Category Archives: poetry

a box of poems

fates of stars in print

 
A box of ten copies of our new poetry book, The Fates of Stars, arrived today. They came out really well. We are very happy with the printing by CreateSpace! The covers are a high-quality glossy white, on a heavier cardstock, with light cream pages. Our graphics of the stars and the puma logo came out quite crisp. The binding looks great and the books feel, well, real! Wow – it even has an ISBN! This may be our fifth or sixth self-publishing adventure, but that’s a first. Despite the many advantages of going digital, nothing brings an author the same satisfaction as holding a physical copy. We snapped a few photos if you’d like to take a look.

You can pick up a printed copy of The Fates of Stars directly from CreateSpace, or buy one on Amazon where they have both the paperback and Kindle versions.

 
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Poems in Print: The Fates of Stars

The_Fates_of_Stars_a_Cover_for_KindleWe put a poetry book together for print-on-demand sales through CreateSpace this week. Now, since we suck at self promotion, we will just tell you a story.

We self-published several poetry books in the early 1990s, still finding our poetic voice and learning about language. They did eventually pay for themselves, but the economics are tough. People like poems, but poetry isn’t a very hot commodity. So, the writer usually has to front all the manufacturing costs and just cart around a bunch of books to readings and events, trying to sell enough to pay for the printing.

Back in the early days, we would cut costs by printing off pages at various temp jobs. Yes, it’s become a bit of a cliche to say that. But where would the independent and fanzine presses be without those lovely temp jobs near the photocopiers of corporate America? Then you find a paper cutter and a saddle stapler at a local copy store, and try to not draw attention to yourself as you prep fifty or a hundred books.

For our last chapbook in 2001, we couldn’t even find a saddle stapler. So, we pushed each individual staple through every single page of every single book by hand, two staples per book, then folded the staples shut. Do you have any idea how long that takes? Now you know what temp workers do on their weekends.

The point of this story? Self-publishing authors and poets need not suffer like this in the days of the glorious internet revolution! This time around, we have the budding industry of print-on-demand services available online, connected with major retailers. CreateSpace is an Amazon.com company, for example. They give you guidelines for setting up your document and book cover, which you upload for review. They issue an ISBN for free – a daunting process for writers before the web. Then, they make the book available on Amazon and the CreateSpace site. Plus, if you have the technical capability, you can convert a book to Kindle format at no cost.

Yes, CreateSpace will gladly sell you professional design services, Kindle conversions, and even impartial book reviews – and a host of other services. From the conversations we’ve had with their remarkably accessible support team, they seem good to work with. But, writers with a small to nonexistent budget and some technical skills can make this happen without any up front expense. The company doesn’t print the book until someone orders it. Then they take their cut for manufacturing and pay you the rest – dollar amounts you can clearly and simply calculate on their site.

CreateSpace will do black and white book, full color books, even music CDs and comic books and videos, apparently. We have yet to try them all! But we did find them remarkably easy to work with, and plan to do so many more times.

Our first print-on-demand book is the 74-page poetry collection The Fates of Stars. It’s priced at $8.95, which, depending on what channel it sells through, nets us about from one to five bucks per copy sold after manufacturing costs.

Check it out here: https://www.createspace.com/4622559
- and maybe look at CreateSpace to see if you would like to make a book, too!

Amazon.com now has the book in a paperback edition and Kindle edition.
The Kindle version costs a few bucks less. Buyers also have the option to get the Kindle edition for just one extra dollar when they buy the print edition.

 
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Cecil Taylor: Indent

cecil taylor indent liner notes (4)

 
The liner notes to Cecil Taylor’s solo piano album Indent include the poem pictured above. Cecil Taylor’s early bebop work includes recordings with John Coltrane released eventually in album form. But even the ground-breaking context of bebop would prove too restrictive for Taylor. Works like the Great Paris Concert take the instrumentation of a bebop quartet to perform what sounds like almost completely free and unstructured music.

But, one suspects that Taylor has his own ideas of structure, and that jazz merely served as a starting point. The lack of any recognizable song forms and the energetic chaos erupting in waves from Cecil’s piano will most likely appeal only to the most adventurous listeners. We recommend listening without preconceptions or expectations, letting the sound wash over you like a symphony.

Cecil Taylor recorded this performance in March, 1973, at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio according to the liner notes. If we recall correctly, he had a teaching or fellowship position there, though we can’t find much information on that now.

When we discovered this album in the early 1990s as jazz DJs at a college radio station, this amused us. Our grandmother had taken us to Yellow Springs during summers in the mid 1980s when we would visit her. It had many new age bookstores and art, a kind of hippie haven in an otherwise conservative midwestern state. You could buy crystals and meditation music in mom-and-pop shops. But what was it like when Taylor was there in 1973, recording this concert, less than two months after we were born? We can only imagine.

Collector’s Guide:
- From Indent by Cecil Taylor; Freedom, 1977.
 
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Museum Heart by Alberto Rios

The poem Museum Heart by Alberto Rios appears on a beautiful installation in the entrance to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

An award-winning author and a faculty member at Arizona State University, Rios became the state of Arizon’a first Poet Laureate in the summer of 2013.

 
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earth

Earth

Who says the ground is silent?
Ask the ones who live inside her to tell us what they hear
Fire elicits song, and the song once sung will fall to earth
Joining the cells of every story ever told

Who says the ground is silent?
She holds it all inside her, nothing ever lost
Each life, her tongue
Every stone, her syllable

 
earth


billiards

Billiards

Motion, momentum
Angles and perspective
Lounging in a lazy reefer haze
The pendulum swing of the arm, a dance
Drawing smoke through the fluid, succulent air

Balls clatter clack in nebulous ballet, atomic
Nucleonic, bounce, bumper, break
One long shot across a velvet plain
Through clouds without rain
Through pool without water
In a dream without sleep

 
billiards


Stars

Stars

The old woman enjoyed astrology
She drew her charts and studied her ancient scrolls
Staring into her crystal ball she told him
The placement of the stars and planets at our birth determines our destiny

The old man listened intently to his wife’s fortune cookie findings but
He preferred astronomy
He knew long ago the massive hearts of stars
Forged all the elements of earth and its inhabitants

Hydrogen nuclei smelted and pounded into helium, then carbon, then iron
Released into the vacuum of space by exploding supernovae
Homeless fragments of stars lured by time and gravity
Composed into orbits that thought, and felt, and moved, and breathed

He saw his wife as the sun
Her radiance giving life to gardens of children and grandchildren for so many years
He felt like a red giant, spending most of his fuel years ago
Expanding and cooling in his age until one day he would just fade out

He watched the people at work decay into white dwarfs
So full of fire once but after eons crashing in a cataclysmic instant
Crushed beneath the tedium of gravity until a spoonful of their lives grew heavy as a planet
Nothing but icicles of cold and weary light flickering blue in the endless void

He thought of their granddaughter, the pianist
A lively pulsar radiating, spinning
Erupting light in rhythmic precision
Her music illuminating the farthest edges of existence

He remembered their son, the addict
Once youthful and boundlessly exuberant
Collapsing now to a black hole where nothing escaped his grip, no sound, no light
An event horizon upon which you spilled emotions that never returned

Who knows, he thought
If not for black holes the galaxies would have no core
No center, no order
No axis about which to spin

The old woman continued to draw her charts and study her weathered scrolls
But his art told him the stars do not decide our fates
We are the fates of stars
And their fate is ours

 
stars


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