A list of our 2018 Publications (and links to buy)

We had a busy year!

Swimming with Elephants Publications produced several books during 2018. Review this years publications and get your hands on them before we embark on our publications for 2019.

All our books are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BookWorks Albuquerque, and can be ordered by Independent Bookstores around the world.

Parade: A Swimming with Elephants Publications Anthology 2018

Get your hands on Swimming with Elephants Publications 2018 Anthology, Parade, featuring the poetry of Kevin BargerSaraEve FerminWil GibsonJessica Helen LopezMatthew BrownMaxine Peseke and so many more!

Only $7.95 and free shipping with Amazon Prime. Make great gifts and are a fine sampling of the poets Swimming with Elephants represents.

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La Diáspora de un Aztlán norteño:: MiChicanidad Creativity as Witnessed in Bilingual Ethno-Poetry and Photography 

“La Diáspora de un Aztlán norteño” details the unique ‘MiChicanidad’ experience of life on the border in Michigan. This is another definition of Aztlán, as seen on a Northern Border, this time between Canada and Southwest Detroit’s predominantly Mexican American neighborhood. Growth of this Spanish speaking barrio began in the earlier part of the 20th Century due to the rise of migrant labor and employment at factories. Later, the area prospered as those immigrants began to choose to stay. Their addition to the interpretation of life on the border, as well as the community’s vibrant nature, is unparalleled especially as it is defined through creativity.

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Rock Paper Scissors

“…this collection carries both the beauty of human resilience and the searing pain of postatomic burning carnage. The poetry, like hope, is an obstinate and sturdy survivor, for ‘what could i do but write songs.’ These verses often push the envelope, asking questions that make more sense than our grammar. ‘are you out there in the stealth night on the edge of blue? listening/ are you loving me for sending you this fix of heartbreak/ slid down metal, taut and wound. electric. are you?’…haunting, resonant odes and the rhythmic power of promises and truth, poems spread across Hiroshima and Barcelona, Laos and Albuquerque. These poems bring the world into a familial embrace, but spit out the naked power of truth, both personal and political, as if it were a well-chewed chicken bone, gnawed raw. Through it all, this mother-daughter poetic duo reminds us that, in the beauty of human hope, ‘nothing sacred can be lost.’”

-Carmen Tafolla, State Poet Laureate of Texas

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I Bloomed a Resistance From My Mouth

“Mercedez Holtry’s poetry speaks to the origin stories of her Chican@ and Mestiz@ people. It is a mixed bag of mixed blood and the celebratory songs of family, culture and the history of the la tierra that she has blossomed from. Her poems are resistance and resilience. She is a fierce page poet warrior who also casts her spells from the stage, as a true bruja does. Oppressors beware. Holtry mixes up curses, prayers and incantations with her poetic brew. This is a poet who uses her mas palabras for healing and retribution. Her collection de poesia es muy firme, a true reckoning of what is to come from a generation of woke poets who have much to say and aren’t afraid to say it. ”

-Jessica Helen Lopez, ABQ Poet Laureate, Emeritus and Author of the award winning book

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Pina Bausch

Originally written in french by Werner Lambersy, this short book serves as an homage to Pina Bausch, an extraordinary modern dancer. This English translation, by Jack Hirschman, serves as a continued remembrance to not only an amazing modern dancer but the poet whom she inspired.

 

 

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bliss in die/unbinging the underglow

“Bassam writes poems that feel like slow motion car crashes where, at every turn, you’re also reassured that it’s ok to feel like this, like even if nothing is going to be ok, there is strength to hold like a parking brake, like the axis of a planet. Bassam’s words are a gut punch, a pull to beating heart chest, a hand that holds yours in the bleak. One senses that the act of poetry for Bassam is truly one of survival. What a strength it takes to show our deepest insecurities, to not ask for forgiveness. To not be the hero of your own story. Bassam is a bright non binary voice. One that asks not for acceptance, but simply is, and tells the stories of body and mind that is so intimate and accessible to those of us who endlessly battle with our shapes, our selves. What a gift to give.”

—Charlie Petch, Spoken Word Artist, Playwright, Musician

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BEKIMI I NËNËS / A Mother’s Blessing 

Within these pages, entitled “Bekimi I Nënës, A Mother’s Blessing,” Jack Hirschman and Idlir Azizaj present a translation of Jusef Gërvalla’s poetry. This is the first time this collection, originally published by the Naim Frashëri Publishing House, in Tirana, Albania in 1983, is translated in the English Language. In 1983, a year after the original publication in his native Kosovo Albanian, Jusuf Gërvalla, his brother Bardhosh, and comrade Kadri Zeka were allegedly murdered by the Serbian secret service in their exile in Germany. Gërvalla was known as a journalist and a musician as well as a poet, novelist, and founder of the Marxist-Leninist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo. For the first time, Jusuf Gërvalla’s poetry, including selections from his three books: They Fly and Fall, Green Stork, and Sacred Marks, can be shared by the english speaking population.

Unease at Rest

“Unease at Rest” is an ‘ugly butterfly’, anatomized. It is the death’s-head moth pinning itself under glass. Every poem is another marking on the insect’s back, resembling a human skull. Each one steadfastly reminds its author that it isn’t, in fact, a skull. But each feels about that heavy. In this grossly gorgeous collection, Gibson doesn’t wrestle or toss away the bones on his back. He quietly, humbly carries them. Wil doesn’t fly straight into the lantern’s yawning flame. He stares it down, he names it, and he reaches for it. He does so for us, sparing us the discomfort. And he does it with a steady and trained hand: imperfect palms stretched perfectly. The textual body of his poems, too, flex and fold this way. Every page a ‘soft, awkward, and most authentic’ wing. Wil reaches for the fire with such an ugly human grace, that it explains the ugly human light that swallows us too, by which we are lit from inside, to which we all are bound.”

– Bill Moran – author of “Oh God Get Out Get Out”

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Nail Gun and a Love Letter

This collection of poems alternately pierces the reader with astute and heartbreaking observations (Good Drums is a particularly devastating musing on white, male American-ness) while at the same time using evocative language to spar with and challenge the ideas of belonging and connection and love. These poems invite the reader to contemplate what it means to come from somewhere, and how it feels to long for a place that isn’t home, but could be. They invite us to see the mundane as essential, and to see and celebrate the things that connect us to our identity. The title of this collection is apt; like a nail gun, these poems violently pierce, but do so in service to building something sturdy and sheltering, and every one is a love letter to the dance that makes us who we are.

– Sherry Frost, Educator

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from below/denied the light

Out of Denver, Colorado, Paulie comes “from below” and rises to join our parade of writers. A two time National Poetry Slam finalist, Paulie Lipman is a loud Jewish Queer poet, performer, and writer. His work has appeared in the anthology ‘We Will Be Shelter’ (Write Bloody Publishing) as well as The Emerson Review, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, Voicemail Poems, pressure gauge, and Prisma (Zeitblatt Fur Text & Sprache).

 

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The Promethean Clock or Love Poems of a Wooden Boy 

“These poems are a way of telling you what I saw, at least the remnants of those things. My poems have codes in them. They have forms that have long since lost favor. They have rhyme schemes and syllabic structures of old and new places. They have formlessness that abides by current trends, but embraces none of them wholesale. They are, as Milton once wrote, poems that attempt to champion the unnamable and the indeterminable. Mine are the equations of empty sets and irrational numbers as much as they are of ritual and nostalgia. I have decided not to appease all critique. I am at rest, because the people I trust most have said that there is something in them, something of where I am from, what became of my home, and what is becoming in the world. And for the first time in a long time I’m not ashamed of my part in this story. With all that I am, let these poems be a part of my apology to the world and to my beloveds, an apology for each moment as it passes to the next…”

~from the preface

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Student Anthologies

 

Tiempo/Oolkil – Now is the Time: Voces Summer Writing Institute Anthology 2018

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Eye of the Eagle 2018: Native American Community Academy

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Book Review: Rock Paper Scissors

i need poemspoemspoemspoems
a universe of nothing but–
just to keep the light on
just to keep my head
in a world gone madmadmad

The ending stanza of Mary Oishi’s first poem in Rock Paper Scissors showcases exactly how I needed this book, at this point in my life especially. Co-written with her daughter, Aja Oishi, Rock Paper Scissors is divided into two parts: part one being Mary’s, a mother’s poetry of strength and survival. And it radiates and embodies those two qualities so well, but it gMaryO (1)oes beyond the theme of motherhood alone — though it was this theme that I clung to desperately, now raising two daughters of my own, and an old friend of much survival and some strength.

Mary’s part in the book starts with a subtle strength, though; short poems pack brief blows of heartbreak and speak a story of resilience, touching on abandonment (when i asked how my mother could give me away), growing up biracial (at least I had siblings, you said), the impact of racism, and politics (in numerous poems, though most notably in Thoughts on the Execution of Troy Davis).

Heaven help us,” Mary writes, “We are ALL Troy Davis.” But in the same stride that she seeks to remind readers of our unified human-ness with this and other works, her poem prior, Ghosts of Penn’s Woods, packs a reminder of the brutality of colonization. Her heavy concentration on politics does not cease here: broken frame left a lump in my throat, womb-heart aching not only because I am both mother and woman, but because I have faced the choice of abortion.

this poem is a graphic picture on a sign
in front of every senator, every candidate
who calls for escalation, for “tough measures”
this is a pro-life poem.
THIS. is a PRO-LIFE poem.

She begins with this brave declaration, placing the reader briefly in the shoes of a war-ridden woman; for every politician who screams PRO-LIFE, we are left with the echoing question, “What about the children in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan?” The list could go on, loud as bombs.

But then, there is perhaps a message more easily related to.

she wonders if her pro-choice sisters,” she writes, “will stand with her now,” speaking of a doubt that has flooded the minds of too many women more concerned with the thoughts of others than the impact of making their own choice may have on their futures. With unwavering finality, we are left with the firm belief of the author:

this poem demands all women’s right to choose,
ALL women, to really have choice, choices, opportunity
this is a pro-choice poem.

THIS. is a PRO-CHOICE poem.

This is a pro-life/pro-choice poem
looking for a new frame.

Never before had I read something that so wonderfully/horribly resonated with my own thoughts on the constant debate of choice, and for that, I cannot offer enough praise to Mary Oishi.

Her daughter, Aja Oishi, proves to be just as radiant in writing as her mother, though certainly with her own unique voice in the second part, a daughter’s poetry of chance and fate. Visually enlightening, Aja’s poetry awoke something visceral within me. Immediately, I felt as though I was being taken on aajaauthorphoto  spiritual journey; but perhaps there was no surprise in such spirituality resonating in Aja’s writing with titles such as Creation Story and Of the three Fates, I choose scissors. Other poems, like Beast vibrated with simplistic form, and still strongly echoed that deep and complex spiritual feel.

Get down

Dig dig dig because you are small
and the small will survive.

Stay alive

Touch your hands to the earth
and do what it tells you.

Remember what you came for

Love and joy, and love and joy,
and love and joy.

She goes on to write about defending the sacred, reiterating that it is we who are sacred things; assuredly, each of her pieces are equally as beautiful and enlightening, offering a semblance of inner peace. But there is a bittersweetness, too, in poems like Fireflies that seek to remind us of our dying earth, of what we once thought of as eternal and how it’s now fading. In a political landscape strife with debate of climate change and global warming (and the list goes on from there, of course), I feel like Aja’s voice is necessary for my generation — we are the ones who witnessed little miracles like fireflies, and constantly buzzing bees, and our children will, perhaps, be the last to see such things as they fade only to be revisited in memories.

And perhaps this is why earth itself (or maybe it’s more apt to say herself) is such a beautifully repeating theme in Aja’s work. In don’t be afraid of the beautiful and high mountains, she again succeeds with offering a very visual piece, the message of which is simple and still so very important: don’t give up.

Don’t give up
for unbearable sorrow.
Don’t give up
for the terrible anger.
Every day
suffering piles up
on yesterday’s suffering
be we have work to do.

Even at night a miracle happens
with every in breath.
Somewhere
frogs emerge singing

and precious strawberries
are red
in the mouth.

Written like a letter to a woman named Carol, it begins with the declaration, “Your very name is a praise song.” I was so utterly struck by this statement, and the lasting sentiment, “We need you here to sing the welcome song.”

Like her mother, Aja also speaks of heritage, of being a woman in this wild world, of the choices that we face. With My Body Between acts as a witness, from the perspective of patient escort, to every woman who has walked into an abortion clinic.

She’s worn every label you can think up
from good girl to fuck up.
She keeps her chin up.
She’s come in a rusty blue Mustang
and her brother’s pickup truck.
She saved to come out from Texas
—cause it’s much worse in Texas—
and her boyfriend’s come with her
on the bus from uptown.
They thought she wouldn’t get here,
cause she just finished
fifth grade.
She thought she wouldn’t get here
cause in her forty-five years
she’d never been.

This entire piece chipped off pieces off my heart, not only because I have been there for reasons numerous, but because it made me feel seen. It made me ache and cry, it made me feel as though I were a part of a unified front, even with the recognition that this choice isn’t made lightly, and without hurt. And I think that was the most important thing: Aja’s words don’t seek to act as though this isn’t a painful choice, but certainly reiterates the fact that it is a CHOICE; a choice that women in all walks of life have had to make.

I could go on to wax poetic about each of Aja’s poems that follow, written from various personal experiences (though written in such a way that they are not impersonal, and allow the reader to insert themselves into the words and images and places), but maybe that would be too redundant. Instead, I leave you with the simple insistence that you buy this book. I speak as a mother, but believe this is a worthwhile collection to add to anyone’s library.


Mary Oishi has two poetic voices: one stark and simple like that
of her Japanese ancestors, and one that echoes the rhythms of
preachers from her upbringing by her American father’s
fundamentalist relatives. Both voices sing her songs of truth
and social justice. She is the author of Spirit Birds They Told Me
(2011) and is one of twelve U.S. poets in 12 Poetas: Antologia De
Nuevos Poetas Estadounidenses (2017), a project of the Mexican
Ministry of Culture. Her poems have appeared in Mas Tequila
Review, Malpais Review, Harwood Anthology, Sinister Wisdom, and
other print and digital publications. Oishi is a public radio
personality since 1996, most at KUNM-FM Albuquerque,
where she hosts The Blues Show.

Aja Oishi lives in northern New Mexico. Her writing draws
from ecology, anthropology, and the years she spent in Spain,
Japan, and New Zealand. She revels in the uncaged world and
makes a living (and a life) by fighting for prisoners as an
appellate public defender. This is her first collection of poetry.

Bookwork Book Release: Mary and Aja Oishi’s Rock Paper Scissors

Mother daughter poets, Mary & Aja Oishi, read from their new Swimming With Elephants Publications collection, Rock Paper Scissors.

 

“…this collection carries both the beauty of human resilience and the searing pain of postatomic burning carnage. The poetry, like hope, is an obstinate and sturdy survivor, for ‘what could i do but write songs.’ These verses often push the envelope, asking questions that make more sense than our grammar. ‘are you out there in the stealth night on the edge of blue? listening/ are you loving me for sending you this fix of heartbreak/ slid down metal, taut and wound. electric. are you?’ …haunting, resonant odes and the rhythmic power of promises and truth, poems spread across Hiroshima and Barcelona, Laos and Albuquerque. These poems bring the world into a familial embrace, but spit out the naked power of truth, both personal and political, as if it were a well-chewed chicken bone, gnawed raw. Through it all, this mother-daughter poetic duo reminds us that, in the beauty of human hope, ‘nothing sacred can be lost.’”

–Carmen Tafolla, State Poet Laureate of Texas

 

Mary Oishi has two poetic voices: one stark and simple like that of her Japanese ancestors, and one that echoes the rhythms of preachers from her upbringing by her American father’s fundamentalist relatives. Both voices sing her songs of truth and social justice. She is the author of Spirit Birds They Told Me (2011) and is one of twelve U.S. poets in 12 Poetas: Antologia De Nuevos Poetas Estadounidenses (2017), a project of the Mexican Ministry of Culture. Her poems have appeared in Mas Tequila Review, Malpais Review, Harwood Anthology, Sinister Wisdom, and other print and digital publications. Oishi is a public radio personality since 1996, most at KUNM-FM Albuquerque, where she hosts The Blues Show.

Aja Oishi lives in northern New Mexico. Her writing draws from ecology, anthropology, and the years she spent in Spain, Japan, and New Zealand. She revels in the uncaged world and makes a living (and a life) by fighting for prisoners as an appellate public defender. This is her first collection of poetry.

 

Event date:
Friday, June 8, 2018 – 6:00pm
Event address:
4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW
AlbuquerqueNM 87107

Pick up this new release from Bookworks ABQ or order from Amazon or Barnes and Noble today!

Already own a copy? Please write a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads, or submit a review to swimwithelephants@gmail.com for publications on this site.

 

Swimming with Elephants Poets in Public Service: Mary Oishi

During the month of April, the City of Albuquerque created a video series called Poets in Public Service to recognize the work local poets do in the community.  Several of the poets interviewed are authors with Swimming with Elephants Publications.

Check out this video of Mary Oishi.

Mary Oishi is one of the authors of Rock Paper Scissors, one of Swimming with Elephants Publications most recent releases.

Click here to find Swimming with Elephants Publications on Facebook and ‘Like’ our page.

Find more videos and information regarding poetry events in ABQ at ABQtodo.com.