It’s the end of the year and we are finally getting some cooler weather. Most of the country is not too pleased about this right now, but here in Florida, I’m very grateful. I’ve been literally sweating this whole year.
This summer, I started working on the poems that are now part of my thesis. I’ve had a structure for a poetry collection in my head for a while now, but didn’t have enough complete poems to fill it all in. In June, I was invited to do a poetry reading as part of a Pride series. I read some earlier versions of these thesis poems and met some other lovely poets.
We also visited David’s family in Texas. It’d been a while since we had seen them due to the pandemic. During the trip, I got to visit my favorite independent bookstore, Malvern Books. We don’t really have any independent books in South Florida, so I always look forward to this. They have so much poetry and work in translation. I picked up a bundle of books from local authors (Alfredo Aguilar, Laura Villareal) and discovered a new poet I hadn’t heard of (Sarah Fox). These books were among my notable reads of the year (list included below). Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me at the time, this would be the last opportunity I’d have to visit the bookstore. Shortly after our return home, it was announced that the founder of Malvern Books, Joe Bratcher, had passed away and the bookstore would be closing at the end of this year. From the outpouring of appreciation online, it was clear Mr. Bratcher left an indelible impression on both the local and national literary community. I will miss my time spent browsing the shelves and discovering new writers there.
Alongside my writing, I also experimented with AI image generation. This was before it broke into the mainstream conversation, with everyone using Lensa to create AI selfies. For one of my classes in the fall, I created collages out of AI images that were generated by keywords I selected from some of my tweets. I used the resulting images for collages that defined the years 2020 and 2021.
I noted a contrast between the two years: how 2020 seemed to contain more apocalyptic imagery and how 2021 seemed to contain more images of lone figures in scenes of self-isolation. Perhaps not very surprising.
The one piece of writing I did publish this year was a poem that was inspired by the alien form and undulation of deep-sea life. It was published in the inaugural issue of Cold Signal, an online magazine that was initially conceived to explore the creative possibilities between writing and AI image generation. The editor of the magazine tweeted: “inspired by the shapes of siphonophores, [Dante’s poem] flows with a gorgeous and alien awareness of the beauty and communion in the colony-self, where the lines between singular and plural ebb like the tide.” The poem was nominated for a Pushcart.
While the potentially boundless creative possibilities made AI image generation exciting at first, the conversation has shifted since, with more people rightfully questioning its ethics, especially in regards to whether the sources being pulled from by the generators are stolen works from living artists. Furthermore, some have pointed out how the proliferation of these image generators undervalues the talent and work that goes into art-making. These are all legitimate concerns to have. John Chrostek, editor of Cold Signal, brings nuance to the conversation in his editor’s note for the inaugural issue of the magazine. Moving forward, it seems like the magazine will be less focused on AI image generation and more on the speculative element, exploring the relationship between the synthetic and the organic.
The end of this year started out with David and I celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, it concluded with family getting sick, some health scares. I wish everyone could be safe and well, always, but that’s not how this works. I know writers are supposed to find beauty in the ephemeral nature of life, blahblahblah, but sometimes it’s just brutal and you wish to preserve everyone and everything in a glass stasis.
I already have the beginning of 2023 partially mapped out in my head. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be graduating with my MFA. I’ll be traveling to places I’ve never been to before. Maybe I’ll publish some writing, if the publishing gods deign it so. Maybe I won’t be as sweaty. Probably not.
At last, we’ve arrived at the fun part. This list doesn’t include absolutely everything I consumed this year, but the select media and art that at least left an impression. You’ll notice I read almost exclusively poetry and nonfiction, which isn’t surprising, considering the focus of my thesis. No notable movies included here at all (with every passing year, I seem to become less interested in watching anything for long periods of time) and most of the music I listened to this year wasn’t anything new. However, I played a lot of new games (some bite-sized, some very large and time-consuming).
The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison
Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses
Owed by Joshua Bennett
Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief by Victoria Chang
The Trees Witness Everything by Victoria Chang
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine
Just Us by Claudia Rankine
Ceremonies by Essex Hemphill
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
Obscenely Yours by Angelo Nikolopoulos
Pleasure by Angelo Nikolopoulos
Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry, edited by Timothy Liu
Vox Angelica by Timothy Liu
Burnt Offerings by Timothy Liu
How to Not Be Afraid of Everything by Jane Wong
Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows by Eugenia Leigh
Fantasia for the Man in Blue by Tommye Blount
The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
Wound from the Mouth of the Wound by torrin a. greathouse
The Specimen’s Apology by George Abraham
Bestiary by Donika Kelly
On This Side of the Desert by Alfredo Aguilar
Borderland Apocrypha by Anthony Cody
Instead of Dying by Lauren Haldeman
Be Holding by Ross Gay
Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
Homie by Danez Smith
Vapor by Sara Eliza Johnson
Brother Sleep by Aldo Amparan
JUNK by Tommy Pico
300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso
What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. Bailey
Nightingale by Paisley Rekdal
Something Bright, Then Holes by Maggie Nelson
The First Flag by Sarah Fox
Library of Small Catastrophes by Alison C. Rollins
Girl’s Guide to Leaving by Laura Villareal
When I Was Straight by Julie Marie Wade (reread)
You’re Pretty Gay by Drew Pisarra
Heartstopper (Volumes 1-3) by Alice Oseman
Call Me Kat
The Owl House
The Dragon Prince
Grace and Frankie
The Great British Baking Show
For the King
Rollercoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition
Horizon: Forbidden West
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Lost in Random
Rune Factory 5
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
Live A Live
The Jackbox Party collections
Cult of the Lamb
Butterfly Soup 2
Kirby’s Dream Buffet
Deception IV: Nightmare Princess
Dance Fever by Florence + the Machine
The Gods We Can Touch by Aurora
Hounds of Love by Kate Bush
Wolfmother by Wolfmother
“Romance with a Memory” by Oliver Sim
“Too Precious” by Em Beihold