As much as anyone might plan for a poetry reading, you can never fully anticipate the crowd, or the mood, and wow did we luck out for our Rethinking Gender event, as it was an absolute delight in every way. The room was full of friends, current and former students, future friends, future students, colleagues, and some students who were probably required to be there but (hopefully) had fun nonetheless.
It was such a thrill reading with Holly. We’d never read together before (people thought we had!) but co-taught an amazing poetry workshop for a semester, so maybe that’s how we got our synergy. At any rate, we left ourselves plenty of room to choose poems on the fly for our braided reading, and it worked out quite well. Holly shared a bunch of poems from her NEOMFA thesis, and I read poems from my three most recent books. We could have read for two hours, not one.
Many thanks to everyone who attended (not an empty seat, some standing!), and if you weren’t able to make it you can hear Holly Brown read at the next Big Big Mess. Poetry lives, folks. It really does.
What a pleasure to participate in a publishing panel at Ball State University with Sequoia Nagamatsu, Dan Raeburn, and Iliana Rocha. Thanks to Ball State Creative Writing for capturing us in action with this photo. It was great to bring a bit of Akron (including some #poetrylives buttons) to Indiana, and to talk about my experiences as a poet and editor.
Northeast Ohio folks, please add this event to your calendars.
Many thanks to the organizers of the In Print Festival of First Books at Ball State University for inviting me to come speak about my experiences as a poet and as the editor of the Akron Series in Poetry. From their website:
In Print XII (2017) will feature poet Iliana Rocha, fiction writer Sequoia Nagamatsu, and creative nonfiction writer Dan Raeburn. Rocha, Nagamatsu, and Raeburn will read from their work on Wednesday, March 15 at 8 PM in AJ 175. They will be joined by publisher/poet Mary Biddinger for a panel discussion about the publication industry on Thursday, March 16 at 8 PM in AJ 175.
Dear friends, I hope to see you at AWP this week! Here’s where you’ll be able to find me.
Book signing at the Black Lawrence Press booth (393) on Friday, February 10, 2017, 10:00-11:00 a.m. Come say hello and get a signed copy of The Czar, or Small Enterprise, or both.
Exhibiting at the University of Akron Press table (T-620) where we’ll have our newest Poetry Lives button + a slew of gorgeous books.
Don’t Stop the Presses: On the Enduring Value of the University Press: featuring Rebecca Hazelton, Claire Kirch, Ned Stuckey-French, Mary Biddinger, and Peter Berkery. Thursday, February 9, 2017 12:00-1:15 p.m.
Stars to Steer By: Rethinking Creative Writing Curriculum for the 21st Century: featuring Cathy Day, Porter Shreve, Mary Biddinger, and Terry L. Kennedy. Friday, February 10, 2017 4:30-5:45 p.m.
Safe and happy travels to all!
Many thanks to the editors of Jenny magazine, a fine journal out of Youngstown, Ohio, for this interview.
Here’s a sneak peek:
What is your personal creative process normally like? How do you move from an idea to a finished piece?
My process is always frantic, so it’s a good thing that I’m a poet and can work in a compressed form. I do best when I jot down my thoughts before writing, so when I actually get a spare moment I can jump right in with minimal fanfare. For me, the drafting process is relatively quick, and then I save the file and back away from the desk and let it rest for a while. I try to write without second guessing, and I like finishing a poem in one sitting.
Right now I am almost done with a new collection that is all prose poems, and with this book I have tried to write longer poems in multiple installments. The majority of the poems in this project are organized into five stanzagraphs, and having some distance from the poem’s initial stanzas can help me craft effective turns. Often I’ll over-write a poem, and then go back and trim excess before considering it finished. I do reach a point where I stop tinkering, however, rather than feeling like a poem is never done.
It’s CZARmania here in Akron, OH, and we couldn’t be more pleased. But how to get a copy of this book for yourself, when it hasn’t officially been released yet? Allow me to elaborate.
A limited number of advance copies of THE CZAR will be sold at EarthQuaker Day in downtown Akron, thanks to the awesome folks of the Big Big Mess Reading Series. Stop by their table at the event and they will hook you up with your czar (until they are sold out).
We’re also thrilled to share the news of our czar release party reading on Saturday, August 13th at Annabell’s in Akron, thanks (once again) to the Big Big Mess Reading Series. We’ll have copies of the book available for purchase, and you can have one, or both, of the authors autograph them, in addition to hearing us read live.
Finally, the lovely folks of Black Lawrence Press are still offering pre-orders of THE CZAR at a discount price. Hop on this deal before it’s over!
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.