Tuesday, April 30, 2019

the science of impossible objects

I've been working to put up some of the work that is out of print or low on available copies up on the website to read totally free of charge and at the click of a link.  More chap & zine projects will be appearing over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for those.  First up, THE SCIENCE OF IMPOSSIBLE OBJECTS, released last fall...

dear imaginary daughter

It’s so very American of you to blame your father. To blame the forest for the tree. The roots for their slow decay.  You empty your mouth like a box of toys.  Nothing there, and then everything. Filled with moonlight and knives.  So very precise of you to make a game of it. So Midwestern. You get that from me, my obscene love of algorithms and ghosts. You say the world is always sloping toward you, or worse, sloping away. In the grass, you lay out your tools.  Take your typewriter in the bathtub. Oversleep and burn your eggs daily.  There’s a photo of you in the middle of someone's backyard birthday party, antlers perched atop your head. The Barbie cake was so big it swallowed us all.



for some more info on this project, read this entry from last October...

writing & art bits | april edition

*Some text & collages from the exquisite damage series appear in the most recent issue of  Radar Poetry, There are some more fragments forthcoming in elsewhere soon, as well as in a past issue of ethel. The project is sort of the center piece of my dark country manuscript, so I'm happy all of the pieces are slowly filtering out there..it's more lyric essay than poems in most places, so it's also some newer territory for me.

*the terrible place (see above), which is the visual portion of exquisite damage,  is progressing along nicely and I should have it wrapped up by mid-summer.

*I'm planning on hosting an open studio in June (the 14th), the first in at least a couple years.  I have about a month and a half to prepare and restock a whole bunch of things, as well as make the studio presentable, but it needs to be done and summer is the best time to make it happen.  I also, over the weekend, procured myself one of these little lovelies which means all sorts of iron-on-vinyl fun to come...

*As of yesterday, I am running 2/6 on the 100 rejections effort, which is not bad odds wise (from either side of the coin), but am puzzled over some of the nays, which seem like the strongest work I'm putting out there, but are catching the most disinterest. *sigh*

* The artist statement pieces are starting to stack up and gain momentum. Despite my napowrimo plans going south, I did finish out the HH Holme's project this month and make a sizeable dent in that, so I suppose it's something to show for a pretty busy April.

* early plans are underway for the physical manifestation of the strangerie project, which will most likely be a series of postcards, basically cabinet cards with poem, or maybe something like a divination deck of some sort.

Monday, April 29, 2019

nature prints

One of my favorite printmaking adventures is making nature prints--which means at any given time, there is likely a pile of dead flowers somewhere in my apartment waiting to be inked up. Somewhere, there's a sweet spot between freshly dead and too dry that they fall apart, and I've had some success / some failure in seeking that out.  If they are too crumbly, I can still get them to work for some monotypes sometimes if not actual prints involving whole stems.  I've been slowly working the past couple of years on a series of nature-inspired monotypes called night bloom, as well as an assortment of prints using flowers.

There are a number of techniques, which can vary depending on heartiness of the plant samples and the type of paper.  Some are more traditional relief prints on printmaking paper, while others use the flowers more like a stamp between two sheets of paper. (I like a nice watercolor stock for these.) I'm hoping to get a chance to do another workshop with these in the fall in the library, so keep an eye out for details.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

spinster wish

A month or so ago, I finally finished Kate Bolick's Spinster:  Making a Life of One's Own , which details the author's pursuit of a single, defined identity as well as explores the idea through the lives of famous (or less famous) literary women who devoted their lives to what Bolick calls "spinster wish"--the idea that marriage and cohabitation takes away the autonomy of the creative self, which as women, we are meant to sacrifice in the name of relationships, of love, of children.  While I am an unabashed spinster, I wasn't quite able to draw the complete  conclusion that such spinsterhood was necessarily crucial to one's pursuit as a writer (or in Bolick's case also editorial work.) Obviously. many writers/editors have happy marriages, families, and somehow balance all the things in a way I don't think I'd be able to successfully.

But it is intriguing, looking at women like Charlotte Perkins Gilman or Edna St. Vincent Millay, who for their time, were living sort of revolutionarily single at least for parts of their live  Of course, one would suspect that feminism, in the century or so since, would have different ideas about a woman's ability to live alone, but while it's maybe more possible, it's still, societally, a strange thing (though single woman households, even with children, make up a large percentage of the population.)  I too have watched as everyone around me paired up, married (and then, with a few exceptions) unceremoniously uncoupled. For years, I was often the only singleton at the party (though now everyone seems newly single after divorce.) I am a rarity in that I never married, never had children, and though at least the latter is pretty much off the table biologically, or will be, I feel it's less surprising to people once you've hit the 40's.  There is much less, oh you'll find someone.   I've been a little more out with my solo poly tendencies, which may explain some of it, and people still confuse me being in a relationship at all with being in an escalator one by default.

There is something to be said for being the marshall of one's own existence--a life more of one's own devising.  A friend was recently talking about her tendency, in past relationships, to give too much of her self to the detriment of her creative and mental health.  I am pretty good at compartmentalizing and my love life, even at it's most dramatic, was always fuel for art, so maybe it's a bit different, but emotional bandwidth is a tricky thing.   A little too much drama, too much skewed thinking, and it can throw you off balance

She also considers the downside of living alone-- the instability that one feels when their livelihood is entirely their own making--with no backup or support system (which of course, I guess is something you need to build as infrastructure in the absence of a domestic partner....friends, family..)  The burdens of shouldering everything yourself, which, for me, i suppose is outweighed by the freedom.  I've lived alone most of my life, barring the years I lived with parents, and briefly with my sister here in the city. But even then, another person can be a distraction, even a fun one, which can make you less productive than you'd like.  I used to force myself to work in a cafe when I was working on my first book, the fever almanac, because when I was home, we would just watch dvd's and laugh a lot.  Another person in your environment makes it harder to focus.

I'm not sure love or romance are necessarily at odds with the spinster wish, but definitely complicate what one is willing to sacrifice for these things.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

places and spaces

Sometimes, it's hard to determine where I do my best work.  There's home, where much of the creative plotting and dreaming happens in places like the shower and the bed.  There's my daily bus ride, where I come up with a lot of ideas for all sorts of projects (and also where I get the bulk of my daily reading done--obviously related).  Weirdly, I sometimes have amazing ideas walking down Michigan or waiting for my coffee on my way to the studio.  I do however, have several intentional workspaces where any number of different things happen and I've been musing over the right conditions under which things bloom and are constructed.

Today, which is another gloomy, and (yes) snowy spring day, I am here (see above), which is usually where most weekends find me unless I'm sleeping, chilling on the couch, or working on projects that are painty or inky or need space (which happens on the big table in the dining roomc (aka the alice table) or the work table in there. .).  I have a laptop, but unless I'm using it to watch movies in the bedroom, it will be found on this desk.  While most of my daily writing is happening in the studio lately waiting for printing jobs, here is where the fine-tuning & editing happens.  Also where I write most of the blog content.   It's actually less of a desk and more of a vanity table I purloined from my mother.   It has arms rests and a secret little drawer in the front. She got it second hand from a co-worker when I was in high school, and for awhile it held the cage of a cockatiel we once owned, but  even then, I had my eyes on it for future thievery.   It was one of the only things I moved into my first apartment as my desk, and then this one, where it initially was my nightstand. (later, when I was having wi-fi issues I moved it to the current location to allow my laptop a direct hookup and it just stayed there. )

I appreciate it's relative smallness, which keeps me from hoarding things on it . (I used to work at the dining room table, but it would get covered in books & art supllies eventually to the detriment of actually, ya know, eating at it.) The little dresser next to it houses anything I need to store away and gives a little extra room, mostly for cats (though Moxie has firmly planted herself on the desk/my left arm while I'm typing at the moment)  The cabinet is one of two (the larger holds my tv.) lovely mid-century avocado green pieces procured from Goodwill when i first moved in.  That one holds the record player and underneath, a collection of cds I no longer really use as well as things lke photo albums and scrapbooks.  While my tall poetry shelves are across the room, those bookshelves are the fiction ones and sort of a catch-all for randoms or things I like to consult occasionally as well as a handful of records (my collection is small--I've only had the player a couple years, but it's mostly bossa nova and some Patsy Cline.) I am a mad fan of vintage office chairs and this is one of my favorites and probably the one in my apartment in the best condition.

Smaller touches are my big french cat poster, my mini-camera collection, right now, a stack of poems on the green cabinet since I've been working on parceling some things together.   Weekends like this usually find me planted most of the day here. If it requires less concentration, I can turn my television in this direction and watch Netflix while I work.  Right now, my space heater is humming away about two feet away as it has been the entire winter and seems doomed to sometimes for eternity.

Today, I am working on revisions for the "artist statement" pieces before I start sending them out in submission and maybe writing some more posts for this week's blogging endeavors.  I'm making headway on the library memoir-ish project and will be sharing more of that as I go.  With feed out of the house and in submission, I've been idly looking at that next configuration of a book and seeing what it might need before it's complete. (dark country is the book that will bring together the more narrative projects like taurus, the slender man poems, exquisite damage, and the older series, beautiful, sinister. )  It needs a couple more things to be complete, though, but I'd like to have all the ducks in a row by fall.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Contrary to my earlier plans this week to finally get that tattoo on birthday (the peony on my inside shoulder) I bailed and instead am spending the day sleeping late and cleaning my apartment from top to bottom, which may not sound like birthday fun, but you can only dodge tiny tufts of cat hair (April is prime molting season for the two mainecoons) so long before madness sets in  ...Last night, I also spent a bit of the tattoo money on this set of ikea drawers for the studio, which may make me happier than the tattoo in the long run.   It's not completely off the table, but it is at least off the table for the time being. Instead, I will continue to make my fun with temporary tattoos on occasion, which don't require permanence and sitting in one place for several hours while someone stabs you with needles.   (all of which was making me way too anxious to start this particular year of my life..)

ll I do know is that this birthday is far less traumatizing than turning 25, at which point my life was about to be thrown into complete upheaval after grad school, and is probably better than turning 35, of which  I remember nothing of particular note at all (though according to the blog, it was a rainy day at the CPL Poetry Fest).   When I was 15, I did get my very first diary, so thirty years ago, you have the grandparent of this very blog, which was more about cats and boys and how much I fought with my mother than anything I write today. I do find myself I suppose firmly ensconced in that thing they call "middle age" at long last, no getting past it, but hopefully I endured my mini-crises a couple months back and have emerged victorious. If anything it was less about getting older and more about having more to lose and less to look forward to--more death and loss and less good things.  But you make the good things, I suppose. And hopefully they outweigh the bad even until the end...

So my good things today are not having to work at the library, some good coffee, a clean apartment, some new flat file-size drawers, maybe some chinese food for dinner.  Tomorrow, a whole day in the studio finishing up all sorts of things and  then a weekend entirely free in a blissfully clean (ish)  apartment.  And,while still a little chilly outside, the  leaves are slowly coming in on the trees and the magnolias just about to bloom...

Monday, April 22, 2019

libraries I have loved

It began with orange carpet. Only the 70's could have produced such a shade. There were miles and miles of it in my elementary school from K-4th Grade. While other wings of Love Park Elementary boasted more old-school brick architecture spanning back to the early parts of the century, the library, or "learning center"  was located in a newer addition cursed by not only the miles of orange, but the open-plan concept that meant no walls between classrooms., only rude assortments of cabinets and bookshelves delineating each "room".  It made for easy distractions, but also great theater.  The teacher next door to my 4th grade class was notorious for yelling louder as the week wore on.   

The learning center, however,  was supposed to be quiet.  Children passing through the annex were quickly hushed into silence.   The classrooms formed a border around a sunken area in the middle.  Each week, for "library time" we would line up to sit on the orange stairs and politely wait for our instructions.  First it was to choose one book, then in upper grades two.  I can still feel the scratch of that carpet on bare legs as I fidgeted--anxious to get to the books. Later, I would work in a library that was very similarly arranged, and realized what a horrible placement of resources.  Yes, it was the centered and prominent, but it was hardly a good place for concentration with no walls and the distractions of students filing through to get to the lunch room in another wing. That library, too, would be a similar orange even 20 odd years later, with a similar in the round set up and no real walls. 

The books were the usual fare--picture books for the youngest. Longer books with chapters and non-fiction for the oldest. My favorites, which I sought out early on, were a collection of glossy paged Peter Rabbit books that had their own box set.  I would like to say these books and their contents informed my young readers mind, but I'd be fibbing just a little.  What I remember of their stories is a vague collection of talking animals and some sort of lesson to be learned, but moreso it was the physicality of the books themselves that drew me to the shelf week after week. They felt old, and most likely were, even then--bound in book cloth that varied from green to aqua to grey.  The pages had a sheen to them that was enormously satisfying. I liked the way they lined up neatly on the shelf, uniform in size and in color scheme.   I liked to rub them between my fingers and feel the slightly raised illustrations. The way the text itself, too, was pitch black and slightly raised if you pressed hard enough. They felt old and solid in a way that the orange carpeted floor around me did not.  Classic.


I grew up in a house that had many books.  But at the same time, as a child, held only a very few that interested me in particular. My dad was a voracious reader--rifle and golf magazines, newspapers, books on birding and the old west.  Stacks of National Geographic.   I remember my own first book in the weird way you remember the years before the consciousness cements--a black and white checked sizeable volume of Mother Goose Tales that was most likely a gift.  In my memory, I carried it around a lot even before I learned to read it, but I remember the illustrations told much of the stories even without the words. I also remember a few scattered Little Golden Books that fell prey to a lot of crayon marks.  Mother Goose, too, surely met a similar fate, her binding cracking and littered with marks. No doubt sticky with jam and chocolate, since I loved, even then, to eat and read at the same time. My favorite stories within are hard to recall from this distance, but I remember a fascination with the The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. With Little Miss Muffet and her fateful tuffet. The cow that ran away with the spoon. 

My father's books were housed in a single tall book case--a strange dark not-quite-wood that again, only the 70's could have created. I spent a lot of time arranging and rearranging his volumes, and since this was obviously where the books should go, shelving my own few titles amongst them.--Mother Goose and the growing collection of battered Little Goldens, many procured by my mother at garage sales once she realized I was going to be a reader. It felt so very adult, to place the books on the shelf instead of toy box where everything else of childhood lived. Even though they were in increasingly poor shape. Like they were the most exquisite of dolls. 

curvy girl fashion | bowl of cherries

A few years back, I bought the dress above, and while it was really nice in terms of fabric, it definitely became one of those NSFW items, where the top just felt a little too revealing and the skirt a little too short.  I have since acquired a number of dresses in the cherry pattern and they are one of summertime staples I'm anxious to pull out in a month or so. (including this one and this one.)  I also have the cutest embroidered cherry vintage purse that I adore.  I was complaining to a friend about how so often the cherry pattered stuff is a little too low cut or a little too short, and she said, well, duh, it's a little slutty and pinup-y and maybe she's right, but it's one of more favorite patterns for warm weather clothes.  (I also have a strawberry eshakti dress I love..and have been eyeing some cute flouncy lemon patterned dresses the past couple years, so bring on the summertime fruits. )

(Get a look at some more cherry-licious things on my pinterest board.)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

napowrimo fail

The past week, admittedly, got a little hectic.  For one, I was finishing off and shipping out several large orders of chapbooks and back orders, that made my studio time even more valuable, which meant while I was there, I needed every second for assembly and none for poeming.  In the library, last weekend was busy with the colloquium (Saturday) and subsequent mental recovery (Sunday) and it spun into a week with the paper flower workshop and public domainia marathon, and in general, just a lot of boring ILL business that needs immediate attention.  I was tired when I got home, heck, sometimes when I got up, and the week escaped me and aside from monday, The creative bandwidth just wasn't there. I wrote not a single piece.  I did manage to submit some HH. Holmes poems near the end of the week, and published some pieces in the new issue of Radar. But that was about it.

Yesterday, I was musing that I could, in fact, write a bunch and catch up, but then decided there was really no need. I did take great pride in finishing it out last year, and granted the routines I set led to a whole bunch of work generated throughout the rest of the year. But I realize that daily writing is something I know I can still do even when I'm not, at least now, and unlike other years when I failed, it's totally okay.   I'll pick back up again on Monday.  Or Tuesday.  Or eventually.  Admittedly, barring last year's 30, even making it to 15 was a success (I usually lose it about 10).

Saturday, April 20, 2019

zombie jesus day

When I was 8, I still believed in a lot of things, including the fact that a giant rabbit hauling loads of chocolate could somehow slip into my room, past my very awake parents, and leave me an Easter basket.  Granted, I got some cool shit. Always one non-candy thing--roller skates, a sticker book, and when I was 11, a shiny new ten speed.   We were never even remotely religious, but every Easter morning, we'd wake up to find baskets full of treats and commence on our usual ride, after a stop at McDonalds for breakfast, out to the golf coarse in nearby Rockton (I don't know exactly why--only that it was a manageble drive for Sunday morning and my dad was probably scoping out tee-times. )    We did it enough times that I associate the holiday with the tradition, though there were surely variations--the year my bunny melted in the car as we were helping to clean out my step-grandfather's house after his death. The 2-3 years I was weirdly sick (even before touching the candy at all).  Usually, the afternoon would be spent at my aunts and the extended family--complete with ham (not my favorite)  and even more chocolate--first divvied into baskets, then later just in bowls to fill our own bags.

Over the years, Easter was never something I aimed to get home for (see the above mention of ham, I'd never had missed my aunt's 4th of July's chicken & potato salad festivities.)  Up to the very, very end, mom still made us baskets.  Every year.  And the years I wasn't home, she either saved mine to bring in to me, or sent me money to make my own.  She even made them for a friend who was visiting with me.  Over the years, they were much less grand (and heck as a teen, she sometimes let us pick out the candy we wanted ourselves.) But the endeavor would be good for some Reeses eggs and other assorted holiday goods (including Peeps that always seem like a good idea until you actually eat one.) My childhood faves included those liquid wax bottles and the candy buttons you ate off the paper.  And Cadbury eggs, especially the Caramel variety.

Even last year, where I missed the holiday entirely, my dad later handed over a bunch of candy and said it was my belated Easter haul.  I still tend to think of the actual holiday as super maudlin in nature..but the traditions are the things that matter--especially when all of the holidays are secular and family based.  If anything, I can appreciate the pagan celebration of spring, this year, since it's so late, everything is coming into bloom--the magnolias by the bus stop, the tulips on Michigan Ave.   Though it snowed heavily just a week ago, you would never even know it. This year, I'll be in the city, but I might just grab myself a bag of Cadbury eggs...

Friday, April 19, 2019

confessions of a book whisperer

I've been lucky enough that the handful of manuscript critiques I've taken on have been pretty damn awesome manuscripts or loose material even before I laid a hand on them (and hopefully continued to be awesome after I put my fingers in them..lol..) But I was thinking today about what I am reading for, looking for,  in any given project on that first pass through. What threads you can kind of catch and pull on that will unravel and then thread together in the end.

An in truth, every manuscript is different.  I've been working right now with a past dgp author now who has various strings of poems in different thematic veins that we are attempting to parse a book out of--identifying things that hang together well. Other critiques were for books that were almost fully formed and just needed a second perspective and someone to spot some new strategies for organization, or even to help them articulate why they were making the decisions they were. To do things more intentionally than they may have before.

I've never been a fan of workshops for all sorts of reasons--not really for individual poems--not really for line edits and a thousand different possible roads you could take with a stanza or line, but working more intensely on mansucripts feels different somehow. More whole.  The poems exist as they exist--and now, what do we do with them.  Almost like clay--the ability to move them around and build different sorts of structures--THAT I love.  I love the first reading, which I always feel is a little like a divination, what is this manuscript, these poems, saying and how can we get their message to be even clearer. Then a sussing out of themes and possible structures. Where to go from there--poems that are needed, poems that can be shed. I like to think of it sort of as being a book whisperer...

When I was putting together the fever almanac, I had no idea what I was doing and could have used someone to do something similar.  And I guess I did eventually figure it out, much in the same process I do for other authors.. And maybe it's a testament to that process that, when it comes to my own projects now,  I kind of do it now before the fact--the subsequent manuscripts are more clearly focused at the time things begin to constellate--my smaller series falling into line with others they have thematic or subject matter ties.  sex & violence become a full book after I finished the love poems and thought they echoed things in dirty blonde and honey machine that might be worth the time of polishing.  feed was a manuscript at the point I had finished the hunger place and plump. The only exception may have been girl show, which actually had many people's suggestions along the way on structures and sections  (it was my MFA thesis.)  Maybe some re-ordering during the editing process of sections with Sundress' help on major characters in minor films. 

I wouldn't say the books write themselves exactly, but they emerge much more fully functional than they did initially.  Sort of like ikea furniture that isn't exactly in pieces all over your living room, but more just need some bolts tightened and the casters put on.

(I do still have at least one opening for consultations in the summer if you'd like to work with me... check here for details)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

transparency and the writer's life

I once read an interview with a random poet where they talked about their creative process, hammering in how deplorable they found it that other poets spend so much time in front of screens, They. of course, did not, preferring instead to be entirely internet-less at home (though I suspect they still had a phone and weren't completely disconnected form the world.) They also found it deplorable to force writing, to commit to page counts, to poems, even when the muse wasn't flitting about.  Instead, said poet wandered about the countryside, waiting for the burst of occasional inspiration and then sat down at a typewriter and banged it out. Meticulously revised it over months, over years. (of course, this poet was a tenured professor, so therefore had the summers free to sit about waiting great-pumpkin-like for the muse.)  There was also no discussion of the indecorous work on submitting and seeking publication, which surely sullied the that very same muse. In the interview, it seemed like a nice life, full of smart people and smart conversations.  And they had books, several, and prizes and publications and all the things that writers get absolutely wet for--fellowships, grants, residencies.   But no indecorous discussion of how they actually got them.

Every once in a while, I'll encounter these sorts of poets for whom their creative lives are hidden behind a thick veil And sometimes there is this unspoken pressure to be doing things while, in fact, seeming not to do them.  Not to want them. Not to even try, lest one be considered too thirsty. You wanna play it cool, like you're not always seeking and querying.  But you probably are. Occasionally, I'll encounter a poet publishing like their first book and be surprised to learn that they had sent it out to contests 50-100 times before it was picked up, but that they were doing it completely on the down-lo. I'm always suspicious of poets who seem to get things easily, but then I've acknowledged that its not always as easy as it might seem from the outside.  Me, I sent it out about 10 times over 2 years and then bitched about it endlessly on the interwebs.  It was either going to get picked up or I would annoy everyone to death.  Eventually I was lucky.

And maybe I'm a poor example, having been blogging for nearly two decades, having always put all of it out there in the open. Everything from my earliest publications, to my serious book anxiety before the first one was picked up, to my MFA study rants. And that was merely blogging--the veil slipped even further when social media showed up.  Now, you not only know what I'm working on what I'm striving for, but also, sometimes, what I ate for breakfast.  A year or so ago, a poet was discussing the hazards of considering the work when we know all too much about the author via social media.  New Criticism, no doubt,  is probably dead, and in it's place, is it valid, in a review , to reference the personality of the author?  How can we not?  Is there such a thing as entirely private writers? (truthfully, if I haven't put it out there on the internet, I've put it in my work.) And really, I have no answer to this question of whether we should or shouldn't.

Because of things like facebook, which allow amazing opportunity for community and connection, I always a little weirded out by the poets who eschew them entirely.  Surely, maybe they are more productive (though waiting for that fickle muse surely can't be that effective in terms of time use and productivity.) But then again, so much of what I find there and the community attached spurs me on. (and a life without cat memes is a sad life indeed.)  I'm not sure I ever believed that writing needed to happen in absolute isolation. And what are we if not products of our culture?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

writing where you live

It occurred to me a couple days ago that I have now lived in Chicago almost as long as I did not..that my life, by next year, will be roughly split down the middle. I am not sure how long one has to be transplanted in a given spot before one can rightly claim it as home, but I think a couple decades surely does it.  I've seen many poets come and go for all sorts of reasons. In and out of the city, chasing degrees and teaching positions.  Met many an awesome writer who is only here in a transitory state. But I am (despite my occasional desires to flee Chicago for NOLA) pretty much staying put, at least for the foreseeable future.

As an MFA student, I once took a class devoted to writing "Chicago Poems" and it involved both reading the work of others and writing our own.  What's crazy is I do not remember much at all what we read that semester. Cannot remember if they were more place based projects or devoted specifically to THIS place.  But I do remember what I wrote--the archer avenue poems--steeped in urban legend and Chicago history--and moreso how much I enjoyed that particular project. Granted it was only the fall of 2005, and I'd been in the city less than a decade at that point.  But I was, as I mentioned a couple posts ago, a geek for Chicago history and PBS specials about neighborhoods and train lines.  Resurrection Mary herself, I'd been onto since junior high when I was checking out all those ghost story books from the public library.  It was natural that I would immediate gravitate to that subject matter when prompted to do a specifically Chicago project.

By then, the city was already filtering into my work in other ways.  The third section of the fever almanac, which had just been picked up that fall, had decidedly more urban poems than the preceding two sections (and in fact, closes on a poem "predictions" inspired a bit by the 1992 flooding of loop basements and train tunnels  I did not live in the city quite then, but we'd come in for a french class field trip that week and saw all the disarray.)  I'd fallen in love with Cornell by then, right there in the old modern wing of the Art Institute and was writing poems about the boxes, which seem Chicago-ish by association. My second book would include the Resurrection Mary poems, and major characters in minor films would be the next book set mostly in an urban landscape--"coyotes of lake shore drive" being a good example. Then of course, there would be "shipwrecks of lake michigan"--the urban mermaid poems.

Much of my work has hovered  in the semi-ruralness of my childhood. Though maybe semi-suburban describes it equally well--having came of age in the outer reaches of a mid-size city, which is a little different than small town-ness. I.e, my high school was huge, but there were no streetlights and the neighbors had horses. Deer ran through the yard on the regular, and it was a good 10 minute drive to the nearest outpost of civilization. There were other houses, but the street was bordered only  by cornfields, river, woods, and a stretch of interstate separate by concrete wall.  So, subsequently,  you have things like girl show, almost entirely rural (Nebraska).  Or the Wisconsin woods of beautiful sinister.  Or taurus, which I imagined to be set in central Illinois.

But some of the poems based more in my own actual  life are set in a more urban environment. Filled with trains and buses and apartment buildings ( no shit, I once wrote an homage to my apartment called "letter to my art deco lover.")   Or, they  are Chicago-based research oriented projects like the HH Holmes series, which allow me to learn more about this city where I have put down such deep roots.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

100 rejections update

So far I am running 2:4, which again, even with rejections outpacing acceptances, I'm still submitting more than I do most years.   It occurs to me that 100 might be a bit unfeasible, especially since I don't do simultaneous subs (for logistical reasons--it's hard enough to keep track without all that withdrawing when things are accepted.)  I wondered if perhaps I might set my sights a little lower, like 50. Or 20. But then again, much like with NAPOWRIMO, the rewards are in the trying, not necessarily in accomplishing the actual goal. So I suppose the aspirational numbers are irrelevant.

I have gotten a couple acceptances from places who have previously rejected me. (Radar and Elsewhere).  And a rejection from somewhere I am about to give up the ghost on (Sixth Finch).   Also, today a rejection from a fancy academic print mag I suspected would reject me (Gulf Coast), though maybe not for those poems, which are some of the best I've been writing (the swallow series.)  I promptly fired them off to an favorite who has published me previously (Hobart)  and a new discovery (Poached Hare).  I currently have about a dozen others out there floating since February. It's too soon for most of the April daily poems, but we'll see what I get in the next month.

Since I've hit up even the hardest to crack of my favorite lit mags, as well as some places that published me previously,  I am mostly looking now for cool new journals who might be a fit with my work. Moreso web than print, but I'd love to discover some print journals I haven't come across that have really nice design and fit my aesthetic (or, I guess, my aesthetic fits them.)

I was thinking about the days of postal rejection slips, how eagerly I would check my mailbox (which now I check once a week tops and it's all catalogs and things related to my TIAA-CREF)  How every envelope was a little like Schrodinger's cat--either a success or letdown, but so full of potential in that moment. I guess I've traded it now for e-mail and stalking my submittable account, which is somehow less dramatic, though much easier than all those SASE's.  My first acceptance ever was a form letter with a scribbled note with which poems that I still have in a scrapbook somewhere from 20 years ago. If you went back and told that 24 year old all the amazing things that would happen to her in this business--the publications, the readings, the books, the shear number of poems-- she would scarce believe you.

Monday, April 15, 2019

april snowstorms, may flowers

At tomorrow night's HOW-TO-TUESDAY, we'll be trying our hand at paper flowers (because most of the real ones probably froze to death covered in snow  yesterday.)

The Library, 624 S Michigan, 1st Floor, 7pm 

I've been itching to try some new things for diorama purposes, and this is the perfect opportunity to experiment...

everyone must play

When I finished watching Braid, even after the first and second time, there was something disorientating that reminded me of something like Mulholland Drive. Or at least the feeling I had after watching it--because they are obviously very different movies.  Perhaps its the same sort trip where fantasy and fiction blur, where no narrative thread or sense-making is to be trusted. Where you think you've caught the thread, but like a balloon it slips from your grasp.  And indeed, maybe that is the point, since so much of this movie is about make believe at its core.  And really, moreso than sense-making is cast out the window in favor of the visual ride the film offers--a blend between hyper femininity and violence, between sweet vintage inspired pastels and hyper-lurid acid trips.  The lulls in the movie are just as troubling as the frenzied parts, if not moreso. And granted, outside of the twisted violence of this very particular make-believe, it still had this childlike feeling of altered reality I appreciated to no end.   When I've talked before about the pretty and the terrifying making the very best juxtaposition, this is very much the perfect example of that.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

notes & things | 4/14/2018

Today, April snow.  Fuck, an April blizzard and after yesterday was actually quite mild.  It is in no way jacket season yet, and the one day I attempted it, an evening cold front brought regret.  Today, relief, that the Artists & Scholars Colloquium went off well, but I wish more had attended the entirety of the afternoon, so that will require some tweaking in timelines and what happens during what part of the day. The two panel discussions were amazing--one the general artists panel for the exhibit, and one my own Spooky Little Girls topic, which wound up being really interesting--and crossed many genres and representations, not only of girls as monstrous or wicked, but also as seductresses, how puberty and sexual awakening sometimes makes them monstrous in so many cultural veins.

Today, I am drinking a lot of tea and working on a manuscript critique.  Am waiting for some groceries and making my way through the screen adaptation of 11.22.63 (and trying to ignore that the lead role is played by James Franco, who, despite my usual hate, is actually sometimes decent in dramatic roles.   Or at least unnoticeable.)  Since the landlord does not know what to do with winter in April, it's ungodly chilly, so I spent most of the day under my covers and now have moved to my desk with the space heater about a foot away.

This week brings a paper flower workshop on Tuesday which should be easy enough. And the film marathon at the end of the week, which will be fun. I am struggling with bandwidth, work and the colloquium having pulled me in many directions, and have fallen behind on NAPOWRIMO, which I might catch up on if all goes well today, but am okay if not (I do take time off sometimes, but pretty much write daily on the regular every month. )  Usually, I don't write on weekends anyhow, but instead like to spend more time editing.  I did set aside the Holmes pieces late in the week and switch to something else. So we'll see how that goes.

I finishing up a few huge batches of chaps, including the first copies of the Mansion anthology, which will be sent on its way this week.  Plus am getting into orders from early February finally.  Spring is moving so fast and soon it will be summer and we'll be open for submissions, but I want to be fairly caught up with orders & releases before I start reading manuscripts for next year.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

strange fevers update | reading & discussion

This Saturday, April 13th,  there is a whole bunch of awesomeness happening as part of our Strange Fevers Artists & Scholars Colloquium, including a panel discussion Spooky Little Girls @ 2pm, and the Oddities Reading @ 3. I'll be talking a bit about my necessary violence series, as well as reading from that and other strange writing projects--victorian seances, serial killers, urban legends, and more...At 1pm, we'll be talking some of the artists included in the 1st Floor exhibit--so be there.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Monday, April 08, 2019

childhood spaces and places...

I was in Rockford over the weekend and got to thinking about strange things I did as a kid, one of which was my fascination with a crab apple tree that bordered what was once my grandmother's property and what belonged to my parents.  So much of my grandmother's house seems like a lost place, a house I dream about occasionally--usually that it falls into my possession somehow (even though it was torn down nearly 30 years ago)  and I have to live in it.  It was a tiny little red wooded house with no basement and was eventually torn down when my cousins bought the property and built their bi-level.

The apple tree was an in-edible one..and sprouted these terribly sour golf ball sized fruits that mostly all wound up on the ground, rotting, and eaten out by worms every late summer/early fall.  But the tree itself boasted exactly the right shape for climbing--not too high or dangerously, but the perfect spread to lodge oneself amongst the branches about 4 feet from the ground comfortably for hours. I spent a lot of time here, with other kids (my sister and cousins), but moreso alone with a book or notebook.  When I was still young enough to play with dolls (mostly Cabbage Patches, but some others that approximated real infants) we would take our faux children to picnic under the tree with sandwiches and popcorn and koolaid that inevitably attracted ants.  Most of my doll playing (and this included Barbie) included dressing them and styling their hair, which was about at motherly as I ever got. But I would alone take books out there and stay for hours by myself.

Later, the tree would come down when the new house was built, and it's crappy little apples fell no more. By then, I was a teenager and less interested in doll picnics. But solitary spaces remained important.  At one point, there was an area behind my dad's shed, just outta site from the house, where I an my sister had erected the closest thing we ever had to playhouse with plywood and carpet scraps. the walls kept falling over and it was overrun with brown woolly caterpillars.  Eventually, the rain rotted out the carpet and it was no more.

At our previous house, there was an enormous rusty oil barrel left by previous owners behind the garage, again the only place in the yard not visible from the windows, and we spent a lot of time perching ourselves on it's rusty surface.  There was a tree in the front corner of the yard, that had low hanging branches that almost bowed back to the ground and made a good private spot. In that house,  I had secured my first bedroom  that was only mine, a sloped ceiling orange carpet squared garret that most of the time I was afraid to sleep in after years of bunk-bedding with my sister. . In the new house these was the basement, mostly empty for awhile and concrete walled,  where we outfitted a faux living room with old furniture we'd moved with us and a giant counsel stereo turntable my mother should have gotten rid of (becuase I am pretty sure it's so big it will stay there forever.) We spent a good portion of childhood roller skating on the concrete floors and listening to its radio.

The important thing, was that these were child-only spaces, and I continued to seek them out, even after I had my own room. The snow forts we would make in the drifts where you had to crawl through tunnels to get to the main living area. The spaces at the bottom of the road that led to the river. (from about 10 onward, we were given pretty much free reign of the neighborhood as long as we weren't alone.) The grassy little nook that tucked in under the overpass we crawled into as teenagers.  There was a lot of exploring that isn't possible as a child now.) All of the forts we would build with blankets and oddly placed pieces of furniture.  The roots of this desire for singular spaces probably goes way back. I have vague recollections of being 3-4  and my mother placing a sheet over the coffee table, where I would spend hours, my head peeking out just enough to see the t.v. I would take my coloring books and magic slates into my little oasis until my father came home later in the evening and took over the single television.

I think this is probably why, as an adult, I've lived predominantly alone in spaces that were distinctly mine...

Friday, April 05, 2019

wild territory | adventures in collage

I've mentioned before my rather late coming to visual art.  Until around 15 years ago,  I was the sort of kid who always had big rather creative imaginations but a profound lack of coordination to make them happen--or at least for them to happen the way I wanted them to. My mind and my hands have never been much on the same page. There were many sound, but slightly off pinch pots and crooked ceramic ashtrays in my elementary school days.  In 2nd or 3rd grade, we made what I think were dream catchers out of t-shaped wooden dowels and twine. Wreaths made of hanger wires and strips of garbage bags.  Tiny uneven rugs woven in yarn on cardboard looms. Endless construction paper chains.  My favorite project was the one where you took sheets of wax paper heated with an iron and placed pressed flowers between the sheets, which then melted  and stuck together (I tried this later to make bookmarks once and it was altogether less spectacular as an adult than as a child.) 

At home, I was an avid color-booker and watercolor by number fan. I was also a fan of spirograph sets and etch-a-sketches. I would get sleepless and my mother would often discover me awake and alone in the middle of the night, sprawled on the floor in front of the living room tv surrounded by coloring books.  I could not hold a candle crayola wise to my mother, who was far neater, always inside the lines, and colored in a circular motion that left everything looking perfectly heathered. She was a hobby painter as well---and when I was younger would spend hours daily painting bisque figurines from a store called "Off the Wall" and I'd watch, so badly wanting, but forbidden to touch the paints myself. My childhood room and the houses of relatives were lined with things my mother painted (though sadly I myself, have not-a-one--all having met with some fragile demise at some point.)  Before we moved out into the boonies,  we lived across the street from a woman who sewed the most amazing Barbie clothes, and while I regularly got some of her botched ones for free, she sold the others quite healthily at local craft expos.  One summer, my mother took some of her figurines and they shared a table, but I think this may have been the only time she tried to make money at it   All I remember is being super bored and hiding from the sun under the table with my sister for what seems like days but was probably only hours. 

After grade school, where I had at least established that I was good at reading and words, I never had much chance to dabble in visual things. In junior year English, we did occasionally get to make collages instead of papers.  Tiny handmade books with crude drawings of flowers devoted to The Scarlet Letter, but that was about it. I was a word person, so I did things like write bad poems and work for the newspaper.  I was starting to get involved with theatre. .  Later the closest I would come to working visually in college would be spending hours painting scenery pieces and backdrops.  While I was terrible at my drafting for the stage class, I did pretty well in scene painting class, which was a little less dependent on precision. (my faux-bois was amazing.)

I didn't recognize or acknowledge it at the time,  but I was a little probably a bit envious of my sister. She had been set on the art path early and was far better at rendering things.  During my college years, she was in high school and bringing home all sort of cool projects, including my first encounter ever with an artists book bound in blue sparkly vinyl I  found mesmerizing.  She wound up majoring in Classics and not art when the professors were petty and horrible at RC But she still is probably more sound in her art skills than I am. (and why I trusted she'd do a good job on the Slender Man project, and she did.)

As an adult, I was firmly on the path of the written world--undergrad English major, grad school in English Lit.  I was already beginning to publish and look to putting together manuscripts and winning prizes.  In late 2003, I'd enrolled in the Poetry MFA program, but at the same time something was beginning to shift in my head.  Our director had started a series of library art shows featuring staff, which set me to plottting, with an encouraging co-worker, how I might make my writing somehow more exhibitable. The first attempt was a scroll of words written out with sharpies on rolls of parchment paper, wound round the first floor and up the stairs, where it continued around the 3rd Floor.  The second attempt were these huge muslin banners that had been dyed with coffee in my bathtub and written upon. The next was discarded  catalog cards dangling on strings with bits of poems on the back of them.   I was hooked.

By summer 2004, I was going all in on visual exploits, and it coincided with the very beginnings of the press, so I was designing the first few covers as well. I took a summer collage workshop at the Center for Book & Paper (it kills me this no longer exists, I was considering another ill-advised masters degree if they still offered it to bone up on my bookmaking skills.)  By 2008 or so, I'd also made quite a bit of money selling originals, prints, and paper goods online--far more than I will probably ever make as a writer.  I had finally found the medium that did not depend on me having to render anything perfectly at all.   In having to struggle with how I expected something to look vs. how it ended up looking.  With collage, so much is happenstance, depending on what bits and pieces you have available.

I've mentioned before, how the form actually also changed me as a writer, in my approach to composition. The poems I wrote in late 2004 and early 2005 were written very different from the poems I was writing before and were far better for it.  Writing, which I'd always approached as a very serious endeavor with an intended aim in mind, a point of success or failure,  became much more..well..FUN.  Collages (and by proxy poems)  are more this wild territory where anything can happen, I don't really know what I will get, and therefore, am always usually pretty happy with the results. Even my adventures in other mediums, the ones I most enjoy, have a certain experimental approach--abstract watercolors, nature prints, ink painting. What happens tends to happen and it's the discovery that is always the best part. (I could easily say this about most of my writing these days as well.)  Sometimes the mistakes and trip-ups are the most interesting elements. Sometimes, they lead to other possibilities or change the course of the river. 

Sometimes, I truly have no idea where I am going or what will come of it.  It's actually kind of awesome...

Thursday, April 04, 2019

a week of serial killers and scary little girls

This week may be the perfect storm of projects and coincidences--that everything that I am focusing on relates to each other thing so completely.  There is the Holmes project, buzzing along now and three days into NAPOWRIMO (I have about a dozen total pieces now and hope to round it off this month.)  So much of my research is picking through facts and fictions and getting at the heart of the mythology.  It's a dark subject matter, but I am, as always, curious about the local history aspect. (this is the same girl who will devour any Chicago book, history tour, or show on pbs.  I also have a weird fascination with the World's Fair in general (though I have met at least one Columbia student who knew more trivia than I do.) This week, I also started some collages to go with the textual pieces, which are turning out nicely and will make a nice artist book or zine in the future.  I also sent off some of the first written pieces to a favorite journal, so we'll see how they fare... 

This week,  I am also printing copies of MANSION, the Slender Man anthology edited by Kristin Garth and Justin Karcher, which will be available shortly on the dgp site.   I'm hoping to have some copies available for sale at next weekend's Artists & Scholars Colloquium, since it seems so very appropriate.  Our own project, necessary violence will be installed today, along with most of the STRANGE FEVERS exhibit, some of which is already on the walls.  The Colloquium next Saturday will feature the official opening and artist discussion, as well as my Spooky Little Girls Roundtable and the Oddities Reading. 

These two facets would seem to have things only tangentially in common, but actually the more I read about Holmes, the more I think about the fascination he evoked in the public.  Fun fact:  after he was caught and right before he was executed. they were on the verge of offering tours of the famous "Murder Castle" but there was a mysterious, most likely intentional, fire set (though it could have been unintentional, it was badly and cheaply constructed and would have went up like a matchbox.)  I would have suspected that such dark fascinations would have been a more contemporary thing, but according to the tabloids, even turn of the century Americans loved their serial killers. Holmes himself was said to be influenced by the sensationalistic coverage of Jack the Ripper overseas.

We've thought about a focus on true crime next fall, but I am still amidst my hesitation of idolizing men who do horrible things to women (though we've joked this does not preclude focusing on women doing horrible things to men, or just horrible things in general...lol..)  And granted, obviously, I'm a hypocrite writing a series of poems about HH. Holmes (though it's definitely about the women more and more.) Which brings us full circle back around to the Slender Man girls and their penchant for violence--about horrific little girls in particular, who are always a prime subject for artmaking...

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

what happens when we are not looking

A couple weekends back, I found myself binge-watching Hulu's Handmaids Tale, which I had some familiarity having read the book back in college (I remember liking Cats Eye more in my Atwood fanaticism).  At the time, we were firmly in Clinton era and the plotline seemed incredibly unlikely, even dated a little in its 80's-ness. The world that successfully had spawned Gilead seemed like an impossibility--given that in the mid-90's we were in the dawn of the internet age.  How could something like a government take-over and subjugation of women happen in a world that was so connected, where everyone was watching.  And that, truly, is where this re-incarnation of the story succeeds so well, and scared the bejeezus out of me. Set in the contemporary, we see the cell phones, we see the modern media. And yet, it happens.  One day, you have a job and a bank account, and the next you do not.  It seems extreme, but hey, none of us, a couple years ago even imagined that THIS world would exist. With what is happening now in government, it made me enormously uneasy, when after staying up most of the night watching the show, my morning facebook scrolling produced a mix of troubling abortion overturns, multiple sexual assault cases, and just general political fuckery.

There is a great scene where the heroine is hiding in the former offices of the Boston Globe, cutting out newspaper clippings from the time before, creating a map of the chaos, the tiny bits that added up to the complete overturning. Those facebook bits seem like tiny isolated things, but they've started to coalesce in alarming ways under this administration.  I want to believe people are fundamentally good and vigilant enough to not let these sorts of things happen. That the internet makes us smarter and more aware.  But maybe not.  Maybe it makes us dumber and more myopic.

And it's scary.  A friend and I were discussing how many people, at any given time, are so bogged down in survival, in their own existence, their own worlds that they don't notice what is happening around them until it's too late.  I always wondered about Nazi Germany, and how many people were horrified to look up one day and really see what was happening while they were not paying attention.  Years ago, I myself had to limit my exposure to the news for my own well-being--the amount of violence toward women had hit a harrowing peak--murders, rapes, mysterious disappearances--and I had to stop lest I fall from it. As such, and for my own metal health, I don't pay as much attention as I probably should. Especially given that my predominant source of information continues to be social media, which is never a good thing.

I fear that you could take all these strands and pull and a dozen similar things will fall out as well. In the 90's it seemed safe to assume that as a society we were moving forward without danger of moving back, but now, I don't know....

[licorice, laudanum]

I've been working on some new collages to go along with the [licorice, laudanum] poems--I'm hoping to sort of develop them in tandem with the written pieces as I work through them over the course of the next month, so there will no doubt be more...

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

strange fevers festivities

Strange Fevers Exhibit
Columbia College Chicago Library
1st Floor
April 12h-May 31th

Strange Fevers features work in various media that transforms and shapes experience the public both physical or electronically for playful or political purposes. using the existing culture either as impetus or camouflage, including altered signage, pranks or hoaxes, illusions, street art, faux propaganda and more…

Artists & Scholars
Columbia College Chicago Library
3rd Floor East
Saturday, April 13th

Join us for an afternoon of discussions, readings, and exhibits in honor of our Strange Fevers focus topic

Strange Fevers Artists Panel – 1pm
A discussion with the artists featured in our Strange Fevers exhibit this spring.

Spooky Little Girls – 2pm
Adolescent girls are often the subject and impetus for strange and violent occurrences—everything from poltergeist activity to the Salem Witch Trials.  This discussion delves into the power and agency of teen and pre-teens throughout popular culture and art, as well as how artists in multiple genres use this particular trope to explore new paths into our understandings of feminism, theory, and culture.

Oddities Reading-3pm
Sit back as we delve into the world of all things delightfully weird--science fiction, urban legends, ghosts, monsters, and explore mind-twisting work of all genres.

Skyscrapers. Monsters, Oh My! -4:15 pm

Join us for a roundtable discussion and learn about the artist collective/ project CCS, developed in 2017 and dedicated to crypto related shenanigans in the Chicago area.  Share stories, lore, and explore the boundaries between art and hoax, information and disinformation. 

Weird Science Fair

Peruse the exhibits & table offerings of community artists and “scientists’.  Pick up some great art, zines, and more, Think the art school version of your grade school science fair. Ghost photography, urban legends, aliens, cryptids, and more…

Public Domainia:
Science Gone Wrong
Columbia College Chicago Library
4th Floor Lurie Lounge
April 19th

Our Friday Marathon with the best of the worst and the
worst of the best. Snacks & zine-making included!

The Monster Maker
Invasion of the Bee Girls 
The Wasp Woman
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Curse of the Swamp People