https://freelinespress.weeblysite.com/[Image credits: Tania Bies; "A Surreal Journey" by Pensiero is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Tania Bies, founder of Free Lines Press, sat down with our founder, Shawnie Hamer, for an interview about all things publishing and writing, including details about Tania's forthcoming book, View From the Moon, co-authored with Freddie Bruhin-Price.
Shawnie Hamer (SH): Where did the idea for Free Lines Press come from? Tell us how it was born.
Tania Bies (TB): Well, it’s very much related to something I read in your manifesto, about (de)constructing the current state of art, and of many other aspects of our society… I had been writing poetry, and a lot of it was ephemeral; it would be part of a performance, or an improvisation piece, and we had no cameras, everything wasn’t being filmed by a smartphone… Or probably it was, it’s not so long ago… Some would be chalk poems on stairs, or things we’d scream during a theatre play, ‘post-its’ in the subway… So even though art that disappears is so beautiful, it is important to document art, to concretize what an artist is writing and saying. There’s nothing quite like connecting with that moment when the writer was finding the words and being transported through those lines… To me it’s such a mystical experience. So more than an idea, it felt more like a necessity…
I was just discouraged by the way things work in the publishing world, and my friends were too… And in the human world in general, obviously. So, it was necessary. There should be alternatives, and publishers who are open to at least look at your work and consider it, especially if it doesn’t fit the mold. We needed a publisher. I knew mainstream publishers weren’t an option, I knew we needed options for writers like us, who had work and ideas… So it was both this very personal search and the feeling that what I do should be meaningful. This would be our publishing home and it would also support other artists, it was just time to create Free Lines Press.
SH: What kind of submissions excite you? What kind of work do you hope to celebrate at Free Lines?
TB: We are looking for work that helps us to imagine the art of the future… Work that is free from established doctrines… We want art that makes us question ourselves and the way things are now. Manuscripts that implement contemporary philosophies and movements, like ‘make it new’, cut-up, Dada, the Absurd, Language Poetry, Asemic writing… which aren’t that new really, but these are all great tools for getting out of linear thinking, and they still aren’t published enough… We aren’t sufficiently exposed to contemporary poetry, and we would love to help to change or stimulate that… It’s been a while since poets like William Carlos Williams, James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein for example, opened the doors and still today so many people are more familiar with Shakespeare than with their poetry, or that of Sylvia Plath, or Jean-Michel Basquiat... Or Benjamin Zephaniah or Saul Williams, who are alive now…
We want to celebrate the artists of today who both embrace contemporary poetry and experiment with it, and take it further. We want to celebrate the sense in the nonsense, the nonsense in all that supposedly makes sense, the experimentation that still has feelings and isn’t apocalyptic or sarcastic or robotic… Or that imagines robotic feelings that are more exciting than our own. Or that explores the absence of feeling, our void as a new presence, as the presence of an absence. As a spiritual presence even. Anything’s possible, and as Saul Williams said recently, “the goal is to feed the imagination, to challenge apathy and normative thinking”.
SH: Tell us about View from the Moon, your forthcoming book co-authored with Freddie Bruhin-Price. How did it come to fruition?
TB: These were our university poems, and I guess that we were both longing for unity… We were classmates in a contemporary poetry class, taught by Nikolai Duffy, whose poems are great, and we read each other’s work and thought it was cool… You know, I realized this yesterday I think, 4 years into the work, that Freddie is a guy from Manchester who co-wrote a book with a woman, with a Latina woman, with a Brown-skinned Latina woman. I thought “that’s cool”. I realized how cool this is, I’m probably not able to express this. I thought, it’s a cool thing to do, uniting in this way… Man, it’s what we need… This is hilarious to me because what I mean is we were completely unaware of our ‘differences’, our physical bodies, who we “are socially”… We were just two kids writing poems… Forget the identities…
Collaborative art is just so powerful, there’s this power in unity, in united artists across time, like the Beats, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, the Dadaists at cabaret Voltaire, all of the artists who united at the Harlem Festival of 1969, Marina Abramovic and Ulay… There are so many examples, and we’re both inspired by that. But, back in 2016 we just thought, well, shouldn’t we do something together… These poems have been waiting for the press to take off, for us to figure things out, to curate the books… In the meantime we both have continued writing, but these poems are special because we were just discovering our voices. Discovering even that we had one and what that even means.
SH: What was your writing process for this book? Tell us about your rituals.
TB: Well, we need to ask this question to Freddie cause I’d love to know more about his rituals… He writes a lot of lyric poetry that goes well with music because he’s a musician—and I have a lot of favorites. There's actually a poem of his that I covered with my duet to get a feeling of connection with his voice, that was a bit of a ritual… Because I knew I had to connect with Freddie’s words deeply if I was going to put our books together… Then there are the poems we wrote together, sometimes we’d do that on social media chat, just replying the next line to each other, that was fun.
We also wrote a poem when a friend of his passed away, and it was intense; I think that we tend to enter a ritual state of mind when something like that happens… I grew up in Mexico, where a lot of the art comes from death and dying. We have this connection to the world beyond, the world of the dead, who obviously aren’t really dead unless we all disappear because there’s something more ethereal in memory and even physically. And his friend’s passing was a moment that united us with all that, in my experience…
My own writing process is very different in each poem… I am someone who writes as a way to question and transmute my frustrations into something more useful, so whenever something really makes me mad I’ll sit and explore it, and instead of complaining about that thing that makes me mad I deconstruct it, and make fun of it, or play with why I think it’s absurd… Other poems I wrote while meditating in India, others I wrote in the hospital or just before falling asleep— I think it’s so interesting to write when you’re halfway in the ‘dream dimension’.
Another thing that happened was the discovery, after a few years writing together, that both our mothers had passed away, both of us young. It was this coincidence that gave us depth, a myth aspect, something almost from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel or a Jim Jarmusch movie. I think he said “we are both half orphans” and I said “I feel more like I’m three-quarters orphan”, then he said “me too…”, so we were the three-quarter orphans… The book opens with a song about poetry from Hikuri, the god of Peyote, to the 3/4 orphans.
SH: If you could impart one piece of advice to our collective members writing a book or submitting it to publication, what would it be?
TB: Make it universal. Let anyone relate with your subject and themes. De-dogmatize everything… Get out of your comfort zone; by that I mean, don’t write your own opinions or thoughts, explore them, challenge yourself, ask questions in ways you haven’t before… Don’t just look at the world now, look into the future, it’s all a spiraling vortex. And send a good proposal. Take your application process seriously, include a great blurb, and reviews by artist friends, be inventive.
SH: What do you know about the publishing world/process now that you didn’t know before?
TB: I didn’t know anything about publishing… I have learned so much in the past 4 years developing Free Lines… From book titles, to editing, formatting, designing a cover, the book as a concept, the book as a vessel, the book as a product—which is challenging because I always think of the book as an art piece, I only think about the concept… I’ve learned that I can’t satisfy everyone, especially myself. I can’t make everyone happy, but I can try my best. And I’ve also learned to listen, listen, listen. That it’s important to make mistakes an ice-cream cake because they’re part of the process. To think about the creative ideas that I disagree with… I remember saying in one of our meetings “I want a book cover to be a concept in itself, I want it to be crazy so that people have to figure it out, even figure out how to read it”, and someone would say, “most people wouldn’t get this”, “most people wouldn’t understand”… And I’d say “that’s good isn’t it?”… But minimalists, who I adore, tend to think less is more when it comes to covers and everything else, that covers need to be clear, and simple…
It’s interesting to me, that there is such a thing as “too experimental” in publishing, and it’s true, I understood that, and I saw the difference in how people reacted to a book with no title and then something more understandable. People in general react so differently to something that challenges the model. So, that’s why I like working with others because I have ideas that come from ultra conceptual art that are just not accepted in the publishing world yet, and sometimes we need to think about the book as our “child” and do what’s best for it. However, I do think it’s something that needs to be explored… So that was a nice discovery, that we need to be more open in the way that we see books, and more open to experimentation, and that there’s so much to be done, and conversations to be had…
SH: What’s next for you and Free Lines?
TB: Well, we’re publishing a book of poems titled Surfacing, by Amber Ridenour Walker, who is extremely talented; so I’d love to invite everyone to check it out. And we’re looking forward to continuing to publish other artists. We welcome pretty much any medium that can be printed as a book, so, who knows? We may publish art décor or performance art photography, or hybrid work… We plan to publish 4 to 6 books per year and we’re really looking forward to discovering new contemporary artists.
There’s also the second book Freddie and I wrote together, which we will announce someday; and I’ve been working on a collection of more experimental poems that are very different from things I’ve written before… And I’m excited and nervous for those to form a book together. We will also be publishing two experimental visual artists who are currently curating their books. Free Lines is all about alternatives and we read every single proposal with an open mind. We do have certain criteria, but we’re always curious, and intrigued by innovation and authenticity.
About the Contributor
Tania Bies has written and shared ephemeral poetry for several years, and published her first paperback book in 2021. She created Free Lines Press, an alternative not-for-profit publisher of contemporary and experimental poetry and other art forms. Passionate about the possibilities of creative writing as a multidisciplinary art, her writing combines DADA, Found, cut-up, Language poetry and free verse, at times blending hints of playwriting and experimental music. In her poems we find humour, a longing for alternatives, and reflections on limited thinking. She has participated in plays in Mexico and the Netherlands as an actress, and studied English literature, applied linguistics and creative writing.
[Image credit: Karen Light]
When is it time to keep ahold of an idea and see it through and when is it time to detach and let go?
I thought I finished a painting. Then, a week later, I painted over the whole thing and basically started from scratch.
I found the flow state here and there, but mostly hit a lot of bumps in the road. There is this “click” that happens when a piece is finished and I heard nothing. I couldn’t figure it out. So, eventually, after a lot of trying, I decided to just not finish it for now and move on.
Perhaps you are a parent or you have worked with/been around lots of kids like I have. If so, bring to mind a teenager. There is an outcome that you really want for them and you try to steer them down paths that will lead them to it. But they are on to you, resisting and rejecting every suggestion you make.
You could continue this power struggle (Who hasn’t tried this many times before?!) or you could take a deep breath and let go. You could ask them what they want and how they want to get there. Then, you might start to see things clicking in their minds. Your genuine curiosity and willingness to let go was all it took for them to do the work on their own.
Ever have that experience? Well this is sort of what happened with my painting.
I detached from what I needed it to be. I didn’t even need it to be finished! In fact, I went into my studio to clean everything up and reset the space for a new project.
As I cleaned up, my painting suddenly started telling me what it wanted. (Actually, it was probably doing this the whole time, but I wasn’t open to hearing its ideas since I was so attached to my own…) What it wanted was so strong that I stopped cleaning, got out some paint again and it practically finished itself!
It wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be, but it clicked! I felt quite satisfied as I enjoyed the surprising path and destination. After all, much of the point of making art for me is to be brought to new places!
Are you banging your head against the wall trying to get into the flow or make something work? Are you constantly trying to figure it out versus enjoying the process? If so, you can watch this short video to help you determine if you need to detach and steps to help you let go.
What new and exciting places might your creativity bring you to if you detach and get curious?
Karen Light is an Artist/Illustrator and a Creative Coach at Studio Light Illustration. She is passionate about healing and nurturing the creative spirit. Empowered creatives change their worlds as well as the world and have a lot of fun doing it! Bring your creativity out to play with us during our next Creative Wisdom Doodle-Shop! Want a more individualized approach? Fill out the Creative Journey Roadmap Assessment.
[Image Credit: Karen Light]
Sometimes I get these headaches from literally trying to figure everything out all the way through. Have you ever experienced that?
It is a clear indication that I must let go of the reins a bit, which is especially difficult for me to do when I am really excited about a big vision, either for my art or for my creative company. I just want to dig in there and work out all the steps and see the path laid out before me in one clear linear line…
But then my head starts spinning or my eyes start crossing or suddenly I notice I have been scrunching my face for a while and I have gone too far.
I was having one of these moments and I decided to do one of the cards from my new Creative Wisdom Doodle Deck! The card is called 'Move Mountains' and I chose it because I felt like I wanted to do it all, but was limited by time and energy.
As I doodled, the image that emerged was me following little breadcrumbs on the ground.
The message that arose as I contemplated the image was that all I need to do is follow one breadcrumb at a time. Sure, I can hold the big vision! I can use it to be energized and excited! But if I was given everything I had to do to achieve it now, it would only lead to burn out and possible failure. And frankly, there would be little joy in the process.
Instead, the practice is to trust that the piece of clarity I have right now is enough. That taking action on that clarity is the only next step I need to do. And, when this clarity is present, I need to trust that I can handle it, even if it is outside of my comfort zone and a little scary.
Each little breadcrumb is helping me to build the confidence, the skills, and the ideas that will help me to see the next breadcrumb. And, one by one, they will take me on a surprisingly meaningful and creatively adventurous path towards my vision.
Where are you trying to figure it all out? What happens when you just look for the next breadcrumb?
Karen Light is an Artist/Illustrator and a Creative Coach. She is passionate about healing and nurturing the creative spirit. Empowered creatives change their worlds as well as the world and have a lot of fun doing it! Have fun with her and other creative minds as they all find the next breadcrumbs on their creative path in the upcoming Creative Wisdom Doodle-Shop on April 15.
[image credit: Photo-Karolina Zapal | Collage-Shawnie Hamer]
In February 2021, Languages of Elsewhere facilitator Karolina Zapal asked her workshop participants questions of movement, such as:
Interested in taking this workshop? You can rent/purchase the archived videos for an accessible flat rate in the commons starting April 1st!
"On Fray & Freezing" by Jessica Rigney
about the artist:
Jessica Rigney is a poet, artist, and filmmaker. She is the author of Follow a Field (2016), Entre Nous (2017), Within Poetic Boxes (2018), and Careful Packages (2019). Two of her poems, À la Brütt and Grass Began, exist as limited edition, letterpress broadsides by Wolverine Farm Publishing (2016 and 2017, respectively). Jessica was a quarter-finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry in 2016 and 2018.
The YouTube channel, Jessica Rigney, carries her poetic short films. Her poetic music and voice experiments live at jessicarigney.bandcamp.com. On Instagram she is poetjess, where her imagery and words, as well as announcements for new work can be found. She lives and wanders in Colorado and northern New Mexico, where she films and collects feathers and stones.
"Bonsai Kayak" by Thomas A. Thomas
about the artist:
Thomas A. Thomas studied with Gregory Orr and Donald Hall at the University of Michigan, where he won both Hopwood Minor and Major Awards in Poetry. He later studied with Matthew Shenoda at Goddard College in the MFA program. His poems have appeared in Anesthesia Review, The Periodical Lunch, Writer’s Digest, Oberon, FemAsia Magazine (link below)and most recently in Spanish translation on Revista Palabrerias (link below). Additional poems are forthcoming in the Spring ’21 edition of The Banyan Review. His full-length book Getting Here, published in 2005, received an Honorable Mention in the 14th Annual Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards. It is available on Amazon and other major vendor sites in paper or electronic format).
In the Pandemic year of 2020 he has read for international and inclusive audiences in Cultivating Voices Facebook group, with writers from Ireland, India, Canada and numerous other countries, and was also featured in the 100,000 Poets for Change, Toronto Canada ZOOM event with poets from 4 continents and 8 time zones.
In A Time - FemAsia Magazine
Trotamundos | 5 poemas de Thomas A. Thomas – Revista Palabrerías (revpalabrerias.com)
"Against the Bones" by Elizabeth Kate Switaj
about the artist:
Elizabeth Kate Switaj lives on Majuro atoll where she works at the College of the Marshall Islands and rescues cats. Her second collection of poetry, The Bringers of Fruit: An Oratorio, is forthcoming in 2022 from 11:11 Press.
It was mid-afternoon. Prime work time. I’d been banging away on my laptop getting stuff done, but out the corner of my eye, I had been watching big fluffy white flakes falling from the sky for a while. I felt my inner child getting antsy, squirming in her seat, desperately wanting to run outside. Between long winter days and the endless pandemic, she was already restless. Now, with the snow, she could barely contain herself.
Meanwhile, I also heard a stern disciplinarian telling her to sit still and stay focused. “There is a lot to do and not doing these things would be irresponsible. And being irresponsible could lead to some pretty dire consequences. There is a time for work and there is a time for play and this is time for work.”
Then, a teenage rebel voice chimed in. She glared at the disciplinarian between puffs of her cigarette and through the darkness of her heavily black outlined eyes. Whatever.
“This is lame. Forget work altogether. Just do what you want. This lady is full of crap. Your work means nothing.”
I stopped pecking at my keyboard and sat still for a few moments listening to these voices. The disciplinarian and the teenage rebel voices are quite familiar to me. They may seem like bitter enemies, but they actually secretly work together and I have been practicing staying clear of their trap.
You see, the disciplinarian will make me keep working and always putting off rest and play because of all the important things to do and all the bad consequences that could
happen. But, eventually, I am so burnt out that I will just throw my hands up and become the rebel teenager who doesn’t care about anything for a while. I will lounge about doing nothing productive until the disciplinarian makes me feel bad enough to start working again and so the cycle goes…
One is afraid of never accomplishing anything if you take a break and one is afraid that life will always be a grind if you do any work.
I know they were looking to ensnare me once again on this beautiful snowy day. In the still moment, I took a good look at my inner child. Her eyes were shining and hopeful. She seemed to be the secret to escaping their trap. I told her to go bundle up for the cold and she jumped up with joy, putting on layers as fast as she could!
As I went out walking in the snow, my inner child spoke to the inner child of several others as well. A couple people joined me on my excursion and we waved and exchanged gleeful hellos with others along the way. I felt alive and present and happy.
I came back inside and sat down to work feeling refreshed and inspired. I was more than ready to get back to work. I looked over at my inner child. She was curled up, happily resting after an afternoon of play. And I reminded myself how important it was to keep paying attention to what she needs.
Deprivation never leads to happiness. It leads to resentment, burn out, meaningless success, unhappiness. Giving yourself joyful, playful experiences is deeply satisfying and meaningful. It cultivates creativity and energy to transform those ideas into reality.
What is your inner child asking for today?
Karen Light is an Artist/Illustrator and a Creative Coach. She is passionate about healing and nurturing the creative spirit. Empowered creatives change their worlds as well as the world and have a lot of fun doing it! Bring out your inner child in her next Create It Class: Idea to Creation
in Four Weeks.
So, today what I want you to do is open up and let Blackness into your heart, the energy of Black, if it can enter you. --Akilah Oliver
I think of Akilah Oliver’s words often. I first encountered Oliver’s work at Naropa University—where I studied her flesh memory: the she said dialogues and listened to her archive as I practiced and wrote/performed into the space of healing ancestral trauma—how to exercise the ghosts that haunt our bodies.
As a community member of collective.aporia, and as a poet and artist, I want to document my experience (share this account for the archive) at a Black Lives Matter march in Portland, Oregon, as a way to discuss the notion of healing collective grief. This continues to be at the forefront of my own artistic (activist) practice as we are confronted yet again with the reminder that the policing of this country disregards Black lives with the recent shooting of Jacob Blake.
I’m currently living in Portland, Oregon, and for many of us, 2020 has been a tumultuous year of transformation. Daily I’m thankful to witness the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. This resistance gives me hope. Many of us have been moved in spite of Covid-19 to join the countless BLM marches and protests throughout the nation at such a crucial and pivotal time. The following are notes on funeral marches as a way to protest in Portland, Oregon (a former white utopia).
We walked slowly, weaving through empty SE Portland streets, chanting “march with us”— towards Cleveland High School where just last year the school faced a “series of incidents” that included a noose and a blackface cake.
We were among hundreds of people in the streets, trying to practice social distancing, wearing masks, searching for the grief in each other’s eyes, moving together at the same pace, pausing sometimes to make sure we were safe—altogether, holding signs overhead, shouting “Black Lives Matter.”
Moving together, I could feel our collective grief. I could feel myself hold back tears and could also feel the tears in everyone’s shouts, screams, crying out: “No Justice, No Peace.” Over the hours we moved together, my stomach was tense, my feet ached, and as we began to sing, a feeling of déjà vu overwhelmed me to tears. It was as if my ancestors had also taken the streets like I was—or they at least dreamed about voicing their dissent and disappointment in humanity.
Heartbroken we sang together, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round”—a Black spiritual that entered my body and emerged from my throat. After singing this spiritual and committing the words to memory, a quick search brought me to the words of Bernice Johnson Reagon:
Black singing is running sound through your body. You cannot sing a spiritual and not change your condition.
These words appeared in P. Kimberleigh Jordan’s “‘Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round’: Spirituals as Embodied Acts of Resistance”—reminding us that “for nearly four centuries, people of the African descent in the Diaspora expressed their presence, pain, desires, and hopes through the repertoire of spirituals.” The collective presence and performance at the BLM march was/is participating in this legacy of healing the pain of the past and present.
I sit with these words and think of Tracie Morris’s “Africa(n)” and I come full circle to Akilah Oliver’s invitation to “let Blackness into your heart.” Blackness is the griot giving us permission to weep for the dead.
This notion of Blackness, resistance, and community brings me to consider how the BLM march functioned in a similar way as a ritual. I think about Malidoma Somé’s writing around ritual: “In a tribal community, healing of the village happens in ritual.”
While Portland, OR is far from a tribal community, as a woman and creative of color I walked away from that BLM march protesting the murder of Black lives, racism in public schools, while also paying homage by chanting the names of countless lives lost—in a way, collectively performing final funeral rites for these Black lives. I continue to walk around Portland humming those songs, reminding myself that these experiences allow for our collective to grieve and move this grief through the collective body so that real healing can begin. You could say I’m self- soothing as I hum these songs to myself and the Portland city streets as I feel how the community continues to burn in grief, in fear. For this reason, the protest songs—or spirituals—these Black Lives Matter (funeral) marches that contain elements of ritual, hold and heal the community each time we take to the streets and listen to the words and songs of BIPOC community members.
This account of a crier at a BLM march, aims to write into the space of grief and how we hold and move grief through our bodies—in this case, by attending a BLM march, joining my community in song. While we are bombarded by images and stories of trauma, while we move slowly through this long hot summer into an uncertain fall, may we also remember to move and speak with the intention to heal these deep ancestral wounds. This is an account of a brief moment where I caught a glimpse of hope for our local community meeting together to heal deep collective grief. These moments hold space for all the tragically beautiful, moving music and art, all the transformative collectives and organizations that have and will continue to emerge from this uprising, grief, and revolution.
april joseph is a poet and clarinetist from East L.A., CA. She received her BA in Literatures of the World from UC San Diego, and her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University. She has taught high school, undergraduate and graduate students in Eugene and Portland, OR, Las Vegas, NV, and Boulder, CO. april creates mourning songs to heal ancestral trauma. Collaborative, student-centered, process-oriented learning inspires her to teach artistic expression to transform lives, to be free. Her most recent publications have been included in the literary journals: Morning/Mourning (2018) and TAYO Issue 6 (2016). You can learn more about april’s work at bodyfulspace.com.
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