Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Today started with some rather productive studio time--lots of author copies, some packaging for the new hairclips, various odds and ends.  I always find it amazing the difference in starting my day there or ending it there.  Spending 8 hours at the library beforehand, while not particularly mentally or physically strenuous, it's still the tail end of the day and I'm usually mentally or physically exhausted by the time I get to the studio and then only have a couple hours before I need to head home.  I'm much more on my game when I'm fresh in the morning and can always adjust the time I get in during heavy work times.

While there was some boring library tasks and unendurable staff meetings in between, it finished on a good not with some writing related things--okaying the final proofs on MCMF for Sundress, submitting poems to a couple places (one solicited, one over the transom), then answering some interview questions about the shared properties...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

This week, while we're almost at the end of it, has been better in weather and less achiness, smoother in terms of productivity.  I'm plowing through library tasks and gearing up for the new semester that starts Monday.  I'm getting closer to being caught up on orders and author copies.   I'm  feeling calmer and less overwhelmed. (Though productivity comes at a cost of creativity, so while I've put the writing and art on hold momentarily til the weekend, I've been indulging my artsiness via design projects for work and cover art for forthcoming books.)  This works for awhile, but then I start to get itchy.

I was watching the episode of Friends tonight while folding books and it was the episode where they all freak out over turning 30, which got me thinking about decades and spans of your life and whether your feel like your really an adult, like you've really accomplished the things you feel you should have at any given age. I've always considered my twenties as a time period I was laying a lot of groundwork..college, my first apartment out on my own, grad school, my first real job (well then my second real job that was much better.) I was also sort of laying the foundations of what I guess could be considered "voice" in my writing, or at least moving toward a range of voice.  While I completed that first rather awful manuscript  at 25 (in a rush, mostly because I felt like I needed to get that done before I hit that particular age) by the time I hit 30, things were beginning to happen--publications, prizes, finishing up what would become my first book, the fever almanac.  I was enrolled in the first year of my MFA program, was just starting the press, was just starting the poems that would become in the bird museum. Given all that, I was not all that fazed by that particular birthday, mostly becuase I felt like I had accomplished alot in my twenties and was pretty much doing exactly what I wanted with my life.  My thirties were definitely more of the same, more writing, more books, the wild and amazing success of the press and how its grown. Building on the groundwork I'd laid in my 20's and really coming into my own. Granted, my focus was on various things at various times---sometimes more on visual arts and crafty things, sometimes on the press, sometimes on my own writing.  I also feel like the last few years I've gotten more comfortable in my skin, in my sense of self, in articulating the things I want and value most.

While I've been 40 for nearly a year and am staring down 41, I'm both excited and terrified at what the next decade brings..I don't quite feel all mid-life crisis-y, but I feel like what I want more is balance, to not being careening from one thing to another, always that need to be more organized, more able to be in the moment and not be racing, both mentally and physically. To enjoy things and not being ticking off checkmarks on a list and allowing the unchecked to impede my enjoyment of the thing I am doing right now.  I still plan to work just a hard and do all the things, but to luxuriate in all the things I love much more than I have in the past.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Despite my ever persistent grumpiness, I have been quite productive this week, finishing up preparation for chaps from Lori Lamothe, Danielle Pieratti, and Alessandra Bava, which we all be out by early next week.  I've also been chopping away at spring reserves, feeling out programming and content for the Aesthetics of Research project, and doing some early prep work for AWP, including the above postcard design.  I've also been whittling away on a new shop layout that will be unveiled in February, as well as all sorts of new art & crafty goodness (all the things I bought supplies for making for the open studio I had to cancel when I was laid up in December--new jewelry, japanese paper flasks, cufflinks, paperweights, & more...)

Incidently the artwork above is part of the strange machine series, the poems for which I am humming along on (well, I call two writing days humming along).  The collages, along with the finalized text, will eventually be a zine eventually.  In other zine news, I am also proofing dreams about houses and bees which will be under construction soon. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

parenthetically yours....

On and off achiness, plus winter blues has me feeling mean and sharp and hating nearly everyone I encounter. I'm mostly functional (it's about fucking time, after 2 months of hobbling), but terribly grumpy. It gets worse as the day goes on, both the ache and my mood, so it's best to catch me early in the day (and ideally before I go to work, which about 1-2 hours of good mood & semi-productivity.) But raspberry margaritas and Mexican food are on the horizon Friday, and a weekend which seems just a little lighter on the workload (which will hopefully allow me some poem-time and crafty goodness. ) Also, I finished drafting a poem today --the first of the year--(it's quieter at work, all my friends out for one reason or another, so everyone else just leaves me alone, which makes me more productive, sort of like the kid that gets moved to the corner of the classroom.) But then again, the lack of the usual comic relief seems to have made me even more grumpy about work things.

 I do realize there are too many parenthetical remarks in the paragraph above. Too much grumpiness. I spent last night staring at sundresses and summer ginghams on pinterest and while I can't afford to buy any (nor do I have room in my closet for them), they made me feel much better for a while. I also booked my hotel room for AWP, and it's actually a double and all they had left, so I will likely be looking for a roomie to split the cost if I can find one. Nothing fancy, and I'll be rocking it Holiday Inn style, but it looked clean and is like a block from the conference center, so I'm calling it a win. Train tickets are next and call me crazy after that whole avalanche/delay business last spring, but I like the train and am looking forward to it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

So, its Sunday, and despite the mercury climbing just a little bit, I am hibernating inside complete with mushroom pan pizza, a chenille throw, and all the episodes of Friends on Netflix. Yesterday, I put in some time at the studio still playing catch-up, which feels like it will be happening until just about forever. And of course, as soon as I get some of that under wraps, there is so much to do to get ready for AWP (which blissfully is a bit later this year). Not only will it give me more time, but the only place that winter could possibly seem more depressing than Chicago would be Minneapolis (though maybe Detroit gets that honor.) By April, things will be thawed and lovely and winter all but behind us. As, I am definitely moving a bit more on the spry side as well and may be up for some social action by the end of the week in the form of desperately needed margaritas.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

It's cold.  Cold enough for morning raspberry hot chocolates and tights + knee socks + leggings.  Cold enough that I really would rather just stay on the warm bus all day and ride around rather than get off.  Cold enough I've been ordering sandwiches to be delivered rather than brave the elements to walk a couple blocks (even with my leg/back being relatively better than even a week ago.).

I realized how cranky I was this morning and feeling disjointed, and yes, part of it is the weather, and my back, and how goddamned difficult everything seems lately. But also that I haven't really been focusing on any writing projects since I returned from Christmas and that stuckness makes me frustrated (granted, I've been very busy playing catchup and just surviving.)  I start to get resentful of wasted time, of time doing things I don't want to do, dealing with people I don't want to deal with.   I start to get incredibly hermit-like and anti-social (well moreso than usual.)  A writing Kristy is a happy Kristy. Not-writing Kristy will bite your head off (especially if it happens to be winter and it's later in the day when her leg starts to ache).  Winter is another one of those things where the only way out is through, but I feel like I'm barely hanging on. I feel like I need to clear some mental space and  dig deep into a project and maybe emerge somewhere around March.  I just might do it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

So Tuesday and I already I feel under the bus wheels of the week, a week which has so far included too much snow, too much cold, and pain in smaller increments than before but still there in bits and pieces.  Walking too much causes a dull ache that wears me out, as does sitting in chairs that are not the usual ones.  Bending & stairs, still shakey, but better than before.  I am pushing full steam ahead on getting the rest of the mid-December orders out and some author copies of the newest books, plus a couple of bigger orders.  I have a handful of  new titles all set to go after a couple tweaks, and then I'll be starting the last round of the layouts for 2014 books (and then after the layouts for the first titles of 2015 (one of which, Danielle Susi's The Month In Which We Were Born,  has already debuted on New Years Day.)   I also plan to send out my next bundle of zines to subscribers, which will include ghost landscapes and dreams about houses and bees and if I can get it done, a little something else...

I am trying to get back to feeling like I'm somewhat in control of my life and it's slow going, but hopefully I am getting there.  I felt like things were slipping out from under me all the latter half of the year, even before the health issues, so it may be a long road back to any sense of calm or order, to escape that pervading sense of panic..

Meanwhile I try to organize things with detailed tasks on postage notes that get moved around from day to day (I sort of adopted a new way of doing to-do lists early in November, and it was working til everything went to hell.)  I'll share pics and more details soon in another entry, though, because, despite losing a lot of time in November/December and moving through the tasks much more slowly, it really works rather well in keeping me at least semi-organized (or feeling semi organized)...

Monday, January 05, 2015

writing life: truth with a capital T

At my first ever AWP in 2004, I sat in on  panel on Poets Reading Novelists and Novelists Reading Poets or somesuch, where a novelist exclaimed at the beginning that he always assumed that poets, unlike fiction writers,  were telling the honest-to-god truth.  That poetry was this expression of the self in its purest form and that poets were chained to mere personal experience for their inpiration and that anything else was highly disingenuous.    And no doubt many agree, as witnessed by the number of "I came, I saw, I had an epiphany." poems littering the world.  The poets experiences nature.  The poet experiences heartbreak. The poet experiences loss. I, of course,  was never very good at this. My themes (ideas, concerns, obsessions), whatever they happen to be at the moment, tend to need a broader framework and  I tend to look at projects as stories, sometimes mine, sometimes someone else's.  The I in my poem is sometimes me, sometimes not me, and sometimes a strange hybrid.  The other people, the boyfriends, the mothers, the sisters, are very often compilation of people and experiences that are melded together for my own evil ends  It's the best sort of lying.

With impending release of major characters in minor films ever more nigh (you can pre-order a copy here)  I've been thinking a bit about shifts in my work over the years.  This books feels perhaps like the most autobiographical of all, even perhaps moreso than the fever almanac, which relies so much on persona.  Or maybe there is still persona, but it's closer to the bone. I've felt for a long time that the james franco poems, which make up one of the sections of this book, are perhaps the truest thing I've ever written. The other books are just distant, and not all of the stories they tell are necessarily my own. major characters.. is more autobiographical in detail  I suppose, but also the voice feels more clearly my own. (or as my sister said after reading it  "This is so totally you!")  The series is perhaps closes to what my actual voice sounds like in real life, the sort of things I actually might say or obsess about on any given day (and no surprise these things happened while I was sort of messing around with words and not WRITING per se, or at least tricked myself into thinking I was fucking around and not working. It felt like journaling, and if I remember correctly, I think I purloined some statements from this very blog when I was stuck.  The other poems in the book, the poems that made up havoc, the poems about creative anxieties, the moon letter poems are all series that drew largely from autobiography.

I can't say everything I've written since has been as much about me, except maybe the mermaid poems in shipwrecks of lake michigan (but then again, they're mermaid poems, so there's a bit of embellishment involved.) In what became salvage, there are those, the body/illness poems, the house series, and the ghost landscape pieces, which tell their own little story and aren't so much about me.  The new book and it's apocalypse poems are somehow both  fictional and non-fictional at the same time. There are more personal pieces and then there are persona pieces (most notably the terrestrial animal section with it's 1960's housewife motif) .

As I look at new work, I find myself wondering what exactly TRUTH is when it comes to poetry?  Is it in the details or in the product?  The truth that exists within the bones of the fiction?

Friday, January 02, 2015

very bad boots: a cautionary tale

So one of my oft-repeated resolutions is to blog more, and usually that gets steamrolled right about the time I head back to work and immerse myself in studio doings and blogging becomes pretty much the lowest (or maybe highest and unreachable) rung on the priority ladder, and falls away much like going to the beach more or cooking my own meals more.  Above (or below) it fall all of the other more pressing fires and obligations (the library with its semesterly reserve chaos, books to layout and release, orders and author copies to process, wicked alice business) and lastly my own creative work, which sometimes also gets subsumed in the waves. If it comes down to write a blog entry or write a poem, the poem usually wins unless I'm in super avoidance-of-my-own -writing mode, which happens sometimes.  So the blog becomes this occasional catch up thing, when really I like it best as a way to work out my thoughts, to use it as a writing tool, and as such, I suppose a more in the minute sort of documentation more than a bi-weekly round up.

So I find myself here again, at the beginning of another year.  Same goal, same channel.

I've mostly been resting up the past couple of days.  My back/leg has receded to an ache when I stand too long or bend over suddenly, so it's better, but I'm still moving about in the world gingerly for the next few weeks.  In the greater realm of things, as big as an interruption as it was in my groove and as painful as it was, I can't help but think there are always worse things  (my mother turned 40 for example and was diagnosed with colon cancer. ) I am aware that as one gets older, these become more commonplace--more aches, more pains, more ways in which your body fails you. I've always felt like I was pretty in tune with my body..I guess it's half ass biofeedback, but I could sometimes make a headache or hiccups go away just my focusing.  I've been blessed *knock on wood* by a relatively trauma free life--only a broken finger when I was a child, no major ailments or sicknesses beyond the occasional cold/flu. I had a trick knee that would sometimes do scary popping things when I as a teenager, but I could still soldier on and refused to let it keep me from doing things like limping around amusement parks and dancing in musicals.  Walking alot in the city  seemed to strengthen the tendons and cure it. When I was 26 I had some lower back spasms that were def more stress-related than physical ( I was still mobile, and it really only hurt when I first stood up,  but they oddly went away as soon as I found my first post grad school job).  I had a bad bout of mono about 8 years ago, but I recovered despite several other recurrent colds/infections that year.  In the intervening years, I've had some fevers, a rather nasty burn from boiling water on my midriff (otherwise known as the ramen accident), last summer's incident with the food poisoning (the raspberry incident) , but nothing that actually landed me in a doctors office.

In fact, the past few years, in which I've lost quite a bit a weight, exercise more regularly,  and am eating better, have felt the healthiest, the strongest I've ever been.  My philosophy is usually that what doesn't kill me makes me more invincible.  All it took was a faulty pair of stylish boots and a few hours of altered gait (made worse by not resting or correcting it immediately until I could hardly walk,) to take me out of commission for nearly three weeks. Apparently, a pinched nerve and attendant muscle issues are beyond my bio-feedback skills and it made me sort of frustrated and angry that my body was not cooperating like I thought it should. The irony is I consider myself a very careful person who makes an effort to be extra super careful.  No running down stairs without holding on.  No crossing against the light.  My eyes always on the ground for uneven sidewalks and slippery patches.  No heels above 2 inches.   Of course it would be vanity in the form of chocolate leather riding boots that would take me out.

I'd gotten them and worn them once in October and had, the next couple of days, a rather unpleasant tingling feeling in my back/thigh.  I didn't think too much about it and it was gone by the end of the week and I sort of forgot about it.  I had bought them as a replacement for an older dark brown pair that always rubbed the ball of my foot after too much walking since the heel was closer to 2".   These were flatter and pretty and had rather lovely little buckles.  I was smitten and actually bought two more pairs in other shades since they were reasonably affordable and I was in a shoe-buying frenzy at the beginning of fall.(black and reddish brown) -neither of which caused me any pain whatsoever, so I'm convinced it's a manufacturing error on that single right boot.)  The second time I wore them, in mid November, I was good for a few hours but that sensation came back.  By the end of the night, I was good as long as I stayed sitting down, but as soon as I stood, the right leg was rather painful and making a zinging sensation (and of course, I was at the library and unable to change them out til I got home.)  I finally blamed the boots, threw them in a bag of clothes to be tossed out  and figured like the last time, it would go away. Except it didn't.  In fact it got worse. For two weeks,  I continued on doing all the things I normally do -riding the bus, working on the studio, but spent most of my time sitting or hobbling around and even the walk between the Fine Arts and the library was getting really painful.  I was always rushing to sit down, which in itself was slowly becoming less comfortable  Lying down was good.  Certain chairs where I could sort of fold my legs underneath crossed at the ankle worked.  I took to wearing only my flattest shoes (which actually I think was the worst thing I could of done because ballet flats have absolutely no support whatsoever and were not doing anything to correct the problem.  I was in survival mode, moving my body painfully place to place, from bed to bus to studio to library, back to bus, to home, to bed, repeat) but not really all that present or attentive or even productive.  I did a reading at the Poetry Center standing on one leg behind the podium to avoid putting weight on the bad one. I relied on delivery and peapod for food and groceries.  I was just trying to get through til the break.

Of course, like anyone who gets super anxiety when it comes to doctors, I turned first to google and web md.  I suspected the problem was very likely my sciatic nerve which had afflicted a number of people around me at various times.  i suspected maybe I was irritating it from sitting on it, especially since it seemed to get worse after I sat in my chair at work all day (the rub was that it hurt at about a 5 when I walked and a 7 when I stood,so all I could really comfrtably DO was sit).  My desk chair at the studio was fine, but trimming books was harder since I always leverage the weight of my body against the blade, especially for thicker books. In hindsight, it wasn't the sitting I think that was the problem, more the more I walked and stood throughout the day worsened it (especially since it would be rather painless when I first got up in the morning, but sometimes would start hurting as I walked to the bus.)  Judging that the pain seemed to radiate rather deeply in my butt (I kept laughing it off as a royal pain in the ass ), I did some research on the piriformis muscle, and judging by the relief I got from actually rotating my thigh outward (why sitting indian style  or with my legs crossed at the ankle felt good), I suspected it was the culprit and source of the pain.  I took everything I could, large amounts of ibuprofen, aleve, tylenol, excedrin, and they really didn't help much.  I was convinced that I just needed to make it through to Thanksgiving where I would have a few days off, be able to rest a bit and return cured.  The problem was that by the time I landed in Rockford I definitely couldn't walk and could barely sit upright.  I spent the holiday span mostly in my childhood room or on the couch or at best, parked in a chair in the dining room during the festivities downing as much cranberry whiskey punch as I could muster, which dulled the pain a little, at least until I was slightly drunk and drowsy and uncomfortable enough that I had to go back to bed. It was a weird week, which involved a frustrating trip to the immediate care clinic where the doctors best advice (though I'm not convinced he was really understanding me when I explained the pain) was to get rid of the boots and take more advil, but finally did give me some anti-inflammatory shots in my thigh.  I still was in pretty bad shape.  It seemed to get a little better, and I could get up and move around, but it all still hurt, just a little less sharply.  I came back to the city, intending to go back to work and found that the pain and tingling in my leg was still very much there (I think it had subsided mostly because I'd been staying off my feet for a week and a half so didn't hurt til I actually spent some time on it.)  I spent more time in bed in my apartment and nearly lost it at one point (many points) where it hurt so bad I was convinced it would never go away.  All I can say is thank god for me never taking sick days at the library, so I had plenty saved up. And also *eyeing the statement I recieved the other day* health insurance.

One night while laying there on my back, at the reverse end of my bed, feet up on the wall doing some stretches I though might help , I was staring at my foot and noticed that not only was I having weird dull cramps on in my ankle area, but my foot just looked. ..well, wrong.  Like I was walking more on the side of it than usual. I tend to wear out my shoes this way anyway on both feet, but this was even more noticeable.  I spent the next day or so trying to correct it.  To make myself walk more on my inner foot (slightly higher heels helped around the apartment, a few trips up and down the hallway in shoes with  more structure that placed my weight to the ball of my foot.) By the end of the day that pain that surged down my leg was pretty much gone and I could put weight on it.  I still get the occasional muscle cramp even now, but of course,and  I learned that of you spend two weeks mostly lying down, your body does all sort of weird things, atrophies in weird ways.  It took me three days to be able to stand upright without other parts of my back hurting.  The first week back to walking, it felt like my calves were going to snap.  Two weeks later I still had muscle pains in my back if I walked too much beyond short distances. Before Christmas I spent a week and half hobbling back and forth from the library to the studio and having to rest 2 or 3 times in two block because legs or my rear end hurt when walking.  Luckily I was a little better every day (am still getting better every day) but it's frustrating. There is lots of stretching still and I'm definitely able to move around in the world more. I m almost walking like a normal 40 year old and less like an 80 year old.

Looking back, I'm guessing what I thought was that muscle pinching that sciatic nerve was actually more like my off gait pinching the nerve, which then irritated that muscle.  The actual reverse of what I thought was happening.  That muscle in my rear end,  it's still temperamental, and twinges when I bend down or lie on that side for too long (which of course is my preferred sleeping side, so it's been an adjustment.) I'm still slower, and have to sit down more.  I'm still going step by step on stairs and mostly avoiding large bunches of them.  The difference between nerve and muscle pain, as well, is that Advil and such does help at this point.   I have been back in the studio this week, and of course, attempting to catch up on a million things and am making progress.  This weekend will be devoted to a final couple of days of resting up before heading back to the library monday, and hiding from the world (also battling what seems to be a developing cold, which seems rather trivial but entirely expected at this point...the last month has been hard, my immune system is probably all out of whack.)   I am going to eat chicken soup and drink tea and watch my new larger television that is much more 21st century than the previous one. Til Monday...