The poetry and prose in Ivy Johnson’s Born Again (The Operating System, 2018) beautifully dives into the ecstatic expression of religious experience. With its confessional style, this collection gives power to the female voice, rending open that which would be hidden behind closed doors. The work blends sensuality and spirituality, merging the grounded reality of existing a physical body in the world with a sense of worship, prayer, and spell casting.
“I submerge my hands in ink and smear them across the wall
I cover my body in rich purple paint and rub against white paper
I place a sticker of the Virgin Mary on my bedroom window next to the fire escape
She hurts with the glow of blue frost
I race down the stairs to make snow angels in the dog-piss
Fill the silhouette of my body with marigolds”
I’m still in the process of figuring out how to be a good interview podcast host, how to shuck off my own nervousness and dig up confidence enough to feel strong in these interviews. But whatever limitations I believe I have at this moment, they are more than surpassed by the intelligence and insight of my guests so far.
My first podcast interview at New Books in Poetry is live! I had a lovely conversation with Emily Jungmin Yoon regarding her first full-length collection, A Cruelty Special to Our Species (Ecco Books, 2018), which examines forms of violence against women. At its core these poems delve into the lives of Korean comfort women of the 1930s and 40s, reflecting on not only the history of sexual slavery, but also considering its ongoing impact. Her poems beautifully lift the voices of these women, helping to make them heard and remembered — while also providing insight into current events, environmentalism, and her own personal experiences as a woman in the world.
I loved this collection of poetry, which was so moving in how it addressed intense subject matters. Her words are lyrical, vivid, and enriched with a playful examination of language, the way mean slips depending on perspective and how language can be a powerful tool. These poems help to give voice to women whose stories are not commonly told. It’s beautifully done.
Quail Bell published six of my poems over the past couple of months, all from the Poeming project, in which over 50 poets were each assigned one of Stephen King’s books and charged with the challenge of crating 31 found poems in the month of October. The poems Quail Bell selected were:
In other awesome news, Zoetic Press has started a new podcast called, The Literary Whip. The podcast highlights poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that was rejected by Nonbinary Review and other publication. This is work that almost made it past the slush pile to publication, but was ultimately rejected.
Wrapping up my trio of podcast posts — the first two focusing on radio dramas and poetry and fiction, respectively — I’m going to point to those podcasts focused on films and filmmaking that I’m currently consuming.
Although, my writing focus has primarily on poetry and fiction, I’ve always held a fascination with the collaborative nature of the filmmaking process. The idea of scriptwriting and film directing is always present at the back of my mind as something I might do someday. Listening to podcasts about the process and history of making movies lets me daydream and marvel at others doing the work, while also stirring up that latent desire. I know this is going to kickstart me into attempting screenwriting again or maybe jumping into a 48 Hour Film challenge.
Black List Table Reads
The Black List is a “closed network of script buyers, script representatives, and script writers that makes everything easier for everyone involved.” The idea is to share awesome unproduced scripts in the hopes of getting them made into actual movies. New scriptwriters can also upload and share their work to get feedback as well as using the script as a demonstration piece for future work. That alone is awesome.
The associated Black List Table Reads podcast takes is a step further, turing the best of the unproduced scripts on the site and turns them into “movies for your ears.” These scripts are read by pro-level actors, with sound effects stitched in for an immersive experience of the scripts. And the scripts themselves have generally been fantastic. Being able to hear the scripts read provides a great sense of scene pacing along with other lessons in craft — in addition to just being an enjoyable experience.
Just a few of the scripts I’ve loved (and really hope become full movies):
The Hitch — “While visiting Los Angeles in 1927, young British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock is accused of murder and must go on the run to prove his innocence.”
The Other Side — “A young Hasidic Jew recruits a hipster girl to help him expose a horrific crime in a secretive community in Brooklyn.”
Mr. Malcolm’s List — “We head across the pond and back in history about 200 years for Mr. Malcolm’s List. It’s a little bit Jane Austen. It’s a little bit Oscar Wilde, and it is all good.”
In addition to the script table reads, the podcast also features interviews with screenwriter and producers, which provide perspective on the writing process, how other writers have managed to get their movies made, and the ups and downs and sideways avenues of the industry. Lots and lots here for anyone interested in the art of screenwriting or who just enjoys great movies.
Scriptnotes is a weekly podcast in which working screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin discuss “screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters,” from the craft of writing scripts to the business of being a working writer dealing with directors and producers to places to glean ideas from. What I love about this podcast is the practicality of how screenwriting is discussed. No fluff, no air declarations of trying to find your inner writer. Just a straightforward look at the business of being a screenwriter, and since both John and Craig are currently working in the industry, writing original feature scripts and performing rewrites, their advice has merit. Also, the buddy humor between John and Craig in their kind of opposites attract relationship (like you’d see in a movie) is wonderful.
Only a portion of the most recent episodes are available to listen to for free, but for a measly $1.99 a month, the entire log of over 200 episodes can be accessed.
Slums of Film History
Currently on hiatus after completing season one of Slums of Film History, Slate and Tom share a low “a lowbrow look into the high art of cinema.” The duo present in-depth historical scope of the gritty, gross, explicit, weird, and other aspects of the movie world not normally discussed in polite company. Each takes turns sharing taboo subjects with detailed movie references and legit-ish research. Previous topics discussed have included cannibalism, snuff films, the rise and fall of the NC-17 rating, nudity in film, hooker vengence, bad babies, and hagsploitation — other among unsavory things.
Being a fan of horror and weird creepy sh!t, I freaking love this podcast. It’s fun and funny and sometimes inappropriate, as well as providing some fascinating information about film history. The discussions about the evolution of the current rating system and how nudity has been handled over different time periods was particularly interesting (although to be honest, my favorite episodes are the gross ones, like “Bad Babies”). Definitely recommended for fans of cult movies and other oddities of film.
Created by former Disney animator Eric Molinsky, Imaginary Worlds is a podcast “about science fiction and other fantasy genres — how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief.” Episodes explore an array of fictional worlds, from movies to TV animation to comic books, novels, and other art forms. Each is well put together with interviews from historians, filmmakers, cultural critics, and a variety of others. I’m particularly fond of the episodes that go behind the scene of how some forms of art, such as movies, are made. However, there’s a wide range of topics covered, so that the episodes never get boring. The also tend to be on the short side (under 20 minutes), which makes them the perfect bite-size podcast to listen to.
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And that’s is for the current podcasts I’m enjoying. I’m sure that, as I finish up with the back episodes of all of these, I’ll start exploring further. For example, I’ve heard awesome things about Serial, but have not had a chance to start listening in yet.
Following up last week’s post on audio theatre podcasts, here are a few of the poetry and fiction podcasts I’ve been gorging myself on lately — most of which are associated with print and/or online publications for speculative fiction and poetry.
Uncanny Magazine is an bimonthly online Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine that published gorgeous fiction and poetry, as well as essays and interviews. What I love about the Uncanny podcast is the unique format, which incorporates a reading of a short story and a poem from the current issue, followed up by an author interview (most often the author of the short story that was just read). As such, each episode tends to be about an hour in length. Uncanny provides a powerful collection of emotionally moving and beautifully written work, which is read by fantastic narrators.
A Small Selection of Favorite Stories and Poems (so far):
Lightspeed Magazine is a monthly publication, providing a wide ranging array of science fiction and fantasy fiction, as well as essays and interviews. Each podcast features an individual story. The narrators are all phenomenal, making it easy to just melt into the story while listening. Most of my (current) all-time favorite stories have been discovered on this podcast.
A Small Selection of Favorite Stories (so far):
“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn, as read by Gabrielle de Cuir
PodCastle is unique here in that it is solely an audio journal, providing well-produced audio versions of fantasy stories, most of which have been previously published in other publications. At the end of each episode, feedback is provided for stories that have previously appeared on PodCastle. Since, PodCastle is subscription based, only a selection of the most recent stories are available for free.
Nightmare Magazine is a sister publication to Lightspeed, and often features many of the same set of fantastic narrators. The stories in this podcast are darker, slipping into more horror and dark fantasy, tales to unsettle and creep you out.
“Fishwife” by Carrie Vaghn, as read by Susan Hanfield
“Returned” by Kat Howard, as read by Gabrielle de Cuir
The New Yorker: Poetry
In each episode of The New Yorker’s Poetry podcast, a poet is asked to read a poem that has been published in The New Yorker and then to read one of their own poems. Together with the host Paul Muldoon, the poet discusses the poems and why they are compelling. These discussions tend to be more intellectual and academic, which is sometimes more than I can fully focus on when I’m listening on the road home. However, there are some interesting discussions of craft and how the language in certain poems can create an emotionally moving experience in the reader.
I believe there’s also a New Yorker fiction podcast, but I haven’t got to that one yet.
Episodes I Particularly Liked:
Ellen Bass’ reading and discussion of Adam Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” as well as her own poem “Reincarnation”
Meghan O’Rourke’s reading and discussion of John Ashbery’s “Tapestry,” as well as her own poem “Apartment Living”
Another two podcasts that I’ve started listening to are Strange Horizons and Apex Magazine, both of which feature great stories and narrators. Although, I’ve found them to not have quite as good of a sound quality and in some cases to be a little more glitchy.
Next week I’ll finish up this little series of posts with my favorite Filmmaking and Screenwriting podcasts.
A few months ago, I discovered podcasts. Or not discover them, per se, as I’ve been aware of them and they’ve been around for ages now. So maybe I should say, several months ago, I decided to give listening to podcasts a try and they’ve consumed my life. My usual music time in the car has been taken up with listening to podcasts, and I’ve also started listening to them when I go on runs.
I don’t know why I didn’t start listening to them before. Podcasts are amazing — or at least the ones I’ve discovered are, and I know there are a ton more amazing podcasts that I could be listening to.
Since the list of channels that I’ve been listening to is rather long, I’m splitting them up into three separate posts. Part II will be fiction and poetry podcasts, and Part II will cover film and filmmaking podcasts.
First up is radio drama or audio theatre, which I think both describe the same thing and I’m assuming apply here, in regards to narrative podcasts in which a story unfolds over multiple episodes.
I’m itching for more radio drama style podcasts, so please send recommendations!
Welcome to Night Vale
“When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. But, because of distance, not for millions of years.” — Night Vale Proverb
Welcome to Night Vale is a serial podcast about a community radio show, reporting on the quaint and creepy desert town of Night Vale. The voice of Night Vale is Cecil Balwin, who reports on local news and community events, like giant glow clouds raining down the bodies of dead animals or the goings on of the Sheriff’s Secret Police or strange underworlds appearing under bowling alleys.
So, I started listening, and because I’m a completionist on these kinds of things, I started at the beginning and have been working my way forward. Since there are over 80 episodes and since I can only listen to one or two a day without devolving into madness, it’s taking me a rather long time to catch up. But that’s okay, because starting at the beginning has allowed me to see how the town and all of its characters have grown and survived or survived but damaged or not survived, as the case may be.
Night Vale was the rabbit hole that spun me off into discovering more and more podcasts. It’s fantastic.
The Message is a sci-fi narrative that follows “the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.”
Only eight episodes long, The Message is a great bite-size introduction to this kind of audio theatre and podcasts in general, presenting an unsettling sci-fi storyline with great voice acting and sound effects. Just talking about it makes me want to go back and listen to it again. It’s that good.
Alice Isn’t Dead
Alice Isn’t Deadfollows the story of an unnamed narrator, searching for her wife, whom she believes to be dead, while working as a truck driver. Joseph Fink, one of the creators ofWelcome to Night Vale, told Wired, that the story would have the same humor mixed with creepiness as Night Vale — a sure win for me.
This one is so new that I’ve only listened to the teaser. But based on that and the fact that it’s from the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, I have high hopes that Alice Isn’t Dead is going to be fantastic.
Updated to Add: Having listened to the first episode, I can say that Alice Isn’t Dead is creepy in a decidedly different way from Night Vale., where strange and creepy happen but are generally mitigated by the light, humorous tone. Alice Isn’t Dead has humor, however, it seems to be a little darker.
Narrated by truck driver, Nicole, the narration is punctuated by scratchy hiss of the truck’s CB radio cutting in and out. The effect is unsettling as some of the storyline comes through in non-chronological order. The horror of events described are more personal and frightening, leaving a lingering sense of threat. All of this is to say, I freaking like it and can’t wait to hear more.