Sunday, May 09, 2021

the motherless wilds

I would never have described myself as lonely. There were years where things like moves and job changes uprooted me. Where I made really bad romantic decisions that did not (could not) work out.  There's a Sara Bareilles song from the Waitress soundtrack with the lyrics I was obsessed with for a bit a few years with a line about being lonely most of the time. I loved the song and sung it aloud often, but that line seemed like a sad, but relatively unfamiliar concept.  Despite (or because) of near-pathological introversion, it's a word I never would have used to describe myself, even at my most friendless, my most single or my most isolated. When I wanted company, I could find it.  When I didn't, I was completely comfortable with my own. While there were hundred words I would have used to describe myself, that was the farthest from my mind..even in new cities, new places. I tend to go places alone--movies, poetry readings, restaurants-- more than I do with friends or coupled up and I like this sort of freedom. 

But, suddenly, my mother's death was like this hole that sucked all the air out of my sails and left me floundering.  Suddenly, loneliness was like this palpable thing that I'd never had before. Someone in the months afterwards described grief like a ball inside a box, sometimes it was pressing whole up against you, but sometimes it was just rattling around inside and this seemed like a good description for how some days were terrible and others, only slightly unpleasant. But loneliness was altogether different.  It wasn't the ball in the box.  Or maybe it was the box itself. Something that had once been full and unnoticable, but now was yawning and gaping and empty. 

I did not live in the same city as my parents, so actually physically saw my mother at most 4-5 times a year for any stretch of time.  We talked twice a week, sometimes longer calls, sometimes shorter ones.  We occasionally took trips together or weekends in Wisconsin.  They'd visit occasionally for the day in the city for basketball games and zoo trips.  I think how terrible it must be to live near your parents and then lose them, to have them in your life and then gone on a daily basis and it seems so much harder.  After she died, my life on the surface went on mostly unchanged in the city and this was part of what made it more bearable, but also more surreal. More unreal.  It took almost a year for the dreams of her to stop--her not realizing she was gone at all until I said it. My own crushing realization over and over again while I slept.   It still happens sometimes even now, though her appearances are more often less remarked upon. She's just there, neither alive nor dead, but somewhere in between. 

I eventually discovered that the saddest moments were not in the house where she lived and lived no more, even with her ashes prominently displayed in an urn on the fireplace and many of the things she loved littered about.  The garden she worked hard to make lovely every year. There I still felt close to her somehow. The house still smells like her, even though my dad is not the type to burn candles and scented things, so  it must be burned into the walls and furniture.  But the worst of it was more in social situations where she would have carried and dominated the conversation. That was the yawning, gaping hole.  The absence I felt most acutely. To the point that I longed to avoid holidays and parties (and truthfully, when covid was happening, it was kind of a relief to see no one but my dad and sister for a whole year.) 

So what to do with this lonely..I don't know. I still have ample family and friends and a sound relationship, but none of it does anything but amplify that emptiness and make it all the more noticeable.  If I were lonely in general, it would be just a part of the texture of my life, or something I could fix, but ultimately this is something unfixable.  Something I'm not even sure I articulate very well or at all.  

Saturday, May 08, 2021

notes & things | 5/8/2021

It's been the sort of chilly week where I found myself wishing I hadn't so hastily packed away my winter coats, but everything, nevertheless, is greening--even the stubborn tree outside my apartment that is the last to get its leaves and the last to lose them. We are coming into the final week of the semester and our Manifest celebration on campus (virtually this year and last) and I have been busy working on an online exhibit for a couple of our student staff artists and pulling some other end-of-year things together. 

Walking around campus is still a surreal business, even a year later.  This term definitely more populated than last, there are big hopes for fall if all goes according to plan.  We may even be opening the stacks fully for the summer. (right now, upper floor access is only via appointment.)  I've been plotting out the summer and planning some long weekends with the stack of vacation days I've wracked up during a time when it wasn't possible to really take vacations. It's looking like 3 on/ 4 off is a possibility, which will give me time for working on things at home--both poetry and housekeeping things like installing new bookshelves and caulking the shower, all of which have been on my list for awhile. I'm also planning at least a couple weekend trips to Rockford.  

I do know that summer is usually just this mirage I look toward for getting a jump start on next year, which seems itself to be a slippery thing.  I'll wake up soon and we are creeping on September. But I intend to at least try to make the most of it while it's here. We're working on programming for next fall's focus devoted to "bad art"--which includes things like kitch and camp and black velvet paintings, but also discussions on canon and who gets to decide what is "good" art (and how gendered and white that typically is.)  Also, the boundaries between "art" and "craft."  

For my own stuff, there will be time to get to the backlog of chap releases. I've been trying to stick to the schedule for 2021, but there are still a few things that were due out last year that are still due out.  My decision to take on less titles was good..bourn more from necessity and being able to keep up on orders and the chaos of late 2019 , but has also worked out for a pandemic year where I have not been fully functional when it comes to creative pursuits. So my behind is not quite as  disastrously behind as it would be in a usual year, so that is a good thing. 

As for poems, I'm treading a bit in the water still as I ponder where the bird artist series is going ultimately and also what is next--something new or a return to other things that remain unfinished. I will also be finalizing dark country and getting it ready for July release. There will be much to be done design wise (it's always trickier it seems with prose blocks that lineated poems when it comes to margins for me, and this mss. is mostly prose.) I'll be writing here a bit more about the process and design. which may be helpful to other writers hopefully if they are interested in issuing their own books DIY-style. 

Keep an eye out this week for the newest monthly zine, my extinction event pieces and photos taken during my time at the museum a couple summers back. I'll be doing a limited print version for the shop and books & objects subscribers, but also an e-version available for free. (I have another post I've been plotting about money and poetry and accessibility--ie.."why buy the poet when you can get the milk for free"  but also know not everyone has funds to spend on poems, especially right now. I also have a few more re-issues in the hopper, things that are now out of print, but will be coming your way as virtual content in the next couple months.  Also another round of video poems for another project provided I can brush up on some simple animation skills. All of this seems possible when summer stretches out like a sun-drenched field in front of me, but is actually highly deceptive in its vast endless.

This week brings a reading Wednesday on zoom, for The Poor Mouth Writer's Series, if you're looking for some poetry action--there's an open mic and I'll be the feature. I think I'll be reading from feed--maybe the imaginary daughter poems and some from swallow


Sunday, May 02, 2021

on writing and not writing

 Toward the end of last week, I was feeling the not all too unfamiliar feeling (doubt? restlessness? ennui?) about my work (more specifically writing more than visual work), It comes and goes, that feeling that feels like spending your whole life shouting into a canyon that comes back with only your own echo, but I was feeling it by Friday and questioning everything.. I don't think it necessarily has to do with po-biz, and more maybe with a certain writerly loneliness in the world. I don't need fancy pubs and awards and attention, but I do like to feel that my words are hitting some sort of mark out there in the universe. (Maybe not the mark I intended, but something at least.)

That canyon is so big, and so filled with other writers also shouting.  And also, there is this huge rushing whir that may be the wind, but may also be terrible very-real world things like raging pandemic attention spans and  a world that barely reads at all. I sometimes go back to a blog entry I wrote in 2010 about feeling completely and utterly creatively happy and fulfilled, which is especially funny considering my non-creative personal life was a shit show and my work life tolerable but undynamic. I also was barely writing, and it occurred to me, this may have been why I felt so happy.  I was anxious about it--the NOT writing, sure.  But while others were shouting, I was hiding in the bushes. Being ignored was okay because, really, I had nothing much to offer.  

In those years post MFA, I was devoting much more time to the etsy shop and visual things, and these felt like something people actually wanted, you know.  Not just things I was throwing out into the silence. These things took up time/energies later better spent on my own projects and the chapbook arm of the operations and eventually I scaled the retail end back in favor of these endeavors. These are a harder sell than paper goods, vintage, and jewelry--all things in high demand in those days when etsy was still small enough to forge a following. The output/reward system was more direct and involved less effort. So it could be that--the satisfaction in making things for which there is a demand in the world outside of poetry, which is so small but also large but sometimes highly capricious.  

I joked to a friend via text as I was unpacking these feelings that maybe writing itself makes me restless and unhappy given the 2010 factor.  Maybe I am a happier Kristy NOT writing. Not screaming into a void.  But that doesn't seem right either, given the not-writing anxiety. So I am stuck, not being completely happy when I am writing, but also not happy when I'm NOT writing. I do not quite no which is worse, but only that both are really uncomfortable. So I soldier on, mostly because not writing pen to paper feels like giving up, and there is so much left to write. There's a quote by some dead male author (Rilke maybe?) about writing and choice that I've always thought was over dramatic. Really, sometimes I would rather do anything other than write. But eventually, the desire comes back around, and it's worse not to do it than to just do the thing. I would not fact I'd probably be a lot more financially stable and angst-prone. But something would be missing. 

notes on re-entry

In my close-to-fully vaxed state, I've been thinking about what it means to be out in the world again--I guess I mean REALLY in it.  Since last July, I have been somewhat but always with a carefully guarded veil of caution. As rates fell last summer, I did dine-in at a suitably-distanced restaurant for my Dad's birthday. One breezy outdoor night of drinks out in the burbs in the fall.  I went into like a half-dozen stores all year--occasional stops in CVS to use the ATM, a quick stop at 7-11,  Binny's to buy booze, the Dollar Tree when I was in Rockford at Christmas (I hated stores pre-covid, so this was not a sacrifice). Mostly, I tried to avoid other even slightly risky things because I was already kind of at risk doing things that were required--commuting and working. 

This is probably no real indication of my actual risk, but moreso my generally high level baseline anxiety.  At work, we are only a department of three with 1-2 student workers, but we have a bit of room to stay out of each other's way. Outside of the bus, no one usually was even within 6 feet of me except for like a second in passing. This felt reasonably safe, though my blood would still run cold when we got contact-tracing e-mails about cases in the library (mostly patrons I had no contact with) but at least once, one of our student staff. I watched the campus and city counters like a hawk.  My building is a shit show of ever-partying Loyola-ans, so this was also troubling in shared spaces like elevators and the lobby. November was particularly wrought, and I avoided a family Thanksgiving in the interested of planning a visit at Christmas when I could quarantine beforehand a bit. I saw my family a bit less, but not drastically so...

Things I've missed?  Thrifting.  Movies. Cocktails in places that are not my apartment. I hate meetings in general, but I hate zoom ones more than real ones, especially when I'm leading them. Conversely, I like zoom poetry readings slightly more for reasons I've mentioned before. I didn't get outside much last the time it seemed ok to be out, they'd actually closed the beaches, so the lakefront areas like parks were uncomfortably full.  I also felt like I had to be ever-vigilant and couldn't relax, so really, what was the point? This summer looks a bit more rife for summertime pursuits.

At the same time, I may be crazy since I like the world a little less populated with people and outings I have to say no to for whatever reason.  The tyranny of extroverts and extrovert pursuits. Without the danger an death toll, a little isolation is good for me, and were circumstances different, highly enjoyable, The task now to retain my solitude as the world opens up as much as I need it and still be free for roaming. 

Saturday, May 01, 2021

the road out...

The past few days have been a blur of real-life things like vaccinating and library things like our Urban Legends trivia (plus I worked from home Thursday in case I got sick from my vax, and didn't really, so Friday was a catch-up). As such I have stalled out a bit on my napowrimo-ing and the bird artist pieces I have hope for, but not only things getting in the way, but also me getting in the way.  I know where I want it to go, but am having a hard time connecting the dots. So I stall.

One of the things I appreciate most about writing is play, how it feels sometimes like I have no idea where I'm going until I get there.  Which work for awhile, but at some point, the trip is over and you have to get yourself home somehow and finish the damn thing. I've written myself down a lovely  road and now need to get back and so I lay in the grass a while and dally.  This happens every time, though usually it doesn't matter unless I'm purposefully trying to finish something in an allotted time  I am all about cutting myself some slack.  It will happen eventually. Last year, due to the pandemic crazy, I actually didn't finish the series I started until well into July, and am determined it turned out the better for it. As such, I will keep sharing them here, April being over be damned. But it might be a minute before the next installment. 

I have some other ideas in the hopper, both written an visual, I am hoping May yields. If I were responsible in tending to my projects, I would return to the things that forever languish uncompleted (&nbsp, the blue swallow project) but just as likely I'll dive into something new that I also may never finish.  Though the odds are about 50/50 at this point.  Writing is also a little like crossing a high perilous bridge and doing fine until you actually look down. I reach a point with every project...sometimes I'm closer to the other side, sometimes it seems very far. 

I'll be working on this months zine, extinction event (aka the Field Museum poems) in the next couple of weeks, so watch for that. The text has been solidified for awhile, but there are photos and other elements that need to all be in place to make it work. I  have terrible at submitting, so I will also be trying to get some work out to some journals and beginning to prepare the final layout of dark country, which appropriately seems like such a summery book in subject matter, even if it's also still very gothic and spooky.  

Thursday, April 29, 2021

napowrimo day no. 25


The women in the garden hide knives in their smiles, stones in their pockets.

                    After lunch, rip each other limb from limb, sugar in the sockets,

                                     but poison in their mouth.  This one, a wayward husband, 

the mute daughter and wandering dog. Another, the barren womb.  

                        The tether that won't hold. Soap in her insides nightly, 

                                    rubbed til she's red.  The bed he placed inside her, where nothing

quickens, nothing licks the loins like the boy in her youth, Fists full of wildflowers. 

                    All the spirits gathering nightly, but nothing in the belly but feathers 

                                          and dirt. What hurt in his stare where the blood blooms

cleanly between her legs. What hope, the way she sings softly, knitting 

            the smallest things for the tiniest children that slip out of her 

                    in the night. The red sheets on every line

cover love | found materials, pt 2


Many dancing girl covers have their impetus in found materials, ephemera, & public domain materials, and they make some of our most striking cover images. Postcards, natural history illustrations, vintage photos and more...  Enjoy! 

i haven't met the new me yet

"I hope she'll be a beautiful fool.

who takes my spot next to you"


Like many Swifties the past few weeks , I've been listening to the re-recorded version of Fearless, and as such, revisiting my own past life in listening to songs that I loved more than a decade ago. Mostly when I first listened and thought, despite initial bias that TS was a country popster like many, that she was an actually an amazing songwriter, especially as later albums like Speak Now, Red, and 1989 attest.  While I've always been a musical omniviore, enjoying many genres of music, it's only in the last two decades that I've embraced a love of country after years of rolling my eyes as my parents listened to iit.  As such, I was a perfect audience for TS's cross-over creations, and while I didn't like everything in every album, there was still much that I did like on Reputation and Lover.  Of course, Folklore and Evermore are so good which actually pushed her back more toward country roots than previous albums. Especially since one of the things that makes country more appealing to ne is narrative and storytelling, which is as much true in poems as it is in songs, so I'm here for it. 

With all this revisiting of old music, it occurred to me how strange it must be, as a songwriter (or a writer or a artist or creator) to dig in intensely on work that's more than a decade old, and as such, come face to face with that older self and how it fits in among newer work.  For a few days I was giggling at the juxaposition of the princess-wishing of "Love Story" with "No Body, No Crime", a song about murdering your besties cheating husband. Or the difference between something like "White Horse" and "Illicit Affairs" in their take on infidelity, the latter more nuancesd and sad, yet also somehow simpler.  The span of age from 19 to early 30's is one of the most treacherous, and the early songs while very enjoyable, definitely less complex emotionally than the latter.   

As someone who was writing crap when I was 19, and, in my early 30's just beginning to figure out how to be a better a writer, I'm envious that TS was doing so well even at that age, which made those 10-12 additional years even better for her. going forward as she moves into the middle years of life.   I sometimes look at my first book, published in 2006 when I was 32, and while I am proud of it and dont hate it too much, it still doesn't seem like me who wrote it.  Or that the writer I am now would have written it at all.  Other times I look at it and thing that it what I write now is planted there as seeds., so 15 years later is reaping those plantings. Sometimes I've wondered if I just rewriting the same poems just from different angles and in different lighting.  

The poet who write the poems in the fever almanac is not the poet who wrote major characters in minor films, though some of the themes are the same when it comes to romantic poems. Ditto with sex & violence. My last couple book projects have been less about relationships, but then again, my relationships have been much more stable, and as such, seem less rife with material.  The &nbsp project is the closest to talking about intimacy and loneliness, and talks about the past, but it's still just notes at this point. But those are using the same subject matter and experiences of earlier books with a new lens--I've been thinking of it as an exorcism of sorts.

But then again, all books feel like exorcisms of some sort of ghosts-major characters... and feed feel most like this (and as such, are the poems I feel weirdest about letting people in my real life read.) The other books are more narrative and therefore distanced from me as a person who exists in the world, whether it's the sideshow women of girl show or the women of salvage (barring the mermaid poems, which were closer to home at points.) The longer you write and the more things you put out in the world, the more people begin to build a framework of your own life independent of the actual art, as many scandalous posthumous biographies will attest. On the other hand, there is something to be said of leaving audiences guessing. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

napowrimo day no. 24


In summer, my lover brings me things. Pigeon feather, moonstone, 

                    silver locket. Once a stolen pie from the baker, fat with cherries 

                                    and way too sweet. I make him a water whistle shaped like a warbler 

out of wood,  then hide it carefully in my skirts.  But nothing good can come of afternoon, 

            sun sticky and damp with breath.  Death so close we could still smell it, 

                                wafting from the tanning room. Creeping up from the kitchen.

I'd undo my dress and underneath, the marks on my body make him cry. The belt,

            the broom, the back of a hand. All written exquisite on the skin. The thin

                  membrane between my hand and thumb, a burn I rub salve  on,

but it never seems to heal.  The warbler presses into my hip as he takes me rough

               on the carpet. Over the chaise lounge. Warps in the humidity and won't sing

                       a single note. Only black water in it's craw, where no good can come of night.


Monday, April 26, 2021

napwrimo day no. 23


In the beginning, there was scarcely room for birds or children or even love.

                The ghosts took up too much room, walking the floors and knocking

                                        into tables.  We'd take turns opening our mouths and the creatures

would fly out single file. The doubt we harbored in the belly, so far down, 

                       but the doubt persisted. As children, my sister and I would whisper between

                                        us in the bed. Draw sticks from each other's closed fists.  This one,

the man with the magnificent house.  This one the penniless artist. 

                       The babies, fat-cheeked in the bassinet. Cupboard full of dresses

                                    and a kitchen full of cakes.  But the body would scarce produce.

Sheeted in the attic, dusty as a field.  The woman with the crystal ball and the son 

                    with a limp held my hand in the dark and forecasted a passel of squalling infants. 

                                    Sill, when they arrived, a surprise, each one. Plucked from the wraiths

                                                    in the cellar.  Each one prettier, but far angrier than the last.