Swimming with Elephants Publications

an independent, not for profit, publishing agent focusing on supporting the working author and non-profit organizations


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Available Now: I Bloomed a Resistance from my Mouth by Mercedez Holtry

Book ended artfully by two poems (“Dear Donald Trump” and “For Latinos Who Voted for Trump”) that bring much needed attention to the political climate and how the Trump presidency affects her and her people, Mercedez Holtry’s newest publication from Swimming with Elephants Publications is everything you could imagine from the renowned poeta. It, as the title proclaims, is a resistance of performance, blooming like sunflowers stretching to an Albuquerque sunset sky.

Mercedez goes further in speaking not only about the national political climate but also local change and gentrification of her beloved hometown — Albuquerque, New Mexico — in poems like “La Central gets a Makeover” in which she calls out by name former Mayor Berry and the many failings of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) and its continued construction. Woven with a deep woe for being the final generation that might cruise Central Avenue, she takes you on a journey of the Albuquerque she knows and loves.

But there is a softness to this resistance, too. In “You Bring Out the Burqueña in Me,” dedicated to her beloved, she journeys through all the makings of herself and her culture, her love and her home, painting an image that echoes the vulnerability in the poem prior, “The Heat of Summer.” Both veer away from the political undertone of this publication and yet, there is still a softly flowering rebellion in her words. A rebellion of self, of love, of light.

But as with nature, there is darkness behind the light. A persona poem, entitled “La Llorona Speaks,” takes the reader on a shadowed journey into muddy waters of loss, exploring the legend of La Llorona, or The Wailing Woman. Another stunning exploration of her own culture, this particular poem was a hauntingly beautiful read.

As ever, Mercedez does not fail to enlighten and educate with her second collection from Swimming with Elephants, bringing an artfully entwined variety of work.

You can purchase I Bloomed a Resistance from my Mouth on Amazon, along with her first publication, My Blood is Beautiful. And don’t forget to like Mercedez’s artist page on Facebook, and keep a lookout as she heads out for the Blooming Resistance Tour this May (and for inquiries about booking her for a feature, please contact our partners at sugarbookingentertainment@gmail.com).

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Coming Soon: Nail Gun and a Love Letter by Beau Williams. 

Heralding from Portland, Maine, Beau Williams describes himself as a “fairly optimistic” poet, and what better way to describe his newest collection of poetry from Swimming with Elephants Publications than as “fairly optimistic.” Bittersweet journeys to bar floors and the bottoms of bottles, Nail Gun and a Love Letter is reminiscent of beat poetry days and the pilgrimages we must take to find ourselves.

Whether these pilgrimages occur literally or otherwise, Beau has managed to make an astonishing and beautiful book; these are love letters soaked in liquor, poking nails through your heart only to fill the holes with the sort of honesty that only being three sheets to the wind can bring. This book is better described as a cure for hangovers, best enjoyed with a hot cup of tea (or maybe a hot toddy for those frigid winter nights). Beau is undeniably honest in his descriptions, and there’s something chilly in his work, reminiscent of winter along the Northeast coast, but he always manages to wrap the reader up in warm words. From micropoems like “Sacred Vows” to full length bar hymns like “Looking for Brooklyn in a Shit Bar in Portland,” it’s clear that Beau has an inspired affinity for storytelling based heavily in symbols and setting. This book is a journey.

I first met Beau when he was on his own journey with GUYSLIKEYOU, a poetry collective with Wil Gibson and Ryan McLellan. It was his soft demeanour that caught my attention, allowing a contrast to his occasionally sharp edged poetry. Again, this brings to mind poets like Allen Ginsberg; there is a subtlety in these pages, a sharp as a nail, unforgiving as alcohol sort of sensation. And yet, reading this collection was like having a drink with an old friend. Like coming out of the Maine cold to warmth, at long last. And maybe he’ll burn a bit of you, but he will always wrap you up again with a love letter.

Nail Gun and a Love Letter will be released soon. Meanwhile, don’t forget to like Beau’s Facebook page to show him some support and for book release updates.


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Coming Soon: “from below/denied the light” by Paulie Lipman

Welcome, Paulie Lipman, to the Swimming with Elephants Publications family!

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Out of Denver, Colorado, Paulie comes “from below” and rises to join our parade of writers.

A two time National Poetry Slam finalist, Paulie Lipman is a loud Jewish Queer poet, performer, and writer. His work has appeared in the anthology ‘We Will Be Shelter’ (Write Bloody Publishing) as well as The Emerson Review, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, Voicemail Poems, pressure gauge, and Prisma (Zeitblatt Fur Text & Sprache).

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A magical individual, I’ve had the chance to share at least one meal with Paulie in a group setting during the 2015 Denver 40 oz. regional slam; from there, I can recollect Paulie’s genuine kindness, their welcoming spirit, their talent in writing and performing, their endless inspirations and ideas, and their sort of soft loudness that allows others to be heard while their voice lifts in passionate intervals. At the time, I was a “newbie” to competitive slam, but it was with that interaction that Paulie, a veteran to slam to my eyes, made me feel heard throughout the group conversation, going so far as to ask me questions personally so I might be involved in the busy-ness that often overwhelms when you’re sat at a table full of poets.

Their upcoming title with SwEP, “from below/denied the light,” is a deep exploration of addiction, sobriety, spirituality, and identity. With micro-poem interludes, Paulie captivates with self-recognized flaws from the beginning, sharing with readers:

I am a snob when I have no right to be

I judge people who don’t read

Even though I’m a recovering junkie, I have
little tolerance for current ones

I love and help those who deserve it, don’t
ask me how I determine that

Nevertheless, he shines as an example in this brutal self-recognition of knowing he may be “horrible to love”; and still, his work is so easy to fall into as he touches on subjects of his queer identity and how it conflicts with his Jewish blood, and his path into recovery as he addresses past self-destruction.

Of course, with all this to consider, as the title may suggest, Paulie’s book is not a “light” read. Combatting demons throughout, Paulie has managed to create a subtle journey into sobriety and spirituality without overwhelming in its occasional anger and the quiet sadness of providing his own funeral dirge (in a poem aptly named Dirge). And even then, there is a tenderness on the final, lamentful line (but I’ll leave that to mystery).

Beautifully worded and artfully ordered, “from below/denied the light” is available for pre-order on Paulie’s site.

You can also follow them on Facebook or catch them on Instagram.

 


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Wil Gibson just can’t quit…

…being phenomenal.

Of course, such a grand sweeping word as phenomenal fails to do Wil Gibson’s work, in his most recent published collection, any justice whatsoever. It’s my belief that a simpler word might better suffice, if only for the phenomenal simplicity of what Wil’s words make you feel. An oxymoronic statement, maybe, but it’s just that — the beautiful simplicity — which Wil brings to both written and performance poetry.

It’s his most recent publication with Swimming With Elephants Publications, Quitting smoking falling in and out of love, and other thoughts about death that draws close that beautiful simplicity. As life-changing as an arrival to a safe haven, or a departure from the only place you’ve ever known, reading this book was like coming home, wherever home may be. With a broad array of landscapes and cities throughout the United States mentioned, I felt a strong sense of connection to place in reading. It was, undoubtedly, a journey; more than that, it was a pilgrimage.

For that reason, this book needs to be savoured (like a cigarette, if you will, or five after you’ve quit for the umpteenth time). Not to say I didn’t have the urge to rush through each part and eat it all up, but I found it most enjoyed as a slow read, taking the time to dog-ear pages and underline phrases that struck me (and as I say to many writers: sorrynotsorry for dog-earring books, for lack of post-its to use as markholders, and for marking up your books — this, to me, is a testament of love for the work put in, as I find connection to it).

The contrast and connection between each section was so well-constructed, from a writing and editing standpoint, I could certainly see the love that was put into this book, too. From the numbered poems and the slow stream of falling in love over and over again in the first part, The part where I fall in love and a bunch of people I love die to the numbered days in the second part, The part where I quit smoking and more people I love die that are almost comical at times in their display (days 16-18, especially; any smoker or former smoke can certainly relate to the feeling of fuck you that Wil puts so adequately on the page), a conversational tone carries throughout.

Thinking back to when I first heard Wil perform, it’s that conversational tone that holds him as one of my most highly recommended poets for anybody first entering the slam/performance poetry scene; I believe there’s something unique in drawing your audience in without the grandeur of the typical “slam voice.” Instead, Wil’s poetry has always offered this drift back to something reminiscent of the “original” spoken word artists of the Beatnik movement. But there’s that modern touch of artistry in his work, too.

It’s in The part where I fall out of love and more people I love die where Wil’s artistry as a written poet really shines. With unexpected construct like the poem titled simply as Purple, to the constant self-recognition of using cliches to his best ability (and the simple notion of the necessity of cliches), there’s a heartwrenchingly beautiful notion presented in the level of vulnerability that Wil provides in the third and closing part of his collection. Here is vulnerability as a lover, as a smoker, as a writer, as a human. And isn’t that what writing really needs to be? Vulnerable conversations, the shared recognition that we’re all cliches, we’re all just quitting something to start again, that we’re all falling in and out of love with ourselves constantly; Wil’s poetry reminded me that we’re all on a phenomenal pilgrimage through life, and we’ll get there whenever we damn well please (and maybe quit smoking, eventually).

In parting, I would tell anybody skeptical not to be swayed by the ominous title of Wil’s most recent book; instead, let it be an offering that allows you to feel absolutely, phenomenally, simply… human.

You can find Wil’s book on Amazon and Goodreads, along with other books in the Swimming With Elephants Publications family. And don’t forget to keep up with him on his website and Instagram as he continues to tour and scatter his words across the country.


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All Things Grow… even in the crisp autumn cold.

Lately I find myself in a transition phase of recognizing where my own trauma and anxieties end and I begin. This poem, “All Things Grow” by Lydia Havens, performed with Kate Noel, at this summer’s National Poetry Slam in Denver, paid tribute to that transitional phase; and while I didn’t get a chance to see the poem performed in person, I read reactions to it left and right and, upon reading it (and seeing the video), felt a growth inside of myself.

I believe that’s the true meaning of poetry: feeling yourself grow and flourish in the moment, alongside another person, because of another person’s experience and words. I think there’s something especially enchanting about poems like that, and furthermore something enchanting about Lydia — they have this remarkable talent of being explicit and raw and shaping it into something beautiful, something that… grows, far beyond the usual expectations of what one thinks of when they walk into a poetry slam. And that might be one of my very favourite things about Lydia Havens as a writer, too: they are so far beyond the typical slam artist. Instead, they are the true definition of a poet. In a few brief words, they are walking, talking, magical, lizard-y poetry themselves.

“All Things Grow” by Lydia Havens, performed with Kate Noel

bless every poem about trauma,
& struggle, & loss i have written
thus far, for getting me this far.
bless all the space they needed to take up. bless them for knowing
when to step away.

bless all the songs i cannot
listen to anymore because
nostalgia & association will be
the death of me. bless the fact
that i am not dead yet. bless
the fact that i don’t know
where my abuser is anymore,
and i am okay with that.

it doesn’t mean i’ve forgiven him,
but it does mean i’ve forgiven myself.

bless my mother for believing me.
bless my mother for driving me
to all the psych wards, then picking me
back up after discharge. bless
my mother for believing in me.

bless my friends for carrying me home.
bless my friends for making me a home.
bless the city of Boise. bless all the light
it gives us, even at night. bless all
the rivers, even when they want
to overflow. bless the scars on my arms
that faded, and the ones on my face
that didn’t. bless all the ways i spill
like metal secrets against the floor.

bless the glitter always on my hands,
and the becoming. bless the way
my hair is growing out. bless the meds
that worked until they didn’t. bless the way
i never stopped working.

bless the fact that once, i thought
i didn’t know how to write a happy poem.
so bless all the cliches i am learning to love
because i like being a happy person
more than i like being a good writer.
bless vulnerability. bless bravery.
bless whatever it is i’m doing right now,

because everyone that’s ever hurt me
has tried to make me quiet—drown me
in the frantic water i just learned how
to endure. this is not a survival song.
this is the song I sing because I’ve survived.
the opportunity for the joy i have always deserved,
because i have always deserved to take up space.

that’s all. that’s all.

(text posted with permission)
You can visit Lydia’s website, here, and further support them by buying their book, “Survive Like the Water” and, of course, watch the video performance of “All Things Grow” again and again.
Don’t forget to follow them on instagram for magical selfies, and on twitter for more updates about poetry and their life in Boise.