The Kali Project was conceived by indie writers and editors Candice Louisa Daquin and Megha Sood. A dear friend starting a feminist micro press was intrigued and suggested that The Kali Project serve as their inaugural publication. Everyone involved has been deeply moved by the support and enthusiasm the project has received, as well as by the volume of submissions.
The Kali Project has become a much more involved and wonderful project than we anticipated, and it has become clear to all involved that it needs a publishing partner with more experience publishing large, worldwide anthologies.
We are pleased to announce that Indie Blu(e) Publishing has assumed the role as The Kali Project’s publisher. Candice, a founding editor at Indie Blu(e), knows their ability to manage the volume of details of such a project and to produce high quality anthologies, such as We Will Not Be Silenced, SMITTEN This Is What Love Looks Like, and the soon to be released As The World Burns.
Both Megha and Candice are grateful to tap into Indie Blu(e)’s creativity and expertise for The Kali Project. We have grown beyond our expectations and are confident that the anthology will be in good hands.
Going forward, all communication regarding the project will be coming directly from Indie Blu(e) Publishing, including contracts, which will issued upon completion of the decision-making process. We appreciate your patience and support.
We welcome our Indie Blu(e) sisters Kindra M. Austin, Rachel Finch, and Christine E. Ray to this project.
The Kali Project Team
Hokis produced her book without anyone else, I’d say she birthed it, and as such, did not want most of us involved in its creation. It was a very personal book and it reads as such. This alone has worth as a memoir and a moment of her life put into language.
In my absence, I am substantial.
What you pine for is
(I AM [not a] SUBSTANCE)
Hokis isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. When I first read her, I immediately appreciated her originality but some others did not. This could be a simple case, of what is original isn’t always mainstream, but I suspect many people don’t actually ‘get’ Hokis and this could also be why she produces things without needing others.
In On Un Becoming, aesthetic evolution of this rising ancestor, a poetic memoir, the first thing you’ll be drawn to is the impeccably beautiful cover and layout. This is high art with poetry. Beyond the obvious beauty, Hokis has laid down the tracks of her life thus far in an exquisitely honest rendering.
I like the feeling of dopamine’s hand
as it leads me to the apple’d tree.
I have a God complex,
believing the only person to help is me.
People can become frustrated with certain forms of poetic license and Hokis definitely bends the norm with her continual use of structure and syntax to form a language almost of her own. A line of Hokis is not a line of poetry, it’s her sign-language. Maybe people fear those destroyed boundaries and this is actually a huge compliment;
It is all just the lonely game of words.
No matter the form, the rules, the structure.
No matter the he/she/them, it is all the same dance.
They just want to know what it feels like.
I can comply and rape myself, again.
(HERE, just take (fuck) IT)
Personally, I find this kind of poetry really intoxicatingly different, which is a positive thing, and memorable, which is what we all hope to be in some form or fashion. Not every poem blows me away, but the honesty behind Hokis and who she is as a writer, does. And when she gets it really right, she’s literally out there with the stars and it makes the hair on my neck stand on end. Few provoke this response and only the truly fearless are capable of rendering it.
There is a detail and a madness that some could interpret as true madness rather than poetic madness. I would say, does it really matter which? But for clarification’s sake, my belief is Hokis is probably one of the sanest among us. Her poetic license is the way she speaks as a poet, and it has a certain cadence and rhythm uniquely her own. If you read a Hokis poem, you know a Hokis poem.
For Hokis, love is the redeemer, and this memoir is a lot about that, as well as the passing of her father, and the ultimate conclusion that we (and Hokis) must strive to rest in peace if we are to attain any settlement in life.
On the one hand, everything said here, is simple, whilst on the other, there are strains of depth that plunge our deepest fears and experiences, and dare to pull them up into the light. Hokis has a bewitching ability to do this without truly disturbing us, though some of what she refers to, is by its very nature, disturbing and serious.
There is more to a desert earth flower,
than the point in which the spike enters her skin.
The structure of nature,
the everything of the nothing.
(Pistols, Stamens, and Spikes)
I appreciate how Hokis doesn’t shy away from what matters. She dedicates this book to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and I first read Hokis a few months after the #metoo movement had begun to wane. I am glad to see her passion for keeping it alive hasn’t diminished and I much admire her courage and sincerity as a human-being wishing to spread vital messages through her work.
Those ill-versed in reading poetry, may simply not understand the poetry of Hokis. She is so far removed from the straight-forward plethora of social media poets, as to be unrecognizable. I call her a ‘real’ poet, because she’s unafraid to wax lyrical and long and within this, she has a sanguinity of soul that is both affirming and true.
One may argue, Hokis delves into the nitty-gritty and pulls out the guts and garters of real emotion, with her liberal use of stark and sometimes shocking words and imagery. As this is true, so is the weave behind her language, so astute and considered, no word is misused or just wrought for the sake of it.
the wire cutters of humility keep pace
all the shadowed bullshit
like a moonlit metronome
(Around, Over, Under, and Through)
She may at first appear to be indulging those of us who like confessional or shocking poetry, but that’s far from her goal. She is simply speaking her truths, using the symbols of her experiences which are necessarily uncensored.
If I did not know her at all, as was the case when I first began to read Hokis, I should still understand the concepts behind her alluding and metaphor, because they’re universal. It is her willingness to proffer them to the reader, which makes them all the more palpable. Whom among us has not questioned what siblings mean to us, how to cope with death? What do we feel about sex? Hokis begs the question and lets us to some extent, answer it, within her writing.
Hokis isn’t for everyone and I very much like that. To me, it seems a greater compliment to be that rarified writer who will appeal to those who ‘get’ her, than to be a mainstream shake-n-bake writer who everyone buys in airport lounges. Hokis isn’t an airport lounge kind of woman, she’s a tear down boundaries, shove them in your face type of woman, and you can’t forget her once you’re hooked.
Do I understand everything in OnBecoming? Hell no. And I love that. Because if we really grasped the whole of a writer, we might tire of them. There is something hypnotic and endlessly intense about not grasping aspects, a bit like being besotted by a beautiful woman but not being able to get too close. Poetry should retain some mystery, as should the author, and too often we see the machinations behind the careful words, which leave no room for the imagination, no questions. I appreciate that with Hokis, the likelihood of understanding her completely is nil.
Could it be that I’m sorry
because had I heard him
not even my tap root could have prevented me
from becoming the mighty wooden predator
who would have left the bladed-prey –
without a prayer.
Poetry is a maze; we enjoy the journey even if we don’t comprehend every step taken. Our interpretation of what an author writes, may be so far removed from their initial intention. Hokis leaves us guessing, whilst giving us enough to whet our appetite and keep us curious. She writes using many different styles and doesn’t have a predictability in her approach, which only adds to the variety.
Equally, other poems are self-explanatory, and demonstrate the poet’s humor and considered understanding of modern politics, the fallacy of facts and the fragility of sanity. You cannot read Hokis without thinking, perhaps even puzzling, she’s just not superficial and you won’t be able to skim through her and find a pretty picture, she’s going to demand that you use your head and listen carefully.
I smiled reading this. Hokis makes me smile with her cleverness, her originality and her dark humor. I like even her tragedy because it has grit. She’s not sentimental, she’s bold, she’s not predictable, she’s bizarre, she’s not likable, she’s quarrelsome and brilliant, and most of all she’s like no other poet you’ll read today.
I hate myself
lIke I hate the InabIlIty to alter
the dIrectIon the world spIns.
In a glut of pretty, boring, and vapid, choose OnUn Becoming and find yourself immersed in the infinitely strange, tantalizing, unrestrained world of Hokis and her startling mind. Her selection here is quite unforgettable and will get the grey matter whirling and your heart pumping. How many writers can you honestly say can do that these days? Without doubt, you will not, you cannot, read someone who will remind you of Hokis. She’s in a genre of her own.
The Lithium Chronicles Volume ll.
What happens to a writer who began to write to make sense of life, as she evolves as a human-being? Does she stay the same? Does her writing change? Add to this, the liquid mercury of emotions that push and pull that writer in myriad directions. How does this reflect upon her, the human? And how does that translate into output? In Burn The Pages, I Dare You, we see Lyons at her best, using emblematic bleeding wordage that outlasts the moment and sears into our brains; “They burn those women into memories, / inside barrels, and outside of libraries. / They write stories about / women like her, the kind / of women in the kind / of stories that make the driest / bones wet and the holiest knees bleed.” Is it any wonder she had literally forged her own fierce brand of warrior chant?
Nicole Lyons can go months where there’s nothing to throw her off-kilter and then, seemingly in that quietude, a raging flashflood comes out of nowhere and she’s upended. She has never had the surety of emotions many take for granted, maybe this is why bipolar writers captivate the rest of the ordinary world, because they are anything but and they’ve had to carry an immense weight their entire lives which can translate into extraordinary creativity. “It is a difﬁcult thing, / the knowing and the not, / and the weight of carrying it all.” (Hard Love).
In God Damn If I Haven’t Learned, Lyon’s posits the question; whether through everything she’s experienced, she’s closer to real understanding. Lyons is a heady mix of self-deprecation and fierce survivalist spunk, she’s got courage and guts and at the same time can sell herself hideously short, this comes out in her poetry and it’s what makes her deeply human. If she were solely an egotist, we’d loathe her, if she were a coward, we couldn’t get behind her. In many ways she’s both, that’s the mercury, the madness and the smooth method of her. The irony of living being, despite it all, we still don’t really learn our lessons, we’re just after all, ragged, imperfect humans. “I ﬁght a war within myself / that I am certain will leave me / with casualties.” (This War).
It is this hypnotic brand of flawed, imperfectness that captivates us most of all. Who would really sit with Lyons if she had all her shit together? Would we find her as fascinating? As compelling, if she knew the answers to everything? Like a best friend, we want Lyons to understand and translate our own fucked-up shit. We want her to be the big sister who can give us sage advice and then party hard with us, but ultimately not have the answers to everything. It’s what makes her real, makes her vulnerable, and likable. That access to the howling inside her, where we don’t just know the pretty surface stuff, but the demons and the hauntings too.
Lyons work distinguishes itself from others of her ilk by her intelligence and depth. I found that out the first time I read more than her shorter memes, widely circulating most social media. She’s actually a damn fine writer, of substance, and it’s the depths of her I find myself returning to far more than the clever one liners. That said, she’s got those too, and they’re wicked smart; “Exhaustion, the kind prescribed by psychiatrists, had found a way inside of me.” (Oblivion). What hangs a powerful piece is the gravitas behind the one liner, you almost need both to succeed. Lyons says one thing but it has an entire book worth of meaning behind it. For every one of us who has seen a psychiatrist and finds medication stealing our truest selves, we can relate to the simplicity of Lyons acute observations.
If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be labeled crazy, to wonder if you were, to feel it sometimes, and to know deep down you were as sane as anyone else, then The Lithium Chronicles ll will lend you the insight necessary to glimpse into that world. You may think in terms of stereotypes, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest kind of ideas of what mental illness feels like, but there is nothing quite like reading the raw words, the quiet observations of someone who has gone through the system, survived it and can look back on it with a degree of distance. Perhaps for some of us that is a morbid voyeuristic taint on our behalf, whilst for others, it’s attempting to understand what someone we loved endured or went through. The value of understanding cannot be diminished, even now, even in nearly 2020 we don’t give nearly enough credence to mental health or the experiences of those going through a largely unregulated system where individuals are truly at the mercy of the medicine machine.
Poems like Fine On The Outside expose the innards of what it is like to suffer with mental torment and yet, still be able to function and appear well. Nobody to talk to, nobody realizing how bad it can get. Lyons writing in this poem is a fine example of how her use of colors, small observations, concise and well grafted word-play, enable her as a poet to describe two things simultaneously; the emotion and the physical expression of the emotion as acted out in say, a yellow table, with a smoky mountain in the background, and crows in her trees. Those kinds of metaphors and images stay. They linger in your mind long after reading, because of the power their grafting into emotions creates. This is poetry at its finest, this is the kind of poetry people remember and quote to one another.
Then there’s just damn irresistible solid writing, the kind of writing capable of elevating an author above nearly all others, despite the competition; “I don’t think you want to know me / like you say you do / I don’t think you want to know how / my hips ache with the weight / of women crumbling / under angry men / and bridges painted whiter/ than any Holy Spirit / asked them to be.” (Karaoke Blues). Poems like this, they remind us why Lyons is forerunner in the poetry world, why her work is Tweeted by Canada (the country) and consistently used as tattoos and motivational prints on people’s walls, why essentially Lyons is indelible. That’s exactly what she is, impossible to forget or rub off. She stays. Her worth is insistent and permanent.
Before I read Lyons, I was a fan of longer poetry, and Lyons can write some amazing longer pieces, more than proving her worth at any poetic form. But as anyone familiar with Lyons range will attest, some of her best work is in the briefness of her statement, how she’s uncannily capable of saying so much with so little. It takes a certain sharp mind to achieve this, to let it sink in with just a few lines. You have to be absolutely fearless, able to speak your truth, and not hold back, and in this emptying, you achieve a purity few people have the guts to offer.
There’s a visceral raw energy to Lyons work that speaks of magic, nature, humanity and suffering as well as always, hope and beauty. The gift of grafting both extremes may come from her battle with light and darkness. She is a woman who cannot do things in halves. She must either burn out entirely or not at all. There is no fade in this poet, she’s not middling, if you see the trees alight, it’s she who’s torched the forest. And I appreciate deeply the resonance with the natural world and its interweaving with emotions and life, that ties them all together in a way that makes a profound sense. “You wash your sheets / and the guilt from your cock, / you wipe the walls / and your mouth / and drop a clean kiss / on top of the shame / you left at your door.” (The Savage Bits). When a writer is capable of opening her cavities and extracting that kind of electric, pulsating resonance, it’s bigger than mere words, it becomes a testimony.
One might argue there are no boundaries to writing like this, it is completely unapologetic and exposed. But Lyons has the craft of a true writer, she knows how much to say and when to stop, she knows what to reveal and what not to, if you think you’ll know all of her by her writing, you never will. She’s sprinting ahead of us, outpacing our shallow labels, because as well as being able to be out of control she’s very much a creature who has had to understand the nature of control and how to survive. You may think you have her number but she’s already left you behind. That’s because her understanding has been forced from the extremity of her experience and perpetual battle with emotions that many would be drowned by.
Some have likened Lyons to a female Bukowski but I think that’s minimizing her reach; “I am a whore, and I know I am / because I was given that label / by an angry man after I shared / his time and gulped at a sixteen / dollar shot while we laughed.” (WHORE). The important distinction being, Bukowski was a nihilist who thought only of himself and didn’t care whom he ruined in his pursuit of the graphic viscera of life. Talented undoubtedly, his persona was rotten to the core, reflecting his true nature. Lyons may argue she’s no different but I would dispute that. Lyons is a mother, a wife, she’s a friend, a champion, she cares, if you ask her to help you, she will, does that seem like the selfish nihilism of Bukowski? Isn’t it possible, Bukowski took the easy road, parodying with good verbiage, the madness induced in a bottle, whilst Lyons reflects her own battle with darkness, and retains that essential humanity despite it? I know who I’d admire more.
So when we read the surface humor and horror of whoredom, blow-jobs, the seeming pit of despair, we need also to pay attention to the salvation within the little observations, the tender moments woven throughout, that speak of her family, her love for things, her nimble ability to endure and not lose that tender part of her she likes to pretend doesn’t exist. How else could Lyons unravel with such insight, the duplicity of this world, the vanity and the absurdity, and reflect it back to us with an intelligence that belies the idea she’s just a spinning top without connection. She’s very much connected, her womanhood, her femininity, the very core of her, fuses with the natural world and lends her a strength no bottle swilling vagabond can truly attest to.
When I talk of Lyons dexterity with deeper understanding, this comes from her observations, a life time spent watching the outcomes of her own and then others, has attuned her to the minutia and enabled her to consider inside out, what we take for granted; “Perhaps beauty swirls / in the bowl, / mingling with bile / retched out in shame.” (Hiding Beauty). Surely a poet able to wrestle truth from every stereotype is one worth holding onto. For so much in our world is the cliché, the over-used hackneyed phrase. Lyons is a cut above that kind of generalization, perhaps because she knows what its like to be judged herself, she’s the last person to hurl an unwarranted judgement but she’ll not shy away from saying it as it is. Perhaps if she had a typical fat ego, she’d been less approachable, more predictable, maybe she wouldn’t know how to wield magic and make us gape at her insights.
In I Have Fallen, Lyons says; “I have died one hundred deaths / to appease doctors, / and family, and friends, / and I did it all / in the name of sanity.” This is one of many examples where Lyons uncannily hones in on the truth behind diagnosis, illness, judgement, pursuit of perfection. She’s not a cookie cutter idealist seeking 10/10 she’s never had that luxury. Survival is nothing to take for granted when you don’t know how you will feel the next day, the next hour, the next minute. The pursuit of ‘sanity’ as per the medical industry is a subject few elucidate on, almost a dirty little secret. Perhaps by shining a light on the absurdity of such a request, Lyons demonstrates that survival is underappreciated and we’re all buying into a false bill of goods.
Finally, there are poems like To My Best Friend, On the Day Of Her Death, which, if I say anything about them, I would do an injustice. Equally, poems like The Value of a Beautiful Heart, remind me again, that comparing a female poet to a male poet, comparing a like with like or a kind with kind, is an injustice also. Lyons is greater than Bukowski or Baudelaire or Billy Childish, because she’s a mother, so she’s not going to shit on everyone just to have the last say, and she’s not going to not give a damn just because it’s fashionable and will get her notoriety. She may have more regrets than all of them put together, but she possesses a conscience, a will to meaning, a heart. And because of that, I say, Nicole Lyons eclipses those famous names you may wish to compare her to, she outshines them, she’s more real than they ever were, and maybe we need to start re-thinking whom we call heroes and whom we admire and why.
Maybe just maybe it’s possible for a poet to be incredible and still have a conscience, still give a damn, and not just live vacuously and with abandon on the froth of a daydream. Personally, I always preferred non-fiction to fiction, there’s something real there, something beating and insistent, that’s what this kind of poetry is, and within Nicole Lyons I find someone true whom I can admire and yet, relate to, and like, as a human being not a hedonist. Because she’s not just full of piss and vinegar, she’s one of the good ones too. Maybe at times, despite herself.
-Candice Louisa Daquin / Editor of SMITTEN This Is What Love Looks Like, Poetry by Women for Women.
The Lithium Chronicles Volume I is now available.
The Lithium Chronicles Volume II is due for release in December.
What readers are saying:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ important book!
SMITTEN is one of those books that needed to be made. Women who love women exist but their voices are very marginalized. All of us can relate to love no matter what form it takes and this exquisite collection of women poets is so beautiful. I especially loved some of the more humorous takes on female relationships and learned a lot from the expression of relations between women that touched my heart. I will be purchasing a few copies of this lovely book for my friends who are both lesbian and straight. As a fan of poetry I cannot recommend it more highly it has some of the best poetry about love and relationships I have read in ages.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Gift: The universality of Love
This unique anthology is filled with the everyday lives and experiences of women who love women — with all their quirks and quarrels, endearments and enlightenments. What thrills me – and this is central theme in SMITTEN — is that the details of woman/woman relationships will appeal to a universal audience. Readers of every gender will appreciate how love can evolve in any kind of relationship.
These poems by 120 women make love visible to those with eyes to see.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Tour de force of Emotions in this book of Poetry
“SMITTEN” is a tour de force of emotions to be evoked in any
reader who picks this book up. It’s filled with fiery intentions, delicate touches and playful smiles from across the room. These women’s words inspire and take hold. These women’s words find humor in the bold and the romantic. They will draw you in deep, making you see their world in all it’s beautiful lushness and honest darkness. If there was one word to describe this collection it would simply be, phenomenal
I guess you can tell I really liked it… 🙂
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ book that opens hearts and minds
This is an incredible book, not only a volume of poetry by women for women, but an insight into the hearts and minds of all those who have ever loved, from a very special viewpoint. Love knows no boundaries, it is the bond of all human interaction and lesbian love poetry embodies the shared experience of human relationships and emotions from the unique perspective of feminine intuition and insight. The world needs more women writers and more women poets. This wonderful volume of poetry gives them a voice, an opportunity to share their many sided experiences, feelings and wisdom. This book is a milestone in the world of women’s poetry. It will not disappoint. It is worthwhile and essential reading…
SMITTEN is a delight in myriad forms of what loving women feels like….glorious, challenging, peaceful and worthwhile. When we love truly, and write it down, it looks like SMITTEN. Haven’t been so excited about a poetry anthology in 20+ years!
One of the most sensitive collections in these cold days.
SMITTEN is available in both print and Kindle editions.