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Hybrid Poetry by Ching-In Chen

Hello, dear readers! This month, we’re excited to bring you hybrid poems from one of our favorite writers in Washington state: Ching-In Chen.

Ching-In Chen is a genderqueer Chinese American hybrid writer, community organizer and teacher. They are author of The Heart’s Traffic and recombinant (winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry) as well as the chapbooks how to make black paper sing and Kundiman for Kin :: Information Retrieval for Monsters (Finalist for the Leslie Scalapino Award). Chen is also co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets. They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Can Serrat and Imagining America and are a part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. A community organizer, they have worked in Asian American communities in San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside, Boston, Milwaukee and Houston. They are currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington Bothell.

After finishing one of Chen’s poetry books, recombinant, this winter, we asked them to share more of their writing with our audiences. Lucky for us, they agreed (!) and we now have five phenomenal, hit-you-in-the-gut, hybrid poems for your reading pleasure. If you enjoy Chen’s writing, support them by purchasing one of their books at your local indie bookstore and drop them an email to tell they how amazing they are. Now, let’s get to the poems.


Still Green by Ching-In Chen

Still Green by Ching-in Chen

Pilgrimage

Flood Fathers

Flood Fathers by Ching-In Chen

Overnight Holiday

Overnight Holiday by Ching-in Chen

Emperor

Inspired by Swati Khurana & Hari Alluri

Emperor by Ching-in Chen

Photo by Cassie Mira

Ching-In Chen is a genderqueer Chinese American hybrid writer, community organizer and teacher. They are author of The Heart’s Traffic and recombinant (winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry) as well as the chapbooks how to make black paper sing and Kundiman for Kin :: Information Retrieval for Monsters (Finalist for the Leslie Scalapino Award). Chen is also co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets. They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Can Serrat and Imagining America and are a part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. A community organizer, they have worked in Asian American communities in San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside, Boston, Milwaukee and Houston. They are currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington Bothell.  

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It’s Your Country, Too

A conversation with authors Yousef Allouzi & Samuel Snoek-Brown about writing, publishing, and co-creating

With the launch of The Bedouin by Yousef Allouzi and There Are No False Alarms by Samuel Snoek-Brown right around the corner, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to give readers a deeper understanding of the how’s and why’s behind the paired chapbooks and their authors. So, we asked Yousef and Sam to chat with us about their writing, the publishing process, and their relationship as writers and co-conspirators. Enjoy, friends!


Yousef Allouzi, “It’s Your Country, Too”

Q: Yousef, your essay centers on heritage and reconnecting with your family, but it also touches on racial profiling and discrimination in the U.S. Will you talk about how those themes intermingle in your writing and personal life?

A: The intermingling of heritage and family with discrimination and racial profiling has always been a part of my life.  From the time I was young, I was very aware that being Arab-American was drenched in stigma, whether it be the “t word” (terrorist) or the general portrayal of Arab-Americans in pop culture and television.  I lived much of my youth ashamed of my heritage. I liken it to the feeling of being poor.  I can remember the first time I visited a kid’s house in a gated community back in Texas.  I felt like I shouldn’t be there. No matter how many showers you take, or how expensive the clothes you are wearing, you don’t feel like you belong. So, naturally, I try and let those feelings seep into my writing. 

Q: What do you hope readers take away from reading your essay?

A: The American story is a story of diversity. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. It’s your country too.  It’s become somewhat of a cliché, but history has a way of repeating itself. Our country has a very fickle relationship with civil rights during conflict, and the fallout of 9/11 was no different. 

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Learning From My Garden in Four Colors


Learning From My Garden in Four Colors

An essay by Tamiko Nimura

Green

Mid-March 2020, Washington state. Too anxious to even buy seeds. Too soon to plant seeds outside. I remember what I’d started a few years ago: my desktop garden. The ends of romaine heads, the tops of carrots, the bottoms of baby bok choy. Soon I’ve got trays of vegetable scraps on my work desk.

Daughter and granddaughter of immigrants, I begin to “upcycle” (hoard) the plastic clamshell containers for strawberries, the aluminum trays and clear covers that came with our takeout dinners.

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Allyship in This Time of Civil Unrest

A note from the publisher, Christina Butcher

Now is the time to stand up and support Black community members across the country in the fight against police brutality, systemic injustice and racism.

Yes, this is a fight. And yes, we need to stand in solidarity as a community of supporters, allies and activists to ensure personal safety and freedoms of Black people, especially, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), generally, as they are continually targeted by police and racists across our country. Refusing to take a stand in some way, even in the smallest, most personal show of support you can muster, counters the efforts of activists and reinforces the corrupted systems in place. Complacency is complicity. I’ll say that again. Complacency is complicity.

As a company, Blue Cactus Press stands with Black Lives Matter and supports the wider, continuous efforts toward racial equality and justice in the U.S. We are working to increase the ways we support Black community members and take action to counter racial injustice. We can do more, and this is the start of that.

As a Woman of Color, I also stand with Black Lives Matter and support the work it, and other organizations, put into changing our socio-political landscape for the better. I see this work and I’m eager to participate. As a pregnant woman though, my physical limitations keep me from participating in many of the ways I’d like to. And I admit, I have been slow to accept the reality that my body is not my own, and to temper my mental and emotional desires to “do more” in this fight. I know there are many of you out there, as well, looking for ways to take meaningful action despite your own physical, mental and emotional barriers. So, in an attempt to lay out an actionable plan for myself and others, I’ve written a list of things we can do to be better, stronger allies with Black and BIPOC community members in this time of civil unrest.

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Artist Interview: DJ Smokey Wonder

Prickly Pear Podcast Episode 10: DJ Smoky Wonder

Yeah. A whole podcast episode of nothin’ but good-good music by one of our favorite, Tacoma-based musicians, DJ Smokey Wonder. Why? Because life is hard and sometimes it’s refreshing – and necessary – to participate in things that bring us joy and don’t expect a damn thing in return. 

So take a break from worrying about  the CODIV-19 heath crisis, the overwhelming number of online meetings you have to attend, work or the lack thereof, and everything else cramping your style this summer and just listen to some damn-good music. After a six-month-ish podcast hiatus, we’re back and eager to share a brand new podcast episode featuring homegrown, bad ass, get-down-funky music by DJ Smokey Wonder.

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Cayote Speaks to Me by Gina Hietpas

Coyote Speaks to Me

by Gina Hietpas

So you want to know this place? Be up at dawn,
when first light brushes the sky beyond the grove
of madrones you call the seven sisters.

Don’t whine. Learn by exposing yourself
to the dark and cold.
I sleep in the blackberry tangle edging the hayfield,
my thorn fortress warmed by southern light.

Every fall, glossy fruit hangs outside my door. Breakfast.
There’s the pioneer orchard, trees gnarled,
apples like knobs, but I tell you – nothing like a feast
of field mice and fallen apples.

It’s a quick lope along the fence to the ravine.
Good mousing by the cedar posts
bunched with grass and ragged leaves.
Listen. The water, eighty feet below,
roars with yesterday’s rain.

Stick with me!
I’ll show you persistence and the art of pounce.
Watch me shrug off disappointment.

In solitude you learn your story.
Only then can you riff on the moon.


I Take My Chances with a Seasonal Man

by Gina Hietpas

There was a time, your green shirt ripe
with herring roe was pungent comfort.

You, gone again for the salmon run.

Me, city bred, newly wed
plunged into cold water living:
prime the pump, lime the privy, sliver kindling.

I polish the cook stove’s blue porcelain door,
such a fine Wedgewood,
tidy the drawers of the kitchen hutch,

first date receipts, errant buttons, string too short to save,
a clutch of mismatched dice.
Shake for luck and roll.

Stuck, I scour the sour whiff of mushrooms,
grey decay crouched in corners.
I must not cower.

Alone. Trim the wicks, light the lamps.
Feed the fire. Listen to coyote chatter.


Riffing on the Moon

by Gina Hietpas

A full moon rides the scruffy sky.
Restless as incoming tide, I wander,
room to room, in raw pursuit of sleep.

Led by mosaic light, I step into the yard
to breathe frost and stars
and expanded space.

A coyote yips an opening chord.
The pack jubilates – howling tremolos,
braided barks, a high descant.

Across the valley another band accepts the challenge,
riffs with alto warbles, solo yelps,
a running keen.

Echoing pitches volley, a call and response
of boundaries and bonds.
As the canticle fades, final alpha barks

dissolve all illusion of aloneness.


IMG_1215Gina Hietpas is a self-taught poet, born and raised in Tacoma, Washington state. Nowadays, she lives outside Sequim, WA, on a small farm with her husband, a few cows and a passel of chickens. Her land is a habitat for elk, deer, coyotes and an occasional bear. It is, for the most part, a peaceful coexistence. The opportunity to be a back-country ranger for several seasons shaped her connection to wilderness. Professionally she was a middle school teacher for twenty five years.  Now that she has retired, she focuses her efforts on writing. She has studied with Kelli Russell Agodon, Alice Derry, Holly Hughes, Susan Rich and Kim Stafford. Hietpas’ work has appeared in Minerva Rising, Tidepools, Spindrift and New Plains Review.

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Author Interview: Kellie Richardson

We can’t keep Kellie Richardson’s book cover under wraps any longer! It’s too good to keep to ourselves, and the story behind it – and behind Kellie’s creative work in collage – is worth sharing. So, let us introduce you to The Art of Naming My Pain, a collection of prose, poetry and collage by Kellie Richardson.

The cover of is based on one of Richardson’s collage pieces, “Listen,” created in 2019 with acrylic, tissue paper and found items on canvas.

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Writing with Gender-Inclusive Language

If we truly care about creating a more equitable society in which a person’s individuality is not reduced to their sex and/or gender, than our language should reflect that.

pronouns graphic

Writing with Gender-Inclusive Language

A brief guide to writing tactfully as our language evolves  

By Carlisle Huntington

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Anal Pleasure & Health

Filmmaker, writer and multimedia artist Jonah Barrett recently debuted a personal essay, “Anal Pleasure & Health,” at Creative Colloquy in January 2019. Jonah’s essay is authentic, humorous and heartfelt, and for those reasons (and many more), we’re incredibly excited to  feature “Anal Pleasure & Health” here at Blue Cactus Press. We’ve also included a video recording of Jonah’s performance at Creative Colloquy below. Go ahead, read your heart out, friends.


Anal Pleasure & Health

by Jonah Barrett

I’m bad at bottoming. I’m just horrible at it. Throughout my life I’ve successfully done the deed about four times, with three of those instances involving more than enough alcohol. As a cis gay man, I really should have the act down by now. It’s the act of preparation that really gets me. Who knew getting ready for fucking had to be such a chore? I won’t go into the details, but it usually involves planning a few hours in advance and hoping to God you’ve eaten at least one piece of fruit in the last 24 hours.

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Author Interview: Samuel Snoek-Brown

SSB Author Photo

If you’ve been wondered what was rolling around in author Samuel Snoek-Brown’s head as he wrote his new short story collection, There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, today’s the day to find out! We sat down with the Tacoma-based author to chat about how his new collection came to be, the narratives inside, and some of the secrets hidden within its stories. Enjoy!

Q: We heard through the grapevine you like to hide secrets or slip riddles into your stories … is that true?

A: I’m a big fan of literary puzzles and Easter eggs! So yeah, I hide all sorts of nerdy things in my stories. The main thing I hope every reader keeps an eye out for are the hidden connections between my stories, not just in this book but in all the stories I write. (Example: There’s a connection between the story “Jarabe” and my Civil War novel Hagridden, but I’ll let readers find it on their own.) But there are also other little games I play while I’m developing stories, and I don’t know if anyone else will spot them or if they’re just for me, but I like that they’re in there. A lot of my stories come from songs, for example, as did the title of this collection. But I won’t spoil the game of figuring out which songs. And those Easter eggs aren’t as important as the stories themselves, anyway. Continue reading Author Interview: Samuel Snoek-Brown