Friday, June 30, 2006

striving to be the VC Andrews of poetry

....trashiness, drama, incestuous plotlines...

not to mention writing long after you are dead.

I've been thinking about the chapbooks, beginning with errata, extending through feign, and into the phobia series (turning out to be an abecedarian except where the classical alphabets have left me in the cold).. My first instinct was that, together, these would make a damned fine longer book, since the threads all complimented each other. In fact, in the spring, I was working to tie the first two chaps together somehow, along with some other random science-themed poems into a manuscript called instabilities. But now I'm wondering if in fact the pieces aren't stronger in their individual incarnations as chapbooks. feign was initially supposed to be a longer project anyway, but it works neatly as a slimmer volume, tighter. Like a lot of folks, I don't think a book should just be a bunch of chapbooks slapped together, so I'm thinking I may just leave be and consider those three books separate but together, a trilogy of sorts (thus VC Andrews). Of course, it could go on infinitely. There's alot to explore regarding women and language, women and knowledge, madness and corruption. The things which tie these three books together. And then I started thinking about the possibilities of trilogies (or even larger series)in poetry, book or chapbook form. things that don't really come together as a unified book, but as a project composed of separate books. Pretty cool. The only author I can think of offhand is Kevin Young, but there must be more surely. Any recommendations?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

vacation time

Without it, surely the mortality rate would be much higher in the workplace. Particularly MY workplace. Tomorrow, I'm off to the parents' house for the next week or so. It's good to be getting out of the city as the tourists are flooding in for The Taste, which makes the whole lakefront downtown smell like garbage and barbecue for a couple weeks. The traffic and sidewalks are a mess. Hopefully, will buckle down with some new poems after the weekend. I tend to work well when I'm away from work and home with all its distractions.

I have to admit, I'm a wee bit jealous reading Rebecca and Amanda's blogs (also Kelly and Jeannine previously) with all the MFA residency talk... Hard work, no doubt, but they all remind me of a really awesome summer camp with writing, workshops, and readings. Getting away from ordinary life if only for a week or two... I wanna go, dammit! Certainly MFA study that feels occasionally like summer camp sometimes is better than a program that always college.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

from a series of pieces called collection. I've been working with a lot of greens (always) and blues and botanical illustration stuff, scientific diagrams, periodic tables, old card catalog cards. There are probably about ten pieces in the series total, a couple of which I'm still playing around with. Each one is smaller in format than I usually work in, about five inches across or so.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Lots of stuff on the burner this week--phobia poems, sideshow poems. Getting ready for going out of town for the Fourth, where I have some picnic, fireworks, and strawberry marguerita action planned. I am happy to say I am now the owner of some caramely chunky highlights in my hair, which actually look half way decent. I seriously considered bright red ones, but I just can't quite carry it off. We'll see how they fare in the long run.

Have gotten a couple of luscious little books the past couple of days, including a poetry/art collab from Jennifer Hill-Kaucher and the first Cake Train chapbook. Plus an acceptance from Slipstream after what seemed like a dry-spell. The weather is unusually cool and beautifully clear, incredibly deceptive for the end of June. Yesterday, I ordered some more paper for books--darker periwinkle cover stock and sparkly shimmery vellum for Failed Star.. , and regular vellum for the end pages for Vestigial Portions, for which I will be doing the covers by the end of the week.

Monday, June 26, 2006


fear of writing in public

Saturday, June 24, 2006

you probably think this song is about you

There' some excellent discussion going on over at looktouchblog about vanity and chapbooks. Jessica makes great points about nepotism and genre particularly. These sorts of concerns are not quite as divisive in music or filmmaking, and it may be, like someone said in the comments section, that whole "everyone can be a poet" thing. How, we ask, can serious work differentiate itself from the rabble without someone serving as gatekeeper? I generally think good work makes its own legitimacy. And half the battle is just getting it out there to readers. And while certainly name brand value of certain presses hold an advantage, that doesn't necessarily make them any more legitimate, just more recognizable, easier to market. And it IS so much about who you know and who you blow in a lot of cases---as much as it is in any art field I suppose. The flip side of "nepotism" is "community"--depending on how you look at it. It is a bit hypocritical to think the author published by his/her best friend is more "legitimate" than the author who self-publishes. If it's crap, it's crap no matter who publishes it. If it's good, it's good. Get over it already.

But, admittedly, these are things I've struggled over in the past. I had no problem with publishing my own chapbooks initially, but I was also somehow made more comfortable by the fact that my first chap, The Archaeologist's Daughter, had been published by someone else. While I was very grateful they even published it, it took them like three years to get it out. Not exactly ideal conditions in hindsight. Bloody Mary and belladonna were both immediate and served the purpose of getting the work out there and having something to distribute at readings. But I was still hoping to find a publisher for my full-length manuscript. The question of self-publication came up again and again. I also wondered if I really needed a book book, the chaps being completely sufficient for my needs. While the fever almanac is certainly more definitive, revised, and comprehensive bunch of poems, including about half of which were newer and not in the chaps. I also wanted a nice glossy hefty book of my work, which I actually could have done POD if I had the nerve. Problem was, I didn't. Those little whispers of "legitimacy" and "vanity publishing" were still in my head. I worried about distribution, about being taken seriously, about whether self-publishing would somehow impose some sort of judgement on me as a poet, that I was somehow inferior. That I was just kidding myself. All stupid, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.

I was very relieved when Ghost Road accepted it and I didn't have to make a tough decision. And I'm sure the fever almanac will get much better distribution and be a better, prettier book design-wise because of it. Otherwise, though, it's pretty much the same book as I would have self-published if I had the guts. It would be no more nor less legitimate. Same poems, same order, maybe less typos in the hands of the professionals. But otherwise pretty much the same book.

Somehow I now feel freer in the last six months or so not to worry about what's "legitimate" or not. But then I also feel like I've cleared that first ridiculous hurdle which shouldn't be a hurdle at all. So maybe I'm totally a hippocrite. Or maybe I just don't know, how to work within the po-biz system and how to subvert it. How to make it so it's not a hurdle. How to say how my self-published stuff is just as good as that published elsewhere. And so is other people's---be they books or chapbooks. How to take away some of the power of the bottleneck, of the gatekeepers (and I'm speaking as one of them somewhat, as both and editor and publisher), to give it back to the poets. And it sucks majorly that other aspects of po-biz, the university/grant/awards side, doesn't see it this way, so some people HAVE to buy into it out of financial necessity when they otherwise wouldn't. And definitely things are changing outside of that for the good--ease of distributing through the web, presses using POD, independence from traditional distribution channels and brick & mortar bookstores. It's hard to straddle all these things at once. To question the whole "legitimacy" as bullshit thing and still want to be taken seriously. To have your cake and eat it, too. gives me a headache.

Regardless, I'm still wondering how to go with future projects. Releasing archer avenue myself was a no-brainer, it's just a little series, but I struggled over feign, whether to go a contest route or not. One of the reasons I'm happy to have placed it with New Michigan is their readership is much wider than dgp's. So many more readers have a better chance of encountering it. And again, there's the name value thing, people trust NMP to publish good work. And it's a bigger project which was originally intended to be book-length until I chopped alot of filler out of it. But like last year with errata, if they hadn't taken it, I'd probably have published it myself at some point. The next book? the next chap? who knows.

As for the chapbook discussion, I've found them to fulfill a number of roles, all of which are touched on. The Archaeologist's Daughter was just all my publishable work up to that point in 2002 (luckily it all fit together somewhat coherently). Bloody Mary and belladonna were linked selections of the longer manuscript that became the fever almanac, mostly put together in that business-card like function being talked about, a sampling. errata, on the other hand, was it's own little self-contained series from the beginning. As was archer avenue, and the unfinished Cornell project. &#160 feign felt more like a book from the beginning, not a distinct series like the other, but individual different poems linked by a greater thematic arc. So I guess chapbooks can really be just about anything, the only defining characteristic being their length. girl show has yet to be determined, whether it will fall on the longer or shorter side (though it has to at some point exist as my thesis at 48 pages.) But as a published work, it could go either way at this point. The same with dulcet, the novel-in-verse-like project still in it's infancy.

Regardless of length, I've come to the realization that my work represents itself better in books, chapbooks, and series, how one poem plays off the other. I've often wished I was one of those poets who could just knock your socks off with a single poem, but my work functions in more a cummulative effect. I even work this way with visual art most of the time, everything part of a series moreso than a distinct piece. I think I have to try getting at things from many approaches and directions, rather than in one-shot.


I've been having monstrous spam atacks in all my lycos e-mail accounts the last few weeks, especially my personal account. And since I'm not interested in psychiatric drugs or increasing my penis size, I'm tired of deleting all of it. Henceforth, I'm now switching to Yahoo for everything. I've been using it for dgp for awhile, but here are the new addresses for the others:

to contact me: wickedpen74 (at)
to contact Wicked Alice: wickedalicepoetry (at)

No worries if you've already sent anything to the old, I'm still checking it periodically.

I've also figured out how to us the shopping cart feature from Paypal at the dancing girl site since there'd been some requests for it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

things to do for money whilst poeting

1. Open a poetry-focused used bookstore in my neighborhood with a performance/reading space/coffee shop and a letterpress studio.

2. buy the Sunset Drive-In Rockford and re-open it showing double features of old horror and monster movies

3. go to library school

4. teach

5. find a sugar daddy

(sadly, none of them seems very lucrative except the last one.)
While our computer system in the library is, in fact, up and running, the HVAC is being replaced on the first floor, which means stale motionless air combined with June heat and mugginess. One has to wonder why they couldn't do this back in the spring, or even the winter. We're the only floor of the library, tucked at the back of the building with the bookstore in front of us, that has no windows, so we're practically tomb-like. Yesterday, we made do with fans and the fact that walking off the elevator was like walking into a wall of heat that smelled faintly like wet dog. Today I arrived to find a machine that looks like something from The Manhattan Project--big, hulking, grey metal, about the size of a deep freezer--sitting next to my desk. It says "portable air conditioning system," though I wonder how something that size could be portable. But luckily it works.

In the mail yesterday--Maureen Thorson's Spectacle of Meat and the latest Big Game offering, Michael Koshkin's Parade e Rain. I love Maureen's work , and the chaps are always so darn pretty. Also, after a delivery gaffe which brought me a cash register and not a color printer like I ordered, I finally got the damned thing. Thus, all future dgp offerings will be printed in house (er, in my house.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The poems on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily have been sortof lackluster and vanilla the last few days. Happily today's offering at VD pretty much rocks...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

cool 1920's CTA posters

I'm having one of those weeks thus far where I get a start on a project or task and something waylays it--technological malfunction, printer issues, my own laziness. So I have a bunch of stuff midstream, which makes me feel disorganized and crazy. Poems twisting out there on the line, half-assed layouts, an idea for a new web/blog project concieved, began, then abandoned in the course of four hours. I am about to attempt doing laundry, that is, is I don't break the washer or get stuck in the elevator, neither of which would be terribly unexpected or surprising in any way.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

gone dark

Joseph Cornell
Bebe Marie

The damned halogen bulb in my desk lamp behind me has burned out, so I'm writing by the light filtering from the spotlight lamp across the room. Thus, I can barely see the keyboard as I type. It occurs to me I could move the laptop accross the room, but I probably won't. Seems to be a metaphor for alot of things lately. I could, but I won't. Awful weekend in general, sum total of a number of things, though my parents did stop in for an impromptu Father's day visit, which was a good distraction for awhile.

This week will hopefully be low in the work stress department. Our circ system is down for another two weeks for upgrades, which mean less work and more work at the same time--I don't have as many daily tasks to take care of, but explaining to people again and again why they can't renew, pay fines, see what they have checked out, etc. is a little wearing on me. The absense of technology usually at my fingertips freaks me out.

I'm about to start putting up the summer Chicago wicked alice, which looks to be a great issue. I hope to do some reviews of books by local poets if I get my ass in gear--at least three. I'd like to make it a regular thing as well in future issues, but if it depends on my writing them, that may not happen. It takes me eons to get to reading the stuff I buy and order online it seems, the stack is about a foot high right now. To expect a a review might be pushing it. I've been working on a re-design for the site--simple, cleaner, classier. More in line with what I've done with dancing girl, where I've try to allow the cover art to be the visual focus.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Slept very late today--had dreams about race horses bursting into flame and old hotels and horror movie type beheadings. I am, however, making good use of the new AC. The thermomenter says it's 92 degrees outside, but in here it's a cool 75. No more swelling doors and nights too hot to sleep. I hate having the windows closed, but the past five years of sweltering summers finally broke me down. I get a nice lake breeze, but even that's hot toward August. It's a pricey portable model, but also a dehimifier and heater, which will make winter and my skinflint super who never runs the heat enough, infinitely more bearable.

The last few weeks have brought some very cool things in the mail:

1. an issue of Hot Whiskey--gorgeously designed, as always. Their chapbooks make me salivate.

2. the after hours issue in which I'm featured poet, with six pieces, some older, some newer.

3. FOURSQUARE: this is way cool in it's pretty little cherry fabric envelope, haven't quite ever seen anything like it. Good stuff inside as well..

4. a copy of Crab Orchard Review--slick, thick and pretty.

5. two issues of The Tiny, which I ordered for the entirely shallow reason of their lovely collage cover art on issue 2, but found lots of goodies therein..

6. Issue of Miller's Pond, which has gone all glossy and perfectbound since the last issue I've seen.

7.Jen Tynes' The End of Rude Handles. Haven't been able to get to reading this yet, but I loved her Horseless chap and should like this.

Friday, June 16, 2006

27 rue de fleures

And since we're talking electronic journals that have number in their titles, this one looks to be promising. And has Columbia folks all over in it...

the word from sundress

The editors at 21 Stars Review are looking for new and established writers of poetry and prose, with a focus on new writers.

We strive to publish work of the highest quality. We have a strong leaning toward work that uses constraints, innovative meter and form, or carefully executed collage/cut-up techniques. Prose with amazing sentences will be preferred over prose with unamazing sentences. Plotless or intricately-plotted very short fiction (ideally under 1000 words) is also something we enjoy.

If you have a particular affinity for or interest in John Ashbery, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Emily Dickinson, Annie Finch, Barbara Guest, Amy Hempel, Paul Hoover, Harry Mathews, Flann O'Brien, Frank O'Hara, Georges Perec, Gilbert Sorrentino, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Arthur Sze, or Diane Williams, we would especially like to read your work.
Poetry submissions: poetry21stars at gmail dot com
Prose submissions: prose21stars at gmail dot com

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

attack of the nimbys,1,15827.column?coll=chi-news-hed

I saw a clip of WGN coverage of this last week and could not believe the bougie frat boy types worrying that their wives & kids might see something naughty from the street. Despite the fact they've been assured nothing would be visible from outside, they worry about the "element" the store will bring to the neighborhood. (Mostly women and married couples statistically.) We know how traumatizing it might be for Bunny and the kids to see women lining up on the sidewalk for "the art of feminine dominance" whilst on route to the Baby Gap in the SUV..

What's worse is the protesters were my roughly my age. Since when did THIS generation become THOSE kind of people? They talk about "property values" and "neighborhood safety," but it's really that stick up their ass, (and the fact they probably aren't getting any.) I suggest the the protesters all move back to Winnetka or Wheaton, or one of those other burbs that start with W's. Places where it's all about good values and family and getting your porn and your whips on the web like everyone else.
New poems in the summer issue of Tryst.

I am nearly finished with the lay-out for the next book, Robyn Art's Vestigial Portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which should be released around the end of this month, ideally before I head out of town for the 4th. Meanwhile, you can see some of her work here and here. I've been weeding through the first batch of manuscripts for next year and already taken three (see forthcoming on the left) Two from open submissions, one from a Chicago poet and still lots more to read. I'd ideally like to wait until I have everything in front of me in the fall, but, believe me, I know how frustrating it is to wait that long as a submitter, and already we've had three poets withdraw their mss because they were taken elsewhere before I even looked at them. So I'm batching them in rounds. Get those submissions in folks--the earlier the better in this case.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

13 year itch

The other day, it occured to me I’ve been at this writing business a long time, at least in terms of how long I've even been alive. Even before it was a business, it was an obsession of sorts. When I was four or five, after my sister was born but before I started kindergarten, my aunt gave me a tote bag filled with multi-colored pens and notebooks, and I would spend hours “writing” drawing squiggly lines that resembled cursive as I understood it. I think I knew the alphabet by then, my dad having taught me by bribing me with candy to get it right. There was point on the first day of kindergarten where something clicked and I realized the alphabet above the chalkboard corresponded with the song I’d learned by heart for a pack of Rollos. By sixth grade, having read a million of them, I wanted to be a horror novelist, the next Stephen King. I must have started and abandoned dozens during the course of junior high and high school. I think my first poem was a classroom assignment for freshmen English, something about flamingos that impressed the teacher and my friends who couldn’t rhyme to save their lives. There were more, since this seemed to be something I was reasonably good at by high school standards. Kittens, beaches, adolescent crushes, poems penned in my blue lock diary. There were more, later, some of which I still have copies of. All awful as one would expect.

It wasn’t until around 1993, after I came back from North Carolina that I decided to make a go at some sort of literary career of sorts, though my idea of what that entailed was a little foggy, based on poor dead Sylvia’s journals and letters and what I knew about the Beats.. At 19, I carried around copies of Writers Digest from the library, and submitted to the places in the back, legit places that rejected me, vanity places that seemed to like my work until I wouldn’t buy the anthology. I think it would have been different had I any sort of clue about the poetry world beyond the backs of those magazines. I was studying literature at this point, but it was not really anything I could connect to what I was writing. And there was really no one to guide me along. I look at the Columbia undergrad poetry students and they seem far more sophisticated about poetry and po-biz than the poets I went to school with. Mind you this is all pre-internet. People were a lot more clueless about anything beyond their immediate experience. It might also be the fact that poets in general were in short supply in Rockford, let alone Rockford College, where we had one official poet, and a couple other lit faculty who occasionally indulged. Since there was a pretty clear division between lit students and writing students, I only managed to squeeze in one workshop with her, and saint that she was, she was equally supportive of all our bad poetry.

Over the course of the next summer, I wrote more and got a little better. My submissions to places like The Rockford Review and Byline, the few places I’d learned of along the way, still fell flat, but at least I as no longer trying to rhyme. At some point I finally heard of Poets and Writers, which helped me out a little in terms of where to submit. Still lots of writing, lots of rejection (outside of the college lit mag). I did manage honorable mention my last year in RC’s Academy of American Poets Prize, a little validation, maybe all I needed to keep going with it--past graduation, the beginning of grad school. There was a bad unstable period that lasted for almost a year where I wrote nothing when I was 23, but on the other side of that the poems started coming, and since I’d started actually reading poetry outside of English lit classes (Gluck, Dove, Boland, Strand), it was better, even almost competent. I think I finally started to figure the whole voice thing out (for the time being anyway). Finally got my first real acceptance, then another. Put together a pitiful excuse for a first book (because that’s what I understood poets did) and naively entered a contest in 1999. Finished my degree and moved back to Rockford and revised everything and started submitting again. I was still sort of clueless even at this point, but the internet helped—to be able to read other poets, samples of work, even procure guidelines. By 2001, I’d moved back to Chicago and was submitting and publishing like crazy in online journals. I think I actually started writing anything worth reading that summer-- that’s the earliest point of poems in the big book. The first chapbook has some stuff from as far back as 1999 in it, but not much and it’s not very good in hindsight.

What frightens me though is that, even at 19, writing awful crap, I thought I was a genius. That I’d be taking the world by storm with my gloomy, minimalist quasi-political rants, later with my bad rhyming verses, then later with my shoddy free-verse persona poems and ekphrastics. So I’m still a little uncertain even now, that what I think is good work, is just another case of me fooling myself. Granted, things wax and wane. When I first started my MFA there was a period where I threw out almost everything I was writing. It got better, then worse, then better. Maybe now I’m better at judging what’s crap among my own work.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I've been rather busy with press business this last week, laying out the next chap, reading through manuscripts for next year, scheduling the upcoming reading at Quimby's in July. So, I've stubbornly vowed to do nothing editing/publishing/poetry related this weekend, and initially planned to spend some time outside, maybe the beach or the park. It would figure it's freakin freezing. So I'll have to settle for lolling in bed reading novels and napping profusely. Yesterday, the blessed summer half-day Fridays, so went to lunch and shopping with little sis. Wound up buying Laura Sim's Practice, Restraint and a book of Patti Smith poems, Auguries of Innocense, about the only poet/rock star I can handle. Then went to see The Omen remake, which I liked alot. It's been just long anough since I've seen the original for the whole thing to seem unfamiliar. Today, I washed several days worth of dishes and worked on collages. I just got a shipment of supplies from office max, toner, envelopes, and best of all, a gigantic pack of Pilot g-2s. I've been winging it with some crappy blue pens this week, and find I can't write poems with them. Too distracting somehow, how the words look on the page, all the cross-outs.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Some older poems from the fever almanac at strange road.

Monday, June 05, 2006

tomorrow night

I'll be the feature
@ the cafe
5115 N Lincoln Ave.
(just south of Foster)
8 p.m.

I just may have a few hastily assembled (right now assembling) early copies of archer avenue, which I plan to read from and foist upon the unsuspecting attendees...Don't mind the slightly crooked staples...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Did wind up making it down to Printers Row late this afternoon. After all my bitching last year, I wondered if it were really worth it, but I was, as always, lured by the prospect of finding something interesting, in this case, some good old books to rip to pieces. And it paid off, a little 1930's novel called Hell's Belle, which is prefaced by, "The tragedy of a girl of today who is raised among all the old superstitions of yesterday." Not quite the etiquette manual I've been looking for, but close, and only 5 bucks at that, and in good enough shape not to crumble in my hands when I try to alter it.

It was the usual crowds and annoyances, this time complete with a bunch of fuckwits who liked to stand in front of the books and yap on their cell phones, thus obscuring the selection whilst not really perusing themselves. Again lots of prints and rare pricey editions, but not much for my tastes. Not much poetry, expensive or cheap. And the cheap novels selection seemed lackluster, though I admit, I'm out of the ficion loop these days as to what's good or bad. But it was a nice mild and sunny day, probably one of the last before summer kicks in with the humidity. And they did apparently move the poetry readings back out into the open. I made sure to scowl at the mammoth Barnes and Noble tent.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The last few days I've been distracted from other projects working on phobia titled poems....apiphobia (bees), arithmophobia (numbers) dysticiphobia (accidents), chronomentrophobia (clocks). They're sort of fun.

Tonight, it's folding and stapling How to Study Birds and watching trashy horror movies...this time it's House of Wax, terrible I've heard, but worth it to see Paris Hilton get what's coming to her. Last night, finally got around to watching Wisconsin Death Trip, which I mentioned here. Luckily no references to crazy Bowens. Though they were surely around then, probably my great grandparents era, and the whole area is still thick with them, even though my dad moved down here when he was still pretty young.

One of the creepiest things about Black River Falls is not in town at all, but out outside town. Alongside this narrow wooded un-named road, there's this baby grave. No house. Nothing for miles, though you can see where a house may have once stood. And there are always flowers on it, no matter what time of year it seems. We always wind up going past it on our evening rides looking to see deer. (I've never understood the need to do this when plenty of deer regularly traipse through my parents yard back home. Apparently, Wisconsin deer are much more exotic.)

There's still something about it that sets me ill at ease and always did, even when I was younger.