Episode 9: Paul K. Tunis Joins!
Hey-o, Alternaverts! A very special episode for ya this week: Paul K. Tunis spent the afternoon with us, and, boy, was it a blast! We walked through his incredible poetry comic Avenge Me, Eavesdropper and talked about the process of working in multimedia at once. (Oh! And hypnogogic writing. Look it up.) And in case you’d like a closer look at Paul’s comic, peep here or watch our conversation here. Dig it. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/alternaverse/support
Episode 7: The Divine Claudia Keelan Joins!
Episode 8: Holy Shit! It’s Eileen Myles, Y’all!
Hey there, Alternaverts! We have quite the spectacular conversation this week with Eileen Myles. Together, we three wend our way through talks of East River Park advocacy (which, you should check out and support in whatever way you can), an astounding career’s findings, machinations, and fascinations, and, of course, a devotion to dogs. You don’t wanna miss out on this one! Dig it. — Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/anniegooldlindseywarren/support
Episode 6: Soulmates Emma Eisler and Emma Bernstein Join!
Alternaverts, welcome welcome! We’ve got a special episode today with a little double trouble: Emma Eisler and Emma Bernstein of Kitsch, the Cornell University undergraduate arts publication. Together, we explore the wilderness of decentralized publishing, thinking about writing’s opportunity for community, girl magic, and further feistiness! Dig it. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app Support this podcast: Donate!
Liar! Liar! Burning Bright
So much of writing relies on lived experience. It’s really common (and I mean reeeeeeally common) to hear of fictional work being “based on a true story”, but how much do we need to know is “true” or lived? And is lived truth an inherently “better” base for material to be true in reception?
I remember being terribly frightened once (well, millions of times, but this time with particular acuity) that I couldn’t write a poem that wasn’t “true”, wasn’t something that I was either experiencing now or previously. I confided this fear in a peer from the workshop I was in at the time, and she gave me thus:
“Start writing lying poems.” I don’t know why I was so shocked by the directive. Maybe it was something about how simple the equation is in conjunction to how bound up with anxiety I was. Whatever. It gave me permission—command, actually—to stretch out of my sticking.
It’s still a challenge for me to twist out of experienced life within my work. There’s a real fear that I don’t have the imaginative capacities to summon something wholly fictitious, but that’s the trick: all poems have the chance to be considered fictitious or as something outside of poet’s being. Poems’re often better than us, every iota composed with a kind of rationale and intention, things regularly missing from human behavior. Poems can lie to get to the truth of the matter, something that’s fearsome and hard to say in the moment should that moment ever come, and they create the circumstances in which their realities exist, thereby making them true to the matter they’re concerned with, making distance between the poet and the poem. Thankfully, that distance can be antithetical to the literal and the lived. A poet can need that buffer, especially if creating something deeply close to “real life”, not necessarily to excuse behavior (though that is an element that can pursued), but to explore what else is exposed beyond nerves. Check out the peripherals of your truths. Something more interesting may be happening there that needs to be guessed at given the opacity of its inclusion. Or, maybe someone else needs to be heard for a while.
If a poet needs to start somewhere, lived experience is totally acceptable. I’m not negating the approach, as, like I said, I still struggle to make up experiences. Some find lying easier than others, but once you figure out that it’s a tool (and one worth applying!), the reins fall away a bit, even if just momentarily. Hell, why not start by lying small for practice? I mean, we’ve all had that imaginary conversation in the bathroom mirror with someone who isn’t there. Write that shit down! Clearly, you needed to hear something in your own voice.
So, was it you who left the ice cream out on the kitchen table? I thought so.
Episode 5: Korey Williams is Speaking!
Welcome back, dear listener! On this week’s episode, we speak with friend and fellow poet-scholar Korey Williams! From pushing for more interdisciplinary scholarship, to examining the waking life’s relationship to reading for more than simply pleasure, Korey invites us all to just take a minute to really appreciate our own personal bookcases and compositional accomplishments, as both are acts of loving. Dig it. — Support this podcast: Donate!
“Poem Box” by Lindsey Warren, beads, ink and paper on wood, 2020
Episode 4: Sasha Smith Shakes It Up!
Ohmygosh, you’re here! What a gorgeous gift to receive! In equal kind, we have a joyous conversation for y’all to enjoy and give ponderance: Episode 4! Sasha Smith talks alternate universes, Pando trees, the joining of word and dream via film and Lady Gaga, and just oodles more. Should you wish to do the very best thing for you and the world alike, check out her stuff here and here. You will be shaken anew in all the grooviest ways. Dig it. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/anniegooldlindseywarren/support
(List and prompt created by Sasha Smith)
Ever wonder what inspired a name like ‘Bird-of-Paradise’ for a flower? Below is a list of interesting common names for plants and animals.
Select one of the names. Do not research the name. Decide whether or not to use it as a plant (flower, mushroom, tree, berry, etcetera) or an animal (fish, bird, insect, butterfly, etcetera). Use the name as a title. Write a poem to describe the plant or animal.
Again, don’t google the names until after the poem!
Babblers and relatives
Dapplethroat and allies
Devil’s darning needle
Inaccessible Island rail
Old World buntings
Poor man’s mustard
James Wright, Spirit & the Moon
James Wright’s The Branch Will Not Break, unlike myriad other collections, does not engage with heavenly bodies as romantic or symbolic imagery. Rarely are the stars and the sun referenced (save the poem title “To the Evening Star: Central Minnesota”), let alone milked for poetic power. This is a book concerned with the earth. The only celestial entity that is entertained in these poems is the moon. The poem “Beginning” opens with “The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.” Here the spirit has a spotlight on it. The feathers that fall from the moon call to mind wings and the rising and falling of wings’ movement, just as the lungs breathe in and out and embody the origin of the word spirit, spirare, “to breathe” in Latin. The poem continues, “The dark wheat listens./Be still./Now.” Should not the wheat be illuminated in the light of the moon? But it is dark, turned off, seeking without distraction in the black night. And it is listening – to what? To Wright’s stillness. In that stillness, one can feel the lungs’ rising and falling (like the wings to which the moon’s feathers were once attached), one is alone with the spirit in its most personal state. Then, “Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow/Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone/Wholly, into the air.” The woman lifts the shadow of her face, not her actual face; it is the darkness cast off her body that she moves before she herself moves and is then swallowed by the air. This woman is Wright. She is the personification of what Wright and the wheat sense – “shadow from/a mirror,//shadow from breathing” – the spirit’s lifting the shadows, and then departing from matter. To quote Jung, “From the psychological point of view, the phenomenon of spirit, like every autonomous complex, appears as an intention of the unconscious superior to, or at least on a par with, intentions of the ego.” What unfolds with the woman is what Wright is listening into to the point of desiring: the act of creation as liberation. The poem continues, “I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe/Or move./I listen.” I do not dare breathe – for Wright’s spirit has already left in the form of disappearing vision of the woman. “The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,/And I lean toward mine.” Here the wheat and Wright return to their respective darknesses, resting in it, reflecting in it on what has transpired. This poem is Wright’s Genesis myth. Even its title “Beginning” denotes the creation of something (or someone) important in Wright’s cosmos – or, rather, to look at “creation” as not an act that is making something, but freeing something. In this scenario, Wright is creating/freeing his spirit by fabricating for it a body (that of the woman) ex nihilo which then is free to fulfill its will (to vanish into the ether). Once the creation is complete, Wright and the wheat, his spiritual collaborator, occupy their sabbath. Indeed, Wright and the wheat in this poem are the two creators, as Marie-Louise von Franz maintains in their differences. “One is more active. One is more passive…One is more human. One is less human…One is male. One is female.” Wright, of course, is of the first set of attributes (active, human, male) and the wheat is of the second set (passive, less human, female) but both are parts of what Von Franz calls “the preconscious totality.” Specific to the Gnostic interpretation of the Genesis myth, this poem acts out the belief that “there was Elohim, a high God who was good and completely spiritual and who was not involved in creation, which was brought about by the evil Yahweh, whom they interpreted as being a Luciferian, devilish figure.” The wheat is the purity represented by Elohim and Wright is the activity with manifestation-sullied hands represented by Yahweh who brought forth a character of spirit to emancipate it. And then, on their figurative seventh day, they both lean back on their darknesses, otherwise known in this parallelism as the preconscious totality. Darkness here serves as both source and rest.
Dream Poetry & Psychosis
Maybe’s it’s because of my medication and the heat in the night, but I’ve been dreaming and remembering them in when I wake. I’ve even been waking up surprisingly around 1 am, and the dreams segment themselves, sometimes blending from the former, sometimes finding new scapes to traverse.
It’s been reminding me of a course I took once entirely devoted to dream poetry and keeping a specific journal to capture the material lest it float away in the concrete world. I had to get over truth in the effort, as sometimes the dreams were scant, only seconds worth of sleep. I didn’t exactly embellish things, but it was more like pulling harder at the shapes and sensations of the dreams, making elongations enough for words and potential narrative.
The poems I’ve been writing lately, including the ones that aren’t from my dreams, though, have no trouble with finding narrative language inside their experiences. There’s something more direct about the work, more focused on steps in time accessible to the reader, as if the connective tissue of the scenes and sensory activity have deepened.
It’s been about ten years since I’ve written from my dreams in a real or consistent way, yet the entry is as fresh as then. I also wonder about the effects of my writing and reading practices since then, their potential for influencing what has been happening lately. Am I more collected now, more extensively gathered in my person? How much does my being properly medicated facilitate the making?
Once, I was psychotic.
I wasn’t on drugs, including my antidepressants, and I was found wandering a corner property of my grad school, trying to take off my clothes, enter the sheep pasture, kiss and dance with disturbed passersby, more. It scared so many people, but I had a blast. I thought I’d found a sliver between worlds of being, between the spiritual and magical and the known realm of the Earth. I heard the happy voices of my witch-mothers calling me, and the love of the universe brimming inside my skin, while at the same time, I wept for the losses and wounds of being alive and human. A friend found me, and I spent about 4-5 days on a behavioral health until, buzzing with psychosis/mania’s receding.
I was allowed a composition notebook within the first day on the unit, and wholly intent on writing it, I scrawled down my day of total psychosis before I lost it to memory’s shading: I made an artifact that I knew was going to help me find my way back.
I’ve submitted my transcription as a poem to countless publications; none have bitten yet, but I’ll keep going. Some have construed the work as a piece of fiction, enough so that they think it appropriate to tell me to “heighten the truth” of schizophrenia (not my neurodivergence). It’s okay. How are they to know that the work is nonfiction unless I were to tell them directly? How would that not influence their decisions and interpretations of risk in running my work? I understand the apprehension. Plus, it’s three pages long in prose formatting. Where does that fit?
With all of these questions, I think about the experience of a poem and the kind of results truths. Are they not a kind of psychotic event in themselves, as figurative language and tools borrow the bending of concrete living to invent entry into a poem’s thinking and feeling, which are often a wilderness of sorts seeking the readers’ bodies to do the sense-making.
I believed all that I was doing was the obvious, most rational move, too, and poems invite similar. There is reason and magic in the same stride, just like dream. I recorded my experience as directly and “unbeautified” as possible, but some poems, including dream poems, operate exactly the same in the process of composition.
I’ll keep an eye on my rationality’s nearness to the ground in waking hours, but my dream poems are going to keep rollin’ out their efforts. I hope you’ll walk with them.
Episode 3: Ayesha Raees Joins!
Hey, howdy, hello! You’re back, you excellent person, you. Thank you and welcome to episode 3 of Alternaverse! In this episode, we speak with co-founder and -editor of One Minute Press and superb poet Ayesha Raees. We take tea and poetry together in stride, talking the eternal mythos of womanhood, resisting boxes, uplifting AAPI and POC voices throughout the publishing world, and the joy of communal making. Be sure to check out Ayesha’s work, and support One Minute Press! Both are extraordinary. As are you, listener. Dig it.
Episode 2 – Sean Singer Joins!
Hey there, you! Welcome back! On this episode of Alternaverse, we are joined by exceptional poet and thinker Sean Singer. We talk poetic process, taxi cab anonymity, and a whole lot more. Sean’s site is available here, and we invite you to give our own freshly hatched set of pages a gander here. Send us a poem or a hello! Dig it. — Support this podcast: Donate!
I can’t sleep when I don’t attend some creative call. Write, draw, paint, walk: it has to happen or it won’t shut up.
Lately, I’ve been nourished by the possibilities of crossing mediums, like pairing oil pastel with watercolor via Photoshop. In fact, Lindsey and I are working on a chapbook that takes that combo and allows it to interplay with her poetry. It’ll be ready eventually, once we (well, I) figure out how to place the illustrations with the poetry. Sit tight!
My partner has pushed me even further by adding household materials to the mix, more specifically using rubbing alcohol, salt, and ink with watercolor as it’s still wet. Gotta say, it’s freeing if not a little frightening, too, as I have yet to really know how to apply these new additions in a controlled way, but that’s part of experience: allowing but not relying on the media to behave.
Then, there’s poetry.
When he visited our grad school, Ilya Kaminsky defined a poem as something of three components: sight, sound, and feeling. While I agree, a poem is no less than such, I wondered if there might be an opportunity to summon more in the experience of reading a poem. In this, I mean, might the body exist with the poem beyond simply sight and sound? I’m thinking most directly of the connection between smell and memory. Then again, it takes the sight of the words to teach the senses what is intended in the poem’s experience. The poem is, then, scent or taste or proprioception, time, balance, whatever sense (outside of sight, sound, and feeling) adjacent.
There’s another thing that trips me up: that damn “feeling”. Is that where the body is necessary for the poem to be fully realized? Also, feeling has flex to it. In that, I mean it can literally mean touch as much as the experience of another sense. I’m thinking of that sinus-burn of a sneeze that crescendos but stops just before any sort of exodus, that perpetual preparation for something that simply doesn’t arrive.
There’s a kind of amoebic experience promised in a poem that can only be described as touch, too. “I was touched by your reading” or “That poem touched something in me I didn’t know how to describe until now”. Or, maybe my favorite, “I thought it was just me.” That might be feeling enough.
Since I started writing poetry, I’ve pulled from the experiences of using various media to create 2D and 3D images and physical items. I’ve been knitting since I was 6, so sometimes, I draw in the act of looping together voices to build a single line, like adding multiple yarns to complete a row. Or, I’ll spill out a speaker onto the page uninterrupted by other colors, just focusing on the sound and its stroking/stoking. The poem, like the painting or sculpture, needs a form (re: Episode 2), and it’s my job to figure that out for the poem’s sake.
Now, I’m at the intersection of putting visual arts with written arts, and lemme tell ya: shit’s tough! Lindsey is a master of it (peep that Instagram of hers), but I’m still quite the sapling in the endeavor. Any suggestions are welcome, as I don’t know what I’m doing. I have only just begun.
Along with Linds, there are some other super stars and presses out there who have blazed the way through the poetry comics woods. Some of my favorites are Bianca Stone (the granddaughter of equally as badass Ruth Stone; hilarious, daunting, wounding), Chrissy Williams (founder of poetry comics in the UK; collaborator in loads of poetry comics anthologies), INK BRICK (killer comics poetry publication based out of Philly), and Ley Lines (another publication that investigates the points of contact between comics and words). I was also stunned still by what Pleiades Press has put out there, especially Nance Van Winckel‘s “Book of No Ledge: Visual Poems” and Jessy Randall‘s “How to Tell If You Are Human: Diagram Poems”. Some other folks to watch are Mita Mahato and Gabrielle Bates; I love everything I’ve seen and heard from them thus far, and their work even ventures into the moving arts, another vein of video poems (and something for further discussion in another post).
Get out those crayons, folks. It’s time to scrawl on the scribbles.