News / poemswag

  • Poet Tips

    "Who do you like?"

    Screenshot of result page for Amy Berkowitz

    Have you seen Poet Tips? It's a crowd-sourced poetry recommendation engine. We found a few of our authors there. You can up- or down-vote the results, or add your own.

  • Black Lavender Milk Giveway Completed!

    Black Lavender Milk Giveaway Completed!

    We just had a giveaway contest for Black Lavender Milk on Goodreads. We had 3 books to give away but 577 people entered! Congratulations to our lucky winners! And for those who entered but didn't win, consider purchasing a copy! It's so worth it. And if you're in Los Angeles, Tijuana, or San Diego, watch the Upcoming Events section on our homepage for readings near you.
  • Waves Breaking Podcast interview with Jai Arun Ravine

    Waves Breaking Podcast interview with Jai Arun Ravine

    Jai Arun Ravine talks to me about their newest book, The Romance of Siam, just released from Timeless, Infinite Light. We talk about their use of humor in critiquing orientalism, the tourist industry in Thailand, and their process as an interdisciplinary artist. 

    Listen to the interview with host Avren Keating on the Waves Breaking site!

  • A Conversation Between Gabriel Ojeda-Sague and Jai Arun Ravine

    Check out this conversation between Gabriel Ojeda-Sague and Jai Arun Ravine at Drunken Boat!

    image of front covers of Oil and Candle and The Romance of Siam

    Gabriel Ojeda-Sague: We (Jai and I) have talked very quickly before about feeling differently raced or between racial subject positions or between argumentative positions regarding race. I think we talked about “adjacent to” which is a phrase I used to describe my relationship to Latino folk magic, or Santería in this case, and I remember you discussing your mixed identity and using a similar term. And like I talk, and write, and think, a lot about being a “white latino” (a term I personally don’t like), or a white-passing latino (a term I do like!) and how that affects my place in poetry/the world. I’m bringing this up because it seems to be one starting point for connection between our works.

    Jai Arun Ravine: Yes, I was really moved by how you were talking about “adjacency.” I grew up with a cultural absence or silence around my mother’s immigration story and cultural identity as Thai. As a teenager I would go to the used book store in my hometown and look at books about Thailand as a way to learn something about myself. This is one example of a prevalent feeling I had then and still carry now — an adjacency to self, to experience, to being. When I was in Thailand for the first time, I felt adjacency instead of belonging because the majority of people perceived me as white and American. My barrier to fluency in Thai language is the adjacency I feel when I’m required to gender myself as male or female. This jostling forces me outside my own body.

    In your book Oil and Candle, I really resonate with the way you write about your experiences of adjacency through everyday tasks. Like comparing the price of vials and candles for ritual. Or Googling the word for “dispose.” Or uncertainty: “I can’t / stop and get the symbolism / straight what is white / for again and what does / this candle do.” Or mis-hearing: “this / whole time I thought / we were just saying / the name of a woman / ‘Sandima.’” I’m also thinking about the role of American imperialism in this adjacency — immigration policy, assimilation, citizenship, nationalism, war. In your book

    you write:

    where is my future
    in the encyclopedic eye
    of the tyrant codes?

    if I am reaching for ancestry
    it’s just for the

    I like this image of “the throbbing envelope.” Even as we try to heal this adjacency of self, those in power are ever-watchful, hungry, and ready to draw our blood, as you so brilliantly write about in your piece “Limpias.” Can we ever be completely cleansed of the racist, imperialist, capitalist eye?

     Read the rest at Drunken Boat!

  • Every Poem I Write Is About Ted Cruz by Gabriel Ojeda-Sague

    Photograph of Santería altarCheck out Literary Hub where Gabriel Ojeda-Sague, author of Oil and Candle, weighs in on "Santería, poetry, and not feeling Latino 'enough'."

    Some months ago I sat down with my boyfriend at a table where a woman he knew was also sitting. I can’t remember how we got into it, but she was talking about being Latina (Honduran, to be specific)—sort of to herself, sort of to us—and how Latinos were all very different. I wasn’t listening very closely because I was trying to do some writing, but I suddenly hear her say “Honestly, I can’t deal with Cubans. Like, they’re just not…” She sort of hung on the phrase and let it ring, as if she had already said what she wanted to. I looked up and asked her what she meant. “It’s just, to me, they aren’t real Latinos.” It was obvious that she had missed my very telling facial expression, somewhere between “what the fuck?” and “is she paying attention?” I said “My family is Cuban.” She sort-of tried to recover, saying, “Oh well, I don’t mean all Cubans, I mean especially the ones from Miami.” I had to laugh. I said, “I’m from Miami.” She again tried to recover, saying “Well, my friend just tells me Cubans from Miami are really out of touch with the rest of the Latino world.”

    I bring her up not to embarrass her or to use her as a strawman, but to show that this is not an uncommon view of what Cuban-Americanness is from other Latinos. It’s not even the only time I’ve had this kind of conversation.

    Read the rest at Lit Hub.


  • Geraldine Kim interviews Brittany Billmeyer-Finn at Weird Sister

    Cover image for the meshes by Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

    Geraldine Kim interviews Brittany Billmeyer-Finn at Weird Sister:

    Geraldine Kim: When I was reading the meshes, I noticed multiple layers of gazing or “looking” throughout the text—the gaze of the filmmaker, of the author writing about the filmmaker’s work, etc. “looking resists. looking revises. looking interrogates. looking invents, to be stared at. looking at one another. looking back” (p.31) and “having performed seeing. seeing double. seeing doubles. having performed spectatorship. I describe the lens. the film itself. the both-ness. opposition of becoming. soft focus. caught the light. depth of surfaces. multiplications as limiting” (p. 54). Could you talk a bit more about these layers?

    Brittany Billmeyer-Finn: Spectatorship is innate to the process of writing this book. An important part of the process is watching films. It also becomes a source of contention and critique that develops in the four sections of the book; “the poems,” “the essay,” “the play,” and “the annotated bibliography.”

    “the poems” engages with a selection of Maya Deren’s silent films including; the meshes of the afternoon, ritual in transfigured time, witch’s cradle, choreography for camera, at land and meditation on violence. As I watched these films, I attempted to translate them into poetry by showing the experience of watching on the page.

    Following Deren’s silent films, I came across her documentary, The Divine Horsemen the Living Gods of Haiti. The course of the project shifted with the inclusion of this film. It felt important to push up against the passivity of watching. The process needed a form that allowed for more nuance beyond watching and translating. So, I changed the form to a poetic essay. “the essay” includes both the process of transcribing the film itself and also a research element in which I read books and essays on the Haitian Revolution, on Haitian Voudoun tradition including Deren’s own book, The Divine Horsemen the Living Gods of Haiti. I read multiple genres in which Haiti is represented. This incorporation hoped to push up against the colonized archive and potential violence of ethnography as well as the passivity of spectatorship by asking, What are the ethics of this?

    “the play” was an important shift in form. It reflects the process of writing the first two sections of the book and offers a self-awareness the first two sections do not. “the play” itself is a ritual of making this work. the meshes deals in iteration. As “the poems” and “the essay” become “the play” the position of the text shifts, starting as a collection written by a viewer and becomes that which is viewed.

    Read the rest here!

  • Oil and Candle reviewed on Entropy

     Gabriel Ojeda-Sague standing at a podium

    Davy Knittle has reviewed Gabriel Ojeda-Sague's Oil and Candle at Entropy:

    Ritual and race are both typologies that people use to imagine a futurity they can live with, and both are troubled and leaned on in the poems, as is futurity itself. The speaker wonders whether they can produce and reproduce a viable future in which their body is valuable. In these poems, ancestry is futurity’s opposite. There is “no citizen; / no future;” but the speaker watches people desire both citizenship and futurity. The speaker positions both as being homologous with the conveyance of information.

    Read the rest here.

  • Jacob Kahn on Black Lavender Milk at Full Stop

    Side by side photos of Angel Dominguez (L) and Jacob Kahn (R)










    Head on over to Full Stop to check out Jacob Kahn's review of Black Lavender Milk by Angel Dominguez!

    "I keep telling myself not every book’s a book of poetry. I have to remind myself genre is so mediated by milieu. It takes me a while to not just call it poetry. Oh that, that’s poetry. That hybrid. Whatever that is. It’s a book of poetry. It is.

    It is. Or it isn’t.

    It doesn’t matter. Or: not always clear.

    I was introduced to Angel Dominguez as a poet. The label though, as with other hybrid or genre-bending poets like Bhanu Kapil and Ronaldo Wilson (both of whom Black Lavender Milk speaks directly to), is vexing. Dominguez is a poet, sure, but he is also (and perhaps more instructively) a failed novelist. He terms his debut, Black Lavender Milk — a book tumbling between dream requiem and pastoral ritual, a retracing of Dominguez’s Yucatec Mayan family heritage and a fragmented elegy for a grandfather-like figure, Xix — a “failed novel.” Over and over, Dominguez writes of this “novel” he is writing, and not the one we’re reading. Over and over, he references a “book” not present here, of which we glean perhaps glimpses, there and then there, the book he is failing to write from which Black Lavender Milk — like the shadow of a shadow, the shadow of a liquid, say black lavender milk — arises. The book becomes the book’s protagonist. Its metaphor. Its wound."

    Read the rest at Full Stop!