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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.

 

Powell’s Q&A: Kate Bolick

Describe your latest book.
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own is a memoir about the possibilities and perils of remaining single, starring six protagonists — five women who lived in the early 1900s, and me. These "awakeners," as I call them (a term I borrowed from Edith Wharton), are a mix of famous and obscure: journalist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton.

The story is set primarily in New York City at the turn of the last century and the turn of this one — two eras that have much more in common than you might think. In a sense, the book is a personal prelude to a cover story I wrote for The Atlantic in 2011, called "All the Single Ladies." The bulletin board above my desk is a slice of the book in miniature:

Bulletin Board

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I got my first job when I was 12, as a dishwasher ...


Love 101: A College Sophomore’s Attempts to Learn the World

When I was a college sophomore, I thought everything I needed to know could be learned from a book. My best friend, Claire*, and I decided to create an independent study on the topic that most fascinated and confounded us at that age: love. We spent hours planning the syllabus in her second-floor single, with its faux sophisticated college dorm décor — Christmas lights and black and white postcards of Debbie Harry and Louise Brooks — Claire with her asthma inhaler nearby, and me with my pack of Marlboro reds at the ready, so I could dip outside to smoke.

My theory about books wasn't without supporting evidence. After struggling in high school for two miserable years, while being persecuted by classmates who felt at home in our quaint Maine town and didn't care for my dramatic black eyeliner and bad attitude, I'd been miraculously released from all of this by the work of Plato. I'd been asked to write about his essay, "The Allegory of the Cave," for my application to Simon's Rock; the piece of writing itself, and the invitation to pen a response, convinced me ...


Powell’s Q&A: Kevin M. Kruse

Describe your latest book.
My book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, seeks to explain why so many Americans have come to believe that this country is an officially "Christian nation." As I show in the book, the religious symbols and ceremonies that are often invoked as proof that it is come not from the Founding Fathers but rather from our own grandfathers.

The book begins by showing how, during their fight against the New Deal, corporate leaders worked with conservative clergymen to advance a language of "freedom under God" that they could use to challenge the "slavery of the state." Over the 1930s and 1940s, they spent a great deal of time and money popularizing this new Christian libertarianism, and with the election of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, they succeeded in placing an ally in power.

With the new president pointing the way, America officially embraced a wide variety of developments that previously would have been unthinkable — the National Prayer Breakfast in 1953, the addition of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and the adoption of "In God We ...


New Cookbooks: The Perfect Egg, Street Foods, Pasta by Hand

Here in the Powell's offices, we are prone to geeking out over Pi Day. Not so much for the mathy-ness of it, although the math is pretty awesome. No, we get excited over the pie part. Pi Day starts early in the month for us, as we tuck into the piles of forthcoming cookbooks littering our desks, all looking for the best recipe. We're a pretty tight crew, and sharing food is a joy we love. Although my joy was temporarily diminished when, at 9:30 the night before our Pi Day celebration, I suddenly remembered I had yet to start making mine. I wasn't entirely sure my pie would even work, as I was altering a recipe I'd never made before to be both gluten-free and a little diabetic-friendly. Luckily, my Double Chocolate Mint Chess Pie tasted fantastic (phew!), as did all our pies, both savory and sweet. Some pies came from family recipes, some from blogs, but most were from soon-to-be-released cookbooks. We even had some anarchy in our Pi presentation with scones made from The Dirty Apron Cookbook.

The past few weeks were super-chunky with some great new cookbook releases, so you might want to fortify yourself with a grilled cheese sandwich or at least make a cup of tea before you read on.

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Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love

I have a secret family recipe for a delicious chocolate mint refrigerator pie, which has been called Slide Pie ever since a pie tipped to one side while quick-setting in the freezer. One side of the pie was frozen mid-drip over the edge of the pie tin, the other side nearly flat. We gave up on slicing it and just communally dug in with spoons. Remember, it doesn't have to look good to taste good. Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love has a Double Chocolate Mint Chess Pie recipe that made me turn aside from my beloved Slide Pie. Delicious! I altered the recipe to be gluten-free and quasi-diabetic, and I gave my usual heavy pour on the mint. I'm pretty sure if I were to go to Savannah, Georgia — the Back in the Day Bakery would be one of the first places I'd visit, and I've wanted to go to Savannah since reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about 20 years ago.


Poetry Madness: The Hajara Quinn Division

Every year to celebrate Poetry Month, we select 32 poets to battle it out in a competition for the ages: Poetry Madness. This year, we decided to do things a little differently: instead of choosing the players ourselves, we asked four awesome poets — Saeed Jones, Andrea Gibson, Robert Lashley, and Hajara Quinn — to each nominate eight of their favorite contemporaries to compete for the title of Best Poet of All Time (for the year). Who will emerge victorious? Read about the contenders here and then go to our Poetry Madness page on April 8 to vote for your top choices.

Below are Hajara Quinn's picks for Poetry Madness 2015.
 

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Hajara Quinn lives in Portland, Oregon. She is an assistant editor for Octopus Books and the author of the chapbook Unnaysayer (Flying Object, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Banango Street, The Volta, Nightblock, and Sixth Finch. She is the recipient of a 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship.

Mary Ruefle
Author of Trances of the Blast

"Mary Ruefle is perhaps the poet most likely to disarm me on any given day. The way the imagination in her poetry does its transformative work on description, the way it changes everything, the way she resists easy epiphany, the way she courts impossible epiphanies."

"Provenance" by Mary Ruefle
from Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013)

In the fifth grade
I made a horse of papier-mâché
and painted it white
and named it Aurora


Voracious

In the summer of 2012, I got a contract for a book about language, based on my experiences of more than 30 years as a copy editor at The New Yorker. I was thrilled, because now I had license to buy all the books about language that I wanted.

That September, I was driving on Route 9 along the southern border of Vermont, when I spotted a bookstore and slammed on the brakes. Inside, a young woman showed me a small selection of reference books, and I picked out Roy Blount Jr.'s Alphabetter Juice; or, The Joy of Text, a collection of funny takes on all kinds of disputed usages, in alphabetical order. The book was apparently a sequel to one called Alphabet Juice, which I would look for down the road. I didn't need to read these things in order. Could I help it, as a serial devourer of language books, if the universe served up dessert first?

The following winter, during a sojourn on Cape Cod, I stopped in the Provincetown Bookstore — the one that John Waters used to work in — where ...


Poetry Madness: The Saeed Jones Division

Every year to celebrate Poetry Month, we select 32 poets to battle it out in a competition for the ages: Poetry Madness. This year, we decided to do things a little differently: instead of choosing the players ourselves, we asked four awesome poets — Saeed Jones, Andrea Gibson, Robert Lashley, and Hajara Quinn — to each nominate eight of their favorite contemporaries to compete for the title of Best Poet of All Time (for the year). Who will emerge victorious? Read about the contenders here and then go to our Poetry Madness page on April 8 to vote for your top choices.

Saeed Jones's debut poetry collection Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press) was the winner of the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award and a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award. His work has appeared in publications like Guernica, The Rumpus, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Blackbird among others. Saeed is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and Queer / Art / Mentors.

Below are Saeed Jones's picks for Poetry Madness 2015.
 

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Jericho Brown
Author of The New Testament

"Whether writing in the voice of Joni Mitchell or a lover rapt with the blues, Brown's poetry darkly glimmers like whiskey on the rocks."

Listen to him read "At the End of Hell."

Follow him on Twitter @jerichobrown.
 

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Patricia Smith
Author of Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah

"The roar of Hurricane Katrina, the hopeful sigh of a young mother in Chicago's South Side, Medusa fixing her hair: Patricia Smith has so many voices!"


50 Books of Literary Collage

We cowrote and coedited Life Is Short — Art Is Shorter: In Praise of Brevity. We're interested in brief prose (short-shorts and mini-essays), but we're also (and even more) devoted to book-length works of literary collage, built out of brief shards. Here are some of our favorite examples of such works.
David Shields and Elizabeth Cooperman

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Speedboat by Renata Adler
David learned how to write by reading this book until the spine broke. He typed the entire book twice.

OR: The feeling of being caught between floors of a difficult-to-define department store. You keep turning pages and reading scenes until, finally, you understand what, for Adler, constitutes a scene: a toxic and intoxicating mix of velocity, violence, sex, money, power, travel, technology, miscommunication; when you get it, the book's over.

A Certain World by W. H. Auden

S/Z by Roland Barthes

Writing Home by Alan Bennett

The Balloonists by Eula Biss


Poetry Madness: The Robert Lashley Division

Every year to celebrate Poetry Month, we select 32 poets to battle it out in a competition for the ages: Poetry Madness. This year, we decided to do things a little differently: instead of choosing the players ourselves, we asked four awesome poets — Saeed Jones, Andrea Gibson, Robert Lashley, and Hajara Quinn — to each nominate eight of their favorite contemporaries to compete for the title of Best Poet of All Time (for the year). Who will emerge victorious? Read about the contenders here and then go to our Poetry Madness page on April 8 to vote for your top choices.

Robert Lashley has had poems published in such journals as Feminete, No Regrets, Nailed, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and Your Hands, Your Mouth. His work was also featured in Many Trails to the Summit, an anthology of Northwest form and lyric poetry. His full-length book, The Homeboy Songs, was published by Small Doggies Press in April 2014.

Here are Robert Lashley's picks for Poetry Madness 2015:
 

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Jay Wright
Author of Disorientations: Groundings

"He brought the oral tradition to Jacobean blank verse and stewed his fusions in African, Native American, and Spanish mythology. Complex, ambitious, and as unclassifiable as the country itself, Wright is my pick for American poetry's most unsung hero."

Find out more about him here.
 

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Gjertrud Schnackenberg
Author of Heavenly Questions

"Schnackenberg helped reclaim form poetry as a space for imagination, invention, and narrative depth. I know it sounds grandiose to say that future generations will discover her like previous generations rediscovered Christina Rossetti, but the sentence can't leave my head."

Read her poem "Supernatural Love."


Poetry Madness: The Andrea Gibson Division

Every year to celebrate Poetry Month, we select 32 poets to battle it out in a competition for the ages: Poetry Madness. This year, we decided to do things a little differently: instead of choosing the players ourselves, we asked four awesome poets — Saeed Jones, Andrea Gibson, Robert Lashley, and Hajara Quinn — to each nominate eight of their favorite contemporaries to compete for the title of Best Poet of All Time (for the year). Who will emerge victorious? Read about the contenders here and then go to our Poetry Madness page on April 8 to vote for your top choices.

Andrea Gibson is a queer/genderqueer poet and activist whose work deconstructs the current political machine, highlighting issues such as gender, sexuality, patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, classism, illness, love, and spirituality. Gibson is a cofounder of Stay Here With Me, an online website and community focused on suicide prevention. Gibson has published three books of poetry, released six full-length spoken-word albums, and is the editor of We Will Be Shelter, an anthology of social justice poetry published by Write Bloody Publishing.

Here are Andrea Gibson's picks for Poetry Madness 2015:
 

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Hieu Nguyen
Author of This Way to the Sugar

"A brilliant, queer, heart-punched unghosting, This Way to the Sugar is a breath-giving collection of desire, grief, trauma, tradition and wise wise wonder from one of the most honest poets I have ever witnessed on a stage."

See his work here.
 

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Claudia Rankine
Author of Citizen: An American Lyric

"Stunning, shattering, and crucial, Citizen unpacks race relations in America, fueling a facing inward and outward, questioning constructed definitions of freedom, and interrogating the assumption that what is lived through is always survived."

Learn more about Claudia Rankine here.
 

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