Poets Wear Prada is a poetry publishing house with excellent poets and affordable books with beautiful covers. Have you had your poetry today?--Meredith Sue Willis, Books for Readers * * * Stylistically, these beautifully designed and produced chapbooks bear their own distinctive signature.--Linda Lerner, SMALL PRESS REVIEW

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Praise for School for the Blind by Daniel Simpson

School for the Blind
by Daniel Simpson
Poets Wear Prada, 2014


Reprinted from Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry,  Volume 8,  Issue 4,  December 2014, Book Reviews.

Book Review: School for the Blind (Daniel Simpson)

Reviewed by Kathi Wolfe

"I sat on a broad stone/And sang to the birds/The tune was God's making/But I made the words," Mary Carolyn Davies wrote in "The Day Before April," her poem from her volume Youth Riding (The Macmillan Company, 1919). In 1925, The Macmillan Company reprinted the poem in the popular children's reader Silver Pennies: A Collection of Modern Poems for Boys and Girls.
It's superbly fitting that Daniel Simpson quotes this stanza from Davies' work in the poem "The Call of Poetry" in his stunning debut collection School for the Blind (Poets Wear Prada, 2014). With the musicality of a modern-day Homer and the wisdom of a contemporary Tiresias, Simpson in this slim, yet powerful volume takes us with him on his odyssey from "jumping on our twin mattresses" at four with his twin brother to being "left tonight/with his twin brother/at the boarding school" (a school "for the blind") to his musing, as an adult, "I don't know what a rainbow looks like/or that my life would be better if I could see one."

Simpson, a poet and musician, and his identical twin brother David were born blind in 1952. Dan attended the Overbrook School for the Blind from 1956 to 1966. After that, he became the first blind student in his Pennsylvania county to attend public school before earning a B.A. in English and music from Muhlenberg College, a master of Music in organ performance from Westminster Choir College and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Pennsylvania.
Making up words — "Lickington, Waggington…/names I made up/for the houses I passed" —enables him to both cope with and chronicle his institutionalized life — away from his family and home in the "school for the blind."
Chair, bed,
dresser in a dorm:
keep the rhythm running,
get from Sunday to Friday,
Simpson writes in the poem "The Call of Poetry" in the deceptively simple, short lines that so effectively evoke the homesickness, starkness and dehumanization of spending one's childhood in even the best "school for the blind" or other institutionalized setting.
It's not that all schools for blind people were bad, or that students who were blind couldn't live happily and prosper academically in such places. I have friends, who attended schools for the blind in the mid-20th century, and look back upon this as one of the happiest periods of their lives. In the late 19th century, Helen Keller, who was deaf-blind, was saved from ignorance and isolation by her education at Perkins School for the Blind. Today, most blind and visually impaired children and teens attend the same schools as students without disabilities. Most schools now serve students who are not only blind but who also have other disabilities.

This having been said, many who grew up in schools for "the blind," (which were often state run and/or poorly funded) experienced stark living conditions as well as, at times, verbal, physical or sexual abuse. I know someone who, to this day, hates oatmeal because he was forced to eat it, at age 10, at a "school for the blind."

Too often, able-bodied people, even self-identified progressives, most likely out of ignorance, romanticize institutional settings for people with disabilities. Perhaps, they can't envision what it would be like to be taken from their home as a toddler and placed in such a setting — because this hasn't happened to them. Or, they assume that everyone who works in such places, is kind and caring toward those under their care.

Political poetry is so often devalued that I almost hesitate to say this: Simpson skillfully writes what Carolyn Forche has called "the poetry of witness." In poetry that calmly, but vividly packs a narrative punch, Simpson bears witness to the longings, betrayals, sadness and, at times callousness, of the school for "the blind." There is the misperception that political poetry is merely polemics dressed up as poems. As Simpson's work makes clear, this is far from the truth. In the hands of a talented poem, such as Simpson, the political begins with, and is entwined with the personal.

Take the poem "About Chester Kowalski I Don't Know Much." I don't want to reveal too much about Simpson's arresting, engaging, at times heartbreaking narrative. But these seemingly plain-spoken lines from the poem, mirroring the drabness of the school's dormitory and reflecting the rhythm of boys speech, tell more than any rant or policy paper about life at the "school for the blind":
…at night we breathed
the same fetid air of the open dorm
with thirty other eight to ten year-olds,
boys with healthy, shallow lungs who had played full tilt,
then said their prayers by rote —
"Now I lamey downda sleep."
One of the most harrowing stories of the impact of power, abuse and vulnerability is told in the prose poem "When the Chips Were Down." With a less skillful poem, this poem might have been a dull exercise in didacticism. In Simpson's telling, a lunch time hassle over potato chips is a quietly devastating tale of deprivation and cruelty. "What else they served for lunch that day in the boys' dining room, I can't say, but, dollars to doughnuts, whatever they passed off as nutrition was anything but," the narrative begins, "It could have been their infamous sausage that greased your shirt…Whatever it was, we'd have to count on the community bowl of potato chips…to carry us to dinner."

Only one staff member, Mr. G, tries to intervene with the powers that be when the supply of chips on the dining room tables runs out. "It wasn't life or death. After all, it was just one replaceable man taking a losing and inconsequential stand," the narrator says after Mr. G. fails in his mission to replenish the chips.

Poetry is profoundly of the body, and the bodies of children, particularly, kids with disabilities, are vulnerable to sexual and other types of abuse. Several of the poems in School for the Blind speak to this. "A long day of hiking, and now the man/rubs alcohol on the backs of the boy's legs," Simpson writes in the poem "Boy Scout Friend," "…The boy can't sleep;/it's those kisses on the lips."
If a person is blind, people frequently think that they want to be "healed" or that they spend all of their time lamenting that they can't see. As someone who's legally blind, I've often encountered (usually, well-meaning) people who believe that, if I pray more, in the after-life, I'll, at last, be happy, and have 20/20 vision. Simpson deflects this trope with wit. Without being anti-spirituality or against religion, he wittily offers a new vision of God and of eternity.
I'm thinking the next time I see Aunt Polly,
I'm going to tell her about my new vision:

"It's really going to be something," I'll say.
"In Heaven, you'll finally get to be blind."
Without being sentimental or white-washing the darkness of life at the "school for the blind," Simpson's work displays generosity and compassion toward those who were mean-spirited or behaved inappropriately. In the poem "The Luxury of Being Children," the narrator recalls Miss Walters, a cold-hearted dorm mother who "…when we said, 'Good morning,' …responded, 'What's good about a morning with you!'"

Yet years later, after he'd left the school for the blind and was in his senior year in high school, his hateful feelings toward Miss Walters, who'd retired, evolved. "A friend called to ask if I'd heard the story: / in a cheap apartment, alone, she froze to death."

School for the Blind is filled with the sexual and romantic yearnings of the narrator as he emerges from boyhood to adolescence and into adulthood. But, the most heartfelt love story in the collection is that of Simpson's love for his brother. "Sometimes as you well know,/I still can plow ahead, forget to call you,/but then something slaps me up against your absence,/and I'm stopped, that newborn baby boy again,/listening for you," Simpson writes in the touching conclusion of the poem "A Letter to My Twin Brother."

Simpson is an emerging and important voice that brings new vision to the disability poetics movement. School for the Blind is a stirring book that will become an indelible part of your memory and DNA.

Kathi Wolfe is the winner of the 2014 Stonewall Chapbook Competition. Her chapbook The Uppity Blind Girl Poems will be published in 2015 by BrickHouse Books. Her chapbook The Green Light was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Wolfe was a finalist in the 2007 Pudding House Publications Chapbook competition. Her chapbook Helen Takes the Stage: The Helen Keller Poems was published by Pudding House in 2008. She is a contributor to Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, an American Library Association Notable Book for 2011. Wolfe's poetry has appeared in Gargoyle, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and other publications.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Praise for Remembering Chris by Rosalie Calabrese

 Reprinted from ČERVENÁ BARVA PRESS NEWSLETTER, Issue No. 90, September 2015


Gloria Mindock, Editor   Issue No. 90   September, 2015



Remembering Chris
Rosalie Calabrese
Poets Wear Prada - Hoboken, New Jersey
ISBN: 9780692303795

      "Huddled onshore while the waves churn
      as if coming and going at the same time
      I remember how my stormy Chris
      broke water breached against the tide
      and how resistance to the natural flow of things
      can cause more turbulence than one might expect."

Calabrese's poems are about memory. She weaves her son Chris's life into the present with strong threads a pattern forms. The poems clothe us for life is often as deep and blue as any mourning. "your shadow lingers like the scent of mint." Each word relates what we grieve in our own lives. Traveling from birth to death the poet carries her verse and offers the reader simple courage about loss and comfort, comfort spread out on a solid ground we partake and are filled by the poetic flow.

      "...an easy separation of rendered parts
      that once made up a whole.
      No, not so fast, not yet,
      if ever..."

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor: Wilderness House Literary Review
Reviewer: Cervena Barva Press

Friday, July 15, 2016

RZ Wiggins Reviews Remembering Chris by Rosalie Calabrese for MER Book Reviews

Reprinted from Mom Egg Review, Book Reviews, June 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Remembering Chris by Rosalie Calabrese.  Review by RZ Wiggins

Remembering Chris
by Rosalie Calabrese
Poets Wear Prada, 2015, $12.00 [paper]
ISBN 9780692303795

Review by RZ Wiggins

Mothers are simple, complex, opaque, vivid, loving, distant, devoted, and neglectful, all in a lifetime. From its first pages, this slim volume overflows with the above and with a mother’s abundant love and commitment. Rosalie Calebrese’s chapbook Remembering Chris is a memorial to a lost son. But the collection also shows the many sides to mothering through a voice that is at once surprisingly pragmatic and refreshingly honest.

Aside from “Mixed Emotions” (3) which centers on mothering concerns (how many mothers haven’t felt these?), Remembering Chris’s poems ring with joy at both motherhood and grandmotherhood. Given the absence of any mention of siblings, it appears that Chris, the collection’s focus (a boy who loved his Lionel trains), is an only child.

The poems explore a mother who dutifully nurtures her son and teaches him what is needed. There is the heartfelt sting of sternly eradicating obscene words and gestures and the angst of removing the stowaway from the back seat to again deposit him at sleepover camp. These are a mother’s duties that must be done even though the heart is heavy.

I wanted more glimpses into this bond, more details of days spent together in the boy’s younger years, his falls and scrapes, more about his young mother. What were their rituals? Cozying together reading books in bed? Baking cookies on stormy days? Whispering to a favorite teddy bear in the dark?

Where the boy is absent, there is much of the mother: a divorced parent struggling to adjust to her new single status; a woman juggling work commitments and the coexistent guilt: 
…I ran the shuttle
between career and motherhood.
So often, our line of communication
filled with static − almost disconnected;
I feared you’d lose your way. (16) 

In addition, there is the struggle to hold onto some of herself, to be the woman who can go to Europe without her son while carrying a mother’s guilt.

The woman inside these poems finds it difficult to tell her granddaughter “what Jewish people believe in” (19) and instead defers to the Internet.  Yet, Jewish heritage bleeds across the pages, particularly in one of Calabrese’s most poignant poems:
A Memo to My Son

You had no bris,
And you had no bar-mitzvah,
But make no mistake, my son:
You are the flesh of my flesh,
And the blood of my blood:
When all the scores are tallied,
You will still be a Jew. (8)
Time and again Calebrese reminds us that mothers must be many things: loving yet stern, strong yet fallible. They must bend to meet life as it arises before and after their children are born and especially after a child sadly passes on too soon. Without a doubt, the essence that shines through these poems is of the richness and devotion of a mother’s love despite all of life’s varying circumstances. They remind us that mothers never let go, not when they send you to summer camp, nor when career demands intrude, nor when you get married and move into your own home. Mothers swell up with joy and hold on forever— “I reach for your hand/and hold the memory” (24).

RZ Wiggins is a reformed lawyer who has been writing since she was a wee child. She is working on a collection of memoirs about 9/11 from outside NYC and WDC and on a novel about a summer in Africa. She is a researcher at the Yale School of Management.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Poets Wear Prada at NY Rainbow Book Fair


Boutique publishing house Poets Wear Prada is pleased to announce that we will be tabling  with Eggplant Press at the eighth annual New York  Rainbow Book Fair and that several of our authors will be reading for the event.  The Rainbow Book Fair is the largest LGBTQ book event in the United States. The 2016 fair will be held on Saturday, April 9th from 12:00pm to 6:00pm at John Jay College of Criminal Justice located at 524 W. 59th Street (just west of 10th Avenue) in Manhattan. 

Our authors will be reading at two different readings at the fair.  Here's a list of the readers and their scheduled time slots. (Please note that this schedule is subject to change.)

2016 COME HERE! Poetry Salon hosted by Regie Cabico and Nathaniel Siegel

12:10-12:15pm  Geer Austin
01:05-01:10pm  Austin Alexis
01:20-01:25pm  Michael Montlack
01:30-01:35pm  John J. Trause
05:00-05:05pm  Joel Allegretti

2016 Main Reading Event

01:00 - 01:20pm  Chocolate Waters
04:00 - 04:20pm  Roxanne Hoffman

Roxanne Hoffman founded Poets Wear Prada in 2006 with the release of  a limited edition of B.D. Lyon's debut poetry collection, a chapbook titled "Your Infidel Eyes." From the press's  inception, it editors have continued to seek out the works of queer writers, women, and people of various ethnicity and cultural backgrounds as it strives to introduce unique and exceptional emerging writers and promote diversity to mainstream audiences with well-edited and beautifully designed volumes.  

Poets Wear Prada is proud to have published debut and early collections of Jee Leong Koh, John J. Trause, Austin Alexis, Michael Montack, Joel Allegretti and Geer Austin. In  2011 Poets Wear Prada in conjunction with Eggplant Press published groundbreaking feminist lesbian writer Chocolate Waters's first new book in over three decades, "The Woman Who Wouldn't Shake Hands." Hoffman co-edited "Pears, Prose and Poetry: Anthology of the 9th Annual Fresh Fruit Festival Poetry Event," also published in conjunction with Eggplant Press.

Founded in 2006 in Hoboken, New Jersey, birthplace of Frank Sinatra and professional baseball, Poets Wear Prada is a boutique book publisher devoted to introducing and promoting emerging writers to the mainstream audiences with beautifully designed volumes of well-crafted poetry and prose.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Poets Wear Prada Announces Molly C. Braswell as New PR Associate

Hoboken-based boutique publisher Poets Wear Prada welcomes journalist Molly C. Braswell as a freelance public relations associate.

Diane von Furstenberg (L) & Molly C. Braswell (R) at Rizzoli Books, NYC
HOBOKEN, N.J. - March 19, 2016  -- Poetry publishing house Poets Wear Prada has welcomed journalist and public relations guru Molly C. Braswell to their publicity division as a freelance public relations associate.

Braswell began her multifaceted career while she was studying marketing and political science at her alma mater Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. A fellow student asked her to write an article for the school paper about an event that Braswell had just produced for the campus. From writing that one article and through public relations internships at the Junior League of Birmingham and the American Diabetes Association she knew that she wanted to combine her interests of journalism and public relations into one career.

After graduating from Samford in 2010, Braswell's post-collegiate publicity career includes stints at not-for-profit organization Mississippi Blood Services and non-profit organization Susan G. Komen of Central Mississippi. She moved to New York City in 2011 to pursue her fashion journalism dreams, where she worked as a fashion and beauty staff writer for AllMediaNY.com and freelanced as style director for "WHOA! (What's Happening with Original Artists) Magazine." After leaving those positions for a political journalism opportunity in Washington, D.C., she moved back to Manhattan in 2015 where she currently works as a stylist at clothing company J. Crew.

"Molly has such an extensive and diverse public relations background that I couldn't afford not to hire her," said Poets Wear Prada publisher Roxanne Hoffman. "She was so enthusiastic about joining Poets Wear Prada and working with our team that she is going to bring a bright new energy to the company. I'm delighted to begin working with her!"

Hoffman and Braswell met recently when they attended a book party while waiting in line to have Diane von Furstenberg sign their copies of "Inside Venice: A Private View of the City's Most Beautiful Interiors" (Rizzoli New York). After chatting for a few minutes, they each discovered how auspicious their meeting was. Hoffman needed a professional to do freelance public relations work for her publishing house, and Braswell was looking for her next publicity and writing opportunity in NYC.

"When I met Roxy, I feel as if we almost clicked instantly, and I knew I wanted to work with her," Braswell said. "Standing next to her in line had to be pure serendipity. I know I can learn a lot from Roxy, and I feel it's going to be a wonderful partnership."

Molly C. Braswell was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and she currently lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

Founded in 2006 in Hoboken, New Jersey, the birthplace of Frank Sinatra and professional baseball, Poets Wear Prada is a boutique publisher devoted to introducing and promoting emerging writers, as well as those more established, to the mainstream audiences with beautifully designed volumes of well-crafted poetry and prose. For more information visit the publisher's site: http://poetswearprada.com/.