I’m excited to be able to announce that my poem, “Full Buck Moon,” was selected as the winner of Cultural Weekly‘s 2015 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize! You can read the winning poems here, and please do, because they’re phenomenal, and I feel lucky as hell to be among them.
Just wanted to share some recent(-ish?) publications with ya’ll:
Speaking of that last one, the Poetry Superhighway 2015 Poetry Contestis underway. The entry fee is only $1 per poem, and I am one of the three contest judges this year. So…enter, already!
Hope everyone is having an awesome summer so far!
In honor of World Poetry Day, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems. This poem, “The Colonel” by Carolyn Forché, is one of the first contemporary poems I ever read for pleasure. That is to say, outside of a high school English class.
The poem is beautiful in its simple use of language and brutal in its portrayal of a woman coming face to face with the evil that dwells inside the hearts of men. At 16 years-old, I remember being shocked by the poem’s bluntness, by its refusal to shy away from or gloss over the gruesome details. This is a poem that has remained with me for years, burned into my mind, and whenever I am asked for poetry recommendations, Forché is a poet I will send the verse-hungry masses to again and again if they have yet to discover her work.
“The Colonel” can be found in her book, The Country Between Us, which explores in depth the poet’s three visits to El Salvador between 1978 and 1980. If you’re interested in reading a full analysis of the poem, you can find an excellent one here.
What you have heard is true. I was in his house.
His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His
daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the
night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol
on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on
its black cord over the house. On the television
was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles
were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his
hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings
like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of
lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes,
salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed
the country. There was a brief commercial in
Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk of how difficult it had become to govern.
The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel
told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the
table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to
bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on
the table. They were like dried peach halves. There
is no other way to say this. He took one of them in
his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a
water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of
fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone,
tell your people they can go fuck themselves. He
swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held
the last of his wine in the air. Something for your
poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor
caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on
the floor were pressed to the ground.
A quick sound clip of me reading my poem “At 7pm” from The Girl Who Left You.
I’ll admit that coming home after my whirlwind west coast promotional tour for The Girl Who Left You held a sweetness all its own,
I love to perform. But I also love solitude.
Sacramento and Portland are beautiful cities, but I am not a city girl, and being able to drive my little car on all of these moonlit West Virginia country backroads was…literally…a breath of fresh air. Several, in fact.
Thanks to my Six Ft Swells cohorts for hosting me and booking readings at some awesome venues: Luna’s Cafe in Sac (with Crawdad Nelson), Clock Tower Records in Grass Valley (with Bill Gainer), and Three Friends Coffeehouse in downtown Portland (with Matt Amott).
I’m looking forward to booking readings back east and maybe even having the chance to show my local poetry scene (which is pretty non-existent at the present time) what’s what.
If you know of a venue, please, I’m totally open to suggestions. I love coffee shops and art centers, but I don’t mind giving less traditional places a shot. As long as I get to read, and to hear others read, I’m a happy girl.
Six Ft Swells Press is having a poetry contest, and the prize is a signed copy of my book, The Girl Who Left You, and the winning poem will be published on the Six Ft Swells blog and Facebook page for all to see!
All you need to do is pen 20 lines or less about the girl/guy who left you…and the theme is open to interpretation, so go crazy! You can find the official set of guidelines here.
The deadline is midnight, so hurry and get your pens moving!
I am BEYOND EXCITED to announce the official release of my new book, The Girl Who Left You, from California’s notorious Six Ft Swells Press! Here’s what others have to say about it:
Amber Decker’s The Girl Who Left You is a decided departure from the her previous collection, Sweet Relish—where those poems resonated with loss and a vague sense of shadows in the room, The Girl Who Left You is an exquisite cartography of longing, desire, and wanderlust in one’s own hometown. These pieces sing with swagger and are profound in their intimacy, the secret side of oneself that one shows a lover only in the privacy of moonlight, and only in the moments of calm following the storm. The collection attempts to do the very thing that one of its crown jewels—Cafuné—tells us at the outset cannot be done: to translate the untranslatable language of two people, falling into and out of love, who may never use those words, but to whom the knowledge of the words seems almost after the fact; superfluous. Through pastures and gravel pits and airports and Dairy Queens and front porches, we see ourselves, sometimes, though these lovers—their voices echo our own loves, losses, moonlight moments, and booze-soaked nights. I never thought I could feel a collection of poems quite the way I feel The Girl Who Left You—they’re all like a shot of Honey Jack—they burn a little on the way down, but sit with them a moment, and your head will buzz, and all you taste after the fire dies down is smooth and sweet.
-Allie Marini Batts, author, You Might Curse Before You Bless
Amber Decker’s poems drip with love gained and lost, with images you wished you could have captured at the right time, but never managed to remember or write down. Her poems are brutally honest. They punch you in the gut when you least expect it. You are never left without feeling something by the last line. You want to read every poem in this book in one sitting. You will feel everything she felt when she wrote them and wish you could have written them in such an eloquent and chest-pained fashion. The Girl Who Left You will thrill you and break your heart at the same time. Don’t dare pass this one up.
-Kendall A. Bell, editor, Maverick Duck Press and Chantarelle’s Notebook
Amber Decker’s The Girl Who Left You is simultaneously tragic and sexy. The lost potential of youth and a life lived deliberately are laid out in accessible verse like the movie your parents wouldn’t have wanted you to see when you were that age…you couldn’t take your eyes of it, though…just like Amber’s poems…each rich with something that squeezes your heart and tickles that spot in your throat. You want to keep watching…no-one has to know you’re this kind of voyeur…and when you get to the end, your world has changed a bit. You want to hug everyone you’ve ever met…you want a sequel…you want to give Amber a hug because you know these experiences. You want to what you can do to send her a turtle in the mail. These are the poems you want to read.
-Rick Lupert, Poetry Superhighway
I can’t even put into words how proud I am of this collection! I really hope you guys will give it a home on your bookshelf, your night stand or, hell, even on the back of the toilet (because that’s where I keep my favorite books…), and if you do, please consider writing a review over on the Amazon site. I appreciate everyone’s support on this project; it means more than I can say! Thank you!