Poets of SMITTEN Speak: HOKIS

Hokis channels zir mistrust in humanity and love for puzzles into unfolding poems. Ze is Senior Editor of “Headline Poetry” @Line Rider Press, and previously served as teacher, community organizer, and body-centered mindfulness coach. Recent works are found in Truly U, Paragon Press’ Snollygoster: A Conversation About Politics, and For Women Who Roar. {Hokis; n. /hō/kēs/ The Armenian word for “my soul”or “my beloved.”}

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(22).pngHow does poetry and identifying as lesbian/bi come together for you?

In the cracks of direct truth of prose, is poetry. In the mixed meanings of poetry, is an inability for others to argue with your truth. In these ways, poetry and identity are a crucial link for me. In poetry I found my story, not the story others would grammar and spell check, not the story where the he’s and she’s and they’s were “supposed to fit.” There was a delicious freedom in this pause, this exploration of what love looks like. My contribution to SMITTEN, “Preference Over Judgement,” was THE turning point in my writing, which mirrored my self-acceptance. My hope is this piece brings us back to our humanity, and our natural roots of a creature on Earth.

Do you find any stereotypes in lesbian/bi work that you would personally remove?

I find it challenging to feel authenticated as a bisexual female in a 20 year marriage with a male partner. I chose a pen name that reminds me that my scope of existence is beyond even my own boundaries; Hokis, which is Armenian for “my soul.” This pen name keeps me true to my truth. My hope is this provides others space to offer themselves permission to be true to theirs.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

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Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Charity Muse

Charity M. Muse writes about love between women, social justice, and LGBTQ+ spirituality.  In addition to being a writer, she is a speaker, therapist, and empowerment coach, is married to an amazing woman, and is “Momma C” to two wonderful kids. She is currently working on her first novel, tentatively titled By Heart. Charity’s writing and work as a singer/songwriter can be found at charitymmuse.com.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(15).pngDo you find any stereotypes in lesbian/bi work that you would personally remove?

I often find that along with under-representation, the stereotypes of erotica and objectification continue to prevail. What disturbs me most is the continuation of the so called “Celluloid Closet” – an underlying message that lesbian relationships cannot last, are not valid, cannot be ultimately fulfilling. We see it in the death of partners, the leaving for a man, and other tragic and unhappy endings that far outweigh the few gems with hopeful resolutions. While even heteronormative stories have tragedies, I think it’s past time for lesbian romances to have happy endings, hope, and redemption that celebrates a winning love between women.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(16).png

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women?

I am deeply honored to be included in this work. Even before I came out to myself and others, I felt drawn to women who embraced their love of other women. I have been moved by the trailblazers in our community who have dared to love and be without apology. I feel like being part of this is one way I can continue the work they began, and the fact I get to work alongside other women who love women, who are from all over the world makes this experience all the more affirming and delightful.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(17).pngDid you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

Yes, and I still do. When I sit and think about it, I already have been/am in my own circles of influence – in spiritual communities, in the religious college I attended for undergrad and grad school. In my day job, as a psychotherapist in a small southern town, I continue to be a voice for our community. I desire to instill hope and spread a message of belonging and love in whatever I do: as a therapist, a friend, a writer, a singer, and a citizen. I firmly believe that relationship changes the minds of people who would “other” us, and I’ve taken it as my life mission to stand in that gap in the ways that I can. What is more intimate than poetry and writing from the heart?

Your poems in SMITTEN are excellent, why did you choose these particular poems and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

“Merveilleux” and “Words” were written when I was still closeted, falling in love with a friend and terrified of her finding out. The tenderness I felt for her permeated my waking thoughts while the fear of being exposed caused a juxtaposition of thought and feeling I found almost too difficult to bear.  “Your Hair Hangs Down,” on the other hand, celebrates the freedom and beauty of the love I share with my wife. I hope readers see the hopeful nature of the first two and how they bloom into flourishing as love is found and embraced.

Do you feel the lesbian / bi voice was lost or co-opted by the larger LGBTQ movement and if so, do projects like this help change that? \

Unfortunately, I do. I believe in expansion and inclusion, but I also believe that we cannot expand or include if we circumvent the voices and experiences of any of our own. Sometimes, it feels like identifying as “lesbian” has become vanilla. We aren’t seen as forward thinking or inclusive by not identifying as a more recent term or by not rejecting labels altogether. I believe that this project and other writings/music/art will demonstrate the vivacity, richness, and ever progressive nature of love shared between two women.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

 

Her own thirsty heart

photo of two women
Photo by Mahrael Boutros on Pexels.com

But I am divided. In a way that is hard to shape into words.

For women who love women are often the rarest night birds.

Theirs is a love that does not come easily and for this reason, it takes a great deal to stay

Sure and certain on the rainbow path.

Sometimes I understand my bisexual sisters, who having had their love affair with the curves and softness of a woman

Return to their husbands in droves or pick out that wedding dress and let the man

carry them over the threshold.

For a woman to be loved by a woman may feel natural but many times it is a struggle

we have no rule book, we may both want to have the other carry us or hold us when

fear besets

and men are so good at being heroes

and women are taught to be saved and rescued.

I understand then, the desire for a woman and the longing for less strife

where if you have children it is sometimes impossible to find a way to describe

why you leave daddy for a second mommy and how

fractures in emotions are not easily translated for young minds.

Had I children, who is to say I would have been brave enough? Equally it is part why

I never did.

My sacrifice came because I saw no other way

for it was never as it felt in the arms of someone of the same gender

and in that I am unusual and possibly 1 or 2 percent of the entire world

though it will seem more during Gay Pride and other events

where everyone holds a rainbow and joins in.

Only the days when we are not celebrating, we may be struggling

to fit in with even each other, strange as we may be, these women who

in various guise and costume

fall in love with other women.

I don’t get on well I admit, with those who believe the only true lesbian

is one who shaves her head and dons mens clothes.

It is not that I cannot see their point, or how many years before

it may have been the only choice

but I did not fight this hard to dress as a man and love a woman

who is also dressed as a man.

I would rather pick a full cheeked feminine boy with long hair

and pretend he had nothing between his legs than sell out my own idea

that love of a woman is as feminine as it gets

and we shall share each others’ dresses.

Our history has been unkind and as such, we do not trust very easily

if at all and when we do, we are liable to judge or leave out and exclude many of our tribe

just as women have done for millennia in their pursuit of men

hated other women for existing and challenging that thin mesh of safety.

It saddens me then, to be ostracized when I walk into a gay bar

and do not fit in, or feel judged by my sisters whom I want to

take into my arms and feel less lonely by.

This is but one aspect of the kalidoscope of being the L in the LGBTQ and

few of your G’s and B’s and T’s and Q’s will rush to your defense

we are co-opted in a group who really knows little of the other

for we are as disparate and different as it gets and often we walk

alone, despite our legal rights and our social acceptance (some of the time).

Alone because we cannot befriend a straight woman for she may

wonder if we would fall in love with her (and quite possibly might)

nor a gay woman for her girlfriend will begrudge us, nor a gay man

as they have often hated women and especially those who forsake

men, there is nothing in common there, and straight men will

try to tell us we just need a good f**king and we’ll soon change our

ways so who is left?  In the great wide world to be close to and share?

Those fears and our desires, the very stories of our lives

for whom 98 percent of the world cares not, they have their

1.5 children and ideas of normalcy and we don’t fit well enough.

Sometimes, how much I want to tell someone

of the love I have for a woman and the stillness of night

when we move together and how I catch my breath as

she turns like a thimble in my hands, silver against moonlight.

So quiet instead we are, often falling in love and unable

to share this or speak of it, for it is forbidden. No one will

listen, or be interested, they do not understand our strange ways.

Still in this day and this time we are shadows within

light and light within shadows picking our way through

mostly eaten strawberry fields, dreaming of a girl

who may like ourselves be wandering, looking for

a girl like herself who has only ever wanted to be

held tightly and hear the slow beat of a girls heart feel

the rise and fall of her soft breasts and know

she is where she belongs and needed every bit

as much as her own thirsty heart longs

in the early hours and late at night like the lonely

wolf who by himself will climb to highest point

in futile search of another’s call.

Artists of SMITTEN Speak: Grace Desmarais

Grace Desmarais is a queer illustrator and cartoonist currently living in a cozy corner of Eastern Massachusetts. Grace self-publishes auto-bio comics centered around themes of trauma, dis/ability, chronic illness, and art history. Grace’s work has been featured in a variety of anthologies including the Votes for Women Anthology (to be published Fall 2020) and her editorial work has been featured in magazines, including Bright Lite.

How does art and identifying as bi/queer come together for you?

Art making and my identity (as a queer woman) is mostly about community. I find myself going to drawing nights and comics festivals where fellow cartoonists are mostly queer, then cultivating incredible relationships with all of them. Being in an accepting community where I can feel safe (and heard) being myself drives me to create more honest and positive art.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(18).pngHow does being an artist/cartoonist inform your views on expressing emotions through art-making?

Everywhere I go I always have my sketchbook. I am constantly coming across moments throughout the day where I will think “I have to draw that” or “that’s going to be a comic.” I think viewing life in this way allows me to hold on to child like enchantment with the world around me instead of being a cynic. As I have started to write and illustrate children’s books I have also found myself really trying to harness that magical excitement about the world and transform it into something meaningful. I feel like an alchemist or a witch when I sit down to draw and write– and I think that is really what being an artist is.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in art?

I am absolutely smitten now. I have struggle feeling affirmed in my bi identity, primarily because I had been intimate with cis-straight-men, which was incredibly dysphoric. Now I am absolutely smitten with a partner who is also bi and it is so incredibly affirming. I feel far more seen in this relationship than I ever have. The way that translates into my art I also think is interesting, my art and comics practice is really rolling. Since I am happy and affirmed I make more work– there is nothing more that I want as an artist, particularly a queer artist, but to dispel the notion of the suffering artist makes more or better work.

In this happy relationship, where I feel affirmed and smitten, I make more work than I ever have. I feel comfortable exploring the tender sensitive side of myself because I feel comfortable being tender and sensitive in my intimacy.

Do you feel your voice is heard? Do you believe anthologies like this can help you be heard?

I think the power of anthologies is to diversify an art medium and movement by getting as many folks as possible to feel seen in their experiences and to create allyship in creative communities.  I have been a victim and survivor of violent crime and I am constantly struggling against my chronic conditions, by bringing my art to the table it allows me to feel heard. However, as a white woman in a hetero-presenting relationship I carry a lot of power and privilege, and I think it is also my responsibility to be a proactive ally in intersectional movements by recognizing the power I hold.

How if at all has the experience of being lesbian/bi changed over the years? And how has this influenced you?

My identity as a bi woman has always felt like something that just existed. I always knew that I was queer– I just didn’t know how to articulate it. My experience at Hampshire College definitely made me feel comfortable in being more loud and proud of my queer identity. As for how it’s changed my art? I think it really hasn’t changed my art as much as it’s changed how I think about art making. I think a lot about ways my art making can help community or help kids feel seen and heard– that is definitely a product of being more involved in queer communities.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

 

Nothing of me

She stands in the doorway

The outline of her slim shoulders

The hallway light seems peachy

She is home and without her

Home will be a strange wasteland

Where survivors cling to wreckage

Watching for her shape every night

The smell of her still on tortoiseshell hairbrush

Why didn’t she need it when she left?

How did she choose what to take and what to leave?

The only choice I was certain of

..

I was not under consideration

That need, to not need

Suffocating on duty and then

Deciding to toss it into waste bin

Along with other chains

I have carried as my own brand of perfume

She who gave me life, wanted life without me

Always did, from the first day they placed me in her arms

And she thought … oh no

It isn’t her fault

Love never arrived

But I am left alive

Yearning to matter, knowing I never will

It is a bigger part of me than I care to usually admit

A voice in the dark always crying for Mommy

A word I haven’t used, I know not

I thought I’d grow up and get over it

But wherever you go, there you are

In my case, a kid whose mom didn’t want

I’m still looking at doorways

Watching for her tread

In other’s faces, a memory yet

Even as I grow older than she was

When she squeezed her heart

And despite the shared DNA

Found it held

Nothing of me

Poets of SMITTEN speak: Amie Campbell

After coming of age in a conservative Christian environment, Amie Campbell didn’t come fully into herself until she found herself turning thirty, getting divorced, and raising two small children. It was then that she accepted that her love was not limited to one gender and she allowed herself to fall head over heels for a beautiful woman, thinking it would last forever.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry?

I think “smitten” is my most common state of being. It’s probably my favorite emotional state. Life just feels good when you’re smitten. It’s such an optimistic and curious state of being. I don’t know that it is possible to summarize those feelings in poetry, but rather a poem can give you a little glimpse into that very special state of being.

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women?

As a bi woman who “came out” later on in life, I feel like I struggle a lot with that feeling of “am I queer enough?” There’s the bi stigma met with a heaping dose of impostor syndrome that sometimes can make it hard to feel like I fit in with the queer community. Being involved in this epic project, even just a little bit, feels like a huge leap of validation. I am enough. My love is enough.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(11).pngSMITTEN is a collection from throughout the world we have writers from India, Africa, Australia, Canada, the UK, France and many other countries. What does a multicultural collection accomplish?

It sounds almost cliche to say that love is love, but a collection like this, with writers from all over the globe and all over the age spectrum, shows how universal love truly is. It doesn’t matter what continent you are from, what language you speak, we all want to love and be loved. We may experience love slightly differently or express it in different words and ways, but in the end, the emotion of love is the same.

Do you think there is enough representation of lesbian poetry and writing in general and if no, what do you think is the reason?

Is there enough? Oh goddess, no! The lesbian experience is so rarely seen in the general audience, and even when it does come to light, is often cloaked in euphemisms and hushed tones. I think this is because the lesbian experience holds a certain power that is terrifying to the patriarchy. Women who love women, women who are not dependent upon men for their needs to be met, those women have such dynamic power that is wild and earthly and that’s scary to some.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

 

 

Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Tan Shivers

Tan Shivers is from Charleston, SC. She started writing poetry at age seven and has been writing ever since. Tan considers poetry to be one of her favorite therapeutic outlets. She recently published her first collection of poetry, Dark Days Lit Nights – Distant Memories… Up Close and Personal. Some of Tan’s previous work has also been featured in Transcendent Zero Press’ Harbinger Asylum and the Rising Phoenix Review.

Do you think there is enough representation of lesbian poetry and writing in general and if no, what do you think is the reason?

There doesn’t seem to be enough representation, but I think that the more people feel comfortable enough to come out of their shells to                    talk more freely about their experiences (i.e. women who are sexually fluid) then that’s when we’ll begin to see more poetry and generally                more writing on those experiences. Majority of my sexual encounters have been with women who identify as “heterosexual” and they             identify as “heterosexual” only because they feel they may be rejected by their families and/or religious communities if they were to live             their truth.  So the more open we are about women loving other women, the more we inspire people to put their experiences and their             feelings to paper.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(12).png

Do you feel projects like this help dispel some of the ignorance surrounding lesbian/bi love?

Yes, projects like this are much needed because they help educate people outside of the LGBTQ community on lesbian/bi love and             allows the reader to see that lesbian/bi love is just… love. Projects like this show how universal love really is; the ups and downs, the joy,             the pain, the bliss, and everything in between. We can all relate to those things no matter what our sexual orientation.

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on?

Love is a worthier subject simply because love is eternal. While erotica plays an obvious role in love, it’s sort of a by product of love,                        meaning with love comes emotions, sexual feelings, desire etc. So because love is all encompassing of those things, it makes love a more             noble pursuit and a worthier subject to write on.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(13).png

Do you think lesbians/bi’s are more objectified and if so, why? What can we do about it?

This anthology is a great way to help “de-objectify” lesbians/bi’s as it focuses solely on love. Since love is universal, anyone can relate to             the writings in this anthology without being distracted by elements of erotica that sometime lead to that objectification in the first place.             Indie Blu(e) is definitely on the right path to not only “de-objectify”, but also to put emphasis on the universal elements of love that are             shared by all who partake in love’s vast offerings.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(14).pngSMITTEN is a collection from throughout the world we have writers from India, Africa, Australia, Canada, the UK, France and many other             countries. What does a multicultural collection accomplish? 

I applaud Indie Blu(e) for including works from women all around the world. To say that a multicultural collection is important would be             an understatement. Having various perspectives on love gives credence to love’s universal power and shows the reader that a girl walking             down the crowded streets of Mumbai daydreaming about her secret crush is just the same as the girl in Johannesburg who hides love             letters under her bed waiting for the day she musters up the courage to deliver them to the girl of her dreams. Multicultural collections             such as SMITTEN, give the reader a hidden view of the woman in Sydney who cries herself to sleep  every night because her heart aches             for the woman that left because she couldn’t handle the pressure of keeping their love a secret. Anthologies like this one puts on full             display love’s ability to conquer fear like those of the woman in Toronto who finally found the courage to introduce her life partner to her             family for the first time. Yes, this anthology is important because somewhere in England, there’s a woman questioning her sexuality and             she needs to know that the tingly feelings she gets whenever she sees the girl at the local coffee shop every morning are perfectly normal             and that it’s okay to explore those feelings. SMITTEN is a much needed collection because there’s a woman in Paris whose mind             constantly replays the chance encounter she had with a woman while catching a train at the metro and that chance encounter has             reshaped her entire perspective on what love is and what it can be.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/