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!

PROFILE: Grigory Smirnov

Grigory Smirnov is a pianist and composer partnered with the Multicultural Arts Exchange (MAE), a non-profit that promotes, presents, and produces performing arts programming in the Northeast Philadelphia area. I interned with MAE over the past summer and had the chance to interview Grigory.

Read all about Grigory’s process and philosophy behind his music in his profile “A Composer’s Introspection: Grigory Smirnov” on the MAE blog, here.

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!


Reading Round Up #1 – Young Adult

The semester is finally over! Now I have time to tell you all about the books I’ve been reading.

518iftlvnol._sx327_bo1204203200_Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Finn is the local strange kid in his rural town of Bone Gap, Illinois. The book opens some months after Roza, the close friend and roommate of Finn and his brother, has disappeared. While everyone else has given up, Finn believes Roza is still out there, kidnapped by a mysterious man.

I can’t really say anymore than that without spoilers, because this book is nothing what it seems. It’s beautiful, heartfelt, and very, very strange. Would recommend for anyone who likes character driven stories with a magical twist. The prose is a bit heftier than usual YA books, but Ruby’s use of language is so rich. Her use of imagery and clever foreshadowing really gives the characters and world a whimsical feel and great depth.

51u0ltozipl._sx329_bo1204203200_Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Dante’s Inferno meets a Christmas Carol, this novel in poetry follows one elevator ride, during which the protagonist, Will, must decide whether to avenge his brother Shawn. Will gets into the elevator convinced he is going to kill his brother’s murderer, but by the end he isn’t so sure.

This story is truly meant to be told in poetry. Reynolds’s conversational, emotionally raw style conveys the voice of the narrator honestly. He also uses the size, shape, and space between words to create tone, rhythm, and flow. Not to mention the characters are so rounded, flawed, and fascinating. Even if you don’t like poetry–Read. This. Book. I would say it is a perfect for both poetry lovers and people who don’t even like reading because it goes by so fast.

33830830The Devils You Know by M.C. Atwood

Five teens enter Boulder House, a tourist attraction that is part museum, part maze, part crazy fun house, where they are trapped by a demon. Despite being drastically different, and often in opposition to each other, they must work together and confront their own demons to escape.

A fun ride, is a perfect description of Atwood’s YA horror novel. The characters have unique personalities and there’s always a different crazy monster or obstacle around the corner. The novel flies by, partly because it continuously switches between the five perspectives of the main characters. I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves a supernatural adventure.

91x3tjpbsmlThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert 

Alice and her mother have always been chased by bad luck. After her grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of dark fairy tales with a cult following, dies, Alice’s mother thinks their bad luck is over. However, it only gets worse. Her mother disappears and Alice starts seeing her grandmother’s fairy tales come to life. Along with a super-fan from her school, Finch, Alice must find her grandmother’s estate, the Hazel Wood, to find her mother and solve the mystery of her family’s past.

The Hazel Wood is one of my favorite twisted fairy tale stories because it captures the essence of fairy tales, but instead of retelling old tales, Albert invents new ones. Her tales are dark and imaginative. The world pulls you in. There is an ominous atmosphere to the whole book. The stakes feel real. Also, the characters are real standouts. Alice is fierce and independent, but her brashness makes her flawed. Her chemistry with Finch, a sweet but sheltered rich boy, is natural and fun. They balance each other nicely. This novel is great to anyone who loves fairy tales, but also darker adventures.

51iwzpshkpl._sx346_bo1204203200_The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

This is the true story of Sasha and Richard. Both teens living in Oakland, CA. Sasha is nonbinary, from a middle class, white family, attends private school. Richard is young black man from an area plagued by gang violence and crime doing his best to stay on the right path. One day, while both taking the same bus home, Richard sets Sasha’s skirt on fire.

I read nonfiction very rarely, but I could not put Dashka’s book down. Her writing carries a journalistic style, but she chooses all of the right details and quotes that let the story tell itself. The reader can read what Sasha, Richard, their parents, the local justice department, and everyone involved has to say for themselves. I would recommend this book to anyone with a natural curiosity to learn about the social issues of today, whether its gender, race, or the justice system. Even if you think your opinions on these issues are set in stone, I would ask you to give The 57 Bus a try. Despite the heavy politics involved by the nature of the story, the book never forgets that its characters are human.

51mb-gczedl._sx331_bo1204203200_Ash by Malinda Lo 

Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, but that description does not do this book justice. Yes, it takes elements of the original–the sweet orphan girl, the evil stepmother, the prince’s ball–but it weaves those elements and the spirit of fairy tales into an imaginative, original story about a a girl yearning for freedom, a mysterious young Fae man, and the King’s Huntress.

Ash is a quiet book, but I think it’s one that surprises you in subtle ways by subverting the typical fairy tale. It’s so refreshing to see a story where the Fae are beauitful and dangerous.  It stays with you because the characters are so memorable, it’s not a “the girl gets everything in the ending” story, and the love story is so honest. Trust me, unnecessary romantic plots are my pet peeve, but this one is done so wonderfully because it, like everything, always comes back to how it changes the protagonist and what the story is ultimately saying. And don’t worry, it’s not a prince gets the girl type of love story. 😉


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.