Sunday, March 31, 2019

Women's History Month: Hattie Quinn's "Radical Empathy"

    I am no stranger to spiritual states. I have sought them since my youth. I have used prayer, reading, writing, masturbation, drugs of varied types and strengths, sex, danger, meditation, magick, pain, Shibari, erotic asphyxiation, and finally love and motherhood in my pursuit of grokking the Universe/God/god/one-ness. But, I didn’t see my latest epiphany coming—at a science fiction and fantasy symposium—in Provo, UT—listening to author Kelly Barnhill’s keynote speech.
    I have always been a voracious reader and was, in my youth, a prolific writer. I would tap into my tween angst and summon forth words detailing dramatic feelings and experiences I had never known. I felt them deeply, profoundly. I couldn’t sleep at night for worry of other people’s problems or ones I imagined out of thin air. I couldn’t control when they came or how deeply I was affected. I was fully unprepared to deal with these feelings, and ultimately sought escape.  
   I don’t know which came first: cutting myself or setting things on fire, but I do know that destruction was my solution to the rampant craziness running through my head, impeding my focus, inspiring my words, impelling my disastrous choices. I carved invocations in my flesh and released desires in flame and ash. I turned to drugs and, shortly thereafter, sex. I left school, full of ennui.
   I didn’t have to feel all those hard emotions and that societal judgment, I could escape into a state of bliss, uniting with my opposite and equal, or chemically exciting every cell in my being and uplifting mind and spirit.   
   A funny thing happens when you serve up select and limited emotions on a platter. You don’t gain experience with the emotions you have rejected. You stunt your own emotional growth. I assume this is why they say drug use inhibits emotional maturity, though it doesn’t take anything as strong as controlled substances, only stubborn indifference.
   I ultimately pulled myself out of this downward spiral—somehow—and it wasn’t until recently, while I listened to that unparalleled storyteller, that I glimpsed that subtle influence that had served as my lifeline, that could in fact be the answer to fixing those out of whack within our own orbits. When I realized the implications, I had a transcendent moment. I had come to the conclusion that as it had kept my brain sharp between testing out of school at 16 and attending college at 24, reading more than regularly as I did, had also enabled me to retain the knowledge of the experience of emotions and how to put myself in the shoes of others.
   Before I settled into a mildly numbing decade of sex and marijuana, putting behind the amphetamines I had loved so well, they had given me my out—a near death experience on the heels of a traumatic opportunity to rediscover empathy. I had stopped writing around the time I began stabbing myself for intense moments of pleasure. I was no longer capable of entering into the melancholy of my muse, knowing only ecstatic bliss and hallucinogenic blackouts.  
   Sometimes the people around me took on different forms or identities until a lull in my state.  So, perhaps I can understand how it wasn’t until one summer morning of my 23rd year after a multi day meth binge that I realized that I was partying hard with a young woman who was barely twenty-one and eight months pregnant with the second child she might or raise. Having experienced the heights and depths back then, I can bring myself to understand how this could occur, but I do not expect anyone else to understand. Know only that it lead to a more intense bout with my demon, and after an insane ride I stopped breathing and beating lying still on the floor, and came-to to the slaps and pounding of a boyfriend I would never see again after that night, to then run away to a new city with a stripper who wanted a different scenes well, where I vomited myself clean and learned to love marijuana and suffer “normal guys.” I also learned to hold down a job.
   Why couldn’t I be normal? Just because I never had been before, or couldn’t remember a time I was, didn’t mean I couldn’t accomplish such a feat. It just meant I didn’t yet know how.  So, I just kept reading and watching the suburbanites around me, and kept score at my boyfriend’s softball games and pretended I was normal until I had an abortion and an identity crisis, and went on a tear with an 8-ball and my boyfriend’s (not) best friend from high school.  The former me almost came back right then: the queen of bad decisions came to the threshold of my secret door, and she rode that convenient diversion through jack shacks and the bathroom stall at Madison Square Garden, with no regard for the guy at home (also cheating, it turned out, not that that matters). But, I knew her game, and kicked her to the curb, along with the whole suburban life and upstate WASP community.  Neither were who I wanted to be.
    I longed to realize my new and improved identity, but it was still in formation. I experimented with euphorics and decided to move to Massachusetts and continue college adding philosophers, classic literature, and magick to my library. I extracted dextromethorphan from cough syrup and took LSD to metaprogram myself. I chanted my new mantra over and over: “Fake it, until you make it.” One particularly poignant night, on the eve of the new millennium, December 31, 2000, I took several hits of acid and sought through serendipity to find the solution to my inability to emotionally deal with whatever life threw me. I opened “The Portable Nietzsche” seeking the answer to my spoken question, and found the parable of the diamond and the rock. I decide to be the diamond. To harden my heart to others so they could no longer affect me.  I shake my head in disbelief today.
    I met, fell in love with, and joined Ordo Templi Orientis, an organization devoted to joy and beauty and truth and transformation to your ideal self, yet I had hardened my heart to the experiences before me, to the people around me.  But initiation brings internal awareness and I began to see what I had done. Better that I be content in my soft and malleable nature, rather than present this bright and shiny crystalline wall to the world. Again, I read and read and worked to be my better self, and learned some coping skills, and left school to work and thrive, and undertook rituals to learn to love and trust and to discipline myself, to know love under will, lest I be so horribly used or use others so hardly again.  
    Whether through my initiatory and ritual work, deep self reflection, or through a decade and more without hard drugs in my system, I suddenly became a cryer.  I mean I was a wreck. Every sentimental movie made me cry, books made me bawl, a tender cat food commercial touched my heart and brought the tears. To this day, I have deeper emotional relationships to characters from “Deep Space Nine” than I do some friends and family after watching the entire series both before and then again after my transformation. One peer suggested I had finally matured emotionally and just had a lot of emotion for which to make up. A decade or more later I am still a cryer. You know what else came back? My writing.
    Kelly Barnhill spoke of the circuitous routes we take to come to our craft and how inspiration comes from the strangeness of life and accepting it in ourselves and those around us. That when we combined these strange practices with the flame of inspiration we would tell unforgettable stories. Stories with characters with whom readers live and love and bleed. That this level of storytelling requires the arts of paying attention and experiencing radical empathy.
    A good writer needs to be a good reader, they say, and I had been, and that I believe was why I could become a worthwhile person after everything. After all the bad decisions and broken hearts. Because when the capacity for experiencing emotions came flooding back, I was primed to empathize with others. The neural paths hd been lain in the years intervening. The only thing I had been with any regularity was a reader.
    But radical empathy can give us so much more than good writers. It can give us worthwhile humans. If a self-destructive, self absorbed disaster could learn to love those outside of her self induced nightmare, and could find the power to share those experiences for the empowerment of others, then every xenophobic bigot and misogynistic hater we are hiding in the dark canopy of our family trees can be redeemed through the power of reading and envisioning themselves in the story of the Other.
    We are all storytellers. Every memory we share is part of the narrative.  Memory is nothing but cold storage, we have to remember it to share it and that is storytelling first to ourselves and then others. By sharing of ourselves and our experiences, the lessons we have learned and the mistakes we have made…or caused. By reading about the lives of others, real or fictional, we burn into ourselves an increased capacity for understanding. By sharing this skill for radical empathy with our friends and family and coworkers and acquaintances, we could uplift humanity, and that is why I had a spiritual experience listening to an author tell her circuitous route to radical empathy through tales of ghosts, carbon monoxide poisoning and inspired taxidermy.

    Thank you, Kelly Barnhill, for answering my whys and inspiring me to greater heights. May I pay it forward.

(c) 2019 Hattie Quinn

    Hattie Quinn is an author of short stories, poetry, and one small being of light. She lives in Texas with her husband Satyr in a small menagerie called the Wildwood. She was nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology 2017 for her story, “Good Works, After Bad”, published by, and has devoted her life to uplifting humanity, beginning with herself and her family.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Women's History Month: Pamela A. Babusci's "Summer Rain" Haiga

                                             (c) 2019 Pamela A. Babusci

Pamela A. Babusci, is an internationally award-winning haiku/tanka & haiga artist. Some of her awards include: Museum of Haiku Literature Award, First Place Mainichi Haiku Contest (Japan), First Place Mount Fuji Tanka Contest (Japan), and first place awards in Australia, NZ the USA for tanka.  She has illustrated several books, including Full Moon Tide: The Best of Tanka Splendor Awards, Taboo Haiku, Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka Vol.1,The Delicate Dance of Wings, Chasing the Sun: selected haiku from HNA 2007 and moonbathing: a journal of women's tanka. She was also the logo artist for Haiku North America in NYC in 2003 and Haiku North America in Winston-Salem, NC in 2007.
Her haiga (haiku/tanka with painting) have been  featured on Haiga-online, The Haiku Foundation, Simply Haiku, Frameless Sky & numerous haiku & tanka journals. She has collaborated with several figurative and abstract painters in Rochester, NY at art galleries/shows and is a member of the Rochester Artist Breakfast Group, Pittsford Art Club.
Pamela is the founder and editor of: Moonbathing: a journal of women tanka, the first all-women's international tanka published.  If any female tanka poet is interested in learning more about moonbathing and submitting to it, please contact Pamela at: .

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Women's History Month: Three Images by Lois P. Jones

                                          Self Portrait From the 41st Floor

                                               Anne Frank and the Bokeh Spirits

                                            Yamashiro View

(c) 2019 Lois P. Jones

Bio: Lois P. Jones is an award winning poet residing in South Pasadena, with Romanian roots in Piatra Neamt. In addition to her extensive publications, she is one of two winning finalists for the 2018 Terrain Poetry Prize judged by Jane Hirshfield.  Lois is as a recipient of the 2017 Lascaux Poetry Prize, the 2016 Bristol Poetry Prize and the 2012 Tiferet Poetry Prize.  Her first poetry collection Night Ladder (Glass Lyre Press) was editor’s choice 2017 and listed for the Julie Suk Award. Lois hosts KPFK’s Poets CafĂ© and is poetry editor of Kyoto Journal.  Her photographs have been published in Tiferet, Lunch Ticket and Terrain.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Women's History Month: Sarah Maclay's "The Four Marys" and "Nude With Violin in the Rain"

The Four Marys

Giotto sends them off in a purple limousine, one driving. Under the iron clouds of a barren Nevada, thunder lights their way. Skeptical, they look at the map (oddly glowing on one side, creases crossing the US of A, long folded), the Van Eyck in the back seat casting a glance, askance, at her reflection in the rearview, all of them looking simply for annunciation—not the same as looking for men, not exactly—and it’s not on the map, but maybe they don’t yet know the name of the destination, and anyway, it’s a long drive—this rainless distance, miles of dry, electric air, their loose veils adrift in the breeze created by movement, as any kind of movement finally loosens the sticky pastiche of what covers us, and the moment of our apocalypse can begin.

© 2019 Sarah Maclay

Nude With Violin In Rain

To make the wood sing, and its hollow, to pluck that one sound from the body, to place it against the thin rail of black wood, holding it close to the throat, letting it go, while the other hand finds it in horsehair and bow, oblivious to all the water beating the forehead, the shoulders, the back of the neck, the breasts the elbows the shins the whole body, letting that cold water hit like nails like little tacks in the blur of bad weather, the sound dripping into the sidewalk; to let the cry come up through the fingers, the echo drowned, to play anyway, “play”—naked, in public, and let the voice rise in the strings, in the instrument’s ribs, its threaded ribs—that sound, the sound you must make now or lie—must you, must you be plaster, be stone?

© 2019 Sarah Maclay

Note: “The Four Marys” first appeared in The Journal. “Nude With Violin In Rain” first appeared in The Parthenon West Review. Both are collected in Maclay's second full-length, The White Bride (University of Tampa Press, 2008).

Bio: Sarah Maclay’s most recent release is The “She” Series: A Venice Correspondence, a braided collaboration with Holaday Mason (What Books Press, 2016). Earlier works include Music for the Black Room (2011), The White Bride (2008), Whore (2004, Tampa Review Prize for Poetry), all from U of Tampa Press, and three chapbooks.  The recipient of a City of LA Master Artist Fellowship, a Yaddo residency, and a Pushcart Special Mention, her poems and essays have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Blackbird, FIELD, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, and The Writers Chronicle, among other spots, and she’s long served as Book Review Editor of Poetry International. Her work is anthologized in The Best American Erotic Poetry: From 1800 to the Present (Scribner, 2008), Poems Dead and Undead (Knopf, 2014), They Said:  A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Creative Writing (Black Lawrence Press, 2018) and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing and literature at LMU.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Women's History Month: Maria A. Arana's "Ashes"

once night disperses
pieces of sojourn thoughts
tempest willows
beckon my return
the frost renews vines and thorns
timid breezes overcome the bite
the night’s luminescent flowers
bleed joyous gifts reckoned
caught rumors
no longer summon dragonflies
stillness breathes on my ashes
and rekindles the worms already there

© 2019 Maria A. Arana

Bio: Maria A. Arana is a teacher, writer, and poet. Her poetry has been published in various journals including Spectrum, Peeking Cat Anthology, Nature Writing, and Nasty Women’s Almanac. You can find her at

Monday, March 25, 2019

Women's History Month: Lynne Thompson's "A Sadness for Sandra Bland"

A Sadness for Sandra Bland

Yellow from praying—
not from lemon nor from daffodil.
Always the whites surrounding the yolk.

Yoke of chain, of revolver,
shackle of never-ending.  Sandra turned
yellow from praying, from

pretending the war was done
in the South and in the North,
always the whites surrounding the yolk.

Yoke of fear, yoke of
tire-fire-necklace in South Africa,
her people gone yellow from praying,

questioning reconciliation & one day, we will
all be free and Sandra’s mother, too
is yellow from praying,

jaundiced by the deeds of cowards,
uncowered; needing to know why
the whites always surround the yolk while
her country fails to pray for the always yellow—

 © 2019 Lynne Thompson

BIO: Lynne Thompson is the author of Start with A Small Guitar 
(What Books Press, 2015) and Beg No Pardon (Perugia Press, 2007) 
winner the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award. Her l
atest manuscript, Fretwork (2019)was selected by Jane Hirshfield for 
the 2018 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize.  Recent work appears or is f
orthcoming in Poetry, Ploughshares, Ecotone, New England Review,
and Pleiades.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Women's History Month: Puma Perl's "Sublime Favors"

Sublime Flavors

A quarter century
of sobriety
did not change
my belief
that dispensations
should be given
for sipping beer
on hot stoops,
the way we did
when cops were too busy
busting drug markets
to care much
about public drinking

Another two anniversaries
I traded 27 years
for a shot of Jameson
By that time, the jungle
had changed into a zoo
Gates protected stoops,
festooned with warnings
against sitting or loitering
You couldn’t even smoke
a damn cigarette
without passersby
waving their arms
and coughing

My building
is a high rise
21 floors
We have no stoops
On summer evenings
the men play dominos
and the women
gossip on the benches
Sometimes there’s beer
Paper bags and straws
after sunset

The first time
I drank beer again
was not on a stoop
Not even Coney Island
or Yankee Stadium,

It was a winter morning
on the Lower East Side
He’d left half a can
of Budweiser’s
on the coffee table
Flat, warm beer
Gray skies
Yet still intoxicating
Tasting like memory
of all the sticky nights
that came before.

© 2019 Puma Perl

                                          photo by Ellen Berman

Puma Perl is a writer and the author of four solo poetry collections; a
fifth will be published by Beyond Baroque Press, 2019. Since 2012,
she’s presented Puma Perl’s Pandemonium, which merges spoken word
with rock and roll, and she performs regularly her band. She’s received
three awards from the New York Press Association in recognition of
her journalism as well as the 2016 Acker Award in the category of
writing. She is a lifelong NYC resident.

A comprehensive list of video links and updates on events can be
found on her blog,

Her latest book and her author page can be found on Amazon

and previous works can also be purchased at erbacce press.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Women's History Month: Lynne Bronstein's "Sally Hemmings"

There are no known images of me
While his face decorates the five-cent piece.
Imagine me as the face on a coin.
They said I was
“Near white and very beautiful.”
They said some of our six children
Looked like him,
Proof that he fathered them.
Proof that only
Made him, third President,
Thomas Jefferson,
Look like quite the stud.

I was just the maid,
The companion, the one who sewed buttons
On the presidential clothes.
He freed my brothers.
His daughter freed me.
He educated my brothers
But not me.
I too, yearned to play the violin
But I was there to be played upon.
Six offspring.
Science still trying to prove
What I knew all the time.
For me this wasn’t
Political scandal.
Each child
Was a memento
Of a rendezvous.
The middle-aged, lonely widower
Finding in me the solution to his neglected desire.
Me finding in him,
A certain excitement,
Sparkling like the nickel
That now bears his likeness.

Then when my lying-in time came,
I pushed and clung to the bed post
And proved my courage six times over.
The men were lauded for winning battles.
I won the biggest battle.
I brought those six children into the world.
I suppose it was an error
To call our friend Washington.
The father of our country
When so many claim
My man as their ancestor.
But I,
I was
The Mother of Our Land.
I too,
Should have my likeness
Remembered on a coin.
Surrounded by six stars
For each of my children.

(c) 2019 Lynne Bronstein

Lynne Bronstein is a poet, a journalist, a fiction writer, a songwriter, and a playwright. She has been published in magazines ranging from Chiron Review, Spectrum, and Lummox, to Playgirl and the newsletter of the U.S. Census Bureau. She’s done four books of poetry and her first real crime story was published in 2017 in the anthology LAst Resort. Her adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It was performed at two LA libraries. Recently her story “The Magic Candles” was performed on National Public Radio .She’s been nominated twice each for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net awards.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Women's History Month Viola Weinberg's "Preparation for the Catastrophe"

Preparations for the Catastrophe

When we have lost it all
we will still have the garden
and I will take the seeds you saved
from last year’s harvest, rolled
In a precious piece of waxed paper
I will poke holes in the dirt, with
just enough water, using grandma’s
netting from an old tule dress
to protect the little darlings
from the famished ravens and deer

I will can beans again, remembering my mother
who said “it could all fall tomorrow”
and my father who said,” if you have land
You will never go hungry” and meant it
I will bake again, as if each week depended
on it, as if the yeast was a treasure in
a cool cupboard, I will know instinctively
that the poor put a mark on my gate
and that they will appear to do chores
magically before dinner time to sit
at the table under the apple tree
taking a bowl of soup and a biscuit
They will inhale the goodness of a stranger’s
largesse, allowing them to sleep on the bench
to be off the next morning to the next stop
where some other soft-hearted woman
who needs a hand might make a pie
to go with their vittles, remembering
all the while that the old gods gave us this garden

Knowing that we could easily gone to the bank
and built a marble and steel monument kitchen
with blue lampshades from Murano
and fine, old reclaimed pine plank floors  
and water that comes bubbling down from
the faucet curved like the neck of a swan
I used to dance in my dreams of that kitchen
before it all crashed, but I will be glad I didn’t
mortgage the future, but fed the foundations
of this modest life, learning to make do
as an art, learning to share as a craft--

never going hungry, always more water in the soup

(c) 2019 Viola Weinberg

 Viola Weinberg is Sacramento Poet Laureate Emerita, serving from
2000-2002. She has published 10 books of poetry and a text on
child abuse. Viola’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies,
journals, newspapers, magazines and online publications. She has
contributed work to plays and musical compositions.  For several
years, she ran the Poetry Showcase for the San Francisco Bay Area
Book Festival. In 2008, she was named the Glenna Luschei
Distinguished Poet. Her new book, Tough Enough, a collaboration
with the Tough Old Broads poetry group, will be published April 28
by Cold River Press.
Viola taught at CSU Sacramento, where she co-founded Women’s
Studies. She has worked in commercial and public media, including
PBS. Viola moved back into publications at Mother Jones Magazine,
where she was the founding Director of the International Fund for
Documentary Photography, now housed in the Leica Foundation.
For years, she served in an international brain trust for the C.S.
Fund on scientific and social issues.
    For the last 5 years, Viola has been fighting Stage Four cancer
with hopeful results. She lives in rural Sonoma County with her
husband, photographer Peter Spencer, and writes in a yurt.