Monday, January 31, 2011

rave: Carolyn Smart & Jan Conn

While I meant to blog about each of these poetry books months ago, today’s timing is perfect. That’s because in just a few days, AWP goers can stop by to see Brick Books (Table C-7, Hall B North) in the book fair to pick up copies—and this is something I highly recommend. In the spring issue of Poets’ Quarterly, I’ll have full reviews for both of these, but I simply have to suggest you seek them out at AWP this week, too.

Carolyn Smart’s Hooked leads the reader through seven sequential poems about seven women: Myra Hindley, Unity Mitford, Zelda Fitzgerald, Dora Carrington, Carson McCullers, Jane Bowles, and Elizabeth Smart. Part persona, part dreamy perspective—past and present—these poems take you into a world, into someone else’s skin, and into herstory like only Smart can.

“Written on the Flesh” is the first of seven, beginning with this detail and epigraph:

Myra Hindley: July 23, 1942—November 15, 2002
Mass murder is a novel written on the flesh
— Ian Brady: 1938 –
From “Written on the Flesh”…

as a girl I 
used to write a lot of stories
laughed and sang
made up jokes
was bad at needlework
couldn’t bear domestic science

loved the mouth organ
played it for Maureen
mums liked me
I was a good babysitter

was a catholic, took communion
after that boy drowned I cried
and prayed and prayed

God is a disease, a plague, a weight ‘round a man’s neck
said de Sade
oh, God, yes
said David, who was there, 
while his wife Maureen sat home with Mum

what’s all the noise about
Gran asked
it’s just the dogs I said

The details:
Hooked by Carolyn Smart
120 pages
ISBN 9781894078696
News & reviews at Brick Books
Buy at amazon
Buy at AWP Bookfair: Table C-7, Hall B North


Jan Conn’s Botero's Beautiful Horses is a sensual blend of dream and fantasy, with a hint of inspiration from Remedios Varo’s surrealistic paintings. This is a meaty collection where animals and humans blur lines as does wake and sleep, dream and reality. With a sense of loss and longing, power despite despair, Conn’s collection is both confrontational in its inquest yet comforting in its baring of the soul. 

“The Event”

Here comes white death, the sky
       the barked dog
       thicker and richer and redder.

The event,
the golden syrup of it,
melancholy beauty, she’s 
       giving it all up: fan
       focus, brocade gown.

You could be my antitype, my other
other, genesis of ringed
things, foolhardy gumshoe
       locked in a cupboard.
       Strange embrace. 

Zebra hidden in a striped zoo,
let your thoughts go
loose and slack.
       Make a run for it
       before the light stumbles.

The details:
Botero's Beautiful Horses by Jan Conn
144 pages
ISBN 9781894078719
News & reviews at Brick Books
Buy at amazon
Buy at AWP Bookfair: Table C-7, Hall B North


Remember to visit Brick Books during AWP in the Bookfair at Table C-7, Hall B North. Also, check back for links to full reviews for each of these titles in the spring issue of Poets’ Quarterly.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

rave: Home By Now by Meg Kearney

This is so long overdue, as I have been meaning to share and encourage you to pick up a copy of Meg Kearney’s Home By Now (Four Way Books, 2009) for a long, long time. Belated or not, this is still a book I highly recommend for its cleverness, insightfulness, and pure joy of language.

Without a doubt, Kearney’s collection has earned–well deserved I might add–incredible praise and laughter for her metaphorical poem “First Blow Job.” I had the pleasure of hearing the poet read at a recent event and hearing the matter-of-factness in her voice sealed the sweetness of this humorous perspective for me. Here’s a quick taste (no pun intended):

Suddenly I knew what it was to be my uncle’s Labrador retriever,
young pup paddling furiously back across the pond with the prized
duck in her mouth, doing the best she could to keep her nose in the air

so she could breathe. She was learning not to bite … 

I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t yet read the full poem, but you must believe the metaphor plays out so magically, so cleverly, that it’s probably the most known and loved piece from this collection.

Yet it’s important to note that Kearney’s collection is not made up of light, easy humor. In fact, there is much weight and heart–and disheartening moments–within this book, that the sheer complexity and variety of Home By Now alone make it a standout recommendation. To prove the 180-degree turns you’ll stumble upon, here’s a poem to consider:

September 12, 2001: View of Downtown
Manhattan From My Bedroom Window

The amputee insists
her legs are still
down there

She feels them
She knows

when the smoke clears
they will be

Long lines that linger, short lines with emotional punch, persona and voice that capture your breath and make you crave more… Home By Now is a fascinating collection that gives so much in 60+ pages, in such an accessible style that’s zeroed in on language and emotion, it’s impossible not to recommend. Trust me, you’ll fall in love. Actually, don’t just take my word for it. Home By Now was the Winner of the 2009 LL Winship/PEN New England Award for Poetry, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, and a finalist for Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year. Not bad. Now go check it out.

Buy it on amazon

Visit Meg Kearney’s website

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

signing & special guests @ AWP Bookfair

Please visit Table H-8 to pick up a copy of The Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Creative Writing Students (Continuum Books) during the 2011 AWP Conference and Bookfair. I’ll be on site to share information and sign copies.

More info about The Low-Res MFA Handbook:
Order your copy via amazon here.

Throughout the conference, a number of MFA program reps will be dropping by Table H-8 to talk about their programs and elaborate on their interviews included in The Low-Res MFA Handbook:

Celeste Gainey, alumnus, Carlow University
Tod Goldberg, director, UC Riverside/Palm Desert
Clark Knowles, alumnus, Bennington College
Patsy Sims, director, Goucher College
Jim Warner, assistant director, Wilkes University

Kobbie Alamo, alumnus, Northwest Institute of Literary Arts
Debra Allbery, director, Warren Wilson College
David Stevenson, director, University of Alaska Anchorage
Robert Begiebing, director, Southern New Hampshire University
Meg Kearney, director, Solstice/Pine Manor College

Carol Berg, alumnus, Stonecoast/University of Southern Maine
Winona Winkler Wendth, alumnus, Bennington College

Also, be sure to stop by and say hello to a few SPECIAL AUTHOR GUESTS!

Millicent Borges Accardi (8:30am-12:30pm)
Deb Henry, Fairfield University (11:30am-1:30pm)

Deb Henry, Fairfield University (11:30am-2:30pm)
Millicent Borges Accardi (3-5:30pm)

Millicent Borges Accardi will be selling copies of her recent titles, Injuring Eternity (World Nouveau) and Woman on a Shaky Bridge (Finishing Line Press). More info at

Deb Henry, who is also an alumus of Fairfield University’s MFA program, will be talking about her novel, The Whipping Club (represented by Rob Weisbach Creative Management).

More info about The Low-Res MFA Handbook:

See you at AWP!

Monday, January 24, 2011

reader review: Low-Res MFA Handbook

I’m pleased to share this reader review of The Low-Residency MFA Handbook from

"May's discussions on teaching philosophy, format, residency community, pedagogy (or lack thereof), and even life after the MFA held priceless information that helped to direct me to programs that will best fit what I need and desire.

Highly and strongly recommended to anyone considering a low-residency MFA program. Kudos to Lori May for putting together such an informative, concise piece of work!" 

For more information about The Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Creative Writing Students (Continuum Books, Jan 2011), visit my website here or take a preview inside the book on amazon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FREE PREVIEW of Low-Res MFA Handbook

Tempted to pick up a copy of The Low-Residency MFA Handbook, but want to see the goods first? Thanks to technology, my publisher has created a brief online preview wherein you can read the Preface and get to know the Table of Contents a bit better.

CLICK HERE for a preview of The Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Creative Students.

If you like what you see, here are a few places you can order online:
Powell’s Books  
Continuum Books

The Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Creative Students features 49 programs and 150+ interviews….

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: An Introduction to Low-Residency MFAs
Chapter 2: Is the Low-Residency Model Right for Me?
Chapter 3: The Selection Process
Chapter 4: The Application Process
Chapter 5: Funding
Chapter 6: The Programs
Chapter 7: The Residency Experience
Chapter 8: Non-Residency Semesters
Chapter 9: Pedagogical Preparation
Chapter 10: Learning from Experience
Chapter 11: Life After the MFA
Chapter 12: AWP Membership & Services
Appendix A: Extended Interviews
Appendix B: Quick Reference
Appendix C: Additional Resources


“What an invaluable handbook! Lori A. May has done her research, knows her stuff, and, what's best, lets the programs speak for themselves through her extensive interviews. There's a chorus of quotes from faculty, students, and graduates in The Low-Residency MFA Handbook. Anyone making the decision to apply for an MFA should consult this wise guide. May's clarity and authority make it a gold standard."  
- Molly Peacock, author of The Second Blush

The Low-Residency MFA Handbook is an important book, not only for prospective students, but for program faculty and administrators as well. This guide will prove invaluable for students preparing to apply for low-residency MFA programs and will inform them of what to expect once they gain acceptance. The low-residency MFA in creative writing is increasingly popular, and there has been a lack of resources available to students, faculty and administrators. The Low-Residency MFA Handbook fills that void." 
- Derick Burleson, author of Melt


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Opportunity: want an author signing at AWP?

This is a no-stings-attached opportunity open to writers with a book to sign or lit journals wanting an additional way to flag down passers-by.

The Fact:
AWP in DC is just a few weeks away and I have an opportunity to share.

The Setting:
Thanks to my publisher, Continuum Books, I have a table exclusively to myself, for The Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Creative Writing Students (link). Throughout the conference, a number of low-res program reps (directors, faculty, students) will be coming by to hang with me, and talk about their programs and their interviews in The Handbook.

The Predicament:
Saturday is by far the busiest and most joyous day of the conference. That being said, my departure flight has me leaving the conference a couple hours early. This leaves some desirable real estate available—and I want to make sure someone gets to take advantage of that. On the house. No strings attached.

The Opportunity:
If you’re a lit mag representative or an author with a somewhat recent book you’d like to promote and sign the last few hours of AWP’s amazing bookfair, you are welcome to have your 15 minutes of fame for roughly two and a half hours (3-5:30pm). You’re invited to bring along your books/lit journals, appropriate signage (since I’ll take most of mine with me), and your stellar personality. Heck, I'll even help promote your scheduled presence. Not bad, right?

But, Wait, There’s More:
Since this is my table and I can invite whomever the heck I want to join me, I can even find another time during the bookfair to make a seat for you, so you can max out your presence (in some rather fine company, I might add).

Email me and we’ll chat.

While I’d love to say yes to everyone, this is a limited time offer since this is a limited space kind of situation. So, what are you waiting for? Email me now:

Monday, January 10, 2011

video killed the poetry star

Okay, so maybe “poetry star” is a misnomer. But I like puns and I love 80s music, so deal.

It’s not the most refined display of technological genius, but I’m experimenting with video and wanted to show off my baby steps.

The following video features three poems originally published in the December 2010 issue of Black Dahlia Journal. It’s a great journal: check it out.

Without further ado… I present “Haiku Trilogy.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

Converse College MFA Residency – Jan 2011

I had the pleasure of presenting two lectures at the Converse College MFA residency this past weekend. I have to say, it was a nice bonus to be visiting the area during 60+ degrees of heat each day compared to the mid-20s we’ve been experiencing here at home in the Midwest. Although, perhaps it was the drastic difference in temperatures that influenced my post-MFA flu bug. Yuck.

However, my visit to the residency was absolutely wonderful and I was pleased to hear great readings from faculty members Robert Olmstead and Sarah Kennedy. The students and faculty were a great crew and Oh. My. Goodness. The food was amazing. I was well fed and am thinking fondly of it now, how nice it was to have taste buds that worked for such a fine spread. Thank goodness the flu/cold didn’t kick in until my return home.

The food was on par with the rest of the residency, which was hosted for the first time at The Pine Crest Inn, in Tryon NC. What a lovely and inviting establishment. It was a joy to sit around the fireplace in the evening with an adult beverage in hand and enjoying the various conversations with friends old and new.

For the business part of things, I presented two lectures. On Sunday I talked about “Literary Living: Developing a Creative Career” and on Monday I shared a few tips for breaking into the nonfiction market, as well as detailed what publishers are looking for in nonfiction book proposals. The students were wonderfully attentive and inquisitive and it was a joy to be in their presence.

Now that I’m back home and a bit under the weather, it feels like I missed out on the first week of the New Year. But, with a little luck and a lot of rest (and coffee) I’ll be back in full swing in no time. A belated happy new year to you all…