Blogger Nathan discovers and explores his new favorite independent poetry press.
I’m on a mission to spread the love.
Back in May, I discovered Seattle’s Wave Books, and throughout the summer, I read some of their publications and went from charmed to infatuated to full-blown skull-over-toes in love.
The Most of It, by Mary Ruefle, is a collection of short prose in the spirit of Lydia Davis. Ruefle combines the charming surprises that are found in her poetry with vignettes from a piercingly perceptive and sensitive mind. I found myself giddy over these stories, and my life became sharper and more acute through reading each short piece. The Most of It inspired me to write small pieces sprung from inspiration and fleeting moments instead of organized and rigid plot, “round” characters and the rest of the expected drudgery that starts to taste bland after a while. Reading Mary Ruefle is like a slap of fresh air in a dank cellar.
At Strand Books in NYC, I found a signed copy of Dorothea Lasky’s Thunderbird , her most recent collection of poems. My favorite poem in this collection is “The changing of the seasons is life and death seen gently,” which raised up the hairs on my body and sent my cognition into a swirl of reverie and gratitude and transcendence. The poem describes life as “Brash, unexpected / It happens dramatically.” It compares life’s frenzy with nature’s steady change of seasons, closing with lines that explain the seasons change calmly because they are not faced with death like living things are.
The seasons they happen gently / They happen gently / Softly / And why shouldn’t they? / Why shouldn’t they, I ask you? / They know they will come again.
Lasky makes me more comfortable with writing like myself instead of constantly trying to write like others (the ones who sound impressive or make me jealous with their talent).
This summer, Roberto Bolaño’s collected poetry, The Unknown University, (tr. by Laura Healy), was released by New Directions. Throughout Bolaño’s poems, he makes reference to Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, his friend and fellow Infrarealist poet. Bolaño based Ulises Lima, one of the protagonists in The Savage Detectives, on Santiago.
In The Savage Detectives, readers never see any poems by Lima, so I was excited when I saw that Wave Books had published the only poetry available by Mario Santiago Pappasquiaro.
Advice from 1 Disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger Fanatic is one lengthy poem by Santiago that works as a summation of his poetic philosophies. The tie-in to the spirit of The Savage Detectives isn’t a stretch by any means, they supplement each other. Advice reads like a Ginsberg poem covered in desert dirt and pricked with cactus needles:
like 1 white-hot meteor & 1 UFO in distress / & inexplicably they greet each other: / I’m the 1 who embossed on the back of his denim jacket / the sentence: The nucleus of my solar system is Adventure.
Santiago’s emphatic lines skip around like the Beats in America, and my writing became more energetic after reading them.
I returned to Mary Ruefle at the end of the summer. Madness, Rack, and Honey is a collection of Ruefle’s lectures. She covers a broad gamut of topics (beginnings, sentimentality, Emily Dickinson, Death, Fear, etc.) and relates them to writing, poetry, and the life of a writer/poet. Each essay offers wisdom so precious it distills in the mind like a personal moments of clarity.
After reading Madness, Rack, and Honey my heart swelled with inspiration to create and engage with the world around me, and I feel more skillful at explaining my own creative urges.
It’s not just that Wave Books publishes stellar content, it’s that they also print beautiful books as artifacts. Simply holding these four books in my hands and thumbing their pages in a joy. I bought the Limited Edition Hardcovers of The Most of It and Advice. . . , while Thunderbird and Madness, Rack, and Honey are paperbacks. Each binding is carefully designed to feel just right.
I’m looking forward to supporting this press with future purchases and praise – oh look! how ‘bout that, Mary Ruefle has a new collection of poetry called Trances of the Blast coming out next month from Wave Books.