Wednesday, July 08, 2020

dgp notes | july 2020

So we find ourselves midsummer, though the world is still terrifying in places and apprehension inducing even at it's best.  I have been settling back into a modified work schedule at the library, which strangely has given me a bit more structure in my day and dedicated work time for the press, which has been nice. While quarantine was this lawless land of scrolling the news and trying to be useful in a position where only 50 percent of what I do could be accomplished at home (and thus feeling compelled to produce like a maniac and have no work life boundaries lest I be furloughed.) I feel a bit sounder in my work/creative life balance that I can, most days, leave work at work and then come home to work on creative things.

I feel like I'm coming out of a mental fog that prevented me from deep diving on things like galley prep and cover design, so those are things that I am finally feeling up to.  We are slightly behind on the initial schedule, but there is a bit of wiggle room since we took on considerably less titles for this year after i was feeling way too overwhelmed in 2019 (I am still overwhelmed, but just for different reasons this year). There is also more space between titles, which will allow for more orders to be shipped without getting behind or chaotic in my shipping. I feel like 2019 was the year I bit off more than I can shew and I failed in so many ways, but I am trying to remedy this and set new plans for the future. It occurred to me, that this beautiful thing that I built had become a sort of prison in the fall, and leaving the rental space I could never really afford was a big part in beginning to heal that. 

Then again,  spring also had me floundering and feeling like I didn't quite know what the point was--to writing, to the press, to being creative in a world where people were dying en mass. Just a general feeling of hopelessness and disillusionment that made it impossible to write, To make things in general. To care about e-mails and ever growing to-do lists. . And just being terrified (of getting sick, of losing my job, of having no savings) and allowing it to fester.  I wanted to run away.  From everything.   But it occurred to me, especially as the summer began, how important, in these times, that we continue to do the work we do. The best we can do.

I hope to see you on the other side of this month more caught up on things and in remarkably better sorts. Also to dig in on reading subs for the next year, which are waiting in the inbox which feels far less scary and overwhelming now than it did two months ago. 

  Until August...

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

sex & violence update

Yesterday began with the rather delightful news that sex & violence landed smack dab in the middle of Small Press Distribution's list of June poetry  bestsellers, which is not bad for a book released during a pandemic.  I don't remember this happening with any of my other full-lengths, so I am, of course over the moon.  Good news being enormously hard to find of late.  Also something that makes me feel like all these poems--all these books--they are finding the right readers. Well, are finding any readers at all, enormous solace when increasingly the poetry world feels like dropping a dime in a well and waiting for it to hit bottom.  Because things have been a little upside down, there is still some promo things I would like to do with the book in the next couple months, even if an official reading/ release is not possible in covid world--including a trailer and maybe some instagram videos. 

Books, or any published project really, have this strange life that goes on long after you'be finalized the proofs and dotted all the I's. As I've mentioned, this book was pulled together in my own grief of late 2017, and birthed in the middle of a national crises (actually two of them concurrently.)  It was hard to spend the day she arrived mourning not just the upticking tally of virus victims, but also the ongoing murder of countless POC by the police and the unrest brewing that first Monday in  June. I'd actually taken the day off of work, emotionally exhuasted. I'd fretted and napped most of the day, but then landed downstairs to find her on my doorstep--all pretty and shiny and I was in love. 

It's been a weird year, and I say that including the last full 365 days that bought my own struggles last fall that then turned into world-scale struggles by spring. But the book, and the fact that it is finding its way to readers sustains me now that at least my own mental health appears to be on the upswing.  It's tenuous, but the threads are there...

Saturday, July 04, 2020

curvy girl fashion | stolen summer

One boost of headed back out into the world is getting to wear the clothes that have been languishing on the rack all winter and spring. I finally put my coats away in April, my winter dresses in May. I haven't yet pulled out my actual summer wear, though that will happen this week or next (I have a number of spring things that I am itching to wear before tucking them away in the bins under the bed.)  Amazingly, since I've been trying to save money for emergencies, I've bought very little clothing-wise during the quarantine, mostly since, really, I was just wearing comfy clothes in the house with no where to go.  Around my birthday I did indulge in a few purchases, including this dress from Loft which was finally on sale, as well as some leopard shades and a macrame bag for the summer I hoped might follow  (though the jury is still out on that). . Right before the shutdown, I found an amazing leopard bathing suit on sale that I may not get to wear this year, but it's nevertheless lovely should the beaches or hotel pools once again open up.

Fashion seems like a frivolous thing, but it feels like something I can control. Whatever happens with the rest of the summer, I found myself longing just a little for fall. as I do everytime this year when the humidity makes things sticky and inhospitable in my non-AC'ed apartment.  Though who knows what fall will look like, especially since inside pursuits seem more dangerous than outside ones.  I do feel like I was robbed of spring, so may fall feel a bit more like normal, even if that means netflixing more horror movies and just eating a lot of candy.  I did see a Japanese trend towards drive-in haunts, which sounds like glorious fun. 

state of the union

I woke up the other morning, and as I scrolled through the morning horror story that is my facebook news feed and just the news in general, I kept thinking about 10th grade history class. As an white, lower middle class (or maybe upper working class) girl in a suburban highs chool  I know there was so much that the late 80's/early 90's history curriculum left out.  We glossed over slavery and the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights movement and Jim Crow. We also were presented a skewed white historian view of those things, even though we had a decent BIPOC population at the school. In other classes, our reading lists were blandly white and male, and though things were a little more diverse by the time my sister was in high school 4 years later, still not by much.  It was notoriously a horrible school district that was actually sued in the 90's for closing and discrimination against minority populations. and regularly made lists of worse school districts in the US. I doubt, despite that, it is any better today.

But those things aside, I was also thinking  about our collective history.  That when we, particular Gen X-ers, looked the at the atrocities of the past, they were always in the past. At least at 16 or so they seemed that way to me.  The Gulf War would happen, but it would barely be a blip in a childhood that was actually pretty peaceful.   Or seemed peaceful from the distance of the midwest and what the media served up pre-internet. What we've learned from POC is that the atrocities continued, are still continuing. And yet, in my head, I believed, probably til about 4 years ago, that things were getting better. That Americans were getting more progressive and embracing of people who might be different from them--skin color, gender or sexual orientation,  religion, etc.  But I sort of noticed a slight ideological backswing on people slightly younger than me. I was aware of the frothing incels and tea-partiers skulking in their basements (or more precisely their mother's basements).  But they seemed like flies at an otherwise pleasant picnic.  

But when it came to horrible things, even something like 9-11 had easy villains.  You could always write off natural disasters as just something that happened.   As we find ourselves now, we are the worst enemies of peace.  Our legal and policing systems.  Our botching of coronavirus, which was going to be bad, but as other countries have proven, not necessarily apocalyptic. I never imagined myself living inside the history books, those sort of historic disasters and crises seeming, in my 16 year old brain  (and maybe even my 40 year old brain) to be impossible in a world where science and technology and how we can bend the world to our needs & desires.  We have vaccines and medical technology and  really, these are all much more complicated than the simplest thing of all--wearing a mask and keeping distance. But we can't as a mass of diseased humans, even promise that. 

When we learned about the Holocaust, I was sure, in my teenage brain, that nothing like that could surely happen at the end of the 20th Century.  I wasn't even sure how it happened the first time.  Were people not paying attention?  Were people afraid to speak up?  I though for sure, the world was too transparent now. Nothing could be done in darkness or the cover of night without someone taking notice and tweeting about it. Now, I just don't know...It's hard to celebrate the birth of a country that disappoints at every turn. Seems to wallow in it's own stupidity.  To be sort of ashamed and horrified of America itself and what it has become...

Friday, July 03, 2020


from BLOOM

"A body takes to other bodies like it takes to water.  When I was five, I stood in the Atlantic and let the earth move under me. That drop in the stomach between what we feel and see to be real. The keel of gravity and motion sickness.  Still,  we careen into each other in bars.  In the  subway.  Our fingers lingering on the necks of strangers.  Trailing along their hips. How to know what we touch in any given day, or what touches us. What we shed in the evening--eyelash, hair, epidermis-- comes back each morning. How to know where my hands have been when they have been everywhere. This body that collects other bodies in its crevices and nooks.  The hooks that string us together like fish on a line."            

Despite saying I probably needed a certain amount of distance to write about the current state of events, and in fact a 2-3 month span of being unable to write at ALL really, I find myself mid-project on a series called BLOOM--named so because of the ways illness (actual, metaphorical) blooms in the body, in society, in the world. Also the way nature this spring, despite humans and their stupid diseases, continued to bloom while we were still dying. While people were being killed by the virus, by the governement, by the police. But even still, I usually need more distance, and who knows how much time there is for any of us.
I don't know for sure what will come of it, or if I'll hate it for awhile when I'm done. It makes a nice pairing with the OVERLOOK poems, that were less about The Shining and more about capitalism in America as told through the film. Also, maybe, with another series I have planned for later this year, might be an entirely new book project coming into being and taking shape (and because I'm weird like that, I think I already have a really good title I'm considering.)

This week has been a little wonky since my Chromebook was on the fritz and I was waiting for a new one, plus I was heading off to the Library and that ate up a lot of mental energy, but I hope to continue writing daily again through the remainder of the summer. We'll see where it goes...

Thursday, July 02, 2020

hello beautiful

Admittedly, I found myself a little teary as I ventured downtown for my first three days back at the library.  Not so much because I was scared (though no doubt I am a little ) but moreso that felt like I was back where I belong.  Maybe not just the library so much, which is still not technically open til next week and barely then, and which is currently more tomb-like and cool with only a smattering of staff. But just downtown and making my way through the city as I've done nearly every weekday for the past two decades.  And this is coming from someone who rather likes working at home (and will still be doing it some days of the week). 

And while I worried sometimes that it would never be the same, after Covid, after looting and some destruction, it is actually still very much the same downtown I left in March.  The streets are not deserted and overrun with coyotes. There are still some stuff closed indeterminately and some boarded up windows (though most bedecked with BLM artwork by now if not replaced just yet.)  People are out, though a bit less than a weekday afternoon in the summer, when Michigan Avenue is usually glutted with tourists.  But there are still people, all of them masked, or outside, at least carrying one to put on inside. Tuesday, I cried over seeing the skyline on LSD.  Today I nearly cried at how responsible and good our city seems to be when it comes to wearing masks and keeping people safe--a huge feat in such a large city that at times is actually quite small. (Recommendation:  Do not cry in mask.  It's hard and gives you sniffles and probably makes people think you have the rona.) 

But I said hello to the things I love--the lake I'd barely seen for months the lake from LSD,  the Wrigley Building, the river, Grant Park, the flower beds along the Mag Mile. The harbors and their boats and the steadily swelling pond near the zoo which has once again escaped it's carefully engineered banks.  It's like the city is waking up again.   The trees near the bus stop appear to be alarmingly filled with wasps, which is somehow a poem in itself, but the buses are not as crowded as they used to be, nor are the sidewalks in the south loop, with all the students gone. 

The news is still scary, but Chicago seems to be holding itself together. I am holding myself together.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020

breeding monsters

Today I put the finishing touches on animal, vegetable, monster to submit to an open reading period whose deadline is creeping up in the next week.  Initially, I thought I might try sending dark country, but there are bits that need smoothing in there that are weaker.  One manuscript is about horror-movie monsters and suburbia, the other about art and monstrosity, so in many ways they compliment each other. In fact, they might be some strange loose tryptic or trilogy with the currently half-completed automagic manuscript with it's post-apocalypic villains and victorian serial killers.  But then so much in my work of late is somehow monsters, esp. The Shining poems, though in that case it's more of an American capitalist monstrosity.

I realized, though I've been playing with the word doc version for a while, somehow a book is somehow less real until you print out that neat stack. As I do one last check for typos, today felt like a birthing of sorts. The disparate projects that form it--the artist statements, the strangerie poems, my dog girl poems, and the ones I wrote on extinction and museum dioramas, all form a tidy knot, threaded through with questions on art and artifact and mortality.   We'll see how this girl does, though I am really only sending her one place (BLP), and if no takers, I will likely just issue her myself eventually (see my last post re: the book mss. and possible self-publication.)  I feel like I still want to write and find readers, but don't really want to play the book submission game any more.  To sink effort and money into contests and reading periods when I already have a pretty awesome relationship with a press. (but also a press who obv. doesn't have room for every thing I write).  Also, there are so many books by other authors, I don't like taking up more space than I need to.  I've enjoyed publishing tiny editions of individual projects , esp with artwork, , but I do like when things coalesce and constellate into longer book projects. Because of my slow journal submissions for individual poems, much of this is not yet published elsewhere just yet, so there will be peeks here and there if those get picked up in the coming months.

The world feels even weirder right now than previously.  So much is happening in some parts of the country in terms of cases and hospitalizations, yet Chicago is somehow opening back up.  Other places like NYC as well.  Next week, I'll be back in the library. Back to daily bus rides a few days a week.  I have some masks of course, after trying several Goldilocks style for long-term comfort, and a straw hat with a face sheild for public transportation. It kind of makes me look like a mysterious victorian beekeeper. I feel like it all will get worse before it gets better, so may invest in a hazmat suit at some point. The irony is, of course, introvert as I am, I'd be mostly content staying home forever, but there are books to process and materials to send and they are the more practical aspects to my employment. Don't think I haven't oft thought of running away from it all and into the forest to live in a tree or something.  But if I want to pay rent or continue to feed myself.  I have the opportunity to work at home a lot, bu so much I need to do, I need to do on site.  So, I am stuck.