Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Liberia Seeks Laos’s Help In Rice Self-Sufficiency

In one of the more interesting international relationships developing, it appears the African nation of Liberia is building ties to Laos in order to address rice production to meet the needs of its population, according to an article by the Liberian Observer.

While today the relationship seems centered on agricultural issues, I would hope to see an expansion of interaction in the future that builds further cultural to one another. For those of you who are curious, this is what life would be like for each of them if they switched places today, courtesy of My Life Elsewhere using data from the 2014 World Factbook.

This year marks the 170th anniversary of Liberian independence, although the US did not initially recognize their independence until the time of the Civil War.  The first and oldest modern African republic, Liberia holds the historical distinction of being the only African republic to have self-proclaimed independence without revolting from another nation, and maintained independence during the European colonial era. 

This is not to say they haven't had challenges, including a relatively recent civil war and controversies of blood diamonds, illegal timber exports, and significant charges of corruption among government officials. 

It's a history worth studying, particularly they way they've implemented truth and reconciliation committees in the 2000s to address their past and rebuild their country.

According to the Liberian Observer, Ambassador Thomas of Liberia remarked "We understand that Lao PDR is self-sufficient in rice production, and is now exporting to China and other countries.”

In the article, he also stated “Liberia’s staple diet is also rice, which the government would welcome a rapid acceleration of efforts to establish a bilateral cooperation mechanism between the two countries, which would help Liberia move from being an importer to that of becoming self-sufficient and an exporter of rice in the West Africa region in partnership with Lao PDR,”

Time will tell what else is possible for the two nations if they can find significant common ground with one another.

Speculative poets of Afrofuturism

As we close Black History Month in the US, here are some of my personal favorite emerging and established poets who've added greatly to speculative poetry and Afrofuturism over the years. There are of course, many more, but I hope this will be a good start to encourage my readers to seek their work out, as well as those whom I have not mentioned in this particular note.

It is my hope you all take the time to get to know their work. We often see the tremendous advances our prose writers and musicians are paving the way for us in Afrofuturism, but I feel it's vital to take the time to let our poets in the community know that they, too, have added deeply to the tradition, and their voice is meaningful and necessary, and at times terrifying and hilarious, as it should be. Keep going, keep creating.

Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith is an educator and the author of Life on Mars. Tracy K. Smith earned her BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. Smith is the author of three books of poetry. In addition to Life On Mars, she wrote The Body's Question (2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; and Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award.  In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship. She has also written a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015). Smith teaches creative writing at Princeton University and lives in Brooklyn.

Airea D. Matthews is the author of the highly anticipated Simulacra coming this year, selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets. Matthews received an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, where she is currently the assistant director; she also serves as executive editor of The Offing. A Cave Canem Fellow and a Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, Matthews lives in Detroit. This year, she is also a Rhsyling Award nominated poet.

Linda D. Addison is a legendary figure in SFF who was the first African American to win a coveted Bram Stoker Award in Horror for her poetry, for 2001's Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes, and she's gone on to win several more. I profiled her recently, along with Akua Lezli Hope, who is the author of Them Gone and a winner of the SFPA SF Poetry Contest in the short form category.

Tlotlo Tsamaase is the first speculative poet from Botswana I've read, but already her work shows great promise in the years ahead.

LaShawn M. Wanak‘s work can be found in Strange Horizons, Ideomancer, and Daily Science Fiction. She is a 2011 graduate of Viable Paradise.

Naru Sundar has just started coming onto the scene but I enjoyed his "Origami Crane / Light-Defying Spaceship" and so many of his other poems that I'm happy to recommend him for those who want to see one of our promising talents in action.

Out in Oakland, Lisa Marie is holding it down, exploring the complex possibilities of being through her poetry, theater, performance art and essays. It's well worth checking out her work.

Brandon O'Brien is a Rhysling-nominated poet and writer from Trinidad. His work has been shortlisted for the 2014 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing and the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions, and is published or upcoming in Strange Horizons, Reckoning, and New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, among others. He is also a performer and facilitator with the.art.is Performing Arts Company, and the poetry editor of FIYAH Magazine. I'm just beginning to become familiar with his poetry, but what I've seen so far tells me we can expect great work from him over the decades ahead.

Nisi Shawl's been involved with Steamfunk, SFF and speculative literature for decades and has been a positive figure and mentor for many around the world.

Somali American Sofia Samatar has been an exceptional trailblazer in Afrofuturism and the world of speculative literature, particularly known for her prose, but I think it's vital to look at what she's doing in poetry, as well, such as "The Sand Diviner" or "Notes Towards a Theory of Quantum Blackness."

Tonya Liburd, whom I've also highlighted recently is an emerging poet who was recently nominated for a Rhysling Award. Based in Canada with Caribbean roots, she's an Associate Editor for Abyss & Apex, she was longlisted for a 2015 Carter V Cooper (Vanderbilt) Prize, and her work has appeared in Space And Time, Cascadia Subduction Zone, Postscripts to Darkness 6, UnCommon Minds, Expanded Horizons, the Mondays Are Murder series, Polar Borealis Magazine, Grievous Angel, and elsewhere. She’s also an affiliate member of the Horror Writer Association.

J.T. Stewart is an accomplished poet, writer, playwright, editor, teacher, and performance artist who has taught creative writing, literature, and film studies at the University of Washington, Seattle Central Community College, and at Fairhaven College (Western Washington University). Her poetry collections Nommo and Ceremony can be found in the University of Washington's archive of Northwest writers. Some of her other work appears in The Seattle Review, Raven Chronicles, Seattle Times, and The Portland Oregonian. J.T. belongs to New York City's Harlem Writers' Guild and co-founded Seattle's Clarion West Science Fiction Writer's Workshop.. She has been an invited writer-in-residence and board member at Hedgebrook, a private retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island, where a distinguished writer's scholarship was established in her name.

The late Octavia Estelle Butler (1947 – 2006) was a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, She was one of the best-known women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the "Genius Grant," and her poem "Earthseed" remains deeply influential as an example of speculative poetry,

Yusef Komunyakaa is known for many amazing works, but among my favorites of his is his 2001 collection Talking Dirty To The Gods. That book assured me it was more than acceptable to keep on the path of the speculative poet. This collection was structured as "four by four by four-or-so verbal performances stuck together to form an oblique and psychologically intricate antihistory of the human world, from Homo erectus to MTV. The poems keep up particular interests in sculpture; craft objects, from thumbscrews to valentines; sex; insects; and classical and comparative mythography. Polyphemus the Cyclops, Godzilla the movie, a full bill of Greek gods and ancient personages, the Renaissance artist Pollaiuolo, Rodin, W.E.B. DuBois, the minor Modernist martyr Harry Crosby, and (as Komunyakaa's devotees might expect) a team of jazz musicians stand among the large cast of characters."

One of America’s most significant literary figures, Ishmael Reed has published over thirty books of poetry, prose, essays, and plays, as well as penned hundreds of lyrics for musicians ranging from Taj Mahal to Macy Gray. His work is known for its satirical, ironic take on race and literary tradition, as well as its innovative, post-modern technique. Reed’s books of poetry include Conjure (1972), nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, Chattanooga (1973), A Secretary to the Spirits (1978), New and Collected Poems (1988), and New and Collected Poems 1964-2007 (2007), which was named one of the best books of poetry of the year by the New York Times, and won the California Gold Medal in Poetry. Among his most influential poems on me is of course "Beware: Do Not Read This Poem."

Notoriously unphotographed, almost Sasquatchian in that regard, Francis Wesley Alexander is a Rhysling nominated speculative poet based in Ohio and is prolifically writing, while enjoying the antics of two kittens. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in diverse publications such as Disturbed, Star*Line, Prune Juice, Scifaikuest, Illumen, Martian Wave, Trysts of Fate, and numerous others. He particularly writes in shorter forms which I've found engaging and intriguing.

Finally, for this introduction, one of my other favorite poets is Gary Jackson. Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Tin House, 32 Poems, and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/595023 has two of my favorite poems of his, "Tryouts" and "Shazam." Be sure to read his work when you can.

Kong: Skull Island coming

Frankly, I've had just about enough of Year of the Monkey that I haven't been paying much attention to the approach of Kong: Skull Island. but as it turns out, this might be a pleasant mistake when I put on my kaiju appreciation hat.

They've decided to go with a Vietnam War-era time frame to reboot the story, which naturally gets my attention.

I'm also intrigued by the presence of some of my favorite actors including John C. Reilly, who looks ready to steal the show with a comedic character who reminds me of Dennis Hopper's whacked-out reporter in Apocalypse Now. As far as the trailer goes, it appears there are plenty of cinematic nods to Francis Ford Coppola's opus, as well as other classics addressing this era such as Platoon. The natives are always a problematic element of any Kong film but we'll see what happens.

From a narrative standpoint, I hope we're not going to go the standard route and bring Kong back to New York and watch him fall off of the World Trade Center over Brie Larson's Mason Weaver. The reports suggest that Kong: Skull Island is set within the Monsterverse, a premise that also includes Godzilla (from the 2014 US version, which I try very hard to scrub from my mind) and we should be on the lookout for references to the Monarch monster hunting organization and things that set up a fight between Godzilla and King Kong in a few years, and later on Rodan, King Ghidorah and the like.

While I have no say in the matter, I would hope that the studio could have an even greater ambition than bringing together Toho Studios greatest hits and in fact recover kaiju from other great cult classics of the 20th century such as Gamera, certainly, but also films such as Reptilicus, the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Gorgo, Valley of the Gwangi, and Ymir from 20 Million Miles To Earth. Hmm. Or basically the Harryhausen films.

Of course, I had my own ideas of what we might have done with a Kong set in or near Southeast Asia, but following the trailer, I'm looking forward to seeing what they're trying to do here.

Pasadena Comic Con a success

A big congratulations goes to the organizers of the Pasadena Comic Con over the recent weekend. Convened at the Pasadena Convention Center on Green Street, it remains Pasadena's only comic convention in a city that is home to some great bookstores and comic shops such as Vroman's, Comic Factory, Collector's Paradise and the Retro Store.

For a one-day comic convention they had a good attendance and energy throughout the day with a good variety of dealers, cosplayers, creators and other special guests and panels to keep the proceedings interesting.

Among the interesting creators I met was young Liam Dow, who was the creator of the comic series The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker. "The Gray Hat Hacker protects the dark web from black hat hackers trying to take over the internet."  Dow is one of Hollywood’s busiest actors. He recently appeared in the special role of Bobbie, an autistic boy in Days of Our Lives and in the DreamWorks new media production of OMG! Just Jacques. In addition to acting, Liam also performs stand-up comedy and has premiered at clubs such as the Improv in Hollywood, the Ice House in Pasadena and Flappers in Burbank. His motto is "laughter is awesome." He was very well-spoken and enthusiastic, and I certainly wish him success in the years ahead.

Easily the most impressive costume this weekend was MasterJedi1975's Wheeljack costume from the first generation of Transformers, complete with lights. It's ambitious and entertaining and sure to thrill people both young and old. 

Singer, songwriter and actress Rei Kennex has been presenting an impressive Rey cosplay around the Southern California convention scene. This weekend, she went with a darker ensemble that almost verges on requiring a "Spoiler Alert!" warning, considering that I think this exactly the direction Rey is likely to go in Episode 8 later this year. 

With roots in the Ukraine, she’s a self-proclaimed sci-fi and fantasy “geek” whose passions run the gamut from authors Michail Bulgakov (“Master And Marguerite”), Neil Gaiman (Stardust), Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Ann Aguirre (Grimspace) to movies like Star Wars and various classics. I found her music to be very interesting, described at some points as "epic pop," which frequently focuses on deeper issues.than one normally finds in pop music from her contemporaries.

Cosplayers of all ages came to Pasadena Comic Con, including this fellow who did a spot-on Stinky Pete from Toy Story 2. A shoutout also goes to Cassandra Liu, aka Mediocre Wall of China, who was celebrating her birthday that weekend and who rocked a wonderful Jubilee from the X-Men, although I didn't get a great picture of her at the time.

From the steampunk side of things, artist Chelsea Rind was a stunning showstopper and one of the highlights for anyone who saw her that weekend. Working as a graphic designer, she's very talented whether doodling or creating works of fine art, and it will be interesting to see how her career flourishes in the future.

Parked outside of the Pasadena Convention Center was good old Roxanne, or Zombie Patrol ZP-22. As I hunt for a new set of wheels, I have to admit, she got the hamster wheels spinning. I look forward to seeing her one day in her planned feature film.

There were many wonderful special guests attending Pasadena Comic Con, including John Kricfalusi the creator of Ren & Stimpy, and Tim Bradstreet, whose art was so much a part of my college years to the present from Vampire: The Masquerade to The Punisher, G.I. Joe, The Shadow, and Unknown Soldier. Ernie Reyes, Jr. was also there, as was Gigi Edgely, and Philip Friedman, who played the witch in the first Insidious horror movie. 

Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog on Deep Space Nine was also a very friendly guest who was playing Illuminati when I ran into him, which was particularly cool. I hope to see more of him at event in the future.

I also had a chance to meet Herbert Jefferson, Jr. who played a key role in creating a presence for communities of color on television, especially science fiction as Boomer from the original Battlestar Galactica series. Back in the day, he graduated with honors from New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1969.  

These days he's involved in many community and charity activities including the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Program, The Wounded Warrior Project, IAVA Supporter, The USO, California Paralyzed Veterans Association, The American Red Cross and the California Special Olympics. As we continue conversations on inclusion at conventions and other gatherings, I found it inspiring that he's take such an interest in accessibility for fans and community members.

As with any convention, there's always much more to report, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing who they bring next year. If you're in the Pasadena area when it comes around again, I'd definitely stop by to see what's happening.

Water: Ways of Knowing and Being

I'm delighted to announce I'll be presenting at the UC Merced Center for the Humanities Biennial Conference this April, addressing the writing of science fiction, (as well as fantasy and horror) and where water has fit into the big picture historically and in the future ahead.
Join us for the University of Merced's biennial conference on water! Please register online by March 24: tinyurl.com/ucmwaterconference

This conference is free and open to the public and features:

1) Keynote Address:
"Leadership in Principle: Uniting Nations (and Theory) to Consider the Cultural Values of Water," Veronica Strang, Executive Director, Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University

2) Scholarly Panels:

"Water Futures"

"Waterscapes, Aesthetics and Cultural Production"

"Drought, Political Refugees, and Environmental Migrants"

3) Community-Engaged Activities:

Environmental Film Workshop with Sanjay Barnela

Sci Fi Water Workshop with Bryan Thao Worra

Vernal Pools Reserve Tour with Kim De Wolff

Photography Exhibit with Rina Faletti

For more information, contact humanities@ucmerced.edu.

[SFF Poetry Spotlight] Tonya Liburd

Tonya Liburd is one of our members of the SFPA. She shares a birthday with Simeon Daniel and Ray Bradbury, which may tell you a little something about her; and while she has an enviable collection of vintage dust bunnies to her credit, her passions are music (someday!) and of course, words. One day she hopes, when introducing herself as a writer, she won't feel all weird about it.

Based in Canada with Caribbean roots, she is the Associate Editor of Abyss and Apex Magazine. Her fiction has been longlisted in the 2015 Carter V. Cooper(Vanderbilt)/Exile Short Fiction Competition. I recently had a chance to interview her over at SPECPO, the blog for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and have been happy reading her work, which was recently nominated for a Rhysling Award

She has short stories in the anthology Postscripts to Darkness 6, and forthcoming from Expanded Horizons and Polar Borealis; her creative nonfiction can be found in The Malahat Review, and in the Mosaics: Independent Women Anthology.

Her poetry has appeared in Space and Time Magazine and The Cascadia Subduction Zone. Her Twitter-microfiction has been published by @7x20 Magazine, who also featured her microfiction for the week of March 28th, 2016. She has forthcoming microfiction from Grievous Angel (Urban Fantasist). She blogs at https://thespiderlilly.wordpress.com/

Monday, February 27, 2017

Logan opens this week, March 3rd.

Logan opens this week, marking the likely last film for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in what has been frankly a very uneven franchise, although I found his later performances increasingly spot-on, and this trailer seems to finally get some of the best of what has made the Wolverine character so appealing for all of these decades for my generation. It looks tighter, and more intimate, and Logan's loneliness and tragedy is palpable, and the movie seems unafraid to explore that. 

Over the years, they've had difficulty exploring the Logan who can laugh and love, and of course, I remain angry at the treatment of the Omega Red character and Jubilee in the series, but that's a post for a different day. I'm reposting the trailer just to remind myself how much I've been looking forward to this, even if we must consider it a very loose interpretation of the character. 

I do hope he gets to come back in a Deadpool installment at some point, though. 

"Boy, imagine how different the series would have been
if those casting directors hadn't been so blind."

[Poem] Notes Regarding the Living Heart

From my 2009 collection of Lao American poetry, Tanon Sai Jai.

Legacies of War Exhibition: Tinney Contemporary Gallery, February 25 - March 25

This weekend the Legacies of War exhibition by Sisavanh Phouthavong opened up in Tennessee at the Tinney Contempoary Gallery. Sisavanh Phouthavong is one of the first professional Lao American visual artists and educators of her generation. The opening reception will be held on March 4th.

I did a profile on her work previously, having been deeply impressed with her art since I first encountered it several years ago. We recently met face to face for the first time at the National Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego.

This new body of work is inspired by the organization Legacies of War (legaciesofwar.org). Their mission statement: "is to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos and advocate for the clearance of unexploded bombs, to provide a space for healing the wounds of war, and to create greater hope for a future of peace."

Over 5,400 Lao refugees resettled in Kansas in the aftermath of the Laotian Civil War that ended in 1975. Through her powerful acrylic work, she confronts the challenges of bicultural memory and documentation. She considers notions of the abstract and the concrete for those who must remember both their inner and external histories in a diaspora framed by secrecy and loss. Her work probes what is shared, what is felt, and what must remain deeply personal among the lessons passed on to the next generation as it heals and rebuilds.

The Tinney Contemporary Gallery is located at 237 5th Avenue North, Nashville, Tennessee 37219. They specialize in collectable modern art by established local, regional, national, and international artists. They present a series of rotating exhibitions throughout the year and participate in the First Saturday Art Crawl on the first Saturday of each month.

Friday, February 24, 2017

[SFF Poet Spotlight] Akua Lezli Hope

Akua Lezli Hope is one of our amazing members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association!

A third generation New Yorker, firstborn, Akua Lezli Hope has won two Artists Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Ragdale U.S.-Africa Fellowship, a Creative Writing Fellowship from The National Endowment for The Arts and the Walker Foundation Scholarship to Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.

She is a Cave Canem fellow. She received an Artists Crossroads Grant from The Arts of the Southern Finger Lakes for her project “Words in Motion,” which placed poetry on the buses of New York’s Chemung and Steuben counties.

Her collection THEM GONE, won Red Paint Hill Publishing's 2015 Editor's Prize for publication in 2016. She won the 2015 Science Fiction Poetry Association short poem award for "Metis Emits."

Her first collection, EMBOUCHURE, Poems on Jazz and Other Musics, won the Writer’s Digest book award for poetry. Notable publications include The 100 Best African American Poems;Too Much Boogie, Erotic Remixes of the Dirty Blues The Killens Review, Breath and Shadow, Stone Canoe, Three Coyotes, The Year’s Best Writing, Writer’s Digest Guide; DARK MATTER, (the first!) anthology of African American Science Fiction and Erotique Noire, the first anthology of black erotica.

She led the Voices of Fire Reading Choir from 1987 to 1999, performing her work and that of other African American poets.

Akua has given hundreds of readings to audiences in colleges, prisons, parks, museums, libraries and bars.

She is also crochet designer with a collection of scifi hats, and avid hand papermaker, who loves to sing, play her sax, and play with her huge new kitten, Luno. A paraplegic, she’s developing a paratransit nonprofit so that she and others may get around in her small town. Akua bears an exile's desire for work close to home, and a writer's yearning for a galvanizing mythos.

I'm delighted she's a part of the SFPA and look forward to her latest!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Minneapolis Khmer Dance performance: World Refugee Day, 2010

Here you can see a performance of Khmer dance in Minneapolis in 2010 as part of the Minnesota celebration of World Refugee Day in June, recognizing the journey of refugees around the world both in the past and today.

[Road Trip] The Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum is one of the interesting art museums in Southern California that I've come to appreciate. They have a remarkable private art collection, starting from a thirty-year period when industrialist Norton Simon (1907–1993) amassed a collection of European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century as well as works from South and Southeast Asia representing over 2,000 years of history. Some 12,000 objects in total are a part of the collection, with 1,000 of them on active display.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from their permanent collection.

The Buddha and Shiva at the Norton Simon Gallery make for a great juxtaposition when one considers the fundamental differences and interrelationships of their symbolism. There's a particular Indiana Jones vibe as you make your way through the lower level's South and Southeast Asian collection, which also includes this elaborate wooden temple wall from the Kerala region of India depicting the life of Krishna, from the 1700s: The colors are still vibrant and wonderfully evocative, certain to spark the imagination.

Alberto Giacometti is one of my favorite sculptors for his unflinching, almost harsh pieces that seem to suggest the world crushing people into nothingness. But I like another more optimistic interpretation I came across once that proposed for all of the crushing void the cosmos embodies, there's something still pushing outward, pushing back, in resistance, pushing itself into being.

Back in the 90s, I briefly had a fiancee who thought she looked like a shorter Jeanne Hébuterne, who served as the muse to Amedeo Modigliani. Hébuterne had a tragic life, eventually throwing herself out a window. Didn't end up with the girl, but I always notice a Modigliani when I see one, So, for that I'm grateful.

Juan Gris always has my admiration for his for his "Still Life With A Poem" a cubist painting from 1915. Over 100 years later, as a poet, I can say that the experience has indeed changed very little, at a certain fundamental level. The text of the abstract prome poem at the bottom is by the poet Pierre Reverdy, for whom Gris did a series of watercolor illustrations in his lifetime. And I think there's much to be said when visual artists and poets collaborate together and work in concert to challenge our expressive limits.

They have a wonderfully detailed Indian chess set that you won't want to miss, depicting various soldiers, war elephants and steeds ever ready to settle some imagined conflict between two players who come together in some fine space.

This piece always makes me wonder how a Lao artist might have executed it, like Thep Thavonsouk. Hassel Smith (American, 1915-2007) painted "Tiptoe Down to Art," in 1950, while Smith was teaching at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute).

According to the Norton Simon Museum, "Tiptoe Down to Art" refers to when he heard a teacher instruct her students to tiptoe downstairs to the school’s art room. While at the CSFA, Smith taught alongside such notable artists as Clyfford Still, Ansel Adams and Richard Diebenkorn. Along with visiting faculty Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt, the Michigan-born Smith was stimulated into exploring more abstract imagery, while often approaching his work with a great sense of humor. "I wish to feel free to appreciate life without relating to it, either its beauties or its ugliness, in any necessary way to my painting. My paintings are intended to be additions to rather than reflections of or upon life."

I think this would resonate with many of our Lao artists around the world.

If you're planning to go, the museum is closed on Tuesdays. Adults are $12. Seniors are $9. Students, veterans and youth under 18 get in free. On weekends, it opens at 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. (5 p.m. on Sunday) Parking is free, and it is located at 411 W. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91105-1825.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Chen Chen

Among the Asian American poets who published a book in 2016 was Chen Chen. His second chapbook is Kissing the Sphinx. Keywords: love, Tuesday, apocalypse, Mariah Carey.

Kissing the Sphinx was a finalist for the Two of Cups chapbook contest and was released on March 31st, 2016 and features an image by Lizzy DuQuette. http://chenchenwrites.com/

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and forthcoming spring 2017 from BOA Editions, Ltd.

A Kundiman and Lambda Literary Fellow, Chen’s work has appeared in two chapbooks as well as in publications such as Poetry, The Massachusetts Review, The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Best of the Net, and The Best American Poetry.

Chen helps edit Iron Horse and Gabby. He also works on a new journal called Underblong, which he co-founded with the poet Sam Herschel Wein. Chen received his MFA from Syracuse University and is currently pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University.

He lives in Lubbock with his partner Jeff Gilbert and their pug dog Mr. Rupert Giles. He's available for readings, workshops, and conversations about Tuxedo Mask.Take him up on it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A look at the poets of the 2017 Rhyslings: Part 1 of 6

We recently closed the nominations for the Rhysling Awards for Poem of the Year for 2017 and now the Science Fiction Poetry Association moves to the epic task of organizing the Rhysling Anthology for our members and the public to read and and review before making their final votes. At least 92 poems were nominated in the short poem category and 60 poems were nominated for the long poem category. 

Our editor, David C. Kopaska Merkel must now do the final review to ensure the nominated poems were indeed published in 2016 and are properly categorized, attributed and we have the permissions to reprint them as necessary for the review of voting membership (who can be found on 6 out of 7 continents). This is no small task.

I am very proud of our members who took the time to find new poems from last year that they really loved, and I already can see why so many of them were chosen. I'm impressed by the diversity of voices and themes reflected in each of these, and I find myself reaffirmed in the tremendous power speculative poetry can have in our lives today to inspire wonder and the imagination, to expand our sense of the possible and to consider what we must remember for the next generations ahead.

So, this series is going to be a rather long post, looking at the profiles of twenty of our nominees at a time, in order to get a sense of them and their journeys, that we all might more fully appreciate what we are reading when the 2017 Rhysling Anthology arrives. So, starting with today's poets, going from left to right:

John C. Mannone
 of Tennessee is one of our distinguished members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. This year he was nominated for his short poem “Stellar Quake” featured in The New England Journal of Medicine 375:1305 and also  “Adam’s Rendezvous with Dante” in the Last Darn Rites Anthology (Whitesboro Writers, 2016.) What follows is only a fraction of his amazing literary contributions, and I've been honored to work with him in a variety of capacities in the SFPA.

He has over 500 works in venues such as Drunk Monkeys, New England Journal of Medicine, Inscape Literary Journal, Windhover, Artemis, Southern Poetry Anthology (NC), Still: The Journal, Town Creek Poetry, Negative Capability, Tupelo Press, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Event Horizon Magazine, Syzygy Journal and others. Author of two literary poetry collections—Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing) and Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wing’s Press) He is an active member of both the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild (President-elect 2016/2017) and the Knoxville Writers’ Guild.

Outside literary circles, he is a professor of physics and a nuclear consultant. He is active in astronomy outreach and research, he served as a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador for the Great State of Tennessee (2008-2014).He is noted for using poetry in the astronomy classroom and is often an invited speaker to astronomy-related events. He had served as senior editor for the Journal of the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomy (2006-2011).

Ace G. Pilkington has published over one hundred poems, articles, reviews, and short stories in five countries and more than sixty publications. He was nominated for his poem“Orpheus," which appeared in the June 2016 issue of The Horror Zine.  Ace is an active member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and his poetry has appeared, among many other places, in The Christian Science Monitor, America, Poetry Wales, and Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. He is Professor of English and History at Dixie State University and Literary Seminar director at the Utah Shakespearean Festival Most recently Ace and Olga have lectured together on International Shakespeare and also on The End of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the New Russia. Ace’s play Our Lady Guenevere was first produced in 1997 in the Utah Shakespearean Festival's New Plays series. He has an M.A in modern drama from Utah State University; an M.Litt. in English Renaissance drama from Middlebury College in Vermont; and a D.Phil. in Shakespeare, history, and film from Oxford University.

Ken Poyner is a member of the SFPA and the author of Constant Animals, and his latest collections of poetry—Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot—can be obtained from Barking Moose Press, Amazon, or Sundial Books.

He often serves as strange, bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power-lifting affairs. His poetry of late has been sunning in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore, The Kentucky Review; and his fiction has yowled in Spank the Carp, Red Truck, Café Irreal, and Bellows American Review. 

This year he was nominated for his poems “Adolescence” in Star*Line 39.4, “The Robot by the Fireplace” in Eye to the Telescope 20 and “At Issue, the Miramo” in Dreams and Nightmares 103.

Shannon Connor Winward  is the author of the Elgin-award winning chapbook Undoing Winter and a two-time runner up for the Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowship in literature. Her work has appeared in (or is forthcoming from) Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, The Pedestal Magazine, Monarch Review, Literary Mama, Star*Line and elsewhere. In between writing, parenting, and other madness, Shannon is also an officer for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, a poetry editor for Devilfish Review, and founding editor of the Riddled with Arrows Literary Journal. She was nominated this year for “Terran Mythology”in  Analog Science Fiction and Fact, October 2016, and “Thirteen Ways to See a Ghost,” a winner of the 2016 SFPA Poetry Contest.

Jane Williams was nominated for  “The Memory Machines”which appeared in The Pedestal Magazine 79.  Jane Williams was born in England and lives in Tasmania, Australia with her partner Ralph Wessman. Since the early 1990s her poems have been published in most major Australian literary journals and newspapers, in periodicals and online in countries including Ireland, USA, Canada, England, Japan, Sweden and India. Her first collection Outside Temple Boundaries won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Anne Elder Award in 1998. In 2005 she was awarded the D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship and the Bruce Dawe Prize for poems in her manuscript The Last Tourist which was published by Five Islands Press in 2006.

 A selection of her poetry Some Towns and other poems was published as a chap book by Picaro Press in 2007. In 2008 her third book Begging the Question was published by Ginninderra Press. City of Possibilities was published by Interactive Press in 2011 and received an Australian Council grant to fund an Australian reading tour. Her most recent book is Days Like These – selected and new poems 1998-2013 published by Interactive Press.

She has read her poetry at reading venues and festivals around Australia and in Ireland, England, USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Malaysia, and Slovakia. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Canberra University.

Sarah Ann Winn was nominated for her poem “Best of” which appeared in the Found Poetry Review: Bowietry.  She lives in Fairfax Virginia. Her touching and imaginative work has appeared or will appear in Bayou Magazine, Cider Press Review, Day One, RHINO, and Massachusetts Review, among others. Her work has previously been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and she was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Poetry Prize, and Ariadne’s Thread Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, Portage, was released by Sundress in February 2015.

Jeremy Paden was nominated for “Song of the Encantado”in Apex Magazine 83. He was born in Milan, Italy and raised in Central America and the Caribbean. He received his PhD in Latin American literature at Emory University and is an Associate Professor of Spanish at Transylvania University and also on faculty in Spalding’s low-residency MFA, where he teaches literary translation. He is the author of two chapbooks: Broken Tulips (Accents Press, 2013) and Delicate Matters (Winged City Press, 2016). The latter collection is comprised of translations. His poems and translations have appeared in such journals as Adirondack Review, Asymptote Journal, Beloit Poetry Journal, California Quarterly, Cortland Review, Drunken Boat, Hampden-Sydney Review, Louisville Review, Rattle, and Words without Borders, to name a few. He is a member of the Affrilachian Poets and resides in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Werewolf” is a Rhysling-nominated poem by  K.A. Opperman that first appeared in Spectral Realms 4 and he was also nominated for “Invocation of Diana,” which appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Summer, 2016.  Opperman is a young poet living in California. His verse has appeared in Weird Fiction Review  and other venues, and he has been steadily making a name for himself applying many formal forms including the sonnet, quatrain, and rhyming couplet. Ann K. Schwader remarked on his debut book, saying “The California Romantic tradition lives on in this ambitious and varied collection. Whether questing for the Crimson Tome through an extended sonnet sequence, celebrating the heights – and hideous depths -- of romantic attraction, lingering in October shadows, or traversing lost Atlantis, these poems are surefooted and unabashedly exotic.” With influences such as Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft, I think it will be quite interesting to see where he takes his work in the future

John Reinhart  is nothing if not prolific among our member at the Science Fiction Poetry Association. This year he has two Rhysling nominations:“Exotic Heads Trimmed Neatly” which appeared in Eye to the Telescope 21 and “The Butterflies of Traxl IV” in The Pedestal Magazine 79. 

He supposedly lives on a farmlette in Colorado with his wife and children. He is a Frequent Contributor at the Songs of Eretz, editor at Poetry Nook, and was awarded the 2016 Horror Writers Association Dark Poetry Scholarship. The author of encircled from Prolific Press, he has three more books due out in 2017.

Terrie Leigh Relf is a lifetime member of the SFPA, an active member of HWA, and is fast at work on her new novel, Walks-with-Two-Spirits. “This year she was nominated for The Old Ones gather” which appeared in Scifaikuest in May, 2016.   

She has over 1,000 publishing credits that include non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. Her articles and columns have appeared in local San Diego publications such as The Peninsula Beacon (and other San Diego Community Newsgroup publications), the OBRag, The Espresso, San Diego Writer’s Monthly, and Vision Magazine

Her genre work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including several anthologies and collaborative projects such as Confessions: A Nightmare in Five Acts, edited by Joshua Gage, and On the Brink of Never: An Anthology of Apocalyptic Poetry, edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel.  

She is the author and/or co-author of  Lap Danced by The Muse; My Friend, the Poet, and Other Poems About People I Think I Know; Jupiter’s Eye ;The Ice Queen ;The Poet’s Workshop – and Beyond; The Blood Journey Saga, Book I: Blood Journey co-authored with Henry Lewis Sanders The Blood Journey Saga, Book II: The Ancient One, co-authored with Henry Lewis Sanders The Waters of Nyr; Letting Out The Demons ;The Intergalactic Cookbook with Marge Simon and Sandy DeLuca An Untoward Bliss of Moons; Search for a Kinder Muse with art by Marcia Borell Networking Tips for Writers: Envisioning Success; and The Wolves of Glastonbury, co-authored with Edward Cox. 

And she shows no signs of slowing down. 

Kathleen A. Lawrence hahad poems appear in the HIV Here and Now 2016 poem-a-day countdown, two Prince memorial anthologies, Crow Hollow 19, Altered Reality Magazine, The Nancy Drew Anthology, and the SFPA website. A colorful voice in the world of speculative poetry, Kathleen was born in Rochester—home of the Garbage Plate, Kodachrome, and Cab Calloway—and spent most of her youth in a plaid jumper. 

 She left briefly to get a Ph.D., then returned to Central NY in 1992, where she has been an educator for 30 years – teaching Communication, Popular Culture, and Gender Studies at SUNY Cortland.Her poem “Even Friendly Ghosts Can be Scary When You’re 7” won 3rd place in the Short division of the 2016 SFPA contest. This year she was nominated for a Rhysling for “Dorothy Delivered” in Altered Reality Magazine 1.

B.J. Lee has been many things throughout her life including a librarian at The Boston Conservatory, a piano teacher and, more recently, a jazz vocalist. But she has always written. Now she is able to pursue her first love, writing, full-time. She holds a Masters degree in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in Boston. She plays classical piano and African drums. She now lives in Florida with her husband and their toy poodles, Clementine, JoJo, and Lulu. She was nominated for “Riding the Dark” which appeared in Frostfire Worlds in February, 2016.

Daniel R. Jones poem “The woman on the bus encounters time dilation” was nominated for a Rhysling this year after its appearance in Altered Reality Magazine. He is a writer from Indianapolis, IN, and is currently an MFA candidate at Lindenwood University. He’s had work published or has work forthcoming in Parody Poetry, Aphelion, Eye to the Telescope, the South Bend Tribune, In the Bend, Spill Words Press, Time of Singing, and he won an award for best poem in the 2013 edition of Bethel College’s Crossings. He also served as an editorial assistant for the most recent edition of the Lindenwood Review.

Greer Woodward writes short fiction, poetry, lyrics, and plays. This year she was nominated for a Rhysling for *For Quick Sale*” in Lupine Lunes, ed. Lester Smith (Popcorn Press).

For young audiences, her work includes the participation play Don't Sleep Under the Mapou Tree!, lyrics and scenario for the Looking Glass Theatre's production of Jonnycake/Gaspee, and lyrics and co-book for Theatreworks/USA's Sherlock Holmes and the Red-Headed League. For general audiences, she contributed lyrics to choral pieces, commercials, and the Off-Broadway musical revues Pets! and That's Life!, Outer Critics Circle Award nominee for Best Off-Broadway musical. Her genre fiction and poetry is in Twisted Cat Tales, Aoife's Kiss, Scherehezade's Bequest, Shelter of Daylight, Star*Line, and others,. She was an Associate Editor for the anthology series Sybil's Garage.

She's a graduate of Clarion West, one of the founders of the New York City writing group Altered Fluid, and a member of the Writers Support Group at Tutu's House on Hawaii's Big Island.

Alessandro Manzetti is one of our inspiring members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association in Italy, and also a member of the Horror Writers Association. In recent years he's been collaborating frequently with SFPA Grand Master Bruce Boston, including their recent book together, Sacrificial Nights. He's a Bram Stoker Award-winning author, editor, and translator of horror fiction and dark poetry. His work has been published extensively in Italian, including novels, short and long fiction, poetry, essays, and collections. He is the owner and editor-in-chief of Independent Legions Publishing, and an active member, Italy representative, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Horror Writers Association.

As a poet, his work includes the collections Eden Underground, Venus Intervention (co-written with Corrine de Winter). His stories and poems have appeared in Italian, USA, and UK magazines, such as Dark Moon Digest, The Horror Zine, Disturbed Digest, Illumen, Devolution Z, Recompose, Polu Texni, and anthologies, such as Bones III, Rhysling Anthology (2015 and 2016), HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. III, The Beauty of Death, Best Hardcore Horror of the Year Vol. 2, Mar Dulce, I Sogni del Diavolo, Danze Eretiche Vol. 2, Il Buio Dentro, and many others.

 His dark poetry collection Eden Underground won the Bram Stoker Award 2015 and was nominated for the Elgin Award 2016. His dark poetry collection Venus Intervention (co-written with Corrine de Winter) was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award 2014 and the Elgin Award 2015. His collection Sacrificial Nights (co-written with Bruce Boston) was nominated for the Elgin Award 2017. Since 2015, his poems have been consistently nominated for Rhysling Awards. This year he has been nominated for “The Great Unknown” with Bruce Boston, which appeared in Illumen in Spring, 2016, He and Bruce Boston were also nominated for “Legend of the Albino Pythons and the Bloody Child” which first appeared in Polu Texni 18, April, 2016.

Wendy Rathbone
has had dozens of stories published in anthologies such as: Hot Blood, Writers of the Future (second place,) Bending the Landscape, Mutation Nation, A Darke Phantastique, and more. Over 500 of her poems have been published in various anthologies and magazines. She won first place in the Anamnesis Press poetry chapbook contest with her book "Scrying the River Styx." Her poems have been nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Rhysling award at least a dozen times.

Her recent books include: Lace, book 1 in the vampire fairy series, m/m romance. Scoundrel, science fiction m/m romance novel. "Beneath the Blue Dusk and the Sea," short story collection. and  "Turn Left at November," a brand new collection of poems. This year she was nominated for “Build a Rocketship Contest: Alternative Class A Instructions and Suggestions” which appeared in Asimov's SF January, 2016 issue and “We Shall Meet in the Star-Spackled Ruins” which was a winner of the 2016 SFPA Poetry Contest.

Karen J. Weyant is the author of the chapbooks Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt (Main Street Rag, 2012) and Stealing Dust (Finishing Line Press, 2009). Her poems have been published in 5 AM, Cave Wall, Cold Mountain Review, Copper Nickel, Flyway, Harpur Palate, Poetry East, Spillway and RiverStyx. She has received a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellowship and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. Weyant lives in Pennsylvania and is assistant professor of English at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York. This year she was nominated for her poem “To the Girl Who Ran Through Crop Circles,” which appeared in Strange Horizons on August 18th.

Deborah Davitt was nominated for two Rhyslings this year, “Storm Miners”which appeared in Blue Monday Review in August, 2016 and “Past Imperfect” which appeared in the Summer issue of Poetry Quarterly. Deborah Davitt was born at an Army hospital in Washington state in 1974, but spent the first twenty-two years of her life in Reno, Nevada. She graduated first in her class from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1997, and took her BA in English Literature with a strong focus on medieval and Renaissance literature.

In 1999, she received an MA in English from Penn State. Since then, she has taught composition, rhetoric, and technical writing, and created technical documentation on topics ranging from nuclear submarines to NASA’s return to flight to computer hardware and software. She has also written a well-received fanfic called Spirit of Redemption that exposed her to a global audience. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her family.

Her poetry has been published in Star*Line, Blue Monday Review's Storytime Challenge, Dreams and Nightmares, Silver Blade, Eye to the Telescope, Poetry Quarterly, The Tanka Journal, Inwood, Indiana, with poems pending publication at many other venues. A short-story of hers, "The Cenotaph," appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show in Sept. 2016.

John William Sexton is one of my favorite Irish poets of the 20th and 21st century, in addition to being an excellent short-story writer, radio script-writer and children's novelist. He also writes under the pseudonyms of Sex W. Johnston and Jack Brae Curtingstall, because of course. His first poetry collections was The Prince's Brief Career (Cairn Mountain Publishing, Ireland 1996), 21 years ago. 

He followed it up a few years later with Shadows Bloom / Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth (Doghouse Books, Ireland 2004), a book of haiku with Irish translation by Gabriel Rosenstock and Vortex (Doghouse Books, Ireland 2005) Petit Mal (Revival Press, Ireland 2009) as well as The Offspring of the Moon (Salmon Poetry, Ireland 2013), all excellent books I personally recommend. 

He has published short stories in the Irish science fiction journal Albedo One. His short story "On a Planet Similar to Ours, the Virgin Mary Says No" first appeared in Albedo One No. 23 and was reprinted in the 2005 science fiction anthology Emerald Eye: The Best Irish Imaginative Fiction (Aeon Press, Dublin 2005).

His fiction has also appeared in The Stinging Fly, Books Ireland and The Journal of Irish Literature.Sexton's poetry has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, THE SHOp, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book and The Penny Dreadful Magazine. He's been anthologized in Or Volge L'Anno: At The Year's Turning (Dedalus, Dublin 1998), Poets for the Millennium (Bradshaw Books, Cork 1999), Something Beginning With P (The O'Brien Press, Dublin 2004), In The Criminal's Cabinet (Nth Position, London 2004), Our Shared Japan (Dedalus, Dublin 2007), and The Echoing Years: An Anthology Of Poetry From Canada and Ireland (WIT / SCOP / Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Ireland and Canada 2007).

Sexton was the Fiction Editor for The Cork Literary Review in 2007 and winner of the the Listowel literary festival Poetry Prize for his poem "The Green Owl."  Also in 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. 

Ten years later, he's still going strong, and was nominated this year for a Rhysling for his poems “The Bird Prince,” in Faerie Magazine Summer, 2016, and “Sappho and the Woman of Starlight,” which appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Winter 2016.

To Be Continued...