Poetry featured in Rlly Bad Poetry Zine

I’m excited to announce that I’ve been published in Rlly Bad Poetry Zine Volume 3 – Fate! Issues are available at rllybadpoetry on Etsy.

It features four other awesome (and local!) poets and cool fortune cookie photography by the epic Jackie Domenus (who also made the whole zine!). It includes my poems “A Monozygotic Study,” “Judith Slaying Holofernes” and “Do You Ever Noticed How Many Staples Are In A Telephone Pole?”

BONUS, you get a free sticker AND all proceeds go Audre Lorde Project to support LGBT+ people of color AND it’s shipped with the USPS!

“Buy zines, damn the man”
—Jackie Domenus

Collaborative Poetry Project with Multicultural Arts Exchange

I’ve been freelance blog writing for the Multicultural Arts Exchange (MAE) for about a year now and recently I had the opportunity to collaborate on a creative project!

The Multicultural Arts Exchange is an organization in Philadelphia that presents, promotes, and creates performing arts programming. They mostly put on affordable classical music concerts, but have run dance festivals, jazz concerts, and musicals too. MAE is a super cool organization and I suggest you check them out on Facebook @maephila or their website www.maephila.com. They’ve been hit hard like many arts organizations due to COVID-19, but they are putting on online concerts pretty consistently recently.

As part of their effort to help musicians and artists during this time, they are starting multimedia collaborations. Me included! I was commissioned to write poetry inspired by the work of MAE musicians Kaptain AtAnAm and Ray Man X, a blues/rock keyboard and guitar duo. You can read my poetry and listen to the music that inspired it in my blog “Vikings Rhapsody Continued: Three Music Inspired Poems.”

There may be more to come, so stay tuned!

Analogy – Figures of Speech #2

This blog is part of a series called Figures of Speech, where I define a figure of speech, deconstruct an example from a great writing figure, and try my hand at writing the figure myself. Our second figure of speech is analogy!

What is Analogy?

According to literarydevices.net,

“An analogy is a comparison in which an idea or a thing is compared to another thing that is quite different from it. It aims at explaining that idea or thing by comparing it to something that is familiar. Metaphors and similes are tools used to draw an analogy. Therefore, analogy is more extensive and elaborate than either a simile or a metaphor.”

I never thought how closely related most figurative language is. Metaphors, similes, analogies, synecdoche, hyperbole and many more are all just comparisons. To me what stands out about analogy is the explaining bit. I think about people or characters speaking to each other. Like in a classroom where a teacher is trying to explain an scientific concept. Or in a comedy show where John Mulaney is trying to explain what it’s like to have Trump as president. 


Deconstructing the Figure

As much as I would LOVE to deconstruct Mulaney’s “Horse in a hospital” joke, I can’t upload videos to this blog (good old free but limited accounts), but feel free to add your analysis of the joke in the comments!

Instead, I chose a quote from one of my favorite (and very eloquent) characters on Game of Thrones, Lord Varys, Master of Whisperers:

“Influence grows like a weed. I tended mine patiently until its tendrils reached all the way from the Red Keep to the far side of the world, where I managed to wrap them around something very special” -Lord Varys, Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 4

The first part of Varys analogy, “Influence grows like a weed,” fulfills the first part of the definition. He is comparing very different things, Influence and Weeds. That is, unless the weeds in on my patio are conspiring invade my house and overthrow me.  But what makes something an analogy is the explaining bit. Analogies are suppose to explain by using something familiar. Anyone with a yard is familiar with weeds. They grow in nooks and cracks, often unnoticed, and very hard to be rid of. They are small things that collectively have great power (like thwarting my mother’s gardening attempts). Varys says influence is the same. Influence is not big and mighty, but small and everywhere.

Analogies are more complex than one simile or metaphor. Varys going on to explain his gardening technique, “I tended mine patiently until its tendrils reached all the way from the Red Keep to the far side of the world,” is adding that needed depth to make his simile an analogy. So not only is influence many small bits with a long reach like weeds, but you need to cultivate them like any plant.

Varys loves comparisons

Emulating the Figure

Here is my attempt to write an analogy as the clever Varys does:

Infatuation comes in like the tide. I watch until its white foam rushes across the sand to the tip of my toes, tickling with cold, but nonetheless it retreats, depriving me of promised relief from the hot sand and burning sun.

I decided to mirror Varys by describing an abstract concept with something from nature. Like Varys, I start with a simple simile, “Infatuation comes in like the tide.” This explains part of the nature of infatuation, in that it is intense, but fleeting. I say it “rushes across the sand” but it only ever touches “the tip of my toes” and then “retreats.” So infatuation never gives you what it want; it only teases you. When you feel an infatuation it feels like you’re in love, but you’re not. And before you can ever be in love, your infatuation fades away.

But I wanted to add that second layer of complexity with the latter half like Varys does, so I wrote, “depriving me of promised relief from the hot sand and burning sun.” Not only does infatuation leave suddenly, it makes your emotions before the infatuation worse. The sun and sand (or loneliness, frustration, etc) is even more intense because you have no relieving distraction.

Analogies are like onions, they have layers. You could keep digging into the words from John Mulaney, Lord Varys, or me, and find even more connotations and meanings–helping you understand what’s being explained with more depth or from another angle.


What’s your favorite analogy? Got an example of an analogy from your favorite book, show, or movie? Share them below in the comments!


REVIEW: Pretend We Live Here

Pretend_We_Live_Here_Cover_041818_JVWHad the pleasure of reading and reviewing Pretend We Live Here by Genevieve Hudson (published by Future Tense Books) for Glassworks literary magazine. I really enjoyed Hudson’s collection of short fiction. It’s filled with sharp edged prose and queer characters, questioning what home means in sense of place, but also self.

Check out my full review on the Glassworks website: http://www.rowanglassworks.org/book-reviews/review-pretend-we-live-here.

Hyperbole – Figures of Speech #1

This blog is part of a series called Figures of Speech, where I define a figure of speech, deconstruct an example from a great writing figure, and try my hand at writing the figure myself. Our first figure of speech is hyperbole!

What is Hyperbole?

“Is it the end of Hyperbole?”

“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” “He talked for a million years.” The overstated, “We’re all going to die” when you forget to thaw the chicken for dinner. Or the exaggerated click bait titles, like “How Millennials Killed Mayonnaise.” Love or ate, we just can’t stop exaggerating. And that’s all hyperbole is, exaggeration.

Despite how often I see hyperbole, I’ve never been advised to use it in my writing. I’ve seen it listed on every literary devices list I’ve been handed in English or Creative Writing. I suspect that it’s hyperbole’s easy corny or cliche factor that wards writers off. But every Figure of Speech can be genius in the right hands. For a great figure to pick apart today, I’m turning to the master of subtle corniness, The Princess Bride, novel and screenplay written by William Goldman. The handsome Wesley and the kind Fezzik made this movie a childhood favorite for me. The gold quality quotes made it a lifetime love.

Me when people say they hate The Princess Bride

Deconstructing the Figure

The quote I selected to pick apart, in my humble opinion, is not loved enough. Princess Buttercup, having finally figured out that Prince Humperdinck has kidnapped her love Wesley to force Buttercup into marriage with him instead, let’s loose the sickest of burns:

“You can’t hurt me. Wesley and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords. And when I say you are a coward that is only because you are the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth.” –The Princess Bride, 1987

The passage includes more than one insistence of hyperbole, but when you add up all of the little bits of hyperbole and other figures of speech, it becomes an eloquent declaration.

The first major part of this passage is a metaphor, “Wesley and I are joined by the bonds of love.” To exaggerate anything, there has a to be thing first and in this case the thing Buttercup is exaggerating is “love.” Though love is an abstract emotion so it’s hard to visual anything to exaggerate. That’s why mixing metaphor and hyperbole does so well here. By starting with “bonds of love,” the writer gives the viewer a more concrete starting place to compare to the following exaggeration. Though “bonds” is a bit abstract itself, it does provide a lot of implicit metaphors that might vary from each viewer. “bonds” conjures images of strings, ropes, chains, or even the invisible force of gravity holding two bodies together.

The second major part is where the hyperbole starts, “And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords.” What I find clever about this exaggeration is that it is also true. You could argue that it is both literal and figurative. “Bonds of love” is an abstract concept, an emotional connection, so it is literally impossible to physically track or break. The exaggeration does not make Buttercup’s statement seem outlandish, but sincerely powerful, which is only strengthened by the use of parallelism.

Buttercup, Princess of Insults

The third and final part is the fun one, “And when I say you are a coward that is only because you are the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth.” Like the whole passage, the sum of other figures gives this sentence its’ cutting hyperbole and specificity. For example, Buttercup does not just call Prince Humperdink a coward, she defines her meaning further to be clear (a figured called distinctio). And then she adds “slimiest” to “weakling” to deepen her insult (a figured called transferred epithet). Lastly, she ends on a classic hyperbole when she says “to ever crawl the earth” to illustrate that no one matches the prince in his cowardice. The verb “crawl” twists the cliche just enough to make it original and adds to the unsettling feeling.  I would say the whole sentence is a hyperbole of how cowardly someone can be.

Emulating the Figure

So, here’s my attempt to match Buttercup’s hyperbole:

You can’t know me. I am lost in the woods inside my skull. And you cannot fell these pines, not with ten thousand axes, and you cannot burn these pines, not with ten thousand torches. And when I say you are a fool, it is that you are most misguided, lovesick simpleton to wander the world.

I decided to keep with the intangible vs. tangible theme with the image of an inner mind. We often wish to know someone’s thoughts, but their intangibility and hidden nature is juxtaposed with methods by which someone may try to clear a visual obstruction.  I also attempted to weave multiple figures to create a nuanced hyperbole. I emulated many figures from the original, like metaphor, distinctio, and parallelism. I also tried my hand at alliteration (“wander the world”), and scesis onomaton (listing generally synonymous words for emphasis, “misguided, lovesick simpleton”). I like to think the result was an imaginative, heartfelt passage.

From taking a good look at Buttercup’s sickest burn (and trying it out myself), I found that its layered nature was what made it compelling. Each of her insistence of hyperbole are good, but they truly shine when woven with each other and other figures. Hyperbole is a figure that works well in tandem because by its nature it is more. The more figures, the more hyperbole add up to a layered, encompassing hyperbole through a whole paragraph, even perhaps a whole work.

Do you have a favorite hyperbole from a book, song, movie, show, or some other amazing thing you love? Feel free to share in the comments.


Who’s The Boss? Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Nothing compares to the feeling you have when you discover that there is a sequel to a book you fell in love with. Double that feeling when I found out that Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer is just the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. The second book, Authority, skyrocketed to the top of my summer reading list. 



Authority takes place after the events Annihilation, following the new director of the Southern Reach, John Rodriguez, or “Control” as he calls himself. The survivors of the eleventh expedition, who explored Area X in Annihilation, have reappeared without explanation, the previous director is compromised, paranoid, presumed dead, and the passive aggressive assistant director Grace continually sabotages Control. What a great first day.

For me, sequels often disappoint. As a reader, I grow attached to that beloved first book and then when that pesky author tries new things in the second book, I just want to go back to the familiar. VanderMeer switches the protagonist, the setting, the tense, and I don’t even care. He hooked me with a skillful, suspenseful use of dramatic irony. In Control’s first scene at the Southern Reach headquarters, he studies three women through a one-way mirror:

     “The surveyor had been found at her house, sitting in a chair on the back patio.
The anthropologist had been found by her husband, knocking on the back door of his medical practice.
The biologist had been found in an overgrown lot several blocks from her house, staring at a crumbling brick wall.
Just like the members of the prior expedition, none of them had any recollection of how they had made their way back across the invisible boarder, out of Area X.” (6)

Queue internally screaming. Having read Annihilation, I know that the biologist went off to who-knows-where in Area X and became who-knows-what, know the surveyor and anthropologist are dead, know that the Tower created memory fogged copies of the twelfth expedition that were also found back home without explanation, and I know that Control knows none of this. While Annihilation creates suspense because I did not know what would happen next, Authority creates suspense because I know (or I’m assuming) what’s coming. If it’s like anything that happened to the Biologist, it’s not pretty. I’m consumed by a dread and fascination that compels me to read on.

dramatic irony
Dramatic Irony

There is so much to unpack in this book that I cannot discuss all of it, but one of its strongest elements is the relationship between Control and the Biologist/Ghost Bird. The book does seem to direct the reader into the assumption that Control will follow down a similar path as the Biologist.

The first red flag is Control’s preferred name. Like the Biologist, he goes by a name that boils him down to a job, a descriptor. Instead of personalizing him, Control’s name depersonalizes. Like how the Biologist in Annihilation longs for isolation through her chosen career, Control wants to lose himself too in a way. He reveals he gained the nickname from his Grandpa, borrowing from “spy jargon” (13), and he fulfilled it in a way by becoming an agent of the government. He is a cog in a machine, like how the Biologist was an organism in a biosphere of Area X–both pieces in a larger network. Though Control’s name implies he desires to be a larger, more central piece in the network with more, well, control. When Grace sends the Anthropologist and Surveyor away without his permission, Control’s thought is, “he was going to have to take something away from Grace as well. Not to get even but so she wouldn’t have been tempted to take yet more from him” (31).  The moment perfectly encapsulates Control as a character. He is in constant struggle for control and authority (Haha, I see what you did there Jeff), which makes his attraction to the Biologist, or the Biologist’s copy that is now going by Ghost Bird, stand out.

Control was the one thing the Biologist never wanted. To me at least, the Biologist wanted the annihilation of herself, to be one with Area X. They act as great foils to each other, and I would say the Biologist reveals Control’s true nature by comparison. Take for example the covers of Annihilation and Authority. Annihilation, the story of the Biologist, and Authority, the story of Control. Annihilation‘s cover features a plant, which reflects the Biologist’s status within Area X. She is a small part, but intertwined and indistinguishable from the rest. Authority‘s cover features a rabbit. Very strange choice when the first half of the novel depicts Control as the Big Director of Southern Reach, Puppet Master Spy. But as the novel progresses, VanderMeer reveals that Control is nothing more than a rabbit–a small prey animal desperately taking in information with all of its senses to stay alive in a world it can never control. Compared with the Biologist/Ghost Bird’s understanding of Area X (or acceptance that she will never understand), Control appears desperate and small minded. VanderMeer repeatedly associates Control with the rabbit. If you don’t pick up on the repeated mention of the white rabbit experiment, Whitby’s depiction of Control’s face on a rabbit is quite clear. The symbol completes itself when Control runs away from Area X when the border expands.

Source: Comic Crits

When considering both Annihilation and Authority together, the message seems clear–it does not matter if you accept or resist, Area X, or perhaps all of nature, is the true authority. But the story is not over! I look forward to seeing how Ghost Bird and Control develop in the final book.

Feel free to leave your own thoughts on the Southern Reach Trilogy in the comments! I always love hearing other people’s takes too.

Until the next read,