Abby Geni insists she’s “always been a novelist at heart,” and with her provocative debut thriller The Lightkeepers, it’s clear the Evanston native is following her true calling. Part murder mystery, part ghost story, The Lightkeepers tells the twisting tale of nature photographer Miranda as she begins a one-year residency on the Farallon Islands – a remote, untamed archipelago off the California coast. Shortly after arriving, Miranda is assaulted by one of the six biologists studying the islands, and when her attacker is found mysteriously dead days later, she must struggle to face the reality of her assault as the violence escalates around her and suspicions run wild. An insightful exploration of the nature of recovery and the harsh indifference of the natural world, The Lightkeepers was described by the Chicago Tribune as both “an accessible page-turner” and “an astonishingly ambitious debut [that] like many literary classics… raises questions about humanity that are anything but light.” Back on April 25, Geni visited Bookends & Beginnings to read from The Lightkeepers as part of an EPL-sponsored event also featuring author Ben Nadler. If you missed her that night, however, have no fear because we recently spoke to her via email about her novel’s origins, bringing the Farallon Islands to life, and the human disconnect with nature.
This month for Poetry 365 we’re highlighting the impressive debut collection from poet Jason Zuzga. In Heat Wake, the FENCE editor meditates on desire, the complexities of time, and the natural world while traveling through the silent Arizona desert into the suburban New Jersey of his youth. Poet Kevin Killian raves, “For the anatomical sensations he observes, the tenderness of his sentences, his insatiate curiosity, and his experience of surrealism, we might consider Jason Zuzga the Oliver Sacks of poetry.” So check out Heat Wake, sample a poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.
The 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival might be nearing its conclusion, but rest assured, there is still plenty of book-loving fun to be had this weekend thanks to Northwestern University, Bookends & Beginnings, the Chicago Book Expo, and your very own EPL. What’s more, here on Off the Shelf we’ll continue featuring interviews with some of the participating authors, poets, and graphic novelists even after the festival wraps. Next up is poet Dina Elenbogen. A teacher of creative writing at the University of Chicago Graham School and of Jewish Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago, Elenbogen is the author of the poetry collection Apples of the Earth and the recent memoir Drawn from Water: An American Poet, an Ethiopian Family, an Israeli Story. She has received fellowships and awards from the Illinois Arts Council, the Ragdale Foundation, the Evanston Arts Council and Hilai Artists Colony in Israel, and her work has appeared in magazines including December, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Tikkun, and Rhino as well as in anthologies such as Lost on the Map of the World, Where We Find Ourselves, and Brute Neighbors. On Saturday, May 14th at 5:30 pm, Elenbogen will share her work as part of the “5 Poets, 20 Poems” reading at the Unicorn Cafe, and in anticipation, we spoke with her via email about her poetic origins and inspirations, her writing process, and his new poem “Missing.”
Dozens of talented student artists from District 65 middle schools Chute and Nichols are the next to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. From now until May 31st, you can find over 50 original student works on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library. Inspired by the Evanston Big Read companion book Yes! We Are Latinos by Alma Flor Ada, this impressive exhibit showcases artwork and writing focused on the students’ family roots and history. Don’t miss it, and while you plan your visit, you can preview the show below. Enjoy!
What an exciting time to be a booklover in Evanston! The 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival is currently in full swing, and from now until May 14th, you can celebrate Evanston’s vibrant literary community at more than 50 free events produced jointly by the Evanston Public Library, Bookends & Beginnings, Northwestern University, and the Chicago Book Expo 2016. Here on Off the Shelf we’re joining the fun by featuring interviews with some of the participating authors, poets, and graphic novelists, and first up is poet Chris Green. A Senior Lecturer in the English Department at DePaul University, Green is the author of three books of poetry: The Sky Over Walgreens, Epiphany School, and most recently Résumé. His poetry has appeared in such publications as Poetry, The New York Times, New Letters, Verse, and Nimrod, and he’s edited four anthologies including Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose & Photography and most recently I Remember: Chicago Veterans of War. On Saturday, May 14th at 5:30 pm, Green will share his work as part of the “5 Poets, 20 Poems” reading at the Unicorn Cafe, and in anticipation, we spoke with him via email about his poetic origins and inspirations, his writing process, and his new poem “Chicago, September.”
Another National Poetry Month might be in the books, but here at EPL we’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more poetry! So if you’re like us and April was merely an appetizer for your poetry hunger, you might enjoy feasting on this historic tidbit: on May 5th exactly 200 years ago, the revered Romantic poet John Keats published his very first poem in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner. Titled “O Solitude!,” the sonnet began a remarkable and tragically brief career that saw Keats publish three celebrated books of poetry before his death from tuberculosis on February 23, 1821 at the age of 25. You can read “O Solitude!” below, and then drop by EPL to check out the rest of Keat’s work. You won’t be disappointed.
O Solitude! (Sonnet VII)
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,–
Nature’s observatory–whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
‘Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
Want more John Keats? Try the following:
- The Complete Poems of John Keats by John Keats
- John Keats: A New Life by Nicholas Roe
- The Letters of John Keats, 1814-1821 by John Keats
Time sure flies when you’re having fun. It’s hard to believe another National Poetry Month is already drawing to a close, but for one last hurrah, don’t miss this great mini-film adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s poem “This Is Not a Fairytale.” You can also hear her read on Wednesday, May 11th as part of the 2nd Annual Evanston Literary Festival, and make sure to keep coming back to Off the Shelf for Poetry 365 – a great way to scratch your poetry itch all year long.
Piano and Scene by David Berman
A child needs to know the point of the holiday.
His aunt is saying grace over a decaffeinated coffee
and her daughter is reading a Russian novel
whose 45 chapters are set
on 45 consecutive Valentine’s Days.
Grandpa is telling the kids fairy tales
from Pennsylvania’s pretzel-making region
and it’s hard for me to be in the mood
you need me to be in right now,
as I’m suddenly wrapped up in this speculation
on the as yet undiscovered moods of the future,
like nostalgia for a discontinued model of robot
or patriotic feelings for your galaxy Continue reading “National Poetry Month: April 30th”
A System of Cells by D.W.
In a Bluetooth beginning,
android search discovery mode
pre e-verse minds app connection
handheld night n’ snap-chat rays
data speed download gratification
micro-cosmos in a virtual wave
and the mega-gigabyte saw it was good.
keywords of antibiotic meditation
earth@ cloud storage heaven.com
Z.app, dropped signal, to wireless hell
and the face of darkness
fell over the screen
This poem was selected by Don W. (Maintenance)
Our National Poetry Month celebration has reached a fever pitch, but before we make our last call and flip on the bright lights, we want to introduce one more special guest to our poetry party. As you well know, Evanston is home to some seriously talented poets, and it is our pleasure to highlight their work right here on Off the Shelf. Next up is Reginald Gibbons. The Director of the Graduate Creative Writing Program in NU’s School of Professional Studies, Gibbons’ tenth book of poems, Last Lake, will be published in October by University of Chicago Press, and his book about poetry, How Poems Think, came out last fall. He has published a novel, Sweetbitter, has edited a collection of poets’ essays (The Poet’s Work) and other books, and has translated a volume of Selected Poems: Odes and Fragments of Sophocles, poems by Spanish and Mexican poets, and also two ancient Greek tragedies (Bakkhai and Antigone); in 2017 he will publish a book of very short fiction. We recently spoke with Gibbons via email about his poetic origins, his writing process, and the poetry that inspires him.