Friday, November 30, 2018

writer gift guide

Since it's the holidays, I thought I would bring a few gift giving suggestions for the writerly people in your life that I've stumbled upon online, including at least one I've bought for myself (and one I am totally going to buy for someone else soon as I get paid. )

And okay, maybe another one I might also buy for me...







Thursday, November 29, 2018

A of R fall semester recap



Toward the end of summer, knowing the fall would be sort of insane due to our department being down about 50 percent of its staff, I lined up all the details and promo for our fall events.  At the time, the end of November and the last event, our annual DIY SnowGlobe Workshop, (not counting the murder mystery this Friday.) seemed very far away.  I realized last night, as I was meticulously scraping glitter off our plastic tables and into the garbage, that another semester has been put to bed. We pack a lot in, and in this case, the huge bulk of it was in October with our Beautiful Monstrosities focus month programming.  I wasn't able to squeeze in any poetry related events, but we had three really valuable & well-attended panels, our usual zine nights, some fun how-to's, and some great progress made on this year's Book to Art shenanigans.   All of which passed by in a whir and were finished before we knew it.

With more on my plate in terms of general duties (including coordinating ILL, which used to be an entirely different sub-department position devoted exclusively to that) there wasn't quite as much time to devote to some of the other minor  things but I think we still held it down well (there might have been a tiny panic attacks on my p[art before some things, but hopefully no one noticed. ).  I've been cross-posting content for the A of R blog with the Library's Blog, but haven't had as much time to do regular updates there as much as I was before, nor to dig in on some of the library-related writing projects as I wanted to.  I'm hoping I might be able to work on the latter over the holiday break when I have time off, including an article on curated learning endeavors (like fetch, we are trying to make this a thing..lol..)

Now we turn toward planning for the spring, and our potential mini-conference, which seems daunting at the moment, but I will be ironing out something of a plan in the next two weeks before the semester is over to get things moving before the holiday break.  I'm working toward an the emphasis on bringing scholars and artists together angle, so there will be more traditional academic panel discussions, an exhibit, artist talks, workshops, and more in the span of a single day. (when you think about it--it's kind of like condensing focus month into a day (which is hilarious since we expanded it to a month to be easier on ourselves initially, so we'll see how it goes.  I am truly excited by the idea and possibilities, so more on that as we go..

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

the strangerie



"The world was a dangerous place, so she began to keep the animals inside the body. Prodding each tiny hoof with fingers until they fit just so. Fur and bone and nuzzling noses."


I've managed to figure up the text pieces for THE STRANGERIE series that I've been posting on Instagram for the last couple of months.   You can get a peek at the whole series, as well as the text pieces by clicking the link above.  Enjoy!

eating and writing, or how to feed the poem monster



I mentioned in my Thanksgiving gratitude post the fact that this year has been unusually productive in terms of actually getting words on the page.  I have been printing up projects, some of them done, some of them close to, and keeping them on the cabinet next to my desk. I occasionally thumb through them and wonder how so many words could possibly have been happening in the past year. Or maybe moreso since April, when my NAPOWRIMO exploits continued month by month afterward (well, mostly, I have skipped some days and entire weeks when my attentions were entirely elsewhere, or like last week, where I gave myself a holiday break.)

It's probably the largest output of work in my writing career--other spots in the past held that designation-- the last year of my lit grad school,  where I was writing feverishly and wholeheartedly having decied to try to do this thing for real.  My MFA years. Those garnered, at most a couple poems/week, but at other times, other years, those seemed like a brisk pace.  In the time I was writing major characters in minor films, I was lucky to get a poem every two or three months when I got cagey about not writing.  The pace picked up post 2012, but even still doughts would be followed by furious spates of productivity to write the newer books.

While I tend to write in shorter series, some of the things I accomplish in any given day are fragments, but after a while they definitely become a whole.  Those series then start to constellate into larger projects.   As such, I have several small series that make up about 2-3 longer books in progress, as well as some other stuff just floating. About 8 years ago, in 2010 amidst the drought, I would be surprised that I would ever write this much at all.  So much impedes the progress--then (2007-2010) it was increasing the size of the press, the brisk business of the etsy shop, and the anxiety of constantly trying to earn enough money there to supplement the chapbook income and make the studio rent.  As the press sold more books, this lessened and I was able to pull away and move off etsy in 2011, which made the pace of things a little slower.  Certain things stabilized around then and I could get back a little to making zines and more artwork--not merely for retail appeal, but my own pursuits with less worry that I had to make money from them (and all the time devoted to strategizing/promoting that was mine once again.)

I was also battling internally what I like to call my post-MFA syndrome--that feeling of too many hands on my poems, and still maintain that it was the James Franco pieces that vaquished it in late 2011.  Soon followed the shipwreck mermaid poems and the bulk of what made up salvage over the next two years, as well as the shared properties of water and stars.  Other related things were happening during this time--girl show, my thesis mss, which was rendered adrift when Ghost Road went under in 2010, was picked up by Black Lawrence and slated for publication.  Noctuary solicited shared properties... and released it in 2013.  The JF poems were a huge success when Sundress published them as an e-chap.  All of which drew me out of the funk I'd been in for awhile and made me less likely to doubt my commitment to sparkle motion. I felt more like a poet again--so I guess I started to act more like it.

But even still that pace, since around 2013, has been much slower and less productive than this year all by itself, and I feel like it's for a very simple and rather uncomplicated reason.  I spent years, my days filled with so many other things--commutes and studio work, the library, then home, then sleep and the whole time writing was this thing that I MIGHT get to before bed, but sometimes exhaustion or distraction won out.   It was also hardly the idea brainspace for concentration or creativity. It rarely happened, or if it did, it was uninspiring.  More often the productivity came in spurts around my own deadlines for things when I buckled down and devoted panicked chunks of time to things. I'd then end up writing like 10 pieces in 3 days, and entire chapbook series in a week.  All vey nice, but not very sustainable.

This year, I was so determined to nail NAPOWRIMO, after years of failing about 10 days in, that I switched up the routine.  Instead of trying to fit writing time in at the end or later in the day, I wondered what would happen if I started my day writing--before e-mails, before galleys and jammed printers, before book assembly and trimming, before library planning and minutiae, before dinner and house straightening, before falling exhaunsted into bed.  What if I started in this pure, unpolluted state and set out immediately to write while my mind is still fresh and unencumbered?

Obviously, I am not an early riser.  Most of my days begin at 10am and end at 2am. I wake and am down at the studio at 12, so for the past few months, I've been prioritizing a half hour or so while my printers are running to getting something down.  In the past I'd have used this time waiting for sets of chap pages to scroll through instagram or facebook, to glance at e-mail to see if anything was pressing. Now I open whatever project doc I am working on while eating my breakfast sandwhich. Eventually it became rote, almost linked,  eating and writing.  Usually by the time I finish my latte, I have something I can work with.  I'll revisit it later in the day or before bed to tweak it.  Once every couple of weeks I print ot out and edit further (thus the stacks next to my desk at home.)

This simple change has made a drastic impact on my writing and sometimes I feel like it was so stupidly simple, how did I not think of this years ago? How much writing did I miss doing things the old way, that uphill battle throughout the day to compromise between what you have to do and what you want to do?  But now,  there's no going back...

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

I have a poem...



I am always a bit nervous when I see poets portrayed in entertainment.  Usually, it's a little ridiculous...I'm thinking Mother!  here or that terrible  Gwyneth Paltrow movie about Plath.  When that movie came out, I remember wishing they'd cast Maggie Gyllenhaal in the role--she not only resembled Plath so much more, but had a certain American-ness Paltrow has never had.(or maybe she's just been in too many films with a fake British accent.)  Regardless, Gyllenhaal does play a poet in The Kindergarten Teacher and she plays it well.  The film makes you uneasy from the start, her escalating obsession with a 5 year old's words, passing off his work, at first, as her own in class, then a failing attempt to nurture his creativity in a world that does not give two shits about creativity or art or anything beyond the screen of a cell phone.  It's the kind of movie that drags your heart across the floor.  The kind of movie where the drastic end results seem like the only results the film could have had.    Her desperation is our desperation. The ending sticks a knife in with the last line of the child "I have a poem.." and no one there to listen.  

I was actually less disturbed by her drastic actions and obsession with the boy and his words than I was by the creepy antics of her writing teacher, who uses the cultivation of her apparent (but false)  brilliance as a chance to seduce her.  When I watched the movie, I had just finished reading an article about the po-biz bro creeper du jour, and it turned a particular sour note in my stomach.  The men who are seen as doorways or mentors into some sort of literary world who prey on young female poets. I suppose it happens in other arts just as frequently.  One day, I was waiting for the elevator in the Fine Arts and had to listen to an older musician talking to a young girl and it was both mansplainy and creepy  I kind of had to stop listening. While I've never seemed to be the kind of girl you take under your wing I have  had occasional men, usually older, try to offer advice or feedback over the years and usually, I had an immediate knee-jerk fuck off reaction (even if I was polite in my response.)  Usually not exactly b/c they were men, though lately society is testing that, but moreso that I wasn't really asking for help or advice. ( but this also seems to be a more male trait in that regard.)  

But so often there is the story of the dudes, all ages and demographics, who front like they hold some sort of key to the door of the literary world and it's troubling how much power that gives them over novice poets who are new to things. That they have connections and reputations that can help you.  perhaps the best way to dispel this is to acknowledge there really is no one particular literary scene but multiple, and whatever they're claiming to have the key to, they probably do not.


Monday, November 26, 2018

flying (and reading) blind


I just wrapped up a volunteer round of reading blind submissions for another chapbook contest for the second time (different contest, same press). It's interesting how much the work varies from the dgp chaps I am also reading concurrently. Obviously, I don't get to consider work by cis male writers, but it goes a bit further than gender variation.  dgp submissions, on the whole,  tend to be a little more on the wacky & innovative side.  Stranger somehow in their style and subject matters.  I always joke that the submission pool is maddening accurate on sending me things that I love. I hope this means we have an aesthetic that is definitely recognizeable,  though I think we also have a range of poetic approaches that still somehow mesh.   In reading for other contests, there are definitely glimmers of chaps I would totally take for the press if they were instead sent to me.  (Last go round, while the winner was not in my reading pile, two of my very favorites made the finalist pool and I hope they get picked up somewhere, or better, come across my desk at some point.)

 I realized today, with delight, that in Submittable, as I came to the end of my current queue for this contest, I could now see the authors of the previous contest couple years back, that they were no longer blind in the system.  I scrolled through,  interested to see if any authors whose work I am familiar with got a thumbs up, and there were definitely some familiar names, both past dgp-ers and folks whose work I've spotted elsewhere with appreciation.  There were also a slew of people I'd never encountered before, but whose work I'm now interested in seeking out because of having read their chap manuscript. There were weirdly a couple dgp authors whose submissions I didn't jive with, but when I looked at the mss again, I think it was more that they were quite a bit different from the chap they published with us.

I did feel good that at least my tastes are more or less consistent--that whatever criteria I am reading for in reading submissions for dgp, I am also filtering into other reading endeavors.  I've tried in the past to pin down what it is I am looking for.  What I am very much not looking for.  What makes something a "maybe" vs. an astounding "yes".  it's a combination of all sorts of things--tone, style, subject matter, coherence/unity as a chapbook, authority, that "If you get weird and go with it convincingly , I will follow along" quality.   I'm always aware when you're doing first readings that anything I choose may totally not be what the final judge is into.If anything, it gives some context to rejections--how hard it is to make it past the first reader with their own qualifications as to what's good, and onto a final judge or round of editors who may have totally different expectations.  It's kind of amazing anyone gets published ever having to go the racket of first readers (especially if said first readers are college students who might not even be sure what they themselves like.)

Over the next few days I'll be finishing up the dgp pile and sending out responses for what looks to be shaping up to be the usual sort of amazingness..so stay tuned..


Friday, November 23, 2018

holiday wish list 2018



It is pretty funny that the day to talk about gratitude comes immediately before the day to say gimme! gimme!  gimme!  but I am totally game. I've always been sort of choosy about some things, not at all choosy about others.  Clothes, books, music (back when people used to buy albums) were always difficult to ask for and get correct . Gift cards eventually became a good way to get over the pitfalls when it came to choosing very specific things.  In my own gifting, I tend to either gift card it, or go super general and pick tiny luxuries that people never think to buy for themselves. My dad is pretty easy--coffee, chocolate, random foodstuffs.  My sister usually gets art supplies or liquor of late.  There were years where I tried to make everything, particularly when I had the etsy shop --jewelry and soap, mostly, sometimes artwork., but mostly those only worked for the ladies and I still had to go the gift card route for men.) It usually wound up being more expensive, and not nearly charming enough (except maybe for my mother) to continue

As for me, I have a handful of things I am hinting at and asking for this year, most on the under $30 tip.


bath stuffs

Sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed and into the shower is the promise of luscious smelling potions and lotions (and maybe my daily raspberry latte).  I've been devoted to Body Shop stuff of late, particularly the satsuma scent for body wash, which I splurged on a giant bottle of this summer that is still pretty full.  I would love to get some strawberry or pink grapefruit as well..  I have a bottle of another floral scent that I was slightly allergic to, but it's now sitting on my sink as rather luxurious hand soap.   Their body butter is always a favorite in winter when my skin gets much dryer than usual. I have a tub of another brand that smells like lemon cake right now, but after it's gone, I'll be getting a tub of the usual.



coffees, teas & boozes

Most week days my coffee comes in latte form, but weekends are for something less ambitious (mostly since I don't want the hassle & clutter of an espresso machine and love my french press.) I'll opt for tea later in the day sometimes, especially if I run out of creamer, but tend toward either Irish Breakfast or Earl Grey  (occasionally flavored mint when I'm sick).  As for coffee, I've become enamoured the past couple years of the Cafe Du Monde Chicory blend from NOLA that is currently my favorite.  I also have a really nice bar cart and barely money to buy liquor, so assorted boozes is always a good option--I'm currently on the hunt for a gin that doesn't taste like pine needles, more varieties of schnappes, and to stock up on more tequila.


library step stool

I've been wanting one of these little library-style kick stools for a while now.  Despite tripping over them constantly in the stacks, I would love to keep one in my closet so I can reach the top shelf where I store my boots.  Now there's a lot of tippy-toe flailing and reaching, and sometimes boot-induced concussions.




fur throw

This no doubt goes back to my Game of Thrones inspired decor leanings last winter.  It helps to combat a chilly, drafty circa-1930's apartment, but is also super luxurious and makes me feel like I'm bedding the King of the North. My sister got me fuzzy leaopard one last year I sepnt my entire holiday break beaneath, but i am looking for a grey one to match my winter bedding.










art supplies

This is an obvious one.  I'm pretty much always in need of printmaking foam, paper and ink.  I mess up a lot, so by the time I get it right, I'm outta everything.   I've also had my eye on a set of Bombay Inks ever since I was doing the ink paintings, as well as these covetable japanese watercolors that I am sure would make me much better at painting than I actually am.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

thanksgiving gratitude post




It's been a rough year, in all sorts of ways. There are still many ways in which I am not functioning and yet am functioning nonetheless.  So much of certain  aspects of my life were centered around my mother--not at all odd, and yet still odd since I've lived in an entirely different city from her for going on two decades. She was not a daily part of my physical world, but an essential part of my mental one, my overall consciousness. Trips home are the hardest part sometimes, and of course, apparently you can't avoid the holidays, here they come around like clockwork again. Then again.

Last fall, this time of year, I felt a need to cling terribly to the things in my life that were still good to combat the things that were bad.  To keep myself absorbed and busy, but at the same time, not as mentally present as I needed to be. You can only throw yourself into so many things until you wear yourself to the bone and I feel this now, the exhaustion, and yet I still crave both distraction and stability in the worst way, especially now--my usual seasonal funk.  There are also the ever-present monsters in the pantry--money woes, time woes, creative woes. And of course, the ever-present dread that something bad will happen for no good reason.

But, alas, this is post is supposed to be about thankfulness and gratitude. Despite the missing an important one, there are still people in my life I am eternally grateful for--my dad, my sister, my huge sprawling web of extended family, at least one side of whom are always game for eating & drinking revelry.  Jonathon, who I was exalting in my relationship post below, of course, who indulges all my vices and is a rarity of soundness when my dating history is anything but. My best fiend & boss, Jen, who I literally would not have able to handle last fall without (or handle work without since like the very beginning.) 

And I am, of course,  grateful for all the years I did have with my mother--all of the Thanksgivings, the Christmases, 42 of them , more than many people ever get,   Far more than she had with my grandmother who died suddenly when my mom was only in her mid-30's.  I was thinking this morning that when she, herself, was my age, her mother had been gone for several years. She also had a teenager about to go to college and another in junior high.  How different our lives would end up being. But in the end, the same grief.

There are my crazy cats, who are occasionally nuisances, especially while I'm sleeping and they're sticking me in the face with their whiskers.  There is work, which while crazy busy lately, still allows sufficient time for fun creative hijinks in the name of "work". While sometimes I'm financially tight, and have a tendency to spend erratically, I am still happy to have that stability in the form of a paycheck on the regular.

I am grateful for my apartment in a city I love more than anything (mostly, except maybe in January) even though my bed is never made and there are tiny tumbleweeds of cat hair on occasion blowing through my living room. I am grateful for my studio space in the gorgeous Fine Arts, , also a mess at the moment (trade cat hair for paper trimmings and cardboard boxes), Even though sometimes I feel like I can't afford it and actually spend enough time there working to catch up on things I need to.

I am grateful for my little press, and our authors, and the amazing books I am helping bring into the world.  For the readers who buy them.  For the artists who let their work grace our covers. For the people I've met though the auspices of the press, who in many ways form part of my creative support network. All the folks whose work I've gotten to know via journals and blogs and social media. I can't even imagine what a writing world would have looked like without the internet.  It seems like it would have been really lonely.

I am also grateful for my current writing year, which has been really productive in a way that past years have not.  I have two and a half new manuscripts in the hopper and ready to start sending around next year, one about mothers and daughters, one about gothic midwesterness, and another sort of about about monsters & monstrousness. Plus all sorts of little zine and book arts things coming down the pipeline. I am extremely grateful to my readers and the people who follow my work, buy my books,  and subscribe to the zine series or online projects (or even just follow this blog.) Also to the presses & editors who like my work enough to get it out there in the hands of readers.

And lastly, because they do so much in informing daily life, a nod to the little pleasures:  raspberry lattes, pilot gel pens, cheesy Taylor Swift sing-a-long songs, pretty dresses, new lace-up boots , weird little collages,  instagram, sketchbooks filled with post-its, mexican food, the view of the lake from the bus, Stevie Nicks, horror movies, libraries, tequila based concoctions, winter coats (see the erratic spending above)  vintage dishware, escapism novels (YA dystopian romps or smartish mysteries),  watercolor landscapes, blueberry donuts, midnights, Gilmore Girls on Netflix, and  baby shampoo (seriously, my hair has been terrible for awhile and this might be the only thing that has fixed it somewhat.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I came, I saw, I bought | fall dress action

Usually, I save my fashion/decor related posts for the end of the week, but this is technically the end of the week before the long weekend, so I thought it'd be a good time to show you some of the things I've managed to get my hands on in the past month.




This was, if you look back at my earlier post on Modcloth, one of the dresses that I wanted. I had a little extra money after the first of the month and splurged on two dresses--both perfectly fall-like (I say that knowing I should actually now be looking for wintry dresses, but these should be in play through the spring.)  This one was intended to by my Thanksgiving dress, though I did already technically wear it to work, but I still intend to wear it out tomorrow. . I was worried it might be a little on the shorter side, but actually it does come to my knees and the bottom is a really thick and warm cotton knit and definitely hearty enough for the cold if worn with tights.





This one may be the most perfect fall floral I've seen. I haven't worn this out of the house yet, but I love the asymmetrical buttons and the fact that there is elastic at the back that makes it feel stretch without the actual fabric being stretchy. I initially thought it was a brown at first glance, but it's actually a really deep bugundy. I have a newish pair of wine colored tights that should match it perfectly if I wanted to do the monochrome thing, as well as a cardigan that just might match those flowers perfectly (or brown tights and sweater if I don't want to be too matchy matchy).


I've been having an eshakti big order itch lately--so many things I've been marking on pinterest, but haven't been able to place any order at all til recently.  This one is still on it's way, and I almost bought it in the gray, but then I  spotted this color and I thought it might make a good backup Thanksgiving dress (if I happened to change my mind on the Modcloth or had two celebrations to go to.)  Also stretchy in case the turkey & mashed potatoes get the better of me. I don't think it will make it before I leave, but burgundy is one of my favorite colors to wear all winter (especially with my hair as dark as it is now.)  so I can't wait to get my hands on it....

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

design obsession | vintage vacation postcards



I have admittedly certain go-tos definitely when it comes to design--vintagey elements, diagrams, collage, animals, more graphic things than photographic. Usuallly, you can probably totally tell the difference between in-house designed chap covers and done by others (which I think gives us a little bit more of an interesting spread when it comes to cover designs.)  I also have certain go-to colors,--aqua, slate blue, gray, orange, pale green. I love using things like vintage wallpaper, oil paintings, old advertisements. A couple months ago, I was all about rabbits.

One of my other loves is playing with vintage postcard images--the scenic kind you would get on vacation--either photographic, or even better, rendered by an artist. .  When I was in high school, I started a postcard collection.  Somewhere, I have cache of collected cards from both places I visited (which at the time was like Florida and Wisconsin) and cards sent or collected by other people for me from various destinations..  By then, such  postcards were glossier, slicker, more photographic.  Over the years I wasn't very good at keeping up collecting on my very infrequent travels, but besides, it was older postcards, reminiscent of a time I never traveled, that were interesting to me,  I hoarded various samples over the years and would use them in artwork or display them as-is--old books of Paris sights, unknown lakes and rivers and landscapes. I had one set of black and white postcards that seemed to be from a soldier in Europe back to his parents here.  Between what I have squirreled away in boxes , in collage work, stuck in random books, and on my walls and bulletin boards in various places, I probably have hundreds.  If you hear me squeal in an antique store, it's probably because found their ephemera collections and I'll usually spend a few bucks if something catches my fancy.



The internet of course, gives me much greater access to scenic postcard imagery, and I make use of it often. My recent the animals series is based entirely using vintage cardss, as have been a couple recent dgp covers. I realized, looking back through older stuff, how often I employ them, including the UFO collage that will be on the cover of little apocalypse, as well as several pieces in that series and, style-wise, for the promotion of our APOCALYPSE, USA programming last spring.  I especially love the ones that are rich in color and sort of linen-like in texture rather than glossy. while I appreciate blank cards, I like even more if they are written on and postmarked and giving a peak into the adventures of strangers past.

Monday, November 19, 2018

notes & things | 11/19/2018



Thanksgiving seems inordinately early this year, but it might just be the feeling that another November is fast vanishing down the rabbit hole.  Today, I thought a bus was on fire across the street until I realized they were shooting.  (while the bus was at an odd angle and, as I walked past, I could see it was crashed into a shelter, I realized there was no way that bus would ever be at that angle and that the actual bus shelter was yards and yards away.)  There were puffs of too-white smoke and signs for craft services at the intersection, so I'm guessing it might be the Chicago Fire folks who are occasionally the bane of my existence. Last week, nearby, there was a truck spewing bubbles promoting something, which would have been cool if they hadn't been playing Coldplay.  Yikes.

I am in one of my mad rushes that a shorter week brings before heading out to Rockford Wednesday night.  We have my dad's side gathering happening on the actual holiday and he's going to cook for just us on Sunday. He also mentioned putting up the tree & X-mas stuff, which in theory seems like a good idea, and what we usually did in the past (well, sometimes, my mom would occasionally bypass it and do it later on her own once she had a smaller tree to put together.)  They did it on their own last year, but I am not sure how well I can mentally handle this particular tradition, so we'll see.  Last year it was already up when I came home for the holiday. All those dozens of snowmen kind of make me wish we'd done what she wanted and parceled them off to family so that they weren't just  unbearably there.

I have a million things to do as usual on my way out the door, both library things and press things and trying not to freak out. I actually intend to finish reading the dancing girl inbox and submissions for another contest I am helping read for over the course of the weekend.  So I intend to keep busy  (well that, and shoveling handfuls of stuffing into my mouth...)

I am almost done with rounding up my final version of SEX & VIOLENCE, and will have most everything I need rounded up in early December--blurbs and cover art and such)..the cover is looking to be a re-working of some of the artwork that appeared in /SLASH/ (those poems are in there, too.) We're still working out fonts & layout, but I hope to share it soon.




Sunday, November 18, 2018

love, relationship anarchy, and poem fodder



I was kind of late to the dating game.  When I was a teenager, I remember my parents determining that I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16, by which time I had other things on my mind-- what to do with my life, how to write terrible poems, figuring out why I was so bad at math-- and was mostly hanging out with girls.  Not only girls, but the sort of wholesome girls who's idea of fun included slumber parties, board games, and at most, mountain dew fueled marathons of horror movies. I had crushes--many, at least one a year--sometimes two, but I really didn't know how to talk to boys beyond how to format 5 paragraph essays.  This would continue into college, where I managed to awkwardly lose my virginity and  a couple of loose hookups with indeterminate boundaries, but it was still the 90's. If it was hard to meet people and connect in college, it was harder in grad school, and pretty much impossible in adulthood if you were as pathologically introverted as I was.

At first I worked in an elementary school library and was surrounded with much older faculty members, then I worked in a college library where there were very few men who weren't considerably younger even then. I didn't have many friends outside of work at that point, certainly didn't hang out anywhere but the library and  my apartment.  I was just starting to do poetry-world things, but even then knew dating other writers was bad news.   All along, while I certainly had no problem with me being a single entity, other people seemed inordinately weirded out by my failure to lock into a relationship. While I certainly found myself attracted to men, I did not feel that their addition would actually improve my quality of life, and if anything, might very well have the opposite effect. The things I most prized, alone and creative time, also seemed at odds with most relationships where people were tripping over each other constantly.

While I kind knew I wasn't on the marriage/family train, I was in my late 20's when I decided to see if the internet was a better option--at least for finding people who shared similar interests (because I certainly wasn't going to find them anywhere else.)  This was slightly before OK Cupid launched, long before Tinder.  I remember checking out LavaLife, of the cheesy ridiculous late night commercials, and, since I was looking for smart and bookish, the Salon.com personals (which were part of a larger network of publication-based personals.)  There was still some stigma associated with online dating that would evaporate in the coming years, so it was done furtively, on the sly, and my first date was a disaster with someone who it turned out we had a mutual acquaintance, but who basically abandoned the coffee date halfway through due to an "emergency". There were a couple others, awkward getting-to-know-you cafe dates, some of them cute or smart, but no spark.  In late 2002, I hit it off spectacularly with someone like minded--solid, funny-- and over the next few years, since he lived way out in the burbs, it was more of an e-mail & phone call relationship with occasional visits. We also wrote delightful dirty stories back and forth to each other that should probably be anthologized.   I was discovering I was a little more on the kinky side of the straight and narrow, so we bonded on this point in a big way.  He considered himself polyamorous, and was seeing others occasionally,  but during the 4 years or so I was into him, I wasn't that interested in anyone else beyond some passing fancies.  It seemed like finding even one person you connected with was hard, let alone more than one.

The style of this relationship at first suited both of us--both of us introverts, independent, really busy with jobs and other pursuits. It kind of fell apart when he met someone he would eventually marry--even though still poly (and her too) it was hard to watch someone's interest pull in a direction that wasn't toward you. I struggled to get him to drive into the city, but he was driving to the opposite end to see her.  He was madly in love with her, in a way he obviously was not with me, and I could feel it--was threatened by it, and though the step away took some time, and we remained friends, but  it was hard to watch happen.  While I had become well enough accustomed to polyamory, and knew that jealousy was something that was a hazard, but eventually it was very distressing. We had amazing chemistry in some ways, but it was always more friend-like than love-like.  I always joke that in the middle of this, I went to see the movie Tristan  & Isobel alone in the theatre, and on the way home, found myself craving the sort of passion that made you crazy, insane, liable to ruin entire lives. Not a good model, obviously, but it was sad to feel like I had never felt that way about anyone, so was it even real?  (I've since determined that it may be real, but pretty much horrible and not a good foundation to work with.)  Regardless of those dynamics, I was still interested far more in polyamory than monogamy.

Shortly after I decided to pull away, I started dating.  A lot.  I met someone who I definitely had those Tristan & Isolde type feelings for, but who turned out to be secretly married, a compulsive liar, and  very bad for me & thus took almost a decade to disentangle from.  I met someone else with whom I had pretty much no romantic feelings and only a strong physical attraction, who also turned out to be problematic later on.   I boomeranged back and forth for awhile between them, with various, levels of emotional investment , but with the rise of OKCupid, was meeting others, sometimes which would continue for a few dates, a few months, and then burn out.   This went on for a few years, during which time, I was sort of coming to the realization that it's impossible to expect people to be perfect, but sometimes imperfect could also be fun.  For a while, anyway. Some were internet-spawned, others real-life meets. I was at the point where I finally felt less awkward around men and was actually very good at dating, if not the relationship that was supposed to follow.  I later had a 4 year long tumultuous fling with someone who lived across the street, but who was considerably younger than me and a huge fan of the drunk dial.  Like Taylor Swift, I also found that unhappy romance bred amazing poem-fodder, so I never took it too seriously.  It was writing experience,  so bring it on.   I am also good at compartmentalizing --I was generally a pretty content person even if my romantic life was a garbage fire.  This is still pretty much true. (though thankfully not so much with the garbage fire the past few years. )

I was slowly coming to the realization that while I liked men, liked dating, and definitely liked sex, I REALLY liked being alone.  Being independent, self-sufficient, a single instead of a double.  Maybe it's because I never paired up early, I got too used to be on my own. This was weird at times--family gatherings, weddings,social events, where couples are the norm, but definitely had to be weighed against the freedom and autonomy thing and the latter always won. I liked that my apartment was my apartment--that I could blast ridiculous music and write into the middle of the night and watch whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. That I could have too many cats, too many books, too many dresses hogging the closet space and never had to deal with sports on the tv or picking up someone else's laundry.  That decisions on outings and trips and dinner were gloriously simple as a single.  I worried that I liked it too much. Was it healthy?  Would I die alone and be eaten by my cats? (But then again, we all pretty much die alone, we're not taking anyone with us) The people around me weren't having any better a time about things.  Their relationships were incredibly distressing, even if they started out strong. Divorces, messy breakups, and I started to lose a lot of faith in the concept.  Even the people who remained together seemed varying degrees of  unhappy--caught in cycles of emotional abuse, co-dependence, and general incompatibility. At best, it seemed an endless battle of navigating someone else's quirks, bad habits, and insecurities while still wanting to fuck them. Things you can't unsee once you've seen. Sometimes it was a sacrifice, but I wasn't willing to play those odds and disrupt a pretty content solo life. 

I first became aware of the solo poly terminology, and joined a couple facebook groups,  around 2010--the idea that one's primary relationship existed with one's self and all others secondary.   I felt like I finally had words for my experience.  When it comes to men in the "poly community", I've always been wary of the new ageyness--men with ponytails and D&D obsessions named Raven who are just as misogynistic as mono men in their approaches.  Not everyone surely, but in the OKC world, definitely.  Years ago, I dated someone in an open marriage, and while he was cool and he had amazing stories of traveling with indie bands in the 90's, he was struggling with his wife's unnecessary secretness after they opened up the relationship.  He was thinking she was just looking for an out through which to leave him and I imagine she eventually did.   There are as many pitfalls in the poly world as the mono, probably many, but I felt it fit more.  In many ways, if we're using labels, I am much more a relationship anarchist, since my non-romantic friendships have always been just as important as my romantic/sexual ones.  It's actually harder to become my friend than it is to get me to date you--and though I've tried to blurr those lines at least once very badly years ago--friends are a constant that relationships are very much not.   (Not to say that platonic friendships are immune from being garbage fires but this is a whole other entry on toxic girl drama.)

My discovery of the terminology didn't change my dating style, but it gave me some terminology to explain it to both myself and others. . I get that you encounter different people in your life that meet different needs, different impulses at different times. That no one checks all the boxes, and that you should never just erase boxes and make do, it eventually leads to unraveling. Over the years, the jealousy part had actually been less of an issue, that if a relationship is solid on other fronts, those feelings should be less a dealbreaker and more an opportunity to explore why they are bothering you.  And if so, how can the relationship be stronger.  Not everything lasts forever--and that's totally okay.  Not everything is an escalator from first date to marriage to death, and really I'd prefer to take each relationship on it's own merits in the moment.  Just because we aren't moving anywhere, doesn't mean its stagnant. Just because it's not exclusive doesn't mean its any less serious.

Over time, my dating bandwidth has dwindled as well, and actually, the past three years I'd probably been in what, to the outside world, probably looks a bit like monogamy even if its not.   It's actually probably the most healthy relationship I've been in more than a decade, maybe ever, and both of us seem to need alot of solo time.  Both of us also very busy with more than one job and bustling creative pursuits, so our weekly sleepovers & dates are a much welcome treat.  Not a writer, but an actor, and also very stable and sensible in a way I've not encountered in the arts.   I've dealt with this particular relationship love poem series a couple years ago, and probably the first time a romantic relationship was cast in a positive light in my writing.  But we're still both dedicated to be autonomous entities in the world, and this is enormously satisfying without feeling too much like suffocation. It's good. And I'm lucky.  I think he'd probably agree we both are (even if he has to listen to my occasional feminist rants and really bad jokes I think are hilarious.)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

witches and spells and the writerly imagination



At the conclusion of our Beautiful Monstrosities film roundtable last month, the panelists gave voice to something I had been thinking about for a while, of how witches, always a staple in the popular imagination (particularly around Halloween) are experiencing a sudden pop culture popularity, or maybe its always there and only once in a while I'm like--wow, there sure are alot of witches in entertainment happening now.  I was thinking about American Horror Story, and though the chief witch storyline happened 5 odd years ago, the writers brought it back, and not only brought back some of the best AHS characters, but had them, ya know, defeat the apocalypse (and re-affirm the fact that I believe AHS to be one of the most feminist shows on television--not only from its female dominated and led cast, but also its plotlines.  Think of last year's Cult finale, if you have any doubts. )

So I finished up the season last night--and while there were threads I wish they'd fleshed out more and turns I wish they'd taken in the scope of the season--I was very satisfied by the ending, as I usually am.  But it got me thinking about the witch in the popular imagination--post 2016 election and even leading up to it.  The amount of witch-focused culture--reboots like Charmed and Sabrina, the many writers I know who are writing and talking about spells and magic a lot now, seems to be swelling.  I was also thinking about how, right after 9/11 I had a dream, actually a good one, which was rare in those months, about the witches from Buffy, Tara and Willow, and a group of women were planning to save the world from armageddon through spellcasting. Also the talk of the witches intent on putting a hex on Trump after the election.

In the mid 90's, things were similar--the popularity fo the first rounds of the above shows, movies like The Craft and Practical Magic.  I was trying to make a correlation in my head between a feeling amongst women of a lack of power and then, but actually the 90's, under the Clinton era, should have been less dire for women (but then I think about how on the surface maybe, but the media'streatment of Monica Lewinsky and women in general was still probs not so great.)  By that extention, the Bush era would have had more witches, the Obama era less.

My sister was moderately into wicca in the 90's, being a few years younger than me, she was in high school in the 90's, peak witch time,  and I remember reading some of the books she bought at B&N.  I am pretty much an agnostic, but with a few pagan leanings perhaps, so while I found the idea of weilding power via magic and ritual interesting, I wasn't down with the whole goddess worship part that seemed to be kind of important. I am also fascinated by the phenomena of the Salen witch trials and the group dynamics that caused it to go so horribly wrong. Have, in fact, written several poems over the years about Salem witches. And isn't all religion in some way about yeilding control (or asking protection from) the horrible or beautiful randomness of the unverse--prayer or luck -that keeps us safe and free of danger?  It's a nice idea, but I'm not sure I can believe it wholeheartedly.   Like the idea of an afterlife, it's a nice thought.

And so much of this power, unlike most things, is so very women focused.  When I watched The Witch initially, I thought, like many horror movies that capture the popular imagination, it was overhyped.  I thought it was a decent film, but I thought the show Salem, (seriously you need to watch that show) dealt with same themes in a more wrought and weird way. On facebook a couple weeks ago, a fellow poet mentioned she'd been eating too much ice cream and "living too deliciously" and I giggled all day over Black Phillips temptation in that movie--the idea of sacrifice and indulgence and what is expected of women--that we not each too much, draw too much attention, talk too much, have too many feelings lest we be crazy, irrational, or threatening in some way.  And was this not the problem with witches throughout history--not that they were in league with the devil, but that they transgressed in some way that the men did not like, that other women feared or hated them for?  And at the end, why would you want to suffer in a very landscape and community that was hostile and not claim some sort of power, even if it was the devil offering it.

But with being villainized, maybe comes power?  With being outside of something comes the power to change it?  (Though Salem would seem to argue that the most successful maneuvering happened as long as the witches flew under the radar and were still considered part of the community.)   It also comes to mind becuase of my plump series of Hansel & Gretel poems, which casts the witch a little bit anew, with Gretel becoming the witch in the end, even if it means she eats her brother.  That fine line between acceptance and ostracization that would dictate whether you were able to work inside a system or be cast outside of it.  Stealth witches like Sabrina or Samantha Stevens in Bewitched.

It also brings to mind spells--mostly since they are a matter of ritual and words-and now much of writing, whatever it is, creative or uncreative, fantastical or mundane is a sort of magic.  A way of exerting influence on the world, be it creating new characters and stories (a friend at work and I keep laughing over the tulpa--the thing created from nothing just becasue it exists in the imagination in regard to the haunted library hijinks for the murder mystery.)  Or the non-exciting writing does that leads to good things--raises and position elevations, grants, awards. All a sort of magic that is influenced by words, and sort of closest to the only thing I do that could be considered magic.

Friday, November 16, 2018

serial offenses...



I've been in the process of finishing up a couple of serialized projects---a format I really like, particularly since I tend to write in series rather than individual poems.  It always feels a little odd to submit smaller parts of such a closely knit whole to journals, since I always wonder if they make any sense whatsoever when standing alone.  Ditto when reading from them publicly. I feel a need to over-explain, in reading and in submitting, so I always feel like the best way to experience my work is in zine or chapbook format, and serialization works in a similar way, unveiling bit by bit.  In the case of exquisite damage, the entire series was finished before hand and then released in increments gradually over the course of a few months.  I currently have close to 20 subscribers, and now that that series is complete will be starting something new in December.

 In late summer,  I was invited to begin a series on Chanillo, and though taurus was actually only about a quarter completed, I decided to give it a go (particularly easy since the project is not really linear or dependent on ordering, so work as fragments that can be shuffled in any order.)  I would go back and edit pieces in threes and release them .  So you kind of got to see them in real time as they were written. I have less subscribers here, but it's a paid thing, so I suppose that's a factor.

I'm curious about the differences of serialization when it comes to fiction vs. poetry...obviously my groupings of short pieces aren't as lengthy a read as a short story, or a chapter of a novel.  And so how this inform the reader's experience as such?  Since I'm a sprinter and not a long-distance runner, I suppose I'll never get to compare the experience unless I decide to start writing longer forms. But even still it seems like a good way to read poetry--though outside of other Chanillo poets, who seem to be more releasing individual poems, poem by poem, rather than contained series,  I haven't been able to find other poets doing similar things in that medium, but I am going to keep looking.

I've also thought of going super old school and doing a similar mail art project--something both textual and visual, tactile, and arriving in your mailbox each month. I considered it for my unusual creatures project, and while the letters would be perfect, there are diaries and such that lend themselves less so toward that so I'm thinking the box would still be the best option. I like sending little bundles of subscription offerings out though, so I might include something like this with that endeavor next year (there's a peak above at some of things I've been sending this year).

I also like how instagram kind of lends itself this way as well..I've been releasing bits of both the zodiac project and strangerie via that format, which works particularly well if visual elements are at play..

curvy girl shopping exploits | loft

I've spent years passing the Michigan Avenue windows of the Loft store and occasionally spotting cute, mostly floral, dresses that I figured were not only way beyond my price range, but also not remotely in my size.  Somehow a few weeks ago I stumbled on proof that Loft does, in fact have a fairy decent slew of plus size clothes that are modeled on their straight sizes.  They actually, when I perused the site, were not as fearfully expensive as I predicted and since I've joined their mailing list, I see they have flash sales pretty frequently, sometimes as much as half off.  I sprung a few weeks ago and procured this cute dress for less than $40 bucks, which is around the high end of my budget for individual pieces, but it's really nice in fabric and fit, so it's a win (also a four season item--light enough to be a summer dress, but pair it with tights, and it works for winter).


I've loaded up my Pinterest To-Buy board with some other things that I might be tempted to get if the right sale comes along.  Some of their stuff borders on slightly too preppy, but these are some winners (I particularly like the tweedy one and the gray plaid jumper....)




I also have mad respect for their instagram, which shows a diversity of plus and straight sized women in the clothes..


to buy,go to my Pinterest board...


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

writing & art bits | november


* The latest issue of Tupelo Quarterly was just released and features some of the text & image pieces from plump...

*Earlier this month, a fragment  from ordinary planet appeared in Rust & Moth.  (this is my weird little steampunk, victorian spiritual-ish set of poems --also evidence that apparently I can still turn out lined verse when I want to..)

*I recently made one of the cards "The Sun"  for Jane Flett's awesome collab project, The Fool's Journey, which you can get a glimpse of  (and donate to the indiegogo to help it take shape) on instagram...

*In the realm of mystical divination type thingies, which seems to be the theme this month, I've also finished up the prints that accompany the poets zodiac (the poems are still in the works, and the entire project still taking shape, but keep an eye out for more here.

*I've been thinking about issuing the strangerie series as some sort of divination cards as well...a set of 13 currently exists with matching text pieces I am just finishing up.  (I also made a couple small prints avalable of my favorites in the shop (with more to options to come)

*I also am working on this month's zine series offering--a tiny accordian book of the animals collages, which will be coming soon..you can still catch a subscription and get everything that's been issued this year, including /slash/, how to write a love poem in a time of war, honey machine, the garden zine, poets zodiac scrolls, the science of impossible objects, crypto zines and assorted 5 x 7 prints.







Tuesday, November 13, 2018

oh, the places you'll never go, the things you'll never read



I long ago admitted to myself that I'm not a big traveler.  Short weekend trips, the occasional few days in New Orleans (my second favorite city), a week in Rockford, these are really about as much as I'm willing to do.  I have vague ideas that a cross-country route 66 road trip might be a blast one day, but I imagine it is far more fun in my head than it would be in practice.  I spend so much time daily away from home, that the rest of the time I want to be, well, you know, home. Travel also makes me anxious--not only the details involved in organizing a trip, but also money concerns, general anxieties about new, unfamiliar places. (one of the reasons I make exceptions for NOLA was that it is now, after a couple visits, very familiar).  I also don't like to leave my cats for too long, even with a caretaker.  I am the queen of the staycation, though even these are in short supply when, even if I am not at the library, I really should be at the studio.

My parents, as well, were not really big travelers--there were many weekends camping in Wisconsin during summer, but most of our trips were short, daytrips to Milwaukee or Lake Geneva, to Galena or Dubuque. We went to Florida a few times and drove the whole way.  In recent years, I've gone with them to visit my aunt down in Gulfport, to San Antonio for a wedding. I've drug them to Atlanta with me for a couple of writing-related jaunts.  I traveled alone by train out to Seattle for AWP a few years back and that was about a week.   But longer trips are  few and far between.  I am super anxious about flying as well and haven't done so since college, so most of my traveling is land-bound, which never allowed for much jetsetting.  I am totally okay with not having seen Paris or Greece or Japan in person or never leaving the contiguous 48 states (hell, most times I don't leave my zip code.) 

Books are another thing I realize I will never get a handle on, and though I realized it early, it still makes me anxious.  All the books I'll no doubt ever read--some of course that I have no interest in, but others I want to read and mean to get to.  Or don't even know about but would love    Poetry is bad enough, but other genres as well. I have entire shelves of books at home, probably about 75 percent read, but another quarter purchases I haven't got to. When I cleaned my poetry shelves out a few years ago, I found books still in plastic wrappers picked up at AWP 2007.  I was not surprised.  In addition to purchases, there is also a whole library of things beckoning, and with ILL, unlimited possibilities.  Right now, next to my desk at work, there are three shelves of things checked out that I plan to get to, but haven't yet taken home to read.  Some that have possibly been there a couple years that I just keep renewing.  Poetry collections, memoirs on taxidermy, book arts manuals, a couple novels. I'm pretty sure there are a couple trashy YA dystopian novels that are seriously overdue through ILL that I don't want to send back without reading.

I read fiction mostly on the bus and occasionally on weekends (usually sprawled out on my bed.)  Much of my daily reading is chapbook manuscripts (either in curating the series or proofing upcoming chaps.)  I consider this 'work reading' as opposed to 'leisure reading' but poetry sometimes straddles these lines since I am always reading with a poets eye. I read a lot of online content, poetry and articles. Even still, new books come out every day--new fiction, new poetry--and sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed at all that I may never get to. Some things I am totally okay with never having read.  My adventures with ULYSSES in my early 20's mostly involved me checking out the book, using it as a coaster, and returning it to the tiny public library unread.  I've never read Proust, or Tolstoy (I have a copy of ANNA KARENINA, but have never been moved to crack it open.)  It was one of many books that I started collecting in college--mostly snagged cheap in B&N bargain bin back when bookstores were the only source for titles. I bought a lot of mid-list and remaindered novels, some of which were pretty good. Most of which are still sitting on my living room fiction shelves, but that I probably won't read again.

Years ago, to stem the tide, I placed an embargo on buying novels--any fiction I want to read had to come from (and return back) to the Library.  Poetry purchases are another set of shelves and  were of course allowed, but they had to be something from a favorite author, friends, or something I'd already confirmed by reading it previously thatI really wanted to own.   But still the books pile up--and keep piling up, faster than I can possibly read them. Currently on the trunk that doubles as my coffee table, there are about a half dozen novels that I started and mean to get back to, but have not--the sequel to Miss Peregrines...the final volume of the Pure Trilogy.  That novel about Zelda Fitzgerald.  All of these I was enjoying, but somehow got distractedd from--by life, by something shinier, by Netflix.  Eventually I will get back to them.  Eventually.


notes & things | 11/13/2018



We are halfway through November and it seems colder than it should be.  I've no clue whether that is a sign of a good winter or a bad winter or no sign at all, but my apartment is permanently chilly. I am fending off impending winter blues with fresh flowers, collecting pretty  leaves near the bus stop, and buying too many boots and outerwear--a yearly indulgence, and last week procured a new long super warm black coat ( the two I have are on the shorter side and don't work for longer skirts or dresses) a green military button style wool coat, and a vintage-ish red leather jacket (the trials of hunting  which I will go into in my fashiony post this Friday)  I am fast running out of space in my entry way closet, so I will soon have to find otherwise to stem my seasonal depressions, which also yeilded some lace-up boots I'd been coveting since last winter. My comfort activities also include watching episode after episode of Gilmore Girls.

I realized with a start that Thanksgiving is, in fact, in a mere two weeks, which means already the shops on Michigan are decked for the holidays and that the big festival of lights parade must be this Saturday. I am still adjusting to fall and in no way ready for Christmas, but do intend to try to get my tree up early enough to enjoy it. I like my little holiday routines around here--decorating the tree, watching cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix (and sometimes there is pepperint ice cream involved, or maybe even  cookies (well, cookie dough at least--they rarely make it into the over).  Rockford, however, is still a weird place to me during the holidays, and I'm not sure I can muster as much enthusiasm as I used to have when the center of most things is somehow missing, Last year, we had a decent enough time, but it doesn't have as much sparkle and anticipation as the holidays used to on so many fronts. So much going through the motions, but something feels incredibly hollow.

This coming weekend I'll be home and library-free, so intend to do some more serious work on proofing sex & violence one final time before I send it to Black Lawrence at the end of the month. . I also have a cool artist book idea for the strangerie series I'll be plotting (& which incidently I just put some new prints in the shop.)  Otherwise, there are manuscripts to be read (both the last of the dgp ones and for another press' s contest I am first-reading for). Books to be made and orders to get out. I'm also itsching to start some new moody fall & winter landscapes paintings, so maybe a little of that...

Monday, November 12, 2018

sneak peak | THE ANIMALS zine project



November's offering in the zine series is this little book of THE ANIMALS postcard collages currently in the works...these are some fun pieces I've been working on since summer, and since there are more than fit in this accordian book, there just might be further renditions down the line.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

certain harm (or writing dead girls)


I interlibrary-loaned this book quite a while ago and devoured it in the course of about a weekend, but have had a hard time getting time til now  to actually formulate some thoughts about it, particularly the first 3rd of the book,  a section titled "Toward a Theory of a  Dead Girl Show"  that covers everything from Twin Peaks to true crime. (with a good dose of Veronica Mars & Pretty Little Liars)  There is quite a lot here in addition to that--meditations on California life and girldom filtered through the lenses of pop culture that I loved greatly.

I always used to joke that there were way too many dead girls in my poems, to the point where I wrote an anti-dead girl poem for major characters in minor films called  "no girls were harmed in the making of this poem."  I mean, there are the obvious dead girls in that early work...the vanishing hitchikers and beautiful suicides of in the bird muse`um, the missing mothers and sisters of the fever almanac. girl show might only have one or two, but there is still that sense of women and girls in peril. the shared properties.... only has one dead girl, and it's less important that she is a girl and more just that she is a sibling (a boy would have worked, it was only important they were twins.) By the time I reached that 5th book, I realized I was feeling a little pathological and self-conscious about it.

Admittedly, part of this might have roots in my fascination with horror, girls were dying all over in there.  I mentioned in another older blog entry, my early love of Annabel Lee, and even from then some weird fascination with the beautiful dead girl--the Ophelias and Juliets of the world. Beautiful dead actresses--the Marilyn Monroes, the Natalie Woods. It carried into writers-- probably part of my initial draw to Plath, Sexton, artists like Francesca Woodman. There was something about their beauty and youth that was tragic, somehow that they never grew old and normal and commonplace as the rest of us gave them an extra sparkle somehow. I always laugh about Denise Levertov, comparable in age to Plath & Sexton and a fine poet in her own right, but she'll never have the gloss of dying before her prime.

And no doubt all the dead girls are problematic in many ways. As a symptom of a misogynistic, toxicly masculine and violent society that creates so many of them.  As a construct that places her at the center of a story but rarely allows her to speak for herself. That sometimes makes her merely a vehicle for male characters to work out their own issues.  A black hole into which so much falls--our own expectations and neuroses.   Much of her power, unless you're going all supernatural, lies in what we ascribe her to be.   As much as I love the Virgin Suicides, I  think it is simultaneous evidence and comment upon this kind of male gaze. This is maybe why I liked Sharper Objects so much, these dead girls were feral somehow, bitey and wild, no matter how much you tried to make them sit still.

I had friends who were really into Twin Peaks when it was on my last couple years of high school, but I was more into Beverly Hills, 90210.  I didn't join the Lynch fan parade until I saw Mulholland Drive in the early aughts and decided to delve into Twin Peaks, which I was able to appreciate much greatly in my late 20's than I ever would have been able to as a teen.  As I've been working on the murder mystery games, particularly our 80's prom, they are very much inspired by the pretty young girl full of deadly secrets. 

There is also a strong  tendency for my work to also explore danger and knowledge, violence and sexuality that carries across many book projects.  Despite my promise for no more dead girls in that fifth book, there is at least once glance in salvage, and an entire section devoted to a zombie girl in the upcoming little apocalypse, that  whole section called "songs for dead girls." I like to tell myself the dead girls are less romantic as time goes on--here and in the latest book, where the /slash/ poems do much more head-on work.  Ditto for the explorations of exquisite damage, which is all about middle class gothic, whose central figure seems to be that poor beautiful dead prom queen.  Even amongst the things I am currently working on, there are bits and pieces (though I do have would be killer girls in the Slender Man series, so maybe I've come full circle.) 

One of the manuscripts I'm working on right now is about mothers and daughters, but the other is centered around that midwestern gothic-ness, so of course there are dead women there.  Projects early in the works include a series devoted to the Murder Castle at the Chicago Worlds Fair, another haunted hotel project, and also maybe a series about the Black Dahlia.  So who knows?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

sex & violence




This month, I am beginning to iron out my final manuscript of book #8 to send to Black Lawrence-- blurb gathering, cover art options, and such all due in before the end of this year.  I know that next thing you know it will be April 2020.  It's strange, since the book only came together barely a year ago, so it's been a fast process, even though the release is a couple years off.  Meanwhile there is the apocalypse book, is still coming, and another couple manuscripts completed or nearing so.  


I was writing up some process notes as a press promo efforts and got to thinking about how the book took shape.  I tend to work on a number of small projects at any given time and realized late last year something beginning to constellate around similar themes—sexuality, love, feminism, toxic masculinity, violence against women.  It was on the heels of some weird and troubling times for women in general, during which I’d been working on some prose poem series centered on some of my favorite things—Plath, horror movies, the work of Salvador Dali, while also working on a series of pieces about relationships and how difficult it is to reconcile love as a straight woman with male privilege and violence. I started to notice threads of ideas connecting all these disparate bits and suddenly had a manuscript that made sense thematically as an encapsulation of all sorts of anxieties that I foster as a woman in the world-about love, about violence and fear, about artmaking itself.   


Normally I would have sat on it a while, but last November, I felt like I need to get something out of a really bad month in whic loss was the primary theme.   BLP was open for submissions, so I distracted myself the latter half of the month, by pulling it together, giving it a final comb-through, and sending it along.  Like major characters in minor films, there is something about it that feels more personal, especially with the love poem series in there that is more autobiographical. Those books always feel a bit more like opening your underwear drawer...