I received news yesterday that my debut poetry chapbook, Wolf Skin, won the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s 2015 Elgin Chapbook Award! The award honors the best speculative poetry chapbook published in 2013-2014. I was honored to be nominated, and I’m just plain thrilled to win! I’ve been writing speculative poetry since I was a kid, and I’m amazed to have my work recognized by this wonderful organization whose grandmasters include luminaries like Ray Bradbury, Jane Yolen, and Bruce Boston. Read more about the chapbook here, and order a copy here.
Last month brought some good news for Wolf Skin–the chapbook was nominated for the 2015 Elgin Award, an annual competition for speculative poetry collections coordinated by the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). And this week, SFPA member Sandra J. Lindow reviewed the collection for Star*Line, the SFPA’s quarterly publication. The review is based on a really close reading of the chapbook, and I’m so grateful to Lindow for it. Here’s an excerpt:
Nineteen elegant poems in this simulated antique handmade edition reflect contemporary insight into fairy tales whose origins are lost in time. Native of south Louisiana, Mary McMyne writes poetry flavored by the moonshine of Southern Gothic and puts them in a butterfly frame. There is a witchy, cognitive connection between “the woman in my head who pinned monarchs to cork” mentioned in the first poem, “The Butterfly Dome” and the poems that follow. ‘Lepidoptera’ reveals that ‘unlucky’ butterflies sleep ‘under glass,’ ‘wings wide open—married to cork’ while the woman who collects them dreams of flight as she transfixes their wings. This dichotomy of love and death, freedom and captivity, power and powerlessness is a reoccurring motif ‘pinned down’ throughout the collection… Much is contained in this small package of poems. Highly recommended.”
You can read the review online, in full, here.
My poems, “The Day the Woman Shed Her Skin” and “The Frog King,” are featured in the Fall/Winter 2014 (34.2-3) issue of The Chattahoochee Review, alongside a review essay by contributing editor Gregg Murray on “Confessionalism and High Modernism in Recent Work by Sampson Starkweather, Mary McMyne, and Okla Elliot.” Here’s an excerpt:
McMyne’s elegant lyricism elevates the verse, giving the fairy tales a weird significance that the many epigraphs in the chapbook (translated, typically from the original German) lack… Her details, such as the Latin name of a plant or butterfly, are authenticating, an important feature of fantastical genres. Such details allow the reader to suspend disbelief and trust the world of the text.
I’m honored to see Wolf Skin get such attention and to see my work included in this issue. One of the highlights for me was “Nathan,” a wonderfully bizarre story by David James Poissant, which reminded me of one of my favorite shorts by Donald Barthelme.
I’ll be the featured poet at this week’s Superior Poetry Cafe, tomorrow, Thursday, October 9, 2014, at 7 pm at Bayliss in the Sault. Wolf Skin will be available for sale and signing. The open mic after the reading is always interesting! U.P. poetry folks and fairy tale aficionados, see you there.
The interview Tanya Chernov conducted with me about Wolf Skin is now up, over at her blog. Below is an excerpt from the beginning:
TC: Let’s talk about that fantastic title! At what point in the process of composition did you nail it down and know you had the title of your manuscript? What does it represent for you?
MM: Many of the poems in the chapbook explore our preoccupation with putting on a front of invulnerability or fierceness. European folktales as we know them today are violent stories, with clear underlying assumptions about the widespread existence of evil in the world. One of the questions I found myself asking, as I wrote these poems, is do I believe in that evil? Whatever it is, how should we choose to react to it? The title poem follows the huntsman from the Brothers Grimm variant of Little Red Riding Hood as he comes upon the wolf asleep—snoring loudly—in the grandmother’s bed. Because the poem is written in second person, reading the poem, you enter the huntsman’s mind as he realizes what the wolf has done and rushes to save the girl and her grandmother. You become the huntsman, as he “slit[s] the beast open, the word hero stinging [his] tongue.” But Red and the grandmother do not respond, here, as they do in the Grimms’ version. At the end of the poem, the huntsman plans the story he’ll tell his friends, then tries on the “wolf skin” as he walks home. The title shifted several times during the writing process, but when the poem was accepted at Los Angeles Review, I loved your and Kelly Davio’s suggestion that I pull out the phrase “wolf skin” from the final verse and use it as the title, because of the way it brought out the themes of the poem. Ultimately, the poem asks, what really happened at grandmother’s house? Why do men become heroes or villains?
Read the rest of the interview here.
Tanya Chernov earned her MFA in poetry from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, Whidbey Writers Workshop. Author of the Kirkus Review’s 15 Excellent New Memoirs, A Real Emotional Girl (Skyhorse Publishing), she is the former poetry and translations editor for the Los Angeles Review. In 2014, she edited the groundbreaking multimedia poetry anthology, The Burden of Light. Tanya lives and writes in Seattle with her dog, Mona, though the roots of her heart remain firmly planted in Wisconsin.