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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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.



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Book Review: GNARLY

There is beauty in breathing razorblades and exhaling a painted sunset as delicate as it is too much to behold; that’s what Danielle Smith accomplishes in her first publication, GNARLY. And “gnarly” is the perfect description of Smith’s words as she takes you for a rollercoaster through first loves and heartbreaks, all playing out like a soundtrack under the visual madness of a New Mexico skyline. Smith has lit a match that burns just as bright as one of those remarkable sunsets.

And she manages to set the reader on fire, too, turning your heart into the campfire that might light the night as she whispers in your ear bittersweet-everythings; because this is the human experience. It is raw, gritty, soiled, messy, gnarly. From the truth showcased in teenage romance, in poems such as Minerals and Freckles, to the raw and heartfelt honesty of (His) Tie Dye and Making Nothing Out Of Something, Smith manages to take the reader down a new route where so many have tread before. She’s just wearing new shoes and holding a machete, fierce as a bleeding heart, to bushwhack her way through the bramble of her own thinking.

Her book reads like an indie record, but you want everybody to hear this one. Other poems, like Super 8, showcase true artistry, peppering the reader with hidden messages like whisper-kisses, finally ending on the “title track”, Gnarly which is everything and nothing you’d expect upon reaching the end: all madness, all frantic, all knees knocking, lip biting, nail scratching grit.

Overall, both deeply touching as it is a shock that such a young voice could carry so much wisdom and experience.

Her book, as with all Swimming With Elephants Publications, can be found online on Amazon and goodreads, where you can leave a review for this up-and-coming brilliant poeta.