A Poem from My New Collection and for Tonight of All Nights

Two years ago almost exactly, the day before the 2016 American election, I wrote this poem, which crystallized my nervousness about the outcome and solidified my resolve about the future, no matter what. Looking back on it, I realize that those feelings were only the start of what would come next.

Part of me wanted to write a villanelle and had been trying to write one for days, maybe weeks, but it wasn’t coming. I was trying to riff off Dylan Thomas’ famous one in honor of the anniversary of his birth. But it wasn’t working. It just wouldn’t gel. And the problem wasn’t with the form: villanelles are in my wheelhouse and have been ever since I first learned what they were. I love those old French forms, the villanelle and the sestina and their imitation of the Malaysian pantoum, how they foster an obsession while helping the poet discover more layers of what’s at the heart of the matter. I love the puzzle of it all.

The problem with the poem I was trying to write wasn’t the form or even the subject matter, but with my attempt to emulate Thomas in the first place. Not that he wasn’t worth it — far from it. But I found I was trying to speak the needs of myself and of women in culture while trying to conform to the verses of a man. I was trying to bolster a moment of “the future is female” while not being true to the voice of a female.

I tossed all that mess aside and started over. I kept what I needed from the original and from the form, and I added in a hint of Frost to keep Thomas company. Why not? And then I wrote this poem, which was published right after the election in Yellow Chair Review and which is now appearing in my forthcoming collection The Sharp Edges of Water (from Odeon Press).

Tonight is another election eve. I hope tomorrow, if you are a U.S. citizen and are eligible to do so, you will vote as if your rights depend on it (because there’s a strong chance they do). Tomorrow evening will be another vigil. I have many feelings about it, about how it could go, about how I will react in multiple scenarios. But for now, I’m just going to share this poem with you.

The Path Often Traveled, the Path Less Celebrated, the Path of Ennobled Resistance
(A Rule-Breaking Poem for a Nail-Biting Vigil)

Do not go gentle into that stifling night;
Rage, rage against the snuffing of the light.

Do not go gentle into those good old days which were truly night;
Rage, rage against the smothering of the light.

Do not go gentle into that locker room of night;
Rage, rage against the rape of the light.

Do not go gentle into that back alley of the night;
Rage, rage against the beat-down of the light.

Do not go gentle into that Burning Time of night;
Rage, rage against the murder of the light.

Do not go gentle into that murderous night;
Rage, rage against the silencing of the light.

Do not go gentle into that good old boys’ night;
Rage, rage against the extermination of the light.

Crash ungently into that glass sky, crash into the night,
and be light.

November 7, 2016

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Monday Earworm: Jonathan Coulton

So if you’re in the U.S. and are eligible to vote, I hope you’ve either already done that or are going to do that tomorrow. It truly matters, even if you *think* it doesn’t because you live in a “safely” blue or red state. (Yes, Texas, I’m looking at you. Go do the do.)

Let’s hope evil geniuses like the one in Coulton’s song don’t get any more power — or keep what they have. See, you get to help decide that by using your voice in the form of a vote. It’s pretty simple.

Go do it.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Doing It Right (or Right For Me, or Rightish, or Hey At Least I’m Writing Srsly What Do You Want From Me?)

We have found our way back again to the realm of November. I like it here.

It has been a busy time in Angélique Jamail, Author Land. If you’ve been following along you’ve likely noticed several developments:
Finis. was picked up by Odeon Press, who is issuing a 3rd edition with expanded back matter and a slightly new look. Expect it very, very soon.
*  My new collection of poems, The Sharp Edges of Water, is becoming a real live book! And in a fit of lucky brilliance or insanity — not sure which — I let Adam Holt persuade me to do a Kickstarter for the launch. And I’ve been thrilled and humbled by its success so far! To those of you who have already contributed to it, I offer you my sincerest gratitude. (About half the backers’ names are hidden from me until the end of the campaign, so I actually don’t know who all of you are yet.) If you want to take a look at the video and content-rich updates, click here. And if you want to join the community of this project, hurry! It ends in just over a week! (It would be amazing to unlock the stretch goals, but even just to fund this all-or-nothing project, we still need a few hundred more dollars.)
*  I took the plunge and have begun an official newsletter via Mailchimp. I found it to be a fair amount of set-up on the front end, but otherwise things are looking nice and moving smoothly, so hopefully that will go well. Here’s my first newsletter through there, in case you aren’t on the mailing list yet and want to see it. You can subscribe to it from there, if I’m not mistaken, or you can leave your email address here in the comments for me to add you. My intention is to send out newsletters about once a month or so, and it won’t generally be the same as this blog.

And now, we have reached November and my inevitable modifications on the NaNoWriMo. Since it would be folly for me to attempt to write a 50,000-word draft of a novel in 30 days (which, I might add, include a major holiday!) while also being a full-time high school teacher and mom, I tend to just focus my commitment on writing something meaningful and substantive every day. Sometimes (like last year) I give myself daily word count goals. I try to stay flexible, and generally this all works out pretty well.

So this year, I’m doing it again. Tonight I’ve done a lot of front and back matter work on The Sharp Edges of Water and written, well, this blog post. I’m also going to be spending some time tonight working on the new novel I’m drafting, which fills me with joy. I’ve had to put it on the back burner for a while since I’ve been bringing the new edition of Finis. and this new poetry collection into the light, but now it’s time to dive back into Fairuza’s world — she’s my protagonist — and see what supernatural and steampunky excitement she’s unwittingly gotten herself into now. (Hint: it involves an awfully charming historian.)

Okay, enough spoiler-licious details on that!

What else can you expect here this November? I intend to continue with Monday Earworms and the occasional Kickstarter news while the campaign is still going, as well as some other treats and tidbits here and there.

Sally forth, yo. (And if you’re in the US and haven’t voted yet, better get on that, friend!)

Monday Earworm: Annie Lennox (Yes, more Annie!)

After yesterday’s Witchy Weekends post (the final one for this year), I began looking around for another Annie Lennox video to share with you, because she’s just so fabulous and has had such an undeservedly underrated career. I thought about the 2004 Oscars performance of “Into the West” and the 2012 London Olympics performance of “Little Bird,” both of which are powerful in their own different ways, but instead I’m going with something more whimsical, her video for “Walking on Broken Glass,” which apparently co-stars Hugh Laurie and John Malkovich, as well as some stunning costumes and sets. That feels about perfect for Hallowe’en festivities. Enjoy!

Fear and the Proposed Federal Redefinition of Gender

Sometimes it feels like the news cycle is just a firehouse on full blast firing acid on everyone, doesn’t it? Well. That’s how it feels here. And among the recent horrifying developments was the federal government’s floating the idea of redefining gender, the practical result of which would be to limit or all-out eliminate protections for those of us who aren’t living in a strict binary.
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That cannot stand, if we are to have a good and kind and compassionate world.
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I cannot address this in nearly as eloquent a way as my good friend Sean Fitzpatrick can. He’s the executive director of The Jung Center in Houston as well as a Jungian psychotherapist. I’ve known him well since we went to college together; our families are close; he is one of the best men I’ve ever known. His thoughts on this matter are beautiful and conducive to healing, so I’m sharing them here (with his permission) with you. (You may also view his remarks online by clicking here.)
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Friends,

On Sunday, the New York Times published a report that the Federal Department of Health and Human Services is considering redefining gender in such a way that it would assign gender, male or female, at birth (or soon after, via genetic testing). As the Times reported, gender would become “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.”

The consequences of such a policy, which would have the force of law, would be to radically restrict the civil rights of the more than one million Americans who understand their gender to be different than the one on their birth certificate. It would reject contemporary medical understandings of the complexity of gender. It would inflict government-sanctioned suffering on transgender people and implicitly legitimate discrimination based on gender identity. It would be an act of utterly unnecessary violence on the human psyche.

And, as a wiser man than me has frequently said in The Jung Center’s classrooms, it ain’t about what it’s about.

A few years ago, my elementary-aged son Daniel left our table at a local taqueria to head to the restroom while I finished my meal. Two men were eating at a nearby table, and one of them called out to me and wondered if I was scared to let him go into the restroom alone. No, I said. The man said he would never do that, because now anyone can go into whatever restroom they choose, and some awful person might molest my child.

This was during a brief moment in Houston when the city government supported the right of individuals to make their own choice about which restroom – men’s or women’s – to use. The successful campaign to end the policy via referendum deployed the rhetoric used by this man, who was genuinely scared for my son. That rhetoric had absolutely no basis in fact – none – but it has old roots in our collective imagination. Before transgender people were associated with sexually predatory and violent behavior, gay men were associated with it. Monsters have always emerged from our collective imagination at times of change, and often they have been created quite consciously to manipulate human behavior.

Fear is one of the prime, irreducible motivators of our thoughts and actions. When I was Daniel’s age, my mother told me a story about a child who had been sexually assaulted with a razor blade in a men’s bathroom. She said she was telling me the story to keep me safe. She was also voicing her own fear of the unknown, the ways in which she couldn’t protect me from the world, no matter how much she wanted to. I cannot say whether the story made my life safer. It did make it scarier. That man with the razor blade is still alive in my imagination.

The proposed redefinition of gender motivates fear and is motivated by it. It is no exaggeration to say that our understanding of the world – or at least the amount of information we have about it – is growing at an unprecedented pace that accelerates constantly. When something as seemingly unchangeable as the binary of male and female starts to change because of new knowledge and the courage of those willing to risk their lives to voice their experience, fear is an inevitable, even understandable response. (Although anthropological research tells us that the Western, historical understanding of male/female is not nearly as timeless and universal as we believe.)

We can fear what the erosion of old certainties may mean for the future. But we are responsible for carrying our fear consciously, for examining its roots closely, and for choosing our actions carefully. It is an act of avoidance bordering on cowardice to reject new knowledge by violently imposing a seemingly simpler order. Accepting ambiguity and complexity is a necessary task of human psychological growth – and the path to a life filled with curiosity, healing, and humility before the mystery of existence.

Sean Fitzpatrick, PhD
Executive Director

Monday Earworm: Girl In A Coma

One of my all-time favorite songs ever is “As the World Falls Down” by David Bowie from the movie Labyrinth. The reasons for this are vast and varied. And since my family’s annual Hallowe’en party (this year, cleverly entitled Masquerade 2018) is coming up this weekend, I thought I’d choose a song for today that has to do with a costume ball. Well, sort of a costume ball. In the movie, this song happens during what appears to be a masque. (And I do love a good masque. There should be more of them near me. Someone please make that happen.)

And for several years one of my brothers and I attended a masked ball in Los Angeles entitled the Labyrinth of Jareth, which was originally based on the movie but then evolved into its own extraordinary world. And at this event, each night, several of the songs from the movie’s soundtrack could be heard in the various ballrooms, but one thing remained constant, which was that this song (Bowie’s original version) would play at a certain time in each ballroom, and then everyone would find someone to waltz with for a few minutes. It was a really interesting experience, because even if you didn’t already have someone to dance with, you would probably find someone, or someone would find you. And maybe you would become friends with that person (that happened to me in one instance) and maybe you would never see them again, not even at the event (that’s happened to me too).

So to my friends Tara and Margo and James and Yolanda and Leonard and Sarah and Adrienne and to my brother Mo: I hope you all, especially, will enjoy this. It’s not Bowie’s version (which remains my favorite), but it’s a pretty good one.

 

So what else is going on? Well, it’s early voting time here where I live, so I’m gearing up for that because for heaven’s sake, why wouldn’t someone exercise their right to an opinion? Srsly. Go out and make the world better, y’all.

Also, my Kickstarter project has just 19 days left to meet its goal. We’re almost 75% of the way there! Thank you to everyone who has joined on. If you haven’t yet, now is a good time. If we get to 80%, I’ll announce the extremely marvelous perks for some stretch goals. And either way, I hope you’ll share the link to the project with people you know who like poetry or like my writing or like supporting indie artists. Because that’s good for your karma, yo, and we need more art in the world.

Otherwise I’ve got some grading to do and some KS updates to write and some front and back matter for the new book to finish and the new galleys for the 3rd edition of FINIS. to proof. Woot! Busy night!

I hope yours is awesome.