Tuesday, October 20, 2020

31 days of halloween | how to tell if you're possessed


Over the past few months, I've been working on a series of poems inspired by Weekly World News headlines called alternative facts, many of which have a bizarre and monstrous feel perfect for the season.  The above is one of my favorites.

Monday, October 19, 2020

daily writing hiatus

 After a few months of daily poeming (and so much to show for it in terms of the new completed collapsologies manuscript) I've been taking a momentary break before moving on to the next thing.  It would help immensely of course if I knew what the next thing was, but right now I'm treading water in the uncertainty of it--notes in my notebook about things I'd like to write or research, formats I would like to play with. Stories I would like to tell. I've been dipping a toe back into some visual exploits, including some design stuff and postcard collages for my Patreon. It's slow, but it's a start. Maybe some of those will lead to writing.  Or writing will lead to new artwork. 

It feels like a weird time to be making plans, once again with the contingency that the world may be on much tighter lockdown at some point during the next few months. This feels more apt at the Library, where everything--exhibits, programs--is being planned dually, both on the walls and on the web.  We are holding in there, and most of my days are filled now with ILL flow, which has ticked up a bit. Obviously, timewise, whether I am homebound or not shouldn't affect more creative work that much (if anything I gain back a few hours in the hustling to and fro) but if March & April is any indication, a world in turmoil (or more tumultuous than the past couple of months) blows a huge hole in motivation and concentration. It took til the end of May to get back to any sort of routine.  I still, outside of the dgp manuscripts, have a hard time reading for enjoyment. 

I'm thinking of holding off on starting something new until at least the election has passed and we are into November.  I have no idea what the world will like or where, and if, my concentration will hold.   I have a couple zine projects I'd like to get out that month for the books & objects series, but otherwise am wide open in creative endeavors.  There are a couple things I have my eye on for the automagic project, some orphan series I started and haven't meandered back to. But a break feels good right now.  I've been spending my breakfast writing time instead queuing up Halloween posts and posting to socials, and just lingering in bed a bit longer than I usually do before clamoring into the shower. 

31 days of halloween | ghosts and small animals


Not all of the poems in dreams about houses and bees are specifically about ghosts--or at least the literal interpretation, many touch on memory and ghosts, and are therefor spooky enough to make our line up this month.  This series was issued as a little collage zine back in 2015, and the text portions included in SALVAGE (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

thoughts on manuscripts, the bottleneck, and self-publishing

This week, I did the final proofing and design finishing for FEED, which I will be releasing as both an e-book and print book via Amazon at the end of this year.  It's a decision I've been mulling over--was mulling over, even pre-pandemic, and covid sealed the deal.  Part of me says maybe it's just a feeling that the world is going to fuck and if I get sick and die (or mauled by rabid nazi hoards of incels)  at least the book will be out in the world. To seize whatever opportunities come along because you could be gone tomorrow.   It's not all so dire as those thoughts, but one thing living in this world in these times has told me is that a lot of the arbitrary shit that used to matter seems to matter less and less., And you can apply this across everything, not just the literary world. (Might I remind you of Sabrina Orah Mark's essay in The Paris Review.)

I came into the poetry world as we know it in a strange way--a novice, which is not unusual, but I always felt like I slipped in some back door and didn't really belong in some po-biz spaces. And maybe I do, or maybe I don't.  I came to the academic poetry world kind of late, already nearing thirty, with a lot of publications under my belt and a familiarity with the open mic scene in Chicago (or I should say A open mic scene, as there are many?)  When I listened to the folks there--classmates, teachers, visiting artists talking about the insularity of certain journals, presses, awards, and tenure tracks, how certain things mattered more than others,  I called bullshit more than once, but I also bought into to a degree. That couple years when I was trying to place my first book, more often than once, I though about self-publishing it. The contest circuit seemed insurmountable, and it still is, a formidable bottleneck that has broken some of the best poets I know.  I wanted a book in the world.  I wanted a shiny spine on the shelf in the Barnes & Noble.   I wanted readers. I wanted to belong, to have a feeling that yes, I was legitimate poet, whatever that meant.  This need for legitimacy pushed me through an MFA program I only sometimes liked.  It had me sending that book out and paying up to $30 a pop. 

And I was lucky enough that a small press that no longer exists , but that I owe a great debt to, loved my manuscript and decided to publish it in the very old fashioned way of me having queried and then sent the manuscript at precisely the right time. And having a book of course was amazing, what I dreamed of, and while it felt really good, it didn't change much for me as a writer because outside of having a pretty bound volume of my work. I was still hustling--to do readings, to get people interested, to sell copies.  A book is a lot of labor, no matter how it comes into the world  And of course, more books followed, some via pure serendipity, others via open reading periods.  One press folded, then another.  Others continued to flourish and I still occasionally publish with them today. I am absolutely luckier than I probably should be, to have found such presses & editors who believed in my work, when it's very hard to publish that first book, and sometimes, even harder to publish the second or the third.   

I think over the years, I've refocused my mind not on presses and journals as a goal, but more on communities they reinforce.  Which of course, is bolstered by presses and journals and awards circuits, but also just by sharing work, being with other writers (in real-life or virtually) .  So much of my experience is rooted not only in my early poetry-related experiences, but also zine culture and visual arts, which seem a little less beholden to structures that don't really serve them well.  As such the stigma of releasing your own work has lost its power over the years, as I've released as many projects into the wild as small limited editions or e-chaps as I have via journals and traditional presses. I once had a lively (I say discussion, some may say argument) during a panel over the merits of self-publishing. I've watched a lot of writers, really good writers, give up because the path to publishing books of poetry via the sanctioned paths, gets narrower and narrower, more closed off as presses struggle economically, operations fold, and there are just a lot of poets vying for room. Every other minute, the attention shifts, and the person who may be the talk of the town, in a year or two, is completely forgotten. 

It gets harder to breathe sometimes, mid-career, so I can only imagine what it's like to be entering it as a newbie.I think we are all conscious as well of the space we take up--when it comes to younger writers, marginalized writers, or at least maybe we should be. I sometimes scoff at Rupi Kaur, and wonder why people like her work (which is also true of some established academic poets), but I see how she is doing very well so outside those structures, which make the structures seem even more arbitrary and small thinking. Whatever you think of her work, her end result is good and her business acumen sharp as hell. Most of the world may not even know people are writing poetry still, and those that do gravitate toward catch phrases and things that would fit on a mug, but it's still poetry. 

So then, what to do with all these books, all these poems, the structure that cannot hold them all.  I believe very much in small presses, obviously, to seize the means of production and make the art world, the lit world more interesting, more diverse than it might be otherwise.  But of course, small presses, particularly those that publish full-lengths struggle both in time and divided energies (because no one is getting rich off any of this--most editors have at least one, sometimes more than, other job.) People move on, money gets tight, people stop getting along with each other.  Presses fold and re-emerge in other configurations. 

What to do when you are a writer whose main goal is not necessarily to win prizes or teaching fellowships and really just build a community of readers, however small, who want to read what you put out there in the world?  And its' not all this great spirit of independence pushing me toward the endeavor. Some of it is resignation as well, or just tiredness with the status quo. FEED is a manuscript which I finished last year, but have only submitted a couple times, both met with a very kind and supportive "no".  I don't think there is anything wrong with the book that makes it unpublishable,  In fact. I would say it's tighter going in than a couple other books I have found other homes for. It's also a very personal book that I really want out there. I am not quite on board with submitting to a bunch of contests, spending hundreds of dollars, just to make that happen.  I have three other mss. in various stages of completion, another one out to a favorite press that may or may not want it in the end.  So what to do with book projects that just keep piling up and a desire to get them out there?   

It's not a perfect solution, but it's a better one.  No matter how much work it is to shoulder a self-published volume, it's certainly less expensive than sinking money forever into contests and open reading periods. The work alone of publicity and design is formidable, though as an editor myself, I'm thinking I can make a sound little book, both in content and appearance.  Still it seems far more fun and dynamic that attempting jam oneself into the bottleneck and hoping for the best. Or giving reverence to unspoken rules and structures that really don't benefit any but a select few. 


31 days of halloween | the summer house


This little ghosty project debuted in late summer as an e-chap, but I also made a little video of one of the poems.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

31 days of halloween | plump


While I often use fairy tales in my work--little red riding hood in the red poems, goldilocks and the three bears in the shared properties of water and stars, this one is a recent favorite, written to be part of our dark forest project at the library.

you can read the entire series of poems with collages online here.

Friday, October 16, 2020

31 days of halloween | songs for dead girls


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

read the entire series here:

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

31 days of halloween | sex & violence

Since we are halfway through the #31daysfohalloween, I thought I would use today as a plug for my latest full-length and it's slightly spooky cover.  I was going to highlight the /slash/ series a little later in the month in zine form, but it's ode to slashers populates a section of this book, as well as poems about Dali's The Inventions of the Monsters, which also is totally on-theme for the month. Even the Plath centos are obviously a little spooky given the source material, which probably makes this my most horror-laden book to date, so the title is more than appropo.

And this cover, which was modification done on one of the /slash/ zine pieces, definitely the spookiest...

get a copy from Black Lawrence Press...

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

31 days of halloween | fog and light


These were taken, not during the fall, but early one spring foggy morning out near my dad's house. but I loved the way they turned out. 

31 days of halloween | strange machine


A while back, I wrote a series of poems about atomic anxieties and sci fi horror ladies called STRANGE MACHINE.  You can read it here...

Monday, October 12, 2020

31 days of halloween | cryptotaxonomy


Today, we're bringing in a little monster-related fun.  As some of you know, a friend and I started a fun little art experiment the chicago cryptozoological society, a few years back for zine & artmaking shenanigans.  While some of the zines are just cut & pasted amusements, they occasionally result in some pretty cool art pieces.

see all of them here:  


Saturday, October 10, 2020

31 days of halloween | {licorice, laudanum}

This is an October debut--my little zine devoted to the Murder Castle legend! While my research on Holmes was a little disappointing, it made a spooky little series of poems and pictures, which you can get a look at in this little e-zine project. 

not the moon | gluck and poetic foremothers

Mock Orange

It is not the moon, I tell you.
It is these flowers
lighting the yard.

I hate them.
I hate them as I hate sex,
the man’s mouth
sealing my mouth, the man’s
paralyzing body—

and the cry that always escapes,
the low, humiliating
premise of union—

In my mind tonight
I hear the question and pursuing answer
fused in one sound
that mounts and mounts and then
is split into the old selves,
the tired antagonisms. Do you see?
We were made fools of.
And the scent of mock orange
drifts through the window.

How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?

Twenty or so odd years ago, I was a baby poet.  Or more accurately, I had been writing poems since age 15, but only 20 odd years ago, on the verge of 25,  did I get good enough to call it actual poetry. I was in my second year of grad school (studying mostly novels, but occasionally poems) at Depaul and something clicked--I blame TS Eliot for the hinge popping open, but he may have just unjammed the lock.  That fall I spent a lot of time ferrying books back and forth from the library in my backpack--mostly women writers--Carolyn Forche, Anne Sexton, Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, and for the purposes of this entry--Louise Gluck, whose just been honored with the Nobel. There was no internet, or at least not at my apartment, nor did I have a job, so I spent my days when not in class reading and writing a swell of work that autumn. Truthfully, it was probably the first time I had immersed myself in contemporary poets and that perhaps was what opened the door to the work I was writing, and would write in the future.  The poems came fast that fall and into the spring, an output that changed my career trajectory--a swerve away from teaching and toward writing, however I needed to support myself.  A handful of poems in my very first chapbook stem from this time.  I also garnered my first journal publication with them. 

Eventualy I wandered away from most of these poets, as my style shifted, barring a brief seminar during my MFA at Columbia devoted to Oliver, Sexton, and Olds.  Years later, had you asked me about any of these poets, I would probably wrinkle up my nose and, with exception of Sexton and Forche perhaps, call them slightly facile. My tastes had moved on to writers like Jorie Graham and Anne Carson if we're talking literary heavyweights.  Gluck was something from the past, and definitely an influence on the work I was writing then and probably for the next four years.   It was unfashionable to say, particularly in my program, that you loved Gluck, and yet, I regularly found poets out in the wild who professed their love for her work and would continue to. I feel like, stylistics aside, the experimental poetry world (ie. the male poetry world if we're getting specific) has a particular vitriol toward Gluck, which I never really understood, and now, as the news spreads of the Nobel, are rustling restlessly with their keyboards.  Admittedly, I was surprised they'd chosen a poet so very white in the current world where everyone else is making strides in recognizing POC, but I don't think that's the angle these criticisms stem from.  I once heard a male poet dismiss Gluck as a "flower poet" and fumed for days. My chief criticism is the poems are a little too tidy and heavy handed.  Constantly moving the reader toward epiphany tied neatly with a bow. She weilds this more adeptly than other poets of her generation (particularly male) but she still weilds it. 

I do not write those sorts of poems--not anymore--but I can see the value in work--the strands that are still woven in how I learned to make poems.  

Friday, October 09, 2020

31 days of halloween | girl show


While this book was not explicitly written in a horror vein, there is a certain gothic-ness about it.  Published in 2014 by Black Lawrence, it was also my MFA thesis manuscript at Columbia, and the longest single focus project I've ever written.  There are bird girls, fan dancers, and conjoined twins aplenty.  My favorite part of this project, similar to others, was the research--so much on sideshows and early-mid 20th century circus & vaudeville culture (and also where I learned about the Hilton Sisters--who I named the siamese demons after). 

notes & things | 10/9/20


October is plugging along , and while Tuesday I noted that the trees were still pretty green and lush,  Thursday, suddenly the park was exploding in yellow. Fall, like spring, seems to happen slowly, then all at once. You might gradually notice it's getting darker earlier every week, but then suddenly daylight is swallowed in what seems like mid-afternoon.  Last night, there was a huge, orange, low and fiery half-moon rising just as I was going home that seemed spooky and appropriate for the season.  I wasn't keen on spending too much on fall decor, so I settled on a bunch of orange-ish dried eucalyptus and this little friend up top (who will be staying long after Halloween).

I've been busy at the Library..October usually means full swing after the amping up of September, and things are still good on campus Covid-wise, so we may get to finish out the semester onsite after all.  There are exhibits to plan, virtual and physical, a faculty work showcase I am building the site for, various ARTIVISM endeavors. It's still weirdly quiet, with very few hybrid classes and a lot of students barely setting foot on campus, but it looks to have definitely been a wise decision. I am also warily watching Loyola stats, and despite some rather raucous partying happening in my building here at the edge of campus, they are doing similarly well. The holidays will no doubt change things, but right now, Chicago seems like one of the safest places to be in the country. 

And in the vein of messes, I did wind up listening to the VP debate Weds night as i was working, and Harris is, as expected, doing very well (I could very easily see her as president net go round.)  Not that she has much to contend with.I was knee deep in page design, so I was sad I missed the foreboding fly. The last two weeks are crazypants (is Drumpf really sick?  Is he dead? Is it all just a ruse to get votes?  To lose votes? I don't even know anymore--not even sure I care.).   My vote is already signed, sealed, and delivered, and it does seem that people are turning out for early voting in droves and already skewing democrat. I have to believe in the good of people.  I'm not sure there is any other way to continue. 

At home, I am watching horror movies and shows, including the contentious UTOPIA, which I loved so much it kept me up all week wanting to keep watching one more episode.  Yeah, a little tone deaf on the release in the current climate, but I dug it. Gillian Flynn does a really good job writing for the small screen.  This weekend, there's HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR, which I feel like I've been waiting forever for, plus a long queue of movies in every streaming app I'm subscribed to. As far as the pandemic, fall feels much more easily to exist in a little bubble and hide out all weekend.  I have several crockpot recipes to try, poems to write, coffee to brew,  and a bottle of pumpkin shower gel that smells like a dessert, so I'm set...

Thursday, October 08, 2020

31 days of halloween | terrestrial animal


A few years back, I stumbled upon some marketing material for mid-century era bomb shelters, and later, a sale listing for this house in the desert built to survive nuclear war. It was a sweet piece of mid-century design, still intact, but also slightly horrific to imagine life there, either before or after the bomb--the imitation of nature, but underground. It is part of little apocalypse, and spawned a little mini-chap that was part of Dusie's E-book Kollectiv in 2014, which you can read here...

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

31 days of halloween | (in) vertebrate


This fun little collage series plays with monsters and creepy creatures a little bit, so of course, fits our theme perfectly!

31 days of halloween | necessary violence


A couple of years ago, I got it in my head that I was going to write a series of poems devoted to the story of the girls involved in the Slenderman stabbing in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 2015. The research for it involved a lot of reading/documentary watching about the case, as well as delving into Slenderman lore more generally. At some point I invited my sister, Becky Webster,  to contribute some visual pieces to the project since her work tends to be a bit spooky and gothic in general and thus, NECESSARY VIOLENCE was born.  

While initially it was published in print only, you can read a pdf version of the entire project here...

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

video poem | swallow #4

you can see more in this series, here...

Monday, October 05, 2020

31 days of halloween | another cautionary tale

This poem, which was part of my feign chapbook, and later included in in the bird museum. was one of the first times I wrote explicitly about horror movies.  Those manuscripts are mostly about how there is always a certain amount of danger in knowledge and experience, and this is definitely a hallmark of the genre, particuarly when it comes to final girls.  It's a theme that would resurface in projects like /slash/ and exquisite damage.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

31 days of halloween | what's inside a girl?

This is more recent, and one of my book trailer videos from SEX & VIOLENCE, but I loved it's horror movie credit feel...

*{All month long , I will be sharing work that delves into the strange and spookier side of things--poems, drafts, books, projects, artwork and more, some old, some brand spanking new.}

Saturday, October 03, 2020

31 days of halloween | archer avenue

Way back in 2005, I worked on a heavily researched and very fun project about another urban legend / Chicago ghostie favorite, Resurrection Mary that resulted in a chapbook. While the sightings have died down over time after peaking in the 70's  and the Willowbrook Ballroom burned down a couple years back, I had a glorious good time reading about the history of the sightings and going on ghost tours that autumn. And of course Mary is just one of these vanishing hitchhiker legends that crop up everywhere and in every culture, all of them really fascinating in their own way.  Chicago's was something that caught my attention in junior high and even then I was obsessed...

*{All month long , I will be sharing work that delves into the strange and spookier side of things--poems, drafts, books, projects, artwork and more, some old, some brand spanking new.}

Friday, October 02, 2020

31 days of halloween | strangerie


There is a whole lot more from this series coming at the end of the month in printed form, both image and text, but this is a little series of digital collages I made a couple years back. I am planning an oracle deck for them a closer to Halloween for my Patreon offerings, but here is one of my favorite images from the bunch.  You can see the whole passel on instagram....


*{All month long , I will be sharing work that delves into the strange and spookier side of things--poems, drafts, books, projects, artwork and more, some old, some brand spanking new.}

Thursday, October 01, 2020

31 days of halloween | bloody mary

One of my favorite things as a kid was this urban legend, subject of many slumber party tauntings, but as far as I know, no actually successful attempts to carry it out.  Not sure if even my adult self would be willing to go that far.   I think most urban legends are just that, legends, but lets not take any chances. 

This poem was included and was the title pieces in one of my first chapbooks and was included in my first larger book, the fever almanac, way back in 2006. 

*{All month long , I will be sharing work that delves into the strange and spookier side of things--poems, drafts, books, projects, artwork and more, some old, some brand spanking new.}

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

31 days of halloween | exquisite damage


All month long , I will be sharing work that delves into the strange and spookier side of things--poems, drafts, books, projects, artwork and more...up first, a new little zine created for the books & objects series in limited print format , but you can get a peek electronically for the price of nothing at all. (individual copies will also be available soon in the shop.)

Monday, September 28, 2020

print of the month : october

A glimpse of the October print for my Patreon Print-of-the-Month Club.  
You can get in on the action here...


Sunday, September 27, 2020

notes & things | 9/27/ 2020

While I legit don't think we are mid-apocalypse (maybe that comes later with increasing climate change troubles) it's hard not to let anxiety pull me under the bus.  On a global scale, it's troubling, climate wise and covid wise, as even other countries struggle with outbreaks and pulling themselves out of the financial dip of quarantine lock downs.  Also a world that seems to be flooding or on-fire, or any other number of things mother nature throws our way while we are occupied with this other catastrophe. And the US--what can I say about the dumpster fire murderous cops roam free, the headlines are nonsense, and the worst are motivated an reinforced for unspeakable behavior?  Oh yeah, and we are looking at a crazy uncertain election. I try to hope for good, and change, and that evil will be defeated, but it's hard some days when news outlets and social media feeds are filled with all the horrible things that can and ARE going wrong in this country. 

This week, a rash of random crime in the South Loop, general covid anxiey, and worry of protest violence (not really from the protesters, but from other nefarious interlopers who seem to instigate conflict) made it a particularly bad week mental health-wise.  Maybe the thing we assume about apocalypses is that they happen all at once, and disasters do not drag on for months.  For years. I love my city life, but I keep enviously watching people who live isolated in the woods and it seems like a terribly seductive dream.  That is until they have to remove a giant wolf spider from their outhouse.  I am also very jealous of the vloggers I watch who live in places like Canada or Germany and whose lives are still slowly coming back to normalcy out of covid, but are also not dealing with impending civil wars. 

On a smaller stage, things are holding steady.  There are poems and banana bread and I am getting closer and closer to finishing the collapsologies manuscript. I've crested the middle of the mountain of dgp possibilities for next year and library things are beginning to take shape nicely (now that it looks like we can plan a bit further into the semester with less threat of a shutdown--exhibits, zine tutorials, and more. ) I am also excited about my new Patreon adventures, and while my only patron so far is family, I have great plans afoot, including a bunch of new releases for the witching month, as well as a Thirty Days of Halloween bit of promo fun starting Thursday.  Since I've spent the summer and early fall catching up on orders, there will also be a few new dgp releases I've been finishing up afoot to watch out for.

It's been warmer the last few days, but we're heading into a cool patch (and possibly even a cold one by week's end.)  Yesterday, I said goodbye to the summer dresses and hello to the fall stuff, and am ittching to open up the suitcases where I store my sweater dresses.  Hopefully, we get a proper fall and none of this snow on Halloween bullshit from last year.  There are horror movies carefully lined up for the next few weeks and the trees are getting a little bit more yellow up near the tops.   I am ready. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

books & objects & more


For the last year or so, I've been brainstorming a way to make my books & objects series available that is a) not prohibitively costly and b.) allows some flexibility to tap in and out at will as a subscriber. I finally got my ducks in a row and started a Patreon. You can subscribe to the Books & Objects as it's always been, but there are also lower priced tiers (like a custom postcard courtesy of moi sent your way each month for $5, a print of the month for $10.) I plan to still make most projects available in the shop, but this gets you a slightly sweeter deal on them and a first crack at the limited edition stuff.


dancing girl press notes | september 2020

Fall again, and even in this strange year, I am still  delighting in the work that I am just now digging into from this year's submissions pool. .  Since I haven't been able to read much at all with pandemic brain, I am moving slowly, but still moving nonetheless. Sometimes I feel capable and productive.  Sometimes I feel like I am drowning.  That it is all too much.  Not the work or the press, but more the mental real estate I feel is crushing me sometimes. How can I think about this and this when there is that, and oh god, now THAT?  But from everyone I talk to, it's a common feeling, so I sit tight and wait until it passes.  And it usually does. 

I've spent a considerable part of this summer holding off new releases in order to wrangle the orders from the earlier part of the year into something manageable. Since I can't keep much inventory in the small space I now work in since leaving the studio, most books, except very new ones are print-on-demand, so the lags were getting to be a bit unruly, especially for older material. Thankfully, a slightly lighter schedule this year has been a godsend during the pandemic, since I'm not sure I'd be able to function to keep things going at their usual pace, which was always hectic, even when my mind was better capable of dealing with it. 

But then again, I remind myself the import of the work in this world.  Especially now, when it seems least important while everything is chaos and sadness. It is just poetry and poetry is a very little fish in a sea.  But when you are in the fish, it feels gigantic.  Or something like that. This was not the year I planned so hopefully in my little planner so smugly organized  in January, but it is the year we got nevertheless. I am still going to try to salvage or savor as much of it as I can. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020


I really don't think I set out at the beginning of the year to write a book about capitalism and it's evils, and yet, somehow I did.  It probably has everything to do with the fact that I was starting a series of poems right as the lock-downs kicked in and the arguments over people's lives vs. economic stability came to the forefront.  Of course, at first it was hard to write at all, even from the relative safety that allowed me to work from home (but of course what was also tinged with job-related anxiety because most of my work requires access to the library's physical collection.)  I had been meaning to write poems about my favorite horror film, The Shining (and on any given day, perhaps my favorite film no matter the genre). It seemed fitting to work on that series under quarantine, especially since I've often thought that sort of isolation, barring evil bloodbaths, would be so nice for my creative brain. 

It was rough to get started, but once I did, it didn't end up being the series I thought it would.  Then there was bloom, which was less about  economics, but very much about the pandemic. And then. my tabloid inspired pieces, which are my very favorite, and now, as I round it out, the plague letters.  In august, the bones of the book began to take shape, and scribbled in my notebook, from around the time the quarantine started I had a title that was ever so perfect. COLLAPSOLOGIES.  I was thinking about disease and colony collapse and also financial and societal collapse.  That is the soup from which these months and months of poems come from, and I am excited to pull them all together and see what I have as soon as I finish the last few epistolary poems, likely by mid-October. 

I initially though this one might be good to get out into the world sooner rather than later, but I feel I need to site with them a little longer as a whole--but keep an eye out for some smaller bits to make their way out, be they zine/chapbook projects (hint, hint, Halloween seems like a perfect time to drop overlook) and some of the other individual fragments will be appearing in journals. I have some design ideas for some of the other series that may become something. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

eleanor and the tiny machines


I am planning a whole bunch of Halloween related treats in terms of projects and new releases, and since this one was ready (and has actually been ready since around March but Covid put a dent in my plans) I decided to drop it a little early. It's just a lil freebie, but it sets a tone (and prefaces some other things up my sleeve for this season).  I've been sitting on a lot of finished projects and fretting over what to do with all of  them, so maybe the answer is just to get them out there. 

The eleanor series collages actually came first one day while I was playing with some botanical images, and after I had a few, I set to telling a little ghost story (and really with that cover image, what could it be BUT a ghost story?)  I've considered it and the summer house, though they tell different narratives, to exist in the same sort of universe (though actually they wound up in two different book manuscripts (feed and animal, vegetable, montser.) Even still, there are similar threads in each.

It's the perfect little book for this time of year--slightly summer and lush with florals, but with spooky undertones. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

notes & things | 9/15/2020


 I've recently took a little inventory of new projects and while this year has been a doozy on all other fronts, and while I was paralyzed a bit when it came to writing and creating through the spring, there is still quite a bit of work to show for the summer months--the overlook poems, the tabloid pieces, the bloom project, and now, my series of plague letters.  While visual art feels a little bit harder to settle in with (mostly due to time constraints) I am enjoying the video projects. On the whole, a productive season as we settle into fall.  I have a few more epistolaries and then I'm not sure where to go next, but we'll see what I'm in the mood for.  I have a notebook full of projects and ideas that are ripe for the picking.

Today, warmer weather, but it's supposed to get colder by the end of the week. There has also been strange milky white skies from the smoke in the west way high in the atmosphere.  People are dying and the worlds on fire, so it seems hard to exist sometimes. To person sometimes. I've been busy, so less for the doomscrolling now that the semester has started and my days are full with reserves and ILL.  I spent the weekend in Rockford, which at least granted some outdoor campfire s'more activity in a summer that has barely been a summer.  As always, I most like coming home. 

I do not know what fall holds but am watching closely. Some of the trees in the park along Lake Shore already have a brownish tint in the right light, so it's coming--the meatier parts of fall and this weekend I will start swapping out the summer dresses for more sweaters and heavier fabrics. While I would say spring is my fave season in general, fall is moreso for the clothes.  I second hand shopped some newer things last month that are already hanging in the wardrobe and I can't wait to wear them, but figure I'll get a few more summer dresses in while the weather holds. And of course, jacket and coat weather, which is the only thing that makes winter bearable at times.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Thursday, September 10, 2020

the poet's zodiac

is now available in all it's dark sparkly loveliness.




For every broken phonebooth, you trade a tooth in pocket. A rusted locket.  The back parking lot grown thick with weeds.  In the mornings, tread carefully.  The dead collect their objects with startling accuracy.  Recall their devotions as thunderstruck, as dumb luck.   Fuck with the lights in your kitchen, and still the witch moths flicker at the windows, eating their way through the screens.  Breathe carefully in the dark.  Pull at the roots in your cellar until nothing is left but stone, smooth as a coffin. Where you bury the black rabbits and their beginnings.  Their terrible skins.

You can get a copy here!

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

chicago by night

I have a recurring dream that I am downtown at night, completely alone, and the lights go out.  Completely and not even a moon to see by.  In the most recent version a few nights ago, I was trying to use the flashlight on my cell phone to navigate. Sometimes, there are car headlights, but more often, it's pitch black.

Tonight was my first evening shift at the library and my first night downtown since March, and it's a strange, eerily deserted world I come back into and very much not the bustling one I left.  Granted, it's chilly and a little rainy, which no doubt kept a lot of people in, but I only saw a few people on the streets, a few riders on the bus.  In the daytime, it was easier to hide it in plain site..the businesses closed and never re-opened, the hotels shuttered, the stores on the mag mile boarded over to protect from damage. Afternoons,  were still people everywhere, masked up and heading to and from work. A smattering of braver tourists.  When I used to walk Michigan in the summer at around 10pm each night, there were quite a few people out--in the hotels, in the bars and restaurants.  

After Labor Day, it would dwindle, but you'd still see quite a few people out in the evening--jogging, walking dogs, commuting home from their jobs in retailers, in restaurants, in theatres, all the places that closed up around 10. Tonight, it was even more of a ghost town, all of those people either not working at all anymore or places closing earlier.  The police presence on the mag mile thick as it has been since the last lootings, but very few pedestrians on the sidewalks. Even less street traffic. Many of the high end retailers have erected wood fortresses around and over their windows, so it's really much darker on the street than it used to be.  

But really, many of the storefronts were already empty long before Covid--high rents, dwindling physical shoppers. I would guess at least one storefront per block empty for years or recently vacated. So maybe it was always getting darker along that strip, and even moreso south of the river.  Not just the theatres and bars and hotels, but also the businesses that thrived because of loop workers, many of whom are working from home and no longer populating the cafes and lunch spots. I am curious to see how the Chicago rebuilds itself in the wake of this, what changes the textures and routines of city life.  In my neighborhood on the north side, things are pretty much the same and most eateries have managed to stay open. People who work from home still get carryout and coffee, just closer to their houses, but downtown, who knows what that will look like when this is over--if this is ever over... 

Even still, she's a pretty little (big) city...

Sunday, September 06, 2020

constellations and other messier objects

One of my favorite projects, and one of the first times I was breaking out of my comfort zone in writing in the early 2000's was this little chap. It was initially created for a class I was taking in my MFA program devoted to hybrid writing and genres, and what it became was a series of poems in the form of, well, things that were not poems--indices, footnotes, instruction manuals, dictionaries, outlines.  It started with the tension, particularly throughout history, as to what are considered "women's forms" and "men's forms."  Around the time I was writing it, I was particularly fascinated by men's scientific writing on women's psychology and hysteria, so all of these things came together to form the project in the fall of 2004, and early 2005 when I finished the last segments.  

There is so much in there--latin lessons, Dewey's lady librarian guidelines, gothic novel heroines--as well as a storyline that actually only exists in the chapbook (the elizabeth poems), that part having been weeded out when I retooled the series later for inclusion in in the bird museum, to reflect that manuscripts concerns more directly, where it opens the book and sets a similar toe, but a different emphasis. The elizabeth poems did not make the cut, nor did some other fragments --a pantomime scene, a poem in three voices about the institutionalization of women.  A couple other smaller pieces that only exist in the chapbook form.  (which you can see in it's entirety as an e-version here.)  I released the print version in late 2005, with grey cardstock and vellum endpapers, and considering it was the very first year of dgp, it's lovely little chap, even though layout in those days was much more difficult. I've long forgotten the size of the edition, but it was probably around 50--most f which were traded or given away at readings. Interestingly enough, the original version I turned into Arielle Greenberg that fall was a corset bound cover that I never quite was able to reproduce in a greater number.

I definitely consider this little chap to be one of those series of poems that broke something open in my creative style (like. for example, the I HATE YOU JAMES FRANCO poems).  It was a different thing to be cracked open in this case, but much of it was cracking open this perfectly ordered veneer I was working under in the early aughts--you can see it many of earlier poems in the fever almanac. In the poems I went into my MFA program writing, which were definitely not the poems I came out of it writing four years later. It somehow loosened the bolts and let other things develop--the work that became the rest of my second book, my Diagram/NMP chapbook, feign, the archer avenue series (also written for a craft class with Arielle).  While I can't say the workshops in my program were that helpful, the craft seminars, and a couple of the visiting faculty I worked with (Karen Volkman, Stephanie Strickland) changed my work so much for the better, and this is the soup from which errata springs 

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

verse and the prose poet: a love affair

I was doing some edits on the tabloid poems, the second of a couple series started once I could actually write during quarantne, and realized it's one of three different recent projects where I ecshewed prose form, which has been my go-to for years, for actual lined verse. I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision until I was already in the thick of it--that first batch of poems, overlook, breaking that pattern.  And I am no line purist, by any stretch, scanning meter and rhyme being mostly an intuitive thing and not at all as mathematical as my lit training would have me be.  But there is a different feel, and perhaps that was what drove me to prose. 

Prose pieces always feel more casual in their construction.  The same elements are there, image and sound, but there is more of a rushing feeling to them, and less stillness.  I think the longer your lines and the more white space on your page, the more you allow for a certain kind of stillness you can't get otherwise. You are moving less, so the framework becomes more apparent if that makes sense.  Maybe the difference between a wall and a fence. Or the ocean and a coral reef. The holes, the line breaks and space around the text, telling you more where to pause, where to take a breath.  And also, making you see more of the poem somehow, even though it's the same words. 

My lineated poetry also tends to be more free verse with a certain amount of interior-line rhymes and slant rhymes.  The same sort of things I do in prose, but it stands out more in lined work.  While I used to appreciate the prose form for that rush that a string of text without breaks gives, there is also a certain speed I am trying to master in the lined work, even with all those silences. One of my goals for the year (I'm pretty sure I started 2020 with goals, but who knows?) is to embrace white space a little more regularly and to experiment with the lengths of lines and their different effects.   After a couple lined projects, currently I am back to prose (it's an epistolary series, so this seems to make the most sense.) But I am hoping to play with lines on the next thing I move to. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

notes & things | 8/29/2020

We seem to have crawled out from under the swampy late-summer air, and this weekend, into something cooler, milder, and less likely to have me tossing and turning in the sheets to find a cool corner of the bed. Summer, corona-style, was barely a summer at all, and I can't say I am sad to see it go.  Mostly it was just heat and work, with side helping of anxiety. Fall is at least enjoyable when you don't leave the house much, so I am already queuing up my horror movie and planning to make soups.   I did learn that beginning next week,  we will be open the usual hours at the library, til 10pm,  which gives me back my late mornings entirely instead of sliver of time between waking and heading out the door. Since we've gone back, my writing happens in this flurried space over breakfast watching the clock to make it downtown, then exhaustion by the time I arrive home in the evening. This will feel a bit more like normal, if normal is even a thing at all anymore, which means I can get back to design and layout projects that have been drifting while I try to catch up on orders and tend to other dgp business. Also reading manuscripts for next year (which if you haven't submitted just yet, you have another couple days.) At the library are also getting a new staff member (finally) in our department which means I may eventually be able to take a vacation (not that I can go anywhere, but a week off work, as I learned this summer, is sometimes very much needed.) 

Today, I woke up and made myself a big stack of french toast and now, coffee, and am settling in to work on another swallow video, check in on my submissions like little chicks, and maybe do some edits on the tabloid poems. The collapsologies manuscipt/project is coming together fast and furious and I can't wait to show you.  I still have some pieces to work on the final section (the plague letters) but I love what I have so far.   Whatever it's final incarnation (book?  box set?  something else?  all of these things? ) I would like to unveil it within a year from now,  since it feels like there is a pressing immediacy to it. Like, is another year passes, it will be less fraught with the angers and anxieties which spawned it. It's definitely a snapshot of a moment in time, a moment that hopefully will pass and be better. It's all we can hope for. 

Before then, I do have some little things planned for the witching season I am excited about (writing about horror 80's movies, strange little oracle cards), and as soon as i have them all assembled, the poets zodiac.I've even had a couple of journal acceptances for bots of a couple different series so those will be coming down the pipeline., breaking my recent rejection streak.  Impending autumn always makes me feel more ready to buckle down to more serious writing business, so there's that. 

I've been poshmark shopping, as a talisman against another quarantine, for some fall things for my closet, sweater dresses, moody fall florals, and way too many things in that shade of dark olive green I've been obsessing over the past year (including a steal of a green suede jacket I'd certainly never be able to afford new.)  My fall wardrobe is only slightly less rambunctiously unruly than the summer one, but hopefully Chicago keeps numbers down and I actually get to leave the house to wear it all. 

While I feel pretty safe about the library protocols, I don't know how that will change as more people show up on campus (or will they even show up on campus? and if they don't what does that mean for the library?) People on transportation seem to be all wearing masks, even if distance is only minimally possible as it gets fuller and more people are out and about, including the influx of students city-wide. I have grabbed coffee and a breakfast sandwich a couple of times and ordered pizza in the neighborhood, but you certainly won't find me in a restaurant or going anywhere else I can avoid going in public since pretty much anything I need can probably be ordered online (I do occasionally miss movie theatre date nights and all those thrifting expeditions, but not quite enough to risk getting sick more than I already have to.)