14 February 2021

Valentine's Day, my book list, and a quiet weekend.

Valentine's Day this year is blissfully quiet--I've been reading on the sofa with the cats for most of the day. I realized it's been over two weeks since I've posted to the blog, so I am taking a break to write this. I'm going to make pasta alfredo (with shrimp!) for dinner for myself. 

I've also been spending a few minutes here and there on monoprinting some new art paper. I spent about a hundred bucks on some newer acrylic paint tubes around Thanksgiving, so I have a half-dozen colors I'd not even played around with. I am finding that if I do a few layers on a few sheets of paper and leave them to dry, and come back an hour or two later, I'm less of a perfectionist and I get less prickly less often. It's going well so far, and I'm glad to be building up my ready supply of papers. 

I also made up a set of four winged hearts--hearts cut from vintage book covers, layered with junk and found poetry--for a friend's mail art swap. It's the first time I've mail art in over a year.

And, I have not been spending as much time on new drafts of new poems as I should be, so I am going to work to change that in the coming week. I need to buy myself a decent office chair for at home--I think I could sit at a desk or table for longer if my ass didn't hurt from my metal kitchen chairs.

Right now, all of my work is out simultaneously at the maximum number of publishers i feel comfortable submitting to . . . so the last two weeks have been a little slow for submissions, because everything is already sent out. I haven't gotten any rejection or acceptance notes in almost a week.

I have, however, been reading--and reading much more than I have over the last few years. I am so excited about that! I feel like I'm starting to train myself to sit still and focus on a book all over again--I've gotten too used to watching a movie and flipping through my phone at the same time, and that's not doing me any good as a writer or an instructor or an artist. Putting down the phone is hard, but I'm working on doing it more frequently.

I am currently on a long weekend for President's Day, and my grading was caught up, so I've had a few days in a row to myself. Happy Valentine's Day to me. It's perfect.

I finished up Mary Karr's *The Art of Memoir* yesterday, and I'm about a third of the way through Matthew Zapruder's "Why Poetry?" as well. This morning, I found RIchard Powers's *The Overstory* on my Kindle, so I began reading that. I have a bad habit of buying novels that are prize winners then not always reading them. 

So far in 2021, I've read the following books:

*The Art of Memoir* by Mary Karr

Karr's voice is worth the price of admission here. I've read all of her books, and her memoir is as wonderful and vivid as her poetry. Some chapters are better than others, but it's all valuable. She ends the book with a kick-ass list of memoirs she teaches from and recommends. 

*The Book of Speculation* by Erika Swyler

A novel about a family with a carnival/circus background? Yes, please. I will basically read any piece of shit that boasts a connection to carnival or circus folk. This one was meh. I found a few elements of the plot pretty hard to believe; I couldn't get past the inconsistency in the main character's actions. Frankly, the protagonist and his sister both destroy items that are the only tangible proof of their family's history, and it just didn't ring true to me.

*Ayiti* by Roxanne Gay

These stories are wonderful--they were quick to read, and entertaining. Gay is enormously talented; I'm glad I have *Difficult Women* in my stack for February.

*Writing Hard Stories* by Melanie Brooks

Meh. I think there were some great revelations in some of Brooks's interviews with well-known memoirists, but too much of the book was spent describing their lunches, their interactions as she set up the interviews . . . Brooks was still in graduate school when writing this book, and perhaps there's just a little too much wide-eyed deferring to the masters. I didn't feel Brooks had enough of her own philosophies and her own ideas about memoir to hold it all together effectively. Most significant to me--I thought the book would offer a lot more about writing trauma-informed memoir. And, some chapters were really repetitive--several authors repeated the same lessons, and I felt it bogged down the book. It seemed obvious to me that she needed every interview she had--because she didn't leave out interviews that overlapped again and again.

*The Dark Dark* by Samantha Hunt

I did not love this book, and the last story in it seemed like a bad MFA workshop piece, which it probably was. I have Hunt's novel *Mr. Splitfoot* on my kindle, half-finished for a couple of years now. I just don't think she's one of my favorites. 

*Carry* by Toni Jensen

Full disclosure: I worked with Jensen at Chatham University where I earned my MFA, and I am briefly mentioned in the book. That being said, I felt that I gained an important lens on our country through this book. I'll write more about it in the next week or so . . . I don't want to shortchange it.

I am shooting for four books per month, for 48 books in 2021. I am hoping to hit 50, just because I'd like the round number. I am making an effort to read more books on the craft of writing, and I am trying to read more BIPOC writers, though I know my list this year is fairly white so far. I have another book of Gay's and Jensen's short fiction collection in the short stack of books that are waiting their turn, and a few more on my kindle. I was really missing the feel of a novel--needed a break from the nonfiction and the short stories. 

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