I’m happy to share that “Madness is Remembering,” my essay awarded the Penelope Nivens Award by the Center for Women Writers and Elissa Washuta last year, is now in the Summer 2017 issue of Prairie Schooner. The essay is about love, cyclical violence, Romani (“Gypsy”) culture, inherited trauma, and survival. I’ll be in there alongside writer and friend Brenda Peynado, so make sure to check out her story too! The summer print issue will be available to order soon!
I have such immense gratitude to The Center for Women Writers and to Elissa Washuta for this award. The piece I wrote, “Madness is Remembering,” deals with my experiences of childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and antigypsyism. It was really fucking hard to write, and I wrote it like an exorcism. My friends, writers Misha Rai and Emily Alford (check out their work!), encouraged me to enter it into a competition, as did Victor Pachas (musician & artist– look him up too). Without their support it would have sat in the proverbial drawer, proverbial because I never print things out anymore and who even has a printer anyway.
The judge, Elissa Washuta, says this about the essay–
“In this exquisite essay, the narrator is wounded by the doublepunch of past trauma compounded by a lover’s new inflictions: the failure to understand rape trauma, the acts that make old pain show up nearly new in the body, the incomprehensible violence. Employing an enchanting cadence, stunning figurative language, narrative tension so taut I forgot to breathe, and a bedrock layer of the history of violence inflicted upon Romani family members, the author infuses the page with the dread of intergenerational trauma that makes space for new wounds.”
I’m still floored and humbled– just, thank you.
Right now my essay is still unpublished, so I’m now in the process of finding it a home.
You can and should check out the other winners and honorable mentions here. Congratulations to everyone!
*Photography by Allison Nichols for Loverly and David’s Bridal
On behalf of The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, Viktor Pachas and I went to The New York Fringe Festival to see Alex Mahgoub’s critically-acclaimed one-person show, “Baba,” chronicling the true story of his father’s murder and life after the trauma. We were so glad we attended– the play skillfully navigates the tangle of loss, identity, masculinity, and sexuality, and then we were fortunate enough to score an interview with Alex on film, thanks to Alex’s generosity and Viktor’s videography expertise. It was so great to talk about the overarching themes of his performance, and Alex was full of life and intelligent things to say. Check out our review, “Baba’s Ghost,” and the video interview with Alex here, plus some wonderful pictures of Alex and his Baba. Alex also has a book in the works, #SelfieGeneration, so be on the lookout for that.
This was my first collaborative review, and what a lovely experience. Viktor and I make a pretty good team. I feel like if you can write something with another person without killing each other, that’s a win, and if you actually enjoy the process, that’s like a kitten crossing the finish line at an ice cream marathon. If you’re not familiar with him already, here’s Viktor’s impressive bio:
Viktor Pachas is a freelance videographer, illustrator, Spanish translator, and musician. Viktor produces videos for Cambridge Writers’ Workshop retreats and workshops, and is a contributor for their blog. After finishing his studies in Molecular Cell Biology at UConn, he began producing promotional videos for Singapore General Hospital in cooperation with Duke University/NUS while working as a Circadian Research Assistant. Studying Flamenco Guitar and performing in Granada, Spain, he made videos to market a chain of hostels in Andalusia and Morocco. Recently, Viktor shot material in Paris for David Shields’ upcoming movie Black Planet produced by James Franco. He currently lives in New York City and is an instructor for Outward Bound and Global Works. He performs solo as a singer/songwriter and is a drummer for A Thousand Ships when performing in the New England region. Viktor is currently working on illustrating a comic strip based on his travels.
You can listen to his music here: https://victorpachas.bandcamp.com/
In the second and final part of my essay “Romani Gypsy Power in Sci-Fi and Fantasy,” over at Kate Lechler’s column “The Expanded Universe” in Fantasy Literature, I discuss Romani writers who write speculative fiction/sci-fi/fantasy/magical realism, and then I explain why these distinctions between realism and magical realism are entirely arbitrary. I also take a look at Romani folklore and trauma narratives and discuss how these elements shape contemporary Romani fiction. In short, I really enjoyed writing this and I hope you enjoy the Romani writers Caren Gussoff Sumption and Rajko Djuric, who I positively gush about in this essay. And if you leave a comment on the essay over at Fantasy Literature, you’ll be entered into a book giveaway! You people like books, right? What could be better for you?
Thanks for reading!
A late post, yes, but a few weeks ago an excerpt of my novel-in-progress, Zenith, and some poems came out in The Infoxicated Corner of The The Poetry Blog, curated by Fox Frazier-Foley, author of Exodus in X Minor. The poem “Mina the Lotus” is also from Zenith, a love poem written in the voice of the Mina, the main character Coco’s mother, to the Romani (Gypsy) goddess of Fate, Sara la Kali. Mina’s character is a poet in some ways fashioned after Papusza. The other poems, “First Exorcism” and “The Gargoyle Back Scratcher” are not part of Zenith, but they were born out of The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2014 Yoga and Writing Retreat in Verderonne. Keep an eye out for this year’s upcoming retreats in New York City; Newport, Rhode Island; Paris; and Granada. I can’t express how exciting and terrifying it is to debut the first few pages of the novel, and how much it feels like I’m tempting hubris. Much of my writing has been delayed by enormous life changes and helping to care for my Aunt and other, who are both terminally ill– but in the face of the illnesses of my loved ones and the comparatively small turbulence of my personal life, I am reminded that art and love (and all of that what makes life worth living, et al.), are the only truly present things. So I am writing through it, perhaps more slowly than I hoped, but I am writing. And I am very honored and appreciative for the space and support that The The Poetry Blog has given me. Thank you, Infoxicated Corner! Please forgive my delay– a snow storm took down the farm’s internet for quite some time, and I live in the middle of nowhere, which I actually quite like.
My trauma poems recently in Luna Luna Magazine were mentioned in Delirious Hem’s rape culture and alt lit series. Y’all gotta check it out– the poets in the series are amazing, full of terrifying beauty, grit, and power, and I’m feeling very honored to be among them. http://delirioushem.blogspot.com/
I’ve been honored to have three poems about childhood sexual trauma appear in Luna Luna Magazine, a favorite ezine of mine (and sister publication to Quail Bell Magazine). These poems are the first to be published from a series on trauma that I’ve been working on for many years. I’m putting together the manuscript alongside the novel I’m working on about Coco, a half-Romani (Gypsy) dancer and fortune teller at a Parisian circus who becomes a Nazi hunter. Coincidentally, the novel will contain a few poems. I’m so motivated to finish both projects within the next year. A large part of that is due to the warm reception that these poems have gotten– I couldn’t be more grateful or more touched. Many thanks. And a big thank you to Lisa A. Flowers, founder of Vulgar Marsala Press and author of diotomhero, who solicited me. I also got a lot of good advice about writing trauma poetry from Erin Belieu, Florida State University professor and co-founder of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and I so appreciate her help and encouragement. Check out Erin’s latest book Slant Six, and its starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.
You may know Luna Luna for their powerful feminist content, their fierce leader Lisa Marie Basile (Apocryphal), their cutting edge poetry and fiction, and their articles and features on alternative spirituality, the occult, and beautiful cultural practices from all over the world. One of my new favorite things is their Poescopes, that is, poetic horoscopes by Fox Foley-Frazier (Exodus in X Minor), curator of The Infoxicated Corner of The The Poetry Blog. P.S. I have some poems about Romani rights and mythology in the Infoxicated Corner as part of the Political Punch series.
Thank you for reading, readers. I feel fearsome and strong, and I’m writing like a demon. I was a demon for Halloween, by the way.