Poetry Audiobook

NEWS

Public Service Announcement: a few of my favorite poems from Lupercalia are now on audio!

This audiobook is available for FREE download on Bandcamp.

There is an option to pay what you want if you’d like to toss a dollar my way but only if you really, really want to. I want you to have my poems more than I want you to pay me for them.

The tracks themselves are decent but they are not digitally mastered or made with any kind of professional recording equipment. I always try to put out the best possible product but right now I can’t afford a microphone or rent a sound booth so don’t judge too hard.

I tried to keep the cat and traffic noises to a minimum.

After I finished recording my poems we had a French drain dug in our back yard and replaced one of the walls in our den so there was too much construction noise to record anything else but there will be audio versions of a few of my short stories coming soon.

LUPERCALIA TRACK LIST

1. Lupercalia

2. How to Build a Nest

3. Wife of Lot

4. Mermaid Songbook: A Boat Alone

5. Mermaid Songbook: The Witch’s Song

6. Mermaid Songbook: Dead Mermaid Singing

7. Mermaid Songbook: Redemption

8. Little Girls

9. Wormwood

10. After the Flood

11. Orpheus

12. Twisted Myth

13. Mirror Angels

14. Home

15. Things Tourists Love

Wander through the nameless city full of rebellion, desire, and viciousness. Jessica Halsey’s Lupercalia guides readers through the ruins of stories as they smash against reality. 

The city is born, slippery and feral, and then it grows, collects and rejects a multitude of denizens that break and reshape the boundaries of mythology. 

These speculative and fantastical poems represent the search for identity and purpose in a world that challenges the endurance of the human spirit. From the fall of Icarus to the loneliness of abandon, these poems represent how every mythological hero and trial are reflections of our daily lives.

HAPPY LISTENING!

Character Consciousness

Writing Life

This is an example of one of the ways I think up characters:

Me: (recording poems for my audiobook)

Icharus: I want to be a character now.

Me: But you already are.

Icharus: In a book.

Me: …what?

Icharus: I want to be in a book. I didn’t die when I fell. And I love Orpheus.

Me: You do? Ok just hang on a–

Icharus: And I want my book to be like every James Baldwin novel but with more sex.

Me: I don’t know if I can be that brutal.

Icharus: And it’s going to be a trilogy.

Me: Really?

Icharus: Yep.

Me: Well you’ll have to get in line behind Regina, all the Echos, Helen, and everybody else.

Icharus: Did I mention I love Orpheus? And maybe one of the gods too. Apollo could be very metaphorical.

Me: Take a number and get in line!

Icharus: I really, really want a book-trilogy.

Me: You’ll get one just shut up and let me work!

Icharus: I don’t trust you.

Me: It’ll happen! You’re in the queue. I promise!

Icharus: You’re going to have to do a lot of research. Geography is really important.

Me: I know!

Icharus: …maybe Achilles…

Me: Don’t push it.

*

And on and on it went and that is how I made the decision to eventually write a gay romance. A character popped into my head that wouldn’t shut up. But really this character has been in my head since 2012 and didn’t find his voice until day before yesterday. Before that he was a shadowy idea floating around in my brain meat.

It happened during a writing exercise I did back in grad school (see how long ago). The exercise was to look at a book cover and write the synopsis on the back. No influence from the real synopsis or any other information from the book. Just write something based off the cover. You should try it, it’s super fun.

When I read my little blurb the girl sitting at the table directly across from me lit up with a smile and after class she told me I had to write that character, that his voice was so clear to her.

At the time I wasn’t writing fiction but I thought she was super nice to say so, so I put the suggestion away and now almost 7, count em, 7 years later here’s that voice again.

But this time I am writing fiction and I don’t want to tell him to go away. So I guess I’m adding another project to my publication schedule.

*

How do your characters come to you?

Or, if you’re a poet, how do poems happen?

Ulysses the Cat

Lupercalia, Poetry

Stretched in the sunlight

crowning Calypso’s shore

the big cat dozed,

small blue crabs drown

in a capsized silver urn, cream

filled and slopping beside him.

Why long for plump

tuna steak and cheesecake

crumbs when Apollo

scratches behind your ears

and no storm clouds

threaten tender olive saplings

with shaking? That

rural, stone hearth

plucked from the heart

of the hill your paws pounded

daily is miles away.

Waves lick gingerly

against the pebbly shore

the lambent royal blue of

Penelope’s summer dress.

He is still listless as

he is lifted up by

roughened driftwood hands

and tossed back into the sea.

Twisted Myths

Lupercalia, Poetry

They say I took the most beautiful dream in the world and destroyed it. Burned it up and my useless life right along with it. I got exactly what I deserved, what Pride throws out to everyone who fails. Death and shame.

No one remembers we were trapped there too, blind and starving for the open sky. They said, “Give us your magic or else.”

Or else.

Bloody feathers on the floor. But our wings didn’t break and we flew away and YEAH after eons of darkness I flew, unbroken, into that radiant sunrise.

Now they tell you my story with a warning: don’t break the rules or you’ll end up like me. Don’t go too far or you’ll end up like me, don’t get too close to what you love the most or you’ll end up just like me.

Now, because of me they tell you to be cautious, be wary, be afraid.

Remember the stories of the heroes Bravery and Hubris brought safely home? Remember those beloved by the gods? Those who tasted victory instead of defeat?

My story is not their story.

They tell you: never reach for more than what you are capable of catching, never strive to become your dreams.

They do not tell you my only dream was freedom.

Photo Credit: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Oracle

Lupercalia, Poetry

The fake ones eat

the bones and gristle of cats

to see the future. They drink

the blood of rattlesnakes

and wear sharks’ teeth in their

long, flowing hair.

The real ones hide in caves,

hang their dead

in cages, suck

the fallen vertebra

(when the backbone falls

like a clump of grapes)

and the cracked bodies of sun

dried tomatoes when gobs

of red blot their mouths,

where their teeth

have knocked upon the stone

floor. The woman’s eye

is an inkwell; pecked pious

and unfathomable.

She goes naked in her

sagging skin.

Listen to the recording here (as Jessica Otto).

Let’s play “who am I”

Everyday Life

Me: If I were a god or goddess who would I be?

Mr. J: (silence)

Me: Take your time.

Mr. J: Ok you know when Hercules fights all the centaurs because he opens a bottle of wine too early or whatever? The wine could only be opened at such and such time on such and such day? Something like that. Because the wine belonged to all the centaurs and it was special wine.

Me: …yeah…

Mr. J: You’re whoever gave Hercules’s friend that wine.

Me: I’m Bacchus? Why? Because I used to drink a lot? I barely drink anymore!

Mr. J: No. Because you’re neurotic as fuck and need things to happen in specific ways at specific times otherwise everything goes horribly wrong.

Note: I think Mr. J made up the part about the wine being reserved for a specific time and place and I’m not sure if Bacchus gave the wine to the centaurs or if they just got it from the local ABC store but it’s still funny.