Best Books We Ever Received As Gifts

Regardless of which winter holiday you celebrate (if any), November and December are often filled with gift-shopping trip after gift-shopping trip. While we all like that special feeling we get when we give someone a gift they adore, it’s no secret that spending hours at the mall is exhausting, time-consuming, and, quite frankly, expensive. However, the Inklette team has compiled a list of the best books we’ve ever received as gifts to remind everybody what the holiday shopping season is about (and, if you’re unsure what gift to get your book-loving friend/family member/significant other, look no further).


The Hat-Stand Union by Caroline Bird

 

51xPRiL2IeL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_Those who know me know that I like obscure contemporary poetry (how much people are willing to let me ramble on about it is a different story). My parents gave me this volume of poetry by British poet and playwright Caroline Bird for Christmas when I was about thirteen or fourteen and just starting to become seriously interested in creative writing. Reading poems that covered a bizarre range of topics — from King Arthur to Chekov to suburban life — helped me understand that I had the agency to write about what I found inspiring, rather than what people told me to write about. Even now, in my final year of my undergraduate, I still have The Hat-Stand Union on my shelf and pull it out from time to time when I need inspiration. 

— Joanna Cleary, Blog Editor

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 

9780345804327_lI received this novel as a gift from one of my aunts in college, and it’s travelled with me as I’ve moved from one coast to the other, and back again. It was my first introduction to the author, Colson Whitehead, who is a brilliant Black writer living in NYC, and who is also one of my earliest inspirations for the style of writing life I want to achieve. The novel itself won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. It’s a fascinating depiction that turns the real-life Underground Railroad into a collection of underground trains, safe houses, and secret routes. It’s one of those books that I’ll always have on my bookshelf, and which consistently reminds me to return to Whitehead’s other works to see what other challenges he has in store.

— Naomi Day, Blog Editor

The Professor and The Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

 

9780099521341.jpgThis book was gifted to me by Trivarna Hariharan, the former editor-in-chief of Inklette Magazine. I had never heard of Ogawa’s work before and hadn’t read prose that felt so light, so porous. I think Ogawa’s work best reminds me of the kind of cinematic language of Ritesh Batra’s films such as The Lunchbox (2013) and Photograph (2019). But this book, in particular, read like that thin line between myth and realism even though the materiality of its story felt like a weight, even a burden at times I had to accept, learn how to carry. Since then, I have read Ogawa’s other works but somehow The Housekeeper and The Professor is one I keep coming back to, because it also incorporates and disguises behind the porosity and poetics of literary language a stunning mathematical language as well as logic, and if you read the book you’ll perfectly understand the role these two levels and anatomies of language play. 

-Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

 

9780316133999_l (1).jpgI believe my sister gave me this book a few years ago (for Christmas or my birthday I can’t remember, they both fall in December so they tend to blur together. Both my sister and I are avid readers, so we often gift each other books, but this particular book was definitely one of my favorites.Though it took a while for me to actually open the book, once I began reading it I devoured it. The book is magical, poetic, and wonderfully poetic (I have several notes on my phone filled with pulled quotes from the novels that I use to inspire me, and I used an excerpt from the first book for an erasure assignment I was given in college). The author’s gift for world-building made me eager to get the next books in the trilogy and finish them just as quickly, and I can’t wait until I’ve forgotten enough of the series to reread it—Taylor truly knows how to wield a plot twist, and I can’t wait to experience the shock and delight of piecing the tale together all over again. 

— Savannah Summerlin, Blog Editor

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

 

9780486834368_l.jpgAlthough I’ve given lots of books as gifts, I’ve never been gifted a book (other than the ones I personally requested from my parents when I was a kid). Maybe people just don’t know what to gift me because they don’t know what’s already in my collection; I don’t know. My brother, though, frequently gifts books to my 6-year-old daughter. So far, one of her favorites has been The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. I avoided reading it when I was a kid because I hated the movie. I read it to my daughter, and we both loved it. My brother is a research scientist, so he often sends her science-y books. Another fun one he gifted her was The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure (Hans Magnus Enzensberger, trans. By Michael Henry Heim). Although I think my daughter needs to age a bit before she can truly appreciate it, I loved The Number Devil.

— Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor

A Necklace of Skulls: Collected Poems by Eunice de Souza

 

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Until the third year of my undergraduate degree, a lot of my poetry reading was either limited to canon, or to snippets and fragments I had read online. Reading Eunice de Souza’s work was formative for me as a poet and as a literature student not only because of the cultural similarities or her engagements with feminism, but because she spoke of the everyday with an almost unfounded sense of ease. There was this comfort in her navigation of language I hadn’t read before, which is what made her work all the more appealing – that poetry could be soft, simple, and yet impactful. 

 

— Smriti Verma, Poetry Editor

To learn more about our staff, please visit the Masthead page here.

Experiments with Reading / Writing

The idea of finding oneself as a writer in what one reads is an attractive notion. And as difficult as it is to answer larger questions about what we write and why or how, our readership and experiences or experiments with reading can help us find answers, however changeable they may be, to some of those questions. The Inklette team tried answering some of these questions by flipping through the pages of books we are currently reading or books near us, kept an inch away from our grasp, and copying sentences or two that answer the questions of who we write for, what we write about, why we write, when we write and where. We hope you enjoy this blog, not only as a potential reading list to kick off the fall but also as an experiment in reading ourselves in what we read.


Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief 
from Neapolitan Chronicles by Anna Maria Ortese (trans. Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee)

 

Who do you write for?

He must have left Milan some time ago.

What do you write about?

Silence, swift memories of another life, a sweeter life, nothing else.

Why do you write?

Much like the previous evening in Chiaia, although it wasn’t yet the same hour, here, too, there was a great commotion, a feeling of extraordinary excitement, as if something had happened– a murder, a wedding, a victory, two horses breaking loose, a vision– but then drawing nearer I saw it was nothing.

When do you write?

On the evening of June 19 (evening in a manner of speaking, since the sky was bright and the sun was still high over the sea, its glare intense), I boarded the #3 tram, which runs along the Riviera di Chiaia to Mergellina.  

Where do you write?

This cafe is at the intersection of Piazza Trieste e Trento and the tortuous Via Chiaia. 


Angela Gabrielle Fabunan, Poetry Editor
from Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons by Marilyn Hacker

 

Who do you write for?

“For you, someone was waiting up at home. 

For me, I might dare more if someone were.”                        

– from ‘Runaways Café I’

What do you write about?

“I broke a glass, got bloodstains on the sheet:

hereafter, must I only write you chaste

connubial poems?”                                                             

– from ‘Eight Days in April’

Why do you write? 

“Now that we both want to know what we want,

now that we both want to know what we know,

it still behooves us to know what to do:

be circumspect, be generous, be brave,

be honest, be together, and behave.”                                   

– from ‘Runaways Café II’

When do you write? 

“Hello, sweetheart, it’s seven-twelve AM.”    

– from ‘International Women’s Day, 1985’

Where do you write? 

“Where I see only you, where you can see me.”

– from ‘Having Kittens About Having Babies III’


Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor
from The Slow Fix by Ivan E. Coyote

 

Who do you write for?

So far, Kirsty and Mouse are my favorites. 

What do you write about?

I am a collector of stories, a connoisseur of character, so for the most part I love the random way that traveling strangers enter and exit people’s lives. 

Why do you write?

I can still work in my underwear, but I hardly ever eat soup right out of the pot anymore. 

When do you write?

Was it when all the cute rock-climber girls went back to school and the rednecks didn’t?

Where do you write?

Like I said, I love Amsterdam.


For staff bios, please refer to our Masthead page here. Amazon links to purchase books can be accessed by clicking the titles. 

Indigenous Voices

by Joanna Cleary and Maria Prudente

Having celebrated Canada Day and the 4th of July earlier this month, many people in North America may be feeling more patriotic than usual. However, it is of utmost importance during these days of national celebration to acknowledge and pay respect to the voices of those who rightfully claim first ownership of these lands. Here are some provocative, humourous, heartbreaking, and, above all, relevant works by Indigenous writers that you should definitely put on your summer reading list!


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 
Novel, Sherman Alexie 

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“I draw because words are too unpredictable.

I draw because words are too limited.

If you speak and write in English, or Spanish, or Chinese, or any other language, then only a certain percentage of human beings will get your meaning.

But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it.

If I draw a cartoon of a flower, then every man, woman, and child in the world can look at it and say, “That’s a flower.”

So I draw because I want to talk to the world. And I want the world to pay attention to me. I feel important with a pen in my hand. I feel like I might grow up to be somebody important. An artist. Maybe a famous artist. Maybe a rich artist.

That’s the only way I can become rich and famous.” 

 

Junior, an aspiring cartoonist, has mixed feelings about growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. As he decides to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school, one where the only other Indigenous presence is the school mascot.


Talking to the Diaspora 
Poetry, Lee Maracle

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“Some sons are trees

 

Quiet mist magic memory oddly named sequoia

General somebody or other who killed us

killed his own

killed worlds

then came to rest a crest on this man-tree”

                                          -from ‘Archer’s Body’ 

 

The second collection of poetry by one of Canada’s most prominent contemporary authors features a look at diaspora and identity that is both intimate and larger than the individual experience.


They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School 
Memoir, Janet Rogers

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“I read somewhere that everyone is born with the potential for success, and it is only through life’s experiences that we develop or destroy that potential. For many Aboriginal people, our most vulnerable and impressionable years, our childhood years, were spent at residential schools. Our mental, emotional and spiritual growth was extremely stunted because of the way we were treated there. You have to tell our story like it is, don’t hold back or make it seem like it wasn’t as bad as it actually was. People have to know and believe what happened to us.”

A defining part of Xatsu’ll chief Bev Sellars’ childhood was spent as a student in a church-run residential school. This honest and evocative memoir details her time at St. Joseph’s Mission, as well as how it has affected her and her family over generations. As Sellars discusses trauma, diapora, and healing, she makes it apparent that it is only through knowing the truth about these past injustices can we, as a society, can begin to properly address them.


Islands of Decolonial Love 
Short Stories, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 

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“bringing up trauma from my life made therapy-lady cry, especially if it was “aboriginal” themed. she said “aboriginal” a lot, and i knew she was trying to be respectful so i planned on letting it slide until the breaking point and then i was going to let her have it in one spiralling long manifesto. therapy-lady liked to compare my life to refugees from war-torn countries who hid their kids in closets when airplanes flew over their houses. this was her limit of understanding on colonized intimacy. she wasn’t completely wrong, and while she tried to convince me none of us had to hide our kids anymore, we both knew that wasn’t exactly true. i knew what every ndn knows: that vulnerability, forgiveness and acceptance were privileges. she made the assumption of a white person: they were readily available to all like the fresh produce at the grocery store.”

Simpson’s debut collection of short stories explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation.

Heartbreaking, absurd, and real, these stories aim to capture all aspects of what it means to be Indigenous in a world that has been taken from Indigenous people.


Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization and the Politics of Intervention
Ethnography, Jaskiran Dhillon

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“The persistent sensation of being hunted, of monitored movement, of freedom being truncated through institutional caging is central to the daily reality of being an Indigenous youth in Saskatoon. It is not an anomaly. It is not the fictitious creation of a youthful imagination on overdrive. Through their existence as Indigenous youth, these young people constitute a direct threat to an already existing settler social order.” 

Dhillon’s ethnography sharply examines the indigenous-state government of Saskatoon, Canada’s strategy of dispossession and the state’s failure to uphold human and political rights of the indigenous community. We learn that indigenous alliances meant to help indigenous women, lack representation for whom they are advocating: indigenous women. Dhillon, who grew up on Treaty Six Cree Territory in Saskatchewan, details the state’s refusal to look for missing indigenous women and its failure to include indigenous participation in what they deem to be a community in need of reform. Are Canada’s state advocacy organizations merely visible tokens for what they consider invisible problems in their own country?


To read staff bios, please visit our Masthead page here.

Interview with Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

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Joanna Cleary: Thanks so much for your willingness to have a conversation about your writing with us and congratulations on the publication of your most recent collection of poems: The Sea that Beckoned. According to the book’s description, these poems are “an exploration of all those places we’ve sought to call home.” Could you elaborate on that? 

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan: I’ve always yearned for a home. My childhood spent in the Philippines did not feel like home because my mom and dad were always abroad; my mom came home every six months, stayed for six months, then left for six months. Even now, I live in Manila, while my mom lives in Olongapo City, Zambales, which are two different places in the Philippines. I travel for 3-4 hours every weekend to see her. 

Place is very different from home. There are many places I mentioned in The Sea That Beckoned, and yet, I feel I am always searching for home, which is why it is an exploration. My home is a place, but not just a place, it is a place of comfort, where my loved ones are. Home is difficult to articulate, for me. So I thought this search for home might lead somewhere, and it did, to The Sea That Beckoned. Each place I’ve been in is ridden with memory and emotion, and I thought it might be interesting for me and for others, if I were to write it down. 

Maria Prudente: At the end of your poem, “Midway,” you land on this beautiful line: “I am the mango heart left beating in your hands.” How do you approach imagery in your work? Where do you find your inspiration?

AGBF: I am a bit of a mystic when it comes to poems. I believe that the poem itself will lead me to where it wants to go. Once I have the first line, or the first image, or the first rhyme, it will take me on a journey. I have been schooled in the technical aspects of poetry, and can tell what form or meter I should use, but I wouldn’t want to manipulate the poem into what I want. I want what it wants. So the deeper into my schooling about poetry that I get, it seems the more faith I have in the mysticism of poetry. There are times, however, in revision, where I have to tweak, and I suppose that’s where my formal training comes in. But for a poem such as “Midway,” it came fairly easily, without much manipulation. The images of the foreigner is interwoven within, as are my longing to come “home” to the Philippines. I was in New York then, in 2017, and I was torn between a love and a place. I loved New York, but I had already built what I call a home in the Philippines, with my loved ones. And I thought there might be a poem there.

That image of the mango heart seems like generic Philippine imagery, and indeed the mango has been used many times in folklore or even in contemporary literature. But there’s a bit of background with that—my mom owns a mango farm in Balasiw, Zambales, and that’s where I often visited and ate delicious mangoes. I recently sold some mangoes to friends in Manila this past harvest, and they couldn’t help quoting that quote that you mentioned while I was giving them their mangoes.

I think the most artful images are those that have a back story that you don’t necessarily have to mention. I didn’t mention that my mom had a mango farm in the poem, but the remnants of the emotion I feel when it comes to my mango heart is felt because of that background. So I guess write images of what inspires you, even if it’s something as mundane as mangoes on your kitchen table.  

JC: My favourite stanza from “migration story,” a poem in this collection and also published in Eastlit is: 

laying down my back to the bamboo

i would count the leaves 

above my head, dreaming 

of snow, and my dad was bright and alive 

then, there in the hot, humid december,

decades ago before he would die

in a frigid hospital while the snow fell.

In this poem, as in your other poems, you mix such intimate details of individual life with universal images of searching, longing, and home. Can you speak to the parts of The Sea that Beckoned that you found the most personally difficult, and/or personally rewarding, to write about?  

AGBF: I believe that poems crafted from the heart are those most difficult to write, because it comes from a synergy of the heart and the mind, of the intricate connections between emotions and intellect. You sort of have to find a way to be able to mix the two gently. The silly love poems in the latter half of the book were, personally, because the trauma of love for me is still ongoing. The love poems such as “Murasaki,” and “To the Man Who Claimed Me” and “Visit” did not come to me as effortlessly as did the poems of place, such as “Midway” and “Abò,” perhaps because I am always thinking of place, of home, and of my tender regard for these places. 

The poem you mentioned, “migration story” is an ode to my dad, and although he’s been gone for more than 10 years, every time I revisit the story of his life, it’s both difficult and rewarding. It’s the epitome of the synergy I was talking about earlier and of plumbing through loss. 

MP: What advice do you have for writers interested in publishing their collection of work? What was your process for The Sea That Beckoned?

AGBF: My advice for young writers is just to read, read, read and write, write, write. One of my poetry professors always told me never to rush the poem. I always take it to wherever it leads me, and some poems take minutes and some poems take years. The poem always has a mind of its own (a muse, maybe?) and thus it can tell you if it needs to be a sonnet and a pantoum, if it needs to be in rhyme or meter, if it needs to be published now or later. 

As for publishing, I have the same advice: submit submit submit. Never be afraid of rejection, because it will give you the strength to work harder to be accepted. I submitted through the regular submission cycles at Platypus Press, and the editors Michelle Tudor and Peter Barnfather were kind enough to choose my work amongst many others. If I had been afraid of submitting then, The Sea That Beckoned would never have been published. 

MP: We cannot wait to read more from you! Can you tell us what you are currently working on? 


AGBF: I’m working on a second manuscript, for the moment called As Memento, As Imagen, As Woman. It’s a work inspired by mythology and feminism alike, and inspired by the works of Carol Ann Duffy and Louise Glück. In these poems, I give voice to women of myth, from Greco-Roman to Philippine mythology, such as Medusa and Bakunawa, bending these myths along the way to reflect the context of the modern-day Filipina. It still needs a lot of work, but it’s getting there. Thank you for your questions and this interview! 🙂


To buy Angela Gabrielle Fabunan’s book, The Sea That Beckoned, click on the link here.


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Art by Rayji de Guia 

ANGELA GABRIELLE FABUNAN was born in the Philippines and raised in New York City. She graduated from Bowdoin College and attends the University of the Philippines MA Creative Writing Program. In 2016, she was awarded the Carlos Palanca Memorial Foundation Awards for Poetry. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Cordite Poetry Review, Asymptote Journal, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Eastlit Magazine, and New Asian Writing, among others. She is one of the current poetry editors at Inklette Magazine. Her first book of poetry, The Sea That Beckoned, is available from Platypus Press.

 

A Century from Chania

the jaw

un-

 

hooked from

behind the molar

 

and propped on 

the oily kitchen

 

table.

teeth with crown

 

and filling, 

gums and all—&

 

laughter that peels

the yellow wall-

 

paper, unfurling

like a scroll or

 

a map of the island—

vacant eyes, 

 

a mind that

clicks between the

 

incongruous, 

new asphalt, wafts

 

of petroleum—the

carnality of violence 

 

& nudity to store in 

secret backrooms 

 

though the key is

kept within reach. 

 

I am dying 

to know what

 

you thought of

the boy at the 

 

opposite end of the

table, looking

 

in-

to a cavern of 

 

silence & 

hoping

 

to hear

you speak. 


MATT VEKAKIS is a poet, educator & proud Bostonian. His work has been published in Poached Hare and Waccamaw Journal, and will be the feature of a new vocal work to be premiered by the Quorum Boston vocal ensemble in Summer 2019. In his spare time, Matt still likes to wear the medal he received as the runner-up state champion of the 2007 Connecticut Geography Bee. 

To all the boys who think their kisses can be convincing

Hearing requires sound.

Listening doesn’t.

No and Fear
are the most recognizable nonverbal languages

in the world other than love.

This is not a love story. No matter how much
you recite it in whispers, hoping it will tickle

her ear or her heart enough to say it back.

If she does return
I love you
That​ w​ill only grant you permission
to feel reciprocation
not an access pass to jump into positions she didn’t say

she was ready for,

pause.

Silence is not a tease
When arms become armor wrapped around

her breast
this is not a type of foreplay.
This is not your favorite porno or
place where fantasies are recreated
in a picture she doesn’t smile for.

Her eyes are not asking for something
her tongue could easily request if desired.

I repeat silence is not a tease.

When knees bend as a fortress,
become a rooftop over her stomach.
That is not an invitation inside because

it is raining outside.
Wet isn’t consent.

A woman’s body can be a faucet
and not want you in her sink.
If a woman wants you to drink

she will ask if you are thirsty.

pause.

Your thirst doesn’t make her an open

hydrant. If she is not compliant with
your advances that doesn’t mean she’s

playing hard to get.

It means when you get hard you neglect
to listen to everything, her body has been

screaming.

No
Is very easy to comprehend.


FRANKIE A SOTO is an author and poet of Puerto Rican descent by way of New York. In 2016 he was awarded the Multicultural Poet of the year at the National Poetry Awards held in Chicago. He’s featured for the New York Times, ABC News and has traveled all across the country and continues to actively tour at Colleges/Universities. He’s been published in previous publications (HeArt Online, Rust Magazine, Pedestal Magazine) and more. He is a Sports enthusiast, Coffee Lover, Avid Hiker and Adventurer at heart who can’t deny his love for fatherhood and his two kids.

Ink Spots

 

Pens never worry

so why should 

I?  And I 

 

worry about everything.

Except pens.  There 

will always be

 

pens.  Lost ones.  

Found ones.  Expired 

ones.  Disposable ones

 

like a cough.  Like 

pennies.  Like milk.  

Ubiquitous by design

 

in curdling circulation.

Give a pen – 

Take a penny –

 

Like a deliberate 

act, rebellion refines 

its magical margins,

 

alley fights, pencils 

dropped for deuces 

wild, penicillin bartered

 

on the open

market.  Too spoiled 

by unlimited chance,

 

the pen genuflects

to its own

identity, its own

 

penmanship a check

mark for who

springs the convicted,

 

who comes up 

with bail bondsmen 

at this hour.


MARC MEIERKORT is a writer and educator who has taught high school English for the past 19 years.  A graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (B.S.) and National-Louis University (M.A.T.), he currently lives in Chicago’s western suburbs.  He has recently had poems published by Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Roanoke Review, The Main Street Rag, Columbia College Literary Review, and The Nassau Review.