Saturday 25 June 2011

A third positive review of Divining for Starters

"Carrie Etter's follow up to her debut collection The Tethers (Seren 2009), Divining for Starters (Shearsman 2011), consolidates her growing reputation with poems that begin with a consideration of beginnings and origins and develop in elegant swerves of unexpected and precise delineation. [....] ...this collection alternates between a poetics of consciousness and one of the reflexivity of the body. At their base is a probing of self and identity, with an arc of origins from the American Mid-West via California to the edge of the West Country that realises some powerful poetry."

David Caddy, Tears in the Fence

The Book Depository sells Divining for Starters with free worldwide shipping.

Friday 24 June 2011

Lytton Smith's The All-Purpose Magical Tent, first selection

"Structural for the Tent"

Mainstay. Ringside. Acts. The audience is meant

To believe in the tent even when they pass on

And it’s dismantled—apparition. “The night sky

Was in there. The full moon. The clowns wore

The gravediggers’ smiles.” Circular and itself

In a field. The events transpiring within an illusion

The performers and watchers aspire to maintain.

“The lions I think Africa. The trapeze intercontinental.

We were magicked away.” But there’s nothing magical

About the magical. The audience invents a moment

The disappeared reappear. Any moment now. Now.

Now. I’ve watched the sleight-of-hand from the gods

And found it wanting—each act I can’t take back.

Lytton Smith

The All-Purpose Magical Tent (Nightboat Books, 2009) is available from The Book Depository with free shipping internationally. NB the double-spacing of the poem is accurate.

Pamphlet review in TLS

A roundup review of pamphlets in today's TLS includes favorable reviews of both Claire Crowther's Mollicle and Tim Liardet's Priest Skear. Read it here.

Thursday 23 June 2011

A short survey of writing habits

For the annual anthology, last year's Bath Spa University MA graduates decided to do a short survey of writing habits, beginning with writers teaching on the programme and extending outward into the larger literary community. Respondents include myself, Peter Finch, George Szirtes, Samantha Harvey, Mimi Thebo, Gerard Woodward, and Lucy English, among others. You can read them here, as well as dip into extracts from the graduates' work.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

A blast from my L.A. past

In 1989, I was a L.A. poet., regularly in the company of many of the poets listed with me on this flyer. It was a great time in my life.

Thanks to S.A. Griffin for posting this online.

Monday 20 June 2011

Reading at the University of Notre Dame London Centre, 14 June 2011

An edited video (with the most unflattering camera angle) of my reading last week at the University of Notre Dame's London Centre is now on YouTube. You can skip the introduction to the evening by starting at the 1:30 mark. The editing removed a number of introductions and explanations, including mention of the poet who read the two "poems for two voices" with me, Rachel McCarthy.

If you like what you hear, the collection I read from, Divining for Starters, is available at The Book Depository with free international delivery.

Saturday 18 June 2011

On this day 45 years ago,

my parents married and spent the first night of their honeymoon at a motel in Kankakee, Illinois, that burned down years ago.

An anniversary doesn't end just because one spouse is no longer living, just as we still think of a particular day as being a person's birthday long after she's gone. As regular visitors will know, my dad died two years ago, so this anniversary is a solitary one for my mother. I wish I could spend the day with her, reminiscing and hugging and crying when we can't help it.

I've been thinking of their anniversary all week, of the extraordinary marriage they had. It's harder for the fact that Father's Day is tomorrow. Such a weekend.

Let it rain.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Why I'm Not Having Children

Recently turned 42, I've been thinking about why I haven't had a child of my own, as I adore my 12 nieces and nephews and enjoy children's company wherever I find it.

In my twenties, I wouldn't have even considered having a child. I was in Los Angeles until I was 26, at first working full-time and going to school at night, then working part-time and going to UCLA in the day. On graduation, I headed down to Orange County to pursue my MFA in creative writing at the University of California, Irvine; I lived in Corona del Mar for those two years before moving to Irvine when I started the PhD programme in English. So you could say that in my twenties, I was too busy getting educated--and was hence too poor--for a child to be a real option.

In my thirties, when I married, moved to England, and finished my PhD, the reason for not having children changed: my men became the greatest barrier. I have always been attracted to men whose vocation--intellectual, academic, artistic, or some combination thereof--is their passion and ambition. Literature and writing have been my driving force for nearly all my life, and I relish the company of others who have a comparable sensibility. My ex-husband, whom I began dating when I was 27 (I moved in a mere three months later) and separated from when I was 34, is a reader in philosophy at a prestigious university and has always had an all-encompassing intellectual ambition. This meant that after he was late with several rent payments, the finances fell to me, then all travel arrangements (for conferences, family visits, etc.), etc. My next partner was a poet and musician, whose hours reading, writing and revising poetry, and reading about, listening to, and playing music, took nearly all his time outside his teaching. Along with the finances, I took up the greater share of housework.

I knew that to have a child with either of these men would be like being a single parent. While I know they both would have loved a child dearly, their vocations would still have been dominant, the first thing they turned to in a free moment. I believed--and believe--that circumstance would be destroying for me and any child.

Now that I'm in my forties, I've lost interest in having a child of my own. I love their company, and I think if I could have a few hours a week in the company of my nieces and nephews, any maternal urges would be completely satisfied. I want to get on with my writing--there are so many books I want to write!

It's hard to wish things had been much different, as then I might not be here, where I have (apart from the admin &c.) a wonderful job teaching promising writers, I travel regularly to give readings and workshops, and I've published two books of poetry and edited an anthology. In Britain I've made the best of friends, found a little success in my writing, and come to live in a beautiful city with one of the best men I've ever known. I suppose that explains why I've stayed in the UK as much as why I don't want to change course now.

Why am I telling you this? Now that I share a house and have been with my boyfriend for over a year, people are starting to ask about marriage and kids, and when I say I'm not interested in the latter, they respond with disbelief or dismayed surprise. Is it really still taboo for a woman to choose not to have children? If so, why?

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Katherine Larson's Radial Symmetry (Yale UP, 2011), take 2

On 29 May, my review of Radial Symmetry appeared in The Independent. Here are some passages I admired. (NB: Often the spacing has been regularized, as I haven't been able to figure out how to do complicated spacing on Blogger--tuition welcome!)

And memory
which outruns the body and
grief which arrests it.

the end of "Statuary"

And a sun so round it might exhale.


There are days that walk through me
and I cannot hold them.

from "The Gardens in Tunisia"

The smell of sunlight
fading from the stones. Quietness that's solitude

but not isolation.

from "Lake of Little Birds"

The singing of the blind school
children and the
Mediterranean's flat expanse are metaphors

for every kind of solitude made
forgivable by time.
The hillside museum with rows of empty

earthen vessels is full of it. A stillness
so replete
it resembles something like intimacy.

opening of "Water Clouds"

I don't pretend to imagine the lives of women tending oyster crates
in estuaries at the edge of Sonora.

It's enough to follow the hand-painted sign of a mermaid
peeling and peeling in the sand.

"Ghost Nets," opening of section IV

We emerge from the pale nets of sleep like ghost shrimp
in the estuaries--
The brain humming its electric language.

Touching something in a state of becoming.

"Ghost Nets," end of section VII

All that quiet. Like dreaming you're standing on water
but not hearing the water.

"Ghost Nets," from section VIII

The stillness enough
to hear pistol shrimp snap in the tide pools.

Each time the intimacy becomes greater, the vocabulary less.

"Ghost Nets," end of section X

as pages of Braille.

Memory. The invention
of meaning. Our minds with deeps
where only symbols creep.

"Ghost Nets," from section XI

Not equilibrium, but buoyancy. A hallway
with a thousand human brains carved out of crystal.
Quiet prisms until the sunlight hits.

end of "Metamorphosis"

You can buy Radial Symmetry from The Book Depository.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Another epigraph for Divining for Starters

I came across this today in reading some of prose poet Killarney Clary's work and thought it would have made a good additional epigraph for my most recent collection, Divining for Starters: "We who could divine what is from what is, pull any one way with purpose, win or lose at dice, laugh in the mirror, wish through the tunnels. Risk is juggled into difference."