New Videos page

I’ve added a top-level page here to display a sampling of videopoems made for my own work, including my on-going series in support of Breakdown: Banjo Poems, and seven films by the Belgian musician and videopoet Swoon (Marc Neys). Given my attitude that the print version of a poem is not necessarily the last word, I think it’s important for my author website to include such a section right next to, and therefore symbolically on a par with, the Books page on the main navigation menu. (Also, I’m damned proud of those Swoon videopoems!)

I’m using a plugin that should re-size the videos to fit whatever screen you’re using. Please let me know if things aren’t displaying correctly.

Breakdown is here (and also expanding into new media)

cover of Breakdown: Banjo PoemsI’ve been remiss in not following up my previous post to announce that Breakdown is indeed out and available for order ($9.00) from Seven Kitchens Press. I’m very pleased with the cover art by Steven Sherrill, whose full-color paintings of off-color subjects keep company with an eclectic assortment of instruments, homemade and otherwise, in his basement. Inspired in part by the lovely book design, the work of publisher Ron Mohring, and in part by the enthusiasm of Steve and other banjo-playing friends, I’m forging ahead with making videopoems for the book, using banjo-accompanied readings for the soundtracks, which may eventually become an album of sorts. But for now, there’s just the growing album of videos. As I said in a recent blog post about one of them, my thinking about these audiopoems and videopoems is that they don’t necessarily drive more sales of the chapbook; if that were my primary reason for making them, I suspect I’d be disappointed. They’re just fun to make, and the publication of the book provides a handy pretext for spending many enjoyable hours exploring SoundCloud and archive.org. Plus, they will give me something else to do during a live reading besides just read from a podium. I do have this notion that audiences at poetry readings deserve first and foremost to be entertained.

And speaking of readings, I’m honored to be kicking off a new, monthly poetry reading series at Webster’s Bookstore Cafe in State College, Pennsylvania on November 6. (See their Events page for details.)

Proof that “Breakdown” is on its way at long last

cover page of proof for Breakdown: Banjo PoemsThis is the uncorrected author proof for my poetry chapbook Breakdown: Banjo Poems, due out soon from Seven Kitchens Press. That was the manuscript I sent off to the Keystone Chapbook Prize in 2011 on a whim, thinking the press could use a donation (my entry fee). Imagine my surprise when mine was one of the two winners that year, selected by Sascha Feinstein. Oops! Well, what can I say — I still think it’s a fun collection, and there are several poems in it which I am very proud to have written. More than that, I couldn’t be happier with Ron Mohring’s design and font choice. I haven’t seen the final cover yet, but I’m really looking forward to it, since it will feature a painting by my friend Steven Sherrill, who is a terrific novelist and poet — not to mention a banjo player.

Breakdown has been a little late in coming, but as Ron says on the website, “We truly appreciate everyone’s patience and good wishes as we relocated—and rebooted—the press.” Stay tuned. I think it will prove to be well worth the wait.

Sharing “Riches”

De purpura y de melancholia

My film for the poem “Riqueza” (“Riches”) by Gabriela Mistral is in the latest issue of Awkword Paper Cut, a “monthly e-magazine” with a weekly podcast. Here’s how it appears in the email newsletter (click to enlarge):

Awkword Paper Cut Newsletter for September 2013

Thanks to the editors for choosing the video, and for doing such a nice job with the layout and accompanying text. To me, the poem says something deep about giving and taking, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the video came together through several acts of generosity: my normally camera-shy friend letting me film her; Nic Sebastian providing a reading for the soundtrack, and Chris Kent letting me use his tin whistle tune. I hope other, more talented filmmakers will consider making videos with Mistral’s work, too. She deserves it.

Anyway, do check out the article and video in APC.

Two reviews and a call for artist(s)

Most poetry chapbooks are lucky to get any reviews, let alone one as kind as this, from long-time blogger Jonah at Love During Wartime in response to Twelve Simple Songs:

Song Two, “My parachute knapsack,” is another example of the dialogue between photo and poem. The poem closes with the lines “That’s what it was like / being alone.” The photograph is of a pair of boots on a red porch, a white wall behind them and white snow bordering the left of the porch. This is possibly the most “illustrative” pairing in the collection, yet I don’t see this as cloyingly obvious. There’s no self-pity on either the verso or recto: both speak of being alone, rather than being lonely. Each offer images devoid of sentimentality.

Do read the whole review… and of course check out the collection if you haven’t already. (And note that I still have some 20%-off coupons available for the print-on-demand version.)

Last weekend, Jonah blogged another review, this one for a collection I haven’t even bothered to publish aside from the series at Via Negativa and accompanying audio recordings: Manual. He wrote, in part:

I read through this brief collection in a few hours. But each poem deserves its own hour. Many of us think of poetry as some code that must be deciphered. These poems are a fine antidote to that fear: they are approachable, friendly (in their imperious way), tender, often whimsical, and sly.

It’s always gratifying when one’s work garners these kinds of close reads (especially of course when the reader has such a favorable reaction!). Both these projects have also sparked unsolicited artistic responses — close readings of a sort — from the Dutch filmmaker Swoon (Marc Neys): a single, seven-and-a-half-minute-long film for Twelve Simple Songs as read by Nic Sebastian, and a series of five films for poems in Manual. What a gift.

I now have a number of cycles of poems like Manual that feel complete and could be made into books. The question is always: Would the effort to design and produce a book be worth it? How does one measure such things if you’re giving your work away? How many downloads and purchases are enough? Or should I submit these collections to other publishers on the chance that they may be able to do a better job reaching readers, even though it means in most cases giving up control over design and the chance to have digital versions? Right now I’m putting most of my effort into an anthology of newly revised work which I may also self-publish; it’s clear to me that this book will offer value to readers simply as an act of curation from my too-voluminous online corpus. And I’m thinking I’d also like to pursue an idea suggested by Jean Morris in a recent comment at Via Negativa: an illustrated version of Bear Medicine.

So here’s the proposal: I’m looking for an artist or artists with an affinity for bears to collaborate on a small book incorporating my Bear Medicine prose poems. I’m thinking woodblock prints, but paintings or other media might work, too. Publication would be digital and print-on-demand under the Via Negativa Press imprint. I can’t afford to pay much. Contact me if you’re interested.

Poems in [Slippage]

[Slippage] magazine[Slippage] is a brand-new magazine devoted to “the confluence of science and art.” I have three poems in the first issue: “Dutchman’s Breeches,” “Kissing Bug” and “Siphonophore.” All three originally appeared at Via Negativa, but much to their credit, the editors do consider work that has been posted to a writer’s or artist’s own blog.

I was also pleased to find myself in some very good company, alongside poets such as Robin Chapman, Bill Knott, William Doreski and Jessamyn Smyth. Check it out. I think their mission to bridge the gap between the the arts and science is an important one.

Twelve Simple Songs, a new, free chapbook of photos and poetry, available in multiple formats

Twelve Simple Songs

Twelve Simple Songs is a short cycle of poems in dialogue with photographs about an intercontinental love affair. It started as a Valentine’s Day gift for my girlfriend Rachel, a one-off print publication through Snapfish, but then I decided to make it available as free PDF and MP3 downloads, uploaded it to the ebook reader service Issuu, and enough readers at Via Negativa expressed interest in a print version that I set up an account with Peecho.com for print-on-demand, too, where you can get it in any of three formats (magazine, glossy paperback and hardcover). Meanwhile, in accordance with my decision to keep it in the gift economy, my friends Nic Sebastian and Marc Neys (a.k.a. Swoon) surprised me with a lovely videopoem, and Rachel pulled together an iBook incorporating text, photos, my readings, and the videopom. I’ve set up a permanent page for the chapbook where you can access all these versions: https://davebonta.com/twelve-simple-songs/.

“New ice” at tinywords

I have a photo up at one of my favorite online magazines, tinywords. The editors chose it as an interim feature between issues, a visual writing prompt for fans of the site:

While we are assembling the next issue, tinywords invites you to get inspired by Dave Bonta’s beautiful photograph above. Add your short poems inspired by his image “new ice” to our comment box below.

Thank you for lending your voices. And thanks to Dave for lending his photo. We will consider the best of the best for possible inclusion in tinywords 13.1.

Happy New Year!

Please stop by and contribute a poem to the growing collection. I wrote my own haiku in response to the photo back in January 2008 at Woodrat Photohaiku:

bone-white sticks
trapped in the cross-hatch foliage
new blue ice

New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan

New Sun Rising cover

I have a brief essay about bento boxes in the new anthology New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan, available in paperback (Amazon link) and for the Kindle. That’s not the main reason to get it though. Think of it instead as a donation to the Japanese Red Cross to support survivors of the 2011 tsunami, for which you get a free book. None of the editors, authors, or illustrators make a penny for this, and neither does the Aussie publisher. It’s a beautiful book with a great diversity of contributions — a feel-good gift for all the readers on your Christmas list. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan is an anthology of stories, flash fiction, poems, haibun, haiku and artwork and photography donated by over 60 creators from all over the world to support those in Japan still affected by the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. All monies go the Japanese Red Cross.

This anthology was prepared by an international team of volunteers and includes the donation of a poem in German with English translation by award-winning Austrian poet and writer, Friederike Mayröcker.

Greg Mc Queen, founder of 100 Stories for Haiti and 50 Stories for Pakistan says this:

“You’re holding a book that beat the odds. A book made from determination. From compassion. And by holding it – buying it – reading it – telling others about it – you stand with the writers and artists who created it: ordinary people who watched the lives of strangers destroyed and decided that they needed to help.”

Celebrate with us Japan and its people.

New author page on Goodreads

Goodreads author dashboard screenshot

I finally got around to joining Goodreads, the social network for readers. If you’re a member, please send me a friend request. Here’s my author page.

Hard to say yet how I’ll use the site, aside from promoting my own books, but I hope to link to all my book reviews at Via Negativa going forward. I’ve also taken the time to add some favorite books to my virtual shelves there. And I imagine I’ll be using the blog feature from time to time. (I have a post there now announcing that Breakdown: Banjo Poems is due out in September.)