New Books in Poetry: Soft Science by Franny Choi

Soft Science by Franny Choi
Author photo by Graham Cotten.

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a delightful conversation with Franny Choi about her new book Soft Science (Alice James Books 2019).

Franny Choi’s book-length collection of poetry, Soft Science, explores queer, Asian American femininity through the lens of robots, cyborgs, and artificial intelligence. As she notes in this interview, “this book is a study of softness,” exploring feeling, vulnerability, and desire. How can you be tender and still survive in a hard and violent world? What does it mean to have desire when you yourself are made into an object of desire? What does it mean to have a body that bears the weight of history? Choi’s poetry contemplates such questions through the technology of poetic form.

Here is a little snippet from our discussion, in which Choi discusses the idea of speaking for the voiceless:

Early in my writing career, I was really struck by the concept of being a voice for the voiceless. I think this has to do with being a young activist kid and realizing that having the ability to write and speak in a way that moved people was a privilege, and [I had] a desire to use that privledge for good. I think not that long after I encountered this concept it started to feel icky to want to speak for people that have mostly been called voiceless but aren’t — and [it became] much more important to highlight those voices rather than speaking for them. 

For someone who is politically minded and writer and is interested in the craft of persona work, I think it makes for a difficult space to know how to operate in, you know. So, I think that the ways I’ve tried to — at least in this book — manage that have been to kind of relocate the voiceless as a populace within myself, like what are the parts of me that feel unspoken for or unable to explain themselves through normal language. There’s a lot that is unspeakable within all of us. For me, I feel my job as a poet is to try to use poetry to use poetry to navigate those spaces.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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Culture Consumption: January 2020

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

Books

My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite was my favorite read of the month. Set in Nigeria, the story focuses on two sisters — one is who alluringly beautiful and has a tendency to kill her boyfriends, and the other who is a nurse and is often left with cleaning up the mess. At the heart of this novel  and what makes it so compelling — is how it addresses the complexities of sisterhood, with its blend of frustration, jealousy, anger, compassion, and love. Sisters, I just want you to know, I’d help you clean up your messes, too.

Another great read this month was Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, which has a fascinating genesis, as it is based on a song called “The Deep” from experimental hip-hop group Clipping. The story is about a community of mermaids living at the bottom of the ocean. A young mermaid, Yetu, carries all of the memories of her people so that they don’t have to be burdened by their weight. Among these memories is the knowledge that their people are the children of African slaves thrown overboard from the ships that were transporting them to America. The horrors of these memories are tearing Yetu apart, driving her to try to find a way to escape them. It’s a powerful novella, which looks into how our history defines us and considers its value if it’s so heavy.

I also read two stunning poetry collections last month. Soft Science by Franny Choi is a gorgeous book-length collection, which explores queer, Asian American femininity through the lens of robots, cyborgs, and artificial intelligence. Kerrin McCadden’s chapbook, Keep This to Yourself, is a stunning examination of addiction, reflecting the mix of emotions — compassion, frustration, anger, and sorrow — of watching someone go through it.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: January 2020”

My Top Ten Things from 2019

Here doth exist a video in which I talk about my top ten favorite things from last year — books movies, games, travel, writing stuff, and more. The hardest part was choosing a single novel and poetry book for the year — which is why I have separate top ten lists for each.

I’ve had a youtube account for about 11 years. For a few years, I was posting regularly on a variety of topics with no real rhyme or reason — and then I took a seven year break because of lack of time, access to technology, and other challenges. But I’ve been wanting to jump back into it, so hear we are.

This video was a fun challenge to put together. Talking to a camera is weird thing and it takes practice to get back into the rhythm of it, so it took 49 minutes to record — followed by and hours and hours of editing over the course of several days in order to eliminate all the awkward pauses and unnecessary rambling asides, finally reaching a more manageable 22 minutes. Still long-ish, but I’m pretty happy with it.

I hope you enjoy it, and I would love to know some of the things you’ve loved in 2019.


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New Books in Poetry: Ready for the World by Becca Klaver

Ready for the World by Becca Klaver

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which the fabulous Athena Dixon speaks with Becca Klaver about her book Ready for the World (Black Lawrence Press, 2020).

Becca Klaver writes in the poem ‘Hooliganism Was the Charge,’ It offered reassurance which said, “You are not alone; I can hear you.” Her forthcoming collection, Ready for the World (Black Lawrence Press 2020), reminds us that no matter the digital distance between us we are never quite alone. A collection that both casts and dispels the bindings ever present via social media, patriarchy, and our own paths to growth, this collection allows readers to blur the lines between our sometimes carefully curated online lives and the magical beings we truly are.

Part spell book and a rumination on technology, Klaver explores womanhood and feminism from a distance and up close. These poems ask for us to find a remembrance and a reconnecting. She asks in the poem ‘Manifesto of the Lyric Selfie,’ what is burning in our little hearts?, and dares us to tear down what we think we know to find what we feel.”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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Good Things in Poetry and Fiction

I have news! Things that have been happening! And so forth!

Thing the First: This week Corvid Queen (a literary journal published by Sword & Kettle Press) announced their nominations for the Pushcart Prize. I am so incredibly chuffed that they choose to nominate my short story “How Bluebeard Ends” along with five other amazing works. “How Bluebeard Ends” is a story that went through a number of rejections before it found a welcoming home at Corvid Queen. I’m honored that the editors liked it enough to nominate it.

Thing the Second: The Fall 2019 issue of Star*Line is out, and I’m happy to report that it contains my poem “Bride of Frankenstein: Our Lady of Rage,” which they have also shared online. To get the full serving of great poetry, however, be sure to order the print copy.

Thing the Third: I do have more cool news, but I can’t quite talk about it yet — so instead, I’ll tell you about my newsletter, through which you can make sure you’re fully informed about this future announcement, as well as getting my thoughts on writing and life. The news is that I have decided to switch my newsletter over to Substack, which provides many more tools for community building — such as the ability for readers to like, comment, or share posts. It also includes an option to monetize newsletters, but for the time being I’m sticking with things being free as they’ve always been.


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