Monthly Archives: April 2014

a stab at forever

jwk sk4

I’m so happy to announce that James Ward Kirk’s Serial Killers Quattuor is now available in both print and e-book formats!

You, me, the general public, have a fascination for true crime accounts of people like Bundy, and fictional depictions of similar characters in television shows such as Criminal Minds and Dexter. We have a macabre interest in real life serial killers and can’t comprehend the pure lack of remorse of these monsters. But yet we can’t get enough. So we watch these shows and buy these books and read about these abhorrent yet fascinating criminals. Serial Killers Quattuor is one such work that fulfills our insatiable obsession with serial killers in this terrifying and bloodcurdling short story collection.

A diverse collection of authors, from New Zealand to California, from Wales to Florida, from the United Kingdom to Indiana, offer some of the finest horror fiction available today.

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Serial Killers Quattuor
Published by James Ward Kirk

Featuring:

Vekah Mckeown – “Alasdair”

William Cook – “Pretty Boy”

Dan Weatherer – “Agnes: A Trilogy”

Carl Fox – “Born and Bred”

Sheldon Woodbury – “Dirty Minds”

DJ Tyrer – “Gentleman Jack”

Eric Nash – “The Handwritten Journal”

Paul Mannering – “Ken and Barbie”

Essel Pratt – “Thus is the Life”

Michelle Augello-Page – “A Stab at Forever”

Jonathan R. Daniels – “Threaded”

Dona Fox – “Taking Ink”

S. MacLeod – “The Devil’s Castle”

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My story in this collection, “A Stab at Forever,” is based upon the history and lore of the infamous Blood Countess, Erzsebet Bathory, who killed hundreds of servant girls in her reign of terror.

erzsebet-bathory-serie-la-condesa-sangrienta-santiago-caruso

Erzsebet Bathory by Santiago Caruso

Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Bathory, cousin of Vlad the Impaler, is also thought to be the first inspiration for Dracula because of her country of birth and fixation with blood. Many people seem to feel that the inspiration for Dracula has been re-attributed because Bathory was essentially a female serial killer.

My story does not glorify Erzsebet Bathory, but rather seeks to fictionalize her earliest known experiences in an attempt to understand and express her violence towards young girls as something horrifically and humanly female, based in jealousy, a fear of growing old, a sadistic expression of sexual power, and an obsession with youth.

I wrote this story awhile ago, and I am so excited to finally find a home for it within the pages of this excellent anthology! This horror collection is not for the faint of heart, but it is filled with depraved, thrilling and well-written stories. Check it out!! x

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reading series 4.2

michelle at open mic 810

 

Recently, I read some of my poems as part of the Boundless Tales Reading Series in Queens, New York. It was a wonderful night! It was great to meet local writers and spend the evening with an open, friendly and supportive community of people.

It is always an interesting experience to read one’s work aloud to an audience. For an intrinsically shy person, it is also an act of courage. It is an experience in moving outside of oneself, expanding one’s comfort zone.

The earliest experiences I had reading aloud was at school, which I think is true for most people. I always loved reading, and I always read very well, but when I had to read out loud in class, my voice was too quiet.

I was quiet in general. I hated attracting attention and I certainly didn’t want to be the center of attention. In school, I was studious but I didn’t raise my  hand or talk in class. I was shy. I liked to observe. I liked to read. I liked to be inside my head. I didn’t think of my introversion as a bad thing, but I became well aware that others did. Teachers, my parents, relatives, peers, the world it seemed – either could not or would not – hear me. I spoke and they would admonish me: “Speak louder!” and inside, I would want to die.

(Later, in one of my earliest undergraduate poetry workshops, I had written a poem which contained a line to the effect of  “I have a quiet voice” and the professor had underlined the line and commented next to it “The voice in this poem is LOUD!!!” In my young writer’s mind, that comment affected me like a revolution.)

I can honestly say that it wasn’t until I took creative writing classes that I spoke in class and raised my hand and offered my opinions and read my work aloud. I had to push myself to do it. I blushed furiously the entire time. But I just stumbled forward. No one asked me to talk louder or to read louder. No one had a problem hearing me at all. I think that is part of what makes a writing workshop a sacred space; everyone listens, everyone is heard.

A reading can imbue that sacred space feeling. But at a reading, there are microphones! At a reading, you are standing in front of an audience! They don’t necessarily know you or your work! They are all listening to you! They are all looking at you! They are all judging you!

And yet, you are there. You are there because you wanted to be there. You are there because you think you have something to give, if only to yourself. You are so vulnerable. Your life, your heart, your soul is spilling from your lips. Your breath, your words, your voice is filling the space with sound.

It’s surreal.

Afterwards, a rush of applause and you take your seat, slowly returning to yourself. You did it! You are strong, stronger than you thought. You are triumphant! (You are also riding a sort of adrenaline high lol)

But seriously, there is something very special about reading one’s work to an audience. For writers like myself, we want our work to be read. I don’t need to stand in front of an audience. It’s not in my comfort zone. In fact, I love the idea that my “audience” engages my work privately.

When I first went to an open mic several years ago, I … well, it was not something I sought out. I was dating someone who came by this particular open mic by a random series of coincidences. After his experience there, he was insistent that I would love it and he had to take me there! He wanted to take me on an official date – into Manhattan for dinner and this open mic.

He told me to bring something to read, so I brought a poem of mine. I had some experience reading from my workshop classes, and I had been to some readings as a guest. But I really didn’t know what to expect at an open mic. I put my name in, and I was called dead last.

As the night progressed, I became increasingly nervous. I was completely out of my element. I was not a performer. I was not a performance poet. I was not a spoken word artist. I was a writer.

My friend had been called to do his set about half-way through the night. And it was a fabulous open mic! I did love it. We were there until almost 3 am, and they were just hitting the reserve list. My friend wanted to go. We were both tired, we had an hour drive back home, we had work in the morning. He asked if it was okay that we leave.

“It’s okay,” I said.

Okay?! I was relieved. The nagging fear and anxiety in the back of my mind that had followed me all night, briefly surfacing at times to remind me that I, too, would be standing at that microphone in front of that audience suddenly dissipated.

“Let me just use the bathroom and we’ll go.”

I heard the host calling the names of those on the reserve list. And after each name, it was discovered that the person had left. Then … “is Michelle still here?” I stilled with fear. I was still in the bathroom! I was leaving! Fuck!

There was a knock on the door. I took a deep breath.

“Be right out!” I called, my heart ready to burst through my chest.

Then I heard singing. First my name-song which quickly morphed into another song – “you’ve lost that loving feeling” – I still don’t know why. But I opened the door to find the house guitarist, another musician, and my friend serenading me. The guys handed me the microphone and led me to the stage. I had no choice but to go on.

All I remember is that I stood as close to the back wall as possible. I felt literally backed up against that wall. The light was bright and blinding and I couldn’t actually see the audience very well. My voice sounded so loud in the microphone. My hands were shaking so badly I could barely hold the paper. I read eight lines.

But reading those eight lines changed me.

It wasn’t the open mic, or my friend, or any other factor that night. It was what I struggled with within myself that changed me. I had all the confidence in the world about that poem. I loved that poem. I wasn’t concerned about that poem. But the action of reading it to an audience brought my work into another realm – one that was more immediate, more temporal, and more confrontational.

Since that time, it’s been significantly easier to read my work aloud to an audience. I think that practicing and going to places like open mics and participating in readings had a lot to do with increasing my comfort level. But the most important part of what has made it easier for me has been my mind-set.

I feel that writing sometimes can set you apart from the world. I know that extroverted writers exist, but I’m speaking for myself and other introverted writers. And with my natural tendencies, I don’t really mind being a little distant from the world. I don’t mind spending long hours alone, writing. I like being alone! I don’t care that I might not speak to people for days, except through writing or daily exchanges. I don’t thrive on contact with many other people, and events and large groups often make me feel anxious.

These aspects to myself may have helped make me a good writer, but I also think that by confronting these aspects to myself, I am trying to be a better writer. Writing is about overcoming fear and moving outside your comfort zone. It’s believing in your self and your work. And sometimes, it’s standing in front of an audience saying, “I believe I have something to give through  my writing.” At a reading, I am there, first and foremost, to share my work. Because I think that it is worth sharing.

That is very powerful.

As part of this reading series, I wanted to share the poems I read at the reading! But in the course of writing this post, I decided that I would rather share the full poem – the one I read eight lines from, the first time I went to an open mic. The above photo was taken a couple of months after that experience.

The poem is called “Astronavigation” and it was published in Issue Six of Bare Hands Poetry. As an audio companion to the publication, Bare Hands also created a site on soundcloud. I will share that link too! Click here to read/listen to Astronavigation.

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Astronavigation

Astronavigation by Michelle Augello-Page by barehandspoetry

This is an audio recording of my poem “Astronavigation”, which was published in Issue Six of Bare Hands Poetry. Be sure to check out Bare Hands Poetry on SoundCloud to hear the voices of poets from all over the world reading their work!

 

Astronaviagation

Only he can soothe this wild
loneliness that has grown within me
I want to fall down, down
the black hole of this desire, explore
the heavenly body, that arcane map,
navigate with only breath, hands
fingers and mouth, savor the touch of
wind, skin, devour the hungry night.

Eyes burn and mouths disappear. There
is no scent, there is no time. I reach out
to touch him, his image is solid shadow.
He moves through me, his hands do not
lay upon me. I call out his name, he is
known by many names; he turns, he has
several different faces. he looks at me
as if into an enchanted mirror, fear
entwined with desire, he does not see me,
he sees his reflection in the convex, his
mouth upon mine is an implosion,
shattering glass. I love you, I want to
say, the stars are dying above us.

I place a gift in each hand, and take
off my dress. It has been raining for days
in my mind, his skin is hard bones, soft
depressions. I lick his face, tasting
the moon behind his eyes, the words we
speak are not words. come closer, he says
walk away. this dance is magick, it is
spelled in ways I can barely whisper. I fix
my gaze on the stars, trying to elucidate
the secret; patterns and signs spill across
the open sky; still the world is burning.


reading series 4.1

kanji

 

Many people have passed through my life, and I have had many different friends. Some of these friendships were fleeting, encapsulated in a moment of time, and left there; our paths have never crossed again. With the advent of social media, I’m now part of a generation that can easily reach out to people they’ve known throughout their lives. Friendships that would have been lost due to time and distance can be renewed in ways that have never been easier. In the recent past, phone calls and letters would have been the only way to connect with people you didn’t see on a regular basis. However, not everyone is on facebook, not everyone wants their past to catch up to their present, not everyone wants to be found.

The world my children are growing up in is very different than the one I grew up in. Their friendships are intertwined with technology. Their ideas of space and distance and time are affected by growing up in a world where the internet is their primary tool of communication. If a friend moves to another state, they can still stay in touch easily through social media and can chat and skype in real time. When I was a child, if a friend moved, that meant I would probably never see them again, unless we made a concerted effort to write or phone (which would have been expensive), and even that probably wouldn’t necessarily stand the test of time. It makes me wonder how this technological immediacy to our lives also affects our ideas about moving away, starting over, making a break, or beginning again, anew.

When I met Ben, I didn’t even have a computer. I was still holding on to my old canon word processor, even though the guy at the “we fix everything” store told me that computers were the way of the future, and that sooner or later there wouldn’t be any parts available to fix my ailing word processor (which is exactly what happened). There was no such thing as cell phones. Some people had pagers back then, but neither of us did. We relied on seeing each other and talking on the phone.

Ben and I met at work and became fast friends. And not just fast friends, amazing friends, best friends. We became extraordinarily close in a very short time, and only for a short time. After a few months, he would leave the job for a new one, our schedules would no longer coincide, and eventually we would lose contact altogether. But I didn’t know that then. We had an instant, sort of explosive, friendship, where we both brought out the utmost wildness and weirdness in each other. We were searching, searching, searching. If he was into girls, I am positive that we would have become lovers. We would talk on the phone for hours in the middle of the night, giving each other reasons to stay awake and alive. We did drugs together. We drove into Manhattan, dressed to the nines, looking for the bar named Hell, and when we found it, we didn’t like it, and we caused a scene. At work, we laughed too loud and we talked too loud and we turned up the music in the cafe too loud. We didn’t care, we jumped up and down, trying to hit the ceiling with the end of our brooms.

One of the last times I hung out with Ben, we had an epic day. He wanted to get his hair cut, and I went with him to the salon. But he didn’t want to be the only one getting his hair cut, so I got a haircut too. After, we decided to check out the tattoo parlor nearby. Ben said that he wanted to get a tattoo, and he thought it was awesomely cheesy to go in and pick a tattoo off the wall. We laughed and laughed. He went to the bank to get more money, and decided to get us both tattoos. We decided to get Asian symbols, the epitome of lame, but we would rock it, we would own that shit. He decided to get his symbol tattooed high on his arm, in place of the needle. I decided to get my symbol tattooed on my wrist, in place of the knife.

“No,” he said, looking at the symbol I picked out.

Damage.

I was thinking of the line from Josephine Hart’s book, “Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.”

But Ben knew better.

“Get this instead,” he said, pointing to another symbol.

Strength.

That night we had a picnic on the beach and watched the sunset. We drank wine and ate bread and cheese and chocolate. Afterwards, we stopped at a carnival and rode the ferris wheel. We went back to his house and tried to sleep but couldn’t, so we talked until the sun came up and the bagel stores opened. We talked about our new tattoos, how they would be a reminder. He would always have peace and I would always have strength. We took a walk in the park and sat down by a river and ate our breakfast. He told me that he wished I was a guy. And it hurt my feelings. But it laid bare the one boundary between us. We would never be any closer than we were at that moment. I loved him then, and I love him now. And over the years, I’ve often thought of him, and always with love. He gave me an incredible gift. When the pain was so great and I thought I had lost myself and I didn’t think I could go on, sometimes the one thing stopping me was that tattoo.

Thank you, Ben.

The above picture is my own; it is a snapshot of the kanji on my wrist. Many years later, I used the experience of getting that tattoo in a poem. The poem was published, one of my early publications, and it still remains close to my heart. As part of my reading series, I wanted to share this story. You can read my poem “first, body” here.

x

 

 


first, body

The scar is blue-black, ink stained
into her skin. He holds her wrist like paper
thin parchment, rubs his thumb over the
kanji as if feeling for a pulse, and says
tell me about this one.
She does not name it; she knows he can see
the vertical mark running up her vein.
She tells him it was her fifth, and took
the longest to heal; the wound scabbed
twice before the skin accepted it
as part of her body.

She watches him in the soft light,
standing before her without a shirt, sleeved
in kaleidoscopic colour. She imagines
his sun against her tree, her ankh against
his krishna, the canvas of their bodies
a landscape of hollows, flesh and bone, light
and dark, blood brain heart.
Touching his shoulder blade gently, now
she will ask and he will answer
reading the map of each other’s body
this is how they begin.

 

Originally published in Copper Nickel