Saturday, July 29, 2017

Susan Slaviero of Blue Fifth Review has written a review on my recent poetry collection Kiss/Hierarchy (Rain Mountain Press 2016). First of all, just read the review for her wonderful writing in and of itself (I've posted it below), but I truly appreciated her intelligent, careful look at my poems. This is what we poets always feel blessed to receive--that someone slowed down long enough to really take in the world on the page we are trying to offer. The review was published on June 17, 2017 in the Spring Quarterly issue of Blue Fifth Review. It references some of my more cinematic poems, so I'll start with a photo of Theresa Wright, the female protagonist coming of age in the rather murky world of middle class America that Hitchcock depicts in his 1943 thriller: Shadow of a Doubt. The review follows this photo.

Quarter Notes: Essays, Reviews, Interviews

Review: Susan Slaviero on Alexandra Van De Kamp’s Kiss / Hierarchy

Kiss / Hierarchy by Alexandra Van De Kamp
Rain Mountain Press, 2016
87 pages
The poems in Alexandra Van De Kamp’s Kiss / Hierarchy offer a cinematic view of the passion to be found in both art and ordinary days. This collection invites us to revisit the past while longing to live fully in the present. Ultimately it demonstrates “How to Survive Yourself” by being “grateful for the small survivals: the dimple of blue the bluebird / flies through—that slit in the day, that vial of violet.”
Van De Kamp’s work is especially effective in the way it reflects our “neglected interiors” back at us. We are the creators of our own story. How real are the stories we tell? We cannot fully believe our own tales, as “the mind is always on trial.” These experiences are not as large as we believe: somehow, they are both larger and smaller. However all-encompassing the story may seem, the rest of the world continues to move about at a frenetic pace.
Van De Kamp often uses images of art or film to reflect this, as in her poem “Dear Key Largo” where “the wind ignores / the plot unfolding inside and tosses / the palm trees around like dice.” She draws a parallel between film and the stories of our lives. Both are told from a specific viewpoint. Looking at the story from another point of view can change everything.
In “Dear Teresa Wright” she admonishes us:
            Watch how preconceptions shift
            and tumble: newspaper clippings,
            the library—ivy-covered and panic-
            stricken—with its turrets and lit windows
            going out one by one.
Are we too concerned with the plot, missing out on the lyric beauty of individual moments? As the speaker in “Dear A-” asks, “Do plots end up like cities, a little fed up / with themselves?”
Kiss / Hierarchy is a book of poems that invites us to investigate the small, elegant moments that fall between the dramatic ones. It’s a powerful collection of work that asks us to explore the tension between the artist and the listener / viewer.
Van De Kamp expands upon the mundane, shows us how all things hide a history of the extraordinary, whether she is writing about an ordinary apple or describing the trace elements found in the color blue. These poems are concerned with what we retain in our memories, as “invisible, succulent slippages; / each life a seam in a silk stocking snagging unexpectedly.”
In “A History of Apples” she writes, “This is not a novel, but it is the beginning of a history, / a groggy, personal tract.” So too, her collection of poems mirrors one’s personal history. We question what we know, what we recall: “Will I die without ever remembering / the exact first apple I placed in my mouth—was it red (I wrote read) / or as bright as a green grape?” The speaker ruminates on the imprecision of language, how it fails to fully capture our recollections and experiences:
            See how easily geographies and facts drop away,
            like the exact color of my mother’s house, being repainted as I speak.
            We argue over whether to call it buff or shell, as if the name will change
            the color.
This imperfect recall is what makes us human. It colors our lives and makes them unique and worthy of examination. A perfect memory could be a curse, as described at the end of “Dear A-”
                                       thank god I am not
            the boy in the Borges short story
            who can never forget anything—his body
            teetering on stone walls, his mind
            tallying and tallying.
In Kiss / Hierarchy, Alexandra Van De Kamp welcomes us into her “lurid fairy tale” where even the most ordinary items—such as nightgowns—are woven with esoteric language and unexpected imagery: “crying stars,” “a cage of syllables,” “a rain of hums.”
Her writing seeks to capture the fragments that make up our lives, whether watching an old film, traveling the world, or coming home from that trip to find vermin in the kitchen sink. There is beauty in these juxtapositions. In “Upon Returning From Our Tenth Anniversary Vacation,” she writes of “dunes and their slender paths” and “the sunset like watermelon running / its pale juice down the sky,” this lovely, fleeting time to be replaced by “small cruelties…the cruelty of not knowing how to handle a half-dead / bat, hunkered down in the drain.” There is something powerful in these small cruelties.
Even moments which aren’t pretty are to be valued. We realize how much we love the man we watched kill an injured animal—an act both brutal and merciful. Van De Kamp tells us there is much to consider, even in head colds and mammograms, for the body is a “terrain / the radiologist caresses / with her eyes and mind.”
We fall in to Kiss / Hierarchy and navigate “the mind’s dark hesitations.” These poems resonate in our mirrors, gardens, vacation photos and x-rays, leaving us to wonder if we have still have time to “kiss / … [our] way through to… [our] own truth.”
Susan Slaviero is the author of CYBORGIA, a full length poetry collection published by Mayapple Press. Recent chapbooks include Selections from the Murder Book (Treelight Books), A Wicked Apple (Hyacinth Girl Press) and Apocrypha (Dancing Girl Press). Her work has been awarded a Pushcart Prize as well as two Best of the Net Awards and she has been published in journals such as RHINOSouth Dakota ReviewArsenic LobsterJet Fuel Review, and elsewhere. She lives and writes in a suburb just outside of Chicago.
Alexandra van de Kamp lives in San Antonio, TX, and is the Creative Writing Classes Program Director for Gemini Ink, a literary arts nonprofit. She also teaches intensive online poetry workshops through The Poetry Barn. She is the author of The Park of Upside-Down Chairs (CW Books 2010), and several chapbooks, including Dear Jean Seberg (2011), which won the 2010 Burnside Review Chapbook Contest, and A Liquid Bird inside the Night (Red Glass Books 2015). She has been published in numerous journals nationwide, such as Denver QuarterlyConnecticut Review, and The Cincinnati Review. For six years she lived in Madrid, Spain, where she co-founded and edited the bilingual journal, Terra Incognita.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I'm thrilled to be on an upcoming poetry panel with Sheila Fiona Black and Sharon Olinka at the 5th Annual 2017 San Antonio Book Festival. Come join us at 3pm on April 8th for a rich conversation about poetry and all its possibilities and to celebrate "women's words"! All of this takes place at the Central Library in downtown San Antonio and on the beautiful campus of the Southwest School of Art. See what three women poets with newly released books of poetry have to say about the poetry-making process and the creative journeys each of our recent books took us on! Click the link below for full details: 

The 5th Annual San Antonio Book Festival--Women's Words: Three Texas Women Poets

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hineni Magazine, Sound Engineers, A Poem, and the start of 2017:

It was great to bring in 2017 by being featured in this wonderful new literary journal, Hineni Magazine. My work was featured alongside many other marvelous poems by Sheila Black, Octavio Qunitanilla, Ellen McGrath Smith, and so many others.

Check out this rich and gutsy magazine, put together by Jennifer Bartlett.

Here is my poem with (I know) a long cinematic-type title:)  Just click the title and link below:

This poem was partially inspired by watching Wim Wender's "Lisbon Story," with the wonderful Rudiger Vogler playing a frumpy but forever cahrming, somewhat forlorn, sound engineer. He is in Lisbon on the hunt for a screenwriting friend, who has disappeared in enigmatic Wenders style. Phillip Winter (Rudiger's character) is just trying to make a movie, and as he waits in his friend's apartment, hoping he shows up one day, he finds himself falling in love with the city and a singer and recording the sounds of Lisbon in the most off-handed, poetic way.

But I digress. Here is the poem:

The Sound Engineer with his Castanets and Feathered Pillows

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Wonderful interview by Kaveh Akbar at Divedapper with the poet Francine J. Harris on her new poetry collection: play dead (April 2016), recently out by Alice James Books. Read on to find out about some of Harris's thoughts on poets "preventing the calcification of language" and on "textspeak" and other matters such as verbing nouns and nouning verbs! Click the link below to read the interview in full!
            Nouning Verbs and Verbing Nouns--An Interview with Francine J. Harris at Divedapper 
                                                                  by Kaveh Akbar

Monday, July 25, 2016

"Dear Jean Seberg"--a Video Trailer for My New Book of Poems Kiss/Hierarchy

I'm excited to announce that the video book trailer for my new book of poems Kiss/Hierarchy (Rain Mountain Press 2016) is now up on Youtube and viewable for all those interested. This video is my poem, "Dear Jean Seberg," set to to a montage of images connected to this 1960's movie star's uncanny rise to fame. Plucked from a small midwestern town and discovered by the film director Otto Preminger, Jean Seberg found herself playing Joan of Arc at the age of 18, and with only having acted in high school productions before this!

Created by Mark Knox of KnoxWorXMedia, this video is a sensual homage to 1960's film, the at times sultry graininess of black-and-white film, and the New Wave Movement in French Cinema that Jean-Luc Godard spearheaded with others. Seberg's role on Breathless (1960), directed by Godard, was a key part of this New Wave and helped re-ignite her stalled film career at the time (after the commercial failure of Joan of Arc (1957)). A look at the ephemeral nature of fame and at the tenuous, vulnerable beauty of this midwestern film star, the video offers an example of the poems that make up my new collection. If you like slowly-smoked cigarettes, hastily-conceived heists, and unlikely love stories, you might enjoy this video and the film-saturated poems in Kiss/Hierarchy. 

Click the link below to view the video on Youtube.

"Dear Jean Seberg" a Poem by Alexandra van de Kamp

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Poet Hadara Bar-Nadav Discusses the Prose Poem and Writing Poems without Linebreaks

A fascinating interview from Jet Fuel Review with poet Hadara Bar-Nadav on how writing prose poems helped her navigate grief in her latest poetry collection: Lullaby (with Exit sign).

Here's a sample of Bar-Nadav's thoughts on sound in prose poems and poetry composing in general. I wholeheartedly agree with this idea of sound as key to a deeper, more "visceral" method of finding one's way while writing (and even revising) a poem:

"I especially enjoy pushing sound in prose poetry.  When I read the work of someone like Karen Volkman or Simone Muench, I see how the prose poem can create opportunities for very visceral treatment of alliteration, assonance, and consonance, and rhyme and off-rhymeI’m also a great believer in allowing the poem to go where it may, and, as you noted, sound was a major compositional device in the writing of these poems.  At the same time, sound also enabled me to revise these poems, which I said aloud dozens of time as I revised.  All this to say, sound can be both a compositional device and a tool for revision. "

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Nano-Interview with Genre-Bending New York Times writer David Shields

Last week I had the pleasure of being able to interview David Shields, the New York Times bestselling author of such books as Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (2010) and the very frank and unapologetic nonfiction book--with its eye-stopping title--The Thing about Life is that One Day You'll be Dead (2008). I know few writers who would let me know, within the first 10 pages of a book, that “over the course of [my] life, [I am] likely to take about 850 million breaths” (The One Thing 10), but Shields is just such a writerA true advocate for "literary collage" or for evolving beyond our more traditional ideas of writing our stories through a narrative frame with a clear beginning, middle and end, Shields is an intriguing commentator on what it means to write meaningfully in our fast-paced, reality-blurred and digitally-infused times. Here is a link to my "nano-interview" with him for The Rivard Report, published on May 10th, 2016: War is Beautiful author David Shields Coming to San Antonio.