Join the Via Negativa Poetry Month book club!

On March 2, I announced plans to again read and blog a book or chapbook of poetry a day throughout April. Many thanks to all who sent review copies (and if I promised a copy of Odes to Tools in return, I’m planning a trip to the post office soon!).

A number of people expressed interest in my regimen, but understandably, only a couple indicated they might be following suit. Today I want to invite y’all to join me and Kristin Berkey-Abbott in a somewhat more modest undertaking: to read and discuss just four books of poetry next month, one a week. Here’s what we’ll be reading:

Week #1: Diane Lockward’s Temptation by Water
(Publisher’s page, Amazon.com, review in Rattle)

Week #2: Luisa A. Igloria’s Trill and Mordent
(Publisher’s page, Amazon.com, review in Galatea Resurrects)

Week #3: Ren Powell’s Mercy Island
(Publisher’s page, Amazon.com, review in Velveteen Rabbi, review at Carolee Sherwood’s blog)

Week #4: William Trowbridge’s Ship of Fool
(Publisher’s page (be patient), Amazon.com, review in Gently Read Literature)

We welcome participation in any form, but we encourage you to borrow or purchase all four books and read them at your leisure. Kristin and I will both be blogging our responses (which may or may not resemble traditional reviews), and if you’re a blogger, we encourage you to do the same, and let us know about it so we can interlink. Discussion can take place in multiple blog comment threads. Critical responses are welcome as long as they are constructive, not snide or dismissive.

Kristin and I will also be interviewing each of the four poets by phone for the Woodrat Podcast, insh’allah. If you are able to read the books in advance of our phone calls, we’d welcome suggestions of what to ask and which poems to have them read on the podcast. So here’s when we’ll be doing that: April 9, Diane Lockward; April 13, Luisa A. Igloria; April 23, Ren Powell; and April 25, William Trowbridge. Also, I could be persuaded to include one more person in those conference calls, so let me know (bontasaurus[at]yahoo[dot]com) if you want in on any of them.

A word on how we selected these four. I emailed Kristin the complete list (as of a couple weeks ago) of books I was planning to read next month, and we went back and forth about it. Obviously we are both guilty of bias in favor of friends and poets who are active online. Some friends didn’t get considered because we didn’t learn about their new books soon enough. But I will be looking for podcast guests long after April… including, I hope, my co-conspirator in this, who is a wonderful blogger, poet, and theologian, and seems remarkably sane for a Floridian.

Finally, for those of you who can actually contemplate parting with favorite poetry books, I want to echo Kristin and put in a plug for a Poetry Month-related initiative by Kelli Russell Agodon which I strongly support in theory if not in practice: the Big Poetry Giveaway 2011.

Basically, bloggers give away 2 books of poems at the end of April. The first can be your own book, and the second is to be a FAVORITE book of poems of your choosing.

People will come to your blog and leave a comment saying they’d like to win your book and at the end of the month, you randomly choose two winners and mail them out the books.

24 Comments


  1. This just sounds wonderful. I’ll be checking in to see how it’s going and read your blog entries. (Yes, looking forward to receiving Odes to Tools!)

    I will be reading as much poetry as possible in April, and writing it, but April is always a busy month for me, 2-3 out-of-town events, so…I’ll be vicarious here.

    But I am doing the poetry giveaway!

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    1. It’s definitely a busy time of year. I think we online poetry fans should all get together and elect a better candidate for Poetry Month, when not much is happening — January, say.

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  2. Thanks for your kind words about me. With our current governor and state legislators, it’s easy to seem like a sane Floridian (I also realize, given the last 10 years, that the phrase “sane Floridian” must seem like an amusing oxymoron!).

    I’m thrilled to be part of this project!

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    1. Awfully glad you suggested it. Even if it ends up being just you and me reading all four books, it will still be worthwhile. It just seemed as if we ought to throw the book club idea out there, out of fairness to the poets who have agreed to let us harass interview them.

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    1. Odd that we who live, what? five hours apart? will be meeting for the first time in Ystwyth!

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      1. I thought that also–but entertaining, nevertheless!

        Still trying to figure out the weather. I like to just bring a tiny stewardess bag, but it may be a bit chilly.

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  3. Count me in!
    Last April my favorite local bookstore gave free bookmarks with a different poem for each day of the month – as many as you like they said – just pass them around.
    There are many ways for a poem to travel….

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      1. Me too! Might be something to try out at my local (well, almost local) used bookstore next year if I can figure out how to print them up cheaply.

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        1. Yes, I bet you could figure out a good way, given that you are tech-savvy. (Some people are tech-illiterate enough to think I am tech-savvy, which is an utter absurdity.) Good paper and a proper cutter ought to set you up.

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        1. You could coordinate it with your blog–do a summary piece on local poets, and then put the link on each bookmark. You might get more local readers, a thing that is often harder than picking up readers in China and Iran!

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  4. This is such an awesome idea. I’m a bit behind the ball, so I doubt I’m going to manage to read and review all four — and I’ve already posted about Ren’s beautiful book! — but I am ordering Igloria’s book now in hopes of being able to read it and review it in sync with you and others.

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    1. Hooray! Our choice of Luisa’s next-to-most-recent book, rather than her latest, was a bit arbitrary, but I’ve already read enough of both to feel confident in recommending them. But then you might’ve noticed I have a special fondness for Luisa’s work (and this was true long before she began to write Morning Porch poems).

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  5. Woohoo, woohoo, woohoo! Can’t wait to read these reviews and the conversations they will undoubtedly spark. Go you for taking this on.

    Reply



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