I’m thrilled to share the link to my poem “Book of Disclosures,” which is in the June issue of Poetry. Thanks to all of the friends who have shared and retweeted it!
I am also so grateful to Erica Bernheim and The Adroit Journal for this interview about Partial Genius (and French club presidencies, and various animals, and goth nostalgia). Here’s a snippet:
EB: When I contacted you to do this interview, we were joking about how if we did it over the phone or Skype, we’d end up on endless tangents about our pets (I do wish Klaus and Leo could meet), so I wanted to ask you about animals and their presences in your poems, how you think about them as a writer, maybe even vis-à-vis the ideas of domestication and disappointment, as in “Consolation Prize,” “Most Beloved Roles,” or “Giving Up the Ghost.”
MB: Thank you so much for this question, which prompted me to return to the collection and realize that animals are everywhere in my poems. I have always been the person who picks worms off the sidewalk after a heavy rain. One of my faults is an uncontrollable compassion—I want to go out on a ledge to sing to the pigeon that looks weak, or to nurse the hawk-ravaged chipmunk back to health in my dorm room. I live with four cats and two dogs and make a conscious effort every day to prevent my pack from getting larger.
My poems reflect a sincere desire to protect the vulnerable from forces of corrupt power. They also want to defy the definition of what is wild, and what is tame. Sometimes I am sitting in a boring academic meeting and I look out the window and see a squirrel in the scruff of a pine tree and feel like that’s where I actually belong. Squirrels have never been asked to use Microsoft Excel. I write about animals out of care and solidarity with them, and perhaps also out of a bit of jealousy.
Partial Genius now has its own page here on my website. It’s starting to feel very real now.
If you have never felt like a book was your new best friend then you, dear reader, are missing out. Maybe you just haven’t encountered Amy Lemmon’s poetry yet, and the remedy is to get a copy of her third collection, The Miracles, as soon as possible.
In this book, Lemmon topples barriers between the speaker of the poem and the reader, writing honestly about desire and mortality and the ordinary things that help us go on. It’s rare to encounter such candor paired with an intense music that pervades every line, and Lemmon’s use of form turns up the volume in poems such as “Supermooning,” with lines like, “We craned to see the unctuous supermoon // In separate states, in separate cloudstruck scenes.”
The cover of The Miracles is nothing short of remarkable in itself. I love how the image calls to mind a stained glass window and acknowledges that the most fascinating part of a work of art may actually be its far edges and illuminated recesses, the stars that glow back at us as we gaze up in wonder.
The Miracles Amy Lemmon C&R Press | May 2019 Price: $16.00 | 82 pages ISBN 978-1-949540-00-0
Spring 2019 was a challenging semester–from illness to blizzards to various other unexpected happenings–but I am glad to be barreling into the summer of Partial Genius and hundreds of gorgeous poetry manuscripts to read and my summer World Lit class, which is always a joy. I’ll be starting another round of #summerofprompts over on Twitter in June. There’s a lot to look forward to, and it won’t be long.
I’m so excited to share the cover of my forthcoming prose poetry collection, Partial Genius, as well as the first blurb, which was written by my poetry hero Heather Derr-Smith. Thank you so much for your support!
I love this book so much. A work of meticulous craft and profound originality, Mary Biddinger’s newest collection of prose poems is one of the best books I’ve read on our historical moment and the decades that led to it. PARTIAL GENIUS reads like a dossier of the psychological landscape of late capitalist America and the end of empire. In the tradition of John Ashbery, but wholly original in her own vision and voice, Biddinger draws from a deep well of poetic intellect and wit to illuminate the existential threats and imaginative possibilities of our collective self-destruction. In “The Subject Pool” the speaker watches a man tattoo AU COURANT around her thigh. The tattoo artist has no idea. Every poem is chock-full of revelations in every detail. Reading this book felt like sitting by the fire in some secret location with a double agent, smoking her pipe telling tales of all that went down right in front of our collective faces, while we were all driven to distraction by outrage. To paraphrase Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, She’s got it all in this book. –Heather Derr-Smith
A new year always feels fresh, and I’m entering this one with a lot of goals. There’s a new poetry collection in the works, and I’ll be teaching two of my favorite classes, both at the undergrad level (advanced poetry writing and writers on writing). This will also be my last semester of a six-year gig as assistant chair and undergraduate advisor in my department, which means that starting in the fall I’ll teach more, spend less time in office hours, and hang out at the Press instead of the advising office. I am looking forward to this, though have a lot of book management to attend to in the meantime (moving them from one office to the next).
This is also the year of Partial Genius, my new collection of prose poems, which is due out in August from Black Lawrence Press. Stay tuned for updates on that, including cover and blurbs in the near future.
The fall 2018 semester had its highs and lows, like all semesters, but there were so many fierce poems and that is what I’ll remember going forward. In 2019 I’m making some changes that will enable me to be more of a writer again, less of a spreadsheet-navigator and email-wrangler, and though it will take some maneuvering I’m thrilled to be following this trajectory.
In addition to finishing a new collection of poems, in the new year I’ll be starting work on a teaching book of prompts. I’m imagining this to be ideal both for classrooms and for independent writers of all levels who might want a new door into poetry. It will be fairly small, handsome, and inexpensive. It will also include some writerly self-care advice; I teach a class that addresses this subject and would like it to be part of the book. More information on the project soon.
Finally, thanks to all of the readers and fellow writers and friends who have made this past year overwhelmingly okay. I’m setting serious goals for the new year. Best wishes to you and your goals, too.
A million thanks to the College of Charleston MFA program and Crazyhorse literary journal for the lovely visit. We had a robust turnout for my poetry reading, as well as for the talk that I did regarding first books of poetry and publishing. What a gorgeous place to visit, too!
Now we’re heading into the final weeks of the semester, but the warm weather and delightful company surely did some good. Before we know it, we’ll be planning for AWP Portland, though I have a few student poems that need annotating before that happens.
The release party and reading for the THEY SAID anthology was an absolute delight. Much gratitude to Juliet Cook, Diane Kendig, Black Lawrence Press, and Visible Voice Books for hosting. It was a memorable night of celebrating our collaborative poems and reading work by other authors from the volume. What a treat!
This week I’m heading to the College of Charleston for the Crazyhorse Reading Series. It’s Thursday, October 25th at Randolph Hall, Alumni Hall. Details are here on the website. I will be reading poems from Small Enterprise and from my forthcoming prose poem collection Partial Genius, as well as work from a new project (!!!) or two.
Later in October I’m packing my bags and heading to the College of Charleston for a poetry reading and craft talk about first books of poetry. My biggest piece of advice there: don’t be afraid to take risks in your collection. Growl a little. Show some teeth. Also, the right press and editor are out there, even if your classmates or writing group friends or Twitter frenemies aren’t always sure what to make of your work. I always felt like my intrinsic weirdness was a liability based on what others told me, but it ended up being an advantage instead.