Monday, December 10, 2018

flashback fashion | so much plaid

Sometimes, memory is funny and fuzzy.  I often wonder if there would be things I would forget entirely if there were not photographic evidence.  Surely, there are non-captured memories that are vivid, but somehow visual representations of the past are more textured somehow.  This photo, taken Thanksgiving circa 1979, is one such instance.  There are things it evokes about my great-grandmother's house--those stairs, the strange wood paneling of her tidy little house (her house and all its lovely vintage style is worthy of it's own post in the future.)  But that basement was the perennial Thanksgiving haunt until it moved onto an aunt & uncle's house.   There was a strange little closet under those steps where, for most of my childhood, she kept a collection of children's distractions for us, small dishes and cars and randomness she'd haul out for us at our tiny kids table. I also used to shut myself in there like a weird little introvert, and there were strange knot holes in the wood you could peer out into the rooms on either side--the party in one room, the dark laundry room.

But moreso about this picture, which is probably also one of the ones that features all my cousins in one place who would eventually scatter across the country, it's the dress I was wearing that catches my memory most. (I am also delighted by the preponderance of plaid on all of us.) While my mom had a tendency to frock both me and my sister in red velvet at X-mas, this was , I remember, a re-wear of my first day of kindergarten was a weird polyester and I don't think lasted long, but I see it and immediately I am sitting on a weird orange carpet of the classroom, staring at the alphabet above the chalkboard and making the connection between the visual representation and the song my dad had bribed me with Rolos to learn about a year before. I also remember those tights were bought later for my tiny devil Halloween costume for which I had a small plastic pitchfork. (and as with most tights in my life, probably were already running.)  While I can pretty much remember every 1st day of school outfit ever, this is one of my favorites.  It must have been my go-to, b/c it was not only first day and Thanksgiving, but also picture day.  Somewhere in my stuff there is a tiny, smiling version of me in the same dress with a pageboy bob only a couple months shorter.

I think about this time and the things that surprises me most is it pre-dates any unhappiness about my my body, and self-consciousness that would creep in a couple years later.  There are many photos where you can tell by my confidence, those thoughts hadn't even entered my mind.   By 3rd or 4th grade, I still loved clothes, but was also conscious that I was larger (not just chubbier, which I was maybe a few pounds at that point, but not drastically so)  but just larger in things like shoe size and height than my peers.  When they lined us up by height for class photos, I was always in the back with the boys.  I've talked a bit before about my child self and my love of fashion that took YEARS, maybe DECADES, to get back, but it's always weird to see myself in that brazen, un-self-conscious state before things like eating issues and magazine took a chunk out of it.   May we all be as happy with our appearance and bodies as I was when I was 5...

Sunday, December 09, 2018

writing & art bits | decemberish

*  As I mentioned in a previous post, I've embarked on a new project for the Tiny Letter subscriptions, a series called swallow.  I'll be writing these in real time, so we'll see how long it ends up being.  I'm currently alternating my writing efforts between this and  more of the poets zodiac poems, which I am about halfway finished with (they can be seen on Instagram and floating around in the little scrolls I've been tucking here and there. )

*If you're looking for some more newer work, I will also be releasing a couple of zines after the start of the new year--including the hunger palace and ordinary planet ( read some of it here & here), as well as the collab project with my sister based on the slenderman stabbings, necessary violence (some of which appears at Stirring and in the upcoming Mansion anthology.)

* the strangerie is about wrapped up, all of the pieces, with their text elements posted on Instagram.  I'll be making some new prints available in the shop soon. Eventually I am aiming for a book arts project with them, but it's a bit of a ways off.

* preparations for sex & violence continues and we'll have a cover after the new year.  I have rounded up some terribly flattering and amazing blurbage and will be soon delivering those and the final manuscript, which I'm taking one more pass through for typos, to Black Lawrence.  It's strange to think that barely a year ago, I was pulling the book together from a whole bunch of disparate parts during a really bleak month of my life just to distract myself and not go crazy. And so strange they are closer and closer to becoming a book thing all the time.

* as the smaller projects begin to coalesce into longer book projects, I am excited to see what is happening..there are currently four balls in the air as I write this, each of them a little closer to being something every month that passes.  They still need a lot of work, but the bones are definitely there. The first, currently titled, dark country (after a really good line in taurus), may be ready to start sending out by summer if all goes well..

Saturday, December 08, 2018

holiday tunes to ruin your jolly

Even before I had any reason to be melancholy around the holidays, I have always been a fan of the most melancholy of holiday songs.  For years, my mom made fun of the fact that from around ages 5-7, we owned a record (yes, it was that long ago) that featured a song about an unloved little homeless Christmas tree.  Because was too young to do it myself, I would make her keep playing said song while I stood in the middle of the room and bawled my eyes out (if this isn't a pre-curser to using art as a release, I don't know what is.) She would whip this story out often, but actually, my tastes in holiday tunes always swayed a bit a bit sad rather than happy and bright.

1. Hard Candy Christmas  (Dolly Parton/ Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Sndtrk.)

This is hands down my favorite Christmas song and second only to Jolene in my Dolly faves.  While I love the Dolly-only version too, I like the multi-singer rendition from the musical best...

2. River  (Robert Downey Jr / Ally McBeal Christmas Album)

Sure, the Joni Mitchell is a classic, but I spent the entire first few years of Christnas in my current apartment with the Ally McBeal Christmas album listening to this version. This was when RDJ was on his comeback from serious drug problems, but before Iron-Man. (swoon)

3.Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Mariah Carey)

While I also appreciate the original Darlene Love version, X-Mas is pretty much the only time to say you like Mariah Carey and have it be at all acceptable...

4 Blue Christmas (Elvis)

I am not usually a very big Elvis fan in general, having came of childhood in his less than stellar later years, but this always reminds me of grandmother's Christmas celebrations...

5.Baby Please Come Home (Jon Bon Jovi)

I get fun of for liking the Eagles too much, and their version is great, and sometimes in the first few bars, it's actually hard to tell this one and that one apart.  But I like the music more in this one as the song progresses than the original..

6. Last Christmas (Taylor Swift)

Perhaps my most contentious choice of a version, but while I like the song, I pretty much got over Wham in the 6th grade...

7. All I Want for Christmas is You  (Mariah Carey)

This one is always an infectious romp (see no. 3).  But, hey this is one that's actually not a little sad, except maybe in an unrequited love sort of way..

8. Have Your Self a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland)

There are many great versions of this one, but I think Judy nails it best.  When I was a kid, I never picked up on the sad undertones of the song..

9. Same Auld Lang Syne (Dan Fogerty)

Stick a fork in me.  I'm dead.

10.  Carol of the Bells (Trans Siberian Orchestra)

I was strapped for a 10th one to round out the list, and while othe versions of this song leave me cold at best, and are annoying at worst, I've always loved how this one particular sounds like the soundtrack to a Christmas horror movie, so it made the list...

Friday, December 07, 2018

winter wardrobe switcheroo

Along with my holiday decorating traditions, I also have, around December 1st, my winter wardrobe switchout.  Granted my winter wardrobe is not all that different from my fall one, except in that everything is usually wearable with tights or knee high socks and boots.   I switch out about 50 percent of my closet each season, and it always feels like I have a whole new wardrobe every time when I drag out the under bed bins and uncover the stuff I put away last spring.

The winter wear has a bit more flannel, some hefttier fabrics but also shorter hemlines (b/c tights), Also more jewel tones, more wintry darkish florals, and bit more tweed.  Compared to my summer and fall stuff, winter always seems a little boring, but it will do until March when I start looking toward spring. I get most excited about the sweater dresses (which actually have a separate bin in my closet) I've been dipping into since fall began, but will more wholeheartedly trot out now.  The problem is that the library tends to be overly warm these days, so I might have to wear many of them on other outings.

A lot of my favorite things about fall clothes are the same for winter, but definitely with more velvet, lace, and faux fur happening. And layers, lots more layers...

You can view some of my favorite winter looks and aquisitions over on pinterest....

Thursday, December 06, 2018

thievery and influence

 [sort of part deux of this earlier discussion...]

There's been a bit more discussion on the interwebs regarding appropriation and plagiarism and it reminded me of an exercize we once did in one of my MFA classes where we were tasked with writing parody poems of the authors we were studying that term--in this case, Sexton, Oliver, and Olds.  I don't know what may have happened to the former two, I imagine I did them but then never migrated them into any sort of saving (e-mail or jump drive pre-dropbox) they probably perished when various laptops and pc's did in the last decade.  But one survived, my Olds parody-


The wrist holds impossible cruelties.
Dead pets nest in the curve of an ear,
while every heartbreak has a spot just
below the throat. Even at eleven,
car wrecks twisted the cage of my ribs.
Milk skinned and amber tongued,
I dreamt of my mother’s rubied ovaries,
their accurateness: me and my sister,
our mouths pink and flawless as a ballerina
in a box. Surely, we rested like a dragonfly
at the tip of her spine, or a knot in the rope
of her dreams. Even now, a grandmother
summers in my sternum, while another swims
the blood stream, the heart’s gates and locks.
My ankles still turn at the slightest imbalance.

I remember my Sexton poem was good and wished I kept it, the Oliver was uninspiring no doubt, nature epiphany poems definitely not my bag, but the Olds was not a terrible poem.  In retrospect, it seems kind of boring and straightforward when I like my poems trickier, but all of it is there--the emphasis on memory and body--on trauma--on familial history and the lyric "I".  Not really based on any one poem or collection, but all of them.  Any of them.  I'm sure there are re-curring images in Olds' work--ovaries, ballerinas in boxes, dragonflies. (though admittedly the best line about dead pets was all me) . Besides the ovaries, which would probably be too clinical a word to appear naturally in my work on the regualr,  my poems had similar things in them, so likely no one would have spotted this as an Olds' parody among so many other poems it fit in the midst of.  There is a lot of Olds in there, but there is probably also a lot of me.  I don't think it was initially part of the whole collection, and was otherwise unpublished when I realized how well it fit in the first section of the fever almanac in the final drafts. In hindsight, I totally should have included a note or mentioned it in the acks, but somehow I just didn't think to.  (I don't actually usually have a lot of notes & epigraphs as a habit.  I think girl show has a nod to the lovely Simone Muench and her Orange Girl chap I was obsessed with in 2007.  But that's probably the only time I've done it.)

Obviously, all this is a bit different than the gross co-opting experiences that aren't yours and paraphrasing people's poems, but then it also got me thinking about the materiality of the work of others and how it can influence us--consciously or unconsciously..  A friend sent me a poem asking for my opinion recently and when I replied favorably, he said something to the effect that it had come so easily, he worried he was inadvertently recycling something. (as far as we know, he was not.)  I too have sometimes come up with lines so weirdly easy, similes and metaphors so clean that I have to google them to make sure.  (and, as I mentioned in my last post, sometimes I am recalling my own forgotten   Today, I was working one of the zodiac poems, which featured gardenias somehow glowing like moons and I changed it slightly since it seemed too Plath-like.

And, of course, there is honey machine, which purposely takes the material of Plath and reworks it. the strangeness of feeling another poets words in your mouth has weirded me out the couple times I've actually read those aloud. Obviously, the fact that they are Plath centos is in the title, and they are unmistakeably hers, but I do hope they are still something of me in the collaging, in the rhythm of the pieces as prose that's more me than her.  Sort of like the distortion of a picture of girl, but not the girl herself.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

publishing, productivity and failure

At times, this year feels like a horrible tread mill, enjoyable, but always with the tinge of anxiety as I struggle to get caught up on one things and another inevitably falls behind.  I finally get one batch of things done, another thing is another fire that needs to be put out.  I've often said I have never ever been completely caught up--on e-mails, on book orders, on other tricky track writerly things, not since around 2007 when I moved into the studio and put the press & shop into high gear. But this year has been rougher than ever.  Sometimes I feel like I will never catch up, (or maybe more I do eventually catch up  but meanwhile everything else has fallen apart.) 

It started after all the stuff with my mom last holiday season, which pretty much made my November-January a wash.  When I spent the sping catching up on winter things, summer catching up on spring, and now, as we get close to the end of the year I am in a mad dash to the finish line to get all of the books that were ready to go and up for order in late summer/ early fall out the door.  I try to keep releases more on a regular schedule to allow a good pace, but in getting behind, I sometimes am over-ambitious, which only leads to more chaos.  I don't want to dissappoint my authors or our readers and sometimes feel like I inevitably do. I also feel chaotic and disorganized at times and have botched more things than usual (putting the wrong labels on boxes, stapling things upside down--mistakes I never used to make when I was less harried.)  The machine that was humming along these past years is a little faultier and less smooth.

I also still have a slate ofthe final things due out this year that I've momentarily placed on hold for most of October & November while I catch up that will be available soon to begin shipping after the new year, by which time I will have either been swallowed in an avalanche of chapbooks or will have, god willing, caught up.   The myth of "caught up" is a myth I've been chasing for years, but my processing time has steadily increased this year from about 3 weeks to more like 6, especially when it comes to new titles or really old ones I don't already have a stash available for.  I'm determined to trim it down to a 4 by New Years, 6 max on new titles  It's an embarassment of riches, to be selling so many books and getting them into hands, but I really need to move faster at getting them out the door.   I get about two hours daily of studio time, and have been able to keep up just adequately in terms of orders for author copies (which sometimes need to be done before a reading or release) and orders for things already in stock, but I am slower going on the things that demand a bit more time and preparation.

It's maddening sometimes, but I try to keep reminding myself of all the good things--the amazingness of our books and authors, the important work we are doing.  The thrill of reading through galleys during the layout process and experiencing the books I haven't looked at since acceptance and being amazed all over again.  The process of making something real and booklike.   I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.  I did lighten the load a little bit for the coming year--not drastically, but by about a quarter--taking on a few less chaps (I am in the process of sending out responses to submissions this week --a couple weeks late--folks are already querying, which is another thing filling the morass of the inbox that will be remedied soon.)

Here is hoping 2019 will be far more orderly and sane..

Tuesday, December 04, 2018


Every so often, the snake eats the spider.  The spider eats the fly.  Rumor has it, as a fetus, I swallowed my twin bit by bit. Tiny arm, tiny leg, tiny spine.  My mother noticed a tiny spot in her underwear and it was gone. Longed for red meat, bloody on the plate.  Fate a thing with feathers and teeth fed the most beautiful fat. I'm that girl now, always taking up too much space.  With my hips, with my mouth.  My rough machinations.  Every so often, I feel its tiny heart beating to the right of my own. The spider ate the fly then sat squat in the web and cleaned her fangs.  Every so often, she sighs.

I am  embarking on a new series for my Tiny Letter subscription.  it's free, it's fun, and delivered every single week. You can get in on all the action here: