January 1, 2017
Happy New Year! 2016 may have been marred by celebrity deaths, and who knows what this year will bring, but we at Steel Toe Books will be doing our part to ensure that it is a year of great poetry.
Hot off the presses is Chrys Tobey’s first book, A Woman Is A Woman Is A Woman Is A Woman. You can order that now from Amazon.com or directly from us. Next up, sometime in mid-2017, is Street Calligraphy by Jim Daniels.
Results of Fall 2016 Open Reading Period
To keep the party moving, in late 2017 we will be preparing Curtis L. Crisler’s The GReY aLBum [PoeMS] for publication. We just offered Curtis a standard royalties contract today, and we’re thrilled to welcome him into the STB family. We selected The GReY aLBum [PoeMS] from over 100 manuscripts submitted to our Fall 2016 open reading period. The book juxtaposes hilarious poems such as “Hypocrites” (which imagines vegetarian zombies) with powerful elegiac poems such as “Hey Man.” There’s a lot of history in this manuscript, with shout outs to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Lorraine Hansbury, and others. There’s also a fair amount of pop culture, with allusions to the likes of Richard Pryor, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Marilyn Monroe. Crisler is playful with structure and sound in ways that recall E.E. Cummings and Langston Hughes. Here’s a poem that we particular like. It was previously published in Copper Nickel.
I’m singing this poem for you (draft #33)
—for the Hathaway daughters
I dream up some sweet days even ya’ll didn’t
own, a number on Santa’s list. Your dad warms
us at Christmas, cools us of summer’s mean—
his lyrics christening in us a crystalline therapy.
You held him in the everyday, throughout year—
even when he was dematerializing (he played
notes, snuggled): leaving hung shirt, a toy, kiss
he called brown sugar spread on your face like
some viral love, but then he evaporated, leaving
the boy of him clacking in your head like bell
from corner church bell-tower, lone metronome;
he cried melody on your pillow, by hungry ears—
an unlikely likeness—an only dream you can
only share on the Sabbath, on knees to Yahweh.
And still there’s no able phrase to pray from
the mad to the sweet. He owned his angels, his
demons, all spinning ghetto merry-go-rounds—
in center of centripetal force his undizzy voice—
the real deal, how angels chanted matins God
commanded, but those demons were nasty crab-
grass in his beautiful garden under large apple
cap; you three, sweet lotuses blooming out of
his afro—streaming in a sweat, releasing toxic
demonic runoff—so his lotuses could breath—
so his lotuses could glow, become new jujubes.
We had many wonderful submissions this year. We are honored that so many fine poets sent us their work. We would like to make honorable mentions of the following manuscripts, which particularly caught our eye. If we had more resources, we would certainly publish some of them.
Love Songs for Prehistoric Cults by Jason Morpheus
Riding the Wave Train by Rhonda Pettit
Body Canvas by Christine Rhein
Echo Park by Ryan Ridge
If the Girl Never Learns by Sue William Silverman
A Year of Salt by Colby Cedar Smith
Down: The Alice Poems by Erin Elizabeth
Smith Local Talent by David Wright
Manuscripts were screened by MFA students in the WKU Creative Writing program at Western Kentucky University, as well as by MA students and some advanced undergraduates. We could not have sorted through the submissions without them. Or maybe we could have, but then we would not have had time to do anything else. Elizabeth Upshur, a first year MFA student and the 2016-2017 STB Graduate Assistant, did a great job managing the open reading period. She and the rest of this year’s staff winnowed the pile down to twenty-five manuscripts, from which STB director Tom C. Hunley made his selection.