Auld Lang Syne

Friday, July 29, 2011

3 new books/a visit to Bear Pond Books

So here I am in Vermont, home of the Happy Hilltop (Vermont College of Fine Arts). I am in Vt to visit my former college roommate from the 60s who lives in Barre. We try to get together once a year here and once a year in Maine. I've known her hubby since then too as they were dating in college. Long story short, I love coming here and spending time with them (my hubby loves them too and we have a great time together). I also get to go over to Montpelier and up to the college for a bit. Today I took a copy of my newest book to give to the MFA Library for the Alumni section.

As usual, I made a visit to Bear Pond Books, down the hill from school. They always seem to have a few titles I cannot find elsewhere. Today's finds were:

1. Freight by Sondra Upham, a chapbook put out by Slapering Hol in 2000. I'd not seen it anywhere before. The poems are wonderful, as much as I have read so far. Marie Ponsot (whose poems I admire greatly) picked this chapbook as the winner of the competition that year. I wonder how it is we don't get these little gems widely distributed to more bookstores. I've not been disappointed in the ones I've stumbled upon over the years. I'd like to sign up to read special little chapbooks like this one, to be the official chap reader!

2. The Paper Rose by Tom Absher. This collection was published in 2007 by Plain View Press (Austin TX). I have read a few Poems this evening and recommend one in particular: Mrs. Townsend. It is about a person coming in on an autopsy of an elderly lady. Now I have to say I have seen autopsies and helped embalm one of my patients (nursing school, 1982). The poem is spot on in details and yet seems so lovely. Hard to explain. You have to read it. I also recommend Alternative Service, a wonderful and rich telling of what it is like to be an orderly, "doing the dirty work of the sacred." Really you must read these wondrous poems.

3. The Good Kiss by George Bilgere. This was published by University of Akron Press in 2002. The poems are at once personal and universal, bring the American culture of the 50s and onward alive on every page. Some of the poems are written in the voice of a small child, some are written in the more autoritative voice of the grown man. All are written with the eye of one whose life was a panorama of tones and shadows, matter and ether. Absher is brilliant at recreating the simple mystery of the past within the complicated landscape of the present. I keep wanting to read lines over and over just to see how they feel in my brain as I read them.

OK, lest you think I am all poetry and nothing else, I also bought a sci-fi novel by Philip K. Dick (one I had not seen before) and the 2011 Poets Market. Let's just say it was a full day at the bookstore.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Coffee shops and bookstores

It is a well-established tradition (hmmm, how long?) that bookstores and coffee shops co-exist. I've always wanted to own/operate one. I got smarter and decided a while ago that I just want to go to them. Kinda like my B & B fantasy. At any rate, we have a BS/CS entity here in Rockland that has long been an anchor in the community, a place of good food (except for the plethora of chick peas ... I ask WHY?) and of reading and writing. Now it has closed for a week to move to a new location (one door down from current location). I will be heading over there later today to help out. What I want to say here is this: we need to support Indie Bookstores and their partner coffee shops. Borders is apparently closing and selling itself to the lowest bidders (liquidations sales). Who knows about Barnes & Noble. But really? How warm are they? Do they know your reading preferences or how you like your coffee? Do they know in advance you will pick chips over chickpea salad offerings? I think not.

My favorite indie bookstore is Prairie Lights in Iowa City. They have the BEST poetry selections I have ever seen. They will do online orders. They have a great coffee area upstairs with tables you can inhabit for hours at a time (have done this). During the summer, they broadcast author readings live on NPR (we worry about them too with the current trend against funding arts).

And when I am in Vermont I go to Bear Pond Books. This is a great spot too, although they do not have coffee or tables and chairs for writing. They are fiercely protective of our reading privacy. When the government was thinking of invading the book industry to track our reading preferences, BPB kept NO records of our purchases to have NOTHING for them to track. Gotta love that.

But I don't live in Iowa or Vermont. I live here in Maine. I have hello hello books and Rock City Cafe. Now this is no sacrifice. I don't mean to sound as if I am "settling" or taking sloppy seconds. Not at all. I am pleased to go there, to spend writing time there, to buy books, trade in books, meet with friends over coffee and tri-berry pie. I love the soups and sandwiches there. It is a destination. It is my place.

So, wherever you are, go into your local bookstore and inhale the atmosphere. Thank the owners and workers for being there, for fighting the good fight for literacy and intelligence. BUY books. READ voraciously so you need to buy more books. DONATE books to school libraries.

Have a latte today and think of Rock City and hello, hello books. They will be open next week for our next adventure in reading and sipping.