Poetry Showcase: Elena S. Kotsile

Bio: Elena S. Kotsile (pen name) is a scientific editor (B.Sc., M.Sc, PhD) with a background in molecular biology and immunology and a writer based in Berlin, Germany. Her creative words have appeared in Acropolis Journal, The Bear Creek Gazette, Grim & Gilded, Air & Nothingness press, Rabid Oak, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Greek journals and anthologies. Apart from scientific articles, she writes poetry and speculative fiction in English and Greek and queries for her first speculative novel. SFPA member. Twitter handle @Elena_Beate

Ursa Major gliding over pines

Eonian darkness
Embraces my scattered

Below, Cimmerian 
Sea mirrors my seven
Stars as my

Eighth concealed light meta-
morphoses sacred springs
                                         frozen lakes 

Last known occurrence

I hover over structured assemblages;
stalagmites made of faunal deposits,
tectonic teeth consisted of artefacts,
plastic, damaged tissue and decaying rain-
forest—spatiotemporal lithic ruins
from five hundred thousand years ago when
the Sea rose up under a burning Sun
carrying away skulls and leg bones, hoarding 
death over newly-formed steppes. I bestow
my shadow upon the last dying remnants
of earthlings once inhabitants of this
island, as we are now in this frail speck
of Space—I shiver fantasizing about 
future floods eroding my aching skin

Sweet-smelling Mentha

you dry me, you dilute and drink me
you rub my oblong leaves on your chest
did you know I became small for love?
I used to swim in lamentation’s deep

waters, flowing cold under the 
earth, before I danced naked 
at the mountain’s foot,
before I fell in love

—melancholy and 
unseen soil
my chthonic king
my dark ruler—

I used to swim with the dead
in the abysmal caves of my sorrow

                                       Kallisto was here

Dismantle my person
Disperse my pieces
What do you see?

placenta                   torn
          claws                     broken  

Relentless lake, cruel lake 

I could tell (this) tale, I could Listen       Once, in Arcadia–

Before being a beast, a star, a mother

I was me, myself I was

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Melinda Smith, Ph.D. (Iambic Beats)

with Melinda Smith:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Melinda: I wrote from the time I could construct sentences, though I don’t think I realized I was a writer until a few years ago. I wrote a few songs for a musical when I was 11 and then moved on to angsty poetry as a teenager (spoiler alert: nothing every came of either). Then, in graduate school (I studied neuroscience), I had this idea for brain tech that I thought would make a cool backdrop for a novel. Like a total naïve idiot, I began writing the novel with no thought or training. It was terrible. Not the idea, but the writing. I am working on rewriting it entirely and I think it’ll be great in a decade when I finally finish it. Some of my early influences were Rudyard Kipling, Dr. Seuss, and Roald Dahl.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Melinda: My biggest influences today are Ray Bradbury, Ted Chiang, and Ken Liu. All three of these writers marry speculative/science fiction with beautiful writing and philosophy so well. In a more practical sense, I am very inspired by a wonderful writing group who have shaped my growth in the most challenging and supportive of ways. Finally, I credit the Twitter writing community and the #vss365 challenges for really kicking my game into high gear. The prompts challenge me and have taught me to economize with my prose.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Melinda: I grew up in Southern California but have travelled to many countries. I lived in Italy for a year. Being immersed in centuries old art, architecture, and music definitely wakes the senses. I don’t know if it’s true, but an Italian there told me that to Italians, the sounds of the sentences were more important than the content, unlike how Americans write. I also spent time volunteering in orphanages in Haiti and Ghana. I learned that where abundance was not an everyday concept, you still see art, song, dance, and laughter spilling through everything. So even without all the riches that commissioned cathedrals and frescoes, art perseveres. It has to. Overall, travel has showed me that much of the world sees things in very different and magnificent ways.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?

Melinda: I think my latest venture (putting spoken word poetry to original music) has really been an awakening for me. I love to write, read poetry, and arrange chillwave electronic music, so this project has really put to use all creative parts of my brain. My artist name is Iambic Beats. It seems to have gotten good reception and I’m excited to see where it goes! One of the best parts about it is getting to collaborate with other poets. Some of my Iambic Beats songs are from my own poetry, but I’ve also worked with 9 or 10 poets to make songs from their work. Every collaboration has been unique and fun for (I think) both parties.

Q5: Any pivotal moments when you knew you wanted to be a writer/artist?

Melinda: When I was young, I longed to be an opera singer. But I also loved science and felt very torn about which I would pursue in college. I have always had a very difficult time going in one direction. I love to write poetry and prose, sing, paint, and compose music. While parts of me still feel that this gives me too much breadth and not enough depth, I remind myself that combining different hobbies can create new and exciting angles. And the science fits in too! I have acquired a real love for science fiction and my training helps me construct (somewhat) plausible technology and scenarios. My music also incorporates science concepts.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Melinda: What does relax mean? I have two little girls and a job as a science writer, so there is very little down time. But my creative outlets really do feel like a decompression for me at the end of the day. I’ll pick up my guitar and sing a little, paint something, or write, and I’m a happy camper.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Melinda: So the major undertaking I’ve been working on is the Iambic Beats project I mentioned above. My first two albums, Chiasm and Dark Matter, are out now. I have plans for at least two more in the works. The next album will be called AlgoRhythms, and it combines all sorts of cool math concepts. While a lot of my work is influenced by science (as you can tell by these titles), I don’t consider it at all “sciencey.” It’s all about relaxation and enjoying spoken word. My albums can be found on my BandCamp page or on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, or YouTube music

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others? What is some of your favorite artwork?

Melinda: One of the lines on my upcoming album Mathematica is currently making me very happy: The equations exist whether we solve them or not. It was inspired by the idea that some people don’t “believe” in science. To me it’s like, ok, believe or not, but it’s there anyway, you know? Here are some of my recent paintings.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Melinda: I have always been my own worst critic, but the tender and constructive criticism given by my writing community friends on Twitter has really taken my work to a higher level. More specifically, a couple of close friends who I have hired to edit my work (have taught me a lot about where I specifically need to grow. It’s been humbling and wonderful to see that the process is never done. You never learn it and say “I’m done; I’m a writer now.” You just have to keep examining your work, trying new things, and reading different styles of writing. The alternative is stagnation. And who wants that?