Welcome To My Bed

Wonderful Life

It's gotten frosty in Boston and I'm on the brink of hibernation. The short dull light and abundance of cold means I'm hiding in my room for days at a time, drafting new pieces and sending out endless submissions. Are you burrowed into your winter nest yet?

I have a slew of poems showing up soon at Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Dusie, GLITTERMOB, Luna Luna, Noble/Gas Quarterly, similar peaks, tagvverk, and Winter Tangerine Review, as well as another piece of ghost flash fiction forthcoming in Atticus Review, but what I really want to crow about today is a little piece of non-fiction about introversion, Hampshire College, and Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life called "Sowing Season is Non-Competitive" that lives over at Cartridge Lit.

Here's an excerpt:

The problem with cities is that people expect that you are waiting, dormant or asleep, whenever you’re not immediately interacting with them. It’s insulting. If you run into an acquaintance on the street, it often seems as if they’re in physical pain as they try to reconcile your presence in this place they never see you. It’s the reason I hate coffee shops. I don’t go out for coffee because it’s a near-guarantee I’ll be forced to small talk with someone. They will ask cursory questions about how I’ve been and try to make tentative plans when all I want to do is drown myself in iced tea. No one actually cares about the answers to these questions (What have you been up to lately? Will you bring me milk and a strawberry? Have you met the Harvest Goddess? Can you get my toolbox from the mayor?) but they ask them anyway to be polite. I have no use for politeness surrounding my caffeine intake.

There's a little over a month until my book release, and tour planning is in full swing. I'll be on the west coast in February, touring with my Yes Yes Books siblings Danez Smith and Meghan Privitello. If you're out that way, I can't wait to see you and share our poems.

Cover Story

I am deliriously proud to announce the official release date of my first poetry collection, Pelican. Mark your calendars! January 15th! Pre-ordering will be available soon, but until then, check out the stunning original illustration Daniel Obzejta made us for the cover.

Two months until this creature is in your hands. I'm giddy. How are you?

Ghost Life

Happy Halloween weirdos! I have a few ghost stories to share, just in case you're trying to get in the mood.

Mike Graciale gave me a rad evil spider tattoo last night / now my whole arm is venomous

Mike Graciale gave me a rad evil spider tattoo last night / now my whole arm is venomous

As those of you keeping score at home may have noticed by now, I don't publish as lot of fiction. This isn't because I don't write it, but because I'm terrified of my own prose. But 'tis the season to be terrified.  So here's a piece of my flash fiction, published in the "haunted" theme issue of Wyvern Lit, called "How to Feed Your Ghost." I recommend reading it to the tune of many fun-sized candy bars being savored.

Just in time for it to be seasonally appropriate again, Gigantic Sequins added my poem "de Los Muertos" to their online archives. I owe much of the thinking behind this poem to my excellent roommate and sister in ferality, Cassandra de Alba, especially "the sleep of apples," a phrase from her own personal translation of a Lorca poem.

Speaking of Cass, we both have work in the new issue of Souvenir Lit, live and on the internet today. They published my poem, "Conquest," an early draft of which, many years ago, made Brian Ellis gasp at the Cantab open mic. It was one of my favorite reactions to my work ever, and I let it haunt me on bad days when I think nobody wants to hear me talk. Besides basking in the creepy glow thrown by Cass's poems inspired by the Investigation Discovery show Disappeared (a Feral Bitch Palace favorite) and anthropomorphized gazelles, my work also gets to live alongside that of Alexis Pope, whose Soft Threat is my favorite train companion, and Jeremy Radin, whose heart is a laser light show I'd pay a pretty penny to see on repeat. All star cast! Check it out!

And finally, in case you're in the mood to spit on a grave at some point today, Flapperhouse posted another of my poems to their website. "them bones" is the result of a slow-boiling rage and came from one of the most vividly horrific dreams I've ever had. If that doesn't make it an appropriate poem for the holiday, I'm not sure what would.

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Because we probably exist too far apart for me to give you a caramel apple and a high five today, here's another kind of treat: the Boston Center for Adult Education is having a flash sale on their classes until 3 PM today in honor of my favorite holiday. Just enter the code "HALLOWEEN" at checkout for 30% off your registration.

Have a delightfully creepy weekend, and be sure to stay strange! If you'll excuse me, I need to finish my unicorn costume.

 

Big Ups

In honor of finishing the edits on my first book, I'm taking a challenge posed to me by my dear friend Emily Carroll and rattling off, in no particular order, the ten writers Pelican couldn't exist without.

Emily Dickinson

We share a first name, and a history of secretive behavior, and our hearts' burial in Amherst. Dickinson is the first poet I loved as a child, specifically and especially for her "I'm nobody" poem. I went through a phase circa middle school when I was convinced I was from outer space, and feeling connected to another "nobody" is probably what inspired my impulse to record--I wanted to be like Emily: bent over her desk, claiming space through language.

Sylvia Plath

I read The Bell Jar for the first time much earlier than anybody would've let me had they known how I was spending my pocket money. I still have that copy, all my favorite passages underlined in pink, then black, then green, as I read and reread again and again. I became a huge admirer of Plath's poetry in college, but my connection with Plath will always be rooted in her prose and how simultaneously delicate and hysterical she was in her descriptions of a girl too deep into her own mind. I was that girl at 11; I'm that girl now. I go back to The Bell Jar time and again, and I always find some new moment where she shakes me by the shoulders saying you are only seen so far as you can see yourself.

Virginia Woolf

I was nineteen, forgive me

I was nineteen, forgive me

I have a now-illegible text tattoo of a quote from Woolf's Orlando on my ribs: "if we survive the teeth, we succumb to the waves." It's pulled from the passage when Orlando wakes in the night transformed from man to woman, where the narrator steps back from the narrative to muse on the difficulties of accurately telling a story. No matter how you write, your biases will always get the better of you. But Woolf goes beyond her biases by asking more questions that she can possibly answer before the end of an essay or novel or life. In my mind, her prose is unparalleled in excellence, but her heart is what matters most to me. Her characters are so frequently overtaken by the world around them, and I see myself in that surrender every time.

Ali Smith

If you haven't read Hotel World, begin there. My beloved fiction professor and thesis advisor Nell Arnold gave me this book as an assignment for one of her classes and I think about it constantly. Smith's play with tense and perspective is a joy for any admirer of experimental writing, but the true joy of her work is that she doesn't sacrifice earnest for technical backflips. If anything, her talent for manipulating mechanics only makes you feel more deeply for the scenes and stories she makes.

Rebecca Lindenberg

Love: An Index lives beside Hotel World as the only other book I urge all of my writing students to read. Both experiment with narrative in surprising and satisfying ways, but Lindenberg's poems are unique in that they are at once an archive of a personal story and a meditation on memory as the most personal of all storytelling acts. For us to remember anything, we must mark it somehow as ours, and Rebecca's poems are just the right marriage of the deeply personal and the curiously intellectual.

David Foster Wallace

Since we're talking indices and intellect, Foster Wallace seems a natural place to go. The summer my father died, I read Infinite Jest during interminable shifts manning the espresso machine and crepe griddle at a truly horrible cafe that very few customers ever patronized. All of our food was rotten, all our espresso pre-ground, and I had all the time in the world to flip back and forth from main text to endnotes to main text to earlier passage to next chapter to why the hell am I reading about puppets for this many pages and then suddenly I was crying into my coffee. People criticize Foster Wallace for being willfully inaccessible, but I really enjoyed the novel because it forces you to remember that a book is a narrative made physical--that you must interact with an object to access the story you're trying to understand, and that the object might end up being as difficult to deal with as the people it is cataloging.

Leo Tolstoy

It's getting awfully pretentious in here, but hear me out one second more: my first year of college I took a class called "The Bodies of Leo Tolstoy" taught by Polina Barskova, who also happened to be my advisor. The course was gorgeous--we talked about the physical descriptions of war, aging, family, and sex in his work--but the fact that my presence there gave me Polina as an advisor is the true reason Tolstoy makes this list. My father was having health problems again and I was thinking about dropping out of school. Polina frowned at me during one of our dozens of meetings that semester and said, "If you leave, you will never come back." It felt very Russian, but she was also very right. That small push for me to stay put kept me in the community I was beginning to build for myself as a writer, the one that made me a poet and pushed me to the point of telling a lot of really scary stories about myself in my work, many of which produced early drafts that ended up (after countless revisions) in Pelican.

Zadie Smith

Her narrators mytholigize like no other, and of that I'm so envious I could scream. But specifically, she ranks on this list because of The Autograph Man. The novel is about the rituals we take on in memory of what we've lost, and also the ways we sabotage ourselves instead of finding healthy ways to process grief.  It's a beautiful, hilarious, essential read for anyone who's lost a parent. I read most of it on the commuter rail back and forth from Providence to Boston and wept openly, glaring at any stranger who dared interrupt my very intimate relationship with the book.

one of my own fever dreams

one of my own fever dreams

Haruki Murakami

I would follow a cat down a well for this many an day. I don't care if you can make bingo cards from his personal vocabulary of tropes. I don't even care that I couldn't finish 1Q84.  I love him for dropping the surreal into the most normal of circumstances.  I love him for manipulating the same conditions and coming up with endless fever dreams. Hardboiled Wonderland and The End of The World is one of my favorite novels of all time for how deftly is rediscovers the human mind. Can our own memories lay dormant inside us? Certainly. Can we admit those dormant memories are ciphers for all we see and know about the world? That's much harder to face, but a concept important to me beyond words. I wish I could've given that book to my father. He would've adored every page.

Art Alexakis

Yes, I am blaming my debut collection on the frontman of Everclear. I said it in an interview for a forthcoming issue of Profane, and I'm going to say it again here: listening to Everclear as a grouchy adolescent made me realize that it's possible to be angry at your family while still loving them ruthlessly. You can expose the pain they've caused you and claim them and you won't tear yourself in two with the effort of either. Seeing the whole picture--the mess and the joy of being bonded by blood--is what makes family so important. I know that there are plenty of poems I've written that make my family unhappy or uncomfortable. I've already had countless conversations about many of those poems as they slowly see the light of day. But I also know that my family is proud of me for telling our truth, even the ugliest sides of it. Which isn't to say I'm not terrified of my book's birthday. I know there are more hard conversations to come. But I'm willing to have them, because telling the whole story is worth all the hard conversations in the world.

Gross in Love: The Tour

My book is coming out in three months! AGHHH!!!

And another thing: my partner John's book is also on its way! AGHHH!!!

Which can mean only one thing--we're going on a book tour together, and it is going to be GROSS. And by "gross," I mean a truly excellent adventure across America (and maybe beyond?) with lots of high-fiving and bike-riding and poems poems poems.

weirdolove

Places I have not been but want to go: Denver, Reno, Portland, Omaha, Iowa City, Chicago, and your house, and your friend's house, and your grandma's house (as long as she doesn't frown too harshly upon content "for mature audiences only").

If you need poems about grief and death and sex and friendship and animals and witchery and general feral bitchiness, I'm your gal.  If you need poems about recovery and outer space and houses and cats and robots and how to be in your brain and body at the same time, he's your gal. We want to meet you! We want to high five you and jump on your couches (with your consent, of course) and invade your poetry readings and art happenings and vomit our feelings into your life and never leave, not really, because afterwards you'll have our books and also little pieces of our hearts.  Got it?  Good.

You can invite us to your city or reading or living room using the handy contact form on this website, or by leaving a comment on this post.

We love you! Let's meet for real!

How Gigantic Could Joy Make Us?

I have never considered myself an activist.  Many years ago, I made the decision to stop engaging with mainstream news media because it was too stressful.  If I read the newspaper, I'd spend the rest of the day in a tailspin, knowing I couldn't effect enough change to help much of anybody experiencing the horrors I'd just sat with for less than a thousand words.  It hurt to think that I could simply walk away from an article if it was too troubling, whereas the people living it had no choice but to stay where they were and keep fighting for themselves.

This is the particular shade of my privilege: I get to walk away from the news.  I don't have family in war zones; I am not a direct victim of institutionalized racism.  The violence and fear I experience in everyday life is tied to my gender, and while I do suffer in many ways on that front, it could be so much worse.  I am lucky to be who I am, to have the resources and support network that I do.

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And the question keeps coming up: how can I contribute anything meaningful to this conversation?  As someone who speaks as part of my living, and who facilitates others finding voice for their stories, I want to know what to say about of the things that horrify me about the world we live in.  But I am speechless.  All I can do is keep offering what little I have to give--in this case, a space to imagine different worlds.

Being a writing teacher is not the most influential position in the world, but it does give me the space to ask my students to think critically about the world they move through.  The more critical you are of your world, the more clear it will become what kind of world you want to live in.  Ask questions, and answer them, and suddenly a space takes shape where you can store your hopes and dreams for something better.  So much truth can come through the experimental space of fiction.  The more clearly we define the world we wish existed, the closer we are to having the tools to implement them.

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I'm teaching my regular intro to creative writing class again this session at BCAE, and also will be test-driving a brand new course I designed for them on Poetry & Performance.  Each class meets once a week for six weeks, starting mid-September.

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And finally, I have poems in a few new places: a suite of five poems at Nailed Magazine, and a snapshot of one of my oldest friendships at Banango Street.  September and October promise a tidal wave of my poems in good homes and Pelican will be out in November, another outrageous success I still can't quite wrap my head around.  

Send Yourself to Summer Camp

orange flowers

One of my students brought flowers for me to our last class!  I'm not much of a flowers kind of girl (people tend to only give them to me as an apology), but these made me feel so special.  There's nothing more lovely than feeling like someone truly appreciates your time.  I've been having a rough few weeks and the extra thought really made my day.

Teaching has been having that effect on me in general--turning the volume down on all of the stress I wrestle with and amplifying all of things about the world that make me excited to live in it.  Which Is why I want to make sure you know that I'll be teaching two writing courses at Boston Center for Adult Education this summer and would love to spend them talking about writing with you.  The first, on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 PM beginning on 7/15 and running for six weeks, is focused on short story writing.  We'll be digging in deep with your own writing in a workshop format and getting peer feedback on the stories you've been working on and want to get out into the world.  There will be some light reading, as well as weekly generative prompts to get the ball rolling on new drafts.  The class maxes out at 12 students, so expect a focused and intimate look at how to be the best prose writer you can be.  Click here to register.

The second class, on Thursdays from 6 to 8 PM, beginning on 7/16 and also running for six weeks, is a more open format creative writing workshop.  Think the same peer feedback environment as the above class but with more options--we'll be discussing successful poems, stories, and methods that can sharpen your approach to any piece of writing, no matter the genre.  Light reading, weekly prompts, and in depth workshop time for everyone, as well as some fun exercises in re-imagining your own writing process.  Click here to register.

Let's write together!

Pelican

Somewhere in the high school years of my vast library of diaries, there's a to do list entitled "WHEN I GROW UP I'LL BE STABLE," after a Garbage lyric.  The list is full of hopes, some of them wild, some of them only pretending to be.  Hair dye, piercings, and tattoos factored heavily, along with road trips and other "get out of this one traffic light town" angst.  I wanted to love more than advisable and live loudly, a tall order for the shy, solitary person I was then.  Among the mostly attainable items on this list, there was also a dream-the-impossible-dream moment: publish my first book by the time I'm 25.  And it's happening.

yes yes contract

My first book, Pelican, has been selected as the inaugural recipient of Yes Yes Books' Pamet River Book Prize, a new award given annually to a debut collection by a female-identified or gender queer poet.  Yes Yes makes absolutely gorgeous books and champions so many authors I admire, and it's still overwhelming to think they'll be the ones shepherding my words into the world in a book with a spine for the very first time.  Working with KMA Sullivan and Stevie Edwards on this project has been nothing short of joyful, which is really saying something, since the content of the book leans heavily towards exploring one of the most painful losses I'll ever experience.

In 2011, my father passed away after a long, complicated battle with diabetes.  I had recently finished college and was still struggling to find my footing.  During my final semesters of school, as my father's health had worsened, my writing had veered away from the performance pieces I'd written since admitting I wanted to be a poet.  The new work was shorter, more spare, and a lot of the poems I wrote at the time scared me beyond all reason because each of them tried to capture a different facet of what losing my father felt like.  How sad I was.  How angry I was.  How alienated I felt from my peers.  How impossible it was to imagine myself fatherless.  The chapbook I turned in as a part of my thesis project at Hampshire, Quiet is a Brand of Noise, was peppered with tiny worries of what would become of my family and our stories once my father succumbed to his chronically poor health.  My partner at the time was pressuring me to start submitting my writing to be published, and though I was excited to imagine people reading my work, I was equally terrified of exposing my grief to the scrutiny of strangers.  It felt shameful to be dwelling so heavily on my father's ever-approaching death, and even more shameful to do so in public.

our last family photo

our last family photo

Against my better judgment, I started sending out the work.  It was and is messy for me.  I go back and forth between being proud of myself for being able to lift the curtain on what is, for many people, a very private dance between the chill of loss and the glow of nostalgia, and terrified of what making this dance public says about me.  Now that we're wrapping up final edits on the book, I just feel tired.  When my father was in hospice, a family member asked my then-fourteen-year-old brother Owen how he was doing with everything.  He said, "How am I supposed to feel?  He's been dying my whole life."  Barely out of middle school, and already an existentialist.  In seriousness, when he said it, something clicked about how oddly we'd grown up.  My father's health problems started long before we were born; they were impossible to separate from our experience of him.  The earliest draft of the oldest poem in Pelican is from the fall of 2007, but the stories present in the book are as old as I am, and some of them much older.  I've only ever known my dad as someone never quite within my reach, and writing about losing him has been a powerful reminder of how much of his life I still get to share in.

My father's stories, especially the ones he used to tell after a few drinks (ask me sometime about Grace Jones and the Bicentennial), have always been my favorite ones to tell to strangers, so this book was bound to fall out of me in one form or another at some point.  Pelican is full of birds and booze and stories (both real and imagined) I've told myself and others about my dad in order to better understand him and me and how we helped and hurt each other.

This Sunday is the three year anniversary of his death, and it's hitting me much harder than it ever has.  I'm not sure if that's typical.  I'm not sure I could grieve typically if I wanted to.  It didn't occur to me until a friend brought it up yesterday, but the anniversary is probably much more present for me this year because of how much time I've been spending with these poems.  Another friend tried to console me by saying that at least no one can accuse me of running away from my feelings.  In the future, if I ever try to run away from my feelings, I suppose someone can just chuck a copy of this book at my head.

Though the project won't be published until December, poems from Pelican (and work from the new manuscript I've been working on) have been popping up all over the internet recently.  The Adirondack Review gave a home to "The Right Words;" "Wishes For The Full Moon" found its way into Cactus Heart; "I'll Admit It" is living over at Word Riot, along with a poem called "I Didn't Mean to Swear in Your Church" that I wrote after watching both versions of the movie Footloose consecutively; and The Bohemyth's most recent issue includes "Rosary For The Blood Moon," the last of my moon poems, as well as "I Remember Loving You Through The Internet" and "I AM HOLDING YOUR SCREAMING BODY WITH HARVARD SQUARE."  And at 7 PM on July 12th, I'll be joining a bunch of fabulous lady writers (including my beloved roommate and partner in crime, Cassandra de Alba) for Vector Press's third issue release party at the Moderformations Gallery in Pittsburgh.  I have three poems in the issue: "The Age of Instability," "knife play," and "& when the canary stops singing."  There will be free food, free drinks, and there's no cover.  Come talk about sea birds with me, please please please.

It Isn't Worthwhile If It Doesn't Terrify You

heartbreak

Let me tell you a secret: I'm a painfully shy person masquerading as a performer.  I get loud because volume is a terrific mask.  If I tell you the brashest, most shocking story possible, chances are you'll think you know me, and you will know me, but only one version.  

Underneath the stage persona, there are something like dozens of layers of story.  Like any person, I have more stories than I know what to do with. When I teach, another place where I wear a mask, I am constantly urging my students to keep in mind why they want to tell stories.  What do they want to communicate?  Who do they want to communicate with?  What is at stake if their story goes un-told?  I ask them these questions because they are questions I ask myself constantly, and also the reason I have so many masks.  The mask that lets me be loud is the mask that helps me tell my stories even when they terrify me.

Another secret, this time as a poem: "Conditional," is the true story of a miscarriage I had before I was old enough to legally drink.  My dear friend and comrade in arms, Stevie Edwards, asked me if she could publish it in the company of her own words and those of our friend and champion of women and all the masks they must wear to survive, Rachel McKibbens.  I never thought this story would find its way out of my mouth.  I never intended to claim it so publicly.  But Stevie spurred me towards revising the piece from an open letter to myself in the second person to a poem solidly in my own voice.  Replace every "you" with an "I."  Tell the whole truth.  She asked me to take off the mask and be myself, and I trust her, so I did.

As a writer and performer, I have extreme control over how I'm perceived and what I choose to share with an audience, but again and again I find myself drawn towards telling stories so close to my bones that they seem nearly impossible to articulate without drawing blood.  In a space where I could become anyone, I routinely choose to be my ugliest and most broken self.  My readings are not the most comfortable places, and that sometimes makes me self-conscious.  I'm scared of being off-putting, but I continue to write on grief and trauma as a way of dismantling the masks I wear.  We tell our own stories to share our experience and we listen to stories hoping to see ourselves in the experience of others.  Sometimes it's hard to recognize how necessary this dialogue is to our humanity, but I think Stevie's introduction to my poem is a good reminder of how important it is to talk about the things we'd rather bury:

At the end of the 2013 Pink Door Women’s Writing Retreat and Good Idea Summit, Rachel McKibbens arranged a ceremony, where we all got to tell partners the following words, “You’re an important person and your writing is necessary.” You were my partner. Telling you these words was easy; they were true. But hearing them back from you forced me to stare the need for my own writing in the face, to accept worthiness. We held each other; I think that’s what our poems can do for one another. When I think of your poem “Conditional,” beyond being beautifully crafted with a mastery of language far beyond your years, it holds a space open for me to face the female body, complex feelings about motherhood, the grief of miscarriage—all without shame. I want to write you room after room where shame has no currency, rooms to be brave in, rooms to love yourself fiercely in, rooms to survive in, rooms Rachel has unlocked the doors to. This is how we can hold each other in poems: by being generously and generatively disruptive enough to make rooms for each other’s work, by knowing these rooms are holy and worth making noise for. Emily, you are an important person and your writing is so necessary.

If telling a difficult story gives even the most distant stranger comfort, it's worth it.  A life without masks is near impossible, but we can certainly make spaces to be more nakedly ourselves.  Tell even one person a terrifying secret and I can guarantee you'll feel more whole.  You are an important person, and your stories are necessary.

Trolling *ItisWatitis*

The next time someone texts you from a number you do not recognize and tries to engage in monosyllables, can I recommend leading them on a quest?

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When it became clear this person was under the impression they were speaking with somebody who actually wanted to talk to them, I decided to put on my dungeon master hat.

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Happy New Year, n00bz!  Check back soon for some actual news. <3

In Case You Missed It

Yesterday afternoon, I was a guest on Spoken Heard Radio, where I read a sestina written using the liner notes from Taylor Swift's Fearless  and "de Los Muertos."  If you didn't catch the interview, the broadcast is available as a podcast here.  I've been invited back to the show on 10/27 at 1 PM EST to talk more about upcoming shows and how poetry fits in to my everyday life, and I'm really looking forward to it.  Writing is something I make space for daily, so sometimes it feels a lot more like work than I want it to.  Opportunities like getting to read to the internet (which means all of my faraway friends can click through and hear me from Minnesota, California, THE WORLD) make me more giddy than they probably should.

In honor of being giddy (and on the radio), I present to you my first-ever EP, Feed The Dead , now available for download on Bandcamp.  Feed The Dead was recorded during a summer thunderstorm and is full of ghost stories slash love poems and includes audio versions of poems that have appeared in ILK, Whiskey Island, Nailed Magazine, and The Pedestal.  Fun fact: "Nursery" is the first poem I ever got paid for publishing.  I still read it at the end of a lot of my sets, first, because it is a story about home and sharks, two of my favorite things to discuss, and second, because it is one of my favorite things I've ever written.  Another fun fact: "How to Feed Your Ghost" is the opening story in a collection I've been cobbling together about the relationship between food, grief, and ways the dead appear to the still-living.  The seven tracks of ghoul-seasoned word experiments are available for $4 all together, but you can also buy single tracks for a dollar each if you take smaller bites.

If all this talk of records is making you hungry for an in person encounter, I still have a bunch of shows coming up in the next few weeks where I'll be reading these poems (and many others).  Next Thursday, 10/24, at 7 PM, I'll be one of the featured readers at Lorem Ipsum in Inman Square for the monthly 2 x 2 Reading Series.  The theme is Sweet Tooth, and I don't have one, so the brand new set I'm writing is going to be exceedingly strange.  Expect completely new work, and possibly a reference or two to the lovely young man who baked me a pie a week one spring as part of the most wholesome and ill-fated courtship I have ever experienced.  In November, I'll be doing back to back features at the Emerson Poetry Project on 11/18 and at Northampton Poetry on 11/19.

And perhaps the sweetest announcement I get to make today--I found a new job!  I hope you're having as delicious a day as I am, because everything just keeps coming up candy corn.

Laid Off (Set Free)

Last week, I got laid off from my job.  Thankfully, the news I have to share is not all that grim color.

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The day after I lost my job, I was blessed to read to a sold out room at my poetry home, the Cantab.  When I started attending the Boston Poetry Slam's readings 7 years ago, I didn't call myself a poet.  The Cantab is the place where it all began for me, and it was hard not to cry through my set; I was so overwhelmed by the show of support and attention to my work.   So many people I love were in the audience, and since I didn't get to personally thank everybody who came (though I did hug quite a few of you), I wanted to make sure I did so here.  THANK YOU.  I am so grateful that there are those who would give me a slice of their time and a stage from which to speak.  Being on stage gives me the courage to tell stories that are scary, and to heal by exorcising them, but performing is also just plain fun.

Wednesday was a big day--just before the show, I found out that my poem, "de Los Muertos," was selected by Jericho Brown as the winner of the 2013 Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest.  It is a short love letter to the language of grief, and also a love letter to my roommate Cassandra.  Look for it in the January 2014 issue of Gigantic Sequins, and stay tuned to their website for a forthcoming profile of my weird poetry brain.

Roger Mindfucker models my new chapbook, where to begin

Roger Mindfucker models my new chapbook, where to begin

In the meantime, you can hear the poem on my EP Feed The Dead  or read it in the limited chapbook, where to begin, I've made for the string of New England shows coming up this fall.  The EP is mostly ghost stories and was recorded during a thunderstorm.  where to begin is a bit different--many of the poems came from my road trip to Tacoma this summer.  Have you driven cross-country?  It is the most gritty and glorious of experiences.  True, sometimes the sheer amount of corn in the Midwest is overwhelming, but the big sky is worth it.  I saw a whole herd of elk in the middle of the night and squealed out loud about it and that is the honest truth.  The poem the book lands on is called "Witchcraft" and was written from shredded fairytale pages I collected from a pinata at Rachel McKibbens' Pink Door writers' retreat.  The Summer of Yes is well-represented, and I'm proud to say I've even penned a few things that lean in the general direction of happiness.  Or at least mischief.  Mischief I can definitely handle.

It was kind of an accident, but I suppose this all means I'm on tour for the next few months, albeit a leisurely tour.  Check below to see when I'll be in your city, and if you're a slammaster or poetry organizer and have an upcoming show you'd like to bring me to click over to the contact section of the website and let me know!

September 17th -- Brandeis University, TBD, Waltham, MA, 7 PM

October 3rd -- Slam Free or Die, Milly's Tavern, Manchester, NH, 7 PM

October 6th --  Worcester Poets' Asylum, WCUW, Worcester, MA, 6 PM

November 18th -- Northampton Poetry, Hinge, Northampton, MA, 8 PM

 

Seven Days a Week

Hands up if you're out there hustling for your art.  Hustling feels like all I ever do.  I even wrote about for the Billfold: check out my article on the limited financial options of a working artist here.  For a more detailed picture of the arts economics ledger, check out this detailed breakdown of how much money I've spent on being a writer so far in 2013.  Despite what some article commenters seem to believe, this constant hustle is more than okay with me, because running myself ragged often has very lovely results.  Get out your news kazoos: I have LOTS to report.

for real though, I'll make you a dinosaur crown as awesome as this one (for a modest fee)

for real though, I'll make you a dinosaur crown as awesome as this one (for a modest fee)

I'm hard at work painting ghosts as prizes for my Indiegogo campaign.  If you haven't already, please take a look at what's on offer and help me fund my West Coast summer tour; there are only 28 days left to donate!  I will write you a personalized poem and snail mail it on a postcard for only $5, and the rewards get exponentially more fantastic from there.  There are out-of-print chapbooks up for grabs, as well as my forthcoming poetry EP "Feed The Dead," and the aforementioned ghost paintings.  Give what you can; share if you can't.  And if none of the reward tickle your particular fancy, could I possibly interest you in a handmade dinosaur crown?

Also deserving of fanfare and your support: the new issue of Printer's Devil Review (my first as nonfiction editor) is out and proudly strutting its stuff on our fair internet.  It was a joy to put together, even in the proofreading.  The design is gorgeous, the writing is superb, and the art makes me think and smile and then think some more.  It's free to read online, so please please do, and know that we have just reopened submissions for our next issue.  I want your true (mostly factual) stories and essays, but the other editors will take your lies and shepherd them into the world if fiction or verse is how you do.

Speaking of shepherded lies and mostly factual truths, I have two poems in the latest issue of ILK, "Stars in Arles" and "Wedding Soup."  The first may mark the beginning of a series of van Gogh poems (I am obsessed; have you read his letters?), while the second is a love letter to my first Providence summer and the many loves therein.  I'm working on a collage response to one of the other poems in the issue, but which and why are a secret for now.  Stay tuned!

I Like My Rock Gritty, Plz&Thnks

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Groggy morning conversations at my place run the gamut: sometimes I sing Rihanna songs with a gob of toothpaste in my mouth, sometimes my dude has finally remembered a dream and wants to share, sometimes we just grunt at each other and pretend it's a conversation.  The other day, we kicked off our morning with the Bad Seeds cover of the song "Black Betty" and the listen sparked a conversation about who would be in the Justice League of aging rockstars.  Nick Cave--because he is already a cartoon character--was a given; Patti Smith, another we added to the list without a second thought.  Iggy Pop warranted a mention because he will never age beyond deeply tanned hide, and has survived living in Florida, so he's pretty much immortal.  David Bowie would be invited to meetings and promise to come, but he'd never actually show up since he hates flying so much.  Any member of the Beatles or Rolling Stones is disqualified from participation because they have become t-shirt icons at Wal-Mart and have thus lost most of their credibility.

I will be the first to admit that I thoroughly enjoy pop music.  I love to sing, and there are few things better to belt along to than an Alicia Keys or Lady Gaga single.  But I also like to feel bass in my lungs on the regular, and there just aren't big rock acts cracking the Billboard Hot 100 the way they used to.  There is an awful lot of Pink, though.  She has at least five songs in the rotation on the Boston pop playlist.  Recently, I took my mom to a Pink concert at Madison Square Garden and returned home for a Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds show on the following Sunday.  Pink has an attitude that's always read as rock and roll to me, even though she started out making R&B records about "real love."  There are songs on her most recent album I would love to hear on the radio.  The ones with guitars and sneering.  Not the one with the fun. frontman whose voice has made me cringe since he was in a band called The Format. In my perfect world, Pink and Nick Cave would duet instead, and pop radio would be far better for it.

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The radio is playing from 8 to 5 at my office job Monday through Friday, and any song they play that's termed as rock just depresses me.  I think, "If this is what rock music sounds like now, I am no longer a fan of rock music."  If you listen to pop radio with this level of frequency (I don't recommend it), you'll find a serious dearth of hot blooded rock music.  Plenty of Maroon 5 and the like, but nothing that hasn't been neutered before being broadcast.  Pop radio has been much of a rock and roll stronghold anytime in the past fifteen years or so, but a girl can dream, right?  In my perfect world, Ke$ha and Andrew WK would live on the same station playlist, and they'd be partying with Queens of the Stone Age and Ryan Adams and Nico Vega and Warpaint.  In my perfect world, Brand New would never have disbanded and Fall Out Boy would never have erred on the side of such sparkly production on their new album and the acts playing the TD Garden would still have guitars in them at least half of the time.  I wouldn't have to listen to the same fun. song every 45 minutes or hear the radio talking heads refer to them, in seriousness, as "rock."

There's an annual mini-festival in the Somerville square where I live called Deep Heaven.  A bunch of psych-rock bands play at two venues and you pay for a wristband to wander back and forth between shows.  As the city was settling down from a manhunt, I ended up at Deep Heaven to see some friends play, and their set was the best rock I've heard in a long time.  Hard, heavy, unpretentious.  Good sounds I could feel in my chest.  No anemic anthems for the disaffected bar crowd.  There weren't even any lyrics.  Just a wall of sound the be listened to and felt at once.

It's been a year since FNX went the way of the dodo, and nothing has stepped in to fill the gap.  I'm not worried about the state of rock and roll--I know there are bands out there doing it loud, rough, and right--but I am worried that the music we consume on a daily basis has become a lot like fast food.  There's a product that sells, and for some reason it is full of banjos and faux-earnest crooning.  The future of popular rock better not be Mumford & Sons.  Or fun.  Or any other such nonsense.  There's no heart there.  None of it bleeds.  There are no junior members of the Rock and Roll Justice League with label support and radio play fighting the good fight, and it's a damn shame.

Crowd-Funded Courses in Art & Letters

I've been accepted to the Tin House Fiction Workshop.  Woohoo, right?!  Except that it will cost over $2000 to get me there.

But there is good news.  I think you can help, and all you have to do is give me money for art.  Simple, right?

the infamous "Brown Lady" ghost

the infamous "Brown Lady" ghost

I've set up an Indiegogo for this trip.  I'm hawking my wares at a variety of price ranges.  For the cost of a coffee and pastry, you could have a poem written especially for you sent to you by snail mail from Portland, where the workshop is being held.  For less than a movie ticket, you can fall asleep to the sound of my voice nightly, listening to my poetry EP "Feed The Dead."  For the price of a late-night pizza, you could receive an out-of-print chapbook from my archives.  If you can part with $25, I'll send you a limited edition chapbook of the story that got me into the workshop in the first place, "Sleepwalk," available only through this funding campaign.  For $50 I will paint you a ghost to haunt you until you are also a ghost.  For $100, you can have a painted ghost, a postcard poem from Portland, and my "Feed The Dead" EP.

I will take whatever you are willing to spare.  Even if I don't make my funding goal, you will still get prizes for your spare change.  Give what you can.  Let me love you through the mail!

I Want YOU in the Teen Angst Zine!

the author, age 16

the author, age 16

Most of us are deeply familiar with the way a shift in hormones amplifies even the most benign moment into a life-or-death situation requiring extensive livejournal*** rants and a deeply over-wrought soundtrack, a la any scene from the teen angst gospel according to My So-Called Life.  There is something about collective experiences like these that begs to be documented.  I want to know what playlist you made for your first day of high school.  I want to know what movies you returned to again and again at sleepovers with friends.  I want to know the particulars of what came before partying was the rule of the day--who did you confide in, who did you idolize, who did you want to be, who was in your garage band.

I want to know so badly that I'm curating a zine called, simply, teen angst.  The idea for the zine came from a string of poems I've written for my National Poetry Month 30/30 challenge.  In writing a poem every day for the month of April, I've produced several related to the music that got me through my teens.  I've given prompts to friends asking them to do the same.  The project grew legs from here, as music is not the only signifier of teen angst, only the most obvious.  There are plenty of other places to go: the way we dressed, the arguments we had with our parents, the friends we made and lost during times of adolescent tumult.  I can guarantee that every artist I know (and probably every artist I don't) has a tale of malcontent from growing up.

So we're going to make a zine about it.  There are barely any rules for submissions.  If you think it relates at all to the concept of teen angst, then it probably does, and I want to see it.  I want your writing: poems, prose, flash fiction, scanned journal entries, screen-capped internet angst, any and all of it.  I want your art: photos of your teen bedroom, paintings from your high school art class, collages of your favorite pages of Tiger Beat, comic strips, notebook doodles.  Most of all, I want to see YOU as a teenager.  Every accepted contributor will be asked to write their bio about their teenage self, and all contributor photos will be of the individual as a teenager.  The zine will be a snapshot of the moment in our lives before we begin to come into our own, the moment when we are trying on all the different selves we could be.  Depending on response, there may be several issues.  teen angst: prom edition.  teen angst: parents just don't understand.  teen angst: first love.  teen angst: the first song for your mixtape.  The possibilities are endless.

Send your tales of teenage woe to submit to teen angst AT gmail DOT com.  Follow the teen angst blog on tumblr for inspiration and updates on the project.  Email me via the contact page and let me know if I'm forgetting anything essential.  But most of all, I want to collect your stories for posterity.

***Speaking of livejournal, below you'll find the first entry from my high school livejournal, "leakslikeasieve," unfortunately from my junior/senior year.  I wish there was some record of my freshman/sophomore tumult, but I'm pretty sure the Modblog platform I used back then is now defunct, and even if it wasn't, I wouldn't even know where to begin in trying to locate my login information or domain name.  Enjoy!

my own teen angst, circa 2006

my own teen angst, circa 2006