Tuesday, June 18, 2019

prettier if you were thinner....

Perhaps because even my earliest poems have often had roots in the physicality of the body, and in my first book, particularly in regard to language and the body, I am often pulled into discussions about writing the body, which until recently was more a generic sort of body--subject to desire, to illness, to transformation,  to monstrousness. To mistreatment, to violence and damage.   But even still, it was mostly a female body without defined borders, and only recently has it become the plus-sized body, the "imperfect" body according to societal standards.    It all perhaps coalesced around the hunger palace, which while I started it a couple years back in relation to my own struggles with body image and disordered evening, I was only able to finish it after my mother's death, and so it ultimately became also about that.  About that physical body in the last months that she battled, struggled against, had hated all her life. I was on a bus back to the city when the idea of wrapping these threads together occured to me, early that fall, when it seemed she was, in fact, getting better.  I ended up finishing it in the months after her death. 

plump followed--written mostly toward having something to contribute to our Grimm anthology project, but chosen because so much in fairytales has to do with food and sustenance, and in the case of cast-off children, starvation.  plump is about food, but also about mothers, which ties nicely together with the science of impossible object series and the summer house (which is about changelings.) two other parts that make up the whole of my feed manuscript.

It is however, the swallow poems that I think of most when it comes to writing this sort of body--the body that takes up too much space, physically and metaphorically. And also, the girl body, the becoming a woman body, that is more awkward than not. So much of this series is my childhood, Barbie Dolls and Dirty Dancing references, vapid slumber parties and the ways girls inflict trauma upon girls.. 

"In the rain, any girl can look like prey. It's easy to mistake 
the hunters for the hunted." 

Since I began writing them, I was more and more convinced that this is some of the best writing I've been doing.  (Not that the other stuff  is less quality per se, only that these come from a deeper vein of realness I don't often get to tap.  As a whole, they round out the longer manuscript very nicely--which ends up being ultimately about mother and daughters and inhertances, good and bad...

Monday, June 17, 2019

beyond the ghost landscapes

A few years ago, I made a bunch of watercolor postcards that eventually, with some accompanying poems, became an artist book  ghost landscapes: a travelogue.  Admittedly, I was new to watercolor and was just playing around with some really nice watercolor stock and intended it just as an exercise, but I liked them so much that I exhibited them in one of the library art shows and decided to write some pieces to go with them. (landscapes were a good place to begin, and I've since moved on to doing more florals when I take out the watercolors these days.)

But I also had no idea how handy they would be in dgp designs, and several covers have sported these little landscapes in full or in part: I always love it when existing artwork makes a perfect cover (and also when cover art touches off a new series of un-related art) but here are a few permutations of the ghost landscapes.

the perfection

Over the weekend, I watched Netflix's The Perfection twice I liked it so much.  A friends had recommended it to me a couple week's back and we'd talked about the eerie ability of Allison Williams to be creepy ass emotionally blank (ala her performance in Get Out), but otherwise, I did not have any expectations going in, which went a long way in my experience of the movie.   With the mention of cello playing rivals, it immediately evoked something like Black Swan, but then seemed to possibly be a plague movie/body horror film, then morphed into something altogether different with some rewinded storytelling.  By the end you get a really well crafted and satisfying revenge film.  (Bonus points for a cover of Hole's "Petals" at the end.)  In a review I read, a critic likened the film to a virus, that as soon as you think you had a handle on it, it morphed into something else entirely.

I love this as a narrative strategy. It was a similar thing years ago when I was reading Gone Girl, that hinge in the middle of the book where the POV changes and you're like WTF?  It's a very tricky device if you're a writer--that sort of reader/viewer manipulation, and some things no doubt fail entirely. I love how this film also flips back and forth between genres and does so really well-because it's pretty scary in all of them...

Sunday, June 16, 2019

beautiful drownings

Facebook has reminded me that this little lovely is actually three years old this month, so I thought I'd celebrate her in all her mermaidy-goodness. Sometimes in late 2012, I vowed that I wanted to write a book about mermaids, an artist book that turned out to be the shipwrecks of lake michigan, and while the rest of the segments in salvage are not mermaids specifically, there is something of them that coalesces and constellates into a cohesive whole, be they the illness/body poems of radio ocularia, the strange midwest surrealism of ghost landscapes, or the unhappy relationship poems of dreams about houses and bees. On the whole, the tone of the book is uniform, perhaps in a way that is a first when it came to anything that wasn't a  focused book length project from the beginning.  Since I had some vague desires that the book feature an old-school Sailor Jerry tattoo mermaid, I was amazed at how beautiful BLP managed to make it look.

You can get your very own copy here
read a review in the The Literary Quarterly
some samples appear here:
Verse Daily
Academy of American Poets

Saturday, June 15, 2019

the myth of poetry stardom

Jeannine Hall Gailey had a recent blog post about instant star narratives, and the danger they have in not at all reflecting the path of most writers.  They discourage us when they don't play out quite so fortunately.  They make us bitter and disappointed.  They might make some folks stop writing altogether.  Of course for every story that seems like instant stardom, they are the stealth writers who look like they are an instant hit, but actually have been working at it and sending that book out dozens of times til they hit the winner. There are those of us who have always been pretty open about the journey and adventures in po-biz, but others who are quiet and determined.  I often think the cases of actual instant stardom have more to do with either random chance (like getting struck by lightning) or connections and privileges that put you in a favorable place before you even start.

Of course, such narratives are usually not sustaining.  Even the shiny, fresh-faced poet du jour eventually writes more books that aren't so easily placed, or their lives get more complicated and it's harder to play the poet game so vigorously--to network and send out work.  Sometimes, even to write it.  2005's literary darlings, for exmple, have already been re-asorbed back into the scribbling masses by 2012 and may look just like the rest of us struggling to get it out there.

My own journey is marked by periods where things moved slowly, then quickly.  Then slowly again. I pulled the very first version of the fever almanac together in late summer 2003.  I was just about start my MFA studies and thought it was a good demarcation point.  By then, I had been writing poems in total for 14 years  ( I started as a teen in that dreadful blue diary) .  I'd been writing seriously for about 11, stemming from the early college days and when I first started sending out work.   In that time, I'd majored in English, garnered some college lit mag and vanity publications, and won a couple poetry prizes at graduation.   When I enrolled in my MA in Lit program at DePaul, it was another year before I was wring anything decent enough to be called good, or finding anything like my own voice.  I started writing anything worth actually reading in 1999.  Four years later, after getting a few publications in small print & online journals, I'd had a chap accepted by a small feminist press (The Archaeologists Daughter)  By that point, putting together a decent full-length book seemed a possibility.  That first version was a mess looking back, but it managed to get finalist status in a contest somehow.  By then, my work was changing, and there were only a dozen or so pieces that went into that manuscript before I switched to another.  The final version that was published was actually a hybrid of poems plucked from that second manuscript in that final round of revision summer of 2005.

I was having serious book-fever in 2004 & 2005, and remember being super-frustrated.  Many poets around me online were getting their first book acceptances.  The internets were rife with Foetry.com and claims that all of it was a game stacked against everyone not running in certain circles.  I must have sent it to about 8 contests with nary a whisper.  I hatched a plan to self-publish if the year ended before I managed to place it.  The almost- final version, did make a semi-final slot in a biggish contest, and I sent an even tighter version to Ghost Road, a recent discover, late that summer, which they accepted that fall.

Afterwards, while I felt that it restored my faith in the publishing world, I did realize what a game of chance it all was--that I sent it to them and that they actually had openings.  Because it wasn't a contest, and a newly emerging publisher, perhaps the submissions pool was not quite as thick with swimmers to actually be seen. That I had somehow avoided the bottle neck and emerged with a shiny book contract in a very traditional way--I had merely queried then sent the manuscript like they did in the old days. I can't say it was published because it was the best book, or any better than everyone else who was looking for a first book publisher that same year. It was the right book at the right time.

Later books, of course, would prove easier, but only via fortunate circumstances.  Dusie Press was still young and the editor and I shared many obsessions in common that led to in the bird museum (#2) finding a publisher before even the first book had even come out. Having published in the journal and taken part in the chapbook exchange, I simply asked the editor if she'd like to see it and she loved it.  The editor of Noctuary, which was just beginning,  requested to see the shared properties of water and stars (#4) as I was finishing it.  Within 6 months, it was a book.   Sailing on the popularity of the James Franco pieces, I queried the press that published the chap (the amazing Sundress Publications) if they would like to see the longer book of which that series was a part. I've been blessed to have wound up with some wonderful insight into where certain projects might work and made connections over the years that open those doors a little wider, which is something that only comes with time and experience in the lit community.

My thesis manuscript, girl show (#3) was perhaps the longest in the running.  I had sent it, and it had been accepted, at Ghost Road as well, which then shuttered a couple years later.  I sort of floundered for about a year, unsure what to do with it.  In the end, I condensed it into a chap (which did well in at least one contest where it was a finalist) but also sent the full version to Black Lawrence, who did wind up taking it in 2011, then publishing it a couple years later..  Again, probably a bit of dumb luck in sending it at exactly the right time--by then BLP was chugging along nicely and taking on more poets, and I've been amazingly lucky to have also published subsequent titles with them --salvage (#6) and the forthcoming sex &  violence (#8). 

But all in all, except for having a very lovely set of books on my shelf and a sense of accomplishment for actually having filled their pages with words, I can't say publishing a book has changed much in my way of life.  I still have a day job where most of the people I encounter do not know about my books, or even that I'm a writer.  Outside of occasional tiny royalty checks from a couple of the publishers, there hasn't been much financial gains. I'm not an academic, and I know having books might make tenure considerations easier, but since I don't really seek out positions or awards or fellowships, my books are pretty much useless there. When you a re trying to get that first book accepted it sometimes feel like this is the thing--THE THING--that will make you a real poet.  But it's not.  Writing the poems is what makes you the poet. I had two books by the late aughts, and for several years, I felt like barely a poet because I wasn't writing hardly at all.

Even with those successes, it still feels hard when you're trying to figure out where to send something new, particularly if the work feels different and you haven't figured out which press it would fit into.  And subsequent books are usually harder--2nd books especially so, since even if you win a contest, there are very few for 2-3 books and you've yet to establish the sort of career  that might make it a bit easier in the long haul.  Some advice?  Forge those connections and find those publishers. Study the books of presses you admire and think about how your work might fit.  Don't be afraid to take chances on new publishers that are willing to take chances on you. Sometimes, it helps to swim ahead of the bottleneck  Aside from contests, there are a lot of open reading periods out there waiting to read your book. If you enter contests, pay attention to who is judging and whether their style meshes with yours (not always a requirement, sometimes judges make surprising choices of work not anything like theirs) but usually you look at a winner and think, well, yes, I can see why that held appeal for that particular judge.

And in the end, do what feels necessary for you.  If you have spent hundreds unsuccessfully on reading fees and still no takers, but feel you could market and sustain an audience for a self-published book, that is another option.  I've long believed that you create the market for your work whoever does the printing, so self-issuing might be another way to go. It's a ridiculous  bottle neck and becomes moreso every year, and sometimes we don't want to wait for the winds of chance to blow our book into exactly the right editor's hands at the exactly right moment..

Thursday, June 13, 2019

15 years

One of my very favorite parts of the year is when I begin to see the slow trickle of new work coming in when the open submission period begins.  It's usually a small burst the first day, and then 1-3 on subsequent days and then a flurry of activity in that last week or so  This year, I will probably start reading in earnest in July (I'm bogged with some large book orders this month and am still playing catch-up on spring orders for some titles, so I'm pushing other things off.)  I am also working on layouts for the summer titles and some stragglers from spring.  Summers are meant for reading though, for proofing galleys My schedule changes up and the days don't seem so frenetic. 

It's hard to believe this is the 15th birthday of the press--that in 2004, I was just beginning to put together what would be our first official title release that fall, the snowball of which has been rolling ever since.  Hard to believe that it even could have been that long, since, I feel like I blinked and more than a decade passed.  There have been so many books, so many amazing authors, many of whom are doing grander and bigger things now. Many of whom continue to send projects my way even still that I love.

While it's a lot of work, and sometimes I struggle with balancing press life with library work life, and both of those lives with my own creative life, it's so amazing to collaborate with the authors to make awesome little books. To build this collective thing that has a life beyond me.  poems do this sometimes, so do my own books, but the press seems multiple and vast, and the net of things grows a bit larger every year.  I love looking at lit journals and seeing how many dgp-ers are in its pages.  I love when news comes my way of the thrilling things they are up to, winning awards and kicking ass.   To have made this thing with others that breathes on its own.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

lethal ladies | coming fall 2019

As both perpetrators and participants in our shared cultural fascination with the subject matter, women have made vast contributions to true crime-related art forms.   From murders to heists, deceptions to general unruly behavior, we will explore the patriarchal structures  and societal constraints/expectations that true crime, and its subject matter, subvert & transform.  Further, how we as artists and consumers create and further these conversations within the genre. 


I've been working this week on promo & planning for this fall's focus topic, which is all about women and true crime.  While we had initially decided to devote it to serial killers in general, I've spent the last couple years feeling a little complicated about giving so much attention to men who kill (predominantly) women.  The solution?  Women who kill men, of course!  Well, maybe not only killing, but in general, behaving badly (or against societal expectations.).  We'll be hosting an exhibit, doing panels and readings and such. We are also searching out a book about Elizabeth Bathory for Book to Art Club,  which should be fun...(we've already plotted for one session we'll be making bloody bath bombs as our attendant artsy craftiness.)  

(If you remember, we kicked off our festivities with the above card sets at Zine Fest, and we'll be adding to the collection with new ones that will be in the Small Works vending machines this fall.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

love letter to the scholastic book club

Once every couple of months, we would sit at our desks, fidgeting for what we knew was coming. Our fingers itchy for the colorful newsprint as the teacher separated a stack and instructed the kids at the front of the room to pass it back. The Scholastic Book order went in once or twice a semester and it may be the only thing I can remember from those years with absolute clarity—the feel of the newsprint between your fingers, the smell of the ink.  Perhaps even the taste (weird things sometimes made their way into my mouth.) Our instructions were simple—take it home, consult your parents, and bring back the sheet with your carefully inked selections and a check for the amount.  Simple enough, surely, but the teacher may have never known the drama and angst such an undertaking.  I would start before I left school that afternoon.  The circling.  The bargaining. 
I was typically allowed at least one order each go-round.  I spent a couple days, madly circling the things I wanted, then would sit down with my mother to parse out exactly what we could afford.  Usually, it was at least one book, sometimes two.  In later years, I was all about sticker albums, but earlier, it was all fiction. A few weeks later, we’d wait, fidgeting again for the drop. For the books with their smooth, glossy covers to be parceled out. I loved the feel of them, loved to stack them carefully on my desktop.  Loved the plastic tote bags your order would arrive in, sort of a ziplock bag for books.   I would take them home and devour them.  Sometimes, they didn’t make it unread through the walk or bus ride home. .   At first of course, it was thin saddle bound paper back picture books like the Clifford series.  Then perfect bound, longer volumes as I got older. I eventually hunted mostly for mysteries and ghost stories, if I had to narrow my choices, these were a good bet. I probably had them read inside of a week,and was left to wait, breathless, next appearance of that newsprint flier in the teacher’s hands at the front of the room.


I'll be posting snippets of a fragmented memoir project I am working on about how libraries (both using, studying, and working in them) has shaped me as a person and as a writer/artist.  Follow along here...

Monday, June 10, 2019

notes & things | 6/9/2019

It's been a kind of cloudy weekend that does not seem quite sure of whether it wants to be hot or cold, which has led me to alternately opening and closing the windows, and at some point even turning on the space heater and covering up with my quilt instead of the summer bedspread.  I've been alternately watching the last couple seasons of GOT again, and working a bit on my library memoirish project (see the latest snippet below.)  It's still got a long way to go and is mostly just fragments and a loose outline, but it's looking good even at this stage.  I'm also aiming to have the last four bits of the poet's zodiac in hand to set aside for a bit and return to later this summer for editing.  I've also been napping profusely, odd since I have also been drinking too much coffee and eating waffles slathered in raspberry jam.

I'm still working my way toward some larger book orders in the studio, which has put a cramp in my tidying/prep for the open studio coming up this Friday--things are still chaotic and sort of a mess and I might postpone til July, I haven't decided. It depends on how much progress I make this coming week. Meanwhile, it's rather quiet in the library with all the students gone, and I've turned my eye toward some writing projects and general prep for fall.

We are far enough into summer to feel like we are at the beginning, but within a couple weeks, we'll hit the solstice, which is always crazy to me, that feeling that we are barely started and summer has hit it's peak.  Of course, the same thing happens in winter, with January/February and usually March/April lingering long after the equinox. Summer is always long until it's not. In May it seems like there are endless possibilities, but I know that September will be here much faster than we know.  So much of our lives spent in seasons other than this one. But for now, the lilacs are in bloom and we occasionally get a sunny, moderate mannered day that is glorious.

I've even yet to get out my proper summer clothes since it's been a bit too chilly and unpredictable for sundresses and sandals (most of my days lately are an odd assortment of spring dresses, cardigans, and denim jackets. I never know what changes in temp will happen over the course of the day, sometimes up and down by 30 degrees in a few hours.)  Of course, many weekends in the city I spend inside regardless of how nice it is outside, devoted to writing and reading and hiding from the world, but I do have some summer plans set for the 4th of July weekend and maybe other things for August.

Meanwhile, I have playing with more of the temporary tattoos I bought around my birthday.  I've been posting some shots on instagram to capture them before they are gone. They last usually around 3-4 days, and kind of like regular blooms are here then gone, which seems fitting. The temporaryness of them part of the appeal.  Also the variation is nice and not what you'd get with a for-real tattoo. (Obviously). They also appeal to my childhood love of stickers and I want to wear/collect them all.  I'm not going to pressure myself with thoughts of the real thing just now or make any plans on the real thing (besides I spent all my dedicated money on studio furniture and my Cricut machine, so it will be a while til I have the extra cash.)   I kind of think of the  faux ones like jewelry or accessories...no commitment, but still a lot of fun.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

from bookish: a life in libraries


My father taught me the alphabet when I was around 4.  I must have been pestering him—the sing-songy echo of Sesame Street already in my brain and just a little fine tuning needed.  At night, when he returned home from work, he would sit me on the floor in front of him or in his lap and prompt me to begin the song. When I made it through entirely he would reward me with chocolate.  I remember it on the level of being as challenging to get through that song as it was to later learn my times tables a few years later.  Or Constitutional facts in 8th grade.   (Which my father, by then, took much less interest in, so I bothered my mother, my grandmother, and anyone else who would listen. By then the alphabet was old hat.  I had walked into my kindergarten classroom and eyed the letters in their long strip above the board and something just clicked.  Soon I was reading store signs. The backs of cereal boxes.  I was soon reading as much as I was talking, and this already, was quite a lot.  

But before I was reading, I was still somehow writing.  Writing, at that time meant long lines of scribbles, my approximation of cursive on every spare sheet of paper I could find—the backs of receipts, my father’s cast-off  envelopes from bills.  Finally, my aunt procured for me what may have been one of my best Christmas presents ever—a simple canvas tote bag, filled with notebooks, both newsprint and spiral, and a set of pens in multiple colors—green, red, blue. (which was about as daring as it got in the late 70’s.)  I took everything out of the bag immediately and spread it around me methodically.  An entire world seeming to open up before me.  If you asked me now to recent my stories, the ones I filled those notebooks with, I’d scarce remember a single one.  But I remember the satisfaction of the loops and lines the ink made on the paper. How grown up it seemed, to be writing, to be taking part in some exchange for which a code needed to be cracked.  I was ready, long before I learned my alphabet. Long before I set foot in school.  I was ready. 


I'll be posting snippets of a fragmented memoir project I am working on about how libraries (both using, studying, and working in them) has shaped me as a person and as a writer/artist.  Follow along here...

100 rejections update

I actually hardly have much of an update, since I've pretty much only gotten one more rejection since the last mention (and 100 seems incredibly unlikely even with a steady stream of new work going out.)  As such, we stand at 4 acceptances / 7 rejections and about 10 more blowing in the wind.  However, it's a good effort, since those 4 acceptances are probably more than I've had in any recent similar span of time (I started the project early February).

Before my MFA studies in the early aughts, I had just discovered the world of online journals and was constantly sending work out as quickly as it came back.  During my studies, it was similar, since I was producing quite a lot and engaging more with the po-biz world in general.  After that, both my writing production, my free time, and my reluctance to play the submission game led to very few publications that weren't solicited for a good many years.  I would feel panicked and occasionally send out a round, and occasionally got good results, but in no way did I pursue it as doggedly as I had a decade earlier.

And of course, very rarely do we actually place work when we're not sending it out.  I'm always super-excited when someone solicits me, though I had a spate where I kept getting solicited and then rejected. I chalk it up to changes in my writing, which not incredibly drastic (and I would argue for the better) made things less appealing to editors who had read older poems.  Sort of like if you read the fever almanac and liked it and asked for work, and then got something new and nothing at all like what you expected.  the fever almanac, of course, was written between 2001 and 2004, and I don't really write poems the same now.  Even my work from other, more recent books feels like there is a distance.

I'm still finding it maddening that editors don't seem to be liking some of the newer series as much as I do, particularly the swallow poems, which feel like the strongest thing I've written in recent memory. Most of the work going out now is them, along with straggly bits of exquisite damage, the summer house, {licorice, laudanum}, and the artist statement series.  I'm way to unorganized to do simultaneous submissions, so if things come back a couple times, I usually retire them, since by then I am usually ready to release the zine/artist book version of things anyway. It's still good to place a couple pieces from every project to generate interest though, and so far, none of the swallow submissions have gotten even so much as a nibble.

So I soldier on. The poems come in, the poems go out with the tide. I will soon have some more artist statement pieces ready to go out (my daily writing has been wrapped up in zodiac pieces, but I'll be going back to the former soon).

Saturday, June 08, 2019

curvy girl fashion | the right kind of wrong

While I spent most of the late 90's and early aughts rocking skirts that hit at my ankles, I've had mixed experiences with maxi dresses.  About 8 years ago, they hit retail like a force of nature and composed most women's wear lines, particularly the plus size options.  I tried, I rreally did.  Most often they were shapeless and frumpy and felt like I was wearing a night gown.  Some of this had to do with sizing.  While smaller women could rock a head to toe piece of fabric quite nicely, the amount of fabric to fit any body over like a size 16 required that there just be, like WAY too much of it.  Skirts, on the other hand,  only started at the waist, so didn't require quite as much roominess. I bought a couple in the beginning, but it came to a head one evening when I angrily de-maxied a dress with a pair of scissors in the studio because I was both annoyed at the fabric and way too hot.  I've avoided them staunchly since, preferring midi and a-line or fit & flair options.  I also feel like it's too hot in the summer to properly wear maxis without feeling like you're drowning in dress.  No matter how tempting a maxi looked on the model or on the rack, I knew it only would bring sadness.

This spring, I stumbled on this dress and was smitten.  I love that shade of green, and it's my favorite lush, delicious sort of floral.   If it had been a midi the length of the front, I'd have bought it on sight. While I have a similar distaste for cold shoulder items that look like you got caught in a fan, or also high/low bottoms that evoke a similar thought, I was digging on the flowy seventies garden party vibe.  It was, however,  not quite too much of any of those things and I couldn't figure out why I was so drawn to it.  Modcloth was having a discount over the Memorial Day weekend, so I sprung for it, and while I haven't worn it out of the house just yet, I'm thinking I love it.  The fabric is substantial, but also flowy--the sleeves can be worn up or down, and the ruffle high / low gives you enough breeziness that it doesn't feel like it'd be too warm.  So basically all the things that I would normally find wrong, somehow, in this one, turned out absolutely right.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

curious skepticism | writing the zodiac


As I mentioned before, I've always considered myself a "curious skeptic" particularly when it comes to things like the supernatural...mostly meaning I am really into it, but that I don't always necessarily believe it's true.  This probably comes from being rather agnostic in world view.  While both of my parents were raised in households that considered themselves Christian,  it seemed like a thing they may have done occasionally as children and then the practice vanished as they became adults.  My father has always seemed rather practical and athiest (though seriously I'm not sure that's really a conversation I've ever had with him, so who knows?)  and my mom would definitely have described herself as a Christian and firmly believed in the afterlife.  As such, I and my sister were raised pretty much entirely secularly, which I suppose gave us ample room to figure things out for ourselves. My sister did have an uber-religious friend with whom she went to church with at some point, but me, I pretty much only found myself in one for weddings and funerals.

When we wete kids, my mom's friend gave us an illustrated children's bible, one of the reading options my mother would indulge us before bed.  She would repeatedly start with the Adam & Eve story every time she picked it up, and while I remember her occasionally reading about Noah's Ark, she pretty much got no further.    Thus, until I gleaned shoddy knowledge of Christian mythology from Paradise Lost, and later, Supernatural, that was about all I knew of the Bible. Even then I knew Eve got the shitty end of the deal. My sister went through a Wicca phase in the 90's (oh the 90's!), and while I wasn't much for spellcasting or ritual which seemed silly, I read the books with interest, since the philosophy of them seemed cool in itself.

While I don't believe in a god figure per se, I don't necessarily consider myself a full-on athiest, though I believe most readily in science.  I love stories and folklore and mythologies, but I think it's more from an anthropological stance..what our stories tell us about us, about our understanding of the universe. If I had to describe my world view, I would admit that I think there is some sort of universal law or harmony, slightly pagan in nature. Or maybe a universal chaos.  Who knows?  I don't believe in an afterlife, (I think we go out like a light and that's pretty much it) but I may believe in ghosts (but it's like a dimensional thing, an imprint on a place or object that exudes an energy or maybe more than that. )  I love the sorts of movies/books that play with parallel time lines and bleeds.  I have no idea if any of it is possible, but it's cool to think about.

Similarly, things like tarot cards and chinese fortune cookies are interesting in their predictions.  While my sister knows how to read cards, and I have collected a few decks more for art reasons (my fave is a Shakespearean tarot)   I only truly had an actual reading once, at a party in Seattle during AWP,  I had been on a train for a nearly sleepless 30+ hours and was very drunk, thus pretty much amenable to anything.   Another poet read the cards and stated that I was somehow holding back, and if I stopped, amazing things would happen..  At the time, it-seemed entirely off-base, but in the past five years, I realize the cards may have been a little right.

Similarly, obviously, there's the zodiac.   While there is no reason, I suppose,  to believe that the configurations in the sky hold sway over our fates and personalities, I know enough people who eerily align with their star sign, I can't necessarily believe it is indefatigably NOT true.  I don't know that the stars do dictate our actions, but I also don't know if they don't.   Or even don't just a little. There is also a lot of science talk about the effect of gestation and arrival according to the seasons of the year that my hold some sway. I don't know about daily predictions, which seem more abitrary, but I do love the traits of each sign as much as I see them reflected in the people I know. (And maybe, this is in fact a very Taurus way of seeing it..lol..)  When I was a teenager, Sassy magazine used to put out a yearly issue entirely produced by readers. One of these featured a set of horoscopes constructed entirely on the shared characteristics of her friends.  What resulted was one of the most accurate representations of the signs (and most importantly, MY sign.) that I had ever seen.

When I started the poets zodiac, it was sort of just for fun. I had the idea that I wanted to do some pieces as scrolls--the sort that you would find in the supermarket checkout aisle back in the 70s-80s, that my mother would never let us buy, but were somehow fascinating to my child-self.  Initially it was going to just be one poem per sign, but the reception was so promising and the project so much fun, I decided to just keep going. I was overly ambitious then, and plotted to do one for each sign for each month, but later settled on one for each sign for every season, thus a total of 48 of them.

My usual process in writing them is typically to randomly do some reading on the sign in front of me--maybe peek at some random googled daily horoscopes, and then after sort of taking those in, process those generalities into something a little more specific.  Something more concrete and poetic. I've put away the project and then later returned to it, so sometimes the pieces vary according to the sort of writing I was simultaneously doing for other projects I was working on. I feel like the latter ones are tighter and more rhythmic than the early ones, but this is okay.  Sometimes I was writing a piece for one sign and then later claimed it for another.  This happened with at least one taurus one and there was a recent aries/scorpio swap. I am obviously no expert on the stars, as if anyone really can be, but it's been amazing to play with such a rich subject matter.

you can read a steady stream of zodiac poems here...as well as a get a glimpse at the visual pieces I've done that will eventually accompany them...

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

zodiac prints

As mentioned over the weekend, I am working on putting the finishing touches on THE POETS ZODIAC, which will be manifesting in book form very soon.  Here is a peak at some of the accompanying artwork that goes along with the text pieces (many of which can be perused on instagram.)  I am working toward also having some of these available in the shop in time for the open studio.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

on ideas, and too many of them

I was talking to a friend recently about ideas.  The sort that pile up in the attics of your brain or sketchbook and have yet to happen--mostly because ordinary life, even other creative projects, get in the way.  I have so many of these it's hard to keep track, but I try, in the hope that eventually I'll get there.  Sometimes, it takes years to see things to fruition. Sometimes I'll take a shiny new one and run with it, but then all the others get left behind and it hardly seems fair for the others sitting on the shelf.

My friend recently had been to a meeting with other faculty & staff members and discussing projects to raise money for the faculty/staff scholarship fund. This year's endeavor was a giant blue papier mache poodle unveiled during Manifest (I'm not officially on the committee they meet way, way too often and I hate committees in general, but I do help out when it comes to decorating and festivities sometimes.) Someone else had suggested they do some brainstorming creative exersizes to get ideas for next year, which she agreed, were very much NOT needed as she already had 6,000 suggestions that might work and was ready to find one that caught the committees interest.

When we were in our first years of library programming endeavors, people often wondered how we had so many ideas.  For workshops, for panels, for focus topics.  What I didn't share were the back burners, or the ones that were a little too costly or the effort vs result ratio was poor.  I have suggestions for workshop ideas in my notebook that have been there for 3 or more years that I'm still hoping to make happen down the line. And maybe they'll happen, or maybe they'll get pushed out of the way by newer, better ideas.

In my notebook, there is a page full of tiny post-its for art projects, another with writing projects.   Another with anthology projects and other press doings.  Another with crafty things I'd like to make for the shop.  This is all in addition to the half finished things--like unusual creatures, postcards from the blue swallow, the mermaid anthology, swim. They stand like a weight in my other hand while the things I do finish or see to the end balance in the other.  I try not to let them get too out of whack, otherwise I flounder about feeling like I never finish anything I've started.  But I remind myself I do.  Just not those particular  things.

Monday, June 03, 2019

library zine action

Last week, I was writing a proposal for The Chicago Research Summit, a bit of library related writing, and we'll see how it fares.  I focused on some of the work with zines we've been doing--the zine nights, the 1st floor exchange, our resource guides and the zines in the classroom workshop (which will hopefully be happening again this fall). How we're seeking ways to take those things out into the communiy via things like Zine Fest and pointing students toward things like the Read/Write Library and Quimby's (where, incidently, I once stood in front of a rack of chapbooks and thought to myself, hey, I can do this!)  And of course, the Little Indie Press fest.

While many of our panel discussions have touched on zines--whether it be the Art Empire one, where many of the artists can be found at Zine Fest, or the lit-focused one, which celebrated independent publishing in general, I'm hoping to round up maybe a zine-specific panel this fall leading up to Indie Press Fest. While attendance at our zine nights have been on the low end (at most 4 or 5, sometimes 1), we have had good results (including the above, which may be one of my favorite zine finds ever.)

I want to dig in a bit on the possibilities of zines for teaching as well, as both tool and an excellent way for students to present research and information in a creative way.  If things like Zine Fest have taught me anything, its that print culture at this level is thriving just fine.

it's straw bag season, bitches

(forgive me, I've been adding bitches to everything I'm really excited about...)

Since we finally have some warmer days, I think we need to celebrate that straw bag season is coming into view.  Granted, I have purse issues, and often bemoan my sadly under-utlized collection.  But summer means, if I trot out any bags, they are occasionally of the wicker persuasion, and I have many, vintage and non, including some larger, floral embellished ones, from Mexico that hold a lot.  (I even use one for small bouts of laundry.) I have some basics that are good fro beach outings (when I actually get there) and some more fragile vintage ones with flowers and even sea shells.  My favorite of all time is this one, which is really too fragile to carry, but I love it nonetheless. The above is a favorite if I don't have that much to carry and somehow has been  in the closet frenzy, paired with that cute scarf that appeared from somewhere (i think it was just a freebie thrown in on something else I ordered off poshmark but I love it.)

I've been lusting after some of the rounded botton, semi-circular ones, and ordered a new one last week with some birthday money from my dad that should be arriving any day now.  Now I need only plan the sort of outings and adventures that require such purses and I'll be golden. (I would totally carry them daily to work, but you can't fit book manuscripts and art supplies in such dainty little contraptions--I need my giant leather tote for the day to day.)

Sunday, June 02, 2019

on dream spaces

Yesterday afternoon, I took a nap and dreamed that I was actually able to afford the rental space in the Fine Arts that used to be Rain Dog Books (this will pretty much never happen since most months I can barely afford my tiny 9th floor space.) In the dream, I stopped by there late at night to discover that the door had been left open and trust-fund hipsters were putting in some sort of social media firm on the upper two floors and were basically using my space as their remodel staging area (which was in disarray and not at all the boutique /gallery that I wanted it to be because of work and life and always feeling out of control.) I was pretending to be cool about it, but I was so not cool with it at all. Apparently my feelings about hipsters and their upstarts go real deep. 

A week or so back, I dreamed I had bought a house, a wide spreading bungalow, and it was barely furnished, but super bright inside.  The plan was to host a writing retreat space. There were large rugs and high ceilings, a huge terrace in the back, perfect for readings and parties, and my brain was abuzz with potential. Granted, I've never really planned to buy a house, not having that sort of capital at the ready and liking the fact that if things break, the landlord readily takes care of them. But even renting a house for something like that seems a nice dream.

My dreams about my own apartment are often weird.  I have a recurring nightmare that I leave and move somewhere else and then spend the dream trying to find my way back.  Or that there is something wrong with my door and I can't keep bad people out. Or that various people break in and rearrange things while I'm sleeping--maintenance, my mother.  Sometimes they are good, like discovering a hidden room, or having a patio I didn't know about. Once, a horrible nightmare about half the building collapsing and everything sliding into a big hole.

The dream that recurs often, and is not always about my home, per se, but sometimes other spaces, is the one where a train track runs through the middle of the room and we have to be vigilant for horns and lights.  Have to move our bodies and our things to one side or the other on the regular. I was trying to remember this morning whether I had that dream before trains were a more regular part of my life in the city, but I can't remember.   Last night, it was a combination of these dreams, there was a train that ran through a piece of property I somehow owned, but that all the trees had been cut down to stumps on it. 

Another that occurs readily and often is the staircase dream, where I am trying to take a broken elevator.  I either get in and get stuck, or go for the stairs,  but the stairs are weird.  Escher-like or nonsensical.  Or too steep to actually go up or down.  Recently, there was one where the stairs were carved into a mountain, sharp stone, uneven and infinitely dangerous.  Others that involve more athletic abilities to climb.  Others, doors that open onto steep drops that I almost, inevitably, fall into, but save myself at the last minute. 


Saturday, June 01, 2019

the poets zodiac

This week, I fully intend to finish the last few pieces of the poets zodiac, which has been a couple years in the making, and one of things that I pick up and put down on the regular, and one that gets side aside when something seems more pressing.  A couple weeks ago, at Zine Fest, I was giving away the last of the remaining scrolls as a freebie and folks seemed to get really excited about them. I was going to do another round, but am now turning my eyes toward a possible zine or artist book embodiment, especially since I do have the accompanying visuals that will go with them.  Page wise, there will be 48, which could make a full length manuscript, but I think I might like them condensed a bit, more per page, which could work as a chap or zine. Plus, since I am sending feed around, and have another book in the wings, I really don't want to be trying to place another full-length.  So I am reading through and doing cleanup on the existing ones and plotting how they might best be formatted in print. The scrolls and the instagrams are square and I'd like to somehow retain some of that,.  Or maybe instead of multiple pages, a tiny book that's hand bound (it would have to be due to thickness.). There's a bit of editing needed on later ones that haven't been seen in public, but the other ones are mostly good to go.

Strangely, the hardest ones to write may have been the ones for Taurus, maybe because the distance was closer, so more than predictions, I felt a need to make them somehow applicable to my own circumstances.  The winter one, particularly, struck me one day, and it was totally intended to be the Aries one, but about halfway, I claimed it for my own sign.   As true to my ever being the curious skeptic, I sometimes see patterns where other people may only see chaos.  I'm very happy with them as a whole (though for some reason, what's with pisces getting the rough end of things..I don't even know any pisces in real life..lol...Basically what winter was for all the signs, pisces was taking in every season.) They were a good project to peck away at between some other projects, so the timeline on them spans wider than it usually takes me to finish a project and therefore varies a bit perhaps in tone, which I think works kind nicely.

Friday, May 31, 2019

taking stock | 5 & 10 years

I always feel like this blog (journals or diaries in general) are an excellent way to re-read and get a sense of what was happening in your life at any given moment.  I had some time today to take a scan back at 5 and 10 years ago and I feel like so many of the running threads in my life are always present.  Five years ago, I was about to get a nasty bout of food poising, but also, three unruly kittens, only one of which I would keep, but another which I would later re-home. I was obsessed with embracing summer and spending enough time enjoying it.   I was at the beginning of a relationship that would only last a few months, but was fairly low drama, and also ending another long-term one that would re-surface, then end finally that fall.  I was working on some book projects like lunarium and ghost landscapes 

Ten years ago, I appear to have been doing a whole lot of readings, one after the other--Woodland Pattern, the Bookslut Series, Brother's K in Evanston.  I was knee deep in the etsy shop madness, making soaps and photographing so much vintage. I was working on a collaborative postcard project with another author, but there isn't much mention of actual writing projects, which makes sense since I was still in my post-MFA burnout stage. The trickle would not start until a year or two later with the James Franco piecs. I do note a couple of publications, but they seem to be older work from before.  Romantically, I was back in a relationship after some unfortunate circumstances, but caught up in some weird euphoria that would carry it through the next year or so before things went nuclear.  Despite this, there are so many mentions of being ecstatically happy and content, and I truly believe I was, possibly in a way that seems strangely unattainable sense, even though I consider myself a pretty happy person in general, no matter what.

The past couple of years, I've found myself struggling to get back there, but I'm not sure where there was, and reading those old entries may get me closer, but also somehow, farther away. But good, mild weather helps.  Dresses and tacos and poetry helps.  Good, functional relationships and an apartment full of cats help.  I'm, as always, struggling to keep up, but am determined to enjoy summer just as much as I was years ago.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


"Truth is, you'd be prettier if you were thinner.  Prettier if you smiled.  Each night, you cultivate pretty like a fountain you throw every coin into.   Put it in a nightgown and tuck it into bed.  Pretty sleeps like a cat, curled around you, kneading sweetly in your hair." 


As I was working through those hunger palace edits, I got more and more excited about the larger manuscript they are a part of, and excited to see if it fares well out in the submission wilds.  I feel like the work in the book is really strong individually and as a whole--and it feels a little sharper and real than some of my other projects.  You have the very autobiographical of hunger palace, the barbed poems of swallow, the fairytale world of plump, and the dreamy changelings of the summer house.  Also the imaginary daughter poems of the science of impossible objects.  It makes sense that I would write a book about mothers in the year or so after losing my own, and the hunger palace itself is very much about that.

Of course, it's not only about mothers, but also about daughters, and body image issues.  About the things we inherit from mothers as much as our eye color and genetic makeup. About the madnesses we inherit via nature or nurture, so in that way is also about grandmothers and female relatives. My sister, for example,  inherited a seizure disorder that afflicts both my father and other members of that family which seems much scarier.  I (luckily?) only inherited a tendency toward anxiety that plagued my mother, particularly in her latter years. While my grandmother died fairly young, there were alcohol issues, and, with my great grandmother on that side. hospitalizations for hallucinations and general mental breakdown  crazy.   (though after what happened with my mom, I wonder if infection wasn't the cause of all that and the doctors in the late 60's just weren't up to speed that that was a possibility.)  Therefore, I am extremely cautious of "the crazy" and ever vigilant.

As a teen, of course, the obsession with my weight becomes softer in focus as an adult, but when I was in Rockford over the past weekend, I re-found my old high school diary, which I mention specifically in the hunger palace a couple times.  And good god, it's all there, the ridiculousness of it, something I am still, in many ways unlearning. FEED is a processing of all that and more--the mother, the daughter, decisions on not having children, of creative work as child. In many ways, it feels like one of the most cohesive full-length projects I've written and I'm anxious (in the good way) to see what comes of it.