Relaunching My First Book
My debut poetry collection, A Roomful of Machines, has a new and fortified edition. The book went out of print five years ago. Picked up by a Washingtonville, NY-based small press ELJ Publications, A Roomful of Machines is, more or less, the chatter--barely intelligible yet there--of the material world. I corralled this chatter and gave it what amounted to a lyrical treatment without really trying to make sense of the words that I was, one way or another, simply transcribing. This chatter echoes, among many others, our anxieties, pettiness, hopes, and distractions. A Roomful of Machines is my first book, and it was the best attempt at a book I could manage at that point in my life.
Shown below is the book cover spread. Cover design is by Ariana D. Den Bleyker. The cover image is by Victor Zastol`skiy.
Sarah Sarai and JoAnn Balingit composed these wonderful blurbs for A Roomful of Machines.
“All the mythical elements / blend at some point.” Like a woodsman in a glade surrounded by the beloved obstacles of her livelihood, Kristine Ong Muslim marks the materials of her enterprise and fells them one by one: a teacup, a tissue box, the soul, a man on a bench–milled, constructed and brought to life by the poet’s gaze. Her poems lead us out of the forest, into light.
Some sites that feature sample poems from A Roomful of Machines: Lines + Stars, Accents Publishing blog, Extract(s): Daily dose of lit, Red Fez, Revisitations, The Pedestal Magazine, Eastlit, Kumquat Poetry. And here's a review by Emma Lee. For more reviews and ordering information, go here.
Lifeboat and the Picturesque Grotesquerie of Rural Towns
Then from the domicile of A Roomful of Machines, I ventured into the great outdoors, wrote some pseudo-pastorals, wove ecological themes, constructed dreamscapes, talked about the small town life, and created Lifeboat, a poetry collection to be released this year by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House.
In one of the reviews of this book, a review that I'm hoping would come out soon, I was asked to share my thoughts about the poems in Lifeboat. This was what I wrote back: "In writing these poems, I thought of enabling personas—and consequently the reader—to experience the natural world—from its impassable terrains to its scenic country routes, from its savagery to its eventual degradation, from its malleable dreamworld to its bleak, unyielding interstices. I also intend, and I hope I succeeded in this regard, to show the reader of this little book of poems how we are all very much connected, how we are wired to do certain things, and how we can control any such impulses as brought about by an innate evolutionary wiring. Surely, our Lifeboat is restless, and it will either drift or sink."
Here is Lifeboat's gorgeous cover design by Jhozelle Crooc. The cover image is royalty-free stock by Konrad Bak.
Lifeboat's back cover blurbs:
Kristine Ong Muslim’s haunting collection, Lifeboat, solidifies Muslim’s reputation as a poet of loss, of absence. In “The Alchemical Stages,” the speaker invites readers to enter one of the most brilliant poetic minds writing today, “Here is disillusionment. Here is isolation. Peer inside its shell. Then tell us what you see . . . .” In the poem “Twilight does not grow overnight,” she writes that, “The coroner, who must’ve seen it all, / …does not avert his gaze from a spot / on the floor as if he is waiting / for a love poem to materialize / under the stainless steel table.” Muslim finds beauty in the most unlikely of places and creates a world unimagined since the time of the surrealists.
A few sample poems from Lifeboat: Bluepepper, Boston Review, Ducts, Hobart, Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, Painted Bride Quarterly, Poetry Pacific, Rougarou, Sixers Review, The Puritan, Verse Daily, plus Nic Sebastian's terrific video adaptation of "Spiders."
A few months after I received the acceptance notice for Lifeboat, a poetry manuscript that is supposed to serve as Lifeboat's shadow twin found a home in the University of the Philippines Press. The book is called Black Arcadia and its cover image, another standard stock by Konrad Bak, will formalize its inextricable twinning with Lifeboat. The image is that of a woman wearing a black dress, and she is surrounded by stuffed animals.
Black Arcadia and the Indelible Archetypal Construct
Black Arcadia, whose cover isn't available yet, begins with an essay called "Process Notes" that describes my vision for and goals in writing the book, plus explains its marrying with Lifeboat and notes some of the poems' prose equivalents in Age of Blight, my upcoming collection of short stories with Unnamed Press. At the heart of Black Arcadia is my fascination with Jungian psychology, most especially the aspect dealing with archetypes.
Two of my favorite poets, Kristina Marie Darling and Kristy Bowen, have these to say about Black Arcadia.
Formally adventurous and luminous in its imagery, Kristine Ong Muslim’s Black Arcadia exists in the space between order and chaos, process and product, beauty and destruction. Pristine couplets are juxtaposed with their remnants, the vestiges of a carefully structured world. As the book unfolds, readers will find themselves inhabiting a magnificent wilderness as Muslim writes across and beyond the literary forms that we’re familiar with. She shows us that it is within these radiant apertures, these glowing liminal places, that anything is possible. This is an accomplished, thought-provoking volume from a truly gifted poet.
Some Black Arcadia poems that are available online: Euphony, Thin Noon, Menacing Hedge, this and this at Flapperhouse, Folio, The Nervous Breakdown, Mythic Delirium, Kitaab
Genetic Evil and How We Court Our Doom in the Age of Blight
The beautiful thing pictured below is my forthcoming short story collection sporting its temporary cover. Illustrated by Alessandra Hogan, Age of Blight will be released on January 12, 2016. In this book, I explored the concept of absolute evil as typified by animal experimenter Harry Harlow and as told by his wire mother. I wrote about this rumored divine being called the Great Beast, the one who lives in a quarantine tank in an industrial chemical plant. I also wrote about the harrowing final hours of the Russian space dog Laika, a child who grew his doppelganger out of his nail clippings, a twisted coming of age that involves a band of kids accidentally committing murder, plus many other tales and tall tales.
Here's the publisher's description of Age of Blight.
In this collection of speculative, horror-tinged stories, human cruelty, in all of its abundant diversity, compels humanity toward the final stages of the Anthropocene: the Age of Blight.
If this book sounds like something you'd love to read, then you can and should pre-order a copy:
Unnamed Press │Barnes & Noble│Amazon │Book Depository
More Publication News
We Bury the Landscape, my book that was released in 2012 by Queen's Ferry Press and contained 100 tiny tales about 100 paintings and photographs, is now being taught at Wake Forest University as part of their creative writing syllabus.
In addition, I have poems slated to appear in the forthcoming issues of Hiram Poetry Review, Forth Magazine, and The Frank Martin Review. Recent poem appearances in print include pieces in Grasslimb, The Ocean State Review, Folio, The Impressment Gang, Freshwater, Phantom Drift, and Rays of the Invisible Light: Collected Works by Young Moro Writers (edited by Gutierrez Mangansakan II and published by Bidadali Press). Poems soon to be anthologized in Mythic Delirium Volume Two (edited by Mike and Anita Allen and published by Mythic Delirium Books), My Cruel Invention: A Contemporary Poetry Anthology (edited by Bernadette Geyer and published by Meerkat Press) and Sustaining the Archipelago: An Anthology of Philippine Ecopoetry (edited by Rina Garcia Chua). My short stories were published in the latest issues of Beecher's Magazine and Pilgrimage Magazine. Another short story, "The Early Signs of Blight," will be in a Snuggly Books anthology to be edited by Justin Isis. Here's the author lineup for Marked to Die: A Tribute to Mark Samuels.
On top of several fiction projects (which are, at this point, nothing but super-rough rough drafts as they are held up only by their respective framing devices, and a viable framing device cannot miraculously transform a recklessly meandering blob of a manuscript into a great one), I am now six poems into a book-length poetry manuscript called The System of Enchantment, my exploration into the nature of reality and the essence of humanity. Every poem in The System of Enchantment will use the preceding poem's final line as first line. I am hoping that this tethering system will improve the manuscript's cohesiveness and readability. In October, I sold the fifth poem, "The Maze," to The Freeman. The piece mentions Gortyn. There's a complex of caves near that ancient site in the Greek islands. The cave system may be the basis for the mythical minotaur's labyrinth.
Meanwhile, here are pictures of my latest perks--contributor copies and free subscriptions.
I have the honor of translating from Filipino the incredible body of work by poet Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles. Several translated pieces have already appeared in Circumference: Poetry in Translation and The Cossack Review. Arguelles' poetry is characterized by sophistication and elaborate care, reveling in the possibilities of figurative language, as well as the auditory aspects of the spoken word as in the case of onomatopoeic effects. In Guwang (High Chair Books, 2013), for example, homonyms and polysemes were sometimes leveraged simultaneously, resulting in layers upon layers of meaning and interpretations that were difficult, yet very much rewarding, to translate. Mal, the white one with a minimalist cover design, is an erasure of a book by one of the Philippines' National Artists. The Adirondack Review has published excerpts from Mal. It is not everyday that we get to read an erasure that manages to sound harmonious by virtue of it being deliberately discordant.
The handsome LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, whose poetry section I curate and edit, has launched its fifth issue and finalized the lineup of its sixth issue. The current issue was reviewed at The Globally Curious and Messengers Booker.
And with Nalo Hopkinson, I will help shape Lightspeed Magazine's 2016 special issue, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction!. Section editors are Nisi Shawl (reprints), Berit Ellingsen (flash fiction), Victor J. Raymond (nonfiction), and Sunil Patel (personal essays). Submissions are open for this latest installment of the highly successful Destroy initiative.
Going to Duterte Country
On November 20-21, 2015, I'll be in Davao City, home to the country's most effective leader, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. I will be in two Philippine International Literary Festival panels as speaker.
Today is Berit Ellingsen's book birthday. Give her novel, Not Dark Yet (Two Dollar Radio, 2015), some love.
My 2015, year of the gracious Sheep, started out strong with three of my book-length manuscripts finding their home, where they can be professionally nipped, tucked, and dressed before being sent out as books. One, my poetry collection Lifeboat has been accepted for publication by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, a university press based in the Philippines. Two, a new edition of my out-of-print first book, A Roomful of Machines, will soon come out from ELJ Publications. And finally, Unnamed Press, a Los-Angeles-based publisher with an impressive author lineup (you can read their interview at LA Times/recent feature in Publishers Weekly and in Publishing Perspectives), said a sweet yes to publishing my collection of short stories, The Age of Blight.
Meanwhile, the last months of 2014 and the first few months of 2015 brought words in print.
Published by Anvil Publishing, Inc., this anthology contains my story "Leviathan," which looks into one brilliant and prestige-hungry character's obsessive search for a marine creature long believed to have become extinct sometime around 400 million years ago. A remnant of the Silurian Period, a time in the geologic past characterized by the proliferation of jawed fishes, the creature was ultimately found, died as a result of its being captured, and was posed as a trophy before the scientific community--emblematic of a major scientific discovery obtained at a cost, a loss of life. I wrote about some of my favorite stories in Fast Food Fiction Delivery here.
Not too long ago, Adam David wrote an incisive critique of the anthology's textual framing, asking, among other questions, why the loaded term "fast food fiction" was chosen to denote a particular fiction-writing style favored by writers like Jorge Louis Borges and Italo Calvino.
And here's Mike and Anita Allen's gorgeous Mythic Delirium, which contains my long poem "Even in Arcadia."
In December 2014, the eighth volume of the annual Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature was unveiled. I have poems in this issue. I don't have a copy, so I had to take this photo from the Twitter feed of Gabriela Lee, one of the journal's editors.
I also have a story reprinted in this anthology, along with other Filipino writers like Paolo Chikiamco, Dean Francis Alfar, Charles Tan, and Isabel Yap.
A reprinted old piece, "Dark Clocks," is in the January 2015 issue of Eastlit.
On February 27, 2015, Canada-based The Impressment Gang held a release party for the journal's latest issue, which featured my poems "The Cold Room" and "The Solarium."
Say hello to this bunny. Here's the stunning cover spread of Menacing Hedge's print anthology for the 2015 Association of Writers & Writing Programs bookfair and conference.
And this here is the most recent edition of Spark: A Creative Anthology, which contained my poem "The Day It Rained Stones" and whose companion piece "The Day It Rained Fish and Swallows" was accepted for inclusion in Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology. The latter anthology is edited by Melissa Tuckey and will come out from the University of Georgia Press in 2016.
I will also have a story in the fifth annual volume of Beecher's Magazine. It is called "Day of the Builders," a story of how modernity—as represented by the Builders—can take over a primitive village with unique geological features and fossil-worshiping inhabitants. The Builders are initially composed of anthropologists, archaeologists, and paleontologists. It is suggested in the story that the Builders’ expedition may have the backing of powerful industrialists. The narrator, the only person in the village who was familiar with the language of the Builders, ushered the “outsiders” around and helped them communicate with the village elders. Touching on cultural assimilation, colonization, and industrialization-fueled environmental destruction, the story attempted to affect a global scope by introducing elements that somehow mirror the expansion of the Russian Empire, the Paleo-Indian civilization of Pre-Columbian America, as well as stylized appropriations of Turkmenistan’s Door to Hell and Incan religious cosmology as described in The Florentine Codex. All these I had hanging on to a simple straightforward cause and effect (what happens if the village elders say yes to the Builders' proposals) thread. I hope this story worked and was able to convey what I wanted for it to say.
Another short fiction piece, this time in Pilgrimage Magazine. It's called "For the Brave Little Toaster and Co.," a tribute to a 1980s American film that I saw on Betamax when I was a kid and whose themes and motifs still figured largely in my writing. I wrote an entire book about mostly talking objects (A Roomful of Machines), have a thing for legacy devices, and am forever in awe of portrayals of animated inanimates in the wake of abandonment (like Toy Story, the intelligent domestic appliances in Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," the strange obsolete TV in Howard Waldrop's "Mr. Goober's Show," the cognitive/emotional machines in Michael Shaara's "Orphans of the Void," etc.). And please, please if you know of anything similar, do share it with me by leaving a comment so I can also find and enjoy the story, book, or film. "For the Brave Little Toaster and Co." is in my upcoming book The Age of Blight. I hope people who will pick up a copy will enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Meditations of a Beast
Age of Blight
A Roomful of Machines
We Bury the Landscape