Monthly Archives: September 2012

Poetry Spotlight – Rane Arroyo

I’ve been trying to get to some of the books on my shelves that I have had for awhile, and haven’t had a chance to read. I picked up The Portable Famine, by Rane Arroyo, who passed away in 2010. The book won the 2004 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and was published on BkMk Press.

Below is a poem The Immigrants (Winter Wear)  that for me really captures his vibrant voice of the displaced Midwest-based poet of Puerto Rican heritage.

– Martin Ott


The Immigrants (Winter Wear)


They are, at first, scared of snowmen.

of the snow and the white men

so easily born between the hands of


children veiled in breaths and winter wear.

The immigrants worry about bodies

built without concerns for their souls,


about this strange country in which food

is so plentiful that carrots are used

for noses. White pillars are made by


tall chimneys. No wonder that furry

Santa Claus has replaced Jesus of

the desert: boots needed, as are hats


and vague drinks like vodka or gin. Rum

is too allied with the sun and the sugar

of any rotting calendar. This freezing


is a funeral before there is a corpse.

Snowballs take on the shape of baby skulls.

Snow angels need no documentations.


Enough, it’s over: back to thawing kitchens

full of chiles and recipes requiring all

that won’t grow in this version of tundra.


Seal up the goddamn windows with

steam, says an old woman, this is no cruise,

there is nothing to see. Crows fly across


the scars of ice ages, period marks desperate

for sentences. Language will be learned

and the unlearning is one storm at a time.


Nostalgia is seen as being ungrateful for

the blessings of the cold. Citizens walk on

water, here, while it’s thick ice, a miracle.


Snowmen melt without proper funerals as

immigrants are robbed of years of light.

Amigos, say snowflake, snowplow, snow-blind.

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Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

Amazon on the Brain

This week, I have had Amazon on the brain for a number of reasons. I have had conversations with a book editor discussing the merits of listing a new poetry book exclusively on Amazon vs. other methods. Then, the next day I had a similar conversation with my manager, who is trying to convince me to give Amazon exclusive one-year rights to my forthcoming novel Interrogator’s Notebook.

Of course, I feel like a hypocrite. I swore off using Amazon for almost a year, and even trumpeted the merits of local bookstores in this very blog. And now as an author looking at his first three books coming out this fall, in each case Amazon has become the most important distributor for my work.

To make matters more complicated, Amazon is now planning for the future with more warehouses and quicker delivery. Is Amazon helping the lesser-known writer with a more even playing field for the digital distribution and ownership of their work? Or are they in the middle of creating a book churning and chucking apparatus that will later flex its muscles in ways we cannot imagine? Or both?

Martin Ott

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Filed under Fiction, Poetry, Publishing

Sex as a Way to Get to Know Your Characters

When a friend forwarded a link  from Lit Reactor on Writing About Sex, I read it eagerly. It contained a few good tips on ways not to embarrass yourself while in the act of writing about the act.

However, the same night, I found myself putting the finishing touches on a sex scene in a novel, and I thought about it more deeply. Why did I have this scene in the book?

Unless the plot hinges on it – which it sometimes does in the case of infidelity or sexual obsession – I realized that a sex scene provides insight into your characters, and what they are like in a primal and, sometimes, vulnerable moment.

Sex is an intimate way for you and your readers to get to know your characters.

Martin Ott

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Filed under Uncategorized, Writing Tips