Monday, November 23, 2020

extinction notes

It feels a strange moment to be talking about extinction poems, and yet, weirdly appropriate, given current events and the fact that several snippets of my own extinction poems have been finding their way into journals in the past couple of months.   Last summer and into fall, I was visiting the Field Museum and writing notes for poems that eventually became a project called extinction event, a project that had it's roots in a desire to write about dinosaurs, but wound up also being about birds and dioramas and climate change and  how we as artists (or anthropologists, or archaeologists, or insert other reader of the past) work to capture things that seem permanent but are ultimately no so much at all.

It felt like I had to make it newer, different than my apocalypse poems of yore, which were very much about society and it's breaking down in order to make a larger, big picture, set of concerns here. As I wondered through the evolution exhibit, I was starting to freak out, even long before covid was a gleam in the eye of a tiny bat in China, every time I saw one of the plaques "Mass Extinction #X" Not that I'm convinced this is the end entirely, but it does make it seem like it could be likely one day--a more deadly fast spreading virus, the sort of political dysfunction that clogs up responses and doubts science.

There are a number of theories about the dinosaurs and their demise--the meteor being the favorite among the scientists.   Some of my research indicated that birds, or tiny flying dinosaurs survived and evolved into birds because it was easier to live off the ground than on it for a while. I was also amazed by strange evolutionary paths that place birds closer to dinosaurs than reptiles as we know them today. 

The premise for the project began as an invitation to an event no one wants to go to. Truthfully, I was also thinking of that gala scene in The Relic, which is a movie I can't help but think about everytime I set foot in the Field. About the shelves and drawers of specimens behind the public exhibits and nestled deep in the basement.  Also about the art of creating dioramas--how so much of documentation depends on the artists eye, not just the scientist or historian. 

What resulted is, of course, kind of bleak. (obviously) but it's a solid little batch of poems (and one that fits perfectly in my animal, vegetable, monster manuscript.).  It also led to  a great reading last October --my last before there were no public gatherings--amongst the bird specimens (fitting given the title of my second book). I intend to eventually offer a slimmed down version as a zine with some of the photographs I took during the project while I was writing after the new year, but you can read some selections now in the following places

Stirring

The Account

River Mouth Review


Enjoy!


cabin life and other remote delusions


On weekends, I've been watching a lot of #cabinlife videos, as in people living in and renovating  rather remote cabins.  Some of these are my favorite #vanlifers who, after the pandemic, decided to settle in somewhere specific. Others are people who have always seemed to live in a cabin or a cottage, or are the type who own it as a second piece of land for retreat. There is something calming---and it may totally be my desire to run away from the world into the woods.  Since I am not exactly Henry David Thoreau, what I would actually do there is open to debate, but after watching them go through morning routines and days somewhat isolated from the world, it has a certain charm I'm sure in no ways reflects the reality.  For one, a wood burning stove is lovely, but having to keep it filled and fired up all day, seems like a job in and of itself.  Otherwise, you freeze to death.  Add in snow and treks to the outhouse, and I start to greatly appreciate my clunky radiators and my pink tiled bathroom right off the hallway.  (also, it seems really hard to like, order Chinese food at 2AM.) Also bugs.

It's probably just the covid-brain that makes isolation seem so delightful.  I grew up semi-rural, which means we had a sizeable piece of land bequeathed from my grandmother surrounded by fields and forest, but there were other houses in proximity. The neighbors about my bedroom window had horses and it was a good 10 minute drive into "town".  There was a nearby river, where if you wandered down the steep hill from our road, you could probably find neighborhood boys getting drunk.  I spent good chunks of my childhood every summer in Wisconsin, camping in various campgrounds with my Dad's extended family, usually in RV's or tents, but occasionally in cabins that slept like 20 people.  As an adult, I've tent camped a couple times, and stayed with a work friend at a cottage in Michigan, but always wish there was a little more time for extended, more woodsy liesure, (my only requirement being that I don't get too hold, too hot, and have access to a shower...lol).

It was pretty obvious from a young age that I was destined to live in a city.  While the country is lovely in summer, I hate the winter bleakness of the landscape.  At 14, I came in for a day trip to the Field Museum, saw Chicago for the first time,  and it was kind of sealed. (barring that brief period where I wanted to live by the sea and study marine science.) But in covid time, with Loyola students filling the building like contagious little roaches that seem to multiply overnight,  my double-masked exploits on public transportation,  the general anxieties of too many people, too close together and I've been romanticizing that remote life. Even in snow, the idea of a comfy firelit cottage where I had my time devoted to nothing but creating is a lovely dream. Untenable and probably not at all fiscally feasible. But lovely nonetheless. 



Thursday, November 19, 2020

bloom

 

"Who knew the apocalypse could be so cozy? So teaming with contagion and my own tiny paper tigers. let one by one out of cages? One disaster movie after another playing out in my dreams where the pipes bleed and water sprouts from all the sockets." 


Back in the spring, as it dragged into summer, I had a hard time writing at all. What eventually happened in June & July was a short series somewhat related to lockdown and somewhat not. Since coronapoems are everywhere, and indeed, corona everywhere, they seem a dime a dozen right now, but I made a little zine with them because I wasn't quite sure what to do with them but they seem ripe for sharing right now, if anything as a snapshot of a moment.

You can read it here:

https://issuu.com/aestheticsofresearch/docs/bloomzineelectronic

Monday, November 16, 2020

notes & things | 11/16/2020

 I am beginning to feel like the little bump of elation we all felt in the days after the election was a horrible mirage.  Or more precisely that we managed to put out a fire on the stove that was threatening to burn down the kitchen, and succeeded somewhat, but when we turned around the living room was engulfed in flames.  Friday and Saturday were especially bad days.  While my little introvert heart is pretty okay with quarantines and lockdowns for myself (this from the girl who never feels like I actually get to live in my apartment and hang out with these cats) what makes me crazy is watching others in the world--in public and social media--going about the ordinary business of birthday parties and vacations and inside gatherings, while the living room drapes catch fire and nothing is salvageable.  There are still apparently peoople in the world convinced, after all these months of mounting death toll, that it's a hoax.  More, that while they agree it's real, don't think it has any bearing on their ability to live their lives as they always have. More who were super careful and diligent in the beginning, but now have grown fatigued with it all and gone back to gathering with family and friends like we're not battling a pandemic. 

So the lockdown orders come and last week, I see actually more people out shopping and on public trans than the weeks leading up.  Granted, I assumed maybe some of it was people out getting essential things under wraps before staying home, but unless doing your holiday shopping on the Mag Mile is "essential," I don't think so.  I've been watching members of my extended family, weirdly only my mom's side, which is apparently genetically on the short end of stick , going on trips and participating in school sports trips to hot zones and it was freaking me out especially, just as it all was in mid-March. The difference is then it was a surprise and an adjusting to new realities.  Right now there is no excuse.  Even worse, the lawmakers and protesters bitching and filing court cases against governors trying their best in the absence of national leadership.

In about a week, as things get worse and hospitals get overrun, it will be even more apparent we are fucked. They will run out of room to house bodies. Everyone you know will be touched at least by the illness itself if not you. The economy will continue to tank because we didn't shore it up in the first wave and deal with it properly, as much of the world did, the first time.   I don't know what that world looks like and I'm not sure I can stomach it. It might be time for a news and social media fast, but how can it not creep in, even if you are doing your best to follow science and precautions and not be that asshole. 

Thankfully, my boss (who is also my bestie) managed to talk me into a 2 days off-site, 3 days on arrangement for at least the next two months.  You would think it'd be easy to do so, as much as I like being at home.  And  I actually did this over the summer, when we actually shorter on staff and things were less hopping in the ILL & Reserves area. But had been pulling 5 day weeks since the beginning of the semester. since we are still open til 10pm and in need of a night-shifter.  Part of it is that it's just easier to work there tech-wise (I missed my larger screened desktop and six million windows visible.) Part of it also that I get a little too hobbit-like and I think it's better for me to be out in the world just a little.  Also, just a helluva lot of work since we are still pushing to hire someone for the ILL position. I mostly need 5 days some weeks just to keep up.  And while our work space is huge and the library largely empty and safe, really, I finally agreed I should be limiting my commuting days as much as I can.   So the early half of the week I'll be working on programming, research guides,  social media, and such at home, the latter, anything where I actually have to touch books. 

While I also initially was planning for a socially-distanced-as-much-as-we-can Thanksgiving celebration with my dad, I don't think it's safe for any of us, so will be , for the first time in my whole life, making my own dinner (and actually am kind of psyched about it and am manically pinning crockpot options on Pinterest.)  I also like the idea of 4 days off and a chance to get up my holiday decor. If I go home at Christmas, I'm hoping to get some time beforehand to quarantine as much as I can before I go so it will be safer for me to stay there a few days over the holiday. 

It feels like the living room may be a goner, but maybe we can save the house, but every day I become a little less convinced.



 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

on your own | the self-publishing diaries


 I've been thinking about the differences in self-publishing vs. traditional publishing in terms of process the past few weeks, at least when it comes to finalizing galleys and designing covers and the logistics of getting a book into print.  I'm familiar with it a little obviously having published other's work through dgp and issues my own zines, chaps, and artist books over the years, but on a much smaller and more limited scale. But shorter collections and limited editions feel much smaller than dealing with a full-length book, not only the production, but also getting it into the hands of readers or even getting anyone to know that your book even exists. At all.

Years ago, when I was trying to land my first book, I considered self-publishing, as I quickly grew tired of the pay-for-play of contests and all-too-limited spots in open reading periods. (I'm still just as tired, but I have been extraordinarily lucky to have had great relationships with a couple presses that like my poems enough to put their energies behind them outside the contest system.  That first mss. didn't work out that way, but it could have.  What kept me from diving right in, as I do most things, was not necessarily the logistics (though POD publishing has come a long way even since then.) but more the worries of people questioning my legitimacy as a poet (something I give two shits about now) and actually being able to reach readers.  Those legitimacy questions seemed less important in both zine culture and the more open-mic oriented community I was immersed in and more taboo in the academic one, but it still gave me reservations.  

An existing press can guarantee a certain amount of readership and attention, even if it's shoestring operation.  People pay attention to what certain presses are publishing. and look for those books when they're in a shopping mood--books that have the stamp of approval from a press or editor that they know will be to their liking.  Some presses have really good ways of getting the books out there--be they review copies, mailing lists, social media skills.   Some have finely tuned promo machines and staff, some are smaller and doing as much as they can.  And the presence of a great editor and design team is invaluable.  Some are more hands on, some less so, but all make it their job to make some stunning books I am enormously lucky to have in the world. 

On your own, it's pretty much all you (though I have some friends who swear either enlisting a friend or hiring another editor/writer to assist is often a great help)  A second reader, a second set of eyes can be really good, especially outside of a workshop or community of writers helping to hone your work. Even I never fully trust my editing & proofing skills, especially when it comes to my own work (ask me how many times I end up re-doing my own zines because of a pesky typo. )  I rely on the my own and also the author's eyes when it comes to publishing other folks.  Even just tiny things like commas and em dashes and making sure everything line up is an endeavor--and with a longer book and more pages--more work. The cover, also a little more tricky, particuarly if you are working with a template for a printer and not just running them through yourself. 

But even those things aside, what I feel the biggest will be is finding readers and getting the book out there.  Earlier this year, with SEX & VIOLENCE , I knew a certain amount of promo would be built in a release from a traditional publisher.  Even though I feel sometimes like social media and even this blog is dropping dimes into a void, people pay attention a bit more when another press endorses a title by bringing it into being.  With the upcoming book, FEED, I have no idea if anyone will want to read it, so have to work a little harder to get it on the radar. This will be my first time self-issuing a full-length, so we'll see how it goes. Mostly, I just want the book out there should anyone be interested (and this is true of a handful of longer projects I plan to do the same with this year.)  Since it's a new endeavor, I will be compiling notes and writing more in this space about my experience with it, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

feed

 




As the release of this book baby edges closer and closer, I've been thinking about the process of writing it and the strange journey it encompasses. Most of it was written in early to mid 2018. The first section was the hunger palace:  a beast of a series that sometimes is rough to read. Starting tenuously while my mother was hospitalized, the bulk of it came out like blood flow over my holiday break from the library.  I remember writing and freezing--a cold snap that made my apartment chillier than usual, so much so that even the space heater was failing me.  Free of daily obligations of work and commuting, I would move back and forth from my bed, where it was warmest, to my desk in the living room and then back to bed. The entire series was super rough and needed much more work than other parts of the book.  plump for example, written for our library Grimm project came rather quickly and easily and were urged on by the accompanying visual images. the science of impossible objects  had been an idea for a long time before I put pen to paper--the imaginary daughter--but when I did, progress through them happened swiftly at a time when I was writing daily. swallow was a little more drawn out, but again, it seems to be the case the more personal and raw the impulse behind the poems.  the summer house, which took it's inspiration from the visual pieces, and is more an allegory about childbearing and changelings was, comparatively, a breeze. 

I've often said certain obsessions tend to begin constellating work around them.  Suddenly, the puzzle comes together. Suddenly, it was conceived (no pun intended) a book about mothers and daughters, about their bodies and the legacies we inherit from women in our bloodline. About body issues and growing up female. About the choice to be childless as a woman and what that means from a mythical and literal standpoint.  As someone who does not identify as a mother to anything but books , it's a bit tilted a perspective--the idea of the artist giving birth to changelings and imaginary children is an apt metaphor for creation perhaps. And also, a book about grief, about working through the grief of losing a mother and all those motherless girls of myth and fairytale. (the line in hp "I've killed more mother's than I've revived.") 

I'll be finishing up the design aspects in the coming week and aiming for a December release (it will be available on Amazon as a print and an e-book eventually) and also going out to books & objects series subscribers via Patreon. 

swallow #7 & #8

 





These came fast on the heels of the last installment, but I realized I had not shared them in this space. The more recent ones use a bit more stock footage that vintage findings, which is fun.  What I'm working on now, uses a mix of both.  There are still a few more pieces to go I'd like to finish off by the end of this month, so keep an eye out for more.  They are always available on my YouTube channel, so subscribe there to see the most recent video poems.

Saturday, November 07, 2020



Yesterday, I was unpacking a bag of interlibrary loans and came across a book on unexplained phenomena and the American fascination with it.  I wondered who might be requesting such a thing and realized that it was indeed, myself.  I had placed the order on Monday, then completely forgotten the beginning of a week that might as well have been a month or more. Mostly, you would have found me this week staring at news sites and refreshing the page, watching, waiting for that Biden electoral vote to nudge.  Today, I woke up around news to the amazing news that it had.  Last night, found me watching a statement from him and I realized I was crying--not really just because of him, but the woman who stood with him on stage--the miraculousness of a woman on a winning ticket, even as VP, and a woman of color at that.  

Tuesday had found me a little high and curled up on my bed, fearing the worst. Watching as, like four years ago, red spread across that map.  I woke that next morning to the news that all was not so dire at all.  The states filed in.  Michigan. Wisconsin.  It was alarming for sure, that the GOP managed to get as many votes as he did, but at least I feel vindicated that there may be any number of the worst sort of people, but the good ones outnumber them, and the good ones have spoken. All the hate flushed--the bigotry, racism, homophobia, xenophobia.  The anti-science, anti-intellectualism, and anti-compassion.  Those people, emboldened by the past 4 years,  still exist, but maybe they will shrink away or at least shut the hell up. 

Covid is still scary. The world is still a little scary. But for the first time, I feel like we might be alright. 


Saturday, October 31, 2020

20 years


 I've been repeatedly saying that time moves strangely during the pandemic, but in truth, time is always this strange distorted creature. I woke this morning thinking that it will have been 20 years tomorrow exactly that I climbed on a bus and came into Chicago for my interview at the library.  I remember I was hung over, not from alcohol, but from spending the night before watching horror movies and eating too much sugar with my dad & sister. (my mother still in her anti-horror years was  watching something else in the bedroom.)  That morning, we spent ambling through the Michigan Ave shops and getting lunch, but later I found myself standing in front of Columbia and wondering if it was worth it.  Would I even get the job?  Was it even worth uprooting my life? I was woefully underpaid and stressed out at the elementary library, but it had grown familiar and  stable.   It paid so little, I couldn't see every having the funds to get a place of my own.  And yet, I think I was some sort of happy there...and I enjoyed running story hours and making displays and bulletin boards.  Though I'd been repeating that moving away from Chicago the previous year had been a mistake, had it?  Could I just go on there?  Easily, under less than perfect circumstances, but comfortable ones.  The future was darker and more in shadow, but nevertheless I walked in to the interview with very little expectation I'd be hired, and yet, 10 days later, I was. Within a few weeks I was definitely convinced I'd made the right decision and have been ever since. 

What followed was a hurried and chaotic move to another city with very little money  I'd saved a little, but was able to borrow the rest from my parents to get me set up until my first paycheck.  I moved the weekend after Thanksgiving and started that next Monday in a virtually empty apartment.  I had a futon on the floor, a hand-me-down recliner, a small tv and a couple of week's later, a Christmas tree.  In the spring, i'd slowly start filling it with bookshelves and a thrifted couch and my prized green mid-century cabinets.  I've never been flush with money, even less so then, and was making just over twenty grand in the beginning, but it was more than the job before. And while I occasionally overdrafted my bank account, I managed to feed and clothe myself those first couple of years.   

All during those first couple months,  the Bush/Gore election was still up in the air.  Which seemed like the craziest thing, but in hindsight, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the chaos we are facing now.  My perception of national stability was a given.  I'd seen the Dems and Republicans battle it out, but my childhood and college years were pretty stable, even with the first Gulf War thrown in there. Scandal maybe--the Monica Lewinski nonsense, a crude knowledge of Watergate that occured around the time I was born.  There were small things to fear in the corner of our minds, but they were anomalies--Waco, Oklahoma City, the Unibomber.  A year or so later 9-11 would happen and we'd lose a certain American bubble of safety we never really got back.  All of it seems mild compared to now. 

What will happen Tuesday?  I really don't know.  I remember in 2008, they closed much of downtown election night, including the campus.  Obama if he won, was going to hold his celebration in Grant Park and they wanted it to be safe.  The night before, leaving out at 10pm, I saw more cops than I every had patrolling (that is, until this summer and fall.)  They took away the garbage cans and all the mailboxes.  I listed to election coverage while making holiday ornaments for the Etsy shop on the north side. It was peaceful celebration, but a triumphant one. Everyone on the bus the next day was bright eyed and happy. In 2012, the re-claiming was uneventful, so much so that I don't even remember that evening in particular. Four years later I would watch as what seemed a joke and inconcievable happened until I just couldn't watch it anymore.  That night on the way home, a man shouted something crude about my ass as I crossed the street. and the wind blew up my skirt. I knew it was gonna be a long four years. 

I know what I hope will happen.  That Biden will win in a landslide, and while he's sort of serviceable and uninspiring in general, Harris or another woman will take the reigns in four years.  I hope they'll lead the current interloper out in handcuffs if he won't go.  There will be all sorts of nonsense and voter supression--it's a given, but I hope, in the end, common sense and democracy prevails. 


swallow #6 video poem

 


#31 days of halloween | the science of impossible objects





 There's is something delightfully creepy about a spooky imaginary child, so this series rounds out our offerings for the month appropriately