Wednesday, January 19, 2022

poeting in winter

Back in October, when I decided to play a bit with some short fiction writing, I told myself not to worry about poems. I was, after all, between projects, having wrapped up the collapsologies manuscript with the grimoire poems.  I toyed with a couple new things that are still on the horizon, but I wanted a shift.  I also wanted to figure out my life and writing poems wasn't on my top list of things to be worried about in the grand scheme of things.  I gave myself permission to sit October out on my daily writing.  Then November. By December, I had taken on some freelance writing, which I was trying to squeeze around my regular obligations to see if I liked it, so my mornings, what time there was (it's harder for me to get up early-ish in winter) was devoted to the drafting and research necessary for that.  I actually extended my poem vacation through early February, when I would then be working on my own and my schedule (and concentration) much kinder.

I wasn't going to write poems, but then Monday night, somewhere between washing the dinner dishes and going to bed, I had a first line and just went for it.  For one, it was unexpected to be writing at all, especially in the evening, when my brain is usually on low battery power.  Granted, I'd been home all day fro MLK day and mostly just folding chaps. Also, odd when specifically I said I would not be writing poems, and yet, there I was. I went back in once before bed and tweaked some things, but haven't looked at it to see if its any good since. It may be the start of something, though it may also just be a snippet of a dead end, but as I wrote it, I realized how much I missed it.  This is, of course, after whining all summer and into fall about whether or not poetry felt worth it, or whether anyone was even reading, or why I kept doing it, even thought the effort / compensation  ratio is kind of dismal.  That maybe I should focus on writing for paying markets. Or who the hell was reading any of this anyway?  I always long to be one of those writers for whom process is all important, audience be damned, but I actually want readers, however they get there. As someone who, in the fall, was adjusting financial income streams, poetry seemed a  poor place to fixate my efforts. Especially now, when I should be seeking out things that actually allow me to, you know, pay rent.

And yet, like the ex that occasionally shows up at 3am, there she was. A poem.  Maybe not a good one, but still.  I think I'll keep her. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

other stories

My Millais research late last week led to me to this newish film about the artists wife, Effie Gray, who was once married to critic John Ruskin (unhappily) and had the marriage annuled (complete with a court-appointed exam to prove she had never been de-virginated.) On Netflix, that and a recent delve into period film, led me to a great little re-imagining of Ophelia, one in which she is not grief stricken and mad, but capable and still with her wits about her to escape one of the saddest fates in Shakespeare. Hamlet is not my favorite Shakespeare, but I really liked this one, which also gave more dimension to Gertrude as more than just an adulterous monster who helps murder her husband.  To not give too much away, they lift the falsely dead potion from Romeo and Juliet and use it to Ophelia's advantage. Most people still die, it is Hamlet after all, but Ophelia manages to survive.  (In fact , I was hoping she would ditch Hamlet and run off with Horatio, who was a far better match.)

I also caught a couple of Arthurian adaptations this week after all that sorting of of Guinevere last week, and she is far more complicated. I know it exists, but I've yet to find, on film, a story more geared from her p-o-v.  First Knight, from the 90's was close, but still very male-oriented. I just need to keep digging. When I first started writing poems, somewhere there is a poem about Guinevere in The Archaeologists Daughter, my first chap, where many of these women were given a small snippet of voice.  I know I have also written about Ophelia, at least a couple times, but  don't think they made it into any books. (including one somewhere that deals with Gregory Crewdson's photo version of her. )

A friend and I talk often about the kind of stories that get told in Hollywood, the hero and anti-hero narratives that dominate the theatrical releases, where the money is.  How they miss so much. How streaming services and cable networks are better at giving voice to a larger slice of experience. We're mostly talking about horror, but it could be said more generally. In the lit world, there have been many female-character focused retellings of old, worn out stories, and I would love to see these and more on film. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

notes & things | 1/15/2022

 And just like that (channeling Carrie Bradshaw) we are midway into the first month of the year, though I feel like on New Years Day I blinked and already time is slipping out from under us on ice. I spend my days slowly packing up my crap at the library and dispensing books to the shelves where they belong (not my desk area where I notoriously hoard things, checking them out to read later, but then rarely have time to.) I have three weeks left, including the dawn of the spring semester, which is usually the busiest., though I hope not with omicron making a stink and so many schools reverting to online classes.   I still have reserves to process and training material to write before I go. On Wednesday, I gave another presentation on zines and libraries, and what may be my last, and I found it hard to talk about things in past tense, or to say xyz happened and maybe post-covid, it will return, since I will not, in fact, be there to see it (it may continue, but I won't be a part of it.) 

It's weird liminal space to be in this month, but it still feels good and like the right decision. Despite moments of occasional financial panic, I am steadily working to make things flusher and less down to the bone than they have been most of my existence as an adult. It helps to feel like, with the freelance work, a little more control (the harder I work, the more money I earn.) Maybe it's a delusion, and it's more precarious, but it feels like the opposite. Today, I spent the afternoon with about 5 cups of coffee and John Everett Millais, who i was really only familiar in in regard to his Pre-Raphelite work like Ophelia, but actually moved away from that in later work. (hilariously because family life and the need for less time-intensive work made him want to paint broader and faster.)  The Somnabulist above is gorgeous and something I hadn't seen before. The lush detail is nice on the backgrounds of earlier work, but this is moodier. 

The other night, I finished up the series Station Eleven, and while I still struggled to remember what happens in the novel, it was very, very good.  At times, it's depictions of apocalyptic virus life made me really anxious, but I am glad I stuck with it. Case numbers have dropped slightly, probably because we are over the holiday-induced bump no doubt, but it still doesn't feel all that safe. Though these fears seemed smaller when, upon waking, I checked the news to find hostage crises and tsunami warnings for the Pacific.  There are days when I think I might have a happier life if I didn't check the headlines every morning, or if I limited my time on news-heavy social sites early in the day.  I want to know the news, but maybe I need to go find it further in the day. Otherwise it sets a tone and definitely impacts my mood when I should be focusing on other things.

Friday, January 14, 2022

cover sneak peak


This little book progeny is due out in early March, so I've just started the design process and final edits.  It's a book about art and monsters and how each one makes us kind of the other and I can't wait to show it to you...

Thursday, January 13, 2022

painters and poets, oh my!

Looking to pad my coffers a little before I set sail into the wind, I've been doubling down on some of the freelance work, and alternating between art and literature projects to keep my brain was getting overwhelmed, Still today, I began the day with the Hudson Valley school and, when something else came back for edits, swiveled to Artemisia Gentileschi. Thus today, I have had one foot in the Baroque and one foot in American Romanticism most of the afternoon.  (with a detour on Caravaggio a couple days ago, and my sights on Millais. ) Yesterday's work on Gentileschi was followed by Dickinson--a more general piece than the beast of a one on Guinevere as literary figure prior, but I couldn't help but start thinking about her and Artemesia, how both are, in most internet articles, mentioned first for their biographical details, and only second  the ways their work was innovative.  

Artemesias rape trial defined her for many, not her painting.  Emily's life of seclusion and white ensemble similarly leads in when people start talking about her.  Only if you are a a painter or a poet, do you progress beyond those things.  I keep thinking about Sylvia Plath, always, and how her death overshadowed her work. And yet, in my limited previous knowledge of Caravaggio, I did not know that he was not only a convicted murderer and hothead, but a multiple murderer. As in more than one person.  This seems to be, for him, a side note.  A tiny piece of trivia when you dig into biographical details. Kind of like how very few people talk about William Burroughs killing his wife. 

I guess, what gets remembered about us as artists, who knows?  How history defines us, completely beyond our control.  It made my head spin a little bit.  Why do women's biographical detail lead the story, while men's are footnotes to their supposed genius? 

Sunday, January 09, 2022

onward, across the sea

Much has been afoot this week, including giving official notice at the library that my last week will be the first one in February.  It's hard to leave a place you've been for 21 years, and also hard to leave people and a place you actually like, to feel a little like you are letting them down (the rehire process being arduous and time consuming and  sometimes not even possible--and this is understaffing part of the secondary set of  reasons I am not staying.) The other secondary reasons--less important but still relevant--money (for which I can work half the time for twice the wage freelance), mounting responsibilities that have me doing multiple jobs there and then coming home to do multiple jobs on my own stuff. It may be the pandemic, it may be middle age, but my head had to reach a point where it screamed a Enough! and this has been the past year or so when I realized how incredibly burned out and unhappy I've been. All the while convincing myself that this was not the time to be making crazy, life shifting decisions. But maybe that is exactly the best time to make them. 

But of course, the primary reason to go are that it has always been my intention to strike out on my own.  Ten years ago, I felt like I was almost there just with the shop all alone, but so much overhead made me reluctant.  I was also investing a lot of time in areas that were lucrative, but weren't what I felt I should be doing with the so very limited time I made for it around my real job. I scaled things back and chose instead to focus on building the chap series and my own zine projects, and made other things (originals paper goods, accessories, etc.) just ancillary to the books. It made sense at the time, but it did put a dent in profits, but I was willing to take it if I could invest that time wisely and had something else paying my bills.  Over the years, I bought some things back, but never to the level they were. The chapbook series became a bit more solvent as the author stable grew and people discovered us. and was less likely to operate at a loss.  I took on occasional paid editing and design work for other writers.  I did keep up my writing practice, but art always took a second seat. Everything always felt like it was just happening in the crevices.

I also felt like I was never doing any of it particulary well--disorganized, dropping balls, always behind schedule. I'd buy supplies and they'd sit untouched for months, sometimes years. Because I didn't have that earlier income cushion from the shop,  I also was struggling to pay the rent on the studio space, dipping into personal funds.  This was also untenable, so I left that space in 2019 (serendipitously right before covid shook everything to hell). It was sad, but it also freed up time, both to work on things on weekends and in the late nights, but also that money could be invested in supplies and other projects. (Of course it was countered by crippling covid-related anxiety that made it hard to work on anything, but that eventually eased and in the past year, things have gotten back to normal in terms of layout, releases, and production.)  At the same time, I could see the possibility of making a full go of it (if only) and it was like this charming, far off city on an island.  But I was not, in the middle of pandemic uncertainty, ready to die in the ocean getting there. 

A couple things changed in the last 6 months--even the last two months.  I began to feel a little more smothered and hopeless at the Library as things continued to be too much weight and my enthusiasms that used to buoy me waned.  Remedies for it seemed even further on the horizon if there at all, with pandemic budgets and hiring freezes.  I was trying to hold on to the side of the boat, scared to swim, but I was still drowning somehow.  I started looking for wreckage, a door, a board, anything I could build a raft with.  I didn't want another ship (ie another library job), though nearby ships were aplenty in this land of the Great Resignations, but I did need something that could keep me out of the water should solid land be further out than I thought or the sea more treacherous than it looked.  

I found a good one in the form of some freelance work, maybe even comfy as a rowboat, in  November and its proved to actually be pretty enjoyable, but is not so heavy that I can't control its weight.  Enough to make up the lost library income (that's actually not that much, also part of the problem) and get me somewhere safely.  By leaving, I realized that I could parlay funds from unused vacation hours (months and months b/c  we could never actually take time off) into a nest egg of savings should I need it for emergencies (this was another thing, as single person household I worried about.) . I figured things like health insurance premiums and self-employment taxes and other things that seemed scary. 

All I needed was to let go and start rowing...

(forgive the too many sea analogies, I've been reading about Poseidon and sea monsters all week.)

Monday, January 03, 2022

new years at the overlook

The week of New Years seems like a perfect time to celebrate OVERLOOK, my little series of poems inspired by The Shining, especially since so much of it is very old school glam and snow-locked spooky hotels. And of course, the infamous photo of Jack Torrance mixing with guests at the Overlook.  That particular photo inspired my choice of the cover photo above in its aesthetic. 

I started writing this little series of poems in April 2020, in the very first few weeks of lockdown.  Part of it was that I had recently rewatched the Kubrick over the holiday break for the very first time a little high, which planted a seed of a project in my head.  Those were still anchorless weeks, during which I decided to try to do NAPOWRIMO (stupidly). The vibe seemed right, after all I'd wished for some isolated writing retreat action, and while hardly what I wanted, covid provided the isolation part.  I halfheartedly wrote the first of the pieces,  but  I didn't actually finish the series until later in the summer--when I was already back at work and moving about in the world again. 

Like so much of what I write, it starts out as one thing and quickly becomes something else.  In this case, not just an homage to the film, but also a meditation on the artists role in society, wealth, privilege, labor. A sort of gothicism in Amercan ideals themselves. I was actually really happy with it when I was done, which is not always the case. 

I think especially for me, as I contemplate things like job and income and the role of the artist in society, this little series feels especially important   You can read the entire thing here: