29 December 2014

Holiday sweets: Sugar House Review!


The long-anticipated 


Sugar House Review 

is HERE!

Receiving my beautiful, brightly-colored contributors' copies of Sugar House Review, issue 10 was the cherry on top of my much-needed holiday break. My Angela Carter poem "Fevvers (Authenticating the Cockney Venus)" is in this jam-packed volume with words from poet-friends like Donna Vorreyer, Laura Madeline Wiseman, and so many talented others. My poem is right across the page from a poem by Sara Eliza Johnson, writer of the 2014 collection Bone Map! I'm so excited to be among such fabulous company. Get your own copy of this gorgeous magazine here. 

Happy New Year, friends!

16 December 2014

My year in poetry, 2014

I've spent the past year in the very slow construction of a poetry collection that is only now a quarter of the way to completion. I took a break from submitting to focus on the writing of new work for this manuscript and it has resulted in a whole new writing approach for me: writing as architecture, writing each new poem as a part of some larger work. In this way, writing toward an eventual book feels like a much different process from writing individual poems with no endgame in mind. 
I'm closing the year with a grand total of 14 pieces for my Catechesis manuscript (which is 8 more than I started with). I must admit that over the past months I have been frustrated and impatient with my slow progress, but I am very happy with these new poems in which I am creating a mixed-up kind of folklore with a loose narrative that spans from poem to poem.

Here are a few of them:
"Girl with no Hands" & "Interlude," in The Feminist Wire, June 25, 2014.
"Girl who Gave Birth to an Apple," in The Wolf Skin, April 23, 2014.

I hope to get back on the submitting wagon in the new year with some of these newer, unpublished poems, but my main focus again will be developing and populating the manuscript. Maybe along the way, I will acquire some more patience as well.   

11 November 2014

Experimenting with erasure

During my poem-a-day challenge for NaNoWriMo 2014, I've given myself the freedom to experiment with some different forms that I've been curious about, but a little too bashful to try before. I know what that sounds like, but different poetic forms, especially some of the more contemporary/experimental ones, can be a little …intimate. Well, very intimate, actually.

Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 165.

I'm still figuring out how I feel about erasure as a poetic form. I'm not sure that I would lump my erasures into the same category that I would my poetry. The hands-on, collage-like process of erasure creates something that, to me, feels more like visual art

You are working with a page from an already printed (and/or bound) text (that was, hopefully, in bad shape before you started tearing pages out). You can erase (i.e. cross out) the words you don't want to use in creating your new text, but you can't add words (even little ones) that aren't already there and you can't rearrange their order on the page. It's harder than it looks like it will be before you've begun marking up the page. But it's a stimulating sort of challenge, that forces you to look at the myriad ways a single word can be manipulated into multiple meanings. It's almost like you're searching for a secret code embedded in the text, but the code message isn't actually there at all. You're finding subliminal meaning where it hasn't been planted for you. Which could be considered schizophrenic, unless its art.

Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 83.

The thing about erasures is that more than half of the effect is visual. If these scattered clusters of words are removed from their page of origin and arranged on a new canvas, without all of that residual blank space where the erased text was, the poetry is nearly removed from the poem. Its quality of foundness, of altered-artness, makes it something more. That imposed spacing that spreads this smattering of culled words and phrases down the length of the page, the knowing that these words were stolen from a larger text beneath it, gives it added layers of meaning.  

Erasure of text from Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. page 22.

For my erasure experiments, I used a particularly battered copy of one of my favorite novels: Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. I imagine this would yield even greater results with non-literary texts, but I started with a text I knew well. Intimately, even.

06 November 2014

The Month of Scented Things

Here's a brief slideshow of the lovely blur that was October and the release of The Book of Scented Things.

The Literary House launch party on October 7, 2014.
Me, reading my poem & talking about poetry.

Editing discussion at the Arts Club of Washington on October 29, 2014.

With Caroline Knuth, lovely poet-friend who came to the DC launch.

It's been an amazing celebration of a month for our beloved anthology and both launch events were such fun. We were joined by contributors, friends, family, and even Chanel! Thank you to everyone who helped make these events so successful and thank you for welcoming The Book of Scented Things into the reading world. 

Some other things that happened in October:
  • The Book of Scented Things landed an amazing review by poet-perfumista Kathleen Rooney in The Chicago Tribune! It ran in their dedicated books section, Printers Row Journal, on October 16.
  • Jehanne and I attended our first Dodge Poetry Festival from October 24-26! Among the fabulous poets I got to hear read and talk were Rita Dova, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sally Wen Mao, Shara McCallum, Tracy K. Smith and many others. And I got to catch up with Newark poetry friends Bryanna Tidmarsh, Michael VanCalbergh, and Melissa Adamo. Also, Bryanna and Michael's lovely little Nora.

For November, I am participating in my poetry version of NaNoWriMo: a poem a day for a month. Here's to another busy, happy month of poetry and books!

13 October 2014

A review to cure the Monday blues

The Book of Scented Things received a new review today from Grace Cavalieri at the Washington Independent Review of Books. We were singled out for the October edition of her "Poetry Exemplars" column, in which we are lucky enough to appear alongside new books from Michael Collier and Katie Ford, among others. I am also beyond flattered that Cavalieri chose my poem "Elegy with Osage-Orange" to excerpt for her review.

As the least accomplished poet of this intimidating group of powerhouse writers, I understandably have a bit of an inferiority complex about my little poem appearing alongside theirs in our beloved anthology. Thanks, Grace Cavalieri, for helping me feel like my poem has earned its place there. Happy Monday!

I also found out a week or so ago that Midway Journal has nominated my poems from volume 7, issue 4 for the 2014 Best of the Net! Thanks so much Midway editors!! My fingers are crossed hard.

08 October 2014

A new kind of beauty for a new age

After a year out of circulation and a full redesign, The Lumberyard is back! Issue 11 is brand-new, gorgeous, and has a poem of mine in it. This magazine gives a great deal of attention to design and always has a stunning, letterpress-printed cover. Check it out:

Even the interior is impeccably designed. I'm in love with how they illustrated my poem "from Atomic Age" and laid it out on the page. It's absolutely perfect, this beautifully simple and regal two-page spread.

I am so thrilled to have my poem made into a piece of visual art by designer Larry Buchanan, in this issue curated by editor Lindsey Alexander. In her editor's note, Lindsey said a lot of lovely things about the poems in this issue while meditating on the importance of "Beauty, Age, Goodness, and Size" and the order in which they come.
"The poets in this Lumberyard consider the scope of these adjectives, and in a manner Mme Bunting would approve, put them up front.
"What's beautiful here? Two orphans sit in front of a rococo sunset and ponder love; girls sweat their hair out jumping rope; a hummingbird.
"In this issue, poets deal with age and size in content and form. Each fresh, each drawing on a backstory older than Adam (or atoms?), some long and quiet or just a few little lines loud and with punch.
"Along these lines, you might notice some changes to the Lumberyarda new kind of beauty for a new age. A new size to accommodate them."

It felt extra special to get a reference in the editor's note. It makes me feel like my poem had a greater hand in shaping the issue as a whole. Thank you so much, Lindsey and Larry, for taking such time and care with my poem and my fellow-LYers' work. And thank you to 7 Ton Letterpress Collective (in my beloved Asheville, NC) for your fabulous printing work on this gorgeous cover. This is all why it was absolutely worth the wait

You can buy your own copy here. And you should.

28 September 2014

All this time

First, please let me apologize for my longer than usual absence from this space. It has been an extremely busy month and a half of work with the Literary House Press. But I'll tell you now some of the things I've been up to all this time: 

1. Cherry Tree
On August 15th, Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal @ Washington College opened for general submissions. As managing editor, it has been my job to sift through the hundreds of electronic packets of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction: sending them to the screeners who will read them first and then moving them up the reading hierarchy. I'm also responsible for handling all of the correspondence with submitters and (when we're lucky) contributors. So all the (unfortunately) form rejections, the (better) encouraging rejections, and the (BEST) acceptance letters for the truly unmistakably fabulous pieces. I prepare and send out the publication contracts for those accepted pieces. I work with the writers to edit those pieces that require those final touches to make them polished and perfect (or close enough, anyway). I've even been keeping daily statistics on our submissions and responses. It's a big job but, so far, it is one that I have really loved doing. By now, we've nearly filled the roster for issue 1, but we'll still be reading until Cherry Tree closes for submissions on October 15th.

2. The Book of Scented Things
We are also preparing for the launch of our brand-new poetry anthology, The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume, on October 7th at the Rose O'Neill Literary House. So we've been working our butts off marketing and promoting the book. It has arrived at our distributor, Small Press Distribution, where it is available for purchase. It has also received a few good reviews at popular perfume blogs like Bois de Jasmin and Ayala Moriel's Smelly Blog, and by Penning Perfumes editor Claire Trévien at Sabotage Reviews. We sent out promotional postcards to a select list of independent bookstores and libraries. The official book launch will be October 7th at 4:30PM at the Literary House. Then we'll follow that up with a second book launch on October 29th at 7:00PM at the Arts Club of Washington in DC. I can't wait for both of these events!

3. Other writing things
So during this time, when not editing and marketing, I am still writing my own poetry (when I can manage it): continuing in development of the collaborative chapbook manuscript Women's Work and continuing the sequence of poems that will make up the opening section of my (intended) full-length manuscript Catechesis. In addition to the slow and steady writing progress, some other fun things in the works:
  • I will be planning a poetry reading (my first!) with the lovely and talented Sally Rosen Kindred to take place in the Annapolis area. Details to come!
  • I have also been invited to be the Poetry Judge for the contest from Echoes & Images, a literary magazine out of Northeast State Community College in Tennessee!


11 August 2014

Women's Work

Two weeks ago, I began a collaborative chapbook project with my super talented poet-printer friend, Emma Sovich. We're both letterpress printersshe's actually close to finishing her MFA in Book Arts at the University of Alabamaand as evidenced by our letterpress-centric Asheville vacation a year ago, we're pretty passionate about it. For such an industrial art, the letterpress printing renaissance that we're living right now is also largely populated by women. And all of these awesome women in the print shop has us feeling like the proper granddaughters of Rosie the Riveterat home amid the smells of lead type and rubber-based ink, working to the hum of the motorized proof or platen press. 

Image by Emma Sovich

Our collaborative chapbooktentatively titled Women's Workwill attempt to use the cast-iron imagery of the print shop to create a contrast with the traditional notion of softer, domestic tasks as "women's work." As relatively straightforward as this prompt sounds in concept, it does become a bit more tangled and difficult when you get down to the minutiae. The first poem I have written for this project casts a platen press in the role of clothes iron and ironing board, a housewife using a platen press to iron her family's clothes. This poem in particular plays on two definitions of the word "press": 
  1. to press clothes; to smooth out wrinkles in the fabric;
  2. a machine that prints text on paper by creating an impression of the metal type.
The end result is a poem that discusses the dehumanizing desire for one-dimensionality. A flatness of character created by stereotypes of domestic womanhood. Emma and I hope that, in the end, the fifteen to twenty poems we write for this chapbook manage to construct a kind of printers' feminist manifesto (or even a feminists' printing manifesto). Establishing through poetry the noble motto of the Ladies of Letterpress

"Dedicated to the Proposition that 
a Woman's Place is in the Print Shop."


And in other poetry news:
  • Poet Sandra Marchetti recorded her reading of my poem "Foxwife," published in Midway Journal this past October. I love her sensuous interpretation and her deep, lush voice. 
  • A new review by April Jones of Fairy Tale Review's Emerald Issue has been published on The Review Review. "It is a collection of insanely skilled authors and artists who take Dorothy's magical journey to a more modern audience." And I am so honored to have my poem amongst their pieces! 
  • And in just 4 days, Cherry Tree (on which I serve as managing editor) will open for its first reading period for general submissions. Even though this is my first time at the helm, I feel ready to manage this mischief. So send your best work our way, beginning August 15!

23 July 2014

Some summer reading

Because my friend Michele has requested so especially, I've put together a list of some of my favorites of the small press poetry books I've recently acquired and read.

1. Blood Makes Me Faint But I Go For It, by Natalie Lyalin (Ugly Duckling Presse)
I've loved the decidedly strange, but wondrous poetry of Natalie Lyalin since reading her chapbook from UDP, Try a Little Time Travel back in 2010. There's a distinct voice that leaps from poem to poem, that I trust in its confidence even though it's telling me things I've never heard before. Her new collection delivers on a lot of the same qualities that drew me in with her chapbook. Read more about it in her interview here. She's part of UDP's Eastern European Poets Series.

 2. Her Book, by Éireann Lorsung (Milkweed Editions)

I picked up Éireann Lorsung's Her Book last summer at Malaprop's Bookstore when I was on vacation. I read through it in only two nights while still in Asheville because it was such a compulsive reading experience for me. Infused with wildness and lyric language. Insects, weedy flowers, and the calm of northern England. These poems are as atmospheric as they are storytelling. There is a much better review of this book here

3. Girl Show, by Kristy Bowen (Black Lawrence Press)

Kristy Bowen's new collection of poems delivers carnival as collage and fabulism and matriarchy. Each one is chock full of things, objects. A vivid and lyrical specificity that accumulates into story, and sometimes prairieland prophecy. It's the mid-century, mid-country midway of our imaginations. Read an interview with Kristy here.

P.S. She's my editor at the envelope-pushing dancing girl press!

4. Darling Hands, Darling Tongue, by Sally Rosen Kindred (Hyacinth Girl Press)

Sally Rosen Kindred's re-imagining of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy is a woman-centered world with a very particular focus on the body: girl, woman, fairy. These poems pull adult themes from the children's story that we all noticed, but perhaps did not examine as closely before now. The way a girl's changing body shuts her out of one world and pushes her into another. Hips. Lips. "[T]wo bones from the tongue/ of a lark." My particular favorite from this chapbook is "Notes from a Fairy Autopsy." Read an interview with Sally here

I'm sure you've probably noticed a trend here. My tastes tend to steer me more toward poetry written by women about women and girls. This definitely shows up in my writing as well. No apologies.

17 July 2014

Cleaver Magazine: a second review of Imago

Poetry reviewer Kenna O'Rourke wrote up a really great review of my chapbook Imago for Cleaver Magazine! So exciting! Here are some of my favorite bits: 

"Even if one were to dismiss the conceit of Imago (or interpret it more literally), the chapbook would resonate courtesy of the very elegance of the lines within. Refreshingly sparse and thoughtfully arranged, Lusby's language is what transmutes absurdity into emotion here…"

"Sense is abandoned for the sensory; logic abandoned for mystery. In other words, by Lusby's strange machinations, a reader can't help but look at vegetables a bit differently for a spell."

Thank you so much for your generous words, Kenna! Read the full review here.

The Cleaver Magazine Twitter account referred to it as "eggplant-fantasia." And I think I like it. Hah!

11 July 2014

Manifesto of a feminist, in brief

**This typically has not been a space in which I air my political views. I try to stay on the topic of poetry, printing, and books. But there are some things I need to say that are central to who I am on the subject of feminism that have steadily bothered me more and more and more. Today, I've reached a breaking point. These are things that seep into every part of my life including the obsessions listed above. Bear with me for this one post, please.**

FIRST OF ALL: I am a proud feminist. 

HOWEVER, from the beginning there has been this ugly underbelly that at some point was given a name: White Feminism. KEEP READING. This is not a name for feminists who are also white. This is a dangerously clueless movement polluting the greater, beautiful cause. That only understands feminism through the lens of the middle-class white woman. This lens has no capability for peripheral vision and, so, the White Feminist cannot understand why women of color still have issues regarding race and class and prejudice and discrimination, or why all of these issues are inextricably interconnected with feminism. White Feminists' propensity to approach all issues of race with defensiveness automatically shuts down further conversation, and the issue dies in stubborn discord and divisiveness. They create a brick wall down the middle of feminism and put everything that makes them uncomfortable about inherited privileges on the other side. 

SURE, the feminist who is white faces issues of sexism, just like our feminists of color. But we white girls DO have privilege of race. Acknowledging that privilege does not denigrate the legitimacy of your feminism. So stop running away from it. It will make you uncomfortable, sure, but you're a woman which means you're incredibly strongso suck it up. When you do face up to your own privilege, it will open you up in a way that allows you to listen to an experience that is not your own and learn from it. Listening and learning from mistakes makes you a better person and a better feminist. None of us are saying that being born white makes you a bad person, so please stop crying victim, White Feminists. You are not being attacked. You are being asked to stop talking for a minute and listen. And then, take a few minutes to absorb and reflect. Reflect on yourself and be honest. Have empathy. You don't have to respond right away. And remember: granting legitimacy to the experiences of another person does not de-value your own. That's not what this is about.

THE THING IS: As feminists, I feel we have a responsibility to respect the legitimate differences in our experiences, as well as the similarities. Feminists who are white should be supporting their (our) fellow feminists of color in bringing issues to the table that affect them in a way that is unique to them. That doesn't create divisiveness within the feminist movement—the refusal to provide that equal respect does.

DO YOU SEE? Equal. Respect. That's all it's ever been about.

**This has been a test of the emergency alert system. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming**

10 July 2014

Interview: Writers on the Writing Process

Laura E. Davispoet, editor of Weave Magazine, and founder of Submission Bombershas posted an interview with me as part of her series "Writers on the Writing Process" over on her blog Dear Outerspace. My "process" feels so jumbled most of the time that talking about it with her (erwriting about it to her, really) made me feel like there actually may be more of a method to it than I'm able to notice much of the time. I am certainly the kind of creature who finds comfort in habit and routine. Read the full interview here.

And some other little things this week:
  • A copy of my chapbook is hanging in some fine company in Sundress Publications' library at SAFTA, The Wardrobe.
  • That little chapbook of mine also has a listing at Goodreads and LibraryThing, now that I finally took care of some social media housekeeping.
  • And a glowing review (written by Mary Florio) of Fairy Tale Review's Emerald Issue was published on NewPages!

25 June 2014

The Feminist Wire

Today, two new poems of mine were published on The Feminist Wire. "Girl with no Hands" and "Interlude" appeared alongside this very fitting photograph of a tree that looks remarkably like a dancing girl. These two poems are the seeds of a new manuscript project I've been working on for the last year, called Catechesis. And it is growing slowly, but steadily.

I hope you enjoy reading them!

23 June 2014

There are birds here

We are now in the full porch-swing of summer, which means Summer Poetry Salons at my beloved Lit House. In celebration of the second salon of the summer on June 24 (tomorrow!), I was given the unbelievably fun task of designing and printing a letterpress broadside for Jamaal May's poem "There Are Birds Here," a love song for Detroit.

As much I loved this poem on my first reading (and second and third), it was a particularly difficult design challenge. Don't get me wrongthere are so many ways to illustrate this poem because it is so packed with images. But to illustrate it in a way that actually adds to the text, that builds on the complex foundation set down by the poetthat is the challenge to be met. That is the challenge we always aim to meet at the Literary House Press.  

So that means no birds and no buildings. For me, those are the two most obvious, but least important images in this poem. Those details are just the shell around the actual poem. But after playing around with various ideas for a solid hour, the right one finally surfaced: a sidewalk hopscotch game using the poem title for its tiles. The repetition of certain letters made this idea work, the coincidental book-ending of the title with the words "there" and "here." Yellow sidewalk chalk on stone-flecked concrete. It wasn't an image that was explicitly in the poem, but the poem certainly led me to it. And I think it gets at the poem's heart, pulls back the ribs and reveals it a bit more (at least I hope that it does).

09 June 2014

West Chester Poetry Conference, year two

I've just returned from this year's West Chester Poetry Conference, my second time attending. Although I'm still exhausted from the four-day stretch of poetry workshops and panels and readings (and sleeping in dorms), it was a wonderful, unforgettable time. This year's workshop offerings included an opportunity to work with the amazing Mary Jo Salterso, obviously, I jumped at the chance. I've loved Mary Jo since I discovered her 1999 collection A Kiss in Space at my favorite local indie bookstore (The Compleat Bookseller) back in my high school days. I read her poem "Hail in Honfleur" while loitering at the neatly-stocked shelves with the classical radio playing over the shop speakers. I will always remember this poem and how I was immediately charmed by Mary Jo's wit and wordplay, which struck me as perfectly, whimsically French. I wanted to live inside that poem.

Mary Jo Salter's workshop"Line, Sentence, Stanza, Poem"was a much needed refresher in how to make stronger,  more meaningful line and stanza breaks in my poems. We talked about Paul Fussell's Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, that a 3-stanza poem should be a 3-part idea, that the parts should be ordered for emphasis from second most interesting to least interesting to most interesting. We discussed Denise Levertov's idea that stanzas are "distinct units of awareness." We discussed the concept of stanzas as terraces, stepping us up or down or sideways into something else. Mary Jo told us that we should break our lines and stanzas to indicate a poetic turn, that ending lines on weak words like "of" or "in" makes the breaks seem arbitrary, and the poem is weaker for it. Bringing these lessons back to my own writing will help me to be more conscious in my choices when creating the physical shape of a poem on the page and help the content to choose its most perfect form.

02 June 2014

Tori is my diva

Recently, a poet-friend of mine asked me a fun little question that has stuck in my head since that night. Who is your diva? His is Cher. Another poet at the table named Stevie Nicks. I knew mine right away: Tori Amos

I don't know that I could explain exactly what it is about her music, her writing, and her person that make her such an invigorating kind of comfort to me. The haunting piano melodies, the whimsical girl-power lyrics that (even as a writer-snob) I am not ashamed to belt out around the house, her powerful and strange vocals. All I know is when my anxiety demons overpower me--leaving me small, ugly, painfully forgettable, and disconnected from all the things and people I love--Tori can bring me back every time. She fills me when I feel emptied out. She makes me brave and fierce when I can't breathe and my hands are shaking. I can't imagine my world without her in it.

We'll see how brave you are. 
We'll see how fast you'll be running. 
We'll see how brave you are. 
Yes, Anastasia...

In case you were wondering, my favorite albums are Under the Pink and Boys for Pele. Love love love.

24 May 2014

"Imago" on Hannibal season finale

While watching the eagerly-awaited season 2 finale of Hannibal (one of my absolute favorite TV shows of the moment), I was happily surprised when a vocabulary lesson emerged mid-conversation between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham.

"Do you know what an imago is, Will?"

"It's a flying insect."

"It's the last stage of a transformation."

"When you become who you will be?"

"It's also a term from the dead religion of psychoanalysis. An imago is an image of a loved one, buried in the unconscious, carried with us all our lives."

"An ideal."

"The concept of an ideal."

Of course this term, in both of its definitions, has some great significance for me. It is a word I didn't even know until I stumbled across it in my dictionary browsing and knew immediately that this is the title of my chapbook. It was perfect. So when it snuck up on me again in my favorite TV show, in the season's climax no less, I just had to share my happiness at this serendipity.