Thursday, April 19, 2018

NAPOWRIMO | Day #19


from PLUMP

Before long, the animals begin to gather at the edge of the woods.  Rabbits, deer, the tiniest field mice.  They‘ve been waiting for this fairy tale for years. The witch calls us Greta and Henry, gathers us at her knee.    There is the air of an event about to happen, a disturbance in the clearing.  Because we are cautious, she lures us with maple candies and milk.  Doses us with lithium and licorice. I’ve never wanted so badly to be swallowed whole.  Can feel all my hollows fill with honey.  Nothing so sweet as the girl who wandered away from the path. Nothing so delicious as that sort of fear.   Ask the wolves and their teeth.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

news & notes | 4/15/2018


Image may contain: 1 person


I'm not sure what the weather is doing, but I think it needs to stop. Yesterday was dreadful, and an early morning at the library did not help.  I was already tired from staying out late Friday ( some Satanic Panic burlesque fun--an early b-day outing) and woke up at 6am  to tiny ice pellets hitting the window.   My ears are doing some weird pressure thing the past week that makes my jaw ache and my sinuses throb, so I also just feel slightly off kilter.

Our Art Empire panel Thursday went off splendidly though.  This week, I am preparing for a bookwrecking workshop and the final Apocalypse event, the reading, where I'll be trotting out some poems from the upcoming book and reading along with Donna Vorreyer and some student fiction writers.  Then there is the murder mystery to work on, and the Grimm project to finalize, and then we are at the end of the semester already  (even if outside seems a far cry from springtime.)

My NAPOWRIMO activities continue to go well  and I am amazingly still on schedule )as I mentioned before the whole success of which depends on when I draft the poem, earlier in the day, usually while I am eating breakfast,  rather than at the end of it.)   At the beginning of the day, I can take that time to focus before I get bogged down in a million other things demanding my attention. I am also writing some more zodiac pieces (usually later in the day while I eat dinner.)  The spring ones are finished and the scrolls in the layout process, so I should have them available as a subscription offering for later this month. Last week, I also decided to dabble a bit with Tiny Letter, and will be sending some fragments of another, more lyric essay-type project out via that platform.

My dreams about my mother, after a brief reprieve, are back to their usual weirdness, again everything going  along in the dream and then all of us, sometimes even her, surprised to find out she's actually dead.   Is this what people experience as hauntings?  I  love the idea of ghosts, but don't really believe in them (or an afterlife), but in this case, she is haunting up a storm. And not really bad dreams, actually pretty mundane stuff, maybe just unsettling in their tenor, as if we keep realizing over and over that she's gone and are dumbstruck.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

mice, maidens, and evil queens





Fairy tales have probably always been a part of my work from the beginning. My first chapbook THE ARCHAEOLOGIST'S DAUGHTER featured at least one Rapunzel poem and I'm pretty sure there was an early mermaid poem in there somewhere.  More would come--wicked stepmothers and Little Red Riding hood in BLOODY MARY. More Little Red Riding Hood in my first artist book THE BOOK OF RED (that later appeared in my FEIGN chapbook from New Michigan Press.)   Not to mention lots of fairy tale references in otherwise normal poems, a sort magical-ness amidst the everyday.

In those early years, there were so many allusion and persona poems--not just fairy tales, but mythology, literary characters, historical women,  painting subjects. And this is true of many of us, maybe not just younger women poets, maybe younger poets in general of all genders, but so many of us pulling from these things for subject matter and imagery.  I always joke that I probably wrote so many of these because what else does a poet in her early 20's have to say that everyone hasn't already heard.  But maybe there is more to it, creating stories drawn from other stories.  The reason why these stories retain their magic even after centuries.  I love folklore, and the way it shifts and changes and moves through populations.  The way things spread.  ( A co-worker mentioned a local urban ghost legend near her town and I had heard the very same urban legend in my teens about a place out near Rockford--down to very particular details involving talcum powder on the trunk of a car and ghost handprints-- I got really excited about this and nearly fell out of my chair.)  also, why I love trawling this sort of subject matter for things like my ARCHER AVENUE Resurrection Mary poems.

I still do this, no doubt, but my subject matter just differs--things I've been researching evidence of this more than anything. My Antoinetta Gonzalez (aka the Renaissance Dog-Girl ) series.  My atomic women poems in LITTLE APOCALYPSE.   All the research I've done on taxidermy and mechanical animals and Hungarian folklore for UNUSUAL CREATURES.  My new fascination with victorian spiritualism and what might come from those possibilities. I've always been about finding material for new texts in old texts. (and being in a library all day certainly helps.)


When I was writing THE SHARED PROPERTIES OF WATER AND STARS in 2012, which is a kind of suburban fairy tale itself, it didn't necessarily start out that way, but moreso a vague storyline and the math story problems that worked very well with fairy-tale like imagery (esp. re: Goldie Locks and the tension between "wild" and "civilized" or "domestic" spaces. )   When I was done, I was actually surprised by how much it came across that way (evidenced by comments of of a lot of the reviews of the book later on .)  I had been writing more to the story and less to the archetypes, but there were there if you looked for them.

Fast forward to this last year, where we've been working on our big Grimm Tales  Book to Art endeavor in the library. I've been doing some collage work during our making sessions, but have been considering doing some writing-related work.  Since my larger manuscript in progress focuses on eating and body-image issues, what better somehow than Hansel and Gretel for this sort of thing. (I actually have been doing some research on food and eating across fairy tales, but baby steps,  I suppose I'll start with just this one.)  Since things have been progressing well on the NAPOWRIMO front with another poem series. I thought I might shift gears and devote some energy to these and see if I can't get on a roll and maybe make a mini-chap for the project (there's a deadline of the end of the month for rounding up the project in time for Manifest mid-May.)

I am also watching Grimm on Amazon, so I am nightly steeping myself in fairy tales and murders, so the ground is very fertile in my head right now, so we'll see what comes of it. 


Saturday, April 07, 2018

on HONEY MACHINE


This week, I've finally gotten a handle on the assembly of HONEY MACHINE : The Plath Centos.  You can pick up  your very own copy in the shop (or subscribe to the books & objects series to get that and much more.)  They've turned out to be beautiful little books and the collages reproduced really nice.  The acknowledgements include the line "And to Sylvia, for whom all of this should have worked out better."

In the summer of 2016, I was trying to come up with a textual component to accompany some of the floral work I was doing visually. and started thinking about the references and floral themes in Plath, particularly Ariel.  I gave assembling a couple centos a try--not a form I usually work with, though t'm surprised it took me this long to come to it given my collage tendencies otherwise..  A few years back, someone in a friends class had written and published a cento of my own work and it was weird how it sounded very much like a poem I'd written and yet, sorta not. But I dug it. 

What was what was happening with these Plath pieces, while the floral obsession launched the project, was that the pieces I were getting actually came to have a very different tenor and tone, becoming their own creature--a beast laden with more domestic concerns about the repetition and roteness of housework and being a "wife". It felt very right, considering that  Plath was very much concerned with these things--the daily vs the ecstatic. How a being with a need to create can become laden with the expectations imposed on 1950's women, and perhaps even now, where women still shoulder most of the household labor. 

As I assembled more and more (and I say assembling, more than writing since the words were entirely hers and not so much mine.) there was this washing machine effect--like the red sock in a load of whites that you keep seeing, but almost as if that red sock will eventually ruin everything else in the dryer.  Snippets, obsessions kept reappearing as the speaker (Plath and not Plath) tried to reconcile love and romance with the drudgery of what those things become in the domestic sphere. 

By the end, I had probably around 50 pieces.  I started sending them off individually.  I sent off the full manuscript. People either seemed to love them (as many yesses from journals indicated) or hate them.  I realized after the full-mss was rejected that perhaps there was too much fat.  Too much of a good thing, so I trimmed it down--took out every piece that wasn't pulling its own weight.  Recombined other things into other things, and emerged with a tighter group of poems.  By then. I had started a series of collages using vintage advertisements that somehow seemed to complement the pieces and began to think they might make a nice little zine together.  Once I decided they were part of the same project, the poems started to influence the collages--particularly this one and the one above, which I decided to use as cover art. 

Last spring, during our FOUND reading at the library, I decided to trot them out for gallop and it was really weird reading them aloud.  It's basically someone else's words in your mouth, and even though you built the construction, the cadences and syntax seem unusually foreign. It was an altogether different experience, however, than simply reading someone else's poem, since I had had a hand in making these what they were. 

What resulted though, was a sort of love-letter to Plath (similar to how I always viewd at the hotel andromeda as a love letter to Cornell.) So hopefully I've managed to do her justice. 


Friday, April 06, 2018

notes & things | 4/6/2018

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This is one of those mental bears of a week that are bitey and leave you a little bloody.  It's been so damn cold, colder than it should be.  I'm looking for those signs of spring and besides one solo boat in the harbor and a coral dress in the window of usually monochromatic Max Mara on Michigan, there aren't all that many. But it seems to be April, nevertheless, and I am doing pretty well on my NAPOWRIMO poems, the secret to the success being making sure to set aside time early in my day rather than saving it all for the very end.  While I usually start the day with checking email, I've been drafting instead and then moving on with my day. I'm also trying to be thinking about the project as soon as I wake up, while my mind is still fresh and not encumbered with the day's detritus.

Physically, I'm nursing another untimely illness, so I had to skip my planned trip to Rockford. But, since I had the past two days off work, I lounged around lazily yesterday until I was feeling a bit better and spent today in the studio getting through the better part of a bookstore order that needs to ship Monday. I'm trying to be mindful of my limitations and honest about what can be accomplished when, but I still panic when I feel I am behind. (or I guess I always feel behind and therefore always panicky.) I am moving through January now with orders, and almost caught up on author copies, except the last few recent titles

The impetus for the missed trip was supposed to be a lunch to celebrate what would have been my mother's 71st birthday.  Yesterday, I dreamed that she was alive again and living in a house filled with an obscene number of calico kittens and I was trying to convince her to let me take one off her hands.  She argued with me about which one while trying on her birthday outfit in the bathroom mirror and then stepped into the hallway, at which point I remarked how thin she'd gotten (and at which point I suddenly remembered she'd been in a wheelchair before , and how great it was that she was walking without help.  And oh, yeah, she was supposed to be dead.) At which point I was startled awake.  This may be a partner to the dream last week where the entirely of the front yard, right up to the steps, was an enormous swimming pool and we were all floating there, everyone happy and alive, despite something I was uneasily convinced I kept forgetting I was supposed to do.



Monday, April 02, 2018

on influence, part I



In addition to my NAPOWRIMO posting this month, I'm also posting daily about poetic influences over on Twitter--the books that sort of made me the poet I am. As I've been thinking chronologically about where the poems came from and the foundation on which they are built, I can't help but think about that terrible first poem I ever wrote--a class assignment in freshman English.  I only remember that it rhymed, and involved flamingos, and that is was followed in the weeks and summer after by more animal poems. Then some more poems about unrequited love (since I suppose when you're awkward and 15 most love will be unrequited.)


Image result for complete poe bookI had just started keeping a diary that spring I'd gotten for my birthday, the one with the blue sky and clouds on the cover and a tiny, flimsy lock that I don't exactly remember having a key, but a turn mechanism that unlatched the clasp. It's somewhere in my parents' house, and I've come across it a few times as an adult but have never managed to bring it back to the city with me.  Later, I left the confines of the journal and there are loose poems, some on notebook paper, some on the colored stationery I wrote to pen-pals on,  that I somehow kept and filed with all the other bad poems I wrote in college and after. There's one about bird bones on the beach and very deep thoughts (as one has at 15 or 16) on
mortality.

My sole knowledge of poetry was school-bound in those days, and my first taste of something I actually liked was junior year reading Poe's "Annabel Lee" just maudlin enough to appeal to my horror-novel seeped brain.   I remember memorizing it, just like we memorized Romeo and Juliet lines, Julius Caesar lines, in the years before. I only knew that Poe was dark, and possibly crazy, and somehow this appealed to me.  This was the same year we made collages about witch trials reading The Crucible and little book art projects about The Scarlet Letter.   When I penned my junior term paper on Gone With the Wind.  By far one of my most enjoyable classes of high school and perhaps what made me an English major.    That was also the spring that I was looking for the school's copy of GWTW and stumbled on Plath's Bell Jar and read it, knowing only that the Bangles had a song with the same title. My 17-year-old self was nonplussed and tossed it half-finished aside probably in favor of Stephen King.  Two years later, I would come across it again and it would launch an ongoing Plath obsession, beginning with journals and letters and ultimately landing in the poems. )

I remember a friend of mine, senior year, had sent a poem to the National Library of Poetry, and it was on my radar, though I don't remember if I'd sent anything to them, and wouldn't have had the money to buy the anthology, but I would send to similar vanity scams the first couple years of college, less expensive ones, but scams nonetheless (the danger of having no idea about poetry and publication and how the literary world works.)

Image result for emily dickinson collectedBy the time I graduated, I was convinced I was destined for a career in marine biology, and only kept my writing interests as a novelty side project, a parlor trick, something that I'd toss out to make myself more interesting in conversations.   Like any avid reader, I wrote very well--boring 5 paragraph essays, newspaper editorials on environmental and animal rights issues, essays for Seventeen competitions (and for which I managed to win an honorable mention prize of many free Noxema products.) I had bought a typewriter with my graduation money, and do remember typing something--though I think it was lame attempts at short stories, when I was living in North Carolina.  I remember poring over lit mags--real ones-in the library on campus as a way to pass time between classes I think I even remember submitting a couple things while there, but S.A.S. E's were hard to come by. Later, deciding my career as a biologist was doomed, I would come back to the midwest to study literature, and spend a lot of time that next year writing spare, tiny poems, mostly about social injustices and then sending them to the places in the back of Writer's Digest magazine.

Image result for the bell jarIt was in that first year back that I became a bit more acquainted with both Emily Dickinson and Plath. My 1st year English prof was an ajunct and a huge fan of both, and would indulge me, three years later when I wanted to write about Plath instead of other things in Advanced Expository Writing course   I was interested in the Beats, but only so far as they were interesting from a historical hipster standpoint, less so for the actual work.(I also kind of feel this way about Romantic Poets) .I spent the next couple years immersed in prose and drama, courses on novels and plays and fiction workshops.  Our workshop leader would tell me that my sentences were too long, too Faulknerian, and that I should be a poet. I adored Shakespeare, and I would read a bit of Yeats and Eliot but nothing jumped out at verse-wise. I also devoted more of my time to working backstage for the theatre department than to creating anything of my own. 


In the spring of 96, I enrolled in my first poetry workshop and somehow, the faucet that occasionally dripped came back on. Then I was writing very Dickinson-like short poems that (eek!) rhymed.  I was bad, but I suppose we all were.  But my rhyming made me especially bad.  Or maybe just good at writing these perfect little rhyming machines, but not much in the way of poetry. I don't remember what I was reading then poet-wise,  outside of Milton for my senior seminar,  but that was when I first became aware of Poets & Writers. By the summer, I was no longer rhyming, but still very bad, but good enough to garner undergrad poetry prizes, a couple of them, before graduation, one that even involved money.  I would once again haul my terrible electric typewriter out to the dining room table on long summer afternoons and work until my parent's came home from and I needed to clear it for dinner. I think maybe there were the first glimmers of something there.  I was 22. I still had absolutely no idea of the span of contemporary poetry.  The internet existed, I suppose, but not for someone like me, who was just learning to use WordPerfect desktop publishing software.
Image result for rita dove thomas and beulah
I wouldn't start reading contemporary poetry until that first year in Chicago, when I started checking things out from DePaul's library--Louise Gluck, Jorie Graham, Rita Dove (which was also on my MA Comp exam reading list and my first indication that poetry could, like a novel, tell a story) . By then, life and a bad bout of depression was on the verge of swallowing me whole--my teaching plans shakey.   My life plans kind of shakey..  By the fall of 1998, the poems had just  started to come back when I enrolled in a Modern British Poetry Class, where we read Eliot's The Wasteland. There is perhaps something laughable in that, being a feminist poet, running a feminist press, it was the deadest of the dead white guys that launched me, or maybe more accurately hatched me, poetically.  Somehow gave me permission to get to where I wanted to go.  My work was still pretty awful, but somehow, there was something to it. A place to get to, even if I didn't have a map.   I spent all that fall and into the spring writing poems that I was convinced were brillant, that would be my first book, finished before I turned 25 that April. .  Poems that I sent off, naively and hopefully to places like the New Yorker and Poetry.

They of course, declined, but I did get my first legit publication in a tiny, local, feminist journal that would, a few years later, take my first chapbook manuscript.  They were persona poems about witch trials and literary characters.  Mythology and fairy tales. That first book, Taurus, was terrible, but I did finish it by April. Hopefully, the judges of the contest burned it..LOL..But then I was briefly swallowed again by life--by graduation and first (and second jobs).  I wrote some short stories in several spiral notebooks during this period, probably in hope that I could make money from them,  but very few poems. Only after I landed back in Chicago again, did I get back to task and writing and submitting poems, this time to all the online journals that were miraculously spring up like wildfire...

It was a new decade.  A new millenium.  And I had regular, consistent access to the internet, which sort of changed everything...

to be continues...



Friday, March 30, 2018

notes & things | 3/30/2018



And so we come to the end of the month, and March is always a good riddance sort of thing.  The tulips are looking a little rough worn, but I think they are going to happen.  Meanwhile, I am filling the house with discount daffodils and thankfully avoiding family holiday things--that I haven't yet quite gotten the swing of in this new reality.

I am been self-medicating my cold-weather woes this week with shoe-buying exploits and a new faux leather jacket that it may just finally be going to get warm enough to wear. I've also been coming up with more titles for manuscripts and projects I've yet to start, including two really good ones I have been mulling over in my head.  (If I am anything as a writer, I am an excellent titler..probably better than I am at actually writing..lol..)

While my junk art workshop created nothing of note but some cute jars for holding things, my collage endeavors have created some rather interesting inky sorts of pieces (that were spawned by my design for the upcoming murder mystery poster I finished this week. )I was thinking it might be nice to have something that pairs well with the hunger palace text pieces, and this may not be it, but it's certainly an option. They are also very springy and flush with easter-egg colors, so I am madly in love with them and want to put them everywhere  (including the head of this blog.).




Next week brings another Zine Night and also our triple feature horrible movie fun on Wednesday night, --Nature Gone Wrong films that should be interesting and good fodder for some poems on terrible movie monsters I would like to eventually get off the ground, sort of the monstrous female angle that I touched on in some of the poems in strange machine, but only barely.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

the hunger palace


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Over the weekend, I was able to put the finishing touches on the lyric essay project that is THE HUNGER PALACE, or I guess it's more of an essay in fragments, 13 of them, some longer, some shortish.  I started sending some bits out to places that were interested more in essay or prose-type pieces and we'll see how they fare.  I don't know what other form it will take in the future--a chap? a zine of some sort? maybe just a segment of something longer (That manuscript  is already in my thoughts, even though I am still waiting on news of the last full-length's fate.  I may even already have a title, even though I only have maybe 20 pieces for it so far., but then sometimes I have titles (and sometimes epigraphs)  for projects I haven't even started..lol..)

Initially, I was wary of sending the more personal pieces out in the world, but I'm feeling different about it as it was taking shape. It's still personal enough to feel like I don't want people I know to see it, but not personal enough that I want to hide it from everyone else.   Such is the way with most of my more autobiographical work. I felt very similar with MAJOR CHARACTERS IN MINOR FILMS, which is much more close to the bone than, say SALVAGE or the upcoming apocalypse book. Definitely a world different than GIRL SHOW (which wasn't about me at all),

As for the project itself, , it's as close to truth as I can get with only a little bit of making less interesting things more interesting. That whole "artistic truth" vs. "actual truth."  But it's the emotion of it that seems close, and at times, I worried because of the subject matter, it was TOO emotional, too sentimental (and if anything, we are told, as writers, to avoid that at all costs.)  And people write so much about death.  Death is done to death.  So how do you make that NOT sentimental.

In the end, it helped that the project wasn't just about death, but also about women and body image (there were bit segments of this in the works even before last November, but somehow what happened braided very nicely together with those fragments.) The latter half may still need some polishing before I start submitting those, but at least it feels like it's done.

I'll be moving on to more zodiac poems and more of the epistolary project for NAPOWRIMO, and maybe a few other things that are itching in my brain if I'm going to be trying to write daily. And I've determined that I am a much happier camper in general when I AM writing more regularly  (becuase if anything else seems like its trodding all over me time-wise--the library, the press, life in general, there is at least that , the writing, getting done.  And really, that's at least something....

Saturday, March 24, 2018

notes & things | 3/25/2018




It's still way too cold out there to be officially spring, so I am hunkering down in the apartment in close proximity to the space heater and pouting and resting up for a busy upcoming week in the Library that includes a junk art / thrift art workshop Monday and an apocalypse-film trivia night Friday, plus all the tasks I put off this week since I was only working half days.

For the workshop, I've been sorting through my supply hoardings and evaluating what I may be willing to sacrifice, but it's making me crazy. (I did however find a stash of silver pendants from my etsy-selling days, that I will be making available in the online shop--rabbits, foxes, carouself horses, oh my!)  Since I've been spending a lot of time in the studio in the evening this week, I've been turning over again the idea in my head of more open studios (an opportunity to unload the original pieces that don't really sell online, plus make some extra money to help with the rent (which will probably be going up again at the end of the summer.)  The difficulty is arranging my library schedule to accommodate and actually having a decent amount of inventory in terms of books, prints, and paper goods, which is always up in the air.  I feel like I'm missing out on the benefit of actually having the space there and available to the public, and not just as a workspace (which also usually means it is super chaotic and messy with all the bookmaking. )   Just taming the paper trimmings alone is a feat, let alone the dozens of books mid assembly and in parts.   I used to do it more about a decade ago, but the dgp schedule wasn't quite as full of releases in those days, and things a bit more orderly and roomy in there. Summers are always pretty slow in terms of traffic, but it might be a good time to throw the doors open again since I'll be getting sprung from the library a bit earlier Friday evenings (this also depends on how exhausted I am on Friday evenings, which plays a huge role in my willingness to be "on" for such things. )

This week, in addition to plotting and assembling what seems like a thousand orders and author copies, I  did manage to get HONEY MACHINE printed and ready for assembly. These are the Plath centos and accompanying collages, and while I trimmed the series down to a more manageable and coherent number which flow better, they seem to work really well together (you can see some samplings here, here, here  and here.)  Work continues daily on the POETS ZODIAC (I'm posting them regularly on twitter and instagram) and somewhat daily on THE HUNGER PALACE, which I'm also sampling a bit on twitter as I go.  I'm still hoping to round it out by the end of the month, but I realize that is a mere 6 days away so I really need to dig in this week. (and then it's April and onto NAPOWRIMO).

And hopefully spring, even if it feels like I'm beginning to doubt it.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

notes & things | 3/17/18



It always feels like, metaphorically, winter is officially over come St. Patrick's Day, though the meteorologists tag that a bit earlier and the solstice a bit later, but I'm calling it.  It's supposed to be in the 50's tomorrow when I'll be trucking it down to Pilsen for a reading @ WomanMade Gallery, where I plan to look at some art and read some poems (probably from SALVAGE) and enjoy the getting to and fro and not freezing my ass off.

Today, I slept really late and plan to work on more zodiac poems.,  I'd like to maybe do them monthly, for all 12 signs,  which will keep me working for the next year, even if other projects are slower going. They're working nicely as a warm-up to other writings, or, if the other projects are being stubborn, at least something accomplished there at the end of the day.  I am also very close to starting printing on HONEY MACHINE, which is all laid out and just needs a little proofing for surface things and typos. I'm still undecided on the April-issue, which I'm thinking will be a more visual-oriented project since the last three have been more about textual elements.  (You can still subscribe to get in on all of the bookish fun .)

I was also poking around in some old files and found a cache of rejection slips (see photo above)  and various writing related ephemera I'd forgotten I had, back from when I was young and poetically naive and  had no idea that my work didn't fit certain molds and markets.

This week is spring break for Columbia, which means shorter library hours and more studio time in the evenings, which I am badly in need of. I'm using some 1/2 vacation days to cut into the mornings that would usually demand I be there at 9am, and am instead coming in daily at 1, which will allow me a to be more energized for those evening work sessions.   The December books are somewhat under control in terms of author copies and orders, but January is still a snarly, unruly bear of things that needs to be tamed.

In the Library, we are getting ready for another slate of APOCALYPSE, USA events, including a junk art workshop, a apocalypse film trivia night, another monster zine night, and our bad public-domain triple feature of nature-gone-terribly-wrong films. Spacing out the programming rather than condensing it all into one week this semester has done wonders for it feeling more enjoyable and deliberate and much less like a tornado to be endured until it passes. There is also the APOCALYPSE, USA reading at the end of April coming up, where I'll be reading with some other folks. Also, the Art Egg hunt, which is always fun shenanigans.

Meanwhile, I will be watching for the three undeniable signs of spring--magnolias, boats in the harbors, and the snow fences coming down along the beaches.   And then we're golden...

Friday, March 16, 2018

distraction 101



I have been thinking the last couple of days about creative distractions, you know, those projects and efforts you dream up probably simply because working on other things is tougher, harder, more emotionally draining.  While its going well, THE HUNGER PALACE is definitely turning in to one of these sorts of projects. While I've been determined to have a finished draft of the entire project by month's end, it's over-optimistic at best and tremendously foolhardy most likely,   Originally it was an old project revived after the events of last fall, something that had fallen by the wayside until I picked it up again over holiday break.  One that I gained some momentum on, but then sort of stalled out again.  But it seems important to finish it, at least in rough form soonish, mostly because the wounds of it are still new and fresh and maybe it will seem less urgent as time goes on.  I'm not sure how something that seems so urgent can also be dragging along stubbornly, but that us where I am at currently.  Kind of like a cat on a leash  that's sort of fallen over on it's side  and refuses to move. 

Over break, I actually stopped something else I was working on to devote my energies to that, an epistolary series that I intend to get to work on again by throwing my hat in the ring for NAPOWRIMO,  So ideally, these mother-daughter poems would be in the can as much as they can be by the end of March.  But then there are things dragging my writer attention--UNUSUAL CREATURES, finished as far as text goes, but still needing some tweaks before I even begin thinking about the final manifestation I plan to have done this summer  Preparing HONEY MACHINE for the zine subscription (which is just about ready and will be done by next week).  And another fun little project of zodiac poems that will be in little supermarket horoscope scrolls (we're taking AofR stuff to Zine Fest in May and I feel like these would go over nicely there.)  They are also little boxy things, so I may just post them as I go on instagram as poetry postcards.. (I've been posting some samples of work this way, but lineated poems are a bit trickier to make square and still readable.)





They are also really fun to write, and not at all angsty, and remind me of the James Franco pieces, a little bit of no-pressure wordy fun. 

In the realm of other distractions, last Sunday, somehow I found myself in the midst of a full-scale poetry shelf re-org effort (mostly because I was looking for my wayward copy of this book (there is a who-dunnit and tour at the Glessner House coming up .  Since my shelving style was more a controled-chaos things, instead of cleaning the rest of the house,  I wound up at least alphabetizing by author (and did find the Guess book eventually in some books that had slipped behind some others.)  I also found an unread book from AWP 2014 I'd completely forgotten I picked up. So yay!


Saturday, March 10, 2018

notes on the end times



One of the questions we formulated for our Apocalypse, USA panelists Thursday night was whether or not current or political or social climates had an impact on pushing you toward apocalyptically themed work, and the answer was usually no, and indeed, as I thought about it, I would have given the very similar answer. I was pretty much finished with the entirely of the manuscript of LITTLE APOCALYPSE, long before the election in 2016, and truthfully before that, for me, what happened was not even on my mind as a possible outcome until it actually, horrifically, was happening. I think I've spent the last year and a half hoping that we'd you know, actually make it all the way through 2018 when my next book was supposed to come out.

I always half joke / half seriously talk about the roots of my series apocalypse theory came from watching too many episodes of Supernatural in a short time frame. terrestrial animal, was inspired by an article on underground houses, while strange machine was inspired by the pinup models and bomb imagery I used for that series of collages, long before the poems were conceived. (themselves, if I remember, a play on the whole "bikini island" thing.)   The zombie girl poems were more generally zombie inspired. These were all written from around 2013-2015, and the book accepted in 2016, well before that bleak November.  I began the first poem of my impossible objects series, the end of last year, with a nod to previous apocalypse poems, but with a new twist that seemed imminent, even though that isn't really the subject matter of those poems.

Ir's rough. because at any given minute, I write toward fears and obsessions. In the mid 2000's that was violence against women . and probably that was what happened with the more recent series of love poems, which were definitely formed more by external cirumstances than internal. My projects now are more internally focused with impossible objects and the hunger palace and more autobiographical, but sometimes it feels like those external things are skirting at the edges.  My own mother's death, in itself personal, also wrapped up in the things that were happening concurrently, watching hours of television news and coverage stuck in various hospital and nursing home rooms--hurricanes, mass shootings, coverage of the administration. So I suppose it's impossible to write the hunger palace series without a nod to those things as well, since none of us exist in a vaccuum.

I remember a former professor who loved Emily Dickinson talking about how strange it was that, as the Civil War through the US, and she was no doubt touched by it in her non-writing life, those concerns and subject matter seem weirdly absent.  While I would no even remotely consider myself a writer who deals with political themes outrightly, it seems impossible that they could not form the sort of bedrock the works springs from.'

Regardless, if we do make it through the year, LITTLE APOCALYPSE will be making it's way into the world, and I'll be reading from it during our APOCALYPSE, USA reading at the end of April with a few other poets with similar themes.  And as a side note, the exhibit turned out beautifully, most of the work big and dramatic, making the show our largest thus far. And the artist panel so good in terms of discussion (and amazingly well-attended as such things go!)




Thursday, March 08, 2018

notes & things | 3/8/18


As I mentioned a couple posts ago, AWP was planned for (a spot at the awesome Whale Prom offsite bookfair, maybe some readings, a cute little pink hotel at the beach) but then financials and travel plans got iffy and the costs outweighed the benefits, but even though I am not at AWP, I am waxing nostalgic about AWPs of yore, including Seattle's (2014) where I stayed at chez Menacing Hedge and had an amazing time with other poets and editors.  The time in Chicago (2012) where I stayed drinking into the wee hours under the glorious ceiling of the Palmer House lobby and then got lost trying to get out of the building and onto the street. That first AWP (2004) where I wandered slack jawed through panels and bookfairs and virtually knew no one. The super swanky Marriot in Atlanta (2007) , where my parents joined me on the road trip and where the burgers in the hotel restaurant were $17. How lucky I've been to share tables with Switchback Books and Arsenic Lobster (all Columbia connections), and last time it was in Chicago, to host a big open studio and books signings right in the studio. How amazing it's been over time to have a chance, every once in a while, to meet the people I spend so much time with online.

So no, I am not going to AWP, and part of me is sullen, but also a little  consoled at the same time that the introverted anxiety of attending has been abated. So I watch from afar, alternately jealous and relieved, sometimes at the same time. Instead, tonight we hosted an amazing artist panel for our APOCALYPSE, USA exhibit that was our best attended by far, and the subject veered off mere subject matter and into marketing oneself as an artist and collaborations and gallery-system alternatives. Artists are always so different than poets, more like artists know there is possibly money to be made, one just has to find their niche. Poets know there is no money to be made in the least, and yet, we still persevere. It's like a truffle pig in a field where there are no mushrooms and we are well aware of it .

Instead of going to AWP, I will spend the weekend writing and maybe painting and finishing off Game of Thrones. I will make soup and drink too much coffee and listen to good (and bad) music. I will sequester myself in my little introvert bubble and see what comes of it.


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

writers and artists and social media-doings

As I've been dipping my toes in the Twitter pool the past week, I've been thinking about social media and which platforms work best for which things, both as content generator and content consumer.  My twitter use is shaping up to more focused than facebook on specifically  writing and art-related topics. (and I am mostly following other artists, writers, and publications there.) It's perfect for links and small segments of poetry due to length restrictions, but I am also hesitant on how much time one is to spend there in order to absorb the hive that is buzzing around you.  As someone who does not really use my phone for internet outside of instagram posts, and mostly do my interneting on my laptop or desk computer and only at certain times of day,   I feel sort of adrift and unable to follow twitter as a reader and follower even when I am posting there.   I've had the dgp one for a while, but it mostly autoposts from the facebook and I don't interact all that much there. It also got me thinking about other platforms I use, and what they are best for, and sometimes worst for.


Blogger

What's on it?  What it's useful for?

I've been regularly keeping a journal since my second year of college (and rather spottedly before that even though high school).  First it was a series of black marble composition books, then it was Xanga, then it was here.  Sometimes I feel like maybe no one is really reading this and maybe I'm just writing for myself. And really,  maybe that's okay.  I use it as a reference all the time for temporal reasons, also for mulling over patterns and obsessions.  For replaying things in my head from 5-10-15 years ago.  For writing fodder & materials.  Since it probably, altogether, far exceeds any poems I've ever written in both word count  and bulk, it's probably my grandest opus, even though a little rougher around the edges  My frequency has waxed and waned over time, and some waters are deeper than others, some rants and arguments more fevered. I used to get more heated over writing-related things I thought were stupid or arbitrary or useless.  There is much here about forging one's identity as a writer, about submitting work and publishing your first book.  About MFA-ing. There is also a lot of  thinking things out loud to make sense of them.   Sadly, with the rise of of much sexier social media options, may writers once active have long since abandoned them for other, less time intensive pastures.  Even for me,  most of my writerly news updates are more likely to happen elsewhere, whereas once, it was pretty much only happening here. I still like blogs for their heftiness and longer dips into things, however, and still read the ones I can find. (and the style & fashion blogs I also enjoy  are still very much a thing, even if poetry has moved onto to other platforms. )



Tumblr

What's on it?  What's it useful for?

When I decided to stop struggling with handcoding html everytime I wanted to change something on my personal or press website (which I had been doing old school on angelfire since around 2001), I started thinking of something easily updateable but with easy customizeable templates.  I had started using tumblr as the platform for wicked alice when we went from individual issues to streaming content, and I liked the ease of use enough and the ability to sucscribe/follow enough to aim my both my domains for both the press and my personal site to tumblr pages. On my the press page, you are able to navigate through info & guidelines pages, or go directly into the shopify platform which is the retail outlet. The feed on the tumblr features occasional news and new titles. Similarly, my own writing & art site (kristybowen.net)functions in much the same way, with the main feed sort of a news & updates page (publications, samples, new work), and then individual pages for things like books, interviews/reviews, exhibits and readings, and linking to other social media and projects from there. In this way, I probably use it very much in the way other writer's use Word Press as an easy way to set up a site that looks polished and like you have a design team working on it. Tumblr's boon is that it  is mostly free unless you want super-fancy templates. Tumblr, as a whole, also has really good search engine rankings.



Facebook

What's on it?  What's it useful for?

Pretty much the kitchen sink of social media. Baby goat videos, funny comics, random observations, links to writing and art endeavors, personal history, library things, dancing girl press things, cats, artist discoveries,  book & entertainment things, cats, photoshop magic, clothes & fashion & decor, angry feminist rantings (and links! ) Reductress and McSweeney's funnies. Areas of personal interest--anxiety, polyamory, creativity in general. Cats. Basically all the things you will hear me talk about of you are ever within actual earshot of any conversation IRL ever (but yeah, mostly cats.). It is behind a friend wall mostly with a few public posts to keep away the right-wingers and mansplaining riffraff, but if I know you in an actual real life or online community writerly capacity, you're pretty much in.   This sometimes feels like a convergence point where everything comes together and probably where my truest, unadulterated voice comes through. Sometimes with a lot of profanity.  And cats. Also, probably the only place where my real non-writing life (family, personal, library) intersects with more creative endeavors. Facebook as a platform seems to excel in it's share-ability and conversational possibilities.  I also have facebook pages for projects--dgp, Aesthetics of Research, the Crypto Society,  that are more focused in their content on those endeavors.



Instagram

What's on it?  What's it useful for?

Up until last summer, I had a Nokia Windows based phone that was pretty much not playing nice with instagram and I so very badly wanted to give it a whirl. When I was firmly ensconced with an Android like a normal person, the first thing I did was start posting--pretty things, random shots of my homespaces and workspaces, books under construction, random dailyness,  things I'm reading or perusing, clothes, vintage housewares, landscape shots. And yes, I think 48 hours passed before I posted the first cat picture. Over time,  I've slowly filtered in some poem posts and artwork series in progress, and sometimes, older stuff and throwback pieces.  I am still working on how to use hastags effectively.  If you want a more visual manifestation of what is twirling about me in a daily basis and maybe even twirling about inside me, this is an accurate representations of my surrounding and obsessions. With more cats.




Flickr

What's on it?  What's it useful for?

I've had a flickr account for over a decade, and at first it was more just a photo storage place that wasn't my own device. . As a result it is much more of an online photo album documenting the past 10 years than a social media thing I interact with other's over. I do, however,  since I am too lazy to find a proper portfolio platform for visual artwork, use the flickr albums as an easy  way to showcase that, but there are also random vacation folders, albums of more instagrammic shots pre-instagram, and sales pics from when I had the etsy shop.


Pinterest

What's on it?  What's it useful for?

Pinterest is definitely more for me than for anyone else, and where I bookmark completely frivolous stuff like dresses I want, style I like (by season and decade), hair colors, drink recipes, food stuffs, home or studio design inspirations. Also mini-obsessions like vintage wallaper, postcards, textiles., floral tattoos.   Useful things like packaging design and book cover inspirations.  I also have started idea and inspirations boards for various creative projects (UNUSUAL CREATURES has one, as does POSTCARDS FROM THE BLUE SWALLOW MOTEL.) Pinterest always has the feeling  that reading print magazines (fashion or decor mostly) used to have for me, that sort of flipping through and ripping things out to save.


Saturday, March 03, 2018

notes & things | 3/3/18

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Today, I am working again, but it's my last Sat/Sun shift for a bit, so I'm looking forward to some of those coveted weekends off.  I'm the usual kind of sleepy from having to be up at the ass crack of dawn, , but I've been working on the beginnings of the install for APOCALYPSE, USA, which is shaping up to be amazing, and planning for our artists' round table later this week. Also, loosely testing out the feasibility of a mini-conference in the fall devoted to our future focus topic, tenatively titled STRANGE FEVERS | MASS DELUSIONS, CONFUSIONS, AND INFATUATIONS (including things like cults, urban legends, cryptozoology (of course), victorian spiritualism, alien conspiracies, the salem witch trials, and all that fun sort of stuff (which is all the best sorts of stuff.)

In the studio,  I've spent this last week beating it through author copies for AWP-goers and getting a good chunk into January orders. Also plotting some cover designs for upcoming books. The mermaid anthology is also taking shape very nicely, and I've decided on a final title, which I will unveil very soon.  It was hard to narrow down, mostly since there was so much I wanted to take, but could not possibly fit into the box (there is a larger booklet that has individual poems by authors, but then also visual art objects, accordian books, postcards, tiny chaps, and such.

In other pursuits, I've had some extra time in the studios in the afternoon b/c of weekend shifts, but that meant my library time was eaten up by A of R tasks and conversations, so thus a bit less time to sneak in  press & writing things this week overall, though I'm hoping tomorrow to dig back into the hunger palace series and maybe do a bit of painting.

I have my eye on spring and have already swapped out winter dresses for warmer  spring ones (though I am still no doubt cardigan and tights bound for another month and a half), so I am so ready for warm weather it makes me teary.  It's been a long fall into winter and I really need some leaves on the trees..


Sunday, February 25, 2018

on mini-retreats & revisiting older work

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Today. I am doomed to the library and working on some press business and maybe some artwork preparations.   In recent years,  I've gotten super proprietary over Sat/Sun time and outside commitments. I'll do occasional readings or social engagements if I must, but I like keeping them free (unless I'm required to be at work--my department switches off weekend shifts among the 5 of us.)  The re-set part is important, being free to sleep in, to stay up as late as I desire, catch up on some apartment projects, or just completely tune out.  But also the creative time it allows space--space for painting, or writing, or hatching new projects. Weekdays usually have me leaving the house in the late morning, spending a few hours at the studio, then library-bound until 10. By the time I get home after 11, there's not much energy (mental or physical) to really delve in to anything before I go to bed around 2am.

Weekends, however, boast large swathes of time, maybe punctuated by cooking meals or occasional naps, but the rest of it is mine. I'm always a little jealous of writing retreats and drool over facebook posts and blog -ntries when other writers manage to land one.   Given my work schedule, such retreats are not really and  option, and I always wonder how useful they might actually be.  Would I just waste time when I'm given it so freely?  Does it, like when on a vacation, take some time to unwind into the calm of a creative space?  To shed off the outside world and take up residence in the inner? So much of the work I do happens in the in-betweens, the spare second, the tight little sliver of time between this and that.

Also, admittedly, I'm lucky to have the studio in the Fine Arts, and be living in the midst of an amazing colony of artists that I get to go to work in every day, but my work here is usually making books and filling orders and doing layouts, moreso than writing or working on things of my own in my limited time there. So weekends are a luxury I enjoy greatly, even if it's just a one-day deal. Yesterday, for example I got to spend some time checking out some new journals found in my twitter explorations, as well as work on a blurb for another poet's book. I was also able to make notes for a couple of new additions to  a couple projects, write my weekly wrap-up blog entry, and work on some more of the little floral pattern accordian books.

I also re-read the entirety of SALVAGE, some of the poems I hadn't looked at in a long while, and began thinking about what I wanted to read at a reading I am doing mid-March.  While I was at it, I also re-read Kristina Marie Darling's review in The Literary Review and the interview I did with Cynthia Manick around the time the book came out. I sometimes feel like I rarely revisit poems after they are published in book form unless I'm reading them publicly.  And sometimes indeed, after a while, they barely seem like my own--strange little children that go on to have their own lives. I was thinking I should do this more, get are-aquainted with my work sometimes even though I've moved on to other things. It also helps me see where I've been in order to see where I'm going. Plus it's an ego boost when I stumble across a rare moment of writerly brilliance..lol..)

Even though it was only one day, I felt much less ragged and scattered this morning than I did at the end of the week and less frazzled by my mounting to-do list when it comes to writing things.




Saturday, February 24, 2018

notes & things | 2/24/18


Today is cloudy and rainy, but mild enough I didn't notice the cold as much as the past few weeks.  Waiting for the bus, I was staring up at the magnolia trees outside the catholic school and the buds are just a little bit plumper now and will be bursting into flower in probably about three weeks if the temps stay fair.

The week in the library began with our Breton's Birthday festivities--the artmaking and a reading with some grad students. We're also collecting exquisite corpses and collages for a zine project that will debut in March.  We'll be taking that, the Grimm box project, and whatever else we desire to the Chicago zine Fest come May, so that will be exciting.   The other main project this week and next is selecting and hanging the work for the APOCALYPSE, USA exhibition and developing questions for the artists roundtable in a couple weeks.  We got a huge bulk of work, spanning across genres, and so there was a lot to choose from. 

The bad news of the week was that it seems, due to some financial issues, I will not be making it down to AWP and the alternative book fair after all.  I finally had to cancel my hotel and succumb to the fact that much like my New Orleans trip last spring, I'd be hobbling myself financially for several months afterward (there was a lot of scrambling last year after the trip that didn't right itself until July, as a single person paying two rents, it was rough.) My anxiety since November is also a bit higher, and does not make flying or driving all that easy (and rail would be too expensive and overly-complicated a doing to Tampa) .  I hate that I will miss it, but April and May versions of me will be thanking this decision and I suppose what money I save will be an excellent chance to get the mermaid anthology off the ground and out this summer.  I will badly miss the chance at my little pink beachfront motel and hope to get there someday when things are a little more generous in the bank account arena.    This week, however, I will be finishing up and mailing out so many books to authors who WILL be in Tampa, so you should find them and by them directly from their amazing authors.

Writing wise, I am still working on pieces from the hunger palace and the impossible objects series, as well as nearing completion (finally) of transcribing unusual creatures from it's original notebook. I'm pulling a usually quiet library shift tomorrow, so I'm hoping that might give me some extra time.  That will also be coming together this summer and will require a few more resources than the usual chaps that it will be nice to have in pocket. March's release will be the honey machine centos and collages for the books & objects series, so keep an eye out for that soon.

I've also been thinking about the usage of social media when it comes to writing stuff and what platforms are most effective used in which ways.  Facebook has seemed unusually quiet of late, so I wandered over to Twitter to set up camp (I've had a dgp account that autoposts from facebook for many years, as well as a few inside joke accounts with friends and last summer's mothman shenangigans, but no personal account of my own.)  As a platform,  I find it less easy to follow than facebook if you're not constantly connected and keep track of conversations, but I thought I'd give it another try.   In my hunt last night for all the poets I wanted to follow, I did find a bushel of really cool litmags I had no idea existed.  As I was scrolling through the dgp page followers to find people, I also stumbled across people like Carolyn Forche and Erica Jong following us and geeked out for a moment, mostly since when I was 20 and reading their work, I'd never believed that I would one day create something that authors, big famous-in-a-big-literary way like them, would take  interest in.  It's like making a small -independent film and finding out that Robert De Niro wants a part. I know they're just regular people, and we're all possibly a bit literarily famous on some scale as a look at my friends list will readily attest, but for someone who once looked from the outside/in at the literary world with awe, this is pretty awesome. You could probably only thrill me more if you dug up Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton from the grave and gave them a social media account...lol..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Saturday, February 17, 2018

writing and fact vs. truth


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This week, I released into the wild the love poems project, the one that started as a valentine and, over time, developed into something else entirely, about love and violence and women and men and all the inherent complications thereof.  It was a weird things to be working on, given mostly when I write about romantic relationships, they are firmly in the past (or at least MOSTLY in the past).  And while I've had some good relationships that just didn't work out with good people, I've also had some with bad people and predictably bad outcomes, and somehow those are the ones that turn up in the poems. Not always the exact truth or details, but sometimes an amalgamation of relationships or men mixed in with fiction.  It is the same with family, the mothers and sisters and fathers in my poems are not always my mother and sister and father, but sometimes, there are shared experiences and traits.  Fictionalizations to prove a point and strike a certain chord.

Sometimes, I am writing entirely fictional people into being--like in girl show or the shared properties of water and stars. Like the three sisters in beautiful, sinister.  Books like major characters in minor films or salvage are more about me and my experiences.  In the past, I haven't  always shared these books with people I am involved with romantically..some are interested, some less so (depending on whether they are, in fact artists or creators or into poetry at all.)  Art is easy for me to share with anyone, but handing someone a poem and saying, "yeah, this is about that jerk I used to date" not so much (I imagine this is a perennial hazard for someone like Taylor Swift..lol..).  It's like you wear your exes on your sleeve sometimes (and worse, sometimes the line between fact/fiction blurs in an unflattering way.)  I can change names to protect the innocent, details even, like how the physicist in shipwrecks of lake michigan was not a physicist but a mechanical engineer. Like how the married man in major characters...was not a singular span of time, but something that spanned over a decade of us weaving in and out of each other's lives disastrously.

Initially, I had written the love poem project as a gift to my boyfriend of almost three years.    Last February, I bound the poems in a small carefully handmade volume and intended to gift them when we met up a couple days after the holiday, but then my mother had a heart attack that started the downhill slope of her decline and the holiday was skipped entirely.   I held onto the poems and wrote more through the spring.  I also managed to spill coffee on the handmade book and threw it away after a couple months.   Then, over the summer, the project took a turn away from just being a personal valentine and more toward addressing broader themes of the difficulties of love in a time when men keep doing horrible things to women on a global scale.  While the poems became a central part of my most recent full-length manuscript SEX & VIOLENCE finished in the fall, I decided to wait and issue the project as a zine for the zine series, incorporating some valentine collages I did last year.  In the meantime, while some pieces have been published and shared  (in Hobart and Rag Queen Periodical), And while the series is technically dedicated to him, I hesitated over giving it to it's original recipient.  Is it too political now? Too angry or barbed to be considered a proper love poem, or is that the point?  Is it a Valentine or a feminist manifesto?  I am still undecided...(the danger of writing about relationships you are actually still in the midst of.)

I've been having similar feelings about the hunger palace series I've been blogging bits of here.  On one hand, these are set in the reality of my own life, but things are changed for thematic effect.  For example in this piece, the timelines are off, the trees on my block not cut down until about a month after my mother's death.  The mouse under the stove and the chipmunks under the stove happened over a decade ago, but they were details that seemed to fit the poem.  (The skunk and the stinkbugs though are true.)  I also was not present for my mother's speech/occupational therapy sessions, but she recanted them later when I visited.

I imagine the details will continue treading that line.  When I went to my first AWP in 2004, I sat in on a panel about poets reading fiction and fiction-writers reading poetry, and one of the fiction people said he always assumed that that the poets words were true--fact--autobiographical and of course all  the poets laughed nervously. Over a decade ago, I wrote a poem with the line

"There are three sides to every story.  Yours, mine, and the one we make up for the sake of art."

As time goes on, it has always seemed less important for the details of poems to be based on fact, but always important that they be based on truth, and that sometimes, poems are truer for their fictions. X, Y, or Z may not have actually happened, but in the world of the poem, they go a long way toward chipping away at the truth of any given thing.  When I  met the married man,  but before I knew he was married, I gave him a copy of my first book, the fever almanac, which  was in the process of coming out that fall. . (I also gave him a ridiculously expensive 1st UK edition of a Henry Miller novel for Christmas, one of his favorites, which should have been a warning sign)  After he read my book, his response was to ask me, half-joking, if I was really as depressed and dark as the book (my response was both yes and no.)  Later, he was aware there were poems about him, but I did not ask or want him to read them.

As someone who is mostly non-monogamous and dated steadily through my 20s and 30's , there have been a number of men for whom there are no entire poems, but only a line or an image.  Like a flash of a swimmer in the ocean as the waves bob him into and out of view.  The college trysts and random make outs. The older man, who wrote long love letters to me via e-mail,  who told me he loved me way too early on a date at the top of the stairs in the Art Institute.    The work crush I spent over a year trying unsuccessfully to drunkenly seduce in bars. The years long poly relationship that fell into a more platonic friendship because I could not handle my jealousy.  The mechanical engineer himself, on an off again for years, who finally moved back to Detroit.  All of them disassembled and reassembled in various ways.  Facts used here and there along with some fiction for desired effect.

And maybe the truths are always more interesting than the actual facts anyway. The possibilities of thematic arcs and resonance far vaster when you finesse the details a bit.  Maybe not write what you know, but write what's true.

(edited to add a link that proves I am not the only one thinking these things of late..)



Friday, February 16, 2018

notes & things | 2/16/18


While the end of last week bought mountains of snow, the milder temperatures this week have mostly abated it except in the shadiest, darkest spots on the landscape.  Spring feels close enough that I can taste it, but I know that is still somewhat of a delusion at this point in February.

Its been a bear of week that began with general studio mad-fast bookmaking and Tuesday's printmaking workshop , which involved a little bit of Valentines-eve fun (that continued with some flower and pink champagne celebrations later on.) Also,  the good news of the release of Tupelo Quarterly's  latest issue, featuring a good size selection of some past book art projects and samples of both art and poems. The latter half of the week has been attending to some upcoming chapbook business, reading wicked alice submissions,   and prepping for Monday's Breton's Birthday event, which features a book display, some games and activities, and a reading Monday night by some CCC grad students.  I still have some promo and final materials to finish up, but will be pulling a Saturday shift tomorrow, which should give me some quieter, less interrupted time to attend to it.

I will be working, but what I would rather be doing is hiding in my apartment watching Game of Thrones episodes one after the other and hiding under a blacket, but somehow I seem to have an upcoming spate of at least day of the weekend being eaten by work. But by the time I'm done with the next couple weejs, we'll be into march and AWP plans and spring weather and it will be heavenly.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

in praise of the strange


The past week or so, I've been watching LORE, a podcast based Amazon original that details all sorts of interesting folkloric type things--vampires, lobotamies, changelings, victorian spiritualism.  While I had heard of the Fox sisters, some of the most famous faces of that last topic,  in passing, I wasn't aware that their entire career as mediums had later been revealed to be a big ole hoax.  Suddenly, they seemed ripe as  inspiration for a possible new series of poems and I set to doing more research, (like I need more topics for poems I never seem to have enough time to write) but I dived in.

I had a recent conversation with a friend about weird, oddball  interests and their potential to draw strange and sometimes frustrating responses from the world at large..ie the "basics"--mostly uncreative people who do things like worship Crate & Barrel and Whole Foods and wear a lot of khaki and those ugly scarves from Burberry that cost like $300.  In Chicago, in other decades, we may have called the female version of this "Trixies" and maybe now they are "Pumpkin Spices" but nevertheless, in my daily life, my contact with that sort of world is minimal.     To most appearances, I am definitely not really "edgy" in any way,--preferring rather "normal" girly clothes and rather "normal" hair colors, and sort of blending in with the masses until I open my mouth and start talking about weird stuff.  To all appearances, despite my hatred for the highway robbery of Whole Foods, you may have spotted me at least twice in a Crate and Barrel (though they were too spendy for me to buy anything).  But really, "basic' has much less to do with trappings and clothes and retailers and more to do with mindset. This friend had previously dated a woman who forced her to edit her house, filled with amazing taxidermy and certain oddities down to a "respectable" home,  to one outfitted in C& B and West Elm and suited for guests or children that never came or would eventually never happen. That sort of basic.

Luckily, thank god, most of the people I surround myself with are of the weird variety.  If you told a basic, "hey, I'm going to go home and sit at a computer and make up imaginary people saying imaginary things in an imaginary world" they would probably give you that look. But then all writers do this to some degree.  All artists with their pet passions and quirky obsessions. I once left a library art opening peeved when someone had said to me, in a kind of disparaging tone (or maybe I read it that way) "I could just never be creative.  I don't know how you do it"  And maybe it was a compliment, or maybe it was a jab, but it felt like the latter.  The tone was definitely less awe and more "I don't know why you choose to smear yourself in feces, I could never do that." I left feeling more like a circus freak, a weird position for an artist who works in a library at an art school.

Last summer, I was in an Uber having a conversation with my bf (an actor, who obviously is used to entirely made up worlds.) and talking about Mothman sightings and how we had been trying to set up hoaxes related to the rash of sightings and explaining Mothman lore in general and then conversationally hopped, as we passed Calvary Cemetary on the lake, to the ghost of the WWII airman who apparently is known for stumbling across Sheridan Road during storms, and was about to launch into the story of Inez Clark in Graceland Cemetery and her wanderings during summer storms and stopped myself as I caught the eye of the driver in the mirror, who had that same look on his face that my co-worker did.  I stopped talking and changed the subject to skyrocketing Rogers Park apartment rents, but I shouldn't have.

And not that basic is always bad.  I'm not a fan of pumpkin things in general, but I enjoy an an occasional hazelnut latte from Starbucks.  I even occasionally like Taylor Swift (well, earlier Red era TS).  I laugh occasionally over my being drawn to pretty trendy fashion trends like cropped denim jackets and tulle skirts. I am super basic in my t.v watching--my Sex & the City binge recently a perfect example--even in my more fringe tastes toward horror and supernaturally focused shows that are loved my the general populace. I am not probably a poster child for edgy or subversive or even, really alternative. Enjoy many kinds of music, from country to pop to hair band rock to old bossa nova records.

But I do know quite a bit about weird things like ghost stories and fringe science and urban legends.  About mermaids and circuses and horror movies. A new friend was once delighted by my deep knowledge of  spontaneous combustion and I was shocked (didn't everyone know this?  I guess not)   A pissy comment from a former boss irked me once--that I would explain (whatever random library situation was at hand) by aliens (duh, aliens aren't really my jam, ghosts are. Get your facts straight if you're going to insult me proprerly!)

Maybe it's about finding your tribe of like-minded people, mine mostly artists or writers, but even some not even creatives, just geeks for sci-fi or horror or whatever..May I spend more time in their world than in the other.
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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

notes & things | 2/6/18

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Earlier today, I was queuing up dgp social media posts for the coming week  (I usually like to schedule a few snippets of older titles)  and decided this week to spotlight 2008 books , books celebrating their 10th birthday this year.  I was struck how that seemed to be a sort of pivotal year for the press, in terms of logistics and what we were publishing. I had just moved into the studio space.  I finally had a decent paper trimmer and the room to spread the whole operation out--a place to store paper and envelopes and supplies. I also had, after a few years in which we just published a handful of books, the opportunity to bump things up in terms of accepted titles from 10 to nearly 20.  Of course, right around then was when things got crazy with etsy shop and selling vintage as well (and one could argue that I may very well have never been able to catch my breath since 2008).  But it was a good year, even so, one in which I struggled to make sure I could pay the rent on the new space and not have to move everything back home.

Today, I contently spent some hours there proofing and finalizing some chaps from December and laying out some books due out in the next month and thinking about process..  Some books take longer, some shorter, depending on the formatting demands inherent in the manuscript.  Some covers are easy (or really easy when someone else designs it or we use another artist/designer (see that beauty above)) but some take a little wiggling to get just right..fonts and placements and such.    Thursday, I will start work on designing the covers for the books I began to layout today, (mostly March book--a couple of them due to release before AWP. )    I also need to begin assembling my stash of books for Whale Prom and deciding what I can possibly bring with and fit on a half table. (also finagling how to actually afford the trip and not strand myself penniless in Florida.)

Again I am continually delighted by the work I get to do, by the books I get to help bring into the world.  Probably more than I ever imagined I would be.  As I mentioned in a previous entry, I've been thinking alot about twenty years ago. Early 1998 was a rough patch, so much confusion over what I wanted to do with this life, what I was capable of doing.  By that fall, I was beginning to write with a more serious bent, but even then, as I sort of dedicated myself to writing, I never imagined the other sort of work I would do in the future  after I founded dgp.   It wasn't even something that would have occured to me as a possibility (that came later, after running a litzine for awhile, after uncovering all the chapbook presses springing up.)  The way it seemed very much the thing I should be doing with my life.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

notes & things 2/4/18




The weekend has been cold and snowy and I have been tucked firmly inside,  mostly winding down old binge-watch addictions and starting new ones.(this latter one is based on a podcast and full of morbid details and lovely animations.)  I am making chicken soup weekly and writing (poems and blogs) and drinking way too much of the New Orleans coffee my dad secured for me for Christmas. I really don't want to leave my apartment again until spring, but this week is full of good things like zine night (we're doing scrap zines) and a Book to Art club meeting with more Grimm-inspired action. So I suppose it'll be worth it to venture out.

In writerly news, I had some poems this week in the latest Tinderbox  from the Plath centos, the last of what were picked up last year and the last to be published before I issue it with it's attendant collages this spring for the subscription series. (either in March or April depending on how other projects fare in the next month).  February's issue is the love poems series, HOW TO WRITE A LOVE POEM IN A TIME OF WAR (ie. the Valentine that turned feminist manifesto). I am still transcribing the handwritten stuff from UNUSUAL CREATURES and working on another, lighter, epistolary project.
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I'm continuing work on THE HUNGER PALACE, which I'll be posting fragments of weekly in this space.    I've been torn on sending them out to journals, at least the bulk of them, mostly becuase I am sending out pieces from other projects that I feel are more publication friendly.  Like many more prose oriented projects, the segments don't seem to be as strong individually as they are as a whole  I kind if  don't think they would actually get picked up.  There is also something too raw and vulnerable about them to risk rejection. Like wandering out into a snowstorm naked rather than fully clothed.

In the studio,  I am assembling the first copies of the books that were released in early-mid December.  I wanted to get everything ready and on schedule in December, but it means I created a bear for January in terms of author copies, that I am still struggling to get through and out the door, but I am gaining ground. Also, orders I got behind on in December and am still struggling to catch up on (I apologize if you are waiting on something, but it will be on it's way soon.) There are also some new additions in the shop coming down the pipeline (prints, postcards), and already this new mug, which I created in a moment of pure lady rage last week. At first I was just going to make one for me, but then thought it might be cool to sell them and donate some proceeds to something that Republican neanderthal hates--Planned Parenthood.  I've been thinking of doing mugs for some simple artwork and they turned out nicely, so keep an eye out for more.

In the library, I am also planning for our Breton's Birthday event, which will have speakers and readers and surrealist fun.  Also the Apocalypse programming coming in March --the exhibit and the artist panel that kicks off the whole shebang.  We managed to get a huge number of submissions and will begin parsing through them this week and making selections for what will be included. Otherwise, I am slogging through reserve stuff--faculty requests and pulling books and such, but that will no doubt be dying down soon. 

Until next week...




Saturday, February 03, 2018

technology and witchery




I was thinking tonight about technology and generations and my rather novel position of being part of one whose existence is split right down the center--the before and after-- by the internet and all of it's possibilities--streaming music, movies, smartphones.  All the sort of things had you time traveled back 22 odd years and told me would everyday facts of life, I'd never believed you.  I spent the first 20 or so years of my life living sometimes in the real world , though more preferably, alone and in my own mind, or at the very least in the world of books.

When I was a teen, you'd most likely find me in my room sprawled on my bed reading trashy books or sitting on the floor near my stereo popping cassette tape after cassette tape into the deck.  On the rare occasion my parent's didn't have domain of the main t.v. you might find me watching 90210 or sitcoms there, though more likely I was in my room, trying to watch them fuzzily on a teeny b&w set given to my mother by a friend.  In books, I had a penchant for horror, or secondhand Harlequins passed on from a cousin.  In music, pop hits or hair metal.  I had friends, but we mostly would have occasional slumber parties and sleepovers, which I spent a lot of time trying to get everyone to watch MTV (which I didn't have access to at home.) Or we'd go to the movies at the mall and wonder the stores where we coveted things we could rarely afford. 

If you told my teen self that over 20 years later, she'd be able to order anything off the internet and have it delivered to her door, that she could stream any music video on youtube, any movie on Netflix or Amazon. What's more could do it on an object the size of her palm, she'd most likely accuse you of some strange witchery. And yet we're here, the world so much bigger and somehow so much smaller.  I spend most days half in the virtual world and half in the real, sometimes one more than the other depending on the day. Due to work and the press, I spend the majority of my day in front of a computer and toggling between the internet and other programs.  Even when I'm home, I am perusing pinterest or instagram and listening to music on my laptop or tablet or streaming movies/tv on my Roku.


But sometimes I think about the things in my life that I am not sure would have been possible had those technological shifts not happened.  As someone with, at times, acute social anxiety, there is probably a lot of things I would have shied away from or avoided were it not for the communications possible in the virtual world. (especially if they involved phone calls, which, unless it's someone I'm close to still send me into blind panic.)  My poetry world in the late 90's was so small, and while I had started to submit, it was much more difficult--the typewriter/word processor, the SASE's, the waiting.  And only a few ways to learn about publishers and journals, much less connect with other writers.  There was P& W magazine of course, but I think that was about it.  I remember when I first had some sustained time on the internet in the labs at DePaul while getiing my MA and grew addicted to their discussion boards.  I could go in for a few minutes on my way to library and get sucked in for hours.

When I finished my degree I wound up back in Rockford for a year with no real access to the web outside of occasional surfing on my desk computer at the elementary school library (which there wasn't much time for.)  This was probably the last time I was living more in the real world than the virtual.   I remember I was sleeping a lot, but probably also reading and watching bad late night tv after my parents went to bed on the big TV in the living room,  By the time I moved back to the city, I was sitting in front of a computer all day and just beginning to read and submit to online journals on the regular, to build my own website, to found my own litzine.

Slowly, my hours in the virtual world probably surpassed my hours in the real world.  Or maybe they existed side by side.  The self that interacts on the web and also with their actual surroundings.  The self that goes out and does readings and interacts with other writers. The self that makes things with my hands, that paints or collages or writes things out longhand. The self that reads books you can hold in your hands. The self that cleans the apartment, that eats breakfast, that has sex.  But those hours seem to be substantially less than the hours I spend right here, my hands on the keys.  But somehow, I am okay with this, this virtual life just as real I suppose as the life I loved sprawled across the bed reading, or on the floor by the stereo.

But then, sometimes too much immersion, too much time in the virtual world seems sad.  A few weeks ago the waves on the lake were crazy, magnificently high and angry and I looked around at my fellow bus travelers and all of them were staring at their phones, not one looking out the churning lake almost sloshing onto the drive.  I spend a lot of time in front of a screen or a tablet and home and at work, but I do try to be in the world when I venture into it as much as I can, my phone staying pretty much out of sight unless i have to send a quick text (and limited to wi-fi only where it's available). Somehow I feel like I am missing too much out there in the world as it is, so need to pay attention. As writers, this is probably even more important.

As writer, we naturally live more in our heads than in our bodies, I suppose,  And the virtual world maybe is really just another way of living in our heads, only communally in someway with other people living inside their heads.