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Archive for the 'Contributors' Category

Best of Powells.com 2014: Editor’s Picks

A lot of amazing authors contribute to Powell's Blog, and not all of them get the attention they deserve. Here's a look back at some of the most thought-provoking author posts to appear on Powells.com this year — along with four interviews that you really shouldn't miss.

The World of Publishing: 1991 vs. 2014
by Karen Karbo

The author of The Diamond Lane and 13 other works itemizes the responsibilities writers must now shoulder to promote their books.

"The Diamond Lane, published in May 1991, was my second novel, and what is most striking about the difference between the publishing process 23 years ago and now is not that the book was written on a Kaypro, Xeroxed at Kinko's, and sent overnight in a FedEx box to G. P. Putnam's Sons, but that after the manuscript was accepted and given a pub date, I asked my esteemed editor, 'What should I do now?' and she said, 'Just write the next one.'" (Read the full post)


The Collected Poems of James Laughlin

Fall has brought us a true gift in the publication of the massive The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, published by New Directions in an exceptionally beautiful hardcover edition. The book includes an inexhaustible number of poems, in a lovely 1,214(!) page tome.

Laughlin is best known as the founder of New Directions Publishing, the U.S. publisher that championed, and has continued to champion, the work of people as diverse as Ezra Pound and Denise Levertov, Hermann Hesse and Henry Miller, William Carlos Williams and Roberto Bolaño, and Muriel Rukeyser and Clarice Lispector. There's a story about the origins of this dedication to such a broad and defining list, one that would go on to help shape Modernism in our time. It goes like this: when Laughlin was a young man, he took a leave from his studies at Harvard and went to study with Pound in Italy. In the end, Pound told Laughlin he couldn't write, so he should go home and use his money (Laughlin's family was quite wealthy) and publish those who could. Namely, as it turned ...


The Work of Jerome Rothenberg

I have no hesitation in saying that Jerome Rothenberg is one of our greatest living poets and that his latest book, Eye of Witness: A Jerome Rothenberg Reader, is among the top books published last year. Eye of Witness, published by the relentlessly pioneering Black Widow Press, is a huge, 580-page tome that encompasses the entirety of Rothenberg's vast and many-hued career.

Rothenberg's terrain is the intersection of language and culture. He explores how the two mesh, in different times and places, to produce works redolent of both beauty and horror, pieces that can be prophetic or starkly pedestrian and coolly informative. It is in this meshing, this coming together, that his poetry is rooted.

A large part of the book is dedicated to his translations or versions (he calls them "variations") of the work both of great historical figures, such as Pablo Neruda and Tristan Tzara, and the mythic utterances of native and ethnic traditions arising, for example, out of Judaic or shamanistic experience. These pieces are in turn disturbing and challenging. They rise up before you, like a mighty golem of the imagination, ...


Ferlinghetti, Potent as Ever

Happy National Poetry Month!

I was going to try and do a roundup of several newish poetry books, but I got so stuck on this book, that I couldn't follow through. So...

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is one of my all-time favorite poets. I cut my teeth, 30 years ago, on A Coney Island of the Mind, which was first published by New Directions in 1958. With its jazzy meter and hip parlance, it helped set the mind-set for the whole Beat phenomenon. In fact, he founded both City Lights Books and City Lights Publishers, and went on to publish much of the most interesting material of ensuing years.

Ferlinghetti is now 95 years old, and his subsequent work has been equally important to my development as a reader and devotee of poetry. Time of Useful Consciousness was his last book, a collection I went nuts over, and his newest book, Blasts Cries Laughter, is equally good.

One of the things that sets this book apart is that it's among the latest installments in New Directions' wonderful new ...


New Directions Poetry Pamphlets

Let's face it: New Directions is, hands down, one of the most consistently interesting and provocative publishers in operation today. From poetry to essays, from big, lovely arty books with a literary slant to experimental fiction from Central Europe or the Middle East, they cover an incredible range, and do so time and again.

Now they've introduced a new series, the New Directions Poetry Pamphlets, which continues their historical emphasis on elegance and simplicity. These books — there are 12 thus far — are lovely, and the series brings together both established and new poets in an attractive format.

The list is both breathtaking and groundbreaking, a true affirmation of what New Directions does best: exploring new and established writers in fresh and exciting ways. Here you can explore Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Blasts Cries Laughter), Susan Howe (Sorting Facts, or Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker), and H. D. (Vale Ave) alongside other, less well-known poets. Check out Fifteen Iraqi Poets, edited by Dunya Mikhail, or Poems to Read on a Streetcar by Oliverio Girondo.


The Tournament of Books Zombie Poll

Powell's is proud to sponsor the 10th annual March Madness for book lovers, The Morning News Tournament of Books, in which 17 of the best fiction titles of 2013 duke it out to be named the Rooster of 2014!

The tournament will officially begin in early March, but you can get in on the action now by taking part in the "Zombie" poll. This poll determines which two books will get a second chance at the prize later in the tournament. All you have to do is select your favorite book from the list of finalists. Here's a rundown of those books:

At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
The Tuner of Silences by Mia Couto
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Long Division by Kiese Laymon
Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Hill William by Scott McClanahan
The Son by Philipp Meyer
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Eleanor and Park by ...


Collectible Poetry Books by a Portland Small Press

There are so many books, and there are so many good books.

And there are so many good books in particular during National Poetry Month, which we are energetically celebrating here at Powell's.

And then, even among those good books, there are the really good books. In that vein, and in case you haven't already been introduced, please allow me to raise the shining vision of the Portland-based small press Tavern Books. I have to be blunt: I'm utterly smitten. It's been a long time since I've run across a list of books that is as diverse as the voices that Tavern celebrates and in which each and every book is, on its very face, a work of art and a labor of love.

Thus far, most of Tavern's books are chapbooks, what many people think of as pamphlets. One may hesitate at the price, but I'm here to vouch for the quality of each gorgeous and collectible book and the work it contains.

Take, for example, Archeology by Native American poet Adrian C. Louis. Louis has long been one of my favorite poets, his rage and eloquence ...


How to Be Interesting

How to Be Interesting


Time of Grief: A Poetry Anthology Exploring Loss

True confession: I love anthologies. Travel writing, mysteries, literary essays, and fiction — virtually anything, if it's well done, will command my undivided attention. Well, at least for a while, until the next Excellent Endeavor comes along.

But, in my heart, one style really takes precedence — poetry.

In my experience, poetry anthologies are gateways to the new and unexplored . They are an opening to the wondrous for those new to the form, forays in a carefully crafted deepening for seasoned poetic travelers, and, quite simply, literary opiates for those readers who, like me, continue to search for Blake's "palace of wisdom," or Coleridge's "Xanadu."

Admittedly, it's sometimes difficult to find something fresh, something in the anthological universe to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Several titles do come to mind — Simic's The Horse Has Six Legs, his anthology of Serbian poets, or Conductors of the Pit, Clayton Eshleman's unnerving collection of darkly intoxicating translations — but there are so many more, and most of them just don't come near Pound's dictum to "make it new."

Imagine my pleasure, then, ...


Remembering What You Read

Participants in a new study demonstrated higher levels of brain activity when reading the original passages from select Shakespeare plays as compared to the same text rewritten in simpler language.

I admit it: I have trouble retaining the details of books. Most texts eventually get relegated to a dark corner of my mind, slowly accumulating dust until they're barely visible at all. The only thing I can remember about DeLillo's White Noise is that the narrator's wife is named Babette, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen brings to mind sharp angles and little else, and the specifics of Conrad's Heart of Darkness have grown as murky as the book's title.

The process is gradual but often follows a pattern. First plot particulars float away. Next the theme grows fuzzy. Then characters and images start to vanish until all that's left is one or two lone figures standing in a cornfield or the high desert or a sprawling suburban home. Occasionally the entire book recedes into the ether.

As part of my New Year's resolution, I've decided to take some steps to boost my recall. While I don't expect to be able to recite Crime and Punishment, I hope that I'll come to recollect a little more about the books I read. If you experience the same forgetfulness, you might want to consider trying out some of these strategies as well.


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