Already, Yasmin Gunaratnam has written a beautiful review in the Chicago Review of Books. She calls me a space nerd exploring my inner cosmos — and hits it right on the head.
Marlena Chertock, a self-confessed “space nerd” based in Washington, D.C. “I don’t need you/landing your probes or rovers/or feet on me. I exist without/being catalogued”, declares Chertock from the perspective of the feisty, fiery HD 189733b. Having lived with disability and chronic pain throughout her twenty-five years, Chertock knows about the intrusions of being categorized, probed, and investigated.
Voyaging between her daily life and science, bridging and entangling elements of both, Crumb-sized subverts—or ‘crips’ in the terminology of disability theorists—the putting in place of people with disabilities. Chertock’s particular gift is to play with scale, trying by turns to nudge and push at and ultimately to scatter perspective. You come away enchanted, unsettled, and a little dizzy.
I’m so excited to share my second collection of poetry with you. Crumb-sizedis being published by Unnamed Press in August — my birthday month!
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to share another collection of poems with you, and so soon after my first was published.
Crumb-sized is tired of being called short. These poems explore life with a rare bone disorder. They use natural imagery to quantify pain better than the 1 to 10 scale. This is a book about overcoming the challenges you are born with.
Please pre-order Crumb-sized, since each order ensures the book will be successful. And review it on Goodreads or Amazon. Read it on the beach or a road trip. Tell all your friends!
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 email@example.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.
I’m so excited to have two poems in Daughter’s inaugural issue. Daughter, 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.
“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.
I have a few new poems in the Tiny Tim Literary Review, a journal dedicated to normalizing chronically ill/disability narratives and humanizing medical professionals. This is such a necessary journal, and I’m so glad to be seeing more like it in the past few years.
My poem Rikkud is about Israeli folk dancing with pain at summer camp. That’s where the above excerpt comes from. Rikkud was a magical evening where all of the campers and counselors at my summer camp gathered on the dimly lit, cracked basketball court, running and stepping in movements our ancestors might have made. It was a place I felt more Jewish than Hebrew school, than synagogue. Something about the actions connecting me to others, to the past.
I wrote tinnitus in a very different form than I normally write. I have tinnitus, and wanted to give it a more distancing/prescription sort of tone, while still having the poem be accessible to those who don’t constantly hear ringing in their ears.
A few of the other poems were previously published in The Deaf Poets Society and Noble/Gas Quarterly.
Ilana is just a typical seventh grade girl. She buys $1 lipsticks at the store with her friends and spends most of her day in school. She “was a little scared that she’d splutter and bubble on her way to becoming a woman,” but it doesn’t seem as dramatic as her older cousins have made it seem.
It was routine to bleed through all seven class periods for seven days. Until Paul told Ilana periods smelled.
Ilana has to face Paul’s comment, determine if she’s changing irreparably like tossing salt on a slug, or if she’s really able to stay the same while growing up. Read on in “Ilana and the science experiment” published in Crack the Spine.
Noble/Gas Quarterly published three of my poems today in their 203.4 issue. I’m honored to be included with so many other great writers.
“Application to NASA” is a retelling of my previous poem “On that one-way trip to Mars.” It’s my way of calling NASA out for its height restrictions, of blaming my bone disorder from keeping me from the stars (even though I didn’t actually major in a STEM field or take any path to flight school). These poems are my version of reckoning with the limitations my body and imperfect bones place on me.
“I am rotting log of wood” uses natural imagery from forests and trees as another way to understand my body. Trees are often seen as strong, immovable — but cut inside and you’ll see rings with more information. Tree rings show times of drought, temperature, moisture in the atmosphere, and growth the tree endured. I’ve always felt a connection and respect for trees. So I used an extended metaphor of a rotting log of wood as my cartilage-deficient body in a forest full of able-bodies.
“Harriet Tubman was disabled” tries to do justice to the amazing Harriet Tubman. Not only did she lead over 300 slaves to freedom, but she did so with a traumatic head injury. This is something we don’t learn when reading history books about her story. I actively work to keep disabled/chronic/invisible illness voices from being erased. This poem is one of my attempts.
Today, Calamus Journalpublished my poem “The martian comes to me” in their second issue.
I’m always honored when my poems are accepted for publication in new journals. When a literary journal is just starting up, it’s a magical time. There’s so much possibility, so much slush pile to read through, so much that could go wrong.
When an editor (really, a person who truly believes in literature/poetry/voices/sharing writing, really, just a person) decides to start up a lit mag, it’s no small feat. I’m always impressed by new lit mags starting up and thriving, trying to make themselves heard and create a strong space for good writing, or even failing. It’s an impressive accomplishment to create a lit mag — so thank you, Eric Cline and Trevor Richardson, for sharing your new literary magic with me.
This poem was a fun reflection on transportation, and what another lifeform might think of our messy traffic and the ways we get around.
🚄 It starts on a subway in Paris.
🚌 Moves to a bus in Chile.
🚢 Sinks into depths in a German submarine.
✈️ Takes off in an American airplane.
🚀 All for the martian to find the method of commuting that reminds her most of her spaceship. To find out more about transportation and herself.