Calling all poetry enthusiasts! Come out for Zed’s Open Mic series featuring poetry, music, and the opportunity to share your own writing talents. This event at 6pm on May 6th will showcase the words of poet Regie Cabico and singer/guitarist Maureen Andary.
“The Uppity Blind Girl Poems ” author Kathi Wolfe has released three new poems, each highlighting the difficulties of finding oneself in a confusing world. “Flying,” “Blind Spot,” and “Uppity Writes on Tinseltown’s Facebook Wall” can be found in their entirety on the Stonewall page. You won’t want to miss this little taste of pure emotion and power!
Sometimes the best stories are the ones that have yet to be written, the ones that are our own. In order to truly know someone, you have to be familiar with their story.
At Brickhouse Books, each of our employees has a unique background that ultimately led them to where they are today. All answer one fundamental question: How did I get here? Here are just a few of our stories, plus some from other fantastic writers! What is yours?
Emily – Editor
It’s a Start
In January I read the cover piece in New York Magazine chronicling seed moments of great careers. Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment. The first joke that Seth Rogan thought was funny. Kevin Smith’s convenience store job that led to the movie Clerks. George Clooney, Martha Stewart, Shaun White, Yo-Yo Ma—you get the idea. It was a brilliant piece, because it sawed down the pedestal. It was more proof that everyone starts somewhere and often that start feels like nothing out of the ordinary.
My writing has flared up again lately. Yes, it sounds like a disease. It can feel like one. For the first time, I am taking it seriously. Often the sheer volume of the garbage ideas disgusts me. I start a new document, type type type. Another new document, a few more words. Repeat until I have to rush off to work. I do not have writer’s block. I have completion block.
Meet Alan, my coworker. He has terrible British teeth, a voice too quiet for customer service, a gentle kindness, and he is embarrassingly late. He found out that I write, so he asks me what I’m working on. At first it was really nice. I probably shared that day’s story. The next day it happened again. And then again. And then again. My answers became more and more vague, then snappy. All of a sudden sharing my art felt like a burden, a contract. I have started to avoid sweet, sweet Alan, who is nothing but a fan, yet elicits expletives in my head every time he asks me what I’ve been writing about. If you give a mouse a cookie, he is going to hold you accountable for it.
His curiosity is appreciated, when I have finished something I am proud of. But I feel desperate when I’m not writing or when my work is mediocre. I’d rather lie and say the words do not exist. Have you ever seen a mediocre band live? Improv or stand-up comedy that isn’t funny? There is nothing more painful to watch. Doubt taps my shoulder. What if I never have a good idea again? I know this is a self-inflicted cycle. Alan can’t make me feel anything, but he does encourage me to reach deep inside myself and affirm my most terrible fears: that my life will be a tiny, quiet, insignificant failure and then I will die. And you know what? It might be true. The End is not warranted for just any human life. Consistent art making is hard to do. I see you, art school attendees, contracted novelists, creative business types.
It’s ridiculous and greedy to say that my whole life will have been a failure if I never make a masterpiece. I am the luckiest girl in the world, with a family that supports and loves me. I made friends—another version of a family—that love me. I fell in love, I traveled, I had dirt and tar under my fingernails, I made mistakes, I swam in the ocean day and night, I heard live music and I even got on stage. I have helped others. I’ve actually had a lot of interesting experiences, but in my head, the place where it all happened, they all sound sadly ordinary.
I’ve been devouring nonfiction, for the same reason I loved reading Beginnings. Because I am just a person who is serious about getting my art out there like these formerly normal people were. I want my ordinary to become a sensation. Nora Ephron says it well in an essay The Story of My Life in 3500 Words or Less, “I can’t get over this aspect of journalism. I can’t believe how real life never lets you down. I can’t understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing…On the other hand, perhaps you can make this stuff up. So I write a novel.” A good story is one that tells the truth. Even if none of it really happened.
I work as a cashier at a grocery store. I would, in fact, wish this job on my worst enemy. To survive, I stare off into fluorescent space, dreaming, writing, with many interruptions. The other day I was watching another cashier. A typical week’s worth of shopping consists of boxes—fresh or frozen, meat or canned protein, some things that are green or red or purple or orange and require four numbers to ring up, cold heavy liquid so sturdily packaged that it requires two paper bags to avoid parking lot disasters, paper towels, and treats. What caught my eye on this order were leggy stems leading to a protective collar of plastic for bursts of delicate purple. The bouquet rings up as “Lavender Passion” for $8.99. All the food stuff, the stuff that keeps us alive, was manhandled into a bag, a real life version of Tetris. But don’t even think about bagging those flowers. Those flowers are beautiful, and beauty must be handed back to the customer with care. That beauty will sustain our customer each day from a vase on their kitchen table as they return home with another day’s wages. Even if they have a job they would wish upon their best friends.
Playing with words is one in a series of career changes for me. How did I get here? When left to my own devices I chose to read. When I tired of that I chose to walk. When I returned my head was full of beauty and I had to preserve it. My mason jar is a piece of paper, my peaches only petty schemes. The most brilliant works are often simple, and one day I hope to master that simplicity. I won’t let you know how it goes—too much pressure. However, a little of the right sort of encouragement will be accepted. Here’s to hoping for a breakthrough for you and me: the idea that gets both of us to the top of our hypothetical mountains.
Until then I’ll be I’ll be editing here at BrickHouse, helping other writers make their dreams come true. It feels like my biggest breakthrough yet.
Monica – IOS Online Editor
On My Way
As long as I can remember, I have been in love with reading. From carrying three books with me just so I wouldn’t get caught without a story, books have been an integral part of my life.
My passion soon turned into a dream for a future career, initially as a high school librarian, but has now shifted into a focus on book publishing. Due to the kindness of Harper Collins and my fellow book blogger John Jacobson, I expanded my horizons to starting a website of my own: Monica the Novelista.
Working on a book reviewing website has taught me so much about social media and the world of literature, not to mention opening doors to opportunities I never before believed would be possible. Not only have I been inspired to start a charity that provides gently used books to hospital patients, it also led me to Brickhouse Books.
While my dreams of working on book press tours are relatively far away, nothing is more exciting than getting a little taste of a world I can’t wait to fully become submerged in. Books have always been my lifeline, stories and characters my escape from the mundane.
I believe that no matter who you are, there is a book out there that can reach you on a deeper level. My dream is to help get you there.
Adrian Koesters- Author of Many Parishes
I was born in Bon Secours Hospital in Southwest Baltimore, and most of my childhood was spent back and forth living either with my grandmother in her house on South Stricker, just off Lemmon in the Union Square neighborhood, or with other relatives. At sixteen I moved to Washington State, and then at 19 to Nebraska where I have lived most of my adult life. Nebraska is now my home, but “Home” is Union Square, also the title of my first novel (not yet published). I also lived in the Govens area and on Roland Avenue.
My first book of poems, which I was delighted to have published in 2013 by BrickHouseBooks, details the Many Parishes of my childhood and adult life, and features a number of Baltimore locations and experiences, with a section of persona poems called “The Nuns Who Never Existed.” My second book, also under consideration at BrickHouse, is titled Three Days with the Long Moon. Both volumes are often poems of place, and how place has shaped my perhaps more than unusually odd and mixed perspective as a poet. In that sense, I feel I am still a true daughter of Baltimore, where everything always looks the same, and nothing seems the same way twice.
Memory is one of the most uniquely human attributes. We learn and improve our lives, enrich and deepen our current experiences through remembering the past. Much, if not most of the poetry that we write and read, quote and re-quote is rooted in the using of the past to illuminate our present. Some poets do this much better than others.
One of those poets is P. Ivan Young, and in his recent collection, Smell of Salt, Ghost of Rain from BrickHouse Books, we witness a wondrous poet going about his poetry work with such craft and emotion we linger and return to his poems time and again.
Young’s talents are on display in the very first poem, “Contortion,” a poem that begins innocently with the lines
The apartment doors
open like boxes
and we unfold.
and proceeds to unfurl the bodies of the stories behind the doors in the speaker’s apartment complex. It is those stories that twist us, tangle our lives, and somehow we are able to contort our days into some semblance of a life.
For the full review and purchasing options, please visit the “Buy Our Books” section.
A Splendid Wake 4
4th Annual Program Celebrating Poetry in the Nation’s Capital —1900 to the Present
Friday, March 18th, 2016 from 6:30-8:30 P.M. at George Washington University Gelman Library, Suite 702, 2130 H Street, NW, Washington, DC (near Foggy Bottom Metro stop). Free and Open to the Public!
Join us for our 4th incarnation of A Splendid Wake as we continue our work of documenting poets and poetry movements in the Nation’s Capital from 1900 to the present. Our focus this vernal equinox is on Grace Cavalieri’s selected radio broadcasts of The Poet and the Poem; Letras Latinas in DC with Francisco Aragón and Dan Vera; and Crossing Borders: Literary Translation in DC with moderator Barbara Goldberg, and panelists: Roman Kostovski, Nancy Naomi Carlson, and Vivian Wang.
Recipient of the Silver Medal for Broadcasting from Corporation of Public Broadcasting, prolific poet and playwright Grace Cavalieri presents excerpted recordings of Sterling Brown, first Poet Laureate of Washington DC and author of Southern Road; Lucille Clifton, National book Award winner and author of Blessing the Boats; Ann Darr, one of the first women pilots in World War II and author of Cleared for Landing; Roland Flint, Georgetown University professor and author ofEasy; Essex Hemphill, jazz poet and author of Conditions: Poems; May Miller, the most widely published woman playwright of the Harlem Renaissance and author of Halfway to the Sun; Belle Waring, author of Refuge and Dark Blonde;and Reed Whittemore, former Consultant in Poetry to The Library of Congress and author of The Mother’s Breast, The Father’s House. Cavalieri will read poems from her memoir Life Upon the Wicked Stage.
DC area-based poets Francisco Aragón and Dan Vera discuss Letras Latinas, the literary initiative of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies and how that initiative has been carried out in DC, which includes collaborations with the Library of Congress, various branches of the Smithsonian Institution, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Aragón established Letras Latinas as part of his work at Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. Dan Vera is author of Speaking Wiri Wiri, the inaugural winner (in poetry) of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize.
The panel Crossing Borders: Literary Translation in DC will discuss the history and present-day state of literary translation, with examples drawn from Czech, French, Chinese, Hebrew, and Kurdish. Particular challenges unique to each language and culture will also be discussed.
Splendid Wake Wiki: http://wikis.library.gwu/dcpoetry/index.php/Main_Page
Splendid Wake-up Blog: http://splendidwake.blogspot.com
Welcome to Splendid Wake-up: a blog associated with Splendid Wake, a greater Washington DC area project that documents poets and poetry from 1900 to current day.
And For the Mouth A Flower, by J. Tarwood, was recently reviewed by Sonja James in The Journal. Her full writing is shown below and can also be found in its original formatting here.
A review by Sonja James
J. Tarwood’s “And For the Mouth a Flower” is the latest poetry collection by one of the nation’s most intriguing poets. In this slim volume, Tarwood writes of family, childhood, the natural world, and his travels throughout East Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. These are poems that grace us with the elegant interplay between the mundane and the exotic. The poet reaches deep within himself while simultaneously searching the globe for his material. These poems are a grand and explicit dialogue between self and world.
The opening poem, “Come,” is an open invitation to a deceased sibling: “Visit me.” The poet speaks with poignant clarity as he summons his dead brother:
You can talk if you like…
You can be quiet too,
remembering that dead end
on the Illinois shore
where Mom and Dad made you a home…
Dying young, you settled
for being me. But I’m not
forever either. We can
haunt the world together.
In “Home for the Holidays,” Tarwood criticizes his father while inventing himself: “Dad had no backbone to spare./I took mine from a squirrel.” The poem concludes with an aphoristic aside: “The wise heart is sad and slow.”
“A Drinking Man” is yet another family poem. This poem celebrates the poet’s father, who liked to drink hard spirits: “Bundled good, he drank/gifts to shut up his own,/each cold shot a threshold/to yet another.”
In “Learning to Read,” Tarwood evokes a childhood memory of the Dick and Jane primers once used in elementary schools. He thus records the magic moment of understanding when the book came alive for him: “What hocus pocus, then/triggered book to talk/till I at last/had to talk back?”
In the subsequent poem, “Balloons,” the poet pays homage to those common childhood toys. He first categorizes them, describing both carnival balloons and parade balloons. He then describes how he once tried to save a balloon: “I stashed one once/in my top drawer./I thought it was my soul./It kept shriveling up//though air was everywhere.”
Not just a poet of family and childhood, Tarwood is also an exceptional nature poet. “Kingfisher” is a nature poem of profound beauty. Here the poet describes a kingfisher: “Sunshine floats in the flow,/melting gold, when a sudden/glint of jewelry IDs the bird,/green willow, blue water, melting gold.”
In the later poems, “Bogota” and “Havana,” Tarwood celebrates these two cities he has visited. Another travel poem, “Education in Yemen,” chronicles an experience he had as a teacher in Yemen when a wild hawk flew against the window: “A hawk swoops into my classroom window.” He and the children watch the bird peck at the glass until it finally tires and flies away “soar[ing] off on a sudden thermal,/shriveling into nothing/as we head back to words.”
Perhaps the loveliest poem in the volume is the love poem, “Blue of You.” With passion, Tarwood writes: “To think of you/is like/a horizon of violins/or a jasmine discovering stoicism:/ blue lingers/a soul/a silence.”
As a whole, J. Tarwood’s “And For the Mouth a Flower” is a stunning collection of poems chronicling events triggered by memories of Tarwood’s unusual life experiences. These are passionate poems that overwhelm with their dignity and respect for life. As a fierce master of human perception, Tarwood has created a poetics of vibrant insight into the human condition.
Sonja James is the author of The White Spider in My Hand (New Academia Publishing: Scarith Books, 2015) and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013).
Poets are invited to send recent books for review consideration. Contact Sonja James at email@example.com
Please enjoy this video of an interview with the incredibly talented Elizabeth Stevens, author of American Nocturne and A Green Isle in the Sea, Love. Stevens discusses her illustrations, publications, and beginning as a graphic artist.
Please join author Kathi Wolfe on December 2nd for a reading with Bailout Theater, courtesy of Judson Arts Wednesdays. Doors open at 55 Washington Square South at 7 pm. Free community meal served and devoured at 7:15 pm. Free art offered and enjoyed at 8 pm. This month, a lineup of poets and musicians, curated by Sarah Duncan, reflect on “Wellness” through story and song. For more information please see the event site, http://judson.org/bailouttheater.
Taking place at diverse locations between October and December, this series features four events and five books selected by a committee of Baltimore-area writers. Each book club event features a facilitated conversation with interested readers and the books’ authors. Presented in partnership with and sponsored by The Ivy Bookshop (Information on how to register for one or more Book Club Series events coming soon.) The first 10 people to RSVP for each event will receive a free copy of the book! For more information, please visit this page.