poetry collections...


August 23, 2006

Steel Toe Books Has Acquired Three New Titles

Bowling Green, KY—Steel Toe Books has acquired three new titles, which we plan to publish in 2007. We selected Prairie Fever by Mary Biddinger and Lightning and Ashes by John Guzlowski from 111 manuscripts sent to us during our open reading period in June. Additionally, we solicited Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes by James Doyle.

Prairie Fever, Biddinger’s first book of poems, absolutely blew us away. A sense of danger and imminent violence permeates the collection. There's an extremely high level of detail in the poems, and it seems clear that Biddinger is drawing on very specific incidents, but the poems resist overtly telling stories, or merely telling stories, and they consistently soar into the realm of pure song. Here are some sample lines from a poem called “Razorback,” originally published in Ploughshares:

How to trust a man
born the night
his father was fished
from the junkyard
lake bottom. Here
in my bed with aloe
on a burned hand.

And his mother
giving birth in a bucket,
a dead man’s son,
trees crackling, blood
on the swamp reeds.
She can show him where
to put that empty mouth.

Lightning and Ashes, Guzlowski’s first collection, is an unflinching verse memoir about the author’s parents, who spent time in a slave labor camp in Poland during World War II. Some of Guzlowski’s stark, harrowing poems were previously published in such places as Crab Orchard Review, Margie: An American Journal of Poetry, Poetry East, Spoon River Quarterly, and Blood to Remember: An Anthology of American Poets on the Holocaust (Texas Tech University Press). What separates it from much other Holocaust literature, in our minds, is the deeply tender and compassionate way that the poet treats the perpetrators, as well as the victims, of war crimes. For example, here are some lines from the poem “The Work He Did in Germany”:

And my father will shovel
in terror and think of the words
he will not say: Sirs, we are all
brothers, and if this war ever ends,
please, never tell your children
what you’ve done to me today.

Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes will be the fourth full-length collection by Doyle, a prolific poet whose work appears in nearly every issue of nearly every journal nowadays. It is the follow-up to his critically acclaimed Einstein Considers a Sand Dune, which was selected by David Kirby as the winner of the 2003 Steel Toe Books Prize in Poetry. We believe that this manuscript is even stronger than Einstein Considers a Sand Dune, our press’s inaugural title.

The other finalists in our June 2006 open reading period included Apparition Wren by Maureen Alsop, Notes to Strangers by J.P. Dancing Bear, The Body Tries Again by Melanie Dusseau, The Honey of Earth by David Graham, Big Muddy River of Stars by Alison Pelegrin, Human Costume by Arthur Stringer, Still in Soil by Kyle Torke, and Etymology by Bryan Walpert. We believe that all of their manuscripts are publishable and will soon find suitable homes. We are pleased to note that five poets pulled the manuscripts, during the middle of our open reading period, because their books were accepted by other publishers. We take this as a sign that a considerable number of presses are providing opportunities to poets, and we are glad to be doing our small part in that effort.


To receive more information, contact Tom C. Hunley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


For more information about Steel Toe Books, visit www.steeltoebooks.com.

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