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Cool Girls Read: June

by Janea Wilson

I didn’t start going to “serious” poetry readings until my first university poetry writing class. Sure, I’d gone to open mics and have seen plenty of slam poetry and spoken word, but never to anything I’d considered a literary reading. I had transferred to university wanting to write fiction, but the classes had already filled so poetry was my only option. When I’d read that attending poetry readings would make up a substantial part of my grade I got a little worried because I had no idea where to start. This is when I discovered the treasure that is Beyond Baroque.

Beyond Baroque is one of those places where if you go once, you’ll get hooked. It’s a community center with a mission to preserve the art of writing. Their mission is this:

[T]o advance the public awareness of and involvement in the literary arts; to provide a challenging program of events which promotes new work and diversity; to foster a place in the community for the exchange of challenging ideas and the nurturing of new work; to support writers through readings, workshops, books sales, publication, access to archived material and performance space; to encourage collaboration and cross-fertilization between writers and artists in multiple disciplines with the goal of producing mixed media art; to use the literary arts as a foundation for increasing education and literacy in our community.

It was here I came to see who I now consider a writing mentor despite my never having taken a class or workshop with her. Over the years I have learned so much about writing and overcoming subject-apprehension (is that a thing? I guess it is for me) through reading and re-reading her poetry. I “like” her on Facebook. I go to every reading of hers I can. Her sense of humor is a blend of dark irony and vulnerability. Once I heard someone say that Suzanne Lummis comes packing if not guns, lipstick. Her poetry sizzles and lingers, and if you ever get a chance to see her read live, you should definitely take it.

I read and reviewed her new collection, Open 24 Hours, and at the risk of waxing “fangirl” I absolutely recommend as a treat to yourself.

– – –

open24hrsSuzanne Lummis is the 2015 recipient of the George Drury Smith Award which honors an outstanding achievement in poetry. Having co-founded the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, led numerous workshops at the UCLA Extension School for creative writing, edited an anthology of poetry integral to the formation and expansion to the literary identity of Los Angeles, and a poem placed in The New Yorker, Lummis proves herself worthy of such an honor. Her newest book, Open 24 Hours, reflects the poet’s reputation as one who is vulnerable, sexual, comedic, and a bit LA noir.

This collection is divided into three sections: Substandard Housing, Broken and in Need of Repair, and The Fate Cookies. From the second section, her poem “Broken Rules #2: Everywhere I Go There I Am” opens with the epigraph, “No self-pitying poems.” Given her predilection for humor and irony, as we’ve read before in poems like “Letter to My Assailant” in an earlier collection, this epigraph may signal to the reader that this poem may in fact be a self-pitying poem. The poet’s tongue reads firmly planted in-cheek as the speaker narrates a scene at a dime store cafeteria—the last in downtown LA. The poet writes about a pair of women—frail, worn down, jaded—but still plodding along in life. In the volta, the turn, of the poem she writes, “Don’t be fooled, it’s just / another half-disguised / poem about me” (36).

The most cohesive section of the collection is The Fate Cookies. In these the poet imagines that fortune cookies are supplanted and heralded as fate cookies—as in, the messages entombed within the sweet and savory walls of the brittle dessert will lead her to a neutral state of finality and without a sense of serendipitous luck. The writer imagines the fates written on thin scraps of paper as a sort of play on dream visions. The speaker aligns with yet circumvents the certainty of the generic and leading statements. For example, “You Will Visit a Faraway Country That Has Been in Your Thoughts” repositions the fate as a challenge, calling the poet to actually question the idea of predestination and pseudoscience.

Open 24 Hours takes readers through various locales of Los Angeles. Lummis invokes the always available, always open persona of the city. She reveals and disrupts myth about writing poetry, and specifically writing poetry about and inspired by Los Angeles. This collection works to “raise the profile of poetry outside the bounds of Los Angeles,” and succeeds.

Open 24 Hours is published by Lynx House Press. This collection was the winner of the 2013 Blue Lynx Prize.

– – – – –

I hope that you will share your story too! If you are interested in sharing your Cool Girls Read story, send us an email at lipstickpartymag (@) gmail.com. We look forward to reading all of your stories and recommendations!

FTC disclosure: this post contains affiliate links to amazon.com. The affiliate program has no influence over the book I chose to highlight, but the law states I need to make this disclosure to our readers.
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To See a Flic or a Fleck that is the Question

by Carol Moon

To See a Flic or a Fleck that is the Question

Standing in a movie theatre queue
At the Rue
De Cinema I thought I saw a huge straw
Hatted gorilla whose maw
Was a small fishing lake.
Was I asleep or was I awake?
In all sincerity,
My eyes could not be trusted in this bewitching and beguiling Paris, city
Of lights. Toutefois, je suis un cas complexe:
Back home I perspire gold flecks
When I untie my right shoe.
Doctors don’t have a clue
And prescribe cheap
Matinée seats, une aspirine, and lots of sleep.

– – – – –
carolmoon

Carol Moon is a librarian and German instructor at Saint Leo University near Tampa, Florida. When not writing poetry, she travels, cooks, dances flamenco with her dog Denver​, and is applying to doctoral programs in Creative Writing.

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haikuesday: itch for spring

As summer approaches we say goodbye to spring with a few haiku by Sarah Kersey & Gretchen Gales on this haikuesday:

Angular portents
Wrap my sneakers with a lace
Like a sharp thicket.

– – –

Skin pruinose like
Ghost plants’ feather nerve endings,
I itch for spring.

– – –

I asked for ideas
So I could write shocking poems
not first-hand accounts.

– – –

I have decided
I’ll write about your dumb ass.
Turn straw into gold.

haiku one & two by Sarah Kersey. lspmag has also published Kersey’s poems, for J.M. and van Guard.

haiku three & four by Gretchen Gales. Gales was once rumored to have read all the books in the library. She studies English at Virginia Commonwealth University, so maybe someday she will. Currently she writes for Quail Bell Magazine and was recently made an assistant editor for some unknown reason. She is also the creator of On the Grid Zine, a zine that puts mental health on the map. 

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Fruits of Our Labor (The Healing Garden)

 

by Audrey

Part Two

“My flowers are budding!” I yelled to my partner as he gathered the water jugs on a hot early July afternoon. Until recently, we had been losing the battle against weeds. Our plants had fought against the invading army which sought to take their sunlight, water, and nutrients. Our efforts  were finally succeeding and I was overjoyed. Each day I returned to the garden, another flower stood proudly above the thinning enemy. The garden was not a complete failure despite our rocky start. Yes, the majority of the cucumbers in my plot did not grow and were replaced with new starter plants, but within a week of each other two cucumber plants pushed to the surface, almost a month after we had put the seeds in soil. Three large squash plants grew in a plot where we had buried an entire packet of seeds and started to produce numerous,  orange crookneck squash. I estimated our tomato plants would yield hundreds of various size and color. Some of our plants failed, but we were not failures. Inexperienced, but that could be remedied.

A week after our previously dormant cucumbers made their way above ground, I had a conversation about the resiliency of survivors. One of the participants and I discussed the metaphor of beautiful, delicate flowers. The third woman in our group jumped in after I referenced the unicorn plants growing in the Healing Garden. “Well, and I can’t believe the seed pods on the unicorn plants. The flowers are so dainty, but then the seed pod looks like a giant claw!”

After our discussion, we went to work in the garden to replace a flower that had fallen victim to transplant shock the week before. Despite some casualties, our three plots were thriving. The unicorn plants took over their box, and one of our yucca plants stood tall and green after weeks where we had questioned its survival. I reflected on our time spent in the Healing Garden this summer, still high off our conversation about plans to make it an even bigger and better project next summer and beyond. At that moment, the idea of the resiliency of plants and survivors struck me. Most of the summer already came and went. Both of my gardens would be taken over by frost and snow soon enough. The change I felt from summer to another school year was remarkable. I grew as a researcher, as a gardener, and as a survivor.

An integral part of my growth was the realization that I had tried to keep the Healing Garden separate from my own garden–really, from myself. The months spent planning, proposing, and implementing the Healing Garden for my thesis were months of seeing myself as separate from the participants. My focus was on helping and researching others, even while I talked about co-researchers, co-creation of knowledge, and co-participation. When I described the participants I was looking for I didn’t realize then that I was describing someone much like myself. I saw myself further in my healing than the proposed participants. As I spent time working in my personal garden full of frustration and joy and in my healing garden full of promise and anxiety and as I read literature like that written by Carolyn Ellis that allowed the acknowledgement and insertion of a researcher’s experiences and insights, I could admit the Healing Garden was created as much for myself as my personal garden. While the experiences and interactions in both have been different, the growth that has occurred in me was because of both. The pride I feel for both plants and participants I could extend to myself.

I am like them. I have survived. I am resilient. I am growing.

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