Update: ACTS OF SPEECH

The logistics of Acts of Speech are coming together. When I decided to self-publish a poetry book, it was partially an experiment because I don’t know how self-publishing works, and this is a good first try. By the time each i is dotted and each t is crossed, I will have a firm idea of the logistics before I embark on other projects.

This is great for a book that I didn’t even decide to (vaguely) put together until the first part of 2019 and that I didn’t have a final final no this one this (no, I don’t name my files like that, I swear) copy until September because I decided to fudge around with the table of contents and add a few more poems.

Acts of Speech also has a book cover designed by L. T. Williams, whose art is fabulous.

This book cover is absolutely stunning, and I want to eat all of the greens and blues and oranges, they are so vividly beautiful.

I thought that this part would be a lot of waiting and pacing because I needed certain things to do ISBN forms, and I needed the ISBN forms to do the Library of Congress control number form for self-publishing. The LCCN is supposed to take about two weeks for turnaround, but I got it literally in a single business day — and I’m betting that part of this is due to workload shifts in libraries towards digital projects and workflows because many of the staff members must be remote during the pandemic.

One big decision I made was to label this religious poetry. I grew up Neopagan, and it always bothered me that the religious books I wanted were shelved in the New Age section and often interfiled with conspiracy theory writers warning us of deep Reptilian conspiracies and starseeds. Using the word religion and calling it religious poetry in the way I describe subjects in Bowker and the self-publishing distribution venue I’m using (Draft2Digital) is a way of forcing my work onto the bookshelves where I think work like this belongs. It’s nice to have that level of control.

In a few weeks — after another obsessive skim to make sure I’ve caught typos — I’ll make another post describing where to find it. The publication date is October 29, so it’s coming right up.

The Season of Expansion

I.
The void, too, bubbles:
Voidless static sunders us,
swelling years yawn wide.

II.
Follow the lineless
harmony as she builds up —
bursts forth — a new seed.


This morning, I reached the part of The Poem’s Heartbeat about syllable-count verse; Corn mentioned that haiku are generally supposed to be contextualized against the seasons.

While I wrote haiku in my high school planner whenever I was bored in class, we weren’t taught about season words, and this common knowledge escaped me until today. Later on at work, I encountered a book about the future of the universe while sifting through new book lists.

#1 is a haiku about our current cosmic season (swelling years). #2 is about the moments before expansion (the seed).

Skillbuilding in Verse #2: Second Hour of Waking

8 AM — a dull
sky oozing through glass,
storms forecast — a lull
of stillness must pass,

one more hollow hour
before work should start —
rushing to shower,
to speak prayers (by heart

memorized, rooted
and constituted
of tisane and sounds) —
while incense surrounds
and each moment moves
on a clock’s fine grooves.


This morning, I decided to write a poem about the quotidian to solidify some rhyme scheme elements I learned about while working through The Poem’s Heartbeat by Corn. There are other types of rhyming things that I would like to experiment with that were addressed in an earlier chapter, but inspiration is inspiration, and this is the poem that I wrote.

There are some elements of this poem that I like, some that I don’t — but it was fun, especially since I worked from 9 AM – 10 PM today and didn’t manage to get in more than some quick breaks for making and eating meals (and sheltering in my bedroom closet during a 30-minute tornado warning while soothing an agitated cat, which is the exact opposite of relaxing despite technically being a screen break) between answering emails, participating in a Zoom-based half-day training, and combing through Excel and Sharepoint files. Doing creative things is important to me and fills up my self-care tank even when things at work are hectic.

Skillbuilding in Verse (#1)

Most of my poems either go by syllable count, (more or less) iambic pentameter, or a combination. This has been true since I started writing poetry as a child. Iambic pentameter is like a well-loved pair of jeans that you can dress up to go out or dress down to stay in.

For a while now, I’ve been planning to do drills in more formal verse to sharpen my skills — the book The Poem’s Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody by Alfred Corn has been staring out at me from my bookshelf.

My poetic education consisted of a unit on poetry in fifth grade and, later on, an English major. (I unintentionally specialized in pre-1850s British literature.) I absorbed poetic concepts by subconscious osmosis via analyzing poets like Milton — while analyzing poems, I cared much more about analyzing the imagery and shapes of the sounds, only dabbling into meter when it suited. The fifth-grade unit was enough to get me to a point in my small town where I once won a local poetry competition for my childhood age cohort. College-level lit analysis got me to the point where I can write poems that stand a decent chance of acceptance in literary markets, depending on what the publication needs during the open call. Over the past two years, I have restlessly experimented with new things while putting off drills and exercises as something I would just get around to later.

This week, I started to work through the book, and it’s exciting to get back to formal poetic study after a long while of pushing forward without consulting maps. I’d like to share some of the verses that I’ve composed as practice pieces, rough around the edges and a tad formulaic as a result. I’ve had quite a few ideas for real poems while reading, too, and those notes are being compiled elsewhere.

Please note that The Poem’s Heartbeat doesn’t actually have exercises in it — I’m just composing my own verses as concepts come up as a way of reinforcing them.


Anapestic verse

In the cosmic web dancing out life,
each new journey yet hidden from now,
these hard jumps between worlds every birth
tied to lots spun out deftly by Fates,
give me truth: grant its beauty and love.
These libations I bring in turn back to the Gods,
reciprocity rooting me down,
this devotion unfolding a path
up beyond the line marked by tall trees
where the nymphai wait, showing the way.

Trochaic verse

I don’t actually like composing with trochees on their own. However, for the purposes of study ……

1.
Yoyo stares at me and sweetly purrs,
eyes closing, lounging comfy,
half between awake and knocked out.

2.
Zeus casts lightning down like
breath illumined, angled,
forging icons within
soil like hundred-handers —
fulgurite formations,
fertile nitrate rainfall —
rumbling thunder, shaking
glass, my heart unsteady.

Dactylic verse

Call to the God of the lyre and bow,
swift-moving song rising, greeting him here.
Mark out each rhythm and cut the tune.
Weave all together like francincense
permeates air; Apollon receives.
Each of us holds the enchanting vine
cut and divided, still here in time.
Measure retunes us, intact like strings,
ready receivers of love’s blessings.

Old English-inspired

Halfway through,    hearken to the king,
lightning-rushing    bright and sharp,
the beginning the end    reborn through Zeus.
He ingested all,    filling fecund,
only to disgorge    in opaline wonder.
Fitting to plunge    first and final,
here — the fulcrum    upon the father
of the not-yet,    the never-now
son of ivy,    prince of the winepress.


Beyond these, the book covered two types of feet that are not usually seen on their own in English — spondaic (two strong) and pyrrhic (two weak). I didn’t create any practice verses for those because they are rarely encountered on their own.

We then moved into a chapter on metrical variation.

Metrical variation

1.
(mostly anapestic, a stress variation in the first line)
An offering to Hekate well-placed,
her wood icon alight and alive,
gives retreating old months their farewells.

2.
(mostly iambic, with anapests in lines 1 and 4 and a few trochees and spondees)
In the quiet evening, crickets murmur songs.
How sweet it feels to open windows now
after high summer baked pavement and clung
like eversummer ghosts of winters to come.


One of my lingering questions about syllable counts is whether I should go by the dictionary or by my voice. I know, for instance, that I have tended to treat mirror, error, and prayer as two syllables because the dictionary says that they are. However, in my dialect’s pronunciation, all of them are one syllable (albeit a held one). This first came up when I was editing my poetry for Acts of Speech, which is coming out on October 29, and I decided to leave the verses as they were. Moving forward, I think I will treat words like this as one-syllable, but confine them to stress positions.

I’m Doing a Poetry Book

For many months, I have been working on a poetry collection.

If you have ever asked, “What is a modern Western polytheist response to modern social disintegration and social media?” or if you want to read poems from someone who grew up in Neopaganism and polytheism that range from hymns to reflections on growing up to devotional poetry, you will like this book.

See? The book exists! I am partway through fixing some of the whitespace.

This is my first time doing something like this, and I’m very excited. By the time I’m done, I expect to have learned many lessons about what to do (or not) when I self-publish a few novellas in the coming years. I already know that formatting text is hypnotic, and I love it.

Here is a blurb!

Acts of Speech explores performative, public, and private religious speech and how they construct identity and difference. It blends praise poetry in honor of various Gods, including Apollon, the Mousai, and Mnemosyne, with more private poems in a tense dance of parasociality and intimacy. Above all, it is a time capsule of experiences mediated by words, both the opportunities and the risks they bring.

October 29 is the date selected for its release.

Closer to the date, I’ll make a few more updates about things like cover art. I am also considering an event like reading some of the poems in a livestream on the release day.

Finally, since this is a publication update, if you’re interested in other things I’ve done, please visit my publication page.

Poem in Reckoning 4

General writing update: Yesterday, January 1, Reckoning 4 was released. The literary journal features speculative writing on environmental justice. #4 focuses on challenges with the built environment.

You can look at the Table of Contents and find the links to purchase it here — the ebook is available from Amazon or from Weightless Books ($7), which is a great company that provides ebook transaction and download infrastructure for many small publishers. Here is the link to Weightless Books.

The journal will post one piece per week online (free to read) for the first half of the year, and the print edition will be released in the summer. If you can, I encourage you to buy it to support Reckoning’s mission.

My poem, “After Erysichthon,” will be posted online on April 8, 2020.

The poem was very fun to write, and I can’t wait for you all to read it. So. Go forth! The listing of writers, poets, and essayists is fabulous, and you’re in for a treat. 😁

Transmutation

crush these
certain flower petals
the pulp red
hot beneath your fingers
sticky, sweet, spicy
what it touches
it changes
deepening grace
we will ascend like
doves into the heavens
see the down
upon your skin,
once red as sacrifice,
now white as paper
crush these
wings against the
windowpanes
your bed forgotten
hands fading
memories
this new shape
cannot grasp

On Twitter, Kaleidotrope (a specfic lit mag) gave a spam writing prompt. I’ve seen those for months at this point, but never responded, so I decided to write an off-the-cuff poem. This is that poem. I decided to put it up here on PANGRAMMATIKE because it was fun, and I’m moving away from using Twitter.