Hi, lovelies. Here’s my last couple of months in books, movies, television, and games.
So, I was apparently so excited about reading Gideon the Ninthby Tamsyn Muir that I accidentally bought it twice … at the same bookstore … within just a two week time period. I mean, the blurb on the cover describes it as “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space” — which was a string of words I didn’t know I wanted until reading this book.
Gideon is an orphan and a skilled sword fighter determined to leave the bleak shadows of the Ninth House. But her nemesis Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter and bone witch, refuses to release Gideon until she completes one more task. Invited to compete in a deadly game of wits and skill to become a powerful servant of the Emperror, Harrowhark demands that Gideon become her cavalier (companion, sword master, and guard) for the extent of the trial.
Gideon the Ninth is gorgeously written, presenting a world of secret chambers and walking skeletons and the whispers of the dead that I absolutely adore. Gideon is a wonderfully snarky character, with a mixture of determination and skill that makes me want to root for her all the way through — and most of the enemies and companions she meets are equally interesting in their own ways. I love her journey and I love this world and (though I’ve heard the second book isn’t quite as good) I absolutely want more of it.
I grabbed How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix as I was heading through the airport on my way out of town. Based on my past experience with Hendrix’s work, I expected a fast-paced, fun horror read — which is exactly what I got. What I didn’t expect was find myself wanting to cry within the first few chapters — but I got that, too.
When Louise learns that her parents have suddenly died, she quickly finds herself overwhelmed with the prospect of returning home and dealing with the collection of dolls, puppets, art, and other objects that her parents have amassed over the years. But dealing with her estranged brother, who is known for drinking and bouncing from job to job, might be even more overwhelming.
Aside from the horrors of a haunted house involving both dolls and puppets (shudder), this book is also a moving story about family trauma and grief. Louise and her brother Mark are both dealing with their grief in unique ways, and both also are holding onto secrets about their childhood that they would rather forget. In the end, it’s the coming together that helps them survive the hauntings from their past and present. Continue reading “Culture Consumption: February and March 2023”
As I mentioned top ten fiction books list, I read 55 books in 2019 â€” 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 â€” 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 (Aqueduct Press)
As the title suggests, Mary Shelley does indeed make a monster,Â 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 â€” 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 (Omnidawn)
Drawing on his heritage and cultural experience, BayaniÂ 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 (Graywolf Press)
Winner of the Walt Whitman Award, Emily Skajaâ€™s Brute is a stunning collection of poetry that navigates the dark corridors found at the end of an abusive relationship.Â Her poetry considers the intersections of both love and violence, evoking a range of emotional experiences â€” ranging fromÂ sorrow and loss to rage, guilt, hope, self discovery, and reinvention.Â One of the many things I love about this collection is the way the poems reflect the present moment â€” ripe of cell phones, social media, and technologies that shift the way humans interact with each other â€” 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 RyanÂ (Porkbelly Press)
This chapbookÂ of poems about taxidermy divesÂ 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 (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, theÂ 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 Tiffanyâ€™s and Sixteen Candles. (Podcast interview.)
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 ChoiÂ (Sibling Rivalry Press)
In thisÂ 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 (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 Americaâ€™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 (University of Hell Press)
Oâ€™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.Â 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 (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?
Isobel Oâ€™Hareâ€™s all this can be yours (University of Hell Press, 2019) presents a series of erasures crafted from celebrity sexual assault apologies. These poems offer fierce explorations of the truth hidden behind apologies intended to explain away or dilute culpability, rather than accept responsibility. The result is a powerful collection that opens up a wider conversation surrounding sexual assault and the need for change on a systemic level.
Erasure poetry for me started out as a magical, playful, light-hearted exercise to jog the brain, to sort of get me thinking differently. And it also started out as a conversation with someone elseâ€™s work, and sort of a reverent oneâ€”approaching someoneâ€™s work with great respect and the desire to bring something out of it that might be hidden beneath the surface. There are lots of methods of doing thatâ€”Iâ€™ve used whiteout in past erasures, and Iâ€™ve done blackout with Sharpie. Iâ€™ve experimented with cutting words out.
The idea is youâ€™re removing somethingâ€”or youâ€™re not removing something. Jen Bervin had a really interesting term for it . . . something like restitution. Itâ€™s a really interesting word for what youâ€™re doing with erasure, which is not necessarily removing something, but bringing something forward. So itâ€™s not always you violently attacking someone elseâ€™s work, which it can feel like sometimes, but youâ€™re allowing things to bubble up to the surface that may not have been apparent before.
Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games â€” most of which was heavily inspired by my deep dive into Women in Horror Month.
Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgeling is the story of a 53-year old black vampire who looks like a 12 year old girl. When the story opens, Shori has no memory of who or what she is â€” all she knows is that she is wounded, starving, and lost. As she heals, she begins to dig into her past in an attempt to discover who she is and who tried to kill her. This is one of the most fascinating portrayals of vampires that I’ve read, presenting a unique complex culture with found families based on symbiotic relationships between vampires and humans. There are so many layers here work unpacking: genetic manipulation, power structures, interesting family structures with polyamorous love, and racism, among other things. It makes for a fascinating storyline with complicated, interesting characters. One of those books that’ll go onto my favorites list.
Two other books from my Women in Horror reading were also phenomenal: Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant (a brutal mermaid story discussed here) and Things Withered by Susie Moloney (a stunning collection of short stories discussed over here).
I also read three books of poetry in the past month.Â all this can be yours by Isobel O’Hare is a powerful collection of erasures from the celebrity sexual assault apologies. The poems are fierce explorations of how the men making these apologies try to evade their own culpability.
The chapbook Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned by Sara Ryan (Pork Belly Press) delves into the liminal space between living and dead, with this collection of poems about taxidermy. The nature of body is explored down to the bone, with footnotes that provide an expanded philosophical look at the art of preservation.
House of Mystery by Courtney Bates-Hardy draws on the dark undertones of fairy tales, providing a haunting look into the role of women in those stories.
(I have interviews with both Isobel O’Hare and Sara Ryan that I’ll be sharing soon.)
Welcome to my first Weekly Update of the year. I post these because they provide a good way for me to hold myself accountable, both in terms of meeting my writing and reading goals, as well as making sure I post regularly on the blog.
Lately, there seems like there’s so much to write about, so much to resist and fight against, so much to do and say and act on that at times it feels overwhelming. Sometimes you can only do what you can do, so today, I’m going to talk about the Uptown Fridays event hosted by Nomadic Press that I attended a couple of Fridays ago, because it was wonderful and inspiring.
It was an interesting challenge getting to the event that night, involving an hour long car ride from my work to Oakland â€” only to find when I arrived that I had left my wallet back at the office, which meant that I had no cash or cards on hand to buy dinner or books from the reading. I considered returning to my office and coming back over the bridge (which would have made me late to the event), but decided to roll with it. Since I had an apple left in the car, I knew I wouldn’t starve and I let go of the idea of otherwise needing my wallet on hand. I let go and gave myself to enjoying the event I came for.
Thomas Nguyen performed a set of songs that were moving, some mixed with speeches and sounds from a tape recorder to wonderful effect. (He was also my hero of the night, reminding me of the toll on my return trip to work for my wallet and giving me a fiver to make it back without a wicked ticket.)
Isobel O’Hare read both from new work and from her chapbook The Garden Inside Her. I’ve known her from the online Facebook world for some time, so it was great to meet her in person. Her work is great and I’ll have to buy her chap the next time I get a chance.
Caits Meissner, whose work I’ve been following for years, was a delight to meet and hear read. She read both a new experimental piece that gave me chills and from her new book Let It Die Hungry. I was so grateful that my checkbook was in my purse, because it allowed me to buy Caits’ new book and have it signed. The book includes poems in both text and comic form â€” I can’t wait to read it.
For all the frustration of getting to the event and leaving my wallet behind, it was worth every bit of panic and frustration, because the night was a blessing. And it’s clear to me that I need to attend events like this more often, more events where people speak and address the world â€” both because it’s important to support artistic communities in times like this and because I find such experiences soothing to the soul.
What Iâ€™m Reading
My reading pace has been abysmally slow this month, has in fact been getting slower and slower over the course of the past year. I think this is partially because I’ve been reserving my lunchtime reading for getting some writing work done and because I’m too mentally distracted when I actually get home.
I’m currently working my way through Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana EnrÃquez and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, two very different books that I’m enjoying quite a bit. One is a collection of darkly beautiful short stories, the other is a novel about dragons.
If I finish on book this month, it will have to be Tim Burton: Essays on the Films by Johnson Cheu, because I’ve been working on it for several months now.
What Iâ€™mÂ Writing
I have been off and on sticking to the 15 Minute Rule more or less over the past couple of weeks, especially during the last week when I launched into that wonderfully productive time of deadline panic. Poor Belly Press is closing for chapbooks in two days and I would love to have my Twelve Dancing Princesses chap picked up by them, because their chaps are so beautiful â€” which has lead me into desperately trying to edit and polish up my work in order to make the deadline. In fact, I should be getting off the blogging and back to work right now. (But allow me just a moment more.)
Goals for the Week:
Finish chap edits and get it sent out
The Running Life
Since one of my goals is to actually accomplish a half marathon this year, I’ve decided to add running to my weekly updates.
I’ve been keeping with my routine of getting up hella early and making it to the gym two days a week for some short runs before work. These shorties are at about 25 minute, or 1.5-1.6 miles. Good small starts in preparation for the buildup, and they feel make me feel energized and cleansed in the morning. However, I have skipped my long weekend runs the last couple of weekends. I should be pressing past three miles into four miles at this point, but I’m dawdling.
I’ve been gathering links for weeks, so this is going to be a longish list.
In How To Keep Your March Momentum Going (regarding the amazing, inspiring event that was The Women’s March), Catherine Pearson recommends actions like signing up for e-mail updates from your local legislators and calling Congress daily.
“What comes next for the anti-Trump resistance will depend on how consistently these activists will engage and turn out for causes that are not their own; whether theyâ€™ll continue to phone their federal and state representatives after the inauguration and confirmation hearing hubbub dies down. Itâ€™s quite possible that what was started as an arguably superficial gesture at unity will evolve into one that holds the most powerful dissenters accountable for the least powerful,” writes Devon Maloney in Some Inconvenient Truths About The Womenâ€™s March On Washington.”But to do so, resisters must first reckon with complex issues of intersectionality.”
In Before You Celebrate The Zero Arrests At The Womenâ€™s March, Zeba Blay writes: “Of course, it is always a good thing when citizens are allowed to exercise their right to protest without anyone being harmed or detained. But thereâ€™s a question that should be asked and acknowledged, even as we celebrate the success of the protest:Would the outcome have been the same if the march had been exclusively organized by and mostly comprised of women of color?”