Glowing new review of Ice Mountain on WPSU

WPSU Ice Mountain review

I couldn’t be more pleased with a new review of Ice Mountain on our local NPR affiliate WPSU, which serves a huge chunk of central and northern Pennsylvania. Not only is it a favorable review, but it’s also very comprehensive and deftly put together. I particularly liked this bit:

“Ice Mountain” as a collection trades indignation for intimacy. Its poems are awake to the complexities of a nature whose rhythms both govern and respond to human presence. The experience in these poems is a lived experience: one that draws from a deep well of knowledge about the local ecosystem without shying away from the often imperfect ways humans participate in that system.

I don’t know the reviewer, Talley V. Kayser, but according to her Penn State webpage, she’s “been teaching at the intersection of literary studies and adventure education since 2007. […] Talley’s research interests include environmental literature, environmental justice, and new materialist theory.” This appears to be her first review for WPSU’s bi-weekly BookMark program. I heard it live over the air, but kudos to BookMark for promptly uploading both an MP3 and a full transcript to the web. Check it out.

Book news, new and belated

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long, but I’ve finally made dedicated pages for each of my published poetry collections: Ice Mountain, Breakdown: Banjo Poems, and Odes to Tools. (Twelve Simple Songs already had a page.) They’re available in a drop-down menu from the main Books page link, as well as being linked within that page.

Why hadn’t I done this earlier? I guess I wasn’t convinced it was something website visitors would be looking for. Wouldn’t one page for all of them, linking to the book’s pages on the publishers’ websites, be enough? But publishers tend not to update their pages with links to reviews, much less include videos, musical adaptations, and all the other fun stuff that’s happened as a result of licensing my work for remix under the Creative Commons. Plus, it’s useful for me to keep track of everything. I’d completely forgotten, for example, just how enthusiastically my blogger friends (and a few strangers) reviewed Odes to Tools, for example, culminating in Nicelle Davis’s use of the poems to kick off her Living Poetry Project, handing them out to construction workers in her hometown. And I hadn’t remembered just how damn many videos I’d cranked out in support of Breakdown: twelve! And while technically and conceptually they’re not up to the level of the videopoems I make now, I find I still like them pretty well. So they’re all on that book’s page now.

As for Ice Mountain, I’ve simply never gotten around to blogging much of the news about it. For example, back in December, James Brush made a videopoem for “26 January”.

The footage is an artist’s conception of Pluto, an icy world, apparently lifeless, that resonated for me with the sense of loss and environmental themes that undergird much of Ice Mountain.

Go check it out. Earlier, Phil Coleman had reviewed had reviewed the book for the Spring 2017 issue of the Sylvanian [PDF], the magazine of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club (which took a while to appear on the web), and Kathleen Kirk wrote a great review for the online journal Escape Into Life. Verse Daily posted an excerpt, “20 March.” The book was given away in a free drawing at the Montreal-based Passage des Perles blog. On Goodreads, fantasy/sci-fi author Jordan R. Murray gave it a glowing review.

One of the best reviews was by blogger Ama Bolton at barleybooks, reprinted on the Bath Writers & Artists Group website.

Dave Bonta has, it seems, an instinct for getting to the heart of things without fuss, for choosing words and creating metaphors that are just right, never showy, and for making a point subtly, without jargon. This collection shows him to be a nature-poet in the great American tradition. Even a brief wander through his places on the Internet will confirm that he’s more than that.

Many (most?) of my Serious Writer friends don’t like the idea of sharing first drafts of their work with all and sundry, and I’ll admit there’s a part of me that yearns to erase or at least seriously spruce up my past, as well. But this is a wonderfully perceptive and sympathetic review of Ice Mountain by a long-time reader of Via Negativa who not only remembered the original drafts, but went back and compared them to get a sense of what I’d changed. So that feels like a bit of vindication for my “let it all hang out” approach. Thank you, Ama Bolton!

So you can see why it was well past time to create a dedicated page for all this. All the videos are there, and I embedded Marc Neys’ Ice Mountain album from Bandcamp, as well.

One final piece of Ice Mountain-related news is that I’m posting snapshots of the poems each morning to Instagram on the same date as they were written, accompanied by hopefully interesting (if occasionally prolix) commentary. I’ve heard from people who’ve already read the book that they’re enjoying this closer, slower look, so I hope to keep doing it straight through till the end in mid-May. Follow along if you like.

Ice Mountain makes the Banff Mountain Book Competition longlist!

Banff Mountain Book Competition screenshot

Just received word from Beth at Phoenicia Publishing that Ice Mountain has made the 2017 Banff Mountain Book Competition longlist, one of three titles in the Mountain Fiction & Poetry category, and the only book of poetry on the entire list. It’s an honor for the press and for me… and, I have to say, for the Appalachians, which don’t always rate too highly in people’s estimations of mountain-ness, being more ridgy than peaky, as well as being inhabited by one of the most mocked groups of people in the country. So, yay for us! Here’s the text of the announcement from the Banff website:

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival celebrates mountain literature and film, bringing together filmmakers, writers, publishers, editors, photographers, athletes, adventurers, and – of course – readers. Featuring film screenings, guest speakers, readings, seminars and book signings, the Festival offers a wide spectrum of experiences for the mountain film and book-loving audience.

As a key program of The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, the Book Competition is an internationally recognized literary competition that celebrates mountain literature in all its forms. Over $16,000 in cash is awarded annually with 8 awards selected by an international jury of writers, adventurers and editors. The shortlist of category award winners eligible for the Grand Prize is announced in October every year. In 2017, the Grand Prize will be announced on Thursday, November 2 at The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival and category awards will be presented to winning authors.

The Mountain Fiction & Poetry category “Includes fiction and poetry books with a focus on mountain topics. Creative narratives about climbing and mountaineering, exploration and mountain culture are acceptable.” The other two finalists are In Case I Go by Angie Abdou, Arsenal Pulp Press (2017) and Rising Abruptly: Stories by Gisèle Villeneuve, University of Alberta Press (2016). Congrats to both.

Ice Mountain makes its way into the world

Ice Mountain the book in the hand of Matt Swayne from Instagram
photo by Matt Swayne on Instagram
I’ve been terribly remiss in updating this blog with news about my new book of poetry, Ice Mountain: An Elegy. Nevertheless, the book has been getting around: popping up on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and making its way into musical compositions and poetry films in places as far-flung as Belgium and Australia. (OK, pretty much just those two places. But still, that’s a lot better than me: I’ve barely left the mountain in the past four months.)

I tend to blog about such things at Via Negativa, and/or link them on Facebook, and be done with it, forgetting that I have this dandy author’s website as well. In short, like most poets, I suck at promotion. So, for example, I blogged about Marc Neys’ video trailer for the book, for which I supplied most of the footage, and Marc the music and selection of lines — a cento of his own creation. Check it out:

The next thing that happened was this terrific review of the book from poet, rabbi, and fellow Phoenicia author Rachel Barenblat:

The natural world and the manmade world are always in uncomfortable proximity here … Dave resists easy binaries. There is a kind of beauty in the salt-bleached highway that “almost shines.” But our human needs for progress come at the cost of animal lives, and this collection never lets us forget that.

Read the rest.

Further surprises awaited. The Australian multimedia artist and singer Marie Craven made two videos based on entries in Ice Mountain, one for 25 January and one for 7 March. The second included her own musical adaptation, collaborating with the composer Paul Dementio. The preceding link goes to a post at Via Negativa, but I’ll embed the videos here as well:

*

In February and March I gave local readings from the book and was pleased by the warm response of both audiences: one a nature club, the other a more literary bookstore crowd. I also recorded an interview with a local radio station (98.7 FM — The Freq) as part of an author week feature they ran in cooperation with State College’s Schlow Library. Jason Crane, the interviewer, had read the book and asked great questions — no surprise since he’s been interviewing people for radio and podcasts for many years. Listen here, or via the following embedded player:

The Morning Mixtape: Dave Bonta

The Morning Mixtape: Poet Dave Bonta talks about Ice Mountain, his new book of poems. This wide-ranging conversation also covers renewable energy, being specific about nature, and much more. NOTE: This online version contains an additional 6 minutes of conversation not found in the radio version. Author Week is sponsored by Schlow Centre Region Library and Centre County Reads.

Posted by 98.7 The FREQ on Thursday, March 30, 2017

 

So while I may not have been doing a proper author tour, the book has definitely been getting out there. I’m grateful for the many positive comments and mini reviews on social media, and the publisher seems happy with sales figures so far. More Ice Mountain-related things are in the works, including an album of ambient/electronic music based on the book and at least one reading in London this summer, so stay tuned!

Proof

Holding a copy of Ice Mountain against the trees

Holding a copy of Ice Mountain against the treesLike yeast, a book is proofed, in the older sense of proof/prove meaning to test. But for many authors, having a published book is proof (in the modern sense) that one is a Real Writer. When I was younger, I too might’ve felt that way. Instead, what I’m feeling now is simple pleasure at a well-made thing.

It also means, of course, that publication is imminent, and very soon I shall be endeavoring to sell physical copies in meat-space. What a concept! There will, however, be a PDF version as well for those who are decluttering, living out of their suitcases, or simply don’t like the way books gather dust (which is roughly how my late Nanna felt about books). Here’s the link to order. And here’s an excerpt.

I am also extremely pleased with the videopoem my friend Marc Neys made, based on a collage of lines from the book. He intended it as a video trailer for Ice Mountain, but it’s really a stand-alone short film. I blogged about our collaboration recently at Via Negativa.

Ice Mountain now available for preorder

cover of Ice Mountain
Publication of Ice Mountain is less than two months away! It now has a page on the publisher’s website, where you can admire Beth Adams’ beautiful cover illustration, read the book description and the blurbs kindly provided by two good friends, poet Todd Davis and environmental activist extraordinaire Laura Jackson, and even go crazy and order the book at the lower pre-publication price. But if, like me, you’re the discriminating sort of buyer who likes to sample first, here’s an excerpt from the book.


11 February

the crest of Ice Mountain
once harbored a rare scrub barrens
ancient trees made wayward by the wind

as I start up the ridge my tired knees
make quiet popping noises
with every step

Sancho I say to myself
those windmills aren’t giants
they’re flowers for the dead


12 February

the squirrel’s tracks end
in a smudge of blood on the snow
one tuft of fur

and the long furrow
its dangling tail drew
beside the fox’s footprints

in the field a bulldozer
lowers its blade
to a white and heavy harvest


13 February

the spruce grove
at the top of the hollow
harbors a north-woods chill

seated on a runner sled
I hurtle down
into the sunlit field

my shadow like a witching rod
stretched out before me
alive to every swell and swale


14 February

it snowed all night
I dreamt an opossum slept between us
with its death-head grin

by first light
the old dog statue in the yard
is buried up to its neck

let’s get a bowl of fresh snow
not to eat but just to admire
like cut flowers


15 February

a cottontail has squeezed
through a ring of fencing
to browse on dogwood sprouts

the snow squeaks under my boots
as I loom up
and it forgets how to escape

the small animal
beating against its cage
like a panicked heart

*

(UPDATE) Here’s the video trailer by Marc Neys AKA Swoon:

*

Beth’s print for the cover is titled Porcupine Tree, and it’s based on an actual tree up on the ridge that’s long been home — and food — for a series of porcupines, an animal with which I feel a certain affinity. Here’s how it looked ten years ago:

porcupine tree