Category Archives: Poetry

A note about SparkleFat, about representation, about visibility, and about these brave, brave bodies

SparkleFat: Poems That Intend To Be Seen by Melissa May | 5.5″ x 8.5″ | 72 pages | ISBN: 978-0692225417

Hey all, Melissa shared this today & I felt like I needed to share it with you:

A note about SparkleFat, about representation, about visibility, and about these brave, brave bodies

Hello, world. My name is Melissa May and I recently (like, as of yesterday) released a book with Words Dance Publishing titled SparkleFat: Poems That Intend to be Seen. If we are friends on any variety of social media, you’ve probably heard me garble excitedly about it in the last several months. It’s a big deal to me, this book. For one, it’s my first book not held together with staples and painstakingly assembled by my husband, my friends, and myself on the questionable floor of a local print shop. This book has a spine and a bar code and so much gorgeous color. I look at it a lot, mostly with gratitude, sometimes with a flipping tummy, but all of the time with love.

I want to tell you why this book is important. Or perhaps, rather, why *I* think this book is important.

SparkleFat is a book of poetry. The poems this book contains are a map through a dense wilderness. This wilderness is love. Love for my body. Love for bodies. Love when it is ugly and it hurts. Love when it turns into redemption. Love that fights back. All of the poems are about bodies in some incarnation or another. From the first poem I ever wrote about being a fat woman (Fat Girl) through the 30 Love Letters Project I was blessed to participate in by invitation (alongside SassyFatGirl member Rachel Wiley) of Denise Jolly, who continues to tear up the sidewalk of shame in a way that captivates and viscerally frees people. This book is like my diary – but it’s more than that. This book is my story. It is the story of so many women and men who do not see themselves in media or represented in a bold or empowering way. This book is my life, my blood and my guts and my secrets. This book is the story of my body.

Recently, Button Poetry uploaded my performance of my poem “Dear Ursula“, a poem in the book and a poem that has a lot of special, powerful meaning to me. Upworthy picked the poem up from Button and suddenly my inbox was flooded with people telling me the stories of how they, too, connected to Ursula in a deep and meaningful way in much the same manner as me. Ursula was the first fat, empowered figure I ever saw. Watching her on-screen, even in the role of the villain, shook something deep inside of me. After the video went sorta viral, the same stories popped up again and again from strangers reaching out to let me know that seeing me, talking about Ursula, talking about bodies, talking about my body, empowered them in a similar way. Many of them told me they had never had the courage to talk to anyone about the lives they led in their bodies because they were ashamed. How freeing it was to send a simple message. What a powerful thing that was to me, to hold all that secret and all that grief that they no longer had to cling to ashamed.

That’s when I realized how very rare a thing it is to see a fat woman own her body in a public way. How very rare it is to hear the stories of fat people in general, without apologetic undertone or frequent attempts to temper their truth with “good fatty” wisdom. How powerful and necessary these stories were becoming. How saying them and reading them and seeing them come to life on the page was like raising a flag up high in the air that screams, boldly, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”.

This book isn’t just for fat people. This book is for anyone who has ever lived inside the cage of their body before realizing that is only as prison as we make it. This book is for your brother or your aunt or your sister. This book is for you. This book is for me. This book is a loud voice in a forest that begs us to get lost in the myth of body-ideals, a voice screaming that you are perfect. Screaming it.

This book is saying the two most powerful words any human can utter.

This book is saying Me, Too.

I want to make it clear that though I am incredibly proud of this book, and proud of the work that my Editor Amanda Oaks and her team at Words Dance Publishing put into this book to make it the glittering and wondrous thing that it is, I am also a little afraid of it.

When my video went viral, it wasn’t just kind messages I received, and though I was warned by my fat-girl sisters that it would happen, the push-back knocked the wind out of me for a bit. The cost of visibility is being seen. By everyone. By people who do not want good things for you, to whom you are merely a closet to hold their rage. I’ve had some time, and some pushing, and some deep, deep thought about what this book would mean if I gave it to the world in the manner I wanted to, with this message attached to it, and what that would mean to my life as a semi-introvert who feels things very deeply and takes everything personally. What a risk such a thing like this would be.

It’s okay. I’m ready.

I am ready to be seen.

Even the cover, a photo taken by a dear friend of mine Juli Bowen during a body celebration shoot (the first real pictures I ever saw of my nearly-naked body) is a statement in visibility. I didn’t want an illustration or a model or anyone else to be the gatekeeper of this journey. That’s my body. That’s my face. That’s my stomach and my hair and my nose. That’s me.

See me. See us.

Spread this message as far and fat and wide as you can. I have spent too much time being afraid of what would happen if people really saw me. I am tired of having to hold the secret shame of people who do not feel worthy to share their own story. I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of shame.

This is your invitation to the journey. May love find you in it. May you hear the Me, Too’s in every page. May you love yourself with all the good light you deserve. May you take up every bit of space your body has earned. May this inspire your own story, your own skin, your own journey.

You can find the book here & you can find me on Facebook here.

You might find yourself in these pages. Open up, loves. Let the light in.

Sparkle on,

SparkleFat by Melissa May

5.5″ x 8.5″ | 72 pages | ISBN: 978-0692225417

Poems That Intend To Be Seen
by Melissa May

Pssst, scroll through all the sparkle below to the very bottom of the page to order!

An Excerpt from the Fatward by the Author:

I was not born for beige, my loves. And neither were you. My body intends to be seen.

My body intends to shine. My fat is not quiet.
My fat sparkles.

That’s what you’re holding, dear one. You’re holding SparkleFat. You’re holding a loud, unapologetic, intentional book of poetry about my body, about your body, about fat bodies and how they move through the world in every bit of their flash and spark and burst. Some of the poems are painful, some are raucous celebrations, some are reminders and love letters and quiet gifts back to the vessel that has traveled me so gracefully – some are a hymnal of yes, but all of them sparkle. All of them don’t mind if you look – really. They built their own house of intention, and they draped that shit in lime green sequins. All of them intend to be seen. All of them have no more fucks to give about a world that wants them to be quiet.

Melissa May is a Youth-In-Crisis worker, body positivity/body justice activist, cat-call devourer, general unraveler of the patriarchy and salty feminist sass-mouth from Oklahoma. She has been a competitive spoken word artist since 2008, and has been both a multi-time Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist as well as the 3rd ranked poet in the world at the Individual Poetry Slam in 2012. She has a degree in Youth Ministry and Bible and Theology that she is aggressively not using, is married to a mad scientist, loves harder than medically recommended, cannot physically stop cursing and smuggles thousands of secrets around like the precious and delicate things that they are. The only secrets she can’t seem to keep are her own. That’s what you’re holding now. The un-doing of all her shame. The most rare and wild jewel of her heart. Smuggle it around real good. Keep it safe. She’ll owe you big. She knows you are perfect.

Sparkling Applause for SparkleFat & Melissa’s Work:

“I didn’t know how much I needed this book until I found myself, three pages in, ugly crying on the plane next to a concerned looking business man. This book is the most glorious, glittery pink permission slip. It made me want to go on a scavenger hunt for every speck of shame in my body and sing hot, sweaty R&B songs to it.

There is no voice more authentic, generous and resounding than Melissa May. From her writing, to her performance, to her role in the community she delivers fierce integrity & staggering passion.

From the first time I watched her nervously step to the mic, to the last time she crushed me in a slam, it is has been an honor to watch her astound the poetry slam world and inspire us all to be not just better writers but better people. We need her.”

Lauren Zuniga
Author of The Smell of Good Mud

“All bodies are beautiful. But not everyone is taught to see + believe that. In fact, there’s a not-so-subtle expectation that people past a certain size should hide… for everyone’s sake. Melissa May artfully calls bullshit + serves up a full frontal transmission that shines with clarity + pride + presence. I read everysingleword + frequently wiped tears from my eyes at the boldness + courage + beauty held in her perfectly-strung-together words. Regardless of your size, dive deep into what’s offered here: the chance to let your inherent beauty shine without apology. Big ups to Melissa for issuing a poetic invitation + powerful invocation.”

Fabeku Fatunmise
Business Awesomizer | Suck Exorcist | Sonic Alchemist

“In a world where a woman is begged to be merely a body, Melissa gracefully and urgently reminds us that women also have big, loud, important mouths. She is a sculptor, building a monument with the language she reclaims of her body. There is no shame left lurking in the shadows after the last page is turned. Melissa takes the reins and vigorously redefines herself again and again until the sequins sparkle just right. Sometimes this book feels like surgery, sometimes it feels like rubber necking, sometimes it feels like home- but it always feels like catharsis. It is as if we’ve been let in on a lifelong monologue not meant for anyone but the speaker. To devour this book is an honor, to be nourished by it- that is a big, fat blessing.”

Desireé Dallagiacomo
Celebrated Slam Poet + Activist

“Melissa May’s book SparkleFat cracked me open. She spoke things I’m still scared to say aloud, invited me into poems that were stories I knew so well on my own path of fatness and I followed her through those pages, feeling braver with every poem as she speaks so bravely of her right to love herself.

This is a call to action of unapologetic self-love and indeed are poems that need to be seen. I feel like in these pages so many women will find Melissa’s words give themselves the permission to love themselves and their bodies, right here and right now.”

Vivienne McMaster
Photographer + leader of the Be Your Own Beloved workshops

SparkleFat is a firework display of un-shame. Melissa May’s work celebrates all of the things we have been so long told deserved no streamers. This collection invites every fat body out to the dance and steams up the windows in the backseat of the car afterwards by kissing the spots we thought (or even hoped) no one noticed but are deserving of love just the same as our mouths.”

Rachel Wiley
Author of forthcoming Fat Girl Finishing School

“I had to stop several times while reading SparkleFat so I could sit, breathe and absorb its haunting and life-changing beauty. I so wish I’d had this book when I started my body acceptance journey, but I’m ever grateful it has shown up in my life now. I know I will be returning to it many times in the future. These are the body affirming poems we’ve been waiting for.”

Anna Guest-Jelley
Founder of Curvy Yoga

Melissa performing during prelims at the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam, recorded by Button Poetry.

From Monday, June 2nd at 12pm EST until Wednesday, June 4th at 12pm EST!

Apologies, pre-orders for signed copies have ended but we are now taking orders for regular copies, you can order paperbacks directly from us, on Amazon, on Etsy or buy the eBook!

Shipping inside the United States:

Shipping Outside the United States:

or you can:



Please read below if you want or have ordered & before you contact us with questions, thank you!

Because Transparency Rocks:

*** You will be checking out using PayPal, where you can use your PayPal balance, your credit card or your checking account to pay. Everything is super-easy & safe!

You are handing over your hard-earned cash, we get that & appreciate your support muchly so we want to be SUPER-TRANSPARENT with you. All copies, inside & outside the US, will have a tracking number that you will receive via email to the address that you use for Paypal when we print your shipping label.

If you pre-ordered a signed copy we have ordered our first large shipment of SparkleFat. So that means that they are being printed & will be shipped to us. They will take about a week to get here & THEN we will be shipping them from PA to OK to the ever-lovely Melissa to mark up with her sparkle & THEN she will ship them back to us & THEN we will be shipping them out to all you Glitterbombs! We, of course, are giving ourselves some cushion on the June 25th date, so your book may reach you before then! Either way, you will receive a tracking number when we print the shipping label & you should receive an email when it ships so you can keep your stunning-n-shimmering hawk-eyes on it!

Unsigned/regular copies will begin shipping at a normal pace by June 25th (probably way before that!)

If you choose the eBook option, after purchase, you will be redirected to a download page AND receive an email with a download link to download the book instantly. If you don’t have a PDF reader, you can download one here for free. You will receive a PDF that you can read on any computer, mobile device or digital tablet! You can read PDFs on your Kindle or on the Kindle mobile app by emailing them to your Kindle email address that you can find in the Kindle’s settings. If you have an iPhone you can email yourself the PDF & open it in iBooks as well (Google is your friend.) If you have trouble downloading the eBook, like the link expired, give us an email by forwarding your proof of purchase or giving us your order number & we will email you a copy right quick!

If you have any questions, please contact us, we’ll try to be timely with our response, your patience is a treasure! wordsdancepublishing (at) gmail


Words Dance in the NightBallet

(Click here to download, print & hang the above poster!)

Words Dance in the NightBallet is a collaborative event between Words Dance Publishing out of Western PA & NightBallet Press out of Cleveland, OH!

Dianne Borsenik, Amanda Oaks, John Dorsey, John Burroughs, Nikki Allen, Karen Lillis, Heather McNaugher, Jason Irwin, Karen Lillis & Jason Baldinger will being reading at Modern Formations in the dark, with the featured poets going round-robin reading their poems one after another! There will be multiple books released! It’s going to be a good time!


Poetry in the Dark

Sit back & let yourself be filled
with distraction-less art!

Click here to join the Facebook event page!

For ease, copy, paste & map:

4919 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224


Dianne Borsenik is active in the northeast Ohio poetry scene, and has performed throughout four United States (OH, WV, PA, and MI) and in two altered states (coffeed and beerified). She cofounded and coproduced the legendary Lix and Kix Poetry Extravaganza and Snoetry: A Winter Wordfest series, and is founder/editor of NightBallet Press. Her poems have appeared in Slipstream, Rosebud, Pudding Magazine, Lilliput Review, The Magnetic Poetry Book of Poetry, and Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac, among others. Recent chapbooks include Fortune Cookie (Kattywompus Press), Blue Graffiti (Crisis Chronicles Press), and published in January of this year, Corpus Lingua (Poet’s Haven Press).


Amanda Oaks is the founding editor of Words Dance Publishing. Her works have appeared in numerous online & print publications, including Stirring, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Glamour, Elle, Parenting & Artful Blogging. Her chapbook, Hurricane Mouth, was published this year by NightBallet Press.

John Burroughs is a northeast Ohio poet and publisher who co-founded the monthly Lix and Kix Poetry Extravaganza and almost annual Snoetry: A Winter Wordfest. He is the author of many chapbooks including It Takes More Than Chance to Make Change [2013, The Poet’s Haven Press], Barry Merry Baloney [2012, Spare Change Press], Water Works [2012, Recycled Karma Press], Electric Company [2011, Writing Knights Press], and (with Bree & Douglas Manson) Identity Crises [2009, Green Panda Press]. His first full-length poetry collection, The Eater of the Absurd, was published in late 2012 by NightBallet Press.


John Dorsey is the author of sev­eral col­lec­tions of poetry, includ­ing Teach­ing the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jer­sey (Amer­i­can Met­tle Books, 2010), Leaves of Ass (Unadorned Press, 2011) & Tomb­stone Fac­tory (Epic Rites Press, 2013). His work has been nom­i­nated for the Push­cart Prize. He may be reached at


Karen Lillis is the author of four novels, including Watch the Doors as They Close (Spuyten Duyvil, 2012) and i, scorpion (Words Like Kudzu Press, 2000). Her writing has appeared in The Boog City Reader, Evergreen Review, Everyday Genius, Free State Review, Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology, Sensitive Skin Magazine, Toad Suck Review, Trip City, and many more. She has a poetry chapbook forthcoming from Cleveland’s Night Ballet Press, and her writing will appear in two anthologies in 2014: Wreckage of Reason (Spuyten Duyvil) and From Somewhere to Nowhere: The End of the American Dream (Autonomedia). She blogs at Karen the Small Press Librarian and runs Small Press Pittsburgh, a pop-up indie press bookstand.

Jason Baldinger has spent a life in odd jobs, if only poetry was the strangest of them he’d have far less to talk about. Somewhere in time he has traveled the country, and wrote a few books. The latest of which “The Lower 48” (Six Gallery Press) and the chapbook “The Studs Terkel Blues” (Night Ballet Press) are slated to be released in 2014. A short litany of publishing credits include: The New Yinzer, Shatter Wig Press, Blast Furnace, B.E. Quarterly and Fuck Art, Let’s Dance. You can also hear audio of some poems on bandcamp.


Heather McNaugher is the author of System of Hideouts (Main Street Rag, 2012). She teaches poetry, nonfiction, and literature at her alma mater, Chatham University, and is poetry editor of Fourth River. Her work has appeared in 5 A.M., The Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Leveler, and The Cortland Review, and on the radio show, Prosody. Her chapbook, Panic & Joy, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008. She worked as a house cleaner and barista in Seattle, as a dog walker in Brooklyn, and then got her Ph.D. in English from The State University of New York at Binghamton. While working for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, she almost became a librarian. She’s tried living elsewhere, but keeps coming back to Pittsburgh.


Nikki Allen is the author of numerous chapbooks, including “Gutter of Eden,” “My Darling Since,” and “Quite Like Yes.” Her poetry has appeared on a plethora of stages and pages including The New Yinzer, Crash, Open Thread Regional Review Vol. 2, out of nothing, and Encyclopedia Destructia. Her latest collection of writing, “ligaments of light tigering the shoulders,” will be available June 2014 via Night Ballet Press. She loves couscous and garlic breath.

Jason Irwin grew up in Dunkirk, NY and now lives in Pittsburgh, PA. He earned an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2004. His first full-length collection, Watering the Dead, won the 2006/2007 Transcontinental Poetry Award and was published in 2008 by Pavement Saw Press. Some Days It’s A Love Story won the 2005 Slipstream Press Chapbook Prize. His poem “Main Street” was nominated for a Pushcart in 2005. Most recently he’s had work published in Poetry East, Grey Sparrow, & Future Cycle Press’ anthology American Society: What Poets See.

We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Amanda on Facebook or at


Yes, we’re into instant gratification too, ask & you shall receive, friends because we love you so, it’s true.

All of Words Dance’s titles are now available as eBooks!

You can purchase them in our book shop here on the site or in our Etsy shop!

No matter where you purchase them you’ll get them instantly, huzzah!

The books will come to you dressed up as PDF files that you can read on any computer, mobile device or digital tablet.

You can also read them on your Kindle or on the Kindle app by emailing them to your Kindle email address that you can find in the settings. If you have an iPhone you can email yourself the PDF & open it in iBooks as well.

Google is your friend, but if you get hung up don’t hesitate to contact us (please be patient with our response!)

I bow to your brilliance,

What We Buried by Caitlyn Siehl

5.5″ x 8.5″ | 64 pages | ISBN: 978-0615985862

What We Buried
Poetry by Caitlyn Siehl

This book is a cemetery of truths buried alive. The light draws you in where you will find Caitlyn there digging. When you get close enough, she’ll lean in & whisper, Baby, buried things will surface no matter what, get to them before they get to you first. Her unbounded love will propel you to pick up a shovel & help— even though the only thing you want to do is kiss her lips, kiss her hands, kiss every one of her stretch marks & the fire that is raging in pit of her stomach. She’ll see your eyes made of devour & sadness, she’ll hug you & say, Baby, if you eat me alive, I will cut my way out of your stomach. Don’t let this be your funeral. Teach yourself to navigate the wound.

Caitlyn is primarily interested in healing. Growing up in a small town in New Jersey, she began writing poetry three years ago with the intention of bringing pain to the surface, of clawing through the dirt and excavating it before singing it to sleep. She tries to be gentle with what hurts, and it has helped.

Currently a student at Rutgers University, Caitlyn is studying film and journalism in the hopes of becoming a screenwriter.

At twenty years old, she is still growing. She has found her voice and it is a delicate thing, so she is happy to be sharing it.

FREE TEMPORARY TATTOO with the first 75 orders!

We are taking pre-orders here & on Etsy from
March 30th – April 8th for signed copies!

If you ordered a signed copy (& you were lucky enough to snag a tattoo), they will ship on April 22nd!

We are taking regular orders now!

Books ordered below or on Etsy will start shipping regularly on May 1st.

Shipping inside the United States:

Shipping Outside the United States:

OR you can:

What We Buried will be available on Amazon by May 1st!

Dear Ursula by Melissa May

Thank you Button Poetry for your unwavering dedication & spectacular videos, really. You rock.

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Melissa May performing “Dear Ursula” during prelims at the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Melissa placed 7th overall at the tournament!

“Dear Ursula” is one of many poems from Melissa’s book, SparkleFat, due out from Words Dance soon!

An excerpt from the Fatward, from the author:

You’re holding a loud, unapologetic, intentional book of poetry about my body, about your body, about fat bodies and how they move through the world in every bit of their flash and spark and burst. Some of the poems are painful, some are raucous celebrations, some are reminders and love letters and quiet gifts back to the vessel that has traveled me so gracefully – some are a hymnal of yes, but all of them sparkle. All of them don’t mind if you look – really. They built their own house of intention, and they draped that shit in lime green sequins. All of them intend to be seen. All of them have no more fucks to give about a world that wants them to be quiet.

If you don’t want to miss when the book drops, sign up to our mailing list!