Saturday, November 17, 2018

witches and spells and the writerly imagination

At the conclusion of our Beautiful Monstrosities film roundtable last month, the panelists gave voice to something I had been thinking about for a while, of how witches, always a staple in the popular imagination (particularly around Halloween) are experiencing a sudden pop culture popularity, or maybe its always there and only once in a while I'm like--wow, there sure are alot of witches in entertainment happening now.  I was thinking about American Horror Story, and though the chief witch storyline happened 5 odd years ago, the writers brought it back, and not only brought back some of the best AHS characters, but had them, ya know, defeat the apocalypse (and re-affirm the fact that I believe AHS to be one of the most feminist shows on television--not only from its female dominated and led cast, but also its plotlines.  Think of last year's Cult finale, if you have any doubts. )

So I finished up the season last night--and while there were threads I wish they'd fleshed out more and turns I wish they'd taken in the scope of the season--I was very satisfied by the ending, as I usually am.  But it got me thinking about the witch in the popular imagination--post 2016 election and even leading up to it.  The amount of witch-focused culture--reboots like Charmed and Sabrina, the many writers I know who are writing and talking about spells and magic a lot now, seems to be swelling.  I was also thinking about how, right after 9/11 I had a dream, actually a good one, which was rare in those months, about the witches from Buffy, Tara and Willow, and a group of women were planning to save the world from armageddon through spellcasting. Also the talk of the witches intent on putting a hex on Trump after the election.

In the mid 90's, things were similar--the popularity fo the first rounds of the above shows, movies like The Craft and Practical Magic.  I was trying to make a correlation in my head between a feeling amongst women of a lack of power and then, but actually the 90's, under the Clinton era, should have been less dire for women (but then I think about how on the surface maybe, but the media'streatment of Monica Lewinsky and women in general was still probs not so great.)  By that extention, the Bush era would have had more witches, the Obama era less.

My sister was moderately into wicca in the 90's, being a few years younger than me, she was in high school in the 90's, peak witch time,  and I remember reading some of the books she bought at B&N.  I am pretty much an agnostic, but with a few pagan leanings perhaps, so while I found the idea of weilding power via magic and ritual interesting, I wasn't down with the whole goddess worship part that seemed to be kind of important. I am also fascinated by the phenomena of the Salen witch trials and the group dynamics that caused it to go so horribly wrong. Have, in fact, written several poems over the years about Salem witches. And isn't all religion in some way about yeilding control (or asking protection from) the horrible or beautiful randomness of the unverse--prayer or luck -that keeps us safe and free of danger?  It's a nice idea, but I'm not sure I can believe it wholeheartedly.   Like the idea of an afterlife, it's a nice thought.

And so much of this power, unlike most things, is so very women focused.  When I watched The Witch initially, I thought, like many horror movies that capture the popular imagination, it was overhyped.  I thought it was a decent film, but I thought the show Salem, (seriously you need to watch that show) dealt with same themes in a more wrought and weird way. On facebook a couple weeks ago, a fellow poet mentioned she'd been eating too much ice cream and "living too deliciously" and I giggled all day over Black Phillips temptation in that movie--the idea of sacrifice and indulgence and what is expected of women--that we not each too much, draw too much attention, talk too much, have too many feelings lest we be crazy, irrational, or threatening in some way.  And was this not the problem with witches throughout history--not that they were in league with the devil, but that they transgressed in some way that the men did not like, that other women feared or hated them for?  And at the end, why would you want to suffer in a very landscape and community that was hostile and not claim some sort of power, even if it was the devil offering it.

But with being villainized, maybe comes power?  With being outside of something comes the power to change it?  (Though Salem would seem to argue that the most successful maneuvering happened as long as the witches flew under the radar and were still considered part of the community.)   It also comes to mind becuase of my plump series of Hansel & Gretel poems, which casts the witch a little bit anew, with Gretel becoming the witch in the end, even if it means she eats her brother.  That fine line between acceptance and ostracization that would dictate whether you were able to work inside a system or be cast outside of it.  Stealth witches like Sabrina or Samantha Stevens in Bewitched.

It also brings to mind spells--mostly since they are a matter of ritual and words-and now much of writing, whatever it is, creative or uncreative, fantastical or mundane is a sort of magic.  A way of exerting influence on the world, be it creating new characters and stories (a friend at work and I keep laughing over the tulpa--the thing created from nothing just becasue it exists in the imagination in regard to the haunted library hijinks for the murder mystery.)  Or the non-exciting writing does that leads to good things--raises and position elevations, grants, awards. All a sort of magic that is influenced by words, and sort of closest to the only thing I do that could be considered magic.

Friday, November 16, 2018

serial offenses...

I've been in the process of finishing up a couple of serialized projects---a format I really like, particularly since I tend to write in series rather than individual poems.  It always feels a little odd to submit smaller parts of such a closely knit whole to journals, since I always wonder if they make any sense whatsoever when standing alone.  Ditto when reading from them publicly. I feel a need to over-explain, in reading and in submitting, so I always feel like the best way to experience my work is in zine or chapbook format, and serialization works in a similar way, unveiling bit by bit.  In the case of exquisite damage, the entire series was finished before hand and then released in increments gradually over the course of a few months.  I currently have close to 20 subscribers, and now that that series is complete will be starting something new in December.

 In late summer,  I was invited to begin a series on Chanillo, and though taurus was actually only about a quarter completed, I decided to give it a go (particularly easy since the project is not really linear or dependent on ordering, so work as fragments that can be shuffled in any order.)  I would go back and edit pieces in threes and release them .  So you kind of got to see them in real time as they were written. I have less subscribers here, but it's a paid thing, so I suppose that's a factor.

I'm curious about the differences of serialization when it comes to fiction vs. poetry...obviously my groupings of short pieces aren't as lengthy a read as a short story, or a chapter of a novel.  And so how this inform the reader's experience as such?  Since I'm a sprinter and not a long-distance runner, I suppose I'll never get to compare the experience unless I decide to start writing longer forms. But even still it seems like a good way to read poetry--though outside of other Chanillo poets, who seem to be more releasing individual poems, poem by poem, rather than contained series,  I haven't been able to find other poets doing similar things in that medium, but I am going to keep looking.

I've also thought of going super old school and doing a similar mail art project--something both textual and visual, tactile, and arriving in your mailbox each month. I considered it for my unusual creatures project, and while the letters would be perfect, there are diaries and such that lend themselves less so toward that so I'm thinking the box would still be the best option. I like sending little bundles of subscription offerings out though, so I might include something like this with that endeavor next year (there's a peak above at some of things I've been sending this year).

I also like how instagram kind of lends itself this way as well..I've been releasing bits of both the zodiac project and strangerie via that format, which works particularly well if visual elements are at play..

curvy girl shopping exploits | loft

I've spent years passing the Michigan Avenue windows of the Loft store and occasionally spotting cute, mostly floral, dresses that I figured were not only way beyond my price range, but also not remotely in my size.  Somehow a few weeks ago I stumbled on proof that Loft does, in fact have a fairy decent slew of plus size clothes that are modeled on their straight sizes.  They actually, when I perused the site, were not as fearfully expensive as I predicted and since I've joined their mailing list, I see they have flash sales pretty frequently, sometimes as much as half off.  I sprung a few weeks ago and procured this cute dress for less than $40 bucks, which is around the high end of my budget for individual pieces, but it's really nice in fabric and fit, so it's a win (also a four season item--light enough to be a summer dress, but pair it with tights, and it works for winter).

I've loaded up my Pinterest To-Buy board with some other things that I might be tempted to get if the right sale comes along.  Some of their stuff borders on slightly too preppy, but these are some winners (I particularly like the tweedy one and the gray plaid jumper....)

I also have mad respect for their instagram, which shows a diversity of plus and straight sized women in the clothes..

to buy,go to my Pinterest board...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

writing & art bits | november

* The latest issue of Tupelo Quarterly was just released and features some of the text & image pieces from plump...

*Earlier this month, a fragment  from ordinary planet appeared in Rust & Moth.  (this is my weird little steampunk, victorian spiritual-ish set of poems --also evidence that apparently I can still turn out lined verse when I want to..)

*I recently made one of the cards "The Sun"  for Jane Flett's awesome collab project, The Fool's Journey, which you can get a glimpse of  (and donate to the indiegogo to help it take shape) on instagram...

*In the realm of mystical divination type thingies, which seems to be the theme this month, I've also finished up the prints that accompany the poets zodiac (the poems are still in the works, and the entire project still taking shape, but keep an eye out for more here.

*I've been thinking about issuing the strangerie series as some sort of divination cards as well...a set of 13 currently exists with matching text pieces I am just finishing up.  (I also made a couple small prints avalable of my favorites in the shop (with more to options to come)

*I also am working on this month's zine series offering--a tiny accordian book of the animals collages, which will be coming can still catch a subscription and get everything that's been issued this year, including /slash/, how to write a love poem in a time of war, honey machine, the garden zine, poets zodiac scrolls, the science of impossible objects, crypto zines and assorted 5 x 7 prints.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

oh, the places you'll never go, the things you'll never read

I long ago admitted to myself that I'm not a big traveler.  Short weekend trips, the occasional few days in New Orleans (my second favorite city), a week in Rockford, these are really about as much as I'm willing to do.  I have vague ideas that a cross-country route 66 road trip might be a blast one day, but I imagine it is far more fun in my head than it would be in practice.  I spend so much time daily away from home, that the rest of the time I want to be, well, you know, home. Travel also makes me anxious--not only the details involved in organizing a trip, but also money concerns, general anxieties about new, unfamiliar places. (one of the reasons I make exceptions for NOLA was that it is now, after a couple visits, very familiar).  I also don't like to leave my cats for too long, even with a caretaker.  I am the queen of the staycation, though even these are in short supply when, even if I am not at the library, I really should be at the studio.

My parents, as well, were not really big travelers--there were many weekends camping in Wisconsin during summer, but most of our trips were short, daytrips to Milwaukee or Lake Geneva, to Galena or Dubuque. We went to Florida a few times and drove the whole way.  In recent years, I've gone with them to visit my aunt down in Gulfport, to San Antonio for a wedding. I've drug them to Atlanta with me for a couple of writing-related jaunts.  I traveled alone by train out to Seattle for AWP a few years back and that was about a week.   But longer trips are  few and far between.  I am super anxious about flying as well and haven't done so since college, so most of my traveling is land-bound, which never allowed for much jetsetting.  I am totally okay with not having seen Paris or Greece or Japan in person or never leaving the contiguous 48 states (hell, most times I don't leave my zip code.) 

Books are another thing I realize I will never get a handle on, and though I realized it early, it still makes me anxious.  All the books I'll no doubt ever read--some of course that I have no interest in, but others I want to read and mean to get to.  Or don't even know about but would love    Poetry is bad enough, but other genres as well. I have entire shelves of books at home, probably about 75 percent read, but another quarter purchases I haven't got to. When I cleaned my poetry shelves out a few years ago, I found books still in plastic wrappers picked up at AWP 2007.  I was not surprised.  In addition to purchases, there is also a whole library of things beckoning, and with ILL, unlimited possibilities.  Right now, next to my desk at work, there are three shelves of things checked out that I plan to get to, but haven't yet taken home to read.  Some that have possibly been there a couple years that I just keep renewing.  Poetry collections, memoirs on taxidermy, book arts manuals, a couple novels. I'm pretty sure there are a couple trashy YA dystopian novels that are seriously overdue through ILL that I don't want to send back without reading.

I read fiction mostly on the bus and occasionally on weekends (usually sprawled out on my bed.)  Much of my daily reading is chapbook manuscripts (either in curating the series or proofing upcoming chaps.)  I consider this 'work reading' as opposed to 'leisure reading' but poetry sometimes straddles these lines since I am always reading with a poets eye. I read a lot of online content, poetry and articles. Even still, new books come out every day--new fiction, new poetry--and sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed at all that I may never get to. Some things I am totally okay with never having read.  My adventures with ULYSSES in my early 20's mostly involved me checking out the book, using it as a coaster, and returning it to the tiny public library unread.  I've never read Proust, or Tolstoy (I have a copy of ANNA KARENINA, but have never been moved to crack it open.)  It was one of many books that I started collecting in college--mostly snagged cheap in B&N bargain bin back when bookstores were the only source for titles. I bought a lot of mid-list and remaindered novels, some of which were pretty good. Most of which are still sitting on my living room fiction shelves, but that I probably won't read again.

Years ago, to stem the tide, I placed an embargo on buying novels--any fiction I want to read had to come from (and return back) to the Library.  Poetry purchases are another set of shelves and  were of course allowed, but they had to be something from a favorite author, friends, or something I'd already confirmed by reading it previously thatI really wanted to own.   But still the books pile up--and keep piling up, faster than I can possibly read them. Currently on the trunk that doubles as my coffee table, there are about a half dozen novels that I started and mean to get back to, but have not--the sequel to Miss Peregrines...the final volume of the Pure Trilogy.  That novel about Zelda Fitzgerald.  All of these I was enjoying, but somehow got distractedd from--by life, by something shinier, by Netflix.  Eventually I will get back to them.  Eventually.

notes & things | 11/13/2018

We are halfway through November and it seems colder than it should be.  I've no clue whether that is a sign of a good winter or a bad winter or no sign at all, but my apartment is permanently chilly. I am fending off impending winter blues with fresh flowers, collecting pretty  leaves near the bus stop, and buying too many boots and outerwear--a yearly indulgence, and last week procured a new long super warm black coat ( the two I have are on the shorter side and don't work for longer skirts or dresses) a green military button style wool coat, and a vintage-ish red leather jacket (the trials of hunting  which I will go into in my fashiony post this Friday)  I am fast running out of space in my entry way closet, so I will soon have to find otherwise to stem my seasonal depressions, which also yeilded some lace-up boots I'd been coveting since last winter. My comfort activities also include watching episode after episode of Gilmore Girls.

I realized with a start that Thanksgiving is, in fact, in a mere two weeks, which means already the shops on Michigan are decked for the holidays and that the big festival of lights parade must be this Saturday. I am still adjusting to fall and in no way ready for Christmas, but do intend to try to get my tree up early enough to enjoy it. I like my little holiday routines around here--decorating the tree, watching cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix (and sometimes there is pepperint ice cream involved, or maybe even  cookies (well, cookie dough at least--they rarely make it into the over).  Rockford, however, is still a weird place to me during the holidays, and I'm not sure I can muster as much enthusiasm as I used to have when the center of most things is somehow missing, Last year, we had a decent enough time, but it doesn't have as much sparkle and anticipation as the holidays used to on so many fronts. So much going through the motions, but something feels incredibly hollow.

This coming weekend I'll be home and library-free, so intend to do some more serious work on proofing sex & violence one final time before I send it to Black Lawrence at the end of the month. . I also have a cool artist book idea for the strangerie series I'll be plotting (& which incidently I just put some new prints in the shop.)  Otherwise, there are manuscripts to be read (both the last of the dgp ones and for another press' s contest I am first-reading for). Books to be made and orders to get out. I'm also itsching to start some new moody fall & winter landscapes paintings, so maybe a little of that...

Monday, November 12, 2018

sneak peak | THE ANIMALS zine project

November's offering in the zine series is this little book of THE ANIMALS postcard collages currently in the works...these are some fun pieces I've been working on since summer, and since there are more than fit in this accordian book, there just might be further renditions down the line.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

certain harm (or writing dead girls)

I interlibrary-loaned this book quite a while ago and devoured it in the course of about a weekend, but have had a hard time getting time til now  to actually formulate some thoughts about it, particularly the first 3rd of the book,  a section titled "Toward a Theory of a  Dead Girl Show"  that covers everything from Twin Peaks to true crime. (with a good dose of Veronica Mars & Pretty Little Liars)  There is quite a lot here in addition to that--meditations on California life and girldom filtered through the lenses of pop culture that I loved greatly.

I always used to joke that there were way too many dead girls in my poems, to the point where I wrote an anti-dead girl poem for major characters in minor films called  "no girls were harmed in the making of this poem."  I mean, there are the obvious dead girls in that early work...the vanishing hitchikers and beautiful suicides of in the bird muse`um, the missing mothers and sisters of the fever almanac. girl show might only have one or two, but there is still that sense of women and girls in peril. the shared properties.... only has one dead girl, and it's less important that she is a girl and more just that she is a sibling (a boy would have worked, it was only important they were twins.) By the time I reached that 5th book, I realized I was feeling a little pathological and self-conscious about it.

Admittedly, part of this might have roots in my fascination with horror, girls were dying all over in there.  I mentioned in another older blog entry, my early love of Annabel Lee, and even from then some weird fascination with the beautiful dead girl--the Ophelias and Juliets of the world. Beautiful dead actresses--the Marilyn Monroes, the Natalie Woods. It carried into writers-- probably part of my initial draw to Plath, Sexton, artists like Francesca Woodman. There was something about their beauty and youth that was tragic, somehow that they never grew old and normal and commonplace as the rest of us gave them an extra sparkle somehow. I always laugh about Denise Levertov, comparable in age to Plath & Sexton and a fine poet in her own right, but she'll never have the gloss of dying before her prime.

And no doubt all the dead girls are problematic in many ways. As a symptom of a misogynistic, toxicly masculine and violent society that creates so many of them.  As a construct that places her at the center of a story but rarely allows her to speak for herself. That sometimes makes her merely a vehicle for male characters to work out their own issues.  A black hole into which so much falls--our own expectations and neuroses.   Much of her power, unless you're going all supernatural, lies in what we ascribe her to be.   As much as I love the Virgin Suicides, I  think it is simultaneous evidence and comment upon this kind of male gaze. This is maybe why I liked Sharper Objects so much, these dead girls were feral somehow, bitey and wild, no matter how much you tried to make them sit still.

I had friends who were really into Twin Peaks when it was on my last couple years of high school, but I was more into Beverly Hills, 90210.  I didn't join the Lynch fan parade until I saw Mulholland Drive in the early aughts and decided to delve into Twin Peaks, which I was able to appreciate much greatly in my late 20's than I ever would have been able to as a teen.  As I've been working on the murder mystery games, particularly our 80's prom, they are very much inspired by the pretty young girl full of deadly secrets. 

There is also a strong  tendency for my work to also explore danger and knowledge, violence and sexuality that carries across many book projects.  Despite my promise for no more dead girls in that fifth book, there is at least once glance in salvage, and an entire section devoted to a zombie girl in the upcoming little apocalypse, that  whole section called "songs for dead girls." I like to tell myself the dead girls are less romantic as time goes on--here and in the latest book, where the /slash/ poems do much more head-on work.  Ditto for the explorations of exquisite damage, which is all about middle class gothic, whose central figure seems to be that poor beautiful dead prom queen.  Even amongst the things I am currently working on, there are bits and pieces (though I do have would be killer girls in the Slender Man series, so maybe I've come full circle.) 

One of the manuscripts I'm working on right now is about mothers and daughters, but the other is centered around that midwestern gothic-ness, so of course there are dead women there.  Projects early in the works include a series devoted to the Murder Castle at the Chicago Worlds Fair, another haunted hotel project, and also maybe a series about the Black Dahlia.  So who knows?