Thursday, April 18, 2019

napowrimo #16

artist statement

Think of it like making a cake.  A little sugar.  A little salt.  Something fatted and glistening, floating in the bowl.  The bones grew to fit the holds and breaks, but no one  accounted for the mouth, burned out like a church. In the end, I was too heavy to hold it all together. Stray dogs wandered my spine and sparked when they touched the knobs. I couldn't stop the delicious quiver.  Kept rubbing myself against the stove.  My best sheets bleaching in the sun. I was too plump with spite to see the girls, fully formed, falling from the spoon and into the batter, where they drowned, choking on all that sweetness.

transparency and the writer's life



I once read an interview with a random poet where they talked about their creative process, hammering in how deplorable they found it that other poets spend so much time in front of screens, They. of course, did not, preferring instead to be entirely internet-less at home (though I suspect they still had a phone and weren't completely disconnected form the world.) They also found it deplorable to force writing, to commit to page counts, to poems, even when the muse wasn't flitting about.  Instead, said poet wandered about the countryside, waiting for the burst of occasional inspiration and then sat down at a typewriter and banged it out. Meticulously revised it over months, over years. (of course, this poet was a tenured professor, so therefore had the summers free to sit about waiting great-pumpkin-like for the muse.)  There was also no discussion of the indecorous work on submitting and seeking publication, which surely sullied the that very same muse. In the interview, it seemed like a nice life, full of smart people and smart conversations.  And they had books, several, and prizes and publications and all the things that writers get absolutely wet for--fellowships, grants, residencies.   But no indecorous discussion of how they actually got them.

Every once in a while, I'll encounter these sorts of poets for whom their creative lives are hidden behind a thick veil And sometimes there is this unspoken pressure to be doing things while, in fact, seeming not to do them.  Not to want them. Not to even try, lest one be considered too thirsty. You wanna play it cool, like you're not always seeking and querying.  But you probably are. Occasionally, I'll encounter a poet publishing like their first book and be surprised to learn that they had sent it out to contests 50-100 times before it was picked up, but that they were doing it completely on the down-lo. I'm always suspicious of poets who seem to get things easily, but then I've acknowledged that its not always as easy as it might seem from the outside.  Me, I sent it out about 10 times over 2 years and then bitched about it endlessly on the interwebs.  It was either going to get picked up or I would annoy everyone to death.  Eventually I was lucky.

And maybe I'm a poor example, having been blogging for nearly two decades, having always put all of it out there in the open. Everything from my earliest publications, to my serious book anxiety before the first one was picked up, to my MFA study rants. And that was merely blogging--the veil slipped even further when social media showed up.  Now, you not only know what I'm working on what I'm striving for, but also, sometimes, what I ate for breakfast.  A year or so ago, a poet was discussing the hazards of considering the work when we know all too much about the author via social media.  New Criticism, no doubt,  is probably dead, and in it's place, is it valid, in a review , to reference the personality of the author?  How can we not?  Is there such a thing as entirely private writers? (truthfully, if I haven't put it out there on the internet, I've put it in my work.) And really, I have no answer to this question of whether we should or shouldn't.

Because of things like facebook, which allow amazing opportunity for community and connection, I always a little weirded out by the poets who eschew them entirely.  Surely, maybe they are more productive (though waiting for that fickle muse surely can't be that effective in terms of time use and productivity.) But then again, so much of what I find there and the community attached spurs me on. (and a life without cat memes is a sad life indeed.)  I'm not sure I ever believed that writing needed to happen in absolute isolation. And what are we if not products of our culture?


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

writing where you live


It occurred to me a couple days ago that I have now lived in Chicago almost as long as I did not..that my life, by next year, will be roughly split down the middle. I am not sure how long one has to be transplanted in a given spot before one can rightly claim it as home, but I think a couple decades surely does it.  I've seen many poets come and go for all sorts of reasons. In and out of the city, chasing degrees and teaching positions.  Met many an awesome writer who is only here in a transitory state. But I am (despite my occasional desires to flee Chicago for NOLA) pretty much staying put, at least for the foreseeable future.

As an MFA student, I once took a class devoted to writing "Chicago Poems" and it involved both reading the work of others and writing our own.  What's crazy is I do not remember much at all what we read that semester. Cannot remember if they were more place based projects or devoted specifically to THIS place.  But I do remember what I wrote--the archer avenue poems--steeped in urban legend and Chicago history--and moreso how much I enjoyed that particular project. Granted it was only the fall of 2005, and I'd been in the city less than a decade at that point.  But I was, as I mentioned a couple posts ago, a geek for Chicago history and PBS specials about neighborhoods and train lines.  Resurrection Mary herself, I'd been onto since junior high when I was checking out all those ghost story books from the public library.  It was natural that I would immediate gravitate to that subject matter when prompted to do a specifically Chicago project.

By then, the city was already filtering into my work in other ways.  The third section of the fever almanac, which had just been picked up that fall, had decidedly more urban poems than the preceding two sections (and in fact, closes on a poem "predictions" inspired a bit by the 1992 flooding of loop basements and train tunnels  I did not live in the city quite then, but we'd come in for a french class field trip that week and saw all the disarray.)  I'd fallen in love with Cornell by then, right there in the old modern wing of the Art Institute and was writing poems about the boxes, which seem Chicago-ish by association. My second book would include the Resurrection Mary poems, and major characters in minor films would be the next book set mostly in an urban landscape--"coyotes of lake shore drive" being a good example. Then of course, there would be "shipwrecks of lake michigan"--the urban mermaid poems.

Much of my work has hovered  in the semi-ruralness of my childhood. Though maybe semi-suburban describes it equally well--having came of age in the outer reaches of a mid-size city, which is a little different than small town-ness. I.e, my high school was huge, but there were no streetlights and the neighbors had horses. Deer ran through the yard on the regular, and it was a good 10 minute drive to the nearest outpost of civilization. There were other houses, but the street was bordered only  by cornfields, river, woods, and a stretch of interstate separate by concrete wall.  So, subsequently,  you have things like girl show, almost entirely rural (Nebraska).  Or the Wisconsin woods of beautiful sinister.  Or taurus, which I imagined to be set in central Illinois.

But some of the poems based more in my own actual  life are set in a more urban environment. Filled with trains and buses and apartment buildings ( no shit, I once wrote an homage to my apartment called "letter to my art deco lover.")   Or, they  are Chicago-based research oriented projects like the HH Holmes series, which allow me to learn more about this city where I have put down such deep roots.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

100 rejections update



So far I am running 2:4, which again, even with rejections outpacing acceptances, I'm still submitting more than I do most years.   It occurs to me that 100 might be a bit unfeasible, especially since I don't do simultaneous subs (for logistical reasons--it's hard enough to keep track without all that withdrawing when things are accepted.)  I wondered if perhaps I might set my sights a little lower, like 50. Or 20. But then again, much like with NAPOWRIMO, the rewards are in the trying, not necessarily in accomplishing the actual goal. So I suppose the aspirational numbers are irrelevant.

I have gotten a couple acceptances from places who have previously rejected me. (Radar and Elsewhere).  And a rejection from somewhere I am about to give up the ghost on (Sixth Finch).   Also, today a rejection from a fancy academic print mag I suspected would reject me (Gulf Coast), though maybe not for those poems, which are some of the best I've been writing (the swallow series.)  I promptly fired them off to an favorite who has published me previously (Hobart)  and a new discovery (Poached Hare).  I currently have about a dozen others out there floating since February. It's too soon for most of the April daily poems, but we'll see what I get in the next month.

Since I've hit up even the hardest to crack of my favorite lit mags, as well as some places that published me previously,  I am mostly looking now for cool new journals who might be a fit with my work. Moreso web than print, but I'd love to discover some print journals I haven't come across that have really nice design and fit my aesthetic (or, I guess, my aesthetic fits them.)

I was thinking about the days of postal rejection slips, how eagerly I would check my mailbox (which now I check once a week tops and it's all catalogs and things related to my TIAA-CREF)  How every envelope was a little like Schrodinger's cat--either a success or letdown, but so full of potential in that moment. I guess I've traded it now for e-mail and stalking my submittable account, which is somehow less dramatic, though much easier than all those SASE's.  My first acceptance ever was a form letter with a scribbled note with which poems that I still have in a scrapbook somewhere from 20 years ago. If you went back and told that 24 year old all the amazing things that would happen to her in this business--the publications, the readings, the books, the shear number of poems-- she would scarce believe you.

Monday, April 15, 2019

april snowstorms, may flowers



At tomorrow night's HOW-TO-TUESDAY, we'll be trying our hand at paper flowers (because most of the real ones probably froze to death covered in snow  yesterday.)

The Library, 624 S Michigan, 1st Floor, 7pm 

I've been itching to try some new things for diorama purposes, and this is the perfect opportunity to experiment...

everyone must play






When I finished watching Braid, even after the first and second time, there was something disorientating that reminded me of something like Mulholland Drive. Or at least the feeling I had after watching it--because they are obviously very different movies.  Perhaps its the same sort trip where fantasy and fiction blur, where no narrative thread or sense-making is to be trusted. Where you think you've caught the thread, but like a balloon it slips from your grasp.  And indeed, maybe that is the point, since so much of this movie is about make believe at its core.  And really, moreso than sense-making is cast out the window in favor of the visual ride the film offers--a blend between hyper femininity and violence, between sweet vintage inspired pastels and hyper-lurid acid trips.  The lulls in the movie are just as troubling as the frenzied parts, if not moreso. And granted, outside of the twisted violence of this very particular make-believe, it still had this childlike feeling of altered reality I appreciated to no end.   When I've talked before about the pretty and the terrifying making the very best juxtaposition, this is very much the perfect example of that.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

notes & things | 4/14/2018



Today, April snow.  Fuck, an April blizzard and after yesterday was actually quite mild.  It is in no way jacket season yet, and the one day I attempted it, an evening cold front brought regret.  Today, relief, that the Artists & Scholars Colloquium went off well, but I wish more had attended the entirety of the afternoon, so that will require some tweaking in timelines and what happens during what part of the day. The two panel discussions were amazing--one the general artists panel for the exhibit, and one my own Spooky Little Girls topic, which wound up being really interesting--and crossed many genres and representations, not only of girls as monstrous or wicked, but also as seductresses, how puberty and sexual awakening sometimes makes them monstrous in so many cultural veins. 

Today, I am drinking a lot of tea and working on a manuscript critique.  Am waiting for some groceries and making my way through the screen adaptation of 11.22.63 (and trying to ignore that the lead role is played by James Franco, who, despite my usual hate, is actually sometimes decent in dramatic roles.   Or at least unnoticeable.)  Since the landlord does not know what to do with winter in April, it's ungodly chilly, so I spent most of the day under my covers and now have moved to my desk with the space heater about a foot away.

This week brings a paper flower workshop on Tuesday which should be easy enough. And the film marathon at the end of the week, which will be fun. I am struggling with bandwidth, work and the colloquium having pulled me in many directions, and have fallen behind on NAPOWRIMO, which I might catch up on if all goes well today, but am okay if not (I do take time off sometimes, but pretty much write daily on the regular every month. )  Usually, I don't write on weekends anyhow, but instead like to spend more time editing.  I did set aside the Holmes pieces late in the week and switch to something else-- a little series of what I'm thinking of as "artist statements." So we'll see how that goes.

I finishing up a few huge batches of chaps, including the first copies of the Mansion anthology, which will be sent on its way this week.  Plus am getting into orders from early February finally.  Spring is moving so fast and soon it will be summer and we'll be open for submissions, but I want to be fairly caught up with orders & releases before I start reading manuscripts for next year.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

strange fevers update | reading & discussion





This Saturday, April 13th,  there is a whole bunch of awesomeness happening as part of our Strange Fevers Artists & Scholars Colloquium, including a panel discussion Spooky Little Girls @ 2pm, and the Oddities Reading @ 3. I'll be talking a bit about my necessary violence series, as well as reading from that and other strange writing projects--victorian seances, serial killers, urban legends, and more...At 1pm, we'll be talking some of the artists included in the 1st Floor exhibit--so be there.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019