Say Hello to Kissing the World Goodbye

Kissing the World Goodbye, has just been tossed into the world today by Unsolicited Press! I’ve told friends and family that of all the books I’ve written so far, I’m most nervous about Kissing the World Goodbye because it is a memoir. Memoir invites the reader into the mind of the author and that’s a level of intimacy that I find a bit uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable can be a good thing. In stepping out of our comfort zone, we grow. I know I did while writing this book. 

Given that most of my published work has been in poetry, I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between poetry and memoir, often wondering, how are they alike and how are they different? I’ve come to the conclusion that poetry and memoir are close, first cousins for they share the same grandparents: language and truth. They love each other and sometimes even raid each other’s closets to find just the right way to dress for a specific moment. I have a hunch that memoir steals more from poetry than poetry from memoir, but I’m not sure. I do know that in Kissing the World Goodbye you will sometimes discover them in the same room together. Other times, memoir hangs out by herself or just the faintest whiff of poetry lingers on her clothes.

For instance, I was trying to write a poem about my brother but it just wasn’t working. I abandoned the poem, salvaged one phrase—a piping of watery pearls—and ended up writing “Measured Thoughts On Cooking” which is one of the longer essays in the book.

While working on another essay, “My Unhealthy Infatuation with Elke Summer,” I was struggling to describe the grief that barged into our bodies following my father’s death. Grief, of course, feels uncontainable. It can’t be pinned down, and yet, a haibun crept in to help capture some of these feelings. (A haibun is a poetry form that combines a haiku at the end of a prose piece.) I’m grateful to that small but mighty haiku:

propping open door
husband’s brown shoe welcomes her
a lost wing, waiting

I think quite highly of poetry and believe (probably unrealistically so) that poetry can do practically anything. But while writing Kissing the World Goodbye, I learned that I had to give poetry some nights off while I went out with memoir.

I’m not the only one who considers the relationship between memoir and poetry. Poet Tracy K. Smith, who also wrote a stunning memoir, Ordinary Light, details some of her thoughts on this in an article, “What Memoir Can Do that Poetry Can’t” (published back in 2015 in Lit Hub). Among other things, she concludes that prose is nosey. “It wants to know all manner of things a poem would, sensing, never ask: What do you think was the effect of that event? What did you come away from it thinking? What did you do? What was the world doing while this was happening? What did you and everyone else eat?”

Indeed! What did you and everyone else eat?! Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when, more than half-way through pulling this book together, I realized how often eating, drinking, and cooking were elbowing their way to the table of this book. After all, food preserves a memory. So after each of the nineteen pieces in Kissing the World Goodbye, you’ll find a recipe that relates to what you’ve just read.

If you live in the Kalamazoo area, I invite you to stop by one of our three independent bookstores—Michigan News AgencyKazoo Books, and This is a bookstore/Bookbug—and say “Hello” to Kissing the World Goodbye. (It’s also available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.)

Bon appetit!

The Desperately Ordinary

My sister epitomizes this quote by Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Right now, she’s doing her bits of goodness by making soap. You can read about it in Encore Magazine, while enjoying the gorgeous photos taken by Brian Powers. This essay is part of my forthcoming book, Kissing the World Goodbye, a collection of essays, recipes, and more that will be published by Unsolicited Press in March of 2022.

My sister makes numerous appearances throughout the book, so if you enjoy this piece, you’ll want to get your hands on Kissing the World Goodbye. Until then, I’ll leave you with a collage of some of my sister’s work and photo of her cutting pumpkin soap.

Keep scrubbing those hands with soap!

Are you ready? Heaven is almost here.

A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven descends to earthly bookstores this June. Unsolicited Press, a small and amazing press based out of Portland, Oregon, has been shepherding the book.

A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven is not so much concerned with moving earth towards heaven, as it is with yanking heaven to earth. Even amidst our haste, failures, distractions, and worries, it’s all within reach. The poems invite us to see the mystery in the every day, and revel in the wonders of such things as moths, dandelions, dogs, and beer. 

These poems serve as a gateway to the inner journey. They remind us we are one holy family cut from the same cloth, spiritual explorers of this beautiful, broken world. This collection urges us to pay attention and get to work, “while we still have time to build.”  

If you live in Michigan (or you enjoy driving across the country), stop by Texas Corners Brewing Company on Monday, June 10th from 4:30-6 p.m. and celebrate the book launch with us! I can’t think of a better place to celebrate the arrival of A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven than at Texas Corners Brewing Company, a former church turned farm-to-table restaurant that serves up some heavenly (and devilish) craft beers and ciders. Books will be available for purchase from Michigan News Agency.

Whether you think you’re ready or not, heaven is ready for you.

Texas Corners Brewing Company



Wrangling Black History

Since writing Johnny Appleseed: The Slice and Times of John Chapman, some of the most interesting people have cropped up in my life. If it wasn’t for Johnny, I doubt our paths would have crossed.

One person intrigued me so much I just had to write about him: Mr. Murphy Darden. I’m thrilled that Encore Magazine has published “Wrangling Black History” as their February feature story and that this most deserving man graces the cover. Yee-haw! You can wrangle up your own copy of Encore from one of these Southwest Michigan locations, or read it on-line, here. Enjoy Brian K. Power’s stunning photography that accompanies the article and learn about a man who Encore’s editor Marie Lee calls “one of Kalamazoo’s most interesting residents.” (Can you spot the Johnny Appleseed connection? Hint: Enoch & Deborah Harris.)

Here’s Johnny!

It’s like two books in one: a book of poetry that encompasses America’s past through the vehicle of Johnny Appleseed. As he moves through the country sowing his seeds, the American landscape, too, evolves, warts and all. The lives of pioneers and settlers, the displacement of Native Americans, slavery, the Pony Express right up to the internet. It’s such an accomplishment. And the end notes are as entertaining as the poetry. If history had been taught like this, I would have come to it much earlier.” ~Elizabeth Kerlikowske, author of Chain of Lakes, the chapbook, Last Hula, (winner of the 2013 Standing Rock Chapbook Competition), and Art Speaks, a collaboration with artist Mary Hatch

The beautiful cover art is by Ladislav Hanka. “Colony Farm Orchard Script” is a drawing over hand-tinted paper.

To find out more about Johnny Appleseed: The Slice and Times of John Chapman, and where it’s available for purchase, check out the Book page within Clark’s site.

Looking to purchase this book for a library, bookstore, or school? Contact Shabda Press for special discounts.