Capturing Meaning, Giving Voice to Secrets: Poetry as Power

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Poetry generates reaction by the simple utterance of the term. It carries the baggage of bad high school literature classes, where curriculum dictates, then force-feeds students, particular, famous or notable poets that may not resonate with individual readers.  Furthermore, students in such classes must attempt to write their own poem within a required form (e.g. iambic pentameter, haiku, sonnet, rhyme schemes, etc.) that oft times restrict the creativity of the writer by virtue of forcing strict adherence to meter (counting syllables, accents, etc.), alliteration, metaphor, and the like.  So, like anything crammed down the throat, the response is visceral. Of course, that does not mean that everyone detest poetry. Many, myself included, love the power of language in any form. Still, poetry carries a reputation, often one of elitism or of irrelevance.

What is missing, it seems, connection of poetry as a genre to its power. Everything from sharing stories of heroes to political protest to professions of love can be captured in poetry. Why? Like song lyrics, they become memorable (even if poorly written), because poems possess a rhythm that helps the words take root in the mind. Further, the symbolic nature of language, captures, pictures, and places in the mind a message that may “seen’” as well as felt.   That stated, those high school classes that attempted to demonstrate poetic forms did so as a means to present the purpose, power, and potential of verse to move the reader – emotionally or literally toward action.

Unlike the novel, short story, and prose in general, poems tend to tell a tale with very few, well-chosen words.   The words selected should be evocative, provocative, and in someway connect the reader to the writer – not as a unilateral message (i.e. the correct interpretation), but as a connection of share understanding or experience. That is, there should be an experiential quality present. Put another way, you should get it because you feel it – you “know.”

As a poet, I am rather disinclined to follow particular structured forms. I am unlikely to write a sonnet, create heptameter, use a set rhyming pattern, and so forth. I tend to be minimalist. Yet even as a minimalist, narrative is possible; hence, my goal is to tell a story. I find it liberating to deconstruct a scene, memory, a dialogue and simplify it.   My goal: share the emotional experience, the demons lurking in my head (so the can prey upon others), and speak the silence of repression.   My other goal is to free readers from the canonized, presumed “classics,” and stuffiness of poetry. Sounds like a contrary idea – love poetry/hate poetry. Yet, it important to say “lots of poems suck,” and many poems exist in places that are ignored, they await discovery.

If you ask me who my favorite poets are, please do not expect me to mention Shakespeare, Blake, or Keats.  Those guys have a certain beauty, but they are nowhere near my favorites.   If you ask me, and really want to know my favorites, I will share that with anyone; however, that is not my point here. I don’t wish to imply that writer I prefer comprise the list of the better poets. All I desire in this post is to voice a perspective on poetry.

Poetry by its very nature should be fully experiential, create imagery, becoming visceral and evocative of emotion. That is my perspective.   My poetry, my words, all emerges from my experience in the world and I hope to capture meaning and share it with readers. I write poems in a manner that they can be spoken aloud. Words shared. Hopefully, I am successful.  

My poetry collection Undone contains verse that may be considered love poetry or erotic poetry.  I consider it a story of sorts.  Judge for yourself.  I welcome your feedback.  UndoneCover

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S.Y. Thompson’s new book Under Devil’s Snare — another reason to be ensnared by excellent writing

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Under Devil’s Snare 

 Without doubt, a good writer captivates readers. An excellent writer can deftly move between comfort zones — deftly taking readers to new, unexpected places, holding their attention, moving them into the world within the novel, veritably creating a space that they become, not just involved in, but a part of. S.Y. Thompson is just that sort of writer. I picked up Under Devil’s Snare and as a fan of Fractured Futures, Destination Alara. Admittedly, I somewhat expected a similar speculative fiction novel from her others which involved space/time travel. Honestly, I hoped for that, since I’m crazy for science fiction oriented speculative fiction. However, Under Devil’s Snare is assuredly a more of mystery novel, and an outstanding one at that. S.Y. Thompson reminded me, blissfully, that good mystery focal novels create that urge, no, a need, to sit still and read until the very end in one fell swoop – afraid that if you put the book down, something might happen without you! I read Under Devil’s Snare, cover to cover pausing only to actually to go to the market. It really is that good – and, it still is speculative fiction – just rather atypical.

So, why did the novel ensnare me? First of all, the story as a whole – a police oriented plot, with a series of murders that is neither a routine procedural or mundane. The relationship between Patricia (a U.S. Park Police Detective) and Samantha (the local sheriff), is sexy, complex, and multi-layered. Lesbian fiction that creates loving relationships that are neither overly simplistic nor merely sexually focal, to this reader, is rather a rarity. The interplay between each of the major characters have a depth and dimensionality that is intricate, layered, and genuine. Thompson’s character development, particularly her usage of dialogue with which readers can identify and hear as authentic, I find inevitably outstanding – every one of her books has that distinction. For this read, that is a necessity, I need to experience voices of the characters as if they are present beside me. Once again, Thompson successfully achieves this.   Furthermore, Thompson’s attention to detail within setting in this book is rich, sensual, and visceral. The reader can clearly envision the community of Panthera, the scenery, the people as unique beings. As a very visual person, being able to “see” where I am inside the novel’s world is an imperative. Thompson always does this well for me – again.

Under Devil’s Snare happens to be Book Two of the Under Series, yet in this instance, beginning with book two, I didn’t feel at a disadvantage. Thompson develops the story such that I felt completely able to immerse myself easily and never feel as though I had missed anything, or was left out of the story. However, beginning with book two compelled me to grab book one (I’m rather compulsive about such things). Now, I am even more of a fan of the series.   I look forward to continuing the journey.   Without hesitation, I highly recommend Under Devil’s Snare, by S.Y. Thompson.   Pick it up, get lost for a day or so.

The Alleyway and Other Short Stories, by Rejini Samuel (aka RJ Samuel)

The Most Outstanding Collection of Short Stories in Years

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RJ Samuel’s collection of short stories, the Alleyway and Other Short Stories, written under her given name, Rejini Samuel is by far one of the better collections that I have read in recent years. In fact, three of the stories were short listed for an international writing competition (Over the Edge New Writer of the Year) – and rightly so. Her writing is amazing. Actually, to say “amazing” seems trite, but I lack the adequate words at the moment to fully articulate just how moved I am by the stories. RJ lifted me out of my room, allowing me to become a part of the conversations and imagery alive in each story. With each bit of dialogue, I could “hear” the speakers, the subtle dialect/accent, their unique manner of speaking. The descriptions, so vibrant, jump off the page — I could “see” what RJ wrote.

Certainly, I could give a snippet of each story, but as the stories are rather short, I’d be guilty of spoiling. Yet, three stories immediately stand out.   “The Alleyway” blew me away. The dialogue, allusion, emotional landscape, actually transfixed me, I truly “heard” every word as they were spoken by the characters; I could see the facial expressions; smell the aromas wafting through the alley. I admit, that as a writer, this is what I aspire to do, and RJ inspires me.   “Amy_Grrl” made me laugh out loud, with the most apt portrayal of fear of cyber dating and her internal dialogue about the standard lesbian relationship route (u-haul after a few dates) as the biggest thing that she must now attempt to avoid – again. Finally, “A Prison of Words,” struck a chord in me as a writer, speaker, and one who often feels trapped by what and how to say what I mean. RJ captured every emotion perfectly.

RJ is a brilliant writer. She speaks to me as a woman living in a diverse world, as a lesbian, as an artist, and as a person who seeks to connect with others and often feels at a loss as to how to do so adequately.   I highly recommend these stories. The brought me more than a little pleasure, the warmed my heart.

Drive, by JL Gaynor Will Take Your Imagination On a Joy Ride

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J.L. Gaynor takes the reader on a wonderful ride in her novel, Drive. Gaynor’s title so aptly captures the rhythm, internal nuances of the characters’ personality, and the actual events.   It pacing of the plot flows as if the reader was on a journey with the characters, along for a ride filled with emotional ups and downs and the wrenching realism that often besets lovers.  The characters instantly captivates particularly as Gaynor possesses a wonderful ability to evoke a realism of voice within dialogue — each each character speaks distinctly, clearly, veritably articulating her own essence, with her own choice of words. A marvelous, and somewhat rare ability for many writers.

Gaynor’s use of dialogue, both internal and conversationally, fills the imagination with a sincerity of emotional presence; so much, in fact, I felt as though I was with them. I thoroughly Drive.  I look forward to checking out Gaynor’s next book Ascension: A Rachel Cross Novel as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, I the book on the table, ready for perusal.

Gaynor’s emergence on the scene of lesbian fiction is a wonderful addition to a growing group of authors who able to create exciting works of fiction using lesbian characters richly, deeply, and with the dexterity that any fictional reader would enjoy, not just the niche set of lesbian readers.

Demon Hunter: The Silver Legacy Series, by Linda Kay Silva

 

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The Dark Urban Realm has an excellent new series in the making with Linda Kay Silva’s new book,

Demon Hunter: The Silver Legacy Series, Book 1

Some creatures within the fantasy/paranormal realm, particularly those within the dark reaches, become stereotypes in a paradigmatic way.   A certain traditional characterization takes place, rendering these beings as trite. Demons tend to be among these stereotypes, unfortunately. Blissfully, in Demon Hunter, Linda Kay Silva immediately dismisses the trivialization wrought by the paradigm in her first paragraph.   She writes, “Demons are not what people think they are. There are seldom horns or spiked tails, no cloven hooves or red skin. They come in all shapes and sizes, and aren’t anything like Hollywood portrays them.” (pg.1).   With that opening, I became a fan of Linda Kay Silva. She dispelled the typical vernacular, appearance, and assumptions attached to the concept of demon and advanced the notion beyond the believable, but to the original intention: as cautionary tales about evil in this world.

Silva transcends the obvious portrayals of demon, evil, and of the demon hunter (with her main character, Denny Silver), and creates a psychologically compelling dark urban fantasy, with a frightening perspective on the inevitability of evil as simultaneously provocative and “real.”

Her characters are complex, innovative, and in some ways, terrifying. Silva’s use of journaling allows for the demon hunter, Denny, to have layered voices, which creates exceptional depth of character. Silva’s intuitive sense of legitimacy of the paranormal along with her ability to weave an intricate tale, made me a believer in demon hunters and a huge fan of Linda Kay Silva. She created an inroad to my Dark Urban Fantasy fiendish heart not only by writing a great book, but, by tantalizing me with another of my favorite things – a new series! Demon Hunter: the Silver Legacy Series, must exist on any Dark Urban Fantasy or Paranormal lovers “to-read” list.

 

 

Interview with Susan Thompson

Queerly Reading Lesbian

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Susan Thompson’s Fractured Futures was one of the first lesbian science fiction books that I read. Susan addresses all of the dark, post apocalyptic themes that stir my sci-fi soul: a futuristic landscape reminiscent replete with provocative social themes, perhaps akin to Orson Scott Card, incredibly sensual imagery, and strong, determined female characters.   Fractured Futures so entranced me, that I decided to read Susan’s newest book, Destination Alara.  Again, Susan’s writing proved stellar (no pun intended.)   As I enjoy her work so much, I reached out to Susan for a bit of insight into writing science fiction.  She agreed, and the interview is below:

QR: Assume that the readers don’t know much about you and your works. What would you like to tell them? As a reader/writer, I prefer the non-publisher version of background information.   The non-publisher or promotional packet information seems intrepid, approachable.   So…

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Binge Reading and Bias: Detecting Dominance, Recovering the Female and Perceiving Lesbian

Queerly Reading Fantasy and the Dark Side of Things

Finding my way to Lesbian Science Fiction Writers — Part 1, Bookshelves

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The binge/path that lead me to search for lesbian writers of fantasy and science fiction,  took a fairly classic path, literally. I decided one day to re-read the Hobbit.

Of course, after the Hobbit,  I, had to re-read every other work by Tolkien. Hobbit1

Upon finishing Tolkien, Ray Bradbury caught my attention.

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Bradbury sparked my desire to re-visit Orwell.

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Orwell reminded me that I really enjoyed Asimov.

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Asimov propelled me back Herbert’s Dune…

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The Dune series lead me to checking out a bit of Orson Scott Card.

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Deciding that post-apocalyptic darkness was appealing for a time,

I went to read a bit of William Gibson.

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So I went down a path of cyberpunk and dystopian tales for a time.

Feeling that the dystopian perspective highlighted my own nihilistic tendencies, I picked up Terry Goodkind.

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While in the bookstore…

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Review: Surviving Reagan

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Just the title, Surviving Reagan, provoked emotion in this reader. Perhaps, my age set the stage for a host of thoughts about those extremely homophobic years, the ultra conservatism, and the growing apocalyptic view within a militaristic framework, not even touching upon the economic issues fraught within that administration. Certainly, this romance doesn’t precisely touch upon such things, per se, although the unsettled Middle East, a present day context of extreme misogyny and a war machine does work well as a setting to maintain my initial reactions.   Additionally, the events that occur to the protagonists, Chad and Reagan, bespeak of a world still battling with these issues.   However, Surviving Reagan is a romance tale, one that reaches readers on a variety of levels. If one seeks a well-written romance story filled with the emotional turmoil extant between lovers whose love has destiny wrapped around it, intrigue and adventure, then Isabella’s writing fills that bill.   Alternatively, if one seeks a novel that raises provocative issues, social issues that beset every lesbian, while cast within a love story, issues that are at once humorous and devastating, then this novel can serve that purpose as well.   Isabella delivers a deeply intense novel that is well written, filled with dynamic dialogue, compelling on a multitude of levels, and highly evocative.  

 

 

Reading on The Dark Side: The Compiled List of Series Devoured in 18 Months

Queerly Reading Fantasy and the Dark Side of Things

Women Authors of Series (Only That I Have Read In the Last 18 Months)

Notes and Caveats:

  1.  While I did rate each series, I refrained from reviewing , giving only a quick snippet of the elements/themes focused on within the series.   The series was rated as a complete series, not via individual book.
  2. This list includes anthologies, within which many of the authors are contained.  I did not rate the anthologies.
  3. Included in the list are series & authors that I merely skimmed over or read one book only.   These remain unrated,  as insufficient information available for a fair rating.
  4. Excluded from this list: authors of multiple, single novels which may be connected by theme or genre, but are not series per se.
  5. Male authors are purposely excluded.   Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Terry Goodkind, George R.R. Martin specifically

 

Armstrong, Kelley            …

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Review: SY Thompson, Destination Alara

 

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Destination Alara, SY Thompson

 

SY Thompson’s newest novel, Destination Alara, transports readers to a science fiction plot replete with nearly everything for which an aficionado of such books could: the creation of a unique galactic world with its own historical backstory unique to this story, strong female protagonists, a romance which enhances the plot rather than overwhelming it, sophisticated political intrigue, and a vivid, descriptive settings which are richly sensory in nature. It isn’t supervising that Thompson delivers a novel in the tradition of Ursula Le Guin, with a bit of Elizabeth Lynn, and Mercedes Lackey, tossed in for good measure. Thompson creates a unique world, with incredibly nuanced characters, and a view of a matriarchal social structure that is not overly simplified or stereotypical, but possible. Needless to say, I loved this book. Thompson brought a bit of glee to my sci-fi soul.

 

Thompson creates a rather post-apocalyptic setting with its own historical backstory (not just a few years prior, but layers/generations of societies prior, not completely unlike that of Star Trek or Star Wars, but unique unto itself). That history is useful in that it helps stage the current a political struggle, cast, (aptly), with gender, class, imperialist issues. If Thompson had simply inserted a matriarchal society in place of the patriarchal one in which we live, the tale would be simplistic. Instead, the use of matriarchy allows for a tension between the antagonists in such a way that demonstrates the oppressive nature of male centered culture toward women; particularly with respect to women in power, the means that rape culture would attempt to strip the power from any woman, as well as the disdain patriarchal societies hold for lesbians. These themes play out well in the dynamic character of Admiral Meryan as a daughter of the ruling family and the circumstances in which she is placed within the plot, as well as how Van, the other protagonist, military hero, and love interest works within that dynamic.

 

Certainly, I could go on for pages about the themes at work in Destination Alara, it seems more appropriate for this review to clue the reader into the incredibly, no, sensuously vivid descriptions that Thompson provides the reader.   Each scene can be felt, heard, visualized completely, as if the reader is along side the character. If one has ever watched an episode of Star Trek, then take that visualization and double it – that’s how visually intense the descriptors are written. With respect to dialogue, each character has a unique phrasing, accent, emotional range that comes out each time, even with respect to minor characters. Thompson renders such a rich complexity to each moment of the plot, that it seems genuine – an excellent rendering of a possible world.

 

All in all, SY Thompson delivers outstanding science fiction with a lesbian fiction focus.   The lesbian focal aspect should not dissuade non-lesbians from picking up this book, because it is outstanding and transcends gender identity. It is simply put, wonderfully written science fiction. I highly recommend this book.