Category Archives: review

Reviews & podcasts!

Several of my pieces have been reviewed over the past few weeks. I’ve collected the links here:

Charles Payseur reviewed My Heart Is Set On Wandering in Quick Sips as part of his review of Strange Horizons. Delighted to be featured with EP Beaumont in the review. Strange Horizons’ October poetry podcast also featured Ciro Faienza reading the same poem, alongside EP Beaumont’s chilling, “Their Song”,  a timely examination of how real history becomes retold as myths and fables, just a few weeks ahead of the contentious American election. (I am a distant poem-uncle of this piece, and am frequently blamed for making EP into a poetry writer, so it thrills me to see such an important poem so warmly received.)

Editor Shannon Connor Winward wrote a lovely, long series of posts (begins here) about the poems in Eye To The Telescope’s Ghost issue, including her thoughts on choosing my poem “The Doppelganger and the Ghost” among the series. It’s lovely when an editor immediately grasps a poem on multiple levels, and Shannon clearly understood the way a folklore monster story-poem came to stand in for the experiences of dysphoria and social death that haunt many trans people. (Мind the trigger warnings for dysphoria and transphobia in the poem & its write-up.)

Finally, in an exciting first for me, Gillian Daniels reviewed my first short story “Backgame” in Myriad Lands II for Fantastic Stories of the Imagination with great sensitivity and thoughtfulness, exploring the apocalyptic elements of the story & tying them to the bigger trend of asking “how do we live after/as it all falls down?” in post-apocalyptic stories. Available from Amazon as a paperback or kindle copy (affiliate link!), it’s also available in other formats and from other retailers for global readers. If you haven’t picked up “Myriad Lands II”, it’s full of wonderful stories set in fantastical landscapes that aren’t quite familiar.

I had intended to release a poem around my birthday and haven’t quite gotten around to it yet but look soon for what’s probably my last poem (re)release of 2016. I’m also building material for the launch of a patreon with my spouse, Aleksei I. Valentin, hopefully in December. A busy end-of-the-year, but rather behind the scenes!

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!

“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!

Poem Sale: ‘Death By Three Senses’

I’m excited to announce I’ve sold another poem to Strange Horizons. A.J. Odasso has announced they bought my horror poem “Death By Three Senses” for the spring season. I’m excited by the news Strange Horizons will also be publishing more poems by  Layla Al-Bedawi and Bryan Thao Worra in the spring, and I am excited to discover all the poets who are currently new to me who will also be in spring issues.

“Death By Three Senses” is another one of my ghost stories, naturally, but ghosts take a sharp turn into what I consider one of my first successful ventures into poetry of the horrific — an exploration of necromancy, sacrifice and the things we do for love, and not to be alone. It will appear in 2016.

As a belated note, my poem “I Am Alive” was also featured in the Strange Horizons podcast, read by Julia Rios. Rose Lemberg also reads their poem “Ranra’s Unbalancing” in this podcast; I was fortunate enough to be an early reader of Ranra’s Unbalancing and am thrilled to be appearing alongside it. It was also reviewed by Charles Payseur in a Quick Sips write-up of Strange Horizons.

“An Unexpected Guest” is out today! (& a poetry sale announcement)

Today is the publication day of my poem “An Unexpected Guest” in Liminality Magazine! I’m awfully excited to be appearing among such wonderful poems, but hope you take a little detour to read Amy Fant’s Tasseography of English Breakfast Tea at 30,000 Feet and Jennifer Linnea’s The Night Before an Interstellar Journey especially, two poems that gripped me when I first read them and I keep thinking about. But the whole issue is incredible, and you should savor it.

This poem is a sequel-of-sorts to an earlier poem published there, titled “The Haunting”. The Haunting is the story of a ghostly possession; this poem is from the point of view of the ghost, himself haunted by remnants of WWI, where he became disabled. The narrator of today’s poem, Geoffrey, is a longstanding character of mine who is the subject of a novel I am writing with my wife, one of the main characters of our alternate history America where faeries invade during the 1919 influenza epidemic (though, he is not troubled by embodiment issues there). He is, in this poem as elsewhere, disabled, queer, a trauma survivor, and a native of my adolescent home, Virginia. My own experiences with PTSD shape this poem a little bit — it’s one of several of my published works on the theme.

This poem also appears on the anniversary of my first publication. Liminality was the very special venue where I first appeared in print, in their very first issue. One of the things about this magazine that gives it its unique voice and vision is the willingness of the editors to take risks on new authors. It has become one of my go to venue to discover poets published for the first time — new poets and old favorites always color the pages. Many writers will tell you the first publication is the one that makes all the rest possible. For a magazine to take chances on so many new poets is exciting and important.

In the year since that first sale I have received eight acceptances and five publications. This number is astonishing to me. Hard work goes on; there are always poems on the market (many more than get published!) and I get more nos than yeses on the whole (I expect that will always be true). But to be 12 months in and have a publishing history I am extremely proud of is amazing to me — the community of fellow poets and readers I have discovered has made this, and so much more, possible.

I have also sold my poem “I Am Alive” to Strange Horizons. This is a really exciting moment for me and I can barely wrap my head around it. This poem, which comes out of my an experience I had several years ago during a car accident, is one of the most personal things I have ever written and I am very excited I will be able to share it with you. Like today’s poem, it grapples with surviving — and not surviving — the things which almost kill us (and indeed, surviving those which do kill us).

The other thing that excites me is the venue itself. Strange Horizons is one of those places I have always dreamed of selling to. It is one of my favorite poetry venues and now I am going to appear in their archives alongside some of my absolute favorite poems. Every time I think about it I get excited again.

Strange Horizons is running their fundraiser right now so check that out too and donate if you can or signal boost. Jane Yolen, who opens the Liminality issue with some Russian folklore, also just got published in Strange Horizon’s Fund Drive Bonus Issue, so if you want more, read her poem The Truth About Briars and go donate so Strange Horizons can continue to publish wonderful, cutting edge work the world needs. I’m especially looking forward to the poems coming at the $11,000 mark, myself.

“Angels of the Meanwhile” & an interview!

Exciting news. The charity anthology for the poet Elizabeth R McClellan, “Angels of the Meanwhile“, will be publishing my poem “The First Wife”, which is about Lilith and Eve and the spaces left when relationships fall apart. I am thrilled to be sharing a table of contents among some of my favorite poets writing right now, people whose work excites me and gives me energy to keep writing. To be appearing alongside Rose Lemberg, Bogi Takács, Catherynne M Valente, Lisa Bradley, Amal El-Motar, and many others, is an exciting moment for me. Until May 1, you can preorder the anthology for a donation of any amount. As someone who suffers from shoulder issues and who has had medical mismanagement run amuck with my arms, the driving cause of this anthology is very important to me.

I was also interviewed by EP Beaumont in a talk about sustainable writing and personal writing habits, though the conversation ranged all over and included writing music, research, and writing as a survival mechanism for mental health issues. I talk a bit about how I cope with chronic pain and disability as a writer, and what I do to keep from injuring myself with my physical limitations. (TW: mentions of suicide)

I missed highlighting it at the time here, but Bogi Takács reviewed my poem “The Haunting” for eir Diverse Poems recommendation. You can read eir comments, and some of the conversation that followed, here!

On a non-publication note, I am a participant in Camp NaNo this month, with the goal of writing 1,000 words on short fiction every day. I’m currently behind (of course I am) but at 6,000 words on day 9, I think I might be able to catch up! So far I’ve produced 1 rough draft for a short story and notes and outlines for several more pieces. As the month progresses, I’ll be updating with how much I write during NaNo and how many pieces came out of it.