Women Writers We Love: Ehlayna Napolitano

We have a very special interview this week with our own associate editor, Ehlayna Napolitano!  Her chapbook, penelope in the morning, was released earlier this year.  Find out a little more about Ehlayna including what inspires her, what she’s been reading lately and more!

E.Napolitano Headshot

What inspires you the most? 

What inspires me the most is the experience of personhood and the vulnerability that is necessarily attached to it. I am fortunate to have a group of friends who are joyously, beautifully, generously open and vulnerable with their emotions, their experiences, and their love. They have been a huge source of inspiration for me. Trying to figure out what being a person means, and how to do it, for myself, and attempting to give language to feelings that are not simply categorized, is what inspires me to keep going. Mostly because it’s weird! It’s weird to be a person, and sometimes I can only navigate that in poetry.

Who are your favorite women writers?

At the moment, I’ve been reading Maggie Nelson’s work, which has quickly become some of my favorite work I’ve ever read. I also really enjoyed Liz Bowen’s, “Sugarblood.” It’s hard to pick just one or two favorites, though! These are just the ones I’ve read most recently.

What does your writing process look like?  

I don’t write every day. I usually try to write at least once a week, but there are times I’ll sit down and immediately have three poems down on paper, and some days I’ll feel something start to take shape in my mind, but won’t be able to get more than a few words down. I try to let the writing come out in its own time.

What advice do you have for fellow women writers?

I don’t feel like I’m in a position to give anyone advice, so this is a tough question. I’m still figuring out what my own process is, what my voice is, what art I want to make. I’m still new to the game!

So, I suppose my advice to them would be the reminder I try to give myself when I’m writing: don’t be afraid to give all your ideas to a single piece of work. There will be more ideas, and your drive to write won’t disappear. You can lay it all out on the table and still come back to it the next day.

What are you currently working on? 

Right now, I’m trying to focus on creating more and submitting more frequently. I have a few larger project ideas that are long-term goals, but in the short-term, I’m just trying to write more and focus on improvement over anything else.

Claudette – Kate LaDew

Claudette

In 1955, nine months prior to Rosa Parks, 15 year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. When the federal court case Browder v. Gayle, which aimed to prove state and local laws requiring bus segregation were unconstitutional, went to the Supreme Court, Colvin was the last to testify.  Three days later the Supreme Court issued an order to the state of Alabama to end bus segregation.

She remembered the little white boy her entire life.  Cutting in front of her and her mother at the general store.  Chanting ‘let me see, let me see,’  holding up his hands.  Her palms were the same color as his.  If they had taken off their shoes, the soles of their feet would be the same, too.  She noted this but didn’t dwell.  If it did not matter to him it could not matter to her.  When the other little white boys and white girls laughed, her mother turned and slapped her across the face in one motion.  ‘Don’t you know you’re not supposed to touch them?’ The little white boy’s mother agreed.

Every year, she and her mother drew outlines of their feet on brown paper bags and handed it to the white shoe salesmen.  Every year, he took the brown paper bags by their corner with his thumb and index finger, letting no other part of him touch where her mother’s thumb might have touched.  Where her index finger might have touched.  Where the sole of her foot was diagrammed like a bad luck charm.  A broken mirror, a hanging picture falling from the wall, spilling salt, opening an umbrella indoors, a cat the same color as her crossing your path.

Every year they watched from the front of the store by the window.  Waiting as the white mothers with their little white boys and little white girls all wiggled their little white toes, sliding little white feet into black patent shoes.  She and her mother waited until every white face left the store.  Waited until her mother was late for work, left to explain that this was ‘shoe day’ as the white lady her mother worked for nodded sympathetically and took two dollars from her wages.  Every year when the white shoe salesman walked out and noticed them still waiting, he slowly walked back and removed two boxes from a stack by the exit.  The shoes always fit.  That’s what her mother told her.  But the shoes always fit.

Every year the imprint of her mother’s slap grew darker.  She could see it even if no one else could.  It grew darker and spread, making her darker.  She went alone now to buy her shoes, holding out the brown paper bag to the white shoe salesman, watching as his white palms almost touched her white palms.  Almost, but not quite.  She was now darker than the brown paper bag and wondered if that was the difference.  A hanging picture falling from the wall, a black cat crossing your path.  Something dangerous.  Claudette watched and waited.  The white shoe salesman held the brown paper bag as if it were alive.  It was empty and she had a whole world inside her, but it didn’t matter.  Not now.  Not yet.

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art.  She resides in Graham, NC with her cats, Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.

 

 

Cartouche (for Julia) – Joan Glass

Cartouche (for Julia)

When you died,
mom insisted we remove
every photo from the walls.
Not just the ones with you in them,
but also of me and my children.
And your children.

Next, she invited friends
to take your belongings:
a new set of dishes, your perfume,
a book you inscribed with your name
in high school, the little “a”
at the end of “Julia,”
still tender and intact.

Ancient Egyptians believed
that to cross over into the Land of Two Fields,
your heart must be light as a feather,
and your name cast onto stone,
for this means you were loved.
I practice inscribing your name,
leaving it anywhere
that feels permanent.
I press your handwriting
into papyrus wings.

Mom motions toward me
with outstretched hands,
offering up a handful of your jewelry,
as if to say, here take these
before they break
or are stolen from us.
Hold them in your hands.
Pretend that something,
anything,
other than her absence,
can endure.

Joan Glass‘s poems have appeared in The Missing Slate, Rise Up Review, Vagabond City Lit, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism, Literary Mama, Bone Parade, Easy Street, and Right Hand Pointing, among others.  Her poem “Bathing Scene” was featured on the Saturday Poetry Series: Poetry as it Ought to Be.  She lives in Milford, Connecticut.
 

There Are More Important Things To Keep Up With – Jury S. Judge

Judge_GIRL AND MOM

There Are More Important Things To Keep Up With

Jury S. Judge is an internationally published artist, writer, poet, photographer, and political cartoonist. She is the cartoonist for the Noise, a literary arts and news magazine. Her Astronomy Comedy cartoons are also published in The Lowell Observer. Her artwork has been widely featured in literary magazines such as, Dodging The RainThe Tishman Review, Claudius Speaks, and Timber. She has been interviewed on the television news program, NAZ Today for her work as a political cartoonist. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2014. If you are interested in commissioning her for artwork, email her at jurysjudge@gmail.com.

Two Poems – Chloe Yelena Miller

Meaning to Be

Try again, she said,
this friend who refused my grief.

That baby was not meant to be.

But, I want to say,
My baby meant to be.
She was meaning to be.
She had meant to be.

My baby’s breath & tongue, still.
        The friend’s voice continues action alone.

Mammals’ Cries

four months old

Zookeepers reported Mei Xiang’s howls
as her baby died.

The Panda-Cam went dark.

We shuttered our windows.

Our pregnant neighbors didn’t say anything
about mine
and neither did I.

My second pregnancy ended
in a C-section. I heard
his first wails in this dry world from behind a sheet.

His entry point: a horizon on my abdomen,
where I fold to lift him.

Chloe Yelena Miller is a writer who lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and child. Her poetry chapbook, Unrest, was published by Finishing Line Press (2013). She teaches writing at Politics & Prose bookstore, online at University of Maryland University College and Fairleigh Dickinson University, as well as privately. (chloeyelenamiller.com)