Karen J. Weyant
has written a fantastic (and perceptive) review of Brackish.
I'm flattered and honored by Weyant's words, which reinforce a belief I've long held about writing: it's a great thing to be read. It's a better thing to be understood. From the review:Through personal narratives and stories told from the past, readers watch a young boy growing up to come to terms with his place in this world. The landscape found in this collection is so vivid that when I was done reading, I could smell paper mills and fish. I could taste the salt of the ocean. I could hear music, a folksy hum that is not quite in tune. I could feel a fishing line between my thumb and fingers, a thin line tugging me, pulling me back in.
Many thanks to Weyant for these kind words, and many thanks to Rattle
for publishing the review.
Check out Weyant's website here: http://thescrapperpoet.wordpress.com/about/
Be sure to check out Karen Weyant's poetry here: http://thescrapperpoet.wordpress.com/read-a-poem-or-two/
Also, you can purchase her chapbooks Stealing Dust
(Finishing Line Press) and Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt
(Main Street Rag).
My essay "Paul's Boutique
or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Beastie Boys" is now live over at StorySouth
. Check it o
ut. Thanks so much to Terry Kennedy and the find folks at StorySouth
for publishing the essay, a reading of the album embedded in a personal reflection about my long relationship with the album.
The essay is also a kind of tribute to Adam Yauch, the gravely-voiced MCA, who succumbed to cancer last year. When I heard of MCA's death, I was shocked by how much the news affected me. I've long loved hip-hop (as well as jazz, outlaw country, rock-n-roll, the blues, and a host of other musical genres), but I felt no special affinity for hip-hop. The emptiness and sorrow I felt over MCA's death forced me to write to figure out my feelings. The resulting essay taught me something about the way that I conceive of music and authenticity. I am pleased that what began as a post for this blog grew into something much more rich and c complex. I'm also happy that the essay appears in StorySouth
. Way back in 2004, the late Jake Adam York published some of my poems there, one of my earliest publications. I'm honored to have been included back then, and I'm honored to see my writing in StorySouth
This newest issue features awesome work by Richard Kraweic
, John Tribble
, and C.D. Mitchell
. By the way, Mitchell's collection of short stories, God's Naked Will
, has just been released by Burnt Bridge Press
. You need to be reading this book right now. Yes, right now. Go, order a copy. Seriously. Read it.
Thanks to poet and blogger (and recently-dubbed "Doctor") Keith Montesano
for interviewing me for his "First Book Interviews
" blog. You can find the interview here
The interview puts me in some very good company, and I'm honored to be featured by poets as amazing as Justin Evans
, Allison Pelegrin
, Dan Albergotti
, Jehanne Dubrow
, and Gary L. McDowell
. To be mentioned in the same breath as these writers is simply overwhelming. Reading their work, I'm reminded that it's an amazing time to be a writer, despite the doom and gloom we hear about the so-called "death" of the humanities. Poetry is alive and kicking, and it's so much more compelling and diverse than anyone outside of the poetry world (and many inside
the poetry world) suspect.
Keith's a wonderful poet in his own right
. Definitely check out his debut collection, Ghost Lights
, a haunting and memorable book of poetry, as well as his follow-up, the forthcoming Scoring the Silent Film
, both from Dream Horse Press.
Poet, novelist, and critic Michael Meyehofer
(poetry editor at Atticus Review)
shows some love to Brackish
in the new issue of Rain Taxi.
I am very appreciative of this insightful review. I'm a huge fan of Meyerhofer's poetry. His book Blue Collar Eulogies
is just fantastic. But his words about Brackish
gave me pause. He understands my work better than I do. And, as I Tweeted the day I read the review
: it's a great thing to be read. It's a blessing to be understood. Much thanks to Michael and to the fine folks at Rain Taxi.
From the review:
The poems in Jeff Newberry's Brackish balance grittiness with restraint, taut imagery with dark humor. the result is an intoxicating lyrical energy about as far removed from pretension and sermonizing as one can get.
. . . [in] Brackish . . . stark beauty deftly interweaves stoic faith healers, the chemical stink of industry, and backfiring station wagons. These poems resonate with the sting of bruised knuckles and unshed tears, and in doing so, they do not wallow in self-pity or yield to self-gratification; instead, through the bearing witness, they whisper almost shyly of possibility and hope.
In his first book, Brackish, Jeff Newberry dredges up images of his native Northern Florida. They rise like silt in brackish water. They make shapes, tell a story, and then settle until some elusive catfish passes again.
The book begins with a boy coming of age and ends with the reclamation of that boy by the author. The book is broken into four sections moving from the innocence of anxiety, to fear and rebellion, to recollection and reflection, and ends in realization and wisdom.
Physical place is always the stage for psychological and emotional movement. Each time the poet reflects upon a place, a space opens for personal growth. However, that space becomes rooted in the land from which Newberry vowed to escape as an adolescent. The realization of rootedness is part of the wisdom reached by the end of this collection. Our roots nourish us; they have fed on particular nutrients from a certain soil and no matter where we are they ground us in that homeland.
I'm humbled by such words. Much love to Lynne Barrett
(Florida Book Review's
founding editor) for this. Also, thank you, Guillermo Cancio-Bello, for your kind words.
I like to think that, at times, in the right light, I look a bit like one of my heroes, the poet Richard Hugo. We're both writers obsessed with place, both writers who love jazz, and both writers who see the terrain beneath our feet as a starting place, a jumping-off point, a pick-up note for poetry. Hugo's best work is improvisatory. He finds a rhythm in line one and develops a theme, like Miles Davis locked in the pocket, exploring the mode.
Hugo's work taught me that the triggering subject is the root, but the improvisation is the key. I'm nowhere near the poet was; don't misunderstand me. Rather, I see in him a kindred spirit, someone I look up to, someone who's work continues to inspire me.
I'm planning a fishing trip soon. I'll look out over the Gulf of Mexico, cast a line out, and listen to the surf churning in. I'll be thinking of Richard Hugo, mourning the fact that I never got a chance to meet him. I'll try to keep this poem in my head:
Quick and yet he moves like silt.
I envy dreams that see his curving
silver in the weeds. When stiff as snags
he blends with certain stones.
When evening pulls the ceiling tight
across his back he leaps for bugs.
I wedged hard water to validate his skin-
call it chrome, say red is on
his side like apples in a fog, gold
gills. Swirls always looked one way
until he carved the water into any
kinds of current with his nerve-edged nose.
And I have stared at steelhead teeth
to know him, savage in his sea-run growth,
to drug his facts, catalog his fins
with wings and arms, to bleach the black
back of the first I saw and frame the cries
that sent him snaking to oblivions of cress.
From Making Certain it Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo
In effect, asking what a poem is about is like asking what music is about. And our inability to answer that question succinctly is hardly a testament to the meaningless of poetry—or music for that matter. When we mistake a poem for a newspaper article or even an anecdote, then the expectations for a poem’s language changes—and drastically. As Eliot said, poetry “is a concentration, and a new thing resulting from the concentration, of a very great number of experiences which to the practical and active person would not seem to be experiences at all.”
Indeed, at its best, a poem might be comprised of breath, desire, intelligence, and memory, our influences and conventions, rhythm and imagination, sound, narrative, history, and spontaneous play, as well as reference, emotion, the unconscious, and the music of language itself. As Robert Creeley put it simply, it is “a complex.”
Poetry resists just this kind of disclosure. To me, that is part of a poem’s unique power: ourinability to reduce it. In fact, poetry is already a reduction, or, as one of my undergraduate students said recently, “a compaction.”
Can I get an amen?
With the poet Brent House, I am editing an anthology entitled The Gulf Stream: Poems of the Gulf Coast
. We are currently sending out acceptances and rejections and hope to have the book out by late spring or early summer. Much love and thanks to the fine folks at Snake~Nation~Press (especially Jean Arambula) who agreed to publish the anthology.
Below is the cover art, designed by the absolutely amazing Heather Newberry (who also did the cover for my book Brackish
as well as Justin Evans' forthcoming book Hobble Creek Almanac
Thanks to Justin Evans
, editor of Hobble Creek Review
, I will be helping to edit a special edition of HCR focused on writers of the Gulf Coast Region. Submissions are open. HCR will also have a regular, non-Gulf Coast section, too, edited by Justin.So, send me some work. I'm honored to be a part of Justin's vision. He's a fantastic editor and a fine poet. Check out his work here and here, and purchase his books here. I appreciate the opportunity be a part of such a great publication.Please follow all submission guidelines for Hobble Creek Review. Send Gulf Coast-related submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The following editorial statement appears on the HCR website, as well:
Growing up in Port St. Joe, a tiny town on the Florida Panhandle, I hated the place. Hated the stink of the paper mill and chemical factory. Hated the tiny town’s lack of a bookstore and other amenities. Hated how isolated I felt. I wanted to escape that place; I wanted to make a life for myself somewhere else. I dreamed of New York. I dreamed of Los Angeles. I dreamed of a place far, far away, where I’d write great literature and forget that I’d come from what I thought of as Nowheresville, USA.
I never made it. I attended a school close to home, the University of West Florida in Pensacola, some 150 miles west of Port St. Joe. I settled in South Georgia, where I teach writing at a small state college. The Gulf Coast is barely a three-hour drive from my house. I go as often as I can. I love to fish, and I spend a lot of time angling in the bay, the sloughs and the inlets around my hometown.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that over the years, my attitude about my hometown changed. What’s interesting to me, however, is how
this change occurred. It was through my writing that I fell in love with the Gulf Coast. Reading southern writers like Larry Brown, Harry Crews, Jake Adam York, Natasha Tretheway, and a host of others inspired me. I found that my most successful writing was about the Gulf Coast. And I found that, somehow, writing about that place changed me in ways that I never anticipated.
Lots of writers have a strong connection to place. One could even argue that the literary history of the United States is made up of pockets of regional writers, from the New York School to the Beat poets who migrated to San Francisco. All across the United States, writers have found their voices in the land beneath their feet.
Because the Gulf resonates so strongly with me, I am honored to edit this special edition of The Hobble Creek Review
. I ask that writers who have a strong connection with the Gulf Coast submit their work. You don’t have to be a Gulf Coast native, but I am looking for work that explicitly addresses to the Gulf Coast region. HCR
will still be accepting regular submissions, as well, and founding editor Justin Evans will select the work for that section.
Charles Wright once wrote that “All forms of landscape are autobiographical.” And I think he’s on to something. Dismissed and sneered at by certain critics, regionalism
isn’t merely writing about landscape. Regional writers are smarter and far more talented than that. To write about our homes is to write about ourselves. To write about anything is to discover it all over again and, to quote another American poet, “make it new.”