling, Taxidermist in the Underworld, The Axe-Eaters, The Faery Handbag, The Gingerbread Dress, The Girl Who Couldn't Fly, The Golden Key, The Mermaid at SeaWorld, The Stone Horse of Flores, The Witch Has a Purpose, Unfair Exchange, Wake Up Poetry, When the Wife Brings Love Back From the Dead, Witch's Primer, Women Destroy Horror, Yoon Ha Lee
Or perhaps you are atop a broomstick or pumpkin. Wherever you find yourself this Halloween, don’t let the hour arrive without first indulging in some of these SPOOKTACULAR finds:
STORIESD. Long’s (Lushly illustrated) version of E.A. Poe’s Eleonara—from Amazing Stories Here Be Toothsome Wolves
Brooke Wonders—at Rose Red Review Henry Wouk Is Still Alive
Stephen King—at The Atlantic Harvey’s Dream
Stephen King—at The New Yorker The Faery Handbag
Kelly Link–at Small Beer Press Ghostweight Yoon Ha Lee–at Clarkesworld Taxidermist in the Underworld
Maria Dahvana Headley–at Clarkeworld
Unfair Exchange by Pat Cadigan–at Nightmare Magazine: Women Destroy Horror! Special Issue
A Sweeter Water, All Night It is Morning, Andy Young, Bill Lavender, Chris Sullivan, Ever, Laura Madeline Wiseman, Lavender Ink/Dialogos, Levertov, Louisiana literary magazines, Mardi Gras, Marthe Reed, megan burns, N.O. Lit 200 Years, Nancy Dixon, New Orleans Literature, New Orleans small press, Peter Thompson, poetry trends, post-Katrina, Ralph Adamo, Sabotage Reviews, Sara Henning, small press poetry, small press Q&A, Some Fatal Effects, Sound and Basin
In true New Orleans style, whenever I ask the good folks at Lavender Ink/Diálogos for review copies of new titles, I always get a little lagniappe thrown into the box. And somehow I always love everything that they send me. It’s as if they have some sort of mind reading powers. Or maybe it’s just the common roots.
Either way, you’ll find me gushing about their titles: here or in the upcoming roundup for Sabotage Reviews. But before we get into all the goodness that exudes from the press, let’s get to know some of the faces behind it.
This week I spoke with Founding Editor Bill Lavender (pictured here with his Mardi Gras face) about choosing manuscripts, his vision for the press and of course current trends in poetry. Hope you enjoy!
What mishmash of fictional, historical or pop culture characters best describes the press?
Imagine that Emily Dickinson (looking cynical and uncomfortable), Ted Berrigan, Nikki Minaj, Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht and Jacques Lacan were sitting at a table reading manuscripts and drinking. At a certain point they all pass out. Then I come in and clean up, forging their signatures to the stuff I like.
Who are your literary superstars, mentors and heroes?
They are both too numerous and too few to mention. When I was younger I went through brief periods of romantic attachment to the Romantics (mainly Coleridge), feelings of Marxist historical burgeoning for the German Expressionists (like Brecht), drug-crazed word burnout on Rimbaud, prosey oceans of Joyce, meta-enchantment with John Barthes and Paul Auster, swung both ways on the Derrida/Lacan argument, heard the dumb thrumming of language in Zukofsky and its watery mirror in Lorrine Niedecker, feel into Jack Spicer’s trance, drummed with the Beats, and rejected it all as being too precious. One thing I have always hated: the contemporary United States poetic establishment: the “big names” in po-biz, AWP, MFA programs (even though I taught in one, for a time), “Best American Poetry 20xx” (an embarrassment, if it were true), I could name names but I’m too discreet—and I mean I ALWAYS hated this crap. I didn’t come to hate it after loving it for a minute in misspent youth. I came into poetry because it offered an ESCAPE from John Ciardi (just to name one who was famous when I was cutting my teeth—actually I don’t remember them; I paid no attention.) I did have the great privilege of growing up poetically in the same environs as Frank Stanford and C.D. Wright—I remember C.D. turning me on to some French poets I didn’t know, this was back in about 1973 or 4. Frank didn’t like my work (it didn’t deserve to be liked), but I learned tons from the Battlefied…. It was like finding a French surrealist in my hometown.
How was the idea for the press born in you, and what is your vision for its future? Proud milestones? Recent successes?
Now that I have basically retired—perhaps not from money-grubbing but at least from doing it in soul-killing bureaucracies like universities— I’m putting a lot of time, energy, and money into the press, even to the detriment of my own writing, so I seem to be determined to accomplish something. In some ways my press adventures are all experiments: I want to see what happens if I disseminate a certain work in a certain way. I’m intrigued by the notion of financial success, but so far that is entirely theoretical.
Tell me about the process of choosing manuscripts. Who do you most want to see published? Any collections you wish had come out of your press?
I have several people, sort of an informal board, most of them authors published by us, that I regularly ask for advice. Peter Thompson, at Roger Williams University, has been my partner in Diálogos from the beginning, and I always confer with him on matters of translation. In the end, though, all the decisions come back to me.
And lately, I should add, my publication decisions have come to depend more and more on concrete matters at hand… that is, isn’t ONLY that I feel the work SHOULD be published (for in truth, anyone can publish anything now; that old sacred goal of PUBLISHING really doesn’t exist any more) but HOW it should be published, where it should be pushed, encouraged, what sorts of conversations and interactions it might produce. For a long time I eschewed the humble form of the pre-pub blurb, but lately I’ve come to see that the pre-publication discourse, of which the blurbs can be the locus, can be as important as any other segment of the book’s arc.
What brought about the 2012 expansion from exclusively poetry into fiction and other genres?
This question is more troubling and troubled than its brevity would portend. It actually has many answers, one being that I have begun writing fiction (novel) myself (get the ebook), but that practice, too rises out of a growing… disillusion is the wrong word; there is still a lot of poetry that interests and satisfies me… let’s say a growing sense that poetry is no longer expanding, that it is no longer implanting itself at the true center of the culture and fomenting rebellion there. That it is, in short, fizzling. I know a lot of people will protest this vociferously, and it may actually be that part of the problem is their sheer number. It may be the fact that we have now sanctioned “National Poetry Month”…. Such efforts culminate in a Disneyworld of poetry; wax (well, PVC) effigies of social responsibility. Where prose right now, with its complete and entirely unnostalgic commodification, actually presents an opportunity for subversion; cracks in the editorial edifice open up because the editors ARE accountants and have no idea what they’re reading.
In the aftermath of Katrina, much of coastal Louisiana has eroded. Do you feel that same sort of erosion is true for its culture? Was the publication of the 200 yrs of N.O. Lit title important to its preservation? And is the current literary scene still thriving or on its deathbed?
Well, I certainly don’t think it’s on its deathbed. There is so much happening in New Orleans right now it’s hard to keep track of. One of the reasons we cut off N.O. Lit pre-Katrina was that there is so much contemporary material that the book would have doubled its already substantial size. The real impetus for Dr. Nancy Dixon’s N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature was a teacher’s desire to see a sampling of the very rich, disparate, multi-lingual field of the city’s literature collected into a single volume to use as a teaching tool. It’s astonishing, really, that no one ever attempted such a collection before.
Talk to me about your relationship with the city of New Orleans and the Louisiana connections of (most of) your authors.
I’m not an unreserved fan of New Orleans and its cultural output (I thought Treme, for example, was awful—an embarrassment.) And lately in the poetry community there has been some talk about our unsung past, about how the Beat movement had more roots here than we are given credit for, etc. Such chest beating bores me. What doesn’t bore me are the actual poets and writers at work here with little or no recognition. I could name names: Joel Dailey, Megan Burns, Chris Sullivan… but this list is simply the Lavender Ink catalog.
Who are some of the other faces behind the press?
Well, my wife and constant inspiration, Nancy Dixon, is second in command. She reads in her field and I never design a cover without consulting her. Peter Thompson at Roger Williams U. is a great friend and consultant on matters of translation and on Diálogos titles in general. I have called on almost every author in my list, at one time or another, to help out with editorial duties, from manuscript recommendations to copy editing to fact checking, etc. And they are all great and generous partners in the endeavor. In the end, though, I’m too cantankerous and autocratic for most people to work with, so it pretty much ends up being my baby.
How does Dialogos (an imprint) fit into the larger press? Is the cross-cultural focus an outgrowth of New Orleans’ history as a port city?
No. It comes from my earliest experiences with poetry that excited and moved me, which was always poetry in translation. There was a real flowering of translation as its own art form when I was cutting my teeth in the 60s, and I was disappointed to see a waning of interest in literature in translation in later decades. I think there was brief flowering of internationalism back then that coincided with the country’s general swing to the left. That, of course, is gone now and we have sunk back into (the normal human condition of) paranoid xenophobia. Now I enjoy being an irritant, at least as much as I am able…
Current trends (in poetry or fiction) that frighten you? Those that excite you?
Certain things do frighten me, but they aren’t the things you’d think. It doesn’t worry me that “no one reads poetry any more.” No one ever read poetry. Nor does it bother me that fiction lives at the whim of capitalism. The novel was born in Grub Street and was never meant to be anything but a means for hustlers like Defoe to add a few pounds to their income. What worries me is precisely the opposite of these… Maybe too many people read poetry now; maybe we are actually developing an inflated idea of poetry’s potential and importance. Poetry doesn’t make revolutions. Poetry—fine poetry that describes in great detail our innermost feelings and defines in certain terms the parameters of our identity—can exist in the most egregious police state and be written by the most ruthless bureaucrats. Didn’t Mussolini write haikus? There might be such a thing as poetry that can change the world, inspire rebellion, bring out the knowledge we didn’t know we had—but most of us just want to run when we encounter it.
Amy Watkins, Bar Coasters, broadsides, Cajun Country, chapbooks, Chorus Frog, Copper Canyon, creole poets, Darrel Bourque, Down the Bayou, Erica McCreedy, Generalizations about Spines, Gravity, halloween, if you abandon me, J. Bruce Fuller, Katy E. Ellis, Lafayette, Lauren Gordon, limited box set, Lisa M. Cole, Louisiana culture, Louisiana Purchase, Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry, Louisiana small press, McNeese, Milk & Water, post-Katrina, Red Winters, Sabotage Reviews, small press poetry, submissions, The Love Machine, women poets
Undoubtedly one of the best kept secrets in Cajun Country, Yellow Flag Press is the poetry world’s little engine that could. Steadily climbing the literary heights with such ringers as Darrel Bourque, the new (appointed by me) Emperor of Creole-dom and former Louisiana Poet Laureate and the very highly praised Amy Watkins, YFP is quickly becoming one the small press darlings to know.
I was lucky enough to obtain two of their titles recently (including the latest from Bourque) for a second Louisiana poetry roundup that will run later this month at Sabotage Reviews (UK).
Besides graciously providing these gorgeous, handmade gems, Editor J. Bruce Fuller also shared his thoughts on everything from current poetry trends to his literary heroes.
And in the the spirit of Halloween, I may have asked, “What Frankenstein-y mishmash of fictional, historical or pop culture characters best represents Yellow Flag?”
And he may have said something about drag. But I’ll let you dig into that for yourself.
Ok, people, settle your crawdads; here’s what you want……
Q&A with J. Bruce Fuller of Yellow Flag Press
How was Yellow Flag born and why is the limited-run chapbook/broadside so necessary?
Yellow Flag Press was founded in 2008 while I was working on my MFA at McNeese. I had been making chapbooks and broadsides for a few years prior just as a hobby, but had not really been active for a while. Some of my fellow grad students suggested that we start a press and since I had some experience I was recruited. The press has grown and thrived over the years, but we started small and took it slow.
We make limited run chaps and broadsides for a couple of reasons. First, it is the format I am most interested in, I think because they are artistic and collectable. All of our releases (except for one anthology) are hand-made. We touch every part of the books. That adds an element of care. The second reason is historical. Chapbooks go back hundreds of years, and are an economical way of disseminating art or information. These types of releases are necessary because poetry has such a small foothold in the publishing industry that we must find ways to be seen and heard.
Thinking about your poets, give us a word collage of the demographic highlights, backgrounds and styles.
While we have a good mix of poets, we value prosody, image, metaphorical language, down-home speech, rural over urban, heartfelt over sentimental, themed collections. We value risk but not experimentation for the sake of it. We publish out of the box collections that may not fit in other markets, as well as collections that could fit anywhere.
What is the literary scene like in Lafayette? Does it feel isolated or connected to that of New Orleans? Is it a hub for the Cajun culture or otherwise?
Lafayette is a close-knit community of poets and writers. I have felt welcomed and supported since I came here almost four years ago. I lived in New Orleans before I made poetry my career choice, so I don’t have much experience to compare the two. Lafayette is definitely the hub of all Cajun culture; that is an added bonus to the poetry scene.
And speaking of Cajun country, is living there what inspired the press’ Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry (La Série de Louisiane de Poésie des Acadiens et Créoles) or was it the magnetic personality of Darrell Bourque? [Man! Darrell Bourque. I am totally in love with his chap if you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook. How’d you hook up with him?]
Darrell is one of the most accomplished Cajun writers, and to me, probably the most important Cajun poet. Darrell and I met when he did a reading at McNeese my second year, and he has been a mentor to me ever since.
I had been thinking for a while of doing a series highlighting Cajun and Creole poets. As a Creole poet myself I knew I could help bring some attention to the many great Franco-American poets out there. I mentioned the idea to Darrell and he agreed. I knew I wanted him to be the first book in the series. What he delivered (if you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook) blew us away, and ended up being more successful than we could have hoped.
The scientists among us are saying that post-Katrina, the Louisiana landmass has been greatly eroded. Do you feel that it’s the same for the culture? Are we still going strong or faltering?
I think the culture has risen to the challenge of Katrina and Rita, as well as the BP oil spill. I think we entrenched and became more proud of who we are. We face a great challenge because when the sea levels rise we will be the first to lose our homeland. We may become the first great displaced culture in America due to climate change. For Louisianans, it is already on our doorstep.
What has been your greatest surprise about publishing (from both sides of the desk)? And who are your literary superstars, mentors and heroes?
The biggest surprise is how many great books I have to reject because we can’t publish them all. I have to follow my gut, and my aesthetic, and make the best choices I can under the circumstances. It has given me a greater respect for the editors who have rejected me. Rejection is not always and indictment on your writing. Publishing really is a crapshoot.
As far as heroes, there are too many to list. If I could pick a press I’d most like Yellow Flag to emulate, it would have to be Copper Canyon. That’s our role model press in a lot of ways.
What do you wish more people knew about Yellow Flag?
That we are a two person operation. That we work out of one room. That we publish poetry only, and always will.
Current poetry trends (local or nationally) that frighten you? Those that excite you?
We see a lot of poems that are lacking in prosody. Poetry is an art form; what it says is important, but saying something important is only half the work of a poem.
It is exciting to see so many poems from previously unheard segments of the population. Variety is important, and America has enough of it to remain important for centuries to come.
What can we expect from the press in the coming year and what from you personally? I know a Ph.D is on the horizon. What next?
I will finish my PhD this year, and then it is on to the next place, wherever that may be. The press will continue no matter where I go, and I am sure we will find a way to keep our Louisiana roots.
We have three new books that will be out early next year: Lauren Gordon’s Generalizations about Spines, Lisa M. Cole’s The Love Machine, and Katy E. Ellis’ Gravity. We will be reprinting a few titles that are out of print, including Erica McCreedy’s Red Winters. There will also be a new book out next year in The Louisiana Series. Always busy.
And in the spirit of Halloween, what Frankenstein-y mishmash of fictional, historical or pop culture characters best represents Yellow Flag?
Walt Whitman dressed in drag, two-steppin’ at a fais-do-do. That’s what’s up.
[Somebody make me GIF already!]
*If you want more of Yellow Flag, they are offering a limited-time boxed set that includes: 11 chaps, the Vision/Verse Anthology and a signed broadside by Amy Fleury. Just in time for Christmas, yippie. Get yours!