Friday, March 13, 2009

Melissa Hotchkiss

Melissa Hotchkiss’ first book of poems, Storm Damage, was published by Tupelo Press in 2002. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications such as, The New York Times, Free Inquiry, LIT, 3rd bed, Lyric Poetry Review, Upstairs at Duroc, and Heliotrope. Her prose has appeared in The New York Times and the New Virginia Review.

She is one of the editors of the poetry journal Barrow Street and a member of Urban Park Rangers, a poetry workshop in New York City.

A few days ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I am reading a book I have read at least a dozen times in the last ten years. I teach So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell off and on. I am continually humbled and transformed by Maxwell’s writing style and the brilliant and original structure of this memoir, autobiography, fiction book, first published in 1980. He states early on, writing this book is his way of ‘making amends’. We soon learn he feels guilty over ignoring a childhood friend, Cletus Smith, he saw in the hallway on the first day of high school in his new home of Chicago in the 1930’s. This boy’s father had murdered a man named Lloyd Wilson before taking his own life. But more than this story line, the book is about Maxwell’s childhood and the devastating loss of his mother to the influenza pandemic of 1918. This book is a heartbreaking and amazing window into the organization of the inner world.

My sister gave me The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, this past Christmas. Essentially a ‘practical guide to personal freedom’, this book, I believe, was a best seller some years ago. The agreements read: Be Impeccable To Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, and Always Do Your Best. The book states: ‘The four agreements are a summary of the mastery of transformation, one of the masteries of the Toltec. You transform hell into heaven.’ Who could argue with that? My sister swears by it - and if I ever get a chance to ‘do my best’ and finish the book, I will be transformed.

Another book on my desk to count as current reading includes Dog Friendly New York by Trisha Blanchet. Road trips also create a sense of ‘personal freedom’ and with a little research I can find a bed and breakfast that takes dogs as well as transformed New Yorkers!
Visit the official Melissa Hotchkiss website.

--Marshal Zeringue