Recommended Reading #1

I’ve decided to retire the Carousels on this blog and turn it into a regular Recommended Reading feature instead. These lists will include anything noteworthy I’ve been reading lately that I want to share with all of you. There’s just so much out there now, and sometimes it’s hard and very time-consuming to find the real gems. If you have anything you’d like to share yourself, you can always send me an email. I’m always looking.

So it begins:

  1. Quaint Magazine, Issue 4
  2. The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild,” Part 1 by Cat Valente (and Part 2)
  3. “Logic” by Richard Siken
  4. “Teach Me Something” by Amy Silverberg
  5. “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” by Ocean Vuong
  6. “Eating the Bible” by Robert Vivian
  7. “This Was Ugly” by Lauren Gordon
  8. “Tonight, in Oakland” by Danez Smith

Year of the Witch

I don’t appreciate the word “soul.” Maybe because I was raised Catholic and it usually meant something greasy, evoking all this dirtiness and nausea that you could never be rid of. Maybe because I am tired of the idea of transcendence, of the desperate desire to remove ourselves from our bodies and the sensory world. But also maybe it’s just because the word doesn’t belong in poetry anymore. It had its time in the spotlight. Emily Dickinson sang it. But who needs a soul? Who wants a soul?

This Halloween, I trick-or-treated. “But you’re like, thirty,” said my sister. She dripped red paint on a white gown she bought for five dollars and I put a fake parrot on my shoulder. Adults and children alike asked me if it was real and they weren’t joking. My sister turned pumpkins into the Sanderson sisters. I brought them to work and they won a prize.

I read the Penguin Book of Witches, edited by Katherine Howe, which is a collection of historical accounts that detail the witch trials in America at the end of the 17th century. It was terrifying. Not because of the witches themselves of course, but because of all the condemnation. All the “evidence” that was presented to the court. How it was almost always middle-aged women who were poor and didn’t care for their era’s social norms or abiding by their village’s code of conduct. I sunk my teeth into those particular stories about the women who cackled in court, how they made fun of all the hysteria around them and remained steadfast in their innocence until they were brought to the gallows.

penguinbookofwitches

November is already halfway through. The elections came and went. I did my part, but a lot of people my age didn’t. I wish they had. I was ill the day the results came in. When I was able to keep my food down again, I donated to the Human Rights Campaign. Maybe you should too.

When I’m feeling stuck, I enjoy reading about all my friend’s creative outlets. Something you might not know: most of my friends actually aren’t writers. They often enjoy reading, but they don’t write like I do. Everyone has their thing though. I was freshly inspired after finishing my essay for The Rumpus and browsing through photo galleries of a friend’s soapmaking projects. I read more about DIY projects like this and fell through an internet rabbit hole. I stumbled across this piece on Rookie and now I suddenly want to experiment making my own perfume oils and fragrances. Something bottled and concocted. I want to name these potions specific things and add in fragments of rough emeralds or amethyst. I want to turn the kitchen into a heavy-scented apothecary. I want to be like the mom from Kiki’s Delivery Service.

kikideliveryservicemom

Lots of witchiness this year, or perhaps not enough. Maybe never enough.

In response to the recent rejections I’ve accumulated, I’ve been sending out more and more submissions in flurries, before I even have time to process the sting that I figured would’ve dulled by now. But my soft parts haven’t numbed to it quite just yet. So far, this other technique seems to be working.

A friend asked: Why do you buy all these literary magazines that continue to reject you? My answer: Every writer is a masochist. We take pleasure in our pain. What else could it be?

Here’s the latest helping of chocolate ice cream sprinkled with tears:

nanobwr

We don’t need a soul.

Forget Your Nerves

I have been typing and typing, but no words. Numbers instead. Little robot doing repetitive tasks. The nerves are dead. Open your hands for me. They’re too soft. I can almost feel the blood. They might make nice replacements.

In November, I attended the Miami Book Fair with an old friend from college. We had the same creative writing professor summers ago, Mr. John Dufresne, who had a new book out. It was hot and wet as we walked the barricaded streets, but never rained. There were crowds of people, which would normally send me running, but the knowledge that they were there solely for books and writers was more of a comfort. We had nutella crepes in the makeshift food court and freshly squeezed lemonade. I got some new books for $5.

Book haul:

bookhaul2

I forced my friend to go to a queer poetry panel with me. It was hosted by Reading Queer. The room was packed. People had to stand. Looking around, there were wings inside my chest. There were fantastic writers on the panel, like Eduardo Corral and Maureen Seaton, who had a poem published alongside me in Pear Noir! #9. They read some of their poems. There was a performance piece that made my head tilt a little. There was awkward laughing and a bottle of champagne.

I was reading the latest issue of Birdfeast and I came across a name that was like an arrow in my brain: Caroline Cabrera. I took to the internet and saw if I could find more. There was more, much more, and even a book of poetry. Of course, this was Carrie from elementary school. I remember. Carrie who always got straight A’s, Carrie who hung out with Julie who also got straight A’s, Carrie who would no doubt become a teacher, and did. Not Carrie who had telekinetic abilities, but she probably should have. I immediately sent her a message and we were able to reconnect. How odd that two Catholic school kids would turn into writers running in similar writing circles, reading and publishing in the same kinds of magazines.

Amidst all the end-of-the-year list-making, I was nominated for my first ever Pushcart Prize. The nomination came from Ghost Ocean. I wonder if I’m allowed to call myself an indie author yet?

Let’s go back to words. Let’s make them routine again, and hopefully they’ll be neighborly to the numbers that have grown into a town. Norton Juster would be proud.