Sari Krosinsky, publisher and art editor, writes about the mundane in mythology and the sublime (and sublimely awful) in the ordinary. Zir first full-length book, god-chaser, was published by CW Books. Sari co-authored a chapbook, Yossele: a tale in poems, with Robert Arthur Reeves. Ze received a B.A. in religious studies and M.A. in creative writing from the University of New Mexico. Ze lives in Albuquerque, N.M., with zir partner, Reeves, and cat, Emma.
Irene is mistaken when she supposes Kavi to be Indian in the opening poem of “A God’s Life.” The main inspiration for the mythology of “A God’s Life” is the Mihr Yasht, a section of the Avesta, sacred Zoroastrian text, but Kavi isn’t a Zoroastrian god either. He’s part of an imagined proto-Indo-Iranian pantheon, based partly on a study of existing theories in linguistics and comparative mythology, partly on my own interpretation of sacred texts in English translation, and partly on the idea that the earliest poems (in the chronology of the story) are occurring at a moment when a new greatest-of-all god is displacing the old gods — not only lowering their position in the hierarchy, but beginning an evolution that culminates (in later religions) in the belief that they never existed.
Mithra the character is Mithra as the ultimate spy god, and Kavi is one of his many spies: “Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, proves an undeceivable spy and watcher for the man to whom he comes to help with all the strength of his soul, he of the ten thousand spies, the powerful, all-knowing, undeceivable god.” (Mihr Yasht X.46, translated by James Darmesteter, “The Zend-Avesta.” New Delhi: Atlantic, 1990. Vol. 1, page 131.) The epithets about Mithra’s thousands of ears and eyes are understood as representing his spies. In “the divorce,” the eye closing on Mithra’s helmet is Kavi.
The gods of other pantheons make appearances here and there, often in ways that twist several mythologies together. The bit about gods communicating by burning letters is an imagined extension of burnt offerings, which of course manifest in various ways in many religions.
I’ve been working on “A God’s Life” and “Courting Hunger” since 2004. The following background notes on the writing of the books are reposted from the Kickstarter campaign, ending Sunday, Oct. 11, at 9 p.m. MDT.
“Courting Hunger:” Truth and Fiction
The poems in “Courting Hunger” occur between ages 4 and 34, or 1982-2012. Though the events are told as I remember them, they don’t tell all that I remember, and probably often diverge from what others remember. Some of the most important people in my life aren’t mentioned at all, or only in passing. Sometimes I deliberately omit parts of a story that are relevant to What Really Happened, but not to the poem. E.g., I cut a line from “Compassion” which clarified that my parents didn’t reject me when I told them I’m transgender, as my parents’ awesomeness is beside the poem’s point.
The book is also fictionalized in lesser ways. My sensory memories are often blurry, so I reimagine those to give poems more physicality. My favorite sort of metaphor is to interpret the setting as a reflection of the situation. I mostly do this with actual settings, but sometimes I’ll combine events or invent details to serve the metaphor. E.g., “The building stands on stilts, holding us / above floods. The stilts stand on sand” describes the building my high school was in, as well as implying the dangerous instability of social orders grounded in oppression.
I wrote the early drafts of most poems in “Courting Hunger” in 2010-2012, a period when I went from maintaining well (or well enough) on antidepressants to my worst and longest bout of depression yet (still going). In the three years since, I’ve been hospitalized for suicide prevention three times (the first two in 2012 actually, but not addressed in this book); had a prophylactic double mastectomy (an experience totally unlike the conjectured breast reduction in “Don’t say ‘transgender’”); was treated with electroconvulsive therapy, along with various antidepressants and experimental uses of other sorts of medication; and discovered through a friend’s help that many attributes of mine which I hadn’t encountered in other people are typical of people on the autism spectrum.
Because of those and other experiences, my understanding (including how I perceive some of the events described in “Courting Hunger”) has changed substantially from that expressed in the book. For a while, I tried to integrate more recent poems that reflect those differences, but they didn’t really fit. Instead, I completed the book with my 2010-2012 perspective intact. (The newer poems are the kernel of the next book, “Call Me Crazy” — Bob came up with this title, as well as the titles of all my books so far.)
A History of “A God’s Life”
I wrote and workshopped the first draft of “A God’s Life” — then titled “The Book of Names” — in 2004. Not my best workshop experience, but it did much to inform the evolution of the book, though there was only one bit of advice I used in a direct way: needs more sex. The comments helped me figure out what wasn’t getting across. For example, a poem that takes place at a family gathering in the suburbs, meant in part to illustrate the narrator’s discomfort in dealing with the web of relationships that having one relationship entangles him in — was understood to represent suburban family life as the happy ending the characters must be headed for. I mean no slight to those who prefer it, but the characters in question would find no more happiness in such a state than I would.
I had to put the manuscript aside while I worked on my thesis, “god-chaser.” As distressing as it was at the time, and as much as I still disagree with the logic of the decision not to allow a verse novel as a thesis (in short, because verse novels are more difficult to publish), I’m glad it worked out that way. Some of the poems in “god-chaser” would probably never have been written if I’d been focused on finishing “A God’s Life.”
Another … let’s say “benefit” of the delay was that my experiences over the next few years while finishing the book shaped its evolution. My general anxiety about losing Bob was sharpened and focused by his cancer diagnosis, and those experiences deepened two characters who became more central to the story in the process.
I also added another storyline to the book. I have a way of writing about religion and mythology that’s been described as simultaneously pious and blasphemous. I don’t mind so much if I offend members of my own religion (Judaism) or the dominant religion in my corner of the world (Christianity), but I still worry that Zoroastrian readers, should there be any, might take “A God’s Life” amiss. And for a long time I was determined against including anything involving Islam, though it felt like a major oversight in the context of the story. Given the narrator’s loathing of monotheism, I didn’t think I could introduce an important relationship with a Muslim character in a way that wouldn’t stir the loathsome cauldron of Islamophobia. I think I did find a way to accomplish that, and without violating the demands of character or story.
I submitted the manuscript to several publishers at different stages, and it received one acceptance and a couple near misses (including a we’d-take-it-without-all-the-“fuck”ing). Then, of course, I decided to self publish, not only to keep the price down, but to do all the “fuck”ing I please.
The two books I’ve been working on over the past 11 years are at last ready to be released in November. Through fictionalized autobiography, “Courting Hunger” explores love, family, friendship, identity, sex, drugs, rock & roll, sickness & health. In “A God’s Life,” an exiled spy god working at a queer video store in Washington Heights reflects on his past loves and wars and tries not to start any new ones.
To be among the first readers and help fund publication, check out the Kickstarter campaign, ending Sunday, Oct. 11.
I’ve been pretty thoroughly nonverbal for some while, but the visual art has been flowing. In the past, I’ve mostly gravitated towards representational art in my own work — though I love abstract art by others, like my favorite fractal/digital artist, Araldia. Lately I keep drawing these abstract/organic/geometric things and collaging them with fractal art and NASA public domain images using GIMP. I wonder if the abstraction and the trouble with words are connected?
For now, I’m stashing my visual artwork on Flickr [Edit August 5, 2015: and now on DeviantArt, as well:]. Here are a few samples:
UPDATE, 2015/4/23: The book page is now set up with the changes. You can order “god-chaser,” “Complications” and “Yossele” directly from me with payments processed by Paypal (no account required). You can still order all of Robert Arthur Reeves books except “Yossele” through Amazon, along with some journals featuring our poetry. Also check out the new digital poetry page for a free ebook of “Yossele” and free audio poetry from “Complications” and “Hush.”
ORIGINAL MESSAGE: I’m taking “Yossele: a tale in poems” (chapbook) and “Complications” (CD) off of Amazon in a couple weeks, but don’t worry ;), you’ll still be able to get both through outerchildpoetry.com or in person.
A couple poems, one by Bob and one by me, from last night’s Fixed & Free Poetry Reading. I’ll add a few more another day.
The women next door are fighting.
Will there be makeup sex I can also hear thru the wall?
I doubt it. They’re usually quiet,
the one like a frazzled athlete, the other
a frazzled academic, and usually
light enough to be friendly.
They even slam doors reticently, politely.
You and your dad ran off to the North,
like the Blade Runner, to photograph the balloons.
I found out after eleven years you don’t like Donovan.
I would’ve played him just as much,
just felt more apologetic about it.
I’m trying to stay on the strong and fertile side of things
and not dissolve into hardness of heart.
For the party this afternoon,
I’m cooking another thing
it took you forever to tell me you didn’t like.
Every year you’d identify a new ingredient as the problem
till it added up to all of them.
Today I’ll be among more breathing people
than in a long time, it seems.
even the kind that never comes about,
keeps me freely happy—and one actuality,
the feel of you under your skin.
For once, I didn’t get here by ignoring the terrible world.
I feed it to myself and it mixes with me.
I turn it into our body.
The fairies circled my living room
in the house where the door was never locked.
I don’t remember where the women were—
Annie, who shared my yearning
for platanos and dulce de leche,
whose dad owned the house, and
Dorothy, who hoarded toilet paper
to clean up her boyfriend’s wayward cum.
Aidan was the only real boy, but this time,
I was disqualified for lack of wood.
I’d flattened my breasts as far as I could,
to a single bulging hump. My voice
had deepened, period stopped. It wasn’t enough.
Still, the guests talked around me
like I was one of the boys, some spreading their legs
and airing out their disgust
at the bits between female thighs.
Aidan and one or two others didn’t join
the hackneyed abuse, didn’t intervene.
Neither did I. We rationed our beers
round the carpet, silent or changing
the subject. It veered again to the villainous
blacks spreading AIDS. They couldn’t
see the irony. Was that the night I knew
I didn’t want to be a real boy?
We’re breaking our quiet streak to come out for three poetry events this month and next: Bob and I double feature at Fixed & Free on Thursday, February 26; Bob is a guest reader for the release of Nate Maxson’s “The Age of Jive” on Tuesday, March 17; and I’ll participate in two events at the Women of the World Poetry Slam on Saturday, March 21.
Here’s a wee preview (added 2/25/2015):
Fixed and Free Poetry Reading
Thursday, February 26, 7-9 p.m. Open mic signup begins at 6:30 p.m.
Fixed and Free, meeting the fourth Thursday each month, aims to provide a relaxed, welcoming, supportive community for poets, lovers of poetry and other divine creatures to share and enjoy the magic and power of poetry, as well as each other’s company. Reading is optional. Read your own poems or poems by other poets. No subjects, words or feelings are forbidden. Our constitutional freedoms of assembly, association, speech and religion, are respected at Fixed and Free poetry gatherings.
12-2 p.m., Local Poets Showcase Featuring New Mexico poets with host Mary Oishi.
2-4 p.m., How to Break a Line: Disability, Chronic Illness, & Other Poems
Can unique experiences of body deepen our relationship to language and heighten connection with audience? Lisa Gill leads poets Aaron Ambrose, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Tracey Dahl, Sari Krosinsky, and special guests in a discussion of the intersection of the physical body with the body of poetry. Audience voices encouraged. Broadside included. ASL interpreter on site.
At my only rave, 20 minutes of throbbing sound
before I found a plush chair and slept ’til someone lipped
my ear and I woke to Peter’s Pan-ish grin and slept again
’til Chloe said my name and we went home.
Another night, working Peter’s Ouija board
for the chance to touch his hand, I asked it—
without speaking—if I loved. Asking
a Ouija board to tell me my own
mind. N-O, it spelled, then, C-H-L-O-E.
Peter told me about the language he invented, because
we young things didn’t have enough trouble
communicating in just one. Later in the parking lot,
I locked my mouth over his before he could exhale,
a smoky kiss full of tobacco and tongue.
Then he turned back up the hill to his place
and I down the valley to mine. He was always running away.
I eased the door open and padded to my bed, at right angles
to Chloe’s. In the morning, she’d be angry I didn’t call
to tell her where I’d been. If I kissed her, she’d run, too.
Today (or whatever’s left of it when I stop procrastinating) is dedicated to going through the couple notebooks I’ve been filling over the last 5 months and to typing up (and hopefully adding to) ideas for poems, games, interactive art, blog posts, and perhaps other tidbits. As limited as my capacities seem by any objective measure — the littleness of the half-filled notebooks, or the 1-minute animation I haven’t finished after half a year, or my spotty progress in learning web programming. — I know (or I’m trying to know) that to do so much is one thing that made a blessing of another year of unremitting depression (though in a lesser degree mostly than 2013). For about a year & a half before that, I could hardly read at all, and 2012 and 2013 fit in a single slim notebook, and I’d already abandoned my third attempt at learning to program.
But I don’t mean to lament, or to suggest that little improvements make up for great challenges, especially those of the intractable sort there is no overcoming. I suppose I mean only that I’m grateful to be creating anything, as much as I’m impatient to do so much more.
Another project, possibly coming in the next week or so, is an e-book re-release of the chapbook Bob and I wrote together, “Yossele: a tale in poems,” a re-imagining of the golem of Prague. It’ll be free, while the print edition will remain available (at cost) through Amazon or from Bob and me.
Speaking of availability, I seem not to have mentioned here before that “god-chaser” is officially out of print, but, in addition to the few copies still floating around (Amazon again and the local-author-friendly UNM Bookstore), you can get a copy from me for $12 plus postage, if any (also at cost, if you can believe it).
Though it’s a little sad to see “god-chaser” go out of print so quickly (the consequence of its coming out in fall 2012, near the beginning of the roughest period), I’m grateful to WordTech Communications for publishing it. It’s nice to have had a “real” publisher for my first book, though I don’t think I’ll be pursuing that route again, mostly because I finally caught on to the open source movement.
Rational though the arguments may be, I don’t believe that people show how much they value things by how much they’re willing to pay for them. The value of a poem, the value of art itself, is created between writers and readers, artists and perceivers. If we don’t pay as much for a song as for a cup of coffee, it isn’t because we don’t understand their relative values. We think the economic system works because it allows us to set an equivalency between things with quite different sorts of value. That’s why it doesn’t work. Saying things are equivalent doesn’t make it so. The piles of currency I’ve spent on coffee can’t diminish the greater nourishment I’ve received from the arts — and how nourished, how grateful, how pleasured, how grown I am after the encounter could never be predicted from the price tag.
I’ve been spending more time scripting than writing of late, but poetry is definitely in the mix. My just finished project shuffles poems — mostly a toy, but I’ll be using it to work on another poetry/scripting project. The screenshot below came from shuffling a couple of post-god-chaser poems.
You can play with Poem Shuffler using your own poems and/or a few included public domain poems.