The Poet Reflects on the Writing Process
They ask me how I write and I don’t
write, I mean, I write, but there isn’t a how now--
it’s an unhinging, tide before bomb, it’s wrong,
it’s wrong, it’s wrong to say these sorts of things,
ask me about interests, ask me about hobbies,
things that detract and distract from excess and unplanned,
understand, I’m a liar when I lie and a lion when I snarl,
marl layer after layer after layer, grow a soundscape to rescrape
what got through—the process? Pen. Paper. Pen. Paper. Paper. Paper. Pen.
And then, we step off white-chip ledge, a pledge is a promise
made on your feet and under your wallet, walls come up, the floor breathes
in and out, in and out, and out and out and out and back into breaking,
they come down as cardboard cut-outs, climb paper as lemurs covered in pus,
you must understand, I’m a man, then I’m not, page starts to rot, then the shift
sets in, it writes me, writes me, write what you know, goes to show I’m not a poet,
but a buffer, watch me spin while it loads and unloads and loads fracture-crack
flashbacks and self-induced cataracts catching the upturned phonics of chronic illness,
there’s a pill for this or that, a stitch for scalp and skin, it’s in, it’s in, it’s in me now,
father, son, and holy shit I get it, forget it, revisit what it’s like to crawl around the lines
or what it’s like for vowels to sound anxious, it’s not antiquated to speak of a muse
when you refuse to live in the label that they give you, I’m a schizo, a schizo,
a need to know basis, laces removed at the corner-front desk, confess in the booth,
here’s a tooth, fetch a fairy or two, the twoness, that’s the real trouble in a way,
the poem wants to say and unsay and the man wants to say and say and say, slip
cold fingers over shutting mouth, stifle intention, retention, declension, protention,
we extend and recede as water in reeds and catch sun in pieces of glass, so ask, so ask,
“What made you want to be a writer?” And you know and you know and you know by
now that the question is coming and coming and running toward the lip of your tongue,
you’re undone, you’re undone, you’re undone—
to be one,
and I run
About The Author: Jake Bailey
Jake Bailey is a schizotypal confessionalist in Antioch University Los Angeles’ MFA program and the co-editor of poetry for Lunch Ticket. He has published or forthcoming work in Parentheses Journal, FlyPaper Magazine, The Laurel Review, Pidgeonholes, formercactus, The Hellebore, Barren Magazine, and elsewhere
a project by Caroline Burrows
Who am I? - I'm a woman, a mother, a child abuse survivor (but I make a face as I type that because it does not define me). I'm a recent Social Sciences graduate and I live in Brighton. I'm 48 which always genuinely surprises me as I really haven't finished being 20 yet.
In 'see me hide' I attempt to illustrate my ongoing exploration of the adverse effects of complex childhood trauma on my adult relationships and interactions. It's a series of self portraits in which I am often naked, sometimes blurred and occasionally bleeding, but always hiding who I am, while imploring the viewer to really see me. I'm asking, and I really do want to know: What is it like to be seen? What is it like to be heard?
What is it like to be seen? What is it like to be heard?
Mental Health, my own mental health, is vital to me. "Mental Health" is very difficult to define however. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as "normal", which makes the concepts of illness and wellness entirely subjective. There seem to be clearly defined symptoms of mental illness, but no clear benchmarks for mental wellness. I think that people need to get to know themselves to be able to know what is well for them and what is unwell, but that level of self awareness takes a great deal of work, and I wonder if anyone ever really attains it.
I've always been interested in photography but I never knew enough about how to make a camera work for me until I was given my first fully manual mirrorless camera two years ago. Since then my interest has developed into a passion. I've always looked to see if I recognize myself in photographs that other people have taken of me, and in my own self portraiture I'm still looking for a me that I recognize. Even though I'm often naked in my self portraits in 'see me hide' I don't find them nearly as revealing or as exposing or as raw as the words I've written to accompany them.
If you had one message for our readers, what would it be?
A message for Peculiars readers - I would say don't carry other people's shame for them. It's heavy and it's cumbersome and it will burden you and you don't need to because it really really isn't yours.
Any inspirations to share?
Francesca Woodman. I love her work and her humour and her cynicism and her use of herself as a model, not as self portraits as such but as the subject (or object) in her photographs. I'm inspired by artists who work in self portraiture or who use themselves as models for their pictures, and who use that approach to explore or express who they are and how they see the world. Robert Mapplethorpe for the way that his photographs are beautiful but push boundaries and push viewers and push norms. I love the way that Vivien Maier just got on with taking photographs for herself throughout her life, without receiving any recognition while she was taking them or while she was alive. I found Anja Niemi's project 'She Could have been a Cowboy' very inspiring, in which she dresses up as both a woman trapped at home in a pink dress and the cowboy that she dreams of being, capturing for me the juxtaposition between conforming to other people's expectations and the freedom of being who you know yourself to be. I fell for Munch's depiction of Puberty and stared at it for what felt like ages, feeling once again the awkwardness of being a teenage girl, how it felt to be becoming sexually attractive and simultaneously incredibly self conscious, and marveling at the way he captured it, as if he knew. I also love the incredibly beautiful darkness in Francis Bacon's work.
Writers who inspire me are too numerous to list here, but I've loved Thomas Hardy and the characters in his novels since I studied his work as a teenager. I've loved Tom Robbins for nearly as long and have devoured every novel he's written. Also Will Self, Jonathan Franzen, Toni Morrison, Kate Atkinson, Arundhati Roy, Martin Amis. My favourite book is The Bone People by Keri Hulme, and my copy of that novel is one of my most important possessions.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Caroline is a self taught photographer and was born in Oxford. She have lived in Brighton in the UK since 1989.
Find Caroline's entire project over here.
PC: Caro Sanguinetti
All I'm looking for is a ceremony
“A miracle isn’t a miracle without sacrifice”
- Paige Lewis
A disability aesthetic, you ask. The temporarily-abled (TA) attempt to delineate one for us, where life in pain is unsustainable, that self-selecting eugenics is a private eugenics. There is no reproductive justice that does
not center how to live cared for, by the state, by a network of interdependence and monies allocated for caretaking, the feminized labor of paying attention to needs, anticipating pain or hunger or the need for a
I want my grief to be transcendent: somehow worse than yours, more of a shredding sensation, the sharper form of pain than I am willing to admit, and that this almost invisible wrenching bracketed sawhorse that I strap to my back and do not loose for anything,
Between desire and the edge of motion, the crimp of arousal, the slip that I allow, an urgence, the note I leave behind
[There is something awesome about longing]
I have to leave my psychiatrist. She’s a Sagittarius; she gets me. She’s graduating from her residency program. and starting a new job working with Native folks on medication management. In our final appointment, I have to sign paperwork detailing our treatment plan: “reduce anxiety by 50%,” it says. Quantification did my feelings, my trauma. I start to cry talking about my pain, about feeling so drained trying on new doctors like shoes. I wail, I don’t want a new psychiatrist. I wipe tears down my cheeks in little rivers. I say, I don’t want to start from nothing, to have to justify how my politics are a huge part of how I think about my illnesses, staying well, wanting to feel ok instead of like I’m dying of constant pain.
These are inextricable: my body is a signifier, and my fragmented postmodern subject reveals itself in my medical records, sporadic; disjointed; contradictory. For my native-New Yorker millennial psychiatrist, I am funny, resilient, intelligent; my Boomer evangelical anti-feminist doctor marked me down as non-compliant.
In Sick, Porochista Khakpour details her abundance of medical consults. Advice pours in, and Sontag urges us to resist metaphor, but if I have to splice chunks of myself off to survive the onslaught of abled people recommending fasts, yoga studios, cleanse programs in Bali, hiking, naturalism, reiki, essential oils, eradicating mold, getting more sleep, schema therapy, Rolfing, stevia supplements, running, going vegan, stretching, breathwork, CBD, magnesium, visiting a chiropractor...
How can I avoid the metaphor of exhaustion?
About The Author: Jesse Rice-Evans
Jesse Rice-Evans (she/her/hers) is a white neuroqueer femme and Southern poet based in NYC (unceded Lenape territory) studying chronic pain rhetorics and femme internet relationships. Read her work in Hematopoiesis, Peach Mag, glittermob, and Nat. Brut, among others, and in her forthcoming debut collection, The Uninhabitable (2019), from Sibling Rivalry Press.
Why I Run
I used to use food like a prize at a fairground,
calories were points I had to earn to level up,
and the game had a glitch so the lowest score won.
I said if I worked hard, then I’d deserve to eat,
but what I meant by this was I had to be in pain.
So when someone says: “You must really like running”
what I want to tell them is: No.
I’ve just replaced one pain for another.
Eating Around The Clock
The dinner plate watches me as if it’s the one in control. The cutlery lies side by side at an angle like it’s raising a questioning eyebrow - even inanimate objects doubt I can do this. I eat around the plate like it’s a clock, and I move just as slowly. Forty minutes pass, I’ve only eaten half the meal which means I’m ten minutes behind schedule - I’m slower than a clock. I pause. It’s another fifteen minutes before I can bring myself to start again and when I do, the food is cold and I microwave it to buy myself some more time. I calculate just how behind schedule I’ve become and it’s the most maths I’ve done in ages. I hate maths but I hate thinking about the food inside me more. But apparently not enough to work out the sums without a calculator. From this, I take heart.
‘One bite at a time’ said no one ever
but I hear it nonetheless.
The spoon feels heavier than it did before and it’s the weight of a mouthful balanced there that I can’t take. I watch the steam. I’ve 'accidentally' made the food too hot to eat. It’s another forty minutes before the second half gets eaten and I wash the empty plate at once, like it’s a dirty secret. The cutlery goes away in a draw and I think about snapping the hands of the clock that tuts at me for taking so long, I could take the clock down and use it as a plate, use the hands like chopsticks and stick a plate to the wall. I think: maybe this would help. But I’m too full to know why.
The word gets stuck in my throat
like food would
if I ate.
It’s pointed, like my bones aren’t
and heavy like I am.
It churns in my mouth as I grind teeth
that clearly just miss having something to do.
And today - everyday - I swallow it down
as my only sustenance
so that nobody will know.
About The Author: Beth O'Brien
Beth O’Brien is a third year English Literature student at the University of Birmingham. She has had work published with Foxglove Journal, Nine Muses Poetry, Dear Reader Poetry, BellaOnline Literary Review, and Pulp Poets Press. She is a reviewer for Mad Hatter Reviews and Riggwelter Press and has written articles for sheswanderful.com and the Graduate Recruitment Bureau blog
“Hm, you’re usually very self-aware,” says Dr. N.
But then her mouth is a kazoo and steam is screaming
from a kettle attached to my shoulders, the unfamiliar
like bricks stacked too tall but the crash never comes.
Now I am swinging a heavy metal shovel down hard
on my grave making sure the dry dark dirt stays in place
so the old me can’t come back, but I know at some point
she’ll wake. Her eyes will open wide blinking like red numbers
on my old plastic clock in the middle of the night.
She’ll take my insides out, rearranging them,
adding in a few screws and nails and needles,
but the pain will feel like my old favorite sweater,
holes hanging off my too-thin frame.
Why can’t I stop losing weight?
The pills ride down my throat without my permission.
It might be time to close the exhibition.
About The Author: August Blair
August Blair is the blogger behind Writers With Mental Illness. She is a freelance writer and student at the University of North Georgia. She is passionate about writing and psychology. You can find her writing online and in print.
PC: Aryhadnë Sardà
A Home In The Middle
In between light and dark,
I am building a home.
Here, stay, say I to me.
Here, just here, I plead.
Hear the ocean inside me sing to serenity
enough to make my roots stay
close to the sand. My eyes smile
at the line of where the heaven in the clouds--
pristine, and this paradise of waves dancing--
intrepid, meet like a kiss.
Sometimes the sky trembles
more like a nightmare in a song.
My eyes closed lost and empty.
All the lights switched off
as I run away from me unknowingly,
never knowing how to want
to come back or when.
Or my sun shines too much it's blinding,
I hold my bones for wanting
to feel if this dream is real.
If this is the song of my soul,
why does it feel like I didn't sing it
but the stars I couldn't reach fell
and painted my voice celestial?
And how do I return to myself?
I try my hardest to keep me,
breathing still. I ride the strong
too ecstatic to exist. I rebuild
after the darkest storms, gather all the ruins,
and make a lamp out of it. And come home
to the warmth of the sand, the chorus
of the ocean and the sky at peace. Look out
to that blue horizon. In the middle
is where I know I belong.
About The Author: Roch Molina
Roch Molina is a writer hailed from Catanduanes, Philippines. She graduated Cum Laude from University of the Philippines Los Baños with a degree in BA Communication Arts Major in Writing. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Reclaim/Resist Poetry Anthology, The Manila Times- The Sunday Times Magazine, and The Windtrail: The Official Newsletter of the UP Catandungan Los Baños. Her latest work is a zine entitled “I, Too, Am a Poem Lost” in collaboration with Lira Benjamin. Roch loves tea, books, long walks, and museums. Now that she is 21, she dreams of becoming a centenarian
PC: Celia Schouteden
I Know I Have To Take These Pills
but I have this block happening—I believe
I am convinced
if I stick them behind my tongue—the migraines
My voice will come back—the trees
will reveal themselves
to me! Again! Allthing has stopped talking
to me—my host
of inanimate lovers. Green is no longer
GREEN as I want
color should be—resolvable. To be.
The cello does not
alight inside my chest—the violin has become
a barrow of strings—creaks
over stagnant waters. I cannot feel
the sun on my face. I go
outside now—o maybe the sun
through the borders
of my window were more
than I can be. Typing has gone
to shit. Fingers—steer me
wrong every time.
to 5:30 with cars in between. How can
I swallow when this is all the words.
too high now, faced with this beak. I
swoop elegant, curvy, bowed—I roll
ploughed, polished and feathered.
Dismantle myself for the sun with
each new crust—great flowing below
this blood—below your rock
my universe boils.
And even the universe is stunted lately.
A should’ve-been whirling
mass, I suck stars, encircle—I
melodrama and too-much need you.
Goddamn break down this gravitational
pull—these neurons once fired, are
white-hot as coal fleeing on air. Fluid
nature preens but never prevails.
You plucked me from xylophone
bones. You, minus a G flat or maybe an A
sharp. Molded sound from mud swathe
set afloat straw creation—haphazard, I
float deep and wide into orbital eddies.
Then the toothed daughters
I bear from your clammy hands (as I burst
into spontaneous being) scatter along
our vessel—until this still lagoon catches.
About The Author: Kari A. Flickinger
Kari A. Flickinger's poetry has been published in or is forthcoming from Written Here: The Community of Writers Poetry Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Burning House Press, Door Is A Jar, Isacoustic, Ghost City Review, Eunoia Review, and Riddled with Arrows, among others. She is an alumna of UC Berkeley. When she is not writing, she can be found playing guitar and singing to her unreasonably large Highlander cat, as well as obsessively over-analyzing the details of neighboring trees.
PC: Celia Schouteden
the blue pill
I told the man in the white coat that I lost my lungs, he said the blue pill would help me find them. I said I lost them somewhere between the man who got me so drunk I couldn't move, and the man who got me so scared I couldn't think. The woman in the fleece sweater with the clipboard spent paid hours helping me retrace my steps, but I don't think we ever found them, not really.
I retraced my steps down the brick road to Oz. The steps were painted with the colour Van Gogh tried to put under his tongue, to paint himself bright. In Oz, there was a theatre. You, me, the doctor, the therapist, and Van Gogh all skipped there to fill the pews so we could watch a film on repeat. We watched as Dorothy climbed to the top of a 10-story building in the Matrix. Because she leaped, the men in charge paused the film before her feet hit the ground, and they let her take the blue pill so she could find her way home.
About The Author - Salena Wiener
Salena Wiener lives in Montreal, and is pursuing her undergraduate degree in English Literature Honours at Concordia University. She is a former Prose Editor for Soliloquies Anthology Magazine, and her poetry is featured or forthcoming in Pulp Poets Press, Peculiars Magazine, Cauldron Anthology, and Honey & Lime Magazine’s poetry blog Oceans & Time.
PC: Aryhadnë Sardà
How to Thwart a Baby Snatcher
Dear womb-sore mother,
dear mother half-asleep,
there is no time for rest.
Be vigilant— women
wait to steal the fruit
of your flesh. Be wary
not to slip into dreams,
young mother. Surely
you are aware, it’s one
step into the hall, less
than four seconds to hit
the stairs. Pay no heed
to the moonlight outside,
ignore your blood-battered
pelvic bone. Dear mother
body-weary, your newborn
cannot be left alone.
Don’t limp to the shower
to wash your wounded parts.
Pee with the bathroom door
open, bleed in the bed
if you must, but don’t rise,
dear mother. Presume she’ll
come from the nursery
to take your baby, claim
you need a reprieve— hold
your infant tight, dear girl,
this is how a snatcher
deceives. Tie your gown, pull
the crib against your bed.
Rouse yourself, new mother,
despite the temptation
to close your eyes. Tremble
with fever, discount aches,
pay no heed to the night--
sleep will come at daybreak.
Revel in your daughter,
dear mother. Stay awake.
At the edge of a country highway,
two turkey vultures stand, their heads bent
over the body of a broken doe.
They’ve torn her face into a morbid
half-grin, her teeth bared toward the sky.
She watches, her glassy eye, still open
from the moment of death, the misstep
toward an oncoming car. The tearers
crouch over her belly. Their black wings
flap slightly as they grunt into her womb,
now empty of the promise to nurse
and bed a new fawn. She will never
hear its tender bleat. Never ruminate
over fields, spattered with white clover,
or forage the Tennessee woods again.
The birds fill their craws with her grey
flesh. She, merely fur and hooves and bone,
shrouded by a curtain of sooty feathers.
About The Author: Melissa Tyndall
Melissa Tyndall is a writer, professor, and Supernatural fangirl with an MFA in Creative Writing from Murray State University. Her poems have appeared in Number One, Prism international, Red Mud Review, Words + Images, Sixfold, Gamut, The Ekphrastic Review, and Coffin Bell Journal. Her work is forthcoming in Sugared Water. She lives in Nashville with her partner and their infant daughter.
PC: Lexi Jude
Call Me Debris
I am what remains after two boats crash into each other
And I am nothing of what remains if they miss.
I hold every inch of debris within the vessel of my flesh
And hope it does not spill out from the holes I never asked for.
Imagine being solid. A container with an unknown containee.
Instead I have the robustness of a used burlap bag
Full of beach glass that for twenty years has been waiting
To be made into jewelry by fingers that do not know wires.
I am nothing of the sound the glass makes when dropped onto tile floor
And because of the ringing in my ears
I cannot even hear it.
About The Author - Ronny Ford
Ronny is beginning his first year as a PhD student studying Medieval Literature at Michigan State University. He obtained his Bachelor’s from the same university in the subject of creative writing. He has one poem published in Sagebrush Review XII (“God can’t always be God”), and one in Vagabond City (“on my gender being illegal”). He has another forthcoming in Cerurove Press Issue 4 (“On Being Baptized in a Drought”), one in Junk Drawer of Trans Voices Issue 3 (“Christmas Snow”), one in OCEANS AND TIME BLOG (“laundry room surgery”), and one in Picaroon's web journal ("I've Killed Things"). He is transgender and uses he/him pronouns.