Monthly Archives: March 2020

Poetry, My Brother and Spring

This was going to be another post about poems that I’ve sold and in a way it is. But it is bookmore than that. Last year on March 20th my brother Dennis died unexpectedly, though he had been in ill health for a few years and we had been justifiably worried. Spring when everything is bloom is now inextricably linked with death for me.

Dennis was the eldest of four and he was burdened not so much by being the big brother but by the world. He always wanted to make the world a better place, and that probably started with being the support for his siblings, in believing in us and helping hold us together. We four were weighted by the way our narcissistic parents had used us, who had planted seeds of doubt, self-loathing, fear and sadness deep within us. We battled or succumbed in different ways. Our parents’ needs drew the four of us together. We certainly weren’t always united, and we could drive each other crazy but we have always remained close.

That mentally unhealthy upbringing affected everyone. Not only did Dennis feel he had to be there for us, he had to also be there for the world. If he wasn’t giving and contributing to the betterment of society and humankind, he didn’t feel his life was worth living. I worried at different times that he would kill himself if he couldn’t find this deep purpose. He never had a hobby. Perhaps if there was any hobby, it was Dennis’s love of animals, something we all shared. But he could never just let go and ease himself into something mindless, something to let his mind rest for a bit and regenerate.

It is what killed him. He literally could never sleep. His body forgot how to turn off, even with machines and medicines. He could never shut his brain down and stop thinking of ways to make the world better. Dennis never finished high school. In some ways he was too smart for it and I’m sure desperately unhappy, searching for a sense of place. I doubt any of us were happy in high school though I think if you look back there were probably more searching lost teenagers than there were contented ones.

In seeking approval in my mother’s eyes, Dennis strove to do more. He was successful in Dennisprovincial politics. He became a Thai Consul, he worked on senate reform, and was Edmonton’s police commissioner. He worked in other parts of the world, trying to assist various cities and countries with government. And he worked at advocating for mental health, something that we had never really had in our family. He was given an honorary doctorate for his work. Dennis contributed a lot to mental health and created the Chimo Project, which brought pet assisted therapy to Alberta long before experts were recognizing the benefits of animal-human interactions and healing.

I could go on about my deep-thinking brother, who was perhaps only second to my mother in stubbornness about their own health. He didn’t believe he could be helped, he was leery of psychologists/counsellors/psychiatrists and thought they would bleed his secrets to the world. He resisted seeking treatment. Dennis always tried to see from another person’s point of view, and it was as his body was deteriorating that I saw a darker side come out. I had rarely seen him angry until those later years, where that dark mood and glumness was troublesome and he became more fatalistic. He seemed to believe less in democracy as all the ills of the world ate at him.

20190320_165506

This bee, here.

Yet, he still cared about us and we, about him. Last March 20th was the first day of spring. I found a bee on the steps staggering about, having awakened too early to a chilly day. I rescued it and brought it sugar water at about the same time as my brother was dying in another province. I like to think that as the weight of the world and his burdened brain wore down, that his spirit lifted free and ended up in that bee, small and seeking nectar and the warmth of a new day. I like to think that he was finally able to fly away from worry and sadness.

 

It does not feel like a year. I still cry every week, missing him. And this is about poetry. In trying to move through my grief, to not cry constantly, I immersed myself in poetry. I couldn’t write longer works because of my sorrow, so poetry it was. I started exploring different forms, where structure and length occupied my mind with these word puzzles. In a way, I became obsessed and have written more poems in a year than probably many years combined.

That obsession hasn’t stopped. I’m still exploring forms and writing poems. But my many many poems that have sat for years have had a scrubbing. I’ve not only written new works and explored different themes but I’ve truly looked deeply at my old poems, asking myself, what does that mean? Some of these haven’t sold in over 20 years. In some cases, I set them aside, feeling something wasn’t right—the proof was in no sales. With other poems, I would send them out, not always every year.

Now, with this deep cleansing I have rewritten quite a few poems and have submitted them resurrected and they’re selling. In this way, every time a poem is sold, it reminds me of how my brother believed in me and how, even though he is no longer physically here, he continues to inspire me. I know that if he were to read this, he would kind go “Huhmp!” raise his eyebrows and give me a look.

I think of my brother every time I sell a poem. The ones sold in the past month (the ones with links are already published) and with different release dates are:

  • “Monster” in Breath and Shadow
  • “Telltale Moon” in Dreams and Nightmares
  • “masquerade” in OnSpec
  • An untitled hay(na)ku “luring” and my first haibun “Sacrifice” in Scifaikuest
  • “Three’s a Charm” in Songs of Eretz Poetry
  • “Spinning Wheel,” “Broken Words” and “Penned By My Hand” in Cascadia Subduction Zone
  • “Hacker Halloween” in Polar Borealis #14
  • “Family Dinner, Prince George” and “Sweat Lodge” in Transition magazine
  • “Hand of Fate” in Cosmic Horror Monthly
  • Widow’s Lament” in The Weird and the Whatnot
  • To the Core” in TERSE Journal

To my brother, I thank you. I miss you and I still wish you were here.

Leave a comment

Filed under family, health, health care, life, nature, pets, poetry, Writing

Women in Horror–Extended: Ann Schwader

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteWhy should women get short shrift? Women in Horror Month (February) is the shortest month of the year, even in a leap year! So, with that in mind, I’m doing my own extension of Women in Horror. I’ve featured 30 female poets, with Ann Scwader as guest today. There have been many award winners, nominees and extremely well published poets. I’ve had the chance to read more of their works and also read some new poets. Stay tuned; I’ll be featuring other writers from time to time, both male and female. I hope you’ve enjoyed these short interviews as well and continue to search out other works by the authors. The world is a vast and rich place, and the worlds shown by these poets expand those horizons.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

My first introduction to poetry was through the Good Doctor Seuss. I discovered early that rhyme and meter were absolutely magic.  I read a lot of children’s poetry after that–think Beastly Boys & Ghastly Girls, not A.A. Milne! Later on, about high school age, I found Edna St. Vincent Millay and her remarkable sonnets. I know Millay’s not all that popular any more, but she taught me what a modern woman’s voice in sonnets could sound like.

Why do you write poetry?

Because I can’t help it? Mostly, because I pretty much always have written it, from grade school on. I love the sounds of words fitting themselves into patterns, and the way poetry will stick in the mind even when prose doesn’t–or at least, it doesn’t stick the same way.   I’m also very interested in ancient history and archaeology, and poetry goes all the way back. It’s one of the earliest ways humans learned to carry stories around in their heads long-term, and share them with others for entertainment or information.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

I’m a formalist, so my major problem when starting a poem is to figure out what form will work best with the lines or phrases that have already popped into my head, or possibly with the story I want to tell. Once that’s been decided, things seem to move much more easily. I’ve never been prolific, and my speed seems to be getting even worse as the years go by.  I tend to fiddle with individual words, trying to figure out which one sounds best with the rest of the line. I’m also overly conscious about repeating words too often in a poem, or making sure my line breaks don’t line up with my sentence breaks.  There’s a lot of structural worrying.  Poems very rarely just flow for me.

Time Ghosts

Our times call ghosts to us. Though Homer knew
the power of dark blood to loosen tongues
parched centuries past silence, we insist
on sensory amnesia when the same
shades permeate the wreck of Port-au-Prince
with Pompeii’s wailings. While the limbless wraiths
who stalk Rwanda mourn their martyring
in Cathar accents, or some murdered girl
misnames her honor killing as sati,
we disbelieve . . . as if coincidence
alone explained such wounds of history
reopening afresh to slake a thirst
familiar as the ghosts of our bad nights,
& like them wandering unsatisfied
between hells happening that no one meant.

## from Ideomancer #14.1, 2010

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

Archaeology and astronomy / cosmology, though I frequently write about these subjects through a very dark filter. The bleaker side of SF also comes up a lot, and cosmic horror (Lovecraftian or otherwise) is my default when it comes to the really dark stuff. I’ve only had one completely themed collection.  That was In the Yaddith Time (Mythos Books, 2007), my answer to Lovecraft’s Fungi From Yuggoth. It’s a very SF Lovecraftian sonnet sequenc –complete with laser carbines!–featuring a female POV and an apocalyptic ending. My other poetry collections have all been mixtures of dark SF and horror/dark fantasy.

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?Schwader book

It depends upon the type of dark poetry. Poetry has always been a part of traditional weird fiction magazines (like Weird Tales) and websites. Weird fiction readers are drawn to formal dark verse very easily, though they may not appreciate free verse in quite the same way.  I’m not sure what other horror readers are looking for when they turn to poetry, though poetry has always, always been a big part of horror. Thank you, E.A. Poe.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I’ve just turned in a new collection of dark poetry to Weird House Press. The title is Unquiet Stars. I’m very excited to be working with Joe Morey & F.J. Bergmann on this one! As usual–at least, for my last few collections–this one has a new sonnet sequence: “Faces From the House of Pain.”

Void Music

Space is not silent, save for mundane ears
Attuned to flesh alone. The aether swells
With arias & whispers while we tell
Our tales of plasma waves, reshaping fear
As placid science. Island-dwellers cast
Adrift by proxy on a vast black sea
Should trust a little less in certainties
So fragile: did we voyage here unasked
Expecting welcome? Blind inside this drape
Of instruments, our curiosity
Expands as hubris, exponentially,
Athirst for evidence of our escape.

Meanwhile in undimensioned night beyond
Our sphere of ignorance, strange shadows drift
& sing the death of starlight. One by one,
Their threnodies thread ripples through this pond
Reality . . . until some chorus shifts
To sound the flickering of our brief sun.

## from Spectral Realms #2, 2015

Is there anything else about writing, horror or poetry you would like to say?

I’d just like to put in a good word for rhyme, meter, and form in general when it comes to horror poetry. Well-crafted lines of formal verse have a way of haunting the mind, sometimes long after the poem itself has been put aside. Stark, startling imagery is fine–but I think there’s room in our field for spectral music as well.

SchwaderAnn K. Schwader is a poet, short fiction writer, and occasional reviewer of SF and dark works. She lives, writes, and volunteers at her local branch library in suburban Colorado. Her eighth speculative poetry collection, Unquiet Stars, is forthcoming from Weird House Press in late 2020.

Other poetry collections, readily available and otherwise, include: Dark Energies (P’rea Press 2015), Twisted in Dream (Hippocampus Press, 2011), Wild Hunt of the Stars (Sam’s Dot, 2010), In the Yaddith Time (Mythos Books, 2007), Architectures of Night (Dark Regions Press, 2003), The Worms Remember (Hive Press, 2001), and Werewoman ( Nocturnal Publications, 1990). Ann also has two collections of weird/Lovecraftian short fiction: Dark Equinox & Other Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (Hippocampus Press, 2015)  and Strange Stars & Alien Shadows (Lindisfarne Press, 2003).

She is a two-time Bram Stoker Award Finalist (for Dark Energies and Wild Hunt of the Stars) and a two-time winner of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award (once each for short and long-form poetry). SFPA named her a Grand Master in 2019.

Website: http://www.schwader.net/home
Dreamwidth blog, Yaddith Times
Goodreads Author profile

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, fantasy, horror, poetry, science, science fiction, Writing