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Gatekeeping in Anglo-Saxon Literature, Musical Traditions, and Lots and LOTS of Poems

Here’s a really captivating article about J.R.R. Tolkein’s scholarship on the Old English epic poem Beowulf and how the white gaze predominates medieval literature.

Book Recommendation: The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison. Includes her essay “Grendel and His Mother.”

Margaret Atwood on The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

And now…lots of poems…

The Gardner by Nancy Botta at Rusted Honey

Close Reading by Brandon Som

You Say You Said by Marianne Moore

“An Apocryphal History of the Discovery of Migration, or The Sacrifice of the Pfeilstörchen” by Alba Cid, translated by Jacob Rogers

Ideology by Aria Aber

Cloth Birds by Dorothy Tse

The Convert Wants Wounds, Not Scars by Melody S. Gee

River to River by Hai-Dang Phan

A gorgeous haiku from Lize Bard of Haiku out of Africa

Getting a little Biblical now: a poem to Noah’s wife by Maya C. Popa

And my poem for Noah’s wife…

After the Flood

While Noah’s sighs polluted the ruddy beach

littered with the bones of heretics,

their livestock and their predators;

while he thanked God for the early warning,

the strong timber, and exclusion

from the slaughtered multitude

his women walked around him like he was just another corpse,

bobbing and rooting around piles of driftwood and soggy cloth,

picking out the useful things.

I wrote this way back in 2009 after visiting an art exhibition depicting a life sized Noah, drawn in charcoal, assessing the damage of God’s Wrath while looking picturesquely helpless and out of sorts while women scavenged through the rubble behind him. I can’t remember who the artist was.

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Photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash

Preptober 2019

I bought the t-shirt.

This will be a thing…NaNoWriMo 2019…it still feels like it’s January and I just moved back in with my mom while Mr. J went out on job things.

Since then I’ve completely cleaned the house, taking on some major home repairs in the process, and gone back to college to earn my 3rd higher ed. degree. Whew!

It’s a lot.

And I’m determined to add to that a lot-ness since both April and July Camp NaNoWriMos sucked balls for me.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

Wear said NaNoWriMo t-shirt. Wear the NaNoWriMo scarf that I got back in 2016 when I won NaNo for the first time ever. I did not win 2017 but I won 2018 (before I moved).

Watch all of Austinland’s Preptober videos.

Write 1 week’s worth of word count. I know this may seem like “cheating” but in the last week of November I will be visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving and I will definitely have zero time to write. So I’m going to use the 7 days of October to start National Novel Writing Month early so I can balance out that planned not-writing time.

Also in Preptober, to get myself back into the writing groove, I’m going to be relaunching one of my poetry collections. What was Lupercalia, a 50ish poem manuscript will now become two mini chapbooks/digital pamphlets and what is not included in those will go into my new poetry project, currently titled Poison in the Spring, which will hopefully go out into the world in 2023.

I’ve been slowly coming to the realization that I haven’t been honest with myself or true to myself about what I want to write and how I want to write it. I had this idea for Lupercalia but I scrapped it because I thought nobody would like it. That idea keeps/kept popping up in my head and now I’m going to act on it because that is what I should have done in the first place.

So I’m going to do my best to develop a writing habit that is uncensored and honest. I don’t want to write something just because it sounds cool or just because I think I need to write a poem about subjects x, y, or z to BE a “real” poet.

I’m also letting go of a lot of poems that just don’t resonate with me anymore. Poems that I loved back in 2009 and 2010 don’t hold the same attraction they did before…to be blunt: I don’t love them anymore. So they’re going away. I used to feel like every little thing I wrote was PRECIOUS. Not anymore.

And I want to get more experimental. Go back to hybrid texts, lyric essays. Really explore the physiology of words.

With fiction it’s a little different. I want to keep things I write and don’t like because maybe they’ll fit in somewhere else with another project somewhere later down the line.

I might also try editing the two novellas I tried to write over the summer. Get back into those characters and see if they want to talk to me again.

Autumn is coming in slowly but surely; the grass is dying, the leaves are falling. It’s still hot as f**k out but there are more clouds in the sky. It’s getting darker earlier at night and staying darker later in the morning.

“The seasons burn and so returns…”

Preptober.

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Lyric by SJ Tucker.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

September 2019 Stats

Word Count:

10,269

Best Day:

2,900 words 9/25/19

Days I didn’t write:

17 😦

New Poems:

1

Submissions:

2 Rejections

Project Notes:

The good news: I wrote a new poem for the first time in what feels like months!

The not really bad news but I choose to feel bad about it anyway: another month of bad writing. I mean literally bad writing. I have zero inspiration, zero motivation, and zero cares. That’s not good. So I’m adjusting my thinking and my priorities.

Read about some of that here.

I’m also going to be participating in Preptober and Nanowrimo this year. (Even though next week I have 3 exams in one day 0_0)

I’m trying really hard to think about what kind of writer I want to be now that I’m a student.

I’m also thinking about re-launching one of my poetry collections. I might make a separate blog post about that or just take everything down and then put it up again.

I can’t believe it’s already the 3rd of October.

#beawesome #gowrite

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Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya on Unsplash

Thoughts on Deadlines and Why I Can’t Meet Them

A personal accounting of one of the more complicated aspects of a self-publishing author’s life: deadlines.

Alright, here’s the deal.

I can’t meet my own deadlines.

“Oh, but because it’s your schedule you get to make the rules and you’re in charge!” (If my cats cared this is what they might say.)

No. I’m not in charge. Because the minute the second I think I can meet a deadline something happens and I can’t.

This time, for example, I wanted to self-publish a short story collection on Halloween this year. It was going to be full of creepy, speculative fiction and I was going to have an absolute fucking blast writing it.

I made the decision to do this back in August when neither Regina nor any of my faeries were being particularly talkative and I thought I needed a “fresh” project so that I would keep writing every day and still feel productive.

Can you guess what happened?

I didn’t write a damn thing. I only have 2 short stories. That is not acceptable. Because now I’m faced with two paths: 1) scramble like hell and write 4 new things now and maybe they won’t be good and maybe they won’t make sense but by G-O-D they’ll be there, some of my other responsibilities may fall to the wayside but I am determined. Or 2) scrap the deadline and let the stories happen when they happen.

I’ve tried to form thoughts about being a self-publishing person and keeping a schedule and so far, but it’s time to take a close look once again.

Back in December 2018 I published a novella called Dead Girl Moon. It was meant to be a front runner to Havoc’s Moon, which was supposed to be published in March or April of 2019. That didn’t happen. I rearranged my schedule and changed my deadlines. I wrote for April Camp Nanowrimo and July Camp Nanowrimo and the book still didn’t happen. Another other novellas happened but then it rebelled and split in two (magical literary mitosis y’all) and I ran out of brain power to edit them down and add plot filler to make them whole and not nonsensical (well…nonsense will still happen but you know what I mean).

And then I started school and my writing hit the brick wall of academia (not for the first time) and since no progress was being made I scrapped my schedule yet again. But I thought: surely I can write a short story a week still. Surely my brain can manage that much. If I have all of September and the first half of October to write one measly little short story a week I can still meet my deadline. 6 weeks=6 stories and I’ve surpassed my quota. I win!

Can you guess what happened?

I haven’t written a complete short story yet. I have 2 drafts of stories I worked on back in March and April that I didn’t finish then and haven’t finished now.

The goals are not being met.

More importantly, the writing isn’t happening.

And now I have to figure out why.

So, here’s what I’ve come up with.

1) I have to write something every day. 10 words. 100 words. A 3 word poem. 1000 words. Whatever. I have to write every day or else I go crazy.

This is different from putting your ass in the chair and turning out pages for your holy WORK IN PROGRESS every day.

This is about expression and practicing. Like meditation, do a little every day and you’ll feel better. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes, 3 minutes.

Because I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write I wasn’t writing at all. That is bad. That is harmful. That leads to insecurities like imposter syndrome and self-loathing.

So I need to write every day but I cannot compartmentalize myself and say, “Today I am going to write a poem.” Or, “Today I am going to catch up with Regina.”

When I get the urge to write or a little idea fragment pops into my head I need to stop what I’m doing and write it down even when I’m in class or talking to a friend or whatever. I need to pay attention to my inner writing voice and let the ideas flow.

If I go the rest of the year without writing Havoc’s Moon, I’ll be okay as long as I’m still writing.

2) Life shit gets in the way of writing. Family drama, Biology tests, Chemistry labs, whatever. All the things that are *gasp* more important than writing right now.

(Digression: It’s not that I want to make writing my “full-time” job or be a “professional” writer. I want writing to be THE MOST IMPORTANT in my life. I’ve had to come (by trial and error) to the realization that writing is not and never will be the most important thing in my life. It’s in the top 5 (…okay it’s #6 on the list…the cats are #5) but it’s not THE MOST important. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be dedicated or passionate about writing. There was a time when writing was the only thing that made me happy and I ate, breathed, and shat poetry. But then I changed my life, made my situation better and found things other than poetry that I could love. That’s when I thought proper time management would let me do the things I wanted to do. And when I couldn’t keep to a schedule I felt like I wasn’t dedicated enough. Especially when I was such a “strong” writer before. But those are incorrect thoughts because there’s no ONE right way to write. And people are allowed to change and evolve.)

So I need to not add writing to the list of things going “wrong.”

Writing has always been the healing factor, the savior. Not the stressor.

That means I need to get rid of deadlines completely. And schedules. And plans.

When I have a project finished, I will publish it. Beyond that I can’t plan anymore. I can’t predict when I will have time today to write let alone plan out Nanowrimo next month (which I still want to try even though I have Thanksgiving with my in-laws this year and studying for final exams).

So no schedule. No deadlines. No nothing beyond write something every day. Maybe after school or during the summer I can try to build a frame for my viscera but not right now. Right now I just need to ooze around on the table and try not to get dehydrated.

3) Grow as I writer.

But not get caught up in the world of the “side hustle” or the “authorpreneur.” That’s what got me in trouble in the first place. I would watch YouTube/AuthorTube videos of people who have fans and followers and newsletters and for some silly reason I thought, “Well, they’re successful. I need to be like them.”

No. I don’t need to be like them. Even though they’re really cool and shiny.

Writing is not my day job.

My day job was sticking people with needles. My future job will be sticking people with needles and then looking at what I pull out under a microscope. Right now my job is raking pine needles.

I will still eat if I don’t publish a book. They might not. They have to do the marketing and the newsletter writing and the promotions and all that stuff that makes my brain hurt.

I want to learn the marketing stuff because I find it interesting. I don’t want to spend hours on social media begging for people to read my books.

But when I say grow as a writer, I want to do things that make my writing better. Like with anything in academia, there’s this stigma/stereotype that once you “get” an MFA you’ve made it (and I’m going to talk a lot about all that later) or that you’ve learned all the things you possibly could about writing and you are now the best ever.

That’s not true. Some of my classmates’ writing sucked. Sometimes my writing sucks. I do my best not to show you the stuff that sucks but reading is SUBJECTIVE and you, the reader, can like or hate whatever you want. Some of my classmates who I think their writing sucks went on to get book deals. The chick who wrote 50 Shades of Grey is super rich now. Whatever.

Some of it is skill and artistry, some of it is personal preference, but the things that define what make writing “good” are not universal or quantifiable. I mean, spelling and grammar are kind of a necessity but beyond that it’s all up to the reader.

I’m going to stop getting off topic now.

What I want to make clear is: I’ve let myself get distracted by all the shiny things in the self-publishing world that are related to writing but are not writing. In my distracted state, coupled with all my other not-writing responsibilities, I’ve let my writing slip, and not just the word count. I’ve been writing shitty, unusable stuff. And that’s good because all that stuff needs to come out but I also want to get serious about writing again.

Just writing.

So I’m saying “fuck off” to everything else (except you, dear reader, you’re awesome) and only focusing on writing words. Showing up to the page and getting 10, 50, 500 words a day until I feel like I’m back on solid ground.

To anyone waiting for more of The Slaughter Chronicles: I love you and I’m sorry you have to wait longer.

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Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

While Writing The Echo of Something Hitting

I was waking up at 4:30 a.m., cursing my alarm clock. Awake before dawn, cold, sick/hungover, I’d trudge to the bus stop with frost crunching beneath my boots to get to work. It was an hour long bus ride if the traffic was good. I used that time on the bus to read and write poetry. I earned my MFA, start to finish, on that bus. Crossing the lines, riding over the river, circling the familiar pathways.

But before the bus was the dead kitten. My anchor.

See, while I was thinking about my graduating thesis, my “masterwork” of poems I was walking to the bus stop. A rooster crowed. There was fog, there was sleet, there was ice and the wet cold soaked into my marrow. My bag was too heavy with books and not heavy enough with food. I didn’t have enough alcohol/I had too much.

There was this image in my head of this ghost-woman under the foggy streetlight but that wasn’t reality. She was orange and I thought she was my speaker, the thread that would connect everything in my collection, but she wasn’t. I don’t know where she’s gone now. Maybe she wasn’t real to begin with.

I know she wasn’t real because the poems didn’t feel real. They weren’t working. I was stuck.

And then I was walking to the bus stop and there, in the grey concrete gutter at the edge of the dark, early morning road, was the dead kitten. Nothing ate it and its body was frozen. I walked by that little broken body for a MONTH and watched it get flatter and flatter, the fur and skin seemed to be dissolving into the road, the bones were sinking, slowly, into the concrete.

It was like the road was eating the body since none of the carrion feeders would touch it. It was too cold for the insects. Most insects.

And that made me think about borders and barriers and bodies dying on the road. Animal bodies, human bodies. There are borders between countries, borders between places within countries, borders between roads and rivers, roads and houses, roads and bodies.

I began to explore those places.

And then in the spring a flash flood killed my car. My most loyal, bestest friend in the world. We’d been on so many adventures together and I cried when I had to turn him (yes, him) in to the dealership. More debt, more stress. More mistakes made with the man who is now my ex-husband. I wrote the Echo of Something Hitting because I needed to tell myself specific things about the way I was living that I could not see. Rather, my sub-conscious/my reptilian brain needed to tell me. Go look back at your old poems and see if there’s something you might have realized sooner than you thought.

I began to explore those places too. The flood and transformation. Transformation from catastrophe. (As far as catastrophes go it was a small one but the water sloshing over my boots and then the firemen pushing my car out of the road, all of them wearing grey shirts and water up to their thighs, frolicking in the water like otters. Sadly, I couldn’t figure out how to put them into the book. If any of you are reading this now, all these years later, thank you.)

There’s lots of bird imagery, lots of water imagery, lots of grey. The kitten was grey.

(I tell people my favorite color is green but I think, secretly, it is grey. Grey and the weird pink/periwinkle/grey of some ballet slippers. Is it okay to have more than one favorite color? I don’t mean to imply in any way that green is inferior. I really like green.)

I’m running out of things to say about the book. It began as a collection of poems but as I wrote about the kitten and the road and the river the borders of the poems dissolved and it became what I like to think of as a “lyric essay.”

I got my degree in Cross-Genre and Hybrid Poetry. Hybrid is where prose and lines blend and mutate like sick proteins but they’re not sick. Things unfold and knot up. Things flow freely but they also flicker and disappear. Think deep sea fish and you’re good. The Cross-Genre is not merging “romance” and “fantasy.” Where I went to school, genres were prose and poetics. Genres were how you actually wrote, not what you wrote about.

So a lyric essay, to me, is formatted like an epic poem but has zero meter, too many long pauses, random chunks of prose that float like globules of crude oil in the ocean–they’re soft, not like plastic–

Here’s an article from the Los Angeles Review of Books about lyric essays…and how they can be…banal…(awesome selling point).

The Writer’s Alliance of Gainesville says, “Writing the lyric essay offers the author a frolic in the pool of memoir, biography, poetry and personal essay mixed with a sprinkling of experimental.

What is interesting?

What is over-the-top batshit crazy?

What is self-important pontification?

Maybe it’s all those things. But I feel that poetry is WAY more than just verse and form. Poetry is more than lines and stanzas, more than meter, rhyme, and syllable counts. I guess you could say that lyric essay is the ultimate free verse but free verse is already free verse so…I’m rambling now. I should end this post.

I wanted to say all that because I want to get back into poetry. I want to start working on another poetry collection, one that’s been hanging out in my head since 2007, like dust piling up in the corners.

You can find The Echo of Something Hitting for free download on iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and several other places that give good homes to free ebooks.

The Echo of Something Hitting is a hybrid, cross-genre, lyric essay that explores the transformative journey from disaster into survival; an imagined life after death. Becoming something new within the language of roads, rivers, and storms, the text decomposes and reforms to escape the boundaries of words.

Fans of Catherynne M. Valente’s The Labyrinth and Bhanu Kapil’s Incubation: A Space for Monsters will enjoy this handful of words.

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Photo by Imthaz Ahamed on Unsplash

Dream #5

Last night I dreamed I stole a pair of mechanical wings from a tank/bunker that was covered with large slugs. They were black with neon purple and pink detailing and when I put them on I flew up higher than the buildings and when I dove down I was not afraid of falling.

The wings stayed with me. They didn’t break or disappear. I flew and I wasn’t afraid even when they started shooting at me.

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Usually when I dream about climbing or flying I fall and the falling is painful and I wake up with heart palpitations and panic. But not this time. It was a really awesome dream.

Waiting for Autumn

the cat is still alive and we are together, still breathing.

i want to delete everything and start over

make something waterproof

and strong as guitar strings

(not too strong)

bonds need to break

to make energy, the season needs

to turn

i am not waiting, i am running towards it. i’m so

pre-emptive i rush right past it

i can’t breathe

i want to buy a new purse, new

sinus cavities, new

allergens

i want to spend all my money on sleep

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash