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Roger Craik on his poetry and Pied Piper project in the Star Beacon

 

ASHTABULA — When people think about retirement, many picture life in a condo on a beach in sunny Florida. 

That's not the case with Roger Craik, emeritus professor of English at Kent State University Ashtabula, who retired last May. He's traveling, writing poetry, voice recording a collection of poems and fulfilling speaking engagements, including a recent meeting of the Cleveland Area Mensa. 

He has written several full-length poetry books. 

But one of his favorites is one he didn't write. Rather, his parents illustrated and colored it for him as a young boy — a facsimile of Robert Browning's "The Pied Piper of Hamelin, A Child's Story." 

His parents, Tom and Wendy Craik, gave it to him on his sixth birthday in 1962, when he was considered old enough to enjoy it. He remembers enjoying "The Pied Piper" being read to him as well as sensing his parents' relish in reading aloud and their pausing to point to the illustrations.

A few years ago, with his parents' permission, Craik made a copy of the treasured book in Nottingham, England, and began sending it out to friends as an email attachment.

Everyone who saw it loved it, he said.

Tom Craik penned Browning's words, nothing added or deleted, but the illustrations come entirely from his parents' imagination. They were 32 and 25 years old at the time.

In the past year, the book has been translated in Bulgarian, as well as Romanian. It's also been exhibited at the Gaudeamus International Book Fair in Bucharest. In fall 2017, "Pied Piper" will be translated in Russian, coming out in Minsk, Belarus. 

Craik said he knows why the book is popular around the world.

"It's original, intelligent and whimsical," he said. "I think it will always appeal. I do this for my parents but, more importantly, for the pleasure of other parents and their children."

In addition, Minsk Publishing is putting together a selection of poetry on emigration and Craik's poetry will be published as an article by Lyuba Perbushina of the University of Minsk. She sent Craik a large survey, asking for comments and questions on his pieces.

"It's an academic article written about me and translating my poems," he said. "I have been invited to Minsk in 2017 and I plan to go."

Craik also hopes to go to Romania, where he was a Fulbright Scholar at Oradea University in 2013-14.

"I enjoy eastern Europe," he said.

His poetry has appeared in several national poetry journals, such as "The Formalist," "Fulcrum," "The Literary Review" and "The Atlanta Review." 

English by birth and educated at the universities of Reading and Southampton, Craik has worked as a journalist, TV critic and chess columnist. Before coming to the U.S. in 1991, he worked in Turkish universities and was awarded a Beineke Fellowship to Yale in 1990. 

He's visited North Yemen, Egypt, South Africa, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, Bulgaria — where he taught during spring 2007 on a Fulbright Scholarship to Sofia University — and, more recently, the United Arab Emirates, Austria and Croatia. 

Retired or not, Craik says poetry is his passion. He writes for at least an hour over coffee each morning before breakfast.

His newest book of poems is coming out from BlazeVox, in Buffalo, which published his last full-length collection "Down Stranger Roads" (2014), and also "The Pied Piper." 

But wherever Craik travels, Ashtabula is still his home base.

"I am continually grateful for (former KSU Ashtabula) Dean John Mahan for hiring me in 1991 and giving me this marvelous life," he said. "I mention him at all my talks. I'm so fortunate."

Read the whole article here

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Animated Landscape by Robert Gibbons Reviewed

 

Robert Gibbons, Animated Landscape, BlazeVox, 2016, 146 pp, $16.

Speaking recently at the Gloucester Writers Center, poet and Olson scholar Don Byrd advised poets who are inspired by Charles Olson not to attempt to follow him because Olson was uniquely unfollowable. Rather, Byrd said, they should attempt to move beyond Olson with their own work, as the poet himself had done with respect to his own masters, Pound and Williams.  

Among poets who have learned from Olson while forging their own unique path, Robert Gibbons stands out. Though widely published and admired among poets, scholars of poetry, critics, and curators of contemporary art, Robert Gibbons has been less known to discerning readers of new American poetry. This is about to change with the publication by BlazeVox of Animated Landscape, Gibbon’s major new collection of poems. Those who care about the life of poetry in a time when there are many MFAs in verse but fewer poets who appeal directly to the human condition should attend to what Richard Deming calls Gibbons’ “universal and inclusive vision.”  

Gibbons’ poetry is informed not only by the crucial texts he’s read and internalized—Kristeva, Davenport, Olson himself— but also by the music and visual art that has animated his life and work—the jazz of Coltrane, the inventions of Bach, the paintings of Clyfford Still (about whom he has written incisively in Olson/Still: Crossroad)—along with the walks he has taken daily in the places he’s lived—Gloucester, MA, Salem, Washington, DC, Boston, Portland, ME, and now Denver—bringing them to life and into his pages through conversations with those he has encountered going about their daily business, as Gibbons has gone about his as both secret sharer and astute observer. His is a poetry that is as intensely lived as it is informed by a poised intelligence; a poetry of the heart and mind, where intellect and feeling do not conflict but, instead, fuse into incandescence, as Gibbons writes: “where senses reach an/intoxicated height, where air alone is/magic, silence music, touch between/us dispelling all dread.” 

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Daniel Borzutzky wins the National Book Award

 

Congratulations to Daniel Borzutzky on winning the National Book award. Check out his BlazeVOX The Ecstasy of Capitulation Daniel Borzutzky here: http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/Poetry/the-ecstasy-of-capitulation-by-daniel-borzutzky-17/

"Daniel Borzutzky’s poems bespeak an amazing grasp of current nounage that the writer skillfully employs to achieve a piercing social and political critique. Little of current or recent history has immunity. Richard Milhous Nixon, Ronald Reagan, the matter of requisite allegiance to sexuality, linguistics, even leek soup, serve as springboards to a greater revelation brought about by the ruthlessly comic clarity of Borzutzky’s eyes and ears. The writer plants the spotlight on speakers of the poem who do not know that they can plead the Fifth. Yet even in his most successfully sardonic observations, Borzutzky never merely points the finger. In a virtuosic display of rhetoric, these speakers self-reveal, self-incriminate, and in so doing, take us down with them. For Borzutzky consistently brings to the poem the recognition that his subject is not restricted to these few isolated others, but, at root, to all of us. Joining its best-of-genre companions, The Ecstasy of Capitulation provides scathing critique of culture amid an underlying self-effacement that holds itself responsible and consistently depicts a sense of caring. Borzutzky’s is the honest intellect we have been waiting for, to show us what we are."

- Sheila E. Murphy


“After I first read Daniel Borzutzky’s poems in magazines, I became a hellhound on his trail, pursuing him over the oceans (he was in Turkey at the time) until I ran him to earth and shook more poems out of him. I wanted my students to read those poems and to write like Borzutzky, yeah, but, more importantly, to think like him. There’s a divine foolishness to these poems, a knuckleheaded clarity that allows the poet to ask “Are Nudists Nuts? (the question of our time, to my way of thinking) and to say “We approve of intersections but are opposed to streets in general” and “Out with mayors, in with majordomos” and “We have too many potholes. They should be filled with violets, or ideas.” The title of this book not only describes it but recommends it—far too many poetry books today are about the capitulation of ecstasy. I love these poems. Daniel Borzutzky for president.”

- David Kirby



The Ecstasy of Capitulation by Daniel Borzutzky Book Preview

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Stormy Mondays by Skip Fox Now Available!

 Skip Fox’s Stormy Mondays reveals a pensiveness borne of long and deep experience. Fortunately, what also is revealed is infinite desire for. For love. For life. For humor. For awe. For blasphemy. For wit (never forget wit). For your existence, Reader. And Skip Fox gets your attention with poems that do many things including enchant—“enters through pores of music. Moment complete. Universals goosing each particular”—as well as memoir-prose that recalls things you, too, want to remember—“What was it like to have found it (poetry, open and fresh, incarnation pointing forward and back) as it came over the first years of the world’s horizon, when you could still search out Kerouac, say, and give him a blow-job if he wanted (purely out of respect).” There are gems here: it’s Skip Fox’s Monday. Push through and get into the smoke. Whatever happened before Monday, Monday also means a beginning. Read to feel the future lives offered by these fascinating word-doors.

—Eileen R. Tabios, author of AMNESIA: Somebody’s Memoir


A strikingly original voice in New American poetry—intelligent and wide-ranging: a questioner, a rememberer and a myth-weilder on a par with Olson, Dorn, Duncan,—in short, a discovery waiting to happen. Now is your chance to make it happen for you.

—Jesse Glass, author of The Passion of Phineas Gage and Selected Poems and Lost Poet, Four Plays.


Skip Fox learned to cook in a cast-iron pot over a camp fire. The proteins and carbohydrates are always profoundly local, liberated (he eschews barter) from the gardens and game preserves of the landed. The seasonings, on the other hand, are gleaned from any field available to a poet of his resources: a little self-deprecating swagger from Arkilokos, a full measure of Juvenal’s indignation; each taste a sufficiency of Catullus, Bertrand, Cavalcanti, Villon, Lyly, Jonson, Dryden, Blake, Mallarmé, Whitman, Pound, Tzara, Benn, Crane, Patchen, Dorn, Mayer, Mackey; often so well-blended as to make recognition of the individual ingredients irrelevant, but sometimes tasting pointedly of a particular donor. Salted with contempt, sweetened with understanding. Diners push away from the table feeling full but knowing plenty remains. There is no poet less exclusive nor any more essential. If you want to know what stew can be at its best, read this book. Taste of it; you’ll be back for another helping soon.

—Brian Richards, author of Enridged and Occasional Cleavage.



Young Poets! Lend an ear. “We cover the creature with glare, mute as mangled body parts, fender and grill (skirts with chrome panties).” Stormy Mondays is first class language assault. Skip Fox takes all-the-right-moves a step further. Burning up the page with true funk of a madcap joy in language born of working class intellectualism. An everyday neo-tautology of smooth ass millennial occult poetics spun out by one wisecracking emcee. “I wouldn’t’ve believed my own ears if it wasn’t for the words my mouth had been saying...” Poet-professors, cover your ears and pray for your students! It won’t be the same AWP this year.

—Patrick Dunagan, author of Drops of Rain / Drops of Wine.


Skip Fox is back, this time with Stormy Mondays, the fifth book in his epic Dream of a Book series. If it’s true (and it is) that we write one poem our whole life, then Skip’s found the trap door that includes everything. Bumper stickers, mini-novels, fortune cookies, and “Sure Shots” embroider themselves to create books within books as the poems “Passages” and “Structure of Rhyme” do in Robert Duncan’s oeuvre. Time to stick out your thumb, jump in the car, and sharpen your wit. You’ll get to know Skip quickly, he’s the same off the page as he is on–a hybrid universe of multiple voices communicating in whatever form they challenge to arrive in.

—Micah Ballard, author of AFTERLIVES.


There isn’t a wilder animal in the forest of language than Skip Fox. Not feral (never tamed), profligate though rarely seen, expert at camouflage in the thickets of poetry or prose or politics or philosophy or most any habitat normal humans find discomfiting, cunning vulpine capable of moving in utter silence, erasing its spoor as it goes, or noisy feints that send its terrified prey straight into its jaws, Fox skipped over the more tedious steps in the evolutionary chain and has lodged itself as a primal key in the ecology of the universe. Having learned a lesson or two from the drunken pomp of English equestrian semantics, Fox thrives in any climate or terrain, any phylum or category, any metaphor or mixed-up geography. You may not confront Fox head-on, but you’ll feel the chill of that quick glimpse from the corner of your eye.

—Bill Lavender, author of Memory Wing

Skip Fox dedicated his life to poetry while working in the woods on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in the summer of 1969. He graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1981 and has since taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He lives by himself on a few acres in the country in a log cabin with a pond out back. Literature, art, music, film, drama, students, three children, and four grandchildren grace his existence.


Book Information:

· Paperback: 170 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-261-7

$16

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Stormy Mondays by Skip Fox Book Preview

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Photos on flickr