Thursday, May 23, 2019

in a dark wood


As I was revisiting my plump series and the accompanying collages, it got me thinking about magic in my work--the fairytale kind of magic. I've always considered myself a writer that wanders into the supernatural ever so often (seen in obvious places like the Resurrection Mary poems of archer avenue, the ghosts of the fever almanac, many of the things that happen in girl show.  Even my more grounded, autobiographical work goes there frequently--salvage has it's urban mermaids, for example. even  major characters in minor films is populated with ghost and haunting mentions.  It's probably too many horror movies and books in my upbringing, and, of course, hysterical since I see myself ultimately as a skeptic. 

But my more fairy tale oriented work seems to have a more everyday sort of magic happening.  About 20 years ago, when I first began writing anything that was of quality, I turned to fairy tales quite often--Rapunzel, wicked stepmother stories., Little Red Riding Hood. My book of red project was about the latter, and my first attempt, for reals, at an artist book.  (though you could argue my junior year Scarlet Letter book was the inadvertent first.) It was followed, of course, by my longer project, the shared properties of water and stars, which was loosely based on Goldilocks and her three bears, told through math problems, but was more a riff on a certain suburban angst than about the fairy tale itself.  plump, of course, being the most recent example. 

I think becuase they are ingrained so much in the human consciousness, it's hard not to fall into them sometimes.  I've been working on my "artist statement" series of late, and there is one poem about mothers and daughters that touches on fairy tales and writing

"Fairy tales tell us that the daughter must die.  Or more often, the mother.  Light softening to violet and then the red from all that blood.  No one could tell who was bleeding more until the prince freed us from the castle."

Sometimes, even when I am not writing about magic, I sort of am. 

for a little more discussion on fairy tales & my work, read here...

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

writing & art bits | may edition

* I've had a couple weeks off in my daily writing endeavors, mostly because things got super crazy and now I have to adjust my schedule a bit for summer work hours.  (which means I either do some writing when I land at the library or wait til I get to the studio this evening--though my brain power by then is never as good.) The artist statement project up til then, however, is humming along and already I've placed some pieces in an upcoming issue of Typehouse. 


*I did put some single copies of necessary violence up in the shop. I'll be soon sending out subsciption bundles with the latest offerings, so it's a good time to join in if you want all the fun this year will certainly bring--including the taurus series w/ accompanying art and the print manifestation of the strangerie pieces.


*In my ongoing digitization efforts, I recently put up e-chap versions of the science of impossible objects and plump. Since so many of the smaller books are limited edition, I figure why not get them readable to a far wider potential audience, especially given how successful things like my james franco  series has been as an e-chap. While some of the pieces wind up in online journals, this gives you a chance to see the text segments alongside the visuals in a way you usually cannot.


*My 100 rejections attempt has led to a few rejections, but 100 seems a long way away, so we're probably going to be going for about 20.  It's 1/4 of the way through the year and I only have about 6 of them). There's still another dozen or so out there and I have had 3 acceptances with another one on the horizon w/ some edits. I also have some solicited work from the {licorice, laudanum} coming up in Tupelo Quarterly. 


*I am steadily working toward getting ready for my open studio event on June 14th, which will be here before we know it.  The studio is still a mess, but I am slowly working toward ordering the chaos and am hoping to have a good stock of old things available, with an eye toward some new things (prints, paper goods) come July if things go well.


chicago cryptozoological society



Another successful seller at Zine Fest on Saturday were our Chicago Cryptozoological Society zines..which are sort of just for fun and not at all serious, but they seem to be popular (and tend to dissappear from the Library Zine Exchange like hotcakes whenever I add a stack.)  It's hard to believe that little project is going to be two years old this summer.  We conceived of the project as part resource/part shenanigans, and it included along the way some pranks and hijinks (including a little trolling on reddit) , but mostly has produced the zine series this far. I have some more serious creative projects, in line with last year's Cryptotaxonomy series from last year, so keep an eye out for that. There are also some prints we initially debuted at last fall's Indie Press Fest available soon from that series. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

curvy girl fashion: ditsy all day long



Somewhere, my 90's self is extremely happy that not only are fluted sleeves back, but so are ditsy prints.  Not that they went away completely, but finding a good floral is not always easy--much of what I've stumbled across is either ho-hum or garish.  Whenever I find one I like, I usually snatch it up immediately, whatever the retailer.  There's something always classic about a subdued floral. This year, so many ditsy prints are everywhere (see my last entry on old Navy for a couple I recently picked up.)    I also recently ordered this one on sale from Modcloth, since I've been stalking a plus size version of a similar dress on Pinterest.  Today, I came across a plus size dress feature on Buzz Feed about Walmart's on  point dress game and spotted the above bit of lovely for ridiculously cheap and bought that (and two others, one paisley, one navy striped).  I now have no money and may be eating ramen this weekend, but really, I'm okay with that because these are GORGEOUS.  And these look to be light enough weight to not only be wearable this summer, but with enough coverage to work in other seasons as well. I've got a couple other Walmart dresses, bought in store sometimes when I'm Rockford, and they're actually pretty good quality for so cheap. I've been wearing a navy blue cotton sundress I paid about 8 bucks for on sale for about 5 summers now and it's still a favorite and hasn't fallen apart yet.

whose story is this and why?



The internets are aflutter with discussion and memes about Sunday night's Game of Thrones finale.  I was neither less nor more less disappointed than I've been all season long.  That is, after we passed the point where things began to feel rushed and half-assed .  I think there is much to be considered as to exactly WHOSE story this was.  In a show with so many characters and locations, as you wind to a close and begin to zero in on events in one place and among a select group of characters, who is in the scene begins to reflect who the story is mostly about.  At times toward the end, this became harder to discern.  Was it Tyrion?  Was it Jon Snow?  Was it Daenerys?  Who are we following?  Who should we be rooting for?  (this I think is why many people were really frustrated with the Mad Queen scenario, they thought it was her.)

And what of those characters whose story it once seemed to be (I'm thinking primarily of Cersai here) who become merely the antagonist in the final season, and not a very layered and carefully drawn one at that.  Obviously, since she got very little screen time and an unspectacular end, it wasn't really her story.   Or Jamie's.  The closest you might come is Tyrion.  Who are you supposed to hail as the hero of things?  Not Jon Snow, surely?  And certainly not Bran.  (I would argue the only two people with a lick of sense in the whole damn show were Sir Davos & Sam--interestingly one who could do nothing much but read and another who was being taught how to read.) They kept saying that Bran was the person who held all the stories and the memory, but surely Sam, with his refrain "I read it in a book." was just as knowledgeable.

There is much in there about the importance of reading and knowing history in order to avoid repeating it. think of  Joffrey's reluctance to read the history of the Kings. The entry on Jamie Lannister that Brienne completes. Sam's book at the end. It brings t mind the quite that history is always told from the side of the conqueror. Had Dany not gone awry, it would have been her history to write.  So who then do we look to as our hero?  I was really pulling for Sansa to end up on the throne, because it would make sense for it to be her story, given how badly she fared through much of the journey.  

Monday, May 20, 2019

plump





This week I am working on the year-end zine project for our Book to Art endeavors based on War of the Worlds and it got me to thinking about how lovely last year's result, Dark Forest, the Grimm project, which included my little chap of Hansel & Gretel poems, as well as a couple of separate collage pieces.  As someone who once enjoyed writing greatly about fairy tales (and still do) it was immensely satisfying to visit this particular one-espec. since I planned on including it in my FEED manuscript eventually, particularly with the witch as a semi-sympathetic figure.  The visual pieces also turned out similarly well--I was going for a paper doll/puppet feel, something I am working with for other projects.



You can see a sample of the work at Tupelo Quarterly where a segment of them were published last year.  I've also put up a full electronic version of the project.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

just lie down and it will stop




One of the debuts yesterday at Zine Fest was the print incarnation of necessary violence, which I did manage to pull together in time despite a crazy week (I was working half days in the library and spending lots of hours in the studio working on a couple large book orders, so very little layout time, which I usually do when it's quiet in the evenings.) It turned out lovely however, and seemed to be reasonably popular yesterday, people seeming to gravitate toward it before they even knew what it was.  A small distro bought a few copies at discount, so it's good to know it will be reaching another audience (that doesn't already know me & dgp.)   It the culmination of a series/project that started about a year ago when I began research, so it's exciting that it was able to shape in that time.   I always say poetry doesn't go over that well at Zine Fest, but I think they were stealthy enough as prose that they snuck in under the radar..lol..

Friday, May 17, 2019



Tomorrow, A of R will be holding down table G8 at the Chicago Zine Fest with all sorts of goodies, including free resource zines and some of our creative projects from the past two years like Breton's Birthday and the Grimm project, Dark Forest.  We'll also have some crypto publications courtesy of The Chicago Cryptozoological Society, our little spin-off endeavor, and a few other selections from A of R affiliated artists.  I'll be personally  bringing my newest subscription series offering, necessary violence (aka the slender man stabbing poems) and some other assorted zines and mini prints (plus I'll be giving away some zodiac scrolls leftover from last year)

In honor of our AofR focus topic coming in the fall, we also made up these--a serious of cards devoted to our very favorite ladies of true crime.  We plan to continue to grown the deck, so look out for individual cards coming to our vending machines in the lobby maybe later in the summer.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

curvy girl fashion | old navy



In the past, my experiences with Old Navy have been a mixed bag.  Years ago, when I shopped mostly in stores, I would occasionally hit up the store on State Street and make the long journey to the back corner where the plus size offerings--what there were--lived.  Mostly I would buy solid or novelty t-shirts to wear with the long skirts that were sort of my uniform (long skirt, t-shirts, sometimes layered, cardigan).  I don't remember if there were dresses, and if there were, I don't think any appealed to me.  I did buy a peacoat I was tremendously fond of. Eventually, they took the plus size offerings out of the stores entirely, I heard. but by then I was shopping mostly online anyway, and I did buy a few cute dresses over the years, including a couple sheer ones bought when I was heavier and pinned to fit properly now I liked them enough.  Other things came and went, and in recent years, I would comb through occasionally, and they had some solid staples like knit sundresses and maxis (which I can't do) but nothing I didn't already have or couldn't find elsewhere more appealing.  They occasionally had dresses in cute prints, but for smaller sizes only.

A couple weeks back, I was randomly browsing Poshmark in my size and came across a couple cute NWT sundresses that were Old Navy and bought them, not expecting much, but feeling like I needed a shot of warm weather clothes to combat the gloom. When I got them, they were really, really nice.  Good material, good fit, perfect;y knee length (a rarity, everything is always so short on me).  Twice as nice as things I'd paid double and triple for elsewhere, so I went hunting on the actual Old Navy site and found many similar dresses and ordered a handful with what was left of my birthday money, including a navy gingham that is a nice, textury, almost seersuckery cotton that will be perfect if we actually get a spring or summer. I was raving on social media and made the mistake of going back and found the black tie neck, that I just had to have in all 3 varieties (these are more year-round staples than the sundresses--or at least that's what I told myself as I typed in my credit card and bought three of the same dress--black, red, & navy polkadot. )

Whether or not it will be warm enough this month to break them in, I have no idea, but they are definitely even nice than they look online, which is a rarity...

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

necessary violence


This week, I am putting the final touches on the zine version of necessary violence, the collaboration with my sister that includes my text and her visualizations. It's basically the portable version of the installation in the Strange Fevers exhibit (which by the way, will still be up through the end of May if you are in the Columbia neighborhood.)

This was another research heavy project, which involved a lot of online stuff as well as a lot of books ILL'ed (weirdly we have very little of this in our library). The project was spawned mostly by the strangeness of the Waukesha case, which I'd been thinking about for awhile, and the call for the Mansion anthology, which got me working on it in earnest. A lot of it was interest, as we discussed at the Colloquium panel, in the creepiness and agency of young girls.   The more I read, the more it seems that these girls, with the exception of growing up in the internet age, were not so unlike me and my friends, with our little obsessions, our sleepovers, our strange activities. While ours didn't result in violence, I remember the fragile ecosystem of the slumber party, which sometimes erupted in fights over nothing and weird group dynamics.  For a 12 year old girl, everything is personal.

Granted, there was mental illness at play, of various kinds.   The one girl was pretty much early-onset schizophrenic, the other seemed highly impressionable.  Parallels were often made to Heavenly Creatures and the fantasy worlds the girls lived in, as well as the drastic strategies they employed to maintain those fantasies. While our fantasies as pre-teens mostly had to do with whichever Tiger Beat cover boy we liked, they could have been much darker and just as obsessively wrought.  So much was fantasy at that age--the way we played and interacted..I don't think it began to change until we were in highschool and our hangouts became less play-based. it's all especially fascinating to think about this in relation to Braid.

This necessary violence was born, told from a sort of collective voice of both the perpetrators and sometimes he victim. It's very dark as it should be, given that the Slender Man lore that spawned it is as well.  I am excited as well about Mansion, which is just coming out, and includes some of the pieces as well as an amazing batch of poems on Slender Man mythos.  Our obssessions are always good for telling us about ourselves, and the thing that jumped out at me was both the escapism from reality the girls sought, as well as the weird father-like quality of much Slender Man content, which creepily borders on also the erotic.  Slender Man as someone who will save you, love you unconditionally, but there has to be violence as tribute.

Monday, May 13, 2019

none of the pomp, all of the circumstance



Friday, on the way down to Columbia, which was hosting it's own year-end Manifest festivities in the clear, but slightly chilly sunshine, I caught site of students from another campus graduating outside the Auditorium Theatre.  Many of our library student workers were heading to that same stage this weekend. I wanted to say congratulations, but I also wanted to say it will be much harder than you think.  To find a job, find a life. To make do.  At least for most of you unless you have a wealthy spouse of a trust-fund.

My undergrad graduation was the last one I actually went to--the last time I walked across a stage to claim a diploma.  (I was already back living in Rockford during my MA one and I skipped the MFA one and only went to a reading the day before with other graduates.)   The undergrad one I  remember only as a sticky, rainy day, where the ceremony was moved into the cramped gym and my parents had to stand behind the stage to see.  I had bad hair and bad clothes under my gross polyester gown  and really wasn't feeling like I accomplished all that much in the previous 4 years beyond the rote routine of classes and play rehearsals and just lots of reading.  My mind was already set toward grad school and leaving as soon as possible.  Within the month, I had moved into my studio in Lincoln Park and embarked on that particular version of adulthood for a couple years.  The real plunge of adulthood surely happened a couple years later when I actually had to find a job (a real, full-time, benefits sort of thing.)  Of course, I was in school again a few years later, but that was different, since I was already working full-time during.

But it's harder than I imagined it to be.  But also better.  The bonus is it might surprise you.  The bad thing is it might knock you on your ass.  You never know which is coming.  I think the best thing about college was that semester's were bit sized and then you were finished.  Could breathe for just a second before plunging in again next term. .  I's dotted, T's crossed.  Papers and projects turned in.  Post-graduation life is missing these breaks, perhaps when you most need them.  All your concerns that you had as a college student seem tiny when it comes to adult-type stuff.  The endless hoops of grades and papers and exams.  Their importance.

I guess the best advice: You will probably be nowhere near where you thought you'd be in 20 years.  But then you will probably be exactly where you should be.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

notes from the motherless wilds


When I was 6 or 7, I had the worst nightmare of my childhood, which is saying a lot as someone who was into horror movies from birth, which surely would surrender up plenty of bad dream fodder. Or so one would think. I once dreamed that Jason attacked me in the bathtub like he did the girl in the boat at the end of the first movie.  Later, dreamed that my grandmother, newly dead, came back as a zombie (this happened a couple times--her being the first relative I was old enough to really experience losing--of course she would come back as the undead.)  But neither of those was as earth-shaking as one in which my mother simply left us. I wouldn't say the dream had any sense of awareness that it was death, but just going, and we could not follow.  She had gone over the picket fence behind the garage, and not into the neighbors yard, but an enormous field filled with daisies.  Me and my sister only knew we could not follow, but not really why or how or what was happening.  I woke up crying, and every night thereafter for what seems like forever, would lie in bed before sleep telling my brain or god or the sandman not to let me dream about that again. Ever.  I didn't and eventually I just filed it away as a childhood funny stories, though I don't think I ever revealed it to my mother.  Later, I put in a poem or two.

Many years later, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, the surgery from which she emerged only with a long wicked scar across her abdomen, but no need for further treatment.  She said afterwards that her greatest fear was that she would die and leave me and my sister, (I was 13, she was 9) without a mother. I was worried most on the specter of navigating my teen years without her--even though a couple years later, we fought like cats and dogs. I grew into an adult who had a pretty good relationship with my mom, though there was much I kept from her in regard to my own life, just to keep stability and privacy. In my mid-20's, I told her that if she needed to know something, she would. And so it went for the next couple decades.

On the plus side, I've since finished a book, feed, which is mostly about mothers and daughters and body image issues, but also about mothering as a creative endeavor, which I, as a child-free woman think about often.  The work as offspring.  (unlike many other people, I'm less inclined to think of pets as children, the cats mostly just obnoxious/endearing roommates who expect me to feed and clean up after them.)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

the fool's journey




Last year, I was invited to contribute art to Jane Flett's amazing FOOL's JOURNEY book.  Today, I received the beautiful results in the mail and they are even prettier than I imagined. It features work from over a dozen artists accompanying Flett's amazing poems.   The card was inspired by Rider-Waite tarot decks and the poem that sits opposite inside the book "The Grinning."






Friday, May 10, 2019

botanical geekery


As I've mentioned previously, I am madly in love with floral tattoos, despite not, you know, actually having any tattoo whatsoever.  For the past couple years, after trying out some temporary designs, I've been aiming to tale the plunge and get a floral, specifically a peony design, on my inside shoulder or on my forearm.  I waffled back and forth and also over whether I wanted a black & white line at look or color.  Of course, I had in no way enough spare funds to spend on it, so recently, due to be a very good good girl when it comes to avoiding takeout and delivery and switching to a cheaper wifi provider, I had a little extra change and decided that would be my birthday gift to myself.  As I got closer, I kind of started to freak out--minimally about the pain & the permanence, but more about the anxiety of having to sit still long enough to get it.   Because I didn't want to enter year 45 stressed out over something entirely optional,  I decided to table the idea for the time being.  I subsequently gifted myself both a set of ikea flat-file drawers for the studio I'd been coveting and a Cricut machine with the money I'd been saving as such---both excellent alternatives and more useful than ink on skin.

I also, since I actually DO want a tattoo, but maybe just not to, you know, have to  GET a tattoo, decided to buy some cute temporaries to tide me over until I'm of sounder mind about it. I really digging how gorgeous they are and the variation of the flowers--peonies, roses, poppies, and the most gorgeous hibiscus flowers at the moment, even if they are usually gone in a couple days.   More like jewelry I suppose than actual tattoos.   I'm also intrigued by the possibility of making my own designs (for me and maybe to sell in the shop.)  Apparently, all I may need is tattoo paper and an ink jet printer, so we'll experiment with that at some point.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

another semester...



I am drowning in ILL returns and trying to just make it through til Friday, but we did it! Another semester on the books.  Another year, even.  I've been feeling the crunch of understaffing and overworking this semester more than last,  but we still managed to pull of some really cool things--including our Strange Fevers programming that went off very well and resulted in an amazing exhibit that will still be up through the end of May. In between there were zine nights, workshops devoted to all sorts of paper goodness (printmaking, bookwrecking, and paper flowers)  and a great panel that featured people doing all sorts of awesome things with presses from the ground up (and who all happen to be CCC alumni and dgp authors to boot.)

Tomorrow I'll be hanging some of the work that this years Book to Art endeavors (based on War of the Worlds)  has generated for Friday's manifest celebration, as well as setting up a zine table to get some more contributions for our final project, which, if all goes well, will be reading in time for next week's Chicago Zine Fest.   Summer, after that, will be a little slower and we'll begin planning for fall. We're thinking of bringing back our Tiki Madness exhibition to fill the walls til fall, which should be fun and has me hatching some collage related plans. Rumor has it, the Fall's focus topic will be devoted to women serial killers and true crime.   I haven't yet decided on the Book to Art selection, or whether it will be related to that topic at all,  but may choose Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, just so our final project can be a really creepy, fucked up dollhouse installation.    The library programming committee is also on the hunt for next falls' Artist in Residence, which we'll be selecting over the summer.

Watch for more updates on developments during the summer...


Tuesday, May 07, 2019

curvy girl fashion | appropriate flounce





Somehow I blinked and fluted sleeves came back into style.  Granted, I am not always a fan..I'm one of those people who usually ends up bunching everything, even cardigans,  up around my elbows to keep my forearms free when I'm writing or typing.  So much so, I actually seek out 3/4 sleeves on the regular for everything.  Fluted sleeves are usually ungainly and totally in the way if you're actually attempting to do..well..pretty much anything but flounce about.  While my taste tends toward more 30's & 40's silhouettes in general, these evoke a much older romantic and, therefore, are highly tempting.

About 15-17 or so years ago. maybe earlier, fashion was hit hard by the flounce.  I remember a variety of impractical sleeves I insisted on wearing when options were more limited and eventually, when the trend had died, cast them out.   I did managed to find a couple of options that had little ruffle sleeves at the elbow that were small, but pretty,  and for awhile these were my favorites--one was a purple lace that ended up getting ripped, but I still have a chiffon number that's brown with tiny blue flowers that I still occasionally wear (the pattern is modern enough that it doesn't look like it hailed from 2002.) I always feel very old school romantic marie antoinette-like in these sleeves, and was super excited to note that apparently they have been back without me noticing.  In some cases, even the newer options are a bit too much in the flounce department, but it's nice to see a lot of elbow length versions that stay out of the way...

for some more options, go to my pinterest board..


Monday, May 06, 2019

cover love : the fever almanac



As you know, one of my very favorite things about running dgp is imagining cover designs.   While I don't design everything, I love trying to find the perfect visual manifestation for the words inside.  It's something I think about a lot in regard to my own work, and one reason I love making zines and artist books, as well as working with great presses that allow my hands in the design process even just a little.  While the majority of my books lean heavily toward my own pieces of art, a few others came from elsewhere. most noteably my very first book, which seemed, in fact, one of the hardest things to imagine visually.  It was the hardest book to compile and the hardest to see as a cohesive whole, let alone what I wanted it to look like.

So much of my recent work has a visual component that can, at least, point us in a direction. the fever almanac, however,  was composed of work written between 2001-2004, mostly before I even began to venture into working visually.   I had, however, issued a couple of chapbooks on my own, that featured the work of Canadian photographer Alaina Burri Stone, whose work I had discovered via several appearances in Stirring. I had asked to use the cover photos for both my chaps Bloody Mary and belladonna, as well as for the covers of two wicked alice print annuals I'd issued and an early chapbook in the dgp lineup (and a couple others later on.)

Alaina's work in general definitely paired well with a certain rural gothic feel I thought was perfect for those poems in the smaller volumes.  This photo in particular appealed because of it's haunting vintage vibe--its colors, its textures.  Also its mystery-- a certain hint at violence.   And those shoes(!) which seemed to be the exact sort of shoes the characters in many of the poems, particularly the mid-section, would be wearing..the women whose

                                        "dresses rot on the hangers, 
                                         linger with Shalimar, truck stops." ("slice")

The designer for the book did a bang up job of the text placement, as well as the red letters on "fever" which I really liked the look of. While the book is sadly out of print after the  press went out of business, I do still have a few copies on hand and for sale in the shop (or you can also read the entirety for free online.)




Saturday, May 04, 2019

20 year itch


With my birthday last week, I find myself thinking often of that spring 20 years ago. The momentum I had accrued the when it came to writing around the time I turned 25.  How I felt so immersed in what I was doing--that first book mss I was assembling, my first real success of publication. I was also studying for my MA comp exams and freaking out over finding a job, which I wouldn't successfully do until that September, but more importantly, I remember the poems I was writing in that last stretch.  They were informed by other things I was reading for the exams--Rita Dove's Thomas & Beulah, Jean Rhy's Wide Sargasso Sea. I had, that fall before, had my TS Eliot inspired moment of epiphany.  I had also started checking out books of contemporary women poets from the DePaul library--Louise Gluck, Jorie Graham, Carolyn Forche.

When you look back over your choices at various points, I always think of that spring, and wonder if maybe I should have stayed in the city.  It would have been nearly impossible financially, and the job I would get later in Rockford would lead me back here and into the job I still have now, but ultimately I wonder if things would be different had I stayed in that tiny studio in Lincoln Park another year and tried to make do.   In that first year after finishing grad school, I can't say I wrote that much, certainly not at the pace I had been writing.  I moved into an apartment in Rockford, then a few months later, back into my parent's house.  I started a few jobs--telemarketing ad space in a movie publication, production assistant at a small local paper--all of which were horrible and that  I quit rather swiftly and unceremoniously.  I do remember writing some fiction that year, mostly in the hope that, unlike poetry, I might earn some money from it.  Somewhere, in my apartment are about a half dozen spiral notebooks full of stories I keep thinking I should pull out for laughs.  My time working in the elementary school library was stressful and hectic and tiring in a way day jobs should never be, but I did have some summer-time freedom for writing and reading after that first year.

When I moved back to Chicago in late 2000--it took me a few months to get my bearings and get back to the work of writing and submitting on the regular, and maybe the break of the previous year or so fed what came after.  The quiet before the building of a storm.  I discovered online journals and started my very own.  Began to assemble the chapbook that became The Archaeologist's Daughter.    Those first couple years, I was starting to write regularly again--much of the work I consider the first things I don't cringe at were written then  In 2003,  fall I would enroll in the MFA program at Columbia  and finish the very first draft of what would become the fever almanac.  Within a year, I would start the press and begin working in collage & installation. I would win a decently lucrative local poetry award from the Poetry Center and start doing readings on the regular.  Publishing in places I'd only dreamed of.  Would write more projects and keep going.

It all has it roots though in that spring 20 years ago, though, so I'm especially pensive about that period these days, particularly as I round out an unusually  productive year of writing and look forward to my next book (those both forthcoming in publication and those ready to be sent out into the world to begin their voyages.)  As I imagine my 25 year old self and how clueless and hopeful she was and how tenuously she sought to balance the need for making a living and also being able to make art.  And how, even as difficult as it sometimes seems even today, it actually all turned out phenomenally well for her.  Even when it never seemed like this whole writing thing would all amount to very much at all.

Friday, May 03, 2019

poet pep talk # 786




I've been laughing all day at my own insecurities.  Sometimes I feel like my work is really good and am buoyed by a certain level of confidence in it when it goes well--the work or its readership. Whenever a door closes (a rejection for example, or a missed opportunity) I stumble a little, or even lately, not rejection per se but the feeling that no one seems to be reading or engaged or paying attention.   I think it partially has to do with social media and the endorphins of likes and hearts and how some places, like facebook seems to be occupied with crickets the past year or so.  And it's dumb, especially since I obviously used to write in the pre-internet and pre-social media vaccuum and never felt alone or ignored and unread. And it's hard when these insecurities bump up against other factors, other measures of "success" I don't even necessarily believe in--contests, fellowships, publication in fancier, wide-readership publications.  I don't pursue these. mind you, but I know enough that some of them would be like chasing windmills.

Today I clicked on a random link to a recent poem in a fancier journal (someone liked it, I'm not sure why) and reading through was kind of embarassed for the journal for publishing it.  (and kinda for the dude for writing it.) It committed the cardinal sin in my poetry church--the breaking of sentences into lines with no real "poetry" quality about it except it looked like one on the page.  Also, it was boring, and in places abstract and cliched. The venue in question misses the mark quite a bit, but this was supposed to be one of the poetry world darlings, someone who people hold up as an idol (not me, but other people).  I started laughing and literally could not stop for about 5 minutes.

I realized for every time I think to myself, question myself, that I do not know what I'm doing..my own work, even at it's very throwaway worst was far better than this sampling.  That yes, maybe I totally DO know what I'm doing and am doing it pretty damn well.  And in fact all of us--poet friends, dgp authors, the mss. I help out with --ALL of us are doing so much better than this fancy poet with our work.  If this came across my desk as an editor it would be an immediate "no" not even a "maybe."  I've met poets who have been writing for a year or less who are considerably stronger than this.  Don't worry, we got this.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

beauty and the beaded bag


When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was close myself in small spaces--blanket forts, closet forts.  Probably up til junior high, I would clear the floor of my bedroom closet and set up residence in there until the clutter took over again or I got bored with it, whichever came first. I also liked to spend time in my mom's closet. amidst all her clothes, which I'd borrow shamelessly and occasionally on the sly.  I took a liking to wearing her oversized shirts, pure 80's style with leggings tied over a tank top at the waist.   One of my favorite discoveries in her closet was her wedding purse. By then, handling it had made it unravely and the beads were falling out.. The handle was busted already. I'm guessing it was considerably vintage even by the early seventies.  The inside was a stained satin lining that smelled like lipstick and perfume, as so many vintage bags do. I was obsessed with it, and she'd let me play with it in the house, but I wasn't allowed to take it out--it was too sentimental, too fragile. Too pristinely white.  I have no idea where it ended up eventually.  She might have given it to me, but by then it was unusable, falling apart. and she probably threw it out.

It's one of the vintage objects I later became enamored of, the finely beaded purses...mostly from the 50s & 60s  Not necessarily all white, but usually with colored embroidery. I love the heft of them, their little clasps. The cool satin lining inside.  Somehow, they feel extra luxe and  exquisite. Granted, while I have nearly 30 bags, I use them only on the rare occasions where I actually need a purse (mostly I carry a large leather tote or messenger bag to and fro from work/studio and home. )  I only bring out the purses for date nights or special outings---and get weirdly excited about taking the purses out on the town beforehand (a couple weeks ago this one got to go to dinner and a movie).    As such, the leather and embroidered bags get some use, but the pretty little beaded ones, not so much (these would require much fancier destinations I feel--weddings or swanky ballroom antics.  But I have a few--the one above which is sort of fragile itself, a similar one with green flowers that's new, and this lovely, which is super tiny and not useful for carrying much. (which I suppose works only in the fanciest vintage lady scenarios where you's only need like lipstick and your keys..and not a bunch of books and a ton of art supplies like I usually carry back and forth from home on the regular.)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

design obsession | vintage wallpaper



Whenever I am on the lookout for interesting patterns, one of my go-tos is old wallpaper samples--the 60's and 70's are particularly ripe with florals, but older can work too if you're looking for subdued patterns, colors, and textures. Some I lift from the internet, but I also have a collection in the studio that I have scanned and used for projects, as well as to make the cutest little notepads a few years ago.  One of the first lit mags I ever appeared in , Poetry Motel, was the coolest journal bound in old wallpaper scraps and I've been obsessed with binding things in it ever since and may just use it as a binding for a future artist book project.. 



I also tend to use them a lot in my own designs, either the physical scraps or the patterns electronically.  Especially in something like taurus, where the house (the labyrinth)  itself, plays such a big role in the poems, and in exquisite damage, when I'm searching for a  visual that reflects the feeling claustrophobic sort of suburbaness.  Though, just as often, I'll catch site of something and use it merely becuase it's pretty...it varies. 


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

the science of impossible objects




I've been working to put up some of the work that is out of print or low on available copies up on the website to read totally free of charge and at the click of a link.  More chap & zine projects will be appearing over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for those.  First up, THE SCIENCE OF IMPOSSIBLE OBJECTS, released last fall...



dear imaginary daughter


It’s so very American of you to blame your father. To blame the forest for the tree. The roots for their slow decay.  You empty your mouth like a box of toys.  Nothing there, and then everything. Filled with moonlight and knives.  So very precise of you to make a game of it. So Midwestern. You get that from me, my obscene love of algorithms and ghosts. You say the world is always sloping toward you, or worse, sloping away. In the grass, you lay out your tools.  Take your typewriter in the bathtub. Oversleep and burn your eggs daily.  There’s a photo of you in the middle of someone's backyard birthday party, antlers perched atop your head. The Barbie cake was so big it swallowed us all.




Enjoy!

______________________________________________

for some more info on this project, read this entry from last October...

writing & art bits | april edition




*Some text & collages from the exquisite damage series appear in the most recent issue of  Radar Poetry, There are some more fragments forthcoming in elsewhere soon, as well as in a past issue of ethel. The project is sort of the center piece of my dark country manuscript, so I'm happy all of the pieces are slowly filtering out there..it's more lyric essay than poems in most places, so it's also some newer territory for me.

*the terrible place (see above), which is the visual portion of exquisite damage,  is progressing along nicely and I should have it wrapped up by mid-summer.

*I'm planning on hosting an open studio in June (the 14th), the first in at least a couple years.  I have about a month and a half to prepare and restock a whole bunch of things, as well as make the studio presentable, but it needs to be done and summer is the best time to make it happen.  I also, over the weekend, procured myself one of these little lovelies which means all sorts of iron-on-vinyl fun to come...

*As of yesterday, I am running 2/6 on the 100 rejections effort, which is not bad odds wise (from either side of the coin), but am puzzled over some of the nays, which seem like the strongest work I'm putting out there, but are catching the most disinterest. *sigh*

* The artist statement pieces are starting to stack up and gain momentum. Despite my napowrimo plans going south, I did finish out the HH Holme's project this month and make a sizeable dent in that, so I suppose it's something to show for a pretty busy April.

* early plans are underway for the physical manifestation of the strangerie project, which will most likely be a series of postcards, basically cabinet cards with poem, or maybe something like a divination deck of some sort.

Monday, April 29, 2019

open studio, june 14th!!!



I will be hosting a couple of open studio events this summer, the first of which is Friday, June 14th, 6-9pm.  I will have books and paper goods, including some new prints and originals (and if all goes well totebags!)  

nature prints



One of my favorite printmaking adventures is making nature prints--which means at any given time, there is likely a pile of dead flowers somewhere in my apartment waiting to be inked up. Somewhere, there's a sweet spot between freshly dead and too dry that they fall apart, and I've had some success / some failure in seeking that out.  If they are too crumbly, I can still get them to work for some monotypes sometimes if not actual prints involving whole stems.  I've been slowly working the past couple of years on a series of nature-inspired monotypes called night bloom, as well as an assortment of prints using flowers.

There are a number of techniques, which can vary depending on heartiness of the plant samples and the type of paper.  Some are more traditional relief prints on printmaking paper, while others use the flowers more like a stamp between two sheets of paper. (I like a nice watercolor stock for these.) I'm hoping to get a chance to do another workshop with these in the fall in the library, so keep an eye out for details.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

spinster wish



A month or so ago, I finally finished Kate Bolick's Spinster:  Making a Life of One's Own , which details the author's pursuit of a single, defined identity as well as explores the idea through the lives of famous (or less famous) literary women who devoted their lives to what Bolick calls "spinster wish"--the idea that marriage and cohabitation takes away the autonomy of the creative self, which as women, we are meant to sacrifice in the name of relationships, of love, of children.  While I am an unabashed spinster, I wasn't quite able to draw the complete  conclusion that such spinsterhood was necessarily crucial to one's pursuit as a writer (or in Bolick's case also editorial work.) Obviously. many writers/editors have happy marriages, families, and somehow balance all the things in a way I don't think I'd be able to successfully.

But it is intriguing, looking at women like Charlotte Perkins Gilman or Edna St. Vincent Millay, who for their time, were living sort of revolutionarily single at least for parts of their live  Of course, one would suspect that feminism, in the century or so since, would have different ideas about a woman's ability to live alone, but while it's maybe more possible, it's still, societally, a strange thing (though single woman households, even with children, make up a large percentage of the population.)  I too have watched as everyone around me paired up, married (and then, with a few exceptions) unceremoniously uncoupled. For years, I was often the only singleton at the party (though now everyone seems newly single after divorce.) I am a rarity in that I never married, never had children, and though at least the latter is pretty much off the table biologically, or will be, I feel it's less surprising to people once you've hit the 40's.  There is much less, oh you'll find someone.   I've been a little more out with my solo poly tendencies, which may explain some of it, and people still confuse me being in a relationship at all with being in an escalator one by default.

There is something to be said for being the marshall of one's own existence--a life more of one's own devising.  A friend was recently talking about her tendency, in past relationships, to give too much of her self to the detriment of her creative and mental health.  I am pretty good at compartmentalizing and my love life, even at it's most dramatic, was always fuel for art, so maybe it's a bit different, but emotional bandwidth is a tricky thing.   A little too much drama, too much skewed thinking, and it can throw you off balance

She also considers the downside of living alone-- the instability that one feels when their livelihood is entirely their own making--with no backup or support system (which of course, I guess is something you need to build as infrastructure in the absence of a domestic partner....friends, family..)  The burdens of shouldering everything yourself, which, for me, i suppose is outweighed by the freedom.  I've lived alone most of my life, barring the years I lived with parents, and briefly with my sister here in the city. But even then, another person can be a distraction, even a fun one, which can make you less productive than you'd like.  I used to force myself to work in a cafe when I was working on my first book, the fever almanac, because when I was home, we would just watch dvd's and laugh a lot.  Another person in your environment makes it harder to focus.

I'm not sure love or romance are necessarily at odds with the spinster wish, but definitely complicate what one is willing to sacrifice for these things.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

places and spaces (pt. 1)

Sometimes, it's hard to determine where I do my best work.  There's home, where much of the creative plotting and dreaming happens in places like the shower and the bed.  There's my daily bus ride, where I come up with a lot of ideas for all sorts of projects (and also where I get the bulk of my daily reading done--obviously related).  Weirdly, I sometimes have amazing ideas walking down Michigan or waiting for my coffee on my way to the studio.  I do however, have several intentional workspaces where any number of different things happen and I've been musing over the right conditions under which things bloom and are constructed.


Today, which is another gloomy, and (yes) snowy spring day, I am here (see above), which is usually where most weekends find me unless I'm sleeping, chilling on the couch, or working on projects that are painty or inky or need space (which happens on the big table in the dining roomc (aka the alice table) or the work table in there. .).  I have a laptop, but unless I'm using it to watch movies in the bedroom, it will be found on this desk.  While most of my daily writing is happening in the studio lately waiting for printing jobs, here is where the fine-tuning & editing happens.  Also where I write most of the blog content.   It's actually less of a desk and more of a vanity table I purloined from my mother.   It has arms rests and a secret little drawer in the front. She got it second hand from a co-worker when I was in high school, and for awhile it held the cage of a cockatiel we once owned, but  even then, I had my eyes on it for future thievery.   It was one of the only things I moved into my first apartment as my desk, and then this one, where it initially was my nightstand. (later, when I was having wi-fi issues I moved it to the current location to allow my laptop a direct hookup and it just stayed there. )

I appreciate it's relative smallness, which keeps me from hoarding things on it . (I used to work at the dining room table, but it would get covered in books & art supllies eventually to the detriment of actually, ya know, eating at it.) The little dresser next to it houses anything I need to store away and gives a little extra room, mostly for cats (though Moxie has firmly planted herself on the desk/my left arm while I'm typing at the moment)  The cabinet is one of two (the larger holds my tv.) lovely mid-century avocado green pieces procured from Goodwill when i first moved in.  That one holds the record player and underneath, a collection of cds I no longer really use as well as things lke photo albums and scrapbooks.  While my tall poetry shelves are across the room, those bookshelves are the fiction ones and sort of a catch-all for randoms or things I like to consult occasionally as well as a handful of records (my collection is small--I've only had the player a couple years, but it's mostly bossa nova and some Patsy Cline.) I am a mad fan of vintage office chairs and this is one of my favorites and probably the one in my apartment in the best condition.



Smaller touches are my big french cat poster, my mini-camera collection, right now, a stack of poems on the green cabinet since I've been working on parceling some things together.   Weekends like this usually find me planted most of the day here. If it requires less concentration, I can turn my television in this direction and watch Netflix while I work.  Right now, my space heater is humming away about two feet away as it has been the entire winter and seems doomed to sometimes for eternity.

Today, I am working on revisions for the "artist statement" pieces before I start sending them out in submission and maybe writing some more posts for this week's blogging endeavors.  I'm making headway on the library memoir-ish project and will be sharing more of that as I go.  With feed out of the house and in submission, I've been idly looking at that next configuration of a book and seeing what it might need before it's complete. (dark country is the book that will bring together the more narrative projects like taurus, the slender man poems, exquisite damage, and the older series, beautiful, sinister. )  It needs a couple more things to be complete, though, but I'd like to have all the ducks in a row by fall.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

45




Contrary to my earlier plans this week to finally get that tattoo on birthday (the peony on my inside shoulder) I bailed and instead am spending the day sleeping late and cleaning my apartment from top to bottom, which may not sound like birthday fun, but you can only dodge tiny tufts of cat hair (April is prime molting season for the two mainecoons) so long before madness sets in  ...Last night, I also spent a bit of the tattoo money on this set of ikea drawers for the studio, which may make me happier than the tattoo in the long run.   It's not completely off the table, but it is at least off the table for the time being. Instead, I will continue to make my fun with temporary tattoos on occasion, which don't require permanence and sitting in one place for several hours while someone stabs you with needles.   (all of which was making me way too anxious to start this particular year of my life..)

ll I do know is that this birthday is far less traumatizing than turning 25, at which point my life was about to be thrown into complete upheaval after grad school, and is probably better than turning 35, of which  I remember nothing of particular note at all (though according to the blog, it was a rainy day at the CPL Poetry Fest).   When I was 15, I did get my very first diary, so thirty years ago, you have the grandparent of this very blog, which was more about cats and boys and how much I fought with my mother than anything I write today. I do find myself I suppose firmly ensconced in that thing they call "middle age" at long last, no getting past it, but hopefully I endured my mini-crises a couple months back and have emerged victorious. If anything it was less about getting older and more about having more to lose and less to look forward to--more death and loss and less good things.  But you make the good things, I suppose. And hopefully they outweigh the bad even until the end...

So my good things today are not having to work at the library, some good coffee, a clean apartment, some new flat file-size drawers, maybe some chinese food for dinner.  Tomorrow, a whole day in the studio finishing up all sorts of things and  then a weekend entirely free in a blissfully clean (ish)  apartment.  And,while still a little chilly outside, the  leaves are slowly coming in on the trees and the magnolias just about to bloom...

Monday, April 22, 2019

libraries I have loved



It began with orange carpet. Only the 70's could have produced such a shade. There were miles and miles of it in my elementary school from K-4th Grade. While other wings of Love Park Elementary boasted more old-school brick architecture spanning back to the early parts of the century, the library, or "learning center"  was located in a newer addition cursed by not only the miles of orange, but the open-plan concept that meant no walls between classrooms., only rude assortments of cabinets and bookshelves delineating each "room".  It made for easy distractions, but also great theater.  The teacher next door to my 4th grade class was notorious for yelling louder as the week wore on.   

The learning center, however,  was supposed to be quiet.  Children passing through the annex were quickly hushed into silence.   The classrooms formed a border around a sunken area in the middle.  Each week, for "library time" we would line up to sit on the orange stairs and politely wait for our instructions.  First it was to choose one book, then in upper grades two.  I can still feel the scratch of that carpet on bare legs as I fidgeted--anxious to get to the books. Later, I would work in a library that was very similarly arranged, and realized what a horrible placement of resources.  Yes, it was the centered and prominent, but it was hardly a good place for concentration with no walls and the distractions of students filing through to get to the lunch room in another wing. That library, too, would be a similar orange even 20 odd years later, with a similar in the round set up and no real walls. 

The books were the usual fare--picture books for the youngest. Longer books with chapters and non-fiction for the oldest. My favorites, which I sought out early on, were a collection of glossy paged Peter Rabbit books that had their own box set.  I would like to say these books and their contents informed my young readers mind, but I'd be fibbing just a little.  What I remember of their stories is a vague collection of talking animals and some sort of lesson to be learned, but moreso it was the physicality of the books themselves that drew me to the shelf week after week. They felt old, and most likely were, even then--bound in book cloth that varied from green to aqua to grey.  The pages had a sheen to them that was enormously satisfying. I liked the way they lined up neatly on the shelf, uniform in size and in color scheme.   I liked to rub them between my fingers and feel the slightly raised illustrations. The way the text itself, too, was pitch black and slightly raised if you pressed hard enough. They felt old and solid in a way that the orange carpeted floor around me did not.  Classic.


_______



I grew up in a house that had many books.  But at the same time, as a child, held only a very few that interested me in particular. My dad was a voracious reader--rifle and golf magazines, newspapers, books on birding and the old west.  Stacks of National Geographic.   I remember my own first book in the weird way you remember the years before the consciousness cements--a black and white checked sizeable volume of Mother Goose Tales that was most likely a gift.  In my memory, I carried it around a lot even before I learned to read it, but I remember the illustrations told much of the stories even without the words. I also remember a few scattered Little Golden Books that fell prey to a lot of crayon marks.  Mother Goose, too, surely met a similar fate, her binding cracking and littered with marks. No doubt sticky with jam and chocolate, since I loved, even then, to eat and read at the same time. My favorite stories within are hard to recall from this distance, but I remember a fascination with the The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. With Little Miss Muffet and her fateful tuffet. The cow that ran away with the spoon. 

My father's books were housed in a single tall book case--a strange dark not-quite-wood that again, only the 70's could have created. I spent a lot of time arranging and rearranging his volumes, and since this was obviously where the books should go, shelving my own few titles amongst them.--Mother Goose and the growing collection of battered Little Goldens, many procured by my mother at garage sales once she realized I was going to be a reader. It felt so very adult, to place the books on the shelf instead of toy box where everything else of childhood lived. Even though they were in increasingly poor shape. Like they were the most exquisite of dolls. 

curvy girl fashion | bowl of cherries


A few years back, I bought the dress above, and while it was really nice in terms of fabric, it definitely became one of those NSFW items, where the top just felt a little too revealing and the skirt a little too short.  I have since acquired a number of dresses in the cherry pattern and they are one of summertime staples I'm anxious to pull out in a month or so. (including this one and this one.)  I also have the cutest embroidered cherry vintage purse that I adore.  I was complaining to a friend about how so often the cherry pattered stuff is a little too low cut or a little too short, and she said, well, duh, it's a little slutty and pinup-y and maybe she's right, but it's one of more favorite patterns for warm weather clothes.  (I also have a strawberry eshakti dress I love..and have been eyeing some cute flouncy lemon patterned dresses the past couple years, so bring on the summertime fruits. )

(Get a look at some more cherry-licious things on my pinterest board.)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

napowrimo fail



The past week, admittedly, got a little hectic.  For one, I was finishing off and shipping out several large orders of chapbooks and back orders, that made my studio time even more valuable, which meant while I was there, I needed every second for assembly and none for poeming.  In the library, last weekend was busy with the colloquium (Saturday) and subsequent mental recovery (Sunday) and it spun into a week with the paper flower workshop and public domainia marathon, and in general, just a lot of boring ILL business that needs immediate attention.  I was tired when I got home, heck, sometimes when I got up, and the week escaped me and aside from monday, The creative bandwidth just wasn't there. I wrote not a single piece.  I did manage to submit some HH. Holmes poems near the end of the week, and published some pieces in the new issue of Radar. But that was about it.

Yesterday, I was musing that I could, in fact, write a bunch and catch up, but then decided there was really no need. I did take great pride in finishing it out last year, and granted the routines I set led to a whole bunch of work generated throughout the rest of the year. But I realize that daily writing is something I know I can still do even when I'm not, at least now, and unlike other years when I failed, it's totally okay.   I'll pick back up again on Monday.  Or Tuesday.  Or eventually.  Admittedly, barring last year's 30, even making it to 15 was a success (I usually lose it about 10).


Saturday, April 20, 2019

zombie jesus day



When I was 8, I still believed in a lot of things, including the fact that a giant rabbit hauling loads of chocolate could somehow slip into my room, past my very awake parents, and leave me an Easter basket.  Granted, I got some cool shit. Always one non-candy thing--roller skates, a sticker book, and when I was 11, a shiny new ten speed.   We were never even remotely religious, but every Easter morning, we'd wake up to find baskets full of treats and commence on our usual ride, after a stop at McDonalds for breakfast, out to the golf coarse in nearby Rockton (I don't know exactly why--only that it was a manageble drive for Sunday morning and my dad was probably scoping out tee-times. )    We did it enough times that I associate the holiday with the tradition, though there were surely variations--the year my bunny melted in the car as we were helping to clean out my step-grandfather's house after his death. The 2-3 years I was weirdly sick (even before touching the candy at all).  Usually, the afternoon would be spent at my aunts and the extended family--complete with ham (not my favorite)  and even more chocolate--first divvied into baskets, then later just in bowls to fill our own bags.

Over the years, Easter was never something I aimed to get home for (see the above mention of ham, I'd never had missed my aunt's 4th of July's chicken & potato salad festivities.)  Up to the very, very end, mom still made us baskets.  Every year.  And the years I wasn't home, she either saved mine to bring in to me, or sent me money to make my own.  She even made them for a friend who was visiting with me.  Over the years, they were much less grand (and heck as a teen, she sometimes let us pick out the candy we wanted ourselves.) But the endeavor would be good for some Reeses eggs and other assorted holiday goods (including Peeps that always seem like a good idea until you actually eat one.) My childhood faves included those liquid wax bottles and the candy buttons you ate off the paper.  And Cadbury eggs, especially the Caramel variety.

Even last year, where I missed the holiday entirely, my dad later handed over a bunch of candy and said it was my belated Easter haul.  I still tend to think of the actual holiday as super maudlin in nature..but the traditions are the things that matter--especially when all of the holidays are secular and family based.  If anything, I can appreciate the pagan celebration of spring, this year, since it's so late, everything is coming into bloom--the magnolias by the bus stop, the tulips on Michigan Ave.   Though it snowed heavily just a week ago, you would never even know it. This year, I'll be in the city, but I might just grab myself a bag of Cadbury eggs...

Friday, April 19, 2019

confessions of a book whisperer




I've been lucky enough that the handful of manuscript critiques I've taken on have been pretty damn awesome manuscripts or loose material even before I laid a hand on them (and hopefully continued to be awesome after I put my fingers in them..lol..) But I was thinking today about what I am reading for, looking for,  in any given project on that first pass through. What threads you can kind of catch and pull on that will unravel and then thread together in the end.

An in truth, every manuscript is different.  I've been working right now with a past dgp author now who has various strings of poems in different thematic veins that we are attempting to parse a book out of--identifying things that hang together well. Other critiques were for books that were almost fully formed and just needed a second perspective and someone to spot some new strategies for organization, or even to help them articulate why they were making the decisions they were. To do things more intentionally than they may have before.

I've never been a fan of workshops for all sorts of reasons--not really for individual poems--not really for line edits and a thousand different possible roads you could take with a stanza or line, but working more intensely on mansucripts feels different somehow. More whole.  The poems exist as they exist--and now, what do we do with them.  Almost like clay--the ability to move them around and build different sorts of structures--THAT I love.  I love the first reading, which I always feel is a little like a divination, what is this manuscript, these poems, saying and how can we get their message to be even clearer. Then a sussing out of themes and possible structures. Where to go from there--poems that are needed, poems that can be shed. I like to think of it sort of as being a book whisperer...

When I was putting together the fever almanac, I had no idea what I was doing and could have used someone to do something similar.  And I guess I did eventually figure it out, much in the same process I do for other authors.. And maybe it's a testament to that process that, when it comes to my own projects now,  I kind of do it now before the fact--the subsequent manuscripts are more clearly focused at the time things begin to constellate--my smaller series falling into line with others they have thematic or subject matter ties.  sex & violence become a full book after I finished the love poems and thought they echoed things in dirty blonde and honey machine that might be worth the time of polishing.  feed was a manuscript at the point I had finished the hunger place and plump. The only exception may have been girl show, which actually had many people's suggestions along the way on structures and sections  (it was my MFA thesis.)  Maybe some re-ordering during the editing process of sections with Sundress' help on major characters in minor films. 

I wouldn't say the books write themselves exactly, but they emerge much more fully functional than they did initially.  Sort of like ikea furniture that isn't exactly in pieces all over your living room, but more just need some bolts tightened and the casters put on.

(I do still have at least one opening for consultations in the summer if you'd like to work with me... check here for details)