Sunday, August 18, 2019

my 90's fashion dreams

With fall on my mind, I'm plotting outfits and spotted this lovely on Poshmark and had to get being of two 90's varieties--velvet and waffle-printy, AND my favorite teal to boot. I think it's at least couple years old, because I don't remember it the Modcloth line-up (and I've had my eye on their velvet the past few seasons.) I'm looking forward to quite a few wardrobe staples in the forom of velvets and furs and knits, plus some fall florals I'll be hauling out in mid-September. I'm thinking it'll be perfection with tights and boots and a black cardigan.


Judging by runways, catalog spreads, and window displays, the 90's are so back this fall. You might argue that the 70's by proxy are also back). I like the 90's, though maybe didn't appreciate them quite enough when I was in them. I've mentioned before that my 90's wardrobe was a whole lot of leggings and oversized flannels & sweatshirts, with some long hippie skirts thrown in. By the end of the decade, I wore a lot of boot cut jeans and black & grey sweaters and some longer skirts. (and eventually only skirts after 2000 or so.) Mostly I look back at the 90's as a period I was mostly trying to blend in, and even if I'd wanted to be fashionable, things were hard to find in my size (which was a couple sizes bigger than I wear now.) Internet shopping wasn't a thing, so I was limited to big box stores and occasional stuff from Sears or Lane Bryant (not that I had much of my own money early in the decade anyway). Things got a little more interesting when I discovered Fashion Bug and TJ Maxx but only a little. Thrift stores weren't very accomodating to plus sizes, though I was just beginning my addiction to thrifting.

 So the cool things I saw in magazines/tv/movies in the form of floral dresses and leather jackets were mostly unattainable. Velvet seemed fussy. Leopard print something I'd abandoned in junior high. The Delia's catalog was awesome, but not for me. I could wear Doc-Martin-ish shoes & boots, and of course, my perennial fave chunky mary janes, but above my feet was pretty uninspired and would remain so for a decade or so. So it's probably only natural I would nurse a desire to hit decade trends hard. A few years ago, I started becoming obsessed with leopard print, what I call my "Peg Bundy wardrobe" pieces, so many that I was wearing it once a week, and then came the velvet, and thankfully fashion followed and gave me even more things to obsess over. It culminated of course, in a leopard velvet jacket I am crazy about. I am also plotting ways to incorporate flannels and florals, though I oft question my pattern mixing acumen.

check out my autumn pinterest board for more & links on the above...

Saturday, August 17, 2019

poems and peacocks and angry rabbits

My head is, as expected, filled with ideas after my Field Museum visit on Thursday, and I got started that very evening drafting bits of something that I think will be promising.   I initially went in with a vague idea of writing about extinction and dinosaurs and the earth over time, but of course got distracted by the birds (it happens) and then the maze of mammals, which had me mulling over taxidermy techniques and the work of diorama artists and the whole points of museums, the houses of the muses, and preservation, particularly when it comes to extinction (even our own).  And then of course, from my last visit, Audubon and his giant book.   And somehow, a kernal of sense-making came into being and I think I might have something. 

And of course, the Field is such a nostalgia filled place for me.  It was the site of the 9th grade field trip that touched off a desire to live in this big, bustling city perched on the lake.  And other visits were always with my parents, and far too infrequent, but always memorable.  But its somehow so familiar, even when they move things around and add rotating exhibits.  I stuck mostly to animals and the dinosaurs since I got a late start to the day, but there was much I wanted to wander through, but stuck steady to my material interests re: animals and evolution.

And of course, I've written about the museum before.  The title poem of in the bird museum is inspired by the Field's and other similar museums' bird specimen collections.  And there is a line in my first book, in the poem "How to Tell a Story in a Dead Language" specifically about the Egypt exhibit. (another fave, but I didn't have time for it Thursday.)  All of which, was perhaps why I am especially excited about this endeavor and the reading (which is looking to be happening in October at this point--they are still working out details.)  Already I have three drafts that look promising--I'd love to get a chap or a segment of another longer book from all this.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

dgp notes | august edition

We're coming up on the very end of the submission period and so far things are looking amazing in the pool, and the first round of acceptances will be going out mid next week.  I am struggling as always to figure out what the sweet spot is in how many releases are possible and when it tips over into overwhelming, but I think also being more generous in timelines for things may help immensely--more based on how things actually go than how I wish they would go. Life intervenes, printers break, and I never feel ahead of the game, no matter what. But I guess, just keep doing the best I can. I often overshoot and over commit, and I need to reign this tendency in as well.

We are also hosting our first ever fundraising campaign to help with things that are coming down the pipeline in terms of a mini-chap contest and the anthology project, both of which require a bit more in terms of resources than the usual schedule of chapbooks.  I want to avoid submission fees at all costs, but to offer a cash prize, you need to, you know, have cash and all, so if we can raise it beforehand, it would be amazing. One of the perks is that the mini-chaps will be included with every order, so that's some mad distribution (and some mad printing costs for larger runs).  I'm excited to turn people onto authors they might not otherwise read when they purchase something.  Plus, I'm dreaming that SWIM will be a little more luxe and fancy, which means I'll be spending more on all the paper doo-dads.

Our dancing girl press salon series will be back on September 10th in the Library (the perfect marrying of my library programming work and my work with the press.) and will feature Annette  Boehm, Aviya Kushner, Leah Claire Kaminski, and Eleanor Tisch in that first installment, all of whom have books out from this past year. I did a couple of these in the past, and then a few devoted to other presses & orgs, but we actually have plenty of visiting and chicago-area authors to bring in on our own.

Friday, August 09, 2019

notes & things | 8/9/2019

Every August, about midway through, there is a day that you wake up and the light just seems different and aches of the impending fall. Maybe that day was today, maybe yesterday.  Or maybe I'm just realizing in a panic that it's a few scarce weeks until the semester begins because, yes, it does and I am perhaps nowhere near ready--so much stuff to line up, including our Lethal Ladies programming, plus preparations for some library things--a session at the Chicago Research summit in October, and then a poster session at the Illinois Library Association conference shortly thereafter. Summer seemed like such a long stretch, but it's now almost over.

This week, I'll be heading over to the Field Museum to get a start on some writing for my reading there in mid-September. I have some vague articulations about extinction events and natural environments (and yes, dinosaurs!) so we'll see how those flesh out this week. I just finished the artist statement project, so I am primed and ready for something new. Fall seems perfect for a new endeavor to begin. I've been prepping with some notes on fossils and geologic periods (which were the least interesting and least retained bits of my science schooling I admit). I'll be writing a bit more about the project after my visit on Thursday.

I spent some time this week delving into the submission pile for next year's chapbook series and already I have a handful of possibilities ready for a second read.  I'm hoping to get through everything within the  three month window, which would pit all responses out by late October--it feels do-able, but I know the rate increases exponentially as we get closer to the deadline.  This should work out well, since I was just asked to be a prelim reader for another presses' contest that ends  around the same time.

Besides a little more research and note taking, this weekend will be devoted to groceries and cleaning and playing with the tiny demon cats that are running back and forth through my apartment. I have only a couple more free ones until a short trip to Rockford, then Labor Day, and then we are plunged into the semester. I am less excited about colder weather, but more excited by fall fashions, so I'll take it.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019


As much as I love them, old photos make me nervous.  My own and other peoples. Especially other peoples. Today, I spent some time sorting through a huge batch of vacation photos that a faculty member had picked up somewhere, intending them for a project that just never happened. So he passed them onto me.  I foraged for some good collage/art possibilities, and found a really cute vintage Hallmark floral bag, but as I tossed the majority of the pics--various women posed in front of monuments and scenic vistas (but did keep the vistas and the monuments alone for artmaking) I felt the same weight on my chest that I feel when I look at family photos of my own. That it's suffocating to think of the detritus of our lives--what we leave behind, where it goes, what happens to it.  The women were old in the 70's--now they are surely dead, so it felt weird tossing them into the trash with the days other detritus, coffee cups and sandwich wrappers--somehow sacriligious, even though I've no desire to keep them unless they are useful.

When I was 8, my grandmother died, and in her house was about a foot tall mountain of snapshots going back decades, that my mother and aunt sat and sorted through one stifling summer afternoon.  Many went into albums that still sit in my Dad's house today.  Others were split up among relatives. Even more, however, were tossed in the trash or on top of a fire or lost in the shuffle.  When I volunteered to help clean up that flooded farm house in Kaskaskia after the 93 floods, I  remember the horrible feeling of scraping family photos caked in mud from the floor boards of the 2nd floor, where the water had been halfway up the wall. What to do with all this--what we keep, what we leave behind,.  What matters to no one else but us, and after we're gone. ?

Years ago, my aunt gave me a stack of cool  victorian cabinet cards she'd been sent from relatives in Nebraska, where she and my mother were born. There were some young pics of my grandmother in the 20's and 30's among them, but most of the people were unrecognizeable and unknown..maybe a trace of resemblance at most--a set of brow, a curve of lip that echoed through my great grandmother, but little else.  She gave them to be to do "something artsy"  and they eventually, without their actual heads, became he unusual creatures pieces. At first,  I debated collageing on the photos themselves.  On one hand, it would ruin them. On the other, no one much cared, least of all my aunt..The originals, tucked somewhere in my studio even now, will one day be inconsequential to whoever stumbles across them. I wound up reproducing them on cardstock and then working with them.  But it scarce matters. Ultimately, they'll ed up in the trash sooner or later.

The strange thing about being childless I suppose is knowing that my legacy, whatever that is, dies with me. Some day, I'll grow old and die and people, probably strangers, will throw the bulk of my things in the trash --the poems, the artwork, the random bits of my life I've collected.  This makes me hurt. it makes me heavy in a way I can't quite put my finger on. My dad & sister were pretty quick about dealing with my mother's things after her death--alarmingly so, but it was probably necessary mental health-wise--the closet full of clothes, her jewelry box, a linen closet stuffed with half  burnt candles and semi-filled bottles of lotion.  Her presence is still very real in the house--the art she chose for the walls, the furniture, the photos, her dishes. .  But at the same time, she is also more absent--and in a way that has nothing to do with her physically missing.  But who can hold on to ghosts?  Or maybe ghosts are all we have?

While I've purloined a lot of photos and scanned them for social-media purposes over the years, I have only one photo album in my apartment, mostly filled with images taken from my first years in Chicago before the world went digital. I also have a sizeable stack of yearbooks, journals, and scrapbooks, but the photo albums for the most part are in my parents' house.  The weight of the seems to much.

One project that I've always thought would be cool would be to hunt down a bunch of stranger's family photos and create my own story from them. I know other artist and writers who have done this (Jaime Zuckerman's Alone in this Together, published by dgp a couple years back is a great example.) One of our Aof R artsist from a few shows ago liked to alter photos found in antique stores with his own monster illustrations and then slip them surreptitiously back into the stores to be found by others. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

toni morrison and the midwest gothic

Sad news today that the world lost Toni Morrison. The first time I encountered Morrison was my freshman year. In a community college class called Intro to Literature.  We mostly read stories from an an anthology--everything with a feminist bent--Tillie Olsen, Flannery O'Connor (I am so fortunate in my education that we always read more women, even in non-focused classes.)  I was just beginning to write seriously, but badly, and was sort of placeholding and wracking up some credits & gen-eds (history, intro to psych, dramatic lit) before I started at Rockford College in the fall after returning from North Carolina and changing my plans and my major.  By the end of the semester, we had time for one long form fiction, and the professor had chosen Beloved, heavy reading for a 19 year old, but one that struck me as amazing.  It struck me as a horror novel, becuase of the ghost, the haunting of the main character after sacrificing her children to save them from slavery.  And it is a sort of ghost story--and importantly, a midwest gothic, one wrapped up in our terrible, bloody history.  It was a book that haunted me, as a reader, and I returned to it in the following years, particularly as I was trying to figure out the whole writing thing.  We later read it in another class at RC devoted to Psychology and Literature. Though I read and loved The Bluest Eye as part of my MA Comp exam a couple years later, Beloved remained my favorite Morrison, because of its strong roots in the gothic.

Monday, August 05, 2019

a tale of two kittens

Having long ago given up the ghost on fighting any urge to deny my cat-lady spinsterish tendencies, I welcomed these little lovelies into my house last week.  I wound up naming them after famous Siamese twins, Violet and Daisy Hilton, sideshow and vaudeville performers ( they were in the classic Freaks (see below) and surely an inspiration for AHS:  Freak Show.)  They were also one of the inspirations for my poem "double tongue" in GIRL SHOW.)   

Sunday, August 04, 2019

artist statements

The last few months, I've been working on a more meta project, spawned by some less coherent thoughts I had when I was working on my actual artist statement. How to convey a whole world--a whole aesthetic framework, without delving into something a little more creative when it feels like you are supposed to be more expository somehow.  What wound up resulting was a lot of fun.  How to write about the endeavor of writing poems (and I use "poetry" loosely since most of my stuff takes the form of prose lately).

The subject matter of the pieces take a lot from my experience writing as a woman, of subject matter, of the academic-poetry complex.  Of desire and sex and writing.  The closest thing I can compare it to in my past writings would be this poem, which opens major characters in minor films, which touches on some of the similar ideas, but in a less specific way. Some of the artist statement pieces are coming soon in an issue of TYPEHOUSE,,so watch for that to get a sampling. 

Saturday, August 03, 2019

curvy girl fashion | oh sailor....

I somehow convinced myself to indulge in buying this little number, mostly since I've been forgoing my daily Dunkin habit and saving a bit more money. So instead of daily lattes and breakfast sandwiches, I've used the money to go towards my other vices.  I feel like I've seen this dress previous seasons, or some variation thereof, but I've never spotted it available in my size. I tend to spend some time lately watching plus size haul videos on youtube, and one blogger posted this dress, which I filed away in my fall to-buy file, but I spring for this one since summer is dwindling fast and it's definitely a summer dress. 

 One of my other favorite Torrid acquisitions that came from Poshmark was the dress above which is super luxe and flattering (so much so that I'm sad it's only really wearable in the summer and not all year long--it actually is heavy-ish, so maybe you could pair it with tights & cardigan, but I've been putting it away the past couple years come fall to make room for cool-weather clothes).  I have quite a few sailorish feel items, mostly for spring and summer, mostly navy.  I'm a big fan of that center tie that is super 1930-ish in origin. Some of my favorites can be spotted in my Pinterest. Enjoy!

Friday, August 02, 2019

cover love | august edition

a peek at some of the designs on some more recent and upcoming cover designs I've done for august dgp titles..

Sunday, July 28, 2019

notes & things | 7/28/19

This month has been slipping away from me with alarming speed, and yet, I am tiring of summer, perhaps the earliest ever in the season.  It's not even August yet, and I am craving fall and somewhat listless  While the heat has been bad a few days in the past couple of weeks, most of it has been reasonably mild in between.  I am just ready for later starts and more productive time in the studios before the day has taken bites out of me both physically and mentally. I work faster and better and more energetic when I haven't spent my day dealing with library (and mostly busy work since my go-to ILL student has been away at an internship and her replacement works less days.)

Lately, I find myself battling frustrations on all fronts at not getting as much done, at not working as quickly as I need to, and have to talk myself off ledges I should not even be on.   The writing has all but slowed to a trickle, and I'm hoping to get back on track in August with some other projects.  I am trying better to live as a whole person and not just a productivity machine (and at this point, a glitchy one at that). I'm struggling to feel in control of things and it's taking both mental and physical toll.

On the home front, there is the bright spot of a pair of new additions to the household--a set of siamese kittens I plan to name Elizabeth Bathory and Lizzie Borden (edit:  I decided to name them after famous sideshow/vaudeville performers, The Hilton Sisters--Daisy and Violet (who were also Siamese  It was supposed to only be one, but the second one was unspoken for and once I caught sight of both of them lying together in the cage Friday, I knew I wouldn't be able to separate them (also, I imagine much Lady in the Tramp sing-a-longs and Parent Trap-like hijinks in our future since they are IDENTICAL. It means at least one additional litterbox and a little more vacuuming no doubt to combat lighter hair, but I've been down a cat since losing Zoe during that terrible traumatic summer of 2017, so we'll see how it goes.  (and I will be posting pics on instagram as soon as I've brought them home.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

to all the desks I've loved before...

When I was a child, I badly wanted a desk.  For a long time, there was only one in the house that belonged to my father--a midcentury cheapie that instead of drawers, had side cabinets guarded by roll top panels. It lived first in the upstairs attic space until my bedroom moved there, and later in the basement.  My dad hoarded paper like you wouldn't believe, so the surface was usually not visible, but mostly I dreamed of a time when I would have such a desk--a place to read and write and color.  To play school,  which was also a favorite thing--teacher's desks being a similar magical space filled with red pens and star stickers.

When I was 9, we lived briefly in the trailer of a great uncle, the room I squatted in having a huge desk with drawers that had been too large for him to move, and which thus transferred to the new owners.  It was summer and school long out, but I would pull the chair up to it and pretend to study. I kept a pair of scissors found in it's copious drawers for years engraved with my cousin-by-marriage's name, which was the same as mine except with an "i". When we moved into a new house, eventually I inherited my father's desk, by then, the doors broken completely, but I quickly painted it white and covered it in magazine clippings under tape and it served me well for quite a few years--through junior high and into highschool.  Eventually, it fell apart, and I traded it for  a huge board propped in the corner on a pet kennel we kept the new kittens in. It wobbled, and would fall off if I leaned to heavily, but I loved the space.  I made college plans, and wrote essays for Seventeen magazine on changing the world. Penned environmental editorials for the paper and begrudgingly did math homework perched on a metal work stool I'd lifted from the basement.  My dorm room at UNCW had the perfect tiny wood desk, my first with actual drawers I had very things to put in it, but I wrote a lot on the floor, my electric typewriter on my knees.

When I left North Carolina and came back to the midwest, I carried my "desk" portably with me--to the living room coffee table where I'd sit on the floor.  The dining room table in front of the a/c.  Outside to the deck, where I's spend time writing horrible poems and making plans to submit them.  By desk, it was mostly a big envelope box full of writing magazines and typed drafts, banged out on the typewriter. In those years, my aunt had soon brought me a proper desk with a bookshelf upper, and every semester, I would line my textbooks & other reading materials in the top cove. Tucked my hilighters and post-its in the drawers.  I moved it so many times into various corners of the room, eventually the particle board fell apart, but by then, I had moved on to grad school, and my uneven little wood table in my Lincoln Park apartment.  It too had a busted leg, so for two years it wobbled as I began to write the first poems that actually were any good. The apartment was so small, I could sit at the table and reach not only the fridge, but most of the other furniture in the apartment.  Lacking an extension cord, most of my typeing was done a few feet away on the floor in front of the futon on a Brother wordprocessor .  I moved back to Rockford briefly, and didn't have a proper worktable until I moved back to the city--a newer pedestal table that also wobbled due to construction, on which I spent a couple years at until I could afford a new dining room set, which then spent years covered in laptops, art supplies, chapbook innards, and more until I moved a lot of it into the studio. . About a decade ago, I moved to writing at a wooden vanity table in the living room --big enough for a laptop and notebook, but not so big I overclutter it with piles of books and abandoned cups of tea. (I've written about this space at length here ...)

My dayjob desks have always had a transient feel--even if I've been at them for a long time. My desk in the elementary school was not so much a desk as a table with a computer and barcode scanner. (there was an old school teacher's desk nearby, but mostly I used it for a book displays and a surface to sort incoming materials.) My desk in the library now is surely from the 70's-- broken beige drawers (which I've covered over the years in stickers) and a faux wood laminate top. Mostly it houses inside it a couple decades worth of hoarded discard materials I eventually plan to make into art. Also, dozens of chopsticks and soy sauce packets from delivery lunches. I actually used to do a lot of writing in the evenings on the library circulation desk, a big blue formica topped behemoth.

Other desks have been, in fact, transitory.  When I was in college , my favorite place to work were a slate of study carrels that faced a brick wall. I would leave place markers there even when I left for class to stake out the spot.  A sweater.  A notebook.  A stack of books.  They were more cubicle than carrel, and I grabbed one whenever I could.  I did revisions on my first book at a cafe in a downtown Barnes & Noble. Wrote poems between my MFA classes at a counter at Corner Bakery down the street.  When I'm visiting my dad, I sometimes write at that same dining room table I wrote at decades ago.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

writing & art bits | july edition

*I have a couple of pieces (including one of the eleanor & the tiny machines pieces and one older catalogue collage) in the latest issue of Radar Poetry, fast becoming of my favorite places combining writing and visual art.  Check out the new issue here. (you can also see some of the exquisite damage written and visual pieces in the previous issue.)

*The latest Tupelo Quarterly dropped on Monday and features 5 pieces from the [licorice, laudaum] project (aka, my HH Holmes series.).  So much research went into the project , it's great to see the elements together for the first time here in all their weird little glory. 

*As mentioned below, I am taking part in an interview series with a host of other editors & publishers at The Nasiona Magazine, the first part of which landed on Monday. 

* work is beginning on the next books & objects offering coming around the bend, the poets zodiac, which needs a little tightening up, but is finally (finally!) finished. It's going to be a tiny little guide-book sized project that should be absolutely lovely. 

*This month, I am working on rounding out my artist statement series, which is turning out to be delightfully meta as one would expect.  My fave part so far is  this bit:

"The poem won’t shut up until you take it home. Until you shove it beneath the bathtub’s surface a few times for effect.  Neglect is the poem’s best weapon. All night, it will moan and pretend it’s coming, but by morning will be nothing but a few strands of hair on the pillow you used to smother it." 

Once that series winds down at the end of this month..I intend to do some more work on my woefully neglected unusual creatures project.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

dgp cover love | white space

some recent and upcoming cover designs, all if which are keeping it pretty simple in terms of space and color.......

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

vattemare award for creativity in libraries

My Monday morning started off with some exciting news that me and my co-hort, Jennifer Sauzer had scored the 2nd Annual Vattemare Award for Creativity in Libraries for our work with Aesthetics of Research.  Given that it's sometimes been bumpy road in the early days, this felt really good, and really excellent timing since we are working on some other writing projects devoted to our efforts, both about A of R  and curated learning in general,  that we will begin submitting for publication soon. Also helpful as we work on some more classroom-connected projects this coming academic year.

The proposal for the Vattemare included a general summary of our mission and some of our ongoing series and initiatives.

read more here... 

(incidently the prize is named after a famous ventriloquist/librarian, which seems an odd, but appropriate combo..)

Monday, July 15, 2019

interview @ The Nasiona Magazine

I am super-excited to be amongst the selection of awesome presses answering some questions over at The Nasiona Magazine about submissions, manuscripts, and other relevant topics..

"I love a book that can take a completely ordinary subject matter and stylistically turn it on its ear. I also really love quirky & weird subject matter. I love surrealism, the supernatural, pop culture mash-ups, science-inspired writing. Found and appropriated texts. I always say that I love those sorts of manuscripts that take the reader to weird places, but with such authority, you have no choice but to follow." 

read part 1 here..

Sunday, July 14, 2019

curvy girl fashion | early autumn wish list

Considering I only switched out my spring clothes for my summer options a couple weeks ago, it is perhaps a bit too early to be looking toward fall, but I'm cheating just a little.  I was thinking this morning that late July is always when that magical, back to school issue of Seventeen magazine showed up filled with all of it's fall-fashion magic.  It does not help that I've been bingeing season three of Stranger Things and so freakin nostalgic for my youth of neon-lined malls. All of which is giving me a summer sort of restlessness and excited back to school shopping vibes.  (and the best thing about working in academia is still being excited for every school-year start even as an adult, so I usually buy a few new clothes and some random school supplies every September. )

But nevertheless, I already thinking about jackets and sweater dresses, even though we actually have had some heat out there finally especially since I've spent the morning with some plus-size haul videos on YouTube that have me thinking about fashiony things. There are some colors I keep seeing that are jumping out at me in summer offerings that I see carrying well into fall, especially since I always have this weird span of time in September where it's still warm enough for summer dresses, but am anxious to get into fall clothes.


There is so much mustard in stores this year for summer--also other shades of buttery yellows, of which I now have way too much in my closet.  Fall is looking to be no different.  They're a little tricky sometimes, because there is a variation of mustard that looks terrible against my skin, but the warmer ones tend to fare well.  The above Old Navy one caught my eye and I will probably get it since I'm loving the delicate floral.

Dusty Pink

This is a color that works really well for my skin but I never encounter it quite enough. I'm not sold on the neckline of this particular Old Navy dress, so it's not a sure thing (too high and I feel like it will make my boobs look frumpy).   But that color is making it super tempting to try..esp with those leaopard flats.

Forest Green

I've been unusually obsessed with dark green, and even bought a velvety green ottoman for the studio  (mostly as an incentive to keep the damn place tidier. )  When my hair was darker, this was a color I loved, but it still works even when I'm blonder.   It's actually a color that works in every season, being bith naturey and holiday-ish.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019


At first, I walked out of the theatre not sure what to say about this movie.  I was super excited going in, but was fully prepared for it to fall short.  After all, with all the hype around Ari Aster's Heredity, I did not like it as much as some of my friends--thinking it definitely was a beautiful work of art in terms of impending gloom and camerawork, but thought the family trauma was more than enough even without the supernatural element that felt tacked on at the end.  The very thing that was wrong about that film, Aster did right in this one, centering the dissolution of a toxic relationship as the main source of horror, but setting it amidst the sunlight dappled beauty of a creepy Kinfolk catalog aesthetic.

In fact, there is less of the supernatural in this one, than there is the general horror of much folklore.  Very little happens that is not human directed--sacrifices, spellcasting, fertility rights.  But at the same time, there are spots of gore that jump out so strongly and starlingly becuase they are in broad daylight and paced exactly right.  So much so that you might forget you are in a horror movie, or can't quite figure out if you're in a horror movie, which contributes to the viewers disorientation as much as the characters.  It is, like Heredity, very much a meditation on trauma and grief, and the main actresses' struggle with a personal tragedy had my heart in my throat the entire movie (the closest thing I can think of recently that had this effect was Haunting of Hull House.)  Also, the dynamics of isolation and community, however fucked up. And the boyfriend, is ultimately every bad relationship you ever had, who meets a weirdly satisfying end. 

But so much can be said about the visual feast of this movie--from that unbearable bright beauty of the clearing to the visual representations of much of what happens in the film--the iconography, the illustrations. Unlike most horror, everything happens in the daylight, which becomes oppressive in its own right. As someone who most appreciates the beautiful cast against the terrifying, this movie hit all the right buttons, and some I did not even know existed.

notes & things | 07/09/2019

And just like that, we have bitten a chunk out of July.

I've been away from work and away from the studio the past 5 days or so, so re-entry is proving to be a bit rough.  There was the 4th--spent mostly just hiding from the crowds, eating takeout ribs and battling the heat in my apartment.  Then Friday hijinks, which included seeing the amazeballs Midsommer (more on this in another post) and karaoke at the Uptown Lounge. Then I was off to Rockford for some day drinking (a bit too much day drinking) and some thrifting yesterday. It's not much of a vacation, but a little bit never hurts.  I now realize that once we hit the 4th, it's a swift forward roll down into fall, so perhaps I should absorb as much summer as I can.

Otherwise, there is studio tidying, the unending saga, but still too much chaos to try for an open studio this week.  I realize I am failing in my goals to make one happen this summer, but I can use the extra work time on Fridays since I get out of the library earlier that day.   I finalized a bunch of new books before the holiday, so those are on the agenda this week and some more order filling in the task of catching up, which seems impossible sometimes.  I feel like the last two years have been an uphill slant for all kinds of reasons and I'd like a little bit of leveling off. I am also set to dip my toes into the new pool of submissions for next year and looking forward to reading so much goodness.

We've hit a welcome spate of milder days, which are a relief after a few steamy muggy ones in which my apartment failed to cool down over night, which made sleeping well difficult with no A/C..  It seemed summer would never arrive, and for a couple days there it did in spades. Ideally, I like a low-humidity 80 tops, and some cooler nights in the 60's. I always grow tired of the blazing sun, the humidity, the crowds, around mid-July and long for September/early October. I also start to long for my more productive studio hours at the top of the day when my brain is still fresh.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

exquisite damage and the suburban gothic

This weekend, I am working through some more fine tuning edits on exquisite damage, which is mostly done, but needed a little distance to iron out some rough spots.  This week, I also am planning a couple more collages to accompany the text portions.  I started the project thinking about my love of the horror genre, of the gothic, particularly a more suburban, midwest gothic that plays such a central role in many horror classics (Halloween and It Follows come immediately to mind.)  The sort of things that lurk at the edges of the world we think we know. It's origins are similar, but it's manifestations different from purely rural gothic--theres a thicker gloss on it all--a variation between the perception and the reality.

I worked with something similar in the shared properties of water and stars--that dark shadow sitting squat under suburbia, but this project is more personal and grounded in my experience as a child who loved horror and grew up in the 70's & 80's. Last spring, one of the speakers at the pop culture conference on horror touched on the definition of the gothic--how even in the Victorian ages, it's appeal lie in a safe way to transcend the relative safety of the middle class.  If we were comfortable--not in actual danger--we sought out ways to experience similar danger from a a safe remove.

When I was a teen, I had all these romantic fantasies that involved whatever boy I was crushing on at the time saving me from something--a disaster, a plague, a plane crash. the apocalypse.  It was a twisted princess fantasy I suppose--the prize not so much security, but survival.

"Sometimes, I'm swimming and there's a body, floating bloated in the water. I scream and the man who saves me gets to have me.  Which is pretty much the plot to everything."

The rush of being afraid, that rush of endorphins was similar to that of love.  Or at least my fevered teenage mind thought so.

And of course, imagined fears only go so far in touching on the REAL fears of suburbia--kidnappings, rapes, school shootings. (less prevalent, of course, in my years, but viewable in the lens now.)  But even these need a safe distance--survivors of actual trauma do not always like horror (with a few exceptions). All the urban legends we think we're are afraid of vs. the very real things there are to be frightened of. 

What I wound up with is a series of vignettes mixed with personal experience, something not quite just prose poems, not quite lyric essay, also something that, by presence of myself as "writer" addressing you, as a " reader" becomes a little bit meta.--an echo to victorian gothicism.  The visual elements are a nod to midcentury style--lots of detritus like floral wallpaper, shampoos ads, television sets, and creepy basement seances. 

Eventually, I intend for them all to be a zine project, and the text fragments themselves to be part of my longer dark county manuscript. In the meantime, for a peak into this series, some links:

* (w/ accompanying artwork)

5 things you might not know about me

1. When I was a kid, we spent pretty much every weekend in Wisconsin, where my grandmother had an RV in a campground/resort.  My aunt & uncle owned a slot nearby, so those particular weekends were a mess of extended family and a whirl of activity--most of which was me following my older cousins around trying to be as cool as they were. (Outside of my sister, virtually no one was my age on that side of the fam.)   Other camping trips included visiting my grandfather up in Black River Falls, as well as many camping trips my parents took us on our own to various places.  Me & my sister spent a lot of time on my dad's fishing boat and in a terrible little canvas pup tent freaking out about daddy long legs, but it was glorious fun.  Contrary to what you might expect of my city dwelling heart, I really like camping, but require only two things:  1) showers 2.)a comfy air mattress.  Otherwise, I am good.  I am not even scared of daddy long legs anymore once I learned they weren't really spiders.

2. In 3rd grade, I won the upper grades spelling bee and had the first taste of ambition and success that made me crave it more.  I had sort of stumbled through the lower grades, sometimes getting in trouble for not doing, or failing to do my reading homework right. Even though I was an early & adept reader, I hated grammar homework with a passion, and spent many lunch hours trapped inside as punishment for not doing what I was supposed to. I don't remember 1st & 2nd being hard, but I was struggling in the 3rd. When I won the spelling bee, my teacher, who had written me off as just an idiot, suddenly decided I was smart but maybe was having trouble seeing the board.  I seriously think I may have thrown my eye test out of spite, though, and spent 4th grade in glasses I really didn't need (ditched completely when we moved the next year, by which time I was one of the top readers in my class regardless with near perfect vision at my 5th grade physical. I found I liked being rewarded as a word person, and it sort of formed my identity.

3. I played the clarinet in junior high,  Or I should say I was very mediocre and never practiced the clarinet, but somehow still wound up in the concert band in 8th grade. I remember very little of how to read music today, but I was decent at it then. I, of course, went in wanting to play the flute, but they were in high demand and would have had to rent it outside the school, which wasn't going to happen.  Thus, the clarinet.  I basically spent two years eyeing the cello players thinking I should have joined the orchestra instead of the band, but we did do concerts on occasion, and once, well to an Illinois-wide competition (where we lost, mostly becuaue I was not the only one that  I mostly spent my weekends, blowing off my practice and watching Svengoolie with an an existential dread of Monday.

4. My senior year of high school, I somehow wound up in an acting class filled with freshmen (I had planned to take a zoology course, but it conflicted with something else important. When the counselor called me over the summer to ask what I wanted to do, he rambled off theatre and I said sure). I wound up LOVING it and quickly got a decent role in the fall play.  For a hot minute, I was determined to be a Broadway star, spurred by a class field trip in to see Les Miz at the Auditorium, and this learned every single word from the score--and could sing it even now in its entirely.  (as well as my second fave, Into the Woods.)  Becuase I left high school determined to become  scientist, I figured that would never happen, but a couple years later I wound up back in the theater--mostly working backstage--lights, costumes, stage managing, and it formed my social group in those years.  I wound up adding Theatre as a minor to my English Major and vaguely entertained the notion of writing plays (which has not yet happened, but, hey, who knows?)

5. As mentioned above, I went off to college thinking I wanted to be a marine biologist--mostly since I had a charismatic AP Bio teacher who made it seem really exciting, strong opinions about saving the earth (as witnessed by my preachy editorials in the high school paper) and a best friend who was also into environmental causes (and actually did become a scientist/teacher!) While I probably just really liked the idea of swimming with dolphins (oh boy, did I love dolphins!) and living near the ocean, I decided to attend UNC-Wilmington, where I soon confirmed that I have the math skills of a 7th grader and that I should stick with words. I think that semester was valuable in that it cast me into the world and gave me a stereotypical college experience with dorms and frat parties,  but I was sort of relieved when I landed back at RC and its staid liberal artsyness.  I really should never have allowed my inner mermaid to make my career plans.  Lesson learned.

Friday, June 28, 2019

writing & art bits | june edition

*This month, I've been rounding out the poet's zodiac poems, which are now complete and ready for some tweaks. I've also been dipping occasionally into the artist statement series, but it's slower going there.  Next week, I'm hoping to fine tune some of the exquisite damage pieces and resubmit the ones that haven't been picked up yet.  I've also a couple ideas for collages in that project that haven't quite taken shape yet I'd love to get to if I have time during the shorter week.

*As mentioned a few posts back, I got some great news about a reading in September (date TBD) at the Field Museum, and get to spend some time amongst the exhibits.  I've been feeling an affinity toward something very eco-gothic and about extinction, so a natural history museum might be the perfect place to begin.

*The Journal, whose editors were working with me on shaping up my very first non-poetry submission did wind up accepting the hunger palace, and it will appear in the next print edition.  I was initally hesitant to send out the fragments of the greater progress, mostly since I felt strange about its therapeuticness.  (I felt like the effort of submission and the possible response was inconsequential to the need for me to write it.)  But after some distance, I decided to try sending out the whole shebang and they took it.  The edits were some ordering changes and some sense making (consistency in tenses and such, some trimming of superfluous poeticisms, but I'm feeling pretty good about it, and maybe that was exactly what it needed.

*Next on the art agenda are some tiki themed collages for our filler exhibit on the first floor.  Lethal Ladies will be going up in September, but this couple months need some replacements as the previous show's artists pick up their work. Since I love the patterns of the fifties, I thought I make work digitally with some of them.  Again, we'll see what I can get to this week before the holiday.

*I've been doing some more studio tidying, with an eye toward opening up the second Friday of July.  I wound up canceling June--too many big chapbook orders all happening at once and I needed my Friday night and the ability to mess things up. Sometimes I feel like I don't have enough in stock to even bother, but then again, I have a lot of prints and originals no matter what, even if there are a hundred or so projects I still mean to.  I even have some of the larger size prints of the hunger palace pieces (see above), as well as some crypto society prints in 11X17.  And of course, a million mini-prints  from various series I've made for a couple tabling events that didn't sell.   The chapbooks & zines are a harder sell when most of the folks are looking for visual art, but I sell some every once in a while,so I need to restock some of those.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

dgp cover love | variations

While I do about 70 percent of the design for the covers in the chapbook series, there are also many instances in which we wind up using art or full-on designs from other artists at the request of the author (or sometimes artwork created BY the author).  These usually  have amazing results, and I thought I'd share a few of the recent collage covers that I WISHED I designed...enjoy!

{collage by Julia Drescher}

{collage by Giana Angelillo}

{collage by Aman Safa}

{cover by April Pierce}

{art by Alexandra Eldridge}

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

creating the weekend writing retreat

I'm not the sort of person who travels well.  For one thing, there is always a shortage of money, and its sibling, time (I have limited vacation hours used for other purposes and mostly get stir crazy anyway if I am away from my home more than 3 days or so.)  Thankfully, I am able to live alone (except for a few cats) so the distractions I have at home are not other people or kids, but more so unfinished housework, the internet, random errands that eat up my day.

Over the past few years, I've gotten highly proprietary about weekend time, and unless it can't be avoided, I rarely schedule or make plans for these days.  I spend all week working, either at the library or in the studio, so also  try to any social things during that time, whether spending time with friends or my boyfriend,  errand running, etc. During the academic year n the library, we switch off weekend duty, and so I try to cluster mine together as much as I can.   Summer weekends however, except for a handful of trips to Rockford, are my own.

Over the past couple summers, , I've been working in increments on perfecting my own little mini-retreats. Some weekends are more successful than others.  Some end with something to show for it, others not so much.  Sometimes I sleep way too much and binge watch Netflix and get very little art or writing-wise done. Some weekends still end up devoted to too much household work like laundry and dishes if I haven't had the energy to do these tasks during the week when I get home at night.  Occasionally a sudden social or work thing will pop up that interferes.

It's an imperfect pursuit, but I am working toward something good, the perfect writing weekend, so I thought I would share my notes.

{The What}

Perhaps the first thing is to figure what you need and what you hope to accomplish.  Sometimes, I devote weekends to editing or spending time with a certain project--more time than my daily writing allows. Sometimes, I need to plot out something new, or do more research, or compile research I've already done.  Sometimes they are generative, in which case I turn to spending that time with inspirational sources or just thinking about a certain idea..

{The When}

Weekends are a good stretch, but if you have the option, you can always  take longer.  There is a certain unwind and wind period that benefits from a bit longer or a stretch if you can swing it.  Sometimes, it's catch as catch can, so any weekend you can make it happen works, ideally cleared from all the detritus. Two days is actually a lot, especially if you begin your wind down time on Friday night (making plans, schedules, preparations, disconnecting) and get up Saturday raring to go.

{The Who}

Many writers love involving other writers & artists and working toward the synergy of something like larger retreats or colonies. There are many things to be gained here--comraderie, accountability, other people sharing in your work.  I think there is room for both those sorts of retreats that involve others and the benefits of solitude, so maybe you can aiming for a mix of both.  Simply doing things like having lunch or dinner with other writers, or going to a reading or book club or workshop can satisfy the need for these things while still granting you some alone time during your weekend.

{The Where}

I like working at home, but if you don't have the gift of solitude, other places can also work.  Housesitting, cheap hotel rooms, vacation rentals.  If you can't leave home, but would prefer to work elsewhere, there are other options that offer an escape from home, but the ability to go back as needed.  Coffeeshops, bookstores, and of course, libraries.  Anywhere with work spaces, staff that don't mind you lingering,   and maybe coffee or tea readily accessible.  I managed edits on my first book an entire summer sitting for a couple hours nightly in the cafe at a Barnes & Noble downtown (my sister was staying with me during that time, and we always were having too much fun at home,  so I needed somewhere I could work without distracttions)   So anywhere that meets a few requirements can work.

{The How?}

Ideally , wherever you wind up, clearing yourself of other obligations is key.   Ideally, you will amass beforehand everything you might need during--food (simple or already prepared food is good, takeway of you can afford it, or you might want to make your own meals as part of your daily routine,)  Just make sure there's no need to go shopping and that everything is there at your fingertips.This is not to say outings are strictly forbidden, but aim to have outings be condusive to artmaking--go for walks, or picnics, or to readings, performances, museums with the intention that they will feed your creative impulses.

Prepare by having other things you need close at hand--pens, papers, supplies.  Materials that inspire-books, podcasts, movies (a friend swears that she loves to stream horror movies in the background while she's drawing and working on projects).  I like to do some reading, both with craft in mind and totally escapist, which helps me connect to work that is not my own. Read interviews and features on other wirters and related materials. Look at art that inspires you. Since my process is both written and visual, I vascillate back and forth between mediums sometimes.

I like to start the day by looking at some older work and reconnect with it.  Sometimes, the world passes so fast and once something is published, it's near forgotten and on to the next thing.  Reconnecting helps me see where I've been and where I might want to go. It also helps, even in fallow periods to remind myself that I have put something into the world and I will yet again.   Even re-reading an old chap or poems online from years ago can be valuable for this reconnection.  This weekend, for example, I spent some time with my very first chapbook, The Archaeologists Daughter and how foreign, yet prescient some of those poems seem nearly two decades later.

It also might be helpful to think bout how much you like structures and schedules.  Do you have a goal of pages?  Of time spent? Is it more free-form?  Can you unplug completely or do you find things like the internet useful to your process.  In which case adjust accordingly.  Do you prefer dogged pursuit or a whatever- happens happens approach?  Both can work and your goals and process will determine which is appropriate for your needs. I allow for sleeping in and ample napping since those things help me be more productive when I am awake, and then usually work into the night.  But you might be an early riser who prefers to be up and productive before the rest of the world wakes up. Figure out what works for you.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

revisiting the archaeologist's daughter

This weekend's revisit of older work included a read through of what was technically my first chapbook The Archaeologist's Daughter (2005).  Time-wise, it wound up following two other self-issued chaps in 2004 due to a lengthy publication schedule, but it was the first written and the first accepted by an outside press.  Moon Journal Press had been the first publisher to take my work for their journal a couple year's previously--so when I had put together my first chapbook, of course I wanted to send it there in 2002. It was the first thing I could talk about as a book--that I was publishing a book!--so it was tremendously exciting.

Most of the poems inside did not make it any further into a full-length.  This was not always necessarily due to quality--though there are some doozies in there I wish I could pluck out.  But on the whole, re-reading now, some of the pieces are decent poems in the style I was writing in then (lyric, lined poetry, with definite Sharon Olds/Louise Gluck style leanings--the authors I was devouring then.)  The earliest poems stem from about 1999, when things were just beginning to get good--written the spring I was finishing up my MA and about to be launched into the world.  Some were written when I was back in Chicago that first year and writing poems at the library's circulation desk, spurred into productivity by my first publication efforts online.

They begin with the title poem, which is all about interpreting the past via artifacts--of which the rest of the poems serve, touching on more personal history and cultural history--fairy tales, history, literature, mythology.  There are poems about Daphne, mermaids, rapunzel, gold rush brides, Degas dancers. I always say, my first efforts were very much allusion-heavy since I hadn't yet found sufficient material in my own life to write about it heavily--I was after all, only in in my mid 20's.  What did I know of anything?  It ends with a poem about loss and Pompeii, about how it rounds its edges over time, so maybe I was wiser than I give myself credit for in hindsight.  That first poem and the end poem form a set of bookends for everything in between, about artifacts and memories, but also about domesticities, and the way women become lost to history. One of the oldest pieces in there has to be "Geneology", a poem about how that subject is always so male-focused, sur-named focused but that we never know as much about the women who gave up their family names, but are just as much a part of our genetic makeup.

There was a period of time, about a decade ago, when I looked at this collection and scoffed at how rudimentary my writing skills were, but there is definite goodness in places.  I had an ear for rhythm, for example, that was in no way as intentional as it is now, but still developing.  A couple of the poems ("Swimming the Witch" is  definitely one, maybe "Columbus" and "On the Way to California") are actually pretty strong, if not slightly overwrought.

"The girls in Salem are full of venom,
their flesh pressing the seams of dresses
sewn by mothers just last year. 
Their desires are milky as egg whites
in water, the inside rims of pots
boiling black on the stove--
fennel, saffron, snake root.

They blame you fro the barren field, 
still birth, blood moon, rabid dog.
Your legacy is the murmur of circles,
a bolt of lace unraveling, a hundred
crows alighting on branches."

-"Swimming the Witch"

I did have a maddening tendency to use run-ons gratuitously and pile on the similes. But not too shabby in general, but clunkier than I'd like. If I look, there are a lot of threads that would come up in later work--domesticity for one, the work of it and how women move in the world vs. men. There was a later poem in the fever almanac ("the language of objects") that echoed the sentiment of the title poem--the inability of objects to accurately tell the stories that surround them.  I name check other poets--Dickinson, Millay. There is a mermaid poem in there, of course, and I'm pretty sure it echoes and earlier poem about Calypso in my files--both about being the "other woman" in relationships. There are five poems that did make it into the fever almanac, all of them more personal, less allusion-based work.  Most appear in the first section of the longer book, and most slightly revised later--"Nebraska," "Drought, " "Divination," "Volition" and "Degrees."   (There are probably about 4 different published versions of that first one out there--though final one in the fever almanac one is the best.)  At least one  of the poems ("Drought") was a portion of the pieces that won me my first third place nod from the Poetry Center Juried contest in 2002 before winning a couple years later with newer work.

As for the physicality of the book, there was an initial printing error by the printer, so there is a version where the title page is printed on the inside of the cover, which is a delicious pale pink parchment.  I have leftovers of those and another 50 of the correct version under my desk at the library, where they were shipped to and were never lugged home.  The design was done by someone who regularly designed for Moon Journal (Missy Isely-Poltrock) and captured the book, perfectly with its fragmented shells, teacup, and feathers.  There was also another photo on the title page of a plastic mermaid (an image I would later use in many poems.)

When the book was released in 2005, I was already neck deep in other poem pursuits.  Mired in MFA studies, and in a definite skewing of my work toward more innovation. Also the struggle to get that first full-length book into shape and find a publisher,  so it was probably more of a blip on my literary landscape than I probably intended it to be.   I remember a reading at the Prairie Moon bookstore in the suburbs with other MJ writers in the fall of 2005 with my parents in attendance.  A good review in Rhino magazine by Mary Biddinger. Some giveaways and online swaps. But mostly I had moved onto other things and never felt like I gave this chap its proper due in terms of readings and marketing.  

"Bowen's ability to create a whole from a virtual mosaic of concrete details reminds us that we are in the hands of a poet who is also a visual artist, not to mention a researcher who is able to render times past with authenticity and precision."--Rhino

If it catches your fancy, I still  do have some copies available for free (just shoot me a message at the dgp e-mail address or on social media).  I was also stoked to see that the enitre Moon Journal series is available at Smith College in their archives.  So this chap may have a life that continues on even now that the press has shuttered and it lives mostly in a box under my desk...

Friday, June 21, 2019

notes & things | 6/21/2019

 It's officially the beginning of celestial summer, or should be, despite the fact that earlier this week I was reaching for heavier jackets and the space heater whenever the windows were open too long.  Even tonight, which is a little milder, is still dropping into the 50's--no doubt probably some weirdness of climate warming/jet stream wonkiness. I have a blissfully unencumbered weekend excepts for some dgp proofing and getting things ready to print on slew of new titles and clearing out the inbox. I'm set to start reading submissions in about a week, so I am trying to get my organizational ducks in a row.

I am trying to enjoy these long evenings, though, chilly as they are, because beginning now, we will start to lose them bit by bit, and since I was spending a good chunk of time in the studio tonight, took a couple nights off this week and was home before the daylight was gone.  I've been dragging, and feeling my 7 vs. 8 hours of sleep more than usual. It does not help that sometimes it's closer to 6 if I get streaming something good and want to get in one more episode (this week it was Dead to Me.) Despite my mind and body being tired, I've actually been a little more level emotionally than I was for a bit there, so even a cold summer does wonders in terms of seasonal affective disorder.  And actually, with no A/C I'd love a milder summer topping in the 70's during the day.

Writing-wise, this week brought some final edits on my piece that was accepted at The Journal, and some good news about an opportunity to read at the Field Museum this September (more on that soon.) I'll get free access to the museum to write about something there on exhibit, so I am already brainstorming ideas. It's one of my favorite places in the city, and my favorite museum (it edges out the Art Institute by a hair.)  I'm incredibly nostalgic about it--it was our field trip destination that fateful day at 15 years old when I glimpsed Chicago for the first time and decided I wanted to live here, so every time I'm in there I get a certain euphoria.

This week also brought some preliminary temporary tattoo designs for the shop.  As I've been hunting up pretty flora and fauna, I've found certain things lacking, including some vintagey black and white botanicals, so I'm going to concentrate their first, for my own purposes, and eventually will offer them in the shop when I have them perfected.  They're turning out to be a fun wearable piece of art, and I like that I have the freedom to change things up and think other folks will too.