Through Layered Limestone: an anthology

A great publication benefitting a worthy cause!

formidable woman sanctuary

a Texas Hill Country Anthology of Place

It’s out & it’s wonderful! We had our launch reading this morning in Boerne, Texas on Main Plaza. Eleven contributors, family and friends where in attendance. It was cool and inviting under the tent by the gazebo. I hope you enjoy this little video (on FB) I put together of the performances. Be sure to turn the sound on the FB video on to hear the cool music that goes with the video…

I’m very pleased to have served as managing editor for this fine piece of history. If you’re a Facebook user, please do follow my artist/author page there for info about all that’s happening in my literary/artistic world & follow me here, for sure!

The book is a tribute to the pioneers who settled the Texas Hill Country, many of whom endured arduous journeys by ship across the ocean to Texas…

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What Feet Know (with recording)

feet

 

What Feet Know

The earth and its subterfuge.
Gravity and the points between here and there.

And sometimes the rasp of grainy mud
clenched between toes,
or a rock under the arch,
an explanation too pointed
for display on a page,
too hard, too much for flesh to bear.

No constellations foment underground.
Nothing there orbits a companion.

No light but for that darkness the heel scrapes away.

 

“What Feet Know” was featured on Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine in December 2016, and is included in my  chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, available Available at Amazon.Com and Here.

 

Q&A with Poet Candice Daquin

Candice Louisa Daquin was born in France, and has also lived in England, Canada and America. Daquin has worked in dance, publishing, as a psychotherapist and more recently she divides her time between teaching, editing and writing. Daquin is the author of five collections of poetry and numerous poems and reviews in magazines, websites and periodicals. Daquin was co-editor of We Will Not Be Silenced (2018) an anthology of poetry in response to the #metoo movement. This Is What Love Looks Like – Poetry by Women SMITTEN With Women is her first poetry Anthology as lead editor, and is due out October 2019 (Published by Indie Blu(e).

 

So what’s this Anthology all about?

This is What Love Looks Like – Poetry by Women SMITTEN with Women (SMITTEN for short) came about after Indie Blu(e) had published We Will Not Be Silenced, which was an anthology of poets throughout the world writing in response to the #metoo movement and the then Judge Kavanaugh hearings. It was the right time and the anthology went on to be an Amazon best seller.

There was something so powerful and such an incredible energy working on an anthology for the first time. Shortly afterward Indie Blu(e) asked me to work with them and I now do part time on some of their poetry publishing. I had been so positively affected by reading all these poems from writers throughout the world I wanted to see if it were possible to create another anthology but this time for women who loved women.

As a lesbian, I felt that lesbians were increasingly marginalized and invisible by the co-opting of the LGBTQ movement and I wanted to find a poetic medium to express lesbian voices that was not erotica (which many lesbian themed poetry collections were). Fortunately Indie Blu(e) backed my idea and we put the call out.

Truly I did not expect the response we received, it was so galvanizing and breathtaking to see how many women submitted and the quality of some of the work. Our youngest poet is 14 and our oldest, 87. I think that speaks volumes about the need for collections of poetry on various subjects and how it brings voices together and keeps poetry relevant and alive.

SMITTEN is due out October 2019 and we’re so excited to be part of this, because it’s already begun a really necessary poetic dialogue about the representation of emotions in poetry. For anyone, there is something lasting and beautiful to be found in this collection and it is my hope as many heterosexuals read it as lesbians and bisexuals.

 

Please tell us how or why you turned to writing poetry?

I wrote as a kid when I felt emotions I couldn’t put into prose. I think for the very young there is a natural doorway into poetry that sometimes we lose as adults. Poetry should be emphasized more, as once it was thought as the highest form of expression and I can see why. Having worked in publishing, teaching and psychotherapy it was always part of my life to write.

 

Would you offer up some of your influences – poetic and otherwise. What draws you to that work?

Shamefully I am less influenced by others than perhaps I should be. There is so much value to reading a wonderful poet for any creative and I’m sure it does permeate and percolate through to our creative sub-conscious. I tend however to write without direct influence so it’s hard to harness the exact mechanisms involved. Typically I am drawn to work that I find honest and brave. I think for me, as an ex-dancer, I find dance my greatest influence, and like music, it can produce poetry in me when I listen to and watch it. Likewise, reading a psychology book will often inspire me.

 

Would you mind sharing a bit about your background?

I’ve been around the world a bit and finally settled in America. I wouldn’t say it’s been easy fitting in, I think shyness and difference are a little more accepted in my native France but despite that, I love the landscape and breadth of this country, and the dreams of its people.

My family are of Egyptian/French/Jewish decent so I’m quite a mixed bag and this has influenced my perspective(s) considerably. Being a queer writer, obviously my battles with equality come into play in my writing, and I am a big advocate of equal rights for all.

 

If you were a poetic form, which would you be?

I’m ashamed to say, I’m not personally big on poetic forms. I did take classes as a young person and began a MA in Poetry/Writing before switching to Psychotherapy (which led me to practice as a therapist for a number of years) but I think the structure and attention to form is what put me off. As much as anything if I’m honest, this could be an impatience on my part with the feelings of a poem. I think there are two types of poets; A technical/form poet and a free verse poet. Neither are better than the other, though it might be said, knowledge of both is optimum. So I’d have to say free-verse or confessional 😊 bit of a cliché I know. That said, I deeply appreciate others who write using forms.

 

What is the relationship of your environment, your daily surroundings, to your writing?

Not as good as it should be. I work too much and never have enough time. Ideally I’d create a haven for writing and devote myself more stringently to the relationship between my environment and writing. Like many of us, I juggle multiple jobs and tasks and am lucky to get any time. Maybe if I retire in 35 years time I may have these things and I expect that is why some poets who are older are such consistently good writers. Working on SMITTEN I loved hearing the varied voices, different parts of the world, different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, even different ways of loving. That has so much value.

 

What themes or traits will readers find in your work? What will they not find?

They will not find acceptance or tolerance of inequality or bigotry. As much as I may find something of value in the Bukowski and Billy Childish poets of the world, I would never embrace that inequity toward a group of people (women) and I feel strongly as a woman about being unapologetic and very honest. SMITTEN is part of this legacy, it’s lending a voice to those who usually aren’t heard very loudly.

 

List three favorite poets, an admirable animal, and your go-to beverage.

Oh dear! I’m terrible at listing ‘favorites’ because honestly, it changes all the time. I read a LOT of poetry so for today I can say, Anne Sexton is always up there, I recently re-read a lot of Tennyson and he’s always influential and lastly, I love the Metaphysical poetry movement of the 20’s and just finished a book on those authors – too numerous to mention. In SMITTEN I was absolutely blown away by our 14 year old’s poem. It gave me faith. That poetry has a real future. Equally, I loved that a woman who is 87 is still writing and has an entire history in her words. We also have three Native American poets, who are absolutely superb. Can I put those instead of the admirable animal and go-to-beverage? 😉 (Whale/Tonic Water).

 

And your creative process? Could you offer us a glimpse into how your poems develop from first glimmer to fully realized piece? Do you follow a regular writing routine? Do you listen to music while writing? Write in public or in solitude?

Let me talk instead about SMITTEN. Imagine having the honor of collating poetry from all around the world, written sometimes with the greatest emotion, sometimes the first time it’s been public, or admitted. I found such a brevity and depth to the poems we received and it was truly hard to not want to publish most of them. Obviously we had to turn a lot down in order to make a manageable collection, so we endeavored to seek the truest, starkest and most honest. At times they were not all ‘well written’ as a professor may grade, (having taught for many years I can attest to this!) but technique came second to message. Sometimes there is value in the message even if the technique is a little lacking. That was my approach and I’m proud of it. Many times people with poor technique never improve because they are not given a chance to flourish. I believe everyone can grow and improve, and giving them confidence is half the battle. Obviously a well written poem is like nothing else, and I literally read some whilst holding my breath. Ideally to have both a message and technique is the goal and this was about allowing voices of women who love women to come to the foreground and SPEAK. That was my process. I’ve spent literally hours on this project and I feel only pride for the courage and conviction of these authors. I’m a big believer in helping others, and one way to do that is give them a platform. That’s my greatest achievement. It’s so much bigger than me and I love that. I think I’m a very self-effacing writer and I get so much more from editing/publishing others (which I used to do in Europe) than simply promoting myself.
SMITTEN is due out October 2019. It will be available via all good booksellers.

Helsinki (with recording)

Helsinki

Helsinki

An editor said never start a poem at a window,
so instead I’m looking at the door,

which is made of glass. We are to avoid rain,
too, but it streaks the pane in such delicious

patterns that I can’t help but pretend to be someone else
in a foreign city, perhaps Helsinki, sipping black coffee

with a mysterious woman younger than my daughter
(who also does not exist), whose interests

in me are purely literary, although she straightens
my collar with lingering, scented fingers. Garden

memories and birds must never populate our lines,
but corpses are fine, as are tube tops and bananas

and any combination thereof. I finish my coffee
and wander alone through cobblestone streets,

stepping over clichés when possible, kicking them
aside when my hip joint argues, or simply accepting

their useful limitations when nothing else works.
Unknown and lacking credentials, I shrug, go on

past the closed doors behind which unseen bodies
perform the most bizarre and sensual solo dances,

or not, and shadows cook sausages over fire
and the grease spattering onto the tiled counters

issues a fragrance that awakens neighborhood dogs
and maybe a dozing stall-keeper at the market

where cloudberries are sometimes found.
I know little of Finland, and less of myself,

and then there’s poetry, which remains a blank
frame, a frosted pane I’ll never truly unlatch.

* * *

My poem “Helsinki” was first published at Panoply. It was inspired in part by a Facebook thread on which editors commented on what caused them to instantly reject poems. One said beginning a poem at a window was cause for rejection. Hence the first line.

Q&A with Poet Robert L. Penick

Robert L. Penick’s writing has been published in numerous literary journals. His poetry chapbook, Exit, Stage Left, won the 2018 Slipstream chapbook contest. The former editor of Chance Magazine, he has most recently been editing and publishing Ristau: A Journal of Being. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Would you mind sharing a bit about your background? How and why did you come to writing? How has being a non-academic framed your work?

I grew up in a very blue-collar environment, was the first—and the last person in my family to go to college, and really took to writing around age 14.  A number of different factors instilled a sense of “otherness” in me, a sense of not fitting in, or wanting to fit in, with the available demographics.  I believe not being the product of an academic writing program has helped me mold my own peculiar voice, since I had no one indoctrinating me with what writers I should like.  There are a lot of folks slogging their way through Michel Houellebecq, for example, because some professor told them that’s good writing. I disagree.  The best are the ones that connect with you, plain and simple. I worked in the court system with the mentally ill and victims of domestic violence, and I believe that had a more valuable impact on what I do than 1,000 workshops.

Your chapbook, Exit Stage Left,won the 2018 Slipstream Annual Poetry Contest. Can you tell us something about its genesis?

Exit, Stage Leftwas a selection of poems from a full-length book project I have called The Art of Mercy  that I haven’t been able to get published.  Mercyis 70 pages, with each of the 70 poems having been published in one journal or another.  I flipped through it and chose 25 pieces that I thought hung together well and sent it off. Some of those pieces go back fifteen years, and I didn’t realize that the overriding theme was one of aging and mortality until I actually had the finished book in my hands.  A fine Kentucky poet, James Still, said in effect that young poets write of death and older poets write of life.  I see life/death, happy/sad, and love/hate as being sides of the same coin.

(Note from RO: To read three poems from this collection, or to order the book, click here. It’s a bargain at $10, with superbly crafted pieces of loss, hope and humanity.)

Would you offer up some of your artistic influences. What draws you to that work?

The writer having the biggest impact on me was John Steinbeck.  Many people dismiss him as sentimental, but you know what?  People are sentimental, just naturally so.  I remember finishing the last page of The Grapes of Wrath, putting the book down and just walking around the house wringing my hands.  I love getting that connection to basic humanity.  Ray Bradbury is the only science fiction author I’ve enjoyed, because those aren’t sci-fi stories, they’re stories about real people with real hearts and hopes and dreams.  Except for the robots, I guess.  Currently I’m on a Nabokov kick, reading his short stories.  That the man could write that well in his third language is astounding.  Recently, I found Richard Wright’s story, “The Man Who Lived Underground,” and was moved by its drama and precision.  

If you were a poetic form, which would you be?

I would be…an accident report.  “Subject took the off ramp at too great a speed and went through the guardrail into the lake.  After being checked by EMS, subject was transported to Metro Corrections, charged with having a lack of common sense.”

You’ve edited and published literary journals. Could you explain what crosses your mind when reviewing poems for possible inclusion in one?

Why am I doing this?  There is a danger in putting out a literary journal, in that you get bludgeoned by bad writing, and that can damage your own craft.  I’ve always said that writing a poem is like playing the harmonica; anyone can do it, but not many can do it well.  But a lot of folks buy their harmonica, then go straight to the Wednesday night open mic at the corner bar without putting the time in to learn. With writing, it’s a matter of finding your natural voice, being able to spot what doesn’t work, avoiding cliches and such.

What themes or traits will readers find in your work?  

I go for humanity more than anything, working often with characters who are socially isolated in some way, finding meaning in the day-to-day.  You have to be entertaining—for goodness sake, don’t bore people—but if you can slip some kindness in there, it’s a win.

 And your creative process? Could you offer us a glimpse into how your poems develop from first glimmer to fully realized piece? Do you follow a regular writing routine? Write in public or in solitude? 

I pick up a lot of ideas when I’m out.  I haven’t been able to write at home lately, so I scribble in coffee houses and fast food joints.  I’m that odd guy in the corner.  Last month, I’m at Burger King, and there’s maybe three other guys there, each eating alone.  I thought, “We should all squeeze into one booth together; we wouldn’t look so pathetic.” That became a poem called “BK,” about how every solitary person still has their childhood train set running through their past. Habit-wise, I wish I could be one of those folks that did their two or three hours a day, but that flow state is getting harder the older I get.  I get a cup of coffee and, if I get 200 words down on a story, that’s a good day.  It’s like pulling teeth, but I’m a fairly conscientious dentist. 

What advice would you offer to a writer just starting out?

Realize that the product is separate from you and don’t be stung by constructive criticism.  If a person is restoring a car and you point out the brake line is leaking, he or she will likely thank you.  But many writers are threatened by good criticism.  At the same time, be selective about what advice you take.  Many people will have no idea what you’re trying to do, and many writers (I’ve done this) will unconsciously try to make your writing more like their own.  You’re at a good point when you can hand a piece to someone you respect and say, “what’s the weak link in this?” 

Do you have any projects in process?

Three big things on my dance card right now: The Art of Mercy that I mentioned, Redemption, a gritty novel that may be too dirty for today’s market, and a collection of flash fiction I’m putting together. Flash gets a bad rap, mainly because much of it are merely fragments, but I think I’ve  done some impressive work with the 300 word story.  I’ve had perhaps 25 of them published (many are linked from my website, theartofmercy.net) and I’d like to get a book of them.  It’s funny, I’ve had work in 150 different literary journals, but it’s difficult finding a house that will do a full-length book for me.  Alas.  We can always find something to cry about, if we choose.

 

Two Poems in Voices

 

I’m delighted to report that my poems “Sometimes Love is a Dry Gutter” and “Every Drop” are included in the new Nigerian publication Voices: The Journal of Emotions and Motions. Thank you, Victor Eshameh, for selecting these pieces.