CityLit 2015: “Most important festival ever”

BrickHouse Books is proud to have been part of the twelfth annual CityLit Festival on May 2.  It took place at the Enoch Pratt Free Library and was the only event in the city that day not to have been canceled due to the rally at City Hall.  http://citylitproject.org/index.cfm?page=news&newsid=157

BhB had a table and our own Clarinda Harriss read a poem as part of the panel honoring Michael Salcman’s new anthology, POETRY IN MEDICINE.

Click here to listen to podcasts from the festival.

Proof that science and law can mix with creativity: an interview with Doritt Carroll and Lalita Noronha

By: Shelby Hillers

Doritt Carroll, author of GLTTL STP, and Lalita Noronha, author of Her Skin Phyllo-Thin, don’t have their degrees in English. But that doesn’t stop them from writing and being published.

dorittcarroll Carroll (photographed left), a lawyer, received her undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University. Her works, In Caves and GLTTL STP, were published by BrickHouse Books. The title poem was then nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared in several different magazines and journal reviews.

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Noronha (photographed right), a native of India, came to America to earn her Ph.D. in microbiology. She has won the Maryland Literary Short Story Award twice (1997, 2001), a Maryland Individual Artist Award (2002), the National League of American Pen Women, and other awards. Her work consists of Where Monsoons Cry (fiction) and Her Skin Phyllo-thin (poetry). Noronha is also a fiction editor for the Baltimore Review and a retired science teacher at St. Paul’s School for Girls.

Yet based on their professional work experience, you’d never think the two would be successful authors with published works. Both authors will be at the reading event on April 10 at the Mark Cottman Gallery to promote their works.

To get to know the authors a little better, I was able to interview the two by email where the authors talked about their passion for writing, their hopes for the reading event, and advice for any writers out there.

 BrickHouse Books: What motivates you to write and what motivated you to write your works?

Doritt Carroll: Writers write.  It’s what we do. I never believe people who say they’re going to write a novel when they retire.  If you’re going to be a novelist, you’re compelled to write, right now.  You’ll neglect their work and forget to eat to get it on the paper.

GLTTL STP With regard to GLTTL STP in particular – unlike a lot of poets, who select a title after they’ve written a manuscript, I find a title and it tells me what book to write.  A “glottal stop” is a term of art in singing.  It means a moment when you stop the sound without taking a new breath.  So GLTTL STP (with its strangled spelling) is a book about things not said.  Sometimes it’s good that we didn’t say them, and sometimes it isn’t.

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Lalita Noronha: The title of this work [Her Skin Phyllo-Thin] refers to my mother. She first came to America at the age of 59 to take care of her first grandchild so that I could return to work. She was 86 when she died in India. Watching her slowly grow older and weaker was hard. The distance between our countries made frequent visits impossible. So we were always aware that any meeting could well be the last. As Michael Salcman wrote, “These are feminist poems in the strongest, must subtle sense, filled with the knowledge that flows across generations from grandmother and mother to a daughter who is both scientist and poet.”

Included in the book are other poems of separation—immigration, divorce, youth—as well as some science and ekphrastic poems which seemed to fit the theme.

BHB: Doritt, you have your law degree and are well experienced in the field.  What attracts you to creative writing then?

DC: If there’s a lawyer who ever actually wanted to be lawyer, I haven’t met her yet.  Law is something you do to put food on the table.  Nonetheless, it has taught me something useful, namely, that you can work hard and excel at something that you don’t enjoy.  Let’s put to rest forever the notion that there is such a thing as an “artistic temperament.”  Nobody wants to do hard, painstaking work.  but you can.  a phrase you hear in sports is very relevant here – “there’s a world of difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t want to.’”  Law taught me that I could do excellent work in a field that offered me no inspiration whatsoever. The other thing law is good for is embedding the notion that each word has a mathematical value.  In law, “plaintiff” or “contract” has to mean the exact same thing every time it’s used in a document.  It takes discipline to work with mathematical words and put them into correct sentence-equations.  Then, when you write poetry, you get to explode it all and let a word mean a different thing every time it occurs in a stanza.

 

BhB: Lalita, you have your Ph.D in Microbiology, an amazing background in scientific writing, and experience in the scientific field. What attracts you to creative writing then?

LN: Well, back home in India, there wasn’t much of a dichotomy between science and literature. My parents, both educators, pretty much encouraged all learning. My father was a botany professor; my mother was a English and Geography teacher. But we had literary books all over the place juxtaposed with volumes of plant and animal life.

When I was 11 years old, my 5-year-old sister died from colon cancer (unheard of in those days) and I began writing about her because I wanted my siblings, all under the age of 7, to know her. It was the first time I experienced the immeasurable gift of solace that writing brings. The poem, “Mustard Seed” in my poetry book is for her.

Although I chose to major in botany in college all my friends were from the English department. That’s where I spent my free periods. I belonged to the “Shakespeare Society,” and acted in Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell and Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie. And I read as much as I could of whatever my friends read. But I had no formal training in literature. Science was my focus because I needed scholarships and assistantships to come to America, and science was my only ticket– although honestly, I love science just as much as creative writing. I don’t think I’ve ever lived with one without the other.

BhB: Are people usually shocked when you tell them you write poetry and fiction? If so, why do you think that?

DC: I think people are more shocked when I tell them I’m a lawyer.  I usually get some version of “but you’re so  . . . pleasant.”  I think people are less shocked to hear that I write poetry than they are when they read the actual poems.  As my friend says about the contrast between my appearance and my work, “who knew the president of the PTA was thinking THAT?”

LN: Well, actually my very first publication came early in my writing career–a paid creative nonfiction piece in Catholic Digest, so that’s where I thought I should focus. But by then I’d begun writing stories, and later usurped my own lyrical phrases into what would eventually become poems. The simple truth is that I just love writing.

My writer friends aren’t exactly shocked at my waffling between genres. Some believe it dilutes one’s focus, and impedes mastery over any one form, sort of like being a jack of all trades and master of none–and rightly so. But I am done climbing ladders as a scientist. My writing life is mine to plork! (play and work)

BhB: Doritt, does having your law degree help with your writing at all?

DC: See response to question 2, supra.  (hint:  that’s both the answer and a law joke).

 

BhB: Lalita, how do you incorporate Indian culture into your stories? Do you think this helps you stand out from other writers?

 LN: Well, I was born and raised in small towns in India, and only came to the US in my early twenties, so India runs in my blood, and seeps naturally into narratives. It’s easy because I have authentic experiences of the basic elements of fiction–setting, characters, plot, and so on. But I feel the same way now that America is my home. My novel (in the agent-seeking stage) is set in Bombay and Baltimore. My short stories and poems often deal with separation, dislocation and cross-cultural issues. I feel blessed that my readers relate to my work because ultimately these are human issues. After all, home isn’t a physical space and in that sense everyone leaves home.

As an Indian woman, I suppose it helps me stand apart from western writers, but no more so than other groups, because the emotions associated with loss or joy are universal.

BhB: What do you hope to gain from the upcoming reading event?

DC: Ummmm . . . the same thing I hope for every reading – that I entertain people and help them to understand my poems.

LN: First, I hope that people will come to listen since I’m longing to read my work to them. This is my first poetry book and I’d like to get some exposure as a poet. I also hope to reach people who don’t usually read or like poetry because they just might surprise themselves. My work is unpretentious and accessible. I’m also excited to meet and read with Doritt Carroll at a beautiful location, Mark Cottman’s Gallery in Fells Point. I think it will be a lovely evening for everyone.

BhB: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

DC: Write. And then improve what you write.  You improve by reading a lot of poets and figuring out how they solved the problems you find yourself in.  Gerry Connolly, author of Province of Fire, taught me that in the first workshop I ever attended. Take a hard, unsentimental look at the world around you, and then put what you see down on paper.

LN: I don’t honestly feel qualified to give people any advice, per se. I began writing late in life, and “became a writer” only when I discovered “free summers” (teaching science) and turned away from life as a research scientist. So, I’m driven by knowing that time is short. And if I forget, my left knee reminds me. So, if I want to write, I have to just do it. That’s really what it’s about.

It’s not a choice if you’re one of few fortunate writers who make a living by writing. But it is, for many writers. I inspire myself by reading writers whose work I love or just staring out a window. I teach and attend workshops; simple writing exercises, playing with words or phrases also get the juices flowing. And frankly, the act of writing anything at all turns into inspiration for something larger.

For information about their works check out Carroll’s website and Noronha’s website. And don’t forget to attend their upcoming reading event on April 10. For information on the reading event, click here.

Image Source, Image Source

Artifact Coffee reading event!

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Join us for a fun reading event at Artifact Coffee on Monday, November 11 at 7:00 PM. BrickHouse Books author Clarence Brown will be reading from his book Needs.

Great opportunity to hear some great reading and drink some coffee. What more can you ask for? Hope to see you there!

An Interview with BhB Author Doritt Carroll

If you ask her, Doritt Carroll will tell you that she is (unfortunately) a lawyer and (fortunately) the mother of two daughters.  She received her undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University. Her collection In Caves was published in 2010 byBrickhouse Books.  Her poems have also appeared in a long list of publications, including Coal City Review, Poet Lore,Nimrod, Slipstream, Rattle, The Baltimore Review, and the Journal of Formal Poetry. Her poem “motherlove” appeared in the Fuck Poems anthology by Lavender Ink.  Her book Glttl Stp will be published in September 2013. Ilse Munro write of this latest volume that “Carroll’s control and precision reveal aspects of the human condition that would leave a lesser poet running from the room, screaming.” Lorraine Whittlesey describes Carroll’s voice as “uniquely honest,” a voice that employs “Picasso’s and Miles Davis’s understanding of the importance of the space between objects.”

HUERGO: What moves you to write?

CARROLL: I don’t know if I’m exactly answering your question, but when I write, I’m having a conversation.  I want someone to see something I’ve seen, in the way that I’ve seen it.  Often, I’m writing to someone who wouldn’t actually listen if I called them up to describe it.  And, to be fully frank, I’m often imagining that if I write something good enough, people will be proud of me, people who could never be proud of me in real life.

HUERGO: How would you describe your drafting and revision process?

CARROLL: I think I’m different from other poets.  I’m not a good reviser.  If I get myself in a position in which extensive revisions are necessary, I may never finish the poem.  It’s almost as if, by writing it down, I’ve painted myself into a corner.  So when I get an idea, I try NOT to write it down or even say it out loud.  Instead, I arrange it and change it completely in my mind.  I only start writing when I’m pretty sure it’s in the right form, and only minor alterations, such as line breaks or avoiding the repetition of a word, will be needed.

HUERGO: What is the most important theme in your work?  Why?

Dorritt Carroll In CavesCARROLL: I think I have trouble writing a poem that isn’t about isolation.  It’s the theme of my existence.  I was a late in life child of troubled parents.  If I think about myself as a child, I’m always alone with a book or a doll.  Even in the middle of a crowd, I will often stop to notice how the essential parts of ourselves never meet, never interact.  I think true human contact and understanding between two people is almost a myth.

HUERGO: Was there a teacher or mentor who influenced your writing?

CARROLL: Gerry Connolly was my first real teacher. She taught me that, when I’ve painted myself into a corner, it’s often helpful to read others who have written on the same topic, or in the same way, to see how they solved the problem. In more recent years, I can’t say enough about Clarinda Harriss.  She has been editor, mentor, publisher, and indefatigable reader of emailed drafts.

HUERGO: What advice do you have for writers?                                                      

CARROLL: “Throw grenades at your clichés! Your goal in writing should be to make us see an ordinary subject in a completely new way. Make your reader say, “Well, I’m never going to look at that in the same way again.”

HUERGO: What are you working on next?

CARROLL: Unlike others, who write a book and then find a title, I find a title, and it tells me what book to write.  The book I just finished is called GLTTL STP (glottal stop), a term that refers to choking off sound briefly when singing.  The minute I thought of that title, I knew I would write a book about things withheld, things not said.  The next title, and I have just started working on this, is Sorry You Are Not an Instant Winner.  We’ll see where that title takes me.

Interview conducted by Elizabeth Huergo.

Click here for more information on Doritt Carroll

BhB poet to read at the Library of Congress

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BrickHouse Books author William M. Rivera will be reading some of his poems at the Library of Congress on June 26, 2013.

William M. Rivera has been publishing poetry since the 1950s. His works have appeared in such journals as The Nation, The Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner, and he has also recently published under the initials WMR in Ghazal, Gargoyle, and California Quarterly. One of his collections of poetry, Buried in the Mind’s Backyard, was published through BrickHouse Books.

Ms. Juanita Lyle, the Coordinator for the Arts and Culture Forum (Library of Congress Professional Association) is organizing the reading, and she can be reached with any questions at jlil@loc.gov.

The reading will take place in the Pickford Theater, on the 3rd floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, one of the three buildings that make up the Library of Congress.

William M. Rivera Reading
12 to 1 p.m.
Pickford Theater, James Madison Memorial Building
Library of Congress
Between 1st and 2nd streets on Independence Ave, Washington, DC

The Secret Paintings of Elisabeth Stevens

BrickHouse Books author Elizabeth Stevens, Ride a Bright and Shining Pony, will be showcasing her work at the Stakenborg Fine Art gallery in Sarasota Florida. In addition to authoring 15 books of poetry, fiction, and drama, Stevens has exhibited in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New York, Sarasota and throughout the country and is a member of the New York Society of Etchers and the Society of American Graphic Artists (SAGA).

April 19-30, 2013

Please come to the opening:
Friday, April 19, from 6 to 9 p.m
.

STAKENBORG FINE ART
1545 MAIN STREET
SARASOTA, FLORIDA 34236
www.stakenborgfineart.com

Announcing eBooks!

BrickHouse Books knows how much you love books you can feel, smell, dogear, chew around the edges, etc., and so do we.  However, sometimes an eBook version is just the thing for convenient travel or storage of a vast collection.  We’re proud to say that you can now purchase the following BrickHouse Books publications for your e-reader (Kindle, Nook, Moby, Sony, etc.):

Clarence Brown, NEEDS

Miriam Kotzin, The Real Deal

Edward McCrorie, Gretchen: A Story in Verse

Baari Shabazz et al, For Colored Guys Who Have Gone Beyond Suicide and Found No Rainbow.  (Note: eBook publication of this book marks its fifth printing.   First editions are selling on eBay for $250.)

Leon H. Gildin review of Yiddish Genesis

When I was asked by the editor of Prof. Richard J. Fein’s collection of essays, Yiddish Genesis, to review the work, I was hesitant to do so in that the editor would not tell me anything about the material. Since it was written by a professor I felt that I did not have the scholastic background to judge writing that might be beyond my comprehension. Nevertheless, when the work was received it did not take me long to decide that I was competent to review it because it became obvious that Prof. Fein was a man who wanted to live the life that I had lived.

If the truth be known I did become literally frightened after reading the Preface. If the rest of the essays were going to be in the incomprehensible language of the Preface I would be in trouble. Permit me to quote: “Whatever the conceptions and chimeras that rove here, I ride them to travel more deeply into Yiddish and Genesis.” The Preface then ends with the following sentence: “To adapt the Chagallian image, I eye the horse that eyes me in my village of memory and reading.” That’s tough stuff to understand.

In my opinion this collection of essays should have been published separately. I find little connection between them other than the fact that they are bound together in one book. The Yiddish portion of the book deals with two basic issues. The first is the author’s regret that he came to Yiddish so late in life. Having been brought up in a Yiddish speaking home and having lived and enjoyed a Yiddish secular life, I understand Professor Fein’s regret. From a reader’s point of view, however, the same regret is expressed in almost every essay and while it may have been relevant at the time the essay was written, it does become a bit repetitive.

The second issue which is gone into in depth is the question of translations, more particularly the translation of Yiddish poetry. I understand Prof. Fein’s emotional attachment to the issue having done poetry translation for many years as a matter of personal achievement and having had many of them published. The essay, “The Companion-Translator,” correctly states: “The task of translators is to capture, in their language, what the poem possess in the original.” Prof. Fein has done just that in the few examples of his translations that appear in the essays. There is, however, a very serious omission. Prof. Fein writes at great length about the works of H. Leivick and cites a translated portion of one of Leivick’s poems that happens to be in free verse. I am sure that it will make Prof. Fein jealous to learn that from the earliest days of my life up to today, my oldest friend is Leivik’s son and I spent many a supper at Leivick’s home (speaking Yiddish, of course). I am more than familiar with Leivick’s body of work and it is fair to say that ninety five percent of it is in rhyme. So now we come to the real issue of translation that Prof. Fein does not deal with. If the original is in rhyme then the translation should be in rhyme. The rhyme, in many instances, dictates the meter. If the translator ignores these elements then his work is nothing more than a poem, in English, on the same subject as the Yiddish poem that he attempted to translate.

And now we go to Genesis. The reason I feel there is no connection between the two sets of essays is the fact that, although there exists a translation of the TANAKH, The Five Books of Moses by Yehoash, a truly monumental work, and although Prof. Fein chooses a line here or there in English and shows how it appears in translation, the connection is, at best, tenuous. His essays on Genesis are learned and if published separately would be just as learned and just as unrelated to Yiddish and to the translation of poetry.

Yiddish Genesis is a scholarly work and, as I said in the first paragraph of this review I am not a scholar.


LEON H. GILDIN
Leon H. Gildin is a retired lawyer who was active in the Yiddish secular world of New York and now resides in Arizona. He is the author of the following books: You Can’t Do Business (Or Most Anything Else) Without Yiddish, Hippocrene Books, New York, 2000; The Polski Affair, Diamond River Books, Canada, winner of the 2010 International Book Awards for historical fiction, 2009; and the sequel, The Family Affair, Diamond River Books, Canada, 2011.

The Arts Fuse reviews of Yiddish Genesis and B’KLYN

“The brief, jewel-like essays of Richard J. Fein’s Yiddish Genesis touch on the Jewish short story, translation, poetry, and the Old Testament. The collection, spanning 1968 to 2010, signals the two dominant sources of inspiration for Fein’s work as a poet-translator: the Yiddish language and the Book of Genesis. The title is nearly an oxymoron, as Genesis is origins and creation, while Fein’s beloved Yiddish is shadowed everywhere by death, destruction and disappearance.”

So begins Susan de Sola Rodstein’s recent review of Yiddish Genesis in The Arts Fuse.

Of Fein’s book B’KLYN, she states that “the wonder of this volume is the capacity of Fein’s work to contain a palimpsest of encounters and a lifetime of reading and re-readings. He gives us the gift of a truth that must be lived to be known: that things do not happen only once but resonate in many directions through time.”

For the full reviews, click here.