Tuesday, October 20, 2020

31 days of halloween | how to tell if you're possessed


Over the past few months, I've been working on a series of poems inspired by Weekly World News headlines called alternative facts, many of which have a bizarre and monstrous feel perfect for the season.  The above is one of my favorites.

Monday, October 19, 2020

daily writing hiatus

 After a few months of daily poeming (and so much to show for it in terms of the new completed collapsologies manuscript) I've been taking a momentary break before moving on to the next thing.  It would help immensely of course if I knew what the next thing was, but right now I'm treading water in the uncertainty of it--notes in my notebook about things I'd like to write or research, formats I would like to play with. Stories I would like to tell. I've been dipping a toe back into some visual exploits, including some design stuff and postcard collages for my Patreon. It's slow, but it's a start. Maybe some of those will lead to writing.  Or writing will lead to new artwork. 

It feels like a weird time to be making plans, once again with the contingency that the world may be on much tighter lockdown at some point during the next few months. This feels more apt at the Library, where everything--exhibits, programs--is being planned dually, both on the walls and on the web.  We are holding in there, and most of my days are filled now with ILL flow, which has ticked up a bit. Obviously, timewise, whether I am homebound or not shouldn't affect more creative work that much (if anything I gain back a few hours in the hustling to and fro) but if March & April is any indication, a world in turmoil (or more tumultuous than the past couple of months) blows a huge hole in motivation and concentration. It took til the end of May to get back to any sort of routine.  I still, outside of the dgp manuscripts, have a hard time reading for enjoyment. 

I'm thinking of holding off on starting something new until at least the election has passed and we are into November.  I have no idea what the world will like or where, and if, my concentration will hold.   I have a couple zine projects I'd like to get out that month for the books & objects series, but otherwise am wide open in creative endeavors.  There are a couple things I have my eye on for the automagic project, some orphan series I started and haven't meandered back to. But a break feels good right now.  I've been spending my breakfast writing time instead queuing up Halloween posts and posting to socials, and just lingering in bed a bit longer than I usually do before clamoring into the shower. 

31 days of halloween | ghosts and small animals


Not all of the poems in dreams about houses and bees are specifically about ghosts--or at least the literal interpretation, many touch on memory and ghosts, and are therefor spooky enough to make our line up this month.  This series was issued as a little collage zine back in 2015, and the text portions included in SALVAGE (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

thoughts on manuscripts, the bottleneck, and self-publishing

This week, I did the final proofing and design finishing for FEED, which I will be releasing as both an e-book and print book via Amazon at the end of this year.  It's a decision I've been mulling over--was mulling over, even pre-pandemic, and covid sealed the deal.  Part of me says maybe it's just a feeling that the world is going to fuck and if I get sick and die (or mauled by rabid nazi hoards of incels)  at least the book will be out in the world. To seize whatever opportunities come along because you could be gone tomorrow.   It's not all so dire as those thoughts, but one thing living in this world in these times has told me is that a lot of the arbitrary shit that used to matter seems to matter less and less., And you can apply this across everything, not just the literary world. (Might I remind you of Sabrina Orah Mark's essay in The Paris Review.)

I came into the poetry world as we know it in a strange way--a novice, which is not unusual, but I always felt like I slipped in some back door and didn't really belong in some po-biz spaces. And maybe I do, or maybe I don't.  I came to the academic poetry world kind of late, already nearing thirty, with a lot of publications under my belt and a familiarity with the open mic scene in Chicago (or I should say A open mic scene, as there are many?)  When I listened to the folks there--classmates, teachers, visiting artists talking about the insularity of certain journals, presses, awards, and tenure tracks, how certain things mattered more than others,  I called bullshit more than once, but I also bought into to a degree. That couple years when I was trying to place my first book, more often than once, I though about self-publishing it. The contest circuit seemed insurmountable, and it still is, a formidable bottleneck that has broken some of the best poets I know.  I wanted a book in the world.  I wanted a shiny spine on the shelf in the Barnes & Noble.   I wanted readers. I wanted to belong, to have a feeling that yes, I was legitimate poet, whatever that meant.  This need for legitimacy pushed me through an MFA program I only sometimes liked.  It had me sending that book out and paying up to $30 a pop. 

And I was lucky enough that a small press that no longer exists , but that I owe a great debt to, loved my manuscript and decided to publish it in the very old fashioned way of me having queried and then sent the manuscript at precisely the right time. And having a book of course was amazing, what I dreamed of, and while it felt really good, it didn't change much for me as a writer because outside of having a pretty bound volume of my work. I was still hustling--to do readings, to get people interested, to sell copies.  A book is a lot of labor, no matter how it comes into the world  And of course, more books followed, some via pure serendipity, others via open reading periods.  One press folded, then another.  Others continued to flourish and I still occasionally publish with them today. I am absolutely luckier than I probably should be, to have found such presses & editors who believed in my work, when it's very hard to publish that first book, and sometimes, even harder to publish the second or the third.   

I think over the years, I've refocused my mind not on presses and journals as a goal, but more on communities they reinforce.  Which of course, is bolstered by presses and journals and awards circuits, but also just by sharing work, being with other writers (in real-life or virtually) .  So much of my experience is rooted not only in my early poetry-related experiences, but also zine culture and visual arts, which seem a little less beholden to structures that don't really serve them well.  As such the stigma of releasing your own work has lost its power over the years, as I've released as many projects into the wild as small limited editions or e-chaps as I have via journals and traditional presses. I once had a lively (I say discussion, some may say argument) during a panel over the merits of self-publishing. I've watched a lot of writers, really good writers, give up because the path to publishing books of poetry via the sanctioned paths, gets narrower and narrower, more closed off as presses struggle economically, operations fold, and there are just a lot of poets vying for room. Every other minute, the attention shifts, and the person who may be the talk of the town, in a year or two, is completely forgotten. 

It gets harder to breathe sometimes, mid-career, so I can only imagine what it's like to be entering it as a newbie.I think we are all conscious as well of the space we take up--when it comes to younger writers, marginalized writers, or at least maybe we should be. I sometimes scoff at Rupi Kaur, and wonder why people like her work (which is also true of some established academic poets), but I see how she is doing very well so outside those structures, which make the structures seem even more arbitrary and small thinking. Whatever you think of her work, her end result is good and her business acumen sharp as hell. Most of the world may not even know people are writing poetry still, and those that do gravitate toward catch phrases and things that would fit on a mug, but it's still poetry. 

So then, what to do with all these books, all these poems, the structure that cannot hold them all.  I believe very much in small presses, obviously, to seize the means of production and make the art world, the lit world more interesting, more diverse than it might be otherwise.  But of course, small presses, particularly those that publish full-lengths struggle both in time and divided energies (because no one is getting rich off any of this--most editors have at least one, sometimes more than, other job.) People move on, money gets tight, people stop getting along with each other.  Presses fold and re-emerge in other configurations. 

What to do when you are a writer whose main goal is not necessarily to win prizes or teaching fellowships and really just build a community of readers, however small, who want to read what you put out there in the world?  And its' not all this great spirit of independence pushing me toward the endeavor. Some of it is resignation as well, or just tiredness with the status quo. FEED is a manuscript which I finished last year, but have only submitted a couple times, both met with a very kind and supportive "no".  I don't think there is anything wrong with the book that makes it unpublishable,  In fact. I would say it's tighter going in than a couple other books I have found other homes for. It's also a very personal book that I really want out there. I am not quite on board with submitting to a bunch of contests, spending hundreds of dollars, just to make that happen.  I have three other mss. in various stages of completion, another one out to a favorite press that may or may not want it in the end.  So what to do with book projects that just keep piling up and a desire to get them out there?   

It's not a perfect solution, but it's a better one.  No matter how much work it is to shoulder a self-published volume, it's certainly less expensive than sinking money forever into contests and open reading periods. The work alone of publicity and design is formidable, though as an editor myself, I'm thinking I can make a sound little book, both in content and appearance.  Still it seems far more fun and dynamic that attempting jam oneself into the bottleneck and hoping for the best. Or giving reverence to unspoken rules and structures that really don't benefit any but a select few. 


31 days of halloween | the summer house


This little ghosty project debuted in late summer as an e-chap, but I also made a little video of one of the poems.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

31 days of halloween | plump


While I often use fairy tales in my work--little red riding hood in the red poems, goldilocks and the three bears in the shared properties of water and stars, this one is a recent favorite, written to be part of our dark forest project at the library.

you can read the entire series of poems with collages online here.

Friday, October 16, 2020

31 days of halloween | songs for dead girls


"Zombie Girl writes down her name.  Writes a letter to her congressman. A classified ad.  Dead Girl seeking.  Dead Girl seeping through her days.  Zombie Girl makes a chalk drawing of her former lovers on the floor beside the bed.  Decides sex is beside the point when you are all body, all hunger. All meat moving through the world."

read the entire series here:

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

31 days of halloween | sex & violence

Since we are halfway through the #31daysfohalloween, I thought I would use today as a plug for my latest full-length and it's slightly spooky cover.  I was going to highlight the /slash/ series a little later in the month in zine form, but it's ode to slashers populates a section of this book, as well as poems about Dali's The Inventions of the Monsters, which also is totally on-theme for the month. Even the Plath centos are obviously a little spooky given the source material, which probably makes this my most horror-laden book to date, so the title is more than appropo.

And this cover, which was modification done on one of the /slash/ zine pieces, definitely the spookiest...

get a copy from Black Lawrence Press...