BCC Press Is the Place for Poetry: And How


April is National Poetry Month, and BCC Press has always been the place to go for great Mormon poetry. Since the founding of the press in 2017, we have led the way in publishing the freshest, most thought-provoking, and just all around best volumes of poetry to be found anywhere in the Mormon world. Or, really, anywhere else too.

Even by the high standards we have set, however, April 2023 is our high-water mark. Our only competition is ourselves, and we have blown ourselves out of the water as we today release three volumes of poetry by three of Mormondom’s most amazing poets. We still can’t believe how awesome we are.

This is what we’ve got for you:

Katabasis: Monologues for the Dead by Heather Harris-Bergevin
Katabasis is Heather’s second volume with BCC Press, following Lawless Women, one of our bestselling books of all time. Heather is like no other poet we have published, or even read. She writes on a large scale, often in monologue form, invoking the thoughts of women from history, myth, and folklore. The term katabasis itself comes from Greek mythology, where it refers to a descent to the underworld to speak with the shades of the dead. Freed from the concerns of their lives, and incapable of hiding the truth, the dead tell shocking and difficult truths to their living interlocutors who may, or may not choose to learn the proffered lessons.

To give you a taste of both her distinctive style and her phenomenal range, we have selected three of Heather’s poems to publish here on the blog. The first one, “Penelope Indecisive” speaks from the perspective of Penelope, Odysseus’s faithful wife in The Odyssey. The second, “Hagar and the Breathing Permit of Hôr,” speaks in the voice of Abraham’s handmaiden and the mother of Ishmael, Hagar. And the third, “Emma, as #23” is a dramatic monologue from Emmas Smith. All of the poems give a voice to women whose opinions were never consulted in the stories about men. That is what Heather does best.

Here, by Darlene Young
Like Heather, Darlene is publishing her second book with BCC Press this month. Her first book, Homespun and Angel Feathers, won the Association for Mormon Letters Award for Poetry in 2019. And Darlene herself received last years’ Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters. In the award citation , Darlene was commended for her editorial work with Dialogue and Segullah, for her creation of the MoPoWriMo Facebook group for Latter-day Saint poets, and for consistently producing “exemplary art that makes use of both the loftiness of our eternal doctrines and our humble and fumbling daily efforts to live up to them.”

In “Here,” Darlene serves up another huge helping of her signature style. Humorous observations about small things that have a way of illustrating profound and elegant truths. Darlene has a keen sense of what is eternal about Mormonism and what is merely fluff that gets in the way of our understanding. And she knows how to invest ordinary things with eternal significance. To sample this style, we have chosen three of our favorite fifty or so poems in the book. “Why I Chose to Become a Parent,” “The Truth Is,” and “My Friend’s Marriage Is Failing, But I’m Not Supposed to Know.”

Infinite Disguises, by Susan Elizabeth Howe
Susan Howe is one of the greatest of the greats in Mormon poetry. She won the Association for Mormon Letters Award for Poetry in 1989, for her poem “Things in the Night Sky,” and in 1997 for her collection Stone Spirits. She was nominated for a third award in 2013 for her collection Salt. And, in 2016, she won the AML Lifetime Achievement Award. And one more thing, she is responsible for teaching BCC Press director Michael Austin everything that he knows about 19th-century British Literature. And that is no small task, as Michael was a very demanding student who thought that he already knew everything. But Susan is a brilliant teacher AND a brilliant poet.

In the introductory poem to Infinite Disguises, “Poem in Which I Try Not to Lie,” Susan channels Emily Dickinson (whose influence can be seen throughout the volume) as she explains the playful nature of poetry, which uses language to reveal and conceal, often simultaneously, as it tells the truth but tells it slant. At the end of the poem, she invites her readers to “join in / the pleasure, the play, to take your own dive / into what might be possible.” These become the themes of the volume: the pleasure of words and the playfulness of poetry—and the infinite possibilities that poetry explores through its infinite disguises. Here we reprint this poem and two others that exemplify all of the pleasure, playfulness, and possibility that make Susan’s poetry so wonderful: “The Tenants of Philosophy” and “Bulletins from Immortality.”

Comments

  1. Congratulations to all three talented women! When I try to view Darlene’s it says, “This document has been removed from Scribd.”

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