Four Friends (+ Two Acquaintances) with New Books = Five in the New Math

by a contributor

from Marci Vogel, author of Landline:

  1. Peter Trachtenberg’s Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats And Persons borrows its title from the Gerald Stern poem of the same name, and it’s a nonfiction knock-out of beauty, emotion, and intellect. How I met Peter was through our dear friend, poet Mark Irwin (see number 5 below). Last fall, when Peter was writing Devotion, he’d e-mail these chapters, and I’d sit there reading at the computer with my mouth wide open, wanting to swallow the manuscript whole. Now I can, and so can you.
  2. Lynn Melnick’s If I Should Say I Have Hope arrived in my mailbox last week, but the first time I met Lynn, she was helping ready a classroom at the school where her mom and I both taught for over twenty years. If I Should Say I Have Hope is Lynn’s stunning debut collection of poems published by the extraordinary YesYes Books. Book party highlight: homemade cupcakes with blue frosting made by Lynn’s husband, poet Timothy Donnelly.
  3. Carmen Rodrigues34 Pieces of You pieces together the fictional story of a teenage girl’s fatal overdose, one haunting voice at a time. How I know Carmen is Peter Trachtenberg e-mailed me last spring to say his good friend Carmen was moving to LA and maybe I could be a goodwill contact––you know, help out with places a curly-haired girl could get a good cut or pick up a good yoga class. What happened was friend at first sight; 34 Piees of You, icing on the friendship cake.
  4. In the strange and wonderful convergences that make up the universe, I sat next to Martha Ronk on the way to Pittsburgh (to visit Peter Trachtenberg) and Martin J. Smith on the way back. I knew both their names ahead of time, Martha’s from the poetry world, and Martin’s from the masthead of the old LA Times Magazine, where he served as editor. The author of this fall’s gorgeous Partially Kept, Martha was easily identifiable as the only other poet on the plane after she whipped out a volume of Eliot to annotate in preparation for a class at Occidental College, where she teaches. (Oh, how I wish I had those notes!). And Martin, well, he was kind enough to say a friendly word about the thick stack of student papers I was reading at the airport. The title of his newly released nonfiction book, The Wild Duck Chase: Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest is just the start––all of it, yes, strange & wonderful.
  5. Arco Iris is Sarah Vap’s fourth collection of poems. Maybe it’s the fact that both our last names start with V, but the first time I met Sarah (at a reading organized by Mark Irwin), I felt as if we’d been friends the last five lives (at least). A year ahead of me in USC’s PhD Program in Literature & Creative Writing, Sarah was just awarded an NEA fellowship in poetry. When I think of Sarah, I think of E.B. White writing about Charlotte: “She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”