Over the weekend, we lost my Aunt Ronda, my mother's sister and only remaining sibling after a few months battling some heart problems and other complications. She was pretty much my default grandmother figure, mostly since my actual grandmother died sort of early but also probably because my sister and I were also close in age to her own grandchildren. Before my sister came along, my aunt lived in this strange farm house out in the middle of what was, and mostly still is, the middle of nowhere. It was an age where details and my memories are fuzzy..I'm pretty sure she had birds that were always loose and flying around at the tops of the curtains. A cat that I chased incessantly. Also, like my grandmother, an actual bar in the house. (I have no idea if this is the home decor trend of the mid-seventies or everyone was just a bunk of drunks in our family..lol..) This same bar, later occupied the basement of her other house, the one that still stands behind that of my parents on my grandmother's plot of divided land, and me and those cousins played down there every party and holiday until we were teenagers, mixing fake drinks and pretending to perform on a small wooden stage my uncle had built. .
The basement also housed her beauty shop business, where I spent long hours while she permed, cut, and later colored my hair periodically, where all of us would congregate even while she working and probably bug the hell out of her. Enormously generous, she was always sending us way with things--sodas, ice cream bars, later clothes she didn't want, anything else she thought we'd like or or put to better use. Over the years, there were countless sleepovers, camp fires in the thin strip of woods behind the property, shopping trips to the mall, movie outings. Countless holidays where she always went just a little too far but it was always good--copious amounts of fried chicken, Easter baskets full of candy, hundreds of Thanksgiving pumpkin pies. Halloween trick or treating exploits even as adults where we left with bags stuffed with treats (and once a giant pink stuffed elephant--a long story..)
I always say that my favorite Christmas present ever was maybe when I was around 5 and she gifted me a canvas tote bag full of notebooks and different colored pens and pencils, which I proceeded to fill with squiggly lines I was certain was "writing". Fast forward 35 plus years and the last few Christmases she'd bought me painting things--this last year a set of Chinese watercolors I've been using a lot. It occurred to me over the past few days that while she always seemed to be sending us away with things, these things are mostly now, outisde of memories and photographs, what's left now that she's gone --a set of watercolors, her giant blue loveseat that sits in my living room and is still one of the most comfortable pieces of furniture I've every had. A couple dresses she insisted on buying me when we were shopping and I couldn't afford them. Somewhere there is a pink and white afghan she knitted about a decade ago tuucked away. My high school class ring which my parents could not afford at the time, so she took me to get it. Her predilection for Elvis and the Beach Boys. My mother's tendency to occasionally say to me.."You sound like your Aunt Ronda."
She was unruly and outspoken in the very best way, and as we all agreed at the memorial service, always right even when she wasn't. Even though some static with my uncle has had my mom& dad avoiding some of the usual larger family gatherings anyway, I imagine, if those gatherings continue to happen on the regular , there will be this great gaping hole in the center of them. A great vaccuum at the center of everything that she so much used to be the center of. I told a friend in Chicago that while I was sad here, going home for the memorial service would be even sadder. The house visible from my bedroom window where she once always was and was no longer in. That particular group of family that she was always the middle of now without her.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
It's that kind of heat that borders on oppressive, as June does sometimes, but I am plugging away steadily this week so far on some new love poems and have even sent a couple off in the submission hinterlands. A couple weeks ago, I finally compiled the disparate pieces of my most recent manuscript project into one document and it's already cresting at 70 pages, and there are still a few more poems to be written. I'd like to maybe finish it by the end of the year and before little apocalypse makes its debut next year.
I've been thinking about book manuscripts in general and how they work--different approaches with my own books, ie the project vs.compilation books. the fever almanac was definitely a compilation of singular poems that was then divided up into sections accordingly. in the bird museum was a compliation of several small projects, as were major characters in minor films and salvage. (as well as the upcoming book.) girl show and the shared properties of water and stars, however, were more tightly woven projects from the beginning.
Those projects books are always somehow harder to bring into being, to stick with for the long haul and not lose some sort of momentum. Usually the smaller projects sort of constellate around similar ideas or themes or feels and suddenly you have a book on your hands. I have two such compilation manuscripts in the works now, the one I mentioned earlier, currently titled rough weather, and the half-completed animal, vegetable, monster book. There is also the hotel poems--a project book--that is sadly much neglected of late but I have hope to turn some attention to it later this year. Also, the planned expansion of the beautiful sinister poems into a longer project I'd like to do. (I've been feeling that, as a chap, it's woefully unfinished and there is so much more there in the story.)
Friday, June 09, 2017
Summer has moved in full force, and the days are stretching longer and longer into twilight for a couple more weeks. I've been keeping my eyes to the sky (mostly because the moon has been full and pretty and the night sky a velvety blue, but also because I may be subconsciously Mothman hunting (see entry below). Last night I had an excellent time reading with three other poets at City Lit Books in Logan Square. There was a moment where I saw copies of my book on one of the featured titled shelves and had this weird, euphoric "Is this my life? OMG! My Life is Awesome!" , especially when I get to thinking about 20 years ago when I was just beginning to publish and send out work an write anything even close to worth reading. I read almost the entirely of the "radio ocularia" series, which I had never really done outloud, not even one, not while they were new and I was working on them. Next week I have a Poetry Center benefit reading where I'll probably be reading mermaid poems (somehow since mermaid poems always seem appropriate for reading in bars. )
I am also eyeing the dgp inbox, which just crested over 250 and we're barely a month in, which means I have a lot of reading to do to stay anything like ahead of the game and at this point I've barely dipped a toe in. This weekend, I'm hoping to get to some of those, also some cover design plotting on upcoming manuscripts, also maybe some wicked alice submissions, which I'm always behind on reading.
Last weekend, I stumbled on a writing scrapbook, pretty much my whole writing career--highschool editorials on the environment and culture, indie film reviews from the college paper, awards and certificates, clipping about successes and readings, various writing and art related memorobilia. All of it ends around 2004--which is not coincidentally the year I started dgp and everything has been a whirlwind since. I also use to carefully keep printouts of every online publication starting in 2001-2004 and realize that stopped around the same time. It may have also been that I finally had a laptop at home and didn't need to print things out to read them quite so much. Those scrapbooks were under other detailed scrapbooks-my school years (filled with feild day ribbons, picture day and class photos, all the shit I did in highschool--french club, student council, theatre. My first smester of college in North Carolina. Somehwere in my parents house, there are also ones for all the college theatre productions I participated in. Another one for college in general. It seemed really important in those days to document things, though oddly less important now, though maybe this blog itself and facebook and such are a different sort of documentation and just a different species of the same.
I also came across a few remaining penpal letters from highschool--a boy in Ireland, another in Germany, a girl in France. Mostly I only held onto the interesting envelopes/pretty stamps, and the others were gone long ago, but they are interesting for their cultural & entertainment references, for the German boy talking ecstatically about being able to cross the Berlin wall for the first time. I remember excitedly waiting for letters to arrive in those pre-internet days, something that seems quaint and dated and yet lovely in a way things aren't anymore.
Thursday, June 08, 2017
When I was a junior in high school, I was charged with the task of writing a paper for my American Government class, and me being me, I, of course, chose not the legislative branches or the the amendments or judicial system, but, UFOS. That is, American Government and its responses to UFO's from the 1950s on up. It was great fun doing the research--which in those days meant not merely hopping on a laptop but instead tracking down every volume on UFO's in my high school library and at the Cherry Valley Public. One of those latter books contained a small section on Mothman lore (a West Virginia cryptid from the 1960's mostly) As someone who was just learning to drive on dark country roads at night, I was a little spooked., but merely added it to a long list of things I was learning to fear roadside--Resurrection Mary, random ghosts, hitchhikers, suicidal deer.
Later, in college and beyond, I heard about, but did not see the adaptations of the Mothman Prophecies book, but being a lover of all things cryptozoological, I would occasionally see mentions and it made my 16 year old self gleefully happy (probably the same teenager who for a while was convinced jackalopes were real because no had told me they weren't). Fast forward to a couple weeks back when someone on FB posted a weird news outlet siting of flying, winged, humanoids right here in Chicago--near the lakefront to boot. It prompted a lot of library googling on the part of me and my AofR cohort Jennifer Sauzer, but then we saw this map and an idea was born.
Back in the spring, during our HOAX! week artist panel, the subject of documentation came up--how objects can create worlds and exert authority within those worlds. Particularly vintage sorts of media--VHS tapes, newsprint, old photos. (see Jess Weal's work from the show below).. Further, I felt how amazingly interesting this was as I worked on the murder mystery documentation--police reports, newspaper clippings, yearbook photos. . For a subject like cryptozoology, which is steeped in pseudoscience and folklore and hoaxes in the best way. it seemed entirely possible that you could tap into that world and create something really awesome--a mixing of all things--part art project, part social experiment, part resource that could manifest in multiple ways--a blog, art pieces, public installations, folklore creation and documentation. So we purchased a domain and designed a logo and took it from there.
We've started with some cryptozoological conjecture on the mothman story and some cool articles and legit resources (because of course, with any amount of shenanigans, you need some respectability alongside to lend things credence). We are also hoping to open a fun little shop component to sell things like t-shorts and prints of some crypto related work to buy art supplies keep the project rolling...we also hope to bring on some other writers and artists to play with us.