New Pamela Johnson Parker collection

Pamela’s second chapbook of poetry, Other Four-Letter Words, is now available for pre-ordering from Finishing Line Press (scroll down; the titles are in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names). It’s scheduled to ship on September 24.

Parker named Tennessee Williams Scholar

Congratulations to Pamela for being named a Tennessee Williams Scholar by the Sewanee Writer’s Conference! Naturally, we’re hoping this translates into many more sales of A Walk Through the Memory Palace, but in any case we are immensely proud and gratified that they share our high opinion of Parker’s work.

In other news, Lawrence Gladeview’s review of Memory Palace is featured in the latest incarnation of MediaVirus Magazine.

Memory Palace featured on Read Write Poem-sponsored blog tour

We were honored to have A Walk Through the Memory Palace chosen for a virtual book tour on member blogs of the Read Write Poem social network (scroll down through the comments to see pingback links to blog posts in the tour).

Our favorite tour stop so far was at Jill Crammond Wickham’s blog, which featured an in-depth interview with Pamela. We were touched to learn, for example, how much it meant to her to see and hold the printed chapbook for the first time, and we were very surprised to find out where she got the idea of structuring it around a memory palace. Do go read.

James Brush at Coyote Mercury went into detail about memory palaces as part of his post for the blog tour. Then Daniel Romo wrote about his failure to connect with the book, and why he found it worthwhile to persist in learning from Parker’s writing anyway, at peyote soliloquies. Lawrence Gladeview shared his mostly positive respose at Righteous Rightings, and Sarah Jane Sloat had a similarly balanced assessment at her blog, The Rain in My Purse.

We’re grateful to all these reviewers for the depth, honesty, and variety of their responses, and look forward to the remaining blog-tour stops with great anticipation.

UPDATE: The final stops in the tour were at Dave Jarecki’s eponymous blog and Edible Detritus, David Moolten’s blog. (A review at another blog has since gone offline.) Moolten found that “the language is well crafted and delicately informed. Parker’s verse finds its power in gentle irony, quiet onomatopoeia and a lush though domestic lexicon.” Jarecki concluded, “With her calm language and quiet melancholy, [Parker] lets us build our own memories and name the emotions that come with them, reminding us of all the lovely things that make our time on earth so fleeting.”

Pamela Johnson Parker on how she put the chapbook together

The chapbook just got a new blog-review from Emily May Anderson, a poet and MFA student at Penn State. We appreciate her thoughtfulness and attention, and are of course happy she liked it.

She did have a few critical words about Pamela’s decision to include the last two poems. Every reader responds to a book differently, of course, and we respect that. As it happens, though, Pamela recently went into some detail about the process of pulling the chapbook together in a comment on her blog. Her remarks should be of interest to anyone who’s read the book, let alone other poets planning chapbooks of their own. And she concludes by mentioning that she has a second chapbook coming out this year! Here’s the comment in full:

I wanted the poems to move from an awareness of lust/ache that is a presence to an awareness of loss/ache that is an absence. I wanted a poem that basically worked through one scene to set the stage for the book. I wanted a poem that distanced its subjects through captions and had several memory palaces to end the book. I also wanted to go from the sensibility of being young and unaware to being all too aware of what it meant to lose what’s beloved.

I laid out all the poems that comprise my full length manuscript and pulled out about 25. I scrambled them around until I ended up with 10, which seemed like a good number. I knew what I wanted, but not exactly how to line them up. (I didn’t have my guardian angel, MFA mentor, Brian Barker, to help. He was a great help to me in organizing the first book-length manuscript).

I wanted the poems to resonate but not be too matchy-matchy. I made a list of images—here’s flowers, here’s a pathway, here’s a garden, here’s a fish, here’s water—and then tried to make something organic out of these disparate pieces. I thought of it as planning a garden. The poem about last year’s journals, this year’s yard is pretty much a poetics statement for me.

I have a second chapbook coming out in 2010 where I tried something different. I tried to tease out a love story from a group of poems. I wrote poems specifically for this project. This is more a charm bracelet structure than the poems from A Walk Through the Memory Palace, which I think of as sort of a “gardening and pruning” approach.

More reviews

Memory Palace has been getting some more good reviews around the blogosphere. The most recent, and possibly our favorite so far, was by artist and poet Carolee Sherwood. She reviewed not just the chapbook itself but also the experience of reading it, in quintessential personal blogging style. Her comments about the contrast between trying to read the chapbook here versus the printed edition were especially interesting to us as publishers:

I had already enjoyed parts of the collection online, but I hadn’t made it all the way through on-screen. I find it easier to absorb — or climb into — print documents. I honestly believe (especially since the online version of this chapbook is gorgeous and user-friendly) that I fail the technology, not the other way around. Case in point: every time I read the title online (A Walk Through the Memory Palace) I read it as memory “place,” not “palace.” There’s a huge difference! And I didn’t correct myself until I held it in my hands.

Sherwood drew some larger lessons from the book, as well.

As intricate as the language and images can be in A Walk Through the Memory Palace by Pamela Johnson Parker, her poetry reminds us an ache is an ache is an ache. If we are fully in our bodies, the sensation of desire (sexual longing) is the same as sadness or heartache. Although we may say sexual attraction feels “good” and sadness feels “bad,” the weight and throb is nearly identical in our cores once we pull off the specifics of the stimuli. That is my primary experience of Parker’s chapbook […] and it was extremely powerful.

We were pleased to get a review in one of the more popular North American nature blogs, Somewhere in NJ. “78 RPM” was a favorite: “I loved the way those opening lines invited me in and left me waiting for whatever might happen… waiting for the knowing smile I came to by the poem’s end.” And like Robbi Nester earlier, Laura was struck by “Some Yellow Tulips.” At least one reader concurred that it was an unusually effective poem.

North Carolina poet and editor Jessie Carty posted a review at her personal blog, 58 Inches.

My favorite poem in the collection: “Archaic Fragments” is a perfect example of the poet’s skill with language and her obvious love of words. The first fragment is NARCISSUS: NARKE and Parker writes, “For days the gods talk / Of nothing but your / / Spine in the dark, white / Coral . . .” I just love the description of the spine in the dark and the fantastic contrast by comparing it to white coral. This kind of fresh image coupled with unique word choice is a hallmark of Parker’s collection. She seems to build her poems word by word.

And finally, Elizabet Switaj (Daughter of the Ring of Fire) reviewed it for the global feminist community blog Gender Across Borders.

Blog reviews, a nomination and an interview

In late November 2009, qarrtsiluni offered to mail out 15 free copies of A Walk Through the Memory Palace to any blogger willing to write a review of at least three paragraphs in length. The response was very positive, and we had all 15 lined up in two days.

Two reviews have appeared so far. Southern California-based poet Robbi Nester had some very positive words at Shadow Knows, her general-interest blog about “yoga, critters, and eldercare.” She took advantage of the Creative Commons license to quote the whole of “Some Yellow Tulips,” which she found especially effective.

Kentucky poet and poetry blogger Sherry Chandler has written the first comprehensive review of Memory Palace that we’re aware of, discussing the online and audio versions as well as the print edition, and found “small flaws, born of personal preference, in a chapbook that is otherwise excellent.”

Interestingly, “Some Yellow Tulips” was one of the sources of those “small flaws,” in Chandler’s opinion — the structure just didn’t work for her, she said. This is clearly a poem that provokes strong reactions. It was also one of qarrtsiluni‘s six nominations for the 2009 Pushcart Prize.

In her review, Chandler referenced a recent interview conducted by Dana Guthrie Martin with Dave and Beth about our experiences publishing a chapbook. Thanks to Dana and Read Write Poem for that opportunity — and thanks to our first blog reviewers!

Dual print and electronic editions published

The print edition is now available from the qarrtsiluni e-store, so this website and the podcast have gone live as well. Memory Palace should be available at Amazon in a few days. Read the announcement post at qarrtsiluni.

Chapbooks are traditionally associated with limited editions, so perhaps a print-on-demand chapbook is a bit of a contradiction of terms, but our aim is to make A Walk Through the Memory Palace as widely available as possible — hence also this online version. Pamela has generously agreed to make the contents available under a Creative Commons license that allows noncommercial copying and modification as long as attribution is given (for web use, please include a link). Let us know if you write a review, translate any of the poems, or make videos of them, for possible inclusion in this news blog.

“A Walk Through the Memory Palace” selected from among 50 submissions

Pamela Johnson Parker’s winning manuscript faced stiff competition; most of our eight screeners as well as the final judge, Dinty Moore, praised the over-all quality of submissions.

This was a completely blind contest. Eight first-round readers read the fifty submitted manuscripts in order to narrow the field to a shortlist of no more than ten. Each chapbook, identified only by title, was read by at least two readers. A shortlist of ten anonymous manuscripts was then forwarded to Dinty Moore for his final decisions. Read the full details at the magazine.

Chapbook contest details

Qarrtsiluni’s first poetry chapbook contest was announced on March 2, 2009, and the submissions period ran through the end of May. Read the rules, and our explanation of why we picked a prominent nonfiction writer and editor to judge a poetry contest.