Exploring the Horrors of Being Human with Junji Ito

Junji Ito-No Longer Human

Junji Ito is a master of horror storytelling. His beautifully illustrated comics offer deeply disturbing, strange tales, exploring cosmic and body horror. Fantastic though these stories generally are — in my experience — they tend not to focus on character development, as much as they reveal the bizarre ways the world can be twisted into utterly horrifying experiences.

In this way, No Longer Human is somewhat of a departure from his previous work. While it contains the same level of gorgeous artwork combined with incredibly unsettling horrors, it’s more grounded, focusing on the life and experiences of Yozo Oba.

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On Turning 40 – and My Birthday Book Haul

It was my birthday this week — and I am now 40 years old. I’ve crossed a threshold.

Though to be honest, the day itself never seems to mark any kind of dramatic change. Rather, I’ve been experiencing an ongoing feeling of transition over the past several months, and I’m sure it’s a feeling that will continue over the forthcoming months.

I can’t say for sure what is transitioning or what that transition will look like in the end. Sometimes change happens overnight with a bang. Sometimes, as in this case, change comes on slowly and almost imperceptibly.

Apart of this change has been my increased abundance of creative endeavors that I’ve been working on lately. Another part of if may come from the fact that I’m working on my mind and body lately, with more exercise and meditation than previously.

There’s also the fact (and this is a big one) that the world as a whole is going through massive transition right now — and we’re not entirely sure how things are going to look on the other side.  The future is ambivalent, it seems to me. I simultaneously see signs that things are getting worse and signs that good people are fighting and working to make things better. I certainly hope we lean towards the later.

Anyway, shifting away from such heavy thoughts. For my birthday, I decided to gift myself a stack of books that I’m eager to read — and my wonderful brother contributed to the pile as well. So, I made a fun little video highlighting my haul.

Thank you for hanging with me, and I hope you enjoy it.


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On Reading and the Writing Life

Apparently, there’s communities of folks making Book and Authortube videos, in which they essentially talk about books, writing, and publishing. Since I’ve been wanting to get back into making videos, these community topics seemed a good way to focus my ideas around.

One of the things that a lot of folks in this community do is the Newbie Tag  — which is essentially a list of questions about you and your interests as a means of introduction. It sounded like fun, so I thought I’d go for it — although with my own flare.

Booktube and Authortube each have their own unique set of questions (listed below), created by Brenda C. and Jenna Streety, respectively. Rather than making them as two separate videos, I decided to incorporate them together, editing to avoid repeated questions and (hopefully) making things flow.

I hope you enjoy the video, and if you decide to do your own newbie tag, please let me know. I’d be happy to check it out.

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My Top Ten Things from 2019

Here doth exist a video in which I talk about my top ten favorite things from last year — books movies, games, travel, writing stuff, and more. The hardest part was choosing a single novel and poetry book for the year — which is why I have separate top ten lists for each.

I’ve had a youtube account for about 11 years. For a few years, I was posting regularly on a variety of topics with no real rhyme or reason — and then I took a seven year break because of lack of time, access to technology, and other challenges. But I’ve been wanting to jump back into it, so hear we are.

This video was a fun challenge to put together. Talking to a camera is weird thing and it takes practice to get back into the rhythm of it, so it took 49 minutes to record — followed by and hours and hours of editing over the course of several days in order to eliminate all the awkward pauses and unnecessary rambling asides, finally reaching a more manageable 22 minutes. Still long-ish, but I’m pretty happy with it.

I hope you enjoy it, and I would love to know some of the things you’ve loved in 2019.


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My Ten Favorite Poetry Books from 2019

As I mentioned top ten fiction books list, I read 55 books in 2019 — of these 26 were collections of poetry. This large uptick in poetry reading is largely impacted by the spotlight and podcast interviews that I’ve been putting out over the past year.

I’ve read so many amazing poetry books last year and I hate to leave any one out — but sometimes a collection just resonate with where your at in any given moment. These are some of the poetry books and chapbooks that spoke to me this year (in no particular order).

 

Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade

Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade (Aqueduct Press)

As the title suggests, Mary Shelley does indeed make a monster, crafting it out of the remnants of her own heartbreak and sorrow. Abandoned and alone after her death, the monster searches for someone to fill her place. Its journey carries it across continents and time, visiting other female authors throughout the decades — Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Octavia Butler, and others. These poems are a beautifully moving examination of the eccentricities of authors and how monsters reflect ourselves.

 

Locus by Jason Bayani

Locus by Jason Bayani (Omnidawn)

Drawing on his heritage and cultural experience, Bayani delves into the fragmented identities of Pilipinx Americans. Blending memoir and lyricism and inspired by hip-hop and DJ culture, these poems do powerful work in recovering the voices of silenced communities, reflecting on the importance of family and history in understanding oneself. (Podcast interview.)

 

Brute by Emily Skaja

Brute by Emily Skaja (Graywolf Press)

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. Her poetry considers 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 many 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. (Podcast interview.)

 

Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned by Sara Ryan

Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned by Sara Ryan (Porkbelly Press)

This chapbook of poems about taxidermy dives into the liminal space between the living and dead, exploring the nature of body down to the bone. Footnotes intricately offer additional layers to the poetry, providing an expanded philosophical look at the art of preservation. (Spotlight interview.)

 

Oculus by Sally Wen Mao

Oculus by Sally Wen Mao (Graywolf Press)

Pop culture blends with technology to examine how we reveal ourselves, how we see each other, and the power structures involved in who gets to tell the story. One series of poems is written from 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 considers the portrayals of Asian characters in movies, from Bruce Lee to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sixteen Candles. (Podcast interview.)

 

As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams

As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams (Orison Books)

The poems in this collection present a familiar world full of burnings carried out on both the grand and intimate scale. 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. (Podcast interview.)

 

Death by Sex Machine by Franny Choi

Death by Sex Machine by Franny Choi (Sibling Rivalry Press)

In this stunning chapbook, Choi examines her own experience as a queer Asian American femme through the lens of robots, androids, and AI. There’s a beautiful combination of hard science and tender intimacy expressed in her lyrical work as she delves into what it means to have a body.

 

The Devil's Dreamland Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes by Sara Tantlinger

The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes by Sara Tantlinger (Rooster Republic)

Horror poetry can be profoundly chilling. Tantlinger’s collection blends fact and supposition to relate the life and times of the man thought to be America’s first serial killer. The poems are individually visceral, while coming together as a whole to provide a fascinating narrative arc. (Podcast interview.)

 

all this can be yours by Isobel O'Hare

all this can be yours by Isobel O’Hare (University of Hell Press)

O’Hare uses erasure poetry (the act of erasing or crossing out another text to discover a poem) as a dynamic tool to reexamine a multitude of celebrity sexual assault apologies that came out during the #MeToo movement. These poems are fierce explorations of how the men (and some women) making these apologies try to evade their own culpability. (Podcast interview.)

 

Citizen An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)

This justifiably lauded collection of poetry and essays offers an unflinching look at the everyday realities of racism in America, with the second person narration drawing the reader directly into the experience. The prose poetry and essay styles combined with art make for a powerful and necessary read.

What were some of your favorite poems, poets, or poetry books from last year?


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