Friday, May 17, 2013
A few weeks back I wrote about the poet Christian Wiman's meditation on belief, and once again, I find myself drawn to a book about a poet that's not poetry. Actually, it's two poets. And, truth be told, Airmail is full of poems sent back and forth between said poets, Robert Bly and Tomas Transtromer. That is, when they're not talking about the 1964 election, or the death of Randall Jarrell, or the birth of a daughter. By the way, why is it that we caution ourselves from poets with the title, while novelists and memoirists and famous chefs stay, simply, "authors"? Is it the worry that a poet might actually open the door of a moving vehicle while a novelist, at worst, might base a character's penchant for cursing on your road rage? (One good for nothing poet makes a joke about free will that doesn't play and has to ruin it for everybody.) Hmm? Oh, nothing. I thought you said something. Ha. Funny.
You could look at Airmail as a collection of poems with extensive background notes, but it is, in fact, or in guise, a collection of letters; the letters of two internationally acclaimed poets who after, by chance, checking out each others' books at the same time (Bly coming home from the University of Minnesota library with a copy of Transtromer's The Half-Finished Heaven in hand only to find a letter waiting for him from Transtromer himself) started up a correspondence that would last for nearly thirty years. With more than 290 letters in tow, Airmail more than represents the baggage of both poets' concerns, from the war in Vietnam--which Bly rallied against in the poems that he wrote and those he published in his magazine, The Sixties, and in co-founding American Writers against the Vietnam War--to the daily struggles of living a life that affords time to write as well as eat, pay bills, and travel. Which isn't to say that Airmail documents a time when either Bly or Transtromer were nobodies. Though the poets' friendship took off before Bly won the National Book Award, and nearly 50 years before Transtromer won the Nobel Prize, becoming something of a household name, both poets were well established in their respective countries. Thanks, in no small part, to Bly and Transtromer's concomitant commitment to translating each others' work, the ins and outs of which are on display and irresistible for anyone interested in the intricacies of a poem's, much less a translation's, evolution, Transtromer's is now a face of poetry in America, just as Bly, presumably, is recognized in Sweden.
So, that's the big idea. But as in all art it's the little ones that do and should take shape. As Transtromer writes, referring to the lack thereof in several of his contemporaries' politically astute polemics: "They drape themselves in an attitude instead of giving form." And not surprisingly, the form of these letters--indeed, the form of letters, period, or semicolon, depending--is what gives readers the sense that we are in on the conversation. And not in some scandalous, drug-addled, out of depth look into Robert Bly's sock drawer sort of way, but as if coming across ideas and information for the first time: conversations unrecorded, works in progress, words unmeant and pardoned. A pensive spontaneity seems to be what Transtromer and Bly had in mind when they began their correspondence; a practice that with luck and time might grant their poems, and their lives as poets, a kind of validation no reward could supplant; that of close reading and acceptance, in the sense of being given, not just baited. "What makes translating SNOWFALL so worthwhile," Transtromer writes, "is that the poem will strike Swedes as completely natural--a good reader knows that this isn't an exotic product by some American but I have experienced this mystery for myself." Likewise, as Thomas R. Smith notes in the book's introduction, Transtromer's letters were as sparsely edited as possible so that we "may enjoy [them] as Bly first did." (Just now, for instance, I could have sprung the label "editor" on Thomas R. Smith's name, but did I? No. Because no one thinks Thomas R. Smith is capable of sleeping with your best friend and, literally, forgetting all about it.)
Now me, I don't even answer the door unless someone is pressing record. And though a reader has to wonder whether two of the world's most famous writers saw their exchange as a potential intellectual artifact, as a certain, recent publication seems wont to assert, all signs point to, if not the opposite, a general disinterest in embellishment and voyeurism in favor of a drawing back, again, in terms of shedding their personas and in effort to delimit and refortify their work (i.e., at no point does Transtromer take advantage of the opportunity to ask Bly why he thinks he's the "only poet worth reading in North America" or "what gives [his] hair such volume"). "Other translators give a pale reproduction of the finished poem," writes Transtromer, "but you bring me back to the original experience." Originality is what we addict for in works of art like these; a starting point from which to base what we consider to be easy, though intangible, works of the imagination; plumes of time intensive smoke that slowly rise up from the ashes of experience and go on to shape a writer's legacy, while staying secrets even the most articulate of authors often can't, or won't, explain. We want answers. Damnit! (Eh, just trying it on.) Yet letters, journals, prison scrawls, etc., more than remnants scattered across the literary landscape for posterity, remind us that no book or poem is a relic but a product of exchange. And not a consumer product, either. Ha! There! One for poets! Two for the uncle who didn't order pizza at Thanksgiving and pretend not to be home. But one for poets!
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Blurbs on the back of books with platitudes about a writer's prowess don't really help you understand why you should read a book (or story collection in this case). A story can be "beautiful", "ambitious", "sweeping prose", or any number of other similar phrases, but they are like a peppermint candy: essentially all the same. What can you say that gets to the heart of how an author uses language and how that writer tells a story?
For Ramona Ausubel, in her story collection A Guide to Being Born each story is a recipe of elements, the ingredients include: European fairytales, images from Surrealist painters, seemingly random collection of objects, and the quirks of an independent movie, undermining your expectations at every turn. Not a cheaply earned tear or kitschy turn of events, but more often odd, non sequitur of stuff moves you. Like a Robert Wilson experimental opera staging, where elements, characters and objects are all put together and you can't figure out why you are laughing or crying because the elements alone don't add up to that reaction. The pieces come together and just hit you. How in the life of a lonely teen can the love lives of other teens have anything to do with a lost tooth? This is how:
"The truth of those love lives--a glance in the dingy hallway from a crushable boy, a dark tangled session on an out-of-town parent's couch--was like a tiny, yellowed lost tooth, hidden under a pillow, which the high-schoolers believed, prayed, would be soon replaced by gorgeous, naked adoring treasure." (Sounds like straw that gets woven into gold?). Or the pregnant couple, where suddenly the husband finds he has drawers in his chest at the same time his wife is growing a child in her womb. See Salvador Dali for that one, although the mood is less despair, and more pure curiosity.
Why read this book? Because it is scintillating, confusing, and lovely all at once.
-Rene Meyer-Grimberg, Bookseller
Kevin Powers talks to Colin about his critically acclaimed first novel, The Yellow Birds
Meet Kevin Powers on Friday, May 10th at 7:30 at The Weyerhaeuser Chapel, on the campus of Macalester College
CGB: You earned your MFA in 2012 after serving in the U.S. Army, but I was both surprised and--after reading The Yellow Birds--not surprised at all to learn that your degree was not in fiction, but in poetry. What inspired you to conceive of a novel instead of a collection of poems when it came to writing this book?
KP: I was working on both simultaneously. I started writing poetry when I was about 12 or 13, but it wasn’t long after that that I started trying to write short stories and prose. They’ve always both been a big part of my life as a writer. And because I had a certain amount of personal investment in the subject, I tried to take every approach I had available to me to explore it with the depth that I wanted and in search of the clarity with the material I was hoping to get. I actually have a book of poems I was going to bring out at the same time.
C: Having written then a novel and a book of poems, did you have a moment, or several moments, of thinking you might write a memoir?
K: It never occurred to me. And as far as I can tell, through thinking back on it, it probably has to do with the kind of reader I am. I do appreciate nonfiction, but the nonfiction that I turn to is more larger scope stuff. I really like history and things like that, but for me, when I’ve been interested in the more personal story, I always seem to find satisfaction with fiction and poetry’s ability to represent the interior life of an individual.
C: A review in The Daily Beast that I thought shone a light in its appraisal of your book said that in a media saturated landscape, most of us get information, in general really, but especially about our conflicts overseas on a “granular” level; one that’s easy to sink in, but difficult to let sink in or take time to evaluate, writing, “Everybody’s paying attention and nobody’s paying attention.” It seemed to me his point was that the language of your novel is what not only changes our understanding, but provides us with an understanding of the war in Iraq, based in part on the subjective experiences of your characters, but also on how you, the writer, shape those experiences. Did language help you to frame or reconceive of your own experience in the war?
K: I have a belief in the capacity and quality of language beyond carrying information; that the sonic qualities of the rhythm can communicate something to a reader intuitively. It’s a way of accessing parts of our perceptive abilities that’s different than just conveying information. So I was trying to find some form that would pair well with the extremity of the experience, something that would be capable of communicating how surreal it was. I thought if I paid attention to the language I could communicate that to a reader, while also telling a story and talking about things that are actually happening, but with an atmospheric quality that’s really important. And again, as a country, our relationship to the war is sort of constantly present, but always in the background, so I thought perhaps if I could get somebody to pick the book up, immediately, upon encountering this language, the information they’re so familiar with might somehow become new again.
C: My sense of things is that, in terms of ownership, readers still associate works of fiction and poetry with authorship. And this, I’m sure, has more to do with my ignorance about the war, but I kept wondering whether you struggled to “own” the background, or topic, of the novel, which is so embedded in our culture, for better or worse.
K: In a way, I did. But I was conscious about, and I tried to deliberately define the boundaries of what it was I was trying to own. I was trying to present one possible example of what the war was like. Not necessarily making any claims or definitive statements, or anything like that, but “here’s one possibility,” “here’s one manifestation of that thing,” which is probably foreign to most. So, within those boundaries I wanted to make a statement of a kind.
C: At the beginning of the book, in Bartle, there’s a kind of fissure through his idea of himself as an existential survivor in the war vs. the idea of himself as a solider in an army. He seems to perform a kind of emotional mathematics in order to relate to himself as someone who will live as others around him die, except when it comes to taking lives himself, in which case he’s certain that it’s better to be together in order to transform his act of killing into an act of solidarity among companions. And yet, the young man is, at times, disgusted with his apathy in this regard, hating the fact that he needs to be called on, screamed at in order to participate. This kind of contradiction, or ambiguity, struck me, again, as an outsider, as a uniquely 21st century disposition toward war. Was it your intention to represent the kind of war we’re fighting now? Or has ambiguity always been the reality of the individual in combat?
K: I think it’s something that’s probably, if not universal, the experience of being a soldier in combat. It’s probably very common, this idea that there’s some fluidity between your desire to save yourself or to be apart of the group, or allow yourself to be subservient to this larger thing. In the case of Bartle, he gives himself this task of dressing it all up so he can determine his individual level of accountability. That’s one of the challenges of trying to sort through those moments, when your perspective on even your ability to understand your place or significance within any given situation is changing all the time. It’s something that probably contributes to survivor’s guilt or whatever you want to call it: this idea that of course there’s a fundamental, evolutionary instinct toward self-preservation, but there are also societal influences and expectations that are put upon from the outside. “You’re a soldier. You’re supposed to put your brothers above yourself.” So there’s this weird negotiation that is always happening between your fear, your self-loathing, your desire to be good. It’s just this sort of swirl that’s really difficult to sift through, and ultimately I wanted to present that difficulty.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Among book lovers, you’ll often hear the cliché, “The movie was fine, but I really preferred the book.” And while Hollywood is littered with films based on well-known books (Lord of The Rings, Twilight, Hunger Games), here are some of Tinseltown’s most successful films that you may not have known were based on books.
1. The Shawshank Redemption
It’s a lot to ask of people to remember that a novella launched a movie that now sits at the very top of IMDb’s list of the Top 250 user-voted movies of all time. This is especially true when the novella is simply one of dozens of legendary stories written by one of the most prolific and successful writers of all time: Stephen King.
Nevertheless, it was a legal book that first told the story of how Andy Dufresne tunneled through the walls of Shawshank Prison, using nothing more than a tiny rock hammer from his buddy Red, and the determination of a man wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t
Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel is gradually becoming a footnote to one of the most iconic films of all time, but it was no throwaway paperback. The novel Jaws spent more than 40 weeks on the bestseller list and sold over 20 million copies. Interestingly, in later years, the author came to regret his portrayal of great white sharks as vicious man-eaters, and became an ardent ocean conservationist.
Early titles for the book included The Stillness in the Water, Leviathan Rising, and then The Jaws of Death and The Jaws of Leviathan. Ultimately, the world came to know the classic and terrifying story as simply, Jaws.
3. Gangs of New York
Somehow, in 1970, Martin Scorsese came across a 1928 book titled The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld. The famous director was enthralled with the description of the nineteenth-century criminal underworld, and started to visualize an epic movie.
Of course, at the time he encountered the book, he wasn’t the wildly successful director he is today. It wasn’t until 20 years later that the vision became a reality. And while Daniel Day-Lewis’s much-awarded performance will not soon be forgotten, few now know of the book that inspired it all.
4. Witness for the Prosecution
This legal book actually became a movie in three steps. First Agatha Christie wrote the gripping short story, which was published in 1925 under the title Traitor Hands. Then, Peter Saunders produced a theatrical adaptation for the stage. And after that, the story became the Academy-Award-nominated classic film.
The original ending, in which a murderer escapes justice, was ultimately found unsatisfactory to Christie. Her solution? In later versions, he is stabbed to death at the end of the story.
5. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit is largely unknown, but it was the basis of the wonderfully lively and inventive movie named above. We aren’t aware how Gary K. Wolf came up with a story in which a murder mystery is launched when a cartoon strip character’s speech balloon is found at the scene of his murder. But we assume that, given the creativity involved in telling the story in movie format, it must have been quite a feat to pull it off using words alone.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
In honor of National Poetry Month, I asked poets from across the state, and beyond, a question posed by the Academy of American Poets: "Where, ideally, would or do you plan to put some poetry this month?" Here are their responses:
-Sun Yung Shin, author of Rough, and Savage
"I plan to put poetry amidst the metal and stone monstrosities, and the glass and boulders small and large, and the wild rushes of wormwood everywhere, and along the shore of the Mississippi River, in Northeast Minneapolis, down beyond the deadend of 13th Avenue and 2nd Street, where we've seen muskrats and houseboat ambassadors, and the remains of cookfires and stormdrift and deer and crows and kids, and have banged drums and passed between us a peaceful vapor, and where we built a fire, and performed the Death of Poetry."
-Sarah Fox, author of The First Flag
"The poetry venue I'm looking forward to this month is a reading at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., with Yusef Komunyakaa and Paul Muldoon. The Smithsonian commissioned a dozen poets, including the three of us, to each write a poem related to the Civil War to be included in a volume, LINES IN LONG ARRAY, to be published this fall to commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the War, a volume which will also include photographs by Sally Mann of Civil War sits and poems and phototographs from the Civil War era. We're to read the poems we've written for the volume, along with other poems."
-John Koethe, author of ROTC Kills
"I send key poems to my children, I gather poems that I think might inspire my son and my nephew, who are both writers, and send them small poems taped into little notebooks. I hand write poems in little notebooks that I keep for my grandchildren, Aisling and Ezra."
-Deborah Keenan, author of Willow Room, Green Door
"Ideally, I would gather a group of Saint Paul Public Schools poetry-fearful teachers in a lovely room at the Minnesota Humanities Center. They’d be given a generous honorarium, served delicious food, and their schools would be reimbursed for substitute pay. Into the room would walk John Minczeski, a brilliant and experienced poet-in-the-schools. John would read them Pablo Neruda poems in his lovely melodious voice; he’d recite poetry in Italian; he’d read Rolf Jacobsen poems. The poems would float through the air and into the minds of the teachers, who, with eyes closed, would listen with their hearts, with their senses, with open minds and no expectations, letting the poems wash over their bodies like feathers, leaves, or snow. They would not worry how to dissect, understand, explain, or teach the poems: they would experience them. They’d leave the day joyfully ready to share poems with their students, who would be inspired to express their own ideas in creative, strange, and wonderful ways. Here’s one poem John might read:"
By Rolf Jacobsen, translated by Roger Greenwald
I am the bird that knocks at your window in the morning
and your companion, whom you cannot know,
the blossoms that light up for the blind.
I am the glacier’s crest above the forests, the dazzling one
and the brass voices from cathedral towers.
The thought that suddenly comes over you at midday
and fills you with a singular happiness.
I am one you have loved long ago.
I walk alongside you by day and look intently at you
and put my mouth on your heart
but you don’t know it.
I am your third arm and your second
shadow, the white one,
whom you don’t have the heart for
and who cannot ever forget you.
Kathryn Kysar is the author of two books of poetry Dark Lake and Pretend the World and the editor of Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers. She has two children in the Saint Paul Public Schools.
"I love the sidewalk poetry program in St. Paul. Such a terrific idea and I've seen so many people stop, look down and read the poems. So, I am thinking other public places: parks, plazas.
I wish every coffee house had its "local poet." There's a bar or restaurant that has a "David Ferry" corner, for example. It's the unexpectedness of seeing poems in such places that is wonderful. Years ago there was a program in Minneapolis that put photographs up on billboards and, of course, there is the on again off again program that puts poems in public buses. John Berryman told a class once that he used to leave copies of his books on buses for other people to pick up. I don't suppose we should have to go that far, but maybe....
Poems always particularly resonate in places and situations where people are under a lot of stress: hospitals and prisons, for example."
-Jim Moore, author of Invisible Strings
"Assuming that I could successfully accomplish this, I think I would like to put a short daily poem on my answering machine, aka voice mail, before the beep. Of course, no one calls me. But I do get robocalls, and wisely-chosen poems could very well disable them!"
-Connie Wanek, author of On Speaking Terms
"In honor of Louis Jenkins, every ice house should have a poem on it. To honor Connie Wanek, put a poem in your garden. And for myself, I'd like to see a poem on the dock of every swimming hole. But -- even more seriously -- my primary goal this year would be to put poems in children's hospitals, adult hospitals, doctor's offices, and hemo-dialysis centers -- in honor of my brother, Fred Manfred, and his comrades, who have survived in the close-to-invisible war-zone of long term illnesses for decades. They could use a lift. And so could those dreary rooms and corridors."
-Freya Manfred, author of Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle
"I plan on putting Natasha Trethewey's Native Guard into the heads of a group of Core lit students at St. Kates, this commencing Monday on the heels of reading Light in August: You know Trethewey alludes to Joe Christmas in a couple poems in that collection. And on Thursday, April 18, we're doing a Poem In Your Pocket thing: http://news.stkate.edu/articles/poeminyourpocket.html
Ideally . . . At the State Capital, I'd love to read with lots of other Minnesota poets somewhere on the Capital grounds or over at the History Center: Some sort of one day in April state poetry celebration."
Ideally . . . At the State Capital, I'd love to read with lots of other Minnesota poets somewhere on the Capital grounds or over at the History Center: Some sort of one day in April state poetry celebration."
-Robert Grunst, author of The Smallest Bird in North America
“I teach creative writing and literature courses at Michigan Technological University and the bulk of my students are in the engineering college. That said, my ongoing project is put as much poetry into the laps of as many would-be engineers as possible. April's mission will be no different. They don't often know it, but engineers need poetry even more than most, and the experience for everyone involved can most definitely be described as ‘unexpected.’”
-M. Bartley Seigel, author of This Is What They Say
“I would need a grant or a benefactor or a savvy plan to pitch (pun intended) to Twins marketers, for if I could put poetry in an unexpected place I'd want to put it in Target Field on game day. Specifically, I'd like fans to receive copies of Poetry City, USA, Vol. 3, the anthology of poems and prose on poetry that goes hand in hand with the annual Great Twin Cities Poetry Read (the former of which I edit, the latter of which I curate). Everybody knows that both baseball and poetry go well with peanuts and beer, right? I also think that there is going to be a lot of late-inning restlessness, given the state of the Twins pitching staff. When the fans can no longer bear to look at the product on the field, they can turn to the poetry in their hands. Saving the day, is what the poetry will do.”
-Matt Mauch, author of If You're Lucky Is a Theory of Mine
“I’ve been attacked by a mean cold, and it’s made my head pure static and fuzz! Speaking of my head, that’s one place I’m putting poems; as always, I am memorizing new poems and saying ones that I know. I think it would be nice to see poems on the backs of cereal boxes and on the front page of the newspaper (you did say “ideally,” didn’t you?). Since I am usually driving across the prairie between my house in Chaska and St. Peter, I don’t get a chance to ride the bus or light rail, but both of those would be fine places for poems . . . and wouldn’t it be nice if everyone sent a poem to someone else this month?”
-Joyce Sutphen, Minnesota Poet Laureate and editor of To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present
“I had first thought to suggest poetry in all sorts of waiting rooms--the DMV and doctors' offices came to mind--but then I could too easily picture the anxiety of waiting canceling out all the wonders of losing oneself in a poem. A better idea would be to have a poem, ideally recited and read, shown at the movie theater an lieu of all the pre-preview ads. There audiences sitting in the dark, in soft seats, with minds waiting to be moved and entertained, might truly receive a poem and be changed.”
-Sally Keith, author of The Fact of the Matter
"In my mouth."
-Peter Campion, author of The Lions
"I've been playing with this idea since you sent it to me, trying to put poetry in the most outrageous-but-plausible place possible. 'Restaurant menus' was my favorite place I came up with.
But really, the most unexpected place for poetry to appear would be right on the nightstand, the passenger seat of one's car, in the briefcase, in the stack of books from the library. I have two theories on why contemporary readers don't embrace poetry as much as they do prose: one, the line breaks. Two: the lyric poem is a frozen moment the poet walks inside, exploring. We aren't used to time stopping on the page like that. Ideally, this month, I hope to put poetry in the most ordinary places possible, right up there with pleasure reading. Happy National Poetry Month."
-Katrina Vandenberg, author of The Alphabet Not Unlike The World
"I'd love to see more poetry in public spaces; on sidewalks, on buses, in town squares and shopping malls and community centers. Placing poetry in the public eye has the potential to inspire discussion about the role of language in civic life. Poetry is a form of communication and increasing its visibility in public space(s) might inspire dialogue about the enduring value of creative expression in our changing communication environment."
-Peter Joseph Glovizcki, author of Kicking Gravity
As a poet and potter--with interests in classical antiquity, paleontology, and similar old stuff--I'm fascinated by fragments of manuscript-- burned at the edges, floating here and there--by scraps of Sappho, by scraps of grocery lists, fossils, potsherds, runestones. I've experimented for quite awhile with inscribing on my pottery, usually very banal journal entries and little gnomic verses. I'm interested in how a scrap of crockery suggests a whole culture, how a fossil embeds the memory of life form. I can't stay away from wet concrete. I love the mystery of sending and receiving messages among present and past and future. Most of what I create I give away to the Goodwill, and it sometimes passes me again on some stream of detritus. I like the idea of accidental survival, which is how most pottery and lots of manuscripts end up in museums.
-Mary Rose O'Reilley, author of Earth, Mercy
"I'd like to see my poems up on people's refigerators."
-Tim Nolan, author of and then
This month, I plan to put poetry in the hands of those who might not otherwise read it. When I find a poetry collection I love, I plan to buy two copies--one for me, and one to give to a friend, coworker, family member, or acquaintance. What better way to increase poetry readership than to give great poems directly to other people?
-Kelly Davio, author of Burn This House
My poetry will be onstage at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in a play titled Nice Fish April 12-May 18.
-Louis Jenkins, author of North of the Cities
There isn't any place we shouldn't put poetry -- including putting it away for a while. That's a perfectly honorable thing to do with poetry! We can leave it out on the counter for our beloved, like bowl of yellow pears. Or we can fold it up into a tiny square and bury it in our sock drawer, like our most dangerous secret. Either way, it will lie there patiently and wait to be discovered. Yesterday, I walked out the door at work to grab some lunch, and this sign on the sidewalk stopped me dead in my tracks. Poetry! Namaste!
-Dobby Gibson, author of It Becomes You
My wife and I fell in love in college, where Shakespeare and the classics and contemporary poetry were part of our daily lives. Since then, our marriage has become a bit … shall we say … prosaic. I hope to … ahem … re-"verse" this trend by bringing some poems to the bedroom.
-Todd Boss, author of Pitch
"I'll be giving each person at a board meeting a particular poem chosen just for him or her. And I'll be enclosing poetry bookmarks - as I often do - in envelopes with my utility bill payments. Some poems will go in emails and probably on Face Book and I love to mail poems to people on postcards. And I'm hoping to get some poems in the mail too!"
-Patricia Kirkpatrick, author of Odessa
"David Young, distinguished poet, co-founder of FIELD magazine, professor emeritus of Oberlin College’s English and creative writing departments, internationally-renowned translator (including, notably, from the Chinese), threw a dinner party for friends. You’d have been lucky to be invited: David—as witnessed by his poetry-infused cookbook Seasonings—can slice and dice. It was an Asian-themed meal. At the end of the evening, after the courses had run amid good conversation, David presented each guest with a fortune cookie. On its face, this was a joke—the fortune cookie being, of course, an American invention. But David (as usual) had gone several steps further. With tweezers and a squint, he’d extracted the store-bought fortunes and substituted similar slips of paper. On each slip he’d composed a fortune in the form of a couplet, personalized for each guest. Imagine the surprise and sweet wonder! It was a coup."
-Dore Kiesselbach, author of Salt Pier
"I love this question. This month, I'll be reading at several locations in St. Paul, the University Center in Rochester, and the Brick House Coffee Shop in Austin. But since you asked about unexpected places, my first and lingering thought was to leave a poem on a lover's mouth. My more realistic-at-this-point-in-my-life answer is that you've inspired me to sneak some poems into the Como Conservatory and leave them by the koi pond."
-Su Smallen, author of Buddha, Proof