Friday, December 5, 2008

April Ossmann at Poetry Santa Cruz

Dennis Morton, who has brought so many poets to Santa Cruz through the auspices of Poetry Santa Cruz and The Poetry Show on KUSP, hosted Four Wayer April Ossmann and Ed Pavlic back in October.

There's video of April and Ed reading here.

You can buy Anxious Music at the Four Way Books website where all our titles are available at a 32% discount. You'll be supporting independent publishing AND saving yourself money!

Monday, November 24, 2008

LA Times reviews Eileen Pollack

Writing in yesterday's LA Times Heller McAlpin comments,

".... Eileen Pollack's story collection "In the Mouth" is at once boldly physical and darkly comic. In "The Bris," a man on his deathbed begs his son to arrange for his circumcision. (Turns out he'd been merely passing as an Orthodox Jew for seven decades, afraid of the procedure.) In "Beached in Boca," a retired dentist whose girlfriend has AIDS rails at his daughter, "The truth about getting old is that every single person you've ever loved dies." ("I'm still here," his daughter reminds him.)..."

One of the stories from the collection, "The Bris," was featured in Best American Short Stories 2007 , and Eileen was recently described as "an American talent" by Stephen King in the New York Times Book Review You can buy her critically-praised and much-loved collection of short stories and novellas, In the Mouth (Four Way Books, 2008), direct from Four Way at two-thirds of the retail price, 32% off.

Or, ask your local independent bookstore where their copies can be found!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

National Anthem named as one of Publishers Weekly's 5 Best Books of 2008

Four Way Books is delighted to congratulate Kevin Prufer on the selection of National Anthem as one of Publishers Weekly's five best poetry books of 2008.

Congratulations, Kevin!

The 5 selected books are below:

Watching the Spring Festival
Frank Bidart (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
In his first collection of short lyrics—a finalist for the NBA—Bidart reflects on aging, regret and a life lived in close contact with, if not through, pop music, art, dance and other monuments of culture.

For All We Know
Ciaran Carson (Wake Forest)
Long hailed as a master poet in his native Ireland, Carson fortifies his reputation here with this meditation on love and mystery that takes the classical fugue as its model.

Katie Ford (Graywolf)
Motored by a deeply personal connection to New Orleans and its inhabitants, Ford chronicles the destruction Katrina wrought, both on the city itself and on Ford's faith—religious and otherwise.

The Shadow of Sirius
W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon)
The latest by one of America's great living masters of the lyric poem—Merwin's best book in a decade—finds the poet reflecting movingly on his own mortality, his oracular voice seeming to predict the past as if it were yet to come.

National Anthem
Kevin Prufer (Four Way)
A rare poetry collection: as angry and ironic over the state of contemporary America—figured here as a great classical empire in decline—as it is funny and perversely pleasurable.

Interview with Kevin Prufer, author of National Anthem

Jeremy Spohr, an MFA candidate at Arizona State University, recently interviewed Kevin Prufer, whose 4th collection of poems, National Anthem has just been named as one of Publishers' Weekly's Best Books of 2008.

JS: What gets you started when you sit down to write? Do you generally begin with a line, an image, an idea? When working on a book, to what extent do you purposely hinge poems together, letting a previous poem inform the next through image or theme, or does this happen naturally, almost unconsciously, through the immersion of your process?

KP: I’m terrible at starting poems. I’d rather do almost anything else. I pace around the room, type a line, delete it, type another, delete it. Usually, that’s all I’ll do in an evening, start and delete ten or twelve poems, never getting more than a line or two into any. Once I find something I’m happy with—often beginning with a line borrowed from elsewhere, then, later, revised off the page—the writing becomes easier. At a certain point, perhaps eight or ten lines in, I generally stop and ask myself, “who exactly is speaking here?” and “why is he speaking?” and “what’s the back story here?” Those are important questions for me. They keep me focused on what the poem is trying to do. They keep me imagining an actual audience for my poetry, which is important.

I understand that this also ties the poems down to certain narrative lines and moments, which is perhaps not the most fashionable way to be writing right now. But I continue to believe that most every good poem has buried in it somewhere the seed of narrative. Sometimes the narrative isn’t directly stated in the poem, but is implied by the speaker’s urgent need to say the poem. What caused that? Isn’t that a narrative?

Putting together a book is an entirely different sort of process, made easy for me only because I’m an obsessive sort of writer. I’ll become fascinated by an image—the moon burning, a parachute falling through the sky—and it just keeps sneaking into my poems, over and over again. And, in a broader sense, I can’t seem to help writing about empire and about death. These are endlessly interesting to me and even when I try to write away from them, I end up returning. So, ultimately, I’m never thinking about a complete book when I’m writing poems, but they do tend to fit together nicely once I start compiling them. And the links you notice are certainly there; it’s just that they don’t rise to the surface until I start assembling a pile of finished poems into a collection. Before that, they’re just obsessions.

JS: Let’s talk about “The Enormous Parachute.” It covers the suburbs like a synthetic, post-apocalyptic snow. It homogenizes the light and is responsible for the deaths of migrating birds. There is an attention to burial in National Anthem —the snow that covers the planes on the airstrip, the piled leaves that bury children, the rotting apples that bury the boys in their trucks—and I read the expanse of parachute as another covering, a sort of burial. There is, after all, a dead man hung at its center. The poem, a series of letters written by one of the covered, enriches and informs readings of other poems in the book, such as “Caravaggio’s Bent Narcissus” and “The Excavation of the Children of the Czar.” I also note that the cover of National Anthem is Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, partially wrapped. Can you discuss this sense of burial, or covering, in terms of National Anthem’s specific themes?

KP: Well, these are certainly things that I’m very conscious of writing about and, in retrospect, I think they function in two ways in National Anthem (and perhaps in my next book, too).

On the one hand, the book is largely about empire, our expanding empire, in particular and the force we exert on the world. Images of “covering” certainly function to reinforce that theme, the way we manage to cover up the world as we expand over it, the way we cover it with our gaze.

But that sounds didactic. I’m just as interested in what I’ve always taken to be one of Whitman’s great questions, that is: where is there room for the individual American in the vastness of America, in the sweeping political and social forces that surround us. “The Enormous Parachute” is, for me, a sort of love poem, in which the yearning of the speaker manifests itself in the giant parachute that appears to have covered his entire world, at the center of which a dead paratrooper hangs. But the parachute (as it does in several other poems in the book) also suggests airplanes and a war, hinting at that struggle that I often worry about when I write: how important are we? Are the speaker’s loneliness and love really meaningful to anyone but himself? Can we really distinguish ourselves by our acts, feelings, selves, against the overwhelming forces of the world? This yearning is very large for the speaker, but it’s meaningless for the rest of the world with whom he cannot share it, even in the letters that, ultimately, he never sends.

I suppose that’s also a question behind so many of the so-called elegies in the collection and behind the other poems you cite: we cannot help but obliterate ourselves against the enormity of our world. But, finally, I hope the book suggests that this isn’t an excuse from political thought or action. And I hope, too, that it doesn’t mean we’re meaningless in the world.

JS: Read together, “Ars Poetica” and “There Is No Audience For Poetry” suggest an innate force in poetry to speak against power despite doing very little to change the nature, or structure, of that power. Is this an adequate reading? What does poetry make happen? Can you discuss your take on the poet’s political responsibilities? Would you say that the celebrant, the “light-in-the-eye” speaker in “Ars Poetica” who drops “love notes” is engaged in a political act?

KP: That’s a very adequate, if sad, reading. And, yes, I’d imagined the guy in the trunk to be the poet and the people driving the car to be, I don’t know, the American voter, our elected officials, the mob. I think you’re right to say those poems speak against power while acknowledging that we’re mostly really too tiny to make much happen, those of us sitting in our studies writing our useless little poems, locked in the trunks of cars banging that tire iron against the walls trying to get someone’s, anyone’s, attention. Depressing, and for the record, I don’t always feel that way, even if the poem does.

Ultimately, though, I think that expecting poetry to change the world in any immediate, political way is a mistake. It misunderstands where the art is most powerful. I’ve always felt that great poetry—the kind of poetry we all want to write—doesn’t really rally the troops, get out the vote, or provide answers. At least not now, in this country. Instead, poetry seems to me to be an art form uniquely suited to expressing or examining complexity, to asking difficult questions rather than answering them. I’m thinking of Emily Dickinson, whose great poems seem at once to believe in an all-powerful God, to doubt His existence, to worry about his absence and fear his presence. She never takes a side there; instead, she displays for us the complexity of the question, suggesting how and why we might know God and the afterlife in simultaneously conflicting ways. Understanding Dickinson—or Bradstreet or Eliot or Bishop, etc.—often means holding conflicting positions in mind simultaneously as we try to understand or know things that are, finally, not completely knowable.

But, of course, while these poets don’t “make things happen” in the way I think most people would understand the phrase, they do help us understand the world around us a little better, they help us see the big questions in ways we might now otherwise have seen them. They have helped us understand who we are as a very complicated culture, what our ideals and fears and beliefs are. In this way, they are tremendously important. They do make things happen.

As regards my own poems and politics: Yes, my subjects are often very political, but hopefully not simplistically so. I loathe our current administration, would love to see our rather jingoistic sense of what is means to be American revised — but I’m not delusional. I hold the poets I mention above as models because I’m interested in expressing the complexity of what it means to be an American alive at this time, in an increasingly deceptive, shaky, maybe malevolent empire. When I write, my feelings are primarily ambivalent; I find myself writing about outrage and beauty with equal fervor. I hope, one day, to have a fraction of the influence on the way we think about ourselves as any of the poets I mentioned above.

JS: There is that wonderful last image in “Mechanical Bird” of the “neatly feathered” mechanical sparrow that has replaced the heart, “the bird in the chest/that sings these words to it/that beats its wings against the ribs’ restraints.” For me, this image inverts the boy pounding inside the car’s trunk and serves as an example of an interesting ambiguity in your work. I find myself wanting some clear demarcation between the organic, natural body and that of the mechanical, or the synthetic product. But there is no easy distinction in National Anthem. Airplanes are the mirrored image of a dying bird. Cars are compared to the human body where hearts whir like motors. Raindrops are hypodermics, and ice leaves a circuitry on windows. I think also of those lines in the title poem: “What was the body but a vessel, and what was the store but another, larger vessel?” These lines extend this lack of clear distinction to the structure of institutions, so that even a shopping center seems to be an animate, natural phenomenon with which we are in relationship. There are blurred limits, then, between the individual organism and the machineries of culture. Will you discuss the central ideas behind this ambiguity?

KP: That’s a difficult question mostly because my sense of the answer varies from poem to poem. In a very general way, I’m interested in the idea that our culture is an extension of ourselves, both good and bad. That we can’t really talk about who we are (as a collection of individuals) without talking about what we’ve created. Machinery often seems like a useful way of communicating this—that we are like these complicated, God-created machines that create other synthetic products and machines. That’s our function; it’s absolutely who we are and how we define ourselves as we move across the landscape.

Conversely, even as we look at the natural world, we come to own it, transforming those raindrops into hypodermics, that ice into circuitry. So the metaphor of “synthetic things” or “machinery” works both ways.

In the title poem, the shopping mall is just such an ambivalent sort of object—a thing simultaneously beautiful and soulless that we have created. We are both, the mall and the speaker, these mirroring vessels filled with goods, both created things, the speaker in the poem unable (and not really wanting) to be extricated from the objects of his culture.

That’s one way machinery and created objects work in the poems, though not the only way. After all, I wrote these poems one by one over a period of several years. They’re inconsistent. And I certainly don’t mind if readers see them differently.

JS: There is a cinematic quality in much of your work, a framing of visual images that flicker and drive the narrative forward. I’m thinking of “Apocalypse,” “We Wanted To Find America,” and “A History of the American West,” among others. Have the visual arts—film and painting in particular—influenced your work?

KP: They definitely have, especially film. When I think about poetry—my own and others’—I like to imagine the accretion of images the way a film director might. Why, I ask, did the camera tilt here? Why did it come to rest there? What kind of story is being told by the progression of images one atop the other, and how are we, the audience, being manipulated by these directorial choices? I came to writing poetry through fiction writing and almost always see my writing—even my most condensed, lyrical poems—as narratives unfolding.

Curiously, though, I almost never find myself thinking about particular films or works of art when I write, with the exception of the poem “Caravaggio’s Bent Narcissus,” which I wrote particularly for a friend who was editing a feature on ekphrastic poetry at Prairie Schooner. If she hadn’t asked, I probably wouldn’t have written that poem—and even as it is, I sometimes think it’s connection to Caravaggio’s painting of Narcissus is almost arbitrary, except that the painting inspired it and is alluded to in the end.

JS:I’d like to ask a question about form. In the forward to The New Young American Poets, an anthology you edited, Richard Howard writes:

Ours, then, is a generation of poets that knows not the Law, and though the results of such ignorance are often brilliant, and certainly worth our delighted attention, we shall discover that the poetry of the moment…is a literature of desperate measures, dreadful freedoms that only the strongest and most resolute talents can endure.

As a poet who spends a great deal of time reading contemporary poetry, can you speak about our “dreadful freedoms” that Howard alludes to, the potential hazards and/or benefits to being a “generation […] that knows not the Law?” What is your background with forms? Do you feel it is important for younger poets to learn and experiment with forms?

KP: I remember first reading Richard Howard’s statement, thinking it delightfully ambivalent and smart about these freedoms we’re all supposedly enduring. And it makes me think about a panel I was recently on at Indiana University. Someone in the audience asked about rules and forms and Jean Valentine, who sat next to me, said something to the effect that one of the things that drew her to poetry was that there were really no rules.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I decided that there are, in fact, lots and lots of rules and we devise them and break them at our peril. Every good poem, free verse or not, is also a formal poem, in that it takes a formal position, a stance, as it articulates itself to the reader. And every good poem is also formal in that it has a shape, often invented by the poet, that, ideally, works hand-in-hand with what the poem is trying to do. Here it begins, here it turns, here the line speeds up or the rhythm falters, here the poet has inserted a little slant rhyme or unsettling sonic dissonance. These are all formal decisions and if the poet’s not aware that he’s making them, well, he’s probably not writing very well.

This doesn’t actually contradict Richard Howard (or, for that matter, Jean Valentine, who is very smart about poetry), but it does add another perspective to what I think they’re after. I suppose the terrible freedom Howard refers to is the freedom to devise our forms, though once we have we end up working within their rules.

Inherited forms first brought me to poetry. I loved the bravura of the villanelle, sestina, ballad, double dactyl. I still enjoy writing sonnets, several of which will be included in my next book. One thing that drew me to these when I started writing—and still draws me to them today—is the feeling of inevitability they create in the reader. We know the sonnet must end on something like the 140th syllable and we can feel it coming, though the poet (hopefully) moves us or surprises us within the confines of that inevitability. We know whether the next syllable will be weak or strong, we know that here there will be a rhyme and over there will come a corresponding rhyme. Much of the musical terrain is familiar to the reader, and this creates a different kind of freedom in the writing. Because many (though not all, certainly) of the formal choices have been made already, I feel freer to concentrate on the manipulation of the form rather than it’s invention; it focuses the mind and sharpens the ear.

So, yes, I also think student writers should write in inherited forms. Absolutely. And it’s best if they don’t think of it as a sort of exercise, but approach those forms with the same ambition that they have for their other poetry. A poet who cannot compose a sonnet is perhaps not a very dexterous writer. Either that, or she hasn’t quite familiarized herself with the tradition in which she writes.

Well, perhaps that’s a bit harsh—but somewhere inside me, I half believe it.

Jeremy Spohr is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University.

Kevin Prufer is the author of Fallen from a Chariot, The Finger Bone, and Strange Wood. He is the editor of PLEIADES: A Journal of New Writing. He is the recipient of an individual fellowship from the NEA, three Pushcart Prizes, and two George Bogin Awards from the Poetry Society of America. He is on the board of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC). He lives in rural Missouri.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

John reads John (Ashbery, Gallaher)

Yes, we wrote that the right way round.

Last week, at a Best American Poetry event in NYC, John Ashbery read a John Gallaher poem, "In the Book of the Disappearing Book," which appeared in The Little Book of Guesses (Four Way, 2007, winner of the Levis Prize judged by Henri Cole).

You can get your hands on John's book at the Four Way Books website - a 32% discounted price when you buy direct from Four Way!

The Little Book of Guesses was one of the first books of poems to present an especially 21st century mindset. It takes place in a world where we’ve “accustomed ourselves to our customized dogs” and “honed the idea of ideas there in the obstacle race / that’ll never catch up.” But while it’s a world we’re not unfamiliar with – “in the New Age tourism is the answer” – Gallaher’s turn of speech is at once unique and exact, making the familiar strange and the strange familiar.

Serving as our escort through scenes including ‘The War Presidents Afternoon Tea’ and ‘A Moment in the Market of Moments,’ Gallaher offers us several Guidebooks: “to the Afterlife”, “to When Things Were Better”, a “Pocket Guide to Some Foreign Country.” There can only be guesses, but these poems are ever confident in their form and lyricism. Abundant with comedy, they contain more than a dose of irony and cynicism, and still find room for the quiet anger of frustration, of knowing that what seems most surreal about this world turns out to be reality itself.

Bin Ramke has commented, of John Gallaher’s poetry, that it is “neither pretending wholeness nor embracing fragmented language as if it were good enough…a powerful new kind of poem.”

"It appears / someday we’ll have a wonderful / future, in the green houses, the red hotels” writes Gallaher, and we find ourselves believing him, or at least wanting to—and desperately.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Eileen Pollack: Reviews, Readings

Eileen Pollack, author of the critically-praised and much-loved collection of short stories and novellas, In the Mouth (Four Way Books, 2008), is reading in several Jewish Book Network events, including at the Jewish Literary Festival in Washington, D.C., next week, September 22nd. If you're within travelling distance of D.C. go hear her, and find out why Stephen King called her "an American talent." Eileen will also be appearing at the Jewish Book Festival in Ann Arbor, MI, and the Jewish Book Festival in San Francisco, CA, both in November.

Eileen has recently received another two wonderful reviews, in Jewish Book World and in Ploughshares . Congratulations, Eileen!

Eileen also was quoted in the NY Times this week, asked for her opinion about the boundary between art and pranks. A busy week for this wonderful writer!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Growler Poetry Review: April Ossmann's Anxious Music

April Ossmann, whose debut collection Anxious Music Publisher's Weekly described as written in "a voice remarkable for its confidence and fierceness," has received a positive review from Jennifer Hanks, who writes that "Anxious Music reveals to us that while we are often at the mercy of our desires, we are seldom in control of them"

You can buy Anxious Music at the Four Way Books website where all our titles are available at a 32% discount. You'll be supporting independent publishing AND saving yourself money!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Eileen Pollack Interviewed

Eileen Pollack will be reading from In the Mouth: Stories and Novellas at several Jewish Book Network events in the Fall, beginning excitingly with the Jewish Literary Festival taking place in Washington, D.C. from September 14-24; Eileen will read on Monday September 22nd at 7.30p.m. You can read a glowing review of In the Mouth in the San Francisco Chronicle here.

An interview with Eileen, conducted by Catherine Bates, follows.

In the Mouth is a collection of short stories and novellas. How do you distinguish between the two different forms? Do you think about length at the beginning stages of the each piece? Do you have a preference between the two forms?
The novella is my favorite form – it offers the clean, simple structure of a short story (one main character facing one central conflict as that conflict moves through one pleasing narrative arc, exploring one central thematic question, usually from one dominant point of view) while providing much more space in which to work out all of the above. As you can see, I’m a maximalist, in terms not only of language and thematic meditation but also plot. Even in my short stories, I tend to work with as much plot as some literary writers provide for an entire novel. So the novella length allows me to take my time and not give in to the temptation to scrunch in a novel’s worth of material in 25 pages.

And yes, I do tend to know which form a piece will take before I start out. If an old man tells his son that he needs to be circumcised before he dies, you’re not going to be able to accomplish the circumcision – let alone convince your readers the story is remotely plausible or explain why the old man needs a circumcision, literally or thematically – in fewer than forty pages. This was especially true since I knew “The Bris” was going to have a fairy-tale structure: the king asks his son to perform a difficult task, and the son must surmount daunting obstacles, trying at least three strategies before he succeeds (in fairy tales, everything comes in threes!). With “Beached in Boca,” I knew I was writing two intertwined stories, each so dramatic (an elderly father with AIDS, a father who’s murdered a secret lover) I would need lots of pages to do them both justice. That said, I wasn’t sure if I was writing a forty-page novella or a full-length novel until well into the project!

And now that I’m writing this, I have to admit that I also love the story form … for the sheer beauty of its compressed brevity, accomplishing so much in so little space. And stories are easier to publish on their own, in magazines. If not for the wonderful literary journal SubTropics, which doesn’t balk at printing long works of fiction, “The Bris” wouldn’t have come out on its own and won a Best American!

Could you talk a little about your writing process for a short story collection? I know you have written novels as well. How does the completion of a collection differ from the completion of a novel?
I write my novels all at one go, and even though this might take three to five years, the book spans one discrete period of my life and by its nature focuses on one central theme. But the stories that end up going into a collection might span decades of my life, in and around the novels and works of nonfiction. All the while, I’m moving through different periods of my life, facing different challenges as a person and as a writer. At one end of In the Mouth, my son was being born, while at the other end, my son was approaching manhood and my father was dying. The challenge is to find the common themes that span several eras of your life. In this case, I tried to put together the collection before I’d written “The Bris,” with a far different story (“Breaking and Entering”) in its place, and I couldn’t see the unities. Then I wrote “The Bris” and took out the one story that didn’t fit, and suddenly everything came together and made sense, all those parents and children, all those secrets, all those questions of what parents and children give to each other, or can’t give, what we can or can’t give to lovers and total strangers …

How does the title speak to the larger themes in this collection?
Well, as I said, the parents and children in this collection keep many secrets from each other (and from themselves). In the first story “The Safe,” the main character is keeping her passion for her son’s physical beauty a secret from her husband, her son, her father, everyone, while she’s also starting to wonder if something was wrong about her own father’s physical responses to her when she was a child.

In contemporary American society, a secret of that nature demands to be explored and made much of: Oh, no, maybe your father sexually abused you! Oh no, maybe you’re sexually abusing your son! But by the end of the story, the narrator is as unwilling to explore those so-called problems and pathologize her feelings for her son (or her father’s feelings for her) as the father has been unwilling to open the safe in the basement of his office. Once I had that image – the safe that might or might not be opened to reveal its secrets – I also saw the image of the dentist peering down his patient’s throat to see what he can see about the patient. In the safe, in the mouth … what do we really know about what’s inside anyone else, even people to whom we’re closely related?

And there’s the idea of nursing a child, which comes up in “Milk,” when Bea stares at her son’s mouth and gets freaked out because he’s asking something of her that she doesn’t think she has to give. Or getting kicked in the mouth. Or, well, all the sexual connotations of mouths and what goes into mouths. That said, I have to give credit to my friend, Marcie Hershman, who actually suggested the phrase when I was hunting for a title! All I did was see the wonderful rightness of her suggestion!

Florida reappears in these stories. What role does place have in this collection? How aware were you of the physical settings of these stories while writing the collection?

Setting is everything to me when I write. I tend to make up plots, but I always work with real settings. The setting is the world of the story, by which I mean the culture. Every detail, every object and image and ritual of that world has to strike me as rich in poetry and sociology. There are people who are insiders in a given world, people who are outsiders, and most of the conflicts in my stories (and novels) occur because of some sort of clash between the insiders and the outsiders. The Catskills, where I grew up, certainly qualifies as a world unto itself. But that world died, and most of the older people who used to live there retired to southern Florida. They took some of their own customs down there with them, but they also created new ones. The gated communities of Boca are so rich in ritual, language, a certain well-defined set of values … That’s what I need to create a world. But I didn’t want to stay on the stereotypical surface, the way Jerry Seinfeld does when he takes his characters to Boca (though I do laugh myself sick when those episodes come on in Seinfeld in reruns); I wanted to explore what was going on inside characters like Milt Rothstein, a seemingly mild-mannered dentist from upstate New York.

The body is intricately woven into the plot of these stories. Hospitals and dentist offices often house some kind of heartbreak. The characters’ struggles are connected to the body’s limitations. Could you talk about the importance of the body in your writing?
Honestly, I never thought of that before in relation to my work. I’m someone who lives most of her life inside her head, so it always comes as a big surprise to me that I even have a body. Then again, I’ve always been very active and athletic, and I’ve had a great many physical setbacks in the past ten years (I recently had to have part of my spine replaced!). Having a baby and nursing him and taking care of him is a very physical activity, absolutely saturated with powerful emotions. And caring for my dying father and declining mother in Boca have been powerful reminders that we all have bodies. I suppose that what you’re reading here is a chronicle of my growing realization that no one can live solely in her head! You’re reading the stories that came out of the collision between the life of the mind and the life of the body in my own history. Oh, and I suppose that I realized that one of the main ways I connected with my own father was sitting in his dental chair (and filling in as his dental assistant) … and that sitting in the chairs of other dentists now that he’s dead is an emotionally wrenching and very physically upsetting and scary experience.

A lot of these characters really stuck with me. In some of the stories like “Milt and Moose,” “The Safe,” and “Milk,” the protagonist reaches a deeper understanding or a startling realization only at the very end of the story so the reader is left pondering over these quiet, but vast changes. Do you think these characters share similar struggles?

I do. I’m not a fan of stories in which the epiphanies are small. As I said earlier, these are characters who are trying to figure out what to do with their secret lives. They’re also facing conflicts over how much they can give to other people, even the people they love most. In real life, I’m a complete and total egotist. Yet I’m also someone who feels called upon to give, give, give. I live with that conflict every waking moment, and most of my non-waking moments as well (I am plagued by vivid, disturbing dreams), so it makes sense that my characters would share similar tensions in their lives. The trouble is, most of the startling realizations and vast changes we undergo in this life tend to last for a day or a week before most of us need to go through the whole disturbing business yet again.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ron Silliman Reviews Degrees of Latitude

Ron Silliman writes a very thought-provoking and complimentary review of Laurel Blossom's Degrees of Latitude on his blog today. Describing it as "completely persuasive" he writes "This is not the language of lyric verse, nor of the particular sort of Quietist confessionalism one might associate, say, with Carolyn Forché or Jane Miller, both of whom blurbed this book. There is a grit to these descriptions."

Ron Silliman has been writing an interesting series of posts on the William Carlos Williams award, which he judged this year, and which brought Degrees of Latitude to his attention. While it didn't win the award, it was one of a handful of books that particularly caught Silliman's attention and he feels deserves awards.

There's a link to the review on Ron's blog.

You can buy Degrees of Latitude at the Four Way Books website where all our titles are available at a 32% discount. You'll be supporting independent publishing AND saving yourself money!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NYer reviews Kevin Prufer

This week's New Yorker includes Kevin Prufer's latest book in its Briefly Noted section, 4/28/08:

"The America of Prufer’s fourth collection is an empire in decline, a medicated landscape (“snow / like little tranquilizers all over the yard”) peopled by pilgrims to shopping malls. The book opens with a panoramic vision of the aftermath of apocalypse—“expired” cars, silenced TVs, coffins “unmoored and happy with the storm”—but ends intimately, with a child’s memory of his first encounter with death; the thin wire between political failure and personal grief runs taut throughout. In the eerie centerpiece poem, the suburbs are sealed under an enormous parachute, its nylon shimmering; icicles line the seams and crash into the streets, and the narrator walks for days, never finding the edge."

Congratulations, Kevin!

Kevin also received a wonderful review from Robert C. Jones in the Kansas City Star which syndicated to a dozen other papers across the United States, including the Miami Herald .

Of National Anthem , Marie Howe has written “From within the American Empire, [Prufer] is listening to the memory of the future. . . Can this be a poet who can writes the sentence we are, as a people, on the verge of saying?”

National Anthem is available directly from Four Way Books at a 32% discount. Order it, and all our other titles, here

Thursday, March 6, 2008

C. Dale Young's The Second Person a ForeWord BOTYA Finalist!

We're delighted to post news that C. Dale Young's second book of poems, The Second Person , has been announced as a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year Award Finalist. Find out about the awards, the magazine, and other titles at the ForeWord magazine website. Their press release is below.

Congratulations, C. Dale, we have our fingers crossed for you (which will explain any ttypos in this posting...). Winners announced May 29th.

You can buy The Second Person at the Four Way Books website where all our titles are available at a 32% discount. You'll be supporting independent publishing AND saving yourself money!


ForeWord Magazine announces the finalists in the tenth annual Book of the Year Awards. These books represent some of the best work coming from today's independent press community.

Nearly 1,600 books were entered in 61 categories. These were narrowed to 658 finalists, from 350 publishers.

The winners will be determined by a panel of librarians and booksellers, selected from our readership. ForeWord's Book of the Year Awards program was designed to discover distinctive books across a number of genres.

Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners, as well as Editor's Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles on May 29. The winners of the two Editor's Choice Prizes will be awarded $1,500 each. The ceremony is open to all BEA attendees.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kirkus Praises Eileen Pollack's In the Mouth

Kirkus Reviews will review Eileen Pollack's forthcoming collection of short stories and a novella, In the Mouth , week beginning March 1st.

In a sneak preview, we can reveal that they described her book as "Delicate but dazzling" and praise it for its "incisive, beautifully crafted stories about family relationships, focused especially on the dynamic between fathers and daughters."

"It’s hard to choose favorites here, for all are worthy," writes the reviewer. We heartily agree! Congratulations, Eileen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Forrest Hamer's Rift reviewed

Cutbank has just posted a thoughtful and complimentary review of Forrest Hamer's Rift . The reviewer, poet Helen Losse, writes: "Rift is a book that begs to be read again and again, for in seeking reconciliation, we must notice the rift."

Read the full interview, and many more reviews and thoughts on poetry, on the Cutbank blog.

You can buy Rift at the Four Way Books website where all our titles are available at a 32% discount. You'll be supporting independent publishing AND saving yourself money!

(Thanks to Ron Silliman's blog for the link.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hear Eileen Pollack on Detroit Today

This Friday, February 8th, Eileen Pollack, author of the forthcoming In the Mouth , a collection of stories and a novella, will be featured on WDET 101.9FM's DETROIT TODAY program. An interview with her will air between 10 and 11am. If you're not in the Detroit area, you can listen live by clicking the link above.

If you're in Ann Arbor on Wed. March 19th at 7pm, catch Eileen live, reading and signing from In the Mouth , hosted by the great indie bookstore Shaman Drum. Full details here.

One of the stories from the collection, "The Bris," was featured in Best American Short Stories 2007 , and Eileen was recently described as "an American talent" by Stephen King in the New York Times Book Review

National Anthem a Good Read, say book critics

Kevin Prufer's National Anthem has been voted onto the National Book Critics' Circle's winter list of good reads. The list is a wonderful place to start for anyone looking for some early 2008 poetry reading, and don't forget that National Anthem will shortly be available directly from Four Way Books at a 32% discount. Order it, and all our other titles, here .

Congratulations, Kevin!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Kevin Prufer on Poetry Daily

Kevin Prufer, whose fourth book National Anthem is forthcoming from Four Way Books this April, will be Thursday's featured poem on Poetry Daily.

Of National Anthem , Marie Howe has written “From within the American Empire, [Prufer] is listening to the memory of the future. . . Can this be a poet who can writes the sentence we are, as a people, on the verge of saying?”

National Anthem will shortly be available directly from Four Way Books at a 32% discount. Order it, and all our other titles, here

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Four Way at AWP

This Thursday to Saturday, come and find Four Way Books at the AWP Conference 2008 where we'll be offering significant discounts on our titles, where you'll be able to hear our authors read, and where you can get your books signed by some of them. We're celebrating our 15th anniversary, and almost all of our back catalogue will be available for purchase!

AWP Discount: $10 per book (less than 2/3 of cover price). Buy three or more and get them for $8 a book!

(Even if you're not registered for the conference, the Book Fair is open to the public on Saturday February 2nd.)

You'll find us at:
TABLES 42 and 43
Rhinelander Gallery, 2nd Floor

Author Signings (at our Tables)

Friday 2:00-3:00
Daniel Tobin & C. Dale Young

Friday 3:00-4:00
April Ossmann & Jeffrey Harrison

Friday 4:00-5:00
Laurel Blossom & Kevin Prufer

15th Anniversary Reading

Saturday 1:30-2:45
(Regent Parlor Hilton, 2nd Floor)

Laurel Blossom
Jeffrey Harrison
April Ossmann
Kevin Prufer
Daniel Tobin
C. Dale Young

April Ossmann's Anxious Music Reviewed

April Ossmann, whose debut collection Anxious Music Publisher's Weekly described as written in "a voice remarkable for its confidence and fierceness," has received a glowing review from Beth Kanell at the fabulous specialty mystery, poetry, and fine press shop, Kingdom books, who enthuses: "I'll be reading this collection again. And again."

If you're in Vermont, stop by Kingdom Books to pick up a copy of April's book. Or, you can buy Anxious Music at the Four Way Books website where all our titles are available at a 32% discount. You'll be supporting independent publishing AND saving yourself money!

April will also be reading and signing books at AWP this weekend, for those of you descending on Manhattan.

Deborah Bernhardt's Echolalia Reviewed and Recommended

Third Coast, the wonderful journal produced out of Western Michigan University, features a review of Deborah Bernhardt's Echolalia in its newest issue (Fall 2007). Check out the journal at the Third Coast website.

You can buy Deborah's fantastic book at the Four Way Books website where all our titles are available at a 32% discount. You'll be supporting independent publishing AND saving yourself money!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Eileen Pollack, Florida Writers Festival

Next month, Eileen Pollack, author of the forthcoming In the Mouth , a collection of stories and a novella, will read as part of the Florida Writers Festival.

One of the stories from the collection, "The Bris," was featured in Best American Short Stories 2007 , and Eileen was recently described as "an American talent" by Stephen King in the New York Times Book Review