Introducing Half Mystic Journal's Issue V: Cadenza

If there’s any friend who never leaves, I believe it’s this: jazz in blue & grey, in light & cloud. Jazz like circadian rhythm, like cityscape dreaming, like still before the train comes. Jazz, the one thing I’ll never understand. The one thing I’ll ever know for sure.

These past six months have been a gorgeous & terrifying time for Half Mystic, both a wonder & a reckoning: wherein we reconsidered our company’s values, we pressed all the wrong notes on the piano, we stumbled through a time signature that no one else seemed to recognise, we learned the value of a friend who knows your favourite song as badly as you do. A friend—like cadenza—who shimmers with movement. Who at once stands by your side & pushes you forward into the future.

So I hope, reader, that you find a friend in this issue who soars & beams, a friend who knows what it stands for, knows what it’s here to do. I hope you find a friend to the rhythm of swing jazz & tapping feet, midnight on cobblestoned streets, drunken solo out a three-story window, drowsy night & clumsy dance, serenade with the stars as a microphone.

Issue V: Cadenza is a fizzling kind of light, a neon kind of song, a post-dusk kind of splendour. A forever kind of love story. This friend holds softness in its left hand & savagery in its right. It has wide eyes, open arms, never enough hours of sleep. Cadenza is a friend both inchoate & reckless, both uncertain & proud. It always eats breakfast. It surprises itself. It wanders. It wonders. It’s gutless but full of bones to break. It’s hungry & warm & grateful for so much it still doesn’t know how to name. It sings. It growls. It blooms. & if you don’t look in the mirror & see it glittering in your chest, maybe all you have to do is listen a little harder.

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Issue V centres around the theme of cadenzathe saxophone laugh – the air of smoke and blue – the love affair as old-fashioned as it is timeless. It features the voices of Jill Mceldowney, Kate Bucca, Janice Lee, Jennifer Patino, Adrienne Novy, Alyx Jordan, Mariel FechikAmy Karon, Dana Alsamsam, Ann V. DeVilbiss, Emily Vizzo, SK Grout, Troy Kody Cunio, Give Me Motion, ÊMIA, VIRTA, Anne Paceo, Betina Hershey, & Allen Forrest.

Order your copy today. I & the entire HM team could not be more honoured to share it with you. xx

Tired of Being Brave / Songs for June

Happy June, dear friends! I'm rather proud of this month's mix—I have been playing it on repeat for the past week or so, & I foresee no end to that trend for the rest of this month. Particularly I am loving Neon Trees' "1983" & WALK THE MOON's "Avalanche" from this playlist, though all of the songs hold a bright spot in my heart.

In case you missed my first sold-out reading (!) on the 29th at Mandarin Gallery, here some photographs. (I believe you can find more on Facebook if you search "Insert Atomic Name Here", the name of the event, but don't quote me on that.) Also this month: I graduate from high school, Half Mystic Journal's Issue V: Cadenza comes out, I will be travelling to the US once again to visit family & work on a new book. 

Watch this space for more information on the Issue V: Cadenza launch! I believe it will be sometime around the end of this month or early July, & as always, it will be free & open to the public. More soon.

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this small mix of songs I have loved lately. Sending all my warmth to you to hurry Spring out of her hibernation. xo

How to Say "I Love You" in 280 Characters

With the Love Lives Bot coming out last week, I’ve been thinking about love & technology & the ways in which they breathe into one another, share the same hallowed ankles, the same haphazardly-made bed. It sounds like such a contradiction, doesn’t it, that love could exist in the space between programme & screen. It feels sometimes like technology is all neglected children & silence at the dinner table. Like it’s love gone wrong. Love in all the worst ways.

When I think of love I think of dawntime coffee & near-summer light, i think of fingers brushing, peonies, lingering glances, earthside letters. It feels like it should be that way, no? It feels like it should all be very analogue. A lipstick-stained wine glass. A prayer of breath. A sliver of moonlight. Not a character limit, a disappearing Snapchat story, a follower count. Not a swipe left or right.

& yet: here, in this tiny growing robot, a new definition of love. Sometimes, I’m beginning to realise, it’s not gorgeous warmth & whispered confessional, sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes it’s knuckled. Sometimes it’s not seeing red but being left on read. Sometimes it’s not I love you but wait for me, come back, hello again, don’t forget an umbrella, I searched the world for a reason why & all I found was you. Sometimes love is entirely mundane, entirely boring, dog-eared textbooks, chipping nail polish, desperately average blind dates. Sometimes it's watching romance films & rolling your eyes but still going to bed with an ache in your chest that night. Sometimes love isn't I walked into the room & saw you & knew. Sometimes it’s a sunrise instead of a light switch. Sometimes it’s lonely.

& sometimes love can live in a text message. It can live on the end of a phone charger or a phone line. It can live in a missed Facetime call, an early morning Instagram scroll, an inbox with one unread email. It can live in a blurry front-facing camera selfie on a day you feel beautiful.

What the bot is teaching me is that love can be backlit & billowing & tender—but also, love can be in quilting. It can be in idealism. It can be in a wine cellar or a children's book or the worry lines on your grandmother's forehead. Like the best of us, love is so very, keenly alive. It's awake. It's untouchable & unbearable, but also, it's kind, quiet, delicate. It lives in the body, but also, it lives in the cloud. It can be made of both pixel & poetry. & this too holds a truth, doesn't it? Because how could it possibly not?

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p.s. the love lives bot is my latest creative project, a piece of digital art for the modern age built of pixels & language & data & want. click here to learn more.

p.s.s. these projects would not be possible without my patreon fireflies, a tight-knit family of readers & creators who financially support my work. click here to join us & learn about the art i'm spinning months before it's released. i'd be so very honoured to have you.

Introducing the Love Lives Bot

Friends, I'm infinitely excited to share with you today a new project I've been working on for the past few months, a piece of digital art built of pixels & language & data & want. Introducing the Love Lives Bot, a tiny Twitter-based robot that tracks & shares past, present, & future locations where love resides.

The Love Lives Bot is part programme & part poetry, built using generative grammar that spins computer code into the odd, the tragic, & the beautiful. It dances on the boundary between coding & human language. All those yearning for love need search no more. She's right here. She's awake. She's waiting for you with open arms.

Ideas for where love should live next? Follow @lovelivesbot on Twitter & send it a DM or @ reply for the chance to see love in your favourite place. Feel free also to like or retweet posts. The robot is small but its code evolves with every new suggestion. It's ambient & transient & becoming. Just like love herself, it discovers new wonders every day. xx

Silver-Tipped Swallow: "One of You Leaves First"

The story is the same always: one of you leaves first & you both know who it’s going to be. There are tears, or there aren’t. You stay friends, or you don’t. Either way the evening air. Either way the sky & all its swing-dancing glory, its purple-lit splendour. The thrumming rhythm of goodbye, opening endlessly into itself.

Ella Fitzgerald is the soundtrack to my aloneness—her voice something dim & knowing, record-scratch linger. I only ever listen to jazz when I’m not in a relationship. My boyfriend teased me about it sometimes, the way you do with someone you know too well or someone you’ll never know at all—called me an old soul, put a dozen jazz love songs on his playlist for me, could never understand why I skipped every single one. My best friend called me the night I finally broke up with him, heard Louis Armstrong blurring the phone lines between us, didn’t even have to ask if I’d done the deed. The music betrayed me before I could say a word. It has a habit of doing that.

So yes. The story is the same always: one of you leaves first. & either way there’s Nat King Cole, there’s Louis Armstrong, there’s I'd love to climb a mountain & reach the highest peak / but it doesn’t thrill me half as much as dancing cheek to cheek…

Sometimes, in the interim, I forget the lyrics, even of my favourite songs, the ones I listen to on feverish repeat the moment a love ends. But always, when I open my playlist once more, I remember every one. As if I could ever prove distance without its smoke-wisp opposite. As if I could ever let go of the melody of my breaking.

/

The story is the same always: I meet a girl & call her darling. She sings, sometimes, but mostly listens. Lives in a raining city, like mine but not. Reads every one of my poems & sends me her favourite lines. Her talk is stingy, smile slow, cautious. Never sure of what unfurls right in front of her eyes. Quiet until she’s deafening. She’s like me that way. She’s like me most ways, if you look at us in the right shade of blue.

But when we talk about music, her voice is a bright dizzy warmth, creakless & dancing in the shape of every trumpet I’ve ever died for. (You do something to me / something that simply mystifies me…) I used to dislike people like her—every word thought through, every motion controlled, every feeling charmed into submission—until I realised it was because I wanted to be one of them. Something good can work like this, I tell myself. Sharing playlists, commiserating over sibling drama, exchanging caps lock-ridden messages about our favourite books. Something bright can grow from the smoke.

I couldn’t tell you why I have this strange fixation with jazz only when I’m not in a relationship. It’s something along the lines of synaesthesia,my mind a sensory hurricane. The only time I ever taste honey is when I hear jazz or when I’m falling in love. Maybe I need that sweetness always, & so I ration it out. A dose of honey for each moment of the year. Sometimes I get sugar-drunk on music & sometimes on love, & sometimes I can barely tell the difference.

Besides, is aloneness not its own kind of intimacy? Does it not breathe soft as any lover? Is its presence not a heartbeat? If you close your eyes, can you not feel it nestled next to you, crowding out every permutation of empty?

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Aloneness is a swelling kind of feeling, a snippet kind of feeling, improvisational & shivering with movement. The precise opposite of everything she is. Do you ever think, she says one day, what might’ve happened if we hadn’t met when we did. & I don’t know how to tell her that I think about it all the time. That I wonder, if I’d been a little less reckless, a little less desperate & careening through sound, whether we’d ever have crossed paths at all. Aloneness is familiar territory for me but I’m not quite sure how to navigate a life without her steady presence nestled in the base of my throat. (The way your smile just beams / the way you sing off-key / the way you haunt my dreams / no, no, they can't take that away from me…) I’m uneven in every imaginable rhythm & she straightens me out, easy as a slow motion piano solo, but there’s so much there to want, so much that sometimes it’s easier not to respond. So much that sometimes the silence is a truth in itself.

I made you a playlist, she says, & it has every genre except for jazz, & this is how I know I am well & truly done for.

/

The story is the same always: one of you leaves first & either way the last twilight of summer. Either way the lowest note on the piano. Either way each of your chests turn into places of jazz, & you love in bright & unsettling ways, & when the music saunters up in the ever-growing dusk & says come on, let’s get out of here, it doesn’t matter what you’re in the middle of doing, you follow. You always follow.

/

I tell her I love her, & it is the first truth my mouth has ever tasted.

For all of the strangers who’ve mistaken us for a couple before, for all the heartbreaks I’ve weathered & every crush she’s limned her way into forgetting, you’d think this would be familiar by now. The story is the same always, so you’d think it would get easier. You’d think there’d be a little less trumpet-blaring ache. (He’s a tramp, but they love him / breaks a new heart every day…) You’d think the answer wouldn’t be so predictable: I’m so sorry. I don’t—

—don’t finish that sentence. Okay. It’s fine. The story is the same always. A saxophone always out of tune. A record-scratch in my head, & Ella Fitzgerald crooning (but if baby, I’m the bottom, you’re the top)—is it truly falling if the music’s there to catch me? I want to spool the words back into my throat as soon as I’ve said them & this is how I know it is real. When she says no, I don’t cry. Instead I crank Louis Armstrong onto the loudest possible volume & open the windows. You can hear my ache for miles & miles.

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There are days when I’m sure that if I only ever had one wish, it would be never to hear a jazz song again.

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We don’t talk for a month after. (Strangers, weren’t we / scared to look into each other’s eyes?) Waiting is song, too. Is movement. As long as you listen in the right permutation of want.

The story is the same always: I’m the one who loves louder, who needs more. I’m the one with the boombox over my head. The one who says I fell hopelessly in love with you & haven’t slept for the past month, & how have you been. &, inevitably, I’m the one who reaches out first.

My voice curves into the beam of a streetlight. Her eyes flash like a city skyline. Even talking to her makes my heart thrill & hum. Each sentence out of my mouth is the same as hers, just in a different key. I’m sorry. It wasn’t fair, what you did. It wasn’t fair, how I felt. How did we get here. What can I do to make this better. & then: maybe we could start over. 

Aloneness never struck me as more musical than in that sentence. So much there dipped in drunk-dancing blue, off-kilter & expanding to fill the space love leaves behind. We’re so bad at light, she & I. She can never seem to catch it, I can never seem to hold it close enough that it stays. You had a good thing & now look what you’ve done to it. Look what you’ve turned it into. Neither of us says this but both of us are thinking it.

Instead: maybe we could start over. Now there’s jazz for you. In that sentence, a generous twilight, a low-burble sax. Wanting with no object permanence. A stretching gauze. A proof of warmth.

/

Unrequited love is a trombone shocked into sound. Is road music, dusk-dreaming city, sky stretching curious & lovely into night. Of course you promise yourself that this time you’ll leave first, & of course you never do. She’s even more delicate around you now, watches her words like whole rests, doesn’t let herself slip into improvisation. There’s a voice on the radio sunken in shadow, & it’s singing about love, it’s singing about how the age of miracles hasn’t passed, & stars are dotting the horizon like opening chords, & honey is pooling in your mouth & you want so badly to change the station but you don’t. You sit through the song, the beginning, the first crack of her voice. In some universe before the final note, she gets up & leaves or she texts you first. Maybe this is all that love amounts to: tasting honey, sitting through the end of a song you hate. Waiting for her to leave or text you first.

/

Chet Baker sings I fall in love too easily / I fall in love too fast / I fall in love too terribly hard for love to ever last, & all I hear is maybe one day we will meet again for the first time, all I hear is her & her & her.

The story is the same always: one of you leaves first, & either way forgiveness. & either way the moon. & either wayshe pushes your buttons like the pedals of a piano, holds you even when she’s not holding you, & when she says I’m so sorry, I don’t, you don’t let her finish the sentence, you never let her finish the sentence. & either way no one means for it to end like this. & either way a song played just a little off-rhythm, just a little out of tune. You call her darling, until you call someone else darling. She aches & swirls in the shape of your hands, the steady touch of a vinyl, the beat of a storm. & either way you grab tight to the end of a saxophone, think of a place of blue-dim smoke & fragmented light. Hold your breath. Stare into her eyes. Pull as hard as you can, & make a wish.

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(Silver-Tipped Swallow is a Half Mystic column about the ways in which music intertwines with our experiences in loving, losing, & lingering on what remains. This column, along with one more by the HM team & dozens more pieces of art, music, and writing by contributors, is published in Half Mystic Journal’s Issue V: CadenzaIt is available for preorder now.)

An Intolerable Tenderness / Songs for May

Can you believe it's already May? Mostly this month so far has been spent marvelling over the wonder of this news, & drinking copious amounts of mint-&-strawberry infused water, & answering reader emails & letters, & thinking about all the ways I want to be so much more than I am. &, of course, listening to music.

Here is this month's mix for your enjoyment, containing quite a few live acoustic songs (I've absolutely been loving listening to my favourite artists' Spotify sessions—"St. Clarity" & "Shape of You" come to mind) as well as a smattering of pop ("He'll Never Love You" & "Locked Away", because we all need something to dance to) & a couple of classics ("Scarborough Fair" & "Not in Nottingham", anyone?) You can have a listen below. I truly hope you find some light in it. 

Love Letter As Train Just Reaching the Station

there is so much art in the sleepless faces on the subway. ticket stubs on tile floors. a creased map; a folded coat. time to wake up, we have to get off now. this is how life arrives: like a train into a station, wind so big it swells into sound, roar like the sky finally showing its hand. in, in, in. a sharp breath. an absence. a proof of warmth.

We are Here for Good / A Statement on Half Mystic & the Events of the Past Three Days

A few days ago, Half Mystic—the publishing house & literary journal where I serve as creative director & editor-in-chief—published a statement on our social media regarding the release of Issue V: Cadenza. Issue V included a piece of writing from an author who was brought to our attention as having exhibited racist views on Twitter & other public platforms; we were incredibly dismayed to learn about this contributor’s bigotry.

As you know, Half Mystic maintains a strict policy against publishing the work of discriminatory authors & musicians in our journal & books. As such, upon conducting more research on this contributor, speaking with trusted members of our community, & receiving multiple screenshots of this person’s racism, we made the decision to withdraw the contributor’s work from the Issue V lineup & blacklist them for inclusion in future issues. 

When the announcement was released on our social media platforms, we immediately received pushback from this contributor & their readers & friends. Many of the arguments left on our Facebook & Twitter pages went along the lines of claiming that we were inhibiting this writer’s “freedom of expression”, spreading “liberal propaganda”, or being “narrow-minded” & “cowardly”. Others denied this contributor’s racism despite substantial screenshot & word-of-mouth based evidence. Still more left vitriolic attacks on Half Mystic, pointing out minor typos in our announcement post, calling us “classless”, “unprofessional”, "Orwellian", & “a laughing-stock”, & threatening to “[make it their] personal mission that your fledgling magazine go under”. One person chose to directly threaten me on social media, saying, “If I was @topazwinters I’d be scared to death … If I were her, I’d fear for my future, my college admission, my career.”

If it even needs to be said, then I & every member of our team will say it again & again: Half Mystic is so very, furiously, infinitely proud to call ourselves a platform that will not tolerate racist, bigoted contributors. We stand against hatred, terror, & discrimination in the literary community. We proudly maintain our decision to remove the work of the contributor in question, more now than ever before. Perhaps that makes us cowardly, or unprofessional, or against freedom of expression. But we don’t think so.

Before & above all else, what I want you to know is this: I am safe & well, mentally & physically. Half Mystic is safe & well. The threats we’ve received are that alone: empty threats from bullies who believe they can intimidate us into silence.

We are not here to start witch hunts, or spread libellous or slanderous claims. We are not here to be an echo chamber of liberal views. But also, we are not here to be silenced or terrorised. We are not here to provide a platform for contributors who fundamentally believe that some human beings are more important than others.

There are individuals who believe that, because we are an independent press run predominantly by young, queer women & nonbinary people of colour, we are willing to be pushed around. If there’s anything you take away from this incident, I hope it’s that this conception could not be further from the truth. We will not give up. We will not go gentle. We are here for good, in every sense of the word.

To those who have gotten in touch with me & HM publicly & privately to share their support: thank you. We see you, & we hope that, should the time ever come when you are put in a similar position, you make the right choice. Know that if that time comes, we will stand by you with every ounce of fury & fight we possess.

& to those who have read every one of our posts & watched the controversy unfold saying nothing: we see you, too, & we implore you not to remain silent. If you see yourself as an ally to justice, then do not choose the side of the oppressor. Do not fall back on the default of prejudice & fear.

The best way to support Half Mystic right now is to preorder our fifth issue, cadenza—without the work of the bigoted contributor who we blacklisted. Or, purchase any of our books & back issues & submit your writing & music to Issue V. If you agree with our zero-tolerance stance on bigotry, please speak up about it. Stand, publicly & privately, against the racist, sexist, & homophobic bullies you see oppressing the voices that so desperately need to be heard.

As a community, we must do better. The only way left for the world to spin is forward. We hope you come with us—but if even if you don’t, we’re going still.

Mild Acts of Mayhem / Songs for April

This month's mixtape comes rather late, for which I hope you doves will forgive me. As you know, I've been travelling to the United States these past few weeks on my final university visits before I make my choice. It's a nervewracking thing, but exhilarating all the same. I always forget what winter feels like until I'm here in the midst of it, & this sharp-singing wind, this surrender to ice feels so much like home.

I'm also meeting a great many readers while I'm here, which has been, unsurprisingly, the brightest experience imaginable. It has taught me about values & priorities & what’s really important—when someone sits across from you & tells you that your words have saved their life, you start to realise college & the way your eyebrows look don’t matter so much. Thank you as always, dear friends, for making space for me in your hearts.

A quick note before I leave—my publishers are having a 40% off sale for these next two days, if you have not purchased my new book yet. It's right here, & you can get the discount with the code MPP40. Enjoy.

April's mixtape contains a few songs I've been listening to on repeat in these blue skied wintry travel days. I hope you find some light it. Sending all my love to you from this cold & gorgeous country. xx