Both of these poems are part of The Poeming project, in which over 50 poets were assigned one of Stephen King’s books and tasked with writing 31 found poems pulled from its pages. I was assigned The Plant, which I’ve continued working with of and on ever since. A number of the poems from this project have since been published and I’m starting to see the shape of a manuscript coming together.
I fell in love with Fatimah Asghar’s writing as soon as I heard her fantastic slam piece, “Pluto Shits on the Universe,” in which she gives Pluto voice and the power of chaos. So, when I learned that her collection, If They Come for Us, was available, I knew it was a book I had to own.
As described by Goodreads, “In this powerful and imaginative debut poetry collection, Fatimah Asghar nakedly captures the experiences of being a young Pakistani Muslim woman in America by braiding together personal and marginalized people’s histories. After being orphaned as a young girl, Asghar grapples with coming-of-age as a woman without the guidance of a mother, questions of sexuality and race, and navigating a world that put a target on her back.”
If They Come for Us is a stunning collection of poetry, lyrical and powerful and moving. There are many things I love about this book, from the way Asghar addresses the political through the personal to the ways she plays with language and uses humor to drive home meaning.
Among the things I adore is the beautiful physicality found in many of these poems, in which the body is sketched out in vivid detail — and not just the pretty bits, but the full reality of a body that makes up a human being. A body is where “mosquito bites bloom” or where exist “hairs crawling out.” In “Oil,” she writes, “The walk to school makes the oil pool on my forehead / a lake spilling under my armpits.” The specifics of existing in a human body in these poems feel as though the speaker is declaring their existence in a world that doesn’t always want them. It’s a lovely way to claim space.
Asghar is inventive with the poetic form, not only presenting poems in free verse, but using words in unusual ways whether it’s putting a stanza upside down so that the book has to be flipped over to be read, or whether it’s situating her words within the constructs of a “games” in the form of a bingo card, mad libs, map, or cross word puzzle. The poems in this collection in their beauty and variety offer continual surprises and wisdom each time I read them.
1. “Miss Piggy: Our lady of Owning That Shit” was published in Vol III, Issue 4 of Pittsburgh Poetry Houses. They publish beautiful little broadsides of poetry, which are displayed in little houses and offered for free in the local area before being shared online.
This chapbook explores the received images of the feminine in fairy tales. The women and girls in this collaborative chapbook resist the common tropes of red riding hoods, gilded mirrors, and iced palaces. Every girl becomes the wolf because every girl has the power to tear apart the cultural conceit of wicked stepmoms, heartless mothers, and voracious monsters. Witches, hags, and mothers of damaged creatures from myth, movies, and lore prowl through this poetry. Lilith settles in to enjoy the county fair rib-off, Grendel’s mother holds her son close, and the Sphynx bears the weight of mythic secrets. Mothers demand their own freedom, daughters refuse gendered expectations, and wives leave what spoils with rot behind. As they wrestle with their place in these stories, they transform into figures outside of the victims or villains they have been perceived to be.
I’m so proud of this chapbook of monstress poems Laura Madeline Wiseman and I coauthored and its been a delight to see that friends, family, and strangers have been receiving the book.
I received my author copies this week — with their gorgeously smooth textured covers — just in time for WorldCon 76 this weekend! If you’re going to be there, consider stopping by Room 212C to hear me read some poetry-type things along with some fellow Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) members.
Two gorgeous new anthologies have also entered the world in recent weeks.
They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing, edited by Simone Muench and Dean Rader, includes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as hybridized forms that push the boundaries of concepts like “genre” and “author.” Each piece is also presented with a afterward in which the collaborators describe their process for working together. The anthology includes “A Gathering of Baba Yagas” cowritten by Laura Madeline Wiseman and I.
Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghosts, Ghouls, and More, edited by Bianca Lynne Spriggs and Katerina Stoykova, offers over seventy contemporary poets contending with a time-honored topic: what lies beyond ‘the great beyond.’ It showcases poems ranging from deceased relatives and celebrities to other undead entities such as, vampires, automatons, angels, and yes, zombies. This anthology includes a reprint of my poem “Beware of Attics”
The anthology offers up more than 70 poems exploring the realms of life after death, from the ghosts of loved ones to vampires, zombies, and more. It includes a reprint of my poem, “Beware of Attics.”
I’m stoked to be a part of this collection, which has some fantastic poets, including: Tony Barnstone, Erinn Batykefer, Melissa Bell, Shaindel Beers, K.T. Billey, Rob Boley, Andrew Bourelle, David Bowles, Suzanne Burns, Cathleen Calbert, Lauren Camp, Lucia Cherciu, May Chong, Jackie Chou, Chloe N. Clark, Wanda Morrow Clevenger, Curtis Crisler, John Paul Davies, Carol V. Davis, Ann DeVilbiss, Joan M. DiMartino, Donelle Dreese, Nettie Farris, Ruth Foley, Joshua Gage, Martha Gehringer, Kim Goldberg, Amelia Gorman, Lea Graham, Yalonda Green, John Grey, Jennifer Hernandez, John Hoppenthaler, Leonard Kress, John James, Tausha Johnson, Mary Soon Lee, Sandi Leibowitz, Alexander Lumans, Jeffrey H. MacLachlan, Amy MacLennan, J.G. McClure, C. McDaniel-Reed, Jeremy Megargee, Tiffany Midge, Sarah Fawn Montgomery, Lenard D. Moore, Annie Neugebauer, Kurt Newton, Valerie Nieman, Jeremy Paden, Tina Parker, Zachary Riddle, Jamieson Ridenhour, Gina Roitman, Nicole Rollender, Margaret Rozga, Eva Schlesinger, Salik Shah, Christina Sng, Bianca Lynne Spriggs, Ashlie Stevens Margo Stever, Karah Stokes, Katerina Stoykova, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Mark Teats, Allison Thorpe, Megan Tilley, Jonathan Travelstead, Holly Lyn Walrath, Emily Paige Wilson, Keith S. Wilson, Hermine Pinson, and Katie Riley.