Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Millie Saint James

Millie Saint-James is a queer writer based in Czechia, though they have lived all over the world, from the velds of Namibia to the metropolis of Osaka. They currently live with their fur son in a one room apartment, performing magic, and writing about queer futures.

 

I only started writing poetry recently. I’ve known I was queer since I was sixteen, but it took until I moved away from the US for me to actually begin to come out and accept who I was.

A year and a half ago, I moved to Prague, Czech Republic, where I vowed to be Out. Out as bi, Out as nonbinary, just Out.
I started writing poetry then, because even being Out, I couldn’t always express myself and my feelings.
About a year ago I started my first serious relationship with someone who wasn’t a cis man, so it meant a lot to me. Despite all of it’s ups and downs, despite it’s disastrous ending, it helped me come into myself more.
The poem I submitted is from a series I was working on during our relationship, as winter gave way to spring. Things were already pretty bad then, but we kept trying. I tried to make that futility come through. I wanted to express the good and the bad of queer relationships. The joy and the pain. 
I’m not only a poet. I actually spend most of my time writing queer SFF. When I write a story, I have a message, a feeling I want to leave in the hearts and minds of readers. It’s usually something about hope and kindness; that even when the world is ending, the least we can do is offer these things to each other. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work that way. Real people don’t have the time and luxury to plan out their actions the way I do for my characters.
Poetry is where I feel like I can stretch and express the emotions that come from that disconnect. My relationship ended badly and I probably won’t talk to my ex again, and I would never write that in a novel. But I can write it in my poems. I can get that catharsis. Express the real ups and downs of being a queer person who loved another queer person, and lost.
Millie Saint James and other poets work can be found in SMITTEN coming out very shortly (this month). SMITTEN will be available via Amazon and all good book stores. Please follow the FB SMITTEN page for updates and more information.
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Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Crystal Kinistino

Crystal Kinistino is a poet and lover of the written word. She has been previously published in Decanto Poetry Magazine and Indie Blue’s “We Will Not Be Silenced” Anthology. She maintains a feminist blog @ https://medium.com/the-velvet-fist. She is inspired by the works of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton. She is a proud lesbian, radical feminist and half-blood Cree woman residing in the treaty #1 territory of Canada.

How does being an Indigenous lesbian affect your writing?

My personal perspective as it pertains to my writing is female-centric, by that I mean it is intrinsic to being born and raised female in a colonial and patriarchal society. Being a half-breed Cree woman and a lesbian, I don’t fit into the narrative of a conventional or hetero-normative story-line. I have always felt as though I walk a path where these disparate worlds converge. A lot of the themes I explore represent this dichotomy. I explore traditional Indigenous teachings as symbolic in nature and spirituality. I also speak of inter-generational trauma concerning Canada’s genocidal history as it relates to my own resilience and survival.
When you found out SMITTEN was about women who loved women, without the emphasis on erotica that is usually the case – could you immediately think of ways to express that love through writing?
Many of my poems contain an element of the erotic. The confusion comes when people equate what is erotic with what is sexual as the two are not necessarily the same. I am a lover of women and that experience is not contingent merely on sex. The unfortunate thing is that many people equate lesbian content with either erotica or sex when often this view is very shallow and reductive. It seems for some, it is difficult to conceive of a genuine love between women. Smitten is unique in that it allows for the depth and courage of this experience to be conveyed, which in turn permits such stereotypes to be challenged.
Do you feel the lesbian voice was lost or co-opted by the larger LGBTQ movement and if so, do projects like this help change that?
 

It is important as words matter and they have meaning. Who we are as females has often been co-opted and colonized by the patriarchy, and this remains true. People are free to express themselves along any spectrum of perceived gender and that experience is valid in itself, but we mustn’t conflate gender and sex, as the two, though closely related are not the same. Being a lesbian concerns an inherent female reality which is unique in and of itself. I was grateful to see Smitten as a project put emphasis on that, as it does matter since the lesbian voice has often been excluded from many sectors of society.

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

It means I get to be a part of a collective of women who are courageous and creative in their candor. This proves we are not just a fantasy in some unimaginative man’s head. We have variegated and complex experiences which are individual and unique. By gathering our voices from across the oceans and the ages, SMITTEN has allowed us to reclaim the narrative of women loving women in a way that is authentic and empowering.

Crystal Kinistino maintains a stunning blog on WordPress and her unparalleled poetry will be among other talented poets in the anthology SMITTEN coming out at the end of this month. SMITTEN will be available via all good book stores. For latest information on SMITTEN please follow the SMITTEN page on FB

Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Sarah Bigham

Sarah Bigham lives in Maryland with her kind chemist wife, three independent cats, an unwieldy herb garden, several chronic pain conditions, and near-constant outrage at the general state of the world tempered with love for those doing their best to make a difference. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, Sarah’s poetry, fiction and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of great places for readers, writers and listeners. Find her at www.sgbigham.com.

*I am a community college professor. Over the years, students have shared a range of comments with me, from “You are the first gay person I have ever met” (which I know can’t really be  true, but I try to meet my students where they are) to “You are an example to me of living your true life” and “I admire how you unapologetically tell us who you are.” I take these comments as a sign that living my truth makes an impact. We all have the power to change our society for the better, in small (or large) steps at a time.

*I have a soft spot for all sorts of creatures who present as “different” in some way. My wife and I live with three cats, all of whom qualify as “harder to adopt” due to disabilities. I have developed a series of chronic health conditions and realize that, if I were a cat, I would be much harder to place in an adoptive home. I like to think that someone would still adopt me. My wife has stuck with me through all of the medical drama, and remains my largest source of support.  Her love for me has never wavered, despite our life changing quite a bit due to my health.
*”The ologies” my poem in SMITTEN, is a love letter, in the form of a poem, to my wife.
*A perfect day for me would be reading a novel in our garden, in the shade, on a not-too-hot day, while eating the occasional frozen peanut butter cup and waiting for my wife to come home for dinner and one of our favorite shows.
*I write nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, plus I paint. Each one provides a way to express myself, but poetry is the genre I turn to most often for intense feelings that defy easy categorization (or full sentences).

SMITTEN is coming out THIS MONTH 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: Jennifer Mathews

Jennifer Mathews is a self-proclaimed spiritual cheerleader who lives in Mount Shasta, California (or wherever her camper van takes her). Her lifework has included economic justice, laughter yoga, and facilitating conversations on living and dying.

In her 2019 TEDx Talk, “Death is Inevitable – Grief is Not,” Jen shares how she responded to the death of her life-partner Kate with connection, gratitude, and joy rather than heartache. For more of Jen’s writing, go to JenniferMathews.com.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was thirteen or fourteen years old in the 1980s. As a teenager, I often wrote until the wee hours of the night while lying in bed. I’d write drafts of poems on a pad of yellow lined paper, using a pencil so that I didn’t have to worry about the ink not flowing properly. It was the magical time before sleep came, and I’d often close my eyes and drift off, eventually placing my pad of paper on the floor when I couldn’t stay awake any longer. In the morning, I would reread my words and sometimes be surprised by what I had written because I had little or no memory of the late night creative process. All I knew was the beauty of the buzz I’d feel, that it was sacred time in which I could tap into something greater than myself.

Most of my poems are in a fireproof box in my closet, or in digital folders on my computer. Most of them have never seen the light of day. Why? Honestly, I’m not exactly sure. My perfectionist-self certainly has a lot to say about that, but the rest of me – MOST of me – has wondered if my personal experiences and perspectives would be universal enough for others? Will anyone else relate to my yearnings, my philosophical musings, my fascination with how ordinary moments
magnify deep truths?

For the past few years, I have finally begun to call myself a “writer.” But more accurately, I am a witness, a synthesizer, and a communicator. I am compelled to use words to articulate that which is challenging to put into words, to point toward all that language cannot express. Poetry is my favorite form of writing because I can spend hours or days (or yes, years!) waiting for the right phrase or
title to show itself. I can get frustrated with a poem for its stubbornness (see how I deflected that?), but it is all worth that moment of arrival.

How does poetry and identifying as lesbian come together for you?
Poetry allows me to touch into the subtleties of being attracted to women in a culture that is very heterosexual. While women-loving-women relationships are more accepted than they were in the early 1990s when I was coming out, it’s not as simple as saying “I think of your relationship as the same as if you were straight.” When we are surrounded by constant messages that normalize heterosexual existence, with lesbianism being an exception, it has an impact on our inner experiences that is at times beyond words.

And so, writing poems about being a lesbian is like spooning a new lover. I can feel the buzz as I press up against the poem. My heartbeat quickens while I simultaneously relax into finding ways to put my experiences, and all their nuances, onto the page. Perhaps poetry is the only true way to express my lesbian heart because of these subtleties? I’m grateful for all the ways I’ve become more self-aware and in touch with myself because of poetry, mostly by reading other poets’ work! There are so many brilliant lesbian poets!

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?
As a woman with long hair, who physically presents on the more feminine end of the spectrum, I have often wanted others to know that I am lesbian-identified. I find that I often “pass” as straight, but it is merely because of my looks, even though my intention is to be out. I want to be a voice for going beyond
assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation. The “we are everywhere” slogan of decades ago is true! I love having the freedom to look the way I do, and I also yearn to be seen and acknowledged as a lesbian because I believe in the power of breaking stereotypes. In terms of being “a voice for” the community, I really just want to have a presence and be myself.

And that self is very much, and very happily, a lesbian!

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on?
Writing about love rather than erotica demonstrates how sexual orientation is so much more than physical attraction. Love expresses so much more of who we are as women. Lesbian hearts connect deeply, and I believe expressing this spiritual and emotional affinity is what makes the sexual desire come alive between women. Romantic love and intimacy between women is worth articulating because the sacredness of love itself can be orgasmic, whereas sex itself cannot necessarily achieve sacredness.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to
summarize those feelings in poetry?
I love the word SMITTEN and yes, I’ve been smitten many times in my life.
Because it’s an experience beyond the reasoning mind, creative expression may be the only way to point toward what it feels like to be intoxicated by a woman’s presence. Visual arts, movement, sound, and poetry can at least attempt to capture the rapture of being smitten! But words alone cannot convey what it’s like to be a woman falling in love with herself as she looks into another woman’s
eyes.

Just writing those words makes me smile! It is so mysterious to be smitten, whether that’s infatuation or love or lust or a friend crush. The sensation of being enamored naturally gives itself to poetry, to the lyrical nature of the unknown and
the risk of allowing oneself to feel those feelings (even if they aren’t
reciprocated). My poems “The Passenger’s Seat” and “go figure” both touch upon the tenderness of being smitten as a teenager. So much swirls in one’s body and mind and heart all at once. Poetry has the potential to say hello to the inner experiences we rarely speak about, and being smitten is often one of them.

Your poem “What He Gave Away” in SMITTEN is excellent. Why did you
choose this particular poem and what do you hope it would convey to readers?
I noticed that the poems I submitted are all about what is acceptable and how to honor my inner attraction toward women, and anything else that is not mainstream culture, about staying true to myself and at the same time navigating the external pressures from friends or family or society to stay silent or to do things their way.

“What He Gave Away” is about giving and receiving and courage and
forgiveness and love despite prejudice. And I’m referring to mine and my grandfather’s and my grandmother’s too. It is hard to describe what I hoped to convey, aside from how complicated family dynamics can be, and how there is often love under the surface, regardless of our resistance to it at times. It also expresses how love is displaced, and how love is withheld, and how sometimes the lines are blurry. Sometimes we need to see between those blurry lines in order to find connection.

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: Laura Elizabeth Casey

Laura Elizabeth Casey has been writing poetry off and on for over 3 decades. Her poetry has recently appeared in the San Diego Poetry Annual. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University’s undergraduate creative writing program and currently lives in southern California with her wife, dog, and two cats.

How does poetry and identifying as lesbian/bi come together for you? 

I started writing poetry as a way to work out the feelings I was having towards girls. I was 13 and I was confused by what I was feeling and knew these feelings were not considered “normal”. Writing poetry was a way to disassociate so it wasn’t me having the feelings–those feelings were the feelings of the anonymous voice of the poem.
Today I use poetry in exactly the opposite way. Now poetry is a vehicle for memoir without all the necessary conventions of prose. I get to tell my story — the story of one Gen X, queer, poly person who uses she/her pronouns — exactly how I want to tell it.
What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women? 
Although I have been writing poetry about loving women for decades, I have published very little. So it is very gratifying to be included in an anthology with other writers who share my love for women.
Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on?  
I disagree with the premise of this question because I don’t think one subject is ever more worthy than another to write on, be it love, sex, nature, etc. Whatever you’re writing about is inherently worthy. Even if it how you stubbed your toe on the corner of the sofa or tripped over the cat. I have found that what is most important is that you are writing.
Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry?
I am smitten with women every day, all day. I don’t feel it is possible to summarize those feelings in poetry but I’m going to keep trying to do so.
SMITTEN 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 think anytime you can dispel the notion that there is one way to be in the world, and that one way is the “right” way, that is a good thing. I also think a multicultural collection demonstrates that for all our different experiences, our humaness is not very different.

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: Katherine DeGilio

Katherine DeGilio is a part-time writer and full-time bisexual from Virginia. You can find some of her previous works in Soliloquies Anthology, Litro Literary Magazine, Psych2Go Magazine, and November Falls by Zimbell House Publishing, as well as on fiftywordstories.com and flashfiction.net. She loves connecting with her readers and encourages them to reach out to her on twitter @katiedegilio and katherinedegilio.com

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

The over-sexualization of LGBTQ+ women is definitely an issue. There is a stigma that LGBTQ+ relationships are inherently dirtier than straight ones, especially when it comes to woman loving women. It is hard to find examples in the media of women who love women that aren’t sexualized. I think this book, in particular, does an excellent job of keeping the love without the erotica, which is a step in the right direction.

 

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(46).pngDo you only write LGBTQ+ narratives?

I’ve found the phrase “art imitates life” is the best answer to this. When I wrote my first novel, none of the characters were LGBTQ+. The years leading up to my coming out, I found my characters to be more diverse. Now, with my most current project Dead in Yellow, the cast is primarily LGBTQ+. I did this for two reasons. First, I am surrounded mainly by LGBTQ+ individuals, and so, I write what I know. Second, I think having diverse voices is essential to end bigotry.

 

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

Ever since I was a child, I have been an activist. My parents used to joke that I would probably end up in jail for protesting one day. I’ve always wanted to help, and I would take being a voice for the lesbian/bi community to be a great honor. This is a community of strength and resilience. The people who came before us, such as Marsha P. Johnson, have paved the way for me to have the ability to speak, and to think I could do that for someone else brings me joy. However, for now, I will continue to simply be the voice for myself.

 

How does loving a woman differ from loving a man?

As a bisexual woman, I have dated both men and women. I think a difference in dating is the way we are socialized to date. While there are always people that break these barriers, men and women are socialized very differently. With some men, this socialization comes out when they date. They tend to take charge and relish making decisions. While dating a woman feels more like a partnership. There isn’t anyone person in charge; you make decisions together. But the main difference is, when I’m dating a man, I’m not afraid to hold his hand in public.

 

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(45).pngYour poems in SMITTEN were excellent, why did you choose these particular poems, and what did you hope they would convey to readers?

The poems chosen for SMITTEN were written to be a part of a collection titled Her Lips Change Seasons, which explores Sapphic love, loss, and lips. The first “Sunburned Shoulders” I wrote to encapsulate how it feels to yearn for someone’s love. It’s hard to tell if someone is a lesbian/bi/queer, and in turn, a lot of women who love women find themselves pining without action. The second “Andy & KP” I wrote for two of my closest friends. They have been together for three years now, and their love showed me how to have nourishing love. I think it is important for there to be examples of healthy LGBTQ+ love in literature, which is why I picked this piece to submit.

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: Nadia G

Nadia G. is an artist/musician/poet living in Chicago, originally from western MA. Currently she works as a freelancer doing props for TV and film. She is a founding member of the Chicago based post-punk band Ganser. She uses her writing to help develop lyrics and sort her head out. You can find Ganser’s music at http://www.ganser.bandcamp.com Her work has been published by Whisper and the Roar, Sudden Denouement and collaboratively in the music produced by Ganser.

How does being a bi musician and working in the music scene influence the kind of music you make?

My work can only ever come from my perspective so in that way it will always be inherently queer (among other things). As a group, our work in GANSER is often introspective so we aren’t typically trying to convey any messages outside of communication with our audience “this is how we feel, maybe you can relate”. That said, I do feel it is important for me to be open about who I am, I don’t hide that I’m queer and I actively try to engage with other queer artists. Community is vital.

-Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

(thank you!)

‘Summer 2018’ was a snapshot into a moment in my life when I was experiencing a lot of struggle figuring out how to access my feelings in relationships. I was trying to address feelings of mid-summer loneliness by reaching outward when I probably should have been looking within myself. It’s a piece tied to a time and place I wanted to remember.

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

When contributing was first suggested to me, I was hesitant to submit work. I wondered if my voice truly belonged in this anthology. As a queer woman who has had more relationships with men than women I often question my own legitimacy in the community. I have to continuously remind myself that my relationships with men do not negate who I am as a queer person and I know this is a shared feeling among queer/ bi identifying people. Submitting to be a part of Smitten felt like a rebellion against that internal doubt, whether or not my work was chosen I was glad to have tried.

-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?  

I feel that because of the historical disregard for women’s voices male voices are often heard louder in general. It’s not surprising that the gay male experience is often the story we hear while women of the community tend to be a little bit of an afterthought and that’s not even taking into account how race (and other “differences”) comes into play here as with all aspects of society. We typically hear the stories of cis white men first. Not to say their stories are not important but because of the nature of how things are I do think it is necessary to create space for other voices to be heard. It would be lovely if we didn’t need to highlight certain groups like this, if everyone was presented at the same volume and given equal space, however, that is not the world we live in.

-My own 5 cents-

I have fallen deeply in love with women in my life, so much so that the line between friendship and romantic interest often blurs for me. It can be beautifully confusing as relationships develop and crushingly heartbreaking when they dissolve or hit conflict. There is something profound in the way women can relate to each other, a depth and richness that deserves exploration beyond sexual interactions or “the male gaze”.  —

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/