New Publication / What I’ve Been Reading

23231619_10210892534572828_4487469631888797034_nHi friends!

On the left is a photo of my friend Erin and I at the 2017 Winter Wheat Conference at Bowling Green State University. Huge shout out and THANK YOU to the Winter Wheat folks for putting on this amazing conference. We drove up there yesterday from Akron. I was happy to browse the book fair and attend two workshops, one about Sestinas and one about Writing Poetry in Turbulent Times. Guest reader Mary E. Weems’ presentation was beautiful and haunting. It’s so important to have conferences like Winter Wheat because they give you an opportunity to meet other writers and be part of  the literary community in a meaningful way.

I’m glad it’s finally November. I can’t believe the semester is almost over, time is flying by! Last Thursday, Flock Literary Journal posted the audio feature for my poem, “Why is Your Grandmother’s Name Jihad.” If you have a minute, you can check that out here. Be sure to purchase Flock’s migration issue. It’s stunning!

I’ve been keeping busy lately with lots of reading and writing. Here’s some collections I’ve been reading lately:

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There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce, Morgan Parker

Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Kaveh Akbar

Olio, Tyehimba Jess

Whereas, Layli Long Soldier

Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong

Look, Solmaz Sharif

Sleeping with the Dictionary, Harryette Mullen

I’ve also been enjoying Fasting for Ramadan by Kazim Ali

As always, thanks for reading! Here’s to surviving the end of the semester 🙂

~ Noor

All the gratitude.

Mary Biddinger

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In the Midwest we love a good underdog story. Whether it’s an unlikely sports victory or the turnaround of a forgotten downtown, we find inspiration in the unexpected triumph over adversity.

Because of this, we University of Akron Press folks are especially excited about Leslie Harrison’s The Book of Endings being named a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry.

In the summer of 2015, I packed up my office at the University of Akron Press, thinking I would never return. Now, in 2017, I’m making plans to go to New York and cheer on University of Akron Press author Leslie Harrison at the National Book Awards, something I would never have imagined as I boxed up my owls and post cards and books and archived correspondence and favorite AWP swag and entered a world where I was no longer an editor.

Today I’m sending gratitude to everyone who…

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Happy October!

22090130_10210638523502710_3410991014997333955_nOctober is (finally) here and I’m so grateful for the cooler weather in Akron, Ohio! Lately, I’ve been (happily) busy with writing poems for my classes and reading as much poetry as possible. I’m loving the NEOMFA program so far! Having time carved out to spend with poetry has been super refreshing and being around a community of writers helps keep me inspired.

Just this past Friday I had the chance to see Abraham Smith (Ashagalomancy, Action Books) and Hayan Charara (Something Sinister, Carnegie Mellon) read in Cleveland. I was happy to see Kazim Ali at the reading too and I was able to sit down with him afterwords and pick his brain. I rattled off about 10 questions in the span of five minutes and I’m so grateful for his kindness and patience with my questions!

I’m glad to kick off the month of October with a new poem up at Frontier Poetry. Publishing with Frontier has been a really great experience and they even took the time so write some nice words about my poem. Although there are no calls for submissions right now, please consider submitting to them when they do open submissions and giving them a shout out on social media! They also have a fabulous line up of poets, so give the journal a read when you have a chance.

I finally subscribed to POETRY Magazine and bought Kaveh Akbar’s new book Calling a Wolf a Wolf the other day. I also recently ordered two books from Kazim Ali including The Far Mosque (Alice James Books) and Fasting for Ramadan (Tupelo Press).

While I wait on those, here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

 

Inappropriate Sleepover, Meg Johnson

Boy with Thorn, Rickey Laurentiis

Something Sinister, Hayan Charara

21765155_10154773222216771_7473109661211328821_nLastly, if you’re close by, I have an upcoming reading with a few really amazing Ohio poets at Rodman Public Library on Saturday, October 21 at 2PM.

Here’s to a productive month of poetry and poems!

Until next time,

~ Noor

Upcoming Publications & Other News . . .

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I can’t believe we’re already in week three of the semester! I’m not sure how your first semester of an MFA in poetry is supposed to go down, but it’s been crazy wild here in Akron. I’m excited to share some upcoming publications, as my poetry has recently appeared in issue five of Foundry and in Public Pool. I’ve got some poems upcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Ohio Poets Edition), Frontier Poetry (later this month), and Flock Literary Journal (Issue 19).

Aside from all this madness, I found an artist to design the cover of my upcoming micro-chapbook through Porkbelly Press. This has made this entire project feel so much more real (and terrifying!) as I consider what I want for a cover.

My poetry classes have been great. I was away from poetry workshops and classes for about a year and a half, so it’s been refreshing to dive back into a community of writers and readers.

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

I also just recently read the new issue of BOAAT Journal. The issue was fantastic, and I really enjoyed poems by Katie Condon, Anaïs Duplanand Jayy Dodd. I was sad facing while reading it though because I stopped reading for BOAAT a couple weeks ago to focus on school.

I’m looking forward to attending AWP this year, and just this past Friday I reserved a hotel. Super thrilled about going, and I’m already making a mental list of all the books I’d like to buy there! 🙂

Micro Chapbook Forthcoming from Porkbelly Press!

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photo courtesy of Porkbelly Press 

Hey friends! I’m super excited to announce that I have a micro chapbook forthcoming from Porkbelly Press in 2018! It’ll be titled Diary of a Filthy Woman and I’m thrilled about releasing it into the world soon! I have so much gratitude for Nicci and Ashley for believing in my work, as well as mentor Mary Biddinger and friend Paul Mangus (who edited many of the poems). Three of the poems in the chapbook will be published with Public Pool soon and this will give readers a little taste of what to expect.

Porkbelly is located in Cincinnati, which means a ton to me because it’s close to home (Akron). As far as I know, it’s one of the few presses that publishes micros. I like the idea of a micro chapbook (8-10 poems) because the poems are project based and very specific. It’ll give people a small sampling of my work and what I hope to build on in the next three years through the NEOMFA program. Thanks so much to everyone who’s supported my poetry in the last couple of years ❤

Saying Goodbye to Reviews (for now . . .)

IMG_20170715_223634_564.jpgTwo years ago, I thought poetry was dead. I’d never picked up a collection from a living poet, the only poems I’d ever read were written by dead people, and I spent most of my time writing awful poems that I felt way too proud of. When I took my first poetry class and met a real, living and breathing poet (Mary Biddinger), I was dazzled. Why hadn’t anyone told me that real poets existed? For months (and even today), I felt I’d accidentally tripped over a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I wondered what I’d done to deserve such luck.

Beyond feeling lucky, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I wanted to read every poem I could get my hands on. The poetry world felt endless and vast. It fed into everything I loved and needed. It was the end of 2015 and the very beginning of 2016. For months, poetry was my life raft, the thing I clung onto because everything else felt broken. It was the only thing I looked forward to.

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I remember holding onto The Endarkenment by Jeffrey McDaniel for months. I read the poem “Little Sadness” obsessively, to the point of memorization. The first time I picked up Seam by Tarfia Faizullah, she described the athan, the Muslim call to prayer, perfectly. It was the first time I’d read a poem that reflected the religion I’d grown up with. Sandra Simonds’ The Sonnets shattered everything I thought I knew about poetry and Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon empowered me. These are just some of the first collections I held in my hands. They shaped me, not just as a writer, but as a human being.

Three weeks ago, I used by DIY book shelf to organize the poetry collections I’ve bought over the last couple of years. I have them face up, and they’re the first thing I look at when I enter my bedroom. I want it to be that way. I am still full of more gratitude for poets than I can fit inside my body. I am still hungry for collections, for more poems.

Every post on this blog has been an act of thankfulness to the poets I’ve reviewed. I’ve grown to love reviewing collections, not because I’m an expert, but because I feel that the relationship between a poet and reviewer is special. I loved taking time out of each week to really study the collections I read. I took pride in helping promote them, even if it was on a small blog. Reviewing, to me, is the best way to give love to a collection. It’s been a way for me to say “thank you” to the poets who’ve influenced me beyond the page.

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That’s why I’m sad to be stopping the reviews. Although I’m forever grateful for the collections I read and cherish, I’m ready to move on to other projects. I just finished up reading manuscripts with Mary for Akron Poetry Prize, and for the last six months, I’ve been reading for BOAAT Journal. In a little over a month, I’ll be starting the NEOMFA program for poetry, and teaching Composition for The University of Akron. I’ll probably be blogging more about my time in the program and teaching than doing poetry reviews, but the blog will be still be up.

I’m thankful for whoever has been out there reading my posts. There aren’t a lot of you, but I hope I’ve encouraged at least one person to buy a collection they wouldn’t normally buy, or discover a new journal.

As usual, thanks. Here’s to never forgetting that #POETRYLIVES.

~ NPP

FOR FILTHY WOMEN WHO WORRY ABOUT DISAPPOINTING GOD, SEEMA YASMIN

“Her body is the most treacherous place I have visited” – Seema Yasmin.

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photo courtesy of Diode Editions

Almost immediately, the speaker in Seema Yasmin’s chapbook declares that she comes from “6 generations of shame” (“Polygot,” line 9). What follows this declaration is a series of soul crushing poems that shatter this shame, allowing the filthy woman to emerge as bold and unabashed as ever. For Filthy Women Who Worry about Disappointing God explores topics of sexuality, religion, womanhood, and race. Out by Diode Editions, reading Yasmin’s words feel like being let in on a secret: “We shivered and wondered / How a dirty woman / Could make a man so clean” (“Ablution,” lines 19-21). The more poems you read from Filthy Women, the nastier you become, but in Yasmin’s world, it’s all the more empowering.

The speaker in Filthy Women is vulnerable yet transgressive, sinful yet remorseful: “He stood in a puddle of prayers and apologies / Fake apologies because I didn’t really mean to say sorry / For anointing his body” (“Ablution,” lines 12-14). It is Yasmin’s careful balance of these complex and seemingly opposite emotions that is most stunning. In the poem “Astagfirullah (forgive me)” our speaker admits her “need to die clean” then orders us to “read this surah three times before sunrise / This ayah seven times at noon” and then “right at the moment he climaxes inside of you” (lines 28, 29, & 34). Desire is at the heart of so many of Filthy Women’s poems. She can’t help her own rebellion against the people who “Declare our bodies sacred / Then ban us from mosques” but this does not stop her from feeling guilty (“Sister,” lines 13-14). It is these moments that make these poems feel most human and personal to me.

Filthy Women is a brave reflection about what it means to be a Muslim woman who seeks forgiveness even as she hungers to break the norms and cultural standards that oppress her. At its most shocking, Filthy Women acts as an interruption, showing us that the lessons we grow up with are not always sinless: “when I married a Black man / my cousin sighed: at least she is not marrying a woman” (“rebel,” lines 1-2). As our speaker punches a hole through the rules she’s been given, we readers cheer for her, then dip our hands in a little more mud.

View my interview with Yasmin here.

Buy For Filthy Women Who Worry about Disappointing God here

*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about Diode Editions: “At Diode Editions our mission is to beautifully craft our books, and to fanatically support our authors.”

A record year for Akron Poetry Prize submissions

Mary Biddinger

What will I be doing for the next two weeks? Reading a grand total of 606 poetry manuscripts for the Akron Poetry Prize competition. This is a record-breaking year for our contest, and we are so excited by the robust response to our call for submissions.

Once the finalists and semifinalists are sent to final judge Oliver de la Paz, I’ll hopefully be back to writing my own poems again. I’m planning to write a poem on each of the even days of July.

Huge thanks to Noor Hindi of Nervous Poodle Poetry for being my second set of eyes on the poetry submissions, and to Oliver de la Paz for judging this year’s contest.

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WORLD OF MADE AND UNMADE, JANE MEAD

“How will you spend / your courage, how // will you spend your life.” – Jane Mead

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photo courtesy of Alice James Books 

Through the collection World of Made and Unmade, poet Jane Mead examines death and the relationship between a mother and daughter during the last and most intimate moments of the mother’s life. While the speaker takes us through a series of short poems that weave together topics of grief and dying, these poems are in no way self-pitying. They surprise readers with touches of well timed humor, and offer a face to the controversy regarding immigration between the U.S and Mexico. World of Made and Unmade takes place at a family vineyard, where Mead’s lyricism and imagery offers readers a pause from the stark imagery of the dying mother.

Balanced with the light humor that makes this collection so personal, the haunting nature of Mead’s imagery makes World of Made and Unmade deeply touching.  In one poem, hospice requests to interview the mother, but the mother says “I’m deaf and I’m blind and I’m not / answering any more questions” (17). The poem ends with the speaker amusingly admitting that “the patient exaggerates.” In another poem, the tumor on the mother’s liver looks as if “there was a plank // and a grapefruit under the covers” (22). Mead’s collection is honest in its depiction of the relationships surrounding the mother. It does not try to dramatize death, but rather shows us the frustrations of trying to care for a dying loved one, the intimate moments of our speaker’s grief, and our never-ending yearning for love. I love the lines “I want to press my body / all along her body – / hold her damp back to me” (34).

There is so much bravery in World of Made in Unmade. There is strength in its vulnerability, and it is blunt in its depiction of the U.S’s failure to acknowledge Mexican refugees and immigrants: “viva viva viva. Mexico // is a house on fire. // Miedo en todas partes. / Fear everywhere” (33). Mead’s poems are a reminder that the world is constantly making and unmaking itself. The ebb and flow of love and pain exist within the most personal relationships we inhabit.

Buy World of Made and Unmade here.

*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about Alice James Books: “Alice James Books is named after the sister of the famous philosopher William James and novelist Henry James, Alice James. She lived a largely confined and isolated life. The youngest of five children, she never married and lived with her parents until their deaths. Although her four brothers were broadly educated in the US and Europe, Alice’s education was haphazard, reflecting her father’s belief   that “The very virtue of woman… disqualifies her for all didactic dignity. Learning and wisdom do not become her.” Keenly self-aware, she started a journal in 1889, as a way of recording her own understanding of herself. She entrusted it to her friend Katherine Loring, shortly before her death in 1892, of breast cancer. Loring sent copies to her brother Henry and other family members. In 1943 it was published, in incomplete form, by a niece, who called it Alice James: Her Brothers — Her Journal. Not until 1964 was the journal published in its entirety. Alice James has since become somewhat of a feminist icon, in recognition of her struggle for self-expression within the repressive Victorian notion of femininity.” *

Announcement & Review

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courtesy of Bloof Books

Hi friends! Thanks so much for your patience during this break. It was so nice having some time to read for fun, and catch a breath after a busy semester. I’m very excited to jump back into poetry reviews, and I’m in great company with Crawlspace by Nikki Wallschlaeger. Before I start though, I wanted to inform my readers that NPP is going to start doing bi-monthly reviews, rather than the weekly reviews I’ve been doing. The reviews will still post on Sunday, but writing them twice a month rather than four times a month will give me a chance to focus more on interviews. After today’s review of Crawlspace by Wallschlaeger, I’ll be posting the next one on Sunday, June 18. So, reviews will always be posted on the first Sunday of the month, and the penultimate Sunday of the month. Thanks for your understanding during this transition.

During the blog’s break, I spent some time with Crawlspace, which was just released by Bloof Books this past May. Bloof Books consistently publishes some of my favorite work, and Wallschlaeger’s book is no different. As with The Sonnets by Sandra Simonds (also published by Bloof Books), Crawlspace is written as a collection of 14-line poems that call back to the sonnet form. Each poem (55 total) acts as a disruption of the status quo. Our speaker occupies the spaces that oppress people of color, specifically women, and then attempts to rattle these territories through a series of poems that challenge and disturb. Within these poems, rules are established, albeit ironically: “You can only play with squirt guns / in the backyard never the front yard” (sonnet 29, lines 10-11). The language is surprising, and the poems oftentimes interrupt themselves, revealing a level of chaos within the speaker’s mind and the text.

The irony in many of the poems is exaggerated to expose the hatefulness of white supremacy. A few of the poems take place on the beach, where our speaker writes, “I got so much sun long ago that / I’m permanently black the sun gave / me protection from the sun and you / say I am not good JESUS will save me” (62). Each poem is layered with satire, confessional lines such as “I’ve been exhausted my entire life // I hate telling you / how I really feel” (24), and empowerment: “I keep my blackgirl magic protected protected” (48). I loved the mix of humor and juxtaposed images throughout Crawlspace, and I really admire the careful use of sarcasm throughout the collection.

Buy Crawlspace here.

*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about Bloof Books: Bloof Books is a collective poetry press based in Central New Jersey, publishing perfect-bound paperbacks as well as limited-edition handmade books and chapbooks. Our perfect-bound books are available on our site, at select bookstores, and via online retailers.*