Dear “Scared White People”

Under Life's Umbrella

(Disclaimer- I proofread this post a dozen times and used Grammarly to help. If you see any mistakes, I’m only human. And I am not perfect. Thanks for reading and please share!)

Dear “Scared White People”,

Hi.  My name is Nyikia and I am a concerned black woman.  And just so I’m clear here from the start: This is NOT CLICK-BAIT and I’m not talking to ALL WHITE PEOPLE. Nor, and I can’t even believe I have to say this, racist.  I have the working knowledge to know that people of color have white allies out there.  Thank you for that and this letter isn’t for you.   I’m writing this letter to the “scared” or “concerned” white people out there because I’m growing quite worried (and pissed off) by your behavior toward black people.   I have listed a few examples to clarify:

1.) Calling the police when black people are…

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This Exquisite Corpse: An Interview with Tawnya Selene Renelle

This Exquisite Corpse is the debut poetry collection of Tawnya Selene Renelle, creating a tapestry of real, raw images of life of a woman loving women, loving men, in grief, in family, in being whole through having been broken.

‘A book of deviance,’ says one review. ‘A keenly observed collection,’ of poems which ‘lay down challenges to the reader,’ says another review. Renelle’s collection makes the reader delightfully uncomfortable, while comforting the women who can relate to so many parts of her art.

Of it, Colin Herd writes in the introduction,

The poet June Jordan once asked “how do we come to be here next to each other / in the night.” This question of adjacency, of how our bodies inhabit spaces in relation to other bodies, is just one of the questions that animates this collection.

…Always, through its encounters with grief, break-up, loss, illness, addiction, self-examination, Renelle’s language is buoyant, and dazzles, twists, turns in unexpected ways.

…Tawnya Renelle’s poetry is urgent, echoing, and vibrant. Her images haunt, comfort and contort.

pp.i-ii, This Exquisite Corpse

I had the opportunity to interview Renelle regarding This Exquisite Corpse toward the beginning of her book tour.

Tell me about This Exquisite Corpse.

The title actually comes from the game the surrealists play, Exquisite Corpse, and I really fell in love with it. And for me, the book contains both literal and figurative corpses: mine and those of my dead friends.

How would you describe your poetry, in this book and otherwise?

I often describe my poetry as raw and real. It is memoir and I write about my life experiences in the hopes that someone reading or listening can relate to it and maybe feel something about their own story. The power to tell it. I like to write simple poetry without metaphor.

How Would you describe your style?

I like to say I am a hybrid or experimental poet, that I really embrace the page and blank space and like to make sure I am putting words on the page in a way that creates accessibility, if that makes sense.

Speaking of blank space, This Exquisite Corpse is such a confession of the deeply personal, do you think there’s anything you’re not saying?

Not really. The poet Joy Harjo said, “I believe the word poet is synonymous with truth teller,” and I really believe that myself. I feel I have an obligation to truth in my words.

What do you hope for readers to take away from this This Exquisite Corpse?

Something of their own experience, my ideal is that half way through reading a poem, the reader stops thinking about my life and begins to think about their own. That is the dream. When people come up to me after I read and tell me about their own life experiences I feel like I have done what I hope to: provide a way for people to connect to their life by sharing information about my own.

What is the central theme of this collection?

Embodiment, or rather the body in periods of love, sex, grief, and pain. I really wanted to try and capture a lived experience in the body, it is also so much about connection, between family, friends, and lovers.

Which poem or line in This Exquisite Corpse is the most impactful to you? Rather, which would you say you carry with you, if any?

That is such a hard question. The poem I wrote for my grandmother has the line “our bond is not dependent on your knowing,”* and I do really love that one and have had many people tell me that it really impacts them as well.

And then the line, “if the overdose of my friend I learned what kind of people do drugs and somehow I am not one of them.”**

* A line from the poem, “For Grandmother” (p. 3)
**A line from the poem, “Passing” (p. 63)

I was going to ask you how you felt about “For my grandmother,’ and that line in particular. How do you feel about publishing these confessions that you don’t actually want to confess to your grandmother?

I feel really good about it actually. She knows about the book, knows she can’t read it, and even knows about that line…she is the reason I write poetry. She put Emily Dickinson in my hands when I was young and taught me to love poetry and the written word. So the dedication to her is so true, to Grandmother for words she will never read. She knows I have poems that aren’t “grandma friendly” and she is just as supportive.

What was it like putting this book together?

It was really amazing actually. I was so lucky because my friends have a cabin on their property and I went out to it for 2 days, and it was snowing. It felt magical really. And I just laid all the poems down before me on the floor and spent days deciding the order, making sure I was giving the reader emotional breaks from some of the more difficult poems, etc.

There are a lot of poems about breaking and putting back together, such as “Choked”, “Haunting,” and “I collect myself” (to name a few). Can you expand on this recurring topic?

Wow, I hadn’t even noticed that actually, but I guess it is related to the death of my friends Gitana and Adam. There is such a dismantling that happens during grief and a need to put back together. And on top of this, during this period of time, I had a major back surgery and was physically putting myself back together while writing the poems. I can see why this theme shows up again and again.

So really writing the collection had a lot to do with both literal and figurative putting back together in an emotional and physical way.

Were these poems gathered over time, or was this collection written altogether, like in a manner of catharsis for the loss of those close to you?

I actually wrote all the poems in about a year, they just kept coming, and I couldn’t stop once I had started. The only poem that had been written over a long period of time was “Poetic Sexploration.” That poem is a constant work in progress. and a few poems were written very recently. Three of them were written about a week before we went to print.

Would you define this book as a feminist collection?

I don’t ever intend to write anything that is political really, I just write about my life, and I know that it becomes political, if that makes sense. So I didn’t set out to write a collection of poetry that is feminist, but I recognize that it is, that it is body positive, queer, sex-positive, feminist, etc…and I like that it is. But for me it is just putting my experiences down on the page.

Poetry has always been more than just words on the page. It’s the line breaks and the inflexes that set the rhythm and pace up for a poem. However, in some of your poems you go beyond this. How do you feel Multimodal formatting contributes to your poems? By this I mean, the different use of text on the page. For example, in “Things I wanted to tell you (following our breakup),” and “These are the names I’ve been called by men.”

Oh yeah, well I love text on the page that challenges perceptions and I already know the content does that, so it has always been important to me that the book challenge what we think poems “should” look like. I wanted the intimacy of text messages for those 2 poems that really are about it, and “These are the names I have been called by men” is a poem I have always been scared to share with anyone and so we decided to sort of make it a center fold in a way to push the idea even further

This is also why image is included, why I have chosen to display my naked body, or corpse, if you will, in the text, especially after poems that deal with what it means to be a fat body in the world.

Do you have any other projects currently in the making?

So many…I think all writers have multiple projects at one time. I have my textbook, or my redefining of textbook on hybrid and experimental forms through my DFA studies, which is a merging of poetry, critical theory, prose, memoir, and art. I am also working on a collection of poems about my travels around the UK and being an “ex-pat,” as well as a novella idea that I hope to write in the next few years.

What is something you want more people to ask you?

I don’t think I really have specific questions I want to be asked. I like to think that someone could really ask me anything and that I would be open to it.


Where to Find Tawnya

Tawnya Renelle is a PhD student at the Univseristy of Glasgow intitially from Bellingham, Washington.

Currently, Tawyna is on her book tour promoting This Exquisite Corpse. You can catch her on tour by following her blog here.

Twitter: @trenellepoetry
Instagram: @tawnyaremelle

You can also listen to a radio interview with her on Daytime/Nighttime for a chance to hear Renelle read some of her work.

This Exquisite Corpse is available online and soon to be in select book stores. To find it online in the UK, it is available on Amazon.
Amazon US available soon.

Upgrading your WordPress Account: An Experience

I have put zero dollars/pounds/pasos into this blog. None. Nada. Zippo. And it’s done alright. I mean, I’m also not making money off it, but I have a following I’m content with and pleased about.

However, with my other blog, I wanted to take it up a notch in an attempt to make some cash with it. Full disclosure–as of the end of April, I made a whole $0.17. That’s total. I’m pretty proud of that, and I’m rather fond of the number 17–but I digress.

There were a few features I wanted for my blog, like the ability to have text to speech for those who could use it (I’m still workin gon how to figure that out), and I needed a business account for it. I thought about it for a long while, and finally made the plunch. Gotta spend money to make money, right?

Also, my blog was getting pretty good views–by my standard, mind. Before upgrading to premium a couple of months ago I was averaging 20 views a day, which went up to 80, sometimes 100 views a day. I saw the correlation between the views and the upgrade, so that also contributed to my decision to go to the business plan.

However!

As soon as I did, my views plunged. Right back to the 20 views a day, if I’m lucky.

I didn’t understand what was going on. I now could use YOAST which allowed me to better understand and more efficiently utilise SEO, I was creating and posting the same quality and quantity of daily content–what gives?

I finally figured it out. Aside from the fact that for some reason all my search-engine go-ahead toggles had been switched off (which I remedied), my posts aren’t appearing the same in the WordPress reader. Thus, those who are following me aren’t able to read my blog the same way.

This was brought to my attention by another blogger, with whom I sometimes email back and forth, and she asked me what I did to get the ‘read the full post’ link on my posts. I went to my WordPress reader page, clicked on one of my posts, and sure enough,

click post

I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but then this morning I realized that the majority of my traffic comes from other WordPress users. This means that either a) they’re not actually reading the full post and are just clicking on it so I get the view or b) they’re too lazy to click a button. The latter is totally fine–I actually do the same thing. There’s an Organic gardening blog that I’ll only click the link for if I’m super duper curious.

So I think that unless they click that link, I’m not getting the views. This has positives and negatives:

It means that the views I do have are more organic, and thus I kind of know how much of a readership I actually have.

However, it also means that I get a little let down every time I look at my puny view-count.

It’s all a learning experience, but I thought I’d share this particcular experience, seeing as others might want the heads up before upgradeing to Business plans.

Also–this is all theory. I haven’t confirmed that that is in fact the reason my views have gone down. However, it’s the most logical explanation I have so far.

Tarot and Learning a New Language

Since this is language-related and writing-related, I thought I’d share my recent post from my other blog.

On Mondays, I like to do what I unofficially call ‘Monday Musings.’ I write something that’s on my mind about Tarot, which is what my other blog is about. Today’s musing was about how learning Tarot is like learning a new language.

Since I strongly believe that writers really need to pick up a set of divination cards or tools for their writing because it’s shockingly helpful (read Tarot-Inspired Life by Jayme Elford if you don’t believe me. She talks about using Tarot cards and Pendulums for writing), I thought I might stress that point here with this post.

Check out
6 Ways Learning Tarot is Learning a New Language

In spreads, the positions of the cards create the more complicated sentences. They’re what tell you that there are adjectivesadverbssemi-colons, etc. Furthermore, these positions tell you how the sentence fits together using all of these fancy grammatical terms.

Writing Prompt: The Haunted

Every weekend, I create Writing prompts via my Tarot cards. Since this blog has been centered around writing, writers, and higher education, I thought this would be a good place to share this.

You can read all about the writing prompt by following the link after the picture!

This is just the basic 2-Card Writing Prompt today, using a starting situation for Card 1 and a problem, which is Card 2. If you’re here for the first time, I usually do what is called the First Operation to determine the context or… The post Writing Prompt: The Haunted appeared first on Karma Star…

via Writing Prompt: The Haunted — Karma Star Tarot

Lessons Learned from Creating a Writing Challenge

As many of you writers out there who read my blog may know, April was the first 2019 CampNaNoWriMo, a preparation ‘bootcamp’ for November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Because I really believe that the Tarot is a brilliant tool for writing and writers that isn’t utilized nearly enough, I created a challenge around CampNaNoWriMo. I called it the #30DayTarotWritingChallenge. The idea was that each day I would create a Tarot spread for participants to utilize during their writing process. It would correspond to novel structure, character development, world-building, etc.

So 30 days to write a novel, 30 tarot spreads to help the process.

Here’s what I learned in doing this.

1. Plan Ahead

Be sure to map out what you plan to do all the way to the end. Having the beginning is great, but it’s a killer once you get past those first few posts and you realized you didn’t plan past them.

I had actually been thinking of doing a podcast around this idea for a while, and then–all of a sudden–I realized it was March 29th, and that April was just around the corner. I thought–hey, I could do this instead!

With this flash of inspiration, I thought all of about 3 posts ahead and that was it.

This left me struggling along the way to create a plan for the full 30 days along the way, as well as discovering structure as stumbled into the month of April.

2. Prep Ahead

Get as many posts at the very minimum outlined ahead of time. Make it as easy on your future self as possible. If you can, try and get at least 10 posts written ahead of time (if your challenge is meant to go on for long enough, that is). You’ll thank yourself later.

Along with planning ahead, I really needed to prep ahead. Because Tarot spreads are visual, I had to create images to go along with each post. With each Tarot spread came an image that I also needed to be fit for Instagram and Pintrest. In some cases, I made one for each.

While I might have had a good grasp on the content I was creating and what I wanted the spread to cover, it was taking me another hour, at least, to create the image as well. Each post was taking upward of 2.5 hours (not inlcuding the ‘My Accountability’ section, which I’ll get to later). This is fine except that I had other posts that are pre-promised to go on each day, totally three posts a day.

This was really eating up my time.

3. Set Deadlines

It’s really easy to forget or get distracted from a goal if you don’t have deadlines. I found that when I knew that I had a time that I had to meet, I was far more likely to get that post ready and done at that time.

That beings said, remember that no one else actually knows your deadline. I mean, if they’re paying attention and you have a huge following, they might know that your challenge will be posted at 12:20 sharp, but the majority of people aren’t going to clock onto that. So, it’s cool if you’re like, seven minutes late (but eight minutes is really pushing it).

4. Don’t Get Too Ambitious

Make sure that you can fulfil your promise to your audience. Dreaming big is excellent, and never quash that, but make sure you have the ability to do everything you’d like to do in one challenge.

Along side promising to provide these daily Tarot spreads (and having to market them and have them posted by 9:30 every morning so that morning people could get up, do the spread and write–I’m considerate like that), I also made the promise to do the spreads myself and post the results.

HA HA HA HA HA AHA HA AHA HA AAHAAAA AAAAAH AAAAAH HA AHA HA HA HA!

Never mind writing the actual post, it was taking an additional 45 minutes to write out my own spread and post that along with the entry. So, for example, on my World-Building Spread, I was doing the reading and writing how I was going to incorporate it into my story. I had a First Scene Spread where I mapped out my first scene with the Tarot. I had a spread to decide Theme, and so on.

This is fine. I truly believe that I could make this work. Except that I didn’t have time to write my project and create a story along side of this challenge. So that sort of fell apart.

Note: Since finishing the challenge, I’ve started a completely different project, though using this challenge, and it’s worked a treat–having time makes all the difference!

5. But Seriously, Plan Ahead–Research

Give yourself enough time to prepare and plan. Rushing things at the last minute is going to show, unless you’ve got some amazing juice, in which case–market that. I will back you.

My biggest mistake was that I had the idea, thought I could just figure it out as I went, and just dove into it. It resulted in getting up at 5 in the morning to write and have the post ready the day of, and a lot of that time spent was researching what it was I needed to cover that I hadn’t yet.

Part of this too is making a list of your weak points, and preparing for them. I thought that I knew story structure enough to write 30 posts related to it. Turns out I didn’t. So, there was a lot of reading I had to do.

6. Forgive Yourself

Setting a challenge–especially a long challenge (as in more than five days) is really difficult. I personally didn’t realize how difficult it was until I did it. There were days when I didn’t meet my deadline time. There was one day when I let my boss take me out to an open mic night and had a hangover so bad my stomach was bleeding (I did zero posts that day).

Sickness happens. Situations happen. Life happens. And these happenings will delay you.

Forgive yourself when it happens. No one is perfect, and while you might get held to a high standard because your website is awesome, people still recognize that they’re following a person, and that people are not perfect. So forgive yourself, because I promise they will forgive you.

7. Celebrate

When you’re done–give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate. It is not an easy feat, and once you complete it, you should really feel proud of yourself. You’ve done something awesome. It doesn’t matter how many people participated in the challenge or how far it spread, at the end of the day, you set a goal and completed it.

Buy yourself a brownie, or a pineapple, or youknow, whatever treat treats you best.

This challenge was really difficult, but I’m really glad I did it. I really did feel acomplished afterward.


And even though it was difficult, and was so stressful sometimes I thought about just throwing in the towel, I learned a lot from doing it. And in learning so much, I am better prepared for the next one–and yeah, there’s going to be a next one. After all, I think it’s July there’s another CampNaNoWriMo? Either way, I’ll be prepared.

Back-ish

I’ve been a little MIA recently. There’s been lots of reasons for this.

The barebones of what’s been going on is that I’m not longer at Durham. I had some mental health issues that forced me to take a step back from it, at least for now. I won’t dwell on this too much in this post. It’s taken me some 5 months to get myself to write this much regarding uni.

But in the meantime I’ve been working on trying to brand myself in another blog with a Tarot theme. It’s been going well so far. In three months I have oer 200 posts and am climbing in likes.

But I miss writing in this blog, mostly becuase I didn’t feel like I had a very strict theme to stick to. I mean, I do–this was meant to be school centered. But given that I haven’t written in here for so long, I feel like I can probably get away with writing whatever in here at this point–please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Becuase I’m working on branding and trying to make money out of this other website, I’m learning alot along the way, and I want to be able to write about it. So I thought maybe I’d do that here, plus whatever else.

Either way, I’d like to say I’m back, make promises of regular updates and this that and the other, but really, I don’t know. I know that I update my other website three times a day, and that if I can do that here, I’m sure I can crank out regular posts here. But we’ll see.

I’m around, haven’t forgotten about this blog and all you wonderful followers of it. I’m trying not to take on too much becuase right now is just a down time. I have a part time job where I’m lucky to get 10 hours a week, but I live in a situation that doesn’t require me to work more than that…unless I actually want to save money, but that’s a whole other ballgame.

So I’m working on slowing down. Right down. Remembering who I was, re-evaluating who I want to be, and doing Tarot stuff in the meantime.

I’ll keep you posted.