Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Here is to a new year filled with poetry. With little bookish projects, new collage endeavors, and layout marathons. With plenty of studio time, readings, and cocktails with friends. With lovely dresses, italian sodas, and grilled cheese. With AWP exploits, the Hunger Games movie release, and turning 33. Again. With batches of new candle & soap scents, with weekend sewing projects, with productive thrifting expeditions. With penne rosa sauce, and ginger cat antics, and vintage pillowcases. With yummy lotions and long hot showers. With road trips and beach picnics and trashy novels and horror movies. With all the fun things and much less of the anxiety provoking ones.

Friday, December 30, 2011

available @


There is always this weird, sort of depressive lull after Christmas, which was disheartening at first, the dreary sunless days, the half price gift baskets at Walgreens, the faded bedraggled decorations that have been up for the last month. I was crawling out of my skin at first, but the plan was to stay on task and finish up some projects, both art and writing related, and focusing on those seem to have abated some of the cabin feverishness. My mood improved enough that I even decided to stay here through the new year hoping to keep up some of the momentum on the narrative manuscript and go back Monday (I suspect this weekend would have been given over to unexciting things like housecleaning and errands had I gone back today anyway, so I might as well save myself from that.)

Tonight, I am eating Belgian seashell chocolates and putting in supply orders for the new year on cardstock, paper trimmer accessories, packing tape. And later, there will be more writing and some reading and a little bit of hiding from the world as long as I can.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

now available from dancing girl press

It took a while to get everything together, but my little havoc book is now available for order. Initially, this was some of the poems that were part of the now dismantled kissing disease manuscript (actually the title poem of that collection is in this chap.) That whole thing was just too big and sprawling and messy and ultimately I decided this segment of poems made a better chapbook than full-length. (the rest of that manuscript, the text, actually became another project that will be more box-like and less book like, but more on that later.)

I feel a little like these poems are the first departure from the sort work I was doing in my MFA years (but then again my work was changing even then--a shift from the bird museum poems to the girl show ones. It might just be cosmetic (there are more first person poems in here than any other project since the fever almanac. But I also feel like, if the poems in the earlier books were these little machines, that havoc is witten INSIDE the machines, if that makes any sense. There is more of a whirliness to them, even though they deal with the same sorts of subject matter, a more interior viewpoint, in among the grease and the gears. And indeed, the tension between order and disorder (or havoc), I guess is one of the biggest themes.

I guess I have my own personal closure & catharsis reasons for being relieved this is finally finished and out there, but also, since it's a while before the next book and I have some readings coming up after the new year, I'm happy to have something new in tow for people to take away. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

once again, a new year on the horizon

Now that the presents are put away and the holiday food coma dwindling, it's time to come up with some resolutions for the coming year. In 2012, I will do my best--

*to make public a lot of poems I have been sitting on for the past three years
*to organize my cd collection, my bookshelves, my linen closet, and the studio shelves
*to write a series of poems about mermaids
*to distance myself people who are more trouble than they are worth
*to hold close the people who matter
*to buy more boots to make winter bearable
*to make more zines
*to learn lots of recipes for easy but delicious meals that neither require too many expensive ingredients nor require dirtying too many dishes.
*to master book binding
*to find the perfect vintage chenille bedspread for summer bedding
*to finish all the half finished projects at home and in the studio
*to eat more strawberries
*to be creative in using up supplies and not just buying new ones
*to find a working record player
*to take more walks on the beach and in the neighborhood
*to buy more poetry books
*to finally learn how to knit
*to create a dictionary of entirely made up animals
*to spend less money on Starbucks and more on cocktails

Friday, December 23, 2011

photo courtesy of pinterest

After working most of this week in that weird pre-holiday vacuum where all of the students are gone and most of the staff and the library eerily quiet, I am very much exhausted from finishing off a huge batch of book orders, getting up way to early, christmas shopping and wrapping and general holiday preparations. Me and the kitties are firmly installed at my parents for the weekend and the bulk of next week and plan to eat cookies and work on poems and collages and not think much about all that still needs to be done at home and in the studio. I do have a handful of books set to go live next week though, including havoc, so there is those as well as a couple of sets of proofs to go over a final time.

Since I will have a few days off work when I get back, I hope to get a good amount of submissions out of my own work--one area where I have been extremely negligent this year despite solid resolutions and plans to the contrary. I feel it's at the bottom of the list and thus gets waylaid way too often in favor of putting out other fires. And since poetry focus time (for my own work) is at a premium, I hate to spend it doing mundane boring stuff like reading guidelines, deciding what to send where, tracking submissions, and actually getting them out the door ( metaphorically anyway, more like out of the sent box. Increasingly, I am much less likely to bother with printing and SASE-ing hard copies to presses who haven't joined the 21st century no matter how fancy their pedigree.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I was watching a movie last night called The Romantics, and it was all very prettily shot and cast (Katie Holmes is still stunning even if she's married to an idiot..and Anna Paquin, depite not really being able to act, is very lovely). It was very much a boy meets girl, boy meets other girl, boy & girl are off and on, boys marries other girl despite being in love with first girl story, but the main point seemed to be that out of control passion does not necessarily make for sound & sane marriage. The scene I was rolling my eyes over, in particular, was one in which the main guy character (Josh Duhamel, also hot) finally has his way with Katie Holme's character the night before he's supposed to marry Anna Paquin and presses her passionately up against a tree while reciting Keat's "Ode to A Nightingale" between kisses, which all seemed sort of ridiculous. I always have this weird disassociation of poetry from ordinary life, which perhaps as a writer and editor I shouldn't. Anyone who stopped to recite Keats while attempting to seduce me would probably get an awkward laughing fit followed by an "".

The idea is romantic, but it seems a little pretentious and silly, and the sort of thing that makes me self-conscious about being a poet. But then, I think, wasn't one of poetry's major roles throughout history as a sort of seduction? Isn't this probably what Keats himself was doing, whispering his odes to some breathless, corseted lass? Admittedly, alot of the poems in havoc are addressed to men, not so much specific men in most cases, usually a distillation or amalgamation of certain people. Since they are more about relationship anxieties, I probably wouldn't be willing to share them straight off with a new relationship. When the fever almanac had just come out, I'd just started seeing a couple different guys, both of whom were interested in my writing enough to want a copy, something that made me VERY self-conscious about the poems therein. Maybe it's just the poems I write, none of which are love or erotic poems per se (there might be any of the above in the poem, but the goal is something else.) Even the greats and poems by other people, you probably wouldn't find me sharing them with a least not reciting them (I have e-mailed poems to men before for various reasons, but not really as any sort of seduction.) I would just feel a little silly saying the words aloud.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Today, I've been working a little on cleaning up the above-named series. Besides having a lot of fun with it, I feel like it's helped me break out my creative rut, something I tried to do with havoc, but it really came to term with this. Not only is the subject matter and voice a bit different from the usual, but there's also a sense of playfulness I usually don't get (largely since I wasn't really taking it all that seriously in the beginning and felt no pressure to make it conventionally "poetic".) Initially, it was meant to be a bunch of letters addressed to James Franco and how annoying people find him to be with his 10,000 graduate degrees and pretentiousness. It eventually turned into more of study on reading and writing poetry within a culture that doesn't prize it all that much, in which Franco serves more as a conceit or vehicle for such meanderings. Also anxieties over gendered writing, truth and untruth in creativity. etc..I was initially going to send some of the poems out piecemeal to journals, but now I wonder if I shouldn't just make them available as a chapbook at some point next summer since they work best all together and are meant to be read in one sitting. Even better, it seems to have broken something open stylistically with the beautiful, sinister project, which is also prose poems, but quite a bit bleaker and more fictional. They feel looser somehow and less like previous work I've done.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yesterday, I woke up to enormous floating snowflakes, or more accurately woke up, burrowed further under the covers, and then fell promptly back to sleep. I tend to sleep even more than usual when things are bothering me, and this last week, there have been alot of fires to put out, alot of fire alarms (the emphasis on "alarm,") general chaos and brewing disontent. The dust has settled and once again I am picking things up, putting them back where they belong, deleting numbers and messages and talking myself into just moving along. December is always a doozie in the drama department and this one is no exception.

Meanwhile I am dreaming of labyrinthian downtown hotels and secret holiday office parties where I wear ridiculous dresses and follow certain uninterested formerly romantic targets around like a hopeful puppy. I'm sure this is all related somehow. This week should actually be pretty quiet at the library, though I am tempted to bring in slightly alcoholic treats (drunken wine-laced fruit salad, gummi bears soaked in vodka) for those of us remaining til Thursday. I am also tempted to relive childhood shool traditions and have everyone make construction paper stockings bedazzled in glitter and cotton balls.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Today I am skittish and sugared up from workplace treats, so bear with me. Today, for the first time this week, there was sunlight and a late start and my polkadot dress. Also, a little bit of romantic meltdown, certain things come to light and people twisting things all over the place and I'm not sure who is more in the wrong. (well, I know he's more in the wrong but my response to it was a bit innappropriate and now there is further friction because of that) Combine angry text messages in the middle of the night and accusative e-mails back and forth most of today, and I'm a bit emotionally wrought this afternoon. Otherwise, I am trying to focus on good things and ignore the unpleasantness. Said good things include pretty origami birds, lovely chapbooks, my newly dyed deep brown leather bag, banana bread, plans for Christmas bookstore shopping expeditions next week, and an entire weekend to work on a new little art project. (Also this photo which freaks the beejesus out of me, yet I am strangely drawn to.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Many thanks to Jeanine who posted this article about the economics of poetry on her blog, which got me thinking about money and how much an average poet makes doing this crazy poetry thing. I always joke that the money that I’ve made from poetry would probably, with a dollar, buy me a cup of coffee. In reality it’s probably around three grand (for 14 years of serious writing, pretty sad), which includes my Poetry Center prize for a third of that, and most of the rest, workshops I’ve been paid to and reading honorariums. Since I’m bound to Chicago and a full-time job, I do less of these probably than someone without these restrictions, but still, even without them, it’s probably not much. You can add in a little for royalties and the occasional paying journal, but I have probably made more money publishing and selling my own projects and /or selling author copies from other presses than I have in royalties. If you compare this to my income from visual art and crafty things (about $10,000 after taxes per year on average since 2007) it’s pretty sparse…luckily I’m not about to quit my day job.

This discussion brought to mind this other article I’d been meaning to write about the last couple of months. Admittedly, I never had any ambition when it came to being a teacher of creative writing (which seems like it requires another sort of temperament and skill set than actually just..well..writing). Also, I always thought teaching it might (the same as if I had to put a pen to paper 8 hours a day, 5 days a week) make me less likely to find any sort of fun in it. Simple English Lit might have been okay , but at one point, straight out of undergrad and planning to get my Ph.D in the late 90’s, I'd already resigned myself to the glut of scholars in a very small field (let’s not forget my own ambivalence toward serious scholarly work) and decided to look elsewhere for a means to a living (pretty easy since I still don’t think I have the amount of patience it takes to run a classroom nor the required extroversion to not dread it.)

All along, whatever it was I planned to do to make a living (ideally a fun, bookish job that allowed the time/mental space to create) I still saw poetry as the center of things. When I went for my MFA, I felt like sort of a rare bird as someone who wasn’t interested in academia. I was primarily in the degree program to further my own writing since I already had a job/career in library work. I had also already embarked on editing projects (had already started wicked alice a few years prior, was about to start dancing girl press) when I enrolled, so it’s hard to look at that time as something that was necessarily setting me up in a career of any sort. Was it useful? Of course, so much as a sustained period to focus and work on my writing, launch various projects, forge connections and look for feedback. Did it further my “career”? Probably, but more in intangibles (see previous sentence). Would I consider myself successful? Well, in America, “success” usually equals ”money”, so obviously, those folks coming out of programs who eventually land tenure track jobs, that’s an easy thing to track. Publication is a little trickier, since royalties even for laureates are pretty small beans in the publishing world. Maybe prizes, grants, fellowships, are an indicator if you seek them out.

Honestly though, I’ve been thinking about the whole “successful” question and I think it boils down to one simple consideration. Are you still writing? Are you still working on things (published or not)? Does writing poems still make you happy? Feel like something worthwhile despite the financial bleakness. Or even more generally, for some people, who perhaps write less than they did in their MFA years, but who devote their time to other things ( journal, presses, readings series). Is poetry still important and central to your life? Is it worth it even knowing the fiscal rewards are pretty slim and sometimes it actually COSTS money to be a poet (in SASE’s, in entry fees, in funds for projects). And even if you never ventured into MFA territory, are you still doing the things it takes to put poems out in the world? To further and develop your work? If you answered yes to any of the above, then hell, yeah, that is success. I remember someone once throwing a statistic around that only a certain very low percentage of degreed writers were still actually writing 5 or 10 years after graduation. This feels almost like an urban legend to me since I would venture that most of the folks who graduated the same year I did are very much still writing and publishing their work, and many have gone on to do even more interesting writerly-related things. They don’t all make a living at it, but they are very much still doing it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

from Pinterest...

This weekend, I am struggling to get into winter before it, I guess, gets into me. Or gets to me. I am still not quite convinced, and while I would like to find something pretty in all of it, mostly I just feel fragile and panicked when the weather gets chilly and snowy, like I'm minutes from some impending disaster. I just have to focus on good things: boots, sweaters, blankets, peppermint ice cream, paper snowflakes and winter break, which is coming up fast and during which I hope to sit down and get to finishing up the narrative manuscript.

Last night's open studio was successful and traffic was amazing, sold alot of jewelry, candles, and vintage slips. The halls of the Fine Arts were stuffed with people and all sorts of things going on--readings, performances, openings...Today, I have been hiding out in the apartment and catching up on sleep. I do plan to try to put up the tree tomorrow, probably while watching Emmet Otter's Jug Band and making chocolate chip cookies (or more likely eating the dough before I actually bake the cookies.)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A few nights ago, I dreamed that me and my sister had inherited an old Victorian apartment that had been abandoned, but was filled with all sorts of interesting things--a large vintage typewriter collection, armoires and sideboards, beautiful old bed linens, not to mention it was a huge maze of a place that seemed to open onto room after room of treasures and glorious space. Everyday we would dicover a new room, new lovely things. We decided to live there in separate parts of the apartment, almost like a duplex with a shared kitchen. This immediately followed the dream where we were on a vacation and my mother hated me for some unknown reason and locked me in a room while the entire extended family was outside of it having fun. My subconscious is a very odd place lately.

Otherwise, this week has a bear, wrapping, packaging and prepping for the open studio, laying out new books, assembling the latest the titles, and packing orders. As usual, I feel as if I'm never really ready for such things, always more things to make, more details to attend to. Meanwhile, the cold makes it hard to crawl out from my cozy bed. I'm beginning to feel like each winter is something I have to survive, to emerge intact from on the other side, tattered and barely alive sometimes. Meanwhile I reward myself for just about everything with hot chocolate and new clothes to soften up the edges just a little. It also turned out that what I thought was oversensitivity to caffeine was probably not that at all, which means I was just nervous and jittery because I was nervous and jittery.

Monday, December 05, 2011

holiday sale !!!

From December 5th thru December 15th, we are offering 20% on all purchases over $20 at Just use the code "HOLIDAY2011" in your notes to seller and the discount will be refunded to you after purchase.

In addition to all of our latest chapbook series titles, we have an awesome selection of paper goods, accessories, artwork, and bath goodies that make perfect gifts. All proceeds help dancing girl press & studio continue doing what we do. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

teapots and other tempests

I was musing over this little poetry-world spat in the New York Times and the whole idea of anthologies and what they mean to be and what they actually are. I have long been suspicious (and usually dismissive) of much of what claims to be the "BEST" of things. Best according to what criteria? According to who? Someone asked me recently why wicked alice and dgp do not nominate authors for the Pushcart Prize and truthfully, given what usually turns up in the anthologie's pages , it seems like a fixed game, something that plays itself as democratic and inclusive of the vast world of small presses, but really only chooses pretty much the same authors, work from the same publications ad nauseum. Every.single. year.

Not to say it's not a cool thing to be nominated, but moreso on the smaller level of the individual publication, that the editor appreciates your work, thinks you are among "best" of what they published in a given year--definitely a much smaller and more manageable field than the morrass of contemporary journals. The Best of the Web anthology actually does this very same thing and is definitely more democratic and varied in it's aesthetic (again, I'm a little biased since WA is technically a Sundress Publication.). Even still any anthology still comes down to the particular aesthetic bent of the judge doing the final choosing. But once a nomination has been sent off into the esteemed Pushcart world by most little guys & gals, it's like dropping a quarter into the ocean.

Admittedly, I have a dislike in general of most of what Helen Vendler has ever said (especially if it's woefully racist and elitist like this), and am definitely biased toward Rita Dove (whose Thomas & Beulah did much in the way of my own poetic development about 15 years ago). I immediately take issue with the 175 poets comment. I can name at least twice that many whose work is of interest living and writing in the anthologie's timeline (not even including the younger folks writing now born after 1971.) Any anthology is simply a sampling of the work that that particular curator feels lends itself to being brought together and put forward as a grouping for consideration. This is true at any level, every journal is pretty much the same thing, every press's roster of titles, same thing.

I would never have the ego to say that what we are publishing with dgp is the "best" work by women authors out there, but merely the things that I come across / get to consider that strike my own fancy in some way, that I feel compelled to put out into the world because of their awesomeness. Again "best" acording to who? to what? Dove, in her response, gets it spot-on here:

Assuredly, many acclaimed poets are no match to Shakespeare—probably not a one, not even Walt Whitman. But The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry is not meant to be an in-depth scholarly study of pick-your-ism; it is a gathering of poems its editor finds outstanding for a variety of reasons, and by no means all of them in adherence to my own aesthetic taste buds; my intent was to offer many of the best poems bound into books between 1900 and 2000 and to lend a helping hand to those readers wishing to strike out on their own beyond this selection. Part of the problem with the phenomenon one could call poetry politics is the reluctance of many scholars to allow for choice without the selfish urge to denigrate beyond whatever doesn’t fit their own aesthetics; literary history is rife with stories of critics cracking the whip over the heads of ducking artists, critics who in their hubris believe they should be the only ones permitted to render verdicts in the public courts of literature.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Today seems to be a day for endless signatures, both my renewal lease on my apartment and my contract for BLP, all of which require me to sign / initial in so many places, I'm afraid I'll miss something. I've been a little jumpy and overcaffeinated lately, and I blame too much soda over the holiday, which I had all but given up before that. Of course, my week is not progressing as fruitfully as I would like, which possibly means spending Saturday in the studio catching up and getting ready for next Friday. It doesn't help that I keep getting sidetracked by new ideas and little projects, which seem sort of bittersweet when I know there is no time for executing them anytime in the forseeable future. I did indulge myself with a couple of new collage ideas, which I think might go over well next week if I an manage to get them matted and/or framed before then (a pain now that easy access to Utrecht has been eliminated and I'd need to walk all the way to Blick, though supposedly there is another art supply shop on Wabash I might check into.) I did conceive a couple of lovely covers for some December releases (books by Jane Flett and Becky Peterson), and am progressing on the November books, including havoc. I have hereby declared Fridays as a day devoted to my own writing and the business thereof, so I'm hoping to get it finished up and available tomorrow, as well as some work off to journals that have requested it and some more administrative tasks (blurb soliciting, marketing plans) for girl show which I hope I can get underway.