Apr 24 2015

Chapbook Review: wingless, scorched & beautiful by Allie Marini Batts

battscover

wingless, scorched & beautiful by Allie Marini Batts (on FB and Goodreads)
Publisher: Imaginary Friends Press
Date Published: March 2015

“if, in April,
the seeds planted in your scapulas
fail to bloom into wings

at least learn to love falling—
— from “Boneseeds”

The ten poems in wingless, scorched and beautiful delve into the dark corridors of women’s lives and bodies. These are women who have made mistakes, crawled through the muck, endured, and returned scarred but with renewed strength.

At first glance, a reader might perceive these poems as gloomy, but here death and rebirth dance with each other in cyclical pirouettes and hope comes back around eventually. For example, in the opening poem “Boneseeds,” the act of crashing down transitions through catastrophe into flight, while “breeding, trumpet flowers out of the dead ash” reveals how life — both plant vines and oneself — can labor to come back from destruction.

In “Her Intentions Are,” the “you” of the poem is a woman broken down by abuse, her shame and devastation revealed public on a city street corner. Her “every clinging breath is futility” and her “tears are scented and boiling with the stink of desperation”. The imagery, such as wolves and women in battle armor, evokes a feeling of folklore that reflects the inner forests in which she struggles. Though no happily ever afters are on the horizon, the poem culminates in the ability to rise up and continue living.

Female sexuality and how it is twisted and commodified is discussed in the poems “Pussy Pass” and “high art”. The first expresses rage at the entitlement of men, who expect their advances to be granted with ready sex — “every man who thinks sex is a gumball that’s owed to them / after putting two nice-guy coins into the girl-machine”. Meanwhile, the second explores the nature of art, noting “soft filters / don’t make disenfranchised body parts / any less than pornographic.” For me, “high art” suggests that art is a mirror, reflecting both truth and lies that are determined by consensus of the beholders.

Each of the poems collected here is powerful, revealing its own mixture of beauty, strength, and pain. Multiple readings of these poems unveil new layers of meaning and I suggest downloading the collection, which is available free online, and spending time with each one.

“…poor things, they
can’t see that I am
dead inside, numb to their
ether, the drug they smell on me is
freedom, they want to taste it like
ginger, a sweet and hot burn.”

— from “Vampire Boys” (note: not original formatting)

If wingless, scorched & beautiful proves to not be enough for you, never fear. Batts has released two other collections this year — another chapbook, Pictures From The Center Of The Universe (Paper Nautilus, March 2015), and a full length collection, Before Fire: Divorce Poems (ELJ Publications, 2015). Based on the strength of wingless, scorched & beautiful, I would recommend either of these collections as a good way to spend your money in support of the poet.


Apr 24 2015

Five More Poems and Poets for National Poetry Month

As with my previous list, here five poems (with a few teaser first lines) I’ve read and enjoyed in honor of National Poetry Month.

1. Local Monsters, by Laura Madeline Wiseman, published by Nonbinary Review

“I see them sometimes, monsters—monsters running down
the upstairs hall, monsters stepping into shadows of the
darker room, monsters peeking around corners, their
colorful eyes blinking….”

2. After a Mid-December Wedding, by Helen Losse, published by Then and If

“Snow glitters on the edge of the pond
in a scene that could be but isn’t
from a Victorian Christmas Card.
Soft light falls from an early moon.
Recorded carols play
from a lean-to crèche,
where the Holy Family shivers….”

3. Two Poems by Daniel Reinhold, published in H_NGM_N

“What if I carried the moon in my back pocket?
Could I dance in my sleep?
Swallow your soul whole?”

4. Moving by Sara Backer, published in Pedestal Magazine

“We confront accumulation. No room
is exempt from the purge; no cupboard
can be left for later….”

5. Art History Kirun Kapur, published in Jam Tarts Magazine

“I’d even smoke the angels,
that’s what he liked to say,
…”

* * *

And a quick reminder, I’m hosting a Poetry Giveaway on my blog, which any poetry lovers here are welcome to take part in.

So far, only one person has commented, so your chances of winning are rather good.


Apr 20 2015

Hey, it’s Monday!

Another lovely weekend as the Bay Area warms up into summer (though kinda wish we had a few more stormy weekends before we totally dry out).

Saturday was spent in a crazy cocoon of baby love, as my mom and I babysat my niece and nephew. We got to take them to the park, push them on the swings, and see them laugh in delight at just running around and playing.

Sunday I met up with friends Lise and Allie at the Village House of Books in Los Gatos, where S.G. Browne was holding a meet and greet. I came away with a signed copy of Less Than Hero, which I can’t wait to read.

Afterward I was delighted to walk around with my buddies and introduce them to my favorite indulgence, Icing on the Cake — just about the best bakery in the world. We sat out on the curb, enjoying our cupcake treats and watching the passersby. Such joy.

What I’m Reading

The Ask and the Answer, the second book in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series, is kicking me right in the feels. I can’t really talk about it without spoiling The Knife of Never Letting Go. I’m almost to the end and have ordered the third book, Monsters of Men, from the library already, since I’m expecting another cliffhanger here.

I’m also in the middle of wingless, scorched & beautiful, a poetry chapbook by Allie Marini Batts, which I’m hoping to post a review of later this week.

I stalled out a bit on Don Quixote but have started up again.

What I’m Writing

I’ve pulled one of the poems from the chapbook (maybe). I keep going back and forth on it, since I’m not sure it’s ready (so pulling it is probably the best option — maybe).

In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of publishers to send my chapbook out to (thanks to some advice from Allie). I’ll be sending it out just as soon as I bring myself to finalize the collection.

Goal(s) for this week: Submit chapbook. Gather together poem drafts I’ve written from internet and the universe and organize them in my computer.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

I’ve started in on a modified version of Whole 30 today, which is to say that I’m trying to stick to veggies and proteins with some fruits. So, primarily no added sugar, no dairy, no grains, no legumes (although I’m still eating premade salads that do not follow the rules for lunches, because it’s what I’m capable of right now and I have a couple of cookies I plan to eat this week instead of throw out). This modified version may lead to me trying the strict version, though we’ll see.

I’m finding this inspiring, because for a long while I stopped cooking other than throwing some frozen food item into an oven. This making me think differently and more creatively about the foods I eat and reminding me of yummie things I’ve forgotten about — like avocados and asparagus and brussel sprouts and other foods I haven’t been eating because I haven’t been cooking.

This process has me thinking about how I can find new ways to approach my writing life.

Linky Goodness

In Living Out Loud, Lise Quintana presents great reasons as to why writers should participate in reading their work out loud at events. Solid reasons all.


Apr 17 2015

Book Love: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Description from Goodreads: “Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.”

I have a secret affinity for Westerns or, more accurately, I love the idea of Westerns — although I don’t often read or watch them.

My interest is closely connected with my love for folklore and mythology and the ways modern storytellers break it apart and shape it anew. There is a myth of the American Wild West, often based almost on the image of lonely, noble white cowboys standing up against the dangers of a lawless land. I can understand the appeal of figures like Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok and the characters portrayed by John Wayne. Although, I’m more partial to the female versions, seen in Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley. I love cowgirls and will be immediately drawn to any story that has women facing the Wild West on their own terms, even not-great movies, like Bad Girls.

I come to this interest in Westerns with the full knowledge that this mythology is deeply problematic, erasing and villainizing the image of POC, particularly Native Americans. It’s a mythology to be tangled with carefully, with room for dismantling, and approached with reservation, oodles of research, and a sense of inclusion.

One of the things that drew me to Under the Painted Sky was not only the diversity of the main characters — Sammy is Chinese and Andy is black — but the fact that they disguise themselves as boys to make their road safer. I loved both of these girls, how they faced their fears and strove for their own freedom. They both have skills and knowledge of their own and learn a lot from each other. Their bond of friendship is powerful, as strong as sisterhood by the end, and I loved the mutual respect they had for each other.

“You miss being a girl? I ask her.

Not as much as I thought I would. Just feels like when I’m being a boy, I can cut a wider path.”

The trope Under the Painted Sky most clearly breaks from is the image of the lone noble cowboy image/hero image. Instead of solitude, the story presents the strength of community and the power of being backed by the family you choose. On the road, Sammy and Andy meet three young cowboys — two from Texans and one Mexican — who join them on their journey to California and teach them some cattle wrangling skills. The interactions between the five characters are often hilarious, and the author does a great job of showing how their friendship blossoms into complete trust.

Under the Painted Sky is sometimes thrilling, sometimes touching, and often funny. It had me staying up way to late so that I could finish it. A fantastic debut and a wonderful read from Stacey Lee. I’ll be looking out for more work by her.


Apr 13 2015

In which I feel as though I haven’t done thing…

My weekend whispered away, it seems. The days melting into each other with the TV chattering in the background — a large part of that chatter involving a full day marathon of all the Star Wars movies at my sister’s house.

And yet, somehow my laundry is done and my bed is made and my life doesn’t seem to have dissolved into chaos, so I guess I’ve been productive, too.

What I’m Reading

I have a great love for cowgirl stories (even though I don’t read them often), so Under the Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is perfect for me. I’m loving this so far, with two strong girls (one of Chinese decent accused of murder and one a runaway slave) running out into the empty wild west, dressed as boys.

Still working on Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It’s slow reading, but fun. Sometimes I guffaw outloud at the antics of these characters.

What I’m Writing

Putting together a collection is a strange process, something I don’t have much experience with and, in the past, it has not felt natural to group my poetry together. Since this present collection is made up primarily of letter-poems, they all at least fit around a single concept. Over the past week, I’ve read through all of the poems, made selections of those to include and performed edits (substantial in some cases) to each, as well as spreading them out across my living room floor to decide on an order.

I’m feeling good about where I’m at with chapbook — better than any previous time I’ve tried to put a collection together. At the moment, I’m trying to just let things sit for a bit in order to be sure of a few final edits to a couple of the poems, then I think I’ll be ready to send it out. (Eeeeee!)

Goal(s) for this week: Submit chapbook. Gather together poem drafts I’ve written from internet and the universe and organize them in my computer.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Reading poetry this month, because beautiful words get me thinking about words and then wanting to write them, too.

Linky Goodness

E. Jade Lomax imagined what the Harry Potter stories would have been like, if Petunia Dursley had opened her home and heart to Harry instead of rejecting him and the result is so beautiful, it made me cry.