Tag Archives: poetry

Flash Performance at Sawdust

“Flock of Birds” by Faisal Akram
Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons
A flock of dark-winged, white-bodied gulls flying this way and that over a marsh.


 
So! Here we are.
Last night, and despite still being in the process of fighting off a sinus/upper-respiratory infection (I hope I managed not to breath on anybody), I went to Sawdust for their Spoken Word Summer event, featuring nina jane drystek, Nathanaël Larochette, and Barâa Arar.
 
I enjoyed the show. The open mic – in-which I participated – was packed, which was fantastic, the room was full of queerdos, and the feature performers showcased a variety of styles, including sound poetry which is not something I tend to hear.
 
Or participate in.
😀
 
The reason I went to this particular Sawdust event, especially given that I was sick and would likely have skipped it under different circumstances, was because I’d been contacted a scant ten days earlier by the above-mentioned nina jane drystek about taking part in a choral performance of sound poetry based on a Kimiko Murakami piece of concrete poetry.
 
Now, I’ve sung in choirs before. And group performances are at least a little familiar to me, if only as poetry slam team pieces. But I’ve never performed a group spoken piece, and definitely not one that involved pulling and twisting the syllables of an ostinato only three words long.
So I figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.
 
Three rehearsals and a flurry of messages later, I and nine other local lady poets (half or more of us queers of one stripe or another, which delights me even more) interrupted[1] the “final announcements” section at the end of the show, taking the stage one by one, to become a flock of birdgirls playing with the theme of “we are here” (Are we here? Here we are!), squashing, stretching, and clipping the syllables, layering the words over each other, passing them back and forth, crescendo and diminuendo turning them into waves, into birds shoaling, letting them echo and fade.
 
It was a fun time. To be part of a storm.
It was neat to see people’s expressions, in the audience, which from where I was standing looked pretty delighted with the whole thing.
I think I would do this again. 😀
 
 
TTFN,
A.
 
 
[1] It was, in fact, planned from the get-go, and the organizers were in on it.

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Queer Femme Poets – Rasiqra Revulva

So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a while now. A series of glosas riffing on the poetry of other queer femmes. Femmes get a lot done with a little, draw inspiration and strength from each other, collaborate with each other, and generally lift each other up. I think the poetic form of the glosa – a style where you take four sequential lines of someone else’s poem and write your own four-stanza, forty-line response poem incorporating one of the lines into the same point of each ten-line stanza (usually as the last line of each stanza, but not always) – works really well, in and of itself, as a metaphor for femme solidarity and mutual inspiration.
To that end: A small series talking about the poets and poems that are inspiring my manuscript.
 

Rasiqra Revulva’s “Cephelopography” (Words On Pages Press, 2016)
A disembodied hand holds a copy of the chapbook. The chapbook is abut the size of a CD case, with a shimmy champagne-silver cover. The cover image is words typed over each other, some upside down and backwards. The title and author’s name are in small, red type at the bottom of the cover.


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: I picked this book up at VERSeFest. I’d gone to see Kama La Mackerel, and it turned out that Rasiqra Revulva was stepping in at the last minute, because another performer – Di Brandt, Arc’s poet in residence – had needed to cancel. Rasiqra Revulva is a mixed-media artist whose poetry, in performance, includes reverb, looping and other effects. With “Cephelopography“, this means she’s able to make it sound like she’s performing her piece under water. The book itself includes interactive poetry (Ezra’s Final Dive), visual poetry, and poems that play with queerness, race, religion, and gender.
 
Which Poem I Chose to Gloss and Why: I love “Free the Niquabi” and “Mimic: Passing”, but I chose to gloss “Night of Power”. What I got from this poem was a willingness to take a big risk, even though risks don’t always pay off the way you want them to. I also got a lot of “Religious Seeker” from it, maybe because I left one faith for another when I was in my teens. Which is what I wrote about, when glossing this poem. (It worked out better for me than it did for the protagonist in “Night Of Power”).

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Bywords.ca – I’m In It! :-D

So, okay, yes, my submission to Room Magazine’s Queer Issue got rejected. (Alas! But also: Hey, fellow 98% of people who submit to Room, I just joined the club!)
BUT the poem to-which I alluded earlier is now up and published and I can therefore crow about it and post links all over the place, and so here we go. 😀
 

“Compass Rose” drawing by Seamus McGill


 
I am delighted to announce that my poem, Compass, has been published at Bywords.ca (and I admit I am weirdly chuffed that it’s up the week that VERSeFest kicks off, even though I know those things are not at all related).
Bywords.ca has published my work before, back in May 2011, and was both one of the first times my poetry got published AND one of that last times I sent my poetry out until this past December.
Oh, and kittens? It’s a paid market. \o/
So, y’know. Send them your stuff!
 
 
Cheers,
A.

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Queer Femme Poets – Avery M. Guess

So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a while now. A series of glosas riffing on the poetry of other queer femmes. Femmes get a lot done with a little, draw inspiration and strength from each other, collaborate with each other, and generally lift each other up. I think the poetic form of the glosa – a style where you take four sequential lines of someone else’s poem and write your own four-stanza, forty-line response poem incorporating one of the lines into the same point of each ten-line stanza (usually as the last line of each stanza, but not always) – works really well, in and of itself, as a metaphor for femme solidarity and mutual inspiration.
To that end: A small series talking about the poets and poems that are inspiring my manuscript.
 

Cover of Avery M. Guess’ chapbook
“The Patient Admits”
An out-of-focus image of a white person with shoulder-length hair who is wearing a black tank top and a veil(?) over their (her?) head.
Title and author’s name appear to the right of the image.


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: First off, I won this book in a draw. The author did a give-away and I was the lucky recipient. It felt pretty great to win a thing. 😉
Second, like a lot of poetry written by femmes – or maybe like a lot of poetry written by queers – this is poetry about trauma survival. About incest survival. So, y’know, there’s a content warning for the whole chapbook.
There’s a repeating form that moves through the collection, a series of poems with titles that go “In Therapy, The Patient Is Asked To Define: []” and the [] is a particular word. The poems consist of a definition coined by the author, the use of the word in a sentence, and then an acrostic on the word that relates to the definition and/or experience described in the sentence.
I really like them.
The way the definitions are so personal. They way they do or don’t dovetail with the sentence the words are used in. How the author has embedded a poetic form – one that typically gets taught to kids in primary school – into this new structure that, I think, gives it a much sharper form while also linking the whole poem through the inclusion of this specific form, and its content, to the reality of “this is something a child had to endure”. It’s like the poems, themselves, are having body flashbacks.
They’re fucking brilliant.
 
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: So maybe it’ll come as a surprise to you that I didn’t choose to gloss one of the “In Therapy” definition poems. Instead I chose to gloss “The Patient Attempts to Explain Cutting”, which is a series of couplets each one building on the last. I chose it because of how well the imagery conveys the building pressure under the skin.
I took two of the couplets and built (or tried to build) a poem about how I have used self-harm to center myself or to cope with feelings and experiences around un/worthiness.
I have to admit, the poem I wrote feels like it might be two different poems that have been haphazardly sutured together. A finished draft that might need to be split and started again. We’ll see.
 
 
Cheers,
A.

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Poetry Is Dead: Coven Issue – I’m… not in it.

Alas.
I got my rejection letter this morning.
On the plus side, the editors let me know that the rejection wasn’t about the quality of my own work, which was nice to hear BUT I’m still a little sad about it.
 
It’s funny how getting an early rejection for Prairie Fire’s Love Issue was, like, “Meh. No big deal” but this is like “Oh… My heart is here tho…”
 
THAT SAID! I can now send those poems out elsewhere! 😀
I’ll find a home for my something-like-a-sonnet bottle spell poem yet. 😉
 
AND, as I tweeted the other day, I did get another poem accepted for publication. I’ll post about that, with a link, when it launches. 😉
It’s nice to be sending my work out again.
It’s nice to HAVE a volume of work to draw on for those submissions.
 
 
Onwards and upwards.
– A.

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Conjuration – I’m In It!

So. This charming (see what I did thar) little book of magical micropoems dropped last night at the Coven Editions launch party.
 

A pocket-sized book of magical micropoems with a shiny ivory cover and the word CON JURA TION in black ink. Also in the frame: A pen shaped like a broom, A 1"x6" print of my poem, "Pathworking" on the same cover stock with an intention paper backing, and a selection of polished stones: rhodochrosite, snowflake obsidian, blue lace agate, bloodstone, and rose quartz.

A pocket-sized book of magical micropoems with a shiny ivory cover and the word
CON
JURA
TION
in black ink.
Also in the frame:
A pen shaped like a broom, A 1″x6″ print of my poem, “Pathworking” on the same cover stock with an intention paper backing, and a selection of polished stones: rhodochrosite, snowflake obsidian, blue lace agate, bloodstone, and rose quartz.


 
It’s tiny! It’s shiny! And it’s packed with pint-sized poems conjuring love, loss, memory and magic (of course magic). And one of those poems is mine! 😀
As you can see, I’m more than a little excited about this. “Pathworking” is one of the poems I sent out on submission during December and January – my first crop of submissions since, like, 2011, iirc – and it’s pretty great to see it accepted somewhere, especially by a publisher that’s so in line with my… life in general, tbh. Witchy Lady Editors? Sign me up!
 
In the above picture, you can see a book-mark-sized strip of paper. It’s a single-print of my poem attached to a length of “intention paper”. Intention paper, for those who don’t spell-craft on the regular, is basically a sheet of paper that you write something on that you want to make happen, or make show up, in your life, and then you do something symbolic with the paper to put that spell into motion[1]. Magic, like poetry, is a language of metaphor. The hearts-ease[2] and geranium I brew is both a literal recipe and a story about how to heal a broken, anxious heart. Write your will on the scrap of paper, plant it, and let your intentions germinate and grow with the seeds.
 
Anyway.
All this being said, I went to the launch party last night. Had a glorious, soul-feeding time listening to lovely poets Conyer Clayton, Manahil Bandukwala, and Ian Martin strut their stuff on stage (I missed the open mic – dammit – but I hear it was amazing), and geeking out about poetry and also witchy-woo magic, and I feel so freaking good!
I need to remember that Poetry Is Self-Care for me and that getting out with my peers is important and good for my heart. ❤
To that end, more scribbling of magical moon poems for me. 🙂 I've got a chapbook manuscript to finish.
 
 
Cheers,
A.
 
 
[1] Here's the non-secret secret of how magic works: It games the odds in your favour. You still have to do the work, and if you pick a bad target (like winning the lottery, to pick a common example) you're not going to see the results you want (because when the odds are astronomically against you, pushing them in your favour is not going to do much beyond make them marginally less astronomically against you). BUT it can help. Good targets for magic are: small enough that a single well-placed point of connection can actually make a big difference, broad enough that The Universe, your favourite deities, and the ancestors who look out for you actually have some wiggle room to work with, and are something over-which you have some amount of control, but not a lot. (E.G.: Do the work of crafting and submitting excellent applications to your top six MFA programs. Do the magic to push the admissions committees to really see your skill and potential, and to remember your applications favourably when it's decision time). Now you know. Go to it, kittens.
 
[2] Which, in my case, is another name for Motherwort, but which is also another name for Violet. Not surprisingly, the intention paper my poem has been connected with is, you guessed it, full of violet seeds.

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COVEN EDITIONS – Shiny New Small Press in Ottawa!

Coven Editions Launch Party February 27th 2018 Bar Robo - 7pm

Coven Editions Launch Party
February 27th 2018
Bar Robo – 7pm


 
Coven Editions is a brand new small press in Ottawa, specializing in broadsides and handmade chapbooks. They’re a woman-run press, though they don’t only publish work by women.
They’re having their launch party this February 27th at Bar Robo. There will be poetry performances (of course) and broadsides for sale, as well as a very short run of Magical Micropoems collected for the occasion.
 
As someone who write a LOT of magic-related poetry, I think it’ll be a good time.
 
See you there,
A.

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Queer Femme Poets – Adele Barclay

So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a while now. A series of glosas riffing on the poetry of other queer femmes. Femmes get a lot done with a little, draw inspiration and strength from each other, collaborate with each other, and generally lift each other up. I think the poetic form of the glosa – a style where you take four sequential lines of someone else’s poem and write your own four-stanza, forty-line response poem incorporating one of the lines into the same point of each ten-line stanza (usually as the last line of each stanza, but not always) – works really well, in and of itself, as a metaphor for femme solidarity and mutual inspiration.
To that end: A small series talking about the poets and poems that are inspiring my manuscript.
 

Cover of Adele Barclay’s “If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You” (Nightwood Editions, 2016).


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You was recommended to me by a friend when I put a note up on Facebook asking for the names of queer femme poets I should be reading. I rattled off a list of the femmes whose work I either already had, or had on order either from a bookstore or through the library. When I looked up the author on twitter, I discovered that she’s the same kind of witchy queer poet that I am (turns out we are mirror witches – I’m a Scorpio with a Cancer moon, and she’s a Cancer with a Scorpio moon – which makes me inordinately happy, for weird, woo reasons that I’m more likely to delve into over at Urban Meliad than here. 😉 ). Being my kind of witch, it’s no surprise that she brings astrology, tarot, and kitchen magic into her work (as well as a delicious mix of explicitly formal and more free-verse styles of writing – which have inspired me to write aubades and other interestingly shaped or themed poems since reading it). It’s also no surprise that I love this book for the way she (re) enchants the urban landscape or, maybe more accurately, makes visible the magic that has always been there. I love the way water – the suit of feeling and healing – comes back again and again and again all through this book.
 
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: I chose to gloss the poem “Yukon River Breakup”, though there are a LOT of poems to draw on in this book (“Sea Hag”, “Cardinal vs Mutable”, “Last Night”, “Brackish”, the whole “Sara” collection, though “Sara VI” in particular…). I chose it because of the way she asks how a river breaks (“like a day // or like an egg” – hope & possibilities vs irreparable, disastrous damage), and because I also know that a photograph is a spell, and that humans love to make meaning out of everything. I also chose it because it’s position – the first new moon of a new year – is a good one for the kind of poem I wanted to write, about surfacing with wisdom gleaned from your own depths, and stepping towards a new way of being.
 
 
Cheers,
A.

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Queer Femme Poets – Amber Dawn

So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a while now. A series of glosas riffing on the poetry of other queer femmes. Femmes get a lot done with a little, draw inspiration and strength from each other, collaborate with each other, and generally lift each other up. So I think the poetic form of the glosa – a style where you take four sequential lines of someone else’s poem and write your own four-stanza, forty-line response poem incorporating one of the lines into the same point of each ten-line stanza (usually as the last line of each stanza, but not always) – works really well, in and of itself, as a metaphor for femme solidarity and mutual inspiration. It’s also, of course, the form used in Amber Dawn’s Where the words end and my body begins, and her influence on my own writing has been pretty significant.
 
So, to the surprise of nobody, I’m starting this little blog series with that very same book.
 

Cover of Amber Dawn’s “Where the Words End and My Body Begins” (Arsenal Pulp, 2015).


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: This book was the beginning of it all, even before I decided that I could write glosas as a project, as a chapbook let alone a full-length manuscript, because reading it gave me the push to try using formal poetry as a way to unlock my writer’s brain and trick myself into creating Actual Poetry (as opposed to “paragraphs with funny line breaks”, which free verse – or at least MY free verse – can stumble into). Because, in Amber Dawn’s use of the form, she’s not afraid to mess with it, to move things around a little. It felt like permission to do the same – to divvy those quatrains up into the second or sixth or eighth line of each stanza, rather than the first or last, or to stick to the form hard, and then cheat it just a little in the last stanza.
But I also chose to work with poetry from this book, rather than from, say, How Poetry Saved My Life, because I want to incorporate something like a cascade effect into my poems: the four lines I chose from “The Revered Femme Bottom” include a line from the original Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha poem onto-which Amber Dawn built her own piece, and the title of her book echos a poem (“Summer : or, I want the rage of poets to bleed guns, speechless with words”) by femme poet Anurima Banerji. I love this book because it’s a story, told in stand-alone poems, about lineage. Lineage in Kathryn Payne’s “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep With Women”[3] sense of the word; in the “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?”[2] sense of the word. One more map showing where we came from, helping us chart where we go.
 
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: So far, I’ve written glosas riffing on both “Dirt Bag Love Affair” and “The Revered Femme Bottom”, though the one I wrote for Dirt Bag doesn’t really count – I don’t think – because it’s not actually a response to the poem, just a poem of mine written around the bones of four lines from hers. I love that poem because it is, itself, a gloss of another femme’s poem (Chandra Mayor’s “Winter Night”, from August Witch, iirc), and for it’s putting on and taking off of city & university layered over rural & poor, neither of those identities false or complete on their own. I love the other – and my gloss of “Femme Bottom” is a response, as a sometimes-stone femme top dreaming her way[3] back into her body and her desires – because it speaks to learning to recognize and name desire, and for the truth of “no-one could have told you the dearest souls roll rough trade”. My dearest souls so often do. I don’t know which, if either, of the poems I wrote on these pieces will end up in the final manuscript. Solid chance I’ll write at least one more on Amber Dawn’s work. But here we are.
 
 
Cheers,
A.
 
 
[1] You can find this essay, and Anurima Banerji’s above-mentioned poem, in Brazen Femme (Arsenal Pulp, 2002).
 
[2] Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Bodymap (Mawenzi House, 2015).
 
[3] As Amber L Hollibaugh and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha would both say, and have.

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Self-Censoring

I haven’t written much, lately.
The last poetry I wrote was for submissions to an anthology/zine/something out in BC (I have no idea if my work has been accepted or not, or whether the anthology is still happening, as the organizer/editor is dealing with Life Stuff and has other things on their plate right now. Time will tell).
I keep going “but I’m tired”, and knowing that’s not really what’s up.
I mean, yes, I have two (both part-time) jobs + occasional other paid work, my social media feed is a landscape of fear, panic, and calls-to-action that is somewhat less-frequently interrupted with Emergency Kittens and kink discussion than it was two weeks ago, and I’m not sleeping too well these days, but when “I’m tired” – and, more-so, “I’m just tired” starts showing up in my interior monologue, I know it means something more than that.
 
Starhawk, in Truth or Dare talks about the gate of the censor (the book is constructed loosely around the Descent of Innana). She says:
 

Notice when you are bored, when the dull fog of the Censor creeps in. Ask: What is not being said here? What am I not seeing/saying/doing? What do I want to do? What do I fear?

 
This is what “I’m just tired” generally means for me. It means I’m self-censoring. I’m “tired” of… what? From what?
So I ask myself: What is not being said here?
My answer comes back:
 
I don’t want to write a break-up album. I don’t want my queer-poly poetry collection to be all sad and wistful stuff about loss. I don’t want my chap-book of femme-poetry glosas to just be me spending more femme energy on a masc who broke my heart.
 
I miss writing. I miss making the time to write, and I miss generating creative work, but I also miss the ritual of sitting down in a coffee shop, dropping $5 for coffee and a lemon square, and creating for a couple of hours without distraction (meaning: without access to the internet, which I can technically do at home by sitting in the front room rather than on the couch; but also meaning: without the guilt/shame around taking time to Art when my living room and kitchen are untidy). I feel guilty for wanting to take that time, and for wanting to spend that money, when I could be working in the shop to help my wife’s business grow (aka: to help us pay our bills) or donating to Standing Rock or emailing my prime minister about repealing Bill C-51 (among other things). But mostly? Mostly, I’m just embarrassed to be still processing a heart-break that happened almost a year ago (meaning: more time has passed since breaking up than passed during the entire, short-lived relationship), and I want to find something else to speak-from-the-heart about that will contribute to the works I have in progress.
 
Ugh. Ages ago, I read a horoscope for myself that said my break-throughs were going to come from the artistic-output equivalent of singing “Bed of Roses” in a really heart-felt way, while drunk at a karaoke party. So maybe I need to write the damn break-up album and be done with it?
 
I don’t know. I’m working at a cegep tomorrow. If I arrive early enough, maybe I can sit myself in their school cafeteria and scribble something while I wait.

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