Publication Announcement

Continuous Performance: The Selected Poems of Maggie Jaffe

Jaffe-grafiti-cover

Edited by poets Marilyn Zuckerman, Christopher Butters, and Robert Edwards, Continuous Performance: The Selected Poems of Maggie Jaffe presents a substantial collection of this poet’s most important work. As Robert Edwards intimates in his introduction to this collection, “Once Maggie found her voice, she created a kind of poetry that was relentlessly stripped to the essentials, everything superfluous burned away in the underlying fury that inhabits these poems.”

“Maggie Jaffe’s poems have a rare power and beauty. She writes about Mayakovsky, Van Gogh, Kafka, Jean Seaberg, and other extraordinary figures of our time…but never in a predictably political way, always in a way that astonishes us and that says something profound about the world we live in.” – Howard Zinn

Purchase from Red Dragonfly Press: Continuous Performance ($17; free shipping)

Purchase from Small Press Distribution: Continuous Performance

Author page: Maggie Jaffe

Maggie Jaffe (1948 – 2011) was author of six books of poetry. Both 7th Circle and The Prisons, won the San Diego Book Award for Poetry. She taught at San Diego State University in the English and Comparative Literature Department. She was also the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a California Arts Council Grant.

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David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 David Martinson – Meadowhawk PrizeWhat Thread? by Francine Sterle.

What Thread? is an ambitious collection, but also dazzling. I was immediately fascinated by the variegated nature of this collection. “From well-fed flowers/to the wrecked bouquet,” the poetry moves back and forth, from elegy and loss toward quest and question. Look for What Thread? around April next year. Meanwhile, here’s a small sample from the poem ‘One Thought Attracts Another’:

“I applaud the green foliage of our language.
Who knows what we’ll find on the other side?
This is the fugue that repeats then crumbles:
our numbered days,
death’s ashen spark.
A branch becomes a vein.
A spider embellishes its web.
This rain is ruin and our ruin rides.
But after days of it,
after the serpentine
passages of water dry,
after marsh marigolds and wild violets,
up come the moon-faced sunflowers
drunk with light.”

A native of Minnesota, Francine Sterle holds an MFA degree in poetry from Warren Wilson College and has studied writing in a variety of settings, including Oxford University, Spoleto Writers’ Workshop, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She has three previous collections: The White Bridge (Poetry Harbor, 1999), Every Bird Is One Bird (Tupelo Press, 2001), and Nude in Winter (Tupelo Press, 2006). She lives in Iron, Minnesota, on the West Two River.

Thanks are due, also, to the many other poets who submitted manuscripts this year. I was overwhelmed, but as I set about reading, continually surprised, often moved, and, finally, downright astonished by the number of superb submissions. And while the quality and variety made the reading enjoyable, it makes choosing a single manuscript downright daunting.

Manuscripts for the 2015 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize can be submitted beginning in April, 2015.

Scott King

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Emergence Chapbook Series Prize

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 Emergence Chapbook Series PrizeBottom-Right Corner by Justin Watkins of Rochester, Minnesota. This collection brings together a number of poems about the land and quirky inhabitants of southeast Minnesota.

According to Justin’s bio, he was raised in the top-right corner of the state, but has lived and worked in the bottom-right corner since 1994. He enjoys sitting with his wife beneath a walnut tree and watching their kids wonder and learn. Another enjoyment is hiking and fishing the trout streams in southeast Minnesota, but Justin admits to spending a good number of his summer days looking in on common carp as well. All good pastimes for a poet.

So congratulations to Justin, but I also want to thank everyone who submitted chapbooks. The range and accomplishment of the entries, all from Minnesota, is promising and impressive. Manuscripts for the 2015 Emergence Chapbook Series Prize can be submitted beginning in March.

Scott King

Book review

Book Review: The Grand Piano by Floyce Alexander

Floyce Alexander.  The Grand Piano.  Voice of the Poet Series: volume one

Northfield, MN:  Red Dragonfly Press, 2014. 55 pages. ($10 paper. $5.90 audio ebook for ipad; $2.99 audiobook)

Reviewed in North Dakota Quarterly, vol.80.1 by Dale Jacobson

Floyce Alexander grew up in the lower Yakima valley of Washington state, where his father homesteaded a grape farm after working as a coal miner in Arkansas.  His poems visit both areas of the country and are always conscious of his working class roots.  He holds an MFA and Ph.D., but I find even more significant his study of poetry with Theodore Roethke.  At 74, he has been writing poetry for the majority of his life.

This book presents three poems, each a sequence, “The Grand Piano,” “Another Young American Pilgrim,” and “Irene Casteñada.”  The poems all are interrelated, moving through different periods of the poet’s life.  One of Alexander’s projects in much of his poetry is to record– and some way save– his past, perhaps even redeem it from the worst aspects of its, and our, history.  This effort leads him to confront his own feelings toward relatives, and particularly women who have been important to him since love is the leitmotif of much of his work.  One might say that this book is a great love poem, despite our national culture which promotes so much division and hatred.  The poems are acutely aware of loves lost to the caprices of time, which remain very much alive to him.

This focus alone would make the book immensely worthy, but it does more, for personal love is not the limit of its concern.  Interwoven are larger societal and historical loves, or their lack.  The poet understands that love does not exist in political and cultural isolation.  And it is at this intersection that we confront our national obstructions to love, in particular  racism, but also our “love” of war, and by contrast, our inability to love the poor enough help them.

In “The Grand Piano” love is equated with music, a language for our passions just as physical sensation can be, if passion exists.  When it doesn’t exist, both become brutality, but when it does, the poems want to open our passions beyond what the country ordinarily allows, “a change of uniforms, an end to war.”  (20).  This suggestion that we can change our perspective toward what we love is one of the qualities of this work I admire most.  In fact, I have long opposed the idealization and elevation of “the ordinary” in our culture, which seems nearly ubiquitous, as if what is ordinary is the same of political democracy.  The truth is, oppression is the ordinary quotidian in our culture.  I very much admire poems that want to dislodge the ordinary, as do these.

And yet, the difficulties of our country don’t go away in Alexander’s poems.  There is no false sense that individual romantic love, however much the poet prizes it, can overcome the political realities that stand in its way.  While personal love is possible, racism was also largely responsible for denying him his first passionate romance.  In addition, the poet’s own memory is the past the country constructed, the racism of the South:  “My father’s / father hated this black man who hated / him back.  I saw why in my grandfather’s face.”  (21).   Later, we find a poem on Guantanamo, where music (and Christianity) is converted to an accompaniment for torture and death.

Alexander is not a poet who claims “love” answers history, one of those easy formulas we often hear, perhaps a hand-me-down from Jesus, nor does he assert it as a political weapon against the dark and greedy passions of war.  But these poems are perhaps an effort to understand at least three things:  where we have been, who we are as a nation (with our current limitations), and what is possible if we can surpass those limitations.  In some sense, then, one might think of the love expressed for the women in this book as more than personal, but also love for imagination itself, as we find in Whitman, the muse as love.   There is great optimism (despite great resignation) in these poems, as in these lines:

Ah love, the sky is our house and this earth

its floor, the sun and moon our bright windows

opening to the fire and to the stars…

Ah love, I love you:  you know all the words

I say will never carry the meaning

of our silence, your radiant presence…

(49-50)

Sometimes publishers get it right.  This is one of those times.

– Dale Jacobson