Photo credit: Some of our azaleas in a vase. Taken by me. 6 April 2016.
Weeks ago, while languishing in shelter-in-place tedium, I took my annual notice of our blossoming azaleas and wrote a poem about the way I saw them in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a swift rejection from a very distinguished place, a Call for Pandemic Poetry Submissions appeared in poet Stephen Page’s blog, which I follow. Although I was not acquainted with North of Oxford, the journal calling for pandemic poems, the staff appeared to be poets of distinction, and I wanted to at least try to get my poem on the pandemic out there in a timely fashion, so I submitted it.
Today I was informed, without a formal acceptance letter or other folderol, that my poem was up in Pandemic Issue #3. Poetry Editor Diane Sahms-Guarnieri wrote: “Due to the large volume of submissions we were not able to respond to individual submissions. We believe these poems have captured the essence of the international pandemic struggle, reflective of everyday life and death and in some cases a glimpse into the future.” I am grateful that Editor Sahms and the other editors at North of Oxford found that “Pandemic Spring, with Azaleas” “captured” some of the “essence” of this experience we are all having, and am honored to be in the company of the poets in issues #1-3, some of whose names I have seen featured with accolades here and there before.
I look forward to reading their work, and I hope you too will check out the Pandemic issues at North of Oxford as we all navigate through this strange time.
Photo of a tree in a park near my house. Taken by me. 22 Feb. 2020.
Doubleback Review 2:1 is here today, and with it my story, Elf Houses, which I mentioned here. I am happy that Fiction Editor Samantha Edmonds chose to reprint the story, and having read some of issue 1:1, I am honored to be in the good company of my fellow contributors. But I am especially glad to see “Elf Houses” out again because the story is the only time I have incorporated the domestic violence I experienced as a child into my writing.
This is a difficult feat because I feel the trauma became a part of me without ever entirely being fully dealt with, but also because it seems unfair to mention it without also pointing out the incredible privilege of my upbringing, which, despite my father’s very moderate salary, included fancy private schooling, abundant cultural enrichment, and extensive travel. Like most parents, mine did the best they could given their own backgrounds. Nevertheless, the violent aspects of my childhood are hard to tell and hard for people to hear or read about.
Luckily, horror is a genre that lends itself to the dark side of human nature, and in “Elf Houses” I combined violence with one of my favorite things to do as a kid–play imaginatively outdoors. At least one reader said she found it “chilling,” and I hope you will also. As always, I would like to hear what you think.
I am relieved and happy to have placed my story, “A Trip to the Seashore,” at long last. The editors at Coffin Bell: a journal of dark literature saw sufficient merit in it, and it will appear in July.
“A Trip to the Seashore” is a dystopian apocalyptic tale set in a future decimated by climate change. I tried to extrapolate from contemporary social trends, as well as environmental effects, though I am no expert and mistakes may have been made. In the world of the story, the sea has invaded the plains states, but the sea is acidic and filled with jellyfish. The United States has been colonized by China, people are racially mixed (but still racist), and “job creators” (a phrase that seems to be already taking a richly deserved place in history’s dustbin) have become the elite Creator class. Oxygen is depleted, disease is prevalent, and the story’s featured family inhabit a bunker–a situation we can all relate to these days.
Although the story is dark, I think it is moving, and I am grateful that the editors of Coffin Bell likewise found something in it. Now if I could just get my novella about quantum neurology under control. . . .
Photo credit: Anonymous, Jellyfish Swarm. 31 July 2014. Wikimedia Commons. PD.
I am excited to report that two of my poems, “Trump Signs Bibles in Alabama” and “Golden Age,” have been accepted by DASH Literary Journal, which is produced by students at California State University, Fullerton. Besides taking pleasure in being recognized by the young and hip at my advanced age, I am always relieved to place my edgier work, and always happy to have work in print journals and publications affiliated with colleges or universities.
I also believe it’s important to sound the alarm about climate change, whose effects are so starkly portrayed in the photo above. “Trump Signs Bibles . . . ” calls out all of us for not doing enough and instead too often retreating into the kind of magical thinking that consoled those who got their bibles signed.
“Golden Age,” I dashed off, appropriately enough, in response to a writing prompt that was part of an application. As I recall, the prompt asked applicants to describe their birth as a mythological event. I may have strayed a little wide of the mark on “birth” (if, indeed, that was even the word–I can’t remember), but thinking of parallels between mythology and my family history helped me to portray that history’s more violent and primal aspects in appropriately archetypal terms in this brief prose poem.
As always, I am grateful to the editors and eager to read the journal. I hope that everyone with extra time now is using it to read widely and adventurously.
Photo credits: The White House, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump Visit Alabama. 8 March 2019. Wikimedia Commons. PD.
Jacopo Zucchi [user, Sine Fine], The Age of Gold. Ca. 1565 [image, 2 March 2020]. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.