In JULY 2007, Colette Labouff Atkinson, associate director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at UC Irvine, noted in the online magazine Babble that, faced with early menopause, she'd decided to birth a book. "[W]hat nagged me nights when I'd bolt upright in bed," she wrote, "wasn't that I didn't have children; it was that I hadn't finished a book."
Fifteen months later, Atkinson has her book -- the prose poetry collection "Mean" (University of Chicago Press: 52 pp., $14 paper), whose 43 vignettes add up to an emotional autobiography. In the title piece, Atkinson describes her husband's former wife, a stripper. "He traded her in for me," she writes. "To people I don't know, I say she was a dancer. I watch them, puzzled, wonder how anyone could not love a ballerina. And you have to question a guy like that: trading in a sweet stripper for me."