Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Reviews of Omnidawn Books


Selected Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin Friedrich Hölderlin, trans. from the German by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover. Omnidawn (IPG, dist.), $24.95 (496p) ISBN 978-1-890650-35-3

Review From Publisher's Weekly:

Sublime visionary, great religious poet attracted to pagan myth and German poet of world-historical importance, Hölderlin (1770-1843) at the turn of the 19th century made his mark with Greek-inspired odes, intensely heterodox (and often never completed) hymns to imagined gods and real European places, and elegies on love. All these great works came about before 1807, when the tormented writer suffered a mental breakdown. Despite his importance to subsequent German poets (Rilke) and philosophers (Heidegger), and despite careful translations, Hölderlin has never enjoyed the U.S. following attracted by (for example) the author of The Duino Elegies. That may change with this ample yet sensitive facing-page version. Husband and wife team Chernoff and Hoover-both are experimental poets, fiction writers and editors-do best with the strangest (most clearly "modern") stanzas and pieces of unfinished hymns, but also give fine attention to the earlier, more elegant works and to the naïve rhyming poetry of Hölderlin's last years. Here is the Hölderlin who praised "The Poet's Courage," asking, "Isn't everything alive already in your blood?" Here too is the poet for whom modern life is at once opportunity and abyss: "I approached to see the gods," he wrote, "[a]nd they themselves threw me down beneath the living." (Sept.) ---Publishers Weekly, 8/18/08


Saga/Circus Lyn Hejinian. Omnidawn (IPG, dist), $15.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-890650-34-6

Review from Publisher's Weekly:

This pair of new long works from the California-based experimental poetry master (The Fatalist) makes a fine introduction to her current powers. Hejinian-admired in avant-garde circles since the 1970s-combines epistemological investigations with deft jokes. "Circus" is both prose poem and experimental, nonlinear fiction: named characters (Sally Dover, Quindlan, the talkative Askari Nate Martin) chase one another through short nonlinear chapters (one sequence includes, in order, "Chapter Two," "Chapter One," "Chapter 3 and Chapter Two," "Chapter Between" and another "Chapter Two"). Sometimes kids, sometimes gossipy wives, sometimes circus performers and sometimes figures in a whodunit; these are characters meant to dismantle expectations, in quotable sentences and baffling passages reminiscent of Gertrude Stein: "Quindlan refuses to recognize anything as a digression, to take a suggestion, to accept a designation." Less whimsical and perhaps more profound, "Saga" comprises 37 numbered free-verse segments: each imagines a long journey on a seagoing vessel as a figure for poetry, history, life. Along with Hejinian's usual canny smarts, this newest long poem includes unexpected Romantic aspirations, with nods to Wordsworth and Coleridge: Hejinian, or her persona, says she "felt uprooted even/ At an early age perhaps from gods, my deities/ Were streaming/ Or grinding like a boat being hauled over stony ground." (Sept.) ---Publishers Weekly, 9/15/08


check out these 2 reviews of Randall Silvis' IN A TOWN CALLED MUNDOMUERTO:

review at PRICK OF THE SPINDLE by Cynthia Reeser

review at ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION by Paul di Filippo

"Magical realism is a tough mode to bring off. Books in this vein can often sound twee or fey or forced or artificial. But the best magical realism exhibits a kind of reverence for the mysteries of life, illuminates the strangeness of the human condition, and entertains the reader with a tragicomic perspective. Randall Silvis fulfills this mission in his novel In a Town Called Mundomuerto (Omnidawn Publishing, trade paper, $12.95, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-890650-19-3). An old man named Alberto feels compelled to tell the same mythic story of his youth over and over each day to a fifteen-year-old boy (“. . . to allow the story its opportunity to speak . . .”), until the boy becomes a half-complicit bard himself. Alberto’s tale concerns Lucia Luna, the village’s most beautiful woman, and how she danced one night with a dolphin god in human form, and became pregnant by the visitor. All communal propriety goes topsy-turvy, and Lucia Luna’s life becomes threatened. Only the young Alberto, in love with the older woman, can save her, by accosting the dolphin-man in his lair. By turns droll, somber, reflective, rueful, and hopeful, this story speaks of eternal verities in very specific mortal masks."


Saturday, September 20, 2008

POETRY FEATURE 7: Julie Doxsee



Everyone’s tooth
is a little machine

that can’t starfish itself
to the lip it loves.

The way you speak
hits the ceiling & stays there

laryngitic, a blue noise
photoshopped clean I can’t

stand so vertical. What brought
this image to light made a

motorcycle-growl & chicks
exploded from the eggs

you would have cracked into
my mouth. What brought this

image to light wrapped a
perfume ad around your hand

during the immaculate peeping
so you wave goodbye to infinity.



I know something we can do
together. We just lean our

heads back like this to the wall
where our voices won’t register

eye to eye. When we vanish
a white field will roll out

where poolwater used to be
& the hem of the grove

will quiver like someone cut it
out of the landscape & threw it

up high to cover the
top of the sun. See how good

that feels on our throats.
Men take pictures of us

glowing & we never know it.


Julie Doxsee is the author of two books: Undersleep (Octopus 2008) and Objects for a Fog Death (Black Ocean 2009). She teaches writing and literature in Istanbul, Turkey.


Thursday, September 18, 2008




Poets Laura Moriarty and Brent Cunningham will be teaching a weekly evening class for writers and poetry readers starting October 7th. Together they taught a popular "Martian Poetics" class in the Spring. The new class, "Realisms of the Everyday," will take place Tuesday evenings at Small Press Distribution in northwest Berkeley. New students especially welcome!

For questions, contact Information and sign-up for the class can be found here.

CLASS DESCRIPTION: A great deal of poetic invention has found its way forward by revaluing or returning to the “real”: the ordinary, the everyday, the mundane, the colloquial, the immediate, the tangible. In this class we will explore the problems and potentials of the real from the perspective of working writers. We will take a look at actuality and everydayness as aesthetic tactics, aesthetic forms, and aesthetic inspirations. We will notice our existence in what we think of as everyday life and note how others have solved the problem of both occupying and representing this “life.” We will focus especially on the difficult problem of defining the “real”: is it what we continuously think, what we immediately perceive, what we actually do, what lasts, what would exist without us, or something else? Is it all of these things? Is it some specific (secret, discoverable?) combination? And, practically speaking, what does it mean to one’s writing to value certain ideas of reality over others? We will often write during class. We will do exercises that use “what is” as their generative engine. In place of in-class workshopping, each student will receive a 30-minute individual consultation with one of the instructors outside of class hours. For interested students there are additional opportunities for one-on-one meetings outside of class at (cheap) hourly rates. There will be opportunities to browse the thousands of small press titles at SPD. And there will be a 30% discount on all SPD books for all students of this class! Throughout, we will attempt to complicate our presumptions about what really is, while also recognizing the undeniable power and vitality of is-ness.


Now available from Ahsahta Press!

New & Selected Poems
by Charles Hartman

New poems join a selection from nearly 40 years of Hartman's groundbreaking computer- and jazz-influenced work.

"Charles is a precisionist of language, an improviser searching familiar scales for a wrong note, a word or phrase, that can take him past regular habits of meaning or melody to some new kind of right place." —David Antin

"Charles Hartman's New & Selected Poems will finally establish his rightful place as at least one of the best poets of his generation. It takes a large collection to reveal the range, depth, intricacy, and inventive playfulness of his very very fine sensibility. Most of all I love his intelligence—his refusal of sentimentality that finds an angle for the release of unexpected yet rich and complex feelings, and his range of attitudes and situations matched by astonishing metrical inventiveness and resonance. ('Songlines/tune/the travels.') This intelligence makes for a range that beggars most poets—from elegant short dimeter poems to several sustained and complex long poems on topics ranging from becoming familiar with exotic places to establishing attitudes toward the ways new technologies affect possibilities for feeling and for thinking, or for continuing to think that feeling matters."—Charles Altieri


Zone : Zero
by Stephanie Strickland

Spinning language both exhilaratingly liminal and elegantly precise, Strickland's work charts the emotional distance between 0 & 1.

Includes a CD with two sequences from the book as interactive digital poems.

"Stephanie Strickland is one of contemporary poetry's polymaths: her poetry displays an astonishing command of scientific knowledge—for instance Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem—technical know-how, especially in the realm of electronic poetics, and unusual verbal virtuosity. The pièce de résistance in Zone : Zero is the interactive generative Flash poem "slippingglimpse," in which text and video, made by using motion capture coding, combine so as to create a genuinely new and distinctive eco-poetry. Readers/viewers will find themselves totally mesmerized." —Marjorie Perloff

". . . mystic immersion / enabled / smite embedding / enabled," writes Stephanie Strickland as she launches us into the mysteries of her interior castle, her Zone : Zero. With her extraordinary ear, her crackerjack sense of timing, her genius for structure and her exquisitely dry wit (as in the delicious vaudeville routines of her "Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot"), Strickland can lead us down these high stone stairs, through these neurodigital pathways and never lose us, even into her castle keep. And when we find ourselves there, what fierce playfulness awaits us, and what startling pleasures, pleasures indivisible from the victories they embody: "And Colette took up this / bread, which was black, / and spat back at Lord Death / the red / pomegranate drops."—Rachel Loden


Sunday, September 14, 2008

REVIEW PAGE: Tendril by Bin Ramke


Tendril (2007)
by Bin Ramke

Review by Lucas Klein @ Gently Read Literature

Visit Tendril's main page for more information.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Poetry Feature 6: Reginald Shepherd


Somewhere Off the Coast of Cyprus

Gods don’t get what they want, they stumble,
falter and halt at the frontiers of fulfillment, puzzled
that power isn’t always pleasure. They want
to know what know is (I have known, I knew, I know, I will
know, I will have known
), instead learn only no. (Conjugate
this, decline every noun.) No happy ending to this sentence
for a god, sentenced to helpless
potency, all will and self-belief but somehow
substanceless, a notion of force that steals a form
and calls it body, steals a body and calls it mine, impervious
to touch. A litter of porous marble’s all that’s left,
paint-stripped but still stained, nothing that anyone
could use. How useless immortality becomes
in time, rubble retrieved from a receding river
in a year of drought. The goddess has no arms,
the god’s hand drawing back the bow
is missing, there’s no protection for them
anymore. Acid rain worms through their statuary
skin. Better to wait for the waters
to return, the mildewed monuments to finish
crumbling. Let the shipwrecked cargoes sleep
where they sank (myths buried in them
like birds that won’t be heard), gold leaf and lapis lazuli
dreaming of love, whatever love means to a god.


Reginald Shepherd
is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship, which he plans to use to pay off the medical bills for a year's worth of nonstop sickness. When not in the hospital in one capacity or another, he's the author most recently of Fata Morgana (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 2008), and Lyric Postmodernisms: An Anthology of Innovative American Poetries (Counterpath Press, 2008). He lives, and takes long naps, in Pensacola, Florida with his partner Robert Philen, a cultural anthropologist and paragon of love, kindness, and generosity.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Omnidawn Poetry Contest Winner and Finalists Announced!


Marjorie Welish has selected a winner and five finalists for the Omnidawn Poetry Contest! We will have the official news posted in full detail on our Omnidawn web page soon. But we are letting our blog readers have the news immediately.

Congrats to the winner:

by Michelle Taransky

And these five finalists:

by Ethan Saul Bull

by Michael Tod Edgerton

by Carolyn Hembree

by Brandon Shimoda

by Jordan Windholz

We are enormously grateful to everyone who sent us their manuscripts. We will be sending out letters to those who sent us an SASE in the coming weeks. Just to note, everyone who entered the contest and requested a free Omnidawn book should have received it.


Monday, September 1, 2008

News about the Omnidawn Team


from the post below, you can see that Canessa gallery is featuring work by Omnidawn's very own Cassandra (Cassie) Smith! Cassie recently read at Canessa, with Truong Tran and Geof Huth (the pic above is from Huth's blog). Here's what Huth had to say about her reading:

First up was Cassie Smith, who surprised me by actually sitting down at the chair. She then read from “A Myth in Two Parts,” which she said was an older manuscript. She read with what I thought was incredibly beauty, very quietly, with a soft voice (not just a quiet one), and well cadenced. The poem consisted primarily of imagistic fragments of various lengths, all of which together added up to an almost spooky whole. The poem was something like a shards of a shattered narrative, but the details were gentle, and hyper-focused. Words would blink at us and disappear.

“sound as if for falling”

Anaphora was one of her common tropes:

“We were born…”

“Or we or we or we or when or where”

She talked about a terrifying dream she had where a bird flew into a window just next to her and dropped dead, then explaining that within twenty-four hours of that dream that event happened to her in real life. She wondered what her real name, Cassandra, might mean given this story.

“Our birds in flight with these lines”

At a couple of points, she whispers to us that she doesn’t know how to read certain visual parts of her text, so she just describes them to us.

“the tilde our hero”

“or still and if for apples”

“extinction of weathers”

“wished there were heels for this kind of weather”

I’m not at all sure I have transcribed any of her lines correctly, but I know I want to read these words on the page, so I can really understand them, yet there is the understanding from hearing them aloud, through her voice, that I am glad to have experienced.

Cassie is currently Omnidawn's "Data Base Manager."


the other news is about Omnidawn's "Blog Editor" (me!). my first book of poems has just been published by Tinfish Press. Check it out here.

and check out the blurbs:

The act of remembering is the art of recovery, and the
art of reclaiming a past that has never been hidden
only silenced is an act of responsibility. Craig Santos
Perez has arrived to give voice and meaning to the
unheralded narratives with his fierce debut from
unincorporated territory. At once a palimpsest and an
archive of "retrievable history," this book of poems is
sure to place Guam on both the literary and geographical
maps. This poet of consciousness, of communal memory,
and of political fury, has undone the callous erasure of
imperialism and empowered his people's folklore, stories
and journeys. Craig Santos Perez is a poet with a mission,
and with the skill and battle cry to do it right.

~Rigoberto González~

Perez's deft first book delivers a Guam outside the story
of the 'nation', reminding us who and what is 'from'
his island through the biography of touch, and the
intermingled military and colonialist histories brought to
the Chamorro people from far across the ocean.

~Robert Sullivan~

In Craig Santos Perez's from unincorporated territory
we hear the movement of the Pacific Ocean; turning
each page we hear the oars of the people navigating
this ocean. This is a smart, formalistically rigorous, and
unapologetically political collection of poetry. Personal,
tender, and tough, Perez's poems, collages of text and
images offer a necessary critical, historical perspective on
American ownership, Western tourism, and simultaneous
erasure of the island of Guam. from unincorporated
territory rejects the blank space on American maps and in
American consciousness.

~Barbara Jane Reyes~