Friday, January 11, 2019

call for interviews : queen mob's teahouse,

Interviews editor rob mclennan seeks interviews! Queen Mob's Teahouse is open to submissions of interviews with poets, fiction writers, comic book creators, non-fiction writers, etcetera.

Is there someone you know who hasn't been interviewed lately, or even at all? Who haven’t we heard from yet? What writer, in your opinion, deserves further attention?

If you are sending a query, include what else you’ve done and about the subject of your interview. If you are sending a finished interview, please send as .doc with a short introduction, a bio of the interviewer and a photo of your interview subject to include with piece.

See here for a link-list of recent interviews posted at Queen Mob's Teahouse.
Send submissions to rob [at]


Thursday, January 10, 2019

On Writing #157 : Erin Bedford

Losing My Muse
Erin Bedford

Every once in a while, usually at social gatherings where I am trying to go unnoticed near the cheese tray, and after I’ve just been introduced as a writer, a stranger will ask me why I write. I spit out the typical but not-totally-truthful answer about wanting to explore the human condition.

Human condition, wow. I see. And how do you do it? How do you write all those words?

I go through a rather mundane list of everyday writing routines. I’m getting pretty good at standard writer-ese. It’s much safer to fill an awkward silence with details about the amount and style of coffee I consume, or the music I listen to, or if I need to sit at a desk, but it isn’t really how I do it. Before now, I’ve never volunteered the rather integral ingredient: redirected sexual energy.

(All who know me, especially family: pause here for deep breaths.)

I’m not the first (and definitely not the best) writer to use that kind of heat as creative fuel. Yeats mused on Maud Gonne, Nora Barnacle was Joyce’s Molly Bloom, Woolf and Vita Sackville-West carried on a love affair that inspired both to write some of their best work. And okay, so maybe the idea of having a muse is a little obsessive and strange to the general populace, but a writer knows better than to pass on something that might provide longterm inspiration. I’m pretty convinced many more writers have a muse than admit it. Until now, I’ve been one of them. For fifteen years, I had a muse. He was how I wrote. He was why I wrote. Or that’s what I thought until I lost him.

I’m no classicist so before I began this piece, I did a little backgrounder on the originals, those nine inspirational women of Greek myth, each of them assigned to a specific area of art or scientific inquiry: epic poetry, love poetry, tragedy, dance, music, astronomy, history, comedy, and sacred poetry. These goddesses were the result of Zeus getting down with the Titan Mnemosyne for nine nights in a row. Well, who’s she? I clicked through to her wiki entry and this is the part that almost made me fall off my chair—Mnemosyne was the goddess of memory.

For those of you who write because of a muse, be honest, is there any description more fitting? Isn’t the process of creating for or because of that muse a little like having languid sex with a memory?

I met my muse when I was twenty-two. He was just a few years older but seemed decades wiser. While I’d been pinned under the too-tight buckle of the Bible Belt where I was born, he’d been kibbutzing, and backpacking, and gaining nicknames on numerous continents. He was scruffy and direct and more than a little intimidating.

He was adventure. I was engaged.

If I’d been a little less shy, we probably would’ve had the kind of affair that twenty-something intellectuals tend to be quite good at— full of gravitas, but with less of life’s actual difficulties (mortgages, children, full-time careers). But I was timid and totally inexperienced with any kind of direct sexual expression. I wanted him, badly. But I also couldn’t bring myself to do anything more overt than send intense looks across the seminar room where he and I and twelve other undergrads met every Tuesday and Thursday to discuss historiography. I developed a killer smoulder and he noticed not one bit. Or maybe he did and assumed I was really into Ptolemy.

Finally (quite literally), I got some courage up. On the last trip to the subway, after the last class of the last semester of our last undergrad university year, I caught up to him at a street light and we made a date. I danced toward the St. George subway station, impressed with my dramatic and impeccable sense of timing. I’d sunk a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.

But he never showed. His beloved da was dying and he’d flown home to be with him.

After, he stayed in Calgary to take care of his ma. I wrote my last exam and got married two months later. What might have been a quick fling between us, or maybe a slightly-less-brief-but-probably-more-tumultuous relationship, turned into a meaningful long-distance friendship. We met up a couple of times the following summer, but mostly we wrote emails that seemed to scroll forever, always at the end of our respective days. Except for us in our midnight rooms, three provinces apart, the whole world seemed fast asleep. Sometimes he wrote things that made me realize I might be edging toward a life lived half-asleep too. Why don’t you do this thing you are so very good at? Why don’t you write?

I fell in love. I didn’t see him for fourteen years. I was married. He was adventure.

I lived another life. I became a mother and a writer when I had the time. I wrote a novel and I turned him into one of the characters who made me want to keep writing. Eight drafts later, ten years after the last time I saw him, the novel was done and he wasn’t really in it anymore. I’d bent and twisted the character he’d inspired so much, and stuffed words in his mouth that he never would have said.

And so, after a few months, I began writing again, searching for him.

This time, I wrote historical fiction, not the thinly-veiled wanto-biography like my first time around. But, when I wrote this second book, (and I hope he’ll forgive me this) he most definitely became the inspiration for the beautiful-but-doomed Charlotte Vogel, soulmate to an old lighthouse keeper. It is but one of many frustrated love stories going on in that novel. I couldn’t have written it so without feeling it for real.

When I finished the second book, I fell into a blue rut. I missed my story. I missed the characters and the daily habit of writing about them. I missed emoting for the sake of my work. My marriage had been wobbling for some time, and when I finished the novel, I finally felt the pit that my feverish writing of the past year had filled. I seemed to be trapped at the bottom of it. My marriage fell in. In fact, more honestly, I pulled it in. I was the pit.

I began to write poems like therapy. I spent my days in a panic of loneliness. At night, I wrote verse that made me weep, just to make sure I still could. I wrote nine poems and submitted them to a contest. Eight of them were about the end of a marriage. One of them was about my muse. I called it Varicella, a frantic itch that needed scratching. My collection didn’t win, but it made the long list, and quite suddenly, poetry seemed a thing I might actually be able to do.

I went off to find something that would stop the hollowing out and help me feel again. Anything. Good or bad, as long as it was real. I went to the mountains for the first time in my life. Classicists know, the mountains are a popular spot for muses. Mine happened to live there too.

Let me say this here, now, because many of you may be wondering when I am going to get to the point of this essay: Dear Reader, I began to lose my muse as soon as I made him real to my life again. And actually, he was the first to warn and question the sagacity of my seeing him again in real life: Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you are a novelist (+ poet), and I think this means that the world you imagine, in order to write, is likely a richer world than the one we live in…Indeed, you might actually prefer to keep me a part of ‘the writing world’ and not ‘the real world’!


I enrolled in a mentorship program and travelled back and forth to the mountains to work on my poetry and hike and make love with my muse. I’d fly home after five or six days and leave him with a handwritten poem. When I asked him one evening on the phone how he felt about being a muse, he skirted a bit. He told me it wasn’t really about that. All of my work, even if it was about a very particular moment we shared or feeling he evoked, was really only about me. It was my experience I was writing about. He just happened to be part of that experience.

My mentor, the quietly magnificent Betsy Warland, had a habit of rejecting all the poems I wrote about my muse. I would go to her after hiking hand-in-hand with him through Stanley Park, all flush with the excitement of he and I actually being a real thing happening in the most beautiful place I’d ever been in my life. And she would offer me a cup of sobering tea and ready her sharpened pencil stub and mark exes on every page that held a poem I’d written for him. She almost rolled her eyes when she read them for the first time. These ones, they’re about your current love? I nodded. They’re not ready. You need distance. Instead, she wanted to know more about Frank and Rose, the married couple in my poems who were falling apart. For a moment, I hated her like a child hates the grown-up holding the tablespoon of bad medicine they know they have to take.

I returned to my muse in the mountains and he wrapped his arms around me and held me as I cried a little. He, too, was confused about why Frank and Rose held such interest to my mentor. Why those sad sacks, after all? Why not this fresh desire?

Being with him was whimsical and fun, sometimes breathtaking. But there was a lot of not being with him too, a lot of intermittent text messages, a few midnight phone calls I made from inside the shower stall in my bathroom so as not to wake the kids. Still, the yearning was good for my poetry, and as much as it hurt, as bonkers as the distance sometimes made me, it was good for me too. Like my summer swim in the glacier-fed Lynn River—what beautiful pain to feel so alive.

He took me away to an island mid-winter. We talked about practical things in person for the first time: my children, and career prospects, his skeptical ma, and money, and theoretical future children. We walked through ancient forests and kissed the mist of a waterfall off each other’s faces. He held my hand inside his hand inside his pocket. Some of it was magic. Some of it was pure suspension of disbelief.

I told him I loved him. He was adventure. 

The sun set in a beautiful glow on Wickaninnish Beach and everything got suddenly cold.

Whatever we had ended a month later, but not before I flew out in a fit of poetic spontaneity and surprised him. He was not happy to be surprised. We collected my hiking boots from his mountain aerie and I read him one last poem as he drove me to a hotel. It was a new poem about birds, raggedy ugly birds, becoming magnificent when they flew.

For days afterward, I hardly slept. When I did, I woke in full panic mode. What had I done, after all? I had made a hundred plans to change my life that seemed downright embarrassing. I was deep into a poetry manuscript where two-thirds of the poems were about him. I didn’t want to open the file and read all of that tender longing. How could I ever go back to it? When would it not hurt?

Betsy, oblivious to the mess I was in, was pushy for my final submission to the mentorship program. I wrote her a pitiful email of excuses and then I opened the manuscript, expecting the worst.

But, hey, hmm. How interesting.

It turned out a lot of the poems I’d written for him didn’t make a lot of sense at the time because they each contained a sort of poison pill not fully digested. You see, I knew somehow. I knew what he and I had was powerful and completely overwhelming, but I also seemed to sense that what I wanted from him wasn’t to be had in reality. What had been annoying equivocating before, as Betsy recognized, became, with tweaking here and there, with hindsight and a bit of distance, stark. These poems were no longer wobbly love Jello. They were desire and loss, cut clean. 

Still, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t write much of anything for months. And when I did, it was still always about him. I was supposed to write this essay three months ago, but couldn’t bring myself to sit and contemplate the loss of that source of creative energy. And I didn’t want times that had definitely glowed to acquire the grey and boring tinge that explication sometimes imparts.

When I wrote to my muse, to tell him about my fear, that my Maud Gonne was no longer, that I didn’t know what would fire me up enough to write again, he wrote back and told me what he’d told me once before. You’re Maud Gonne is not gone (indeed it is not me, I don’t think!) I think it is you and it makes you a great poet… 

Until I lost my muse, I thought he was real. But my muse was no more real than the nine lovelies of Greek myth. Sure, yes, there is an actual man out there and he is the one I experienced the very real love affair with. But the fifteen-year muse was always just me. I peeked behind the curtain and found my twenty-something self sitting there scribbling in a notebook, wild for a little more from life, always a little more.

During our last session, Betsy asked me to go through and tell her who each poem was about. I had trouble but I gave her a list. It didn’t feel right though, and I didn’t figure it out until much later. The poems, all of them, were me. I was Rose, and I was Frank. I was their child, and their cats, and their old kaleidoscope, and the half-dead squirrel they found in the street once. I was the boat, and the refugee, and the moon. I was the red balloon inflated with my mother’s breath, and the 800-year-old tree that swayed near my lover’s house in the mountains. I was me being in love with my muse. I was my muse. And I was feeling it all, finally. I am adventure.  I am adventure.  I am adventure.

Erin Bedford's work is published in William Patterson University's Map Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Temz Review, and Train: a poetry journal. She attended and won a Certificate of Distinction for her novel Fathom Lines from the Humber School for Writers. Currently, she is acting as shill for her newly-completed second novel Illumining, and a manuscript of poetry. Follow her to find out more @ErinLBedford

Monday, December 31, 2018

Upcoming (Ottawa) workshop - Nag Hammadi Codex - Christine McNair



9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Instructor: Christine McNair
Workshop Cost: $70.00 CBBAG members, $80.00 non-members
Material Fee: $30 (paid in cash to the instructor at the workshop)
Location: Routhier Community Centre (1st floor)
172 Guiges Ave, Ottawa
Parking is free and there is plenty of it.
Food:  Bring your lunch or head up to the nearby Byward Market

Registration deadline:   Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at 6:00 p.m.

The Nag Hammadi codices take their name from the Egyptian village where in 1945 a clay pot containing thirteen ancient books was discovered. These books are the earliest extant codex bindings ever found – 1800 years old – and were uncovered in remarkably good condition. Students will construct a sympathetic facsimile of the Nag Hammadi codex, and experience the structure and form of ancient bookbinding.  Partially pre-cut papyrus and leather for the covers is supplied (see material fee below).

Bring a cutting mat if you have one. All tools and shop supplies will be provided for those without.

Click here to register. Click here for the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild Ottawa Valley Chapter website.

Monday, October 01, 2018

We Who Are About To Die : Shloka Shankar

Shloka Shankar is a freelance writer and visual artist from Bangalore, India. She enjoys experimenting with Japanese short-forms and different found poetry techniques. A Best of the Net nominee, her work has most recently appeared in Under the Basho, Rogue Agent, Right Hand Pointing, Drunk Monkeys, and so on. Shloka is the founding editor of the literary & arts journal Sonic Boom, and its affiliated press, Yavanika. Twitter: @shloks89  

Where are you now?
I reside in Bangalore, India. My room is pretty much my haven. 

What are you reading?
I am currently reading Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire and reviewing chapbook manuscripts. The former is for a found poetry challenge, called 'The Poeming,' that I will be undertaking in October 2018.

What have you discovered lately?
Confidence. Lots of it. I am also doing different things and experimenting more in terms of my writing and art.

Where do you write?

I make random drafts on my phone and then set about working on longer pieces sitting up in bed — blanket, throw pillow, and all!

What are you working on?
I run a literary & arts journal called Sonic Boom as well as its affiliated press, Yavanika. My team and I are currently wading through submissions. I also recently set up an online store for selling my art prints and other products, so that's an exciting new avenue to explore. I hope to bring out my debut full-length collection of Japanese short-forms of poetry in 2019. 

Have you anything forthcoming?
I recently completed a 31/31 creativity challenge called 'Write Like You're Alive,' hosted by Zoetic Press. One of my erasures is forthcoming in the Write Like You're Alive Anthology 2018. I also have seven pieces forthcoming from h&) I will be guest editing The Haiku Foundation's 'Per Diem' feature for the month of December 2018. 

What would you rather be doing?
I am in my happy place. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing.

Recent poems: 

old doorways —
the nerve palaces
of midnight

pulling sins out of a dreamer conscience

- First published in the Ku section of Under the Basho, 2018.

Monday, September 24, 2018

On Writing #156 : LM Rivera

LM Rivera

Often, when a writer bears upon writing itself, we (the reader) find ourselves afflicted—unless, in the most unusual of cases, the writer invents a fiction so consummate that a new kind of authorship is born.


There’s another way to bear upon the writing: write unto significance. Overpraise and bow to the proper name. Homage is an unequivocal way to confine the mistake of bad writing.


An author should live in Sicily with changed name.


Read Kafka. Read O’Connor. Read Antonin Artaud in Acireale.


Writing is agonistic. If there’s no blood, you aren’t doing it right. A smear on every page you send out into the world. Please, hold the pen like a just sharpened dagger.


A book is made up of screams. If you can talk, you aren’t doing it right. You can’t walk into a library with your eyes open, heart laid bare and bleeding. Platitudes are the kind of things that will get you killed.


When you send your work out into the wild, expect repudiation. If nothing happens: expect suicidal thoughts. Without a proper theology, you’ll be just another dumb detective.


I am irregularly Gregor Samsa.


A good detective will have a depleted and threatened family. How did we end up in this place? From my balcony, I have a palatial sense of minor and major verse.


And a godlike harmonics…


She failed to write ideologically and, failing to do so, the end came near. Writers avoided her whenever they had the opportunity to.


She reads French fluently but the French writers she reads have fallen out of fashion.


She stops writing altogether. Quality of life promptly proliferating.


She possesses an intrepidity—she had never before been capable of.


She vanishes, now and then.


She felt the love a very young poet—a dialogic totality. One fine day, the young poet vanishes. He was not seen nor was he heard from again.


She tried to track him down, for a short time. But the attempt was half-hearted and incoherent.


She became, to other writers, an icon of each and every defect existing in the domain of poetry.


He chose to write poetry in the same way we choose to defend our house against an intruder. You left the window slightly open and the masked man slipped inside—hushed and constant. You know the sound of your own house. You know the floors don’t make that noise of their own doing. You reach for the locked box underneath your bed. Your pregnant wife, in the deepest of sleep, next to you. The box is unlocked and, now, you are ready.


He continued to write, despite the fact that the work was quite bad. He read an immense amount and only what he believed to be the best of it.


He knew only other writers and wanted only to know them and them alone: exchanging poems, exchanging gossip, arguing many nights away, and ecstatically discussing literary futures and forthcoming subversions.


He wanted children but a poet can’t have a child, with the strange acquaintances coming and going—with trips to Rome, falling in the street, and people disappearing. Every now and then he thought of suicide as a romancing of the edge: to be hanged, by your own hand, by the neck till dead.


He grew older and grayer, at that very moment, a child appeared. He looked into the face of himself and was reborn—having, himself, done very little.


He writes a novel when the child sleeps—another contented insolvency.


Banality isn’t evil—banality’s a vulgar sleep.


I should like to attack another writer but this is simply not done anymore.


A famous writer insulted me at an academic soiree. My plans for revenge were thorough, meticulous, mendacious. I later came to find out that the famous writer was paid for the act—no surprise in the unearthing. The famous writer has an enormous readership. Financial goals are always met for a man of letters.


Two writers meet at the crossroads—neither believe in the validity of the other. At the corners of the four angles: a marble block, un-carved; a floating red sphere; an antique music box, golden; a rain thrashed wooden chair.


In Unamuno’s A Tragic Sense of Life, the writer dies with his pants on. If that isn’t blatant sentimentalism, I don’t know what is. Unamuno is the kind of great writer who might, given the right moment, poison your tea.


In our current climate, a writer’s meant to know where they are but seldom is this true. I opened the book and was disallowed from future party meetings. I was, after all, only there by happenstance. I’ve been incapable of moralism from a young age—as a young girl with a shaved head pontificates to a room full of aging painters.


Later, I called the famous writer at his home. The maid answered the phone. I told her what the writer had done. She took my name and number and said she’d like to speak to me again sometime alone.


I know that I am obsessed with writers, that I will continue to be, and its done me no good. A lunatic’s dreams restate themselves and no one knows why.


A book with no violence and a writer who doesn’t succumb to melodrama:  uninterestedness itself.


When you use the word love, use also the word suffering. You’re disfigured from devotion, a being scrubbed of pleasurable particulates.


You get on a train. You sleep on a train.


In the desert of small pain, you cover yourself in melting ice—that does not last but for a moment. Wet clothes slows movement. But the slow comfort was preferred to that which soon materializes. The desert interminably arrives with a solid beam of burning light. The burns become signatures of the sun.


You love someone seemingly forever, then no longer there forever. One day, in the company of someone else, you’ll love them again forever. A demon rests in the relative concept.


You write a crazed murder ballad.


…The night collected their revolting dreams / Knives, glass, animals, and steam…


When you’re questioned by detectives, you realize you’re the prime suspect.


You start to resemble the desert when the frenzy takes hold. Memories collide with one another and roll themselves into dunes. Creatures, once tame, are now rabid, armored, drooling, and attack anything that moves.


The only cure for the desert is drinking. And you drink—drink till you vomit and back into the desert you go.


The detectives find a frenzied one with most of the incriminating evidence. It confesses to the crime.


You are left alone, innocently writing.

LM Rivera lives in Santa Fe, NM. He co-edits Called Back Books with his partner Sharon Zetter. His work has appeared in Alien Mouth, FUZZ, Mannequin Haus, DUM DUM Zine, and elsewhere. His chapbook THE LITTLE LEGACIES is available from Glo Worm Press and his first full-length book, The Drunkards, is available from Omnidawn.