27 June 2013

Review: Bat & Man: A Sonnet Comic Book, by Chad Parmenter

Contrary to the assumptions of non-poets, we do (frequently) stray from Wordsworth and Coleridge in our reading regimen. We don’t always take ourselves quite so seriously. It’s good for the brain. We even indulge in the occasional comic book or graphic novel, the latest action-hero blockbuster movie. When these experiences get under our skin and mingle with the high-literary voices in our heads, I imagine what comes out is something like Chad Parmenter’s Bat & Man: A Sonnet Comic Book.

The subtitle of this work is very apt: the Batman legend retold Shakespearean—although, admittedly, the sonnets mostly follow the Petrarchan rhyme scheme rather than the Elizabethan. A wonderful juxtaposition of high and low brow literary themes. It is also a conversation between two people about dreams (nightmares) and a tortured memory of childhood.
It is a dream sequence, but it is also a coming-of-age story: repressed memories of a tortured early life and orphanhood rise to the surface. Parmenter’s Bruce Wayne begins life as a bat: from his conception to his birth; and then bats (and his parents’ mental unraveling) haunt his childhood. His time at the orphanage is represented by an ampersand (&) in the sequence of events/poems: an undefined in-between time. A cocoon, of sorts? And then comes “man,” the final stage of his transformation and his loss of innocence. The bats return here, and are half to blame for the horror that happens.

Could Batman have been a Shakespearean play? Probably. He is a tragic archetype of our times. A legend, like Robin Hood, although of the rich. The way Parmenter writes him, he comes closest to Hamlet: a son of riches (royalty), fallen and seeking vengeance, and going a bit mad along the way. Bruce Wayne wakes up from a series of nightmares and his Ophelia—Selina—implores him to tell her what happened in that head of his. Where did he go in those dreams? But unlike Ophelia, Selina has a secret sinister side that is revealed in the last two poems. The poems in this chapbook are a sequence, each first line is a question carried over from the previous sonnet’s ending. It is one story that starts as Bruce’s, but ends as Selina’s.

The settings and cultural references in these poems are all very contemporary and urban, but the language, especially considering it is staged as a dialogue, is much more literary than conversational. The way when I sit back and listen to a production of Hamlet, I think, “That’s gorgeous writing. But I would never actually talk like that.” It’s funny smashing “snack machine” and “Zorro” up against a stilted Shakespearean vernacular of “the whisper cave/ her prim lips made,” but I think it works. It creates a sort of friction that fuels the story and the poems. It is both modern and epic.

23 June 2013

International Typewriter Day 2013

Happy International Typewriter Day, one and all! 

I had my first IKEA shopping experience this Friday. It was a work expedition, but I brought along my own agenda as well: to buy a new work table for my bedroom, with the express purpose of holding up my trusty typewriter-sidekick, Hildegard. 

My other writing spaces haven't been feeling as fertile lately. And since my big, anxious dog has finally graduated from needing to be confined to her crate during the day, there was a significant amount of space freed up that seemed perfect for the creation of a brand-new writing station. And here it is!

Happy Typewriter Day to my best girl, Hildegard. (**wink wink**)

13 June 2013

Forthcoming: Imago, a chapbook

When I received the email today, I couldn't believe the words in front of my face:
"Thank you so much for sending this.  We love it and would be interested in publishing it during our 2014 series if that suits you, most likely sometime in January-March."
dancing girl press will be publishing my first chapbook Imago early next year. dancing girl press will be publishing my first chapbook Imago early next year?!  What?!

I am ecstatic. I am amazed. I am shocked. I am excited. But mostly I am attempting to suspend my disbelief. Because if I don't believe it, who else will?

I can't wait to see the fun collage-y cover design that dancing girl press's editor Kristy Bowen comes up with for my group of poems. And I can't wait to hold that little book in my hands. I am so humbled and proud to be a new addition to the wonderful dancing girl press chapbook series.

I'm also very flattered to have been among the first round of acceptances for this open reading period, as I learned from today's post on Kristy Bowen's blog, of which I have been an interested reader for the past couple of years:
"I've also made a good month's headway into our open reading period submissions and have made a few decisions, put aside a bunch to re-read later, and released some back into the wild.  We still have a couple months left, so I'm trying not to snatch up the first lovely things I see to make us way too full to accept anything that comes at the end.  Since I tend to take on what I want, it's not usually an issue, but this year's schedule is pretty tight all the way through November, which leaves less leeway for books published in 2014.  We also have our big 10 year anniversary coming up next year, which means a bit more craziness I'm planning.  It's hard to imagine that I've been doing this for 10 years and how much our little press has grown in that time."
Congratulations on ten years, dancing girl press! I hope there are many more years to come.

10 June 2013

The best bits

Well, I'm back! The West Chester University Poetry Conference was a four-day whirlwind and I am already missing some of the amazing people I met there. 

Although I must admit to some disappointment in my craft workshop on The Lyric, I think I was able to glean some very helpful bits of information to apply to my future writing. We read through this eye-opening essay by poet Elisa Gabbert called "The Moves: Common Maneuvers in Contemporary Poetry" in The Monkey & the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics, which I know I will be returning to again. This essay calls out 21 common "moves" used in the practice of contemporary poetry, of which we are all guilty. But guilt is not the idea. These "moves" aren't wrong except when they're abused in the name of bad poems. The object of this exercise was to become self-aware. By being aware of your own use of Gabbert's "moves," you are better able to use them with intent and understanding rather than as props to mask a lack of substance.

But the best bits of the Conference were the truly lovely people I met. During my first full day, I became friends with a small group who became like my Conference family: Bryanna Tidmarsh, Eileen Kinch, and Owen Grey, along with my good friend (and boss) Jehanne Dubrow. I am sad that it may be a year until I see them again. I certainly hope it is not.
Me, Eileen, Bryanna, and Owen at the Picnic on our last day
 Take care of yourselves. I can't wait to see you next year.


04 June 2013


Tomorrow I will be heading to my first-ever poetry conference: the 2013 West Chester University Poetry Conference. It has also been known as the West Chester Conference on Form and Narrative in Poetry, because of its specific focus on formalism. 

I will admit that I am definitely a bit nervous about the craft workshops. They will be such a mix of ages and experience-level (and it has been at least five years since I've been in a workshop setting). I have registered for poet David Yezzi's workshop on "The Lyric."

But I am also very excited to be entering this new phase of the poetry-life. A lot of networking tends to happens at this Conference, and of course there will readings and events to attend for pleasure when we are not sweating it out in our workshops.