Goodbye, My Girl

13 Oct


“When they built you, they broke the mold” – Bruce Springsteen

Goodbye, my June.

You were my very best friend and I am heart broken.

May 2, 1999 – Oct. 12, 2016


8 Oct



Last night I had the honor – and it was was truly that – of being a part of PinkSpeak – a fundraiser held by Mike Geffner of Inspired Word in which all proceeds goes to Pink Daisy, a site dedicated to helping young women with cancer cope with the daily obstacles of life.

It was an amazing night full of incredibly talented people and to have the opportunity to not only hear their stories but to also share mine – to stitches our stories together, to bouy each other up mattered.

When Better Luck Next Year first came out, I had a reading in Pittsburgh for the launch. During the end, I felt that familiar frog in my throat and I got upset. Not like sobbing or anything but you know, talking got a little hard.

I was upset with myself for doing that. I though it was “unprofessional.”

So this time, I swore I wasn’t going to. I was going to have some level of detachment from this material. I was going to be professional. I was an artist, dammit. Act like it.

Anyone who knows me knows that basically you just have to fingernail scratch the surface of me before you hit all the FEELS. It’s just how I’m built. I used to feel bad about it like I couldn’t hold my shit together but there is power in being this emotional. For one, it makes me incredibly empathetic. I would say empathetic to a fault but I don’t believe you can be. It makes you see the world differently.

So when I got nearly to the end of the reading last night and then felt that familiar catch in my throat and that pinprick at my eyes, I was disappointed with myself. I had come so close and still didn’t pull it off.


And then I realized something.

I was getting upset because I was sad or scared or angry.

I wasn’t upset because of cancer.

I was upset because I was overcome with GRATITUDE.

Gratitude that I was able to stand on that stage with so many talented artists and knit my story into theirs, creating a web by which we will all carry each other through this fire.

Gratitude that I’m here now, still standing, with my unflappable love of this life and this universe and all of us.

Gratitude to my old friends and new friends who joined me that night, who were there watching me be as raw as I could be and saying, “It’s all good, girl.”

Gratitude to everyone in the audience and everyone else who couldn’t come but donated so much that Mike posted this this morning:


So thank you all, from the bottom of deeply overwhelmed, emotional, gushing heart.

#nycpoet Ally Malinenko @ #pinkspeak #breastcancerawarenessmonth #breastcancer #nycfundraiser #inspiredwordnyc #thepinkdaisyproject

A video posted by Mike Geffner's Inspired Word (@inspiredwordnyc) on


Peace love and Starbursts,


Books, readings, poetry, oh my

3 Oct


How the hell is it already October?

It’s this election, guys. It’s killing me slowly.

Speaking of I just spent a week in DC which deserves its own post but I have to say it was both amazing and surreal and sad to be there now. At one point I was standing in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, in the Presidential room, looking at that history, for all its good and bad, and the legacy of men who have lead this country and was struck stone cold sober with the notion that that bloviating noxious man child is a possibility.

That said, this happened after I left. Snicker. Snicker.


But before DC, I have a few updates to share.

First and foremost I’m doing a reading on Friday at the Parkside Lounge for PinkSpeak.


More information can be found here.

Featured Artists:

Storyteller/Poet Phillip Giambri aka The Ancient Mariner

Singer/Songwriter Samantha Leon

Poet Keisha-Gaye Anderson

Singer/Songwriter Taylor Tucker

Poet Wynne Henry

Spoken Word Artist/Poet Scott Raven

Poet Dara Kalima

Singer/Songwriter Matt Wiffen & His Band

Poet Ally Malinenko

Singer/Songwriter Natatia Allison

Poet John Grochalski

Hosted by Jenny Saldaña.

It’s gonna be a good night, with a good cause so come join us for some beers, some poems, some songs as we hoist a pint and offer a hearty Fuck You to cancer.

If you’re in town and can come, awesome. If not you can still donate to a really great cause that helps young women with cancer. Cause we need all the help we can get.

I’m also really excited to say that my new chapbook, I’ll Be So Still You Won’t Even Notice Me is available now via Epic Rites press. It’s part of Epic Rite’s Punk Chapbook series where in you can get 12 books for $40 and that’s a pretty sweet deal. The package includes yours truly hooked up with some of her favorites, including William Taylor Jr, James Duncan and Janne Karlsson as well as a whole host of awesome writers.


(I’m scheduled to do another reading in November at Parkside at which I will have copies available too. More on that later.)

Also I’m excited to be included in Janne Karlsson’s anthology the Bones of Nirvana. Janne did the fantastic artwork for all the punk chapbooks from Epic Rites. He’s super talented and for Bones of Nirvana, he’s illustrated every poem in the collection. Needless to say I was floored when I saw mine. Now I know how comic book writers feel. Art making words better. I’ll share when that’s available too.

And finally I just want to say thank you to Brooklyn Poets who posted not only a poem with audio track (in other news I hate my voice) but also an interview.  I was honored to be their poet of the week!

DC Trip post coming soon…….

ETA: I completely forgot to thank Red Fez and Drunk Monkeys for their Best of the Net nominations for my poems “Better Luck Next Year” and “While David Bowie was Dying

Peace, love and starbursts,




Van Gogh Painted the Sky Last: Thoughts on John Grochalski’s Winedrunk Sidewalk

2 Sep


So that’s a photo of a van Gogh painting that hung in the recent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new location, MET BRUER, called Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.

The whole exhibit was really fantastic but this painting really floored me.

Because van Gogh painted the sky last.


Something about this strikes me as counter-intuitive. I mean, sky’s are a pretty integral and magical part of the man’s work.

and of course:

unnamed (1)

This got me thinking about artist process. How did van Gogh paint? How did Beethoven compose? How does art get made? And is there a right or a wrong way to do it?

I know how I do it.

I get up every morning at quarter to five and I write until it’s time to get ready for work. I do this five days a week, taking weekends (and of course vacations) off. This is also the schedule that John Grochalski keeps. In fact I got my schedule from him, and not just because he sleeps next to me in bed.

John decided that if he was ever going to get any real writing done he needed to make sacrifices and the sacrifice he chose was sleep. I thought he was crazy and watched for years as he pulled himself out of bed each morning and made something out of nothing.

Then I saw all the something he made.

See that pile there next to the computer?


That’s a lot of poems.

Eventually I joined him.

In conjunction with this schedule, he created a blog called Winedrunk Sidewalk in 2008. He vowed to write a poem a day.

Every day.

And (with a handful of exceptions) he did.

For nearly 10 years.

This week John informed me he was done with Winedrunk Sidewalk, that it no longer served in the way it was supposed to. As he said on his final post:

But I soon developed WineDrunk into a poetry site, mostly to keep me writing regularly. I think I’ve achieved that. And it’s been really wonderful to have had people read and comment on the blog. I think of WineDrunk as a fine piece of digital art. But this year I’ve gotten rather restless with the whole thing. Concentrating on writing a novel while revising another novel lead to a lot of frustration on my part in having to post a poem daily and to try and have that poem at least maintain some quality, some shred of artistic value.

8 years. A poem a day. That is nearly 3,000 poems. Three thousand times that he crafted something from nothing and while the poems themselves are art, the blog, as a whole is also art. A testimony to the process of making art.

So how exactly does one make art? Pretty much everyone in the world has an opinion on that.

If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not “inspired.” … And the weird thing is that six months later, or a year later, you’re going to look back and you’re not going to remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written. – Neil Gaiman

Solid advice but is that true for poets too? Should they only write when inspired? What constitutes inspired? What’s the difference between that and procrastinating? I know so many talented people who want to make art but don’t because they don’t make time or because the only wait until they are inspired. Is that better? Is the art better?

What makes you a good writer? What is the proper mix?

Much has been written about this. Charts have been rendered. Famous writer’s brains have been picked clean.

In the end, everyone’s routine is different but one thing seems abundantly clear. Without a routine, there’s no work. Without work, there’s no art.

Three thousand poems is an impressive feat and putting yourself out there every day takes real guts.

Everyone is going to find their own routine. Those that write every day might find the same kind of magic and frustration that John found creating Winedrunk Sidewalk. It’s never going to be perfect but it will always be true.

Sometimes we paint the sky last.

Sometimes we write a poem every single day for nearly a decade.

Either way, we make something from nothing.

Rest in peace, Winedrunk. You done good.


Boys Don’t Cry: Sexism and Gender Representation in Publishing

15 Aug

I love reading to my niece. It’s one of my favorite things to do and last time I was at her house she picked a new book.


It is the story of Duncan’s crayons who previously quit due to what they saw as unfair practices by Duncan. In this the crayon’s are all returning with tales of their adventures. We had a blast reading it until we got towards the end and I cringed. All the crayons in this book are clearly boys or otherwise ungendered. There is one exception.

Wait for it……




The unused pink crayon. OF COURSE.


In the pink crayon’s letter to Duncan she calls herself a “girl’s color” and laments the fact that Duncan has only used her once. Then she congratulates Duncan’s little sister for doing a good job of staying in the lines. Cause, you know, that’s what good little girls do.

They behave.

This is all highlighted in a really amazing article about children’s books on the Washington Post the other day. The whole thing is worth a read but the gist of it is that there a significant lack of girl representation in picture books, and that when there is, they are incredible sexist. The fact that publishing, on the whole, has a significant gender problem.

That J.K. Rowling has no middle initial but they gave her one so they could use just initials because how else were they going to sell a book to boys written by – *gasp* –  a woman!

I thought back to some of my favorite stories growing up and sure, I had Meg in Wrinkle in Time but her utter lack of self-confidence made her more of a pawn in her own story than anything else. In fact it is only through Calvin’s constant affirmations that she overcomes her insecurity. The boy tells her she can do it. So she believes it.

When I first decided to write a story about the last living descendant of Shakespeare, my main character was a boy.

I remember standing in the kitchen talking to my husband as he made dinner about my idea about this boy and his muse named Jonathan and how I wanted to incorporate Shakespare and Greek mythology when he looked at me and said, “Honey, why would you make your main character a boy? Why wouldn’t you make it a girl?”

It took someone else pointing it out before I realized that I had internalized that idea that the Hero is a Boy. So even as  a girl reader who grew up into a woman writer, I still initially went with a boy.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with this:


and not this:


But if my neice grows up to be a writer it will be different for her. I certainly hope so.  All the same, feminism fail, Ally.

But I didn’t forget that when I started my next book, This Is Sarah. The story started out as a ghost story – a boy haunted by his dead girlfriend and then warped into something very different – a boy broken by his girlfriend’s disappearance.

To Colin, I gave distinctly  “non-masculine” if not “feminine” traits:

  • He’s was very into his relationship with Sarah, to the point that he alienated friends.
  • She’s basically all he cares about.
  • He cries. A lot. Sobs really
  • He needs to see a therapist because he’s falling apart
  • He gets hysterical
  • And he fails the Bechdel test every single time.

He is raw and tender….traits that are steroetypically female but in actuality, as Wendi pointed out, typically human.

And as Jennie Yabroff said in her Washington Post piece:

As Monfried says, “When we read our children picture books, we’re saying, ‘There’s a world here that will give and give and give for the rest of your life.’ We should want to show our children that anybody can do anything.”

To which I’d add, we should want to show our kids that girls can be anything — and anything can be a girl.

Anything can be a girl. Because ultimately we all laugh and cry and mourn and love in similar ways. Far more similar than they are different.

Peace, love and starbursts,


Better Luck Next Year is officially for sale!

1 Aug


The writer Joanna C Valente said that “A trauma is a funeral for one; there is no one to mourn you but yourself. The coffin is empty, since you are still alive, but you must fill it with something, and that becomes your former self.”

Or it becomes a book of poems.


Better Luck Next Year is officially out and about and available to buy.

And the City Paper wrote a nice review about it saying:

Malinenko’s witty, conversational tone keeps Better Luck from veering into weepy sentimentality. When her speaker describes the sonogram of her tumor, it’s “[l]ike the red spot on Jupiter / a hurricane the size of a planet / here now / inside me” — a brilliant use of simile. When she writes of this news sinking in, “I whisper. Fuck. / The smallest hurricane of a word I know,” it’s powerfully restrained.

The reading last weekend went well. I think. I was pretty nervous and anyone who was there can attest to my incessant shaking. I’ve read poetry plenty of times but never anything as personal or as hard as this. I think I underestimated how hard it was actually going to be. I nearly lost it reading the last poem – the title track Better Luck Next Year – specifically on these lines:


and I took the ribbon pin off my bag

because I am not a warrior

or a survivor

but just a young women trying to live with a disease

Specifically the word warrior. The language that we use to talk about a situation – any situation – reshapes it. It frames people’s experiences. The warrior myth – and it is a myth – turns individuals into an amorphous mass stripping them of their unique experience. If you have “winners” then you, in turn have “losers.” As many obituaries read, people “lose their brave battle.” As if I could will myself into better health. As if it were just up to me. That is without a doubt the most dangerous form of magical thinking I can imagine. And it is an aspect of this experience that I feel most strongly about which is why that little word carried so much power.

In the end, I’m sorry I had to write it – that I ever had a reason to write it – but I’m so glad it exists.

So thanks to Kris and Nathan for all their hard work in turning this into a real live book. And if you do get it and read it and have a second to post your thoughts on Amazon or Goodreads, I would be eternally grateful.

Peace, love and starbursts,





Better Luck Next Year: or How I Learned To Talk About My Boobs

20 Jul BLNY


So in just three days Better Luck Next Year will be out in the world.

As I’ve said before I’m really excited for you guys to meet this book. We’re having a little reading party with Jason Irwin, author of A Blister of Stars and John Grochalski whose new book Wine Clerk is now out. It’s this Saturday in Pittsburgh at the East End Book Exchange at 7pm. If you can make it, very cool.

We’ll talk about my BOOBS. It’ll be fun.

I want to thank Rege at Tribune Review for taking the time to talk to me about the book. You can read that interview here and if you like what you hear check out Littsburgh.

They asked me “What do you hope readers take away from Better Luck Next Year?”

And I said:

“I think the reason anyone writes anything, or reads anything for that matter, is to connect with another person. To put something into the universe that a stranger picks up and says, ‘Yes, I know that! That’s me!’ To cultivate empathy – something we could all use a little more of. Cancer is an incredibly universal disease. You can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who has been affected. But it is also exceedingly isolating. There is a clear demarcation between the life you used to have and the life after diagnosis and it bleeds into nearly every aspect of your existence. So what I tried to do is speak to that as honestly as I could. It was an attempt to dismantle the ‘warrior myth’ and fetizishing of breast cancer. When you scrape away all the ribbons and charity walks you’re left with some very harsh realities. So if there’s anything I hope that people get out of it it would be the ability to speak more honestly about our shared fears and hopes. To speak as honestly as we can about mortality – our own and that of those we love.”

There’s also a few samples of the poems that you’ll find in the book!

And they did a nice spotlight on Jason’s A Blister of Stars and on Low Ghost in general which is an incredible press that I’m so proud to be on.

Or you can listen to what Karina Bush said (a poet that I don’t know, I swear):

“I am impressed by Ally Malinenko, her poems about her experience with cancer are excellent. I think she has a book coming out soon.”

I do! In three days!

(Also that was sent to me by the guy who published her book and did some broadsides for me so I wasn’t like…googling myself, I swear).

This has been a long week. I had back to back appointments, one of which was treatment. While I was there something…happened.

I was bullshitting with my oncologist as he checked my lymph nodes, he got a phone call about another patient. Her numbers were bad. There was discussion about changing her meds. He told the nurse that he needs to see her and to make sure she gets an appointment by tomorrow and that she can’t start the other medication until she comes in. After he got off the phone there was a beat and I could see how distracted he was by this news. Then he just started chatting with me again.

Me, one of his “healthy” ones.

And I realized that in this ugly twisted fabric of terrible luck, there are pockets of good luck and I am in one of those pockets. And I am so thankful.

And then today, my mammo came back clear. And I’m good for six more months.

So I bought myself some starbursts


I love you guys.

Peace, love and Starbursts,





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