Thursday, January 18, 2018

from THE HUNGER PALACE

strange animals

In the fall, the animals begin taking over the house.   Mice beneath the stove, chipmunks in the basement.  Arriving home in the dark, my father finds a skunk sitting boldly in the yard above a hole that appeared only days before. Deer leave hoove prints in the frost on the deck, linger in the yard at dawn,  gnawing the leaves of the fallen tree. It's natural, he says, no one is ever home. 

In the hospital my mother has almost stopped seeing things, only the occasional beetle creeping near the floorboard.  The occasional butterfly flitting at the ceiling.  Infection leaving her body slowly like syrup through the iv's and blood draws, where I visit each Sunday for an overnight, the tiny spider in the corner of their shower at home keeping his promise to stay on his side of the water while the stinkbugs collect in the curtain shears.

In the city, they cut down three trees on my block, and suddenly there are large birds I've never seen before begging crumbs on the sidewalk. The moths eating all summer through my wardrobe grown slow with autumn, flickering only occasionally in my desk lamp. My cats go feral every time I leave them for more than a few days,  shitting in the bathtub and throwing up on the bed. Leaving large tufts of hair blowing through the empty apartment.

In rehab, the speech therapist asks my mother to name 10 animals --horse, dog, pig,. The solutions come slowly to her, her hands placing multi-colored blocks in multi-colored holes. What is your name?  Who is your husband?  What day is it?   She sighs  impatient with the woman who prompts her--goat, mouse, fox.  

In the fall, we are all  learning new animals--this panic that scratches like a rat at my door each week and won't leave.  The finch that catches in my throat and chokes me with it's hollow bones.  pig,  lion, crocodile.  There's a rabbit heart inside me that races every time the phone rings. One more?  Unicorn.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Occasionally I feel like I somehow slipped into some horrible altered reality in the past year in which our president is horrible, the news is horrible, people keep doing awful violent things  and the planet and everyone is dying. (these things related and completely unrelated but  still all happening at the same time. )  In a sci-fi show, this would be the alternate timeline that the heroine/hero has to go back in time to avoid.  The cautionary tale.  Saved at the final moment by some swerve in fate.

I've been thinking a lot, given the 20 year anniversary of the worst bout of depression I was every afflicted with, about mental states and saving graces, the dark and the light.  Twenty years ago, to the day, I was very likely sitting in my apartment in the dark and crying as I would be for about a month straight. ---a mix of factors--uncertainly about the teaching career trajectory I was about to abandon, terrible, debilitating anxiety about that and other things, a particulalry uninspiring semester if grad school. general loneliness of moving to an entirely new place the previous summer, the usual dose of seasonal affective yuckiness.  All of them combined in a cocktail that I hope never to experience again.  Around Valentines Day in 1998 with my parents, I stood in the Lincoln Park conservatory, snapping pictures of of flowers, so many flowers,  and realized I was going to be okay.  It would all  work out (and of course it truly did, better than I even imagined.)  Maybe it was purely cured by those flowers, pink and red and all that lushness.  Maybe it was just hormonal or chemical and it went away as quickly as it had come on.

I've never been seriously suicidal, not even then. And never probably would be barring some horrible illness that would eventually kill me anyway.  A friend and I joke occasionally  about bowing out before age has a chance to ravage us, but these are mostly nervous conversations spawned by watching older people, like my mother, dwindle away slowly and horribly and who would want to do that when you can just bow out gracefully at around 65?  But then I also imagine myself final girling it all the way til the end..or getting to 65, even 70,  and not feeling ready at all  to end things.  I mean, even though it's 27 years away, 27 years ago, I was 16, and that seems like barely a blink in time .  Surely not enough.

In her last weeks, my mother, almost maddeningly so at 70 , insisted she had lived a good long life, and that she was done.  I would assure that she was fine, and getting better, and nothing was really going to take her out yet.  I even believed it at first. Ultimately,  I was wrong.  In those last weeks, as my own certainty of that faltered,  I wanted very badly to run away. Though of getting on trains to New Orleans and California and even planes (it had to be bad if I considered getting on planes, which mostly terrify me).  But even the crash that surely would happen as soon as I stepped on a flight would be preferable to how I was feeling at the moment I considered it.  It's lessened over the months since, but even now it occasionally resurfaces--that need to flee, though I'm not sure what there is to flee from. But what scares me sometimes is the tenuousness of how I felt in those months--sometimes it was not merely leaving, but of throwing myself over the side of the Michigan Ave bridge, over the railings of the Fine Arts stairwells, down an open elevator shaft.   Not suicidal ideation, really, because I don't really want to die.   But an escape from something.  Gone as quickly as it occurred to me, like a sudden whim to die my hair blue, but disturbing nonetheless.

And all kind of ridiculous and  because mostly I deeply enjoy my life and do not want to run away from it.  I occasionally fancy moving to a warmer climate, but only if I could take everything and everyone with me.  I love my apartment, the people in my life, even my day job mostly.  My studio and the press and writing and art and all that jazz.  Sometimes, I wish I were more financially stable, but I do alot to undermine that stability in the form of takeout and pretty dresses, so I've no one to blame but me.   There have been eddies and pools of badness in the past 20 years but mostly whenever I start to circle the drain, I can pull myself out of it with a little centering. I can deal with or at least sidestep, the anxiety issues before they spiral into other, darker things. And maybe we are all just  doing that, final girl-ing it til the end.

But this past year has felt rougher than usual, and I sit here reading about shithole presidents and ballistic missle drills in Hawaii it appears to stay steady in it's roughness..like my heroine missing a couple fingers and dragging her broken leg behind her, but still keeps going..






Monday, January 08, 2018


The icy hold on the midwest is just starting to ease and thngs are mild and melty today and for the next few thankfully. I spent the weekend in Rockford for a belated holiday gathering for my Dad's side, which of course brings all the ick to the forefront again.  I mostly spent the evening stress eating lasagna and peppermint bark and silently begging that no one would mention my mother at all, but it's impossible, of course, and not anyone's issue but my own.  It's not like you can just erase someone, but when I cry or even when I try not to, I get really shitty cry headaches, so those aren't really very much fun in supposed holiday festivities.

Otherwise, I am plugging along through new chapbooks and orders and getting ready for a big online shop update in early February--new prints and paper goods, as well as some original things (watercolors, nature prints) that have been piling up in the studio for over a year. I have a brand new sketchbook/planner coming tomorrow in a an order from Staples, so I plan to spend some time this week transfering things between the old one and the new.

I did manage to get up the page for this year's zine subscription, which is out of the gate with the horror poems & collages of /SLASH/ , for which I was going for a high school girl's notebook with the cover (each one will vary slightly in the design.) February's offering will be the little book of love poem pieces and I'm still deciding whether or not to incorporate some artwork or whether the pieces should just stand as themselves.




Friday, January 05, 2018

2018 books & objects series


Get an entire 2018 series of bookish lovelies delivered directly to your mailbox–including limited edition artist books, chapbooks, zines, & other objects. . Some projects are more text based, some more visual-based, and encompass passions ranging from  old roadside motels, alice in wonderland erasures, gothic family tales, Hollywood ghost stories, Renaissance dog girls, and mythical creatures.  The subscription also includes bonus zines not available elsewhere, including the latest Chicago Cryptozoological Society publications.     See photos for projects from past years.  Subscribe now and you will get a copy of my newest full-length collection, SALVAGE, to  to be followed periodically throughout the year with projects that incorporate both image and text (both verse and prose and usually a little of both.) the perfect gift for yourself or your favorite writing or art lover. You will also get a bonus copy of my forthcoming collection, LITTLE APOCALYPSE, due out later this year from Noctuary Press after it is released. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 retrospective



Usually, I do a yearly round up on the blog around this time of year--a look back on what happened--the good and the bad, but somehow this year seems to tip more toward the bad, especially from about June onward, or hell, maybe even February onward, after I received that first hospital middle of the night phone call and my mother said casually something to the effect  "It seems I've had a heart attack."   
But surely, there was some good in there somewhere. and actually February through late August were pretty tame compared to what happened later in the year, the losses there not as scary as that which would come after.  June & July merely took away one of the ginger cats unexpectedly and my aunt, who'd been ailing for quite a while.  November took my mother.  Though I know all those happy years in between (years where I may have only lost small things like an umbrella on the bus, or even a relationship, or a few bucks fallen out of my pocket. ) Those fortunate years had a price--at least one year like this one, possibly more.  Not that loss was unfamiliar--grandparents, all gone pretty early, an , my mom's brother to MS, aunt and uncle on my dad's side.  Many pets over the years, even recent ones (2013 & 2014 were brutal in this way.)  But of course, nothing like this.

But then, those bad things are hard to separate from the good things.  And in fact, maybe some of the good things are sweeter only because they are interwoven with the bad. On one hand, all those hours sitting in hospital rooms and the nursing home were worrisome, but I'm happy to have had those hours, even when my mother was super-out of it or sleeping.  The jokes she made even while delirious, things I swore I'd tease her about when she was out of the woods.   As I was leaving the nursing home, right before she returned home those last couple of weeks, she had me brush her hair before a doctor's appointment, and we joked about mohawks and other unfortunate options now that she was at my mercy.  She would be home in a couple days.  I would visit once more, but she would be quieter, less cheerful and sleeping more.  Two weeks later she would be gone.  All through September and most of October, the weekly Sunday visits--the uncomfortable chairs and horrible news headlines on tv (west coast fires, hurricanes, mass shootings in Vegas. )  All of it is wrapped in this weird ball of feelings I haven't even begun to begin to pull apart.

But this post is supposed to be a wrap up of good things that happened. So maybe I should start there.

Library-wise, the year began with the news we'd won the ACRL award and that all that hard work of the previous November had paid off, all of which culminated in a pretty swanky party in April (well swanky by CCC Library standards). The semester brought with it amazing things like our HOAX week programs & exhibit.  The usual readings and workshops and zine nights.  I planned our first real murder mystery, Horror Prom, and wrote about it and general gaming stuff during the summer.  Jen Sauzer and I started the Chicago Cryptozoological Society as a public art/installation project and giggled all summer over mothman sightings.  Put together a poster session at the ALA conference devoted to A of R. The fall, even amidst the chaos going on in my life, we still managed to knock the ball out of the park with our Tattoo: Ink, Art, & Object Week and the 3rd Little Indie Press Festival.  More panels and events and fun workshops (paper mechanics, black light painting--both of which I was horrible at btw.) Also the premiere of the Book to Art Club, which will bring even more goodness this spring.   Our annual snow globe workshop and our fall murder mystery based around the Hollywood suicide ended the year with a bang (or at least a satisfying crashy sound.) 

Press-wise, it was the usual amazingness of being able to bring so many books into the world, though the terrain was dicier and more difficult to manage later in the year. I am still playing catch-up, both in terms of layout, production, and orders, but am hoping to have things closer to on-schedule soon.  The past couple of days while hiding from the cold, I've been idly reading through some of this year's titles and they are so good it nearly lifts the top of my head off sometimes when I think how lucky I am to be able to help them on their way.  So many books, all all so very different and interesting. And, might I say, damn pretty (both those I did the design on ones others did--artists, designers, sometimes the poet themselves--all beautiful.)  This year, my goal is to get some other things rolling--the long due mermaid anthology, some of my own overdue zine projects, the lovely slate of chapbook titles for this year just as awesome as last.    And of course, the poor neglected wicked alice, who I am plotting some interesting new things for after the new year. We will also be hitting Tampa this coming year for an off-site, alternative book fair during AWP. (my wish came true.)

Art & design-wise, there were a lot of new collage exploits, including the honey machine series, the tattoo prints, and some apocalypse pieces (one of which will be on the cover of little apocalypse.) Some more floral paintings with watercolors and markers. I also made a lot of zines--crypto ones, botanical coloring books, a crossout zine with collages using that cart of discard celeb images next to my cubicle during zine nights.  The dirty blonde collages made their debut in a zine, as did the surrealism coloring book images and (in)vertebrate collages. I also added new prints and paper goods of the older radio ocularia pieces to the shop and did some restocking in general of prints and paper goods.  I also tried some pochoir printmaking experiments for our Tiki Madness exhibit that is still up.   As most years, I have a notebook full of ideas and techniques I've barely scratched the surface of, so here's hoping for some more art-related focus time in 2018.

Writing-wise, it was a successful year, nothing big, but some smaller projects making their debut in the world in limited editions (the Dali poems, dirty blonde, and soon /SLASH/.)  Publications in Hobart, interr|upture, Rag Queen Periodical, Midway Journal, Sweet Tree Review, Tupelo Quarterly,  and a review of SALVAGE in The Literary Review. (also two Pushcart nominations for Plath Poems).   Readings at NOLA Poetry Fest, at City Lit Books, a Poetry Center benefit, and at Wit Rabbit this fall.  I was able to finish up the love poem series, although it turned out  to be an entirely different beast than I expected. fAlso, the entire text elements of unusual creatures.  Also pulling together what may very well be longer book # 8, SEX & VIOLENCE  if the publishing world will have it.

As for more personal things, while the bad is there for all to see, there is good under the tideline--my best friends who helped me cope and without whom I could not have survived November.  J,  who seems to be holding fast for 2.5 years  in the only functional relationship I've had in the past decade (and who seems to be the only person I've ever dated who we just seem to fit into each other's lives seamlessly and just work somehow. )  Finances are, as ever, a teeter totter of moderately stable and incredibly unstable, but then, that has always been the case and will no doubt continue to be, but there are tiny luxuries--breakfasts out, secondhand coats, the occasional vintage bag., and art supplies. Maybe even a vacation (well, a working vacation usually, but still a vacation.) New Orleans was lovely in April and maybe I'll go back if the Florida trip doesn't drain me completely.  The rest is mostly kitties, and dresses, and writing and making things. A whole lot of folding and stapling, but also tacos and cocktail experiments. Weekend retreats from the world.  Trashy books and even delightfully trashier movies. 

And really, 2017, you were good in as many ways as you were bad. My resolutions may come later, though they are the same three I usually vow--be healthy, be fearless, be productive.  Some years I excel more in one or the other, but let's try again for all three...

Thursday, December 28, 2017

We are in the midst of a deep chill, weather-wise and mental-wise, and I've been trying to break apart my rather depressing Christmas feelings and struggling with not freezing to death in a overly drafty apartment and it's rattly radiators.  Everything about family stuff is off, of course, is a pale shadow of itself, to the point where I kinda understand the folks who take trips to far off places over holidays just to avoid another one. Nothing can fix this, I'm not even sure if I can articulate it to even think about fixing it. There were presents--New Orleans coffee and yummy bath accroutrements.  Art supplies and towels and super soft leopard throw blankets I am now living under.  But it's still wrong somehow without my mother there.

Since I've been back in the city, I am happier, but battling the sub zero temps with the aid of bed snuggling beneath needy cats  and a tiny space heater.  But I am cooking, with all this time off work--soups and breakfast burritos and parma rosa.  I am drinking tea, eating chocolate,  making plans, and re-reading amazing 2017 dgp titles, and some of the first 2018 offerings.  Bingewatching a bit of of AHS on the screen while I work. Tomorrow, I will be heading to the studio for at least a few hours to get in at least a bit of work on these precious days away from the library.

I still hope to get some more transcribing from UNUSUAL CREATURES done, and maybe a bit of a new project down on paper.  I would like to go into 2018 with a plan and a clear head and am working to make that happen, but it's hard, and every single digit day makes it harder somehow, but it looks like we're stuck at least for another week. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


For the past couple days, I've been working pretty much solely on birthing the remaining 2017 books or at least getting them as close as I can to being ready to debut right after around the new year.  There are a whole bunch slated to drop in the next week or so, so keep an eye in the shop for new offerings (one of which is Laurie Brun's book with a new collage design I did for it that I'm loving immensely). I do have some more evening hours in the studio this week due to altered library hours, so I am determined to get entirely caught up on new  author copies and orders by Christmas. I'll only be away for a couple of days for the holiday, so will have some good studio time between then and New Years as well. Ideally, I'd like to start 2018 caught up, or as close to caught up as I can be.  And if I can acheive that, the next hurdle is making more time for some projects of my own that are in the works and some new things I would like to try.

More weird dreams about my mother, this time that I was attending a seminar on fire safety that eventually turned into an episode of Sally Jesse Raphael, but then turned into my dad just strolling in with my mother and me yelling at them that she was dead and that this was all impossible.  But then that he had somehow magically resurrected her along with their old cat, Isis, who was perched on the countertop and how no one thought this was the least bit strange at all but me.

Otherwise, my activities could best be summed up by lots of old episodes of FRIENDS on netflix, playing around on instagram and pinterest, coveting more outerwear (affordable and not so affordable),  and singing along to this song repeatedly.