Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: LEAF AND BEAK: SONNETS by Scott Wiggerman

Leaf and Beak: Sonnets   
89 pages, $15.00

Leaf and Beak: Sonnets is the third poetry collection from Scott Wiggerman. Taking inspiration from daily constitutionals around and about his Austin, Texas neighborhood and Mueller Lake Park (where “the glistening silks of morning meadows speak / in praise of spiders”), this collection chronicles a year of closely observed seasons and urban wildlife and I am reminded of Robert Frost and James Audubon. What a relief and refreshingly free of irony – classical, lyrical, romantic sonnets.

In winter when the forecast calls for rare snow, the poet observes “I’ll have to bundle pipes like winter tykes” and comments on the giddy television meteorologists: “It’s not their fault: / they love the change of pace from what’s to come, / when any fool can forecast heat and sun.”

Come “An Early Spring” and Austin erupts into riotous celebration: “and overnight the mountain laurels’ fizz / of grapes appeared, the park in drunken grins. / Another week and dogwood whites unfurled / like laundry on a line, the kernels burst”.

On a sizzling summer day, the “Renewal” of a tent of willows: “like churches filled with incense, not a lick / of air. A holiness pervades this space / as light sifts through the canopy, a trick / of flowers, pods, and limbs enmeshed, a place / of grace and beauty.”

Extolling the charms of November in “In Praise of Gray”: “I look into the fog, the idle trees, / the lake, its smoky lens – and not a hint / of movement. Washed-out colors are not lies, / nor mournful, nor uncertain. Love this day / for what it is, and praise the gods of gray.”

Many of these sonnets, given the recent drought in Texas, are a combination of appreciation and lament, often with a dry humor. “It’s good to know that some things dote on sun / but so does melanoma” followed by “but catch a whiff of fountain’s fishy spray, / a tiny solace. Languid sluggishness / prevails: it’s Houston-humid, Brownsville-hot.”

I found myself comforted by this beautiful, traditional poetic form and figurative language, especially in the first section where each poem is connected to the next by the repetition of the last line of the previous poem in the first line of the next. The first poem in this section ends with “Resign / yourself to heat, aware the trees deceive -  / implore the skies for rain, a small reprieve.” The next begins “Implore the skies for rain, a small reprieve, / a steady shower, not a strong barrage”.

Scott Wiggerman
I’m going to close this review and the last day of National Poetry Month 2015 with my favorite Leaf and Beak sonnet.

Blue Heron

He’s offered glimpses, but today he stands
in all his glory – steely blue, a tinge
of silver, rather like a knife – the pond’s
reflection sharp and clear, but also strange:
that neck, a twisted metal plumber’s snake
more suited to a sink; those thin gray pipes
called legs; attached by tiny nuts that mock
a heavy plumage; last, the tuft that ropes
atop his head, a quirky ornament.

An odd array of parts, this bird, now seen
away from camouflage of trees, the tent
of grayish bark he blends with well, as when
pondwaters ripple and reflections skew
the thing we think we know, now shown anew.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Roundup: April 27 - May 3

Bookish events in Texas for the week of April 27 - May 3, 2015:                

Special Events:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Exhibition, Austin, February 10 - July 6

Texas Writers: a Humanities Texas Exhibition, San Antonio, April 1 - 29

A Hemispheric Conversation: Queer/Feminist Independent Publishing Projects ‘Belleza y Felicidad’ and ‘Belladonna’ exhibit, Austin, April 14 - May 9

Monday, April 27:
Spider House Cafe & BallroomAustin Poetry Slam, 8PM

Duncanville Public Library, Local author Jill K. Sayre will share stories of her novel, The Fairies of Turtle Creek, and then sign books, 7PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Fort Worth Poetry Slam, 8PM

Brazos Bookstore, George Hodgman reads and signs BETTYVILLE, 7PM

The Woodlands
B&N - Woodlands Mall, Jacob Grey signs Ferals, 7PM

Wednesday, April 29:
Brazos Bookstore, Mitchell Gaynor reads and signs THE GENE THERAPY PLAN, 7PM

Thursday, April 30:
Friday, May 1:
Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, reading with Elizabeth Crook, 7:30PM

Saturday, May 2:
B&N - Golden Triangle Mall, Local Author Laura Maisano, Signing SCHISM, 1PM

B&N - Stonebriar, Neal Shusterman signs Challenger Deep, 2PM

B&N - Firewheel Mall, Discussion and Signing With USA Today Bestselling Author Marc Cameron: Day Zero (Jericho Quinn Series #5), 2PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, celebrate Independent Bookstore Day with activities, food, giveaways and limited edition merchandise, all day

Brazos Bookstore, celebrate Independent Bookstore Day with refreshments, literary luminaries and limited edition swag, all day

B&N - NE Mall, Susan Mead signs Dance With Jesus From Grief to Grace, 1PM

B&N - Vista Ridge, George Arnold book signing, 1PM

San Antonio
Viva! Bookstore, celebrate Independent Bookstore Day!, all day

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: The Calculus of Falling Bodies by Geoff Rips

The Calculus of Falling Bodies: Poems 
Geoff Rips
80 pages, $16.00

Geoff Rips is a writer’s writer. He is a novelist, a journalist, speech writer, grant writer, script writer and, now, with the publication of The Calculus of Falling Bodies, we are presented with his first poetry collection.  Inspired by nature, work and politics, and with his family as his muse, it is a fine debut.

Many of his narrative poems juxtapose the workings of nature and his growing girls, as in “Wetlands” in which he and one of his daughters are at the Gulf, bird-watching: “as I stand, landlocked, watching my daughter watch the pelican, / then leaping herself, jeté on the jetty, / then again, arms thrust to the skies, then again / and she’s gone.” There is a good deal of anxiety in these poems – all things pass, even good things. How to hold on? Rips implores someone to tell him how. This is his “Appeal”:

The kids in bed. I make my rounds. Front door.
One child, a still life between two stuffed bears.
Mail on the table. Tell me. The other,
covers thrown off, frozen in full gait. Running.
Back door. Can something new come of this?
Tell me. The house is dark. The cat climbs a screen.
I sit on the couch listening. Can I hear you sleeping
in our bed? Tell me. The house shifts.
If I stand too quickly, will all this slide away?

In the “Personal Geography” section, Rips shifts gears with darkly humorous odes (one features cockroaches) and laments to New York City where he seems to be homesick and decides “We fall into the way we live.” This is “Looking For Work”:

Today I feel like someone
who is capable of doing something.             
Geoff Rips
It won’t last.
Soon they’ll grab me and say,
“All the decisions are ours.”
But today I feel capable of anything,
capable of rejecting myself,
capable of lying in the street,
capable of digging my own grave.

The dignity of work and people are important to Rips (see his introduction to himself at the beginning of the book) and the political life of the nation appalls him. In “Dreams”: “The subconscious of America is paper thin. / Our anorexic inner life. / We’re standing in the creek of this nation’s sins and the water’s rising, / …"The world is complex. Not what the crowd at Hooter’s / wants to hear.” Or this, from “War is a Cure for Loneliness”: “Meaning is a cure for loneliness. Nations are lonely. / War has meaning. Until it no longer does.”

The concluding, eponymous, section is concerned with loss, with mortality, where we insist on ourselves, asserting ourselves to the general disregard of the cosmos. Rarely, we get a brief reprieve. My favorite, “At 51,” in its entirety:

I’m glad my losses are gradual.
We outlive all our joys. But
just now I’ve been dancing on the front porch
with my beautiful daughters as they gyrate
down the uncut trails of their green lives.
Even the setting sun seems to pause
before it drops.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: blood sugar canto by ire'ne lara silva

blood sugar canto
ire’ne lara silva
Saddle Road Press
January 2, 2016

blood sugar canto is Ire’ne Lara Silva’s new poetry collection due from Aztlan Libre press this summer. This collection is about learning to live with the enemy when the enemy is inside you (aided and abetted by the corporate food industry – “decolonize your diet mi raza”): a diagnosis of diabetes – la azucar. The poet learns to accommodate fear, to make a place for it so it will stay in its place, without surrendering to it.

I am reminded of ee cummings, not merely by the lack of capitalization and punctuation, but because these poem are largely free verse while simultaneously, somehow, beautifully structured. “song for fear” is an ode, not to fear, but to survival, control and containment. Silva decided that the endless struggle with fear would destroy her and a sort of rapprochement is reached:

i see you now
there is a place for you here
and there is work for you
but you cannot remain
rampant and uncontrolled
you cannot claim
my entire body as your
refuge your hideout your food

in return
i promise
not to eat you

i won’t tear at you
with my teeth
poisoning myself
i will watch over you
and it will be safe
for you to be a small
and furred creature
and at dawn i will remember
to sing to you too

In “diabetic love song” Silva has been motivated, spurred on by the disease and her use of repetition here is musical and potent:

given that time is short
given that the number of my days is unknown
i have no patience now for people who put off their dreams
people without dreams
people dedicated to accumulation and consumption
people who fill their lives with drama and noise

To be sure there are laments and elegies to and for her many family members felled by diabetes but there is also humor and hope. “tequilita” (note the endearment) is an ode to exactly what it sounds like and yet another thing denied to her.

though from nineteen to twenty-eight, we rampaged from one coast to another, in south texas, on the other side of the border, in austin and san antonio. you made the lights, the singing, the dancing all the more beautiful. you were so much a part of me, i even learned to answer to your name.

“the diabetic lover” is deliciously sexy and affectionate and funny.

it’s not recommended,                 my love
that i      cover your body               with whip crème
and chocolate syrup
ire'ne lara silva
maraschino cherries
for aesthetic emphasis
i could not dust you
with enough whey protein
to make up for all
those empty carbohydrates

Turns out the answer is strategically placed granules of turbinado raw cane sugar. “i call myself back” is an incantation invoking the mighty mujer, the poet reasserting herself, brimful of clear-eyed determination, tinged with hope, spiced with indignation.

blood sugar canto is highly recommended for anyone dealing with a daunting foe that needs to be put in its place.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Roundup: April 20 - 26

Bookish events in Texas for the week of April 20 - April 26, 2015:

Special Events:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Exhibition, Austin, February 10 - July 6

Texas Writers: a Humanities Texas Exhibition, San Antonio, April 1 - 29

A Hemispheric Conversation: Queer/Feminist Independent Publishing Projects ‘Belleza y Felicidad’ and ‘Belladonna’ exhibit, Austin, April 14 - May 9

Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival, McAllen, April 23 - 26

Austin Food & Wine Festival (includes book signings!), April 24 - 26

New Fiction Confab, Austin, April 25

Monday, April 20:
River Oaks Bookstore, Karen Kasmauski reads and signs NURSE: A World of Care, 5PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, John Quinones: What Would You Do? Words of Wisdom About Doing the Right Thing, 7PM

Wednesday, April 22:
Brazos Bookstore, Ryan Gattis - ALL INVOLVED, 7PM

Thursday, April 23:

South Dallas Cultural Center, Vievee Francis Reading, 7PM

The Wild Detectives, Reading by Award-Winning Poet Cyrus Cassells, 7:30PM

14 Pews, An Evening with Nixon (book reading & screening), 7PM

San Marcos
Wittliff Collections, reading with Adam Johnson, 3:30PM

Friday, April 24:

Rudyard's, Gulf Coast Reading Series: April 2015, 7PM

Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, reading with Adam Johnson, 7:30PM

Saturday, April 25:
B&N - Arboretum, Michael Lanning: Tony Buzbee Defining Moments, 2PM

grayDUCK Gallery, Fun Party reading series with poets Michael Morse and Layne Ransom, 8PM

Half Price Books - Southpark Meadows, local author Marge Wood signs her kids’ book The Secret Buzzard Society, 2PM

Malvern Books, An Evening with Lucas Jacob & Michael Anania, 7PM

Cedar Hill
B&N - Uptown, Kelly K. Lavender signs Beautiful Evil Winter, 11AM

Corpus Christi
B&N, Sarah Norkus Signing Treasure of the Battersea Bluffs, 12PM


Oak Cliff Cultural Center, Verse and Rhythm with Tom Brown, 7PM

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen Center, Amanda Stone Norton signs Muddy Madeleine meets an Arach-A-Doo, 1PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Joy Preble will discuss and sign her newest novel for teens, FINDING PARIS, 2PM

Silver Street Studios, Writespace presents a Writers of Faith Reading and Open Mic, 7PM

Round Rock
B&N - La Frontera, Sandra Lott signs The Wind Has a Voice, 2PM

San Antonio

Half Price Books - Huebner, author Matthew Cothran signs his children's book Always Use the BIG Spoon, 2PM

The Twig Book Shop, Ebony Aiken reads and signs A Ray of Hope, 11AM

B&N - First Colony Mall, Omar Shahid Hamid signing The Prisoner, 1PM 

Malvern Books, An Afternoon with Issa Nyaphaga, 4PM


Horchow Auditorium, Harry Bliss & Barney Saltzberg: Imaginative Illustrating, 3PM

Discovery Green, Space City Grand Slam, 3PM

Johnston Middle School, Chris Grabenstein visits Houston as part of Inprint’s “Cool Brains” series, 3PM

SAY Sí, La Voz de San Antonio, 3PM

The Woodlands
B&N - Woodlands Mall, Dana Perino: And the Good News Is... Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side, 1PM

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Welcome Sierra Leone!

This morning it is my privilege to welcome readers in Sierra Leone to Texas Book Lover. Kushɛ!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review of Beer Songs for the Lonely by François Pointeau

Beer Songs for the Lonely
François Pointeau
New Belleview Press

Beer Songs for the Lonely, a poetry collection from Austin-ite François Pointeau (Denizens of Austin will know him from Whip In, others from his radio program, Writing on the Air.), gets my vote for best title ever. A reflective collection about the necessity of adaptation with a trademark twist in the last stanza, Beer Songs’ subjects refuse to go gentle into that good night.

Perhaps my favorite poem in this collection is in the first section, Not Drowning, VI:

Something strange and wonderful
is happening to me.

They will be jealous.
They will not understand
-          Please have the decency to die
at the correct time.

It will be a communal
judgment of the community monster
to be disposed of

as long as it’s agreed upon as being
the right thing to do for the greater good.

The public square.
The hanging.
The democracy.

Shouldn’t one have the decency to drown,
to disappear inconspicuously?

Drown in whatever fashion you’d like,
however please drown
whenever you are meant to drown.

As you might expect from the title, there are not a few drunks in this collection, some just trying to make it through the night, some seeking oblivion. There is a sad humor in “Fragmented dialogue,” a conversation taking place in a bar on a rainy day.

François Pointeau
Pointeau transforms the prosaic into a sensory buffet in “The market”:

The market
is the full circle of life chaotic
from birth to death.

An étalage of produce and meats which
rises and falls, alive
with hands that dip from all sides,

Indeterminable bodies,
fresh and dried and laid about to see,
to feel

and taste and purchase..

It becomes comic almost:
wholesale and half-priced and belly-up
the goddess.

It is an orgy of old women closing their eyes
as they feel an orange or a camembert.

Beer Songs for the Lonely is Pointeau’s debut collection and, in the way of debut collections, it is uneven. However there is much to appreciate in this slim volume. The poet is equally adept with The Big Stuff and the mundane and his is a fresh, unexpected voice. I want to know when the next collection is due to be released. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Roundup: April 13 - 19

Bookish events in Texas for the week of April 13 - April 19, 2015:

Special Events:
ARCHIZINES celebrates the resurgence of alternative and independent architectural publishing around the world, Houston, January 29 - April 17

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Exhibition, Austin, February 10 - July 6

Texas Writers: a Humanities Texas Exhibition, San Antonio, April 1 - 29

A Hemispheric Conversation: Queer/Feminist Independent Publishing Projects ‘Belleza y Felicidad’ and ‘Belladonna’ exhibit, Austin, April 14 - May 9

Texas Library Association Annual Conference, Austin, April 14 - 17

Forrest Fest, Lamesa, April 16 - 18

Poetry at Round Top Festival, April 17 - 19

Dallas Book Festival, April 18

MenilFest (Houston Indie Book Fest), April 18

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Annual Conference, Houston, April 18 - 19

Monday, April 13:
Abilene Public Library, Texas Author Series with Miles Arceneaux, 11:45AM

Austin History Center, Book launch: Austin's First Cookbook, 6:30PM
Paramount Theatre, an Evening with Amanda F***ing Palmer, 8PM

Spider House Cafe & BallroomAustin Poetry Slam, 8PM


River Oaks Bookstore, Olivia deBelle Byrd reads and signs Save My Place, 5PM

Wednesday, April 15:
British Beverage Company, For the Love of Words, 6PM

B&N - Stonebriar Mall, Janet Tashjian: My Life as a Gamer, 6PM

University of Houston - Honors Commons, Glass Mountain reading, 5:30PM

Murder By the Book, David Morrell will sign and discuss his latest book, Inspector of the Dead, 6:30PM

Thursday, April 16:

Brazos Bookstore, Meredith Moore - I AM HER REVENGE, 7PM

Houston Community College - West Loop South, American Root Reading Series: Cultural Crossroads – Lucha Corpi, 5:30PM

MECA, Space City Slam: Sirius Semifinal, 6PM

Murder By the Book, David Baldacci will sign and discuss The Finisher, 6:30PM

The Printing Museum, The Future of the Book: Authors and Artists in Conversation, 6:30PM

Round Rock
B&N - La Frontera, Kimberly Schlapman: Oh Gussie! Cooking and Visiting in Kimberly's Southern Kitchen, 12:30PM

San Antonio
Carver Community Cultural Center, La Voz de San Antonio, 6PM

Friday, April 17:

Brazos Bookstore, Edward Hirsch signs Gabriel: A Poem, 5:30PM

MECA, Orbit Poetry Slam, 6PM

MECA, Space City Slam: Nebula Semi-final, 6PM

Saturday, April 18:

B&N - Firewheel, ROAR@SPL Poetry Festival, 2PM

B&N - River Oaks, Melanie Shankle:Nobody's Cuter than You A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship, 7PM

B&N - Vanderbilt Square, Scrumptious Suspense book signing, 2PM

B&N - Deerbrook Mall, George Arnold: Fire and Ice - Beyond Alchemy, 10AM

B&N - NE Mall, Texas Author Extravaganza! - more than 30 authors, 2PM

Round Rock
The Book Spot, Book Signing - Featuring Donna Grant, Julie/J Kenner, Lexi Blake, & Shayla Black, 2PM

San Antonio

B&N - Woodlands Mall, Gwen Y. Gistarb: The Lesson Plan, 2PM

Sunday, April 19:

Katy Budget Books, Crimson Romance Author Signing with Karen Sue Burns, Andrea R. Cooper, Nicole Flockton, Elizabeth Meyette, and Shelley K. Wall, 3PM

Rienzi Center, A Parade of Books, 1PM

San Antonio

Thursday, April 9, 2015

San Antonio Book Festival 2015!

Y'all come join me at the San Antonio Book Festival this weekend! I'll be reporting for Lone Star Literary Life.

Celebrate ideas, books, libraries and literary culture at the third annual San Antonio Book Festival on April 11, 2015, from 10am-5pm at the Central Library and the Southwest School of Art. The all-day festival is free and open to the public. The lineup of 75 national and regional authors can be found here and the festival schedule (which you can download and print) can be found here. If you prefer an app for your Smart Phone, they've got that, too - go here. Activities include panel discussions, book signings, interactive areas and educational opportunities for children and teens, food trucks, live music, recipe demonstrations by cookbook authors, and computer training in the Technology Tent. For more information, visit

To close out the San Antonio Book Festival with an evening of literary send ups and side-splitting laughter, mark your calendar for the Literary Death Match on April 11 at 7 pm at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre. Famous and emerging authors perform the most exciting sections of their work for an audience and panel of judges, who take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary, then selecting their favorite to advance to the finals. General admission with upstairs seating and cash bar, $10. VIP admission with pre-performance Cocktail Reception and live music (5:30pm), $50 a seat or $300 for a reserved table of four. Go here for more information and to buy tickets. General admission tickets are also available at the Empire Theatre box office.