Author Archives: mckenzielynntozan

About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she works as the Departmental Secretary of English and World Language Studies at Indiana University South Bend, and remains closely affiliated with 42 Miles Press, New Issues Poetry and Prose, and Wolfson Press. She previously received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Editor of Poetry for Third Coast. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, Whale Road Review, The James Franco Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on her website and on The Rumpus. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and three cats. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.

New blog! New blog! New blog!

Hello, everyone!

As I posted previously, I have moved to a new blog!! Quite a few new posts have been generated there by this point, and I’d love to know that you’re not missing out!

Please update your bookmarks or subscribe to my new blog, if you’re interested! I hope you’ll continue to follow me there; you’ve been such a great community!

my blog has moved

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My blog has moved!! Please follow!!

Hello, all!

Pack your bags!! Update your bookmarks!! My blog has upgraded and moved to a new location. I hope you all will follow; you have been such a supportive community.

Here is a link to the new location: here.

my blog has moved


Preparing the Way for My Daughter: Reading Lori Day’s Her Next Chapter

Lori Day_Her Next Chapter Upon reading Lori Day’s Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More, I am completely floored with possibilities. Her Next Chapter, at first glance, may be meant as an organizational tool for beginning and maintaining effective Mother-Daughter book clubs (which is covered in the Part 1 chapters); but Day’s book additionally discusses current issues and obstacles our young girls are facing, ways of handling those obstacles and teaching our girls about them through conversation and—get this—reading books (covered in the Part 2 chapters).

Being twenty-six years old with my first child (a daughter) on the way, this book was pertinent and timely on a personal level. Upon entering this book, I had never even heard of Mother-Daughter book clubs and loved the prospect of someday starting one with my own daughter, opening new avenues and conversations through the power of reading and discussion. I started making personal lists of all the books I would want to include in my library and was eager to see Day’s suggestions. What I never anticipated about these book clubs was the prospect of collaborating with other mothers, getting to know my daughter’s friends and peers, and how long we might be able to be together as a group. Not to mention the attention to detail in Part 2 on identifying and discussing key issues in our daughters’ lives, via our observations of our daughters, the books we read with them, and the discussions we may have within the book club and other book-club-related activities and events.

All of that being said, however, the timeliness of this text in a larger global setting is much more important—and this is an extremely timely text for our nation. Never before have issues with gender normativity and stereotypes, rape culture and the sexualization of women been of greater focus and importance; and this book largely focuses on these topics, among others, explaining not only the theoretical meaning behind these terms, but how they impact our girls, how our girls may embrace them (or be captured by them), and how we can discuss these topics with our girls to bring greater meaning, authenticity and value to their lives than is offered by hypersexualization.

Perhaps what is the most interesting (and startling) to me is the velocity at which all of these topics have become prevalent, and even accepted and embraced (by some), in our society. When I was a child, there were well-defined toys-for-girls aisles in the stores where my mother shopped, and all of the toys we looked at were offered in pink; but it was still a new enough idea that buying the colorful or gender-neutral option was not considered out-of-bounds by observers. However, issues with sexuality and the new pressures of social media were totally lost on my mother, a Baby Boomer; and we were left with little to get us through the tween and teen years. Though I am in a far better position in this way than my mother, I carry no delusions that I understand every single thing my daughter will have face and the sorts of pressures that will be presented to her that may have not been prevalent when I was her age. However, having Her Next Chapter on hand, as “cheesy” as this might sound, is a great reassurance and what I believe to be a much-needed tool in my future as a mother.

Whether or not we are ever able to generate our own Mother-Daughter Book Club, I still envision myself returning to this book for the purpose of staying current with the topics presented in this book, and for book recommendations for my daughter’s library (which will be present and discussed on our own time in a more leisurely fashion, if a Book Club does not manage to thrive). Lori Day and her daughter, Charlotte Kugler, have compiled an invaluable tool—for expectant mothers, for mothers with young daughters, for mothers with daughters in the throes of teenhood, and (in my opinion) even mothers with older daughters who need a better understanding relationship with their mothers about the goings-on in their lives and the decisions they’ve had to make along the way. Written in an approachable, at times funny, manner, this text functions as a dialogue about societal theory, literature and film, and generating communities, at a time when we could not need them more.

 

 

LORI DAY speaks in schools, libraries, bookstores, and a variety of other community settings about mother-daughter book clubs, girl empowerment, media literacy, or any other topic of interest related to today’s girl culture and raising girls. To schedule Lori for a workshop, author talk, conference presentation, parent education event, or individual consultation, please contact her through her website for more information and fees. Lori loves to “visit” book clubs anywhere in the world via Skype free of charge, so if that’s of interest, let her know!

View Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More, here.

 


Midday

 

MIDDAY

 

I am passing through my neighbor’s
backyard, and I stop, because

her patio door is open. The sun
is there, pouring over a table

and chairs, all those rhododendrons
and pollen. In all that light, I can see

up the stairs and into
her living room, where the woman

is sleeping on her couch, bare feet crossed
and dangling off the end. Pink,

chipped toenails. In her sleep, she kisses
her knuckles, individually.

Stars on her hair.
I wonder where she is,

when she is, and who is kissing
her hands—so slowly. The trees here

are quiet, almost courteous. They watch
over my shoulders. She moans

in her sleep. We are all such beautiful soldiers.

 


The Spectrum of Mood & Mind: Reading Kyle Muntz’s Green Lights

Kyle Muntz_Green Lights Dreamscape; Existentialism; Echoes of Religion and Tradition—these, among others, represent the themes that are presented to us, and challenge us, in the reading of Kyle Muntz’s Green Lights, a novella structured within a surrealist neighborhood that responds to and depends upon the current spectral landscape.

That is to say, color, and the narrator’s fixation on and repetition of the phrase, “I want to talk about color.” Whether or not this is a literal reference to the desire to discuss the color spectrum, and whether or not this desire is ever achieved, is somewhat unanswerable within the context of this work. Green Lights, from very early-on, becomes a dreamscape. This is not to narrow the focus of the novella, or an attempt to devise one umbrella term for it; rather, it explains some of the expectation, and even the overwhelming acceptance, of the surreal, the unreal, the sublime, as they are presented through these various worlds of color, strung within the landscape of one neighborhood.

Imagine, for a moment, one of your strangest dreams in which you felt the need to do something, to achieve a particular goal; you were then probably met with distractions, diversions, tangents, that all at once abstracted that goal, even buried it, until such a time came that an event, a sight, triggered a reminder of that earlier goal. Until that occurs, however—until the narrator can again say, “I want to talk about color”—those distractions are perceived as real (as normal, even) until such a time comes that the actual goal, the reality from which the dream is based, can be presented as a contrasting point, and the strangeness of those previous occurrences, upon awakening, can be scrutinized. Without that contrasting point, without that goal, though, all the strangeness contained in that dream can simply exist without further explanation—which would, in turn, allow some of the beauty of the surrealist aspects of the story to deflate (as the surreal has a way of not only normalizing itself within the context of a piece, but also spends some time drawing attention to itself, its weirdness, and its weird beauty).

What becomes so fascinating about this repetition of a fairly-simple want—the desire to talk about color—is not only the return to it, from strange observations of large flowers and a man eating children and a talking octopus, but how its simplicity draws greater attention to the impact of these colors on the neighborhood and its inhabitants within. We find ourselves—or, at least, I find myself—looking for patterns in this varying spectrum: How does the narrator’s mindset change from color to color? How do we explain E’s disappearances? The connections between the moon and the girl with the violin and her hiding places? The octopus? The man who eats children and later attempts acts of sacrifice? How do these inhabitants, this neighborhood, change with the passing of colors—everything in green, everything cast in a blue light, seeing red, et cetera?

Can we actually create a correlation between color and act, color and mood, color and the mind?

Perhaps, if given enough time, we could—but I don’t think that is the point. Given that this is a surrealist piece, and (in my mind) a dreamscape of sorts, such a set of correlations would ultimately contain exceptions, inconsistencies, and would fall apart. And that is the point. While the narrator may be under the guise of wanting to talk about color, trying to portray specifics of what can occur within each color-scape would be overly systemic for something so rooted in the surreal . . . But this fascination with the correlation between color and mind, however brief, remains so because of our very-human desire for explanations, for answers, which dreams often do not (cannot, will not) give us, just as the surreal doesn’t.

. . . Which is perhaps where the importance and power of the existential, and even religious, ties come into play. I’ve come to expect certain complexities in Muntz’s work, including (but, by far, not limited to) questions rooted in existentialism: Why am I here? What is my purpose? What do these happenings mean? While Green Lights does not constantly ask these questions verbatim, they are rooted, both, in the happenings of the story, from color to color, and in the narrator’s reactions to and thoughts about such happenings. Such moments as the narrator’s interactions with M, or the confrontation with the octopus, or the inability for the moon to remain out of the sky forever all point to this larger interconnectedness. What’s interesting, too, are the subtle elements of religion and even tradition that occur in the text—from M’s ritualistic act with water that seemed to take root from a Native American wake, to the ritualistic aspect of sacrifice with the old man. These moments, when paired with the more existentially-rooted questions, stand out against the dreamscape, because (whether or not they are occurring in a dream-state) they are real to us, these questions and the desire to connect, whether or not the situation in which they are presented is unusual, or even impossible, in waking context.

Perhaps that is what I love most about Muntz’s work, particularly Green Lights—the connections we as readers can make, through the interconnectivity of dreamscape and existentialism. Whether or not we are meant to know the exact role of each color, whether or not we are meant to know the exact consumeristic meaning behind the man who eats children or the moon’s rendezvous with this neighborhood, we are in some manner meant to connect through those experiences we possess and those acts we perform: we dream, and we desire, and we desire to know our place and purpose within a larger context, whether that context is the size of a neighborhood or the universe.

Kyle Muntz’s Green Lights may, at the foundation, be about the goings-on in a town in which a color spectrum is highly integral and what occurs in these various color settings, but when we begin to look deeper, at all the layers beneath, we find questions of possibility and purpose, and observations of joy and wonder, weirdness and beauty . . . We find life, in all its complexity and strangeness, through one of the scopes of greatest potential for exploration and observation: the dreamscape. This novella, while complex and with many possibilities of interpretation, leaves itself open to our intentions of connection as readers, while continuing to confound us and present us with new avenues through which these characters may traverse and transform and grow, with us and before us.

 

 

KYLE MUNTZ is the author of three novels and two novellas: Green Lights (Civil Coping Mechanisms) and The Crippled Giant (forthcoming from Mixer Publishing). Recently, he’s also the writer and designer of The Pale City, an independently-produced role-playing game for PC.

 


Progress Report

 

PROGRESS REPORT

 

She will live inside me for three more months. Of this
I am certain: we are running on time. We are

progressing at the recommended rate. But she is still
so small, not even two pounds, and she lies completely

connected. There are days when I want to fill
her room with flowers and others when I want

destruction, and I wonder what she thinks, if she can
hear me. It’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins—

the femur, the head, the slow skin. Sometimes,
I think her heartbeat is mine, that the rumble

of hunger is somehow split in two: the louder
and then the smaller, the echo. An agreement that runs

through me like a tectonic plate: we are hungry, we will sleep.

 


Waiting for a Femoral Head Ostectomy: A Painting

 

WAITING FOR A FEMORAL HEAD OSTECTOMY:
A PAINTING

 

After two days hiding under the bed, my cat
emerges, carrying his back leg as if useless, the toes

on the supporting paw spread wide
for balance. He continues like this, eyes wide

and dilated, a growl that returns most evenings
as the pain sets back in. It flowers, like

the spread paws, back down through the leg
until he can do nothing but carry it,

or lie down. Days and nights. I imagine placing him
in front of a series of mirrors, the strange

pirouette-leg, the left-handed toes spread

too far, to balance, to cry out, the sublimation
of the possible fall. I imagine him reaching up

toward the bar, its slickness, nails running loud
against the painted metal, until he grips

and pulls up, weight only on the sturdy leg, tail high
in assurance, flower in the hip, quieter.

 


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