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On Blurbs, Bad Animal, and Small Geometries

Greetings from Syracuse, NY, where the sun has finally decided to make a consistent appearance! I told my students I'd believe spring had come when I saw it, and now, with the flowers having been in bloom for an uninterrupted two weeks, I'm forced to admit that it looks like spring has indeed sprung. I feel I've become very jaded living in the snowiest city in the continental United States, I've become cynical. One day it's balmy and breezy, the next, freezing sleet. I probably won't believe we're out of the snow season until June.

And it's not just here: in Rochester, where I now work as Director of Development & Publicity for BOA Editions, the streeets are crowded with flowering trees, light pink on some, an almost fuschia color on others. It's been a small joy to watch people take pictures of themselves against the trunk of one or the other, thankful for a day of sunshine. The coffee shop where my amazing coworker Justine and I have taken to frequenting has thrown open its doors and four-person tables have been arranged in the front, people sprawling out in the chairs and laughing. On our more or less daily treks to pick up avocado toast or a mushroom melt alongside our coffees, I've become more attuned to my little corner of the world. It's an understatement to say that the last month has been a whirlwind. It's been a rollercoaster of emotion, a hurricane of happiness over my new position at BOA and the books I'm writing, but also tinged by the incredible grief of losing a close family friend to a fire that burned through her house Easter Sunday.

Additionally, I hit a breakthrough with the second full-length poetry manuscript I've been working on. Tentatively entitled The Old Raptures, the collection deals with loss in all its forms, a meditation on the nature of disaster in history and in religious scripture. The whole book is an elegiac exercise, a riff off the Literature of Salvation & Catastrophe class one of my mentors at Syracuse, Mary Karr, taught. If you're in the market for a book that has too many mentions of fire, queer longing, and a contentious relationship with God, drop me a line. It's almost there.

In the midst of all these new developments, good and bad, I've been getting my ducks in a row for Bad Animal to meet the world. My publisher sent me photos of the proof of the book she'd ordered, the first copy of the book to exist in the world, and reader, when I tell you I've never felt such violent envy and joy simultaneously, I don't lie to you. Courtney, my publisher and a phenomenal poet in her own right, has treated my book with nothing but love, care, and respect, and she has from the start. It's been a dream of a collaboration. My eager beaver emails to her are met with nothing but warmth and a faint bemusement: "Courtney, I made up this press sheet to send people, what do you think?" Ten minutes later. "Hey Courtney, never mind, THIS is the press sheet I'd like to send people. What do you think now??" Terrible of me, very silly.

I'm trying very hard to be a Cool Writer and curb my enthuasiasm, but I will be the first to admit: I am so excited about this book I can hardly think straight. Despite my free time this summer rapidly shrinking due to working during the week and trying to also be a human on the weekends, I'm planning an ambitious book tour across the East Coast and it keeps getting bigger and more elaborate: Florida, Minnesota, Illinois, California. My mother warns that I shouldn't get too big for my proverbial britches and maybe take a second to chill out before booking myself into 2025, but the momentum feels good.

One of the perks of the book coming out in a month (andsomechange) is that I've been getting to share the blurbs that poets I admire have been generous enough to provide for Bad Animal. The first I shared on social media was the blurb I received from Gabrielle Bates, one of the poets I've most admired. I've said it before and it brooks saying again: she's as kind as she is gifted. She was in the midst of her own book tour for her powerhouse debut Judas Goat and she found the time to not only read my book, but capture it so exactly. And meeting her at an offsite at AWP Seattle, she did not do what I thought she would when I nervously blurted out that I loved her and her work and run for the hills, but gave me a huge hug and made me feel welcome at a reading where I knew no one and felt very self-concious.

The second blurb I shared was from my mentor and inspriation and all-around hero, Airea D. Matthews. My mentor at Bryn Mawr College, Airea D. Matthews was the first person to say "You're a poet and you should pursue it," and more than that, she introduced me to some of my favorite poets writing today. I owe my obsession with Safiya Sinclair's Cannibal entirely to her, among others. She is a brilliant mind, but also so kind and generous with her time and attention, and her craft? Don't even get me started, because that's the subject of someone's doctoral dissertation and not a mere blog post. This life of poetry I have now is due in no small part to her influence, and the love she has for her community.

Aside from Bad Animal, some other things are afoot! Small Geometries, the project I've jokingly referred to as my shitty college relationships chapbook, is out now from Ethel Zine & Micro Press. Highlights include: a man who broke up with me and then two years later rekindled the relationship only to dump me two months later, an absolute prince of a man who led me on for some five years before turning to cruelty in order to get rid of me. Pro-tip: if you're thinking about sending someone a birthday gift, and that birthday gift is a compilation of your favorite poems/stories/etc. because the real gift to them is getting to know you better, maybe don't compound that gift by saying "Let me make it abundantly clear this means nothing." Years later, that humdinger is still talked about in my sessions with my long-suffering therapist, who has the face of one of the doomed souls on the Titantic every time I mention a new love interest's name. (Dr. K, I'm so sorry for everything, but you're in the book acknowledgements and I'll see you Tuesday.)

It's so wild that these projects are coming out around the same time. In a lot of respects, Bad Animal was born out of the poems I wrote for Small Geometries, and indeed, there are some overlaps. (There are some unpublished poems in Small Geometries, so please consider picking it up still!) The college Kathryn who wrote a lot of Small Geometries was trying, reaching towards a recovery they didn't think was possible. For a time, it looked like trauma and heartbreak was all they were good for, and all people expected of them. Releasing this little book feels like an exorcism of that self, a release into the ether. There is peace out there. I've learned that in this process, if nothing else. Think that ending scene in Corpse Bride where Emily dissolves into butterflies and they fly against the moon before the screen goes black.

Happy Thursday!


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