What is Poetry? A Writing Excuses Master Class

experimental photograph with blue and orange refracted light
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash.

Out of the many writing focused podcasts out there, Writing Excuses has long been one of my favorites. Hosted by published authors working in a variety of genres and with years of experience in the industry, Writing Excuses provides solid and insightful writing, craft, and business advice with a splash of humor — all in bite-sized 15-20 minute episodes.

In 2021, the podcast is focused on presenting a series of master classes covering a wide range of subjects. Most recently, the show wrapped up an eight-episode series on poetry, which was led by Amal El-Mohtar along with regular hosts Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor.

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Culture Consumption: April 2020

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and podcasts.

Books

The Route of Ice & Salt by José Luis ZárateThe Route of Ice & Salt by José Luis Zárate presents a loose retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, told from the point of view of the ship captain, who carries the crates of soil from Transylvania to England. Along the way, some deadly misfortune begins to befall the crew.

Told through the captain’s journals, the novella is beautiful written, vibrantly erotic, and deeply unsettling. The captain is gay, harboring secret desires for the men of his crew. But he keeps these desires locked down inside himself in order to maintain his position and safety in the world. He’s a fascinating character, with many layers of depths and his own secret courage. It’s a powerful story.
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A Couple of Poetry Bits

My poem “The Third Sister,” which appears in Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale (Interstellar Flight Press), has been nominated for a Rhysling Award by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. It’s such an honor to be included among the ranks of such amazing poets. You can view a complete list of the nominated poems as well as order a copy of the Rhysling anthology containing all of the works here.

I’m also grateful to the editors of Yes, Poetry, who have named me the Poet of the Month and published two of my poems “Little Ghost” and “The Zenith.”

Here’s a brief sample from “Little Ghost”:

Fate is risky, all set-up
and thin chances.

Scales balance.
People die.

The universe
doesn’t invite returns.

New Books in Poetry: Hotel Almighty by Sarah J. Sloat

Sarah J Sloat-Hotel Almighty

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a riveting conversation with Sarah J. Sloat about her new book Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books).

Visually arresting and utterly one-of-a-kind, Sarah J. Sloat’s Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books) is a book-length erasure of Misery by Stephen King, a reimagining of the novel’s themes of constraint and possibility in elliptical, enigmatic poems. Here, “joy would crawl over broken glass, if that was the way.” Here, sleep is “a circle whose diameter might be small,” a circle “pitifully small,” a “wrecked and empty hypothetical circle.” Paired with Sloat’s stunning mixed-media collage, each poem is a miniature canvas, a brief associative profile of the psyche―its foibles, obsessions, and delights. (Description by the publisher.)

“When I was doing [Hotel Almighty] and even now when I work on projects, a lot of what I find I’m doing is just expressing a love of reading and of books themselves,” says Sloat in discussing her new book. “I mean, I just love paper. To take a book and be able to make it into something — that was really fun and exciting for me.”

Here’s a sample of Sloat’s writing and art from the book:

[Darkness prologued darkness...] by Sarah J. Sloat
[Darkness prologued darkness…] by Sarah J. Sloat
You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.

Culture Consumption: March 2021

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

The Octopus Museum by Brenda Shaughnessy

In The Octopus Museum, Brenda Shaughnessy envisions a future in which cephalopods have taken over the world. The museum of note is not a museum of cephalopod history, but of human history, a record of our present moment interpreted by strange new rulers. Each poem in this collection if beautifully, richly contextualized, presenting a vibrant capsule of the human experience, like a carefully curated museum exhibit. This is a powerful and stunning collection, one I highly recommend reading.

“And there will be no other way to be, once this way’s gone. The last song on earth, the last jellybean. Last because nobody wanted it, or everybody sang it, till the end.

Once this day in November’s over never another. Each day nothing like the last except that it’s the last and that’s new too.

Each moment broken glasses, a covered mirror, foxed. The waste stays in place. The rest disappears. The unrest, too.”

— From “No Traveler Returns,” The Octopus Museum

The also read Red Velvet, the sixth issue of The Hellbore, which provides a beautiful collection of poetry, art, and a personal essay. A few of my favorite pieces from the issue are highlighted below.

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