Friday, September 15, 2023


I talk often of those sorts of tether points that connect certain eras or memories of our lives with others. My past self, 19, and just beginning to send out poems and my current self, also sending poems out in submission and the vast ocean of time between them.  Or my 90s self, listening to certain songs or doing certain things and suddenly there is the same song and I am doing much the same thing, just 30 odd years later. At the drive-in last week, there was a string between my current self waiting excitedly for the movie and my child self waiting for the sun to set in the back of the car while my parents sat in the front. 

The other afternoon, as I finished up a slew of design articles for House Digest, I suddenly pictured my high school and college self poring over magazines, some fashion and beauty but many design and decor, passed off from my aunt who had subscriptions to almost everything.  How that girl would never imagine that I would be writing similar things now to make a living (albeit for the internet, a technological wonder that I would not even be able to conceive, let alone foresee if it was the late 80s or very early 90s.) Very often, spending a whole lot of time flipping through pages on my bed, drinking endless cups of tea, and ripping out the clippings (ala a very primitive Pinterest board) that I would tuck in one of two scrapbooks I kept (one for fashion, one for the home I would eventually have.)  

People always talk about our lives and how we spent our time pre-internet. How we went and did BIG things and lived LIVES out in the world and how children played long and imaginative hours outdoors until the streetlights came on.  The last one, I very much remember, but I'm pretty sure my adolescent years, barring roller skating, occasional movies, slumber parties, and mall outings, were spent mostly alone in my room listening to my collection of cassette tapes, reading trashy novels, and flipping through magazines. Or maybe, sometimes life was big, but sometimes it was also small. I did things out in the world like go to classes and play rehearsals and peruse bookstores, but I also lived a quiet little introvert life not all that different than I do now, just with better technology. You are apt to find me, in spare moments I am not working or writing or making things with headphones on scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram.  Somehow there is a tether between that girl and the person I am now. 

There is probably a string connecting this blog and me writing it to 19-year-old me scribbling in the marbled composition books I kept as journals. Or a string between my late-night binges of design shows once my parents went to bed and my current article research, which often includes many of those same variety of HGTV shows and clips. The same girl who knew that she was good at writing from an early age and the girl who makes a living at it now. Or the girl writing bad poems about flamingos and the woman writing at least decent poems about cryptozoology. 

The things form a web, a structure and framework that somehow holds everything in place even while time seems to threaten to capsize us.

Monday, September 11, 2023

time capsule

Saturday, we drove out into the hinterlands of Illinois to McHenry to see a double feature at the drive-in that included two of my childhood/adolescent faves--Labyrinth and Neverending Story. The entire visit felt surreal, only in that I have not really been to the drive-in since the early 90s. The last drive-in theater in Rockford, which had been slated for years to be demolished, briefly reopened for a couple seasons while working out the particulars of the giant multiplex built in its place. I went a few times with both high school friends and my parents when I was in college, but the bulk of my drive-in experiences were much earlier in the 80s. 

While my dad wasn't keen on movie-going in indoor theaters, many weekends we'd be found at one of the dwindling number of drive-ins that still dotted the area around my hometown, all of which eventually shuttered (or were destroyed by tornados.) You can still find an abandoned one in the southeast corner of the Rockford environs, its' lot still unsold and the frame of its mammoth screen peeking through the trees that fully grew up around it in the intervening 40 years since it closed. For a while, urban explorers would sneak onto the grounds and take pictures of the crumbling concession stand and projection booth, though I don't know if they are still there now. Every once in a while, someone tries to reopen a drive-in, there or elsewhere and never gets zoning approval to make it happen due to neighborhood complaints and the ever-present potential for high traffic and crime.

Each summer in the late 70s / early 80s, we would load into the car, the four of us, with grocery store paper bags of popcorn my mom made at home, canned sodas tucked in a cooler, and candy to avoid concession stand prices. We saw many things, including a viewing of The Shining when I was six, which I kept falling asleep in parts, but left wholly changed and in love with horror. We saw other things, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. Coal Miner's Daughter, the Loretta Lynn biopictraumatized me far more than any horror movie ever would with the idea that people, in this case Patsy Cline, could somehow die in plane crashes. 

When we pulled up to the ticket booth on Saturday, it was like stepping through a portal in time.  The McHenry Drive-In opened in the 1950s' and much of it is probably not all that different.  The picture and quality are better and the sound is more advanced surely, but the poles with the speakers still dot the gravel lot and look much the same (though you can use your radio as well.)  The low-slung concession stand and projection booth looked the same as they surely did then, albeit decorated with modern murals now. In a world where everything constantly changes, and even entire city blocks are raised and rebuilt in a year, where most of the remnants of childhood have been snatched away and replaced with new things, this was very much the same. 

We went early to get a good spot and brought along sandwiches and chips and ate while we waited for dark, augmented during the intermission with popcorn peppered with M&Ms.  If I weren't certain I was a middle-aged woman, I could easily have slipped back to being six years old and expectantly waiting for the film to start. Which was especially not that far of a reach since the movies were from the 80s as well.  Labyrinth is a frequent annual rewatch fave, but I hadn't seen Neverending Story since I was a kid. Despite what they call the dwindling audiences and extinction of drive-ins, the lot was crowded, just under completely full. Currently, it's pretty much the only one left in northern Illinois. It was very late when we drove back and the roads were dark and curvy til we got back to the expressway that shuttled us back to Chicago, but we'll definitely be going again. 

On Sunday night, we also caught the 40th-anniversary screening of Christine here in the city, after having caught They Live last week with a couple other horror remastered versions coming in October. While I read the book as a teen and surely saw the movie when I was young, there was much I forgot about, so it was like watching a brand-new movie at points on the big screen. 


Thursday, September 07, 2023

villains | video poems

All this month, I will be unveiling new video poems from VILLAINS...see new ones on Instagram and Youtube...

beginnings and endings

Yesterday signaled the first day of classes where I used to work, and like last year, my divorce from the usual rhythms and wanes of the academic world feels strange. Last week, I woke up from a dream about the library--the kind where work was being piled on and on and no credit or compensation given--and it put me in a cranky funk all morning...perhaps only angry at myself for letting myself endure much of it and other nonsense leveled over the years (including trying to make good things happen -good things that required no funding and only my own labor--and still were met with nonsense and resistance.) How good work only led to more work. The carrots that were dangled, maybe not intentionally, but always out of reach. Things that I took on willingly but that in proving my capabilities, only meant shouldering more. The stupid hope I had that it would all be righted and remedied and just hang on a second longer. I have been free of it a year and a half and I still occasionally am like "Wow, what the fuck was that?" 

Today I got the yearly contract renewal on the lessons gig, and though I take on less since my time is more occupied by other writing jobs, I still occasionally grab something in the queue, this past week on Egyptian dance and a Brueghel painting  I was thinking how stressed and angry I was two years ago this time. How I'd spend my free time pouring over Indeed listings and thinking about leaving, but also scared to. That I couldn't make it happen. that without a full-time job, everything would fall apart.  Instead, I pretty much changed everything for the better.

As we come into fall, the cicadas are loud outside and constant from the afternoon into the evenings. As soon as the heat clears, it will no doubt feel more like autumn and I'll probably feel that same excitement that occurs every year, beholden to the academic calendar or not. That new seriousness in new projects and maybe a push to finish others. Every year around now for decades, my parent's house would be overflowing with harvested tomatoes. On the deck, piled on tables and counters and in baskets. A few days in the overheated kitchen and my mother would turn them into jars of salsa.  I feel like I am still in my gathering phase when it comes to new poems--piling them in a basket and hoping for cooler weather and a greater sense of urgency. 

Despite not working on the urban crypto poems that have been languishing most of July and August, a tiny nut of a kernel has formed in my brain about a new fall project that is maybe less poetry than essay or maybe something else entirely.  

Saturday, September 02, 2023

notes & things | 9/3/2023

I have been busy the past couple of weeks with both work and life stuff and feel like I have a queue of blog topics that are more interesting and writerly, but just haven't had time to put them to the page. We are still enjoying our late summer freedom, with more movies and plans for fall things in the coming months like museum visits, ballets (Frankenstein!) and catching the Beetlejuice musical, all things that were impossible either due to my working schedule or J's (or a lack of funds--strange how leaving your shit jobs actually makes you more financially solvent in both our cases). Last week, we were able to catch the remastered Coraline on the big screen, which had probably been brought back due to selling out pretty quickly when we tried to see it initially a few weeks back. I did not know much about it beyond it looking sort of spooky and cool visually, so I was surprised and delighted to find it was an entirely original story and script, a rare beast spotted in Hollywood but one to pay attention to. 

September launched itself into the world yesterday and the light was definitely that fall-ish tinge, which I noticed most around 3 in the afternoon when the shadows are slightly different than they have been all summer. Our temps are back on the climb, but I am hoping to preserve some of the cool from the past two weeks in my apartment by shutting off the fans blowing in and moving them elsewhere. Despite the daytime warmth, now that we are creeping into September, the nights do not hold the heat like they did even a month ago. August ended much as it began, under a big old the late summer sky. I have been sleeping well in the coolness, but the banging and major construction in the townhouse once occupied by the old Polish couple has been a deterrent once sun is up  The past two mornings they were knocking out the old 1950s glass block windows and replacing them with boring sliding ones, so it doesn't look promising. I am asleep and awake at intervals, and usually require a mid-afternoon or early evening nap, which means I am writing well into the evening sometimes. Already sunset is creeping up earlier and will soon be climbing hand over hand. 

Today was a full press day (no freelance work) since there were quite a few things that needed final corrections before I start printing.  I have only dipped a toe into submissions, which wrapped up Thursday in a final flurry of activity, so will begin greater forays into reading next week likely. I still have a couple delayed books in the works, but am now working on the set I accepted for this year. Amazingly, since I planned to start those in August anyway, I am only a month behind schedule for 2023 accepted titles. This year's inbox is a little unruly, since I was once again allowing sim subs after a few years of not. This means some things have been withdrawn in the time since they were sent b/c they found another home. Logistically it's rougher to keep track, but I feel like I take a little too long in responses sometimes, esp. for things I am interested in--so it's only fair they have other opportunities when I am slow. 

As for my work, I had a brief flurry of activity on new poems, but then told myself I should take a break and return when fall arrived officially, which I suppose it has now, at least according to the meteorological calendar if not the celestial one. Since I really need to be working on recording and editing the videos for villains right now, I may just hold off til the equinox to get back to daily poeming, completely reasonable, but I do get itchy if I go too long without writing much at all, so we'll see. I won't be submitting much in the immediate future, so am going to share snippets of the poems I've written this summer on Instagram, so keep an eye out there. 

The decor and lifestyle stuff is turning out many fall and spooky season offerings like this, this, and this.) A gig that I had initially turned down earlier in the summer b/c the pay-per-word count (writing literature study guides) actually came back with a poetry-specific offer that is shorter guides but still the same pay, so I will be doing a couple of those every month going forward. Since the AI poetry thing ghosted me and didn't work out, and any poetry lessons for the online learning site I already write for are few and far between, it will be fun to write poetry-specific things again after a few months of other subjects like dance, history, and visual art. While denser and more time-intensive than the decor, food, and restaurant stuff, the researcher in me loves them nonetheless.

Monday, August 28, 2023

notes & things | 8/28/2023

While the middle of the week was apocalyptically hot and humid, the last couple days I have been alternately turning down the fans and pulling the quilt up over the bed and hiding underneath. Fall is close enough to taste and by the end of the week, it will be September. I am in no way ready for fall, literally and metaphorically, but I have been longing for the cooler weather and spooky things, including some decor pieces I will likely leave up long past Halloween. 

Earlier in the week, a facebook friend asked everyone if they could think of a time they wanted to stop writing, and what made them carry on regardless.  How did they work through it? I was thinking of responding, but then realized the answer was way too complex and convoluted to deal with in a comments section. There are days when I feel this way about poetry specifically, not really writing in general, of which I have done many different types and genres at various points.  I love that I get to make a living writing other kinds of things now, but poetry sometimes feels like something I could easily drop from my life like a napkin from a table and I'm not sure anyone would notice. It certainly doesn't contribute financially to my life, nor does the pursuit of it necessarily all the time contribute to my mental well-being. It is a lot of time and effort invested with steadily diminishing returns, something that took me a long time to realize.  That working harder or more or better wouldn't necessarily show any kind of difference at all. And by returns, I don't necessarily just mean po-biz things, many of which I have let go of in the past several years.  But more so the sense of purpose that I sometimes lose the thread of at times. Would I not spend my time better by writing things that allow me to make a living rather than dropping poems into what usually feels like a void. Would not these energies be more productive leveled elsewhere?

And yet, I don't know how I would live without it. Or where I would channel those same storytelling energies. Fiction, sure, but I am not really very good at it.  Essays, maybe. Writing poems, good or bad, have been part of my life since I was a stupid teenager who did a little too well on an English assignment and somehow locked in hard on a genre that most people don't seem to care about at all. I used to dismiss that Rilke quote about HAVING to write, of dying if you were forbidden to do it,  as pretension and dramatics, but maybe he was right. Sometimes I am not certain how I could ever consider stopping. Sometimes I am not certain how I can keep going.

But there are still poems to be written. Projects to be executed.  I am digging in on the video poems that I will be releasing in September--the villains series--armed with a fancy new microphone for recording (well as fancy as has good reviews on Amazon for under $100.)  I've been fiddling with the visuals, so all that's needed is audio on the first couple pieces. My plans to have everything done by September was not exactly realistic. Some of it is just late summer stalling, some of it just a busier non-writing life of late. Some of it is taking on more decor and lifestyle assignments on some days of the week that eat up some time I may have been messing with creative things.  These offer solid, tangible fruits of labor in the form of more discretionary income. Meanwhile, the poetry fruits are few and far between-- a couple acceptances from journals, some nice comments on the newest book, an unusual flurry of likes on a IG post. Tiny things that one could starve from waiting for, and perhaps we all do just a little. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

bombs and dolls and american-made tragedies

In a tactic to beat the heat of my apartment yesterday in its A/C-less state, we decided to go spend as long as we could at the movies, which meant we went to see Oppenheimer, the longest run-time film we could find.  While I am always game for a biopic, this one probably would have been something I just waited to come in streaming were it not for all the #BARBENHEIMER summer madness. On one hand, the length would normally have worked against it under theater-going normal circumstances. It also seemed really sad and depressing, which seemed unnecessary in a world where if you really want sad and depressing, just turn on the news or look around. But since we'd already seen everything currently in theaters horror-wise we wanted these last few weeks, Oppenheimer it was. 

So we found ourselves, after a leisurely burger and cocktails at the bowling alley that shares space with the theatre, settling in for the 3-hour mid-century jaunt in the dark. What first struck me is that it's a rather moody beautiful movie, which like much of Nolan's other work, maximizes color and shadow to its best advantage.  The performances are commendable and the storytelling was, while confusing in a couple spots, innovative. 

I say confusing largely too because of the men. So many of them. With similar looks and names and all wearing suits and cool mid-century eyewear and making the most irresponsible decisions with deadly human tolls. When Florence Pugh's character is nakedly prompting RO to read the famous Bhagavad Vita line RO is famous for, it crossed my mind that this may be the nerdiest bit of porn I've seen. It's a movie that relishes its theme of brilliant people making brilliant discoveries and inventions that they know only as evidence of their brilliant egos and nothing of their impact.  Not knowing a lot of the history and names specifically, it was hard to keep the men straight beyond RO himself and the women, while well cast with A-list actresses, not as fleshed out as I would have liked. (and an exact example of what the film's bright pink-clad sibling was making a statement against. The women were kind of set in scenes like dolls or, worse, like Kens. 

The scenes of the meetings and the congressional hearings were juxtaposed in my head with the all-female leadership of Barbieland.  The lawyer who said that her logic and her feelings made her a better leader. The one woman scientist on the Manhattan Project who the men worried about her delicate lady parts and radiation. Men in identical rooms in identical suits making decisions that killed hundreds of thousands of people and may one day kill more. Or all. 

My favorite scene was the reckoning when RO himself at a podium horrifically imagines his cheering audience incinerated by the weapon he helped create.  Or when we discover his discussion near the pond with Einstein and the consequences of his quest for knowledge. It's interesting that they begin with the poison apple scene,  which I think is based on RO's own conflicting accounts later in life, records of therapy undergone as punishment at Cambridge, and a detail discounted as fully true by his grandchildren. A detail possibly wrong or inaccurate or less dire than it seems. However true in real life, in the film it sets a parallel between how jealousy and insecurity led him to do and make terrible things. 

Which is to say, he's a lot like Ken and his horse-loving patriarchy in that case, except the word is flipped and the men are in charge and making the decisions with no one else to set parameters and boundaries of compassion and good sense. By the end of the film, it was just a film full of Kens with silent Barbies who endured and drowned themselves in bathtubs with no real power or control. The same things that ultimately take down Ken's burgeoning empire, the warring of the men, and allow the Barbies to regain control, are the same circumstances that lead to weapons of mass destruction. Except this isn't Barbieland and no one can restore order. 

While at first, it seemed merely like a release-weekend coincidence and social media-inspired enthusiasm, these two movies seem to really go together somehow,. They are very much about America and the things we create. Good or bad. Symbolic and real.  Constructive or destructive. While Barbie was meant to be a symbol of feminism and womanhood, it came with the unsavory aftertaste of body image issues and commercialism. While the A-bomb was intended to be a brilliant scientific discovery that proved our global leadership in the scientific and military world, it turned out to be the key to mass extinction. The creators, whether it was tiny Ruth Handler or towering RO, were caught in the middle. While Barbie wants to make meaning--to not be the thing that is made. Oppenheimer's creation, the thing that is made, destroys it.  

Sunday, August 20, 2023

notes & things | 8/20/2023

Wisconsin, circa 2013

We have crested into the final third of August and the light is beginning to change, maybe not as noticeably as all at once, but that one morning it's startlingly obvious is coming, probably within the next week.  The past couple of weeks, I've been hearing the cicadas around sunset that signal late summer and the sunsets are earlier and swifter  We've had some cooler weather replaced by warmer again, so summer is still firmly summering, make no mistake, but already my social media/YouTube feeds and writing assignment queue's are littered with fall-ish things (like this fun thrift rehab project I wrote about this week.)

This week included not just one, but two movie dates, the first, the second go at Barbie I mentioned earlier, and a Korean action movie revival selected by J that was strange and weird and kind of gross with incest vibes, but a movie is still a movie, and with his new freer schedule, we will be getting to have more date nights like this on the regular--especially promising considering we will be in high spooky season for horror releases very soon. This week, we are taking in the aquarium on its free night, which I haven't been to since the late 90s despite my one-time marine biology enthusiasms.

This time of year always makes me think of the past somehow, which probably has something to do with the start of school and the bygone sense of blank pages. This morning, I was thinking about 10 years ago, a period of time that seems sort of muddy with a relationship that was well past its sell-by date, but also good things like the release of shared properties of water and stars and Pretty Little Liars marathons complete with a very tiny Zelda racing back and forth across the back of the sofa. Late in the summer, we visited my cousin who lived way up in northern Wisconsin, which already had a fall-ish tinge to trees even in late August. We drank overly elaborate Bloody Marys and went antiquing in a tiny town with many stores where I got my prized Roloflex camera for a steal at $10 and several pretty antique postcards. I'd wake up in the mornings on the sofa with my cousin's enormous golden lab sprawled across me. Smallish bears would ramble through their yard from the surrounding woods at dawn. The weekend was campfires and pontoon rides and, perhaps most importantly, both my parents were still very much alive and healthy.  

20 years ago, I was 29 and on the verge of starting my MFA studies, going to overly bougie and posh several-course lunch orientations at the Union League Club back when Columbia was spending money like it had it.  Later, at the meet and greet with other students and faculty, I would feel like I didn't fit in--a feeling that would pervade me for the next four years of study. On my one day of full classes that fall, I kept returning to the Art Institute, which was pay-what-you-can in the afternoons to gaze at the Cornell boxes--still in their location in the old modern wing before the new one was built. A project that would also take four years to finish.  I would take my notes to the cafe across Michigan and turn them into poems that eventually became at the hotel andromeda. I was tentatively sending out the first version of what would eventually become the fever almanac, though it would change a lot before getting picked up two years later. I was still mulling the idea of starting a chapbook press that wouldn't bloom until the spring, but it was a tiny kernel of thought I'd turn over and over in my head while waiting for the bus or working nights at the library's circ desk.

30 years ago, somehow, I was just 19, starting my first year at RC--which was technically my second year of college after transferring, but it felt like I was starting over. I was in love with the tiny campus tucked among the woods and hills right in the middle of the city I'd known all my life, an oasis amid strip malls and parking lots that felt very quaint and un-midwestern. I happily enrolled in philosophy classes and Shakespeare seminars and would hide out in the library lunching on terrible fat-free sliced cheese sandwiches and pretzels because my high school eating issues still had their claws in me. I would dye my blonde hair a dark auburn and it would stay dark for 20 more years. I'd wear long hippie skirts, tapestry vests over t-shirts and bell anklets/bracelets as one did in the early 90s. Sometimes on Fridays, we would drive up to the greyhound track in Lake Geneva and my dad would fund me and my sister placing bets on races we'd never win, but would have endless fun looking at the dogs and picking which looked the fastest. 

I don't remember quite as distinctly the late summer of 40 years ago, though I am not sure if it's a failure to pay attention or just the ravages of time on my memory. In the fall of 1983, I was going into fourth grade but I remember only bits and pieces--tether ball and playing Barbies on the playground.  An ill-advised perm inflicted on me by my aunt that led to many more years of really unfortunate hair choices in photos. It was the one year I was in Girl Scouts before we moved, which was filled with badges and cookies and camps. Also, full renditions of Donna Summers' "She Works Hard for the Money" while dressed like a housekeeper for the talent show, in which at least three other groups of kids did "Thriller.".  I was trusted to walk alone the five blocks to school even though I was only 9 because it was the 80s and I was afraid of nothing. But also I was afraid of everything.

40 years and not much has changed...