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Del Sol Review features Pelton, poems edited by Gatza

Released just in time for Thanksgiving holiday reading, the current issue of highly regarded online journal The Del Sol Review has a distinctly Buffalo-like flavor. 
 
The Washington, D.C. based publisher of international fiction and poetry features "Woodchuck vs.The Hank Williams Zombie," a story by Buffalo-based novelist, Medaille College professor, and  Starcherone Books ("independent, innovative fiction") publisher Ted Pelton, as well as a "Thanksgiving special" selection of poems by guest poetry editor Geoffrey Gatza, publisher of Buffalo based BlazeVox Books, a self-described "refuge of post-avant poetries and fiction."
 
Among the Buffalo-based poets featured in the issue are Nava Fader, Just Buffalo Artistic Director Michael Kelleher, and  Aaron Lowinger.  All in all, it's another great showing by Buffalo-based writers and editors, and yet another reason to be thankful that we live in a community where written word flourishes.
 
--R.D. Pohl

Ha Jin on the writer as migrant


"...No matter where we go, we cannot shed our past completely - so we must strive to use parts of our past to facilitate our journeys.  As we travel along, we should also imagine how to rearrange the landscapes of our envisioned homelands." writes Chinese-born novelist Ha Jin in the concluding essay of The Writer as Migrant (University of Chicago Press, 2008), his first collection of nonfiction writings on exile as a literary theme and the moral hazards it presents to a writer.
 
Reading Jean Westmoore's fine interview in The News yesterday and hearing Joyce Krysak's very poignant WBFO radio interview with the author of Under the Red Flag (1997), Waiting (1999), and War Trash (2004) in preparation for his Babel Series lecture tonight (Friday) at 8 p.m. in Kleinhans Music Hall reminded me of something he told me in an interview published in this newspaper on the occasion of a previous visit to Buffalo shortly after he received the PEN/Faulkner and  National Book Awards in 2000 for Waiting.

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McCann, Waldrop win National Book Awards


Irish-born novelist Colum McCann, who dazzled attendees of  the 2009 North American James Joyce Conference in Buffalo this past June at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Hyatt Regency Hotel with readings from his soon-to-be released novel Let the Great World Spin (Random House) was one of the big winners Wednesday night at the 60th annual National Book Foundation's National Book Awards Benefit Dinner and Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
 
McCann's lyric urban epic of a novel--set in August, 1974 in Lower Manhattan as tightrope walker Philippe Petit soars above the city on a cable strung between the still unfinished World Trade Center Twin Towers while below the lives of ten New York City residents of widely disparate backgrounds and life trajectories  intersect--was widely thought to be the presumptive favorite among a very competitive field of nominees in the Fiction category that also included Bonnie Jo Campbell for American Salvage (Wayne State University Press), Daniyal Mueenuddin for  In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (W. W. Norton & Co.),  Jayne Anne Phillips for Lark and Termite (Alfred A. Knopf), and Marcel Theroux for Far North (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
 
There was good news as well for another frequent visitor to Buffalo over the years.  Poet/publisher Keith Waldrop, who along with his wife the estimable poet Rosmarie Waldrop edits the venerable Burning Deck Press--one of the literary world's leading independent publishers of experimental prose and poetry--won the 2009 National Book Award in Poetry for his collage-based Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy published by the University of California.  Curiously, it was just the second NBA nomination of Waldrop's long and distinguished career of writing, translating, and teaching at Brown University.  His first nomination was for his debut collection A Windmill Near Calvary (University of Michigan Press, 1968). 
 
Among the other nominees in the Poetry category were Rae Armantrout, for Versed (Wesleyan University Press),  Ann Lauterbach for Or to Begin Again (Penguin Books), Carl Phillips for Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon for Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press).
 
Winners in the other major categories included T. J. Stiles for The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Alfred A. Knopf) in the Nonfiction category, and Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) in the Young People's Literature category.
 
The National Book Foundation also presented a lifetime achievement award to Gore Vidal for his Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and its Literarian Award to writer, editor and McSweeney's founder and publisher Dave Eggers for his outstanding service to the American literary community, including his work in co-founding 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for kids ages 6-18 yrs. in San Francisco.  The project has since grown into seven chapters across the country: Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Boston, all under the auspices of the nonprofit organization 826 National.

--R.D. Pohl

Google Books Settlement gets a makeover

It took until nearly midnight on what was itself a four-day extension on a court ordered deadline that had already been postponed from October 7th to November 9th, but at 11:54 p.m. Friday evening negotiators representing Google Books, the Association for American Publishers, and the Authors Guild submitted a revised version of the Google Book Search Settlement to Justice Denny Chin, U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.

Based on a quick look at the 141 page document and its 15 attachments as well as statements by all the major stakeholders, it appears as if the scope of the controversial agreement will be restricted to English-speaking countries, but its basic structure remains largely intact with a limited number of key modifications to the Settlement addressed on a point by point basis to criticisms that have been leveled at it.  The revised settlement will now face a judicial review procedure in which the Court will set a timeline, including a notice period, an objection period, and a Final Fairness hearing in early 2010.

Individual authors and publishers will have until March 31, 2011, to file claims for $60 to $300 per book illegally digitized as part of the $120 million dollar class action settlement to the copyright infringement lawsuit originally brought by the Authors Guild against Google in 2005.  If they so chose, they will have until March 9, 2012, to have their works removed from Google's database.

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'Man of La Mancha' extended

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John Fredo and John N. Kaczorowski star as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in MusicalFare Theatre's production of "Man of La Mancha." Photo courtesy MusicalFare Theatre. 

MusicalFare Theatre's edgy production of "Man of La Mancha," the musical based on Cervantes' "Don Quixote," has been extended for two performances, the theater announced today.

Because of audience demand, the theater will tack on two matinee performances on Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. and Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. My review of the musical is pasted after the jump.

-Colin Dabkowski

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Bay Area poets headline "Big Night"


It's been more than a half century since what came to be known as the "San Francisco Renaissance" first reverberated through American poetry and post World War Two America, but its legacy runs deep through the culture of spoken word performance and the spirit of collaboration between various poetry, music, and the visual art forms extending into the 21st century.   Although Walt Whitman ("...a Kosmos, of Manhattan the son..") may have been the first American poet to write of "urban affection," it was in the mid 20th century San Francisco Bay area that a different social model for a distinctly American creative community evolved.
 
One of the youngest members of the "Beat generation" of writers closely associated with the San Francisco Renaissance visits Buffalo Thursday night as the headliner of Just Buffalo Literary Center's latest "Big Night" celebration.  David Meltzer, born in 1937 but already a prominent enough voice to be featured in Donald Allen's anthology The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, brings one of the most eclectic resumes in recent memory to the Western New York Book Arts Collaborative on 468 Washington St.(near Mohawk) at 8 p.m. for an evening that promises more than a few surprises.

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'Beyond/In' artists announced

It's still a year away, but already the excitement surrounding the next incarnation of "Beyond/In Western New York," the ballooning biennial that launched in 2005, is palpable. This morning at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, director Louis Grachos, consultant Bruce Ferguson and project leader John Massier announced the size and shape of the coming exhibition, slated for Sept. 24, 2010.

Its broad theme, "Alternating Currents," is meant to reflect on the conflicting forces that make up the Western New York -- its glorious history and shaky present, its utopian idealism and dystopian reality, a desire to stay and a need to leave -- and in so doing hopes to both represent and catalyze the entire region.

What's different this year is that the organizers have decided to invite 14 international artists (as yet unnanounced, save performance artist Didier Pasquette) to complement, and hopefully not overwhelm, the host of regional artists whose work is at the heart of the ambitious project.

After the jump, you can take a peek at the selection of regional artists (defined as hailing from within an approximately 200-mile radius of Buffalo). As I'm able, I'll be adding links to previous Buffalo News coverage and criticism of the artists in the show.

There'll be much more to come on "Beyond/In: Alternating Currents" as it draws closer. Stay tuned.

--Colin Dabkowski

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Zagajewski's poetry of the cosmic world and the human face


"Poetry summons us to life, to courage/ in the face of growing shadow./ Can you gaze at the Earth/ like the perfect astronaut?" writes Adam Zagajewski in "Houston, 6 p.m." from his collection Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002).  This creative tension between engagement and reflection--the sense of holding up a darkened mirror to the transfigured world--has made Zagajewski one of the most admired contemporary poets in Europe and North America.    
 
Zagajewski, the acclaimed Polish language poet (born in the city of Lvov in what is now the Ukraine), essayist, novelist, and 2004 winner of the biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literaturewill visit Buffalo to deliver the 33rd annual Oscar Silverman Memorial Reading at 8 p.m. this (Friday) evening in 250 Baird Hall on the UB North Campus.

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Of goats and murderers and movies

Movies are not life. Any fool knows that. But sometimes the horrors on front pages and the 24-hour news stations are so brutal that it's almost as if we needed to be reminded.

Sometimes movies get lucky when they're caught in history's wake. Usually they're not.

The current case in point of a phenomenally unlucky movie is Grant Heslov's "The Men Who Stare at Goats," a wild, black comic satire on New Age military shenanigans in Iraq. It is being nationally released today, just as the nation is mourning the shocking and horrific deaths of 12 people Thursday afternoon in a massacre attributed to a soldier --an M.D. and a psychiatrist yet--unhinged by prejudice and imminent deployment to the Middle East.

In other words, an absurdist comedy about military nut jobs is going into theaters at the exact moment that banner headlines are reminding us just how much horror that derangement can cause in the world, even on military bases full of those charged with the nation's defense.

A movie can hardly suffer worse luck on its opening weekend. Unfortunately, it's a pretty good movie too --by no means a great absurdist film comedy but a good way to employ George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey and Ewan McGregor.

The same ongoing history that can grind up a movie in reality's terrors, of course, can work to a movie's benefit. No movie in American history ever seemed more prescient than "The China Syndrome" whose opening almost perfectly coincided with the threat of nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island.

Not this time, though. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was probably not aiming at Hollywood, much less a specific American movie, but he might as well have been.

-- Jeff Simon

Erie County funding for the arts

This has been available for a couple of weeks now, but I want to post up the page of Erie County's proposed 2010 budget that outlines funding recommendations for arts and cultural groups. In all, the county has allocated $5,066,500 to 43 arts and culturals.

Check out the recommendations in a PDF below, or download it here.

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