“Once When I Was 12 It Took Me an Hour to Read Through 1st Nephi Ch 1” by Alyssa Pyper

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“Once When I Was 12 It Took Me an Hour to Read Through 1st Nephi Ch 1”
by Alyssa Pyper

I, Nephi, having been born..having been, I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; of my father; taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions…of my father—

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught, been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught, was taught, therefore I was taught, somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord, of the Lord, having been highly favored of the Lord, in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, having—had—a—great—knowledge—therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days—

i was afraid something bad would happen to me if i didn’t read it just right

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Check out our recent Q&A with Alyssa Pyper and order the latest copy of peculiar online.

Q&A with Featured Writer: Alyssa Pyper

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For our third print issue of peculiar, we chose Alyssa Pyper as our Featured Writer because of her humble authenticity and the way she uses not just the words but spacing, shape, and repetition to transform her writing into something no one else can replicate. She truly is an artist, often expressing herself through music as well—specifically the violin. Alyssa was kind enough to take a pause between concert gigs to answer some questions about poetry and life.

When did you start writing poetry?

I was dating this girl a couple summers back. During that summer I found out that she was moving out of state to finish her schooling come fall. I was crushed. She was always making me the most beautiful cards and collages, leaving things here and there for me, flowers at the doorstep, etc. It was lovely. When I began to process the fact that she’d be leaving, I worked it out in writing. I was an avid journalist as a teenager but I’d never pursued any creative pieces or written anything for anyone…her endless gifts to me of things she’d created inspired me, and I ended up writing her some sappy/tenderhearted lines about the fact that she was leaving. That fall, I enrolled in my first creative writing class at Utah Valley University.

Why do you write poetry?

I have a need to create. I was always creating as a kid, painting pictures, making films with friends…my best friend and I even had our own film company called “Kid Productions”—slogan, Let’s Play! (Pretty cute and clever, right!? Also, yes, we really did!) I was always making meaning in relation to my friends and family through creating.

As a teenager I kept a lot of things bottled up. I was scared of my experiences, didn’t know why I cared so much about the girl in my 8th grade choir class, why I wanted her approval so badly, why it all bothered me so much. I was excelling in the world of classical violin and spent most of my time outside school learning concertos and waking up for Saturday morning orchestra rehearsals. I put all of my creative, anxious energies into music. This training has been invaluable to me, but I came to a point at 19 when I realized I could not thrive within a classical frame for much longer. There was something else I needed to be doing. People came along who helped me open up and be comfortable with simple acts of self-expression and sharing in my day to day life. I met friends and integrated into communities who helped me to own my lived experience. This openness has translated into a deeper need to continue creating and synthesizing my lived experience into works of music and writing.

What poets do you yourself read?

Well, I can tell you what’s on my shelf right now: 4 Anne Carson books, Ali Smith’s How to be Both, several books on Jungian psychology, a book on chakras, Leap by Terry Tempest Williams, a couple of local zines including the first edition of Pillars of Salt [go check out the zine community on Facebook and Instagram], a copy of Pigs When They Straddle The Air by local author/professor Julie Nichols [BUY HER BOOK AND READ IT, NOW], Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, The Queer Art of Failure, Flight From Neveryon

I actually probably read psychology books more often than I read poetry! I think it’s a life-phase sort of thing, though I find it fascinating and it often propels a lot of my work forward…but I also really gravitate toward narrative nonfiction, confessional poetry, historical fiction (esp. if its queer or local or both), experimental texts… though I’m not that good at reading from cover to cover. I’m lucky if that happens. More often than not I grab a couple lines here and there, or finish a few chapters and then pick up a different book the next time, only to circle back to the first…I carry a backpack with me wherever I go because I hate being without an extra shirt or pair of socks etc. if I want to change or if the temperature changes, and I pack a couple books too, choice of book always dependent on my mood that day…keyword being mood, because everything revolves around that. (I have to joke about it but it’s real. Haha.)

What’s your writing process?

In some ways I’m always “brainstorming”—thinking about the symbols, underlying connections and storylines of my every day experiences. I’ve always been pretty pensive. My actual output is varied, much like my attempts at reading. Sometimes I can sit down and flesh something out quickly, consistently, and walk away with a polished piece a few hours later. But most of the time, I’m just thinking, jotting notes and phrases so I don’t forget them. Whether music or poetry, I’ll often develop a general concept or structure that I want to explore for a piece, and then I’ll work to fill in the details over a period of days and weeks and months. 

What inspires you to write?

Experience is what keeps me writing. It’s definitely self-centered and it’s all about processing my feelings and thoughts.

Recently I’ve been obsessed over Merrill Garbus’s work with her band Tune-Yards, as well as Annie Clark & hers in ST Vincent. I’m inspired by countless mentors in my life—amazing professors at UVU who write and create and teach authentically and give me permission to do the same…kindhearted therapists and healers who have shared their strength and caring with me…so many badass friends starting their own collectives, zines, and journals to foster community and give voice to those who need it. You all give me strength.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written? 

I’ve been really liking a lot of the things I’ve been writing lately. I’m getting comfortable with my processes—how and when to push myself, when to rest. I’m working on a full length album that I’ll be releasing in the fall. I’m really excited about it. Musically this album is experimental chamber folk. Lyrically it’s like poetry. I used to just kind of throw down the first lyrics that I thought of for a song, but I’ve been a bit more selective about how the lyrics and narratives are crafted in this project. This album is the culmination of a lot of work and growing I’ve been doing over the past few years, musically, emotionally, spiritually. I think in general, I really like what I’m writing when I’m writing it, and I look forward to writing more in the future—changing my parameters, exploring new ideas, methods of execution, etc. I used to be afraid that I’d run out of ideas or “write my best thing” and then wither away. I’ve been fascinated and fueled by the idea of possibility lately. I think it’s endless. I will always have ways to push myself and to explore. I think that’s pretty great.

What effect do you hope your writing will have on people? 

I hope to put out what I’ve been grateful to receive. Authenticity. Love of sound, love of words. Connection. Sharing experience honestly is so important to me. Learning to use my voice is so important to me. It’s a process I’m humbled to be a part of.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Performing, mentoring, writing, collaborating. Resting.

What’s it like being gay in Utah?

I keep trying to leave! I’ve lived here my whole life and I tire of the heaviness of it. I’m a Mormon girl at heart and I just want to love another Mormon girl. No matter how I approach that, it’s never easy.

But I also love this valley and I have grown to understand that Utah is a place like any other, with its own set of prevalent cultural norms. Some of those norms are infuriating and hurtful and exhausting. But I’ve met so many incredible people navigating their way around it just like me, and I find needed understanding there.

I think a lot of things are changing and growing and expanding in Utah on a cultural level. I’d like to experience being in other places, but I’ve come to accept that Utah Valley will never really leave me. I feel a very strong sense of connection to my home.

What makes you peculiar?

LOL. Idk. I only wear certain colors. I change my outfit multiple times during the day depending on my mood. I was obsessed with Pinocchio as a four-year-old and even dressed up as Pinocchio for Halloween. I watched the movie again a couple years ago and I don’t know why I wasn’t scared of it! But it’s actually a pretty powerful story of rebirth and growth…so I find my childhood obsession with Pinocchio quite peculiar and lovely.

pinnochio

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To experience Alyssa’s music, follow her artist page on Facebook  or visit her Bandcamp website. Her new album will be released in the fall. She also plays with the folk band Quiet House.
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Her poetry can be found in the first and third issues of peculiar, available for purchase online.

A Small Sermon on Refusing Damnation

by K. Anderson, unordained

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A teacher in my (and peculiar’s) home valley – taught us to recite a dire warning: “First we abhor, then we tolerate, then we embrace.” Later, a college roommate told me: “Your problem, Karin, is that you let your classes change you. If you aren’t careful you’ll actually fall for that stuff you read.” Maybe my teachers were stealthier than hers. Maybe the poetry I read in my major was more compelling than her Business Ed textbooks.

Both of us have since become mothers. We’ve both seen the griefs and hazards that strike simply by walking through decades. It takes courage to get on with a life; anyone who proceeds with decency deserves at the very least a strong drink or foot massage. My old friend lives generously within her circumference of moral preservation and a lot of good has come from it. But if I’m riffing along that old scale—abhorrence, toleration, embrace – it occurs to me that it signposts more than the tired path to “sin.” It’s also the methodology for learning love.

How about we put it to concrete practice?

I’m not just sermonizing the “unpeculiar” people of Utah Valley who believe it’s their calling to abhor their queer fellow-citizens (think you’ll surprise me with that B.S. line about loving the sinner, hating the sin? Back off). I’m preaching to all of us. Kindred. A fugue of families, classmates, colleagues, enemies who aren’t actually anything of the kind. I’m preaching to tired, hurt, anxious, afraid-of-a-very-weird-future, overworked, underpaid-yet-overprivileged, guiltridden, half-strung (did I miss anyone?) human beings who need to turn off the menacing memes, turn around, face one another, and fall madly gratuitously in love. Touch by touch.

Roethke: Of those so close beside me, which are you? God bless the ground! I shall walk softly there…

Screw toleration. What an impoverished gesture, barely stirring.

My children and students, religious and secular, have grown up with one apocalyptic malediction after another. Here’s some news, kids: however it spirals down, here you are, alive in this moment, facing a typical lifespan (you’ll probably die before the planet does), certainly chiming along the same roster of horror and tender sunlight, April blooms, moonlit snowfields, glitter water, claret cups, the call of meadowlarks and redwings that has guided centuries of fellow travelers before you into the dark beyond. Yours and everyone else’s: the Milky Way, if you yet have courage to sleep in stark places. The first cries of the children who will in every way exceed you. The last caress of a past that loved and betrayed you. The howl of a solitary coyote.

Now, in a hard American season, our nation calls us to divide and abhor. We do not have to answer in kind. We can get on with our beautiful awful lives among one another. We can fashion ourselves a little more queerly every day, embracing what we have been so falsely enjoined to hate, savoring what slips so sweet and soon.

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Karin Anderson “teaches” English at Utah Valley University. She’s been hanging around the Wasatch Front for quite some time now, so you’d probably recognize her. She is a Contributing Editor at https://fiddleblack.org. Her second book, a collection of novellas set in the semi-Wild West, is called Before Us Like a Land of Dreams, and will be released by Fiddleblack sometime this fall.

 

 

 

 

Keeping Watch

by Taylor Adams
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I had a nice blog post planned and written. It was artfully crafted, daring, full of truth bombs and realizing my inner strength.
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But it was the wrong post.
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Today is June 12, 2016. Today I am grieving. Today my heart is broken in pieces.
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I thought I knew about pain and beauty. I thought I knew that they were two sides of the same coin. I thought I knew that they were twins, and that where there was one, there was always the other.
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Today is a day full of pain. Today I am blinded to beauty.
I wish I could be on my mountain, up at the summit of Timpanogos. To me she isn’t a sleeping princess. She’s a watchful spirit, standing guard over her little corner of the world, where many of her children are drowning, losing their breath, losing their hope, for want of acceptance. For want of safety to simply be.
I wish I could be on my mountain, and see what she sees. This little valley, my home. To see it from where there is no noise. From where nothing is above, except the eagles. From where the truth is simple: this is home, this is family, this is my heart. From where there is no sound, except the wind. The wind, and a whisper—
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I am the spirit of every family. 
I am the spirit of every child.
You are the spirit of every family.
You are the spirit of every child.
Every spirit is beautiful.
You are beautiful, my child.
Every spirit feels pain.
I feel your pain, my child.
See, to the east, the sun always rises;
It will rise again, child.
Until then, I will keep watch.
Keep watch with me, my child.
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Taylor Adams is from the little Utah town he refers to as “The Epicenter”—American Fork. He went on to study at Utah State University and Duke Law, served a Latter-day Saint mission in Washington, and has recently taken the California bar exam. Taylor’s interest in poetry and storytelling began when he was very young, but more recently his writings have focused on the idea of performance—meant to be shared aloud—and have wound their way into his performances as a drag queen under the stage name Brigitte Kiss.

“Roots” by Spencer Ballard

peculiar roots“Roots” by Spencer Ballard

My spine juts just so,
mimics the mountains
who gave me their lungs;
who heralded me above the aspens,
above silly lovers
tittering initials with knives below.
I am a child of the sun and pine,
and sea level does not scare me.

My spine juts just so,
a study of the salty city skyline
where I located my liver;
where the divey met the delicate,
and stubborn love’s
lead smudged silly certainties.
I am a man of moon and Monkshine,
and sea level did not drown me.

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Read Featured Writer Spencer Ballard’s Q&A on our blog, follow him on Instagram (@spencerjballard), and purchase a copy of peculiar: a queer literary journal 2:1 online.

Q&A with Featured Writer: Spencer Ballard

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For our most recent issue of peculiar, we have chosen Spencer Ballard as the Featured Writer. His poetry is vivid and immediate, like a snapshot, and we absolutely love the intimacy and candid nature of his writing style. We asked Spencer to take a break from his studies at the University of Utah to answer a few questions about his writing and being queer in Utah. Here’s what he had to say:

When did you start writing poetry?
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The first time I wrote something truly for myself (without being assigned to) was during my first year of college at Brigham Young University. It was a time of immense soul-searching, and one day I just sat down at my computer and the words sort of flowed out of me. It was that day I discovered that I could explore my own subliminal thoughts/emotional condition through writing. Looking back at that poem now, it had a lot of issues, but it still means a lot to me—especially because it jump-started my creative endeavors.
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Why do you write poetry today?
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I think oftentimes I write poetry to express something in a way I can’t express solely through verbal communication. Some things have to be felt to be understood. For example, some people express themselves through dance. Through movement they are able to invoke thoughts and understanding that spoken words alone can’t accomplish. I’m a terrible dancer, so I resort to poetry.
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Another reason I write poetry is because it feels like the writing style with the most freedom. The best thing about poetry is that you can create your own rules, break them, stomp on them, and then suddenly have a great poem. It’s honestly just a good time.
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What poets do you yourself read?
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I’m currently reading a collection of poems by Pablo Neruda. One of my good friends introduced me to him a couple of years ago, and I’ve loved him ever since. I’m in the process of learning Spanish, and my copy has each poem in Spanish on one page, and then in English on the next. I’m really interested in how each poem is “transformed” during translation.
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Another one of my favorite poets is William Carlos Williams. He is able to say so much in so few words, and I really admire that. I think my current all-time-favorite poem is “To a Poor Old Woman” by Williams. I find myself whispering lines from it now and then when I’m walking across campus between classes. People probably think that I’m crazy. They’re probably right.
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What’s your writing process?
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As I go about my daily routine, every now and then my brain will latch on to an idea or phrase, sometimes a memory, image, or concept. I become totally obsessed with the thought of it until I can get it out on paper in a way that satisfies me. I really struggle to write about anything other than my current fixation.
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What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse?
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I tend to circle back to writing about a few specific people and ideas. I also write frequently about feelings, because emotions are confusing and weird.
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Sorry to disappoint, but the closest thing I have to a “muse” is a tree—specifically an aspen. There’s something about the way that they’re all interconnected by the roots that intrigues me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think they’ll continue to crop up until I can pinpoint why I like them so much.
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I also end up writing a lot about the first guy I really developed feelings for, I guess. I became friends with him in the 9th grade, and was pretty much infatuated by him until the day he died my freshman year of college. He never knew that I’m into dudes, and he’d be really uncomfortable with the fact that nearly everything I write seems to have something to do with him in one way or another.
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What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?
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I think my favorite line I’ve ever written was, “I love you the way thunder crumbles like chalk between your teeth.” It just resonates with me somehow in a quiet way. Maybe other people resonate with it, too. I’m never quite sure if I’m in my own little world or not.
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My favorite full poems I’ve written are probably “Red Bull and God” and “A Fear of Drowning” which can be found in the first and second editions of peculiar, respectively. They were the sort of poem where you write the final word and you just start to cry uncontrollably. They’re my favorites because they were both poems I needed to write.
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What effect do you hope your writing will have on people?
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That’s a tricky question. Poetry is interpreted differently by every person who consumes it; each reader draws out of a text what they need in that moment. I hope that I can write in such a way that it can help people overcome or understand something in their own life, even just in a small way.
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Where do you see yourself in the future?
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I think there’s a good chance that I will be nomadic for a large portion of my life. I am developing a wanderlust that I fear may be insatiable. The world is so much larger than I can even process, and I’m determined to see as much of it as possible before I kick the bucket.
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As for the short term, as soon as I graduate I plan on locking myself in a coat closet for a few months so I can focus on completing my first novel. I can’t wait for the day when I can walk into Barnes & Noble and smell a fresh copy of one of my books. It’s gonna be a beautiful day.
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What’s it like being queer in Utah
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Growing up in Utah County was extremely…complicated. I definitely did everything I could growing up to hide my sexuality. In my mind “coming out” or being outed was the most horrifying thing that could ever happen to me. I buried my sexuality, as well as many traits/hobbies I didn’t think were “masculine”. By doing so I was able to avoid the bullying, judgment, and ostracization I saw going on around me. But even then, I lived in a constant state of fear. I was terrified of damnation, abandonment, and love.
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Flash forward a bunch of years. Now I live in Salt Lake City, and I’m completely out of the closet. I’m comfortable with my sexuality, and I think people can sense that. I think SLC is much more gay-tolerant than Utah Country was as a whole, though I sometimes feel like the LGBTQ community is swept under the rug. I’m fine with Utah, but I don’t plan on settling down here. I don’t want to live in a place where I don’t feel completely comfortable holding hands with someone I love in public.
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Interpret this however you wish, but what makes you peculiar?
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I lived a dual-life for a long time. I was a straight-arrow small-town Mormon boy by day, and a hormonal gay city kid by night. My two lives collided like a car crash a few years ago, and that’s when my life really began. I had to decide who I wanted to be, so I picked through the wreckage. I gleaned things from both sides. I think what makes me peculiar is that I am not a part of any one group, I am my own person derived from several worlds being grafted together.
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Read Featured Writer Spencer Ballard’s poem “Roots” on our blog, Order the newest issue of peculiar, and then follow him on Instagram (@spencerjballard) for even more of his beautiful words.

Community Poem from the Provo Pride Festival

untitled (5)Back in September, at the Provo Pride Festival, peculiar shared a booth with Rock Canyon Poets where copies of both peculiar and Orogeny were sold. There was also an easel set up with paper and marker for Provo Pride attendees to add a line to a community poem. That community poem has since been published in Rock Canyon Poets’ newest chapbook, Inspired, under the title “Kaleidoscope.”

The chapbook was the result of a series of workshops, sponsored in part by Utah Humanities and Pioneer Book, where participants were asked to write a poem in response to another poem or literary work that inspired them. Rock Canyon Poets recently had a launch party and poetry reading to celebrate Inspired‘s release, covered by KBYU. Copies can be purchased online for only $5.

Inspired also contains poems written by peculiar co-editors Aaron Gates (“Sketchbook Girl” and “One Part Vinegar, Two Parts Bleach”) and Jack Garcia (“On Nights When I Am Your Wife” and “Three Pearls”), as well as Matthew A. Jonassaint (“Excerpts from Drafts for a Lost River”), who was featured in peculiar‘s first issue and will be published again in the upcoming second issue.

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Alyssa Pyper Featured in New Video

Alyssa Pyper, who graced us in our first issue with the poems “Archaeologist” and “The Hierophant, Reverse,” is not only a phenomenal poet, but an accomplished musician. Her peculiar bio reads: “Alyssa Pyper is an integrated studies major with emphases in music and creative writing. When she’s not in class, she works as a writing tutor, violin teacher, and plays in bands Quiet House and Bat Manors. She also has a solo project under the moniker of Night Wings.”

Her solo project was recently featured in the video series The Sound of Provo in their third episode entitled “Night Wings.The film, directed by Melody Chow, won the Best Non-Fiction Award at Brigham Young University’s Final Cut Film Fest. You can watch the short, four-minute film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyaV9Z0OT7g&feature=youtu.be

Alyssa feels her documentary segment is about finding a safe community within a Latter-day Saint culture, which can often be difficult. “Human to human. Can I show you the place where my soul is fragmented?” she asks in a recent Facebook post. “The terrain I circle endlessly.  The community from whom I have sought communion. Can you hear me above the call of policy and principle? Can you look at me, and see me? Can you understand that I, too, am a Mormon girl?”

Both her music and her poetry touch on these themes. In her poem, “The Hierophant, Reverse,” Alyssa writes, “Wading through the complexity that is culture, the confusion that is structure versus heart versus conformity versus authenticity—here I find her, hanging from this delicate thread, a thread that is to question all that one has ever come to know—”

Alyssa’s creative work is like that delicate thread. You can hear more of her music on Bandcamp, and can read her poetry in volume one, issue one of peculiar.

Calls for Submissions with Queer Focuses

Calls for SubmissionsOur dear friend Trish Hopkinson, one of the main organizers of the Provo poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets, also has her own website where she talks about poetry and often posts calls for submissions. She has been published in several journals and offers a lot of support to the staff of peculiar. We love her!

She’s recently been sending submission notices our way that she thinks peculiar writers might also be interested in. So while we’re hard at work making our final selections for the second issue of peculiar, here are some other journals that are currently taking submissions from queer writers:

  • Assaracus, currently seeking a portfolio of up to ten poems from specifically gay men.
  • Feminist Spaces, currently seeking academic papers, creative writing, and art on the topic “Queering Feminism: LGBTQ and Feminist Intersectionality.” Deadline is October 15th.
  • Educe, currently seeking poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from queer writers.
  • Crab Fat Magazine, currently seeking poetry, art, fiction, and non-fiction for a special issue celebrating queer people of color. Deadline is December 15th.
  • Broad!, currently seeking work from female, trans, and genderqueer writers. Deadline is October 15th.
  • Lavender Review, currently seeking poetry and art from lesbian writers and artists.

Of course there are many more, but this should be a good starting place. Happy submitting!

‘peculiar’ and ‘saltfront’ on SLUG Soundwaves

peculiar Slug Magazine Podcastpeculiar Co-Editors-in-Chief Aaron Gates and Jack Garcia sat down with SLUG Magazine writer Brian Udall on August 18th to talk about the journal.  The interview was recorded and aired on the magazine’s podcast, SLUG Soundwaves, today, along with an interview with the staff of saltfront, another Utah-based lit journal but with a focus on “eco-lyrical” expressions.  Very cool!

Check out the episode here: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/soundwaves-from-the-underground/e/episode-216-saltfront-peculiar-40282093