The Late Colonialist

rochaMany years ago when her ancestors wore

petticoats

white skinned women like herself were considered

in shallow groups of weak-chinned groups

the ultimate prize.

She recalls the stories she’s read

racism tied with a daggered bow

servants without souls or so

they liked to judge and damn

whilst still they raped and plundered behind

their wives fine china sets

the ‘help’ though slavery is more accurate a term

for no choice was made nor proffered.

Years ago and still present

people swerve away from black men

in hooded tops

when really they ought to be looking at

white men in high rise buildings making

corporate decisions

as the enemy of us all.

She looks in the tall mirror, her hand on a DNA report

the wonders of 21st century finding out too much

seeing her ancestors gallop

through the thick red wine of French blood

how much do they have on their hands?

What side on the Revolution did they stand?

She sees how fair skin is more prone

to stretch marks and ageing

she carries hereditary thrombosis throbbing in

her thin veins and the genes of her light colored

eyes have cataracts to look forward to.

At least she doesn’t have Celiac Disease

roiling in her belly, rebelling against

the abundant wheat field

instead she realizes

she is alive in the wrong colored body, in a too late era

to matter much anymore

where now women of ebony and brown and russet

conquer the rhetoric in their claim

finally the prize after decades of denial and she

ordinary, flab, drab, pale, wane, yesterday’s news

they say it really isn’t about that

when they pass her over for someone from

Uganda or Iran but she knows better

Kardashian or Iman Bowie

she knows the enticement of dark eyed girls

their thick hair and beautiful skin

she is just a late magnolia weeping

waxy and left too long on the branch

maybe she is paying for what ancestral harm

was done

back then and still now, depending on what

part of town.

Men tell her; I like your slim ankles

you look fetching in that blue dress

but their eyes betray their digression

it is not her they will ever want

she has nothing of the difference they crave

imbued with rainbow continent

spiced with unknowns and becomings

the raven always the raven, ever the ebon bird

who with her glorious chiseled features

captures their unfurling lust.

She is relieved in a way

nobody comes calling for her

existing behind glass in her pressed skirts

although still young, she feels she has

lived too long and it is better

in the vapor of silence

watching her reflection get lost

in the setting of the sun

over Africa’s

weeping trees whispering karma

to turquoise and orange

land.

Why stay out so long?

You hear the complaint quite frequently; Why do you have to talk about being gay all the time? Can’t you just leave it be?  You can see the point in theory: Who would need to announce to virtual strangers that they were any kind of ‘minority.’ Isn’t that just inflating a point and shoving it into people’s faces, which can increase existing or potential resentment?

We could argue that even needing to ‘be out’ and admit to being gay isn’t necessary and causes negative-attention, but if this is your observation think on this: Everyday people get out so that others can, causing a chain-reaction, until eventually, what was once considered unnatural, is considered natural. That’s because exposure to things that are unfamiliar, resolves underlying anxieties more than any academic discourse achieves.

I am often asked: When you can’t physically hide being a ‘minority’ you have no choice,  and if you do have a choice, what’s wrong with taking it? I lived in the closet on-and-off for a variety of reasons for several years and got so used to not being harassed and tormented that it became a false comfort. It resolves nothing and the shame when you understand the absence of honesty, runs deep. Change comes from a desire to engender change, in the words of Eckhart Tolle: “To love is to recognize yourself in another.” Gays need to exist openly to give non-gays opportunity to see we’re no different.

When we look at racism, studies show racism actually reduces when African-American’s moved into previously exclusively white neighborhoods. But it didn’t happen immediately. The immediate response was one of resentment, anger and prejudice, and white Americans resented the influx of African-American’s initially. But in time, that resentment gave way to acceptance and even integration. It took the courage of those black families deciding to move into neighborhoods that didn’t warmly welcome them, it took the courage of their staying put and not letting prejudice run them off, to effect change.

Much of this is about gays being able to hide, whilst other minority groups like African-American’s cannot. There is a reason why gays should not hide, because in hiding we are one less face fighting the good fight. Why a fight you may ask? Because if a gay person were to really ask for equality they still would not get it, if gays were to ask to be accepted for who they are, some would, and some would not. And as long as that inequality exists, our voice must protest its existence or nothing changes.

As gays we may not run the risk being led-away in chains in the US today, but go to another country and there’s no guarantee. It doesn’t mean as gays we can walk the streets proudly without fear of reprisal, and that would include any city in America. Sounds a lot like Benjamin Franklin’s famous perspective: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In other words, we should ask: Is it brave to hide and weak to protest? And if so, when did that become normalized?

As long as any type of inequality exists, all gay people remain a minority who have somehow to justify ourselves. People roll their eyes, espouse that we should shut up and stop talking about it and things will surely get better, but as history tells us, this rarely happens. For example, every time women make this choice, they take a step backward, same with any minority. Exhibit a; the increase and normalizing of pole-dancing to keep husbands content. Would the original Women’s Movement of the 1970’s have approved or thought this progressive?

If you are not convinced, look as the relative silence of Hispanics in the US as a good example of why they do not have the voice of African-American’s despite being in greater numbers. If you don’t speak for yourself, who will? If you don’t believe in equality for yourself, who will? And most of all, if nobody will defend you, who is left but yourself? I think of the quote by Jiddu Krisnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well—adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Better by far, to change what ails, surely?

Ask any Hispanic in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about a necessity for equality, ask any Jewish person in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about the Holocaust. When did our society become so intolerant to historical truths? Perhaps it’s the old adage, those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it? Our lack of patience for realities, past and present, says more about our lack of compassion. Is it because until we experience things for ourselves we cannot see the value of anyone else’s perspectives?

In an increasingly selfish society, change comes best when people see it and are forced to live with it. Parents of gay children, people with gay friends, tend to become slowly more habituated and tolerant of gays even if formerly anti-gay. But ask yourself, is it enough to be ‘tolerant?’ True change is where we stop seeing differences as potentially negative.

During the years, like many others, I’ve been told I’m a pervert, I’m psychologically ill, I’m a man-hater, I’m afraid of true relationships, I’m just reacting to childhood abuse, I’m in a phase, I’m disgusting, I’m obviously a child-molester, and many other things. I’ve had female friends who are afraid of me, thinking I will molest them, and male friends who want to “sex me up” to help me learn the value of heterosexuality. I’ve done things I never thought I would do just to be, who I am. So if we talk about having to explain who we are, it’s really the gay person who is pushed to justify why they are gay, especially as it’s still considered by many to be a choice.

Being gay has always existed. Penguins can be gay. It is one of those things you wouldn’t wish on anybody in the way it’s currently handled in societies throughout the world, but you can’t really say you would wish it away, because it’s like saying you wish you weren’t who you are. Even in this so-called-world of liberated values, gays are killed every week, in certain countries I would be put to death, in others I would be set upon, in others I’d be spat at, in others I’d be jailed.

Just think about that for a moment. When it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry those that did get together, had children who were shunned by both groups. How is it very different for gays who continue to lie to families who would otherwise cut them out of their lives, or lie to their employer so they would not be squeezed out? Or are unable, despite the length and value of their relationships to marry, whilst heterosexuals who have just met, can marry at the altar of Vegas.

Being gay isn’t all hunky-dory just because there are some laws that protect us. In fact often after the passing of a law, anti-gay sentiment rises up, out of frustration. See France as a recent example of this and the anti-gay under-current that exists in relatively liberal Canada. For every step forward, there are many steps back. Think how it would feel to know mass protests occur because people hate you and think you are unnatural? In many countries and states, gays cannot legally adopt, we are treated as inferior, unequal, unnatural and still can’t be the normal we know we are.

Even those who profess to be comfortable and accepting, often aren’t quite so and this makes it very hard to trust people and know how much you can share with them. I didn’t sexually desire my female friends, and most gays aren’t more lascivious than anyone else but if you watch the news, most anti-gay rhetoric labors the point that gays can’t be Boy Scout Leaders because they are sexual deviants and other stereotypes that are so wide-spread as to be commonly accepted by the majority. Usually gays suffer higher rates of depression due to these subtle undercurrents that undermine personal value and security.

Ask yourself; if you were gay would you feel comfortable walking hand-in-hand or kissing in public as you would if you were heterosexual? Let’s not forget when everyone’s relaxed, how funny jokes are that involve gay-themes, but imagine how those jokes would be received if they were racist? Why is one widely accepted and the other not? What is difference in the root of prejudice of both? Not having equal rights under law, is like the law saying you are not worthy of equality, and as the Supreme Court when reviewing gay-issues recently questioned, maybe it’s too soon for equality for you! Since when is equality ever too soon?

It is just as hard being a person of color, being a woman, being disabled and a plethora of other things, but few would feel it were justified to say a black person had no right to bemoan his or her inequality, and if they did say that, there are laws to protect that person and labels to explain their prejudice. Few would be proud to admit to being racist, but many would think nothing of being labeled a homophobe, it’s almost a badge of honor.

That said, many inequalities exist, and that does not justify the existence of any inequality. I am often told, well there is still inequality for people of color and women, as if somehow that justifies inequality of any type. Surely like any chain-reaction, equality should come from every sector and merge together to create a strong river of change. That’s one reason all minorities should see the value of others.

Let’s not forget people who worry, equality for gays will open the door to equality for polygamists, pedophiles and other deviations. They argue that such predilections could be eventually sanctioned on the same basis as gay equality. I disagree on the grounds that being gay does not harm anyone and multiple marriages can.

We could argue this forever, but ultimately it comes down to the validity of a harmless relationship versus one of unequal power. Yes all relationships are subject to abuse and we’re going to see negative portrayals of gays, things we’d never sanction, but that’s no different to the negative portrayals of heterosexuals and speaks more of human fallibility.

Currently there are no laws to protect gays. We can be fired for being gay, we can be imprisoned in certain countries for being gay, we can be thrown out of our house and lose everything including the right to make medical decisions and attend the funeral of our partner. This happens, it happens far more than anyone realizes.

When the family of one gay person is anti-gay and that person gets sick and needs constant care, the family can remove that person and deny access to their partner, no matter how many years they have been together, this isn’t protected in those places where gays are not able to marry or have a civil union. Should we really be grateful for some equality when the only equality that truly matters is full equality?

I ask that if you can’t see why equality doesn’t yet exist and should exist including all forms of equality (such as being able to marry in a church regardless just as blacks have demanded the same rights in marrying in formerly racist churches or ones who would not permit interracial marriages) adopt and many other things, you consider now.

Initially I saw no reason to ‘force’ churches to accept gay marriages because I felt they had the right to choose whom they wanted to marry. I realized that if I were a black man wishing to marry a white woman it would be wrong for a church to turn us away, and validate the negativity of prejudice, and that’s why the law protects such racism. Surely this must equally apply to gays or we’re saying our right to avoid prejudice isn’t as necessary.

We can’t stop with just the first step of equality; it has to exist as much as for you, and you, and you. For all of us. For all those who will come after us, so one day a child is born into a world that hopefully doesn’t know what inequality is. Yes at times that will be repetitive, even boring, but it’s necessary in every struggle for equality, and if we make it fashionable to keep our mouths shut and just hope for the day things change, we will be waiting a very long time.

The huntress

yes

She

knows her power

heaving out of her like

red clay forming stars

the power it has on

those who watch

unable to quit her

imperfection as much an aphrodisiac

as those fine lines converging into

her thin bones

drawn tight and ageless

she smiles a drowsy grin

down turned eyes glinting

the thin shake of her hair

sharp curve in high cheeks

noble and unrepentant

she has more confidence than you

with your excuses and your fumblings

could ever possess

if she’d taught you, she’d have said

no, no, no you’re doing it all wrong

if you want that woman to like you

be cold, be indifferent

and occasionally, throw her a scrap

don’t ever show her your full regard or

the depth of your eyes

heft her over your shoulder when the time comes

take her to a dark place and without apology

do what you must, thinking nothing of her

she’ll be crazy for you and that’s how it’s done

you know that’s so, because you’ve seen it

every weak knee’d soul who begs for her

underestimates her lash

only small, seemingly weak

her fierce nature, a molten thing

she has them on their damn knees

it’s not even a look, a word, a sign

it’s the power exuding from her focus

she believes in herself totally and knows

if she slips even a little, they’ll eat her for dinner

feast on her failure like the hungry things they are

I want to be like her one day

I can wear short skirts nearly as well

but as she tutors me in the act I know

it’s a parody, a puppet act compared to her art

I may look the part, even when drunk

act a little like her

but she’s used to the taste of blood

and I don’t know how to eat it raw

sometimes I think of her and why

she’s the kind who defies all the rules

charging that opposites

and only opposites must attract

when she could be my cousin and yet

I want her, despite myself

I want her to want me and that’s the rub

she wants nothing of anyone and never will

hers is an icy indifference

cool queen of thorns and calm

she controls the game, for it is a game

by moving through this life without letting yourself slip

requires poise and balance only artists of the tightrope possess

I am filled with trembling emotions

impossible to blot out or walk in a straight line for

I see my error in my every move

she wasn’t interested, because she saw me coming a mile off

an unsteady shadow cast on her savvy wall

canny enough to smell, the scent of desperation on my breath

I learned from the huntress

and failed my exam

she makes mouths turn dry and water

by just being everything we cannot

remorseless, pitiless, without guile or guilt

somewhere inside of her there is a girl

we want so badly to take as our own

if only for an hour

and without seeming to try

she holds herself apart, unreachable

closes each desire with her little hands

gazing into our disappointment

with a small smile

there is a sadness in her winning

it shows in the day time

when the light hits her eyes and they

despite their great beauty

look ancient

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.

 

 

Goodbye for now

In the New Year I am going to do something drastic. I’m going to close all my social media down and take the majority of my books/work offline/out of bookstores. The work that will remain is what I’m most proud of; SMITTEN This Is What Love Looks Like (an anthology, 2019), We Will Not Be Silenced (one of 4 editors/contributors, 2018) and Pinch the Lock (Finishing Line Press, 2016).

When I began, I really believed I could contribute something valuable to the world through the medium of writing. I saw many other people trying but I did not know how many and since 2015 I have seen that there is a glut of people all self-publishing, indie publishing, small press publishing, all with the same ‘dream’ of being a legit writer. Mostly wasting hours on social media futilely. I realize 99.9 percent will never be. The only ones who can do it are those on disability, who get a cheque without needing to work, or supported by husband/wife/family or you’re a retiree. If you DO have to work for a living then it’s rare you can put in enough work to even get to the indie publishing stage.

There are exceptions. One of my real friends whom I did meet on social media works full time and is one of the hardest workers I know. She will succeed I have no doubt about it. She goes home from a hard days work and produces consistently some of the best work I’ve read online. People like her are rare. They are one in a million. Others have the talent to do it but it will depend upon if they have the time to make it happen (you know who you are) but the vast majority have neither the talent, nor the ability to make it happen.

When I began writing I thought I was a pretty good writer. When you read some of the stuff online it’s easy to see why I thought that, a lot of it is really poor quality. On the other hand you need to be either absolutely brilliant or someone who is in the know, to get a really big publisher. I am neither absolutely brilliant nor ever going to be someone who is in the know/networked up to the hilt. Even those who everyone talks about as having a ‘good publisher’ actually don’t. They just secretly vanity press pay or exaggerate how much they actually earn. To earn a living wage as a writer unless you are an editor, it’s the 1 percent of the 1 percent.

I don’t want to be an editor. It’s a thankless job and underpaid. I have qualifications and I am going to use those and return to my previous career, hard as it is, it can earn me what I will need to take care of myself in the future. Maybe no job will be different, maybe I will always be taken for granted and used but I want to do it on my own terms. I have always supported myself from the age of 18 and I always will until I cannot any longer. I have never had any help.

Lastly, most of you don’t know but I was recently diagnosed with a very serious eye-condition that means I am losing my sight. I realize I have to adjust NOW rather than when it is completely gone. I doubt I will still want to live if I go completely blind and I have decided if that day comes I will elect for euthanasia as I am not someone who wishes to live as a completely blind person. Especially as I have no family who will care for me. However, if that day doesn’t come or it gives me 20 more years, (which is unlikely) I still need to change my life to ensure my eyes do not worsen.

As some of you know I had battled a serious illness in 2017 which radically changed my life. It was caused by a virus and I am still sick with it but I have learned to live with it and am high functioning despite it not having completely gone. I believe it will one day completely go but it is a long painful battle. I thought that was enough to deal with but in addition to this my mother told me she no longer wanted me in her life ever again. She and I have had our ups and downs but naively I thought as she aged we would get closer. I have always loved her very much even though she was not in my life that much. When she told me this during my illness, effectively kicking me when I was down, it was the last straw. She knew she’d hurt me as badly as she could ever hope for. She succeeded. To protect myself I accepted what she said and have tried to get on with my life knowing she will not be part of it. It has hardened me and I am bitter about it but I will never be as cruel to someone else as that. I will never succumb to cruelty to deal with my own pain.

On a positive note, I am stronger for all of this. But having the eye sight issue on TOP of all of the above, was just too much. I do have it in me to change my life. I have decided to once more change my life. I am not going to carry around the rejection, fear and grief of her hate of me or anything else, anymore. When I began my blog/writing in 2015 I felt it was a chance to try my hand at writing. I don’t regret doing that but I see now realistically I have to move on.

If you know me, truly know me, and have my number and my address and we talk, then I am bound to call you real friend and will keep in touch. When you get sick you realize who your friends are and it is a good clarity. For those of you I call friends thank you for your friendship and I hope we keep in touch. We may not as we may no longer have anything in common but I wish you all much success.

SMITTEN will be my last personal project in the publishing world for the foreseeable future, although I have also been involved in YOU DON’T LOOK SICK and hope Indie Blu(e) recognizes me for that when it is published next year. SMITTEN is a wonderful ending to this chapter in my life. It is a testimony to the talent of women when they come together. Just because we are minorities doesn’t mean we support each other and lift each other up. I hope projects like SMITTEN help future women do JUST THAT because THAT is what is needed. We need to be good to one another! To support one another!

I want to personally thank the following whom I have met on WP for their loyalty, friendship, goodness and inspiration. I think you are incredible human beings; Mark. Eric. Derrick. Bob. Crystal. Erik. Jane. Karen. Raili, Rita. Susi. Anthony. Laurie, Tony. Nicole. Tara. Helena. Philip. Sarah. Tremaine & Monique. Thank you to Christine and Kindra for letting me work for Indie Blu(e) I really hope all the work I did helped and you succeed. Rita.

RIP Natalie Scarberry you are loved.

Thank you to anyone who read anything of mine. I appreciate you. I wish you only the best.

Candice Louisa Daquin

Growing up I didn’t have a SMITTEN

black lesbianGrowing up in Europe I didn’t have anything like SMITTEN. My ‘sources’ were hard to find and often took me to oblique and obscure bookstores that had tiny ‘feminism/Lesbian’ (as they were once twinned) sections. Within those sections I found little I could personally relate to. I read Radcliffe Hall’s The Well Of Loneliness, now considered the ‘Bible’ of lesbianism and whether right or wrong, it did set a stage for me, and I loved the style and emotions therein, but over all her book is also very sad, it talks of lesbians as ‘inverts’ who are women trapped inside men’s bodies wishing to live the life men live and love women like men do. That was not my feeling. I was a woman happy to be a woman who wanted to love another woman who was most definitely a woman. (It should be noted many lesbians prefer to identify on the masculine end of the scale and yet identify as masculine women and this is a legit form of love too).

Even now, many years hence, there are divides within the LGBTQ and even lesbian/bi worlds. For some, you are just not considered a lesbian unless you subscribe to some of the dress-code/tough-act code and you are objectified for wanting to take on some of the accoutrement considered ‘heterosexual’ by queers. Likewise, you may be typecast as ‘femme’ (or butch) even in today’s society, as much as anything because since legislation has legalized gay marriage and made it easier in some countries for LGBTQ it has been assumed LGBTQ doesn’t need the same resources and so, there are less lesbian clubs/places to meet than ever before, and more is conducted online which as we all know, can be very hit and miss.

I personally knew of four lesbians who were date-raped when they met their ‘lesbian’ date in real life, after meeting online. In all cases, it was a set-up and there were men involved who took advantage of those women and punished them for being lesbians and not attracted to men. You may think that sounds extreme but having worked at two rape crisis centers I can assure you, it’s as common place now as it was in the seventies. The idea that LGBTQ and lesbians don’t need a ‘safe place’ to meet other like minded people, is too optimistic, it assumes it is now ‘safe’ to be a lesbian, but as any lesbian will tell you, we still fear holding a woman’s hand walking down certain streets. That hasn’t and won’t go away.

Let us not forget, in the vast majority of the world it is still illegal, frowned upon, punished or made impossible to be a lesbian and LGBTQ only pertains to a small percentage of this world in terms of population. If you are an African lesbian, good luck, you risk your life admitting that. So our Western ideas do not apply to the majority of lesbians out there.

Little really good literature is lesbian or LGBTQ, indicative of the stereotyping of LGBTQ literature when it is published and the small minority size of each group. You really have to hunt to find excellent, really well written lesbian literature or poetry. It was my dream to put together a group of authors who embodied love between women and showed the variety and depth of that love. SMITTEN accomplished this with over 120 poets and artists contributing some striking, stirring poems, drawings and thoughts of love and attachment.

SMITTEN was created for those people though I am certain we do not reach nearly enough. But it was my dream that even if we reached a few, even if we reached a girl like myself who went in search of ‘real’ lesbian love in a book store, they could find it. Maybe we haven’t done enough but with every act we hope to raise the consciousness of all people not just LGBTQ. People who may assume because gays have the right to vote and marry  and are represented on TV in some countries that they are absolutely free of persecution. This is not the case and while there are many other such minorities who are objectified, ridiculed, stereotyped and minimized, it was my mission to highlight lesbians and women who love women because I am one.

SMITTEN may not have existed when I was really young and had no gay friends, no cohorts who were LGBTQ and no school friends who were even sympathetic or understanding of LGBTQ. I myself didn’t really know enough. I sought refuge in gay bars when old enough but often times found those as judging and uncomfortable as being the only straight. The stereotypes, expectations, reductions and cliches of being a lesbian were as backward among lesbians as among heterosexuals! We had no role-models, nobody to refer to and only a palpable sense of shame emanating from society en mass. Nobody in their right mind wanted their daughter to grow up to be a lesbian, wasn’t that just something that happened like a birth defect or because a mother didn’t do her job right? That was the thinking back then and back then wasn’t ‘that’ long ago!

Consequently I spent more of my youth trying to get by without examining my lesbian identity and enjoying what it could be like to love another woman. I look at photos of very young lesbians now and I envy them their freedom but I am not so naive to assume they are entirely free, as a minute after the photo is taken, they could be beaten up by a mob who didn’t like what they saw. It still happens.

SMITTEN defies the hate, bigotry and misunderstanding of lesbianism. SMITTEN isn’t about women fucking other women for porn. SMITTEN isn’t about stereotypical lesbians created by heterosexual men. SMITTEN isn’t angry and hateful as some feminist backlash can be. SMITTEN is about this: Love IS LOVE.

Please support SMITTEN by gifting it to an LGBTQ person you care about, or buying it for yourself irrespective of your gender and sexual orientation, because love IS love and it transcends everything. If you like poetry, or you support LGBTQ inclusion and visibility then your support of SMITTEN can person by person, change everything. And if you cannot do that, perhaps think of requesting SMITTEN from your local library or purchasing the less expensive Kindle version (although it should be said the print version of SMITTEN is sumptuous!). YOUR support helps little girls growing up today, grow up to have a VERY different outlook in life, one without as much fear and isolation.

SMITTEN is available in print at

SMITTEN is available in KINDLE at

SMITTEN’s authors interviews, poetry readings and photo archive can be found here

With thanks to Indie Blu(e) for taking a chance and publishing this incredible project.

SMITTEN Poets Interview: Talia Rizzo

Talia Rizzo is a lesbian poet studying creative writing at the University of Denver. Her work focuses on her experiences as a queer woman, the complexities of family separation, and the power of images. Talia’s work can also be found in Levee Magazine, Foothills, and Prometheus Dreaming. When she’s not writing, Talia can be spotted among the Colorado mountains, taking in the sun with the wildflowers or skiing until her legs are sore.

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

I don’t want to say my poetry would be nothing without my experiences as a lesbian, but I’m going to say it. In some way, when I read old poems from five or six years ago and when I read the collection I am working on now while living in Spain for a few short months, I see different reflections of one another. Sexuality is everywhere and for that reason, each of my poems has some type of image that can be traced back to a specific experience, thought, memory, fear of being a lesbian in the United States. When I began writing poetry, it became a catalyst for me to understanding my identity and my past relationships with women and how they have felt in relation to the men I have been with. It gave me a chance to create, to sit and think for hours over cups of coffee about the intensity, the vivid colors I felt when I was with women, even if it was just their leg grazing mine under the table. Over time, my poetry has shifted and taken on different forms, some I don’t even understand yet, but one thing has remained the same—my life as a lesbian is at the core of all my work; it is the way my world is shaped, the lens on which everything is always seen.

2. Whom are your favorite lesbian writers and why?

Alicia Mountain and Pamela Sneed. They are my two biggest icons in every way and I aspire to be half the writers they are. They have each, in their own very different rights, mastered the art of image, of storytelling. If the man drinking a beer at the table beside me reached into my backpack, all he would find is their two very different and sensational stories—Sweet Dreamsby Sneed and High Ground Coward by Mountain. Mountain’s collection of poetry has come to me in every moment of need, over and over again, and still each time I am able to get something new from it, something I didn’t see before. Sneed taught me things beyond myself and gave me the chance to reflect on and be thankful for all the privilege I have been given in my life. Their images are relentless in the best way, so specific and subjective to each individual woman, yet so universal to the community.

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

It is absolutely thrilling. I am so excited to see all of their work. In countless ways, all lesbians, all bisexual women, all queer people are connected through a similar experience of identity, while simultaneously having so many individual differences. Love is both an individual and collective experience, especially when it comes to being a lesbian. I remember being eighteen in a restaurant with an old girlfriend and having to move tables because of a couple older, heterosexual couples next to us talking very loudly about how disgusting they found us. All we were doing was holding hands. I remember the way it felt when the waiters carried our plates full of food across the restaurant to a new table and every head turned to watch us get up and move. I remember my girlfriend’s eyes filling with tears and the excessive apologies of the employees. In some ways that night, a love I had never experienced before presented itself, as well as an experience I know is universal. As a community, we have been spit on, degraded, beaten, and killed for our sexual preference. While simultaneously, finding other people, other women, who love us, who accept us, who become a part of us. Being featured in SMITTEN alongside so many women from all over the world is an absolute honor for me, as all these words and stories bring us together—even when we are miles and miles apart.

SMITTEN is due out any day now. Please consider supporting this project by purchasing a book when it comes on sale. Even one purchase helps support the endeavors and hard work of these 120 authors and highlights the value of LGBTQ subjects. SMITTEN will be available via all good book stores please check the Facebook SMITTEN page for up to date information.