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


The Chaos in my Order and the Order in my Chaos

By: Sasha Smith

Because I chase existence, my long poem Aletheia: The Stream of Unclosedness is a convergence of two concepts: 1. the exploration of gestation and fetal development gone awry and 2. the perfection and imperfection of the cosmos through the Golden Ratio. I encourage you to engage first with Audio & visual excerpts and/or 4 φ sections in Columbia Journal, prior to this sequential essay.


What is Aletheia? A continuation of my writerly obsessions. A development of Nature. Of Matter. Of the Universe.  Its Atoms. Cells. Membranes. Embryos. Super Novas. Us. Star Dust. Folds. Is. You. Typical. Topical? Contemplating existence is a common theme of mine but after losing a friend in 2018, my obsession became set on questioning how I define existence. What does the order of disorder and the disorder of order look or sound like? What or where is the definition of existence or the existence of definition? There’s a focus also on the multitudes of -verse: traverse, converse, averse, obverse, reverse, inverse, and the essential Universe. In fact, the same could be said about -sence: presence, absence, omnipresence, quintessence, and essence. Etymology, movement, and definition are intrinsic and salient elements in the foundation of my poems. If:

  • existence =                    ex + sistere : out + take a stand : coming into being;
  • define =                         de + finis : completion/totally + end : bring to an end;
  • -verse =                         vertere : turn;
  • -esse / is =                to be;
  • -sense / sense =           thought, meaning, feeling;
  • also the etc and linkage of  | be, being, that, the, this, thing, matter |

then defining existence is a paradoxical and visceral  task. I welcome it, always. What if no one remembers your existence? Is existence a thing that can not be broken down? Is it matter? Subatomic? Are there no true fundamental parts? No root? No element? No nucleus? No membrane? Is it deeper than the protons in your last breath. That breath. Yes, that breath. That one. The one that just left you. The one you can’t have back. Is that existence? Probably. Maybe? Who knows. No one! It doesn’t even matter. Matter doesn’t matter.


I’ve decided – because I can and because English is a language I mock because it isn’t mine, was never mine, isn’t even its own, is something stuck permanently in superposition, in its own potential – I’ve decided that existence is more and less, nothing and everything, we don’t exist and we exist, because we’re not ours. Our matter isn’t ours.  Our being isn’t being. There is no memory outside of the sentiment of our fixed physical state – a state we’re only trapped in for the duration it takes for us to return to Us. We are perpetually in the state of gestation. Fermentation. Decomposition. We are forming and folding, coiling and unraveling. We-Universe, We-Being, We-Void. How do I turn that into the language of a poem? How do I turn that into the language of all my poems? 

That’s the quest. My poems come out of gestation. I consume, I let sounds bounce around post-consumption. I let them form. I allow stages of that formation to cause a shift and then I listen to the crash. I let it crackle until its cracks and creases begin to eat me – becoming the Poet’s Elergy or Autophagy or Ouroborus. Autolysis or Black Hole. I let it enact upon me a new sort of revenge. A galactic one? I won’t explain further, but this is how I exist within my work and in a sense nothing I write can differ from its predecessor or successor because it will always be locked in this obsession of self-eating and D-I-Y language.


Subvocalization is silent speech. “Internal speech”. As you read this your articulators (speech organs) are moving. As you read this the words become images but the language and the meaning of this very sentence is spoken by your inner voice and therefore transcends the picturesque serif font. To read is to speak is to hear. Or something. Maybe. I prefer to read my work aloud, but I also consider the inner voice and the motors of the body that are tied to language. I use a visual, oral, auditory landscape, so my project Aletheia: the Stream of Unclosedness is an exploitation of nature and existence in all its randomness and order, all its inevitability of formation and arbitrarily shifting design. The problem for this Poet is that this is an unachievable endeavor. I doubt it translates well in practice vs this essay-esque explanation of the theory/concept behind it. 


I claim lyricism as a default but what does that mean? Does the fragmentation and concept of my work declassify it from your sense of lyric? What is your sense of lyric? Is it strange that the word ‘lyric’ makes me cringe? Is there a classification? I don’t know how to define my work as anything other than an ‘exploration’ of definition and existence as it exists in superposition or as suspension.  My questions are wholistic. What is the trend or nature of my work? I struggle to see movement, surprise, effectiveness. Am I doing anything? What am I doing? Is my work a reenactment of a decision to define Existence as Is (or etymologically ‘a decision to define ‘coming out of being’ as ‘to be’). Does that mean anything? Does the poem have a place in that? Does any poem? Is this too socratic for you? I know the answer is ‘You’re thinking too much” but in my most doubtful phase of writing, I’m unable to escape the feeling that my poems aren’t harassing the senses AND conveying genuine meaning, but that they’ve instead turned into spilt porridge on winter pavements.


How much of my writing is concept and how much of it is art? Theory vs practice. Perhaps my exploration of language and my combative approach to that exploration has soured feelings towards my own use of it. It’s easy to become sick of yourself (especially when the Self is an Autophagy Apologist). 

Is my work arbitrary? What if it’s not? Does it work for or against its intentions?  Is there anything surprising in its language or contents? Is it wrong to say there’s no answer? Or that any answers will serve as false reasonings for a post-MFA therapy session? Have I used up all I can extract from a language shoveled into my ancestors marrows? Ancestors whose own languages were throttled and eroded into a frequently insulted stew-like speech? Am I seeking but failing to grasp surprise or torque, or whatever it was that came through my journey via residue?  Am I an imbalanced writer? An imbalanced person? An imbalance? Am I tipped towards the edge with projects and concepts in one hand and an emptied dictionary in the other.

I don’t know if I see language in a way that best answers my posed questions (or anyone’s). I’ve never been able to place my writing in any zone or category worth championing, and that state of superposition is tiring. Sometimes painful. Mostly disorienting. I accept the term ‘experimental’ for the ease of others and the term lyrical out of the default responses of others. But what is it? Why can’t I accept my language, my style, my sensibility, my voice, these poems as more than an “Is”. If there’s a question to be asked of any piece of art or any fragment of meaningful and mindless, fumbling thought, it’s “Is this arbitrary bullshit”?


Those are  “Writer-Being-Writer” questions not to be asked in workshops, or asked at all. So I asked. ‘Why bother?’ begs absolutely no one in the Aether. Because there’s a world that binds innovation to adventure, encloses it in paper sheets, and slips it into labeled frames for no one in particular and for no particle or participant, no principle or principal, and no waiting patron or partying partisan of parting participles. Because why not bother? Because YES to discord over concord. Because I can. Because ‘Is’ is ‘Existence’. Because Is.


(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! 

Abbott’s booby
Angel trumpet
Ashy tit
Babblers and relatives
Black-eyed Susan
Comely shiner
Common swift
Common miner
Dame’s rocket
Dapplethroat and allies
Destroying angel
Devil’s darning needle
Empress brilliant
Freckled nightjar
False box
Golden buttons
Golden whistler
Great knot
Inaccessible Island rail
Jointed rush
Little nightjar
Little swift
Little weaver
Little woodstar
Masked booby
Noisy miner
Old World buntings
Pale-bellied mourner
Philippine creepers
Plain swift
Plain nightjar
Poor Annie
Poor man’s mustard
Purple roller
Sociable weaver
Southern screamer
Snoring rail
Spectacled tyrant
Star-spotted nightjar
Strange weaver
Sweet rocket
Trailing bittersweet
Wandering tattler
Water ash
Wound rocket

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!

Poetry Comics

“Hospitality” (c. 2020, mixed media) by Annie Goold

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.

Episode 1 – Precious Moments w/ Shane Kowalski


Welcome to Episode 1 of Alternaverse, a podcast all about poetry and its in between spots. Today’s guest is the fabulous Shane Kowalski, a dear friend of both Lindsey and Annie’s and a fantastic writer in his own right. Seriously. Check out his work! Should you be interested in any of the presses and/or writing to/with us, please visit Tammy Journal, Bat City Review, Finishing Line Press, GASHER, and One Minute Press. Dig it. — Support this podcast: Donate here!