Brave & Reckless

The editors and contributors are ending our week of events honoring the publication of We Will Not Be Silenced: The Lived Experience of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Told Powerfully Through Poetry, Prose, Essay, and Art the way we started it- with a Live Event on Friday, December 7th on Facebook. Our first Live Event was well-attended and really terrific- lots of interaction between the attendees, editors, and book contributors.

Our final live event provides a great opportunity to learn more about the book’s origin, purpose, and its contributors and get some sneak peeks of the powerful content.  You will also have a chance to enter some great book giveaways!

Learn more here.

Rachel Finch 2

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Thank you Free Verse Revolution ❤️

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

angel_wings_white_black_girl_3563_800x1200.jpgI sense your presence best in the dark,

impalpable; when eyes, mine

cannot see,

but I can smell the sweet milk

cleaving to your breath

And hearken—

your lungs speak in tongues, tailored

for my despairing

I build fortresses formed from

unbleached bones of so many

rib cages

made unnecessary by   

Death and his scythe

And hearken—

your lungs speak in tongues, tailored

for my despairing

I sense your presence best in the dark;

great white wing of hope,

alive inside my rib cage

still necessary,

you carry me to the sun

And gather

golden fire to raze my

lifeless despairing

time and time again


Kindra M. Austin writes at poemsandparagraphs and you follow her wonderful work at Blank Paper PressOne for Sorrow and Indie Blu(e). Her next collection of poetry, Twelve, is out December 10th. 

Austin’s Amazon links:

US

UK

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Check it out, ya’ll! A short story by Nicholas Gagnier ❤

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Politics are a bleak affair.

God, I haven’t thought that way in years- at least, not since the town in which I’ve spent most of my adult life was terrorized by white nationalists.

It’s kind of hard to be an optimist when that same town gets taken over by an armed militia five years later.

I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t the cops come? Where was the National Guard? Why weren’t the feds sent in like they were five years ago when Viktor Quinn decimated this backwater shithole?

That’s part of the problem, though. Nobody wanted to live in Haven, Washington after that. The big companies that were still operating here pulled their franchises, and the small businesses were either hanging by a thread or already shuttered. The market price of my house sagged by a few fortunes, and my neighbours disappeared one by one.

Cynthia Harris next…

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From a young age I recognized something irreplaceable about the kind of writing  that wasn’t neatly packaged into a ‘eat me now’ bite. Twelve isn’t a genre, it’s a diary that has come alive. I feel as if I shouldn’t be reading it because it’s like standing in a bathroom with someone throwing up, it’s feels wrong and addictive and horrifying and devastating and all the images Austin conveys burn into my retina and remain there, shocking, uncompromising and vivid. But Austin couldn’t ever look away, so neither can we. Austin can’t wake up tomorrow and call her mom, neither should we deny the hideous simplicity and infinite complexity of finding out the woman who gave you life no longer exists.

If I didn’t know Kindra Austin, I’d want to know her, it’s that simple. Her truth, the unashamed bright well written light on her pain, it makes you want to get to know her, because she’s an articulate, fierce real being and most things are not and she knows it; “our lives a fucking flip-book filled with phony animation, as / though we’ve never been anything more than a / pair of paper dolls pretending to breathe.” (Meditation). Austin isn’t going to play the game, she can’t be anything but herself, take it or leave it. I suspect most people would want a lot more not less; “I’m sorry I think / when I drink / too much.” (Sorry I’m A Bitch)

At the same time, society is afraid to ‘go there’ when it comes to exhibiting sadness and admitting how you really feel rather than the social media version. A very cruel person may say, those who are depressed are going to be attracted to sad works because it validates their feelings and they’re not as alone. There is truth to that, but it’s discounting the value of sadness as a provoker of art forms. ““I love you. I miss you so much, Mom.” I knew it was you. And I knew you were dead. / I know you are dead.  / There was a long, crackling silence that made my brain itch. / Then you said, “I think of you all the time.” (A Peculiar Dream I Had). I didn’t even know I was crying reading Twelve until the wetness of my tears began to soak through my clothes.

By artform, I refer to the oft painful pleasure the reader gets in reading something poignant and real, rather than manufactured and glossy. Perhaps it’s the difference between those who revere artificiality and pretention and those who fall in love with someone whose eyes are burning as they stand in front of you showing you the guts that enable them able to go on, even as you can’t imagine how they can.  “Mother, what am I supposed to do? I’m so fucking tired of writing about you. / But who am I, if not a writer?” (Your Absence Is a Burglar). This poem alone should win poetry awards, not only for the title, which says everything, but the renting devastation of its truths. Throughout, you get the sense you are witnessing something as evocative and brutal as Joan Didion’s classic; The Year of Magical Thinking.

Nothing I write will really do justice to this collection because it’s not about doing justice, it’s about witnessing the grief and survival and healing of a woman who is stronger than she’d even realized she was, and at the same time, a person who isn’t afraid to be weak or expose the fuck-you’s and holes in her soul. “We had you pushed into the furnace;/ spoiling organs and / leaking skin were / burned away. / Your pulverized bones / resemble beach sand in / Tawas, / fittingly.”  (The Color of Beach Sand)

My favorite novels tend to be those with a good deal of tragedy, there is something life affirming in getting to know characters who struggle and don’t have it easy. As a writer, Austin has had her fair share of intense darkness and instead of obscuring her voice it’s just added to it. “I’ve decided that / forgiving trespasses does not heal me.  / Leave the forgiving to God.  / Some things are simply / unforgivable.” (Last Judgement). How can I as a reviewer really ‘review’ Austin’s experience of losing her mother and all the horror that goes with that? It seems insulting to even review this book for that reason. But because it is so important to read, I must find a way to convey why most people should read it.

That is the gift of someone meant to write rather than someone who simply writes for therapy or catharsis. “Mother’s a full-time drunk, and you / only got a part-time daddy.  / Good luck, baby;” (Viscera in Danger (revamp). This isn’t a grown child crying over alcoholic parent, losing a mother, bringing up a sister, reconciling her own family, this is a life reaching for love despite having been hurt so badly it feels impossible to want anything. Austin is above all else, a natural writer, someone who probably came out of the womb with ideas for a book. Her infectious energy is unabated by the grief of losing her mother, because she is able to voice those experiences and write them out, rather than letting them destroy her and they are both humorous, hideous and a reality we rarely permit others to view; “mourning after reflection—in the fingerprinted glass. / My cheeks are hollow / but my gut is bloated / from too much diet soda (I’m watching my figure) and vodka.” (At the Diary Case)

If you think this is no great thing, I can attest that it is. Usually grief leaves you wordless, numb, unable to pick up where you left off. To be able to turn grief into art, that’s the sweet spot that few artists ever attain. It separates the wheat from the chaff and in this case, produces unforgettable, rich and crushingly painful poems and prose, both haunting and beautiful in their agonies. “I see your name card. Your plate has been placed upside down, and your napkin, folded, at the left. There are no utensils, or a chalice set for you.” (Dead Mothers Don’t Dine)

Personally, I want what I read to haunt me, to stay with me, to alter me. I want the author to have the guts to climb out of their anonymity and offer themselves to the reader. Too often these days we read safe, careful, highly edited prosaic poetry and prose that has been sanitized by MFA programs and has completely lost the original thunder of its origins.  If you read a poem by Austin you know it’s by her. In a world deluged by would-be writers and frantic Instagram poets, it’s easy to get really tired of reading others feelings and they all merge together. To pick someone out of the crowd just by the timber, intelligence and reflection of their voice, that means they are crafting words into roads and pushing us down them.

Some happiness addicts may not appreciate this book because I guarantee there will be times you will be grieving right alongside Austin. I say to this, we should not look away, we should own the reality of grief and see within it, the truth and experience of its piece of us. Austin isn’t a depressing writer, she’s a truth teller and as such, she sits among the greats who also wrote their truths unapologetically.

It should be mentioned Austin is also wicked clever and at times you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I particularly related to An Emotionless Affair because it’s damn smart, rude and absolutely accurate. For anyone who has gone through the psych-route or been a therapist, you can hear those truisms screaming; “It’s an emotionless affair, the goings-on between patient and psychiatrist.” Austin cuts to the center of truth like a bad-mouthed surgeon who reads 17th century gothic classics on weekends.

Whether you have lost a loved one, been abandoned by your mother, had an alcoholic in the family or not, you cannot be senseless to the yearning humanity of these poems; “I’ll fall asleep tonight by the light of the lava lamp / you gave me last year. / When I was thirty-eight, and/ you were alive.” (Thirty-Nine) and if you do, well then, your diagnosis as sociopath is confirmed, for there is everything we are in these words and it’s impossible to be unchanged witnessing these 12 months; “Old age is a fable; / I was forced to stop counting at 58. / Today, you’re supposed to be 59, / but instead you’re fucking zero.” (Zero).

How do we find something different within poetry today that isn’t affected and trite? People are becoming more pretentious whilst proclaiming greater honesty, the more we share the less we are ourselves. Austin has her finger on the trigger when it comes to shaving the irrelevant and getting to the point. “You know  what I think? I think forgiveness is infinitely intermittent, and real acceptance is bullshit.” (Intermittent Bullshit). If you’re tired of reading Self-Help books that promote forgiveness and clean, easy recovery, then take a leaf out of someone who has actually been there and not with bleach and plastic gloves on. I’d quote nearly every poem in this book to illustrate reasons why it has to exist, but that would spoil so much and I’d rather you discovered Kindra Austin’s work for yourself.

And then there’s this; “There are 300 seconds in 5 / fucking minutes, and / 3,600 seconds in 1 hour, / which means there are 86,400 seconds in 24 hours, / or 1,440 minutes in a goddamned day. / All of that translates to a lot of fucking time spent forgetting to remember you’re dead.” (Never Any Good at Math). I’ve reviewed a lot of people’s work but I don’t want to say anything more here. I just want you to read Kindra Austin’s book, Twelve.

Let me speak plainly. Kindra M. Austin is not only my friend and an incredible writer, but my business partner at Blank Paper Press. If you are looking for a reflection of this book not steeped in bias, you may want to look elsewhere.

That does nothing to undermine my respect for Twelve, her newest release of poetry and prose. Nor does it mean I am incapable of critiquing it. As an anthology, it steers into its own darkness, and may not invite everyone quite like it spoke to me.

That said, Twelve is one of my favourite collections of the year, alongside Nicole Lyons’ Blossom and Bone and Austin’s novel, For You, Rowena. It ranks up there among one of the most heartrending collections I’ve ever read. This is because Twelve’s airtight narrative of bereavement gives you little breathing room against the barrage of Austin’s grief over the death…

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Design by Allane Sinclair

TWELVE picks up where Constant Muses ends; this is the yearlong journey of my grief and healing expressed in poems and prose. While most pieces involve my mom directly, some are just byproducts of melancholy. But dark as my days have been, there is one who keeps me tethered to the light—you will know her influence in certain pieces; she reminds me to breathe on my worst days. And so I keep on digging into the pit of me—I know my truths deserve to be heard.

In TWELVE, you’ll feel the mourning of a daughter, the love of a mother, and the highs, lows, and plateaus that make the healing process an intricate one. Above all, you’ll feel the steel of a woman determined to hold on to life. To quote The Crow, one of my favorite films:

“It can’t rain all the time.”

 

Peace,

Kindra M. Austin, TWELVE

 

 

Jimmi Campkin on One for Sorrow ❤

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I cannot fly but your words whip the wind under my arms.  Just a smile and wink, just a poke in the ribs and a kick in the shins, and I am no ones.  We stare at the dead brown leaves stuck to my shoes as we kick through the dead drifts, and I wait for something profound.  You are too busy staring at the end of a bottle, pointed towards the sky, as a telescope for the stars.

I get it.  You aren’t scared by thunder anymore it makes you feel alive.  You’re strapped to a table, waiting for the electricity to hit.  I made sure the knots were tight around your wrists and ankles, as I tied you to the bed and opened the window to the storm, but you still insisted on more.  More!  I Want More!!  I am no weatherman.  I am no God.  So I…

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YAASSS!

Whisper and the Roar

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The hard as fuck girls

with their leopard eyes and sepia lips

set in twisted, pigtail granite

painted their hides with waterproofing

like the kind you put in the bottom of swimming pools

the muscles in their cheeks set so tight

they’d break a gobstopper with one bite

eating pickles like they were candy

no sour stomach, no need of remedy

the hard as fuck girls

survived asbestos, pinching boys and ant hills

broke their arms, laughed about the plaster itching

used youths rubber band as catapult

to get everything they required

including your heart and the french pleat dresses

my waist was too thick to fit into

they were Scarlet O’Hara before Rhett left her open-mouthed

Shirley MacLaine after she saw angels & demons

Lauren Bacall had their arching face

Katherine Hepburn the gamine grace

they didn’t like me much

I was a bleeding heart with too little guts

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Check out Free Verse Revolution! There’s a ton of great writing featured there. ❤

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

Twelve cover

PROEM

She’d often made it difficult, but I did love my mom beyond measure. Before learning she had died, I don’t believe I’d ever actually shrieked over any-fucking-thing in my life—that’s saying a lot. On 8 November, 2017, at three-something in the afternoon, the sound that erupted from my lungs and out of my mouth was utterly empty, yet it carried a weight of pain that unequivocally transcends my comprehension to this day. The woman who gave birth to me—the woman I’d admired in the face of animosity, and who I’d always defended against abusers breathed no more.

I miss my mom’s smile most of all. That genuine, life giving smile she had in spite of the shit she had to live with was…well, it was goddamned gorgeous. Her eyes, I swear, projected light when she was happy. My baby niece’s eyes have that same magic—sweet babe born just…

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