Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 retrospective

Usually, I do a yearly round up on the blog around this time of year--a look back on what happened--the good and the bad, but somehow this year seems to tip more toward the bad, especially from about June onward, or hell, maybe even February onward, after I received that first hospital middle of the night phone call and my mother said casually something to the effect  "It seems I've had a heart attack."   
But surely, there was some good in there somewhere. and actually February through late August were pretty tame compared to what happened later in the year, the losses there not as scary as that which would come after.  June & July merely took away one of the ginger cats unexpectedly and my aunt, who'd been ailing for quite a while.  November took my mother.  Though I know all those happy years in between (years where I may have only lost small things like an umbrella on the bus, or even a relationship, or a few bucks fallen out of my pocket. ) Those fortunate years had a price--at least one year like this one, possibly more.  Not that loss was unfamiliar--grandparents, all gone pretty early, an , my mom's brother to MS, aunt and uncle on my dad's side.  Many pets over the years, even recent ones (2013 & 2014 were brutal in this way.)  But of course, nothing like this.

But then, those bad things are hard to separate from the good things.  And in fact, maybe some of the good things are sweeter only because they are interwoven with the bad. On one hand, all those hours sitting in hospital rooms and the nursing home were worrisome, but I'm happy to have had those hours, even when my mother was super-out of it or sleeping.  The jokes she made even while delirious, things I swore I'd tease her about when she was out of the woods.   As I was leaving the nursing home, right before she returned home those last couple of weeks, she had me brush her hair before a doctor's appointment, and we joked about mohawks and other unfortunate options now that she was at my mercy.  She would be home in a couple days.  I would visit once more, but she would be quieter, less cheerful and sleeping more.  Two weeks later she would be gone.  All through September and most of October, the weekly Sunday visits--the uncomfortable chairs and horrible news headlines on tv (west coast fires, hurricanes, mass shootings in Vegas. )  All of it is wrapped in this weird ball of feelings I haven't even begun to begin to pull apart.

But this post is supposed to be a wrap up of good things that happened. So maybe I should start there.

Library-wise, the year began with the news we'd won the ACRL award and that all that hard work of the previous November had paid off, all of which culminated in a pretty swanky party in April (well swanky by CCC Library standards). The semester brought with it amazing things like our HOAX week programs & exhibit.  The usual readings and workshops and zine nights.  I planned our first real murder mystery, Horror Prom, and wrote about it and general gaming stuff during the summer.  Jen Sauzer and I started the Chicago Cryptozoological Society as a public art/installation project and giggled all summer over mothman sightings.  Put together a poster session at the ALA conference devoted to A of R. The fall, even amidst the chaos going on in my life, we still managed to knock the ball out of the park with our Tattoo: Ink, Art, & Object Week and the 3rd Little Indie Press Festival.  More panels and events and fun workshops (paper mechanics, black light painting--both of which I was horrible at btw.) Also the premiere of the Book to Art Club, which will bring even more goodness this spring.   Our annual snow globe workshop and our fall murder mystery based around the Hollywood suicide ended the year with a bang (or at least a satisfying crashy sound.) 

Press-wise, it was the usual amazingness of being able to bring so many books into the world, though the terrain was dicier and more difficult to manage later in the year. I am still playing catch-up, both in terms of layout, production, and orders, but am hoping to have things closer to on-schedule soon.  The past couple of days while hiding from the cold, I've been idly reading through some of this year's titles and they are so good it nearly lifts the top of my head off sometimes when I think how lucky I am to be able to help them on their way.  So many books, all all so very different and interesting. And, might I say, damn pretty (both those I did the design on ones others did--artists, designers, sometimes the poet themselves--all beautiful.)  This year, my goal is to get some other things rolling--the long due mermaid anthology, some of my own overdue zine projects, the lovely slate of chapbook titles for this year just as awesome as last.    And of course, the poor neglected wicked alice, who I am plotting some interesting new things for after the new year. We will also be hitting Tampa this coming year for an off-site, alternative book fair during AWP. (my wish came true.)

Art & design-wise, there were a lot of new collage exploits, including the honey machine series, the tattoo prints, and some apocalypse pieces (one of which will be on the cover of little apocalypse.) Some more floral paintings with watercolors and markers. I also made a lot of zines--crypto ones, botanical coloring books, a crossout zine with collages using that cart of discard celeb images next to my cubicle during zine nights.  The dirty blonde collages made their debut in a zine, as did the surrealism coloring book images and (in)vertebrate collages. I also added new prints and paper goods of the older radio ocularia pieces to the shop and did some restocking in general of prints and paper goods.  I also tried some pochoir printmaking experiments for our Tiki Madness exhibit that is still up.   As most years, I have a notebook full of ideas and techniques I've barely scratched the surface of, so here's hoping for some more art-related focus time in 2018.

Writing-wise, it was a successful year, nothing big, but some smaller projects making their debut in the world in limited editions (the Dali poems, dirty blonde, and soon /SLASH/.)  Publications in Hobart, interr|upture, Rag Queen Periodical, Midway Journal, Sweet Tree Review, Tupelo Quarterly,  and a review of SALVAGE in The Literary Review. (also two Pushcart nominations for Plath Poems).   Readings at NOLA Poetry Fest, at City Lit Books, a Poetry Center benefit, and at Wit Rabbit this fall.  I was able to finish up the love poem series, although it turned out  to be an entirely different beast than I expected. fAlso, the entire text elements of unusual creatures.  Also pulling together what may very well be longer book # 8, SEX & VIOLENCE  if the publishing world will have it.

As for more personal things, while the bad is there for all to see, there is good under the tideline--my friends who helped me cope and without whom I could not have survived November.  J,  who seems to be holding fast for 2.5 years  in the only functional relationship I've had in the past decade (and who seems to be the only person I've ever dated who we just seem to fit into each other's lives seamlessly and just work somehow. )  Finances are, as ever, a teeter totter of moderately stable and incredibly unstable, but then, that has always been the case and will no doubt continue to be, but there are tiny luxuries--breakfasts out, secondhand coats, the occasional vintage bag., and art supplies. Maybe even a vacation (well, a working vacation usually, but still a vacation.) New Orleans was lovely in April and maybe I'll go back if the Florida trip doesn't drain me completely.  The rest is mostly kitties, and dresses, and writing and making things. A whole lot of folding and stapling, but also tacos and cocktail experiments. Weekend retreats from the world.  Trashy books and even delightfully trashier movies. 

And really, 2017, you were good in as many ways as you were bad. My resolutions may come later, though they are the same three I usually vow--be healthy, be fearless, be productive.  Some years I excel more in one or the other, but let's try again for all three...

Thursday, December 28, 2017

We are in the midst of a deep chill, weather-wise and mental-wise, and I've been trying to break apart my rather depressing Christmas feelings and struggling with not freezing to death in a overly drafty apartment and it's rattly radiators.  Everything about family stuff is off, of course, is a pale shadow of itself, to the point where I kinda understand the folks who take trips to far off places over holidays just to avoid another one. Nothing can fix this, I'm not even sure if I can articulate it to even think about fixing it. There were presents--New Orleans coffee and yummy bath accroutrements.  Art supplies and towels and super soft leopard throw blankets I am now living under.  But it's still wrong somehow without my mother there.

Since I've been back in the city, I am happier, but battling the sub zero temps with the aid of bed snuggling beneath needy cats  and a tiny space heater.  But I am cooking, with all this time off work--soups and breakfast burritos and parma rosa.  I am drinking tea, eating chocolate,  making plans, and re-reading amazing 2017 dgp titles, and some of the first 2018 offerings.  Bingewatching a bit of of AHS on the screen while I work. Tomorrow, I will be heading to the studio for at least a few hours to get in at least a bit of work on these precious days away from the library.

I still hope to get some more transcribing from UNUSUAL CREATURES done, and maybe a bit of a new project down on paper.  I would like to go into 2018 with a plan and a clear head and am working to make that happen, but it's hard, and every single digit day makes it harder somehow, but it looks like we're stuck at least for another week. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

For the past couple days, I've been working pretty much solely on birthing the remaining 2017 books or at least getting them as close as I can to being ready to debut right after around the new year.  There are a whole bunch slated to drop in the next week or so, so keep an eye in the shop for new offerings (one of which is Laurie Brun's book with a new collage design I did for it that I'm loving immensely). I do have some more evening hours in the studio this week due to altered library hours, so I am determined to get entirely caught up on new  author copies and orders by Christmas. I'll only be away for a couple of days for the holiday, so will have some good studio time between then and New Years as well. Ideally, I'd like to start 2018 caught up, or as close to caught up as I can be.  And if I can acheive that, the next hurdle is making more time for some projects of my own that are in the works and some new things I would like to try.

More weird dreams about my mother, this time that I was attending a seminar on fire safety that eventually turned into an episode of Sally Jesse Raphael, but then turned into my dad just strolling in with my mother and me yelling at them that she was dead and that this was all impossible.  But then that he had somehow magically resurrected her along with their old cat, Isis, who was perched on the countertop and how no one thought this was the least bit strange at all but me.

Otherwise, my activities could best be summed up by lots of old episodes of FRIENDS on netflix, playing around on instagram and pinterest, coveting more outerwear (affordable and not so affordable),  and singing along to this song repeatedly.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Earlier, I caught site of a group of students in a study room upstairs--papers flying, manic scribbling, that scared, dazed look of sleep deprivation and I feel it (well maybe not the sleep deprivation, though my 8 hours seems not at all sufficient as we get closer to the solstice) --but yes, the year-end frenzy, and while even though library things are quieting down, our last details being tomorrow's Book to Art meeting and a de-install on the Tattoo exhibit next week, I am pushing through to finish layouts and cover designs on  all but a couple of the 2017 releases, which means I have spent the day in design and typesetter mode and realized at some point, it had been 5 hours since I'd moved from my chair or stood up  I also have a batch of corrections & galley finalizations before a few books are set for printing.  I am also only in October on orders and a little more behind than I'd like, but I do get extra studio over the next couple of weeks that should remedy that and a whole bunch of loose ends that need to be tied on both press and art-related things. 

I'd also like to try to get all of unusual creatures typed up and the January zine project, /slash/ in the bag. I'm thinking of changing my zine subscription series from a before-the-fact- purchase to an after-the-fact bundle.  Mostly because I never know what I'm actually going to be sending out and how many things will actually materialize over the course of the year and how much to charge for them before I even know what they are. 2017's issue included

-the inventions of the monsters
-surrealism coloring book #1
-dirty blonde
-(in) vertebrate
-two cryptozoology zines
-botanical coloring book zines
-a couple other random cross-out zines

As soon as I can get a pic of everything, I'll be offering it all up in the shop for a mere $35, plus throwing in a couple prints to boot.   In 2018, I am also planning on doing monthly limited edition prints that will be available each month from the beginning of the month til the end and then they're gone.

Friday, December 08, 2017

I sometimes can't believe this is still a thing...

I've always had the incredibly naive idea that the world is always in some sort of progression, always assumed that time made things better, kinder, more compassionate and liberal.  That the America of my 80's childhood could only improve during the 90's and amazingly did..that Americans actually were smarter, more cultured, on the verge of this great rise of the internet, the rise of a new century.   So, of course, imagine my surprise when Bush Jr. was elected, when many of the people younger than me were actually more conservative. More..well, dumb--as evidenced by things like reality tv and the SAW movies. .  This conception of the world righted itself when Obama was president, but pretty much fell flat on it's face last year.   Maybe there is no progression, only swings to and fro.  Action and reaction. And people never really move forward, but hopefully the general trend is in that direction more than the other.

Likewise, in the poetry world, I assumed the new century made us more aware of different paths in this whole writing thing.  Different options and ways of "being a poet" in the world. When I first started publishing in online journals in the very early aughts, it was sort of poo-pood by the more established print-pubbing crowd.  These same poets are now hilariously publishing in those very same online journals, mostly because a whole lotta print pubs have either bitten the dust entirely ( a casualty of a world where no one outside the lit community really reads, well anything, let alone a 500 copy print run of a small indie journal. ) or, horror of horrors, become strictly online magazines themselves.  I have lost count of the authors who once said to me something to the tune of  "oh, I save my A-game poems for print pubs, not online publishers."  my response more recently is that my biggest literary hit EVER--more than any chapbook, any single poem (maybe even the one that hit the American Academy of Poets Poem of the Day feature and landed in a whole bunch of inboxes), or any other publication was my James Franco e-chap..I don't remember what the end tally of downloads was but it was quite impressive.  Granted the James Franco subject matter may have played into that more than the actual poetry, but still it was HUGE audience for a small and tiny press poet.  Far more than if I'd placed even in one of the higher circulating and esteemed print mags (those two don't always equate).

Probably long before even that I stopped submitting to print journals at all, probably for those very reasons..  I did send work when asked by editors and wound up in some gorgeous print journals that I was honored to be a part of and satisfied my love of solid paper and ink, but also it felt like very few people would ever see those poems. And since I very rarely had time to spend sending out work, those submissions kind of had to be places I felt could reach a larger audience. (or at least I could direct people toward in a linkable way. )  I'm not even sure it was a conscious decision, just something I sort of did.  Slowly the world came round, whether by choice or force, to respecting work published online.

I came up as a baby poet in a world very different world than the one I somehow wound up in--the open mic scene in Chicago in those same years.  We read in bars, cafes, random weird places.. We signed up to read and waited patiently through open mic sets, where the quality was sometimes uninspring, but sometimes really good. Sometimes, we even got to feature and read for longer.  In that scene, and in many other more performance oriented ones like slams, there were less rules--spoken and unspoken.  About where to publish, what to publish, their DIY ethos, where putting together a chapbook or cd of poems was totally what you did to sell or give away at readings, to trade with other poets.  It was about connecting with readers in a tangible take-homeable way.

In late 2003, I somehow wound up in an MFA program..and it was useful creatively no doubt, but I failed to warm to all those rules of academia regarding where to send work, self-publishing etc.  I had serious issues with many of the things that were passed off as career advice--the tiers of journals and presses and contests. And maybe it's just those things weren't geared for the type of poet I wanted to be. I wanted a fist book, badly, but I wasn't wiling to pay to play all that much in terms of contests. Luckily, I found a small press willing to give it a go.  But I realized even then, that though I love publishing work and writing books and reaching an audience, I'm not on the track that academic programs push you toward--the prizes, the residencies, the contests, the tenure (or lack of tenure) track that feeds itself like a snake.  It doesn't interest me mostly and doesn't align with my goals, which are sort of simple--write some books, make some books,  make some worlds, spread some poems around and invite people into them. And in fact, the very moment I turned my back on what I learned in my MFA years, I got my passion for it back.  It was then I determined I would pretty much do whatever the fuck I wanted in terms of putting myself and my work into the world   , whether that was self-issuing or publishing work ot publishing books or chaps with other presses I loved or respected and wanted to be a part of.

Shortly after I graduated from the program,  I put out what is one of the things I am still most proud of, and really one of the coolest things I've made -at the hotel andromeda, the Cornell poems (a collab with Lauren Levato Coyne.)  It was about a year after my first full-length came out. A year that brought a couple of chaps--one from New Michigan Press, another part of the Dusie Kollectiv. But the Cornell things felt awesome in a different , more profound way.  It took awhile to write it, longer to conceptualize what it turned out to be. So when the department sent out a questionairre for publicity purposes, for us to shout our successes that fall after graduation, I was psyched to share news of this amazing thing we'd made.  But of wait, nothing self-published.  Well,,,,damn..I guess not.  A couple years later, I got into a pretty animated  discussion with a faculty member from my former program on a panel at a conference about the uses of self-publishing and legitimacy.  A poet in the audience whose background was in slam poetry had raised her hand to ask for advice on issuing a book of her own to sell at readings and competitions.  I of course was ready to offer some practical tips on cultivating and building an audience and marketing to them successfully, and was shut down by not only the faculty member, but also the other panelist (another academic male.) who were majorly anti-self publishing.

I've always been against vanity publishers who take your money in exchange for something you could do yourself. (I'm actually against paying money to get people to read your work in contests and such as well.) But the chief danger of self-publishing is the peril of operating outside of established communities that presses sort of offer by, you are published by x press, who has fans and other authors and you are joining a community by placing work with them. On your own, you're just, well, on your own.  So the work falls to you, and if your willing to work it, it can be very satisfying. Of course, there will be those who object that the quality of your work needs a gatekeeper.  But seriously, the only thing being a gatekeeper has taught me is not to trust gatekeepers. There are other ways to vet your work--other writers, collectives, critique services other publications if you're uncertain and feel unsure of your readiness to put something out there. Truth is, a lot of shitty, boring work gets vetted and still winds up being published, like oh, say in the New Yorker. 

So it always gives me a bit of whiplash when a writer, even innocuously,  says the word "self-published" like it's dog poop on someone's shoe. And maybe it's just my DIY world that makes me oblivious to what writers apparently really still think, especially when you work mostly in the realms of book arts and zines and such, where it's just accepted as a valid way of putting work in the world.  And admittedly a world I feel far more at home in than the poetry system, where I've never really fit in----mostly uninterested in the games and heirarchies and unspoken rules.  Maybe it's the economy of scarcity--of publication spots, book contests, reading audiences-- it makes us kind of ridiculous.  Reading audiences ultimately have the final say, so I guess all you can do is get it done and get it out there, however that happens.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Today began with foiled screen printing experiments in the studio and ended with a sub-freezing walk home  even later than usual due to our extended finals hours.  In December, as opposed to spring term's May, midnight feels like 3am-everyone long gone home in the darkness and out of the cold. I hate it a little more each time, but I'm pretty sure I was the cheerleader when we instigated extended hours a few years back, so I guess I'm stuck.

In between, there were some successes in wrapping up details and pieces for tomorrow's murder mystery--all the clues ready to print and be placed in envelopes and planted in all the right places.  There are a mix of hard evidence clues and gossipy tidbits that have to be gleaned by talking to other players.  This is the first one with a more advanced structure, so I am prepared if everyone just gets confused and fails to actually solve the thing. But there will be punch and snacks and an awesome photo booth nevertheless. It may be as close as I get to holiday party since I am feeling less than festive and will likely skip most others. 

I am trying to fake it til I make it--the tree up, my shopping list made, though I won't have money to spare til the 15th to actually buy any of it. Playing the occasional Christmas tunes, watching the trashy movies about the holiday lovelorn,  but I'm not feeling it.  I'm wondering if I need to be one of those people who takes a tropical vacation over the holidays.  Or maybe that I should really just do it and move to New Orleans. (and why oh why when my leases are up is it always June or September and perfectly beautiful in Chicago?)

It occurred to me yesterday, that my mom has been gone exactly a month and it feels like the longest month of my life..there is a good part of the day when I am not thinking about it, and then suddenly the reminder comes harsh and terrible and I forget to breath for a second and suddenly the old panic is back and I'm gasping. I think at this point I am just aiming to survive December, let alone revel in it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

notes & things

Tonight I fell down a creative hole and into 1930' s Hollywood--full of aspiring starlets and mob bookies named Vinnie "The Shark: and aging actresses with substance abuse problems. Also, stakery ex-husbands and ingenues. Next thing I knew it was time to go home.   It's two days until murder mystery fun and it's always a scramble.  Sometimes I think it's too easy, sometimes I'm making it too complicated.  There are documents to falsify and clues to plant and motives to ascribe.

Otherwise I got a good few hours in the studio with author copies, including the above lovelies, just about to debut.  Tomorrow, it's a catch up on orders I am dreadfully behind on.  There just seems to be this horrible slippery time thing that I feel like I have a handle on and then it's gone.  Today was sunnier than yesterday, though, less windy, but still cold,  but each day I'm grateful there isn't snow on the ground, because last year, there most certainly already was by now.

I have a blissful, beautiful free weekend coming up, in which I plan to do nothing but sleep in, drink coffee, and use my time as I wish (and if that means just laying on the couch and listening to bossa nova records, so be it.)  There are also scads of trashy holiday movies to be consumed, and probably some cleaning before the dust balls sprout teeth and start biting.  I did manage to swap out the fall clothes for the winter ones, though I am already longing for summer clothes.

No dreams last night, though admittedly I had good company and a couple drinks before I went to sleep, but it was a sort of deep, dreamless sleep that I need more of.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Today is windy, as in banging dumpster lids and projectile holiday decor kind of  windy. Waking up, the cats were going insane at the leaves caught in the updraft out the window. I've been working on author copies and orders and trying to get a handle on the next rounds of books (and of course, run out of printer ink at the most inopportune times. )  Tonight, more murder mystery planning for Friday-trying to get a handle on fake evidence and overly-gossipy starlets.

The weird dreams about my mother continue.  Last night, it was a horrible boring holiday party at a frenemy of hers and while we all knew she was dead, she was there,  but only our immediate family could see her. And she thought this was funny, and we all thought being dead was not so bad after all, and how maybe life is just this contunuum since everything is all so subjective anyway, completely in our heads.  And so why not make our own reality or somesuch--a reality in which she was still there.  And we were laughing and joking and everyone else thought we were crazy, because OBVIOUSLY she wasn't really there, right?  This reminds of the dream right after she died when I dreamed that we were all on a school bus, and she was in a wheelchair, depressed and convinced that this was her fate forever, but then I reminded her that she was, in fact, dead and that the normal rules do not apply to her any longer.(a nice dream until she left the bus and it was this desserted, apocalytic, hell landscape and not so much fun. )

Monday, December 04, 2017

It's  a hard case of Mondays, even though it's not exactly a re-entry situation, having worked yesterday, but I have been deeply confused by a couple things that normally I feel I'd have figured out somehow.  (two future dgp authors with the exact same name, printer woes. how to open a package of cookies. )  It's nice outside though, or at least it was when I came in, a mild 50 degrees even in December. I am determined to make it a productive week though, as I do all weeks, but there is all the usual unravelling that happens around Wednesday that continues til the weekend when it starts all over again. 

I've been thinking the past couple days about the idea of the "gothic midwest."  something that I associate mostly with Sam Shephard plays for some reason   When I was in college, we came in to the city to see a production of "The Buried Child" at Steppenwolf.  At the time, I would have told you the most noteable thing at the time was that it starred Ethan Hawke, who was somewhere in his career between Reality Bites and Training Day.  The thing that stuck with me was not, in fact Hawke's performance (meh), but more the final scene of another man carrying a baby's skeleton around the stage.   And rain, so much rain, and the kind of light that only happens in the midwest in march. (or this is what it reminded me of.)

I always think of that, even when I fancy  that some of my work might be considered of the "midwest gothic" ilk, particularly the fever almanac, and definitely girl show. (and beautiful sinister has always seemed sort of a  "wisconsin gothic" and more woodsy with a different then pinpointing what it is about these texts that MAKES them such is a bit harder..not merely that they are set in the midwest, or that they could be considered gothic, but maybe more that they have a certain quality that I only associate with the midwest. Visually, there  are the ghost landscapes paintings, of course, and the attendant poems, and perhaps these capture it most. 

While Southern gothic seems easy to pinpoint and much written-about. This is probably the best description I came across for the midwestern version.

"While Midwest Gothic shares many similar traits with Southern Gothic and Gothic literature, such as the grotesque, characters with strained mental states, and elements of the supernatural, it is not just a mere transportation of these elements to the Midwest. Two key ideas inform Midwest Gothic: restraint and the unspoken. Emotional restraint keeps characters from revealing their secrets and also isolates them from others. A lot is left unsaid between Midwesterners–this is how they can be outwardly friendly, surrounded by people, yet still be utterly and hauntingly alone. Geography mirroring the psychological landscape is also an important element in the Midwest Gothic aesthetic. At first, the flatness of the landscape appears one-dimensional, static, and dull—until you realize the vastness is overwhelming, limitless, and eternal. The void can swallow you. Running underneath all of this is a current of horror, which is sometimes overt and sometimes only alluded to or implied. "

If I think about in terms of other work, you could probably fold in the shared properties of water and stars, though it is more suburban than rural. And what of the urban--the mermaid poems in salvage--the description above somehow relates to those as well. . It's neither here nor there, just something I've been thinking about as I start my week and move further into transcribing the very last of the unusual creatures pieces...

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Image may contain: tree, table and outdoor

It occurred to me that I have been doing this blog thing here for 15 years.  Well not HERE (I moved to blogger in 2005, but before that I was blogging on now defunct xanga--which was horrible design wise, but I weirdly connected with a lot of cool poet-people there.)  Journaling, of course, wasn't new..I'd been keeping an intermittent diary since I was  a teen and a cousin gave me one with a flimsy little lock for my 14th birthday.  The entries were spare and had months in between--bad poems about flamingos & kittens, rants about my friends or the boys who I was crushing on-- detailed fights with my mom or my sister, random high school girl talk. Later, there was a fabric floral blank book covered in roses that chronicled my first semester in North Carolina, more boy drama and self-seeking.

When I was 20., I started filling Mead Composition books and I liked their size and marbled covers immensely.  Inside, there was a lot of me processing the stuff I was learning in classes--Lit, Philosophy, Psychology.  Random recaps of things I was reading, seeing, doing. There are sometimes sizeable gaps, usually when I was having a bad time of things (my equally sizeable depression in the winter of 98 being an excellent example, also the rising panic of my job search in the summer of 99.)  Looking at them now, there wasn't a lot of deep digging nevertheless, mostly talk about wanting to be a writer, how that was going, things I was working on.  The theater shows that I worked on.  The books that I was reading--most of it breezy and documentary-like.

I seemed very intent on capturing things, forging my identity and thoughts,--and since I was likely the only person who would ever read them, it was entirely for me as audience, but I weirdly spent a lot of time doing it. A lot of time reading my own entries.    I think one of them begins with the whole quote about an unexamined life not being worth living. And I still believe that wholeheartedly. So I examined, and re-examined, and occasionally even still do. If anything social media has us doing this constantly I suppose though on a micro level without the commitment.

 I've often thought of going back to keeping a print journal, but then it seems rather pointless.  I have kept writing and idea notebooks since, but they are disposable, the used up things discarded, the unused words and fragments moved to the next notebook after that one is used up or falls apart.  These feel like no one really needs to see them, nor would anyone be able to make sense of them.  They feel a bit like the color samplings one makes on a palette.  . And really, a print journal would only offer the benefit of privacy, which as a writer/exhibitionist doesn't seem all that important (ie if I'm gonna say it, I might as well say it here (since I am convinced probably very few of you out there actually read this

Occasionally I panic when I think about accidently throwing away those Mead books, or a fire or a flood or some other terrible calamity destroying them. .  Somewhere in my computer files, maybe saved in my e-mail, is the entirely of my Xanga blog that they allowed us to download before the site went kaput, though I've never gone through it.  Blogger seems to be going strong, but I have these occasional moments of panic that all this would be gone--12 years of , well, STUFF due to a glitch, a hacker, or a zombie apocalypse.  Moreso than writing or books, which are a chronicle of a different sort, maybe partially the same life, but also the life invented for the purposes of being artful--details changed and people & experiences combined.  (I am a fictional poet, which means about only 60% of the stuff that happens in poems is real, 40% made me and the people close to me (and maybe not even then) know the truth.)

Admittedly  even sometimes here, the things I am not writing about are far more insightful and interesting than the things I am, but the blog offer a touch point and a trigger even on those things I would never want to lose access to even if I don't write them down. Things that happened--good or bad (falling in love, getting your heart broken suddenly and completely)-there in the subtext beneath the dailyness of the entries. . Occasionally, I think  should write daily in order to never miss anything I might need to keep for later--even tiny details that might get lost that will be place keepers for other things I do not write about (or haven't written about yet). It's also handy for remembering and referencing dates for practical reasons.

The daily entries seem important, but terribly impractical of course.  But maybe I will still try. Even if it's a simple as documenting how nice it was this morning on my way to work, and how sitting in the park across the street, even though its December, even though it was early,  I was terribly content eating my breakfast on a  bench like a cat in the sun.  How I spent the morning finishing up submissions and sending out the very last acceptances.  How I made a tiny sample matchbook book for zine night tomorrow.  How tonight I am making chicken soup and will be making my weekly phone call to my dad (that used to be a phonecall to my mom), though we don't really talk about much but his updates on hospital bills and what's happening around the house, and really it's this weird foreign country we're all not quite used to yet., but I still feel a need to do it.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person

It is my final weekend stint in the library, so I've been working away at the very end of the dgp submission inbox and hacking away at decisions.  It's always those last few spots that are the hardest to decide upon (a tip to submit earlier in the reading period when things are much less dire.)  We can spill a bit into January, I suppose, though I don't like to accept things for to far away in the scheme of things. Tomorrow, I am planning to spend the whole day on finalizing the latest books and starting new layouts.

I did manage, in the chaos of this week, to put the finishing touches on the new manuscript and send it off into the submission hinterlands in time for the deadline I was aiming for. It entailed a couple of late nights with a red pen  (well, later than my usual 2am bedtime) but it's done. There were also snow globes (involving zombies and giant snakes) and planning out the murder mystery for next week based loosely on the death of Peg Entwistle, who leaped from the Hollywood Sign in 1932. (A suicide--though in my version a murder perpetrated in a tangled web involving an aging starlet, a handsome playboy, a gross Weinstein-like producer, a stakery ex-husband, and a treacherous best friend. )  I am enjoying the process just as much as I did for Horror Prom, and this one is both easier (becuause my teasers are just real news clippings and there is less to manufacture) and trickier to plan (this time participants get assigned parts to play.)

The semester is quickly slipping down the incline and will be gone before we know it.  I need a break, like a decade long break.  Like a life break, but I'll have to settle for a few days between Xmas and New Years instead.   I am ready to say goodbye to 2017 if I can survive it.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving was rough--everything slightly off, the food, the gatherings, the Black Friday run to the store (this time just the Dollar Tree to procure snow globe objects for Tuesday's workshop.)  Rough in the way that had be crying in all sorts of random ways--in train stations, on buses, in my bed under cover of dark.   I hadn't been back to the house since the couple days after her death and while things are very much the same there in terms of routines --my dad still doing the cooking and the cleaning like over the summer while she was laid up. The same westerns and football and old shows on the television. Christmas decorations hunted down and put up courtesy of my sister last week (including about 200 snowman figurines.)  The same Netflix shows late at night (I was stupid & teary on the couch when I realized she won't see the second season of Stranger Things, which she really liked.)

The most noticable difference that my mother is no longer in her favorite chair and instead, her ashes perched atop the mantle. We've yet to really discuss where/if some will be scattered (her joke that she wanted to be partly spread on the Bulls court at the United Center) I imagine, my Dad likes having her remains there, so maybe they'll stay in the urn (it's actually a really nice engraved marble box that sits middle of the mantle surrounded with some of her favorite things and only a few feet away from her chair (after the tears I was joking in my head, well, maybe she did get to watch ST, only not in the form she started in.)

If home was weird, gatherings were even weirder, since, super introvert that I am, I still, even a full-ass grown adult, stayed close to her hip (mostly because she was always talking and I could sort of relax and not feel like I really had to.)  Now I'm kinda adrift in the small talk without an anchor.  I suspect my dad and sister feel this way, as well, the most vocal and talkative person in the family now this huge vacancy. I noticed this acutely in the restuarant we went to after making the arrangements the first full day after she was gone, the silence at the table that was usually filled by her.

My trip back to the city last night felt like an escape, which is unfair, because it actually would have been an excellent holiday otherwise--lots of food and family and trying-to-have fun times.  Admittedly, I was cheered by the fact that I left a cold, deserted bus station in the dark of Rockford at 7pm and arrived to crazy holiday bustle downtown and hour and a half or so later..two very different worlds and this one I am taking refuge in until the next holiday.  Meanwhile I will indulge in my own traditions, Chicago holiday fun--putting up my tree, bingeing on cookie dough and peppermint ice cream, watching bad holiday romance cable movies, (the kind my mother loved more than anything, but that I engage in as sort of a guilty little pleasure.)   Zoo lights w/ spiked hot chocolate & friends, maybe the German market downtown, and mostly crawling out from under the pile of work awaiting me and due before the end of the year.  Maybe by Christmas proper I'll be in a better frame of mind and ready to face Rockford again.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

a new look

I've been working on snazzing up ye old webpage a little with a more image driven-look..the lightbox images will perhaps change on a regular basis depending on what I'm working on and what I'm promoting.  And of course, getting near the end of the 2017 makes next year all that much closer and little apocalypse's release all that much sooner, which  means I'll be turning my attentions to promoting that and organizing a release reading (there is a beautiful new bookshop just opened in the Fine Arts and I'm thinking I would love to have it there if I can arrange it. )

Meanwhile, I haven't written in weeks and am not sure when it will come back.  I am supposed to be finishing up the /slash/ poems.  I am supposed to be finishing up that new manuscript and sending it off to an open reading period that ends in November. I'm supposed to be doing a lot of creative things I am not doing.  But I've been playing catch up on press details and work stuff despite the fact that blew two whole productive days in a college-wide mandatory training workshop (and the rest of the time dying slowly from having to be up 9-5 for two days straight).  I do have a weekend shift next weekend in which I plan to finish laying out all the 2017 dgp titles remaining.  I've been making my way through the last of the submissions for next year and might be able to get responses out by my December 1st deadline. 

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow and I'll I kind of want to do is hide out for a few days, but instead anm Rockford bound this evening and will be out there for a couple days.  It will be strange without my mother in the mix, and I'm not sure I'm feeling very holiday festive this year of all years and kind of just want to skip the holidays entirely (not possible really, but tempting.)

Saturday, November 18, 2017


The weather is brutal today, a weird blustery frozen rain-like substance dripping from the sky at moments, and spitting like a firestorm at others.  I am staying inside, a blissful free weekend from work or other obligations, so I slept late as I could then made a huge decadent breakfast and have spent the rest of the morning alternating between reading poetry and social media-ing, where every turn, every new allegation against powerful men makes my feminist hackles boil with hatred and disgust  (a very Macbeth-ian image now that I think about it.)  I've also been thinking about the world and the finale of American Horror Story (though I wanted more but it seems that's it) and the idea of women's rage consuming the world, and AHS was eerily spot on to the current climate. 

It's been a busy week..our Art on the Cheap Panel, the Salon on Wednesday (and though we were pretty much audienceless in the scheme of things, I enjoyed seeing some poetry folks I don't see often enough), and then yesterday's Bingo event, which was the sort of mindless fun I needed to round out the week. In between there was a mad dash to catch up on what I missed being out the week before and trying to keep the end of semester bus from running me over like it always seems to no matter how much I prepare.  We have only a few more things happening Aof R-wise, but I'm already thinking about next semester and some more writing-focused things I'd like to try. My big push the next couple weeks will be working on the murder mystery plot and preparations for Gaming Society and thinking about what we want to do in the spring.

Bingo of course, and pretty much everything, has me thinking about my mom and her mad love of it when I was a kid, which is natural I suppose.  Hopefully, the weird waves of grief will lessen over I can be completely fine one moment, and her death this lingering thing at the back of my mind but not so terribly sharp and then suddenly I smell something like banana bread on the bus and the next thing I know I'm crying because *sob* I never learned how to make her banana bread and usually it was just there when I came home sometimes, and how am I supposed to ask her how to make it now that she's gone? and sure other people can make banana bread, and sure, I can buy it or try to make my own, but it will never be HER recipe! *sob* And then I'm crying like an idiot on the bus over banana bread and people are looking at me (or maybe I only imagine they are looking at me and likely no one has noticed. )  The holidays will no doubt be harder than the day to day, and being in Rockford, where she always was,  harder than being in Chicago, where she rarely was.  And that very distance in the end, while being harder in the last few months, somehow making it easier now.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

working with what you've got

One of my most interesting takeaways from our ART ON THE CHEAP panel discussion last night, which focused on artists using upcycled and re-used materials in their artmaking, was the "work with what you've got", the consensus being pretty much unanimous that creativity happens most when you are forced to work within the confines of available material.  I was curious, and included the discussion question as to whether or not artists begin with an an idea and then seek out the material needs, or whether the material, as it prevents itself, dictates the project. It was overwhelmingly the latter, and have pretty much found that to be true in my own visual endeavor, though maybe even more so in my writing.

I've often mentioned how my writing practice changed around 2005, when I went from sitting down and attempting to say something in a poem (successfully or unsuccessfully) and a more collage, chaos driven approach after that.- a culling and assembling bits if language, image, and idea.  Sometimes I have everything I need when I sit down to do the writing.  Sometimes I don't and need to seek more out, or set something aside until I manage to have everything I need.  My own writing became so much more interesting to me at that point, and much less wrought with worry and feelings of failure.

Of course language is different, and endless when you compare it to the scarceness of say, thrifted items or ephemera, so there is a little more freedom there. I'm especially feeling this tension in material as I work on the /slash/ pieces, which are part found, part generated.  Sometimes the generated seems rather dull next to the found, and sometimes vice versa.  I guess the key is finding the balance.

(the above collage was one of my endeavors for the Book to Art project.  I've been composing a lot of collaged digitally lately, more than by hand, and it felt good to work in a more material way, and also an excellent exersize in making the most of what you've got (in this case a buttload of discarded books and images of movie stars).

Sunday, November 12, 2017

of mothers and losing them

When I was around 7 years old, I had a horrible dream that my mother abandoned me, dissappearing over a grayed wooden fence that separated the area behind our garage from the neighbor's yard and into a field full of daisies and was gone.  It was devastating for a 7 year old, and the sort of dream that I remembered after waking up crying, cried over subsequent nights. was as close to praying that I ever got asking to never, ever have a dream like that again.  Over time, the fear of it lessened, but I remembered it, have even used the memory a couple times in writing (see the poem "fictions" in my brief history of girl as match chapbook.) It was mostly filed under the THINGS I AM FORBIDDEN TO THINK about file, even when my mother survived a cancer scare when I was 13. I remember horrified that I wasn't ready to be motherless, yet, was not sure how any teenage girl could make it out intact without one, even if we fought a lot and there were times I was convinced she was absolutely insane (and maybe I was too.)  We were lucky, and later, when I was in my mid 20's, she had some surgery complications from a gall bladder and hernia, we were even luckier.

I was no stranger to lost love ones, most of my grandparents going early, sometimes unexpectedly, more often after long, terrible illnesses.   Cancer.  Freak falls resulting in blood clots.  An uncle with MS.  Maybe because I was so young in each of these it was easier to lose them somehow. By the time I hit adulthood, I had lost all grandparents, and would soon lose other aunts and uncles and many cats and dogs. But parents are of course, different, wound inextricably into your daily life for so long, people who are dependent upon for the first 20 odd years of your life and sometimes longer. At some point I suppose you no longer absolutely need them in the way you once did, though certainly they are an important part of your life and emotional support network if you allow them to be.

I didn't always take advantage of this--my mother in particular being a complicated knot of worry. So there was much that while I didn't exactly hide things from her if she asked, I did not come rushing forward to tell her.  Financial troubles, romantic dramas.  While in some arenas I shared everything with her, there was always a holding back of things that would worry her, or that I felt were too private even to share with my own mother, the person who had known me longest and best.  When I first moved to the city and began working the night shift, she would have me ring her phone twice and hangup to ensure I wasn't lying in an alley somewhere.  It went on for years, until email and social media allowed more regular check-ins.  She always said of she tried calling and I didn't answer she would wait a couple hours and then be on her way into the city--convinced I was dead.  Over the years, her primary worry shifted to my sister, who was plagued with more health problems and everyday dangers, so I got off the hook a little.

And maybe the worry-worn heart contributed to her death in many ways, heart disease being the chief culprit and so many of these things stemming from stress on that single muscle in the body, particular in the past couple of years, growing to include not only general motherly worry & anxiety, but extended family conflicts that she fretted over more than anyone else.  My mother, of course, had been a controlled diabetic and treated for accompanying diseases (blood pressure and cholesterol) for 35 years.  In the past 10 years, she had trouble sleeping well  in past years due to leg cramps and strange allergic reactions to things.   She was on xanax the last years of her life.  All things I imagine take a toll on the body slowly over time, and eventually resulted in her heart attack last winter.  Since then, she would get better, then worse, then better, then worse. Her general good health falling like a row of dominos.  A weird sudden latex allergy that wrecked her lower legs.  Cuts and sores on her heels from a fall that resulted in a bone infection. I thought we'd lost her for sure during the bout of delerium and the foot surgery, but she held on a bit longer, but in the end was begging to be let go. Her heart finally gave up the ghost.  And perhaps she did, finally just let go.

I am good about mentally preparing for things, but then you are never prepared for something like this.  I did get to see her reguarly on weekend trips to the hospital and rehab center, had been stuck working the last two weeks she was alive and therefore missed some opportinities to be there in the end.   Part of me still expected her to get better,  even if it got worse again.  I expected her to make it through the holidays.  I expected, hope against all hope, for her to eventually pull out of it. She always did, right?   In my preparations, I was reading some articles on losing parents and know that guilt is a huge part of it, so was prepared for that particular wave.   Particularly living in another city, no matter how often I made it home (which was frequently but maybe not frequently enough)  Also the horrible complicated feeling almost of relief, that the shoe I've been waiting to drop for months, that I don't have to worry about her because the worst thing has, in fact, already happened. She's safe from all the terrible suffering that could afflict her.

Sundays will of course, be hard when we miss our regular phone call.  Family gatherings & holidays where I expect to turn a corner and find her there among the crowd.   She was not a daily part of my life in the city, so somehow that makes it easier somehow, but those feelings are always there, waiting to knock you on your ass when you least expect it.  When I hurt my wrist a couple years back in a fall on the bus, it hurt like hell, and I laughed when I was high, because it felt like it still hurt, but that the pain was very, very far away.  In many ways, since Monday, this pain feels a lot like that, creeping around the edges and knocking me flat suddenly and without warning. There is still a certain unrealness to it that I don't know if it will ever go away.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people

It's  been a couple of dreary, fog-filled days this weekend, but I am making good progress on things.--am continuing my layout blitz for the press and have spent the afternoon reading some more manuscripts for next year.  Earlier, I had a bizarre, surreal experience when one of the manuscripts that I will be accepting came from one of the first visiting poets I ever met in person (Amy Newman)  as an undergrad way back in the 90's, back when poets might as well have been unicorns or mermaids, even though I was a couple years in to writing myself.   I was thinking about my baby poet self yesterday, which was open house day at Columbia and all the the poets and their parents were headed up to the CW presentation. How I have been doing this for so long, but that sometimes it still feels just as magical.

I've been waffling over manuscript #8--that actually split into #8 and #10 a couple months back  (#9 being something else entirely). I have a title and possibility for submission if I finish it by the end of November, but there is one section I am still working the kinks out of and feels untethered. Art-wise, there is a lot of general tasks that are happening (things to be scanned and photographed and added to the shop), and even more that need to happen, but creatively,  outside of some cover designs, I've barely touched a paint brush or a glue stick in weeks.  This week, however,  is our first Read Talk Make session for Book to Art club, and I'm hoping to work some more on my paper theater pieces inspired by Grimm tales.

Next week, I'll be spending a couple days in Rockford and then we are getting closer and closer to the holidays and the semester's end. My mom is holding in there, and will be spared more surgeries by the sound of it, but she's by no means really better and at this point they are mostly working toward getting her pain-free and healing a bit faster than she has to this point. I worry most at her lack of appetite and a certain despondency and we're thinking she might also benefit from some psychiatric treatment,even though her vitals are all sound and good.  With the injury itself, the earlier heart attack, , and all the losses that piled up and multiplied over the summer, culminating in the delerium and foot surgery, I'm not sure how to make things better or what happens next. She's home for now with visiting nurses and therapists and such.  And my Dad seems to have general caring for her on lock, but she doesn't seem to be improving and may be backsliding again. Part of me wonders at the benefits of being in a new place--not the house, which is sort of isolating and suffocating and tainted with loss, history and static.

I get unusually panicky in the off moments when I'm not  forced to focus on other things--bus rides, waiting for elevators, when I crawl into bed and my mind gets a few quiet moments to process. I've started reading more fiction again--not just poetry, but  semi-trashy YA dystopian novels-- the kind of books that suck you into their world so completely you kind of forget who and where you are when you look up. All of which fends off other, less constructive impulses I've been plagued with that I won't go into. The alternative is the endless loop of worry and doubt, which doesn't exactly bode well in this season of all seasons, when with the time change, dark falls even earlier and I get that special, winter kind of crazy.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

This morning, as I rolled out of bed to start the first of two weekend shifts in a row at the library, my radiator was humming and clanging, and outside, I kept repeating these lines of the Mary Oliver poem "Wolf Moon" (even though I sorta hate Mary Oliver in general.)

now is the season
of iron rivers,
bloody crossings,
flaring winds,
birds frozen
in their tents of weeds,

and though the poem is really about January it always reminds me of November, when all of the leaves are gone and the woods are naked and still and dark so early. And that feeling of  dread that always creeps in at the edges of late autumn.  November is my least favorite month--less so than even January, which has it's own sort of lull and endlessness, less so even than march when I am crawling out my skin usually. Halloween I like.  Thanksgiving I like.  But there is a weird stretch in there between as we downslide toward winter that always makes me super uneasy. 

So I try to concentrate on interior things and poems and plans.  I have manuscripts to read.  And layouts to attack.  Covers to design and maybe finishing up transcribing the unusual creatures notebook, a project which seems to suit this time of year perhaps more even than the horror movie poems I was trudging away on earlier in the month. Tonight, I get a few extra hours in the studio picking away at orders and author copies and probably streaming STRANGER THINGS, which I intend on binge watching before the weekend is out. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people

Sometimes when talking about being a writer (which honestly for as much as I obsess about it, it happens very infrequently in the day to day life of jobs and commutes and daily grind) occasionally I get asked, mostly from non-writers, what I write about.  It's a tricky question, almost in fact a trick question.  And I can say I write about horror movies (/SLASH/), about taxidermy and robot girls (unusual creatures).  About hotel ghost stories (postcards from the blue swallow motel).  About childlessness (the science of impossible things).  That in the past, I've written about mermaids, sideshow women, rural upbringing, the apocalypse, atomic-era america, zombies, bad road trips, pop culture, James Franco, Joseph Cornell, victorian women, ghost stories, urban legends, phobias.  But sometimes I feel like getting to the root of it is a much more complicated answer, and maybe one I'm not even completely capable of answering.  Sure, there are themes in there, most of them having to do either directly on tangentially with feminism I suppose. And lately, I've been trending toward prose poems more than lineated verse. But it's hard to give any sort of artist-statement worthy, nutshell description of my writing people seem to expect (or I assume they expect somehow).

I've been musing for a couple of years about perhaps starting an ekphrastic project devoted to Francesca Woodman's work.  Friday during the Indie Press Fest I met a freshman poetry student who was super excited about ekphrastics and bought my Salvadore Dali poems zine. Her enthusiasm  somehow fed my enthusiasm and my mind turned again to the Francesca-inspired poems, and then yesterday, like a sign, there was a volume of her photos lying on the table by the new books shelf, which I quickly snapped up and brought back to my desk. Mind you, it falls in line behind all the other plates in the air at the moment, but alas....

This weekend, I am library-bound, and declaring Saturday a layout frenzy day for the remaining chaps coming out this fall and winter. But I also want to get some things submitted to some places I've been solicited.  Also some new venues.  I'm currently working on a little resource zine of online markets for innovative work for the library, so I should have a good list when I'm done.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

I am bus bound again for Rockford, but just a quick note to say the last two days have been a whirlwind of literary goodness, starting with the Little Indie Press Fest on Friday, where so many publishers, artists and authors made the afternoon a delight and really brought home the amazing talent coming out of Columbia on a regular basis (and I even sold some books and prints--enough to buy a whole bunch of goodies myself.)  Saturday was my reading over at the Wit Rabbit series, where I read some Strange Machine pieces under twinkle lights and drank enough jack and cokes to leave a little bit drunker than I started.

This week, it's a bit of a breather until Friday's Horror Movie Trivia, which I am slowly working through questions for, and just general press doings and business. I've been finalizing a bunch of books and will be dropping them this week, as well as making my way through the last legs of summer submissions and making final decisions. I'd like to have responses out by the end of the month, but it will more likely be November.

In the meantime, it's been fall-like enough to wear some corduroy and drink hot cocoa a couple of days, and, yesterday, switching buses and walking a couple blocks down in my old LP hood, I got a little nostalgic for me of 20 years ago, who was newly hatched into the world and  walking those same leaf-littered streets, but also glad I am not exactly her anymore, and much the better for it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


I have this incredibly lofty goal to both write everyday and make some sort of gesture toward art everyday and usually I end up failing.  The writing happens in fits and spurts and sometimes a mad dash toward either an external or personal deadline.  So much falls into the path on a daily basis that I end up cutting myself too much slack and the next thing I know, I get that itchy, dissastified feeling that I'm not devoting sufficient time to my own creative pursuits and too much directed toward library and press things, and just time wasters and general life stuff.   It's easier with art--to just dive in and make something happen on the fly, but writing is an altogether different beast--one that has to happen under the right atmospheric circumstances--sort of like a tornado, the correct science of air masses and currents to actually get spinning, and sometimes even when it's spinning, it doesn't always meet the ground, let alone do the sort of good damage you want it to.

So thus, there's always this overwhelming feeling of not living up to potential (I just mis-typed "poetential" there and that seems incredibly fitting.)  Projects that have been conceived, and sometimes even named with titles that are waiting to actually happen.  And we won't even talk about the writing-business side, the work that is done and very little time/energy to send it out in the world in any sort of effective way.  Just getting the writing done seems hard enough when your juggling dayjobs, and editing/bookmaking work, not to mention commutes, housework, errands, and lately trips out to visit my mom on the weekend  (and even I admit it's so much easier than for other women because I don't have children and am entangled romantically with one of the only people I've ever met with more creative & work time commitments than me).

Granted I wrote & submitted more in the early 2000's (both before and during grad school, the former because my obligations both inside and outside the day job were simpler, and the latter because I HAD to. )  But then there was the press and the crazy etsy shop ride , and then just the press but steadily growing all the time and still growing.  And then more creative fun opportunities library-wise with A of R, things that I also work on sometimes on my own time but also make my experience in the library far more rewarding than it used to be just pushing papers around and supervising the circ desk.

Even still I've managed, as I occasionally have to remind myself, to produce pretty well, even since finishing my MFA 10 years ago, maybe not at first, but the last 6 years or so finishing about a book a year and making lots of artist books, chaps, and zine projects that at least make me feel a little more productive.  But then there is so much unwritten or half written or merely conceived as a tiny glimmer at the back of my brain. And so much more to do and it feels like so little time (not just daily time, but approaching / possibly already middle age at 43, and so, you know , facing my own inevitable mortality kind of thing.) It's this sort of low-key, but steadily building, panic sensation.  What if I never get to the end of the project to-do list?  What if all those things go unwritten?

Of course, today. my only rare  day off and obligation free, I wake late to a cloudy overcast day, drink too much coffee, and waste time on social media and pen this blog post instead of a poem.   But maybe I'm just sitting here waiting for the right winds that make one possible.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

While the temps this week have been in and out, up and down and weirdly humid, this afternoon, fall seems to have arrived in a fell swoop of wind and rain that set my apartment door rattling in it's frame and leaves spinning from trees and into the air.  Some trees are already yellowing & dropping, but I feel like the major turns are set to happen in the next couple weeks and by month's end, all will be gone except the tree outside my bedroom--the one that takes a really long time to get full in the spring and a long time to go bare. As such, my mind turns to fall things--apple pie, hazlenut hot chocolate, horror movies.  Tonight, I'll make my mother's ghoulash recipe and watch something spooky (though sometimes, it takes some starting and stopping and flipping aimless through Netflix.  Tomorrow, and early trip to Rockford again (my mom's foot is looking good according to the surgeon and her personality back to more normalish, but she's still going to need a lot of physical therapy to get her on her feet again.)

Library-wise, the latter part of this week has been devoted to getting ready for Wednesday's Zines in the Classroom workshop.  I was I was reminiscing over my passion for book arts and was thinking about my high school English class junior year and our teacher's predilection for interesting arty projects vs. boring essays and how much that year influenced me as someone interested in more creative manifestations of the written word (and thus the possibilities inherent in zine-making for classroom projects and how much more engaging those are for students.)  We're also about to go into full scale preparations for the Little Indie Press Festival, so I'm lining up readers and thinking about which dgp things I'd like to make available at the table. And then, hell, it will be nearly Halloween, and my yearly indulgence of double feature action in the library (this year, Bucket of Blood and some delightful mermaid horror, Night Tide.)

Art & writing-wise, I'm looking to transcribing the last text parts of UNUSUAL CREATURES out of the spiral and into the computer.  Also, making some more progress on /SLASH/, which has brief distracted me from some other poem projects, but it seems, seasonally , to be the best option. There is still a few more poems to write in the last section of the big book manuscript in the works that pulls together some of the smaller projects, but I'd like to finish and maybe start sending it out by the end of the year.   Meanwhile there are collage experiments and ad-hoc zines  (see above) and art projects aplenty.  (We' also having a paper mechanicals workshop next week Jen is leading that may prove fruitful--particularly for something I'm thinking of doing for our Grimm selection for Book to Art Club. )

As for dgp, mostly making big batches of books for a couple authors and slogging through the latter half of summer manuscripts, which are so good, they make me anxious about decision making when the time starts to start winnowing down.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Perhaps it is just the heaviness of the world lately--the violence, politics, politics that are a sort of violence. Perhaps it's merely seasonal fervor, but I am working on a new poem series of cut-ups of old slasher movie shooting scripts.  A different kind of horror, and making some new collages to go along with those poems.

I was recently reading an article about how women should be most afraid in this world of violent, angry, white men, and the comment resonated through so much of what I've been witnessing in the world lately---both at large and in the smaller literary arena.  There is some of this in my love poems series, that started out as a gesture toward the love poem, but ended up being more about women and men and how can love even happen when the world is the way it is.   And yet somehow it does. I probably do fear and try to avoid angry white men more than anything else on a daily basis (they are the ones who are, at best,  either ignoring your voice in meetings, or at worst, shooting up a public space.), and yet, as a straight woman dating men (men that have been, with a couple exceptions, mostly white) it's kind of hard to avoid men altogether.

My literary world is mostly small and circumscribed by women--by the press, by the publishers I send my work to.  By the poets I know in real life and FB.  But I hear the horror stories--the web trolling, the nasty responses to rejections, the general creeping on women writers--most of it committed by one demographic.  I do not know what to make of it--and have had many men in my life  (both actual and literary) who were not angry white men, but in this I am far more fortunate than others. As a woman, I am more likely to be killed by a man I know  in my own home than I am in a mass-shooting, but this isn't exactly a comforting fact.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

My library work week began with poetry, in the form of our Written on the Body reading Monday night and ended with cocktails with co-workers Friday, but in between there was an amazing round table discussion with artists from the Tattoo exhibit and a watercolor inking workshop, the conception of a new zine project Really Bad Idea, and gaming-related publication action @ both Library As Incubator and the ALA Programming Blog.   I'm now prepping for my zine workshop next week, and further in the month, Little Indie Press Festival, my favorite event  of the year, which is already shaping up to be bigger than last year in terms of the publisher/artist showcase.

dgp-wise, there are some new releases underway and lots of layouts as well as some acceptances and rejections as I make my way through the summer submissions (and try to hold desperately onto my 3-month response minimum.)  There is so much goodness there in the coming year, and so many chaps still left in 2017.  I am struggling to keep my head above water and still feel some things getting lost in the morass--wicked alice updates and the mermaid anthology are the saddest neglected children, but am hoping to get on top of them by year's end.

I recently had a discussion with another artist about never feeling truly caught up with one's life--of always being under the wheels and overwhelmed--creative or non-creative, and have pretty much felt this way my entire life, so am not sure if there's a fix.  As long as I keep hatching projects and schemes, there will probably never be an end, or sufficient breathing room or pauses to catch my breath .  This is the way it goes, so I suppose if you can't find a way out of the fire, you live in it, find a way to thrive in it, and do with it what you can.  I have writing and art projects in the works for YEARS, titles and concepts for books I haven't even really started writing yet. I have ideas for AofR programming, for library-related writing projects  that are in limbo until I get a grasp on some time to do them.  Press anthology projects and broadsides and paper goods I am looking to get a start on, but can't until I finish what's on my plate now. All of it is really exhausting, so I try not to think about it too much. When I think about being afriad of death, it's not the hereafter that scares me, but all the things I'll never finish if I don't get cracking.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

This week has been marked by much prep for the TATTOO : INK, ART, & OBJECT exhibit and events, but also by unseasonably hot weather that does not dissipate overnight so my apartment is sticky and overheated all the damn time when I am mentally not in the mood for summer anymore , but for fall-things like apples and horror movies and sweaters and being cozy.  It's the August we never got come back to town a month late and annoying as hell.

Yesterday I formatted questions for Tuesday's artist panel and finalized details for Monday night's reading, as well as hung most of the pieces on the second floor---one of which is an amazing tattooed plaster death mask. I'll also be hanging the prints I came up with as variations for the poster--the lucky cat and the ouija board and maybe something else if I can finish it Monday.

I am off to Rockford again tomorrow for an overnight...where my mother is steadily improvng--her mind better and more like herself, but still a long way from being back on her feet.   The nursing home seems nice, though the elderly folks just sort of littered throughout the hall unnerve me, mostly becuase I cannot guess whether they are there because they want to be there or rolled through the hallways, or because some aide has just abandoned them there. The facility dining room was also sort of unnerving, most people just staring into space and waiting, no one talking to each other or passing time in other ways..a strong dose of what it's like to be elderly in the world and the sort of loneliness that is enough to kill you even when other things haven;t.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

unusual creatures

I've been working a bit more on transcribing bits of UNUSUAL CREATURES into type from the notebook version, as well as plotting out the elements that will go into the finished box project..the letters, the diary portions, the typed notebook pages.  Also the images (see above), the various faux ephemera--newpaper scraps, maps, etc--all that create the little world of the project.

I was thinking the other day about how long this thing has been in the works--how long the visual pieces took from the time my aunt gave me the photos,  How long those existed before the written portions just completed this summer.  How some projects are a slow burn and others (like the Plath Centos and the love poems series) are faster at coming into being. I would love to have the whole project finished by winter, but am unsure of how much can be accomplished before then.  Also how much I'll have to fork over in supplies to make it happen and whether that is in my budget.

I was also thinking about the dynamics of storytelling and whose story this is.  There are three main parts written by three women in different generations of the same family--a day book, a sheaf of letters, and a more scientifically oriented journal. These are the women that speak, but the main character actually speaks nothing of her own.   Her story is present in the words of the other women and comes together in fragments--the letters written to her by her sister, the diary entries of her mother, the notebooks of her niece.  The things that are said about her as well as unsaid.

I was also thinking about our Creepy Curiosities installation from a couple years back, how that installation in many ways inspires and reflects the visual elements, just as much as the animal mask collages (and in fact was created as a companion piece to the framed collages)  I want to find a way to inorporate the visuals from that exhibit, maybe as the "cover" art of the box if I possibly can.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

we all float down here

Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of the afternooon typing up one large segment of UNUSUAL CREATURES--the Rose letters.  They will be the ekphrastic element of the box project, most likely enveloped and tied with a ribbon.  As I was retyping, I was revising, and feeling that ever-present tension between narrative--relaying sufficient information to convey the story (in this case the story of a woman who runs away from home to pursue a dream and a marriage and a child in the 1920's, but ends up in madness and depression and prostitution) and being artful with language--poetic and innovative.  Sometimes, I don't care about narrative at all, but it seems important here.  When I initially was writing, I was composing longhand in a spiral notebook and away from the computer, so when I sit down to type, it feels rougher--in need of tweaking--moreso even  than usual.

Thursday night, I got a chance to see the IT remake, and was thinking yesterday how King tells stories, and the world he creates and recreates that overlaps sometimes and feels like it's a part of the same universe, either intentionally or unintentionally or just by circumstance.  I liked it better than the mini-series, though the actual novel is not my favorite Stephen King piece  (which would be Carrie, or maybe The Langoliers). Whenever I think about his work, there is always the tension of the horror fiction genre and more serious types of writing, and I feel King treads that line quite nicely.  While I was in college and studying LITERATURE (tm) I would have written King off as a purely guilty pleasure, but after reading his On Writing book, I had a new appreciation for what he does, and though his less horror-driven books aren't my bag (w/the exception of 11-22-63) I have mad respect for someone who can do popular lit well and still have the least writerly integrity (in this Twilight / 50 Shades of Grey world).

I also like how his books become part of the cultural fabric--how his characters and storylines are recognizable tropes.  Everyone equates highschool with Carrie. Even walking back from the theatre and crossing the deserted north branch of the Chicago River, I mentioned how perfect it was a place for Pennywise, that dank & dark water, and half expected to see that single, ominous red balloon floating over the bridge above our heads.

Tomorrow, another trip to Rockford, where my mother seems to be improving and has been moved to a nursing home for some rehabilitation work before she can be sent home. Though she is still out of it and having a problem distinguishing between reality and dreams and some possible hallucinatons, ( two little girls seated at the table in her room, more butterflies on the wall)  her motor skills are improving, as is her appetite.   She's kind of freaky in a horror movie way, and I joked with my father on the phone that maybe her infection made her able to see ghosts.  I am less troubled by her ghost-sightings than her crying, which seems to be less prompted by pain and more by frustration or sadness.  (ie..if she is talking crazy, that's fine, but I don't want her to be in distress). As the infection  / pain clears, most likely so will her mind , so we are hoping for the upturn soon.