joanna-valente

So, it’s easy to write but it’s hard for me to write what I want, if that makes sense, without initially censoring myself or writing without editing at the same time. It’s easy to think of the people in your life, such as your parents or partner, and think: ‘What would they say if they saw this?’ Usually if I ask that, it means I’m saying the right things and shouldn’t stop.
—  Joanna C. Valente, interviewed by John Wisniewski for the California Journal of Women Writers
Mother

Who was your first love?
My only dream is a bodiless hand
stroking a child, canyon for a face

Have you seen the dead?
We are a carriage of hummingbirds

When did you become a mother?
On the Q, a boy took a feather out
of his mother’s coat, put it in the palm
of her hand

When did you stop believing in God?
Make 12 an hour, chalk it up
to life experience

(Originally published in Black Heart Magazine.)

John Maher: November Poet of the Month

John Maher is the recipient of the Skidmore College 2012 Frances Steloff Poetry Prize, and his poems have been acclaimed by Mark Wunderlich as being “sharp, short, and striking, notable for their control and their certainty. I admire the endings of the poems in particular, with their modest flourishes, their brandished daggers.” His work has been featured in Magnapoets, The Adirondack Review, Chamber Four Lit Mag, The Good Men Project and The Long Island Herald, among others. He is webmaster for Graphic Novel Reporter, blogs at Sitting on Car Fenders and is a co-founder of the Galvanized Steel Collective.

Christmas Lights 

On the wall they cast
a self in haloed
color-likeness,
purple rings and
blue ignes fatui
slipped onto primer
never painted over.

The throw on the bed
is frayed. We list the
things we do not
believe in. These,
they must be that
which is behind all
light in the house.


Dragonfly

The dragonfly
blue-bodied
as the ocean
floats on seaweed
its stick tail
flicking quickly
weightless
wings rimmed
with caught sun 

the long salted
sand shore
licked by waves
with their murmurs
the seaweed dried in
a blackgreen coat
damp-bellied still
where the larvae
now will uncurl

Narcissus and Goldmund

I.

When at morning I enter again the world around my eyelids
I taste wine hot in my throat and think of you, Goldmund. 

For me, it is not enough to feel the blood that floats in
the arms, or chestnut leaves brushing cool on my face. 

You captured me in wood as if that were what I am.
My pine eyes glorify the God you would not know.

Evening. Again the wine, again his face hovers before me.
Mountains are swept orange under ciborium of sky.

II.

His eyelashes brush over the opening of her ear with a
sound of rustled rushes. Each light stroke will lead 

to arched shoulder, curled back, opened lips.
When their tongues touch he will want to talk about God, 

but what else is there to say? Tiny hairs move
to the tune of a wind fluting the dry stalks 

in a place where loving has nothing to do with love.
Lapis eyes swim with the rolling wave of sky.


Open Letter I

Love,

That time you spent in your bed
         tonguing your split lip as a shadow-

 branch danced in orange streetlight
              on the unfamiliar ceiling of your room,

sweating under the cold sheets,
               scratching long behind your knee,

did you hear night in long steps
             slink around too-tall bookshelves

and your hollow chest of drawers?
             did you feel it paw over your back 

and slip through a closed window
              back out into an unknown snow?

In the morning a white covers
              the junipers but their berries

push blue through. I’ll bring
               you a cup of tea at nine, and 

a shovel. By noon we should
               have the brick walk cleared.

Always,

I let my mind wander at work while eating a sandwich

Hummus on turkey, wheat bread. Creamy, light. Not enough. Like that little bit of ocean spraying at my feet when I’m too cold or scared to go in all the way. Immerse myself. Hard to lose all sense of self, maybe my most devastating weakness. I allow myself to get lost sometimes. In dashes at the end of a line, right turns at red lights, water washing my hair, eye contact, Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto no. 2, smiling into a man’s neck, tarot readings. All the way. So many suns, so many moons—shadowed, inked, blotched. Obscured by mouths—riddled holes from human noise. To lose myself, I try to record everything in range of my ears and nose and mouth and skin. An island can feel when a fly lands on one of its leaves, when wind carries storm between branches. A stranger sang at me yesterday, a strange man who hummed from his sternum—coal fog. I thought about his glands, if anyone ever kissed them. I never would. If he played on red go-carts as a boy, kissing other boys, other girls in bathroom stalls with the toilet seat up. If amen ever crossed the threshold of his throat and mouth. I was walking with my head down, felt his gaze move over my body to somewhere not my body. But, he wanted it to be my body. I wanted his body to crack into asphalt. His hands were still. I felt we had been in a room together for a long time, uncomfortable because neither of us was talking. Any time I feel uncomfortable, I know I will keep returning to this room with this man. Each time, we will be silent, waiting for the other to speak, hoping the other won’t speak. Hoping the other will leave. We’ll keep coming back. Planets rotate—red and erect.

Joanna Valente, writer

Yes Poetry Editor, Luna Luna Magazine Columnist, Alt Bride Editor and writer Joanna Valente is one of the featured readers at Luna Luna Magazine and Earshot Readings at the New York City Poetry Festival (July 26-27; schedule here/details below). She generously shares with LFF about how reading poems by Emily Dickinson at age 11 inspired her to become a writer, growing up in New York frequenting museums; her inspirations from the sea to walking; her current projects; feminism, and much more…

Where are you from? How did you get into writing?

 I’m from New York; yes, I’m one of those people. From the time I could remember, I started painting and drawing voraciously. I loved art, I love creating art. It just made sense to me. I was also an avid reader as a child, so it made sense that eventually, I was wanted to try writing myself. 

Not surprisingly, I wasn’t an extremely popular child in elementary school, being that I listened to punk and industrial music, loved to paint, and happened to be shy. Which, of course, is a terrible combination for most kids. So, naturally, I gravitated toward spending a lot of time in my room reading, writing, and drawing. After reading poems by Emily Dickinson at the age of 11, I wanted to do what she did (of course, not realizing that no one can! She is beyond us.) That first poem turned into a lifelong passion. Ironically, the longest story I wrote ran at 75 pages when I was only 12. 

Growing up in New York definitely fostered a sense of creativity and individuality in me. You have to shine here, otherwise, you’re just one of millions. I never wanted to be famous, like Paris Hilton, but I wanted to feel as though my life meant something more than just being another cog in the system. I wanted to express my emotions–why not? Since I feel them so intensely, I may as well use it to my advantage. 

Being in New York also afforded me the luxury of going to the MET, the MOMA, the Guggenheim–immersing myself in ways other children from small towns can’t. While neither of my parents are working artists, they hold a high appreciation for it–I remember trips to museums with them from an early age, which certainly influenced how I thought.

Tell me about your inspirations, process.

I love all things relating to the sea–I need to be by some body of water, or otherwise, I feel a bit trapped. I love poetry, I love a good story. Those are my inspirations. In terms of my process, that just involves a lot of prioritizing and a lot of work. I had a college professor, who I love dearly, who often said in class: “Writing is hard work.” He is completely right and I will stand by that until the day I die.

Writing is not easy, especially when you have a ton of other responsibilities, like a job, family, friends, etc. Life does not stop for us, we stop for it. What I try to do is write for at least 15 minutes a day, even if this just means jotting down ideas into a notebook or the notes app on my phone. This has proved to be immensely invaluable. It not only allows me to analyze situations, but teaches me how to be perceptive of other people and their emotions. Which is what writing is all about, right? I’ve always been much more of an observer than a talker, so this doing this on the subway is perfect for me. Or while I’m walking. I love to walk.

I can’t say I write a poem every day, but I write something every day. I’m also a writer for Luna Luna Magazine and Alt Bride, so I really do write something every day; while it isn’t always poetry, all writing counts. By creating this routine, I don’t feel as though I’m ever in a writing funk for too long, and the poems I do write tend to be better.

That being said, I also edit a tremendous amount. People forget that editing is writing too, and often, editing is where the power lies.

Tell me about your current/upcoming show/exhibit/project (Luna Luna reading) and why its important to you. - hints on what you may be reading from? what you hope people get from it?

I’m reading at the New York Poetry Festival next week for Luna Luna and Earshot (a poetry reading series), which I’m so excited about! I adore Governor’s Island, which is where the festival is hosted every year. I’ll be reading from my forthcoming book of poetry, Sirs & Madams, which is due out from Aldrich Press late this year.

At every reading I give, all I want for people is to enjoy what they hear, or to feel comforted because they relate. Most loneliness stems from feeling alone, which means you feel misunderstood. Simply, I want to make people feel less lonely.

Artist Wanda Ewing, who curated and titled the original LFF exhibit, said of her work: “I’ve been making provocative art with a political edge in my Midwestern hometown since 1999. And to do that, you have to be tenacious as hell.” Are you tenacious in your work or life? How so?

I would say so, although one thing I’ve learned by living in New York my entire life is that there is someone always more tenacious than you. And that’s okay. Friends would definitely say I’m highly ambitious and pro-active, which I agree with, but I also know when to stop myself from going absolutely crazy. I need a certain level of comfort, as we all do, really. Having a personal life has always been crucial to me, I never wanted to be married to my job, especially nowadays, when jobs come and go very easily. The job you have straight out of college to retirement doesn’t exist anymore, like it did for my parents.

I constantly submit my work, write, and connect with people who feel have something to say. But, I consider my personal life just as valid—I have a partner that I value immeasurably, whose happiness is just as important as my own. My relationship with my partner, like poetry, is something that needs to be worked on every day. In general, I have always prided myself on being very present in my friends’ and family’s lives, regardless of how busy I am.

That being said, I’m always trying to write better.

Ewing, who examined perspective of femininity and race in her work, spoke positively of feminism, saying “yes, it is still relevant” to have exhibits and forums for women in art; does feminism play a role in your work?

Definitely—all of my work involves women, from what womanhood means to the ways in which women aren’t valued by our society. I tend to focus on sexual violence in my work, because I feel right now, that is a true failing of American culture. We supposedly live in a land of freedom and luxury, yet many women don’t have the luxury of feeling safe when they walk home alone. They don’t have the luxury to file a case against a rapist, because often times, their case is not taken seriously. It’s a huge problem that needs to be addressed by those in power.

Ewing’s advice to aspiring artists was “you’ve got to develop the skill of when to listen and when not to;” and “Leave. Gain perspective.” What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
My advice is to make art about what you obsess about, what makes you angry. Otherwise, the passion just won’t be there. There’s no point if there’s no passion. 


JOANNA C. VALENTE
Editor, Yes Poetry Columnist & Editor, Luna Luna Magazine
Author, Joanna Valente  Alt Bride Luna Luna Magazine’s Reading at NYC Poetry Festival:
Saturday, July 26, 1:20pm, Governor’s Island, NY
Facebook invitation here
Earshot Reading Series event details here: http://newyorkcitypoetryfestival.com/line-up/

__

Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins.  LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com,(get 15% your blurb purchase using code BLURB2014 expires 8/27/14) including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.

Juliet Cook: October Poet of the Month

Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver and purple explosions. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications, most recently including Arsenic Lobster, Diode, ILK Journal, Menacing Hedge, and Tarpaulin Sky Press. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Where does it lead?

The snow globe explodes into my eyes
and then nooses me up.                                                    

I’m unsure if this is a hanging or
another sadistic experiment.

No matter what, it’s dripping blood
down the bedroom floor.

I can’t see anymore.
I can hear more vigorous dripping

in between my walls or
my thighs are another wall and

I’m Saint Bloody.
Welcome to my brains latest torture seen.

Broken Baby Bird Mouth

I didn’t force myself into you.
I popped myself out, morphed into my own
way of thinking. I found my direction
so stop inundating me with your questions,
with your why why why why why.

Because maybe I want to.
Because maybe it feels high today.
Because even if I’m not sure why, even if
my mind breaks down tomorrow, it’s still attached to me.
Because maybe maybe maybe maybe maybe.

Maybe I’m a witch bird with one broken wing.
You want to break off my other one and stick it in
your box of right and wrong and tell me
what I should do and who I should be.

Maybe I only have one eye left and you
can hardly wait to cut it off,
sew something different inside
my ripped hole, teach me another lesson
for everything I’ve done with my empty sockets.

Create me anew, the way you want me to be
instead of letting me be
my own contorted self.
You say, “If you can’t see straight,
I think it’s better if you can’t even see.”

Not another Replication

He paints Bloody Mary’s
but won’t drink them.
I need to keep drinking red glass
after glass so my love doesn’t turn into mildew.

I say let’s keep spinning, don’t mold my circles
with any particular slab. I know how they break,
crack open, dry out, and get replaced by

a soft new color, wet in the folds between
delight and desecration. Stay away from
those gardening tools.  Suck in your paint.

Pour every color down my throat
and all over my face.

ESSAYS | Dreams and Reality in Dialogue: Exploring the Non-Censored Mind

ESSAYS | Dreams and Reality in Dialogue: Exploring the Non-Censored Mind

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Recently, I have become obsessed with examining colloquialisms, particularly in supposedly intimate dialogues. So often, I feel we censor ourselves, even when we are talking to those closest to us—for me, the subway is my main inspiration, because I literally overhear how people live, how they survive. Through overhearing these conversations, I always notice there is a dance: the underlying…

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No One Likes You Until You're Dead
In Coney Island, there is a body stranded on uneven sand making love to earth, polluted space.

A woman’s hands smell like plastic suntan lotion bottles. Swarms of  moths stroke her back, wings  whirring like a smile. Why bother blocking rays when the cancer's  already there? 

She swats them with her plastic Chinese fan from the corner 99 cent store, thinking about the hands  who make dollar store dreams.

(Originally published in The Americas Poetry Festival Multilingual Anthology)
May Poet of the Month: Les Kay

Les Kay’s poetry has recently appeared in a variety of literary journals including Whiskey Island, Sugar House Review, Stoneboat, Menacing Hedge, Third Wednesday, Santa Clara Review, Stirring: A Literary Collection, The White Review, and elsewhere. He holds a PhD from the University of Cincinnati’s Creative Writing program.

Depression

When they come, certain
as next year’s new flu,
will they take the paw prints
on the rented sofa,
sell off that graveled swath
of wilderness where
we napped our Sundays away?

What’s in a home anyhow,
aside from wallpaper
falling from plaster,
a foundation half sinking
beneath magnolia and yew,
a two-car garage with cars
that won’t start?

We try the math again,
revising the stories we’ve told
ourselves about our lucky lives
and imagine packing
the things they can’t
auction off (a grandmother’s
recipes for ravioliand smelt, tattered dog
collars, an autographed

autobiography by Lee
Iacocca). And we cram
these artifacts of who
we were into suitcases
we cannot yet replace.


Fault Lines

Politicians bicker, asserting the crisis
was my fault for having lost my job,
your fault. Sometimes, I cannot help but believe
their specious evidence, worse than second-
grade science fair data. Sometimes,
I believe our failures, nebulous as credit default
swaps, monotonous as imaginary markets
in skills so soft no one sees them. Sometimes,
I stay myself with flagons of domestic pilsner.

But sometimes, I’m forgiven in my mind’s
confessional; there is coffee and winter sun;
prayers are half answered by enchiladas,
terriers snorting sleep on paw-painted pillows.
I let myself join them in animal rest.

Exit Strategy

Some days—I forget
about you. The fescue

leaves fall orderly
to be mulched by

an oil-burning Briggs
& Stratton. Catalpas

host traveling cardinals
like cathedrals. Humid

air wraps around me
like skin and then

I think of peeling it all away.

Fashion Forward: High-Waist & Lace

What I’m Wearing:
calvin klein belt; forever 21 shoes; guess gold watch; h&m bandeau top; h&m sheer lace tank; j.crew headband; west bay pants; marc jacobs dot perfume

Outfit Objective:
To wear warm & cool tones while combining professional attire with sexy chic. 

Spring 2015

Dearest Readers,

Eliot was wrong when he wrote that April is the cruelest month, in the first line of his famous poem The Waste Land. Now that April is officially National Poetry Month, we can juxtapose the rainy, cloudy days with crisp verse. With every transition, I immerse myself in poetry, because poetry is the best recipe for mourning & renewal.

Always yours,
Joanna C. Valente
Founding Editor
________________________________________________________

In this issue:

Matthew Daddona
“To become love, / dress in idiom.”

Andrew Squitiro
“Breath without speech is still language to me.”

Carla Carlson 
“Most of my life, when I wanted to say, “go away, / I’m busy,” I said, “you’re sweet”’

God of Internet

In the beginning, we were programmed
with light & light we turned our backs
upon / & night defaulted so darkness


curls toward us / unthinking as a falling
body embracing pavement / it is
impossible for a child to come out of us


there’s nothing / for it outside but endless
data / growing like a lump inside a woman’s
breast which are too beautiful to die


so we stuff & mount them on Google /
a museum of graves avoiding the gods
who don’t know the color of waves surfing


the web / in an effort stay on earth
we all become dot.coms in time / life
is easier when it’s pixelated / there is


nowhere to stand huddled near
the gravestones of human history /ask
Chrome’s search: Whose yr daddy?


(Originally published at Pretty Owl Poetry)

2014: Year of the Human

Goodbye to the old & in with the new. Isn’t that the phrase? 2013 will be over in just the matter of a day. By far, it has been the best year of my life. I am so grateful for all of the magnificent opportunities I’ve been afforded professionally, & even more, the connections I have made with other human-beings. 

Instead of making specific resolutions, because hardly anyone keeps those anyway, I’m dedicating my year to a theme: human connection. With everyone constantly logged into their facebook, updating twitter, & writing blog posts, it’s easy to know someone but not actually know them. I’m tired of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet & all it offers–I’m able to keep in touch with friends, despite busy work schedules. I can look at pictures of my godson on facebook, chat with my best friend in Boston on gchat, & makes new friends who comment on my Luna Luna Magazine articles. Yet, all of this digital communication is simply just that–digital. None of it is actually tangible. 

I’m not any less lonely when I’m connecting via the internet. The only way for me to feel truly connected & truly loved is to connect in person. Even still, I firmly believe time should be made for the people I care about; if I can’t do that, then my priorities are clearly not in check. What’s more important–a blog post or hanging with a close friend?

This year, I want to check facebook & twitter less, not be as concerned with my online persona, & check in more with the people that matter. How can I truly make new connections, & maintain the old ones, if my head is somewhere else?