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 artists 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.
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.
MARY BIDDINGER is the author of five full-length collections of poetry, most recently Small Enterprise (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) and The Czar (with Jay Robinson, Black Lawrence Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Five Points, Green Mountains Review, jubilat, The Laurel Review, and Pleiades, among others. She is the recipient of a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship in poetry, and is currently working on a book-length volume of prose poems. Find her work online in Blackbird, Ampersand Review, Toad, & Thrush.
*Mary Biddinger and Matthew Cheney have both published books with Black Lawrence Press, in Mary’s case five books of poetry and in Matthew’s a collection of short stories. Both are also ensconced in academia: Mary is a professor of English at the University of Akron, where she also edits the Akron Series in Poetry, and Matthew is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Hampshire, where he studies modernist prose and its legacies.***
MATTHEW CHENEY: First, maybe we can start with the most important question: Do you have any pets? Dogs? Cats?
MARY BIDDINGER: Matt, this is my favorite kind of question. When at home I’m surrounded by pets: four cats, and one dog. Sure, they can be pesky (try sequencing a poetry manuscript on a hardwood floor with an overzealous tabby who wants to give her input on section breaks), but they are…
The Czar is currently up for pre-sale via Black Lawrence Press. The pre-sale price is $13.95 and ore-orders will stay at that price until July 31. Then, the price will shift to the retail $15.95. Support your local Czar!
The book blurbs have manifested themselves, and it is good.Such fantastic words from fantastic and admirable poets and people:
As a child, my mother taught me to zigzag Z to avoid getting eaten by an alligator. Mary Biddinger and Jay Robinson employ this technique here: in the clever curve of C around the subject, in the sharp switchback tack of Z for zealous. They commit to wordplay revolution, erasing origins, replacing narrative with wit, sound, and imagery so surprising it feels, by poem’s end, perfectly natural: the thing that waited, haunting, in the swamp. I don’t know how else to explain The Czar, whose unexpected becomes so expectant with meaning. This is a brilliant collection/collaboration.
–Carol Guess, author of Doll Studies: Forensics
This exquisite, feature-length project is the comic jam. But it’s no joke. You can thank Mary Biddinger and Jay Robinson later. For now, arm yourself…