Poet Spotlight: Sonya Vatomsky on breathing life into poetry

Sonya Vatomsky

Sonya Vatomsky is the author of poetry collection Salt Is For Curing (Two Dollar Radio) as well as chapbooks My Heart In Aspic (Porkbelly Press) and And the Whale (Paper Nautilus). A digital alchemist, their creative output ranges from mini-documentaries for the CDC to reported features in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Smithsonian Magazine. Sonya is a member of the Cheburashka Collective, a group of female and non-binary writers from the Soviet diaspora, and lives in Manchester, UK. Find them by saying their name five times in front of a bathroom mirror or at sonyavatomsky.com and @coolniceghost.

And the Whale by Sonya VatomskyCongratulations on publishing your new chapbook, And the Whale. Can you tell us a bit about the project and how it came into being?    

Thank you! So, the bulk of the poems were written in late 2015 and throughout 2016, though I didn’t actually assemble the manuscript until 2019. It’s always strange to talk about the ‘about’ of poetry, because so much of the medium’s magic is cupping it into your own hands and breathing life into it, but the poems in And the Whale are — to me, anyhow — about two things.

One, about the death of a dear friend. About death and loss and grief and the foreverness of sorrow.

And two, about coming out as non-binary the same year I released my full-length book Salt Is For Curing, which was about (‘about’) finding power as a woman after sexual assault. 

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New Books in Poetry: Broken Ballads by Nicole Danielle

Broken Ballads by Nicole DanielleA new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which the fabulous Athena Dixon speaks with Nicole Danielle about her book Broken Ballads (2019).

Athena writes:

For as often as it may seem to be the case, life doesn’t exist in extremes. Whatever pain, love, desire, or hurt, moving through life is a balancing act. We learn to hold onto what is important for our own growth, but we also learn that sometimes we must carry bits of the world for those who walk beside us and those yet to come. This balancing act teaches us to jettison what no longer serves us just as much as it teaches us to grip tightly to what matters most.

In a collection that is equal measures an exploration of pain after her uncle’s passing and an honoring of her own heart, Nicole Danielle’s book Broken Ballads (2019) asks who gets to be innocent? How do we move towards the life we want? What legacy do we leave for future generations? In her debut book, Nicole Danielle finds a way to unearth joy without using blinders to hide the tender spots of the heart that need to heal. She mosaics together the shattered bits of life and shows they can still be beautiful. They can still be a reflection of who we are, what we want, and where we are headed.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.

Culture Consumption: May 2021

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

Murderbot Diaries — Fugitive Telemetry by Martha WellsIt’s difficult to fully express my love for the Martha Wells’ Murderbot series without flailing my arms in the air and shouting its delights at passersby in what could be perceived as a vaguely threatening manner. Fugitive Telemetry, the sixth book in the series, once again puts our beloved, socially awkward Murderbot in the position of having to interact with (horror!) and save humans, when all it wants to do is kickback and watch serials. While this maintains the same wry tone as previous books, it adds an element of detective murder mystery that makes for a fun, intriguing read.

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Litquake: A Conversation Between Rivers Solomon and Charlie Jane Anders

Rovers Solomon and Charlie Jane Anders

Today, I was fortunate to be able to tune in to the Litquake virtual event with Rivers Solomon and Charlie Jane Anders. This event was supported by Green Apple Books in San Francisco and 48 Hills, a source for SF news and culture.

Both Solomon and Anders are phenomenal writers of science fiction and fantasy with several books under their name. I’ve bought, read, and loved all of the books each of these authors has written thus far — so I was so excited to be able to hear them read from and discuss their recently released books.

Here are some bits of goodness from the event.

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The Legacy of Unus Annus

Unus Annus Youtube channel

My essay “The Legacy of Unus Annus: Ephemeral Art in a Cyberpunk World” was recently published by Interstellar Flight Magazine. The essay takes a deep dive into Unus Annus and how it intersects with our cyberpunk world and traditional art forms, such as shitposting and ephemeral art.

What would you do if you knew you only had one year left to live?

This philosophical question lies at the heart of Unus Annus (latin for “one year”), a creative experiment developed by gamers Mark Fischbach (Markiplier) and Ethan Nestor (Crankgameplays). The pair created a YouTube channel and set themselves the challenge of creating one video every day for a year — only to delete the entire channel and all of its content at the end of that year.

Unus Annus is situated within this crossroads of art and technology, embodying fine art traditions through a digital medium well suited to the cyberpunk world in which we live. I had a fantastic time exploring these elements through a ton of research and sheer fascinating.

This is definitely an essay that benefited from working with a great editor at Interstellar Flight Press, who pushed me harder to dig deeper. After all this hard work putting this essay together, I’m so excited to share it with you.