Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 1, 2023

Little Brown and Company: Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Editors' Note

Happy Labor Day!

Because of the Labor Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, September 5. Enjoy the long weekend!

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona


Federal Judge Blocks Texas's 'Sexual Rating' Law

The judge in the lawsuit filed against Texas's book "sexual rating" law, set to go into effect today, September 1, is issuing a preliminary injunction barring implementation of the law.

During a status call held via Zoom yesterday, Judge Alan D. Albright of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, said that he would issue a written preliminary injunction order in the next few weeks. In the interim, the state cannot enforce any part of the law.

The suit against the law was filed in July by BookPeople, the Austin bookstore, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The plaintiffs charged that the law "violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution because it is an overbroad and vague content-based law that targets protected speech and is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. The [law] compels plaintiffs to express the government's views, even if they do not agree, and operates as a prior restraint, two of the most egregious constitutional infringements."

Under the law, all companies selling to school libraries, librarians, and teachers in Texas would have to assign ratings to books concerning their sexual content. (Titles for required curricula are exempted from the law.) A book deemed "sexually explicit" would be banned, and a book deemed "sexually relevant" would have restricted access. The "sexually relevant" rating would cover, plaintiffs said, all non-explicit references, in any context, to sexual relations, and therefore "could apply broadly to health-related works, religious texts, historical works, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and many other works," including many classic works of literature.

The "sexually explicit" rating would apply to material describing or portraying "sexual conduct" that is determined to be "patently offensive," which Texas state law defines as an affront to "current community standards of decency."

The law also has a retroactive feature: by next April, all booksellers and other book vendors would have to submit to the Texas Education Agency a list of every book they've ever sold to a teacher, librarian, or school that qualifies for a sexual rating and is in active use. The stores also would be required to issue recalls for any sexually explicit books. If the Agency found that a bookstore has been incorrectly rating books, it could be banned from doing business with charter schools or school districts. The Agency could also override booksellers' ratings.

Many companies and organizations that would be affected by the law said it would be both time-consuming and expensive to comply with.

The plaintiffs issued a joint statement yesterday: "We are grateful for the Court's swift action in deciding to enjoin this law, in the process preserving the long-established rights of local communities to set their own standards; protecting the constitutionally protected speech of authors, booksellers, publishers and readers; preventing the state government from unlawfully compelling speech on the part of private citizens; and shielding Texas businesses from the imposition of impossibly onerous conditions. We look forward to reading the court's full opinion once it is issued."

The ABA added: "On behalf of our members in Texas and booksellers across the country, the American Booksellers Association is grateful for the Court's decision today. ABA is committed to supporting the rights of independent bookstores and the rights of readers and we hope that this suit is resolved in favor of both."

The Texas Attorney General's office said it would move to reverse the injunction and appeal the judge's decision, the Texas Tribune reported.

New Owners for the Doylestown & Lahaska Bookshops in Pa.

Lauren and Damian Ford

Lauren and Damian Ford have purchased the Doylestown & Lahaska Bookshops in Pennsylvania from Glenda Childs. The Fords have owned Hendrixson's Furniture, with locations in Furlong and Emmaus, since 1993. Lauren Ford's parents, Paul and Virginia Hendrixson, launched Hendrixson's in 1965. 

"Our journey with Hendrixson's has been a journey of creating comfort and ambiance in homes," said Lauren Hendrixson-Ford, company president. "We see a natural synergy between our longstanding furniture business and the warmth that bookshops radiate. Just as we believe that the right furniture can tell a story, books hold the power to transport readers to new realms. By adding these beloved bookshops to our family, we are uniting the joy of reading with the art of designing spaces that reflect individuality."

Damian Ford, co-owner and business partner, added: "While my focus will primarily remain with Hendrixson's Furniture, the extension of our presence to include these beloved bookshops is an exciting evolution. Both Lauren and I are committed to nurturing the soul of these community gems, infusing them with the values that have defined our journey thus far."

Their daughter, Honor, has worked for the Doylestown & Lahaska Bookshops for six years. "My parents have always instilled in us not only the value of shopping locally but also the value of books. There are books in every room of our home, ones that have been read, loved, and read again. My brother and I listened to Max Lucado's The Crippled Lamb on cassette tape every night before bed as babies, learned to read with Dick and Jane, and as we got older, dutifully stood in line with our parents and siblings for the midnight release of each new Harry Potter book. The magic created by those release parties at the Doylestown Bookshop is one of the things that cemented my love of reading and what led me eventually to apply to work at the Doylestown & Lahaska Bookshops. I look forward to the chance to work alongside them!"

Glenda Childs purchased the Doylestown Bookshop in 2012 from Patricia and Phil Gerney. In 2017, Childs opened sister store the Lahaska Bookshop and has continued to grow and nurture both bookstores.

"Owning the bookshops has been everything I ever dreamed of and more," she said. "I took great care in finding a buyer who would continue the legacy of the bookshops, serving our community and their book needs in an independent and mission-oriented manner. I have been talking with the new owners, Lauren and Damian Ford, for more than five years about this possibility. I'm so happy for them and their future with the bookshops."

Childs added that she looks forward to remaining at both bookstores through the end of the year to assist with the transition. All current bookstore employees will remain on staff.

Grand Opening Set for Chicago's the Last Chapter Romance Bookstore

The Last Chapter, a bookstore that "will feature every subgenre within romance including fantasy, mystery, romantic suspense, and thrillers," is hosting its grand opening celebration tomorrow, September 2, at 2013 W. Roscoe Ave. in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago, Ill., Block Club Chicago reported. Owner Amanda Anderson said the new shop will also "definitely be highlighting BIPOC voices, LGBTQ plus romances because I am a firm believer that there is something for everybody in romance." A soft opening for friends and family was held earlier this week.

Noting that she wants her store to be a fun place for people to hang out, Anderson said she plans to host many events, including author signings, book clubs and holiday parties. She added that she had always joked that opening a bookstore was her retirement plan. "I want to be the little old lady that has the bookstore that everybody goes to and that they always hang out in."

Anderson had previously worked in publishing, focusing on independent romance authors, but the onset of the pandemic made her realize that she was not happy with her job. Opening a bookshop focused on romance "was her opportunity to give back to the books and authors that gave her so much in return," Block Club Chicago wrote, noting Anderson initially opened the Last Chapter in 2021 online, with plans to open a bricks-and-mortar store at some point. 

"If it takes me 10 years to be successful, it takes me 10 years," she said.

She started looking at possible locations last December, and eventually her real estate agent encouraged her to see the location in Roscoe Village. Anderson realized she had grown up only a few blocks away. When she toured the space, she visualized what the shop would look like in the location.

"It was like the universe was trying to tell me it was gonna work out," said Anderson, who is currently finishing up decorating the store.

For the opening, the Last Chapter will feature author signings, giveaways, and snacks. The bookstore space used to be a boutique, and the dressing rooms have been repurposed as book-themed photo booths.

Anderson described herself as a reader at heart: "The Last Chapter is a place for readers. We don't yuck anybody's yum here. We want you to come as you are; we have something for everybody. It doesn't take much convincing for me to read your favorite book."

Flyleaf Literature & Libations Opens in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.

Flyleaf Literature & Libations, a bookstore, bistro, and bar in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., opened earlier this month. The founder is Lindsay Scallen, a native of Grosse Pointe, who was inspired, the store says, "by her love of community and passion for dining, entertaining and literature." Lani Martin is the managing director.

The shop has three stories "meant to inspire and nourish your mind and spirit. Curl up with coffee by the fire, unwind with a cocktail at the bar or catch up with friends on our rooftop. Browse our bookshelves filled with literary fiction and nonfiction, or host a small gathering in the Reading Room. From our seating to our seasonal menu, every element at Flyleaf was created to provide a welcoming escape from everyday life."

The store stocks more than 6,800 adult nonfiction and fiction titles, with a strong selection of art, design, and culinary books, and a small selection of YA books. Non-book items include handmade chocolate bars, journals, boxed pencil sets, and more. The bistro and bar offer coffee, wine, spirits, snacks, and pastries. The rooftop is open seasonally.

Flyleaf has been in the works since 2019, Grosse Pointe News reported, when the original one-story building was removed and the current building went up, delayed by the pandemic. "They tore it down and then COVID hit," Scallen told the paper, "and I know that this was not an easy building to build. My contractor said it's probably the most complicated building he's built. It's only 20 feet wide and it's three floors up and we're pinned between two other buildings."

Applications Open for Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship

Applications are open for the fifth annual Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship for Emerging Bookseller-Activists, which was created in honor of the executive marketing director at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who passed away suddenly in May 2017. Applications will be accepted through September 15. Interested booksellers can apply here

The winning bookseller will be awarded a year-long scholarship for professional development, which includes travel and hotel for attendance at Winter Institute 2024, travel and hotel for attendance at their 2024 regional fall trade show, and a $1,000 stipend to fund a community outreach project. The goal of the community outreach project is to find new readers and ensure access to books that improve readers' lives while integrating bookstores even more fully into their communities.

Presented by the Friends of Carla Gray Committee and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), the scholarship is intended to help a bookseller with fewer than five years of experience connect with other booksellers, publishers and authors to establish the long-term relationships needed to keep the book industry thriving.

"We have been so moved and inspired by the work of the Carla Gray Bookseller-Activists over the past five years--each of them has contributed something unique and essential to our literary community and beyond," said the members of the Friends of Carla Gray Committee. "In the face of all the challenges we are all facing, it heartens us to think of the overflowing joy and pride Carla would feel in seeing these booksellers and their ideas making change in the world--reminding us all of the power of books."

Binc executive director Pam French commented: "The Binc Foundation is proud to celebrate Carla's legacy and her enthusiasm for books, bookstores and their communities through this powerful scholarship and professional development opportunity. Supporting emerging booksellers and encouraging their engagement in their community is critical to the future of the bookselling and larger book industry. We look forward to meeting the winner in person at Winter Institute in 2024 and hearing more about their outreach project." 


Sales Floor Display: Island Books 

"Armchair time travel; no flight delays." That's the chalkboard message on a new sales floor display at Island Books, Mercer Island, Wash., which noted: "Want to go on a time-bending trip, but don’t want to leave the comfort of your favorite chair? Do we have a section for you. Bookseller Cindy put together a great display full of time travel books from all genres."

S&S to Distribute Rockpool Publishing in U.S.

Simon & Schuster will handle sales and distribution in the U.S. for Rockpool Publishing, effective March 1, 2024.

Founded 17 years ago, Rockpool Publishing, with headquarters in Australia, is a mind, body, spirit, and self-help publisher. Rockpool aims to publish "products we can take pride in, help people make a difference in their lives, and touch a chord in society." Rockpool Publishing is the owner of the imprints Love & Write Publishing and Gelding Street Press.

Media and Movies

PEN America Launches Emergency Grant Fund for Striking WGA Screenwriters 

PEN America has launched an emergency grant program to help early career screenwriters during the Writers Guild strike. The new Screenwriters Emergency Assistance Fund will offer short-term grants ranging from $500 to $1,000 to eligible screenwriters on a first-come, first-served basis.

As part of its U.S. Writers Aid Initiative, the one-time, rapid-response grants are intended to help early career U.S.-based screenwriters who are struggling to meet essential financial needs. Eligible applicants must have fewer than seven years of membership with the WGA, or fewer than seven years of demonstrated income as an employed screenwriter. 

"During these difficult days, we are honored as a writers organization to do as much as we can to relieve the financial stress members of the WGA, East and West, are facing," said PEN America's president Ayad Akhtar, who added that the organization "has a long history of coming together to assist writers in need, as well as those at risk round the world, and we are honored to be able to do so again during this emergency. We hope our effort will send a powerful message of hope at this time."

Allison Lee, managing director of the PEN America Los Angeles office, added: "PEN America recognizes the financial hardship that many screenwriters are experiencing due to the work stoppage in the industry. We know that early career writers are especially hard hit by financial need and we want to do whatever we are able to relieve the acute stress they face. We hope even a small grant in the amount of $500 or $1,000 will help screenwriters who are having to make difficult decisions about how to cover their rent, or pay for an unexpected health care bill, or buy school supplies for their children."

Movie: The Killer

Netflix has released a teaser trailer and poster for The Killer, David Fincher's new movie based on the graphic novel series by Alexis Nolent (pen name: Matz) and Luc Jacamon. Deadline reported that the movie will have its world premiere Sunday in the Competition lineup at the Venice Film Festival, then hit theaters on October 27 before launching on Netflix November 10.

Fincher's first feature since 2020's Oscar-winning Mank stars Michael Fassbender, Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Sophie Charlotte, and Tilda Swinton. Andrew Kevin Walker adapted the graphic novel, which debuted in French via Casterman and was published in the U.S. by Archaia Studios Press in 10 volumes from 2006-2009, Deadline noted.

Books & Authors

Awards: Kelpies Winner

Rebekah Fieschi won the Kelpies Prize for Writing 2023, which aims to recognize and support new Scottish writing for children. In addition to the £500 (about $635) cash award, the Edinburgh-based writer and filmmaker will receive nine months of mentoring with the Floris Books editorial team. 

The prize judges said they were impressed by Fieschi's "ability to transport readers directly into the exciting action of her piece about a young dyslexic witch who must summon all her courage to fix a spell-casting mishap."

Floris Books noted that it is taking a break from the Kelpies Prize for Illustration this year in order to support the Pathways into Children's Publishing program, a two year illustration course for talented and ambitious artists and illustrators from backgrounds that are under-represented in children's publishing.

Reading with... Jessica Hendry Nelson

photo: Monica Escamilla

Jessica Hendry Nelson is the author of the memoir If Only You People Could Follow Directions (Counterpoint), as well as Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer's Guide and Anthology, with co-author Sean Prentiss (Bloomsbury Academic). Her work has appeared in the anthology Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, edited by Nicole Walker and Margot Singer, as well as Prairie Schooner, Tin House, the Threepenny Review, North American Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books and other publications. She teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and in the MFA Program at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. Her newest book, Joy Rides Through the Tunnel of Grief (University of Georgia Press, September), won the AWP Sue William Silverman Prize in Creative Nonfiction. It is a memoir-in-essays that maps the boundaries of love, language, and creative urgency.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

For fans of women, dark humor, the show Fleabag, or inquiries into romantic friendships, ambivalence about childrearing, and the socialization of girls in the '90s.

On your nightstand now:

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
Mother Brain: How Neuroscience Is Rewriting the Story of Parenthood by Chelsea Conaboy
Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly

I'm the mother of a 10-week-old baby girl, so I guess I'm on a bit of a motherhood kick.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Hard one! My dad turned me on to Steinbeck in my preteen years, for better or worse, and I loved The Pearl best of all. As a younger kid, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia and any story about a secret world hiding in plain sight. The Secret Garden is another one. It fit with my sense that the world I inhabited was only a veneer, that behind it were many more wondrous planes of existence. This is still my sense, more or less.

Your top five authors:

Oy. This I cannot do. Well, except Annie Dillard. I can confidently say that Annie Dillard is my favorite writer. Nobody writes sentences like Dillard. But here are five other writers I find myself returning to for inspiration again and again: Ross Gay, Claudia Rankine, Marilynne Robinson, Anne Carson, Kiese Laymon.

Book you've faked reading:

Ha! Probably a lot, but I can't recall a particular fake out. I am not ashamed to admit that I've never read Beowulf, The Iliad, or The Canterbury Tales. I am somewhat baffled that I've yet to read Lolita. I suppose I'm past the point of feeling a need to lie about having read something, though to list them all would require much more than my allotted word count.

Book you're an evangelist for:

So many! I think Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard's collection of essays about nature and travel, is the book I've assigned to my writing students more than any other. It is a master class on seeing--really seeing--but also sentence construction, metaphor, and essay structure. Every time I read this book, I notice something different, something extraordinary about the craft of nonfiction. Also, her sentences make my heart ache.

Book you've bought for the cover:

To celebrate their 70th anniversary in 2005, Penguin produced a series of Pocket Classics with really gorgeous, strange, inventive, sexy cover designs. I was in my early 20s then, and bought them one at a time as my budget allowed. I think I have about 40 of the 70 titles. My favorite cover is maybe Alain de Botton's On Seeing and Noticing.

Book you hid from your parents:

All of Anaïs Nin, although I probably didn't have to hide it. I was consistently embarrassed as a teenager.

Book that changed your life:

Jo Ann Beard's The Boys of My Youth. It was the first book I was assigned to read in college, and my introduction to creative nonfiction. It was also the first book I'd read that seemed to reflect my own people: our cynicism and self-destruction, fierce love, and dark humor. That Beard's people, so much like my own people, could be worthy of literature was a revelation. Prior to reading that book, I'd had a hunch that there was a story about my family worth telling, even though none of us are famous or rich or glamorous or notorious or even particularly unique. Beard's book showed me how to tell our stories.

Favorite line from a book:

Well, it's a few lines. They're from Annie Dillard's essay, "Living Like Weasels." (I may have the whole essay memorized, which is not as popular a party trick as you might imagine.) It's the last paragraph of the essay, the end of a long meditation sparked by a single encounter with a weasel in the woods, and the recitation of a story about a man who'd shot an eagle out of the sky only to discover a weasel's intact skull attached to the bird's throat.

"The supposition is that the eagle had pounced on the weasel and the weasel swiveled and bit as instinct taught him, tooth to neck, and nearly won," Dillard writes, which sets up this final paragraph, my favorite lines:

"I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles."

Or maybe my favorite line comes earlier, simple and eloquent: "I could very calmly go wild."

It's a toss-up.

Five books you'll never part with:

This is a funny question because one of my (many) weaknesses is that I can't seem to part with books. They're like a very heavy, inconvenient security blanket. I've hauled giant Tupperware containers full of books through a dozen moves in nearly as many states over the last decade and a half. Only recently have I been able to pare down the collection by about half, which was a matter of necessity and common sense. But five I will never part with (aside from Annie Dillard's books, which I think I've evangelized enough here):

Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red. I read it at a seminal time in my young adulthood, when the formal and inventive possibilities it proffers blew my mind. (And still do.)

Kiese Laymon, Heavy. The best memoir I've read in the last decade.

Justin Torres, We the Animals. A slim, exquisite memoir with stunning prose, scene work, and voice.

Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces. Chronicles Ehrlich's first three years living in Wyoming. Taught me how propulsive a rather plot-less book can be with clarity of vision.

Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water. Another seminal book from early adulthood. Taught me how to plumb the intersection of grief and violence.

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

Oh, maybe Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. Or Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. Or, or, or....

Book Review

Review: Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever

Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever by Matt Singer (Putnam, $29 hardcover, 352p., 9780593540152, October 24, 2023)

Cinephiles will find much to savor in Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever, a comprehensive, immensely entertaining biography by film critic Matt Singer. In meticulous detail, he probes the lives of the legendary film critics and newspaper rivals, whose opinions became as popular as the movies they reviewed in print--and, later, fervently debated on TV--from the 1970s to the late 1990s.

The release of Steven Spielberg's Jaws in 1975 marked a "significant upswing" for the film industry, a ripe time for two newspaper film critics to ascend to international TV fame and clout. A Chicago public television station, intent on hosting a show that would cater to "cinephiles hungry for information about new releases," paired the two, then both in their 30s: "lanky" Gene Siskel, who wrote film criticism for the Chicago Tribune, and "pudgy" Roger Ebert, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Throughout their partnership, Siskel and Ebert remained "mortal enemies. Each considered it an essential aspect of their job to beat the other: to write the best review, to land the biggest interview, to score the best scoops. And they took their jobs very seriously." Despite this seriousness, David Letterman, who often hosted the duo on his late-night talk show, once remarked that their popular appeal was due to their honest, passionate debates, and how they broke "the stuffy traditions of old-fashioned print film criticism." The trademark of Siskel and Ebert's film reviewing was a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down rating system.

Singer paints a fascinating portrait of the critics, sharing quotes and stories of how their upbringings developed their personalities; their respective roads to journalism and film criticism; and what they each brought to the reviewing table--how their contentious relationship actually increased their viewership. Singer also outlines the many incarnations of their program as it evolved over the years. A large part of the narrative takes a deep dive that sensitively probes their personal lives, including the grave illnesses that eventually led to their deaths.

Singer's thoroughly researched narrative makes a strong case that supports that Siskel and Ebert were, as Ebert once put it, true "film lovers" and "fans." That innate passion is what led to their overwhelming, two-thumbs-up success and their enduring appeal. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: Opposable Thumbs is a thoroughly entertaining, deeply researched biography of rival movie critics Gene Siskel and Robert Ebert and how they came to define modern film criticism.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: NZ Poetry Day--'Read Until You Find a Poem that Works for You'

National Poetry Day is an opportunity for people to connect with poetry and each other. Like many such specially-focused days or weeks or months, we could say 'Hey! Every day should be Poetry Day!' For some people, it is. But for most of us, National Poetry Day is an opportunity to get together and read/ hear/ write/ read poetry at events and in our private spaces.... My call for action is to read poetry out loud, as loud or as quiet as works for you: read your own to someone else, or read someone else's to yourself! Read until you find a poem that works for you--it might shock, encourage, inspire, nudge or entertain you.

--Poet Alice Te Punga Somerville in the Big Idea

I was on vacation last week, but I still checked in to celebrate New Zealand National Poetry Day on Friday. It's an "event extravaganza" designed to soothe, delight and uplift "poetry lovers and the public alike. Poetry popped up in churches, bookshops, libraries and out on the streets. Poetry through music, open mic, book launches, poetry walks and so much more took place!" #NZPoetryDay is governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa, and supported by Phantom Billstickers. 

Chris Tse at DC SCORES.

NZ poet laureate Chris Tse's National Poetry Day blog post included a moving recollection of his recent experiences in Washington, D.C., where he was part a cohort of Asian diaspora writers from Aotearoa and Australia whose main purpose for the trip "was a two-week residency to work on our individual projects and to meet with key people in the Asian American writing community to share knowledge and ideas about how we can empower and create opportunities for our own communities. We also lined up some last-minute events while we were in town, including performances at the famous Busboys & Poets, and the first-ever open mic at the Kennedy Center." 

Tse noted that at one point during the visit, he found himself "in a school gymnasium thrumming with the laughter of 40 kids and adults chasing a soccer ball across the polished floor. The kids were 'poet-athletes' taking part in a summer camp program with DC SCORES, a not-for-profit organization that uses soccer and poetry to 'give kids the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life'. My indoor soccer days were far behind me, so I was there in my capacity as Aotearoa's Poet Laureate.

"Despite my initial skepticism about soccer and poetry being natural bedfellows, I was instantly won over by the kids' enthusiasm for both. After sharing some of my poems, I fielded some creative and incisive questions from the kids. What I love about moments like this is that it strengthens my own relationship to poetry, and reminds me how powerful it can be to connect with others through the power of storytelling and poetry.... If there's one thing I want to achieve before my term is over, it's to shift perceptions about poetry being 'difficult' to help people find new ways into enjoying it. We're surrounded by poetry, from the way shadows scatter themselves on the pavement to someone being moved to speak out about injustice."

At Unity Books

Across New Zealand last Friday, indie booksellers were also celebrating #NZPoetryDay, including Unity Books, Wellington ("HAPPY @nzpoetryday. A day to celebrate all things poetry."); Schrӧdinger's Books, Petone; Wardini Books, Havelock North; Time Out Bookstore, Auckland; Books & Co., Otaki; Good Books, Wellington; and Petronella's Bookstore, Lake Tekapo.

Scorpio Books, Christchurch noted: "A very happy National Poetry Day to you! Aotearoa is lucky to have a glorious array of poets writing all kinds of challenging, soothing, beautiful work and it's a great day to discover some of them! You could stop to read a poem on a bollard; visit us and ask us for a recommendation; or even catch some live poetry readings at WORD Christchurch events (the books pictured here are all by poets featuring in the festival!)."

Other highlights included St Heliers Community Library "chalking poems outside the library (with a little help from tiny passersby!)" and Poetryinmotion's idea to send "packets of Pocket Poetry to southern libraries as an addition to their celebrations. Today I received a wonderful e-mail from Owaka with a photo of my pocket poetry cards in a range of denim pockets." The National Library of New Zealand's Poetry Machine landed at Wellington Airport. 

During my own quiet #NZPoetryDay celebration in upstate New York, I was reading and listening to Alice Te Punga Somerville, including the poem "Waitangi Day 2019," which ends like this:

Despite everything, I smiled to myself: I had decided to write a Waitangi poem today.
I'd been thinking about metaphors while I sped through acres of literal violence: 

So many Waikato killing fields, farms on stolen land drenched with Banaban bones, past the faded sign for a café called Cook's landing.  

And then the poem walked out to the car 
as soon as it heard me pull in the driveway.

"Another National Poetry Day has come and gone," Chris Tse posted on Facebook. "What a rush! I spent the day at the National Library where I was joined by Sara from Motif Poetry and Liam from Wellington Zinefest. Together, we introduced students to slam, erasure poetry, and zine-making. I was buzzing after hearing the students share poems that they'd written in just half an hour--there is so much talent out there!"

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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