Friday, April 24, 2009

Pugnaciously pushing a powerful poetry-month phinish

Several were not able to attend the great talk last Thursday here at the store with Ryan Vine - but it was a great chat! I wanted to include some of the highlights and try to turn this into a once a month feature of poetry/poetics resources/reviews kinda deal. Maybe even something more specific! For now, here's the recap of our discussion on poets and poetry non-local, non-famous, non-dead.

1. Ryan Vines poets that he's been excited about he past few months: Dean Young, Tony Hoagland, Karen Volkman, Denise Duhamel, Jennifer Knox, Matthew Dickman, Tom Lux, & Terrance Hayes.

2. In addition (because there's not a name there not worth getting excited over) to that tremendous list, I came up with the following: Russell Edson, Jordan Scott, Matthea Harvey, Eireann Lorsung, & Brenda Shaughnessy.

3. We discussed whether any poet is or can be famous. Mary Oliver's sell-out performances, Billy Collins's best sellers were the only contemporaries we could think of with fame due to their poetry, though those of us who read a lot of poetry would have a long list of candidates who've achieved relative fame.

4. We discussed then influence and representativeness. Every lump of generations seem to have there handful of poets that define their times, but what consensus would be reached for the late 20th Century? Collins? Oliver? A strong case was made for Robert Bly but there was a sad recognition that academics have not fully embraced him. A reluctant case was made for Ashbery, but it felt more like saying Kevin Bacon would be remembered as the actor of this age because of his six degrees - we saw Ashbery spreading a similar net. I made a case for Seamus Heaney - throwing open a gate of all English-speaking poetry. We're holding our final ruling until we have a whopping book deal.

5. There are no whopping book deals even remotely connected to poetry.

6. Some great reviews at Small Press Distribution (we'll be ordering from them more frequently if you see anything you like) and Rain Taxi, from the Cities (available in print free by the door).

It was also decided soon after, that Northern Lights will be carrying several poetry/literary review magazines. Starting this summer (times will vary for each) we'll be carrying Poetry (also, don't miss their blog of poets on poetry, Harriet), American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse and the Kenyon Review.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Population 485

As you hopefully are aware, Duluth has chosen Michael Perry's Population 485 as our "One Book, One Community" selection for 2009. When I first heard the selection, I wasn't sure if the book was one I could relate to because if I was to write a book about the "town" I grew up in, it could be titled "Population 3.8 Million." Well, I can say that those 3.8 million people aren't any more interesting than the 485 people that Michael Perry describes.

Michael Perry writes beautifully and one can feel his appreciation for the people and town of his boyhood to which he returns as an adult. He has experienced an interesting combination of occupations and each chapter ties together several story lines. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and think it's an excellent choice for our community to read, share, and discuss.

As part of the "One Book, One Community," we have reading guides for Population 485 at Northern Lights Books and Gifts. In addition, you are invited to attend an evening with Michael Perry and his band "The Longbeds" at Lake Superior College on Friday, May 1st, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for students. We hope you will join us for this wonderful event.

Population 485

Monday, April 13, 2009

#Amazonfail - a quick overview

Twitterers and bloggers have been abuzz over #Amazonfail these past few days. So, if you've missed out because you were with friends and family, outside breathing fresh air or otherwise not glued to the twitter updates, here's a quick summary. *edit* And here is another great summary of the situation from a bookselling/public relations perspective.

First Twitter= a network of mini-blogs. Users follow individuals and institutions they're interested in and receive updates - short 140 character postings detailing current status (enjoying a great lunch at Sir Ben's); links to interesting sites or news items (click for more information on #Amazonfail); re-tweets (reposting someone else's posting); and replies @username.

The # is used to precede a topic that is then more readily searchable through Twitter, so you can go to and search for the diverse conversation threads surrounding the topic of #Amazonfail.

Adding FAIL as a suffix (actually attached or just following) is a trendy way of saying that something has significantly fallen short of the perceived objectives. Misspellings in signs, funny mishaps caught on film, etc.

The actual controversy (in an extremely condensed nutshell): Amazon makes books with "adult" content harder to find and sometimes (somehow...) removes them from the sales ranking. If you're looking for something specific, you're still likely to find it, but you're not very likely to come upon it by cyber-browsing or relying on their algorithms to find a book you might like. It sounds like a responsible enough policy. Then people started noticing that LGBTQ content was being "removed/processed" under this "policy" while Playboy and other "adult" content featuring or catering toward a heterosexual (and predominantly male) sexuality was still showing up in the sales rankings and browsing. Thus segregating and de facto censoring LGBTQ content. Some say that feminist theory books were included. Twitter postings and re-tweets abounded. Blogs were both hastily written and thought through and written.

As of my writing right now, I'm unaware of the final say: Amazon claims it's a "glitch" they're fixing. Many in the LGBTQ community see it as discriminatory policy enacted to make non-hetero-conforming sexuality even less visible than it already is. Some accuse tech-savvy(ish) conservatives of recognizing the adult material policy and systematically tagging literature they view as subversive to be "adult."

In any which way, it is a demonstration of why no one entity should be given the control over the distribution of so many diverse voices and viewpoints. So, with no accusation nor malice, I invite you to use this as an opportunity to consider how many algorithms and single-company policies you've allowed to make selections for you rather than speaking to a friend, colleague or someone who dedicates themselves to the sale of a particular media in an independent store that specializes in a media and may be very close to your community (like, say maybe an independent bookseller!)

Search books, bookstores and many many things independent at

Authors, Publishers, Bloggers, Organizations, etc...: you're NOT tied to amazon either. There's no reason for you to be at the mercy of their rankings, policies, algorithms or glitches. Become an Affiliate!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Slow Reading and a Thank You from Lisa Scottoline

We always savor appreciation from customers and authors. Lisa Scottoline shares her experiences growing up as a reader and developing in her love of Independent bookstores. And now I know how to pronounce her last name, so there's all kinds of learning and appreciation here!

Thanks Lisa Scottoline! We couldn't do it without great authors and fantastic books that are worth the time spent engrossed in a story!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Children's Stories

I can't speak for her book myself, but Author and Professor Maria Tatar speaks very well in this short video about how it is that children, and even we as readers who fell in love with reading as children, choose and become immersed in books.

It reminds me of the last post of Lil' Red and many of Neil Gaiman's successes.