Tag Archives: novel

Blossom By Donigan Merritt

Blossom Book CoverHardcover: 404 pages
Publisher: AuthorHouse (August 17, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1463441398
ISBN-13: 978-1463441395
Reviewed By Stephen Page
So, I’m in Brazzaville, right? And I’m in this canoe, and this local is paddling me up the river between Congo and Zaire, when all of a sudden this hippo surfaces right next to the canoe, and then another surfaces, and another, and I think I’m gonna die, right, and one of the hippos opens his mouth right next to my elbow, and I stand up and I rip my cell phone from its holster to call home to tell Mom I love her, but when I look down at the phone I notice it’s connected to the net and it’s opened to this webpage entitled Random Literary Blogging, and there’s this blurb about a book entitled Blossom, and I start reading it and I forget about the hippos, and everything is fine, and I’m floating up the river right past those hippos and I’m feeling great and the reading is interesting, and the blurb has a link to read a preview of the novel, and I’m reading that and I’m still floating up the river and I’m still standing up in the canoe and I discover that Blossom is a book concerning the injustices of racial prejudice, and that if takes place in Arkansas, and that reading the story makes me feel that literature is still alive, that the novel is not dead, so I order a copy of the book on-line and as soon as I press the “buy” button, the local paddling the canoe turns the canoe hard to the right toward the shore and rams into the muddy bank and I am flung forward and I do a flip in the air but I land on my feet in thick mud and look back at the local who was padding the canoe but he just smiles and points behind me so I turn around and trudge my way up this slippery plant-overgrown trail and find my friend, who works with orphaned gorillas, waiting for me at the edge of the jungle and we go off to save some orphans. Oh, yes, I bought the Kindle version of the book, but I noticed I could have purchased the hardcover or softcover versions also.
Colonia, UruguayDonigan Merritt was born in southwest Arkansas in 1945, and left home at the age of seventeen. He has worked as a journalist, scuba diver, fishing boat captain, sailing instructor, and university professor. He has a BA and MA degree in philosophy; the BA is with Honors from Simpson College, the MA is from the Claremont Graduate School. He also has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers Workshop. His first novel, One Easy Piece, was published by Coward-McCann in 1981. Since then, he has published seven novels, the most recent: “The Love Story of Paul Collins,” published by B&B Books, 2012. Mr. Merritt is currently living in Mexico City
Donigan Merritt’s webpage: Donigan Merritt.
Stephn Page with Congolese Gorilla OrphanStephen Page holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University, and an MFA from Bennington College.  He is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions.  His Book Reviews have appeared regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald, Gently Read Literature, Classic Book Club, and the Fox Chase Review.  He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence with stipend from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Writer Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He lived in the Congo for one year.

A Brilliant Novel in the Works By Yuvi Zalkow

Review by Kat Collins

Published by MP Publishing, 2012

ISBN-13: 9781849821650

A Brilliant Novel in the Works

By Yuvi Zalkow

An unusual novel…I wasn’t sure what to think when I started it. A crazy man standing on his desk in his underwear trying to write a novel? A raised eyebrow, but I continued to read. And I’m glad that I did. This takes you on a winding, terrifying, fragile path through the human psyche. While much of it seems dark, there are glimmers of softness, tenderness, and a deep breath.

The character Yuvi is writing a novel and how do you write a novel when the world is hard and terrible and frightening and other people are enigmas and you are mystified by everything that happens? And your wife might be having an affair and your brother-in-law, who is one of your favorite people in the world, might be dying? How do you draft a novel to try to make sense of why parents die, why people stay married, why the arc of our sexual desire rises and falls and our shame at the things that excite us is so strong and yet restrained (pun intended)? Evidently you write the novel by standing on your desk and looking down at it… and you write it one page at a time.

There is brilliance and a touch of the neurotic (okay, a major touch) in Zalkow’s debut novel. I got so frustrated with Yuvi (the character) as he fumbled about, paranoid and believing the worst of everyone. I wanted to yell at him, “Pull up your underwear, my good man! You’ve shamed us all! Now back to the trenches with you. Keep digging until you find the burnished golden nugget of truth!” There is so much that is tragic in Yuvi’s world that it’s borderline depressing, but his wife, his gentle, acidic, hardened, but soft wife, brings us back to the tender, quiet hope shimmering just out of reach.

A novel for thinkers, depressives, Jews, Gentiles, writers and anyone else who has ever been mystified on how to live on when so much is taken from us every day.

I was fascinated by the way Zalkow wrote the book. It was like being inside the mind of a writer, in all the chaos, side stories, spinning madness and the crushing self-doubt. For some, it may pose a challenge as it tends to jump about, but for those of us who have a “writer’s mind,” it can seem like home.

For more information about Yuvi Zalkow and his book, visit the “desperate website of a desperate writer” at http://www.yuvizalkow.com.

Copyright © kld/klc for Kat-Collins.com. All rights reserved


Kat Collins is a writer, passionate blogger at http://www.kat-collins.com , and visual artist. Her paintings have been included in several exhibitions across the East Coast and her writing was recently featured in the Summer 2012 Still Point Arts Quarterly. She is a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, National Book Critics Circle, and National Association of Memoir Writers. You can often find her sleuthing, despite the policeman’s insistence he can handle it, in her work-in-progress mystery thriller, “Baby Brokers.” Kat lives in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with her partner and two lazy cats.

(Kat blogs book reviews every Thursday on her website. For more details regarding my book reviews and book review policy, you can visit my website at http://www.kat-collins.com/review-policy/ )

10 Questions for Christine Klocek-Lim

     An interview with g emil reutter

Christine Klocek-Lim received the 2009 Ellen La Forge Memorial Prize in poetry. She has four chapbooks: Ballroom – a love story (Flutter Press), Cloud Studies (Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks), How to photograph the heart (The Lives You Touch Publications), and The book of small treasures (Seven Kitchens Press). Her poems have appeared in Nimrod, OCHO, Diode, Riffing on Strings: Creative Writing Inspired by String Theory and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net anthologies and was a finalist for 3 Quarks Daily’s Prize in Arts & Literature. She is editor of Autumn Sky Poetry and her website is http://www.novembersky.com


The Interview

GER: How would you describe your poetry and how long have you been crafting your work?

CKL: Describe my poetry? That’s an impossible question for a poet! Whenever I try to think of a pithy description, I stumble over what I’m trying to achieve with my words instead of what I’ve actually written. Every poem I create is a collection of imagery, emotion, and potential. I know what I want to do, but I’m never certain if I’ve achieved it. I aim for a kind of sensible surrealism weaved into a voice that speaks an emotional truth. How’s that for a non-answer?

I tend to try different things with my poetry. I’ve written free verse and sonnets, narrative poems and prose poems. I’ve switched up points-of-view. I’ve written collections about astronomy, ballroom dancing, parenthood, and supernatural visions. I have no idea how to quantify what I write, except to emphasize that I’m always exploring.

There is one concept to which I hold fast: it’s important to me to craft poetry that engages a reader either intellectually, emotionally, or pragmatically. I want my poems to make sense.

How long have I been writing? I began as a child, majored in writing in college (CMU), but I truly began the difficult work of intentional crafting fourteen years or so ago. In 1999 I joined an online workshop and realized very quickly how little I knew. By 2005, I could manage a poem that I wasn’t embarrassed to show someone maybe five percent of the time. By 2008 I’d managed to write poems that worked like I’d intended perhaps half the time.

GER: What poets have influenced you?

CKL: Oh, so many! Too many to name here, although there are a few that I still read over and over again: William Carlos Williams (when I first began writing poems in high school), Erica Jong, Carolyn Forché, and Jack Gilbert among others. I don’t ever put away Jack Gilbert’s poetry. It’s usually out on my desk.

I can’t talk about poets without mentioning individual poems. I have a bulletin board in my office that covers an entire wall and it’s completely filled with poems—I periodically take some down and replace them with new ones. However there are a select few I never remove: Musée des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden, i carry your heart with me by E.E. Cummings, For the Stranger by Carolyn Forché, and two poems by Stephen Bunch: Arriving and Dying. I’d paste poems by Jack Gilbert up but there are too many favorites from which I’d have to choose.

GER: Your collection The Quantum Archives was a semi-finalist with Black Lawrence Press Black River Chapbook competition and you won the Ellen La Forge Memorial Prize in Poetry in 2009, for your collection, Dark Matter.  Were you surprised and how do you feel about poetry competitions?

CKL: I was very surprised. I thought for certain I’d be adding a new slip of paper to my shrine of rejections.  I’ve sent my Dark Matter manuscript into thirty-four competitions and it has made it to the finals or semi-finals eight times. The ten poems from it that won the Ellen La Forge Memorial Prize were published, but as a full-length collection it’s still hasn’t found a home. I’ve sent poems and other manuscripts to over forty other contests.

If you’re trying to make a name for yourself I think contests can be very helpful. If you’re trying to grow in your craft and explore the world as an artist they’re less than useful. It’s very easy to get caught up in the cycle of publish-or-perish and let contests convince you that they are the final arbiters of what constitutes good poetry. Contests are terribly subjective. Contests are also terribly addictive.

GER: You have written three additional collections. The book of small treasures (Seven Kitchens Press), Cloud Studies: a sonnet sequence (Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks), and of course, Ballroom – a love story (Flutter Press). Please describe your inspirations and how do the collections differ?

CKL:  My first collection was How to photograph the heart (The Lives You Touch Publications). I’ve also written a collection of prose poems titled Glimpse (unpublished) and a new collection of poems that is a sequel to The Quantum Archives. I’ve written a series of haikus about bicycling (also unpublished). As you can see, I don’t lack for inspiration.

There is a secret I learned sometime in the last few years regarding the muse, the zone, the flow, inspiration, whatever you want to call it: it doesn’t exist. Sure, sometimes I get the urge to write and I find myself jotting things down, but more often I sit and just begin typing. I take ideas that interest me and expand on them via poetry: astronomy, science, trauma, dance, meter, rhyme, surrealism, etc.

The book of small treasures was written from my experiences as a parent. I know it’s cliché. I know a thousand other poets have written about their kids, but I don’t care. Becoming a mother was one of the most insane things I’ve ever done. Even now, with my sons in their teens, it still feels like I’ve jumped out of a plane. Will the parachute work? Will I plummet to the ground? No one knows: not me, not my kids.

I wrote Cloud Studies: a sonnet sequence because I wanted to learn how to write sonnets. The only way to learn something is through practice. Artists often do a hundred or more “studies” of a particular thing when they’re learning how to draw. I did that with the sonnet form. I focused on clouds and weather and tried to connect it to some sort of emotional foundation so that the poems would resonate with a reader. I love those poems. I love that the editor, Nic Sebastian, recorded each poem. She’s an incredible reader.

Ballroom — a love story was written last year during April’s National Poetry Month. Actually, most of my collections were written each April during National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). The goal is to write a poem each day. Because my husband and I had been dancing together for a few years, I felt as though I knew enough about ballroom dance to describe what it was like to take those first steps until you learn how to move properly. It’s also a book about love: what it’s like to fall into it and keep falling, over and over.

GER: Many poets believe live readings of their work enhance their ability to create and edit work. Do you enjoy reading to an audience and what benefits is there to live readings?

CKL: Um, no. I don’t like reading to an audience. I kind of hate it, actually, though I force myself to keep trying. I generally do one reading per year, just to prove I can.

I think people who are naturally extroverted or interested in drama are excellent readers. I’ve heard some wonderful poets read their poems: Carolyn Forché, Heather McHugh, James Wright to name a few. I’ve also heard some truly awful readings by wonderful poets. There’s a particular sort of sing-song cadence that a lot of poets fall into that sets my teeth on edge. When I do a reading, I practice with the poems I’d like to read by recording myself and listening to the quality of my vocal expression. I want to be sure that I’m not speaking in a monotone or emphasizing the wrong syllables. I want the reading to be a dynamic oral interpretation of the poem, not a recitation.

Some readings I’ve attended have such good performers that I enjoy their poem all out of proportion to how the poem works as a text on a piece of paper. In other words, the poem comes alive through the poet’s voice. It exists as a verbal poem, an oral piece of art. When I read the poem later, it’s sometimes not nearly as dynamic or interesting. I tend to regard oral poetry as its own separate category.

GER: 23 Issues of Autumn Sky have been published in the last six years. The presentation and quality of work have always been outstanding.  As editor/publisher of Autumn Sky could you describe the benefits of publishing a magazine and comment on interactions with poets who have been published by Autumn Sky?

CKL: Thank you. I appreciate your kind words regarding my journal. The benefits of publishing are mostly personal: I was able to read and publish the poems that I most loved—the ones that made my skin tingle. I was given the opportunity to promote formal poetry in an era where formal poems aren’t read much in the literary world. I met many wonderful artists and poets whose work and friendship I value.

Interacting with the poets I published was always interesting: some were meticulous, some were difficult, some were wildly enthusiastic, some were terse, some were young, and some were old. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Poets are ordinary people who practice an art for which almost no one gets paid. One and all, the poets were incredibly generous for allowing me to publish their poems for free.

GER: Publishing a magazine is time consuming. What effect did producing the magazine have on your own poetry?

CKL: It squashed it like a bug. No, really. Before I started publishing Autumn Sky Poetry I wrote all year round. I had some prolific years and some when I didn’t write much, but I still wrote almost every month. Publishing a poetry journal meant that I spent a lot of time reading submissions. I didn’t have as much time to write. I mostly wrote in April.

GER: As a poet/editor/publisher what advice can you give to poets on submitting work to magazines or publishing houses?

CKL:  You’re going to get the same old advice from me every other editor gives! Read the guidelines. I wish I was joking but I’m not. It’s incredibly annoying to receive submissions that didn’t follow the guidelines. Eventually I just started rejecting those without even reading the poems.

As a poet, my advice is to keep trying. I had to let some poems go not because they weren’t gorgeous, but because they didn’t fit in with the rest I’d already accepted for any given issue.

Last, please don’t use any fancy typefaces, flashing backgrounds, dancing bananas, or other gimmicks when sending in your work. The poem is the point.

GER: Six years is a long run for a literary magazine. Do you have any plans to bring on a new issue in the future?

CKL: I told myself to take an entire year off and then reconsider. I was seriously burnt out from reading submissions. It’s hard work. Next January I will let you know if I’m going to jump in the water again.

GER: What projects are you currently working on?

CKL:  I’m working on a novel that grew out of The Quantum Archives (I’m revising it as we speak). It’s the first in a literary sci-fi trilogy set in the near future. I plan on publishing the first one in late summer, with the next two to follow several months later, respectively. The first novel contains the speculative poems I wrote for The Quantum Archives, one for each chapter. It tells the story of Eve and her sister Sarah who has invented a quantum imager, a device that allows her to mentally eavesdrop inside the mind of someone living in the past. Unfortunately, an obsession with the trauma of their parents’ deaths fractures Sarah’s emotional stability and spurs an unexpected enemy into fanaticism. Eve grapples her sister and the outcry surrounding the imager’s invention until her survival becomes more important than her need for self-denial.

I also plan on publishing another sci-fi novel in the near future: Who Saw the Deep. This manuscript was a semi-finalist in this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Publishers Weekly reviewed it:

“This novel is well written, original, and clever. Noah Heath has just completed his doctorate in computer science and his father suggests he give himself a break and help a local senior citizen with some handyman chores. Amelia is a woman that Jaime Heath has known since childhood. On Noah’s first day of work, he notices a flash in the sky, a silver needle, but Amelia denies seeing it. Even so, he hears her call her daughter, Leah, saying, “it’s happening again.” When he returns home, his father starts telling him about the family “artifacts,” a few chunks of old metal. Noah starts to question, and more importantly, believe his father and Amelia’s tales of centuries old invasion and the part their forebears played in it. That the power of computers is limited only by our imaginations makes the tale convincing; the lack of little green men and the highly plausible abilities of the villains make it wonderful reading. It’s a pity to classify this book as science fiction; it reads more like the ancient myths, or even fairy tales. The author really knows his characters and uses them beautifully. Perhaps he’s had centuries to develop them.”

[Disclaimer: Publishers Weekly is an independent organization and the review was written based on a manuscript version of the book and not a published version.]

You can read the poetry of Christine Klocek-Lim in The Fox Chase Review at this link: 2012 SU

Verse broadens the mind, scientists find

Have a look at this post on Amy King’s Blog:

Verse broadens the mind, scientists find