Wind gust/ Straw hat must take flight/ Into the pond [Ed. note: Complete verse concludes in comments.]
In connection with the publication of her new book – “Red Doc >” – the New York Times profiles the poet and author Anne Carson through a series of email exchanges and personal interviews. “She moved to Ann Arbor, years ago, to teach at the university. Although she no longer teaches there, she has remained, because she’s in love with her house: a 1957 Frank Lloyd Wright-ish building with, she says, windows that make her feel as if she’s simultaneously inside and outside. [Her husband Robert] Currie, who grew up in Michigan, doesn’t love living there — he wants to be in New York — but Carson can’t bring herself to leave.” [Source]
Laurence Thomas isn’t the world’s best salesman. Really – trying to get this guy to talk about Third Wednesday, the literary journal he edits, was like pulling teeth. You’d think he was a poet or something.
As it turns out, all you need to know about this well-kept secret can be found in its pages.
Thomas – who is a poet, as well as an essayist and a writer of fiction – was born in Ypsilanti 85 years ago. A Hopwood Award winner for essay and poetry at the University of Michigan in the early 1950s, he had a teaching career that took him as far as Uganda, Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica before he returned to his hometown, where he lives today. Third Wednesday was an outgrowth of a monthly poetry group and of his friendship with the late Dearborn Heights attorney and magistrate Michael J. Barney, who was also a published poet and founder of Gravity Presses (lest we all float away) Inc.
Barney, “a regular attendant” of the group, Thomas says, had begun publishing through Gravity Presses a local literary magazine called Now Here Nowhere. Only a handful of issues came out of the project before Barney became ill (he died of cancer in 2006). Third Wednesday picked up where Now Here Nowhere left off, Thomas says, and is in great part an homage to Barney’s memory.
From his home office, Thomas corrals the input of associate editors both local and far-flung (one of them lives in Tajikistan!) who review submissions of poetry, fiction and visual art to produce a quarterly collection. Third Wednesday casts a wider net than did its predecessor and draws submissions – “two or three a day,” Thomas says – from around the country as well as Michigan. The current issue – Winter 2012 – publishes poets from Ann Arbor to Sofia, Bulgaria.
The upcoming trifecta of other-worldly holidays – Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day – are the perfect frame to showcase a pair of new literary treats from local authors. (A neat trick, no?)
“The Sin-Eater: A Breviary,” Thomas Lynch’s latest collection of poems from Paraclete Press, presents this world and the next according to Argyle, an insurance policy incarnate for unabsolved offenses and, Lynch writes, “the mouthpiece for my mixed religious feelings.”
“Ghost Writers: Us Haunting Them,” part of the Made in Michigan Writers Series from Wayne State University Press, serves up a dozen ghost stories – some fiction, some true in their own way – from some of the state’s finest writers, many of them from the Ann Arbor area. Laura Kasischke (“Space, In Chains” and “The Raising”) and Keith Taylor, whose next poetry collection, “Marginalia for a Natural History,” comes out next month, are the editors as well as contributors.
Taylor, who teaches English at the University of Michigan, and “Ghost Writers” contributor Elizabeth Kostova (“The Historian,” “The Swan Thieves”) will read from the collection at Zingerman’s Roadhouse on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the sixth annual Vampires’ Ball, a benefit for Food Gatherers. (Hunger. In Washtenaw County. In America. Sin? Horror story? This theme is definitely hanging together here.)
It hasn’t been easy for people devoted to books in this community to keep the annual Ann Arbor Book Festival and Writer’s Conference going.
The publishing industry as we knew it is all but gone, as is the bookselling industry. (A visit to the almost ghostly downtown Borders store on a recent Friday night grimly reminded us of this.) The Great Recession all but dried up sponsorship and grant money for the arts in general and the literary arts in particular.
So how did organizers manage to bring back the book festival for another year?
Like most of us, by deciding what expenses weren’t essential, by figuring out how to stretch a buck and by some simple community cooperation.
Check out the schedule and you’ll see that this year’s festival – set for Saturday, June 25 – is being presented essentially in conjunction with the Neutral Zone’s Volume Summer Institute and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
Jeff Kass, Neutral Zone’s creative arts director who is heading up the book festival this year, says organizers were faced with “trying to move forward with the book festival under difficult economic circumstances, and we really didn’t have the resources to go it alone anymore.”
Where’s a medieval village when you need one?
You know – that place where everyone knows where everyone else lives and everybody knows everybody else’s business and, no matter how insipid or irrelevant, has an idiotic opinion on it all, one generally borne of grinding frustration, depthless boredom and a general, yawning poverty of the spirit …
No. I do not need to get on Facebook.
But maybe somebody out there who is plugged into this dynamic global engine of online communal solidarity-ishness can take a break from investigating what your fifth-grade gym teacher had for breakfast and help us out here.
The mystery opens a few days after Christmas, when my husband and brother-in-law drop me at the Borders in Peoria, Ill., on the way to relive their childhood at a matinee screening of “Tron: Legacy.” Browsing the history section, I come across a paperback edition of “Life in a Medieval Village,” by Frances and Joseph Gies, and settle into an armchair.
And there I learn, from the back cover, that the Gieses “live on a lake near Ann Arbor, Michigan.” And there’s this dear photo of an elderly pair who appear to be Grandma and Grandpa circa 1948, but they’re also two scholars who’ve spent their lives together researching and writing almost two dozen books about life in the Middle Ages. How cool is that?
“Walking Papers,” a collection of poetry by Thomas Lynch, arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.
Lucky me. Lucky us.
Lynch is a writer who chooses to call things by their proper names. Death is death. An ass is an ass. Love is bliss, except when it is something else entirely.
And when he puts his intelligence and honesty and lurking wit to observations of human-scale profundities, he finds solace in even the harshest truths.
“Oh Say Grim Death” muses on the most inexplicable of blows: A child is killed. We learn of it – he died in a fire, on a Thursday morning – from what is cut into a 18th-century headstone, and follow the search in that New Hampshire town as certain as it would be anywhere, for a reason to have “faith / In God’s vast purposes. As if the boy / Long buried here was killed to show how God / Makes all things work together toward some good.”
Editor’s note: The poets are sixth-graders at the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor.
I looked up at the clock, it read:
10 a.m. I’m still in bed!
The Sun streamed through the window pane,
I smile, summer’s here again!
Those summer days, so long so sweet
were filled with fun and dirty feet.
But now I have to go to school,
My freedom ripped away, how cruel!
When Jeff Kass contacted The Chronicle about his upcoming one-man show, “Wrestle the Great Fear: A Performance Poetica,” we were particularly intrigued by this statement in his email: “The piece includes a lot of physicality in the performance, including a great deal of wrestling.”
A one-man poetry performance with a great deal of wrestling? Yep, we were hooked. So we met with Kass recently at the Liberty Athletic Club, where he showed us exactly what he meant.
Kass has been a leader in local poetry circles – he teaches creative writing at Pioneer High and works with the Volume poetry program at the Neutral Zone, where he serves as literary arts director. But this is the first time he’s attempted a full-length, continuous narrative, complete with music, video, directors and intricate choreography. This ain’t no three-minute poetry slam.