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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New and Upcoming Publications from Kat Heatherington

Kat Heatherington, author of the bones of this land, and Swimming With Elephants Publications’ 2017 chapbook competition winner, has been busy!

Three of Kat’s poems have been accepted to the forthcoming Manzano Mountain Review winter issue, but to keep you warm and waiting, you can check out the Sky Island Journal, another New Mexico-based creative writing journal; they will publish a piece by Kat in their upcoming issue on October 20th.

And available to read right now, four of Kat’s poems have been published in a small collection entitled Erotix: Literary Journal of Somatics. What looks to be a promising and awakening collection, it is described as a journal that “explores the poetry and prose of the erotic experience in many different forms.” Included in a baker’s dozen of writers, 51wjF6pvWjL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Kat helps to “explore the idea of what it is to be adventuring in a body: what is it to connect with others? What is it to experience intense sensation? What is it to transform? What is it to live in this particular body that we have?” Further, it uses “erotic touch, somatics, BDSM, love, and more,” and surely holds the promise of shedding light on one’s most intimate thoughts and mindset. I, personally, can’t wait to get my hands on a copy; won’t you help support Kat and buy a copy, too?


Kat Heatherington is a queer ecofeminist poet, sometime artist, pagan, and organic gardener. She has been living in Albuquerque since 1998, when she moved here to earn a Master’s in English at UNM.15871565_10210320273297158_5000576831974740644_n

In 2007 she collaborated with a group of three other unrelated adults to buy land in the Rio Grande Valley and form Sunflower River intentional community, sunflowerriver.org.  Ten years and many life lessons later, Sunflower River is still going strong, and still providing plenty of material to write poems about.

Kat’s work primarily addresses the interstices of human relationships and the natural world.  She has several self-published chapbooks, available from the author at yarrow@sunflowerriver.org.  Her work can be read at https://sometimesaparticle.org.

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Happy fourth SWEP-aversary, Kai!

Today marks FOUR YEARS since PERISCOPE HEART, Kai Coggin‘s debut collection with Swimming With Elephants Publications, was released! PH Postcard 4x6We want to take this time to congratulate Kai on her many and continued efforts in pursuing change in the world through writing.

More recently, she was published in HER Magazine, in an article that showcased her work in poetry and the ties to her culture therein. We are SO proud of our parade in everything they do. Congratulations, Kai! And happy publication anniversary, from all of SWEP family, to you!


Kai Coggin was born in Bangkok, Thailand, but is currently a happy blip in the 3-million-acre Ouachita National Forest in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. Author of PERISCOPE HEART, published by Swimming With Elephants in 2014, and Wingspanpublished by Golden Dragonfly Press on Earth Day 2016, Kai was a 9th/10th grade English teacher I wish I’d had, before she transitioned fully to a career in writing. She has more accolades than could fit on a page, and basically continues to slay in the writing world. Please be sure to check out her website, kaicoggin.com (where you can get a full list of all those accolades!) and continue to support her in all of her efforts.


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Bassam on Wax Poetic

Swimming with Elephants Publications’ own Bassam was interviewed by Wax Poetic, a Canadian based poetry podcast that you can listen to for FREE! (and as poets, we sure love free things, don’t we?) They talk about their SWEP release, bliss in die/unbinging the underglow and more…

bliss in die

You can check out the podcast here!

And don’t forget to like Bassam on Facebook and support them further by buying their book on Amazon; while you’re there, don’t forget to check out their new release from Gen Z Publishing!

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Bassam Bassam(they/them or xe/xim) is a spoken word poet, proud auntie, and settler residing on the traditional territory of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant (Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendatt, and Mississaugas of the New Credit). they are a member of the League of Canadian Poets, an executive board member with Spoken Word Canada, and has toured Turtle Island performing spoken word. Bassam earned title of national poetry slam champion at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (CFSW) in 2016 with the Guelph Poetry Slam team, and Canadian Individual Poetry Slam (CIPS) finalist in 2017. they were editor-in-chief for ‘these pills don’t come in my skin tone’, a poetry collection exclusively by Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) on the topic of mental health and illness, released in fall 2017. a (gender)queer, Jewish person of Middle-Eastern descent and a long-time sufferer of body dysmorphia, bipolar and eating disorders, bassam believes in radical kindness as resistance to colonization, that there is no peace without justice, and that intersectionality is vital in the struggle against kyriarchy.

 


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Book Review: Rock Paper Scissors

i need poemspoemspoemspoems
a universe of nothing but–
just to keep the light on
just to keep my head
in a world gone madmadmad

The ending stanza of Mary Oishi’s first poem in Rock Paper Scissors showcases exactly how I needed this book, at this point in my life especially. Co-written with her daughter, Aja Oishi, Rock Paper Scissors is divided into two parts: part one being Mary’s, a mother’s poetry of strength and survival. And it radiates and embodies those two qualities so well, but it gMaryO (1)oes beyond the theme of motherhood alone — though it was this theme that I clung to desperately, now raising two daughters of my own, and an old friend of much survival and some strength.

Mary’s part in the book starts with a subtle strength, though; short poems pack brief blows of heartbreak and speak a story of resilience, touching on abandonment (when i asked how my mother could give me away), growing up biracial (at least I had siblings, you said), the impact of racism, and politics (in numerous poems, though most notably in Thoughts on the Execution of Troy Davis).

Heaven help us,” Mary writes, “We are ALL Troy Davis.” But in the same stride that she seeks to remind readers of our unified human-ness with this and other works, her poem prior, Ghosts of Penn’s Woods, packs a reminder of the brutality of colonization. Her heavy concentration on politics does not cease here: broken frame left a lump in my throat, womb-heart aching not only because I am both mother and woman, but because I have faced the choice of abortion.

this poem is a graphic picture on a sign
in front of every senator, every candidate
who calls for escalation, for “tough measures”
this is a pro-life poem.
THIS. is a PRO-LIFE poem.

She begins with this brave declaration, placing the reader briefly in the shoes of a war-ridden woman; for every politician who screams PRO-LIFE, we are left with the echoing question, “What about the children in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan?” The list could go on, loud as bombs.

But then, there is perhaps a message more easily related to.

she wonders if her pro-choice sisters,” she writes, “will stand with her now,” speaking of a doubt that has flooded the minds of too many women more concerned with the thoughts of others than the impact of making their own choice may have on their futures. With unwavering finality, we are left with the firm belief of the author:

this poem demands all women’s right to choose,
ALL women, to really have choice, choices, opportunity
this is a pro-choice poem.

THIS. is a PRO-CHOICE poem.

This is a pro-life/pro-choice poem
looking for a new frame.

Never before had I read something that so wonderfully/horribly resonated with my own thoughts on the constant debate of choice, and for that, I cannot offer enough praise to Mary Oishi.

Her daughter, Aja Oishi, proves to be just as radiant in writing as her mother, though certainly with her own unique voice in the second part, a daughter’s poetry of chance and fate. Visually enlightening, Aja’s poetry awoke something visceral within me. Immediately, I felt as though I was being taken on aajaauthorphoto  spiritual journey; but perhaps there was no surprise in such spirituality resonating in Aja’s writing with titles such as Creation Story and Of the three Fates, I choose scissors. Other poems, like Beast vibrated with simplistic form, and still strongly echoed that deep and complex spiritual feel.

Get down

Dig dig dig because you are small
and the small will survive.

Stay alive

Touch your hands to the earth
and do what it tells you.

Remember what you came for

Love and joy, and love and joy,
and love and joy.

She goes on to write about defending the sacred, reiterating that it is we who are sacred things; assuredly, each of her pieces are equally as beautiful and enlightening, offering a semblance of inner peace. But there is a bittersweetness, too, in poems like Fireflies that seek to remind us of our dying earth, of what we once thought of as eternal and how it’s now fading. In a political landscape strife with debate of climate change and global warming (and the list goes on from there, of course), I feel like Aja’s voice is necessary for my generation — we are the ones who witnessed little miracles like fireflies, and constantly buzzing bees, and our children will, perhaps, be the last to see such things as they fade only to be revisited in memories.

And perhaps this is why earth itself (or maybe it’s more apt to say herself) is such a beautifully repeating theme in Aja’s work. In don’t be afraid of the beautiful and high mountains, she again succeeds with offering a very visual piece, the message of which is simple and still so very important: don’t give up.

Don’t give up
for unbearable sorrow.
Don’t give up
for the terrible anger.
Every day
suffering piles up
on yesterday’s suffering
be we have work to do.

Even at night a miracle happens
with every in breath.
Somewhere
frogs emerge singing

and precious strawberries
are red
in the mouth.

Written like a letter to a woman named Carol, it begins with the declaration, “Your very name is a praise song.” I was so utterly struck by this statement, and the lasting sentiment, “We need you here to sing the welcome song.”

Like her mother, Aja also speaks of heritage, of being a woman in this wild world, of the choices that we face. With My Body Between acts as a witness, from the perspective of patient escort, to every woman who has walked into an abortion clinic.

She’s worn every label you can think up
from good girl to fuck up.
She keeps her chin up.
She’s come in a rusty blue Mustang
and her brother’s pickup truck.
She saved to come out from Texas
—cause it’s much worse in Texas—
and her boyfriend’s come with her
on the bus from uptown.
They thought she wouldn’t get here,
cause she just finished
fifth grade.
She thought she wouldn’t get here
cause in her forty-five years
she’d never been.

This entire piece chipped off pieces off my heart, not only because I have been there for reasons numerous, but because it made me feel seen. It made me ache and cry, it made me feel as though I were a part of a unified front, even with the recognition that this choice isn’t made lightly, and without hurt. And I think that was the most important thing: Aja’s words don’t seek to act as though this isn’t a painful choice, but certainly reiterates the fact that it is a CHOICE; a choice that women in all walks of life have had to make.

I could go on to wax poetic about each of Aja’s poems that follow, written from various personal experiences (though written in such a way that they are not impersonal, and allow the reader to insert themselves into the words and images and places), but maybe that would be too redundant. Instead, I leave you with the simple insistence that you buy this book. I speak as a mother, but believe this is a worthwhile collection to add to anyone’s library.


Mary Oishi has two poetic voices: one stark and simple like that
of her Japanese ancestors, and one that echoes the rhythms of
preachers from her upbringing by her American father’s
fundamentalist relatives. Both voices sing her songs of truth
and social justice. She is the author of Spirit Birds They Told Me
(2011) and is one of twelve U.S. poets in 12 Poetas: Antologia De
Nuevos Poetas Estadounidenses (2017), a project of the Mexican
Ministry of Culture. Her poems have appeared in Mas Tequila
Review, Malpais Review, Harwood Anthology, Sinister Wisdom, and
other print and digital publications. Oishi is a public radio
personality since 1996, most at KUNM-FM Albuquerque,
where she hosts The Blues Show.

Aja Oishi lives in northern New Mexico. Her writing draws
from ecology, anthropology, and the years she spent in Spain,
Japan, and New Zealand. She revels in the uncaged world and
makes a living (and a life) by fighting for prisoners as an
appellate public defender. This is her first collection of poetry.


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Featured SwEP author: Jennifer E. Hudgens

Swimming With Elephants Publications would like to reintroduce you to Jennifer E. Hudgens, author of Girls Who Fell in Love with War. Jennifer was born and raised in Oklahoma City. She has always danced to the beat of her own drummer, just ask her mom. Using poetry as a means of expression and survival, Jennifer lives poetry. She watches the sky the way most people watch television. Jennifer is terrified of clowns, horses, and animatronic toys. That damned Snuggle bear is secretly trying to steal souls.

Girls Who Fell in Love with War is Jennifer’s first full collection of poems. She has plans to release a couple poetry chapbooks and her first novel in 2016. Jennifer promises the novel is quite murdery. She is also working to bring more diversity and light to the amazingly talented poets in the Oklahoma Poetry Community.

Jennifer is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma with plans to teach high school students after graduation. She teaches creative writing classes for the Oklahoma City Arts Council and is a pretty rad substitute teacher.

Jen genuinely hopes you like her poems. If you don’t, that’s okay too.

Recently, she released a collection, Paloma, with Blood Pudding Press. So it goes…

You were the only one who believed me when I said what he did hurt

You were the only one who knew I was burying myself in too much fat and flux

Paloma kickstarts with 1996, a punk rock war-cry of nostalgia and a final lingering note of sadness. This, like many others in the collection, is a poem that resounds with everything oh-so-90s; but make no mistake, this is meant in the best possible way. A mixed tape soundtrack that plays like growing up, it sets the tone to whom this collection is dedicated– as much funeral dirge as it is love song for a sister and friend. The final line of the first poem rings melancholic: “Who’s gonna take care of us strays now?”

It is this echoing theme of finality, of trying to grasp the concept of loss, that carries on through the entire collection, questions of mortality and suffering scattered like the ashes of the departed, asking the question specifically in Lauren Kate is Dead: “Where the hell is this better place people are always talking about” and present in lines like:

How is it life if we aren’t suffering
Pain keeps us still {here} latched to gravity

With each poem thereafter comes a chapter of both closure and reawakening old memories; Paloma is remarkably bittersweet in the tug-of-war of saying goodbye to somebody who can no longer hear you, and Hudgens’ voice is so clear and combative against adhering to traditional standards. If nothing else, it is clear that Hudgens proves to be anything but a traditional poet; she rocks the reader’s thoughts, with gruesome details suggesting unkempt murder, encouraging one to further unravel the mayhem behind a sudden loss. Nonetheless, this proves to be a beautiful read, a true work of dedication and memory even with scattered wishes to be unseen, like that found in Bizarre Love Triangle:

You always saw me
Now
I’m trying not to be seen

And isn’t that so like loss, and how we process it? Loud as bombs, but in the quiet, in solitude, trying to process in peace, even if the death was anything but peaceful. But with this thought, I wonder at the intention of the book title: Paloma– a name that means peace, it is perhaps, with this offering, the dearly departed (because judging by Hudgens’ words, Lauren Kate was, indeed, so very dear) may be at peace, too.

Overall, as with all of our SwEP family, I can only offer heartfelt recommendations to reach out and read more of Jennifer Hudgens’ work. You can purchase her full-length title, Girls Who Fell in Love with War, published with Swimming with Elephants, on Amazon, and keep an eye on her wordpress for more news directly from the author.