Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.
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.
In addition to poetry, I also ready Bitch Planet: Triple Feature, a graphic anthology of stories set in the bitch planet universe. In a way, I almost enjoyed this volume more than the main narrative (although that’s great, too), since it provides a wider scope for understand this world in which women’s rights are severely restricted to the point that the Noncompliant (NC) are sent off world to a prison planet. The mix of authors and art styles works really well in this collection to reflect the varying viewpoints of the characters.
Books Read Last Month:
1. Oculus by Sally Wen Mao
2. As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams
3. Bitch Planet: Triple Feature, created by Kelly Sue DeConnick along with a variety of authors and artists
4. Dark Purple Intersections (inside my Black Doll Head Irises) by Juliet Cook
Total Books for the Year: 23
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, #6) by Stephen King and Books of Blood by Clive Barker
Short Stories & Poetry
“Self Storage Starts with the Heart” by Maria Romasco-Moore (LightSpeed) – “You’ll notice how the commercials never mention the price. They’ve all got some lab-coated guy with chiseled cheekbones spouting dumbed-down drivel about how emotions have wavelengths, the same as light or sound, which are reflected and absorbed by the objects around us. How this discovery has the potential to revolutionize your life. Yes, you,”
“Watching ‘Lone Star Law’ during the government shutdown over the border wall” by Kim Sousa (Poets Resist | Glass: A Journal of Poetry) –
“Carmen pulls illegal ‘gill nets’ from the Rio Grande, slices
them halfway across the water.”
“The Archronology of Love” by Caroline M. Yoachim (LightSpeed) – “Saki Jones leaned into the viewport window until her nose nearly touched the glass, staring at the colony planet below. New Mars. From this distance, she could pretend that things were going according to plan—that M.J. was waiting for her in one of the domed cities.”
Günter Grass: three translations and response poems by Allie Marini (Empty Mirror) –
“On Easter, I held the tongues of lambs—both Protestant and Catholic—and
skinned the sin from my soul as well.
And when in November she plucked the feathers off the geese,
I blew away the feathers and the down, so that
the day might last longer.”
“Home and Hearth” by Angela Slatter (Pseudopod) – (CW: This is a particularly disturbing horror tale.) – “Caroline held the door open, listening to the keys make that gentle clink-clank as they hung from the lock. He pushed past her and she could smell the peculiar odour he gave off now: puberty and a state institution.”
“light as a feather” by Rebecca Kokitus (Wide Eyes Publishing) –
“At sixteen years old I
learned how to levitate
I grew so light that I floated
in the locker-lined hallways—”
“Letter to the Person Who Carved His Initials into the Oldest Living Longleaf Pine in North America” by Matthew Olzmann (Tin House) –
“Tell me what it’s like to live without
curiosity, without awe. To sail
on clear water, rolling your eyes
at the kelp reefs swaying
beneath you, ignoring the flicker
of mermaid scales in the mist,
looking at the world and feeling
Two New Poems from Claire C. Holland (Hook of a Book) –
“How many ways are there to ruin a child?
Sweetie, that land is boundless.”
“Magpies Recognize Themselves in the Mirror” by Kelli Russel Agodon (Poets.org) –
“The night sounds like a murder
of magpies and we’re replacing our cabinet knobs
because we can’t change the world, but we can
change our hardware.”
Avengers: Endgame was every bit the vibrant spectacle I expected it to be — to the point that the three hours didn’t feel like three hours. Not every bit hit the right tone for me, but the story wrapped up well and provided a good send off to some fan favorites.
But my favorite Marvel experience was finally being able to see Captain Marvel — also a wonderful spectacle blended with a delightful ’90s nostalgia. To put it lightly, Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson) is a badass — going from fighter pilot to intergalactic warrior to superhero. I love the way the story weaves her past together with her present as she figures out the truth about who she is. I also really dig seeing a young Nick Fury get his first introduction to the weird world of superheros.
Fatale Frame (which is available to watch for free on YouTube) is a based on a classic Japanese horror game franchise. The movie bears little resemblance to the games. After a young women at a private school locks herself away in her room, her fellow classmates become obsessed with her photograph and feel compelled to kiss the photo at midnight as a kind of love spell — only to begin disappearing themselves. The relationships between the girls seems to be at focus, both intimate friendships and love (although how the film portrays lesbian relationships is sometimes a bit questionable). The story has a strange surreal style, providing a beautiful dreamlike quality. Despite the presence of ghosts, curses, and dead girls, the movie feels less like horror than dark fantasy. Either way, as far as video game adaptations go, this one seems pretty solid — by which I mean, looking beyond the overly twisty nature of the plot, I enjoyed watching it.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
2. Captain Marvel (2019)
3. Fatal Frame (2014)
I discovered that Fringe — one of my favorite shows — is now available for free streaming on Amazon Prime and basically binge watched four seasons over the course of the month. The show is reminiscent of X-Files in the sense that it’s an FBI agency investigating bizarre, fringe science events — telekinesis, designer viruses, bioengineered creatures, and so forth. But while X-Files hinged on the truth always just being out of reach and rarely provable, Fringe brings each event home with a semi-plausible explanation. The fact that the world is full of strange happenings outside main stream science is an accepted part of reality by the team — comprised of FBI agents Olivia Dunham and Astrid Farnsworth and mad scientist Walter Bishop and his son Peter Bishop.
The first three seasons are definitely the strongest for me, since they work through a cohesive arc. Season four and season five are different beasts, however, each completely rewriting the story universe in ways that are jarring. While I liked season four the first time I watched, I found it to be a bit challenging to get through the first half — until the characters started to realign with what I love about them. I was never able to get into season five, and I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to now. It just doesn’t connect in the same way for me as the early seasons.
My available time for gaming seems to be constantly shifting, some months I have more available time to playing than others (although I’m always jumping on Two Dots or Sudoku on my phone when there’re down time). All the time I spent playing at the beginning of the month gave way under the burden of my work schedule toward’s the end.
I’m still deep diving into Skyrim, and am continually impressed with the expanse and beauty of this world. The amount of quests in my queue continues to overwhelm me, but I suspect that will never change. I’ve gotten used to it, so it doesn’t bother me — although I’ll still go on quest purges where I attempt to clear out as many as I can in a single go (while also trying to not gather new ones in the process).
My favorite event thus far was meeting, the friendly dragon at the top of the mountain — and I’m just so happy at what a curmudgeonly old grandpa-type character he is. I want more dragon friends in my gaming life.
I needed a smaller game to jump to when I’m not in the Skyrim mood, so I purchased the Uncharted trilogy. Jumping into the first game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Since the game came out in 2007, it’s been an interesting transition in terms of graphics and gameplay. The controls are not at all as smooth as other games I’ve played recently with a weird crouch-for-cover system that keeps screwing me up in battle. Despite the controls and the somewhat tedious repetition of constant gun battles, I’m enjoying the storyline and I can see why people like Drake as that carefree, slightly goofy adventurer-type character. The overall game style gives me a very Tomb Raider feeling – but with less puzzles and, ya know, with a dude. I’ll definitely keep playing for now.
The ladies of What’s Good Games offers a fun episode full of E3 2019 Predictions using a Magic 8 Ball as their guide.
On Ladies of the Fright, there are two amazing interview episodes with Kat Howard spoke about Breaking Rules, Fairy Tales, & Writing Comics and Victor LaValle discussing A People’s Future of the United States.
The Imaginary Worlds podcast looks at Harley Quinn, beloved sidekick of the Joker. It revealed how her journey began and how she has evolved as a character.
Horror Queers discuss The Wicker Man (2006), the wonderfully bad Nicholas Cage remake — not to be confused with the original.
On Writing Excuses, the authors present ideas for how to apply allegory in your fiction.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?