Yesterday I read alongside the writers of Kearny Street Workshop’s Navigating Poetics workshop. It was advertised as six weeks of generative writing led by Truong Tran but turned out to be much more.
I originally took the workshop because I have taken workshops with Truong before and knew him as a skilled facilitator who views poetry from multiple angles. He shares the perspectives of visual artists while also being able to slow the writing process down. Truong can pick out one phrase or feeling in a poem and have the writer do a deeper dive into those small spaces in poems. He has been a constant voice in my poems for years. Whenever I revise I always ask, “Is this whole poem as strong as the best two lines?” When I ask that of my poems and go back to be sure that the whole poem is strong, that is Truong’s influence on my work,
With Shelter-in-Place remote learning is the norm and I was curious how Truong would be able to create a community of writing while also fostering the trust that is needed for writers to give each other constructive feedback. Fostering connection during a Zoom session can be a dissociative task at times and that connection is the main ingredient for successful writing groups.
At the end of the six weeks, I have five new poems which would already be a measure of success. I also have a new writing community and renewed sense of purpose and confidence in my writing. And I walk away developing a new skill: e-book design.
I have designed and crafted all my chapbooks. If you happen to have one of my older chapbooks then please know that each one was put together by hand and is unique. I have always prided myself on making a book with beautiful art and clean type. Huge props to Timothy Vogel and Matt Weber who gave me permission to use their work as my title images. This process was always fun for me as I was able to play around with the order of my poems and typefaces while also trying to keep some kind of style together. It was also fun because the words I was playing with were my own.
Sometime in the middle of the Navigating Poetics class I became excited about the prospect of having these new poems published. I was also impressed with the high level of writing from the other Navigating Poetics writers so I proposed to Kearny Street Workshop that the writing from the workshop be published together as an online volume. Huge thanks to Mihee Kim and Jason Bayani for saying Yes.
Kearny Street Workshop: Navigating Poetics is the e-book I designed. Before I was messing around with my own poems but this time I was making book art that would represent KSW and also honor the writing of my workshop cohort. I am proud of the finished product. It has intention and voice. There was also a ton of behind-the-scenes collaboration and last minute edits but it came together well, on time, and clean. I hope you enjoy all the poems and if you feel moved, go to Goodreads and give it a review.
Many thanks to Red Room for choosing To the Break of Dawn as their “Book of the Day” for August 6th. It’s quite an honor and validates my decision to continue collecting my poems in chapbook form; partly to just get the poems out of my system, partly to get the attention of editors, but mostly to the share them among my personal network via gift economy.
With that said, I’ve already started to receive quite the bounty of artistic trade from the new chapbook. Here’s what I’ve gotten so far:
I’m very grateful to all the folks who have shared these items from their libraries. It’s always a great treat to have a peer share his/her work with me. It’s also fun to see what folks are willing to swap when they either don’t have a book in print or I already have all their work. One of my favorite exchanges was with a non-writer who really wanted to support my work and was looking for a copy of Heaven Below. They dug through their whole backpack and emerged with a copy of John Legend’s Evolver. “Is this ok?” Hell yeah, I said, and happily traded with ’em.
The call is still out, anyone interested in trading something from your media library for a copy of one of my chapbooks— Holler at me!
I will ship you a copy for FREE if you would like to swap a copy of your own chapbook. If you don’t have a chapbook of your own, I am willing to swap a copy for a book, journal, CD, or used book from your personal library. For more details about trading books, contact me at oscar-at-oscarbermeo-dot-com.
Many thanks to Barbara for being the first listener of all these poem, Tara Betts for her blurb, and Pro-Zak for the use of his photography.
More shout outs are in the book but I’d like to also send thanks to Raphael Cohen & the editorial team of 580 Split, Avotcja y La Palabra Musical at Rebecca’s Books in Berkeley, Nick Whittington & the staff of Bird & Beckett Books and Records, and Michelle Wallace & the folks at the Kaleidoscope Reading Series for the opportunity to read at your venues while these poems were developing. The chance to recite these poems for your audiences was key in the revision process of this manuscript.
Heaven Below, my new chapbook, is available now. I will ship you a copy for FREE if you would like to swap a copy of your own chapbook. If you don’t have a chapbook of your own, I am willing to swap a copy for a chapbook, journal, CD, or used book from your personal library. Authors with full length collections, I’ll swap a copy of Heaven Below and Palimpsest in exchange for your book.
For more swap info, contact me via email at oscar(at)oscarbermeo.com
Please include the words “Heaven Below Chapbook Swap” in the subject line of your message.
• Heaven Below
• A Personal History and Reflection on Sixty Years in the City from the Reverend JT
• Psalm for Anywhere Avenue
• Epistle Written at the #4 Train—Woodlawn Station, 4:30am
• We, Spoken Here
• In the City, you can’t help but think of God
• Ash Wednesday
• Unsolved Crimes Perpetrated by Invisible Men as Reported by an Unreliable Witness
• How Much for the Building? Tenants Optional.
• What the Landlord said…
• Getting Ronald Reagan to Visit the South Bronx
• The Pope Takes the #4 Train
• Tumbaron Tres Torres
• Three Towers Toppled
• The View from the Stoop
• Orchard Beach: Section Four
• I’m Jus Askin
Palimpsest, my new chapbook, is available now. I will ship you a copy for FREE if you would like to swap a copy of your own chapbook. If you don’t have a chapbook of your own, I am willing to swap a copy for a chapbook, journal, CD, or used book from your personal library. Authors with full length collections, I’ll swap a copy of Palimpsest and Anywhere Avenue in exchange for your book.
For more swap info, contact me via e-mail at oscar(at)oscarbermeo(dot)com
Please include the words “Palimpsest Chapbook Swap” in the subject line of your message.
• B-Boy Prayer
• Psalm for Public Housing
• The Trouble with Poverty
• Ars Poetica
• A Bodega on Anywhere Avenue
• My Father’s Accent
• The Story of How Pigeon Came to Live in City
• The Break
• Fire Escape
To purchase a copy for $5, please click on the PayPal button