Tuesday, April 24, 2018



When speaking to the dead,
we learn to throw our voice.
To cough and cry on command.

To pull the ribbon from our necks
and bleed as needed. No sooner
have we mastered moving the salt

shaker across the table, we’re expected
to crack the bones in our ankles
loud enough to hit the mark.

Loud enough to echo through
a darkened room full of held breath.
Windows all flung open and candles

sputtering into black.  I have a knack
for producing a toad from my throat
at the drop of a hat.  For speaking

in strange tongues and the accents of strangers. 
The danger is believing in it all too much.  
The ecstasy of lying our way into truth,

eyes rolling in our heads. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

news & notes | 4/23/18

I am a bit late with my weekly roundup from last week, but then again, it was a very busy week that included bookwrecking adventures (and bookmaking) more poeming, scrambling to pull together artsy prizes for a scholarship benefit carnival game, and other bits and pieces.   This week is my birthday week, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I'm working of course, but have already determined my birthday treat will be pizza and lemon cupcakes from Petes around the corner.  This week's main library project is pulling together our 90's murder mystery, which pulls from the decade's finest horror cliche's (complete with a faux urban legend.)  I have to keep asking people "This was possible in the 90's right?  I mean, there was an internet circa 1995, right?" There was email, but not so much
mass cellphone usage (I only remember this from Buffy where they occasionally used payphones in the early seasons.)

I also switched gears again in my NAPOWRIMO pursuits, away from the Grimm project that is almost done and toward the writing pieces I wanted to do to accompany my victorian collages (see above).  The past few days' writing exploits have shaken loose some ideas for more visual pieces and now those visuals have given me fodder for poeming, so that's working out nicely. The whole project is sort of victorian sci-fi, so I'm excited to work on it a bit now that I have the chance. I am still going strong on my daily poems and am feeling good about most of them, I've even cleaned up & submitted some of the earliest ones from the science of impossible objects and landed a journal acceptance (more on that soon.) I also have some poems coming out in other places and an upcoming blog feature this week. So stay tuned...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

scarcity vs. abundance

The other day I was eavesdropping on a conversation between two stage actors behind me on the bus, both of whom had apparently just met on their way to a side-hustle brewery promo they were both working. They mentioned right before they got off the bus how awesome it was that they could meet and not be weird about competition for parts, because they  varied greatly in age and body type and type-casty sort of qualities. It came on the heels of a comment during our Art Empire panel last Thursday that stressed how important community and support from other artists played in forging a career. How one person's successes didn't take away from any other person's because there was room for everyone--the art & illustration world being big and the trick being to connect with your audience however you could.

These conversations always strike me as vastly different from the poetry community.  Or maybe not my opinion of the poetry community now that I know better, but the one I had going in and through my first decade or so of publishing and submitting.  The economy of scarceness vs. abundance. That there are only so may journal slots, so many presses, so many contests or residencies or fellowships that we were all clamoring for and more of us everyday. That the bandwidth for American Poety (tm)  was so tiny that were all bottlenecking into it hoping to rise to the top  One person's successful win of a first book contest was sort of on the backs of all the other contestants who didn't win.   It disillusioned me, especially while getting my MFA to be told that certain presses "mattered" and others did not, that certain journals were worth submitting too (mostly print, mostly academically tied)  That, like Ivy league schools, the acceptance/rejection rate mattered more than whether or not your work actually fit with other poems in the journal  That small upstart publications weren't worth it and you should aim for "top-tier" . Otherwise, you were "wasting" your poems.  It was so gross it put me off a lot of things--submitting at all for awhile unless I'd been invited and sometimes not even then

I've always said I could never date another writer, mostly because one of us would inevitably be luckier in the game than the other, and eventually it would undo us. Or someone's work would take precedence or suffer becuase of the other's  (I think I was traumatized early by the Plath/Hughs dynamic. Sylvia typing up his drafts when she could have been working on more of her own)  Someone would get that prime journal publication, someone's book would be published, and while you would try not be resentful and truly happy for their success, you would be, just a little. Which is fine for friends and aquaintances, that little bit of elation tinged with jealousy, but not between people sharing the same bed.

About 10 years ago, as I was building the etsy shop and the press and spending alot of time in conversations with other artists and crafters, I had a realization that completely changed my approach to how I defined what I was doing in art and writing.   For years, while I did many of the things I felt I was supposed to be doing for my "writing career"--submitting work to publications, presses, and competitions, getting my MFA.  Self publishing was a no-no, of course, especially among the academic set, but I did it anyway.   Not necessarily beauase it was the only way (actually I've been ridicuously lucky that other presses miraculously sometimes want to publish my work and I love them for it.)  But what if, I thought to myself, I appoached my "writing career" like so I saw so many artists in other art fields so.  It boiled down to a few key differences...

1. Permission

Every once in a while, poets seems amazed at the audacity it takes to do something like start a journal or a press or literary venture.  Basically, you make a thing and then you become a thing.  I was just a girl with a booklet stapler and some cardstock and a few authors that were willing to let me publish their books. It grew from there, and yes, it's hard work, especially now that it's so much bigger, but anyone can do it if you start small and manageable. You, yes YOU, as a reader and writer and person with your own sense of literary taste & aesthetics, you have something of value to put into the world, things to bring to the table as an editor or publisher, just do the thing. Another piece of valuable advice from the artist panel was "do it before you think you're ready" mostly because you will never feel ready. Not really.

2.  Means vs. ends.

Books are nice, I love books.  Well books and chapbooks and zines and poems in bottles set off to sea.  And connecting with editors and writers through publications is immensely gratifying, but don't let it, or the lack of it, define your career as an artist.  Find your audience, however you do that--the internet, open mics, the people you meet in coffeeshops.  Fon't be afraid to make your own chapbooks, or audio recordings, or even your own books if you feel their is a market.  Or maybe even if there isn't yet, but may one day be.  I like making little books & objects that bridge the written and the visual and like having complete control over them.  I also like longer books, and if those happen, great, but if they don't I am still building a body of work.  I still submitted, but moreso as a way to get work out there and enter the dialogue with other journals and writers.  The publications aren't the point, but a vehicle I enjoy using, even if the point of my work and creativity is more on my own terms.  Your still an artist or a writer, you can stil cultivate community and audience even if e xyz journal or press doesn't see value in your work.  Get it out there another way.  Do what you have to.

3.  Be bold, be fearless.

Don't be afraid to seem ambitious, to talk about your work openly and what you want from it.  It's good to see the work behind what successes may come your way.  What might help others who follow you or give a glimpse into your world. Being a writer is sometimes lonely. Seeing other people struggle or succeed is super helpful.  Sharing what you know and what you've learned is as well. Going after things for the right reason is as well.  If you feel that your poems only fit in THE NEW YORKER,go for it.  But if, like me, you realize that you're work doesn't really speak to the Lexus driving set, find another magazine that is likely to find your readers.  Also have more faith in your work, not just faith that others (gatekeepers and the like) can bestow on you, but the sort of faith that comes from knowing when you have something to offer.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

news & notes | 4/15/2018

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I'm not sure what the weather is doing, but I think it needs to stop. Yesterday was dreadful, and an early morning at the library did not help.  I was already tired from staying out late Friday ( some Satanic Panic burlesque fun--an early b-day outing) and woke up at 6am  to tiny ice pellets hitting the window.   My ears are doing some weird pressure thing the past week that makes my jaw ache and my sinuses throb, so I also just feel slightly off kilter.

Our Art Empire panel Thursday went off splendidly though.  This week, I am preparing for a bookwrecking workshop and the final Apocalypse event, the reading, where I'll be trotting out some poems from the upcoming book and reading along with Donna Vorreyer and some student fiction writers.  Then there is the murder mystery to work on, and the Grimm project to finalize, and then we are at the end of the semester already  (even if outside seems a far cry from springtime.)

My NAPOWRIMO activities continue to go well  and I am amazingly still on schedule )as I mentioned before the whole success of which depends on when I draft the poem, earlier in the day, usually while I am eating breakfast,  rather than at the end of it.)   At the beginning of the day, I can take that time to focus before I get bogged down in a million other things demanding my attention. I am also writing some more zodiac pieces (usually later in the day while I eat dinner.)  The spring ones are finished and the scrolls in the layout process, so I should have them available as a subscription offering for later this month. Last week, I also decided to dabble a bit with Tiny Letter, and will be sending some fragments of another, more lyric essay-type project out via that platform.

My dreams about my mother, after a brief reprieve, are back to their usual weirdness, again everything going  along in the dream and then all of us, sometimes even her, surprised to find out she's actually dead.   Is this what people experience as hauntings?  I  love the idea of ghosts, but don't really believe in them (or an afterlife), but in this case, she is haunting up a storm. And not really bad dreams, actually pretty mundane stuff, maybe just unsettling in their tenor, as if we keep realizing over and over that she's gone and are dumbstruck.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

mice, maidens, and evil queens

Fairy tales have probably always been a part of my work from the beginning. My first chapbook THE ARCHAEOLOGIST'S DAUGHTER featured at least one Rapunzel poem and I'm pretty sure there was an early mermaid poem in there somewhere.  More would come--wicked stepmothers and Little Red Riding hood in BLOODY MARY. More Little Red Riding Hood in my first artist book THE BOOK OF RED (that later appeared in my FEIGN chapbook from New Michigan Press.)   Not to mention lots of fairy tale references in otherwise normal poems, a sort magical-ness amidst the everyday.

In those early years, there were so many allusion and persona poems--not just fairy tales, but mythology, literary characters, historical women,  painting subjects. And this is true of many of us, maybe not just younger women poets, maybe younger poets in general of all genders, but so many of us pulling from these things for subject matter and imagery.  I always joke that I probably wrote so many of these because what else does a poet in her early 20's have to say that everyone hasn't already heard.  But maybe there is more to it, creating stories drawn from other stories.  The reason why these stories retain their magic even after centuries.  I love folklore, and the way it shifts and changes and moves through populations.  The way things spread.  ( A co-worker mentioned a local urban ghost legend near her town and I had heard the very same urban legend in my teens about a place out near Rockford--down to very particular details involving talcum powder on the trunk of a car and ghost handprints-- I got really excited about this and nearly fell out of my chair.)  also, why I love trawling this sort of subject matter for things like my ARCHER AVENUE Resurrection Mary poems.

I still do this, no doubt, but my subject matter just differs--things I've been researching evidence of this more than anything. My Antoinetta Gonzalez (aka the Renaissance Dog-Girl ) series.  My atomic women poems in LITTLE APOCALYPSE.   All the research I've done on taxidermy and mechanical animals and Hungarian folklore for UNUSUAL CREATURES.  My new fascination with victorian spiritualism and what might come from those possibilities. I've always been about finding material for new texts in old texts. (and being in a library all day certainly helps.)

When I was writing THE SHARED PROPERTIES OF WATER AND STARS in 2012, which is a kind of suburban fairy tale itself, it didn't necessarily start out that way, but moreso a vague storyline and the math story problems that worked very well with fairy-tale like imagery (esp. re: Goldie Locks and the tension between "wild" and "civilized" or "domestic" spaces. )   When I was done, I was actually surprised by how much it came across that way (evidenced by comments of of a lot of the reviews of the book later on .)  I had been writing more to the story and less to the archetypes, but there were there if you looked for them.

Fast forward to this last year, where we've been working on our big Grimm Tales  Book to Art endeavor in the library. I've been doing some collage work during our making sessions, but have been considering doing some writing-related work.  Since my larger manuscript in progress focuses on eating and body-image issues, what better somehow than Hansel and Gretel for this sort of thing. (I actually have been doing some research on food and eating across fairy tales, but baby steps,  I suppose I'll start with just this one.)  Since things have been progressing well on the NAPOWRIMO front with another poem series. I thought I might shift gears and devote some energy to these and see if I can't get on a roll and maybe make a mini-chap for the project (there's a deadline of the end of the month for rounding up the project in time for Manifest mid-May.)

I am also watching Grimm on Amazon, so I am nightly steeping myself in fairy tales and murders, so the ground is very fertile in my head right now, so we'll see what comes of it. 

Saturday, April 07, 2018


This week, I've finally gotten a handle on the assembly of HONEY MACHINE : The Plath Centos.  You can pick up  your very own copy in the shop (or subscribe to the books & objects series to get that and much more.)  They've turned out to be beautiful little books and the collages reproduced really nice.  The acknowledgements include the line "And to Sylvia, for whom all of this should have worked out better."

In the summer of 2016, I was trying to come up with a textual component to accompany some of the floral work I was doing visually. and started thinking about the references and floral themes in Plath, particularly Ariel.  I gave assembling a couple centos a try--not a form I usually work with, though t'm surprised it took me this long to come to it given my collage tendencies otherwise..  A few years back, someone in a friends class had written and published a cento of my own work and it was weird how it sounded very much like a poem I'd written and yet, sorta not. But I dug it. 

What was what was happening with these Plath pieces, while the floral obsession launched the project, was that the pieces I were getting actually came to have a very different tenor and tone, becoming their own creature--a beast laden with more domestic concerns about the repetition and roteness of housework and being a "wife". It felt very right, considering that  Plath was very much concerned with these things--the daily vs the ecstatic. How a being with a need to create can become laden with the expectations imposed on 1950's women, and perhaps even now, where women still shoulder most of the household labor. 

As I assembled more and more (and I say assembling, more than writing since the words were entirely hers and not so much mine.) there was this washing machine effect--like the red sock in a load of whites that you keep seeing, but almost as if that red sock will eventually ruin everything else in the dryer.  Snippets, obsessions kept reappearing as the speaker (Plath and not Plath) tried to reconcile love and romance with the drudgery of what those things become in the domestic sphere. 

By the end, I had probably around 50 pieces.  I started sending them off individually.  I sent off the full manuscript. People either seemed to love them (as many yesses from journals indicated) or hate them.  I realized after the full-mss was rejected that perhaps there was too much fat.  Too much of a good thing, so I trimmed it down--took out every piece that wasn't pulling its own weight.  Recombined other things into other things, and emerged with a tighter group of poems.  By then. I had started a series of collages using vintage advertisements that somehow seemed to complement the pieces and began to think they might make a nice little zine together.  Once I decided they were part of the same project, the poems started to influence the collages--particularly this one and the one above, which I decided to use as cover art. 

Last spring, during our FOUND reading at the library, I decided to trot them out for gallop and it was really weird reading them aloud.  It's basically someone else's words in your mouth, and even though you built the construction, the cadences and syntax seem unusually foreign. It was an altogether different experience, however, than simply reading someone else's poem, since I had had a hand in making these what they were. 

What resulted though, was a sort of love-letter to Plath (similar to how I always viewd at the hotel andromeda as a love letter to Cornell.) So hopefully I've managed to do her justice.