Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.
Winner of the Walt Whitman Award, Emily Skaja’s Brute is a stunning collection of poetry that navigates the dark corridors found at the end of an abusive relationship. “Everyone if we’re going to talk about love please we have to talk about violence,” writes Skaja in the poem “remarkable the litter of birds.” She indeed talks about the intersections of both love and violence, evoking a range of emotional experiences ranging from sorrow and loss to rage, guilt, hope, self discovery, and reinvention.
One of the things I love about this collection is the way the poems reflect the present moment — ripe of cell phones, social media, and technologies that shift the way humans interact with each other, while maintaining a mythic quality, with the speaker feeling like a character struggling to survive in a surreal fairy tale world just waiting to eat her up. Gorgeous work from Skaja, who I recently interviewed for the New Books in Poetry podcast. I need to finish preparing the episode and hopefully I’ll be able to share it soon.
Another great collection of poetry that I read this month was Head by Christine Kanownik. Drawn in by the gorgeous cover, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of poems centered around beheadings — whether saints, royalty, or commoners throughout history. She uses a mixture of of forms to explore the nature of power and the meaning of death.
Books Read Last Month:
1. Brute, poetry by Emily Skaja
2. The Night of the Wolf by Frank Belknap Long
3. Head by Christine Kanownik
Total Books for the Year: 51
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Couch by Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow and Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Short Stories & Poetry
“Mary Shelly Makes a Monster” by Octavia Cade (Strange Horizons) —
“The monster has no heart.
Mary has two.
There is the one she keeps in her bureau—
wrapped up in silk and parchment,
burnt about the edges and stinking of salt.”
“The Skin You Call Your Own” by Chloe N. Clark (X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine) — “He told me he didn’t believe in witches. We were on the floor of my apartment, half undressed while he used one hand to unbutton my jeans, when he said it. Out of nowhere.”
“Lake of Blood” by Joanna C. Valente (Journal Nine) —
“What is the first word
you remember that lit up a burning
ocean, a flesh burning of its owner
whose name was burned into your back
unsaid and unknown.”
“Windrose in Scarlet” by Isabel Yap (LightSpeed) — “Red slays the wolf, and another bursts through the kitchen window and bites her in the stomach. Glass gets in her hair. She smashes the chopping knife into its head, then runs out the back door, gulping for air.”
“Letter to Noah’s Wife” by Maya C. Popa (Poem A Day) —
“You are never mentioned on Ararat
or elsewhere, but I know a woman’s hand
in salvation when I see it.”
“The Weight of a Thousand Needles” by Isabel Cañas (LightSpeed) — “A full moon silvers the stalls of the Light Markets, the bazaar of the living and the dead. Here, where jinn mix with mortals and gods, where sorcery sits thick on the air, blue as incense, a crow presides over its wares. Silver rings set with opals like apricot pits nestled in obsidian silk; human teeth peer out of the smoky glass of a tall vase. Mother-of-pearl dice wink in candlelight, their pale faces carved with symbols even the jinn are too young to know.”
“The Devil Came to Mamie’s on Halloween” by Lisa Morton (PseudoPod) — “It was Hallowe’en night, and business was slow at the whorehouse.”
“Zanders the Magnifiscent” by Annie Neugebauer (PseudoPod) — “‘My handsome, darling boys,’ Mrs. Zander said, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. ‘Which one of you wants to be alive today?'” (This story is terrifying, so tread with caution.)
The Lighthouse, directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch), was by far the most powerful movie going experience of the month. Roughly, the story is about two lighthouse keepers (masterfully played by William Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) working a four-week long stint tending the light on an island far from shore. Isolated from he rest of the world, the line between reality and fantasy blurs and distorts — and violence ensues, or it seems to. With its gorgeous black and white cinematography, The Lighthouse is a kind of filmic poetry, a gorgeous surreal nightmare of a movie that could be interpreted a number of different ways.
I also delighted in the two horror comedies I saw this month — Zombieland: Double Tap and Tragedy Girls.
The heart of Zombieland: Double Tap is the weird found-family dynamic between Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita, and Little Rock. Sure the zombies in this sequel are bigger and badder, but what I wanted was to witness the characters I know and love do their hilariously dysfunctional thing — and I was not disappointed in the least.
Tragedy Girls is a black comedy about two high school girls killing off local members of the community in order to increase their social media following. The girls are wonderfully cheerful in their brutal pursuit of social media fame and the deaths are wonderfully creative with fabulously gory practical effects. The only point where the movie drags is when it falls into a typical romantic comedy trope (because this movie is that too, with the best friends representing each other’s perfect partner in life) during the third act. Nevertheless, this was bloody good fun.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Abominable (2019)
2. Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
3. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
4. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)
5. Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
6. Tragedy Girls (2017)
7. The Lighthouse (2019)
I resigned up for Hulu just so I could start watching the new episodes of The Good Place as they come out. Season four is said to be the final season, which is both sad (this is one of my favorite shows and I don’t want to see it end) and heartening (a planned conclusion is likely to make for a more solid and satisfying ending). Season four has opened just as solid as the other seasons, with the characters facing a major challenge to save all of humanity. No light stakes there. I’m loving every second of it.
Other than that, I’ve been continuing my rewatch of Stargate SG-1 and also rewatched Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell after introducing it to my mom.
I’ve fallen off Borderlands 3. Although I enjoyed my initial start of the game, I haven’t quite been able to connect with the story and characters enough to keep playing. I’ll probably return at some point, but for the moment I’m setting it aside.
Instead, I started in on Little Nightmares, a side-scrolling puzzle adventure game in which you play a small creature in a yellow raincoat navigating the dark and unsettling bowels of a ship and trying to avoid capture by some truly terrifying creatures. It’s gorgeously animated and has presented a few fun challenges. I’m not entirely sure where the story is going yet, but I’m looking forward to continuing my play through.
Writing Excuses offered up several great episodes as usual. I particularly enjoyed their exploration of how to world build for alternate histories and Sequencing Your Career Genome, which looked at how to plan for what kind of career you want to shape as a writer.
Scriptnotes dissects the the fact that Assistants Aren’t Paid Nearly Enough in Hollywood, with the aim of drawing attention to the problem in the hopes that a solution may be found.
Scream Kings presented a great discussion on horror poetry with Linda Addison and Claire Holland, in which they each also read from their current books.
In the latest episode of Imaginary Worlds, Talking to the Dead, we meet Jason Suran. After making it clear that he can’t talk to the dead, Suran then recreates traditional seances and convinces participants that he can. I want to attend one of these.
The Book Riot Podcast offered up a bonus Book Nerd Movie Club episode, in which they gushed over the greatness that is The Shawshank Redemption.
Switchblade Sisters dove into the weird world of Polyester with Greener Grass Actors and Directors Dawn Luebbe and Jocelyn DeBoer.
Horror Queers had some fun talking about their love for House on Haunted Hill (1999) on its 20th anniversary. This is a movie I’m equally a fan of — no matter how much of a wonderful mess it may be.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?