The Florida Loquat Festival is a celebration of the loquat in all forms, from cultivar to fruit, set in the neighborhood open space of Frances Park. But unlike most such community celebrations, the Florida Loquat Festival includes a literary component.
This year’s Loquat Literary Festival, which I first posted about here, included a poetry contest with cash prizes. Two of the judges, Ryan Cheng and Annalise Mabe, met my travel companion, the third-prize winner, and me at the festival for a photo op and some poetry chat, and then the reading began, with a song and some enjoyable verse tributes to the loquat from community members. Ryan read the winning poem, by Jan Ball, and introduced first my new acquaintance (who may prefer me not to mention her name) the third-place contestant, who read her poem, and then me, who read mine.
The whole occasion was relaxed. Though unorthodox, the poetry reading seemed a natural and perfect ending to the loquat celebration. Everyone was friendly and congratulatory, and the weather, in accord with the pathetic fallacy, was sunny and pleasantly warm. Thanks to everyone who made it possible, especially Annalise, Ryan, and Dell De Chant. Special thanks to Dell for getting us t-shirts, last year’s Leaves of Loquat chapbook, and a little extra money in light of how far we’d traveled.
I look forward to the release of this year’s chapbook, so I can see the poems that weren’t read and peruse the winning poems at more leisure. Maybe I will also be able to return to New Port Richey for the occasion. But even if I can’t, I will at least have fond memories of this welcoming, friendly community.
I have just been notified that I have won second prize in this year’s Literary Loquat Festival for my poem, “Loquats in Vienna”! The literary festival is part of the larger Florida Loquat Festival, which you can read about here. In addition to being read at the festival, my poem will be published in the chapbook, Leaves of Loquat IV, this fall. Many thanks to Ryan Cheng, who is in charge of the contest and chapbook, for his work.
The call for submissions for this festival asked for poems in which the loquat was a central image. This spoke to me because, although my sole encounter with the loquat was at a restaurant, Steirereck, in Vienna’s Stadtpark, and although the loquat was merely one small part of my husband’s dessert, the meal was unforgettable, and so was the trip. So I researched loquats and used them as a central metaphor for us and our relationship in Vienna.
It will be hectic getting to the festival and back between violin lessons and my Palm Sunday gig, but I am looking forward to reading the poem there and will let you know how it went. If you are in the Port Richey, Florida, area on March 24th, please stop by, experience loquats, and say hello.
Photo credit: Oldie~commonswiki, Eriobotrya japonica. Wikimedia Commons. GDSL 1.2 or later.
Screen shot from Creature from the Haunted Sea. PD.
The poem I wrote about here is up here, at Five:2:One, #thesideshow, complete with my reading, to a weird slideshow with sound effects. I had fun doing it, and I hope you have fun devoting thirty-one seconds of your life to it.
While you’re there, poke around among the other oddities and brevities. You will experience frequent and salutary jolts of the unexpected.
In this week when news organizations have been falling over themselves to report on the death of wealthy, antifeminist, homophobic, antisemitic Vietnam War supporter and North Korean cheerleader Billy Graham, it is fitting to recall the sacrifice made by Heather Heyer.
A short, simple etheree seemed a suitable vehicle for a tribute to someone whose life was brief because she simply did what was right and knew no other way to be. I know my poem can’t do her justice, but then no poem could. I am happy that Poetry South will be printing it this December.
I am happy to report that my poem, “Can #8: Aquafina Sparkling,” has been accepted by #thesideshow part of Five:2:One Magazine.
What does this have to do with an obscure Roger Corman film trying to cash in on America’s Cold War relations with Cuba that I found in public domain? Well, the staff at #thesideshow had a lot of homework for me. In addition to the usual “follow us on Facebook and Twitter,” “Send a photo,” etc., they want me to read my poem and jazz it up a bit. And since from “Aquafina Sparkling” I derived “Aquafin King,” a charming but totalitarian potentate/supervillain, I’m thinking of incorporating material from the Corman film in my presentation (“Morning Mood” from The Peer Gynt Suite may also make an appearance).
Whatever happens, it will all be over by March 10th, when #thesideshow will post the piece. I’ll remind you, and you can go see what I perpetrated.
For some time I have been close to the next level of success in my writing. Finalist in this or that, shortlisted for this and that, a positive review in New Pages, a little money here and there. But I had yet to publish in a journal recognized as one of the “top,” or win (or even be nominated for) a substantial prize, or sell anything to a publisher for a substantial sum. I wasn’t bitter–I am sincerely happy that there are so many talented people out there, and I am enjoying writing so much that I will continue regardless (you have been warned). But I was beginning to wonder.
Turns out all those clichés about persistence and it only takes one person are true. Also the “kill your darlings” thing. The editors of a new speculative fiction magazine, Spectacle, liked my story, “Gutman to the Rescue,” and are paying me the substantial sum of $500 to publish it in an upcoming issue!
As usual, this story had been making the rounds, slowly spiraling down from better paying to less well paying to free, for some time. Fortunately, editors at one low-paying journal told me I needed to axe large portions of the piece in order to streamline the pacing. Although those editors eventually rejected the streamlined version, I am indebted to them because the story went on to find favor at Spectacle.
Of course, I feel grateful and validated. But this tale is also a reminder of how random the whole process is. So much depends on luck and chance, and the story could just as easily have met a less prestigious fate. I am reminded that I am writing because it is what I have always wanted to do and because I have things to say and an active imagination. Everything else, welcome and unwelcome, is secondary.
The micro-fiction I wrote about here is now up! You can find it in issue four, here. I have been reading issue three, and I find formercactus to be a delectable box of chocolates. I never know what to expect, and even while I am reading, new depths of flavor suddenly emerge in the pieces. Suitable for all your literary snacking needs. So check it out!
I do not game. I find gaming at best pointless and antisocial, at worst, violent and misogynistic. I readily admit I am ignorant of gaming and was not good at the few primitive games I tried back in the day, so if anyone wants to school me in all I am missing from the wonderful world of gaming, go ahead. I will read with as open a mind as I can muster.
I mention all this not to insult and challenge gamers everywhere, but just to explain how I came to write “Hollow.” In doing research for a story (as yet unpublished) about a veteran of the Iraq War who games, I watched a lot of Halo on YouTube and was appalled at the focused, impersonal, and constant violence, which seemed to me to subvert puerile masculine fantasies of heroism, turning them into something frightening and casually cruel.
I channeled this reaction into a very brief micro-fiction, “Hollow,” which sketched a real-life gaming experience in a dystopian future. Many editors rejected this, and the one who commented on it explained that it reads more like the beginning of a story than a complete work. I understand that, but I kind of like it the way it is, and I did not prioritize expanding it because I had conceived of it as short and uncomfortably unresolved.
Fortunately, Willem Myra the guest editor of Issue 4 of formercactus, “Microcaxtus,” liked the piece in all its brevity and will be publishing it on January 15. I look forward to familiarizing myself with formercactus in the interim.
Happy Western New Year!
Today I finally got my copy of the handbook with my Lolita essay in it. You can read more about the handbook, which is edited by my husband and his colleague, here. You can also buy the handbook, in physical form or as an e-book, there, and you can buy individual e-chapters there as well.
Basically the handbook tries to examine the role of affect in understanding literature. In doing so, it brings together several different strains of textual criticism, especially affect theory and cognitive science. Although affect theory has its roots mainly in poststructuralism, while cognitive science is rooted in the scientific method, and particularly the advances made in the last two decades in such fields as neuroscience and evolutionary biology, both branches analyze our reactions to texts, and it is useful to explore overlaps between them as well as areas of conflict.
My essay uses Deleuze and Guattari, on whom many contemporary affect theorists draw, to examine fascist and microfascist elements treated in Lolita, but I argue that their theories, as delineated in A Thousand Plateaus, cannot account for the text’s and Nabokov’s insistence on possibilities of transcendence through suffering and love. There is a basis for these possibilities in the psychological phenomenon of altruism born of suffering (ABS), which is supported by neurological studies of altruism.
I believe my overall argument is strong, but I am especially happy about some details of my support for it. I present a reasonable and, as far as I know, new, explanation of the relationship between Nabokov’s Lolita and the “Lolita” by Heinz von Lichberg, who became an enthusiastic Nazi. I am also, as far as I know, the first to notice a number of religious references toward the end of the novel that support my argument about possibilities of limited transcendence through ABS in Lolita.
Further, having proofread the whole handbook, I can say that the other essays are also strong. I hope scholars will agree that this volume is a wide-ranging and expert treatment of cutting-edge literary and scientific theory on affect and that these essays constitute a valuable contribution to literary criticism.
Editor Maartens Lourens has posted my poem, “Can # 7: La Tourangelle Expeller-Pressed Grapeseed Oil,” here. (I wrote about my can poems in various posts, all of which are referenced here.) Maartens, who blogs at The Combed Thunderclap, is a connoisseur and literary philosopher who specializes in cutting-edge experimental poetry, and I am honored to be in the company of the fine and fascinating poets up at Poetry WTF?!.