Friday, August 07, 2020

friction | image & text in the summer house


A while back, I was charged with the task of designing a cover for Naomi Washer's very awesome Phantoms for the press, and what evolved was not just one image, but several related in a short series of digital collages. Once I had the images, I felt like they needed a written component to accompany them.  So what started as the act of translating text to image in the form of designing the, then became translating that back into my own writing. While the poems in the series weren't necessarily related to the original writing that inspired the cover, there was a similar feel and texture to them that hinged on the visual manifestations.  The entire project was titled the summer house, which, like the longer manuscript FEED it is a part of, deals with mothering from a variety of perspectives, in this case, the changeling child and the isolation of the motherhood in the summer house, or maybe the isolation of motherhood in general. 

"Who can be a good mother amidst all this hum, the summer house thick with hives. 

The lives you've given up to get there."

What evolved was a tight little bit of a ghost story of the best kind.  While I have on occasion wrote the text portion of things after the images were finished (and vice versa), more often lately they tend to evolve in tandem.  In this case, the images were done and sat for a minute before I began translating things back into text, and therefore, I had some time to think about the story I wanted to tell and how to tell it. It is also kind of short for my usual length on series, mostly since the collages themselves are smaller in number. While I've often had book designs wind up being the impetus for longer series (radio ocularia sprung from the design for Lisa Cole's tinder // heart), and in some cases incorporated (my design for Kathy Goodkin's Sleep Paralysis was incorporated into taurus, the design for MK Brake's The Taxidermist's Girl was pulled into /SLASH/, which was then the model for another variation on my cover of SEX & VIOLENCE.)  And of course, I've oft used my own images in cover designs after the fact I am notorious for using ghost landscapes ate at least 5 of them.)

In some ways, it's simply killing two birds with one stone, but in many ways, one feeds the other, the design and the writing.  Because so much of the imagery in the collages is victorian, the text of course has this feel, though it's actually set in the present. They form bookends of sort in FEED with plump, which is similarly filled with bees and the supernatural, in that case witches (particularly the one that kidnaps Hansel & Gretel), but which are also mentioned more generally in the summer house. As a whole, the longer book is about mothers and the body, but also about the creep of the natural and the supernatural into the kitchen and the cradle, and this plays a big role here with the unruly baby made out of bees. 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

the summer house

check out this little  appropriately very end-of-summerish virtual chapbook of my series of poems and collages....enjoy!

"My mother was made of smoke, every Virginia slim catching her dress on fire while she waved from the dock mouthingI love you. Come back."

Stay tuned for post this week with a little more info on the creation and inspiration behind the series...

Friday, July 31, 2020

notes & things | 7/31/2020

Most days I find myself in this strange limbo of having no idea what the next few months will be like. What the next few weeks, the next few days.  It's hard to plan for programming and other library things when it's a very real possibility that Illinois will hit the red zone again and we'll all be working entirely from home. I making good faith gestures that it will not.  Planning exhibits, thinking about my ILL workflows, buying fall clothes (I found an oatmeal sweater dream dress on Poshmark and put it in my cart so fast I got whiplash, becuase, yes, it's time to start propagating that fall wardrobe. )  I'm ready for fall after the last few hot, muggy days, which seem to have cleared--last night was cool and windy enough to knock my conditioner & shampoo off the window ledge in the shower. If we have been robbed of cookouts and beach going, and really, just going anywhere or doing anything until 2021 at least, fall is pretty homebody-ish for me anyway. I mostly just want to stay in and watch horror movies, though if we're honest, that's pretty much ALL year. The holidays will of course be weird, and I doubt much in the way of larger family gatherings. I also worry about my mental state once seasonal conditions begin the usual plummet. I've been managing, not always totally, but it's easier when it's summer and the days are long.  And yes, I say to myself, everything may be shit, but look how glorious it is outside. Here's hoping it's a long, leisurely fall, and not like last year, where it snowed on Halloween and then just sucked on through March (and then, ya know, corona and all.)

I did perk myself up last weekend by spending my tax return money on bedding (my pillows were sadness and my comforter almost a decade old.) I've only gotten the pillows, and the sheets/pillowcases thus far, but already it's softer and luxurious and I may never leave it again. I also bought a bunch of new underpinnings, becuase it's one area where I tend to just wear things till they're ragged, faded undies and bras that basically have no elasticity anymore in their band. (mostly too becuase, yo, bras--good ones anyway--are hella expensive.)  I also bought some new vintage avocado-green  glasses for the kitchen and bunch of faux green hydrangeas for the dining room worktable..  All of this perked up my mood and was a little retail therapy to the ongoing ridiculousness of the news and the things that come out of politicians mouths. 

I've been puttering away on the tabloid poems, which are a delight. Tomorrow, I'll be working on another video poem--the final one to promote sex & violence. I'm finding they are the kind of immersive, time consuming work that keeps me out of social media and news sites and let's me focus on something else I can check it for a second, then it's back to work. I'm also learning new skills that will come in handy across the board.   Library projects include building another virtual exhibit for the for fall and finishing up my lib guide devoted to Black Protest Art, which is shaping up nicely, and will be joined by another one devoted more generally to art and activism.  Plus dgp releases, and of course, the poet's zodiac, which is nigh, and will be wrapped in the most exquisite glittery black cardstock with hand lettered covers--I can't wait to show you...


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

@ hyperallergic

My workspace was featured over at Hyperallergic as part of their "A View from the Easel During Times of Quarantine,"   I talk a little bit about creating during quarantine (or NOT being able to create for awhile) and you get to see my cats, so win/win!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

fake news

                "He'd say it began with a hum.  Just a tiny tenor, a vibration inside the can.
                 Noon, and the cabinets shook and the forks hummed like the rims
                   of drinking glasses. Who knew a tiny thing could be so loud."

                from "Mini-Mermaid Found in Tuna Sandwich"

A couple months back, when writing things were just beginning to come back, the pins and needles threading through my creative desires, I started plotting a series of poems based on Weekly World News headlines, most from the 70-90's when the publication was at it's trashy best and copies still available in every grocery store checkout line in America.  A facebook friend had posted the one about Titanic babies just sort randomly on her feed and I spent several minutes laughing, which for the past few months, is a rare thing, and then set to work collecting the most interesting and ridiculous headlines for plundering. There were tuna sandwich mermaids and Hilary Clinton alien babies.  Dick Cheney as a robot.  A horse that could talk like a man.  All of it spoke to something of the ridiculousness of today's environment and conspiracy theories, fake news, outright lies.  Daily I have a moment where the headlines are so ridiculous I have to check to make sure it's not The Onion or Reductress, or some other satire site.  Sadly, the headlines seem to be real--what politicians say, how people behave in stores when asked to wear masks or not be assholes. What is held to be acceptable in American culture. Even rewarded. I check in with Snopes at least a couple times a week. And the number of people who readily believe some of this stuff-Covid and 5G, Bill Gates and his desire to microchip our brains. What festers on some "news" sites.  I always wanted to think the internet made us smarter than we were before it, more informed,  but I definitely think the opposite these days.

As for the WWN, of course, no one really thought the headlines were real.  Or at least I never assumed anyone did as I stared wide eyed, hip height, barely reading,  in the checkout aisle while my mom paid for groceries. We didn't buy them, of course, my mom's only periodical purchases (and then only on vacation, vasrious True Story magazines (which can be a whole other blog entry).I read plenty of Glamour and Cosmo, passed off from my aunt who was a big subscriber to things. As a teen, I subscribed to Teen, Seventeen, and later Sassy.Tabloids, however, were always sort of a read-in-passing thing.  I learned early that you had your more respectable National Enquirer sort of content--largely about celebrities and things that were slightly strange, but close enough to reality to be believed.  Then you had WWN, which blew the top off sanity and seemed to revel in it's own ridiculousness.  I suppose the big difference now is that people knew better than to get their news in a supermarket check out line. Now, fake news sites and content flourish on the web and social media.

I had a moment in early June, during the BLM tipping point and mass protests, where a distant relative of my mother's was posting fake Craig's List ads that said Antifa busses were headed for Nebraska and offering to pay them to make a ruckus.  All fake.  But the people in the comments field of her post were wild with crazy, so much I had to unfriend her for even posting such nonsense. I later unfriended another family member (white, male, middle aged) for posting racist comments in the fields of other legit stories on racial violence that kept popping up in my field.  These people. fed on a diet of Fox News and QAnon, have grown fat with the certainty that someone is always out to get us, fool us, makes us wear masks in Home Depot and limit our ability to eat at Applebees.  It's exhausting. Tabloids, at least in the 80's, were pretty obviously tabloids, and no one believed the bat boy was real. Or that babies floated inside the Titanic. But if you're willing to believe that Bill Gates wants to put a microchip in your head, you probably are lost anyway. 

A couple of semesters in the Library, we've delved into things like hoaxes and mass hysterias and I always think of how these topics drew smaller crowds than others and were harder to find their fans, even while we swim in this stuff every day--more than horror movies, true crime, and tattoo culture, which were drawing more interest.  Some of my favorite projects deal directly or indirectly with things like urban legends (archer avenue) and violent things that happen because our collective beliefs (necessary violence).  In my research for {licorice, laudanum},  I was so disappointed to learn that much of serial killer's HH Holmes' reputation was fanned by turn of the century tabloids and not at all based in fact (in the end, he seemed more of an opportunistic grifter who occasionally murdered people to hide his crimes, not so much the evil mastermind behind a murder/torture hotel. ) So I suppose it is natural these Weekly Workd News headlines would provide fodder for poem-making. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

how to write a love poem in a time of war | a video poem

I've decided to make an entire suite of five video poems to promote SEX & VIOLENCE, so here I give you #3 (4 is in the works as we speak.)  This one I had a little more recording success by doing it sans meowing cats and fan noise in the bathroom with it's decent acoustics. I have some access to some better mic technology I just have to find after the studio move chaos, but this one was recorded just using my phone again.  Since I am not much for zoom readings (or zooming in general), these are a nice half-way point for readings in the age of social distancing.  When these are done, maybe I'll do more for other series and book projects in the future as I hone my skills.  Keep an eye on the youtube page a bit later for new installments...

This one used a bit more of the museum public domain insect film I created the first one from.  The text placard from the original in the middle was entirely left in accidently during my trimming, but it somehow seemed incredibly apropo. so I left it in. This is one of my favorite fragments of the love poem series, so enjoy!