Monthly Archives: January 2016

Witch’s Brew is out today! & a Rhysling nomination

The much-anticipated Hope issue of Stone Telling is out today, featuring both my poem Witch’s Brew and my first review of a poetry collection, a review of Sonya Taaffe’s Ghost Signs. Working with Rose, Shweta, and Bogi helped create what is one of my favorite poems to date — their editorial suggestions helped make it a very special poem to me.

Witch’s Brew is about a lot of things dear to my heart; exile from the homeland, and being from the generations that have never seen the homeland. It is about magic — real magic, the magic that saves you. It is about choosing to embrace your heritage, and finding “your people” — things I once never imagined were possible for a third-generation American like me. To be featured alongside the breathtaking,  powerful, shattering poems of M Serano, Kim Eun-byeol,  Sonya Taaffe, and so many others is incredible. It’s an incredible issue. I am so proud to be a part of it. Take the time to savor  the beautiful poetry here, hold it close to your heart, keep it for a dark day when the world seems dim and in need of a little light.

I also recently found out that my poem An Unexpected Guest in Liminality 5 was nominated for the Rhysling long-form. This is a complete surprise to me, and a huge honor I can barely wrap my head around. To be considered among the many fantastic, excellent poems published last year, and to be on such a list is huge for me. Thank you.

I would like to make a small correction note about the original version of that particular poem as it was published:

the ghost who appears in the poem is an artillery lieutenant, not a sergeant. His name was Earlston L Hargett, and he was the first lieutenant of the 150th Field Artillery, called the “Rainbow Division”. According to local newspapers, he died Sept 30 1918 in a military hospital in France where he was also buried. It is my deep hope his mother, Emma Amelia, has heard or will soon hear the message he seeks to bring her. My apologies to them both I did not get it quite right at the time I submitted the poem.

I have more poetry coming in February, and other good news I hope to share soon! Thank you so much for such an exciting start to 2016!

Free Poem: Florida Water

In keeping with a promise I made in 2015, the first poem of 2016 is being released freely. I have exciting news about other projects coming soon.

Special thanks to EP Beaumont and my wife India Valentin for assistance. Thanks also to the unknown seller in the French Market who sold me a steel ring promising it would bring us both good luck — it certainly made me lucky that day, and I hope it did the same for you.

Content notes: violence against women, bodily mutilation.

Florida Water
to E.D.

The sky had split into a thousand kinds of dark
when I first saw her, all shining silver plate, her dark braids loose down her back.
Later, I said: like Joan of Arc astride before the French Market
but then I only saw the side on which she wore her three red marks:
an angry scratch made by a story of jealousy or the fear of death.
She raised the sword and struck the earth and music played
the avenging angel of the apocalypse, here to make right
what the revolution had gotten wrong.
I woke to cold sweats, all filled with light, my heart beating a new rhythm
that my thoughts could barely follow.

The second time she came to me, I heard her voice: her tongue not cut
but split in two, to speak the language that I wished to cross.
Men think they can silence a woman with pain but they do not know
the things they do to tell the truth of what’s been done.
No knight, this time; but dressed up in a suit of blue, tied with a knot to make a dandy proud
and finished with a hat she must have borrowed from the Baron
for an occasion with the dead.
“So you wanna be transformed?” she said. “Well: l’ll make you new
but you gotta promise me some things first, ‘cause
life ain’t fair, but you’d better be.”

You have to understand, I didn’t mean to be a groom–
I didn’t mean to take a revolution’s fire for my lover.
I’m not the type who takes the spirits to my bed
(well, I denied it, then: but still I wore the ring).
These days the Three of Swords shows up in most draws
and young men tell me all about the mother of us androgynes
(I know the father, too, but, I swear, this isn’t how we’re usually born.)
I keep my candles burning when I can, and leave some spice
among the blue and gold.
Sometimes when the peppered rum gets low
I hear her whisper that it’s time to come–
and so I go, where I am rocked upon the heartbeat of the world.

“Dionysus of the Downtown” & 2015 in review

Just before Christmas, when I was preparing to go on my belated honeymoon with my wife, my poem Dionysus of the Downtown was published in Liminality Magazine’s Issue Six.

Dionysus and Ganymede, in this poem, are reinterpreted as figures for modern queer folks — Dionysus as a trans man, Ganymede as a figure familiar to me in both real life and literature, someone whose first queer partner was not a Happily Ever After, but instead, a nightmare. I first met this Ganymede in the writing of my wife, India Valentin, and we explored some of these themes when writing in a shared universe invented by our friend BB. Since I fell so hopelessly in love with Dionysus Liberator, who comes bringing inner freedom and whose ancient myth cycles are full of unexpected gender upheavals, and with Ganymede the Barista, who promises you can survive anything (yes, even that), I wrote them this poem. I hope this is not the last time we will see them; I have vague thoughts on short stories, still in the roughest stages, not even an outline.

2015 also saw the sale of another poem at the very tail end of the year. I sold “Witch’s Brew” to Stone Telling for their forthcoming “Hope” issue, which should be appearing very soon. Witch’s Brew is a love song to spiritual traditions of resistance, and the magic of the oppressed to find justice and make right, especially in immigrant communities where justice is often more of a pipe dream than a reality.

I wrote a lot more than I thought I did in 2015; approximately 41 finished poems (possibly more drafts, depending on how we count them), scattered here and there. I sold or donated as charitable gifts 10 poems from Jan 1-Dec 31 in 2015, self-published 2 poems, and was solicited for one book review about poetry. I sent out submissions of 50 poems in various groupings to 14 markets.

I also wrote 9 short stories from start to finish, ranging from 2000-10,000 words (average length: 4-6k, after editing, with the exception of flash pieces, of which I wrote 2). I started 11 other short stories (as far as I can tell; this number does not include any stories of which I wrote outlines but less than 500 words.) 6 of the finished pieces went out to 19 magazines and anthologies as 26 submissions. Several of these submissions were shortlisted and half of them which received responses (11) received personal, specific, positive feedback (often the very flattering yet frustrating “I liked it BUT” rejection)  or invitations to submit future work; one is still being held for consideration, and 2 were withdrawn from unresponsive markets.

With India, working on various shared projects, we won NaNo all 3 times and continued to write at a pace of approximately 30k cumulative words a month. We started and trunked 6 novels in our Faeries Run the US Universe, before setting each one aside and picking up a different version of that story (cumulatively 158,323 words exploring characters and variations on the setting); half of our Secondary World Steampunk Regency Al-Andalus queer poly romance (115,550 words); began a medieval prequel in that setting (28,554 words); wrote half of our Ghost Romance (47,210 words in November before we took a break); and various other projects that brought us up to an exciting 358,000 words, more or less. (If you split it down the middle, that’s around 15,000 words each month we both produced on top of my other writing, and her graduate career, with more during NaNo months. Damn. Go us!)

2015 was a large year in other ways; I continue to struggle with debilitating pain and the constant necessity of being a disabled caregiver for someone who shares my disability. There is no off time between my body and the work of feeding myself and others. The year was hard; very hard physically and emotionally and financially, despite the ups of publications and the very high quality of my friends who supported me through that difficult time. I look around somewhat amazed that I survived — but that is due to the amazing support of many wonderful people, especially in the writing community. 2016 is shaping up to be more of the same — endless doctors appointments and difficult decisions to make ends meet and use my limited energy wisely — but I intend to keep writing and keep working.

My big goal for this year is simply to track things; doing this retrospective has taken days of labor because I am somewhat scattershot in my organization. I’d love to sell my first short story, and I’d love to finish a novel. Other than that; I can only keep writing, keep submitting, and keep working. That’s my big goal. To keep working, and to be kind and gracious with myself when so much of this is an uphill struggle for me. I preach the gospel of achievable goals and hard limits, and I’m trying to practice it, too.

Stay tuned, 2 poems at least should be coming out in 2016, and I hope to have new sales to announce soon!