I’m sweeping the circle. The bones and remnants of word fusions are being expelled to make way for new spells. This collection is set for release in Hogmanay 2022. The preorder is live now.
Digital ARCs will be available well in advance of release, if you are a reviewer who’d love a first look at Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my mailbox is open for enquiries to be added to my priority early reader list.
Synopsis (subject to tweaking)
Do readers buy poetry from undead poets?
There’s nothing quite like picking the prose and verses of the dead like vultures. There’s freedom in that unpicking, with no one alive to contest, at least not the mind which birthed them.
Sinclair consumes written and spoken as she does in its lyrical form, dressed in music and paint. Dancing to the beat or screaming into the voids of despair. Here, Sinclair presents Clan Witch: Found Shadows, no music, no paint, just words. A mix-tape of drabbles and anarchic free verse poetry..
The writer still lives. Perhaps you’ll read her unruly verse before the witch is dead.
Talk about curveball 2022! Another year of madness! There were plans. Big beautiful plans! And while those plans still exist, there has been movement because of those unexpected transitions life has her way of throwing. Personally, I’ve had some family upsets which I predominantly have to deal with and process alone (my partner, of course, has supported as much as one can). I’ve angered, been frustrated, hurt, grieved, run myself in circles, hurt some more, and accepted. Because sometimes that’s all we can do. Accept to find crumbs of peace and carry on. It just takes a little time. It’s a process many are familiar with. It’s been heavy.
Following the acceptances of a triple-pronged hit, I’ve another unexpected ‘bump’, who made himself known in a dream. My kids are excited about another sibling to teach and get up to extra mischief with. Since I have complicated pregnancies, and this one has already given us some wobbles, I’m (again) doing everything within my control to keep this little one inside until late 2022, ideally early 2023. My cervix needs a mantra, and this is the last! The instant physical hit means I’ve been heavily fatigued, and as of that wasn’t enough, I’ve been hammered with mine and the kids’ second bout of Covid of 2022. Because I wasn’t wiped enough by the heavy graft underway in my uterus, I am zapped because my lungs are in battle, and my body feels like it’s been used as a punchbag.
Moving in from all of that, onto the writing front update:
My sassy, immensely talented, and inspiring co-author, Ruthann Jagge and I launched our website, BrazenFolkHorror.com, for our upcoming 2022 release, Delevan House and future projects. Ruthann also released her fantastic solo debut novella in January 2022, The New Girls’ Patient; if you haven’t read her, this is an excellent example of her extraordinary work that should be on any horror fan’s reading list.
I’ve still been editing work for other writers and publishers via Word Refinery and also published poet Rafik Romdhani’s collection, The Crash of Verses.
I am working on my degree course too.
The latest developments has zapped my study schedule. I hope to recover enough to make up for that soon. Deadlines are looming! Anthology wise, unlike in the previous two years, I have not responded to any open calls. My dance card has been packed. I have gratefully received several invite opportunities but unfortunately had to decline several. One that I was able to submit a piece to was with KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Nightmare Edition, which has just been released. It’s the biggest collection of the twelve-book series and worth picking up for a good flavour of many popular independent horror authors currently putting our new materiel.
More still to come for 2022, and 2023 is also beginning to fill up with a couple of accepted invites, continued work with my brazen co-author in crime and at least one (hopefully two) solo release(s). One of which will be a collection of poetry and drabbles, Clan Witch: Found Shadows.
At first, I didn’t know that inventing short songs and humming them in the fields of wheat and barley while stumbling behind my parents was what would, later on, develop into a form of writing. Writing has already been there in such funny songs I used to create out of the blue and sing in Tunisian spoken language (i.e. an amalgam of Arabic, French, and Barbarian) at the age of ten. I remember myself once beading words into smooth-running utterances and reciting them before a group of gleaners at tea time, which made everyone around express their admiration and admit that I am a gift to them to while away the tedious hours. Putting pen to paper and speaking my mind began later as I fell in love with Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, taught by Mustapha Dhaya, our teacher of French when I was a student at secondary school. I started writing short poems in French and Arabic between 1994 -1999. But I have indulged in penning and rhyming in English since 2000 because I found English a musical language that matches my yearning for singing. Words in English felt like ways into poeticizing life in a much more inspiring way. In this regard, the English language acts like an inspiring realm in itself, not to mention Nature and life experiences which have become not apart from living. Still, a kind of double living lived within the English language.
2: What are the primary themes in your work?
I am of the opinion that themes can’t be mapped out for or prepared beforehand. But I think they are born or at least are struggling to be born during the writing activity itself. The primary themes in my work include the question of time, Man’s existential worries, and the notion of love as a raison d’être. The theme is the underlying message that every artist or writer wants to convey. Themes can vary across poems which cover a wide variety of topics. Still, the primary ones are usually the common ones like the human versus the natural, Good versus Evil, the metaphysical versus the physical, and so on. The Crash of Verses teems with themes that overlap and intermingle in a way that it is difficult sometimes to privilege a theme over another.
3: Would you ever co-author a project? If so, who would your dream co-writing partner be?
Well, in truth, I am a believer in collaborations and working with other poets. Poets could inspire one another avowedly or unavowed. For instance, a poet’s word could be the seed of another’s poem. For the time being, I am co-authoring and working on a third collection with my fellow poetess, Genevieve Ray. The title of this anthology, made up of about 120 poems, is Breath of Distance. The work is still under scrutiny and hasn’t been published yet. I would always love to co-author new projects because I think working with another poet is enriching, and we can learn different styles and discover different ways of thinking and interpreting the world around us. My dream co-writing partner would be someone like Paul Muldoon, for example.
I crave Muldoon’s poetry because it is challenging enough to be interesting, and it is known for its use of paradox. Muldoon’s poems are playful but serious, elusive but direct, innovative but traditional. In addition, they push far beyond the surface level. To my way of thinking, Muldoon is an interesting and convincing poet who uses traditional verse forms such as the sonnet, ballad, and dramatic monologue but alters their length and basic structure and uses rhyme and meter in quite innovative ways. This implies that he looks into the old with new eyes, which interests me and pertains to me a lot.
4: If you could have a dinner party with five writers (living or dead), who would they be?
I am going to assume that all of them would love to have typically Tunisian Kuskus for dinner and that there would be no language barrier, and all the invitees would be able to communicate with each other and myself.
I would invite:
1. Edgar Allan Poe
2. Herbert Zbiginiew
3. Mahmoud Darwish
4. Paul Muldoon
5. Charles Baudelaire
These are amongst the most influential and interesting poets to me. If I were to invite another important figure for a mouth-watering dish of Kuskus, I would think of Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish-American poet, and I would ask him to join us. The reason I would invite them for dinner is that I am their biggest fan. They must have different definitions and conceptions of poetry.
A dinner party with the five of them will not only be entertaining but highly insightful. Perhaps on occasion like this one, I might be able to understand what poetry means to them and what inspired them to become such great poets. I guess the one who would like my poetry the most would be Edgar Allan Poe.
5: What book had the most significant impact on you (either as a reader or/and as a writer)?
I can remember the first book that had a significant impact on me. It was a book entitled Mother written by Maxime Gorky and which I came across in the secondary school library when I was a student at Raccada secondary school. It wasn’t easy and challenging at first though the version I read was in French. But after reading it twice and looking up many of the difficult words in the dictionary, I came to grips with the encrypted messages and deeper meanings there. Gorky’s mother is a book in which Paul, the main character, reads forbidden books discreetly, which is why I liked this novel a lot. Another reason behind my being affected by Mother is that it deals with the hardships of life under the yoke of which factory workers were straining.
I felt like those characters were combatting manual back-breaking works in a similar way to mine while working under the scorching sun in the fields. As far as poetry is concerned, I think that Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil affected me the most as it paved and blazed the way for my writing career.
6: What is your favourite poem, and how did it affect you?
My favourite poem is Pessoa’s “The Tobacco Shop” (Tabacaria), in which the speaker finds himself torn between the abstractions of the mind on one hand and the mysteries of reality on the other. This is what I often feel whenever I try to idealize reality because everything at the end of the day is driven “down the road of nothing”, as Pessoa puts it. Reality itself does not seem to be authentic and concrete enough. Therefore, this poem made me rethink and re-imagine the outside world around me by re-inventing myself through the lens of poetry. After all, ‘the real’ is not necessarily what is not inside us.
7: Being multilingual, what is your favourite language to write in and why?
I am of the mindset that English is best for writing poetry because of its musicality, rich vocabulary, and easy-going flow. However, I think Arabic and French are better for spiritual and philosophical concepts. I love to write in English and think in English though I draw on writers who are well known in the French-speaking world and the Arabic-speaking one. This does not mean that I am not inspired by famous poets like the ones I have previously mentioned. English makes it easier for me to know which side my bread is buttered, as they say. It is the language that exceeds its circumstances, defeats distance and outgrows its native speakers.
8: If you could read your poetry anywhere in the world to an audience, where would you most like to go?
My dream literary destination where I would most like to read my poetry would be The UK. Who on earth doesn’t want to recite their poetry in a country where interesting literary figures like William Shakespeare, William Blake, John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, and John Donne were born. So, if I could read my poetry anywhere in the world to an audience, I would, without a doubt, choose the United Kingdom.
9: Does any of your pieces require research before or during the creation process? If so, how do you go about that?
In truth, all of the pieces I wrote are built upon a sudden incident or happening. Sometimes a word that I catch in a song or that my eyes set upon at first glance can develop into a poem. If there is any research required during the creation of the process, it is certainly meditation and deep reflection. I don’t think a poem requires research, apart from trying to put it in its historical or cultural context. But from my experience, I believe that the most difficult thing in the creation of imagination is the choice of a suitable title to go in tandem with what I wrote.
10: Being a teacher and writer, your schedule must be very demanding. What do you do to relax?
Well, I am a poet by passion and a teacher by profession, which is why I seem to be able to reconcile the two. I feel like teaching is harder and more demanding than writing poetry. I often do my utmost to be successful in both of them. To be a poet and a teacher simultaneously is like being trapped in a catch-22 situation. But the good thing with poetry is that it relaxes me from the two tiring missions ( writing and teaching). In other words, relaxation and relief could be in pressure itself because what I do to relax from writing poetry is paradoxically writing more poetry. That’s the same thing that refreshes my mind when I get burnt out from teaching twenty hours a week. Poetry is a safety valve.
11: How would you describe your work to a reader who hadn’t yet read you?
The Crash of Verses is a smorgasbord of poems with disparate but interrelated themes, wittingly or unwittingly. This collection is necessitated by experiences and circumstances which never occur in the form of poetry. So, there is a need to poeticize the world that surrounds us. The Crash of Verses could be understood as a journey of self-reinvention and rediscovery. It is a work of art that reports the conversations I had with Nature, with the desert and the sea, with the metaphysical and the invisible, with what sees through my eyes and speaks through my mind.
Each poem in this book has an architecture of its own, and it is a realm of its own that resembles a box of music in that it re-imagines and rethinks life in a new way. The entire collection is dotted with bright spots despite the deep sense of emptiness and loneliness here and there. It’s worth noting that The Crash of Verses connects with the past to make sense of the present. It goes beyond the superficiality of things and digs deep into Man’s inner workings of the mind, acting life as a reckoning mirror that exudes the smell of the soul.
In truth, I don’t think I can privilege one piece over the other ones simply because the question of what a poet’s favourite poem is from his collection sounds like asking a parent who his favourite son or daughter is. I fear the fall into unfairness towards the pieces in The Crash of Verses. But let me tell you that there are a few poems at least that I find the closest to me, namely “Life Goes on,” “Revolution,” “My Heart Was Cut in Two,” “The Genes of Poetry,” “Passing,” “A Descent on Chests,” “In My Country,” and “Poetic Blood”. Personally, it is too hard for me to identify a poem as a number one poem given that I indulged equally in ruminating about each idea and have given much of myself into each piece. Therefore selecting the best poem would be the task of the reader, I guess.
13: Finally, what are you working on now, and what can readers expect from you next?
For the time being, I am working on an anthology with my fellow-poetess Genevieve Ray, who is from Great Britain. She is a very kind and collaborative person.
Our styles are certainly different, but there are common themes in our work. Each one of us deals with them in his way. I hope we won’t change this anthology’s title, The Breath of Distance. I find it classy and very symbolic.
I also have a project in mind with Sinazo Crystal Ngxabani, a poetess from South Africa, and we talked about that a few days ago. We admire each other’s poetries, and we are glad that we represent our continent as two artists, one of whom is from South Africa and the other, i.e. myself is from North Africa (Tunisia). We got the ball rolling, and we started writing new poems for our project and sharing them. It’s a true pleasure and great honour for me to work with rising names in the world of poetry like Genevieve Ray and Zoe (Sinazo Crystal Ngxabani).
I visualise the tiny holes Secretly infesting, Weakening bones Like woodworm. I’m on one of their backs; A voyeur In inner space. Woodworm cancer Speckling the Skeleton, Spreading spots Eroding this life’s vessel. He says he’s fine When he late Returns, Reluctant— Like a child Pushed towards Their failure, Their mistake, Disgrace. He says he’s fine When he lies to me— Face blue, Faceless Digital alphabets Thrown together, A string For a stranger— Loveless. I keep making Peace with the Distance; Goldfish swimming In circles. The no return Excuses, The rot in My soul, The hole He created With another falsity! It’s ok. I’ve made peace— I lie to myself too. The damnation Of Genetics.
Let’s consider that the creative mind and depression are synonymous. This is not a new idea — even if depression is regarded as a disease of modernity. It doesn’t take much to cast back to common references of such stereotypes as the ‘mad scientist, ‘tortured artist’ throughout human history — there has to be some inherent truth in the link. Personally speaking, there’s a maddening synchronicity to weaving art through mental ill-health. I loathe embracing this affliction as an illness; it’s an evil twin that’s attached itself to my core. But there’s no wavering — it is an illness. Maybe one of the soul as much as the brain. It torments the creative mind like a captor. For some of us, the relationship becomes a sort of Stockholm syndrome, an inescapable symbiotic horrorshow. I abhor it, maybe as much as I was conditioned to despise myself. Then I wonder if that instinctual over-analytic contemplation, the drive to understand and develop answers and solutions — a catalyst of change, a fuel of creation has some essence that fills a need — even when it leads to nowhere on the external. With depression’s tightening hands around life and art’s (those too are synonymous) throat and no words, shapes or colour come in any sort of sense, with the abandon of insanity. And the heavy, sticky, tar-like stuckness of it. With maddening, head-bursting introspectiveness and reactionary to stimulus, even of a thoughtless kind. Those stimuli can be hardest to shake — that processing of depression, like art, can be sickeningly narcissistic to an observer. Beneath that appearance, it can be more from an altruistic nature, one that can never find peace from being consumed by so much needless suffering for deplorable reasoning. An internalised, ever-raging war of sadness, anxiety and frustration and their armies. There’s a kindred spirit amongst those who suffer (I’m not keen on that word too, though it is accurate) at the hands of this demon. Depression; the stalker. It certainly tortures and bates like one. Of course, I point the finger at depression itself, but maybe that creative drive is too a demon of sorts; a need, compulsion, addiction. That need, that drive can be as desperate as the most basic needs to survive. Creativity is the thirst of the soul that demands quenching. While there’s no hard, scientifically proven link that I know of (I could be entirely wrong), its long-running prevalence cannot be denied. Some of the most cherished artists have made their afflictions known; undeniable tales slithered through brush strokes and words and musical notes, pouring blood through ink. Van Gogh, Plath, Woolf, Fitzgerald, Cobain, Staley, Cornell… there’s an endless parade of those who’ve broken into utter submission to their affliction, how many more unknown names bound together alone? Scattering pieces of themselves before their demise, with vultures pecking at the bones for generations after, or they blow away ashes to the wind… forgotten. There is a desperate need to live in some form of immortality living in loops and repeats, words cascading through eyes in minds; breeding and living on when that mind has long ceased being. Depression when it dances with suicide and for those whom it jumps into bed with, it’s an oxymoron in a creative who scatters seeds that, for some outlive, that immortality craving, notes from the grave, the cry for help or the declaration of: this is just how it is, beneath it all. Many years ago, a doctor (or therapist) remarked how maybe there was no way out for me, that my deep dark maddening downward spirals of self-torment and heavy sadness, the depression and suicidal ideations and (at times) planning, were a part of me… Victim blaming? Professional incompetence? She (like several) didn’t know how to help. I’m a hopeless case. Miraculously, therapy didn’t push me straight off the tightrope. I embraced that message to a degree, though. Therapy (for me) was utterly useless. (For some of those, the mentally unwell are fodder to their ego-mania of saviour, even if just in prescribed works, it lines their bellies enough.) More than that embracement, it added to the weight of hopelessness — even with professional intent, sometimes there’s no one to help but oneself — in that, I’ve had no choice in the toughest of times. I sometimes lull around the button. The whisper has never ceased, it bides its time; the one that says, “you’ve fought long enough”, “waited long enough”, “it never gets better for long”, “just give up!”, give in”, “finally, make the pain stop….” Lifelong mental health battles have steeped into my bones, I’m almost convinced it’s the culprit for a multitude of ailments. Dancing with physical pain like a lover, spawning one chronic pain to another. I have my tethers, strands that force my nostrils just above the murky water, choking and gagging with that whisper, taunting to submit to the deep. It’s interesting, though — I mulled over this recently whilst amid a major dip. It’s funny the terms we use for mental ill-health, there’s a flippancy that almost minimises this beast’s brutality. When I hear the buzzword ‘wellbeing’, I feel the same way — it’s wishy-washy, a platitude coined by the utterly clueless desperate to appear to care. A painfully overused marketing ploy. Along with the flippancy, there’s still such stigma for when mental ill-health is discussed sincerely and from places of genuine life experience — not just a mere observer. Not that I dismiss the validity of good, unbiased observations! As a highly sensitive introvert type, I’m an observational questioner — constantly to the point of unbearably annoying. Back to the point — yes, I’m almost sure the creative brain (certainly, my own grey-matter) is in an ever-constant dance-off with depression and her tormenting sisters… I’ve never been a good dancer, they toss me around like dead meat.
Gnashing and gnawing at my innards Viscera shredded; trauma tombs embedded Stitch in bells, weigh down the nauseating flapping Jangle a euphonious jingle Steady placement of chinked shield Conceal agonies.
U-bend blocked There my guilt brims Shame for wishing away rapid cell division Liquor and voluntary scalding Natures way away Life folding poured out Out of Order; terror of disorder
For two, a freshly dug hole The morning after Mourning follows Nipping at heals with the snow A hollow in another garden There, a piece of my heart lays A depression for my first’s succession
She wants to see my torment on display To harvest in morbid grief games Pretend she’s just the same Catfish loss-mother Conspiring tiring Yearning to reap from the suffering leaks of my soul Observe my lamentations trapped in a fishbowl To don a cape, be in control Prodding my wounds, infecting
Imitation empath storing stories Catalogued, indexed, held hostage Latching of grief vampires Sucking ephemeral life’s marrow Chipping stones off my bones
An archaeologist scraping the shovel No delicate brushing of bristles Attention desperation Desecrating my pain Self-appointed steward on my cradle’s grave.
October is a bustling month on the calendar with an abundance of projects for artists and writers to get involved in (though we do tend to have those wheels well in motion long in advance.) I have learned this very quickly this year actively subbing. I wanted to highlight some cool, free short fiction that Insignia Stories will be featuring, as well as hosting a Blog Tour of other writers throughout October! All features are Asian inspired work from drabbles, poetry, flash and short fiction. One for writers and readers to check out! Information on how to get involved in the tour, as well as the publishing schedule, can be found over on Insignia Stories; https://insigniastories.com/horror-matsuri-2020/ I am delighted to be sharing some work as part of this tour on 17th October, with my dark fantasy piece, ‘Goddess in Motion,’ inspired by Javanese mythology.
You don’t have to wait until October though! There is plenty of free fiction published already, not to mention this month’s imminent release of South-East Asian Fantasy Drabbles publishing on 24th September! Link for that on my ‘Books’ tab.