Today I have a poem, “Always Packing”, in the new issue of Through the Gate. I wrote it after visiting Izmaylovo Market in Moscow, which felt like a fairytale market: not just because of the buildings you can see in those pictures, but because even in the morning it was already being packed up, as if about to be carried away on the autumn wind, yet another day it was still there, still packing.
I also realised recently that my poem “Most Beautiful in Death”, published last year in The Cascadia Subduction Zone and print-only for a while, can now be downloaded on their back issues page. The issue to download is Vol. 2 No. 3, Jul. 2012 (PDF download of the whole issue), although you might want to peruse their other issues for even more poetry, reviews, essays.
A little while ago, Sofia Samatar interviewed KJ Bishop. At the end of that conversation, Sofia suggested that she and KJ and two other people create an exquisite corpse, a surrealistic collaborative poem. Two volunteers were called for. I was one of them, Katie Lavers the other. Between the four of us, we created this:
Wet hands grasp stormy feathers.
Neon-yellow stutters against a crow-black sky.
The tapestry-tailed fox touches the filagree firmament
and a dead dove plucks its guitar in the frosty arbor.
A great secret will drown a small heart.
“Sing me a song, bad boy,” she said. “See my hands still have blood on them.”
Crow feathers fall bundled like hail.
At the opera, suddenly, towers of burning coal.
I think it’s amazing. Its lines resonate with each other, forming a whole, yet it is a pleasingly strange one. (I think one of those lines is quite obviously mine, but the others could be anyone’s! They could belong to the crows.)
Some fox-related news, but first, a fox, found on tumblr:
It’s kept me company through a day in which I got far less achieved than I would have liked. But! While I am neck-deep in anthology work, other things have happened.
The first is that Bogi Takács has reviewed “Feed Me the Bones of our Saints” and liked it very much. After some commentary that makes me very pleased indeed, Bogi calls it my “best story to date”. :>
The second is that my poem “Sisters” has been published in the first issue of Through the Gate. Go read! And read the other poems! Rose Lemberg, Shira Lipkin, Adrienne J. Odasso, Sonya Taaffe and more! Mine is, as the inspiration page says, about foxes and women c.16,000 years ago, and was a successful attempt to find the voice for a story I was working on about the same subject matter: a more straight-up historical look at this bit of history. That story, “Burials”, is currently out on submission. (“Feed Me the Bones of our Saints” is what happened when I wrote a completely fantastical take on the idea.)
The next story I’ll work on when I’m done with the current anthology work won’t be about foxes. I KNOW. I KNOW.
Stone Telling 8: Together, Apart is here!
Alex Dally MacFarlane, “Thousands of Years Ago, I Made This String Skirt”
Emily Jiang, “Merciful Deity”
Grá Linnaea, “Their Hearts Like Lock and Key”
Shira Lipkin, “Mushroom Barley Soup: An Invocation”
Kathrin Köhler, “the art of domesticity”
Charlie Bondhus, “Empty Room”
Ching-In Chen, “Love with the Soldier”
Adrienne J. Odasso, “Tables Turned”
Ursula Pflug, “Castoroides”
LaShawn M. Wanak, “I Will Keep the Color of Your Eyes When No Other in the World Remembers Your Name”
Sonya Taaffe, “In the Firebird Museum”
Amal El-Mohtar, “A Circle in Five Strands”
Sofia Samatar, “Snowbound in Hamadan”
Lisa M. Bradley, “A Crack in Its Speak: Fantastic Birds in the Gothic Country Lyrics of Jay Munly”
Review: Brittany Warman, “Unruly Islands, poetry by Liz Henry”
Interview: Julia Rios, Stone Telling Roundtable: Multiple Perceptions with Lisa M. Bradley, Ching-In Chen, Kathrin Köhler, Alex Dally MacFarlane, and Sofia Samatar.
I’ve talked about the creation of my poem “Thousands of Years Ago, I Made This String Skirt” here and I talk more about it in the roundtable. As I say in the latter: “But it is important to me that, in the uneven dialogue between past and present, I strive to locate women and shine a light on them.”
The poems in this issue seem to be about shining lights on people who are often ignored, on narratives that make people in power uncomfortable. It is an honour to be a part of it.
My poem “Tadi” will be appearing in Strange Horizons. This too fits into the future setting; specifically, it’s about the wife of Falna from “Sung Around Alsar-Scented Fires”.
Two snippets of recently-read poems that are sticking to me:
Patient scholar, half tourist, hunt
for gentians in the thunder-haunted hills.
You will not find our ghosts.
Write: Huddled round campfires, the women felt.
By day, the women attempted.
The women often.
The women must have.
The women were.
Our ghosts are elsewhere.
shining woman, still woman,
skinwild woman, dreaming-fast woman—
— Rose Lemberg, Between the Mountain and the Moon in Strange Horizons
Another poem sale! “Thousands of Years Ago, I Made This String Skirt” will be appearing in Stone Telling. I’m delighted to be in Stone Telling again.
This poem grew from several things. The main thing was reading Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. It’s not the global survery its title would suggest: it focuses on the Mediterranean region and Europe primarily, with brief mentions of a few other areas of the world, which seems narrow-sighted when there must be plenty to be said about women’s work in every place for which we have archaeological remains. The work that Barber considers is primarily textile work, which is often overlooked because of its overwhelmingly female ownership. Who cares what the women were doing throughout history if it didn’t directly involve men, right? So, though it’s not quite as perfect as it could be, it’s a very necessary and interesting book. That lack of consideration for women’s history is one strand that led to this poem. The other is the string skirt of the title. These are mentioned in Barber’s book as belonging to a number of European traditions (and persisting, in some forms, to this day), dating back thousands of years, with the remnants of one Bronze Age example being found in Denmark with fused remains of metal tubes that were attached to the ends of the strings to give them weight.
This looks like a photo of another string skirt pictured in Barber’s book:
It’s very short. Its use, Barber argues, was probably tied to sex and fertility.
Barber tried on a replica string skirt and wrote:
“That was the greatest surprise of all: the independent life of what now enveloped me. I danced around the room from one mirror to the next, fascinated by the way the heavy fringes moved, completely differently from any other garment I had ever worn. I felt exhilerated, powerful … Is that part of the symbolism of the skirt? The ability to create new life must surely have been viewed as a form of ultimate power.”
I have a lot of problems with that tight alignment between female power and the ability to bear children (and sexuality in general). It denies women-ness to women who do not want to have children, women who are infertile, women who do not have wombs… But I loved what Barber is suggesting: that this skirt in some way empowered women, gave them a sense of ownership over their bodies. That was what went into the poem, without being about sex and children.
There’s more I could talk about, but that’s enough for now.
I’ve been busy! Writing, family gathering last weekend, day job (only 9 weeks left until I leave it and begin my life as a MA student and writer, which I can finally talk about publicly because I told people at work that I’m leaving – it’s a MA in Ancient History at King’s College London and it’s going to be awesome – although before the MA starts I’m going to Scotland to visit family and fiends and see old things for a few weeks), etc.
But! A brief post is necessitated because the latest issue of Cascadia Subduction Zone is now available for subscribers, and it contains my poem “Most Beautiful in Death”. Its cover is thus:
To subscribe or buy individual issues, you can head on over to the CSZ website. After 6 months, the issue will go up online for free reading. The full table of contents for this issue is on the homepage.
This is the poem inspired by a study of the Lady of Shalott by J.W. Waterhouse, which is still pinned in postcard-form to my computer, and discussions around the beauty of dead women. I read it at Wiscon and am very fond of it.
On the story-front, I’ve learned that “Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints” is due to go live on Strange Horizons in two parts on 9 and 16 July. I’m very excited that soon, so soon, this will at last be out there to be read. Keep your eyes peeled.
Continuing my good run of selling poetry: “Carve Me” will be appearing in Mythic Delirium.
The poem is inspired by an alternative interpretation of Venus figurines (there is an etsy shop of Venus figurine replicas, just so’s you know) and some of my thoughts about relationships.
In addition to the books I bought at Wiscon, I received these two contributor copies:
Two whole books of poetry!
The first is Here, We Cross, edited by Rose Lemberg, which collects queer and genderfluid poetry from the first seven issues of Stone Telling, and includes my poem “Sung Around Alsar-Scented Fires”. It can be bought from Amazon US.
I don’t think I’ve seen anyone post the Table of Contents for this one, so here it is:
Alex Dally MacFarlane – Sung Around Alsar-Scented Fires
Nancy Sheng – Inner Workings
Michele Bannister – Seamstress
Jack H. Marr – Lunectomy
Shira Lipkin – The Changeling’s Lament
Dominik Parisien – In His Eighty-Second Year
Bogi Takács – The Handcrafted Motions of Flight
Hel Gurney – Hair
Mary Alexandra Agner – Tertiary
Amal El-Mohtar – Asteres Planetai
Jeannelle Ferreira – Ardat-Lilî
Mari Ness – Encantada
Lisa Bradley – we come together we fall apart
Samantha Henderson – The Gabriel Hound
Alexandra Seidel – A Masquerade in Four Voices
Sonya Taaffe – Persephone in Hel
Sergio Ortiz – Rain and Sound
Sonya Taaffe – The Clock House
Peter Milne Greiner – The Earth Has Rings
Adrienne J. Odasso – Parallax
Tori Truslow – Terrunform
Peer G. Dudda – Sister Dragons
Here, We Cross is a labour of love and importance for Rose: showcasing the voices and stories that otherwise go unheard, often. Almost always. It is beautiful and vital. Please consider buying this anthology, if you like poetry or would like to explore it further. There are voices waiting to be heard.
The second anthology is The Moment of Change, also edited by Rose, which is a momentous collection of feminist speculative poetry with a fantastic ToC. My poem “Beautifully Mutilated, Instantly Antiquated” is reprinted within. It can be bought from Aqueduct Press and Amazon US. It too is important.
I am honoured and happy to have work in both.
As one of the women in Tiptree’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” says: “We sing a lot. Adventure songs, work songs, mothering songs, mood songs, trouble songs, joke songs, love songs – everything.” Everything.
THE OTHER HALF OF THE SKY
Read my novelette:
"Under Falna's Mask"
Aliens: Recent Encounters
I'm the editor of Aliens: Recent Encounters, a reprint anthology of science fiction stories, coming in June 2013 from Prime Books.
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