Culture Consumption: June 2019

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

Books

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora GossI loved The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. The story is about Mary Jekyll, left alone and penniless following her mother’s death. Curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past, she discovers that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be still be alive. With the hope of a reward to solve her financial challenges, she pursues what little clues she has — only to discover Diana, Hyde’s daughter instead. As the mystery thickens, Mary learns of more women who have been experimented upon by their fathers — Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein. Together, the women begin to uncover a secret society of scientist attempting to transmute the human body in order to unleash it’s potential.

A lot of novels, short stories, comics, and movies have taken on the task of presenting new versions of classic horror and scifi — this was the kind of retelling I didn’t know I was longing for. Reading the Alchemist’s Daughter was a delight, presenting a litany of clever, intelligent, strong women who find companionship and support in each other through their trials, while stuggling against cultural norms.  The style of storytelling is also witty and fun — with the girls interjecting into the record with their own commentary and arguments. I love all of these women and I can’t wait to read about more of their adventures in the next volume.
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The Stark Beauty of Iceland

View of Reykjavík from the top of the Hallgrimskirkja tower (a Lutheran church).
View of Reykjavík from the top of the tower of the Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran church.

Iceland is a country of stark beauty — one in which no pictures truly capture the experience of being there, present in that place of fire and water.

Driving from the airport can seem at first underwhelming. The surrounding countryside feels barren — until you realize that the fields are actually comprised of lava rock covered in a spongy grey-green moss, which lends everything an alien appearance. We were lucky enough to come when the Lupine was blooming, covering the landscape in bright purple-blue patches of vibrant color.

lupine in Iceland
Bright blue-purple lupine covered the fields of Iceland in June.

Further exploration of Iceland reveals a grand compilation of stunning landscapes, making it feel like we were traversing different countries while driving along. Over the course of our trip, we saw bubbling hot springs and geysers, astounding waterfalls, black sand beaches, craggy coastlines, and stony green mountains.

hot springs
Bubbling pools of sulfuric hot springs at Geysir.
Kirkjufellsfoss at the Snaefellsnes National Park, Iceland.
Kirkjufellsfoss at the Snaefellsnes National Park, Iceland.
Gulfoss Falls, part of the Golden Circle in Iceland.
Gulfoss Falls, part of the Golden Circle in Iceland.

While the weather ranged from cool to quite cold, we were blessed with beautiful weather on our trip. Generally, Iceland tends to be quite rainy during the summer months — but we mostly experienced sun-spattered days and were only hit with rain on our last days. The biggest weather challenge was the constant wind, which on one hike was so intense I thought it would push me off the slim trail.

selfie - the wind in Iceland
The wind in Iceland was intense — to say the least.

A lot of blog posts I’ve read about Iceland have focused on how expensive traveling within the country is — and it is true that it is not a cheap place to travel, the prices were not as exorbitant as we expected them to be (with the exception of the gas prices). The cost of food, for example, felt like it was on par with eating at decent restaurants in Bay Area, California, where my siblings and I are from.

All of my siblings and I fell in love with Iceland. The people, the communities, the landscapes, all made us feel as though the seven days that we were there were not nearly enough. I hope we will all be able to return at some point in the near future and take even more of the country in.

Seljalandsfoss, a stunning waterfall with a near constant rainbow, was my favorite experience of the trip.
Seljalandsfoss, a stunning waterfall with a near constant rainbow, was my favorite experience of the trip.
One of the reasons Seljalandsfoss awed me was being able to stand behind the falls in a cavern-like alcove and watch the sun “set” behind the water. I had such a lovely moment of peace while I was there.

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New Books in Poetry: As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with John Sibley Williams about his book As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Books, 2019).

John Sibley Williams’ As One Fire Consumes Another presents a familiar world full of burnings carried out on both the grand and intimate scale. The newspaper-like columns of prose poetry provide a social critique of the violent side of American culture centered within the boundaries of self and family. Although an apocalyptic tension permeates throughout, these poems envision the kind of fires that not only provide destruction but also illuminate a spark of hope.  

“Dust rises from the road & there is
too much curve to resolve the edges
of embankment & asphalt. Backfire
keeps the pastureland carefully lit.
Static keeps us wanting for another
kind of song.”

— from “Story that Begins and Ends with Burning

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


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Poet Spotlight: Juliet Cook on dolls, body, and uncomfortable poetry

Juliet Cook’s poetry has appeared in a small multitude of magazines. She is the author of numerous poetry chapbooks, recently including From One Ruined Human to Another (Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective, 2018), Dark Purple Intersections (inside my Black Doll Head Irises) (Blood Pudding Press for Dusie Kollektiv 9, 2019), and Another Set of Ripped-Out Bloody Pigtails (The Poet’s Haven, 2019). She also has two more chaps forthcoming — red circles into nothing (forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing) and the rabbits with red eyes (forthcoming from ethel). Cook’s first full-length individual poetry book, Horrific Confection, was published by BlazeVOX. Her more recent full-length poetry book, A Red Witch, Every Which Way, was a collaboration with j/j hastain published by Hysterical Books in 2016. Her most recent full-length individual poetry book, Malformed Confetti was published by Crisis Chronicles Press in 2018.

I enjoy the way your chapbook, Dark Purple Intersections (inside my Black Doll Head Irises), offers a cohesive narrative arc. Please tell us about your collection and how it came into being? Did you plan to have a narrative arc to these poems or did you discover the narrative as you started writing?

For several years, I was working on this collection in bits and pieces. I had it tentatively titled “45” on my computer, because I tentatively planned to complete it when I was that age. It ended up taking longer. Basically, any time I wrote a few poem lines or a possible poem that was focused on personal age related issues, personal body based issues, negative memories of past relationships, and so forth, I’d place it in the collection-in-progress.

So I did plan to have a narrative arc, but during most of the writing process, I wasn’t focused on how I was going to arrange that arc. I was focused on the writing.

When it reached the point where I was ready to actually format it into a chapbook manuscript, there was some revision, including lines removed, lines added, and removing some whole poems — but the most challenging and time consuming part of finalizing the manuscript was deciding how to order all of the poems. I just had various different poems and poem lines semi-randomly bunched together, 2-4 on a page, and had to decide how to format their order, both thematically, and in a certain time frame sort of way — but not entirely past to present, more of a back and forth, semi-circle sort of interrelated intersection. As I was reading and re-reading the poems, I was tentatively numbering them — but then I’d think I had 1-7 numbered the right way, but then I’d end up changing my mind or writing another poem and suddenly having a 5.2 and 5.3 in the mix. Furthermore, I’d occasionally change what had been two separate poems into one whole poem or add another three lines to a poem and so on.

It took some time, but when I finally got all the poems ordered in a way that I thought worked stylistically and thematically, I then removed all of the numbers and bolded the first line of each poem.

Not too long after I had the manuscript completed, I then started to feel kind of weird about the collection, because I feel like it might be almost TOO confessional in a way that makes me seem really unappealing — not in terms of my poetry itself; but in terms of my negativity, my  lifestyle choices, my relationship issues, my body-focused issues and related attributes — but that was what felt the need to come out in this collection, uncomfortable or not.

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Culture Consumption: May 2019

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

Books

I’ve read three fantastic collections of poetry in the past month. In Oculus , Sally Wen Mao blends pop culture and technology to question viewpoints — how we reveal ourselves, how we see each other, and the power structures involved in who is telling the story and who doing the viewing. All the poems in this collection are fantastic, but I was particularly enamored with a series of poems written within the perspective of Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star, who time travels her way through the history and future of cinema. Through the eyes of Wong, Mao is able to examine the portrayals of Asian characters in movies, from Bruce Lee to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sixteen Candles. I love the way she explores representation throughout this book, which is probably one of my favorite poetry reads thus far in 2019. I had a great conversation with Mao on the New Books in Poetry podcast about her process of writing this book and discussing the ways poetry can reclaim point-of-view and stories.

John Sibley Williams’ As One Fire Consumes Another presents a familiar world full of burnings carried out on both the grand and intimate scale. I love the way the newspaper-like columns of prose poetry in his work provide a social critique of violence in American culture while working within the boundaries of self, family, and the natural world. The book permeates an apocalyptic tension, but what makes it so great is the way in which his poems envision the kind of fires that not only provide destruction but also illuminate a spark of hope.  And I also interviewed Williams about his book, which will be coming out on NBP podcast soon (seems like most of my poetry reading is focused around my podcasting work these days).  

I also read Juliet Cooks new chapbook, Dark Purple Intersections (inside my Black Doll Head Irises), which uses beautiful dark imagery to provide a kind of coming of age narrative for adulthood. The narrator discovers more about herself through the progress of each poem and it’s lovely.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: May 2019”