The Wise Owl and Poets’ Quarterly

Yesterday, I read at The Wise Owl Bookstore in West Reading, and if you’re in the area, I recommend stopping there. It’s a quaint bookstore with a lot of contemporary fiction, some classic literature, a little poetry and drama, and some non-fiction. The books range from new to used, and the store also has some $5 bag sales.

Each month, the owner books a few author events and other activities, and you can find out more info by clicking here. Visiting that store made me miss the used bookstores I used to frequent when I lived in West Chester and the Philly area, and it made me long for Anthology New and Used books, which was a staple of a Scranton literary community for a few years, before it closed last year. You never know what gems you’ll find at indie bookstores.

I was joined yesterday by poet Dawn Leas and fiction writers Gale Martin and Barb Taylor. They did a wonderful job reading, and we had an attentive, enthusiastic audience that asked some good questions regarding our writing process, publishing, and inspiration after our reading.

Here is a picture of all the readers.


I also want to share some other news. Poets’ Quarterly just relaunched, and you should check it out. The journal is unique because it does not publish any actual poetry, but rather interviews with poets, book reviews, and critical essays. I was named one of the contributing editors to the journal a few months ago, and I’m happy to have a review and essay in the new issue. The review is of Sandee Gertz Umbach’s debut collection of poems The Pattern Maker’s Daughter. If you are into working-class poetry, check out her work and the review by clicking here. The essay I wrote is about the musical influences of  Patricia Smith, Major Jackson, and Kevin Coval, and how hip-hop, jazz, and the blues has influenced the form and content of their poetry. You check out that essay here.  Read the rest of the issue too because it’s packed with a lot of great content.

L’vis Lives!

Kevin Coval is one of my favorite poets on the contemporary American poetry scene. He is the co-founder of Louder than a Bomb, a youth poetry festival in Chicago that works with high school students, and he is the author of three collections of poems, the latest L’Vis Lives, published in 2011 by Haymarket Books. What I like about Coval’s work is his reference to contemporary music, especially hip-hop, which shapes the form and content of some of his work. I also like the theme and thread of identity that weaves his three collections together. His first book, Slingshops:A Hip-Hop Poetica, certainly has the hip-hop references, but it also has several poems that address his own identity being Jewish and white. His second collection, Everyday People, is a praise song to the working-class that populate Chicago, and his latest collection addresses the white black boys, meaning white suburban kids into hip-hop.

As a regular book reviewer for PANK, I had the chance to review Coval’s latest book of poems, and I was struck by how honest, brave, and bold these poems are, how they address the fact white people made a lot of money co-opting black culture. And at the heart of the collection is again the issue of identity. You can read my review of L’Vis Lives online by clicking here, and check out Coval’s work because he doesn’t run from the truth.

Here is a video of Coval performing quite a few of his newer poems. Enjoy!