Apr 15, 2014

Twitter, Comics, and Poetry

I consider myself to be a member of two artistic communities: poetry and comics.

I write poetry, I've been published in several literary magazines, both online and in print, I had a chapbook published in December (only 8 copies left! yay!), I occasionally review poetry here on the blog, and I tweet about poetry.

I don't write comics (I would love to and I can see it becoming a future project once I finish this poetry collection) but I used to write comic book reviews. I'm still an avid reader of comics and I constantly tweet about the ones I love.

Now, guess who makes up the majority of my followers on Twitter and most often communicates with me? I'll give you a hint: it's not the poets.

I had a conversation on Twitter today with a comic book writer and several comic book fans about the benefits of Twitter and Tumblr: mainly that these mediums give a voice to people who would not normally have a voice. One of the most well-known comics writers currently writing tweeted me back and my tweet was favorited numerous times. And then I congratulated a few comic book writers and artists who have been nominated for Eisner awards. They tweeted back to thank me and let me know about their new work. The comic book community is one of the most active and welcoming communities I have ever experienced. They don't care that I'm not currently writing comic book reviews; they're just glad that I care about the work they're doing!

Then, I tweeted a bit about poetry. I'm mega-nervous about submitting to the Fairy Tale Review because I've been trying to get in there for 2 or 3 years and haven't been able to yet. And, when you're writing a collection of fairy tale poems, that crazy voice in your head likes to screech things like, "If you can't get your fairy tale poems into a literary mag that's ALL ABOUT fairy tales, you must really suck!" (Yeah, my imposter syndrome voice is SUPER nice). Anyways, I got one response back from a local writer. No one else responded. I got into a weird, semi-argument about whether or not song lyrics are poetry with an anonymous person (uhh, I'm going with they're different but related). No one else jumped in.

I recently realized that I'm not followed on Twitter by any literary magazine that I've been published in. Which seems really bizarre. So, I just did a quick search of a few literary magazines on Twitter. If they're on Twitter, they're generally following about 15% of the people who are following them. That's it. They're not reading or listening to their people. Now, I'm just a former English major, so that's not scientific by any means--I just chose magazines that I think of as prestigious in Canada and did some calculations. Some literary magazines aren't even on Twitter. So, if you're a literary magazine and you're on Twitter and following way more than that, then kudos! That's how you listen to your people! Otherwise, you're really just reinforcing the idea that poetry is pretentious and cliquey. Which it is. In my experience.

We could talk about the feud between Lemon Hound and Carmine Starnino but most people won't even know what I'm talking about.

We could talk about chapbooks, but most people don't even know what those are.

We could talk about trochees and spondees and dactyls, but really, who the hell knows what those are? And if you do, I kind of hate you. In a loving way, of course.

I've been feeling increasingly isolated as a poet. Now, maybe that's just how it goes as a poet, but the thing is, it shouldn't have to be that way.

Poets need to find a way to move their work online. Myself included. Some poets are already doing it...Dave McGimpsey and Patricia Lockwood spring to mind, simply because they're so outrageous (in a good way, guys! Don't want to start another feud here!).

But poets seem to operate in their own little bubble and we rarely interact with the world...it's as if there are no poetry fans; there are only other poets.

Most literary magazines won't publish a poem that has been previously "published," even if it's on your blog or Tumblr or whatever. Which means that there's no way to directly reach an audience that doesn't mostly consist of other poets and academics without limiting the work you can send out. Most literary magazines are run by academics for other academics. Some literary magazines don't even accept emailed submissions or use Submittable!

Poetry is a baby boomer when it needs to be a millennial.

Poetry needs to take a few notes from the comic book world. Poets should be on Twitter, on Tumblr, on Instagram--and they should be using those sites to interact with each other about the things that they like, to interact with people who have read their work, to create a community that everyone can feel part of, regardless of how many poems or books they have published or whether they're a "real Canadian poet" (which, btw, total bullshit) or not.

So, today, I'm wondering, how do we move poets' voices online and tear down the ivory tower?

Apr 4, 2014


As of this year, it's been five years since I was in a rollover car accident. It was actually my second rollover, which is perhaps why it had such an effect on me. You can read the essay I wrote about it the week after here. I didn't know it at the time, but that car accident has had long-lasting effects on my life and health since then.

After the accident, I thought I was fine but I went through symptoms of PTSD soon after. The stats are something like 1 in 3 rollovers result in death and 25% of people who go through a life-threatening situation experience symptoms of PTSD. So I fit in those stats pretty neatly. After the accident, I avoided driving that road because I experienced flashbacks as soon as I went near it, I wouldn't pass semis and would often start shaking when I saw one, I couldn't fall asleep or close my eyes without reliving the rollover again and jerking myself awake, and I had nightmares about it. I felt silly for having these feelings and worked hard to mask them and make them go away. That old motto about "getting back on the horse" kept going over and over in my head.

When I started having daily (yes, every day) headaches, I started going for massage appointments, which helped, but only temporarily. So I tried myofascial release and discovered it helped exponentially more--both physically and emotionally. As we talked about the accident, he began equipping me with tools to deal with the anxiety that was causing the pain. I experienced a flashback while I was on the table, which enabled me to work through it in a safe space, and then bring some of that peace to my driving. A year or two later, I began taking yoga classes, which also improved my pain level. Most of the symptoms I experienced went away after a while but others lingered.

It wasn't until last year that my headaches stopped. I only have nightmares about the rollover when I'm really stressed out. I'm still a nervous passenger, which I discovered when I freaked out on Christian for bumping a trash can last year but closing my eyes in a moving vehicle stopped needing an inner monologue first. I don't need to remind myself as often to breathe and relax my shoulders when driving in icy conditions.

So why am I sharing this? Well, my reasons are twofold. First, I now know a few people who have experienced similar accidents and symptoms. I want people to know that it's normal. Because I didn't know what was going on for a while and I felt scared and ashamed. And I want them to know that it goes away.

Which brings me to my second reason. I'll be starting Fresh Meat in May, to train for roller derby. I stopped playing sports and I started limiting what I did after my accident. And I want to prove to myself that this accident doesn't have to define me or what I do. Do I know if I'll be able to handle it? No. Am I terrified? Yes. But that's why I'm going to do it. It's time to face my fears.

Mar 26, 2014

Reading with Lauren Carter

Next Wednesday (April 2nd) at 7:30 pm, I'll be reading a couple poems at Lauren Carter's reading of her first novel, Swarm. I've started reading it and I'm really enjoying it! Lara Stoudt, Debby Adair, and Credence McFadzean will also be reading. We'll be cozied up in the Faculty Lounge on the 3rd floor of AdHum building at the University of Regina.

Check out the Facebook event page for more details!

From the book jacket: In the not-too-distant future, thirty-seven-year-old Sandy lives a challenging and unfamiliar life. She survives by fishing, farming, and beekeeping on an isolated island with her partner, Marvin, and friend, Thomson. When the footprints of a thieving child start appearing in their garden, the family must come together to protect both the child and their fragile community.
In the face of scarcity, Sandy still dreams of being a mother. The thought of a child compels her to revisit her earlier life in a city plagued by power outages, unemployment, and protests. There she met Marvin and joined his violent cause, initiating a chain of events that led to tragic and life-altering consequences.
A powerful debut novel, Swarm is about persevering in a time of shrinking options, and coming to terms with regrettable choices.

Feb 3, 2014

Vertigo Reading

I'm very pleased to announce that I'll be reading as part of the Vertigo Series at Crave next Monday, the 10th! I am honoured to be included in this fabulous line up--there will be music by Belle Plaine and readings from Anne Lazurko (author of Dollybird) and Daniel Macdonald (you may have seen some of his plays at Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon). I'll be reading some poems from my chapbook, Sea Foam, and I will also read a few new poems. 

I attended the last Vertigo Series and found it highly enjoyable--it takes place in a cozy room in the centre of Crave, with a blazing fireplace and a cash bar to ward off the cold. And if that's not enough to warm you up, the music and stories and poetry certainly will! Check out the poster for more details below!

Jan 7, 2014

To Summarize

I never understood why the New Year begins in January when it obviously begins in September when school starts. I'm starting to get it now that I'm not an undergraduate.

I'm not usually much for looking back on an entire year since I tend to look at one big thing at a time but it's been a big year, so I feel the need to sum it up. I don't think I realized what an incredible year it's been until I flipped through my calendar.

Let's see...I started off 2013 with no job but a wedding on the horizon...

Then I found a job. And I loved my job. All 10 hours a week of it. And then 20. And then suddenly I was there for the whole week and my contract kept getting extended every time I reached the end of it and I couldn't believe that I was actually working in publishing but I was and it was so awesome that I kind of wanted to scream every time I proofread a really great poem or someone asked me about Oxford commas (but of course I didn't, because I'm still too quiet for that).

Somewhere in there, I planned a wedding and worked on my thesis...flying along with the wedding and inching along on the thesis. I had poems published in Carousel and Spring and I found out that my chapbook proposal to JackPine Press had been accepted.

I married Christian on a beautiful day in June. It was wonderful and full of happy tears and you can read about it in previous posts. We went to New York and walked everywhere and saw Monet's water lilies and some funny statues of pandas doing it and loads of dinosaur bones and Spider-Man flying over our heads and a one-man show of Macbeth and Ground Zero and Lady Liberty and...my feet hurt just thinking about it.

I ended off the year by making and publishing my first chapbook with artist Faith Logan. We launched it in Saskatoon and Regina. They're now for sale online over at JackPine Press! If you're in the area, you can message me on Twitter and buy one from me directly!

And now I find that we're a week into 2014 already. I wasn't sure if I was going to have a New Years resolution this year (I didn't last year) because so much depended on keeping my job. If I had needed to find a new job, the status quo would have shifted without needing to add extra things on top of it. Now that I know I'll be staying on at my current job (a thousand hurrahs!), I'd like to change a few other things. I'd like to register in a yoga class and start going to the gym again. I've been practicing yoga for a few years now; I found that it's one of the only (less-expensive) ways of keeping my neck and back problems at bay ever since I was in a rollover accident. I tried doing yoga at home last semester but found that I was more likely to get lazy about it (plus, doing the same practice every time gets really boring!). However, I have a second motive for maintaining the yoga and going back to the gym. I want to try out for roller derby this year. I'm really nervous about it; I have no idea if I can do it, especially with my back acting up again, but the stubborn part of me (the part that told my coach in high school I was fine to play basketball with stitches in my split elbow) is yelling, "Go for it!"

I also decided on a couple other New Year's resolutions. As I was going through my bookshelf over the holidays, I realized that I have a ton of new-to-me books now that Christian and I have combined our libraries. I simultaneously realized that I have not been challenging myself to read any books outside of my comfort zone. So, I went through our bookshelves and pulled out all of the books that I haven't read, or have been meaning to read, or have been recommended to me. I asked for Christian's opinion on any author with multiple books in our collection, to narrow down what I would read. I still ended up with almost 50 books. So I've challenged myself to read at least 50 books this year! You can see them in my reading list on Goodreads. There are a few in there that I've read before but are worth re-reading (Anne Simpson's Is, Neil Gaiman's American Gods), there are a few that I never thought I would read (Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey), and there are a few that I read part of once but never finished (Clive Barker's Abarat, LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness). I still have room for a few more if anyone has recommendations!

My second New Year's resolution is to read less news and/or avoid inflammatory news stories. Mostly, I need to cut down the amount of Huffington Post articles I read. I found myself getting sucked into a lot of click-bait articles last year--they almost always piss me off and they very rarely lead to me thinking about something enough to make art out of it. See resolution four and five for why this is important.

My third resolution isn't so much a resolution as a thing to try. I would like to learn how to knit. I'm not very good at cooking, I don't have any children to sew for, and I don't have a garden to putter around in, but if there's one thing I learned from planning a wedding, it's that I really like being crafty and having something to do with my hands when I watch tv.

The fourth and fifth go hand in hand: be present and make art (see the link for a wonderful post about making art by Amanda Palmer). I learned some important things about writing and my writing process last year and I would like to put them into practice this year.

Back in September, a co-worker of mine said something like this: "You must write from within yourself, and for yourself, not for the audience or the critics, because they will paralyze your process and your art." I realized that I knew exactly what he meant--when I looked back at my least productive writing times, they were caused by my worrying about what other people would think of my poetry (also known as imposter syndrome). I still don't know how to protect my process from too-early self-consciousness or from imposter syndrome, except maybe to accept that it's part of my process and that it will pass.

In November, I attended my first writing retreat since high school. I could write a whole blog post about what I learned from the wonderful writer-in-residence Kelley Jo Burke but I can sum it up in one phrase that I've already used: protect your process. She reminded us that even when we stare at our notes or read a book or take a nap or practice yoga, we are writing. Those things are all part of our process.

The third thing I learned about my writing process came in December at a luncheon with some other ladies in the writing community. When we were asked how we write AND have a life, one of the other women replied, "Be present." She went on to describe how she carries her writing in her head everywhere, keeps a notebook close, snatches a minute here and a minute there, and I found myself nodding, remembering how I used to keep a sheet of paper on top of the photocopier when I was scanning archive materials so that I could write down poem ideas as I waited for the machine. I realized that I hadn't been staying as present with my art as I could be and resolved to take my notebook with me on all my lunch breaks and not allow myself to get distracted by random news articles or an unnecessary errand.

I think I'm ready for 2014.