Monday, February 25, 2008

Rachel Zucker

Rachel Zucker is the author of Eating in the Underworld, The Last Clear Narrative, and The Bad Wife Handbook. She was recently the poet-in-residence at Fordham University.

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I have a feast and famine relationship to reading. If I were in the middle of a writing project right now I would have probably responded, "nothing." Or, more likely, I wouldn't have responded at all. But, I'm in between writing projects and am binging on books.

A few days ago I read my friend, Arielle Greenberg's, new poetry manuscript which was so brilliant and amazing it gave me the worst nightmare I've ever had. Yesterday I read a short chapbook, Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum? by Nin Andrews published by Subito Press which I loved: it's funny and smart (a kind of less raunchy version of Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth). I'm in the middle of three other books of poetry: Isa the Truck Named Isadore by Amanda Nadelberg, published by Slope, a deceptively simple book that delights and surprises me on every page; Julianna Baggott's new and wonderfully funny and moving book of poems, Compulsions of Silkworms and Bees, in which poetry is itself a character in the book; and lastly, In the Pines, by Alice Notley, published by Penguin. Notley's book is a more difficult and serious read than Baggott or Nadelberg. On the first page of the book Notley writes, "it is time to change writing completely" and she is doing this — the book is not quite poetry and not quite prose and narrative is fractured by progressed through accretion — and it is thrilling and disturbing and inspiring.

Every morning while I pump a bag of breast milk, I read 6 ounces worth of poems from Not for Mother's Only, an outstanding anthology of poems by women poets about "child getting and child rearing" co-edited by Catherine Wagner and Rebecca Wolff, published by Fence. Every night my husband and I take turns reading to our sons (8 and 7 years old) from The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. The Subtle Knife is the second in Pullman's "Dark Materials" trilogy and is an extraordinary book. I love the female protagonist and the witches and the whole premise of the deamons is genius.

When my husband isn't home I read to my sons from On the Banks of Plum Creek, which is part of the Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I'm so grateful that my sons allow me to read them "girl books" like Little House, Anne of Green Gables, or The Secret Garden because these books really are different from the "boy books" in that they move forward through description and character development rather than plot and tend to be episodic rather than journey or quest driven. I've been thinking a lot about description and plot and these books are teaching me so much.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I'm also reading several "because" books. I'm reading The Divided Mind: An Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders by John E. Sarno, published by Harper because typing causes me pain in my elbow, wrists and fingers. This is not a good read, but, if it helps me overcome my typing problem it will have more impact on my writing than all the other books combined. I'm also reading, Your Happy Healthy Pet: Betta by John H. Tullock, published by Howell because my son's betta fish, Raspberry, died two days ago. I think I may inadvertently have killed Raspberry, and, given my son's despair over Raspberry's demise, I'd better pay attention to this book.

Last but not least, it is 10:30 in the morning as I write this and I've already read my 9 month old son From Head to Toe, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, all by Eric Carle as well as my son's favorite book, Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein, three times.
Zucker is the winner of the Salt Hill Poetry Award (1999, judged by C.D. Wright) and the Barrow Street Poetry Prize (2000). In 2002 she won the Center for Book Arts Award (judged by Lynn Emanuel) for her long poem, "Annunciation" which was published as a limited edition chapbook. Her poems have appeared in many journals including: 3rd Bed, American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Epoch, Fence, Iowa Review, Pleiades, and Prairie Schooner as well as in the Best American Poetry 2001 anthology.

She is
co-editor of a book of essays, Efforts and Affections: Women Poets on Mentorship, which will be published by University of Iowa Press this Spring.

Visit Rachel Zucker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue