Saturday, February 23, 2019

logo agogo

Because I'm crazy and like to get wild on Friday nights, I spent some time last night working on a new banner for the top of the shop, mostly because I'm pretty sure I hadn't changed it since I moved to shopify back in 2014. It's always hard to find the right balance of visuals that don't clash or compete too much with the covers. artwork, and product photos.  A few years back I made a simple circle logo that was a nice pale blue that I used on the webpage, as our fb thumbnail, etc, but always like the books to be a little cleaner on the back, so usually just use "dancing girl press & studio" written out.  Our unnofficial logo, and what I use for signs and such, has been my little jackalope that ate the fox image, still one of my favorites and one our best selling prints.  It seems perfect somehow--pretty, but a little feral.  Nothing to do with dancing, but still similar in concept.

In the early years, I fussed over logo and web design options endlessly.  The initial name for the press was inspired by a french can-can dancer poster in my apartment and somewhere there is a logo featuring a cutout of her that I never really liked.  I chose it mostly because I liked the idea of the dancing girl, as both observed and observer.  As sexual and sexualized.  As actor and acted upon. There was another design years later  with line drawings of ballet dancers.  There were doll diagrams on the page according to my file directory, and I remember I used to overhaul the whole look every few months back when everything was contained to the main site.  Over the years, it splintered off onto other platforms and the main page was just a landing spot that boasted whatever directory buttons I was using at the time.

They always talk about cohesiveness in branding, and while I've never been one for strict unifying images, all the visuals usually meld together nicely.  Even my own website has changed a lot over the years.  I don't like to limit myself to one design concept since things don't always work perfectly across the board--online vs. print.  Last year, I made the best little business cards using one of my ordinary planet pieces (the octo woman mermaid) to promote   I've designed many other logos for other things--I'm particularly proud of the periodic table inspired AofR logo and my design for The Chicago Cryptozoological Society,

Last night, after I had cleaned up the design of the shop page, still retaining the jackalope that we've come to be known for (and in nod to my quiet and agreeable co-editor), I decided to see if I could wrangle a new logo and it turned out rather nicely.  I even wound up using it on the landing page of the main site since I liked the simplicity of it.  It's small and unobtrusive enough that I might even be able to use it on books occasionally--and could make it varying colors to match covers.

Friday, February 22, 2019

style obsessions | mary janes

I always say my footwear choices have not changed much since I was five.   Sure, I varied for a bit, Elementary school was a  lot of velcroed sneakers with pastel accents. Junior high was all about pointy flats stolen from my mother worn with stirrup leggings and big flowy sweaters. I wore knock-off Keds religiously through the entirely of high school with my french cuffed jeans.  In college, I tended toward oxfords and doc-martinish boots in cold weather, flip flops in summer. Then there were those strange ubiquitous Steve Madden sliders in the late 90's early aughts.   As an adult for awhile, I tended toward rounder toed ballet flats, which I still have a lot of and wear mostly in the summer when I'm not wearing sandals. I have a pair of black oxfords, a pair of chunkier Mudd penny loafers I love, but I am mostly all about the Mary Janes.

Slowly though, I've amassed a considerably impressive collection of them, which unlike the flats, are much better on my feet when I have to do more walking.  I have a bunch in blacks and various browns, and more in colors--oxblood, navy, a nice olive green. Dansko makes some super cute platformy ones, other great suppliers are Clarkes and Born.  A few years back, I amassed several pairs of Born kitten heel T-straps that I adored, but kept turning my ankles in and had to ditch them after a couple of falls.   As such, I have to watch my heel heights (sadly no sexy vintagey MJs's for me) but I've found some good ones with platform even soles and another favorite, the ballet flat/mary jane hybrid.

I've spotted numerous childhood pics of me in t-straps or one strap mary janes and those toddler shoes are not much different than the ones I wear now.  And also, unlike some of my cuter, but heavier soled ballet flats, the strapping keeps them from slipping off (I have one foot slightly smaller than the other.) I also say, these shoes satisfy my need for comfort while also appealing to my 90's chunky shod self and my love of  30's/40's accessories.

Head over to Pinterest for peek at some of my favorites..

Thursday, February 21, 2019

telling tales

I've spoken before about the one truly useful moment in a workshop, where we went around and discussed motivations for our work--what we intended to do--what we wanted a reader to get from our work--and all very different.  Some wanted pure expression of self  and sense making, others to conjure the perfect image in the mind of the reader.  Others to convey abstract thoughts in concrete form. And poetry of course, does all of these things, can do all of them at the same time I suppose.  Or it can also do none of them.   When it got to me, I mumbled something about telling a story and people seemed surprised. No one in the group of ten or so shared that goal or paid it much mind. (it actually gave me some context to why I was having difficulty in that particular workshop.)

But yes, I am a narrative poet at my very heart, though I stumble occasionally into more lyrical I-based things.  Oh it's all fragmented, both kinds, but most of my projects set out to tell a story.  Or maybe that's not right, maybe more that story comes from the framework of the poems, since I rarely definitely know which story I am going to tell (or even whose voice (or voices) I am going to tell it in. But the fun of writing is oft in the hanging of the wash on the line and seeing what you've got. Perhaps it's my start as a fiction writer, but I always look for story and narrative threads in whatever genre I am immersed in, even in non-fiction.

When I was a kid,a teenager, and yes, even occasionally into adulthood, I spent a lot of time plotting out the plotlines for novels, usually horror, usually involving Bronte-like plots of spooky old family homes and women with terrible secrets.  There was usually a  history of hauntings, at least one ghost, and varying degrees of madness and murder.  It was probably the same basic story--orphans, changelings, absent fathers, I just changed up the names.  I rarely wrote anything like a novel, having decided I much better liked the creating the characters and plots and not much in the actual work of getting it down right on paper (and why I'm a poet not meant for long hauls.)  But I would have notes that I would eventually toss, only to re-imagine the story, or a slight variation of, again in a few months. This is probably why I love plotting out those semesterly murder mysteries so much.

In poems, and the sort of fragmentation I work with in writing, sometimes I start out and have no clue where I'm going.  Last year, I completed the chap-length sequence taurus, built only around the idea of the minotaur re-imagined as a teenage boy.  It's a story more told by the Ariadne and Pasiphae figures, but it varies. I only knew I was going in a general direction, but what happened developed the more I wrote.

When I was working on my first book, the fever almanac, the poems were a mix of things--of fictions and truths,  so it was challenging, especially putting together a first collection to make these things work seamlessly.  Subsequent books were very much rooted in stories and less in the personal until 2015 when major characters in minor characters was released.   This volume, and salvage, told some stories that were mine, some that were independent of me, but the sections kept them more nicely organized than in previous collections. So you had things like ghost landscapes, which is a little bit of fiction amidst things like the shipwrecks of lake michigan poems and radio ocularia, more rooted in the personal.

But then, some would argue there is very thin line between truth in action and truth in substance. My upcoming Black Lawrence book, sex & violence, operates in a similar way.  There are the relationship poems, but there are also pieces about slasher movies and Sylvia Plath.  It's probably more that I am always telling a story, just that it's more or less autobiographical to varying degrees.

I was thinking about this particularly since I am putting the finishing touches on the next zine project, ordinary planet, which is a strange little tale spun off the idea of faux fortune telling women, which is where it started, but soon wandered off into the territory of strange dystopian communities. A flooded world and how women were forced into roles (I probably have Atwood heavy on the brain.)  The fortune tellers had their own story and somehow the poems drew it out in my head, gave it a framework.  It's a contrast to the last project that contained written elements, the science of impossible object, which while yes, there is a story to it , it was more lyrical in intent.  I am especially considering these things as I work on my Hollywood starlet series and what will become my HH Holmes poems.

What is their stories, what is mine, and where do they connect and get the good sort of friction going?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

gatekeepers and the myth of the "best"

I always sort of semi-roll my eyes when I hear the term "gatekeepers" when it comes to the literary world.  I've said it's because once you are officially (or even unofficially) serving as one, you realize how subjective it all really is--the choosing of one piece of work over another. When I was first submitting work in my 20's and early 30's I thought for sure, getting acceptances from journal X or journal Y meant that that particular work was better or worse depending on the exclusivity of the journal (ie the rejection rates).  What was crazy was that what I thought was my best work, would STILL maintain was my best work, was more often rejected than things I was a little more lukewarm on. meanwhile, pieces that were sound, but that I was not all that particularly excited about, met with reasonable success.

Regardless, it's hard to tell what someone will like. You can read the journals and see what the editor's tend to favor, but even that's not always guarantee that what you're sending will pique an interest (or gain a consensus when it comes to multiple editors.)  thank god I run my own operation since sometimes I see something and love it and would have a hard time explaining to another editor why. I just do--for whatever mercurial chemistry of voice, tone, and subject matter that knocks me for a loop.  And of course, it sounds like mallarky, to say "I don't know, but I know it when I see it..." and it is much the same with the visual art that I find appealing, but again, might not be able to tell you why. Admittedly, I do take it as a badge of honor when an author admits they've been sending something around and I'm the first yes after a long time of no.

I've always experienced the role as a editor as more of a curator than any sort of gatekeeper. Or hell ,a bit divergent perhaps even from the traditional role of editors in the historic sense.   I very rarely dig my hands into the manuscripts in much beyond a copy-editing.  I might make some suggestions, but usually these are based on formatting and layout concerns.  And I tend to say no to things that might need a lot of editorial work, even if promising for other reasons.  There is already too much finshed, completely polished work that needs a berth.  I've had editors of my own work  that were more or less hands on/hands off and find both appealing for different reasons in terms of line edits or ordering considerations.  Both are useful depending on what you need and have their benefits.  Some writers feel more comfortable with an editor who can be kind of a final reader with suggestions on ordering and cutting poems.   Some authors are sending things they consider finished and don't need anything more from me than to get to laying it out.

So really in the end, as a curator, you take what you like, what speaks to you, what seems important to you.  The sort of work you want to define as your press aesthetic. And it does seem, over time, people know what to send my way.  I used to get into really heated arguments with men about the logistics of running a feminist press, how certainly I was losing out on possibly publishing the "best" work out there by only accepting submissions from 50 percent of the population. But really, I am always highly suspicious of those presses and journals who keep throwing around that word "best." According to who?  According to what?  My thought immediately goes to the upper middle class, white, male standards that have only now began to crumble.

Granted we can usually agree on things that are bad (limericky rhymes and cliched overdoneness usually don't fare well), but there is a huge lack of consensus in the various corners of the poetry world as to what exactly is good depending on your personal aesthetics inclinations.  And truly, if Rupi Kaur is selling millions of copies, obviously there is an audience for all sorts of an editor, you just need to go with your gut.

So maybe it's all we ever do, as so called "gatekeepers"  (and there is another entry for another day about  founding and starting presses and how important such things are in abolishing gates of any kind.)  And really, so much of what the rest of the world deems "best" falls rather flat on me (stuff like Wes Anderson movies, red wine, jazz) So really, it's not surprising that my literary tastes run slightly askew..

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

dgp cover love | inky goodness

My original cover designs  from the last few weeks have definitely erred more toward conventional collage, but these are a few of the more graphic ones I've been designing since the first of the year, all in my very favorite colors (and be on the lookout, there is so much more pink coming down the pipeline.  The expanses of inky black have been appealing to me quite a bit the past few months and I love how dramatic they are when combined with pastels. (and probably why I love my hunger palace series so much).  

the summer house

What started out as a cover design for an upcoming dancing girl  chap (Nomi Washer's PHANTOMS) wound up inspiring a bunch of spin-off far there are five, and who knows, maybe more, but it was nice to be able to play around a bit (this is the first visual stuff, outside of a couple covers, I've done since the analog collages at the beginning of the year and I was feeling a little unproductive visually of late.) 

you can seem more of them here...

Monday, February 18, 2019

ordinary planet

The next installment in the books & objects series is very , very close to being a real, papery thing (after a couple more rounds of proofing.)  It's my strange little steampunky dystopia group of poems I finished during NAPOWRIMO last spring..  Here is a sneak peek at the cover...

Subscribe here for all sorts of loveliness...

for a taste of the text pieces, check out recent issues of  Grimoire and Rust & Moth...

armchair travel

I have mentioned before that I am not a good traveler.  Part of it is that I am not really able to take huge amounts of time away from either the library or the studio--either vacation time considerations or work backlogging more than it already does. It also makes me anxious--particularly traveling where the bulk of financing and organization falls on me (which unless I was traveling with my parents, which I used to do fairly often--trips to Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, shorts jaunts to Wisconsin.) But,  mostly even then, I miss my cats and my apartment after a couple days and being away makes me feel panicky and out of control. And I can never really afford it, no matter how much I plan ahead, money becomes an issue. Various crises wind up in canceled plans and trips.  I also don't fly due to terrible plane crash dreams and anxiety around the endeavor, so while I adore road trips and train rides, my options are kinda limited to the continental US regardless.

I am a big fan of my own sort of armchair traveling via books and film and scoping out places I am curious about on things like Google maps from the comfort of my apartment.  Granted, not really the same, but I'm okay with that.  I occasionally do weird things like take tiny faux vacations to Paris--roam around Montmartre via google maps, watch French movies, read travel blogs, and eat too many eclairs.  One night I ate amazing tacos and roamed around Tijuana and SoCal (one place I actually would like to visit IRL).  So much us at your fingertips and doesn't cost a cent, but there are things that don't translates, the noise of a place, the scent of a place.  The intangibles.

There is also a charm to the state of being in transit, on the way to or from something.  When I took the train out to Seattle a few years back for AWP, I have fond memories of rolling through the darkness of Montana, completely alone and wide awake in the middle of the night, listening to Elton John.  On the way back, when we were stuck for awhile due to an avalanche ahead and delayed by almost a day, I spent a considerable portion hiding from a creepy seat mate in the lounge car and writing.  There I  witnessed one of the most awkward drunk girl scenarios, a college student who kept trying to kiss the older guy in a suit as he tried to politely keep her from falling over on her way back to her seat. Then she sat down across from me, noticed I was staring perplexed at my laptop,  and started talking about how she could help me with whatever I was writing because she was good at it. 

But no matter how much I enjoy the transit, nothing matches the relief of coming home. (especially after getting stuck on train for three days.)  In my head, I idealize  the fun of a road trip to the west coast, staying in weird vintage hotels.  And I love New Orleans, would move there in a heartbeat if I was less afraid of hurricanes and big bugs, and settle for occasional trips. Also the Carolina coasts, which I've loved since my first semester of college and have only been back to Myrtle Beach once.  And here's where I wish time travel was a thing, because I would love to see Las Vegas in it's glittery, seedier mobster days.  But I always like coming back just a little more... 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

on smallness

A week or so back, I got to thinking about this article and the joys of limited adventures.  When I started the press, I could have went one of two ways--limited or open editions, and having felt the frustrations of being unable to obtain things once they ran out, I went with the latter.  Still, there is a certain charm to smallness, to tiny editions, which is why I love issuing much of my work in editions under 100-whether visual or written. 

Poetry sometimes, itself, seems so small in appeal--compared to other art forms--music, movies, pretty much anything else at all. So to be even tinier in that tiny sea seems appropriate.  I think of legacies, what we leave in the world, and knowing that most poets vanish inevitably into the obscurity. Most poets live in obscurity.  For all the submitting and scrambling, the hustle and po-biz, most of us, even if we have a brief glimmer of notoriety while alive, will be forgotten.  We may live forever through our work, but it's afloat in a much bigger sea.

So really small endeavors seem inevitable and right.  Even larger things are small drops in the water--unless you are a best-selling novelist, most trade paperbacks are really only moving into a limited number of hands. Unless you are maybe, like an instagram poets with weirdly large appeal, you're world is already a very limited one.  We know this, and yet as artists there is always the struggle reach for more--more publications, more accolades, more audience.  All well and good, but sometimes pursuits for those seems hollow sometimes, like a game that is rigged but we like to play regardless. 

So how to go about creating the creative life, knowing the stakes are so very small?  Knowing that even while we are alive, there will be more work and attention given to the things we create than will ever be given it after it releases out into the world?  I guess then all we are left with is not quite legacy, but practice, the wonder that we created anything at all.