Friday, August 07, 2020

friction | image & text in the summer house

 

A while back, I was charged with the task of designing a cover for Naomi Washer's very awesome Phantoms for the press, and what evolved was not just one image, but several related in a short series of digital collages. Once I had the images, I felt like they needed a written component to accompany them.  So what started as the act of translating text to image in the form of designing the, then became translating that back into my own writing. While the poems in the series weren't necessarily related to the original writing that inspired the cover, there was a similar feel and texture to them that hinged on the visual manifestations.  The entire project was titled the summer house, which, like the longer manuscript FEED it is a part of, deals with mothering from a variety of perspectives, in this case, the changeling child and the isolation of the motherhood in the summer house, or maybe the isolation of motherhood in general. 

"Who can be a good mother amidst all this hum, the summer house thick with hives. 

The lives you've given up to get there."

What evolved was a tight little bit of a ghost story of the best kind.  While I have on occasion wrote the text portion of things after the images were finished (and vice versa), more often lately they tend to evolve in tandem.  In this case, the images were done and sat for a minute before I began translating things back into text, and therefore, I had some time to think about the story I wanted to tell and how to tell it. It is also kind of short for my usual length on series, mostly since the collages themselves are smaller in number. While I've often had book designs wind up being the impetus for longer series (radio ocularia sprung from the design for Lisa Cole's tinder // heart), and in some cases incorporated (my design for Kathy Goodkin's Sleep Paralysis was incorporated into taurus, the design for MK Brake's The Taxidermist's Girl was pulled into /SLASH/, which was then the model for another variation on my cover of SEX & VIOLENCE.)  And of course, I've oft used my own images in cover designs after the fact I am notorious for using ghost landscapes everywhere..lol.there ate at least 5 of them.)

In some ways, it's simply killing two birds with one stone, but in many ways, one feeds the other, the design and the writing.  Because so much of the imagery in the collages is victorian, the text of course has this feel, though it's actually set in the present. They form bookends of sort in FEED with plump, which is similarly filled with bees and the supernatural, in that case witches (particularly the one that kidnaps Hansel & Gretel), but which are also mentioned more generally in the summer house. As a whole, the longer book is about mothers and the body, but also about the creep of the natural and the supernatural into the kitchen and the cradle, and this plays a big role here with the unruly baby made out of bees. 




Sunday, August 02, 2020

the summer house




check out this little  appropriately very end-of-summerish virtual chapbook of my series of poems and collages....enjoy!

"My mother was made of smoke, every Virginia slim catching her dress on fire while she waved from the dock mouthingI love you. Come back."



Stay tuned for post this week with a little more info on the creation and inspiration behind the series...

Friday, July 31, 2020

notes & things | 7/31/2020



Most days I find myself in this strange limbo of having no idea what the next few months will be like. What the next few weeks, the next few days.  It's hard to plan for programming and other library things when it's a very real possibility that Illinois will hit the red zone again and we'll all be working entirely from home. I making good faith gestures that it will not.  Planning exhibits, thinking about my ILL workflows, buying fall clothes (I found an oatmeal sweater dream dress on Poshmark and put it in my cart so fast I got whiplash, becuase, yes, it's time to start propagating that fall wardrobe. )  I'm ready for fall after the last few hot, muggy days, which seem to have cleared--last night was cool and windy enough to knock my conditioner & shampoo off the window ledge in the shower. If we have been robbed of cookouts and beach going, and really, just going anywhere or doing anything until 2021 at least, fall is pretty homebody-ish for me anyway. I mostly just want to stay in and watch horror movies, though if we're honest, that's pretty much ALL year. The holidays will of course be weird, and I doubt much in the way of larger family gatherings. I also worry about my mental state once seasonal conditions begin the usual plummet. I've been managing, not always totally, but it's easier when it's summer and the days are long.  And yes, I say to myself, everything may be shit, but look how glorious it is outside. Here's hoping it's a long, leisurely fall, and not like last year, where it snowed on Halloween and then just sucked on through March (and then, ya know, corona and all.)

I did perk myself up last weekend by spending my tax return money on bedding (my pillows were sadness and my comforter almost a decade old.) I've only gotten the pillows, and the sheets/pillowcases thus far, but already it's softer and luxurious and I may never leave it again. I also bought a bunch of new underpinnings, becuase it's one area where I tend to just wear things till they're ragged, faded undies and bras that basically have no elasticity anymore in their band. (mostly too becuase, yo, bras--good ones anyway--are hella expensive.)  I also bought some new vintage avocado-green  glasses for the kitchen and bunch of faux green hydrangeas for the dining room worktable..  All of this perked up my mood and was a little retail therapy to the ongoing ridiculousness of the news and the things that come out of politicians mouths. 

I've been puttering away on the tabloid poems, which are a delight. Tomorrow, I'll be working on another video poem--the final one to promote sex & violence. I'm finding they are the kind of immersive, time consuming work that keeps me out of social media and news sites and let's me focus on something else I can check it for a second, then it's back to work. I'm also learning new skills that will come in handy across the board.   Library projects include building another virtual exhibit for the for fall and finishing up my lib guide devoted to Black Protest Art, which is shaping up nicely, and will be joined by another one devoted more generally to art and activism.  Plus dgp releases, and of course, the poet's zodiac, which is nigh, and will be wrapped in the most exquisite glittery black cardstock with hand lettered covers--I can't wait to show you...


  .  

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

@ hyperallergic


My workspace was featured over at Hyperallergic as part of their "A View from the Easel During Times of Quarantine,"   I talk a little bit about creating during quarantine (or NOT being able to create for awhile) and you get to see my cats, so win/win!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

fake news




                "He'd say it began with a hum.  Just a tiny tenor, a vibration inside the can.
                 Noon, and the cabinets shook and the forks hummed like the rims
                   of drinking glasses. Who knew a tiny thing could be so loud."

                from "Mini-Mermaid Found in Tuna Sandwich"


A couple months back, when writing things were just beginning to come back, the pins and needles threading through my creative desires, I started plotting a series of poems based on Weekly World News headlines, most from the 70-90's when the publication was at it's trashy best and copies still available in every grocery store checkout line in America.  A facebook friend had posted the one about Titanic babies just sort randomly on her feed and I spent several minutes laughing, which for the past few months, is a rare thing, and then set to work collecting the most interesting and ridiculous headlines for plundering. There were tuna sandwich mermaids and Hilary Clinton alien babies.  Dick Cheney as a robot.  A horse that could talk like a man.  All of it spoke to something of the ridiculousness of today's environment and conspiracy theories, fake news, outright lies.  Daily I have a moment where the headlines are so ridiculous I have to check to make sure it's not The Onion or Reductress, or some other satire site.  Sadly, the headlines seem to be real--what politicians say, how people behave in stores when asked to wear masks or not be assholes. What is held to be acceptable in American culture. Even rewarded. I check in with Snopes at least a couple times a week. And the number of people who readily believe some of this stuff-Covid and 5G, Bill Gates and his desire to microchip our brains. What festers on some "news" sites.  I always wanted to think the internet made us smarter than we were before it, more informed,  but I definitely think the opposite these days.

As for the WWN, of course, no one really thought the headlines were real.  Or at least I never assumed anyone did as I stared wide eyed, hip height, barely reading,  in the checkout aisle while my mom paid for groceries. We didn't buy them, of course, my mom's only periodical purchases (and then only on vacation, vasrious True Story magazines (which can be a whole other blog entry).I read plenty of Glamour and Cosmo, passed off from my aunt who was a big subscriber to things. As a teen, I subscribed to Teen, Seventeen, and later Sassy.Tabloids, however, were always sort of a read-in-passing thing.  I learned early that you had your more respectable National Enquirer sort of content--largely about celebrities and things that were slightly strange, but close enough to reality to be believed.  Then you had WWN, which blew the top off sanity and seemed to revel in it's own ridiculousness.  I suppose the big difference now is that people knew better than to get their news in a supermarket check out line. Now, fake news sites and content flourish on the web and social media.

I had a moment in early June, during the BLM tipping point and mass protests, where a distant relative of my mother's was posting fake Craig's List ads that said Antifa busses were headed for Nebraska and offering to pay them to make a ruckus.  All fake.  But the people in the comments field of her post were wild with crazy, so much I had to unfriend her for even posting such nonsense. I later unfriended another family member (white, male, middle aged) for posting racist comments in the fields of other legit stories on racial violence that kept popping up in my field.  These people. fed on a diet of Fox News and QAnon, have grown fat with the certainty that someone is always out to get us, fool us, makes us wear masks in Home Depot and limit our ability to eat at Applebees.  It's exhausting. Tabloids, at least in the 80's, were pretty obviously tabloids, and no one believed the bat boy was real. Or that babies floated inside the Titanic. But if you're willing to believe that Bill Gates wants to put a microchip in your head, you probably are lost anyway. 


A couple of semesters in the Library, we've delved into things like hoaxes and mass hysterias and I always think of how these topics drew smaller crowds than others and were harder to find their fans, even while we swim in this stuff every day--more than horror movies, true crime, and tattoo culture, which were drawing more interest.  Some of my favorite projects deal directly or indirectly with things like urban legends (archer avenue) and violent things that happen because our collective beliefs (necessary violence).  In my research for {licorice, laudanum},  I was so disappointed to learn that much of serial killer's HH Holmes' reputation was fanned by turn of the century tabloids and not at all based in fact (in the end, he seemed more of an opportunistic grifter who occasionally murdered people to hide his crimes, not so much the evil mastermind behind a murder/torture hotel. ) So I suppose it is natural these Weekly Workd News headlines would provide fodder for poem-making. 


Saturday, July 25, 2020

how to write a love poem in a time of war | a video poem




I've decided to make an entire suite of five video poems to promote SEX & VIOLENCE, so here I give you #3 (4 is in the works as we speak.)  This one I had a little more recording success by doing it sans meowing cats and fan noise in the bathroom with it's decent acoustics. I have some access to some better mic technology I just have to find after the studio move chaos, but this one was recorded just using my phone again.  Since I am not much for zoom readings (or zooming in general), these are a nice half-way point for readings in the age of social distancing.  When these are done, maybe I'll do more for other series and book projects in the future as I hone my skills.  Keep an eye on the youtube page a bit later for new installments...

This one used a bit more of the museum public domain insect film I created the first one from.  The text placard from the original in the middle was entirely left in accidently during my trimming, but it somehow seemed incredibly apropo. so I left it in. This is one of my favorite fragments of the love poem series, so enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

doomscrolling 2020


I am finding myself in this weird place where things mostly seem normal,  where we go about most of our usual business and things seem ordinary, but are not really at all. Or at least things seem ordinary compared to the spring and its hibernation lockdown status.  Since I am not particularly social or prone to getting out a lot, my life remains relatively untransformed.  While I occasionally get a summer weekend outing, dinner, or a night at the movies, they are infrequent enough not so much to miss them, but more to occasionally fondly remember life in the before.  While I miss thrift stores a little, I don't particularly miss others or even restaurants/bars all that much.   My schedule is slightly different, and I work from home a couple days per week, but three days I am still commuting.  I did get to visit family in June, and am planning another short trip in September if the world doesn't fall apart before then, but I know better than to try to make plans in 2020. Everything is playing it by ear.

Still on the surface, it's pretty much looks like any other summer. --the Library and irs ordinary tasks--reserves and ILL and planning for fall. Breakfast and daily writing and commuting downtown. Making books in the hours after I get home (the only change there is not being in the studio at night.). Dinner. Some exercize on my recumbent bike.  Netflix. Sleep. I wear a mask when I go out, but am still working my way through my summer wardrobe of sundresses, which I finally pulled out from the bins under the bed this weekend.

Scratch the surface and there is much to be worried out.  The virus burning through the southern states who still won't take it seriously, despite packed hospitals and mounting death tolls.  An uptick in Chicago cases. The scary things our government does and hides (sometimes in plain site.) lor just tries to pretend isn't happening.  I read an article earlier today on "doomscrolling" and indeed, I am perpetually guilty of it.   There were a couple days last week that just got really busy in terms of work and focusing on other things and i realized I was feeling mentally better. Now, I realize I wasn't looking at the news so much over those couple days.  Over the weekend, I got really excited and engaged in playing with video again and realized almost a whole day had passed without me doing the doomscroll.  I'm feeling a tension between wanting (needing) to know what's going on and knowing too much and at length.  Particularly when it comes to things, like the virus, I can't really control on a national scale. I'm having a hard time figuring out how much is too much. 





Friday, July 17, 2020

from honey machine | a video poem




As promised, I've been playing a bit more with public domain footage and my own words..this time, a little more text oriented and without the distraction of my own voice. I created an actual YouTube channel to put these all in one place.  You can find/subscribe to it here...



the submission wilds | now and then

The past couple of weeks and for the forseeable future, Friday's have been a work-at-home day, which gives me a little bit more time in the morning to write and tend to some submission business before starting any library stuff in the afternoon.  This frees up tomorrow's long haul for more revision and manuscript related work and much less e-mailing. Since I am trying to be better about submitting if I ever want folks to, ya know, read the writing I'm doing, I've been spending some of this time researching new markets.  I have some of my favorites, and some journals that have published work before.  I'm also loving discovering entirely new journals on Twitter. This is especially good for reaching entirely new sets of readers and encountering work by poets I haven't seen yet.

The ease of submitting via e-mail and Submittable had me thinking about my early days of submitting work--all those SASE's and stamp licking (I'm pretty sure adhesive stamps that didn't require DNA were a later 90's thing.)  The submitting started much earlier than that.  When I was in high school, after we'd been writing poems in freshman or sophomore English, a friend had tried sending one of her class poems to the National Library of Poetry, and had, as one does, been invited to buy her way into the publication.  I feel like people forget about the NLP now, but basically, it was pretty much a scheme to get $50 bucks from unwitting poets.  I don't remember if she sent it (smart girl, she decided to become a medical professional and not a poet.) but I remember trying a hand at sending something and, while I never could have rounded up $50, I did take a certain 16 year old pride in the acceptance (little did I know obv. they accepted everything.)

Not that I wasn't good at other kinds of writing (five paragraph essays, editorials about saving the dolphins, long papers about UFO's and the government's response) but I was writing the sort of bad poems one would expect a teenage girl to write about. My sad little blue diary with it's broken lock and the rainbow on the front tells it all. In a writing folder somewhere, I also have handwritten drafts written on pen-pal stationary of other poems.  Since I didn't have access to a typewriter on the regular (I used my aunt's electric one in her basement to do things like write term papers), I'm pretty sure my submission to NLP was handwritten. 

Later I bought a typewriter with my high school graduation money. and hauled it with me to North Carolina.  It was 1992, and undergrads were just starting to use things like Word Perfect. Not me, I spent my first semester typing papers and whatever creative writing I was doing  (sandwiched between dorm drinking games and freshman classes)  and on my shiny blue electric machine. I don't remember writing poems, but I think I was trying to write stories and plays at that point.   I remember a dorm-mate English major, finding me one night cross-legged on the floor furiously typing, reassured me that one day I would be a famous writer. By then, I was slowly giving up on my hopes to be a marine scientist and plotting my return to the midwest. By then, I was spending time between classes in the periodical section of the UNCW library poring over lit journals and making lists to submit to once I had more money for stamps. Of course, I never did, and by December, very blonde, very tan, and with all my lists in my purple denim backpack, I returned to Illinois.. 

When I landed back that January, I promptly enrolled in some community college classes to avoid falling behind til I could start at RC in the fall and set about exploring the whole submission thing a bit more seriously. That spring would find me bartering housework for my mother for funds to procure stamps, envelopes, and wafer thin typewriter paper. That was the spring and summer I began carrying around an envelope box full of poems and envelopes and copies of Writer's Digest (first checked out from the public library, later bought at the Waldenbooks at the mall). I took it everywhere--the living room floor on the carpet, the dining room table, outside on the deck in summer.   By then, there were many NLP-like "markets" including one called Quill Books I started sending to.  While the principle was the same, the anthologies were perfect-bound, smaller,  and much cheaper.  My first actual publication was in one called LIVING JEWELS:  A TREASURY OF LYRIC POETRY  Each page has like 5 poems from 5 authors crammed on a page.  It was a terrible poem in a terrible anthology. 

Writer's Digest had a lot of these anthologies listed  in the back and other kinda dubious publications.  I didn't have access to Poets & Writers until my last year of college, so I didn't know a lot about legit literary journals in general.  I knew the biggies--Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The New Yorker.  I got some submission leads from reading Plath's journals and letters. I published a couple poems in the college lit mags, submitted to a couple contests.  All equally embarrassing. It wasn't until I was in grad school I started to widen my journal interests--there was the cool little wallpaper bound Poetry Motel, the local feminist Moon Journal who would not only grant me my first official journal publication, but also many more and my first chapbook. 

I always mention the hope with which I approached the mailboxes in the lobby of my Lincoln Park apartment during those years.  There was always a potential for elation or devastation. Usually, it was just junk mail.  I submitted sporadically in the year before I returned to the city and started sending to e-journals, but eventually these became my bread and butter. They spurred more poems that eventually became chapbooks, then books, then MFA work. It was very exciting in those years, and every publication, I'd carefully print out on the printers at work and put in a plastic sleeve binder (somehow around 2005, I went to just cataloging them on my personal website).  Eventually I also had a thick stack of print journals to accompany them.  There were years where I was pursuing publication and sending out poems like wildfire.  Then there were years where I only submitted when specifically invited to. The last few years have been fueled by periods where I send a bunch of stuff out, then go quiet for awhile.  Sometimes I'm just sort of neutral or blah on publication in general.  But then sometimes it seems like the only way to share work with a wider audience (I could publish poems on blogs and social media, but it doesn't really grow an audience beyond people who already read my work anyway when I foist it upon them..lol...)

It's a strange leap, from that naive girl with her typewriter, her box of drafts covered in correction tape,  and no clue about anything--to this girl now on this laptop, with a stack of journals, a stack of books published, a portfolio of work, and a couple new book manuscripts on the bookshelf to my left. Years ago, at some point I counted every poem I every wrote and it was approaching 500. Now it's probably closer to 1000  It seems like a very long time and a very short span at the same time. And so I go on, this morning firing a couple recent rejections back out into the world with shiny new sails.  Thank god I can just cut and paste and don't have to print them out. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

for the love of tiny projects



This weekend, I put the bloom project to bed.  Or perhaps planted it deep in the ground (if the metaphor is more apt.) It's still a little rough, and I plan to spend the next few weeks smoothing out some edges and see what I've got.  Again, it's hard to write about things without distance, so maybe some time is what these pieces need.  Up next in writing plans is a little fun series on Weekly World News headlines I've been batting around in my head that is making me giggle. It might be the perfect antitdote to some darker projects I've been immersed in the past few months. (well as shadowy as The Shining and virus poems tend to be.) 

According to my journal/planner, I had all sorts of creative plans for this spring and summer, but now feel like much of them fall to the wayside in the name of just getting through the dumpster fire that is 2020. But at least there are still poems, pretty much daily, first thing I work on over breakfast. I've also been devoting one weekend day to writing-related things like submissions and manuscript org, and book promo efforts (this this weekend's book trailer success.)  which feel like they can get swept away, especially now that I am back to commuting during parts of the week. My relationship with all things poetry is still rocky, and I tend to go from obsessing about writing then back to not caring at all, but it's still a case of pandemic brain that I hope will pass. It might be one of the things that I still feel I have control of--so perhaps I need it more than ever. 

As for bloom, I was aiming for around 20, but wound up with 16 or so viable pieces. Despite whatever I aim for 15-20 is about what I wind up usually, even if they are initially longer. extinction event, wound up running long (about 30 poems) simply because I needed to occupy an hour-long reading at The Field, but actually wound up about a third shorter when I dug back in earlier this year. I felt like so much was fluff and repetition, so I cut it, and I think the series is the better for it.  Sort of like the fashion dictum that says put on your accessories and then take one off. In most cases I top off about 20 when it comes to more focused series, sometimes even less. It's been a while since I was able to sustain a larger, single focus full-length project, probably since the shared properties of water and stars. girl show feels like one, but it was written over a span of time that included a lot of other writing for different projects. It might be my usual complaint that I lack a certain amount of  endurance for focusing on one thing for two long.  Or maybe just one focused thing that and I get bored with pretty quickly and long to move onto the next.  This might be why I like chapbooks so much--for my own pursuits and reading the work of others. It feels like it takes a lot of momentum and control to sustain something on a singe track over the course of 50 plus pages. 

My longer projects tend to build as smaller things constellate--and tend to be more over-arching in their themes, but broader in their subject matter.  Maybe it's just easier to write several small books than one big one, or to somehow trick myself into writing a larger mss. by composing it out of small ones.  Like building a doll house out of wood blocks rather than framing it out and constructing a whole.  

Saturday, July 11, 2020

poetry films, art, & artivism


Yesterday, as I played with the film editing software and finished the book trailer for the new book, I realized how much I enjoyed it--almost a more motion-oriented collage, so I will definitely be creating more--if not trailers, then little poem videos involving public domain films, that are really fun to cut up and splice. I even made a sort of preliminary home for them on Youtube, so watch for those. I also plan on making some exclusive content for Paper Boat subscribers over the next few months. (so join in on the fun here...it's free and I promise to only bother your inbox once a month)  With a little video experience I am a little closer to my dream of one day animating paper collages, so here's hoping.

During quarantine and its aftermath (however temporary or permanent that may be), visual work has been what has suffered most. Perhaps because, maybe even more than writing, creating it seems comparatively frivolous in the world.  Or maybe just that what I seem to create is frivolous in the world.  While writing was spurred on by the capitalist concerns of The Shining project and now the timely concerns of bloom, less so the collages and landscape/botanical paintings that usually fill my arsenal. While I did manage that batch of watercolor landscapes, as well some acrylics for my kitchen, the only thing that seemed at all related to the world outside was my silly crypto posters.  

There were of course, other art-related things happening, mostly for the library--mounting electronic exhibits, building the propaganda workshop, designing a couple promos and posters. I am excited about our Fall 2020 focus--ARTIVISM 2020, which is just beginning to get some momentum with blog posts on BLM art & resource guides. Still, my own visual pursuits feels stalled and need a reboot, which maybe exactly what my exploits in book trailer making has provided me. I love the juxtaposition of the moving image with the poem.  Lets hope it sustains.

Friday, July 10, 2020

sex & violence trailer




It took several hours and a lot of back and forth with new to me technology,.but I finally finished this little trailer for SEX & VIOLENCE, and of course it would have bees.  The source footage is from a 1927 public domain film called Bees and Spiders created by the American Museum of Natural History.  Getting my apartment quiet enough to record with fans and cats and general outdoor noise was a challenge. As was matching video to audio in a way that made sense.  Hopefully, these little videos will get easier and easier, so perhaps you will see more...Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

dgp notes | july 2020


So we find ourselves midsummer, though the world is still terrifying in places and apprehension inducing even at it's best.  I have been settling back into a modified work schedule at the library, which strangely has given me a bit more structure in my day and dedicated work time for the press, which has been nice. While quarantine was this lawless land of scrolling the news and trying to be useful in a position where only 50 percent of what I do could be accomplished at home (and thus feeling compelled to produce like a maniac and have no work life boundaries lest I be furloughed.) I feel a bit sounder in my work/creative life balance that I can, most days, leave work at work and then come home to work on creative things.

I feel like I'm coming out of a mental fog that prevented me from deep diving on things like galley prep and cover design, so those are things that I am finally feeling up to.  We are slightly behind on the initial schedule, but there is a bit of wiggle room since we took on considerably less titles for this year after i was feeling way too overwhelmed in 2019 (I am still overwhelmed, but just for different reasons this year). There is also more space between titles, which will allow for more orders to be shipped without getting behind or chaotic in my shipping. I feel like 2019 was the year I bit off more than I can shew and I failed in so many ways, but I am trying to remedy this and set new plans for the future. It occurred to me, that this beautiful thing that I built had become a sort of prison in the fall, and leaving the rental space I could never really afford was a big part in beginning to heal that. 

Then again,  spring also had me floundering and feeling like I didn't quite know what the point was--to writing, to the press, to being creative in a world where people were dying en mass. Just a general feeling of hopelessness and disillusionment that made it impossible to write, To make things in general. To care about e-mails and ever growing to-do lists. . And just being terrified (of getting sick, of losing my job, of having no savings) and allowing it to fester.  I wanted to run away.  From everything.   But it occurred to me, especially as the summer began, how important, in these times, that we continue to do the work we do. The best we can do.

I hope to see you on the other side of this month more caught up on things and in remarkably better sorts. Also to dig in on reading subs for the next year, which are waiting in the inbox which feels far less scary and overwhelming now than it did two months ago. 

  Until August...

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

sex & violence update



Yesterday began with the rather delightful news that sex & violence landed smack dab in the middle of Small Press Distribution's list of June poetry  bestsellers, which is not bad for a book released during a pandemic.  I don't remember this happening with any of my other full-lengths, so I am, of course over the moon.  Good news being enormously hard to find of late.  Also something that makes me feel like all these poems--all these books--they are finding the right readers. Well, are finding any readers at all, enormous solace when increasingly the poetry world feels like dropping a dime in a well and waiting for it to hit bottom.  Because things have been a little upside down, there is still some promo things I would like to do with the book in the next couple months, even if an official reading/ release is not possible in covid world--including a trailer and maybe some instagram videos. 

Books, or any published project really, have this strange life that goes on long after you'be finalized the proofs and dotted all the I's. As I've mentioned, this book was pulled together in my own grief of late 2017, and birthed in the middle of a national crises (actually two of them concurrently.)  It was hard to spend the day she arrived mourning not just the upticking tally of virus victims, but also the ongoing murder of countless POC by the police and the unrest brewing that first Monday in  June. I'd actually taken the day off of work, emotionally exhuasted. I'd fretted and napped most of the day, but then landed downstairs to find her on my doorstep--all pretty and shiny and I was in love. 

It's been a weird year, and I say that including the last full 365 days that bought my own struggles last fall that then turned into world-scale struggles by spring. But the book, and the fact that it is finding its way to readers sustains me now that at least my own mental health appears to be on the upswing.  It's tenuous, but the threads are there...


Saturday, July 04, 2020

curvy girl fashion | stolen summer



One boost of headed back out into the world is getting to wear the clothes that have been languishing on the rack all winter and spring. I finally put my coats away in April, my winter dresses in May. I haven't yet pulled out my actual summer wear, though that will happen this week or next (I have a number of spring things that I am itching to wear before tucking them away in the bins under the bed.)  Amazingly, since I've been trying to save money for emergencies, I've bought very little clothing-wise during the quarantine, mostly since, really, I was just wearing comfy clothes in the house with no where to go.  Around my birthday I did indulge in a few purchases, including this dress from Loft which was finally on sale, as well as some leopard shades and a macrame bag for the summer I hoped might follow  (though the jury is still out on that). . Right before the shutdown, I found an amazing leopard bathing suit on sale that I may not get to wear this year, but it's nevertheless lovely should the beaches or hotel pools once again open up.

Fashion seems like a frivolous thing, but it feels like something I can control. Whatever happens with the rest of the summer, I found myself longing just a little for fall. as I do everytime this year when the humidity makes things sticky and inhospitable in my non-AC'ed apartment.  Though who knows what fall will look like, especially since inside pursuits seem more dangerous than outside ones.  I do feel like I was robbed of spring, so may fall feel a bit more like normal, even if that means netflixing more horror movies and just eating a lot of candy.  I did see a Japanese trend towards drive-in haunts, which sounds like glorious fun. 

state of the union


I woke up the other morning, and as I scrolled through the morning horror story that is my facebook news feed and just the news in general, I kept thinking about 10th grade history class. As an white, lower middle class (or maybe upper working class) girl in a suburban highs chool  I know there was so much that the late 80's/early 90's history curriculum left out.  We glossed over slavery and the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights movement and Jim Crow. We also were presented a skewed white historian view of those things, even though we had a decent BIPOC population at the school. In other classes, our reading lists were blandly white and male, and though things were a little more diverse by the time my sister was in high school 4 years later, still not by much.  It was notoriously a horrible school district that was actually sued in the 90's for closing and discrimination against minority populations. and regularly made lists of worse school districts in the US. I doubt, despite that, it is any better today.

But those things aside, I was also thinking  about our collective history.  That when we, particular Gen X-ers, looked the at the atrocities of the past, they were always in the past. At least at 16 or so they seemed that way to me.  The Gulf War would happen, but it would barely be a blip in a childhood that was actually pretty peaceful.   Or seemed peaceful from the distance of the midwest and what the media served up pre-internet. What we've learned from POC is that the atrocities continued, are still continuing. And yet, in my head, I believed, probably til about 4 years ago, that things were getting better. That Americans were getting more progressive and embracing of people who might be different from them--skin color, gender or sexual orientation,  religion, etc.  But I sort of noticed a slight ideological backswing on people slightly younger than me. I was aware of the frothing incels and tea-partiers skulking in their basements (or more precisely their mother's basements).  But they seemed like flies at an otherwise pleasant picnic.  

But when it came to horrible things, even something like 9-11 had easy villains.  You could always write off natural disasters as just something that happened.   As we find ourselves now, we are the worst enemies of peace.  Our legal and policing systems.  Our botching of coronavirus, which was going to be bad, but as other countries have proven, not necessarily apocalyptic. I never imagined myself living inside the history books, those sort of historic disasters and crises seeming, in my 16 year old brain  (and maybe even my 40 year old brain) to be impossible in a world where science and technology and how we can bend the world to our needs & desires.  We have vaccines and medical technology and  really, these are all much more complicated than the simplest thing of all--wearing a mask and keeping distance. But we can't as a mass of diseased humans, even promise that. 

When we learned about the Holocaust, I was sure, in my teenage brain, that nothing like that could surely happen at the end of the 20th Century.  I wasn't even sure how it happened the first time.  Were people not paying attention?  Were people afraid to speak up?  I though for sure, the world was too transparent now. Nothing could be done in darkness or the cover of night without someone taking notice and tweeting about it. Now, I just don't know...It's hard to celebrate the birth of a country that disappoints at every turn. Seems to wallow in it's own stupidity.  To be sort of ashamed and horrified of America itself and what it has become...

Friday, July 03, 2020

bloom



from BLOOM


"A body takes to other bodies like it takes to water.  When I was five, I stood in the Atlantic and let the earth move under me. That drop in the stomach between what we feel and see to be real. The keel of gravity and motion sickness.  Still,  we careen into each other in bars.  In the  subway.  Our fingers lingering on the necks of strangers.  Trailing along their hips. How to know what we touch in any given day, or what touches us. What we shed in the evening--eyelash, hair, epidermis-- comes back each morning. How to know where my hands have been when they have been everywhere. This body that collects other bodies in its crevices and nooks.  The hooks that string us together like fish on a line."            
  
_______


Despite saying I probably needed a certain amount of distance to write about the current state of events, and in fact a 2-3 month span of being unable to write at ALL really, I find myself mid-project on a series called BLOOM--named so because of the ways illness (actual, metaphorical) blooms in the body, in society, in the world. Also the way nature this spring, despite humans and their stupid diseases, continued to bloom while we were still dying. While people were being killed by the virus, by the governement, by the police. But even still, I usually need more distance, and who knows how much time there is for any of us.
 
I don't know for sure what will come of it, or if I'll hate it for awhile when I'm done. It makes a nice pairing with the OVERLOOK poems, that were less about The Shining and more about capitalism in America as told through the film. Also, maybe, with another series I have planned for later this year, might be an entirely new book project coming into being and taking shape (and because I'm weird like that, I think I already have a really good title I'm considering.)

This week has been a little wonky since my Chromebook was on the fritz and I was waiting for a new one, plus I was heading off to the Library and that ate up a lot of mental energy, but I hope to continue writing daily again through the remainder of the summer. We'll see where it goes...

Thursday, July 02, 2020

hello beautiful


Admittedly, I found myself a little teary as I ventured downtown for my first three days back at the library.  Not so much because I was scared (though no doubt I am a little ) but moreso that felt like I was back where I belong.  Maybe not just the library so much, which is still not technically open til next week and barely then, and which is currently more tomb-like and cool with only a smattering of staff. But just downtown and making my way through the city as I've done nearly every weekday for the past two decades.  And this is coming from someone who rather likes working at home (and will still be doing it some days of the week). 

And while I worried sometimes that it would never be the same, after Covid, after looting and some destruction, it is actually still very much the same downtown I left in March.  The streets are not deserted and overrun with coyotes. There are still some stuff closed indeterminately and some boarded up windows (though most bedecked with BLM artwork by now if not replaced just yet.)  People are out, though a bit less than a weekday afternoon in the summer, when Michigan Avenue is usually glutted with tourists.  But there are still people, all of them masked, or outside, at least carrying one to put on inside. Tuesday, I cried over seeing the skyline on LSD.  Today I nearly cried at how responsible and good our city seems to be when it comes to wearing masks and keeping people safe--a huge feat in such a large city that at times is actually quite small. (Recommendation:  Do not cry in mask.  It's hard and gives you sniffles and probably makes people think you have the rona.) 

But I said hello to the things I love--the lake I'd barely seen for months the lake from LSD,  the Wrigley Building, the river, Grant Park, the flower beds along the Mag Mile. The harbors and their boats and the steadily swelling pond near the zoo which has once again escaped it's carefully engineered banks.  It's like the city is waking up again.   The trees near the bus stop appear to be alarmingly filled with wasps, which is somehow a poem in itself, but the buses are not as crowded as they used to be, nor are the sidewalks in the south loop, with all the students gone. 

The news is still scary, but Chicago seems to be holding itself together. I am holding myself together.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020

breeding monsters



Today I put the finishing touches on animal, vegetable, monster to submit to an open reading period whose deadline is creeping up in the next week.  Initially, I thought I might try sending dark country, but there are bits that need smoothing in there that are weaker.  One manuscript is about horror-movie monsters and suburbia, the other about art and monstrosity, so in many ways they compliment each other. In fact, they might be some strange loose tryptic or trilogy with the currently half-completed automagic manuscript with it's post-apocalypic villains and victorian serial killers.  But then so much in my work of late is somehow monsters, esp. The Shining poems, though in that case it's more of an American capitalist monstrosity.

I realized, though I've been playing with the word doc version for a while, somehow a book is somehow less real until you print out that neat stack. As I do one last check for typos, today felt like a birthing of sorts. The disparate projects that form it--the artist statements, the strangerie poems, my dog girl poems, and the ones I wrote on extinction and museum dioramas, all form a tidy knot, threaded through with questions on art and artifact and mortality.   We'll see how this girl does, though I am really only sending her one place (BLP), and if no takers, I will likely just issue her myself eventually (see my last post re: the book mss. and possible self-publication.)  I feel like I still want to write and find readers, but don't really want to play the book submission game any more.  To sink effort and money into contests and reading periods when I already have a pretty awesome relationship with a press. (but also a press who obv. doesn't have room for every thing I write).  Also, there are so many books by other authors, I don't like taking up more space than I need to.  I've enjoyed publishing tiny editions of individual projects , esp with artwork, , but I do like when things coalesce and constellate into longer book projects. Because of my slow journal submissions for individual poems, much of this is not yet published elsewhere just yet, so there will be peeks here and there if those get picked up in the coming months.


The world feels even weirder right now than previously.  So much is happening in some parts of the country in terms of cases and hospitalizations, yet Chicago is somehow opening back up.  Other places like NYC as well.  Next week, I'll be back in the library. Back to daily bus rides a few days a week.  I have some masks of course, after trying several Goldilocks style for long-term comfort, and a straw hat with a face sheild for public transportation. It kind of makes me look like a mysterious victorian beekeeper. I feel like it all will get worse before it gets better, so may invest in a hazmat suit at some point. The irony is, of course, introvert as I am, I'd be mostly content staying home forever, but there are books to process and materials to send and they are the more practical aspects to my employment. Don't think I haven't oft thought of running away from it all and into the forest to live in a tree or something.  But if I want to pay rent or continue to feed myself.  I have the opportunity to work at home a lot, bu so much I need to do, I need to do on site.  So, I am stuck.

Monday, June 22, 2020

notes & things | 6/22/2020



Over the weekend, I spent the first amount of time away from my apartment in over three months. Getting  in the car was even strange, leaving the constraints of my block, which I've barely ventured from outside of a couple short neighborhood walks. It was sunny, and warm, and people were still doing as they do...crossing the street, waiting for the bus. Pretty much all, thankfully, wearing --or at least carrying--masks. The lakefront wasn't yet open, but will be soon if not already.  Traffic was slightly lighter on the expressway for a summer Friday, but still busy. I am trying to focus on all the good news for Illinois and not the bad news from other states where the deaths and cases continue to climb. 

Next week, I will be  back in the library at least a few hours a week.  I am not sure how I feel about it, alternating relieved to be getting back to normal and yet also terrified that normal is no longer a possibility.  I did not see much of Rockford outside of my sister's place and my dad's yard,  but was very happy to have some outdoor time and grilled food, which I've been denied since last summer.  I feel like spring slipped through or never even really happened, so what I can grab of summer, I hope to hold onto at least for a little while, especially since projections for autumn are dire, if not more dire than now.

This week, I will be back to library tasks from home after a much needed week off, including a hard press on things that won't be as likely to happen once we're back. Also new layouts and some author copy orders.  I did get a chance to focus on a lot of writing and revision related things, as well as send off some submissions of the work that was building up from late last year and early this one. I am still plotting ways to support and publicize the new book during the social distancing era and got a bit of a start on a book trailer. I've also been musing over what to do with the build up of other, newer, manuscripts --I am seriously considering publishing them through Amazon so they'll also be available via e-book, which seems more important now than ever.  I love the presses I've worked with but also like the autonomy of self-publishing, though the groundwork is a little harder than if you have a press sponsoring a release. Since I am finishing a lot of projects (feed, dark country, soon animal, vegetable, monster)--most of which I am itching to make available in a more timely matter--it gives me a bit more control.   And I have the layout and design skills to make a really nice book  (and if not Amazon, who I have complicated feelings about, another POD publisher.) I've also been self-publishing smaller projects for years, and while I initially struggled with the legitimacy goblin and what is "acceptable" in the poetry biz world--especially in this new world where we all may die of covid next week--fuck that shit. Fuck all of it.While I was creatively paralyzed and could barely write at all for a couple months there..I am writing again and want to find the most efficient way to connect with readers and some of the old models are sometimes not the best. 

Otherwise, I will be enjoying my last full week of relatively safety from the Rona, my leisurely breakfasts and endless cups of coffee all day to join the commuting masses (which will hopefully be a little less mass-like and all wearing masks.)








Friday, June 19, 2020

#cryptidsagainstextinction









As quarantine ends, either wisely or unwisely depending on where you are and how stupid people are, I thought I'd share some fun little things I made for our propaganda workshop I  put together virtually for the Library in April, which also scratched a need for a crypto society project I'd been lagging on getting to.  While I'm not sure they are either art, nor propaganda, they are a little bit of graphic fun.  I may do more but  focused on masks...

Thursday, June 18, 2020

writing the body


from radio ocularia



I was amused to discover this morning hat two recent samplings of the FEED mss. posted on my instagram both included the word "bicuspid." Strangely, unlike some of my favorites to overuse ("water" "dark" "blood" --my latent goth-girl sack of tricks) is a relatively new addition.  But then it made me think again of the ways we write the body over and over through various projects. The obsessions and impulses that come through subconsciously in the words as a translation of the physical. Sometimes without us even realizing we're doing it.

A good example, is how I once noted a tendency to talk about wrists a lot in my first couple books. No doubt this had much to do with some carpal tunnel pain I was experiencing due to both writing and working at the library. It's better than it used to be, but  I still have a little bit of achyness when the barometer is right.  It did not help when I hurt the other wrist after a bus fall that I stupidly convinced myself was fine, but may have, in hindsight been a minor fracture.  After I had mono in the late aughts, and a subsequent year of just very bad health, I was fixated on throats.  Throats in every poem.  Also just the general instability of the body,  which crops up in series like "radio ocularia".  Some years, my allergies are really bad in spring and fall, and this manifests as a face ache and tingly, sometimes painful, bicuspids. My first book, the fever almanac, was very much about the places where language and the body meet,  its section headings pointing to it:  "how to tell a story in a dead language"  "glossalalia" and "dialogue in blue"

But it's especially interesting to think about FEED in particular, which perhaps the most in any recent manuscript of the past couple years, is rooted in body considerations of another kind--body image and dismorphia.  I've written in bits and pieces in other projects about food and disordered eating, about the fat body, particularly the fat femme body in the world. But this is perhaps the most airtime I've given body issues in my poems, and the most raw material of my own  The most raw in general, I suppose.   It's a book about mothers as well, but also bodies, the mothers and the daughters , and the damage each can do to the other. You see it in obvious places like "plump," a retelling of Hansel and Gretel where the witch becomes a mother-figure to the starving daughter.    In "the hunger palace" which tries to reconcile my mother's death and issues she had with her own body and how those were my own inheritance. While the sections of "the summer house": and "the science of impossible objects" are more generally about mothers and mothering, the very first section "swallow" sets a tone that strikes some cords even within those differently pro-occupied parts. "swallow" is pure autobiography, as is "the hunger palace," but while the second is longer and more essayistic, it does the damage in short, barbed prose poems. One of them begins "As a child, we work to make me smaller."  (I've written a bit more on that segment in particular here... )

I think there is some of it in the newer projects like pelt, which is more about monstrousness and the body, though the chief concerns might be elsewhere. Or in the new corona-inspired poems series "bloom," with it's themes of contagion and connection.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

poems and ghosts

 


So say I was once a five year old who loved to scribble lines in notebooks and pretend they were stories.  Say I was 14 when I wrote a poem about flamingos for my frehshman english class and the teacher liked it enough to show it to the others as an example.   Say I was always in love with books--library young adult offerings, horror novels passed off from aunt. I was the middle schooler who was determined to be the next Stephen King or VC Andrews, only more feminist.  The teenager who filled her diary with bad, bad poems about the beach. Writing was something I was good at, so I did more of it. Stories, poems, high school newspa
per editorials about saving the dolphins.  By the time I landed at college on the coasts with an intent to be a marine scientist, I was already lost to books. To words.  To other depths than the Atlantic.

I returned to the midwest to study English and Theatre.  Banged out skinny poems on an electric typewriter and saved my money for all those SASE's. During college summers, you'd find me seated at the dining room table of my parent's house with a box of writing mags, poems drafts, and envelopes.  By the time I was in grad school studying literature and intending to teach English, I was writing enough to feel like I might be able to do this. Be a writer. And I was getting better each year.  By the early 2000's I'd found a job in a college library, and spent the rest of the time writing and publishing in online journals and things sort of arced from there, through chapbook and book manuscripts, readings, awards, getting my MFA. 
       

But these seem less like inspirations than circumstances.  My young writer self was inspired by all that horror and gothicism and sought to reproduce it.  .  I was 14 when I encountered Edgar Allen Poe for the first time. Was 17 when I found Plath. Somewhere between these two a match was struck. At the Field Museum in the fall, an audience member inquired whether I thought myself a nature poet, but maybe I am as much as any girl who spent her life growing up in the boonies of both Illinois and Wisconsin, but who was in love with the sea.Who wanted to be a scientist to study those depths. As an artist, I fall again and again to landscapes and botanicals.  Though I am probably more in debt to the supernatural than I am the natural. I feel, as I've been working on 
dark country, that this is at the forefront, but it's been there all along through the other books I've written.  Even sex & violence has it's ghosts--my own past relationships, Plath herself, Dali's little blue dog. 

And in many ways the writing is a sort of exorcism of ghosts, of stories, of the past dusted off and made shiny and new. I've been thinking of this as I look at the newest completed manuscript, feed, and how it was a writing out, a bloodletting in the year after I lost my mom. There are so many ghosts there, literal and just my own metaphoricals.  Or maybe less an exorcism and more of a seance--a speaking to and with the dead, either others or the self you left behind at various points of travel. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

notes & things | 6/14/2020


There are some years that seem to fall into a crack and never quite make it out.  This morning I was organizing some files in the dgp archives from 2012--amazing chaps from so many authors, and as I was flipping through their pages, snippets of laying out, designing and assembling those books come back to me.  If you'd asked me what I was doing in the summer of 2012, I'm not sure I'd be able to imagine it.  The years before and after are a little clearer. 2011 was spent mostly chasing romantic dead ends in a South Loop bar--a pursuit that consumed my summer, at least in memory.  The end of the year brough BLP taking on girl show. 2013 had bright spots--new books and chapbook, trips to Wisconsin. 2012 though is foggier. I did drink a lot of tequila that year..lol..so maybe I'm just missing chunks.)  There are glimpses--working on chapbooks with a new printer in Rockford I'd had delivered there while Max, still kitten sized,  attacked the paper.  The Printers Row Book Fair, where I landed a free table and spent the day eating fruit cups from the 7-11 and people watching. Making copies of shipwrecks of lake michigan and reading from it all that summer.  But a lot of these things are in my blog or on facebook, or otherwise I might barely remember them.

This weekend, I have been going slowly through things I have been putting off (tax final calculations to fill out my schedule C , organizing dropbox). It's chilly outside for mid-June, but bright and clear. I keep closing the windows and running the space heater near my desk intermittently as I work. Tonight I am making chicken soup, largely because I am trying to use up the mushrooms I bought at least a couple weeks back before they go bad in the fridge. And I've been sleeping a bit later since I have no one to answer to this week but myself and it's kind of glorious. The news, of course, still increasingly depressing and I feel like in a sort of helpless freefall in which I realize how absolutely hopeless and stupid humans are.  And becuase we are all so interconnected, their stupid is bound to have a direct or indirect effect on my personal safety and those I love. Someone posted something today about their being two pandemics at play--corona and institutionalized racism, and at least, it's beginning to look like we can--through reform--begin to do something about the latter.  As for corona, the answers seem to be even more simple (social distance, wear a mask, cancel and avoid the sort of super-spreading hot zones. )  But apparently these solutions are too much for the chest beating MAGA crowd.  It terrifies me to have watched while people I know buck against the restrictions and frolick mask-less in bars (some of them working in the health care industry, and should know better.) 

Nevertheless, I am struggling to control the things I can control and let go of those I can't and this applies so much on all fronts of my life right at this given moment. Meanwhile, I am learning to think and nap like an indoor cat that is only let outside for short careful pursuits. .  It's all I, or anyone,  can do. 





Friday, June 12, 2020

decentering and publishing in the era of #blacklivesmatter


Like many at this particular pivot point in history, I've been thinking about privilege and publishing and supporting Black writers, whether it's through the books one reads or buys or the books one publishes.  Where you center your canon,  whose work you support, where you put your money as an audience member.  I've been knee deep in working on some initiatives for the Library and A of R, on hilighting anti-racism resources and materials, developing programming and information on the subject of Black protest art through the ages, including BLM, and related subject matter, as well as promoting protest-related resources, particularly for our Columbia students, many of which have been involved in the efforts locally.  As I worked on these things, I've also been trying to find corollary ways to bring these efforts into dancing girl press and ways that might happen or take shape in the future, particularly as we enter our open reading period this summer and work to populate next year's publication schedule.

Years ago, I was talking to someone (white, male, older)  who had once edited a small print publication in the late 80's/ early 90's, and talking about diversity in publishing.  About the role and responsibility of editors to make sure that they are better representing voices across the spectrum, marginalized voices, etc.  His take was that he wanted to be more diverse in his efforts, that the journal would have benefited from it,  but the submissions just weren't there.  I asked him if he thought that was because a greater variety of submitters just didn't know about the journal, or was it that they didn't feel it was a place where they would be welcome.  I myself have looked a journal, and if it were overly male (in it's content, in it's editorial staff) I'd bypass it and send somewhere else. He disagreed when I said I felt that if the submissions weren't in the queue, you had to go elsewhere--that you kind of had a responsibility to pull that work in to reflect a greater span of voices.   To find those writers that might not be familiar with your publication or might not see themselves reflected in its pages and make it happen. In the end, we agreed to disagree.

I've been extraordinary fortunate with dgp in that, with such a large number of submissions, I have a healthy number of manuscripts coming across the desk--a variety of ethnicities, backgrounds, gender/sexual orientations, subject matter, experiences. Others come to me through recommendations of other writers or happenstance.   I can usually find a decent percentage of writers of color whose work I want to publish, but of course, there is always more work to be done if you truly want to reflect the breadth of work and decenter the glaring whiteness of the publishing world.   And these are what I've been thinking about in the past couple weeks as this is on everyone's mind and publisher's are examining how to do things better in the future--how to welcome more writers of color, particularly BIPOC into publications and presses.   How to find those authors, because they are out there,  and how to bring them to the forefront of publishing efforts as an industry (which includes the biggest of the large publishers down to the tiniest of the indies.)  And specifically, how I can make those things manifest through dgp, where while we do get to publish a somewhat diverse list, it seems like there is still more work to be done to have a chapbook series that truly reflects population percentages in general. I'd like to do a bit more soliciting and maybe pushing POC authors to the front of queue and making them a priority this summer.   In the meantime,  also championing and promoting the work of writers we have published is a useful thing as well.  More soon on this as I mull it around... 


Thursday, June 11, 2020

the necessity of taking breaks


Starting today and all next week, I am taking the entirety off from library work.  Mostly, it's because there are some press & creative things I'd like to be able to focus on without library tasks tugging at my sleeve.  Also, once we are back in the fray at the beginning of next month, we'll still be short staffed, and while we are opening with much shorter hours,  there is still a lot of work to do that makes time off less likely to happen. You would think that given all this time at home, I wouldn't need a vacation, but really, I think I need it more.

I was talking with my boss about the weirdness of having your work life happening in your home--entwined with it and inextricable.  So the frustrations and stresses don't just happen in the office, but they bleed a bit more into your non-work life.  If you''re stressed at work, you're stressed everywhere.  Every week day during the quarantine finds me waking up, and usually even before my daily horror show scroll through facebook, doing a quick check of my e-mail, usually still in bed and on my phone, to make sure no one needs something time sensitive or called an unexpected meeting. Since I start my days in general later than everyone else, and though that was always the case, I feel like I need to be available somewhat. It's probably only in my head, but with academic precarities afoot, I make sure that I am. 

Then I'll get up, make breakfast, do  some writing (well lately, but before it was just more frantic scrolling and news reading.)  If there are books I printed the evening before, I'll assemble those, and sometimes, do a corner mailbox run or short walk.  I have been starting my official day closer to my usual time --"official" meaning when I sit down and start work, anywhere from around 1-2pm  unless there is an earlier meeting. Then working through the evening, usually wrapping up before I eat make dinner around 8 or 9pm. But even other times outside that schedule, I feel on-call--even on weekends when no one is even expecting anything from me. I would venture it's not that different than running the press home, except maybe that I set my own timelines and routines and feel more like that time is mine. 

And of course, I hardly sit down and work straight through without breaks.  I make more coffee.  I'll play with the cats for a while.  Make a sandwich for lunch. Take a shower if I haven't yet. Wander down to take out the trash or check the lobby for packages. The nice thing, is without the physical aspects to worry about that involves books, I have gotten some things underway and off the ground that have been neglected or put-off in the melee of in-library life. There have been some article writing, some webinars about library programming, some grant writing.  Blog posts, social media updates, and online exhibit or workshop  building..  Also daily check-ins for ILL article requests.  If I don't have any zoom meetings, I can deep dive on projects a little more. Some days there are phone calls with my boss / best-friend  (well, these are a mix of work-related, non work related discussion) but since outside of my dad and my boyfriend, these are my only real social contact.

On the whole, I like the work and being able to work at home, but I do sometimes feel the stresses of that lack of boundaries.  Also the stress of going back creeping ever closer and what that means in terms of safety (less so at the actual library, which will be pretty dead as it is every summer anyway)  but more commuting via public transport and the safety of that.  And just being out in the world again, that everyone is saying is safer, but doesn't really seem like it is at all. 

Now that I am able to concentrate better on creative things, hopefully it will be a productive week. I might even get to that book trailer.   I'll be heading out to Rockford next Friday (my dad is fetching me from the city and bringing me back after the weekend) but otherwise, I am still maintaining my version of quarantine outside of whoever I see there.  Mostly because I am somewhat convinced this is all far from over, despite the world moving onto other headlines and the things people seem to want--haircuts and beaches and open bars and restaurants.  



Sunday, June 07, 2020

notes & things | 6/7/2020

I've spent a good portion of the weekend watching the Epstein docuseries on Netflix (of which I think the web of corruption is only the very tip of the iceberg among powerful men) , and last night & finishing later, the Hunger Games movies, of which I have only seen the first two.  (I love the books, but I just never have gotten the chance to get to the two final ones.) They are a strangely appropriate thing to be watching at this very moment and I was hoping they didn't just spike my anxiety higher, but so far I think I'm okay.  I am back to focusing no further than the end of the day. Especially as my anxieties & fear about going back to work are beginning to creep up on me.  There is so much we don't know and so much I feel people are paying attention to  (noteably that we are not expecting a second wave, and only that the first wave is still very much still happening, only that the news, understandably, is focusing on other things. )  I feel no safer out there than I did in late March. I feel esp. helpless about the decreased seriousness of people out there who seem to either be misinformed or just defiant that they need to wear masks and be careful. I actually feel like the mass protests actually look pretty safe and masked up, but the people in bars and on beaches not so much,

Inside, I am better able to focus on writing-related things than I was a few weeks ago. I have a new book, after all, and want to figure out ways to celebrate and promote it as much as I can. There are also a couple new series--one devoted to Weekly World News headlines and another that just might tangentially be  about the virus, but also about intimacy and connection.  Also just the notion of "viral" and things hi-jacking the body from a scientific standpoint. I feel like I need to tread carefully...I'm not particularly keen on most current events type writing since I think it tends to fall into cliche and hyperbole very easily.  The lit journals are filled with mediocre coronapoems right now. I think I, myself, need a little more distance.   There are few things I've set aside to return to for revising or expanding-- the dog girl poems, now The Shining pieces.  A couple months always gives me fresh eyes on things I've hidden away for a bit. Meanwhile I ten to the dark country manuscript. I get pieces of extinction event ready to send out. I hope the creative weather holds. 
Tonight, in my quarantine cooking adventures, I am making ribs in the crockpot, which can do no wrong. Also some elote, which I tried to make at least once before and need to perfect my recipe. The weather outside is lovely, though I've only been out a little bit in it. I am excited for them to re-open the lakefront soon, though I don't know how prohibitively crowded it will be (even though I tend for dusk visits and don't really like being out in all that sun during the day anyway, even before the virus.) Every so often I take a walk around outside and catch sight of that beautiful blue and make sure it's still there. I am so close, but so far.  If I lived a couple floors higher in my building, I'd have a view of it (though you pay handsomely for that view).  My daily routine was always mentally charting how high or low the water is (by the amount of beach/concrete visible in places and the surface of the pond near the zoo on my commute )  I miss even that a little.  How I'd occasionally say to my friends for just random conversational purposes "Woo-wee,  the lake is high today!" in the same tone you talk about all weather related phenomena.  Now,conversations are by phone or zoom, less prone to wandering and more specifically focused on sharing information. I am not usually one for small talk, but I did like talking about the lake and its many moods and fluctuations--gray brown and angry, sky blue and completely still.  Rain swollen and swallowing the shoreline.  Though she's block and a half away, I miss her most.