Exploring the Self by Honoring the Magical: Lessons from Lisa Marie Basile’s Magical Writing Grimoire

Photo by petr sidorov on Unsplash.

I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of witchcraft — the idea that ritual, spells, and willpower can effectively shape the world around you. No doubt movies like The Craft and Practical Magic had a significant influence on this interest. As a teenager, I would roam through the public library seeking out some old leather-bound tome to guide me (something that always seems so easy to achieve in movies).

If it had existed back then, The Magical Writing Grimoire by Lisa Marie Basile would have been a book that I would have found compelling. Even as a teenager, I already had the sense that the written word — and poetry in particular — had a kind of magic to it. Reading was empowering for me, conjuring up deep emotions and manifesting new perceptions of the universe around me. At a time when I was just starting to figure out who I was as a writer and a human, this book would have felt like a gift.

Continue reading on The Ascent

The Resounding Humanity of Sarah Kay’s ‘No Matter the Wreckage’

No Matter the Wreckage poetry by Sarah Kay

“You may not even crack the spine.
You may place this on the bookshelf,
or worse, under a stack of papers.
You may forget it and regift it later
to someone as a Secret Santa.
I will never know.”

— from “The First Poem in the Imaginary Book”

I’ll admit that Sarah Kay‘s No Matter the Wreckage has indeed been a resident of my bookshelf for too long — though it was never forgotten. Every time I perused the shelves, I would notice it sitting there and remember, Oh, yes, I need to read that. Then I would place it somewhere nearby with the intention cracking open and turning its pages, only to have it slip out of sight as my busy days shifted my attention.

In a way, though, the delay was a blessing, as the beautiful words on these pages feel like they have come to me at the perfect time.

Continue reading “The Resounding Humanity of Sarah Kay’s ‘No Matter the Wreckage’”

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.

Continue reading “Litquake: A Conversation Between Rivers Solomon and Charlie Jane Anders”

Books I Loved in 2020

Among the many other challenges presented this year, my reading has dropped significantly. As of writing this, I’ve finished reading a total of 40 books this year — certainly not bad in the grand scheme of things, but far below my personal average of 90-100 books from a few years ago.

Though, I can’t blame the drop entirely on 2020 (for all it’s anxiety and stress), since my reading has been dropping each year. In general, I’ve had a more difficult time focusing on reading, particularly longer books. So, I’ve shifted somewhat to shorter, quicker reads.

Nevertheless, I’ve read many fantastic books this year — more than I can fit on this list. Lately, I’ve been wanting to get back into reading more of the horror genre (which I’ve been writing lately as well). Horror seems to hit a certain intellectual itch in me, providing a safe means to explore and process my anxieties. So, it’s no surprise that horror fiction makes up a large portion of the works mentioned here.

(ETA: If you want to know the movies, shows, and other media I loved this year, check out my post on Medium.)

Continue reading “Books I Loved in 2020”

Book Love – From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes: Adapted Poems by B.C. Edwards

From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes: Adapted Poems by B.C. Edwards

Medicinal shows once toured Europe and America. So called doctors would drive wagons from town to town, offering miracle elixers and other entertainments. My knowledge of medicine shows come from pop culture, the image of a man more entertainer than doctor purporting to sell cures. The man stands on his box or makeshift stage and with a flourish presents a bottle with some strange liquid inside. Is it medicine, a placebo, or poison?

B.C. Edwards’ From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes has the same feel of such medicinal shows, with the author himself presenting an assemblage of recipes and concoctions. Each of the poems in this book is an adaptation of a recipe found in a collection of household instructions originally published in 1901 by Frederick J. Drake and Company — recipes to make pure spirits, to cure distemper in horses, to restore burnt steel, to destroy the stumps of trees.

“Ask them how much it hurts. Really.
Drive spikes inward. Ask them.
Go on.
Every part until you have a porcupine,
the monster from Hellraiser
and now ask them how much it hurts.”

— From No. 674. Cure for Earache.

What unfolds is poetry as chemistry, words reacting with words to form new strange mixtures. Each time I pull the cork off a new poem, I’m not sure what I’ll get. Maybe it will evoke the ache of love, the sweetness of longing, the pain of lingering hope. Or maybe I’ll enjoy a contemplation on the nature of coffee, the preservation of birds and other animals.

“We are mostly concerned about being left alone.
We send text to each other
passed back and forth like fine sand
sifted charcoal back and forth
like we are archeologists with enormous screens
for sifting relics out of dirt.”

— From No. 757. How to make a Composition for Roofs.

As a fan of alchemy and medicinal shows and other feats of pseudo-miraculous science and a lover of poetry, this book is exactly my aesthetic. The recipes are surprising profound, strange, and compelling. Is it medicine, a placebo, or poison? What am I drinking down when I read these poems? I’m not entirely sure, but I loved the experience.