May 23 2016

Rage Writing Through the Block

It was a frustrating week in writing, one of those weeks where you keep trying different routes to get into the words, only to come up against another wall.

One night this week, I sat with a set of poems in front of me. I picked up one poem, and then the next, and then the next — each time putting the poem back down into the pile after having just barely glancing at it. The feeling of frustration just kept building and building.

There’s a feeling of restriction, I find, in being artistically blocked. I find myself curling in, my muscles tightening up. It’s a feeling of not being able to move or act. And the more I feel I can’t write or act, the more I tighten the ball.

All I want to do is just scribble in rage until I tear through the page, I thought, while still trying to face the words I couldn’t seem to face.

Until I finally asked myself why I was avoiding it. If rage write what what I wanted to do and if it wasn’t really going to make things any worse, why not do it. So, I grabbed a red pen and started scrawling all the hate words and curses and anger out on to the page. I scribbled over what I wrote, I scratched over and I tore through the page, ripping a hole and gouging it open.

Rage writing might seem a counterproductive way to deal with an emotional block (which really what I think writer’s blocks are). But here’s the thing, it helped. It loosen up all that tension that had built up and allowed me to loosen. I started having fun with the scribbles, and they became more playful, less angry.

Not long after putting the page of rage writing down, I was able to pick up a poem and edit it into a finished piece that I’m rather happy with, allowing me to end the day with a feeling of accomplishment and calm.

I’m not saying rage writing is the solution for everyone facing a block, or for every time it comes up. There are a lot of ways to relax that tension and frustration. Other paths for other writers might do better with meditation, or taking a long walk, or reading an awesome book.

The point is there are creative solutions to finding your way around the wall.

Let me know what solutions you’ve found that work best for you in the comments.

What I’m Reading

I should have been able to finishe Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, in just a few hours. But there have been numerous distractions, so I’m still in the process of reading. Good stuff so far.

Also about halfway through the 2016 Rhysling Anthology, which is full of amazing speculative poetry.

What I’m Writing

I talked about most of my writing week already. Another frustration was that I had put together a submission of poems, only to realize halfway through submitting that my intended submission did not fit the journal’s guidelines after all. So, I sighed and put it aside and began looking into where else to submit, but never actually got around to submitting.

Goals for the Week:

  • Continue editing the 30/30 poetry collection.
  • Submit a set of poems for publication

Linky Goodness

“If there is a thematic message encoded in the “girl” narratives, I think this is its key: the transition from girlhood to womanhood, from being someone to being someone’s wife, someone’s mother. Girl attunes us to what might be gained and lost in the transformation, and raises a possibility of reversion. To be called “just a girl” may be diminishment, but to call yourself “still a girl,” can be empowerment, laying claim to the unencumbered liberties of youth. As Gloria Steinem likes to remind us, women lose power as they age. The persistence of girlhood can be a battle cry,” writes Robin Wasserman in her wonderful exploration of what it means when we call women girls.

In The Unsung Heroes of the Poetry World, Krystal Languell talks with 11 poets on what it takes to run a small press.

Beyond Harry Potter: 25 Fantasy Adventure Series Starring Mighty Girls

Boston’s sidewalks are covered in secret poems, which are only revealed when it rains.


May 16 2016

Taking in the Sun

My weekend was filled with sunshine. My sisters, mom, niece, nephew and I spend Saturday on the beach enjoying the sun and sand and surf. The babies had so much fun splashing their toes in the clear blue water, giggled as it washed up over their legs. They also loved digging in the sand and building sand castles.

Sunday I took myself on a solo hike and run through a local trail.

We’re definitely in the Spring of things, with sunny days on the horizon (no surprise, really, in California).

At the beach near Half Moon Bay.

What I’m Reading

In my project of making up for missed childhood reading, I’m following up Anne of Green Gables with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I’m only a chapter in, so I don’t have a ton of thoughts as of yet, but I’m sure I will.

Also reading the 2016 Rhysling Anthology, so that I can make my votes soon.

What I’m Writing

Work on the 30/30 poems is ongoing. I do a substantial edit of about one poem at a time, followed by a re-exmination of one of the previously edited poems.

One the whole, I still have so many doubts about these poems. But I’m trying to just trust my original gut feeling. I try to focus on the spark inspired me to go in that direction in the first place and to move in that direction with my edits.

Goals for the Week:

  • Continue editing the 30/30 poetry collection.
  • Submit a set of poems for publication

Linky Goodness

“The fact that “The Little Mermaid” revolves around the silence of its heroine speaks to the political situation of the era. In some ways, the 1830s in Europe marked an “enlightenment” period for gay activism,” writes Maddy Myers on Queer Subtext in The Little Mermaid, From Hans Christian Andersen’s Original to Disney’s Adaptation.

Rose Hackman on how women are pushed to de-escalate sexist incidents.

In The Secret to Reviewing Mediocre Movies, Jacob Oller writes, “Each review should be something I’m proud to publish or at least contain something I’m proud to publish.,” which also applies to the wider world of writing in that we should all be writing something we’re proud to publish.

A Strange Horizons survey shows that sci-fi media coverage is still dominated by men.


May 9 2016

Legacy of Poetry

The Center for Literary Arts at San Jose University (SJU) hosted Legacy of Poetry Day at the Hammer Theatre on Thursday. The event started off with music and presentations of theater and folkloric from SJU, followed by readings from poet laureates from around California, culminating in a reading by U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

Herrera read some amazing pieces, including at one point a poem about laundry written on the back of an actual laundry bag. He has a generosity of spirit that’s really wonderful. Following the readings, he did a series of signings and for each one, he sat the person down next to them and spoke for a short moment about poetry while he signed.

Alejandro Murguía, the San Francisco poet laureate emeritus, was equally amazing during his reading in which he played off the other poets and performances from the evening — having either come up with the words on the spot or just before going out on stage. It was one of those performances that socks you in the chest because it was that good.

I was also blown away by the work of Arlene Biala, poet laureate of Santa Clara County, who read a deeply moving poem.

What I’m Reading

Apparently, I missed out on a thing called Anne of Green Gables as a child. So here I am reading it and I’m almost done and it’s fairly lovely in a wistful, hopeful way.

Still working on In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood. In the second section, she’s included portions of past essays that analyze SF books and worlds. Some of it’s interesting, some of it’s a repeat of what she’s already discussed.

What I’m Writing

All those thirty poems I wrote during April? Well, now they need editing. A few are almost ready to go. Others need a lot of overhaul. So, I’m starting in. I’m finding myself being super critical of them, even hating some. Mostly, I am just trying not to despair, because sitting around wailing isn’t at all productive.

But that’s all kinda part of the process.

In a similar theme, I speed-wrote the draft of a new poem this week, while my mom was sitting near by. She asked me to read it aloud, so I did. It was too soon. The poem was too rough, resembled nothing of what it had been in my head, fell flat across the polite silence of the room. I should have waited to share it, held on to it and waited to share it when the timing was right as I usually do. No one said anything. The conversation moved politely away from the scope of poetry without commentary. I quietly despaired.

That’s kinda part of the process, too.

Goals for the Week:

  • Continue editing the 30/30 poetry collection.
  • Submit a set of poems for publication

Linky Goodness

Mallory Ortberg on Publishing, Weight, and Writers Who Are “Hard To Look At”

“I was an escapist. That was what, finally although implicitly, he was accusing me of. For a long time I felt vaguely ashamed of being an escapist. But recently I have decided to reclaim the word,” writes Theodora Goss in her lovely piece, Writing My Mother’s Ghosts.

Sonya Vatomsky on The Gendered Experience of Fear & Better Living Through Horror Movies:

“I’ve been watching a lot of horror movies after my assault.

This surprises people, women in particular — horror as a genre is so overrun with male fears and fantasies that it’s almost impossible to separate the human desire to feel fear in a safe, contained environment from allyship with the male fear narrative. They are conflated. Empirically, depending on how broad the range of movies you watch, they can be identical. Because in the same way that a nearly all-male literary canon shapes our personal narratives, male identity also shapes our fears and our perceptions of what should be feared.”

In her piece On Robots as a Metaphor for Marginalization: The Stories We’re Not Telling, Maddy Myers writes, “Much like how the mutants in X-Men serve as a catch-all metaphor for various forms of marginalization, so too do robots end up in that role. They most often serve this purpose in the stories that have a robot in a starring role; a story that is about a robot will generally also be a metaphor for oppression.”


May 5 2016

New-to-me movies watched in April 2016

1. Frankenstein (1931)

The definitive Frankenstein monster, the monster all other Frankenstein’s are compared to. Although the some of the opening sequences are a bit awkward, this movie comes alive (pun intended) when the monster does. Karloff is wonderful as the monster and I completely understand why his performance was lauded. With great use of shadows and some creative film moments, this is a classic film worth seeing.

2. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Another great film from director James Whale. The movie is a bit stranger than the first Frankenstein, mixing a set of weird characters with humor and fantastic camera work to bring some interesting contemplative moments to the monster. Although the monster is responsible for a number of deaths, some are understandable after the horrors he’s endured, and the sense of his loneliness and longing for kindness are clear.

My main disappointment is that the Bride of the title gets so little screen time. In the few minutes she’s on screen, she presents a fascinating figure, twitching like a bird with fascination at the world. She’s amazing and I wish she had to be and do more.

3. Darling (2015)

Darling was a strange one, an intense story of a young woman taking on a care taking job and slowly going insane. The reasoning for this transition and whether she had mental health problems to begin with is not clear.

The story is set up in chapters with the start of each one featuring the young woman staring ahead like a portrait. I’m not sure these chapter cards are necessary, as the lend a feeling of unreality to the story.

Shot in black and white, the film mixes long shots of beautiful cinematography with jumps of fragments short frames, jarring the seemingly calm sequences with something hidden behind the scenes. This happens fairly consistently throughout the movie, to the point that it almost becomes numbing and looses the effect it’s going for.

Darling is interesting, bloody, strange, and mostly well done.

4. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Fun and mostly funny mockumentary about four vampires living as flat mates in New Zealand. Each vampire is from a different era and part of the humor is how each of them sees the modern world. They are also all awkward, failing to have that suave beautiful grace presented in most vampire movies. Not all of the jokes were laugh out loud funny, but there were a few golden moments. Plus, the characters were all likeable enough that I was willing to go on this bizarre little journey with them.

5. Purple Rain (1984)

I watched Purple Rain for the first time and I’m wondering how the hell I’ve never seen this before.

Prince on stage represents the golden moments of this movie. He’s a level of fabulous and HOT that cannot be contained.

Sure, the plot is thin as fishnet tights and the acting is sometimes laughable, but it’s also freaking fantastic for being the ’80s rock movie it is.


May 4 2016

Reading from Poetry Month and beyond

My April was full of poetry, as it should be. I’m giving myself permission not to have to write reviews for all of these, due to the level of overwhelmed I’ve been and seem to continue to be.

Poetry Books Finished

Some of these are rereads. Some I started earlier in the year and only finished in April. All of them, I loved.

1. Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild by Allie Marini
2. God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant (review)
3. Terra Incognita by Jennifer Martin
4. was it more than a kiss by Chella Courington (spotlight interview)
5. A Heart with No Scars by Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco
6. A History of the Cetacean American Diasapora by Jenna Le (spotlight interview)
7. An Animal I Can’t Name by Raegan Pietrucha
8. The Midway Iterations by T.A. Noonan
9. My Mother’s Child by Pamela L. Taylor (spotlight interview)

Read in Part (as in a poem or few)

Again, some of these I’ve read in their entirety years ago, and others are ones I just didn’t have time to delve into completely at this time.

Neat Sheets: The Poetry of James Tiptree, Jr.
Paper House by Jessie Carty
Elephant Rocks by Kay Ryan
Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda
From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes by B.C. Edwards
Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse by David Perez
Ceremony for the Choking Ghost by Karen Finneyfrock
The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You by Caits Meissner and Tishon
No Experiences by Erin Watson
The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Joy Harjo
TEN by Val Dering Rojas
Dream Work by Mary Oliver
An Apparently Impossible Adventure by Laura Madeline Wiseman
Ay Nako: Writing Through the Struggle by Lorenz Mazon Dumuk
Cloud Pharmacy by Susan Rich
The Usable Field by Jane Mead
Debridement by Corrina Bain
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Haunted House by Marisa Crawford
Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone by Annelyse Gelman
Domestic Work by Natasha Trethewey

Catching Up

Back at the beginning of the month, I forgot to post my reading from March, so here’s those:

1. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

About a year ago (or something), I read and adored Jo Walton’s Among Others, for the way it handled fairies and magic as subtle things in the world, so subtle they often go unnoticed by most people.

Tooth and Claw is nothing like Among Other, a completely different direction in style and story. The book is a comedy of manners, kind of like Jane Austen but with a society of dragons. It deals with the practical matters of such a society. From the book description:

“Here is a tale of a family dealing with the death of their father, a son who goes to court for his inheritance, a son who agonizes over his father’s deathbed confession, a daughter who falls in love, a daughter who becomes involved in the abolition movement, and a daughter sacrificing herself for her husband.”

It’s so human in the kinds of troubles the dragons have to face (which makes sense since dragon culture was influenced by the Yarge), but social manners and propriety are all greatly influenced by the biology of the dragons — a young women is gold when she is a maiden, but blushes to pink when she becomes betrothed signifying her new ability to have children (it makes for some interesting new challenges when a woman is “compromised”); the length of a dragon has a strong influence on their social position; and so on. There is more, but I don’t want to give too much away.

The only giant glaring negative to this novel was the fact that my edition had two pages that were bound wrong — page 19 came after page 22 (which took me a week to figure out) and another page toward the end was flipped upside down.

Otherwise, Tooth and Claw was a charming read, neatly pulling together the threads of all the character’s storylines into a satisfying conclusion.

2. The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

This novella explores the nature of consciousness and what constitutes sentience. In the story, a set of digital pets are created and sold to users in e VR environment. While some grow bored with the creature a few become dedicated to their progress and they begin to grow their own sense of autonomy. There’s no apocalyptic machines-are-going-to-take-over-the-world elements to this. It’s more of an intellectual exploration of one possibility. It’s fascinating and sweet, and the people raising these AI pets bring them up like family.

3. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

A young teenage boy has become a single father. He’s not ready for it and struggles to maintain his schooling and raise his daughter and is strained to the point of extreme exhaustion. But throughout there is no doubt that he loves his little girl and he will do anything for her, if he can. It’s wonderfully moving and worth a read.