Tag Archives: Signature Books

In the Beginning, the End: Some Initial Thoughts on Susan Elizabeth Howe’s Salt

2.21.13 | | 4 comments

Salt Cover by Ron Stucki for Signature Books

Salt Cover by Ron Stucki for Signature Books


This past Saturday, my review copy of Susan Elizabeth Howe‘s new book, Salt, arrived. I’ll be reviewing it for AMV and expect to have my essay completed and posted sometime in the next month or two, but in the meantime I wanted to post my initial response to the collection.

While I haven’t yet read beyond the first poem, I’m anxious to sit down and keep company with Susan’s words, in part because of the first poem. As all stories arguably do, Salt‘s narrative begins with Adam and Eve—or at least with a revision thereof: his name is “Bob,” while she remains nameless. In the collection opener, “Python Killed to Save Woman,” Eve (I’ll call her) wrestles with a snake: “Lucy, / short for Lucifer,” the couple’s “pet python,” which they let “slither about [their] bedroom.” Probably not the smartest idea, as you can imagine, something Eve realizes the night she wakes because Lucy has “wrapped around [her]” like the snake would live meat. Which, of course, the woman is—at least to a hungry snake. Sensing the struggle beside him, Bob wakes and grabs his “Swiss army knife” to take care of the snake, but instead he gets “enmeshed” in the wrestling match, though not so much that he can’t grab the phone and call for help.

And that’s where this allegory of a poem leaves the pair: struggling for life in Lucifer’s tightening squeeze, Eve wondering “whose death” will come first, although the poem’s title is a clue as to who wins. Little matter, though, because in the end, of this poem as of life, death gets the last word (until Christ speaks up, that is).

Death: the heritage of a world fallen away from Paradise, the proper end of that system’s decomposition. By beginning Salt with Eden’s end, Susan reminds readers of their mortality, which was made possible by the Fall, and opens the way to explore the impact of death on life and language. Salt‘s opening poem, then, is a memento mori in a poetry collection that positions itself as a preservative—salt is, after all, essential to animal life. As such, it’s pretty valuable thing to have around. Hence Christ to his disciples: You are the salt of the earth—your presence here should preserve and thus extend the principles of Life. Hence Paul to early Christians: Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt—let your language tend toward preservation of the principles of life. Hence the implication of Susan’s title: here are some words dear to me as salt. May they preserve you as they have preserved me.

Here’s hoping.

(Cross-posted here.)

Poetry in Print — April 2012

4.30.12 | | 8 comments

Poetry month is almost over, and I’ve somehow managed to finish my compilation of poetry by Mormons in print at the last moment. This is the fifth listing I’ve prepared, and once again I think I’ve got most Mormon poets. But, undoubtedly, there will be others that I’ve missed. Please let me know who I’ve missed.

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Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market

1.31.11 | | 29 comments

2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review

By Andrew Hall

Part 2: The Mormon Market

Link to Part 1: The National Market

Wm notes: portions of this bibliographic review rely on comments from sources who have chosen to remain anonymous. As I said with his report on independent Mormon publishers posted here at AMV last July: I’m personally confident that Andrew has used his anonymous sources judiciously and within standard journalistic practices. But also keep in mind that the comments here represent particular points of view.

(Note: I am now posting at Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog of the Association for Mormon Letters, a weekly column covering the world of Mormon literature.  The focus is on published fiction, but I also cover theater and film.  I also link to recently published literary works, news, and reviews. I hope to make the brief column a convenient gathering place for authors and readers to announce and follow news about the field each week.)

In this section, I will look at the Mormon fiction market by analysing recent trends, introducing each publisher, noting books that have received especially strong reviews, and noting the passing of a beloved author.

Despite the troubled economy, the number of literary works published by Mormon market publishers rose considerably in 2010. This was despite the fact that the publishers owned by the Church’s Deseret Media Companies, Deseret Book Publishing and Covenant Communications, stood pat on their annual output. The rise was due largely to an increase in the number of fiction works published by independent publishers Cedar Fort, Leatherwood, and Valor. Publishers report, however, that the book-selling economy remained stagnant in 2010, which means that more authors and more books crowded into the market, increasing the competition for market share. more

Benson Parkinson’s “Three Kinds of Appropriateness”

12.29.09 | | 15 comments

Benson Parkinson, founder of the AML-List and co-founder of Irreantum, was kind enough to send me a copy of his essay “Three Kinds of Appropriateness” for posting here at AMV. It used to be posted on the Association for Mormon Letters website, but it got lost in the shuffle a while back. It hopefully will be back up on the AML website soon, but since I refer to it often and will be referring to it again in the future, I’m thankful Ben has given me permission to post it here. It originally ran on the AML-List in January 1997 (and sadly those early days of the List, which featured several excellent essays/columns are no longer archived online).

LITERARY COMBINE: Three Kinds of Appropriateness

by

Benson Parkinson

Morality is a mark of Mormon literature. It probably wouldn’t have to be that way, but even the most fringe Mormon offerings generally get around to taking a moral stand. People say that everyone has a different idea of appropriateness, a different degree of tolerance for sex, violence, bad language, and depictions of sinful behavior. I find that, when it comes to appropriateness, Mormon literature tends to be of just three kinds. more

Mormon Poetry for National Poetry Month

4.4.08 | | 13 comments

April is National Poetry Month, so in view of our recent conversations about Mormon poetry, I though it might be a good idea to review what Mormon poetry is in print at the moment, and ask those who visit to take a look. [The links are to the Amazon page for the book – no link means that the book isn’t available on Amazon.]

I think we would also love to know of any books that aren’t on the list. I pulled this information from a number of sources, but like any bibliographies of Mormon materials, it is very hard to get everything.

The list is interesting for several reasons:

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