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.

May 2 2016

Ending Poetry Month with a Bang

and by bang, I mean the pounding of my fingers against the keyboard as I desperately worked to finish the number of challenges I set for myself at the beginning of the month.

Sunday, I travelled up to San Francisco for an evening of words at The Alchemy Slam & Open Mic, located at F8 bar & lounge. Unfortunately, I mixed up the times, so I missed the first half of the show, but caught the second half, which was plenty full up of amazing poets whose words filled the room with feelings. The Grand Slam Champion, Casey Gardner, with Hadas Goshen, Kyle Liddle, Apollo, and Mic Ting rounding out the Alchemy Slam Team, which will be going on to nationals.


  • Winners for the Big Poetry Giveaway! Brian Wong and Renee will soon receive copies of Southern Cryptozoology by Allie Marini and A Heart With No Scars by Brennan DeFrisco, respectively. (Winners were selected by a random number generator.)
  • Dirty Chai Press announced the winner of their Dirty Chaps Contest — Unapology by Courtney Gustafson — to whom I offer a hearty congrats! I’m also thrilled to note that my manuscript, The Things I Own, was named as a finalist!
  • Laura Madeline Wiseman and I have have received an acceptance for two poems — “Eleven Wild Brothers” and “Maestros of the Farmyard” — for publication in The World Retold anthology, edited and published by The Writers’ Guild of Iowa State University.

I managed to post three poet spotlights this month with three wonderful women:

What I’m Reading

I’ve finished up the 30 selfies with poetry on my Instagram, which highlighted both new poets I’ve discovered and works that I’ve loved for years. I’ll list my complete poetry reading for the month tomorrow.

Still working on In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood. So far she’s shared how she perceived genre as more of a fluid thing and her reasoning behind using the term “speculative” instead of “science fiction” to describe her own work.

What I’m Writing

There were a few days toward the end of the month in which I began to doubt my ability to complete the 30/30 challenge. It wasn’t the number of poems left, as there were only about a handful left to write. But at a certain point I began to loathe every word I put down onto the page. It happens.

With reminders from fellow writers that these are meant to be drafts, not completed poems, I worked through the frustration. One of the ways I did this was to switch from screen to pen and paper for several poems and just free wrote as fast as I could to outpace my inner critic.

And it worked. I completed a total of 30 poems in 30 days and I feel good about most of them. I’ve never managed to do anything like that before. So, I’m feeling rather good.

Poems I completed last week (all will be taken down at the end of May, maybe):

Goal for the Week:

  • Take some time to chill.
  • Start editing 30/30 poetry collection.
  • Write at least one poem from Twelve chapbook.

Linky Goodness

“The practice of developing any kind of spiritual practice, anything that brings you greater awareness of yourself and your relationship to the world around you, is a process of stepping into a fire and allowing the flames to eat you whole. It is not gentle. Often, it even seems unkind,” writes Robin Lee on the dark side of being full of light.

100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels By Female Authors!

Apr 28 2016

Poet Spotlight: Pamela Taylor on balance in life and poetry

Pamela TaylorPamela Taylor is a data guru by day and a poet by night. She has a doctorate in social psychology from UCLA, a MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a Cave Canem Fellow. When she is not working or writing, she’s dancing Argentine tango in the Boston area. Her first chapbook of poetry, My Mother’s Child, was published by Hyacinth Girl Press in June 2015.

You recently published your first book of poetry, My Mother’s Child. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came about. Is this your first collection?

My Mother’s Child is my first chapbook. I wrote these poems over a 5 year span. Until I put a collection together, I never understood it when poets said their books took them years to write. I think the earliest poem (“The Climb”) was written in 2009 when I attended a small poetry generative workshop. Many of the poems about my professional life were written during my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Others, like the closing poem (“There’s a Graveyard in My Belly”), were written during the week-long Cave Canem retreats for Black poets.

When I thought I had written enough poems to go into a book, I printed them out, put them in a logical order, and sent it out as a full collection. That strategy got me nowhere. So I focused on the poems I had gotten published in literary magazines and journals and a few others I thought were good poems. This time, I laid them out and let them speak to each other. The poems arranged themselves in two distinct groups. I sent both out as chapbooks to separate contests. This collection was a finalist for the Imaginary Friend Press chapbook competition. One of the readers, Margaret Bashaar, had her own press and asked if I would be willing to let her publish my collection with Hyacinth Girl Press.

Continue reading

Apr 25 2016

Playing a game of catch up

What I’m Reading

It’s still poetry, poetry, and more poetry, which you can see on my Instagram.

But I’ve also started reading the first few chapters of In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood, in which she discusses her own relationship with the speculative genre and what inspired her to write her own other worlds.

What I’m Poeming

I keep playing a game of catch up with the 30/30 challenge. I fall behind a day or two, then get caught up and then fall behind and get caught up.

Some of my poems have required “research,” by which I mean the watching of copious amounts of movies and TV in order to get new ideas. For example, I watched both two 1930s movies, Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein with the aim of writing a poem for the Bride (who is only in the movie for about a minute). Of course, in the process, I couldn’t help but write a poem for the monster himself, as well.

The poems I’ve completed this week (all will be taken down at the end of the month May):

Goal for the Week:

  • Only SIX poems left to write in the challenge! So polish it off!

Linky Goodness

Alyssa Rosenberg on Mourning Prince and David Bowie, who showed there’s no one right way to be a man: “We’re in a moment in American politics consumed by gender panic, from Donald Trump’s menstrual anxieties to the rise of and backlash to a movement for transgender rights. And now we’ve lost two men who had an expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man and lived out that vision through decades when it was much less safe to do so.”

Brain Pickings shared The Importance of Being Scared: Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska on Fairy Tales and the Necessity of Fear.

Scott Mendelson explains Why It Matters When Female Stars Are Kicked Out Of Their Franchises: “When you’re a woman in Hollywood, no matter your stature, no matter your billing, and no matter your importance to the television show or film franchise in which you appear, you may well always have a target on your back. At the end of the day, the only indisposable part of the franchise or the hit television show is the guy.”

Apr 19 2016

Burning Tales

On Saturday, I attended the one year anniversary of the Burning Tale open mic, which was held in what is my new favorite venue, Studio Bongiorno. The studio features a fantastic mix of the beautiful and creep with assemblage art and random doll heads on shelves and a full size coffin in the courtyard.

Studio Bongiorno

The feature poet of the night was Abe Becker, who shared beautiful, raw, and funny words exploring the awkward land mines of human relationships. A number of other amazing readers also took the stage, and I was honored to have been able to read two of the poems from my current 30/30 challenge with a kind response from the audience.

I’ll definitely be returning to Studio Bongiorno for more Burning Tales and other events, as well as just to grab some great coffee.

What I’m Reading

A number of excellent poetry books — mostly a poem here and a poem there, jumping around as I post photos of the books I love. However, I did finish God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant, about which I posted a very short review.

What I’m Poeming

I’ve slowed down a bit on the 30/30 challenge. Although, I’ve mostly been able to keep up the pace, I fell slightly behind (just a day). The main problem is that the ideas are not as free flowing as they were at the start of the challenge — something I expected to happen. So, now I’m just trying to slam any words down at the wall, a dragging my feet through the sand level of momentum, which is sometimes kind of painful. I’m still going, though, and I intend to finish.

The poems I’ve completed this week (all will be taken down at the end of the month May):

Goal for the Week:

  • Get those poems per day written and posted!

Linky Goodness

Some thoughts about Contemporary Innovators of the Short Story on Electric Literature.

And Gwendolyn Kiste presents my one of new favorite retelling of Snow White in “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray.”