Interview

A Bookshop Interview with Darrell Epp

Image borrowed from  ihearthamilton.ca .

Image borrowed from ihearthamilton.ca.

I had the pleasure of meeting Darrell Epp in Troy, NY, when he was on tour earlier in 2019 and I’m glad he took a few minutes to tell us about his favorite bookshop. Take a look, and be sure to check out his books: Imaginary Maps, After Hours, and Sinners Dance.

Favorite Bookshop: The Printed Word (Dundas, Ontario)

My first experience there made me feel the way I'd imagine one feels when uncovering a trunk full of buried pirate's treasure--it was a real thrill to find such a lovely place, with a collection of books obviously curated with so much love and care...Browsing around it is, in a word, fun.

The 'vibe' is clear--James carries ZERO celebrity autobiographies, ZERO self-help books, but there's a great section of film books, theology books, philosophy books, a wild collection of dime novels from the 50's, the best selection of quality children's books you'll ever see, and a whole WALL devoted to poetry--since I write poetry and know how rare it is to see a retailer devoting his/her shelf space to it, I really appreciated that, but also just appreciated having so much great stuff at my fingertips...

I have bought a lot of books there...recently I bought A SMALL KILLING, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Oscar Zarate. Alan Moore is of course most known for writing WATCHMEN, but this book is a more personal work: "…chasing this puddle of piss-coloured light as it skims between flats painted post-war austerity mustard and maisonettes brick-built in scabby-knee burgundy during the macmillan years…through these streets; through this scrapyard of clapped-out utopias; failed social visions that came here to die…these houses are the furniture with which I stock my dreams. Night after night I rearrange them in my sleep…" I also recently purchased Robert Lowell's translation of THE ORESTIEA. I've loved Lattimore's translation for literally decades--it actually changed my life, as one big thing that motivated me to write poetry books was the dim hope that I might someday write something with the incantatory hypnotic effect of that...Lowell translates, not the Greek original, but the Lattimore version, with the aim of it being more stage-ready, able to be performed by modern actors in a single night...the end result is an ORESTEIA that really motors. it's really 'dramatic,' with an irresistible 'page-turner' quality. Also, the characters speak with a bluntness that makes the horror more horrifying...here's a sample, this is of course Cassandra speaking:

No, no, this is a meathouse. God

Hates these people. They have hung the flesh

Of their own young on hooks.


How I envy the nightingale—

When the nightingale died, the gods

Gave her beating wings,

And a bird’s life of song.

My life was, is,

And shall be the edge of the knife.


Ah, Troy, my city, the pitiful, munching

Sheep my father slaughtered by your walls

Were no help at all to save you!

I too with my brain on fire must die.


I do not wish to complain of my death.


What’s life? At best, its sorrows are hardly

More pitiable than its joys. At worst,

One sweep of a wet sponge wipes out the picture.

Hear me. I call upon the sun.

May the sun shine down on our avengers,

And on the final merciful hour of their vengeance.

When the avenge Agamemnon, may they also

Avenge a simple slave who died.

She was a small thing, and carelessly killed…


That is pretty hard to beat! So stop by The Printed Word the next time you're near the western tip of Lake Ontario...Man, I love bookstores!

BIO: Darrell Epp's poems have appeared in over 130 magazines on 6 continents. He is the author of 3 poetry collections: Imaginary Maps, After Hours, and Sinners Dance. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Visit his Amazon page HERE.

Check out Darrell reading HERE.

A Bookshop Interview with Sam Slaughter

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Sam Slaughter is a Food & Drink Editor for the men’s lifestyle magazine, The Manual, and spirits work has appeared in MaximBloombergThe Bitter SouthernerThirsty, and elsewhere. His debut short story collection God in Neon was published in 2016 by Lucky Bastard Press, and his first cocktail book,  Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? and Other Cocktails for 90’s Kids will be published by Andrews-McMeel in June 2019. I’m delighted he took a few minutes to tell me about one of his favorite places to buy books.

Favorite Bookshop: McKay’s Books in Greensboro, NC

1. How did you discover the shop?

In college, a professor mentioned that there was a used book store down the road in Greensboro. One weekend afternoon, my roommate and I decided to go. It was love at first sight.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around.

Being a used bookstore, there’s a ton of stuff, from books (obviously) to vinyl, video games, DVDs, you name it. I used to love start at the front in the fiction section and working my way down the aisle, then turning around and walking back up the other side, going through each little cubby to see what was there. One of my favorite things is that the entire store is, in a way, a treasure hunt. If there are multiple versions of a book, chances are that they are going to be different prices. This makes you want to keep hunting, just in case.

After working through the fiction I’d head down the stairs to the food & drink books to see if there were any cookbooks I was into. Those were the two main sections for me, but I’d also check out the anthropology/sociology section (one of my college majors) and the comedy section. There was also a free section, and you could sometimes get some cool stuff there.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

I bought most of my collection of contemporary southern fiction there. Ron Rash, Barry Hannah, et cetera. I also got a number of Best American collections there that I still have.

4. What is it about the shop that makes you love it? What really makes the place unique?

As I mentioned above, it’s the treasure hunt thing that gets me every time. I love going through everything, not only to find great books, but to see if I can find a better deal on the book.

In terms of uniqueness, McKay’s has a couple locations, and at this point I’ve been to 3 of them. Each store has completely different inventory that changes all the time. Even if you went back two days in a row, chances are you’d find some new stuff.

For more by Sam, visit his site at http://www.thesamslaughter.com.

A Bookshop Interview with R.M. Engelhardt

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When I asked poet R.M. Engelhardt about his favorite bookshop, I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened next: 1) that he eschewed my usual Q&A session and wrote me a couple paragraphs shooting from the hip; 2) that he picked two shops instead of one; and 3) that neither of the shops are still open. And why was I surprised? Because R.M. is a throwback kicking and smoking his way through the Era of Instapoets, and he’s not about to conform now just for a bookshop interview. But both of these shops sound pretty cool and I’m sorry I missed out on them when they were around. I hope you enjoy, and don’t forget to pick up any of his books, including Cold Ass Coffee Blues & Other Poems (Alien Buddha Press). You can also read his column The Half-Dead Poet Review over at AlbanyPoets.com. Enjoy!

Favorite Bookshops: Capital Bookshop and Nelson’s Bookstore, both formerly in Albany, NY.

Capital Bookshop: “The place looked like a bomb hit it inside. It’s closed now but I always referred to it as the ‘Bookstore Without A Name.’ I ran across the place many years ago in the late 1980s and just casually walked in to find a place where books of all genres were literally strewn all over the place from the ground up in piles and on shelves. There were dedicated sections, sure, but it looked like a book hoarders dream. I would make time to visit the store on my lunch break when I worked for a law firm in the 1990s around the corner. They had a poetry section of old paperbacks as well as hardcovers. Shakespeare, Milton, Dante's Inferno. A lot of classics. You could get lost in there or go missing. It was hard to walk around the books. I had bought several old copies of Poe & Baudelaire's books in Capital Bookshop, and even though the place smelled and had some mildew, it eventually became one of my favorite haunts because you never knew what you'd find. It was an impossible place of imagination, and it crossed your mind now and then that there might be a door in the back that if you opened you'd find some kind of posh secret society or spy headquarters or organization hiding behind the bookstore front like in a movie. But the best part of the store was this: pulp novels. Stacks of them. Detective stories and hard to find old Bantam copies of some of my favorite guilty pleasures for reading. Doc Savage, The Avenger, Science Fiction, Westerns/Louis L'Amour. They were in bad to decent condition but it was amazing what you could find in there. Old albums and comic books too. It was the kind of bookstore that the BBC Black Books was reminiscent of but with less room. Completely unorganized.”

Nelson’s Bookstore: “This was another store which I'd like to mention that is also gone now. It was a huge influence on my work and where I got most of my poetry. Nelson's Bookstore was on Central Avenue a few blocks away from the old Qe2 (an notable former punk/rock club that is now The Fuzebox) and it was the best counter culture, beat poetry bookshop around. Bill Nelson, the owner, sold me my first Bukowski book there in the early 90s, Love Is A Dog From Hell. I bought loads of poetry books there, from Burroughs to Kerouac, Jim Carroll, and so many others that I've forgotten but still have in my collection. Bill Nelson and I would have conversations about authors and I'd show him my poems when I was starting out as a writer. He was like a mentor and his store also carried tons of zines and local poets books. Eventually he carried mine as well. He encouraged me to send my work out and I had a few interesting visits there where I met other, more well known writers there in passing. I even met Serpico there. Yes, the real Frank Serpico, the detective that the old Al Pacino movie was based on. So, in the end, I miss two bookstores. Two favorites that are now just memories of what downtown Albany used to be.”

Bookshop Interview with Melanie Faith

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Melanie Faith is the author of two new books on the craft of writing, Poetry Power and In a Flash!, and she’s here to tell us a little about her favorite bookshop. But there’s a twist: her favorite bookshop isn’t quite a bookshop at all. Take a look!

Favorite Bookshop: My choice is a bit of a maverick: thrift stores. Specifically, a treasure-trove- filled Goodwill in the Show Me state.

1. How did you discover the shop?

My fantastic fellow-bookworm sister introduced me to her Goodwill book section a few years ago, and it’s become one of our favorite go-tos during my visits. We go at least two or three times in the summer weeks I spend at her house in Missouri.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it’s like to browse around at Goodwill.

From the plate-glass double doors clear across the open-concept warehouse-type building, the book section calls to me, just past the donated dining sets and a synthesizer from someone’s garage, beyond the racks of clothes arranged by hue, and motley bric-a-brac on shelves. Tucked beside the VHS and DVDs and CDs (and even a few tapes) lined up in neat stacks in a metal bin, there are three jam-packed book shelves against a brightly-painted back wall.

It may not be a particularly elegant set up and it doesn’t have chairs to invite a good long beverage-soaked-paging-through like my beloved-now-gone Borders used to, but elegance and comfiness are beside the point when books are at stake. This place is authentic and a bit of a throwback. The thrill of the search is keen and energizing.

I’ve found novels that were clearly 100% new with pristine, undog-eared pages and remaindered from a popular chain store down the street alongside poetry volumes baring oodles of squiggly red and blue and black pen notes in the hand of a college freshman (or senior or professor—part of the fun, as in Billy Collins’ poem “Marginalia”—is in the imagining). It’s a serendipitous, almost mystical process, and when it comes to book browsing (much like a yogini doing Tree Pose), I can stand for marathon stretches if good books are in the offering. Did I mention I can hold almost my own body weight in book bargains in my arms? No reading weakling here!

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

Everything from poetry to bestselling recent novels to memoirs and classics (lots of college students in my sister’s town donate batches of lit books, whole semesters-worth, at a clip- I can’t decide if that’s wonderful or wonderfully sad) and some children’s books for my darling nieces’ library. Most books are just a dollar a piece, and even rare books are usually, at most, $2 or $3 for gently-used texts. A few times I lucked out and the books I wanted to purchase were on sale for 50 cents each—my stack wobbled in my arms on the way to the register on those days.

During my last week at my sister’s place last summer, the final four books I purchased there were (drumroll, please!): The Paris Wife (about Hadley Hemingway) by Paula McLain (which I’ve devoured and sent off for a writing pal to read next), a dishy old-Hollywood memoir of Ava Gardner (which I’ve also read cover-to-cover and happily sent off for a second writing friend who loves and writes well about old-Hollywood), Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (can’t wait to dig into that one this fall), and an awesome book about the making of one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, that I gifted to my sister and plan to read next summer when I visit.

4. What is it about Goodwill that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

The Goodwill is not many other readers’ first thought when deciding on a new read, and yet thrift stores all across the US contain gems just waiting for readers. Like an antique store or swap meet or yard sale or craft fair, you can’t go in with one book and one author in mind. Instead, the smorgasbord of possibilities await! Why limit oneself? Give yourself at least a good half hour to 45 minutes—you’ll need it.

My other favorite element of the shop is that all of the goods are donated new by chain stores or gently-used from the community, and the money raised goes back to local nonprofit charities to assist people in nearby communities. Everybody gets a good deal from the purchases. While I love a good, long recline on a comfy chair with a book or three in a reading marathon as much as anybody, there’ll be plenty of time for that post-purchases, and I’d love for my fellow readers and writers to consider a stop by your local thrift store for a good perusal. You’ll do your book shelves and your local community some good and return home with quite a few treasures to entertain for endless hours.

Bio: Melanie Faith is a poet, professor, and photographer. She loves the Tiny House movement and collecting twinkly costume-jewelry pins. She wrote a craft book about the flash fiction and nonfiction genres to inspire fellow writers, In a Flash!: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose (Vine Leaves Press, April 2018), and Poetry Power (also Vine Leaves Press, Oct. 26, 2018). Her short stories are forthcoming from Red Coyote (fall 2018) and Sunlit Fiction (Nov. 2018), and her poetry will appear in Meniscus Literary Journal in New Zealand and Up North Lit (Oct. 2018). This fall, she is teaching a few writing seminars, including a poetry-thesis-writing class and a class she created that combines two of her passions, called Photography for Writers. See more of her photography, writing, and projects at: https://www.melaniedfaith.com/blog/