Recommended: “Leave” By Katie Predick

Adelaide Literary Magazine magazine cover, Year III, Number 10, November 2017
Adelaide Literary Magazine magazine cover, Year III, Number 10, November 2017

There aren’t many poets in the workshops I take at the Writers Studio Tucson, sometimes only two or three of us in a class of ten writers. I’ve been fortunate, however, to have been in several workshops with Katie Predick, a poet I regard highly. Her poetry is rich with images and surprises as she explores myth and nature and themes of woman- and parenthood, relationships, science, and human impact on the environment (she’s also an accomplished scientist.) I learn a great deal from her and her poems, and she has always provided me with kind, helpful, and insightful feedback about my own work. And that’s why I’m so excited to see her poetry published so I can share it with others!

Katie’s poems “The Physics of Loss” and “Leave” were recently published in Adelaide Literary Magazine. These poems are as always with her work full of image, emotion, and keen observation. I love how in “The Physics of Loss” really gigantic ideas about the physics of time are prompted by and further prompt nostalgia about the persona narrator’s child. I find that Katie’s poems often end with a further, deeply felt observation that lingers in the reader’s mind. “Leave” accumulates various meanings of “leave” and “leaves” while a more personal and heartbreaking story is glimpsed, and it ends with a remarkable and poignant observation about the word. Truly outstanding poetry.

Recommended: “How We Cured Racism” by Philip Ivory

Screenshot of Rosette Maleficarum website header
Screenshot of Rosette Maleficarum website header

Philip Ivory, one of my instructors and a fellow writer at the Writers Studio Tucson, has a new short story titled “How We Cured Racism” published online at Rosette Maleficarum. I read a couple of the earlier drafts of this story; the final published version is a polished work of chilling alternative history. This is a story that will get under your skin, no pun intended. Phil also wrote in a post on his blog about the day he found out the story had been both accepted and published.

Appearance Wrap-Up: “Room: A Literary Reading” at Antigone Books

Last Friday, I and two other writers from the Writers Studio Tucson had the singular opportunity to read our fiction and poetry that we wrote in response to a spooky prompt by guest judge Ted McLoof for the third annual “Write-to-Read” contest:

“Three people wake up in a room. They have no idea how they got there. They have no idea how to get out of it. They have no idea how long they’ve been there. But they only have until midnight to get out…”

We read at Antigone Books, a great setting for such events. The staff there was fantastic, including Kate Stern who was very kind, helpful, and knowledgeable. After she and then Writers Studio Tucson Director and instructor Reneé Bibby kicked off the night with opening remarks, Ted McLoof spoke briefly about the contest prompt and the submissions he had selected.

Kay Murrens read “Where We Are Silence,” her poem about a room, the women there telling about their own experiences as women, and waiting for God. The last line was a gorgeous expansive moment about God entering the room after the other women had left.

Jennifer Makowsky read her short story “Room 6016,” a thrilling story about three people in a room who think they recognize each other but cannot recall for sure or how they got there. The details of the room were perfect, the story full of surprises, and there was a moment related to that number in the title that led me to gasp out loud.

I finished the evening by reading my poem “These Are the Animals You May Eat.” I was ridiculously nervous before I started and had to keep pinching the skin between my thumb and index finger to make sure I didn’t faint. My wonderful coworker, Sarah, brought me a cup of water, the kindness of the act helped to calm my nerves a little, and then I stood up to head toward the podium. Once I started reading, I relaxed and got into the horror and voices of my five-part poem. Another coworker, Audrie, filmed the opening minutes of my reading; I have embedded her video above.

I’m grateful to everyone who attended. It was quite the crowd, much larger than I expected. I cannot thank my coworkers enough, or my fellow writers and everyone at the Writers Studio Tucson and Antigone Books. It was a night of nerves, surprises, and appreciation for all the people who surround and support me.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

I came out to my mom twenty years ago, the day after Ellen Degeneres came out on national television. I was so inspired but I was so terrified. I could only make the attempt over the telephone and I couldn’t even say the words; I made my mom guess until I finally said “Yes” when she finally got around to “Are you gay?” Coming out became easier after that, but you never really stop coming out.

Why, when we have marriage equality in the United States, is it still important to come out? Because some tolerance is not full acceptance. Because intolerance never seems to go away. Because it’s still necessary to stand up and be counted. Because people still react in surprise or anger or hate. Because LGBTQA+ children and adults are still being bullied, attacked, murdered, shunned, disowned, fired, and discriminated again. Because the globe is still overwhelmingly bigoted and violent toward LGBTQA+ people. Because it still matters and will continue to matter.

Things were better for me after I came out. Every time I come out. But why shouldn’t things have been good to begin with, despite me being gay? Why couldn’t I have grown up loved unconditionally, free to be me, comfortable with my sexuality? Why did I wait until I was 24 years old to start the process? Why did it take a celebrity to inspire me enough to start? Why is coming out still so hard? Why does there have to be a process of coming out at all?

Because we still have so far to go.

Notebook Full of Poetry Fragments

Small Field Notes notebook full of handwritten poetry fragments next to an ink pen for scale
Small Field Notes notebook full of handwritten poetry fragments next to an ink pen for scale

A tiny celebration for a small accomplishment: a little notebook full of handwritten poetry fragments. The first two entries aren’t dated but the third begins at 9:54 p.m. on Monday, August 15, 2016: “Maybe we take for granted the trees, where some of us are able to go when we are young to find peace, away from the chaos of home and hurt”

A work in progress, to be sure, but I keep these notebooks, and the Notes app on my phone, close at hand because these fragments arrive so suddenly and unexpectedly. There are a few other items inside, like a daily calorie plan, notes for a novel, notes about a reading by Karen Brennan I attended in March, and observations about “The Thing” in southern Arizona that helped me ground my poem “Roadside Freak Show” in concrete images and fill it with atmosphere.

The rest are poetry fragments. A fragment might make me cringe and hurry on. It might become a full poem someday. Tomorrow.

Today.

As midnight arrived on Sunday, October 08, 2017, I hurried to my little notebook with two lines in mind, frantic to capture them exactly as they were in those initial moments. Handwriting offers a kind of permanence. A few more minutes passed in free writing and then the notebook was full, this final fragment measuring two and a half pages long. That’s long enough, perhaps, to be considered the first draft of a new poem.

Monday.

My Poetry Revisioning workshop instructor asked us to bring in some of our collected poetry fragments for an exercise.

Someday.

so much depends
upon

a red note
book

Every day.

The next little notebook waits. It has a green cover.

Book Review: Lace & Pyrite by Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Lace & Pyrite:  Letters from Two GardensLace & Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A short chapbook of beautiful epistolary poems between Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Ross Gay. Ostensibly about their individual gardens, the scope of these poets’ poems frequently expands in breathtaking ways.

Nezhukamatathil is reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center next week and I wanted to sample some of her work before then. Pleased to discover in the process a new favorite poet. I also read her Lucky Fish collection tonight and it was equally as wonderful.

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Book Review: Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Lucky FishLucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s most recent collection of poems (I think) concerns itself with autobiography, genealogy, geography, relationships, motherhood, and nature, among other topics. I love her sense of humor; poems like “Dear Amy Nehzooukammyatootill” and “The Mascot of Beavercreek High Breaks Her Silence” include unexpected humor along with more serious, lonely, and heartbreaking observations and revelations. I know when poems are working for me when the images suddenly erupt in vivid virtual reality in my mind and I gasp; several poems in this collection had those effects on me. It took a few readings of the first stanza in “A Globe is Just an Asterisk and Every Home Should Have an Asterisk” before the asterisk-shape of a flat cut-out of a globe in manufacture that would later be “pressed into a sphere” arrived in my mind’s eye, and I immediately loved that image. I was also really impressed by how she taught me to read with early poems poems later in the collection. For example, there’s a description of witches as wearers of eel-skin in an early poem that I recalled when a woman in a later poem was described as wearing eel-skin.

Nezhukamatathil is reading at the University of Arizona Poetry Center next week and I wanted to sample some of her work before then. Pleased to discover in the process a new favorite poet. I also read her collaboration with Ross Gay, Lace & Pyrite, which was also fantastic.

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