She's Not a Girl Who Misses Much

Happy New Year, folks! I've now been living on the West Coast for a full calendar year, and I can see the effect of my new residence all over my work. The new issue of Cream City Review includes four poems I wrote shortly after moving to Oregon, and reading them now, a year later, I can see how much I was trying to make sense of starting over in a new place. Two of the poems take the shape of origin stories, and one is called "Spell to Leave Behind a Life." The fourth emerged from an experiment, in which I culled all the words spoken by Pearl in The Scarlet Letter and used only those words to write a poem. This might not seem all that significant, except that when I talk about my origin story as a writer, I often recall my junior year of high school, when a teacher assigned me the task of writing a poem from the perspective of a character in a book we read. I chose Pearl and discovered the power of persona. Revisiting Pearl now, twenty-plus years later, was a sort of homecoming.

This last year also saw the publication of my first short story, "Out of Order", in Literal Latte. The story's protagonist wakes from an elective process he undertook in his forties to find himself now ninety, lonely and disoriented by his new world. Again, I wasn't conscious of the questions I was grappling with at the time I was writing--one month after I moved to Oregon--but rereading the story now, it's clear I was, well, lonely and disoriented, even while I loved (and continue to love) this place.

Those initial feelings have dissipated, I'm happy to say. I'm finally starting to get a feel for the writing communities in the area, and I've got two readings coming up in the next two months, with a few more in the works. It feels good to get my work back in front of people, and even better to be with kindred spirits: one reading is for Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, and the other is part of the Unchaste Readers series. Nasty and unchaste--that's exactly the kind of company I want to keep.

I've also got a new poem, "Now Is Not the Time to Talk About Gun Control," that will be released on the Broadsided website next week as part of their feature, "Bearing Arms: Responding to Guns in American Culture." The poem is paired with Kristen Woodward's startling, provocative "Female Target," and includes the word Oregunian. (Yes, living here has added to my vocabulary, for better or worse.) I'm excited to see our broadside and those of the other writers and artists vectorized, and I hope that the broadsides spark some conversations, since--if the irony wasn't clear--now is absolutely the time to talk about gun control. Let's hope that's one of the many changes 2018 brings.

As for 2017, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all the amazing books I read. Without further ado, my favorite reads from 2017 were:

Poetry
Spirit Boxing, Afaa Michael Weaver
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, Chen Chen
Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing, Charif Shanahan
Lena: Poems, Cassie Pruyn
Magdalene, Marie Howe
3arabi Song, Zeina Hashem Beck
Hands that Break and Scar, Sarah A. Chavez
Transformations, Anne Sexton
The Whetting Stone, Taylor Mali

Nonfiction
Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World, Suzy Hansen
Catastrophic Happiness: Finding Joy in Childhood's Messy Years, Catherine Newman
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Fiction
Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
Spoonbenders, Daryl Gregory
A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. Le Guin
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

Mixed Genre
Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days, Jeanette Winterson

Here's to 2018--may the new year bring you clarity, community, and abundant good reads!
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