Thursday, August 31, 2006

life in romper room

Would the person blasting "Enter Sandman" on repeat from their window on one of the floors below me please just stop already..?

ahh...Loyola is certainly back in session...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Yesterday, got an acceptance for four poems from one of my favorite online journals I'd been submitting to at least once a year unsuccessfully for like five years--Caffeine Destiny, so I'm psyched to finally have them take something. Today's mail bought the most gorgeous little notebook I ordered from etsy last week, and a scarf, ditto, since it's getting to be just about that sort of weather, even this early. The last couple of days have been rainy, windy, and cold, definitely autumnal. Excellent sleeping weather, though working the 9 to 5 shift this week doesn't allow for much of it. Today was the first day we've been fully functional at work, though not entirely since Outlook mail and the printers were still screwed up, but at least all catalogs, Voyager, and the internet were working. Tonight, I'm about to settle in with some Thai food and fold chapbooks, though not at the same time...
The wicked alice inbox looks a little less scary now that I've culled the Alice submissions from the general ones. Also, made it through all the old ones at the lycos account, at least for fall. I'm about half done and have about 20 poets who will be getting acceptances soon, so since there's still more from August to go through, this will likely be a pretty big issue, which may necessitate not being able to finish it til the end of the month. So much for landing on the actual anniversary which was September 15th, 2001, though I believe I actually had that issue up on the 10th, the day before, well the 11th. Not sure I would have had the concentration to get it up after that anyway. Not for awhile.

But it was such a tiny issue anyway, a couple actual real submissions and others from people I knew from school and such. And don't forget my sister's Art History 2 Essay on the Pre-Raphaelites. When I took that Small Press Publishing class a couple years ago, the hardest thing they said as an editor at first was getting work, which is funny since poets would say the hard thing is getting published. And I know newish journals that are struggling with this. And now, here I have too much good work, more than I need, more than I could ever publish, which makes us incredibly lucky. (Or at least it feels that way until my inbox starts to look a little feral.) One of the arguments about whether or not to accept e-mail submissions is the fear of being inundated by bad work, which can be sent much wider and faster than by snail mail. But I don't really find that to be true at all. It might be the fact that we're sort of small and word of mouth, which weeds a lot of crap out. Or maybe that the people who submit to online journals are a bit more savvy in terms of actually reading the publications and submitting wisely. Anyone else experience this? Or are we just really lucky that way?

Of course, there are the duds who don't read the guidelines, can't follow the simplest directions, and send terrible work, but I've learned to spot these a mile away… The former are definitely usually a red flag of the latter. But sometimes I'm surprised. I'll forgive just about anything, except general prickishness, which I remember only encountering a couple of times. (sorry, guys, but both times it came from men.) Haven't encountered any extreme bitchiness (except my own).

Still it's hard to believe this little baby will be five soon, though, 21 issues. I love it most of the time--(except when I'm cutting and pasting code sometimes until my fingers go numb.) But that's only a couple days per issue. Otherwise, I love reading the work, being introduced to new poets, putting the final product out there.

Monday, August 28, 2006

So much for getting much of ANYTHING done today. The library server apparently crashed over the weekend....thus rendering us all pretty much worthless today--no e-mail, no catalog, no circ system, no internet. *insert junkie like twitching*. So not only could I not do any press work, but could not even console myself with work work. Besides, after a rather good start, my first day back quickly plummeted as soon as I left the apartment, when I waited 20 minutes for a late and crowded bus in the rain, nearly fell asleep at my desk, got drenched even with my umbrella in my attempt to get coffee during my lunch break, and then did spent my stint on the circ desk staring at the clock and explaining every two minutes why nothing worked, and that no, I cannot pull a call number out of my ass. Grrr....I sent a couple folks up with vague destinations...graphic novels, historical memoirs, but nothing specific. We have books at this point, but no one can find where they are.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

new stuff at etsy.

Firmly back in the saddle after spending most of yesterday organizing things and unpacking. Today working on various things and some collages. Also perusing all the great little distractions I got in my mail--the new tinysides, Jessica's Organic Furniture Cellar, a teeny bird book from the Dusie Atelier, and a copy of Cranky. Hopefully soon I'll have time to actually sit down and read them, along with all the traded stuff I've gotten the last few weeks. Tomorrow, back to work, but it will give me some structure I badly need in order to actually get anything done.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


On the rainy ride back from Wisconsin I had to practically tie my hands to keep from pulling out my notebook and frantically scrawling a to do list regarding all the stuff I have to get to when I get back to the city tomorrow. This evening, I finally relented, and now sullenly feel like I may never get it all done. Copies of Vestigial Portions to assemble, additional copies of How to Study Birds to print and put together (we've run out and I've gotten the go-ahead from Sarah G to do more since she's out too.).Several orders to fill that have come in over the last two weeks. I've also got to order a new drum for the figure, we're talking some 600 chapbooks over the last 10 months or so. I've killed the poor thing. And we won't even talk about the Wicked Alice submissions I didn't look at at all over the past two weeks. Needless to say I will hopefully be able to make decisions on them this week. After Labor Day, it's back to school and getting the print annual printed and assembled. I just need to breathe. It will all get done in good time. Maybe it's just that end of summer panic when I feel like I should be much further along with some projects than I actually am.

The last few days were actually pretty relaxing--all dark pine tree forests, giant ice cream cones, and the glorious hotel pool and jacuzzi at the Arrowhead. The I've been playing around with girl show and revamping some pieces, discarding other bits. Blissfully, the last week has bought a bit of good submission news--acceptances from 42opus, dusie, and alice blue. The removal from my regular surroundings have been good in terms of my own writing, but I don't like operating away home base for very long. It frazzles my control freakiness to no end.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

drive-by blogging

In the presence of terrible dial-up and no keyboard perpetually tethered to my wrists, just a few quick things. A very good discussion of DIY and self-publishing here. Also new tinysides at Big Game and t-shirts at DIAGRAM. Also very lovely etsy things here, here, and here. As for me, I've been writing and napping profusely, pondering the goodies in my mailbox when I get home next weekend.

Monday, August 14, 2006

After a busy weekend, I'm trying to relax into this whole vacation feel, which is a tough adjustment. To not feel like I have a million things to do--poems I HAVE to write, books I HAVE to read, press and wicked alice stuff I HAVE to do. I'm going to be busy with the Alice issue and the print annual when I get back into town, plus assembling Vestigial Portions (if you've ordered a copy they will be done and in the mail around the 24th), but I'm taking a break from most of it this week and next.

Already that August wiltiness has seetled into the gardens, though the weather has been pretty nice overall, warm enough but not too hot. I'm usually amazed how dark it is here at night, darker than I remember it being when I was younger. The moon has been reasonbly full the last few nights, though, so there's this eerie otherworldly glow out my bedroom window, quiet enough I could hear the horses next house over. The trucks rumbling on the highway. Even the drooping tomato plants in my dad's garden looked spooky, having already filled the house with baskets, ready for my mom to make them into salsa, always a stinky, messy couple of days, but the results are pretty damn good.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

It has been a weird, weird week here in real life, but it's getting infinitely better, especially with two weeks vacation on the horizon. Two weeks during which I intend to do nothing but write and relax--two things which seem theoretically impossible at the same time, but I'm willing to try. I want to play a bit with some newer girl show poems, a project which has picked up a little steam the past couple weeks after stalling out a bit. Perhaps it will be longer after all. I spent the morning working on a rather big collage for my mom, to whom I'd promised one using blue as the predominant color, so I needed to run to Utrecht on my lunch hour to get some sort of mat for it---also got some tiny ones for some little pieces I've been planning. Yesterday, got the final pdf and the cover design on feign and love it, love it, love it. We've decided to wait an release it in February, giving a reasonable margin between it and the fever almanac, yet still allowing me to pimp it at AWP (where I will also be pimping dancing girl press titles and sharing a table with Switchback Books, whose first book will be making its debut..)I haven't been to the conference since it was in Chicago, so I'm way looking forward to it.

As for the next two weeks, I will be in Rockford for awhile and the yearly sojourn to Wisconsin. I do find I write more when there, though it might just be less distractions of the internet kind. Last night, I rounded off my Asian horror-fest with Pulse, which has an impending American version soon hopefully to be released. I had a bit of trouble figuring out what the hell was going on, so the English version will hopefully clear that up. Just the latest in the technogothic mode--how technology can turn bad: unlabeled videotapes, television, cell phones, the internet. I know my computer is definitely evil.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

at etsy
Spent the earlier part of the day going over the pdf's of feign from NMP. The typesetting and layout GORGEOUS! (I get way too geeked over fonts.) Just a few things to be fixed--my dreaded missteps on "its" and "it's" (even when I know the rules, I still persist in screwing it up), some extra spaces, and a wonky line break. Otherwise--perfection. We're still hammering out the release date, since the other book is coming out round then. At least there's no overlap in the poems. Even though I considered keeping them as one big whopping 100 page manuscript last summer at the height of my book fever, I'm glad they weren't in there when Ghost Road accepted it. They just didn't fit, subject-wise and I've added alot to them in the past year. There was this weird break in my work around the fall of 2004, which was where the old book ends and feign poems started. I was working on errata around then and that might be part of it, something differing pretty greatly from my usual repetoire. They were supposed to be a full-length book themselves, but wound up shorter and I was ready to move onto new stuff. Looking at them now, I realize, at 40 pages,they're pobably just as complete a project as the fever almanac is at 60, which does just continue to blur those lines between "full-length" and "chapbook."

It's not a sure thing just yet, but we might be using the bird collage on the cover in black and white. I went looking for pictures of mechanical or wind-up birds a few weeks ago, and decided to send it, to illustrate what I was going for, and they seemed to like it. Now that I think about it, it's perfect actually, especially with the sentence diagrams tying in ith the first poem. The poems also have alot birds, alot of machinery and metal. the idea of falseness, fakery. When she was in town, Sarah G. mentioned at Quimby's about her unintentional addiction to writing about birds..I seem to be afflicted similarly the past couple of years--probably one reason why I loved her book so much when she submitted it (also the cover art by Elisabeth Pellathy.) I mean look what dulcet is about--birds and a dead girl, of course. It's a sickness..

Yesterday, I fished out my camera, which even with the flash broken, still takes fairly decent pics in the daytime. Thus my new profile pic, here and on the website, and also some other shots below. Note the sliver of kitty peeking from behind the laptop, which is what I usually have to contend with when trying to work, moving cats repeatedly off my stuff.

This weekend's entertainment line-up is more Japanese horror movies. Last night, something called Marebito, about subterrerannean vampire creatures, not scary but at times sort of disturbingly erotic with the whole sucking thing. Tonight's offering--Dead Waves, which is supposedly about exorcisms.

dancing girl press headquarters

in other parts, known as the dining room:

Friday, August 04, 2006

submissions still open

for the 5th Anniversary Alice Issue until August 15th. Submit! Submit! Submit!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Earlier, I was trying to figure out which I hate more--my own rejections or the ones I have to dish out, particularly when it comes to the press, the chapbooks. I feel there's a bit greater weight to the seriousness of submitting a manuscript--not just a couple of poems--but something larger. While I've been known to make rather quick decisions with Wicked Alice based on whether the piece in question trips my trigger, this takes a little longer. I carry some manuscripts around for days when I'm on the fence. Reading and re-reading. I think it sort of calls for an even greater sense of seriousness in my task as an editor. And so much of what we get is completely competant and sound work, but unless I can hold it and say "Good god..WOW..we just have to publish this"--I have to say no. not enough time..not enough resources. Sometimes to people whose work, on a poem by poem basis, I love. It's frustrating, and I hope the things we turn down find a home elsewhere, and I know for a fact some do. But I hate to think I'm returning someone's baby to them, a little scuffed, and saying "sorry, we just can't keep her.."

Today a round of rejections, with still a half dozen or so that have made it to the next round. Which I will no doubt agonize over for another week or so. I hope to have the inbox cleared (at least everything up til the last month or so) somewhat by the time I leave for vacation on the 11th. Next year, I'm thinking maybe a shorter reading period may alleviate some of the deluge. Maybe April through June instead of October. I still have at least four slots left-more if I decide to double up on releases. And there are a couple of quasi-solicitations in the work (basically me badgering people into submitting). All of which will be fit in somehow around the others.

Tonight, I'm filling orders and printing Failed Stars . As soon as we get some line length issues fixed in Vestigial Portions, I'll be doing those as well. Look for both available soon.

hell yeah!

Writers and artists are empowered when we take on the means of production and distribution, but likewise, culture is strengthened when power is shifting through the hands of many rather than consolidated in the hands of few. Power is seized and re-seized, it is dispersed and shifting—sustaining lithe and innovative poetic cultures.

--Kaia Sand, How2 Forum on Small Press Publishing

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I remember one of the most productive moments in my first poetry MFA workshop was when a discussion arose regarding a poet's intention. Was it possible to write without an intention? If you have an intention in any given poem, what is it? How does that form the poem? Mind you, I remember the subject was abruptly cut short in order to get to everyone's work (one of my chief complaints about workshops). But we went around the room, asking each of us what we wanted our writing to do. Those who had answers said any number of things--to explore language, to evoke emotion. My answer, and it still is, is to tell a story. Not always a whole story. Maybe just part of a story, just a trace of a story. Sometimes, it sort of feels like a copout. A all too ready response to the question, "what did you intend this to do?" or the dreaded and annoying "why did you write this poem?" Of course, secretly, I think this isn't a question that should really be asked. My intent doesn't have a lot to do with it (sorry, those New Critical roots engrained in college)...perhaps in context of a workshop where we're discussing whether it succeeds, but really, I'm more interested in what the poem does without me. I'm not the least bit necessary. Nevertheless, I've found myself answering the question more than once with "I wanted to tell a story," which in a few cases had met with some odd, even confused looks.

I'll admit, I started off as a fiction writer. That was the initial impulse. But I'm better at poetry somehow. More precision, less space to wander. In my one and only fiction workshop as an undergrad, I was told that my sentences were too long, to complicated, too convoluted. And they were. Horribly so. I think I need the discipline poetry affords, for whatever reason. Poems are also instant gratification, it being much easier for me to maintain control over a poem than a ten page short story. For that control freak in me to be satisfied. And there's so much more freedom with what can be done in a poem, and concentrated in such a small frame of language.

What's funny though is I do not really set out with a definite story in mind, except maybe in the case of the latest project. I typically start with the language and allow the story to come from what I have. I work a lot with collaging words and phrases and fragments together from my notes, these days moreso than initially. Sometimes with an initial idea behind what I want the poem to touch on, sometimes without. Often it goes in another direction entirely. Often I have to scrap it all and start over. But as I go, something develops, the story starts to take shape, however fragmented or incomplete.

I think in the the fever almanac poems, at least the ones written through 2003, I was more driven in what I wanted to tell, what I wanted to get on the page. The later poems were written more like how I write now---the collaging, a more random sense of composition (which oddly satisfies me more--to create something from nothing rather than something from a preconceived idea.). The whole book, however, feels like a group of interconnected snippets of narrative, sometimes, overlapping, sometimes, struggling with each other. As individual poems, they tell a small piece, or fragment of a story. As a whole they resonate off the others toward a cumulative effect. feign is much the same way, though many of these poems are more less about narrative and more about thematic idea. But there's still stories in the poems, perhaps even more erratically wrought than in the other book. The poems often come off as more instructions, allegories, with a little bit of narrative woven in, but all pointing toward the thematic arc. I also noticed a few months back a difference in the speakers of these poems. While the fever almanac is all about memory vs.language, these speakers have no memory and exist entirely in the present.

I have a feeling that some people will like the poems in feign better than the fever almanac, because they avoid this sense of narrative. Particularly in the academic poetry world, or my little corner of the academic world, "narrative" is a dirty little word, often used dismissively or derogatorily. By other's who are looking for that little bit of thread, the fever almanac is probably more satisfying. Me? I don't know. I like both, but I think they work in different ways. The new manuscript on the other hand, girls show,seems to be heading back to those narrative urges, again, overlapping stories, though this time intentional, and not so much serendipitous as with the first book. This time I'm writing the book from the beginning, so I imagine it will either be better or worse because of it.

The thing which intrigues me most about feign and girl show is that they are creating their own little worlds., while the older manuscript just exists in this one. They're much fantastical, more surreal. They work with a lot of the same symbols, tropes, images, but the poems are stranger. Also leaner, meaner. But they also ask more of the reader.

However, the problems with narrative poetry:

1. imposes a structure on events. Is typically, by default, linear. This happened. Then this. Then this.

2. implies a single, authoritative, credible speaker or voice who can be trusted to relay that structure.

I would also add that it usually lacks a certain lyricism and attention to langauge, but so does alot of non-narrative poetry. I'm interested more in the above considerations, however. How they mesh with Cixous' ecriture feminine? How do more experimental narrative approaches deal with this?

Over at the PoetryFoundation Site, there's a discussion that touches a little on the whole language as vehicle, language as material discussion. For me this sort of gets at what I see as the primary difference between poetry and prose--that transparency of language. When I read a novel, usually I'm reading for story, what's happening, for plot. Granted certain novels are more poetic in their attention to language, and I enjoy this as well. I read trashy horror/mystery novels much differently than I read "serious" fiction, plus I read alot in-between stuff. One intends for the language to dissappear, be seemless (except in just downright BAD writing, which calls attention to itself in the other extreme.) the other, for the writer to become attenuated to it's language. Successful fiction treads this line really well. Some fiction, including my own attempts, however get to bogged down in beautiful sentences, in beautiful language, that they become incomprehensible and lose sight of the story they're trying to tell. Lose the reader in the labyrinth.

Poetry, on the other hand, needs to do the same, though the scales may need to be tipped the other way. What I hate is proseyness in poetry. Language that is used in a rather mundane way to relate events or emotions, but isn't conscious of itself as anything other than a sentence by sentence account. This is my beef with folks like Billy Collins and Ted Kooser, and all their discussions of accessibility. Not because I think poetry needs to be difficult, but because I think poetry needs to be "poetic"--engaged with language materially, no matter what it's trying to say.And yes, you have to work harder to process that sort of thing as opposed to everyday prose. The poor poet tries to get his idea, or plot, or image, across by using language asmerely a vehicle, without dealing at all with the layers and depths of meaning, sound, syntax and construction. The good poet takes all these into account and has something to offer beyond that--idea, voice, image. The guts of poetry, the WHAT.

In terms of narrative, I'm thinking of the epic poets, who by necessity, did not just ramble everyday speech into stories, but made verbal constructions dependent on memorability--rhythm, rhyme, repetition. Still, the narrative was the point historically, really, the rest just the framework. After the "invention" of fiction and the novel as a vehicle for narrative, poetry was free to develop into something else. What that something else IS however, is what no one ever agreed on. The lyric "I"/contemporary narrative/ (language as vehicle for self, story, emotion) vs. language poets/the avante garde (language as material), and all their various manifestations. Not quite that clear cut--all sorts of folks in between, Modernists, surrealists, objectivists, ellipticists, leaning one way or the other.And even poets within those two poles not the same at all. So what about narrative, how does narrative in poetry succeed and go where fiction does not/cannot? Does it need to? What are the obligations of the poet in regard to narrative in terms of language as vehicle and materiality?

Another thing touched on in the conversation is the idea of the unified whole, or self, which is also one of the concerns regarding narrative poetry. I like the quote from Hejinian: "One is not oneself. One is several, incomplete, and subject to dispersal." How the sense of cultural or political displacement alienates the speaker from language, which is what Hong is getting at. And this all has alot in common with ecriture feminine, in terms of women writers. Notions of the fractured self manifested in syntax, an absence of linearity, fragmentation.