Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Yes, Virginia

Each Christmas I like to revisit the following essay from the The Sun. My grandmother read it to me many years ago. I've always remembered it. If you don't already know this piece, I hope you'll enjoy it. I also hope you'll have a Merry Christmas if that's what you're celebrating. And I hope you'll have a wonderful New Year. Thank you for being a Blogalicious reader.

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's The Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial on September 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

Here's Virginia's letter:

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


Here's the reply:

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Birth of a New Poetry Press


I have officially begun a new small press for poetry books—Terrapin Books. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. But I was put off by the various reasons for not doing it. Then I took myself by the neck and said, Just do it. This is your dream and only you can make it happen.

So I asked some questions of other small press publishers and happily received excellent guidance. The first task was to form an LLC. In years past, this would have required an attorney. Today it can be done online, quickly and easily. One job down. The next task was to get an FEIN (Federal Employer’s Identification Number) so I could open a bank account. I’ll also need that if I ever have paid staff. The next task was do obtain a state ID number. Done.

Then I opened a small business account at my bank. Terrapin Books now has official checks and a credit card.

Then came the creation of a website. Check it out. And then a Facebook page. Please give a Like.

I decided that my first book would be an anthology of doll poems. I created a Call for Submissions page at the website and posted notices here and there. Once the submission date arrived, the poems started rolling in. I was thrilled by their number and quality. The window closes on December 15, so if you are thinking of submitting, it’s now or never.

Some of the poets included so far: Jeffrey Harrison, Cecilia Woloch, Michael Waters, Nicole Cooley, and Patricia Fargnoli. (I can’t reveal more names as I haven’t yet sent out acceptances and rejections.) Nicole Cooley has agreed to write the Introduction and I could not be more thrilled with that. Nicole has written a number of stunning poems about dolls and is currently writing a non-fiction book about dolls. How perfect is that!

The next project will be some full-length poetry collections. Look for the Call for Submissions early in the new year. By that time I also plan to be using Submittable to make tracking easier for me and the poets submitting.

My intention is to publish fabulous poems by fabulous poets in beautiful books. Working collaboratively with the poets, I hope to get those books into the hands of many readers. How’s that for a lovely dream?

And oh yes, I also now have a rubber stamp with Terrapin Books and the mailing address. That really makes it official.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Poetry of Cooking

Click Cover for Amazon
Click Cover for Amazon
The Poetry of Cooking is a beautiful new cookbook from John Ross. Ross is a long-time chef and a food columnist. He is also a poetry lover. In this wonderful cookbook, he combines his various talents for food and words—and also displays his talent for photography.

The book is organized into chapters going from January to December. Each chapter begins with a poem about food. The twelve poets include Anne-Marie Macari, Marge Piercy, George Bilgere, Jake Adam York, and Li-Young Lee. I’m delighted to have my poem “Linguini” leading off the month of February.

The book is hard cover, 10 x 8, with a laminated wipeable coating, and contains more than 200 mouth-watering recipes and 80 stunning color photos. The text is comfortably readable. Ingredients for each recipe are listed on the left side of the page. The recipes then are enumerated in an easy to follow step-by-step fashion.

Recipes that might tempt you include Summer Lobster Stew, Potato Leek Soup, Bouillabaisse, Shredded Zucchini with Pesto, and Caponata. To his credit, Ross has not neglected desserts. He offers such dishes as Peach-Blueberry-Blackberry Cobbler, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, Raspberry Trifle, and Black Forest Cherry Cake.

This cookbook would make a perfect holiday gift for anyone who loves poetry and good food and is happy cooking in the kitchen. Happy diners will soon follow.

Black Forest Cherry Cake

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Catching Up

Looks like I’ve been slacking off here. That’s because I have been. However, I’ve been busy elsewhere doing other things.

I’ve just finished the first round of proofreading the galleys for my forthcoming poetry book, The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement. I sent the edits back yesterday morning and hope to get back another set of galleys for one last chance to pass my critical eye over the manuscript. If all goes well, the book should not be too far away.

Then I’ve also been busy all summer working on the sequel to The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. It’s a ton of work to organize the material of the past three years, material compiled from my Poetry Newsletter and the Poet on the Poem series I run here on this blog. It now looks like the book will be ten sections, each with three Craft Tips, three model poems, three prompts, six sample poems, and one Bonus Prompt. The structure will be similar to the original Crafty but will be a bit expanded. My intention is that this new book will continue the work of the original Crafty but can also stand alone. I have all the material put together except for one last Craft Tip which I expect to receive in a few weeks.

Now I'm working on the bios. Then onwards to the Table of Contents, Index, and Credits. And I’m still revising and editing this new craft book, so a good deal of work remains to be done. Once I have the first draft in pretty good shape, I will put out a call for submissions for the sample poems. Stay tuned for that.

So it hasn’t been all lallygagging around and eating bonbons here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Journals That Publish Poetry Book Reviews

(updated 9/15)

Here is a list of journals, print and online, that publish unsolicited reviews of poetry books. I hope it will encourage you to write and submit reviews. I will periodically update this. If you spot errors, please let me know. You are welcome to suggest possible additions to the list, but keep in mind that I do not post scroll-down or pdf sites.

Feel free to share the link to this list, but please do not copy and reproduce the list at another site or copy and reproduce it in print.

Print Journals that accept unsolicited reviews


American Poetry Journal
query J.P. Laughing Bear editor@americanpoetryjournal.com

Arts & Letters
query first al@gcsu.edu

Asheville Poetry Review
query editor Keith Flynn editor@ashevillereview.com

Bateau  (500 word max)
may query info@bateaupress.org
Currently on Hiatus

Bone Bouquet
books published within the last 4 years

query  borderlands_tpr@hotmail.com

Boston Review (microreviews—also appear online)
must query editors@bostonreview.net

query  caesura@pcsj.org

Carolina Quarterly
query cquarter@unc.edu

The Chatahoochee Review
must query in writing first

Chicago Review

Cold Mountain Review (1000-2000 words)
query  coldmountain@appstate.edu

Colorado Review
Must query first creview@colostate.edu

Cream City Review 
query the book review editor Cara Ogburn ceogburn@uwm.edu

Denver Quarterly
query  kkelsey@du.edu

Florida Review  (500 to 1000 words)
query   flreview@mail.ucf.edu

The Georgia Review
must query first in writing

Gigantic Sequins

Green Mountains Review
query editor Neil Shepard   gmr@jsc.vsc.edu

Hartskill Review
e-mail query to jhjalmerlind@gmail.com

Hiram Poetry Review
please query first  poetryreview@hiram.edu

The Hudson Review
will not respond to e-mail queries; send the review Jan 1-March 31

Indian River Review—1000 words

Indiana Review
query inreview@indiana.edu 

Iowa Review
publishes reviews in the print journal and online journal

Query   kestrel@fairmontstate.edu

Keyhole Magazine—more than 200 words, no max
query editor Peter Cole peter@keyholemagazine.com

Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion

The Literary Review
query tlr@fdu.edu

The Los Angeles Review
query  lareview.bookreviews@gmail.com

Louisiana Literature
query first   lalit@selu.edu

Main Street Rag (600 word reviews)
e-mail the review to editor@mainstreetrag.com
do not query first

Query: mantisreviews@gmail.com

Mid-American Review (400 word reviews)
query book review editor Mark Baumgartner mbaumga@bgnet.bgsu.edu

The Minnesota Review
may query Janelle Watson   editors@theminnesotareview.org

Missouri Review
accepts online submissions for a fee of $3. Also accepts by snail mail, no fee.

New Delta Review

New Letters  (300-800 words if single book review—samples online)
query by letter or try  newletters@umkc.edu

New Orleans Review
query Book Review Editor Mary McCay mccay@loyno.edu

North American Review
must query first nar@uni.edu

Parnassus Poetry Review

must query Wayne Miller   waynemiller5@yahoo.com

Poetry Flash
1450 Fourth Street, #4
Berkeley, CA 94710
query Attention: Joyce Jenkins, Editor/Publisher

Prairie Schooner

Puerto del Sol
query puerto@nmsu.edu

Redactions: Poetry & Poetics

Red Rock Review
query richard_logsdon@ccsn.nevada.edu

The Saint Ann's Review
query sareview@saintanns.k12.ny.us

Saint Katherine Review
query Editor: Kathleen Norris knorris@stkath.org

The South Carolina Review

The Southeast Review (800-1000 words)
query book review editor Azita Osanloo serbookreview@gmail.com

Southern Humanities Review (max 1200 words)
Query shrengl@mail.auburn.edu

The Southampton Review


So To Speak (brief review, maximum of 300 words)
query sts@gmu.edu

Sugar House Review
may query review editor Michael McLane   editors@sugarhousereview.com

Sycamore Review
query first: sycamore(@)purdue.edu

Tarpaulin Sky (query not required)

Texas Review
query eng_pdr@shsu.edu

Third Coast  (500-2000 words)
Prefers reviews of first or second books, small presses
Do not query

Weave Magazine (500-800 words)

Willow Springs
query willow.springs@mail.ewu.edu

query first editor@yemasseejournal.org

Online Journals that accept unsolicited reviews

The Adirondack Review

Adroit (500-1500 words)
reviews published on their blog

Avatar Review (up to 1500 words)
Query  contact.us@avatarreview.net

Big City Lit
Query first  editors@nycBigCityLit.com

Black Heart Magazine (max 600 words)

Blue Fifth Review  (750-2000 words)
query editor  bluefifth@gmail.com

Blue Lyra Review
query: bluelyrareview@gmail.com

Boxcar Poetry Review  (500-1500 words)
reviews of first books only 
query editor Neil Aitken   editor@boxcarpoetry.com

Breakwater Review
query  breakwaterreview@gmail.com


Catch & Release (max 1500 words)

The Centrifugal Eye (500-1500 words)
query editor Eve Anthony Hanninen: centrifugaleye@gmail.com

Cider Press Review (500 words)

The Collagist

Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing
query Suzannah Windsor, at editor@composejournal.com
interviews but no book reviews

Connotation Press
May query but not necessary—see online form

The Country Dog Review (interviews also)
must query first: countrydogreview@gmail.com

The Critical Flame
may query info@criticalflame.org

The Frank Martin Review
reviews appear on the blog
query    frankmartinreview@gmail.com

Flycatcher Journal
query Chris Martin  chris@flycatcherjournal.org

Free Verse    (1000-1500 words)
query Jon Thompson   jont@unity.ncsu.edu

Galatea Resurrects   (no word limit/ no limit on pub date)
query and submit to editor Eileen Tabios: GalateaTen@aol.com
takes previously published and new

Glint Literary Journal

Gulf Stream Lit Mag (first books only)
query   gulfstreamlitmag@gmail.com

Harvard Review
query editor Christina Thompson: cathomps@fas.harvard.edu

Literary Mama
books reviewed must focus on motherhood
send submission to  reviews@literarymama.com

The Literateur (700 words)

A women’s journal but men are welcome to submit
query first sub2melusine@gmail.com

Menacing Hedge

The Mom Egg (max. roughly 750 words)
Query first:   info@themomegg.com

The Museum of Americana
Query first:    themuseumofamericana@gmail.com

New England Review (500-1000 words)
digital NER

North of Oxford
publishes new reviews on the 1st of each month

Offcourse (up to 1000 words)
query     offcourse@albany.edu

The Pedestal Magazine
must query first pedmagazine@carolina.rr.com

Poemeleon  (shorter reviews preferred)
queries are preferable to Cati Porter    editor@poemeleon.org

Poets' Quarterly (500-2000 words)
Query: reviews@poetsquarterly.com

Prick of the Spindle

Prime Number Magazine (500 words)
Query for longer reviews   Editors@PrimeNumberMagazine.com

The Quivering Pen (1000-2500 words
query: David Abrams thequiveringpen@gmail.com

Rain Taxi   (500 words)

Raven Chronicles
Query:  editors@ravenchronicles.org

Red Paint Hill Poetry Journal

Rougarou (500-800 words)
query   rougaroueditors@gmail.com

The Rumpus

Scapegoat Review (800 words max, new books only)

Serving House Review (up to 5000 words)

Shattercolors (1200-8000 words)

Query Book Review Editor Sarah Kennedy (skennedy@mbc.edu)
before sending reviews.

Smartish Pace

query  Letitia Trent at reviews@sundresspublications.com

Swithback (500-2000 words)

Talking Writing (800-2000 words)
use form at the site to query

Terrain: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments
Max 3000 words

32 Poems
1000+ words

email with "query-review" as the subject line to TriQuarterly@northwestern.edu

reviews of books of formal poetry

Up the Staircase Quarterly

Valparaiso Poetry Review
Edward Byrne, editor
query VPR@Valpo.Edu

Whale Road Review (500 words or less)
send to whaleroadreview@gmail.com

Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal

The Writing Disorder

In Addition, if you didn’t find what you need

NewPages also lists and links to publications that specialize in reviews.

NewPages also has an extensive list of online journals, many of which
run reviews. Links are provided.

Poets & Writers online has links to the websites of dozens of journals.

Places that publish pre-publication reviews

The following do not accept unsolicited reviews but assign books for review. Books need to be sent in advance of publication date:

American Book Review
ABR cannot accept reviews after a book is more than six months old, even though it's sometimes much longer before it actually appears in their pages. Send book as early as possible, preferably before the publication date.
American Book Review
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Houston-Victoria
3007 N. Ben Wilson
Victoria, TX 77901

Library Journal
wants pre-publication galleys 3 months in advance of publication date
Book Review Editor
Library Journal
160 Varick Street, 11th Floor
New York, New York 10013

Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly Poetry Reviews
360 Park Avenue South

New York, NY 10010

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Poet on the Poem: Lee Upton

I'm happy to feature Lee Upton in The Poet on the Poem here at Blogalicious.

Lee Upton’s sixth collection of poetry, Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles, recipient of the Open Book Award, appeared in May 2015 from the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Her poetry has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Poetry, American Poetry Review, and in editions of Best American Poetry. Her collection of short stories, The Tao of Humiliation, was selected as one of the ”best books of 2014” by Kirkus Reviews, received the BOA Short Fiction Award, was a finalist for the Paterson Prize, and received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Library Journal. She is the author of fourteen books, including the novella The Guide to the Flying Island; the essay collection Swallowing the Sea: On Writing & Ambition Boredom Purity & Secrecy; and four books of literary criticism. She is the Francis A. March Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette College.

Today's poem comes from Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles.

Click Cover for Amazon
The Clues

The woven reeds, the slats

in the middle of the path—

with the book bag, the shoe,

the empty basket.

Then, the mixed prints in the woods.

Hair shredded on a bush.

Fibers, red and black.

So much for forensics to do,

it wasn’t until well past two

that we found our way

to the end of the path.

There in a cottage

rocked the girl and her family,  

sipping tea. Just over their heads

a wolf pelt rippled,

the eyes spinning

in the skinned skull 

regarding that domestic economy.

Three generations: 

the mother, once out of the story,

now back, with her own daughter, 

plus her own mother,

plus two baskets of snacks.

And all of them—that girl and those women—

brimming with so much liberty

none of them even bothered

to turn to the wall and gloat

at that patch of furry kitsch:

Just look at us,

you son of a bitch.

DL: Your poem puts a new spin on the old tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Tell us about the inspiration for this new version. Why a detective story? What is the role of Red Riding Hood’s mother in your poem?

LU: Fairy tales are so incredibly long-lived and mystery-filled that I find myself attracted to drawing from them when I write.  “The Clues” invokes the plot elements of “Little Red Riding Hood” and attempts a transformation of the version of the story that I know best.  I wanted to re-imagine the story, allowing the child to save herself and triumph—without the woodcutter. Here the clues lead to a vision of survival, although there is a murder of sorts: the wolf has been skinned, his pelt pegged to the wall. It’s not enough, by the way, for the girl and her mother and grandmother to skin the wolf; they keep the pelt in view and as such display their own capacity for violence.  

“The Clues” speaks—even if with an attempt at humor—to a common wish: to defend one’s self and those we love. At the end of the poem, the detectives come upon the unexpected: three generations of women, un-traumatized, celebrating their victory.  

Like any parent the mother must at some point send her child into the world, with warnings, and the child, like many children, will defy those warnings.

DL: I noticed the predominance of soft i sounds. That vowel sound appears in every stanza, usually multiple times. In stanza 1 there’s “in,” “middle,” “with”; in stanza 2 there’s “mixed,” “prints,” “in,” “forensics.” How consciously was this music crafted? What do you think it adds to the poem?

LU: I didn’t think about that specific form of assonance as I wrote, but I realize now—because of your question—that those sounds ushered me to the final word of the poem, and the little explosion of triumph and disgust and joy that occurs there.

I was aware of how insistent sound repetitions were as I wrote the poem, and I did read the poem aloud after I wrote the first draft. Repetitions draw the poem forward, and determined my choices. Most of the poem—its central drama and many of the sound effects— appeared in the initial draft. That’s highly unusual for me; I tend to write many drafts. Subsequent drafts for this poem amounted to adjustments more than full-scale revisions.

DL: I like how you scatter rhymes throughout the poem. The “shoe” at the end of stanza 1’s line 3 rhymes with “to do” at the end of stanza 2 and with “two” at the end of stanza 3. The “sipping” of stanza 4 is echoed in “rippled.” The “spinning” that ends stanza 4 is echoed in stanza 5’s “skinned” and stanza 7’s “brimming.” Then there’s my favorite: stanza 7’s “patch” and “kitsch” rhyme so forcefully with the poem’s last word, “bitch.” Tell us how you managed these rhymes. Also, ending the poem with a common curse strikes me as a risk, but one that works here. What do you think makes it work? Is it the rhyme?

LU: The insistent rhyming and assonance underscore for me the poem’s allegiance to the sonic qualities of fairy tales and nursery rhymes, the way repetitive sounds may, depending on context, create an uneasy but almost rollicking atmosphere.  

As for that final line: it gave me such happiness. I suppose “bitch” is a word that is problematic; I’m not reclaiming  the word here. The word is used in a defiant, raw way, as a reminder of the power that the girl and the women have claimed for themselves.  

It’s difficult not to be preoccupied with violence. A portion of an earlier poem of mine, “Clairvoyance,” reflects on vulnerability and violence—with a different outcome than in “The Clues”: 


          Fog comes under a door. No.
          It’s not fog, it’s smoke.
          It’s churning, it’s water.
          The noise is on the other side
          of a wall, high in the wall.
          Now the sound is off.
          And then I realize:
          I am inside a dream.
          A woman is being beaten.
          I can reach my hand out
          and the world parts.
          The dream is nowhere
          but the woman is
          in every part of the world.

Violence is familiar to us all, and maybe a great many of us live our lives like investigators who expect patterns to be replicated. But the investigative team’s expectation is upended in “The Clues.” The evidence would seem to lead to the discovery of a human corpse. But those clues, for once, have been misread. 

DL: Your use of point of view is effective. The poem seemingly begins in objective third person, but in stanza 3 “we” emerges, the first person plural. This voice is that of the investigative team. The last stanza appears to be the words of the three women speaking as one voice. Tell us about these shifts.

LU: With those final words we’re inhabiting both the investigative team members’ minds—their own view of the three females’ perspectives—and the unspoken view of those three females. The girl and her mother and grandmother could have said those final words but “none of them even bothered / to turn to the wall and gloat.” Their disdain allows them to focus on pleasure and to save their words for one another.  

The poem emerges from a collective voice, but those final two lines break through the surface of that more distanced, puzzled, fact-bearing voice, and allow us into the minds of the women.   

DL: I’m intrigued by the tone of the poem. It’s mysterious and exciting as the clues build up. It’s shocking and humorous at the end of the poem. I also sense some feminist anger there. Was the tone calculated or did it evolve and change organically?

LU: As soon as the final two lines arrived, they surprised me. I believed then the poem was alive—as if those lines ran backward and up through the poem and re-lit all previous lines. The women are brimming with energy, as full human beings not to be tampered with or condescended to. The wolf’s eyes are “spinning” at their boldness; we’re in the world of fairy tales where such things can happen. But if the skinned pelt is a reminder of the courage and cunning of generations of women, the wolf’s living eyes suggest that the wolf is never entirely destroyed.  

Thanks so much for these thoughtful questions. Many thanks, too, to Fairy Tale Review, where “The Clues” first appeared.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Letting the Rabbit Out of the Hat

This is not the cover.
I’ve blabbed my news to a handful of people but have not shouted it to the world yet, so here goes: I have a new poetry book coming forth! It’s called The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement, a title drawn from one of the poems. The manuscript was accepted several months ago by Wind Publications who has published all three of my previous poetry books and my craft book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop.

The revised manuscript has been sent in, blurbs are underway, and the cover art has been produced. The magnificent Brian Rumbolo who did the original art for the earlier three poetry books has also done the art for this new book. Again, he has used big bold colors and added a touch of play. I’m not going to reveal the cover just yet, but it’s pretty darn cool.

My last book, Temptation by Water, came out in 2010. Since then I’ve had one chapbook and the craft book published, so I haven’t been idle. But I’m excited to have another full-length collection of poems coming soon. Sort of like going home again after a long time away. I’m expecting to receive the galleys in a few weeks. My publisher has given me a publication date of late summer or early fall.

I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, check out one of the poems, "Original Sin."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Poetry Readings: The Good, the Bad, and the Hideous

Back in 2010 I posted a piece called "What Makes for a Good Poetry Reading?" I recently took another look at that piece and decided to repost it five years later with a few additions. My experiences as both a reader and an audience member have made me well aware that readings are not created equal. Some are wonderful and some are quite the opposite. As a reader, when the reading doesn't go well, I ask myself, Why do I continue to do this? But when it does go well, I know why I keep doing it. Because it's fun and feels great. Fortunately, it goes well more often than it doesn't. In the hope of enhancing the likelihood of more good readings, I'm reposting some thoughts on the the role of the host, the poet, and the audience on how they can each contribute towards a successful reading.

The Host's Role

1. Good PR is essential. If no one knows about the reading, you can be sure no one will be there. If you're the host, you're obligated to spread the word as widely as you can. Even if the reading is part of a regular series, you should PR each reading as if it's special (because to the poet it is). Posters, newspaper notices, online calendars, websites, blogs, email lists. It's really disheartening for the poet to arrive and learn that the host never got around to promoting the event. No excuses, Host.

2. Try to make the room comfortable. Arrive early to check the room temperature and the mic if there is one. Arrange the chairs so that the audience is neither too close to nor too far from the poet. If all the people gravitate to the back of the room, threaten them until they move to the front. Likewise, if half sit on the far right and half sit on the far left, ask people to move in a bit. These little things make a big difference in the comfort level of the reading.

3. If possible, provide a good sound system unless the room is small. Don't expect the poet to shout her poems. I gave a reading a few years ago in a coffee shop that had no mic. Coffee machines, chimes on the door, change rattling. Not so cool.

4. Be sure you provide a space for the poet's books to be displayed. Announce to the audience that books are available. If they're at a sale price, mention that. Repeat that. Do your best to help the poet sell some books, especially if your honorarium is small or non-existent. Don't make the poet hawk her own wares. If possible, provide someone to handle sales and make change.

5. This is going to sound cranky, but I'm saying it anyhow. Don't allow audience members to put out their own books for sale. And don't put out your own books. Just don't create competition for your visiting poet, especially if the poet has traveled a distance. Double especially if pay is minimal or non-existent.

6. If you can't offer an honorarium, consider putting out a basket. I did a reading some months ago where such a basket was put out, but guess what! The host kept everything that went into it. I'd driven five hours and paid for a hotel.

7. If there's an Open, manage it. Manage it. Have guidelines and enforce them. Many a reading has been spoiled by an Open that got out of hand and went on endlessly. When this happens, some audience members are discouraged from returning and you end up with an audience of open readers who are there to hear themselves. A well-run Open can, however, be fun. Limit the readers to one or two poems. That's it. No negotiating. Got a haiku? That's one poem. Even if there are only two people reading in the Open, do not allow more than two poems each.

8. Anyone who arrives after the featured poet has finished reading should not be allowed to read in the Open. No exceptions. Something about good manners.

The Poet's Role

1. You can help with the PR. Post the reading at your website and blog and anywhere else you can think of. In addition to the preceding, notify people you know in the area that you'll be doing a reading and ask them to bring friends.

2. If the host neglects to put out your books, rectify that right away! I'm putting an exclamation point on that sentence because I have done a few readings where the host forgot about books and I was too timid to bring it up. Then I kicked myself all the way home. Now if the host doesn't ask for my books, I ask, "Where would you like me to put my books?"

3. If the host fails to announce that your books are available for sale and signing, then do that yourself. Don't browbeat the audience into buying your books—that's really unappealing—but you can mention once at the beginning and/or at the end that your books are on the table and offered tonight at discount and that you'll be happy to sign them.

4. Go prepared. Choose your poems before you arrive. I've heard a number of poets say they have to gauge the audience before they choose. Nonsense. That's just laziness. It's annoying and a waste of time for the audience to sit there while the poet fumbles through pages looking for what to read.

5. Time your reading ahead of time. You know how many poems will take up 30 minutes. Plan for that if that's the amount of time you have. Don't go beyond the time. Ever. And don't keep asking the host, How am I doing for time? How much time do I have left? Time for a few more poems? This makes the audience squirm. And if you've said, as you reach the end of your time, that you're going to read just two more, then read just two more. Don't toss in a third, no matter how much the audience seems to like you.

6. Try to stay for the Open. If people came to hear you, it seems polite to stay to hear them. If you're driving a distance and have to leave, let the audience know that that's why you're leaving.

7. Email a thank-you to your host, even if the turnout was disappointing. There are times when competing events or weather keep people away. Let the host know that you appreciate the invitation to read in her series. If the reading was a big hit, let your host know that you appreciate his efforts to put together a great event.

The Audience's Role

1. If you're in the audience and planning to read during the Open, please do not work on your own poem while the featured poet is reading. It's incredibly rude.

2. Do not give long preambles to your poem. Just read the poem.

3. Don't make announcements from the podium, especially ones about your own upcoming readings.

4. Do not stare at the featured poet while you're reading your poem. Read for the whole room.

5. If you possibly can, support the poet with the purchase of a book. It means a lot to the poet. Really.

6. Do not ever, and I mean ever, suggest a book trade to the featured poet. This is beyond rude and it makes for a very uncomfortable situation.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bits & Pieces of This & That

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Since I've been posting features of poets for the past month, I've fallen behind in the bragging department. Time to catch up. Here's what got me excited and made me happy recently.

First, The Crafty Poet received two more nice reviews. As the book is zeroing in on its second birthday, I am very happy that it continues to attract attention and praise. The first review is by Philip Chase and appears in the 2015 issue of the Journal of New Jersey Poets. As that is a print journal, I scanned the review and posted it on my website. I am very fond of this opening sentence: "With plenty of practical advice, insightful interviews, useful exercise, and original poems from an array of voices and styles, Diane Lockward's aptly titled The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop is an invaluable tool for anyone looking to delve into the craft of creating poetry." The entire review can be found HERE.

The second review is by Linda Simone and appears online in Writer's Relief. This reviews begins with this nice sentence: "If you’re looking for the magic bullet to combat writer’s (or poet’s) block, The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop by poet Diane Lockward may be the book for you." Read the entire review HERE.

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I'm also happy to report that The Crafty Poet E-Book is doing nicely. On the generous recommendation of Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, co-editors of Wingbeats and Wingbeats II, I used the services of eBookIt for the conversion. I have been extremely pleased with their service and recommend them to anyone looking to convert a print book into an ebook. While I had not expected them to do any editing, they did and my editor did a really great job. Then my rather complicated table of contents required manual inputting which they did for a very reasonable fee. I especially appreciated the open line of communication. Any questions I had were quickly answered. The cost of this service was recovered in less than the first two months of the book's availability. For each of the three months that the ebook has been available, it has been a bestseller. As a result, it has been given a fancy badge on its page. The Crafty Poet ebook is available at eBookIt, Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere.

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Then I had the great happiness and honor of having a poem featured by Garrison Keillor at The Writer's Almanac on Monday, June 22. Linguini was read by Keillor on his broadcast that goes out daily on 600 radio stations. The poem also went out via Keillor's daily newsletter. First published in Poet Lore, the poem later appeared in my second poetry book, What Feeds Us.

In the poem publication department, my poem "Thinking Like a Buddhist" appears in the current issue of Driftless Review.

Then I also have two poems, "We Were Such a Fine Plum Pudding" and "The Gift of a Rat" in the current issue of Compose Journal. This is a beautiful online journal that includes poetry, fiction, and art. The editors also do a great job of promoting the journal and the authors via social media.

My bad news is some nasty poison ivy on my arms which has me dousing my limbs in rubbing alcohol and spreading on copious coats of Wal-dryl. No more weeding for me.

Friday, July 3, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Featured Poet: Adele Kenny

Adele Kenny is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All. Her poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of two NJ State Arts Council poetry fellowships, the first place Merit Book and Henderson Awards, a Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, the 2012 International Book Award for Poetry, and Kean University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. She is the founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and the poetry editor of Tiferet Journal. One of her poems appeared on the marquee of the Rialto West Theater in NYC as part of the 42nd Street Art Project. She has twice been a featured reader at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All is a collection of 52 prose poems that are deeply rooted in imagery and metaphor. They contain complete sentences and deliberate fragments, speak the language of dreams, and give a nod to the surreal. They often include strange layers of language in which what appears to be abstraction isn’t. Lightness picks up the spiritual journey begun in the earlier What Matters and moves that journey forward.

Praise for A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All:
"Hardwired by Kenny’s gift for dimension and her profound understanding of the human spirit, the poems in this collection show us the healing power of attention and awareness. Kenny’s words move associatively (and swiftly) through image and sound, and she makes a particular music that is uniquely her own. Impelled by lyrical precision, these poems cast light on what we are learning, and what we already know, about ourselves. This collection contemplates the ways in which the “interior life and the outside world intersect” and is a must-read for anyone interested in looking beneath the surface of things. In addition, through the process of these poems, Kenny leads us to see that, as C. S. Lewis wrote of the spiritual journey, '… there must be a real giving up of the self.'”—Alex Pinto, Tiferet, Spring 2015
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Adele sent us home with these suggestions for revision. Hopefully, you can put them to use on the poems you've written to the prompts offered by the other festival poets.

Often when I conduct poetry workshops, I give participants the following list, which is not a standard “prompt” but something I hope will be useful when you work on editing.

1. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).

2. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles & conjunctions too).

3. The great author Mark Twain once wrote, “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.” This is especially true in poetry. So ... as you work on a poem, think about adjectives and which ones your poem can live without. (Often the concept is already in the noun, and you don’t need a lot of adjectives to convey your meaning.)

4. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).

5. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning.

6. Challenge the ordinary, connect, reveal, surprise! And … remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.

7. Create a new resonance for your readers, a lit spark that doesn’t go out when the poem is “over.”

8. If you take a risk, make it a big one; if your poem is edgy, take it all the way to the farthest edge.

9. Understand that overstatement and the obvious are deadly when it comes to writing poetry. Don’t ramble on, and don’t try to explain everything. Think about this: a poem with only five great lines should be five lines long.

10. Bring your poem to closure with a dazzling dismount. (Be careful not to undercut your poem’s “authority” by ending with trivia or a “so what” line that doesn’t make your readers gasp.)

Something to Try:

1. Take a look at a poem you’ve already written and apply the preceding items as a checklist for editing.

2. Go through your poem one item at a time and see if there are changes you can make.

3. After you’ve finished, compare your original version and the newly edited one. Is the edited version stronger than the original? 

Friday, June 26, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Featured Poet: Therese Halscheid

Therese Halscheid was one of the six featured poets at the 2015 West Caldwell Poetry Festival.

Therése Halscheid’s most recent book of poems is Frozen Latitudes (Press 53). Other collections include Uncommon Geography, Without Home, Powertalk, and a Greatest Hits chapbook. Her poetry and lyric essays have appeared in many journals, among them The Gettysburg Review, Tampa Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Natural Bridge. By way of house-sitting, she has been an itinerant writer for several years. Her travels have taken her from the Florida Panhandle to the Arctic north of Alaska, where she lived with and taught poetry to an Eskimo Inupiaq tribe.

Frozen Latitudes melds two journeys, where lives are at the very edge of survival. One is the literal location of Alaska where Halscheid lived among clans of an Inupiaq tribe, as well as in the frontier town of Homer. The second location is the place and time where her father’s life was frozen when, during heart surgery, he suffered brain damage. In this collection, the journey into the cold becomes a metaphor for a family struggling with dementia.

Praise for Frozen Latitudes:
“'My lips, bright as scars, are parting / open with words,' writes Therése Halscheid. In these moving poems of loss, interwoven with vivid poems inspired by people and the landscape of Alaska, she composes resonant lines imbued with deep emotion."
          —Arthur Sze, author of Compass Rose

Frozen Latitudes won Honorable Mention for The Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry. The collection is reviewed in the US Review of Books. Read the Review

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Trash Day

This is how it really looked long ago….

This is myself back in time, a girl
with sallow skin, dragging metal cans to the curb,
notice how I stand for awhile that far from our house
watch how my lips, bright as scars, are parting
open with words so the great air can take them
out of their mystery --

see how my thoughts form the storms, how the morning sky
fills with dark sentences

always something about aphasia, his dementia,
something always about my father caught
so quiet inside me

that would rise in the wind to become
something readable.

I am only fourteen. But you can tell I look old
as if life is ending. Notice how my limbs droop so
willow-like over the trash, see how the cans
are all packed with food, know I am starving myself, I am
that full of my father….

These are our neighbors, each turning in their sleep as they wake,
each waking as they turn from their room to the window
watching the weather above them.

And this is an image of the whole town in shock.
See how they dread my gray hovering grief, just watch
as they walk, how they carry on with the endless clouds
I made weekly, correctly, so very awful and coming
into their eyes.

Here's the prompt that Therese challenged us all to try:
Select a topic that is risky for you and allow yourself to free-write about it. A few lines, a paragraph, a page, it does not matter. Just spend a few moments writing. Then go back to what you have written and circle a sentence or phrase. Lift it out. Using that sentence or phrase as a starting point, free-write again. This exercise is helpful in allowing you to experience how writing unfolds in layers. Note how you are moving from a surface experience to crisp details, from abstracts to images. You can try this again and again as a way to enter the heart of the matter, which then becomes powerful material for a poem. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Featured Poet: Charlie Bondhus

Charlie Bondhus’s second book, All the Heat We Could Carry, won the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and the Publishing Triangle’s 2014 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. Previous publications include How the Boy Might See It (Pecan Grove Press, 2009), and two chapbooks, What We Have Learned to Love—winner of the Brickhouse Books 2008-2009 Stonewall Award—and Monsters and Victims (Gothic Press, 2010). His poetry appears in numerous periodicals, including Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Midwest QuarterlyCounterPunch, and Cold Mountain Review. He teaches at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey and is the Poetry Editor at The Good Men Project.

All the Heat We Could Carry is a collection of poems written primarily in the voices of a gay soldier returning from Afghanistan and his civilian lover. The poems alternate between the battlefront and the home front, exploring, as they do, questions of masculinity, commitment, and violence.

Praise for All the Heat We Could Carry:
"All The Heat We Could Carry is a rare, brilliant and necessary book, offering a people who have lived well during the war a species of lyric night-vision, a camouflage night, wherein we are taught to field strip a rifle, but also to think about 'the soul, / a puff of wind / shot from the mouth.'" Our wars come home in these poems, through a prophet who’s seen hell, who now lives in the aftermath where all is refracted through the searing lens of wounded memory: 'the sun now heavy as a blood bag, where it is hard to tell / the difference between civilians and ghosts.' These poems move with precision from war to home and back, from stun grenade, body bag and bone saw to a garden in winter. If you want to know, or think you want to know, you must read Charlie Bondhus. If you want to know why, pay attention to the fifth section of his poem 'A Talent for Destruction.' Bondhus is a true poet, and this is among the best books I have read in a very long time."—Carolyn Forché

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Earlier you had written me
about the roadside bomb’s
oranges, blues, and pinks,
which threw 200-lb men,
wearing 80 lbs of equipment,
into the hot, metal wall
of an Abrams tank.
When you came home in May,
I had a planter
of spiky bougainvillea on the porch;
the first thing you’d see,
a different kind of explosion.

We went to the bedroom
to tend to your body, starved
from fifteen months of hard living.
I smelled chemicals, felt shrapnel’s grit,
saw the places you had been burned.
You told me about the sliver
of metal lodged in your right calf,
bone deep, inextractable, that would not
affect your ability to walk or sit
but would always be there, much in the same
way there will always be war
someplace, affecting our lives.

Lying naked beneath the whup, whup
of the ceiling fan as you smoke
on the porch, I think about flowers and bombs,
the books I read on combat fatigue,
and wonder if this thorn in your leg
is attached to a stem that runs
the length of your spine,
exploding, in your head,
a white phosphorous bloom.

Please give Charlie's prompt a try: 

In the spirit of Sei Shōnagon's Pillow Book, make lists of quirky things. Things I wish I had never said. Red things. Things more embarrassing than nudity. Things to put off as long as possible. Things to die for. Acid things. Things that last only a day. Things that should not be seen by firelight. The lists might inspire poems...or perhaps they are poems themselves.

Charlie has generously offered to have this Call for Submissions posted here. Check it out.

From Charlie Bondhus​ for The Good Men Project: People of all genders are warmly invited to submit poetry (simultaneous submissions AND reprints fine!) to The Good Men Project, a website dedicated to discussing what it means to be a good man in the twenty-first century.

On average, the site gets 3.3 million unique visitors and 8 million page views per month, and each published poem gets featured on the site for several days, so this is a very visible venue! Oh, and the poetry section is listed as one of the "Most Personable Poetry Markets" on Duotrope!

Work dealing with men or masculinity is a plus, though our first standard is simply high quality poetry.

Submit up to 10 pages of poetry, as an attachment, to charlie@goodmenproject.com. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Featured Poet: Anna M. Evans

Anna M. Evans is the author of Sisters and Courtesans (White Violet Press (2014) and a chapbook, The Stolen From: Poems about Memory & Alzheimer’s. Her poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, Atlanta Review, Rattle, American Arts Quarterly, and 32 Poems. She earned her MFA from Bennington College, and is the editor of the Raintown Review. Her awards include fellowships from the MacDowell Artists' Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, as well as the 2012 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers' Choice Award. She teaches at the West Windsor Art Center and Richard Stockton College of NJ.

Anna's description of her collection:
Before writing Sisters and Courtesans, it occurred to me that, until Anne Bradstreet, the only women writing poetry were outside of society in some way—some royals, but mainly cloistered women and women of easy virtue. Everyone else was busy having babies and raising chickens. I felt it would be interesting to explore women’s lives throughout history using that lens and the sonnet as a form, and to attempt to see what else such women might have in common.

Praise for Sisters and Courtesans
"If sonnet means 'little song,' what Anna Evans has crafted here is a sassy selection of female singers, a spirited chorus that takes the figures of different women throughout history, giving life to their stories with frank audacity and lively craft. This book is full of surprise after delightful surprise, deft rhymes and scandalous turns. This is a book to pass from sister to sister, from woman to woman, from friend to friend. But don't worry, fellows, you too will be equally charmed and delighted by this poet who has all the necessary lines and lives to make the sonnet sing with voices you never will think of again in quite the same way."—Allison Joseph

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My Life as a Camp Follower

The fight keeps dragging on. My soldier lover
was badly wounded by a Yorkist axe.
I came here in the hope that he'd recover,
and stayed on after, in the army's tracks.
It's easy living—all the men are lonely
and most are gentle. I say I'm a nurse
although I tend to them in one way only
and then I slip their pennies in my purse.
I use a pessary of wool and wine
and drink mint tea in secret. If they saw
they'd call it witchcraft. Well, the risk is mine,
all part of women's lot. The men make war
and corpses pile crotch deep in England's mud.
So many things in life come down to blood.

Anna sent us home with this challenge: Write a sonnet from the perspective of someone who lived in a different age from our own, but do NOT make them a famous or named person in history. Include a non-alcoholic beverage and an eye rhyme.

Friday, June 5, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Feature: R.G. Evans

R.G. Evans, aka Bob, was one of six featured readers at the 2015 West Caldwell Poetry Festival.
R.G. Evans' first collection, Overtipping the Ferryman, received the 2013 Aldrich Press Poetry Prize. His poems, fiction, and reviews have appeared in Rattle, The Literary Review, Paterson Literary Review, Lips, and Weird Tales, among other publications. His original music was featured in the 2012 documentary film All That Lies Between Us. He teaches high school and college English and Creative Writing in southern New Jersey.

Overtipping the Ferryman is a collection of poems ranging from the dark to the darkly comic. Themes include mortality, the art of poetry, grief and loss, and the natural world. Most of the poems are free verse, but the book includes formal poems such as sonnets and a villanelle as well.

Praise for Overtipping the Ferryman: 
“With an ear that searches and regularly finds language that complicates and fulfills his apparently Manichean vision, R.G.Evans navigates between reverence and irreverence in these often terrific poems. Death and fire dominate their imagery, and a kind of spiritual ferocity their tone. These are spiritual poems that don't attempt to console. They are poems of complicity. Their speaker wants “more,” and knows something about its price. To overtip the ferryman suggests the anxiety behind the journey, the uncertainty of the arrival. It doesn't get much better than this.”

—Stephen Dunn

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Month Without a Moon

Any night I like, I can rise instead of the moon
that has forgotten us, not a thought of our sad lot,
and roam the darkened oblongs of the dunes.

Once you said the moon was some pale god
who turned away his face to cause the tides,
and once you said that, I of course believed

that you were mad. Now the ghost crab guides
me to the edge where land is not land, sea not sea,
and all the sky above is one dark dream.

This is the month with no full moon. You
were its prophet, and I am standing on the seam
between belief and what I know is true.

I gave you a diamond. It should have been a pearl.
It should have been a stone to hang above the world.

Here's the prompt Bob sent us home with. Give it a try:

In one of the most famous scenes from the film Jaws, Quint, Brody and Hooper sit in the cabin of the Orca drinking and comparing various scars they have (moray eel bite, thresher shark’s tail). Quint reveals that one mark on his arm is a tattoo he had removed: the USS Indianapolis. He proceeds to tell the true story of the Indianapolis, the ship that delivered the Hiroshima bomb and which ultimately sank, many of the survivors attacked by sharks before the rest could be rescued.

Like Quint’s, the marks on our bodies tell the stories of our lives.

Make a list of all your bodily markings: scars, tattoos, piercings, etc. If you want to go deeper, you can list your emotional scars as well.

Write a poem either 1) in the voice of one of your scars speaking to you (recalling how it came to be, what it has to teach you, etc.) or 2) in the form of a dialogue between two of your scars/markings speaking about you in the third person.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

West Caldwell Poetry Festival Features

On Sunday, May 17, I ran the West Caldwell Poetry Festival, something I've been doing for the past twelve years. For the first ten years the focus was on New Jersey's literary journals. Each year I invited twelve journals to participate. Each editor then invited two representative poets to come and read. Journals were on display and for sale in the reference area while readings took place in the Community Room.

Then last year I began to feel that a change was needed so switched the focus to poets with new books. I invited six poets to be featured at the festival. The journals were again included, but the editors did not invite poets to read. Instead, the six featured poets read in two groups of three, each for 15-17 minutes. Journals were for sale as were the poets' books. There was also a panel during which the poets discussed process. And there was a publishers' panel.

This year I decided to repeat last year's format but omitted the publishers' panel so that the readings could be a bit longer as could the browsing time.

Our featured poets this year were Charlie Bondhus, Anna Evans, R.G. Evans, Doug Goetsch, Therese Halscheid, and Adele Kenny. They were all terrific!

In order to extend the festival's reach, I have invited each of the poets to have a feature here on my blog. Those features will begin tomorrow, Friday, June 5. Please be sure to check in and get a sample of the wonderful poets and poetry we had at this year's festival.

Visitors browsing the journals and meeting the editors
Poets signing books after the panel discussion

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