Live from Scotland!

Confessions of a Bookseller author Shaun Bythell recently went live on Facebook from The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. He gave a tour of the Georgian townhouse jammed with more than 100,000 books (Scotland’s largest used bookshop) and read a few excerpts for his new book, which Kirkus Reviews calls “Irascibly droll and sometimes elegiac, this is an engaging account of bookstore life from the vanishing front lines of the brick-and-mortar retail industry. Bighearted, sobering, and humane.”


Wesley McNair: Q & A


Wesley McNair was recently interviewed for National Book Review about his tenth poetry collection, Dwellers in the House of the Lord, by Mike Pride, longtime editor of the Concord Monitor and former administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes.

The National Book Review writes:

McNair and Mike Pride have known one another for 35 years and speak often about McNair’s work and poetry. For The National Book Review, they recently conversed about Dwellers in the House of the Lord, which Pride describes as a “powerful depiction of current times in America.”




Wicked Enchantment: Virtual Book Launch

On April 7, 2020 six stellar poets came together with Black Sparrow Press and to celebrate the iconoclastic Wanda Coleman and her new collection Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems, Edited & Introduced by Terrance Hayes. This incredible gathering of acclaimed poets and bona fide Wanda Coleman fans—Mahogany L. Browne, Terrance Hayes, Dorothea Lasky, Rachel McKibbens, Patricia Smith, and Amber Tamblyn—read from and discussed Coleman’s influential body of work.

For Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems, Terrance Hayes selected more than 130 poems, spanning four decades, and created a powerful gathering of Coleman’s most essential work, which bestselling author Mary Karr calls, “words to crack you open and heal you where it counts.” BUY

Wanda Coleman—poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist—was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Coleman was awarded the prestigious 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Bathwater Wine from the American Academy of Poets—the first African-American woman to ever win the prize—and was a bronze-medal finalist for the 2001 National Book Award for Poetry for Mercurochrome.

Mahogany L. Browne is a California born, Brooklyn based writer, educator, activist, mentor, and curator. She is the author of the collections Black Girl Magic (Roaring Brook Press, 2018) and Redbone (Willow Books, 2015), and coeditor of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 2: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books, 2018). MORE

Terrance Hayes’ recent publications include American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin (Penguin, 2018), and To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight (Wave, 2018). He was awarded the National Book Award in 2010 for Lighthead (Penguin) and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2014. He is Professor of English at New York University. MORE

Dorothea Lasky is the author of six full-length collections of poetry and prose: ROME (Liveright/W.W. Norton) and Animal, Milk, Thunderbird, Black Life, and AWE, all from Wave Books. She co-wrote Astro Poets: Your Guides to the Zodiac (Flatiron Books, 2019) with the poet, Alex Dimitrov. Lasky is an assistant professor of poetry at Columbia University. MORE

Rachel McKibbens is a poet, activist, playwright, and essayist. She is the author of the poetry collections Into the Dark and Emptying Field (Small Doggies Press,2013) and Pink Elephant (Cypher Books,2009). McKibbens is a well-known member of the poetry slam community: she is a nine-time National Poetry Slam team member, and was the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam champion, as well as the 2011 National Underground Poetry Slam individual champion. MORE

Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (TriQuarterly, 2017) winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Smith’s Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (Coffeehouse Press, 2012) won the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets—a prize Wanda Coleman won in 1999 for Bathwater Wine. MORE

Amber Tamblyn is an author, actress and director. She’s been nominated for an Emmy, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award for her work in television and film. She is the author of three books of poetry including the critically acclaimed best seller, Dark Sparkler. Her non-fiction collection, Era of Ignition: Coming of Age During a Time of Rage and Revolution has just been released in paperback. MORE

One Day, Four New Books

On April 7, David R. Godine, Publisher releases Dwellers in the House of the Lord by Wesley McNair and Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell.

On the same day, on our Black Sparrow Press imprint, we release geode by Susan Barba, and Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems by Wanda Coleman (Edited & Introduced by Terrance Hayes).

For the Author Guild’s #SupportAuthors initiative, editorial director Joshua Bodwell spoke briefly about the four books in a short YouTube video.



Alcott on Gerwig’s Little Women

The author of Miss Alcott’s Email wonders what Louisa May would make of the new Oscar-nominated film adaption of her most beloved book.

By Kit Bakke

Director and screenwriter Greta Gerwig lets her audience know right away that her adaption of Little Women will be a little quirky: She begins her film with a quote from the real Louisa May Alcott: “I’ve had lots of troubles, so I write jolly tales.” It’s our first clue that we’ll see plenty of the beloved Jo March character, but we’ll also see snatches of the real Louisa—two sides of a similar, but not exactly the same, coin.

As one of Louisa’s many biographers—albeit a quirky one, as reviewers of my Miss Alcott’s Email have noted—I was curious to know what Alcott would have thought about Gerwig’s film version of Little Women. Here’s my take on Alcott’s reaction, if she were able to watch this wonderfully delightful and evocative film.

Although Louisa would likely find the modern-day scene cuts a bit too jumpy for her Victorian story-telling tastes, I’m sure she would have loved picking out the bits where actress Saoirse Ronan was playing Jo and where she was “being” Louisa. In the real life story of the Alcott family there was no rich, spoiled, handsome boy named Laurie living across the way; there was no Aunt March and therefore no big house and no happy school; and though Mr. March was indeed mostly absent, he never went to war (but Louisa did go as a Union Army nurse).

On the other hand, there was a musical Beth (her real name) and she did die, most likely of scarlet fever; Meg (Anna in real life) did marry and mother two children; Amy (May in real life) did go to Paris to study art, but didn’t give it up—she did well, and had a painting hung in the celebrated 1879 Paris Salon before she died in childbirth later that year; and, of course, in the end Louisa stayed true to her beliefs and did not marry anyone. Sadly, missing from all film versions of Little Women, and from Louisa’s own book, are the Alcott’s exceptional actual neighbors and friends: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The parts of Louisa’s real life that sneak into this fictional film of a fictional story are telling and timely. For instance, when Marmee tell Jo that “I’m angry nearly every day of my life,” it rings totally true, as are all the lines sprinkled throughout about women’s lives, from Aunt March’s steely-eyed realism about women’s lack of occupational opportunities and the purpose of marriage, to all of Jo’s interactions with her condescending publishers. Louisa’s fierce loyalty and determination to earn enough to save her family from abject poverty is true and impossible to miss: Louisa hated being poor.

Louisa really did write in red hot streaks, as the Ronan’s Jo portrays. In particularly hot streak, working around the clock in the attic of the family’s Orchard House, Jo writes ambidextrously: when her right hand cramps up, she moves her pen to her left rather than stop writing. That was true.

Louisa left an unfinished story about two women named Diana and Persis. It was written for adults, not children. In the story she poses these four questions:

  1. Can a productive and creative single woman be happy?
  2. Can a married woman maintain her personal life and friends?
  3. Can women be both personally happy and professionally successful?
  4. Can people be happily married and still respect each other’s privacy and basic human rights?

These are all questions that were worth asking in Alcott’s day, and they’re questions still worth asking today—as Gerwig has, beautifully.

Kit Bakke lives in Seattle, where it doesn’t rain nearly as much as people think. She is a wife and mother of two daughters. Her resume includes stints as a nurse, copy editor, technology and business consultant, street fighter, and revolutionary. Miss Alcott’s E-mail is her first book. She is currently trying to make contact with Dorothy Wordsworth.

Craftsman and author Peter Korn featured in “A Life’s Work” documentary film

Peter Korn, author of Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman (Godine, 2013), appears in A Life’s Work: The Philosophy of a Craftsman—a 17-minute documentary by British filmmaker Ben Spilling. Korn is the founder and executive director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine.

A Life’s Work examines the genesis of that idea in Korn’s years at the workbench, and how it led him to establish a thriving international school for wood craftsmanship and design. The film was an official selection at the 2018 Architecture Design Art Film Festival in Palm Springs, CA, and the Oxford Film Festival in Oxford, MS.