Summer reading ☀️📚

I love summer for countless reasons. There’s more time to lounge and read, the days grow longer, my birthday falls in the summer. My spirits are always higher in this season — something about the warmth of the sun on my skin, the fireflies lighting up the night.

When I was a kid, summer vacation also meant summer reading, great for an avid reader like me! That’s stayed constant in my life even after school. I’ve already read lots of books this summer, and plan to finish more.

Also, this summer is jam-packed with poetry readings and literary festivals. Here are some upcoming events that I’m super excited about:

 July 28: I’m a featured reader at The Deaf Poets Society’s reading at Bards Alley in Vienna, Va. at 7 p.m. Bards Alley is a brand-new bookstore in the DMV area, and the DPS literary journal has been doing incredible work at offering a space for D/deaf/disabled writers and artists. There are going to be incredible readers, like Camisha Jones, so make sure to come to this one.

Ask Rayceen Show August 2017August 2: As a part of The Ask Rayceen ShowI’m participating in the Authors’ Corner with OutWrite 2017 panelists at the Human Rights Campaign at 7 p.m. There will also be live music, poetry readings, and a burlesque performance.

Queer Enough panel at OutWrite 2017 OutWrite 2017, August 5:

Hope to see you at some (or all!) of these events! Happy summer (reading)!

Poems in Wicked Banshee Press’s The Devil’s Doorbell: Vagina Edition

I have two poems in Wicked Banshee Press’s The Devil’s Doorbell: Vagina Edition, which was published in March. You can now purchase print copies ($10) or the ebook ($2.99), by emailing wickedbansheepress@gmail.com.

I’m honored to be included in this anthology of women, trans women, non-binary, and non-gender conforming writers. We need to talk more about vaginas, periods, and women (in all their forms).

My poems in this edition are “It should be called womenstruate” and “On it II.” In “It should be called womenstruate,” I discuss the history of the word menstruate, and how the prefix makes it seem like a male activity or a male word given to such a female part of life. Through menstruation, women are connected. We seep together. “On it II” is also a history poem, documenting different girls and women who first get their periods or experience different situations while menstruating, some embarrassing, some empowering.

Buy the Vagina Edition of Wicked Banshee Press.

Interview in Wordgathering

I was recently interviewed in Wordgathering’s June issue!

Editor Mike Northen asked great, difficult questions, including: how I see my role as an editor, what I look for when reading poems for District Lit, how literary magazines can be more accessible to all writers/readers, disability science poetry as a genre, and more.

Read the full interview here.

Poems in Daughter Literary Magazine

I’m so excited to have two poems in Daughter’s inaugural issueDaughter, a new literary magazine focusing on sharing the voices of women or female-identifying people, calls itself a lit mag for all women.

The poems included are “This isn’t a poem about motherhood” and “Recipe to reduce pain.”

“This isn’t a poem about motherhood” (pg. 22-23) is about pregnancy when you have chronic pain. “Recipe to reduce pain” (pg. 32-33) lists rituals of self-care, like taking a long, hot epsom salt bath.

Read them here.

Poems in The Deaf Poets Society’s ‘Crips In Space’ issue

I’m over the moon about The Deaf Poets Society’s newest issue, called “Crips In Space,” which includes eight of my poems. The journal, its editors, and these writers/artists are bringing disability and the disabled into the final frontier.

Make sure to read the editor’s note to see how the idea for a #CripsInSpace issue formed. The guest editors for this issue were Alice Wong, a disability rights activist, and Sam de Leve, a writer and wheelchair athlete. They brought important perspectives and ideas to the special issue.

My poems included in “Crips In Space” are:

  • On that one-way trip to Mars
  • Application to NASA
  • Moon, or no moon
  • The martian comes to me
  • A speck of pain
  • I give a cosmic middle finger
  • Aging with the solar system
  • You magnify the universe

Read them all here.

Sharing poetry with scientists and the public

Seven-foot-tall banners of various poems.
Seven-foot-tall banners of various poems.

I had a fantastic time bringing poetry to scientists and the public during today’s Science March in Washington, D.C.

Leading a poetry teach-in for those who write and those who never knew poetry could be science-themed was so fulfilling. And even though it was pouring rain, the weather brought more people into our tent, who ultimately took up a pen and paper to try erasure, writing about insects, or personifying nature, storms, or planets. I’d estimate about 200 people came through the Poets for Science tent during our poetry teach-ins.

Many people stopped by our tent to learn how to write science-themed poetry.
Many people stopped by our tent to learn how to write science-themed poetry.

I want to thank Jane Hirshfield for coming up with this incredible idea, Split This Rock and Sarah Browning for recommending me as one of the workshop leaders, the Wick Poetry Center for their great staff and banners, and all the local poets who led workshops and made this such an incredible event! This was a great space where we made connections between science and poetry — because, truly, the two go hand-in-hand. They are intertwined.

Science is full of images, minute details, precision. And so is poetry. They are both vivid, raw representations of our natural world.

Jane Hirshfield was the mastermind behind Poets For Science. Honored to have met and worked with her.
Jane Hirshfield was the mastermind behind Poets For Science. Honored to have met and worked with her.

For those who couldn’t make it to the Science March or our tent, here are the workshops and poetry banners. Keep writing.

Poets for Science

Posters from Poets for Science of poems paired with images. Photo courtesy of pw.org.
Posters from Poets for Science. Photo courtesy of pw.org.

On Saturday, I’m humbled to be a part of the March for Science in Washington, D.C. Most likely I won’t be marching, due to chronic pain, but I will be participating in another, meaningful way. Through serendipitous chance, I was invited to be a part of the poetry teach-ins that are happening during the day. The incredible poet Jane Hirshfield is the mastermind behind the idea — and I am so grateful to be able to work with her and bring her dream to life. Make sure to read Jane’s poem “On the Fifth Day,” which she will be reading at the rally during the March.

Several local poets and staff from Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center will be leading poetry workshops focusing on insects, personifying storms, climate change, data, and more. The workshops will be from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Mall in the Poets for Science tent. Learn more about the pop-up workshops.

My workshop is Writing the Storm. I’m bringing several poems exploring weather, planets, natural disasters, and how they affect our lives. We’ll use phrases from these poems and from Patricia Smith’s poetry personifying Hurricane Katrina as a jumping off point. All are welcome, including parents and children, and no experience is required.

This opportunity is so dear to my heart because most of my poetry, and some of my prose, focuses on science in some way. I’m obsessed with space. I write about my body and medical issues. I explore the potential future in science/speculative fiction. Science and creative writing go hand in hand. Writers draw from the natural world and the rich images in science.

Jane’s work in forming Poets for Science and our teach-ins were featured in an article on Poets&Writers. Read it to learn more about the seven-foot posters of poetry that will be present at the March, as well as how this came to be. The workshops and poems are also traveling the globe and may be translated and held in satellite marches throughout the world, including the March for Science in Marseilles, France!

Join the conversation throughout the day and share your science-related poems with the hashtag #poetsforscience! Excited to see you there!

‘On that one-way trip to Mars’ reviewed in Beach Sloth

“On that one-way trip to Mars” was reviewed in Beach Sloth. The reviewer writes, “the collection neatly focuses on the sadness that comes from planetary movements from hundreds of years away to the fragile nature of humanity. In a way, it celebrates how far humanity has come in trying to better understand its place in a vast space. The idea behind much of it is how fortunate humanity has been by its sheer existence.”

Beach Sloth understands the overarching vision I had for the book, which I’m so happy has actually been effective and came across for readers. Not only did I want to write a book about myself, my body, one human on Earth in this vast universe, but I also reflected on the fact that Earth is seemingly alone in this vast universe (at least, for now).

“Over the course of Marlena Chertock’s movement from across the solar system the elements of science and of life come into focus … [the poetry] lets the small period of time that defines a human life gain a universal approach,” Beach Sloth writes.

Some of my poems in this collection focus on other life-forms, aliens, finding the Earth after we’re long dead. “Gone will be languages, the aesthetics that defined society, and the way that distance within a single country becomes so small on a galactic scale,” the reviewer writes.

Read the full review here.

‘On that one-way trip to Mars’ reviewed in Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Star*Line

“On that one-way trip to Mars” was reviewed in the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Star*Line by Diane Severson. I’m so honored by this review.

Diane writes, “Not all of the poems are speculative, but even those that are not come from a place which is maybe foreign to many people … There is a physicality to some of these poems, which puts an able-bodied person in a completely unfamiliar universe.”

She explains that my poems “explore how the world is experienced through the physical filter and how others experience and treat someone with Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia.”

Read the full review here.

Giving back to the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House

Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House banner by Jenna Brager
Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House banner by Jenna Brager.

This year I served as the initial judge/reader in poetry for the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House Literary Prize contest. Thank you, Johnna Schmidt, for the opportunity.

Litfest is an annual literary contest and celebration. At the spring ceremony, awards are given out for the top three poems and short stories, honorable mentions, and the Writers’ House seniors graduate and receive certificates. I remember my Litfest fondly.

Four years ago I was graduating from the Writers’ House. And when Johnna announced the winners of that year’s competition, I was so surprised that my poem “An invisible middle” had won first place!

I’m thrilled to pass on some of that excitement to the next Writers’ House generation. It was very special to read almost 100 undergraduate poems as an alumna. Choosing 10 to pass along to the final judge (Ocean Vuong!) was an honor.

It was difficult to decide on the top 10 because many of the poems had great potential, voice, and imagery. I definitely saw a lot of my early writing in some of them.

The results of the 2017 Litfest are being announced this week. And I hope that even if I didn’t choose your poem in the top 10, and even if Ocean Vuong didn’t pick yours for the top winners, you’ll still continue to write. We need emerging poets and short story writers. We need champions of the freedom of expression. I’m getting all sappy because I truly believe in this vital community of writers. The Writers’ House matters — your writing and voice matter. I’m so glad to soon call you my fellow Writers’ House alumni.

This year’s Litfest is Thursday, May 4 at 8 p.m. in St. Mary’s Hall at the University of Maryland. Writers will read from the honorable mentions and top winning poems and stories. And the 2017 Stylus will be unveiled. I’ll see you there.