Monday Miscellany: 24 September 2018

A few links of interest from around the web:

A Quick State of the Blog Update: Politics, Book News, and a Poem

It’s been a while since my last post, and I wanted to let you all know that I’m still here, but I’ve had a number of (mostly good) things keeping me from blogging much lately.  When you have maybe an hour of free time on any given day, and you’re trying to squeeze in calling senators, writing postcards to elected officials, attending postcard parties and other election-related activities, all while trying to keep up with writing poetry and fiction, you drop some things.

And this blog, unfortunately, has been the thing I’ve dropped from my to do list most often of late.

So, what have I been up to?  Writing, manuscript prep, and marketing.  Which means I’ve been working on a second collection of poems while submitting poems, a novella, and multiple short stories to publishers on top of all that goes into heading toward the publication of my debut collection of poems, which will be out next summer.  (Want to know more?  I have a mailing list!)  Also, I have a science fiction poem out at Strange Horizons today.  It’s about alien implants.  So there’s that.

I’m also working on separating out my more personal, writing-related posts from the sort of posts I had envisioned for Freethinking Ahead.  In the next month or so, I’ll be blogging here about some responsibilities of secular humanists who create any sort of art or craft, though most of my examples will be from poetry or fiction.  I’ll be giving a talk at the November Fellowship of Freethought Gathering on this topic, and my posts will work up to that presentation.

Over at my website, I’ll be blogging about writing, writing groups as procrastination, research as procrastination, procrastination as research, and the like.  The first post is, of course, about procrastination: “Listening in the Distance: Or, Research and the Radio.”  (Okay, I know, I said I have limited time, and I’m listening to the radio.  That said, my listening-to-the-radio time is also time when I’m not quite energetic enough to string together decent sentences….)

And side note: the Q&A series with speculative poets is currently on hiatus, but it will be back soon.  I’ll post more about this shortly.

Lastly, thank you.  If you’ve just started reading my posts or if you’ve been reading them for a while, thank you.  And if you’re up for sharing your thoughts on the subject, I’d be happy to hear more about what you’re interested in from Freethinking Ahead.

Speculative Poets in Conversation: Holly Lyn Walrath

The Speculative Poets in Conversation Series features interviews with writers of science fiction and fantasy poetry about how their work addresses social justice issues. For the fourth post in the series, I spoke with poet Holly Lyn Walrath about her 2018 chapbook Glimmerglass Girl, published by Finishing Line Press.

Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. Her chapbook of words and images, Glimmerglass Girl, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. She is a freelance editor and host of The Weird Circular, an e-newsletter for writers containing submission calls and writing prompts. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath or at www.hlwalrath.com.

Freethinking Ahead: In the introduction to Glimmerglass Girl, you note that the collection “is a fantastical account of womanhood [….] that draws upon my personal experience.” Readers encounter in the poems the mundane details of a present-day life, which are punctuated by references to other-worldly places and beings, such as in “Espejitos,” “Self-Portrait through an iPhone,” “I am Going to Find the Unicorn,” and others. Do you see womanhood as a sort of balancing the otherness of the fantastic with the ordinary of the mundane world?
Cover of Glimmerglass Girl

Holly Lyn Walrath: I’m very interested in the speculative writing of contemporary women authors, which in my opinion re-evaluates how women approach our bodies. Historically, the woman-as-fantastic tradition in fairy tales and fiction has been written by men. We’ve only just begun to challenge the so-called ideals of what it means to be a woman. The fantastic is one way to do this—to embrace the othering of women’s bodies and make it our own language.

FTA: Many of the poems in this collection have references to or are evocative of Texas, such as “I Want to be a Grackle, I Want to Caw,” “Blue Cadillac,” and “Premise of the Heart.” How does this sense of place affect your creative process? And since Texas can be a complicated place for women, given its politics and culture, how do you see place as a part of your aim to depict womanhood?

HLW: I was born in Texas and have lived here for most of my life. The beauty of Texas and its conglomeration of cultures are definitely a part of me. I currently live in southeast Houston near all the oil and gas refineries, so those landscapes get into my work unconsciously. As much as I acknowledge that I’m a southern girl who loves country music and fried chicken, I also struggle with the politics of Texas. The lack of access to healthcare and alarming rate of maternal mortality rates reinforce this idea of women’s bodies being othered. There’s still a lot of shame in this state about womanhood, gender, and mothering. I grew up Baptist and I see the harm that can come from the church in regards to women’s identities. But there’s a lot of strength in southern women. “Blue Cadillac,” is an homage to my grandmother, who wore white gloves to church and was as outspoken as a matriarch can get. I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing about this place I call home, because Texas is a complex, beautiful, gritty, difficult, and kaleidoscopic state.

FTA: In “I Swallowed the Moon,” personal details show the moon as an object readily consumed by the speaker of the poem as a medium for her imagination, then later as something “haunting” and outside the known. When the speaker at last consumes the moon whole, she has “doomed the world.”

I read this poem first in a literal, speculative mode–a woman dooms the world by consuming this symbol of feminism when using it as a medium for creation no longer satisfies her appetite–and on rereading as a metaphorical exploration of the dangers of consuming myths and their implications. How do you approach myths and fairy tales, especially the “unfulfilled fairytales” of “Behind the Glass,” as both source material to be consumed and to be wary of?

Holly Lyn WalrathHLW: For me, fairy tales began with Disney. I grew up in the generation that knew the golden age of Disney as not just something to be consumed but as a kind of religion. We lived, breathed, and ate (in the form of kid’s cereal and snacks) Disney. However, as much as I love them, those stories are being reexamined today for their implications. Women were taught to be princesses, not queens—damsels in distress, not heroes. But when we grow up, we realize those stories set false expectations. I’m in love with the new Disney stories like Moana, Rogue One, A Wrinkle in Time, Brave, and The Incredibles because they give girls new options. We’re redefining what a fairy tale means and where women stand in the narrative.

FTA: Can you recommend a couple speculative poetry collections that share the same themes as yours? And are there Texas poets you’d like to recommend to the readers of Freethinking Ahead?

HLW: I love the work of another Finishing Line Press poet and Houstonian, Saba Syed Razvi. Check out her 2017 book, Heliophobia, nominated for an Elgin award. Other poets who inspire my work are Rose Lemberg (Marginalia to Stone Bird, Aqueduct Press, 2016) and Kayla Bashe (Glitter Blood, 2017).

The Speculative Poetic Justice Series: An Introduction and FAQ

The second speculative poetry project I’m launching for National Poetry Month here at Freethinking Ahead is the Speculative Poetic Justice Series.

What is Freethinking Ahead’s Speculative Poetic Justice series?

The Speculative Poetic Justice series takes a cue from John Scalzi’s “The Big Idea” and Mary Robinette Kowal’s “My Favorite Bit” and adds a twist. Posts in this series will feature poets on the social justice elements of their work.

The goals here are to:

  • showcase upcoming and available speculative poetry collections,
  • curate a searchable list of speculative poetry collections to highlight authors, and, similarly,
  • create a hub for featuring presses and magazines that feature speculative poetry.

I’m also always on the lookout for poets and editors to interview for Speculative Poets in Conversation, and I anticipate an overlap in these series.

Who Can Participate?

Anyone who has a book-length work that contains speculative poetry (i.e., science fiction, fantasy, slip-stream, horror, weird, etc.) can request to participate. Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Full-length and chapbook-length works that are currently in print or forthcoming in the next three months.
  • Books published by a press not owned or operated by the author. I am not accepting self-published works at present. (If you work for the press that published your book, however, I may make exceptions, depending on the history of the press; just send a quick query to the email address below.)
  • Single-author and multiple-author books as well as anthologies or special theme issues of magazines.

Collections of multiple genres–short stories, poems, essays, etc.–are eligible, as long as the included poems touch on social justice issues.

Please do not send collections that contain graphic and/or needless violence, especially graphic sexual violence, and especially violence against children or animals. I’m not a horror reader for a reason, y’all. The topic is not off the table, of course, since poems that decry war, crimes, etc. are powerful statements against these things. But there’s a vast difference between useful mention of horror and gore for its own sake.

What Do Authors/Editors Need to Submit?

Just send an email to info at tdwalker dot net with the subject Speculative Poetic Justice Series Query: [Title], [Author] and include the following:

  • A brief (250-1000 word) post on the social justice elements of your poems (i.e., How does your poetry address concerns about representation of women? How do the speakers of the poems work against type? Etc.)
  • A brief bio (no more than 150 words)
  • An ARC (ebook in .mobi format or a print copy). If you plan to send a print copy, just let me know in your email. I’ll reply back with a mailing address.
  • An image of the work’s cover.
  • Any social media links and websites for the author/editor and for the press (as applicable).
  • If your book is forthcoming, please include the release date.  If it’s already available, please indicate this.

Please note that submission to this series does not guarantee that your book will be featured on the blog.

When Will the Posts Appear?

Speculative Poetic Justice series posts will appear on all Wednesdays of the month that I have content available, except for the first Wednesday of the month. These Wednesdays are reserved for the monthly Speculative Poets in Conversation posts.

In your email, let me know if you’d like a particular date, and I’ll try to accommodate your request as I can.

Where Do I Get More Information?

Just send me a message at info at tdwalker dot net if you have any questions.

 

Monday Miscellany: 9 April 2018

A few links of interest from around the web:

Speculative Poets in Conversation: Kristi Carter

The Speculative Poets in Conversation Series features interviews with writers of science fiction and fantasy poetry about how their work addresses social justice issues. For the first post in the series, I spoke with poet Kristi Carter about her 2017 collection Cosmovore, published by Aqueduct Press.

Kristi Carter is the author of Red and Vast (dancing girl press), Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem (Porkbelly Press) and Cosmovore (Aqueduct Press).  Her poems have appeared in publications including So to Speak, poemmemoirstory, CALYX, Hawaii Review, and Nimrod. Her work examines the intersection of gender and intergenerational trauma in 20th Century poetics. She holds a PhD from University of Nebraska Lincoln and an MFA from Oklahoma State University.

Freethinking Ahead: Given that consumption is at the core of the poems in Cosmovore, the book seems to present an argument about the dangers of desire: Cosmovore can have the physical world and incorporate it into herself, but she can’t have her beloved or their child. 

What led you to create the character of Cosmovore, her desires, and the ways in which she attempts to satisfy her hunger(s)? And why address those ideas in poems?

Kristi Carter, Author of Cosmovore

Kristi Carter: Thank you so much for starting with this focus on consumption. As someone who has long lived in blue pockets in red states, I’ve seen the way that women are coded as producers, commodities of making more, and the narrative of that repeated as an end goal has reductive implications for women as complex entities. Why is motherhood still an end-goal held above all others in the stories people are fed over and over?

It’s problematic in and of its own to limit women to be the custodians of other people and not have any alternative for their own lives. Considering all that, I think the real match strike for the flame that is Cosmovore was living in Oklahoma when personhood laws for abortions were coming into reality, with little opposition or variety of conversation regarding them. That said, the fatalism I saw in those who disagreed made me turn to poetry as a venue of agency, a kind of activism and alternative to those political choices about what could potentially be my body, in which I had absolutely no say.

Because poetry boils things down to the most essential elements, there is anger, there is hunger for more, and there is an insatiability that seems to reflect how little there is to really pick from.

FTA: One of the aspects of the collection I most appreciate is that it functions on both the literal, speculative level as Cosmovore’s story and on the metaphorical level as an exploration of a woman who loses so much in spite of trying to take as much as she does from the world.

Do you see the subtext of the collection as a critique of what contemporary society deems acceptable (or necessary) for women to want? If so, does that come out of your areas of research?

KC: Oh very much so! Readers who do not question how women are oppressed have seen Cosmovore as a kind of villain or bizarre character. If the conversation is not already happening in the reader’s own life, there is a disengagement from the poems because Cosmovore intensifies questions that are already a burden for most people who want to challenge patriarchal expectations. On the other hand, people who have survived some kind of violence and/or are just fed up with the lack of agency they have respond to those poems on an intuitive level, which is flattering. It’s a divisive collection, just as the issues within are.

In terms of my research, I think it’s no accident to see the reactions of who responds and how. Intersectionality teaches us no one thing about us makes us experience oppression and that our oppressions might parallel those of others and though we cannot always inhabit those differences, and thus empathize, different kinds of marginalization give us different access to those experiences. So for example, I have witnessed more readers who are men of color or LGBTQ men react positively to the text compared to white men. Women react more strongly overall, either in solidarity or in defense of their own attachments to motherhood, or some mixture. When those women are women of color, they react even more strongly. Obviously it depends on the individual, but these trends echo what we have seen in literature and sociology for some time.

FTA: In the poem “Cosmovore Has Night Demons,” Cosmovore contemplates the city around her–and its drive toward consumption through its “open signs […] burned coffee, stale bagels”–as she moves toward thinking about her lost lover and what seems to be their lost pregnancy. She tells him “You never understood anything about survival. About how I could / still be whole / after we lost what I was carrying.” Cosmovore is still a whole woman in spite of her losses.

Cover Image of Cosmovore by Kristi Carter

How do you view this wholeness–if we can see her as whole–in relation to the threads of horror and the fantastic that run through the collection? How did (or didn’t) your idea of Cosmovore change in the course of writing the poems?

KC: The idea of wholeness is really intriguing because it circles back to that idea of goal-fulfillment that influences cultural values, specifically the idea that women have to reproduce to check off some major box validating their existence. When we prod that patriarchal idea with the question of infertility or pregnancy by rape, confusion and aggression seem to arise. Since horror and other modes of surrealism have historically been used to comment on political issues, we witness hyperbolized, condensed narratives about these issues in those traditions.

The sheer power of Cosmovore makes her whole in one sense, but her strength also makes her intimidating. I think it’s a both/and situation that most of us combat in our day-to-day lives where we are told to pick either/or instead. As Cosmovore progressed I saw how again and again deeply engraved that cycle is in the world around us, which is why she is always searching for a kind of release from those confinements.

FTA: Any exciting recent titles (SF poetry or not) that you could recommend to the Freethinking Ahead readership?

KC: A novel I recently read that has been haunting me is Katherena Vermette’s The Break, a recent title which explores issues in the Métis community of Winnipeg, Canada. Vermette is also a poet which comes through in her glimmering prose. For poetry, I recommend Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Heather Derr-Smith’s Thrust, Chloe N. Clark’s The Science of Unvanishing Objects, and anything from the presses that have taken my work. It’s no surprise they make a commitment to the political urgencies of the work they publish as well as the artistic artistry.

 

 

Monday Miscellany: 26 March 2018

A few links of interest from around the web:

Stay tuned in April when Freethinking Ahead’s own interview series with speculative poets launches on the 4th.  We’ll be talking SF poetry, social justice, and reading recommendations.

Monday Miscellany: 12 March 2018

A few links of interest from around the web:

From Around the Web: 9 October 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

From Around the Web: 3 October 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • A couple podcasts featuring SF authors: Gary Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan interview Nnedi Okorafor on the latest Coode Street Podcast. And Gregory Benford, David Brin, Geoffrey Landis and Larry Niven appear on a recent episode of Planetary Radio.
  • Here’s a poem featured on Rattle by Raye Hendrix, on the “death” of Cassini: “ELEGY FOR A SPACECRAFT
  • And for those of you in the North Texas region: I’ll be reading at this year’s Art & Words show, curated by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.