Unboxing The Czar was extra emotional because it’s Jay’s first book. It was also impossible to do just the perfunctory flip-through with this book, because it’s pretty funny, and I found myself reading it again (and again) at odd moments when I should have been doing something else. The Czar is about a lot of things: a hyperbolically ridiculous fictional figurehead, the white noise of our present day, sexy underpants and odd recipes, family histories we might be best to forget, pop culture and its trash.
I think this book shows that collaboration can create something entirely new, not just a fusion of narratives and styles. Maybe that’s why I am so damn proud of this one. We took some risks, and let the book lead the way. I hope readers enjoy The Czar!
On THE CZAR:
The poems of The Czar by Mary Biddinger and Jay Robinson stand at the intersection of ironic political commentary and hyperbolized body currency. In the world of this collection, the Czar is a figurehead replete with ceremony and artificial gestures. But is he provocative humor or allegorical heft? And what happens when power is passed to the powerless in a secret handshake that’s more tongue on tongue than tongue-in-cheek? This book-length collaboration pivots between comic interludes and satirical exposés, at its heart the rhythm of the present tense, history’s most unreliable narrator no matter the king or kingdom.
July already? Soon we’ll be proofing pages of The Czar, and I’ll be getting the Akron Poetry Prize finalists off to the judge, and then: czar watch. The birth of The Czar is especially exciting because it’s Jay‘s first book. The unboxing will be even more meaningful.
My summer World Lit class was a true delight (what a brilliant bunch of readers and thinkers). It seems like I enjoy teaching more and more with every class. As of this fall semester, it’ll be my 20th year of teaching college English. So happy that I am nowhere near disenchanted after all this time.
Goals: once I’ve read these manuscripts (468 total) I need to write some poems and send them out. I need to revise some poems I’ve already written, and to send them out. Here and there I have been making notes for poems, but soon I need to write those poems.
Over at Twitter I’ve been posting a poetry prompt every Wednesday. Friends and students and former students often ask me for prompts over the summer, so I decided to make it a #summerofprompts feature for everyone to check out. Here’s a sample.
Happy July to all! Maybe next week I’ll have a sneak peek at the first pages for The Czar. There’s nothing like the excitement of bringing a new book into the world.
After a long day of teaching, I didn’t expect this box on my doorstep, and for a moment I thought I should wait until morning to unbox Small Enterprise, but then realized I’d be up all night wondering what she looked like. I have so much gratitude to Black Lawrence Press, photographer Heidi Thoenen, and many more folks. But for this morning, I just want to share two photos welcoming my 4th book to the world.
Even though it ended on a high note, with the restoration of the University of Akron Press, I’m glad to kick August to the curb and get back to work. Akron Poetry Prize stuff! Two excellent classes (one world poetry, one an MFA class on first books)! Plenty of student questions to answer! Once again I am taking far too much time writing, revising, and over-honing my syllabi. But what would a new semester be without all that?
In terms of my own poems, I’m still waiting. I can be patient. Last week we got to announce the good news about The Czar, and any day now Small Enterprise will roll off the press. Nothing against the desolation of the marshes and woods, but I rather like being able to talk to people again.
One nice thing about August is that it hasn’t been dull. I’ve been both “off” from work and working the full time job of responding to messages. Every small thing (and not-small thing, as in back to school shopping for two kids) seems like a miracle when it’s finally done.
I’ve been trying to spend as much time in nature as possible. I recommend it.
Otherwise, I am looking forward to getting back in the classroom, and to the arrival of Small Enterprise, which has been overshadowed by dramatic recent events. Also: new poems. Come on, new poems.
Perhaps this is a bit of wishful thinking. Could July be the month of new poems?
We had an amazing response to this year’s Akron Poetry Prize submission window (509 manuscripts!) which left little time for poems of one’s own. Submittable also makes it much easier to read in odd segments of time, but then the manuscripts also cross not just the UA Press transom, but end up in my dining room.
So I’m hoping to sequester myself in the poetry equivalent of this photograph for the month of July.
For me, the hardest part is getting disciplined about taking notes when ideas strike.
Note to self: notes.