Tuesday, July 11, 2006

your july annogram

Hello and welcome to annogram, my monthly poetry + arts e-newsletter. We have some new readers this month so I want to say a special welcome to you. If you or anyone else would like to stop receiving this newsletter, simply send me a note with the subject line, “No thanks Ann.”

Woo-hoo! Ann’s a Dancing Girl
Big news this month: Dancing Girl Press has accepted my chapbook manuscript, Sugaring, for publication this March. A chapbook is a small book of 20-30 poems. Many poets start their book publication this way. I am thrilled and thank everyone who has encouraged me on my poetry path.

Hélène Sanguinetti in Octavo
Thanks to Octavo retiring editor Andrew Boobier for publishing a selection from Hélène Sanguinetti’s Left-hand Exploring. What makes Hélène’s work so special is the way she mixes genres, from poetry and dialogue to narrative and journaling. Octavo brings together all the journal entries. If you’d like a taste of her genius, check out Octavo.

New Poet Laureate of Greenburgh
Greenburgh has one of the oldest and most esteemed poetry contests in our area—so it makes sense that the town should have a Poet Laureate. I am thrilled to announce that Brenda Connor-Bey will fill this role. Brenda, a much-loved poetry teacher, is the author of Thoughts of an Everyday Woman/An Unfinished Urban Folktale (Blind Beggar Press).

Deborah Coulter Works on Paper
Deborah Coulter’s charcoal drawings at the Bendheim Performing Arts Center in Scarsdale attain a wild three-dimensional, brush-like quality. They pull the eye in—almost suggesting something concrete and yet never truly yielding to any one idea. Deborah says she likes to “play with space” and that’s what these drawings do in a novel way. Take a look at the Lesley Heller Gallery and see what you think:

The Drowsy Chaperone
This five-time Tony winner is a delightful send-up of the American musical—replete with sequined costumes, big sets, funny songs and tap-dancing. The Drowsy Chaperone combines humorous 21st century savvy with an affectionate look back when theater seemed bigger than life. My husband, Michael, and I also enjoyed meeting Kecia Lewis-Evans who plays Trixie the Aviatrix—a stellar singer with an amazing resume of theater credits.

The Al Gore Film
While cruising Central Ave for a movie, my friends and I pulled into the Scarsdale Fine Arts to see “An Inconvenient Truth.” We had no idea it was the Al Gore film. The newspaper ad featured penguins, and the movie poster left us clueless. Standing on line, we figured out what it was. I have to recommend everyone see this film. Our former president elect is thoughtful, passionate and convincing on the topic of global warming. The movie mixes his worldwide lectures with reflections on his personal life.

Book reviews

Mikhail, Dunya. The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005). What is it like to be an average citizen living in Iraq? The thought is almost too much to bear. Dunya Mikhail, an Iraqi poet who has sought asylum in the U.S., shares her experience of life under Sadaam and in her war-torn home in forceful and original poems. Her title poem comments:

The war continues working, day and night.
It inspires tyrantsto deliver long speeches,
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets.

Dealing with the theme of separated lovers, she writes in “Non-Military Statements”:

I dream of a magic wand
that changes my kisses to stars.
At night you can gaze at them
and know they are innumerable.

If you care to learn what war does to people, then you need to read this book.

Toomer, Jean. Cane (WW Norton, 1988). Thanks to Brenda Connor-Bey for giving me this book. Jean Toomer (1894-1967), an extraordinary writer, combines poetry and hymns in wrenching short stories about African Americans struggling to find dignity and community in the early 20th century. His lyrical language and concern for the outcast reminds me of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee (1909-1959). Toomer achieves what great literature can often do—let the contemporary reader experience the human heart in another time.

Weinberger, Eliot, ed. The World Beat (New Directions, 2006). Translator Eliot Weinberger has assembled the best of New Directions’ world poets in this volume—poets ranging from Anne Carson to Bei Dao. What struck me the most was the first poem by Octavio Paz, “Response and Reconciliation”, never published until now. The poem echoes Eliot’s Four Quartets in its meditative focus on “time maker of roses and plutonium.”

Wishing you thoughtful and fulfilling summer reading,