Hello Friends and Fiends—
April was a somewhat difficult month for me. It started off on a productive note. I finished up my second run of teaching Witch Lit through LitReactor and had an absolutely wonderful time. I was also getting a lot of writing and reading done, diving into some spring cleaning (which I oddly like?) and just generally feeling better about myself and my relationship with my mind and body. I’ve been ordering from Daily Harvest recently, and I’m just completely obsessed with them. Their smoothies are to die for and it’s helping to keep me away from caffeine all day and instead hit me with some natural energy in the morning. I’ve also been specifically working with violets and jasmine this month, and it’s been a wild and informative journey. I appreciate the romance of jasmine and I usually work with her at night when the moon is out, and then violet is helping me find this stillness and calmness within myself that allows me to appreciate my aloneness. This was all better informed by a zoom lecture I listened in on with Robin Rose Bennett—who is one of my favorite herbalists--where she talked a lot about green witch wisdom and natural healing. Inspired by the talk, I even went outside yesterday morning to collect some dandelions from my front yard to keep on my desk.
Today is Beltane, as some of you might know, and if the rain holds off, I’m hoping to have a bonfire later on to celebrate, but if not, I’ll likely burn some herbs and flowers in my grandmother’s cauldron and light some green candles. I also found a recipe for rhubarb lemonade that I think I might try to make this afternoon.
Last night, however, was Walpurgisnacht, also known as Witches Night or Spring Halloween. Considering we had a death in the family this month—rest well, Uncle Doug--I approached my evening similar to how I approach Samhain in October. I made a small family altar, left offerings, lit candles, and talked to my relatives. A ritual I really love to do during times of reflection and loss is to write a letter to the recently deceased and light it on fire under the moon. I did this with my family last year during the dumb supper I hosted, and we all felt it was really beautiful and cathartic. My dad also took me to the cemetery this month and showed me where a lot of my relatives are buried. I made grave bouquets and took up rose petals to place/sprinkle over the earth as I said a prayer and/or introduced myself to family I had yet to meet. I was also happy that I got to see my grandfather’s grave for the first time since he passed. I swear I can still hear him laughing sometimes.
April did have its celebratory moments though, too. We opened the HWA Poetry Showcase for submissions. More details on that and how to submit can be found here. I was also welcomed into the TOC to two wonderful upcoming anthologies. My poem “The Crow’s Nest” will be published in Were Tales: A Shapeshifter Anthology through Brigids Gate Press and then my poem “Snakeskin” will be included in Under Her Skin through Black Spot Books. I had such a blast writing these pieces, so this was really exciting news to hear. I have some other stuff in the works that I can hopefully share soon, but trust that I still have some tricks up my sleeves for this year.
On the movie front, I've just been blowing through horror films like you would not believe. If you're interested in what I'm watching, you can always follow me on Twitter @ Swytovich where I go into a bit more detail on things, but wow. I actually watched Society and The Devils for the first time last month and I still find myself picking up my jaw from time to time. Plus, I don't think I'll ever be able to casually say the word "butthead" ever again.
Like ever again.
I also listened to this great podcast episode from Faculty of Horror about Twilight--yes you read that correctly--and honestly, I think it's really worth listening to as horror fans because there's just so much there that needs to be unpacked and mediated on and I'm personally really thankful that this episode exists because my relationship to feminism is something that is always evolving--especially as a white woman--and there's always just more work to do to be better and more inclusive and I truly learned a lot by listening to this.
On the reading side of things, here was where my reading took me:
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang à This proved to be a book that will likely stay with me for quite some time. I had some really visceral reactions to it, but on the whole, I think it was a great piece of body horror.
- White Oleander by Janet Finch à A bewitching and deeply poetic read. I read this alongside one of my grad students and we talked about how witchcraft is subtly pressed between the pages.
- If you want to read more about my thoughts on the book, you can check out my review here.
- Power of the Witch: The Earth, the Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment by Laurie Cabot
- Live or Die by Anne Sexton à This was the last poetry collection I needed to read in order to finish all of Sexton’s published work. I have such a deeply complicated relationship with her as a poet, but her work intensely affects me. I’ve started to move through her posthumous work now and am currently reading 45 Mercy Street.
- Homie by Danez Smithà This was my first collection by Smith, and I’ve already ordered another collection: Don’t Call Us Dead. I appreciate their voice and I’m looking forward to reading more work from them.
- Today Means Amen by Sierra DeMulder à This was my first collection by DeMulder and it certainly won’t be my last. Her poem "Thirteen Stanzas for Sarah Winchester Whom I Think I Understand" might very well be one of my favorite pieces of poetry.
- The Cuckoo Girls by Patricia Lillieà If you haven’t read this collection yet, I truly can’t recommend it enough. Truly gorgeous, haunting work. Lillie is brilliant and the horror genre is lucky to have her.
As we move into May, I have lots of stuff on deck. We’ll be celebrating my father’s 60th birthday this weekend (happy early birthday, dad!!), and we have lots of crazy fun stuff planned for that. I also start teaching a speculative fiction class for SNHU in a few weeks as well as start taking some classes of my own. For instance, I’ll be taking a philosophy course with PPU here soon, and I’m very much looking forward to that on top of some other spooky things I have coming up.
Until then, stay scary and be weird!
Stephanie M Wytovich