Sunday, March 29, 2020

fending off the monsters




Anxiety is a tricky bug..one moment you are fine..making dinner and blueberry cake and watching that weird show about the tiger guy  (it has to be seen to believe these people are even real.) The next, you've watched too many hours of Final Destination movies and are lying in bed afraid to turn on your ceiling fan because you haven't used it in a while and maybe it's come loose in the interim and will decapitate you.  Or more likely, something less bloody but just as terrible will happen down the road, like your college will shutter and the library close, and you'll have no income and get evicted and how will you even feed all these cats let alone yourself.  What kind of skills do you even have for a post apocalyptic world where libraries and art are obsolete?

*deep breath*

Chaos mode comes on suddenly, takes a lot out of you.  Today, it was unusually warm inside, which maybe means it's warming outside.  When I finally slept, I slept forever, and  woke up to clouds and  howling wind, but my mind was a little clearer.    I placed a grocery order before bed...Whole Foods b/c they had tortillas whereas Fresh apparently did not.   I still have a bit of meat, but was running out of cheese and tortillas, staples of my comfort foods these days.  I also needed some more bagels and my tomatoes are getting smooshy and my coffee creamer dangerously low for as much coffee as I've been drinking.  When working away from home, I'm not the sort of person who usually goes through groceries enough to have to keep tabs on them, usually just order a bunch of the same stuff every couple weeks (initially Peapod, now Amazon) , so all this cooking throughout the work week at home is foreign to me. It's also doing weird things with my relationship with food, how often I find myself thinking about it.  It's not a good time to have a latent binge eating problem.  I feel the monster under the bed sometimes and she just wants to eat everything in sight.

This week has a lot of zoom-meeting action, that should keep me occupied. Also, some new books are proofed and set to start printing this week.  While the writing is still touch and go, I did do some edits and cuts on extinction event and sent out some pieces.  As well as readied the eleanor and the tiny machines series for a zine project I thought I'd work a bit on tomorrow for #zinemadness endeavors. While we feel stopped, so much goes on in the virtual world, teaching and meetings and workshops.  Most of the time, I actually feel okay about things, even excited about the possibilities of doing things in new ways and formats. But then the doubt creeps in and it's hard to banish completely. Projections for Chicago seem more positive, though still deadly, than other major cities, who were either further along in infection rates (NYC, Seattle)  or had huge public gatherings as things were unfolding (like my beloved NOLA and the Mardi Gras factor).  It scares me that there are still places in the US who aren't taking things seriously and staying home.  Places that starting out, don't have the health care resources they will eventually need.  But don't see people dying in real life and so it's just this foreign concept. Until it's not.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

ordinary saturdays

Overnight, a deluge of rain , thunder, and lightning, enough to shake the ground and flicker the lights a couple times.  Normally, I love thunderstorms of all variety, provided I am not out in them (and sometimes even then.)  I made sure to plug in my phones and charge up all  my electronics because somehow now I feel we are even more vulnerable to the elements.  While my neighborhood occasionally has a short random outage during no weather at all, I don't remember the last storm-induced one, but still I went to bed anxious.  Today, clouds, and grayness.  It will be April soon, so more rain I suppose on the horizon.  I feel like I will miss my favorite time of year.  By summer, if this lifts, the trees will already be leafy and the blooms already fallen.

Today is a writing day.  Or at least I intended it to be one.  Weekends are pretty much a non-existent concept since I stay home everyday. You would think I had nothing but time, but actually my short bursts of concentration have been a) oriented toward library and press work, and b) my creative urges mostly sputtering dark.  I am thankful again to have all my art stuff in my home work space, so maybe by tomorrow, I'll be able to work on something.  I'd also like to begin submitting some extinction event pieces after sitting on them a few months, though I don't know if their subject matter works in their favor or against them.  So we shall see.

So tonight, I plan on making chicken soup and doing some housecleaning, because even though my life is less chaotic and to and fro, there is still dirt and oh so many dishes to be done with all this cooking. I do tend to throw my clothes around a lot less, but there is still laundry and cat boxes to be emptied.  Still floors to be swept and maybe some more work on the bookshelf project this week. I am still struggling to find a balance in scheduling and orienting myself to get things done.

Friday, March 27, 2020

day 14 dispatch and fog



This afternoon, I decided to brave a quick two block trip to the bank ATM to move some money back into the right account for some bills and press supplies I need to order stat  (doing it online takes a bit longer.)   I hadn't been out since well before the stay at home order, so it felt important to make sure the world beyond my window was still actually there.  I also thought I might stop in a store and see if they have some more eggs, since I've been hitting the omelets hard for breakfast, and just generally use them for various other things like french toast, fried rice,  and hard boiled for salads.  It was rainy and drizzly, and while there were markedly less people out than a usual Friday, I did still see quite a few people out and about even in the rain. Many solo, but a few in twos or threes.  Some with masks, some without.  It was strange to see the CTA busses still running, cars still sitting at stoplights.  There were a few people in the 7-11, most of them buying booze, but I did find both eggs and ice cream well-stocked.

It was an unproductive day mostly, since I was up kind of early, so then needed a nap later in the day. I did put the final edits on my Programming Librarian article that went live this afternoon, and added more to my developing Lib Guide for zines I hope to have finished by Monday in time for #zinemadness. Yesterday I worked on some new layouts for dgp and answered some e-mails.  I feel a little bit more settled in, yet still have these weird frozen moments of uncertainty.  I also sleep too much, but I suppose it's better than sleeping too little.  Depression naps vs. anxiety insomnia, so I guess I'll take it. Sleeping at least when the dreams aren't terrible, is comforting. So is Ben & Gerry's.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

all dressed up and nowhere to go


The past couple of days I have ventured to the alley with my little cart of trash and to pick up the last of my arriving provisions from the building lobby (an Amazon Pantry order that took a couple weeks for everything to get here.) Yesterday, the sun was bright and it felt more like spring than it has yet this year, a feeling that apparently had enough Chicagoans hitting the lakefront beaches and paths and behaving foolishly that the mayor shut them down this afternoon completely.  This is why we can't have nice things.

So each day I've been collecting my boxes and then unpacking everything near the door, breaking down boxes for the next trash run , wiping things down with a soapy paper towel and then washing my hands again before getting on with life.  I'm trying to be practical, but not all silkwood about it. I'd rather save the bleach I have for cleaning if it's harder to come by for a minute.

Inside, I am adjusting to it almost too well, talking to the people I talk to regularly via other means.  Keeping my hands busy with various library projects and press work.  This morning, I even added a tiny segment to the fiction-ish project, which I am counting as a win for writing again finally.  It's a start anyway.  And if I have the focus, there is always working a bit on the manuscripts that might be a good use of this time.

I tend to avoid people and crowds and people-oriented things most of the time, but I'm finding the thing I miss most is getting dressed in clothes other than stuff I normally wear around the house.  Right about now would be when I switch out winter for spring dresses, winter coats for jackets, but it hardly seems worth the time.  I am hardly one for primping, but realized my tendency to tie up my hair when it's wet out of the shower led to a rats nest so tenacious I had to cut it out.  I could get dressed & ready, but their doesn't seem much of a point if the furthest I am going is downstairs.  I flipped through ebay and poshmark and bookmarked some dresses, but a loathe to spend money frivolously in times of such uncertainty. In anything resembling normal life,  I'd be looking to start buying sundresses right about now.

One thing I am doing more than usual is cooking meals. (and the dishes I find myself doing endlessly attest to it.)  The first week was a little dicey in the stress binge arena, and all it did was make me feel more sluggish and out of control, but this week is a little less prone. I think the seclusion is actually welcome from my brain, and the time to tend to things that get lost in the shuffle or normal life, but I need a certain amount of stability in terms of the future and what's going on outside my door to be less anxious and hopeful on the whole.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

exercises in order muppetry


Today, a quick meeting about a job search in our department that will continue virtually, as well as setting up promo and promotion for hosting some zine programming in the online sphere.  Since we're not constrained to time and place, I'll be posting tutorials and samples and artist profiles online all day on Mondays and inviting folks to show us their projects under the hashtag #zinemadness on social media outlets, all from the comforts of home.     While I'm still not sure how well my own creative urges are handling the world these days, I think it's good to make a space for it.  I'm also excited about the possibility of doing things on a larger scale than just the CCC community, which allows lot more people to participate not just in Chicago. Work also continues on my more detailed than time allows libguide which I look forward to sharing when it's ready.

In press news, I still working through some new copies of older books, and am focused enough to start some new layouts in the next few days of newer titles. I did post a new offering in the shop, this little print which is lots of fun.  I am not sure how my concentration is these days for reading anything beyond terrible news articles and memes, but there are stacks of books in my apartment, including so many novels checked out from the library and then neglected in favor or others.  With my re-org happening, I found them stashed here and there and assembled them all on a shelf in the bedroom in one place. If the apocalypse comes and I can't connect to Netflix, I have enough reading material for a decade to either read or burn for heat if I don't like it. 

Still no words, no creative writing, but I did make a list of the things I should be working on--manuscripts to tend to, projects to flesh out.  As with most of my life, I am everything but creative in times of instability.  But I am very organized and in order muppet mode, so at least that is something.  My post-it notebook/organizer is immaculate, and for now, that seems enough...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

when witches save the world


Last night, having reached the point in my backwards by season re-watching of AHS where I am about mid Cult, I was feeling a little too stressed  (weirdly Apocalypse was inspiring rather than distressful). I moved onto some lighter fare, in this case, some nice roomy 90's nostalgia with The Craft. With its witchyness, so very 90's fashion, and excellent soundtrack, it reigned high in my pantheon of faves for the decade. I've had the conversation often about the rise of witch-specific movies in the 1990's and their feminine power focus--Practical Magic, another favorite, being another great example. Things like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed on TV.  How there are echos of that popularity in the past few years--the new Sabrina, new remakes of Charmed and The Craft itself.

Right after 9/11 happened, I was having terrible disaster and violence laden dreams. Fire falling from the sky, aliens, bombings, nuclear warfare. The plane crash dreams, that began a few years before and made me wary of flying, intensified, and made it impossible to, even still, unlikely get me on one even now almost 20 years later (why I am a fan of Amtrak.)  The worse one, and one that had me hopping off trains mid-panic attack for months whenever they got crowded, was being on the el and explosions moving through the cars, where a little girl stood in front of me, pointed, and said "You'll be dead within a year." Or maybe it was the year.  Either way, I was nervous on trains for month, and eventually made the leap to taking the bus more often. 

One bright spot in those dreams, if you can even call it that, was one that combined not only my anxieties, but my Buffy watching sensibilities, where I, amid a band of witches that included Willow and Tara, had to save the world from the apocalypse.   We were all meeting at the top of a tall building amidst a falling city to cast some sort of spell that could save the world. It occurs to me how much witch-related entertainment and witchy-ness in general, gives women. particularly, a large amount of power and agency. Look at The Witch, which I appreciate more with every viewing.  Around the time I watched it, I was also obsessing over the show Salem, which does a longer draw on many of the same themes.  Something I've also discussed at length during horror panels and the like, the power of women and girls.

In The Craft, a troupe of misfits in various ways, who find both belonging and power through magic.Since it's so 90's, I couldn't help think of the bullying narrative that parallels something like Columbine a couple years after. How girls seek to remedy the imbalances vs. men (with of course, violence and guns).  Not that The Craft doesn't turn out to be a violent of course in the end because of the abuses of those magical powers (much like BtVS's season 6 with Willow going sideways.)

It had me thinking about spells and castings and the way to feel like we have control over something during this uncertain time.  The comfort of feeling like you are somehow influencing the universe rather than at the complete mercy of it. Where of course, we come full circle back to AHS, both Coven and Apocalypse.

Monday, March 23, 2020

faking it

Yesterday may have been the first day in about two weeks where I had a little bit of focus, enough to draft, edit, and submit a library-related article about converting physical programming into virtual. Today, the task is to finish my libguide for zines and plot what might turn out to be really fun--a virtual zine night next Monday. And since it's online, maybe we can induce other people to come make zines and show them off.  I'm thinking maybe some how-to's on twitter and then a show & tell on instagram.) I don't know how anyone is focused enough to do things like coursework and major projects though, or care much about the sort of things one used to care about but I am determined to fake it till I make it..to at least use the time somewhat productively.

Yesterday, it snowed, what seemed like quite a lot, but judging from what I can see from the 3rd floor vantage..not a lot on the ground. Such snowfall not unusual for this time of year, and the sort of thing that would want me to hunker down today rather than go out and walk around in it.. But even so,  I'm guessing the magnolias over near the catholic school where I catch the bus are starting to bloom about now and I miss watching them. I keep thinking about my mother, while perhaps one blessing is that she did not live to see this, to obsessively worry about me and my sister being out in the world (my sister more than I at this point as an essential worker.) . I'm sure my dad is concerned no doubt, but for my mom, her worry bordered on the pathological at times.  I dreamed about her for the first time in a bit..that I had written a book that upset her.  It was strange, as all dreams seem to be these days.  Most of them where I am somehow working to solve a problem of some sort. Or that there is something important I am forgetting to do--played out in various contexts and scenarios. If anything I am sleeping a lot, and I'm not sure if it's good or bad. I go to bed at my normal time--around 2 am, but I keep waking up as soon as it's daylight, scrolling frantically through my newsfeed for the latest horrors for a couple hours, then falling back to sleep until around 2pm.

Still, besides the article I wrote, not many words are coming, so I will continue to fill this space with content carved out my very muddled brain until something like poetry comes again.



Sunday, March 22, 2020

unusual creatures



Amidst the dreariness, one tiny bright poetry-related spot has shimmered through.  My pieces in the new issue of Tupelo Quarterly went live this week. In the works for a few years, during which it's been picked up and put down again, unusual creatures is a story told in fragments of image and text--diaries, letters, other ephemera. The first part was a series of collages incorporating a stash of altered vintage cabinet cards & photos that had been passed on to me from my mother's side created in 2012. The second was a site-specific installation in 2015's creepy curiousities A of R exhibit, which also included the photos. in 2017, I was able to complete the textual portions--telling the story of three generations of women and steeped in  creepy victorian seances and taxidermy research.



The goal is for the project to eventually manifest as a box project involving pamphlets, postcards, and ephemera, but the logistics just haven't been possible due to time and budget constraints, but it's something I would like to make happen before the end of this year at the very least.  While the images have been shared and published in a few places, this is a first peek at some of the text portions...enjoy!

girl on the third floor



Ir's been a while since I wrote anything resembling a mini-movie review, even though I have caught some really good ones.  (Parasite and Dr. Sleep being an excellent examples.)   Trapped inside as I have been this week and with a host of streaming at my fingertips, I watched this one on the recommendation of several people and was not dissappointed. (and it was a needed break from my rabid pandemic streak earlier this week.) It's a really pretty film for being horror, from the opening shots of the shabby chic dream/nightmare of a decaying house, to the way sets are arranged & composed.  Also well shot for building horror and suspense. It's an excellent tale of adultery and toxic masculinity set within a haunted house framework. And just plain delightfully weird, from the weird marbles dropping from the ceiling, things constantly oozing & gushing, and the very Silent Hill-esque girl monster above. There are enough "eww...wtf?" moments of body horror to make you wince or slightly nauseated, a sign of killing it in the genre.



I also like that what seems to be the make characters story through most of the film, ends up being his wife's at the end, who endures the discovery moments and history of the house. The monsters and ghosts are not defeated or vanquished, but a lesson learned and peace made nonetheless, which creates a new horror in itself. It also falls up there in the vein of the sort of feminist horror I can't get enough of lately. (you can find it on Netflix.)


Saturday, March 21, 2020

uncertain waters


In many ways, self-isolation is not much different than a typical weekend for me.  I prided myself on the ones I didn't have to leave the apartment.  The weekends I craved whenever something interfered..a lit event, social things, work.  I was stingy with these weekends, especially when I spent all my time at the studio and in the library. If I had social obligations or date night plans, they usually happened Friday night (if not usually late Thursday. If I was alone Fridays after I got off work, I usually luxuriated in take-out  and streaming movies or shows.  I'd order Chinese or Thai, or  a giant pizza I'd eat most of then snack on the rest through the weekend.  Saturday, I'd get up late, make breakfast, drink a lot of coffee, and then tend to writing business I didn't get to in the week prior. I'd do some cleaning  maybe later in the day, get groceries delivered every other week, take a nap, watch more on Netflix. I'd actually cook dinner, which rarely happened during the week (which was a mix of salads or frozen entrees microwaved or thrown together when I got home after 11pm most nights.) I'm not a fancy chef, but I made the things I like--pasta with meat sauce, parma rosa, fried rice, fajitas or tacos.  Or some of my mother's go-tos--ghoulash, tuna & noodles, or homemade pizza (becuase you can never have too much pizza).  Then I'd usually curl up on the couch or in bed for more movie-watching.

Sundays were similar, though I once devoted time to art, but now usually more likely chapbook things I can't get finished during the week.  I'd watch You-Tube vlogs while I worked --plus size fashion, thrifting, #vanlife, horror & supernatural focused. Sunday meals were usually soup, chicken, made with thigh-meat to be nice and fatty.  Noddles, baby carrots, red onions, mushrooms. Sometimes chili.  Something I could throw on the stove and not really tend to. (I actually got a crockpot for X-mas, but haven't really given it good run yet.)  In the off hours, I was writing blog posts, reading journals & articles.  Some more cleaning.  Since my weeks were sort of hectic at work, sometimes I would double down on library projects that required a little more concentration & prep time than was allowed.

I would still engage socially, via e-mail,via texting, via my regular Sunday night phone call with my dad (once the Sunday night convo with my mom).  I never felt especially isolated.  There was a time, when I spent more time going out, depending on friend group dynamics, more time in bars or at readings, but most liked being at home to all other things, no matter how enjoyable. Outside of a few stray writing friends I saw on occasion, my closest friends were also co-workers, so we saw each other at work and then retreated to our own introvert bubbles on the weekends. I've struggled with loneliness, as I've written about before, which has nothing to do with people around me and everything to do with the loss of my mother. But on the whole, I feel like isolation is a regular and comfortable feeling for me, so it's been hard to wrap my head around the fact that I find this particular instance so uncomfortable. I still text and write to people, even talk on the phone.  I still interact on social media and correspond with authors and library co-workers, all of us working from home.  This would have been my dream scenario had you asked me in the crazier parts of my life. So why do I feel so disoriented and strange?

It might be anxiety, not about staying in my bubble, but what happens outside of it.  That uncertainty goblin.  I like to think I have control over my circumstances, the circumstances of the world around me, but I feel entirely adrift at this point. There is nothing I can do to calm the waters, so maybe I just need to be more comfortable drifting.  That ocean that threatens to swallow us, but still we float.   My occasional moments of feeling overwhelmed by all I need to do have been replaced by being overwhelmed with those uncertainties. I'd trade these feelings for all my bitching about having too much work to do.  Too many obligations.  When this passes and whatever is on the other side, someone slap me when I say I am overwhelmed because I'm only now beginning to really feel that emotion and this is worse.

I've been trying to mitigate by the "one day at a time" mantra of thousands of self help programs. To have a plan and a course of action. Today, I will think no further than bedtime.  Because there is still a lot to do from the inside, of course.  This last week has been an adjustment period.  A period of shock and panic. So today, I got up around noon.  Made coffee and a really good omelet.  Then set down to write this blog, and maybe later, finish the lib guide I've been working on in short bursts. I will make dinner (I'm thinking homemade pizza), sweep all the floors, watch some more of AHS: Apocalypse.  I will try not to worry about this month.  Or next month. Or how long this will last.  What will be lost becuase of it. 


Friday, March 20, 2020

shelter / nature

Today, the governor, who has turned out to be thankfully really competent in this chaos , has declared a shelter in place order, which is much needed since some people don't seem to be getting that this is a problem.  It would have probably been more useful a week ago, I suppose, but it is what it is.  Some day, when I can write again, there is probably poetry to be found somewhere in all of this--the clearness of the Venice canals because we're not stirring the sediment at the bottom.  The penguins wandering the Shedd Aquarium freely every day.  Nature without humans.   When I was working on extinction event for the Field Museum reading in the fall,  it was definitely more climate change focused--disease--outside of my occasional zombie apocalypse narratives, not even on my mind. But I will probably be working on some edits and sending out some bits in the coming weeks.   The larger mss. of which it is a part, animal, vegetable. monster is very much turning out to be focused on humans, nature and art--Lavinia Fontana's paintings of Antoinetta Gonzalez, museum diorama artists, the artist statement pieces.  I don't know if pandemic poems fit there, but now more than ever is a good time to see if so. Nature--comes and goes, but what is left afterwards--civilizations, societies, lost worlds uncovered by archaeologists.

There was a quote on facebook about remembering in darkest, scariest times, we turn to artists. It's nice (though I would argue that first we turn to the people on the front lines--medical staff, first responders, truck drivers.) But neverthless, art is the thing that soothes when the world cannot, and so much needs soothing and smoothing.  I will try to remember this as I get  impatient with the lack of focus in my brain now, for just about anything but rote tasks--cleaning the floors, organizing my booksheves, assembling books, but I can't really think or be creative right now, it's like my brain is too dull and foggy.  I am trying to live in this space of uncertainty and it perhaps the scariest space I could ever occupy and do not do well here.  Ever.  But especially now..


 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

springtime according to Eliot


Today, somehow is the very first day of spring.  I keep thinking about the first stanza of The Wasteland and summer coming over the Starngerbersee.  This week, I'm having a hard time coming into or caring about art or poetry or anything at all.  I think this will pass, hopefully, in the next week or so.  I see everyone talking about online readings, book releases, and poetry stuff and I am just ambivalent about it all.  I have moments in life where poetry life seems like a game in which there are no stakes and no one cares.   Maybe this is one of those moments. But part of me think the poetry obviously important more than ever (thus my obsession with the Eliot lines), but maybe the po-biz stuff is what is just seeming to fall flat for me.  I do have a book set to come out in the next month and while I was thinking any release activity would have to wait til summer anyhow, it seems strange to be in a place of limbo in terms of when the world will go back to business as usual, if ever.  It's a beautiful, rough book, with a press I love, though, so I will regroup and focus on maybe selling some copies. There is also NaPoWriMo, which it seems, with a slowdown in hustle, I have ample time for in April and of course, ample ideas for new projects.  I just need to get focused and motivated.  I do intend to keep blogging here daily on various things, focused and unfocused, specific and random.

As for spring, it's sort of dreary out there today nevertheless, but the sun, if nothing else will return. 




Wednesday, March 18, 2020

responsibility vs. fear




Today, I decided I needed more sugar if I was going to switch to tea sometimes, given the past few days have been mainlining from my french press in the morning, and cold brew in the afternoons, and have been feeling a little more anxious than I should be. I feel like there's a battle in my brain between isolation as a tactic to reduce spread, and isolation as a tactic to not get sick by any means. To not go outside and risk touching door knobs and elevator buttons.  Both obviously, accomplish the same goal, but I feel optimistic about he first and panicky about the second.  I could easily hole myself completely in my apartment and be afraid, or I could venture outside when necessary and maybe even take a walk a safe distance from others.  Today, it was drizzling and dreary, but I did manage a walk down the alley to corner store to pick up sugar and more eggs (and some eat your feelings pint of Ben & Jerrys).  They were well stocked and not chaotic and even had plenty of toilet paper.   There were still actually people out in singles, not groups, all respectfully distant from each other.  The neighborhood, with Loyola folks leaving out, is a little slower in general, but most restaurants were still open to takeout, the smoke shop next to market still open,  Metropolis coffee. The Thai place across the street. I feel like this might change, but for now, we are holding.

I got home, changed clothes, washed my hands after putting away what I'd purchased. Today, I am set to really dig in on a lib guide about zines I've been picking away at for months. The last one I made was devoted to Afrofuturism and I was rushing to get it up to accompany related programming, but now I have nothing but time outside of some general housekeeping things working from home (not having access to the physical collection puts a dent in my responsibilities.)  Still, I keep getting lured away by a panicky scrolling through my facebook feed and the news.  We are discussing making some of the content that would have been in person online--the Book to Art Club, the propaganda workshop, since we have our own library canvas page (which til now, we were just using for student worker training & communications..)

So how to hold down the goal of making things less likely to spread by self-isolating, and yet not succumb to fear every time I need to take out the garbage, run to a store, or wind up in the elevator with someone. (today, it was a woman with two kids and I stood right against the doors and nearly tumbled out when it opened on my floor.)  How not to let fear induce panic attacks and yet still be careful.  I am still looking for balance in this, and hopefully find it in these uncertain weeks. Today, I was nearly in tears that I probably wouldn't get to witness two of my favorite signs of spring--the tulips blooming downtown and the boats beginning to fill up the harbors. Instead, will be watching from my window as the trees begin to sprout and the days get longer, which may be my only saving grace (if this were happening in November, I'd be drowning more.)



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

social distancing 101



Last week, had you asked me how I was handling the coronavirus scare I would have told you I was washing my hands, trying not to touch my face, and stocking up in case I got sick on the off chance.  I was ostensibly still going to have to be working, still commuting, still risking contagion.  If you'd asked me, I was being careful, but had no choice but to go about in the world.    It's strange how public fear and media and changes you.  How isolation changes you. Yesterday, I left the four walls of my apartment for the first time in a couple days (my last day going anywhere was Friday, but Saturday, I retrieved my Amazon Fresh order from the lobby and some extra cat food drop-off from my friend with a car.)  I needed to take trash to the dumpsters & fetch a package from the lobby (a new swimsuit bought on a whim last week when we got paid, for a small hotel overnight I probably won't be taking--or at least a hope / leap of faith  for a summer when beach going will be possible.)

This was the routine I kept over the holiday by choice, and at the end of it, longed for more days as I headed back to work. .  Though admittedly, it's far different to not really have staying home be a choice.  But yesterday, I pulled my sweater down over my thumb to press the buttons of the elevators and the alley door handle. When I came back in I hung the sweater by the door and washed my hands just in case.  It's bad time to have anxiety I suppose. (and mine is not even remotely germ-related.)  I go through periods of being completely calm and determined to enjoy this little vacation from the grind, and the rest either sort of missing the grind, the other freaking out, lying in a fetal position on my bed, and binge eating cinnamon toast (and last night, chicken wings).

Nevertheless, today I am making a giant list and a plan, for both library-related stuff I'll be doing, press business, and creative projects.  I cleaned out the dresser in my closet for the first time in years.  I watched a couple movies (including Girl on the Third Floor, which was really good..) as well as a bit of the Baz Luhrman  Great Gatsby, which I need to watch the rest of tonight. It also occurred to me, that if this was going to happen to the world, it's so much better now than 20 years ago--due to technology and connectedness (and though less crucial, ya know streaming video, music, and delivery options for just about anything. )  What we thought was just making our lives easier and convenient, now feels mission critical to keep us from freaking the fuck out.

Monday, March 16, 2020

a moment of luck



My mother used to maddeningly say, in moments of confusion or difficulty that "it all works out" which had the capability to either amuse me or enrage me, since while believe you can line up things or make yourself ready for opportunities, or think about worse case scenarios and be ready for anything. (hello, Aries, meet Taurus).  When things worked out, it was because you actually had to work to form the circumstances to make them happen.  I told her this on the phone quite often, never in the angry tone I reserved for telling my best friend later who agreed (a Leo of course)  but still exasperated.

As official word came down that the library would, in fact, be completely closed, that we'd all just be working from home for the next few weeks, easily doable, it flashed through my head how very fortunate I am that I gave up the studio space in the fall.  Had I not, not only would I be more financially strapped coming into a crisis, but also would still have to report to the studio (or would feel the need to anyway) in order to get books made and mailed lest I fall as behind as I was coming up the end of the year (and I am still behind on certain titles since , so some extra time and no commuting will actually be a blessing in terms of playing catch up.)  

I can make all the books I want in the comfort of my apartment over the next few weeks--design covers, review galleys, etc. Despite my personal finances crunch and the sadness of having to make that call to not renew the lease in the fall, it very much did work out for the better.  While I'd be working socially alone in a room regardless, it's so much less anxiety provoking to not have to brave public transportation to be able to get work done, as well as nice, in this tie of staying close to home, to have everything I need and love in one place.  

I spent a couple spans of time alone working over the holiday that were incredibly productive, not leaving my building or at most, my block, so this time will be useful no doubt if I can get past the anxiety over what is happening outside my door. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

systems, routines, & structure



Whenever I am at home for a while I tend to slip into this no man's land of time.  I waste it, when I could be using it more productively. There is is much written about how wasted time is, in fact, a gift.  The pleasures of doing absolutely nothing tenfold. A nice idea, but as someone whose list of projects I can't quite get to in general dailyness, I feel guilty not taking the reigns and giving my days over to naps and Netflix.  That said, there are room for these things as well.

Faced with the very real possibility of the next few weeks being large swathes of unstructured time, it occurs to me I need a system, a schedule to my days to make the most of it.  Hopefully by May, we'll be back to the usual grind,  and actually begging for the hustle, but until then, I need some structure. There will be library things--placing requests for articles via ILL if not books, Placing what we can on reserve for faculty (though the lack of e-book editions of many of of our textbooks is deplorable.)  I have some lib guides I've been working on--devoted to zines and topics for FUTURE TENSE (feminist dystopias, queer speculative fiction) Plus some writing related projects we've been plotting on exhibits, etc that just weren't possible in the general chaos.

I can pretty much continue press ops as usual since the only thing I need to leave home for is to drop things in the mailbox down at the corner, which I feel comfortable doing. (esp since without Loyola students around, my neighborhood will not likely be jam packed with people.)  I'll need to order the usual supplies online, so as long as Amazon is still coming through and there isn't like a paper or toner shortage, we're good.)

As for creative endeavors, I have three manuscripts in various stages of assembly.  I wasn't planning on getting any of them ready to send out, esp. since FEED is still in need of a home, but I can work to get them closer to ready.  I'm set to begin something new in terms of daily writing..having nearly finished pelt and something a little more prosey I'm in the midst of. And of course, visual art stuff, of which I have plenty of supplies and new toys to play with.

And of course, judging by the dust bunnies under my dress rack, the apartment needs a good spring cleaning, so there is plenty to keep me busy. (and keep me from scrolling anxiously through Facebook for the latest horror I have no control over.)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

pressing pause



The official edict on classes came down on Thursday--everything at Columbia online--and it's still sort of up in the air whether or not we will be keeping hours in the library, which would only be open to faculty & staff.-or closing completely for a bit.  Thus I have been plotting work from home projects and how to make the library & resources insdispensable during a crazy time for everyone, even if we don't have access to the physical collection on person.  (My ILL duties also depend on other colleges having access to theirs so that is also up in the air.)  I am trying to focus on the positives--various times when all I've wanted was a stretch of time when I had no plans and no need to leave the apartment (albeit it under ore desirable circumstances.)  The writing and art projects I'd be able to tend to.  Even of I'm spending part of my day working on library stuff, it's cutting two hours of commuting out of my life that are rife for more interesting things. We've also been trying to cordon off time to work on some A of R writing projects that never seems to happen in the chaos of our department daily.

Instead of giving in to the panic that switches to B-roll of an apocalypse movie..I am going to think of it as pressing a pause button on real life.  As such, there are things that do not matter in pause time.   Everyone just needs to sit very still.  Sort of like when in elementary school, the teacher would force everyone to quiet the fuck down by putting their heads on their desks.  All of you, heads on your desks.  Stop hoarding more than you need. Help the elderly and compromised and check in to make sure they are okay.  Read a dam book or watch some Netflix.  Chill the fuck out.  The government, which locally is pretty sane, nationally a trash fire, needs to make it easier for people to feel secure and get what they need--food, supplies, medication...

I've been thinking of the people who've been sick at various points this winter--could the killer have already been inside the house? If so, it of course makes it more important to self-quarantine, mind your symptoms, stay outta work if you're sick.. For god's sake stop socializing (side eye at St. Patricks Day revellers). or gathering for unessential things.  Stop traveling.  Just find one place and stay the fuck where you are.   I will be in my apartment with my cats and staying as much as I can, other than commuting if I must, away from people who might be in more danger than I... 

It's not the end, and surely things will stabilize and by summer, the numbers will dwindle, and we'll be changed, but with everyone startling coming to the realization of the inadequacies in our country in terms of infrastructure and health care, maybe we'll be better. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

art and love in the time of plague



So much of our plans now hinge on the contingency of other things.  I have a helluva a lot of upcoming stuff in the library that may all be moot if classes get moved to online (the library may still be open for people to use the resources and computers if necessary, but a lot of people will have the option of working from home at that point--not me likely, but some.)  I walk a gauntlet of dangers to even get to the library everyday--public trans, the city streets, my apartment building in the heart of Loyola territory and down to the Columbia campus.   So I've sort of accepted that infection may be inevitable if it hits a good portion of the urban population.  I can wash my hands til the cows come home, but it's no guarantee. I will probably skip a visit in early April to my dad's, because I wouldn't want to get in proximity to anyone over 60 during all this crazy.  So what to do but wait and hope things work out. People seem to either A) be losing their damned minds or B) not worried about it all, so I have no idea where to land.

So meanwhile I dig away at dgp projects and my own writing things and try to think about art and beauty while trying not to panic. It's the social upheaval of something like this, moreso than the insidiousness of the disease. It's a tenuous web--, the economic system, the public environment, the heath care system, infrastructure.  I don't like to think that it's so fragile, but it is.    It doesn't help to have an idiotic government downplaying it all, or a social media-environment turning up the hysteria dial. I kind of just want to avoid both. Writing doesn't seem important in the face of real-life dangers and drama, but it might be the thing that saves my mental health.

Social distancing is easy for my little introvert heart, who would probably just stay in my apartment with the cats forever if you let me.  Outside of working, I don't tend to have a lot of other plans in general that can't be accomplished at home. Lit-wise, I didn't really have fully formed plans  regarding a release for SEX & VIOLENCE, and  it seems the least important thing to be thinking of right now, but maybe I will do some sort of virtual book  release party..maybe instagram videos of me reading or somesuch. We are inching closer and closer to April and I just wish my head were in it all.  I was enormously happy to see they have taken up the grass in the tulip beds along Michigan Ave in some places and the tiny tendrills don't care nothing about pandemics and will still bloom in a few weeks nevertheless.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

dreams about houses and bees







In my effort to digitize some older zine & book object projects, I am posting this one from 2015--enjoy!

http://www.kristybowen.netdreamsabouthouseszine.pdf






a house which is a kind of falling


The proliferation of s's in your words make me jittery,
which is to say, there are worse things than this weather.
Me, I've been hiding objects in my mattress
instead of burning them. Tiny glass kittens, dirty dishes.
Writing love letters and stuffing it to the seams.
Darling, I'm so dry these days I could turn to sand,
but I have a plan, which is a sort of cartography
of the interior, four chambered and subject
to faulty wires. A finger tapping at the breastbone
while I sleep. A kind of etymology, bluegill
instead of pulse, shimmer instead of breath.
It’s watery recess.
                                           I do this thing where I say
I love you, but it's more like a latch,
a finger movement, something I've tricked
into happening. Or a hotel pool
I've been crashing for years. I slather myself in lotion
watch a movie where a woman with tiny birds
on her dress stops talking, walks across the room.
This is always happening, then happening again.
Like an eclipse, or dark spot in my vision.
She stops eating and shines so bright
it's intoxicating, which is to say, it's terrifying.



Monday, March 09, 2020

zines and the classroom

landscape architecture: postcards and principles  (limited editions) / kristy bowen


Today, I spent some time with an African-American history class who are making zines as their final projects--the first of a couple of classes we'll be working with in this capacity.  While this one is individual pamphlets centered around the idea of  an"How to Not be a Racist" primer, the second will be a sustainable fashion collab zine created by the whole class. Whenever I'm working with the students, I can' help thinking how much more engaging the prospect of creating a zine is compared to say, a paper or presentation.  How much it benefits them to synthesize what they are learning through the lens of a creative project. Granted, some seemed more heave-ho into it than others, but I know I would have responded well.  It's tragic that zines were reaching their hay day as I was leaving highschool  and had not yet punctured the academic barrier (and I think are only really beginning to do so now.)

I had an amazing junior year English teacher who was a breath of fresh air after a strict 5 paragraph essay sort of teacher I'd had both previous years.  Creating an essay was so outlined down to the sentence that it was more like a game than a process.  Much less creative.  So we wrote essays on Romeo & Juliet and All Quiet on the Western front, and I did well, but I can't say I was excited about it. My competitive nature caused me to excel, but I didn't retain much afterward.  You could have knocked me over with a feather the following year, when our unit on The Crucible was ended with not a test or a paper, but a giant collage, which I dutifully culled from Glamours and Cosmos while I watched the first episode of Bevery Hills 90210 sprawled on my bedroom floor in front of my tiny b&w television. I enjoyed it so much, it's one of my best high school memories.

What followed was my first book art project, though I wouldn't have called it that then.  In lieu of an essay, we were invited to make some sort of creative book project spurred by The Scarlet Letter (and I was the type of girl who loved the doomed love story aspect of the novel--I would later write my term paper on Gone with the Wind, so yeah, I was that girl.).  The book project was cobbled together pages full of flowers, pretty much the only thing I could draw (still).  Hester was symbolized by red, Dimmesdale by White, Pearl by Pink, and they enacted their story throughout the book symbolized by the flowers.  It was probably terrible, but I think I did well on the assignment.  By senior year, we were onto another teacher, a more staid essayistic approach, but those assignments turned a key to a part of me me that is still running today.

Despite hitting college in the early 90's, it was a hot minute before I saw an actual zine.  Sassy magazine was sort of a glossy take off of zine culture, and while the magazine reflected and talked about them, I didn't actually hold one in my hand until my sister and her high school art class friends make comic/zine a couple years later.  (my sister also brought home a blue sparkly artist book I was particularly enamored of in those years.)  I was knee deep in writing and doing theatre,  and not so much a visual art person, so it was more than a decade until I took my first steps into indie publishing and anything book-like. First of course, chapbooks, then collages, and then finally toward the end of the aughts, my first zine projects incorporating both text and image (see above's landscape/architecture zine)

It was an obvious step, but one I am surprised took so long to develop.  Now, in addition to the book objects and zine projects, I regularly make little zines and small editions for the library zine exchange which sometimes turn out to be cool.  Also resource zines on various topics. We do zine nights, and travel to do zine making in various places, and I do a mean powerpoint presentation occasionally on the history of zines. I think the fact that I am called on to do so, and that there seems to be a trend of using them in the classroom and it's very exciiting.  I hope to see more...

Sunday, March 08, 2020

unlovable darlings



Earlier, I was using a print out draft of a poem as scrap paper, and when I flipped it over, discovered it was a piece from my swallow series, which is mostly about growing up with serious body and disordered eating issues.  I read through and thought "DAYUM..that's good." Real good..maybe the best thing I've written lately, though I've been happy with other things just as readily.  The extinction series, for example.  Or the summer house poems.  But then remembered how hard it had been to submit the work contained in it successfully.  While I probably didn't try as hard as I should have, even in my year of collecting rejections, it languished while poems in other series were snatched up readily first try. I sent batches out  2 or 3 times, but then sort of retired them.  Becuase I really like them and had moved on to submitting other things, I posted a few on social media, then just rolled them into my FEED manuscript when I started sending that out.   While I may do a chap or book object, it's not imminent, though I would love to add some sort of visual element to them.

Nevertheless, I was trying to figure out why I liked them so much, and it may have to do with swallow being a bit ore autobiographical than most of what I'm writing lately.  Beyond hunger palace, I've been doing a lot of ore researched, heavily persona projects.  But then, that fact alone, makes me wonder if I'n deluded as to how good they are. Too close.  But then I started thinking about other, less personal, projects I also thought were strong, or individual poems I thought were the bomb, that went sadly unpublished while other poems were readily snatched up, sometimes from the same batch of submissions.

I often wonder if those unloved poems are my favorites because I've taken more risks with them.  That they are somehow more raw and unruly, and therefore less palatable to editors.  But being an editor myself, I am looking for the raw and unruly, but maybe I am more alone in this than I think.  I wondered at first if it was more that my subject matter wasn't striking a match with publications, so I went looking for mostly female ran pubs, but still no.  Maybe no one cares about poems about little fat girls, but I hope this is not the case.   I also think they are perfect as they are, so none of that "kill your darlings" nonsense tings true. So I'm not really sure what to do with them.

I liked them well enough to lead with them in the FEED mss, so we'll see how that pans out.  They fit in nicely with the hunger palace, with the hansel & gretel series, and the imaginary daughter poems, as well as the changeling pieces in the summer house.  It's a book that speaks very much to my life of the past 2-3 years and may be the best book I've written as a whole (though I am cursing it with that statement no doubt..lol..)



Friday, March 06, 2020

worldbuilding 101



During yesterday's Future Tense artist panel, I asked a question about worldbuilding as a concept, and how the participants  felt it related to activism and social commentary. Writers, obviously worldbuild all the time..by their nature not only creating something from the ether, but also creating via words, via signals and signs, and not visuals.  Of course, visual art is much more direct, and this is perhaps why I love working in the two in tandem. Things like film and tv, even moreso.

In the exhibit, I did wind up including some segments of ordinary planet.  Various projects of mine dip into worldbuilding, some more than others.  This one is the only one that creates a dystopia, though you could argue some of the apocalypse manuscript stuff touches there as well, particularly the apocalypse theory and terrestrial animal section. I suppose they become speculative in that sense and subject to the rules of an entirely invented world.  In this case, a post-apocalyptic landscape that has regressed to victorian constraints--the women who speak to the dead because there are so many of them.  The wife who poisons her husband after he keeps her in captivity, women's rights completely gone out the window.

My other worlds are perhaps more rooted in the actual rather than the imagined, but sometimes become imagined themselves--you can't really write about ghosts and mermaids and not dip into alternate worlds. In this way, I suppose SEX & VIOLENCE,. the upcoming full-length, seems more grounded in this world than past books like SALVAGE or GIRL SHOW.

As far as activism go, it doesn't always feel intentional, but I suspect maybe it is.  The themes of my work, of course, women centered. I talked a bit about pelt, the Renaissance dog-girl series I am in the midst of currently-its themes of the body, of art and sensuality. Of nature vs civilization. All very feminist in their intent.  We also discussed how much of the work looks both forward and back at the same time--addressing the current horror with the historical one.   How nothing in futurism and speculative art is entirely new, but always tethered to elements of the past.

As a poet, I sometimes feel strange when I talk about narrative and worldbuilding, only becuase so much of poetry barely glances at these elements, and if they do, certainly not all that intentionally, and yet I think the possibilities are really exciting when one does.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

the land of dicks

Today, I woke up to the news that Warren had quite the running.  I stewed for awhile and then listened to Taylor Swift's "The Man" a couple times, then stewed some more, mostly because it reminded me of an accusation more than a decade ago by one of my fellow MFA-ers that my work and other women were successful in writing only because we were women. That presses devoted to women, to queers, to POC, were unfair. As a dude, he had it rougher, Then I went to work, where I set back to working on my questions for tonight's panel, which went splendidly, and bought up some interesting questions about future visions and utopias, and how we process that as artists.  In the description for the exhibit I mention the imperfect present--a present that seems to get more and more imperfect day by day. I hung more art and put the finishing touches on the exhibit.  I stewed some more.  One of the pieces by Audra Jacot is a series of what she calls breasticles--ceramic figures that are both feminine and masculine at the same time, but very much resemble an anthromorphic penis figure that becomes more erect with each iteration.  Later I came home, ate pasta, and read an article about how Bill Clinton justified his Lewinsky affair in light of dealing with anxiety.

In this land of penises I am tired.  Most likely Clinton's affair had more to do with his fragile male ego and the fact that his wife was no longer dazzled by his shine.  Young women,  for older men, more often bring a sense of awe they'll never get from anyone over 30 who have seen this shit before.  People cheat for many reasons, but that's a top contender. In a land of penises, the penises really just want someone to laugh at their dumb jokes and be impressed by their mediocrity. So which mediocre white man do you want to be your president? They have different ideologies, and different levels of monstrosity, but they are the same creature.  Yelling at each other across lecterns and comparing how many push-ups they can do.  It's tiring. They are tiring.

The tenant seems to be that of a woman runs for president, you find a reason to attack her (real or imaginary.)  Barring that, you simply ignore that she exists, in polls, in media coverage.  And then she dissappears like most women in the land of penises,  I'm tired.