Poem: A Mergirl Speaks of Travels

Listen—one day you’re gonna find yourself out in the ocean,
in the world, and you’re gonna stop and feel the electric
heartbeat of the entire world in the water around you—
down here, no one is ever alone.

This spring, Strange Horizons put out a call for their summer special, Our Queer Planet. The excerpt comes from my poem chosen for the series, “A Mergirl Speaks of Travels,” which follows a queer scientist-explorer in a futuristic aquatic Earth.

You can read the full poem at Strange Horizons and listen to it here.

Poem: “Divinity through the Ages”

What would you do with unlimited power?

Over at Open Letters Monthly, I’m thrilled to have a poem in their February 2016 issue.

I do love this poem a stupid lot; it came out of a collection I worked on about two years ago. A lot of the poems and prose poems were unsalvageable, but I’m still circulating some in hopes of getting them published. The poems riffed on mythology and women from my favorite stories (female characters from history, myths, and literature) and I’m glad that if any part of that collection sees the light of day, it’s this one. (Maybe the Mary Shelley one, too.)

Read the full poem at Open Letters Monthly.

desk lunch – 2015-12-03

A very short desk lunch!

The Offing: Trans Issue 2015

The link above introduces the trans issue of The Offing, and the links below are some of the exceptional pieces published:

The girl in her nightdress the cold the girl
in her cold across the cliff
the cliff’s nightdress causing cold
the cold of the nightdress the girl walking
along the cliff the walk easing her cold across…
as its gusty               living/moved but its only by
forces          forces/laws/magic     chew/kiss
               living/result of a chain reaction     result of a chain
reaction/naught
A half-sunk ship offers its captain to the sea. The sea sneers at such gifts, but cannot resist. The lungs offer their resistance, but cannot last.
according to science we are all made of
strings. this is a theory that i often test
on myself. let’s see how many ties i can cut.
Just read them all, because they’re all strikingly beautiful.
Isn’t it nice that dim-witted humans in search of elaborate rationalizations for their vilest, most violently sociopathic selves can always find an evolutionary psychologist unintelligent enough to back their play? Forget that practitioners of this field of study have an unfortunate habit of analyzing a relative millisecond or two of modern human behavior as if it’d been slowly evolving over hundreds of thousands of years. No, just suspend your disbelief, and evolutionary psychology can explain every anecdotal observation that’s ever tumbled through your thrashing gray matter!
Heather Havrilesky of Ask Polly reviews a Tucker Max book and it is the most beautiful indictment of toxic masculinity, way better than the book itself deserves.

desk lunch – 2015-09-24

Brought to you this week by THE POPE, who has been on Philadelphia’s civic backburner for like, at least a year now, the knob on the flame slowly turning every week and he’s gonna be here soon!!!! The city is shutting down on Friday and Monday! I can’t wait for this four-day weekend and all the places I won’t go because of traffic boxes and special pope passes for the suburban rail and NO TRAINS OR BUSES GOING ANYWHERE. Great times. I am rationing my chicken nuggets.


Threesome with Ambivalence by Jameson Fitzpatrick

To make room in the bed then,
slow evacuation of the self: who was I before I
was yours? what did I want

Poetry featuring sex and architecture! YES, AWL, MAKE ME SAD.


Facing into the writing of a piece of fiction, I always feel a lot like Cheever’s Neddy: at once hungover and amped up on a self-congratulatory buzz, at once sure of the strokes I need to make and slowed down by the residue of all the messes I have made before. There is a story, I know; there is a story I can write, a story I want and maybe even need to write, but it is so far away…. There is such a way to go, setting out on a new piece of writing.

There’s this and something Lin-Manuel Miranda tweet about his process for musicals:

And this is something I’ve learned and something I hate that I’ve learned: I can’t develop every idea, because some aren’t right right now, and some aren’t right ever, and I don’t have the time for every idea. So for something to make it out of a note in my drafts folder or grow from one line in scrivener, it has to be good and we have to be right for each other. That requires patience and I have very little patience for myself and the fact that good things need time. Process! It’s dearly miserable fun! No regrets!


Rita Moreno quietly tears Animal and his drumming apart on The Muppet Show. IN SPANISH. I gasped and rewatched like five times because SHE’S SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE. How many times did my grandmother pull this exact stunt on me growing up!!! Like a MILLION.

Related: The Muppets‘ reboot premiered this week and it had one great line:

Miss Piggy: I hate the smell of lilacs in my dressing room. Fix it.

Kermit: Yes, I’ll talk to god about lilacs.


Harold’s Chicken Shack #35
fried gizzards w/ fries
your dad orders it for you
& you are too young
to know what you’ll have
to swallow &
too old to refuse food.

For one of my posts at The Rumpus this week, I included a link to an interview with poet Nate Marshall because I fell into it and his poetry headfirst and it’s tremendous. Link has the interview, but here’s the poetry. There’s more at the excerpt from his new collection, Wild Hundreds.


desk lunch – 2015-07-16

Brought to you this week by SPACE i love space.

with a still, restrained, almost annoyed sigh, what voice in what 
wilderness, minutest cricket, most unworthy flower I will never be tired — I will never be noisy I will be your best little girl — 
nobody else will see me, but you — but that is enough — limitlessness, wilt thou say,

ah, ladies, good night, good night, good night ladies —
and who therefore know the biology of the soft matter and the cluster of creation in its salty stellar lonely archive is matched by the sweet violence of thought,
who transubstantiated across the desert with both of them finally under the deep clear her blonde beauty and the celestial betrayals arrayed stellar, Andromeda chained naked to a rock, the Pleiades shedding to doves to stars,

The reinterpretation of Ginsberg’s “Howl” that I absolutely wanted forever and ever.

As long as scholars think of consciousness as a magic essence floating inside the brain, it won’t be very interesting to engineers. But if it’s a crucial set of information, a kind of map that allows the brain to function correctly, then engineers may want to know about it. And that brings us back to artificial intelligence. Gone are the days of waiting for computers to get so complicated that they spontaneously become conscious. And gone are the days of dismissing consciousness as an airy-fairy essence that would bring no obvious practical benefit to a computer anyway. Suddenly it becomes an incredibly useful tool for the machine.

I sent this to my brother. Him: “Ok but has someone invented the app that will care about this for me?” THANKS BRO.

Really, though, I fell into this headfirst, start to finish, because that concept of the singularity always bothered me- that there was no solution to making machines and software self-aware, just that if we made them fast enough, it would happen, and that sounds too much like irrationality and magic. The piece from Aeon argues that creating an artificial consciousness means treating consciousness not as a spark lit only within humans, but as a property of our supercomputing brains’ processors that allows us to filter and focus in a way that we’re just barely getting computers to do.

Next pointless research excursion: how did people describe the human brain before computers?


Remember analogue photography? What a nightmare.


Speaking of technology, because it’s that kind of week: PLUTO.

Emily Lakadawalla has written and tweeted about everything going on with Pluto and New Horizons this week. I’ve read so much of her work this week that when I finally saw her at the NASA press conference livestream SPEAK WITH HER HUMAN VOICE AND ASK A QUESTION I got weirdly emotional like meeting an internet friend for the first time. Anyway. Highlights:

Next press conference with the first lossless images will be 1PM EST Friday! SCREAMING.


desk lunch – 2015-07-02

Brought to you this week by Gilmore Girls on Netflix. It’s fascinating; I missed it during its original run and I think my excuse for not watching women talking loud and fast for 45 minutes every week was something like it’s too fluffy and unrealistic, blah blah blah #smalltownlife. NOW, I’m nearing the end of season 4 and texting my friend every 10 minutes THIS IS TOO REAL PLEASE LORELEAI PLEASE WHY WON’T ANYONE LET YOU BE HAPPY. Did you know everyone hates Scott Patterson (Luke)? This hasn’t stopped me from shipping Luke/Lorelai like a house I’ve set on fire with my mind.


For The Rumpus this week, I wrote a roundup about the SCOTUS marriage equality decision last Friday. Worth checking out are the historians in the wake of this decision literally rewriting the history of same-sex relationships. Specifically, I came across a lot of essays right now that focus on why some cultures did or didn’t “okay” these unions into their laws and customs. (Short answer: they did! but we ignored it! because history!) I’ve included links to the most interesting essays at the Rumpus link.

Also!! I have a story (“For Me, Seek the Sun”) in the new issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. It’s available to order in print, and the ebook is available to pre-order (avail 7/9).


POETRY REC!

Isn’t It Romantic (Jameson Fitzpatrick at The Offing)

IT’S EIGHT LINES. JUST READ IT.

Poetry is text, and we’re still very attached to the idea that language is supposed to communicate something clearly. But I do think all good poetry does communicate something clearly, it’s just that, for me—and there’s some narrative, very straightforward poetry that I really enjoy, but there’s a lot of poetry that I really enjoy because what it’s communicating to me very clearly is either an atmosphere, or a state of consciousness. A different degree of awake-ness to experience. And that can mean so many different things.

A long interview about poetry, the reading and writing and mechanics and teaching of it. It’s long, but if you know poetry well, it’s interesting to approach it from someone’s completely new point-of-view and think about this thing and how it looks in its broadest strokes.


All I want to know is if everyone else is really having a good time in our nation’s checkout lines. Because maybe that explains why none of you seem in any particular hurry to have your money or cards ready to go when your turn finally comes with the cashier.

I don’t get this, exactly, since it starts with an anecdote about David Foster Wallace despairing in a supermarket and how That Was a Sign He Was Unwell, but man, after the anecdote? The vitriol makes my heart sing. Bless The Awl.


desk lunch – 2015-06-25

Brought to you this week by a brain so scattered I’m reviewing twitter and my calendar to recall what exactly consumed another week of my life. Work? Panic? Naps? Work again? Discussions about homoeroticism in The Silmarillion like I’m 16 and living on livejournal again? Reading the juiciest parts of DID MY BOYFRIEND JUST GET MARRIED? (Girl. He did. He got married.) Yes, it was all these things, and probably more, but take this non sequitur: if you need a Comedy Central show in the background, start easing yourself over to Larry Wilmore and the Nightly Show, ok??


Carvell: Right. Well, when your entire history in this country has been about literally dying to be considered human, you have to develop a Christianity that enables you to fight while also “forgiving them” who hurt you. We have to forgive the sinner because the accumulated resentment could destroy us, but that will never mean that we don’t fight tooth and nail against the sin.
Mallory: So it has more to do with self-protection than it does with absolution, it sounds like.
Carvell: Absolutely. It’s nothing to do with the offender and it’s not about granting a pass to anyone.

Judging by the comments on this interview with Carvel Wallace at The Toast, I’m definitely not the only one who needed explained in great detail how the concept of forgiveness differs between white and black communities in America. And to be honest, this concept of forgiveness (making peace with something and also continuing to fight the offense and how it hurt you) makes a lot more sense than Catholicism’s sacrament of a third party wiping the slate clean for you and declaring it All Good. Which- nope! That’s not how my intricate resentment irrigation system works!

The Civil War was easy to misunderstand at the time, because there had never been anything like it. It was a total mobilization of society, the kind Europe wouldn’t see until World War I. The Civil War was fought not just with cannons and bayonets, but with railroads and factories and an income tax.
If the Napoleonic Wars were your model, then it was obvious that the Confederacy lost in 1865: Its capital fell, its commander surrendered, its president was jailed, and its territories were occupied by the opposing army. If that’s not defeat, what is?
But now we have a better model than Napoleon: Iraq.

This essay (originally posted in August 2014) is a fascinating longread that examines the lasting culture of the Confederacy. Essentially, the idea goes that we’ve only just developed the correct language and framework for talking about the Civil War, now that modern warfare has moved from a “clear” capture/conquer model to sustained insurgencies. The Confederacy, says the piece, is just such an insurgency that managed to weave itself literally into the fabric of our national culture. HILARIOUS.



POEM REC! (excerpt)

You can’t see beneath the exoskeleton,
this stylized mockery of female form:
smooth cyberskin, DD breasts,
perfectly calculated 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio.
By your standards, it is perfect.

I see the overlap—cars, guns, violence, danger, chasing and escaping, a relationship that seems more than brotherly but not quite romantic—but I think Crush and Supernatural are products of a cultural moment, not products of each other.

HAHAHA, RICHARD SIKEN. I’m not joking when I say this interview covers topics that I’ve wanted to write about and explore for years. This isn’t just about Siken and Supernatural– more interesting is this longer pull quote that I scrambled to submit to The Rumpus’s blog with embarrassing speed.

Siken gets why fandoms and slash writers have latched on to his work; he gets it better than any other writer I’ve seen try to address fanworks and the give/take relationship with the original work.

Fanwork artists don’t borrow another creator’s fictional world, but expand its boundaries. In this case, fan artists use Crush and slash to push the dialogue between the show and its themes in directions the shows refuse to incorporate seriously. It’s especially important for shows like Supernatural and Sherlock, whose writers and showrunners build deep emotional attachments between men with one hand and deny every shade of serious homoeroticism/romanticism (queerbaiting!) with the other. Fandom and its fanworks imagine storylines without a virulent undercurrent of gay panic, stories that allow genuine intimacy to exist between characters without rushing to reinforce traditional masculinity. Frankly, that’s kind of the point: to undermine “traditional” masculinity in favor of characters who can experience the full range of human emotion! IMAGINE THAT.


desk lunch – 2015-06-18

Brought to you this week by #RAPTORSQUAD and DINOSAURS. I’ve spent the week diversifying my interests but it’s so hard. It’s so hard. 

#CharlestonShooting


Historian B.G. Corbin points out that an early form of astronomical photography became available during the time when [Étienne Léopold] Trouvelot was working, but that the artist rejected the idea of switching media, arguing that “the camera could not replace the human eye” when it came to capturing the subtleties of structure and configuration.

I particularly like the Jupiter drawing because it captures the depth of the cloud cover- it’s something we see in our own clouds every day, but an element obviously lacking in our actual probe photos.

On Earth, humans long ago became the global force that decides these strange creatures’ fates, despite the fact that we barely think about them and, in many cases, only recently discovered their existence. The same will be true for any nearby planet. We are about to export the best and worst of the Anthropocene to the rest of our solar system, so we better figure out what our responsibilities will be when we get there.

NERD KLAXON: I include this because it goes into great, great detail (ok, only 3200 words of detail) the simple fact that probes on another surface, a probe with our dirt and our elements and our microbes, would constitute as colonization. It would be the beginning of turning another world into our own- or, worst case scenario, ruining it because their ecosystems are incompatible. In conclusion, I look forward to The Martian and blissfully discussing every single thing that can go wrong in space exploration for the next 2-3 years. At least. This is like an opening act.


POETRY RECS! 

BOAAT Press has done a beautiful thing and put the PDFs of their 2015 poetry chapbook contest winner (and runners up, I think?) up on their website for free. They only ask that you donate what you like. The winning chapbook, Call It a Premonition: Translations from the Voynich Manuscript by Jess Feldman, captures this gorgeous moody and sulky modern-medieval world, particularly in the title poem at the close of the book:

In a distant future
I look like a boy only
still a girl but in slacks okay
I am moving my lacquered
fingers so text materializes
across a framed fluid tapestry
without seams
Blues for a Red Planet by T.A.Noonan at Open Letters Monthly
But who shall dwell in these worlds, asks Kepler,
if they be inhabited? Not my girls in double-
sided tape. They will wait as God has waited
six thousand years for an observer.
At the End#finalpoem from Jimin Han
We never made it to the coast.
I never saw you.
Rivers changed course without warning
or did we have warning?
Maybe we ignored the warning.

ENCLAVE, Entropy Mag’s community space, is doing something interesting with #finalpoem: publishing every submission, all of which center on the last poem a writer would offer if the world was ending next week. You can submit here.


desk lunch – 2015-06-04

Brought to you this week by the weather in the northeast, in June, when I wore leggings to work and needed a light jacket!!!!!!!! Also, I’ve had short fiction pieces accepted for future issues of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Atlas and Alice. I don’t want to see the day when an acceptance doesn’t send me into a swoon at my desk.


The ripples carried the head further up the river. Gently it drifted, impeded here and there by the side of some stone, only to be pushed along again by the rush of the flow. It finally found a resting place on the shore where the water ran quiet into a brown muddy clay.

Terraform is a new short fiction series at Vice. Every story so far has been captivating and accompanied by incredible artwork. “A Song For You” stands out with its pacing and its patience. I mention patience because the language captured the protagonist: an AI with literally too much time in the world. I also recommend “The Judge” for its structure and humor.

It’s a complicated comfort, isn’t it? The endless distance, the hidden and isolated nature of the individual, but also the lights, far and small as they might be, where the voice in the back of the head resides along with the body. If there is anything spiritually nourishing in the world, it feels very far away, and yet it persists, trying for companionship through the darkness.

May’s entry for the advice-through-poetry column at The Toast haunted me with its descriptions on walking outside at night. Come for that and stay for the thoughtful reflection on Franz Wright’s “To Myself.”

That school secretary who threw out my book? She might as well have been telling me—and within a week of my husband’s losing his job—that my kind didn’t belong in her nice suburban school district. That my politics and my mouthiness and my checkered past would forever preclude me from finding a nice classroom somewhere to call my own.

Oh hey, it’s an essay on the friction between one’s artistic persona and their professional money-earning day-job persona. How interesting.

It doesn’t make sense to make blanket statements like “content on the web should be persistent” or “content on the web should be ephemeral”. Instead, we need to recognize that this “web” thing is conflating two very different forms of discourse, forms that used to be clearly and deliberately distinct.

The “web” is not a part of nature. It was not discovered; we don’t have to just accept it. The “web” is an infrastructural system that was built by people, and it was built very recently and very sloppily. It currently has the property that it forgets what must be remembered, and remembers what must be forgotten. It manages to screw up both the sacredness of the common record and the sacredness of private interaction.

These two short pieces discuss the central problem of the internet as the medium we know now. We’ve created the largest storehouse of knowledge known to the world so far, but the infrastructure of the web itself doesn’t prioritize one kind of knowledge over another: every bit of data, once it exists, is left out there exposed to the elements. “The elements” on the web have the same effect as they would on earth: neglect, avoidance, ignorance, all that leads to significant knowledge lost.

It’s a similar issue that came up a few weeks ago when talking about hypercomplex systems that collapse under their own weight because they can’t identify their own flaws. With the volume of information we see every day, how can we ever hope to identify the information we’re not seeing? How can we remember what we’ve already forgotten? Have we Fahrenheit 451‘d ourselves?


desk lunch – 2015-05-14

Brought to you this week by Anna Chlumsky’s beautiful long-overdue freakout on Veep. 10,000 Emmys to both her and Ianucci for crystallizing in 100 seconds the life of almost every woman on the planet: we can’t have nice things because we tried one and it sucked.

Because what if Iago’s motivational difficulties, and his definitional rhetoric, really do not operate at cross purposes at all? What if Iago’s inability to describe his own motives without contradicting himself, and his diagnostic rhetoric, which scorns any opinions about the world that are not useful to him—what if these two monsters give birth to one another?

First: this essay is long. It is long, it’s funny, it’s engaging, but it takes a while to reach the point it’s trying to make: that the tragedy in Othello, and specifically what motivates Iago to bring the world down around their ears, tries to portray the limitations of a systematic, or hyper-rational, mind. Think of it as Spock’s dilemma in “Amok Time”: the hyper-rational person with unbreakable rules of conduct realizes something is wrong, but the way they run their life doesn’t allow them to identify the cause or the cure. In any case, I found it interesting to read a theory of how an unforgiving system could eventually collapse under the weight of its own mechanism.

I was never the best. I’m still not. I don’t say that because I’m trying to be deep or grab sympathy from the world, I say it because the past year of job searching has dug that fact into my cranium. From countless unanswered applications, to the countless “We regret to inform you…,” job hunting becomes a game of how confident can I be before I break.

I loved this for its relentless optimism. If I had to walk away from my 20s with only one thing, I would take this newfound ability to shrug off failure and continue to ram my head against a wall until it gives. I don’t know that it would have done much good to learn it earlier. I’m glad I have it now.

The act of explaining: It’s as if, before you speak, you have to relight the room you’re standing in. Dim this, walk in a lamp or two, replace a bulb. Can you see me now?

Another long essay, this one a review of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts using a memoir-through-vignettes format that made it such a weird and captivating read.

Solgangsbris, a poem by Kenzie Allen
It’s this life I want, this valley
between the hills and high places,
the steppes of what, so far,
I have known.

You should follow The Offing and we should move to Norway.


If I bought this for my mom, she would literally weep for joy and I would never hear the end of it. I would hear stories, daily, about her and Robert, so I need to link this here and remember it for the next important gift-giving occasion. Then I can visit my parents’ house and look upon A PORTRAIT OF ROBERT DOWNEY JR IN 19TH CENTURY RUSSIAN REGALIA.