This week’s other featured book, “A Way Out of Nowhere,” by Nancy Gerber, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or, just click the author’s name on our Authors page.
PUBLISHED IN: 2019
THE AUTHOR: Tina Mozelle Braziel.
THE EDITOR: The Amazing Carol Lynne Knight.
THE PUBLISHER: Anhinga Press, a press dedicated to sharing poetry with a broad audience and to creating gorgeous books. SUMMARY: Known by Salt searches for home and identity in the trailer park where I grew up and in the glass cabin my husband and I are building by hand. While I’m aware that my homes and life fall short of social norms, I can’t help but ask, “How come?” when I’ve discovered grit and feminism in family stories, strip clubs, fast food joints, and building sites. My poems take shelter in the beauty found in dammed rivers, wooded hills, swerving snakes, and true love. The poems in Known by Salt examine class and gender, humankind and nature, and what it might take to mend those divisions and become whole.
THE BACK STORY: In 2014, my husband and I had been living (and writing) in our glass cabin as we built it for about six months. Cooking on a hotplate among tools, lizards, and doing without running water brought back some familiar feelings I had had while growing up: joy and a defensive pride. I wanted to describe the beauty I’ve found in homes (trailers and houses without plumbing) that are often the butt of jokes about the south and / or the working class. Building a home by hand also deepened my respect for the construction work my father, uncles, and grandfathers did. Around that time, my family revealed to me that my grandmother Mozelle had helped my grandfather build their brick house while they lived in it. My family then claimed as they had many times before, “We didn’t name you Mozelle for nothing.” Known by Salt came together as I focused on connecting poems about Mozelle, my working class childhood, and growing up on the Coosa River with poems about creating a home with my true love and our many encounters with toads, praying mantis, and deer. In writing the collection, I took a great deal of inspiration from poets who I admire and continue to study: Philip Levine, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Claudia Emerson, and Natasha Tretheway. The incomparable instruction I received at the University of Oregon from Danny Anderson, Geri Doran, and Garrett Hongo gave me with the skills necessary to write this book.
WHY THIS TITLE?: Known by Salt is also the title of a poem about how my family’s need and desire for salt comes from the construction work we did. The title itself was inspired by a hymn I grew up singing at church, “We Are One in the Spirit.” Part of the chorus is a repeated line “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” That line kept playing in my head and caused me to imagine that the people I come from would be known by salt. I had hoped that the title might remind some readers of that song so that they might equate salt with love.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?
Here are three reasons:
1) It will make you feel better about life. At least that is what my fellow poet and dear friend Laura Secord said about it. Her endorsement rings out so bright and clear, I can’t help but repeat it.
2) Many of the poems about construction or nature veer into love poems.
3) You’ll enjoy meeting Mozelle. She’s cool and feisty.
“Covering the wide expanse of Alabama’s waterways and terrain, Braziel draws her reader from dirt to a trailer’s cool underbelly to the studs of a home built by her hands. In doing this, she capitalizes on the way home can be both a place one is fastened to and simultaneously rebuilding.” — Cassie Mannes Murray, Raleigh Review
“This collection is a stunning portrait of the American South. But more than that, Known by Salt is a generous glimpse into how place, memory, inheritance, and joy work together to make a home. It is both a realization and a reassurance that home, and even homeland, are always changing.” — –Alycia Pirmohamed, The Scores.
“With a grace that honors her roots, yet soars beyond, Tina Mozelle Braziel has written a singularly beautiful, intelligent, and accessible collection of poems in Known by Salt …. While many poets use everyday images, hers resonate with a wholesome crispness that refreshes, like the simplicity of William Carlos Williams’ ‘plums that were in the ice box.’ Yet Braziel’s images—like Williams’—speak volumes about human experience and evoke themes of loss, growth, bravery, and transcendence.” — Claire Matturro, First Draft
“…the poems in Known by Salt thrum inside me with a pulsing sense of truth that make them seem as if I have lived every single one of the stories conveyed. And this truth is, despite the sometimes difficult nature of it, intensely beautiful. Compellingly beautiful. This is the kind of truth that, like the salt that becomes one of the motifs in the book, not only flavors things, but is as necessary an element in our lives as blood, as breath.” — Lana K. Austin, Alabama Writers’ Conclave
AUTHOR PROFILE: Tina Mozelle Braziel and her novelist husband, James Braziel, are building a glass cabin by hand on Hydrangea Ridge because they want the financial freedom to write. They have found that it also inspires their work. The Braziels were thrilled to be notified that Tina won the 2017 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry for Known by Salt while they were serving as artists in residence at Hot Springs National Park. Since that time, Tina has been organizing a book tour and/or touring with the support of an Alabama State Council of the Arts Literary fellowship. She often appears with her friend and fellow poet, Ashley M. Jones, under the name the Dark // Salt Sister Tour. (Please look for them and/or invite them to your local reading series). In 2019, she was awarded an Eco Poetry Fellowship from the Magic City Poetry Festival and the Cahaba River Society. She is now writing poetry and creative writing curriculum that encourages a deeper relationship with the Cahaba, one of the most biodiverse rivers on earth. Each summer, she directs the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her poems have also appeared in her chapbook, Rooted by Thirst (Porkbelly Press), The Cincinnati Review, Southern Humanities Review, Tampa Review, and other journals. She earned an MFA in Poetry at the University of Oregon.
Link to Rooted by Thirst at Porkbelly: https://porkbellypress.com/poetry/rooted
AUTHOR COMMENTS: As a nation of immigrants and displaced people, much of American history and culture focuses on finding and creating a place for one’s self and family. One of the first material markers of the American Dream is ownership of one’s home. Many people I’ve encountered have told me that building a house has been or is a goal of theirs. Known by Salt gets at what that literally feels like. It also speaks to our universal desire to belong while talking back to the demeaning ways some people use class and gender to make us feel like we don’t.
It is sky: fading denim,
a ravel of clouds along cuff and collar,
each pearl snap another rising moon.
And that sky is my father: he laid steel in it,
claiming high territories for bridges
and pent-house suites, traversing thin I-beams
with nothing steadying him but the pale blue.
My father handed that down to me.
Yes, it’s huge and soft-worn like suede.
Something worn to bed and out at bars.
But now that I’m framing the windows of my home,
it suits me as if it were my own blue skin.
LOCAL OUTLETS: anhingapress.org/poetry/known-by-salt-by-tina-mozelle-braziel
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/known-by-salt-tina-mozelle-braziel/1130019053;jsessionid=079099C734EF38BE04C62A36DD77CE2E.prodny_store01-atgap11?ean=9781934695609&st=PLA&sid=BNB_New%20Core%20Shopping%20Top%20Margin%20.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR:
Facebook: Tina Mozelle Braziel