ST Body interviews: Sandi Leibowitz, “The City Inside Her”

Today’s interviewee is Sandi Leibowitz, who contributed to the Body issue with “The City Inside Her.” This is Sandi’s first appearance in the magazine.

Sandi Leibowitz is a native New Yorker who haunts carousels, dusty antique shops and bridges. She loves idyllic countryside but is most at home in cities. Her poems and stories appear in Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Luna Station Quarterly, Strange Horizons and other magazines.  One of her poems is included in Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year Volume 5. She welcomes you to visit her online at

At first it was little things,
poppy seeds she rolled on her tongue
that caught a while in her teeth,
the scent rising from the morning bakeries…

                 from The City Inside Her

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

SL: I was inspired to write the poem when the phrase “the city inside her” floated into my head.  What was it about?  A woman who consumed a city.  I didn’t know what that meant so I decided to explore it.  So many of my poems are dark, but this one is joyous.  For a while I toyed with there being some ominous explanation for the devouring, or a negative outcome (as someone who struggles with my weight, I usually try to avoid overindulging), but a happier, even exultant, outcome seemed more right.

A while after I’d finished and stepped back from the poem, I pondered what it was about, where it came from, and I think I know.  About a year before I wrote it, I experienced something that led me to a truly dark place, where my very sense of identity (which has never before come into question) felt threatened.  My image of my interior landscape then was of a razed city.  A person sitting amongst the rubble of an obliterated Dresden.  I walked around feeling this way for a number of weeks, the inner Dresden threatening to swallow me up.

sandileibowitz-photoWhile I was doing the very mundane task of grocery shopping, a song came on the Muzak—wish I could really identify it now—a pop song from the 70s, I think, that had a line in it that went something like “I’m a man of the city….”  I smiled.  “I know who I am.  I’m a New Yorker.”  That was the first brick of rebuilding my sense of self.  The restoration of my emotional health came by building back my inner city by identifying the bricks of my self.  “I’m a writer.”  “I’m a musician.”  It took a few bricks and there she was: me.

I think “The City Inside Her” is at its heart an homage to the city that nourished me, and an exploration of consuming as metaphor for love of life.

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?

SL: I don’t think I write about the body any more than other themes.  I do have a poem in Strange Horizons called “Fat Women,” which is about people’s attitudes towards overweight women.  My writings often concern sexuality, and many of my myth-based poems use the body, especially in transformation images, to explore various aspects of the inner life. “My story “Scylla in Blue Light,” now up on Luna Station Quarterly, deals to a degree with the mind-body dichotomy.

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

SL: I have a story out in Metastasis, an anthology of speculative fiction and poetry about cancer, edited by Niteblade‘s Rhonda Parrish.  Of course cancer is a body issue.  When Rhonda put out the call, I didn’t think it was a subject I could write about, even though, like everyone, I’ve known many people whose lives have been touched or even terminated by cancer.

But when my good friend Karen Spencer was undergoing her third chemotherapy treatment for leukemia and things were looking very grim, she said, “Make me a dragon to kill the cancer.”  That encouraged me to try to write a story for the anthology.  “Alchemical Warfare” s about a witch who attempts to cure her friend’s cancer by way of a dragon.  I encourage Stone Telling readers to buy copies of Metastasis, since over 60% of proceeds are being donated to the American Cancer Society.

ST: Thank you very much, Sandi!

ST Body Interviews: J.C. Runolfson, “Trance for Insomniacs”

Our third interview features J.C. Runolfson, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Trance for Insomniacs.” J.C. has contributed two other poems to Stone Telling: “Robert Cornelius Speaks a Dead Tongue” in our inaugural issue, and “The Exposure of William H. Mumler” in ST6. She also guest-edited our fourth issue with Shweta Narayan.

J. C. Runolfson’s work has appeared in Stone Telling previously, as well as Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, and many others. She is also a freelance editor and critic. She is disabled due to chronic illness; one of her symptoms is severe insomnia.

We are an army unarmed
with anything but the nightmare
of unsleeping,
the way time
and us with it

J.C. Runolfson, “Trance for Insomniacs.”

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

JCR: I have severe insomnia which is less well-controlled than is optimal, due to my tolerance of only so much in the way of side effects. I have frequent periods of sleeplessness despite medication, and I had one just after reading the announcement of the “Body” theme for the next issue of Stone Telling. So I decided to use the experience to my advantage. I actually write a lot of poetry in that state, provided I’m functional enough to use a keyboard.

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?

JCR: I write a series of poems based on old, well-known photographs, several of which deal with the Body. The latest of these to be published is “Zora Neale Hurston Meets Felicia Felix-Mentor on the Road,” which appears in Mythic Delirium 0.3 and concerns a legendary photograph of a Haitian woman believed to have been turned into a zombie. A lot of my poetry deals with transformations and the impact of the Othered body on the mind. I had never really explicitly addressed one of my own symptoms and how it affects me until this poem, though. I actually have a hard time re-reading it, though I don’t regret writing it.

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

JCR: If this is a poem to which any reader can relate, they have my condolences.

ST: Thank you very much, J.C.!


Heartfelt congratulations to ST contributors nominated for the Nebula award.

Sofia Samatar (ST 5, ST6, ST8, and ST10) has been nominated in the Novel category with A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013) and in the Short Story category with “Selkie Stories are for Losers” (Strange Horizons).

Karen Joy Fowler (ST4) has been nominated in the Novel category with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Marian Wood).

Catherynne M. Valente (ST2, ST3) has been nominated in the Novella category with Six-Gun Snow White (Subterranean).

Best of luck!!


ST Body Interviews: Sofia Samatar, “Long-Ear”

Our second interview features Sofia Samatar, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Long-Ear.” This is Sofia’s fourth appearance in the magazine; her first Stone Telling poem was “The Sand Diviner” in the Mythic Issue (ST5,) which also happened to be Sofia’s first publication. We are very proud to have been the first to publish her work! Sofia’s second ST poem is “Girl Hours” in the Catalyst issue (ST6), and her “Snowbound in Hamadan” appeared in ST8.


Sofia Samatar is the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013). Her stories and poems have appeared in a number of places, including Strange HorizonsClarkesworldEleven Eleven, and Goblin Fruit. She edits nonfiction and poetry for Interfictions Online. You can find her on Twitter, and blogging at

First she was a girl.
Then she was a wife.

Then she was a mother (of a daughter).
Then she was a mother (of another daughter).
Then she was a mother (of a third daughter).

Then she was a cannibal.

Sofia Samatar, “Long-Ear

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

SS: This poem is inspired by a well-known Somali story about Dhegdheer, a female ogre, whose name means “Long-Ear.” It came together after Rose and Shweta asked me if I’d contribute to Stone Telling’s “Body” issue. I just started thinking about that ear, really. That long ear. And the fact that in the version of the story I know, Dhegdheer has only daughters. So there were all these bits and pieces to do with the body: a woman giving birth to one daughter after another, the long ear, transformation, cannibalism. It started to seem like a way to talk about fertility in patriarchal systems–how fertility must contribute, produce male children, in order to be seen as legitimate. If it doesn’t contribute, it becomes its own opposite: cannibalism. In the end I think the poem is about how we interpret bodies.

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?

SS: You know, I wouldn’t necessarily have said this before being asked this question, but I think quite a few of my works deal with the body! Contaminated, outcast and dying bodies in A Stranger in Olondria. The female body as a machine in my Stone Telling 6 poem, “Girl Hours.” Lost bodies, and their implications for history, in “Burnt Lyric,” which appeared in Goblin Fruit. And I have a story forthcoming in Lightspeed, “How to Get Back to the Forest,” which is all about the body and state control.

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

SS: I’d like to tell them that microchimerism is real!

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

SS: Well, there is that story forthcoming in Lightspeed, which I’m excited about. I’m working on a book of prose poems with images by my brother, Del Samatar, called Monster Portraits–it’s about hyphenated identities and race and citizenship. And bodies! And then, of course, there’s the sequel to A Stranger in Olondria. That’s in the works. I think it’s almost finished. I keep telling myself: “Any day now!”

ST: Thank you very much, Sofia!

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: Ada Hoffmann, “Turning to Stone”

Today we begin  posting our interviews with Stone Telling 10: Body poets. We asked our poets a few questions, and will be publishing the responses we received over the next few weeks. Our first featured poet is Ada Hoffmann, who contributed to the Body issue with “Turning to Stone.” This is Ada’s first appearance in the magazine.

Ada Hoffmann is an autistic graduate student from Canada. Her poetry has appeared in venues such as Strange Horizonsand Goblin Fruit. You can find her online at or on Twitter at @xasymptote.

I’m slowing down, or else the city’s
speeding up around me. Paint-bright people
whirl along the many-cornered streets.
Your walk, my friends, becomes a fire-dance.

Ada Hoffmann, “Turning to Stone.”

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

This poem was inspired by a specific real-life event. I had an ugly overload/meltdown on a family trip in 2012, and something in the depths of my meltdown brain decided to make a poem out of it. Once I was feeling a little better, I started free-associating about imagery, metrical concerns, characters my meltdown brain identified with, and other such things, and the poem took shape. It went through a larger series of drafts than most of my poems – partly because the first draft made no sense, but also because there were a number of aspects of the poem that I tried to distance myself from at first. I had to be hit over the head by certain beta readers in order to tell the full truth. In particular, the last verse in parentheses did not appear in anything like its current form until the final revision (though the last three words of the poem were there from the beginning).

I am autistic, and situations like the one described in the poem, with many sensory things going on at once, are a challenge for me. I would like to caution readers that the challenge doesn’t always take the shape that it does in this poem. Overload can look like a lot of different things.

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?

To be honest, I’m usually so deep in my own head that I forget about the body until it gets dirty or achy or hungry. I wouldn’t have even thought of submitting to a “Body”-themed issue of a magazine if ST’s guidelines hadn’t explicitly included neuroatypicality as one of the “Body”-related themes it was looking for. I’m very interested in writing about the experience of neuroatypicality, and there are physical and sensory aspects to this experience as well as more cerebral ones. “Turning to Stone” uses metaphor to turn the sensory aspect of a meltdown into a physical one, so it technically counts.

If you’re looking for more from me on this theme, my story “You Have to Follow the Rules” in Strange Horizons, and my poem “The Changeling’s Escape” in Ideomancer, are works from 2013 which are both written from the point of view of a neuroatypical child. Autistic characters show up more subtly or peripherally in a few of my earlier stories, including “Moon Laws, Dream Laws” and “The Chartreuse Monster“. I hope to be able to do more with this theme in the future, especially more stories/poems from the point of view of autistic adults. (I have an upcoming novelette in that vein which I’m very excited about. It also has dinosaurs!)

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

AH: As 2014 gets underway, I’m finding myself embroiled in three different collaborative projects with three different people! I’ve always thought of myself as a loner, but I am actually very dependent on others for feedback and validation, and I want to share the things I am excited about. Being able to share the full creative workspace with someone I trust (through trust is crucial) is a wonderful gift. It may be a while until any of these projects result in anything publically available, and I don’t want to talk about them in detail until then, but this is what I’m most excited about right now.

ST: Thank you very much, Ada!
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.

Welcome to the new Stone Telling blog!

Dear Stone Telling readers,

We are excited to unveil a new feature of Stone Telling magazine: a blog in which we hope to highlight our poets, tell you about submissions status, and share other insights and information (with perhaps an occasional bit of goofiness).

The blog layout has been implemented by Bogi Takács to mesh seamlessly with our existing website design. Bogi has previously contributed three poems: “The Handcrafted Motions of Flight” (ST7), The Tiny English-Hungarian Phrasebook for Visiting Extraterrestrials (ST9), and Outside-In/Catalytic Exteriorization (ST10). Since Bogi has now worked for us and may be engaged in Secret Projects in the future, e will no longer be submitting to Stone Telling. We wish em many new and wonderful adventures.

We will shortly begin posting interviews with Stone Telling 10 contributors – stay tuned!

A friendly reminder that we are now reading for our 11th issue, which will feature poets we have not previously published. If you fall under this category, please check out the guidelines and send us your work.

Finally, we now have a Patreon page! This is very exciting for us, as with your help we are hoping to be able to raise our pay rates. Please check it out! Rewards include cookies, sketches, and pictures of plush hippopotamoi striking reasonably poetic poses. Like this:

Dashing Mippo surveys a non-alcoholic beverage

Dashing Mippo surveys a non-alcoholic beverage