Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Great Hibernation

That's exactly what I want to do for the next few weeks, sleep, sleep, and sleep some more...

With my unofficial Texas book tour under my nonexistant belt (After this roadtrip, I don't need a belt...), I am now recovering from over a week of driving, reading, and celebrating. After my book signings, I had a family reunion to attend, which yes, was a great deal of fun. I have one of those marvelous, enormous, beer-drinking, jovial and loud Wisconsin families. There was much cheese to be had. But now I'm back in Tejas, back in my office, back at my quiet country home, ready to recharge for the craziness that will be my first year as a full-time professor.

This. This peace and quiet is exactly what I need.

So I'm off into hibernation. I've got a stack of books waiting for reviews, and a heart filled with poems and stories to write.

And some good news to share:

Katie Named a Quarter Finalist for the Mary Ballard Chapbook Prize!

Ovid, you will be wearing cowgirl boots before I'm through with you B-) And you will like it. Promise.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On the Road Again...

This is going to be a quick and awkward blogpost -- sorry. I'm on the road, but wanted to update you all on recent happenings.

First, the reason for my roadtrip? Why a book signing of course!

Yesterday I picked up a big stack of books from Publisher (and finally got to meet him in person! Previously, we were just back and forth through emails and facebook. Chuck Taylor is delightful!). Anyway, yes, I will have books to sell and sign, so please come out if you are in the San Antonio area.

I also got news yesterday that I got a new job. At a University. Full time. Teaching English. ::BREEATTHEEEE::

I found out via email at 4am. I proceeded to wake Bruno, who thought I was insane and maybe I was temporarily. The dept. chair made the grave mistake of giving me her cell phone number... which I had to call just to hear it spoken aloud. I proceeded to pinch myself to further insure I wasn't dreaming.

I'll be teaching majority freshmen rhet and comp courses at the University of Texas Pan American. I'm unbelievably humbled and in shock. My brother told me, "Kate, you have found your way out of adjunct purgatory!" and indeed, I suppose I have, remarkably quickly and... I just don't know what else to say about it...

Hopefully I'll be more coherent at a later date. Tonight, it's off to my reading and then likely something romantic-y on the riverwalk to celebrate. Woohoo!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Maria Miranda Maloney Talks Chaps y Mas


This is, what I hope to be, a first in a series of interviews and conversations with poets and publishers about chapbooks and... other things! To begin, I interviewed Maria Miranda Maloney, the founder and publisher of Mouthfeel Press. What a treat! She was kind enough to take some time out of her incredibly busy schedule as a publisher, poet, mom, wife, and gardener extraordinaire!

The lovely Maria Miranda Maloney!

First off, maybe you can tell me a little bit about Mouthfeel Press. I mean, I love Mouthfeel (I think every one of my blog readers already know that) but maybe give us a general idea about your team and your projects. How did it all get started, anyway?

Katie, thank you so much for including MFP. I love MFP. I love the name. I love the publishing mission. I love the authors that have courageously placed their work and faith into my hands. Mouthfeel Press started as a seed idea many years ago while I was working in journalism and public relations. That was before husband and children, and my own poetry training. Back then I was reading poets and writers like Sandra Cisneros,
Denise Chávez, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Gloria Anzaldúa, and many other Chicana canon writers, but I always felt there were never enough women writers or poets to go around, or writers that a young Chicana like myself could relate to. Books were not being published fast enough, or not at all, to sustain me and my friends’ hunger for authors.  At some point in my life, I returned to school to become a fiction writer and it was there that the idea of MFP solidified. I also learned about the underrepresented of the publishing world pertaining to women, latina/o, and regional writing. However, not all was dark and gloomy, and thanks to professors like poets Rosa Alcalá and Sasha Pimentel Chacón, I was introduced to the works of women-of-color outside of the chicana canon. I fell in love with the work of Henrietta Mullen, Rita Dove, and Barabara Jane Reyes, to name a few. I discovered poets like Emmy Pérez, Dolores Dorantes, and Laura Solórzano.  I breathlessly embraced the experimental and conceptual works of Mónica de la Torre, Juliana Spahr, Bernadette Mayer, and so on. It was at this time that MFP began to take shape in my mind. I honestly thought MFP would concentrate solely on publishing women; however, I’m not one to hear only one side of the story, and I don’t like to be pigeon-holed-- there’s no freedom in that as a writer and publisher. There are so many male poets producing exciting work out there!  By the end of grad school, I knew I was going to launch the press. 

Visit Mouthfeel Press for more information!

And I’m so grateful that you did! I think our world needed a press like Mouthfeel, and you’re filling a niche in the publishing community that long needed to be filled. Bravo! On the Mouthfeel website, I see that the mission is to promote the poetry of the borderlands. Can you expand on this mission? Why do you think promoting the borderland voice is important, and how are the chapbooks your publishing helping you to do this?

The idea is to publish as much work from local and regional authors. And while that will remain MFP’s priority, it is evolving as I receive more and more manuscripts from writers from all over the U.S. and abroad. For me, “borderlands”  does not necessarily signify a geography, a specific place. That would narrow its definition too much.  A more liberal definition would be a point or space of rupture from pre-determined and predictable roles and circumstances, a point of deconstruction, and a space that Emma Pérez references in her book, The Decolonial Imaginary, as going “into the margins, to argue or expose that which no one will risk.” MFP’s mission recognizes this space and embraces this rupture through poetry. Having said that, however, it is no secret that a region as large as the TX-NM-AZ-CA is seriously lacking in presses that embrace the language and culture of the region. Again, we return to the underrepresented voices from this region in the publishing world. I want to make sure MFP fills in some of the gap. Furthermore, the act of publishing, for me, is political. A stance against the likes of folks from Arizona and anyone else, whose racism extends to our literature, our stories, our language, our culture, our way of life, as if the U.S. is composed only of one history and one people. The chapbook becomes a powerful voice to help promote our literature in a quick and efficient way. While not all writers submit work that is intended to be political, most writers' work selected for publication fall into the category of a borderland. 

Photo by Rosalba Miranda

I know Mouthfeel puts out some wonderful full length collections, but the majority of the publications are chapbooks. Why chapbooks? What makes them appealing to you as a publisher?

The chapbook is easy to produce and it is affordable. As I mentioned, it is a powerful and efficient way to help promote literature.  As a lover of books, I am especially interested in the earthy aspects of producing a chap. I love the hands-on aspect of it, watching the book take shape from start to finish. I love to select the paper, to hold it in my hands and feel the texture, to fold it, to see it to fruition. I try to stay true to its original form-- handmade, although I don’t hand-bind mine for lack of manpower, so a machine does if for me. As chapbooks have picked up new breath in the poetry world, many are now being softbound, making it more attractive for bookstores to carry. 

Post Pardon by Arisa White, one of Mouthfeel's recent chapbook releases

From a literary perspective, the chap challenges an author to produce a tight collection of poetry. Every poem that goes in a chap needs to be strong. I love to pick up a chapbook that is so tight that I feel its grip. Such a chap demands to be read in one sitting. I have a collection of chaps in many shapes and sizes, from many authors and publishers from across the U.S., and I love to read them over and over. These have become my favorite books.

passwords_ by Juan Manuel Portillo, another recent chapbook release

I agree with you, Maria, about the best chaps being read in one sitting! I find myself immersed in them. I think a chapbook is a good opportunity to explore poetic obsessions! Anyway, I’m just curious – you must get a lot of submissions, right? Since Mouthfeel does not charge a reading fee like many presses do, what makes a chapbook submission stand out from the rest? What do you look for when sifting through the submissions?

Submissions have increased in the past year. MFP is a relatively new press, and I have not addressed the idea of charging a reading fee. I think a reading fee becomes burdensome for many authors. I know it did and still does for me, and yet, I understand why a reading fee is necessary-- to help pay the readers. It makes sense! In the meantime, the manuscript is at the mercy of my time. Right now it’s taking anywhere between four to six months, and sometimes longer, to read and respond, and much longer to publish. So, if you submitted a manuscript and have not heard from me, please email me a reminder. I promise the waiting period is about to change as Laura Cesarco Eglin joins MFP as editor. Katie, I wanted to get this information out because I know that as an author it is frustrating to be waiting for a publishers’ response, and I do apologize for that. 

Laura Cesarco Eglin, new editor to join Mouthfeel Press

Returning to your question about what makes a manuscript stand out, I look at titles first. If a title is engaging and strong, I am more likely to open up the manuscript immediately and start reading. The first poem is the most important poem of the manuscript-- it sets the pace and voice of the collection. It is the bait that will determine the bite. Another thing that makes a submission stand out is when the author takes the time to address the publisher--a brief introduction will suffice-- and how well a manuscript is put together: Does it include contact information, table of contents, page numbers, one attachments versus a slew of pages?

Have you ever fallen head-over-heels in love with a chapbook manuscript (could be from another press, too)? If so, what do you think makes you feel that way?

I fall in love all the time! I’m more susceptible to chapbooks with textural qualities--surprising syntax, forms that swerve across the page, metaphors that are fresh, fragments intertwined, concrete images, unpredictable line breaks-- all of these within the themes embraced by MFP’s mission. I love to feel freedom in a poet’s work. I love to see manuscripts that go beyond traditional forms, or that use traditional forms in new ways like the sonnets by Bernadette Mayer. In other words, I like a little avant garde.

Have you ever had to turn down a chapbook manuscript you loved? Maybe because it wasn’t right for MFP, or any other reason?

Absolutely, and sadly. There are many wonderful writers that have submitted whose work does not fit with the mission and aesthetic of MFP. I think it happens to every publisher out there. I think it happens to every author.

What direction do you see Mouthfeel going in the future? Do you plan to continue publishing chapbooks? With the fast changing publishing industry, do you ever think about publishing ebooks, or maybe branching out into fiction, or publishing an ejournal (or maybe a paper journal, too!).  I know I heard something about changing the chapbook formatting. Anyway, long story short – where is Mouthfeel heading, oh fearless leader?

I’m very excited to announce that Laura Cesarco Eglin will be joining MFP as editor.  Laura’s editorial eye is brilliant and uncanny, and she embraces wholeheartedly the mission and aesthetic of MFP. I feel so much lighter knowing she’ll be part of MFP. The next few months will be busy months for MFP as we plan to release full-length collections by Robin Scofield (Sunflower Cantos), Amalio Madueño (Spider Road), and Gabriel Gómez (The Seed Bank)-- all before the end of the year. Four chapbooks are still pending for release. In 2013, we’ll be releasing a bilingual children’s book by Alejandrina Drew, as well as a collection of bilingual short stories by
Xánath Caraza, and a poetry book by Carolina Monsiváis. I’m also looking at a new book distribution and marketing plan. In other words, MFP is getting an overhaul. I’m not yet opening the press to short fiction until after I publish Caraza’s book. I don’t want to take on too much, but I think it’s a good start. E-journals are not my priority at this time.

And the Ass Saw the Angel by Robin Scofield

I think what you’ve got on your plate is absolutely plenty. I can’t wait to read the new titles, and I know Mouthfeel Press has been growing and has even begun winning awards! So many start-up presses don’t make it, but it seems like Mouthfeel is doing just fine, three years into setting up shop. What do you think is the key to Mouthfeel’s success?
I think the key to a small press is to take it slow, and to acknowledge your limitations. I don’t have the manpower, and I’m a for-profit press, which means I don’t have access to grants. For-profit, sole-proprietorship basically means doing all the work without paying myself, contrary to the popular notion of private ownership. It takes about five years for a business to get established, and I’m assuming it will take longer for a small press. Much of what I do now is purely out of love for poetry, purely out of hope. I’ve had the fortune to work with authors, like yourself and Ire’ne Lara Silva, Elisa Garza, Laura Cesarco Eglin, Robin Scofield, Nancy Green, Carolina
Monsiváis, Juan Manuel Portillo, and other MFP authors, who understand the limitations of a small press but feel as passionate about writing and poetry as I do, and are willing to go the distance to make this work. 

The Mouthfeel Press and BorderSenese team at AWP 2012

Also, having a focused mission statement is key to success. It may sound rather simplistic but the mission of the press is the pulse of the press. I know it sounds cliché, but I can’t emphasize it enough.

Any advice for the hopeful poet putting together her first chapbook?

A chapbook is an author’s calling card into the great world of publishing. Whatever happens after the chapbook is up to the author, as you well know Katie. Thus, it behooves an author to put as much effort into it as he or she would put into writing a full-length collection. This includes a tight, focused collection, a great title, a manuscript devoid of spelling and grammatical errors, and a good, professional presentation. A small press is just as likely to look at the latter as any large press.

And finally, Maria, I know you’re not just a publisher, but a poet as well. Care to talk about your current writing projects? Are YOU planning on publishing another chapbook in the future? Or maybe you can tell us a bit about your experiences with The City I Love?

Of lately, Katie, I’m mostly a reader and a publisher. As much as I love writing, I love publishing even more. Does that make sense? I think some of us were born to be poets, some of us were born to be publishers, combining both can be taxing, as I am quickly finding out. And I’m also a mother, wife, and gardener, and while that is no excuse not to write, I have to admit sometimes my own manuscript ends
up on the back-burner. Nevertheless, I am putting a second full-length manuscript of prose poetry that I hope to finish by the end of the year. It’s been in the works for almost a year.  I’m hoping to submit an excerpt to a couple of chapbook presses I admire in the next couple of months.

Photo by Maria Miranda Maloney

Thanks, Maria! 

 Maria Miranda Maloney is the publisher of Mouthfeel Press in El Paso, Texas. She received her MFA from the University of Texas El Paso. Her work has recently appeared in Xispas: The Journal of Chicano Art, Culture and Politics, Mezcla: Art & Writings from the Tumblewords Project, and BorderSenses. She is a contributor to the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum, and is a board member of BorderSenses Literary Journal.  She is the author of a poetry chapbook titled The City I Love, which was published by Ranchos Press.

Do YOU have something to say about chapbooks? Join in the conversation! Email me at katherinehoerth@gmail.com, or leave a comment below!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's Official!

The Garden Uprooted has been released by Slough Press!

 If you've preordered, your specially signed copy will be on its way shortly.

If you haven't, well... no worries! You can still get your hands on my first full collection of poetry!

The book is now available at:

Barnes and Noble

If you'd like a signed copy, email me at katherinehoerth@gmail.com -- you'd either have to catch me on my book tour next week, or mail me a check.

So what's this book about, you might be asking. That's, truthfully, a tough question to answer, though I think I'm getting better at it now. The book is, of course, a collection of poetry that addresses different archetypes of femininity in fairy tales, mythology, and the Bible. It's about forging an identity, the roots -- place, gender, sexuality, language, and culture. And it's all set in Deep South Texas.

Anyways, that's me. But if you look on the book's back cover:

Welcome to the uprooted garden of fairy tales and pleasure. Set in Deep South Texas along the muddy banks of the Rio Grande, these poems tell the story of forging an identity. They speak to what it means to be a girl, a woman, a human being in this contested space. The landscape is always lush in flora, culture, and language. This garden is ripe with imagination and sensuality – just watch out for toads!

And if that's not enough to convince you, take a look at what my blurbers had to say:

“Ripeness is all” in these poems where mangoes, melons, and pomegranates redden and fall into the dry soil of south Texas to be eaten, to rot, or to bury their seeds. Against this lush and fertile backdrop, a clear-eyed gringa elopes on her eighteenth birthday with a Mexican native old enough to be her father, whom she envisions as catching her before she too can hit the dirt and spoil. That backstory is the only part of this collection not set in the sensual present moment, where the juices of burst fruit and kisses and the lyrical Spanish language seep into poems meant to be savored on the reader’s tongue. The Garden, Uprooted is a debut collection from a young poet to watch.”

Julie Kane, Louisiana Poet Laureate and author of Jazz Funeral and Rhythm and Booze

"With her deft, sensuous, jaunty, and vital poems Katie Hoerth makes a smart debut in The Garden Uprooted. From “How To Marry a Prince” to "Breakfast with Fur" to “Not the Sonnet You Dream Of,” the poet mixes fairy tale images with visceral descriptions in this sexy—and crafted—first book that keeps turning preconceptions inside out."

 Molly Peacock, author of The Paper Garden and The Second Blush

“Finding a home, putting down roots without suffering “root shock,” knowing and accepting who you are, and finding ways to be accepted by others, these are difficult tasks, especially if you are a transplant from Sheboygan living and writing in the Rio Grande Valley.  Katherine Hoerth poems show the way, her personal way, and they do it with grace and honesty.  She understands what we must all learn—what it means to be human.”

Robert S. Nelson, President of the University of Texas Pan American and author of Orphans, Bums and Angels

The Garden, Uprooted is a hypnotic burlesque dance, a garden frenzy of delights...And yet, the truth is here too, revealed in bursting metamorphoses and greatly impacted by the gradually seen and unseen realities of South Texas. It is because the poet is a Northern tree in foreign soil that the Texas-Mexico border so evocatively demands that she, like other border-dwellers, eternally ask, 'Who am I?' and 'Where do I belong?'

Ire’ne lara silva, author of furia

“The Garden, Uprooted is a fall into love, with all the trepidation and exhilaration of your first parachute jump. These poems are a sumptuous feast. They will fulfill your longing for pleasure.”

Steven Schneider, author of Unexpected Guests and Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives

But you can totally be the judge yourself. Here's a video of me reading my poems in Brownsville, Texas at Carino's Italian Restaurant, where I was the featured poet for July:

And below, I've included a few sample poems for your reading pleasure.

The Queen Palm

Trapped in a tower of naked trunk,
the queen palm hears the call
of spring:

let down your hair…

She unfolds her golden
Cascade of kernels
from her crown of fronds,
dangles her petal clusters
for pollen to grip and climb.
The flowers tangle in the wind
like bed sheets.

Soon, pods ripen into dates
as summer passes through –
an orange bouquet of blush.
The end of cicada songs click
like steed hooves atop cobblestones.

Branches, tired of heaving
their seeds, release them
to the wild bed of crabgrass
and clovers. With a thump,
the seeds sink into earth, germinate

and root into the next generation
that begins like a fairy tale,
with once upon a time.

first published in Victorian Violet Journal

Summer Song

A song of heat resounds across the brush
of Rio Grande -- a lullaby of sun

to seedlings, those nourished by spring’s rains.
To us, the idle – those who spent their dusks

unsoiled, this season sings a drought dirge, turns
our yard to desert.  Nothing blooms - no sprout

of lantana -- no hue to bring the hummingbirds,
those buff and iridescent shots to blush
in summer’s empty sky.


We wanted flora when we heard the hum
of honey bees, laughs of kiskadees

devouring citrus back behind the fence.
It’s late July and now you want to watch

our buds unwrap, to guess the hues before
they open up like an infant’s eyelid. Spade

in hand, you start to carve our russet earth.
You bring a marble bath for sparrows, haul
in trellises for when the jasmines crawl.


The sprinklers click, but daylight dries the blades
before the roots can suckle. Together

we spread a chemicals all across the lawn
for earth to swallow down as hoses run

through sunny afternoons. The song of heat
persists, but we can’t hear it rustling

the drying fronds, or feel sweat dripping down
from forehead to cheek. We dig through heat,

through August. At evening we sit beneath
encino shade. You kiss my forehead, hold

me close and whisper: Soon, tomorrow, the earth
will ripen beneath our boots.

First published in Ellipsis Journal  

South Texas Lawn Song 

 Each spring, encino oaks unravel
their festoon of catkins, toss
them to the wind that carries
their seeds over the fence our past
pieced together. Go with God, she whispers
as the pollen drifts from her branches.
Crabgrass creeps beneath the boards
and mingles with the carpet blades,
sucks dry the soil you water
in your crepuscular ritual. You can’t stop

the dandelions from peeking up
their yellow faces in your bed
of sprouts. You curse them
as they burst into florets
of snow, pop their downy heads
above the earthen sheets.
Mesquites, too, uncurl

from the earth and escape
from the monte to our Eden.
One sneaks in, a tiny bean
pod tucked into the pocket
of a child who hasn’t learned
that in this yard, that’s a weed
and doesn’t belong. This lawn,  

this carpet of roots and blooms
welcomes with its open palm the limon tree
for her starry blossoms, a vine of jasmine
to cover up the wound. You populate

the patio with palm trees, immigrants
that stumbled down to the Rio Grande
in the thirties when the sweat ran dry.
In the garden, you grow sprigs of cilantro,
serrano, a row of lettuce, two tomato plants
to cling to your trestle –

and just one single encino for the afternoon
shade. You rake and rake the acorns
in autumn, toss them over the fence
into the dusty rancho on the other side.

 Phew! Lots of news to share, right? And if this isn't enough...

I just received word that my first chapbook, Among the Mariposas, will be going into second edition! Get your hands on a first edition copy ASAP while you still can!

Stay tuned to my blog for all the latest updates. I have a very special post planned for the near future, going back to our discussion on chapbooks. Remember, if you'd like to join the conversaion, please email me at katherinehoerth@gmail.com I am looking for publishers/ authors to interview, and chapbook titles to review.