Tuesday, December 18, 2018

mini-collections | vintage cameras

There are some vintage things I am a freak for collecting--handbags and purses, for example.  Midcentury floral dishes.  Things get a little crazy when it comes to these, but there are other things I consider mini-collections acquired here and there and a little more limited in their scope. About 11 years ago, I bid on a lot of vintage photos for artmaking purposes on ebay that happened to come with two old box cameras.  The purpose of the acquisition was more for the ephemera than the cameras, but I put them on a shelf in the studio and plotted ways to use them to house some sort of assemblage.   

A few years later, I was in a thriftstore in Rockford and spotted a Spartaflex across the room for $10.  A few years later, I was in a tiny town in upper Wisconsin and spotted a Roloflex for a steal at an antique shop.  Suddenly, I had a tiny collection of old cameras that I really loved and spawned me to get a little more familiar with the history of cameras and what these were capable. (though they are sadly all unworking) Like many of the things I have mini-collections of, Pyrex, pressed flower designs, embroidered wall hangings--the collection wasn't exactly intentional in the ways things like dishes and purses, and I don't go hunting them on ebay, for example, but I do love stumbling on new aquisitions.

While they are not in  working order, I think they are just really striking objects.  In a world where so much is always new and disposable, I love that they have their own sense of solidity and history.

Monday, December 17, 2018

on magic and monsters

I was reading this article yesterday and thinking about magic.  As in what you lose once you cease to believe in things like monsters and Santa.  Or the almost heartbreaking effect no longer believing has on the child brain.  When I was in 4th grade, there were rumblings of disbelief.  Many kids had already had "the talk" in which all was revealed.  We had a couple of Jewish kids and at least one Jehovah's Witness who we listened incredulously to as they said they'd never had Santa creep into their houses and leave presents.  While at first may have been easy to  shrug it off and go about making perennial red and green construction paper chains,  I was starting to have my doubts.  There was an incident a couple years before where Santa "forgot" my new Candy Land game conveniently in the trunk of our car. One afternoon, I cornered my mother as she cleaned the bathroom and ask for some straight talk, and while she kept asking me "what do you believe?" in the end she consented to the fact that Santa didn't exist.  I stood there and suddenly was crying.  The Easter Bunny?  The Tooth Fairy?  Fairies in general?  All fake...I was devastated by this news...

Of course, my mother assured me we would continue to get presents "from Santa" which continued up until her death. And I was forbidden from telling my sister, 4 years younger, the truth (we occasionally still joke that since I never told her, she still totally believes he's real--also that since my mother never removed her embargo against riding her bike in the street, she still can't as an adult.) Even though we often were shopping with my mother and picking out gifts, we would find them wrapped under the tree when we went open gifts marked with Santa's name, never hers.

If you take Santa out of the equation, and all his magical friends, there too goes monsters and ghosts and the possibility that they might be real.  My mother had a loose religious upbringing, she considered herself a Christian, my Dad was similarly secular in mindset, so it wasn't like we still had to believe in Jesus and Mary and all that business, and I wondered how kids who did reconciled Santa's not realness next to miracles and virgin births.  I'd sooner believe in a man in a suit flying in a sleigh through the night sky than someone turning water into wine or walking on water.

But then again, the news that Santa wasn't real changed how I looked at the world, sucked the magic out entirely. Or at least it seems like did, but looking back, I was still ready to believe some things.   Around the same age that the Santa news was revealed I had also stopped sleeping with the covers over my head, which I had been doing for years, because my maternal grandmother had just died, and since I inherited her bed and bedding, I had nothing to fear with her watching over me.  (I still believed in an afterlife at that point.)

Despite my secularism, I am still weirdly superstitious.  I broke a mirror a few weeks ago and joked (kind of) that every spilled coffee and returned package was related.  I say "knock on wood" a lot.  Obsessively so at times. I am willing to believe in hauntings even without a belief in the afterlife--as impressions, as dimensional weirdness, even if I don't believe in ghosts.  Willing to admit maybe poltergeists,  telekinesis, ESP exist.  I also stupidly have a fear of playing things like Candyman or Bloody Mary in case they might be real, but oddly have no similar reverence for ouija boards and spiritual ways of contacting the dead.  So maybe not all was lost in "the talk" it definitely did change my ideas on magic and monsters, but maybe I still believe just a little as a grown-up.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

sayonara 2018

I will be shipping out the final bundle of goodies for this year's BOOKS & OBJECTS SERIES before the end of the year, but there is still a chance to get in on the 2018 fun...zines, prints, accordian books, & more...

dgp cover love

As I've often said, one of my favorite aspects of bringing dancing girl press titles into the world is the physical design aspects.  I love taking someone else's words and making this beautiful little object, interesting both inside and out.  Sometimes I start from scratch, other times, the authors have definite ideas (or artists or designers they already know and want to involve) but some of my fave collaborations involve some back and forth, the volleying of ideas and sparks, and then eventually whittling away to something that is absolutely perfect.

One of the best recent examples was the design for Kelsea Habecker's amazing THE WALRUS WIVES that went live on the website yesterday.  I collages up the original based on the author suggestions, but we agreed it was running too pretty and romantic for the quirky strangeness of the poems inside, whereupon we solved it by add the strangeness of the satellite birds and I was so happy it turned out so awesome.

Similarly, Catherine Kyle's SAINT:  A POST-DYSTOPIAN HAGIOGRAPHY started with some discussion of her vision, but the first mockup featured a less warrior-like  character on the cover--more childlike, which we swapped out.  Terry Ann Wright's ideas for MAD HONEY noted something angry or aggressive but not romantic or pretty, but actually somehow this cover manages to be both somehow weirdly..

Saturday, December 15, 2018

tiny machines, long distances

When I first set out to writing poems with any sort of seriousness at 19 or so, I was mostly clueless as to contemporary poetry and really sort of clueless on how anyone went about it. I had all these ideas, political and social that I shoe-horned into short, skinny, really bad poems.  Later I was really good at Emily Dickinson-style rhyming. By the time I was finishing up my undergrad years and beginning grad school for Lit, I had left much of that behind and was banging out much better quality things--mostly centered around theme and allusion. They were not horrible, but not terribly good wither, but they managed to win me a couple college poetry awards, and eventually, my very first publication in 1999.  I got better, more personal, but crafting a poem still seemed like an arduous thing, with a beginning germ of a thought or a concept and then hours of work trying to make that happen and not suck so much. It continued like this well though the construction of most of the fever almanac poems.

In 2004 or so things began to change.  I started the press.  I began to work visually with collage.  The poems changed too, as I began shifting the way I wrote.  There was errata, which involved my own language woven within the tapestry of existing victorian language an text.  There was more collage-like use of language and imagery. Things got stranger--more accidental--less wrought.  Or maybe a different kind of wrought.  Through much of the work of in the bird museum and into pretty much all the books published to date, there was much more play and experimentation that made writing so much more pleasurable than it had been in those earlier years. Fragment and collage, interwoven found texts, all of which made writing this glorious experiment that no doubt spurred me on. The only exception I can think of is the james franco series, which gathered their own steam in a strange way.

It's only in the last year or so that I have felt another shift, this one still moored in that same experiment, but more led by sounds than before.  I am not a scanner, and have never been, but I've often loved most that work with works materially with not only image or language but with sound. There is also the tension between poems as a read-entity on the page, and the poem as an auditory-entity read outloud.  Over the years sometimes I got good results occasionally, but often they were unintentional, or at best, sort of a result of composing work while reading it aloud.

In the last year or so, I've been composing led more by sound than by image.  It's hard to describe.  The difference between the two.  The ways in which the images, which used to collect and  scatter themselves on the page are now being pulled by their sounds from a hat.  Or maybe, not that at all and that they spring fully formed, not as pretty things, but noisy things.  Perhaps a more concrete way to describe it is to say that I spend less time with my notebook or words and images while actually writing the poem, feeding the poem bits and scraps, and more time letting the poem rev itself like a tiny machine.   And sometimes it can go for miles on it's own momentum and doesn't need anything to fuel it.  It might be why I've been writing so much and so often.  Definitely composing the first way I was writing was arduous and slow, the second was swifter and more playful, a bit more regular.  Now it's like I can struggle to get a couple lines going, but once I have them, the poem can go long distances before running out of steam.  Entire projects can go a good distance before having to stop for gas.

Maybe it's just the sort of efficiency that comes from writing a lot.  Or maybe having been writing for so long.  But I hope it keeps going...

Friday, December 14, 2018

friday obsession | some velvet love

It's the season, of course, for a little bit more luxurious things.  The windows along Michigan Ave are decked out in lots of velvet, glitter, and faux fur.  Though I've been wearing more flannel and sweater dresses to keep warm, velvet is also a winter staple.   I have a few favorite velvet pieces collected over the years (and that I usually wind up hanging inside out in my closet to avoid them collecting large amounts of cat hair floating through the air somehow.)  Last winter, I found this dress on sale at Modcloth, but only still available in a smaller size.  I bought it anyway, thinking it might work, but it was too tight in the bust.  This year, however, they bought back the same dress, only in an even more attractive greyish blue and totally in my size and I snapped it up full price I wanted it so much.  I'm still seeking a fancy-schmancy holiday party to wear it to, but lacking any, might just wear it to work or twirling around in my apartment. (so far, sadly,  every gathering is sort of super casual.)

They actually have many super cute velvet things, and I just might procure the berry colored sleeveless one as soon as I get some holiday money.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

all the thanks...

In my final proofing and my blurb gathering for sex& violence, I have reached the most difficult part of the process (and I would argue), maybe a little more difficult than writing the damn poems--the acknowledgements.

This morning I was lying in bed thinking this task was ahead of me today and giggled over completely outrageous thank yous. Often I've considered thanking the undergrad poetry teacher who said she did not remember my work at all (it had been about 5-6 years tops) and therefore could not possibly write me a recommendation letter to get into my MFA program--I think she was just trying to nicely say no because I sucked, but hey, look who doesn't suck anymore!  It made me kinda bitter, but maybe bitter made me better. Then there were the 1st year grad school workshop folks who delighted in tearing me down with a particular zealousness that still rankles (it got better, but that 1st year was a doozie.)    The random male editor circa 1999, who said "nice, but these are hardly of the Keatsian mantle."   Or maybe a note thanking all the horrible men I've dated and who inspired some of the poems. By name.

Other things are less Taylor Swiftian, and just sillier. Thanking my cats, for example.  Or Pop Tarts.  Or the makers of my favorite pens (Pilot g-2s).  Tequila . My day job where I spend a decent amount of time working on poetry things and probably wouldn't have such latitude for such distractions in other professions.  Sylvia Plath, who set an excellent and horrible example in my young mind on how to be a poet.  The 7th grade boy who irrevocably broke my heart.  The math skills I lack that doomed me from the career in science I set out for when I graduated high school.

With my first book, the fever almanac, I took the task very seriously, thanking my poetry communities, the editor of Moon Journal.who published my very first poems in her journals and later my first chapbook, as well as my Ghost Road editors and the journals where the poems had previously appeared.  Also,  Poetry Center of Chicago whose  contest I had won a couple years before with a chunk of change attached. I got a little more creative with book #2--thanking all the artists and writers who had inspired me and who I had probably stolen from.  In the shared properties of water and stars, I thanked the fairy tales I was reinventing and the people who had instilled in me a love of the strange and magical. With girl show, I thanked everyone for indulging my weird interests and writing reclusiveness, as well as a friend who helped me with my sideshow research.

By the time major characters and salvage hit the press, I was down to bare bones, previous publication notes and that was about it. Similar with the upcoming little apocalypse.   Initially, I'd included a combined notes and acks. page for the new book, but as I was proofing, I thought I might want to flesh it out a little bit again.  By the end of it, I think I did okay--thanking my community, my awesome blurbers, Black Lawrence and my editor, some personal notes at the end. Another book put to bed and ready to send off the final draft in the next couple of days.  Book #8--and wow, who would have known? (Certainly not my undergrad professor. Nor my 7th grade crush).

notes & things | 12/13/2018

Sunday night was a horrible bout with the fear monster--about money, about the future, about forever being behind on just about everything,  everyone around me dying and being unable to stop it.  It this swirling, descending about of horror and it was gone by Monday afternoon, but it took me by surprise and has made it a weird week full of manic conversations in which I am crying for no good reason. Which is to say it is December again, and December will always bring it's December ways. In no way is this as bad as some years---1997 and 2003 were particular doozies, and at least I am not having weird cold weather induced panic attacks like last winter, but it's a slippery little thing and weedles it's way in even when I think am doing okay.

I was discussing with a friend who assured me that every single person our age is having these same conversations, and if I wasn't certain a huge part of it was just winter (and now without even the usual holiday happiness to look forward to.) I'd venture it was a general coming into middle age malaise.  I always said I had avoided my mid-life crises by making sure I was always doing exactly what I wanted with my time and energies and not falling into certain societal expectation traps..all well and good, except that even avoiding some things, others come looking for you nevertheless.   You can do everything you can to make the best choices, but invevitable  things like losing parents or age or sickness will still come round for you and eventually knock you on your ass. So you find yourself crying at your desk at work and trying to explain why things are upsetting, not because anything out of the usual is just wrong, but that irrational fear that things WILL go wrong, that bad, that worse things, WILL happen, even if everything is totally kosher now.

And this is where I don't know where my particular kind of crazy intersects with just general stress and life patterns.  All the what if seem terrible creatures sometimes, and I usually am good at fending them off or dealing with them, but they are just extra bitey in the winter when even the landscape outside seems inhospitable to just living.

Regardless, things go on.  Other things come to a close.  We are in the last few days of the semester, and I am staring down a week or so off around the holiday to rest up. (or spend unlimited time obsessing about the worst, which could also happen.)   We've started planning our spring activities (there is a peek at our focus topic below) and it's a nice distraction to begin plotting out the details for that.  I am also plotting a couple unrelated lit-oriented things coming around the bend.

The one thing I do feel in control of is writing projects.  I finalized the last draft and gathered my blurbs and sent them yesterday to Black Lawrence. The new Tiny Letter project is going swimmingly, as are some new pieces for the poet's zodiac.  Over the break, I'll be doing some editing on things that need some more work, but if 2018 gave me anything at all, it was getting a lot of stuff down on the page.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

strange fevers

The Library’s Spring 2019 focus topic, STRANGE FEVERS: MASS DELUSIONS, CONFUSIONS, AND OBSESSIONS explores the strange world of public madnesses through the lens of art, culture, politics, and entertainment.  From propaganda hoaxes to Victorian Spiritualism.  Cults to crop circles. Fake news to Sasquatch. Witch hunts to urban legends. Satanic Panic to Beanie Babies. Our infatuations, real or imagined, often tell us more about our culture than our legitimate ones.  Join the library for a series of exhibits, displays, discussions and other events that probe the public imaginations more bizarre corners of enthusiasm, naivite and skillful manipulation.   


Preparations are in the works for our spring focus topic and we are plotting all sorts of weird awesomeness in the name of mass delusions--exhibits, displays, panel discussion, readings, and more...as well a mini-conference when April roles around. I'm hoping to pull together a panel about weird delusional phenomena in teenage girls--like Heavenly Creatures, the Slenderman stabbing, and that recent story about the satanic girls who wanted to kill their classmates in the bathroom.  Could tie it in to Salem witches  Also, another topic exploring the Fox sisters and victorian spiritualism /hypnotism. And also some crypto fun, of course. We're still working out the exhibit details, so I'll be posting a bit more as we go...         

into the breach

I am in the midst of the final war of dueling dancing girl press manuscripts for next year.  It's rough--we crested 500 submissions again this year (the good news is that number has stabilized after quite a climb from about 15 in 2004--the bad news is that I have an embarassment of riches and just a whole lot to read, which is making me about a month late in getting responses out this year. )   Also, as I've mentioned before the pool gets less slushy every year, and so many authors seem to know exactly the sorts of things I'm looking for (which of course, makes it hard to decide between them. )  Amazing folks have occasionally volunteered to help read submissions, to winnow things down, but my Taurus control-freaky self worries I would miss something I wanted if I didn't look at everything myself--even just a few pages to get a sampling.  And truthfully, if I'm going to have to go through them all regardless, I might as well just do it myself.

What usually happens is I will read about 5 pages of everything that comes in the door, not always the first 5 pages, sometimes other ranges. Some books get released back into the wild as not really my thing immediately. Then there are the total read-throughs, these are the ones I'm wanting more of.  Sometimes, these are definite yes.  Sometimes they are yes, if we have room. The criteria between these are fuzzy--all of them sound poetry and something I could see dgp releasing, but maybe variations in subject matter, voice, or just plain quirky oddness, makes one stack a definite and the others a possible.  The problem is when there are too many yes and then also too many maybes, and the latter wind up in the death battle at the end.  I also tend to do rolling acceptances, which means the maybes stand a better chance when I am reading for January-July, than the latter half of the year as the schedule starts to fill up.  (the pro tip, I guess, being to submit early in the season.)  By the time I get to August subs, there is a sense of panic and sudden death. Occasionally, I can wiggle some things into the early part of the following year but don't like too long of a stretch between acceptance and actual publication (plus it can make things tighter the next year.)

 I have a general "thank you for sending but no" form rejection (worded, if course, more politely), but then also a "this one didn't fit, but maybe send something else another year."  Occasionally, we get the same mss. back in a subsequent year and I take it, especially if it was case of just running out of slots, so it never hurts to try again. (Sometimes these seem obviously familiar, but other times, I might have completely forgotten I've read it before, especially if it's been revised a bit..lol...) As it stands I currently have read at least some of everything left in the queue, released the no manuscripts to their authors,  and marked a few more for total read throughs, but plan to have the responses out and the schedule firmed up by Christmas. (Or realistically at least by the end of holiday break.)