I have a new poem in Apparition Lit #8 (October 2019) - Belly of the Beast. This one is kind of romantic, which I felt like fit the theme of the issue, Euphoria. What is euphoric to you? For me, it's being with the person you love in the weirdest place you can think of.
Let’s live in the belly of the beast.
You can bring a strong IPA
so smooth it’s like milk frothed.
I’ll bring Atwood and Ishiguro and Dickens.
We’ll watch Netflix in the blood vessels
and make love in the open mouth
with the krill and saltwater
pooling at our knees . . .
Read the entire poem here . . .
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Stellar news today! My poem "The Fox and the Forest" (an erasure of Ray Bradbury) is the winner of the SFPA: Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association contest short form and my poem "The Mining Town," is the winner in the long form category! Very much bowled over by the judge's kind comments on my poems:
"Hybridity brings in endless possibilities when it comes to crafting and interpreting creative work, and these short pieces showcase the complexity of hybrid, speculative poetry."
"When the container for our work is expanded, there’s room to explore braided narratives. These longer poems convey multiple specific stories while still opening themselves up for the audience to imprint their own experiences onto the work."
The Mining Town
by Holly Lyn Walrath
is all bric-a-brac now. Tourists cram into houses-turned-stores, drink beer on the corners from the new microbrewery in the old mill, buy sweatshirts that say “I mined the deep and all I got was this stupid shirt,” but few take the walk up there, into the hills. It’s better to stay down here, safe among the ghosts of houses, to plunder their wares with big white thumbs and buy things, there are always more things to buy in a ghost town.
What happened to this town?
bell rings at dawn and dusk. The men paint the white brick black and red roof black and burn the picket fence. They stand to survey their work, cigarettes dangling from their slack jaws, hands black with pitch. At home, they do not wash the darkness away with silver soap but place those hands on the bodies of wives and backsides of children and hips of back-alley lovers and blank pieces of paper longing for ink. You must remember, this was a different time.
Why did they paint the church black?
The General Store
at first sold normal goods. Tack and seed, hay and hen egg. Slowly, strange objects appeared upon the shelves. A single deer’s antler, painted gold. Ant farms, pre-made, the little red bodies within tunneling deeper and deeper. A dozen wooden tokens carved with other Gods. Silver machines, alien in origin. Jars of body parts. Flower buds encased in glass. Japanese swords. The souls of men disguised in clock faces. Irony. Joy. Peace, if you could afford it.
Where did the objects come from?
There is no library. It sank into the ground years ago. Perhaps an industrious young man might dig his way down, find it deep beneath the sod and worms, and crawl in through a back window, left open by the librarian on a summer’s day, to bring in a bit of the fresh mountain breeze, and there he might find her still, humming a bit, rocking in her chair behind the card catalog, waiting for someone to ask for a book.
Why is there no library?
The Abandoned Mine
The most prominent feature being the stores of abandoned ore. Some piled in carts like great mounds of jewels, other still half-buried in the walls, their shiny faces masks waiting to be removed and to reveal the monster within. Once, the ore was necessary to the planet’s deepest life, and once, it was necessary to human life. Now, it’s merely lonely. It creeps out in tendrils, seeding its jeweled body through the earth, down the path, to the town. It puts out feelers in tidy bed and breakfast gardens, a blue-flame flower here, a ruddy weed there, in with the wheat in the farmer’s fields and creeping through the cracks of the brick on the cobblestone streets.
Why is the ore no longer needed?
The Trail Leading Away from the Mine
is overgrown with brush and wing, birds hopping along moss-covered logs, blooming glens of clover where bunnies forage, deep tufts of ash from the death trees, who burn each night in twilight and then like the phoenix, regrow each morning. The ash is the bodies of those long gone souls—yet a bit of their yearning still remains. The fire is the mountain’s heart rained down. And every curse it whispers is made new again, every morning it awakes forgetting what it forgot.
Why do the trees burn?
The Tenement Roofs
are where the miners went to smoke, and sometimes drink, when their wives didn’t want them around, which was often. Their feet dangled over the edges, all in a row. They said nothing to each other, nothing, except to whisper, “You see the blue light?” and one would say in response, “Aye, I seen the blue light, down in the depths, I seen it.”
Who was the first to follow the light?
The Drummer Boy
used to play on the corner for ha’pennies, picking out a rhythm on his bone-cage banjo and tapping the beat with his foot on his man-skin drum. He made a deal with the devil before such things became unnecessary and then he got curious, and when a boy gets curious all hell breaks loose. He followed the men and picked out each one for the killing, and then ran to the bridge where the bats roosted to tell them the news. They listened, curious, and then swarmed out into the twilight on the hunt.
What were they hunting?
was afraid of the dark. He sent his men down to the caves and tunnels with only a canary and other men for company and he expected no philandering with either, but he never laid eyes on the ore in his own life time. He watched them leave his little cabin, one by one, walk up the trail and disappear into the maw, and he turned away, turned the crank on his music box, and listened to Clementine over and over again. Oh my darling, he sang, oh, oh.
Who gave the foreman his music box?
tends the local pub. But he never seemed to have any purpose except to serve another round. He was lonely, dreadfully lonely. His lover died and he kept her picture over the till and dared any man to look upon it without weeping. He once lived in a brighter place, was once a wealthy man with bigger plans. But the devil didn’t realize that once he’d won out, he’d be bored. Now he poisons the well out back with his tears, only a few each night. It’s the least he can do.
Who loves the devil?
I am honored to announce that my chapbook, Glimmerglass Girl, is the winner of the 2019 SFPA Elgin Award for best speculative poetry chapbook. I am grateful to the SFPA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association) voting members for supporting this little book of weird poems about womanhood.
Get your copy here . . .
Today is the one year book anniversary of Glimmerglass Girl, my first chapbook. This little book taught me a lot about being a writer & learning to love what you do. I learned that chapbooks are just as much work to promote as full length poetry books. I learned that getting a lot of interviews doesn't necessarily mean sales. But mostly, I learned that it's really scary to promote something personal, something you love, and that the writing community is one giant group of amazing, supportive people.
Won't you consider buying it? It would make my year to sell out the remaining copies.
This month I have a guest post up at the Horror Writer's Association on the theme of dark poetry called "Darkness and Light." if you're a HWA member, be sure to check it out! If you're not a member, you can read it on Curious Fictions for $1 or by subscribing to my feed.
Hybrid poetry forms can be a powerful form of resistance. From Jerrod Schwarz’s erasure of Trump’s inaugural speech to Niina Pollari’s black outs of the N-400 citizenship form, contemporary poets are engaging with the world through text, creating new and challenging works of art. Heralded by the rise of the “Instapoet,” visual works are a way to take poetry one step further by crafting new forms and structures that often transcend the page.
In July, I'll be teaching a 4-week course online at the Poetry Barn on this very topic! We’ll study the forms of poetry that draw from outside sources and texts, learning how artists are reshaping the narrative of resistance and how to draw from news, media, canonical works, and other found texts to create our own work in conversation with the current world.
Click here to sign up for online workshop . . .
The hardest part about submitting your writing is battling imposter syndrome and self-rejection. It doesn’t matter how you track your submissions or how many submissions you make in a year. Every writer has a different process that works for them. But it does matter if you never try — and these two things can make you freeze up when it comes time to hit send on a submission. That's why I posted a new article over at Medium today on this very topic.
Read the whole post here . . .
I am beyond honored that my poem "Dead-Eye Girl" is nominated for the 2019 Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association Rhysling Award for best speculative poem of the previous year. This little poem first appeared in Liminality Magazine in 2018. Print copies are now available of the anthology on Amazon! Members of the SFPA can vote on which poem they want to win.
Buy a copy of the anthology here . . .
I am on the radio today reading poetry! If you're in Houston you can catch my segment in the 2019 edition of Voices and Verses on Houston Public Media. Click above to listen!
In this sound portrait, Walrath describes how she fell in love with poetry in high school, her love of the weird and her inspirations. She reads her poem, “Blue Cadillac.”
Oh, the way you sat in
the drive, taking it all up.
I climbed into your cool interior, sliding
across the widest, darkest navy seats
spread beyond me, beyond my vision.
They seemed to expand and dissolve
into a bright light on the driver’s side.
We drove, through endless lanes
of white picket fences, long green,
green lawns, the Texas sun staccato
in the trees, and it may be that I wore
an Easter Sunday dress, all laced in white,
and bows on my tights, or white slumping socks
above black buckle shoes shining with polish.
And in the heat of a Texas summer,
how you could swallow me up
in your blue dusty smell, that
sweet sweet tobacco tucked
into the glove compartment
beside a lady’s silver lighter.
For the sun merely seemed
to enclose you, a line of gold
light above the leather dash.
But the very roundness of you, round seats
and silver knobs and panels like porthole
windows into another time, but mostly
the round, stitched-leather steering wheel
which was surely made for white driving gloves.
And somehow in this memory of you,
your massive lines like some primordial
behemoth long since dead and buried in
ice, the very blueness of you, I may have
remembered myself, another classic beauty.
This poem was published in my chapbook, Glimmerglass Girl.
I have a new poem up today at Mirror Dance called Farewell Dead Men. I also talk about why fantasy is a genre I love:
While science fiction is based in science, mystery is based in the pursuit of a question, and horror is based in evoking an emotion of fear, I believe that fantasy is the only genre which is purely pulled from the author’s deepest dreams and imaginings. The ability to dream up fantastical beasts and worlds seems to me to be a peculiarity of the human condition—one that even the most mundane of minds can learn to cultivate. Where did the idea for a dragon first come from or the hero myth? They are deeply ingrained paths that we continue to walk, following our ancestors through the mists of imagination.
Read my poem "Farewell Dead Men" here . . .
In February, I'm doing a poetry challenge where I write one tiny poem a day. Thank goodness for tiny post-its! I got this idea randomly and decided to roll with it over on my Instagram page.
But you can also follow along here if you don't have Instagram.
It's funny because you'd think that compressing a big concept into a tiny space would be really hard, but I've actually found it to be quite compelling. There's a reason haiku are so popular!
I have a new poem up today at Kaleidotrope - "All the Glory of Her Earthly Shell." Big thanks to Fred for publishing this one. It's very personal to me, so I'm glad it found a home at Kaleidotrope.
About the Author
Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor and author of poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath
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