Pine State Spring 2023 Books as Resolutions
a showcase of our spring 2023 titles with resolutions to go with each one. Back to our scheduled programming of publicity tips & tricks in 2023! See you there!
Forgive me this end of 2022, Pine State Publicity promotion, but it is in fact, our jobs. I have so many exciting newsletters and interviews coming at you in 2023. But for now, let me talk to you about our spring books. Look at our little bookseller & librarian postcard designed by Zoe! I’m obsessed. If you would like to review any of the following books, or interview the authors, request a copy!
Here’s what you need to know about the Spring 2023 Pine State books.
If you’ve ever cleaned out a closet, or you’ve known someone to keep a secret to their grave (I could simply not control myself)—Donna Spruijt-Metz debut poetry collection General Release from the Beginning of the World is for you. It’s an artifact collection as well, a piecing together. For those of you trying to analyze the crime scene maps in the background of Criminal Minds or Mind Hunter, you will like the way that Donna tries to put to rest her father’s suicide and the questions that have haunted her about it. Those questions that her mother refused to answer, or even entertain. And the closet of her mother’s which she must then clean out—poetry collection as estate sale. Donna recently did the Oldster questionnaire and her love of skinny jeans, her fabulous mermaid hair, and her exuberant, infectious personality really shine through. I highly encourage you to read it and then buy her book. The incomparable Camille Dungy wrote about it for Orion as well.
RESOLUTION: Metaphorically clean out your closets, so your loved ones won’t have to
Metabolics reminds me of that time I slept with a textbook under my pillow in hopes that it would osmosis into my brain and I wouldn’t have to fail calculus. Except, Metabolics by Jessica E. Johnson actually did organically seep into my skin. It’s wholly absorbing. A book length poem, complete with diagrams and a single speaker–a mother and teacher–trying to control their body, ancestral fears, rage for climate catastrophe, amidst the complex interfaces and intersections of the digital and natural world. Often in tension, but still speaking to alternating selves–this robot mother, witness mother, teacher mother, bodied mother, mother in production, and m(other), creates a poem that scatterplots through conjunction towards wild metamorphosis. A reviewer asked me for a list of my favorite lines, and I was like—do you want my nine Google docs pages, or can I send you like four quotes? This collection has staying power. Originally slated for February, it will be at AWP with Acre Books, and be released in March.
RESOLUTION: Turn off your smartwatch, start a morning routine, and get your screen time down, so your poetry time can go up
Gayle Brandeis a national gem. People often asked me in graduate school how (& why) I wrote about such intimate moments in my life, or vulnerable moments, I suppose. This is the same question I always ask when I read Gayle’s writing. She’s so unafraid to tell her truth, giving permission to others to tell theirs. But what I think sets Gayle apart from other creative nonfiction writers is what the Publishers Weekly review said of Drawing Breath said, “Captivating from the start, this evokes the universal from the intimately specific.” Gayle has gone viral a significant amount of times, and it’s because she makes the everyday bumps in our lives, perhaps the secrets we keep from our circles until they overwhelm us (divorce? affairs? birth trauma? our mothers and mother-in-laws?), and makes them so relatable. She isn’t holding back some part of herself to appear a certain way on the page, and she isn’t trauma dumping. She’s just being, just breathing. It’s always clear to me that Gayle writes whatever she’s working on with her whole heart, and the essays collected in Drawing Breath essays on writing, the body and loss over twenty years of writing (plus the craft expertise, COME ON), she mends her heart through writing, and can mend ours a little bit too.
RESOLUTION: Try a daily breathing exercise (and maybe do a little daily kitchen dance too)
There’s something very human about searching through the myths that made us. We want to find mirrors, we want to understand our lineages—blood and experiences and hurdles and reasonings. Who & what came before are questions we’re constantly asking. Emily Stoddard’s debut collection, Divination with a Human Heart Attached explores the daughter of Peter (the Apostle in Christian traditions), Petronilla. What I love about this collection is that it has a fierce urgency, while it explores a thousands year old story. Emily asks questions through Petronilla’s story that elevate the very basic questions I’ve always thought about my own upbringing in Catholicism. But to be clear, this book is also a reckoning with the line between invention and inheritance—a blurry line at that, and is for believers and nonbelievers alike. (See Marie Howe’s response about her book Magdalene here).
As Emily puts it, “Here’s the so-called first father of this spiritual tradition, and his prayer for his daughter is that her lineage ends. How does that prayer echo, even now, in the way the Catholic church views women? What was Peter hoping to ignore, avoid, or exclude with this prayer? Here’s the first daughter of the church, and here’s her story ending.”
Through investigating a voice that’s been lost to myth and tradition, Emily is in conversation backwards, presently, and forwards. Fans of A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Gríofa will find Emily’s debut collection equally affecting.
RESOLUTION: Follow one of your obsessions through its lineage.
If you want to know the book that Zoe and I have had the most conversations about, that’s Dear Outsiders by Jenny Sadre-Orafai. It’s like of She sells seashells & Swamplandia had a poetry baby. It’s got so many of our favorite things: tourists vs. insiders, siblings, isolation and longing, transience, adolescence, and it’s so narrative that I hesitate to relegate it to poetry because I think that will stop people who would love this book. If you’re looking for something eclectic with fun house edges, but tender and a little bit sad, you simply have to read this collection. This is a collection for any kid who got lost in a department store when they themselves were hiding in a rack of dresses, small enough that their head never reached above the structure’s sight lines. It’s the poetry collection that could turn people who say, “Oh, I don’t like poetry.” Okay … well you’ll like this, you weirdo.
RESOLUTION: Take a drive without a map.
The book that ruined me in 2022 was Eugenia Leigh’s Bianca. When I say it will fuck you up, imagine me pronouncing every syllable of that word. I came alive reading this sophomore collection. Every emotion sprang from my body; I gasped, I clapped, I went bug-eyed, and the best part of it is that I couldn’t escape it. I desperately wanted to keep reading it, Leigh’s poems are hungry and refuse to be told no. I remember writing Eugenia an email after I read it and saying, I didn’t realize how much rage I had about motherhood until I read this book. And she wrote back to tell me that her editor asked her to take out most of the times she used the word rage. She did not need it—these poems are a blaze in every single way. You can read an excerpted poem in The Atlantic and join her in conversation with Stephanie Foo at The Strand on March 22.
RESOLUTION: Burn whatever isn’t serving you down.
Ah yes, Lessons and Carols by John West, the book I texted Tory about. So, since most of you don’t know me in real life, you should know that I only text my best friend Tory about books that I think are top, top, top because she has smartie pants taste and I know most writing doesn’t impress her. (No offense! But seriously!). The writing in John West’s debut memoir—which somehow bridges a Maggie Nelson style with spiritual questioning, tender masculinity, one thread of new fatherhood and another on past addiction & recovery, plus existing as queer rather than queer as storyline—when I tell you I just stared off into the distance of my office window for ten minutes trying to figure out a way to say how delicate and moving the sentences are in this book. This is a writers book, it will make you want to eat the sentences and write better sentences. Readers of Jenny Offill, Jamie Quatro, Shane McCrae will hold this book tight to their chests when they finish.
[side note, this book does have some triggering stuff, but I think the writing about suicidal ideation and about the fluctuation between sad and satisfied (content?) that John works through on the page are things I’ve never seen written like this before, with nuance that brings people in who haven’t had these experiences.]
RESOLUTION: Try to describe a tradition you had growing up for an outsider. (is this a writing prompt? maybe).
A book of epiphanies, that’s what Rashi Rohatgi’s Sita in Exile is. This novella made me want to take a lot of walks to spend time observing and noticing things. It’s a novella response to the Rāmāyana, and its scenes are woven together so seamlessly that it feels like drifting through a snow bank. Like I sort of imagine this is the dream before hypothermia puts you to sleep. Set in Northern Europe (the arctic), Sita is an Indian American transplant attempting to assimilate alongside her husband who finds it much easier than her. She gets pregnant, there’s some myth magic (magic feels like not the right word here because it’s part of the real fabric of the real story in a way that makes magic feel trivial here), and it’s about holding yourself back, forgiving yourself, allowing yourself, and facing reality. Sita’s mind is an unsettling interior space, a place I found my own self struggle to acclimate with in a way that made the reading experience unique. I think Rashi Rohatgi is a writer to watch, and I’ll read whatever she writes next—it reminded me a little bit of The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Sita in Exile is its own category of book, breaking any boundaries you believed fiction to have.
RESOLUTION: Read a few books that you aren’t the target audience for.
Zoe calls this book “GIRL YOUNG HOT ALIVE.” I have yet to read a Perennial Press book that I didn’t love. Hemorrhaging Want & Water is no exception. Neon lights, city once and twice, erotic labor, violence, desire as a geography, Ellie Swenson calls it “a field guide on self awareness.”
RESOLUTION: Do an exercise that helps you stop being ashamed of your stains.
We are doing publicity for our first ever middle grade book this spring and it’s because I was so moved by Jane Kuo’s two novels-in-verse that I just … had to do it? Land of Broken Promises is not really a follow-up, but a continuing of Anna’s story In the Beautiful Country. I love Anna’s vast inner world, her critical analysis of what she learned in school, the way she understands her family’s precarious immigration status, and the idea that parents will live a “little life” in order to give their children a “bigger life.” The family is book is one of my favorite families in literature, Anna is smart and funny and clever, and this book explores what I think is so under explored in children’s literature and that is, childhood can be a lonely terrain. It can feel vast and deserted. And there can still be hope there too.
I am desperate to get this books in the hands of adult readers too, if you’re interested, I’d love to send you a copy to consider for adult media.
RESOLUTION: Treat the children you know like fully-formed people with ideas and inner sanctuaries, and not people-in-training, or half-formed almosts.
And we’re also working on Thick City by Katie Jean Shinkle with Bull City Press. FEBRUARY RELEASE! It’s a slim 52-pager that is Carmen Maria Machado body horror meets the craft funkies of Sabrina Orah Mark, in a sort of Megan Milks’ Slug world. Katie Jean Shinkle is the queen of chapbooks, and you can read two excerpts from this one at Lambda Literary and Fugue Journal. It’s email@example.com if you want to request this one.
One of my goals for 2023 is to read more poetry so this is super helpful! Thank you!
A lot of these are making it to my reading list. They're amazing.