Review: ‘La Croix Water’ by Russell Jaffe

La Croix WaterTimely. Relevant. Zeitgeisty.

These seem like the best words to describe poet Russell Jaffe’s latest chapbook, La Croix Water. In both form and in theme, it holds a magnifying class to contemporary American culture in a way poetry doesn’t often do. It is a meditation on the feelings surrounding Jaffe’s realization that a beloved object of his childhood is now hugely popular. Longtime Star Wars nerds and comic book aficionados have voiced their feelings on going from mocked and marginalized to seeming to be just another poseur. For Jaffe it’s not a Jabba the Hutt figurine or a Deadpool hoodie that stirs these emotions. It’s a canned beverage.

Whether it’s the recent episode of the Gastropod podcast or the social media hashtags promoted by Sundance Beverage Company’s corporate PR team, there are many examples of how LaCroix water is having a moment. Also of the moment are listicles, BuzzFeed quizzes, and other interactive content. It’s fitting, then, that after Jaffe’s personal testament to his connection to the drink, the book moves on to a list of flavors, offered as a “Which Flavor Are You?” exploration. While it’s anyone’s guess how Jaffe devised these flavor/personality correlations, it’s undeniable that each of these poems is unique. Rich with imagery and varying in form, they both accept the commodification of the personal and reject the shallow nature of this type of marketing. While they’re unified by the listicle style and endings that utilize parenthetical fragments, each poem leaves an impression in the mind as different from the next as Pamplemousse and Cerise-Limón.

Adding to the interactive nature of this collection are the invitations at the end of each section for readers to write their own thoughts on the various flavors, personal connections to the product, and/or stream of consciousness bubble enjoyment.  This reflects the ambition of both Jaffe and his publisher, Damask Press, which is committed to releasing unique artifacts rather than churning out a series of interchangeable poetry chapbooks. Whether you interpret La Croix Water as a statement about late capitalism, a moment frozen as if in amber, one man’s testament to his love of seltzer, or a way for people to meaningfully create and connect through beverage company marketing, this chapbook is as refreshing as a can of Melón-Pomelo.


La Croix Water by Russell Jaffe (Damask Press)

Video: ‘He Wrote Me a Letter’

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me is a memoir by author, essayist, and photographer Bill Hayes, scheduled for release from Bloomsbury on February 14, 2017. In the book he offers a glimpse at his relationship with his friend and neighbor, and eventual partner, the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks. This little video from Bloomsbury explains how the two met: “He wrote me a letter.”

More on Hayes’ essays and photography can be found at his website: billhayes.com. And if you’d like to share the video in your own marketing efforts, here’s the embed code:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/WVmzRc8vGI8?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Review (Plus): ‘Wanted’

Wanted_9781492635994_d73edIn 2015 Betsy Schow gave us Spelled and with it the Fairy Tale characters Rexi (the feisty, sarcastic and narcissistic daughter of Robin Hood), Dorothea, and Kato, all battling the Wicked Witch in the Land of Oz. I adored this book (see my review here), so I was elated to get my hands on Wanted, the next installment in Schow’s Storymakers series.

At the end of Spelled Dorothea is cursed, and evil is running amok. Now we discover still more menace has been unleashed. Rexi struggles to defend Sherwood Forest, but she’s losing her memory. And as if that weren’t enough, Kato is falling in love with Rexi, even though he’s already Dorothea’s boyfriend. This madness must stop! Rexi sacrifices herself knowing Dorothea will never let her friend’s story end. Will Rexi finally move up from being a sidekick and write her own destiny?

As with the last book, I thoroughly enjoyed the advice columns, recipes, and snippets of humor from other Fairy Tales at the beginning of each chapter. In Wanted, Schow has changed her narrator from Dorothea to Rexi. Can we look forward to a third installment told from Kato’s point of view? I hope so. (Fingers crossed that I am correct, but I merely review, I don’t have any say in this.) Rexi is a quick witted narrator, and when she finds herself singing a song about ‘letting it go,’ I laughed. Of course we have our protagonist singing ‘Let it Go!’ Way to go Schow on incorporating modern day lingo into her fairy tale story.

In the classroom:

Twisted (or Fractured) Fairy Tales are a great concept to teach in seventh & eighth grade English classrooms in preparation for spring testing. One of the main tasks required by state testing is the ability to draft an essay. Use this as a fun essay for students to draft and edit.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.5: With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.


Wanted by Betsy Schow (Sourcebooks Fire | 9781492635994 | February 7, 2017)

300 Seconds: Preparing for Wi12

300 Seconds: Preparing for Wi12

For those of you attending Wi12, I have some last-minute reminders to add to your preparation checklist. I’ve broken them down into 5-minute segments this week so get can tackle them a little at a time.

Today, check your stock of business cards. Do you need to print more? Has any of the information changed? Have you made any corrections with a ballpoint pen? It’s probably time for a reprint, and you can even have a short-run printed before you leave town.

When designing a business card, it’s important to include a few things in the design:

  • Personalization: your name, followed by what you do.
  • The name of the store, either in text or through your logo, should be prominently placed. If your logo is your brand, use it.
  • All of your locations: the address of your brick-and-mortar store and the address of your online store.
  • Other ways you can be reached, like phone numbers (include your mobile number if you want to be reachable) and email addresses. If you depend on faxes, go ahead and list that number.
  • If you’re active on Twitter, you might consider adding your handle. Otherwise, other social media locators can be found through your website.
  • Do you find yourself continually writing missing information on the back? Consider adding those items you typically write to your card.
  • And speaking of writing on the card, be sure to leave plenty of white space on the front or back. White space is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it’s necessary for those who want to write notes on the card. Even if you’re not a “card writer,” the recipient of your card might be.
  • One final thing before you send them off to the printer: Proofread it. Call the numbers listed, email the address you provide, and have another set of eyes make sure you didn’t miss a “dot” in your email or accidentally provide your home phone number (if you still have one of those).

If you’ve been putting off reprinting cards because of some changes expected in a few months, it’s still a good idea to print a small batch for the conference. Then send the large order to the printer when you get back in town.

Video: Dreidels on the Brain

In this video, Joel ben Izzy tells the story behind his fictionalized coming of age Hanukkah memoir, Dreidels on the BrainThis is a loosely autobiographical novel for middle grade readers about a 12-year-old boy as he tries to survive Hanukkah in the suburbs of Los Angeles in 1971. (Coincidentally, that’s the same year Joel ben Izzy made a bet with God… about a dreidel.)

If you’d like to share the video, here’s the embed code:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/zXtgD_kwl9U?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>