Chapbooks on the Brain

Earlier this month at the World Fantasy Convention, I saw the most FANTASTIC panel about speculative poetry. And while I must say I’ve never fallen OUT of love with it, I FELL IN LOVE A LITTLE HARDER after that panel, and all I wanted to do was write a chapbook.

For weeks I wandered the house, thinking WHAT IS MY CHAPBOOK IDEA?

And then I realized that a long-form narrative poem I’d roughly drafted out is actually kind of an outline-in-verse for a great, long-form narrative-poem-in-poems chapbook idea that I think I might be calling The (Future Former) King of Elfland’s Printing Press.

But that might take a while to get up to submission-speed. And of course, Patty and Carlos and I are working on our Lamp! collaboration, which will be another chapbook-length shared-world poetry collection.

And that’s fine. You know, things take time and all that.

But I wanted to ALREADY HAVE WRITTEN A CHAPBOOK RIGHT NOW.

And then I got the idea!

I’ve had this website/blog since 2014. I’d been missing LiveJournal for while at that point, and I had a lot of projects I was really into, and I wanted to be blogging about all and sundry, so I got Julia Rios and Amal El-Mohtar to advise me. And here we are.

It’s not fancy and never has been, but it is so much better than that feeling of missing blogging, and it uploads nicely to my Goodreads and my Amazon Author pages which I normally don’t have very much to do with, other than occasional housekeeping. (I should probably do more.)

But I have, over the years, written many an occasional poem here. And I thought about a chapbook I might call The Day I Superglued the Moon (and other poems). And I could divide them up into these sections:

Celestial
Terrestrial
Pestilential
Sororal
Romantical
Fantastic
Ekphrastic
Infernal

Of course, by the time I got through sorting them all out, it’s probably longer than a chapbook. More of a collection. And who’s to say who’s publishing such things these days, but it can’t hurt to have a go at further curating the manuscript and seeing what comes of it!

Submissions AHOY!

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Carrion Returns

in the place where lightning struck the reindeer
the scientists said: let them lie, let them be
let’s see what hums and grows, what comes and goes
those trophic highs and trough-like lows
what raptors take, what rodents take, taken in turns
what interacts, what retracts
what crawls after
to eat the blowflies that bloom upon the carcass
how the landscape flushes under these caresses
as the scavengers try to save us

but watching reindeer rot is not for the faint of heart
naked feasts of nature don’t sell postcards to tourists
such rankness, such decay: too much for holiday hikers
who want their vacation world free of the business of death
the busyness
the buzziness
the buzzard-full patience of death, sans time-lapse

someday, there will be new trees
where lightning smote and reindeer fell
bush and brush, bursting from berries buried
in the feces
of the predators who fed there
the scavengers who scavenged
the birds who ate the blowflies that bloomed upon the carcass

meantime, meantime,
all this messy in-between
so many skulls for the sun to strip
before the green moves in

by C. S. E. Cooney
10/24/2022

I am writing this poem a few days after reading a truly awe-striking article in The Guardian called “Landscape of Fear.” Further, my friend William Hoffmann recently suggested I use this incredible embroidered art piece “Animalium,” by fiber artist Chris Roberts-Antieau, for a prompt. It reminds him of a mutual friend of ours, dearly beloved of us, who is grieving the sudden and horrifying loss of her sister. There is so little to say in these raw days.

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Festival of the Deadlands: Author Reading and Editor Interview

This Thursday night, at 7 PM Eastern Time, please join us LIVE on twitch.tv/arvaneleron for a dark and delicious literary event in support of The Festival of the Deadlands: a month-long crowdfunding celebration to support a third year of The Deadlands magazine!

Join hosts Carlos Hernandez and C. S. E. Cooney, as well as Deadlands writers Phoenix Alexander, Ai Jiang, Premee Mohamed, Josh Rountree, Fran Wilde, Daria Lavelle for 90 minutes of stories and poems, as well as an interview with Deadlands editor Laura Blackwell.

Laura Blackwell is copy editor for The Deadlands and was a copy editor at Hugo-nominated publication Shimmer for four years. She is also a Pushcart-nominated author with stories in Nightmare, PseudoPod, and Chiral Mad 5, among others. She co-hosts Story Hour with Daniel Marcus.

Deadlands copyeditor Laura Blackwell

Josh Rountree has published more than 60 stories in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies, including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Realms of Fantasy, The Deadlands, Bourbon Penn, PseudoPod, PodCastle, Daily Science Fiction, and A Punk Rock Future. His latest short fiction collection is Fantastic Americana: Stories from Fairwood Press. His novel The Legend of Charlie Fish will be published by Tachyon Publications next year. Josh lives somewhere in the untamed wilds of Texas, and tweets about books, records, and guitars at @josh_rountree

Deadlands writer Josh Rountree

Ai Jiang is a Chinese-Canadian writer, an immigrant from Fujian. Her work has appeared in F&SF, Uncanny, and The Dark. Her debut novella Linghun (April 2023) is forthcoming with Dark Matter INK. Find her on Twitter (@AiJiang_) and online (http://aijiang.ca).  

Deadlands author Ai Jiang

Premee Mohamed is an award-winning Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. She can be found on Twitter at @premeesaurus and at her website at www.premeemohamed.com.

Deadlands author Premee Mohamed

Phoenix Alexander (he/him) is a queer, Greek-Cypriot author of SFF and horror. Find his stories in ‘The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction,’ ‘The Dark,’ ‘Escape Pod,’ and ‘The Deadlands’ among others, with links to all of his work at www.phoenixalexanderauthor.com.

Deadlands author Phoenix Alexander

Nebula-award winning author Fran Wilde writes all kinds of stories for both the living and the dead. 

Daria Lavelle writes true fiction about impossible things. Her work has been shortlisted by The Masters Review and Molotov Cocktail, and has appeared in The Deadlands, Dark MatterThe Arcanist and elsewhereShe holds an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence, and is at work on a novel about food, ghosts, and the New York culinary scene.

Professor of English by day & game designer by night, Carlos Hernandez (@WriteTeachPlay) is also the author of The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria, Sal & Gabi Break the Universe, Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe, and many other works of SFF prose & poetry.

C. S. E. Cooney  (https://linktr.ee/csecooney) won the World Fantasy Award for her collection Bone Swans in 2016. Other notable works include Dark Breakers, Desdemona and the Deep, and Saint Death’s Daughter, as well as many works of speculative fiction, poetry, and song.

Hosts Carlos Hernandez and C. S. E. Cooney. Photo credit: Andrew Jose

Twitch host Gregory A. Wilson (@GregoryAWilson) is a speculative fiction author, college professor, musician, podcaster, game master, and TwitchTV host – more at gregoryawilson.com

We hope to see you there! And please don’t forget to support The Deadlands!

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The Art of Earth: an Interview with Ceramics Artist Elizabeth Paxson

Elizabeth Paxson, creator of Skybirdarts on Etsy!

Elizabeth Paxson is the creatrix and proprietress of Skybirdarts on Etsy (and Skybirdarts on Instagram). I met her because she is the most fabulous mama of my most DARLINGEST friend Caitlyn Paxson, one of my favorite writers/first readers in the world.

(If you haven’t subscribed to Caitlyn’s Book and Bramble newsletter, which includes book news, wreaths of the month, goat pictures, cat pictures, shots of Prince Edward Island at its glorious best, and, well, AWESOME STUFF, I’m just saying: GET THEE TO THE BOOK AND BRAMBLERY!)

I’ve always loved Liz’s ceramics, but a few years ago, she stepped away from the form and took her famous “squid mugs” with her. This year, happily, she’s having her own private renaissance. You can bet I leapt right on her pile of prodigious output like a dragon at a gold rush! I want all of us to happily reap the results of her genius. They are SO BEAUTIFUL!

For your great happiness, I present to you a MINI-INTERVIEW with the artist Elizabeth Paxson!

CSEC: What drew you to ceramics in the first place? What’s your origin story?

EP: I studied ceramics in high school at Interlochen Arts Academy, graduating in 1969. I didn’t return to clay (after a lot of painting, collage and mixed media work,) until 2006, opening my Etsy shop in 2007.

It was all when Magill Foote wanted a squid octopus mug, and posted it. Suddenly there was an instant demand. 😳 So the shop was off and running!

(INTERVIEWER’S NOTE: I, too, love Magill Foote! He once helped me research old cinema for a book I was writing–The Twice-Drowned Saint! What a guy–helping artists the world over be EVEN MORE AWESOME! All while being awesome himself!)

A few of the treasures at Skybirdarts!

CSEC: Liz, you took a hiatus from pottery and sculpting for a while. What made you return?

EP: When we moved north in 2014, I sold all my ceramics equipment and sort of regretted it, especially during the pandemic. So I decided to Carpe Diem before decrepitude overcomes me, and invested in new equipment, reopening Skybirdarts.etsy.com!

CSEC: What do you find most fascinating about the process right now?

EP: I love working with clay, both because as a person who has issues with ADD and mild OCD, it is really grounding and satisfying. And it’s the EARTH, literally!

I love thinking about one of my pieces emerging from a lake bed in a thousand years, and someone wondering who made it and why. Well, I bet I’ll confuse them!

What I love most is playing with forms, colors and concepts. Clay is a friendly substance, but it also has a mind of its own. You have to learn the dance–how to let its physical qualities guide you. I see some work that looks as if it is made in a factory, and that bores me. I mean, if you like that you can go to Walmart!

CSEC: What are some of your influences?

EP: Oh! My favorite influences for ceramics are folk art, Mexican, Japanese and ancient art.

CSEC: My favorite are your MINOAN GOBLETS! I love them so much. AND NOW THEY ARE MINE!

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THIS THURSDAY! Infernal Poetry Salon!

CALENDARS AHOY!

THIS THURSDAY! 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM EASTERN! LIVE-STREAMED ON TWITCH!

Some poets from our infamous (LOL) SITZFLEISCH POETRY HOUR and a few other verse-minded friends will be participating in an ALL-POET INFERNAL SALON!

Sure, they’ll be the ones in the limelight, writing poetry AS YOU WATCH, but we always pull INFERNAL CARD PROMPTS from our BARAJA DEL DESTINO for the AUDIENCE TOO!

Stream on twitch.tv/arvaneleron!

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Upcoming: The Milford Readers and Writers Festival

Herein: ALL THE LINKS to The Milford Readers and Writers Festival, in Milford, PA, THIS SATURDAY.

I’ll be there with my co-panelists and authors: Karen Heuler, Alex Shvartsman, Randee Dawn, Nicholas Kaufmann, and Lillian Longendorfer–with books to sell and sign!

Here is the panel info for Saturday morning, 11-12:30. It’s called CHOOSE YOUR REALITY, taking place at the Foundation Room at the The Columns Museum.

“It is comprised of four panelists and a moderator whose writings have included varied and unique realities. The panel consists of the following authors: Karen Heuler, the moderator, who has created a sly, humorous tale with witchcraft, a formerly human cat and allegory in her book The Splendid City (June 2022); Alex Shvartsman whose realities combine humor with urban fantasy and horror; C.S.E. Cooney, whose books and poems contain worlds filled with fantastical and twisted characters; Nicholas Kaufmann, whose writings are a mixture of tightly plotted horror, urban fantasy and science fiction; and Randee Dawn, an entertainment journalist who has created a reality TV show run by mythical creatures in her debut novel Tune In Tomorrow (August 2022). This event Produced by Lillian Longendorfer.”

We’ll also be doing a signing and sell event at the Golden Fish Art Gallery on Saturday, September 17th from 2pm-4pm.

And then the evening ends with a “Books and Brews” reading at the Foundation Room of the Columns, beginning at 7:00 pm and ending whenever. Beverages will be available for purchase. This event is ticketed, I believe!

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Negocios Infernales for Kaleidocast

PLAYDAY 1: AUGUST 19TH, 2022

In person, a whole game of Negocios Infernales can usually be played within 4-5 hours–sometimes fewer!–depending on how many people are playing and if they’ve played before. Online, it’s a bit different. Role20 slows everything down (though we’re very grateful to have it), so it usually takes two sessions of about 4 hours each (breaks included) to get through a whole game.

We recently played with some folks from the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers, as a Kaleiodcast exclusive. Kaleidocast is an audio literary magazine run by the BSFW, “a group dedicated to getting writers producing content with a professional polish for publication!” (Follow their Patreon!)

Session 1 of a two-session game of Negocios Infernales usually includes: Part 0: Pregame Trust and Affirmation; Part 1: Invocation; Part 2: Character Creation; Part 3: Relationships; and Part 4: Worldbuilding. This is where all the players collaboratively create their characters, their country, and their world, using the “Baraja del Destino” (the Deck of Destiny). Usually, by the time all this is done, players have a pretty good idea which of the seven plots/genres they’ll want to play.

These were the four cards I drew for my Character Creation, representing clockwise: Motivation, Role in Court, Magic, and Doom.
This is Roll20’s version of our Character Creation sheet, and these are how I interpreted the four cards I drew (shown above).

At the end of session one, from all the worldbuilding and character creating we’d done, we knew we wanted to play “The Royal Wedding” plot. (Spoiler: it was kind of like the Red Wedding, but with more mollusks.)

I really liked the character I came up with: Ven. Viana de Eularia de Alvar. (In Negocios Infernales, we use the gender-neutral honorific “Ven.” for “Venerable,” instead of “Don” or “Doña” or Sir or Lady, etc.)

Together, along with “Melliza Exposita, the Royal Mirror” (the queen’s proxy, played by Mimi Mondal), “Jose Díaz, the Cypher Strike” (a thief of books, played by Cam Robb), Rodriguez the Fair (trickster, worldbreaker, spymaster, played by Liam Burke), and our AI/Rulebook Carlos Hernandez, we were well-set up by the end of the first session not only to have a wild night of improv, but maybe also to write, like, 15 novels set in our very weird world.

This was my Magic card, representing the powers I got from my bargain with “the Benefactors.” (The characters in Negocios Infernales think these “Benefactors” are devils. They are, in fact, aliens, hoping to bring humans into the great Cosmic Consciousness). I interpreted the card as my character (who is very lonely) asking for familiar. She was given a red glass orb that, when fed upon her blood, turns into a strange monkey-like creature. It can do one task before it returns to Ven. Viana in its red-orb shape, at which point, if she wants it to do something else, she feeds it more blood. It can spy, fetch, act as courier, and transmit everything it sees telepathically.

The chat was small but FIERCELY AWESOME, and they came up with the most amazing perfumer NPC that we pledged would show up in the plot once we got to the improv!

For flavor, Carlos took prompts I texted him from my character sheet & entered them into Midjourney, so now my character has a profile pic!

When Carlos fed a few of my keywords into Midjourney, this is how the AI interpreted my characterr.

PLAYDAY 2: SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2022

In session two of Negocios Infernales, we got through Part 5: Plot; Part 6: Roleplay; and Part 7: The Alien Epilogue. The fun thing about Zoom is that it has an Alien filter, so for a while, several of us were cyclopses with deelie boppers, and those that weren’t used masks and funny voices to inspire our alien selves.

We’d known we were going to do the “The Royal Wedding” plot, so after we refreshed ourselves with the details of our last game, we got right into the interpreting the Plot cards. Then came the really wild stuff: the Roleplay. Each of us had to act as a Protagonist at least once, to solve the orders la Reina gave us. Each of us had to play an NPC at least once and use our Magic at least once.

We called upon the chat–again, small but AMAZING–to help us interpret certain cards and make certain decisions as we played. And yes, we used the NPC, perfumer “Marinel Curie,” which the chat had invented for us in the last game.

In the end, it was almost five hours of harried wizards, demonic monkeys with red glass claws, shapeshifters who have to smell whoever they want to change into, cannibal pearls, alien mollusks, masquerades, cypher-strikers, truth-extractors, and so much more! It was unpredictable and precarious; we were on the verge of losing the game. Our Reina Resoluta token had slid all the way down the Sword. If she’d gotten buried to the hilt, it would have been all over. Thanks to our Doom mechanic (which three of us had to activate to forestall failure), we won by the skin of our teeth. We’d lost most of the rest of our skin.

Carlos and I are very grateful that Kaleidocast played with us. We should have footage from the two sessions available through Kaleidocast one of these days, so consider supporting their Patreron!

Also, we’re gearing up for next year’s Kickstarter for Negocios Infernales, forthcoming from Outland Entertainment, so sign up here to keep abreast of the latest and greatest news: negociosinfernales.com

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Wolfe’s Arcana. Or: Midjourney, Meet Gene Wolfe

Carlos, Becca and I spent a wonderful two evenings reading an old, award-winning Gene Wolfe poem about a computer iterating the greater trumps (of a tarot deck), and so we fed his verses one by one into Midjourney and had the AI iterate all the greater trumps. The full deck is here. Keep reading!

My friend Becca is visiting us here at Casa Hernandooney. As Carlos and I were putting the final touches on our savory apple pie (bacon, onion, thyme, smoked cheddar), she was wandering our apartment, surveying it as a patroness of a very goofy museum.

Hearing her laugh out loud, I trotted out of the kitchen to see what’d she gotten into.

She’d found my Gene Wolfe shelf.

Gene Wolfe is the reason that Becca and Carlos and I are friends. Gene was my writing mentor since I was 18. Becca is Gene’s granddaughter.

The three of us met as adults about a year after Gene passed away, right as Becca was moving away from New York with a freshly minted PhD. We all hit it off immediately as fast friends/adopted cousins/long-lost siblings.

And, well, here we are.

As I spied on her, Becca began a close inspection of all my…

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The Work of 2022 (thus far)

This last week, Carlos and I applied for a Writers’ Retreat at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. I’ve never applied for that sort of thing before. It’s quite cost effective: you get both room and board (food by a chef), for less than a typical Air B&B and certainly less than a hotel room, for a range of days and nights of your choice.

You have to fill out an application, talk about your writing, send a sample, and an application fee–all these things! It kind of reminded me of the grant proposals I’ve seen. And I thought: it IS like writing a grant! A grant of time and space to create in.

Anyway, we were supposed to talk about what project we’d be working on. And I couldn’t decide! So I just wrote down all my projects. Who know what I might be working on by the time we get there next year!

But I thought it would be good for me to post here, since it is easy to look at a year (at least for me) and think how little one has done.


CURRENT PROJECTS

SAINT DEATH’S HERALD: the sequel to my high fantasy novel that just came out in 2022 with Rebellion Publishing, SAINT DEATH’S DAUGHTER. The novel follows the further adventures of necromancer Lanie Stones, as she tries to right the wrongs of a previous generation, battle the powerful ghost of her dread great-grandfather, and return the souls of three thousand wizards that had been ripped untimely from their bodies. 

FIDDLE: a rompy rom-com fantasy novella set in the same world as DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP, my novella published by Tor.com, and DARK BREAKERS, my short story collection published by Mythic Delirium. FIDDLE has an 80’s aesthetic with a high fantasy flair! Goblins and space travel, fairies with surf boards, and a nerdy, introverted heroine who has to attend three weddings and a great infernal hatching event all in one day.

BALLADS FROM A DISTANT STAR: a concept album under my singer/songwriter name Brimstone Rhine, after my three previous albums. This album follows, in folk songs, the adventures of a group of miners and their families who were body-snatched by aliens and brought on their spaceship to work the mines of a distant planet.

THE DEVIL AND LADY MIDNIGHT: a theatrical 6-episode musical podcast. This is a collaboration with writer Tina Connolly and songwriter Dr. Mary Crowell. The Devil comes to New York, hungry for friends both new and old. While she’s there, she might as well put on a show. 

LAMP: a poetry anthology called LAMP. This is a collaboration with writers Patty Templeton and Carlos Hernandez. A shared-world poetry collection following a troupe of actors as they flee a large city for a small town at the edge of a salt marsh: exploring the tensions between cityfolk and townsfolk, the resentment between outsiders and inner circles, the friendships made when boundaries are crossed, and the art that blossoms under new alliances.


And since I already made that “current projects” list, I was thinking of things I’ve actually finished this year. How January seems a million years ago already!

But for the sake of remembering:

GAME WRITING for FOOL’S GOLD: INTO THE BELLOWING WILDS, “a 5th edition campaign setting based on the hit Youtube series by Dingo Doodles and Felix Irnich,” forthcoming from Hitpoint Press.

This is a collaboration with my beloved Carlos, of course. It was my first time doing any such kind of writing. We were invited by editor (and our dear friend) Dominik Parisien, and are part of a whole team of writers and editors and game-designers working with GM Felix Irnich’s world to create the campaign setting.

NEGOCIOS INFERNALES: This is the year that Carlos and I finished our rulebook for Negocios Infernales, our gm-less, collaborative TTRPG about Inquisition and Aliens. We finished the first draft later than we wanted, and then added an afterward and a WHOLE APPENDIX for the second draft on our editors’ request.

Carlos also drafted (and I helped revise) an introductory COMIC that artist Rebecca Huston (who did our “Baraja del Destino,” or “Deck of Destiny” for the game) illustrated. It is going to be AVAILABLE THIS YEAR AT GENCON!!! (Oh, here’s our GenCon schedule, if you’re interested!)

“CATHARSIS”: This was the short story I wrote for this year’s Origins Game Fair Anthology Rogue Artists, published by Atthis Arts. I loved, loved, LOVED writing this story, because it was inspired by writing the RULEBOOK for Negocios Infernales.

As Carlos and I wrote the rulebook together, we played a single game Negocios Game the whole way through–over the course of months–to be able to provide examples in the rulebook. When we were doing the “Worldbuilding” section, I came up with the idea of a theatre troupe that utterly captivated me. I wanted to write about them so hard! And so, I did! Now this short story exists in the world, alongside its origins in our rulebook–and that tickles me!

CAPTAIN COMEBACK SAVES THE DAY“: This is a short story, forthcoming from The Sunday Morning Transport. It’s another collaboration with Carlos, and it has a long history. The idea started as the idea for a radio play on a road trip to Ottawa we took maybe four or five years ago.

We loved the idea of a “superhero” and a “supervillain” being married and in the same house, 1940’s-1950’s-ish, and the supervillain wife basically keeps creating deadly scenarios around town for her husband to “fix,” so that he can be a superhero–which is all he ever wanted. He inevitably gets utterly destroyed in the process, but she has a resurrection machine that brings him back to life (and conveniently wipes the hero’s brain of all memories of his wife as a supervillain).

We still think this would be a great radio play, but we tried a single “episode” as a short story, and the structure took on such a surprising form! COLLABORATION IS SO WEIRD AND AWESOME!


The list of what I finished doesn’t seem like much, but then again, I’ve been working on all that other stuff too. Plus, I narrated seven audiobooks this year–including my own!

…And read a metric ton of 2021’s SFF work for the World Fantasy Awards.

I was not idle, but…

What my brain says: Yeah, not all that much. Should’ve finished three novels, put out two albums, and starred in a Broadway Musical.

What my blog (and Carlos) says: GOOFUS MCDOOFUS

I’ve been trying (and for the most part succeeding) to dive into writing with all joy. There were some years there where the joy was deep in a cavity and took some excavating. This year, it’s been better. It’s been good.

I’ve really enjoyed my Sitzfleisch Poetry Hour a whole lot! And my musical theatre collaboration with Mary and Tina. And my LAMP poetry collaboration with Patty and Carlos. None of these are urgent. They’re slow-blossoming, wondrous.

The next thing I am really eager to do is set aside a chunk of time devoted solely to finishing Act II of Ballads from a Distant Star, and starting to research the best crowdfunding platforms for that project.

Kickstarter is super high pressure; I dislike the “all or nothing.” With “something” at least, I could make SOMETHING. A promise. A placeholder. I used Indiegogo for the last albums, but since then I think they’ve become a different kind of platform, so… Sigh. Back to the drawing board! Maybe some grants! We’ll see what happens.

Okay, Cooney. Enough blogging for the day. This whole time you should’ve been working on your novel.

>.>

<.<

🙂

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On reading Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres 2 years and 7 days ago today

now, the book itself (trade paperback, Americana-colored,
some bleached field or other on the cover) the book itself
was nothing much to look at: creased a bit, battered a bit,
yellowing and dog-eared, read maybe once but loved for all that–
read thoroughly, pored over and furrowed through, a lived-in look–
this book, then, acted on me like slow poison.
I became porous, mottled: like my left mandibular cuspid
(the one that never looks clean), this book stained me,
made me more, the way a stain can make a floor more floor,
less perfect yet idiosyncratic, the way a scorch mark makes
a tea-towel perfectly your own, the way a scar can make a home.
somewhere, on the map of myself, this book pinned a
you-are-here-sign to my skin, ate its acid splash all the way in,
and there I was, inside its pages: invisible, an onlooker, voyeur and passenger,
passive–yet more present to its moment than to my earliest memories.
slow and deep I sank in it, seeping dark fluids into that wrecked landscape
until we stuck together, those pages and me: stuck with a gross moistness
like old brown boots to an abattoir floor, like a house fly to a cobra lily.
it was not beautiful, that butchery, it was not kind or generous;
I never want to go again into that poisoned land, nor hold the book
in my naked hands without gloves between me and its radiant stink.
yet how can I regret the days I spent here, staked thigh-high in tides of pig shit,
flayed ribbon-raw on a scarecrow pole, eyes pinned to the tops of my sockets,
sick to my bones with the holy act of staring at the sun?

Self-portrait of the poet on Zoom, setting up her Sitzfleisch Poetry Hour: a silent hour online with like-minded poets once a month, devoted to the act of writing poetry.

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