Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Hear Voices!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A few weeks ago a box appeared on my doorstep. I opened it and, much to my surprise, inside were 15 copies of my new book, I Hear Voices: A Memoir of Life, Death, and the Radio, all wrapped in plastic. Mind you, I knew the book was coming out, but the official date that I had been given by UW Press was September 24, so I wasn't quite prepared for the shock.

All the books are still sitting in the box in my front hall, still wrapped in plastic, except for one which went to my son when he was home for a visit last weekend. The books, I am told, are already available on Amazon, which bothers me a little bit. I've been instructed not to talk about it in public until bookstores have had a chance to order copies. The lag time is about three weeks -hence the Sept. 24 launch date. So I find myself in a strange sort of time warp. It's a little like being about to deliver a baby - the waters have broken, but the labor pains haven't started yet.

Meanwhile, I've had a nightmare. I show up at Borders in Madison on the day of the launch - Oct. 4 - and I open up a box, expecting that there will be books inside, but instead, what I find is sandwiches - seven submarine sandwiches, one for each chapter, all neatly wrapped and separated by waxy green florist's paper. Did I say 'launch,' or was that 'lunch'?

Anyway, I hope to see you there. Here are the dates:

Border's West in Madison: Thursday, Oct. 4 at 7:00pm
Overture Center, Madison, noon on Sunday, Oct. 14 (as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival)
Harry Schwartz' Bookstore at Shorewood, Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 7:00pm in Milwaukee.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Meeting Aracelis Girmay

Friday, August 10, 2007

It's been a long time since I've been excited by a book of poetry. The first time I opened Aracelis Girmay's Teeth, I knew I was in the presence of a real poet. Right away I called Sandy Taylor, her publisher at Curbstone, and asked to book her on Here on Earth, but he did one better. He arranged for a reading for her at Rainbow Bookstore in Madison so she could be right here in our studios for our program last Tuesday.

In "Arroz Poetica," the first poem in Teeth, she writes...

You name, I will have noticed
on a list collected bya Iraqi census of the dead,
because your name is the name of my own brother
because my students are 12, because I remember
when my sisters were 12. & I will not
have ever seen your eyes, & you wll not
have ever seen my eyes
or the eyes of the ones who dropped the missiles.
or the eyes of the ones who ordered the missiles,
& the missiles haveno eyes.

She is Etritrean on her father's side, Puerto Rican and African-American on her mother's side, and I ask myself, is that what it takes to be able to feel for the Iraqi civilians who are dying every day in this war? Do you have to be a "woman of color" who writes only in red? What can we say about a country whose people are forbidden to mourn even their own dead? Who are not even allowed to see their coffins, let alone their eyes? It's our Refusal to Mourn that may be the greatest hole in the heart of this country the greatest blow to our humanity. Thank God for poets like Aracelis, young as she is (29!) who have the power to unstop our throats and loosen the words and the tears that should be falling from our eyes, even as they fall from their eyes, every day of this Endless War.