New and Noteworthy
Taking What I Like: Stories **FREE Download of 1st Story for a Limited Time!**
by Linda Bamber
For a limited time, you can download "Casting Call," the first short story in the collection, for FREE! Click here to download, or preview the story below.
"Casting Call" by Linda Bamber, from Taking What I Like
Othello is the only minority member of the Department, so Desdemona, currently serving as Department Chair, is running an affirmative action search. A likely candidate reminds her of Othello in the old days, before he smothered her to death with a pillow; against her will, she develops a crush on the new guy. Iago gets into the act, stirring up mischief as before. Will it all end in tears once again? Read "Casting Call," one of eight stories in Linda Bamber's new collection, to find out. You'll find yourself caught between laughter and suspense as you encounter these and other familiar characters from Antony and Cleopatra to Henry IV, from Jane Eyre to real-life American artist Thomas Eakins.
Linda Bamber has combined her love of fiction from the past with her propensity to shake things up, taking what she likes and gleefully sharing it with us. As entertaining and contemporary as these stories are, they also remind us what we, too, love about the classic texts she takes apart and reassembles. Bamber's tales, like the best translations, exist independently while reminding us not to forget the plays and novels they treat. Alternating between admiration and attitude, the stories layer their plots with commentary, history, and politics, pausing as they build only to make room for the sanity and wit of the authorial voice. Emotional and genuine, these stories are also playful, inventive, and hilariously funny. From her long study of the Bard, Bamber has absorbed some of Shakespeare's own empathy, understanding, and expressive flair. It is not too much to say that her work takes its place in the same literary sphere as the works it engages.
Linda Bamber teaches in the English Department of Tufts University. Her poetry collection, Metropolitan Tang, was published by Black Sparrow/ Godine and Comic Women, Tragic Men, a scholarly book on Shakespeare, by Stanford University Press. She lives in Cambridge Massachusetts.
Praise for Taking What I Like
Like the best and most memorable teachers Bamber brings the past to bear on the present in ways that inform and exhilarate.
Author Ben Fountain chose Taking What I Like as one of his recommended reads for 2013—check out the full interview on NPR here.
by Naomi Replansky
Nominated for the National Book Award in 1952, Naomi Replansky's first book Ring Song dazzled critics with its candor and freshness of language. Here at long last is the new and collected work of a lifetime by a writer hailed as "one of the most brilliant American poets" by George Oppen. Replansky is a poet whose verse combines the compression of Emily Dickinson, the passion of Anna Akhmatova, and the music of W.H. Auden. These poems, which Marie Ponsot calls "sixty years of a free woman's song," are Replansky's hymns to the struggle for justice and equality and to the enduring beauty of life in our dangerous world.
Praise for Collected Poems
Naomi Replansky's poetry rings with reality and wisdom, and it is always song. Her observant, political wit and gravity are as piercing and as necessary now as ever – and I would say more so . . . her voice and her way of reading are among the very best we have.
Naomi Replansky is a major American poet, long overdue for acclaim. She writes skillfully, both in and out of strict form, crafting lines carefully, with concision and rare intensity. Her poems are the real thing; her collected work of a lifetime deserves the widest possible hearing.
—X. J. Kennedy
Here in a book, the work of a life. All the poet Naomi Replansky is here: the dry, quiet voice, the incantatory and familiar rhythms that are never quite what you think they are, the wit, the touch of comfort, and the tongue-lash, the modesty that entirely frees her from trend, and the audacity – above all the audacity, the risk-taking, the nerve of the woman! These poems bear honest witness to what it was to be alive, really alive, in the twentieth century, and I turn to them again and again for courage to face the dark opening of the twenty-first.
—Ursula Le Guin
The free and savvy poems of Naomi Replansky soar, in a speech that urgently affirms a strength we've almost forgotten we have. Clear as water and as necessary, they quicken our solitary selves. The light pulse of their instantly shared energy shows us each other and joins us in our eagerness to speak out as they do, against confusion. They are bold and embolden us. We hear the true polis alive under the dirty air of truthless ping and we participate in its power. To participate in power is freedom, Cicero says. These poems, proposing sixty years of a free woman's song, wake us up to it. Their cadences and claims uncover the given world and make us think. We do so willingly because the beat they keep is the rhythm of the heart.
Naomi Replansky . . . has gained much reverence as a major voice in American poetry for honest work and speaking with clarity.
—The Midwest Book Review
Read The Huffington Post's profile of Naomi Replansky.
This title is now available as an eBook through Google Play.
by Don Share
What strikes a reader first encountering Don Share's work is the electric energy of his lines, their contemporary music and movement. Reading Wishbone, Share's third book, is akin to picking up the one clear station still transmitting, the frenetic static of the world replaced by a strong signal broadcast. Share's poems are contrapuntal ripostes to the Babel of the present, a voice not above the noise, but speaking from its midst in a self-possessed language that muscles a new way into meaning. The poems take place in America's backyards and byways, intensive care rooms and airports, haunted by fathers and Fathers, informed by philosophy, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and pop culture. One finds the poet there too, less his portrait than a self-deprecating likeness in the crowd (the Renaissance master in the corner of the canvas) decrying and defending, his "umbrella out and Cubs cap on . . . curiously Odyssean in the Loop," and always at the ready.
Don Share is senior editor of Poetry magazine in Chicago. His books include Squandermania (Salt Publishing, 2007), Union (Zoo Press, 2002), and Seneca in English (Penguin Classics, 1998). His critical edition of Basil Bunting's poems is forthcoming from Faber and Faber, as well as Bunting's Persia from Flood Editions. His translations of Miguel Hernández, collected in I Have Lots of Heart (Bloodaxe Books, 1997), were awarded the Times Literary Supplement Translation Prize, the Premio Valle Inclán, and the P.E.N./New England "Discovery" Award.
Praise for Wishbone
Don Share's work is compressed as a haiku, intent as a tanka, witty as a sonnet, witless as a song, relentless as an exposé, patter without pretension . . . his elegant poetry, exposed as a haiku, expansive as a renga, boisterous as a bridge, happy as Delmore Schwartz with Lou Reed and vice versa, vivacious as the living day . . . built out of attention, music and sight.
The poet's awareness of how daily life refuses to cohere into a consoling pattern is beautifully mirrored by his conviction that language itself signals a fall from grace and unity and emotional wholeness.
Share is one of the more gifted craftsmen we have writing in America today.
—Erin Belieu, Boston Review
[Don Share] is sage and deeply hilarious.
Few poets manage such dexterous and fresh music.
These poems achieve a moving sense of cosmic desperation.
Well Then There Now
by Juliana Spahr
Accretion, articulation, exploration, transformation, naming, sentiment, private and public property – these are just a few of Juliana Spahr's interests. In this, her third collection of poetry, we find her performing her characteristic magic, turning these theoretical concerns into a poetic odyssey.
From her first poem, written in Honolulu, Hawaii, to the last, written in Berkeley, California, about her childhood in Appalachia, Spahr takes us on a wild patchwork journey backwards and forwards in time and space, tracking change – in ecology, society, economies, herself. Through a collage of "found language," a deep curiosity about place, and a restless intelligence, Spahr demonstrates the vibrant possibilities of an investigatory poetics. This verse is more inclusive than exclusive; consistently Spahr includes grape varietals, the shrinking of public beachfront in Hawaii, endangered plant, fish, and wildlife species, the melting of the polar ice caps, and comparative poverty rates in her eclectic repertoire. She also knows how to sing – in the oldest tradition of poetry – of loss, and her lament for nature is the most keen.
We come into the world.
We come into the world and there it is.
The sun is there.
The brown of the river leading to the blue and the brown
of the ocean is there.
Salmon and eels are there moving between the brown
and the brown and the blue.
The green of the land is there.
Elders and youngers are there.
We come into the world and we are there.
And we begin to breathe.
We come into the world and there it is.
We come into the world without and we breathe it in.
We come into the world and begin to move between the
brown and the blue and the green of it.
From "Gentle Now, Don't Add to Heartache"
Juliana Spahr is a poet, scholar, and editor. Among her previous works are This Connection of Everyone with Lungs (University of California, 2005), and The Transformation (Atelos, 2007).
Praise for Well Then There Now
Spahr's fifth book of imaginative writing (both poems and prose) should be a blockbuster, a lasting disturbance; a work of crisp wit, bizarre conjunctions and ultimately enduring moral authority; it is also the best, and perhaps the most widely accessible, thing that Spahr has done.
Juliana Spahr taught at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, from 1997 to 2003. Her autobiographical novel The Transformation (2007) remembers how she and her closest friends became excited about Hawaiian ethnic nationalism, despite its efforts to exclude them, because it held some "possibility of escape from large systemic limitations. They too were trying to escape from large systems, from limitations on relation…. And while they had never indulged in the misunderstanding that art and music and literature could be independent of politics, [their] goosebumps were a reminder that they had a lot to learn." In Well Then There Now Spahr shows what she learned. She is now a professor at Mills College in Oakland, California, but most of her new book dwells on her time in Hawaii, and it is by far the most detailed and satisfying of her four collections of poems. Five of its eight works concern the islands; all eight speak to the mixed emotions, or new emotions, that Spahr's insistent attention to large systems—money, language, climate, geography—recommends.
Her poems seem particularly vital at the moment not just for the pleasure inherent in their forms of language, but also for the challenge posed by their focus on community. Spahr tests and rejects any separation between intimate passion and general policy. In her poems, love does not resist the world beyond; love lets it in.
—Los Angeles Review of Books
Across mountains and oceans, Juliana Spahr spins her original upbringing into a fine assortment of poetry.
—The Midwest Book Review
by Eddie Chuculate
One stormy night in 1826, just north of Galveston Bay, Old Bull, a Cheyenne Indian who had just seen the ocean for the first time, found himself trying to outrace a hurricane. Lifted from his horse, spun around, and thrown down in the bayou, Old Bull rode the current into a small canyon, and survived. He was the only one of his party to return from the expedition, arriving home nearly naked, nearly hallucinating, riding a horse.
Such is the auspicious beginning to the life of Jordan Coolwater, a distant relation to Old Bull, whom we meet as a boy in the 1970s, shooting turtles on a summer day, and being raised by his grandparents on Creek Indian land in the house of his great-great-grandfather, a survivor of the "Trail of Tears." Bearing the burden of his ancestry, Jordan Coolwater—from bored young boy, to thoughtful teenager, struggling artist, escaped convict, and finally, father—is the subject of Eddie Chuculate's prize-winning collection of linked short stories. The first story in the collection, "Galveston Bay, 1826," won an O'Henry Prize in 2007, and the second, "Yo Yo," received a Pushcart Prize Special Mention.
Reminiscent of Denis Johnson's Jesus's Son, Chuculate's gritty, deceptively simple stories also recall Junot Diaz and Jim Harrison. This is not only a portrait of a young Native American artist struggling with the two constants in his life, alcohol and art, but also a portrait of America, of its dispossessed, its outlaws, and its visionaries.
Praise for Cheyenn Madonna
Chuculate presents a profound disconnect between the mythology of Indian art and the present-day reality of Indian artists, who rarely get to be artists without the cultural qualifier. He also lays bare the effects of wide-spread multi-generational addiction without making excuses for the way his characters treat each other. There are no saints in here, and no demons, either. Cheyenne Madonna is a fantastic debut.
—Jennifer Levin, The Santa Fe New Mexican
Chuculate writes forthright prose in a somber key, examining without judgment the lives of Native American characters like Old Bull, a Cheyenne who, in 'Galveston Bay, 1826,' the collection's one stand-alone story, ventures out to see the ocean for the first time, only to get savaged by a hurricane. Memory and will converge here to powerful effect.
It is an extraordinary book, deceptively simple; each of the stories proves satisfactory on its own, but as a whole they combine to make an incredibly moving book. . . . The great miracle is that Chuculate's prose somehow manages to be vibrantly emotional without ever becoming sentimental. The writing is steady, contained, and calm, but each story feels authentic, beautiful, and almost effortless, as if the tales had always been floating in the ether around Eddie Chuculate's head, and one night he simply plucked them down and pressed them smoothly onto the pages of Cheyenne Madonna.
—Rain Taxi Review of Books
Every sentence is unexpected, yet infallible…. The calm, beautiful, unexplaining accuracy of description carries us right through the madness of the final adventure.
—Ursula K. Le Guin, author of The Left Hand of Darkness
This is a book you'll rave about.
—Julie Shigekuni, author of A Bridge Between Us
Eddie Chuculate is Creek and Cherokee Indian from Muskogee, Oklahoma. He has a degree in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and is the second Native American to have held the Wallace Stegner fellowship at Stanford. He lives in Oklahoma.
This title is now available as an eBook through Google Play, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other eBook retailers.
Door to the River
by Aram Saroyan
"I grew up the son of a famous writer, grew up in his shadow in a general sense, except for two fortuitous graces ... the first, that astrologically speaking I had many planets in Leo and so I was absurdly full of confidence, when I wasn't struck numb with my own incapacities. And the other, and perhaps the decisive factor, was that I had the honor of being a member of the generation that came of age in the sixties." So begins Aram Saroyan's essay, "Occupation: Writer," about his vocation, the sixties generation, and the fundamental task of coming to understand himself not as the son of William Saroyan but as his own person. Saroyan found his calling as a writer early on, starting out as a poet, and going on to write op-ed pieces, reviews, novels, biographies, memoirs, screenplays, and plays. In this essay and others included here, he explores the diYcult task of finding one's way as a writer: the ongoing search for the various doors which must be opened in order to renew one's resources and access the river of creativity.
Both the contemporaneous essays and the earlier reviews from the 1970s, '80s and '90s assess major and minor cultural figures from the generation of which Saroyan himself was so much a representative member, and recall a time when being an independent writer was feasible, when even a young author could hone his craft and critical sensibility through book reviews and op-ed pieces.
In these works, Saroyan contends for books that make for good companionship, what Jack Kerouac decreed was the true test of a book. In Saroyan's engaging and always engaged company, with the likes of Andy Warhol and Charles Mingus, Robert Creeley and Ted Berrigan, Joan Didion and Gore Vidal, Door to the River is good companionship as well.
Praise for Door to the River
A writer who looks deeply into himself and his own experience, confronts what he finds there with real courage and reports what he has experienced with a measure of candor that is both breathtaking and, at moments, heartbreaking.
— Jonathan Kirsch, L.A. Times
Covering his work throughout his life including his discussions of America after September 11th, Aram Soroyam provides an intellectual and scholarly set of thoughts. An excellent addition to literary and literary criticism collections, Door to the River proves to be a highly valuable collection.
—Midwest Book Review
SALE ITEM ~ Jazz and Twelve O'Clock Tales
by Wanda Coleman
Regular Price: $22.95
Sale Price: $10.00
Wanda Coleman: winner of the Poetry Society of America's 2012 Shelley Memorial Award!
Poets who can write prose that equals their poetry are rare. Wanda Coleman, Los Angeles's unofficial poet laureate, proves with this collection of thirteen new short stories an exception to the rule yet again. Jazz and Twelve O'Clock Tales owes its title to the lyrics of "Lush Life" by Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington's right-hand man. Like the heartbroken lover in Strayhorn's song, the characters in these stories lead lonely lives full of longing and potential stifled by racism, poverty, and absurd accidents of fate. And yet, even though they are trapped by the present moment, their inner lives are lush, a mirror of the city of angels in which they live, a metropolis, "always simmering," as Coleman writes in the final story, "ever waiting to be borne on that balmy promised crescendo."
Coleman applies a poet's economy of words to her fiction, setting a scene with lightning-quick strokes, letting a detail, a dialogue, or the brisk vernacular speak for itself. Or, alternatively, she will step in and take center stage, an omniscient voice seeing beyond the impending and inevitable tragedy, but powerless to change either narrative or outcome. Powerless, that is, only within the bounds of the story, for Coleman is an author devoted to change, personal and political, writing to affect the balance of power in America. "Nothing will satisfy me," she has written, "short of an open society and social parity."
Listen to the NPR review of Jazz & Twelve O'Clock Tales from "All Things Considered."
Read a review of Jazz & Twelve O'Clock Tales at the San Francisco Gate.
Praise for Jazz and Twelve O'Clock Tales
Every story in Jazz and Twelve O' Clock Tales conveys a fresh verbal improvisation, an unexpected lightness, and the sure understanding of the complexity of the world. Wanda Coleman is a poet and a musician.
—Maryse Condé, author of The Story of the Cannibal Woman and Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?
Wanda Coleman is a distinctive and original voice in American letters. I love the way that she can combine the poetic and the conversational modes, the delicate way she balances between the comic and the tragic, the sly, insinuating complexity that runs under the surface of seemingly straightforward situations. The stories in Jazz and Twelve O' Clock Tales are inimitable creations—as is Wanda Coleman herself. She is a national treasure.
—Dan Chaon, author of You Remind Me of Me and Among the Missing
BOOK GROUP RESOURCES
- Listen to Billy Strayhorn's song "Lush Life," from which Wanda Coleman drew the title for this book.
- Take a look at the other Godine books by Wanda Coleman.
SALE ITEM ~ Holocaust
by Charles Reznikoff
Regular Price: $15.95
Sale Price: $8.00
Black Sparrow is proud to restore to print one of the great long poems of the late 20th century, Charles Reznikoff's Holocaust, originally published in 1975.
Reznikoff's subject is people's suffering at the hand of another. His source materials are the U.S. government's record of the trials of the Nazi criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal and the transcripts of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. Except for the twelve part titles, none of the words here are Reznikoff's own: instead he has created, through selection, arrangement, and the rhythms of the testimony set as verse on the page, a poem of witness by the perpetrators and the survivors of the Holocaust. He lets the terrible history unfold – in history's own words.
Reznikoff's technique, says David Lehman, "contradicts the very faculty of understanding. He lets reality speak for itself, lets it state the externals of the thing or event, and leaves unspoken (or edits out) the emotions, which the reader may be counted on to provide for himself."
Few readers will forget the emotions they bring to Holocaust.
The son of Russian garment workers, Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) was a blood-and-bone New Yorker, a collector of images and stories who walked the city from Bronx to Battery and breathed the soul of the Jewish immigrant experience into a lifetime of poetry.
By the Waters of Manhattan
by Charles Reznikoff
By the Waters of Manhattan was Charles Reznikoff's first novel, published in 1930 by Charles Boni in New York. Part family saga, part bildungsroman, and part unrequited love story, the novel follows the lives of a Jewish family at the turn of the century from Elizavetgrad, Russia to Brownsville, Brooklyn, birthplace of the novel's protagonist, Ezekiel, a young poet in search of ways to feed his stomach and his soul. Like Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, and Henry Roth, Reznikoff's subject is as much the great island of Manhattan, as it is its inhabitants.
"The title By the Water of Manhattan identifies Reznikoff just as the title Leaves of Grass (which remained the same over the years while the contents of the book grew and changed) identifies Walt Whitman. Both Whitman and Reznikoff are singers and chroniclers of the American island, the name of which derives from the language (Manna-hatta) of its aboriginal inhabitants. Reznikoff's title also includes an allusion to the waters of Babylon beside which the prophet sat down and wept. The American Jew, who had been born in Brooklyn in 1894 and whose parents had emigrated from Czarist Russia some years before that date, evidently felt, like the hero of one of the novels of George Gissing, that he had been 'born in exile'. But the reader should not, on this account, be expecting a tearful immigrant narrative, for if Reznikoff was a student of the Bible he was also a student of another student of the Bible, the philosopher Spinoza. From this stoic master, he had learned neither to laugh nor cry but to try to understand."
—Milton Hindus, "Charles Reznikoff's First Novel: By the Waters of Manhattan"
from Essays: Personal and Impersonal (BSB)
Praise for By the Waters of Manhattan
Happily, Black Sparrow has reprinted this remarkable novel, which could be read as a one sitting page-turner, or as the text for a semester-long course on the immigrant experience . . . Readers familiar with Reznikoff 's poetry will recognize his alter ego's struggles with the world of publishing; readers curious about the immigrant experience will add this classic to their shelves alongside Yezierska's novels and other great chronicles of the making of America.
—Jewish Book World
Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) writes prose like a poet, indeed he is one, with his rock-hard choice of words styled into deceptively simple sentences. Deceptive because when juxtaposed, each sentence accelerating into the next, they relay condensed lives, jammed with emotion, kin, and striving. Lopate's tender and eloquent introduction sets the record straight for this under-acknowledged literary master: '...the shocks of fortune laid out and the aftershocks allowed to register in the reader's mind, with no attempt to milk emotion.
—Betsy Sussler, BOMB Magazine, 2009
I am thrilled with it. This book has so much in it that marks Reznikoff as a first-rate artist.
—William Carlos Williams
Mr. Reznikoff's work is remarkable and original in American literature. . . . He has written the first story of the Jewish immigrant that is not false.
BOOK GROUP RESOURCES
- Visit Charles Reznikoff's unoffical website.
- Listen to Charles Reznikoff read some of his poems.
This title is now available as an eBook through Google Play.
- Read a blog post on the Jewish Book Council Blog.
The son of Russian garment workers, Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) was a blood-and-bone New Yorker, a
collector of images and stories who walked the city from Bronx to Battery and
breathed the soul of the Jewish immigrant experience into a lifetime of poetry.
SALE ITEM ~ Metropolitan Tang
by Linda Bamber
Regular Price: $17.95
Sale Price: $10.00
Metropolitan Tang is Cambridge poet Linda Bamber's first book of poetry, a debut that is erudite and sassy, urban and urbane. Whether she is examining the breakup of her marriage or watching bulls in a field, considering Derrida's concepts of "presence" or her hairdresser's less theoretical philosophy, Bamber receives stimuli as indiscriminately as an antenna, all eyes and ears; then her sharp and curious mind gets to work, turning over images and ideas until she finds their proper relations, making meaning out of random juxtapositions, sense out of chaos, or, if nothing else, a good joke out of a bad situation. Most first books of poetry are tentative experiments in voice; Bamber's voice, sensitive and, at the same time, wry, is clear throughout, uniquely hers and eminently likeable.
Praise for Metropolitan Tang
As a reader I have often wished, over the years, for a female poet in the style of [Frank] O'Hara: bopping but sincere, Humanistic and grounded but exuberant and irreverent. Linda Bamber may be that person.
Jamie Is My Heart’s Desire
by Alfred Chester
Surreal and unflinchingly true to life, at once light, witty and imbued with heavy existential angst. . . Sometimes brutal and hilariously waspish, but always humane.
Alfred Chester's masterpiece, The Exquisite Corpse, was one of the literary sensations of the 1960s, a surreal, homoerotic phantasmagoria that became a cult classic. It was preceded by this, his only other novel, a work more straitlaced in literary form but just as shockingly original in content. It tells the story of a cynical Brooklyn undertaker, Harry, and the object of his affection, a beautiful and deceased young man named Jamie. But does Jamie really exist, or is he merely Harry's fantasy, the illusion that makes his life endurable? Harry's friends are divided on this matter, and Chester leaves it to his readers to decide. We are proud to republish this upside-down take on the transforming powers of love, out of print since the late 1950s.
Praise for Jamie Is My Heart's Desire
—Sam Jordison, Guardian Unlimited (UK)
This title is now available as an eBook through Google Play. Alfred Chester was, in the words of Gore Vidal, "a glorious writer, tough as nails." His other books include The Exquisite Corpse (Black Sparrow Books, 2004), Head of a Sad Angel (stories, 1990), and Looking for Genet (essays, 1992). Born in Brooklyn in 1928, he died in Tel Aviv in 1971.