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...






Friday, November 09, 2018

friday obsessions | vintage bags



I seem to have an every growing collection of vintage purses picked up over the past decade or so..some whilst thrifting, others on ebay.  Some are things I obtained during my etsy vintage selling days that either didn't sell or that I couldn't part with. There are probably close to 50 total, and the ultimate irony is that I rarely find myself in need of a handbag.  For one, I usually tote the millions of things I carry in a given day in a leather tote or satchel big enough to haul around books and manuscripts, umbrellas and notebooks and all the things I might need.    I have a huge tote for summer and a messenger bag for winter (which works works better than trying to maneuver the tote bag over the shoulders of heavier coats, plus leaves my hands free in case I decide to fall in snow and such). I also have an occasional additional canvas tote if I'm hauling more than usual back and forth to work, studio, and home.




As someone who is a total homebody, I also don't go all that much, and if I do, it's usually when I am already out and about--drinks or dinner or perfomances after work or studio time.  If you get me home, it's very hard to get me to leave.  Thus, my purses languish horribly at home most days, hauled out for special occasions, weddings, funerals, fancy parties, any outing where I don't need to carry quite so much (which is rare). I was going to the movies last week and decided to make sure I took the top photo chenille beauty out for the very first time after owning it about a year, mostly because it looked a little lonely and unused.  Then I got to thinking I should go out more--if only to take the poor little purses out of my apartment. Then I got to thinking about places to take my purses on purse dates, accompanied by others maybe  or just me and the purses, and realized I should probably get out more..lol..



Thursday, November 08, 2018

library murder mystery-ing



Today, I spent fleshing out the remainder of the story line for the fall murder mystery OPENING NIGHT.  It's a little different this year, sort of combined mystery game/scavenger hunt (we usually just have done more traditional play in one session games.)  It's a combination of online clues and in-library foraging that should be fun, with caches of evidence hidden around the library, as well as haunting teasers directing people to the game (or just freaking them out.)  I now have a full list of clues and teasers and an order for release, as well as the content for the weekly caches.  We'll all come together at the end of the month for a party and unveiling/prize awarding.

I was thinking again as I was formatting clues and evidence how much creating these is like some writing projects--those poetry projects that are more fragmented.  It's not as wrought, obviously, but it does unfold in a similar way, but instead of poems, it's fragments of manufactured documents and ephemera that are really fun to create.  This year, I also use the library as a space--for murders and ghosts--a little more thoroughly. There'll be chances to investigate library resources as well. The better you do, the more a complete picture of the events the night of the murder.

Once again, I chose an older time period, the 90's mostly because I wanted it to seem like a longer haunting, which somehow makes it more believable. Our lack of a 4-5 stairwell plays a part, as does certain spaces in the library--the bathroom on the 3rd floor, the creepy Blum Room.  The trophy for the evening will be hidden somewhere in the library and will be hunted down during the final throes.   Meanwhile, I intend on having fun with my haunting--fake bloody handprints, random rose petals, eerie ballet music--at best they will be enticed to join the game, at worst, they'll just get a creepy little experience...which is sort of like my writing...

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

more from the taurus series





https://kristybowen.blogspot.com/search/label/art

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

notes on horror films and real-life mysogyny

I don't normally get down with the ride sharing thing--call it the influence "stranger danger" campaigns in the 80's, the dictum never, ever get in the car with someone you don't know, (and sometimes even those you do).  The whole never let them take you to a second location, which is sort of the point of ride sharing.  I also don't really like cabs, but they'll do in a pinch.  I've had some weird, intrusive interactions with cab drivers, but they've never really felt dangerous. I actually prefer a crowded bus or train, even if it's slower.  It feels safer. Even moreso than all the years I drove and feared the shadows of dark parking lots where I was certain the shadows were lurking.

Maybe it's the legacy of too many horror movies at a young age.  Maybe it's just being a woman in a rather dangerous, anti-woman world. A world up until a couple years ago, I would have told you was getting better.  Saner. Sounder.  Now I'm not so sure. Thursday night I took a cab from downtown to a north side movie theatre with a polite, quiet cab driver who didn't seem at all creepy, but the thought flashed in my head that I hoped he wouldn't fillet me Buffalo Bill style to make a skin suit instead of delivering me to my destination. Not likely. but you never know..

After seeing the new Halloween at the theatre, J. ordered a Lyft, which he uses often and, as a dude, I'm sure has had reasonably positive experiences.  I have shared rides with other friends and groups of people, even know a couple of drivers, all good, but hesitate to download the app myself and just rely on cabs for the rare situations I need to.  During that short ride home, the two of us talked about horror, the panel I'd hosted Monday, our shared love of The Shining, about my increasing attentiveness to the domestic abuse narrative therein.  We talked about Martyrs, which neither of away us had seen, but was discussed at the panel as a hard film to get through.  My mention that the only movie I almost stopped watching due to its torture of the women (Wolf Creek). 

 The driver was entirely silent, to the point where I had no idea if he was listening to us, but about a block from dropping us off,  asked suddenly if we had seen the new Halloween, and we all started talking animatedly. We agreed there were several scenes, in typical horror movie fashion, where you were like why would you do that?  Run up the stairs, run into the woods, go towards the killer rather than away?  The scene he mentioned in particular, where the granddaughter springs from the car and runs into the woods, seemed like poor decision-making. The driver laughed and spat out "I was like, what are you doing, you stupid WHORE?"  which was a strange word choice, and I fell silent.It wasn't the word, exactly, but the context.  I say much worse in joking sometimes, as joking admonishment to myself. "you dumb whore!" when I've forgotten my keys.  you're such a whore!" when the cats are super needy for affection. But it was his tone, and the consideration of why that word, when "bitch" may have been less noticeable. It occurred to me maybe that was his go-to terminology for any female.  I suddenly flashed on the image this dude, using that tone of voice when talking to his wife or girlfriend.  Also, his flagrancy in using that word when I'd just been going on an on about treatment of women in horror and how maybe he should mind his audience. Maybe not even the word itself, but the tone, the sneer with which he said it.

 The ride felt kinda hostile in that second and luckily it was over.  Maybe I was wrong, but it seemed a strange coinicdence. I said nothing, mostly because it was a passing thought, and I didn't want that shit to mess up a really nice evening by dwelling on it to resolutely.  I might have forgotten it entirely if my facebook feed were not blazing today with the man who shot up the yoga studio and his comment about "American whores" that needed a reckoning.   And again I thought of the safety and  people we put our lives in the hands of when getting into their cars, and truthfully I was just as horrified of getting into the car of this dude as I would anyone who might refer to women as "whores" on the regular..  Again and again, we hear the precursors for violence--mysogyny, verbal/physical abuse. entitlement, rejection.  What's to say all of that won't boil over today or tomorrow? Why would you get in the car?  Why would you do that? 

Monday, November 05, 2018

beautiful monstrosities month




October was a beast of a month in the Library--particularly this year since our Beautiful Monstrosities Focus Month topic fell in its confines (sometimes we do September, but the subject matter (what other perfect time for women in horror exploits?) and department short staff-edness made my September a little crazier handling both ILL and the usual reserves processing rush.   But then again, October also brings the Little Indie Press smack in the middle of other programming and there is always a lot of prep for that in the early half of the month on top of the focus stuff, so it was a little hairy there for a bit.

This October brought our 1st Floor exhibit , which  is be-yoo-ti-full and will be up through mid-January if you'd like to check it out.  Then other fun like latex maskmaking tutorials,  horror trivia, the film panel, and the Halloween Public Domainia double feature (which actually wound up being a
 single feature that was a terrible delight and then watching ghost/haunting videos on you-tube when the sound sucked on the 2nd film and we gave up. )
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November will be a bit of a breather with no major things happening beyond the usual monthlies--zine night, book to art club, our annual snowglobe fun after Thanksgiving. The largest is probably the murder mystery, which this year is more of a scavenger hunt ending with a party.  So now our planning inevitably turns toward spring and our focus topic for then, Strange Fevers :  Mass Delusions, Confusions, and Obsessions, for which we are hoping to plan a little mini-conference on Saturday to add a bit of scholarly element, where we bring scholars and artists together. There are so many topics to explore under this umbrella--urban legends, cryptozoology, alien abductions, strange phenomena, Salem Witch Trials, PT Barnum, victorian spiritualism and more.  It also ties nicely in with our Book to Art Selection , War of the Worlds, given the Welles broadcast and aftermath.

Though our initial Focus Topic a few years back formed sort of haphazardly when some programming got shifted to us we didn't plan on (that year, the topic was a more general, LGBTQ Arts & Media focus) the format of that week, combined with an exhibit,  in many ways formed what would follow.  So far our topics have included Uncanny Specimens:  Taxidermy, Preservation, &  Play, HOAX:  Conspiracies, Illusions, and Creative Hi-Jinks, Tattoo:  Ink, Art & Object, and last spring's Apocalypse, USA.   The format is usually a series of events &; exhibits/displays tapping into many facets, visual arts, literary, film, an an attempt to draw folks from every corner of campus and department. Whenever someone asks how we choose our topics, I always laugh because it's totally random and self-indulgent on the part of me and my co-curator, who usually select topics that fall within our overlapping interests as artists and consumers.(fall is bringing whisperings of something related to true crime.)

We initially would plan it for a week, which had a little more pizazz, but we found it less likely to draw repeat attendees that close together, and more exhausting for us who had to plan everything all at once.  Stretching it out over a month seems to help, allowing a bit of breathing room for preparation.  Thus everything since the tattoo focus has happened more gradually within the given month

It's also one of the centerpieces in our A of  R programming roster and a good example of how you can tie artists to resources and serve as a space where those things meet.  We also bring alot of community artists in for our exhibits and panels, which center the library as a cultural hub, not just on campus, but in Chicago in general.




Sunday, November 04, 2018

writing and grief



I've always been one of those people who rolled my eyes a little when I saw people talking about the therapeutic value of writing.  On one hand, it seems like it would work, all arts having the possibility to examine and transcend, but I would blame it for a whole lot of effusive diary entries masquerading as poems that I have seen as a poet--at open mics, over the transom as an editor, sometimes in lit journals. It seemed especially dangerous to wield a pen or keyboard when feeling all the things...that you were in incredible danger of being too maudlin, too sentimental, all things that are death to good writing in general.  I've always thought that extremes of mental state--- too sad, too happy, too chaotic, too organized, too anxious, too laid back--were the worst sort of writing days.  Good writing happened somewhere in the middle.

Tuesday marks a year since my mother died. I've had my eyes on this calendar date as I've gone about my late October festivities like a spider on the wall that may come down and bite me. I've been being kinder and more generous with myself--when I miss self-imposed deadlines, when I want to cancel things I'd planned on doing.  I even anticipated that some retail therapy might be needed (which is better than eating your feelings, which I've done on and off the past two years, and have been trying to counteract the consequences with more exersize..) A pairs of boots, a new coat, and a couple dresses that will arrive this week may give me some random happy when I badly need it.

It's treacherous times in the mental health arena, even before last year, this being the weird stretch between Halloween and Thanksgiving.  The coming cold, the early dark.  It's like a dead zone before holiday festivities and  distractions (and maybe why people jump to Christmas thinking so quickly.) Weirdly, until last year, it was actually a good time for me historically.  I landed my library job around now back in 2000.  I moved into the studio a few years later.  My first book was accepted in 2005. Despite all these really good things happening for me this time of year, it seems like one of the hardest times (even more so than January, or March, or any of the other other winter doldrum months.) The reason I know this is actually this very blog, where most years, I comment, right about this time of year about my sinking mood.

I've known forever that a death, particularly of a parent, is one of those times it would get bad, and actually was a little weirded out that it was less how I imagined it, but a whole boatload of other things. Over the last week or so when things seemed bad, I was preparing, reading articles on grieving and death and prepared for anything I needed, but then I thought everything was still going to be fine, so when it wasn't I didn't quite know what to do. . But I was frighteningly numb the first couple of days, like I'd just slammed my hand in a car door and couldn't feel anything yet.  I had a couple days back in the city before the funeral later in the week, and this was probably the first time I really cried except for a some brief tears on the initial bus ride home.  I was surprised, since I am easy crier, had cried more when my cat died suddenly over the summer. My sister had mentioned something about my dad wanting me to write something for the memorial service, and at first, I was like "yeah, that's not gonna happen" given my scatteredness. But I sat down the day before the funeral and just started writing what I would want to say at the funeral and then it came.  Like an ocean.

There's a scene, in The Haunting of Hill House, where the oldest brother's wife chastizes him for being unable to experience the world without writing it as an author first.  There's also a Flannery O'Connor quote about not knowing what you think until you write it.  All of these thing as, so much.  Writing that for the funeral--what I guess would be a eulogy of sorts-- crying the entire time until I was finished and printed it out to read, it was weirdly therapeutic.  Fast forward a month or so and I was working full-force on a series of short prose pieces (the hunger palace) I had actually started much earlier, before my mom's healthy issues, but had a new lens through which to be viewed. (for all of it's explorations of eating/body issues, they played somewhat of a role in her last months--her comments about her dwindling weight and refusal to eat, her infection delerium)  I spent a good part of my Christmas break working on these and crying a whole lot (it was fitting it was a sub-zero cold snap and the rest of the time I was shivering in my drafty apartment like a victorian heroine.) Somehow at the end, I felt like I had been wrung out.

I've often experienced grief as sharp edges, even after all that writing, you occasionally catch your hip on the corner of a counter and it stings. I mentioned a couple entries back the dreams--sometimes her presence matter of fact and not related to her loss, and sometimes, like the other morning, very much so that I spent the morning sort of teary and bedraggled since it felt somehow like I had come to the realization that she was gone all over again for the first time. I feel the corners more sharply when visiting Rockford, not so much in the house weirdly, which feel somehow alive with her presence even still.  But more so her absence at gatherings, at family events, on outings. Holidays, the very worst--things I used to look forward to immensely and now kinda dread.   So these are harder somehow than just hanging out at home.

But somehow, putting these thoughts into words helps, pins them down and gives language for feelings I don't have a handle on .  And maybe even this blog entry helps somehow, all the blog entries working toward some understanding of some sort only possible when written down. As for the hunger palace, I still worry it's too sentimental for eyes yet, maybe after the new year when I've sat with it for a bit and I can be more objective with it and tame the sentimentality for good.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

dgp cover love


As I've mentioned in the past, the only thing that equals the amazingness of getting to publish such awesome work through the dancing girl press series is also getting to have a hand in the design of many projects.We approach the look of our books from many different standpoints, both more hands on and less so, but I like to think we still have a fresh, innovative, clean look to our books that's unified.

Sometimes an author will have definite idea of what they want--a specific piece of work of their own or an artist/designer they know. I get really excited about authors who have their own visual exploits that might be used a as a cover.  If it's someone else's work,I'm usually okay with it as long as the author can arrange for us to use it for free.  We've had some amazing covers done by designers working directly with the author. If nothing specific comes to mind, I usually try to get a feel for what the author wants to see there. This can be as general as colors, or mood, or things to avoid.

At around the time I start layout, I usually have them send me their ideas or samples of book covers, either dgp or other publishers, that are in the ballpark of what they'd like to see. . Sometimes, the author leaves it entirely up to me, and it's a great opportunity to  dream something from the ground up.  Sometimes I'll use an existing piece of my own and sometimes something entirely new emerges. Occasionally, new pieces either launch a new or fit inside series I'm working on and serve double duty.  (you might spot one of the ghost landscape paintings above on the cover of Listen.)

Friday, November 02, 2018

friday obsession | floral inkery


 
I have long been the indecisive sort when it comes to the permanent or semi-permanent.  There are places and instances where  I crave stability--my job, my apartment, both or which have not changed all that much in almost 20 years or being in the same workplace, the same abode.  Things change within, decor shifts, things moved around, new job responsibilities and adventures.  But there are other things  I wax and wane on--hair color being an excellent example.  After spending ages 19-40 as a brunette of mostly darker persusaions (my natural color is dark blonde) I've spent the last 4 years bouncing back and forth according to whim and now hover somewhere in between, but ask me next week and I'll be dead set on a chocolate brown.

I've always said there are two things I would enter into with extreme care, and therefore, trusted myself to do neither.  One was marriage (which has a whole set of other issues--I'd actually be amenable to the idea of more open marriage, but am more hesitant about the co-habitation part than the commitment part) The other are tattoos, which are usually pretty permanent in a way that makes me uncomfortable.  The past 3 or so years, I've actually firmed up what I would want, and where I would want them, so am pretty much just waiting for life and finances to make them possible.  But even  within what I have decided, there are many options--color vs. black and white, more flowers vs. bigger blooms.  I'm aiming to go first with a forearm piece and then, a shoulder one-peonies most likely, my fave flower, but maybe some other botanicals. Last year, I did some very Taurus test placements with temp tattoos and by the end of summer had settled on the where the what, and have been working out the how this past year.  I've been obsessing a bit on Pinterest as my ideas have taken shape.



I'm hoping to make something happen  in the next few months, so stay tuned..

to check out the pinterest board, go here...