Best Poetry Books of 2019: Blogger’s Choices, from Via Negativa

Most years, Dave Bonta of Via Negativa compiles a list of the best poetry books published during the preceding twelve months or so. The results are always intriguing…see the full list at the link below:

Best Poetry Books of 2019: Bloggers’ Choices

Must-read poetry: Tariro Ndoro’s AGRINGADA: LIKE A GRINGA, LIKE A FOREIGNER

This. In April of this year, Tariro Ndoro’s debut poetry collection was released by Modjaji Books, and became available to readers outside South Africa via the African Books Collective. I work with Tariro at Praxis Magazine Online (she’s the Associate Editor – Fiction for Praxis), and I ordered a copy as soon as it became available. Curiosity about what a colleague from / in Zimbabwe with a BSc in Microbiology and MA in Creative Writing would bring to a poetry collection. Then I read it. And I keep rereading it. And if you are looking for one poetry book to get for yourself as a gift this year, I’d like to recommend this one.

The people in my pelt. Breaking a bronco. Mustang. Movies in Braille. (Titles of some of the poems I’ve been returning to over and over again.) Tari tells of growing up in Zimbabwe, of being one of only two black girls in a white classroom, of being “the girl who has to hesitate before she speaks because she must double-check that she is thinking in the correct language so that her words are not misconstrued.” (Mustang)

She tells of struggling with verb forms in Shona, of watching Bollywood movies with subtitles, of insecurities in speaking either Shona or English, of what it is to expect drought and famine, of gender inequity, wealth inequity, racism, classism, detentions, demands to conform.

Self-portrait-poems of a child who shrinks into silence because there is no safe way to use language: “You wear silence / sitting on the concrete floor of a library / a shroud like speech // Language does not belong to you” (self portrait at nine).

Definition poems. Prose poems. Semi-erasures, strike-outs, lists. And poems that do things I myself have never dared to do with poetry. Poems that succeed in saying things I’ve never quite found the way to express in my own lines, and have mostly given up trying.

Tariro Ndoro, though…she didn’t quit. And Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner, succeeds and stuns.

Collaboration and Congratulations

Recently, I had the honor of collaborating on a poem with a friend, Yahia Lababidi, on a poem titled “Holy Mess”…and that poem has now been published at The Friday Influence. You can read it, along with opening insights from José Angel Araguz and our comments on the writing of it, here at The Friday Influence.

While here today, I also want to share another poem from Yahia with you, “Speaking American” (featured on PBS NewsHour), a poem I return to again and again. If you haven’t read this one before, please do scroll down to the end of the post and read (or listen) to it.

I also want to take the opportunity here to congratulate José Angel Araguz on the publication of his most recent collection of poems, An Empty Pot’s Darkness. This is a powerful collection of eight-line poems…thank you, José, for giving me an advance peek at the manuscript before release.

Living is collaboration, learning, reconsidering, revising…

Stay blessed!

 

BOOK OF THE MISSING by Heidi Grunebaum…Praxis Magazine Online digital poetry chapbook

On August 30, Praxis Magazine Online published the first digital chapbook in the 2019/2020 Poetry Chapbook Series, edited by JK Anowe. If you haven’t seen it already, you don’t want to miss BOOK OF THE MISSING by Heidi Grunebaum.

And here, at the beginning of this series, I am reminiscing a little, and want to share a bit of the history. In 2015, Praxis Magazine‘s publisher Tee Jay Dan (Daniel John Tukura) asked me if I’d be open to coming on as an editor…and I was worried about the time commitment, worried about the amount of emotional and mental investment it takes to be on the team of an online literary and arts journal. I was already (and still am) on staff at Right Hand Pointing, where editor Dale Wisely gave me an opportunity to learn how to BE an editor…with integrity, discretion, and compassion. And I’d already learned that it takes a LOT of hard work, and that many of the people who submit to journals don’t realize how much work goes into it, how much of their own time editorial team members at online journals have to dedicate to bring other people’s works to publication. (I know I certainly didn’t have any concept of the time commitment involved while I was still submitting poems to journals, but not volunteering at a journal myself.) So I’d declined Tee Jay’s invitation initially, not feeling sure I was prepared to dedicate that kind of time.

Then JK Anowe, a friend of mine, shared a draft poetry chapbook manuscript with me, and he wanted to submit it to Praxis, and had done me the honor of asking me if I’d write a Foreword for it. I did that, and since I also knew Tee Jay didn’t have anyone on staff at the time to do formatting, I worked with JK on getting it formatted so that it would be presentation-ready, should Praxis decide to accept it. We received permission from Robert Rhodes to use a painting of his as the cover image. (Robert Rhodes is an amazing artist…and he’s provided images for a number of digital chapbooks at Praxis since, as well as the cover art for two of my own poetry books, Anchorhold and 19 Ghazal Street.) Praxis accepted the manuscript and published it in March of 2016: The Ikemefuna Tributaries, by JK Anowe.

After it was published, Tee Jay asked me…told me I needed to…come on staff at Praxis and curate a digital chapbook series. And I’d had so much fun with Anowe, I agreed. And, because Tee Jay gave me all manner of creative and editorial freedom and discretion, we also started the Around This Fire response chapbook series. The next manuscript we published was Romeo Oriogun’s Burnt Men…both Romeo’s brave self and his brave poems have gone on to receive international attention, recognition, and acclaim. And I remain deeply humbled to have had the opportunity to work with him on making his first chapbook of poetry available to an international community of readers.

Time under the bridge…three and a half years later, and now JK Anowe is Editor – Poetry Chapbooks, and I’m serving as Managing Editor, working with a whole team of amazing volunteers…from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe…and contributors and readers from all around the world.  (Part of why JK Anowe is an editor IS because I begged him to consider it…same way Tee Jay begged me…asking and wheedling shamelessly. I trust Anowe’s eye for poetry, and for how a manuscript collection forms a cohesive, coherent whole. And frankly, I did resort to this one day: You and your Ikemefuna Tributaries got me into this. So you need to come in too, because I need you.  And when he was finished laughing at me, he also joined the team.)

Some days, when I’m tired, I wonder if maybe I should reach out to Tee Jay and let him know I just can’t…can’t keep making the time commitment, can’t keep going through the heartbreak of having to send 1000 decline emails for every 20 acceptances…and then JK sends a manuscript for a poetry chapbook he’s selected and edited to be published at Praxis… and I read the poems…THE POEMS… and am re-energized and excited to be a part of it in any way all over again. Heidi Grunebaum’s chapbook brought the tide of enthusiasm back in again for me… so if you haven’t already, do read it.

Stay blessed!
Laura (Halima)

Meditatio Divina – poetry film by Paul Broderick

In 2014, I wrote a poem inspired by Kate Fadick’s poem “Lectio Divina”… a tribute to poet Hashim Shaabani (executed 1/27/2014).

Filmmaker Paul Broderick has turned it into an incredible film, which you can see here on Vimeo. (TRIGGER WARNING: the film is disturbing, for mature audiences only. One wishes the same type of warning could be given regarding actual life events.)

 

“Poetry has the power to bridge divisions” – a conversation with David Ishaya Osu

Spring of this year, I had the honour and pleasure of having a conversation-interview with the amazing David Ishaya Osu. He asked me all sorts of intriguing questions, and I learned some things about my self in the process. For those of you interested in reading, the conversation has been published at Gainsayer: Poetry has the power to bridge divisions – David Ishaya Osu.

Thank you for reading…stay blessed!

LOVE NOTES

LOVE NOTES

Reflecting on the Vote at the Special Session
of the United Methodist General Conference
====================================

I took a walk with God last night
(because if you can, why not?)
and some ways down the road He

said “Hold up,” and stopped
at the front steps of a church
and said “I need to leave

a note, would you kindly reach
Me that box of stationery?”
And sure enough, there it was,

box of “36 Assorted Greetings,
with verses from the scripture”
and I passed it over, saying

“With Bible verses yet!” and
He murmured something sounding
like (shameless self promotion)

but murmured it so lowly I
wasn’t absolutely sure where
He’d put the hyphen. He took

a card and envelope, began to
write the note, and He knelt
low enough to let me read over

His shoulder. “Dear LGBTQI
Friends and Fam: I am so deeply
sorry that this happened. I am

so deeply sorry that you’ve
been unwelcomed. And I get it.
I really do, because the vote

was just as much about Me as
about you, all of us have been
advised of what our limits

ought to be, told who we are
and aren’t supposed to love.
But keep faith, I’m also out

here, right here with you. Be
strong. Stay loving. Steady on.”
When He put it in the envelope

and put it on the handle of
the door, I was able to see
the message on the cover:

Wish You Were Here.

And then He looked at me
and said “Perhaps We ought
to leave another?” And I

nodded, reached in the box
and picked one, put my name
below the greeting, and then

so did He, and this second
one He slid beneath the door
into the sanctuary entry:

Get Well Soon.

-Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba), 03-March-2019

16-January-2019: ‘Collateral Damage’ anthology from Glass Lyre Press

This week’s mail brought a contributor’s copy of Collateral Damage, a Pirene’s Fountain anthology from Glass Lyre Press. The contributors’ list here is outstanding, and I’m a little shy seeing my own name on the back of the book alongside the names of poets whose work I consider not just ground-breaking, but world-changing. This is a benefit anthology, and a powerfully good read, so do consider putting your hands on a copy if you are able to do so.

Stay blessed!
Laura (Halima)

Sharing the Journey, 13-November-2018

It’s been awhile, but I’m finally back here at the ark of identity to share a recent poem:

 

ASYLUM SEEKERS

I would tell you a story
about a brother and sister,
children of a poor man,
good man, wood-cutter
who went walking
through forest (and desert,
and mountains, and rivers)
without any breadcrumbs
to leave in a trail
behind them.

I would tell you a story
about a brother and sister
who walked through forest
toward a gingerbread
house, the walls and roof
constructed of sweet
spicy biscuits, icing
affixing tempting candy
ornaments along the eaves
and picket fence.

I would tell you a story
about a brother and sister
who walked and walked
and walked, trying to find
their way to a safe
place, whose hearts lifted
in hope when their
(mind’s) eye spied
the sweet house, when
they thought they could
finally stop fearing.

But you know the story
of Hansel and Gretel
already, and you know
what they found when
they reached it.

-Halima Ayuba (Laura M Kaminski), 08-November-2018…for our human kindred who have been walking across half a continent with hope that the people ahead will be kinder than the ones they’ve fled.