Sunday, November 9, 2014

The illustrated Walt Whitman and way behind on the catching up

It's been a few months since I have posted any updates on here,
but it's because I was so busy
doing lots of things that were worthy of updates!

So even if nobody reads these anymore, I am committed to bringing this blog back up to date over the next few weeks. I have lots of posts I want to make and I refuse to cave in and admit that short little soundbytes on Twitter and Facebook are all that matters, nowadays.

My only excuse is that my book was released 3 moths ago and I have been caught up in the whirlwind that I was happy to be carried away by. I've been lucky that it has received a modest amount of attention and incredibly grateful for examples like these:

Devil's Advocate: Orion's 'The Existentialist Cookbook' merges humor and beauty

Then one of ASU's Cronkite School journalist students came along to one of my readings and wrote this article for The Downtown Devil

But here's one of the things I've been meaning to post about:

I recently tagged along with one of my poet friends Jia Oak Baker, to a presentation at the Phoenix Art Museum (in partnership with the University of Arizona Poetry Center) by Allen Crawford who discussed his new book Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself.

From the Tin House Books description "Crawford has turned the original sixty-page poem from Whitman’s 1855 edition into a sprawling 234-page work of art. The handwritten text and illustrations intermingle in a way that’s both surprising and wholly in tune with the spirit of the poem—they’re exuberant, rough, and wild."

 Jia and I were both lucky and excited to win cool limited edition tote bags printed with the above image.

Allen Crawford was engaging and informative and his work is beautiful. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crashing the NewTimes' list of 100 Phoenix Creatives (and Goodreads, too)

"I make art because I want to document the ideas and experiences that I am too
socially inept to tell you about in person."

--from my recent Q & A with the Phoenix New Times after being included in their annual list of 100 Phoenix Creatives. Read the rest at the Jackalope Ranch blog:

I'm currently putting together an official local book launch event with live painting and music for Saturday September 6th. I'll post more about it as details and special guests become clear.

In the meantime, I'm excited to have The Existentialist Cookbook finally show up on Goodreads.
I will probably do a book giveaway over there, sooner or later. Here is that link, in case you'd like to add it to your virtual shelves:

If you're looking for a bargain, Small Press Distribution has an offer for 40% off my book (or any of their other titles), through this August "shelfie" promo. Here are the specifics:

If you're camera-shy, you can even stay out of the pic. Here is the photo I am going to use:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Three (now, four) Poems from my co-host Bill Campana's new book "Said Beauty To The Blues"

So all of your friends bought the latest Mary Oliver or James Franco books because that's what's always in stock on the Barnes & Noble shelves...but you'd like something under the mainstream radar. Something outside the curriculum that can be your secret.

One of my co-hosts for the Caffeine Corridor Poetry Series Bill Campana will be having an unofficial and unauthorized book launch reading Wednesday night at Glendale Community College, so I asked his permission to post a few sample poems from his book to give people a glimpse into the peculiar way he sees the world.

folk poem #2 / joint custody

every saturday morning
a man who looks like he might someday
drown his four-year old son
in one of the nearby irrigation canals
comes into the coffee shop
with a four-year old boy
who looks like he is ready
to begin swimming lessons

light and darkness but mostly darkness and then light again

one hand holds a gun to my head
the other fills out the self addressed stamped envelope
and the suicide forms

when i die the birds will sing
the same songs they sing now
not one note bluer

if i were a blind man i would stir
the cocktail with a white cane swizzle stick
wander into a wine flavored blizzard

flashes of light on the rims of my eyes
count darkness as one
sleep walk into the void

hold a gun to the hand that holds the pen
write until the entire page is black
edit until the entire page is white

bon voyage

only a diehard hypochondriac
would trade in his car
for a used ambulance

then while suffering
the most debilitating case
of buyer's remorse

blame the chip
in the windshield
on a kidney stone


at the library
looking at a book
about the sun

a man walks by
carrying a book
about the moon

the librarian

But his poems have to be heard to be believed,
so if you're in the neighborhood on Wednesday Sept. 20th
come to the Free Association Open Mic Poetry Series
at Glendale Community College
with special featured readers Bill Campana & Sara Dobie Bauer

Glendale Community College (in Student Union room 104)
6000 W. Olive Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85302

FREE and open to the public
open mic starts at 7pm

Campus Map for where to PARK and where to find the Student Union:

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Book Is Officially OUT NOW - The Existentialist Cookbook at an Online retailer near your wi-fi

"Reading The Existentialist Cookbook is like attending a raucous dinner party of the imagination."
~Denise Duhamel

"This debut collection offers the unexpected, looking at life in Technicolor and tie-dye. These poems are smart, funny, and poignant."
~Kelli Russell Agodon

"Shawnte Orion's The Existentialist Cookbook is a barrel-ride of styles down swirling rapids."
~Matt Mason

I got this beautiful box of books this week and I'm not even going to pretend that I was too cool to COMPLETELY FREAK OUT but secretly and silently within my own head, of course.

Here is the official page at the NYQBooks website with all of the info, blurbs, availability and ordering info (links to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's, Small Press Distribution, etc).

Hopefully it will show up on Goodreads soon!

I can't thank Editor Raymond Hammond and NYQBooks enough for taking so much care to make these turn out more perfect than I could have hoped. Carol Roque's cover art looks even more fantastic in real life.

Locally, I will be putting together a Book Launch event at {9} The Gallery on Saturday evening, September 6th. More on that as details are confirmed.

It was more than a decade in the making and there were several times when I doubted that it would ever come together. But I am incredibly fortunate that it ended up in NYQ's hands and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Thanks to the hundreds of people who have shown interest and support along the way. Most of you don't even know how much you meant to me at certain points.

So I am excited and proud to be able to take this out for some readings in other cities and states (looks like California's Long Beach Poetry Festival will be my first outing on October 18th).
I hope this book makes lots of new friends out there in the world.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blurb Week: Matt Mason (3 of 3)

Blurb Week comes to a close with this third and final installment:

Shawnte Orion's The Existentialist Cookbook is a barrel-ride of styles down swirling rapids. His poems switch voices like a chameleon switches shades (then they make fun of the chameleon just as you are thinking that), as he writes poems listed as found poems, as not-yet-written by other poets poems, as poems that come across like a party of different personalities in his head where you get a title like "Kentucky Freud Chicken" mixed with botany lessons mixed with puns mixed with lines so lovely they leave you reading slowly so as not to miss bits like: "The wind looks for sailboats, but finds/each miniscule opening/between the buttons of your/brand new jacket." Get your life jacket or water wings ready. Dive in.

Matt Mason, author of The Baby That Ate Cincinnati

Matt Mason is officially an International Man Of Mystery, so this is the one that took the longest to chase down. The State Department sent him off to Botswana for awhile to teach slam poetry workshops (or at least that's the cover story that we're supposed to believe).

But I was willing to wait because it was important for me to have Matt involved. About seven years ago, I was scheduled to open for him when he came to Phoenix to do a workshop and reading at The Paper Heart. I knew nothing about him at the time, but he was awesome and he probably blew me off the stage and I immediately became a fan.

The way he was able to blend the craft of his writing into memorable performances left a great impression on me. It gave me something to strive for in my own way and it certainly helped shape many of the poems in The Existentialist Cookbook.

After the show we traded chapbooks and one of the ones he gave me was Mistranslating Neruda which was a beautiful production from Diagram/New Michigan Press (seriously, they do wonderful work over there and their catalog is impressive). It's Mason's homage to Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. A translation from someone who doesn't speak Spanish. I've probably purchased about 6 or 7 copies of this over the years, because I often give mine away if someone seems interested.

I have also loved both of his full length collections, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati (Stephen F. Austin University Press) and Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know (The Backwaters Press). 

And he is likely the only poet I have met who has actually WON a Pushcart Prize (for this poem below).

If you missed my other two Blurb Week posts on Kellli Russell Agodon and Denise Duhamel
just scroll back a few posts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Blurb Week: Denise Duhamel (2 of 3)

Now for the second installment in my Blurb Week series:

Reading The Existentialist Cookbook is like attending a raucous dinner party of the imagination. Host Shawnte Orion lets you know right away that the usual two off-limit topics—politics and religion—don't apply at this gathering. The Existentialist Cookbook is smart, pun-filled; it's full of serious wordplay, pop culture, and inventive persona. This fusion poetry cuisine takes on haiku, haibun, and KFC. The Existentialist Cookbook is a delightful concoction. Bon appetit!
Denise Duhamel, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist for Blowout

I don't even remember how I first discovered Denise Duhamel's book Kinky, which was an entire collection of her Barbie poems. But I immediately fell in love with it. I was captivated by how the poems were able to explore complex grown-up issues, through the simplicity of common childhood toys. One of those books that always makes a great gift.

Buddhist Barbie

In the 5th century B.C.
an Indian philosopher
Gautama teaches “All is emptiness” 
and “There is no self.” 
In the 20th century A.D.
Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man 
with such a belly could pose, 
smiling, and without a shirt.
From Kinky, Orchises Press, 1997

That book is also a great source of inspiration for the way it came about.
Check this interview excerpt from an issue #24 of Rattle:

Alan Fox: Your book, Kinky, was rejected, what was it, fifty-three times?

Duhamel: It sure was, yes.
...And now it's my best-selling book. So it's one of those lessons to writers... Keep knocking on doors.
I think the book was probably done in '92, maybe '91. And it came out in '97.

Fox: Did that bother you, to get it back time after time after time?

Duhamel: Yes (laughs). Yes, I have to say it did. It was horrible. It was awful.

Fox: What gave you continued confidence in it?

Duhamel: I think at some point it just turned into stubborn maniacal behavior (laughs), more than confidence.

One time at a local writing conference, I was able to take a workshop from her and she is even better in person. She told us how much of her comedic sensibilities came from a terrible Communications Professor that she once had, named Denis Leary who made the class focus on helping his fledgling stand-up career. I grew up watching all of those "Live from The Improv" type of shows and followed the careers of certain stand-up comedians like baseball all-stars. So we had some common background and I felt like I understood where she was coming from a little bit.

I thought her most recent book Blowout was her best yet. Click here for the excellent beginning poem from that collection. Her craft and her popularity seem to be at all-time highs (one of her poems was even quoted in the television series Breaking Bad). I believe she's had work included in about 9 volumes of the annual Best American Poetry anthologies and she was even chosen as the Guest Editor for the 2013 edition.

Official Cover Art for The Existentialist Cookbook

I couldn't be more in love with the official cover art for the new book:

It's by artist Carol Roque and I stumbled onto it when she had an exhibit 

I immediately fell in love with it and it seemed ridiculously appropriate on every level.