Wednesday, February 22, 2017


These are some floral acrylics I did back in the fall and that finally made it to the scanner..I'd been playing it bit with getting watercolory effects out of acrylic (mostly since I had depleted my watercolor set)  There are more to come from just after the new year (actual watercolors), so stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


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When I was in grad school the first time around, I got it in my head that I wanted to finish a book manuscript before I turned 25.  I had been writing, unsteadily, for about 5 years at that point, submitting a bit unsuccessfully, publishing in school lit mags, getting honorable mentions in college poetry prizes. Things had only recently been coming clear in my head about the potentials of "being a poet' in the year before that, my goals having been mostly geared toward teaching, however ill-suited I actually seemed to be for it.  Suddenly I was writing a lot (a combination of such clarity, a little publication success,  and no obligations outside my MA in Lit courses and studying for my comp exams.)  All I wanted to do was write, and was hoping to find some sort of stable, not horrible, bookish job that would give me the space (physical and mental) to actually do it. .  Even though my knowledge of both po-biz and poetry in general was seriously lacking, I had amassed enough copies of POETS & WRITERS to glean that to get a book published, you had to enter and win one of the prestigious contests advertised in those pages.  Easy enough, no?  I had always been a crack shot at contests--had won boring legal essay contests with cash prizes, free Noxema products from Seventeen Magazine for an essay about activism.  It never even occurred to me how bad my work really still was at that point--how long I had to go, how insurmountable the odds of winning even when you have a solid manuscript. I somehow zeroed in on the Yale Younger Poets seemed fancy and ever so prestigious.  It seemed suited to novice poets (lolololol). So I set about pulling that book together and entering it in the contest.

I had a lot of poems--most of them terrible really, some slightly salvageable (and some that even made it into my chap a few years later--THE ARCHAEOLOGISTS DAUGHTER.)  I liked to write about myth then, as all beginning poets seem to want to do.  Other art forms--history, literary characters.  Gunivere.  Calypso,  Degas' dancers.  Gold Rush brides.   In short, writing about other things helped me realize I had very little to write about myself at that young age.   By spring of 1999, I had about 50 pieces that I spent hours formatting on my sluggish Brother word processor   (I had access to PC's in the labs at DePaul, but at home was computerless.) I distinctly remember staying up late, word processor on my lap, sitting on the floor, back against the couch, typing while I watched endless re-run episodes of the X-Files. I had written a poem called TAURUS, that was all about the differences in how men and women view art--men as something to be slain and conquered, and women, the opposite.   So I decided this would be my title--the thing that bound it all together.  I thought I was so deep for that, surely a genius.  I paid my 40 dollars or so, sent the manuscript on it's way, and of course, did not win.  I've no idea what did win that year, only that it wasn't me.

Shortly after, I packed everything up and moved back to Rockford from Chicago.  Finished my degree, found a job. Found a couple, actually, but only one that stuck.  Moved back to the city about a year and a half later.  Life sort of swept me up in a current, and it was a while before I got back to the poems.  By then online journals were coming into prominence.  A year or so later, I had been publishing on the regular, finishing newer work, putting together a chapbook that contained mostly new poems, but also a handful of those TAURUS pieces that were more promising. The rest were shoved in my old writing archives and only pulled out occasionally for laughs.

Whenever anyone asks me about my first book, I sometimes forget there was anything before THE FEVER ALMANAC.   That was the book that was slaved over, and edited, and readjusted over about a 2 year period to make it into the thing it became. By 2001, when I wrote the first poems in that collection, I was actually reading and aware of other poets work, so there was a huge difference between those pieces and the stuff I was writing for TAURUS.  I was also never more sure of myself than I was working on that first manuscript, more completely clueless and naive. Sometimes I look at that girl sitting there on the living room floro and laugh at her naivite.  Sometimes, I want to be her again, so clueless and hopeful and determined.

Monday, February 20, 2017

So ultimately, it has been a scary and kind of surreal week.  My mom had somewhat of a large heart attack on Wednesday out of nowhere, and while she underwent surgery and is on the mend and soon to be home from the hospital,  the scared, anxious part of me is thinking underneath it all that this is only the beginning--the sort of health decline all elderly parents fall into (she is nearing on 70 and my dad is 76 this year.)  The period of time that all people my age fear, if they are lucky enough to not have lost their parents even earlier in life.  The inevitability of them not always being there.

We've always been a reasonable fortunate family  with our health issues, though there have been some, pretty minor on the scale of tragedy --my dad and sister have intermittent seizures but are not quite epileptic.  My brother in law actually is epileptic and has lived with it his whole life.    I am probably the most fortunate,  a lot of bumps and bruises and a broken finger when I was a child --other clumsiness casualities like  last winter's bus ride tumble hurt wrist.   My sciatic issue a couple years back, my endless bout with mono 10 years ago.  A couple of unfortunate food poisoning incidents.    My mom has survived colon cancer when she was forty, gall bladder issues in her 50's (also something my sister endured.), as well as a scary bout with a twisted herniated colon that nearly killed her about 15 years ago.  She has also been diabetic since I was a child , but has been reasonable good at monitoring her sugar for over 30 years and is in pretty good shape with it.    But still, she apparently had some artery blockage that caused a very asympotomatic attack (no pain at all, but some breathlessness and some sweating while in the grocery store that eventually led to my dad forcing her to go to the emergency room.) That scary bus ride to Rockford is not one I wish to repeat, but it seems highly likely I will find myself on it again, and it won't always be as  fortuitous a recovery.  This makes me panicky, and anxious.  They won't live forever and I know this, but I've been pretty good at living in denial.

Thursday morning,  as I made sure the cats were fed, wrote out my rent check, went to the bank to get cash, and even packed up some dgp orders in the studio because I was early for the bus, I was operating on autopilot, almost as if I were watching normal Kristy doing all the normal sort of things while seriously panicking inside.   By the time I got to Rockford, she was already in surgery for angioplasty and on her way to recovering, but those few hours on uncertainty that began Wednesday night when my sister texted me about shortness of breath and the emergency room (which had happned a couple months back, but not so severe and coinciding with a bad bout bout of bronchitis she was recovering from)  and then my mother's call at 2am confirming that it was not leftover bronchitis and was, in fact, a heart attack, up until I actually got to the hospital, were the worst 12 or so hours in my memory.  What was the total damage?  Would it happen again?  Would she have to have full-on open heart surgery (which my aunt, while it it was a preventative surgery, is still slowly recovering from the one she had last fall with quite a few complications that make it hard for her to get around. .)  

While her kidneys took a hit, they are expected to  be on the upswing, and the surgeries, two arteries fixed and another in a month or so, should prevent future attacks, she still seems infinitely more fragile and ailing than she was before.  I mean, maybe the fact that she suffered a pretty big attack with nary an eyelash bat, proves how hardcore she is.   She tends to be rather no-nonsense about health things, and while she has had various aches and pains and weird afflictions (inexplicable hives, leg cramps in bed, shingles last spring, a pulled tendon in her arm  in January), she's pretty adamant about going about her usual business. She seems vulnerable now when she was always invulnerable.  and I'm not sure I'm ready for that, with her or my dad.

I spent some time with my mom in her hospital room the past four days (a hospital room she is very eager to leave as soon as they give the ok.)  But each time I left the room, or went home to sleep, I was haunted by the fact that n 1984, my maternal grandmother took a nasty fall and broke her hip,  While she was recovering just fine, and only in her mid-50's, she suffered a sudden blood clot because of the hip and died in the hospital one summer morning.  My mother had gone to visit her about 20 minutes before visiting hours ended the night before she died, but was rushed out, only to find out the next morning she was gone.  It was a weird freak situation that was forged and made especially tragic, by a number of random factors--that last rushed visit, her reasonably good health up til then, the blood clot, the nurse who left her unsupervised in the bathroom and didn't check on her til it was too late.  It haunted me every time I turned to go in that hospital and now everytime in the future from here on in.  Is this the last time I see her (or my father) alive? Of course, any of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and any day could be our last.  But I'm not sure I'm ready for the increasing likelyhood of that sort of finality. Not just yet.

Friday, February 17, 2017

friday frivolity | pick your poison

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I am typically not really a makeup person.  Maybe it was a slight failure to launch when I outgrew the novelty of playing with grownup makeup and was supposed to move into my teen years. I always had a marked fascination with my mother's rather large-ish nail polish collection--which eventually became my own collection hoarded permanently in my bedroom from age 10 on.  Mind you I rarely actually used them, but I liked having them lined up prettily on my dresser, liked to line them up by rainbow color formation . Similarly, I had a bunch of mostly unused cosmetics stuffed in drawers and kaboodle organizers.  Would buy cheap Wet & Wild glosses and lipliners every once in a while and vow to use them, but rarely did.  I kept them,  though,  until they fell apart or dried up, as if they were some sort of magic potion.  There if I needed them, but usually tossed in the trash eventually   My mom has always been a full-on makeup person, so maybe my aversion to actually using the thinsg I hoarded was slightly a rebellion against that--the time daily I watched her applying foundation, mascara, eyeshadow and lipstick (and she was actually far less maitenance than other women I have ecountered who go full eye makeup and lipliners and such)  I liked the  colorful bottles and the shininess of the colors, the slick packaging of cosmetics in general, but they seemed like something I could rarely be bothered to mess with in that brief 10 minutes after the snooze button-shower-throw your clothes--barely brush your hair beauty regimen.   (which is pretty much my routine still.)

I liked playing with them and marveling over them, but whenever I actually applied them, I didn't like how they altered my face--it felt so stagey, so over the top, a diminishment  rather than an improvement. While I decided early on that eye makeups  weren't for me at all, I liked lipsticks, but hated how they rubbed off, or dwindled to nothing and would have to be replied. (which I really didn't have time or patience for.) Lately, I've been a tinted lip balm kind of girl--Burt's Bees being a favorite, though I have very recently come to appreciate some super-long staying lip stains.

Nail polish is my one beauty indulgence, however, and the one self-care things I probably do on the regular every Sunday--always the toes, sometimes the fingers.  Granted my nails take a lot of abuse (pulling out crooked staples, ink, general damage) so they usually are looking pretty rough by Weds and need to be redone, but I do rather deeply enjoy the girly ritual of choosing a color, removing old polish, filing and trimming and repainting.  I've never been one for manicures since I find other people touching me to be kind of annoying and I rarely want to sit still that long (and paying someone for something I can so obviously do myself), But I do like having rather spotless nails for a couple of days (unless I've somehow already gotten paint all over them Sunday night, which happens now and again.)  I usually will go one polish color each changeout, but sometimes I'll do more daring or bold colors on the toes (sometimes, bright colors annoy me on my fingers since I'm looking at them so much. )  My favorites, of course are red (Opi's I'm Not Really a Waitress is a fave), since they seem to go well with my skin tone, but I love a dusty pink, sometimes just a jet black in the winter months.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

frivolity friday | love / hate

As time goes on, I've realized that sometimes the very things I find myself obsessing over and loving may have, in fact, been one of the things I once hated.  About 5 years ago, I found  myself in the midst, at least among plus size retailers of an animal print renaissance.  I hated it so much and had a hard time hunting down dresses that did not look like I'd just returned from hunting big game. , And while I am not generally very fond of most animal inspired patterns (snakeskin and zebra leave me cold.) for the past couple of years, I've been just a little obsessed with leopard print things--handbags, ballet flats, throw pillows.  I basically stalked a faux fur leopard coat on for two years until it hit a price I could afford. I splurged on a Ralph Lauren dress a couple years back  (above) that is one of my go-tos.  I have at least one other dress and two other skirts, and have recently scored a lighter weight trench on ebay. Granted, leopard is best used sparingly, but I feel very 50's pinup vixen when I wear it (or psychotic crying spurned girl).

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

AWP-ing without AWP

With all the AWP-ing happening on facebook, I can't help but feel a little bit like sad that I'm totally missing out, and at the same time, sort of relieved that I'm missing out (the whole experience usually falling in the immensely rewarding but horribly stressful category. ) On one hand, I find it so amazing  that we are all (and of course never really) in the same place and that the streets outside are swarming with writers.  That I get a chance to meet all of our dgp authors, and get books in so many hands, and hang out with other people that I never get to see due to distance.  That I get to feel, for a few days, at least, that writing is as much a convention-deserving orientation as that of a dentist or an optometrist and not something that just happens in my head sometimes and on paper.

At the same time, dang, that shit is expensive.  Travel , hotel and registration, even if you make it onto a panel is costly.   Book fair tabling--egads, even if you split.  I've done it, but it's always like this huge chunk of money out of pocket (and my pockets aren't that deep)  And I rarely am able to make it back, even the years that books are selling like gangbusters.  My student loans funded my 2007 jaunt to Atlanta. and  in 2014-Seattle , it helped to be staying with friends. The Chicago conventions I attended were easier since there was no travel or accomodations involved (I split a table with Switchback books in 2009 and  in 2012--I opted just to host an open studio down the street instead of a book fair table, and luckily was able to register as a panelist otherwise.)  A couple years back, I had all intentions of going--travel and hotel booked, a table slot paid for, and a financial setback at the last minute prohibited it.

And even money considerations aside, there is also the whole getting time off work issue (more difficult now because we're understaffed at the library), the getting places without a car and  extreme anxiety around flying.   The stress involved in making 80 lbs of books and carting them cross country alone on Amtrak (which I did for Seattle and will likely never attempt again.)  The making the 80 pounds of books in a short period of time also stress-inducing--making sure we have enough of each thing, but not too many.  Deciding where to draw the line on what to bring and what won't possibly fit on a table when we publish so much.

And there is also my mixed feelings on the mfa-cation of writing..AWP being the mothership of the academic-creative industrial complex and what that means for people outside it.  The people who feel like they do not fit in / cannot afford / do not feel welcome at at AWP.  AWP's reluctance to furnish childcare or offer a diverse enough array of panels. Also the pure bloat of it--the all consuming monster of it over the past 10 years.

Part of me wants to be there because all my friends are.  Wants to work it some way that I could avoid the actual conference hall but still hang out with other poets and do off-site readings and maybe even sell some books somewhere outside the book fair.  Maybe host a big dgp reading and party off-site while all the writers are in town.  But then there are so many readings and parties and it's impossible to actually get to all the things you want to.

I attended my first conference in 2004, in Chicago, pretty much only becuaue I was still an MFA student and it was free.  I remember how small it was relatively, tiny enough to fit in the Palmer House alone,  but how overwhelming it was at the same time.  I sort of drifted from panel to bookfair and back to panels.  I know pretty much no one in those days outside of a handful of fellow CCC MFA-ers.  The poets I did know outside of school, locally and from online were mostly non-academicly oriented and just not there. Or maybe they were there, but I didn't know where to find them or connect in that pre-facebook world.  I was still pretty much totally under anyone's radar, as a poet, as a publisher.  DGP was only a glimmer in my eye, and I wouldn't issue our first title til that fall.  (though admittedly I was leaving thick piles of wicked alice pliers on all the free tables as I went.)  I'd been publishing for a couple years regularly in online journals, but the book fair was mostly print pubs,so the editors weren't familiar faces. I hadn't published any books or chapbooks and no one really knew my work. I also was only beginning to read widely of my peers, so I didn't really know who anyone was--the authors reading, signing books.  I was completely invisible and it was at the same time both wonderful and terrifying.  I didn't feel in any way a part of that world and yet I wanted it.

It was actually probably the first and only time I got to go to a lot of panels that weren't my own (by 2007 I was bound to the book fair table almost the whole time.)  My choices were scattered--Publishing chapbooks, Hypertext Poetry, Blogging.  I went to one off-site reading up the street at Rain Dog Books that  actually sparked my obsession with Diagram / New Michigan Press (where I only remember that Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis read and it was amazing.  I proceeded to stalk NMP until they published my chap three years later and Sophia until she submitted work for dgp. (and we've published her Mind you, I was still too meek to introduce myself to anyone, so I watched and observed. I wondered downtown with my little black and orange totebag and felt like I was the most seriously writerly  creature in the world.

By the time 2007 rolled around..I was a little wiser in my ways and not so invisible.  (I ran into my as-yet-unmet-in person Ghost Road Editors in the lobby six months after the book came out and felt like such a celebrity.  I knew more blogging poets, more poets in general, forthcoming dgp-ers, whose list was growing every year. More journal editors who were publishing my work or people who had encountered either my poems or my blog or the press..   I definitely felt more at home, more in my element--as a poet, as a publisher.  What a difference three years could make.   Mind you, I still feel really introverted and awkward, but alcohol helped .(I'm pretty sure there were only a few sober hours at the book fair in Seattle 2014  my last go round. The rest of the time I was raiding the amply stocked  bar at chez Menacing Hedge and double fisting Jack & Cokes  through my Friday night reading. )

And that's the stuff I miss most about AWP--not so much the book fair and the panels, but more the social and community aspect. And maybe I do need to find a way to get the good stuff without the expensive and too-academic-ness of it all. One could (and some have) go to AWP without actually, ya know, going to AWP--be it taking advantage of free day at the book fair and going to all the offsite stuff.   I just might have to do that next year.