Make a date to join the charming Liz Gallagher, author of The Wrong Miracle (Salt Modern Poets, 2009), for cocktail hour (or the whole day) on 17 December 2009.
The Maximus Miracle Tour is now well under way. If you need to catch up with what’s been happening, here are Liz’s tour dates and hosts:
28 October 2009 – Event Museum, Arlene Ang
5 November 2009 – The Art of Breathing, Brenda Nixon
12 November 2009 – Women Rule Writer, Nuala Ní Chonchúir
19 November 2009 – The People’s Lost Republic of EEjit
3 December 2009 – More about the Song, Rambling with Rachel Fox
10 December 2009 – Savvy Verse & Wit, Serena M. Agusto-Cox
14 December 2009 – Savvy Verse & Wit, Serene M. Agusto-Cox II
17 December 2009 – Cocktails at peony moon
2 January 2010 – Theory of Iconic Realism, Jeanne Iris Lakatos
11 January 2010 – The Truth about Lies, Jim Murdoch
Liz will be chatting about her life in the Canary Islands and her writing process. She’ll also tell us a little more about Sands: Stillbirth & neonatal death charity, the organisation which is receiving the royalties from sales of The Wrong Miracle.
In the meantime, here’s what people having been saying about
The Wrong Miracle:
“Liz Gallagher’s poems seize us from the first line and tug us along, startled and exhilarated by the tumbling originality of her words.”
– Laurie Smith, Magma
“Whether about an untranslated paragraph on shooting ducks or breakfast cereals, Picasso and a sexual snap, Liz Gallagher’s poems are proof that everyday movements generate power and magic. The Wrong Miracle is the work of a master illusionist – a fusion of the surreal and the domestic, the strategic and the spontaneous – where perception is challenged and subtly reinvented.”
– Arlene Ang, The Pedestal Magazine
“These are poems that may surprise: sprinkled with humour and vivid word pictures. The verbal twists take you by a friendly matter-of-fact hand to show you other truths. Liz Gallagher owns a true poet’s eye for detail paired with a flair for oddly compelling juxtaposition. Her poetry wants to show you this other thing it has found, like a cat displaying its catch. (as in her poem) ‘Just look what the cat dragged in’.”
– Barry Harris, Tipton Poetry Journal
“Long lines with suprising phrases and rushing, tumbling images mark the narrative trend of Liz Gallagher’s poetry. The poems lean into the strength of these narratives, rely upon the poet’s willing experimentation with varietal voice, and in so doing, create a distinctive diction – one with instrospective vision that bubbles out of earthy perception, like a choice mineral spring.”
– Eve Anthony Hanninen, poet, writer, artist & editor
of The Centrifugal Eye
Liz blogs at Musings.
Order your copy of The Wrong Miracle here.
Rob A. Mackenzie was born and brought up in Glasgow. He received a law degree from Aberdeen University and then abandoned the possibility of significant personal wealth by switching to theology at Edinburgh University. He wrote over seven hundred songs and doubled on guitar and saxophone for cult art-rock bands Pure Television and Plastic Chicken. Despite airplay on Radio Scotland and a rash of gigs in tiny Glasgow pubs, he failed miserably to achieve rock stardom. He spent a year in Seoul, eight years in a Lanarkshire housing scheme, five years in Turin, and now lives in Edinburgh with his wife and daughter where he organises the Poetry at the Great Grog reading series by night and works as a Church of Scotland minister by day. His pamphlet collection, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press in 2005. The Opposite of Cabbage was published this year by Salt Publishing . His poems, articles and criticism have featured in many literary publications over the last decade or so. He is an associate editor with Magma magazine. He blogs at Surroundings and at the Magma blog.
Rob, will you describe the Glasgow of your childhood? What were the main social, political and cultural influences of your youth?
I lived in the south-west of the city. Like most boys, I was a football fanatic. My great uncle took me to games (I maybe won’t mention which team) and I played for my Boys Brigade team until I became a teenager and left the BB. I was a chess fanatic and played for an under-18 team when I was 12. I also learned the bagpipe and entered many competitions. A big change took place when I turned 15 or so. I dropped the bagpipe in favour of the guitar and started a band. Glasgow briefly became the centre of everything that was happening in UK music during the 80s. Indie pop music, particularly the jangly guitar variety, was vital to me. I sat in my bedroom and listened to The Smiths, Orange Juice and Josef K. I watched Woody Allen movies and read Graham Greene novels. I guess I was typical of a certain type of teenager – the kind who wears black clothes and finds solace in Joy Division lyrics. I might have had better fun hanging around outside the chip shop and going to parties, but it’s too late now.
You spent a year in Seoul. Would you recount something of that experience?
It was a great experience, from 1989 to 1990. I studied Korean liberation theology, taught English, and generally had a great time meeting people and travelling around a country many people would never think of going to. I loved the food, the friendliness of the people, the clamour of the city, the maccoli houses (maccoli is a Korean alcoholic drink, made from rice, more like beer than wine) and the beauty of the countryside. The country was a still a little unstable, despite 1988’s democratic election, and there were protests daily on the streets. The college where I was studying was shut down for two months due to student unrest. There was often tear gas in the air and I learned to carry a hanky around with me to cover my nose and eyes, just in case. But people, especially young people, seemed positive about the future and were excited over the new freedoms. They wanted to talk all the time about politics, the west, and Korean identity. When I returned to Scotland, people seemed really jaded and cynical in comparison, and I often wonder whether Koreans have become similarly cynical over the last twenty years or not.
Later, you moved to Turin for five years. Has living in other countries, among different cultures and languages, affected your writing and the way you see the world? Has moving around the world been beneficial for you?
That’s hard to know. I’ve enjoyed the experiences I’ve had living abroad. It’s widened my social and cultural experience, helped me understand what it’s like to live as a foreigner, and introduced me to some great people. It also, perhaps, gives me a particular perspective on Scotland. I can look at how things are done here and compare it to other places. I’ve no excuses when I’m small-minded. Of course, there are strengths to living in the same place for an entire life as well.
You’re the organiser of Poetry at the Great Grog in Edinburgh. Tell me about the history and some of the highlights of the reading series. How does a Great Grog poetry evening unfold?
It began when Scottish poet, Roddy Lumsden, who lives in London, asked me to organise a venue for him to read in during a trip to Edinburgh. I found the Great Grog Bar and decided afterwards that I could do it more often. It’s now developed into a monthly series – three or four poets read each time. The event has recently moved from the Great Grog to the Jekyll & Hyde Bar, which suits the readings better, and the event is now called ‘Poetry at the…’. Poets read for 15 to 20 minutes with a short break after each reading. There are no gimmicks, no bells and whistles – just quality poems. As organiser, I wouldn’t want to pick out highlights. I’m grateful to everyone who has read. Really, there have been no poor readings at all and I hope that continues.
The Guardian is currently running a series called Writers’ Rooms. Will you describe your creative space?
My office is chaotic. I don’t have enough space on my bookcase. Books and CDs are spread all over the place in no particular order. In one corner is my computer, where I tend to write. At another wall, there’s a desk, which is rarely free from clutter. That’s dominated by my day job – notes, admin, forms to fill in, stuff I need to read for professional reasons. Copies of The Opposite of Cabbage lie morosely in a box on the floor. Pictures drawn by my seven-year-old daughter adorn the walls. A naked bulb hangs from the ceiling. There are no curtains or blinds at the window, which overlooks my neighbour’s garden. As I write this, their washing is being soaked by a sudden downpour…
How transformative has fatherhood been for you? Has it made you feel differently about yourself? Has it changed your outlook on life?
I don’t think it’s possible to exaggerate how much becoming a parent changes a life. Everything begins to revolve around your children. This is made more complicated for my wife and I because my daughter is autistic. She is extremely intelligent, with unbelievable memory, sight, hearing etc, but she also has real difficulties, especially in social situations. One thing I realised quickly was how few resources are directed to the condition compared to many other disabilities. We spend a lot of time agitating for support and help, often being met with official indifference and excuses. We get the feeling that countries such as Australia and (to an extent) the USA are far more geared up to deal with autism, although I could be wrong.
I don’t feel that children and young people are valued much in the UK at the best of times compared to, for example, Italy. I doubt I would have been as aware of this if I hadn’t been a parent. And is the UK the only country in the world where it’s actually cool to be apathetic? I think that’s because deliberate apathy is only a short step from helplessness. Having a child means I can’t afford to be apathetic.
Could you name a few of your favourite books? Why are they important to you?
I’ll stick to five, otherwise I could go on forever. Tomorrow, I’d probably choose different books. In no particular order:
Harmonium by Wallace Stevens: His debut collection from 1921. It’s like a foundation for me when I come to write. Nothing has been easily won or thoughtlessly written. I return to this collection periodically to remind myself what poetry can be.
The Truth of Poetry by Michael Hamburger: on one level, an international overview of 20th century poetry but, on another, an uncompromising and visionary view of what poetry has been and could be. Warning: this book may change the way you see every poem you read or write.
Black Sea by Neal Ascherson: ostensibly a chronicle of the history, culture and people of the Black Sea region, this fascinating book delves into deep questions of human identity. Ascherson shows how past events in this region resonate powerfully in the present day. It’s also terrific writing.
Jesus and Judaism by E.P. Sanders: I appreciate heavyweight, well written, impeccably researched theology, and this is one of the most interesting books I’ve read. The book questions and revises received opinion but, unlike populist books on Christianity, knows what it’s talking about.
Selected Poems by Michael Hofmann: can’t recommend this book of poems enough. One of the best poets of the 20th century’s tail-end? I think so.
Read more about The Opposite of Cabbage.
Visit Rob’s blog, Surroundings.
If you haven’t been following Rob’s book tour and want to catch up on his interviews, do check out his previous hosts.
Rob’s next tour stop is Nic Sebastian’s Very Like A Whale on
10 August 2009. See you there.
On 3 August 2009, Peony Moon is thrilled to be hosting Rob Mackenzie’s De-Cabbage Yourself! Tour. Rob’s collection, The Opposite of Cabbage, was published this year by Salt Publishing.
Here’s what Bernadine Evaristo has to say about the volume:
“Rob A. Mackenzie’s vibrant, kaleidoscopic poetry displays a playful, witty and fertile imagination. But sometimes, just sometimes, it dips into a deep reflection on the frailty of our mortality such as in the exquisite poem, ‘In the Last Few Seconds’, which took my breath away.”
Read Barbara Smith’s review of The Opposite of Cabbage here.
The tour has already stopped at three destinations, so to catch up with Rob’s interviews take a look at the following blogs:
Nic Sebastian: Very Like A Whale
Marion McCready: Poetry in Progress
Ivy Alvarez: Dumbfoundry
The next stop on 22 June 2009 will be Nicolette Bethel’s Scavella’s Blogsphere.
For full tour details take a look at the De-Cabbage Yourself! Cyclone page and to read more about Rob and The Opposite of Cabbage visit his Salt author page. Do visit Rob’s blog, Surroundings, too.
See you on 3 August!
Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently a professor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon’s high desert and also serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary. A Brief History of Time (Salt Publishing, 2009) is her first poetry collection. She is working on her second collection, The Children’s War.
Shaindel, tell me something of your family origins and what you were like as a child.
I’m not sure what a “normal” upbringing is in America, given our melting pot reputation, but I always felt I had it a bit odd. My father’s background is Russian-Jewish, and he’s from Brooklyn, and my mother’s heritage is from nearly all of the countries of the British Isles, and she’s from a farming family. So, I grew up in a very rural, farm town of fewer than two thousand people with a father who wasn’t like any of the other fathers I knew (not a farmer or a factory worker), and my siblings and I (with the exception of my sister Adria) all had traditional Jewish names – Shaindel, Aaron, and Avram.
I’m pretty sure like a lot of writers, I was a “weird kid”. I was always making up stories and either writing them down or acting them out. I had an imaginary world I would go to in the backyard, and the way to get there was to swing in the chair swing on my swing set and sing a magical song. I won’t give the lyrics away, but I will tell you that the plant-life was blue and the sky was magenta. I was also addicted to reading because it was another easy way to escape real life. When the local library had the summer book club, I would check out a stack of books I couldn’t see over each time we went to the library, and the library was a popular summer destination because it was a free public place with air conditioning.
Will you describe the Argos of your childhood? What were the main social, political and cultural influences of your youth?
The Argos of my childhood was probably much stranger than I realised at the time. From the outside, and for a time, it was quite idyllic. I would play at the park across the street from my house, where my mom could see me from the kitchen window, or my father and I would practice batting, catching, and throwing in the backyard. If I was at my grandparents’ farm, I would ride my bike all day or I would go horseback riding with my friends who lived near my grandparents.
In 1984 and 1986, there were two murders that have still gone unsolved to this day, and they had a great influence on my childhood. My mother became very protective, especially because the 1986 murder was of an eleven year old girl who was staying home from school with the flu. I write about this in an essay which will be published in the spring issue of Contrary. It’s an essay on what it was like to read a “true crime” novel, when I had known the victim. Basically, my childhood went from being very idyllic to extremely repressive.
I think most of the influences of my youth were things that helped me rebel against the narrow scope of a rural town that was overwhelmingly Republican and oppressively religious, at least back then. I listened to whatever music my friends listened to (and whatever was in at the time). Some of these bands will date me and be really embarrassing, but a lot of time was spent listening to The Smiths, The Cure, and then a lot of Guns ‘N Roses and those sorts of “hair bands”. I vividly remember reading Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla one day in in-school suspension, and that seemed pivotal. I mean, what’s more rebellious than a lesbian vampire novella from 1872 (or reading it in in-school suspension)?
But regardless of how I tried to rebel, there was always something oddly Indiana about everything. For instance, one of my high school boyfriend’s grandparents were Amish, and when he and I were together in our world, we were high schoolers getting into trouble (I think we actually met in detention) and listening to angst-ridden teenage music, and then when we visited his grandparents, we unloaded hay at an auction yard and visited their gigantic Belgian plow horse and looked at quilt patterns with his grandma.
When did your passion for words develop?
I’m sure very early, but I don’t know how early. I know that before I could write by myself I would tell my mom stories and make her write them down. When I was sorting some things years ago, I came across a slip of paper with something about a cat and a rat written in crayon on it, and I asked my mom what it was, and she told me I would make her write stories like that all the time.
We also didn’t have a lot of money – so little, in fact, that how my family lived is still a little bit of a mystery to me, but I’ve never asked my parents about it – but when we got those Scholastic Book Club order forms at school, my mom let me buy whatever books I wanted. Other students would always laugh at how many books I got.
My mother wrote a local history book (one of those sold in county historical museums) when I was about seven, and I used to research with her by going to graveyards and copying down names and birthdates and death dates and “proofreading” pages of the book. I doubt I was actually proofreading, but she let me pretend I was. She also completed her Master’s degree sometime around this point, so I remember her always researching and typing (on an electric typewriter) and showing me how things worked – like changing the ribbon or using correction tape. Thank G-d for computers!
My father always had some massive book from the library with him wherever he went, so I guess this was what I grew up thinking adults did. My parents, despite whatever other flaws they had, were probably the best intellectual role models I could have had in the time and place I grew up.
Which writers have inspired and influenced you?
Wow. This is a hard question. I had the great fortune of studying with Richard (Rick) Jackson at Vermont College, and his views on associative poetry changed the way I write immensely. He told me to read everything I was interested in, especially nonfiction, and to include all of that in my poetry – landscape, philosophy, physics etc. I’m afraid I’m sort of a fickle reader; nearly any book I like that I’ve just read is my “favourite”. But some books and writers that stand out are If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, which changed the way I think about writing. One of my friends told me it would, and I thought he was exaggerating, but it really did. It made me not take linearity so seriously. Why tell things in order? I was so blown away when things wrapped up in the end, that I actually hugged the book. I didn’t want to let it get away. Cosmicomics, also by Calvino, taught me to think outside of the boundaries, too. In that story collection, there are characters that are molecules, nebular dust, all types of possibilities.
Anne Carson’s poetry does something that I want to accomplish, but I can’t even put into words what that is. “The Glass Essay” in Glass, Irony and God, in which she interweaves Emily Bronte’s life with the speaker’s (I’m assuming her own) is amazing. There is something about the economy of emotion which is almost like an out of body experience. I think that Louise Gluck does something similar in a lot of her work. There is some sort of elegance in talking about such emotionally-charged events in a detached way that it almost becomes more emotional for the reader because of the absence of emotion in the writer. It is almost as if the reader’s emotion does the work because the writer leaves out a piece of the puzzle.
Anne Sexton has always seemed brave to me. Just writing a poem entitled, “For My Lover, Returning to His Wife”, is brave, let alone what it says in the poem. And she’s always surprising with images, especially in that poem, “I have been momentary. / A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor” and that heartbreaking ending, “As for me, I am a watercolor. / I wash off.” I think any woman, regardless of her romantic history, feels that ending.
Would you name a few of your favourite books? Why are they important to you?
I’ve already named several, but let’s see … When someone asks about favourite books, I generally think of prose. For some reason, it’s hard to come up with favourite poetry collections, but I have favourite poems and poets. As far as favourite books, it’s been a long time since I read it, but Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter sticks with me. I think it’s because each character is so beautifully tragic because they are so fully human. Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America is a gorgeous short story collection. The one time I can remember simultaneously laughing and crying while reading was the story “People Like That Are the Only People Here”. And I love what Lorrie Moore does with alternate stories and characterisation in Anagrams.
Another thing I like that writers do is when they rework previous works – like retellings of myth, fairy tale, or Shakespeare’s plays. I recently read David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle which is a retelling of Hamlet in mid-twentieth century rural Wisconsin and found that really interesting. I really enjoyed Louise Gluck’s Meadowlands, in which she uses the figures of Odysseus and Penelope to explore the breakdown of (presumably) her own marriage. I guess in the same vein, we could add Kate Daniels’ The Niobe Poems, where she takes the grieving mythological mother and transforms her into a farm wife whose son drowned in a river; Anne Carson’s The Autobiography of Red, where she takes the myth of Herakles and Geryon and turns it into a teenage same-sex love story, and, of course, Anne Sexton’s Transformations. I think these stand out to me because there is a plot that holds the collection together, and the story holds up rather than individual poems or images staying in my memory.
I guess that was a roundabout way of answering, but I got to it.
Shaindel’s next virtual tour stop is Brandon Wallace’s blog, Julius Speaks, on 11 March. Don’t miss it.
All “On the hood of a Cutlass Supreme” tour dates are here.
Order A Brief History of Time here.
I am very happy to be hosting Salt author, Shaindel Beers, on the first leg of her virtual book tour, “On the hood of a Cutlass Supreme”.
On Wednesday, 4 March, I’ll be chatting to Shaindel about her family origins, growing up in a farming town in rural America, writing influences and favourite books. We would love you to join us on the road for a scenic drive under the Midwestern sky.
Shaindel’s tour stops include a wonderfully eclectic range of blogs:
Julius Speaks (Brandon Wallace)
me~tronome (Larry Sawyer)
Blogalicious (Diane Lockward)
gravity and light (Chella Courington)
The Man with the Blue Guitar (Vince Gotera)
What to Wear During an Orange Alert? (Jason Behrends)
Blue Moon Northeast (Meg Harris)
The Tao, Ow and Wow of Jesus Crisis (John Burroughs)
Holy Land (Rauan Klassnik)
Zinta Aistars Prose and Poetry
Being and Writing (Kate Evans)
For tour dates, please revert to Shaindel’s Cyclone tour page here.
We look forward to seeing you on 4 March to kick off the Cutlass Supreme Queen’s road trip!
Would you know me
if you had met me in my natural environs
wearing the uniform
of the hardworking rural poor –
straight-legged jeans, plaid flannel,
ponytail pulled through the back
of a John Deere cap,
a nondescript girl with hair as dun as after-harvest fields,
eyes the color of a Midwestern sky
even make it
nine months of the year,
a bleak heart to match the landscape
of that land where winter never ends –
there’s a chance you would have stopped
at the roadside stand
where I used to sell the extra produce
my family could never use by season’s end –
sweet corn, twelve ears for a dollar,
tomatoes, still warm from the sun –
you would have named your price and maybe wondered
about that quiet girl
who deftly filled your bags,
her small hands,
fingers flat and broad from honest work,
but you never would have thought
of all that she had done for your
dollar ninety-five –
hefting hay to feed the calves
and shoveling mounds of warm
manure to fertilize the soil months before
those tomatoes and corn
were pushed into the earth,
dropping fat green tomato bugs into coffee cans
of gasoline, pulling weeds in ninety-degree
sun so the ears would grow full
and yellow and ripe
so you could take them away
and forget me
until you meet me years later
in my favorite disguise – sophisticated city-dweller
where I am cast under silver lunar streams
in a platinum glow, no longer
grey and dun,
a new creature,
and you could proclaim it destiny.
Read more about Shaindel and order your copy of her striking collection, A Brief History of Time (Salt Publishing, 2009), here.
More tomorrow on Shaindel’s “On the hood of a Cutlass Supreme” Tour.