Here Are 4 New Phoenix Poetry Collections You Should Read

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Phoenix's literary community has seen some great poets develop their artistic writing. Writers including Alberto Rios and Norman Dubie have affected and inspired the emerging generation. And now, finding poetry — whether on a local stage or a bookstore shelf — is easier than ever.

During 2016, four Valley poets have released collections of their work. Rosemarie Dombrowski, Bill Campana, Patricia C. Murphy, and Josh Rathkamp shared with New Times the inspiration behind their collections and their advice for aspiring writers. Get ready to make room on your nightstand.

The Philosophy of Unclean Things
By Rosemarie Dombrowski

Inspired by a germaphobic environment and a fixation with rituals and avoidance, Dombrowski released her second collection of poetry, The Philosophy of Unclean Things, published by Finishing Line Press. Dombrowski is committed to keep the art form alive by “educating emerging poets” and pushing the evolution of poetry in society. Dombrowski is not only a poetry advocate in the Valley, she is also a senior lecturer at Arizona State University, founder of Rinky Dink Press (a publisher of micro-poetry in micro-zine form), co-founder and host of the Phoenix Poetry Series, poetry editor for Four Chambers, and the host of the monthly literary salon at Valley Bar, Get Lit. She also holds degrees in anthropology and English, and a Ph.D. in American literature.

Her last book, The Book of Emergencies (Five Oaks Press, 2014), was a poetic memoir collection of her experiences with autism, particularly with her nonverbal autistic son, addressing the mystery of the disorder. Her new book addresses the objects of the germaphobe’s fear, dead birds, and admiration for other germaphobes. Dombrowski describes her new collection as “ecological, genealogical, uninhibited (weird), and lyrical.” Dombrowski’s favorite poem from her upcoming collection is “Infidelity,” an autobiographical piece that addresses — literally and metaphorically — the title of the book. “It’s also about our desire for permanence in both love and life, and the inevitable acceptance of the impermanence of both,” she says.

Dombrowski will be reading at Changing Hands Bookstore on Friday, December 2, with Bill Campana. The Philosophy of Unclean Things will be available through Finishing Line Press and Amazon.

Her writing philosophy and advice to aspiring writers is: “Read, write, delete, repeat.”

Poems from Deep South Scottsdale 
By Bill Campana

Bill Campana's witty personality has enchanted more than readers. The two-time National Poetry Slam semifinalist released his third collection of poetry, Poems from Deep South Scottsdale, through Four Chambers Press. He worked on the book from January 2014 to February 2015. “Seven of those months I was unemployed for the first time in 35 years and contemplated an early retirement,” he says. He describes this collection as, “wry, witty, observational, poignant, and unique.” Compared with his other two books, this one is broken into chapters, “subject matter is a little more personal, and explores different topics in greater detail than the first two books,” he says.

Campana abandoned writing for 20 years and came back to it in 1997 when he moved to Phoenix. “I had a real desire to express myself in some form,” he says. For Campana, to be a poet in Phoenix is an honor. He has been hosting weekly events over the years. Recently, he celebrated his 19th anniversary of reading his poetry in public. Campana hosts a poetry open mic, Caffeine Corridor, every month at {9} The gallery on Grand Avenue.

Campana will read with Dombrowski at Changing Hands on Friday, December 2. He will also read at his year-end “best of” closeout at the Caffeine Corridor on Friday, December 9. His book is available for purchase on the Four Chambers website. His earlier books, Said Beauty to the Blues and The Ragtime of Modern Living, (both published by Brick Cave Books) can be purchased on Amazon, through Brick Cave Media, and out of the trunk of his car. Campana is working on his fourth book and plans to write 100 poems in 2017.

His advice to aspiring writers is to “keep notes, observe your surroundings, and get into a rhythm. Don’t be afraid of a blank sheet of paper or a laptop screen. You’ve got to be better than emptiness.”

Read on for new works by the founder of the Superstition Review and a Virginia G. Piper writing fellow.

Hemming Flames 
By Patricia Colleen Murphy

Mental illness, a dysfunctional family, suicide attempts, and a mother on fire are some of the topics Murphy addressed in her first poetry collection. Hemming Flames was released in July 2016 by the Utah State University Press and won the 2016 May Swenson Poetry Award judged by Stephen Dunn. Murphy, a principal lecturer at Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences of Arts, worked on her book for more than 20 years. It serves as an autobiographical collection of poems. She describes her book as "a blend of surrealism and reality.” She beautifully explores pain, dark humor, unstable adolescence, and depression in a genuine and relatable way. “This is not an easy book to read. This is not an easy book to read from. This was not an easy book to write. This was not an easy life to live,” she says, referring to her childhood and to her mother, a woman with mental illness who was interned at more than 30 mental institutions.

Hemming Flames represents something dangerous and impossible, and that has been my situation for a long part of my life,” she says. The name of her thought-provoking book comes from the last two sentences of her book: “Yesterday I invented fire. Today I’m hemming flames.” Her favorite poem from the collection is “Throwing the Proper Tantrums,” which captures the innocence of childhood.

Murphy is also founder of Superstition Review at Arizona State University, where she teaches magazine production. She has been teaching for the last 24 years, and her poems have been published by literary journals including The Iowa Review, Quarterly West and American Poetry Review. You can purchase Murphy’s book online here. Murphy is currently working on a memoir about her family.

Her advice to aspiring writers is to “put in your 10,000 hours. Writing is a very difficult and very serious work.”

A Storm to Close the Door 
By Josh Rathkamp

Award-winning poet Josh Rathkamp is the director of the creative writing program at Mesa Community College. Georgetown Review Press released his second collection of poetry, A Storm to Close the Door, on October 30, and it was selected by Terrance Hayes for the 2016 Georgetown Review Poetry Prize. Rathkamp’s second book was inspired by circumstances surrounding his life. “I became a single father, and was dropped into a contentious legal battle for my right to be a father,” he says. “This book is a reflection on that time in my life.” Among his favorite poems from the book is “Single Father,” which was the inspiration for the whole collection. He finished it more than five years ago, and it sat as a file on his computer for another three years. “Because of its personal and tough nature, I didn’t want to pick it up. I didn’t want to have to read it, or read from it,” he says. The author says he is somehow a little different from who he was while writing it, and he is proud of the book's outcome.

Rathkamp has an MFA in poetry from Arizona State University and an MFA in poetry translation from Drew University. His work has been published by several literary journals, including American Poetry Review. He has been awarded with the Arizona Artist Grant and has been named a Virgina G. Piper Writing Fellow. Currently, he is working on his third book, which he describes as “irreverent and humorous, but still focused on social commentary.”

His work is available for purchase online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Changing Hands.

His advice to aspiring writers is to “keep your butt in the seat and write — the Cheez-Its will still be in the cupboard in an hour or two.”

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect that Dombrowski will no longer hold a book event at Lost Leaf on December 14.

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