The Outsiders

Today, in continued celebration of National Poetry Month, I’m going to share my poem “The Outsiders” here on the blog. This one has a decent bit of history to it. It won 1st place in the Grayson/Logan Prize by the Poetry Society of Texas in 2013 and was subsequently published in their annual prize anthology A Book of the Year.

Then, last year, it was in Merging Visions, the local annual art/poetry collaborative exhibit I participate in. It was accompanied by a really lovely watercolor by Carol Rowley called “Farmhouse at Dusk,” and also published in the catalog of that exhibit called Collections V.

And last but certainly not least, in one of my gutsier moments, I sent it along with a letter and a second poem to Billy Collins. (A line from one of Collins’s poems appears as an epigraph for “The Outsiders.”) Imagine my surprise and delight when he actually took the time to write me back — and even complimented my poem! He said, “I like the mouse-centric one a lot.” You know, it’s not a bad day when Billy Collins says he likes one of your poems a lot. 🙂

Well, I think it’s safe to say that this little poem has had all the thrill it can take, so I’m reprinting here today for you to read. I hope you enjoy!

 

The Outsiders

“I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out…”

–Billy Collins

From the shed,
the back windows
of our house
glow the warmest yellow,
and I pause,
because
I don’t remember
ever appreciating
feeling…
cozy
while inside.
As I settle my tools
against the wall,
close the squeaky door,
and crunch across the grass,
I wonder
if this
is what goes through
the tiny hearts and minds
of the shed mice
who live here –
always outside,
looking in.

© Annie Neugebauer, 2011.

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A Poetry Buffet

In case you missed it on my Twitter and Facebook, I have (even more) good news: I have an agent! I’ve signed with Alec Shane at Writers House, and I couldn’t be happier. 🙂

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What’s more, I’ve survived April Fool’s Day and can now safely proclaim: happy National Poetry Month! Every year I do at least a little something to celebrate on my blog. This year I’ll probably reprint a poem or two that are currently only available in print, but first, I’d like to offer up my poems that are already easily readable. Behind the scenes, I always feel I’m doing so much to promote my work, but then I’m regularly surprised by how many people ask me where they can read my stuff. The internet’s so big and readers are so busy, I’m sure we all miss things all the time. I do always have all of my published work listed on this page, but I also realize that a chronological list doesn’t tell you much about the works in question.

So today I thought I’d sort my poems out and break them down by categories so you can easily find the one or two (or five) poems most likely to be up your alley.

It turned out to be an interesting exercise! Naturally, several of these poems could’ve been categorized under more than one heading, but in the interest of clarity I just chose the one I felt best suited the core spirit of the poem. And because life is busy, money is tight, and time is short, I listed the poems that are currently only available in print/for purchase in a separate category at the bottom, because I know not everyone will want to go that extent to hunt down my work. (The genres of those are in parentheses along with the format.) So that means everything in the first five categories is free to read online!

And just in case you’re picky about your forms, *asterisks denote poems that rhyme and/or are in a more traditional form than free verse. I really hope you find something you enjoy. Happy browsing!

Horror
Naked,” Apex Magazine
I am running,” Grievous Angel
Light and Liquor,” HWA Poetry Showcase Volume I
*“Still, It Pulls me,” New Myths
Shades of Blue,” Hello Horror
*“The Centipede,” Underneath the Juniper Tree
The Skeleton,” Spaceports & Spidersilk
*“Scarcely Caged
Dragging the Waters,” Phantom Kangaroo
To Walk Again,” Collections I
Marionette,” Collections I
The Lurking

Magical Realism/Fantasy/Myth
Seeking Rainbows,” Liquid Imagination
All Gifts,” A Texas Garden of Verses
*“Breaking Earth,” Mirror Dance
*“I, Pandora,” Denton Record Chronicle (at the bottom of the article)
Self-inflicted

Science Fiction
Maxwell’s Demon,” Apex Magazine
The Hadal Zone,” Encore

Realistic/Life/Quiet
Thanks Giving
Country Born,” Texas Poetry Calendar
The Outsiders,” A Book of the Year
*“Rust Never Sleeps,” Deep South Magazine
Nights in Texas,” Deep South Magazine
Picnic,” Encore
*“By Example,” Encore
The Fox Pup of Big Blue Mountain,” A Book of the Year
Approaching June,” Texas Poetry Calendar
Hookah on a Loveseat,” Eunoia Review
*“Cleaning out the Exhaust Vent,” Versifico
Missing Pieces,” (And be sure to listen to the lovely audio reading by Xe Sands!)
*“River of Life,” Collections I
The Air in our Apartment,” Wichita Falls Literature and Arts Review

Playful/Humorous/Light
The road from Denton to Henrietta,” A Book of the Year
*“The Adventures of Squrimy,” Encore
*“My Diversion
*“Digital Implications,” Wichita Falls Literature and Arts Review

Print/for Purchase
“Fiend,” HWA Poetry Showcase Volume II (ebook; horror)
“The Comedian,” Infernal Ink (ebook or print; horror)
*“The Secret in the Village of Dragonsbreath,” British Fantasy Society Journal Summer 2011(print; horror)
“When it snows in Texas,” Texas Poetry Calendar 2015 (print; realistic/life/quiet)
“Press Play,” A Book of the Year 2015 (print; realistic/life/quiet)
“The Outsiders,” A Book of the Year 2014 (print; realistic/life/quiet)
“Anxiety,” The Stray Branch (print; realistic/life/quiet)
*“Deceptive Passages,” The Stray Branch (print; realistic/life/quiet)
“Get Over,” The Stray Branch (print; realistic/life/quiet)
“The Road to Heaven,” Ardent! Poetry Volume 6:1 (print; realistic/life/quiet)


I wish you all a happy, thoughtful, fun, poetic April!

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Naked, More than Twitter, and Strange Little Girls

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks over here!

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First off, if you haven’t already, feel free to go read my newest horror poem, “Naked,” in Apex Magazine Issue 82. It’s probably not for the faint of heart.

Second, I have a new post up at Writer Unboxed, and guess what? It’s not about Twitter! I might still answer the occasional Ask Annie questions if they catch my fancy, so feel free to keep sending them in, but we’ve opened up my topic so I can blog about other things. And I have to tell you, after three full years (It’s my postiversary!) of talking about Twitter, I’m quite excited to branch out. 🙂 My new post is called “Really Going There.” It’s about self-censorship, useful lies, and what writers can learn from Jack Nicholson. I’d love for you to stop by!

And last but certainly not least, Strange Little Girls is out in the world! I’m so excited to have a short story, “The Cottage of Curiosities,” in this awesome anthology by Belladonna Publishing.

Strange Little Girls has absolutely captured my strange little heart. Maybe it’s the killer title and gorgeous cover. (The cover art and interior illustrations are all by the talented Liv Lingborn!) Perhaps, being the end result of a strange little girl myself, I’m unusually drawn to the theme of this anthology. Or it could be that they chose one of my stories that I’m most sweet on:

My short story “The Cottage of Curiosities” features a girl named Patty who lives with her mother in a secluded cottage deep in the woods. The cottage is suitably eccentric and wonderful and more than a little eerie. The duo lives a happy life there, but when Patty’s mama falls ill, it’s up to Patty to take care of her, to make the decisions, and, finally, to seek help beyond the woods that surround them, dark and dense and full of strangeness that seems to have a life of its own…

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If you’d like to read my story (and the 18 other odd and lovely tales in this collection), you can enter to win a free copy on Goodreads! The giveaway is open until March 17th. Be sure to add it to your shelves, too. Or better yet, buy yourself a copy now on Amazon! The paperback is $16.95, or you can get the e-book for $6.99.

I’m away at writing retreat, so I’ll be slower to respond than usual, but I hope you all have a wonderfully strange little week!

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Thoughts on Beloved by Toni Morrison and Horror’s Literary Problem

Literary horror lovers, look no further. I’ve found it.

If The Shining is exemplary of commercial horror and House of Leaves of experimental horror, then Beloved is unquestionably the finest example of literary horror I’ve ever read.

I finished this novel by Toni Morrison over a week ago, and I’m still wrecked. Wrecked. Beloved is the most beautiful, chilling, heartbreaking, and ambitious novel I’ve ever read. One reviewer called it the great American novel, and I think I agree.

This is a difficult book to describe without giving things away. Instead of summarizing it for you, I’ll just link to the Goodreads summary of Beloved. Even that summary hints at but doesn’t tell what the book is really about, because Morrison’s reveal is slow and insidious and utterly unnerving. If you can get on board with this book without spoiling it for yourself, I say go for it.

I will give a disclaimer: this book is absolutely not for everybody. Many, many people just don’t like literary fiction. Many, many people don’t enjoy horror. This book is well and truly both, so I imagine the target audience (me, me, me!) is fairly small. If you want an easy read that gives you the answers, you’re going to absolutely hate this novel. If you like to feel comfortable and safe and inspired, you’re going to absolutely hate this novel. Beloved is difficult, daring, and thought-provoking. It’s gut-wrenching, dark, and frightening on many levels. If all of those adjectives piqued your interest, Beloved is probably for you.

Holy book gods, was it ever for me. How often do you find a book that challenges your mind, breaks your heart, shivers your spine, and tears out your guts?

It is worth mentioning that I happened to pick this one up as an audiobook instead of printed. I didn’t even realize until after I bought it that it was read by the author, but what a treat that turned out to be. Toni Morrison’s voice is spellbinding, and of course since she wrote the book, her reading was spot-on, using the perfect emphasis, tone, etc. throughout. I was really carried away by it. I felt immersed. Despite Beloved’s somewhat slow plot (lots of character backstory and time hopping), the pace never felt slow to me. I found myself making up excuses to listen longer. (Clean the house! Go to the gym! Do that errand that’s twenty minutes away…) I note the audio version not just because it was so good, but also because I read in reviews that the formatting/prose of the book was extra difficult for some readers. If you’re a reader who struggles with written dialect, stylistic punctuation, etc., then the audio might alleviate some of that.

The most amusing part of reading through reviews of this book were the claims that this novel isn’t horror. I know I talk about this a lot, but it’s because it directly impacts my life as an artist. Let me introduce you to a neat little bit of hypocrisy:

“Horror these days is all genre garbage. There’s nothing left but slasher trash and torture porn.”

That’s not horror; it has a message. It’s way too deep and meaningful to be shoved into the ‘horror’ genre.”

If you can’t see the problem here, I don’t know what to tell you. I believe you might be bias-blind.

If ever you’ve thought either of those things, I would encourage you to give Beloved a try. You very well may not like it, but it’s hard for me to fathom how anyone could not at least appreciate it. And to my eyes, unless your definitions are so narrow as to be utterly useless, it’s inarguably literary – and inarguably horror.

So why the great American novel? Well, I can say without spoiling anything that this novel tackles head-on the largest skeleton in our country’s closet: slavery. And Morrison doesn’t do it in a trite way. Nor does she do it in a sweeping, epic way. She does it in an intimate, unshakeable, impactful way.

Beloved uses the best of everything to its advantage. In the horror realm, Morrison is almost a literary Jack Ketchum – reminding us quite painfully that the deepest horrors are the real ones, the ones drawn from truth. She doesn’t hold back on the supernatural horror, either, but there are no parlor tricks here, no shock value. The supernatural element in Beloved is carefully chosen to support and expand the themes and messages of the book. We’re left terrified in a way that means something, shaken by the reality of our very history, our very world, and that’s what the best horror does. It scares us in a way that makes us think. It makes us examine and question why we feel repulsed, discomforted, or frightened, and what those reasons mean in a larger context.

In the literary realm, Morrison makes masterful use of her writer’s toolbox. The prose is unique and distinctly suited to its subjects. The difficulty of the book serves as a fitting form for the difficulty of the topics. The complexity here both mirrors and highlights the complexity of our world. The writing is exquisite. Beloved doesn’t put on any airs; the literary nature of it is simply the best vehicle for Morrison’s intent.

Have I gushed enough? This one goes on my favorites list for sure, so I’ve added Beloved to my Amazon store on the “horror recommendations” shelf. (If you decide to buy a copy, I’ll get a small percentage if you buy it there.) I have the paperback on the first page and the audio version on the last page.

Taste is taste. As I said, if you don’t like lit-fic or don’t like horror, or even don’t like heavy fiction or difficult reading or any other number of what-have-yous, this might not be a book for you.

But to anyone who claims that literary horror doesn’t exist, I say read this book. And to anyone who reads this book and still claims it, I say you’re crazy, prejudiced, blind, or all of the above, because Beloved is a masterpiece of literary fiction, a masterpiece of horror fiction, and a masterpiece of a novel. An unflinching look at our country’s horrible history through the lens of the hauntingly personal? Great American novel indeed.

Still looking for something to read here at the end of Women in Horror Month? Look no further than Toni Morrison, one of my new literary heroes.

[Note: In case you missed it, Simon Dewar interviewed me for Women in Horror Month!]

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