Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Rock Gift Guidance
Next story: Sublime Wine

The Holidays in Verse

Impress a literate loved one with a gift from homegrown publishing houses BlazeVox and Starcherone

BlazeVox Books

Buffalo’s BlazeVox Books is by now an institution, not just in Western New York but in American poetry as a whole. Using the convenience of “print-on-demand” technology, publisher/editor Geoffrey Gatza has been keeping the faith in thoughtful and experimental literature with a courage and dedication any mainstream publisher would probably deem insane. In fewer than 10 years, Gatza has published hundred of titles of mostly poetry, but also including fiction and criticism. While BlazeVox has published books by major figures such as Anne Waldman and Tom Clark, it has also consistently produced titles by local poets.

Always seeking ways to use technology to put more poetry into the world, offers a cornucopia of free e-books. But for some of the best things in life that are not free, consider the following gems available from the BlazeVox website and

Starlight’s Genesis: An Anthology of the Starlight Gallery

This touching book of poetry written by members of the Buffalo’s Starlight Gallery presents work by eight writers that gets right to the heart of what makes poetry important: emotion, image, and play. The folks at Starlight, which provides arts programming to adults with developmental disabilities, have come up with a project that is a delight to read. These poems are consistently honest, and are sure to please the special person on your list looking for poetry that is unafraid to get back to the basics.

Birds of Tifft

by Jonathan Skinner

Field guide as art. Skinner explores one of Buffalo’s greatest assets and provides a natural history of Tifft Nature Preserve that freely incorporates both the current wetlands ecosystem and its industrial past. The book is so specific to place that it’s hard not to imagine a future where these poems find an organic placement within the preserve. Blending unassuming lyric poetry with a brilliant attention to the natural sciences, this book is sure to satisfy the hunger of birders, artists, Buffalo historians, and urban naturalists alike.

Field Work: Notes, Songs, Poems 1997-2010

by David Hadbawnik

A proof that mundane daily life conceals a particularly fascinating theater of thought and human behavior, Hadbawnik’s book chronicles his life over 13 years spent in San Francisco, Austin, and Buffalo in diary-like form. It is a fine example of the many unexpected shapes that a book of poems can fill, and challenges readers to understand the power of self-reflection. Hadbawnik’s daybook runs the gamut of songs, stories, meditation, and overheard conversation, and would be a perfect gift the diarist you know.

Sure Thing

by Robin F. Brox

This debut collection reveals some stunning work in short, lyric poems. Brox is a meticulous craftswoman of her poems, shaping each with a cunning eye for sound and shape, resulting in little moments of heady magic. The bondage-themed cover and interwoven sexuality in the poems betray Brox’s evident first love: language. There’s a deep appreciation of the weight, sound, and history of language in her work, and this first love is readily useful in forming the rest.

Starcherone Books

Buffalo’s Starcherone Books started as kind of proposition from the inimitable fiction writer Raymond Federman to a former student, Ted Pelton, to find a way to publish one of his books. Pelton decided that instead of looking for a publisher, he would “start your own”—and Starcherone was born. Today, Starcherone is firmly planted in the hanging gardens of “independent, innovative fiction” taking root in in American small press publishing these days. Titles are to be had at the website, Here are a few highlights from the Starcherone catalog, in Ted’s words:

Animal Sanctuary

by Sarah Falkner

Just released, Animal Sanctuary, a novel by Sarah Falkner. This is the story of Kitty Dawson, an ingenue actress who makes her name in animal disaster movies by an Alfred Hitchcock-like director, who afterwards starts a sanctuary for big cats given up by their Hollywood owners. But this just scratches the surface of this multi-character, collage-like novel. Booklist, the review published by the American Library Association, just wrote of the book: “Stylistically fresh, culturally lush, intellectually exciting, and elegantly emotional, Falkner’s provocative, surreptitiously beautiful novel dissolves the boundaries between animals and humankind, racial and ethnic groups, and men and women.”

Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls

by Alissa Nutting

Released last year, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, a hilarious, themed collection of stories by Alissa Nutting, just had one of these stories, “Model’s Assistant,” selected for the next Norton Introduction to Literature, due out in 2013. In this story, a nebbishy woman takes a job as personal assistant to a Swedish fashion model, whose vocabulary is limited to phrases like, “Vodka, you know.” If the story sounds a little familiar, you might have been in the audience for Big Night downtown when Nutting read it to an appreciative Buffalo audience last fall. Nutting now lives in Cleveland and is widely regarded as one of the brightest young talents in contemporary fiction.

blog comments powered by Disqus