I am Winona
I am my mother’s first mistake
I am thirteen or fourteen
washing blood off of things
I considered hitting my brother
I am laughing
and rejoicing in my brother’s bloodthirst.
-from I am Winona
Full disclosure I hate stage names. For Poetic Chocolate Breeze and Sammy Da Poet I have a bouquet of nothingness, unless they work. Well, unless the poet lives up to it and makes it not a stage name but a new name just as valid, a marker of ancestral ritual or self delivered birth. Britteney is black. I’m not talking about skin or history. I’m not talking about darkness. I’m talking about her meter and demeanor, her attitude and sway, how she stuns a room with an unapologetic brilliance, the way her poems walk around fully aware of the creator’s name. Britteney is a rose. A Chicago rose. Sometimes all thorn and no petal. Always beautiful. And a Blacrose at that. Impeccably rare. To read Britteney’s work is to hold that rose in your palm, thorns bare, and be forced to confront your blood. Her poetry is violent as it is tender, is hostile as it is holy, continuing the vital pulse of the memoir of Maya Angelou and the work of Toi Derricotte. And in the tradition of those great women, Britteney is just as dedicated to community and teaching as she is to her writing. And ain’t that refreshing? To know that in our culture of ego and I, there are people who still live for the purpose of We? I’ve seen Britteney interact with her students. I’ve seen her interact with family and friends. I’ve seen the thorns come off and the petals wrap around anyone in need. That might be the blackest thing about Britteney, her willingness to love. It is that same love for others and for self that makes it impossible to separate her relationships from her stanzas, her prayers from her line breaks, her woes from her verse. I think you need to get into Britteney’s work immediately. It is urgent for you and the rawness of your humanity. But Britteney? Check out her work or not, she’s gonna keep on.
And she don’t give no fuck.
-Danez Smith & Nate Marshall
“I glanced at my grandmother talking to me. I saw my history and could hear Japanese, but I inhaled America and the doctors tricked into thinking English was my native language ”
Praise Bull City. Praise any boy who so becomes his hometown in the most gorgeous of ways. George “G” Yamazawa Jr. is a writer of horns and stampeding velocity. He doesn’t try to tame the animal, rather, he perfects it. G is also a city within himself. He is a writer negotiating neighborhoods in the Carolinas and in Japan as if they we’re just ‘round the corner from each other, and who is to tell him that they are not? G makes oceans, time, generational differences and bridges travel great flights on the wings of his language at amazingly sonic speeds. He writes of culture in ways that would make Audre Lorde weep for how honestly and royally he honors all parts of himself and his family. When G, Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist, speaks of the traditions his family has passed down, the weight of the word ‘junior’ on a young person who is the first step in the dream of their parents hopeful, heavy songs it is in such a uniquely southern way that I shutter. It is a new standard he writes , a remixed tradition demanding us to recognize how long it has been here (centuries) and how new it is (now!). And it will floor you with that demand, with its voice. G, like many more writers today, found his way to the page through the microphone. I don’t want to debate spoken word & page poetry differences here because I never want to debate the difference between poetry and itself, but I do want to say this: when you come to G’s poetry, sing it. Give it back to the air and watch it dance the walls of your mouth. Let him live in the wind around you and you will not be short of amazed, Oh, and did I mention that homie is the ill MC? Yeah… about that. Sometimes God says ‘let there be talents’ and folks get a little greedy in line. G Yamazawa was a glutton that day and I am so thankful for it.
‘my father could have been a traveling salesmans. i could have been born at any doorstep.’
-from new york craigslist > personals > missed connections>
Heaven must be missing an angel, because Megan Falley is somewhere plucking his feathers and writing poems with them. Oh, the ink? Her own blood. Ok, that image might be intense, but that is the intensity this daughter (metaphorical folks) of Sexton and Ginsberg brings to the page. Her work is dazzled by images so sweetly sinister and raw it will make you wanna sing and shutter all at once (click on the link above to see what she does with candy). Megan is a storm in a sundress and we will deal with it. Her poems are rich with lightning and the spells that conjure it. Speaking of spells, have you read After The Witch Hunt yet? In her debut poetry collection, Megan proves that she is here to stay, and that her voice, power, love, strength, and skill will not be ignored. The poems in that being of strange, hot magic that we will concede to calling a book, each poem demands we pay attention, that we come to it gentle and allow it to muscle us. Literally, I put the book down and I had to run around my house a little y’all, if only to remember freedom as Megan so masterfully made me do. I have never seen her write, but I imagine that doors unlock, windows unhinge, bars turn to wind and chains slip into dust. The poems in After The Witch Hunt and a lot of the work I’ve read and heard elsewhere from Megan are a fierce attempt at freedom (from self, from danger, from sorrow, from pain, from what must be fled), and the urgency of those poems makes my heart throw itself into the walls of my chest, trying to break out and meet the soul that has made it flutter so. Well, Heart, meet Megan Falley. Reader (for you are my heart), if you don’t already know, meet light.
‘Small with wild legs, the boy stole your eyes
the day he was born.’
If you ask me what I know to be true in this world, I will tell you a couple of things: God is real, White Castles is the forbidden fruit of angels, and Saeed Jones. Period. Saeed is truth with arms, legs, a fabulously warm smile, and a pen fiercer than Beyonce’s current weave. Whether it is his prose (which you can find everywhere from Ebony Magazine to Buzzfeed, where he is editor of their LGBT page) or his fiction (which got him published in Best of the Net 2012) or his poetry (His chapbook, When the Only Light is Fire, is for the Gods! Do you hear me?), there is no going wrong with Mr. Jones. His verse comes to you humbly with all it’s blades in plain view. Reading Saeed’s work is like getting sliced by your lover, out of love, and still being in love after. I feel like he drags me through the mud and the fire, and just when I’m about to cuss him out for putting me through it, I realize he’s given me an armor of earth. I always get up from reading feeling wonderfully raw and new, so sure of my humanity and the weakness that I need to better love tenderly. And he fine (have you seen pictures of this human? He is sunshine on toast!). I am thankful that Saeed Jones is on Earth at the same time as me. He is bringing life to writing world unlike that which I’ve ever seen. He is a force. He is a blessing. He is worthy of all the snaps in my hand. Saeed, Shante you stay. Reader (yes, you!) Sashay away… to the rest of the internet and go get into Saeed Jones!
Greetings good people,
Today I'm excited to introduce you all to a writer you know well:
The Distinguished Professor of Twerk Studies and past Muzzle contributor:
Danez Smith, a Cave Canem Fellow and 2-time Pushcart Nominee, works in Madison, WI, as an Student Advisor for the First Wave Program at UW-Madison. He likes tattoos, bad food, drinking Capri Suns, reading manga and good poems. His work appears or is forthcoming in PANK, Anti-, Radius, Southern Indiana Review, and other places. He slams sometimes, placing 6th in the world at the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam. His One-Man Theatre Production “For Those Who Pray In Closets” is receiving critical acclaim and standing ovations wherever performed. He’s performed his poetry and theatre in the UK, Panama, and all over the USA. When not doing that, Danez enjoys the occasional dance battle with his roommate. He thinks you look good today.
Over this next month Danez is going to introduce or reintroduce you to 30 poets under 30 that you should be checking for.
Here's an introduction in Danez's own words:
"My generation has been so consistently played down as lazy, facebooking, science & math intolerant (that one might be true for me, Chemistry makes me gassy), lexicon-lite Nintendo babies. We, children of Nicktoons & Puff Daddy name changes, have so much yet to prove, so much more work to do before we know what name to call us by throughout history, but damn if we aren’t werking it already. I am consistently in a state of awe and whimsy over the work being produced by artist in my generation. We - who follow in the freshly pressed & still marching footsteps of the Dark Room Collective, Rachel McKibbens, Roger Bonair-Agard and the like – are a fierce little bunch of bebe’s kids if you ask me. I am always stunned by the brave lyrics and soft, cutting verse coming out from people I have the honor to call peers. I find myself with my mouth ajar and my hand paused mid air, asking myself ‘Did this fool just write this brilliance? How they only 26 and don got a pen mightier than a megazord?’ In honor of these amazing, emerging lights, I’m dedicating my National Poetry Month to them. Instead of writing poems in the 30/30, I’m going to be singing the names of 30 writers under 30 who you need to get into. Coming up with 30 was hard, not because there weren't enough, but because there are too many, but take these 30 as a simple sampling of the great Young Country Buffet of young writers today. They will change your life 1 stanza at a time, they will save your soul on a line break. These 30 artists are all that and a bag of chips, maybe even the whole corner store!"
Welcome to a 30 Day Challenge Muzzle-style.
Assistant Poetry Editor
Intro to Special Feature: Short plays, Choreo-poems and/or Hybrid Performance Textsby Idris Goodwin, Guest Editor
Muzzle, I thank you for letting us playwrights come play.
Plays are often left out of the literary clubhouse occupied primarily by fiction, poetry and (sometimes) creative nonfiction. Plays occupy an odd territory.
As a writer of plays, performance poetry, rap music and essays, I have long been an advocate for true cross-disciplinary exchange. Each form has its own vocabulary and aesthetics. Spending time in each will greatly inform the other. Just as innovations in page bound forms of fiction and poetry are celebrated in journals, performance writers have much to add to the contemporary lit-scape. We too are interested in economy of language, the balance between show and tell, the birth of style through copying, cutting and remixing.
Here we have three unique performance writers using very specific forms to build compelling stage worlds. They have crafted clear voices and multiple threads of perspective—built worlds within small south side Chicago homes, electronic settings and a hornet’s nest. Jamila Woods very carefully paints the scene for you in her beautifully strange “fairyghost tale” theShark, while Clinnesha D. Sibley’s biting #communicate cleverly allows social networking to dictate a spare use of language. Fatimah Asghar’s Forgiveness, an impressive hybrid poem/play/elegy, places a fairly straightforward and rigid structure onto metaphorical language weighted by its subject matter.
My hope is that you and a few friends will read these aloud, as if they were a songbook with shape notes. Pop open a bottle of something, and say these words. Or just as I did, read them slowly—with your mental director filling the stage with performers, lights and sound.
DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 15th
We are looking for Poetry & Art submissions for a special Sex-themed issue, guest edited by Chicago poetry maven, Emily Rose Kahn-Sheahan.
Emily Rose Kahn-Sheahan is a Chicago-born and raised poet, performer and host of many things. Named by TimeOut as one of Chicago’s Cultural Curators, she is currently a Real Talk Avenue Artist, co-slammaster and host of the Mental Graffiti Poetry Slam, Jilted Emily Rose at The Encyclopedia Show, and Tournament Director for Louder Than a Bomb. Her first chapbook, Cigarette Love Songs and Nicotine Kisses (Cross+Roads Press), was published in 2004. Her work has appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, After Hours, TimeOut Chicago, and more. Emily Rose probably already likes you.
by Emily Rose Kahn-Sheahan, Guest Editor
“Everything in the world is about sex except sex.” – Oscar Wilde
The common scientific and religious assumption is that sex is the biological answer to the evolutionary need to reproduce. For me, sex is a large part of the human condition, a drive and activity that occupies a significant amount of our thoughts and lives.
Shame is the enemy of honesty, the demon that decides that your sexual needs and wants are bad or dirty when they are simply part of you, another dimension of self. Sex poems venture into the human heart where desire meets self and invites other people in. The sex act itself is nuanced by relationship, context, tone, history and every other facet of a given moment.
There is sex and there is the erotic. Not all writing about sex is necessarily erotic. Sometimes sex is about family, relationships, trauma and the reasons we seek pleasure. I am interested in the ways people talk about sex in the context of their larger human experience. We all make choices, sexually and otherwise, to serve different needs. These needs, to me, are at the core of our wishing, our urge to complete, the mechanisms of comfort. Sex is only biological when practiced for the purpose of reproduction. In this instance, the desire to reproduce, to me, is the poem, is the heart, is the need.
Because sex is so very common and weighted by norms, it tends to come with a pre-approved vocabulary and set of moral standards. I love poems that defy those standards and make their own vocabulary, poems that use sex as a lens through which to understand ourselves and our relationships, poems that want to communicate the human as a wanting creature.
For more on writing about sex, check out Emily Rose's article "Go Deeper: Writing Sex Without Shame" in Union Station.
This year's nominees for the Sundress's annually published Best of the Net anthology are:
We were very happy that Marty McConnell's poem "the fidelity of epitaphs (20 days later)" was a finalist last year. Please join us in wishing our nominees luck!
DEADLINE: August 15th
Playwright, poet, essayist and performer IDRIS GOODWIN will be guest editing the Fall 2012 issue of Muzzle, which will feature short plays, choreo-poems and/or hybrid performance texts (works crafted for recitation by one or many). All themes welcome.
*To submit, use our online submissions manager.
*Please submit 1-2 pieces. Each piece should be submitted as a separate DOC or PDF file.
*Each piece must be under 7000 words.
*Please make sure your name does not appear anywhere in the document or submission title; our editors like to view submissions blindly.
*Upon acceptance, writers will be invited to send audio and/or video recordings of their work.
*Use a standard font (Times New Roman, Cambria, Garamond, etc).
*Include a 50-100 word third person bio in the "Cover Letter / Biography" field of the online submissions form.
*Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please let us know immediately if work is accepted elsewhere.
*Work must be previously unpublished (no re-prints).
IDRIS GOODWIN, a playwright who performs, a rapper who writes essays, a teacher who makes albums. He’s been recognized for his work across mediums by The National Endowment for the Arts, The Ford and Mellon Foundation, The New York Times and National Public Radio. His play How We Got On, developed at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center premiered at The 2012 Humana Festival of New Plays. His latest play, Blackademics kicks off the 2012/2013 season of Chicago's MPAAC Theatre. Shorter stage works have been featured at Steppenwolf Theater, American Theater Company, Pilsbury House and The Los Angeles Theater Center. He's appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry, The Discovery Channel, and most recently, Sesame Street. These Are The Breaks, his debut collection of essays, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An award winning educator, he’s taught at The University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and is currently a visiting instructor in performance writing at Colorado College.