Friday, July 22, 2016

Image result for vintage klinger lake michigan

I am off tomorrow for the wilds of NW Indiana and the annual Small Prestivus festival, where we'll be taking our Aesthetics bookwrecking gig on the road. The rest of the weekend, I am hoping to hole up and decompress after a couple of weeks of just too much happening.  And, in fact, nearly a whole July of just too much happening.  I'm longing for my incommunicado retreat weekends almost like they're a drug. I start to get twitchy and resentful of the time I spend doing other things and not painting or writing, or hell even housework and cooking and hanging out with the cats.

It's hot, though--a humid,  tropical sort of hot that makes your glasses fog up when you walk out of the A/C. Yesterday, I sat about 6 inches from my new fan in the studio and folded about a 100 books.  Last night, a storm blew through with torrents of rain and cooled things off a little, but the heat is back today and plans to stick around.   I try to convince myself I'm somewhere beautiful and exotic like Mexico or the Bahamas, but there's still way too much concrete sometimes, even here in the city and even with the great expanse of the lake and it's almost ocean-likeness.

Last week, we were staying in the most delightful little Michigan cottage and spent Saturday afternoon riding around the lake on a pontoon and I found myself wishing that my life could be all this sort of leisure.  I'm not even a bit of a avid boater or fisherman, but there is something calming and idyllic and even somewhat old fashioned about summers on the lake, something that makes me think of my dad's side of the family and how tethered they have always been to various bodies of water in Wisconsin.  Granted, the economics were a bit different--RVs instead of cabins, one fishing boat instead of a wealth of watercraft at their disposal, but the impulse is the same.   It's definitely different than city life, but even different than country life as my parents live it.  It makes me think I need a bit more of it in my life.

Monday, July 18, 2016

In-Progress | the Dali series

A year or so back  back I started working on a series of poems inspired by Salavadore Dali's "Inventions of the Monsters" painting.  It was the first work I had done based on another artist's work since finishing my Cornell project about 10 years ago, and it seemed like an entirely different beast..  I had some individual poems that were art inspired--Gregory Crewdson, Henry Darger--that may one day be longer projects, but nothing quite so ambitions as at the hotel andromeda. While Cornell's boxes always seemed like poems themselves (and the thus the writing of poems ABOUT them, a little on the tricky side.), Dali's work strikes a different cord, at least from a storytelling standpoint, or maybe it's more mythical and Jungian somehow.  Regardless, I soon realized that my investigation of the that particular painting was actually spinning out the more and more research that I was doing. That I was discovering pieces of Dali's work that I had never encountered before and that were just as intricate and inspiring.

I had initially encountered the initial painting in the Art institute, I guess, in my visits to the Cornell boxes. It was in one of the galleries that led to the boxes on the southern end  (all of which have since been displaced and moved to the Modern Wing--the Cornell's to their detriment). There was a bench where I would sit for awhile making notes near it, so I looked at it a lot more than I would have otherwise.  It gave me the creeps and disturbed me in some weird subconscious way (I was having a lot of flaming horse dreams during that time, which I chalked up to a certain amount of imbalance in my life at that point. )  So of course, I made note to write about it at a later date.

So of course, now, moreso than a series of poems about a very specific painting, it has become a series of poems about / inspired by an entire body of work. And every stone that I turn over, seems to reveal another stone, another archetype, another image.  I feel like I am actually not writing as much as I should with the general chaos, but I am gathering like a fiend, things that one day may be poems.

Friday, July 15, 2016

friday frivolity

In my efforts to utilize this space a bit more, I've been plotting future blogposts (well, these effort usually fade after a couple of posts when I get subsumed in the general deluge, but I am trying.)  In among these future blogposts are some more serious writerly and editorial subjects (especially as I begin to delve into the dgp submission pile and line up titles for next year), but also some frivolous and girly posts where I squeal over dresses and boots and cardigans.  I used to do this a lot more a few years back, particualry when I had the etsy store and was working more with an eye toward trends and retail viability.  It's a bit different now that we have our own shop and the main focus is really the books and the paper goods rather than the other stuff. And of course, the vintage, which I now pretty much only hoard myself instead of selling it.  I realized, looking over the past year or so, that I sort miss the girly and the vintage.  So, in a effort to tame my need for frivolity, I think I will start indulging myself a little more in that regard, and in the spirit of alliteration, I bring you FRIDAY FRIVOLITY.

Historically I usually spend  alot of time saying that I don't do trends but they still  catch my eye in a subconscious way and occasionally start to filter into my wardrobe almost without me knowing it.  In the last couple of years I've fallen prey to a number of things (stripes, tulle skirts the return of the cropped dark-wash denim jacket--all things I've grown to love.).  This summer, I've been a little obsessed with a sort of boho-california dreamin' thing, populated by endless miles of paisley and  more rustic florals.  If it looks like the sort of dress you might throw on to wear to the beach, I probably covet it.   A lot of these dresses are sporting one of my fashion peeves--long flowy sleeves that aren't really beach appropriate.  Ditto the kimono craze, a look I love, but all that fabric seems really cumbersome and heavy if you are, you know, actually going to the beach (or worse, trodding the sun-fried sidewalks of downtown Chicago.)  So I started looking for pieces that were cali-boho in spirit, but not in quite so costumy a way.  More subtle, and much less looking like I'm on my way to Coachella.

In other news, this weekend, I am putting a hold on my usual  self-isolation plans and heading off to Michigan for an cabin overnighter with some of my library co-workers.  I've been promised there will be campfires and smores and boat docks sort of fun. (and the weather is actually not horrible this weekend.) I'm still hoping to catch summer wherever and whenever I can.

**you can find links to all of the above and more @ Pinterest.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

In 1989, I decided I wanted to live in Chicago.  I was 15, and on a bus trip to the Field Museum and The Oriental Institute.  It was spring and it was all about mummies, which we had been dutifully studying in freshman World history class.  I remember the bus driving through what I would later learn was Hyde Park--the tree lined streets, the brick rows of houses and three flats. It was very different from the rows of identical houses I was used to in Rockford (my parents abode is out in the country a bit, but we were always surrounded by endless subdivisions, mostly late 70's/early 80's construction. Squat flat ranches and bi-levels)  As close as the city was for all those preceding years, we had pretty much never visited.  There were occasional trips to Brookfield Zoo, but we'd only skirted the city for the most part and never ventured inside.  I was smitten enough by Hyde Park, but then, caught site of the lake, and it was all over.

I was a teenager obsessed. For the next two years, I tried to squeeze as much Chicago into my life as I could.  There was a field trip in to see Les Miserables at the Auditorium.  French class trips to restaurants and The Art Institute  Even more than Hyde Park, I loved the deep canyons of downtown. the sprawl of Grant Park and the cliff on buildings overlooking it.  I convinced my parent into the city for more museum outings, The Field again.   Science and Industry. I collected postcards of the ever changing skyline.  When it came time to go to college, I was momentarily distracted by the sea and chose to head to North Carolina.  But when I decide to return, I plotted ways to get here.  It worked out that I was still stuck in Rockford for a few years to finish my undergrad, but there was little doubt where I would be heading to grad school.  By then, our trips into the city had become a little more regular due to my mother's adoration of Michael Jordan and the Bulls, so we were in and out a lot, and when I was accepted into Depaul's M.A program, we were immediately combing Lincoln Park for a studio close enough to campus.

Those first few months in that tiny studio were so dreamy (well dreamy and terrifying).  Being on your own for the first time.  Having your very own tiny kitchen and implements.  Your own bathroom with, if you opened the window and looked up, a view of the very top of the Sear's tower downtown.  It was tiny, and my bathroom was sort in of IN my closet, but I loved it--the high ceilings, the wood floors, the  clanky radiators. I loved the neighborhood, which despite its proliferations of older yuppies, young Trixies, and drunken Depaulians, was also, like Hyde Park, tree lined and beautiful and most importantly OLD and historic in a way Rockford never was.  I loved walking around at night, as the neighborhood was slowly going to sleep and people were taking their dogs out for that final stroll.  And I wrote so many poems in that apartment at that rickety table salvaged from my parent's basement.  There , or on the floor, back against the futon, typing on my Brother word processor. Waited for so many rejections but also what would be my first real acceptance at the row of mailboxes in the lobby.

When I decided to move back to Rockford, it was more of a desperation thing--no jobs were biting and I'd soon run out of excess student loan money. It was a mistake probably in retrospect, and set me back a little in terms of getting on with my life, but probably necessary. It seemed like a good idea until I actually did it and then missed Chicago horribly during those 18 months or so. The day I was hired at CCC and  able to make plans to move back is probably right up there with all-time-happiest life moments.  Right up there with getting my first book accepted. Right up there with signing the lease on the studio.   The rest was just all about waiting for my real life to start. And real life meant Chicago.

Even now, I am still very much in love with The South Loop, where I spend a good segment of my days between the library and the studio.  And, of course, still in love with Edgewater, where I've lived for the past 16 years.   I even still love my apartment (even with the recent bathroom aged drum trap sludge incident)   Have written and created so much within its walls, founded a press, wrote so  so many poems sprawled across my bed. and at other rickety tables and desks.  Collected so many books and cats and interesting things. And yes, the lake, most importantly.  Every morning, right there out the bus window and all the way downtown. It's many moods and seasons.   Still the thing that, despite what I will say to you in January cold, is something I will never leave, at least for very long.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Maybe it's witches, maybe rain.

Over the weekend, I was thumbing through a copy of the fever almanac, my first book, whose tenth anniversary is right around the corner.  By far the hardest book to bring into being.  the hardest book to wrangle into something like coherence.   I go back and forth on loving/hating these poems.  Sometimes the style seems too stuffy  and direct, but there are pieces in there that still stand up littered throughout..  I realized the first poem "estuary" is sort of about mermaids.  The final poem, about the body and floods, is also about water, so it's little wonder that I find myself launching a new book that's all about mermaids and water.

These were the poems I was writing when I first moved back to Chicago.  The poems I was writing before and during the first year or so of my MFA program, years in which my classmates scrawled things like "don't use the work 'dark'-it's cliche" and "please write a new poem."  I was publishing quite a bit, however, and I've oft told the story about bringing my acceptance letters, sometimes letter effusive with praise, to keep tucked beneath my notebook during workshops lest I loose hope completely.  These were the poems that won me probably the largest monetary prize I'll likely ever receive..  The poems that were meticulously arranged and rearranged and fretted over.  The result of my serious bout with "book fever".

I was 32 when the book was released, madly in love with someone I should not have been, which takes some of the glitter off that fall in retrospect, but it was still a little glittery.  I was finishing up my MFA and working on my thesis. I also had mono and a series of random sicknesses that persisted through the spring.  If there was a ever a period of my life that I felt like I was "surviving' more than "living" it was that year. I have a hard time reading the poems without bringing back the months before and after it's release, probably moreso than the years leading up during which I was writing it.

I'd even be hard pressed to even tell you which was the oldest poems in the book, which was the last written before its publication.  I'm pretty sure the earliest written during 2001, mostly since I barely remember writing much poetry at all in 2000 (I had been going strong in grad school, but hadn't written much in the year or so after in the upheaval. )  I imagine the last of them were likely written in the fall of 2004, before a slight shift in my work that bought about the poems that would come later in in the bird museum.  It was a structural shift in my work, more thematically even than stylistically, but probably a bit of that as well.

I still wrote poems out by hand then.  Still set out to write poems with a plan at that point.  Still struggled when the plans failed to materialized. I was also still very much in the box when it came to how I thought about poetry and po-biz, but at the same time an outsider as someone who was publishing almost exclusively in online journals, someone without an MFA at that point and only then beginning to find community online. Only later would I realize that there wasn't just one box, but many. A million different ways to "be a poet".

And in fact, a mlllion different ways to approach the poems and the writing itself...

Thursday, July 07, 2016

In the realm of Library/Aesthetics of Research related news, we are gearing up for taking our Bookwrecking goodies on the road and over to the Small Prestivus Festival in Griffith, IN on July 23rd.  I've been hoarding all sorts of interesting things that are winding up on our discard carts, including some nice thick 800's Lit Books, perfect for sculptures, and some old atlases and maps. We'll be making all sorts of things--collages, origami, paper flowers, altered book scupltures, so it should be some good creative fun. (plus I have a brand new set of fancy edging scissors I am aching to play with.) The festival looks to be amazing with all sorts of cool bookish happenings.

We are also working on fall planning and already there is much goodness on the horizon, including things like our monthly zine nights, the salon reading series, nature printnmaking & hand stamped jewelry workshops, and of course the return of the Little Indie Press Festival. This fall's 1st Floor Exhibit is devoted to Tabletop, Board, and Card Game Art, and already we have the most awesome submissions rolling in.  I can't wait til we get it up on the walls...

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

I am back from a week off that included much merrymaking, including a little painting and writing, many naps, swimming in a tiny backyard pool, a little thrifting, perfecting a cranberry/peach scnappes/rum concoction, and a healthy dose of fireworks and sparklers. As usual when I find myself plunged back into reality and back at my desk, there is much chaos to comb through, both in the library and in the studio (and we won't even talk about the pre-vacation packing chaos in my apartment). I am making my way though it all slowly, or moreso, updating the blog in an effort to avoid it completely.

In the realm of writerly news, I have been slowly dispersing copies of SALVAGE to those I have promised them to.  I am also already working on proofs of LITTLE APOCALYPSE, which knowing how time flies, 2018 will be here sooner than we know.   There is also an upcoming review of MAJOR CHARACTERS IN MINOR FILMS in Red Paint Hill on the horizon, as well as poems forthcoming in Paper Darts and Midway Journal to look out for.

I always think some solid time off makes a good self-guided/imposed writing retreat, but it never really works out that way.  Outside of my recent isolation weekends where I've accomplished a lot of painting, writing is still best done in snippets, in late nights and sudden scrawls in the in-betweens. Goal setting helps, even if I don't always exactly stick to them.  I'm stuck in the midst of the Dali inspired poems I'd like to finish this summer, so we'll see how much progress I actually make. Also, some work on the erasure project I've been plotting.