Monday, March 18, 2019

dgp cover love | reworking the classics

Something I've been doing a bit of recently is designing covers using existing oil paintings in the public domain.  Usually, these are suggestions from the authors as to the particular painting we use, but I love taking something so old and classic and adding a more modern element by use of text and layout. And the colors are the sort of heavenly amazingness that only exist in old oil paintings...

Sunday, March 17, 2019

encore une fois en francais

Last night, on a rare weekend night off for J, we went down to the Century to see the horror/dance film Climax, and I was struggling the entire time, despite it being a really weird film and me being a little high, to see if I could understand enough of the French without looking at the subtitles (I apparently could not).  In high school, I took four years of it, then an additional course of it in college to meet the gen ed requirement for a BA, but I seriously would not be able to understand much of anyone speaking it.  One time on the bus, there were women speaking slow enough for me to understand a little, and I can read  little.  (I'm fuzzy on tenses, which I never had a good grasp of).  Because I know french, there are bits of other latin-based languages I occasionally to make out--some spanish, some italian. 

A friend and I always joke about kinda basic girls and their love of Paris.  Their tendency to decorate their apartments with french poster art and pillows emblazoned with Eiffel Towers.   Of course I say this having once owned at least a half dozen of french posters and still have two (see photos) hanging in my living room and even sorta named the press after another  I no longer have..  A few weeks back I posted about the allure of a certain french decrepitude that appeals to the literary minded courtesy of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. There is something exotic about France (language and culture, maybe even slightly a bit more than even Italy.  There's a reason people go to Paris on honeymoons, even though many European cities are just as romantic. Basic or no, there is something breathtaking about the idea of an expansive Paris apartment, with giant windows, herringbone floors, and a juliet balcony. With filling your apartment with fresh flowers from the market and endless croissant.  You can do all these things right here in Chicago, but somehow they are far sexier when you're speaking french and smoking Gauloises. 

I was super into it in high school though, learning the language and the culture--I was french club president my final year, did immersion days at area colleges, was inducted into the French honor society.  It was unlikely that I would ever be much for actually making it to Paris. I wasn't as anxious about flying as a teen and did, but I still didn't have the sort of family financials that would ever allow a trip. Maybe this is one reason I love New Orleans so much, it's french flavor, but home grown with blues and jazz and a little voodoo thrown in for good measure. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

strange fevers update

Plans are still churning away for all of our Strange Fevers:  Mass Delusions, Confusions, and Obsessions happening in April.  Today, I sent acceptances to an amazing line-up of visual artists for the 1st Floor Exhibit (which will also include necessary violence, the Slenderman collaboration with my sister,  in it' full glory, both texts and visuals, up on the wall.)   This year, as I've mentioned before, we wanted to try, instead of individual events, to condense some of our programming into a single day with panels, readings, an expo and thus was birthed what will hopefully be our spring big event--our Artists & Scholars Colloquium.  My contribution to that afternoon is pulling together this very fun panel discussion:

 "Adolescent girls are often the subject and impetus for strange and violent occurrences—everything from poltergeist activity to the Salem Witch Trials.  This discussion delves into the power and agency of teen and pre-teens throughout popular culture and art, as well as how artists in multiple genres use this particular trope to explore new paths into our understandings of feminism, theory, and culture."

We're starting small, with only a couple panels and a reading, plus the developing Weird Science Fair we've wanted to try for a bit, which will be happening while the other stuff is going on. We're hoping eventually it can be a day long event.  We have our monthlies & bimonthlies (How-To Tuesdays, Book to Art, Zine Nights), and our semesterlies (the Hustle Panels), but spring has lacked a larger event comparable to Indie Press, so this works out perfectly.  We didn't issue a call for more formal academic papers and such, but we'd love to include that aspect in the future as we build on it.   

reading promiscuously

I've been working a little on the relaunch/revamp of wicked alice after a brief hiatus. With everything in chaos with the press after last year, something eventually had to give, and it was poor little alice. I needed a logo, and one idea spun into another (I wanted something like my "hell bent she-devil" design, but it also ended up resembling my very favorite octo lady.)  The tagline is a bastardization of a Milton quote on how people should be promiscuous in their reading habits--and me with my piles of half-finished and barely started books I mean to get back to-I figured it was appropriate.   I've also been trying to decide if I should move the site off tumblr, but its staying put for now (since it's mostly text, I doubt I'll be running into the flagging problems other things were suffering.)

curvy girl fashion | the perfect black dress

Things have been fiscally tighter since the beginning of the year, so I haven't been perusing online retailers in the way I typically do just to keep temptation out of my path. this week, I've been bribing myself to exercize every day with the treat of a dress purchase at the end and, with a 40 percent off code,  decided on this one last week from eshakti, which I've been wanting to buy since before Christmas. I own a shorter sleeved yellow version I bought in the fall, but which is too summery to wear in winter, but this one will be good for all year round and even in more formal scenarios (I never have those really, but I like to plan ahead just in case.)  The ruching makes the to super flattering and I love a squarish neckline in general. Also, since the yellow one, I'm assuming it's a really nice mid-weight jersey knit that seems unusually immune to getting cat hair on it, so win! I

I have my eye on some others for future buying if I continue to hit the stationary bike on the regular and stop being my lazy winter self..

Thursday, March 14, 2019

another round of bookwrecking

On Tuesday night, I'll be taking the box cutters to more discarded library materials and you should
join us!  Collage, book sculptures, and more!

How to Tuesday:  Bookwrecking and Collage
Tuesday, March 19th
624 S. Michigan | 1st Floor
Columbia College Library

sometimes the world writes itself

I happened upon this great piece from Susan Minot this weekend and it got me thinking about not so much how we write, but how the world, in fact, opens itself up to us in possibility every day.  I'll be sitting on a bus, or pushing a cart of books through the library, and there it is, that shimmering idea.  Or in that weird morning space between waking up enough to look at my phone to check the time and the alarm actually going off.  Admittedly, so much is lost because I didn't write it down.  Didn't force myself to commit it to memory for later when I had time to consider it as creative impulse.  This week, one night, I was up in the stacks and heard strange inexlpicable noises a few rows away and got to thinking about the plot of a horror movie or novel where a woman is haunted by the ghost of herself from the future. She would then have to solve her own death like a puzzle.   Or a title for a poem, or a concept for a book will come to me. Friday, I was tweaking the dgp website and for a second "&nsbp" or "non breaking space" seemed like a great title for a book of poems written in html code style.

A few years back as our A of R initiative was developing, people kept commenting that we had such great ideas.  The truth was we had too many ideas to make them happen.  Everything is inspiration, everything is fodder. Hell, I introduced our annual snow globe workshop because I'd seen them do something similar on Pretty Little Liars, which I was mid binge-watch  How can you not notice it?  The things that connect to other things.  The things that  can be re-mixed, retooled. In fact, there are too many ideas and sparks mostly.  This is what we bemoan consistently, the ideas that we will never actually get to, because there is too many, and like bubbles, they keep floating beyond our grasp.

I suppose we grab what we can and write them down in our sketchbooks and our notebooks and hope for the best.  And maybe this is why the Lit Hub piece is great, all of those threads there, each of them, a poem, a spark, the idea for a story. I don't know, given the title, if that was Minot's intention, but I found myself thinking that so much writes itself in the world,  even that piece, a list of fragments and thoughts That we just need to notice it and grasp it wriggling in our hands.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

tiny empires, big world

Another A of R Hustle panel put to bed and the biggest takeaway from tonight's discussion was the amazing breadth of the publishers/editors coming out of Columbia College on a regular basis.  Represented were Lettered Streets Press, Ghost Proposal, and Hotel Amerika & Switchback Books, all Columbia originals.   Someone asked if that sort of legacy of start-ups was distinct to Columbia among other area institutions, and maybe it's not, but I don't see as much DIY action coming from other Chicago grad programs.  At least not enough to host a panel and still have others out there I do not know about or are probably developing even now.  I don't think it was anything about the program itself that may have caused this--at least curricular-wise.  I jumped over to an elective in Fiction for that Small Press Publishing class, but that was atypical, and eventually not allowed. It was still a really young program in its first few years getting its bearings.  But slowly people began doing things.

I started dancing girl in the fall of my second year.  Other batches of students came in who launched Switchback Books soon after.   After I graduated, more presses continued and sprung up. (Susan Yount's Arsenic Lobster, for example ) Not just presses, but reading series (The Dollhouse, Revolving Door, among others.)  Columbia always did a good job placing students in internships in places like local lit mags and the Poetry Foundation, but also so much was happening in the realm of DIY initiatives, either individuals or collectively.

Looking back over all the things that have developed in that incubator, you have to be impressed by the depth and number.  Also how people float between projects and how some flow into and influence others. There seems to be a great swell in that sort of energy regardless of whatever sort of writing the students are doing coming into or out of the program. Maybe it's a certain  "get in the muck and do things" unique to a place like Columbia--that makes me immensely grateful I both get to work there and got to get my degree there.

on loneliness

The thing I perhaps was not prepared for when it came to losing my mom a little over a year ago was how lonely I would end up feeling. Like all the time and unceasingly.  I am still surprised at the intensity.  After all, we lived in different cities for the past twenty years, and usually only talked on the phone twice a week, Sundays and Wednesdays.   I spent occasional weeks in Rockford, a few scattered trips to Wisconsin or Mississipi with both my parents.  But the sum total of my time with her or interacting with her was actually quite small given how much time I spend doing other things--even talking to other people.  But there was a solidity in knowing she was there, and that unmooring is perhaps part of this general malaise since that feels like the worst sort of lonely.

In my times of ultimate wallowing and self-pity, usually when I'm fighting the downward spiral, I am occasionally floored by this feeling and can't breath because of it. I still have other family, obviously, and talk to my Dad twice a week, my sister randomly via messages and social media.  A best friend I see every day and a boyfriend I see every week. Other folks I interact with online or at work or in the poetry world.  A rambling mass of extended family I see on holidays and such. People I appreciate greatly, but there is still this huge, gaping hole at the center I don't quite know what to do with, let alone how one would go about filling it up  It's this part of me that freaks out when I think about how much loss is still coming my way--all of our ways.  This is the part that makes my throat ache.

I've always considered myself rather self-sufficient.  I moved to an entirely new city with only a job and an apartment and then met other people along the way--at the library, at readings, in grad school. It was a slow process, but I would never have told you in those years that I felt remotely anything like loneliness.  Since I'm sometimes in super-introvert  my social circle is smallish and mostly disparate these days--small groups of people having coalesced and drifted apart over time. I probably dated far many more people in my life than I have considered close friends.   The odd gaps where I was more single than not, I was actually a little relieved by the breather in how I spent my time and mental energies.  I might have occasionally wished for a target of my affections, but that is surface level shit compared to this. Not at all serious and usually easily remedied by some sort of action(sometimes healthy, sometimes unhealthy).

But in the time since losing my mother, I've often wondered if so much of my never feeling even a drop of loneliness was because she was always just there.  Someone who had known me my whole life.  My whole existence since conception if you think about it. . There were many things in my life I didn't share with her, mostly since I am sometimes weirdly private about some things and not others.  I'm not even sure I asked for or took much advice from her, or anything that would look to an outside like support.  I mostly didn't like to worry her---health scares, money issues,  relationship drama. And she was a record worrier by nature, so I spared her a bit on my end.  Our phone calls were mainly stories about what was going on on each end--things we'd watched on tv.  Stories about the cats. She was my perfect bitchy parlay partner on the phone and in person, and the lack of this very thing sometimes is when I miss her most acutely.  But she was also a solid presence when everything else felt very fluid and churny.  I have a good relationship with my dad, and probably have talked to him on the phone more in the last two years than I did in the previous two decades since I moved out.  Sometimes I find myself grateful for that time, because no doubt, it wouldn't have happened if she'd outlived him, her always relaying the contents to him during or after the call.  But its a different sort of dynamic.

And I feel now like maybe all that's left is to be my own solid. Or maybe more solid than I am. I'm not sure how to fix it, or if it can even be fixed, Or if things change over time. But seriously sometimes it comes out of nowhere and knocks me flat on my ass.  Maybe I dwell a bit more in the winter months when my mental health is less sound, so we'll see if I feel it less when the weather gets better.  Here's hoping...

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

beauty and terror

It's hard to be both pretty and terrifying at the same time, but we try endlessly.
                                                -   necessary violence

We've been firming up the galleys for the upcoming MANSION anthology this week, and I gave a final pass over my own pieces within and stumbled upon a line that I'd forgotten about, but that made me giggle, considering a couple weeks back when I was writing my artist statement draft, I had mentioned a similar idea there-about loving the pretty and the terrible, the beautiful and the horrific.  

Once when I was giving a reading, someone told me after that my poems reminded them as a mashup of Sylvia Plath and David Lynch, and I've always held the comparison close to my heart.  Think of the visuals in something like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, and the undercurrents of darkness.   Maybe it's latent goth girl tendencies, or being weaned on horror movies,  but I like to think of it as similar to the beautiful flower with the decay already inside. Hawthorne's Rappucini's Daughter whose kiss meant death.  Ornateness and decadence that hides the worst things.  Last summer, one of the reasons I loved HBO's Sharp Objects was it's beautiful southerness tinged with violence and rot.  The "innocent" girl who is the most horrible of all.  There are so many examples throughout pop culture. Last fall's Haunting of Hull House is a perfect example, so many stunning visuals, so much scary. 

Many people have mentioned that while my visual art tends toward the pretty, there is definitely a darkness there too. I'm not sure these tow things are always at odds, and in fact, sometimes one may lead to the other, or they are somehow dependent.  Why do we find roses so beautiful, is it because they are intrinsically appealing or is it that they are so quick to die? I've been thinking of this with a few more recent collage series--the combination of the light visuals and the dark poems of the summer house in particular. 

The best things are those which create a really pretty picture to look at  and then expose the terror. Sort of like lifting up a rug to see the teeming earth crawling with insects beneath it. 

100 rejections project update

As you know, I am following the advice of this Lit Hub article and taking an aim at getting my work out there a bit more than I have in the past.  After a few years of submitting very little and usually only by invitation, I am taking a more pro-active stance in my submitting this year--100 seems like a lot, and I probably won't make it there (it's probably more than I have poems to back it up with and there will of course, be some acceptances (hopefully many!), but it's a nice thing to work for, and as I said on facebook a couple weeks back, already a success in just getting the damn poems out there circulating. And I have a good amount of work from the past year to actually send.

So far, my results are 1/1--an acceptance for two pieces (Radar Poetry) and a rejection (Posit). I think I have about 10 others still out there in the ether.  I also took a gamble last week and applied for a prose NEA Fellowship this year. I have enough prose and hybrid published work to qualify, a good sampling of a lyric-essay project (exquisite damage) and thought what the hell. I applied for poetry one years ago and sort of figured I'm not the fancy sort of poet who gets such thing. And I'm probably not fancy enough for the prose world either, but the work is good and solid and maybe something of interest on the other side of the fence (since I spend a considerable amount of time straddling it.)  Most likely it will just be a rejection to add to my tally., but still good in that respect.

I also plan to start sending out feed later this year, so that will no doubt add to my numbers, so we'll see how that goes. I've also hit up some print journals that have low acceptance rates, not necessarily because I think they are better (I hate people who tout exclusivity as the key to quality), just in that they are harder to crack.   I think I definitely chose ones I really like and respect and think ARE better journals, but not just because they have low acceptance rates, but that I like what they publish and would like to be in there--places like Black Warrior, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast) In my early days as a writer, I spent a lot of time submitting to exclusive journals I actually don't really fit aesthetically in, but because everyone was saying they were the prime places to publish.

I still plan to hit up the places who've been awesome and published my work before, some newer interesting publications I really like, and some of my old standbys for certain rejection--Sixth Finch and Collagist I am looking at

When I was submitting like mad to online journals back in the early 2000's, I quickly volleyed rejected poems right back out there, so last Friday spent some time sending back out what the responding journals either didn't take or didn't want back out somewhere else. Each week, I also have a new round of stuff from the previous week of daily writing that I've revised over the course of the next week and then start sending out.

I'll be back with another update in until then..

Monday, March 11, 2019

exquisite damage: the visuals

Ever since I finished my exquisite damage series last summer, I've been aching to make some accompanying visuals. I've had some fits and starts, and for awhile, nothing seemed right, but over the past couple of days I've had some success. The series itself is sort of memoirish and about horror movies and growing up in the shadow of them, so these seem the right balance of nostalgic and a little dark.

some notes on ordinary planet

I wanted to write a bit more on the new books & objects offering, ordinary planet, the series written in response to accompany the set of victorian-ish colllages I finished last spring, but also inspired by the faux fortune-telling experts of the Fox sisters.  The written parts of the series imagine a fallen, dystopian, world.  What would happen if the lakes and rivers rose and people were left on an island and men would be making the decisions? The speaker of the poems was once a "a teacher, a baker, a teller of lies"  but now reads fortunes and talks to the dead, albeit fraudulently. Perhaps there is a little of a Handmaid's Tale feel to it, to a world shattered and then rebuilt as men desired it.  I loved how it worked in a little bit of a steampunk vibe as well, where technology is regressive.   As I mentioned above, because of the mother/daughter subject matter, thought it might be a piece of the feed manuscript, but I feel like it might fit better elsewhere.  But the emphasis is more on the dystopian elements--the imagined world where "at first the men were kind."  Until they were not.

This is also the only recent project where I was writing actual verse/ lined poems--in this case mostly tercets, though it varies throughout.  I feel like there is rhythmic element that plods along nicely at a gallop that offers a bit more than prose would.  I use a bit more internal and slanty rhyme in these than usual as well.  The form also allows some space around the denseness and heavy of the language.  So much of what I do is prose nowdays, it's unfamiliar to work in verse, especially a little shorter in line than I've done in the past decade  The lined parts of shipwrecks of lake michigan, for example.  Or the strange machine series poems. All much longer and looser in construction. But I did like the results here.