Category Archives: poetry

#BlackDressPoetry Wrap-Up: One Month Later

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a month since my book launch. Planning this party was an extremely rewarding experience, and I couldn’t have done it without Britt Canty, my publicist partner-in-crime. Her energy, know-how, and creative ideas really made this event special, and I can’t wait for our next opportunity to collaborate.

The folks at Hell Phone Speakeasy were extremely welcoming, and even made me custom drinks to go with the cocktail names we came up with–thanks to Britt and Jordana Frankel,  who came up with some of my favorites.

The music, by Master Michael Quinn and Jeff Allyn Szwast, was the perfect mix of moody and sultry–if you ever get a chance to see this duo perform, seize it with both hands. They will simultaneously break your heart and make you feel redeemed.

The readings were a special pleasure. I was lucky enough to get Nancy Hightower, cohost of the Liar’s League literary series and author of The Acolyte, and Natalie Eilbert, author of Swan Feast, to read for me; both are poets whose work I love and look up to. If you haven’t read their work, drop what you’re doing right now and look them up. Buy their books. You won’t regret it.

The fallout from this event was especially exciting–I’m now reading at several more events in coming months in New York City; I’ll tell you all about them on my Events page soon.

Most of all, I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who gave to my Kickstarter campaign. None of this would be possible without your support.

#BlackDressPoetry and Party Planning!

13900150_739345482874590_536517557273602932_n.jpgBig news is afoot, you guys. The plans for my poetry chapbook launch party are finally coming together!

I dunno if you’ve been to a book launch party before. I’ve been to a few; the normal format is usually as follows: takes place in a bookstore; there is a cheese plate and maybe some wine; there are books for sale and maybe a few intro readers and maybe a musical act (or not); there’s some mingling afterward and maybe a Q&A. I’m not saying this is a bad format–it can be really lovely, and I love how intimate it can feel.

I wanted to do something different, though.

This is my first published book, and I wanted to introduce it in a way that felt very “me.” I didn’t want to follow a prescribed pattern. I wanted to feature some people I know who are extremely talented, and I wanted it to go with the breakup / heartbreak theme–but in a fabulous, sultry, sophisticated way. This is, in other words, going to be Not Your Usual Book Launch Party.

So here’s what you can expect:

  1. Music by the appropriately poetic Master Michael Quinn and Jeff Allyn Szwast; you can check out their tunes here.
  2. I was lucky enough to get both Nancy Hightower and Natalie Eilbert–two poets I really admire–to read with me, and I cannot WAIT to hear them both.
  3. Burlesque with Galatea Stone, one of my favorite New York City performers. She impressively manages to pull off badass-athletic, otherworldly, and funny at the same time, and sometimes in the same act. (If you wanna catch her perform before my book launch, she produces a regular burlesque event and the next one’s coming up August 10).
  4. Signature cocktails! And I’m letting you pick the names. Look out for our poll on Facebook!
  5. A bar napkin poetry contest. Guests write poetry on bar napkins; I pick my favorites and the winners get prizes! I may also publish some of my faves in mini-zine format after the event.

This party is a collaboration between me and poetry publicist extraordinaire Britt Canty, who I could not have done this without. Her endless creativity and ideas have just been astounding, and working with her has been an absolute blast.

I’ll be posting regularly on Twitter with news as the plans come together–follow it using the hashtag #BlackDressPoetry! (Oh, and this is my Twitter handle.) For details on the party, this is the event page–if you’re in town, I’d love to see you there!

De-Friend Your Ex After a Breakup

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SOs come and go, but me and Yankee Candle are forever.

I wrote Collection of Flaws about my last big breakup and it occurred to me that I actually don’t write a lot about breakups here. The reason for that is because I’m generally over it. Heartbreak isn’t really where my heart is these days; I’m busy being deliriously happy (I’m finding being single agrees with me to a scary degree). But I thought I’d write a little about my breakups in general and my process for getting past them.

I’ve heard a lot of people say things like “never trust someone who isn’t friends with their exes” like this is some kind of pearl of wisdom. People, I am not friends with either one of my serious exes. A few more casual relationships, sure; but not anyone who meant anything big to me. It is just not how I’m built. It doesn’t make me an untrustworthy person. It’s okay if you’re not friends with your ex.

And actually, I think that there’s a certain amount of pressure to be friends with your ex that can be harmful. I’ve definitely felt before like choosing not to be friends is equated to a big public statement about how much you hate that person, or maybe how vitriolic the breakup was (whether that’s true or not). It leaves you open to judgment.

But sometimes no one was abusive or cheated or ran over anyone’s dog or stole anyone’s bank account and moved to Mexico. Sometimes nobody was A Terrible Person and the breakup wasn’t particularly angry. Sometimes the reason you can’t be friends is because it just hurts too much–until it doesn’t hurt anymore, but you’ve grown so far apart that you wouldn’t really want to be friends anyway.

I’ve had two really big, serious relationships (so far). The details were different, but the way the breakups unfolded were weirdly similar. They went like this:

  1. Ex and I decide to be amicable. We swear we’ll stay friends. We talk wistfully about getting back together someday.
  2. We keep talking for a while; maybe we try getting back together. Drama ensues.
  3. My ex stops talking to me at some point. It sucks but I give him his space.
  4. I find out through Facebook that he met someone else.
  5. I defriend, unfollow, delete his phone number from my phone, delete pictures and love letters from my computer, throw out everything he ever gave me or that reminds me of him, and go full scorched-earth.
  6. We never talk again in any meaningful way.

The moral of the story…I guess there are a lot of morals. But a big one for me is that maybe it’s crucial for me to despise this person so I can stop loving them. And the only way that happens is seeing they’re dating someone else.

I’m not really ready to let go–I don’t actually believe it’s over–until that happens.

I don’t like being prescriptive in my advice to friends. What’s right for me isn’t necessarily what’s right for you blah de blah blah. I’ve done my fair share of backsliding, I completely understand it and I never judge a friend for doing it with an ex. The pull is strong.

But I’ve also seen what happens when my friends backslide; it’s happened to me too. And it does. Not. Work. I’ve realized that the best way I can be on my own side in this process is by believing it’s over when it’s over, and behaving accordingly.

There are things I miss about my exes, but I don’t miss those relationships. I’m realizing slowly how incredibly happy I am on my own. One thing I’m realizing is that in both my serious relationships, the people I was with didn’t want to talk about the future too much with me because they didn’t want to get married. They weren’t all-in. I guess I wasn’t either, if I’m being totally honest with myself. Talking about serious future plans was scary for everyone, because we’d have to be truthful about whether we were going to be IN those futures with each other.

In the two years since I left my last serious relationship, I’ve had a lot of space and time to think of my future–the one that could include a significant other, but doesn’t rely on one. I don’t know if I’ll wind up in another relationship, but I’m all in on my own life plans in a way no boyfriend has ever been before with me. It’s really exciting.

The thing about breaking off all contact with an ex is that nobody will do this until they are ready, and when they are, nothing will stop them. But my opinion is, go scorched-earth. It’s the only way. Maybe you’ll get over this person while still texting them funny emoji poems and stalking their Instagram and being Totally Platonic Friends with them while secretly crying every time they hint they might be dating someone else. But it will take a long time and it’ll only hurt you. This is no way to live. Just rip off the band-aid.

At this point, I could probably hang with my least recent ex and get a beer. I actually wouldn’t mind catching up. I don’t feel that way about the most recent one yet, but I imagine I might someday. I think being friends is a thing that happens naturally, only when the previous relationship is completely dead, and it can’t be forced.

The great thing about breakups is that you realize you don’t have to put up with that person’s sh*t anymore. You’re free to think about what you want for your future–without anyone else’s plans or limits getting in the way. And you’re free to learn how to make yourself happy. It’s the best, most freeing thing–especially if you’ve been in and out of relationships since your teen years, like I was.

Breakups suck, but it’s better on the other side. Trust me.

Summer Shenanigans

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Obligatory cannon ride.

I’m from Vermont originally, and I think that’s why I love summer so much. Our summers are generally mild, and those 98-degree, sticking-to-your-seat, God-I’ll-die-if-I-can’t-go-swimming-right-now days are few and far between. They are precious. They are to be enjoyed.

In New York, summers are hot. I don’t know if it’s the pavement or something about convection or what. But I love it. Where most New Yorkers are complaining about the sweaty subways and diving into any store that has air conditioning, I am scantily clad and happy. I love the heat. I even love the humidity. Bring it on.

So what have I been up to, besides sweating all over the place? First, I’ve been throwing myself into my romance novel with renewed abandon. I’m writing a historical (ish?) romance set at the end of the Roman Empire. I’m obsessed with it in a way I haven’t been in a long time, and I’m going nuts with all the thoughts I have lately about writing romance and what works and what doesn’t. I’ll be writing more about that here.

I’ve been getting my poetry chapbook ready for publication and planning my launch party. In addition, I’ve been writing poetry in little pieces. A second chapbook is starting to look possible.

Finally, I’ve been traveling. I went to see my parents at Gettysburg for a long weekend around the first of July, and then almost immediately went to Florida with a friend to pick up a 1981 Westfalia. Seeing as how I know how to drive stick and all (I consider this one of my superpowers, along with scary grammar skills and making a perfectly balanced dipping sauce for Vietnamese summer rolls).

My hero in the romance I’m writing is Alaric I, the famous Visigothic general. I’ve been thinking a lot about how you see a landscape differently if you have to use that landscape to stay alive—and keep your soldiers alive. High ground is important. Stay away from narrow ravines. You’ve got nothing if you don’t have a baggage train. Gettysburg was a great canvas on which to paint a battle; it really had a lot of clear examples of terrain used to best and worst advantage.

(For example, in Pickett’s Charge, the terrain the rebels ran up was very slightly uphill, culminating in a stone wall right under the cannons that funneled the troops into a deadly point. Looking at the terrain—and with the benefit of hindsight—it’s easy to see why it was so disastrous).

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Me and the Wheelness.

Florida was beautiful after that. There was so much amazing seafood—the oysters abounded. I spent time by the pool and the beach. I wrote my romance novel and taught my friend to drive stick. We lay awake at night and traded secrets and dreams. I even got some poolside yoga in.

Now I’m back in Bushwick, trying to get back into a rhythm. I’ve got another trip planned for the beginning of August, and it already feels too close. I’m trying to take things one day at a time and not feel overwhelmed. There’s always too much to do and it’s a lie that summer days are long. They’re never long enough.

Kickstarter Campaign and #CollectionofFlaws Twitter Project

I’m really excited to announce the launch of my first Kickstarter campaign! This is my first one, you guys. I hope I did it right.

In case you’re wondering, the video still is me with one of my prizes–the breakup-themed adult coloring book “Have a Nice Life, Asshole” by Creative Collective Design. I’m thrilled to be partnering with them!

I really believe in this project. I think breakup poetry is kind of a difficult subject; there is a lot of the bad, the cheesy, and the funny out there, but breakups are pretty much universal. Most of us have been through at least one. Most relationships don’t end in forever. We’ve all needed really good poetry that speaks to that pain at one point or another.

I’m dedicated to bringing this book to a wider audience—and that’s where the money would go. If you’re into it and feel like you want to contribute, your help will be wildly appreciated!

Also, to get the word out (and to just shower the Interwebz with words, which is what I live to do), I am going to be running a Twitter project. To whit: one line from the book per day, from now until the end of the Kickstarter. So if you want to get a daily dose, the hashtag is #CollectionofFlaws (also #Breakuppoetry). Come get it at my Twitter feed.

Have You Pre-Ordered My Chapbook Yet?

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Cover art by Emily Lubanko

Collection of Flaws in a Black Dress is a Gut-Punch of a First Chapbook

Poet and author Jenny Williamson is pleased to announce that her debut chapbook, Collection of Flaws in a Black Dress, will be coming out in May with Finishing Line Press. It is currently available for preorder here.

“I write obsessively about love and loss,” Williamson says. “I didn’t intend for the theme to go in this direction, but when I looked back at the body of my work over the past year, there was a definite common thread. There’s also a sense of grief, like I’m mourning my own death before it happens.”

Her debut chapbook could be said to be a map of emotional apocalypse, charting a course from epic first-sight to the inevitable heat death of the universe and finally, new hope. Mostly free-form, the language shows a clear sense of musicality and rhythm, with imagery that is frequently as brutal as it is beautiful.

From the chapbook:

Trepanation

When I woke they’d put a doorway
in my skull
round as a bone moon.

The ghosts gnawed through me, trailing
a terrible howling.

It was not painful. Quite the opposite,
this hole in the hull of my ship
rimmed with stars–

I could no longer tell where I ended
and the sky began.

About the Author:

Jenny Williamson writes primarily about sex and death. She is published in journals including East Coast Literary Review, Burningwood Literary Journal, and Vox Poetica. She is also an actress and fiction writer, and currently lives in Brooklyn. This is not her last chapbook.

Collection of Flaws in a Black Dress is available for preorder from Finishing Line Press here.