This week’s other featured books, “The River Below,” by Bonnie Hearn Hill and “Addicts and Basements,” by Robert Vaughan, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.
THE BOOK: Autoplay
PUBLISHED IN: October, 2014
THE AUTHOR: Julie Babcock
THE EDITOR: Christina Olson
THE PUBLISHER: MG Press
SUMMARY: Ohio takes on personas including an astronaut, a cowgirl, and a waitress at Big Boy. Cultural and personal histories collide. And home gets simultaneously buried, unearthed, and transformed.
THE BACK STORY: I’m from Ohio, and for a long time I wanted to move someplace more interesting, more specifically: New York or California. (I didn’t have the resources, guts, or imagination to look into options abroad). Long story short, it didn’t work out. I circled around the Midwest going to graduate schools and then ended up teaching at University of Michigan. The thing is, I began to give myself permission to see my experiences in a more complicated and significant way. I began to understand both the privileges and challenges of being from central Ohio, and I began to access its power.
Also, the speaker at my brother’s college graduation was astronaut and politician, John Glenn. This inspired my poem “Astronaut Ohio,” and became an inspiration for the collection. There are more astronauts from Ohio than any other state. Last I counted, 25 astronauts are Ohio natives.
WHY THIS TITLE: I submitted a poem called “Recurring Nightmare” and the editor, Karen Craigo, wrote me a nice note back saying they almost published my poem but thought the poem title could be more subtle. I renamed the poem “Autoplay,” and then thought that idea resonated with the whole unsettling and yet playful nature of the collection. Thanks, Karen Craigo!
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: If you’ve ever lived in the American Midwest or in a place that is stereotyped as bland, boring, and insignificant, I hope this collection sings to you and raises up your experiences.
Welcome to Ohio, populated by horses and astronauts, wolf moons and changelings. In Autoplay, the American Midwest buzzes with mystery, and our guide is a poet of deft lyricism and graceful wit. So let yourself go, dear reader, because, as Julie Babcock writes, “To dream is to let go,” and these poems—full of heartache, wonder and awe—dream spectacularly. —Matthew Olzmann, author of Mezzanines and Contradictions in the Design
Julie Babcock’s first poetry collection is a wonder. Bringing together everything from Billy Idol to Philomel, these poems’ brilliant turns twist with a darkness and haunting hilarity rarely seen in a poet so young. Autoplay makes the state of Ohio not just a place of historical concern, but a character in its own right, witness to the joys and terrors of aliveness. At the same time, Babcock uses myth and fable to confront cultural assumptions of gender in poems that reinvigorate violated space (the body, the land, the sky) with trauma-forged resilience. “We are all twenty-five feet in the air,” Babcock writes. “Anything could happen. Any of us could break or go to fun.” The beautiful terror shifting subtly through Autoplay will not let you go. —Alex Lemon, author of The Wish Book and Happy: A Memoir
Julie Babcock’s stunning first collection of poems offers spare, carefully crafted lyrics that are as familiar as they are uncanny. By invoking the seemingly tame imagery of Midwestern cities, the poems in this striking collection lull the reader into a sense of complacency, only to skillfully undermine this expectation that they will encounter a familiar narrative. —Kristina Darling, author of The Moon & Other Inventions and Dark Horse: Poems
AUTHOR PROFILE: Julie Babcock is a poet and a fiction writer. Her work appears in journals and anthologies that include The Rumpus, PANK, New Poets from the Midwest, and a forthcoming anthology from A Room of Her Own Foundation. She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Indiana Arts Commission. Her poetry manuscript, Rules of Rearrangement, explores the mysteries of grief and was the runner-up in Autumn House’s 2018 contest. She lives with her son in Ann Arbor and teaches in an interdisciplinary writing program at University of Michigan.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I wanted to make the American Midwest come alive (literally) with all its hope, despair, and magic.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: The MG Press website: http://midwestgothic.com/mg-press/ , Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon.