Friday, October 26, 2007

New Works Review announces writing awards....

Some of you know I'm the Review Editor at New Works Review. NWR is an online literary
e-zine that has rapidly gained an international following. Readers from around the globe visit the website and stay to read the work posted there; poetry, story, essay, and photography submissions reflect that diversity.

My role at NWR is to submit reviews of exceptional work by promising writers. In keeping with this series of posts about unknown writers and their work, today I'm pleased to report that NWR has established two new writing awards:

The Stanley Kunitz Award for Poetry -- Kirtland Snyder has been chosen for this award for his poem, "Funny How Much Sorrow Looks Like Anger."

The Georges Simenon Fiction Award -- Tom Sheehan received this award for his short story, "The Man Who Hid Music."

Snyder and Sheehan will also be nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

NWR is allowed six nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and will submit the following writers and work:

Pushcart Nominations for Poetry

Stanley Kunitz Funny How Much Sorrow Looks Like Anger
Liz Rosenberg Becoming a Father
Alicia Ostriker Insomnia

Pushcart Nominations for Fiction

Tom Sheehan The Man Who Hid Music
Irv Greenfield The Game of Bling
Michael Corrigan Free Fall

Alicia Ostriker is the featured poet in the current edition of NWR. Tom Sheehan's Pushcart-nominated story is also in the current edition along with an essay by Michael Corrigan. If you'd like to learn more about these exceptional writers, go to www.new-works.org.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Confessions of a Shanty Irishman

Confessions of a Shanty Irishman was Michael Corrigan's first book. He's written several since, and all are well worth reading. In all his stories and novels, Corrigan uses his Irish history to great effect. He mixes a smattering of truth, a dash of fiction, then laces everything liberally with blarney and Irish spirit. From my first reading of his first book, he's been a favorite writer of mine.

Confessions of a Shanty Irishman
by Michael Corrigan
ISBN 978-1591292289

Michael Corrigan has a gift to share. From the erin green covers to the morsels of his memories within them, the author serves himself up to the reader like a meat and potatoes stew. Alternately dark with pathos, then light with sudden bursts of humor, this story lives. The author's way with words is purely Irish, through and through.

His San Francisco home is shared by an old country grandfather who worked hard and proud to make America his home; a calm and sensible grandmother who unfailingly nurtures all three men she loves; and a handsome father who works and pays the bills despite his losing battle with the demon drink. Moving in and out of the Michael's life are kinfolk who are all apples off the same Irish tree, each with their own personality and contribution to the author's childhood memories. A mother who abandoned her Irish Catholic husband and infant in search of fun is an occasional visitor, a mystery throughout the author's life.

Mr. Corrigan cooks up a fine, rich broth with his memories. I was intrigued by his family, his lifelong friends, the nuns who taught him as a child, and the priests who took him from innocent altar boy to a manhood full of doubt about his faith. A genetic love of drink plagues him from early on. His struggle with the Irish Catholic faith is honestly relayed through thoughts or spoken words. And his appreciation of the fair sex is sometimes humorous or sad. But it was the author's relationship with his father that, for me at least, put the shine on this novel. His father dies young, a dissipated remnant of the once darkly handsome, charismatic man who raised his son without a mother. The author's memory of that day haunts me:

"The old days of Irish wakes with ice lifted off the corpse for drinks had passed. Now it was only a rosary, and relatives listened to the priest reciting before the open coffin. I wondered if the Vikings weren't right to put the body on a ship and riddle the vessel with fire arrows, rather than lay the body out for morbid viewing. I couldn't accept that plastic-looking empty husk as my father. Thomas. It was too much of a contradiction, a furious denial of what he had been in life. Where was the person who took the wheel of his brother's boat and waved at the home movie lens? When would we hear that warm baritone again with its Bing Crosby resonance?"

Confessions of a Shanty Irishman is selling well and finding an audience. Deservedly so. Michael Corrigan's voice is strong, resonant. I like to think he inherited that resonant voice from his father, and that somewhere in the afterlife, Thomas Corrigan is proud.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Harp All Made of Gold by Klyd Watkins

Klyd Watkins calls himself "The Time Gardener" and maintains a poetry-related website at www.thetimegarden.com. I discovered The Time Garden and Klyd Watkins quite by accident a couple years ago and liked what I saw. The diversity of poets appealed to me. To my delight, I found some of my favorite poets and their work in Klyd's garden. Sharon Doubiago, Eve Hanninen, Christina Pacosz, CarrieAnn Thunell, David Pointer, Charles Potts, Charles Ries, and Joel Waldman visit TTG from time to time. I also discovered poets previously unfamiliar to me, who create their poetry in a variety of styles. In short, The Time Garden offers an eclectic mix of poetry and also features wide open discussions and commentaries that keep my brain cells active.

Watkins is a renaissance man: poet, musician, publisher with a history of creativity reaching back into the 60s. Time Barn Books publishes exceptional small books with glossy covers. ThunderShack produces Watkins poetry-spoken-to-music CDs and features some of Nashville's finest musicians as background. The featured review today is of Watkins' latest CD.

Harp All Made of Gold
CD of spoken poetry by Klyd Watkins with music by the Watkins family & friends
ID # 3447934019
CD with 9 tracks at $10 USA
Thundershack Production
529 Barrywood Drive
Nashville TN 37220-1636
www.thundershack.net

The spoken words in this CD were originally the narrative poem titled "Jack," by Klyd Watkins. With Watkins' commanding voice accompanied by talented Nashville musicians and haunting Appalachian vocals as background, Harp All Made of Gold becomes an exceptional tour de force. In this allegory based on the fairy tale "Jack and the Bean Stalk," Watkins takes the story of Jack further, brings it to life with incredible depth and emotion.

Jack's desire is for the golden harp to sing for him in daylight instead of haunting his dreams at night. He desires this beyond reason. Accompaniment of fiddle, guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and harmonica delivers a sensual, penetrating power as the golden harp teases Jack with memories of "fee fi fo fum" and the giant. Background vocals and musical styles reflect the shifting topography of Jack's fears and fascinations. Musicians segue from rock to bluegrass to southern gospel to dulcet, and driving each transition is the resonant voice of poet Klyd Watkins. Each track is verbally and musically strong and hypnotic but I must admit the poet's bluegrass-style rendition of "Tourmaline" on track eight gave me goosebumps.

Nothing Klyd Watkins does in the way of poetry is ordinary and this CD produced by Bob Watkins for Thundershack is extraordinary in every way. The talented Watkins family and their Nashville friends have entertained delighted fans worldwide for years with their CDs. They're deserving of that loyal fan base. If you enjoy poetry and music, Harp All Made of Gold is highly recommended.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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