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Society's 'page vs. stage' program: You could do verse
By Mark Eleveld
Yes, there are healthy aesthetic wars amongst the poetry masses.
One current, and exaggerated, battle is the difference between
the academic poets and the slam poets, or performance poets.
The annual poetry program for the Midland Authors Society this
April featured two of the lead proponents in this ever-going
skirmish: poetry slam founder Marc Kelly Smith and Illinois
Poet Laureate Kevin Stein. The rules of engagement were simple:
two poets from completely different worlds, one who writes primarily
for the PAGE and another
who writes primarily for the STAGE. The poets read together
for an hour, back and forth, poem for poem. It was not a slam
or competition, just a good, spirited, entertaining poetry evening
from different poetic genres.
A chiseled veteran of 24 years of hosting the most raucous,
entertaining and scrutinized poetry reading on the planet, Smith
organizes, performs and holds court at the Green Mill Cocktail
Lounge on Lawrence and Broadway every Sunday. Smith is also
a darn good Chicago poet: "the entertainer: rarely had that
word been applied to a poet
until Marc Smith created
the slam," said the Chicago Tribune. Born on the Southeast Side
of Chicago, Smith performed his original poems, read work from
the current Illinois poet laureate and enthusiastically answered
questions from a responsive, full crowd at the Cliff Dwellers.
Dressed in black, moving about the audience, Smith talked about
his ever-present shyness despite his 2000-plus performances.
He detailed bits and pieces of his philosophy, that poetry slams
were devised as a means of creating a community, of getting
people out of their homes and amongst each other to watch and
listen to words. "This movement, these poems aren't about me,
I'm not the great poet, I've written a couple of good ones,''
he said. (He followed this up with his poem "My Father's Coat.")
"Chicago has been given a great gift. It is because of Chicago
that poetry slams, which are worldwide, have become what they
are. Chicago needs to preserve some of this legacy, remain the
place for poetry."
Likewise, Kevin Stein, the Illinois poet laureate, worked
the room with details of his last four-plus years of duty and
poems from his new book, Sufficiency of the Actual, "a self-deprecating
societal evaluation that has a tendency to hug and butcher,
with lightning word choices that ring seconds after the last
of the thunder has been heard," as stated by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Stein, a professor at Bradley University, remarked that he has
read at over 200 poetry events since his inaugural year. He
began his reading by suggesting that he doesn't believe that
poetry is written primarily for the page. Stein writes his own
work with a musical inclination, confessing to his childhood
aspirations of rock 'n' roll banging (including an 18-minute
cover of the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction"). "I believe all
poetry is at root performative whether for page or stage.
To be honest, I never think of my poems as made only for the
page how limiting that would be and have always
been keen on sound and the musical phrase. How else do we think
and feel?" He was very flattering, and encouraging of the poetry
slam world in terms of shaking things up. As Smith gave homage
to Stein by reading one of his pieces, Stein closed his set
by reading a Smith poem, which he called, "a finely crafted,
The audience also was treated to famous Chicago poet David
Hernandez, although he was not a scheduled reader. Hernandez
was prompted to the stage by Smith and Stein alike. "Chicago
ought to put a statue of this guy next Harry Caray," Smith said.
Hernandez dedicated a piece to performance for Marc Smith and
the page for Kevin Stein. The night ended with lively questions
and answers. One audience member asked Smith where he could
get a copy of "My Father's Coat."
Excerpt from "My Father's Coat"
It's not that I'm trying now
to be proud of my father.
I didn't like him.
He was a narrow man.
There was more of everything he should have done.
More of what he should have tried to understand.
The coat fit him well.
It fits me now.
I didn't love him,
But I wear the coat.
Authors who have come to rely on Biblio File as the publishing
world's best source of author news have just one complaint:
They have to wait a month until the next newsletter is published
to find out what's going on. So the Society's social networking
guru, SMA Vice President Robert Loerzel, has set up three
new sites for our members on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.
"You can use these sites in several different ways" Loerzel
said. "I find that Twitter is a pretty useful way of keeping
track of news headlines it's almost like today's equivalent
of having an AP wire machine at your desk spewing out the latest
news from the New York Times, NPR, etc. That's what it's like
if you focus on following news sites.
"I've received alerts on Twitter that tickets for a concert
are just about to sell out, or announcements about something
interesting that's about to air on NPR. It's all a matter of
which people you sign up to follow.
"Other people use it more as a social tool, of course. It's
kind of nice to telling a bunch of your friends all at once
about something you're doing maybe going on vacation,
seeing a play, etc.
"I tend to use Facebook more for the socializing and Twitter
more for the news, but that's not true for everyone."
SMA Board Member Arnie Bernstein took time out from
promoting his new book to add this comment, "Here's a helpful
hint. Make a file bookmark in your Web browser for Twitter.
In that file, bookmark all of the people you are "following"
on Twitter. This will help reduce the clutter and filter out
useful information and updates as opposed to someone who happily
wants to tell you that he or she just ate a peanut butter sandwich."
So follow the Society on Twitter at http://twitter. com/midlandauthors.
Become our fan at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Society-of-Midland-Authors/183660590485.
Become our friend at http://www. myspace. com/midlandauthors.
Florence Parry Heide's next picture book will be Princess Hyacinth:
The Surprising Tale of the Girl Who Floated (Schwartz and Wade,
Sept. 22, 2009). It chronicles the adventures of a princess
who is so light that she floats.
The Chicago Sun-Times on March 29 ran a reflection by Harry
Mark Petrakis: "The black Achilles: Author Harry Mark Petrakis
recalls the confused battles along the color line in 1930s Chicago."
The piece ran in the newspaper's Commentary section with an
illustration by Thomas Frisbie.
A publication party for Arnie Bernstein's new book,
Bath Massacre, was held April 19 at Centuries & Sleuths
Bookstore in Forest Park. He promoted the event April 16 on
the WGN Channel 9 Noon News between 12:15-12:30 p.m. (archived
at www.wgntv.com), also was Rick Kogan's guest April
20 on Kogan's "Sunday Papers" program. "The launch was something
of a geological strata of my life," Bernstein told Biblio File.
"People from every phase of my life where there: the parents
of my best friend since the third grade, high school buddies,
an old neighbor from nearly 30 years ago, people I used to work
with, a former student and some current students, writing friends
plus assorted relatives. It was like looking over a mosaic of
where I've been at various stages of my being. Wonderful, exhilarating
and very satisfying. And wall-to-wall people, which is always
fun." The May 2 Michigan debut of the book will be held in Lansing
at the Capital Area District Library and will be taped for C-SPAN's
Paul McComas' 14-minute black-and-white film "Blood
of the Wolfman" will be shown from 11 p.m. to midnight May 1
at 911 Foster Ave., Evanston.
The New York Times reported April 7 that Scott Turow will change
publishers from Farrar, Straus & Giroux to Grand Central
Publishing, a division of the Hachette Book Group for
his sequel to Presumed Innocent (See March Literary License).
Larry Lund, president of the Cliff Dwellers, where the Society
of Midland Authors hosts its monthly programs, reports the Cliff
Dwellers have added 23 members since October, for a total of
Like all administrations, the Obama White House is turning
to the Midland Authors for the real scoop: Ed Gordon went
to Washington April 16-22 to talk to the Department of Labor,
National Manufacturers Association and other groups about his
new book: Winning the Global Talent Showdown (See New
Books). The book is about how the United States can create a
better work force to complement the high-tech economy, a battle
that Gordon says we are losing. The book pre-sold 5,000 copies
before it was published on April 1.
Dan Dinello is writing a chapter called "Cyborg Goddess:
The Technological Path to Transcendence in Oshii Mamoru's Ghost
in the Shell" for the book Anime and Philosophy due out at the
end of 2009 by Open Court Press.
Gail Lukasik will read from her new novel at Centuries
& Sleuths at 2 p.m. May 2.
Chicagoist.com's "Friday Flashback" feature on March 13 said,
"We stumbled upon this Thomas Frisbie story from a 1969 Sun-Times"
about the White Sox considering a move to Addison.
The Society took part in the city's largest-ever Creative Chicago
Expo at the Cultural Center on April 4. More than 5,200 people
attended, visiting about 120 exhibitors, the city's Department
of Cultural Affairs reports. Staffing the Society's table during
the day were Robert Loerzel, James Merriner (who filed
this report for Biblio File), Bob Remer, Jim Schwab, and
Lynn Voedisch. They told visitors about the Society and
handed out sample copies of Literary License, programs from
last year's awards banquet and Richard Frisbie's excellent
article from 2000 about the history of the Society. They also
made new friends with leaders of the city's arts and letters
communities. In addition, Bob attended a workshop on fund-raising
for nonprofits and says he picked up some tips to help build
up the Endowment Fund.
Correction: In the March Literary License, the title of Michael
Argetsinger's new book was wrong in the second reference.
It should have said Mark Donohue: Technical Excellence at
Speed both times.
A funny thing happened on the way to the SMA dinner ...
Paul Frisbie's long relationship with words and how
they impact others has been developed through his work both
as an author and a professional comedian.
Frisbie, author of The Chicago River Out Your Window,
will emcee the Society of Midland Authors annual book awards
dinner on May 12 at the Congress Plaza Hotel. You may remember
him from the lengthy profile in the Chicago Tribune magazine
or from one of his local appearances at Zanies or other venues.
Like authors who travel anywhere to get a story, comedians
travel anywhere to tell one. Here's what Frisbie wrote in 2004.
"Comics will go anywhere. We visit spanking new cookie cutter
suburbs and tired old river towns. We explore dusty mining communities
in the Rocky Mountains and beachfront boardwalks on the Carolina
coast. We see towns that have lost their purpose; where every
other building is boarded up and fading signs advertise products
and services that are no longer available. And then we hit the
next town up the road, where there's a Blockbuster Video, a
Boston Chicken, and a discount computer outlet. The lawns are
mowed, the cars are new you've driven 100 years in just
"One week you're playing a comedy club for five nights; the
next week you've got some corporate shows spread out between
three different cities and three different states. You stay
in every kind of hotel imaginable; from three-room suites with
kitchenettes to odd little fishing motels with no cable TV and
a handmade ashtray.'
"Entertainers call it ''The Road' and it's an addicting place.
You head blindly off to places you've never been, to entertain
people you've never seen, with no way to know what to expect.
The crowd may be five or five thousand people. You'll find out
when you get there and you can't wait.
"But it's all water under the bridge the next day. You check
out of your hotel, you gas up the car and you go see what's
waiting around the next bend in the road."
Winning the Global Talent Showdown: How Businesses
and Communities Can Partner to Rebuild the Jobs Pipeline
In his 17th book, Winning the Global Talent Showdown: How
Businesses and Communities Can Partner to Rebuild the Jobs Pipeline,
Edward Gordon continues his exploration of the future
of jobs and how technology is transforming workplaces, occupations,
and the educational preparation needed for them. Gordon explores
how a talent crisis is shaping up in 25 countries of the Americas,
Europe, and Asia. The primary focus of this book is on solutions
especially through forming community-based organizations and
non-governmental organizations to develop new approaches to
education at the community level.
A More Perfect Union
March 16, 2009
In Steven Burgauer's new book set in the future, asteroids
are being mined and comets sent crashing into Venus' atmosphere
to cool the planet for colonization. On Earth, a violent civil
war breaks out in America over the repeal of the Second Amendment.
On one side is a fanatical religious right, on the other a
spineless liberal administration. Caught in between are space
travelers returning from Mars. Among them is Butch Hogan, a
space jockey in the employ of Transcomet Industries. Butch works
with orbiting electronic mass drivers crucial to the asteroid
trade. Upon landing, Butch must choose sides in the ever-widening
A Writer's Guide to Memoir
University of Georgia Press
June 1, 2009
Sue William Silverman's new book, Fearless Confessions:
A Writer's Guide to Memoir, navigates a range of issues
from craft to ethics to marketing, to finding the courage to
write. It is enhanced with illustrative examples from many different
writers as well as writing exercises, and it is for beginners
and more accomplished writers. Silverman is also the author
of Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You as
well as Love Sick: One Woman's Journey Through Sexual Addiction,
made into a Lifetime TV movie, and she was nominated for two
PRISM Awards. For more information, visit www.suewilliamsilverman.com.
Historic Photos of Ernest Hemingway
March 15, 2009
Illinois Wesleyan University professor James Plath's new
book features 200 photos of Ernest Hemingway, the most photos
of the Nobel laureate assembled in a single book. It's also
the first time that a biography has been attempted within the
restricted format of photo captions and introductions. The Bloomington-Normal
Pantagraph called it "a handsome coffee table volume in the
best sense of the word," an "expansive life of the 20th century's
most celebrated author compressed into a well-lighted nutshell"
with "captions to both identify and enlighten in a plainspoken
style that straddles the informal and the scholarly." Plath
is the co-author of Remembering Ernest Hemingway (Ketch
& Yawl Press, 1999) and former director of the Hemingway Days
Writers' Workshop & Conference in Key West, Fla.
An English-Russian Edition of Poems
University Press of the South
April 1, 2009
Here's what Ethan Lewis, professor of English at the University
of Illinois, says about SMA board member Rosina Neginsky's
new book: "Dr. Neginsky reminds readers that we are also
artists, for her works summon our responsibility. Under the
Light of the Moon (2002) reads, plausibly, as a spiritual autobiography.
This volume redirects its lyric mirrors upon us."
Henry Holt and Co.
April 14, 2009
In Debbi Chocolate's latest book, a young boy explores
a vibrant city neighborhood that shimmers with life at
once a party, a waltz, and a heartbeat. El Barrio is his sister
preparing for her quincea Z era, his grandfather singing about
the past and his cousins' stories from other lands. Booklist
says, "The whole is an exuberant cacophony of colors and sight."
Chocolate is author of more than 20 picture books, including
The Piano Man, which received the Coretta Scott King/John
Steptoe New Talent Award.
SMA Slate for 2009-2010
Here is the slate of candidates for the Society of Midland
Authors for next year.
President: Robert Loerzel
Vice President: Gerry Souter
Corresponding secretary: Chuck Masters
Recording Secretary: Stella Pevsner
Treasurer: Richard Frisbie
Membership Secretary: Thomas Frisbie
Board of directors (three-year terms)
A Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association,
Richard Baer, M.D., is author of Switching Time: A
Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities
He also is the former president of the Illinois Psychiatric
Society. After many years in practice as a psychiatrist he received
a master's degree in creative writing from Northwestern University.
Publishers Weekly called Switching Time a "compelling and engaging
Nami Mun was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up
there and in Bronx, N.Y. She has worked as an Avon Lady, a street
vendor, a photojournalist, a waitress, an activities coordinator
for a nursing home, and a criminal defense investigator.
After earning a GED from the Santa Monica Unified School District,
she went on to get a BA in English from UC Berkeley, and an
MFA from University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award
She is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize, as well as scholarships
from Yaddo, MacDowell, Eastern Frontier, Squaw Valley Writers'
Conference, Tin House Writers' Conference, and Key West Literary
Seminar. Her stories have been published in the 2007 Pushcart
Prize Anthology, The Iowa Review, Evergreen Review, Witness,
and other journals, including Tin House, who named her an Emerging
Voice of 2005. Her debut novel, Miles from Nowhere, was
recently short-listed for the Orange Award for New Writers.
She currently teaches Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago.
For more information, visit http://www.namimun.com.
Bethany McLean, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair
magazine known for her work on the Enron scandal, is co-author
of The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and the
Scandalous Fall of Enron.
Prior to working at Vanity Fair, she was an editor
at large and columnist for Fortune magazine. McLean received
her BA in English and mathematics at Williams College in 1992.
After college and prior to joining Fortune, she worked as an
investment analyst on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs. McLean
has made appearances on the "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" as
an observer of the trials of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and
was on "The Colbert Report," and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
She is writing a book with Joe Nocera on the 2008 financial
crisis. She grew up in Hibbing, Minn., and lives in Chicago.
Fleda Brown, who lives in Traverse City, Mich., won
the Felix Polak Prize for her sixth collection of poems, Reunion.
She also is author of The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their
Lives; Breathing In, Breathing Out; The Devil's Child; Do Not
Peel the Birches, and Fishing With Blood. She was
born in Columbia, Mo., and grew up in Fayetteville, Ark. She
earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Arkansas,
and in 1978 she joined the faculty of the University of Delaware
English Department, where she founded the Poets in the Schools
Program, which she directed for more than 12 years.
Her books, essays, and individual poems have won many awards.
She served as poet laureate of Delaware from 2001-2007, when
she retired from the University of Delaware and moved to Traverse
City. She teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency
MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash.,
and she spends summers with her husband, also a retired English
professor, at their cottage on a small lake. Her forthcoming
book is Driving with Dvorak from the University of Nebraska
How authors can get along with their copy
Q&A With Carol Saller
As reported in the January Literary License, Carol Fisher
Saller has written her sixth book, The Subversive Copy
Editor. (It's available from the University of Chicago Press.)
"[The book] is not about how to copy edit," says Saller, who
is senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press
and the editor of The Chicago Manual of Style's Q&A. "This is
more a self-help book for how to live a good life as a copy
Although her book is aimed at copy editors, there is plenty
of advice that authors can take to heart.
For example, writers, like copy editors, should be familiar
with the word processor they are using, Saller says. "Read a
commercially published manual rather than the documentation
that came with your software," she writes. "Four out of five
techies agree that you need a manual at least 1.5 inches thick."
Also many edited manuscripts still go to authors as hard-copy
printouts, but there is a trend toward sending electronic versions,
Saller writes. In that case, an author needs to be clear who
has the working copy. If the copy editor has that copy, an author
has be sure not to make unnotated changes the copy editor might
"Something you should never do once editing has begun is to
make changes to the original e-files in the expectation you
can send them to the copy editor, who will somehow incorporate
this new version," Saller writes. "I cannot stress enough how
unreasonable this would be."
Avoiding time-wasting practices is more important than ever
because the time squeeze affecting almost everyone is making
harder for copy editors, too, Saller says.
"We are under pressure," Saller says. "I assume almost everyone
is under pressure to produce more with fewer resources."
However, "if you have a veteran copy editor, it is going to
be pretty good quality editing because that editor has the experience
to zero in on the most egregious things, whereas the neophyte
might chug along very slowly," she says.
In a chapter titled, "Dear Writers," Saller advises authors
not to tinker extensively with their manuscripts while they
are in the copy editing stage, for two reasons.
First, she says, there's a chance the writer is wasting a
copy editor's time by calling attention to typos that already
have been corrected. Second, "your work will benefit from your
gaining a little distance on it," she says.
"It's possible that even if you are not trying to think about
your manuscript, various corrections, additions and little improvements
will occur to you anyway," she writes. "Just write them down
so you can tend to them when it is your turn."
And, if the author and the copy editor are lucky, their collaboration
will result in a finished work that is significantly improved.
"One of the nicest responses I've ever had to my editing was
in the form of an author's addition of a paragraph to the end
of his novel," Saller writes. "In my cover letter, I had expressed
my initial surprise and disappointment at the ending, and I
explained why, although I added that, feelings aside, I knew
it was the only sensible ending. The new paragraph addressed
my feelings perfectly, without changing the facts of the ending.
I couldn't have been more pleased."
And though the book is titled The Subversive Copy Editor,
there is nothing very subversive about one final notion: It
doesn't hurt to say thank you.
"I know I said we're not in it for the glory but I
lied," Saller writes. "One of the nicest rewards of a copy editor's
life is when a writer is grateful and bothers to say so in a
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