The Mythogenetic Grove

Author Archive

[poetry]: Face-graffiti

by on Jan.24, 2016, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I smooth warpaint on
my features as a mark of
war, not of seduction.
It is a reminder that the inner face
remains for the intrinsic me.
The warpaint is read as
an invitation for conquest.
There is no happy ending
for this tale; no rant
against being objectified
will be effective.
I have elected to be
a woman and by being a woman,
I mean painting my features
not hiding my curves
and letting my hair flow
like a war-general
rather than a seductress
Naturally this means
I cannot be a feminist
because I have not
decided to be gender-neutral
because I have not decided
to obliterate everything
that is womanly about me.
I have had a lifetime
of having a boy-cut hairstyle;
dressed in little girl clothes
chosen by an abuser
aimed at suffocating
any sign of sensuality
or womanhood.
I choose beauty not so I
can be prey or victim.
I choose beauty as an
act of aggression.
I choose love,
not because I like being vulnerable
I choose love because there
is nothing more empowering
or as humbling
as true knowing
and encountering.
I choose love — and this is a
fine distinction. I choose it.
Poets have written about
love being an animal
that chases you down
dark alleyways
but the truth is that in love
as in war, there is always choice,
There are many loves,
and one does not need to be
the recipient of a love given
grudgingly, against the
better nature and inclination
of its giver.
If love is not to be war then
love must be given freely
or not given at all.
If beauty is not to be war
then we should be allowed to wear
all of our colors boldly without
anyone insisting that
we remain weak and vulnerable
for them alone
Love is not the fetishising
of unnatural and imbalanced
power dialectics.
Love is not of imposed
choices by those who do
not know the strength
and complication
of our individual hearts.
If Love is not to be war
then let us choose to
be powerful and glorious
in all of our unions.

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[poetry]: The Foolhardy Lover

by on Jan.24, 2016, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Metaphorical Miles Crosses
have littered my life
as I wait for my true love
in different shapes and forms.
They pass me by on dappled horse, on bicycles
on their own two feet, but never have I pulled.
Never have I held a lover in my arms, to wait,
until I twist with pain against a red-hot brand.
I’ve twisted from the blister of words and games;
but in recall we can admit, they carried not the sting
of faerie punishments; more the default of humankind.
Now, if I were to see a milk-white steed
riding past me on the highway; I would pull the
rider down only to pull myself up.
I would ride away with my hair
flowing behind me in
an eldritch halo
I would join the host for one foolhardy night.

Note: I’ve returned to the motif of Tam Lin again and again since my teens. This poem references both that ballad and a song I wrote at the age of sixteen. Consider it a Midsummer’s gift for all of you.

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[poetry]: Mr. Wend-His-Way

by on Jan.24, 2016, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris 2014

Slithering into a burrow
Mr. Wend-his-Way meets
his match in my afternoon
machiavellian delectations
of devices and tropes.
Bear-like, his words amble
like shagged paw-prints upon
foliage strewn forest-path
but our parallel journeys
take us nowhere close
to the East-of-West-of Moon-Sun
Home for Literary Strays.

Instead, I cast a backward glance
and turn left where the highway
intersects with our
secret arboreal treks.
I hitch a ride with a bejewelled
stranger in a red car peddling
rich bass and high speed
while Mr. Wend-His-Way
settles down in his burrow to
dream of castles-in-the-muck we
built out of territorial tusslings.

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[poetry: The Nylon Guard

by on Jan.24, 2016, under Poetry

c) Nin Harris 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I string instruments automatically
the fear of forgetting forgotten
— fingerpads and joints take over.
The body remembers competence
even when the soul does not.
Someday, my fear of losing you
will be forgotten.

All guitar strings must be replaced
but the music does not
fret the changing
of the nylon guard.
Someday I will make a song
sweeter than the jangling
cacophony of your regard
like an ill-tuned string
frayed at the edges
waiting to snap
with juddering speed
like whiplash against
the skin of my face.
Someday, my fear of not-loving you
will be replaced.

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[poetry]: The Seduction of Lemons

by on Jan.24, 2016, under Poetry

by (c) Nin Harris. All Rights Reserved.

If life gave me lemons
I would not make fucking lemonade
That would be a waste of time.
Instead, I would peel it and lick the inside of the skin.
I would separate each segment of lemon
and bite into it, letting the acidic sour
flavour of yellow citrus bathe my tongue
and sting it while the liquid flows
back into me
to be regurgitated at midnight
when dreams do not come.
If life gave me lemons I would rub my face
along their dimpled surface
because lemons are a thing of wonder
with a scent so original
it turns me on.
If life gave me lemons
and someone were to tell me lemons are bad for me,
I would bite into another raw segment
just because the advice made those lemons
all the more irresistible.

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[poetry]: After Larkin

by on Jan.24, 2016, under Housekeeping

by (c) Nin Harris. All Rights Reserved

So used to the knotted
fist smashing into my belly
I almost come alive
when yet another hypothesis
is revealed to be deeply flawed.
And then, like Larkin I say
“Next, Please”,
wearily as future illusions
flicker in the distance
beyond my half-closed lids
like the afterimages
of a storm that never was.

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[poetry]: Never Tame

by on Jan.24, 2016, under Poetry

by (c) Nin Harris. All Rights Reserved.

Never tame
not even as child.
Strange, shy thing
in a private conclave of
Nor older, straining
searching shadows
trees make on midnight grass
a part of the soul ever
dervish in luna-drenched
Never tame
— not when in a crowd
with eyes alert yet remote,
scanning corners for
.exit lights
Watching, hiding laughter
spiraled tauntings as they make
plans and baits and nets to catch
.the wily wicked one
{mix and match!}
sentences and crimes
with my canny lashes
— tongue furled behind small teeth.
Words will drop like sighs of fops;
embrace of mismatched morphemes.
Primeval howl transcribes into
the notes of a sylvan song
{i am compassed by the lunatic moon}
The stain of grass on dreamtime soles
and lacquered toes flexing to flee
{and have you come to watch me fall?}
Never tame
a wild one even when demure
mutter inanities with fixed smile.
Would you bait me with you?
You know it’s hopeless.
I’ll snatch the catch
and bait the match with a
gambit of my own.
(28 MARCH 2002)

This poem was in my online anthology “Chiaroscuro” for a few years before I took it down. I wrote it, inevitably, for a crushbird. The usual story with me and crushbirds. I always go out of my way to avoid them 😉
Consider this a Watermaidens Day gift. If an online “reprint” can be a gift.

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January News!

by on Jan.23, 2016, under Housekeeping, News!, SFF


This is just a general news and “catch-up” post. Hope everyone’s doing well. I’m trying to get my ducks in a row as usual, as I have many deadlines and things I want to do before the new semester starts in February. I’m almost (phew!) done with grading, thank goodness so that’s a load off my mind. I also submitted a chapter to an academic book and am trying to finish various other bits of academic writing. But, onwards to more creative stuff!

Writing-Related News

(1) My speculative poem Reversed Polarities was nominated for the Rhysling Awards (long poems). My thanks to whoever nominated me, and to my awesome editor Adrienne J. Odasso who is also a candidate! Good luck to everyone who is in the running! I’m still gobsmacked and happy people actually thought of me and my poem.

(2) K. Tempest Bradford listed “Your Right Arm” as an honorable mention on io9’s newsstand in the December edition.

(3) Charles Payseur reviews “Tower of the Rosewater Goblet” over at Quick Sip Reviews. I am still a newbie pro writer so it really makes my day when people discuss and actually understand what my fiction is trying to do!

(4) I was also on A.C. Wise’s December edition of “A.C Wise Recommends Women to Read” over at SF Signal. I was incredibly pleased, especially since it includes a review of “Sang Rimau and the Medicine Woman”.

(5) Rashida J. Smith, the editor of Giganotosaurus has compiled a list of the stories she published in 2015, inclusive of my “The Faerie-Maker”. Do check it out. It’s an excellent publication and I am proud to be published there.

Do note that there are other reviews, mentions and recommendations for my stories, but I am listing the most pertinent. My thanks to everyone who took the time to read, think about, discuss and review my stories.


(1) (a) Mythic Folk was hacked, alas. And in my attempt to fix things I bungled up and deleted the whole site without making backups (shamefaced look). Fortunately I had the layout saved but that is about it. This means the Mythic Folk Community is no more, but I’m slowly working out what I want to do with the domain, since I have it and the design will need to be rebuilt from the ground up. I will likely be using it for media reviews and for my Aural Chambers posts but I have happily also found some of the missing posts so am in the process of reconstruction! (ETA: Not giving up on this community yet! But the new Mythic Folk Community blog will be focused on articles, reviews and posts. No poetry or fiction. I think this will make it a stronger blog as it will be more focused.)
(b) I am slowly moving my poetry back here. There may be a *small* poetry gift next month!

(2) Still working on Truancy 2. Sorry for the delay, the roundtable is still happening!

(3) Domus Exsulis is now back up on the internets.

(4) What to expect on this blog in the future:

(a) More fiction and SFF recommendations, when I have the time. In keeping with my policy on my now retired book blog, I will only write about things I like, and will not be posting negative reviews. I leave that to professional reviewers as it’s a part of my life I have no desire to return to. When I was reviewing for other publications, I felt like I’d murdered a kitten every time I had to write a negative review so I clearly do not have the stomach for it. However, I would like to amplify voices and stories I think deserve more notice. So those will be a part of (hopefully) Arthropod Trails in 2016.
(b) Poetry! Things I have published on this domain in the past will be published here again because I can’t submit them to magazines anyway, so might as well keep an archive here.
(c) Apart from my literary hypertext project Domus Exsulis, 2016 may be the year when Thresholds finally goes live.

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Publication Day: “Tower of the Rosewater Goblet”, in Strange Horizons

by on Jan.06, 2016, under News!, Publications!, SFF

It’s been a rather hectic week so this is actually 3 days late, given that publication day was on the 4th of January, 2016.

Every story I write is special to me in a different way. This story had its genesis in a very dark place I was in, during the “Annus horribilis” of 2009 when I suffered a major injustice that I knew would never be redressed. It had me questioning the nature of storytelling, and of originality. Anyone who has ever read or worked on TS Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent (I wrote a paper about his essays during my MA days, back in 1999) will know that old saw about “there’s nothing new under the sun”. But there are other complicated questions, questions about ethics, questions about what some of us simply will not do and what others will do without guilt or shame. As I asked in the old Arbitrator story I wrote in 2009–how does any storyteller accuse another of this when all that we are is made out of stories and the ideas of others?

Tower of the Rosewater Goblet began as a sort of meditation on that, but I set it in Sesen, and the story grew into a meditation into various other intersecting concerns: appropriation, colonization, autonomy. But that sounds very political, doesn’t it? It started that way, it didn’t end up that way, once I got to know Erheani and her family, and then Madame Li-Yan, and started to care for these characters. They dictated the story. The pamphlets did the rest. I was and remain passionate about pamphlets and pamphleteering culture. While working on Nigerian-English Literature for my PhD dissertation I did some side-research on the Onitsha pamphlets, and last year I did some pretty intense research on the Early Gothic Revival pamphlets. I wanted to capture some of that freewheeling grandiosity in this story, and the romance/love of printing presses and how they’ve been integral to the blossoming of more than one post-colonial nation.


One of my long-lost uncles was a newspaper man back in the 60s-80s in Ipoh, Perak. He died a few  weeks ago. I’m thinking of that, and the history of the press in my country as well. And how fragile all of these apparatuses for voicing ourselves and telling our stories are. How vulnerable we are to censure, and sometimes worse than that, erasure.

If this story was political, it’s political because it is a story I wrote to deal with my own demons and vulnerabilities. I wish I was as strong as Erheani, but maybe that’s why I wrote her. I wrote her for people like me, for the kind of heroes I want to read about, and I hope she’ll mean to you what she means to me. If even a little bit. Because this story is my antidote for all of those inner demons that tell me I cannot write, that I’m never going to amount to anything, that I’ll always be this fat, this ugly, this worthless. But inner demons are like that, aren’ they? They’re the internalization of all of the ugliness we endure in life, the things that are said to us, the things we are made to believe, because they reflect the self-hatred and the fear of others.

This story I wrote so I could laugh in the face of all of those inner demons. But I can share this medicine, this anti-demon spell. It helped me. If you need it, I hope it’ll help you as well.

Tower of the Rosewater Goblet, 4 January 2016, Strange Horizons.

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[poetry]: The Other Chair

by on Dec.19, 2015, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris 2012
When I was a some-teen, I dreamed
about a soulmate sitting on
a chair facing me in a room
filled with empty seats that
had no relevance.
There was only me and
the man who sat on the other chair.
It could have been a classroom, a conference,
a panel, a course, a strange cult meeting
in a sterile environment, or a room in
an asylum.
A chair has never been just a chair
for most of my life
And then, I started
disregarding and forgetting dreams;
a chair became just another chair.
It could have been a public lecture
in the 25th century on a space ship
as they recollected how humans first
settled on the moons of Saturn.
It could have been in a service hall
somewhere in Moscow in the 1960s.
Or, it could have been an asylum
all along, and I am still asleep
avoiding the moment
when I awaken to gaze
at white walls, to be brought
into the next room
where you await me
on the other chair
with a syringe and a kidney dish.
And then I started forgetting and
disregarding dreams; and every
chair lost its meaning and mystery.
My paranoias fed upon different sources,
and when they ran away,
so did my soulmates.
Instead I feed on soulmates that exist
on pages, in ASCII: words and numbers
that make mockery of meaning, defying it with multiplicity.
In this universe of consonants and vowels,
ambiguity between the signifier and the signified
a chair becomes whatever you say it is
and I become whoever you want me to be.
I am not Magritte’s Pipe
but you are not Magritte.
I am the Beloved, seated on the other chair
and you may paint me or smoke me or dream of me
because paranoia loves company.

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