Praise for Pantheon by Eric Syrdal

“Pantheon” is a thrilling philosophical journey exploring the depth and meaning for one passing through a metaphorical world of inner demons and dragons, goddesses of the soul, of warrior and poet. A journey that crosses boundaries of time, space, and perception.  I am captured by the intimate revelations of this intuitive and sympathetic protagonist battling the dark ages of his subconscious moving instinctively forward into innerscape, relying upon and exalting the virtue goddesses that guide and deliver him from barbarity and trial by ordeal both physical and spiritually as he transports from one state of being to another, from one point of time to another”

Holly Rene Hunter
House of Heart

“The poetry is densely colourful, rich in imagery and sensuality, boldly imaginative and deeply sensitive to the human condition, while being written with clarity and emotional pull. I found myself sitting for three hours, empty coffee cups scattered around me, utterly absorbed in the storytelling and the crafting of language. Syrdal has created something very powerful, using elements of history, science fiction, worldly fantasy and unmistakable reality to bind these pieces together in a system of belief and fantastic-theology that appears utterly believable, utterly intoxicating.”

Lois E. Linkens

I won’t spoil the brilliant conclusion of this novel, suffice to say, if it is your desire to read something astoundingly original, from a writer who is not only a truly breathtaking author, deft with supernatural words and ideas, but a dreamer of worlds, who will blow any preconceived notions you have away and leave you shell shocked by the sheer power of his mind, then I cannot recommend Eric Syrdal and his novel Pantheon more highly. “I built this beach / and the stars / and the moon …. I turn back the wheels of heaven / and make time stop and rewind / over and over ….. Because I don’t know how to tell him / A machine had a wish.”

Candice Louisa Daquin, Author of Pinch the Lock
The Feathered Sleep

Review Of Magpie In August, Kindra M. Austin By Kristiana Reed

Originally posted on Indie Blu(e).

Austin stuns with her debut novel, Magpie in August. A lovingly written narrative about living, dying and the purgatory in between.

I’ve been an admirer and reader of Austin’s poetry since late 2016, a little while after she started poemsandparagraphs. Austin always writes honestly with the razor-sharp ability to steal the breath from my lungs and make me punch the air with my fist. However, I did not know what to expect with Magpie in August, except it grew out of her relationship with her late mother (as revealed in her interview with Sudden Denouement founder, Jasper Kerkau).

Within the first few pages, Magpie, our protagonist, was sketched into my mind in vivid magenta, violet and deep charcoal. Magpie’s love for Peter was palpable from the first time he called her ‘Beautiful’ as if it was her ‘God given name’. Her mother, Lynette, is an angel and demon wrapped up in one and Renny, Magpie’s reader and listener, a friend and foe. Austin leads us to believe we know everything there is to know about these people. Magpie can be cruel. Lynette is fickle and flippant. Peter is a watchful guardian and Renny is silent.

But, they are people, not characters and so our omniscient facade soon falls away. In every chapter, Austin gifts us a new angle, new mirror and new prism to refract everything we knew through. In fact, it is only Peter, quite fittingly, who remains the same.

Austin gave me a safe space to reflect on my own relationships, to draw parallels and thank my blessings. Her exploration of grief and loss is beautiful. A stunning, heart-wrenching tribute to the human condition and its difficulty to love unconditionally, when love, at the end of it all, is what we do best. Every person receives redemption of some form – Magpie, Lynette, Wren, Dalton (Magpie’s father) and even Jessica Wenzel.

Austin’s unwavering guidance into the darkness of rock bottom, Lake Huron and even the supernatural was superb. Authors like Cecelia Ahern (If You Could See Me Now), F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) and Douglas Kennedy (The Woman in the Fifth) came to mind as Austin matched their ability to write people not caricatures and take them to places we didn’t expect; never once causing the reader to doubt their ability in ensuring it all makes sense in the end.

Magpie in August ends just as it should. The Magpie who wakes up from a dreamy slumber in chapter 1 is the Magpie embracing all the earth and sky have to offer in the final chapter. Austin brings us full circle; allowing us to reap the rewards of a woman saving herself.

Magpie leaves us believing she deserves to breathe, love and wait for her

beloved stars to awaken silvery blue in an inky sky.’

To buy:

US
UK


Kristiana Reed day dreams, people watches in coffee shops, teaches English and writes. She is a curator on Blood into Ink, a collective member of The Whisper and the Roar and blogs at My Screaming Twenties. She is 24 and is enjoying the journey which is finding her voice.

Nicole Lyons Book Review of Composition of a Woman by Christine Ray

I was thrilled when the brilliant Christine Ray of Brave and Reckless asked me to read and review an advanced copy of her debut collection, ‘Composition of a Woman’, and let me tell you guys, you are going to want to mark your calendars for its July 31st release date! This book is fire, unbridled, out of control, glorious fire!

Composition Of A Woman - Christine E Ray - CS.indd

Cover Design by Mitch Green


Christine Ray’s debut collection ‘Composition of a Woman’ is an extraordinary glimpse into the essence of what it takes to make, and sometimes simultaneously break, a woman as strikingly powerful as she is beautiful.

Christine Ray brilliantly split ‘Composition’ into five thoughtful sections that work together beautifully to deliver the maximum impact of each poem while taking the reader deeper into a stunning journey of the mind, the body, the very soul of this person. In Composition, Christine Ray reveals so much of what we try to hide, and she does so while dancing between ruthlessly beautiful and heartbreakingly painful.

While Ray’s work is often merciless in its unapologetic, in-your-face delivery

the mean girls smelled
like cruelty mixed with uncertainty
disdain peppered with insecurity
ravenous hunger and envy
(What Little Girls Are Made Of)

it is never short of exquisite

she brings black roses
and moonlight
fireflies like stars in her sky
bare feet caress the dewy ground
night blooming jasmine
reaching up to brush her opal skin
(Black Roses and Moonlight)

nor is it ever lacking in white-hot power

I will travel the ancient ways
clothed only in my dark tresses
my alabaster skin
don a crown of rose and poppy
their scent filling the air
I will take back this night
shape its darkness with my hands
make it blaze with stars and moonlight
create a road for my daughters and sisters
to follow home
(Lilith)

Christine Ray holds nothing back when she writes about the pain of depression and a failing body. She is raw and unashamed when she speaks to sexuality and the way society still reeks of misogyny and the absence of humanity. But at her very best she is empowering, speaking to the brave and reckless women who she lovingly refers to as sisters.

‘Composition’ is a beautiful book that takes the time to acknowledge that while some of the weight we carry through life may not be ours to carry, sometimes carrying it is just as important as knowing when to let it all go.

Find more of Christine’s work, and the work of those she champions at:

Whisper and the Roar
Blood Into Ink
Sudden Denouement
Indie Blu(e)

Sudden Denouement Publishing has definitely picked another winner with Christine Ray!


Nicole Lyons is a force of nature disguised as a writer, a social activist, a voice for the downtrodden, and a powerful poet with a delicate touch. She is a best selling published author, poet, and also a consulting editor for Sudden Denouement.

Review of Leonard The Liar, Nicholas Gagnier by Kristiana Reed

Let me begin honestly. There is no hiding the love I have always had for Nicholas Gagnier’s work; whether that be his poetry or being a beta reader for his novel Founding Fathers, due to be released in the summer of 2019. However, this also meant I approached reading Leonard the Liar with a preconceived notion of Gagnier’s narrative voice. I hear Gagnier as an angsty yet wise before his time twenty something to thirty something year old, who is both equally in and out of love with the world around him. This was not the voice I heard in the opening of Leonard – the prologue which lays the foundations for the telling of this story.

Gagnier’s strength is in his characters. His ability to write about the complexity and brilliance of human nature all at once. His characters are not metaphors or windows to a bigger picture; they are the people, like you and me, living in the bigger picture; living in the world we struggle to recognise yet know all too well at the same time. Leonard in his fifties appeared to lack this for me but Gagnier soon turned the tide.

Each moment and encounter Leonard faces shapes him and reveals secrets, and paths he regrets walking down. From struggling to even see Gagnier in the prologue, I soon saw little parts of myself in every character. I saw myself in Skylar’s reckless yet needy nature. I saw myself in Leonard’s lies and his endless search for happiness everywhere, except where it already exists. I saw myself in Claire’s ability to love even if it means getting hurt. I saw myself in Luke’s short tempered fury but perhaps not in his ability to win a bar fight singlehandedly.

I read and enjoyed Leonard the Liar. I smiled, laughed and furrowed my brow. However, as the denouement opened I forgot about enjoyment and Gagnier’s skilful storytelling took hold of me – whether by the hand, heart or throat is hard to tell. All I know is I felt every last syllable. And I cried with both grief and hope because this is what Gagnier does. He introduces you to a man we can all relate to. A man who has secrets, insecurities and memories he would rather not share. A man who lies, loves and loses. But, despite all of the heartbreak in this novella, there is light. There is light wherever you would like it to be – in the happy ending, in the morning sky or at the end of the tunnel.

Gagnier always reminds us to ‘Never lose your light’ and I think for the first time it truly made sense, thanks to Skylar’s words:

‘I hope you will forgive me the words my darkness spoke, and use them to find your light.’

In short, mid-fifties Leonard makes perfect sense by the final pages and my preconceived notion of Gagnier’s voice was flipped on its head; introducing me again to him as a writer whose voice will always be heard above the crowd.

To buy:

US
UK


Kristiana Reed day dreams, people watches in coffee shops, teaches English and writes. She is a curator on Blood into Ink, a collective member of The Whisper and the Roar and blogs at My Screaming Twenties. She is 24 and is enjoying the journey which is finding her voice.

Candice Louisa Daquin Reviews Composition of a Woman by Christine E. Ray

Poet Christine Ray’s first printed collection of poetry, Composition of a Woman (Sudden Denouement Press, 2018) is a striking, fearless foray into the psyche of womanhood, both highly relatable and intensely personal for female readers and achingly candid and fascinating for male.

Ray has already struck her mark as a writer of substance with her blog, Brave & Reckless and her involvement in the literary collective Sudden Denouement, but the bringing together of a cherished portion of her work on the subject of the feminine experience, is a special treat, enabling us to appreciate her breadth of understanding and the humor and tragedy behind the female.

From the very first poem, in her trademark fashion, Ray describes modern womanhood thus; “there is an unknown thief/black-clad/masked vigilante/stealing into my nights”  (The Body Politic). In many ways this is a canvas upon which she has illustrated pockets of life in such ways  “I am afraid/of disintegration” “I am routinely pricked with pins” (Vibrational Sensory Loss) most of us have felt this way in today’s world because of chronic illness and/or stress or loss of identity and voicing those emotions is both necessary and difficult, something Ray excels at.

Additionally this is the language of love gained and lost, thwarted and found, destroyed and remembered in a fantastical landscape. “symmetrical patterns/ captured briefly in the mirror/ before the spin of the wheel/ pulled us apart / leaving our jewel tone edges / aching from separation.” (Kaleidoscope) In this, the book has a lovely balance between literal and metaphysical suffering as well as being a testimony of a woman’s walk through life, and her ability to survive the un-survivable.

Ray’s distinctiveness comes from her inability to turn away from truth, her proffered confessional, and the blunt, often beautifully crafted mélange of accents, emotions and voices that spill from her depths.  “I have been waking / in one of two states / words pulling at me/ rousing me/ demanding.” (Brilliant Madness) . Her voice is one many of us have heard at night, and been pulled toward, before holding onto a fragment come morning, she is at once, impossible to quantify and disarmingly real, her charm is in the rendering of a universal experience of life.  “there is a point / where the pain starts / radiates out/ in a geometric/ arc / compresses / folds / reconfigures me / like an open fan.” (Accordion Folds).

The purpose of poetry is surely to form impressions of emotions hard to give words to. The poet is a painter of lives, the reader finds themselves in those shades and it is that recognized quill and truism that draws us to the poetic form, so immediate and unadulterated beyond the confines of prose. “how many empty shapes/ have been etched on my soul / like shadow / like negatives of photographs / from those who have been torn away.” (Loss is an Ocean). Therefore when a poet can become the photo album for a life time or a gender, they have successfully translated our unsaid experience, which is what Composition of a Woman does uncannily well. “I arise something new / wipe the blood from my mouth / spread fledgling wings / and with the lift of the north wind / I claim the night sky / mine.” (Raven).

Christine Ray is woman poet of today’s arrhythmic heartbeat, her transformation from within to without is best described in her poem Becoming a Poet, conveying how; “she was always struck by the juxtaposition / of her physical body / negotiating / close suburbs, …. while her heart and mind / wandered in the isolated wilderness / while errant words and wisps of dreams / and drops of feelings like rich, red blood / continued to seep out of her.” For so long, woman’s voices were repressed, by others, by themselves, by the system. Poets like Ray are the new generation, they’re not keeping quiet, they’re dragging by the neck all that hasn’t been said, all that is labeled shameful, and opening the cage doors. After all, freedom is found in truth.

Composition of a Woman will be released by Sudden Denouement Publishing on Tuesday, July 31st.  It will be available on Amazon.com, Amazon Canada, Amazon Europe and other major retailers.


Daquin’s own life, traveling from her native France, via England, Canada and finally the US, has brought a myriad of experiences that others have often been able to tap into via her writing. A collection of lives really, and with this, she tries to weave greater meaning through poetry and touch those who experience similar questions, doubts, and hopes. Surely this is what writing attempts in its very human form?

Daquin’s themes include feminism in its complex, everyday form, and the experience of being a woman, a gay woman, a bi-racial woman, a bi-cultural woman and finally, a Jewish woman of Egyptian extraction (Mizrahi) and how this sits with the world’s current revolt between the dominant faiths.

You can read more of her writing at The Feathered Sleep.

Sneak Peek: Nicole Lyons Reviews Composition of a Woman by Christine E. Ray

“Christine Ray’s debut collection ‘Composition of a Woman’ is an extraordinary glimpse into the essence of what it takes to make, and sometimes simultaneously break, a woman as strikingly powerful as she is beautiful.

Christine Ray brilliantly split Composition into five thoughtful sections that work together beautifully to deliver the maximum impact of each poem while taking the reader deeper into a stunning journey of the mind, the body, the very soul of this person. In Composition, Christine Ray reveals so much of what we try to hide, and she does so while dancing between ruthlessly beautiful and heartbreakingly painful.”

Nicole Lyons, I Am A World of Uncertainties Disguised As A Girl

Georgia Park Reviews I am a World of Uncertainties Disguised as a Girl by Nicole Lyons

Sudden Denouement’s own Georgia Park tells you why ‘I am a World of Uncertainties Disguised as a Girl’ should be in your library.

‘I am a World of Uncertainties Disguised as a Girl is available for purchase at  Amazon.com

Georgia’s book Quit Your Job and Become a Poet (Out of Spite) is available at Lulu in paperback and ebook format.

 

 

Jasper Kerkau’s Review of Millicent Borges Accardi’s Only More So

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Jasper Kerkau’s Review of Millicent Borges Accardi’s Only More So

    “I will never write another review,” at least that is what I told myself. It is a draining process, as I heap great responsibility on myself to navigate the words of the poet and give a proper context to their writing. More specifically, I only write about those noble souls who find their fiber of the universe to pull, as the mortals run in circles, procreating, feasting on the mundane, and seeking solace in profane, menial tasks. Millicent Borges Accardi contacted me after my interview with Melissa Studdard and the review of her stunning collection of poetry I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast. I had no intention of writing another long-form review, amid the struggle of publishing our first two books and my work with the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective. I have received many requests for reviews (some of which I will get around to eventually) but I discovered something in the poetry of Accardi that called to me, spoke to me on a level that most poetry does not. In her work, I discovered the undeniable poetic truth that is a rarity. In Only More So (Salmon Poetry), Accardi opens her heart, not only displaying her succinct use of language to articulate her experience, but also, gifting the reader with glimpses of memory, and sentimentality that gives credence to the notion that poetry is not dead. Only More So dwells in that place where poets yearn for truth, casting words as spells in a world that has lost its belief in magic.

    I like any reader, bring my feelings and emotions to a collection such as Only More So. The poems exist in different realms. From the opening poem, “On a Theme by William Stafford,” a beautiful homage to Stafford’s “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” to “Buying Sleep” a poem in which Accardi reaches back into the crevasses of time to express a complex, soft memory, her work leaves me transfixed and yearning for more. “Buying Sleep” conjures my moment in the darkness, my own conflicted, sentimental moments, twisting in time, swirling in the dust of eternity:

        “Wanna buy some sleep?” In the darkness
        I nod and, then realizing years later
        Say, “Yes,” aloud and so he begins
        He gathers up a cocoon of sleep
        ……
        Almost as he loved me. (17)

Accardi’s writing moves from complex sentimentality, to “The Night of Broken Glass” and “In Prague,” distinct poems taking the reader to different locales, unique places, expressing something that is distinct and universal. Accardi’s “In Prague” beguiled me with her stinging, poetic truth:

        Take me where memory makes my legs move.
        Take me where moss holds language.
        Take me where we have a name for the things we do. (23)

It is here that I find common ground with Accardi, myself seeking the place where “moss holds language.” It is a concise moment of perfect poetic expression, the longing, the yearning, the desire to go where “stones are full…wrapped around kin I cannot have, wisdom for the hungry…” She tips her hand, showing herself to not only have a special dispensation to expression the language of the Gods, but also to be a seer, a poet of the highest order.

    Only More So is a revelatory collection of poems that are universal and deeply personal. Accardi takes us to strange places, takes on different voices, speaking to the reader softly, and then exploding with expression rooted in the human condition. From “This is What People Do,” a refulgent glimpse of normal life, to the quiet spirituality of “Faith,” I fell into Accardi’s orbit. It is a special place, a supernatural quilt where all can find their truth, their sadness, and yearning. This experience, digging into the heart of Accardi’s vision, is a validation for myself; it reminds me why I am on an endless quest to find the magic, to find the magicians, those who draw me into their web of enchantment, based on truth and words. Only More So is a must-read for anyone who shares my love of the special language only great poets speak.

Please read her bio at Wikipedia.

 Only More So is available on Amazon

http://www.MillicentBorgesAccardi.com

@TopangaHippie  on Twitter
[Jasper Kerkau is co-creator, writer, and editor for Sudden Denouement Literature Collective and Sudden Denouement Publishing.]

HUSH By Nicole Lyons

HUSH written by Nicole Lyons, is a searing collection of poems that takes the reader on an emotional ride, through the tunnel of mental illness and reckless love.

Nicole Lyons’ voice undulates from pain to ecstasy, at breakneck speed. Erotic, soulful and authentic, Nicole has written a raw memoir encapsulated in poems. Stepping off the cliff, delving into HUSH, readers will find themselves breathless and wanting more. -Julie Anderson

hush-white-final.jpg

 HUSH

The first book from Nicole Lyons is now available here.

Hush cover design: Sherri Smith
Hush cover model: Julie Anderson
Hush cover photo: Paul Empson Photography


You can read a glowing review by Jasper Kerkau here, and if you’re interested in reading some of the galaxy’s most liberating, moving words, I recommend that you follow the amazon link above. Nicole Lyons is the creatrix of The Lithium Chronicles, as well as being a consulting editor and writer at Sudden Denouement.

 


 

Melissa Studdard’s I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast Review w/Interview – Jasper Kerkau

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 I am not a poet. Occasionally, I write poetry and find myself feeling defeated, throwing the words back into the void, resigning myself to writing short, personal narratives. I have, no doubt, come to terms with my shortcomings as a poet, which perhaps informs my deep respect for those who have earned the sacred title. There is something inherently special about a person who possesses a power over words, bending them to their will, plucking beauty out of the dust of time, creating concise explanations of their relationship to the universe with ease and grace. Some poets, the special ones, are privy to the secret language, part of a sacred tribe whose words contain clues to the mystery of life. These are the ones who inspire me. My life has been altered by poets from a young age, and I continue to seek new voices, finding myself stunned and mesmerized as I find new writers who meet the criteria of tapping into an emotional place reserved for those with the sanctified tongue. This is the context in which I find the work of Melissa Studdard.

 For my second Sudden Denouement book review, I sought out a book of poetry, preferably written by a Houston writer. Several writers suggested Melissa Studdard and her first book of poetry I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast [Saint Julian Press 2014]. I quickly discovered that the connotation of a Houston poet was not appropriate when addressing the work of Studdard. She had previously established herself as a fiction writer with her book, Six Weeks to Yehidah, which earned her awards and acclaim. The depth of the poetry in Cosmos solidifies her place as much more than a regional poet. Percy Shelley described poetry as such: “Poetry is a sword of lightning, ever unsheathed, which consumes the scabbard that would contain it.” This powerful definition describes the energy with which Studdard writes. She writes poetry where she dances and consumes worlds, co-existing with God, as illustrated in “Nirvana:”

  There’s no mother’s milk
  the second time around,
  just a crescent moon
  floating in a goblet bigger
  than your own head, or maybe
  it’s really the world in the there,
  shimmering and dark,
  ready to be consumed.(pg. 4)

Throughout her work, the reader is given glimpses of the universe rolled into everyday life. She finds God “on a head of wheat” in the title poem. While in “Naming Sky,” she finds a temple, along with “voices lingering in the trees” which can be called “God or sky or self.” Studdard interacts with nature, the self, and cosmos in her work. In “Creation Myth,” she describes God as she brings the world from her womb, the process explained with keen, poetic vision:

  So there God lay, with her legs splayed,
  birthing this screaming world

  from her red velvet cleft, her thighs
  cut holy with love

  for all things, both big and small,
  that crept from her womb like an army

  of ants on a sugar-coated thoroughfare.
  It wasn’t just pebbles and boulders…(pg. 3)

Effortlessly she navigates the world between mundane and spiritual life. She uses her “sword of lighting” to carve out her own mythology, born out of her own experience and understanding, refined with her exquisite, concise language.

 The book I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast establishes Studdard as a poet of the highest order. She displays her understanding of the craft, while she composes her beautiful songs that are at times powerful, and other times quiet. Her work demonstrates great diversity and depth of articulation. In a sea of poetry flooding the internet, one may ask why the work of Studdard is special? My answer is that her work is touched, possessing the power of soul-stirring words not found readily among the thousands of poets baring their souls daily on the numerous writing sites. Her poetry is stunning. She has a distinct and a powerful voice which invokes the same excitement I had as a teenager discovering a variety of works from Arthur Rimbaud to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. She has earned a place on the printed page, packaged in a tangible way which lends itself to having the pages felt as one makes the journey into Studdard’s mythology. I read too much, perhaps I am jaded. My eyes grow weary of mediocre work. This book finds my attention, washes the mediocrity away as I peel back the layers of her poetry . Melissa Studdard has earned the title that so many seek: she is a without a doubt a POET!

Nudge Nudge Wink Wink

[Photo: Clara Bow]

Five Questions for Melissa Studdard: An Interview by Jasper Kerkau

Jasper Kerkau: It seems a natural inclination to pluck out influences from a writer’s work. I discovered Reality Sandwiches by Allen Ginsberg at seventeen years old, and my life was never the same. In your work, Starry Night, with Socks, you write: “Neruda eats gates and barbed wire, absorbs the nails and exhales a borderless world.” Is there a debt of gratitude to be paid to Pablo Neruda in your work? If not Neruda, what writers had a tremendous impact on you and how did they influence your work?

Melissa Studdard: Absolutely yes—I owe Neruda! It’s complex, though. For years I was in love with his work. I studied it the way you’d study the face of someone you love—from every angle, in every kind of light. Because I conflated the work with the man, I thought I loved Neruda too. I mean, he was a diplomat, after all.

But about a year ago, I discovered a passage in his memoir that disturbed me. He’d basically “taken” a Tamil woman despite her disinterest. Further, he glorified it with a romanticized “hard-to-get” description.

In some cases, I can separate the work from the person, but here it was impossible. The passage was written towards the end of his life, and the poetic thinking was interwoven with the incident. How could I trust his language, descriptions, and ideas after that? I’m just starting to get my mind around it all. I still feel the way I always did about my favorites of his poems, but I don’t feel the same way about him overall.

Off the top of my head, other writers and artists I love are Muriel Rukeyser, Audre Lorde, Anne Sexton, Li-Young Lee, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, Gabriel García Márquez, Yehuda Amichai, and Lucille Clifton. I’m sure there are about a hundred more. As you can see, I tend towards the highly imaginative and figuratively dense.

JK: I had a moment when I decided I would not allow my vocation to define my existence; rather, I would begin to identify myself as a writer. Was there a moment for you where you proclaimed to the world “I am a writer”?

MS: I think my rite of passage was more about claiming time than proclaiming an identity. As a divorced, working parent, it’s been hard over the years to find time to write. So, rather than a specific moment or proclamation, there was a shift that took place over a several year period—a shift in which I sifted out senseless, rote chores and seized the hours back for writing. It felt like a hostile takeover at first, but people got used to it. Now, I block out writing time on my calendar every week, just the way I block out my class periods. I take great care not to schedule anything during that time that is not so important I would not also cancel a class for it. This is possibly the most important thing I have done for my writing—simply prioritizing it in my life.

JK: Often new writers will rush works. In your interview with Catherine Lu of Houston Public Media, you state that the poem “Daughter” was incubating for years before it took form on paper. When you actually put a poem on paper, how much time do you spend revising it before you feel it is ready for public consumption?

MS: One of the most crazy, delightful, gorgeous things about writing is that many aspects of its process remain mysterious even to those who practice it. Though there are some constants, the overall process is not static, and no matter how much I write I don’t fully know what to expect when I sit down to a new piece. There are poems I’ve written in fifteen minutes, with no revision, and there are poems that have taken years to conceptualize and months to revise. And there are many, many poems I’ve thrown out altogether. Sometimes they just don’t work, and that is something to recognize too.

I think the best way to know when something is done, or as you put it, fit “for public consumption,” is to put it away for a week or more and then look at it with fresh eyes. It’s best if you’ve written or are writing something else that you’re excited about in the meantime so that you’re no longer infatuated with the piece you’re about to revise. When you’re excited about a new piece it becomes easy to admit and fix flaws in the previous piece because your ego is not all tied up in it anymore. You know you’re fabulous because you have just written something new that you’re still high on. This is my cycle—working on a new piece, revising another.

JK: How much of a labor of love was publishing I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, and how did that process compare with getting Six Weeks to Yehidah in print?

MS: I was lucky to place both books with small presses run by great people. Both Saint Julian Press (I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast) and All Things That Matter Press (Six Weeks to Yehidah) took great care with the process, making sure to consult me about creative issues, such as design and cover, while handling the labor themselves. Both publishers also offered invaluable editing help and revision suggestions without ever pushing me to make changes. If I did ever feel that I was caged inside a labor of love, it was only at the editing stage, once we were past revision and working to agree on commas and semi-colons and that sort of thing. And don’t even get me started on lie/lay/laid/lain. There were a couple of times I felt like just saying, “Do whatever you want to it. See you on the other side.”

JK: I spend a lot of time talking to writers, and many times there is a conflict with the universe that is being worked out. Your work is replete with spiritual overtones. The poem “Integrating the Shadow” is a playful poem that touches on spiritual duality. Are you at peace with universe? And if so, how did this book help that process?

MS: Mostly, I am at peace. But you nailed the duality issue.

I have a hyperactive superego, as well as a hyperactive id—so oftentimes there are two distinctly opposing choices that feel “right” in different ways—my parent/society/conservative voice tells me one thing, LOUDLY, and my wild, true inner voice urges something else. You can see how this sets me up for failure and guilty feelings. No matter which choice I make, I’m disappointing myself by not making the other one.

Whereas peace asks us to float in its currents, I often swim at an angle alongside it, feeling guilty. Then I feel guilty for feeling guilty.  Guilt is my beef with the universe, my parasite, my one true illness. I can’t help but feel that if I could cleanse myself of it I would be at peace fulltime instead of a peace adjunct.

But yes—writing helps. With writing I can explore my duality, guilt, and other concerns with humor and love. I can see my guilt for what it is—a distraction. And I can put my attention back where it should be—on caring for others and making art.

Bio

Melissa Studdard’s debut poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, was recently released by Saint Julian Press. She is also the author of the best­selling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah; its companion journal, My Yehidah(both on All Things That Matter Press); and The Tiferet Talk Interviews. Her awards include the Forward National Literature Award, the International Book Award, the Readers’ Favorite Award, and two Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards. As well, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast was listed as one of Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts Best Books of 2014-2015.

Melissa’s poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in dozens of journals, magazines, blogs, and anthologies, including Tupelo Quarterly, Psychology Today, Connecticut Review, Pleiades,  and Poets & Writers. In addition to writing, Melissa serves as the host of VIDA Voices & Views and an editor for American Microreviews and Interviews. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence college and is a professor for the Lone Star College System and a teaching artist for The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative.