Archive for August, 2008

Poetry Friday: Savage Machinery

h1 Friday, August 15th, 2008

I’ve started reading an early copy of poet Karen Rigby’s forthcoming chapbook, Savage Machinery, to be published next month by Finishing Line Press. As Rigby describes it at her site, Savage Machinery explores 15th and mid-century art (heavy on Edward Hopper), eros, women, and the pleasures of taste (there are a handful of food poems).

On the latter note, here is, arguably, my favorite poem in the collection thus far (let me stress the “thus far” — I have a bit more reading and some re-reading to do), since I got Karen’s permission to share a couple of the poems in their entirety. If, like me, you can see the sanctity in a simple piece of bread (Little Willow, I’m talking to you), you may have a fondness for this one, too:


Pitas swell, parachutes
in their ovens. On holidays, wreaths
braided with raisins.
I like a simple loaf best.
No olives greasy as pennies,
just dry crust flaking
in my hands, torn magnolias
clean and odorous
as bodies after love.
Salt spills like constellations
on my tongue. The first time a man
fed me bread, the pockets of air
were shutters opening.

Oh my and ooh la la! (How’s that for some scholarly poetry analysis?)

Poet Jim Daniels has said about the poems in Savage Machinery, “{i}t’s no accident that some of these poems reference Edward Hopper. Rigby’s language evokes his sparse, barren landscapes where emptiness is tangible, menacing, and beautiful. Her poems are so packed they bloom at the touch.” I love that, as I think it captures her poetry well, especially the bit I emphasized (yes, I emphasized it, not Jim).

These are poems that demand your attention and your careful reading, an appreciation of the craft that went into their creation. And Rigby has an observant eye, creating striking metaphors, bringing us a new awareness of what we thought we knew before, and it’s all like being given a gift. Of course, this is what poets do — create a new awareness in the reader, but Rigby does it with imagery that manages, in some turns, to be bold and spine-tingling all at once. These are poems beautiful, sensual, and strange, and I have felt compelled to re-read each one; they are that rewarding. And the chapbook’s opening poem, in all its strangeness and allurement, draws us in and sets us straight, in terms of what to expect further from Rigby: It’s about a woman bathing in a house mostly burnt-down — and the reactions from the neighbors (“Women envy her freedom. / Tease their husbands, saying church drives / and dry cleaning trips are white lies”).

Below is another poem to close us out, and thanks to Karen for permission to share two poems with you today. To read a few more of her poems online, visit this link at her site. Read the rest of this entry �

à la alphabet soup

h1 Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Can I just tell you that there are so many books I want to talk about, but my increased work-load, as we’ve already covered, is keeping me from that right now? But no worries. ‘Cause, while I get my act together, you have things like this to read over at good blogs like this.

Yes, it’s the one and the only TadMack—a.k.a. Tanita Davis, author by day, blogger by night (or is it the other way around?), and always-champion-of-YA-books—interviewed over at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup. That Jama knows how to do her interviews, and it opens with the loveliest photo of Tanita that you just have to see. Jama posted this on Monday, I think it was, and I sat my wee girls down with some watercolors and paintbrushes and told ’em to go crazy — just so I could read that interview without interruption. I didn’t even turn my head away from the computer monitor as they painted the kitchen table.

So, go see. It’ll be worth your time, I promise. Plus, you’ll learn all about Tanita’s hidden talents and secret crushes. Enjoy!

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Suzy Lee

h1 Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

South Korean illustrator Suzy Lee is here this morning, and I couldn’t be happier. She’s joining 7-Imp for breakfast with her sandwich, apple, and whatever is left-over from her baby’s breakfast. I would venture to say that she’ll join me for some coffee, too, by the looks of her responses to the Pivot Questionnaire. Oh my, she’s a coffee-drinker after my own heart, I must say.

She’s also an illustrator after my own heart. Lee, who received her BFA in painting from Seoul National University and her MA in Book Arts from Camberwell College of Arts in London, shows us the world through a child’s eyes in ways I don’t quickly forget after putting down her books. We have Kane/Miller Books to thank for bringing Lee to our country’s attention in 2007 with The Zoo, first published in 2004 in Seoul, Korea. In this book, what starts out as a normal trip to the zoo turns into an imaginative romp for a young girl, whose poor parents are put through the wringer, to say the least, trying to find her. And it’s also a picture book in which Lee very much meets you halfway, allowing you to bring your own ideas and perspectives to the book in your hands. And what reviewers and bloggers saw in it varied quite a bit: “Personally, I think the book identifies how wonderful freedom feels to a child. You’re forever under someone’s protection. How cool would it be then to transfer that protection to the wild and wacky animals in the zoo?” (Betsy Bird, A Fuse #8 Production); “a mix of reality and imagination…that suggests closeness to nature” (The New York Times); “{t}his is a book for any child who loves animals, and thinks that zoos are paradise. It’s also a book for any parent who has temporarily misplaced a child…All in all, it’s an unexpected and rewarding adventure” (Jen Robinson’s Book Page); or, perhaps the blog bloogs blowing by captured it best by saying the book is open “to a hundred and one creative interpretations.” What does Suzy say about it herself?

This book is about the zoo, a strange place where children and adults alike learn about nature, but also about its deprivation and despair. Curiously, children see the zoo differently from adults’ perspective; they know how to make friends with animals.

Here’s my favorite spread from the book—arguably, my favorite picture book spread from all of 2007—as a whole, but underneath it are larger images of each side of the spread so that you can soak in Lee’s gorgeous colors and the details to her art work:

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #75: Featuring Brian Pinkney

h1 Sunday, August 10th, 2008

eisha: Did you hear that? BRIAN PINKNEY!!! Can you stand it? Can you possibly bear the full-on hard-core joy explosion that is this collection of illustrations? Look at that little boy! Is that not the most perfectly captured moment of summer sweetness ever? And how about this one:

I know, right? It’s like those kids are so vibrantly buoyantly happy that gravity has totally given up on them.

Oh, hey, I’m getting ahead of myself. Welcome to our weekly feature 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks, where we invite everyone to share Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week—whether book-related or not—that happened to you. And we feature some lovely illustrations. This week, we’ve got a few spreads from We Are One (Harcourt, 2008), a new picture book by Ysaye M. Barnwell (member of the a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock). Obviously, Mr. Pinkney did the fabulous illustrations. Here’s another:

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Blog of the Dead: Eisha, Adrienne and Little Willow
tri-review Generation Dead

h1 Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Seriously, it’s a great cover.How lucky am I? I convinced Adrienne of What Adrienne Thinks About That to do another co-review with me, and I also talked Little Willow of Bildungsroman into joining the fray. And we’re talking about Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, which is all about teenage zombies. How perfect, since we’re all so into supernatural YA fiction, right? Well… read on.

First, though, let me tell you a little about the plot: For no reason that scientists can determine, American teenagers have started coming back from the dead. They can walk and talk, but they don’t eat, breathe, or sleep. Since they’re obviously a little creepy, and there aren’t any laws in place to protect the recently-deceased, they face a lot of problems with discrimination, ridicule, and even violence when they try to go about their un-lives. Quite a few of them have started attending Oakvale High, because it has a reputation of being tolerant toward the Living Impaired. Goth-girl Phoebe is intrigued by the phenomenon, especially because one of her former best friends has become a zombie, and there are some painful unresolved issues between them. She’s also intrigued by the attractive Tommy Williams, who seems to function better than most of the zombies and has even joined the football team. Phoebe’s nice-jock friend Adam is less interested, because he’s recently realized that he wants more than friendship with Phoebe and is less than thrilled by having a dead guy as competition. Nevertheless, he agrees to join her in a new discussion group/work study program created by the Hunter Foundation to foster greater understanding between zombies and the living.

We avoided major spoilers here, so you should be safe. Also, this is cross-posted at Bildungsroman and WATAT, for your tripled enjoyment. Read on!

* * * * * * *

eisha: So, ladies. I’ll start off by saying that I liked this book. It has an interesting and original take on zombie-ism, and I thought the way Waters used it to convey ideas about prejudice, hate crimes, social law, and societal reform was pretty cool. Also, I think this is one of my favorite covers of 2008.

However, I didn’t love the book. There were some significant flaws in the writing, and in the plot, that kept me from fully immersing myself in the story.

Did I mention how much I love the cover?

How about you, Little Willow? What’s your overall impression?

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Poetry Friday: Green and dying with Dylan Thomas

h1 Friday, August 8th, 2008

Gwalia Farm in Wales

August is the cruelest month — Eliot had it all wrong. As a child I always hated that my birthday coincided with the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year. It took some of the shine off of the childish thrill of turning another year older, especially on those one or two years when school started exactly on the day itself. Once I was out of school and had passed all the good milestone birthdays, it didn’t matter so much. But now I find myself immersed in academia just in time for my 35th. Not good timing. I’m already finding new gray hairs on a near-daily basis, and I’m about to have to cope with knowing I’m closer to 40 than 30. Having everyone around me preoccupied with the passing of summer’s relative freedom and the beginning of the school year’s drudgery just doesn’t help my frame of mind.

So I’m sharing one of my very favorite poems of all time, “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas. Aside from the sheer gorgeousness of the poem — Thomas is a true Poet-with-a-capital-P, and every line just sings beauty — the whole youth-as-carefree-summer metaphor is working for me right now. Oh, and those last lines that sneak up on you after all the sing-songy run-on sentences about apples and foxes and sunshine; that whole last stanza when he realizes his own mortality, sees that every day he played in the sun was a day closer to death, reveals that Time is more of a jail warden than a generous benefactor… oof. It shakes me in my bones. It should be really depressing, but it’s just so lovely that every time I finish it my eyes zip right back up to the top to start it all over. It’s a good pain. Here’s a sample:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
——–The night above the dingle starry,
—————-Time let me hail and climb
——–Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
—————-Trail with daisies and barley
——–Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
——–In the sun that is young once only,
—————-Time let me play and be
——–Golden in the mercy of his means,

Click here to read the rest. Seriously, does it get better than that? No. No it does not. This is a poem to be savored — kind of like youth, like life itself. Savor the beauty and innocence and laughter while you can. We don’t get to play in the sun forever, you know.

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Hey, ya’ll — check it out! My Cybils-buddy Becky is on Poetry Friday round-up detail over at Becky’s Book Reviews. Thanks, Becky!

A Peek Into a Pumpkin Head with Adam Rex

h1 Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Adam Rex has a new book out, Frankenstein Takes the Cake (Which is Full of Funny Stuff Like Rotting Heads and Giant Gorillas and Zombies Dressed as Little Girls and Edgar Allan Poe. The Book, We Mean — Not the Cake), published by Harcourt. It’s a sequel, of course, to 2006’s Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (And Other Stories You’re Sure to Like, Because They’re All About Monsters, And Some of Them Are Also About Food. You Like Food, Don’t You? Well, All Right Then). And if you haven’t read that prequel, well there’s a hole in your life too big and awkward for us to even address, so we won’t do that then, okay? Moving right along…

Since 7-Imp’s fan-dom for Adam’s work knows little to no bounds, we imps are quite excited. But you won’t see a review of this illustrated poetry anthology until later this month. Kelly Fineman, Poetry Goddess, and I plan to co-review it over at Guys Lit Wire (and perhaps I’ll post the same content here in 7-Imp-Land. Plus, if Eisha’s got a copy of the book by then, why of course she’ll have to chime in). More on that later.

But Adam is stopping by briefly this afternoon to share some of his illustrating process with us. If you’ve seen the book, you know that it includes very funny blog entries from Off the Top of My Head: The Official Blog of the Headless Horseman. There’s a wide array of artistic styles on display in this wonderful sequel (which, again, we’ll address later), but the blog spreads—a total of three (for those of you who haven’t seen the book yet)—were created using good old-fashioned photography. But just how did Adam create the Horseman’s head, pictured above as it appears in the book in the please-stop-staring-at-my-delicious-head spread? Well, wonder no more, since Adam is here to explain, for which I thank him heartily. You know how I love to yak it up with illustrators about their artistic processes.

So, in Adam’s words… Read the rest of this entry �

Best. Children’s. Book. Ever.*
(With Apologies to Alice)

h1 Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

NPR’s Melissa Block has excellent taste.

I’m so glad I caught this yesterday while cooking dinner. Do yourself a favor, and listen to it if you can. E.B. White reads excerpts from the novel, and evidently he did something like SEVENTEEN takes on reading the part about Charlotte’s death when recording it, what with getting choked up so much.

And I own and have read this, but I still learned stuff in this wonderful piece that I didn’t know.

Here’s to Charlotte, who always keeps her promises…

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* {I cannot claim to speak for Eisha on that claim. It is mine and mine alone.}

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Sophie Blackall

h1 Monday, August 4th, 2008

Sophie BlackallIf you read our blog regularly, you could probably guess that it would be difficult for me—should someone, say, have a gun to my head, absurdly enough—to name my top-ten favorite illustrators. It’d just be hard to narrow, my friends.

But Sophie Blackall would, without question, be on my list. There is a lightness and a brightness to her work that always makes me smile; at the same time, her Chinese inks and watercolors are capable of either great elegance or supreme goofiness and lots of humor, depending on the story she’s illustrating. For an example of the former, see 2007’s Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China (Candlewick), written by Deborah Noyes, and for an example of the latter, YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT MISS this year’s deadpan Jumpy Jack & Googily (Henry Holt), written by Sophie’s bud and frequent picture-book-making partner, Meg Rosoff (not to mention the other picture book titles on which they’ve partnered, which are listed below):

“‘I’m nervous,’ said Jumpy Jack to his best friend, Googily. ‘There could be a monster nearby and I’m scared of monsters.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ said Googily.”

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #74: Featuring Up-and-Coming Artist, Eric Lamson

h1 Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Jules: AUGUST 3rd?? IT’S AUGUST ALREADY? Mercy sakes.

Whew. Yes, it’s the first of the month. And that’s when we feature a student of illustration or a brand-spankin’-new illustrator here at our seven kicks list, our meeting ground for listing Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week—whether book-related or not—that happened to you. And I can hardly believe it’s already…well, almost Fall. Sorta.

This week we’re featuring artist Eric Lamson, who studied illustration at Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts. As Eric’s bio at his site—featuring his award-winning, Poe-esque “Gold Bug”—states, he works in pencil, acrylic, and oil. He also creates illustrations in relief, “using a unique method that he originated, utilizing: masking tape, cut illustration board, glue, joint compound and gesso.”

HOWEVER, that bio—and Eric’s site, for that matter, and the artwork on it—is dated 2006. And it just so happens, Eric told me, that he has been “kind of on a soul search. I’ve been struggling with finding the right way of working that best suits me…I’ve been kind of moving away from children’s illustration lately.” So, the opening image up there, “Shiva Monkey,” also a Montserrat award-winner, and these three below images—one from a fable of Aesop; one entitled “Introvert,” and the 1984 image—are examples of Eric’s earlier work as student of illustration:

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