Reclaiming By Erasing: A Guest Post By Lest I Know Your Weakness Author Taylor Ramage

LGBTQ Reads

Please welcome author Taylor Ramage to the site today to talk about erasure and her recently released poetry collection, Lest I Know Your Weakness. Before we get into the post, here’s a note from the author on the book’s actual crafting:

I made this poetry collection by taking words, phrases, and letters from the 1872 novella Carmilla and reorganizing them into poems. That’s what erasure or blackout poetry is in a nutshell–transforming the content of an existing text into something new.
Although Carmilla does have undeniable lesbian representation, it was still written in 1872 by a white man and has a tragic ending like we’ve seen on some mainstream TV shows that kill off their wlw characters. But creating erasure poetry from this old text allows Laura and Carmilla’s narrative to be reclaimed and redeemed, even though it’s certainly still angsty. It’s another form of adaptation, much like the…

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FDAD: A Multi-World Fantasy WIP Update #3

Today (the day that I’m writing this, not the day this publishes) is a special day. I’ve reached a major milestone in this book and it’s exhilarating.

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100,000 words.

This is the longest continuous thing I’ve written (I actually passed that particular milestone about 15,000 words ago, but let me have this). I will finish this book within another 20,000 words, meaning that by the end of June or July, I’ll have a completed draft. And it’ll be a fairly solid draft at that.

Yes, there are major developmental fixes to make like how I changed the way one magic system works about halfway through. I also have a much clearer idea now about certain character motivations and the general level of awareness that people have of other worlds than I did at the beginning of this book. From the big stuff to the sentence-level stuff, there is a lot to revise. I’m trying to figure out now what my editorial passes will be. Generally, it’s gonna be the big stuff first, the sentence-level stuff last, but I’ll need to see if I work better focusing on one thing at a time and doing more passes or if I should do fewer passes looking at multiple things.

I’m grateful for my day job experience in editorial work for educational content development because the process of revisions isn’t intimidating to me. It’s just a matter of figuring out how I want to approach each pass.

I’m also grateful for my background in erasure poetry since that, in a way, is much like revising and editing. Revisions give me the chance to make the book really shine.

Once I get the MS to a place where I feel totally good about it, I’ll be rounding up beta readers and will certainly be doing more revisions. After that…querying agents.

It’s exciting how a little bit every day eventually leads to these milestones. Of course, my mind is already gearing up for the next project, which will be draft 2 of a novella. I’ll be balancing that draft with revisions on this book.

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You can see I’m still struggling to consistently hit 500 words a day. I’m hoping that the first half of June will be super productive given my motivation to finish because I’ll be traveling that last week and unable to work on the book.

Should I be wild and make the day before I leave the deadline to finish? Maybe. That’s either a brilliant plan or a way of setting myself up for defeat.

Anyway, what do I like about what I’ve written since the last update? Well, my MC is starting to have a through line of confidence, even on her worst days. She’s just a little bit more ready to take ownership and that drive is carrying her through the last part of this book.

My next update should hopefully be a “omg I finished my book” post.

Until next time!

Shoutout to Sapphic Book Club for Choosing Lest I Know Your Weakness for April’s Book of the Month

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Reviews are so incredibly important to authors and asking for them is like pulling teeth. So I’m deeply grateful to the members of Sapphic Book Club who have left wonderful, honest, and fair reviews after selecting Lest I Know Your Weakness as their April book of the month.

Of course, I need more. I always will. Every rating and recommendation helps increase my visibility among the sea of books out there. If you’ve read my book, add your thoughts among these reviewers’.

I know in Author Land™ it’s a cardinal sin to read Goodreads reviews, but I do because I have so few of them and honestly I’d like to pull some quotes for promotional posts. But the funniest thing I’ve seen is that one user added my book to a bookshelf called “harold,” which is full of wlw books.

Frankly, I might make a “harold” shelf myself.

Be sure to check out Sapphic Book Club on Tumblr. I’ve definitely bought books just from browsing their recommendations!

FDAD: A Multi-world Fantasy WIP update #2

Well, more than a month has passed since my last update about this project, but that’s because I’ve had so much else going on in my life, most of it good.

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March was a lighter month for me in terms of word count and the first half of April has been the same. It’s definitely a combination of the life stuff and the fact that I reached the big turning point for my main character. Now that that episode is finished, I’m in this reflection/passage of time arc that has a few important points, but I’m trying not to linger on it too long. I have to let myself tell a little bit to keep from getting stuck. Still, I’m close(ish) to the end.

Things have settled down, so now I’m just trying to focus on 500 words a day–just 500 words regardless of what my Scrivener word counter says or what I did or didn’t do the day before.

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I won’t end up having written 15,500 words in April, but I will get just shy of 100k. I had hoped this thing would wrap at around 120k, but it might be closer to 150k. That’s still an acceptable range for a first draft.

Thing I like about what I’ve written since the last update:

  • I think I presented one character’s betrayal with a good nuance and it came out on the page much better than I could’ve planned.
  • My MC had a great bonding moment with her two besties.
  • The stable OTP in my party is forever adorable.
  • One of my characters is a “man of culture” and is a lowkey disaster bi. I don’t know when or if romance will come up for him again since he’s so hyperfocused on everything else.
  • One of my chaotic/fun supporting characters is in love with her boy who has yet to be introduced, but if she were Andy from Parks & Rec, my MC would be her “if I had to pick a dude.”

Until next time!

Holy Week & Bethlehem, WV

Lent never fails to challenge me, even when my life is filled with blessings and I’m not in the mental place I’m usually in where I can truly sit in the solemnity of the season. I spent many years there, so perhaps my recent joys are God giving me a little break. For that, I’m grateful.

Even so, Holy Week this year has laid a heavy symbolism upon the world with the fire at Notre Dame. I have nuanced, conflicting feelings about the entire event that I could present as overly wordy paragraphs, but succinct points are probably better.

  • Notre Dame is one symbol among many of old ways of doing church that simply do not resonate as much with the general population in the 21st century for a myriad of reasons: the church’s ties to colonialism, white supremacy, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry and exclusion being among the chief pillars that make my generation question whether the church really means what it says.
  • Sometimes, old ways of church must burn and die for the true message of the gospel to come through.
  • The season after Easter is Pentecost, where we remember how the Spirit came down and expanded the gospel beyond the social/cultural barriers that humans had placed upon it. Pentecost is fire. Notre Dame burning during Holy Week is steeped in this symbolism.
  • I love high church. High church is where my faith meets my intellect. I find all cathedrals and chapels cute and charming. I think chanting is hauntingly beautiful so when I heard a woman on the news describe the particular architecture of Notre Dame–how perfect it was for medieval chanting–I had to step away. The loss of that hit me deeply.
  • The gathering of people singing “Ave Maria” as the church burned is a poignant reminder of why we have the old hymns. There is something about their ability to capture despair and praise within the same song that is more opaque to me in contemporary Christian music (as much as I enjoy certain songs in that genre).
  • There was never any question that Notre Dame would be rebuilt or receive financial support. Meanwhile, churches in Louisiana targeted by racist and therefore anti-Christian ideology do not have that same support network.
  • The third most important mosque in Islam also burned on the same day.
  • Churches die all the time. New churches are born all the time. Some old ways cannot survive into the future of church.

When the seemingly immutable structures and ideas we grow up with and find comfort in falter under heat and pressure, there doubt comes in to compliment faith. There cannot be a mature spirituality without uncertainty. This is what hit me most a few months ago when I finally listened to mewithoutYou’s new EP and LP. “Bethlehem, WV” particularly hit me in the deepest core of this feeling.

For this and several other reasons, I ended up writing a tribute poem to the tune of this song. Fellow mewithoutYou fans will catch the references and hopefully appreciate them. The only commentary I’ll make on the piece is that I went to college in St. Davids, PA, where years before I attended that school, mewithoutYou played one of their first gigs.

St. Davids, PA

[to the tune of Bethlehem, WV by mewithoutYou]

How in this cosmic sphere can we faithfully insist
That joyful challenge line “I do not exist”?
It falls down from on high, in dryness and in rain
And we sing those coded songs with piousness, in vain

I heard you mumble something ‘bout intelligible lies,
Naming towns I’ve never heard of beneath endless skies.
And the winds came blowing through my sweater poorly knit
As I passed empty stands in a market dimly lit.

A yellow spider crawled out from a rotting plank
And asked what kind of God the insects stop to thank.
I searched my mind for something but found no quick relief
So much for certain answers from our deepest held beliefs.

And on the path ahead, a great fire in the night
To light our mangled torches, on the left and on the right
Together let’s approach this metaphor with grace
For every time we dressed our fragilities with lace.

A prophet left a note here on the coconut estate:
“Does ever Your great love grow weary of your saints?”
The smoke obscured a building ten thousand stories high
I craned my neck and bid my certainty goodbye.

The sea contained within the fish–makes little sense to me
But does not God still speak in clever mystery?
I passed an orange spider through mostly vacant streets.
It assured me that the crow had found something to eat.

In everyone I meet and everywhere I look
I find shadows of that train crash in each ancient book
You twist an old-time blessing in a garden overgrown
And I know it for its difference on this longish journey home

To think that what began in one nine seven nine
Would comfort me with songs of disappointment every time
While Jacob has his ladder with its well-worn grooves,
I’m still waiting for that day when you say “we’ll all improve.”

The horses’ hay now flattening beneath our savior’s head
We watch our teachers wander off to cows of red instead
And since all circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin
I think they might come back with heretics as friends

For now we simply wander, picking grapes from the vine
And waiting til it’s our turn to be crushed into wine
Is that saying still engraved on the mouth of the glass?
Are four word letters strong enough to make this unease pass?

A brownish spider came to me, its legs stuck in a leaf
And said “You know they’ve killed that cow and turned it into beef”
I can’t say I’m in anguish or even that surprised
For I’ve seen wordless truths in apparition eyes

Which knocked so gently on my door–I should’ve opened wide
My Lord can you connect the circles, points, and dotted lines?
This light here in the evening comes alone to the alone
So we can someday say “In darkness, the light shone.”

The foxes now are captured; both worlds converge as one
And David shrugs and says “I guess my reign here is done.”
These alphabetic points scream life’s meandering walk
We fill the air with crazy, false, and dreamy alright talk

A pale horse trots ahead of us, our gaits in slow decline
I took the nature of your songs
And tried to fasten it with mine
(I hope you don’t mind)

On a Pennsylvania road
On a Pennsylvania road
On a Pennsylvania road

I did just as I was told

Forgive Us Our Trespasses UMC response

Every time the major church denominations increase their corruption or marginalization of certain groups of people, all churches feel the fallout. The combination of harmful doctrine with a largely unchurched public means that to the average person, what happens in the Catholic church or the United Methodist Church might as well be true of the United Church of Christ or PCUSA or ELCA.

Within this larger context, I’ve found that the poems in Forgive Us Our Trespasses take on a new meaning.

Since publishing that book, I’ve gone through periods where my own copy sits unopened at the top of my bookshelf for weeks or months. And then something happens, personally or in the world. Suddenly, I need to return to those poems, to look again at these words I half-formed and half-found.

The United Methodist Church’s recent decision to double-down on its exclusion of LGBTQ people from ministry, marriage, and full participation in the life of the church has prompted another return to these poems. The most cutting account from the General Conference to me was that LGBTQ people were actually barred from reentering the meeting space for closing worship, so they held queer communion outside in the hall.

I cannot emphasize enough the quiet rage and deep sympathy I feel for anyone who is prevented from partaking in one of Christianity’s most fundamental sacrament. Communion connects us across distance and eras of history to everyone else that has ever taken it, cycling all the way back to that last supper that started it all. Communion resonates very strongly with my spirit, and I don’t believe that anyone who so willingly comes to the table should be denied because that’s not how God treats us. Yet that’s how the Church treats so many.

I made a Twitter thread after the conference sharing some select pieces from Forgive Us Our Trespasses, pieces that maybe take on new meaning for hurting Methodists who have quite literally been betrayed and abandoned by their spiritual families. Just a few days later, the night before a board of directors meeting for my regional UCC conference (on which I serve), our conference minister asked me if I would read a couple poems as part of our opening devotional. I agreed and, again, with the UMC on my heart, chose pieces that provide assurance and affirmation in some way.

It turned out the conference minister, a gay man himself, had the UMC on his heart as well while crafting the devotion. My work rounded out a theme of women’s words from past to present (in honor of Women’s History Month) and I dedicated the reading of my pieces to those in UMC pained by this decision.

Forgive 81

the women i like
drink wine and say
Behold,
wisdom is the long delay of cherished hopes
and lost faith is lovingly reassured in our hours of darkness, but
relief is
a gentle benediction

We have some dual affiliated UCC and UMC congregations in my regional conference. This decision is a bigger deal than a non-churched public might think and the ramifications have yet to unfold. When a church claiming to follow Christ takes such an active effort to close off its community to a particular group of people, it causes a deep pain. In Searching For Sunday, Rachel Held Evans touches on how, as a society, we rarely think of the loss of a spiritual family as akin to other major forms of grief we experience. Yet for some, it feels exactly this way.

I am small with a small platform and a small reach. Forgive Us Our Trespasses is crafted in a weird form of poetry and sits at some obscure number in the depths of Amazon’s rankings. But my hope right now is that it acts as a net for any falling UMC folks pushed out of sanctuaries they once trusted. It’s a tiny net and most people probably don’t know it exists. But it’s here and I feel like it has something to say in this moment as it has in many other moments since its publication.

I don’t know how or if these poems will resonate. That’s the beauty and the mystery of them–this collection is both from me and beyond me. It’s difficult to describe this space I feel it occupies, but I do sense that this is one of those moments to share this book.

It exists and so do you.

Kindle.

Paperback.

 

New Poem in Absolute Destiny Post-Apocalypse: An Utena Future Zine

UtenaAnthyCase

 

Revolutionary Girl Utena leaves an impression that is simultaneously gutting and hopeful. Whether the ending is tragic or redemptive is, in some ways, left to the audience. Now, a portion of that audience has banded together to contribute art and writing to Absolute Destiny Post-Apocalypse: An Utena Future Zine.

Guess whose poetry closes out this zine full of beautiful art and writing? Mine!

You can download the zine for free here and read my poem, “Roses, Post-Apocalypse,” which I also shared on Tumblr along with a special “prequel” poem!

And if you like angsty, hopeful, sapphic love poetry, be sure to check out my new poetry collection Lest I Know Your Weakness.