Saturday, January 24, 2009

Letter in January 25 New York Times Book Review

Sometimes a long shot pays off.

When I wrote a letter to the Times Book Review a couple of weeks ago, I expected to have a few paragraphs to share with friends and possibly expand into an essay at some later point, as well as the satisfaction of venting a little bit.

My expectations were dashed when I received a message last week informing me that my letter would in fact be printed, and it appears here.

If the link presents any problems, you can see the text of the letter following this post.

I may be punching above my weight, and making more enemies than friends in the process, but they can only hang me once, whoever "they" may be.


To the Editor:

Ginia Bellafante’s welcome appreciation of Phyllis McGinley (“Suburban Rapture,” Dec. 28) errs only in referring to “the disappearance of light verse” in contemporary poetry. Established poets like X. J. Kennedy and R. S. Gwynn, not to mention Richard Wilbur, have written and published light verse throughout their careers, and Light, the quarterly edited by John Mella, consistently provides a forum for the best practitioners of light verse in English.

Light verse has, however, become much harder to find. With rare exceptions, The New Yorker and other general interest magazines have abandoned light verse, as have the larger publishing houses. This development is particularly baffling given that light verse is consistently well received at readings and appreciated by audiences who are not themselves poets.

This disconnect between poets working in light verse and the reading public represents an accident of American publishing history rather than an artistic or commercial necessity. The British poet Wendy Cope’s collections are published in first editions of some 50,000 copies, a figure nearly unheard of among “serious” American poets who are not otherwise celebrities. The fact that Dorothy Parker’s work has never gone out of print suggests the existence in this country of a similar and largely untapped audience. Addressing the unmet need for the wit and insight uniquely available in light verse would assist publishers in strengthening anemic balance sheets and aid readers in enduring the present dark times. If they are not careful, publishers might even find themselves expanding the audience for poetry in general.

J. D. Smith

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mariachi Named One of Best Children's Books of 2008

Gustavo and friends are getting noticed.

A January 21 story here reports that The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo has been named one of the Best Children's Fiction Books of 2008 by Críticas, which had previously given Mariachi a starred review.

The Críticas article is found here.

As a first-time children's author who has benefited greatly from the assistance of Raven Tree Press publisher Dawn Jeffers, illustrator Dani Jones and translator Eida de la Vega, I am delighted at this turn of events. My gratitude and amazement reach all the way to the Sombrero Galaxy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When are Bad Things a Good Thing?

The answer to that question is when Chris Pimental's "pulpazine" Bad Things debuts, as it does here, and whenever a subsequent hard-boiled, neo-noirish, rough and tumble comes out.

And yes, I do have a poem in there, based on a real experience in Chicago.

I've been away from the neo-noir side of my writing lately, but I am hoping to get back on the crime train as this year develops.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Free Reading from New Zealand

In case you are looking for a little free reading, I would direct your attention to my recently published poem "The Golem's Soul," published online here and originally printed in Junctures: The Journal for Thematic Dialogue, an interdisciplinary publication from Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Writing about legends runs the risk of merely repeating an interesting story, but I'd like to think I have done something a little bit different. Time will tell.'s+Soul.-a0191350993