Monday, October 31, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Flashback Friday: Vampires, Politics and Mimi Miyagi

Where does the time go?

Continuing the retrospective view of On The The Other Side of the Eye, ten years ago in October, one of the fun posts I covered was the Creature Feature Series, including a look at "Vampires. Sort of." So in a "Where Are They Now," here's a quick run-down on where some of the colorful people from that article have gone since:

Sharkey "The Impaler" announced an intention to run for President in 2020. While he ran into a bunch of legal troubles from 2006 on that ended his run for Governor of Minnesota, given the way this year's results, he may well make an interesting case for President if he plays his cards right. He'd be 56 years old, and make about as much sense as any other candidate we seem to insist on fielding.

Mimi Miyagi didn't get elected governor back in 2006, having been defeated in the Republican primaries by Jim Gibbons, who went on to win the seat in 2007. She joined the Libertarian Party afterwards. In 2011, Complex magazine ranked her at #12 in their list of “The Top 50 Hottest Asian Porn Stars of All Time.” Which isn't quite on the same level as "Governor Miyagi," but at least she made a good faith effort to get involved in the democratic process. 

Strangely, there are still no details about the mysterious vampire pig of Soc Trang. Jean Gralley hasn't done a follow-up to Hogula, Dread Pig of Night.

The Cambodian "vampire" Pheach Phen's 1999 case was discussed briefly in 2009 at Infectious Bite | Revenant. As they note: "A Cambodian man" who was "accused of killing people and drinking their blood in the belief it would cure him of AIDS" was arrested and accused of murder. "Described as a 'vampire' by local villagers, Pheach Phen, 20, was arrested ...after allegedly killing a 5-year-old boy...The suspect allegedly slashed the boy with a machete and then sucked his blood, according to the report...Pheach Phen, who is HIV positive, told police that a traditional healer convinced him" that "he could halt the onset of AIDS and prolong his own life if he killed people and drank their blood."  However, there don't seem to be many other articles discussing the matter since.

Lao Storytellers: Preservation and Perpetuation

Thanks to documentary support from the Minnesota State Arts Board a few years ago we were able to document some of the journeys of our Lao American storytellers in Minnesota. This is the start of what will hopefully one day be a more full-length documentary that will be even more promising. Be sure to check it out.

Laos In The House Guest web series launches

Laos In The House Guest is a new video stories web series brought to us by Catzie Vilayphonh and her team at Laos in the House, following interesting people they've met along their journey to collect stories. They're dropping by homes and getting an in-depth perspective with their interviewees.

Their debut #LITHGuests are Manila and Kris of #IEatLaoFood.

Pom Foundation Annual Dinner, November 5th, 2016

The Lao community is coming together to raise funds and celebrate the official launch of Pom Foundation!

The gathering will be held at the Metropolitan Banquet Hall at 16420 SE 128th St, Renton, Washington. Tickets were available for $50 but as of Friday the event was sold out.

This will be their biggest annual fundraiser in the years ahead to support their ambitious programs and services to the Lao community in the Pacific Northwest and across the globe. All proceeds will be invested back into their program to continue their goal of preserving, promoting, and educating about Lao culture and arts through our various programs which include the Kinnaly Music and Dance Classes, Lao Cultural Exchange Program, Lao Summer Camp, and FORTE: Summer Camp Talent Show.

 At their inaugural benefit dinner guests can expect live music provided by Bohan Band, delicious food catered by Tuk Tuk Mobile Feast, performances from the acclaimed Kinnaly Dance Troupe, and other surprises throughout the evening. Come dressed to impress, semi-formal or Lao attire.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

[Poet Spotlight] Victoria Chang

This weekend, had a chance to catch poet Victoria Chang reading at the Altadena Library at an event organized by Dr. Elline Lipkin, Poet Laureate for the Altadena Library District.

It was an enjoyable reading for me because I first came across Victoria Chang in 2004 interviewing her for Asian American Press in Minnesota but this was the first time we met in person in 12 years, which has a certain poetry to it. The University of Minnesota's Voices from the Gap program archived the interview a few years back  regarding her anthology, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, published by the University of Illinois Press in 2004. Chang’s fourth book of poems, Barbie Chang is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2018.

I'm often interested in the work she's doing as a poet because she has roots in Michigan, where I spent many of my own formative years. Also, she owns dachshunds, so that's always a plus in my book. During her reading she shared selections from her upcoming collection as well as her third book, The Boss.

The Boss was published by McSweeney’s in 2013 as part of the McSweeney’s Poetry Series and won a PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award.

Her second book, Salvinia Molesta, was published by the University of Georgia Press as part of the VQR Poetry Series in 2008. In nature, the Salvinia Molesta is considered by many to be “the worst weed in the world.”  It is illegal to sell or possess in the US due to its rapid, uncontrollable invasive nature. In her book, Chang explored this image of vitality and evil to focus on corporate greed, infidelity and desire, and historical atrocities. Of her three so far, I've particularly enjoyed the works of Salvinia Molesta personally, but I would encourage my readers to take a look at what she's doing in any of her books.

Her first book, Circle, won the Crab Orchard Review Open Competition Award and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2005.  Inspired by the premise of the Ralph Waldo Emerson essay, Circles, Chang explored the shape as a framing trope for contemplating gender, family, and history in verse.

Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, POETRY, Believer, New England Review, VQR, The Nation, New Republic, The Washington Post, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere.

She is a contributing editor of the literary journal, Copper Nickel. You can visit her website at:

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Eye to the Telescope 22: Ghosts now live! (In a manner of speaking)

Eye to the Telescope’s 22nd issue, Ghosts, is now online at! This issue was guest edited by the award-winning writer Shannon Connor Winward (Undoing Winter, To the Touch). This time around, she presents 27 distinctive poets from around the world, including SFPA Grandmaster Jane Yolen, Rhysling award-winners, and newer voices in the speculative poetry community.

In her introduction to this issue, she notes, “...the poems in this “Ghosts” issue posit unusual, unexpected visions of afterlife. Some are more far-out than others, but all seek to explore the unmeasured places—the impossible phone call, the uncanny weather, the haunted oceans of earth and not-earth, the shadows between pages, steps, spoonfuls. I hope you brought a spectacular appetite—and a flashlight.”

Eye to the Telescope is the quarterly online journal publishing science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative poetry under the auspices of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Recent themes have included Family, Mythopoesis, Music and more. In January, guest editor Brian Garrison will present an assortment of exceptional poems centered on Robots.

Shannon Connor Winward’s writing appears widely including Pseudopod, Analog, Gargoyle, Pedestal Magazine, Star*Line, Strange Horizons and Literary Mama, among others. Her poetry chapbook Undoing Winter (Finishing Line Press, 2014) was recognized with an SFPA Elgin Award for Chapbook of the Year. She is a sometime-editor for the SFPA’s Halloween Poetry Reading page, and a staff writer for Pop Culture Madness, and poetry editor for Devilfish Review. You can visit her website at to learn more about her.

The featured poems she selected for this issue are:
Tulpa • L.W. Salinas
Hart Island • Holly Walrath
Mysticeti • Akua Lezli Hope
Upstairs Watches, Downstairs Waits • Robin Husen
A Night at Gran’ma Ginny’s • Dawn Cunningham
Be My Geist: A Villanelle • Suzan Pickford
Admittance • Cathleen Allyn Conway
Not a Destination • F.J. Bergmann
Fevered Ream • Daniel R. Jones
Hex Machina • Joe Nazare
Ma’s Late Knight Jam Session • Oliver Smith
Ghost Month • Christina Sng
Summer Hauntings • Andrea Blythe
No Longer Mine • Aisha Tayo Ijadunola
The Doppelgänger and the Ghost • Lev Mirov
Romance • Jessica J. Horowitz
Little Lost Cosmonaut • Charles Christian
“in the starship junkyard” • Lauren McBride
New World Haunting • Ann K. Schwader
Possession • Deborah L. Davitt
Three Worlds • Wendy Rathbone
Bright Matter • John W. Sexton
a stranger in the cemetery whispered to me • Rebecca Buchanan
Embracing the Bear • Jane Yolen
undying • John C. Mannone
Séance at Black Horse Pike • James Edward O’Brien
But after • Alex Harper

For those of you who are curious, you can see find the contributor bios here, along with all of the previous poets who’ve submitted to Eye to the Telescope in the past. Anyone who’s looking to expand their reading list of poets would do well to consider some of the voices featured here. I thank everyone who contributed such imaginative pieces to this issue, and I hope you find inspiration in these verses. Here’s to Ghosts, then, and all that they inspire now and in the future!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Jane Wong's The Poetics of Haunting

One of my absolute favorite reads/experiences of the Fall in poetry this year has been Jane Wong's "The Poetics of Haunting"or more fully, "The Poetics of Haunting in Asian American Poetry." It pushes the boundaries of our expectations with a wonderful intersection of the oral and the visual.

This is a digital humanities project based on her dissertation, with powerful and stunning performances/conversations/videos/poems/images/ephemera by Asian American poets Don Mee Choi, Bhanu Kapil, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Pimone Triplett, Monica Sok, Cathy Linh Che, Sally Wen Mao, Christine Shan Shan Hou, and Jane Wong's communion with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.

I'm very intrigued by Jane Wong's dissertation and the Asian American poets she brought together for this project. I believe there's a tremendous amount for us to consider here in the ongoing discussions of speculative poetry, both from a technical standpoint, as well as the content.

Audio, video, text, illustrations and photography intersect significantly with history, folklore, tradition and other aspects of the human experience. I appreciate this deeply for showing us what's possible, even as I wonder where all of this could take us next.

This is absolutely essential for all emerging and experience Asian American poets to experience.

Star*Line 39.4 Arriving!

Science Fiction Poetry Association members, you should have received an e-mail with the link to the pdf for the final issue of Star*Line for 2016, 39.4. Please let us know if you haven't received it.

On the physical side of things, this issue just arrived from the printer, and it will be shipping soon. I want to give a special thanks to our cover artist Hasani Claxton this quarter. His piece is entitled "Communing with the Ancestors."

Hasani Claxton was raised on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. He always had a passion for art but had never met a successful, professional artist on his little island. He thus never considered art as a viable career option. He moved to Atlanta, GA in 1995 to attend Morehouse College and earned a Bachelor’s in business administration in 1999. He went on to earn law degree from Columbia University in New York in 2003.

While serving as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx he took evening classes at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and in 2005 decided to pursue his passion full time. He studied Illustration at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where his art was selected for the Spring Show in 2008. He earned his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in 2009 and later that year attended the Illustration Master Class at Amherst College.

His commissions have included a mural for an installation at the Carolina Children’s Museum in Puerto Rico and an album cover for Austrian indie band Ray Childish, as well as private portrait and mural commissions. In 2012 his art was selected for the Black Art In America Juried show at the Harlem Fine Arts Show. He currently resides in Towson, Maryland.

Definitely keep an eye out for more of his wonderful work!

Our Fall issue features 39 poets this time. It’s a great mix of both established and emerging voices, award-winning poets, and new faces. My thanks go to everyone who submitted, with a note of appreciation to F.J. Bergmann who edited this issue. I encourage everyone to submit for next year as we hit volume 40 of Star*Line! As always, if you enjoy a poet's poem, please be sure to let them know!

Our poets for this issue are: Francis W. Alexander Billy Antonio, David Barber, Robert Borski, Susan Burch, Ronald S. Busse, Beth Cato, G.O. Clark, David Clink, Deborah L. Davitt, Wendy S. Delmater, Denise Dumars, Ian Duncan, Gary Every, Robert Frazier, Carolyn M. Hinderliter, Ian Hunter, Soren James, Herb Kauderer, David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Denny E. Marshall, Lauren McBride, Glenn A. Meisenheimer, Richard Merelman, Simon Perchik, Ken Poyner, Jack Ralls, Jessy Randall, John Reinhart, Anton Rose, Ann K. Schwader, Christina Sng, J.J. Steinfeld, Lisa Timpf, Cesar Valtierra, Chuck Von Nordheim, Holly Walrath, Matthew Wilson, and Shannon Connor Winward.

First established in 1978, the Science Fiction Poetry Association brings together poets and readers interested in science fiction poetry, as well as poetry incorporating fantasy horror and other imaginative genres. An international organization, we publish two journals, Star*Line and Eye to the Telescope, and oversee three major literary awards for poetry: The Rhyslings, the Dwarf Stars, and the Elgin Awards.

We also conduct an annual science fiction poetry contest and other special events and gatherings. We also provide resources for emerging and established poets seeking professional publication and networking opportunities. Consider joining our association today!

SFPA Halloween Poetry Showcase call for submissions!

A reminder to all Science Fiction Poetry Association Members: Remember you can submit your poems to our Halloween showcase up until Oct. 26th! We're looking for audio recordings of your poem & art to go with it. :) Guidelines for submitting to Stace Johnson are on the page.

Let's hear your spookiest!

Eye to the Telescope Call for Robots

Eye to the Telescope is the quarterly online journal publishing science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative poetry under the auspices of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Recent themes have included Ghosts, Family, Mythopoesis, Music and more.

Now approaching its 23rd issue, guest editor Brian Garrison has issued a call for Robots!
Robots and computers have served to make our lives both infinitely easier and infinitely more complex. They are created by humans, and yet they mystify us. We can’t quite decide whether we should classify robots alongside shards of amethyst silent underground, twisting vines of morning glory climbing toward the sun, mosquitoes buzzing in search of blood, or researchers interpreting their experimental data. Maybe they belong in a category of their own. 
Literature has explored doomsday scenarios of machine warfare; speculated about the key ingredients of intelligence, emotion, and consciousness as robots enter our workplaces, game rooms, bedrooms, etc.; showed us how hackers and other cyberpunks might live in an increasingly computerized society; and otherwise done what literature is supposed to do—make things up. For this issue of Eye to the Telescope, it is your opportunity to tell everyone about your hopes or fears about life among machines. Let us place your poetry here, to be faithfully communicated to the world through humanity's largest electronic undertaking so far, the internet. Tell us: where are we going, where have we been?
The deadline to submit is December 15th! We're looking forward to seeing all of the inventive takes you can present us for this next issue! Pay is 3 cents/word up to $25, rounded up to the nearest dollar, with a minimum of a $3 payment.

Our guest editor Brian Garrison is a great member and volunteer of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. I'm always delighted by his work. He lives in Portland, OR, where he writes poetry, runs errands for the silly poetry journal, Parody, and sometimes does other stuff too.

And here's me, doing research for the upcoming issue:

Good luck and keep inspired!

Searching for Speculative Poetry in Steinbeck Country

I admit, I must have skimmed this chapter in Cannery Row. 

I recently had a chance to take a tour up to Steinbeck Country, visiting Monterey and Carmel By the Sea to look for speculative poets in the region. Our members list for the Science Fiction Poetry Association didn't show any active members in the area, but that didn't mean there weren't places of interest for us.

Monterey is of course famous for figuring in several of John Steinbeck's writings, but also apparently has connections to Dennis the Menace creator Hank Ketchum. There is a quaint children's park that features a bronze statue of his most famous creation. Not dog-friendly, however, which seems a pity, but it's not like he was the creator of Marmaduke or Snoopy.

Of course, other famous writers connected to Monterey include Robinson Jeffers, Robert A. Heinlein, Henry Miller, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

I found myself charmed by the idea of Robert Louis Stevenson taking up residence there just to be close to the woman he loved until her divorce was final and they went off on their own adventures from there. Robert Louis Stevenson is of course known for bringing us The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island. 

Robert A. Heinlein died in Monterey in 1988, but had only been living there for a short time, and the internet wasn't terribly helpful in showing where his former house or might have even remotely been. So it seems like a tangential connection at best, but, eh, I took what I could.

Of course, Heinlein matters to the Science Fiction Poetry Association for his character the blind poet Rhysling, whom we name our Rhysling Awards after for Best Poems of the Year. (Remember to start thinking of your nominations for this year, by the way. We've had some outstanding ones already!)

Modern Steinbeck Country doesn't quite resemble all of the old Dust Bowl style photographs of Dorothea Lange. The waterfront has many stops for tourists, but it was easy to find parking nearby and take in all of the sights like this toothsome fellow. The Deep Ones have been working out here, it seems. That's California for you. Everyone keeps in shape.

There weren't many bookstores in the area at the moment, although I found the online Monterey Poetry Review still going strong since 2005. I particularly enjoyed the poetry of Alyce Di Palma, which had some speculative poetry elements, although it might be too far to consider it fully a speculative poem. Han Jae Lee also had a nice pair of poems for consideration in their most recent issue, "Flower Watch," and "The Sorrow."

This bookstore in an old caboose has never been open in all of the years I've visited. I'm beginning to think it's just there for pictures. So be it.

Many moments in Monterey encouraged me that there are indeed lovers of the speculative arts and culture thriving in Steinbeck Country. A case in point was this thrift shop helping the town's most eligible find love and romance. Personally I think Bachelor #2 was the smartest, while Bachelor #1 was hard working. Bachelor #3 was a total rat, however.

The weekend was also marked by the arrival of Jurassic Quest, which included giant animatronic dinosaurs and amusements certain to entertain any child with imagination and a sense of wonder. I couldn't go in because they observe a rather strict no-dachshunds policy, but that's understandable enough. Dachshunds vs. Dinosaurs, and all.

The personal highlight of this trip for me was making my way up to Tor House and Hawk Tower, the legendary poet's estate of Robinson Jeffers. I've long admired his poetry for its stark, unflinching cosmic eye.

Though he had run into any number of controversies throughout his career, I always find him a figure worth reading when I need inspiration. It was an easy enough drive to Carmel By the Sea with a number of twisting roads that led to wondrous view when you arrive, even after so much development.

I'll have to file a separate report on this part of the journey later, but for now, I assure you that it is a fine stop for poets. I thank the volunteers there for all of their hospitality. Many influential cultural figures were guests of the Jeffers family over the years, such as Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, George Gershwin and Charlie Chaplin. 

A brief trip was made to the Monterey Museum of Art, which had some fine works on display, and across the way was the Moon Tree.

The Moon Tree was grown from seeds carried into space on Apollo 14 by Stuart Roosa, who'd been a smoke jumper before he joined NASA. This was one of 400 seedlings that germinated upon return to earth.  Most were given away in 1975 and 1976 to many state forestry organizations to be planted as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration, which was coincidentally when I became a US citizen. Monterey’s Moon Tree is a Redwood. Alas, no comprehensive list was ever kept of all of the trees so the locations of many of them are unknown.

As fascinating as it all was, I couldn't stay in Steinbeck Country forever and returned home.

On the way back, I fed a stray white dog in the shadows of the last gas station James Dean ever stopped at before he crashed into a tree a half-hour away, alone. It feels like there should be a poem in there, somewhere.

Presenting at LOSCON 43!

I'll be presenting at LOSCON 43 this Thanksgiving weekend for the very first time, including topics of speculative poetry and our work with the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). If you're in the area, come on by!

The guests of honor include David Gerrold, Peri Charlifu, and Nick Smith.

Among the other confirmed presenters already confirmed: Barbara Hambly, Donald F. Glut, S. P. Hendrick, Larry Niven, Marv Wolfman, Jerry Pournelle, Geoffrey Mark, Bradford Lyau, Harry Turtledove, Brandon Easton, Eric Atkinson, Craig Miller, Gwendolyn Womack, Mel Gilden, Jaymee Goh, Tim Powers, Richard Foss, Thomas M. Sipos, Chris Butler, Victor Frost, Laura Frankos, Todd McCaffrey, Keith G. Kato, Tina Beychok, Joni Labaqui, Isabel Schechter, Genny Dazzo, Alfred Nash, David Raiklen, Elonda Castro, Maria Alexander, Gregory Benford, Joyce McCarthy, Gregg Castro, John DeChancie, Daryl G. Frazetti, John R Blaker, Laurie Tom, Larry Burch, Erika Ishii, Martin Young, Steven Barnes, and Tananarive Due.

In December 1975 the Los Angeles Science Fantasy prepared LA 2000, a special convention to celebrate the club's 2,000th meeting. The event was so enjoyable that it was repeated in 1976. At this time it moved to October to honor the club's anniversary and called itself LOSCON for the first time. It was held twice in 1977, the second that year being the first with an official guest of honor, Dr. Jerry Pournelle. By 1978 it had finally settled into an annual November affair, the Los Angeles Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. Then starting with LOSCON 9 in 1982, the Thanksgiving weekend was chosen and became subsequently the traditional date.

See you there!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Water~Stone Review. Vol. 19, "Paper Bones"

My new poem "An Exchange in Ukiah, CA, 2557" will be in the new issue of Water~Stone Review coming out this month. Be sure to check it out along with all of the other wonderful writers featured in this issue! The theme this time "Paper Bones," inspired by a line from my poem in this issue.

It particularly stands out for the inclusion of four award-winning Hmong writers: Soul Choj Vang, Mai Der Vang, Kao Kalia Yang, and May Lee Yang, all of whom I've had the pleasure of reading with in the past, but somehow never all together. Maybe one day.

Their Annual Reading and Reception is Friday, Nov. 11 at 7PM at Kay Fredericks Hall in the Klas Center on the Hamline University campus in Saint Paul. There is a brief public reception after the reading. More details to come.

Water~Stone Review is a literary annual published by the The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University. The review publishes work in all genres as well as essay/reviews and writers’ interviews. Features include three contests and photography curated by students at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.

The name of the journal refers to the ‘Water~Stone,’ known in alchemy as the ‘Philosopher’s Stone.’ It "was composed of the four elements of earth, fire, air and water. The stone was supposed by alchemists to possess the property of changing base metals into gold, the most perfect of all metals. It was thought to combine within itself matter and spirit, or body and soul: a union of opposites in perfect harmony. Water~Stone connotes the dynamic, transformative power of literature, as well as the search for beauty and perfection at work in the hearts of aspiring writers. The logo type for Water~Stone is based on a hybrid of two ancient alchemic symbols: one for the amalgam of all elements, and the second for the element of water as a pure and dynamic force. The amalgam is a reference to the multi-genre, interdisciplinary nature of the creative writing programs at Hamline."

The Book of Three Gates funding now!

I'll be contributing an essay to The Book of Three Gates from Strix Publishing, examining connections between Southeast Asia and Lovecraftian esoterica. :) So here's something to keep a tri-lobed eye out for. It's currently funding via Kickstarter, and is from Simon Berman and his associates who brought you the exceptional Book of Starry Wisdom last year!

"The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be." —H.P. Lovecraft, The Dunwich Horror

The Book of Three Gates compiles newly edited editions of H.P. Lovecraft’s public domain stories of eldritch horror, edited and produced by Simon Berman, and illustrated by renowned deific and fantasy artist, Valerie Herron (The Book of the Great Queen, The Book of Starry Wisdom).

Accompanied by essays and musings by some of today’s premiere Lovecraftian scholars, writers, and devotees, The Book of Three Gates will be a luxurious 11.25" x 8.5", approximately 180 page hardback tome, featuring a leather textured cover with gold foil pressed symbols of significance to the Opener of Ways, 12 interior B&W illustrations, end papers displaying a map of the Township of Dunwich, as well as other features to be unlocked as the Kickstarter meets its stretch goals. This premium volume is a companion to The Book of Starry Wisdom and will be a stunning addition to the library of any enthusiast of H.P. Lovecraft or worshipper of the Old Ones.

The Book of Three Gates centers upon three of Lovecraft's stories in which the ways between worlds have been shattered, transgressed, or violated:

The Dunwich Horror
The Dreams in the Witch House
The Haunter of the Dark

These iconic tales are accompanied by newly unearthed essays and mad ravings that blur the line between fact and fiction, science and madness.

The Book of Three Gates, like it's companion volume, The Book of Starry Wisdom, is meant to provide an immersive experience. Lovecraft's stories are full of hideous tomes of forbidden knowledge, and my hope is that these editions will make the reader feel that they are delving into those unspeakable horrors just like the protagonists of stories like The Dunwich Horror, or The Dreams in the Witch House. It's to that end that I've paired these stories with a selection of superb writers tasked with eroding the fourth wall between Lovecraft's fiction and fact.

Gorgons and Hydras, and Chimaeras—dire stories of Celaeno and the Harpies—may reproduce themselves in the brain of superstition—but they were there before. They are transcripts, types—the archetypes are in us, and eternal. —Charles Lamb, Witches and Other Night-Fears

Contributors include:

Adam Scott Glancy (Delta Green)

Orrin Grey (Never Bet The Devil & Other Warnings, The Cult of Headless Men)

A.S. Koi (Honor & Sacrifice (Tribes of Heaven))

Evan Peterson (The Midnight Channel, Producer; SHRIEK: Women of Horror)

C.A. Suleiman (The Lost Citadel, Mummy: the Curse)

Don Webb (Overthrowing the Old Gods: Aleister Crowley and the Book of the Law, Uncle Setnakt's Night Book)

Bryan Thao Worra (Demonstra, On the Other Side of the Eye)

SFPA 2016 Best of the Net Nominations from Eye to the Telescope

The SFPA officers and editors of Eye to the Telescope have nominated the following six poets and poems --which we feel are stellar examples of Eye to the Telescope and the field of speculative poetry -- for the 2016 Best of the Net (Sundress Publications). All poems were first published online in Eye to the Telescope during the eligibility period (July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016):

"The Robot by the Fireplace" by Ken Poyner (Eye to the Telescope #20, "Family")

"Landscapes" by Geoffrey A. Landis (Eye to the Telescope #19, "Mythopoesis")

"Quicksilver Voices" by Evelyn Deshane (Eye to the Telescope #19, "Mythopoesis")

"Mermaid, On Land" by Jeannine Hall Gailey (Eye to the Telescope #18, "Race")

"The Distance Between Stars" by Stacey Gruver (Eye to the Telescope #17, "Isolation")

"Runner" by Nora Weston (Eye to the Telescope #17, "Isolation")

Congratulations, poets!

Ballad of the Cornelius G. Kolff

There are many reasons that the the famed Staten Island Ferry Disaster has been swept aside from most historical accounts, the most popular of them being that the assassination of John F. Kennedy overshadowed the tragedy at the time. 

For those of you who do not recall, on November 22, 1963 at 4 a.m., over 400 passengers lost their lives when the Cornelius G. Kolff ferry was attacked by a giant cephalopod. It was most likely a member of the Enteroctopus Titanolocyathus who found its way near the Eastern seaboard, although some scholars have suggested other less plausible suspects. 

You can find out more at the Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum, of course.It's located at 1001 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, New York. It's really worth the trip. Although it's a modest exhibit, what they have on display there really brings history alive, and the docents are so nice. Also, to note, the cafe's Fried Calamari easily rivals Lee's Tavern.

From a speculative poetry perspective, I'm of course fascinated by the songs and verse that the incident spawned. Most were deservedly forgettable, with cheap attempts to rhyme "octopus" or "kraken," although there were at least two from that year that made an effort to connect it to the work of early 20th century Weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft and his famed creation, Cthulhu. 

The subject seems to have dropped off of the literary radar for most around 1973, although more research could certainly be done. The most "competent" of these, was perhaps the 1965 "Ballad of the Cornelius G. Kolff" by one Asenath Marsh of Red Hook, New York.

It begins:
"The legend lives on from Staten Island on down
Of the dreadfully fated Cornelius G. Kolff Ferry.
With a blissful load of 400 souls on a ship quite roomy,

There were cheers aplenty on their way to town,
Unaware of their upcoming doomy,

For that good ship seemed quite tasty
To a titanic octopus who was mighty, mighty scary..."

And from there, well, it's not much to bother with. It's a silly ditty, and certainly no "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Hopefully, I'll have more to report for you all later on the matter. In the meantime, be sure to thank artist Joseph Reginella for bringing all of this back to our attention whenever you get the chance.

Monday, October 10, 2016

[Poet Spotlight] Vi Khi Nao

Recently, the poet Vi Khi Nao has come to my attention, particularly with her new book of poetry this year, The Old Philosopher.

She holds an MFA in fiction from Brown University, where she received the John Hawkes and Feldman Prizes in fiction and the Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Award in poetry. She traces her roots back to Long Khanh, Vietnam, where she was born in 1979.

Like many of the Southeast Asian American poets of today, her work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. She is the author of two novellas, Swans In Half-Mourning (2013) and The Vanishing Point of Desire (2011). Her manuscript, A Brief Alphabet of Torture, won the 2016 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest. This Fall, Coffee House Press released her novel Fish in Exile.

Her poetry collection, The Old Philosopher, was the winner of 2014 Nightboat Poetry Prize. So it would be a bit of an understatement to say she's on a roll lately.

Vi Khi Nao resides in Iowa City, Iowa, where she is involved with Per Second Press. You can follow her on twitter at where she is quite active. Christopher Allen has a fine 2015 interview with her that discusses much of her process and her journey as a writer at SmokeLong Quarterly. It's well worth the read.

But let's get to the heart of her latest collection of poetry, The Old Philosopher from Nightboat Books. Founded in 2003, Nightboat Books is a non-profit press based in New York with over fifty titles in its catalog, and it's easy to see where The Old Philosopher fits in among them.   The Old Philosopher checks in at 80 pages with a cover by Leslie Lerner, A Scout Under A Copper Sky. Her book is described by the publisher as:
...enigmatic, sexual, biblical, anachronistic, political, and personal all at once. These quiet, implosive poems inhabit a nonlinear temporality in which Vi Khi Nao brings biblical time and political time together in the same poetic space, allowing current affairs to converse with a more ancient and historical reality.
Bearing that in mind, the question then, is, does her collection achieve its premise? Does it have a clear, active voice that engages with the various themes and concerns she sets out to explore? I would say yes.

Stylistically, she uses a variety of forms, but the majority of them are brief, between one to two pages, and sometimes occupying less than half a page. The poems typically do not overstay their welcome, and leave enough room for readers from a variety of perspectives to approach them. As one might expect from the title, the tone is predominantly contemplative and introspective with considerate images.

She endcaps her book by opening with "dear god i am god" and closing with "Skyscrapers." Without giving it away, I think among her selections for this collection, these two are appropriate and stirring choice for an introduction and endpoint.

The Old Philosopher is distinctly a text that emerges from a Vietnamerican perspective, addressing her subjects ably without exoticizing them. As is well known, I strongly disapprove of italics in poetry texts involving "foreign" terms from the Southeast Asian cultures, and I was delighted to see she incorporates her Vietglish with a matter-of-fact presentation. She does not shy away from her history or culture, nor engage in hagiography or romanticization in her poems, but she accomplishes a great deal often in a handful of lines. "Untitled" was one of my particular favorites from the collection.

The title poem, "The Old Philosopher" is found about a quarter into the book. It's a challenging, brief observation that leaves a memorable image with a reader. It can linger with you for a good deal of time throughout the rest of your day. There are some distinctly surreal poems worth exploring such as "The Day God Smokes My Grandmother," "Today I Lost My Hat," and "As Soon As," that I appreciated.

A familiarity with Christianity and the Bible is helpful, but not absolutely necessary for much of her text, and she explores homosexuality and intimacy with a fine voice. Among the interesting poems recalling her childhood is "My Socialist Saliva" that vividly puts Long Khanh on the literary map. In later collections, I'd love to see how she would take her voice in even more imaginative directions, given her wonderful ability to explore classical Western culture, the historical and the experienced.

Overall, I consider this an excellent and ambitious collection, and it has my recommendation this year for a good many readers. I look forward to seeing more books of poetry from Vi Khi Nao in the future.

Remembering John Worra (1935-2006)

Today, October 10th marks the 10th year since my father passed away in Tipton, Michigan. It’s also the 10th anniversary since I began my blog, On The Other Side of the Eye, which I’d started while visiting home to help take care of dad in the final stages of cancer.

It’s been helpful to be able to go back to the earlier entries I’d had to mark the day, and taught me a lot about how do we remember the people who raised us. To consider how our memories, our feelings change over time, and what stays the same. What are the important things, the lingering words? Some I’ve found, can be shared with the world, while some stay with you privately.

One of the hard parts about a father’s funeral is the immediate flurry of stories you’re told, the respects friends, old classmates and distant relatives of his pay. You’ll try hard to remember as much as you can, but in that day, and the weeks that follow, there’s still so much to take care of, that a lot slips away. I’m always brought to mind Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “People” and the line “Of whom, essentially, what did we know?"

It’s become a bit of a ritual, then, each year to write down a short summation of his life. That he was a pilot. And as I knew him, he loved to work among machines and tools. When he wasn’t flying he loved to be in his garage, machining things, fixing things for the house. Dad was born in South Haven, Michigan in 1935. When he turned 18, he enlisted in the US Army, and by 1961 was working for Zantop Airlines. In 1971, he took a job flying in Southeast Asia for Royal Air Lao. This would last until 1973, when he would go back to work again for Zantop Airlines in the United States.

It was in January, 1973, that he and his family adopted me, and I came to the United States. The rest turns into a complicated story for another day. In the 1980s he began flying for UPS and and would stay with them for almost a decade when retired 1997. These are, of course, dates that are largely significant only for my family, but it creates something of a history, a timeline by which we might consider our relationship to the rest our community and the global events that shape us.

Of course, there are days I look back and wonder how much Dad would understand the journey I’ve had to take. There were many things he tried to share and pass on to me, and there were times when he came to understand there were parts of my path that would have to be very different from his. But he came to see that much of the work I did was important, even beyond making a paycheck. So, I’m appreciative of that, even if we didn’t always see eye to eye on some social issues. But there was room enough in the world for both views.

2006 was a turning point for me, and in the next year I would release my first full-length collection of poetry, On The Other Side Of The Eye, which in turn led to much of my modern literary career and the work I’ve done since. And now, ten years later? There are often moments I wonder if I lived up to his expectations and hopes, if I did something of merit that vindicates everything we’d all gone through together. I think we’d be honest enough to say that more could have been done, but what we’ve done thus far was not insignificant.

But on a personal level, this year, shortly after what would have been my father’s 81st birthday, I took vows briefly as a Buddhist monk at the Wat Lao in Modesto near my birth family. Following that, I went on to a number of significant events such as speaking at the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and the National Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego, teaching writers at Kearny Street Workshop and now assuming the duties of President of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. My father loved to travel, and I suppose no small part of my time this year has been spent on the road, trying to figure out, what next?

This year, it’s the Year of the Monkey in the Asian traditions, and I think often of Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey and the mythic figure of the Monkey King. It’s been a year where I’m inclined to be acutely aware of the meandering turns any life can take if you don’t accept a traditional path for yourself. My father didn’t. I, too, did not have the ability to go on a more routine road. It’s not without its challenges. But if you approach life with gratitude and an open mind, there’s tremendous joy to be embraced.

So, for all of you who’ve been a part of my family’s journey, I thank you for that, and I look forward to wherever the years ahead take us next. Now, it’s time go be a part of the day, a cosmos vast and infinite, full of wonders.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Science Fiction Poetry Association 2016 Summer Roundup

A big thanks goes to
Michael H. Payne who's taken on the ongoing duty of collecting the news of recent sales and publications by members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association from around the world. That's no small task! Michael just finished gathering the 2016 Summer successes of our members for the summer, posting them here. We'll be posting member achievements on a monthly basis, going forward. Congratulations to all of our members, and we wish you continued success! 

Bruce Boston and Alessandro Manzetti
David C. Kopaska-Merkel and Kendall Evans
Ruth Berman
  • co-edited two chapbooks of poems by the late Cassandra O'Malley, "The Freeway of Heaven and other poems" (poems mostly sf, mostly previously published) and "The Well of Changes and other poems" (poems mostly sf, not previously published). Bagperson Press, Minneapolis MN, Summer 2016.
Josh Brown
Sara Backer, under the pseudonym of Che Sara Sara
Mark C. Childs
Robert Borski
T.D. Walker
Akua Lezli Hope
Lauren McBride
Deborah P. Kolodji and Michael Dylan Welch
  • rengay, “Going Places,” Kokako 25, New Zealand, September 2016
An international literary organization, the Science Fiction Poetry Association was founded in 1978 to bring together poets and readers interested in science fiction, fantasy, horror, science, and surrealistic poetry. You can visit the website at