Friday, April 28, 2017

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I am struggling to gain some sort of equilibrium after landing back in town on Tuesday, the general chaos of re-entry, and then a flurry of activity leading up to last night's ACRL celebration.  Tonight, I'm headed to Rockford to collect the cats and spend the weekend there, with maybe a bit more birthday celebrating.  It was a weird actual birthday, mostly since it began on a train standing still in the pitch dark somewhere near Memphis waiting for a fright train to pass and ended with me falling exhausted into bed at 9pm.   I also managed to pick up a cough on the way to New Orleans, so I've been dragging that around with me, which doesn't help for general energy levels.

Of course, NOLA was lovely, and very warm for a couple days there. Our hotel, La Galerie, was right on the edges of the Quarter and had beautiful lofty ceilings, exposed brick,  and super soft beds. My reading at the Poetry Fest came off nicely and people liked the Shipwreck poems (despite me leaving Chicago with none of my own books and having to read off my Kindle like a douche.)  There was much, much walking--down to Jackson Square & The French Market to shop and loiter, over to Bourbon Street (though in small doses--the crowds are a bit much and it kind of smelled too much like garbage in the heat.)   There were Hurricanes and beignets (even though we weren't willing to brave the Cafe du Monde lines). We also hit up the Museum of Death, which was a trip.  I came away from the weekend with two new prints from Clay Davis (I picked one up last year, but wasn't sure who the artists was til now.) Also a poster from the Anne ric-ey vampire store and some chicory coffee. I did get a chance to walk around some of the less populated streets of the Quarter, all candy colors and wrought iron balconies. and into Marigny (including a near encounter with Banksy's umbrella girl if only I'd been paying attention (and had eyes in the back of my head.)  I did, however, get to finally ride a street car on the way back from the reading.

By the time we were leaving, I was ready to go and ready to just be home and back to my routines.  I usually find that as much as I like the idea of travel, it kind of wears me out. There's an inordinate amount of comfort in doing the same things everyday and the Taurus in me needs that more than sometimes remember.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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As I leave tomorrow evening for New Orleans, I am in that mad panic dash to finish some things up before I go, including a whole slew of new chaps that will be assembling when I get back to town--some stragglers from 2016 and some spring books from this year.  I am almost on schedule, or at least close to it, so watch for those books in the shop this week. Despite the mad dash, which is exacerbated by wonky printers and general chaos, I am trying to focus on getting ready--deciding on weather appropriate dress options, the music soundtrack for the train ride, what to read for Friday's reading at the festival, how many hurricanes I can drink before getting back to the hotel proves difficult.  

We are finally getting some spring-like weather, so Chicago may not in fact be dumped for NOLA  entirely this trip through--blossoming trees and tulips in the beds along Michigan.  By the time I get back, I should be able to shed those cold-weather coats for good.  It will also be my birthday the day I get back into town, so I'm hoping for just a little celebrating a la tequila and tacos and maybe some cake before its back to the grind on Wednesday.    

In writerly news, I've gotten some more good results from my submission binge last month from Sweet Tree Review, who will be publishing some more of the  Plath centos (the first of which just came out @ Pretty Owl Poetry. )  The manuscript itself is still out in the wilds in a couple places, so hopefully something will come of that.  I have been mulling over more love poems, but have been sticking to my permission not to write until I get back in town.  


Sunday, April 09, 2017

Yesterday was the first day I walked out onto the sidewalk in front of the library and braced myself for a gust of cold that never came.  It was still chilly this morning in just my jacket, but I am absorbing as much of the rare sunlight as I can before it goes away again. I am back in the library again today, and facing down a couple crazy weeks leading up to my birthday and a little bit beyond.  a trip to Rockford for Easter, then mid-week, our New Orleans jaunt, where I'll be reading at the Poetry Festival for a reading with some other fine ladies for The Mystical and the Magical:  Women Writing the Metaphysical Worlds". I'll be there through Monday and we're staying in the French Quarter, where I love to do things like stuff my face full of beignets and those Bourbon Street daquiris that come in plastic cups and wander antique stores and hang out a bit in the Carousel Bar.   Me and my sister are traveling by train this time instead of car, which I always look forward to. (and which is hopefully a bit more on schedule and smoother than my trip back from Seattle a couple years back.) 

Then I'm back on my birthday, and a couple days later is our big ACRL award shindig.  And then it's practically May and I'll blink and the semester will be over.  Add in my mother having her second angioplasty soonish (minor but necessary), all sorts of tricky track things to pin down for various things, and a girl starts to feel a bit overwhelmed.  I think I just need to get to about Mid May and I'll be back to my usual rhythms.  It all seems very formidable from this point in time. But the summer holds the promise a freer weekends for the most part. 

With everything afoot, I've put actually getting any actual writing done on pause, but of course, when i officially grant myself that permission is usually when I most feel the need to write. (and I really do--more pieces for the love poem project, a start on something else clicking away in my brain.)  There are new poems due out soon at Hobart, Pretty Owl Review, and interrupture, though, so I'm feeling productive at least in the po-biz arena. My creative energies are mostly moving visually, but I have been plotting the Library's HORROR PROM murder mystery game, which involves the use of a similar skill set a bit.  I laughed when a co-hort in Gaming Society  asked me if I'd been working on the game and I was able to rattle off  the murder victim's whole life story and all the people around her that may have done it (which one I haven't yet decided) and what they look like, but still hadn't actually developed any of the actual game beyond a few preliminary clues. It's all very Twin Peaks meets Pretty in Pink meets Carrie.   That's just writer brain, I suppose. .  It's similar to how I used to occasionally take blank sheets of paper and plot out huge family histories and geneologies just for fun (perfect fodder for novels, but I don't have the endurance for the long haul work of writing fiction.)  I've also done this for the hotel poems project and the unusual creatures poems, but just haven't been able to wrangle those many pages of scribbing into anything anyone could actually read. 

Someday maybe I should collect everything together, call it poetry and make a book called  NOTES FOR NOVELS THAT I'LL NEVER WRITE. It could totally happen. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

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Today I was doomed to the library, Open House day, and the Creative Writing Dept. was hosting info sessions on the library's 3rd floor like every other year, I am always amused by the baby writers, so young and hopeful and unformed.  And their parents, who are pretty much my age (yikes!) and how much I appreciate that they are encouraging their baby writer to go on and study writing and not something respectable like accounting or computer science or engineering.  Art school is a gamble, maybe more now than when I was myself a baby writer.   As I was passing through the back hallway, I flipped through one of the departmental brochures they had left behind and kinda wished I'd encountered such a program as an undergrad.  I was pretty much only lit in college, with a couple workshops here and there, but nothing as well-wrought as CC's program, not at the undergrad level.  So I was a rough poet until I really sort of figured it out on my own until I enrolled in an MFA program.  I've known some amazing undergad poets who've come through the program (and more from the grad program, both while I was in it and afterwards) and hell, have even published many of them through dgp.   I'm not sure if they start out that way, or get that way, but there are gems there if you look for them.

As I flipped through the brochure, I felt caught between worlds..not the baby poet, not even the grad student I was 10 or so years ago, but not quite the seasoned poets who were listed as faculty with details on publications and awards and such.  Maybe it's an academic thing,,I have an MFA but do not teach, so while I have just as many books and publications, I lack a certain cache, A certain sparkle. Sometimes I call some people the "fancy poets" who do things like residencies and win NEA Fellowships--many of whom are also amazing, but I feel always like the interloper who somehow wrote a lot of poems but secretly, with no one really knowing. I also know fancy poets who actually write very little and seem lucky enough to still be fancy.  I've published books with fancy presses, even on a fancy award at least once,   Even occasionally I wind up in a fancy journal by luck or timing or someone seeking me out.  But still the feelings of being an outsider.  And maybe this is good, to be on the outside of things--to have been always the rallying cry for decentering the lit culture and dismantling the academic poetry industrial complex.  To have fought for certain types of legitimacy as I sat on blog comment threads and even real-life panels where people looked at me with a certain disdain for saying you needed to do things like self-publish and start presses and not be anyone's bitch, least of all legitimacy's.

Sometimes I feel like I came through a long journey or a war against my younger poet self and out the other side. It's not bad, and actually sort of freeing, but a weird place to exist-neither here nor there.  My first years as a poet in Chicago were surrounded largely by the open mic set. we had readings and made our ownchapbooks and legitimacy be damned.  Granted most people were only there to read their own stuff, but there was an energy, even when the poetry as bad   Later, academia seemed to be holding onto it tight fisted and sort of pale as people talked about "top-tier journals" and "a-list publications" and "send to THIS press, not THAT one" it all made me sort of nauseous. I think its true that many people leave academia and never write again, either becuase they loose interest or get busy with real life, or find something lacking.  I've seen many of them move on happily with lives doing other things and enjoying them immensely.   Most days, no one I know in real life knows I write poems or would want to read them. So the cool part is the stakes are never high enough to make a I get to write about weird stuff.    Also like I'm getting away with something.

The press is similar, and I used to laugh when people seemed amazed that I had the audacity to start a chapbook series, some negatively so,  My tenure as a sort of gatekeeper has of course, made me less awe-inspired of other gatekeepers.  In the end, we all publish what we love.  I could say it's "important" and it is, but not in the way that some editors would have you believe straddled atop their cultural capital.  That's true whether your reading for the New Yorker or a little operation like dgp.  It's a person, or in some cases people, who have tastes  (or similar tastes) and something sparks.  It's important to get the work out there, but not always important simply because you put it out there.

But I hope the baby poets come to realize all this sooner than later, because the road is much less bumpy on the other side...

Monday, April 03, 2017

20 years later

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It occurred to me a few weeks back that I have been living in Chicago  as of this spring for 20 years.  Granted a year and a half of that was an ill-fated brief return to Rockford at the very end of the millenium, but I actually first moved here initially in summer of 1997 freshly out of college and the kind of optimistic that only lasts a little while.  As I was flipping through some old journals from around then a couple weekends back, it was sort if surreal reliving in detail finishing up my coursework at RC and moving out on my own for the first time.

Of course, it was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. My tiny Lincoln Park apartment with it's mattress on the floor.  The broken table stolen from my parent's basement.  My bathroom shower view of the top of the Sears tower and nothing else.  It was just me and my high school cat, Chelsea, and a year or so later, the new addition of Sophie. There were  also an abundance of ants, tiny ones that crawled along the floor cracks, and, about a year in,  sizeable roaches that crawled under the hallway door until I covered it with packing tape (thank god by then I had a futon on a frame)).  But still in that barely there kitchen I learned how to cook on my own--fried rice, stuffed pasta shells, parma rosa.    That summer, I spent a lot of time wandering about after dusk and applying for jobs in bookstores that I never got. (I did have a brief sojourn working at Starbucks that summer.) I don't remember if I was writing much during the transition, that productivity  would come a year or so later, but I do remember submitting older work I'd penned in my last months as an undergrad to places like The New Yorker (until I realized my audience isn't exactly the Lexus driving crowd)  I'd just discovered Poets and Writers a few months before I graduated, so there was a subscription to that and lots of SASEs.

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I was also still trying to figure things out.  I'd been admitted to DePaul with the expectation that I would either get a certification to teach HS English (which was what my mother wanted) or to get my MA and then my Ph.d to teach at the college level (which is what I thought I wanted).    About a year in, I was steadily realizing that I was neither suited for nor really wanted either of these things. My anxiety, which was actually kinder in those days still  made it hard to imagine having the wherewithal to get up in front of a classroom everyday and make it out intact. I am also neither patient or altruistic enough to be a really good teacher.   Those anxieties spiraled me into that ridiculous winter of 1998 and its attendant depression, but I emerged with new energies and focus, and that summer, began writing the first poems that showed any sort of promise at all.  

I loved most of my classes that first semester--seminars on Victorian Novels and a Bibliography/Research class that focused on the Romantics. I was also just discovering the internet for the first time and lost many a day in the computer lab on PW discussion boards which was all entirely new to me.  Since the internet was still very much a limited time thing and not the way of life it is now, I lived more in the real world and at the same time less. I, of course, continued to read a lot.  Novels.  Poetry. Issues of magazines like the New Yorker and boring things like The Chronicle of Higher Education.   Watched a lot of network TV and late night reruns of Seinfeld and X-Files.  Spent a lot of time, pen in my hand or my mouth leaning over the wobbly table and a notebook or my sad little Brother Word processor that fall. Music wise, that first summer was all about Fiona Apple's TIDAL, which I distinctly remember putting in my CD player the first night when I was finally alone and unpacking. I didn't sleep that first night, kept the lights on all night, on my own whollly for the first time and terrified and not that I'd be murdered or raped or eaten by tiny ants--but none of these things happened.  Besides the roaches and the rent that kept climbing, it was actually a nice little studio in a beautiful neighborhood that I missed greatly when I left.

By the time I returned after year and a half or so away, I'd moved to a cheaper, further afield, neighborhood and a much bigger apartment (with no roaches or ants and which I still live in today), but there is sometimes nevertheless, this weird nostalgia for that time in my life I can't quite put my finger on.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

spider baby

True,  this movie is very weird.  I almost felt the need to apologize to my student workers for making them watch it (in fact, held it on the first floor so we could watch it from the desk.)   Tonight was Public Domainia, where we raid ARCHIVE.ORG for the strange and interesting of public domain flicks.  On Halloween,  we watched Night of the Living Dead and House on Haunted Hill. Tonight, on the docket was Wasp Queen, which is all about female vanity, and Spider Baby, which was all about..well. what?  Feral young women?  Scantily clad murderesses?  There was a serious Picnic at Hanging Rock vibe.  Also a weird Charles Manson feel. There was this certain fucked-upness about all of it that piqued my interest and seems ripe subject matter for poem making...I am also madly in love with this poster and its taglines.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I've already accepted that this week will be a bear, but I'm hoping it's much more the cuddly kind with a picnic basket than the savage bitey kind.

Already we are a day into HOAX! programming, tonight's installment being a very awesome reading with Melissa Severin and Annmarie O'Connell  (and at which I read a bit from both the blonde joke series and some of the Plath centos (the first time I'd read them aloud for anyone  and Sylvia's words and cadences sound strange in my mouth).  The show has been hung (last week's endeavor) and some questions for the artist's panel Thursday plotted, plus some prep for the optical illusions workshop and the Public Domainia film screening that sort of got roped into the week's programming from earlier this month since weird sci-fi seemed to fit the theme so well.  This is our 3rd actual focus week now that we're doing them every semester and not just for fall, and planning so many things right in a row feels more aghhhh! than usual where there's some breathing room between events, but I'm managing and trying to stay ahead of the game and not leave things til last minute (which saves me so much anxiety and worry)

This weekend, I spent some time working on some more drippy watercolors--florals and trees, as well as plotted some more dgp cover art.  I've been very good about working on visual art things throughout the week (the creaturely series and the new surrealism coloring book (see above) but it helps to have some time off to play with paints instead of collage (and since a lot of my recent stuff more digital than not), nice to be dealing with something more tactile.

Monday, March 20, 2017

journals, adolescence, and what the hell was wrong with me?

It is not only the first day of spring break (which doesn't mean all that much except I get sprung a little earlier and a few extra evening hours in the studio, ) but also the first day of actual Spring, which is chilly and rainy but still nice compared to a week ago.  I am coming off one of my blissful retreat weekends where I do little but work on writing and art projects and plot cover designs for dgp. I also found myself paging through some old journals from both twenty years ago (which I'll talk about next entry)  and also my first semester of college fabric covered one, circa 1992-93. If anything is more embarrasing than my high school diary, it is probably that one.  I'd yet delved into anything deeper than useless crushes and roommate hating, but I suppose there are bits in there about writing--projects I set myself the goal to do, plans for stories and playscripts that I'm pretty sure rarely materialized. No actual poems, but I do know I was already typing them on my graduation gift electric typewriter and also spent some serious time in the UNCW library paging through lit mags and plotting submissions I could barely afford postage for.

I bought that journal days before I left town for that first semester, so while I don't talk about much other than insipid song lyrics in between all the boy drama and bitching (which is what happens when you convince yourself you are madly in love with a boy who is just about to come out of the closet, plus another random romance later in the semester that never got off the ground ) I can almost smell the fear coming off the pages and lingering in the things I DON'T say (the sort of fear that occurs when you're 18 and drop yourself many states away from your former life. ) Especially when you find yourself waffling on the subject you planned to study with such certainty--and in fact, realize you're actually pretty hopeless when it comes to the sort of science brain you need for such an undertaking. Especially when that subject is what landed you so far away from home.

The takeaway I suppose was a full semester of typical "college life" complete with dorm rooms and dining halls and frat parties. With rummy marathons and drinking games sprawled out on the floor of a suite. . It wasn't exactly for me (outside of my badness as math, most of my classes were easy and not challenging in the least, it was expensive for my parents and difficult to travel, I could study English anywhere, etc.) I was also lonely, though I got along with some of my roommates, I had only begun to make friends outside of that before I left.  There were highlights, mostly of the reckless kind, --drunken trips in the back of a pickup truck on Halloween.  8 people jammed into a jeep for a midnight beach jaunt.  An affinity for mixing rum in giant water bottles full of coke or pepsi.  A diet that consisted mostly of cool ranch doritos and peanut m& ms. If I occasionally doubt whether my friends are truly my friends as a grown up, imagine that in the emotional roll of adolescence. I also tended toward over exaggeration in my writing then, so everything looks rather hilariously overwrought reading it as an adult.

There were moments when I thought I should probably throw it out it was so embarrassing, but I'm hesitant to cast that 18 year old version of myself into the dumpster.  It's sort of like encountering a vain, semi shallow girl who the world has not really gotten its teeth into yet, who is still sort of sheltered, for whom everything is OMG!OMG! and who hasn't yet tempered her journals into anything but emotional venting and maybe occasionally talking about wanting to write things. By the time I returned to journaling in earnest in early 1994, at the end of my sophomore year,  in one of many black & white composition books I would continue to write in until I moved to a blog, I at least talked mostly about things I was reading in classes, what I was studying, things I was working on. I  still occasionally vented, but my temper and my tone had evened considerably. That 18 year old, though I'd throw her out, but damn, she's pretty entertaining in a car crash sort of way and I have a hard time remembering what it was like to be her...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

dgp cover action

Much of the time, I get to dream up dgp covers from scratch and lately I’m feeling a more flat, graphic vibe…keep an eye out for these in the shop..

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Winter has snapped its tale back around and slapped us in the ass with a whole bunch of snow and cold.  The good thing is it's probably not long for this world, and technically spring starts in just a few days nevertheless. I am trying to adjust to a second week of non-stop library shifts, so I'm waning, but still soldiering through with the usual tasks, albeit a little slower than usual and more prone to distractions.  I've been making some more creature collages (see above and below) for fun, as well as plotting out our HOAX! Conspiracies, Illusions, and Creative Hijinks Exhibit and week of programming.  Also planning our Annual Easter Egg Art Hunt as soon as I get hold of enough plastic eggs.   Otherwise, it's the usual cover and layout activities and an overflow of studio tasks. and maybe some poems in there somewhere (hopefully).

I did garner another acceptance from my Saturday submission morning submission blitz, landing some  of the Plath cento poems in an upcoming issue of interrupture. (and since it came kind fast I almost avoided it thinking it was a rejection, which it totally wasn't. )  My dreams and moods are weird lately and I find myself avoiding anything unpleasant or taxing in the way of bad news (not an easy feat--the sudden winter not helping my mood.)  I feel more brittle and breakable and I'm not sure why--especially since I was in good spirits over the weekend despite having to work the entirety of it. But I'm consoling myself with tacos and new dresses and raspberry lattes and hoping it just goes away.  I just keep telling myself in a few weeks it will be April, which I will disagree with old Tom--not cruel at all...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

a peek at a new series of collages

things I write about

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Every once in a while, people (usually non creatives, non-writers, or at least non-poets). when they learn that I am a writer, inquire as to what exactly I write about.  I used to just shrug my shoulders and try to explain that poets sort of use EVERYTHING as material, or more recently, I'll say I write about mermaids and james franco, but I was thinking a couple weeks ago about the subject natters of various projects either published or underway and what themes were at work in a deeper or just more cosmetic way.

rural adolescence
mothers & daughters
discontented relationships
Joseph Cornell
transgression and danger
ghost stories / urban legends
fairy tales
suburban unrest
nature vs. "civilization"
movies, entertainment, pop culture
james franco
women as muse vs artist
sideshows & carnival women
surreal landscapes
the apocalypse
atom bombs & science fiction
blonde jokes
salvadore dali
sylvia plath
marriage & domesticity
body image
1970's teenagers
drowned women
alice in wonderland
abandoned hotels
renaissance dog girls
creepy gothic families
love poems & politics

Some of the subjects closer to the end of the list are barely projects (the dog girl--Antoinetta Gonzalez is just research notes, for example and not yet actual poems).  The Alice erasure project has been underway and stalled out for a while, and a couple things are just one or two poems into what I imagine will be a longer series...I've also been thinking about the difference of approach when it comes to compilation books and project books and how the latter seem to be driven by intent from the beginning and the former take shape during the process, but that's a blog entry for another day I suppose.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

the submission wilds

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After over 20 years in this writing (business?  passion?  madness?) sometimes I forget how nice it feels to place a poem or a group of poems in a journal. a very singular and simple pleasure, one I don't experience enough of in all the crazy. .  Sadly, I don't really send out a lot of work to journals anymore--mostly due to time constraints and efforts driven elsewhere and just a general difficulty in deciding where to direct my efforts.  

Also, much of what I write lately is tied tightly into series, which sometimes makes pieces out of context not all that marketable outside the whole of the project. Sometimes the poems are finished and sent out in manuscripts before I ever get a chance to try to place them individually.  Every once in a while I get this panicked feeling that I need to publish more and will send out a couple, but if they are rejected, I don't typically volley them back out in the world like I did in the early days of sending out work. Occasionally, I get solicited, so I usually send work then (which also sometimes gets rejected as well.) In the days before the press took so much of my poetry time and when I was extra hungry for getting my work out there, I would send out poems as soon as they came back to me, and then again and again. . I've never really been able to do simsubs, since I am really bad  at record keeping and one tme unintentionally caused a slightly embarassing snafu (and then I'd only accidently sent out two identical batches.) 

In the early to mid 2000's I would fling rejected poems back out into the wild as quickly as they returned and usually, even if it took a few tries, most stuff eventually found a home somewhere.   By the time the fever almanac was published in 2006, pretty much every poem but one of two had garnered some sort of journal publication beforehand, and it was a similar situation with subsequent books (except for the shared properties..which was entirely unpublished when the book was accepted and quickly came out a few months later. 

A couple weeks ago, I got that panic feeling again and sent off a couple submissions. As I was hauling myself out of bed early today for an unhappy  weekend shift at the library, I was thrilled to see an acceptance from Hobart for some of the "How to Write a Love Poem in a Time of War" series, the first of that series to find a home,  which definitely made the morning much more satisfying and I realized how I missed that satisfaction a little--to even have work out there--even if it gets rejected--to approach opening my e-mail daily with the same excitement I used to approach my mailbox in the lobby of  my old Lincoln Park apartment building (the last place I lived where snail mail subs were a actually a thing) or crossing the grassy field to my parent's mailbox back when I was sending work out in college.)

So I've spent a bit of time when I actually got to work this morning scouring journal opportunities and compiling a list of promising possibilities. (I've found an excellent way to find kindred journals is to look at the bios of dgp authors since most likely, if I like THEIR work, there might be some possibility that the journals are of similar aesthetics tastes to my own and therefore likely to be interested in my own work--some I did not even know existed. )  The result was 8 batches of poems from a couple different projects sent off into the hinterlands, more than I've probably sent off in a year as a whole, so we'll see what happens.  I'm guessing rejections will have just the opposite reaction, but hopefully bad news will always be balanced by good. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

women's day, women's work

There's been a bit of contentious discussion over the National Womens Day strike on the FB and whether or not the privilege of being able to strike (to take time off work or time off from obligations) is, in fact it's own kind of privilege which most women cannot enjoy.  And perhaps the best thing is not to strike to show your dissatisfaction (and there is so much to be dissatisfied with) but to SHOW Up and kick some ass.  I am taking the latter route, having no real extra vacation days to be able to take and no one else to close the library, but the rest of my day has been devoted to press work--laying out chaps, assembling chaps, and designing covers for upcoming books--all of which is good feminist centered work. I am not one for hashtag activism in general, or a joiner of much of anything, even causes I support,  so I just try to concentrate on what I can do as a feminist everyday to make things better on a micro level and hope it filters out into the macro, or that the sort of work I do with women's voices makes some difference in the literary world, which of course, is only a tiny corner of the world at large.  And not just the press, but my own writing and art (it's themes and subjects and obsessions) and even  the art-related programming, displays, and exhibits in the library, which are always female heavy and intersectional.

Tonight, working on some covers (for amazeballs upcoming books by Leila Ortiz and Andrea Spofford) I was musing on some of the arguments I've had over the years with male authors over running a press that publishes only women--the butthurtness, the snideness, the claims of the "quality" work by men we'd be ignoring.  Really, they are arguments I got tied of having a decade ago, and kind of refuse to even respond to now in the interest of not fighting with people on the internets (itself SO 10 years ago.)  My aim when I started the press was actually less of a politically driven one and more so one of personal interest.  My education, heavy in women's writing and feminism theory paved the way toward wanting to examine women's work and voices, in much an anthropological way.  Later, the more I became increasingly aware of certain inequalities and bullshit, the more the mission of the press took on a more activist bent.  What started as a focus and interest of my own became a cause of sorts--a call to arms.   A call that seems more important than ever now, when there seems to be a war on women, or maybe there was always a war, but the world we thought we lived in before that was getting better was, in fact very much not. I cannot forget the Stanford rape case verdict, or DT's pussy-grabbing, or a thousand other things that shake me as a woman and as a feminist. That while we hoped that we'd be alive to see a female president, we should have known better--that there is perhaps nothing more threatening to stupid (or maybe even intelligent)  men than a smart powerful woman.

We know this, and yet we wish we could forget...

Monday, March 06, 2017


Sometimes,  I think the most uncertain I ever feel about my own writing follows not ordinary rejections and setbacks, but after reading the amazing work I get to publish with dgp --projects that sometimes are so freakishly good sometimes I get that scared panic feeling that I shouldn't even TRY to do this whole poetry thing, you know, because  obviously other people have it so much more on lock than I do. It comes and goes, as uncertainty does, but this weekend, as I was re-reading some upcoming manuscripts and plotting cover ideas, I felt it.  Which was both disconcerting and kind of exhilarating.  I guess if I can't write the things I want to write how I want to write them, I guess there is enormous comfort in helping bring those books into the world regardless.

It's Monday, so I'm feeling extra gratey and overwhelmed with what I have to do this week on so many fronts. I do have a shiny new printer in the studio, and a couple new vintage bag impulse purchases on their way (as well as less exciting things like regular paper and cardstock)  My little retreat weekends are heavenly, but re-entry is a bitch sometimes.  I get spoiled by working on the things I want to work on and then have to put those on hold for other less fun things, like, you know, going to work and all.   I also had a moment of panic this weekend about the rather large queue of writing projects I've been plotting over the years, some of which I have only dipped a tiny toe into--the ridiculous feeling that I am getting older (well I guess I'm  only 42 probably at the halfway point of my life if I'm lucky.)  How I'm feeling the pressure to get things out and onto the page lest they never get them (which is ridiculous since I obviously have plenty of time.  but then what if I don't?  What if I get some terminal disease--or hit by a bus--or rendered blind or unable to type (and this is probably just the anxiety hamster talking--I've found the negative of time with my thoughts, is you know, sometimes well,  my thoughts)

The clouds in my head the past couple of days are commensurate with the clouds outside, though it's been a little warmer than last week.  It's March, so the forecast is promising, even though I do have to pull a double header in the library this weekend and therefore will be surrendering up my blissful weekend, but I'm hoping to get some serious, more concentration intensive work done, because it's certainly not happening today.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

editorial karma

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I was going initially to write a long rambling, semi-ranty about editorial karma, about how late  last week I had an author, someone I do not really know, withdraw her manuscript from dgp's March line-up due to what she perceived as a lack of "enthusiasm" for the chapbook on my part.  I wasn't quite sure how to respond, mostly since I really had nothing but enthusiasm for the project--enough to plan on investing future hours and dollars into making it happen, but apparently that was not enough  I am not usually the type to fluff or over effuse--if I like something enough to want to publish it..I 'll say it straight out, but maybe I wasn't praise-worthy enough or too succint in my answers to her e-mails (we had already been talking a little bit about cover art a few days before, but weren't yet in the layout process.)

 I also got the feeling she expected something else--maybe a bit more of hand-holding or critiquing and editing pre-pub . I don't really do this, being more of a curatorial sort of editor and not a critiquer/workshopper type..if I take it, I pretty much like it as/is, so barring maybe some spacial considerations and formatting or consistency as we get it print ready, I don't really seek to change the work I publish. Otherwise, I wouldn't accept it in the first place if it was in need of revisions.  It's not my editorial style, nor I imagine what most of my author, who are pretty confident in their abilities, want at this stage in the process.  Maybe she was expecting something else and in that case, she really should go somewhere else who does approach editing in that way.

Luckily, she backed out before I actually had begun the layout process (but in my stories of snafus, that too has happened in a couple cases where the author decided they weren't happy with the poems anymore and wanted to scrap them (and in at least one case, sent me another project to consider that I loved.) I also once had an author balk that our covers were cardstock and not glossy and perfectbound, which apparently she did not realize until she actually ordered one of our books. Sso there was no winning that one.   I tend to be very flexible and informal with publication agreement, so no formal contracts, only written e-mail agreements (mostly since all rights go back to the author upon publication.)  I also wouldn't want anyone beholden to publishing their book with the press if they really didn't want to be there. Why would I?

Ideally, if someone needs to bow out--they do so early on as possible.  I've occasionally had situations where we've mutually decided not to go forward if a chapbook was accepted and due out as a full-length or there was a simsub snafu and it won a contest or something after the fact. Sometimes, projects get rolled into other projects.  Usually, if I like the authors work, I'll try to find a way to either work something out or take on something else they have available that I also love.

I spent most of Friday afternoon mostly just being hurt and cranky and wondering how anyone could imagine that I am not enthusiastic about the books I work on (you know, despite 6 million other obligations in the way of my day job and my own creative work that I am working around to make those books happen hell or highwater)    It was sort of that feeling that you are doing so much, far beyond what could be reasonable expected of you if you weren't quite so crazy, far beyond what you should do for your health and general sanity, and somehow, even that is not enough for some people.

That is, I felt that way until I opened up my facebook messages that afternoon  to find another amazing author (whose work had very recently appeared in wicked alice and to very enthusiastic response from not just me, but other readers.) querying whether or not I might like to see a manuscript.  And I was a little OMGOMGOMG! YES! (but I tried to play it So rather than a long, ranty-post, you get a short mini ramt and then I will instead direct you to the work of the amazing writer who will likely be filling the empty slot.  So even when interactions are kind of hurtful and far from ideal, 99.9% of authors are absolutely amazing and lovely. And this makes the rest of it worth it....

Friday, March 03, 2017

friday frivolity | spring wardrobe switercheroo

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Okay, technically it's not yet spring.  And technically I'm a little early with my spring wardrobe switchout (I usually aim for St Patties Day) but it's been so mild off and on the past few weeks, I thought I would get a jump on my closet and put away those dreary winter duds for another year (when they will once again seem cozy and interesting).

Spring is hard to dress for. It's still chilly in most of March and April, so winter coats stay out for awhile and only mid-April to jackets begin to happen.  While I have put away things like flannel dresses and sweater dresses, I will no doubt be wearing sweaters with the brighter, lighter spring patterned frocks for awhile, and probably even tights for a bit longer.   Most of my spring clothes are those which are a little lighter and in the pastel ranges, plus a lot of my 4 season wears that can pass all of them depending on what I wear with them. Some things are definitely moving toward summer and I probably won't be able to wear them properly until April.

Some of my favorite spring things are filmy watercolor-inspired florals, an abundance of stripes, wrap dresses lots of soft greys and maybe some greens, pinks, and lavenders.  I picked up the cutest black halter dress with chrysanthemums last week on Poshmark that will either be for my New Orleans trip in late April or our fancy Library Award shindig around the same time. I also went on a bit of a shoe binge the week before last..I had been going to replace some boots that I'd worn out completely, but in lieu of those (I am done with winter anyway), I picked up several pairs of ballet flats and mary janes that should fill all my warmer footware needs.

I also did a little purging--though not as much as I anticipated..some older pieces that were either worn or two big, something I'd intended to mend but realized it was far too complicated a job.  Switching things out does have the the effect of streamlning a little each time it happens, which keeps me from holding on to things I either am not all that excited about or are well past their wearing days. A lot of it might be a certain amount of scarcity thinking.  I used to be about 2 sizes larger, so cute plus clothes were hard to come by and nothing really fit. I have a few more options now and things just fit better in general, but I'm still stuck occasionally in the attitude that there are so few things I like that I should hold onto everything (even if it's seen much better days.)

Monday, February 27, 2017

pretty, interesting things

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Poetry, I usually get. It's not like I've always gotten it, and in fact, there were many, many years of NOT getting it before I got it, but I move about in the poetry world with a fair amount confidence mostly in my practices, tastes, and abilities. Feel I can somehow articulate and speak with authority when it comes to other poets.  Art, however, is a different beast altogether, and sometimes, I feel most our of my element within in, no matter what medium I'm working in.

I was always the girl who tried really hard in grade school art class, but for whom things always went slightly awry.  I would carefully craft my tiny clay pinch pot only to have one of the sides cave in before firing.  I once made a wire sculpture of a cheerleader whose one arm was slightly shorter than the other. Was a disaster when it came to messy things..glue, paint glitter.  (this is still true.)  My artist vision was always sound, always brimming with ideas and thoughts about how things SHOULD turn out.  I was very creative, but lacked a certain amount of skill or hand eye coordination or making magic.  I still cannot draw to save my life.

My sister was an art class kid--one of the malcontents who felt most comfortable among the turpentine soaking brushes of the art classroom in highschool and worked mostly in oils.  I was probably a newspaper kid. Or maybe a drama kid.  But I never took an art class in the 6 odd years after elementary school. In college, I did paint sets though, during my bout with the theatre bug, and was actually pretty decent at faux techniques--fake stone, fake wood, the shadowing required to make 2-D look 3-D, but always thought that while my skills looked adequate from a few rows back, up close, there was always a certain amount of imperfection.

I learned early on I was pretty good with words--could write papers and essays and stories without battling an eyelash, so I didn't feel too bad about my lack of art skills--after all, there are many things I am horrible at--math, cooking. Making small talk. I moved about in the world not even mourning the lack of those skills throughout most of my teens and twenties. But maybe there were yearnings and inclinations that I didn't even notice until afterwards. I did spend long hours hand coding my websites (which I had taught myself on a super-basic levl) until they looked just right (the right colors, the right amount of white space, balance, fonts, etc.).

A couple of things coalesced around the time I turned 30 that sent me off in a direction  hadn't even considered. and one was the emergence of a library arts series, whereupon we were urged, as staff members, to submit and display our work.  As a writer, I wasn't sure if that request even pertained to me, but my first stab, at a co-workers urging, was an unrolling roll of text that spanned the first floor and went up the stairs to the 3rd Floor and around the gallery space.  Another was sheets of muslin hung museum banner style and covered in text. I was trying, but felt limited in just working with text, almost as if there was a certain visually-oriented desire itching in my fingers and about to be born.   Those installations, however, gave me a little confidence, and in 2004 I wound up taking a summer workshop down at the Book and Paper Center on collage techniques.  By that fall, you couldn't stop me.  Drawing I sucked at, but I could cut and paste like a pro. Mostly I just made things for either the art shows or myself, but in 2007, I started selling a lot of the originals pretty successfully on Etsy.  It was of course the early days of the venue, when getting seen was a lot easier than it would become later.

The other factor was the press.  When I started dgp in 2004, I was initially mostly using readymade artwork for covers, either photos or artwork the poet had arranged for us to use, or simple vintage images and graphics. My design skills were pretty much limited, and only in the next few years, did I actually start designing pieces, either digitally or manually for the books we publish.  We still use a mix of approaches--sometimes other artists/designers, sometimes me, sometimes even the author themselves, but I do get to work on a lot of covers every publications season, which is one of my favorites parts of running the press. Over time, I've graduated from paper and digital collage to other things--printmaking, book sculptures, painting. I'm still learning when it comes to most of these and still very uncertain.  Tomorrow night, I get to learn silk screening for the first time for an AofR workshop, which I am excited about.

Art has always seemed a more satisfyingly tangible thing than poetry.  Whenever I sell collages or prints or even paper foods,'s simple..I make a piece, someone gives me money.  I make another.  Very, very different from writing, where I write a piece.  maybe someone reads it, maybe not, and no one pretty much ever gives you money for it. In fact, if you enter a lot of contests, you lose money on the whole endeavor.  But then there seems to be much more demand for pretty, interesting things to put on your walls than there ever is for pretty, interesting words on your shelves.

In recent years, I've been working more to merge these two identities--working on more visual/text projects where they were always mostly separate before.  Collage series that become poems, or poems that inspire visual exploits. Sometimes the stars align and things are created in tandem (like with my recent florographia project.)  The zine series has done a lot to get me thinking in these directions, in both directions simultaneously, a foot planted in both worlds. I'm still unsteady in my visual practices, but fusing them with the words sometimes helps immensely (and this could probably be said for my cover design exploits for the press as well.)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

the poetry machine

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Last week, I was trimming some chaps in the studio and caught sight of my top shelf  full of all my own recent lovelies, which I joked on FB were probably the closest  thing I would ever have to children (not having even the slightest motherly inclinations) And books kind of are something you give birth to, some with longer gestational periods than others, which explains that exquisite sort of torment when you have manuscripts looking for publishers.   I currently have one book out in the ether and being considered by a favorite press that I hope will love it, but currently is in that weird in-between, full of uncertainty.  Is it as good as I think?  Am I deluding myself?  If I dare look at it again after a couple months of hands off-ness, will I find it severely lacking  I also, luckily,  have a project set to be birthed in the next year or so, LITTLE APOCALYPSE, preparations of which are well underway--cover designed, galleys edited, print details laid out.  

Not to mention the sort of first book crazy I fell victim to in the couple of years before my first  manuscript was accepted--the days of raking my fingers longingly  over spines in the bookstore and throwing money away on contests I would never in a million years win.   It was worse because I had just turned 30--felt, naively that if I was going to be a "young genus" that my expiration date was sadly nearing somehow.  The clock was ticking (all very ridiculous in hindsight).  We all want to be the precocious young poet, the overnight success, whose first book lands to applause and attention. Some all of my friends from the blogworld (pre-FB) were beginning to sign book contracts and make their way into the literary world by 2005 when that first book was accepted.  And really, it wasn't really ready until that final revision.   And  that  "young genius" thing really isn't applicable to reality.  Most of us will likely make small waves, and then hopefully, slightly bigger waves--the boon of being a slow burn is you're much less likely to burn out.  I'm not even sure the waves don't get bigger and smaller depending on the scope and appeal of what you write. I've also been of the opinion that any book is an excellent snapshot of the work you are writing during a given span of your career.  Obviously, I don't write the same way I did 10 + years ago, and I probably shouldn't if the goal is to be developing and evolving as an artist as you go. As a result I know some readers love certain books and not others, warm to given periods of work more than to others.  I often feel this way about other people books, so it's totally to be expected.

I've had the good fortune to have been releasing books at a brisk pace the past few years, after a five or so year gap of nothing happening. When THE FEVER ALMANAC was released in late 2006. I had already found a home for IN THE BIRD MUSEUM at Dusie, so those two were close in birthdays, but for a few years I was suffering both the demise of a publisher that postponed GIRL SHOW's release until it was picked up by BLP as well as just a slower output of work in general.  Post MFA,  I was half-heartedly working on the poems that would eventually become the MCMF book, and what would become my BEAUTIFUL, SINISTER chap.  I was also growing the press. moving into the studio, and selling a lot on Etsy, all of which took a lot of time and energy.  From 2007 up until late 2011,  when I undertook the James Franco project, I maybe wrote 20 pages of material. After that, it was like a dam broke, and things picked up considerably and I got back into a more normal routine of writing and publishing.

There were periods in there that I thought I might stop writing altogether--not because of any solid decision to do so, but just because my efforts were elsewhere.  I would get this weird sinking panicked feeling when other writers asked me what I was working on, mostly because I was working at it so little.  I had heard the stories of the people who had finished their MFA and never wrote another word. It was like an urban legend I suspected was more true than it wasn't.   And weirdly somehow that seemed like it would be so easy to do--to let it go so easily.  I'm not sure I could stop creating art or writing completely, or working to publish other peoples writing, but my own poetry, as genre seemed easy, even a relief, to let slip from my hands.  And not just the poetry, but the business of poetry that I have never really felt at ease in.  The posturing and unspoken rules and hierarchies and such that are sort of gross. To just walk away from it all (and it's not like I would be suffering financially by doing so.)

When I was working on the James Franco pieces, it somehow did so much to re-energize me and I have no idea why.  Maybe it was the low expectations going in--how it was just a fun little thing and not "poetry".   I could fail or, more importantly, let it fail because the stakes weren't all that high.   After that, was writing like gangbusters, finishing the rest of that book and THE SHARED PROPERTIES OF WATER AND STARS. Then all of SALVAGE and LITTLE APOCALYPSE, all within a span of about three years.  There were periods that were more fallow than others, but I would make up for the slow periods by insane periods of productivity. I still probably couldn't say I write on daily on the regular, though that's a goal aspire to, but I know how to deal with those restless feelings I start to get when life or other work gets too much in the way of writing.  I guess I feel lately that's its all less dire now..that no maybe things are a little quiet and dusty now with that poetry machine, but itll dust off and begin again. And again.  And again.

Friday, February 24, 2017

friday frivolity | for the love of coats

Like the idea of a vibrant bunch of embroidered flowers coming out of your coat pocket!:

We've had a brief spate of mild weather days that have had temps in the 60's--a good thing when winter has definitely already worn out it's welcome about two months ago.  In recent years, one of my winter month coping mechanism is the binge-buying of both boots and outerwear.  Long gone are the days of that sad single (usually black, sometimes gray) pea coat variation that I expected to carry me from beginning to end of the season (and usually only weathered a couple years before I simply wore it out or the coat became serious compromised by wear.)

A couple years back, I began collecting in earnest--my favorite Lands End design in a bunch of different shades (my grey go-tweed, raspberry, teal, tan)  A couple of oddballs--a leoopard faux fur, a red babydoll car coat, a pale salmon peacoat. And of course, a couple black wool and one gray,  variations on the pea coat that always work with everything.)  My faves are a grey tweed with a rich chocolate fur collar and a beautiful faux persian lamb super dressy coat.   I tend to shop Ebay exclusively for outerwear, so have gotten many of these at a steal, particularly if they're used, sometimes less than $20. This winter bought a more casual brown tweed number, as well as the most glorious pink tweed Lane Bryant long coat I stumbled upon a few weeks ago (above).  Also a  $12 70's rocker fur collared suede  that I haven't yet had the opportunity to wear.

Do I need this many coats?  Probably not..but when I'm hauling ass out into the winter tundra pretty much every day, at least I get to do it with a little bit of happy and flair, which is about all I can ask for. ( of course, my mild weather jacket collection is also a little unruly these days, which are usually cheaper and therefore more tempting even than cold-weather coats--so maybe that logic doesn't hold up at all.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


These are some floral acrylics I did back in the fall and that finally made it to the scanner..I'd been playing it bit with getting watercolory effects out of acrylic (mostly since I had depleted my watercolor set)  There are more to come from just after the new year (actual watercolors), so stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


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When I was in grad school the first time around, I got it in my head that I wanted to finish a book manuscript before I turned 25.  I had been writing, unsteadily, for about 5 years at that point, submitting a bit unsuccessfully, publishing in school lit mags, getting honorable mentions in college poetry prizes. Things had only recently been coming clear in my head about the potentials of "being a poet' in the year before that, my goals having been mostly geared toward teaching, however ill-suited I actually seemed to be for it.  Suddenly I was writing a lot (a combination of such clarity, a little publication success,  and no obligations outside my MA in Lit courses and studying for my comp exams.)  All I wanted to do was write, and was hoping to find some sort of stable, not horrible, bookish job that would give me the space (physical and mental) to actually do it. .  Even though my knowledge of both po-biz and poetry in general was seriously lacking, I had amassed enough copies of POETS & WRITERS to glean that to get a book published, you had to enter and win one of the prestigious contests advertised in those pages.  Easy enough, no?  I had always been a crack shot at contests--had won boring legal essay contests with cash prizes, free Noxema products from Seventeen Magazine for an essay about activism.  It never even occurred to me how bad my work really still was at that point--how long I had to go, how insurmountable the odds of winning even when you have a solid manuscript. I somehow zeroed in on the Yale Younger Poets seemed fancy and ever so prestigious.  It seemed suited to novice poets (lolololol). So I set about pulling that book together and entering it in the contest.

I had a lot of poems--most of them terrible really, some slightly salvageable (and some that even made it into my chap a few years later--THE ARCHAEOLOGISTS DAUGHTER.)  I liked to write about myth then, as all beginning poets seem to want to do.  Other art forms--history, literary characters.  Gunivere.  Calypso,  Degas' dancers.  Gold Rush brides.   In short, writing about other things helped me realize I had very little to write about myself at that young age.   By spring of 1999, I had about 50 pieces that I spent hours formatting on my sluggish Brother word processor   (I had access to PC's in the labs at DePaul, but at home was computerless.) I distinctly remember staying up late, word processor on my lap, sitting on the floor, back against the couch, typing while I watched endless re-run episodes of the X-Files. I had written a poem called TAURUS, that was all about the differences in how men and women view art--men as something to be slain and conquered, and women, the opposite.   So I decided this would be my title--the thing that bound it all together.  I thought I was so deep for that, surely a genius.  I paid my 40 dollars or so, sent the manuscript on it's way, and of course, did not win.  I've no idea what did win that year, only that it wasn't me.

Shortly after, I packed everything up and moved back to Rockford from Chicago.  Finished my degree, found a job. Found a couple, actually, but only one that stuck.  Moved back to the city about a year and a half later.  Life sort of swept me up in a current, and it was a while before I got back to the poems.  By then online journals were coming into prominence.  A year or so later, I had been publishing on the regular, finishing newer work, putting together a chapbook that contained mostly new poems, but also a handful of those TAURUS pieces that were more promising. The rest were shoved in my old writing archives and only pulled out occasionally for laughs.

Whenever anyone asks me about my first book, I sometimes forget there was anything before THE FEVER ALMANAC.   That was the book that was slaved over, and edited, and readjusted over about a 2 year period to make it into the thing it became. By 2001, when I wrote the first poems in that collection, I was actually reading and aware of other poets work, so there was a huge difference between those pieces and the stuff I was writing for TAURUS.  I was also never more sure of myself than I was working on that first manuscript, more completely clueless and naive. Sometimes I look at that girl sitting there on the living room floor and laugh at her naiveite.  Sometimes, I want to be her again, so clueless and hopeful and determined.

Monday, February 20, 2017

So ultimately, it has been a scary and kind of surreal week.  My mom had somewhat of a large heart attack on Wednesday out of nowhere, and while she underwent surgery and is on the mend and soon to be home from the hospital,  the scared, anxious part of me is thinking underneath it all that this is only the beginning--the sort of health decline all elderly parents fall into (she is nearing on 70 and my dad is 76 this year.)  The period of time that all people my age fear, if they are lucky enough to not have lost their parents even earlier in life.  The inevitability of them not always being there.

We've always been a reasonable fortunate family  with our health issues, though there have been some, pretty minor on the scale of tragedy --my dad and sister have intermittent seizures but are not quite epileptic.  My brother in law actually is epileptic and has lived with it his whole life.    I am probably the most fortunate,  a lot of bumps and bruises and a broken finger when I was a child --other clumsiness casualities like  last winter's bus ride tumble hurt wrist.   My sciatic issue a couple years back, my endless bout with mono 10 years ago.  A couple of unfortunate food poisoning incidents.    My mom has survived colon cancer when she was forty, gall bladder issues in her 50's (also something my sister endured.), as well as a scary bout with a twisted herniated colon that nearly killed her about 15 years ago.  She has also been diabetic since I was a child , but has been reasonable good at monitoring her sugar for over 30 years and is in pretty good shape with it.    But still, she apparently had some artery blockage that caused a very asympotomatic attack (no pain at all, but some breathlessness and some sweating while in the grocery store that eventually led to my dad forcing her to go to the emergency room.) That scary bus ride to Rockford is not one I wish to repeat, but it seems highly likely I will find myself on it again, and it won't always be as  fortuitous a recovery.  This makes me panicky, and anxious.  They won't live forever and I know this, but I've been pretty good at living in denial.

Thursday morning,  as I made sure the cats were fed, wrote out my rent check, went to the bank to get cash, and even packed up some dgp orders in the studio because I was early for the bus, I was operating on autopilot, almost as if I were watching normal Kristy doing all the normal sort of things while seriously panicking inside.   By the time I got to Rockford, she was already in surgery for angioplasty and on her way to recovering, but those few hours on uncertainty that began Wednesday night when my sister texted me about shortness of breath and the emergency room (which had happned a couple months back, but not so severe and coinciding with a bad bout bout of bronchitis she was recovering from)  and then my mother's call at 2am confirming that it was not leftover bronchitis and was, in fact, a heart attack, up until I actually got to the hospital, were the worst 12 or so hours in my memory.  What was the total damage?  Would it happen again?  Would she have to have full-on open heart surgery (which my aunt, while it it was a preventative surgery, is still slowly recovering from the one she had last fall with quite a few complications that make it hard for her to get around. .)  

While her kidneys took a hit, they are expected to  be on the upswing, and the surgeries, two arteries fixed and another in a month or so, should prevent future attacks, she still seems infinitely more fragile and ailing than she was before.  I mean, maybe the fact that she suffered a pretty big attack with nary an eyelash bat, proves how hardcore she is.   She tends to be rather no-nonsense about health things, and while she has had various aches and pains and weird afflictions (inexplicable hives, leg cramps in bed, shingles last spring, a pulled tendon in her arm  in January), she's pretty adamant about going about her usual business. She seems vulnerable now when she was always invulnerable.  and I'm not sure I'm ready for that, with her or my dad.

I spent some time with my mom in her hospital room the past four days (a hospital room she is very eager to leave as soon as they give the ok.)  But each time I left the room, or went home to sleep, I was haunted by the fact that n 1984, my maternal grandmother took a nasty fall and broke her hip,  While she was recovering just fine, and only in her mid-50's, she suffered a sudden blood clot because of the hip and died in the hospital one summer morning.  My mother had gone to visit her about 20 minutes before visiting hours ended the night before she died, but was rushed out, only to find out the next morning she was gone.  It was a weird freak situation that was forged and made especially tragic, by a number of random factors--that last rushed visit, her reasonably good health up til then, the blood clot, the nurse who left her unsupervised in the bathroom and didn't check on her til it was too late.  It haunted me every time I turned to go in that hospital and now everytime in the future from here on in.  Is this the last time I see her (or my father) alive? Of course, any of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and any day could be our last.  But I'm not sure I'm ready for the increasing likelyhood of that sort of finality. Not just yet.

Friday, February 17, 2017

friday frivolity | pick your poison

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I am typically not really a makeup person.  Maybe it was a slight failure to launch when I outgrew the novelty of playing with grownup makeup and was supposed to move into my teen years. I always had a marked fascination with my mother's rather large-ish nail polish collection--which eventually became my own collection hoarded permanently in my bedroom from age 10 on.  Mind you I rarely actually used them, but I liked having them lined up prettily on my dresser, liked to line them up by rainbow color formation . Similarly, I had a bunch of mostly unused cosmetics stuffed in drawers and kaboodle organizers.  Would buy cheap Wet & Wild glosses and lipliners every once in a while and vow to use them, but rarely did.  I kept them,  though,  until they fell apart or dried up, as if they were some sort of magic potion.  There if I needed them, but usually tossed in the trash eventually   My mom has always been a full-on makeup person, so maybe my aversion to actually using the thinsg I hoarded was slightly a rebellion against that--the time daily I watched her applying foundation, mascara, eyeshadow and lipstick (and she was actually far less maitenance than other women I have ecountered who go full eye makeup and lipliners and such)  I liked the  colorful bottles and the shininess of the colors, the slick packaging of cosmetics in general, but they seemed like something I could rarely be bothered to mess with in that brief 10 minutes after the snooze button-shower-throw your clothes--barely brush your hair beauty regimen.   (which is pretty much my routine still.)

I liked playing with them and marveling over them, but whenever I actually applied them, I didn't like how they altered my face--it felt so stagey, so over the top, a diminishment  rather than an improvement. While I decided early on that eye makeups  weren't for me at all, I liked lipsticks, but hated how they rubbed off, or dwindled to nothing and would have to be replied. (which I really didn't have time or patience for.) Lately, I've been a tinted lip balm kind of girl--Burt's Bees being a favorite, though I have very recently come to appreciate some super-long staying lip stains.

Nail polish is my one beauty indulgence, however, and the one self-care things I probably do on the regular every Sunday--always the toes, sometimes the fingers.  Granted my nails take a lot of abuse (pulling out crooked staples, ink, general damage) so they usually are looking pretty rough by Weds and need to be redone, but I do rather deeply enjoy the girly ritual of choosing a color, removing old polish, filing and trimming and repainting.  I've never been one for manicures since I find other people touching me to be kind of annoying and I rarely want to sit still that long (and paying someone for something I can so obviously do myself), But I do like having rather spotless nails for a couple of days (unless I've somehow already gotten paint all over them Sunday night, which happens now and again.)  I usually will go one polish color each changeout, but sometimes I'll do more daring or bold colors on the toes (sometimes, bright colors annoy me on my fingers since I'm looking at them so much. )  My favorites, of course are red (Opi's I'm Not Really a Waitress is a fave), since they seem to go well with my skin tone, but I love a dusty pink, sometimes just a jet black in the winter months.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

frivolity friday | love / hate

As time goes on, I've realized that sometimes the very things I find myself obsessing over and loving may have, in fact, been one of the things I once hated.  About 5 years ago, I found  myself in the midst, at least among plus size retailers of an animal print renaissance.  I hated it so much and had a hard time hunting down dresses that did not look like I'd just returned from hunting big game. , And while I am not generally very fond of most animal inspired patterns (snakeskin and zebra leave me cold.) for the past couple of years, I've been just a little obsessed with leopard print things--handbags, ballet flats, throw pillows.  I basically stalked a faux fur leopard coat on for two years until it hit a price I could afford. I splurged on a Ralph Lauren dress a couple years back  (above) that is one of my go-tos.  I have at least one other dress and two other skirts, and have recently scored a lighter weight trench on ebay. Granted, leopard is best used sparingly, but I feel very 50's pinup vixen when I wear it (or psychotic crying spurned girl).

Image result for taylor swift leopard

Thursday, February 09, 2017

AWP-ing without AWP

With all the AWP-ing happening on facebook, I can't help but feel a little bit like sad that I'm totally missing out, and at the same time, sort of relieved that I'm missing out (the whole experience usually falling in the immensely rewarding but horribly stressful category. ) On one hand, I find it so amazing  that we are all (and of course never really) in the same place and that the streets outside are swarming with writers.  That I get a chance to meet all of our dgp authors, and get books in so many hands, and hang out with other people that I never get to see due to distance.  That I get to feel, for a few days, at least, that writing is as much a convention-deserving orientation as that of a dentist or an optometrist and not something that just happens in my head sometimes and on paper.

At the same time, dang, that shit is expensive.  Travel , hotel and registration, even if you make it onto a panel is costly.   Book fair tabling--egads, even if you split.  I've done it, but it's always like this huge chunk of money out of pocket (and my pockets aren't that deep)  And I rarely am able to make it back, even the years that books are selling like gangbusters.  My student loans funded my 2007 jaunt to Atlanta. and  in 2014-Seattle , it helped to be staying with friends. The Chicago conventions I attended were easier since there was no travel or accomodations involved (I split a table with Switchback books in 2009 and  in 2012--I opted just to host an open studio down the street instead of a book fair table, and luckily was able to register as a panelist otherwise.)  A couple years back, I had all intentions of going--travel and hotel booked, a table slot paid for, and a financial setback at the last minute prohibited it.

And even money considerations aside, there is also the whole getting time off work issue (more difficult now because we're understaffed at the library), the getting places without a car and  extreme anxiety around flying.   The stress involved in making 80 lbs of books and carting them cross country alone on Amtrak (which I did for Seattle and will likely never attempt again.)  The making the 80 pounds of books in a short period of time also stress-inducing--making sure we have enough of each thing, but not too many.  Deciding where to draw the line on what to bring and what won't possibly fit on a table when we publish so much.

And there is also my mixed feelings on the mfa-cation of writing..AWP being the mothership of the academic-creative industrial complex and what that means for people outside it.  The people who feel like they do not fit in / cannot afford / do not feel welcome at at AWP.  AWP's reluctance to furnish childcare or offer a diverse enough array of panels. Also the pure bloat of it--the all consuming monster of it over the past 10 years.

Part of me wants to be there because all my friends are.  Wants to work it some way that I could avoid the actual conference hall but still hang out with other poets and do off-site readings and maybe even sell some books somewhere outside the book fair.  Maybe host a big dgp reading and party off-site while all the writers are in town.  But then there are so many readings and parties and it's impossible to actually get to all the things you want to.

I attended my first conference in 2004, in Chicago, pretty much only becuaue I was still an MFA student and it was free.  I remember how small it was relatively, tiny enough to fit in the Palmer House alone,  but how overwhelming it was at the same time.  I sort of drifted from panel to bookfair and back to panels.  I know pretty much no one in those days outside of a handful of fellow CCC MFA-ers.  The poets I did know outside of school, locally and from online were mostly non-academicly oriented and just not there. Or maybe they were there, but I didn't know where to find them or connect in that pre-facebook world.  I was still pretty much totally under anyone's radar, as a poet, as a publisher.  DGP was only a glimmer in my eye, and I wouldn't issue our first title til that fall.  (though admittedly I was leaving thick piles of wicked alice pliers on all the free tables as I went.)  I'd been publishing for a couple years regularly in online journals, but the book fair was mostly print pubs,so the editors weren't familiar faces. I hadn't published any books or chapbooks and no one really knew my work. I also was only beginning to read widely of my peers, so I didn't really know who anyone was--the authors reading, signing books.  I was completely invisible and it was at the same time both wonderful and terrifying.  I didn't feel in any way a part of that world and yet I wanted it.

It was actually probably the first and only time I got to go to a lot of panels that weren't my own (by 2007 I was bound to the book fair table almost the whole time.)  My choices were scattered--Publishing chapbooks, Hypertext Poetry, Blogging.  I went to one off-site reading up the street at Rain Dog Books that  actually sparked my obsession with Diagram / New Michigan Press (where I only remember that Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis read and it was amazing.  I proceeded to stalk NMP until they published my chap three years later and Sophia until she submitted work for dgp. (and we've published her Mind you, I was still too meek to introduce myself to anyone, so I watched and observed. I wondered downtown with my little black and orange totebag and felt like I was the most seriously writerly  creature in the world.

By the time 2007 rolled around..I was a little wiser in my ways and not so invisible.  (I ran into my as-yet-unmet-in person Ghost Road Editors in the lobby six months after the book came out and felt like such a celebrity.  I knew more blogging poets, more poets in general, forthcoming dgp-ers, whose list was growing every year. More journal editors who were publishing my work or people who had encountered either my poems or my blog or the press..   I definitely felt more at home, more in my element--as a poet, as a publisher.  What a difference three years could make.   Mind you, I still feel really introverted and awkward, but alcohol helped .(I'm pretty sure there were only a few sober hours at the book fair in Seattle 2014  my last go round. The rest of the time I was raiding the amply stocked  bar at chez Menacing Hedge and double fisting Jack & Cokes  through my Friday night reading. )

And that's the stuff I miss most about AWP--not so much the book fair and the panels, but more the social and community aspect. And maybe I do need to find a way to get the good stuff without the expensive and too-academic-ness of it all. One could (and some have) go to AWP without actually, ya know, going to AWP--be it taking advantage of free day at the book fair and going to all the offsite stuff.   I just might have to do that next year.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Monday, February 06, 2017

Today was all about a quick studio tidy (I can almost see the countertop, so it's a success) as well as printing a big order of chaps for Berls Poetry Shop and another larger author order.  Things get a little harried sometimes, with covers and books and paper trimmings pretty much on every available surface.  I've been thinking of some furniture rearrangement that will maximize some free wall space for hanging (particularly if I'll be opening up the studio in the coming months.)

I am trying to ease into my week, which is always a rough. bumpy experience after having the weekend off.  I'm succeeding in my obligation-free weekends, at least for the last month or so, my mini weekend retreats, which are paying off in some good new work, both visual and writing-wise, so we'll see if they can continue. It's nice to have that slight pause in the whirlwind to look forward to every week. I've been pushing myself harder during the week to get as much done as I can to guarantee that bit of breathing space, so it's extra necessary.