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Pandemic Performances: Elisabeth Horan

Elisabeth Horan is an imperfect creature from Vermont advocating for animals, children and those suffering alone and in pain – especially those ostracized by disability and mental illness. 

She is Editor in Chief at Animal Heart Press, and Co-Editor at Ice Floe Press. She has several chaps and collections out at Bone & Ink Press, Fly on the Wall Press, Twist It Press, Rhythm and Bones Press, Cephalo Press, and Animal Heart Press. Her newest collection, Alcoholic Betty, is available now at Fly on the Wall Poetry Press. 

She is a poetry mentor to many up and coming brilliant poets, and proud momma to Peter and Thomas.

She recently earned her MA from SNHU, and her MFA from Lindenwood University. She is a 2018 Pushcart Nominee and a 2018 and 2019 Best of Net Nominee. 

Follow her @ehoranpoet  & ehoranpoet.com

A Little About Elisabeth:

What medium do you usually create in and why?
Well, I am a poet through and through, I don’t really foray into other mediums because, well I stink at them in my opinion, compared to poetry. With poems, I finally found a way to hear my own voice – to say the things I have been wanting to shout all my life, but never know how. I think poetry has a really incredible way of allowing a human to express difficult or upsetting things in a way which takes away the stigma of an issue. For example, I would never in my real world talk about my addiction or mental illness casually with those I don’t know intimately, but with poetry, I do that every day, and has become what I am known for, my rawness and visceral detail and intimacy in sharing my true self with my readers. 

What are you currently working on? OR Tell us about your last project and what you love about it! 
I just finished a really cool project with Vanessa Maki, where we did a collaboration based on the music of Fiona Apple. Vanessa is an incredible visual artist and heavily influenced by Apple’s music. So, she came to me with this idea that she would do art pieces based on a a song and then I would take her art and the song and create a poem. The result was amazing and is coming out next year at Rhythm and Bones. Super rewarding and challenging project that we just both entered into fully together, emotionally, spiritually and craft wise. Very cool indeed!


What kinds of things do you find yourself returning to routinely as influences in your work?
My influences yeah. I come back to Plath a lot. I have a book I’ve done coming out this year called “Just to the right of the stove”, which is a full collection of a conversation between me and Sylvia in her kitchen in the moments leading up to her death. I suffered deeply with postpartum depression (and mental illness my whole adult life) and so I feel like I can understand what Sylvia might have been feeling in her head, in the pain and anguish and mental illness she endured. Pressing questions I return to often through the collection and in the majority of my work involve being a mother and an artist, and can one truly be both? Can one be severely depressed and still mother? still create? I for example, have written some of my best poetry while severely depressed, as I know Sylvia did too. It often followed my menstrual cycle, with genius work occurring at my lowest, most manic state, and then waiting again for the next month for the surge to come again. I believe deeply that Sylvia’s genius may have followed a pattern like mine. Mothering, which severely ill, however is not conducive to good parenting and I know this all too well. Maybe of my poems question if my kids would be better off without me… and as we know, Sylvia succumbed to the demons which convinced her perhaps, that her babies perhaps were better off without her… of course I am looking into a past I cannot know as it is not mine, but I do like to think, that I can understand some of her pain. 

Wanna Tip Elisabeth or Buy Her Books?

PayPal: paypal.me/LizHoran

“Self-Portrait / Auto-Retrado”Cephalo Press

“Bad Mommy / Stay Mommy”Fly on the Wall Poetry Press
“Odd list Odd House Odd me”Twist it Press
“Was It R*ape”Rhythm & Bones Press

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Pandemic Performance: Courtney LeBlanc

Video by Courtney LeBlanc

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), chapbooks All in the Family (Bottlecap Press) and The Violence Within (Flutter Press). She has her MBA from University of Baltimore and her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She loves nail polish, wine, and tattoos. Read her publications on her blog: www.wordperv.com. Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/poetry.CourtneyLeBlanc/

Blog: www.wordperv.com

Author newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/CourtneyLeBlanc 

A Little About Courtney:

What medium do you usually create in and why?
Poetry is my preferred medium though I’ve dabbled a little bit in CNF. But I consider myself a poet first and foremost.  

What are you currently working on? OR Tell us about your last project and what you love about it! 
My first full length collection of poetry, Beautiful & Full of Monsters, was published in early March by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press so I’ve been focused on that…though with the coronavirus pandemic it’s been really hard – all my events and readings have been cancelled. My second full length collection is with a few publishers for consideration, hoping to hear back from them soon!


What kinds of things do you find yourself returning to routinely as influences in your work?
My life, haha. Honestly, I get most of my inspiration from things that happen to me or around me, stuff going on in the world today or other poems I read. I find inspiration everywhere. 

Wanna Tip Courtney or Buy Her Book?

PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/CourtneyLeBlanc 

Venmo: @Courtney-LeBlanc-poet

If you want a signed copy of her book, you can pay $20 (PayPal or Venmo). Or you can order directly from her publisher: 

http://www.vegetarianalcoholicpress.com/titles/courtney-leblanc-beautiful-amp-full-of-monsters –

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Keeping it Together in a Pandemic: A Survival Guide

We all know community and individual anxiety is at its peak right now and with all of this transition (whether through work or school), you might be trying to figure out how you are going to get through. The reality is, staying on top of school & work is just one of the things that you should be working on right now. More importantly, you should be taking care of your own health and well-being. Here, I have aggregated some resources to help with your self-care routines and official sources of information about the pandemic. Take care of yourselves and each other and remember that you are not alone!

1 . Listen to some calming music

2. Get Moving at Home

3.  Slow Down with Some Meditation & Mindfulness

3. Do Something Creative

4. Read a Good Book: 

5. Stay Organized! 

6. Stay Informed!

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Writing Memory: A Brief Bibliography

This week, I asked Twitter what their favorite novels/essays/books/poems about the nature of memory. I just wanted to share a few of those suggestions here:

Novels

  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  • The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Nonfiction Books

  • Metaphors of Memory by Douwe Draaisma
  • Context is Everything: The Nature of Memory by Susan Engel
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

Nonfiction Essays

  • “On Breakups” by Hanif Abdurraqib in The Paris Review
  • “Memory and Imagination” by Patricia Hempl from I Could Tell You Stories.
  • “Bad is Stronger than Good” by Roy F. Baumeister, et. al.
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Interview: Venus Davis

This week, I got to sit down with Venus Davis (@venusbeanus) for a chat about her creative process and her new project, Periwinkle Literary Magazine. Read the interview below!

What is your favorite creative medium?

Honestly, I’m a vers when it comes to creative mediums. I thought I just loved poetry and that is what comes most naturally to me as a writer. However, I find that I just love to write and any form is perfect for that. So, I’m a lover of all written forms.

What do you love about writing, in general?

I just love being able to express myself and potentially reach other people who are feeling or have felt the same things as me. Being able to connect with other people is one of the biggest reasons that I am still writing. It means alot to be able to get my feelings out for myself and to feel grounded etc. However, I have been touched by the words of other writers and I hope that people find the same peace and understanding in my work too.

Are there any themes or emotions that you find yourself consistently returning to in your work?

I often write with spiritual imagery or imagery that is spiritual to me such as astrology, gemstones, tarot, etc. I find myself writing about heartbreak, romanticism, both platonic and romantic love, and finding my true self.

How do you begin your creative process?

I begin by word vomiting on the page. It helps me get all of my ideas out and into the world. Then, from there, I weed out the unnecessary phrases and words. After I have a draft of a piece done, I like to write notes to myself for how I can improve said piece. Then, I sit on the piece for a few weeks and don’t touch it or even think about it. Often, if I return to the piece before that, I’ll second guess myself and delete well written phrases and imagery. Whereas, if I return to the piece after a few weeks, I’ve almost forgotten all previous criticisms.

Do you write on a laptop/computer/etc. when you are outside or do you prefer a more pen-to-paper method?

I tend to write on receipt paper at work and conceptualize my ideas while I’m out running errands or working. Then, when I finally have downtime, I go home and type up the finished product. I prefer pen-to-paper just because it’s easier to not focus on the structure of what I’m writing and get my raw ideas on paper. However, it’s just not as practical these days especially since I tend to lose things very easily.

Where is your favorite place to create and why?

Under a shady tree. I feel so drawn to nature and the outdoors and I just love writing outside on a spring or summer day when it’s not too hot and not too cold. Being able to connect with nature is very important to me as a person. I don’t really have the chance to meditate because I have major anxiety but sitting under a tree and writing is as close as I can get to meditation.

What is your favorite music to create to and why?

I actually can’t listen to music when I create because I get too distracted! I have to create in silence because if I play music, I end up singing and jamming out! It’s truly a curse.

Is there any kind of music that gets you into the mood to write?

Indie singer/songwriters like Frankie Cosmos, Girlpool, Soccer Mommy, and a few others really inspire me to write just because their lyrics are so personal or at least they seem awfully confessional to me. So, I tend to hear their music and think, “Wow, I want to write poems like that!”.

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

What I Like About You by Marissa Kanter. It’s a young adult novel about a girl named Halle who lives this double life as a famous book blogger/ high school student. The book really delves into the twitter literary scene and publishing world in a way that I’ve never seen another book do. Honestly, I wish the book were around when I was a teenager because I think I would’ve thought about my dream job a lot sooner which is to work in publishing.

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

Marias at Sampaguitas, Royal Rose Magazine, Brave Voices Magazine, Nightingale & Sparrow, and Crepe and Penn. These are the mags that I follow the closest because they publish such strong unique work. I also love how easy it was for me when I first got into literary twitter last year to connect with the mastheads of these magazines. It’s important to connect with your readers and especially new folx in the literary scene. The mastheads of these magazines were so supportive to me and my journey as a writer. Since I’ve stepped onto the literary scene, I’ve been reading their works and supporting them and I love that some of them have done the same for me.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

A small midwestern town because what else can you do but create when there is literally nothing to do but visit Walmart or take a walk?

Do you have any small, midwestern towns in mind when you say that?

I can give Kent, Ohio and Hiram, Ohio as examples just because I’ve lived in both places. However, I can’t speak for any other small midwestern towns because I’ve only lived in the aforementioned places. Though, any place where you can really only hang out at night at Walmart will do.

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

“Don’t stop writing just because you haven’t received recognition for being a “good” writer! That’s normal when you’re first starting out or when you’re a kid. Just because someone else writes “better” than you do, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write. It just means you have different styles. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.”

You recently started Periwinkle Mag. What was your inspiration for doing that?

Initially, I wanted to start a literary magazine after I had a certain number of publications and a lot of literary “street cred”. However, in November, after much encouragement, I just bit the bullet and decided to start a literary magazine. The name comes from Pablo Picasso’s blue period + rose period. It’s intended to reflect sad girl energy and beautiful yet grotesque imagery like a rose that pricks you with it’s thorn. I wanted to create a platform for writers like me who may have no formal education or little formal education as a writer. I see a ton of mags for college students and students of any variety and that’s nice but ultimately, unfair to people who can never be students. I wanted to create a platform for people to succeed regardless of education. Yet, I wanted to give opportunities for folx of that nature to hone their craft more. Thus, why we have so many editors and why we have a nonprofit counterpart, The Right to Write Project, for free/pay as you can workshops for writers. Our main focus is accessibility and that comes from writing workshops/conferences/festivals/classes being so inaccessible for me. So, the concept for Periwinkle Literary Magazine mainly stemmed from wanting to support other writers in a different way than what I was used to at the time.

What kinds of things are you hoping to publish with the magazine?

I hope to publish confessional works and abstract daydream kind of poems. Really, anything that has a strong focus on imagery and honesty.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I’m taking things slow and working mostly on editing. However, deeply in the background of my life, I have a full length that I’m working on tentatively called “Human Waterfall”. Though, the title is subject to change. It’s just about my life as a twenty something and is intended to be sort of a coming of age chapbook that all womxn and nonbinary femmes in their early twenties may be able to relate to – sort of like Lorde’s melodrama!

Where can we find more of your work/projects?

I’m working on putting my works onto my website, venusdavis.squarespace.com. However, for now, you can find my work in a thread on my twitter profile page. It’s not the most professional thing but it’s there, nonetheless.

Venus Davis is a 21-year-old queer writer from Cleveland, Ohio. She is the editor in chief of the Periwinkle Literary Magazine. She is also a former poetry reader for Random Sample Review and a podcaster for Prismatica Magazine. Her work as been featured in Marias at Sampaguitas, Royal Rose Magazine, Ayaskala, Dream Noir, Crepe and Penn, and many other publications. She is the author of Sensitive Divination, an astrology microchapbook as well as the microchapbooks, Blue and @ngel number(s).  You can find her on social media @venusbeanus.

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Preorder Now! Violence/Joy/Chaos

Hello hello hello! I know it has been many months since my last post. One of my goals for 2020 is to blog more consistently, so here we go!

I have excellent news to share:

My first full-length essay collection, Violence/Joy/Chaos, is now available for preorder through Rhythm & Bones Press. This book has been such a wild ride and I am more than floored to be able to bring it to you all. Here is the blurb:

This debut full-length hybrid collection of essays and poetry explores the moments of joy and chaotic hilarity that mingle with the experiences of trauma and trauma recovery. Jane Marshall Fleming writes with a boldness and shows the beauty in every moment of her life amidst the darkness of violent chaos, embracing joy just as much as darkness. Moving from a backdrop of a small Virginia town and eventually finding herself in the freedom and wildness of the desert, readers will follow the author on her journey mapping her skin, sharing in her joys, grief, pain, loss, finding love, and self-growth throughout even the deepest chaos, night-blooming like a desert flower.

If you preorder, you will receive a limited edition broadside and be entered to win a print of the gorgeous cover image signed by the artist, Jordan Aman.

Official Publication date is April 2020!!

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I love you, El Paso

My dearest El Paso,

I wasn’t born one of you. I didn’t grow up in the shadow of the Franklin Mountains, making jokes about loving different tones of beige. I wasn’t formed by the desert heat or reared in the wake of monsoon rains. I don’t have a border accent or family that has chosen your community as home for generations. I haven’t known you for all that long, but I often feel as though I did.

I moved to El Paso on a whim in 2014 at 21 with the man who is now my husband. We traded the forests of the east coast for ocotillos and desert sage and the best Mexican food that money can buy (in my opinion, the best food anywhere that money can buy). We both became proud UTEP Miners, where I finished my B.A. and he got his PhD. We live in Austin now, but we often say that we hope we will move back and settle down in El Paso some day.

I was a troubled teenager and, when I moved to El Paso, I was an even more troubled young adult, wrestling with mental illness and successive failures. I took a chance on you, El Paso, but more importantly, you took a chance on me. In El Paso, I found the most incredible, strong, tight-knit community. I found friends who became family, teachers who became friends and mentors, bosses who put their faith in me, and a city who truly knew the meaning of the word “neighbor.” When faced with hardship, you always stepped up to lift one another up despite difference. You are always El Pasoan first. You are always human first. You are the beautiful example that the country needs.

You didn’t deserve this, El Paso. The man who targeted you could never understand the strength, friendship, and beauty to be found among the people he so obviously feared. And in the days afterward, as you have grieved and begun to dress the wound that will most certainly take years to heal, you have shown the world your fortitude, though I wish you never had to. You have given the country images of neighbors waiting hours in line to give blood, a willingness to give, to hold each other close in grief and resolve. In the face of horror, you are still El Paso.

Like you, I am filled with grief and rage. I feel helpless and cautiously hopeful. In the coming days, as we once more enter into the cycle of demands for legislative intervention in an obviously broken, violent system, I hope that, as a state, as a country, we will demand no less than leaders who echo our anger, who hold fast to the need for substantive action. More than anything, though, I hope that the country will turn to you. I hope they will call you their neighbors the same way that you would call them neighbors if they came to you. Our nation will never be great if we don’t take care of you.

I love you, El Paso.

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What I’m Reading- June 2019

June has been a particularly busy month. If you haven’t heard, I just celebrated the release of my first chapbook, Ocotillo Worship, from Apep Publications and held my first solo art show here in Austin. So, I haven’t had the most time to read for fun this month. As such, I am keeping my list of recommendations relatively short, but meaningful. The books on my list this month are important to me for their honesty. They each face trauma and its fall out head on and, rather than folding, choose to scream in its face instead. Each book celebrates the possibilities present in the practice of radical vulnerability and take important space, even as they offer slices of the author(s) to the audience. I hope you enjoy!

Undone, Still Whole by Tianna G. Hansen

Apep Publications, $10

“The bones are always left behind. Gather them as you’d gather kindling in your skirt/ and smuggle them up the stairs two at a time, creaking under the weight.”

– “Polish the Bones”

I have to admit, I am more than a little biased when it comes to anything that Apep puts out. The books are always beautifully rendered and illustrated. You truly feel like you are holding something special when you have it in your hands. Hansen’s debut collection of poetry is no exception. The chapbook begins with a haunting invocation, a spell, a curse, an intonation that this book will be a ceremony of stripping and redressing. After, Hansen delivers just that. Undone, Still Whole creeps along like a moon flower vine, opening in the evening, delicate, but hearty and generous. It celebrates the divine feminine at every turn, proving that even goddesses can have scars. It is easily one of my favorite collections thus far and I would recommend it to anyone who needs a ceremony for their wounds today.

Reclaim Anthology Edited by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro

Paperback , $15; Ebook, Free

“I can’t help it. I’m just so good/ at feeling unsafe.”

– “Self Diagnosis as Yellow Peril” by Christina Im

This poignant and important collection is the first of a two-part anthology series titled Reclaim/Resist edited by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro. In her editor’s note, Deyro claims, “This anthology is but an attempt, a wish. A conversation among some of today’s brilliant women poets, featuring work crafted out of aching necessity to wear their anger where it will be noticed, acknowledged for what it is.” In my opinion, the collection does just that. Deyro has amassed a troupe of incredible women poets who seek to reclaim not simply their bodies from the ever-present stick of social and cultural pressures, but also to reclaim their space, their voices, and their identities. The collection does not simply scream through fears and anger, but behaves as a celebration of power, even in the face of forced repression. I really enjoyed the collection for each poet’s commitment to their authentic voice. Each piece of the anthology is intimate, ringing with an individuated sense of truth that, together, becomes a well-harmonized chorus. I suggest that any female identifying person who feels as though they have been screaming endlessly into the void read this collection. You will certainly feel that you are not alone.

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Calves

I stood next to my husband

in sequins and glitter,

Rainbow,

Mostly red hot pants glittering

phthalo green,

cadmium yellow,

cerulean blue hues I never wear as skin

unless LED lights are glittering in front of me too.

My calves flex like rocks

glowing rose quartz against sandstone

 that bounces sound back

between my chest plate and my spine

and back to my calves that carry me long into the air—

twirl me atop rock sheets,

spin me like a hula hoop and release,

 relief.

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Interview: Jeremy Gaulke

What is your favorite creative medium?

I like illustration a lot at the moment but passions have waxed and waned over the years. I try to indulge as many forms of creative expression as possible.

What do you love about that medium ?

There are limits to language and I think that I try to fill in the gaps in my personal work with drawings. I think there are certain things that must be seen all at once. I love visual art for that reason.

What do you mean that you think that there are limits to language? Do you think visual art is always so holistic?

Language is absurdly limited.  A finite catalogue of sounds strung together and constrained by the intellect and experience of the person writing or speaking.  To me that’s why its so impressive when a writer creates something gorgeous and emotive or says something in a way that no one else can say.  I’ve always thought of visual art as the closest humans get to telepathy.  A slice of experience that can be instantly devoured without a thought or explored and savored indefinitely.  Not that I don’t adore language and writing.  I just have always felt more fully expressed with visual art. 

How do you begin your creative process?

My process is typically chaotic and random. I don’t really have any discipline to speak of. I never liked writing exercises or prompts or the idea of forcing myself to write or draw. My art and writing is usually impulsive and frenzied. There are elements that I can organize and have a more regimented approach to, like bookmaking and layout stuff but the raw creative expression has always come and gone like the rain.

Where is your favorite place to create and why?

In bed I think. I don’t do well at desks but love spending the day in bed drawing or writing.

Is there any music that you listen to while you create?

I listen to a lot of different things, usually cacophonous stuff.  Currently its mostly Albert Ayler and Old Time Relijun. 

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

I recently started re-reading William Burroughs’ Cities of the Red Night Trilogy, which is an old love but I am set ablaze everyday by new things. A big part of why I love publishing so much is the proximity it gives me to new and exciting writing.

What about Burroughs’s writing gets to you?

Burroughs was one of the first Beats I read and to me much more interesting than any of his contemporaries.  I started with Naked Lunch.  His grotesque allegory and embrace of the bizarre and occult fascinated me.  It was everything that I adored about early American horror stories under this explicit, homoerotic lens.  He had a voice I had never heard before, created worlds I’d never dared imagine and a cast of characters that were amoral and unforgettable.  In many ways he gave me permission to explore the more perverse and bizarre elements of my own art and writing.   It was also the darkest expression of drug culture that I’d read and seemed more authentic than the now cliche chronicles of free love counter culture and chemical mind expansion.  The darkest side of that coin really.  He’s certainly not for everyone but Burroughs is a foundational influence for me.   

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

This is an area that I am woefully underexposed. I haven’t read a new quarterly or art magazine in a very long time.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

I don’t think there is a Mecca for creatives. There are so many sacred places. Both collectively and individually sacred places and rituals. One could get just as much of a jolt pissing on Ginsberg’s grave as going to the grocery store and staring at a display of cottage cheese. Its completely the prerogative of the individual. Always remember the recluse and her temple.

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

To not be so serious and resist the urge to publish so young.

What are you currently working on?

Currently APEP has a full roster. In so far as poetry goes our current release is Tianna Hansen’s Undone, Still Whole. After that there are a few more projects in the works, Jane Marshall Fleming’s Ocotillo Worship and an yet unnamed project by a poet named Maria. Also, a little further down the line a collection by Mela Blust, Dan Tauber, and Erin Emily Ann Vance. There are a few more things in the works that I’m not quite sure about yet but we are doing as much as possible this year. Personally, I’m perpetually chipping away at one visual abhorrence or another. Nothing quite ready for the world yet though. 

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Review: Morning Walk With a Dead Possum

“You remind me that this is the way of things,

that heartbeats are not beautiful, a carnivore kind of organ that can

kill you or keep you alive”

— Beth Gordon, “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning”

Morning Walk with a dead possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe

Animal Heart Press, $12

When Beth Gordon tells you in the first poem of her debut chapbook, Morning Walk With a Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, that she is “inventing a new language,” she means it. Gordon’s poetry is what I love to read because it uses the kind of language that makes you sweat; the kind of language that makes your breath get caught up in your throat and forces you to ask whether you’ve been using words wrong the whole time.

Gordon’s collection passes between prose-poetry and verse, always keeping the reader on their toes. She challenges you to keep up as she breaks into lists, like in “While You Are in Iceland” or more familiar forms of free verse. Gordon is not simply inventing her own language, she is pushing the boundaries of form. She is a razor-sharp observer of both news reels and life before her and she makes sure that it is soaked into her poetry.

By the time I reached her last poem, “Dancing Barefoot in Mississippi,” I certainly felt as though I was dancing with her. I recommend Gordon’s chap to anyone who loves poetry that you can feel squeak between your teeth.

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Interview: Beth Gordon

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Into the Void, Noble/Gas, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is also the Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn

What is your favorite creative medium?

Poetry

What do you love about that medium (i.e. why do you create that way)?

I’ve been drawn to poetry since I was a child. I love being able to create whole emotional landscapes in a relatively compact form.

How do you begin your creative process? For instance, if you are a writer, how do you get into a writing session?

I have both a formal and informal process. The formal process is writing with my friend/fellow writer almost every Friday night. My informal process is that I’m almost always tuned into things I hear, see, read, experience and I take notes on paper, cell phone, computer, backs of receipts … and save those ideas for later. I tend to see my poems as puzzles. I have gathered the pieces and I know these random ideas and images are connected, I just have to figure it out and convince the reader of that larger connection.

Do you have a particular place where you collect these images? Like your phone or a notebook? Or do you just keep them in your head?  

I collect my ideas on my phone and computer, mostly.  I then have to be disciplined to return to those ideas and see what I can create from them.  

Also, what kind of images have you been finding more generative recently? Particularly for your most recent chapbooks? 

So it might be easier to give you an example because the variety of things that “spark” an idea from me range from something I see in my neighborhood (dead possum) to a headline I read to a movie I’m watching to a conversation.  A great example in my new chapbook is the poem, “During the Battle of Gettysburg the Union Band Played Polkas”.  The title of the poem was actually something I heard when watching a documentary about the Civil War.  And I had recently read the book, Endurance, about Shackleton’s expedition to the South Pole…and there was this banjo that the men carried with them through this entire arduous journey in which they had to repeatedly leave things behind.  But they never left the banjo behind.  I started thinking about that juxtaposition between violence and music, or tragedy and music.  I chewed on that idea for a long time and after my grandson was born I kept thinking how I don’t want him to be a violent man, I want him to care more about music than war, and so I took all these ideas and snippets and put the puzzle together.

Where is your favorite place to write?

At my friend’s kitchen table in Highland, IL which we have dubbed the “magic kitchen table” because we have written so much poetry there. I think it’s Pavlovian at this point. I can be struggling all week to write, but when I sit down at that table…the “magic” begins.

It’s really interesting to me that you primarily write around others. Do you find that your writing is collaborative by nature? What is the biggest benefit you get from working around others?

I also find it interesting that I mostly write with another person.  That’s not something I was doing five years ago.  I thought of writing as a solitary activity.  When I started writing with my friend, JD, it was usually because we had a writing assignment for a writer’s guild that we are both members of.  The meetings are Saturday mornings so we would get together on Friday night to work on that assignment.  Then we started sharing other poems we were writing with each other.  We do not collaborate, i.e. we have not co-authored anything, but we often write about the same topic.  What we’ve learned is that it is SO important to read your poetry out loud. It’s now part of my editing process.  I hear things when I read the poem to another person that I would not hear just reading it in my head.   Also, when one of us is not feeling very motivated, we will challenge each other.  The closest comparison I can make is that we are like a garage band.  We get together every Friday night and practice.  And after five years, the practice has paid off.  Our writing is better (I hope) and we are both getting published frequently.  

What is your favorite music to create to and why?

Too many to name.  Sorry this was such a boring answer. I listen to rock, pop, Americana and some country from the 1960’s through today.  No surprise that I like lyrically driven songs.  

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

I heard Alicia Mountain read at AWP in Portland. Her book, High Ground Coward, is amazing. I’m also loving The Mobius Strip Club of Grief by Bianca Stone.

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

I don’t think I can do justice to all the wonderful literature journals that are out there. Returning to the poetry community after 15 years has been an amazing experience. I love the variety, diversity and inclusiveness.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

I don’t think I can choose one place that would apply to every creative type. Instead I will say that it is so important to get out of your daily routine and environment. Not everyone has the means to travel, so even if it’s just going for a walk to a local park or going to a landmark in your city/town that you’ve never visited.

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

My advice to my younger self is very simple: Don’t stop writing! And also, read more poetry!

What are you currently working on?

My first chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe was released on May 1st by Animal Heart Press. I also have a chapbook coming out later this year titled Particularly Dangerous Situation. It is being published by Clare Songbird Publishing House.

Where can we get updates about your newest projects (i.e. do you have a blog/website/twitter?)

I’m on Twitter.  @bethgordonpoet

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Ekphrastic Challenge: K Dulai

You know, in the beginning there was woman and she made stones

from sand. And taking water

for bone, sculpted more of herself, the gift of life emerging tenderly from her sinewy hands


There has been talk of fire, but with her face and her

face and her face once more there was the sky,

its tides the refractions of an empyrean sea

Her last gift the moon, carved from the arches of her feet,  

forever perambulates by our side

Bio: K Dulai lives in the Bay Area.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pretty Owl Poetry, The Eastern Iowa Review, and Marias at Sampaguitas.  She is a current resident of the Pink Plastic House Online Residency.

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Run

My mother told me that as soon as my brother and I could run, we were headed for the street. We’d toddle on our little feet out the front door and towards roads that sounded like rushing ocean waves. Or at least, I would, my mother sprinting behind me with one eye towards my brother who was just headed for the play

                                                Ground.

And my feet have always grounded me, pulling me closer to the earth, closer without shoes or soles or souls to see or feel

                        Or hear.

Here is the way I abuse my feet when I run. I tear them to red ribbons, dripping

                        Down into the earth so neat,

                        So green or

Deep umber,

            Maybe ochre,

                        Maybe blue hues from pansies grown in my grandmother’s garden,

My mother’s garden held hasta and lavender and things you shouldn’t eat,

            But that I could certainly run through.

My feet are careful stewards of my calves and shins, thighs and knees. They rest behind my husband’s thumbs and carefully cry to me in my sleep. They pad behind padded paws, held taught on cloth leashes.

            They curl and extend underneath me.

            When I was little I used to run

                        Into the street

                                    And my mother ran after me.

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Interview: Charlotte Hamrick

This week, I got to speak with Charlotte Hamrick about emotion in the creative process, her love of poetry, and more! Charlotte Hamrick’s poetry, prose, and photography has been published in The Rumpus, Literary Orphans, Connotation Press, Eunoia Review, and numerous other journals. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was a Finalist for the 15th Glass Woman Prize for her Creative Non-Fiction. Currently, she serves as the Creative Nonfiction Editor for Barren Magazine. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets.

What is your favorite creative medium?

Poetry

What do you love about poetry?

It just comes naturally. It’s the form my daydreaming, anxiety, or rage takes when I write. I love free form poetry because the only “rules” are ones you impose on yourself. It’s truly the most liberating and creative process for me.

Are there any themes or emotions that you find yourself consistently returning to in your work?

I write a lot about my relationships with people I love or people who have made an imprint on my life. I think that’s why I also write and love Creative Nonfiction. I think a lot about my life and experiences, what I’ve done wrong and why, what I’ve done right. What I hope to do. 
I like writing about the natural world and how it’s often a kind of medicine when I’m soul-sick or just tired of living in a frenzied world. On my blog I’ve written a series off and on for years called “Morning Meditation” that focuses on the natural world. Maybe one day I’ll put together a chapbook. 

How do you begin your creative process?

I rarely have deliberate writing sessions. When inspiration hits I write. When I’m pissed off I write. When a phrase or idea comes to me I write it down and I’ll visit this list when I’m composing a poem. Sometimes something will happen, sometimes not. I never force it since I realized that doesn’t work for me. So I guess my process is haphazard and spontaneous.

Where is your favorite place to create and why?

In my bedroom on my bed because I’m surrounded by my favorite things, the bed is comfy, and it’s quiet.

What is your favorite music to create to and why?

I rarely have music on because I find it distracting. When I listen to music I really listen, so it takes my mind away from the writing.

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

Jericho Brown’s The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2015) because it has such honesty, fire, and grace. Because it taught me so much about opening up in your writing and that’s something I need to do more. Because he’s a Southern writer and I love the Southern references and nuances. Finally, because he’s a human being unafraid of showing his human-ness.

I know you recently interviewed Jericho Brown for Barren Magazine. What was the most important thing that you learned from that experience?

That sometimes you get a “yes” when you least expect it. Sometimes we assume that people with his level of recognition won’t be receptive if you reach out. I fully expected not to hear back from him but I was wrong. Jericho was very open and giving, making me admire him more. And, of course, I loved hearing his take on poetry.  

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

Well, of course I’m going to say Barren Magazine, lol. Because Barren has opened a new facet of literature and writing for me. I love reading the diverse writers who send their babies to us and I love working with the writers. Other zines I read most regularly are SWWIM, Foliate Oak, Bitter Southerner, The Oxford American, Milk Candy Review, Literary Orphans, Pidgeonholes because they always have stellar writing.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

New Orleans because it’s one of the world’s most unique cities with a diversity of people, ideas, cultures, and creativity. It steps to its own beat.

Is there any nook in New Orleans that you would recommend to fellow writers in particular?

Well, it’s not exactly a nook but I’d recommend coming to The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival which is actually happening right now. It’s so interesting with readings, panels, history walks, plays, music, and a Stella and Stanley Shouting Contest on the last day. So many cool things to see and do. You can learn about it at TennesseeWilliams.net. 

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

Don’t place expectations on yourself. Just let your creativity flow naturally.

What are you currently working on? This is a space for you to brag a little– what are your most recent pubs, etc.

I’m looking forward to NaPoWriMo in which I participate every year. It’s a great way to practice and connect with other poets, and it gives me a little structure. I write on my WordPress blog and I most often use the prompts from napowrimo.net. Besides that, right now I’m looking through my work, editing existing poems. My most recent poems can be found in Burning House Press, Nine Muses Poetry, and Nightingale and Sparrow. I have poetry coming soon in Foliate Oak, Muddy River Poetry Review, and MORIA.

What is your blog URL? 

https://zouxzoux.wordpress.com/

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Review: Candy Cigarette

16 is sacrifice. Serpents seek skin. Sequestration a season, and then they begin — reptilian gazes, demon enchantment, sheepskin, diabolists who crave consumption within. You are an entrance. Composition is doors, all orifices, indefensible pores.

– From “An Entrance is Not an Exit”

In her latest full-length collection, Candy Cigarette: Womanchild Noir (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2019)poet Kristin Garth offers an intimate, raw look into her former life as a stripper in the deep south. Following her recent, heart-wrenching collection, Puritan U (Rhythm & Bones Press, 2019), Candy Cigarette navigates the ups and downs of finding power in life during and after trauma.

Garth doesn’t just play with the Madonna/Whore dynamic, she obliterates it. Her speaker is simultaneously 16 and 25, victim and victor. She harnesses power through the commodification of her body, even as she acknowledges the self-effacement that can happen when one becomes a product for consumption.

Candy Cigarette is exactly like the title suggests: darkly sweet, richly important, and doused in the smell of old bourbon, jolly ranchers, and cigarette smoke.

Candy Cigarette is available for regular pre-order here.

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Interview: Jason Stoneking

This week, I got to do both an audio and written interview with Jason Stoneking. He had some incredible thoughts about the creative process and pressures around the publishing industry. Jason is a writer and performing artist. He has published 2 volumes of poetry and four collections of essays, and performed in various ways for more than 25 years. Currently, Jason is working on a conceptual writing project in which he writes entire individual books for people by hand. You can listen to our conversation or read the initial interview below.

What is your favorite creative medium?

Poetry / Epistolary / Journaling

What do you love about those media?

I’m attracted to ideas that don’t easily fit within the traditional structures of fiction or nonfiction. And I’m interested in the intimacy and authenticity of capturing thoughts at an early stage in their development and sharing them with the reader before they’re more formulated.

How do you begin your creative process? For instance, if you are a writer, how do you get into a writing session?

My favorite headspace to write from is the one just emerging from sleep. I like to wake up early and alone, and let my dreamstate linger in the morning silence, where it can influence my writing before I start taking in too much outside input and sliding back into my day-to-day conscious thoughts. If I have to start later in the day, I begin by just clearing some mental space. I turn off all devices, and maybe take a long shower, or a walk, or a nap, to let my mind wander into its own territory before I pick up the pen.

Where is your favorite place to create and why?

I can write almost anywhere, as long as I don’t have any direct distractions. But I suppose my favorite places are in transit. I love to write in airports, in bus stations, on trains. In those transient, non-spaces between defined realities.

What is your favorite music to create to and why?

I often write in total silence. But depending on what I’m writing, I can sometimes work with classical, jazz, or psychedelic rock. The most important thing is that it can’t have lyrics. I can’t write while I’m listening to someone else’s words.

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

I recently spent a few months reading everything I could find by Clarice Lispector. She had the most invigorating way of diving into any depth, or exploding into any kind of conceptual space, without ever being constrained by preconceptions of genre or by self-consciousness. Discovering her work has been extremely liberating for me.

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

There’s so much out there now that it can be a bit overwhelming. I mostly try to support local publications that feature people from my community, because I think that’s important. Paris Lit Up is one that consistently features a good blend of established and emerging writers and artists with connections to Paris.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

Wherever is farthest away from their own comfort zone and the things that they’re used to taking for granted. Creativity isn’t helped by confirming the same ideas over and over. To see further, we need to have our assumptions rocked, and our perspectives widened as much as possible. This could mean traveling to the other side of the world, or just to the living room of someone on your street that you can’t imagine talking to.

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

To never hesitate out of fear, or worry about public reaction. To write everything I was curious about writing. To give less attention to the opinions of my peers, and more attention to my relationship with the eternal.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a project I call Bespoke Books, in which I write entire unique books, by hand, in a single draft, for individual recipients. Each person who commissions a book receives the only copy of a text written specifically for them, along with the rights to share it or keep it private, as they wish. It’s like a cross between a journal and a letter. A long, intimate text addressed to a specific person and written by hand. It’s a lot of work, but I’m inspired by the intimacy of the exchange, as well as the heightened stakes of creating a singular object.

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Kick

I’d complain it’s too hot

            But I know

you                  and you would tell me

that your skin was practically peeling off the

            bone

            yesterday.

And you wouldn’t remember the metal sign

with the dachshund cut out

                        in curly q’s

that marked the entrance to the hideout

where I am sweating into a trough now.

My skin flakes like bird feathers—

                        Down to the pebbles that support      

            my back about as well as that pillow top mattress

we got conned into buying last year—

you know,

            the one that already has an imprint of you

two feet deep and dry desert dust in its veins like us

like the foreigners that it holds each night as they wish they

were from                                here.

Like us, like us,

            Howling at silver plates and kicking over the bulbs of

the star on the mountain just to see them explode

glass firecrackers

                        in our faces.

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Feet

The puddles that formed in my husband and I’s backyard after a rain smelled different than the ones outside Sarah’s. I loved the way it felt to be drenched standing in front of her downtown one-bedroom, flirting with the rapid waters of brown arroyos, angry that they must twist and turn through oil slick streets with no storm drains to speak of.

The gathering piles of rainwater pulled cars along like paper boats in a stream, but we were women barefoot on the pavement that was still warm from the noonday sun. It was filled with garbage and debris, stinking like sulfur. The tufts of grass in the muddy park felt good on my feet. My toes were black as grackle feathers crowing in the howling wind—letting thunder through my ears and head and sleeping on a lightning bed—

Sarah’s home smelled like palo santo and sweetgrass, burning, and chaotic sweet, she would

offer me chocolates that she made with delicate petals and green tea. I loved the way we laid in her backyard, backs flush against smooth, warm tile, mouths wide to catch

                        watery seeds,

                        Marveling at how little the drops fell between our teeth. How improbable it would be to drink—

How improbable to consume, but how easy to be swept away

each time the mountain bleeds—

No. My husband and I’s first real house two miles away had the same carpet from 1962 that ran through every room in the house except the kitchen and the bathroom. There, the carpet gave way to linoleum that thinly coated concrete. When we toured the place, there was barely any linoleum left, just patches of plastic laid haphazardly over grainy grey. It felt coarse, both hot and cool against my bare feet.

Outside, the house had a backyard slathered with tile, dirt, and even more concrete. Grey, heat-holding concrete. I was poked, prodded, cut by pebbles and shattered glass from the tiny casita that was slowly imploding on the edge of our concrete yard. I pulled cactus spines and bee stingers from my soles and walked over dried chunks of charcoal.  Dog hair, must, creosote, salt-water skin. These are the smells that the rain brought in.

Feet like ribbons, oil-slicked, dirt-caked,

            Drenched; head to my husband’s chest, streaks of hot white paint streaked overhead. I breathed in musk and his Pennsylvania dust, pulled flannel to my skin

                        To skin drenched in

                                    Oil-slicked, dirt-caked,

                                                Sin.

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Interview: Lannie Stabile

This week I spoke with Lannie Stabile about her creative process. Lannie is a Detroiter and Finalist for the 2019/2020 Glass Chapbook Series. She is currently penning her second chapbook, as well as a novel. Her work has been previously featured in The Hellebore, Kissing Dynamite, Cauldron Anthology, and more. She serves as the Project Manager at Barren Magazine and as Editor at Knights Library Magazine. She is a member of MMPR Collective.

What is your favorite creative medium?

I tend to write poetry, but I’m no stranger to short stories and abandoned novels.

What do you love about that medium (i.e. why do you create that way)?

Like every other writer out here, I’m stewing in a lot of emotions: anger, shame, doubt, loss, etc. And to be a semi-functional human being, I have to find a way to release these noxious fumes. Poetry just seems like the best conduit.

What in particular makes it a good conduit? Any particular kind of poetry?

Poetry is constantly evolving and being experimented with. Because of this, it can be so many things. It can be a snapshot or a scream. A murmur or a scramble. A misanthropic cave or a beckoning precipice. Depending on how transparent I want the poem to be, conceivably, I can offer the reader as many bricks as we both can carry and still keep my wall intact. On the other hand, I can give them the one brick that will make everything collapse. 

I think the more personal the piece, the better conduit it can be. Even if it’s never meant for consumption, it’s good to get the gunk out. My mom used to write letters to people she was upset with, then burn them. Burn the letters, not the people. Haha. Maybe I get it from her. 

How do you begin your creative process?

Headphones are the key for me. Once those bad boys go on, I get transported to Pen Land.

Where is your favorite place to create and why?

I’m actually most creative at work. Probably because it’s a space where I’m productive for eight or nine hours a day. So, I’ll write on lunch or after hours.

What is your favorite music to create to and why?

Music distracts me when I’m writing. What I’ve found works best is a compilation of rain sounds. It’s loud and droning, so it cancels out anything else going on around me. It’s sort of like hypnosis.

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

Wanda Deglane’s “a little louder this time” (published in Phemme) split me in half. When I got married two and a half years ago, my neighbor literally “congratulated” me by saying, “I don’t understand the whole gay thing, but if you’re happy, I’m happy.” So, when Wanda writes, “if you have to exist, must you do it so loudly,” it’s like hearing my neighbor’s words over and over again. She understands how they’re trying to muffle us.

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

Shameless plug alert: I get really excited about Barren Magazine. Our team does such a phenomenal job putting each issue together, and the results are ::chef kiss::

Favorite issue thus far?

Issue Four will always have my heart because it was the first issue I helped curate as a Contributing Editor. However, our current issue, Tinderbox Hymns (Issue Seven) is a monster! I read Barlow Adams’ “Lil Bobby” just this morning and was struck by how lucky I am to be a part of Barren. We have incredible writers entrusting us with incredible works every day.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

Oh, I can’t speak for everyone. I think we all have a place that would speak louder to one person than it would to another. But I can tell you, as someone whose poetry is highly influenced by Greek mythology, I would collapse in literary ecstasy if I ever visited Athens.

What myths do you keep returning to in particular?

Icarus and his heliocentric fate is a common recurring theme. The Hydra and Hercules have reared their ugly heads now and then. Also, I have an entire sectional poem devoted to Zeus and how much he sucks.  

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

Be afraid if you want to, but submit anyway. Get your stuff noticed. When people say you’re talented, believe them. In times of doubt, remember their words. Instead of getting up two hours before school every morning to read, use one of those hours to write. Develop a habit. Save your journals. And don’t let anyone borrow your book of poems. She’s going to lose it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a chapbook that explores a personal tie with a convicted Michigan serial killer. Recent publications include: Marias at Sampaguitas, Royal Rose, Kissing Dynamite, Nightingale & Sparrow, Monstering, Honey & Lime, and more. Honey & Lime actually showcases my first ever CNF piece. And just recently I took on the role of editor at Knights Library Magazine. My website is https://lanniepenland.weebly.com

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What I’m Reading: April 2019

It’s National Poetry Month, ya’ll! You better believe that means I am reading a ton of poetry for this feature (and, you know, also because I love poetry). So, to that end, there are several poetry selections and only one prose selection this month. Thanks to Malvern Books’s National Poetry Month sale, I was able to score some really great collections and I am so excited to share them with you.

If I had to pick a through line in all of the collections I am featuring here, it would be each poet’s engagement with an expansive self that makes these collections both extraordinarily intimate, limited to the particular experience of the writer, and simultaneously ubiquitous. These authors hold up a mirror and ask the readers to consider whether they see themselves in violence or violence in themselves. They also ask the reader to engage with their inner child or adolescent, to play, to be experienced and inexperienced.

With all of that said, I hope that you enjoy these collections as much as I have. Happy National Poetry Month!

Poetry Picks:

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen

Boa Editions, 2017, $16

“Like all scholars in any sort of heaven, I will study

the metaphysics of madness”

– “Elegy”

Jericho Brown says it best in his forward to Chen Chen’s beautiful collection when he says, “The greatest achievement of this book is its singular and sustained voice, poem after poem of a speaker whose obsessive and curious nature is that of an adult who refuses to give up seeing through the eyes of an adolescent, one who believes that the world is a malleable place and that asking the right questions changes its form.” Truly, this book suspends you between the beauty of promise and the chaotic muck of searching for one’s identity both within and without a perilous family system. When Chen Chen constructs a thirteen year-old speaker, we believe him. We want to hold that thirteen year old and offer the support and acceptance that they are searching for. This collection really floored me for its honesty and its careful working through the appearance and submersion of intersectional identities.

Personal Favorites: “West of Schenectady” & “I’m Not a Religious Person But”

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

Copper Canyon Press, 2019, $17

This is a book you have to read and then read again and read and then read again. Jericho Brown’s The Tradition is the music of rage and love and loving oneself. It is violence and mercy and a whole lot of other descriptors that I would feel silly throwing around now. Brown’s poetry is rhythmic. It pulls you in with its music and tells you to sit down and listen. And you do. Like Chen Chen’s work, Brown harnesses the power of asking the right questions, but also the power of acknowledging violence in everyday life. Brown’s speaker indicts the reader for their ambivalence in the face of terror, even as the speaker also acknowledges the pleasures that can be found in daily life. This book moved me to tears on several occasions. It is powerful and important and I suggest that everyone pick up a copy and read it as soon as they can.

Personal Favorites: “Duplex” & “The Peaches”

24 Hours of Men by Lisa L. Moore

Dancing Girl Press & Studio, 2018, $7

“I wear outrage like a hair shirt/ scary and close to the skin/ prickles covering the zipper down the back/ which I can’t reach anyway.”

– “Poem I Wrote Instead of Listing the Names of Every Boy and Man Who Has Assaulted or Harassed Me”

The only chapbook on this list, Lisa Moore’s 24 Hours of Men is nonetheless an extraordinary response to the complex interweaving of violence and love day to day. Moore charges you with rage over police violence, homophobia, sexual assault, and sexism, which is carefully tucked in next to the intensity of motherly love. She asks us to consider whether these different kinds of violence can ever be separated from our home-bound selves. This collection is special for its poignancy and its urgent response and call to action. I read through it in one sitting and am sure that you will too.

Personal Favorites: “Inauguration” & “24 Hours of Men”

Prose Pick:

Dead Girls by Alice Bolin

HarperCollins, 2018, $16

This essay collection is so important. Also, I feel slightly attacked by it. As a lover of true crime and Law & Order: SVU, I am no stranger to what Bolin terms “The Dead Girl Show,” but I had never considered the systematic harm that this collective obsession with the dead bodies of women causes. Bolin expertly weaves together personal and cultural experience with shows like Twin Peaks and True Detective, exposing the ways in which U.S. culture suggests that the best kind of woman for a man is a dead woman.

Literary Journal Pick:

Image captured from yespoetry.com

Yes, Poetry

Okay, so here is where I get to rave. I love Yes, Poetry journal! The content that they publish is always full of fire, honest, and well-curated. Most recently, Terri Muus’s “Alternative Names for Rape Survivors” made me hit the floor. The post new things every day, so if you are looking for a new journal, definitely check them out!

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Toes

When I was in college, I would walk around campus on the phone with bare feet. I’d feel my toes dipping into the soft earth and let them be warm, covered in mud and slick stone.

            My toes are curled and cracked and filled with callouses. They are flexible beans on the edge of my feet that claw and balance, flex and unflex, sending me forward all muscles and ligaments, tendons and bones, thrusting me from dirt or pavement into the air, into the day, into the night. When I dance, I like to stand on my toes after heels, reaching upwards and back down, stretching and collapsing. Toes are wonderful things.

            My husband cracks my toes when he rubs my feet. He pulls each joint and waits for a pop with each little bean. Then he bends them backward and I feel like they’ve been curled claws for weeks.       I also paint my toes and then let the paint chip away for ten months each year. Easter-egg blue in December is more my speed.

            Two months after I met my husband, I tore a nail off a big toe. I don’t remember which one now, but I remember how it came off. I was half way through a fifth of Burnet’s vodka and feeling light, warm, and free. I watched a man much stronger than me jump from the concrete pad outside of the basement to the porch above us and pull himself up on a single wood beam.

            I felt strong, competent, and a little too green. I screamed that I could definitely do that too and hurled myself at the edge of the decking, lifting three inches from the ground, and landing on the tops of my feet not on air, but the pad of concrete.

            I began to laugh and bleed and heard shouts of “Jane, what are you doing!” I walked upstairs, red streamers trailing from the tops of my feet. I was met with ten laughing young men and women, pimpled and pocked faces staring in disbelief. They sat me out on the deck and poured another quarter of the vodka over my mangled feet. They healed with pink scars like those irises— something I could keep.

#

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Interview: Tianna G. Hansen

Tianna G. Hansen has been writing her whole life. Her work has been published widely in many forms but her first love will always be poetry, and her debut poetry collection “undone, still whole” is coming in May 2019 from APEP Publications. She is founder and editor-in-chief of Rhythm & Bones Press, a lit mag and small press focusing on the beauty in darkness and turning trauma into art, healing through writing. Learn more and find her work at CreativeTianna.com / Twitter @tiannag92 / IG @tgghansen24 / FB @tiannaghansen.

What is your favorite creative medium?

Poetry, but I write in many different mediums including creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and collage.

What do you love about that medium (i.e. why do you create that way)?

Poetry has always been my first love. I connect deeply with the form, the ability to express emotion and even reach a catharsis while writing poetry. I love the ability to create concrete images using similes and metaphors. Even my fiction and other mediums are very poetic. There’s something about poetry that speaks to me. I find poetry in the most mundane day-to-day and am constantly composing poems in my head, no matter what I’m doing.

How do you begin your creative process?

I normally begin with a strong emotion or image which will help as a jumping off point for a poem, CNF or fiction piece I am writing. I think finding a central emotion I want to evoke or focus on gives my work something to anchor on and makes it stronger. This will always lead me into a deeper revelation on what I want to write about and what I hope to create. I’ve found my environment doesn’t matter – I’ll compose poetry on anything: a napkin, a scrap of paper, my notes section on my phone, a receipt… as long as I have some way of capturing the words, I write. Otherwise, I compose in my head (I often write poetry while I’m driving) and repeat the lines until I think I can remember enough to write it down later.

Is there a singular emotion that you find to be more generative than others?

The stronger the emotion, the more generative it becomes. Since a lot of my writing is used as a form of cathartic release, many of the emotions I write into poetry deal with internal pain, depression and anxiety (my struggles with mental illness), and my PTSD symptoms. Not a day goes by where I don’t experience one or all of these emotions, and it feels amazing to put them into creating something. I strongly believe that something beautiful always remains, no matter what type of darkness we face.

Where is your favorite place to create and why?

My favorite place to create is somewhere surrounded by nature. I’ll notice things that I wouldn’t notice indoors – the way the wind whispers through the trees or the birdsong echoes over the hill, or the sun warms my skin. This helps me evoke emotions and images and lines that I wouldn’t otherwise feel as strongly or grasp properly.

Is there any place in particular that you find more evocative than others and why?

Lately, I have found writing out on my porch, as the weather warms and Beltane approaches, I feel like my creative energy is restoring itself as well. Not only am I surrounded by nature there, but I also have a spot where I can go to clear my head and I have found myself writing a lot of poems out there, even under the light of the moon. The moon is a large focus in much of my work as well, so writing with the moon shining on me feels right. It is wholesome. I saw something the other day that talked about how the moon has many phases but is always whole no matter what phase it is in. I identified a lot with that, which is a theme in my debut collection Undone, Still Whole with APEP Publications.

What is your favorite music to create to and why?

Sometimes I find it difficult to create to any type of music, but when I do, I enjoy instrumental music or something calming without a lot of lyrics, like Enya. I like my own words to shine through without being influenced by song lyrics, though I’m sure this would be a fun way to create a different type of poetry someday.

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

The short story collection ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ by Carmen Maria Machado has stuck with me since reading for the way it experiments and pushes boundaries of societal expectation placed on women’s bodies, and the way it plays and tugs on the imagination of the reader. I won’t soon, if ever, forget the experience of reading this book and still think of it often.

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

In particular, I’m excited right now and completely adore all the work by APEP Publications (and I’m not just saying that because one of the upcoming books is mine), they spend so much time and care with their work, and it is a true collaboration between artists. The poets and other work they publish, the quality of the books, and the artwork included which is all done by Jeremy Gaulke is very impressive and very inspirational. It has made me want to be more innovative with my own personal work and the work of my press, too. I also always get excited by magazines that are truly unique. Magazines like Twist in Time, Bonnie’s CrewMoonchild Mag, Mojave He[art] Review, OkaydonkeySuburban Springtime, Ginger Collect, Pussy Magic, Pink Plastic House really have a beautiful take (but there are so, so many others!). Small presses I’m most excited about lately: APEP (again), Fly on the Wall Poetry Press, Selcouth Station Press, Empty Set PressLanternfish Press, Porkbelly PressHedgehog Poetry Press. There are so many that excite me, I hesitate to name any because I know I’ll neglect someone in there. I am just deeply enamored with all the hard work the literary community does.  

I’m a huge lover of physical magazines too, for numerous reasons – yes, I love reading them (in particular, ‘Poets & Writers’ and ‘The New Yorker’), but I also love to repurpose them once I’m done reading into bits for collages. If I find a striking image or words in the magazine, I instantly get excited and envision what I could do with a collage, although my collages are usually just a way for me to creatively express emotion and I have only ever submitted them once (I had one published in Riggwelter this past January).

How does collage inform your writing? Do you find that the visual work interacts with your written work at all?

Some of my collages are just a collection of words, which reminds me of a poem. Others are images joined together to create something else (I have one collage that is a collection of different colored hair, eyes, noses, teeth all looking like they are part of one face, with a set of hands holding up a bouquet of chins). I go by feeling, using a theme or something else that strikes me – maybe it’s an image, or a word (much like the way I begin my creative process for writing poetry) – and build off that until I have an entire collage surrounding that theme. Often the theme emerges as I go, and is usually unexpected. It’s a good exercise for finding links between different images, words or ideas and making them join together to create another meaning altogether. I’m glad you asked that question, Jane, thank you. It made me realize how similar in nature my process of collaging is to my writing, though it’s not something I thought of before. I have always used collaging as a form of stress relief, a distraction and something to put my mind to which has always been a fun, creative way to breathe easier. It calms me down and I love creating anything by hand, so I always create my collages using cut paper and a gluestick. I also love writing my poems by hand. I try not to ever type them first. I love the feeling of holding a pen to paper and handwriting. Then I will transfer to a computer later, and often form a second draft as I go.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

Travel anywhere & everywhere you possibly can! I am a strong believer that travel enhances the soul and seeing new places, especially as a writer, gives you plenty of seedlings that can sprout into something creative. I particularly love going to a new country and surrounding myself in their cultural intricacies. A favorite of mine is Edinburgh, Scotland, for its large literary history and the atmosphere in general being an inspirational place for writers (it’s also where I had my MFA residency and met my now-husband).

Is there any particular nook in Edinburgh that we should go to write?

Since I’m all about nature, I would suggest climbing Arthur’s Seat which is a beautiful place to go and you can look out across the city. Or going to watch the sunset on Calton Hill. These are two of my favorite spots. But if you’re looking for a cozy nook to write in, any pub will do. There are many of them, and there’s something about the nature of being inside a real Scottish pub that invigorates my imagination. It helps to envision other famous authors and poets who have done the same, wandering the cobbled streets and sitting with a pint or two while they compose words. It’s a truly inspirational city all around. 

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

Don’t force it. If you aren’t feeling in the mood to create, don’t. I used to put so much pressure on myself if I wasn’t writing every day, or even every week, and sometimes you need to give your creative energy a break. I spent nearly a year after my MFA program not writing, hating myself every moment of the day for ‘giving up’ and not doing what I felt I should. But now, I no longer hold myself to those expectations and I’ve rediscovered my love for the process of creating. Allow it to come naturally. Don’t overwork and over-stress yourself when you feel things aren’t coming to you. Let the poetry and the writing and the words come to you. It will, when you’re ready, and you will discover things that you wouldn’t had you forced it into being.

What are you currently working on?

My debut poetry collection “Undone, Still Whole” will be coming in May from APEP Publications. This is by far my most astonishing accomplishment to date. Before I reached out to APEP, I was ready to put my collection to rest and allow it to gather dust, but working with Jeremy, editing and discussing illustrations and spending time with my work again made me fall in love with what I had created all over again. I feel so rejuvenated having worked on this, and it is going to be a true work of art. The time and attention and care that Jeremy puts into his projects is something that is rare and wonderful. I have three poems from the collection coming out in a feature with Thirty West Publishing in April, and some other poems that are going to be featured in other lit mags/journals, namely Moonchild Mag has accepted three poems from another upcoming collection, which is a collaboration between me, Kristin Garth, and Justin Karcher – a poetic opera where we all wrote from a different character’s point of view and created a dark fantasy world. I’m excited to release that, from my small press Rhythm & Bones, this June. There’s always something going on with my press – we have one book coming out each month until September, so I’ll be busy at work editing, laying out, and publishing books myself. I cannot wait, though, to have books with my own work in them coming out. It feels amazing to finally be able to share my very personal work with others and I hope everyone will like my debut collection. I write from a very personal place with a strong belief that writing acts as a form of healing trauma, and I hope I’m able to inspire others through this.

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Interview: Kristin Garth

For my first “emerging writer” interview, I Skyped with poet, Kristin Garth to talk about her upcoming projects and her creative process. Kristin was an incredible interview. She opened up about writing about vulnerable topics, the anxiety of publishing, stripping, writing nineteenth century fantasy, and more. Listen to our conversation below!*

CW: Sexual Assault, Trauma Writing

https://soundcloud.com/lunaspeaks/emerging-writers-interview-kristin-garth

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker.  Her poetry has stalked magazines like Glass, Yes, Five:2: One, Former Cactus, Occulum & many more.  She has six chapbooks including Shakespeare for Sociopaths (Hedgehog Poetry Press), Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Puritan U (Rhythm & Bones Press March 2019) and The Legend of the Were Mer (Thirty West Publishing House March 2019). Her full length, Candy Cigarette, is forthcoming April 2019 (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), and she has a fantasy collaborative full length A Victorian Dollhousing Ceremony forthcoming in June (Rhythm & Bones Lit) and Flutter (TwistiT Press) in January 2020. Follow her on Twitter:  (@lolaandjolie), and her website http://kristingarth.com 

*I will be uploading the transcript for this interview shortly

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What I’m Reading- March 2019

This month’s list is a little shorter than February, but for good reason, I swear!

…Okay maybe it’s not that great of a reason. Basically, I just have been writing a little more than I have been reading this month, which is just the way she goes sometimes. The texts I have been reading have had a lot to do with inspiring and guiding my creative process. For example, I have been working on a lyrical essay collection, so I have been reading several fabulous lyrical essay collections.

If you are a bibliofile and a writer like me, I hope these selections help inform your process too!

  1. Antlers in Space and Other Common Phenomena by Melissa Wiley, Split Lip Press, 2017

I picked up Wiley’s collection of lyric essays as an example of what is possible for a lyric essay collection and I was not disappointed! Wiley’s writing is beautifully rendered, raw, poignant, and just the right amount of meditative. It is one of those books that keeps you thinking long after you’ve turned each page.

$16 from Split Lip Press

2. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, Graywolf Press, 2015

Speaking of texts that need no introduction, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts hit me at a time when I have been feeling rather lost in finding my place in the literary world. Nelson weaves together topics like queerness, sexuality, motherhood, relationships, and social theory with deftness that I could only aspire to in my own prose. Let’s just say that by the time she is laying out her entire experience of birthing her child, Iggy, at the end of the novel, I was sobbing over my well-loved copy in the middle of a plane.

3. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, Workman Publishing, 2012

This little book is really just a must-read for anyone who wants to start calling themselves a “creative type.” I read the whole thing in thirty minutes, but you can bet that it is one of those quote machines that I will be carrying around with me forever.

4. LIT MAG PICK: Kissing Dynamite Poetry

Though its a newer lit mag, Kissing Dynamite has been routinely putting out, well dynamite every issue. I was totally enthralled with their most recent offering, Funhouse Mirror, and really can’t wait for the next issue to come out!

Featured

Listening to Your Body

Please excuse the rambling:

Recently, my body wants to paint and write poetry and creative non-fiction. It does not want to play nicely with books and classes and teaching. It wants to spend late nights agonizing over words and words that come from me and nowhere else.

My biggest struggle this Spring semester has been to come to grips with the fact that it is okay to not “produce” in the way that is the most economically expedient to me. I do not have the energy to spend all of my time with my students and nineteenth century books and that is okay. I am dealing with marrying what I refer to as “the two selves.” For me, that is the “academic” self and the “creative” self. The reality is that these two selves are not really all that different. I cannot do one without the other. And so, feeding the self that is hungry (that is, my creative self) is the best thing that I can do for me right now.

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What I’m Reading- February 2019

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Although I am eschewing New Year’s resolutions on principle, I have been making an effort to be a more engaged member of the contemporary literary community. So, to that end, I have been trying to make it a point to read more poets and authors that are publishing today. So, here is a short list of some of the collections, blogs, and magazines that have really moved me this month. As a disclaimer, the blurbs are really my uninformed opinions. As I generally work with novels, I experience a poverty of language around poetry, so I can really only tell you what I feel.

Poetry:

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018) by Terrance Hayes, Penguin Poets, $12

You know when you grab hold of a book or collection of poetry and you just have to carry it everywhere? That’s how I feel about Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin. It has literally been in my backpack since I received it in the mail and won’t be going anywhere soon. Hayes’s poetry grabs you with its obvious music and attention to both classical and contemporary ways of knowing. It is gripping, visceral, and important in ways that are elusive at first. I love Hayes’s urgency and authenticity and think you definitely will too.

As If (2018) by Amanda MeisterGlass Poetry Press, $8.50

Chapbooks! Everyone should be buying chapbooks. Especially from fabulous presses like Glass Poetry. Amanda Meister’s collection was my most recent acquisition and I read it all in one sitting. Meister’s work is simultaneously intimate and profoundly measured, balanced between precise couplets and devastatingly raw language like:

Best case scenario I wake to find no one tried// to hold my hand and no one died.

Meister’s work is the kind of polished that most poets (like me) aspire to be.

Lit Mags:

Barren MagazineIssue 5, “Weight of Days,” January 2019

In the spirit of full disclosure, Barren is one of my favorite new literary magazines. It is also one that has recently accepted some of my work (Hooray!). The editors tend to favor raw, devastating reflections on life, its traumas, and its triumphs. In particular, I recommend taking a look at Aaron Householder’s creative non-fiction entitled “Mud Crusted,” which is a heart-wrenching reflection on the loss of a child. I also suggest taking a look at Anindita Sengupta’s “Coriolis” and Christopher Nielsen’s photography. These are just a few suggestions from an issue that is rife with literature worth diving into.

Split Lip MagazineJanuary 2019

I love Split Lip Magazine in general. The editors take on a lot of experimental forms of writing that I generally love. This shout out goes to one piece from their January issue in particular, though. I am so taken with Kat Moore’s “When god is a man inside my mouth.” Moore’s use of the unusual form of a list perfectly mixes poetic convention with prose that truly expands the perimeters for what Creative Non-Fiction can be.

Blogs:

Millenial Girl, Interrupted

I have been really enthused and impressed by the breadth of coverage on Olivia Epley’s Blog, Millenial Girl, Interrupted. Epley examines the many armed monster that is dealing with mental illness and the institutions associated with mental health care and its many forms. The posts are derived both from Epley’s personal experience and external research and really delve into both the visceral and intellectual experience of mental illness and neurodivergence. For anyone interested in contributing to a public dialogue around mental illness, this blog is a must-read and must-follow.

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Introducing Pandemic Performances!

Due to the ongoing global public health crisis, many authors and artists have had to cancel or postpone critical launches, performances, and readings. More than just bringing disappointment, these cancellations have also critically impacted potential marketing opportunities and eliminated events that drive a significant sales that folks depend on to make their living.

But there is hope! In these moments of struggle, it becomes more important to create community and support one another– even if. as in this situation, it must be from a distance. In a world where all the news seems to be bad news, artists can provide a critical mirror or a guiding light. So, let’s lift them up.

Enter: Pandemic Performances!

Over the next few months, Luna Speaks Blog will be hosting video performances created by authors and artists whose livelihoods have been disrupted by COVID-19. Each video will be accompanied by a mini-interview and a live Twitter and/or Instagram Q&A with the author/artist. You can even include links for your digital “tip jar” (i.e. cashapp, paypal, venmo, etc.). This can’t take the place of a live event, but it will hopefully offer an alternative space to celebrate your work and promote the sales of your books, albums, etc.

If you are interested in participating, please contact me through the “Contact” page, through email at jane.aman92@gmail.com or via twitter/instagram at @queenjaneapx.