Strange Magic

Get your Kate Bush fired up, folks, because Secret Project #1 has arrived:

GRIMOIRE

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Grimoire is an online literary journal for the witchy, the weird, and the darkly inclined. A journal where I am, in fact, an editor, along with my companions Jessica Berger and Brooke Wonders. We’re publishing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, of course, but also literary séances (here is mine with the love of my heart, Shirley Jackson) spells that read like poems, and interpretations of your dreams brought to you by staff witches and the wisdom of Billy Bing. Send us your darlings! We promise to treat them nicely. Well, mostly nicely. We’ll cradle them gently in our arms, and only give them to the fairies after a high level of negotiation. (Kidding. Mostly.)

We’ve had a great reception so far– and how could we not, with gorgeous dark, swirling visuals by the incredible Brittany Schall to herald amazing poems by  Cassandra de Alba, Alec Hershman, Philip Matthews, Kerri Webster, Emily Paige Wilson, twisted eerie fiction by Kodiak Julian and Meghan Lamb, nonfiction about SLENDERMAN (!) by Megan Milks, and an excellent interview with Anna Biller about her film The Love Witch. Brooke, Jessica, and I are all really excited about this new venture, and we hope you all enjoy it.

As for Secret Project #2, well, it’s coming along:

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I’ve made 14 charcoal drawings for it and 53 individual watercolor playing cards. It’s been wonderful to get back into making visual art again, and the work of my collaborators has been amazing. I can’t wait to share it with you in its final form.

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That’s enough teasing for now. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek for those of you who are interested.

As for the rest of my life: dissertation leave has been wonderful. I just got back from a month at Vermont Studio Center, and, I have to say, I think it was one of the happiest and most healing months I’ve ever spent. I wrote a great deal, met some incredible writers and artists (who also happen to be incredible human beings), and got to see things like this:

13754339_10101646167554034_1800099961246859015_nMount Mansfield, the tallest peak in Vermont

and this:

13686599_10101642042490694_733688960209612498_nBread and Puppet Museum 

13709945_10101653288264074_681219558973381551_nBread and Puppet Theater Performance

I also found a scrying mirror and many other wonderful things at the Museum of Everyday Life:

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and I also explored this place, on the VSC property:13600220_10101636233486984_2465251135168813737_nA ghost hangout.

When I had my Vermont Studio center portrait taken, I told the photographer, Howard Romero, that I was writing about ghosts and wanted my picture to look “spectral.” This is what happened:

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I was very pleased.

Speaking of ghosts, it’s been a good few months for ghost poems. My poem “Ghost Encounter,” that won honorable mention in Boulevard‘s Emerging Writers contest, was featured on Verse Daily last week. Willow Springs was kind enough to publish my poems “Witch Doctrine” and “Dear Ghost,” and to let me talk about bears and carnivorous birds. Indiana Review published my poem “Ghost to Apprentice” in their killer ghost-themed issue, and my poem “Witch Questions the So-Called Higher Power” was a finalist in their poetry contest this year. I was also a finalist for AWP’s WC&C scholarship. If you want to read an essay where I talk about why people want to believe in crazy things, check out The Coelacanths We Want to Believe on Superstition Review’s blog. Pretty soon, new ghost poems will also be appearing in Third Coast and The Adroit Journal as well, so keep an eye out for those if you’re so inclined. The ghosts enjoy the attention.

I hope the end of summer is going as slowly as you wish.

With spectral love,

Annah

 

 

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Still Here: An Update Regarding Poems, Madwomen, Painting and Opera

Hello friends in the void,

It’s been a long time since I posted an update. It’s been a tough and surprising two years, but I’m still here: still writing weird poems and blog posts; still teaching undergrads about poetry, literature and the ethical questions surrounding contemporary funeral practices and the treatment of the dead; still reading odd books and getting way too into Halloween decorations.

I am now officially a Ph.D. candidate in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois-Chicago. I passed both my preliminary exams and my dissertation prospectus defense, which means that all I have left to do now to complete the degree is to finish writing the book of poems I have been cooking since the publication of The Marriage. As much as I’ve deeply enjoyed locking myself away to study and write about Emily Dickinson, Gothic literature, poetry, and aesthetics, it’s exciting to return to sharing the poetry I’ve been writing.

On that end, a few pieces of my writing have trickled out in the past two years. Though you can’t read them online, two poems of mine, both featuring alligators and one the horrors of a wedding reception, were in The Chattahoochee Review‘s Volume 33.2-3. I was thrilled when Painted Bride Quarterly published this poem of mine, which one friend generously described as “sexy,” in their 89th issue: http://pbq.drexel.edu/annah-browning-taken/

I also wrote another guest blog post for Superstition Review: an meditation on madwomen in literature, featuring my deep and abiding love for Shirley Jackson, Emily Dickinson, and Sylvia Plath, which you can read here : https://blog.superstitionreview.asu.edu/2015/01/29/annah-browning/  It addresses a lot of the things I’ve been writing about in my critical and creative work in the last two years, and I’m particularly proud of it. The new poems are all female speakers, of both human and non-human varieties, and feature ghosts, widows, madwomen, and a lot of witches.

Speaking of the new creative work– I’m really excited to announce that one of these new Gothically-inflected poems, “Ghost Encounter,” has been chosen as an honorable mention in Boulevard‘s Emerging Writers Contest: http://www.boulevardmagazine.org/poetry-contest.html It’ll be coming out in the Spring 2016 issue.

I’m also involved in a Secret Art Project, the nature of which will remain secret, except to say that it involves both my writing and my painting, and the collaboration of some of my smartest and most diabolically creative friends. Here is a watercolor of mine that will probably not end up the final project. It’s called “The Fear of Being Forgotten.”

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In the words of that 80s song– don’t you forget about me…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdqoNKCCt7A

To wash that song out of your mind, here is one of my favorite pieces of opera– “Va Tosca: Te Deum,” from Puccini’s Tosca, which I was lucky enough to see a stellar performance of this past season at Chicago’s Lyric Opera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3lPxwct2sk If you live in Chicago and have a student ID, did you know that you can get $25 tickets for really amazing seats to the opera? Check it out here: https://www.lyricopera.org/next/ My friend Ekaterina (Katya) Kulik, fellow writer and one of encyclopedic knowledge of all things opera, started taking me to the opera with her a couple of years ago, and it has become one of my new favorite things in the world.

You should also check out her hilarious and wonderful blog, Mice Notes, in which she draws comics of mice with crushes on humans such as Eric Owens (opera singer) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock actor): https://micenotes.wordpress.com/  She also paints art masterpieces with all-mouse casts to delightful and stunning effects in a series called Everything is Better with Mice. She did this Fuseli one for me at my request: https://micenotes.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/everything-is-better-with-mice-19/

I hope you are all doing well out there in the world in your endeavors. Hopefully there will be more to share soon.

With love,

Annah

Excitement!

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(Another exciting occurrence: the hawk– or is it a falcon?– that visited my office windowsill a few weeks ago.)

I’m very excited to be able to announce that my poem “On Hearing a Childhood Playmate Is on Death Row, Early Spring,” has been chosen by Michael Dickman as the winner of Blue Mesa Review’s 2013 poetry contest! I’m doubly thrilled and honored that my friend Alec Hershman’s poem “Even a Glacier is a Rolling Thing” placed second in the same contest. Our poems will appear together in the next issue of the Blue Mesa Review, set to launch December 6th. You can read the official announcement here: http://bluemesareview.org/2013-summer-contest-winners/

That’s all for now, friends! I hope all is well with you in your worlds.

Annah

A Gator and Some News

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(A gift for you: Casper “Ghost of the Swamp” Gator, from an alligator theme park I visited with my niece and nephew in Myrtle Beach this summer.)

Hello friends!
I hope all is well with you in your parts of the world. Here’s a little update on what’s been going on with me, writing-wise:

That’s enough silly stuff about me for now, friends. On to more important things– like the new Neko Case album that came out today, which is beautiful and tough and sorrowful and funny, and you should check it out if you like things like that: http://www.anti.com/artists/neko-case/

Take care of yourselves, wherever you are.

Happy fall,

Annah

Happy News!

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Above: collage by Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier

As if by magic– I post a blog about a chapbook I’d like to have published, and then it happens!

The wonderful folks at Horse Less Press are including The Marriage in their 2013 chapbook line-up, and I couldn’t be more delighted. You should buy all of their books (not just mine when it comes out!) because they are beautiful and totally worth your time. I’m including here the link to their official announcement ( http://horselesspress.com/2013/02/10/coming-in-2013-annah-brownings-the-marriage/ ), which is excellent not only in its glad tidings, but also in its picture of Isabella Rossellini as a snail. When I have more details I’ll let you know, but in the meantime, here is a video of Isabella Rossellini as a snail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xyI292Hy_o (I think she may win the casting war after all! Sorry, Tilda.)

The Next Big Thing

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Above: Diane Arbus’ sword swallower.

So Sacha Siskonen, my dear friend and a wonderful writer, has tagged me in this self-interview  project called The Next Big Thing that’s been making the rounds on the writerly part of the internet. The idea is for people to answer questions about their various writing projects. I highly recommend clicking around and reading a few; the casting question alone gets some fun answers. You can read Sacha’s (much wittier!) answers to the questions here: https://saskatchewanreview.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/the-next-big-thing/. Below, find my own ramblings about the chapbook I just completed.

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What is the working title of the book?

The working title of my chapbook is The Marriage. It’s named after this poem ( http://anti-poetry.com/browningan3/ ) which seems to be the piece that most captures the spirit of the thing.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The narrative arc of the book I found in retrospect. When I was shuffling through the stacks of papers where my poems spend most of their time, I noticed that several of them liked to lie on the floor next to each other. They seemed to want to go together. The next thing I knew, I had a group of poems that traced the dissolution of a romantic relationship.  They also happened to follow a female narrator’s damaged psyche and changing relationship to herself over time in the context of that aftermath. And then I thought, “well, how about that,” as my grandmother likes to say.

What genre does your book fall under?

Oh, certainly poetry.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Tilda Swinton plays everybody, even the animals. It’s the only way. Or Isabella Rossellini. She’s already good at the whole playing animals thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9wRxW7v1LA

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

 A woman gets married, gets un-married, and goes on a very long walk to some very strange places, some of which may not exist in reality.

 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

 I wrote the first poems that would become The Marriage back in early 2011, and the last I completed this December. That makes it about two years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve admired Shirley Jackson’s unstable narrators for a long time. You know that they’re seeing the world wrongly because they’re in pain and possibly mentally ill, but they’re also funny and wise and wry by turns. I’m thinking in particular of Mary Katherine Blackwood in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. You sympathize with her even as you find her totally chilling.

I also went through a period where I read a lot of Russian folktales in which terrible things happen for no good reason in frosty landscapes, so there’s also that.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?

 One poem recasts a scene from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Another poem is written from inside a diorama of early humans at the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Another poem begins with a modified quotation from Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit.  (PSA: It’s about time people stop vilifying Yoko.)

Oysters, starlings, and murderers all make cameo appearances.

Will your book be self-published or presented by an agency?

I’ll keep you posted!

My tagged writers:

Hey guys, you’re it–

Philip Matthews: twitter.com/philiplm26.

David Dunn: consortiumofthecurious.worpress.com

Most my writer friends have either already answered the questions or don’t have or want a blogging apparatus, so my ripple is small. If any of my writing people out there decide that you want to try this out, just let me know and I’ll be happy to tag you!

A New Year

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Hello friends!

When I set up this site, perhaps I suffered from an excess in ambition as to the frequency of my posts. Chicago is still a wondrous place, and it keeps me quite busy. However! I resolve that I will try to update more often in this year than I did in the last one. (Small goals!)

In the past year, I was fortunate enough to read at the glorious release party of Anobium Volume 2 (http://anobiumlit.com/) and to participate in the lovely local Chicago reading series Ipsento (formerly Bang Bang) and Wit Rabbit (http://www.witrabbitreads.com/). All of the folks who run these literary machines are wonderful, and you should buy their books and go to their readings and support them.

In other writing-related news, I was nominated by Anti- for the Best of the Net anthology, and I have new poems up at The Superstition Review (http://superstitionreview.asu.edu/issue10/poetry/annahbrowning) and more coming soon through the kind people at Transom and Vinyl.

Oh, and I promised you strange pictures once, didn’t I? Over Thanksgiving, I went with my family to that most upstate of South Carolinian holiday traditions, Hollywild Animal Park’s Christmas lights. Basically, you get to drive your car through a giant field of Christmas lights and feed deer, cows, zebras, emus, and whatever other free-range oddities of the kingdom happen to be running through. I took a picture of these sweethearts there. There’s nothing like those eyes, is there? The one in the front was really hopeful that I had something else in my hand.

I hope that your new years are filled with all the things that you want, and all the things you didn’t know you needed.

–Annah

Goats, Etc.

Carl Sandburg's Goats

I’m not a huge fan of Carl Sandburg, but I did enjoy meeting the descendants of his goats once. So here they are. This place exists on the internet now so that I might regale you (hypothetical reader) with pictures of animals, links to poems and other oddities. So, hello there, stranger.