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.
This book is not a book, it’s treatise on empire, a manifest destiny, a pack of wild peasants outside the gate, a mesmerizing tour d’effluvia in its Czar not Czar, throne not throne, overthrown mistresses, Lady Czar is no Czarina, cappuccino foam isn’t foam, revolution was a hoax, naming and renaming, unlearned cursive, unheard flute solo, empire under construction, not New York, not Sacramento, non-tabloids, non-violent non-women. Biddinger and Robinson rebuild our world and take it away piece by piece to show the conviviality of our destruction.
–Elizabeth Colen, author of They Could No Longer Contain Themselves
One of the many works of literature that we riffed on in THE CZAR is Wuthering Heights. I’ve never been one for heavy allusions, but THE CZAR takes tonal cues from a variety of works, as well as making playful attempts at doubling some storylines. That said, the whole writing of THE CZAR was organic, so our allusions were intrinsic to the poems, just like the pop culture intrusions or snippets of technology that made their way into the book. Here’s a poem from the collection, which is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in August 2016.
is a little worried about how much he loves the novel Wuthering Heights. In private, he whispers, “I am ___________” then sends himself to un-heaven. Who is the naughtier child, Catherine or Heathcliff? And why doesn’t the weather in Czarland Heights vacillate like a northern place with moors and hillocks? He can’t say that heaven wouldn’t want him, as he invented the concept. Why did it have to involve heaps of coconut? Why was his movie in black and white, and replete with ringlets, the dogs dead for decades? In a less probable world, the Czar would have also been a Czar. Yes. In a less probable world, though, Edgar wouldn’t have died. And the peasants would have feasted nightly on more than limburger cheese and half-stale crackers. Before the Brontë sisters, he considered books an accelerant. Like his mistress’s faux bridal lace teddy. Or the Lady Czar’s culinary renderings of aimless heft. At night he stares out the castle windows. A low, accusatory moon in the Czar-like sky. Stray cats in an alley and a pail of warm milk. Low water level in the moat. He sips Glenfiddich by the gallon, tells his mistress he will stay up all night until he finds the right word. But he never does.
–Mary Biddinger & Jay Robinson