SMITTEN authors share their favorite poems in SMITTEN – Lynne Burnett

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So far, my favourite poem is by Jennifer Mathews: “What He Gave Away” on page 75/77 (depending on your version). It’s an honest narrative with a light touch, grounded in good childhood memories about her grandfather and then the reality of her grownup life and love, apparently at odds with him (‘Four years since I’ve been told not to visit”).

What’s difficult for some families to address or acknowledge tends to erase the person they loved from their minds – until, as in the poem, she shows up unexpectedly and can relate face to face with her grandparents, who actually welcome her back into their lives.

This situation is relatable and Jennifer’s grandfather is entirely believeable (and humourous) and the poem, with just the right amount of earthy detail and voice, ends on such a lovely, redeeming note (“I am back in the family”).

And it’s interesting to me too that the grandfather’s gifts of imperfect fruit, stale bread, wilting flowers suggest he’s able finally to take his granddaughter back into his heart exactly as she is, as we all are—perfect in our imperfections.

By Lynne Burnett.

Lynne Burnett is a SMITTEN author and published Poet and Writer. You can purchase her collection of poetry, IRRESISTIBLE, here. Lynne’s poetry website is https://lynneburnett.ca/

To read more SMITTEN poets purchase a copy in time for the holidays and share this incredible project with someone you love. SMITTEN is available via Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Ingram for any independent bookstore. Consider supporting SMITTEN each purchase COUNTS and lifts up the visibility of 120 incredibly talented poets and artists who created this beautiful collection of poetry and art.

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Hoda Essa

Hoda Abdulqadir Essa is a New Orleans native with roots hailing from East Africa. Hoda is a maker, writer, lover, shapeshifter and soul traveler, searching for heaven or hoping to construct it with her own bare hands.

How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing? 

As a poet, I’m consistently working from a place that many people call “emotional intelligence” – in other words, I am dreaming out loud when I open my mouth or put pen to paper. So, for me, being a poet comes with a subtle responsibility to always tell the truth. Poetry is not a soundbite nor is it a news-clip. To me, poetry is the rhythm that lives in each person individually. It’s important to express that and writing is a powerful medium to do so.

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? 

Absolutely! My friend and I talk about bringing intimacy to life and to me that is what art is. No one has ever written ballads about an intellectual conversation they’ve had but we pause to capture the gentleness of a lover’s brush against your own skin – to me writing is a way at grasping moments that we ultimately have no language for. The erotic, especially, can be more greatly understood as we wrestle with it on the page.

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

To me, this is a declaration of the time’s we are in. Standing together in creativity unity is the most empowered place for many women, myself included. It means to me that I have graduated into a time space reality that is being carved out by the very people writing and experiencing love for and from a woman.

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

To me they’re intermingled. You have to love a moment to be inspired enough to write about it. Erotic writing is being so in love with an intimate moment that you want to recreate it for others. The two are closely related as far as I am concerned.

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

I am smitten and often. As often as possible. And I love this word as the title for the anthology (kudos to you all) because that word encompasses how wistful it is allowing oneself to be overtaken by simply being fond of another. I’ve tried my entire life to bottle this feeling and give it to the world so yes! It is absolutely possible to summarize these feels in poetry, until we can market the sensation of course!

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

I chose this poem because I was inspired by a woman who took my breath away. She was beautiful, inspiring, deliciously sad in all the right places and talking to her moved me. We never formally met but my hope in writing “WOMAN” was to zoom in on how explosive this connection was without any physical intimacy. I am not even sure if I felt romantic ideations towards this person up until this day – I just knew that I wanted her inner-flame to be safe. I wrote this poem to honor her fire; to protect it.

SMITTEN is available by ordering it in your Barnes & Noble, purchasing it online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or asking your independent bookstore to order it via Ingram. SMITTEN is available on Kindle and in print form.

For updates on SMITTEN visit the Facebook SMITTEN page.

This is a huge project of 120 female authors – an anthology that is testimony to the power of love and connection between women. Support SMITTEN by purchasing a copy for someone who supports LGBTQ equality, women or poetry.

 

 

SMITTEN

For the sake of SMITTEN, a project I believe in more than anything I have ever done before, I have asked close friends to take over my social media rather than close it down, so that SMITTEN can continue to flourish and succeed.

In my absence, due to my severe eye-sight-issues, my friends will be running the SMITTEN Facebook page and all SMITTEN related materials. Our goal is to ensure SMITTEN is successful in all ways. Sales are one way of legitimizing a project and ensuring its authors are HEARD.

Obviously LGBTQ projects are harder to sell than others, but it is my hope SMITTEN can continue its success through the rousing support of all those who believe in LGBTQ equality and the rights a woman has to love another woman. Please consider supporting SMITTEN – each sale helps raise visibility and gives SMITTEN authors another opportunity to share their unique and beautiful voices.

SMITTEN news and updates can be found here

SMITTEN is for sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you support local bookstores please ask them to stock SMITTEN using Ingram. If you cannot afford a Kindle copy or hard copy please ask your local library to get a copy of SMITTEN via Ingram. It doesn’t take much and it means everything to the 120 authors and poets of SMITTEN. Indie publishing doesn’t flourish without our support as a community!

Stay

The hand of darkness

Swallowing me whole

Time leaves no trace

Perhaps we were never

Two souls beating in tangent

Urgency flooding veins

A build of want till

All is naught, begun again

My hand outstretched

Your mouth, oh your mouth

Red for pressing closer

Embrace loss before she damns you further

Every day hence

Your eyes in my head

The shapes of trees bending against wind

I ache within myself

For your solace and brand of hurt

Like match struck on earth we burn

Fumes and fire, the careless touched by scour

Here you left your mark my breast bone

Exposed to cold, your lips devouring skin

What colors we make unknown

As moon is echoed in deep dark water

I am restless, destroyed, parched

Without your sustaining force

The weight of your need, absorbing air

They say no one feels that long

We all give in to loss eventually

I turn in my mind to the memory

Only yesterday, only now

Slow removal of touch, still the impression

Like shadowed dream crosses from one place to another

I follow

When you are lost

I uncover

The hide of us

Secreted in promises broken

Still the shards of glass glitter

I see you hold one to our throat

I see you cleanly slice us through

Division and sewn for next season

Deep in fecund earth I stay

Your taste on my lips, your smell infusing

For I am a thing of your interest

Existing when you create

The words whispered in darkness

Come here, come closer, stay

Oh stay …

The song of her

white and black mountain
Photo by Nikhlesh Tyagi on Pexels.com

My fantasy was placed in a velvet box,  buried at garden end where the ivy grew heavy

those were the days gone now, or perhaps forgotten, where fantasy was all you had

walking into bars, confronting realities better spared

shadows in corners, leaning, lurching, enveloping, retreating

you did not exist, we did not exist

our images were not part of the collective, the minority, the clique or the open space

wide and tumbling with questions, a loneliness at the core, the petals red

filaments of each others minds like fire flies without dark to make of it light

had you existed then, I would have traveled continents, just to know

feel your long black hair trace my need to be, closer than possible

only books, only songs, only walks on moors with other people’s dogs in tow

I imagined meeting you, what you would say, how we would get to know each other

and somehow shape the magic to follow

but it was only ever like the rain, predictive in falling but without control

impotent magicians we, beseeching the moon her unearthy feminine

pieces of me, pieces of you, strewn in directions not able to connect

I stayed young in getting old and before you know it, you’re no longer there

hunched over youth, abundant in dream, filled with need

chewing the heads off time, gnawing the bones of ancestors who disapprovingly gaze

instead you have learned to bottle your desire that the world create girls who love

from marigolds and pieces of ourselves cast to the wind

put it somewhere you won’t be ridiculed, join the line of other pursuits, a job, a direction, all taking me away from fantasy becoming true

the lines on my face, the fall of my skin, these things that shock and horrify

only remind me of what I once was, bright teeth, shy smile, large heart, empty pockets

how I longed for you to take my mittened hand in yours and

drag me out of myself, let me know you don’t have to fit in with the crowd

to feel love

in petrograph, in Kodak camera moments, in the unmade bed in the corner of my desire

I wanted you before you could put words to desire

I was born alone in my 1 or 2 percent of the world

a girl who loves other girls

yet it wasn’t plural, it feels when I touch it

circular

as everything I did and everything I lost

returns to this moment and winds around my wrist

showing my scars, developing an image in chemicals

of two girls even if they had to wait

after the storm and before the calm

did I mention I would stay here forever if I had to?

It is my wish we could rewind time and begin again when both of us

were new and shining

but such things are not always possible, and fantasy is rarely permitted her turn

in you I find proof of life

miracles, however tired exist in your eyes

they have fine lines like you are ever squinting against the sun

I find myself tracing the shape of you

over and over

until my fingers are numb with joy

maybe born too late, but oh we were born

in this aching world of few and far between

I listened closely and you gave up your song

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Wil Staley

I am a writer, painter, and more. I received my BA in Psychology, MA in Education, and 50 graduate credits in Counseling before coming out; as being queer was grounds for dismissal. I am now seeking my MSW, so I can help those marginalized by society and be a voice for the LGBTQ community. When I met my wife, I knew I had found myself and I’m learning to love the human I have become. Wil Staley

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

Absolutely! Most books for same-sex attraction focus on sex and erotica. Very little exists for same-sex love and companionship. Not only that, but I haven’t seen many books that have lesbian or bi characters who are just people; it almost always focuses on their sexuality. I think it’s important to remember we’re all just human and we are not our sexuality though that is an amazing part of us. Being a lesbian or bi is a normal part of life and I hope this anthology is able to portray that truth.

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

This is such an honor to me. I’m being published alongside those like me who want to speak their truth for others. Not only that, but I can’t believe I’m in a book with so many amazing artists! I appreciate knowing so many other writers hope to make a change in the way our community is viewed.

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

-Being a voice for anyone is incredibly important to me but being a voice for the lesbian/bi community is even more precious to me. I know what it’s like to be hated for something you can’t control and to lose many people close to you because you want to love another human who happens to be the same sex. I come from a religious community who turned their backs on me when I came out. I still had a few people who stuck around and taught me what unconditional love was really like and I am so thankful for them. I hope I can help give others a voice and let them know they’re not alone.

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

-Writing is really the only thing that has ever helped me feel my voice is heard and has made a difference. Being in this anthology will help my voice expand. I think anthologies like these are amazing because it caters to all types of people and offers many different styles of writing for our readers so they undoubtedly will find something that speaks to them and helps them feel heard.

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

-I had three accepted pieces and the poem “Nakedness” really speaks volumes. I wrote this to show others how beautiful love can be; how healing it is to be able to give your all to someone leaving nothing uncovered; even the painful or ugly pieces of life. My wife and her love took away the shame I felt in being out and open and the pain I felt growing up in trauma. I am forever grateful for her gentleness.

SMITTEN is now LIVE and can be purchased in Kindle and Print format!

Please support this worthy and important project by purchasing a copy or more. Your support goes a long way to helping the visibility of LGBTQ authors, poets and artists. For up to date information please go to www.indieblu.net

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.