Wednesday, January 16, 2019

new digs...

Since the tumblr platform is a little ridiculous and overzealous in it's porn-seeking bots and post flagging (and somehow thought that this radio ocularia collage was on the level of Jenna Jamison)  Since I don't want to have to appeal every 5 minutes if I have a nude statue in a collage, I've decided to migrate all the stuff currently hosted on Tumblr over to blogger sites.  I've loved blogger since I moved to this space in 2005, but so much fancy (and free) design capabilities are available now. (our Crypto Soc. and A of R Pages are blogger pages.)  So I'm working on moving my personal portfolio page, and dgp's general info pages over to this platform in the next few weeks.  (the shop itself is hosted elsewhere and won't be changing, just how you get directed from the domain to there will be different.)

I thought about doing this for efficiency sake a few months ago, so had a blank site ready to go, but I spent last night migrating the necessary content over to the new page and it's looking rather spiffy...This is basically one arm that comes off my domain itself for my own writing and art projects, so it includes links to books, published works, interviews, reviews, and such..

see the results here...

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

writing & art bits | January

The last few hours of 2018 brought this interview/publisher profile in the Kenyon Review (courtesy of Kristina Marie Darling), wherein I discuss literary citizenship, the benefits of editorial work for writers, and how to change the world one book at a time.

Preparations are nigh on the Mansion anthology of Slender Man inspired writings (due in February), in which I have a few pieces from my own project, necessary violence.  (and look for that project itself, complete with accompanying artwork from Becky Webster later this year.)

You can still get pieces of the swallow series into your mailbox on a weekly basis (I took a break for the holidays, but watch for the next installment this Friday)  This particular series is the final piece in the  puzzle that is a new longer book manuscript, FEED.

Some poems from the science of impossible objects have made their way into the brand new edition of Birdfeast.

The very first object in the Books & Objects series of 2019 will be debuting next week--a sweet little accordian book of the animals postcards.  They are available by subscription, but I will also make a few standalone copies available in the shop.

Monday, January 14, 2019

going analog

Over the past couple of years, I've been working more digitally than not when it comes to collages. Since I spend a great deal of time in front of a computer for all other sorts of reasons, it make sense that some artmaking would happen.  I do a lot of cover designs and library graphic work working with photo editing software, and many times, something I do will spark a new series of collages (for example, last years murder mystery poster led to the hunger palace collages, which then led to the cryptotaxonomy zine pieces. I like the neatness and exactness of working digitally, as well as being able to use the entire internet as your toolbox in terms of images..need a creepy doll's head?  A toy horse?  and octopus?  Google and ye shall receive.  My collages also wind up neater--no wayward scissors or glue smears or random cat footprints.  I've been saving my analog efforts for things like painting and printmaking, but doing most of my collage on the screen. 

Paper is different.  You have to work with what you have. But as we talked about after last year's Art on the Cheap panel, sometimes this leads you places you might not otherwise go. Over the holiday break, I cut into a stack of Time magazines from the 1960's which I knew would be ripe with clippable things and while it feels limiting in some ways, I think those limitations cause me to actually be more creative with what I do have.  Perhaps the closest analogy I think of is writing poems with formal constraints and how much magic can happen that wouldn't otherwise. So I'm collaging and I don't have a shoe, but I have a breadbox or a vacuum cleaner or a woman's head.  What happens when you put all these things together.? When you have to put these things together because there really isn't anything else on the table in front of you?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

glamorous decay

One summer in the mid-90's, I spent the entire three months reading Faulkner and Hemingway in front of a fan to keep cool. In a fiction workshop the previous semester, the instructor, who was a rude mansplainy alumni dude had set these two up as dichotomies--you were either a Faulkner or a Hemingway and your style was either short, brisk and to the point, or long and rambling.  About midway through the semester, he decided that I was definitely more Faulkner-like and said that I would make a far better poet than a fiction writer.  I was annoyed at the time, but I wish I could say he was wrong.  My exploits in fiction, from what I remember,  were mostly loosely structured stories conveyed by long rambling beautiful sentences you would get entirely lost in and lose track of the plot.  Sort of like a poem.

That summer I set out to see what he was talking about. It was ungodly hot and occasionally the power at my parents' house would fail and you'd find me outside on the deck with a candle for light, spread out on a sheet as dusk came around, headphones blasting Mazzy Star in my ears still reading to escape the heat inside the house. While I find Hemingway highly problematic, I was less exacting in those years, so I read A Moveable Feast at least twice--and longed to be in that "Paris in the twenties" world. So very different from my 90's midwestern world, which did not seem ripe for offering much in the ways of culture or interest.   Sure, there were my classes--where I was studying writers and taking workshops--and there were near weekly trips to the Barnes & Noble with my sister, where we would load up on all the midlist cast-off bargain books.  There were plays--those I participated and worked on for the college and in the community.  There was a tiny professional theatre long since closed downtown and yearly Shakespeare at the community college we attended in the fall.  But it all felt very short of scratching the itch that reading something like Hemingway forged.  I wanted more.

Last week, I stumbled upon this Lit Hub piece and giggled at it's accuracy (as someone who feels my literary expectations were forged by Hemingway and his ilk, and as someone who loves the aesthetics, if not the prices, of Anthropologie.) I used to get the catalog proper, but now settle for occasionally browsing their instagram.  While I can neither afford, nor fit into their clothes, there is still something appealing about the visuals, but it never occurred to me that this desire for a certain picturesque could have it's roots in my interpretation of what that "writing lifestyle" looks like. Perhaps the only familiar counterpoint to the modernists might be my beloved Sylvia, who also forged in my head a certain sort of literary life, but hers was mired first in college and Oxford and then in her country house, and then tragically ending in the Yeats apartment.  This world was filled with writing and babies and romantic treachery, but in many ways was a continuation of that Hemingway legacy, which no doubt formed her as much as it forms writers today.  This was probably also true of the Beats, and perhaps even moreso since they were mostly men, bent on that certain spirit of boho heroism ala Hemingway.

And if we ourselves have interalized that ideal literary life as writers--culture has done so tenfold--movies, television( see Lives of the Poets )  Even recently I was watching that delightfully creepy series YOU, where the female lead is a poetry MFA student, and things like that always seem, at best, like a slightly askew reflection of what being a writer is actually like. In this case a little more believable (the struggle to balance a social life with creative life, imposter syndrome, always money problems). But still a little off in its depiction of how "fame" in the lit world works.

Indeed, if the culture at large were asked to imagine a poet, they would not see most of us with our day jobs and our piles of unvanquished laundry but moreso the traveling flaneuse, who never had to work to earn money, but somehow it was always available. Who had long, winding days to sleep til the afternoon and then bang away at a typewriter til night, when we would then hang out at readings and bars and carouse with other writers until dawn.  We wouldn't have children, or electric bills, or anything getting in the way of our brilliance.  And yet, I don't think I've ever met the sort of writer, even the highly successful ones who actually earn money from writing, whose life would even begin to approach the one the world would imagine for us. Ditto on the general assumptions made about writers, poets especially,  My favorite being the highschool acquaintance I ran into at a wedding about a decade later who,  when he found out I was a poet, jokingly asked "Why? Are you depressed?" Or the ex who read my first book and asked if I had ever contemplated suicide (seriously, the fever almanac is not that dark, honey)

Nevertheless, the fantasy, while untenable, is still a beautiful one. I guess I'm totally okay if you like to picture me roaming about the house all day, bottle of tequila in hand waiting for inspiration to strike.  I do have plenty of peeling plaster (my apartment needs a paint job stat) and more than a few flowing, whsipy sundresses worthy of an Anthropologie catalog...But more often my writing happens lately in a flurry of moments while I'm waiting for books to print in the studio, scrolling idly through instagram,  and sucking my iced latte through a straw.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

32 and 44...

Everyone on the Facebooks is doing that thing where you post your oldest profile pic and your newest and there's supposed to be some weird slightly ageist skirting comparison of how you looked then versus how you look now. Nevertheless, offensive language aside, I was curious and did it and it got me thinking about time.  I don't think I look different physically all that much..the first profile pic I actually used my face for was already a few years old when I posted it, from around 2006-2007 (I didn't have a smart phone until 2014, so selfies weren't my thing and I just didn't have many photos I liked. )

So what you have is a girl (she feels like a girl) of around 32, probably so drawn looking because of her the demands of working full time and tackling an MFA program I was never having much of a good time in.  Add in a disastrous relationship with someone it took years to untangle from (someone who was married and a supreme sociopath / compulsive liar).  The press was a couple years old and gaining steam and I was on the verge of my first book coming out, but just as adrift in this thing called poetry as I ever am.  If you'd asked me then, I would have told you I was happy, but comparatively, I look back and think I was foolish to think so.

Fast forward to a couple years back when my current pic was taken.  Not only am I a few pounds lighter and a few shades blonder, but, at least then, I was pretty happy and I believe that happiness more (granted this was pre-Trump era and before my mom got sick--both things that have made the past two years a bit rougher. )   I've written several more books, moved into the studio and finished the MFA. Better clothes, better relationship, a few more cats. All in all, things have worked out pretty well for that 32 year old now on the crest of 45.  I don't mind aging in itself (it's more the weird disconnect between how you feel on the inside vs.  what is happening on the outside.  I worry I will forever feel like I'm 25 and be walking around in an 80 year old's body (if I'm lucky).

Thursday, January 10, 2019

more is more is more

With all the Marie Kondo mania happening on social media, I sometimes can't hep thinking that while I like things neat and visually appealing at home where I relax, I also tend to ascribe to the " more is more" philosophy than the opposite.  I've known about the Art of Tidying Up book for awhile, and have been trying to fold my cardigans neatly and upright and have mosly been unsuccessfull. . I am usually a careful weeder. Also a careful buyer--and am pretty specific in my tastes, whether its my dishware and kitchen utensils or my shoes.

About 5 years ago I did a major deep clean on the apartment, emptying drawers and cabinets and actually, things have been pretty smooth and unchaotic since  (though for some reason, I seem to suffer a genetic predisposition to a messy linen closet. Half used shampoos and scented lotions abound and the next thing you know you cant open it without an avalanche of towels and toilet paper hitting you in the head. )  While at times there might be clothes strewn around the bedroom, cat hair on the floor, and paper stacks on my desk, otherwise my apartment is pretty well organized with a place for everything (whether it finds it's way to that place immediately is up for grabs.).

A couple years back, I attempted to weed the poetry bookshelves and tossed out a lot of random AWP acquired freebies and books by po-biz creepers and people I don't like (either their personality or their work.) My fiction shelves still need a good organizing, but I keep mostly things I really want to read again at some point and borrow the rest from the library.  On the Netflix show, I would get a little anxious when people took on books, especially since, for us writerly types, books are more sentimental than happenstance. I'd easily give up the small dvd collection in my tv cabinet, or even the 200+ of cd's I haven't listened to in years before I would start in on the books. So I'll keep my bulky copy of The Critical Tradition procured in grad school.  The copy of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from the sixties I bought at a flea market.  My crumbly first edition of Anais Nin's Delta of Venus bought my very first foray at the Printer's Row Book Fair. When I look at an old copy of The Sound and the Fury, I remember reading all his work one hot college summer seated in front of a fan I kept lugging room to room and even outside.

I do try to get rid of things I don't want expeditiously and don't let them linger--gifts that missed the mark. Random giveaways. things that re temporarily functional but sort of ugly. Promotional mugs, for example go in the trash pretty quickly.  But then again, one of my least favorite things my mother ever gave me 20 years ago, a ridiculously pricey Longaberger tea basket is a humorous solace now daily in her really you never know what you should keep or will need in the future. I am this way about art supplies most since the very thing I toss tends to be the thing about a month later I really desperately need and have to start over. So I am especially hesitant there.

In the very first episode of the show, the woman in the bad marriage piles her clothes on her bed and is aghast at how much she has and I laughed and thought "Hah!'  I could never do this, mostly since the clothes would submerge the bed and I might not find it for years.  It would take far more time and energy than I have. But every season, I'm good at tossing out what is damaged or ill fitting or just not that flattering when I switch things out.  By the end of the year, I've tossed at least a fraction of what I own  Clothes, perhaps even more than books, are my major vice and where I spend lot of my my tiny disposable income, usually on sale or thrifting, but my wardrobe is stored in about 4 large underbed bins of seasonal  things, a rack of dresses, a closet filled with skirts, blouses, shoes, and unmentionables. Plus three drawers of sweaters in the hallway built-in.  I do wear all of it..not always often, but I try to make sure I use things at least once a season, more if it's something I paid a lot for (the Ralph Lauren leopard dress gets a lot of wear.).  Some of my faves come out 4-5 times a year.  And I am totally okay with this.  Yes, obviously no one needs that many coats, but I paid for and carefully chose ever single one, Why should I be made guilty for the bit of joy they give me (espc. since they are my winter coping mechanism--and far, far better than self-medicating with too much chocolate and alcohol).?

What broke my heart was the people who gave up portions of collections they obviously put work into procuring--the baseball card guy and his wife with her love of Christmas The younger dude with all his sneakers. No, you don't need them, but do you WANT them?  It's one thing to get rid of random lidless tupperware and mugs from your bank, but a treasured collection is a very different animal. My two biggest collections outside of books and clothes are my vintage bags and midcentury dishes. While my dishes perish to occasional breakage anyway, I'm less attached.  But if you tried to take away a beaded purse, you'd be prying from my cold dead fingers.

I've usually agreed with the people who say it's easy for the bougier among us to worship the "less is more" because, well, if they throw something out they find they need later, it's easy to replace it. Also, it's real easy to be neat if you're boring and have as much personality as a white sock--ie no pesky collections or interests clogging up your closets and shelves. . As for me,  I'm keeping my stuff, becuase I wouldn't exactly have brought it into my home if it didn't bring me joy.  And it certainly wouldn't have stayed...

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

breton's birthday

Over the past few years, we've done a few different things in the Library centered around Andre Breton's Birthday mid-February to celebrate the father of surrealis, or maybe more surrealism in general.  The first year, we had a big installation on the first floor about Surrealism with interactive collages  collages and cross-out writing opportunities.  Last year, a reading with some MFA poetry & prose students and a collage making station on the 1st Floor.  This year, we are doing a reading of Surrealist Love Letters on Valentines Day that should be great fun. I'm hoping to round up some features readers and do an open-mic the second half of the the evening.

While my tastes run more toward Dali and Cornell in terms of Surrealists, I usually try to highlight work beyond Breton himself--with displays and info on all of the Surrealists, including the women, many of who never get their proper due. Also, art from today with it's roots in Surrealism--whether visual or literary.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

notes & things | 1/8/2018

I have been struggling the past week to right the ship that the holiday break  nearly sunk in terns of order and organization. I  am still struggling on pretty much every front--ILL duties, course reserves for spring, planning for events in the library. Chaps to finalize and layout in the studio, more orders to get on their way.   I overslept this morning by a half hour and have been off all day. This week has been a grey spate of wintry weather, but thank god, only rain and not snow. When I got downtown, I almost saw the sun today , but it was also raining simultaneously and somehow I feel this is a metaphor for something.

This earlier shift throws me and I'll be happy to be back to my nights in a few weeks. Until then, I muddle through way more exhausted than I should be. It's also thrown off my writing schedule since I land at work first and not the studio. And there, my attention is usually drawn in a dozen different directions.  I am going to try writing when I get out at 7 and head over to the studio, but by then my brain is already kind of fried. Somehow I managed to make it work this past summer, but then again, I am more awake in the warmer weather and far more focused.  I would like to finish off the SWALLOW poems before the semester and its chaos begins and get a start on something else.

In the Library--I've been plotting out our Strange Fevers focus programming and some game activities--a board game night, a trivia night devoted to rom coms right before V-Day.  Also, our Surrealist Love Letter's reading happening on the 14th--this year's incarnation of Breton's Birthday.  I'm also doing collage pendant and bookwrecking workshops this semester, so keep an eye out for those.

I'm at work on some new books coming out soon, but also the Slender Man anthology project, Mansion. As well as author copies and orders for the books that were released in December. I do have some work lined up for the issue of wicked alice I'm working on, now that we are going back to that format, so I'm hoping to get that in gear by early February. 

This past weekend, I did get a chance to work on some collages using those old issues of TIME I lugged home from the library, so I will be sharing those as soon as I get them to a scanner.  Until then..

Monday, January 07, 2019

100 rejections

Every January for the past couple of years, this excellent Lit Hub article comes around again in my feed.   It's a noble endeavor, one I'm not sure I would be able to pull off.  But then again everyone knows that successful submitting is about 30% talent, 30% knowing what's suitable publication for the work you are doing, and 30% a numbers game (and maybe 10% stardust magic).  When I first started submitting work, I did so blind and cluelessly and had the expected results. Only when I got a little more targeted in the last couple of years of the 90's did I have much luck--a small local feminist journal that would also eventually publish my first chap manuscript, a really cool journal that was saddle bound in wallpaper samples.  I was still rather blindly sending to work to The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, because these were supposed to be the white whales according to everything I read, but I really had no clue of the qualities of what they seem to be looking for.   But the little publications spurred me on and made me feel like at least writing was something I might be able to do.

When I first started sending work to online magazines in 2001, it was like there was this whole new world that opened up to me. The journals were definitely open to newer voices, also easier to share your work with others (though I suppose at that point, pre-social media, I was sharing on the xanga blog that preceded this one.)  I was also enamored of the community aspect--getting real time reactions to work in the form of e-mails from people who had read the work and liked it (and this is still sort of true.)  They helped build communities as well, or multiply existing communities, around certain journals or clusters of journals and it was amazing. Sure, there were the nay-sayers and the poo-pooers of online publishing, the ones who thought print was the only way to go  (weirdly some people still think this, surely, but I probably don't know their names because, duh, they're not on the internet.). It was  sort of intoxicating and I started wicked alice wanting to be part of such community building.

Even perhaps more importantly in the trajectory of my own writing was that I had an AUDIENCE, or a potential one at that, and this spurred me to write more, to send out more, knowing someone would actually be reading it.  Responding to it, engaging with it.  I volleyed submissions of existing poem batches out like a pro until they eventually found a home (I've tried at points to be a simultaneous submitter, but have found this to be more work than it's worth) So things would go out when they came back, the bonus of the internet being faster turn around times.  When a journal would pick something up, I would carefully print out a copy and place it in a plastic sheeted binder I still have but I eventually abandoned.  Eventually everything was taken and I was writing new poems to send out, quickly and breathlessly.  It was insane how much joy this gave me, how much confidence, so by the time I decided to try my hand at an MFA, I had about 50 publications, mostly online but a smattering of print in small journals.  I was ready.

Of course, I felt a little weird when I landed in the program. I felt enormously out of place and conspicuous in my wanting to get my work out there. Also, the faculty seemed to look down and dismiss publication unless it was in the "right" journals.  I didn't even notice it,  but the self-consciousness of  my MFA years changed my attitudes toward submissions slightly.  I slowed down a bit and tried to hit more of those fancy journals, only to realize at some point that my work wasn't exactly right aesthetics-wise for many of them.  Or maybe the work I'd been writing in the early 2000's was, but not what I was writing in the latter half of the decade. But it also slowed my roll on submitting anywhere.  I lost my enthusiasm for it, so by the time I graduated, I was barely sending anything out at all.  Fuck, for a couple years there I lost my enthusiasm for writing almost completely. My productivity lagged and would not bounce back til around 2011-12.  I'd start writing more, and in turn sending intermittently out to new awesome journals that had sprung up in the interim as well as some of the oldies still humming along.   But even when I was writing regularly again, submitting was at the bottom of the priority list, and when I do it, and more so when I actually get an acceptance, I realize how much I miss it.

I've spent the last 5 years or so mostly not sending work out, but then getting a bug up my ass  once a twice or year and sending out a few batches (to actually pretty good success ratios) but more of my work that gets published at all  has probably been solicited more than submitted over the transom.   When I scrolled past the Lit Hub article this morning, it flashed through my head "Nice, but who has even that much work to send out?"  and I stopped myself because, I guess *I* do after this year's productivity.  Some of it has already seen light of day publicly through things like social media and my Tiny Letter series, but much of it has not and would be perfect to send out for a few spins to see what happens. I have a list of pie-in-sky journals, some print, some online.  Plus a lot of great discoveries of new-ish journals I am liking.   Maybe this is the year to go balls out.  Maybe this year I should give the advice a go...

Sunday, January 06, 2019

dgp cover love

I've been working on a slate of new covers for the new year of books that will begin releasing soon, but these are a few of the remaining original designs I did for the tail end of 2018. I'm feeling in a simpler, more graphic mood of late and this probably shows in the designs (and particularly with the ones that are forthcoming.) All of them were based on some idea back and forth with the author and then tweaked with their suggestions.  All turned out to be absolutely lovely.

 Since I only use a couple varieties of cardstock for covers--a linen and a matte, I particularly love those books that seem to have a very different sort of texture going--the watercolor and parchment backgrounds, and of course, the glitter (this is actually foray #2 in that).   I've been doing this in general art-wise, particularly when I am collaging digitally (the impossible objects series is a good example.) 

There were others recenlt launched that are similarly lovely but not quite entirely original on my part, some using existing artwork and some courtesy of other designers and sometimes the authors can see more of those here..

Saturday, January 05, 2019

nocturnal animals

Whenever I am left to my own devices, free of schedules and work and daytime obligations, I revert to the same night creature I have pretty much always been.  When I was in college and free most summers, I would stay up all night and be going to bed around the time my mother was waking up to go to work, and then would sleep well into the afternoon.  It was a particular kind of leisure I would have enjoyed more if I knew how seldom I would have it as an adult--expanses of free unencumbered time.  I cleaned the house for money from my parents and worked some odd proofreading and theatre related jobs during the year, but most of my time not in classes was gloriously my own. I would read, write endlessly in those mead composition journals I kept during those years, draft poems and stories and plot out my misguided plans for literary domination.  (I also watched a lot of weird things on middle of the night television.)

In grad school, I completely gave over to this nocturnal schedule, since most of my classes at DePaul fell in the evenings or Saturday mornings (it was a program devised to appeal to people who already worked but wanted to pursue an MA in Lit.)  I, however, besides working in a coffee shop for a bit, managed to live on a combination of student loans and credit cards during those years that allowed me ample time to study and write--again, the sort of free time I would never have again. I was thinking about this period of time in my life tonight--especially in winter--when last  couple of week's break from the library had me reverting back to those old sleep schedules--staying up til around 5 am and sleeping well into the afternoon.  Though I'm cautious this time of year over the lack of daylight, how short those days in the light seem, but, oh,  how long the nights are.  Still though, my peak creative time. Lately I've been writing poems in the daytime, but I do my best editing/revising and sense making at around midnight.

But then again, 20 years ago, I was just beginning to write sort of seriously for the first time.  Or maybe I should say beginning to write with any sort of skill or success, and so most of those nights found me propped in front of re-runs on tv (Freinds and X-Files were on every night like clockwork), word processor on my lap, banging out the first poems that had anything like promise.  This would be the year that I got my first acceptance.  The year that I set out to write my first book manuscript and misguidedly submit it before I turned 25 .  I was still freaking out about my future then, still trying to talk myself into and out of getting my Ph.D. I was also nearing the end of my grad school security blanket and knowing that unless I did go the further schooling route, I would have to get a real job and support myself.  My nights were spent writing, but my day's were spent in the Depaul library, hunting down books by women poets and hauling stacks back to my tiny studio apartment--Sharon Olds, Ann Sexton, Carolyn Forche, Luoise Gluck.  Were spent reading for my MA comp exams, that year's list which included my first influental encounter with Rita Dove, but also Toni Morrison, James Joyce, a smattering of Shakespeare and Dickens and my favorite of the titles, Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea.   

At some point, it occurred to me that the only option for the future I really had was to continue writing. To center myself there in the poetry, and not really wanting to teach or write scholarly essays for the rest of my life,  I would have to find some sort of non-stressful but bookish job that would allow me the bandwidth to write in my off hours. It took me a while to settle into it, but libraries were an obvious answer, and one that has allowed me to support myself while my creative pursuits sustained me mentally but not fiscally all these years.  And also, how important the writing and creative things have sustained centered me, not just in how I spend my time and the goals I work toward, but who I am as a person while the world spins around you and constantly threatens to knock you for a loop.

Tonight, I crashed kind of early around 10 after eating too much Mexican food and getting sleepy but was wide awake at 1am. Coming  out to my desk and turning on the space heater, getting a cup of tea and opening my laptop to write this post (knowing that tomorrow, it being Saturday, I can sleep til my heart's content.)  But there's something comforting about these nighttime excursions at the keyboard that I really love and how I feel most like myself when I feel like the only person in the world still awake.... 

Friday, January 04, 2019

friday obsessions | finders, keepers pt 1

Since last week's post was devoted to things that slipped through my hands when I was still selling vintage, I thought it might be good to see some of what  I managed to hoard for myself over the years. Some came via thrifting, some through ebay purchasing, but there are certain things I have a weakness for.  The benefit of not selling vintage anymore is that I don't go treasure hunting with an eye toward selling it as soon as I have it.  Over time, I've gotten more selective in what I actually bring home, but these are a handful of some of my favorite things collected over time..stay tuned for more..

old books & paper

working in a library, I am queen of hoarding all the old books for collage and bookwrecking expolits. Every once in a while, I find some really awesome bundles of ephemera--maps, photos, postcards, letters, and these are some of my favorite things to work with.  The vintage kid's books above were a rare find,and even now, over the next couple days, I am itching to get cutting my way through some old Life magazines someone at work bequeathed me and I kept them for myself.

floral basket purses

I did not know these beauties even existed until I spotted one on ebay for a steal with (cheap and under 10 bucks, with a slightly unravelling handle, top right).  The colors on the florals were beautiful, and though I feel it's a little to fragile to carry, I love looking at it.  I loved the photo of it hanging in the studio, I used it as shop promo and sold it as a postcard.  Other's have come my way since, and I sold a few in the shop. The other one above was a $2 Salvation Army find.

 japanese fishing floats 

These are popular design elements and hard to find on the cheap lately, but they are beautiful.  I stumbled on this one resting inside a bowl in Goodwill a few years back.  I also have some blue glass electrical line toppers I use as paperweights that are the same dreamy sea glass colors.

midcentury dishware 

Since both I and the cats are hard on dishware, I've always had a mismatched set, even when I had more modern ones.  At some point I began amassing certain floral designs whenever I could find them.  As time goes on and more contemporary designs start flooding the thrifts, it's been harder, but every once in a while I'll spot some on ebay with cheap enough shipping to make it worthwhile. My favorite are the blue bachelor's button design, which my mother claimed she had a set of in her hope chest that she lost to a shitty landlord when she moved in with my dad. Sold in grocery stores, they are actually pretty plentiful out there and I find some more every so often.

frilly unmentionables

While ladies of the 1950's on the whole were tiny little things, I occasionally find full and half slips that fit my large 21st century body.  When I had the shop, I spent time dying them all sorts of candy colors, but some of my favorites are the beiges and ivories.

framed embroidery pieces

I have number of these picked up in stores--mostly flowers and birds, but also a portrait of a 70's lady hanging above my bed. 

Thursday, January 03, 2019

beats and beginnings...

When I was a baby poet of 19 in my first year at Rockford College, I went to hear an emerging younger poet read on campus.  I would occasionally spot her name over the years since and remembered how she was one of the first real live poets I ever spotted in the wild.  She taught at a nearby university and seemed to be friends with the faculty member who I would eventually take my first poetry workshop with.  It probably solidified in my head that one could "be a poet, "  which at the time felt like one's ability to "be a mermaid" or "be a unicorn."  For the first time it remotely seemed like a possibility.   

So imagine my surprise when last year, I get a manuscript from that very same poet, and an amazing one at that. Of course, I took it. And I'm in the stages of assembling the first batch of copies even now, and thinking about how weirdly appropriate that it's a re-doing of HOWL, about which, if you asked my 19 year old self, who was very much all about the Beats, would be ecstatic.  Since I lived far enough off campus to make travel a nuisance, I would spend entire days between classes tucked in a library carrel reading about the Beats that very same semester I went to hear the poet read.  I think I stumbled on that particular section of books by accident.  (there was a giant card catalog on the first floor, and the beginnings of a DOS-based online catalog, but I'm pretty sure I wandered til I found the american literature section and then stumbled on that section.  A reasonable a number of books about the Beat early years, about Kerouac and Ginsber..  It was many years before I would read any Burroughs, but I loved Ferlinghetti. One of the first poetry collections I bought was Coney Island of the Mind. 

It was still the 90's though, and the Beats weren't really being taught in my classes, so my reading was done almost furtively during these spare hours.  There were a couple of books I actually hid behind the other books so that someone wouldn't check them out before I was finished.  I was of the naive opinion that if I started reading in that section and moved out in cocentric circles into work that came before and after the Beat era--I could have a fair grasp on the American literary canon.  I've since of course learned that any grasp is fleeting.  More work moves in, other is forgotten.  the Canon gets longer and (thankfully) wider.  And if you asked me whether or not I had a gasp on American literatire of even the past 50 years, I would say nowhere near it.

But it's entirely serendiptous that this book and this poet and that time in my life are inextricably linked. It also makes me feel that all the work I have done with the press over the past 14 years has brought me somehow full-circle back to the very beginning.

flashback fashion | 60's madness

It was only natural I suppose that I would grow up with the thrill of the thrifting hunt.  While we didn't start hitting the stores until my college years, every summer weekend as a child was spent combing garage sales all over town for treasures.   We even did it with my grandmother in Wisconsin, one of which procured me a beautiful yellow bicycle when I was 6 or so that I was too young and too scared to ride until my mom eventually sold it at a garage sale of our own.  (I later got a shiny new blue tensspeed when we lived out where I could practice in the long gravel driveway.)  What we actually bought when I was really young I don't remember--surely toys and games and occasionally clothes. Bits of decor and dishes, small pieces of furniture. 

This dress was love at first sight, bought a few houses down from us and a few sizes too small, but I begged my mother to wear it to school, but it was way too short. So instead, I took to wearing it around the house.  It was an almost  reptilian pattered polyester that zipped up the back and had a skirt wide enough to twirl in even as short as it was. It looks grey in the pic, but I remember it as closer to blue.   It was my thing for awhile, this dress, and I imagine my mother grew tired of it eventually and hid it or threw it out.  At the same garage sale, I picked up one of my favorite stuffed animals and also a piece of 60's amazingness, a big green stuffed hippo with felted daisy appliques emblazoned on it's side, so I always put this dress and that hippo in the same shared corner of my mind (and which I think is still rattling around somewhere in the house.)

Even though I had no idea of fashion trends or lines of decades, I knew even then this was far more interesting than the things I could fine in the early 80's, but it did spawn an attraction to drop-waisted mini skirts I was wearing like crazy for awhile there until I was more self-conscious about skirts in upper grades. The age where dresses felt consipicous and too formal, and in danger of being pulled up by boys, who apparently start their bullshit real early.  Still, I look at this picture and remember how much joy (as you can tell) a single piece of clothing once inspired.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

advice to my younger poet self

A few weeks back, another poet posted on social media fielding responses of what you wish you'd known when you started writing that you know now.  Or maybe it was when you started publishing. I wanted to answer, but it was a crazy week, then I lost track of the thread and never did.  But still, in odd moments over the past month or so, I've been musing over the question and trying to think what I would tell my 19 or my 24 year old self about writing or po-biz (the two points at which I started writing and seeking to publish in earnest respectively.)

For writing, I probably would say to read more contemporary poetry and find your voice and obsessions within it. I was so clueless with my shaky Emily Dickinson-esque rhymes and big gestures at theme. I was an English Lit major, so most of my poetry models were hundreds of years in the past as an undergrad.  Also, throw out the "write what you know" advice, since if you do and you're 20 , those poems are gonna be pretty boring and self-indulgent.  20 year old me would have been flabbergasted that I had permission to write about whatever I wanted--ghosts and sideshows and serial killers.   The simple dictum that you should write the kinds of poetry you want to read would have been a revelation to me at that age, rather than trying to wedge your way into anything like tradition.

As for publishing,  as I've mentioned often, there weren't really role models or internet advice in those days.  Poets & Writers would have been the closest I had to any sort of manual. That and Plath's journals and letters.  Otherwise I was pretty much winging it.  And even Plath aside, P&W swathe of information is limited to what I like to call po-biz status quo. But prior to the internet, you would have had to seek out other possibilities with a lot more effort.  They were there, but the narrow world of po-biz prescribed a very specific slate of journals, presses, mfa programs, residencies--ie the ones who were funded enough, or had enough cultural capital,  to advertise in Poets & Writers.  Sure, the magazine has changed over the years, with features on small presses (like profiling dgp back in 2007) and is a lot more balanced now than in the 90's.  But you still find so much outside of it.   Journals that are newer, that thrive on social media, that spread by word of mouth. 

But the influence of po-biz status quo in general is harmful.  It's narrow.  It's exclusive and limits terribly the people who have access to it on so many levels. A culture that prizes scarcity and depends greatly in having the reading fees to enter contests and apply to things always will exclude those who perhaps have the most and the most interesting things to say.  Also, po-biz status quo centers itself in academia--in journals and contests that are funded and run by universities.  In communities centered entirely within colleges and universities and blind to anything outside it.  Which definitely leaves out those who do not have access to the funds or time to get MFA's or live on a shoe-string as adjunct faculty to maybe eventually find a place therein.  So to prize the academic world as superior seems like a really bad idea, especially when so much poetry happens outside those walls.

In 2001, as I started publishing more and more on the web, and engaging in the poetry community found there, it was almost like this whole new way of being an artist opened up to me. But I was still beholden mentally to the status quo in terms of which journals were "a -list", hoping an mfa would give me some sort of credibility as an artist I craved, throwing money at contests I never had a chance in hell of winning.  Wanting that first book so badly that it turned me into not the nicest person when I saw other people getting what I thought I deserved but could not have.   You get bridesmaid syndrome and maybe you give up. Or maybe you never even send a word out because it all seems so daunting.  This pathway into poetry that is so carefully paved once you're in the gate, but the gates seem  insurmountable.  I think of so many of my MFA peers who never made a go, or who grad school ruined their spark somehow, and sometimes they were producing the most interesting work.  It's a lovely illusion, that glittering path, everything from first book contest to tenure to Pullitzer levels of esteem.  Except usually it's not for you. (and if it is, it may not be that you were better, just that you were luckier.)

Getting free of it took some time and immersion in other types of creative communities.  The open mics I frequented as my first decade in Chicago wore on showed me poets who weren't afraid to get themselves and their work out in the world, however they did it--self publications, hosting readings, forgeing community.  As I delved more into the visual & book arts I was relived to find the nastiness of the contest culture was no where to be found.  We weren't all standing on the backs of hundreds of other artists, but just doing our thing and trying to find an audience for what we do.  Which may be the same audience as someone else, but we didn't have to Hunger Games-style it to get what we wanted. 

I wanted a culture that inspired and rewarded going after what you wanted--not standing back and waiting coyly for someone to tap you on the head with the legitimacy stick. That rewarded opening up possibilities to other writers and artists rather than  making a gate narrower and narrower and therefore somehow more desirable. That connected and fostered audiences and engaged with other writers rather than competed with them for so few "acceptable" opportunities.  The same bullshit that passed as "career advice " in my MFA program.

So I guess what I would tell my late 20's and 30's self that there are so many different ways of "being a poet" in the world and find the one that makes you thrive, not the one that smothers you into silence or makes you an asshole. Don't be afraid to publish your work, make community with other writers, found presses and reading series,  create the culture you want to exist.   Find an audience for your work, or maybe audiences (plural), and work to reach them the best way you can. Don't worry if the status quo isn't spreading it's tiny, rigid, arms toward you in welcome. Run that shit down and build something new to live inside of.   

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2019 books & objects series

I've just put up the new listing in the shop for this year's Books & Objects series, which so far will include the animals accordian book I am just about finished with, the hunger palace, ordinary planet, exquisite damage, taurus,  and so much more (not just books, but also prints, paper, and random little zines)shipped in about 4 different bundles throughout the year. I've thought about using Patreon as a format for the series, but until then, this is one of the best ways to get familiar with my work and support the creative work I do. (plus you get copies of my full-length books as they are released.)  You can also get most of the projects a la carte in the shop, but the subscription is by far best bargain (and you get treats not really available elsewhere--like poets zodiac scrolls and postcards). You will also get the in-progress collab devoted to slenderman stabbing poems I've been working on with my sister. It's been a long time coming, but I'd also love to make my box project, unusual creatures, happen this year if I can afford to do it.

hello 2019

So I was thinking instead of resolutions, perhaps I should be thinking in terms of plans.   Those perennial resolutions I alluded to in the previous post are usually only three rather simple ones:

1. Be productive
2. Be happy
3. Be healthy(ish)

Those are sort of base things I try to keep in mind as I enter every year, but resolutions mean nothing much when you don't follow them up with plans and goals and habit changing behavior. So here is some working toward being a bit more specific in how to get there.

writing & art

I've been plotting out this year's offerings in the books & objects series and so far it includes the animals accordian book I am just about finished with, the hunger palace, ordinary planet,  as well as print incarnations of taurus, with its visual elements, and exquisite damage.  There is also the unusual creatures box project that needs to happen. There may be others, as well, as things take shape and firm up.  I also have wiggling in my head on an cool format for the Blue Swallow motel project which has been stalled the past couple of years, so stay tuned for that. (maybe my excitement over the format will spur me to finish the damn thing.)

Last year brought a lot of new work, so I would love to bend and shape much of that into some new full-length manuscripts by the time summer rolls around. I have good portions of a couple different manuscripts and part of a third.  There are also things like the poets zodiac I'm still working on that might be a longer project down the line. One of the manuscripts are poems about mothers/daughters/body issues.  The other a meditation on the midwest gothic. The third is sort of mostly about monsters and monstrousness. There very rough and still need some work, but I would love to start submitting them by fall.  little apocalypse is still in the hopper and should be out in the next few months. And then 2020 brings sex & violence out from Black Lawrence.

I would love to continue doing some more subscription series via Tiny Letter. Right now, you can subscribe and get a dose of swallow delivered into you mailbox weekly.  When that's finished, there will no doubt be another coming around the bend. I will also still be posting bits from the poets zodiac on instagram, so keep an eye out for those.

If anything is longer than my list of writing projects I want to do, it's my list of art projects, so here's hoping I will have a bit more time to work on these this year.  There are also several image only zines/artists books underway--florographia ink paintings, the night bloom monograph prints, new collage series. I'd also love to get back to doing some assemblage work and expand on the paper theatres I started working on last spring.

And as usual, the usual goals, to keep writing daily, to submit work more in general. To take advantage of opportunities for readings and such when they come my way.  All the usuals.  As for new pieces of writing, I've been doing my research for the HH Holmes inspired series, as well as more relationship focused project, or maybe series of projects.  The Renaissance Dog girl poems are just waiting to be writen, as are some Black Dahlia-inpired pieces I've been doing a little reading for.   All these could and will hopefully happen this year if I can keep my productivity levels high enough.

press & studio  

Getting caught up on orders and releases is the first goal.  I made good headway in December, but there are still orders from November & December that need to ship.  If I could even close my window to four weeks instead of eight I'd be enormously happy.  There is the mermaid anthology of course, as well as free standing issues of wicked alice going to happen.  There are about 50 new titles coming your way this year. Plus all of the shop items I would love to see happen this year, which will determine if I make any headway on hosting the monthly open studios once again.  Sometimes things get so crazy that I forget to take a minute and relish the parts of it all that I enjoy--the feeling of getting amazing work into the world.  Of working with authors to make something singular and new. 

workshops, consultations etc.

This is the first year I took on a handful of full-length project manuscript consultations and I really liked it. I wasn't sure I would since my previous experience with things like workshops was sort of meh, but there is something very different about helping to shape a book rather than pick apart individual poems.  I had done it a few times for friends for free, so I thought maybe it would be something to take on to make a little bit more money (and to go toward all those student loans I took out in the name of making this poetry thing happen.) I've also worked with really good writers and really promising books so far, so that surely made it easier. While my workshop activities have been mostly library-run and devoted to visual arts--bookwrecking, printmaking, etc. I've considered doing some others in an online setting, so I'd like to maybe make those start to happen this year.  One of the reasons I avoided teaching all those years ago was I lacked the patience for trying to impart knowledge to unwilling participants, but working with willing groups of people can be very fun and fulfilling, so we'll see where that goes.


If all goes well, we might have a new staff member joining the department and I might be able to relinquish ILL duties soon, which will quell the amount of time I spend on that toward more fun things like planning our mini-conference and other programming, as well as some of the library-focused writing projects I've been making notes and doing idle research for, but just haven't managed to pull together yet.  We've also been plotting a book, outlining chapters and such, about curated learning initiatives in libraries, but I haven't got to rally dig in on any drafting as of yet.

This week, I worked a little on getting the wording for our spring exhibit artist call down and plotting out some of the things I'd like to see happen. I'm thinking we also might do another couple of events for our Breton's Birthday celebration of Surrealism--maybe a collage workshop for one of our how-tos and maybe a reading of surreal love letters around V-Day. Could be fun. We also have our War of the Worlds inspired zine project--the result of our Book to Art endeavors that will be coming in May.

We're probably getting ahead of ourselves, but we're loosely plotting fall's focus topic at the same time we are mounting spring's.  Rumor has it may be a nod to true crime, which bodes well for all sorts of possible involvements from all areas of campus--novelists, film, whatever class requires that forensic science book on reserve. I think it would be really exciting.


I always laugh at the "be healthy" resolution, because I come closer some years than others.  I did a lot of eating my feelings in 2018--hell probably since 2017, and don't think I haven't noticed that some of my less forgiving clothes are a little snugger than they should be.   I've been, as I said in a previous post, living a bit too deliciously.  And as much as I enjoy food and think I should be able to enjoy what I want, in these cases, I do need to limit my portions and just exercise more.  I feel great when I'm doing it on the regular and I can really sense a difference, but exhaustion wins out and even the relative ease of my recumbent bike seems like more energy than I can muster. So more of this, and more walking in general.   And then add no movement  to way to many tacos and next thing you know, your coat is gaping in weird ways. I'll never be a super-fit and actually love my curviness, but there is a point where the extra weight can start to cause problems (achy knees,  stairway windedness--things that were noticeable when I was heavier then lost some weight,  and now I'm older to boot).  So it's a balance between that and my love of blueberry donuts. Some days one or the other wins the battle.

I also just want to be more attentive.  This goes back to my last post on routines and time passing too fast. Take more pictures, Be more in the moment.  These are all things I vow on the regular, but I feel like I never really get enough of.  My mind is always racing and worrying and plotting out the next move.  It's had to be still.  If anything meditation, like most people do it,  seems to be unhelpful. Not sure if I need more routine or less of it, so hopefully this year will bring some answers or solutions.   I also am getting better at saying "no" in all contexts and imposing better boundaries--necessary I think in making things a little less crazy.

Maybe plans to be a little less messy--especially when it comes to creative projects--the studio is near downing in paper trimmings and my desk at work has several well-placed but nearly toppling piles of various books and projects I'm in the middle of. My head is always clearer when things are more organized.  Also, when I'm home, I spend a lot of time juggling creative or relaxing things with piles of laundry in my hamper, dirty dishes in the sink, and tiny cat hair tumbleweeds littering my floor. If I was pro-active in my cleaning regimen , I might spend more time free of them and less time dreading them.  The procrastination and mental energy given to feeling like I need to do them is more bothersome than just doing them.

So here's looking for a year in which all this happens.  Or at least some of this happens. Even then, it should be pretty awesome.