Video of the Rhina Espaillat Symposium

Daniella Gitlin and the other wonderful volunteers at Word Up Bookshop in New York have made available videos of the Rhina Espaillat Symposium which took place in October. It was a memorable day. People came from as far away as Los Angeles to show their admiration and affection for Rhina, and she, of course, reflected all that loving energy right back on us. I’ve been comparing her to a mirror ball when I talk about what happened that day.

So much happened that day. These videos are studded with gems. Leslie Monsour borrowed John Tavano’s guitar to sing —beautifully— a song she’d composed using one of Rhina’s Spanish poems as lyrics. Harvard Professor Lorgia García Peña revealed that, ever since hearing Rhina read at Dartmouth over ten years ago,  she has carried Rhina’s poems with her as a daily source of inspiration. Paula Dietz of The Hudson Review celebrated her friendship with Rhina. The young scholar Dan-el Padilla Peralta delivered a riveting essay. Juan Matos read his poetry with a passion that moved even the Spanish-challenged, like myself. Nancy Kang and Silvio Torres-Saillant, authors of the first full-length study of Rhina’s life and work, presented new papers. It’s impossible to list all the treasures to be found in this trove. It’s worth coming back to, whenever you want to be reminded what literary community looks and feels like. Here’s a link to the links: Rhina Espaillat Symposium

A Frontier Romance

Wendy Ford, whom I am proud to call my student, has poured her heart and soul and hundreds of hours of painstaking composition into a narrative sequence based on the experience of her great-grandparents, early settlers of Wichita, Kansas.

You won’t go wrong if you judge this book by its terrific cover. Using the time-honored techniques of traditional verse, Ford has written a timeless love-story. Where most tales of romance come to a happy ending, this one is only beginning. Girl meets boy, they fall in love and live happily ever after —but what a life they live together! The man who’ll come to be known as Judge “Tiger Bill” Campbell and his “pioneer bride” Kate ride west, fleeing her irate father, to settle in Kansas—where not much is “settled.”  Drought and swarms of locusts destroy their crops; a cyclone tears an infant from them. Wildfires threaten their very existence. As judge, Tiger Bill must stand up to lawless gangs who threaten his life. Nothing, however, diminishes this couple’s love for one another; it spills over into love for their neighbors, as they feed the  hungry and defend the outsider. A love story, indeed!

Purchase A Frontier Romance from the publisher, Kelsay Books

Purchase from Amazon

Salem State University Writers Series

Alexandria Peary and Alfred Nicol

Oct. 15, 4:30-6 pm | MLK Room, Ellison Campus Center

352 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA 

Alexandria Peary is the author of six books, including The Water Draft (Spuyten Duyvil 2019), Prolific Moment: Theory and Practice of Mindfulness for Writing (Routledge 2018), and Control Bird Alt Delete (University of Iowa Press). Her work has received the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Slope Editions Book Prize, and the Joseph Langland Award from the Academy of American Poets. Maintaining a dual career in creative writing and composition-rhetoric, she has published over 150 shorter pieces in places including New American Writing, Gettysburg Review, Poetry Daily, the Poetry Foundation, Yale Review, North American Review, Boston Review, and Crazyhorse (literary) as well as College Composition and Communication, Rhetoric Review, and New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, and Pedagogy (scholarly). She is the history editor for the Journal of Creative Writing Studies and the Head Poetry Reader for Baltic.

Alfred Nicol’s most recent collection of poetry, Animal Psalms, was published in 2016 by Able Muse Press. He has published two other collections, Elegy for Everyone (2009), and Winter Light, which received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New England Review, Dark Horse, First Things, Commonweal, The Formalist, The Hopkins Review, Measure and many other literary journals and anthologies. Nicol’s poem “Addendum” was included in the 2018 edition of The Best American Poetry.

Brief Accident of Light

Rhina and I are thrilled to announce that Kelsay Books has published Brief Accident of Light !

Brief Accident of Light is a collection of twenty poems, ten by Rhina P. Espaillat and ten by Alfred Nicol. The poems were written for an arts collaboration initiated by Newburyport Chamber Music Festival Director David Yang. Mr. Yang, a distinguished violist and composer, made a list of emblematic locations in and around the city of Newburyport, and assigned to each location a specific time of day or night. He first commissioned composer Robert Bradshaw to write a new piece for string quartet drawing its inpiration from those locations. Mr. Yang then invited Espaillat and Nicol to visit each spot at the specified time and to give voice to their experiences in a series of poems. Because the poets chose to make their visits together, most of the poems gathered here are paired —a reader will hear two voices emanating from each place, as when two birds perch in the same tree.

The two poets found themselves a little taken aback by the way these poems seemed to write themselves. One can only surmise that the spirits of City Hall and Oak Hill Cemetery really had something they needed to express, and were only waiting for an opportunity! A poet can get carried away when that kind of thing happens. You’ll see that there are four unpaired poems in this collection—“Waking Up,” “Fly-By: The Newburyport Art Association,” “The Closing Year,” and “Fog at Night”—each resulting from one or the other poet writing from a place not mentioned on the original list.

In keeping with the collaborative nature of this project, Kate Sullivan was invited to illustrate the collection with images of the sites mentioned in the poems. She too got caught up in the spirit of Mr. Yang’s vision, and contributed the celebratory ink-wash sketches the reader will happen upon, turning these pages.

Order Brief Accident of Light directly from Kelsay Books.

Purchase Brief Accident of Light at Jabberwocky Bookstore.

Purchase Brief Accident of Light at Amazon.


			

The Catholic child’s imagination

Here is the blurb I wrote for Kathleen Rice’s memoir, Households, now available at Amazon.com. This is her second book; the first, also self-published, sold over 139,000 copies!

“This delightful book reminds me of something the poet A. E. Stallings said: ‘All grown-up reading is trying to get back into the secret garden of childhood reading.’ Whoever opens to the first pages of House Holds will find a short-cut to that secret garden. The story titles are an entertainment in themselves. The epigraph from Barbara Kingsolver is perfect. The drawings are terrific (What a concept in this day and age, an illustrated book for adults!). Best of all is the voice of the storyteller, as mischievous and affectionate as the young girl whose stories she tells. Of all the memorable characters we’re introduced to in these first-person narratives, the I of the narrator is my favorite, a fully-realized human being, totally alive— physically, mentally, and even spiritually. I don’t know of anyone who captures the Catholic child’s imagination as well as Kathleen Rice does.”