A Political Poem for the Day up at Nice Cage, Field Guide on the Bram Stoker Preliminary Ballot, Alternative Viewing Suggestions, and Gratuitous Kitten Pictures
It’s a rough day for a lot of us, so I’m starting out with gratuitous pictures of cute kittens and a family of deer, both courtesy of my “cheering myself up while I’m home sick” photography yesterday. Notice the kitten cheerfully ensconced on my pillow with my box of tissues at her feet; the mother deer was giving her two babies a bath in the rain when I took this picture.
A Little Good News and a Political Poem :
I mentioned in a previous post that I rarely write political poetry. But this is the day for it if there ever was. The Future/Tense issue of Nice Cage went up today, and with it three of my poems, including “Failure, 2016,” which specifically calls out a few ways 2016 really sucked, mentions the election, and kind of ends on a hopeful note.
In positive news, the Horror Writers Association Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards went live today, and Field Guide to the End of the World was on the list for poetry books. If you’re an HWA member and want to read Field Guide to the End of the World (and possibly vote for it,) contact me at jeannine dot gailey at live dot com.
Alternative Viewing Suggestions for a Few Laughs on Inauguration Day:
For at least a little laugh today, you may want to watch the very prescient episode of 90’s animated The Critic, in which the main character is hired to be a speechwriter for a Trump-esque Southern Billionaire named Duke. (Here it is on YouTube.)
Another recommendation is the Futurama episode, “A Head in the Polls,” in which an evil robotic Nixon runs for President of Earth. Available on Netflix.
On another, more serious note: Thank you to those who are doing things to make the world better, who are reaching out to help the less fortunate, who are buying poetry books and art. Who are creating messages of hope. Thank you to those who refuse the ugly man’s messages of bigotry, sexism, and hate. We will be safe as long as we all stand together. I hope.
We live in uncertain times. I can’t stop writing about the end of the world. Or maybe I choose not to. In some ways, biologically speaking, I’m forced to live with uncertainty. Will I die from the 14 tumors in my liver, or not? I could die from something completely different, but I have to go get blood drawn to check for tumor markers and get a scan done every six months to find out. It seems, at almost a whole year since I was told last February I had six months to live due to metastasized cancer, they still don’t really know what’s going to happen. But I guess I’m okay, because certainty in this case is worse than uncertainty.
In uncertain times, is it okay to go ahead and keep thinking about poetry, about goals at all? While sneaky politicians repeal the ACA in the middle of the night, while Russia’s interference with our election, blackmailing our next President, I mean, all the things that could literally mess up our real everyday lives? Some of my friends are reading today at a Writers Resist protest. (I’m still staying mostly indoors, with this nasty long-lasting flu.) In the face of depressing daily news, in the face of health setbacks or personal setbacks, it’s tough to continue. But perhaps these days our need to write and publish is greater than ever.
So, let’s talk about our writing goals for 2017.
I got a pretty little Fitbit-type thing for Christmas that counts my steps, tracks my sleep, and allows you to program in the goals of your choice. I made it a goal to write something 3 times a week, and it’s so satisfying when I get my little “goal achieved” celebration on my phone app! It doesn’t have to be a great something, it just has to be something. And you know what? I’ve been writing more, despite being so sick I couldn’t get out of bed or read a magazine for a week! So, I recommend a version to this to anyone – give yourself a weekly writing goal. If you don’t hit it one week, don’t beat yourself up, but try to do a little more the next. I’ve been trying to submit a little more too. This type of goal is tricky, because not everyone has the same drive to publish, and publishing is really out of our hands. But maybe encouraging yourself to put your work out in the work a little more than you have been – if you’ve been submitting once a month, try two; if you’ve been submitting once a week, try submitting to more challenging markets. (And I just received my copy of Poet’s Market 2017: The Most Trusted Guide for Publishing Poetry, which I always think is a great way to inspire and start the new year – I love reading the hard copy about markets, about how to submit, etc! And I have three articles in the book this year! 🙂
Speaking of writing and uncertainty, I’m so excited to be part of this upcoming conference in March, “Bodies of Work: The Human Body in Various Forms,” from University of Southern Mississippi, where Beth Ann Fennelly will be the keynote speaker (she’s fantastic!) and I’ll be Skyping in as a featured speaker. http://egousm.wixsite.com/conference/speakers They’re still taking papers (http://egousm.wixsite.com/conference/call-for-papers) and applications, so check it out! This is a subject close to my heart – and I hope some of you with “different” bodies – that don’t always feel heard in a world that values perfection and health over all – will send something in!
But, does it make a difference? Does it make any sense to read and write poetry right now? What does poetry really do for anyone, anyway? Well, did it make sense for Martin Luther King Jr to get arrested for standing up for civil rights, or for Jesus to go around telling Pharisees they were wrong? I mean, logic can only get you so far. I guess a lot of us artist-types are idealistic. I’m probably more cynical than most of my artist friends, but still, I believe there is some good to be achieved in lifting your voice in protest, in making space for art in a world increasingly hostile to learning, books, art, etc. In gathering with friends, in volunteering, in celebrating good things in the world. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that life is short and the time you devote to – whatever – better be worth it. So, I continue to write poetry, review poetry, and try to publish, without really knowing if it makes the world a better place, if it makes anyone think about things in a different way, if it builds empathy. I hope it does.
First, I’m a bit behind on things, but thanks to Unnerving Magazine and Stephanie M. Wytovich for including Field Guide to the End of the World on their “Read This!” List at the beginning of the year: http://www.unnervingmagazine.com/single-post/2017/01/03/Read-This-With-Author-of-The-Eighth-Stephanie-M-Wytovich
How’s your 2017 been so far? I’ve been mostly in bed with a really nasty flu since January 1, which means I haven’t gotten much done except 1. discovered the clever comedy “People of Earth,” like The X-Files (the main character is both skeptic and experiencer of alien abduction) but funny, and 2. experimented with many, many soups of various kinds (since that was all I could swallow for about four days!) I think our favorite soup discovery was how easy it was to make a delicious from-scratch mushroom soup (just saute a little bit of cubed fennel, carrot, and potato, because they take a while to soften, then brown a mess of mushrooms in a skillet, then toss all together with a bunch of broth or even water, cook a little bit, delicious! Glenn added a little Greek yogurt to make his creamy – I took mine brothy and straight.) I also haven’t slept the night since the new year started – not something I recommend. Like, an hour of sleep a night for six nights is not enough. Plus I haven’t had a voice AND I haven’t even been with it enough to read, write, etc. Drag! Not how I was hoping the year would start.
Now, if you read my poetry much, you know I don’t often write explicitly political poetry, but I’m very proud to have yes, a political poem coming out in the “Inauguration Day” issue of Nice Cage. Look for it on, yep, inauguration day, when the issue goes live, a day a lot of us will probably need to read some poetry. The poem is called “Failure, 2016,” and I’m pretty proud of it.
But the good news is I was actually well enough to go out on New Year’s Eve, so Glenn and I glammed up and took advantage of living in the middle of many swanky wine places by going out to a party with live music. It was romantic and fun – and it was nice to remember that I have legs (it’s been super cold, so it’s been a steady diet of pants and boots for me) and how handsome Glenn looks when he dresses up! Hey, after 22 years of marriage, you have to take advantage of romantic occasions when you can! (Especially since he was going to be seeing me all disheveled and sniffling in pjs for the next six days!)
Here’s hoping the rest of the year gets better from here, for you and for me! Next time I’ll talk about 2017 writing and publishing goals!
Happy New Year’s Eve-Eve to you! A nice pre-New-Year’s Gift: thanks to Serena and Savvy Verse and Wit for putting Field Guide to the End of the World on their “Best of 2016” list! And I’m sharing the “best of” poetry slot with my friend Jessica Piazza. Go check it out!
In the last few days, I’ve been sick with some evil things that involves chills and fever among other exciting elements, but this has given me time to play catch-up.
In that time I:
–judged a poetry contest
–read over two manuscripts and wrote two blurbs
–wrote a poem or two
–sent out a handful of submissions, including two for solicitations
–read a book of essays that had been on my “to-read” pile for six months or more. (Megan Stielstra’s Once I Was Cool. It was good!)
–Contemplated the evils of all that 2016 has offered/considered how to prepare for 2017, or, as I call it, the apocalypse year. Making a playlist was of course part of this preparation. Inside the playlist: Avalanche City, Florence and the Machine’s “Wish That You Were Here,” some other stuff. After two years straight of listening to “apocalypse” playlists, I tried to make it a bit more upbeat.
I wish I could say I was feeling upbeat. But honestly, I’m so knocked out by the deaths of so many of my childhood icons – and George Michael and Carrie Fisher were among my top-rated in my teen years – and by the political climate and everything else I’ve been dealing with (health stuff) I’m barely keeping my head above water. Then, the New York Times declared today that “feminism had failed.” Hey, fellas, it’s not like my right to vote and own property were taken away! It’s just, feminism is a long and arduous fight. I mean, 200 years ago our great-grandmothers were being taken to jail to get the right to vote. So, now we don’t have to drag our husbands with us to open a bank account. It’s progress. I mean, I wish the man becoming president wasn’t a proud sexual assaulter, and I wish there was equal pay for equal work, and a woman running for president wasn’t continually assaulted for her clothes and hair and voice and husband’s actions etc, but hey! It’s not like “feminism has failed.” It’s just that we have to keep fighting the good fight.
Instead of New Year’s resolutions, destined to fail, I like to make New Year’s wishes. I like to eat grapes and black-eyed peas and greens (I’m probably culturally confusing my traditions, but all are supposed to lead to good luck in the new year…and maybe noodles are part of this too?) and celebrate and if I’m able, go out to see sparkly fireworks wearing a sparkly dress. This upcoming year will hopefully be less traumatic than 2016. I try to think positive (even if I’m not necessarily feeling upbeat!) So here are my non-resolution wishes/goals/celebrations:
–I’m going to devote more time and energy to my health (um, being given six months to live will shift your perspectives on this stuff – see all my posts since Feb 2016 for more on this)
–Spend more time writing
–Prioritize having more fun.
Those are my goals – not punitive, but celebratory! I give you all permission to decide to celebrate the good things in your life in 2017 rather than trying to “fix” all the things are broken. It turns out, feeling happy about those good things – your health, your friends and family, your art, your pets and garden, whatever gives you joy – might turn out to be a lot more important than ten pounds or an organized closet!
Happy Boxing Day! A blog post on Light and Dark up at North American Review’s blog, Aimee and The Millions, and celebrating holiday brightness
Happy Boxing Day! I hope you all had a good holiday! We had Christmas dinner last night (Glenn’s Christmas tamales, duck, endive salad, cranberry meringue pie, you know, the usual 😉 with my little brother and his wife, went out to see the Woodinville Wonderland house (an insane but fun amount of lights with things like Santa on motorcycles and polar bears next to mangers…) I have been battling one virus or another since Thanksgiving it seems, but was happy to have a little respite to celebrate. Ended the night by watching an MST3K episode in which giant grasshoppers destroyed Chicago. Sometimes a little silliness and apocalypse is exactly what you need to sleep.
Below are some pictures that celebrate the light – Christmas boats, Winter Wonderlands, Santa-cap kittens and typewriter ornaments, these are a few of my favorite things.
Happy to have a blog post up at North American Review on the importance of balancing darkness and light, in our lives as well as our writing – that I wrote before getting the news in my previous blog post. 2016 has been pretty difficult about a lot of things, but it has given me the gift of perspective. Go check it out! 🙂
I was also very thankful that Field Guide to the End of the World was included in Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s A Year in Reading list on The Millions! Thanks Aimee!
Congrats to Melanie Teabird who won the tote challenge earlier this month! We mailed it out today so hope you’ll receive it soon!
I hope you all are finding a way to celebrate the light during the darkest time of year. Now let’s celebrate like Icelanders and curl up with a book and some chocolate. Wishing you all a wonderful New Year!
A few years ago I started writing the book that became Field Guide to the End of the World – poems about coming to grips not just with death, but the end of all the things that we’ve become accustomed to – civilization, running water, grocery stores, telephone systems, mail.
Back in February of this year, I was diagnosed (surprise!) after finding 14 tumors in my liver – with metastatic cancer. This is NOT the kind of thing you want as a surprise diagnosis. I was told that I probably had six months to live. I made the decision to put off a dangerous and possibly life-threatening liver biopsy and go to AWP instead. When I got back, I took myself to a bunch of specialists who thought maybe I didn’t have cancer after all, just a bunch of benign tumors that might rupture, or turn into cancer. Then I was found to have a super high tumor marker for a rare slow-moving cancer called carcinoid (or neuroendocrine tumors) which also matched a lot of my symptoms, and I got a diagnosis for that. It was official, on all my charts and medical records and everything. My book came out and I immediately caught pneumonia. This meant I had to postpone the chemo I was supposed to start in September.
While I was too sick to get chemo, I visited some endocrinologists (multiple) encouraged me to be cautious and wait to get more tests and scans before I did. I started getting ‘cancer insurance’ offers in my mailbox. As I tried to trade in a six-month life expectancy for one that looked closer to a couple of years, I made some changes in my life. We bought a home. I adopted a kitten (almost always a good choice.) I said no to lots and lots of things that I was asked to do. I tried to reduce my stress levels, exercise, eat better, take medicines that doctors recommended for my symptom control, and try to enjoy life and avoid things that made life worse for me. I bought a piece of art that brightens my day every time I look at it. I reconnected with old friends, told people I loved them. Tried to make hard choices about how to spend my remaining time. I thought to myself “I probably don’t have time to write another book of poetry.” That last thing made me pretty sad. I spent a lot more time outdoors. I smelled every flower I could. I planted lavender in my new front yard, and when I did that, I didn’t know if I’d live to see it bloom next summer.
So now it’s winter, I’m still here, and besides the unexplained hives/stomach problems and the more banal flu sessions, I mostly feel…fine! And here’s my latest news…I just met with the head of a liver center to go over my latest MRI, a scan of my abdomen that indicated the tumors hadn’t grown, changed, or spread, which in cancer language is pretty positive news, with a “wait and watch” message from the liver specialist for now. It’s questionable now – though I have to wait for some more tumor marker tests to know for sure – if carcinoid syndrome is even my correct diagnosis. So it’s goodish news from my end of the world – I just wanted to let everyone who’s been on this journey with me know this – what I think of “as good as you get with 14 tumors in your liver” – update. Though I manage to walk a balance daily between skeptically pessimistic and cautiously optimistic, as I feel pretty battered in terms of my emotions and my overall perception of my health. Yeah, I mean, sure, in the last twenty years, I’d learned to manage – having been born with one kidney, having a primary immune deficiency, messed up joints, unexplained neural lesions (still under investigation) and a heritable bleeding disorder, among other weirdness – all of which put you on a precarious tightrope of “any little thing COULD kill you at any time” that I had pretty much lived with by ignoring and wearing one of those medical-jewelry bracelets – but the cancer thing this year has probably been the most eye-opening world-spinner I’ve encountered.
If it’s the end of your world, weird things take on more significance, and other things take on less. You feel less inclined to put up with bullshit of any kind, and more inclined to put things that satisfy your inner self – in my case, books, art, animals, nature, and inspiring people – on your priority list. You notice who loves you and who makes the effort, and who doesn’t. I also found to my surprise that I was not super unhappy or anxious in terms of my life – I mean, I didn’t really have much of a bucket list left, which means I’ve either really lost my ambition or I’ve accomplished the things that were important to me to accomplish.
And notice – I still post on Twitter, and Facebook, and on this blog. I still read the news, which FYI, has seemed to be a non-stop crapfest during the whole of 2016 – environmental, personal, political, you name it – and try to participate in the world, even as I might be teetering as if it were ending, at least for me. I still write poems, even if they may not ever make it into a book. What does the end of the world really mean? Who or what would you regret saying goodbye to, and who or what could you lose without any regret? What makes you laugh? What makes you feel like you connect to a larger purpose? For me, I’ve learned to say no, to admit more weakness and be more honest, to really enthusiastically enjoy the things that I can while I can. I’ve learned that even staring at the end, you can still capitalize on each moment of meaning, pleasure, love, poetry, sunshine, hummingbird wings. You can learn that the world’s spinning is so beautiful because at any moment it might stop.
Happy Holidays! A New Review for Field Guide to the End of the World, Flu Attacks, Janna’s recs for holiday giving, and Snow Deer
Today there were snow flurries in Seattle and we caught three unexpected visitors to our back yard – three deer!
Caught the stomach flu for a whole three days, but while I was home recuperating (and missing out on holiday fun) I caught the kitties sitting very sweetly (ie licking each other’s faces and NOT trying to kill ornaments) under the Christmas tree together. This picture is the best one I got. They look a little evil (and the colored lights make our white kitten a little pinker than usual) but I swear they were being so cute! PS There are two cats in this picture – can you find both their faces?
In poetry news…
Thank you Abby and New Orleans Review!
Janna Cawrse Esarey wrote up a holiday book recommendation list, and Field Guide was on the list – thanks Janna!
Been under the winter flu attack – a kind of throat-chest-flu for three weeks after Thanksgiving, and then after a few days of feeling good, the stomach flu! This means I’m behind on all my holiday stuff, and also poetry stuff. I haven’t gotten out to see the Christmas lights at the Woodland Park zoo or the Bellevue Botanical Garden (two Seattle-area traditions) or even finished all my holiday cards or shopping. I am, however, caught up on all my Netflix and DVD viewing (recommended: Florence Foster Jenkins as heartwarming and arts-celebrating, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for whimsical escapism (and throw away any expectations from the book, because the movie is a totally different story), and Suicide Squad for a really strong villainess (and I’m not talking about Harley Quinn or Enchantress – Viola Davis rocks in her role, and props to Margot Robbie and Will Smith who brought depth to their probably underwritten characters.) And we’ve bought tickets for the new Star Wars, hope I’m well enough to see it Monday!
Meanwhile, I’m watching the snow fall and still a little weak for full-on holiday celebrating, but I can at least send out some poems into the world! I promised a health update soon on the cancer situation and I will – I’m meeting with my specialists next week (what a way to celebrate, right?) I want to plan some readings for the book in the new year, too. It’s been tough trying to schedule around the health stuff, but I’m hoping to put together some fun readings in the spring!
Some Happy Holiday wishes, a Post-Apocalypse Christmas Poem, Holiday Rejection Coal and a Snow Day in Seattle!
Why yes, the weather outside is frightful and the news most un-delightful. But here we’ve been trying to salvage as much holiday joy as possible. We did have a surprise snow day (we had about three inches, which is more than we’d gotten in the previous five years!) which lasted about a day. It stuck around long enough for us to introduce out kitten to her first snow and but didn’t get us from getting out to a RASP/VALA holiday party to see some old friends and even competed in a surprise poetry slam!
We also had a couple of poetry friends over this weekend to celebrate all the Woodinville holiday season had to offer – wineries decked out in Christmas décor, and all sorts of fancy tableaux at Molbak’s. We had champagne and exchanged poetry gifts (pens! books of poetry!) It was nice to have some writer-friend time (especially in the face of – sigh – one more NEA rejection. Thanks for the lump of coal!)
I’ll have a more serious-type health update post soon, but for now, keeping it light, so…
Here’s a poem from Field Guide to the End of the World that is both Christmas-oriented AND post-apocalyptic, which seems appropriate for this 2016 holiday season.
The holidays can be rough all by themselves. This year I have a cancer diagnosis (and a test to see if it’s spreading or not in a few days) to contend with, a nonsensical President elect who seems bent on making people ashamed of America, attacks on college campuses and today, a forest fire in my beloved childhood roaming grounds in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Tomorrow, Hanford workers are talking on the news about the various illnesses they’ve experienced due to nuclear waste leakage around the Hanford area in Washington. Did I mention being sick for the last ten days and a weather report of constant 45-degreeish grey rain?
Today I took a walk during a rain-break. It was the first time I’d been up to being out of the house in a couple of days. I looked up from my walking trail to watch a bald eagle soaring about fifteen feet over my head. In the adjacent field, a flock of snow geese took flight at the same time, a soaring white cloud. Fifteen minutes of being outdoors, and I felt renewed. I have to constantly be vigilant against despair. You, too? Not just with the world’s news, but with my own life, with writing, with going to the doctors and going through tests over and over again. It is easier to feel overwhelmed and helpless. It is harder to try to see the good you might be able to do the world.
Over Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I took a few political actions of the calling and writing letters variety, I bought subscriptions to newspapers and writing and literary magazines, I read books that inspired me to feel ambitious. I wrote a poem, not a great poem, but I wrote. I sent out a submission of poems. I got a rejection. Did I mention I was flat-out so sick I couldn’t get out of bed most of the time? But I am reminded of what we can do when we’re discouraged. We remember WHY we try to do these things in the first place. Why I try to resist things I see as wrong. Why I write about things like the environment being poisoned or women being made to feel like objects of scorn rather than heroines when they try to stand up for themselves. Why I write, period. Why I bother fighting for my life, my health, through a labyrinthine health care system that often feels like it’s against patient health rather than for it. It’s because there is something worth fighting for, if I may sound so bold – equality for women, fighting for equality for all people regardless of color, religion, or creed, fighting for a cleaner earth and the right to exist and have a voice in a world that often feels like it’s trying to shut women – especially educated, feisty, feminist women – up. Today is “Giving Tuesday,” when we are reminded to give to causes and organizations we believe in – so if you love animals or poetry, value women’s shelters or cancer research, give a few dollars to a cause you believe in. We fight because individually, we may not feel we have any power, but if we refuse to shut up, if we refuse to give up, then we may have a collective impact that creates a better, more beautiful, more just world.
Sometimes, when we are focused on the muddy path and cold wind, we have to remember to look up. The air might be full of wings.
Second Note: Thanks To Atticus Review for nominating a poem from the new book, “Introduction to Spy Narrative as Love Story” for a Pushcart Prize!
Thanksgiving Warmth, An Interview with Bryan Thao Worra, Holiday Weekend Book Sale and a Tote Giveaway
Had as nice a Thanksgiving as one could wish. I hope you did too! On a rainy day, I relaxed and spending time with Glenn, my little brother and his wife, MST3K Turkey Day marathon in the background. Glenn did the cooking for two days (I’ve had a little cold) and it was beautiful, exactly the right things to cheer us up and leave a warm glow after dinner. I even did a little Tai Chi with my brother (who won awards for his Tai Chi back in the day) which was really fun! We talked politics, but only about the positive things we could do to make things better. Today the sun came back (the dark rain has been a little oppressive) so I want to get outdoors.
Thank you to Bryan Thao Worra for this interview with me on robots, the end of the world, and mythical beasts: https://thaoworra.blogspot.com/2016/11/robots-imagination-and-end-of-world.html
The weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally dedicated to shopping, and I’m trying to spend money supporting other artists and artist organizations this year. If you feel like doing the same, I’m doing a sale on all my books for the holiday weekend, signed copies and free shipping of course! Just send me an e-mail at jeannine dot gailey at live dot com – I take Paypal and Square.