Monday, November 21, 2016

my new poetry project: gothic romantic poems inspired by horror


I'm excited to share my next writing venture:  a series of poems inspired by the Gothic Romantic mood.  Earlier this year my second collection of poems, Summer Forgets to Wear a Petticoat, came out through Finishing Line Press. After the publication party at Skylight, I felt calmly restless. Part of me was relieved and part of me was curious.  I kept thinking, what now, what's next?

My boyfriend, Martyn, is an amazing screenwriter of horror films, so we've been watching a lot of horror films together.  I have always loved horror films, but this is the first time I've grown close to another human being who can watch them and re-watch them with the unflagging devotion of a diehard.  I've viewed more horror films in the past few months than I have in my entire life.  And it has been ridiculously fun.

At the school where I teach now, we've had a few "Passions" days over the years where teachers hold workshops for students based around a personal passion.  I've always led a workshop on horror films.  I started reading Stephen King when I turned twelve, and no high school slumber party was complete without Jason or Freddy.  "Passions" day at school gave me a chance to revisit the classics.  I'd round up a set of school appropriate clips, and we'd settle into a classroom to watch them while munching popcorn, all the while discussing why a normal person wants to watch them...why we crave them...and what makes us willing to sit down and be terrorized by them.

The horror genre is bizarre, chilling, sexy, and poetic.  I find it both psychologically engaging and endlessly entertaining.  I favor the home invasion stories and 1980's slasher flicks.  I'm not a fan of gore, but I can probably stomach more than the average person.  Recently I had this epiphany that the whole mood and atmosphere of these movies would be fun to replicate in poetry.  This got me excited because it felt like something new to explore in a familiar form.  For the past decade, my poetry writing has been mainly autobiographical.  I've written about my cultural identity, my obsessions, and my personal challenges.  I've written about the sky and the moon and Los Angeles.  And I've written about God.

These subjects have been fun and meaningful to write about, but the last few months I've been itching for a new avenue in my work--a new voice and a new atmosphere if you will.  Something that engages my interest.  At times this search for something new has led me to fiction and narrative writing, but though prose is a fun place to hang out, poetry writing has always been home.

In a gradual awakening, I've realized that horror films have inspired  me to write a whole collection of poems in the Gothic Romantic Mood.  Think Frankenstein meets Friday the 13th...or Jane Eyre meets Jason.  The idea is to explore the dark side--and in some ways the beauty of the dark side--in poetry.   I want to study fear and what attracts us to the morally ambiguous.  However, I'm still discovering the more specific theme or angle.  I call on my role models and dark muses, Plath & Poe, for their advice and inspiration.  I feel like I'm starting a project that I've been meaning to write for years but am only just discovering.

So I've started watching horror films now not just as a fan, but as a poet too.  Watching is researching.  In my notebook, I've been making a list of potential subjects for poems--digging into my personal fears and those I observe around me.  I've written about five or six pieces so far.   This voice is creeping out--different from my previous work but also an extension of it.  An older voice, I think.   And I'm discovering elements of suspense in some pieces I wrote years ago, which I may revise for this project.

Finally, I've created a vision board for my new poetry project on Instagram under the name "mygothicromance."    My goal is to post images that might become springboards for poems and that keep me in the headspace.  If you're interested, follow me:   

Stay tuned for more updates on this project!  I hope to post about my work in progress.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

i wrote a rap

THE SFV                                                                                        

The valley can’t brag cerebral evocation.
Tourists don’t come here on summer vacation.
The strip malls are greasy, the psychics inauthentic.
The wannabes carry a semi-automatic.
From Woodman to Fallbrook, the donut shops are chill.
The locals wear leg warmers in Woodland Hills.
Bookstores are shrinking on Ventura Boulevard.
You’ll find novels sinking in people’s backyards.
Armenians, Persians, Pakis, Mexicans.
Raw food junkies, even lacto-vegetarians.
No museums, art walks, beaches, or boutiques.
A ten-year-old Casio is considered an antique.

But I like it.  I love it.  I live it.  I dig it.
I walk it.  I cruise it.  Each strip mall, I strip it.
I pray it.  I write it.  I day and I night it.
This wasteland’s a pulse point.  You just need to find it.

Each stop sign’s a red eye.  It watches & blinks.
You might catch one drinking & flashing a wink.
The streetlights are stalkers, the moon voyeuristic.
You might meet a skunk and think it’s synchronistic.
You might lose your cell in a liquor store south.
You might spot a burqa and picture a snout.
The valley’s a heartbeat, a bruise, a psychopath.
Can’t figure its volume even if you aced math.
Don’t try to, unwise to.  This place is no haiku.
You’ll fall down.  You’ll struggle.  Get mixed up in Voodoo.
Winnetka, Reseda, Canoga, De Soto.
The street names could work for the strip joints in Tokyo.

But I like it.  I love it.  I live it.  I dig it.
I walk it.  I cruise it.  Each strip mall, I strip it.
I pray it.  I write it.  I day and I night it.
This wasteland’s a pulse point.  You just need to find it.

Monday, June 27, 2016



Over a week into vacation, and the sun is beating down hard.  I think about the way the sky looks when its winter in Los Angeles, the bursts of fog and swell of clouds, and I try to hold that image as long as I can until I feel cold.  Winter is months away.  In between, I want to organize my apartment and write poems that carry hints of moon droppings.  The highways are magical.  Our lives are chaotic yet symmetrical, beautiful yet lethargic, cool yet on fire.  The paradoxes puzzle me.  And still I'm drawn to them like a pencil to a sketch pad.  There's a chemistry to everything.   Songs blur the boundaries between reality and dreaming, which is why I've been listening to more rap and playing footsie with my subconscious.  I head to the grocery store to buy flowers.  I sleep at night with a scarf cradling my thoughts.  Sometimes I google images of Iceland when I want to remember a past life.  Sometimes I stare at my eternity plant and think, this moment's all I've got.  I'm drifting back into the poetry of writing--the lure of stories and line breaks.  We experience so much, but it's the narrative we tell ourselves about our lives that matters most.  Mine has been a journey into strangeness.  I love the word strangeness.  It has chutzpah.  It stands up to the conventional models of existence and says, it's okay to walk through this quagmire wearing a purple hat.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

a scoop of mint


Listening to Usher on the way to work this morning, I thought about the way a poem can rise up in a wave of irreverence and take you under.  In my freshman English class this afternoon, we finished watching Into the Wild, and I cried at the end watching Chris McCandless struggle to live.  I would like to share that crying is therapeutic.  If you peer closely into yourself, you might find a spot so tender it consumes every negative emotion you've ever felt.  I feel the heat is trying to say, Drink more water.  I watered my snake plant this morning, and it almost seem to giggle.  Laughter is a hotel room with garish wallpaper.  I miss riding the bus.  I've never ridden the bus in Los Angeles, but I used to in Austin, and when it headed down Red River, a street so wide and green it almost seemed a horoscope, thinking of God made me shiver.  Cynical, spiritual.  I drift back and forth between these states of mind.  I wouldn't mind slicing an eggplant with a wedge of silver.  Wake up, live randomly, fall asleep, press repeat.  What if the earth really isn't round but rectangular, and tigers are actually cuddly tricksters.  What I'm getting at is this:  there is honor in defeat.  What happens, happens.  What makes you question things, holds the answer.  While listening to the Buddhist teacher explain concentration last weekend, I thought about the slippery nature of reality.  The reality is, I don't have a clue where my car is headed sometimes.  I can't concentrate on the destination.  I wave my pens through the air, hoping they'll catch a wave of magic.   Sometimes they do, and the whole sky turns pink.  Sometimes the pens seem tired, like they're about to fall asleep.  Sometimes even the plainest things are sexy, a cup of coffee--a scoop of mint.    

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Photograph by Sylvia Sukop

This weekend I attended the beautiful wedding of my good friend and poet, Erika Ayon, in Long Beach.  She'd asked me to read an e.e. cummings poem aloud during the ceremony ("I carry your heart with me, I carry it in"), and it was moving for me to participate this way in a special event.  It was also cathartic to walk up to the podium in the awe-inspiring church and pay homage to one of my favorite poets.  In order to prepare for the delivery, I'd practiced reading the poem several times in my apartment, until I felt a kind of kinship with the poet's words--until I felt myself almost disappear inside the line breaks.  And while I've given a toast before, I have never had the pleasure of reading a poem aloud at a wedding.  The love poem that Erika selected was a lovely piece to read.  It captures the mystery and vulnerability of love in just a few lines, taking it all back to the stars and the moon.

There's something about bringing poetry to meaningful rites of passage that is salubrious.  I wouldn't  have realized this if I hadn't been given the opportunity to read a poem at Erika's wedding.  It made me think that when we face transitions in our own lives (a new job, a new home, a new routine), maybe it's wise to do some detective work and find a poem that speaks directly to our experience in that moment and practice reading it aloud (multiple times) as an affirmation.  Maybe it wouldn't hurt to print out the poem and place it in our wallets or on the wall, and return to it again and again, making it a companion for a certain period of time.  Cherishing a poem this way is an act of giving and receiving, mirroring one of the fundamental truths about human relationships, that to make our relationships with each other meaningful, it helps to listen and share with an open heart.

Three epiphanies:

1) Poem-Companion:  Now that I've read the poem at Erika's wedding after carrying it for a few weeks, I miss having a poem to cherish this way.  I think today I'm going to find a new poem to carry with me…for a certain period of time.  I will practice reading it aloud and listening to what it has to say.  And when I'm ready to read it to someone, I will, and then I'll search for a new poem-companion.

2) Music Verses Poetry:  Unlike songs, poems are naked.  In my experience, reading a poem is not the same thing as singing along to a song that inspires you.  It's a different thing all together to surrender to a poem.  And because poems don't get played on a radio the way a song might, it takes more effort to discover them, which makes the connection to a poem more personal.

3) Surrendering:  Powerful poems, I think, come from an awareness of humility.  When you read a poem where the writer gets vulnerable, it feels like the poet has surrendered to something in the act of writing the piece.  And in witnessing the writer's surrender, you feel a part of yourself surrender too.

Monday, April 4, 2016

22 asides


1) Gratitude with attitude leads to a life of magnitude.

2) My horoscope said, Be a literary optimist.

3) I want to paint the moon Hibiscus.

4) Detective work is poetic.

5) Elegance, elegance...with moments of irreverence.

6) Just the right amount of awkward.

7) Eminem for breakfast.  Classical for dinner.

8) The old disdained virtues (kindness, patience, & humility) always triumph.

9) My muses say, ignore reality.

10) Blush.

11) Think I need to put doubt aside and finish writing that mystery novel.

12) Spend mirthfully, save mindfully.

13) Doing the right thing is sexy.

14) Alliterative statements alleviate acrimonious attitudes.

15) Was it Agatha Christie who said, Murder your laundry pile?

16) People take you out of the vortex because they're not in the vortex.

17) Fun is spelled S-E-E-S-C-A-N-D-I-E-S.

18) Youth is a media obsession.  Embrace aging.

19) Baking is romantic.

20) Popularity contests aren't for aliens.

21) OMG, Wes Bentley reads poetry...

22) I'm ready to dial "operator."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

horror & suspense

The Rainy Day mix on Spotify makes me think surreal thoughts.  I listen to it while cooking or coloring or chilling, and then I tell myself, I want to splurge on a pair of UGG sneakers, but maybe I'll wait until winter because during the spring & the summer I live in flip-flops.  I want to write a series of persona poems in the voice of a detective who owns a snake plant.  Or maybe poems in the voice of a belly dancer who once spent a summer living in a log cabin in Alaska, surviving on squirrel meat.  Poetry writing feels like a vice when I'm doing it right.  It feels like acting too, and last night in my core restore yoga class I realized that fear isn't a vice, but a felon that makes eye contact with me when I'm wearing too much white.  So lying there on the mat in the large dark room vibrating with soul music, I astral projected my fear right onto the ceiling and walked out of the class feeling like I'd won a boxing match.  Truth be told, I have a secret crush on fear.  It's a small rose with a large thorn.  And often it's working in cahoots with me, reminding me to hold back the sass when I'm getting ahead of myself.  Like maybe if I wasn't afraid of needles, I'd get a large feather tattoo on my foot.  Or maybe I'd dye my hair orange and call myself "Cheeto."  That wouldn't fly well at my age (or in most countries for the matter), and besides I'm sure it's already been done.  Anyway, I'm glad fear's there to shake a finger at me and say, how about a glow in the dark T-shirt instead?  I tell fear I don't need a glow in the dark shirt because I'm leaving a light on in case the speaker skips a track.  On spring break, I like sinking into bed after one and sipping poems before I fall asleep, pillows nestled under my back.  I like writing poems and thinking about the stories I might read:  mysteries, thrillers…horror and suspense.  My guides are telling me to dive into fiction, past or present tense.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

healing is wheeling


You might interrogate yourself in the boardroom of your subconscious when you’re forced to eavesdrop on a conversation.  Sometimes people talk to reinvent themselves.  There is loneliness in moon watching, but a kind of beauty, too.  So the feelings cancel each other out.  I am what you might call a domestic.  But I think Charles Bukowski would agree that I’m actually a romantic.  I like to pretend I’m drifting through a dream.  I like to dream I’m pretending.  I’ve been stuffing my mind with poems and wearing shoes that make me taller.  I think an unspoken sentence is sexy.  Today the sun pours down lightly, spreading joy.  I have replayed conversations in my head as if they are songs.  Music is a 1939 Coachcraft Mercury Roadster:  mustard exterior, ketchup seats.  I’m kind of obsessed with cars these days.  And then I think, I need to revive my romance with my old Saturn.  She’s a sand dune on wheels, and she’s been a companion through Los Angeles.  If I’ve been a tourist in this city for five years, she’s been my tour guidance counselor.  Sometimes I tell her how I really feel.  Like how the scrambled eggs I had this morning at the new cafe by my work made me long to visit Tuscany.  There are so many precious things in this world, it makes me sad for times I’ve been asleep.  Self-compassion might be the balm for everything.  I saw a bumper sticker in my mind that read, Healing is Wheeling.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

like a sea creature


I'm a small town girl at heart.  I think about this sometimes as I drive around the great sprawl of Los Angeles, working my way through the miles of traffic and the bling of bright lights.  Over time, I've come to love living here, but what attracts me most to this city isn't the glamour of it.  Not the trendy night clubs or the swank restaurants, the hipness of We-Ho.  Not the plays or the literary readings.  Not even the walking fashion labels.  Those things are glitzy and can be fun, but new trends and predilections pop up all the time, making me think what matters most must be something different.  The thing I love most about Los Angeles is its randomness.  It's underrated charm.  The small corner of it that I inhabit and feel intimate with.  I love the dreamers and tourists that swarm the streets, clicking their cameras and gazing upward.  The sunny breeze, the surprising fog--that's what I cherish most and what makes me feel warm hearted.  L.A. can be a den of strangers and strangeness.  Yet the places I return to again and again are the supermarkets, coffee shops, and convenience stores down the street.  The library where I attend meditation classes.  The baklava factory where I go to satiate my sweet tooth cravings and my longings for something different.  I love taking walks through my neighborhood, where I see regular people doing regular things, like walking their dogs and washing their cars.  I like this little section of the big city that I inhabit, where I write and read and color in my Paris coloring book and knit scarves and watch television; it's my unglamorous way to unwind after every work day.  In my neighborhood, the buildings are low, and even though I'm close enough to the coast, the ocean seems far away.  But if I get swept away by the illusion of it, the city can almost make me arrogant, as though the music I hear echoing off the walls of clubs across town will make me more magnificent somehow, like a sea creature.  It can trick me into believing I can reinvent myself. But on most days I leave such longings to others. I'm a small town girl at heart.  I want to live humbly and focus on the magic of the familiar.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

a protest in my mind


Sometimes you look inside yourself and all you see is Iceland.  Then you make a fist and open it and find a tulip sitting on the center of your palm.  See?  Even when you find yourself eating too much butterscotch, there's someone watching over you.  This weekend I ate too much cake, but this morning when I woke up, the world seemed sweeter.  I wouldn't tell my yoga instructor this.  Still I'll confess that I when I strive to express, not impress, my horoscope reads better.  Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and smiled when I heard the rain.  This morning outside my apartment complex I saw a dozen branches had plummeted onto the street--one large pile of greenness that made me want to drink mint tea.  I dreamt a long dream last night, but I can't fully piece it together.  It wasn't about the weather, but there was a red curtain and a couple of bees.  I've been reading up about dreams lately, and I wonder if they're the mind's way of giving advice or predicting what might be.  I'd like to think so.  Sometimes I make choices in my dreams that would startle me in real life.  Maybe unveiling what lies buried inside our subconscious is the answer to everything.  As for me, I want to start a protest in my mind.  I thought about this as I fried eggs this morning after unloading my groceries from Trader Joe's.  I'd forgotten to buy mangoes, but I'd remembered to buy roses.  Upstairs, my neighbor's piano playing sometimes imposes a shift in mood.  I'd like to write him a thank you note.  Then again, I'd like to write thank you notes to all the people I admire, but I wouldn't have time to dream.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

there's a forest in my mind

2/21/2016 Sunday

At Aroma Cafe on Tujunga, I stood in line today for twenty minutes to order Huevos Rancheros.  Spoke to a couple in their sixties about the vicissitudes of hunger.  The wife told me she graduated from Taft High School in the 70's.  I went there too, I said, enjoying the synchronicity.  The line inched on, until finally I was ordering lemonade, a Buddhist buzz on my tongue.  Patience is the antidote to delusion, the meditation teacher had said that morning.  So I thought, what's twenty minutes in a line when there's so much beauty all around us?  It was a question I wouldn't have asked on a busy Tuesday at work.  Yesterday at the organic nail salon, the manicurist painting my toenails guessed that my running shoes were too tight.  I didn't tell him I hadn't jogged since high school P.E., that I mostly wore flip-flops.  I wanted him to feel right.  So I picked a chocolate polish, more toffee than dark, and told him I ran often.

Last night I told my journal, there's a forest in my mind.  When I enter it, the weather changes from overcast to bright.  Sometimes I don't know what to write.  Still I enter the forest often, braving the uncertainty.  Expect the unexpected, the clouds seem to whisper.  Once I spotted myself at eighteen, flashing a tree the middle finger.  That's not the kind of person I expected I'd be.  Now when I think about what I want, the answer is un-sexy:  I want to be kind.  I want to bake cupcakes, cook curries, and hold the door open for strangers. Last night, I heard my neighbors fighting for almost an hour.  The noise rocked the building awake, but today I hear them laughing.  Today, I want to hug a book, forgive myself everything.  I want to write poems on the flyleaf of every misunderstood work:    Norwegian Wood, Crime and Punishment.  Never Let Me Go.