Thursday, December 4, 2014

Slate: Overlooked Books of 2014

When is it nice to be overlooked? When being overlooked means you make it onto Slate's "Overlooked Books" list for 2014. It's such an honor to be reviewed by Stephen Burt, who captures the mood of How to Feel Confident With Your Special Talents, my prose poetry collaboration with Daniela Olszewska:

Presented as prose poems (which might be why you haven’t heard of it), this fizzy, sparkly, sometimes sarcastic collection is also a set of very funny, Twitter-worthy jokes about the way we live now, disguised as page after page of bizarre instructions for all-too-common situations: “How to Reset Your Password,” for example. (“Remember that computer generated passwords make you look fat.”) Some titles are wry poems in themselves: “How to Choose a Wedding Cake, or How to Practice Non-Attachment.” Others introduce sad, wise advice: “The real you should always be present at birthdays.” Guess and Olszewska’s step-by-step directions, invitations, triple meanings, and ironic affirmations also tell exasperated moderns how playing with language can help us face illness, fight sexism, or just get through a tough day: “Let’s go about whistleblowing while we work.”  --Stephen Burt

And while you're reading poetry, be sure to read Stephen's essay on the brilliant poetry anthology Troubling the Line, an essay housed in the Los Angeles Review of Books under the title "The Body of the Poem: On Transgender Poetry."

Finally, I've been watching Orphan Black and I'm in love. I've always wanted to be different people (of course, as a fiction writer I am different people, at least on the page). The show says so much about identification, sexuality, and desire; about bonds between women and the bullying that divides them; about heteronormative violence, the politics of birth//control, and Big Pharma; about the distinction between reproduction as a form of creativity and reproduction as a form of misogyny; and about anti-assimilationist queer community outside the boundaries of post-DOMA picket fences. It's literally a show about kinship and figuratively a show about identity theft. Hello Helena. I heart your crazy feral claws. 

Friday, November 21, 2014


All my students are shining stars. This quarter there's so much talent in our classroom that I'm awestruck each and every day. I asked my students if I could blog about their binders -- an art project where they create binders or boxes or discs or websites or videos reflecting their artistic ambitions, struggles, and accomplishments. Every single project was brilliant! Here are a few glimpses of the energy in our room. I wish I could share every project on this page. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How To Review How To

How do you review a book that riffs off an online instruction manual? Ask Kelsie Hahn, whose charmingly witty review of How To Feel Confident with Your Special Talents is up right now at Heavy Feather Review.  Also, my walk looked like this today:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Winners abound!

Today I'm grateful for dear ones
and deer in the yard
and the sudden beauty of the unexpected.
Also, the end of the Aloha Motel
and Theo, who gets stranger looking every day,
and Cally Maude, who gets more and more beautiful.
Also, winners! Winners abound. I was honored to serve as the judge of the 2014 Indiana Review 1/2K contest. The finalists were all amazing, but first prize went to Amy Woolard for "The Girl Next Door to the Girl Next Door." Here's my blurb for the winning piece: “The sounds in this poem lured me into the story -- repetition and rhyme in service to character and scene. I love the juxtaposition between sweet and staccato, and the way the tone shifts from delicate details to harsh colloquialisms. The narrator’s a mystery to me, which I like, but the girl isn’t a mystery at all -- she’s true to this town and time. It’s nice to start with a girl who’s alive, for a change, and to let the girl’s escape be the truth of the story.”

“The Girl Next Door to the Girl Next Door” Amy Woolard

“Weekend” by Shane Kowalski
“The Alexandria Story” by Corinne Schneider
“The Golden Rule” by Lo Kwa Mei-en
“How to Walk Backwards Into a Black & White House” by Amy Woolard

“The Fable” by Gary Leising
“Untitled” by Don Judson
“Killing Time” by A.B. Francis
“Instructions for Womanhood” & “Conspiracy to Commit Larceny” by Jennifer Militello
“The Stone Cold Rule” by Lo Kwa Mei-en

Congrats to all of these fabulous writers! I look forward to reading more work in the future.

Stay Tuned!

Stay tuned for new work. I'm writing again --

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Forthcoming books and an update

I've neglected you, Dear Reader. Please accept my apology. I've been contemplating the origins of candy cigarettes and staring at paintings like this:
and this:

and this:
-- paintings by Terry Leness, a Seattle-based artist whose work captures the melancholy streets of post-suburban, pre-yuppie Ballard, where I lived for several years. I'm haunted by houses that haven't lost hope but have lost the feeling of home, which white America often associates with material possessions and structured leisure time ("vacations," "shopping," "roadside attractions"). I'm grateful to Terry for allowing me to use "Red Stripe" on the cover of Instructions for Staging, my second collaboration with Kristina Marie Darling. Here's a description of the book, out any day now from Patasola Press:
This second collaborative book by Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess depicts the ruins of what once was a marriage.  A husband and wife divide what had always been shared, and prepare to sell their house---haunted by past affairs, strange artifacts, and snowy owls---to unsuspecting buyers.  As the narrative unfolds, Darling and Guess make use of a wide range of literary forms, which include flash fictions, footnotes, and self-erasures, creating a hybrid text that is both polyphonic and thematically unified.  Wildly imaginative and lively in its descriptions, Instructions for Staging asks the reader to consider exactly what betrayals their realtor is capable of, who would ever fake a business trip to Wichita, and what you will find in a room you once thought was empty.
In addition to Instructions for Staging, you can look forward to two collaborative books co-written with Kelly Magee. The first, With Animal, is a short story collection forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2015 with cover art by Todd Horton. The second, The Reckless Remainder, is a prose poetry collection forthcoming from Noctuary Press in 2016, with cover art by Corinne Botz.
Todd Horton, "Together"
Meanwhile, I've started two new projects, inspired by trees, Steven Wise, Choir of Young Believers, and Thom Yorke. The first is a short story collection co-written with Elizabeth J. Colen. After writing the initial story, I could see the collection laid out like a map of lined streets. Other than interlinked characters, the only connection is a pack of candy cigarettes, but sometimes that's enough, isn't it? And I've also just started a single author poetry collection inspired by Terry Leness's strange motels and the eerie architecture here in Bellingham. Also, the rain is back. I like it best -- everyone's quiet and private.  Everyone goes indoors and stops messing with lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Their secrets grow inside and the hot summer sun that makes everyone interested in "having fun" and "parties" draws a circle around itself. Fades out over the water. It's gray and blue and steel here, the colors of my Swedish people, something I know by blood. And this is the season when I miss my father the most. I go looking for lost things in new work and sometimes I find them.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

American Microreviews: An Interview

Thanks to Kristina Marie Darling for interviewing me about F IN at American Microreviews. You can read our Q&A here
Today I'm sitting with two dogs and a laptop, trying to remember how to use line breaks, and counting words for a new project that involves both line breaks and word restraints (gasp!). To that end I've read Joe Massey's "Listening to Joseph Ceravolo's Home Recordings" about 25 times today, and I just might read it again right now: 


In the room
of a memory

of a room.

brackets each

effaces the floor

while the
pills take

All I will

amount to:
the hours

these walls

as song.

* * *
Joseph Massey. Poem from Areas of Fog (Shearsman Books, 2009). Reprinted with the permission of the author. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Book! How To Feel Confident With Your Special Talents

It's here! Daniela Olszewska and I are proud to announce our book baby: a collection of poems based on wikiHow entries. How to Feel Confident with Your Special Talents is available from Black Lawrence Press, with a beautiful cover by Corinne May Botz. As always, I'm happy to give readings and interviews; send out review copies; and correspond with students if you choose to assign my book in your classroom. Daniela and I had a great time reading in Palo Alto, and we'd love to hear from the authors of the original wikiHow entries if you stumble on our work. 

In these miniature mock instruction manuals, lyric poetry meets wiki, 
generating wickedly funny prose poems based on the website wikiHow.

New Short Fiction & Interview

I'm delighted to be included in the most recent issue of The Ilanot Review, which focuses on the theme of conflict. Here's my collaborative short story, "Damage Control," co-written with Kelly Magee. 
I'm also happy to be featured on the Indiana Review blog. Here's an interview about writing and publishing conducted by Joy Travis, which also serves as a reminder that I'm judging Indiana Review's Half-K Prize. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Video: wikiHow Reading @ wikiHaus!

When Daniela Olszewska and I began writing our wikiHow poems a few years ago, we never expected to be invited to wikiHow Headquarters to read from our work.
But the folks at wikiHow were curious about How to Feel Confident with Your Special Talents, and of course, we were excited to meet the people who write, edit, program, design, and envision all of the fascinating articles that make up this ever-changing encyclopedia of knowledge and culture. Yesterday we met up in Palo Alto, where Daniela slurped soup in a vegan cafe, and we decided which poems to share with the crew. Check out our reading on YouTube, here.
While we were snapping photos of the house that houses headquarters, we spotted Kermit the Dog. 
Then we ate pizza, and Jack introduced us. A very good time was had by all. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

New Story: With Hippo

Kelly Magee and I have a new short story, "With Hippo," in the latest edition of Storm Cellar. Enjoy!

Seattle Action for Elephants!

On Friday, July 25th there will be a request for summary judgment for the lawsuit Fortgang v. Woodland Park Zoo. This lawsuit is an attempt by Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants to hold the Seattle Zoo accountable for providing basic financial and animal welfare information about its treatment of the elephants in its care. Animal advocates are welcome to attend this public event. Let's fill the courtroom with elephant advocates!
What: Request for summary judgment for Fortgang v. Woodland Park Zoo
When: Friday, July 25th, 2014 at 1:30pm
Where: King County Superior Court. 516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
Honorable Judge Jean Rietschel’s courtroom.

Friday, July 18, 2014

How to Feel Confident with Your Special Talents

Do you have a special talent? I bet you do! As my third grade music teacher said when he made me a listener, "Everyone has a special talent, Carol Ann. Yours is listening." Ah, the good old days, when my only sin was singing Shenandoah off key. But poems sing, and giving advice can be a talent, and the good folks at wikiHow have created a forum where you can learn how to do almost anything. In the spirit of wikiHow, Daniela Olszewska and I collaborated on a book of poems based on wikiHow entries. Each title is taken directly from a wikiHow article; from there we went rogue, imagining warped worlds' worth of wicked advice. This is our special talent, and the result is How to Feel Confident with Your Special Talents, just out from Black Lawrence Press, with beautiful cover art from Corinne May Botz.

Steven Wise: Op-Doc video and Colbert Report

I have such admiration for Steven Wise and the work of the Nonhuman Rights Project. Take a few minutes to watch this stirring op-doc, adapted from a forthcoming feature-length documentary called Unlocking the Cage, created by filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker. You can also find Steven Wise on the Colbert Report.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Elephants Suffer at the Woodland Park Zoo

On July 14th I participated in a peaceful demonstration against the Woodland Park Zoo at a Seattle City Council meeting. Although the City Council refused to allow us to speak, we were able to generate thoughtful publicity for the plight of elephants suffering in damaging conditions in Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. 
These elephants deserve better; all of them deserve to be retired to a sanctuary. Moreover, the zoo is about to move one of the elephants, Watoto, to another zoo with similarly poor conditions for elephant health and well-being. Our question: since WPZ is moving Watoto anyway, why not transport this elephant to a sanctuary for starters? You can find more information about this issue on the website Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants. Also, on The Dodo today, there's a heartbreaking story about the death of a captive elephant that really highlights the importance of taking action on this issue now, before the WPZ elephants die in a heartbreakingly stressful environment. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Interview: With Animal at Hothouse Magazine

Sometimes someone's generosity just blows me away. Karin C. Davidson took so much time and energy with this interview, reading most of With Animal and crafting detailed questions for me and Kelly Magee about our writing process. Read it here at Hothouse Magazine. She also contacted Todd Horton, our cover artist, and highlighted his art throughout the interview. 
Todd Horton
This is a wonderful interview, and speaks to the process of collaboration, as well as lyrical fiction and non-human animal studies. Enjoy! With Animal will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2015.  
"Together" - Todd Horton
"Standing Outside One's Own Dream" - Todd Horton