cafenowhere: close-up photo of champagne cork (champagne)
2017-08-15 04:11 pm

Poem Notes for "Strandbeest Dreams"

JJ and I received our contributor copies of Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland. I knew Upper Rubber Boot produces good-looking books, but the cover for Sunvault by Likhain is even more gorgeous and vibrant than you'd expect from the press photos.

village built on water with numerous multiple-story buildings graced with vertical and rooftop gardens

"Strandbeest Dreams" is a five-page poem inspired by Theo Jansen's Strandbeests, elegant kinetic artworks that Jansen aims to make self-sufficient and one day release in herds on beaches.



Because humans are not very good at letting creatures exist for their own sake, I imagined any such herds would be pressed into service, perhaps as beach cleaners. From one of our family vacations to a beach of Lake Michigan, I knew there would be plenty of clean-up for 'beests to perform on shores carpeted with zebra mussel shells. 

mounds of zebra and quagga mussel shells washed up on Lake Michigan

JJ has long admired the Strandbeests. When he found out Theo Jansen would be giving a lecture at the University of Iowa, he insisted our family attend. Jansen spoke of the 'beest evolution in a couple of different ways. Strandbeest enthusiasts all over the world download plans and create their own versions of the 'beests, often improving or customizing the designs. This is one mode of evolution. (Our family has actually bought and constructed two mini-Strandbeests, but we followed the instructions as closely as possible.) Another form of evolution is Jansen's pragmatic recycling of damaged, failed, or retired 'beests for parts. Subsequent generations may use the same PVC pipe "bones" or plastic pop bottle "air bladders" as their "ancestors" did.

Our poem posits both methods at work in our imagined Lake Michigan cleaner 'beests. The steward of the 'beests is a Latina scientist with lupus. Initially, the scientist (called The Hands) does not understand the titular 'beest's idiosyncratic malfunctioning, but eventually she applies her own experience of chronic illness to formulate an explanation and possible solution.

text reads "Star-lit, lupus-bit, The Hands reviewed the last few screens of diagnostics" over swirly yellow background

I have a different form of lupus than The Hands, but I'd really been wanting to write about the lengthy road to diagnosis for a host of autoimmune disorders. I also wanted to acknowledge the agony of these often invisible illnesses while honoring the achievements of folks suffering from them. It's not that good comes of the illness, but that we find and create good in SPITE of the illness, often using skills we've developed to cope with our illness. The distinction is fine, but important.

Our poem incorporates Spanish, pseudo-code, and the kind of medical questionnaire I've grown to despise. We were very careful with the formatting of the code, because, even though it's made up, the steps must be precise. If one has any hope of debugging a program (or navigating the health care system, for that matter), one must follow protocol, no matter how arbitrary that protocol may seem. Formatting turned into a big deal for the poem as a whole. Fonts, emphasis, columns and rows...we tried to maximize every inch of the page to reflect transitions in physical space, mental states, between languages and the narratives structured by differently purposed systems. That meant some back-and-forth in the copyediting stage, but publisher Joanne Merriam was very accommodating and conscientious, even when, late in the game, J and I decided we couldn't possibly use the word micron. No, it had to be micronewton.

Obviously, this was an incredibly personal poem for us. And our first poetic collaboration! We hope you enjoy "Strandbeest Dreams" and all the solarpunk speculations that Sunvault has to offer. 

cafenowhere: close-up photo of champagne cork (champagne)
2017-06-16 12:17 pm

Sunvault Anthology Available for Pre-Order!

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Edited by Phoebe Wagner and Bronté Christopher Wieland, published by Upper Rubber Boot Books, Sunvault promises "a revolution against despair. Focusing on solutions to environmental disasters, solarpunk envisions a future of green, sustainable energy used by societies that value inclusiveness, cooperation, and personal freedom."

I'm proud that my poem "Strandbeest Dreams," cowritten with my husband, José Jimenez, is included in Sunvault, alongside work by Nisi Shawl, Daniel José Older, Bogi Takács, Jaymee Goh, and so many talented folks.


cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
2017-05-25 11:20 am

A Poem for TBT

This poem originally appeared in Weird Tales in 2009. It will always have a soft spot in my heart because Ann VanderMeer was editing WT then, and I'd been desperate to sell her something since her Silver Web years. (She read a *lot* of crap from me, and she was always very kind.) The poem is also reprinted in my first collection, The Haunted Girl.


Lament for a One-Legged Lady


A mortician's daughter,
she always assumed
the empty cello case
in the secondhand store window
was a voluptuous coffin
propped open to release
the velvet-kissed ghost
of a one-legged lady.
She'd inch into the display
and rifle through the loose pages
of that lady's last will and testament,
tilt her head to listen
to the stale whispers
of sheet music.
As she pondered this foreign script,
the meaning of bereft and
blackened circles
trapped within lines,
she wondered where the corpse went,
half hoped it had escaped,
like these winged spheres
breaking free
of five brittle bars.

 

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
2017-04-12 10:13 am
Entry tags:

Good morning, all!

It really does feel like a good morning. ~5 hours of sleep and I woke up feeling absolutely decadent, went back to sleep for another hour or so. The sun is shining and it's warm enough to open up and air out the house. Birds singing, a view of green and gold. 

I'm psyching myself up for a business call later today. I'm fond of the person who'll be on the other end and it's for a Good Thing, so fingers crossed that I won't get too tongue-tied.

I recently finished reading Sonya Vatomsky's poetry collection Salt Is For Curing. This sentence, from the Aperitif, "Bathymetry," astonished me:

I've got the kind of light
you name galaxies after.

I keep thinking about it. It pesters me. I can't imagine saying/writing that in any persona near my own. Audacious! Egotistical! Forbidden! But there are different galaxies, including donut galaxies, so perhaps I am selling my round self short. Truly, I think the world would be a better place if more women and marginalized folks of various genders could feel and speak this proudly. Maybe one day I'll get there.

Towards the end of the First Course, in "A Girl's Guide to Adventuring," Vatomsky writes:

I never regret because
I'm never wrong...
I didn't make the rules, and I don't mind them.
You have to start somewhere and I start with "no,"

Now, there's plenty of regret in Vatomsky's other poems, so the boast in this poem's first two lines is easier for me to accept. But to START with "no"? Is that allowed?! I can't help but read this as a rebuttal to Nietzsche's sacred Yes. A recognition that for women, the default is Yes because we have no right to refuse. But Vatomsky says, "fuck that right in the ear." If I don't join her "no" it's only because I'm too busy hissing Yisss, fist raised.

Okay, off to finish prepping for this phone call. 


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
2017-04-11 09:53 am
Entry tags:

The Morning Report

It's a gray day here in southeast Iowa.

Last night, perhaps too amped up by the excitement of returning to my daily routine, my body decided sleep was "so passé." But I think I came up with a title for my second poetry collection: Now Departing.

From my office window, I can see the boldly rising leaves of lilies, a lot like the bushy potential of daffodils in the front yard. They are persevering despite the lack of sunlight. So shall I! And we all will hope not to have our buds bitten off by rodents.

How's everyone today?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)
2017-02-16 01:20 pm

Rhysling Nomination

I recently learned that my poem “Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas Lost at Sea, 1527,” which originally appeared in Strange Horizons in October 2016, was nominated for a Rhysling Award. While I am proud of the poem and grateful to the reader who nominated it (and to Strange Horizons for publishing it), I have declined the nomination.

I do not think the Science Fiction Poetry Association should be conducting the nomination process while “the formal rules and processes are still under review,” as is stated on their website (http://www.sfpoetry.com/ra/rhyscand.html).

As of January, I am no longer a member of SFPA. Despite the admirable efforts of SFPA’s new officers to steer the organization in a more professional, more inclusive direction, SFPA remains dysfunctional and unduly influenced by regressive elements who wish to limit the scope of speculative poetry, and perhaps the range of “acceptable” speculative poets. Until this changes, I do not want my work associated with SFPA.

I wish SFPA’s new officers and members the very best as they work to improve the organization. I hope that one day I can rejoin their ranks.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)
2016-12-20 03:32 pm

Submission Stats 2016

I haven't compiled a stats list this elaborate...ever. I've never shared payment info before. I post this information not to brag or bemoan my fortune, but to record for myself how much I've worked on this aspect of writing. Yes, it's been a struggle, but yes, I did accomplish stuff.

Also, as writers, it's really easy to get skewed ideas of how successful (or not) our colleagues are, since most of the time we only see sales or publication announcements, not spreadsheets. So, for the sake of transparency and camaraderie, I'm willing to risk embarrassing myself by putting my numbers out there.

Short fiction submission stats for the year are easy to compile (though depressing to consider), thanks to my account with The Grinder. Short lead times meant that my stories were published in the same year I sold them.

46 47 submissions [edited 12/29/16, because apparently I'm terrible at keeping records]
2 sales
4 subs still pending
$245 earned

Poetry submission stats are harder to produce, since each submission will contain anywhere from 1-4 poems, and obviously I don't send all the same poems to each market.

9 submissions
4 poems sold (2 from single-poem subs)
3 submissions still pending
~$183

Of the 6 poems published this year, I believe 3 were accepted last year. One poem accepted this year is slated for publication next year (but I've already been paid for it!). One payment was for a poem published last year.

My 3 nonfiction "subs" were abstracts for a conference and an anthology. One was accepted, the other two rejected. No payment, just glory. ;)
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (writing)
2016-12-20 02:24 pm
Entry tags:

2016 Publications

Short Fiction

"The Flying Camel Goes to Tigerwood" (4800 words), a fun science fiction story about resistance on multiple levels, at Solarpunk Press, October 3. Available as text or audio.

"Bilingual, or Mouth to Mouth" (reprint; originally published in my collection, The Haunted Girl), a sly South Texas fantasy, at Podcastle, September 27. Available as text or audio.


Poetry

"Coffee Shop Painting" (30 lines) / spellcasting with coffee! (and tea) / at Devilfish Review Issue 16, February.

"Uncommon Law" (25 lines) / Next time you need legal representation in the faerie realm.../ in charity anthology Angels of the Meanwhile, April. (with sneaky callback to "The Flying Camel..."!)

"A Personal History of the Universal History of the Things of New Spain" (100 lines) / imagined memoir of one of the indigenous scribes of the Florentine Codex / in Spelling the Hours, July 23.

"Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas Lost at Sea, 1527" (~60 lines) / subjects of Oceana wreak vengeance on conquistadors / in Strange Horizons, October 3.

"Why My Father Won't Be at My Wedding" (48 lines) / putting the strange in estrangement / in Polu Texni, October 17.

"Heliotrope" (34 lines) / When the dead come back, they don't always go home / in Polu Texni, November 14.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (sad panda)
2016-12-05 02:37 pm
Entry tags:

WriPoMo's Ignominious Conclusion

Poem-a-day friends, I am so sorry to have fallen off the face of the blog for the last third of November. Writing during family vacation time is always difficult for me--one of the reasons NaNoWriMo seems impossible--but during travel time, I wrote three micro-poems. When I returned home, I came down with a vicious cold. I mentally composed a feel-sorry-for-me cinquain somewhere in that haze (srsly, the first line was "defeat" and the final was "despair"), but my more ambitious plans disintegrated.

By my (still) cold-clouded count, I wrote 25 poems. I attempted three poetic forms I'd never used before: triolet, nonet, the Bop. I returned to some familiar forms like senryu, sevenling, and cinquain. In general, I experimented with form more than I expected to. I was also writing much more emotional poetry than I'd planned--my way of coping with post-election trauma. Maybe seven of the 25 poems, with varying degrees of revision, can be folded into my regular speculative poetry submissions. I'm pleased with that result, since my inventory had dwindled and I was growing impatient with my slothful production.

Thanks to all who read, commented, and cheered me on. I hope those of you who were pursuing writing goals in November fared even better than I did. Feel free to share your news/stats in the comments!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (sending love)
2016-11-09 01:41 pm

WriPoMo Day 9

I'm breaking my routine and making this poem-a-day public because I think it might help people. Take and give comfort today, my friends.



A poem will save the world.
Maybe not this poem
maybe not today
but a poem will save the world.
Maybe it’s already been written
committed to heart and passed on
for generations
the poem that will save the world.
Or maybe the poet is still
staring at the words
wondering whether it’s enough.
Maybe the poem isn’t written yet.
Maybe the poet is stuck in traffic
or after-school detention
or a prison cell.
Maybe the poet isn’t born yet
or even conceived.
Maybe the poem that will save the world
will only be published in an email chain
that wraps around the world
in a relentless hug.
Maybe the poem
is set to music
or hidden in a painting
or captured in a photograph.
Maybe it’s a fanvid
or some form of future tech
I’ll never get to witness.
But it’s out there, I know.
Past present or future
perhaps some quantum state of all three
it exists and it will be free
and so will we
because a poem will save the world.


 --end--
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hammer head)
2016-11-02 12:22 pm

Nuts and Bolts of Today's WriPoMo Poem

Today I'm working on what I envision as a tripartite poem. Each piece is inspired by a different word. Those of you who follow me on Twitter might remember, during Sirens 16, my note to self consisting of "sidekick wingman scapegoat."

Each piece should work as a standalone poem. I toyed with the idea of using the triolet form for each but decided the repetition wouldn't advance the theme. So for the first poem, I'm now experimenting with The Bop:

6-line stanza presenting problem
refrain
8-line stanza exploring or expanding on the problem
refrain
6-line stanza presenting solution or failed attempt(s) to solve

I think the form could work for all three poems, but I won't lock myself into that decision just yet.
cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
2016-11-01 11:58 am

A Rare Double-post Day

...on the occasion of WriPoMo!

Of course, November is more officially known as National Novel Writing Month. But I don't need to jump-start a new novel right now, so instead I'm going to try to write a poem a day. When I made this decision, I thought I'd soon be the proud new owner of a CPAP and thus better rested, maybe less depressed. Alas, the supply store closes at 4:30, so more likely it'll be two weeks before I can get there. Nevertheless...

Today I am working on a two-part poem about a unique worker and the efficiency expert assigned to study the worker in hopes of extrapolating his technique to employee guidelines. I transcribed part one, focusing on the worker, from my journal to computer yesterday, and it felt more solid than I'd expected. The notes for part two, the efficiency expert's POV, are much sketchier, but since it's a response, it can take shape and direction from part one. I hope to finish a draft of it today. When I do, I'll post it as a friends-locked entry.

To paraphrase AC/DC: For those about to write, I salute you!


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (writing)
2016-10-04 11:07 am
Entry tags:

Everything, All at Once

When I posted about "Bilingual" at Podcastle, I had no idea the publications scheduled for October would all come out on the same day!

My story "The Flying Camel Goes to Tigerwood" is available to read or listen to at Solarpunk Press.

My poem "Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas, Lost at Sea, 1527" is up at Strange Horizons.

My bibliography spotlight is up at ReadDiverseBooks.com.

Publishing is weird.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (jack skellington)
2016-09-30 02:53 pm

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I like to spread Halloween out for as long as I can. Podcastle has encouraged my habit, by providing an early holiday treat: my autumnal tale "Bilingual, or Mouth to Mouth" is now available as a podcast! This story evolved from a poem I wrote, "Hello Kitty, Hello Blood." It has goats and telescopes and teens, psychic mouths, magic wishes, and fey infection. If you prefer reading to listening, the entire text is at Podcastle, or you can read it in my collection, The Haunted Girl.

October will be a busy month for me. I'll have a new story at Solar Punk Press, a new poem at Strange Horizons, an author spotlight at readdiversebooks.com, and my poetry workshop at Sirens.

Less exciting but necessary nevertheless, I'll be undergoing a sleep study for my insomnia. I know these studies are pretty common nowadays, so if you've had the experience, tell me what you wish you'd known going in!

Okay, time to get back to my pumpkin-spice coffee. Happy Fall, y'all!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hannibal's couch)
2016-02-08 04:58 pm

Poetry News

In case you missed the announcements on Twitter and FB, a new poem of mine is now online: "Coffee Shop Painting" appears in Issue 16 of Devilfish Review. This poem is about painting with coffee as a magical art form. I suspect it's partially influenced by viewing my mother's sketchwork when I was a child. She used charcoal instead of coffee, but it still seemed like conjuration to me.

And since the deadline for nominating works for the Rhysling Award is coming up (February 15!), I'd like to point out that I had three poems published last year. "Levity" and "Aboard the Transport Tesoro" are eligible in the short poem category, and "glass womb" is eligible in the long poem category.

Thanks for reading!
cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
2015-12-02 11:19 am

On Chronic Pain and the Alchemy of Poetry

Poetry Notes for "Aboard the Transport Tesoro"

In November, my poem "Aboard the Transport Tesoro" appeared in Issue 7 of Uncanny Magazine. Now it's available to read for free online or listen to in a podcast.

The idea for the poem came to me on one of the many nights I lay awake in bed, in pain. I'd tried ignoring it, then meditating through it. I'd taken various medicines. I had my heating pad. I'd tried stretching out, scrunching up, lying on my back, belly, side. Nothing helped. To think of something other than hurting, I racked my brain trying to figure out what I could've done that day to trigger the pain. Nothing stood out. Eventually, I started to wonder what I had done, ever, in my life, to bring on this pain. Had emotion metastasized into physical ailment? Had I committed some sin or transgression? Was I being punished?

Pain makes me weird and illogical. (Or maybe that's my Catholic upbringing?)

These addled thoughts intersected with a conversation I'd seen on Twitter, about the difficulty of venerating elders (or ancestor worship) when your family is problematic. How do you overcome (or maybe just put aside) a history of conflict, or even abuse, for a continued relationship with the deceased? Can you ever trust them, let alone honor or respect them?

I wondered which of my ancestors might be inducing my suffering, and what they were trying to convey through the punishment. Only my grandmother seemed vindictive enough, but what had I done to piss her off this time? She held a grudge like a tick with lockjaw, so I supposed it could've been something I'd done in the past. But surely she knew my heart had changed over the years. I actually felt closer and more sympathetic to her than ever before. Maybe she was only acting out? Maybe she was hurting too?

And if I was so adrift, I wondered, how much more complicated could ancestor worship get in the future? With life-extending medicines and procedures, we might know our great-greats much more intimately, for better or worse. I imagined what it'd be like to have a wonderful, nurturing relationship with a great-great, and what I'd be willing to do for her when she finally passed.

Though I was still in excruciating pain, the poem came together very quickly after that. I got out of bed and wrote it down. I don't know how long it was before the pain subsided enough that I could sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I moved a couple of lines and typed it up, and it was done.

I don't see anything romantic about pain or suffering. If it were up to me, I'd have slept pain-free and never written the poem. But I do feel a grudging awe for the alchemy of poetry, which can take something as stupid and pointless as my pain and transfigure a bit of it. From lead to gold seems too self-congratulatory. So...shit to Shinola, maybe.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (writing)
2015-11-06 11:44 am

Uncanny Poetry

This week I had two poems published!

The first, "Aboard the Transport Tesoro," appears in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 7, alongside work by fellow poets [livejournal.com profile] mariness and [livejournal.com profile] sovay. Also, I'm pretty tickled to share a ToC with Yoon Ha Lee, a Sirens guest of honor. By chance I was invited to join him and two other Sirens for a last, con-lagged lunch at the airport. (Hope I didn't get him sick.)

"Aboard the Transport Tesoro" grew from my sickbed thoughts about chronic illness and ancestor worship. I got up and wrote it in the middle of the night, cleaned it up, and sent it out. Quickest turnaround between composition and publication I've ever had!

The second poem, "glass womb," is online at Interfictions. This poem has perhaps my longest turnaround between first draft and publication. It took me a really long time to find the poem's final form. I can't say why exactly, why it never clicked, why I never abandoned it. I think I had to wait for tumblr to be born and show me pictures from the Mütter Museum and the specimen still lifes of Frederik Ruysch.

And that's my good news for the week!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (coffee wtf)
2015-08-15 10:06 am

Regarding my Elgin Award nomination

It's come to my attention that my collection of short fiction and poetry, The Haunted Girl, has been nominated for the Elgin Award, which is given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association for best book of poetry published in a preceding year. I was not informed by SFPA of the nomination. I only learned my book was on their website's list of nominees when voting members requested review copies of the book for consideration.

I am honored by the nomination and grateful to the person(s) who nominated my book. As I understand the rules, however, my book is not actually eligible for this award. The description of the Elgin Awards provided on the SFPA website states, "Books containing fiction as well as poetry are not eligible." Because The Haunted Girl comprises 21 poems and 5 short stories, it would not seem to be eligible. I have notified the Chair of this year's Elgin Awards that I am declining the nomination and I've asked them to remove my book from the list of nominees.

Again, I am very grateful that someone considered my book award-worthy. Thank you. I hope that one of my future collections will be nominated for (and maybe even win!) an Elgin Award.
cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
2015-07-01 05:09 pm
Entry tags:

Poetry Announcements!

While I was on vacation, I accumulated some good news.

First, the table of contents for Spelling the Hours, a poetry chapbook forthcoming from Stone Bird Press, has been announced. The chapbook (a bonus for backers of An Alphabet of Embers) focuses on previously forgotten figures in science and technology, and it includes my poem "A Personal History of the Universal History of the Things of New Spain," which is about the unknown Nahua artists of the Florentine Codex.

Second, my poem "glass womb" is slated for publication in the fall issue of Interfictions. I think I've been subbing this poem for over ten years, but it crystallized into its final form quite suddenly in January. I credit gruesome pics on tumblr.

Third, my poem "The Skin-Walker's Wife," originally published in Strange Horizons, will be reprinted in the Queers Destroy Horror! issue of Nightmare magazine, which should be out around October.

More details (possibly even poem notes!) when publication draws near.

Cheers, my friends!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (accomplished)
2015-03-26 03:10 pm

Accomplishments, I Has Them

Editor Mitchell Hart has posted the newest issue of Through the Gate, which includes my poem "Levity." A short, whimsical piece about what [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume aptly terms "inconvenient miracles," this poem was loosely inspired by old photos of spiritualists. Also included are works by [livejournal.com profile] popelizbet, [livejournal.com profile] sovay, Bogi Takács, M Sereno, Neile Graham, and Sarah Page, in an ever-changing lineup that prompts the reader to consider connections between the works. Or maybe the Table of Contents is just tricksy and having fun!

At Lightspeed, [livejournal.com profile] tithenai has reviewed three books from Aqueduct Press: [livejournal.com profile] sovay's latest collection, Ghost Signs, Jenn Brissett's novel Elysium, and my collection, The Haunted Girl. Amal is very complimentary, which is thrilling in itself, but she also clearly "gets" my book. I wanted to hug these words:

...at the collection’s core: resistance to norms, to imposition, be they of language, sexuality, or mortality. There is a sharpness, a sting to most of these poems, of the kind that makes you hiss and then seek it out again....I loved the collection’s bilingualism, both in the presence of Spanish and the musings on being between languages, on the thermodynamics of translation.

I am so grateful my work is out there, being read, being appreciated.

Now, back to work!