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.


Ode to the Paper in My Hands

I had a pen pal from New Zealand when I was in the seventh grade, but I don’t really remember a thing about him. I figured I must have just treated the whole thing like another assignment for school. It’s funny how, looking back on that, I ended up going on to build so many relationships like that anyway – something I would’ve probably completely ignored before. Now, having friends that I’ve kept in contact with from all over (the U.K., Singapore, Australia, and yes, even New Zealand), it’s quite different. And it grew different quite fast.

I started writing notes to my friends in high school, even if we saw each other regularly. We wrote to each other when we didn’t have any work in class to do, or when we were bored. That was when I also started writing letters to these other friends across the sea. It’s even stranger now, how we’re always hooked up and stuck in the clouds, how the internet has become so entirely ubiquitous – we are always attached, but only just hovering. Only just glancing and skimming through. When you pull out of the stream for a while, you really do look forward to having a message on paper in your hands. You look forward to an earnest conversation. You sit down, gather your thoughts, write them down, and send them out. And you wait. You wait for a while too, and it seems like a century in comparison to all the comments, messages, tweets, and reblogs happening all at once.

It seems almost nostalgic, the letter-writing, even though it wasn’t long ago and despite the fact that I still do it. I still keep pen pals anyway (I’m writing to my friend Thea right now, from Wisconsin) even though it really could be instantaneous now – you really could just send an email. But I think there is something to be said about taking that time and waiting. Waiting a week or two in anticipation for a response, and having a quiet, intimate conversation develop in between the spaces. Especially now, in 2012, when you can feel so entirely detached and alone, despite all the fast-speed connections going on around you. It’s hard to really listen to anyone with all the noise.