Welcome To My Bed

Don't Know How Not to Beg

If it's not already clear from reading my work, I'm a bit of a sensualist. Is there anything better than eating food that is exactly what you didn't know you needed? Or drinking a drink that roots down into your chest with warmth? Maybe it's the temperature drop, but all I've been thinking of lately is how to get as much of those warm moments as possible. I'm working on a series of poems about that warmth, and I want to share them with you directly. From now through December 24th, if you purchase Pelican directly from me via PayPal, I'll send along a handwritten version of one of these comfort food poems and a tiny collage as a thank you. The book is $16 including shipping in the US, and $20 for international orders. Use my contact form to get in touch.

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+ Atrocity Exhibition recently gave shelter to two little fireballs of mine: "even the alphabet betrays me," a lament for a damaging love that's died, and "one room city," a drinking poem that's most likely the equivalent of poking someone in the chest with your index finger to emphasize a point after too much wine.

+ I have two poems featured in the latest issue of Split Lip: "don't know how not to beg" is about making out with the wrong ones in Allston (AKA "Rat City"), while "dry iron & wax paper" is a love note to my editor and friend, Stevie Edwards.

+ One of the poems I'm most proud of from my forthcoming Scream chapbook "You Can't Pick Your Genre" is nestled into the 9th issue of Pinwheel among work by so many who make me squirm with delight every time I encounter their words: Fatimah Ashgar, Paige Taggart, Sarah June Woods, Caroline Cabrera, and Niina Pollari, just to name a few. "WHEN MOTHER WAKES UP IN THE GARDEN" is in the very best of company.

+ And speaking of Scream, three more of my riffs on the franchise are living over at Maudlin House. "NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH" is a three act play about what we erase to keep up appearances. "SUPERBITCH" is love letter to Rose McGowan's eternal bad-assery. "THESE KIDS TODAY" talks teenage brain development and what fame means as an endgame.

+ OSU's The Journal was kind enough to excerpt my poem "Everybody Knows That I'm a Mess" on their website. If you want a copy of the scariest poem I've ever written to hug, it's published in issue 39.3.

+ Horse Less Press published two poems of mine (with audio of me reading them): "BB Gun" and "self-portrait with sudden thickness." But more importantly, their subscription Kickstarter ends in 9 days, so don't miss your opportunity to pre-order a glut of astonishing titles, including the chapbook "Habitat" by my beloved Cassandra de Alba.

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This year has been such magic. I've met so many incredible writers and shared my work in so many places I'd never expected to visit. My bird is in the hands of so many people, many who've told me how necessary it was for them. What luck it is to feel useful, to feel like your words make some small difference in a stranger's day. Next year promises you two chapbooks from me, and hopefully endless other poems and successes. Thank you for being here for the meal. I hope you'll stay to finish the wine.

 

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?

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.

rageprompt

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.  

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.