Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review of the new Los Angeles poetry anthology "Angle of Reflection"




I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles poetry community over the last 15 years; its diversity, micro-communities, and its outliers. I founded an online magazine in an attempt to harness the incredible ocean of literary talent that exists within its borders, which is why I was curious to read Angle of Reflection ( © 2017 Arctos Press), which showcases the works of ten of L.A.’s poetry elite: Marjorie Becker, Jeanette Clough, Dina Hardy, Paul Lieber, Sarah Maclay, Holaday Mason, Jim Natal, Jan Wesley, Brenda Yates, and Mariano Zaro, (with an introduction by David St. John).
Angle, in no way, is a measure of the rich totality of the LA poetry scene, but it does offer a testament to a group of poets who are, above all else, committed to their craft. As noted by David St John, Angle, in part, was born out of this group of poets affectionately named “The Monday Night Poetry Posse”, which got its start at Beyond Baroque, LA’s nonprofit literary center which hosts workshops, readings, and literary activities designed to engage the literary community.
For the record, I personally know, admire, and have published some of the poets whose work appears in Angle. As a small press publisher, I appreciate the hard work, as well as the time and care the editors of Arctos Press put into producing an anthology for lovers of poetry. I especially  admire the fact that Angle is favorably represented on the female side, which is often the reverse for anthologies I’ve read over the years - and this includes one I published. I also respect the commitment this group of poets has for each other, and the work each one produces.
However, my admiration ends where poetic “face” begins with three poets in Angle, Becker (woman/sex/romance), Hardy (abstraction for its own sake), and Lieber (restricted narrative). While the poetic mechanics are above reproach, and their command of language enjoyable, they’ve not, in my opinion, provided enough of a diverse selection of their best work. I understand the need to put one’s best poetic foot forward, as well as the constant desire that exists in every poet who writes with an audience in mind. I’ve read, and been moved by, the work of these three poets in other publications, and I strongly encourage all who read Angle to seek out the works of Becker, Hardy, and Lieber through their poetry collections and chapbooks, as well as the journals they’ve been published in over the last two decades.
That being said, there’s more than enough beautiful diverse poetry in Angle, from Clough’s philosophical elegance in her poems “Evocation” and “Salt”; Maclay’s enraptured darkness in “Night Text”, “Grille”, and “Woman Chained to Fire”; Mason’s masterful balance of modernity and myth in “Reciting the Water”, “Midpoint Mercury Retrograde”, and “Inside the Radio”; Natal’s shamanic vision in “Borderline”, “My Student Writes”, and “Rain in L.A.”; Wesley’s personal witness to history in “Double Exposure”, and “First Boy”; Yates’ cinematic “The Universe’s Clock”, “Martini II” , and “Objects at an Exhibition”; and finally, Zaro’s tender and engaging moments of family intimacy in “Figs”, and “On Being Jewish, Perhaps”.
No anthology, like any poetry community, is perfect, though, I do agree, with St John, that this group of poets have evolved, and their work overall, “blazes with and without the accelerate of the group". Angle of Reflection will take its place as another milestone in the evolving literary legacy of Los Angeles, and I recommend reading it for both its strengths and weakness, and to keep reading the work of ALL of these poets, long after Angle of Reflection gathers dust on a shelf.

Angle of Reflection, © 2017 Arctos Press, www.arctospress.com, ISBN 978-0-98978471-9, 181 pages, $20.00
   


© 2017 marie c lecrivain

Friday, April 14, 2017

Interview with Angel Uriel Perales, author of The Acadians

  





The writer who can successfully drop you into a world of her/his own creation, with no explanations, or preparation, is a writer to be reckoned with, particularly with Angel Uriel Perales’ new novella, The Acadians ( ©  2017 Rum Razor Press).
The Acadians, as its name suggests, is a wandering, loosely woven narrative of the modern day descendents of Acadia, the 17th century French immigrants who settled in eastern Canada (Quebec, and Nova Scotia). Over the course of two centuries, due to threats of deportation, they migrated down the eastern seaboard of the United States, where one group settled in Louisiana. Perales’ Acadians are as defiant and stubborn as their ancient counterparts, but with limited financial and cultural resources, which makes them mean, desperate, frustrated, and always trying to stay one step ahead of rampant poverty.
There are a handful of characters who are tied together by geography, as well as cultural identity, and Perales does not spare his creations any kindness as he introduces each Acadian through an arc of misfortune.
For the record, Perales and I have been friends for many years, and in my opinion, Perales is one of the finest writers of our generation. As a poet, he continues to break new ground, and now, as a novelist, he continues to do so. The Acadians intrigued me, and Perales was kind enough to answer my questions about his new work, as well as his writing process.


   AP: What inspired ed you to write The Acadians, and why a novella, instead of a novel? 

     AUP: A few things, works, and incidents are part of the inspiration which prompted me to write this tale. When I was younger and more adventurous I traveled to the area a few times. 
     I went to Mardi Gras for five years in a row from 1989 to 1994. On one trip my friends and I didn't even make it into the city and stayed at an RV park and partied with some people we met. I have always been fascinated with the locale, in particular the weird rural parishes north of New Orleans otherwise known as Cajun Country or Acadiana. The food is nonpareil.  
     Another inspiration is the memory of a girlfriend who is from that area. She was a bit of a traveler and gypsy type and the inspiration for both Seraphine and Evangeline. A few years ago she knocked unannounced at my door here in LA and overstayed her welcome by a few weeks but that is another story for another time. Of course, the epic poem, "Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a huge inspiration. In fact, I first started to write an epic poem in the same vein and only after outlining my idea did I realize that I had too many colorful characters and that maybe writing this tale in prose would be better. I wanted to write a story of modern Acadians who traveled back to Nova Scotia for different reasons. After all was said and written only one character returns to Canada and that character is not of Acadian descent.

    AP: You're primarily known as a journalist, and a poet. How did the process of writing a novella differ from writing poetry, or news? Do you like it better, and why/why not?  

     AUP: Writing daily news professionally, whether that is headline news, or public interest stories, or even obituaries, plays havoc with my personal creative input. 
    For years, after a long day at work, all I could manage to write was a few poems a month, all topics taken from the news headlines of the day. After about a decade I got burnt out and effectively quit writing poetry for a spell. Then I moved over into the technical aspect of news broadcasting.  And this was when I began experimenting with an enhanced poetic style and began writing more short prose and began to enjoy myself again when I sat down to write at home.   
    I developed my prose slowly over a few years.  This is actually my 6th finished book, after five poetry chapbooks, where the last two chapbooks are actually half poems and half short stories and a strange mixture of the two, what I like to call lyrical prose. 
   The Acadians is my first sustained prose novella and I would like to think that the prose is musical and instinctively lyrical after writing poetry for the last 25 years. How do the two differ? Not much in the laying down the bones. Both require the discipline to sit down and write on the story or on the poem daily while fresh in your mind until the project is complete with a first draft.  They differ more in the rewriting. Poetry rewriting is clarifying metaphors and substituting phrases with a perfect word and rewriting the lines and stanzas to create cadence and music. This could mean expanding on the poem if need be. Prose, I found, is tightening up sentences, to make them terse, and leave no waste, no extemporaneous words, or redundancies. 
    I have a few personal rules which I apply to all my writing: Rewrite any sentence which begins with it is or there are, for example. Another writing pass is to make all my verbs active unless the passage is a recollection or a memory. Cut back on too many adjectives.  Go through and take out or replace the words very and more and actually and literally and stuff like that.  Which do I like better?  I enjoy both.  Writing is difficult for me though.  English is my second language.  Im horrible with comma splices.  
     I'm at a loss if a comma goes inside the quotation marks or outside.  I tend to rewrite the entire sentence if the sentence looks funny to me.  I keep writing could care less instead of couldn't care less. My Spanish sometimes trips me up and I make subtle mistakes such as sit on the chair instead of sit in the chair and other assorted little personal writing discrepancies which I have to correct every time.

    AP: Your characters in The Acadians come off as real people, albeit, the kind of people that have become marginalized by polite society, through lack of opportunity, or through life's misfortunes, and also, through the machinations of others they're close to, i.e., Grady being denied his creature comforts by his wife, Evie. What made you decide to fashion a cast of characters who are, in your words, unlikable, and why?  

    AUP: One fact I learned from the Victorians, the Bronté sisters, Jane Austen, and their contemporaries, is that polite society as a virtue is a myth and, more often than not, is oppressive and used as a cudgel and a weapon for those who do not measure up to standards - Standards which most of the time are completely arbitrary and relative to the culture which produces the so-called polite society.  
     I'm also suspicious of virtue-signalers and, in fact, detest them wholesale for they usually turn out to be the most oppressive and fascist of them all. The societal puritans who purport to fight for social justice are mere exploiters of justice and pirates of culture and do so for their own nefarious means and gains. They practice a philosophy of resentment and act out replacement theory. They need to define who they consider to be the oppressors and the oppressed victims in order to attempt to mold society detrimentally into what they consider to be their own utopia, with them at the top doing the oppression and their supposedly former oppressors now being the oppressed. They are, in short, regressive and actually want to rule authoritatively over others.  
     The people who are marginalized and have suffered misfortune in their personal lives or, for a lack of a better term, been unlucky in life for any reason, dont care for politicians and activists speaking on their behalf. They are too busy surviving day to day, living hand to mouth, and paycheck to paycheck, to worry about identity issues or stupid little micro-aggressions. They are worried about having enough time to keep the house clean and their car filled up with gas and paying the cell phone bill.  They worry about working enough hours at work and keeping their family safe and fed. They worry about finishing a degree or keeping a business afloat or moving to the next level in their professional lives.  
    These are the characters I am drawn to and whom I want to write about and explore.They are consumed by their needs, wants, fears, lusts, and greed. In their personal relationships they make terrible mistakes and hurt each other deeply. And most of the time they think they are doing the right thing for themselves and for others.  Some understand the pressures society imposes upon them.  Some are more realistic and practical than others.  But they all navigate their worlds to the best of their abilities. Regret, resentment, disappointment, betrayal, these realities happen to everybody and we all must choose how to deal with these realities. No matter your station in life, somebody will always seem to be over you on top unfairly and somebody else will also seem to be under you on the bottom justifiably.  
     Everybody views themselves stuck somewhere within that spectrum. Take Dottie, she wants to desperately get away from her overbearing sister. She thinks Ernie is the man to help her achieve what she thinks is freedom from her sisters oppression. The Mademoiselle, thinking she was romancing a fit rugged man, actually used Ernie because he made her life easier. He fixed the crumbling house falling down around them and alleviated her life by mowing the lawn, replacing the plumbing, and other chores. Ernie was happy to live with them and horny enough to get intimate with both sisters, until the situation got out of hand, and then he experienced regret. 
     Evie and Grady tried living up to societal standards, they went to church, got married, wanted to have children. But how do you deal with a husbands porn addiction and suspected infidelities?  And then when Evie was ready to walk out on him Grady has his accident and now society dictates that a good wife must take care of an invalid husband.  She tries but her resentment is such that she does a horrible job.  Grady for his part is living with some childhood demons and cant maintain a job.  He forges checks. Images in his mind drive him to look at porn which creates problems within his marriage. Seraphine, his mistress, doesn't care about his porn habit, this is why she is his mistress.  She has a different habit of her own. When Grady can't supply her drug habit anymore she leaves and only after she leaves does she slowly realize she loved him because he took care of her in a way that she needed to keep her from returning to her troubled past.  
     Do these characters end up being despicable to each other? Do they seem like I plucked them all out from a basket of deplorables? Yes. Do they try their best to do right by the people whom they love? Some do. Some don't. Some try and fail. Oscar Wilde wrote, Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword! Some kill their love when they are young, And some when they are old; Some strangle with the hands of Lust, Some with the hands of Gold: The kindest use a knife, because The dead so soon grow cold. Some love too little, some too long, Some sell, and others buy; Some do the deed with many tears, And some without a sigh: For each man kills the thing he loves,Yet each man does not die.  
     The kindest character in The Acadians by Western standards is the priest, Father Noé-Cyr, and he evokes the greatest pity of all because he has imposed the worst kind of oppression upon himself because he thinks suppressing his natural wants and desires is the correct action to take before God. His kindness and virtue, which he demonstrates on others, is also his own type of self-oppression and his greatest vice.  I think the characters seem real because not all of them succeed and some come out to a bitter end.  
     Dr. Afridi, smart and pragmatic, we assume succeeds because he moves to Canada ostensibly to begin his medical practice. He left because he knew from the beginning that his residency at Deerpants Hospital was a means to an end and he could never stay in Acadiana and achieve a thriving career without some cultural acrimony. Evie succeeds in part because she escaped her situation. The same can be said of Seraphine but her price was high and she paid with the pain of facial disfigurement. Father Noé-Cyr experienced little change in his situation but we understand he will continue to live sad and lonely and the cliché of a Beatles song. The rest of the characters, for good or bad, do not overcome their respective tragedies.

     AP: What was the best part, for you, about writing The Acadians? The worst?  

     AUP: The best part is probably the dark humor or, rather, what I think is funny, which is mostly dark and ironic. I was laughing while writing and amusing myself.  For instance, one character dies while listening to Hells Bells by AC/DC. I also tried to come up with the longest most ridiculous French sounding Cajun names I could imagine. In 1989, I was in Lafayette, LA during Mardi Gras and I looked up a number in a phone book and those long names in the phone book impressed me and stayed with me.  
     The worst part?  This being my first novella length work and, me being insecure me, I thought I had to prepare before writing word one and before attempting my transition from poetry to prose. To that end I read exclusively short stories and novellas for over a year before I started on The Acadians.  I read some great works but I also read some dreck. I read some really exalting prose by Jack London, Truman Capote, Willa Cather, Flannery OConnor, etc…  but I also forced myself to read a lot of crap because I believe that I can grow as a writer by discerning what works and also what does not work. My favorite short stories I have been sharing on my Facebook account.

     AP: Throughout The Acadians, there are assertions, almost with the certainty of a Greek chorus, that religion, karma, and all spiritual practices are useless, usually after the performance of action by an Acadian. Why did you include this to the narrative, and why is it important for it to be there?  

     AUP: My answer to this question follows the previous question where I stated that in preparing to write this novella I read many subpar narratives. Allow me posit here that the current trend of activist social justice literature is the absolute worst kind of writing, in my opinion. These activist writers don't write a story, they simply preach a missive. Almost all of their stories must include key words which serve as a sort of dog whistle: White Privilege, Patriarchy, Racism, Sexism, Xenophobia, Islamaphobia, Cis-Genderism, Homophobia, Transphobia, on and on.  
     Many of their stories simply make vacuous assertions, such as, Whiteness means my yellow skin makes me invisible and crap like that, virtuous platitudes just thrown up into the ether of a narrative which serves nothing and doesnt propel a story forwards. Once I asked one of these activists, What exactly is whiteness? and the response was white people being white which I thought was an extremely racist answer. If I wanted to read a sermon from a religious cult, Id go to their church. So I included Shakespearean theatre asides to show how these types of ideological assertions can be weaved successfully into a narrative while at the same time augmenting the story, adding metaphor, irony, or humor, and propelling the story forwards. 
     On one aside I write that Karma is coincidence given too much importance but then we see Grady ironically get his comeuppance relative to Evie. On another aside I claim that Islam is also bullshit but this is immediately following a chapter which shows how the religion is important in Dr. Afridis life and an indelible part of his personality. The ideological assertions dont matter, they really don't. Any writer can claim any ideology as being good or bad, important or otherwise, toxic or virtuous.       
     What matters is how the ideology affects and molds the stories and characters.  A writer claiming that masculinity is toxic doesnt move me, the claim means nothing to me, whether I agree with the claim or not. The writer could claim this empty claim a thousand times in a story and I would not care. But show me in the story how masculinity is toxic, how the characters are affected in some way by toxic masculinity, how toxic masculinity affects their choices and personality, and I might begin to think more and deeply about the assertion. I was very careful to omit and exclude the new social justice activist dog whistle terms out The Acadians. I had some sections in the book which portrayed fat shaming and racism, and I addressed all the other -isms and -phobias which concern social justice activists, but I grounded each incident and portrayals in character choices, character histories, and personal actions.  Show dont tell and, whatever happens, do not self-righteously preach.  
     Once I established the asides and how they worked within the narrative concerning the big questions of life, I then used them to greater effect later in the story by inserting objective factoids which added humor, irony, or gravitas.  

     AP: Do you consider The Acadians to be a moral tale? Why/why not?  

     AUP: Moral in the sense that morality is relative and subjective to character and context, if I can call that a moral of the story. White Knights dont exist in my tales and neither do Black Hats. What I learned growing up in a religious household is that everybody is a sinner. What I learned by living life is that everybody is also hypocritical douche bag, on occasion, on top of being a sinner.  
     The Golden Rule is a social contract with others and we are defined as to how we react when the Golden Rule is broken or ignored. Some of the worst atrocities in history were perpetrated by good people thinking they were doing good things. And everybody is also capable of redemption in somebody elses eyes. The wisest among us know that human nature resides somewhere in the precipice of a grey nebulous morality.  
     he best we can do is to not fall off the cliff into the abyss which could happen at any time. Remy Rotgut Gautrot is probably the most morally compromised character in The Acadians by Western standards. But from his point-of-view, he doesn't believe he is doing anything evil. He is protecting his turf and living by the unspoken code of the streets. He believes his savagery is necessary to protect his girls and his business. He blames those he victimizes for their fate. Of course, his morality clashes with the morality of the Travelers who live in Delacroix and they extract their own warped sense of justice.  
     Who is right and who is wrong in this scenario? Both are right and wrong. The ying-yang of opposite and complimentary morality is explored in all the interconnected relationships found within the narrative, with the moral compass swinging one way or the other depending on the nature of the relationship in context.

     AP: What do you hope your readers will take away once they have finished reading The Acadians?  

     AUP: Life is hard and we all must cope in our personal way. Life is hard for the rich. Life is harder for the poor. Everybody has some type of privilege over another. Everybody lacks some type of privilege over another. This is true of every dynamic of any person relative to every other person. Babies are helpless but have their entire life ahead of them. Octogenarians are old and about to die but they have lived a long life and have seen and experienced many things. Fat Jenny may be rich and live in a fancy house with a pool and two Cadillacs but she is fat and homely and a widow with six kids. Evie may be young and beautiful and achieving her dreams of becoming a nurse but her husband is addicted to porn and is not faithful to her marriage and the parents of her new beaux scorn her for their own reasons. Dr. Afridi may be smart and clever and on his way to becoming wealthy but he is seen in a suspicious light by many Americans because of his religion. Grady may be paralyzed but he had two gorgeous women fall in love with him in their own way and he no longer has to worry about making a living because the state now will take care of his basic needs. All anybody can do is learn how to deal and survive anything that life may throw their way.

The Acadians, (c) 2017 Rum Razor Press, 80 pages,  ISBN-13: 978-1544683706, $9.99 






Bio: Angel Uriel Perales is originally from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. He has written three collections of poetry and lyrical prose, Brown Recluse (Rumrazor Press, 2002, 97 pages), Long (Rumrazor Press, 2005, 87 pages), and The Curmudgeon and the Debutante (Offworld Publications, 2010, 50 pages). He has worked for Hard Copy, Entertainment Tonight, Paramount Pictures, CBS, Viacom, and HBO. He lives in Valley Village, CA and works as a freelance journalist and broadcast technician.

Friday, March 31, 2017

National Women's Month: Part 5 of the Five-Part Collaboration between Artist AJ Meier Welch and Marie C Lecrivain




“We Won't Stay Silent, and We Are Watching You (9 x12) from the series “Drawings of a Mad Saleswoman”© 2017 AJ Meier Welch, watercolor ink and pen on Bristol paper


After AJ Meier Welch's "We Won't Stay Silent, and We Are Watching You"

It was a glorious day filled with hopes, dreams,
and voices ringing with protests and songs,
a day where women of all stripes came together
with purpose,and pink pussy hats to dissolve
the boundaries of race, class, and ideological fallacies,
and to fill the space where they're needed most.

It was a day I could only celebrate on the periphery,
through social media snapshots of my friends carrying signs,
and their children upon their shoulders, in DC, Paris,
Los Angeles, and, amazingly, Antartica, where pink hats
kept cold ears warm, and hearts burning with enthusiasm.

It was a day that bound the better half of humanity
into a common promise; to take back the future,
be better to one another, and to keep marching
until the last oppressor's message is ground
to dust beneath the majesty of our feet.


© 2017 marie c lecrivain

Thursday, March 30, 2017

National Women's Month: Amelie Frank's prose poem "Emblems of Conduct"

(for Adele Slaughter)

“It was just the two of us, surrounded by staggering beauty.”--Claudia Handler
Here is the deal, Alma.  We won’t speak the names out loud. We will whisper them to each other when the time comes. Your job is to keep me from becoming sidetracked by my humor. My job is to speak the truth to you, to assure you that what you suffered from was neurasthenia, a nonsense disease ascribed to bright girls from whom the wrong things were expected and to whom the right things were denied.  Nobody suffered as much at the hands of small-town doctors as the bright girls did, Alma.  You were far more observant than you were ever given credit for, and like every small-town Cassandra, you were ball-and-chained to a nonsense disease.  No wonder the girl you were had to burn away entirely that harsh summer in order for you to survive.  Me, I burned for nearly thirty summers, twenty-five before I even realized that I was on fire.  I know that seems like a lot of time to you, but your lifespan is a two-act play.  I have been around for fifty-six years.  It took a long time for the good, sweet girl in me to evaporate.

Alright, Alma.  Now you whisper the name of your crucible boy to me, and I will whisper the name of my crucible boy to you.

(Listen.) (Whisper.)

Give me your hand, Alma.  You loved him more than any cool drink of water, any slice of frosted cake, any burst of your favorite color, any perfect day, any song hummed to you by your mother before she lost her marbles, any handkerchief redolent of your favorite sachet, any moment that your father told you he was proud of you, any archangel, any notion of perfection and the hereafter precisely because that boy was who he was.  He was a sharp boy, a hungry boy, and you understood him.  He was an imperfect thing, an arrow whose trajectory was well off the mark, but you loved him for who he was, and in the most secret cache of your heart, that was plenty enough for you, for the girl you were before summer burned away the anima of Alma.  On the surface, you seemed to have become carnal, selfish, perhaps even cynical. People are so quick to ascribe bitterness to maturity.  They mistake the slow pace of recovery for lassitude and indolence. But the truth of the matter is that you saved your most secret self, and you began to feed her.  And that was an absolute good.  We cannot feed love to others if we are not first fed ourselves.

So tell me, Alma.  What is the name of your new love?  And I will tell you mine.

(Listen.) (Whisper.)

I crossed a contested borderline in order to be with mine, Alma.  There are those who would judge me for the choice I made, including myself before my many summers of immolation.  But the days of Thermidor have tempered both of us, and I suddenly found the muscle to step over the line when love was offered to me for the first time in twenty-one years. I know, I know. That’s a lot of two-act plays.  And I know, that’s my humor cropping up again.  Forgive me.  I had to be fifty-six years old before a man looked at me and told me I was beautiful.  I had to be fifty-six years old before a man said, “I have fallen in love with you, Amélie.” And he said it first.  And I was so tired of being The Brokenhearted Girl that you, more than anyone, can understand why I had to step over to the side where he stood.  As with you, summer had to end for me some time.  It is a day-to-day thing with my new love.  And it is not in any way ideal.  But someone holds my hand, just as I am now holding yours, and someone thinks about me and misses me, just as that handsome stranger outside the casino is surely thinking about you.  You understand love better than most, Alma.  Don’t let any academic knothead tell you otherwise.  Oh, you see?  I made you laugh.  Good for me.  Good for you.  Conduct yourself with a heart full of love, Girlfriend.  Display no colors, no adornments but your own.  There is no sin in knowing better. There is no sin in survival.

© 2017 Amelie Frank




Los Angeles native Amélie Frank has authored five poetry collections, including Doing Time on Planet Billy Bob (Inevitable Press). Her work has appeared in numerous local, national, and international publications, including Art/Life, Lummox Journal, poeticdiversity (which nominated her for the 2016 Pushcart Prize), Blue Arc West, Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts, Levure Litérraire, Edgar Allan Poet, Cultural Weekly, and Wide Awake. Co-founder of the Sacred Beverage Press, she produced the acclaimed literary journal Blue Satellite.  She has been honored by Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, the City of Venice, and the City of Los Angeles for her activism and leadership in the Southern California poetry community.  She earned her degree in Creative Writing at U.C. Irvine and has served as a curator and trustee with Beyond Baroque, the Newer Poets Series, and the Valley Contemporary Poets. Nowadays, she is all about resistance, chocolate almond milk, Creepypastas, and being in love.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

National Women's Month: Part Four in the Five-Part Collaboration between AJ Meier Welch and Marie C Lecrivain



What” (9 x12) from the series “Drawings of a Mad Saleswoman”© 2017 AJ Meier Welch, watercolor ink and pen on Bristol paper


After AJ Meier Welch’s “What?”


(dedicated to Eric Arthur Blair)


We’re all born with the same question;
What?, (usually followed by why?),
into a world full of questions
asked by others who have access
to a handful of hard-won truths,
and volumes of fables renamed history.


We all have a list of unanswered questions
that plague us in our deepest moments
of despair, startled awake at 4 am,
bathed in angry sweat and tears,
and we ask ourselves:
What happened?
What did I do?
What have I become?


We can grieve the loss of
the best part of ourselves,
the child of wonder we all once were,
tucked away in the most careful
and protected part of the soul,
surrounded by as many questions
as there are leaves on the trees of eternity


or


we can become that child again


© 2017 marie c lecrivain




Saturday, March 25, 2017

National Women's Month: Part Three in a Five-Part Collaboration between AJ Meier Welch and Marie C Lecrivain




ONE DROP from the series “Drawings of a Mad Saleswoman”© 2017 AJ Meier Welch, watercolor pen, colored marker, and ink on Bristol paper.


After AJ Meier Welch’s “One Drop”

I never liked the little girl I was,
always being told to stay quiet,
be good, don’t talk back
to strangers who called
my stories lies, and who
never understood the gift
of being born one’s own muse.

I wish I’d grown up in a world
where my tales were lauded
by my peers, and where my poems
could burst forth into starry blossoms  
like those on the almond tree
in my backyard every spring.

Instead, I took refuge in other stories,
and added bits to my dark garden,
where they germinated in silence.
I gave birth to awkward poems
and shared these imperfect creations,
fervid, and on the defense against
other wordsmiths and bards
who welcomed me as one
of their own, not realising,
until, one day, when a fledgling
came into our circle with a notebook
clutched tightly to her chest, and
eyes lit with a defiant hope,
that was once me… and that
we’re all links in a chain
that leads back to Mother Muse,
each of us born from a single
perfect tear dropped into
the maelstrom of the world.

© 2017 marie c lecrivain

Friday, March 24, 2017

National Women's Month: Leanne M Berry's essay "My Husband Became My Wife"

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
     I am married to a transgendered  woman who is literally feminizing her body. She started hormones, and is looking forward to and apprehensive about other changes that are forthcoming.
     Truth is, so am I. People are constantly asking me how I feel about the fact that I married a man who is now identified as a woman. My standard answer is, “I married the person. I’m in love with her and I’m so happy she has the courage to be herself.” All of that is true. But there are other parts of me that I don’t let come to the surface of my consciousness for any more that a few seconds. I briefly realize that I am not dealing with the change. Then I do my trick of compartmentalization (one that gets me in trouble because I am so good at it). I shove any confused or negative feelings out of my conscious mind.  I have not been ready to seriously address these emotions and thoughts related to her change. I’m going to take you for a trip on the way the journey began, and how it has evolved to today’s issues.
     When I was introduced to Ordo Templi Orientis, on my first mass I met a woman whom I realized that was not biologically female. I honestly did not know what to think. I had never even spoken with anyone who is trans. It felt weird, and I started to judge until I realized that it is not in my nature to dislike or fear others who are “different.” Furthermore, she was extremely inviting and cordial, helping to make my first encounter with an OTO mass a very positive one. I felt a bit guilty for my judgmental initial impression.
     I soon found out that there were other people in the Order that were also trans. I told myself that each was a unique and beautiful person and that gender identification is not the most important aspect of who they really are. It does not define them.
     When I first met my wife, she was a man. She was very androgynous, which is something I have been attracted to for as long as I can remember. We began dating and  one day of my asking out of curiosity if she had a dress or skirt she could put on. Not only did she put one on for me, but she immediately began using her feminine attributes, not displaying her fiery masculine part of her Aries nature. I admit, I was surprised to realize that this was arousing for me.
     Another chapter of our  journey had just begun.
     Over the span of a couple of years, two main things happened: she started looking more feminine on her own, and I vehemently encouraged her to dress as she truly wanted to, not obsessing on how she thinks others will perceive her. One momentous evening I told her that she must wear a dress or skirt to work the next day. It was hard for her, and I admire her ability to face her fears so that she could be herself. I encouraged her to express herself in a more womanly fashion. I did this more frequently after she told me that unequivocally if given the opportunity to press a button and instantly become a woman, she would.
     Part of what was happening, though, was that I was not addressing my feelings about the issue. I considered my feelings were secondary, knowing that we would end up fine, and that this wasn’t about me.
     I will never forget the day that it dawned on me that people will think I’m a lesbian. I don’t mind entirely. I’ve always considered myself to be a bisexual woman who had previously had several sexual encounters with women, but never a romantic relationship. I realized that that title bothered me a little and then I thought to myself that it really does not matter what people think of me and that I don’t have any negative feelings toward anyone for being a lesbian., It’s just a label, and in my case, not necessarily an accurate one. I’m quirky and strong-willed and people have generally always seen me as “different.” The truth is that I am still somewhere between caring and not caring about  being defined in that way. Part of me is still a little apprehensive about being seen as a lesbian.
     Part of me occasionally fears for Cathy’s safety in a world where people actually care where someone uses the restroom. Part of me also worries about my own safety, mostly a fear of emotional attack and judgment, but and knows that either of us may be in danger of the hatefulness of others. Will we be safe? It is my duty to protect her from those who would mock, judge, or even physically harm her. I feel little worry for my safety, but in some less open-minded places,  about hers. We live in a liberal area, but what if she has to travel to North Carolina? I could never step back and not defend her until my dying breath.
     Next major milestone occurred two nights before 2015 ended. He and I got a little tipsy,and both of us admitted it was time we did what we needed to do for ourselves; I was to go back to graduate school and he would decide by his birthday in April what he was going to do moving forward on the gender transformation. Both of us would seek assistance in therapy. I distinctly remember telling the man who was then Craig  that he knew deep down what he was going to do, but that it was prudent to explore and make certain that this is what he wanted; it would be a scary process, but it had to be done.
     So...fast forward to today. I just completed my graduate-level certification in Applied Behavior Analysis and she is called Cathy. I am starting a new job in my field, and she has started hormones. She has a list of steps she is going to take to make it official. I would say that on that fateful night, our worlds would be turned upside down, as often happens when magicians make decisions.
     People are always asking me how I feel about what’s happening in my life in relation to Cathy’s eventual gender reassignment surgery, and I give them the pat answer stated above. But my therapist, the woman who calls me on my B.S., got really stern with me when she asked me the same question and got that answer. She got upset, stating that she knows that I have feelings I’m not dealing with. I have used being busy with school and being in leadership in OTO as convenient ways to divert my attention.The closest I get to dealing with is was to admit that I’m not dealing with it realistically. I have not brought the issue up with my therapist since that time. I would like to talk to someone about it, but truth be told, I haven’t spend enough time figuring out how I feel. I just know that I have mixed feelings. I really want Cathy to be herself and to realize her life-long dream to become a woman, and at the same time, want things to be “normal” again.
     But how do I feel? I honestly can say that 75% is happy for her. There’s that 25% of me, though, that is confused and does not know how to express itself. That is because there are not yet words to describe how I feel.  In many ways, I don’t want to know how I really feel. Deep down, I have a fear that I might have an issue that needs to be resolved. Maybe I’m not the open, liberal sort of woman that I’ve always purported myself to be. I don’t think it’s true, but I remember how I felt before I became friends with and dated a trans individual, how I thought it was “weird” and did not understand what it might feel like to be born in the wrong body.

     No matter what, love wins. The person I married is my best friend, my lover, and is the world to me. She has treated me with more respect than my insecure self has ever received. I used to fight her attempts to make me feel loved, safe, and secure, and I still do at times, but in general, I know better. We have good communication, and we have never in almost nine years called each other names or gotten into a screaming match.
     I am aware that I still need to think about this further. I need to analyze that 25%. I was hoping that it would all be resolved by writing this paper, but deep down I knew it wouldn’t. I am hoping, however, that those who may be in a similar situation will get comfort from reading this, and that those who don’t understand will get a better grasp of what it’s like for the person you marry to completely change themselves, even if it is to become their authentic selves.
     I firmly believe that  she has the bravery of more than most people on this planet, and I’m proud to be married to her. I need to join her and be brave as a team.  I love the person I married with all my heart, and I am confident that I will slowly deal with this on a deeper level. We both will be true to ourselves, and love and respect will prevail.
Love is the law, love under will.
Leanne M. Berry
March, 2017





Leanne Berry feels as though she has incarnated to love, to heal, to laugh, and to assist others in maximizing their potentials to live happy and healthy lives. These qualities are manifested in her daily life. She works as a therapist, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis and focusing primarily in Autism services. She is actively involved in leadership in Ordo Templi Orientis, a fraternal organization that welcomes diversity, and is an ordained Priestess of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, regularly serving as priestess or deacon in the OTO Gnostic Mass. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife, Cathy, and their cat, Kether.