Wednesday Jun 19

The bustle of a new school year has begun already here at East Carolina University. As has been the case for the last three years, the new school year brings as well the Putting together the monthly issues of the Congeries is a lot of work, a lot!  The column is assembled on a by-solicitation-only basis, which means that I spend hours poring through literary journals for fresh new poets and many additional hours trying to find contact information for writers I wish to ask for work.  Many of these folks don’t wish to be found; they either don’t care to be solicited or are solicited so much it hurts.  I’m tenacious.  I often have to trace a poet’s travels from one school to another, navigate dead leads, and ask others for help in locating the target.  Some I have to cajole for months, even years, but I keep at it.  I’m a pain in the ass. 

To tell you the truth, coming up with a big-time September Congeries is harder than it is for most other months.  It’s exponentially difficult to find poets willing to read his or her email during the summer and, often if I do manage to get through, the poet asks if it’s okay if they send work in a few months.  This is because, by summer, most poets have already placed the good stuff elsewhere, in other journals, and they’re using the summer months to write more poems.  It’s hard.  I don’t get paid for this, but I kinda like Ken, so I do it for free drinks and other trinkets.  Keep ‘em coming, Ken.

I’ve not let on about something.  I’ll tell you now: I’ve not published the same poet twice.  Yes, I’ve published work from the same translators, but of different poets.  And, yes, Denise Duhamel appears once solo and once with co-written poems, but that’s it by my reckoning.  I’d like to keep that going as long as I can.  So, you folks who’ve already been asked, please send me poems. 

But this year I was smart.  I had one holdover already in the bag; these are the three wonderful poems from the wonderful Jericho Brown.  Congratulations to Jericho on his new job as an Assistant Professor at Emory, where he’ll have, um, Natasha Trethewey and Kevin Young as colleagues.  Killer.  And so it goes.  In July, I was on the faculty of the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop with several old friends, one being Mary Ann Samyn, whom I’d published previously as an editor of Kestrel some years ago.  I asked, and I received.  Congratulations to Mary Ann on winning the 2012 FIELD Poetry Prize for her manuscript entitled My Life In Heaven, which will be published next spring.  A year ago, I taught a class on Black Woman Writers, Brooks to Trethewey, and naturally the class spent a lot of time discussing the Black Arts Movement, how it affected the work of Brooks, how the next generation, the Rita Doves, had to confront and move ahead from that historic and ground-moving moment.  It led me to think about what might be up with Haki Madhubuti these days; it led me to ask for poems and an interview.  And here they are.  I’d been meaning to ask Lisa Russ Spaar for poems for a while, but I kept spacing it.  I was tooling around Facebook, saw her name mentioned somewhere, and wrote to her right away.  Thanks, Lisa, for these wonderful poems!  Simon Perchik and I have never met, though our poems have appeared in the same journal on several occasions.  The poems of his that I’ve been reading for so long have always been titled *.  Yep, just by an asterisk; I love quirky writers, and his good poems are not well-enough known because, well, he’s not an academic and so doesn’t have access to the machinery that my fellow academic poets and I so enjoy.  Jennifer Key I met via email.  Until recently, Jennifer taught at a small North Carolina College, Pembroke, and I had emailed her about the possibility of me giving a reading there as I passed by on my way to a reading in South Carolina.  The reading never happened but, again on Facebook, I saw a posting that mentioned Jennifer had just won the 2012 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry.  Did she have some poems left unpublished?  She did.  Congratulations to her!  Edward Morin has published translations in the Congeries, but I wanted to see his own poems, and here’s a good one.  Finally, John Martino is an old classmate from West Virginia days.  We took a workshop together, one taught by the amazing Jim Harms.  Ben Doyle, later a Walt Whitman Award-winning poet, was also in the class.  John has focused on his photography in recent years (check it out at his web site!), but I didn’t know he had kept up with his writing and was back at it with new vigor.  I love the Beat-inflected overlay of “What the Driver Said,” the tempered simplicity of “Dirt.”

Thanks to my loyal readers; where would I be without you?  Thanks to all of you new readers, too.  Welcome, strap up, and enjoy the ride.  No one’s in it for the money.  October will bring, by the way, yet another Pulitzer Prize winner to A Poetry Congeries. Yep.