Jun 6 2017

Culture Consumption: May 2017

May was an interesting month, in that it was full of fabulous travels. Still managed to read and watch quite a few great stories.

Books

I adored Bone Gap by Laura Ruby a subtly speculative novel about Finn and Sean O’Sullivan, two brothers surviving in small town full of gaps that people slip through all the time. First, their mother abandons them for a new life, then Roza — the young woman who shows up in their barn and brings light into their lives and the lives of the whole town — vanishes. The story and characters and magical realism and the setting of a small town (where everybody knows everything about everyone, even if they always get the story wrong) is gorgeous. Also, the audiobook narrator Dan Bittner does a fantastic job of bringing each of the characters to life, making them feel distinct when the POV shifts.

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May 5 2017

Culture Consumption: March and April 2017

My, my. I have gotten rather behind, haven’t I.

Books

“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”

I delighted in A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, the audio book of which is read by the author herself, who does a wonderful reading. The novel is told from two points of view — Ruth, a writer on a remote island who finds a mysterious packet in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, containing a journal and letters and other items, and Nao, living in Tokyo, whose story is told through the journal itself.

There are so many layers to my love of this novel. The characters and their stories captivated me. Nao, who has faced such levels of bullying at school and sorrow at home, relates her decision to end her life in a straightforward manner. To her it is the only logical solution to what she’s been through (and she’s been through a lot). In her journal, she presents her life with a sense of self-depreciating humor. After all she’s been through, and despite her resolution, there is an underlying strength to her. It’s an interesting balance between depression, sorrow, and enjoyment of small moments.

Ruth is also fascinating to me. Her life is marked by less overt drama, and her story relates more of the small moments, the routines of her life that both provide her with contentment and feel like traps. As she explore’s Nao’s story through the journal and tries to seek a way to help this girl who lives across the sea, she finds certain threads of her own life loosening, creating their own minor havocs.

This novel is also so meta. One could start with the writer character, Ruth, who shares her name with the author of the book, which suggests the potential of the autobiographical slipping in even if none of it actually is such. Even the title A Tale for the Time Being has double meaning — as in both, a tale for a person who lives in time, and also a tale for right now. I don’t want to get too much into the ways this is a meta narrative, since a lot of it comes at the end, but I will say that it had me thinking about the creation of art and degree to which the reader participates in the creation.

I think this is one of those books I’m going to have to reread many times.

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Apr 30 2017

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez

The stories in Things We Lost in the Fire are dark, unsettling and powerful. Mariana Enríquez uses horror and the uncanny to explore women’s lives, from schoolgirls to grown women, some impoverished, some wealthy, most reaching for levels of independence or to carve out some space for themselves in the world.

One story tells of three friend drink and drug their way through their young years, a partying haze. Part of the beauty “The Intoxicated Years” is the breathless quality of the prose, moment rushing into moment as the girls rage through their days. At first, it seems a story of reckless freedom, but it becomes clear that all of their adventures are underpinned with a growing viscousness that’s beautifully powerful and raw.

In “Spiderweb,” a woman feels bored and trapped by the marriage she rushed into, and when she brings her husband to visit her family, she’s embarrassed and repelled by him with every passing moment. One a trip with her cousin Natalia and her husband to Asunción (an open market offering mostly knockoffs or illegal items), her frustration comes to the surface. I love the way this story builds on the feeling of being stuck by the choices you’ve made.

“No Flesh Over Our Bones” is the story of a woman finds a human skull, rings it home and names it Vera. The woman becomes more and more obsessed with the skull, desiring to make it whole again. The story approaches the realm of body horror as it explores women’s relationships to their bodies.

In “Under the Black Water,” Marina is an attorney who works with the people who live in impoverished in the slums of Buenos Aires. She learns that strange things, including a dead man coming up out of the water, are happening in the slums. When Marina investigates, events grow more and more disturbing in a way that feels Lovecraftian. This is one of my favorite stories in the collection. I love the main character and how the story is both grittily realistic and strange in the ways it explores poverty and environmentalism.

Among the most disturbing and powerful stories for me was “Things We Lost in the Fire.” Body horror is a key trope in this story, in which women claim their own lives and bodies by setting themselves on fire and living in the world with their scars proudly shown. The scars are presented by this movement of women as a new kind of beauty, with fearlessness and a fervor, and yet.

I’m looking forward to reading more work by Enríquez.

Note: This book was provided as an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Apr 18 2017

All the Miles I’ve Travelled

Over half of last week was consumed by as work trip to Michigan. I flew in and out of Chicago and then drove across Michigan visiting industrial facilities (something I find so interesting). Over the course of the trip I drove about 940 miles. Most of the roads revealed large, flat empty fields with skeletal trees surrounding them. I wanted to get out and explore the forests, to stand among the winter trees, but my driving schedule didn’t really allow it. I did, however, get some photos from the roadside.

This is probably where I should connect these miles to a metaphor about the roads I’ve traveling in my creative life, how I’ve persistently pursued poetry and fiction and filmmaking, how I’ve come across mountains and ravines and struggled my way through, how these roads have garnered me new perspectives and insights into myself and the creative world at large — but I’m just not going there right now. Maybe some other time.

What I’m Reading

I’m stoked to be reading The Obelisk Gate, the second book in N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy. This book is just as fantastic as the first book, The Fifth Season, which presented a world defined by continual catastrophe (review). I love this world and the characters in it. More about this world has been revealed, making it even more interesting than it already was. I can’t wait to see where this is going.

What I’m Writing

I received three rejections for my homeless ELJ chap over the weekend, back to back. One of them said nice things about my work and offered to publish a few of the poems in their upcoming journal, even though they couldn’t take the book — which was nice.

These days, I’m finding my skin is not as thick as it used to be regarding rejections. I keep reminding myself that most manuscripts get rejected a dozen or more times before finding a home. So, I’m setting myself a requirement to send the chap out to four new publishers, and I’ll continue doing that until it finds a home.

Even with all of the traveling and holidays and life being lifelike, I’ve managed to consistently keep up with my daily erasure poetry on Instagram. I really enjoy doing these and I’m considering putting together a self-pubbed chap of erasure poems at some point.

The Running Life

The not running has continued, and I can feel it in my muscles that I need to be getting back out there again.

Longest Run of the Week: 0 miles
Total Miles for the Week: 0 miles
Total Miles for 2017: 62.54 miles

Linky Goodness

“Literature’s grand mission is to tell the complicated truths about what it means to be human, but the most powerful proof that any writer has achieved that lofty goal is in the humble phrase: me too,” says Cheryl Strayed in a response to question on the power of words.

“So maybe it was just sad, doughy me, at home stuffing the void with takeout, but it felt like Sad Girl Theory had infiltrated all the biggest moments in pop culture over the past two years. Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s breakout TV show Fleabag and Rachel Bloom’s My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend each fixated on two things: being sad and being a woman and the connection between both.,” writes Sophie Atkinson in Feminism and the Pursuit of Relentless Happiness.

Five Fierce Women Poets You Need to Read Now


Apr 11 2017

Little Disappointments

The writing life is full of its disappointments. The words are never quite the gossamer things they were in your head. Projects you spend days, weeks, years on don’t always come to fruition. The work you submit to journals for publication gets rejected, again and again, over and over. Events get cancelled. Publishers close.

At the end of March, ELJ Editions announced that it was closing its doors — an event that leaves my chapbook Pantheon, along with a great many other books, without a home. Since this announcement, I’ve been dealing with feelings of sadness and self doubt, while at the same time being moved by how the writing community has responded. In the wake, publishers have stepped up, offering to take a look at homeless books, and ELJ authors have come together to provide support and encouragement — which is a beautiful thing.

Over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been processing this news while also being overwhelmed at my day job, I’ve let a few things slide, including the National Poetry Month fanfare I normally engage in.

Things, life, whatever is moving on, and I’m currently working to find my chap a new home. If you want to send me some good vibes on that account, I’d appreciate it.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

In the realm of good news, my poem Songs for Psyche is now up at Devilfish Review. I’m excited about this because I’ve been trying to get work in Devilfish for a while now.

Here’s a little taste of the poem: “if you believe the path / of an arrow is straight // you’ve never / been within / cupid’s quiver”

Zoetic Press is hosting a Kickstarter in order to support its forthcoming anthology of dystopian fiction by POC writers, A Phoenix First Must Burn. There are 12 days left to support the project and even a dollar or few would be greatly appreciated by everyone at the press.

There are lots of rewards available — including things like handwritten postcards and limited edition Nonbinary Review anthologies — all awesome. Also, if the project gets 100 backers, it will publish a print version of the anthology.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor, which was amazing. I love the imaginative interstellar world building of this, and I can’t wait for the third book.

Next up is The Obelisk Gate, the second book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. The first book, The Fifth Season, was one of my favorite reads from 2015, so I can’t wait to get started on the sequel.

(One of the things I’ve let slide is my monthly Culture Consumption report, and at this point, I’m going to let it go. I’ll catch up on all the things at the end of April.)

What I’m Writing

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m doing 30 days of erasure poetry on Instagram using the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyers. I love doing erasure poems, because it’s a soothing process for me, something I can do with a movie on in the background.

I’ll be traveling for work this week, so I’m hoping to get some editing work and new writing on the webseries done while I’m sitting around in hotel rooms.

The Running Life

No running last week. Or the week prior. This was partly due to my having to work overtime a lot of the last couple of weeks

Longest Run of the Week: 0 miles
Total Miles for the Week: 0 miles
Total Miles for 2017: 62.54 miles

Linky Goodness

John Freeman on How a Literary Magazine Editor Finds New Writers:

“I sometimes hear publishing new writers talked about as if it were an occult art. Tea leaves consulted. Sand art made. A voice in the dark. But it’s not that hard to find very good new writers. You just have to listen to people. There are agents who seem to constantly have good new voices, magazines which have a record of publishing them, cities where they seem to develop and read in public, and, of course, teachers and writing programs around which they seem to cluster. Just as tornadoes hit the plains and avalanches happen in winter, spend enough time in these spaces and soon enough something miraculous will walk into view.”

A set of poetry postcards from immigrants, refugees and others touched by migration.

A gorgeous font that evolves as you type with it.