Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 10, 2015

Storey Publishing: The Universe in Verse: 15 Portals to Wonder Through Science & Poetry by Maria Popova

Tommy Nelson: You'll Always Have a Friend: What to Do When the Lonelies Come by Emily Ley, Illustrated by Romina Galotta

Jimmy Patterson: Amir and the Jinn Princess by M T Khan

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout


Faber Partners with Perseus, to Publish in U.S. via PGW

Faber & Faber, which in February ended its 17-year partnership with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, has entered a partnership with Perseus Books Group under which PGW will sell Faber titles to U.S. booksellers and Faber will use Perseus's digital technology to publish books globally in print and digital formats for the first time.

Under the new arrangement, Faber will publish in the U.S. directly, in both and print and digital editions, some 60 new titles per year, particularly music, film, drama, poetry, crime and children's books, as well as a backlist of more than 1,000 titles. The publisher will hire marketing and publicity personnel in the U.S., and its first U.S. list will appear in spring 2016. Faber will continue to sell U.S. rights for some titles.

Perseus and Faber & Faber are offering their partnership as a model for other U.K. independent publishers, building on the digital joint venture that already exists between the two companies: Faber Factory Powered by Constellation, which serves more than 130 U.K. publishers. (The Constellation digital publishing platform is also used by some 300 publishers in the U.S.)

Perseus CEO David Steinberger said: "The dream of integrated global print and electronic publishing is finally a reality. We are gratified to be building on the success our joint venture to bring Faber's extraordinary books to the United States and to offer this new global model to U.K. publishers." He added that Perseus and Faber have meetings scheduled next week at the London Book Fair "with a number of U.K. publishers interested in adapting the model."

Faber & Faber CEO Stephen Page commented: "Digital publishing and marketing has given independent publishers the power to reach consumers and sell books more effectively and affordably all over the world. The USA is the largest English-language market and, while complex, it certainly offers opportunities to the U.K.'s excellent independent publishers. What we are building is a marketing and selling model for publishers with no editorial resource in the USA. It's a substantial opportunity and a response to global alignments for independents."

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich

Island Tales Bookshop Opens in Newport Beach, Calif.

Donna Mantei (l.) and Susan Nielson at their new bookstore.

Island Tales Bookshop, a children's bookstore, has opened on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, Calif., the Daily Pilot reported. The new store is in a location that had been occupied by Martha's Book Store, which closed last November after 25 years in business.

Island Tales is owned by longtime teachers and friends Donna Mantei and Susan Nielson. (Mantei has retired from teaching, and Nielson will soon retire.) The pair shares a passion as educators for giving children a place to read and be read to, the paper wrote. Children "need a space that invites them to enter the world of stories and books," Mantei said. "In the age of all the technology, there is a need for young developing minds to turn pages and go low tech."

The store's mission statement reads, "Island Tales was created to be a support to the families and children of our community. We desire to create an environment that instills a love of reading and continued learning no matter what age."

Mantei and Nielson signed a lease in December and did extensive renovations on the space, including replacing the floor and walls, electrical work, installing new display cases and lighting fixtures. In part, the store was made "kid friendly with more open space and room for strollers," Nielson said.

Besides its selection of children's books and gifts, Island Tales has an arts and crafts room and will offer story times, birthday parties and baby showers. It sells a range of adult and children's titles online. Island Tales' invitation-only grand opening party will be held on Sunday, May 17, at 7 p.m.

Island Tales Bookshop is located at 308 1/2 Marine Ave., Newport Beach, Calif. 92662; 949-873-5184.

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

General Retail Sales in March: Modest Gains

Retailers had a challenging March, due in part to lingering severe winter weather in many parts of the country. For the month, sales at stores open at least a year increased 0.3% at the eight retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters, compared with projections of 0.1% growth and a 2.2% jump a year earlier.

"Weather clearly played a big role overall, both positive and negative," Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics told Investor's Business Daily. "Overall I would not read too much into the March numbers. The jobs market stands on pretty solid footing, and with warmer temperatures I would expect May, June and July sales to show significant improvement from the first quarter."

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Montana Book Festival to Make Debut in September

After 15 years, the Montana Festival of the Book's sponsor and name have changed, according to the Ravalli Republic. The event, held in Missoula, will now be called the Montana Book Festival, and its main financial backer is the Missoula Cultural Council, a nonprofit arts agency that coordinates, promotes and develops arts and cultural activities in the city and county. Last year, Humanities Montana ended its sponsorship in order to focus on educational programs benefiting the entire state.

Directors of the Montana Book Festival include two booksellers--Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction and Garth Whitson of Shakespeare & Co.--Missoula Public Library director Honore Bray; and John Rimel, owner of Mountain Press Publishing. Community partners include the Open Country Reading Series, Tell Us Something and the 406 Writers' Workshop.

The first Montana Book Festival will be held September 10-12.

Bridget Kinsella, Cassie Kolias Join New Harbinger

Kolias (l.) and Kinsella

New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, Calif., has hired Bridget Kinsella and Cassie Kolias as publicists.

Kinsella is a longtime journalist--she's a regular contributor to Shelf Awareness and was an editor at Publishers Weekly for many years--and is the author of Visiting Life: Women Doing Time on the Outside, which was published by Crown in 2007. She also coined the now widely used phrases "The Oprah Effect" and "Galleys to Grab."

Kolias has a background in technology industry PR and social media. She's also an avid reader and NaNoWriMo writer.

Aside from promoting the core psychology titles for which New Harbinger is best known, Kinsella and Kolias will focus on presenting the publisher's more mainstream titles like the just released, What Would Buddha Say? by Barbara Ann Kipfer, the first in its Following Buddha series, The Upward Spiral by Alex Karb, which offers readers solutions to shape the brain to create a depression-free life, and The Mindful Teen by Dzung X. Vo, part of a new line of Instant Help books for teens.

"We think between Bridget's book business savvy and Cassie's PR and social media skills, we have a dynamic duo of publicists to support our publishing program," said Julie Kahn, sales and marketing director of New Harbinger.

Obituary Notes: Ivan Doig; John E. Walsh

Author Ivan Doig, who was known for his stories of the American West, died yesterday. He was 75 and had battled multiple myeloma for eight years.

Beginning with English Creek in 1984, he "wrote a number of novels set in fictional Two Medicine Country, Mont., based on the region where he came of age," the Los Angeles Times said. His other books included the memoir This House of Sky (1979), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Last Bus to Wisdom, which is scheduled to be published in August.

Doig won the Wallace Stegner Award in 2007, the Western Literature Association's lifetime Distinguished Achievement award and "is the recipient of more awards from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association than any other writer," as the Montana Standard put it.

"Ivan was one of the greats," said Riverhead publisher Geoff Kloske. "We have lost a friend, a beloved author, a national treasure."


John E. Walsh, who worked with a team of editors on the Reader's Digest Bible to condense the massive text by 40%, died March 19, the New York Times reported, adding that Walsh also wrote more than two dozen books and "left nine completed manuscripts when he died."


Image of the Day: The Writing Doctors Friedman

Photo: Joseph T. Gioglio

On Wednesday, Book Revue, Huntington, N.Y., hosted an event for the father-and-son writing team of Daniel Friedman, M.D., and Eugene Friedman, M.D., authors of The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle: A Journey into Madness & Mayhem, the first true-crime hardcover published by Square One. Here (from l.): bookseller David Hess, Daniel Friedman, Eugene Friedman and Loren Aliperti, Book Revue's publicist and events director.

Rinker Buck's Oregon Trail Travels the Bookstore Pony Express

To promote Rinker Buck's upcoming book The Oregon Trail: An American Journey, Simon & Schuster has sent an ARC of the book--a nonfiction account of the author's travels along the route of the Oregon Trail today--to five independent bookstores along the path of the historic wagon trail. Dubbed the "Bookstore Pony Express," the five stores are Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., the Bookworm Omaha in Omaha, Neb., Wind City Books in Casper, Wyo., Rediscovered Books in Boise, Idaho, and Powell's in Portland, Ore.

The Oregon Trail at Rainy Day Books.

Booksellers have been asked to take pictures with the book and write signs and notes before sending it further up the trail. The ARC began its journey at Rainy Day Books last week and is currently in Omaha; it should arrive in Wyoming next week, and will make it to Portland during the last week of April.

Rainy Day staff left a variety of notes, including, "Oil all the wheels on your wagon, not just the squeaky one." "We're all still pioneers here." And several "Happy trails!" The main message read: "Safe travels and onward to Oregon! Hello to our follow independent booksellers along the trail!"

The Oregon Trail: An American Journey hits the road June 30. --Alex Mutter

Elizabeth Gilbert: Fundraise, Sing, Donate

Over the past week, author Elizabeth Gilbert and her fans have raised $118,428 for the charity Blink Now, which provides education and opportunities for women and children in Nepal's Kolipa Valley. The effort began last weekend, when Gilbert posted a challenge on her Facebook page: if her fans could raise $10,000 for Blink Now, she would not only match the donated amount but also share a video of herself performing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." In less than 24 hours, Gilbert's fans raised more than $15,000 for Blink Now, and, on April 8, she made good on her promise by singing not one, but two karaoke songs at Diamond Horseshoe in New York City: the promised "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Faithfully" by Journey. Video of her performance can be found on her Facebook page.

Cool Idea of the Day: A Philosophy All-Nighter

On April 24, A Night of Philosophy, encompassing more than 80 events, premieres in New York City after successful runs in Paris, London and Berlin. From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the event will be held in stunning rooms in two iconic mansions at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 79th street: the Gilded Age Payne Whitney mansion, home of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Albertine Books in French and English; and the Fletcher-Sinclair mansion, a National Historic Landmark that is home to the Ukrainian Institute of America.

In addition to round-the-clock 20-minute lectures presented by 61 leading international philosophers and covering a range of subjects, guests will encounter specially commissioned art installations, live performances, and film and video screenings exploring philosophy in playful and provocative ways. Other highlights include "Spinoza in Kiev," a "melodrama for two actresses, with piano improvisations, based on Bernard Malamud's novel The Fixer," and a marathon reading by actors of Philosophy in the Boudoir by Marquis de Sade.

'Local, Intimate and Independent' Booksellers

"All of my life, including the time prior to working here at Weller's, I have heard of the demise of the independent bookstore. In fact, my father-in-law Sam could cite several times when people told him, 'Oh, bookstores are going to die,' " Catherine Weller of Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, Utah, told Deseret News, which noted that "independent bookstores have found a viable void staying just as they are--local, intimate and independent."

Weller observed that the "shop local movement has also been extremely important to all indie stores. The product they buy off the shelf enables us to do things like pay accountants, to sometimes advertise, to contribute to the local tax base and people have begun to value that more and more, which has helped us."

"2013 was better than 2012, and 2014 was better than 2013," said Katie Orphan, general manager of the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.

McKenna Jordan of Murder by the Book, Houston, Tex., said, "There are still a lot of independent bookstores that are struggling and have not been able to keep going after the last four or five years of struggling with e-books and struggling with kind of being with the times. I feel like those who have made it through the last couple of years, we probably have a pretty good prognosis for moving forward, but we've lost a lot in the last few years."

Personnel Changes at Perseus

Effective May 4, Liz Tzetzo is becoming v-p, director of marketing and sales, at Basic Books. She joined Perseus Books Group in 1999 as national account director.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Chantel Acevedo on Weekend Edition

This morning on the Today Show: Jack Andraka, co-author of Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator Is Changing the World (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780062369659).


Today on Fresh Air: Kevin Fong, M.D., author of Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century (Penguin Books, $17, 9780143126294).


Today on the Steve Harvey Show: Dan Churchill, author of DudeFood: A Guy's Guide to Cooking Kick-Ass Food (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 9781476796895).

Also on Steve Harvey: Charlie Wilson, author of I Am Charlie Wilson (37 Ink/Atria, $25.99, 9781476790077).


Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning: Robert Putnam, author of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476769899). He will also be on the Judith Regan Show on Saturday.


Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Chantel Acevedo, author of The Distant Marvels (Europa Editions, $17, 9781609452520).

Movies: Me & Earl; Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

A trailer is out for Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, based on the book by Jesse Andrews, who wrote the script. reported that Sundance Film Festival's winner for the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for best U.S. Dramatic Feature stars Thomas Mann, R.J. Cyler and Olivia Cooke


Ang Lee "has rounded the A-list cast" for his adaptation of Ben Fountain's novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. reported that Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker are joining Joe Alwyn, Steve Martin, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart in the movie that will "be shot in native 3D and 4K, and will look to innovate with revolutionary new high frame rate technology."

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN Hessell-Tiltman; Ottaway Award

Jessie Childs won the £2,000 (about $2,960) English PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History for God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England. Chair of judges Tom Holland called the book "revelatory, wonderfully readable, and--without ever forcing the contemporary parallels--topical as well."


Sara Bershtel, publisher of Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, has won the 2015 Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature, sponsored by Words Without Borders.

"Sara Bershtel is one of America's most sensitive and discriminating editors," said Jonathan Galassi, a member of the Words Without Borders board and president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. "Time and again she has brought her broad and urbane understanding of literature and politics to the publishing of books that have made a crucial difference to our culture."

During her career at Pantheon Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Hill and Wang and Metropolitan Books, Bershtel has published, among others, Emmanuel Carrère, Ida Fink, Eduardo Galeano, Christoph Hein, Ronit Matalon, Nobel laureate Herta Müller, Anna Politkovskaya, Li Rui, Rafik Schami and Peter Schneider.

The Award will be presented at the annual Words Without Borders gala on November 2 in New York City.

Book Brahmin: Chris Cander

photo: Sara Huffman

Chris Cander is a novelist, children's book author, freelance writer and teacher for Houston's Writers in the Schools (WITS), which engages children in reading and writing. Her novel 11 Stories was included in Kirkus's best indie general fiction of 2013. Her most recent novel is Whisper Hollow, published by Other Press in March 2015. Cander well knows that the pen is mightier than the sword, but she's willing to wield one of those, too: a former fitness competitor and model, she currently holds a second dan in taekwondo.

On your nightstand now:

An embarrassment of riches! On the research stack are: What to Listen for in Music by Aaron Copland, The Gates of November by Chaim Potok, Johannes Brahms by Jan Swafford and A Practical Guide to Solo Piano Music by Trevor Barnard. For pleasure, there are: Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins, Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks, Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima, The Ogre by Michel Tournier and The Moons of Jupiter by Alice Munro. Finally, because I still read to my children: The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino and Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell taught me that literature is the most powerful form of transportation. I was gripped by Karana's brave plight, her desires and her determination. As I read, I can remember being simultaneously drawn into Karana's story, and inspired to write my own. But even before O'Dell was Mr. Pine's Purple House by my now-friend Leonard Kessler, the first book I ever truly loved. In the book, Mr. Pine wanted to make his little house on Vine Street stand out, but every time he planted a bush or tree or something else, the neighbors copied him. He finally decided to paint his house purple, and convinced all the would-be copycats to choose their own colors. Learning that lesson--pursuing individuality within community--has served me long and well.

Your top five authors:

Charles Baxter, Annie Proulx, Gabriel García Márquez, Harriet Doerr and Marilynne Robinson.

Book you've faked reading:

I haven't actually faked reading the appallingly long list of books that I haven't read, but I'm very conscious of them. In my novel 11 Stories, I "admitted" to a few in the voice of one of my characters, Lenny Dreyfus, an award-winning author, who said, "I didn't want people to know what I didn't really know. Hell, I didn't even read half the books that writers are supposed not to only have read but to cherish. Want to know something? I never read Moby-Dick. Or Huckleberry Finn or Crime and Punishment or The Trial. The list of books from which I should be able to pull meaningful quotes to enrich my conversations is a hell of a lot longer than the list of books from which I can."

In spite of the fact that I spend more money on books than clothes and try to read 50 or so books a year, I feel like I'll never catch up.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Last year I fell in love with Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, Joseph Boyden's The Orenda and Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I gave copies as gifts and insisted that my friends read them. I've also been known to press into hands Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, City of Thieves by David Benioff and Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Browsing the new releases at Brazos Bookstore last fall, I bought The Dinner by Herman Koch because its cover was compelling. Happily, the story was, too.

Book that changed your life:

During a very unhappy time, Charles Baxter's short story collection A Relative Stranger found its way to me. Reading these stories, which uniquely depict universal and unassailable forms of despair, as well as the relief from it, I was transported--breathtaken--back to life.

Favorite line from a book:

From Beryl Markham's West with the Night: "There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo."

Which character you most relate to:

The eponymous "Writer Waiting" in Shel Silverstein's poem from his collection Falling Up: "Oh this shiny new computer-- There just isn't nothin' cuter/... / It can edit and select,/ It can copy and correct,/ So I'll have a whole book written by tonight/ (Just as soon as it can think of what to write)."

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Round the Bend by Nevil Shute, which I read when I was a head-in-the-clouds high school student. It's a compelling, mystical story about an Englishman who starts up an air charter company in Bahrain and his chief mechanic who finds spiritual value in technical precision and becomes a revered religious figure. It's about airplanes, life and opening oneself up to the possibility of the divine.

Book Review

Review: The Given World

The Given World by Marian Palaia (Simon & Schuster, $25 hardcover, 9781476777931, April 14, 2015)

Marian Palaia's debut, The Given World, is a Vietnam War-era road novel, the saga of a young Montana girl's bolt from the family farm for San Francisco, "determined to beat the crappy odds and discover the Pacific" and to find some relief from the loss of her idolized older brother, missing in action somewhere in the tunnels of Cu Chi. Reminiscent of Sissy in Tom Robbins's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Palaia's protagonist, Riley, is up for anything. When seriously busted up as young girl from a fall off the farmhouse roof, she gets a taste of morphine, and after Mick goes MIA, parlays that into a 30-year trip of booze and drugs and sex--working odd jobs and living on the streets, in parks, in cars and the occasional co-worker's flop. She fixes broken-down cars, delivers newspapers, bartends at a lesbian bar, shoots pool and beds junkies and abusive losers. Riley's a mess and knows it; but in Palaia's very capable hands, she's a survivor and an admirable mess. After yet another self-rehab attempt, she recognizes that "climbing out of the ditch was a hit-or-miss proposition, and even though I was working on it, down was still a hell of a lot easier way to go than up." Not until she travels to Vietnam decades after the war and visits Cu Chi can she accept that Mick is not coming back. Finally feeling "something besides the all-too-familiar duality of rootless and pointless," she returns to visit her failing parents in Montana and encounters the now-adult son she left behind for adoption when he was an infant. Riley herself is no longer missing in action.

A peripatetic scholar with several degrees, including a University of Wisconsin MFA, Palaia knows the smells and sticky tavern floors of San Francisco's Mission and Castro districts; the desperation of "rockheads searching the sidewalks, picking up anything small and white... something that will make their a**-out lives feel worth living awhile longer"; and "Saigon's incessant din and treacly grime and sleepless lunacy." In Riley, she has created a character who believes in second chances--always giving the lost, the damaged vets, the deadbeats and queens whom she befriends enough time and rope. Though people come and go, Riley recognizes that each of them, like Mick, has infiltrated her life in some way, contributing to the person she has become. The Given World is a moving novel of an era that just won't go away. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: In the reckless Riley, Marian Palaia has created a character with enough heart to shoulder the still-troubling angst of the Vietnam War era.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: There's Something Funny About Poetry Month

When Newton saw an apple fall, he found...
A mode of proving that the earth turn'd round
In a most natural whirl, call'd gravitation;
And thus is the sole mortal who could grapple
Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple. --Byron

A poem is a funny thing. You can make one out of the simplest ingredients. Take one apple tree in an orchard, add Newton's Law of Gravity, Adam & Eve's biblical quartet (temptation, sin, knowledge and exile), Mother Nature, nourishment, decay, iPhones and New York City. Blend with all five senses and you'll find a poem in there somewhere. It might even be a funny poem.

Or think of the apple tree itself as poetry. Perfect apples are great poems, but there are also apples that are ordinary or unripe or bruised or misshapen or worm-eaten. Apples that fall from the tree are called "drops." As a little kid, I was paid 25 cents a bushel to harvest this often damaged fruit from the ground. Drops weren't great apples, but they were still apples, and I suspect a poem titled "Drops" would have more potential than a poem titled "Apples."

In April, poetry is everywhere and some of it is funny. Even though I'm a near lifelong reader of poetry (beginning circa 1953 with Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses), there are moments I like the form best when it makes me smile, as I did when spotting this "Flash Poetry Zaniness" announcement for an April 30 event at RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth, N.H.:

"Okay, so let's finish National Poetry Month with some fun. Introducing the Flash Typewriter Poetry Contest. Each contestant will be given a manual typewriter, three sheets of paper, and a pencil. Then we will draw a random topic. Contestants have 30 minutes to write a poem on the topic, TYPE IT OUT, and turn it in. The completed poems will be shuffled and handed back out to the poets random. The poets will then read the poem they were given. After the reading, each poet will vote for their favorite poem (exluding their own).... This is going to be tons of fun."  

Or this, from the O, Miami Poetry Festival: "Murinals are poetry murals installed on Miami-Dade urinals by artist Ian Thomas. Using classic gold leaf paint on porcelain, Thomas creates a series of site specific installations that require viewer participation to complete its concept. The exclusively male audience is invited to urinate on a passage of poetry consecrated via traditional illumination methods. By participating in this way, the viewer exhibits an animalistic dominance by defiling something hallowed, while ultimately exposing himself to the poets' words. This tension of male dominance and vulnerability is what the series seeks to explore."

Kids seem to have a natural talent for writing at once great and bad funny poems. All over the U.S. this month, bookstores, libraries and schools are hosting poetry writing contests for children and every single participant becomes a poet, if only for one day and a single poem.  

There are so many places to look for poetry smiles. For example, The Lost Clerihews of Paul Ingram features mischievous musings by the resident bookseller extraordinaire at Iowa City's Prairie Lights Books, including:

Jeff Bezos
Believed he was Jesos,
He left out no detail
In dismantling retail.

Author Elinor Lipman, whose sharp and entertaining Twitter rhymes during the last presidential election cycle rescued my sanity, and were later collected in Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus, is back in form as new campaigns launch:

Kentucky's Paul is in the race!
Unorthodox or basket case?
Polling isn't showing love
The GOP thinks he's a dove.

Poetry is serious business, except when it isn't. Consider David Budbill's "Dilemma":

I want to be
so I can be
about being

or Billy Collins's "Introduction to Poetry":

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide...

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

In 1980, I sold a short story to Cimarron Review that had a final paragraph I was, perhaps delusionally, pleased with. So pleased that 15 years later, on a whim, I reworked that paragraph into a "poem" that was published by a literary journal in the Midwest. It wasn't a good poem, but it was still poetry, just as a "drop" is still an apple.

Poems are funny that way. Happy Poetry Month. I mean it. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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