Monthly Archives: December 2011

Whorled by Ed Bok Lee

Excerpt From “Whorled”
Dear speaker in a future age,
when only a handful of tongues remain
I write this to you as a song,
even as I know it won’t do

Even as I know the words I speak are devastation
I don’t expect you to understand
But I want you to know
there is another language in which I dream

Whorled by Ed Bok Lee (2011, Coffee House Press)

In Whorled, Ed Bok Lee looks toward a global future, one where the dividing lines between state, religion, race, history, and culture have been blurred to the extent that the very idea of difference requires a new understanding. What does it mean to be a Global Citizen in an era of constant war, rampant industrialization, and ever-advancing technology? Whorled strives to give a voice to those left out with words of loss and longing, confrontation and celebration. From gambling Buddhists at a Midwest Native American casino, to a Russian rave, Lee’s ever-wandering cultural and spiritual nomads struggle to make sense of what it means to be a citizen of an increasingly homeless world.


“His poems are alternately devastating and grandstanding, word-drunk and built for speed. . . . There is another other/ in the other of every/ Another,” goes the opening poem, “All Love Is Immigrant.” It’s a beautiful poem charged with a breathtaking idea. Whorled is a book that believes love is like a superior kind of capital: It’s a force that flows into new markets, sensing absences, and fills them, whether it’s a debased kind of space or an ennobling one.” —John Freeman, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The spirit of Lee’s poetry hovers in the paradoxical space between markers of identification and actual identity. He makes wry and rightly skeptical use of the noun cluster and the adjective train, but does so in service to something elusive, something more precious. It’s as if he glues together shards of glass to make a bottle only to celebrate what that bottle cannot hold. . . .There’s something post-Romantic about this—Lee writes frequently and without irony about love and friendship—but it is not indulgent or salvific. Even at his mooniest, Lee is more than a Matthew Arnold, a figure who cannot help but take the cacophony of the world as a personal insult. If the modern world is a problem, it’s a fascinating one, both despite and because of its crimes, both large and small, and Lee does this truth better than justice. . . .Whorled is not a book of clean lines and sharp corners, a book that’s also a box. It spills and erupts and makes a mess, but its lists expand and grow, as living things do. . . .”—Ray McDaniel, The Constant Critic

“In this book, Lee is the writer and traveler of not only distances but of time. His staccato free-verse style is dynamic as ever, better read aloud than in silence, with a greater maturity, and a discernible global perspective. . . . If Ed Bok Lee still carries the sense of being an immigrant, then language—the power of words is Lee’s turf, his citizenship. . . . Lee is a prolific and diverse writer.”—Korean Quarterly

“Ed Bok Lee‘s worldview is capacious. His poems seek out startlingly insightful perspectives and stories across the globe and on our very doorsteps. At times unexpectedly, his poems help us see the familiar in new ways and the unfamiliar in profoundly identifiable ways.”—Kartika Review

Whorled is a courageous attempt to portray the intricate human workings at the heart of the dusty underbelly of the American dream. . . . It is a vision of constantly shifting politico-cultural systems where nationality is just one more playing card to keep up your sleeve and even love is “immigrant”—and therefore itinerant, and unsettled. . . . Rather than merely focus on the lack and lapses of  “the System” against which the people fight, Ed Bok Lee’s Whorled poses the greater and more horrifying question: what if the absence of which we lament comes from within?”—Phati’tude Literary Magazine

“Bao Phi and Ed Bok Lee . . . comprise a local vanguard of Asian American literature, as poetic in their demolishing of stereotypes as they are determined.”—Minnesota Monthly, Artists We Love in the Fall 2011 Arts Preview

“All of the rawness of South Minneapolis streets enlivens the page. Lee never shies away from uncovering racial hierarchies, offering an uncompromising view of America, contradictions and all. Once again, Lee seeks a large canvas for his poetry. His second book, Whorled, encompasses global issues like the worldwide loss of culture and language.” —Minnesota Daily

“Lee’s exceptional Whorled is . . . a jolting gaze focused on today’s 21st-century global citizen, uprooted and unleashed. . . . Like his 2005 debut Real Karaoke People, Lee again provides searing ‘oh-my-gawd’-moments that will rip through your soul.”
BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)

“Drawing from a well of personal experience, empathy and his fine-tuned imagination, Bok Lee sketches vivid characters caught on the fulcrum of history, where political machinations and cultural currents far outside their control meet. . .  [H]is poems offer a reader: naked humanity and sensuous use of language, alluring melancholy and unvarnished insight and undercurrents of tempered fury and compassion that color his every word.”KnightsArts (The Knight Foundation)

“Sometimes a poem stops you in your tracks. Today I had that experience while reading Ed Bok Lee’s new collection Whorled.”—Marianne Combs, MPR

Whorled [is] an inquisitive, powerful, global exploration of identity, thrumming with insight and taut phrasing.”—City Pages

“These poems are filled with ‘a certain historical color of light.’ They’re funny, slyly political, and gorgeous. Working with a variety of forms and modes, Ed Bok Lee rocks my socks off. I love this book.” —Sherman Alexie

“These poems work in powerful concert to give body to an entire world of beauty, terror, loss, grief, and joy. The strength and magnetism of Lee’s voice come from his mind’s profound awareness of a person’s embeddedness in a context simultaneously personal and archetypal; social, historical, political, and cosmic. The self that emerges from these poems, sometimes as an archaeological find, sometimes as a mode of being proposed to face the complexity of our present life on earth, is characterized by a serious soul, a great broken heart, and a wild imagination. . . . What a moving read is Whorled.” —Li-Young Lee

“Elias Canetti remarked that a great writer must be for and against everything in the present time.  In ways few Americans have attempted, Whorled takes on that challenge, deepening the reader into true soul work, grief and love for our human fragility.  In poem after poem, Lee vividly explores knots of intersecting histories that connect the globe’s peoples in ways we have yet to take in and imagine.”  —David Mura

“Atavistic arias and hip-hop haiku, memoir and mash-up, poetry and prose, Lee has serious game. Who else works with a lens this wide, this gracefully? Whorled will piss you off, crack you up, and leave you haunted by one of the most soulful love letters to language itself that you’ll ever read. ‘All love is immigrant,’ says this book rich with destinations, each one opening our hearts wider to the miracle of having an entire world to call home.” —Dobby Gibson

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American Boy by Larry Watson

American Boy

by Larry Watson

(2011, Milkweed Editions)

 We were exposed to these phenomena in order that we might learn something, but of course the lessons we learn are not always what was intended.
So begins Matthew Garth’s story of the fall of 1962, when the shooting of a young woman on Thanksgiving Day sets off a chain of unsettling events in Willow Falls, Minnesota. Matthew first sees Louisa Lindahl in Dr. Dunbar’s home office, and at the time her bullet wound makes nearly as strong an impression as her unclothed body. Fueled over the following weeks by his feverish desire for this mysterious woman and a deep longing for the comfort and affluence that appears to surround the Dunbars, Matthew finds himself drawn into a vortex of greed, manipulation, and ultimately betrayal.

Immersive, heartbreaking, and richly evocative of time and place, this long-awaited new novel marks the return of a great American storyteller.

 Larry Watson

Author’s Bio:

LARRY WATSON is the author of seven widely acclaimed novels, including the best-selling Montana 1948, which was awarded the Milkweed National Fiction Prize and a Best Book citation by the American Library Association, short-listed for the IMPAC Dublin International Award, and published in ten foreign editions. Over the course of his career, Watson has been praised for the “unflinching honesty and complete respect” he shows to his characters (Booklist), and his novels have been called “captivating and haunting” (Washington Post), “remarkable” (Baltimore Sun), “utterly mesmerizing” (The Nation), and lauded as small masterpieces which “pull you immediately into [their] depths and settle inside your bones for a long and haunting stay” (San Francisco Chronicle). Larry Watson lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his family. For more, see


Praise for American Boy

“A gripping, poignant coming-of-age story that opens with a gunshot that will ultimately bury its bullet in your heart. American Boy is an American
classic.” —Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh

“Youthful passions, heartbreaks, loyalties and moral uncertainties are all rendered in vivid color.” —David Rhodes, author of Driftless

Praise for Larry Watson

“There’s something eminently universal in Watson’s ponderings on the human condition, and it’s refracted through a nearly perfect eye for character, place, and the rhythms of language.” —The Nation

“Watson’s tales are unforgettable tales of experience, set in a place as unchanging as any in America; a rare place where we still look for roots and a vanished frontier, and where we still uncover horrors that bring down reminders of what it is to be human no matter where we are.” —Oregonian

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Santa’s First Magical Ride

New Christmas book & CD interprets Santa story in rhyme

By Steve Shay

A new Christmas book, “Santa’s First Magical Ride” was just released by West Seattle residents Paul and Libby Carr, their 12 chapters of rhyming couplets augmented by world-class illustrator Herb Leonhard of Prosser, WA. Paul was the author, while Libby is marketing the book. The story offers an explanation of where Santa was born, why the elves live in the North Pole, and other answers that parents might share with their youngsters.

Libby said the book’s 7” x 7” hardback format makes it well-suited for Christmas gifts for companies and organizations to give employees and customers.

This is Leonhard’s 26th book. He has illustrated books ranging from “Lyrics by Tori Amos” to “Lewis & Clark in the Pacific Northwest Coloring Book”.

The Carr’s of Alki are well-known, in part, for their work in establishing the new Statue of Liberty and Plaza there. Perhaps less known is that this creative duet adopted the Santa & Mrs. Claus persona for many a Christmas.

“For over 10 years we both have done the Mr. and Mrs. Claus thing for kids,” said Paul, whose voice is heard on the CD, an entire reading of the book. He has done radio and TV voice work for years, and said the audio together with the text can be used as a learning tool for children. He belongs to an actual organization named”The Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas”.

Paul recalled, “We used to do this thing where I’d play a little guitar and Libby would sing (in the Santa gear) and then I’d ask, ‘Aren’t there any questions you have for Santa?’ At first they’d be shy, then the questions would all pour out. Then, they’d come up and tell me what they wanted for Christmas.”

He began writing his self-published book about 10 years ago, and revisited it over time. Libby explained what compelled them to take on the subject matter of offering answers to hard questions kids have traditionally asked for years about Santa and his elves.

“We started dressing up as Santa and Mrs. Claus to see our grandkids in Yakima,” said Libby. “On our way back one Christmas we stopped in Ellensburg at our favorite BBQ restaurant and all of a sudden there are three kids from the same family standing at our table. The oldest, a nine year old boy asked, ‘OK. How do the reindeer fly? How do you get around the world in one night, and how do you get all those toys into one bag?’

“Our jaws dropped, and we said, ‘That’s a good question. It’s magic. Ask your mother.’ It was very embarrassing. That January Paul sat down and began to write this book.”

Their book’s website answers some of the questions. According to “Santa’s First Magical Ride”, Santa was born on another planet called “Yule”. He was brought to the North Pole as a baby. On Earth, humans had threatened the elves for their magic, and they sought refuge at the North Pole. The book tells of a quest of trust among the factions. The book has 9,500 words of a layered history based on Nordic myth, imagination, and other sources.

“I don’t know that we thought about this much before doing it but when you put these suits on you are all of a sudden a cherished and loved archetype,” said Libby, acknowledging a surprising responsibility that goes with the garb.

Added Paul, “Santa represents the light in the dark of the night for the benefit of the children. And the kids are the future. They are the light, too.”

“When you take the time to talk to kids they will start telling you about their real concerns,” Paul said. “They might say they want you to help someone else they know in need.”

Added Libby, “They’ve told Paul that for Christmas they want Mom and Dad to stop fighting.”

“These are things they would never say if they were just slammed on my lap at a department store to tell me what they want, and then get the photo op,” said Paul. “Kids really believe innately that Santa loves them unconditionally, and that’s what we all want, really.”

The Carrs are available to appear as Santa & Mrs. Claus.

For more information, go to:
or contact Libby Carr at 206-938-8721;

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A Principle of Writing

Thinking of Self-Publishing?

This is for anyone who has been rejected or is considering self-publishing. You’re in great company.

FAMOUS SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS: Remembrance of things Past, by Marcel Proust; Ulysses, by James Joyce; The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter; A Time to Kill, by John Grisham; The Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton; The Bridges of Madison County; What Color is Your Parachute; In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters; The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield; The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (and his student E. B. White); The Joy of Cooking; When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple; Life’s Little Instruction Book; Robert’s Rules of Order

OTHER FAMOUS AUTHORS WHO SELF-PUBLISHED: Deepak Chopra; Gertrude Stein; Zane Grey; Upton Sinclair; Carl Sandburg; Ezra Pound; Mark Twain; Edgar Rice Burroughs; Stephen Crane; Bernard Shaw; Anais Nin; Thomas Paine; Virginia Wolff; e.e. Cummings; Edgar Allen Poe; Rudyard Kipling; Henry David Thoreau; Benjamin Franklin; Walt Whitman; Alexandre Dumas; William E.B. DuBois; Beatrix Potter

REJECTED BY PUBLISHERS: Pearl S. Buck – The Good Earth – 14 times; Norman Mailer – The Naked and the Dead – 12 times; Patrick Dennis- Auntie Mame – 15 times; George Orwell – Animal Farm; Richard Bach – Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 20 times; Joseph Heller – Catch-22 – 22 times (!); Mary Higgins Clark – first short story – 40 times; Alex Haley – before Roots – 200 rejections; Robert Persig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – 121 times; John Grisham – A Time to Kill – 15 publishers and 30 agents (he ended up publishing it himself); Chicken Soup for the Soul – 33 times; Dr. Seuss – 24 times; Louis L’Amour – 200 rejections ; Jack London – 600 before his first story; John Creasy – 774 rejections before selling his first story. He went on to write 564 books, using fourteen names; Jerzy Kosinski – 13 agents and 14 publishers rejected his best-selling novel when he submitted it under a different name, including Random House, which had originally published it.; Diary of Anne Frank; During his entire lifetime, Herman Melville’s timeless classic, Moby Dick, sold only 3,715 copies. (Thanks to Dan Poynter’s website for this info; see

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Eyes Behind Belligerence

Eyes Behind Belligerence

By K.P. Kollenborn (, 2011)

Historical Fiction

Written in five parts the book is an epic tale of how the Japanese living in America on Bainbridge Island, Washington suffered undue humility and harassment when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The main story centers around two boys Jim and Russell, their families and how  the Japanese community is affected by  the war.
The novel begins with Jim trying to deal with the suicide of his older brother and  years after still blames his father, Jim is more the quite type while  Russell is more outgoing. As they say opposites attract each other and no matter what Jim and Russell always seem to connect in one way or another. With the advent of the war,  the families start to suffer persecution. Their stores are vandalized, they have to turn over anything that  could harm or incriminate  them in any way, weapons, knives and down to even  including 2 way radios. Now they  have arrested all the  men and the  rest of their families are being transported off the island leaving their homes, bank accounts and belongings behind for looters to take advantage of.
As they are all transferred to  a  relocation camp, that could be in all reality a  lesser form of a  concentration camp, this is where they will being till the war ends. Here  is where Jim and Russell and their families are now living along with about 10,000 other Japanese families. With a watchtower at either end there is no chance for escape as they have to deal with the sand, the heat, meager meals, no privacy and a guard that would just as soon shoot them all as to have to look at them. As with any form of camp, problems arise, families go against families, gangs form, friendships either part or strengthen and romance can blossom. So goes the lives of Jim and Russell as they both manage to  keep their friendship throughout.
A year after  the advent of Pearl Harbor, the camp is showing signs of political unrest.  There are riots, people  accusing each other of wrong doings. Americans against each other.  Those for and those against. As the military sets into to recruit members for a segregated combat unit, Jim aand Russell both enlist, Russell to prove his loyalty to America. As he fights against his own country , Jim being disloyal is sent to a different camp .Hopefully this will help him to grown up and become a loyal American.With the end of the war and families returning back to Bainbridge Island, Jim and Russell vow to remain friends. While Russell goes off to college, Jim has finally learned to forgive his father  for his brothers suicide and decides to remain in Bainbridge.  Now is the time to start their lives over and try to regain back  the respect from the community that they had lost years earlier.
This is a long book but a very interesting novel. For those that lived back in that time and read this book it will bring back memories, memories of hating and being hated. For the younger generation they can read but really not understand what it was like. I have to say the  author did a wonderful job on researching the book before writing it.I just touch on a bit of the subject contained in this book. There is much more that one needs to read to reach the full impact of the novel. Recommended for all who like  to read factual books based on actual events.

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The Littlest Acorn by K.A. Brown

Kristi Bernard (Overland Park, KS) – See all my reviews
This review is from: The Littlest Acorn (Paperback)

Arty is a little acorn hanging from the branch of his father a giant tree in the backyard of a young boy. All the little acorns were happy when their time came to fall to the ground. They knew that falling would take them on a wonderful journey. They could help the animals stay strong and healthy in the winter, or they would be made into a beautiful necklace for a young boy’s mother. Some would play with the squirrels and roll around the ground like a ball. But Arty was too afraid to let go of the branch. He wanted to know what would happen to him. His brothers and sisters tried to convince him to let go, but he wouldn’t. He clung to the tree and soon was all alone. The big oak told Arty that the young boy was moving away and that he would miss him climbing and tickling his bark. The big oak also tells Arty it is time for him to find his destiny. He breaks the branch and Arty floats to the ground and falls on a pile of leaves. The young boy discovers him and Arty is taken to his new home and planted. Arty’s destiny is to become a giant oak like his father.

This is a great story for parents and teachers to share with young children in discovering what they can do and what they hope to be when they grow up. It will open up dialogue for parents and teachers to educate young minds on the possibilities of what they can be and not to be afraid.

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In Caddis Wood by Mary François Rockcastle

In Caddis Wood by Mary François Rockcastle
Published by Graywolf Press, 2011
Forgiveness and letter pancakes.  Without forgiveness families shatter.  With forgiveness and well-worn traditions like letter pancakes for breakfast  – they can survive the most excruciating betrayals and tragedies. In Caddis Wood is the intimate story of a 35-year marriage and the delicate state of human nature juxtaposed with the natural landscape that cradles the home of Hallie and Carl Fens.

Mary Rockcastle took more than 10 years to string together the life of a marriage rocked by disappointment and buttressed by love (author appearance, 12/13/2011, The Bookcase, Wayzata, MN).  The story is written in third person allowing the distinct perspectives of Hallie and Carl to resonate through the narrator.  Their life flows from present truths that are both bridged and shored up by a history that has eroded the family on some fronts and at the same time has reinforced the most critical parts of its foundations.  The story is perfectly paced and, like a deeply rooted marriage, difficult to see end under any circumstance.
In Caddis Wood is a beautifully crafted novel.  Taking the time to experience it ~ is time well spent.

Reviewed by Krystal Brown, St. Bride’s Literary Group

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“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” Samuel Johnson


St. Bride’s Literary Group is a place for the exchange of professional reviews and comments on works made available through nonprofit and independent (DIY) literary publishers. Submitting reviews is unbound by genre or popularity of title.

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