Current Events, Holy Wild, Muse in Brief, Poetry & Music

Twice As Much Of Whatever We’ve Become

Twitter increased the character limit of tweets this week, from 140 to a whopping 280.

I have no strong opinions on this, honestly — it was an arbitrary limit dictated by earlier technology which spurred creative work-arounds, but the pure 140-character tweet (without pics, gifs or links) has been dead and gone for quite a while now. Some folks think this spells the end of the platform, but I doubt it.

More to the point is everything Twitter isn’t doing, changes users have been begging for a long time: better handling of abuse and hate speech, the removal of neo-nazis and white supremacists, protection from mobs of trolls and harassers.

Carlos Maza covers the complexities of protecting free speech on social media platforms in a recent Vox video.

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In light of these challenges (and Twitter’s inaction in rising to them with any coherent vision of what meaningful conversation might actually look like), bumping up the character limit to 280 seems largely irrelevant. What will we say in 280 characters that we haven’t learned to say in 140?

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Holy Wild, Muse in Brief, News & Announcements, Poetry & Music

Five New Poems: Evolving Gender and the Mask of Social Media

Masks are everywhere these days… and not just because Halloween is just around the corner. Sometimes we don’t even realize the masks that we’ve been wearing — the patterns and themes and synchronicities that have been lurking behind the mask of random chance in our lives — until someone else points them out to us.

That’s sort of what happened to me when, by sheer coincidence (or was it?), a curiously thematic bunch of my poems all were accepted for publication during the month of October. Five poems, written over the span of a decade, accepted by three different journals. I didn’t even realize they had anything much in common until I sat down to write up this little blurb — and then suddenly it was staring me in the face!

“Mask,” by Alison Leigh Lilly, published by Raw Dog Press (Oct 2017)

Each of these poems grapples with the liminal — the boundary between inside and outside — essence and appearance — and how we navigate, negotiate, construct, deconstruct, interpret and re-imagine those edges as part of the on-going processes of exploring self-identity.

My poem “Mask” (above) is featured as this month’s Post Poem by Raw Dog Press, an independent publisher since 1972 specializing in post card poetry and chapbooks.

Another poem of mine, “Golem,” appears in the latest issue of Eye to the Telescope, a quarterly journal of speculative poetry produced by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. The guest editor for Issue #26, Sandra J. Lindow, sought work on the theme of “Evolving Gender”:

Each of us comes from the union of a man and a woman, but, by definition, the DNA of conception provides a spiral staircase of genetic evolution, an intermixing of male and female characteristics. In her introduction to the 1976 paperback edition of The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), Ursula K. Le Guin wrote that human “psychological reality” can be “androgynous” “at certain odd times of day in certain weathers” and she concludes that “truth is a matter of imagination.” In other words, in recent years society has allowed individuals, mayhap grudgingly, the right to express the inner lives they imagine to be true.

You can read more about this theme in her Editor’s Note. (Also, don’t forget to check out the other contributing poets in this fascinating issue!)

Also this month, three more of my poems were published in Eunoia Review: “Unfriend,” “Splitting” and “I Have Deleted My Facebook Account.”

More light-hearted, these three poems shift focus from the performance of gender to the performance (often playful, always double-edged and two-faced) of self-identity more broadly speaking in the strange and wild environs of social media. They poke (and poke fun) at the ways in which our public personas conceal just as much as they reveal. What are the choices we continually make about what we want our “outsides” and “insides” to look like, and who gets to decide which is which?

I hope you’ll check them out! And, as always, if you enjoy them, please support the arts and artists by sharing the love! Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, or hit me up on — you guessed it — social media! (Mostly on Twitter these days, @alileighlilly.)


Photo Credit: “Wellhead 6336,” by Richard Milnes (CC) [source]

Holy Wild, News & Announcements, Poetry & Music

New Poems: Reclaiming the “Tweet” as Modern Haiku

October has turned out to be a pretty busy month for me, publication-wise! I’ve been putting off writing a quick update post for you all, since I don’t want to spam your news feeds and inboxes every time a new piece comes out… but at this point, the procrastination is getting a little bit silly! So for now, here are just a few of my latest poems (with more to come next week, so be sure to swing by and check those out, too!)…

I wanted to group these poems together for a reason, though they’ve appeared in a few different literary journals. They’re all in a poetic form that I’ve been working in recently and that I’ve come to think of as a kind of millennial-haiku (or, for pun-related reasons, I sometimes call a “byte poem”).

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Most Westerns know the haiku as a particularly powerful, condensed form of literary poetry that evokes a Zen-like simplicity in its imagery and language. But before Matsuo Basho, the hands-down greatest haiku poet in history and the man who essentially defined haiku as we now understand it, this poetic form was very different. For hundreds of years before Basho revolutionized the form in the 17th century, the writing of these little poems was basically a party game — a chance for a gathering of poets to show off their wit and word-play by creating long collaborative linked poems (known as renga), often while consuming more than a little sake along the way. The party’s host had the honor of kicking off the game with a three-line verse (called a hokku) to serve as the opening stanza, and would strive to make their opening verse especially striking, provocative and impressive. Eventually these short verses were circulated, read and enjoyed as standalone pieces, and their name was changed from hokku (meaning “presenting verse”) to haiku (“playful verse”).

Then, Basho came along and completely transformed the genre. These days, if you want to write incredibly-short verse and you want even a hope of getting them published in a literary journal, haiku is still your go-to form. Ginsberg took a stab at inventing his own short-form poetic style, called the “American sentence” — a single sentence of seventeen syllables, basically a haiku without line breaks. There are entire literary magazines dedicated to publishing only haiku and American sentences.

Meanwhile, though, something else was going on in American culture: someone created the internet, and someone invented the smart phone, and lo, the Information Age was born. The Age of the Tweet. While literary journals have continued to privilege haiku and American sentences as the very best of short-form poetry, our own homegrown organic short-form poetry party-game was evolving right in our pockets. The 140-character tweet, and the increasingly popular multi-tweet thread, are modern-day American reinventions of the renga and hokku/haiku of Japan — sometimes written by a single person, sometimes a collaborative pile-up of snarky comments, witty retorts and scathing satire snowballing in real-time with the help of catchy hashtags. What began as a fun way to communicate with friends has evolved into a public platform where, in only 140 characters, someone can say something that might change the world.

Enter: the Twit in Chief, who stepped into the Oval Office last November and refused to put down his phone. Now, there is a man who can feed Russian trolls, insult veterans, stoke racial tensions, denigrate women and even potentially start a nuclear war… all in only 140 characters.

As a poet, I find myself both horrified and awed by this demonstrable power of the written word. I wrote recently in a cover letter to Mary-Jane Grandinetti, editor of Shot Glass Journal:

I’ve found myself driven to reclaim the “tweet” medium as a place of power, to re-tune my language so that I might enter into that space and push it as far as I can, push it until it breaks open from the inside.

That is why, since last fall, I’ve been working more and more in the “byte poem” form: 140 characters, short enough to tweet. So far, only a few have been published — in 7×20 this past June, and now this month in Shot Glass Journal and Cuento Magazine.

Not that I claim to be a Basho, or even a Ginsberg, but I hope that, like the haiku, someday the tweet will be remembered for its potential to provoke, to surprise and to transform the world as we know it.

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In addition to the pieces published by Cuento Magazine featured in this post, you can find more of my “byte” poems in the most recent issue of Shot Glass Journal.

Holy Wild, Muse in Brief, News & Announcements, Poetry & Music

New Poem: Abstracted

I can’t tell you how honored I am to be included among a handful of amazing writers and artists in the most recent issue of Third Point Press, a literary journal that hails from my very own hometown of Lancaster, PA. (There’s an extra special thrill in getting published somewhere that even your mom has heard of!) Check out my piece, “Abstracted.”

This is the first themed issue from Third Point Press — Skin — so once you’re done reading my poem, make sure to explore some of the other awesome work. I like pretty much every single piece in this issue, but in particular, don’t miss Jennifer Martelli’s poem, “Kitty Genovese Names Her Fourteen Wounds“; Todd Dillard’s “Fat Boy“; Dante Douglas’ piece, “We All Have To Come Home Someday“; and the disturbing/mesmerizing short story, “The Life Cycle of a Peach Tree,” by Christopher M. Drew.

Not to mention, all the photography in this issue is wonderful! The piece you see paired with my piece in the thumbnail is by featured artist Osmyn Oree.

Current Events, Holy Wild, Muse in Brief, peace, Poetry & Music, story

I Blame Trump on Game of Thrones



I Blame Trump on Game of Thrones

I wonder what Jung would have
to say about it, how for years now
we have saturated the collective
unconscious with stories of war,

collusion and incest, machinations
of political corruption, moral sickness
among the rich, while fire and ice
loomed, denied, debated. And now—

I know all the names of the players,
though I’ve never read the books
or seen the show, and I’ve heard
so many times the reasons why

it’s brilliant, the best, the most
throned of all the games, but
I have to admit, I’ve never heard
a single thing that made me want

to watch. Why spend time with
such monsters? Are we so bored
with singing love songs, playing
games of chance and skill where

no one dies? What makes us
think these stories can tell us
who we are? Violence leads on
to violence, and love to love.

I miss the days when we dreamed
of nameless striders in the wild,
gray-robed wizards, unimportant men
carrying the world up the mountain,

slowly, step by step, sunlight falling
on the stone heads of fallen kings,
reminding us that stories shape
the wilder, better life we long to live.

And remember, how he finally smiled
when he stepped onto the boat
at the very end, so ready to move
on to the Land of Valar across the sea

—or maybe it was Hawaii, sunny
and warm and full of waves,
where he went water-skiing every day
like a laughing metaphor for grace.

Holy Wild, Muse in Brief, Poetry & Music

Dear Editor: A Poem in Four Tweets

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Dear Editor,

Are you okay?
I only ask because
your selections of late
have gone rather grim.
Not an ode to joy
among them,
not one kiss.

Even the poets
have given up
on love songs,
turned instead
to irony, regret,
every bright color
a glossy veil,
an Us Magazine
of sorrows.

Of course
we all die
eventually.
But are you
doing okay
in the meantime?
This morning, my cat
woke himself up snoring,
is all I’m saying.

I wanted you
to know
it’s okay
to love something
unironically,
something small
& furry
& full of himself,
and that
I love you
this way,
too.


This poem first appeared on Twitter. Follow @alileighlilly for more!

Holy Wild, News & Announcements, Poetry & Music

Dreamy, But Brief: two poems

Excited to share my latest publication with you guys! Two prose poems published with the awesome online journal Seven By Twenty, a literary magazine dedicated to pushing the edge of brevity with very-very-very-short fiction and poetry in less than 140 characters.

Check out my poems below! (And, you know, *heart* and RT if you like 😉

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Check out Seven By Twenty for more cool micro-fiction and poetry (I particularly enjoy their speculative and magical realism). You can find them on Twitter at @7×20 and follow their blog here. Also check out their anthology of previously published pieces (whew! alliteration is fun!) from Upper Rubber Boot Books, 140 And Counting.