Poet Spotlight: Saba Syed Razvi on the interplay between dark and light

In honor of Women in Horror Month — which celebrates women working in the field of horror writing, film, art, etc. — I am stoked to spotlight Saba Syed Razvi.

Saba Syed Razvi

Saba Syed Razvi is the author of five collections of poetry, including In the Crocodile Gardens (Agape Editions), heliophobia (Finishing Line Press), Limerence & Lux (Chax Press), Of the Divining and the Dead (Finishing Line Press), and Beside the Muezzin’s Call & Beyond the Harem’s Veil (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies and her work has been nominated for several awards. In 2015, she won an Independent Best American Poetry Award.

She is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston in Victoria, TX, where in addition to working on scholarly research on interfaces between Science and contemporary Poetry, she is researching Sufi Poetry in translation, and writing new poems and fiction.

Your most recent collection of poetry is heliophobia. Tell us about the project and how it came into being.

heliophobiaThis collection came about through my experiences in the world, and took shape over a span of many years. I started to write the poems in this collection as a student of literature in a university setting, but not really for any of my classes. For me, writing has always been a way to understand and navigate the world, to experience it with authenticity rather than obligation. It has always been an intimate part of who I am, so my own coming of age found its expression in these passages, easily.

I found myself thinking often of the mythology of the classics I encountered, with their archetypal appeal and their visceral logic. I also found myself shaped by the simple delight of old school Goth Clubs, filled with the elaborate plumage of attire and hair, the masks of makeup, and the exquisite sincerity with which dancing and the vibrant wail of music opened up a sense of living against the inevitable call of death, everything with the taste of duende.

Of course, growing up in Texas, as an Asian American and Muslim American, meant that I was often in many worlds at once; I found that the stories of my own dreams and darkness carried faces, melodies, and narratives that often brought a sense of belonging by way of story or shared memory. In this fusion of spaces and sensibilities, markedly ancient and demonstrably contemporary, at once part of the ordinary and outside of it, visibly able to evade certainty and yet always certainly peripheral, I found that defining anything became a kind of puzzle or quest. I wrote constantly, always capturing aspects of the world around me. And, I wove these ideas together with a sense of dream and diaspora, trance and abandon, definition and composure.

Many of these poems are encounters with literature, art, culture, and subculture, but the poems aim to create a tension between the ordinary discourse of reading through the dominant lens and the painfully intimate joy of connecting through the artifacts and elements of our various interpretations of cultural processes. The collection aims to disrupt the notion of definition as a singularly knowable thing. So, I suppose these poems are some kind of unholy fusion of museums, goth clubs, meditations, and global diaspora — all rewritten through dream logic, in some kind of ink made of the timeless decay of memory!

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Saba Syed Razvi on the interplay between dark and light”

As a Single Lady Alone on Valentines Day

I say,

blessed be the lovers,

blessed be the young, who are tangled up in rich with lust and longing, locked in a languid exploration into the depths of another, unaware of dangers ahead;

blessed be the old married couple, who have obliterated all their secrets, years kneading together into a comfortable intimacy;

blessed be the  broken-hearted, who mine the labyrinths of their own souls, excavating chunks of pain and rage, digging for meaning behind such catastrophic endings — who crawl from the grimy depths into the light, carrying the fragile, glinting hope of love still uncrushed in the palm of their hands;

blessed be the strangers, who lock liquor hazy eyes in an invitation of smiles and lingering touches, fingertips on forearm, drawing one another into a night of coiled limbs and knotted sheets and a bitter-sweet morning of pleasure or regret;

blessed be the solitude seekers, who long only for quiet contemplation and deeper understanding of self;

blessed be the angry, the depressed, the sorrowful, the lost, who fear they have fallen from the path of love, wandering so far into the woods of loneliness they no longer believe such a path exists;

blessed be the artists, who in their love of the world breath in its pain and passions and exhale them as myth and beauty upon page, canvass, tapestry, screen;

blessed be the scientists, who perceive love from the mount of knowledge, witnessing its compilation chemical reactions, pheromones and synapses swirling in a complex network of biology;

blessed be the mating of atoms, who spawn molecules, colliding to form cells, tissue, nerves, veins — shaping humanity and gravel, shale, and stone — rolling into mountains housing leaves, roots, trees — gathering into forests fed by water falling into ponds, streams, oceans — all the weft and fabric of the Earth;

blessed be the Earth, who so loved the sun, it bound itself in centrifugal orbit — for love is gravity;

blessed be the sun, who so loved the universe, it burned with a light that stretched deep into the void of space, softly stroking distant worlds thousands of light years away — for love is light;

blessed be the universe — for the universe itself is love.

As a human being alone, it is easy to forget
the heart is more then sinew,
more than ventricles and muscle,
more than an engine pumping blood.
The heart is expansive — capable
of holding in perpetual eternity
a moment, able to stretch wide,
broadening to embrace worlds
upon worlds within its every beat.

As a single lady along, I say, 
though we may never find the One True Love
promised us in fairy tales, we may come
at last to learn that Love itself is true.

So, I Launched a Kickstarter

[kickstarter url=https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andreablythe/make-100-a-fearless-chapbook-of-erasure-poetry width=500]

For January, Kickstarter is hosting the make/100 challenge — essentially urging creators to created a limited edition something (100 tee shirts, 100 sculptures, etc.). It’s concept I found fascinating and I really wanted to participate when they launched the challenge last year, but I had too many projects going on at the time and it didn’t work out. So, this year I was determined to put a project together.

After thinking about what would work best, I decided to do an extension of a 30/30 poetry challenge I did in April, in which I created 30 new erasure poems based on Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer as source material.

The Kickstarter project — A Fearless Chapbook of Erasure Poetry —  is to print a limited-edition chapbook of erasure poetry, compiling 20 of these already completed poems and 20 new poems that I am making during the course of the project.

I wanted to keep it simple, so I have only three reward levels:

  • $1+ — get a pdf of the chapbook and a thank you on my website
  • $10+ — get a signed print copy of the chapbook
  • $40+ — get an original of one of the erasures I create, in addition to everything else

Simplicity seems the best way for me to make it through the challenge with the least amount of stress (especially considering all the other projects I have going on simultaneously).

I’m trying to approach it in such a way that I’m asking for money without directly asking for money. Essentially, by posting a new erasure poem every day with a link to the Kickstarter included, I’m hoping that it will draw enough attention to achieve my goal.

So far, this idea is working well — I’m four days in and have achieved 26% of my goal. Yay! Although, I have a feeling I may need to be more direct as the project goes on… kind of like this:

If you have a buck or two to spend on some poetry, I would be thrilled if you could head on over and back my project.

(Whew. Not so hard.)

Anyway, it’s a strange, fun experience so far (making the video was a journey in itself), and I’m excited to see how it will all turn out.

My day three poem:

STONE

 


Linky Goodness

“I’m decades in to being a poet, but it continues to hurt to write them,” notes Karen Craigo in her excellent post, When the poems don’t come.

Poet Spotlight: Sarah Blake on leaving earth and finding home in poetry

Sarah Blake - poet

Sarah Blake is the author of three poetry collections, including Mr. West, an unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West from Wesleyan University Press; Named After Death, a chapbook from Banango Editions; and most recently, Let’s Not Live on Earth, a full length collection, also from Wesleyan.

She lives outside of Philadelphia and travels to participate in readings throughout the year. She is also the author of a forthcoming novel, Naamah (Riverhead Books), a reimagining of the story of the wife of Noah.

Let's Not Live on Earth by Sarah BlakeLet’s Not Live on Earth is your most recent collection of poetry. Tell us about the project and how it came into being.

About a year after my son was born I started writing a lot again, but I didn’t have any ideas about what the poems could be doing together. During that time, I wrote “The Starship,” a book-length poem told in second person narration, all about leaving Earth. When it came time to put a book together, I knew I wanted “The Starship” in it. I looked through years of poems to find the ones that were in conversation with “The Starship” and that’s how the book found its shape.

Your collection includes the epic poem, “The Starship,” in which a woman shifts her perception of existence when a spaceship suddenly casts her home in shadow. What is your process for writing longer form poetry? How do you balance the narrative arc of the poem with a sense of poetic immediacy?

The process is very similar to writing a shorter poem for me. The poem is all encompassing and it’s hard for me to do much else. I found myself writing pieces of “The Starship” on my phone at the Y and in bed. With a shorter poem, it’s ok to have one strange day like this, but with a longer poem, I have trouble sleeping and find myself constantly thinking about the poem for weeks. I’ve resisted writing longer poems since “The Starship” because of how it wrecks me.

I balance the narrative arc with poetic immediacy by building the poem out of small sections, which each get the attention of a poem. I love experimenting with the gestures language can make that feel satisfying, in just a few lines and across a book-length work.

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Sarah Blake on leaving earth and finding home in poetry”

Poet Spotlight: Athena Dixon on finding voice and taking action

Athena Dixon is a poet, essayist, and editor. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Linden Avenue Literary Journal, a phenomenal publication that she launched in 2012 with the aim of increasing “diversity in publishing by encouraging work from writers traditionally underrepresented in the industry.” Her own work has appeared both online and in print in various publications. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Best of the Net nominee, and a Callaloo fellow, and has been a presenter at both AWP and HippoCamp.

Athena’s first chapbook of poetry, No God In This Room, is now available from Argus House Press.

Athena Dixon

You recently published your first collection of poetry, No God in This Room. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came into being.

Back in 2016, I came across a contest announcement from Argus House Press. They were seeking intersectional manuscripts from poets in or from the Midwest. I thought I was a pretty good fit and pulled together a chapbook I thought best represented me as a woman, an African-American, and a Midwesterner. In recent years I’ve concentrated on essays about growing up in the Midwest, so it was nice to be able to find a home for my poetry on the same topic. This was actually the first contest I’ve entered and to my surprise I won! The collection was originally titled Way Station, but after Bianca Spriggs read the manuscript she suggested a new title. No God in This Room was the hands down winner.

The pieces in the collection are all very image driven. In my poetry and my prose, I tend to concentrate on a central image or thread and then spin the work out from that axis. Some of the poems take something as small as a bee on a window sill and weave a story. Others tackle images directly related to police brutality and shootings. Each of them gives a bit of sweetness and sourness.

No God in This Room - Athena DixonWhat lessons did you learn in the process of pulling together your debut collection of poetry? What was the biggest challenge in finishing the project?

Most of my lessons came after I entered the manuscript. I thought I was a good fit, but I’d never submitted more than a few poems at a time. After I was selected, I started worrying about what I’d included and whether or not the collection was cohesive. I toyed with the idea of withdrawing it altogether or entering into major edits because I wasn’t confident that people would like what I’d put together.

I’m a writer who reads everything aloud obsessively and I wasn’t sure the mouth feel and sound of the poems was right. Thankfully, most of my doubts were quieted when I read the blurbs, stepped aside, and listened to my colleagues.

In the future, I’d take quite a bit more time organizing the pieces and finding both the inner threads and outer structure of the manuscript in advance.

Do you have a favorite poem from No God in This Room? Why is it your favorite?

I’d say my favorite is the opening poem, “Boxes of Andromeda”. I wrote it for my mother. I was sitting on the floor at AWP back in 2015 and I scribbled it down in one sitting. I think it captures my mother perfectly. She was a factory worker, but was still very much a feminine figure. I wanted to honor her sacrifice of body in order to give me a different path.

How did you get started as a writer? What keeps you writing?

I started writing short stories when I was young. I’d write what was pretty much fan fiction featuring R&B singers and groups. I still have a suitcase full of them at my parents’ house. They are pretty embarrassing!

I wrote my first poem in November 1990. When I was in the 8th grade, I had a student teacher who taught us poetry for a grading period. She was very encouraging of my writing. She told me I wrote like Emily Dickenson. I had no idea who that was. So, I started to reading poetry and writing more. From there I wrote for any venue I could. From middle school through college, I wrote for an endless number of newsletters, online magazines, poetry forums, student magazines on campus, and did freelance work.

I keep writing because of two main reasons. The first is because on those days I am feeling confident I know I am a damn good writer and I love what I produce. Those are the days I want to share what I craft with the world. The second is because I need writing to be my voice. I’m pretty quiet and sometimes I feel invisible. Writing lets me speak in ways that I sometimes can’t muster out loud.

As the founder and editor-in-chief of Linden Avenue Literary Journal, as well as being a writer, what advice would you offer to writers just getting started?

First and foremost is to be yourself! Find your voice and find what you love to write about. Knowing that allows you to be confident and vested in what you are creating. That doesn’t mean it won’t, or can’t, change over the years, but if you have some real connection to what you are writing it will show in the final product.

It may seem that you have to follow trends or like certain writers or presses, but that’s not true. The writing world is vast and eventually you will find your niche and your community. When you do? Support it and it will support you!

Do you feel community is important as a writer? How do you stay connected?

Community is important, but it is also important to know that every community isn’t for you. Sometimes, especially in the age of social media, we get the idea that a writing community has to be a group of witty and cool people who riff off of each other on Twitter and other apps. Sometimes community is that. Other times, and for me, community is a couple of people who keep me grounded via e-mail and in a private setting. This works for me because of my shyness. My community also consists of people of varying ages and backgrounds. This allows me to have fresh eyes and perspectives on my literary pursuits and questions.

Do you believe poetry can create change in the world?

I believe that it can, but it needs to be coupled with action as well. Bringing awareness to topics via our creative works is massively important, but it can’t stop there. As I said earlier, if you find your voice you are going to be vested in what you are writing. That passion and interest can manifest in many ways, but I think those actions should extend beyond writing into volunteer work, fundraising, protesting, campaigning, or any other manner of engagement.

Name one poet no one knows but should.

There are a quite a few, but those writers that I find really exciting usually come via the submissions at Linden Avenue. Two that come to mind are Daschielle Louis and Rosie DeSantis. We recently published both of them and I was very impressed with their work.

What can the world expect from you in the future?

Hopefully, my collection of essays will find a home and be sent out into the world. I’ve been crafting and publishing these essays for about the last two years and it would be wonderful to finally share all of them with the world. I also have two poems in the forthcoming Black Girl Magic anthology from Haymarket Books. That will be available in March 2018. There are a few things in the works that I have to keep to myself for now.

And of course, I will continue to publish Linden Avenue along with my staff because it’s one of my priorities to offer a place for all writers get their work out to the world.


Newly Published Work – the Nasty Women Poets Anthology and more

Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive VerseNasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, edited by Grace Bauer and Julie Kane, is now available from Lost Horse Press and I’m honored to have a collaborative poem, “The Red Inside of Girls,” written with Laura Madeline Wiseman.

Nasty Women Poets presents a “timely collection of poems speaks not just to the current political climate and the man who is responsible for its title, but to the stereotypes and expectations women have faced dating back to Eve, and to the long history of women resisting those limitations. The nasty women poets included here talk back to the men who created those limitations, honor foremothers who offered models of resistance and survival, rewrite myths, celebrate their own sexuality and bodies, and the girlhoods they survived. They sing, swear, swagger, and celebrate, and stake claim to life and art on their own terms.”

Honored to have have a collaborative poem with Laura Madeline Wiseman included in the Nasty Women Poets anthology from Lost Horse Press.


Drunk Monkeys published my short story, “Missed Connections / Red Head at the House of Needles,” in their August issue. This is (I believe), the second actual short story that I’ve evern published, and I’m so happy to have it appear in a great publication like Drunk Monkeys. Here’s the story opening:

i am normally not the kind of dog who whistles at women on the street or stalks them with my eyes. i figure ladies have enough to worry about without some creeper giving them a hard time

You can read the rest online.


 NonBinary Review #14: The Tales of Hans Christian AndersenAs a member of the Zoetic press team, I’m stoked to note that NonBinary Review has released Issue #14: The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen — it’s the largest issue the publication has released to date with 53 artists and authors from around the world presenting re-imaginings of Andersen’s classic fairy tales.

Cover art is by the always amazing MANDEM.


Other Good Reads from Around the Web

“We need to stop thinking of poems as poems, but as art pieces that weave together different techniques from other disciplines, in a way to expand the line, the beat, the image,” writes Joanna C. Valente.

Sona Charaipotra and Zoraida Córdova on How YA Twitter Is Trying To Dismantle White Supremacy, One Book At A Time

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Stories You Can Read Online For Free


The Voices of Spring Mother Tongue

Last night, I slipped out of my routine and to check out the Well-RED poetry showcase, featuring poets published in the Spring Mother Tongue anthology at Works/San José. The event was hosted in part by Poetry Center San José, a rad organization and a great place to turn to for more on South Bay Area goings on in poetry. It’s the first time I’ve been out to a literary event in months (probably, maybe, at any rate it’s been a rather long time).

Spring Mother Tongue is an anthology edited by Arlene Angeles Biala, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate. The collection provides a space for poets to share the stories behind each of of their own names. “You may recognize yourself in us. You may recall your own name(s) and stories around it/them and be moved to use your own poetic voice. I hope that you do,” writes Biala in the introduction.


Some of the poets whose work appears in the anthology read at the event — representing a variety of ages and backgrounds and a multitude of voices and poetic styles. These readers included: America Cihuapilli Irineo, ASHA, Arlene Biala, Jade Bradbury, Bill Cozzini, Kiana Del Rosario, Lorenz Dumuk, Parthenia Hicks, Larry Taylor Hollist, Joel Katz, Lita Kurth, Pushpa McFarlane, Quynh-Mai Nguyen, Nils Peterson, Anthony Santa Ana, Ann Sherman, Donna Steelman, and Jarvis Subia

The readings present a nuanced and layered exploration of names and what they mean. Some are funny, some are sweet, some explore the ways names are used to strip power away from us, and some are reclamations of power. It’s a beautiful anthology, one I recommend picking up, especially if you’re a local to the Bay Area, California.

What I’m Reading

I am about halfway through and entirely loving Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which is about vampires in Mexico City. The story is told from multiple points of view, both those of humans and the vampires themselves. I’m loving learning about the different species of vampires, each with their own evolutionary traits of abilities, strengths, and drawbacks. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer, quickly rising to the top of my list of favorites.

What I’m Writing

Over the past week, I completed a draft of a six page poem — the longest single poem I’ve ever written. Most of my poems tend toward the shorter side, 30 lines or less, and I’ve thought of myself as a poet who just wasn’t the type to write longer pieces like that — but apparently I’ve proved myself wrong. I’ve set it aside for the time being, letting the original flow of idea rest, so that I can come back to it for an edit later.

I also have episodes of a web series in progress — episode one has been done for a while, and I’ve started in on the opening scene of episode two. If I can focus and not get distracted by all the shiny poems I seem to be wanting to write this week, then I can probably finish drafts of at least two more episodes before I head out on my next big bit of travel in a week and a half.

The Running Life

Got my first run done in over a month on Saturday. It felt great to hit the pavement, good for my muscles and good for my soul. I was able to run a bit farther than I expected considering how long it’s been since I last went for it, which was reassuring. I need to get back into the routine. I can tell that my body needs it.

Total miles in the last week: 2.20
Total Miles for 2017: 70.84 miles

Linky Goodness

Kathleen Ossip explains Why All Poems Are Political:

“a poem is an utterly free space for language; no objective and definite criteria could possibly apply to evaluate it. In fact, poetry is the only utterly free space for language that I’m aware of, and that is what makes it indispensable to me, and also what makes writing it and reading it a political act: Any act where freedom is urgently at issue is a political act, and any space that makes us aware of our innate freedom is a radically political space.”

Leah Schnelbach’s fantastic essay “Sometimes, Horror is the Only Fiction That Understands You” is a wonderful exploration of what Stephen King’s writing has meant to her in life — and as someone who read every King book I could get my hands on in high school, I completely resonate with this.

3 Free Poetry Chapbooks to Read This Summer From Agape Editions

Poet Spotlight: Jessie Carty and Shopping After the Apocalypse

Jessie CartyJessie Carty is the author of eight poetry collections, including the full length collection Practicing Disaster (Aldrich Press, 2014) and the the chapbook An Amateur Marriage (Finishing Line, 2012), which was a finalist for the 2011 Robert Watson Prize. Her work has placed third in the St. Louis Poetry Center’s 2008 contest and has been nominated for the Best of the Net Award, and she has been a finalist in a number of poetry and chapbook contests. Her latest collection of poetry, Shopping After the Apocalypse, is now available from dancing girl press and was nominated for an Elgin Award.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started as a writer? What keeps you writing?

I always think of myself first as a reader. I feel very strongly that you can’t be a writer without being a reader. I have very clear memories of wanting to read before I could actually do it. As an avid reader, I found myself, from a very early age, wanting to play with words.

I’m actually in a little bit of a lull as a writer right now, but whenever that happens I return to reading. And not just poems. I read across genres. You just never know what you’ll read that will spark you to write even if it is just for yourself. Never discount the power of just writing for yourself! I also find, when I’m not feeling “the muse,” that it helps to mix things up. I’ll try out a different way of composing: using a pencil instead of a keyboard or a different size notebook.

So what keeps me going? I think at the heart of us all is the storyteller. The troubadour. The record keeper. Because, as I wrote as a teenager, I write to free myself from myself. Or maybe now I’d say, with a little less angst, I write to be and know who I am.

Shopping After the ApocalypseYour most recent chapbook of poetry is Shopping After the Apocalypse. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came about.

This was an unusual project for me in many respects. I had not been writing that much when the title came to me just out of the blue. (I love how the mind works!) I don’t normally write from titles. In fact, I usually don’t title a poem till well after it is done. Heck, when I read poems I don’t always read the title before I read the poem in case it “gives something away.” Instead of immediately writing I just started musing about this idea of what it would be like to shop after the apocalypse. It occurred to me that the first place I’d probably shop would be at my home so that’s where I started. Then I made “myself” into a character and wondering what I would do next? Where would I go? And thus the poems became a journey from location to location with the idea of “shopping” to keep me writing until I got to a final destination.

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Jessie Carty and Shopping After the Apocalypse”

Beginning the Year with Words

Welcome to my first Weekly Update of the year. I post these because they provide a good way for me to hold myself accountable, both in terms of meeting my writing and reading goals, as well as making sure I post regularly on the blog.

Lately, there seems like there’s so much to write about, so much to resist and fight against, so much to do and say and act on that at times it feels overwhelming. Sometimes you can only do what you can do, so today, I’m going to talk about the Uptown Fridays event hosted by Nomadic Press that I attended a couple of Fridays ago, because it was wonderful and inspiring.

It was an interesting challenge getting to the event that night, involving an hour long car ride from my work to Oakland — only to find when I arrived that I had left my wallet back at the office, which meant that I had no cash or cards on hand to buy dinner or books from the reading. I considered returning to my office and coming back over the bridge (which would have made me late to the event), but decided to roll with it. Since I had an apple left in the car, I knew I wouldn’t starve and I let go of the idea of otherwise needing my wallet on hand. I let go and gave myself to enjoying the event I came for.

Thomas Nguyen performed a set of songs that were moving, some mixed with speeches and sounds from a tape recorder to wonderful effect. (He was also my hero of the night, reminding me of the toll on my return trip to work for my wallet and giving me a fiver to make it back without a wicked ticket.)

Isobel O’Hare read both from new work and from her chapbook The Garden Inside Her. I’ve known her from the online Facebook world for some time, so it was great to meet her in person. Her work is great and I’ll have to buy her chap the next time I get a chance.

Caits Meissner, whose work I’ve been following for years, was a delight to meet and hear read. She read both a new experimental piece that gave me chills and from her new book Let It Die Hungry. I was so grateful that my checkbook was in my purse, because it allowed me to buy Caits’ new book and have it signed. The book includes poems in both text and comic form — I can’t wait to read it.

Thomas Nguyen.
Isobel O’Hare.
Caits Meissner.

For all the frustration of getting to the event and leaving my wallet behind, it was worth every bit of panic and frustration, because the night was a blessing. And it’s clear to me that I need to attend events like this more often, more events where people speak and address the world — both because it’s important to support artistic communities in times like this and because I find such experiences soothing to the soul.

What I’m Reading

My reading pace has been abysmally slow this month, has in fact been getting slower and slower over the course of the past year. I think this is partially because I’ve been reserving my lunchtime reading for getting some writing work done and because I’m too mentally distracted when I actually get home.

I’m currently working my way through Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, two very different books that I’m enjoying quite a bit. One is a collection of darkly beautiful short stories, the other is a novel about dragons.

If I finish on book this month, it will have to be Tim Burton: Essays on the Films by Johnson Cheu, because I’ve been working on it for several months now.

What I’m Writing

I have been off and on sticking to the 15 Minute Rule more or less over the past couple of weeks, especially during the last week when I launched into that wonderfully productive time of deadline panic. Poor Belly Press is closing for chapbooks in two days and I would love to have my Twelve Dancing Princesses chap picked up by them, because their chaps are so beautiful — which has lead me into desperately trying to edit and polish up my work in order to make the deadline. In fact, I should be getting off the blogging and back to work right now. (But allow me just a moment more.)

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish chap edits and get it sent out

The Running Life

Since one of my goals is to actually accomplish a half marathon this year, I’ve decided to add running to my weekly updates.

I’ve been keeping with my routine of getting up hella early and making it to the gym two days a week for some short runs before work. These shorties are at about 25 minute, or 1.5-1.6 miles. Good small starts in preparation for the buildup, and they feel make me feel energized and cleansed in the morning. However, I have skipped my long weekend runs the last couple of weekends. I should be pressing past three miles into four miles at this point, but I’m dawdling.

Linky Goodness

I’ve been gathering links for weeks, so this is going to be a longish list.

In How To Keep Your March Momentum Going (regarding the amazing, inspiring event that was The Women’s March), Catherine Pearson recommends actions like signing up for e-mail updates from your local legislators and calling Congress daily.

“What comes next for the anti-Trump resistance will depend on how consistently these activists will engage and turn out for causes that are not their own; whether they’ll continue to phone their federal and state representatives after the inauguration and confirmation hearing hubbub dies down. It’s quite possible that what was started as an arguably superficial gesture at unity will evolve into one that holds the most powerful dissenters accountable for the least powerful,” writes Devon Maloney in Some Inconvenient Truths About The Women’s March On Washington.”But to do so, resisters must first reckon with complex issues of intersectionality.”

In Before You Celebrate The Zero Arrests At The Women’s March, Zeba Blay writes: “Of course, it is always a good thing when citizens are allowed to exercise their right to protest without anyone being harmed or detained. But there’s a question that should be asked and acknowledged, even as we celebrate the success of the protest:Would the outcome have been the same if the march had been exclusively organized by and mostly comprised of women of color?”

When You Brag That The Women’s Marches Were Nonviolent by Ijeoma Oluo.

How to survive in intersectional feminist spaces 101.

Alvin Chang describes how White America is quietly self-segregating, “Everyone wants diversity. But not everyone wants it on their street.”

20 Small Acts of Resistance You Can Do Today.

Celebration of women filmmakers triggers heated debate between Salma Hayek, Jessica Williams and Shirley MacLaine presents an interesting conversation between these women concerning issues of intersectionality in supporting women filmmakers.

_____

To Nashville and back

Last week, I took a business trip that took me through Nashville, northern Alabama, and into Kentucky. I spent quite a bit of this trip driving from location to location and with all the work meetings and industrial site visits, there was little time for hanging out.

I checked out the Nashville City Cemetery and would have loved to have explored it more, but it was sweltering hot and humid out and I couldn’t handle it. Not even in the shade.

So, I journeyed to the air conditioned realm of the Frist Visual Arts Center, which featured three displays that day — an exhibit of pottery and embroidery created by women at the turn of the 20th century, a collection of classic Italian cars showcasing the styling and beauty of the engineering, and a small exhibit featuring the surreal art of Inka Essenhigh.

Most importantly, I made sure to get my good eats on while at Nashville by visiting Hatti B’s for some great fried chicken and Biscuit Love for some bonuts.

The Nashville City Cemetery.
The Nashville City Cemetery.
Bonuts from Biscuit Love.
Bonuts from Biscuit Love.

What I’m Reading

China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station presents an incredible detailed portrayal of one of the strangest fantastical cities I’ve read. There’s a strange mixture of magic and science combined with a gritty seedy feeling — the entire city being filled with grime and refuse and other more disturbing images. It’s not a nice place to visit (or live), but it’s also beautiful in its way. The characters, too, are rather interesting — one being an artist pursuing a dangerous commission and the other a scientist of magic (it seems) who has been provided with a seemingly impossible challenge.

Still reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, as well.

And I’m reading The Plant by Stephen King — an unfinished novel about a plant that invades the office of a small publishing house — for THE POEMING (which I’ll talk about below). I’m sure many sinister things are abound to happen in the story, although I’m not sure how deep into the story it goes before it just drops off into unfinished territory.

What I’m Writing

Due to the traveling, my writing was sporadic last week. I attacked some poems in an attempt to meet an anthology deadline, but trying to combine the submission process with being on the road stressed me out. So, I let it go for now. But at least I have a couple of solid poem starts that might find homes elsewhere.

At the moment I’m getting prepped for THE POEMING — an October challenge in which 50+ plus poets have been each been assigned one of the 50+ novels written by Stephen King. Each poet will write/create a found poem from their assigned novel (mine is The Plant) and will post one new poem per day in the month of October. All of the poems will be shared on Tumblr — my challenge page is Tendrils of Leaves.

Goals for the Week:

  • Work on that short story or one of the poetry collection projects

Linky Goodness

Carina Bissett beautifully shares her thoughts on Finding Beauty in Brokenness.

8 Female Surrealists Who Are Not Frida Kahlo

5 lessons I learned while submitting to literary journals, by Icess Fernandez Rojas

The Mondays Ain't So Bad

Over the weekend, my family and I celebrated my niece’s birthday. She’s four years old and such a wonderful little princess monster.

I’m back in the office after a work trip and the weekend and it’s Monday. My to-do list both at my day job and my writing/poeming job is long and only growing longer, it seems. But that’s okay, because I woke pretty well rested and generally feeling good, which is a nice start to the week.

What I’m Reading

She Walks in Shadows, the anthology edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, continues to present fantastic weird stories and art involving Lovecraftian mythos. I especially enjoyed Jilly Dreadful’s story, which is creatively told through the format of a dissertation outline.

I’m also started The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms, which looks like it’s going to be a great fantasy, superhero, action-adventure story.

What I’m Writing

I managed another six poems/flash pieces last week for the Write Like Your Alive, a 31/31 project being hosted by Zoetic Press, which jumps me up to a total of 15 pieces. So, I’m still quite a bit behind, but not dauntingly so. I’m hoping that I can manage two poems a day for the rest of the week, which would put me at a total of 30 for the month — a happy making amount for certain.

In other news, I received a rejection on a chapbook submission. It was a lovely encouraging rejection that said some wonderful things about the collection as a whole and complimented two of the poems in particular (one of which I wasn’t as confident in, but am now feeling better about). On the one hand, I’m disappointed. On the other, I’m feeling good and more confident about my ability to put together a coherent poetry collection — something more than just a randomly thrown together set of random poems — which is kind of awesome.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish up the 31/31 challenge by drafting a multitude of poems
  • Take a look at the rejected collection and see about submitting it to another publisher

Linky Goodness

Vanessa Willoughby has a beautiful essay up, Black Girls Don’t Read Sylvia Plath.

“It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t mean it. It doesn’t matter that he’s secretly quite a sweet, vulnerable person who is gracious to those he considers friends. It doesn’t matter that somewhere in the rhinestone-rimmed hamster wheel of his mind is a conscience. It doesn’t matter because the harm he does is real,” writes Laurie Penny in her amazing piece, I’m With The Banned: What my evening with Milo told me about Twitter’s biggest troll, the death of reason, and the crucible of A-list con-men that is the Republican National Convention

Michael Arnovitz presents a call for reason regarding Hilary Clinton: “Hillary is nobody’s idea of perfect. Fine. But in my view if a man with her qualifications were running in the Democratic primary, Bernie would have been done before he even started. And if a man with her qualifications had been running for the Republicans, they’d be anointing him the next Reagan while trying to sneak his face onto Mount Rushmore.”

The Mondays Ain’t So Bad

Over the weekend, my family and I celebrated my niece’s birthday. She’s four years old and such a wonderful little princess monster.

I’m back in the office after a work trip and the weekend and it’s Monday. My to-do list both at my day job and my writing/poeming job is long and only growing longer, it seems. But that’s okay, because I woke pretty well rested and generally feeling good, which is a nice start to the week.

What I’m Reading

She Walks in Shadows, the anthology edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, continues to present fantastic weird stories and art involving Lovecraftian mythos. I especially enjoyed Jilly Dreadful’s story, which is creatively told through the format of a dissertation outline.

I’m also started The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms, which looks like it’s going to be a great fantasy, superhero, action-adventure story.

What I’m Writing

I managed another six poems/flash pieces last week for the Write Like Your Alive, a 31/31 project being hosted by Zoetic Press, which jumps me up to a total of 15 pieces. So, I’m still quite a bit behind, but not dauntingly so. I’m hoping that I can manage two poems a day for the rest of the week, which would put me at a total of 30 for the month — a happy making amount for certain.

In other news, I received a rejection on a chapbook submission. It was a lovely encouraging rejection that said some wonderful things about the collection as a whole and complimented two of the poems in particular (one of which I wasn’t as confident in, but am now feeling better about). On the one hand, I’m disappointed. On the other, I’m feeling good and more confident about my ability to put together a coherent poetry collection — something more than just a randomly thrown together set of random poems — which is kind of awesome.

Goals for the Week:

  • Finish up the 31/31 challenge by drafting a multitude of poems
  • Take a look at the rejected collection and see about submitting it to another publisher

Linky Goodness

Vanessa Willoughby has a beautiful essay up, Black Girls Don’t Read Sylvia Plath.

“It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t mean it. It doesn’t matter that he’s secretly quite a sweet, vulnerable person who is gracious to those he considers friends. It doesn’t matter that somewhere in the rhinestone-rimmed hamster wheel of his mind is a conscience. It doesn’t matter because the harm he does is real,” writes Laurie Penny in her amazing piece, I’m With The Banned: What my evening with Milo told me about Twitter’s biggest troll, the death of reason, and the crucible of A-list con-men that is the Republican National Convention

Michael Arnovitz presents a call for reason regarding Hilary Clinton: “Hillary is nobody’s idea of perfect. Fine. But in my view if a man with her qualifications were running in the Democratic primary, Bernie would have been done before he even started. And if a man with her qualifications had been running for the Republicans, they’d be anointing him the next Reagan while trying to sneak his face onto Mount Rushmore.”

The Goings On

Oh, my. I’ve yet again skipped a week of my weekly updates, which makes them more bi-weekly for the month of June. The goings on are going on — mostly a lot of trying to get writing done and then binge watching television to recover from the trying to get writing done.

Announcements!

A Gathering of Baba Yagas,” a poem cowritten by Laura Madeline Wiseman and I, is now up at Strange Horizons! This was the first poem Madeline and I wrote together and I’m thrilled to see it published.

There is some other GIANT news, but I’m not 100% sure that it’s okay to share it yet, so I’m just going to tease you about it for the time being.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t been doing much reading lately. Or rather, I have, but not as much for the shear pleasure of it. So it’s a joy to begin All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. The story of a naturalistic witch and a young mad scientist is charming. This is exactly the kind of book to get me back into the reading mood and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

What I’m Writing

Last week was primarily spent in finalizing and then submitting my Our Lady chapbook for publication. The collection, called Pantheon, is done and off and out of my hands and I’m going to say no more about that.

Since send that off, I’ve polished up The Things I Own, another chapbook which was a finalist in the Dirty Chaps Contest. With some tweaking — pulling out a couple of poems — and putting in of a couple of others, I’m hoping it will find a home elsewhere.

Coming up next is the Write Like Your Alive, a 31/31 project being hosted by Zoetic Press. Signups for the project are open until June 30th, with the opportunity to be published, if you complete at least 20 days. Let me know if you join, as I will definitely be participating (because why not drown myself in more challenges and projects) and would love to be able to share the journey.

Goals for the Week:

  • Prep for Write Like You’re Alive and then write like I’m alive

Linky Goodness

Justine Larbalestier has an amazing poet on How to Write Protagonists of Colour When You’re White: “Step One: Ask Yourself Why”

“All of the goals I had set for myself in my twenties had come and gone. As a result I had simply shut down. For some reason it felt easier and more comfortable to resign myself as a failure than to risk actual failure,” writes Kate Maruyama in On Saying Yes: Fight the Fear.

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.”

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.

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.

Announcements!

  • 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!

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 “Poet Spotlight: Pamela Taylor on balance in life and poetry”

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.”

Poetry Review: God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant

“He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands–
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done”

In Cynthia Rylant’s novel-in-poems, Godgets a job, watches cable, eats dinner alone, marvels at he beauty of the world, sees all the ways life went in directions he didn’t intend it to go, discovers Himself. By grounding himself in the mortal world, He learns loneliness, anger, wonder, and fear. I found myself smiling at each new discover God made about the world he created, as well as each new discovery about Himself. These are accessible poems, beautiful in their simplicity and the way they subtly unveil layers of meaning in their own words and in religion and life. Recommended reading.

“But he finally saw
how pain caused
one of two things:
A reverence for life.
Or killing.
Both grew from the same seed.”

_____________________________________

Defying Gravity

I took a break from poetry reading, writing, and living on Thursday and wandered up into the city with my mom and sister. We ate a ton of amazing Indian food at Mela Tandoori and watched Wicked in the gorgeous Orpheum theater. The musical was just as powerful and amazing as it was when we saw it six years ago.

Orpheum theater - Wicked
Sis, mom, and I outside the Orpheum theater before seeing Wicked.

My favorite song is “Defying Gravity,” which always has me singing to myself after hearing it as well as wanting to find my own ways to defy gravity. For the moment, I think accomplishing all the poeming that I’m accomplishing this month works for me. For the most part, I feel as though I’m flying through words and it’s wonderful, although I foresee some headwinds in the near future.

What I’m Reading

I’ve shared a number of excellent poetry books this week, but I’m most excited about From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes by B.C. Edwards, in which each poem is presented in a psuedo-recipe format.

I’m putting Gateway by Frederik Pohl aside for the moment, probably until I can get through April.

What I’m Poeming

More poetry words on the page for the 30/30 challenge. My initial burst of writing flow has slowed down some. I’m still managing to get at least one poem out per day (pretty much), but I’m also feeling a little worried as I look ahead to the 20 more poems I still need to write this month.

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

White Poets Want Chinese Culture Without Chinese People, writes Timothy Yu in response to Calvin Trillin’s poem ”Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?”

I want to feel what I feel. Even if it’s not happiness,” Toni Morrison says in an interview with Emma Brockes, in which she also shares about her life at 81 and her new novel, Home.

“My college professor Brooke Stevens told my class it was not the best writers who succeeded, but the most persistent ones, and I have reminded myself of that advice again and again. What he left out is that in addition to trying really, really hard, you also need the chutzpah to promote yourself and make the right connections. But that becomes challenging, if not impossible, when you’re constantly questioning your value as a writer,” Lindsay Merbaum writes in Not a Real Writer: How Self-Doubt Holds Me Back.

Siobhan Lyons writes about what ‘ruin porn’ tells us about ruins: “Criticisms of ruin porn stem from the suggestion that these photographs are bereft of any sort of socio-economic context regarding their cause and aftermath, and are dismissive of the broader failures of modern economic life.”

Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being “at home with voice and vision”

Chella CouringtonChella Courington grew up in a family of storytellers. Seduced by the written word, she pursued her Ph.D. in literature from the University of South Carolina and her MFA in poetry from New England College. In addition to teaching literature and writing at Santa Barbara City College in California, she writes and publishes poetry and fiction, which has appeared in several books and chapbooks. Here, Chella speaks about her two latest publications, a flash novella and a new collection of poetry.

Tell us a little bit about your recently released novella, The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow.

A life in flashes, it tells of Adele and Tom, a writing couple now in California. Told from both points of view, the novella explores the increasing distance between two artists trying to occupy the same space: one writer’s success is another’s failure.

But finally, the story is Adele’s as she struggles with relationship, self and aging. A woman born in the Appalachian South yet finding home in California, she tries to understand who she is through the past and the present.

The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow by Chella CouringtonYou’ve described The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow as a flash novella. How did flash fiction as a structural form lend itself to the telling of a larger tale

Flash fiction is not naturally a form that lends itself to a longer traditional narrative (one with a mainly linear plot line). But flash fiction does lend itself to a pointillist novel/novella where each flash provides a point, an emotional brushstroke. The combined points, artfully arranged, tell a tale.

The flash novella is a good choice for writers with time constraints because the structure allows for the creation of many individual pieces of art that can be written in bursts of limited time. Each piece is small with a focus on language and imagery, rewarding close attention and revision. The flash novella does not depend on an outline nor require high drama (murder and mayhem).

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being “at home with voice and vision””

Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being "at home with voice and vision"

Chella CouringtonChella Courington grew up in a family of storytellers. Seduced by the written word, she pursued her Ph.D. in literature from the University of South Carolina and her MFA in poetry from New England College. In addition to teaching literature and writing at Santa Barbara City College in California, she writes and publishes poetry and fiction, which has appeared in several books and chapbooks. Here, Chella speaks about her two latest publications, a flash novella and a new collection of poetry.

Tell us a little bit about your recently released novella, The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow.

A life in flashes, it tells of Adele and Tom, a writing couple now in California. Told from both points of view, the novella explores the increasing distance between two artists trying to occupy the same space: one writer’s success is another’s failure.

But finally, the story is Adele’s as she struggles with relationship, self and aging. A woman born in the Appalachian South yet finding home in California, she tries to understand who she is through the past and the present.

The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow by Chella CouringtonYou’ve described The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow as a flash novella. How did flash fiction as a structural form lend itself to the telling of a larger tale

Flash fiction is not naturally a form that lends itself to a longer traditional narrative (one with a mainly linear plot line). But flash fiction does lend itself to a pointillist novel/novella where each flash provides a point, an emotional brushstroke. The combined points, artfully arranged, tell a tale.

The flash novella is a good choice for writers with time constraints because the structure allows for the creation of many individual pieces of art that can be written in bursts of limited time. Each piece is small with a focus on language and imagery, rewarding close attention and revision. The flash novella does not depend on an outline nor require high drama (murder and mayhem).

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Chella Courington on being "at home with voice and vision"”

Poetry all the time

Over the weekend, my mom and I did a sleepover with the babies (i.e. my niece and nephew), who we read to and played with and climbed all over me like a jungle gym. It was a delight, as always.

Other than that, it’s been all poetry all the time due to all the National Poetry Month things I’ve got going on.

What I’m Reading

Poetry, poetry, and more poetry. Most notably, I read bits of Paper House by Jessie Carty (Folded Word) and Terra Incognita by Jennifer Martin (Dancing Girl Press).

I’m still sort of reading Gateway by Frederik Pohl, but only in bits and fragments, since so much of my focus is on poetry this month.

What I’m Poeming

Pretty much ALL of my words will be in poetry form this month, due to the poem a day challenge that I’m participating in. So far the poems are coming well, falling into place exactly on the day they’re due, and I’m feeling wonderfully inspired and excited about how the series is going.

I’ve been posting these poems on a separate blog and you can view them here (although they will be taken down at the end of the month May):

Goal for the Week:

  • Keep on writing a poem a day.

Linky Goodness

The Big Poetry Giveaway is in full swing. Go comment to win a book by some amazing poets.

Ursula K. Le Guin on Racism, Anarchy, and Hearing Her Characters Speak.

And, since pop culture is something I’m thinking a lot about while writing all these poems, here’s Kevin Pickard’s exploration of how pop culture is addressed in fiction.

National Poetry Month 2016 – It Begins

National Poetry Month is one of my favorite months of the year, because I get to be all excited about poetry and people don’t stare at me weird — okay, they stare at me less weird, or less people… Nevermind.

In addition to reading all the poetry I can, I have a number of poetry thingies going on.

Poetry in process meme
Whiskey. Whiskey will be an April necessity.

First, I’m offering up two books of poetry as part of the Big Poetry Giveaway 2016.

I am also participating in ELJ Publications’ 30/30 challenge, in which I will attempt to write thirty poems in the thirty days of April. For that challenge, I’ve created a separate blog to house all the poetry that I create.

I’ll be posting a #selfiewithpoetry a day on my Instagram.

And, if all goes well, I’ll be sharing four new Poet Spotlight interviews on my blog.

So, yeah, it’s going to be a busy, wonderful, and word-filled month!

What National Poetry Month look like for you? Share your plans (or lack thereof) in the comments. 

Big Poetry Giveaway 2016!

Big Poetry Giveaway 2016

As National Poetry Month is around the corner, it’s time for the Big Poetry GiveawayAllyson Whipple has taken over hosting duties from the amazing Kelli Russell Agodon.

Other blogs participating in the giveway will be listed online shortly.

But first, let me introduce myself as I have a feeling that there are going to be a number of new faces around here.

Andrea Blythe - poet

I write poetry and fiction with primarily a speculative bent. Images of fairy tales, mythology, and folklore often appear in my work, sometimes in unsettling ways. Some of my poetry has appeared in print and online publications and a few of my poems have been nominated for awards. I also on the rare occasion attend open mics and poetry slams where I perform my work in front of actual people.

Beyond the writing life, I am trying to convince myself that I’ll someday run a marathon. I also watch an inordinate amount of creepy television and horror movies, plan for the zombie apocalypse even though I’m not convinced it will happen, and shower my nieces and nephews in love.

Ahem, moving on…

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The Books

I don’t have any of my own work to offer this year, but I am happy to present two chapbooks from two poets I love.

Chapbook 1

Southern Cryptozoology by Allie Marini

Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild by Allie Marini delves into beautifully unsettling territory, as these poems present (possibly mythological) creatures that live and hunt in the Southern states of the U.S. (Cover art is by MANDEM.)

“Then the kegger at the party rock: furred & scaled & unexplainable,

grunting, tossing tires from a cliff as though they were rings in a carnival shill’s booth. Suddenly, chaos, the squeal & stink of rubber on dirt & asphalt. There are rumblings of LSD in the keg: There’s got to be some natural explanation.”

— from “Southern Cryptozoology 4: The Lake Worth Monster,” in Southern Cryptozoology

Chapbook 2

Cover-a heart with no scars

A Heart with No Scars by Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco is a witty set of poems with layered messages examining how we relate to the world around us and to each other. Brennan is an amazing spoken word poet and his words will hit you right in the feels. (Cover art is by Arthur Johnstone and Livien Yin.)

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How to Enter

To enter, just comment on this post with your name and email address by 11:59 p.m. Pacific on April 30th. I will select the winners shortly thereafter using a random number generator.


Good things at Zoetic Press

I adore Zoetic Press, which produces two fantastic lit journals Nonbinary Review and Unbound Octavio among a number of other wonderful things. Within the Litho Reader app for iPhone and iPad, they wrap amazing pieces of poetry and fiction in gorgeous covers.

Recently, Zoetic Press released their first two full length books on the Litho Reader app — Erin Elizabeth Smith’s The Fear of Being Found and Christopher E. Grillo’s The Six-Fold Radial Symmetry of Snow — both of which look fantastic.

Zoetic Press has also been migrating all of the back issues of Nonbinary Review online to make them accessible to the whole wide world of readers. Although I recommend downloading the Litho Reader app to get the full experience of each issue, This means that Issue #4 Bullfinch’s Mythology is now up online, which includes my poem, “Eve and Pandora.”

I recommend reading the entire Bullfinch Mythology issue, because it is brimming with amazing work. And not just that, but all of the available issues because they are all full of wonderful things.

 

Season of the Crow

Last Friday, I witnessed a bit of magic in the form of poetry and music at the Octopus Literary Salon (which is fast becoming a favorite place of mine). Hosted Richard Loranger, the Crow Show featured an amazing array of diverse voices, including musical guest the Lake Lady Ukulele Project and poets Corrina Bain, Kelly Klein, Brennan DeFrisco, Tureeda Mikell, Annelyse Gelman, and Laura Jew. I took photos throughout the night, but they were on my phone and turned out horrible.)

It was a tough week last week and I almost opted out of the event. But I was able to rally my energy when Friday rolled around, and I was so grateful to have been able to be present that night. Some moments are perfect at the time in which they occur, something about the combined energy of the people in a room and the energy of the performers — which is difficult to describe to anyone else after the fact. All I can say is that it was a wonderful night and I highly recommend tracking down the work of each of these performers, if you can.

What I’m Reading

I’m still loving the short story collection Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. The most recent story I read, “The Lesson,” was a heartbreaking and beautiful tale about a gay married couple anxious about the health of the surrogate mother bearing their child. It’s also about a wedding, a strange tropical island, and wish making. It’s gorgeous.

What I’m Writing

Somehow I started working on a brand new story draft last week, rather than trying finish the almost-done story I meant to work on. Apparently I’m distractible. Although jumping into new and shiny things instead of finishing existing things has been a habit I’ve been trying to avoid. However, the new (-ish, because I had previously tossed out an old draft) story is geared toward a specific market with a specific deadline, so all will be hunky dory if I can stick to that deadline.

Meanwhile, the day job is somewhat overwhelming this week, leaving me little mental capacity to handle the two book reviews and two short stories I really should be working on. I’m trying not to beat myself up, if I find myself exhausted at the end of the day.

So, this week, I’m going to give myself a break on all that, with a gentle nudge to try to get some work done, but it’s okay if I don’t.

Goal for the Week:

  • Survive.

Linky Goodness

Daniel José Older with 12 Fundamentals Of Writing “The Other” (And The Self).

A loving tribute to Tori Amos’ Boys for Pele presented by Gina Abelkop.

Frida Kahlo on How Love Amplifies Beauty: I love Diego so much I cannot be an objective speculator of him or his life… I cannot speak of Diego as my husband because that term, when applied to him, is an absurdity. He never has been, nor will he ever be, anybody’s husband. I also cannot speak of him as my lover because to me, he transcends by far the domain of sex. And if I attempt to speak of him purely, as a soul, I shall only end up by painting my own emotions.

“I love it when you post pictures of yourself… They give me a little window into your life,” writes The Bell Jar in her post on selfies.

What day is it?

I came to the realization halfway through writing this post that today Tuesday, not Monday. This is because I spent my Monday helping my mom clear out and transfer belongings from one storage shed to another in a grueling twelve hour period resembling the interminable curse of Greek gods. If we hadn’t been laughing so hard at the absurdity of the situation, I’m sure we would have been miserable. But we were laughing and we accomplished a hell of a lot and my mom rewarded my efforts with beer, so all was well.

In other weekend news, I SAW FLOGGING MOLLY at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival and they were —in what was no surprise to me — amazing. They played all my favorite songs and introduced me to new favorites. I danced my ass off that night and sang my throat out and it was worth the next day’s pain. We also saw The Brothers Comatose and Gillian Welch play and they were both wonderful, as well.

The crowds were thick and fun at the Flogging Molly performance in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
The crowds were thick and fun at the Flogging Molly performance in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

What I’m Reading

I’m still working on Celestial Inventories by Steve Rasnic Tem, which continues to astound me with its ability to present stories, ranging from deeply moving to incredibly disturbing.

I’m also working my way through the 1001 Arabian Nights issue of NonBinary Review, which is full of amazing poetry and fiction.

What I’m Writing

Most of my focus has been on finishing an initial draft of a Sleeping Beauty story for the Brainery Workshop I started last week. I have the main outline and a good sense of how I want to approach it, but since it has some science fiction elements I’m not sure how much explaining I should do up front. I suppose I should just get the draft

Laura Madeline Wiseman and I have finished up a number of collaborative poems, which need to be sent out. At which point, we need to get started on some new ones.

Published! KYSO Flash reprinted “The Things I Own” — a poem that (I learned just five minutes ago) has been nominated for Independent Best American Poetry by Thank You for Swallowing, who first published it.

Goals for the Week: Finish workshop draft before class. Submit some collaborative poetry and get started on some others.

Brainery Workshop – Science Fiction Fairy Tales – Week One

The first meeting of the workshop, which is run by the amazing Jilly Dreadful, was introductory, introducing us to our fellow writers and to how the workshop will work. My fellow writers (most of whom I met, although there was a switch in students at the last minute) are all amazing as far as I can tell from the small piece of writing they all shared and from their comments during the meeting. This makes me even more excited to see how things will go.

Our assignment for the week is as I noted above, a Sleeping Beauty story, which can incorporate some of the sleep science in various articles Jilly assigned.

Linky Goodness

  • Justine Larbalestier notes Our Heroes Are Fallible And So Are We“We do not write in a vacuum. We write about the real world while living in the real world. That’s true whether we are writing about zombies or vampires or high school or genocide or butterflies or all five. Our words have effects on other people.”
  • Afrofuturism Rising by Ytasha L. Womack —While Afrofuturism is viewed as a tool of empowerment for people of color, the dual aesthetic and philosophy at large serves to provide answers for a gaping hole in the story of humanity. Afrofuturism values intuition, feminine aspects of humanity, and nature. Afrofuturism views the future, past, and present as one. Afrofuturism provides a platform to explore time and memory in the context of human life.

The State of Being Overwhelmed

I have several things I keep meaning to post about and that I can’t seem to find the time to put together, including (but not limited to) the half marathon I participated in over the weekend and the amazing reading in honor of Nomadic Press’ fall chapbook collection with poets Allie Marini, Brennan “B-Deep” DeFrisco, Cassandra Dallett, Paul Corman-Roberts, Dan Shurely and Freddy Gutierrez (present in spirt), as well as a number of book and movie reviews.

I’ve managed to sign up for a Brainery workshop called Science Fiction Fairy Tales, which I don’t really have time for, but am uber excited about. This, along with the suggestion that I might also do Nano along with the whole host of writing projects that I am currently working on and need to finish.

All of this is to say, wow, I’ve got a lot going on. In a good way. (Mostly.) But it’s still overwhelming. (Which is also why there wasn’t an update last week.)

What I’m Reading

Celestial Inventories is a collection of short stories by Steve Rasnic Tem. I am several stories in and so far each one has been surreal, strange, disturbing, and gorgeous. What a delicious collection so far.

What I’m Writing

Oh, so many projects at the moment. Currently poetry, but it’s going to switch over to include to fiction very soon.

Published!

Accepted! My poem, “How to Open a Jar of Honey,” was accepted to be included in the We Can Make Your Life Better anthology to be published in 2016 by University of Hell Press.

Rejected! Three poems were declined by Word Riot.

Submitted! I immediately turned around and submitted the three rejected poems elsewhere. Also submitted two more collaborative poems, written with Laura Madeline Wiseman.

Goals for the Week: Survive.

Linky Goodness

  • If You Were Wonder Woman and Chris Pine Were Your Boyfriend, by Nicole Steinberg is utterly fantastic – “If you were Wonder Woman and Chris Pine were your boyfriend, you’d take a special, spiteful pleasure in apprehending any criminal who dressed in plaid. Because all day, every day, you’d be SURROUNDED by plaid.”

Now Out: Myth+Magic

mythmagic

Myth+Magic is a collection of modern takes on old myth, fable, and fairy tale. Nothing is quite what it seems to be. Included in this edition are short works inspired folk tale, fable, fairy tale, gods, monsters, myth, magic, tricksters, divination, witchcraft, and herbalism. This handbound, limited edition (125) booklet includes poetry & fiction curated by the joint efforts of Porkbelly Press & Sugared Water staff.

It also includes one of my own poems!

Excerpts from some of the poets are available online, with information on how to purchase.

 

SciFi Reading

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree, Jr.

Man is an animal whose dreams come true and kill him. 
— from “On the Last Afternoon”

One of my goals this year was to start reading books that have won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, which is presented for stories that explore aspects of gender, primarily in SciFi and Fantasy. Since I was reading these award winners, I figured I should also read some of the work by the author after whom the award is named. James Tiptree, Jr. is a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon (and had a second pen name, Raccoona Sheldon), who wrote hard science fiction for years without readers knowing she was a woman.

Tiptree is a perfect namesake for this award because so many of her own stories explore gender and sexuality in challenging and innovative ways. These stories are intelligent, sometimes challenging, and often bleak.

“The Screwfly Solution,” which is one of the best short stories I’ve read in years, involves increasing numbers of attacks by men against women. Bits of news clips, letters, and diary entries are placed alongside the main narrative of a man trying to make it home to his wife and daughter amid the mounting chaos. The ending is fatalistic and powerful, haunting.

In “The Women Men Don’t See” a journalist on a trip into Mexico takes a flight on a small plane with a mother and daughter, whom he finds unsettlingly independent and not fitting into his expectations of how women should be. I can’t say much more about the story without giving too much away, but the exploration of gender roles becomes increasingly explicit.

“With Delicate Mad Hands” is the story of a woman with a facial deformity who has lived her entire life unloved by her fellow human beings who mock and abuse her. She perseveres through an inner secret drive to leave Earth’s solar system behind her, and she achieves this one day by stealing a ship and steering it solo to the stars. There is so much more to the story than that short description, but I don’t want to say anymore. Although as dark as any other of Tiptree’s stories, this was also sweet and romantic.

Another subset of stories explore sexual behavior through alien bodies and include stories such as “Love is the Plan the Plan is Death,” “On the Last Afternoon,” and “A Momentary Taste of Being.” The alien-ness of these creatures or beings is startling and often destructive to human existence.

Other stories reflect on moral complexities of human society. “The Last Flight of Doctor Ain,” for example presents bits and pieces of Doctor Ain’s last flight told through the points of view of the people who meet him along his journey (again, this tells too little, but it really is a thrilling story). In “We Who Stole the Dream” an alien race enacts a revolt against humanity which holds them captive, breaking free from slavery and suffering, only to find that the home they are returning to is not the dream-come-true they expected.

Although I didn’t necessarily love every story, reading this brick-thick collection was a fantastic experience. Tiptree was an amazing writer, a master of the genre. Her work is a must read for any science fiction fan.

The 2013 Rhysling Anthology

Edited by John C. Mannone

This is not really a review, because this anthology contains one of my poems. (I received my contributor’s copy two years ago and it’s taken me that long to getting around to actually reading it.)

The anthology, published by the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA), comprises works nominated for the Rhysling Awards, which recognizes the best speculative poems published in the previous year. Below are the winners; I’ve included links to poems or poets, where I could find them.

Winners in the Short Poem Category:

First Place: “The Cat Star” by Terry A. Garey

Second Place: “Futurity’s Shoelaces” by Marge Simon

Third Place: “Sister Philomela Heard the Voices of Angels” by Megan Arkenberg

Winners in the Long Poem Category:

First Place: “Into Flight” by Andrew Robert Sutton

Second Place: “String Theory” by John Philip Johnson

Third Place (tie): “The Time Traveler’s Weekend” by Adele Gardner and
“The Necromantic Wine” by Wade German

In related news, I’ve decided to join the SFPA. In a large part this was to receive copies of the various publications as they come out, because I love speculative poetry, as well as to be able to participate in future voting when the time comes.

Three Mini Reviews for Three Mini Chapbooks of Poetry

I picked up each of these little books after being present at a reading by the authors, each of whom is a great performer with a unique and powerful voice. If you have the chance to catch them at any one of the many poetry events around the San Francisco bay area, I highly recommend you go have a listen.

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House and Home

by Jaz Sufi

Hand made with a string binding, House and Home is a gift of words, expressing raw wounds of body and heart, mind and soul. The poems explore love and its failures. They address the lives of women, revealing how they are damaged, while revealing a strength that allows them to reclaim their own power. What a gorgeous little collection.

Poetry is not the ship.
Poetry is not the captain.
Life is a constant storm, and poetry
is what we make of the wreckage,
what we cling to alone in the ocean.

— from “Better a Blacksmith Than a Writer, a Carpenter Than a Poet”

Jaz Sufi is a poet, a Bay Area native, and the slammaster of the Berkeley Slam, the longest running poetry slam in California.

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Reflections

by Jocelyn Deona De Leon
2005

Although only about the size of my hand, I don’t know if I can quite call Reflections mini at 62 pages.This collection is introspective and soulful, alternating between diary entries exploring and reflecting the author’s emotional space to individual poems sending messages to the world. These poems call upon the reader to ground themselves in the present moment, to look inside themselves, and to feel the world deeply.

moments flutter by like
butterfly wings slowly
floating you away from me.

i cannot catch you
because your freedom is exquisite.
it is the most explicit reminder that
the only way to love free is
to free love.

— from “Complicated Simplicity”

Jocelyn Deona de Leon writes poetry inspired by her Pilipino ancestral heritage and reflecting on experience through the eyes of love (see bio). She has toured nationally, sharing her words and energy with youth at various elementary, high school, and college campuses.

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Highku: 4 & 20 Poems About Marijuana

by Brennan ‘B Deep’ DeFrisco
Lucky Bastard Press, 2015

I don’t smoke, so normally I wouldn’t be interested in a book of poetry about pot. But when I saw this tiny, adorable little book, I couldn’t help but pick it up. The poems inside follow the traditional haiku 5-7-5 syllable format. Each tiny poem contains a single thought, some witty, some perceptive. A fun little read.

Nixon’s solution
for Vietnam protesters:
Arrest them for pot

Brennan ‘B Deep’ DeFrisco likes words and the way they move. He is an organizer and performer at the Berkeley Poetry Slam and will represent them for the second time in the upcoming 2015 National Poetry Slam. He is a co-founder of Lucky Bastard Press.

Poet Spotlight: Kristina Marie Darling on Mapping Heartbreak

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty collections of poetry and hybrid prose. Her writing has been described by literary critics as “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” and “complex.” She has been awarded with a number of fellowships and grants by both U.S. and overseas universities, institutes, and organizations. She is currently working toward both a Ph.D. in English Literature at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo and an M.F.A. in Poetry at New York University. Here, Kristina shares a bit about her latest collection of poetry, hybrid art forms, and the act of writing as catharsis.

Kristina Marie Darling

Your most recent book of poetry is Failure Lyric. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came about.

Failure Lyric began as a series of erasures. I took a black marker to my four year correspondence with a male writer, who, out of respect for his work, will remain unnamed. What started out as an act of destruction became generative, since the hybrid prose pieces ultimately grew out of the erasures at the beginning and end of the book. Once I had erased every last email, note, and inscription, I started to write flash essays, which map my heartbreak and all of the unexpected places it brought me to: Saint Louis, Iowa, Burlington, and the now infamous Dallas/Fort Worth airport. So my initial attempts to destroy artifacts of the relationship became a documentary project, charting the crazy orbits that grief set me on.

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Kristina Marie Darling on Mapping Heartbreak”

Stand up and speak

I attended and performed in my first poetry slam event on Wednesday night last week. The Berkely Slam is held every  Wednesday at the Starry Plough Pub in (you guessed it) Berkeley, California. The event hosts a small workshop prior to opening sign ups, with readers chosen by lottery. Five random judges are chosen from the audience, which makes the tone very random. It is currently hosted by the amazing Jazz Sufi

The judges — or more specifically one judge — was kind of an ass that night, scoring almost everyone incredibly low, which was annoying. For the most part, however, I laughed along and was astounded by the work of so many amazing poets, Allie Marini among them, and had a fabulous time.

I read “The Things I Own.” I was incredibly nervous to read due to the contest atmosphere and because I knew poets tend to be well rehearsed at slams. But I surprised myself by feeling fairly confident when I performed and I got some nice feedback from the audience. The experience has me thinking that I should work on memorizing some poems and work on getting more confident with performing.

What I’m Reading

Rupetta by Nike Sulway is a fascinating read so far, featuring a robot/android being built in 1600s, who continues to live on over the centuries and ultimately becomes the center of civilization in the twentieth century. Beautiful writing and engaging world.

I’ve watching the mini-series on BBC, I’m rereading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke via audio book, because there is so much that I don’t seem to remember, especially in regards to the fantastic footnotes.

Recently finished the wonderfully unsettling The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma — book review with a giveaway will be posted shortly.

What I’m Writing

Just a little bit of writing got done last week, mostly on Tuesday night with some editing of a review I’ve been working on. I think I needed to take it easy in order to recover from the go-get-em attitude of the week before.

Submitted! A micro chapbook of ten pages to Porkbelly Press, called Sacred Ways.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit a selection of poem(s).

Linky Goodness

Poetry Review: Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone

Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone, by Annelyse Gelman
Write Bloody Publishing, 2014

                                 Hello,
my name is Annelyse, I have
chrystalized myself in the liberal arts
and now emerge, grotesque
insect, able to do nothing
but talk about everything.
— from “Ars Poetica”

I learned about Annelyse Gelman’s work by attending a Writer’s with Drinks reading at which she performed. Although she seemed to not be entirely comfortable with being on stage, she read well and her series of quirky, intelligent poems that had me immediately wanting to buy the book.

After purchasing Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone (and getting it signed by the poet), I quickly read through it and then went back to reread many of the poems over again, revisiting and re-experiencing them because I loved them, I really did. But when it came time time for me to sit down and write a review all I could think to say was, These poems are awesome, without really being able to find the words to explain how or why these poems. So, I spent the last two months, planning to write a review and thinking about the review and going back to read a poem here or there and falling in love all over again without being actually able to write a proper review.

We wanted to show you anything is possible.
Forgive us. We were so in love.
In past lives, we were mothers, and you mourned

when we promised you would outlive us.
— from “Hurricane”

These poems are witty, clever, fun with an undercurrent of vulnerability and introspection. They explore the chaotic realm of everyday life, poking fun at its imperfections and drawing out its underbelly. I don’t really know what else to say, so I’ll just end with, These poems are awesome and you should go read them.

The future has an obscenely happy
ending: one day there you are
then suddenly BANG!
— from “An Illustrated Guide to the Apocalypse”

Now I can live again…

Last week my nose was rubbed raw by the grindstone and now I’m still recovering, although I’m feeling good.

Also, some other awesome things happened last week.

What I’m Reading

My reading of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and all reading for that matter has been put on hold, as all my available free time is devoted to researching and writing my 1001 nights essay.

What I’m Writing

The 1001 Nights essay is DONE! It’s done! Bang the drums! Toot the horns! The project consumed most of my free time over the last week and a half, with skimming of the 1001 Nights to note all the representations of women in the stories (a huge project), researching what other critics have had to say, and have been drafting the editing the essay — all of which turned out to be much more work than I thought it would be (which should not have been a surprise). But it’s done and submitted and I hope the editors like it. Regardless, I enjoyed the life consuming process and I’m glad I did it.

Now I just need to learn to channel two-thirds of that same energy into future projects, so that I can continue to get sh!t done.

Published! My poem “The Things I Own” is up at Thank You for Swallowing.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish that other thing that I put on hold while working on the essay.

Linky Goodness

Bits and baubles of joy

It’s been an intense week with most of my free time spent desperately finishing off my in-progress essay, which has been taking fare more time than I would have liked. So, it was so lovely to receive three lovely announcements in the midst of all this hard work.

So, here are the bits and baubles.

* * *

NBR-4-Bulfinch-MythologyI’m thrilled to announce that the editors at NonBinary Review for have nominated my poem “Eve and Pandora” for the Sundress Best of the Net awards. I am so honored, especially because this particular poem has had a long history for me. It was one of the first poem that I completed and felt proud of, as well as one of the first poems that received harsh criticism that made me questions myself as a writer. It took time to trust my original vision of the poem again, which has now been published and nominated. I can’t really describe the full extent of how that makes me feel.

“Eve and Pandora” can be found in the #4 Bulfinch’s Mythology issue of NonBinary Review, which is available for free on the Lithomobilius app (available only on the iPad and iPhone for the moment, but will eventually be made available to other devices).

* * *

In other joyful news, Laura Madeline Wisemen interviewed me for her chapbook series. It was a fun experience and I got to talk about fairy tales and folklore, working from poetry prompts, and the self-published chapbook.

* * *

Last but not least, my poem “The Things I Own” has been published at Thank You for Swallowing. Huzzah!

 

Speaking under the moonlight

I had another lovely Friday night at Glowing with the Moon, which featured Nikki Bonsol (aka Nicole Marietta) and Kilusan Bautista.

Nikki Bonsol played some heartbreakingly gorgeous tunes, a couple of covers and a couple of originals. I don’t really know how to describe her voice, so I’m just going to link to one of her videos so you can have a listen.

Kilusan Bautista presented some powerful poetry, the kind that just takes hold, reaches inside and drags out all your feels. He also performed an excerpt from one of his stage performances, which involved a poet speaking to a mop and was hilarious.

He’ll be performing his one man show, UNiVERSALself, along with some other amazing poets on Friday, July 17th, from 8pm-11pm at at Bindlestiff Studios, San Francisco, CA. At the moment I’m planning to go, assuming I don’t just collapse from all the work I’ll be doing this week.

The night also featured two young performers (about 8 and 10 years old) , who bravely stood up to perform a church song. They then periodically took over the mic and just filled the audience with amused joy at all their bravery and exuberance.

Speaking of bravery, I did something I never do in front of an audience. Normally, I like to read off a page or recite a carefully memorized poem. But at the Glowing with the Moon open mic on Friday, I decided to go unscripted. I’ve been so obsessed with writing my essay on feminism in the 1001 Arabian Nights (still in progress) that I decided to work out some of my ideas on stage by doing an impromptu lecture about what I’ve learned. I though I would be stumbling all over the place, but it actually went really smoothly. It helped me work out the flow some, because as I was speaking I could sense when I was going on to long and was able to cut out sections and go shorter. It was a really interesting experience and had me thinking that I might actually be able to do lectures someday.

What I’m Reading

My reading of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and all reading for that matter has been put on hold, as all my available free time is devoted to researching and writing my 1001 nights essay.

What I’m Writing

The 1001 Nights essay is outlined and mostly researched. I’m thinking I can finish it over the next couple of days (probably) and have it submitted by the end of the week. Here’s putting my nose to the grindstone, because hope alone won’t cut it.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit the 1001 Nights essay!

Submission Bonanza

This too has been put on hold (see above), so I’m calling it quits for not. Although I only submitted a total four pieces or groups of poems, I feel good about it. Not the dramatic bonanza I was hoping for, but it’s prompted me to get a significant amount of work done in terms of collecting and preparing poems and stories. I’ll have to wait a few months and try the Bonanza again.

Linky Goodness

  • How To Be More Like Frida Kahlo, As Told By Frida Kahlo“Uncertain how to approach a challenging situation today? Imagine Kahlo as your life coach sitting opposite you, her furrowed brow staring discerningly. Ask yourself, What Would Frida Do (WWFD)? Who knows, you might just end up becoming a brilliant painter.”

Poet Spotlight: Laura Madeline Wiseman — Mermaids, Myth, and Community

Hello, lovelies! I’m thrilled to introduce my first poet spotlight, Laura Madeline Wiseman. She is author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry and fiction with a speculative bent. Her work explores myth and folklore, history and pop culture. She has collaborated with artists on projects such as broadsides and calendars and has taught a variety of courses in poetry, creative writing, literature, and women’s and gender studies. Here, Laura shares about her latest collection of poetry and her love of community.

laura madeline wiseman, 2014

Continue reading “Poet Spotlight: Laura Madeline Wiseman — Mermaids, Myth, and Community”

New poem up at Nonbinary Review!

I’m thrilled to announce that my poem, “Eve and Pandora,” has been published in Issue 4 of ‪NonBinaryReview‬, Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable. The issue is available for free — you just need to download the Lithomobilus app to your iPhone or iPad (the publisher is currently working on a compatible version for Android users.)

Enjoy!

* * *

In other news, I’m a wee behind on my Short Story Month challenge and a number of other thing, as well. But, hey, it’s my birthday week and my days have been jam packed with activities, from climbing over rocks and getting bruised and battered at the Yuba River to pampering myself with a facial and a new haircut.

Last night also was great, a joyful evening of words and song at Cito.FAME.Us, where Lorenz Dumuk made us feel things with his poetry and Q&A performed some amazing, moving, and beautiful new songs. Always a delight.

Amazing poets reading words

I attended two awesome lit events last week. On Wednesday, I visited a friend’s college classroom with Lorenz Dumuk, where we read poetry and listened to the students read poetry. It was awesome to see a younger generation take an interest. 

On Thursday, I attended friend Allie Marini Batts’ chapbook release party. She read from Before Fire: Divorce Poems and Pictures from the Center of the Universe, as well as some new works. It was no surprise to me that she was awesome. 

Joining Allie on the stage, were a handful of other amazing poets — B. Deep, Cassandra Dallett, Daphne Gottlieb, Joshua Merchant, and Jaz Sufi — each one with their own powerful and unique voice. 

 

Allie Marini Batts reading at the Octopus Literary Salon.
 
 
Me and the awesome.
 

What I’m Reading

I’m focusing on Don Quixote (in the midst of my short story reading) and am hoping to finish it by the end of the month. Part II is dragging a lot more than the first half did for me, so it feels like hard work at the moment.

Also still reading Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman.

What I’m Writing

Ummmmm…. yeah… so…

I need to come up with a new routine that involves me going to a coffee shop or library in order to get actual work done, because as soon as I get home after work I slip into relaxation mode. This week’s plan is to bring my laptop to work on Tuesday and Thursday for just that purpose.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish off poem inspired by the Arabian Nights for submission to Nonbinary Review. Submit the chapbook to a few more publishers.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Poets! Hearing poets read, both newbies in the classroom and professionals at the Octopus Literary Salon, had me reaching for my pen, wanting to scribble words onto the page. At one point, I even got so distracted in writing that I missed my metro stop and ended far from where I intended to go.

We have winners!

bigpoetrygiveaway2015

Using a random number generator, I’ve determined the winners for my little corner of the Big Poetry Giveaway.

Robin A. Sams has won a copy of Cedar Toothpick: The Tomboy Diaries.

Shawnte has won a copy of The 2013 Rhysling Anthology.

Congrats to you both!

Note: Oh, dear, I drafted this days ago and forgot to press publish. Anywho, here it is now!

Books completed in April 2015

1. A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
2. Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
3. Blue, poems by George Elliott Clarke
4. Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
5. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
6. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, illus. by Matt Phelan
7. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude (audio book) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
9. wingless, scorched & beautiful (chapbook) by Allie Marini Batts
10. how i live now (audio book) by Meg Rosoff

Books Still in Progress at the End of the Month:
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić, Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman, and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

REVIEWS:

Continue reading “Books completed in April 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.

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.

Five Poems and Poets for National Poetry Month

I’m trying to actively read more poetry and lit journals from around the web in honor of National Poetry Month. Here are five that I’ve particularly enjoyed this week.

1. A series of six poems inspired by classic works of literature, including “Wuthering Heights 2” and “Fahrenheit 451 (3)” by Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton, published in Coconut Magazine 19

2. Two poems from Big Brown Bag by Marisa Crawford, published in So and So, No. 8

3. The Unicorn of Renée d’Orléans-Longueville by Janna Layton, published in Goblin Fruit, Fall 2014

4. Next Time Ask More Questions by Naomi Shihab Nye, published at Poets.org (which has a Poem-a-Day newsletter)

5. A series of poems, called CATCHING THE BUS, by Margie Shaheed, published in Linden Avenue, Issue 35

* * *

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.

In Recovery

Last week was a bit rough. I got sick with a sore throat and a fever, which floored me for most of the week. I had to take time off work and from functioning in general in order to recover, so I wasn’t very productive.

I started to feel better by the time the weekend rolled around, however, so at least I was able to hang out with the family, play with my niece and nephew, and decorate easter eggs with them. It was a good, fun, relaxing weekend, which was exactly what I needed to help get me back to normal.

What I’m Reading

I’ve started reading Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool, which is about a young girl who has been left in the care of a family friend during the 1930s depression.

Still working on Blue by George Elliott Clarke and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

What I’m Writing

I meant to make some edits to my chapbook submission, reworking and cleaning up a few poems, but that didn’t happen. I needed rest more than I needed words last week.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit chapbook. Or, at least finish editing the poems for said chapbook.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Good health. It’s amazing how important it is to just be able to function well.

Linky Goodness

Here is a complete list of poets giving away free poetry books this month as part of the Big Poetry Giveaway!

I may have missed my chance to be added to the list, but am also giving away two books of poetry here.

Looking to read some great poetry, check out Nonbinary Reviews latest issue.

Big Poetry Giveaway 2015

bigpoetrygiveaway2015

In honor of Natinal Poetry Month, Kelli Rusell Agodon hosts the Great Poetry Giveaway every year over on her blog, where you can find links to others who are taking part in giving away poetry books. Every participant is required to give away two books of poetry, one of their own and one by a favorite poet.

To participate in my giveaway here, just post a comment with your name and email address included. Please also let me know your first choice, if you win.

Book One: Cedar Toothpick: The Tomboy Diaries

Cedar Toothpick“Cedar Toothpick is a book of nutshell poetry, written by Stefan Lorenzutti (that’s me) and illustrated by Laurent Le Deunff. I tell the story of backwoods gamine Tomboy, one thimble-sized poem at a time,” wrote Lorenzutti during his kickstarter campaign.

“Each poem is a description of a diorama, such as one finds in ethnographic or natural history museums—bell-jar spaces in which wolves, frozen in time, thread soundlessly through twilit forest; and wigwam inhabitants, cross-legged and ringed round their storyteller, shiver as the wind outside rattles frame of shelter.

The poems in Cedar Toothpick describe 27 diorama scenes through which Tomboy passes over the course of a witching hour and the following day.

There are two important sounds overlapping in Cedar Toothpick: the whisper of Tomboy’s moccasin footfall on pine needle; and the squeak of ancient parquet, as the reader meanders up and down the labyrinthine hallways of this nonexistent ethnographic museum, pressing his or her nose up to the glass of each Tomboy poem.”

This is a lovely little collection of poetry with beautiful illustrations, which I wrote more about in a previous post. I’m really happy to be able to share this with another poetry lover.

Book Two: The 2013 Rhysling Anthology

Edited by John C. Mannone.

“In January 1978, Suzette Haden Elgin founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association, along with its two visible cornerposts: the association’s newsletter, Star*Line, and the Rhysling Awards. Nominees for the 2013 Rhysling Award are selected by the membership of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Each member is allowed to nominate one work in each of two categories: ‘Best Long Poem’ and ‘Best Short Poem.’ All nominated works must have been published during 2012. The anthology allows the membership to easily review and consider all nominated works without the necessity of obtaining the diverse number of publications in which the nominated works first appeared and serves as a showcase of the best science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry of 2012. The Rhysling Anthology is available to anyone with an interest in this unique compilation of verse from some of the finest poets in the field of science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry.” (Description from Goodreads.)

This collection features poems by amazing poets, such as Catherynne M. Valente, Jane Yolen, Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, Sandra Kasturi, Amal El-Mohtar, Theodora Goss, Rose Lemberg, and oodles more.

It also, I must humbly add, includes my short poem, “Red Riding Hood Remembers.”

* * *

The giveaway ends on April 30th at midnight, at which point I will use a random number generator to select the winners.

You can find others who are giving away poetry listed here.

Good luck! And Happy National Poetry Month!

 

Favorite Reads of 2014!

Favorite reads of 2014

The Top Ten

1. The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
2. Among Others by Jo Walton
3. Red Shirts by Jihn Scalzi
4. The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
5. Contact by Carl Sagan
6. The City & The City by China Mielville
7. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
9. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
10. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Continue reading “Favorite Reads of 2014!”

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by

Fairy tales neatly blend together with the lives of teenage girls in this darkly funny collection of poems for teens. Definitely from a girl’s perspective, these poems explore unfortunate boyfriends, friendships, girl-on-girl cruelty, and other teenage nightmares using the fantastical and strange. As the Hepperman explains, these poems show how a teenage girl walking down the street can feel as though she’s trapped in her own personal tower. Many of these poems are simple, narrative poems told from the point of view of a villain or an innocent, if you believe one is any different from the other. The book is also illustrated with fantastical and surreal black-and-white photography, often evoking fairytale imagery.

A lot of these poems focus on body image, weight issues, anorexia, and so on. It was by far the most common theme among the poems. And for the most part Hepperman explores these issues artfully, though at times it seemed as though there was too much focus on this subject, the impact dulled by overuse and the ultimate message eventually feeling somewhat trite. However, some of these body image poems were also my favorite in the collection, as with “The Wicked Queen’s Legacy”, which shows how easy it is to become obsessed with self-image.

It used to be just the one,
but now all mirrors chatter.

In fact every reflective surface has opinions
on the shape of my nose, the size

of my chest, the hair I wash and brush
until it’s so shiny I can see myself

scribbling notes as each strand
recommends improvements.

— from “The Wicked Queen’s Legacy”

One of the things I really enjoyed about this collection was how darkly funny many of the poems were. For example, the poem “Big Bad Spa Treatment” describes how you can get sumptuously treated with “deep-tissue Massage Mallets, / leaving you loose / and gristle free” and a “honey barbecue facial mask”. And the evil queen doesn’t stop at Snow White in “Assassin,” but laboriously works to take out Sleeping Beauty, Gretel, Bo Peep, Goldilocks and others in her need to be the fairest.

While I can’t say this was the best collection of poetry I have every read (I think there is more mature work out there), it was certainly enjoyable and I would recommend it for just about any teenage girl. I think it would resonate with that age group quite a lot. I would have been obsessed with this collection as a teenager, reading it dogeared and copying quotes down in my journals. I remember facing my own self loathing around my body in high school and the awkwardness I felt around my peers, and I’m sure this book would resonated. It might have even made me feel stronger, as though I could face the world with courage and awesome.

Autumn

Acer near Birch Walk
Photo: Derek Harper (Creative Commons)

Out strolling, I learn how
the ocher yellow birch leaves tremble
against a robin-egg-blue sky. In a fairy tale,
a man finds a grove of trees
with leaves of gold, and here, now,
I believe it to be true. He could have plucked
these very leaves
as proof of the world’s wonder.

* * *

I have lived in Northern California most of my life. There are few birch trees, if any, and few trees that even bother changing color with the coming of Autumn. The seasons are less defined, blending one into the other with little differentiation. The first signs of Fall came only a few weeks ago with a noticeable chill to the morning air, a few sporadic grey-skied days with light rains lasting no longer than a day.

I remember piles of leaves, brown and yellow and golden, covering lawns. The rustle and crunch of them beneath my sneakered feet, sweeping huge piles into the air with one sweep of my feel. I imagine these memories attached to my younger years in Alaska, but more likely it would have been California — making my nostalgia misplaced. Perhaps this is in part due in part to my present longing for a true Autumn, a true Winter, at the very least a week of storms and rain.

* * *

I don’t much care for the hero in the story of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses“, who stalks the ladies down into the forests of gold leaves and silver leaves and then ruins the party.

Though to be honest, no one comes off well in this story. The king is sending men after his sleeping daughters and chopping heads off when they find nothing. The daughters blissfully drug the men, knowing they will die for their failure.

Still, I put my sympathy with the daughters, who seek adventure and dancing and joy. Though the hero brings them home and helps their father tether them to hope, I imagine each girl, one by one, shucking off the cords and wandering away for new adventures. The door to the magic lands may be closed, but their feet are strong and the world is wide. There is enough gold in the sun and silver in the clouds to give them joy, as they discover new shores and ensnare new friends into the freedom of dancing.

* * *

In fairy tales, everything — gifts, tests, friends — come in threes. They say that about deaths, too. When celebrities die, we count them in groups of three, create a grouping of deaths and call the curse down when the third falls. As though folk tale superstition can stop the flow of time, can hold back and make sense of the chaos of daily life. Summer becomes Autumn whether we like it or not, and we all must cross the threshold of Winter to reach the Spring.

* * *

Look what has become
of my heart, the husk of a brown leaf,
hold it in your hand, watch
it crumble to dust
and feed the earth,
wait, wait,
in the cold, in the dark,
see the tender shoot
of its feeling
emerge.

Poetry Chapbook Review: TEN by Val Dering Rojas

Book Cover: Ten by Val Dering Rojas

TEN by Val Dering Rojas
Publisher: Dancing Girl Press
Date Published: 2014

ONE.
I think
if he tried,
I would crumble
like the iridescent shell
of a beetle.

Val Dering Rojas’ TEN consists of ten long poems alongside ten mini-poems that explores the inner working of body and soul through the out workings of color and texture. The ten mini poems act as a form of chapter headings in between each of the longer pieces, providing a framework for the chapbook. Read together, all in one go, these mini-poems provide a poem of their own, which unveils a personal journey, from a place of a place of disconnecting from emotional wounding to a sense of inner calm, a spiritual awareness. As interjections, the mini-poems share thematic progression with the longer pieces.

In “An Instance of Affliction,” a medicine cabinet is contemplated, an “axis of obsolete / streets, old razors roads.” The medicine cabinet, the objects within, and the reflection in the mirror fade behind an deeper reflection. The material world itself becomes metaphor for personal experience.

“How To Leave” expresses the unpacking and dismantling of the meaning love with “its utopian tongue”, expressing both how love fails us and also all the things (objects and feelings) that must be left behind. “Love can’t be found / in these humble jars of honey, / in these everyday teaspoons.” At the same time, there is what remains in the leaving: “You are packing yourself up in bags, // stuffing yourself in boxes.” What do we have in the ending of a relationship, but ourselves? The objects (clothing, books, toiletries, towels, bedding), which gets stuffed into bags and boxes, become representative of the self. And yet, the poem, shows how the things we tell ourselves in leaving (“I hate love” or that “love / doesn’t know any truth at all”) are either lies or, at the least, half truths, because feeling, love, emotion lingers.

The progression of the poems eventually lead the reader to realize that the self is enough. In “While Alone at Topanga Thrift,” the narrator explores the feeling of space while discovering objects in a thrift store: “It occurs to me / that most things are made / to be filled; even now, / these old red dough-bowls / brim with sun.” As with the rest of the poems, it’s easy to relate the outer objects to the inner realm. The imagery of a tiny teacup or a ginger jar becomes moving and beautiful metaphor.

EIGHT.
I can’t let you
see me cry,
but if you’d like,
I’ll tell you a sad story.

I’ve returned to these poems several times in the course of reading them, each time discovering something new — a turn of phrase to fall in love with, a deeper meaning to latch onto. Each poem is shown to be lovelier and more evocative each time I read it. All told, a lovely. wonderful collection and I hope to be able to read a full length book from Val in the near future.

Note: A review copy of TEN was provided by the author, whom i consider a friend. Take this review with as much of a grain of salt to taste.

Lifting Our Voices to the Moon

Last Friday night was lovely. I attended Glowing with the Moon, an open mic hosted by my amazing, wonderful poet friend, Lorenz Dumuk. Lorenz is an amazing poet and one of the kindest, most generous-hearted people I know.

The night included a mix of featured poets and open mic participants with a variety of styles, including Yvette McDonald, Lindsey Leong, Scorpiana Xlynn, and others. The out pouring of words as the sky darkened into night was wonderful.

Q&A also performed a couple of sets. The musical duo is comprised of Quynh Nguyen and Alice D. Chen. They play a mixture of covers and original music in a style that is sweet and slightly eerie. They don’t have a website or facebook page that I can link to yet, but they have definitely made a groupie of me.

Lorenz presented several lovely counterparts to the mixture of spoken word and music:

  • He asked everyone to participate in a salt-art table, to draw out our dreams or what we’re looking to let go off in salt, then to sweep it into a bag, which he will later take and return to the ocean.
  • At another point, he asked everyone to stand up and greet a stranger, saying our name, what we hoped to call to ourselves, and what fears we wanted to let go of — the result was an opening up to someone new, perhaps letting in a little vulnerability along the way.
  • Since it was that kind of night, Lorenz also asked us to close our eyes and listen to the wind singing in hushed tones in the trees around us.

I don’t know that I can properly explain how grounding and wonderful a night Friday was and what a great community these artists and poets are. I find myself sometimes longing for community of this kind, a creatively charged group casting their words into the world (I do have my Writing Gang, though life has intervened making it hard for us to gather). Such kinds of communities makes me feel alive to words.

As I usually do after such an event, I went home and threw some words down on a poem I’ve been working on for a while. There’s going to be another open mic at Iguanas in San Jose on Thursday. My goal is to finish this poem in time to read it at the Thursday open mic, which is intimidating since this poem makes me feel vulnerable writing it, let alone reading it out loud to others.

I hope everyone is having a lovely week, full of creativity and joy.

Poetry Review: Hum by Jamaal May

Hum by Jamaal May

Hum by Jamaal May
Publisher: Alice James Books
Date Published: November 2013

Description: “In May’s debut collection, poems buzz and purr like a well-oiled chassis. Grit, trial, and song thrum through tight syntax and deft prosody. From the resilient pulse of an abandoned machine to the sinuous lament of origami animals, here is the ever-changing hum that vibrates through us all, connecting one mind to the next.”

I admit to being drawn to this collection because of the gorgeous cover and its steampunk robot with a birdcage head, which immediately sparked my imagination. The physical book itself is also beautiful, with a lovely typeset. A smattering of dark pages, each for a “phobia” poem (such as Athazagoraphobia: Fear of Being Ignored”), appear throughout the book, starting out black at first then lightening toward softer grays. It’s an interesting way to highlight a set of associated poems and there’s a subtle effect to reading words with white text on a dark page that suits the “phobia” poems. For example, reading “Athazagoraphobia: Fear of Being Ignored” on one of the rare black pages in the books creates an interesting contrast between text and the physical page.

Hum is dedicated to “to the inner lives of Detroiters.” When I think of Detroit these days, I picture photo essays that show the city in seemingly apocalyptic states of decay. May’s poems reflect this state of everyday apocalypse. “Still Life” presents a “Boy with roof shingles / duct taped to shins and forearms / threading barbed wire through pant loops” as well as other trash can armor in the face of what seems to be a wasteland. While in “The Girl Who Builds Rockets from Bricks,” a girl wanders in “the caverns of deserted houses,” performing “her excavation for spare parts: // shards of whiskey bottle, matches, / anthills erupting from concrete // seams, the discarded husk / of a beetle.”

{C} Continue reading “Poetry Review: Hum by Jamaal May”

Joys, travels, poetry, and other doings

A lot has been going on over the past couple of weeks since I last posted, so I’m going to sum things up in list format (in order of importance, rather than chronology) to make things easier on myself. I still have to do my book and movie round up for May, but that’ll come tomorrow probably.

– The biggest announcement by far is the birth of my nephew. The Monster (my niece) is being adorable around him, very gentle and loving so far. I can’t even express what a joy it is to welcome this tiny little person into the family.

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– I also turned 34 years old in the past two weeks (on May 26 to be exact), and a Happy New Year to me. A gentleman recently told my friend that she should count her birthday as the true new year, since it announces another new year of her life. I love that, and it seems like a perfect time to reassess life, the universe, and everything. With all that’s been happening, I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but I’m planning to think about taking a serious look at my goals this week. It so happened that my birthday was marked by…

– getting rather sick. Oh the joys of coughs and runny noses, just as I’m launching into…

– a two week work trip, involving two conferences and an industrial plant visit. Travels took me to Detroit, West Michigan, and Montreal. There was a lot of work and a lot of trying to rest in order to recover from being sick, so I didn’t do much touring, except for two beautiful days in Montreal. I let my feet carry me around the city to here and there, exploring Old Town and other areas of the city center. It was beautiful out and I’d like to have more time to explore Montreal properly in the future.

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Montreal with the Parc du Mont-Royal in the background.
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Inside the Basilica of Notre Dame in Montreal.

– Being in Montreal, I had to go see Cirque du Soleil. It was a bigger expense than I had planned, but Kurios is a steampunk inspired show, so I couldn’t resist. They did a marvelous job with the aesthetic and it fit really well into the acrobat sequences. The first half, in particular, was astounding in beauty and stunts. The second half had a few weird bits that I didn’t get, but it didn’t lessen my overall enjoyment. Kurios is my favorite of all the Soleil shows I’ve seen.

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Inside the Cirque du Soleil: Kurios tent. The show had an awesome steampunk aesthetic.

– I came home to two poetry pretties in my mailbox — the lovely TEN chapbook by Val Dering Rojas (which I received from the author) and Live From The Homesick Jamboree by Adrian Blevins (which I received as part of a poetry giveaway). I’m looking forward to reading both!!

 – Two contributor’s copies of the Strange Frenzies anthology also arrives. The anthology includes my poem, “Comfort At Last.” A wonderful surprise.

Poetry Review: Practicing Disaster by Jessie Carty

Practicing Disaster by Jessie Carty

Practicing Disaster by Jessie Carty
Publisher: Aldrich Books
Date Published: April 2014

“You wish you had coined the word zaftig;
that you were OK with abdomens
that hung over bikini bottoms.”
— from “Zaftig Profiling”

Practicing Disaster is collection of narrative poetry presenting  an exploration of ordinary lives. These are people you could meet on the street, from the a sixteen-year-old hotel maid to a short order cook to any number of strangers you might meet on the street. For example, in “Eating at Work,” an employee travels further and further afield in search of lunchtime solitude. While in “Some Basic Consumer Math,” the owners of a Chinese restaurant tailor their food for their most loyal customers, all from the retirement home nearby, making their Sa-Cha chicken “about as mild as the contents / of a store bought spaghetti sauce.”

Some of the prose poems, in which thought condenses into thought, are among my favorites. They allow a free flow feel of the poem, different from the lined sister poems. In “I was 36”, the narrator describes her first experience getting a pedicure, remembering the same sloughing off of her grandmother’s feet. In that youthful remembering is the memory of childhood discovery and the “lesson in not going through other people’s personal affects”, and just as one can “flake off the dead skin” there is the feeling of flaking off the past.

“The Patient” also explores time passing, like the dropping of green beans into a bucket or the beeping of machines: “The doctor uses the word / aphasia / I focus on the center— / a phase / a moment.” The disjointed, jigsaw pattern of the words on the page (which I couldn’t possibly replicate here) matched the disjointed experience of a patient in the hospital, as well as the way the past jumps forward and seems to collide and become a part of the present.

In the titular poem, a women plays with the idea of disaster on her commute, imagining “overpasses from her car could spill like ink in blotchy slow motion,” and how she might shape catastrophe to set herself free. Knowing the trapped feeling of the commute, I can sympathize with the narrator, have even practiced a few of my own disasters.

Many of these poems reflect similar kinds of personal experience, even if they are outside us (as though we are people watching at a corner cafe). As a reader, there a sense of Yes, me, too; I’ve felt the same. Reading “Zaftig Profiling” (quoted at the top), I also wished I had coined the word zaftig, that I could, as mentioned later in the poem, laugh loudly in mixed company.

At first glance, what’s revealed in these poems could be described as mundane, bits of ordinary lives normally passed over or cast away as unimportant. The narrative voice of these poems, likewise, is straightforward, seemingly plain. However, this initial impression is deceiving. I’ve read through this collection twice now and have made new discoveries on each read, subtleties of voice and thought I hadn’t noticed the first go around. There are layers of humor, breaths of poignancy, beautiful discoveries.

Edited to Add: I should probably note that I received a free review copy from the author.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

While the weekend was spent celebrating Mammas, both my own mom and my sister who is fantastic with the Little Monster, I somehow managed to be somewhat productive this week.

On Tuesday, fellow poet Lorenz Dumuk (@LorenzDumuk) and I visited a friend’s classroom to read our poetry as part of her English class. As I haven’t read in ages, I was feeling rather nervous and kind of rushed through my pieces, but as usual Lorenz was amazing. He is a powerhouse of spoken word and it’s always inspiring to watch him offer up words to an audience.

Afterward, I went home and started reading Jessie Carty’s new book of poetry, Practicing Disaster,* in order to hold on to the galvanizing feeling created with poetry.

As a result of all this hearing and reading of fantastic poetry, I poured out five poem drafts all in one go, one of which I posted up on wattpad, called “Kamikaze.”

The juiced writerly feeling didn’t fade away, and I ended up putting together a Friday Flash. The short short story, called “Four and Twenty” is a bit about baking pies and a bit about a murder of crows. I plan to make a habit of posting a Friday Flash at least once a month.

My goal for the week is to edit the poem drafts and put together a small submission to a journal. I also have one submission still out that I haven’t heard back from, which I need to send an inquiry on.

*Jessie Carty sent me a review copy of her book. I should have the review up middle of the week, which I plan to follow with an interview with the poet (something I have never done before, eek!).

Poetry Win! Live From The Homesick Jamboree!

6998642I just learned that I’ve won a copy of Live From The Homesick Jamboree by Adrian Blevins! Yay!

Summary from GoodReads:

Live from the Homesick Jamboree is a brave, brash, funny, and tragic hue and cry on growing up female during the 1970s, “when everything was always so awash” that the speaker finds herself adrift among adults who act like children. The book moves from adolescence through a dry-eyed, poignant exploration of two marriages, motherhood, and the larger world, with the headlong perceptiveness and brio characteristic of Adrian Blevins’s work. This poetry is plainspoken and streetwise, brutal and beautiful, provocative and self-incriminating, with much musicality and a corrosive bravura, brilliantly complicated by bursts of vernacular language and flashes of compassion. Whether listening to Emmylou Harris while thinking she should be memorizing Tolstoy, reflecting on her “full-to-bursting motherliness,” aging body, the tensions and lurchings of a relationship, or “the cockamamie lovingness” of it all, the language flies fast and furious.

I’m stoked to read this. Poetry is joy afterall. (^_^)

The book was offered by Joseph Harker as part of the Big Poetry Giveaway.

An Adorable Monster and other good things

I did not exercise all last week, unless you count my playing with my niece, a.k.a. The Monster — following her as she ran around the park and rolling with her in the grass and spinning in circles and then hauling her over my shoulder to get her back to her parents at the picnic tables — which I totally do.

The Monster had a lovely Easter. She got to paint eggs and then “find” eggs during an Easter egg hunt (which was more us just tossing plastic eggs into the grass and playing pick up with a plastic bucket, because she’s not yet two).

Words Here and There

I haven’t been putting many expectations on myself in terms of writing lately, due to the many, many things going on in other arenas of my life. But I’ve managed to feel a few sparks of inspiration over the past couple of weeks, which is awesome.

Despite my previous protestations that no poetry would be written this month, I’ve added a number of poems to The Poetry Project over on Wattpad. You can read each of the poems at the following links:

I’m planning to close The Poetry Project to new prompts as of April 30th, so if you would like me to write you a poem, then please leave me a prompt in the comments either here or there.

I’ve put together an excel sheet of chapters of the werewolf novel, noting things that need to be added and major problems that need to be solved along the way. It’s not a complicated layout, but it was enough to start getting my thoughts in order and I’m also using the tabs to start trying to keep track of characters and places that are important. I still have NO IDEA to solve the one major problem I have at the moment. The most obvious solution is to cut out the problem entirely, but I’m not sure that’s what I want to do.

I also met with the Writing Gang over the weekend, all of whom continue to be awesome. They gave me some feedback on some of the later chapters, which was valuable as always. I think I need to look at solving the big problems and work my way through edits from the beginning at this point. *le sigh*

Good Movie Watching

The Host (2006)I saw The Host (Gwoemul) for the first time over the weekend and it was SO FREAKING AWESOME. The story involves a large genetically mutated creature that rises up out of Han River in Seoul, South Korea and begins to attach the population. A young school girl is taken by the creature during the initial attack, and amidst a virus scare and government lockdown, her family escapes quarantine to try to rescue her.

It sounds like just your typical monster movie, but the story is intelligent and the family is both charming and silly in their bungling attempts to save their daughter/niece. It offers fantastic action sequences with a spice of humor, alongside an interesting social commentary. The monster turns out to be the least terrifying aspect of the story. Instead it’s the failed efforts of the Korean and U.S. government to solve the contamination problem, as well as the cold calculating treatment toward the patients in quarantine by officials and doctors alike that becomes truly frightening.

This is one of those movies that was so cool, I want to now see everything done by the director, Joon-ho Bong. The director’s most recent movie is Snowpiercer, which I’ve heard is amazing. So, I that may be the next movie I seek out by him. If you want more evidence of Joon-ho Bong’s awesome, you can check out this post.

Things to Do This Week

  • Edit chapter one of werewolf novel and try to solve big plot problem
  • Find a publisher to submit chapbook manuscript to
  • Continue research/do homework on business thing that I can’t talk about yet

Things

This weekend was mostly lazy with lots of movie watching. It was mostly bad or so-so movies (with the exception of The Spectacular Now).

I’ve started reading The Three Musketeers and I’m rather enjoying the antics of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d’Artagnon. There’s a lot of hot headed-ness, running off to get into sword fights, slinging of insults, intrigues with mysterious women, and so on. All quite fun.

The most exciting thing this weekend was the family visit to the 4D Ultrasound* clinic. I don’t know if I announced this to you all, but my sister’s due to have her second baby (a boy) in a couple of months (end of June), so I’ll get to have a second little person to read to. (^_^) Anyway, the technology these days is amazing. We could see the features of baby Colton so clearly and he’s adorable. Looks just like his big sister. It’s so exciting!

*I don’t know why they call it 4D, when it doesn’t actually transcend time. It’s more like an advanced 3D technology.

Writing Life

Since April is National Poetry Month, this is normally the time I would be wildly attempting to complete the 30 Day Poetry Challenge or reading poetry on youtube or in some other way trying to engage. That hasn’t happened this time around, because there’s still traces of a bunch of things going on. While I’m not going to try to pound out two dozen or more poems this month, I do want to get back into my Morning Poetry Ritual (in which I must write a poem each morning). I need some sort of spark to keep the words burning in me.

For those interested in Poetry Month goodies, here’s a couple:

Running Life

Haven’t run much since completing the 5k two weeks ago, and I need to get back to it. I’d like to move up to the next level and run a 10K this summer.

I’ll try to get a couple of workouts or runs in this week, although it might not happen on the weekend because of family events filling Saturday and Easter Sunday. I’ll have to take it easy, though, since I’ve somehow managed to straing my lower back over the weekend.

How are you all this week? Are you loving life?

_______

The Giant List of Goals, or What I'd Like to Accomplish in 2014

Image by Jay Roeder

I love the new year, if for no other reason than I get to create my giant list of goals. As a whole, it’s not entirely sensible and is partly wrapped up in my love for list making as it is for actually getting anything done — but I can’t help myself.

Goal making in general is a good thing, I believe. Though what works best, in terms of what kind of goals and how they are approached, really depends on the individual. Massive lists like I make don’t work for everyone (and sometimes it doesn’t entirely work for me).

Figuring out what works best is experimental, a process of testing the goal-soaked waters to figure out what works. Every year I take a look at last year’s goals, see what I accomplished and test out some adjustments to the system in order to see what else might work.

Lightning Droplets talks about choosing process over goals, focusing on developing systems for ongoing progress, rather than setting a single goal that can be dropped once it’s a completed.

Last year, I came up with a plan that involved creating “Primary Goals” that would be my main focus per year, as well as a set of “Secondary Goals” that represented wishful-thinking kinds things I hope to get done, if I hve the time. Also, because some of my goals are giant in and of themselves (e.g., write a novel), I also created weekly goals in order to break things down in to bite-sized pieces that wouldn’t over whelm me. The weekly goals also allow me to work toward process, creating a habit of getting something done every week. On the whole this plan worked for me, and I was pleased with what I accomplished in 2013. So, I’m using the same method this year.

I would love to hear about your own goals or plan for getting sh!t done 2014! Please leave me a note in the comments below and/or link to your own goals/resolutions post.

Primary Goals

1. Edit Under the Midday Moon into a novel draft ready for beta readers

I’m feeling at a standstill with my novel. I’m getting close-ish to the end, but I’m struggling through it. So, my plan is to write the main ending scenes, so that I have a better sense of the end, and then proceed to the rewrite with the aim of having a complete novel in readable form by the end of the year. Rewriting the beginning chapters to understand the conflict and relationships better should put me in a better position to know how to make the ending work.

2. Participate in at least two 5k events

Since, as of this weekend, I’ve run two miles straight through, and I know I will be able to run 3 miles by the end of January, the next step is to participate in some 5k running events for fun and glory.

Bonus round: Run a 10k (6 miles!)

3. Submit two chapbooks and/or full-length collections of poetry for publication

I managed this last year, so I’m sure I can pull this off again.

Continue reading “The Giant List of Goals, or What I'd Like to Accomplish in 2014”

Wrapping Up 2013

In January I posted my 2013 goals, both primary and secondary.* Here is how I did this year.

Results of My Primary Goals

1. Finish a coherent draft of Under the Midday Moon (my no-longer-untitled werewolf novel)

Almost there. I would have preferred to have finished the entire draft, but I’m close enough that I can reasonably consider editing the novel as my main goal for 2014. The progress feels good and I think I might actually be able to pull this whole writing a novel thing off.

2. Work up to running three miles

I ran a mile!

I may not have completed my goal, but I kept up with running throughout most of the year and I improved. It took a big push in December, but making it to a mile and feeling like I can now do it again, whenever I want, is a huge thing for me. I feel so great about this. I’m fairly certain that I can run a full three miles by end of January. I just need to keep pushing myself.

As a side effect of all this, I’ve also lost around 40 pounds. It’s interesting to write that out, because the number itself is unimportant. I look at myself in the mirror and don’t really see it (even though others have noticed it), which is why I chose to have my goal be about accomplishments in running, rather than about weight loss. I feel good about the running. I’ve achieved something and I can continue to achieve my goals. And as I result, I feel physically strong and healthy. That’s the most important thing.

3. Submit a chapbook- or full-length collection of poetry for publication

Done! Twice this year, I submitted collections of poetry. They were both rejected, but one came back with a really kind comment suggesting that I submit again. Yay!

4. Address finances

Unfortunately this was my biggest flop. I hate to say it, but I think I’m actually a little worse off than when I started the year out. I’m going to have to refocus on this all over again and try to get a handle on things. I know the amount of trips, though worth it, have had an affect on my finances, so I’ll have to keep that in mind.

Overall

I didn’t manage to get hardly any of my secondary goals done, but I feel good about what I’ve accomplished this year, which included a number of great trips, including San Antonio, Texas, Pensacola, Florida, Washington DC, Mexico City, and Venice and Florence, Italy. All great experiences.

How was your 2013? Did you accomplished your writing or personal goals?

*Okay, so maybe I’m a little list obsessed. But just a little.

Review: Two Mini-Chapbooks

8th Grade Hippie Chick by Marisa Crawford
8th Grade Hippie Chick by Marisa Crawford

8th Grade Hippie Chic

by Marisa Crawford

Publisher: Immaculate Disciples Press
Where to Purchase: www.immaculatedisciples.com
Goodreads Page
LibraryThing Page

When you French-kissed the class president on the school trip to Boston and we wore yellow feathers in our hair, and I dropped my beaded red velour bag into the harbor, it opened up a crack of light for me.”
— from 8th Grade Hippie Chick

This chapbook of inter connected prose poems calls on the ghosts of memory and youth, unveiling the pain and joy of friendship and young love. Each poem captures a moment with more fluidity than a photograph and opens up the wounds and intimacies of friendship with all it’s music and play and clothing and crushes.

Marisa draws on the small things (“I was wearing a silver ring that said, ‘Imagine’ on it.”), on the little details (“A closet full of Beatles shirts. Tie-dye. A hot pink aura.”) to open up aches and joys. Presented in short paragraphs of text, her words flow over one another to reveal the wider inner world of being young girls. Reading this book, I found myself nostalgic for days and ways that were not my own, longing for a youth that was at once so similar and yet vastly different from my own.

I adore this little stitched book as much as I adored Marisa’s first collection of poems, The Haunted House, which touches on similar themes. I may be biased, since I know Marisa from when we worked at Aunt Lute Books together and I consider her a friend. But she has such a unique voice and her words pluck a cord inside me and resonate with my inner girlhood, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. I wish her many future successes.
.

No Experiences by Erin Watson
No Experiences by Erin Watson

No Experiences: Poems

by Erin J. Watson

Publisher: Scout Books
Where to Purchase: noexperiences.bigcartel.com/product/no-experiences
Goodreads Page
LibraryThing Page

“What is a poem after all? you say.
Maybe it is a kind of possessing
a heap of rocks, a buoy or anything”
— from No Experiences

This collection of 24 short poems by Erin Watson began as a playful response to the randomly wise ravings of a popular spam horse, @Horse_ebooks on twitter. The spam horse account spewed phrases that revealed hidden poetry. For each of these poems, Erin took one spam tweet and built a poem around it, posting each one online. Later she kickstarter funded a physical chapbook of the poetry, which is how I discovered the project (and spam horse).

Coming from an experimental project as it did, Erin’s poetry is playful and surprising, each short line taking unexpected twists and turns. The poems are thick with layered images and meaning and they’re the kind of poems that fill up the small space they encompass. They’re poems to sit with and consider the many possible meanings of, they’re poems to read over and over again, to giggle at, to enjoy.

As a side note, it was revealed recently that Horse_ebooks was not a spambot but a performance art project by Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief. Many people who followed the span horse felt betrayed by this news.

I asked how Erin felt about this, and this was her wonderful response:

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking about it a lot today: like, why does it feel a little duplicitous that something wonderful was someone’s wonderful creation instead of a weird mistake? I don’t know, mostly I’m grateful that I got to inhabit a moment where it seemed real and make a thing with the means available. Everyone should make their own weirdness in the world.”

I’m glad she got to inhabit this moment, too and that it allowed me to read and discover her poetry. I also hope she’s still avidly writing and that she will release more of her words into the world soon.

Things

1. Thanksgiving yesterday was great, family and food filled fun. Lots of laughing and eating. Turkey and stuffing and salad and twice baked potatoes and candied yams and green beans with bacon, not to mention pecan pies and apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake — all homemade, by the way. Plus lots and lots of champagne.

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2. I received a rejection for a poetry chapbook submission, called The Letterbox, sent out many months ago. The rejection included a personal note, thanking me for submitting. The editor said I had a nice narrative arc to my poems and suggested that I submit again. I never take rejections to heart, because they are a part of the process of being a writer, but it’s always great to see that personal touch and get a bit of encouragement.

3. I have no motivation to do anything at all, even though I’m supposed to pull off 18,000 words before midnight tomorrow. *sigh*

4. I’m am enjoying reading Slice of Cheery by Dia Reeves, which has consumed most of my day so far.

5. I’m sure I have enough motivation to seek out more pecan pie, though. Mmmmm, pie. And then a nap.

Writing Retreat Announced: Poets on the Coast 2014

The fabulous Susan Rich, whose books of poetry I’ve read and loved, has announced Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women, which she is hosting alongside Kelli Russell Agodon. This weekend retreat will be from September 5-6, 2014 in La Conner, Washington.

“This retreat has been designed for women writers of all levels, from beginning poets to well published. Sessions on creativity, generating work, publication, a Master Class workshop, and one-on-one mentoring are included as well as morning yoga.”

I learned about this retreat last year and loved the idea of going. I spent several weeks trying to plot out the time and money it would take for me to go, but the finances just didn’t work for me.

I’m considering it again for 2014, but I know I have at least two trips planned next year, which will eat up much of my traveling funds. I’m still hoping to make it work, but we’ll see.

I think it’s a fabulous retreat, though, and I hope some of my fellow female poets get the opportunity to go — even if I can’t join them this year.

Beyond Nanowrimo: Other Month-Long Challenges to Consider

Challenge Accepted

While I love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and will be participating again this year, it isn’t for everybody. But the idea of challenging oneself to stretch personal boundaries of what you think is possible is a great thing. So, I thought I’d share a few different challenges that you could do this November instead of trying to pound out 50,000 word of a novel.

  • National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) — Challenge yourself to write one blog post every day this month, which I discovered through The Daily Post. It seems like a simple enough challenge, but since I’ve never posted 30 days straight in my life, I’m sure it would be tougher than I think. I’m planning to go a head and try this (today makes day one!), since I’ll be posting word updates and such anyway this month.
  • November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge — Found at Writer’s Digest, this challenge asks writes to take the prompts posted and writes a poem a day for the month of November, THEN to take those poems and turn them into a chapbook in December, which can then be submitted to the associated chapbook contest. Very cool.
  • Submission Bonanza! — The blogger at Lighting Droplets came up with a personal challenge to send out 30 submissions in 31 days (they did it in the month of July), but it could be done in November, too. The idea is to rack up rejections (and hopefully an acceptance or two). This sounds like an awesome challenge and one I’ll be trying at a later date.
  • The 30 Day Vlog Challenge — This is for Youtube and involves creating a new vlog post (at least 1 minute long) everyday for 30 days. I need to do something like this to get back into the habit of vlogging, but it will probably be a while.

I’m sure there are dozens of other such challenges out there, and if you know of any that I should add to the list, please let me know in the comments.

Edited to Add:

  • National Comic Drawing Month (NaCoDrawMo) — Draw one strip or one page of a longer manga/webcomic every day for a month. Submitted by ingridsykora.

Updatery – Life Keeps On Keeping On

The winners of the Rhysling Award have been announced. I am not among them, and that’s okay. I was and still am just so honored to have been included in the list of nominees.

In other writing news, the short story I have currently circulating has been rejected again, but that’s the writing life. Time to send it to a new publication.

My biggest issue in my writing world right now is that I haven’t been writing much of anything at all, which is rather depressing. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, in part due to all my traveling and I’ve been trying to just relax when I get home. (I suppose it doesn’t help that my relaxation has lately taken the form of mainlining episodes of Fringe.) At any rate, I’m going to have to hunker down toward my goals once I’m back from work trip to Italy and into my day-to-day rhythm.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that I am going to Italy? No?

Well, I’ll be traveling to Udine for work, then spending three days in Florence and a day in Venice for fun. I am STOKED.

* * *

In other, other news, my trip to Washington DC (a couple of weeks ago) was awesome. We did so much and saw so many sights. Here are photos I took of the Lincoln Monument, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

DC

Washington DC

Washington DC

The amazing thing about the trip was not just the places we visited, but the people we were with. These women I traveled with are amazing women — books geeks, fabulous mothers, nerds, intelligent business women, joyful lovers of life, and so much more. I feel blessed to know them.

Excuse me, while I dance a jig

So, I keep putting off posting other things, because I need to post about my Mexico trip and haven’t got around to it yet. It was fantastic, by the way, right up until I wanted to leave the country, arrived at the airport, and discovered that my flight no longer existed.

I ended up stuck and exhausted and frustrated, but a new flight was eventually found (which required me to stay the night in Guadalajara) and I made my way home, even if it was a whole day later.

The result has been me getting sick (sniffles and coughing) and right at the time when my day job is particularly swamped, leaving me not wanting to go anywhere near a computer at the end of the day. So, I’ve mostly just been recovering when I get home.

But since I went to the mailbox this morning and discovered a delightful surprise, I just had to post that my contributor’s copy of The 2013 Rhysling Anthology arrived!

So, even though I’m still sick and still recovering, I’m also filled with squee and find myself wanting to prance about the room, preforming somersaults!

(^_^)

Got the 2014 Rhysling Anthology in the mail today with my poem inside! Can't wait to read all the great poems. So exciting! #poetry #anthology #books #rhysling #writing

New Poems Published

Linden Avenue is one year old today, and in celebration, the journal has a shiny new web design! Yay!

I’m pleased and honored to announce that three of my poems have been included in Issue Thirteen, along with work from many fantastic writers who have been previously published in the online journal.  For joy!

Other than this announcement there’s not much to announce (though isn’t that enough), as I was entirely non-production last week (with the last minute exception of scouring my bathroom, because gross). In the scope of this procrastination, I managed to miss two contest deadlines that I had been planning to submit to.

*sigh* Oh, well. Onward!

That which must be accomplished in the coming week:
– Finish Chapter Four of Under the Midday Moon
– Submit something (poetry, fiction, whatever)
– Edit Letter Box poetry chapbook and find a place to submit it
– Workout at least three days with two workouts being running training (0/3)
– Do three yoga workouts, three sun salutations min. (0/3)
– Practice my Spanish
– Make Progress on Organization (do one or more of the following):
— Sort paperwork out by year for filing and set up system for the current year
— Organize craft supplies
— Shred papers and dispose of them
— Find a minimum of ten items (big or small) that can be gotten rid of and get rid of them
— Take box of items to donate to Goodwill