New Books

#tbt: Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “Worn Blues Refrain”

This week’s TBT selection is “Worn Blues Refrain,” from Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ 2003 collection Outlandish BluesWesleyan is publishing her book, The Glory Gets, in Spring 2015.


jeffers TBT



Worn Blues Refrain

My father danced on Saturday mornings,
turned his fat professor’s legs the wrong way.
No rhythm self, tripping over Mama’s corns,
his jitterbug like a worn blues refrain.
Then the afternoons, he sat himself down
to the piano, knee pants memories
of Louis and his trumpet come to town.
Louis didn’t crack a smile. Don’t believe?
Want to dispute it?
 Dad didn’t think so
and commenced with Jelly Roll religion.
Those porcelain hours, demons stopped poking
my father. From someplace close he found love.
He got some rhythm when he played the blues,
hollered and touched us all without bruising.



HONOREÉ FANONNE JEFFERS  is the author of three books of poems, including Red Clay Suite (2007), Outlandish Blues (2003) and The Gospel of Barbecue (2000). Her next book, The Glory Gets, will be published by Wesleyan in Spring 2015. Her other honors include the 1999 Stan and Tom Wick Prize for Poetry for her first book and the 2002 Julia Peterkin Award for Poetry, as well as awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Rona Jaffe Foundation and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Antiquarian Society, the MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. A founding member of Cave Canem, the writer’s colony for African-American poets, Jeffers teaches at the University of Oklahoma, where she is Associate Professor of English.

#tbt: Peter Gizzi, “The ethics of dust”

This week’s TBT selection is Peter Gizzi’s “The Ethics of Dust” from Some Values of Landscape and Weather (2003). You can find a review of Peter’s latest book, In Defense of Nothing, in the July/August issue of Boston Review.


gizzi TBT


The ethics of dust

to think I have written this poem before
to think to say the reason I came here
sound of yard bird, clinking lightbulb

to think the world has lasted this long

what were we hoping to say:
ailanthus, rosebud, gable
saturnalia, moonglow, remember

I am on the other side now
have crossed the river, have
through much difficulty
come to you from a dormer closet
head full of dark
my voice in what you say

at this moment you say
wind through stone, through teeth
through falling sheets, flapping geese

 every thing is poetry here

a vast blank fronting the eyes
more sparkling than sun on brick
October’s crossing-guard orange



PETER GIZZI is the author of Threshold Songs, The OuternationaleSome Values of Landscape and WeatherArtificial Heart, Periplumand In Defense of Nothing. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Wesleyan Welcomes Books by J. A. Rogers


“Perhaps his most unique achievement [was] the fact that with little more than a high school education, [Rogers] was able to perfect an orthodox history methodology.”
                                                 –Bilalian News, August 1976

The Wesleyan University Press is pleased to announce that we are now distributing a collection of books by J.A. Rogers, originally published by Helga M. Rogers. Joel Augustus Rogers (1880–1966) was a Jamaican-American author, journalist, and a self-taught historian who made great contributions to the history of Africa and the African diaspora, with a focus on the history of African Americans in the United States. His research spanned the fields of history, sociology, and anthropology–challenging prevailing ideas about race and demonstrating a connection between civilizations. Rogers was instrumental in popularizing African history and tracing African achievements. He revolutionized the telling of African history by addressing the lack of science behind many assumptions about “race,” as well as the dearth of black historians researching and telling their own histories.

Wesleyan University Press  is now distributing eight of his titles: 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro with Complete Proof, Nature Knows No Color Line, Africa’s Gift to America, Sex and Race Volume 1, Sex and Race Volume 2, and Sex and Race Volume 3, The Five Negro Presidents, and From “Superman” to Man.

“Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire” wins 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize

Brenda Hillman’s Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire is the International winner of the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize. The prize was founded in 2000 to serve and encourage excellence in poetry, and past winners have included eminent writers like Fady Joudah, John Ashbery, Kamau Brathwaite, Charles Simic, Paul Muldoon, and Alice Notley.



This year, the judges—Robert Bringhurst, Jo Shapcott, and C.D. Wright—read 542 books of poetry from 40 countries. Seven books were shortlisted, and two winners chosen—one from Canada and one internationally. Hillman, Anne Carson ( the Canadian winner ), and shortlisted poets were celebrated at a June 4th reading, attended by a thousand people, at Koerner Hall Toronto’s Royal Conservatory; the awards ceremony was held the next evening.


Scott Griffin presents the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize winners: Brenda Hillman and Anne Carson.


Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire concludes Brenda Hillman’s tetralogy on the four elements of classical thought, following Cascadia (2001), Pieces of Air in the Epic (2005), and Practical Water (2009), all published by Wesleyan. In their citation, the judges wrote:

“[Hillman] steers wildly but ably through another day of teaching, a ceremonial equinox, the distress of bee colony collapse; space junk, political obstruction, military drones, administrative headaches, and everything in between. The ‘newt under the laurel’ and ‘the herring purring through the eelgrass’ don’t escape her arc of acuity. Seasonal Works appears to be one of the most inclusive books a hyper-active imagination could wring out of the actual. The symbols of the alphabet come alive and perform acrobatic marvels. Phonetical bird calls join in on cue. The mighty challenges of now are fully engaged. The book performs an ‘anarchic music’ and stimulates a craving for undiluted love, and a rollicking fury for justice that only its widely variant forms can sustain. This is a unique work. Its letters are on fire.”

Brenda Hillman was born in Tucson, Arizona and spent part of her early childhood in Brazil. After receiving her BA from Pomona College, she attended the University of Iowa, where she received her MFA. Wesleyan University Press has published nine collections of Hillman’s poetry, including Practical Water (2009), for which she was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry. In 2010, Hillman co-translated Jeongrye Choi’s book of poems, Instances. Hillman has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, two Pushcart Prizes, a Holloway Fellowship from the University of California at Berkeley and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award for Poetry. Hillman serves as a professor and poet-in-residence at St. Mary’s College in Morago, California. She is also a member of the permanent faculties of Squaw Valley Community of Writers and Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. She is an activist for social and environmental justice and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Gerald Vizenor on the road in support of Blue Ravens and Favor of Crows

Gerald Vizenor, arguably the most prolific Native American author of our time, is on the road sharing his knowledge with audiences far and wide. After events in New York City and Minneapolis, he is gearing up for a series of readings and lectures that will take him to several European destinations and Japan in support of his new books: Blue Ravens, a groundbreaking, fact based novel of Anishinaabe soldiers in WWI,  and Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku


First he will visit King’s College of London, where he will lead a masterclass on Native American Indians in the First World War and give a public lecture on Literary Transmotion: Native American Indian Literature of Survivance. Then, Gerald will be off to Paris, reading from his new books at Galerie Orenda, where artwork by Tony Abeyta (Navajo) and Brenda Kingery (Chickasaw) is on display in an exhibit titled “Rhythms and Colors of Native America.” The next stop is the University of Vienna, for the conference “Native North American Survivance and Memory: Celebrating Gerald Vizenor.”  This is the first gathering of its kind, offering a systematic look at Vizenor’s poetic, fictional, theoretical, and juridical writing.  Finally, Gerald will spend time in Japan, presenting his work in a series of lectures for audiences at Keio University and at the American Center Japan. We thank Kinokuniya Bookstore for providing books at these events. 

Stay tuned…when Gerald returns to the United States he will make some stops in New England. Those details are forthcoming. 


Photographs from Vizenor’s visit to NMAI in New York City. Clockwise from top left: in Central Park; with esteemed artist Robert Houle, who provided artwork for Favor of Crows; signing copies of his books after the panel discussion; with his wife, Laura Hall.  Photographs courtesy of Laura Hall.

For Mothers Day: Two Connecticut Women

Happy Mothers Day! Wesleyan University Press is celebrating two new books about fascinating Connecticut women.


In her book Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker, Susan Campbell tells the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s younger half-sister. Isabella Beecher Hooker was a curiously modern nineteenth-century figure. She was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, and a mover and shaker in Hartford’s storied Nook Farm neighborhood and salon. Tempest-Tossed is a breezily written, fast paced biography that reveals Isabella’s more unusual traits. She was an ardent Spiritualist who could be off-putting, perplexing, and tenacious, yet wonderfully charming. Many of her contemporaries found her unapproachable and difficult to maintain a relationship with. Her “wild streak” was especially unfavorable in the eyes of Hartford society at the time, which valued restraint and duty. Pulitzer Prize winner Susan Campbell, also the author of Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl, brings her own unique blend of empathy and unbridled humor to the unique story of this unorthodox woman. Tempest-Tossed reveals Isabella’s evolution from Calvinist daughter, wife, and mother, to one of the most influential players in the movement for women’s suffrage. This long overdue story has found its perfect storyteller in Campbell, who captures the liveliness and spirit of this daring individual.

You can read a new short piece by Susan Campbell, “Can Mothers Get it Right? Experts Disagree,” (in which another Beecher sister, Catherine, is discussed) in this Sunday’s edition of the Hartford Courant.

Hot off the press is Connecticut state senator Donald E. Williams’s Prudence Crandall: The Fight for Equality in the 1830s, Dred Scott, and Brown v. Board of Education. Crandall was a Connecticut school teacher dedicated to the education of African-American girls–a goal unheard of in the racist landscape of the United States of the 1830s. She ignited a firestorm of controversy when she opened Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color, in Canterbury. Residents of the town refused to supply Crandall with the goods necessary to run her school, even going so far as to poison the school’s well water. She was ridiculed and arrested, but only closed her school upon the realization that the safety of her girls was at risk. Striking a balance between careful research and lively storytelling, Williams tells of Crandall’s push for justice and how her struggles helped to set legal precedent. He explains the relationship between three trials brought against Crandall, for her violation of Connecticut’s “Black Law,” and other notable legal cases: the Amistad case, the Dred Scott decision, and Brown v. Board of Education. Williams also discusses how Crandall v. State impacts our modern interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Happy mother’s day, and happy reading!

The British Raid on Essex

At 7:30 pm last night, as the sky grew dark, a bonfire lit  the water-side green at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex. Jerry Roberts, author of The British Raid on Essex: The Forgotten Battle of the War of 1812, recounted the story of the infamous raid on the town, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle.  ‘Light Up the Night’ was the first in a series of celebrations as Essex takes its place in history and is formally recognized as a battle site in the War of 1812. Roberts is the official historian and special project coordinator of the Bicentennial Committee for Battle Site Essex. You can catch Jerry Roberts presenting from his book on April 24th, 7:00 p.m., at Acton Public Library, 60 Old Boston Post Road, in Acton, CT. Read about more events here.


New Poetry, for Poetry Month

Spring is here, and so is Poetry Month. Please Check out Wesleyan’s new poetry titles.


Peter Gizzi’s In Defense of Nothing, Selected Poems 1987–2011 represents close to twenty-five years of work. This generous selection strikes a dynamic balance of honesty, emotion, intellectual depth, and otherworldly resonance. Haunted, vibrant, and saturated with luminous detail, Gizzi’s poetry enlists the American vernacular in a magical and complex music.

The Tatters is Wesleyan’s first book with Brenda Coultas; she’s known for her investigative documentary approach. Here, she turns her attention to landfills and the unusual histories embedded in the materials found there. The poems make their home among urban and rural detritus, waste, trinkets, and found objects. She enables us to be present with the sorrow and horror of our destructive nature.

Gerald Vizenor’s Favor of Crows: New and Selected Haiku follows two artistic traditions: Japanese haiku and Anishinaabe dream songs. He unifies vision, perception, and natural motion into concise poems—creating a sense of presence while acknowledging naturalistic impermanence. The book has an outstanding introductory essay by Vizenor, addressing his early influences while stationed in Japan as a soldier.

Endarkenment: Selected Poems, by Arkadii Dragomoshchenko and edited by Eugene Ostashevsky, presents the imaginative, fragmentary work of this Russian L=A=N=G=U=A=G-E poet in a bilingual edition. The book covers the time from perestroika through Dragomoshchenko’s recent death. Ostashevsky brings together revised translations by Lyn Hejininian and Elena Balashova, from long out of print volumes, and translations of newer work carried out by Genya Turovskaya, Bela Shayevich, Jacob Edmond, and Eugene Ostashevsky.

The final writing prompt from Annie Finch… win a book!

Wesleyan University Press and Annie Finch invite you to participate in a friendly writing challenge. Take a chance at winning a copy of Annie’s new book, Spells: New and Selected Poems, while creating your own poetry.

Finch - Spells R-72-3

Throughout the coming weeks, we will post poems by Annie Finch, along with related writing prompts from Annie. We invite you to respond to each prompt with a poem of your own. Annie will select the poem that moves her most. The author of the poem will win a free copy of Spells. Please feel free to reply to each prompt with a unique poem of your own. We ask that you reply to each prompt only once, with a single poem.

Prompt for Brigid: Write a poem to a mythological being. Try writing it using cross rhymes, a style in which the end of each line rhymes with the middle of the next.  

Please send your poems, along with your with name and mailing address to

This is our final prompt from Annie Finch. We hope you’ve enjoyed and been inspired by this series!

Happy writing!


Ring, ring, ring, ring! Hammers fall.
Your gold will all be beaten
over sudden flaming fire
moving from you, the pyre. Sweeten
your cauldron, until the sun
runs with one flame through the day
and the healing water will sing,
linger on tongues, burn away.

Courtesy of Annie Finch, from Spells: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan, 2013)

Wendy Perron ventures west of the Mississippi

Perron - Through R-72-3In December, Wendy Perron, an editor for Dance magazine and author of Wesleyan’s Through the Eyes of a Dancer, shared her book with captivated audiences in two cities west of the Mississippi. The first event took place in Salt Lake City on December 2nd. Michael Bearden, director of Ballet Arkansas said of the reading “I had the opportunity to hear Wendy Perron read excerpts from her new book last night. She was articulate, insightful and moved the audience to tears. To all my friends in Houston, go hear her speak on Thursday and check out her new book.” Read more about it in 15 Bytes: Utah’s Art Magazine.

On the 5th, Perron was invited to read for an audience at the Houston Ballet. Andrew Edmonson, press manager of Houston Ballet, Tweeted about the event: “just back from a reading by the divine Wendy Perron of her stellar new book, Through the Eyes of a Dancer, a fascinating, opinionated walk through five decades of change and innovation in the dance world. Eye opening and thought provoking.”

Don’t miss Perron’s events in New York City next month. The first will be held on February 24th at the Barnes and Noble on the Upper West Side, where she will be moderating a reading by Jennifer Ringer of the New York City Ballet. The second will be on February 28th at Steps on Broadway.