We sat down with some of the Poets featured in our most recent issue to talk with them about their writing inspiration, how they feel their work "embodied" our theme, and what their creative resolutions are for 2023. Read on to learn more about Eben E. B. Bein, author of "Umbilical Cord Obit", Molly Zhu, author of "Great American Poem", Alison Lubar, author of "Prayer For Rebirth", and Evelyn Berry, author of "Yes I've Seen The Future & I Promise I'm Still Alive,". And be sure to check out their work in Vol 8: Embodiment!
Eben E. B. Bein: I was taking class with my teacher and friend Chen Chen and he gave us some excerpts from Victoria Chang's Obit to read and then invited us to write an obit to something. I'd been deep in work on a collection about parent-child estrangement, healing, and love. Something about the prompt tapped into a deep mourning in me – I just started crying silently in class and followed the pain toward the connection and the point of rupture.
Molly Zhu: I think writing about your memories is a form of self preservation and self definition. It gives you power to decide how you want your story to be remembered, irrespective of any factual bases. There's a lot of baggage that I realize I carry about growing up as an Asian American girl, often in white spaces. I'm learning to deal with my memories of being a peripheral object, instead of the center. Writing this poem is about that: bringing the margins to the forefront.
Alison Lubar: ‘Prayer for Rebirth’ originally was two poems, drafted in the same workshop. After considering their connection, as a before/after/before/after, I decided to pair them. There's also a sense of forward motion, through time (and space), from being interred, in a sense, to rising like the dawn. And not just any dawn – a fiery, expansive one.
Evelyn Berry: In early 2022, I committed to writing an ekphrastic response to every card in the tarot. I wrote 78 poems in 78 days. Through this writing practice, I began to write more consistently, and I moved closer to being able to write about myself during a time of gender transition. I was having trouble writing about being trans, even though it was arguably the part of my life most commonly on my mind in 2022. Eventually, small sparks of that self, that liminal experience of physical transformation, began to show in the poems. When I finished the project, I placed all of the poems into a single document. I cut 90% of the lines, remixed the images, and revised until I arrived a final long poem, a culmination of bodily experience over the early months of 2022.
MZ: My poem is about embodying different vignettes from the Asian American experience.
AL: The first part considers the self biologically; I was thinking literally about how the egg I came from existed in my grandmother, too. The second part hints at the fracturing of identity that can happen with trauma, a separation of mind from body, particularly in a dissociative state. This poem offers a rebirth, though, in a completely autogenous way. Kind of like Sailor Moon's transformation sequence! A sense of apotheosis, with thanks to the ocean, of course.
EB: This is a poem not only about gender but also about how gender shapes the body. I wrote this poem during a time of intense physical transformation, especially during the early months of growing breasts. I was struggling to figure out who I would be after transition, but I was trying to find grace for a version of myself in-between one body and another. The poem, inspired by the tarot, seeks to peek into the future & imagine how I might come into myself.
EEBB: It is crazy to think that parents with uteruses and their biological kids are very literally two attached bodies! And that attachment happens deep in our guts that dictate and drive many of the stories our brains tell. I love the idea of this physical embodied analogue for one of the most profound connections humans have.
AL: I'm so proud of my debut chapbook, Philosophers Know Nothing About Love (Thirty West Publishing House, 2022). Putting together the release materials for the special editions opened me up to new pathways of creation, playing around with idea of ekphrastic poetry.
EB: My debut poetry collection Grief Slut was accepted by Sundress Publications. The poem that appears in Fatal Flaw, Vol. 8 is slated to be the final poem in the book!
EEBB: I am most proud of organizing three really wonderful retreats for a small group of poet friends in the Boston area that were so supportive, beautiful, and productive.
MZ: My chapbook, because I have never spent so much time editing anything in my life.
EB: I have been working on a second novel since 2017, and by now, I'm writing a seventh draft that feels distant from wherever I once started. But I'm determined this year to find a version of the book worthy of submission to literary presses and small publishers.
EEBB: I want to get my first chapbook published, which I'm in the process of pitching now. I also want to bring this collection manuscript on parental estrangement, healing and love the final mile before starting to pitch it.
MZ: I'm interested in writing more experimental poetry, and discovering different poetic "voices".
AL: I have two chaps coming out! One with CLASH! (Mouthfeel Press) and one with Stanchion. I feel incredibly lucky. I'm working on a hybrid project, which is scary but also really exciting. I have a full manuscript subbed out to some places, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
EEBB: I so want my poetry to do what others’ poetry has done for me – be a moment of true intimacy between myself and my reader. That intimacy can be about the joy of playful language, making our minds into a tongue for tasting this life, and about staring together into the maw of our most painful or challenging monsters.
MZ: I hope they step away feeling how I do after I read a phenomenal poem, which is a mix of awe and inspiration.
AL: I hope they take away the idea that, ironically, words in a merely logical sense can't always communicate the fullness of an experience. That can come in seeming contradictions (Walt Whitman!) and interjections. I always "got in trouble" for using too many parentheses in my writing, and now, I love the freedom that I feel using those and brackets in a lot of my poetry. Ambiguity isn't a problem to be solved. And the best thing a good question can do is lead you to an even better (deeper) question. And finally, connection – no one is truly alone in any experience or feeling.
EB: Gender transition is an emotional, physical, and spiritual process, and those going through that major change deserve a little grace.
MZ: My first chapbook is being published by Cordella Press and will be available for purchase this year! Please visit my website: Mollyzhu.com to learn more.
I'm also on Twitter as @theoriginalison – I always post new work, and boost my friends. Community is everything, and there's enough room for all of us.
EEBB: T/IG/FB @beinology | https://ebenbein.wordpress.com/| firstname.lastname@example.org, email me especially if you're in the Boston area.
Eben Bein is a high-school-biology-teacher-turned-climate-justice-educator at the nonprofit Our Climate. He was a 2022 Fellow for the WritingXWriters Workshop, winner of the 2022 Writers Rising Up “Winter Variations” poetry contest, and has published with Fugue Literary, New Ohio Review, Columbia Review, and the like. They are currently completing their first collection about parent-child love and conflict. He lives on Pawtucket land (Cambridge, MA) with some ivy plants that are not dead because his husband remembers to water them.
Molly Zhu is a Chinese American poet and attorney. Her work is about Chinese culture, her family and the things that make her cry. She has been published in Hobart Pulp, the Ghost City Press, and Bodega Magazine, among others. In 2021, she was nominated for a Pushcart prize. She is the winner of the inaugural Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize hosted by the Cordella Press and her first chapbook is forthcoming. To learn more, you can visit MollyZhu.com.
Alison Lubar teaches high school English by day and yoga by night. They are a queer, nonbinary, mixed-race femme whose life work has evolved into bringing mindfulness practices, and sometimes even poetry, to young people. Their work has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Best of the Net, and they're the author of four chapbooks: Philosophers Know Nothing About Love (Thirty West Publishing House, 2022); queer feast (Bottlecap Press, 2022), sweet euphemism (CLASH!, 2023), and it skips a generation (Stanchion, Fall 2023).
Evelyn Berry is a transgender author, editor, & educator. Her poetry chapbook BUGGERY received the 2020 BOOM Chapbook Prize from Bateau Press. She is also the recipient of the Dr. Linda Veldheer Memorial Prize, KAKALAK Poetry Award, Emrys Poetry Prize, Broad River Prize for Prose, and other honors. Her work has appeared in Gigantic Sequins, Beloit Poetry Journal, Raleigh Review, beestung, Taco Bell Quarterly, and elsewhere. She lives in South Carolina, where she eats too much queso.
We sat down with some of the Nonfiction writers and Visual Artists featured in our most recent issue to talk with them about the inspiration behind their work, how they feel it "embodied" our theme, and what they are most proud of in their past year of creating. Read on to learn more about Annie Marhefka, Tom Chambers, Lori Jakiela, Aluu Prosper, and Jade R.