At work again

Another long pleasant afternoon of Press work at Jane’s house in Morristown. The competition opens in a little more than four weeks and we still have so much work to do. (Of course, we always will, or at least that’s our goal).

Jane’s just back from a book binding workshop, and she learned an amazing amount. We know our first few chapbooks will be simply bound, probably 3 hole/ribbon, but considering the possibilities is so exciting. I’ve become so enamoured by possibilities that I see in the graphics/comics world, like McSweeney’s monthly packs of odd books, letters, postcards, puzzles, etc. There’s no reason why we can’t think outside the book and move towards engaging new forms – never doubt that an Old Broad can blow your mind with a new idea. Never.

Here’s an intriguing format we just came across from Kristy Bowen at Dancing Girl press and studio – a beautifully designed box of pages entitled billet-doux

This special dancing girl press limited edition collection of missives is sure to entice and delight. 15 poets. 15 love letters. Each piece written and designed by the poet themselves and collected in a lovely box. A volume sure to thrill the poetry and art lover (as well as the occasional voyeur.)

billet doux

Love it? You can order it here: Dancing Girl Press

Also today, as always, we’re talking and thinking and scheming about the HUGE miss-match between the incredible richness of chapbooks being created and the incredible lack of ways to get those books to the attention of, and into the hands of, poetry peers. We’re making a small start with our chapbook reviews page, but what else can we do? What else can you do? Can any of us do? There’s no reason not to consume chapbooks like Poetry Pringles, bought by the can-full and munched nonstop until you are satiated (temporarily)

Short Sweet – Speaking for my Self: Twelve Poets in their seventies and eighties, reviewed by Jane Seitel

Speaking for my Self: Twelve Poets in their seventies and eighties
Edited by Sondra Zeidenstein
$18.00/ Chicory Blue Press

Sondra Zeidenstein

Sondra Zeidenstein

I publish older women writers because I need company. I have always believed that how we imagine our lives, how we make meaning of living,comes largely from literature. The older I get the more I find myself seeking older women writers to tell me about myself.

Sondra Zeidenstein founded Chicory Blue Press more than twenty-five years ago to celebrate the work of older women poets, and this book continues that celebration of wisdom, of art, of the rainbow of expression and inexhaustible spirit of twelve stellar craftswomen. Reading each poet’s work, as individual as her thumbprint, I feel the need to say each poet’s name aloud: Betty Buchsbaum, Phoebe Hoss, Nancy Kassell, Rita Brady Kiefer, Liane Ellison Norman, Margaret Randall, Myra Shapiro, Carole Stone, Florence Weinberger, Nellie Wong, Sondra Zeidensten, Geraldine Zetzel. As I read these women’s biographies, I notice the vivacity, fullness and diversity of what is possible in this life. As I read each woman’s poems, however, another awareness, more intimate and palpable, overtakes me. I read each poem a first time, a second and a third. Yes, I say, again and again. Yes.

These are poems not for the faint of heart, but for the heart that listens closely to the brave beat. Nancy Kassell writes in “Celestial Navigation”:

I know your point of departure,
I know how much time has elapsed.
What I don’t know is your course and speed,
how to make reckoning
for the dead.

I remind myself that these women are one or two generations before me and I notice that these are the women whose lives were shaped by The Great Depression, World War II, the struggles of the twentieth century into the Twenty-first. This underpins their poems, and crescendos many of their poems like storm waves. Writes Florence Weinberger in “Marrowbones”:

The soup the Nazi’s fed him in their concentration camp
         was thin as silk, what floated there thinner still.
From the aunts and mothers I learned wisdom is liquid,
         rescue, a recipe they give to their daughters.

If wisdom is liquid, then it comes in variety of flavors and compositions. It comes as sweet as the juice of oranges as Geralding Zetel writes in “Joy,” A wet leaf glints in the sun/ a jay calls out of the woods/Coolness touches my face/ for a moment: this edge or joy. It comes with the transient beauty and sadness of plum wine. From Nellie Wong in “Woman in Red Shoes”: Her red hat capes her black hair, she/ A picture of serenity filling her gold jacket/ With half moons, her black handbag hanging/ Over the right arm of her wheelchair. Or it appears as the brave, defiant third shot of straight vodka for Carole Stone, I loved to puff a cigarillo in the West Village/ like “Vincent” Millay. Inhaling desire. And it startles you like truth serum, in unflinching words in Sondra Zeidenstein’s poem “Subjection of Women,” a poem about the Romanian movies “Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days” which tells us in the opening lines

slim white legs the pregnant student waxes before going to
     the abortionist,
the girlfriend who goes with her, loyal, protective of her
     helpless friend,
who is not smart or wary, just looking for the cheapest fix
and doesn’t anticipate the price for ending a five month pregnancy.

A horrific scene follows, but a scene written with the scalpel of a poet’s hand and heart. It is a poem which, although a representation of another representation, knows its origin in reality, and probes a deeper truth, as many of these brave poems do. It is the way this book, Speaking for my Self, surely becomes more than self, more than speaking. Celebration, testimony, testament, Speaking for my Self is indispensable poetry at its apex, celebrating the lifetimes of women whose art and wisdom dance my thoughts as hummingbirds beat their inexhaustible wings; as I accompany them flower to flower in a gathering of nectar.

June 2014 Update

Jane and I are pulling another marathon meeting at her house to move QuillsEdge Press forward. Today our CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses) membership came through, which means we both have a LOT of reading to do, catching up on best practices in our field. We’re working on our first official newsletter, writing ad copy for the competition, enjoying some white wine/lemonade coolers, and plotting the continuing take over of the literary world.

Look for our first newsletter in early July!

Great Poetry Giveaway 2014!

big poetry giveaway 2014

QuillsEdge is proud to join the Big Poetry Giveaway organized by Kelli Russell Agodon over at Book of Kells Poetry Giveaway 2014. What a marvelous idea she had five years ago to spread the poetry love around! We’re giving away 4 great poetry books by our demographic – innovative women poets over the age of 50! To win one, post a comment saying which book/books you’d love to receive, and at the end of National Poetry Month we’ll choose a winner for each book by some manner of random drawing.

First Book – Gold, the newest collection from Barbara Crooker, who will be the judge for our first competition. WE LOVE THIS BOOK! Grief, aging, loss, aging, the magic of the year’s natural cycle, sex, gold leaves and blue skies.

Another favorite, Mrs. Dumpty by Chana Bloch. From a review:

The poems in Mrs. Dumpty are about “a great fall,” the dissolution of a long and loving marriage, but they are not simply documentary or elegiac. What interests Chana Bloch is the inner life: how we are formed by our losses and our parents’ losses, how we learn what we need to know through our intuitions and confusions, how we deny and delay and finally discover who we are.

Book Three – Kamiko Hahn’s The Artist’s Daughter.

Book Four – The Usable Field by Jane Mead. Jane teaches in the MFA Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation where the two of us met, so we’ve gotten to hear her astounding work. Jane Mead can be lyric and harsh, musical and startling in the same poem. This is a great book!

Launch Weekend Summary – Thoughts from Jane

Exciting weekend at the Saturday launch at Split This Rock. And on the trip home with Elliott batTzedek, we discussed all the ways of expanding our combined visions for QuillsEdge Press. It is a shared vision: How to recreate a chapbook press into something more like gathering place for a growing community of women poets and artists.

We are connected in many ways: a common love of poetry, of beauty and art. We share a generational kinship, a sense of purpose and practice. As the rain pounded against the windshield, we rolled past Amish Farms, the silos of rural Pennsylvania. In the pelting rain we happily brainstormed ideas of how to create inclusion and use the website to spread the word of different opportunities and resources–links to woman-significant websites, book reviews, conferences and retreats that might appeal to you.

And up our sleeves, some new models of how to make a chapbook contest more than just a chapbook contest with one winner. Chapbooks are small books, and we imagine each one as an entry into other rooms of opportunity. Stay tuned. There’s more to come. So much more to come! (Jane)

Celebration Time!

Exhausted after all the work leading up the launch and the book fair, we headed out to eat, through pouring rain and evening traffic, ending up at The Parva in Bethesda, MD. Wow – the best plantain chips either of us had ever had, plus great Chilean red wine for Jane and a Columbian mojito for Elliott.

If you’re ever in Bethesda, go eat here!