Stone Telling 12: JOKE!

It’s April 1st and, for the first time in the history of Stone Telling, we’ve published a JOKE issue:

Just so you know,
we thought about it long and slow,
and decided, without further ado,
that, going forward, ST only rhymed poetry will do.

To that end, we’ve published our first rhymed offering,
an issue so full of awesome
it’s somewhat troublesome.

Of course, it all could be a ploy
to bring you more hippopotamoi.

😀

Yes, artistic B&W pictures of a plush Mippopotamus accompany every poem! 😀 😀

As promised, this is our mermaidiest issue to date!

Special thanks to Stone Telling patrons and An Alphabet of Embers backers for making this silliness possible. Please consider supporting us on Patreon 🙂

2014 Rhysling award eligible poems

Hi everyone! I’ve recently joined the Stone Telling team, and this is my first blog post. I love making lists, so I present you with a list of all Stone Telling poems eligible for the Rhysling award this year.

A further note before we begin: Stone Telling is not eligible for the Hugo awards in Best Semiprozine category this year because we didn’t have four issues out. We recommend people vote for Goblin Fruit instead!

Short poem (1-49 lines):

I do not know your ἀλφάβητος by Saira Ali (Reverberations issue)

The Honey Times by Cathy Bryant (Body issue)

#003 by Wendy Creekmore, Kristin Koester, Nicci Mechler, and Hilda Weaver (Body issue)

To the Creature by Gillian Daniels (Reverberations issue)

Misery Is Not a Virtue by Malisha Dewalt (Body issue)

Ballad Breath by Peg Duthie (Reverberations issue)

Coyolxauhqui by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas (Reverberations issue)

Turning to Stone by Ada Hoffmann (Body issue) + bonus interview

Good Enough by Emily Jiang (Body issue) + bonus interview

The Nerve Harp by Mat Joiner (Body issue)

That Thief, Melancholy by Kathrin Köhler (Body issue)

The City Inside Her by Sandi Leibowitz (Body issue) + bonus interview

Bowl by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Body issue)

Kuura (extract from a Finnish-English dictionary) by Sara Norja (Reverberations issue)

Train in my veins by Dominik Parisien (Body issue) + bonus interview

For T. by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back (Body issue)

A Bulgakov Headache by Sonya Taaffe (Body issue) + bonus interview

Trepanation by Alyza Taguilaso (Body issue)

Outside-in / Catalytic Exteriorization by Bogi Takács (Body issue) + bonus interview

Labyrinth Soup by Margarita Tenser (Reverberations issue)

Rep/ercussions (Carmina): Reflections on Obsession and Compulsion by Brittany Warman (Body issue) + bonus interview

The Monkey Climbs the Tree, as the Turtle Watches by Isabel Yap (Reverberations issue)

Twin Sorrows by Vincen Gregory Yu (Body issue)

Long poem (50+ lines):

Nothing Writes to Disk by Kythryne Aisling (Reverberations issue)

Teratoma Lullaby by Lisa M. Bradley (Body issue) + bonus interview

And I’ll Dance With You Yet, My Darling by C.S.E. Cooney (Body issue)

Brother by Jaymee Goh (Body issue)

Scales by Ruth Jenkins (Reverberations issue)

Confluence (Triveni Sangam) by Shruti Iyer (Reverberations issue)

Vertigo and Annihilation by Valeria Rodríguez Mar (Reverberations issue)

No Fixed Points in Space by Michael Matheson (Reverberations issue)

Trance for Insomniacs by J. C. Runolfson (Body issue) + bonus interview

Long-Ear by Sofia Samatar (Body issue) + bonus interview Note: We are not sure this poem is eligible in Short or Long category – we’re awaiting a response by the SFPA.

The Exile, i. by M Sereno (Reverberations issue)

Song by JT Stewart (Body issue)

His scent by Cindy Velasquez (Body issue)

If you enjoyed these poems, please consider contributing to our Patreon to help Stone Telling stay alive for many more issues. Your donations go towards content – payment for poems and non-fiction pieces.

Stone Telling 11: Reverberations is here!

ST 11 cover

Stone Telling 11 is here!

We are very pleased to announce that a new issue of Stone Telling, Reverberations, has gone live – with fabulous poetry by voices all new to us, and a review of Lisa M. Bradley’s collection The Haunted Girl, by Alex Dally MacFarlane. We hope you give these treasures a read!

We also have many announcements to make. First is the rate increase – thanks to our Patreon supporters, we are increasing our pay from 5$ to 10$ a poem starting immediately, so that our new poets are paid at the new rate! The rates for nonfiction and epic length poetry remain unchanged, but we are hoping to raise our rates yet more with Patreon support, down the road.

Second, we have announced two reading periods, for ST 12 (Hope-themed), and ST13 (the Joke issue). For more information, please see the updated guidelines.

Third, we have added a new team member – Bogi Takács, whose work has appeared in ST previously, has joined the team as an assistant editor.

Last but not least, we still have a few outstanding blog post interviews with ST10 poets, and will be publishing these, as well as blog post interviews with ST11 poets.

Happy reading – and thank you, as always, for being here.

Announcing: Stone Telling 11, Reverberations

We are happy to announce the cover and lineup for the 11th issue of Stone Telling magazine, featuring all new-to-us voices. The issue is scheduled to go live in the next 2 weeks.

ST 11 cover

ST 11 cover

Poetry:

Isabel Yap, The Monkey Climbs the Tree, as the Turtle Watches
Valeria Rodríguez , Vertigo and Annihilation
Gillian Daniels, To the Creature
Shruti Iyer, Confluence (Triveni Sangam)
Michael Matheson, No Fixed Points In Space
Peg Duthie, Ballad Breath
Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, Coyolxauhqui
Kythryne Aisling, Nothing Writes To Disk
Sara Norja, Kuura (extract from a Finnish-English dictionary)
Saira Ali, I do not know your ἀλφάβητος
Margarita Tenser, Labyrinth Soup
Ruth Jenkins, Scales
M Sereno, The Exile, i.

Review: Alex Dally MacFarlane reviews The Haunted Girl, by Lisa M. Bradley (Aqueduct Press, 2014).

A Stone Telling bonus issue? With Rhymed Mermaids? Read on :)

In case you haven’t seen this elsewhere, Stone Bird Press is running a Kickstarter to fundraise for An Alphabet of Embers, an anthology of unclassifiable pieces edited by Rose Lemberg.

We are already past our initial target of $6000, but one of our stretch goals is a bonus issue of Stone Telling. And it’s not just any issue – it’s editor Rose Lemberg’s worst nightmare: an joke issue full of RHYMED MERMAID POETRY! We’ll also accept limericks, nonsense verse, and assorted ridiculousness, all to be lushly illustrated with sepia-toned photos of the Mermippo:

 

merppo2

At the moment, we need only $541 more to be able to inflict this marvel of marvels upon the world of extremely serious speculative poetry. Friends of Stone Telling, please take a look – we also have many wonderful rewards like songs, jewelry by Kythryne Aisling, gift boxes, cheerful drawings, posters, printed broadsides and Letters of Embers. It truly is a project where art begets art.

 

ST Body interviews: Emily Jiang, “Good Enough”

Today’s interview features Emily Jiang, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Good Enough“. This is Emily’s sixth appearance in the magazine. In addition to poems like “Self-Portrait” and “Merciful Deity“, she also had a nonfiction article, “In Search of Truth and Beauty within the Intersection of Multicultural Myths and Poetry“, that appeared in Issue 5.

Emily Jiang

Emily Jiang loves speaking with her hands and is happy to teach anyone the ASL signs for “Release the Kraken.” Her poem “Good Enough” holds two truths and a lie. Her less autobiographical poetry can be found in previous issues of Stone Telling, Strange Horizons, and Goblin Fruit and in the forthcoming anthology In Other Words. She is the author of Summoning the Phoenix: Poems & Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments, illustrated by April Chu and published by Shen’s Books, the newest imprint of Lee & Low. Summoning the Phoenix will be available in Spring 2014. Emily also blogs about multicultural children’s literature and other topics at EmilyJiang.com.

My fingers are too small
to span an octave
of the piano,
so I broke the chords
to suit my hands.

– from Good Enough

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?

I wrote “Good Enough” specifically to submit to Stone Telling for its Body Issue. The body focus for the poem is hands, specifically mine. I already had a “Feeling My Feet” poem that focused on reclaiming dancer’s feet, so I thought a poem about musician’s hands would be a nice companion piece.

Ten fingers, ten toes,
Two ears, one nose–just reach out–
touch, hear, smell the rose.

The first lines “My fingers are too thick / for strings / of the violin” was a line that stuck with me since I was sixteen. I was playing a Bach violin-piano duo in the Junior Bach Festival, and the violinist, also sixteen at the time, told me my fingers were too thick to play the violin. And I believed her, for years, until I watched a video of Isaac Perlman playing the violin. The man is a virtuoso, and his fingers are definitely thicker than mine, yet he can make a violin sing so sweetly. He still performs in public, and he’s in his sixties. I love it when artists defy expectations.

He plays with eyes closed,
head tilt to the left, absorbed.
Hear his fingers fly.

I’ve always disliked how my hands looked, and “Good Enough” was a way for me to not only address them, but to celebrate them.

Beauty is not just
in the being. It’s also
in the work-doing.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?

Body is a theme I’ve thought deeply about for a quite some time. Growing up Asian-American in Texas, I was keenly aware that my body, and therefore my appearance, was foreign and Other to pretty much everyone I met. The visual body is often what we are judged upon the most, yet it does not completely define who we are. As an undergrad, my senior poetry collection was themed on Body and Family. I wrote about hair, pierced ears, more hands/fingers, Buddha belly, and a strawberry tumor.

Strawberry tumors
are benign. Buddha bellies
hold the world’s sorrows.

Currently I’m working on a YA novel about an Asian-American teenager dealing with a sudden growth spurt and weight gain while everyone around her remains petite and un-empathetic. It’s supposed to be funny, but there’s a lot of pain infused in the humor, too.

When my body grows
too big, I’m invisible.
That’s when I can laugh.

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?

I must confess reading “Good Enough” aloud was the most difficult recording I’ve had to do. You probably can’t tell, but I kept crying, probably because it’s one of the more autobiographical poems I’ve written in a long, long time (It contains two truths and a lie). The audio portion of “Good Enough” has a soundtrack that hopefully reflects the emotional context of the poem, and I am very thankful for the support of my musician friends and their beautiful voices.

Here’s hoping something
I’ve written that makes me cry
will touch someone else.

Summoning the Phoenix book cover

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?

My debut picture book is called Summoning the Phoenix: Poems & Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments and it is published by Shen’s Books, which the newest imprint of Lee & Low Books. Summoning the Phoenix is gorgeously illustrated by April Chu and was released in April 2014. Links to previews of poetry and art on my web site: http://www.emilyjiang.com.

If you can summon
a phoenix, feathers aflame,
you’ve played true music.

Also, I have a poem “Self-Portrait” that will be reprinted in an anthology In Other Words, edited by Saira Ali and Julia Rios.  It will be a limited edition chapbook & an e-book.  I’m delighted to be a part of this wonderful project in support of Con or Bust.  In Other Words will be available in July 2014.  Plus, “Self-Portrait” was originally published in the very first issue of Stone Telling!
Poetry gives voice
to identity and space
to navigate dreams.

 

ST: Thank you very much, Emily!

_____

If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.

ST Body interviews: Brittany Warman, “Rep/ercussions (Carmina): Reflections on Obsession and Compulsion”

Today’s interview features Brittany Warman, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem  “Rep/ercussions (Carmina): Reflections on Obsession and Compulsion“. This is her first poem in Stone Telling, but she has had two nonfiction pieces in the magazine previously, “Journal of Mythic Arts Retrospective I: Personal Reflections” (co-authored with Amal El-Mohtar and Alan Yee), and a review of “Unruly Islands, poetry by Liz Henry“.

Brittany Warman

Brittany Warman is a PhD student in English and Folklore at The Ohio State University, where she concentrates on the intersection between literature and folklore, particularly fairy tale retellings. Her creative work has been published by or is forthcoming from Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky Magazine, Ideomancer, inkscrawl, Cabinet des Fées: Scheherezade’s Bequest, and others. She can be found online at BrittanyWarman.com

Spelling a word correctly is a casting (and you try)
But the best words are silent (the way words can be)
Like/not-like longing (how?)
(A) creation, (a) fear.

– from  “Rep/ercussions (Carmina): Reflections on Obsession and Compulsion

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?

“Rep/ercussions (Carmina)” is one of the most personal, difficult poems I’ve ever written, in both form and topic. It deals with an aspect of my life that I don’t often talk about – my experiences with obsessive compulsive disorder – and, as I wrote on my own blog, I suppose in some ways this poem marks a sort of ‘coming out’ for me as a person with a serious mental illness that I struggle with every day. I wasn’t initially sure that I wanted to put that fact out in the world in such a public way, but the call for this issue really brought home the idea that it could be important for me to try to illustrate obsessive compulsive disorder in a way that speaks to my own experience of it. The term “obsessive compulsive” is used very casually far too often – you hear people jokingly saying things like “oh, I’m so OCD” all the time – and I hope this poem shows a different, more complex side of it than what is normally considered.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?

I do feel that the workings of the brain, the mental aspect of the body, comes up often in my work. I think in particular of the poem “Alice Underground” from Issue #25 of Niteblade and “Skin,” a longer piece I co-wrote with Sara Cleto, from the December 2013 issue of Ideomancer.

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?

OCD is, in many ways, an extreme form of magical thinking and I wanted to show that side of the disorder as well. Despite the frustration, the fear, the anger, and the depression it has caused in my life, I recognize that there is also something strangely beautiful in seeing the world in this way, a both ordered and chaotic experience of the universe. I hope I was able to convey at least a small part of that in this poem as well.

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?

I am necessarily focused mainly on my candidacy exam reading for my PhD in English and Folklore right now, but I am trying to find the time to work on several new projects, including two that I hope will be able to use the medium of the Internet in interesting ways! I will also have a flash fiction piece in the new “sea” themed issue of Cabinet des Fées’ Scheherezade’s Bequest.

ST: Thank you very much, Brittany!

_____

If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.

ST Body interviews: Bogi Takács, “Outside-in / Catalytic Exteriorization”

Today’s interview features Bogi Takács, who contributed to the Body issue with eir poem “Outside-in / Catalytic Exteriorization“. This is Bogi’s third appearance in the magazine, after “The Handcrafted Motions of Flight” and “The Tiny English-Hungarian Phrasebook for Visiting Extraterrestrials“.

DSC_6021

Bogi Takács is a Hungarian Jewish author, a psycholinguist and a popular-science journalist. E writes speculative poetry, fiction and pieces that defy categorization. Eir works have been published or are forthcoming in venues like Strange Horizons, Apex, Through the Gate, GigaNotoSaurus and more.

I stagger through a nighttime landscape
of power lines while the light of the full moon
scatters, flickers in pools of groggy dark water
and the grid hums inside my chest cavity;

– from Outside-in / Catalytic Exteriorization

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?

The poem is very personal, but I prefer not to discuss this in detail. The title is from a scene in Carl Gustav Jung’s autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections cowritten and edited by Aniela Jaffé, where Jung is having an aggravating debate with Freud:

While Freud was going on in this way, I had a curious sensation. It was as if my diaphragm were made of iron and was becoming red-hot – a glowing vault. And at that moment there was such a loud report in the bookcase, which stood right next to us, that we both started up in alarm, fearing the thing was going to topple over on us. I said to Freud: “There is an example of a so-called catalytic exteriorisation phenomenon.”

“Oh come,” he exclaimed. “That is sheer bosh.”

“It is not,” I replied. “You are mistaken, Herr Professor. And to prove my point I now predict that there will be another loud report!” Sure enough, no sooner had I said the words than the same detonation went off in the bookcase.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?

I’d say it is indeed one of my major themes – especially transformations of the body, major and often traumatic changes in the body. This characterizes both my prose and my poetry. Embodiment in the cognitive science sense is also one of my professional interests as a researcher – how does the shape of our bodies, the input from our sensory organs influence the development of our mind? (Is it even possible to draw such hard boundaries?) How does our environment constrain and expand us?

I have a poem with slightly similar body aspects as the present one in Strange Horizons. I likewise shouldn’t forget about my poem in Stone Telling, The Handcrafted Motions of Flight, which I wrote because I couldn’t find a speculative poem about a neutrally gendered person where said person was not a robot or clone.

When it comes to prose, I had a story in Apex a few months ago, Recordings of a More Personal Nature, which is about several of these concepts related to the body… Memory stored outside the body in more than one sense, manipulating the body to reach desired mental effects, and so on.
As the one-sentence summary goes, it is about “quasi-Jewish magical archives, also torture!”

I also had a story in the anthology Mirror Shards 2. (ed. Thomas K. Carpenter) involving symbiotic bioweapons… and Orthodox Jewish girls. How far are you willing to go to save your friend’s life and yours? This one gets slightly graphic in places and has people getting cut up.

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?

It actually features my body – I made a video reading!

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?

I have several more stories dealing with the body coming up – in my historical fantasy story Spirit Forms of the Sea forthcoming in the Lovecraftian anthology Sword and Mythos (eds. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles), a young Ancient Hungarian girl is changed in multiple ways by a meeting with a suspiciously Cthulhu-like monster.

In the far-future novelette Three Partitions that just came out in this month’s GigaNotoSaurus, I try to tackle issues of being Orthodox Jewish and non-binary-gendered IN SPACE. You can claim you are one gender, but what if your community refuses to accept it because your body doesn’t match their preconceptions? (I’m going to say upfront that some of those issues are just not very amenable to tackling; I quit Orthodoxy over them, though I am still a religiously observant person.)

Finally, Changing Body Templates in Strange Bedfellows: An Anthology of Political Science Fiction (ed. Hayden Trenholm) involves shapeshifting both in a personal and a political sense – what if someone suddenly finds themselves with an incredible amount of power that comes from having a mutable body? It is very much an anti-superhero story and also not a “power corrupts” story – it is more about how our environment and social context constrains our actions, especially if we are underprivileged. (It was inspired by Hungarian computing research during the Cold War.)

Right now I am writing a fantasy novelette exploring the effects of external restriction on the mind; it also has people running up and down floodbanks (very loosely based on my experience of the 2013 flood of the Danube, with record high water levels in my area) and cinematic magical action without fireballs.

I also love to read about the body and I occasionally review short fiction; I am very happy to receive recommendations!

ST: Thank you very much, Bogi!

_____

If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.

ST Body interviews: Dominik Parisien, “Train in my veins”

Today’s interview features Dominik Parisien, who contributed to the Body issue with his poem “Train in my veins“. This is Dominik’s third appearance in Stone Telling, after “In His Eighty-Second Year” and “Let me show you you“.

Dominik Parisien

Dominik Parisien’s first published poem appeared in Stone Telling 7. Since then, his poetry has appeared in print and online, most recently in Ideomancer, Shock Totem, Strange Horizons, Tesseracts 17, and Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Dominik is the poetry editor for Postscripts to Darkness, provides editorial support to Cheeky Frawg Books, and is a former editorial assistant for Weird Tales.

(I can still peel an orange
reassemble its skin like a torn
map tracing the routes
with my trembling fingers)

– from Train in my veins

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?

The image of the train came from seeing an abandoned train wagon hidden in the middle of a wood by a lake near my wife’s family’s cottage. There is probably a mundane explanation for it being there, but I don’t care for such a reason. I started imaging how it might have arrived there, independent of a railway, which turned into imagining the train travelling throughout various outlandish locales. Eventually, that culminated in the train travelling in/across a body, which is perhaps the most complex of all landscapes.

Many people are afraid of ageing bodies. Not necessarily of ageing per say, but of losing control of their own bodies. You often hear folks talk about preferring to die young, of wanting to die in their prime. Not wanting to lose any of their autonomy, strength, physical attraction, etc. I find that there’s great beauty in an ageing body, and I wanted to show how age and disability don’t negate beauty and fascination. So I decided to tour an ageing body while exploring some of the fears and preoccupations that can occupy its mind.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?

The body is absolutely one of the main themes in my work. I believe my first published poem, “In His Eighty-Second Year”, which appeared in Stone Telling 7, set the tone for much of my poetry. Themes of disability and ageing run throughout many of my poems, and while there are certainly other themes that attract me, those are probably the ones I identify with most strongly.

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?

I’ve mentioned this before in a Stone Telling roundtable, but I worked with the elderly for quite a few years. I do volunteer work with the elderly without family. I visit my friends at the retirement home when I visit my family in my hometown. Their narratives aren’t often represented, especially in genre, and that preoccupies me. Going back to that idea of people saying they would prefer to die young, I think that the concept of ‘better dead than disabled’ or ‘enfeebled’ or ‘old’ or whatever you want to call it, is a serious imaginative and empathetic failure. Ageing is a universal human experience, so how is it that we see so few of these narratives in a field that prides itself on flights of imagination?

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Time Traveller’s Almanac is coming out in North America from Tor Books in March and the UK version is already out from Head of Zeus. I was one of two editorial assistants for that project and it is a massive, comprehensive, and very fun anthology. More anthologies are in the works.

_____

If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.

ST Body interviews: Sonya Taaffe, “A Bulgakov Headache”

Today’s interview features Sonya Taaffe, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “A Bulgakov Headache“. This is Sonya’s seventh appearance in the magazine; her poems “Persephone in Hel” and “A Clock House” were also reprinted in Here, We Cross: A Collection of Queer and Genderfluid Poetry from Stone Telling.

Sonya Taaffe

 Sonya Taaffe’s short stories and poems have appeared in such venues as Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction, The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, Here, We Cross: A Collection of Queer and Genderfluid Poetry from Stone Telling, People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, and The Best of Not One of Us. Collected work can be found in Postcards from the Province of Hyphens and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books) and A Mayse-Bikhl (Papaveria Press). She is currently senior poetry editor at Strange Horizons; she holds master’s degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object.

No wonder if his books racked him like fevers,
clanged in his dreams like the guns at Kiev.

– from A Bulgakov Headache

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?

I get migraines. Not regularly, unless I’m incautious enough to spend a lot of time around caffeine (I would have said “consuming,” but the process of making coffee syrup in December taught me that all I need is prolonged exposure to the fumes; I shall never work a coffeehouse job), but they are not an uncommon feature of my physical landscape, which already contains several outcroppings of ailments and a bedrock of chronic pain. I had one the night I started “A Bulgakov Headache.” Unlike most of my poems, it began as a title: I believed I had once heard Rose Lemberg refer to migraines as “Bulgakov headaches.” It turned out the technical definition was a headache on one side of the head (like the hemicrania suffered by Pontius Pilate in The Master and Margarita), but by then it was too late. I’d written the first five lines of the poem. After that I was too nauseated and light-sensitive to continue staring at my screen; I finished the poem the next morning while waiting in a doctor’s office and then a church sanctuary, and then had to reconstruct it from memory after my computer crashed. All in all, it’s an appropriate genesis for a poem about a writer who trained as a doctor, wrote of Christ and the Devil, and famously decreed рукописи не горят—manuscripts don’t burn. I could still have done without the migraine.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?

I write about the disembodied more than I write about the body, I think: the dead and the never-born are a recurring concern. I’ve just finished a cycle of ghost poems ranging from the ancient world to the twenty-first century, encompassing both the historical and the imagined dead. Much of my life in the last few years has been slowly disentangling myself from the hollow sensation of haunting my own life, a hungry ghost clinging where it should have given up long ago. Reminding myself that I have the right to live in my body as well as the obligation was part of that process, but it doesn’t seem to have come out much in my work, except for the way that I found the ghost poems shifting from dead to living voices. The other major body poem I can call to mind right now is also about migraines, now that I think about it (“Aristeia,” at Apex Magazine). I have written poems about sex, but I seem to classify those differently.

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?

Read Mikhail Bulgakov! The poems draws details from his life, but I find I don’t want to explain each reference; I want you to read A Country Doctor’s Notebook, Notes on the Cuff, The Master and Margarita, Black Snow, all the ways Bulgakov broke his own life into satirical fragments and reshuffled them for the fevery, nervy protagonists of his shadow-show. They’re jagged stories, all of them, even the beautiful ones. You catch their author in them as if in a trick mirror. Plus there’s the science fiction: rampaging giant ostriches, skirt-chasing dogs. And the letters and diaries. I am writing at night because almost every night my wife and I don’t get to sleep until three or four in the morning. I hear you, Misha.

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?

I have poems and short fiction forthcoming in some of the usual suspects (Mythic Delirium, Not One of Us) and some new ones (Interfictions, Lakeside Circus) and I’m looking for a home for the ghost poems. Anything else, I’ll let you know!

ST: Thank you very much, Sonya!

_____

If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.