Spinster – Kay Vandette

poems

Spinster 

Being alone
That’s not it
The fear of living unencumbered by the exquisite baggage
Of someone to have and hold
It’s the maybe
When you hear a love song
And think, what if

Kay Vandette is a freelance writer, blogger, and poet. She draws inspiration from her travels, her experiences, and her passion for equality and women’s rights. She has been published in the Broke Bohemian.

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Women Writers We Love: Dina S. Paulson-McEwen

interview

This week we are featuring the talented Dina S. Paulson-McEwen. Her poem “Verboten” was featured on Dying Dahlia in August 2016. Her first book, Parts of Love, will be out in March but is available for preorder until January 19.

Author Photo - Dina Paulson-McEwenWhat inspires you the most?

The interstices/cruxes of love and loving. As Parts of love developed, it went from uplifting/making memoiristic a celestial/romantic love to incorporating those exigencies with scratched love. The book’s mind spread to different actors–fractured and connected love not only between lover and lover, but between bodies relating as family and friend, bodies close through intention and chance, bodies who can hold worlds (and can be worlds themselves) inside of themselves.

Who are your favorite women writers?

So many! Favorites include Rebecca Lindenberg, Nikki Giovanni, Franny Choi, Sappho, Joy Harjo, Anne Carson, Ada Limón, and Gillian Flynn.

What does your writing process look like?

Recently, I have been starting my day with an autowrite about five times a week. In general, I tend to write in the afternoon or evening. An autowrite (taught by a Winter Tangerine workshop at Poets House!) is writing for thirty minutes–keep the pen moving, don’t stop to analyze, just get it (something) out. Some of my autowrites have made their way into a current project. I get inspired by science, animals, walking fast, being outside, watching, being close with other bodies, listening, feeling. Sometimes I edit and send revised stuff late at night to my editor, and I am lucky she is a night owl!

What advice do you have for fellow women writers?

I think the idea of being (or deciding) you are a woman writer is powerful to begin with. I didn’t really start out seeing myself like this, but I do now because I think how I make up my womanhood is a central force in the way I see and put words together. Every woman’s version of what being a woman means to herself/themselves is unique. I think the most important thing is to feel where you feel yourself fit with yourself. Women writers have a lot of power not only because women and writers are powerful as individual identities but because women writers can tell certain stories that perhaps only women writers can tell.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a full-length poetry manuscript. The concept keeps growing into itself so I keep adding words to its title in Google Docs in caps, so it’s like it’s yelling, but it helps me focus.

Book Cover - Parts of love

To find out how you can preorder Parts of Love, visit the website here.

Women Writers We Love: Devon Balwit

interview

This week we are excited to feature writer Devon Balwit, author of The Bow Must Bear the Brunt, We are Procession, Seismograph, In Front of the Elements, How the Blessed Travel and Forms Most Marvelous.  Her poems “Missing” and “pholcus” were featured on Dying Dahlia in July of 2016 as well as “Hive Sisters” in March of 2017.

Before

What inspires you the most?

Overall, art, other poets, nature, and the news provide the bulk of my inspiration. That said, I’m open to anything–prompts, things my husband/friends/kids suggest, found poetry from street signs, etc. I’m always trying to shake things up–sometimes free verse, other times ghazals, sonnets, golden shovels, right/left justified poems, persona poems, etc.

Who are your favorite women writers?

Even though the casual anti-semitism of her journals bums me out, I love the work of Sylvia Plath. I also love Sharon Olds and Wislava Szymborska. (There are many modern female poets I love, but I would have to list every one so none felt left out!)

What does your writing process look like?

I write every day, both when I first wake up and when I get home from work. If I’m not creating new work, I’m revising old work. Every day. I wake up, look at the newspaper, see if there’s anything there that grabs me, look through FB feed (but quickly so I don’t get sucked into mindless scrolling), then to work.

What advice do you have for fellow women writers?

Send your work out again and again. Don’t be daunted by rejection. Trust your voice. Be persistent. Take up space.

What are you currently working on?

I’d love to get a second full-length collection picked up somewhere. I’m also working on giving more readings. I did two in November and am reaching out to more local venues. I hope to build a larger local audience.

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Her book Motes at Play in the Halls of Light will be coming out in 2018 (Keslay Books).

Burning dead things – Abigail George

poems

Burning dead things
(for R.)

        This is how I burn dead
        things. I have slow hands.
The first step is to light a match
        before you watch it burn.
        Set fire to it. That first
        step for me was to burn a
        diary. The letters I wrote
        to you. I had to erase all
        memory of conversation.
How handsome you looked in that photograph.
        In that light. I tried not to
        remember specific details.
Thought that would save me.
        It was easy at first not
to let the past linger. When I burn things now
        I stay at the shallow end

of things.

Pushcart Prize nominated Abigail George is a South African-based blogger, essayist, poet and short story writer. Recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council, one from the Centre for the Book, and another from ECPACC. She briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg.

Women Writers We Love: Jessica Mehta

interview

We are super excited to present our newest feature on Dying Dahlia where we talk to some amazing women writers and get a peak at what they are up to, what inspires them and more!  This week we are happy to present Jessica Mehta, author of ORYGUN: Poems, What Makes An Always, Last Exotic Petting Zoo, Secret-Telling Bones and The Wrong Kind of IndianShe also has two books that will be released in 2018 and 2019.  Jessica’s poems “Recipe for an Indian” and “Look at All that Beautiful” were featured on Dying Dahlia in February of 2017.

Headshot Mehta 2

What inspires you the most?

My husband. (How cliched is that?). All eight of my books are dedicated to him, and my one (and only) novel explores our story. I didn’t start writing fervently until that particular relationship, and it continues to feed and inform all of my collections. However, another major source of inspiration is the woods. As a native Oregonian, I NEED at least one session of hiking and forest bathing a week to unclog my thoughts. My collection Orygun is an homage to how the wild feeds us.

Who are your favorite women writers?

Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison will always top the list. However, I fell deeply in love with Alissa Nutting’s first book, Tampa.

What does your writing process look like?

I simply write when I feel like I need to. With eight books published in less than eight years, it seems like that’s pretty often! It’s common to come up with the first line of a poem while on a hike or in the middle of the night. I agree with the idea that 4 a.m. is the “writer’s hour.”

What advice do you have for fellow women writers?

The good stuff comes when you let all your shame and guilt hang out. You don’t need to be a likable voice. You don’t have to strive to be a relatable one. Don’t pull the punches, and submit, submit, submit at a feverish pace. Define your own lines (for me, self-publishing will never be an option. Cheers to those who found their groove in it). Work towards always having at least one manuscript in the wings. Finally, don’t pay for reading fees simply for regular submissions (book contests are different). It’s not worth it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on my two books that will be released in 2018 and 2019. In 2018, Constellations of My Body is being published by Musehick Publications. In 2019, Savagery will be released by Airlie Press, a unique publisher collective based out of Oregon. I also have a prequel to my first novel and a collection of essays based on Native American mythology tucked away and slowly looking for a home.

Confession – Kortney Y. Watkins

poems

Confession

There’s a party here to witness all my sin.
It was not enough that there be just one; The Son
I feel most guilty about and it freezes my blood to ice,
unworthy and judged by others, yet not him.  How nice
to feel secure and safe and loved, kissed nose to nose
like Eskimos do to defrost the chilling snow cone,
flavored by the selfishness of me’s and my’s and I
Then it must be done.  To my love I’ve wronged, I confess.

Kortney Y. Watkins is a poet, short-story writer, novelist, and educator.  She lives for love, waits on the moon, and hopes for the sake of humanity; every slash of a pen and stroke of a key is dedicated to exploring those things often done, less considered.  She resides in the Atlanta metropolitan area amongst loving kin and friends.

Letter from the Editor

letter from the editor

Dearest Dying Dahlia Readers and Writers —

DDR will be taking another break.

Why? Well, I think there are many reasons a literary journal/review needs to take a break from time to time.

One reason, the biggest reason, is time.  The work we do at DDR is a labor of love, as cliché as the phrase may be. And like you, we have jobs. Jobs that generate an income or jobs that do not generate an income but are just as important (Talking to all you moms out there!).

And then there is the time we are not at our job. The time for us, the time with our family, the time to just be. The time to let our brains be creative and consider new ideas and come back to DDR with a fresh perspective.  All of us, including you, need to allow ourselves to take breaks. To take in everything, rather than work, work, work and potentially push away any creative ideas the universe might be sending our way that we may be too busy to notice.

So for that reason, my friends, we are taking a break. To refresh and renew. There are some changes that will be made to DDR.  Some reflections that need to be had.  But mostly, DDR does not want to push out just any ole poetry or story or art. We want quality. We want work that moves us.  And we also want to promote our contributors, these women writers to the best of our abilities. And most of all, we want to provide you, the reader, with a review worth reading.

So in order to do that, we have to carve out time to labor for this love, this passion, this purpose. We won’t be silent. We will NOT stop reading your submissions. We love them and look forward to publishing some amazing work by you amazing women very, very soon.

Until then, stick around. Keep submitting. Send us a note. Perhaps a message in a bottle. But above all, keep reading everything and always keep writing.

Much Love,

Abbie Copeland
Editor

P.S.  We have a wonderful archive.  Make sure you go back and revisit those beloved poems, flash fiction and art.  All of them are worth a second (and third) read!

Weeds – Tammy Daniel

poems
Weeds
 
She doesn’t know why she thinks
of it now—his unexpected phone call,
the hesitant static of goodbye.
 
As if it were yesterday,
she recalls that first night alone,
the way the bed grew weeds—
gallant soldiers, spear thistle,
black medick—
 
how, for days, she tossed…
turned…tossed…
lost beneath a milky canopy
of dandelion clouds, her whys
a trowel of tears sifting fog
low in a valley of dead-nettle.
 
Pervasive, she whispers,
as I watch her eyelids, thin
as time, drift against the wilt
of memory, but
 
suddenly, clear as a gleaned
field, she says, For a while,
didn’t think I’d last another day,
then talks of God and faith;
how His ways are often peculiar
as a compassionate enemy,
 
even that creeping vine,
a sign—three leaves.
Let it be.

 

Tammy Daniel was selected as one of the New Voices of 2015 by The Writers Place in Kansas City, Mo. Her work has appeared in I-70 Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Red River Review, The Ekphrastic ReviewTouch: The Journal of Healing, Rusty Truck, and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

2 Poems – Nikita Gill

poems

The Passion Grove

There is still dirt under my fingernails
from the burying of passions in groves
made of ashes. Scorched earth is meant
to grow better fruit trees after.
No one expected the weeds.

Gasoline Girls

Gasoline girls-
barehearted brazen
but bounded bones,
soft soiled sinews
disappoint death

Nikita Gill is a cat mama and a chocolate lover. Her work has been published in Foliate Oak, Literary Orphans, Agave Magazine, Gravel Magazine and elsewhere.

Melina at the Movies – Sarah Valeika

flash fiction

I had an aunt Melina who wept during sad movies. There are plenty of people who review movies and attest to their gravity or appeal by saying things like,

“I cried like a baby!” or praise a film that induces both “laughter and tears,” but nobody cried at movies like Aunt Melina.

It was funny to most of us. To my father, for example, who had married Melina’s youngest sister, this 47-year-old woman with the long, auburn hair, big billowing scarf and mason jar of green tea was just a suburban vignette rife with city-dweller humor. Raised in Chicago himself, having seen a “hell of a lot of women,” he had “never seen anybody who looked more acutely miserable while being entertained as that Aunt Melina of yours.” I never really understood why being from the city made him so wont to laugh at those of us with hearts on streets named after trees, but he liked to think he was jaded, knowing and hardy, so we let him. There were times when he wanted to watch movies with my Aunt Melina simply to watch her reactions, as though they were infinitely more amusing than any fiction could be.

Take “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” He casually asked my mother one day if her sister had ever seen the movie.

“Don’t think so.”

“Don’t you think she should? It’s a classic.” He loosened a slice of pizza from a tupperware and shoved it in his mouth.

“Oh Rod,” Mom sighed, “leave Mel alone!” She snatched the slice out of his hands and finshed it.

“What?” he laughed, that little impish gleam in his eye. “It’s part of her cultural education.”

So, that Friday evening, she came over to watch “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with us. I sat in a blanket on the floor with the book in my hands, to cross-compare. Mom spent most of the time in and out of the room going to the kitchen to refill Anthony’s water bottle or get Fossie some more popcorn. Fossie and Anthony flopped across their beanbag chairs, and Dad and Aunt Melina sat side by side on the purple sofa. (Funnily, my Aunt Melina had chosen the color—she thought it “suited” Mom’s eyes, so my mom picked it up in a heartbeat. Dad never really saw it that way; after all, he had separately suggested the color to fit the caramel walls, but I can tell even now from the way my mother talks about Melina that it was she, and not Dad, who changed Mom’s mind).

“Look at her eyes,” my aunt whispered, 67 minutes into the film. Audrey Hepburn was gazing at something or other, but I couldn’t see what, too occupied was I in trying to find the page I had lost in the novella.

“What?” my father asked.

“Her eyes, don’t they just look so childlike? So trusting?”

And thus did she proceed to loosen whatever restrained her eyes—faucet, duct tape, nails and screws—who knew what ever kept her composed at all? But with the flick of an eyelash, as it were, she began to cry. My father said nothing, only motioned with his hand as Mom returned to the room, and again he smirked to his wife.

“We may need a little more tea in here, doll… to soothe the nerves!”

 

There was also, of course, the time when my father decided to rent “A Year Without Santa Claus” to show at the family Christmas Eve dinner. After roast beef was served, the family with children groggily headed home, parents a little wine-liberated and children sipping the sweet nectar of anticipation. Those who stayed: Granny, (who was dwindling in the head), Uncle John (passed out) and Aunt Melina.

“Prepare yourself,” Dad said solemnly to the 47-year-old woman with the long auburn hair and the trigger-ready tear ducts and the shallow blue eyes. “This is not a movie easily forgotten.”

“Rod,” my mom chided demurely, picking lint off the floor, “come on now.”

“I think this one is going to bring us closer, even through the pain.”

Fire munched away at itself in the fireplace, and Aunt Melina only smiled that thin, closed-mouth smile of hers.

“Rod,” my mother repeated.

“It’s a movie that speaks to me,” he began, and clapped me on the shoulder, under the weight of which I shuddered (having inherited my mother’s weak frame). “I think I first saw this one with the kids. Maybe Fossie first? The poor little lamb was waiting for smiles on snowmen, I could see it in her eyes, but no such smiles come in the year without Santa. How could they? Without the enchantment of a dream to sustain their feeble little hearts, what are they to do, I ask you?”

Hunkering down beneath our front porch, I could hear the local stray whining, braying at whoever was passing the house. A shadow skipped. A music note, single and sustained, was being played somewhere, I could feel it.

“Just shush,” Mom said quietly, a gentle in-and-up of the chest suggesting some attempt at a laugh.

“C’mon Mel, you’n’I will get through this together,” and he grasped my aunt’s hand and pressed it to his chest. As he did, Melina just sat there and lowered her eyes to the carpet. A single, sustained note was being played somewhere, I did not know where. Not once did anybody cry that night which, in retrospect, was a sad sort of funny.

 

I always wondered how infidelity worked—whether it had to be physical, or whether it was suspected or proven, or whether it was a matter of blame or just bad timing, mutually bad timing. By the age of fourteen, I had learned that it was just a matter of movies. Sad movies, and whether or not you let yourself cry.

Sarah Valeika is a writer whose works have been featured in Eunoia Review, Fem Fiction, Poetry Breakfast, Navigating the Maze and other print and e-journals.