Archive of ‘poetry’ category

this, that, & the other thing {xxiv}

molly-crabapple-geek-love-katherine-dunn-body-image-1463256483-size_1000 Why Katherine Dunn’s ‘Geek Love’ Was a Bible to Weird Kids Like Me

untitled-1-of-1Christ Consciousness, part I in Ellen Rogers’ Gnosis series, reflections on art & spirituality.

redasblood_full Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss

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Witchcraft, Satanism, and the Male Gaze: The Paranoid Sexual Politics of Belladonna of Sadness

1217.w529.h352Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden: A Korean Gothic Lesbian Revenge Thriller 

Follow the breadcrumbs: why fairytales are magic for modern fiction
10 strange novels of the British countryside
The Best Witch Cinema You Haven’t Seen
Riding With the Witch: Anxiety & Archetypes in Sleep Paralysis
The Haunting World of Jewish Female Demons and Spirits
Why we must burn her at once, via The Toast
How 2 Sisters and 1 Murder Inspired 500 Songs
How poetry helps us understand mental illness
Astronomers crack the secret of this gorgeous poem by Sappho
Google’s AI is writing eerie post-modern poetry
6 Sinister Podcasts to Scratch Your Eerie Itch

this, that, & the other thing {xxiii}

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Witch Series, Camille Chew

The new-to-me art of Camille Chew; a fanciful take on modern witches

 

A poster for Häxen. (Image: Cornell University Library)

A poster for Häxen. (Image: Cornell University Library,

Take a Peek at the World’s Greatest Witchcraft Movie Poster Collection

 


I’m absolutely enthralled with this beautiful, grotesque trailer.
Are you as excited for Tale of Tales as I am?

Forces that we cannot contain: The cosmic horror of the nuclear age

Why The Fly is possibly the very best body-horror film ever made

This Perfume Smells Like the Apocalypse: artists capture the heady scent of the end times

10 of the most disturbing folk songs in history

The H Word: The Monstrous Intimacy of Poetry in Horror

Is the Hum, a mysterious noise heard around the world, science or mass delusion?

Sorcery and Sex Appeal: Kristen Korvette Discusses Slutist’s Legacy of the Witch Festival

Anohni Finds Hope in Hopelessness: The iconoclastic artist on her politically-minded new album

The Gnostic World of Antti-Jussi Annila’s Sauna

The Dark Tales of the World’s Most Epic Sleep Talker

The void and the fire: Maggie Nelson’s Bluets

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Behold the stack of poetry that I have been working through for over a year now! Some of them are more recent acquisitions, some recommendations from friends, a few were purchased on a whim and tucked away for another time. Perhaps to forget about, and then stumble upon sometime in the future, on a rainy afternoon. Or a sunny afternoon during which I will dim the lights and draw the shades and pretend like the intermittent cycles of the dishwasher are the onslaught of a summer sudden storm.

Pictured: Dark Matter // Objects For A Fog Death // Bluets // Glowing Enigmas // The Collected Poems Of Chika Sawgaga // The Moon Is Always Female // Complicated Grief // The Book Of Nightmares // Cemetery Nights // Mad Honey Symposium

In truth, so far I have only read two of these volumes of poetry: The Moon is Always Female by Marge Piercy  and Bluets by Maggie Nelson (though I just started the Chika Sagawa book yesterday…it is elusive and fascinating, and will no doubt bear multiple reads.)

The Moon Is Always Female is perhaps best left for another time; months later I am still digesting the potent, revelatory lessons I squirreled away whilst reading it. Piercy, in a voice earthy and strong and brimming with joyful humor, writes of longings, warnings, and dreams–and with a sense of absolute, empowering conviction that made me want to rejoice in laughter and song, scream in triumph. Someone on the internet commented that they thought this collection seemed “dated” (it was published in 1980) and I must disagree with every fiber of my being. It’s an intensely energizing read that I foresee engaging and inspiring women 50 years from now.

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Much like my favorite volume of poetry last year, Bluets was initially suggested to me by Pam Grossman, and I am so grateful that she shared the recommendation with me.
I am, however,  sad to say that in thumbing through Bluets now I am disappointed to see that I did not mark pages or underline passages; nothing to indicate that there was something that struck me as profound or which gave me pause for reflection that I’d like to revisit and re-read. Though I know marking up books in such a way is frowned upon by some people, I personally have no problem with it. They’re my books aren’t they? I’ll underline and asterisk and highlight as I please!  I personally find pristine books highly suspect. Regardless, my unblemished copy of Bluets remains a rare treat. Perhaps the lack of scribbled notes and underlined text is because there was so much in it to love and I could not isolate and elevate any particular passage over the others.

It is written as a series of small vignettes–numbered lists, really–exploring reflections upon the color blue and the connections that Nelson draws between those collected observations and her own experiences.

“1. Suppose I were to tell you that I had fallen in love with a color”, she begins.

From a reader’s perspective, it presents as a collector’s secret diary of sorts, whose pages offer glimpses of morbid heartbreak, pervasive loneliness, pain both artistic and physical, ecstatic grief, and deep sadness, as well as compassion, beauty, and fleeting joy. These confessions are collaged together with all manner of scraps and detritus relating to every blue in the spectrum, consulting numerous writers, artists and thinkers along the way.

156. Why is the sky blue? -A fair enough question, and one I have learned the answer to several times. Yet every time I try to explain it to someone or remember it to myself, it eludes me. Now I like to remember the question alone, as it reminds me that my mind is essentially a sieve, that I am mortal.

157. The part I do remember: that the blue of the sky depends on the darkness of empty space behind it. As one optics journal puts it, “The color of any planetary atmosphere viewed against the black of space and illuminated by a sunlike star will also be blue.” In which case blue is something of an ecstatic accident produced by void and fire.”

I read a review of Bluets wherein Nelson is accused of indulgent navel-gazing, and my response to that is: “…and? So?”.  That’s what poets do, isn’t it?  A poet, I think, is its own favorite subject, and that’s precisely as it should be. Evan J. Peterson writes “The poet is stereotyped as a different kind of pervert, one who enjoys the depths of his own navel and the taste of his own toes, and furthermore, one who wants everyone to know this about him.” Just so!

A handful of readers have noted that they are able to pick this book up and peruse these pages willy-nilly, in no particular order, but I think you are doing yourself a disservice to treat it like that sort of a read.  These writings have a flow, wherein one thought or recollection or recounting of facts leads into the next and though sometimes the connections between them are fragile, tenuous–they still exist. To skip around is to lose the link, and I believe that’s where precisely where the magic, the blue-tinged marrow is found. Not in the bittersweet experiences she shares, and not in the facets or features or characteristics of the color, but in how she links all of these things together.

“238. I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.

239. But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. “Love is not consolation,” she wrote. “It is light.”

240. All right then, let me try to rephrase. When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light.”

 

A super fucking interesting chat: Sonya Vatomsky

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Sonya Vatomsky, lovely new friend, and author of Salt Is for Curing, has been interviewed previously by some very smart people who have asked some excellent questions of this ghostly poet of the witchy and intense.  I am not one of those people.

In my initial spurt of nosiness about this exquisite creature, I uncovered  a handful of informative, well-written and wonderfully interesting interviews with our subject today. And my conclusion is that there’s not much I can ask Sonya Vatomsky about poetry and the writing process that another more intelligent and more articulate person has not already shared with us. And as a matter of fact, I encourage you all to read these previous interviews when you can, because they offer fantastic insight into Sonya’s works.

I am, however going to ask some fun questions, which I have shared below, and we are offering a giveaway consisting of a signed copy of Salt Is For Curing, –so I hope you will continue reading!

I became acquainted with Sonya in early 2016 when I noticed that a user on Instagram calling themselves @coolniceghost started following my account. Normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to new followers on social media but an interesting username always piques my interest.  And come on…. COOL + NICE + GHOST!  That sounded too good to be true–I wanted to believe this mystery internet person is all of these things!

I discovered, with just a little bit of poking around on the internet, that this indeed all true. @coolniceghost turned out to be a poet named Sonya Vatomsky, (A POET! You know my heart exploded with this knowledge) whom I found on facebook and reached out right away to say hello. And here we are.

Sonya has written two collections, My Heart In Aspic, a book of :”sensory-rich poetry investigating the body, decay/fracture, rich marrow, salted flesh, and breathing in all the dark things”, as well as the more recent Salt Is For Curing, which is described deliciously by author Ariana Reines as “a feast, a grimoire, a fairy tale world, the real world. It’s also too smart for bullshit and too graceful to be mean about the bullshit”.

apotheosis

{Apotheosis / Salt Is For Curing by Sonya Vatomsky}

In my reading of Salt Is For Curing, it took all that I had not to devour this small book of spooky delights in one greedy instant. I feared that to do so, to ingest all of these potent magics at once, would give me a terribly heartsick sort of heartburn and yet leave me with the very worst sort of emptiness, knowing there is no more to be had. I drew it out for as long as I could stand.

Anyway, I do go on, don’t I?  We are going to talk about stuff and things and I trust that you will read further and enjoy. After having done so, please leave a comment to be included for the giveaway of one copy of Salt Is For Curing, signed by Sonya Vatomsky.  Do you have a favorite collection of poetry? A beloved fragrance? Maybe a strange ritual you’d like to share? Tell us all about it in the comments and a random winner will be divined by esoteric methods exactly one week from today.

Sonya Vatomsky

Sonya Vatomsky

 

Mlle Ghoul: The other night I had a dream that I peeled back the onion skin of my toes to uncover chocolate bonbons, which I plucked and ate with relish (I knew they’d grow back). What have you been dreaming about lately? What sort of stock do you put in dreams, if any? Are they signs, guide-posts for you? Or just brain-blips? Do they ever make their way into your poetry?

Sonya Vatomsky: Honestly, I kind of just have a lot of nightmares. I always have. They range from the basic psychopath-on-a-rampage kind to the crueler twists of, say, killing someone while blacked out and then having to explain that you’re a murderer to your parents who, against all mounting evidence, are maintaining your innocence during the trial because they know you, you would never. Because of this, I learned how to wake myself up from dreams when I was very young.When I’m really scared, I reach a sort of lucidity where if I force my eyes open really wide in the dream-state I’ll wake up. Besides the waking up trick, my lucid dreams are pretty useless. There’s a sort of misconception in lucid dreaming tutorials where people equate them with control over your dreams, which is just not accurate. Being self-aware doesn’t automatically make you God.

Speaking of dreams and sleep, you mentioned that you suffer from sleep paralysis. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with that?

Sure! It first happened in my late teens — scared the shit out of me, but I figured it was a freaky one-off nightmare. Then it occurred every few months for several years. I have an “all the toppings” version of sleep paralysis: aural hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and the cherry on top is an overpowering sense that there’s a demon in the room. I first read about sleep paralysis when I was 24 — 6 years ago — and since then it hasn’t happened much. Reading about it was very surreal. I was going through the Wikipedia pages of Japanese horror movies and reading the synopses and clicking links and ended up reading a medical paper on kanashibari. Having this frightening, seemingly-inexplicable, and deeply-personal thing medically explained (and experienced by other people!) was such a relief. In terms of the impact on my daily life, sleep paralysis was far more isolating than terrifying… or, rather, don’t we all have a very visceral fear that our mind has chosen an utterly unique kind of madness? That we’re somehow inherently blocked from ever being understood by another?

In Salt Is For Curing, the thread that ties so much of it together is food, but I get that it’s not really about food. You’ve said, and I am paraphrasing, that at the very root of these themes you write on– women, and bodies, and autonomy, and trauma, and power– it’s you exorcising your demons while “making people think they’re reading a witchy little book of folklore.” Which I think is fantastic and I loved that aspect of it. The role of food in folklore is such an interesting subject, though, and not one that I’ve thought on overmuch until now. I guess what I want to ask is how did you make these connections in relation to your own personal mythology and go about incorporating it into your poetry?

I think food and folklore both fall into my writing through the simple fact of me being Russian. Specifically a Russian immigrant, so my sense of culture has basically been distilled into those two things, partially because they’re such cultural building blocks but also because food and folklore are all you really have awareness of when you’re a child. I was six when I moved.

… but I am also obsessed with food, so we have to come back to that. Would you consider food/cooking a fascination for you, and has that been a constant fixation throughout your life or something that developed around the writing of these particular poems? What do you like to cook for yourself? What do you like to cook and serve to other people?

I’m impatient and busy so I usually cook things that can be done in 30 minutes, ideally with most of that time away from the stove. Baked fish with lemon, rosemary lamb, duck breast, tuna steak, that sort of thing. Also sandwiches. Always sandwiches. My current favorite is some kind of nice bread, gravlax, sliced hardboiled egg, tomato, mayonnaise, and hot sweet mustard. I’ll usually make the same type of dish for other people, because hosting means I’m a) stressed from accepting too much responsibility for the personal happiness of my dinner guest and b) drinking a lot, though I might upgrade my put-it-in-the-oven entree to cornish game hen. I can do piroshky and vareniki and pelmeni and borsch and all of that too but would need a third party to mind the guests because I’m very leave-me-the-fuck-alone in the kitchen.

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Sonya Vatomsky

Another thing you mentioned in an interview and I am taking it totally out of context here so that you can expand upon and play with it however you like, is: “I’m interested in myself quite a lot.” I cannot tell you how refreshing that was to read, and how excited, and well, RELIEVED I was to hear someone actually say that. You know, as a writer, I am extremely interested in myself, as well (I’m my favorite subject!)…but that’s not always something people are comfortable expressing, I don’t think. I was hoping that you could talk a little more about this.

My coolness and my writing ability have just never been things I questioned. Which doesn’t mean I assume everyone will adore me (why would it?) or anything; I’m just stressed out by starvation economies. Impostor syndrome is a thing I deal with, as are various insecurities about success, but I don’t conflate feelings about my movement through the world with my intrinsic sense of self, I guess? I think I’m super fucking interesting, and I get chills re-reading my own work, but that ego also frees me up to feel joy at the genius of others. There’s not a finite amount of coolness. I find books all the time that reduce me to Facebook-messaging incoherent “omg… you are disgustingly amazing”s to people and that’s a real pleasure.

Make America Goth Again

Make America Goth Again

Onto lighter things! One of the things we initially bonded over was our huge goth-y tee shirt collection–do you have any favorites right now?

MAKE AMERICA GOTH AGAIN, which I discovered through fellow goth Deirdre Coyle.

I don’t want to assume you are a fellow perfume enthusiast, but I sort of get the feeling that you might be. What sort of scents do you find yourself drawn to? Do you have a particular beloved fragrance?

Ha! I am definitely a perfume enthusiast. Except I find the alcohol in alcohol-based perfumes really overpowering so I mostly wear oils. My everyday stink is Sugar & Spite’s Brewster (buttercream frosting, candied violets, vanilla cake) with Common Brimstone’s Petite Mort (caraway, cardamom, leather, honey, rose) on top. I also really love BPAL’s Vixen (orange blossom, ginger, patchouli) but I’ve had it forever so it kind of just smells like the summer I was 21 at this point. My gotta-have-it oils are anything that mention campfires, dirt, or cardamom, and lately I’m really enjoying rose as well. Oh! Another always-favorite is Debaucherous Bath, though I purchase more lotions than perfumes from that shop. The Queen Bee (milk, honey, cardamom) is delightful.

I did read your post about perfumes the other day and am thinking of treating myself to Norne or De Profundis (though for those prices maybe I’ll just come over for a weekend and smell you a lot).

I think you and I have something else in common, too–that you don’t really love showering, because you don’t like getting wet. Me too, I hate it! I sort of have to trick myself into the shower, make a ritual of it with fluffy towels, fancy soaps and potions and unguents. This made me start thinking about our own individual, personal rituals. I was wondering if you had any that you might like to share? Whether with regard to getting your hair wet, or writing, or …whatever, really.

Showering is the worst. I exercise every morning and that does make me more inclined to shower, though I soaps and potions help as well. I like to have a creepy soap (gunsmoke, seaweed, rotting wood) and a sweet lotion. An off-putting handsoap is nice, too. Blackbird used to do a really strong, salty licorice one but since they discontinued it I’ve been using Nevermore Body Company’s Sacred Ground (chamomile, oak, black currant, dried leaves).

My other rituals are secret, for now.

You just traveled to Iceland! What did you love about it? Did you find any inspiration there? Anything that you might recommend to a fellow traveler on a whirlwind journey?

Iceland! The best thing we did was go to the Secret Lagoon which, first off, has a Facebook page so how secret is it really? The lagoon is an hour or so outside Reykjavik, and we did a night excursion where we got there around 9 or 10pm — it’s dark and freezing cold and next to the lagoon is this scary-looking cement shack structure and there’s a reddish light coming from somewhere that makes the entire scene look like the first result of when you go to a website of free desktop wallpapers and search for “creepy shit”. It was incredible! You get little floaties and float in the water, which is really warm, and there are these underwater speakers playing fucking Sigur Ros, and you can drink wine and then get a massage. Someone also brought a dog so I was petting this giant fluffer while drinking wine and being up to my waist in a hot lagoon.

Perfect. Then when you’re done soaking you get to have a little meal of cucumbers and tomatoes and black bread and schnapps and softboiled egg and the rotting piss shark thing which, I don’t know, definitely needs a lot of schnapps after it.

Photo credit: Sonya Vatomsky

Photo credit: Sonya Vatomsky

I am led to believe that you may have some great poetry recommendations. If one loved Salt Is For Curing, for example, what else might you suggest?

I HAVE SO MANY POETRY RECOMMENDATIONS. Recently I have read and loved:

Kate Litterer – Ghosty Boo
Janice Lee – Reconsolidation
Natalie Eilbert – Swan Feast
Segovia Amil – Ophelia Wears Black
Emily O’Neill – Celeris

Finally, closing on a more serious note– elsewhere, you referenced a J.G. Ballard quote:

“’I wanted to / rub the human face in its own vomit / and then force it to look in the mirror’—and that’s basically what I’m trying to do. Except with my vomit. In a nice way.” I know that our motivations and inspirations are constantly in flux, so I am wondering if this is still what you are trying to do? Or has this changed?

No, that still sounds about right.

Thanks again, Sonya, for entertaining my curiosity and indulging my nosy nature. And readers, remember to leave a comment below in order to be eligible for our giveaway of one signed copy of Salt Is For Curing.

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A million years ago

I’d forgotten that a million years ago, I’d made a little Amazon referral store. Well, now it’s been updated! If you’re ever interested in picking up any of the cinema, literature or music that I mention, you might find it here.

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how it works.  But if you find something I’ve list that you have an interest in, and purchase it, and then somehow I get credit for it toward some other purchase? Well that’s pretty good.  I’m much obliged to ye.

Four poets

The other night I had a rare moment to myself.  Not “by myself”; I am by myself, alone, all day long, working remotely from home, connecting to an office hundreds of miles away. But rather “to myself”; no obligations or responsibilities or demands on my time, just an hour or two, to do with as I please.  I didn’t have much time, so I wanted to be certain that the minutes I did have allotted to me actually counted for something.

I feel a bit the same about poetry.  It’s an opportunity for a writer to take a few words and a small space and spark an enormous, raging fire in a reader’s heart. Its dearth of strict rules delights me – for someone as meek and timid as I can be, I resent guidelines and rules, they often annoy me and I do love to see them twisted and broken. And poetry is a vital, relevant language – at turns mystical, raw, terrifying, full of rage and longing, tender, and absurd- leaving one hollow, spent, and breathless….and I will confess to loving it all, even the bad poetry.

I dabble a bit with writing my own poems, though not as much as I did when I was younger.  And I’ve no delusions that I was ever any good or that I have improved much over the years, but it’s something I quite enjoy (to the extent that I used to participate in open mike nights, believe it or not! Even I have a hard time believing this.)

At any rate, on this particular evening, I cozied up on the sofa with a stack of books that I’d been meaning to get around to; all relatively recent offerings from some new-to-me poets, along with some old favorites.  It was an hour very well spent.

I’ve copied below a few excerpts for your enjoyment, as well.

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A Taxonomy of the Space Between Us, by Caleb Curtiss, is a heartbreaking chronicle of grief, stalked by sister ghosts. Radiant, revelatory elegies.

Sparrow {excerpt}

My sister
is not a woman, a girl, or even

a real someone or something.
Not anymore.

In her place I find a bird
nearly frozen, lying

in a field, its body
broken in some way,

and it is utterly flightless
and possibly a sparrow —

 

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The Sex Lives of Monsters by Helen Marshall weaves together, ancient myths and familiar tales in a painful, poignant, and sometimes oddly pitiful exploration of what it means to be monstrous.

As my heart forever breaks for poor, doomed Eurydice, this excerpt from The Stairwell gave my heartstrings a particularly violent tug.

The Stairwell {excerpt}

We cannot be other than we are.
You must mount the staircase,
face toward the dawn.
and I in your shadow,
forever certain
of your turning head.

 

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Because I love a burning thing
I made my heart a field of fire
{excerpt from The Art of Loss is a Lost Art}

The Truth Is We Are Perfect by Janaka Stucky, is poetry of sacrifice and miracles and destruction and love is superbly and succinctly summed up by Pam Grossman over at phantasmaphile as “…Incantatory and incendiary”.  Actually, I don’t know if I can do it any further justice.  Just read her review.  Also, here is a link to a Spotify playlist that Janaka Stucky put together for this collection of poetry and a description of the playlist, in his own words, over at largeheartedboy.

 

onights

O’Nights by Cecily Parks presents a luminous, lyrical vision of the natural world through an urbane, modern woman’s eyes – pale nightscapes, violent springs, wounds and lusts, captures and release.

I Have Set Fire To The Forest {excerpt}

I put on a dress to walk
in the seeping rain, believing
that if the willows are suddenly green

I might have something sudden happen
to me. I saunter impatiently

 

Postpastoral {excerpt}

I borrowed an axe
so heavy I had to drag it 
through the woods.

Branches couldn’t catch
the geese or the sliding sun
and the mud-streaked axe blade

and my mud-streaked dress
took on a violet sheen.
I would build a house

to be lonely in.