Tag Archives: Poetry

Book News!

16 Nov

Lordy it has been a long time since I’ve blogged.

So we have much catching up to do!

First and foremost, I’m so excited to share that my new poetry book FITTING THE OCEAN IN YOUR MOUTH is now available from Blue Hour. It should be up on their site soon and I have a box full of copies that arrived. If you’re interested in getting one my email is on the about page.

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I’m really excited because working with Blue Hour has been something I wanted to do for a long time and because I think the poems in here are some of my strongest.

Here’s a few excerpts if you’re interested:

and I wonderon such a moonless, starless night,on a stark unholy, un-kissed night,what song is itthat will save our lives-Because tomorrow I will go to the doctorand he will listen to my heartand I will think about dying.Because that is what we think about when someone listens to our heart.Think about the hI cannot think of love as a constant.It must, for me, wax and wane,the way a wave comes to the shore but is still always part of the deep.I have to think of it this way – as somethingI want to know what time I can be awakewhen no one else is, what second of what hour can I find myselfthe only thing fully aware in this world,eyes openin day or darkfeeling the groaning

In other writing related news, I recently published an essay with Drunk In A Midnight Choir. It’s called “Off the Rag: The Story of How I Got Cancer, Lost My Period and Found My Way Back to Womanhood”

Here’s an excerpt:

Rousseau spent a lot of time musing about the body versus the mind. What was the mind? Where did it live? Was it your soul? Was it your brain? He did as men are apt to do and prescribed the mind to be the realm of man. The mind was clean and logical and precise. It calculated and mused and did the sort of things like philosophize about the body vs mind dualism. The body on the other hand was messy, wet, sticky, and damaged. Capable of dying. The body, according to Rousseau, was womanly. He could not keep these two things together.  For Rousseau they were distinct and separate. There was the perfection of the mind trapped in the imperfection of the messy doomed body. The body’s mortality would destroy the mind’s potential immortality.

I wonder sometimes if I ever thought about these things before the cleaving. Before the doctor with the soft voice, before all the needles and blades that would cut me open, scoop me out and sew me back up. Did I spend much time thinking about where the mind lived? Did I consider my body and mind to be one thing that made up what I called woman? This person called Ally? Did I ever even think about it before the hatchet of diagnosis came down and separated the two? Before I became, like Rousseau, a mind trapped in a dying body.

And I also had the pleasure of being the Writer of the Month over at Drunk Monkeys.

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It’s their Trump themed issues so prepare for me having all the feels and the angers.

Speaking of Trump, to all my creatives out there, remember John Grochalski is still going strong with WinedrunkSidewalk: Shipwrecked in Trumpland

If you’ve got images, photos, paintings, rants, essays, poems, whatever you’ve cobbled together send it his way. Putting art into the world during these horrible times is RESISTANCE.

Hit him up at winedrunksidewalk at gmail dot com.

Yesterday was, horrifyingly, Trump’s 300th day in office. On a brighter note it was also the 20th anniversary of my first date with Mr. Grochalski which is crazy. Look at us! BABIES!

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I remember a month or so later when I was home for Christmas I told my mother he was “the one.” She raised a skeptical eyebrow, understandably, I was 20, but I knew the way you know about a good melon.

 

And finally my agent started subbing my novel Palimpsest 44 days ago and my face has basically been like this the whole time.

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Hold me.

Peace, love and Starburts

Ally

 

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Love Wins.

29 Nov

And as November wears down and the final month of this year begins I feel the need to reflect on the few good things that happened this month. Because the rest of it has been pretty goddamn awful with no end in sight.

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photo courtesy John Grochalski

1. Some horrible person spray painted a swastika on playground with the words “Go Trump” in Adam Yauch’s (MCA from the Beastie Boys) park in Brooklyn Heights. So basically the whole borough came out to prove that we won’t tolerate hate.

Brooklyn is awesome like that.

This is a video from youtube because mine sucked and my battery died half way through. Also I’m short so you couldn’t see anything but heads and jackets.

I couldn’t find a video for Borough President Eric Adams which stinks cause his speech was really fantastic and moving BUT City Council Member Brad Lander went old school with the people’s mic which was pretty sweet.

 

It felt good to be there, surrounded by people who will give up their Sunday morning to stand in the freezing cold (and it was COLD) and link arms and cheer and shout and sing together. We sang the National Anthem because as I said before – the fascists that voted him in – they don’t own the word Patriot. This is what Patriots do. We fight and we protest and we stand up for each other and we hold our country up to a higher standard.

2.  Another really cool thing that happened this month is that I was invited onto Talk with ME, Marcia Epstein’s incredible radio show. I got hooked up with this show through Wolfgang Carstens who recently published a chapbook of mine – I’ll Be So Still You Won’t Even Notice Me. I was incredibly honored to be included in the series and to have this opportunity to be on the show. Over the course of an hour we talked about a lot of different things including my ridiculous writing schedule (4:45 am, folks) and the importance of art in times of difficulty; about cancer and mental health; we read some poems;  talked about Life and Death and the Universe and Empathy and Compassion and really How Goddamn Beautiful This World Really Is.

At the end of the hour I started to describe this image I had seen online, a drawing of Snoopy and Charlie Brown sitting on a dock.snoopy

After I described it, Marcia started to laugh with that really beautiful deep throat, throw your head back laugh that she’s got and she tells me that Wolfgang actually made that.

Of course. Full Circle. Everything just keeps coming round and round. It was one of those moments where everything felt magical.

You can listen to the whole thing here:

 

3. And the most absolutely wonderful thing that happened this month is that I had the sacred honor of standing witness as my best friend Dan married the love of his life at City Hall.

This was really important to me because I have known him for a long time. And when I say, a long time, I mean, a LONG TIME

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Always with the snot, Malinenko

My most heartfelt congratulations to you, Dan and Adrian. May you be as happy every day as you were today. It was truly a sacred honor to bear witness.

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And now, comes December and Christmas and New Years and then 2017 and whatever it brings. We’ve got to take care of each other. We are, after all, all we’ve got. It’s just us sitting on this pale blue dot in all that nothingness.

If you have the money, please donate to causes that need it, that will fight for the people who are the most vulnerable. Do what you can.

In January I will be going to the 1 Million Women’s March on Washington. Come stand with me, with your partners and your children and protect our rights, our health, our safety and our families. I hope to see you there.

 

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Gratitude

8 Oct

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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.

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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:

GRATITUDE.

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

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

A post shared by Mike Geffner's Inspired Word (@inspiredwordnyc) on

 

Peace love and Starbursts,

Ally

Books, readings, poetry, oh my

3 Oct

Oof.

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.

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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.

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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.

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(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,

Ally

 

 

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

2 Sep

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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.

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:

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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?

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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.

 

Better Luck Next Year is officially for sale!

1 Aug

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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.

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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,

Ally

 

 

 

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

20 Jul

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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

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I love you guys.

Peace, love and Starbursts,

Ally

 

 

 

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