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Author Archive: "Jay Ponteri"

Invasion in the Blue Room!

Here are THREE books I'm looking forward to:

1) September: Poems by Rachel Jamison Webster, TriQuarterly Books. I published some of Rachel's poems in the online magazine I edit, M Review, and her work is beautiful, weird, OPEN. It does not shy away from despair, from joy, from human mystery, from the expressions of deep grief, of childlike wonder. Look at some of her poems from the recent issue of Poetry magazine, and click here to listen to a recording of three poems from her forthcoming book.

2) Trances of the Blast by Mary Ruefle, Wave Books. Enough said.

3) Zibaldone by Giacomo Leopardi (translated by Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino), Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This is like a gazillion-page prose journal by the Romantic Italian poet Leopardi, one that Italo Calvino quotes from generously in his eloquent, elliptical book of lectures on writing, Six Memos for the Next Millennium.

Today I find Plastic Indigenous Man by Sarah Arvio's new book of poems, Night Thoughts: 70 Dream Poems and Notes from an Analysis. ...


Let Me Introduce to You: Kevin Sampsell

Just had a good conversation with writer (also Powell's employee/small-press-room curator) Kevin Sampsell.

I told Kevin about the dream I had last night in which he read from his forthcoming novel (This Is Between Us, Tin House Books, November 2013) at a shopping mall to like hundreds of people, and his reading was very very funny and darkly poignant, and I teared up as he finished, and then we walked part of the shopping mall TOGETHER as I told him how much I admired his work and the numerous, numinous ways Kevin supported other writers and small-press endeavors from not only Portland but from all over the country.

Kevin Sampsell

I ask Kevin if he thinks it's weird how frequently I come into the bookstore.

He says: "It's much better to be a regular at a bookstore than a regular at a bar, strip club, gun shop, office supply store, or emergency room."

I will sometimes recommend books to friends, students, and, well, total strangers, and I will follow it up by saying, "Powell's Downtown has three used and two new copies available. Hawthorne has a used copy, and if you're out in Beaver-tron..."

A friend once told me perhaps I go to bookstores so frequently because I'm unconsciously looking for my own book (which, at the time, didn't come close to existing).

I go into Powell's five days per week to be in touch with The Other and myself at the same time. All that revelation of other writers, all that inside skin, those inside faces, my Dreams of The Other made manifest, those stiff spines and crisp edges and clean white pages uncut, deckled, or perfectly cut, her hands touching and lifting those spines, wrapping her fingers around those spines that I, soon after, wrap my fingers around, one person whispering to another: "I want to share this inside-self with your inside self. I want to gift you with what lies inside the hearts and minds of The Other."


May I Recommend to You Some Books to Read?

It's hump day at Powell's, and I'm (not surprisingly) a little hungover from the excitement (that reach for The Other) of yesterday's purchases (Salter, Adler, Simic). May I recommend three titles that Powells.com and Powell's downtown currently carry?

1. Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures

Collected over many years of giving lectures at Vermont College's low-residency MFA program, these are not simply poetry craft essays but essays searching hard for discovery in the face of rampant uncertainty, death, despair, and wonder. Ruefle's prose reveals her very intense passion for poetics while arguing in multiple ways (and across all her lectures) that the most impactful writers write with humility and devotion to mystery and confusion and uncertainty in the face of death and reverence for those (e.g., Keats, Clare, Dickinson) who have spoken before. I don't know more than you don't know. This passage is from her lecture "On Secrets":


Tuesday’s My Favorite Day!

Tuesday's my favorite day! It's the day of new releases! If I'm not mistaken, James Salter's new novel, All That Is (Knopf), is newly available, although I cannot bring up James Salter without mentioning his most amazing novel, Light Years, one of my favorite marriage novels (right up there with Paula Fox's Desperate Characters), and may I recommend the North Point Press edition of Light Years, of which the Blue Room has two copies. North Point Press, I miss you!

Before I forget: Jay Ponteri here, author of Wedlocked (Hawthorne Books), confessed bibliophile, embedded in the Blue Room of Powell's, blogging on Powells.com about the Powell's experience.

Powell's opens at 9 a.m., and around 9:30, the Blue Room booksellers roll out the fiction and poetry carts for shelving. Imagine the home team coming out from the locker room onto the court to an ecstatic crowd of fans. To see all of the new books together — like a new employee orientation? — before being shelved, before mixing in with all of the other books, the new Dara Wier (You Good Thing) finding a comfy ...


Happy April Fools’ Day!

My name is Jay Ponteri, and I wrote Wedlocked, newly published by Hawthorne Books. The book is a memoir about a rough patch (imagine: Grand Canyon) in my marriage. It considers what it looks and feels like to be a lonely (hu)man inside a marriage, what it looks and feels like to push away the one who loves you, what it looks and feels like to FAIL as a husband, to say, You are not what I want. The prose is deeply private. It looks inside an American marriage and describes what it sees through the lens of human loneliness. (And believe me, there was plenty it didn't see.)

Normally I would go on and on (imagine: Grand Canyon) about my thoughts regarding marriage in our culture, about my own work and the work of others, where and how I write, my Selectric typewriter, the craft of nonfiction prose, et cetera,

My Selectric Typewriter

but I would prefer to discuss Powell's, or more specifically, myself at Powell's. That is to say, I'm not only blogging on Powells.com but I'm blogging on Powells.com from Powell's downtown store (E. Burnside) about My Experience of Powell's. I have embedded ...


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