Saturday, August 18, 2018

a week of broken water

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“The house is damp. The house is untidy. But there is no alternative.”
                                   A Writer's Diary-Virginia Woolf

How do you know what this is? The dark red poppies and white syringas.  Think of Viola laying dead, and the cramming in and the cutting out. Even the muscles on my right hand, jerking almost. A prodigious tapping and clearing and massing. I think it will begin like this:  dawn, shells on the beach, voices of cock and nightingale; and then all the children at a long table—lessons. The moth must come in: the beautiful single moth.  She might have a book—one book to read in—another to write in—old letters. Early morning light—the beginning. It’s the cold hour, this, before the lights go up. 

What is the right antidote?  I rubbed my mind brisk along the Newhaven Road. Shabby old maids buying groceries in the wet.  When I look up I see all the marsh water.  In the sun, deep blue, gulls, caraway seeds, Atlantic floor. Yellow islands, leafless trees, red cottage roofs. A virgin lip, no bungalos, as it was in the beginning. 

In the wild, grey water.  A blank.  All frost. Still frost. Burning white.  Burning blue. The elms red. I did not mean to describe, one more, the downs in snow, but it came. I bought the blue paper book.  Like the milk girl, we found it boring. 

Who’ll be killed tonight? What could we salvage in this little car? Darwin and the silver, and some glass and china, The picture of the world in books is thus too dark.  The wordless are the happy, women in cottage gardens.  How serene and gay even, their life reads to me: no mud, no whirlpools, .  And so human. 


( In my forging through old poem files I also found this..a cento culled from Woolf's diaries. I think I initially wrote it for errata--where I was working with genres, but then didn't use it and promptly forgot about it.  I had to retype it here since I can't even begin to figure out where I would have saved it. I rather like it and maybe I'll do some more just as some exercising of sorts.)

Friday, August 17, 2018

notes & things | 8/17/2018

It's a two blog entry sort of day, mostly because I am playing hooky from library in-service, partially because the knee I keep injuring/re-injuring would not play well with a couple of different library tours, and partially becuase this may be the last day I can take off til the holidays.  Still I spent it getting groceries delivered, hanging out with the cats, proofing some dgp & collab projects, reading through drafts of my own work, and writing a couple different things for the blog.   I also dug through some old files and found all sorts of gems, including sonnets I'd forgotten about and a cento culled from the diaries of Virginia Woolf (the latter good enough that I wonder if I should pick it back up.)  I have another day tomorrow to work on poem stuffs and then the Danny's reading on Sunday.

Some noisy impromptu 4 am karaoke by downstairs Loyola neighbors started my week off tired and it never seemed to lift, so I am determined to sleep in as late as I want these next few days. I'm starting to get that fringe of panic as the new semester gets closer.  No matter how much I get done in the summer planning wise (for either reserves or AofR programming there are always ways in which I am unprepared somehow or rushing, which I hate.)  And once we start rolling, it's a downward slope til the holidays and I scarecely have time to catch my breath.

There is so much goodness I hope I have time to, you know, actually enjoy it--Beautiful Monstrosities, printmaking workshops, panel discussions.  Maybe, finally, those library-related writing things I'd like to get done. And outside of work, decisions for next year's dgp slate, the release of little apocalypse, some other little text & image zines, the unusual creatures box project, the mermaid anthology. I'll blink and in the worrying and preparation for things I sometimes miss the enjoyment of them. It's something I really need to find a way to balance...

where we've been, where we're going...

I was reading through some existing projects--basically everything I've written in the past year--mostly a handful of smaller series, some of which will eventually no doubt come together to form full-length collection #9, another couple that might very well be the beginnings of #10. I finally feel like the past year, or maybe even the past 6 months, has been very productive in the actually getting things down on paper in a way that I probably haven't been since my MFA days, maybe not even then.  As we roll toward fall, I realized that it's been 20 years since I first really began feeling like I wanted to take a serious go at this poem thing. I had been sending out work before that, from about age 19, with my little electric typewriter and my whiteout and my Writer's Digest magazine. But through college, I was in and out, focused on various things--for a bit it was trying (badly) to write fiction, for awhile it was theatre, for awhile it was teaching English or drama.

But the fall of 1998, was the first time I felt like poetry/writing could be something of a career (well maybe not a career as in money, but a career as in life pursuit.) I was just entering my second year of MA-English studies at DePaul and slowly realizing that while I loved reading and talking about books, I wasn't all that cut out for teaching them. Call it a big dose of social anxiety and a lack of the sort of nurturing and patience required for the classroom.  It was a strange place, suddenly realizing that you were not at all cut out for the very thing you'd planned your life around. I hit the summer of 1998 with no clue what to do with my life, having survived a bit of a mental bad patch in the late winter probably due to this very thing. A point where the anxiety animal I am used to carrying around became a depression animal that left me unable to leave my apartment except to go to class.  That had me sitting in the dark crying most of the time. Thankfully the fog of that had cleared by spring, but I was still drifting without purpose, looking at Ph.D-Lit  programs half-heartedly--still thinking maybe I would warm to academia in time.  I even took the GRE and applied to a couple (was even accepted at one, an abandoned application at the other.)

I also am thankful to my DePaul professor, who that fall, was willing to write me a letter of recommendation, but who gave me a dose of real talk on academic job prospects at the turn of the century that was probably the best advice I ever got. Basically she suggested I aim higher or don't aim at all--the most notable Ph.D programs in the nation not even a job guarantee, much less the smaller programs I was considering.    That if I was just doing it for further interest and study, then by all means, continue.  If I actually hoped to land a job, I should try for something shinier, more impressive for my vitae.

In a way, this was incredibly freeing information.  If academia as I was set on pursuing it would never yield the fruit I needed, wasn't I better off doing something else with my life? I was also never a very good scholar-I could write a good paper and I loved research, but I never had all that much passion for scholarly essay.  They felt like a necessary evil I could churn out, but I was never that excited about them (nor at the prospect of spending my semesters reading student papers into perpetuity.)  Really, I sort of just wanted to do the research and not write the essay, or use that research for more interesting things like art or creative projects (thus, though I didn't quite know it yet, a library career was an obvious choice.)

That fall I was also taking a 20th Century Brit Poetry class, and reading Eliot, which cracked something open for me as a writer. The Wasteland in particular gave me a certain kind of permission.   I had encountered sections of it in an undergrad class, but this was the first time I'd read it in its entirely and felt something stir--the beginnings of my own voice maybe. That collage and threading effect that I did't realize was possible in poetry. It made no sense, but then again, made all the sense in the world.  The professor for the class had us listen to Eliot himself reading his own words and I remember this feeling, this frisson, that started at the tip of my spine and carried upward.  (Probably why I have such a crush on old Tom, despite him being the deadest and whitest of dead white male poets.)

That frisson led to the first poems I wrote that felt like they were mine that October--that maybe I could do this thing and do it reasonable well. Sure I had written a lot before age 24, skinny little mopey political poems at 19, slick little Dickinsoneque rhymes when I was 21.  After a summer of unusual productivity and growth before my senior year, I'd even managed to land some college poetry prizes with some more promising personal pieces that were less embarassing but still not all that great.  I still, having only encountered poetry in anthologies, was not at all well versed in contemporary poets. But that fall, spurred by my Eliot spark, I went to the DePaul library and checked out books by Louise Gluck, Carolyn Forche, Anne Sexton, Eavan Boland.

Since I wasn't doing anything else that fall, by grace of student loans and credit cards,  I spent all my time not in the classroom writing poems and working on submissions to journals.  By spring of 1999, I had a book's worth of material and then some.  I had access to the internets on campus, but was still trying things on a word processor at home, printing them out, and SASE-ing my way to places like Poetry and the New Yorker and everywhere else listed in Poets & Writers magazine. Every day I ran expectantly down to the mailboxes in my Lincoln Park apartment building and, with a couple exceptions, mostly got a lot of no's, but a couple yes's. That spring, I vowed to have a manuscript by the time I tuned 25 and I did.  I vowed that my goal would be to find some sort of bookish, creative job that I didn't hate and spend the rest of my time writing.  And, it took an entire summer of false starts and jobs I was not at all cut out for, but I eventually did.

The poems I was writing then seems to be largely focused on allusion--myth, history, fairy tales, literature.  My first acceptance from a journal was for two poems--one about Salem witches and the other told from the perspective of Sin in Paradise Lost.  I was only 24, had mostly lived my life thus far, inside of books, so I suppose this was the natural outcome, the natural lens through which I saw things.   That spring, I would also be reading Rita Dove's Thomas & Beaulah, which in may ways keyed me into the storytelling possibilities of poetry.  The invention of a narrative word that didn't necessarily have to be mine.   But at that point, I wrote about what I knew.  Many of these poems, the better ones, wound up in my first chapbook, The Archaeologist's Daughter,  a couple years later, but none, despite how promising I thoughr they were, into my first full-length.

Even still I felt like it was this huge output of I guess what you could call voice, or the voice I was beginning to find...

Sunday, August 12, 2018

the slipperiness of persona


Recently, there was some grossness with questions of persona poetry (some white male poet who I had never heard of but who is apparently on the rise) did what amounted to digital blackface. Apologies were issued, even from editors, and there was some continuing discussion about persona poetry and the ethics of taking on voices other than your own--in this case, and in others that have arisen over the years-particularly the voice of the marginalized, who should have the opportunity to have their own voices added to the conversation without being filtered through the lens of privilege and remove. That someone else's story--particularly those that deal with identity and marginalization--are not fertile plucking ground to work out your own issues as a writer. Basically don't be a an asshole and try to speak for others, not only whose experience you know nothing about, but also whose chance for their own voices & experiences to be heard will be impeded by yours.

It's tricky ground, and even outside issues of identity and marginalization, it's problematic. I've been thinking about this as I work on the Slender Man series about the Waukesha stabbing--a case in which all of the involved girls are still very much alive and able to speak for themselves.  Maybe less a discomfort with persona --after all, I was also once a 12 year old girl in a midwest town who had slumber parties and went skating--a miliion sleepovers that sound exactly like theirs only no stabbings in the woods, this is perhaps why the story has appealed to me.  Just replace Slender Man with Bloody Mary in the pre-internet days. I was awkward and only had a couple of close friends, and not a slumber party went by where there wasn't some pre-teen squabble that marred the event.  But maybe it's more that I am still writing from the outside for all intensive purposes. That while it's somehow not so hard to speak for the dead, speaking for the living is another thing altogether.

I've written persona, or something like persona--poems before obviously--my entire first chapbook  The Archaeologist's Daughter,  was devoted to poems about historical characters, mythological subjects, people plucked from art and literature. There were poems about mermaids, gold rush brides, Degas' dancers, Salem witches.  Most were addressed as a "you" so were maybe not the "I" of traditional persona writing. Later,  I wrote an entire series devoted to Resurrection Mary, but then again, writing about a ghost or urban legend is very different from writing about an in-the-flesh person. I used a bunch of different lenses with that projects, and there is some variation in address.  Some are addressed to you, the ghost, some are I when I am speaking as narrator, some are third person omniscient. Perhaps the greatest concentration of more persona oriented pieces happens in girl show. Of course, there is a fine line between invented people and those based on real people.  I did a lot of sideshow research, so some of the women are based on people who existed--the siamese twins of "double tongue" being the most readily apparent, certain details in other poems.  But I suppose there are also a number of "I" voice poems of made up characters--the magicians assistant of "dissassembling maria", the dancer in "constellations of girls in red, the rotund high diver of "la grande plongeuse. "

According to simplest definition of persona poems, it involves the poet speaking in, taking on a voice that is different from the poet "self, but I'm not sure what happens when even that "self" is sort of slippery and moves back and forth between first , second and third person, which happens in girl show just as much as it does in the Resurrection Mary poems. Regardless, it's a wholly different thing at a certain remove when the subjects of your work are real, breathing people.  Maybe in this way, it's a discomfort akin to when you are mining real life for poetry fodder.  Early on, the first time my parent's came to hear me read, I told them the "mother" and "father" are not them, or at least at that time, were less so them and more fictional characters.  My own mother was nothing like the distant, untouchable, unreachable mothers in the the fever almanac.  The fathers in that book either missing or somehow foreboding. Even though the narrator of the poem spoke with an "I" in that book on occasion, it is perhaps the speaker least like me of all books . There are barely any "I'"s at all in in the bird musuem, a smattering in girl show, and shared properties... has a third person narrator. The first book where the I sounds even remotely like myself is major characters, but even again, the I, she's slippery and untrustable, and that carries through salvage and into little apocalypse.  

In some ways, it feels like everything is persona, but then if everything is, maybe nothing is.  Still, as I was working on necessary violence I've been cautious about that persona-hood. About the possibility that the involved would one day read this exterior version of their lives.  So what do we do with this burden?  My sister, who is working on the visual elements of what will be the final project mentioned on FB yesterday that she was keeping her visuals more in line with Slender Man myth and less about the particulars in order to not possibly re-traumatize the victim should she ever see them.  In writing the project, I am most uncomfortable with her.  The other girls are sympathetic, in that they are probably not monsters--just a product of un-diagnosed mental illness, extreme unusual suceptibility to fantasy, and the internet's darker corners. But how do we deal with the party most injured by all of this (though reports and media say she is actually growing up and handling it all quite well--she's a survivor, and apparently thriving.)  But even in my pieces, she is not the focus, and sometimes I feel like she should be, and maybe these are the pieces I still need to write. The other girls fall into a collective "we:  that by extension becomes all 12 year old girls with a love of the dark things, if not violent tendencies. That powder keg of adolescence where something can go terribly wrong (which in most cases the wrong is not attempted murder, but traumatic nonethless.)  The weird father/savior implications of the Slender Man imaginings.  There are fragments that are more focused on the mythology and the internet, and others focused on the particulars of that Saturday morning, but there are probably more made up details than true ones. 

I'm not sure I have the answers to these questions, but am thinking out loud about this project in particular. How to handle writing about the living when they still have their own voices, but still being able to inhabit their stories in your own voice.  Even in cases where the obvious rules--don't be an asshole, don't take on other people's stories and claim them for yourself, don 't further marginalize the marginalized, are not really applicable...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

notes & things | 8/11/2018

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We are well into August now, and the end of summer is just visible up over the horizon. As always, so much that I was intending to get accomplished over the season that probably will not happen entirely by Labor Day, but much did (and still is.) In the library, I have a good start on fall planning, including the Little Indie Press Fest, which I am working on now, plus other workshops and panel discussions set for September.  I intended to just focus on programming and some library-related writing projects, but the staffing changes had me investing portions of my day in doing ILL I hadn't intended, so the writing projects have been tabled temporarily  until we hire for that position this fall.  I'm also excited about BEAUTIFUL MONSTROSITIES and have been getting some great submissions so far and beginning to think about the film panel we'll be hosting in late October.

Creatively, it's been a sound summer, continuing on from spring's relative productiveness.  I've been able to finish a slew of smaller series during this time, including exquisite damage (the horror inspired fragments) and now the Slender Man pieces, which my sister is at work on the visual elements now.   There are also bits of other things, including pieces for the serial project mentioned below and some other pieces that will be part of automagic manuscript, more poet's zodiac poems.  Some days I am successful at daily writing routines and other times, other stuff still manages to get in the way, but then I try to play catch up on the weekends if I can. Hopefully by next summer I'll have some longer manuscripts ready to send out into the world, but meanwhile there will be lots of little artists book and zine projects coming down the pipeline--both written and visual. You can still get in on subscription action here.

Also, the Tiny Letter that brings you fragments of exquisite damage is growing a little bit every week.  I am really interested in the way the serialized format connects with readers. Or maybe more the way all formats connect with readers.  There seems to be so many ways to function as a writer in the word that goes beyond the usual paths (I guess I'm thinking of the traditional route of sending submissions to journals, chaps and full-lengths to presses and contests and the limitations as such.) Maybe it's more about diversifying your creative agenda--reaching out in all directions--sending to journals and presses you love, but also embracing other dissemination methods, be they issuing chaps or zines, doing readings or performances, video poems (I really want to make this happen soon), using instagram or other social media, blogging or serializing work, installations or public art poetry.  It's all very exciting--I feel like it approaches poetry in the same way I would visual art endeavors (or any art endeavors besides writing) and frees up some of the frustrations I've always felt about the lit world--that insularity of audience confined to traditional venues of publication.

I am just beginning to dip a foot into the dgp manuscripts that I have been lucky enough to be entrusted with and already am very pleased with the caliber of what every year seems to come our way.  Or maybe that it's that I feel like people get the sort of stuff I like to publish in a way that other editorial things I've done (wicked alice, or helping to judge contests and such) where there is such a mixed bag. I read through 20 books this week and there are at least 10  that are sound and completely publishable.  I will have to narrow it down to 2-3 I really love, but will hold off making decisions until I wade further in and see what else is there in the pool.  I've also been doing some cover designs this summer that I am very proud of, so I made a little collage of the ones I had a hand in (and this doesn't even include the great covers that were done by outside artists or the author themselves. I find I go through stages, like a blue stage , or a green stage, or a pattern or diagrammatic stage with design elements. One month, I was apparently very into orange,

Next weekend, I'll be reading at the Danny's Reading Series with some other dgp readers they've pulled together.  Not sure what I want to read--maybe some of the love poems  I realized the other day that since I was sick the day of my WomanMade reading in the spring and couldn't go, and then we had to cancel the Apocalypse reading at the library, that I haven't actually been able to read since last fall at Wit Rabbit, which may have been another century ago given the past year and everything being of the "before" or "after" bad things happening.  I am looking for the day when time and memory isn't marked quite so much by this. When time goes back to being more of a continuity and less marked by tragedies, but I'm not sure it will.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

new serial project

After dipping my feet in the water with the format of my Tiny Letter, I’m excited to launch a new serialized project in conjunction with Channillo.  You can subscribe to an unlimited number of series across a number of genres for only around $5 per month, including mine…the first installment will be posting next week!

Saturday, August 04, 2018

libraries I have loved, part 1


For the past couple of weeks, I've been loosely plotting a library-related piece of writing about the sort of learning that happens in academia that is self-directed, outside the classroom, and in particular how libraries play a role.  Needless to say, as student who did not live on campus, or close enough by to slip home during the day, good old Howard Colman Library on the RC Campus became my second home in the early to mid-90's.  It was small compared to the bohemoth of my grad school library years at DePaul, and even small to Columbia's 5 floors, but you could usually find me upstairs in one of the study carrels that faced the brick stairwell walls, where I'd set up shop for the afternoon, and would occasionally leave things behind--things that I wouldn't miss if stolen but they never were--a notebook, a stack of books, my jacket--to claim the space when I came back after class. Mostly, I would sit, book open, with my brownbag lunch, usually a cheese & tomato sandwich,, usually can of Mr. Pibb or the weak French Vanilla instant coffee from the vending machines. Reading all sorts of things--my books for classes, things recommended by my professors, random things I found on the shelves that looked interesting. 

There was really no internet then, not campus-wide outside the labs (and even then only on 1 or 2 computers circa 1995), and barely even well functioning databases in the library. The catalog had just shifted from the giant card catalog on the 1st Floor to DRA, which wasn't always working or useful.  So I would spend that time reading from the collection, having found my way to the Lit section sort of randomly. For a brief time, I was all about the Beats, less so the actual writing, which outside of Ferlingetthi I never warmed to, but moreso the biographies, the books about the movement. The forgotten women of the Beat movement, who were more forgotten in the 90's than thankfully they are now. I loved literary biographies and devoured them on the regular.  I wasn't always writing in these years, and took a break from about late 1993-early 1996 and was focused more on theater creatively for a bit, but I was fascinated to read about the writers who work I was studying in my classes--mostly American 19th & 20th Century Lit--Faulkner, Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor. I also kept detailed journals in black & white marble composition books about what I was reading and thinking.

Now it's weird to think you couldn't just google information, but I had to spend a lot of time opening book after book sort of randomly on that section of shelves, and that I did.  Endlessly and enthusiastically.  While I didn't read a lot of poems (which is readily apparent from the few poems I wrote I did read a lot of plays, which were just short enough to devour in a single sitting.   Later, I would find a quiet spot down in the exposed basement near the periodicals and spend time reading theatre magazines and lit journals, in close proximity to the hulking MLA index volumes I needed to use for classes. (I also used this quiet space as a place to nap in the afternoon, my backpack sprawled under my head and probably drooling.)  There was a beastly range of compact shelving that was terrifying and really noisy that would roar to life every few hours. Since the entrance to the tech services department was down there, occasionally a staffer would stroll through, but otherwise I was mostly alone here.

Since I spend most of my free time reading things on the internets these days, I guess my life then was not so different, just I was reading things on paper more-trying to forge out what I was going to do after graduation. At the time, I thought it was teaching, either English or Theatre, maybe both, in either a high school or college setting. So I read a lot about classroom strategies for English & drama teachers.  Later, when I circled back to writing poems my final two years,  I pored over writing mags and lit journals. Magazines, which I rarely even touch now, were my only way out into the world I wanted to be a part of--Writers Digest, Poets and Writers...This was true even earlier when I would check writing mags out from the public library before I was enrolled and return them dog-eared and occasionally late and/ or ragged enough for my dad to have to pay a fine when he took them back.

I suppose the internet changes things a bit for today's students like me, at least in regard to periodical reading, but the other stuff still is valuable, I did a lot of reading at home these years too, but without libraries, I wouldn't know nearly as much about the random weird shit that I do--Mothman, ghost stories, spontaneous human combustion.  How Jack Keruoac's favorite thing was bacon & egg sandwiches.  How no one should ever read Ayn Rand by choice. How Edna St. Vincent Millay died by falling drunkenly down the stairs (the internet fights me on this detail today, but I'm pretty sure I read it this way initially.)

Also, its funny to think that for all my love of libraries (and there are more love letters to come) it seems incredibly fitting that it's where I've spent the last 20 odd years getting paid to work in them, first the elementary school and then Columbia.  In truth, I just wanted a bookish sort of job to support my writing, but now I realize how foolish, given how much they formed me as a person,  it was to expect I would end up anywhere else....

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Saturday, July 28, 2018

notes & things | 7/28/2018

Today, I spent the morning and early afternoon working on a whole bunch of Slender Man poems and think I am getting close to the end. I still have some more research materials coming through ILL, but I have a good number of pieces down.  I'm going to be turning my attention toward a couple other projects, including AUTOMAGIC & another serialized project before the end of summer, so stay tuned for details as that develops.   Plus, there are always the zodiac poems to keep working on.  This year has been super productive on the writing front, so I hope it stays that way as we enter fall craziness (which this year, looks to be even more crazy than others.) It may just be that I've gotten better at prioritizing that little bit of time at the start of the day rather than trying to do it at the end of the day, when all I really want to do is sleep, the worst time for having the sharpness to speak, let alone put words together in any coherent way.  Even today, I was up early and needed a nap after a couple pieces. I may need another this afternoon.

We've again reached the point in summer where I am ready for's actually been rather mild this week and looks to stay that way for at least a few days.  But I am tired of late buses & traffic & mob crowded streets of slack-jawed tourists that will leave as soon as September hits. I used to say I loved fall but hated the impending winter, but me and winter have reached a detante.I will tolerate cold as long as I can wear cute coats all season and everybody stays mostly inside.  And fall, fall is a delight, at least October if not November, and probably not November this year or for the next few. Or maybe never--November probably being my least favorite month and maybe treacherous terrain all along.  Nevertheless, December perks up, and even January has the shine of a new year on it.

We are in the thick of planning for fall events, including a ballet themed murder mystery and, of course, Beautiful Monstrosities.  I have a chance for a potential title revision to incorporate some of the more interesting things that I've been doing, or at least a raise if not that. (more on this soon, I'll be thinking out loud here about terminology).  Our recent staffing changes have been promising (see my last entry about loss of toxicity.) So we are poised for fall to be so much less of a hostile environment. It means more work temporarily, but it seems worth it.   I am also now writing a bit for the library blog, or at least cross-posting some AofR things there.

I am just about to begin diving into dgp submissions for next year and am excited to see what's been coming our way.  If I start now I can read about a month's work of work as I go and have all responses out by the end of October which is ideal. There is always that balance issue of what is possible going into a year, and I am feeling it this year more than ever, having lost a lot of time and momentum after last November.  I am more cautious about time commitments made in the best of circumstances versus what is possible in the worst of them, so we'll see how that plays out. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

notes & things | 7/21/2018

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Another summer weekend, this one beginning with a few too many whiskey & cokes at the swank Chicago Athletic Club Bar--a beautiful building with all sorts of architectural treasures and sort of like drinking in an old library, (so much so that one website recommended it as an excellent place to write.)  It's been rainy and cooler all day, and I've been going back and forth in tandem between working on a library-related piece of writing, a manuscript critique, and some Slender Man pieces. Between what has been going on on the homefront at my dad's house (a new driveway to replace the shared one that will hopefully quell a series of threats and harassment endured by a neighbor) and a purging of some toxicity on other fronts, things are feeling momentarily sensible and sane in a way they have not been in 3-4 years.

In the studio, I am plunging through a few larger author copy orders and getting ready to start reading some submissions for next year, as well as start a slew of late summer releases due around the bend. I've been steadily working toward being more timely getting regular  out, realizing so much has fallen into the hole of the past 6-7 months. The problem lying in that as soon as I get current, the months I spent getting current are now, themselves, behind. I am now working through the spring orders that fell behind while I was working on the winter ones.  And that, of course, means summer ones will fall behind as well, but I'll keep chugging toward some mythical day when I will be caught up, or at least less behind than I am currently. It's actually a good problem to have--too many orders, too much demand for amazing books. But I wish I could get my head above water even just a little. 

The Slender Man anthology has morphed back from two potential anthologies to just a single genrally focused one on folklore, but I am still plugging away on my pieces devoted to the Wisconsin stabbing and hoping to get my own little project (perhaps in cahoots with my sister, who is painting on the regular again ).  This month's zine offering is almost ready to go and will be shipping in a summer bundle soon.   

Sunday, July 15, 2018

notes & things | 7/15/2018

The forecast for the past two days has indicated stormy, but outside of a brief shower and some clouds yesterday, I haven't seen much of it, which means it's been sort of gross and steamy with high humidity and completely sunny at the moment. .  I am back to another free weekend after some Rockford action last weekend that involved some outside bbq fun and a lot of tequila, a sort of belated 4th of July celebration. Summer is half over and I am stil completely content to hide out on the weekends and not leave the apartment, working on some more creative projects and manuscript critiques. Today, I've been combing fashion blogs and instead thinking about fall, which when it's here, I'll be dreading winter and mourning the summer, but such is pretty much every season.

Much is aflutter at work with staff changes that are hopeful and maybe very fortuitous, but which also involve a little more work than summer usually brings, as well as some remodeling and switchouts of spaces.  Lots of planning as well for fall, which brings so much goodness in terms of programming--including our month devoted to women in horror, how-to workshops, art-biz panels and more. We are also in the midst of re-thinking branding for the library--talking points and elevator pitches and such, which seems promising.

A couple weeks ago, I retweeted a call for submissions for an as yet un-homed Slender Man anthology, mentioning my notes for a future project devoted to the Waukesha stabbing incident.  I've not only been working a bit on a series devoted to that, but have agreed to issue the project through dgp, of which the first volume will be out before Halloween. All of this is thanks to the strange universe of Twitter, which I am still acclimating myself to.  This is actually the 2nd collab effort will be doing this year (Jen Rouse's RIDING WITH ANNE SEXTON is due out soon in conjunction with Bone & Ink Press.) So watch for that as well.

July's offering in the subsciption series is a little accordian book of collages,  the GARDEN series, of stange surrealistic little botanicals. We are halfway through the year, but you can still get in on subscription series of bookish lovelies and get everything issued since January and the rest through the end of the year (which includes the Cryptotaxonomy zine, the Poet's Zodiac scrolls, the Grimm anthology project, the Tattoo Cat mini-print, honey machine, how to write a love poem in a time of war, and /SLASH/  (plus the forthcoming LITTLE APOCALYPSE).

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

on creative beginnings

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I've been thinking the last week or so on the roots of the creative self. What makes us who we are in terms of artists.  When I was 4 or 5, long  before I started kindergarten and linked the alphabet song my dad had taught me with the strange glyphs over the chalkboard and was able to begin to break the code of that thing called "reading", I suppose  I was already a writer.  My favorite thing to do was to scavenge paper, my dad's work cast-offs, the blank end pages of books, and fill them with scribbles that in my head approximated the cursive I would eagerly learn in the second grade. But then, my"stories" were untranslatable to anyone but me. I already was developing a paper and pen fetish, and my favorite x-mas present  in those weird years where memory is still sketchy, was a totebag filled with notepads, folders and spirals, and pens in a bunch of different colors (which then was really only red, green, black, and blue. )

As I started school, I was impatient over pencils and lined newsprint and wanted the smooth roll of ink on college lined sheets. My mother used to read to us at bedtime, from the same few things-mother goose, a children's bible (even though we weren't exactly religious.)  The books were holy, especially before I could read them, and then in a different way after that. The first thing I ever remember being able to "read" was the sign above the Jewel where I waited in the car with my dad for my my mom to shop, that rush of a whole new world coming at me.  I was unstoppable then, reading kids books, that grew longer and more complex. Some of my favorites were the glossy Beatrix Potters from the school library.  A box sets of illustrated classics, not all of which I remember, but War of the Worlds was my favorite. (and probably one of the reasons this is our upcoming year's Book to Art I loved Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary and waited patiently for the newsprint amazingness of the Scholastic Book order every month.

When I wasn't reading, I probably did a lot more daydreaming than writing, but then again, that is somehow still part of the process. I was still fascinated by notebooks and pens and school supplies, and remember occasionally writing out the outlines of these elaborite gothic family trees and stories well  into adulthood. While I bucked a little at learning grammar rules, which I must have picked up intuitively somehow later on, I was good at spelling, a spelling bee champ, and eventually really good at regurgitating facts back out on essay tests while everyone else in classes was freaking out.  My reading tastes got more complex, but age 10,  my aunt was already delivering grocery sacks full of horror novels she'd bought and read already, ostensibly for my dad, but I usually got to them first.  It was then, in a move,  I uncovered a copy of Amityville Horrror and spent the first night in our new house reading it cover to cover.    (I was already well versed in the movie, my fascination with scary movies happening much, much earlier around the time I was learning to read.)

In junior high, I set off to turn these gothic stories into a young authors book contest attempt, but caved under pressure and turned in a children's counting book instead.It was probably my first experience with caving under a deadline. It would be another year before I started writing poems, probably since I barely knew, outside of Shel Silverstein, that poems were actually an option--something that was still written by people and not some dusty anachronistic form. I tried--wrote all sorts of horrible rhyming verse in the next couple of years, but still felt like a dusty, untouchable thing.  Would be, for a good long time after--even though I was still doing writer things--writing passionate edittorials about dolphins and animal rights in the school paper, entering and winning esssay contests rather easily, perfecting my 5 paragraph composition form. These were things that came easily--probably all those horror novels teaching me how to write without me really trying--the very best argument for learning to write by reading.

Poetry was slippery--and not something I would feel I had a hand on for many years after (and sometimes not even now.)  But I tried, especially after I turned my attention back to books where it always should have been. I went full-tilt the summer between my freshman and softmore year on submitting work to the kinds of places in the back of Writer's Digest, checked out from the public library, or on occasion, bought with whatever money I'd scraped together from the mall's single bookstore. There was more writing--lit class papers, workshop poems & stories, film reviews for the college paper., but I was splitting attention between lit and theatre for a bit there, so I didn't come back full-force til my final undergrad year. I was getting better, but it  would still be a couple years til I was anything like good at it. But I committed in some way in those years, pursued my MA in Lit, came out of that writing better than ever.  It would still be a couple years before regular publications, before chapbooks and books, before applying to an MFA, but the seeds were growing even then.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

notes & things | 6/30/2018

It's the end of June and we are 1/3 of the way through summer.  It's the end of June, and I am finishing up a final-ish draft of the EXQUISITE DAMAGE series. which is running at about 22 pages.  It could be longer, but I think I've covered everything I wanted to. I'm not sure if there will be a visual component to the project, or what that may look like in the end, but the text has been wrangled into something like finished. I'm still not sure what to categorize it's memoirish, but also contains non-memoirish vignettes and directly addresses the reader.  It's a mix up of horror movies and gothic novels and the concept of middle class fear. I guess it would fall into the lyric essay category, but there is some more imaginative made up stuff in there. But then again, there's a line

"Ultimately, I am not to be trusted.  I once read too many 
novels and now I'm very twisty with the truth."

I might be sending some pieces out for submissions, but you can get a peek at the rest if you subscribe to my Tiny Letter.

It's hot the past couple of days, hot enough to stay close to the fan and not move around too much.  We're coming up on the 4th, and while the days of family picnics and fried chicken are probably over forever, I'm not sure what they will be replaced with (it's midweek this year anyway, so it doesn't exactly matter.) I think there might be some festivities in the city with friends, but part of me just wants to stay home. Maybe it's the weight of extended family weirdness, or maybe it's just I'm not very proud of being an American the past couple of years.  Last year, I was home for about a week around now and it was the last time my mother was mobile and in good spirits.  The last chunk of time, outside of hospitals and nursing homes that I spent with her--her usual self. Already the sickness & infection  that would take her was settling in though, and before I left, she would have the first of the confusion episodes that became more frequent through the end of the summer, having fallen asleep mid-afternoon and convinced, when waking, it was morning and not dusk.  This happened a couple times before things got much worse.

When it gets apocalyptically hot and doesn't cool down at night at all, I like to start watching apocalyptic movies, mostly pandemics.  The first half of the STAND is a favorite.  Plagues, zombies.  I'm not sure why--maybe some weird perversion of extreme temperatures.  In winter, when it gets cold, I start bing eating grilled cheese and watching Grey's Anatomy (which I have no desire to watch the rest of the time), so maybe it's just a comfort thing.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

poet vs. imposter syndrome

I finally have a free weekend, so am settling into my Saturday with coffee, a couple of sizeable eclairs, and a manuscript critique I'm working on accompanied by some vinyl. I'm finding, despite how much I hated workshops as a whole, I do like the one on one work of examining a book, sussing out what what works and possibilities to make it stronger.    I've done this a bunch of times over the years for friends just on the fly, but have only recently started doing it as something that generates income. (I'm determined to make all those degrees and writing experience pay my student loans payment, that creep a little higher with each year (as they are income based)  and I will probably be paying until I die.  It also helps that so far, the manuscripts have been people whose work I already have familiarity with and like. So it's much less like work and more like fun.

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about how, as you get older, you spend a lot of time in your 20s and 30's looking at situations and thinking you never really have a handle on certain things, certain skill sets, certain knowledge bases. Maybe it's a little bit of imposter syndrome.  I'm pretty confident, but then sometimes I feel so much like I'm making it up as I go along.   I think only in the last 4 or 5 years have I been ready to admit that there are certain things I actually do pretty well, and I guess pulling together a manuscript, even though the struggle was real difficult on that first book 15 or so years ago, has gotten to be more of a second nature. Or another example: Someone also asked recently if I wanted to be on the Library's social media committee, and when I considered it, I realized that I actually am pretty good at it in the context of my own work promotion (I've been blogging since 2002 after all) and the press (which thrives in part due to social media--or maybe even wholly).   A few years ago, when the ARTCACHE was included as part of Chicago Artists Month, a couple of us had to go to a couple sessions on marketing, and as I sat in the audience, I realized that the people up on the stage really knew no more than I already did, and actually, disappointingly for the time investment, probably less. I also have been marketing and promoting things for Aesthetics through it's own channels, so I'm pretty much already doing it.

But it's hard to claim that authority when you don't have a degree or a certificate to back you up (and even of you do).  This applies to other, more mundane library things as well..I recently took on interlibrary loan duties during a personel shift, and in the middle of a platform changeover and spent two weeks freaked out that cramming new system and procedures (well, mostly new, my last experience in ILL being over a decade ago and then only occasional backup) Sometimes it feels like there is so much already in my head and on my plate that adding new things will only result in frustration and disaster, but I'm feeling a good about it. ( we also have some crackerjack student workers who do a lot of the processing themselves, so I mostly just have to supervise them  & see to the non-I-share things.) I am also learning how to help out with the maker lab & the 3-D printer (the librarian who oversees it is going on maternity leave in August, and again I thought it would be hard to get a handle, but actually it's not so hard. ) There's always that feeling that good god, I'm never going to figure out this software or troubleshoot this machine. But, then , I have to remind myself that a lot of things I learned I eventually figured out...writing a poem, making art, handcoding websites in the early aughts )before you had nifty things like tumblr & wordpress that made it easy.) Running an online business (there was a huge learning curve when I was developing the etsy shop). Eventually I got the hang of things, but it's hard to remember those things in the panic of facing whatever new things comes your way and you're freaking the hell out.
And poetry, in general, has so much of this.  Particularly since the stakes are at the same time kinda high and not high at all. So much rejection, even when you feel you feel on (or nearly) on top of your game.  All the poems you send out that you think are amazing that no one wants (all the meh--things that people seem to inordinately like.) Also the weird markers--the top-tier journal pubs, the first book, the next, fellowships,  tenure, awards-- things that even the people who have them sometimes feel aren't enough. (and god forbid you eschew them completely, which leaves you flailing in imposter waters even more frantically.)  Even the work feels slippery if you focus on that instead of externals--today's genius, tomorrows garbage fire. it's rough, especially when money, which seems the ultimate sign of success in American society, isn't even much in the game.  People outside of poetry seem to respect you as a poet if you have turned it into cash, but I can still say of all my years in poetry, the most I've ever earned (including prize money, royalties & book sales, workshop & reading honorariums), probably doesn't even hit $3000 my whole lifetime. Respectable for a poet, but I've easily made 3x selling art & paper goods. When it comes to degrees and certificates, my MFA made me feel even less like I had a handle on poetry than the years I didn't have it.

So then what is success in poetry?  The internal satisfaction of writing something good (though see garbage fire above--who knows?)  I like to think it's readership, and people interested in your work, but those things are harder to track.  Sometimes, you feel like you're flinging words  into a big old void. Even those likes and hits feel small in the grand scheme of things.  When I'm feeling down, I start self-googling as therapy , and it always perks me up to find things like this (mere mentions on tumblr, but look at the notes on that first one! Which means that many people actually laid eyes on that single line from a kinda old poem!) I also get really excited over occasional reviews, and hearing that my books are being taught in classes  I nearly fell on the floor when I heard the James Franco Sundress chap hits were in the thousands--even if people were only interested in JF and not  One of the most amazing things in my early days of publishing on the web, was not even the appeal of the work to editors, but the really nice notes I got from readers on how much they liked the work, or the writer friends I made because of those connections.  Or a really good response to work at a reading. Again, less measurable than a book prize or a teaching position, but in the end somehow so much more worth it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I did a little modification of my inky collage series piece for a fun little 11 x 17 prints available in the shop soon...

Monday, June 18, 2018

notes & things | 6/18/2018

This weekend has been unbearably hot, even in the city near the lakefront, let alone in Rockford, where I spent the weekend about two feet from the a/c celebrating father's day and organizing EXQUISITE DAMAGE, which has about 20 existing parts, into something like a cohesive whole to determine what still needs to be written. As such, I have landed back in the city exhausted from poor sleeping in the heat and not really feeling like I had a weekend at all.

I've been doodling flowers in my sketchbook much of late. Twice in the past week, I have inhaled cottonwood seeds on the sidewalk and am any day now expecting to grow a tree. Tonight, huge spats of rain and some cooler air, but I am still very tired.  My new responsibilities (not only learning a system new to me, but transitioning to a system new to the library) also has me anxious and restless during working hours. It will settle no doubt, but there goes some of my low-key summer @ work working mostly on programming. (which will still get done no doubt, just with a little less focus.

My manuscript news last week was that Black Lawrence has indeed picked up SEX & VIOLENCE, the contract of which has been signed, sealed, and delivered and the release date set fir April 2020. This will be the third go-round of working with BLP and I'll most likely be furnishing the cover on this one which will be fun  (GIRL SHOW  was all me, but SALVAGE was an artfully modified stock image.)

As I mentioned on facebook, it still always surprises me that I managed to publish one book, let alone 8 of them.  About 15 years ago, I was just beginning to send out the first serious incarnation of a book (we won't talk about the one before that)  The book that eventually, with a large amount modification over the next couple of years, would become THE FEVER ALMANAC. About half of it ripped out and reformed with new work I was doing in my first year or so of pursuing my MFA.  There were a million blog entries then lamenting my book fever, how I felt like it was never going to happen for me. And really, that first book changed nothing.  But then again, it felt like it changed everything. (Even if the publisher went under and it's out of print.)  There was something formative about the experience of releasing it out into the wild.  It's very serious bookishness--glossiness and slick spine.  The heft of it (well as hefty as slim poetry volume can be. )  How I used to go into the Borders (the only bookstore around with a decent selection of contemporary poetry at the time( and run my fingers over those spines and imagine myself among them (of course, Borders itself would be gone before I even had enough books to really occupy a shelf.)  Even still, at home, every once in a while I line them all up on the shelf with their shiny covers and am amazed that it not only happened that first time, but all the times since...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Plans are under way this week for our fall focus topic, which (surprise surprise) is devoted to women in horror, which means soon I will be posting artist calls, arranging panels and readings for all of October (which I will probably blink and it will be here before I know it.  I've spent the last few weeks working on setting the schedule for fall zine nights and Book to Art activities (we are choosing War of the Worlds, as a potential tie in to our spring focus topic Strange Fevers: Mass Delusions, Illusions, and Obsessions.   Since one of our staff members are leaving, I've now also landed interlibrary loan duties in my corner, which will tighten up the reigns on planning time, but hopefully my tighter schedule will have the usual result of being more efficient than usual. So we'll see...

As expected, the topic intentionally ties in perfectly with some of the concerns feeding my own recent work, particularly EXQUISITE DAMAGE--and the whole idea of the feminine and the gothic bridging horror movies and literature...

Saturday, June 09, 2018

notes & things | 6/9/18

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Yesterday was probably the closest I've ever gotten to bittersweet.  I had some really amazing writerly news about manuscript  #8, SEX & VIOLENCE (which I will spill particulars as soon as contracts are signed and details worked out.)  I was sitting at my desk in the library when I opened the e-mail and then spent a good 10 minutes sobbing quietly to myself that the first person I probably would have told, would have been my mother.  Sure there's my dad, who I will talk to tomorrow, and most likely I just would have face book messaged her instead of calling, but still it was weird. And there are friends and J, who I will tell when I see them in the next few days, but it's somehow different.
It's also weird that this particular book was the one that I focused my energies on pulling together all last November in the weeks after her death.   The poems already existed, having been written from about 2015 onward, , and while I was still waffling over ready they were read through the early fall and finishing  up the last of them, but I decided  I needed to keep busy to keep from slipping deeper down the depression road, to get it done in time to submt to an open reading period ending at the end of the month. The book itself pulls in the blonde joke pieces, the love poem series, some slasher movie pieces and poems about Salvadore Dali, as well as the shorter version of the Plath centos.  It's all about male/female power dynamics and love and sexuality.

So far it's a rainy weekend, so I am determined to do some more work on the latest longer book project in progress  as well some editing on the EXQUISITE DAMAGE pieces I've been drafting this week for my daily writings. But despite having drank a bunch of coffee and eaten 2 blueberry muffins the size of my head, really all I want to do is take a nap at the moment, so I may do that .   Also, tomorrow,  some monotypes with some floral detritus I've been collecting this week. And finishing Riverdale and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which I have been switching back and forth between. (mostly becuase I'm pretty sure IZombie and Supernatural have new episodes available.)  Part of me always feels like I waste my summer by staying inside way too much, but the rain somehow gives me permission to not feel so bad about it at all.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

some new Chicago Crypto Society designs are in the making and possibly a new zine project..
view more here...

Saturday, June 02, 2018

notes & things | 6/02/18

After a few rather swampy days last week, the clouds have moved in, the wind off the lake, and it feels like fall more than the beginning of June.  So thus, I am staying close to home and making soup.  I have spent most of the day organizing problem sections manuscript #9, which despite my hesitation a few weeks ago, seems to be becoming more and more likely a thing. #8 is still out there in the wind, of course, and I've only sent it to one place, but the idea of another manuscript in submission seems too much work at then moment, so I may wait and let it settle a few months before sending it out, especially since there is the impending LITTLE APOCALYPSE release and a million other small projects making their way into the world.  (and also, since there are about three projects that may turn out to be full-length--the zodiac pieces, the horror stuff, and that long neglected roadside motel book).  I've been very diligent about writing daily, but there are alot of fits and starts and random beginnings of other things in there to keep things buried, but digging in is a challenge.

Yesterday, the dgp summer reading period opened and already my inbox filling with manuscripts I look forward to reading in about a month.  I am still working on catching up on orders and author copies and getting things to a manageable calm during June that has alluded me since last fall.  I am still going back and forth on the open studio I'd planned for this week.  I have a lot of prints and zines and such, but am woefully understocked on paper goods and out of linen stock to make them.  But then again, I really just need to do it.  Especially since I have a lot of originals I'd love to move..

At the library, things are aflutter due to a staffing change, but I am determined nevertheless to have most of our fall programming locked & loaded before the end of summer. I'm also working on a promo poster for the library in general..something visually cool enough for students to want to hold on to it and possibly hang it on their dorm room walls. With the new student center on the horizon, we've been thinking about ways to make it clear what the library is for and how it differs merely from the de facto student center some  people consider it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

exquisite damage: a midwest gothic

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"Dear Reader.  I write you a small bird in a box.  I write you a box with only feathers inside. I write thrashing and wild with hoarfrost and heavy cream  At the beginning, the dream of foxes.  The scream of rabbits in the middle of the night forming out of silence. I was born in a time of transams and black velvet paintings. Of kidnappings and nightly suicides. The world was drunk with hope, though, all the drawers emptied and the house swept clean.  Clean enough to eat an egg off the floor and swallow it whole. Clean enough to take a bar of soap to your mouth and polish you til you shone bright like a god."

A couple months back I decided to try out Tiny Letter--not merely as a newsletter, but as something more on the creative side.  I've been chipping away at a little lyric fragments project focused around the idea of the gothic, and by extension, horror movies and victorian novels Right now, it's a bit fragmented and disjointed, but you can get a little bit of it delivered weekly right into your inbox, old school subscription style.  I've been thinking about how social media serves poetry in new an interesting ways, and have been using instagram to post the zodiac pieces. I am still unsure of what possibilities Twitter holds, both for work and just in general. But some mediums seem to work better than others. (unless I were writing really short poems, or visual poems, maybe, which tempts me to dig in on that diagrammatic project I've been toying with the idea of.)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

notes & things | 5/20/2018

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Yesterday was the Chicago Zine Fest, where AofR had landed a table, which meant we got to take our freebie resource zines on the road, as well as our new anthology projects, plus some other zines & merch from me and the others, including our Chicago Cryptozoological Zines, which moved crazily more than anything else.  We did laugh at the fact that the more art & writing related products sold far less while the zines we made up in like an hour as a joke made us more money than the pursuits we've spent years working at, but such is the world.  Even still, I celebrated by ordering tacos with my new-found cash, and thought about the differences between something like Zine Fest and the AWP book fair, where dgp usually does pretty well--I guess the difference is people looking for a different sort of content.  I've often thought of taking the chapbooks to zine-oriented events, but I'm not sure they would do as well as they do in other places. 

Mostly I am finally reaching the end of my labor intensive pursuits at the library and settling back into the usual groove, though we are soon to be planning for fall, including what may turn out to be my favorite exhibit/focus topic ever--BEAUTIFUL MONSTROSITIES: BITCHES, WITCHES, SHE-BEASTS, & FINAL GIRLS.  We've decided to push back the mass delusions topic til spring since we are planning the larger conference event.There are also some other writing projects in the works about libraries and resources underway that I now get to turn some attention to.

I am still playing catch-up in the studio, but am looking to launch a bunch of new books in the next few weeks as well as get to work on the pieces of the mermaid anthology, which I am determined to have wrapped up by end of summer. I am also playing around with the idea of switching back to issues for wicked alice, which was what I veered away from, but seems like a better idea than the infrequent updating I've been plagued with the past couple of years. Maybe having goals or deadlines will not allow it to slip to the very bottom of the priority list quite so much.

As for my work, I am working on daily bits of the EXQUISITE DAMAGE sort of lyric essay, memoirish, prose-poem thing. (which you can get a taste of by joining my Tiny Letter mailing list.)  The zodiac pieces are also still writing themselves, so look for more of those..(I'll also be tossing some of the scrolls that did not sell at Zine Fest into the occasional dgp order..)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

the first of many mothers days without mothers

Sometimes, the past 6 months or so seems unreal.  Sort of like that season of Supernatural where Sam's memories of all that time in the cage with Lucifer in hell was placed behind a wall by Cas so that it wouldn't make him mad. Sort of like something that you know is there, but just aren't really quite yet able to mentally deal with.  These months have been a lot like that--sometimes there's a hole in the wall or a crack and I shore it up again and hope for the best. I have this fear that it will all come rushing down and bury me entirely.  There will be moments when it occurs to me that, yes, in fact, your mother is really dead. There will be times I'm not even thinking about it and it occurs to me midday, like something I've forgotten is a fact.

Maybe it's both a blessing and a curse that I live quite a distance away, and that most of my hardest times will always be when visiting there, and very rarely here, where, besides our two weekly phone calls, she wasn't as much a part of my daily experience.  That, if not for those cracks in the wall, she could just as easily be alive for all I know, and just doing her usual thing.  I cannot even imagine being quite as calm were I living in the same house, or even the same town. I can't even imagine the sort of grief my father deals with on a daily basis, the lonelinesss  amid his weekly phone talk of getting the gardens ready, cleaning the house, cooking his own meals. I can't imagine what's in my sister's head, as well, being a little closer to home.  Sometimes the pain is like running a knife across your palm, but sometimes it's just a dull toothache.

I mostly deal with uncomfortable things by ignoring them until they go away, and sometimes they do, but obviously, that won't work in this situation.  Winter made it worse, of course, her death in early November followed by a rather horrible brutal weather that has only eased up the last couple of weeks. All along there have been the weird dreams about her being alive and not realizing, even herself, that she was gone. Last Mother's Day, of course, she was still alive, and though in some pain from the allergic reaction, not yet in as dire circumstances as she'd later be. I wasn't able to be there (the semester usually ending right about Mother's Day and sometimes having to work meant we were not always in the same place.) I usually spent a bit of time in the spring and summer there, anyway, so it wasn't that crucial, but then it will probably always seem like it was never enough.

I am always a little haunted by the last words I heard her say--the Sunday phone call with my Dad and when he asked if she wanted to talk to me, and she never did in those months, talk to anyone on the phone--and she said, weakly and really out of it-- "Tell her I'll call her tomorrow.."   By Monday afternoon, she was gone.  But it wasn't until it actually happened that it seemed possible--I was certain she would pull through it, that she'd eventually be able to leave the bed, and if not walk b/c of the injury, at least be somewhat mobile again with a chair.  I mean, how could she NOT be okay?  I always am conscious of it, but pathologically assume the best, so the worst occasionally slaps the fuck out of me. There was so much there that went into it--the earlier heart attack, the allergy that left her unable to comfortably walk, the loss of my aunt in June, the wound on her foot, the infection that settled into her system by the end of summer.  Like a row of unfortunate dominoes falling one after the other, proving that it is not the grand, dramatic things that will take us all out, but the tiny ones.

But then, perhaps, today shouldn't be a dirge at all--but more a celebration of mothers.  I am obviously not one--and probably have not a motherly bone in my entire body. (Unlike a lot of others, have never really seen pets as furbabies--more like occasionally rude or affectionate roommates that wreck your   But I did recently finish my own sort of baby, the new manuscript, which includes the hunger palace series about my mother and the imaginary daughter poems.  I will be sending it out in the world later this month, awkward and leggy like a newly born colt. As for today,  I intend to spend it cleaning most likely, my apartment that looks like a tornado hit it this week, and maybe listening to her favorites again--Barry Manilow, Air Supply, the things she would put on the turntable while she cleaned the house every Saturday. I don't necessarily believe in the afterlife, but if there is one, she would no doubt approve.