Min Fami, Mythic Delirium 30, and Rhysling Nomination

So much poetry news!

Min FamiI was delighted yesterday to receive my contributor copies of Min Fami: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space and Resistance, edited by Ghaida Moussa and Ghadeer Malek. I contributed two reprinted poems to the collection: “Pieces” and “Song for an Ancient City”, which originally appeared in Stone Telling and Mythic Delirium respectively. I’m very much looking forward to reading the other contributions — they range from poetry to essays to fiction to visual art.

Relatedly, I’ve also received my copies of Mythic Delirium 30, the final print instalment of the zine, providing a special retrospective of its 16-year run — which also contains “Song for an Ancient City,” accompanied by a photo I took in a Damascene cafe in 2008. I’m very happy Mike and Anita Allen chose to include it, and even happier that Brit Mandelo considers it in her Tor.com review of the issue:

El-Mohtar’s work here is rhythmic and lyrical, invested with a depth of affect that revolves around the poetic image of an ancient city’s dust as more precious and significant than jewels. The closing stanza, exploring the city as a woman who might be identical to the speaker, is simultaneously erotic and familial; it’s got echoes of the mythic genius loci. Solid stuff.

And rounding off this bouquet of poemic good news: “Turning the Leaves,” written for Lynne M. Thomas on the eve of her departure from Apex magazine, has been nominated for a Rhysling award.

Bloom on, spring.


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A Bird is Not a Stone: Kickstarter for Contemporary Palestinian Poetry

“Roof Series: Satellites,” by Raed Issa

Yesterday, editors Sarah Irving and Henry Bell launched a Kickstarter to raise money in support of A Bird is Not a Stone: Palestinian Poetry in Translation. The collection — to which I contributed a translation of Bisan Abu Khaled’s work — looks amazing, and includes poetry translated into English, Scots, Gaelic, and Shetlandic.

The book will be released this summer from Freight Books in Glasgow, but the Kickstarter’s stated purpose is as follows:

We want to make sure that this collection and the messages it carries – of cultural vitality, of life, of communication – find the widest possible audience. In order to do that, we are fundraising for two things. Firstly, to be able to share as many copies of the book as possible, principally with universities, libraries and other institutions in Palestine and in Palestinian refugee communities. And secondly, to enable Palestinian poets to come to Scotland (and, ok, maybe the rest of Britain) and Scottish poets to visit Palestine, to share their work with different audiences.

You can read an interview with the editors about the project and more about the book itself here. You can also pre-order it from Freight Books directly; all proceeds fund Palestinian-led creative projects in Palestine.


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A Weight Off My Shoulders

So this was me a few days ago.


This was me earlier today.


This was me a little later earlier today.


This is me now.

New Haircut

I’m very, very happy. Frankly buoyant with relief that I not only don’t hate it, but actually completely and utterly love it. This is of course what it looks like salon-fresh and blow-dried and styled and suchlike, but I had there were multiple stages in which I got to see what it was like wet and air-drying and I love that fully as much.

Tomorrow’s bed-head is going to be SPECTACULAR. 

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Save for a Haircut — Two Wits

I have made an appointment to cut off almost all my hair on Friday — about 20 inches — and I am terrified in that excited sort of hopeful way where you’re simultaneously aware of how it can all go horribly wrong and make you bite down tears every time you look in the mirror.

This is how long my hair is at present:

Photo on 01-04-2014 at 14.55 #4

This is the shortest it’s ever been in the last 17 years:



I had it chin-length when I was 12 or 13, I think, but I don’t have photos (which is for the best).

This is how short I want to cut it:

(While trying to remind myself that Audrey Tautou’s cheekbones do not come with the cut.)

The reasons are manifold. My hair is well overdue for a cut — I’ve got at least 4 inches of split ends that look awful — and its weight and length are now driving me to distraction. But why not just hack it back to shoulder-length again? I like that length. It makes for a significant change while staying well within my comfort zone. I can still braid it, tie it up in a bun, style it a bit.

Why indeed. I may yet forget the reasons between now and Friday and opt for just that. Because change is scary and this is the kind of change I’ll have to live with for at least a year and the thought of hating my reflection while feeling I’ve made a terrible mistake and longing for my hair back — it’s unpleasant.

Photo by Patty Templeton

But then I tell myself that I am ALWAYS wearing my hair up and out of the way, and that my favourite hair style involves braid crowns which I’ve never managed to do no matter how strong I make my triceps and what if I get a haircut that mimics that effect, but then I think BUT BRAIDS I WON’T HAVE BRAIDS and then I get sad again, and then I think of all the photos of me on websites and next to poems and stories where I have long hair, and whether or not I’ll hide behind them while I hate the way I look, and then I get distracted thinking about the politics of women’s appearance as related to their work and I get angry and then I try to tell myself I’m overthinking things and then I get angrier because I’m actually not and stop trying to minimize my totally legitimate fears, SELF!

Ultimately my decision’s coming down to practicality: all my hairsticks and hair ties are disappearing at an unprecedented rate, I’ve run out of chopsticks and am breaking pencils, and dealing with my hair’s vicissitudes is, no matter how much I hate admitting it, preventing me from going swimming as often as I need to to get healthy again. It’s ridiculous, but there it is. Also I’m ready for a change, by which I mean I doubt I’m going to get more ready for a change of this magnitude by putting it off further, and I’ve toyed with the idea for years, ever since trying on a Crow-girl wig at an event with Charles de Lint some 12-odd years ago.

untitledSo I may yet chicken out. I may turn up at the hairdresser’s on Friday and show her that Audrey Tautou photo and have her look at my hair and shake her head and say it probably won’t suit and I should go with something different. Or I may go through with it and hate it and take to wearing cute hats a lot.

Or maybe I’ll go through with it and like it.

Maybe I’ll be so emboldened by the change that I’ll get it dyed the blue I’ve wanted since I figured out hair colour can be changed.

We’ll see.


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Munching the Numbers: Eight Years of Goblin Fruit

“Jack Frost,” by Oliver Hunter

I’ve said before how, when I’m feeling a bit down or listless for whatever reason, I go look at Goblin Fruit. I re-read old poems. I take in the different art styles and remind myself of the curation process for this or that issue.

This morning — I don’t know, possibly it’s the equinox, but I feel at the cusp of a great many things, and I’m a little afraid and uncertain, and I want so much to be working towards my best self, and in among all this hesitant fumbling about in the cupboard of my soul I decided to do a proper tally of all the poems published in Goblin Fruit over the last eight years.

(It’s really been eight years.)

So here are eight facts about Goblin Fruit:

    •  We’ve put out 32 issues in eight years.
    •  Including Features and contest entries, we’ve published a total of 481 poems.
    •  That’s an average of 15 poems an issue, or 60 poems a year.
    •  The largest number of poems in a single issue was 26, in Fall 2009; the smallest number of poems in a single issue was 8, in Summer 2013.
    •  We’ve showcased the work of 14 different artists, including the unrepresentable Oliver Hunter, who established the zine’s visual aesthetic over its first five years. I can’t even articulate how privileged I feel to have watched his art explode from strength to strength over that time, from style to style, always and utterly itself. He is Protean in ways only the truly original can be.
    •  Over the course of eight years the three founding members of Goblin Fruit have only ever been in the same physical location once, over a period of two and a half weeks, overlapping with the launch of the Summer 2007 issue, for which we co-wrote the Note from the Editors while sitting in a Kensington park at twilight with a well-travelled bottle of Shiraz, fox-spotting in between jots.
    •  Until Fall 2013, poems by men had never accounted for more than 40% of a given issue; the largest number of poems by male contributors in a single issue was 7 (out of 26). Our Feature on Mike Allen in Fall 2013 contained 10 poems, which, combined with Jason McCall’s contribution, brought the total to 11 poems out of 19, for an unprecedented 57%.

So there we go. It looks like we’ll hit our 500th poem before the end of this year.

I think that’s something.


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Winter 2014 Issue of Goblin Fruit is Live!

Oyez! You may be beset by the cheerless grudge of an unending winter, but LOOK! There is a new issue of Goblin Fruit here to cheer your chillest hours!

Containing delightful poems by Catt Kingsgrave, Sonya Taaffe, Alexandra Seidel, Jack H. Marr, Seanan McGuire, Kristina McDonald, Sally Rosen Kindred, Peg Duthie, and Kellelynne Riley, as well as art by the amazing Zarina Liew, it is a bright place in the dark, a cold glistening coin from which the snow is half receding. Enjoy!

In other news, Goblin Fruit now also has a Patreon page; almost more than subscribers, what we’re looking for at present is suggestions on how you’d like to see us use it, and what kind of incentives might nudge you into parting with your precious lucre.

Here’s to an imminent spring!


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My review of Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World is up at NPR Books, containing a bare fraction of all the things I want to say about it. I could’ve written an essay of the same length on the beauty and heartbreak of Harriet Burden and Bruno Kleinfeld’s meditations on their aging bodies and the cruelties of memory and narratives of self, or on the expert deployment of misogynistic voices in the text, or the complication of straightforward feminist narratives, or the straining against binary gender, or the representation of family love and tension. It’s a glorious book, and I hope people I know read it soon so I can discuss it with them while my awe of it glows so fierce. Reviewing it felt like a privilege.

In other news, I was bowled over to be included in A. C. Wise’s “Women to Read” post for March, in the company of Jo Walton, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Francesca Lia Block. These are all women whose work I’ve loved and admired for years, and to be even thought of at anything resembling their level’s immensely humbling. I think I’m also peculiarly sensitive to praise of “A Hollow Play” for reasons difficult to explain but that I keep musing on and hope to perhaps explore at some point.

But that point is not now, because today I am taking my brother on a hawking tour before sending him back south, and lunch and castles await.


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Video, Radio, Text: A Ubiquity of Links

I feel like a month’s worth of doings have been crammed into the first three days of this week. Overexposure looms! Ubiquity attends! Enough of me to foil stick-shakers!

So here’s a brief summary:

1) On Monday I moderated an online discussion about genre thrillers with Hachette authors Malindo Lo, Jaye Wells, and Michael Marshall Smith, talking about their respective books Adaptation, Dirty Magic, and We Are Here. You can watch it on Youtube here. It was great fun, and my first time doing anything of the sort as well as my first exposure to these authors’ books; I found myself wishing that this were just a private conversation instead of a publicity thing because so much of what I wanted to discuss was spoilery.

2) On Tuesday I took part in a discussion at BBC Scotland about Scottishness, Arabness, and identity in general under the auspices of World Have Your Say and BBC Arabic. You can listen to it here. My contributions are around the 4 and 30 minute marks; there was quite a lot more I wanted to say at various points, but there were about 50 people in the room, and 3 moderators trying to keep on top of things while not being telepathic. There’s also one Tory dunderhead who decides to tell everyone they’re wrong to identify as Arab, or something, because history, or whatever. He was sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME. I have many, many thoughts about the whole experience, but will have to give it its own post.

3) I participated in one of SF Signal’s Mind Melds! Paul Weimer asked Django Wexler, Kari Sperring, Catherine Lundoff, Derek Johnson, Deborah Stanish, Alisa Krasnostein, Lynne Thomas, Michael D. Thomas, and me to share our thoughts on our favourite convention panel experiences. Everyone shares thoughtful, intriguing, sometimes poignant stories; I talk about butts. So it goes!

4) A review I wrote of Tim Powers’ The Drawing of the Dark and its Problematic East/West Stuff is now up at Pornokitsch. This is my first contribution to Jared Shurin’s excellent (and World Fantasy Award Winning!) site and I’m delighted to have work featured there.

All this while reading an average of 1.5 novels a day, applying for Stuff, receiving my middle brother for a visit, and working on getting the Winter issue of Goblin Fruit up this week in spite of the sense-stunning sunshine and crocuses mocking and beckoning me at every turn. And today I received Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World in the post, which is astounding thus far, and which I need to review for … Well, tomorrow.

But luckily my brother’s spending today in Aberdeen, so I can head out to Kelvingrove and read this book in the sun and having typed that I’m now longing to do so with a physical sort of hunger, so off I go.

MARCH! You are amazing, and also a directive!


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Three Thrilling Things to Do With Winter and One to Do With Thrills

A flurry of lovely things this morning: I opened my email to find an acceptance from Tina Connolly of flash-fiction podcast Toasted Cake for “Mon pays c’est l’hiver,” and my RSS feeds to find a wonderful review by Sofia Samatar of the issue of Lackington’s in which that story appears. A good day for stories about winter, homesickness, and sick homes!

But both of these pale in comparison to the third thing, which is that my sister, brother-in-law, and youngest brother sent me a video of them performing “Open Door” from Frozen just for me, with my sister and BIL playing Ana and Hans while my brother provides the most stoic maracas performance in the history of everything.

I want very much to share it with the world but can’t until they wake up in Canada to give me permission, so for now you must rest happy in the knowledge that it is perfection and has yet to stop making me ridiculously happy.

In other news, I’m moderating an online panel this evening! At 5:00 PM EST (9:00 PM GMT at the moment due to the magic of time zones and the end of DST) I’ll join Malinda Lo, Jaye Wells, and Michael Marshall in a Google+ hangout to discuss genre thrillers in general and three of their books in particular. This is the first time I’ve done anything like this so I’m nervous and excited; closer to the event there’ll be a link posted through which you can watch it happening live on Youtube, and chime in with questions through it and/or on Twitter if you like. In fact, if any of you have burning questions about Malinda Lo’s Adaptation, Jaye Wells’ Dirty Magic, or Michael Marshall’s We Are Here — or any questions about genre thrillers more generally — do feel free to leave them in comments, and RSVP to the event.


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“Mon pays c’est l’hiver” at Lackington’s Magazine

I’m very pleased to announce that the first issue of Lackington’s Magazine (the Twitter feed of which my Glaswegian keeps insisting on reading as Lackington’s Mog) is now up, with a mission-establishing editorial by Ranylt Richildis and containing stories by Kate Heartfield, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Helen Marshall, Christine Miscioni, Rose Lemberg, Erik Amundsen, and myself, with cover art by MANDEM and story illustrations by Carrion House, Paula Friedlander, Teresa Tunaley, Alfred Klosterman, Stacey Nguyen, Galen Dara, and Tomasz Wieja.

It’s a beautifully curated issue; it wanders through graveyards, winter gardens, the delicate heat of orange trees, courts death and floats past it, finds a city on its tentacles, and completes itself in moths, space, and stars. All the stories are online for free, but if you enjoy them you might consider either purchasing the issue or making a Paypal donation. Knowing well the pains and pleasures of publishing things out of pocket, I wish Lackington’s all the best with this venture, and look forward to the next issue!

There are few things more delightful to me than seeing a new magazine stake out a space for itself in what it sees as missing from the market; it’s what Jess and I did with Goblin Fruit, it’s what Rose Lemberg did in establishing Stone Telling, and it’s what I see Lackington’s doing now. As Ranylt says:

This is a space for prose poetry. We’re looking for stylized prose. Not inept purple prose, of course, but controlled and well-crafted wordsmithery that reflects the story, setting, theme, atmosphere, or philosophy it seeks to describe.

Stylized prose can be sparse and simple, diamond-cut like the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin. It can be sumptuous like the writing of Oscar Wilde. It can be epic, archaic, experimental, mythic, rhythmic, and it can be quiet and subtle, too. Story and character are indispensable, but so is wordcraft. We trade in aesthetics, so make us gasp with unexpected words and give us inventive voices, structures, and narratives. Many editors reject heavily stylized prose out of hand. We welcome it.

So: If you write conventional prose — the kind that dominates the marketplace — we’ll turn your story away. This is no reflection on the quality of your language or the story as a whole. We may even love your work. It just doesn’t fit the scope of this project.

My story / prose-poem / thing is called “Mon pays c’est l’hiver,” written mostly while sitting at my sister’s kitchen table, looking out at the winter that prompted many a loving blog post, and thinking about Ottawa. It’s gorgeously illustrated by Paula Friedlander, whose art is, to me, at least part sculpture (most of her work is mixed media and includes hand-cut paper silhouettes), which makes its effortless interplay with text all the more astonishing to me. I definitely want a print of it — there is so much I recognize in it that didn’t even make it out into words. That looks like my family’s house, and the river beyond it, and I don’t know how exactly she found the stars in my head, but there they are.


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