Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best poetry books of 2011

Just in time for a last minute gift purchase, the Boston Globe published the "Best poetry books of 2011" on Sunday. Michael Brodeur, Valerie Duff, and Black Sparrow's own Don Share contributed their individual lists.

From Don Share:

“Threshold Songs’’ by Peter Gizzi (Wesleyan)

“Poems’’ by Elizabeth Bishop (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

“Spring and All’’ by William Carlos Williams (New Directions Pearls)

“Kindertotenwald: Prose Poems’’ by Franz Wright (Knopf)

“Red Clay Weather’’ by Reginald Shepherd (University of Pittsburgh)

“Head Off & Split’’ by Nikky Finney (Triquarterly)

“Well Then There Now’’ by Juliana Spahr (Black Sparrow)

“Black Blossoms’’ by Rigoberto González (Four Way)

“Found Poems’’ by Bern Porter (Nightboat)

Don Share is Senior Editor of Poetry magazine. Black Sparrow is proud to publish his latest book, Wishbone, in spring 2012.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Russell Hoban, 1925–2011

Beloved Godine author, Russell Hoban, passed away on December 13th, 2011 at age 86. We are proud to publish Hoban's Linger Awhile: A Novel (2007), a tale of murder and mayhem in contemporary London where sexy vampire cowgirls (yes, that's right) run amok, chased by men old enough to know better. In a different vain, we also publish two of Hoban's popular children's books, How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen and A Near Thing for Captain Najork, both illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Will Self shared the following on Hoban in The Guardian (UK) yesterday:

A few years ago, charged with writing a new introduction to a 25th-anniversary edition of Riddley Walker, I called the author, Russell Hoban, at his behest. A frail-sounding voice answered the phone, and when I explained who I was, Hoban fluted: "Would you mind calling back in half an hour or so? My wife and I are about to watch Sex and the City." I put the receiver down chastened: here was a man in his 80s who had more joie de vivre than I could muster in hale middle age.

Born in 1925 in Pennsylvania to Jewish Ukrainian immigrants, Hoban was the rarest kind of writer: his works displayed complete diversity of subject matter, allied to a compelling unity of voice. Best known for Riddley Walker, perhaps the post-nuclear-apocalypse novel sans pareil, he wrote 15 other adult novels and many more for children. In the 1970s when I was first beginning to buy books for myself, Hoban was a member of a distinguished list at Picador, whose larger format paperbacks with full-bleed graphic covers were the hip thing to have on your bricks-and-boards bookcase.

Last year I did an event at the British Library to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his masterwork, and met Hoban for the first time. He was wry, gentle and wise – one of William James's "once-born", notwithstanding a life that had had its fair share of emotional turmoil. He told the audience that while he was serving in the signals corps during the second world war, his sense of direction had been so poor that he was continually getting lost. "The Germans saw me going by so many times," he said, "they probably thought I was an entire company on the move."

A few weeks later we had lunch, and I felt awed by Hoban's equanimity in the face of growing infirmity. He spoke about his writing methods, saying that he never planned anything, just sat down at the typewriter and worked it out on the page. Then he confided: "I'm working on something now, and I worry I may drop dead before it's finished … but come to think of it that's true of any book you write."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday

Alphitomancy n. A method of determining the guilt or innocence of a person by feeding him a barley loaf. If indigestion ensues, the person is guilty. Some may say that if indigestion ensues after eating anything at all prepared by their best beloved, they are held by the latter to be guilty.

Contemporary alphitomancy:

Each Tuesday, we’ll offer up a Superior Word for the edification of our Superior Readers, via the volumes of the inimitable Peter Bowler. You can purchase all or any of the four Superior Person’s Books of Words from the Godine website. Alphitomancy appears in the Third.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Holiday Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use"

Over at The Millions, Hannah Gersen has posted a list of "12 Holiday Girls That Writers Will Actually Use". She shares her insight as a frequent receiver of writerly gifts and has brilliant ideas for the budding novelist in your life:

In “Aren’t You Dead Yet?”, one of the stories in Elissa Schappell’s new collection, Blueprints for Building Better Girls, the narrator, an aspiring writer, receives a black, leather-bound journal as a gift from her best friend. Although she loves the look of the journal, she never writes in it. When her friend discovers this, he’s angry, and even accuses her of slacking off:

I tried to explain that I hadn’t written in it because I loved it so much and I didn’t want to ruin it. The pages were so nice, and sewn in, you couldn’t just rip them out. Whatever stupid thing I wrote down would be in there permanently.

This passage reminded me of the many beautiful blank journals I’ve received over the years, journals I’ve never used. Whenever I fill up one of my trusty spiral notebooks, I go through the stack and tell myself I’m finally going to start using them. But then I think of sullying those pristine, unlined pages with my half-formed thoughts, and I feel as guilty as the narrator in Schappell’s story.

Unfortunately, the same guilt intrudes on many of the other lovely writerly gifts I’ve received. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I confess that I have a lot of nice pens I never use, because I’m afraid of chewing on them; a lot of classic novels I haven’t read because I feel guilty about not having read them; and a lot of inspirational writer’s guides I never read, because what if I’m not inspired?

None of these gifts are offensive, and no one will begrudge you for giving them. But they are boilerplate gifts. Writers get blank journals for the same reasons that teachers get mugs, assistants get flowers, and grandmothers get tea. If you want to give the writer in your life something he or she will truly adore, here are twelve ideas . . .

(Do check out the list. "Freedom," the computer program that blocks the Internet on your computer for up to eight hours is #6.)