Giveaway winners and question: How the heck do you edit a poem?

Well, even though not all of you are as excited about National Poetry Month as I am a few of you did comment on the giveaway post and the winner is: Kelly!  I might still send a copy to Theric–out of pity–but I’m not so sure.  Congrats Kelly!

The next item of business is my question: How the heck do you edit a poem?

It’s been said that poetry is the most subjective kind of literature.  There are very few hard and fast rules and good poetry is mostly defined by intuition.  As a reader I agree with this and it makes me feel pretty good because it gives me an break when I am completely lost. But as a (hopefully-someday-this-title-will-truly-apply-to-me) poet it frustrates me.

Here’s a poem I wrote that I think has potential but didn’t fulfill it: Continue reading “Giveaway winners and question: How the heck do you edit a poem?”

National Poetry Month: The Best 46 Cents I Ever Spent and an AMV Giveaway!

You can’t buy a lot with forty-six cents these days.  Not a soda.  Not a pack of gum.  Not even Lifesavers from the vending machine.  But you want to know what I got for forty-six cents (thank you amazon.com!)? The best book I’ve read in a long time, Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems.

This is one of those books in Mormon letters that everyone references and talks about and now that I own a copy I can see why.  Harvest has become a companion of sorts for me.  It travels around the house with me and when I have a second–waiting for my kids to finish eating or while I’m brushing my teeth or when I’m supposed to be doing the dishes–I open it up and find the literary equivalent of a gourmet truffle.  Each poem has some familiar elements, with rhyme and meter and subject mattter, but at its center the poem, well, it’ll blow your mind.

Harvest includes work from more than sixty poets including legends like and Leslie Norris, contemporary masters like our own Patricia Karamesines, and Carol Lynn Pearson even makes an appearance. There are also plenty of authors the average reader has probably never heard of (especially if you didn’t attend BYU) but will certainly enjoy reading.  One of my favorite discoveries is Mary Lythgoe Bradford.  I think “Coming Together Apart” has got to be one of the best descriptions of love I’ve come across.  And Elouise Bell’s “This Do In Rememberance of Me.” When I read, “How pallid the bread when pale the  memory/ . . . Every symbol has two halves/ But to us falls the matching./ What match we, then, in sacramental token?” I wished I could take it to Church with me so I’d remember to ask myself that question.

Harvest was originally published twenty years ago and is probably the most important anthology of modern Mormon/LDS poetry to date.  It’s broad enough that it contains something for everyone (and some things individual readers may not care for) and it’s a book you’ll find yourself picking up over and over again because, like a gourmet truffle, one poem is never enough.

So, in honor of National Poetry Month (and since used copies are a steal!) AMV is giving away one copy of Harvest. Just leave a comment about Mormon poetry to enter. Tell us, who’s your favorite?  What poems have touched you and stayed with you? What kind of poetry do you want to see more of?  We really want to know!

Also, keep your eyes (or your Google Readers) open for our other poetry posts this month.  We’ve got some great interviews lined up and some original poems coming your way!

“An Artist is Like a Big Fat Blender”: an interview with Kristen D. Randle

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When I read Kristen D. Randle’s Slumming–which I found on the AMV Book Club list– I was completely surprised. The main characters were not vapid gossip girls looking to lose their virginity or angst ridden, beer drinking, wannabe boys (also looking to lose their virginity), like the characters in so many popular bestsellers aimed at young adults. No, these characters were different. They were Mormons. Continue reading ““An Artist is Like a Big Fat Blender”: an interview with Kristen D. Randle”

Beware Brother Brigham (a review of the book by D. Michael Martindale)

Here’s the thing I’ve discovered about Zarahemla Books: always, always read the back cover–especially any comments made by editor Chris Bigelow. His comments are like codes and if you can break the code then you will know what is really waiting for you when you crack the cover. Continue reading “Beware Brother Brigham (a review of the book by D. Michael Martindale)”

The Experiences of Black Mormons: a gap in Mormon letters?

Since February is Black History Month I’ve been thinking: what do we know about the history and experiences of black members of the LDS church?

For me, the answer is not much.  I mean,  I’ve heard my dad tell his story about having to defend the Church and it’s policies in a high school history class and I remember the black character in God’s Army and I’ve read Mary Sturlaugson Eyer’s memoir trilogy, but all those are rather superficial experiences.  My dad isn’t black.  The guy in God’s Army was a relatively minor character. Eyer’s memoirs  add up to just barely three hundred pages all together.

Arianne Cope tangled with questions about black Mormon identity in her story, “Salt Water”, which was published in the most recent Irreantum.  But her story seemed a little too much for me.  It wasn’t enough that the character was supposedly the first black male to be ordained to the priesthood. He had to be fatherless and his grandma had to kill herself. The story is interesting, but, in my opinion, it was a lot to take on.   Maybe more than the form could manage.  Whatever your feelings about the story, it simply doesn’t do much to enrich the narrative legacy of Black Mormons.

A quick Google search turned up some interesting hits:

*The FAIR LDS Bookstore has a whole section dedicated to black mormon studies. Has anyone actually read any of these books? Are they accessible to the average reader in the Mormon market? Are any of them written by black Mormons themselves or is their history being filtered through white Mormon writers?

*Blacklds.org has a lot of good info but isn’t an artistic attempt. The testimony section is interesting but it also makes me wonder what a book by a black member would read like.  Again, it doesn’t do much to enrich the narrative and artistic legacy.

*Then there’s the movie Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.  It sounds interesting and like a relatively good artistic step, but I haven’t seen it. Have any of you? What did you think? I wonder if I can ILL movies . . .

I know Deseret Book (through their Shadow Mountain imprint) has published a series,  Standing on the Promises by Margaret Blair Young and Darius Gray, but I haven’t read those either.  Have any of you? What do these books do to flesh out the narrative legacy? Are they aimed at a YA audience or adults? Are they artistic attempts like Young’s other books or are they more in the let’s-teach-history-the-fun-way camp (like Gerald Lund’s books)?

Now,  I know I’m  not the best read person when it comes to Mormon Literature, but I would argue that I have read more Mormon/LDS books than the average Latter-day saint.  Most of my book choices are taken from book lists, like the AMV canon (which I would link to if I knew which post it was!),  the AMV book club recommendations, and lists of former AML  award winners along with what I come across in my Deseret Book catalogue. I’ve really made an effort to become well-schooled in Mormon arts and letters.  But none of those resources I’m used to looking to cover the subject of black Mormons–at least not that I have found.  So you tell me. Is this a gap in Mormon letters?  And, if so why?

Finding the Funny in Mormon Literature: Benediction by Neal Chandler

In Eugene Woodbury’s essay, , and in William’s last post they both talk about the importance of comedy.  I agree with what they are saying but I am also sometimes disheartened at the selection of comedy available.  There isn’t much out there, and what is isn’t actually comedy, it’s just silliness.  However, one book, Benediction by Neal Chandler is Mormon comedy at its best.

Benediction is a collection of loosely related short stories that poke fun at the idiosyncrasies of Mormon culture. Set in a ward that could be your own, the comedy is built on the incongruities of pyramid-scheme-selling Relief Society sisters, Rocky preaching Sunday school teachers, parents with so many small children they have to head out to the garage to get some intimate time, and hapless single adults who  find themselves feeling like the teenagers they so obviously aren’t.

Originally published in 1989, with many of the stories having previously appeared in Dialogue,  Benediction is still funny–and relevant–twenty years later. That this book is apparently out of print is a shame. (Don’t worry. You can ILL it or buy it used on Amazon.)  More than just slapstick and oneliners, which seem to be the purview of  so many Mormon comedic films,  Benediction is full of tightly knit witticisms that draw the reader closer and closer to the eccentric–and endearing–essence of Mormonism (which, of course, has nothing to do with the actual Church).  Even the cover art makes you want to giggle. While there were a few moments where I wondered if  the author was laughing at Mormons instead of with Mormons, I found myself wishing I was reading it aloud with others so we could all laugh together.

The Most Important Writing We Do

I always get a little more introspective around the New Year.  (I know it took me a few weeks to get this posted here, but,  hey, it’s still January.)  Lately I’ve been asking myself, “Laura” –yes, I do talk to myself and, sometimes, address myself–“Laura, what books have impacted you the most in your life? What books ended up being the most important?”

My answers surprised me.

Besides the Book of Mormon and other scriptures (which I’ve been imbibing my entire life), I would have to say the first books to really impact me were the ones I read when I was in middle school.  Someone introduced me to Madeleine L’Engle and I was hooked. I read everything she wrote.  Even her memoir about marriage (It was entitled Two Part Invention. I still think that is such a great metaphor.).  Even her journals–especially her journals.  On bad days I still pick up my worn copy of A Circle of Quiet, which I stole–really!– from my sister, and search for comforting passages. I’ve actually been known to sleep with it. As if it were my teddy bear. (We’ve already covered the fact that I’m a little strange, right?) Continue reading “The Most Important Writing We Do”