“The purpose of the New York City Poetry Festival has been to liberate poets and their work from the dark corners of bars, bookstore, and coffee shops and their halogen-lit college campuses, and to bring together as many NYC poets as possible, in the bright light of day, to meet, mingle, and collaborate.”
12th STREET: In terms of grief and dealing with grief, what is your understanding of belonging, humor, isolation, and the part they play in the process of healing?
SHADE: I love this question. I see something of poetry in the structure of the question. The juxtaposition of belonging, humor, and isolation—the togetherness of these three—resonates with me as a moving way of lifting ideas right up off the page about what makes us tick. Because for each of us there is belonging alongside isolation, and humor has a special bond between them. Humor can carry us from dark isolation to joyful belonging. Belonging is of joy, and isolation the opposite—isolation is manifest peril, very much so for those who suffer addiction. I grew up in small-town Alabama. We were a mom and four kids whose early years were interrupted by the deep trauma of loss—my dad was killed when I was two. To this day in my family, we hold each other close with the deepset fear that we might lose another of us. All of my childhood, I was laughing and entertaining the others. I longed to make them feel joy. At a very early age, instinctively I recognized that humor distanced the pain. On Christmas in 2017, the loss of my baby brother Matthew, a half brother many years younger, was a loss that unknown to me at the time gathered in its arms all the other losses I’ve experienced and the fear and dread of more. I made expressions of that deepfelt loss and pain in poetry, on monastic retreats, all of which came together in this book Shield the Joyous. And many times I reached for humor in the poems. I would like to say that this process has been one of healing, but I feel so far from healed that I wonder if healing is even possible. Sometimes I think healing is simply to have hope that it is possible to feel less pain, so that I may cope enough to do more work out in the world.
Four poets — Jeanne-Marie Osterman, Janice N. Harrington, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, and Christopher X. Shade — read from their recent books to honor loss and grief, and at the same time celebrate hope and healing.
Join us on Sunday January 24, at 3p PST / 6p EST (see other timezones) for this virtual poetry reading co-hosted by CAGIBI, a journal of poetry and prose, and Paloma Press, a San Francisco Bay Area-based independent literary press publishing poetry, prose, and limited edition books.
Links to Join and Share
The link to register & join is: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/reaching-for-joy
If you’re on Facebook, an invite to share is: https://fb.me/e/8hk6Uv7nF
Order of appearance. Readers may or may not read from the books presented.
Jeanne-Marie Osterman is the author of the book of poems Shellback, forthcoming February 1 from Paloma Press, and There’s a Hum (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in Borderlands, Cathexis Northwest, 45th Parallel Magazine, The Madison Review, and elsewhere.
A finalist for the 2018 Joy Harjo Poetry Award and 2017 Levis Prize in Poetry, she is poetry editor for CAGIBI.
Janice N. Harrington writes poetry and children’s books. She grew up in Alabama and Nebraska, and both those settings, especially rural Alabama, figure largely in her writing. Her first book of poetry, Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone (2007), won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize from BOA Editions and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her second book of poetry, The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home, came out in 2011, and her third book, Primitive: The Art and Life of Horace H. Pippin, appeared in 2016. She is also the winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship for Poetry and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for emerging women writers.
Harrington’s children’s books have won many awards and citations, including a listing among TIME Magazine’s top 10 children’s books and the Ezra Jack Keats Award from the New York Public Library.
Harrington’s poetry appears regularly in American literary magazines. She has worked as a public librarian and now teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Illinois.
Laure-Anne Bosselaar is the author of These Many Rooms (Four Way Books, 2019) and the current Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara.
She is also the author of The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, and of Small Gods of Grief, which won the Isabella Gardner Prize for Poetry. In 2007, Ausable Press published her third poetry collection A New Hunger which the American Library Association selected as Notable Book for 2008. She is also an anthologist, translator, editor and consultant.
Christopher X. Shade is author of the novel The Good Mother of Marseille (2019) and the book of poems Shield the Joyous (2020). He is co-founding editor of Cagibi. His stories and book reviews have appeared widely, and he has won story awards including the 2016 Writers at Work fellowship competition. He teaches fiction and poetry writing at The Writers Studio. Raised in the South, he now lives with his wife in New York City. His debut book of poems Shield the Joyous is about the loss of loved ones to the disease of addiction.
About Our Hosts
Established in 2016, Paloma Press is a San Francisco Bay Area-based independent literary press publishing poetry, prose, and limited edition books. Paloma Press believes in the power of the literary arts, how it can create empathy, bridge divides, change the world. We actively engage in “bayanihan”—a term which encompasses community strengthening and cooperation, and nourishing connections and shared identities. To this end, we have released fundraising chapbooks such as MARAWI, in support of relief efforts in the Southern Philippines; and AFTER IRMA AFTER HARVEY, in support of hurricane-displaced animals in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. As part of the San Francisco Litquake Festival, we proudly curated the wildly successful literary reading, “THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND,” and raised money for the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. In 2018, the fundraising anthology, HUMANITY, was released in support of UNICEF’s Emergency Relief campaigns on the borders of the United States and in Syria. Paloma Press continues to donate a portion of its proceeds to non-profits committed to working for racial justice, animal rights, marginalized communities, and climate change.
CAGIBI is invested in sharing the universal human experiences to be found in works of prose and poetry set within places unfamiliar to readers; thus, our expressed interest in international—or world—literature, and works in translation. CAGIBI is versatile in its purpose and mission to readers and writers. The journal concerns literature in which character conflict, ultimately story, is tied to place. The retreats provide unique and stimulating place experience. In one interpretation, le cagibi is the place at which a writer’s inspiration is rendered into story, or shaped into poem.
SHIELD THE JOYOUS
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020930703
PALOMA PRESS RELEASES SHIELD THE JOYOUS
San Mateo, 2 April 2020 — Paloma Press is pleased to announce the release of Shield the Joyous, a first poetry collection by Christopher X. Shade, author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Good Mother of Marseille.
Established in 2016, PALOMA PRESS is a San Francisco Bay Area-based independent literary press publishing poetry, prose, and limited edition books. Paloma believes in the power of the literary arts, how it can create empathy, bridge divides, change the world. To this end, Paloma has released fundraising books such as Marawi, After Irma After Harvey, and Humanity.
A portion of the proceeds from Shield the Joyous will go to a nonprofit residential treatment program at a women’s center in Pomona, California, called Prototypes. The program aids and supports women, and single moms with their children, in recovery from addiction. It is a lifeline to women who are struggling with addiction and other serious issues.
On Christmas Day in 2017, author Christopher X. Shade’s younger brother was found nonresponsive in rural Alabama, and died that night. With this book of poems, Shade’s journey to better understand addiction and the loss of loved ones draws from both the world of his imagination and, in poignant poetic memoir, from his Alabama roots. This follows his 2019 debut novel The Good Mother of Marseille, its search for belonging through turbulent Marseille streets to a better understanding of ourselves. Shield the Joyous is deeply touching in its vulnerability and often entertaining. Mary and Joseph give 5-year-old Jesus an enormous pair of eyeglasses. Rice Krispies speak of death and resurrection. In North Alabama bottomlands, tall grasses long to protect ducks from hunters. And while paramedics wait in their parked ambulance for the next call, they try on each other’s sunglasses. The book continues the thread of coming to understand ourselves by working to understand others. And a strong message of love and hope transcends what is happening in our families where the disease of addiction pulls us apart and kills our loved ones.
“Meditative as the monastery he temporarily yet frequently inhabited in the writing of this book, Christopher X. Shade’s Shield the Joyous contemplates not only the loss of a brother through addiction but the search for deeper understanding. These poems mourn. They engage in magical thinking, exuding wonderment toward death. They traverse the gulf of detachment to find solace and wisdom in the earth. Eventually the poet is ‘led … to the I, to that inner self to which [he’d] been working [his] way toward all along’.”
—Joseph O. Legaspi, cofounder of Kundiman, and author of Threshold
“Shield the Joyous is a work of great wonderment and love, amidst “the ghostly whirl” of the author’s own grief and loss. His baby brother has died of addiction and there is much to think about — so into the deep quiet of a monastery he goes, where the gloom and majesty of memory and trouble surge and mix alongside the Hudson River and the swirl is able to illuminate, settle, calm. “I was elsewhere \ when my brother died” — but the writer is fully present now, to honor his sibling with rich care and tender thinking and writing that will help anyone who has ever lost anyone, now and forever, amen.”
—Naomi Shihab Nye, the Young People’s Poet Laureate, and author or editor of over 30 volumes, most recently The Tiny Journalist
“Shield the Joyous is a powerful memoir of a man’s journey in coming to terms with his brother’s drug addiction and subsequent death. It is a deeply spiritual book, conceived in a monastery where the author goes on retreats to recover from loss and save himself. It is also a survival guide, lifting us all out of despair. In the sublime manner of W. H. Auden, Shade builds his work on the canonical hours, beautifully combining prose and poetry to express intense emotion.”
—Grace Schulman, author most recently Without a Claim
Christopher X. Shade is author of the novel The Good Mother of Marseille. His stories, poems, and book reviews have appeared widely. He is also co-founder and co-editor of Cagibi, a journal of poetry and prose at cagibilit.com. He teaches poetry and prose writing at The Writers Studio. Raised in the South, he now lives and works in New York City. (Photo by Beowulf Sheehan)