My review of Jill Khoury’s 2016 collection published in The Deaf Poets Society!

I am excited to share my latest publication, a review of Jill Khoury’s Suites for the Modern Dancer. Khoury’s book is a full-length poetry collection, published by Sundress Press in 2016. My review was published in Issue #5 of The Deaf Poets Society. Here’s how the review begins:

I indulge in the fantasy of maneuvering effortlessly to a shady oak, slim volume of poetry in hand, and losing myself for an afternoon. With birds and breezes for companions and sunlight unproblematic on white pages, my escapism thrives on the act of reading, rather than the text itself. In reality my reading of standard-print texts is mediated by real and artificial voices. I can’t follow the text visually unless I enlarge it myself, so I download books to my phone and use VoiceOver’s text-to-speech features. Such readings are mechanical but precise. If I follow along with a large-print version of the text, I almost forget that I am reading collaboratively.

But I prefer real human voices. My friend and I settle down at the kitchen table with two copies of Jill Khoury’s Suites for the Modern Dancer. His is the 2016 paperback edition, and mine is a manuscript copy in 18-point font. Since I can’t skim the collection by sight, I use adhesive red flags to mark each page I write on.

Read the full essay here.

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Poet’s Mind

If you want to understand what it is to be a poet, spend time with people who consider themselves unpoetic—people who feel defeated or confused by poetry. You will keep bumping up against that thing that separates you. It feels like a low cement wall.

The essential separation borders a world where every question has one answer, where every effect has one cause. And that’s decidedly different from the world you believe in, the world you want to live in, the world you know is true. In the poet’s world, everything has multiple answers— not because everything is relative, but because discovery and learning help you see what you thought you understood in a novel light. A new way. You understand that the truth you took for granted is now being filtered differently. It is still true, but it is more true. It is true in a way that envelops more of your experience.

You write because you want to dwell in possibilities, to step over a threshold of autobiography and facts and into a place of identity and soul-making. A place where souls can touch other souls outside of time. A place where an epiphany from 200 or 2000 years ago may still have something to teach you. A place where “right” is not the same as “finite.”

You realize that as a poet working and writing in the world, you have the chance to be extended, lifted up and out, expanded. You realize that when you step into that bigger “I”—not your “I” that agonizes over what to wear to work or whether to stop for coffee—when you take the hand of the big “I,” give your talents over to it, you’re taking the hand of your God. That your work might speak to thousands beyond yourself, that it might reach farther than your physical hands could actually reach. And what other name could there be for such expansion than the name of God? Of a force that brings meaning to a mass of atoms and stardust?

So you wonder how others can be closed off to this feeling, this invitation to an expansive self, this response to an initial Creator and creative spark. You ask, did I invite God or did God invite me? You wonder whether, in a search for the finite rightness of things, others are shutting out the sacred.

Because the sacred is unruly. It’s not facts and lists and statistics. It’s a network of finely spun vitality, and once you accept it, you’re in. You’re there. You can’t abandon the sacred. Recognizing the sacred invites you to reconsider all life. You accept the sacred, you accept responsibility.

A poet accepts responsibility.

Watch my presentation: “Creative Activism: The Poetry of Disability and Disclosure”

In November, I participated in the Brown Bag Series hosted by UNF’s Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society). I had the opportunity to read my work and discuss the challenges and joys of writing as a blind poet. Here’s what it’s about:

As a blind poet, Emily K. Michael understands the politics of disclosure. Publishing in disability journals and mainstream literary magazines, she hopes her work will introduce a new story of blindness into genres where disability is seen as irrevocable tragedy or simplistic blessing-in-disguise. But this activism requires a sense of balance, a poem that doesn’t preach. Michael discusses the decisions that shape her process—from creating a poem to seeing it published. She outlines the pressures facing disabled writers and develops her poetics of protest.

Check it out!

Poetry as Activism, The Rhetoric of Empathy, and The Breaking of Beliefs: My interview with Primal School

I am honored to be featured on Hannah Lee Jones’s fabulous poetry blog, Primal School. Her blog is designed as a place to discuss poetry outside the academy, to go back to basics and understand what makes a poem tick. In this interview, she asked me to describe my motivation and process for “A Phenomenology of Blindness,” which was published by Rogue Agent this summer.

About the interview, Hannah says:

[Emily K. Michael’s] poem ‘A Phenomenology of Blindness’ is a lesson not just in poetic craft but also how to talk about disability: ‘There’s a sense with the average non-disabled person that we should try to minimize or hide our disabilities — as if their discomfort is our discomfort. That’s another reason I write as a blind poet; I want people to know that I’m bringing blindness forward. I’m not ashamed. It’s a part of who I am. It’s something that belongs in poetry — not as a novelty but as a reality.’ Read, learn, and if so moved, please share widely — Emily’s work is vital.

Read the full interview here.

“Inside Jokes” published at The Fem!

Today starts a new semester! And the best way to ring in a beginning or ending is with poetry!

So it’s a good thing that my poem “Inside Jokes” was published at The Fem on this day. Read and enjoy! Happy Monday!

Honorable Mention in The Hopper’s Prize for Young Poets!

In June, I entered The Hopper‘s Prize for Young Poets. You remember The Hopper, the Vermont-based ecologically minded magazine that published one of my essays in May?  This contest called for a chapbook, a collection of 20-50 poems by a “young poet” (under 35) who had never published a collection before. So I shuffled and re-shuffled my poems, read them to myself, read them with friends, and sent them off!

Well, my manuscript, Natural Compliance, won Honorable Mention (3rd place) in this contest! I’m incredibly excited by such a distinction, and I’m quite proud of my little manuscript. Because The Hopper is so awesome, they wanted to profile me on their website and include a poem from the collection. Their profile features my poem “Kiwano,” hitherto unseen on the wilds of the Internet!

Here is their profile on me and my collection.

I want to thank the friends who helped me create and finalize this collection. You know who you are. We spent hours hunched over coffeeshop tables working and reworking these poems. You read the collection in one fell swoop to soothe my insecurities. You cheered me on. You told me I was worth it, whether I won or lost.

My friends, my readers, you are my blessing.

A little avian poem in a brand new journal!

Today marks the launch of The Deaf Poets Society, a literary journal that features the work of disabled writers. And I’m honored to announce that my poem “Trading Threes” is on this first flight.

Read and listen to the poem here.

This poem is a tribute to the glorious cardinals who sing day and night in my front yard. I hope you enjoy it and take some time to explore the rest of this brand new issue!

Poem Published in Rogue Agent!

The July issue of Rogue Agent is out, and one of my poems graces its cyperpages! You’ll find my piece, “A Phenomenology of Blindness,” in Issue #16 of this journal of poetry, art, and embodiment!

Read my poem here.

Poem Published!

My poem, “Crushed,” is live in the June issue of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature.

Click here to read it—or listen to me read it for you!

Mosaics Poet Profiles: Kimberly Fujioka

I’m excited to present the work of another author from Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women (Vol. 2)…Kimberly Fujioka.

Kim has been writing since she was a child. She wrote her first novel while she was tossing Hostess Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs off the back of a dump truck at her uncle’s farm. The cows in the pasture all grouped around the dump truck overflowing with day old cakes. If farms were a microcosm of the world, there would be cows who follow and then there would be one who might be named Polaris who would crawl up the apple tree to reach the golden apples, the one who from the vantage point of old age could see the slaughter house in the distance. Kim knows the benefits of aging since she’s almost 60 and has finally started to take herself seriously as a poet.

Kim has written and published book reviews, essays, and poetry, and she has published in print and online newspapers, magazines, literary journals and the anthology, To Japan with Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur.

Kim taught English (ESL) at the university level for 30 years in both the U.S. and in Japan. She wrote several nonfiction books on teaching that are on sale at Amazon. You can find Kim on social media at the following accounts: Book Review Blog, Twitter, and her personal blog. She offers one poem:

The Glass Blower and Me

There is a shape I am searching for,
or is it a process?

The outcome is always the same, and I ask
“Is it love or art?”

I’m thinking if that mountain village, north of Fujioka City in Central Japan,
the glass blowers raise the long hollow metal rod to their greased lips
and blow.

The other end is immersed in blue fire.
Those of us standing around cannot see the glass formation
we are told is inside the stove’s belly,
but we believe it’s there.

We stand around the glass blower, who delicately twirls the hot, metal rod
between his gloved fingers.

We watch and wait for his masterpiece of glass to emerge from the oven, when
he taps me on the shoulder,
leans down to grease my lips, and lifts the rod
up to my mouth.

But I am too eager, sucking in more air than my lungs will hold.
He steps back, moving the blow rod away from me.
It’s noisy in this studio, so no one can speak over the roar of the fire.

We communicate through our eyes.

I look up into his eyes.
He puts the metal rod to my mouth and I try again.
This time I use the breath that is only mine.
He places the rod in my hands and moves slowly toward the stove,
peering in through the small window.
Looking over his shoulder at me, he gives me the okay sign.
I let my breath out slowly and steadily, then he cuts through the air
when it’s time for me to stop.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but he guides me through it.
It’s only him—the glass blower—and me, and my desire.

We enter the blue fire,
unable to stop,
even though I am afraid.

Source:
“Body, My House.” Pilgrimage Magazine 35.1 (2010): 40-41.

Mosaics Poet Profiles: Audrey T. Carroll

Audrey T. Carroll is a Queens, NYC native whose obsessions include kittens, coffee, Supernatural, Buffy, and the Rooster Teeth community. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Fiction International, So to Speak, Feminine Inquiry, the A3 Review, and others. Her poetry collection, Queen of Pentacles, is forthcoming from Choose the Sword Press. She can be found at http://audreytcarrollwrites.weebly.com and on Twitter. She offers two poems:

Darling Daughter

When they want to cleave your bark to read
your rings, hack away at your outermost with
steel    edges,    accuse    you    of   a   petticoat
conspiracy that you are a part of because we
are all a part of it from the age when we pass
notes in our pastel bubble writings, then you
tell them, dear child, of the female narrative
not born of temptation & sin but of the
blood of your blood singing out

                   from

                             one generation to the next.

Two Clowns

               For Mr. & Mrs. J

No stranger pair born
than the head doctor
and her ward
Tragedy granting the doctor
every reason to fall
and with a ward so charming,
How could she resist?
Years of attempted murders
both have survived
switching which side of the gun
each was on, who got
the last laugh
And that’s what today is all about:
Laughter in the madness
at the madness
surrounded by enemies of enemies
for a person who would
kill or die for the other,
laughing the whole way
and her ward with the red
smile, who mostly likes her
Sometimes
Never have such a perfect pair
of clowns been joined
To a future of many
Successful plans
Endless riches
Smile upon smile
And may you both
Finally
have that single thing
you want most—
Freedom to run the streets
Freedom from the knight

 

Sources:

“Darling Daughter” originally published in So to Speak Journal.

“Two Clowns” originally published in Crab Fat Magazine, Issue 5.

Mosaics Poet Profiles: Elizabeth S. Wolf

Elizabeth S. Wolf lives in MA with her daughter and several pets. By day she works as a Metadata Librarian. Through years of interesting times, her catchphrase was “just another chapter for the book”.

Many of Elizabeth’s poems and stories are inspired by events in the news or in her past. She writes because telling stories is how we make sense of our world, how we connect with our world, how we heal and how we celebrate. She writes poetry to find the sliver of truth within the overload of information.

Elizabeth has published poems in several anthologies (Merrimac Mic: Gleanings from the First Year; Amherst Storybook Project; Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women, Volume 1; The Best of Kindness: Origami Poems Project 2016; Merrimac Mic II: Going with the Floes). Elizabeth’s poetry has appeared in the online journals NewVerseNews and Scarlet Leaf Review and is forthcoming in Peregrine Journal. Some of her earlier poetry is archived in the Valley Women’s History Collaborative, a special collection of the UMass Amherst Libraries. Today she offers three poems:

Dare.

Take chances.
Go to the wall,
and again,
and again:
as a hobby,
as a way of life,
as an exemplar,
as an apology,
as a beacon,
as a trust;
as you must,
as you must.

This Is The Way

This is the way
the world ends: with an orgasmic sigh
and a saxophone wail, with a howling dog
and a gibbering monkey
chanting their prayers, with
whistling teapots falling silent
and rustling leaves whispering
“nevermore”, with lights and sirens
flaring and lovers swearing
at each other, with children reciting the alphabet
backwards as their parents dance to
displaced tunes, and the sky soars away
as the Big Bang shatters into
thousands of lingering whimpers.
This is the way the world ends;
please stand by.

What If

What if today
there were no shootings.
What if today, there were no
beatings, even if dinner is
late or cold. What if today
everyone had enough dinner.
What if today, those who call themselves
lovers actually respected each other.
What if today, children were
seen and believed and
treasured. What if today
we greeted our neighbors.
What if today
is all the time we have;
what if today
is enough;
what if.

Sources:
“Dare” originally published in Methuen Life, Nov 2014.

“This Is The Way” originally published in Merrimac Mic: Gleanings from the first year, April 2015.

“What If” originally published in Scarlet Leaf Review, March 2015, and reprinted in The Best of Kindness: Origami Poems Project 2016 Kindness Anthology

Mosaics Poet Profiles: Caroline M. Cao

With the launch of Mosaics 2 on May 1, I’m continuing the April frivolity – more poet profiles! But this time, I’ll be sharing the work of my fellow Mosaics authors, from both volumes! The first poet in our series is Carol Cao.

Caroline M. Cao, though Florida-born, considers herself a full-Houstonian spiritually. During her years at the University of Houston, she was a devoted staff writer and satirist of The Cougar Opinion Column and Cooglife magazine. She is a current TV/Movie reviewer for OutLoudCulture and champions review-writing as both a scholarly platform and artform. In the meantime, she’s writing poems, stories, and sci-fic space opera screenplays. Or she’s just swing dancing with the UH Lindy Hop Club. She offers two poems:

 

On a Numb Brain

a bloodstream too feeble
dulling wits
weary slug-fingers fidgeting,
clawing tenderly on bedsheets and pillow.

I heed the molecules
of my sinking queen-sized mattress
nullifying my will to take pleasures

Kaguya at Leisure

My dad among
the surplus of fathers
whispered the stories of the struggles of suitors
spinning artificial silk
plucking fragrant-less camellias
carving Buddha’s Begging Bowl
seeking to make her
their new ming vase.

Dad told it that way to the daughters’ bedsides
“Kaguya was sad,” the dads said.
What else was there?
But the river-tears of Kaguya’s father
with her mother rubbing his shoulders
and him borrowing her handkerchief.

Only I knew the
part of the story
where she bowed down
on knees,
worshipping the
birds, beetles, bees
neglecting the wooing
of the princes and courtiers.

The pear blossoms
weren’t in season
but ah well.
she considered herself blessed
that the blood Tsubakis
      weren’t in season
as she buried her face
      into the lilies.

That was before the era of her altars
and the bedside stories.

This was before she submitted
to the moon delegation
to ascend from Earth.

When she resettled on the craters
the moon glowed this portrait
of her ephemeral bliss.

Her lips appear the utter the overdue,
      “No. ”
which were always muted by the floral screens
of her earthly bamboo-palace.

Even then,
she does not look down
on her suitors bows
she pinches her nose
at the Emperor’s shrines
and its stale incense.

She smiles at daughters
      who inquire
      “What about her?”

 

Sources:

“On a Numb Brain” originally published in The Aletheia Literary Magazine, Spring 2015

“Kaguya at Leisure” originally published in Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women

April Poet Profiles: Rhoda Monihan

Rhoda Monihan is an atheist poet and writer and has most of her poems on the PoetrySoup website. They span from being about religion, politics, and technology to being about science, evolution, and WW II. She believes that all people are of equal inherent worth and understands humanism to give the best view of life that can be supposed. She believes in evolution, as she has found it of great help to her as a young teen when she read Darwin having had a few tragedies in her life. She has a number of disabilities, but the physical one is Cerebral Palsy. In her spare time she likes reading, watching DVDs, and going to the cinema. She offers this poem:

I Wish I Was a Wandering Tree

I wish I was a wandering tree because then I’d make lots of relationships. The sun, so startling with glamour, the sky, just a wee distance away, with chlorophyll and the weather, my partner. He’s all around me and so very affective. I am happy when he’s bright, and his cold is my down. I would bring the sun down to earth by respecting his beams and running with all his memes until he was on my side, in my living room relaxation time which would be energised by solar power. I’d analyse the clouds for precipitation causation and I’d multiply the chlorophyll found inside plants and inject the extra amount into us humans to change all skin colour to green. Then we’d know just normally and not just when we are in education classes that we’re all related to nature, and that how we interact with it determines each of our futures, not god or imagination. And maybe the chlorophyll would even make us fly!

April Poet Profiles: Travis Lau

Travis Lau is a Franklin/Fontaine doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania Department of English. His research interests include eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature, the history and theory of the novel, the history of medicine, disability studies, body studies, and gender and sexuality studies. His dissertation, tentatively titled “Prophylactic Fictions: Immunity and Biosecurity,” explores the British literary and cultural history of immunity and vaccination beginning in the eighteenth century. His academic writing has been published in Journal of Homosexuality, Romantic Circles, and English Language Notes (forthcoming). His creative writing has appeared in Atomic, Feminine Inquiry, Wordgathering, Assaracus, Rogue Agent, and QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology (Handtype Press, 2015). You can read more of his work here. He offers two poems:

Intended

“I seem to myself, as in a
dream, 
An accidental guest in this dreadful body.”
–Anna Akhmatova

A scan with closed
eyes bears witness
to lines of knots,
ropes for counting
the matter out of
place – a body and
its discontents,
dreadful as only
fathomable in the
ligatures of a dream.
Accidental, she once
did call it, a matter of
error with no trial
or the sin of generation:
what her grandmother
paid for with queer bones
and left for me to clear the
debt. Yet I remain the
interest, what remains
of transits (of genes, of
prayers) unmoving like
a bind that cannot be
breathed through.
So to be is to overstay,
to be the guest who
refuses every comfort
to become host – no
longer accident but
intent.

Disorientation

How it is
to live askew –

but a step
away from awry,

the ruthless tui na
of the world,

other to me, hard
upon pressure points

until I am left
impressed:

the residue of
disorientation

in space that
holds itself

hard against
me despite

its songs
of innocence.