Wednesday, February 20, 2019

gatekeepers and the myth of the "best"

I always sort of semi-roll my eyes when I hear the term "gatekeepers" when it comes to the literary world.  I've said it's because once you are officially (or even unofficially) serving as one, you realize how subjective it all really is--the choosing of one piece of work over another. When I was first submitting work in my 20's and early 30's I thought for sure, getting acceptances from journal X or journal Y meant that that particular work was better or worse depending on the exclusivity of the journal (ie the rejection rates).  What was crazy was that what I thought was my best work, would STILL maintain was my best work, was more often rejected than things I was a little more lukewarm on. meanwhile, pieces that were sound, but that I was not all that particularly excited about, met with reasonable success.

Regardless, it's hard to tell what someone will like. You can read the journals and see what the editor's tend to favor, but even that's not always guarantee that what you're sending will pique an interest (or gain a consensus when it comes to multiple editors.)  thank god I run my own operation since sometimes I see something and love it and would have a hard time explaining to another editor why. I just do--for whatever mercurial chemistry of voice, tone, and subject matter that knocks me for a loop.  And of course, it sounds like mallarky, to say "I don't know, but I know it when I see it..." and it is much the same with the visual art that I find appealing, but again, might not be able to tell you why. Admittedly, I do take it as a badge of honor when an author admits they've been sending something around and I'm the first yes after a long time of no.

I've always experienced the role as a editor as more of a curator than any sort of gatekeeper. Or hell ,a bit divergent perhaps even from the traditional role of editors in the historic sense.   I very rarely dig my hands into the manuscripts in much beyond a copy-editing.  I might make some suggestions, but usually these are based on formatting and layout concerns.  And I tend to say no to things that might need a lot of editorial work, even if promising for other reasons.  There is already too much finshed, completely polished work that needs a berth.  I've had editors of my own work  that were more or less hands on/hands off and find both appealing for different reasons in terms of line edits or ordering considerations.  Both are useful depending on what you need and have their benefits.  Some writers feel more comfortable with an editor who can be kind of a final reader with suggestions on ordering and cutting poems.   Some authors are sending things they consider finished and don't need anything more from me than to get to laying it out.

So really in the end, as a curator, you take what you like, what speaks to you, what seems important to you.  The sort of work you want to define as your press aesthetic. And it does seem, over time, people know what to send my way.  I used to get into really heated arguments with men about the logistics of running a feminist press, how certainly I was losing out on possibly publishing the "best" work out there by only accepting submissions from 50 percent of the population. But really, I am always highly suspicious of those presses and journals who keep throwing around that word "best." According to who?  According to what?  My thought immediately goes to the upper middle class, white, male standards that have only now began to crumble.

Granted we can usually agree on things that are bad (limericky rhymes and cliched overdoneness usually don't fare well), but there is a huge lack of consensus in the various corners of the poetry world as to what exactly is good depending on your personal aesthetics inclinations.  And truly, if Rupi Kaur is selling millions of copies, obviously there is an audience for all sorts of an editor, you just need to go with your gut.

So maybe it's all we ever do, as so called "gatekeepers"  (and there is another entry for another day about  founding and starting presses and how important such things are in abolishing gates of any kind.)  And really, so much of what the rest of the world deems "best" falls rather flat on me (stuff like Wes Anderson movies, red wine, jazz) So really, it's not surprising that my literary tastes run slightly askew..

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

dgp cover love | inky goodness

My original cover designs  from the last few weeks have definitely erred more toward conventional collage, but these are a few of the more graphic ones I've been designing since the first of the year, all in my very favorite colors (and be on the lookout, there is so much more pink coming down the pipeline.  The expanses of inky black have been appealing to me quite a bit the past few months and I love how dramatic they are when combined with pastels. (and probably why I love my hunger palace series so much).  

the summer house

What started out as a cover design for an upcoming dancing girl  chap (Nomi Washer's PHANTOMS) wound up inspiring a bunch of spin-off far there are five, and who knows, maybe more, but it was nice to be able to play around a bit (this is the first visual stuff, outside of a couple covers, I've done since the analog collages at the beginning of the year and I was feeling a little unproductive visually of late.) 

you can seem more of them here...

Monday, February 18, 2019

ordinary planet

The next installment in the books & objects series is very , very close to being a real, papery thing (after a couple more rounds of proofing.)  It's my strange little steampunky dystopia group of poems I finished during NAPOWRIMO last spring..  Here is a sneak peek at the cover...

Subscribe here for all sorts of loveliness...

for a taste of the text pieces, check out recent issues of  Grimoire and Rust & Moth...

armchair travel

I have mentioned before that I am not a good traveler.  Part of it is that I am not really able to take huge amounts of time away from either the library or the studio--either vacation time considerations or work backlogging more than it already does. It also makes me anxious--particularly traveling where the bulk of financing and organization falls on me (which unless I was traveling with my parents, which I used to do fairly often--trips to Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, shorts jaunts to Wisconsin.) But,  mostly even then, I miss my cats and my apartment after a couple days and being away makes me feel panicky and out of control. And I can never really afford it, no matter how much I plan ahead, money becomes an issue. Various crises wind up in canceled plans and trips.  I also don't fly due to terrible plane crash dreams and anxiety around the endeavor, so while I adore road trips and train rides, my options are kinda limited to the continental US regardless.

I am a big fan of my own sort of armchair traveling via books and film and scoping out places I am curious about on things like Google maps from the comfort of my apartment.  Granted, not really the same, but I'm okay with that.  I occasionally do weird things like take tiny faux vacations to Paris--roam around Montmartre via google maps, watch French movies, read travel blogs, and eat too many eclairs.  One night I ate amazing tacos and roamed around Tijuana and SoCal (one place I actually would like to visit IRL).  So much us at your fingertips and doesn't cost a cent, but there are things that don't translates, the noise of a place, the scent of a place.  The intangibles.

There is also a charm to the state of being in transit, on the way to or from something.  When I took the train out to Seattle a few years back for AWP, I have fond memories of rolling through the darkness of Montana, completely alone and wide awake in the middle of the night, listening to Elton John.  On the way back, when we were stuck for awhile due to an avalanche ahead and delayed by almost a day, I spent a considerable portion hiding from a creepy seat mate in the lounge car and writing.  There I  witnessed one of the most awkward drunk girl scenarios, a college student who kept trying to kiss the older guy in a suit as he tried to politely keep her from falling over on her way back to her seat. Then she sat down across from me, noticed I was staring perplexed at my laptop,  and started talking about how she could help me with whatever I was writing because she was good at it. 

But no matter how much I enjoy the transit, nothing matches the relief of coming home. (especially after getting stuck on train for three days.)  In my head, I idealize  the fun of a road trip to the west coast, staying in weird vintage hotels.  And I love New Orleans, would move there in a heartbeat if I was less afraid of hurricanes and big bugs, and settle for occasional trips. Also the Carolina coasts, which I've loved since my first semester of college and have only been back to Myrtle Beach once.  And here's where I wish time travel was a thing, because I would love to see Las Vegas in it's glittery, seedier mobster days.  But I always like coming back just a little more... 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

on smallness

A week or so back, I got to thinking about this article and the joys of limited adventures.  When I started the press, I could have went one of two ways--limited or open editions, and having felt the frustrations of being unable to obtain things once they ran out, I went with the latter.  Still, there is a certain charm to smallness, to tiny editions, which is why I love issuing much of my work in editions under 100-whether visual or written. 

Poetry sometimes, itself, seems so small in appeal--compared to other art forms--music, movies, pretty much anything else at all. So to be even tinier in that tiny sea seems appropriate.  I think of legacies, what we leave in the world, and knowing that most poets vanish inevitably into the obscurity. Most poets live in obscurity.  For all the submitting and scrambling, the hustle and po-biz, most of us, even if we have a brief glimmer of notoriety while alive, will be forgotten.  We may live forever through our work, but it's afloat in a much bigger sea.

So really small endeavors seem inevitable and right.  Even larger things are small drops in the water--unless you are a best-selling novelist, most trade paperbacks are really only moving into a limited number of hands. Unless you are maybe, like an instagram poets with weirdly large appeal, you're world is already a very limited one.  We know this, and yet as artists there is always the struggle reach for more--more publications, more accolades, more audience.  All well and good, but sometimes pursuits for those seems hollow sometimes, like a game that is rigged but we like to play regardless. 

So how to go about creating the creative life, knowing the stakes are so very small?  Knowing that even while we are alive, there will be more work and attention given to the things we create than will ever be given it after it releases out into the world?  I guess then all we are left with is not quite legacy, but practice, the wonder that we created anything at all.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

do better

There is much discussion in the po-biz world over politically reactionary poets being rewarded in po-bizzy ways and whether that sort of work should be acknowledged, let alone given support. Sometimes I read articles and am pretty sure the claims of "censorship" flying around are not exactly using the concept correctly.  Inevitably those same defenses jump to Godwinning all over the place and just sort of being embarassing to watch. I'm pretty sure censorship would not exactly be removing your work from a publication (which an editor has every right to do) but more like imprisoning you and taking away your pen. Or forcing you to cross out every objectional thing in black marker wherever you post it.  Even if it's your own blog.

Regardless, sometimes the garbage people start to collect into tiny gross constellations-the reactionaries, the racists, the neo-nazis. That dude (white)who wrote in a problematic way about Michael Brown's death  and the woman (also white) who doing was something racist with Gone With the Wind quotes.  That guy who pretended to be an Asian woman.  Add in the creepers, the rampant abusers, the assholes of the po-biz world  and you have a movement against what they consider the "mob" of poets who dare question or call them out.   Also, pretty much the people who defend them and their work, of course, who seems to do so out of similarly aligned thought patterns of their own (usually disguised in, of course,  1st Amendment garb, but I see you for what you are....)  They call their adversaries "social justice " poets, but I'm not so sure it's about social justice at all and more just not being a trash person. They also like to bring up struggles to silence work in the past--usually of a progressive or daring nature. But aren't quite self aware enough to realize yes, writers historically fight against the silencing of work that is moving forward, but why would you want to reward work that is regressive.?  Is this not antithetical to the purpose of artists in the first place--to make us better humans?

I like to operate under the assumptions that artists, if anyone in this whole world, are the sane ones.  The good ones.  The better ones. Fighting the good fight. We're not always perfect, and the ability to say, "hey, I made a mistake when I wrote that, and I apologize and will do better." goes a long way. Why in the world, as an editor, as a reader, would I want to publish or support the work a horrible person.  So much is said about the "quality" being the only thing that matters. Bullshit.  It matters if you are a quality person, because if you aren't, no matter how good you're work is, I'm not going to read it, publish it, or support it.  There is no disconnect between the artist and the work--it's the same reason I won't watch Woody Allen films or support Louis CK's comedy.  I cannot divorce the work from the artist themselves. In anything. If my Uber driver is a mysogynist prick but still managed to get me home in one piece, yes he's good driver, but I'm not exactly keen to ride with him again.

If the lit community can't work toward being being better people, who will?

Friday, February 15, 2019

a little spring

Yesterday was Valentines Day, and J arrived at my door for our regular sleepover date with a bundle of the lushest, most heavenly smelling pink and ivory roses. I keep smelling them today and thinking about how much flowers of any kind have a strange power to lift my mood.  That one bleak winter two decades ago,  where all I did was sit in the dark and cry in my apartment, I was saved by a trip to the Lincoln Park Conservatory (or at least it seemed like it) where everything was pink and white and lavender.   I remember it only because I kept taking photos with a disposable camera and later developed them and think of it every time I come across one.

Of course,  I have no idea if it actually was the conservatory or just those things coincided, but I do wonder. It had been a bleak start to a year--stressed about my grad classes, about what to do after grad school (which was intended to be teaching, but by then knew that wasn't really my thing.) About money and a million other little hobgoblins I'm sure.  My anxiety, which is usually manageable without treatment went full blown and turned into depression for a couple months.  But by Valentines Day and that trip to the zoo and the to see the flowers with my parents, I was feeling infinitely better.

I've discussed with a friend whether or not summer or winter is more prone to random sadnesses and depression, since for  me, even actual legitimate reasons for being sad are harder to get too down about when the world is green and the weather mild. In winter, whatever seems bad exacerbated by the world outside being basically inhospitable to life.  Everything is harder (this week's icy nearly unwalkable sidewalks being a perfect example), When things are grey and bleak and bare, I feel similar in mindset.  My friend, on the other hand, hates how summer makes you feel like you should be happy and ebullient and it's extra tragic you're not.

Regardless, it's been a rough winter where I'm feeling it a little more even than usual. A little more like circling the drain. It comes and goes, but it does feel a little less hopeless now that the days are longer and spring is a little more in sight.  And flowers, even roses and their shortest of lifespans,  can make a huge difference sitting there on my table and smelling gloriously like summer for as long as they can....

an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger

Last night was our annual (mostly) Breton's Birthday celebration of Surrealism. This year, our theme was Surrealist love letters.  (Largely because the main event coincided Valentine's Day-- Breton's actual B-Day falls next week.) Mostly it's a chance for some collage artmaking, reading some poems, and a final zine project we've been collecting over a couple weeks and promoting some resources in the library. Because a portion of the event was an open mic, I wrote a new piece culled, collage style, from a discarded book with an essay called "The Reach of Imagination" by  Jacob Bronowski.  While maybe not a love letter per se, at least not to an obvious lover,  it actually turned out reasonably good with a couple killer lines (that one at the end of part one is really nice.).


i. into what seeming deserts the poet is born

wooden as a rain gauge or self-registering machine.
The temperature of bloodheat.
The conditioned reflex.  An animal cannot recall,
behave consistently.
The salmon and the carrier pigeon find their way home
as we cannot. The recollection of absent things
 is where the animal falls short,
trying to fix the light in the mind by fixing it in its body.

ii. beautiful papers on the random movement of atoms

an imaginary experiment:
suppose, said Galileo, you drop two unequal balls from
the tower at the same time. The drag or brake.
Your assumption, the contradiction.
The heavier ball falls more slowly,
falling at the same rate when they are tied together.
Speeded up, slowed down.

iii. the price we pay for living a thousand lives

A child begins to play games with things that stand for other things.
All chess players sadly recall the combinations
they planned and which never came to be be played.

*the title of this post is taken from Breton's poem, "Free Union"

Thursday, February 14, 2019

dgp round up | february

*A week or so back, the folks at Quail Bell Magazine interviewed me in regard to press doings. I talk a little about the aims of a feminist press in a crazy world and balancing the demands of running a one-woman it here.

* The Slender Man anthology project, MANSION,  edited by Kristin Garth and Justin Karcher is getting closer and closer to realization and should be available in the next couple of weeks.   It's a really exciting project that features a whole passel of delightful authors and delightfully creepy writing, including some of my own Slender Man pieces, so I am extra excited for the release.

*We're in the process of working through the last of the 2018 chap offerings and the first few of 2019, so keep an eye on the shop's front page for new titles available daily. I am in proofing mode on a few things I'll be finalizing up very soon.  I'll also be finishing up copies on some of the things that debuted right before Christmas and still need to go out.

* Keep an eye out on social media as well for some AWP happenings at the end of March featuring our authors. While I won't be making it this year, plans are afoot for some things organized by dgp-ers that I'll be sending books along for.. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

done to death

I spent some more time over the weekend with the hunger palace, the part of the FEED manuscript most in need of work.  Also the part I've yet to spend any effort in trying to submit it's individual parts and would like to soon.  One hand, the piece as a whole might need to be taken in as a whole, which eventually as a zine project it will be. Probably later this year, complete with the images I created to go with them.  But also we're dealing with the weird discomfort I feel over submitting pieces that are a) more personal than usual and b) leaden with a whole lot of baggage. Also, while their partially about mothers and daughters and food disorders, they are also about death, which always makes me feel like I'm treading a line between art and cliche. Death, as I always say, having been done to death.

But I'd like to get them out there a little. And I am determined to fulfill my 100 rejections plan, which of course means, at the very least, I need to send out 100 submissions to get rejected.  I've done a bit of tightening and minor edits, but I'm still stuck on pulling out some parts and general ordering. As a whole, they are definitely more essayistic than poetic. Which of course leaves me looking for journals who publish that sort of work. I have series of post-its in my sketchbook of places I'd like to hit up this year, but it sometimes seems you blink and 100 new journals appear, while another 100 disappear or cease publication.

I do like the ways that the more essay-like pieces in the mix with the prose poems in the larger manuscript, so I think they work well there.  Just on their own I'm not quite sure what to do with them.  Last year, when I finished them, they were too raw.  I felt kind of resentful, in advance, of putting them out in the world and them facing rejection.  It didn't seem to matter, whether or not editors responded to them--mostly since I needed to write them regardless.   Or more that I gave no fucks on whether anyone else would like them, only that I had written them.  With time, it's softened a little, and the tweaks I've made to them make them smoother and stronger as prose.  And I guess if I am aiming for rejections anyway--they might be the very thing to help get me to my goal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

velvet buzzsaw | art and slaughter

There is so much to love about this movie.  Even the horror plot line aside, it's an amazingly scathing portrait of the art in which you are left wishing you were like John Malkovitch's character at the end, drawing circles on the beach with a stick that washes away as quickly as you draw.   I can't say I have much knowledge of the fancy gallery world maneuverings, but from all accounts from folks who have peered into it's abyss, it's not that far off. Mediocre art but really good buzz can sell for millions. Collectors make the culture--where the money goes, contemporary taste goes. It's probably no different than other art forms--music or film, but it seems especially heinous when you take out the popular appeal factor.  Ie, yes people are willing to throw money at Beyonce albums and the latest comic book movie, but you're average person will not buy a painting this year, much less a giant abstract. So the wealthy, not the masses, form the taste. And, well, the wealthy are boring and predictable.   For a bit, it made me really happen that there is no money in poetry, or even book arts really, so the waters are less muddy between art and commerce.

As horror, it's really good.  And very original in a world where there seem to be a lot of remakes and spin-offs but little true, original horror. And of course, you might argue it's not original, part of the inspiration being a small history of haunted paintings.  Still it's a good watch even if you give no shits about the art world, and an amazing watch if you do.  It's also very lovely and artful as a film in terms of performances, scripts, and cinematography.  Netflix has been knocking it out of the park lately and I can't wait to see more. (The Haunting of Hull House and Russian Doll come immediately to mind ( the latter of which also deserves an entry of its very own.) I also very much like how they handled the final girl--almost invisibly moving through the carnage--and emerging out the other side intact. The final girl is always a witness to the horror, and in this , she is almost invisible, but important as a conveyor of gossip and information. With every body she comes across, her role becomes more comic and archetypal., and probably evidence of a whole bunch of gallery asst. girls who move in that world invisibly and yet survive.

Monday, February 11, 2019

notes & things | 2/11/2019

Two nights in a row, I dreamt about lions in places where lions should not be.  One my parent's backyard where we watched from the window, and the second night, in a schoolyard I was trying to escape from, but the lion kept approaching for cuddles, which I indulged a little, but all the while afraid it would kill me.  Somewhere, there is probably a meaning to this, though last night I dreamt about making out with other writers, male and female, at AWP.  (which I have never done, nor will I be going to the conference this year..) Not sure what this meant, only that someone mentioned AWP on facebook shortly before bedtime.

It was  a quiet but busy weekend..and I watched some good things on Netflix amid my writing-related things-most noteably Velvet Buzzsaw (watch for a post on this tomorrow) and Russian Doll, which last week was hard to get through the first episode without feeling panicky, but I was able to finish it off last night entirely. The light is noticeably longer and I am mostly feeling good about February, though I am still feeling weighed down by how much there is to do. This week will be busy in the library as well, with the pendant workshop on Tues and the surrealist love letters reading on Valentines Day.  Friday's Rom Com Trivia Night's  attendance was small, but it was still a lot of fun and featured the above trophy which seemed fitting.

Yesterday, I spent some more time with the hunger palace, as well as plotting some places to send fragments from it and other projects.  I wrote some blog entries for the week and planned out some press related tasks that will be coming up.  I drank a lot of coffee and ate pop tarts and kept alternately moving the space heater closer and further away from my feet. Today, there's waffles and tea and cleaning and maybe some monotype making. Surely some napping. 

I am impatient for spring.  For not having to pile on l the layers and swiftly remove them in the library before I overheat and am looking forward to tights-less days where I can just slip on a dress and my my shoes and head out the door. As much as I love my winter outerwear, I love my lighter jackets best. Or better, no jacket at all.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

editing, publishing, and technological witchery

It occurred to me this morning that the dgp chapbook series turns 15 this fall. Occasionally, I find myself thinking about my tenure as an editor/publisher.  What I know and how I learned it, and so much of it seems to have been picked up, scattershot along the way.   I guess it began digitally with starting wicked alice in 2001, my first shot at web design and curating content.  Or maybe it began in 2004 when I mastered the tricky figure 8 layout that was necessary for manual duplex printing. So much of it was, and probably still is, fake it til you make it.   I could say it started in high school--where I worked on the newspaper as an editor.   I could say it started in a desktop publishing class I randomly enrolled in my last year of undergrad.  Or the Small Press Publishing class I took at Columbia that made it seem possible that I could even start a press. All of these would be true, but not the whole story exactly.

But much of it is wrapped up on technology, in what was possible or not possible at any given time. In a pre-internet world, you could have started a press or litzine, but your audience & distro would have been limited.  Layout would have been old-school and more time consuming. Printing would have been left to the professionals unless you were going the photocopied zine route. So much of my own life in publishing depended on the exact set of technological circumstances that existed when I started doing it.  Otherwise, it might not even have happened.

As a kid, my relationship with computers all along had been pretty sketchy, the first pc I'd encountered having been my cousin' s Commodore 64, upon which we pretty much just played that olympic gymnastics game over and over where you chose your country and then had to stick landings using the joystick. Video games, of course,  were not entirely new, it being a great age of arcades in malls and Atari.  I even had a desktop Donkey Kong game I routinely ran out the batteries on.  But the home computer part was entirely new.   At school, there was one very clunky beige computer that they rolled from classroom to classroom in the upper grades and offered students time on it, but I never sought it out because, really, besides the gymnastics game, I wouldn't have even begun to know what to do with it.  In junior high, we learned typing in 7th grade (well, were supposed to learn typing) and something called "Computer Applications" in 8th.  All I remember of this class was somehow making a tiny cursor move around on the screen for no real reason.  Also that everything was excessively complicated--the codes you typed in to make things work, the order in which the machine had to be powered up lest it crash or explode or some other horrible technological catastrophe.  It pretty much quelled any interest I might have had and sent me back to completely analog world for a couple more years. At home we had a Nintendo, and I spent hours perfecting my Super Mario Bros game, but computers were still way too expensive.

I did wind up working on my high school newspaper as a junior and senior. So of course, there was typing up stories in the office on black screened monitors  (mostly rants against environmental and animal rights threats)  to print out and arrange with sticky wax on blue lined layout pages.  Things were just beginning to shift publishing wise, and by the final year, when I was one of the editorial staff, there was a shiny new machine running something called MS Word with a giant monitor and layout capabilities.  My co-editors would fiddle with it, but mostly we were still using the blue-lined mockups. I imagine by the next year, they would have fully gone over to laying things out entirely digital.  Because there were some conflicts in my schedule and I had to swap out some electives, I wound up in a another introductory computer class that met first thing in the morning, where we learned to type up letters and resumes and spreadsheets on that same black DOS screen. At the time, computers in general seemed like a clever, speedier,  alternative to a typewriter, but that was about it.

As a freshman in college, it was the first time I had heard the phrase "e-mail."  We were granted one should we choose to use it, but I didn't really. Definitely not that semester in North Carolina, where my communications were limited to notes on dorm room doors, long distance calls to my mother, and long snail mail letters to friends.  There was a computer lab of course, I even went there with a roommate once, but I mostly typed up my papers and writing exploits on the new typewriter I'd bought with my graduation money the spring before, and would continue to do so for the next three years.    My final semester as an undergrad, I took a desktop publishing class to fill a final sci/math/tech credit I was missing.  As a senior, I'd probably been in the RC computer lab two or three times previously.  There was huge demand for the two computers at the end of a long row, and there were whispers of the word "internet," but I wouldn't have been able to really tell you what that was.  I was starting to use e-mail, mostly to write a friend who had transferred to another college, but little else. All along, there were  rumblings of zines, talked about in places like Sassy magazine and in my sister's group of high school friends, one of whom must have had a computer and some layout knowledge.  But I was spending most of my time writing poems and doing theater seemed cool when she bought it home along with comics and other things she'd made  (I remember there was an artist book bound in glittery vinyl she did that was really intriguing) but it wasn't my world.

The Desktop Publishing class was teaching us the ins-and-outs of something called "Word Perfect" and I got really good at making things happen--designing attractive newsletters and resumes and brochures, which I kept in a tidy plastic-sheeted portfolio.   It turned out to be one of my favorite and most useful classes, and even for a one credit class, I spent a lot of time in that lab out of class perfecting my designs for fake businesses and literary newsletters. I was into it.  Obsessively so. Perhaps this, moreso than my high school newspaper experience was the real beginning of my editing/publishing life, where I caught the bug for it.    Word Perfect, of course,  was about to be swept under the rug by MSWord...those internet computers at the end  were already running Office.

A year later, I landed in my grad program at DePaul, and one of my first classes was a Bibliography and Literary Research class.  Because it was a bigger and a more technologically advanced school, they were quick to show us the ins and outs of database research and the internet the second week of class.  My undergrad paper-writing up til that point had been mired in a clunky humanties article database that crashed every 10 minutes and the huge print MLA indexes in the basement of the library.   The DP computer lab was huge, filled with brand new Gateways. speedy and slick, and I would soon learn that once you sat down, you could easily lose an afternoon, not always to classroom research, but also to list servs and literary discussion boards (I spent a lot of time in the Poets & Writers one.)  I still typed up my papers and then poems, so many poems, on a Brother word processor in my apartment, and still spent more time not in front of a screen than in front of one. But it was 1997, the world was changeing--anyone who could afford home computers were getting one.  E-mail was a common thing and AOL was in its hey-day.

After I finished grad school, I briefly landed back in Rockford without computer access for a bit.  It was hard, esp. becuause I was on the job hunt that summer and could have used it.  I worked briefly that summer as a production ass't for a local paper that still used the blue lined layout even then. When I started working at the elementary school library, when there was free time, which there barely was,  I would spend  some of it online at my desk.  There were two other networked computers and there was one teacher who would come down during her classroom breaks and after school, but most of the teachers were suspicious of technology. My subsequent job at Columbia, however, placed me in front of a computer constantly, and for long hours in the evening at a low-traffic circ desk.  It was here I slowly taught myself, via modifying Angelfire templates, rudimentary html for my personal webpage, which, as I was starting to publish regularly in online journals, seemed necessary to have.  wicked alice, of course, spun out of that.  And dancing girl press spun out of that.  I got pretty good at designing simple webpages, even without any fancy software or programs.  I got really good at laying out books in Word and still do.  Even the covers. For one, I know Word very well at this point and know the ins and outs and how to make things happen.  Two, I can work on things anywhere, on whatever computer--home. the library, the studio--without having to have design programs on all of them. This still works til this day.

Of course, over the past two decades, much has changed in the web design world, and now it's possible to get a really nice site going with no coding knowledge whatsoever.  I still have landing pages I laid out myself, but most of them link to blogger or other ready-made sites (or e-commerce platforms)  I've tailored to do what I need them to do. As someone who works with a younger generation, and younger every year, I feel like a grumpy old get-off-my-lawn man when they complain about technology's failings and have no idea how easy things really are now compared 10 years ago-even printers are so much better than they were--able to do double sided without tricky, weird layouts. Even Word allows you do more with it and much more quickly.  I get a certain vertigo thinking about how quickly things change--how easy things are that used to be so difficult. I spend about 80-90 percent of my day in front of a screen now and it's harder to remember a time when I didn't .

Saturday, February 09, 2019

the poet and her prose

Fridays are the day I tend to writing-related business things and yesterday, I submitted some fragments from a recent project to a couple journals that specialize in prose/hybrid/prose poems.  Recently, I've written far more prose formatted work than lines (the last lineated project was ordinary planet.)  Somehow, the lined pieces somehow feel like a game, a clever equation. Maybe more that I'm a poet who thinks in prose, perhaps always have, and then re-worked things into lines. And it's poetical prose for sure (nothing irks me more than ordinary prosey prose arbitrarily broken up into lines) but the act of breaking seems false or contrived somehow.

I thought of this around the time of my mother's funeral.  Years ago, when the mother of my mom's best-friend died, a woman who had been supportive of I am my sister all along, and especially of my poetry career, they had asked for me to give them a poem to be read at her funeral.  I remember handing a couple of my books with possibilities marked in post-its over to the minister. I was unable to make make the funeral, and am unsure of which poem they wound up choosing, my work not being the kind one looks toward for solace or inspiration. So fast forward to my mother's funeral, and my dad having mentioned to my sister, the very day she died, that perhaps I could read or write something.  I immediately said no, of course, my mind not in any sort of state to be articulate at all, not to mention the impending crippling anxiety I was expecting over the next few days.  I wasn't even sure how I could get through the service in one piece, let alone get up in front of everyone.

I read something recently that talked about anxiety and trauma, and how sometimes the very worst circumstances actually cause a bit of abatement.  So, with some help from friends and, admittedly, a little liquid courage in the form of a couple tiny booze bottles in my purse (I think my mother would have approved and, hey, whatever gets you through). I make it through that service intact, and the day before, had even managed to write something--not even remotely a poem--but prose. Somewhere, it's saved on my studio computer, but I haven't read it since.  But writing it felt a little like a dam breaking, and I cried heavily for the first time since it had happened three days before.  Those days are foggy (and not because of the booze) but I'm pretty sure my written piece had a little levity--maybe even a joke about my mother and her very specific funeral instructions.  About her always being a mutual bad influence on aunts and other women we had already lost. About how I should be so lucky that occasionally I open my mouth and my mother slips out.   It was eloquent, and real, probably less poetic than creative pieces, but more genuine. Maybe the hardest thing I've written, but maybe also the truest.

These things felt more honest and real, more so than if they had been arranged into the artfullness--the artifice--of lined poetry. Most projects since , except the ordinary planet ones, have manifested as shorter or longer pieces of prose. Lineation feels clever--like a ruse--and until something really needs to be in verse, I think I'll continue my free form wanderings..

Friday, February 08, 2019

vintage obsession | rock star coats

I've mentioned a couple times my tendency to throw outerwear at my seasonal affective disorder and hope it goes away.  Since we are amid another chill after a brief respite from all that polar vortex nonsense last week, so I thought it the perfect opportunity to the dwell on my love of what I like to term rock star coats. To truly be a rockstar coat, the main requirement is some sort of fur collar and cuffs, and the trench itself usually leather or duede, but there are some wool ones that fill the bill.  I have a shorter one in my possession, as well as a long faux shearling that works when it's really, really cold. The most famous style icon here would be Kate Hudson's character in high fidelity, though the seventies were rocking them pretty hard. The bonus of the suede and fur is that they are usually super warm and perfect for this sort of weather.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

life vs. work vs. other work

The folks over at Quail Bell Magazine recently interviewed me about dgp and one of the questions got me thinking again about work / life balance, and where something like artmaking or other creative pursuits fit in to that.  I recently read an article about how Gen X is often lauded for being able to strike a life / work balance, and as someone on the tail end of that generation, I admit, it's not something that even seems possible when you're time is split between the work you have to do to pay your rent & expenses and the (mostly) non-paid work that you want to do, whether that is writing or curating or making creative things happen.

Most days I spend 8 hours in the library, and everything else fills in around that.  Becuase all of that other stuff is a choice, it feels like "life" I suppose--that opposite of "work' but is it?  Sometimes it's just as stressful and demanding as a job. I choose to do it.  I always say I've never worked harder in my life than when the Etsy shop was going full-steam, when even my weekends were spent making things to sell. Every other second of the day spent promoting and working on new ideas, photographing wares, shopping for vintage,  ordering supplies, and filling orders. It's one of the reasons I eased back a little and decided to focus mostly on the chapbooks, art and paper goods and in a little bit slower of a venue.  I was making a lot of money, which was good since I'd just moved into the studio space and needed to pay the rent, but I was also sacrificing the core of what I wanted to do in favor of that.

I now have freer weekends, but even still, I spend a good part of them working on writing related things or writing blog posts for the week, or work on visual projects,  so I suppose this is another kind of work (but is also one that feels like play sometimes, and is more solely for my own purposes.).  I do slack a little more during these breaks--I don't always check e-mail, take naps, read, binge watch things on streaming. it's probably about as close to actual leisure as I get, but there is still work involved in many ways, most of it unpaid.  I've noticed in the summer particularly I sometimes get what I call leisure-envy for all the people who seem to spend their summers touristing around chicago and hanging out at the beach--all of which seems to be impossible when you are constantly working even when you're not.

There is also that quote about finding something you love and never working a day in your life, but the problem is usually that what you love does not, in most cases allow you to live.  You can get away with this if you are born wealthy or have a well-paid spouse, but more than likely, you will not make a living solely doing the thing you love. Or even if you are among the lucky who somehow do, it becomes all consuming, mostly becuase the rewards for creative work, unless you're like a Hollywood actor, are never in comparison to the amount of energy and time invested.

I'm not sure where this leads you in terms of balance. What I consider the non-work or non-art parts of my life are maybe bout 10%--those things which, not counting, ya know, like sleep, are in no way related to work or creative work endeavors--watching movies or going out, or just doing nothing in particular.  And then you have all the little time eaters like commuting and errands and cleaning which take up another 10%. All the rest is work or art.  I sometimes look at people who have regular jobs and aren't artists or working side hustles and wonder what the hell they do with all that free time-TV maybe?  sportsball?   social media? I have no clue.

I also never wanted to be the person who spent 8-10 hours of their day at a boring job and then lived only for off hours and weekends and vacations to live their actual lives. Or worse, have to wait for a retirement they may not ever get to.   Also, that that free, clear, and relaxed time you dream about in the future when you will finally do what's important to you--it never really happens, so do the thing now..  So then the goal would seem to make sure that you are actually living the life you want to live in everything you are doing.  Obviously, there is a reason they call it a "job" and it will probably include stuff you are not that enthusiastic about doing, but also hopefully it is at least a decent place to spend your days with good people. Or at least allows you to do something there that feeds your passions.

Maybe this is more about that balance..or balancing these factors --to make sure everyday you are doing something fuels you, whether or not you are actually getting paid for it....

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

all work and no play

I've been running on empty creative-wise since the beginning of the year, or at least it feels like it. I have been managing some daily writing pieces, but even so they feel more analytical.  Since I started those analog collages over break, outside of a couple of cover designs, I haven't been working visually at all, much less anything sort of fun and low commitment.  There are series of collages I want to start, need to start, but these are falling at the end of the day when my energy reserves are super-low and my mind sort of ragged after a million other things.

Last night was our first Library zine night of the semester, and though there were six-million things I could have been doing that would help quell the loss of all that time to cold weather closings last week, I decided to sit down and devote a little time to the next crypto society zine, one that I had been mentally plotting since summer, but just couldn't get time to make it happen. Obviously, answering e-mails and dealing with library and press business , or even just writing business, should take precedence over such silliness, but if I wait too long on fun things, I start to get a little resentful. I also technically really need to make a few new things for Zine Fest, which we'll be tabling at this May, so it's fiscally useful and not mere silliness (I sold more crypto zines last year than anything else at the table.)

But it's hard to decide when to do the inconsequential thing when there are other more important things afoot, but I realize I desperately need to, at least once in a while to keep myself from getting super crabby about planned endeavors that never pan out.

Monday, February 04, 2019

on real monsters

I've been a bit conflicted over whether to watch or pay any mind to the new Netflix documentary on Ted Bundy mostly since over the past couple of years what was once a slight fascination with serial killers has become kind of a magnetic repulsion.  I had this weird moment in New Orleans a couple years back at the Death Museum, surveying the serial killer letters, and suddenly was a little nauseous about the particularly gross mysogyny that typically accompanies serial murderers (well, cases like Dahmer & Gacy aside, but I feel like the dynamics are similar, just oriented toward other demographics.) There is something distasteful about elevating these men, even for their monstrousness, in a culture where today's variants--the school shooters, church shooters, the mass killers are not stalking the bushes anymore, but just coming out in the open and taking lives.  Or even the general levels of violence propagated against women by men.  Is this elevation, even the horror factor of it, not attention that should be leveled elsewhere?

This of course, says the girl who writes about dead girls all the time--who even now has been doing research on HH Holme's Murder Castle and doomed Hollywood starlets like The Black Dahlia. The documentary framed the 70's, post Manson, was the dawn of the serial killer, which of course is not exactly true, obviously with the above topics and a long history of serial murderers but just that the 70's allowed television to spread the news of them far and wide. Also, for police, the dots were easier to connect I imagine. So,  I found myself turning it on during a slow Sunday morning while I ate breakfast and worked on some writing things, but soon was watching with a bit more attention and thinking about a world that produces these sorts of monsters and fear. 

Certainly, having been born in 1974, my childhood took place in the shadows of this  fear. This was why you never got in cars with strangers. Why you checked the backseat of your car.  Never walked alone at night.   In Illinois, a teenager was shoved into the trunk of her car in broad daylight and found months later floating in a river.  In the late 80's, a mere mile or so from our house, a prostitute was found in the forest preserve.  I've written about this before, the fear you instinctually learn to have as a woman in the world at odds with the desire for freedom.  Danger vs. knowledge.   I remember amidst an avalanche of horror movies that posed these dangers a tv movie version of Ted Bundy that posed him as a charismatic killer.

The documentary brings it up, and a friend mentioned it the other day, that Bundy's crimes were something that could ONLY happen in a world where women moved about freely without male accompaniment, went to college on their own.  Even 20 years before, women were much more sheltered--certainly not living alone in houses. Much like Satanic Panic arose from women leaving the household and careful watching over their children 24/7, this particular sort of killing--young, unsupervised, women, added fodder to the world's argument that it wasn't safe for women to move about with such freedom.

You watch something like this and it makes you wonder how someone, even the violence aside, could be so self-deluded--Bundy's story of himself to himself vs, how those around him describe him, and yet I've met people--been once close friends with, even dated, people who share similar personality tendencies if not the violence. Fuck, another recent Netflix doc about that Fyre festival creator is very much the same--not murder, but gross self-delusion.  And beyond this, the same sort of toxic white mail entitlement that still guides today's violence. (and that same toxicity that made him think he would continue to do it.)  Also the presentation, the conventional attractiveness and reasonably well-spokeness that at first allowed people to continue to believe he was innocent and allowed him to present as something else than the monster he was.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

you probably think this song is about you

A friend and I were recently discussing a possible funny zine project she wanted to do making fun of an ex, who we verbally make fun of quite often, but somehow committing it to print, she seemed to think, gave the relationship, a few years in the past, more weight than it was due. Or meant that she was still somehow processing it when to all outward appearances, one would think the appropriate thing would have been to have moved long past it to the point of not thinking about it at all. We'd like our exes to think we barely give them a passing thought, but probably think about them more than we should.

Artmaking adds another layer to the usual hijinks of harmless web stalking and mutual-friend casual  recon sessions.  No one will know when you get drunk and bemoan someone's less-fine traits at a party, but commit them to art and it becomes something else. (ask Taylor Swift). I've jogged around this in a number of ways with my own writing. In my first book, past relationships were re-mixed and combined with fiction. There was enough veiling and a shell game of sorts that I doubt anyone except maybe the people in involved could siphon out specific details pertaining to them  (and maybe not even then), In many ways, this permeates the entire book--the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, the friends--a mix up, a mash-up. Even myself, as a speaker, is a fractured, combined thing, with a not terribly unified voice.

The three books that followed were very much rooted in experiences mostly not mine.  in the bird museum has a lot of persona poems (victorian women, Resurrection Mary, the Cornell box women "who love black shoes vodka" ) girl show has a cast of characters that are fictional based in research and the shared properties of water and stars is entirely fictional and fairytale-inspired.  This might be why I was super self-conscious about major characters in minor films when it was released. It was the only book since my very first that plumbed real-life for poem fodder and much more so, and in ways not so entirely veiled and unreconizable. A little smudging and combining, sure, but people around me would know the players. salvage is similar, though it has some fictional parts like the ghost landscape poems, the mermaid poems are based in reality with a few details changed.  little apocalypse,  however, moves away from autobiography almost entirely.  sex & violence, what is based on fact in there,  is a bit of a departure since some of what happens in there is evidence of a relationship still kicking and not from as much distance, both temporal and emotionally.

Given the past relationships were mostly disastrous and unwise, I sometimes wonder if committing them to art makes them more than they are worth. While we go along, acting as if we do not care about the people that we hurt in the past or the people who hurt us, what happens when you use them for creative fodder (which probably has more to do with us than with them anyway.)  I often wonder if it's a particular problem for poets--the condensing of personal experience within the work probably in a way that maybe only songwriters rival. And I guess memoirs, of course, would be the most hazardous of all when it comes to these things...

Saturday, February 02, 2019

thrifted lovelies | midcentury jewelry box

Lately I feel like I don't get out for thrifting expeditions as often as I'd like. And there are a couple reasons-1) my trips to Rockford (where I fare much better than in the city) are shorter and more limited now that I've stopped traveling with the cats, and 2) it was an activity I very much did with my mother, and my dad is sort of a run-in-and-out with exactly what you need, so those longer, afternoon adventures are in short supply.  Still, my Labor Day weekend trip produced one of my very favorite things--this vinyl jewlery box, which while it has a few chips on the outside, is absolutely velvety and pristine on the inside.  I'm not so much a person who has a lot of jewelry, just a few bits and bobs kept for keepsake/ sentimental reasons rather than wearable--my high school class ring with it's tiny quill and scroll on the side, and engraved bracelet given to me at my high school graduation, my maternal grandmother's tiny diamond engagement ring( (one of my great regrets is that I had her deco-ish ring reset in the 90's in a gold floral setting--I'd love one day to reset it back more to what it originally looked like.) 

But jewelry boxes always remind me of my grandmother.  She died when I was 8, but I remember the nights my parents would leave me with her to go bowling and one of my favorite things was to arrange her vanity table over and over again.  First I'd start with the makeup. She was a red lipstick sort of lady 365 days of the year with nearly jet black hair.  She had tubes of every shade of red, including tiny white sample tubes I found fascinating and she'd occasionally let me keep. A million different nail polish bottles.   Then I would start in on her jewelry box and her beaded necklaces and extensive collection of clip on earrings (the same sort I now love making into hairclips.)  When she died unexpectedly and suddenly, my mom & aunt were so distraught they burned most of her clothes & stuff in a bonfire. (my mom said the logic being angrily that if their mother couldn't wear it, no one would.)  I did inherit a tiny gilt box she kept on her vanity that later fell apart, but I still have the porcelain top as a keepsake somewhere in my stuff.

My own mother was a freak about earrings--a pair to match every outfit in her closet, sometimes a couple options.  Every once in a while into my teens she would allow me to arrange the morass into something more organized, which would last about a week tops, but I'd enjoy doing it, pairing the tiny balls and studs she bought by the card full at K-Mart (they didn't need to be fancy, they just needed to match her outfit.)  I had pierced ears up until college and would occasionally "borrow" pairs, and had my own collection of more dangly and hoop options I wore in all my late 80's/early 90's fashion glory.  Eventually, my nickel allergy bothered me enough to just stop trying to wear anything.  The February before last, when my mom landed in the hospital after the heart attack, I bought her the purest blue faux sapphire studs in the downstairs gift shop, mostly since everyone else was errring on the stuffed animals/flowers options (and I though these were something she could enjoy long after--though there sadly wouldn't much long after.)

Since I don't have much jewelry myself, when I bought the box last summer, I filled it with things I do have plenty of, hair do-dads and sunglasses.  I get a lot of use on the latter depending on the season, but I need to be better at actually using the hair accessories (some bought, some made for the shop and too pretty to give up).  Most days, I run out of the house, hair wet and tangled, and then at most, run my fingers through it a few times on the bus and swipe on some lipstick, which pretty much sums up my beauty routine. It also feels weird getting too fancy for just the studio or the library, no matter how fancy or unfancy my clothes are that particular day.