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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Please spread the word – new poetry contest – the Michael Macklin Book Prize 2013

Michael Macklin pensive
Maine Poetry Central, the Portland Poet Laureate Program and Moon Pie Press are seeking submissions for this contest, which honors the late Portland poet Michael Macklin, who died last May. The contest is open to all New England poets 40 and older who have never had a full-length book of poetry published. (Chapbooks and other genres don’t count for this contest.) The winning book will be published in fall 2013. The winner will receive a number of copies of the book, a cash prize to be determined, and will have some readings arranged. Deadline for submitting is June 1, 2013.
Reading fee is $20.00 payble to Moon Pie Press.
Send manuscripts 50-80 pages long (no shorter or longer) with cover letter to:

Moon Pie Press
16 Walton Street
Westbrook, ME 04092

Please send an email by March 15 if you plan to enter the contest to: moonpiepress@yahoo.com.

Please pass this on to anyone you think might be qualifed and interested in entering. Thanks !

In praise of my book group

bk group at Lynne's

I love my book group. We’ve been going strong for 20 years and the group is a collection of wonderful, disparate, interesting women of varying tastes, which makes our book selections eclectic and often surprising. We were started by Brian, who had a sadly short-lived mystery bookstore in downtown Portland called Murder Ink, so at first the focus was on murder mysteries. After the first five years (and Brian left as his family grew), we opened it up to all genres. We meet once a month except December, and in January we share poetry. We choose our books and meeting dates 18 months out so we have plenty of time to get them, swap them and plan ahead for long books. We’ve learned the hard way not to pick sad or depressing books for February or March in Maine. The person who chose the book usually hosts. Some hosts get very creative and match the food to the themes in the book, but this is not required. We share drinks and snacks, not a full meal, and we range from 8-10 members, so you usually only host once a year or so. I never know what my fellow group members will choose — a memoir, biography, nonfiction book, a classic, often one that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. This group has been a constant in my life as so much else has changed – jobs, marriages, my living situation, finances, pets – so many gains and losses. By luck and goodwill we’ve hung together this long. I think the group adds something meaningful to each of our lives. Of course some members have come and gone over the years, but most of us have stayed. I hope we keep going for another 20 years.

Disaster at the bookstore

Lincoln and book quote

Longfellow Books in downtown Portland, Maine is a wonderful independent store that carries ALL the Moon Pie Press titles. They suffered a Stormageddon-related disaster last Saturday when a pipe froze, then broke, and water cascaded over many of the books in the store. Chris Bowe, co-owner, says that the best way for the community to support the store is to buy books. This store hosts many readings by local writers and is staffed with wonderful, helpful, knowledgeable people. Many folks have asked how they can help the store get back on its feet. So now you know. I have not contacted Chris to see whether all the Moon Pie Press titles need to be replaced, but I will eventually once the immediate crisis has passed and the store is back in business.

The Lincoln quote seems appropriate since today is Mr. Lincoln’s real birthday.

Nor’easter – Bah! I say – enough of winter !

blanket-of-snow

As a gigantic blizzard bears down on New England (starting tomorrow morning, so they say) I am moved to post this wonderful poem by Margaret Atwood, who knows horrid weather – she’s from Canada.

FEBRUARY

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
he’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, he shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and the pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Independent bookstores versus chains

I happen to feel strongly that it’s good to spend your money at indie bookstores, since there are so few left and I don’t think the world should only have giant chain bookstores.  Longfellow Books in downtown Portland, ME is my favorite, but there are still others I love, too.  The fabulous Powell’s in Portland, OR.  The Strand in NYC.  Grolier Books in Cambridge, Mass.   A wonderful funky bookstore, Bargain Books, in Key West (with a gigantic resident cat) with a gym attached to it in the back. My friend Corey Mesler owns Burke’s Book Store in Memphis, which I really want to visit. (Corey is a poet and novelist too.) I don’t want to forget to mention Gary Lawless’ Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, which has a terrific poetry collection. Indie bookstores all have character, knowledgeable staff, personal service, and sometimes even a cat. Vote with your wallet and keep them going.

Goodreads, decluttering and Feng Shui

man sitting in bookI am quite addicted to Goodreads, the free online site that lets you keep track of books you have read and want to read, and review them.  It’s fun to see what your friends are reading.  I generally try to post brief reviews before I read others’ reviews of a book.  Amazon has customer reviews, of course, and I find those useful, too, especially for music CDs.  I was reading a really incisive book review on amazon and realized that it was by my friend Mike Albert, the poet laureate of Portsmouth, NH and a very discerning reader. Goodreads doesn’t have every book, and I haven’t figured out how to add Moon Pie Press books to it yet.  Librarything is a similar site that I tried for a while, but it was too daunting to try to list all the books I own.  This year I have purged at least six big boxes of books, part of my ongoing SLOW program to declutter my house and get rid of things I don’t need.  I try not to buy books and my rule is, if a new one enters the house, such as when someone gives me one as a gift, at least one other book has to leave.  I use the Westbrook Library and the Minerva online interlibrary loan service, which is one of the best things ever invented for a reader.

The importance of books

giant bookI just finished a wonderful novel by Penelope Lively, HOW IT ALL BEGAN.  An elderly character, Charlotte, retired teacher, reflects :

Forever, reading has been central, the necessary fix, the support system.  Her life has been informed by reading. ..she has read to discover what it is to be good, or bad; she has read to find out if things are the same for others as they are for her–then, discovering that frequently they are not, she has read to find out what it is that other people experience that she is missing…She read to discover how not to be Charlotte, how to escape the prison of her own mind, how to expand, and experience.  ..Charlotte knows herself to ride upon a great sea of words…She is as much a product of what she has read as of the way in which she has lived;she is like millions of others built by books, for whom books are an essential foodstuff, who could starve without.

Certainly rang true for me.  I started reading before first grade because I was envious that my older sister could read.  I realize now that it was a gift to grow up in  a family where both parents read, the house had books, and we were taken to the library a lot.  At 60 now I am trying not to buy many books, and am slowly cutting down my accumulation of them, but I always have a stack of library books.  I read 100-150 books a year but dream of retirement when I could read more.  My friend gave me a Kindle and I am trying to get used to another way of reading.  Don’t think I will ever give up actual books.  I love making books and sending them out into the world.