Tuesday, November 12, 2019

dgp notes | november edition

I have been settling back into press duties after the upheaval, and despite occasionally not being able to find things--tape, the staples, covers for books in progress--shuffled during the move, things are going well. I am working on the late summer orders that were waylaid during October and digging into September, all of which is much easier now that I simply have more time and can double task with regular life things.  Also, weekends are super helpful to be able to work for a few hours, take a break, and then come back to working. I am getting out author copies and making progress on a couple larger orders. 

I am also set to settle back in to reading manuscripts for next year, which I have fallen dreadfully behind on in the chaos. I'm hoping to have responses out by the holidays.   I have a burst of late 2019 books that will be coming as soon as I finish the layouts as well, and those will be in production throughout December and January. 

I am still battling printers, of which I am less than happy with the cover finishes, and am shopping for a good color laser with a smooth finish-I have my eye on a Canon ImageClass model that seems to be more what I'm looking for (the Brother is good for insides, but the color seems a little chalkier than I like.).  Meanwhile, I have a stock of the last covers printed on the Lexmark for the latest titles before I tossed it and the little Epson inkjet, which works for some things and has a scanner/copier if I need it. But I need the new probably within the next week as I run out.

I am also just happier to be working at a more efficient, but still more leisurely pace than my studio time used to allow. Now, if I can't finish something before I go to bed, it's easy to make time in the morning, and not lose a whole day until I can get back to it. So much progress was stalled by limited time, by stops and starts, and while it took me a long time to admit that I really had to do what I had to do, I am certain it was the best decision. The stranglehold of never having sufficient time in the workspace that I've felt for the last 12 years has eased a bit, and already I feel like I am the better for it. 

ordinary planet

As we begin thinking about next semester's A of R focus topic--dystopian societies from the margins--it seems fitting that this week's new digital version is my little Ordinary Planet series, which I describe as a mix of steampunkiness and victorian spiritualists..

Monday, November 11, 2019

insect dreams, ghost cantos

Earlier this year, I mentioned it was the 15th birthday of my first little chap Bloody Mary. Because new work was piling up like hotcakes in the fall of 2004, it is also the anniversary of another slim little self-issued volume called belladonna. At the time, I was still waiting on the publication of The Archaeologists Daughter, which wouldn't be out til the next year, but I was doing a lot of readings on the heels of winning a prize from the Poetry Center of Chicago and had burned through two printings of Bloody Mary.  It would be another year until the fever almanac was even accepted by Ghost Road, and another until it was published..   I decided, since I was getting into the full swing of chap printing as dgp issued its first two titles, that I'd release another small edition of more recent work to distribute at readings and such.

The poems inside are work written in the span of 2003-2004, a time in which I was just beginning my MFA studies--which means they are a little weird in their straddle of more lyrical work I was doing up til then, and a little more innovation I was beginning to attempt as I read a bit more widely for my coursework.  So some of it is a little rough.  Since I'm working on digitally making stuff available, I thought I might do that, but then realized there is very little in there of quality that did not wind up in the fever almanac, save a few random pieces, including the one below.  This is, in fact, one of the pieces that landed me the aforementioned prize, but I remembered my entire MFA workshop, including the teacher, hated it. It didn't really fit in with the first full-length book, and then, later, didn't really fit with the subsequent one either, so never quite made it anywhere else.  While the poems are sometimes a bot heavy handed and wrought, the cover features an image from Alaina Burr-Stone, who later provided cover artwork for the fever almanac.

They live on fire, the burning girls,
trade winds, broken fibula,
impossible symmetry.
Think exclusion: five disciplines, ordering,
my fingers raw, this curving away 
from stillness, how a body becomes
an apology, 
bend, bending.
She is only this dark
feed across canvas, a furthering, 
azaleas harbored, languid anklebone,
sudden water.
The daughters are heavy
as breath in darkened rooms,
the flutter, the flutter, the feud. 
A translation of insect dreams,
ghost cantos,
circadian crescendo.
Still they love the hunger
poems, compendium,
the difficult swimming.
In syllables, distortions,
night makes a landscape
ecstatic, a prayer.
Her wreckage is lineage.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

books seeking homes

I realized last week that I have not one, not two, but three full-length manuscripts currently in a completed or just shy of a completed state. feed is pretty submission ready, but the other two, dark country and animal, vegetable, monster need a little arranging and proofing for typos.  I am going to submit at least one to presses I've worked with before, but the other two, I'm not sure. Overwhelmingly, they show how productive I've been over the past two years, during which most of them were written.  And they have a span of topical concerns: feed  (body image, eating disorder, mothering in general)  dark country (suburban & midwest gothicism) animal, vegetable, monster (monstrosity and art-making).  They contain everything from my swallow series about body image to that strange minotaur series I wrote last summer.  From the hansel & gretel series to poems about 80's horror.  The oldest of the poems are the beautiful, sinister series began more than a decade ago and previously published as a stand-a-lone chapbook, the newest, the extinction poems, finished in early October.

My thoughts have been turning as to where to send the other two.  Presses with open periods? (there are not that many of them, but a couple I like.) Contests?  This will be more costly than I'd like and probably not produce results for awhile (if at all.)  I'd self publish if there was an urgency to get them out , but there isn't. Right now, with other things coming down the pipeline (sex & violence out next spring, many smaller chap, zine, and artist book projects) , it's not terribly urgent.  So I'll be mulling the next couple months what I might like to do with them after the new year.   There is actually a fourth, half-ish mss as well under works and still in that miasma of formation. I sometimes wonder if compiling full-length books is something I need to even do, since my work as writer is so tied up in the visual, and the smaller issues probably give a better idea of the work as it was initially intended. But I like the weightyness of a volume, how it almost feels like an encapsulation of various projects in a given span of time and theme. And perhaps reach in terms of working with publishers, getting in bookstores or libraries, the things that full-lengths make easier than if you are just doing little books on your own. And the poems can stand on their own without the visuals just fine, they are just an added bonus in their initial incarnation.

We shall see...

Thursday, November 07, 2019

lovely messes

Despite it's chill, so far November has been mild, and I feel the stranglehold of October loosening.  Yesterday, in my mailbox, copies of the latest issue of THE JOURNAL, which contains the entirety of the hunger palace.   There was a surrealness to the fact that it, a journal containing a lyric essay-ish project about my mother's death appeared exactly on the second anniversary of that event. I wasn't in the mood to read it, and had books to fold and laundry to assemble (or vice-versa) so I spent this morning reading through it.  It was heavily edited, tightened up to be ore essay-ish and less rando poetry-like, so this version is kinder to the reader, but less poetically scattershot than I generally prefer.  Less messy. It makes more linear sense, but I fear may lose something. I will probably, after the issue is older and forgotten make it available in a zine format, since there are illustrations that were made to accompany it initially. It's also a segment in the feed manuscript, which I am set to begin sending out at some point, since it is, for all purposes complete.

Earlier in the year, I decided to submit some of the more lyric-essay, CNF pieces to journals in that genre instead of poetry, and this is the first to land.  I've submitted short prose before, which can be looked at as either prose poems or short shorts, not something firmly under the umbrella of non-fiction, and it's weirder still to see my name accompanied by a new, different genre.   And truly, sort of like the exquisite damage poems, which jump back and forth between autobiography and fictionaliization, I am working more often in this in-between space these days.  Thus, a lot of messy, but sometimes some gems in the mess.

[ Edit:  I did just discover that they do put their content online, so you can read it online as well:
http://thejournalmag.org/archives/17340 ]

Sunday, November 03, 2019

notes & things | 11/3/2019

October is over, and while it seemed at times to be going to kill me in terms of stuff going on (library events, mounting exhibits,conferences, moving the studio) I made it out intact.  Friday, I got the big shelves back from storage and some of the book supplies. Trying to move an entire studio without a car, not easy, but the storage/delivery service is actually really effective (and far cheaper than movers.) I am mostly back in business, though my new Brother is not so hot on the cover printing--sort of drab and lackluster, and the colors not as deep, so I'm looking into maybe another inkjet, possibly another Epson.  (The Lexmark was a beauty, but ate toner like you wouldn't believe with no option for cheaper refurbished cartridges. It was a $100 printer, but cost $ 200 each time I needed to replace all the cartridges) While at first the Brother seemed slow on the interiors, it doesn't seem to jam at all  and is reasonable on toner, so it seems to be working.

My Halloween was fairly low-key--I did have a costume (a bird mask and a cool feathery cape.)  There was a little bit of candy, but otherwise, just working most of the day.  Later, we went to see the new Zombieland, and the theater (all the theaters) were empty and eerily quieter than I would have expected.  I am pumped to see Dr. Sleep this month, though, so we'll be making a return trip.

I already feel more relaxed, having everything I need to work at home.  Lately, I've been assembling books at night and then shipping them out in the morning. I also like being able to have the printer running while I do things like cook breakfast and clean the apartment. Also, just not having to run around quite so much in general, rushing from one place to another.  Already, I feel like things are speeding up in terms of the backlog, so if I owe you something, it will be coming your way.

Friday, November 01, 2019


I am still working on making digital versions of work available, especially for older, out of print releases, including this e-chap version of my 2011 chap, HAVOC. Most of the poems eventually wound up in segments of my major characters in minor films book, but this was how they appeared originally in one volume, most of it written either right around the time I was finishing my MFA or  in that weird, less productive period immediately after.  So much of these poems are drawn from a troubling bout of relationship drama around the time. (actually several concurrent dramas from around 2007-2011).  I was still trying to get my poetic mojo back after graduating and feeling like there were just too many fingers in my poems, but oh the things I had to write about! I kept myself busy with visual art and the Etsy shop, and the press, but occasionally poems were soaking through onto the page, and these are them.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

talking to the dead

As we near up on the second anniversary of my mother's death, I still feel a need to circle around it carefully.  To test the wind, the barometric pressure of the first couple week's of November, unsure of how I will fare.  The other day, I was discussing every mother's tendency to over worry about threats in any proximity to their child, ie, my own mother, whenever she heard that something happened in Chicago, would assume I was in some danger, even if it was literally the very opposite end of a pretty large urban area.  When I said the words "my mother used to.." the tenses seemed weird, and I have a general tendency to begin every story in presence tense, as if she were still alive. Or maybe it felt weird that it feels less weird as time goes on.Not that it gets less strange, less painful, only that maybe I avoid tripping in the hole of it better. 

And in fact, it always feels less than real here in my general daily life..as if I could easily pick up the phone and call her.  More real when I'm in Rockford, where the tangibility of her absence is something I've grown much more used to.  And yet, I find myself thinking of every good story in the way I would tell her.  Stupid things like stuff I saw on facebook, or things the cats did. What I bought, or movies I watched that she would like.   Saturday, I made her ghoulash recipe, as close as I could get it. But it's never exactly right, and I know, in years past, when I tried I would have to ask her next phone call how much of this or that.   I use too many tomatoes or not enough.  Too much pepper or not enough.

Or whether or not a memory or a story I remember actually happened the way I remember it.  Without a mother, you sometimes lose a good part of your own history if you haven't written it down somewhere. Mother's remember everything, even from the years before you remember anything.   Sometimes I picture scenes from that period, before I was 4 or 5, and they are not so much memories as they are her stories that I visualized in my mind as memories.

And what of now, when sometimes the only person a given story or experience is good for would be her ears.  Who do you tell it to, and if you never tell it, is it lost forever?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

ghost stories

I've been working over the past few days on a series of pieces that will accompany the  eleanor and the tiny machines collages I made months back, which have been waiting patiently until I could get to them.  Maybe it's the season, maybe it's just my general penchant for the gothic, but it seemed like they called for a ghost story, in the same way the summer house series did somehow--the changeling story of that project.  They are actually going into different longer book projects at this point with different focuses, but they both have in common that they started visually then moved to written (as opposed to the other way around, which is more how I work in general.)

If you haven't watched the Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, I more than recommend it, it straddling so well the border between the truly supernatural and the emotional reality of family. I think I best described it as the sensation of watching someonething with your heart in your throat, then something spooky happens and it jumps into your lap.  I love it so much. Because it is not just a haunted house story, but a family in crisis story.  On the surface, a group of sibling's reeling from the earlier suicide of their mother, and the current suicide of their younger sister.  But it's so much more.

And so beholden to the ghosts that walk among us--addiction, madness, loss--the real things that haunt.  Stephen King has always been a master at this, though sometimes he gets too into character development and loosens the wire too much on his horror, which then gets dragged along. (i started watching Castle Rock last night, which is probably why I am thinking of King so much this morning.) But I am most interested where our own ghosts and the supernatural ghosts inhabit and rub up against each other and cause static--the best horror comes from that place.

writing & art bits | october edition

*In pure Halloween fashion, there are a few pieces from EXQUISITE DAMAGE:  A MIDWEST GOTHIC appearing in Midway Journal and the previous issue of Elsewhere.

*Also in spooky fun I made an e-version of /slash/ available for your reading pleasure, as well as a brand spanking new series songs for dead girls (these are part of the apocalypse manuscript, but haven't seen much daylight on their own.)   For even more spooky goodness, don't forget the archer avenue poems, my ode to Resurrection Mary and vanishing hitchhiker lore.

*Our Lethal Ladies exhibit will be up through January, and you can still catch an installation of the visual/text pieces from {licorce, laudanum} on the Columbia College Library's first floor.  You can also get a sampling in the last Tupelo Quarterly.

*The very first pieces from the ARTIST STATEMENT project dropped in the latest issue of Typehouse.  You can read online or order a copy here. 

*`My upcoming full-length, sex & violence, which is due out in April 202, is officially available for pre-order at Black Lawrence!

*There are some of my collages in the latest Radar Poetry, accompanying some amazing work from Quinn Lewis

Monday, October 28, 2019

on new routines

I realized now that I have the freedom to make books at all hours of the day (ie. lately around  midnight), it requires an adjustment of my morning routine, which can start a little later if I desire, and which will be less about dashing out of the house at full speed and downtown to squeeze in time there.  Since I don't have to be to work til 2pm, the morning so far has been a more leisurely breakfast, coffee , and writing--the start of a new series that I'm not sure what will come of it.  I fell out of my habit of writing first thing at the studio, mostly since my mind has been in chaos since late summer.  The extinction poems were written haphazardly and in spurts on weekends, but it;s been months since I've engaged in any sort of daily writing ritual.

I want to get back to that and poem tending.  Maybe even submitting--while my rejection endeavors stalled out midsummer, it did yield some fruit in terms of publications--including recent works in Typehouse, Midway Journal, elsewhere, decomP, and The Journal. There are also some edits to be done on the extinction poems, and some proofing on sex & violence galleys I am behind schedule on, all of which has fallen by the wayside during the recent shuffle.  Also, one book mss. that is finished and ready to send out, another two that just need to be compiled.   Also, several little book projects I want to make happen and may actually have some time and energy to devote to.

Here is to a productive fall and a freer, kinder schedule.  Already I appreciated being able to work on press stuff at my own pace throughout the weekend, as well as the ability to multi-task (ie. cleaning while the printer runs, watching movies while I fold & assemble) all things I couldn't really do in the studio, so I am already feeling my stress starting to loosen, and I haven't even fully moved everything back here yet (the shelves and some necessities are arriving Friday from storage, and I'll be bringing the rest as I need it and make room.  The apartment is a chaos of boxes, but the siameses are having a grand ole time playing in them.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

some thoughts about day jobs*

It occurred to me this week that it has been approximately 20 years since I started working in libraries, which seems fitting given that this past week bought a couple library-related wins and endeavors, including presenting at not one, but two professional conferences. I was laughing the entire time because every time I needed a business card amongst other librarians, I never had one, and a couple times just gave out my writing/art one with the press e-mail address. I actually do have a stash of CC cards, the bland orange backed standard that has "Access Services Assistant / Course Reserves Coordinator" that I mostly give to faculty when they need to contact me about putting materials on reserve. They don't get much use, since most faculty just fill out the online form just fine and never have to get in touch.  And there is a lot of unofficial things that card doesn't capture. Interlibrary loan duties, which I've been overseeing temporarily the past year.  Our A of R initiative and the programming and exhibits we do there.  My new heading of the Programming and Events Committee, my increasing involvement in social media stuff.  We've talked and daydreamed about new job titles and pay increases, but not just yet (and subject to the sort of red tape that plagues all of academia) 

While I have always had rather nice writing/art/press related cards, I never gave much thought to my professional print collateral when it came to libraries, since I was never sure I wanted to see it as a profession.  For one, my efforts & endeavors have always been elsewhere--the library was a fine, bookish place, to make money when the other things I wanted to do did not.  For about the first 15 years or so--I showed up, did what I was supposed to do to collect my paycheck, hung out with some cool people, then went about my creative work on the side.  Two, there is always that arbitrary divide between degreed librarians and those of us without (my grad degrees are in lit and writing, not an MLS.)  Even if I'd wanted to feel like a professional, everything in how some MLS'd librarians treated those of us without indicated I would never get there unless I was willing to get that particular degree (which just seemed like a technicality and not something I felt I'd like to study in depth--also that over 20 years had probably granted me more than a classroom every could.)  The eventual gains actually weren't all that promising either, all that jumping through grad school academic hoops for a third time and even degreed positions (both public and academic)  were not particularly raking in the bucks. Nor were they guaranteed--esp. as more libraries were shrinking their degreed staff for people they could pay much less in theory. 

About five years ago, it started to change a little as I found a vein in the rock I really wanted to follow. A of R has not only been really fun to work on, but I think it's important work in connecting resources and libraries to art students in a way that has always seemed more tenuous at a place like Columbia, where everyone is less concerned with traditional scholarship and more with making things. I want to do more things there, to write about our experiences, to be a resource for other libraries.  (thus the conferences and writing projects). It definitely makes the time I spend in the library collecting that paycheck more enjoyable and integrated to my interests & abilities. We've been short-staffed this year, down by 50 percent (and of course,  dreadfully underpaid, especially given all doubling up)  but at least the work feels important, enough that I'm willing to hang in and hope things get better in the coming year. 

Also, it melds well with my outside pursuits--running things like zine programs, hosting readings, discussion panels on topics that interest me creatively.One of the reasons I originally eschewed teaching was that I hated the idea of having to struggle to get college students to care about writing and literature when it's a hard sell sometimes--esp. since I'd likely be teaching a whole lotta composition courses as do most writers I know. A noble and far underappreciated endeavor, but a terrible hell for me and my impatient nature (I totally chalk this up to being a Taurus). This scratches a similar itch and yet the audience is totally self-selecting and engaged every single time. 

Nevertheless, I always think back to my panicked 24 year old self, when I decided I didn't want an academic career, didn't want to pursue that Ph.D I was midway into applying to,  and if not, what the hell was I going to do?  Or a couple years later when I took that job in an elementary school library after months of searching --not just libraries, but bookstores, newspapers, museums. I think she'd be happy to know that it actually worked out pretty well in the end, day job-wise.

* technically, my day job is actually a night job..I write and make books in the morning/early afternoon and do the evening shift at Columbia.  This also appeals to my sleep-loving Taurus nature, since you will rarely find me outta bed before 10am. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

curated learning and the library

Today, we took the A of R show on the road again out to Tinley Park for the Illinois Library Association conference, where we were hosting a poster session in the exhibit hall titled "Curated Learning in the Library".  In the summer of 2018, we were doggedly in search of a phrasing for what we were doing in our pursuit of tying library resources to creative practice. We found the phrase above occasionally used to describe the act of setting up circumstances in which learning happens--like the arrangement of a classroom, or the layout of a museum exhibit.  Also, in a curated online content context, where content is chosen to be educational rather than for entertainment or recreation.  Since so much of what we do in the library is setting up learning opportunities in relation to resources, we thought it a fitting terminology that covers the endeavors that bridge programming in libraries, particularly academic libraries,  and learning beyond the usual bibliographic instruction model.

It is sort of an umbrella term for what we do with the initiative, as well as some other library programming endeavors that fit under it in collaboration with other campus units and with faculty. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

middle class horror & american anxiety

As we close in on the height of spooky season, it seems appropriate that some of the exquisite damage series is getting a little bit of airplay (see some of it here, here, and here.) It being devoted most singularly to a certain kind of middle class fear and anxiety as glimpsed through horror movies. In some ways, it was a project I was mostly just futzing around with spring before last, that is, until we went to the slasher convention at DePaul and something started take shape during the keynote speech--a comment about how, as people became more and more securely middle class, they started to seek out ways to get an adrenaline rush from the sensation of being unsafe.  I imagine, if you were starving, at war, or much less comfortable, further scaring yourself wouldn't be at the top of the list.   You see it in the golden age of gothic novels--in the audience of predominantly women, predominantly secure in their homes. In the late 70's, surely that middle class comfort level spawned slasher movies.  You, there, in your house, while outside, any number of killers could be watching you from the bushes outside. Growing up in the 80's was both a time of immense freedom and immense fear.  Yes, we could disappear for hours from our parents and come back at dusk, but everyone warned us of stranger danger, of the man in the creepy white van. When I was a pre-teen, there was a very high profile case of a teenager who'd gone missing from a park, her face plastered on billboards all over the area. A year or so later, they found her body in a forest preserve.

Fear changes though, and the fears we had as kids seems very different--almost hypothetical--from the sort of fear that teens have now--the world of mass shootings and social media bullying.  Barring that one girl, most of us were not abducted.  Most of us did not end up shoved in the trunk of our car. Or stalked while babysitting. But women are killed by men every day--not in the sinister serial killer way, but in their own homes.  It seems far more likely now that you may be shot just going about your day--at school, at the movie theater.

It seems that that net of safety has a whole lot of tears in it and I wonder how that transforms our horror--the sort of horror we seek out.  Does it skew us toward the supernatural as opposed to the human? What does horror do now?  How does it work differently?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

notes & things | 10/20/2019

Today has been spent setting up the new printer at home and battling drivers (a little trickier with wireless set-up and laptops without disc drives, but I seem to have succeeded and am printing off the last of a big order for new chaps and will be assembling them tonight.)  The nice thing is the printer has been running while I am doing some cleaning, so I feel extra productive.  Tonight, I can make books and watch horror movies.  All of this very good.

Yesterday's Indie Press Fest was fun, but rather sparse on attendees. We've usually made it happen on Friday during the art crawl, but our presentation at North Park on Friday pushed it back a day. I did manage to sell some crypto zines and a mothman print. The presentation on zines, however, was well attended AND the audience seemed enthusiastic, so there's that.  This week brings the Illinois Library Assoc. conference and our poster session on Curated Learning, as well as horror movie trivia at the end of the week, with the workshop-oriented things happening the following week.

The storage people come Tuesday morning, but there is still much packing and disassembling left to do in the studio that can hopefully be finished up tomorrow, including the shelves and tables. And much to throw out that I won't be storing, including about a half dozen old machines.  It's bittersweet--on one hand I am excited to get everything home and set up and in one place. On the other, it's kind of like I'm breaking up with something I wanted badly to work for over a decade, but was so very bad for me financially.  I do already feel calmer and able to work on things more when I want to. And this month hasn't been as bare bones in terms of money already. Over the next couple of months as I make room, everything will slowly return to one place and this is a comforting thought. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

songs for dead girls

"Zombie Girl writes down her name.  Writes a letter to her congressman. A classified ad.  Dead Girl seeking.  Dead Girl seeping through her days.  Zombie Girl makes a chalk drawing of her former lovers on the floor beside the bed.  Decides sex is beside the point when you are all body, all hunger. All meat moving through the world."

In honor of Halloween, I've been exploring some past spooky poems via social media the past couple weeks, but I have a whole new treat on hand today, an as yet unreleased as a complete series, songs for dead girls.  Originally part of my little apocalypse manuscript, these poems fit in well with it's end of the world ways, but only a couple of the poems have seen light of day on their own.

read the entire series here:

Thursday, October 10, 2019

nature, writing, & the ecogothic imagination

Yesterday, at the end of the reading at the Field Museum, someone in the audience asked if I consider myself a nature poet.  I realized I'd just spent a good  half hour or so talking about how I can't stop writing about birds.  About how a project that was supposed to be about dinosaurs and extinction would up also being largely bird-laden.  About the Cornell Boxes and my second book, in the bird museum. About how I'd made a bee-line on my first visit, not to the Evolving Planet exhibit, but to the Hall of Birds, the very same hall where I was giving that very reading.  And yet, I faltered and wasn't sure what to say.

When I think nature, I often think of Mary Oliver, whose poems, while I find a lot of them sort of facile, usually use nature as a means to teach us something about humanity. The nature is the tool by which we come to understand something more about ourselves.  I know many poets who write similar observances and explorations of the natural world, and in fact, have published a good many (much better than Oliver) with dgp.  But as for me, it's strange to claim it.  I would definitely say that I am endeared to the natural world in my visual  art.  Today, I was messing with the text/image pieces of the summer house, with it's plentiful bees and trees.  The poems themselves are about changelings and bee-children. I've  used bees as machinery in many series (the honey machine, how to write a love poem in a time of war.) I regularly use nature imagery in projects, old botanical illustrations, graphs and charts and diagrams.  Even my paintings, usually waterolor, are abstract flowers and landscapes.

And perhaps much of it has to do with the midwest landscape that pervades every book I've ever written (except maybe major characters in minor films, which seems more routed in urban life, but has it's share of critters).  In the shared property of water and stars, you had a natural landscape that was always intruding on the suburban one.  girl show is defined by it's fixing the carnival and it's women amidst a flat midwestern landscape (both actual and metaphorical). And maybe this is where things get weird.   The sideshow women.  The mermaids of salvage. The women as monsters in pretty much every other project. My love of amateur cryptozoology that filters into artwork and zines.

As I worked on extinction event, I've been reading idly a few pieces on the eco-gothic, whose gist is largely that nature is not just a background for human activity to occur in, but a force itself.  The menacing forest.  The haunted garden. The terrible sea. That nature (including plants, animals, landscape, weather) is just as much a character in any story as the ones with speaking parts. I like this sort of nature, the kind that is dangerous and may just kill you.  Much of that is where extinction event comes from with it's mutations and droughts. My answer to the question, in the moment, was that I tended to write a lot about horror and the supernatural lately--scary movies, serial killers, stabby adolescents urged on by Slenderman. But that nature is always present in them--weird or twisted as it may be.

Monday, October 07, 2019

@ the field museum

I've spent a good chunk of the weekend working on some final touches for Wednesday's reading at the Field Museum, the extinction event series, which has turned out a little darker.  But then, how else do your write a series of poems about climate change and extinction without them being just a little dark.  It's apocalyptic, but a different kind of apocalypse than my previous book--which was definitely imagining the end of the world in a more nuclear, or in some cases, zombified, way.  This is definitely more about humans, and our tendencies to try to love the landscape by destroying it.  To try to catalog and preserve the endings of other species and our own.  The very last segments that were written take place, like my series apocalypse theory: a reader, in a post-everything world, but these are more animal, and definitely bleaker.  They, and other reappearing threads are braided through, poems on dioramas, on taxonomy on the idea of museums as a place to preserve artifacts. The seeds were sewn as I walked around the museum that first time, and have come together much more smoothly than I imagined they would.  I'll be sharing them and a discussion of their conception on Wednesday @ noon (I'm reading in the Hall of Birds, but we'll start in the main hall and then walk to the reading space. ) 

Poets in the Field: Kristy Bowen
Field Museum of Natural History
Weds. October 9th, 12pm
co-sponsored by the Poetry Foundation
(meet in Stanley Field Hall)

Friday, October 04, 2019

notes & things | 10/4/2019

October is a beast--maybe a bear or a lion, and nothing to be messed with.  We have no less than 6 upcoming events in the library, some of which invoves lots of planning on my part, as well as two library conference things happening mid-month  (a presentation at the Chicago Research Summit and a poster session at the ILA conference.)  And then the studio move, and trying to make books around the chaos of that.  I may not make it out alive,  But by November, I hope to be settled back in to my new outfitted dining room and have everything in one place and at the ready.

Neverthless, it's a good crazy.  Last night, we had our kick-off for Lethal Ladies:  The Women of True Crime--an artist panel with some of the best discussion ever about women and violence.(both as victims and perpetrators.)  The art looks amazing, and I'm thrilled to have some fragments from [licorice, laudanum] amongst them.  Despite October madness, I am trying to slow down and, you know, actually enjoy the things I am doing, rather than rushing through them and then on to the next thing.   Suddenly a year passes and I feel like I've done a whole lot of stuff, none of which I have actually been in the moment for.

I am also gearing up and putting the final edits on the Field Museum poems for Wednesday.  They are dark and weird and filled with scales and feathers.  I'll probably eventually make some sort of chapbook out of them, but might try submitting some of them first.  I've gotten really bad about submissions, despite my 100 rejections plan, which went out the window in the summer. I did however, get some good acceptances from what I did send out, so it worked as much as I put into it.

Monday, September 30, 2019

lethal ladies: the women of true crime

Plans are in the thick for our upcoming focus topic this semester, the exhibit for which drops on Thursday with our kick-off artist panel.  I will have some of the {licorice, laudanum} image and text pieces up as well, since they focus predominantly on the women as victims and co-conspirators with Holmes.  Below is a peek at all the upcoming related programming happening over the next couple of months. 


As both perpetrators and participants in our shared cultural fascination with the subject matter, women have made vast contributions to true crime-related art forms. From murders to heists, deceptions to general unruly behavior, we will explore the patriarchal structures and societal constraints/expectations that true crime, and its subject matter, subvert and transform. Further, this exhibition shows how we as artists and consumers create and further these conversations within the genre.

“Lethal Ladies: The Women of True Crime” Artist Panel and Kick-Off
THURS. OCT. 3rd|  Library | 5th Floor | 7pm-9pm
Join us for a discussion with the artists featured in the Library’s Lethal Ladies: The Women of True Crime exhibit.
As both perpetrators and participants in our shared cultural fascination with the subject matter, women have made vast contributions to true crime-related art forms. From murders to heists, deceptions to general unruly behavior, we will explore the patriarchal structures and societal constraints/expectations that true crime, and its subject matter, subvert and transform. Further, this exhibit explores how we as artists and consumers create and further these conversations within the genre.
Each semester, Aesthetics of Research (AoR) addresses a portion of our programming to a particular genre, art form, movement, or special topic of interest via exhibits, displays, workshops, readings, lectures, panel discussions, and other activities. Focus topics reinforce the Library as a place of creative conversation and inquiry, bringing art and scholarship together, as well as to explore available resources in the Library, on campus, and in the greater Chicago community. 
Library Zine Night |  Lady Killer Edition
MON. OCT. 7th|  Library | 1st Floor | 7pm-9pm
Join Us for our monthly Zine Night, a chance for you to work alone or collaboratively on zines, comics, artist books, or other paper projects in the library.
You Need:
Ingenuity, creativity, and inspiration. A desire to show off or learn new techniques. A want to work and get to know other zinesters and artists…
We Have:
Staplers, trimmers, basic drawing supplies, paper, adhesives, scissors, discarded book scraps, scanners, photocopiers, and occasional guest how-tos.
Book to Art Club | The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death
WEDS.  OCT. 9th|  Library | 1st Floor | 7pm-9pm
In celebration of our “Lethal Ladies: The Women of True Crime” focus, we are venturing into non-fiction territory with Corinne May Botz’s The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, whose subject matter explores the life and work of master criminal investigator Frances Glessner Lee and her amazing crime dollhouses. We will be meeting to discuss the book, Glessner Lee’s work in general, her legacy on other art forms, AND to make paper dioramas of our own favorite crime scenes.
Book to Art Club Meeting
Wednesday, October 9
7 p.m.–9 p.m.
Library, 1st Floor
How to Participate:
  1. Check out a copy of The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death at the Library (copies are also available via I-Share Interlibrary Loan).
  2. Watch this space and Library social media for more resources and further reading on Glessner Lee’s life and work.
  3. Join us on October 9, when we’ll have discussion and diorama-making supplies aplenty for you to design your own paper crime scenes (both real or imagined, benign or grisly—your choice!)

SAT OCTOBER 19th |  LIBRARY | 3rd Floor East | 12pm-4pm

Join us for readings in all genres by Columbia & Chicago community writers celebrating both the women of true crime from all perspectives and the women who make them real through art and media.
CCC LIBRARY GAMING SOCIETY presents Horror Movie Trivia: Lethal Ladies Edition
FRI, OCT 25th | LIBRARY | 1st Floor| 5pm-7pm
The Columbia College Library Gaming Society invites you to unique variation on our annual Halloween season Horror Trivia Night in conjunction with LETHAL LADIES: THE WOMEN OF TRUE CRIME. From perpetrators to victims to survivors, women in horror movies play many roles.  Come test your knowledge of the women of horror and true crime.  Prizes!  Snacks!

Wicked Week: Domestic Goddess Gone Wrong |  Spooky Soaps and Bathory Bombs 
TUES, OCT 29th | LIBRARY | 1st Floor | 7pm-9pm
Join the Library and the Aesthetics of Research (AoR) for an evening devoted to making spookily-shaped soaps and bloody bath bombs devoted to everyone’s favorite Hungarian countess: Elizabeth of Bathory. We will also have resources on making your own molds and packaging. The workshop is part of the Library’s “Lethal Ladies: The Women of True Crime” AoR celebration.

THURS OCT 31st |  Library | 1st Floor | 7-10pm
Stop by the Library on Halloween night for some great public domain horror films in honor of LETHAL LADIES:  THE WOMEN OF TRUE CRIME.  We’ll have treats, flicks, and conversation.
Lethal Ladies: The Women of True Crime Panel
MON  NOV 11th |  LIBRARY | 5th Floor |  7-9pm
Join for a discussion with fans, experts and creators on the enormous popularity of True Crime in American Culture– the good, the bad, and the terrifying. What does the popularity tell us about our obsessions as a society?
Lizzie Borden Murder Mystery                                          
FRI DEC. 6th |  LIBRARY | 1st Floor |  5-7 pm
Help us solve our version of one of the most famous crimes of the century. Did Lizzie Borden really give her mother 40 whacks?  We’ll have clues, red herrings, and great fun for all.  Individuals and teams welcome. Sponsored by the CCC Library Gaming Society.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

changes afoot

Some decisions are the harder ones. My decision on whether to renew the lease on the studio space is coming up and I have pretty much decided to move the dgp operation back to it's origins--aka my dining room.  Each year, the rent goes up, both there and home. The past year has been like trying to rub two pennies together to make a dime, stretching myself unbelievably thin, occasionally overdrafting my Chase account to make ends meet. And just in general running at a financial stress level of about 11.  While the press mostly pays for itself in terms of supplies and ink and making of the books, the studio rent was oft augmented by my own artwork, vintage, and etsy sales, and when those came up short, my own libary income.  As the press has grown, we sell more books, but we also publish more books so the income/spending has remained stable.   I've been juggling these things for over a decade, hoping that at some point there would be some equilibrium, but I've yet to find it.

When I left etsy and my vintage/ craft focus 8 years ago, I decided to focus more on art & books, which has paid off in innumerable ways creative and intellectually, and allowed us to grow the chapbook series in a huge way, but there was a toll.  Publishing takes more than it gives, which I knew at the start, and which I was ready to sacrifice some things for .  However, coming up with an additional $850 each month got a little harder over the past few years.  I relied a bit more and more on my regular paycheck, which in turn left less and less for things like living in a pretty expensive city. I scrambled, I overdrafted, I paid bills late and more late fees and just hoped they wouldn't turn off my phone or my electricity.  I tried, but sometimes I failed.  I made do--tried to spend less of my disposable income, bought clothes mostly second hand,  never traveled, got rid of my home internet.  But still, I struggled.

And all the while, as well, I felt I was paying a whole lot for a place I didn't get to spend nearly enough hours in--2-3 per day mostly.  Even when I would have wanted to work late into the night, my prime creative time.  The building pretty much closed at 10pm (unless you were willing to stay there with no attendants/no elevator service, which I did a couple times, but it never felt safe.) For over a decade it has felt like most days I run in there, do a bunch of stuff, then run out frantically trying to get to work on time at 2pm. I also never have felt caught up on things in the way I might otherwise..like I am always behind, and for the most part, always am.  I am also, always scattered, split between two places when it comes to creating, some of my supplies there, some at home.  Nothing is every where I need it it seems, and I would like to feel a little more centered.

The last few weeks have bought some difficult, awkward situations that have only compounded the financial fatigue, and with another rent increase on my horizon, I feel a need to pull down the hatches, fold up the sails,  and focus on righting the ship and moving the operation back to my apartment. Some of the larger furniture will have to go into storage until I decide what to do with it (storage racks, the mini-fridge, the ikea tables), but if I move the large metal shelves into my dining room, I can probably set up the printing operation with little difficulty there once again (and much more attractively/ less chaotically than it initially was).  Shipping supplies, paper stores, all the supplies will be in one place again, and I will be able to go home and work on books as late as I need to like I did pre-2007. which was pretty much the last time I felt caught up in any way.

I also feel, that while it was nice to have the options of open studio hours, I was pretty much either working or too exhausted to actually do them more than once a year.  The bulk of business has always been online and not in person anyway , so little will change except maybe I will close up my shipping delays and get books out a lot faster and more expeditiously when my studio hours are less limited by the times I can be there. (also weekends, when I never wanted to have to go all the way downtown just to work on my days off) And with more money to devote to the press without the rent, I can finally do all the other projects I've been wanting to do but haven't been able to scrape funds up for in the past few years.

So while I will miss my little studio space in the gorgeousness of that building--my view of the brick wall opposite, and my little loft above the city, there are perhaps kinder, less financially strangling things ahead, which I am all for.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

writing & art bits | september edition

My upcoming full-length collection due out from Black Lawrence in 2020  has a cover and it is a beauty! Really, what else says my work like a bit of Victorian bdsm, raw meat, and doll parts?  It's actually a modification of a /slash/ collage, initially created for a dgp cover and I love it so much! The pre-sale page will be up in the next couple months for an April release, so keep an eye out for that.

Work on extinction event continues to go well and I should have lots of material for my reading on October 9th at the Field Museum.  Apparently, I am also getting PAID for said reading and am always incredulous when I do...seriously, I would read for nothing.  And for this one, hell, I would pay to read in such an awesome venue.  I  will be headed back for a couple more visits (and just to also see some unrelated things I missed my first go round.)  I haven't started submitting any of the work around yet, but it's pretty good. Weird, but good.

Some of the {licorice, laudanum} poems, aka the HH Holmes project,  landed in a new issue of decomP. 

The third and final segment of the Nasiona Magazine editor interview is now available for reading.

Keep an eye out soon for pieces in The Journal, Typehouse, and Midway Journal from several different projects...

Thursday, September 19, 2019

paper quilling workshop

Next Tuesday night, we'll be teaching a paper quilling workshop in the library as part of our How-To-Tuesday Series.  I've been Pinteresting like mad, and while nothing I make is even half as beautiful/intricate/complicated as these, it should still be some fun experimenting with papery objects.

Columbia College Library
624 S Michigan
1st Floor
Tues, September 24, 2019

Saturday, September 07, 2019

all sugar, all milk

I was thinking about how it's the 15th anniversary of the dancing girl press chapbook series, and realized  that also makes it the 15th birthday of my first chap bloody mary.  

In the spring of 2014, a lot was going on.   I'd been editing wicked alice for a couple years at that point and had a dream of a possible print operation companion.  I was finishing out my first year of grad school getting my MFA and had started sending out my first full-length mss..  I had just won a pretty big Chicago based prize and the 1000 bucks attached to it (and thus had a little wiggle money to devote to poetry). 

The previous year, Moon Journal Press had taken my first chap, The Archaeologists Daughter, but it would still be another year before it was published.  I was doing a lot of readings locally and fending off incredibly flattering inquiries about whether I had a book people could buy.  Also engaging in a flourishing online writing community where everyone was always trading work.   I thought to myself, if this press thing was going to be a go, I might want to start with issue-ing something that, if I botched it or found it horrible, only I would be affected. It actually worked out pretty well--since I was clueless, I taught myself how to layout something that could be manually double sided (something almost comical in these days of duplex booklet printing).  I bought some nice resume parchment paper for a the cover, used the library's pamphlet stapler, and I had a book.  The cover image was courtesy of Alaina Burri-Stone, whose work I encountered in stirring and would also use for another chap of mine, my first full-length, some of the wicked alice print annuals, and a couple later chaps by other people.)

That first edition was slightly shorter than the one pictured above.  After the initial 25 were gone, I did a second revised printing of another 25 , with a few more poems tacked in and a new, more sturdy watercolor paper cover. The entire chap only exists in those 50 copies.  Where they went or wound up, who knows?  We do have a copy in the library I donated.  I traded them to a lot of other poets and gave many away.  I sold a few at Quimby's here in Chicago. When I read at the Poetry Center that fall, I sold quite a few there, along with a second chap, belladonna, also released in 2004.

Looking at the poems themselves, there is much of what went into the fever almanac here, including the title poem. An earlier version of "nebraska."  What are more interesting are the poems that never made the jump--either thematically or quality-wise.  Poems about ghostly twins, memorial photography, wicked stepmothers. An early poem about Little Red Riding Hood that would be revisited as the "book of red" project.  Some of it' s overwrought.  Over done. I had to learn to reign back on the "poeticalness."

"When you speak it's like honey.
The flutter of wings and drones
harbors in the bones of your throat."
from "sugar"

The bulk were written in 2002 & 2003, when I was really beginning to publish work in online journals, so almost all of them appeared in various places electronically.   I would follow it up with that second 2004 chap with some newer work and a cardstock cover, most of which also made it into the full-length, but this one holds an especially fond place in my heart for it's roughness.

on routines

As I've mentioned a few times in various arenas, the fall semester brings me back around to my ideal and preferred schedule--when my studio time is a little more productive a the the beginning of the day and my routines a little more stable.  I thought I might give you, dear readers, a peek at what goes down in any given day...

10 am:  Linger in bed until the alarm stops sounding (which negates the purpose of leaving my phone on my desk in order to propel me from bed and not keep hitting snooze, but oh well.)  Eventually, I get in the shower, though sometimes I wait for the shower to warm up whilst scrolling through instagram and lose another 10 minutes.

10:30 ish:  Finish showering, and sometimes, esp. if it's cold, crawl back into bed to warm up in my robe and a towel wrapped round my head. Get piled upon by cats for another 15 minutes while I convince myself I should get up when I would actually much rather stay here.

10:45: Get dressed (luckily I usually know what I'm wearing, and it's all just dresses, so this is easy.)
I have a lot of shoes, but usually will grab whichever pair is closest and matches and/or do not make my feet want to die. . My beauty routine pretty much only involves face lotion, deodorant, tooth paste, and a defrizz serum.  My hair is usually still pretty wet when I leave the apartment, and then I usually apply lipstick rather slapdash on the bus ride downtown. I tell myself this makes my hair look beachy and wavy but more likely I look like someone who has no mirror. I'll put it up at the studio and out of my way, and this tames it a little into something more presentable.

11-Noon:  I try to get out of the house by 11am and at the Fine Arts shortly before 12 (my commute is about 45 minutes door to door in low traffic..I spend this time planning my day or reading, or once I'm downtown, people watching on the Mag Mile). If I'm ready to go early and have proper groceries (on rare occasion) , I'll have breakfast and coffee at home before I leave and write a little.  If not, I'll get food downtown and do some writing there while I wait for my printers to start up with whatever I'm printing that day.

Noon-2pm: I'll answer e-mails and do some layout work while I wait for printing. Then assembly, trimming and such the rest.  I try to have the envelopes & package labels ready to go for things going out that day already, so it's a matter of popping them in and sending them on their way as I head out the door.  I'll get up earlier and get in more hours as needed here, but 2-3 is my standard.

2pm-10pm  My shift at the library starts, which is only a couple blocks down from the studio.  My days here vary depending on what's going on, what's priority, and what might come up.  Right now, I'm busy with beginning of the semester reserve collection processing and ILL mostly, and around those I squeeze in some A of R planning and materials design.  There are sometimes meetings and handling desk trivia. By evening, I'll usually have eaten a snack (I have dinner later at home) and if there isn't anything happening programming wise, I will either work on A of R things, or some design stuff for that or the press when things are quieter and/or read submissions. On a productive day, I might have time to work on my own creative pursuits, but these are most relegated to weekends.

10-11pm. Commute home--usually a little faster b/c there is less traffic on LSD.  I do a huge chunk of my leisure reading here--mostly novels.  When I get home I typically make dinner --sometimes a salad (lest you think it's healthy, I pile it with cheese and croutons and dressing) or more often something microwaveable. I'll read blogs or futz around on the internet while I eat. 

12pm-2am:  I usually will settle in with an episode of something while I am doing the stationary bike (pretty much the only exersize I get besides walking)  and then tidy up the apartment (clothing and papers and dishes--my mess) and then the cat boxes and sweep (their mess) then lately will watch netflix or youtube fashion vlogs until I go to sleep around 2am. I try to be religious about 8 hours, especially in the cooler less-daylight prone seasons, but in summer I get a little less.

There are of course variations, when I have the usual  phonecall with my Dad on Weds nights., when J sleeps over Thurs or Fridays, but this is pretty much my schedule during the school year.  Weekends, if I'm not working are devoted to editing work and maybe submissions and mss. plotting. Painting or collages on Sunday sometimes (though not lately). Occasional date nights, but a lot of watching streaming. (currently Gilmore Girls.  Again.)  And of course my marathon horror film watching now as we move into fall...