Author Archives: Shannon Barber

About Shannon Barber

I am a strange little woman who likes pie.

Stuff I love about Writing.

I could also title this, “The Sad Barbaric Yawp of the Sweaty angry Writer”.

Shouts for help from the author.

  1. Apparently when I’m working on something that feels right, I just start sweating. Awesome. It would be fine if I was working at home I could just take my clothes off (I am pretty sure Jerry Stahl said something about writing at 4 am fucked up and naked) but I am at my dayjob and I can’t just take my pants off.
  2. I almost got in a fight with an older White dude on my way to work today because he didn’t approve of my conversation with a young Black Poet about #blackpoetsspeak and how vital it is that he a.) write that shit and b.) hustle that shit.
  3. I am 99% sure nobody told him ever that his voice, his hood voice matters. Even though he couldn’t get my phone number i gave him ideas and resources. I told him explicitly that he has to work, write and grind. That it is possible to do this without being educated or fancy. I told him HE FUCKING MATTERS and some piece of shit crusty ass old White dude tried to start a fight with me about it. He had that look in his eye and I’m pretty sure if I didn’t look fucking insane (I was going to hit him in the face with my phone gripped in my fist) he would have swung on me.
  4. I almost yelled “the fucking bell is tolling for you asshole” but I restrained myself to just saying “fuck you, fuck your feelings and keep your racist views to yourself”.

What else?

Aside from sweating while writing I’m sweating while reading some tasty things.

I’m just a bit past the middle of The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology.

First impressions. It is a strong collection. I’m familiar with a lot of the authors already. The writing is across the board so far tight and great. The intro bits were very endearing.

I’m enjoying it a lot and yet I’m yearning for some hood in the noir.

I keep wondering as I read more neo noir, am I really the only person thinking about/writing noir in the hood?

We know I feel the same way about horror and most everything.

Now I’m not talking Hood Lit. That is a whole other thing.

I’m hungry for stories that are yes well written and yes dark as fuck and yes are firmly rooted in the Hood.

This is the same hunger I always have.

I’m pretty sure I need to accept that I will always have this hunger unless I stop reading so widely and that just isn’t gonna happen.

I do write the stories as much as I can but that does not satisfy.

Part of the problem is also that because I have this need that is not satisfied ever, I find I have a disconnect with the lit world at large that I am unwilling to quite let go of.

Above the education of White people I need to keep myself, okay enough to make my own art.

That has been something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past year.  My self care related work has been really a huge part of me figuring out how to balance the gut wrenching bloody things with the not so bloody things.

I’m not all the way there. Sometimes I write things that fuck me up for days and I can’t write anything else.

What else?

I’m still struggling with myself to put up my crocheted shawls (in spite of a LOT of interest) and having the confidence to do art related things without shame or bad feelings.

Shit y’all that bit is hard. As hard as I find it to call myself a poet with seriousness.

Okay I have shit to do and I’m starving.

Another new thing is that writing does shit to my body lately. I’ll talk about that in a whole other post.

Tomorrow I am doing something super special and going out for a fancy super fancy dinner with Milcah and my partner. We are going to be a trio of romantic hot ass looking mother fuckers up in there.

I’m writing about it after.

That’s all for now.


Thought and Memory.

I was just looking at used books and had a little chuckle. I remembered randomly a time when I went to some community something or other, I had wanted to talk to some folks in the Black community about the outreach/sex education work I was doing at the time.

I got someone one on one and started giving my spiel.

I was interrupted and told that they weren’t interested. And as a snide aside, the person walked away and stopped to inform me I’d pronounced diaspora wrong.

This is often what I think of when I try to talk about gate keeping in literature. So often especially right now I see people essentially doing this you’re not as educated as me so wahwah.

Once upon a time I had a real and very serious complex about not being traditionally educated. I studied so I could keep up with academic jargon, I worked very hard on not code switching in front of educated folks.

And then I stopped doing that.

Now the whole reason I’m thinking about this is because of my current relationship with my poetry. I’ve mentioned before that I often use writing poetry the way I use flash fiction. I like to use it to stretch my muscles so to speak, explore certain feelings or themes.

I set myself the task of posting something at Ink Node daily this week. You can see it all here. As I’ve been looking through old work and the rejections of most of it (I don’t get poetry published often) I am feeling vaguely soothed by the poems I like the most.

For the past few years all my poetry is about women. Poisonous women, dangerous women, thoughts, sluts, archetypical Kali type mothers who destroy as they love etc. I know some editors have read them as autobiographical, which bothers me on one hand, but on the other I sort of get it.

There is sex and violence with the women not posited as victims but as the victors.

I’ve had bits and notes for a novella thing around for ages and a lot of the poetry I’ve been writing seems to be notes as poems for that.

I feel like I am working out something about women that I need for further fiction work. What is the thing? I haven’t got a shiny clue.

This feels apt:

This is what is so rarely said about unlikable women in fiction — that they aren’t pretending, that they won’t or can’t pretend to be someone they are not. They have neither the energy for it, nor the desire. They don’t have the willingness of a May Welland to play the part demanded of her. In Gone Girl, Amy talks about the temptation of being the woman a man wants but ultimately she doesn’t give in to that temptation to be “the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.” Unlikable women refuse to give in to that temptation. They are, instead, themselves. They accept the consequences of their choices and those consequences become stories worth reading.- Roxane Gay 

Read the whole linked piece it’s great.

I’m reaching for this woman I am writing and writing for.

I love her.

I want to fuck her, but know it’d ruin my life.

I’d do it anyway.

I hate her.

She’s a bitch.

She’s in there, I’m just looking for her I guess. Listening for her voice.

It’s coming. I can hear her whispering.

What else?

Milcah, and I are getting ready to start blogging for Self care Like a boss. I’ll give y’all details when it is time.

I think that’s all for right now. I want to get another dirty story in the shop before Friday.

Later y’all.


How It’s Going Down

First this is a new thing for me:

OVERALL FICTION POETRY NON-FIC
Pending Submissions: 0 0 0 0
Sent Past 12 Months: 24 15 7 2
Sent This Month: 0 0 0 0
Acceptance Ratio: 26.1%* 20%* 33.3%* 50%*

So weird. I do have one non Duotrope submission out.

Normally this time of year I have anywhere between 5-10 pieces out at any one time. This current state of affairs is mostly due to a lot of factors.

As I said in my shall not be named post, (the first Paris Review thing) I have been settling in with myself and rethinking how I go about this thing.

This time last year I had my method down. Spend money (sometimes more than I should have) on lit mags, read lit mags, follow links from writer’s I know and like.

Do that some more.

Then write, rewrite, remix.

Submit.

Rinse repeat.

Granted in the last couple of years I’ve been published more than I was in the years before.

It has been working in the YAY GET YO SHIT PUBLISHED SENSE but at times on a personal level not so much.

I’ve been thinking pretty deeply about the ideas about a community of lit people. And sometimes when I’m doing my research and reading and trying to expand my literary world, I keep feeling like the community is not for me if I’m being a loudass Black lady.

I suppose this is yet another round of writer growing pains. That now rather than trying so hard to get published everywhere that catches my eye, it’s time to be a bit more selective.  And it’s not even really about getting paid. I like getting paid but I realize that the short fiction market is pretty huge and the money for somebody who’s not generally a name author can be scarce and I’m fine with that. I just don’t want to feel icky I guess.

That said, I need y’all to see some things. Ready?

Check out Independently Published a blog by my friend and publisher Milcah. As we’ve talked and everything I am so beyond positive that my first book is going to be made with her. Just, y’all. We are learning together and doing this shit together and it makes me so damn happy.

What else?

I dropped a new reprint in my Etsy store. Have a looksy at Bite as it appeared in Freaky Fountain Press. Keep an eye out I will probably be dropping a literary genderfucking story in there a little later.

I also have a new poem up at Ink Node and you can catch it here. I am deeply amused by the fact that all the poetry I write lately is about women in one way or another.

Other stuff.

I’m going to do more book reviews. The long nerdy ones of course. Coming soon I have two urban fantasy reviews, a noir review and I’ll probably nerd out about some lit zines I’m really into right now.

Be on the lookout I also have yet another post about transgression in my head. I have more thoughts.

 


After the Ballad.

So the rage fueled thing I wrote about the Paris Review the other day has grown some wings. Mentioned in a Huffpo article by Annie Finch.

I am a tad overwhelmed. I’m very tired of clearing messages (fifteen er twenty today) telling me how racist I am and what a shitty poet etc etc. The best though was the accusation that I am bullying the Paris Review.

Because obviously a relatively unknown Black writer from Seattle has the power to bully the Paris Review.

Okay so here’s the thing and I want this to be absolutely clear because I think some folks have got it twisted.

I don’t actually give a hot shit about Seidel’s work. After I read the piece on PR I read some of his other work and frankly it is just not my jam. I don’t give a shit.

The thing I care about is the usual response to Black people’s pain. White people running us over to make their own pain the focal point. I care about a publication I have read for most of my life when I have been able to, doing the same shit again.

My hope that a highly visible publication would take the opportunity to say to everyone these are the voices we need right now has just been dashed. No fuck that. My hopes that the mainstream literary community would step up in a time of such great need has been shit on, set on fire and tossed.

This was a chance for an organization to say loudly and without qualification, Black Voices Matter right now and we are here for it.

Now is the moment.

Now is not the time to make White voices the voices. That is how everything is all the time. Literature is now and has been the outlet for every White opinion ever about everything.

And yet, people keep telling me that those are the voices to be given primacy right now.

Because that’s how it always is.

I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing that if we damn loud ass Negroes want to be heard to do it ourselves. And when we do that, White people run in to make sure they get their piece. Or when we have the audacity to hint that maybe we know a little something something about an issue, we’re “reverse racists” and oppressing the White Voice.

This is me and I am fucking exhausted.

 

Portrait of the author right now.

Portrait of the author right now. 

Why at this point in time, in 2014 when so many White people want to claim to be anti-racist is it so goddamn hard to admit that sometimes, their voices are not the ones that need to be heard?

That maybe Black Lives Matter is a.) something being said, because clearly culturally America doesn’t believe it and b.) such a controversial thought, that Black people specifically matter.

And before anyone busts in here with that “all people” bullshit let me shut it down.

If you would not walk into a Breast cancer awareness event saying, ALL CANCERS. If you would not walk into a stranger’s funeral and say, BUT I KNOW DEAD PEOPLE TOO, shut the fuck up and work it the fuck out. If you cannot abide the idea that Black people need and want to make it clear that we matter, you have some racist shit to deal with and I am not here for that.

Moving on.

We live in the fucking future. It is 2014. Even a publication as old as the Paris Review knows this. They have a social media person I’ve followed them (I have unfollowed).

It took me approximately two minutes on google to find over a thousand amazing poems written by Black people young and old, known and unknown. THOUSANDS.

And they chose Seidel.

I took to facebook and searched the hashtag #BlackPoetsSpeakOut.

THOUSANDS OF POEMS.

How is it that while working my dayjob, writing a fiction piece and eating I could find current amazing poetry by Black people that could fill forty five Paris Reviews and they picked an old White Man.

That is what this is about.

It’s not about the quality of the poem. He can write whatever he wants to.

It is about the gatekeepers of the literary canon in this case the Paris Review isn’t coming through.

It is about how disgusting it is to me that organizations that wield power in the lit world in a real big way, didn’t do shit.

This happens over and over again.

Don’t get it twisted.

I don’t care about how that crusty ass old man writes his poems or what he writes about.

I don’t care if EVERYONE writes about Ferguson.

I care about representation and the missed opportunity to show that that Black lives and Black voices matter.

Understand that White folks you can write a million poems about Ferguson, Eric Garner, lynching, racism whatever. Just remember that when you prioritize your own voices over the voices of those of us living this shit, you are upholding White Supremacy and taking the easy way out of owning your own racism.

And we see you.

We. See. You.

For those of you who want to see what Black poets are saying I’ll make it easy for you. Check out this tumblr project and listen to every single poem.

 


Yeah Write #190- Obeisance

Obeisance

It only matters that her eyes are on me as I walk out of the tiny hotel bathroom. I am afraid only because I know those eyes, those are the eyes of a predator sizing up her prey.

I am a doe mouse trembling without even the cover of a leaf.

She is a cat, fat, amused and hungry.

She beckons, I get down and crawl.

I kiss the toe of her boot. She moves like my nightmares. One hand pulls my head up and sideways, her other hand makes magic and there is the familiar slick sound of a blade clicking into place.

My face burns with shame, fear and deep need. I feel the cold blade through my slip against my breast.

Her voice is barely audible over the quiet susurrus of the air conditioner.

“I could slit your throat and leave you here. No one would know.”

The blade moves up to my fragile throat. The tip makes her point slowly, to one ear then the other.

“Then you’d smile forever.”

Her chuckle hits my cunt and the gush of wetness- I’m embarrassed.

“You wouldn’t even scream, would you?”

The blade describes the shape of my mouth. I feel the bite of the blade and the warm slow trickle.

She pulls the blade out and tilts my head, her eyes heavy lidded as the blood oozes down my chin. I watch the shift in her gaze.

“Don’t be cute, I know what you’re doing. It won’t work.”

My voice is so dry it hurts.

“Sorry ma’am.”

She lets go of my hair and pushes me back.

“Show me your panties.”

I am wearing the heather gray plain cotton. They show the truth, I always try to hide. I sit back and pull my slip up to my hips.

She flips on the lamp beside her. I put my weight on my elbows and roll my hips, force my thighs as wide as I can. My face is on fire, I want to hide the truth.

She laughs, a short mean laugh.

“You want to get off don’t you?”

I can’t lie; the truth is there in the wet spot on the crotch of my panties.

“Take those off.”

I scramble to peel them off. My fingers are shaking.

She nods again and spreads her own legs. She has no panties on. The glint of wet pink makes my mouth water. I watch her fingers part the hair and lips, one finger on her clit. She looks at my cunt, grunting at me.

“Hold it open, put your finger inside, just one.”

I do as I’m told, I know if I’m good tonight could be my night.

Instead, I move my finger slowly, pulling moisture out, showing her my glistening digit before I put it back inside.

When she comes she makes hardly a sound, I can only tell because I know her. I know by the way her hips wiggle side to side. When she’s satisfied she stands up and shoves her fingers in my bloody mouth.

“Good girl.”

I am needy as a bitch in heat. She palms my face away, sneering as she tucks her blade into her purse and walks out.

“Clean yourself up. Jesus.”

Tonight is not my night, I scramble to wash my face and put my clothes back on before I head out to the car and get in without a word.

She pats my knee fondly as we drive away.

“Maybe another night, dear.”

###

Yeah Write


Now for something totally different.

I have a bunch of people to get back to so today I’m just gonna blabber about some of my new work.

Those of you who are new round these parts, I do write stuff beyond rage fueled blog posts.

So.

Recently my last column at XOjane met with mixed reception. I dared to make a slight poop joke. I still think it’s funny. You can check out my short n dirty tips on surviving the holidays. I’ll probably not do another holiday one because I don’t really get down with the holidays.

I made myself go back to Inknode. I still have trouble thinking of myself as a poet rather than a writer who likes to write poems sometimes. I’m working on it (I can feel my girl Dena giving me such a look right now, also check her out, she’s an amazing poet) and thinking about the poems I’ve been writing in the last few years. All my poetry is about women in some way. As much as I poke fun at myself when I’m scribbling in my notebook at the bus stop or a coffee shop, I do kind of love that writing poetry is like my girlfriend and I’m obsessed with her. All that yammer and here is my new poem at InkNode Snake.

Did I mention my hiatus from submitting?

I didn’t take one intentionally really it just kind of happened. After yet another unpleasant exchange with one of my fellow writers I really needed a time out.

When I said in my previous entry that I have seriously been reconsidering the trajectory of my writing career I was not fucking around.

How much effort do I want to expend trying to get into a community that doesn’t really give a shit about me if I’m noisily or stridently Not White. I don’t mean that I never write White people or White folks adjacent because I do.

I am torn per usual.

I also think I needed a time out. Reasses. Remember why I do this shit to begin with and it apparently isn’t to impress people who don’t matter to me.

This is why I will probably never be famous and that’s fine.

I think I’m ready to roll.

Tomorrow I am posting my yeah write entry. A dirty story this time. And later this week I think I’m going to need to fangirl about Jerry Stahl for reasons.

Later homies.


An Open Letter to the Paris Review

Dear Whitey and other assorted Whiteys,

In the wake of the continuing dehumanization of, murder of, lynching of Black children I see that you may want to find a way to use your position to make a statement.

The venerable Paris Review did this. (Also check out Donotlink if you would like to show people stuff on the internet but don’t want to contribute click money) The Ballad of Ferguson, Missouri.

Right now just about every Black person I know is in pain. We have to see on social media how many of our sometimes beloved friends are racists. We have to watch people who could be us or our children be murdered and blamed for their own deaths.

Many of us are reaching out to our elders, to other black people we admire for comfort. For something.

We want to make sense of things and one of the ways as we know to make sense of the senseless is through art.

I saw the title of the poem and I had this moment of gleaming hope that there woul be words to help. To provide a balm or something.

I wasn’t able to read it right away, but I was excited who could it be that has written a ballad about Ferguson.

Nikki Giovanni?

Some new amazing Black poet for me to love from afar?

Of ALL the amazing Black artists in the literary world, the Paris Review picked this guy:

 

The Voice of Ferguson

The Voice of Ferguson

Ahem.

Then I read it.

I read the first three lines and said to a friend on facebook “what the actual real fuck”

Fucking white people.

Listen Whitey and assorted Whitey’s involved in publishing this is why we don’t trust you.

Things like this, because let’s face it ever fucking time any publishing company has a chance to do something to combat it’s own Whiteness and prove just how not racist it is, well here we are.

Every goddamn time you fail.

You never apologize.

You are every writer’s abusive boyfriend that we can’t leave because we’re all so desperate to be loved by you.

You are why I have been carefully reconsidering the trajectory of my writing life.

So many of your trickled down lit mags I just, let’s be blunt I am not white enough.

I don’t write white enough.

I don’t want to expend 80% of my energy when I’m submitting in trying to figure out if my loud and never a secret critique of the whiteness of the literary industry is going to work for or against me. Or I think about the subtle anti blackness I see in so many “Diverse” magazines who are so not racist.

Do I really want those people to be my audience?

Also you obviously can’t police yourself and I have art to make so i don’t want to spend so much time trying to politely call out the bullshit.

God damn it.

For fuck sake.

Chicken hearted fair weather egalitarian shite.

The fact that writers I consider to be my Black Pantheon of Creativity and Beauty have told me privately at times how much I see but I know they can’t say these things publicly because they have careers and bills to pay, I just.

I want to burn this mother fucker down.

All of it.

I don’t even know what to say anymore.

God damn it White people get your shit together.

Sincerely,

An Angry Black Lady


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