Wednesday, July 08, 2020

dgp notes | july 2020


So we find ourselves midsummer, though the world is still terrifying in places and apprehension inducing even at it's best.  I have been settling back into a modified work schedule at the library, which strangely has given me a bit more structure in my day and dedicated work time for the press, which has been nice. While quarantine was this lawless land of scrolling the news and trying to be useful in a position where only 50 percent of what I do could be accomplished at home (and thus feeling compelled to produce like a maniac and have no work life boundaries lest I be furloughed.) I feel a bit sounder in my work/creative life balance that I can, most days, leave work at work and then come home to work on creative things.

I feel like I'm coming out of a mental fog that prevented me from deep diving on things like galley prep and cover design, so those are things that I am finally feeling up to.  We are slightly behind on the initial schedule, but there is a bit of wiggle room since we took on considerably less titles for this year after i was feeling way too overwhelmed in 2019 (I am still overwhelmed, but just for different reasons this year). There is also more space between titles, which will allow for more orders to be shipped without getting behind or chaotic in my shipping. I feel like 2019 was the year I bit off more than I can shew and I failed in so many ways, but I am trying to remedy this and set new plans for the future. It occurred to me, that this beautiful thing that I built had become a sort of prison in the fall, and leaving the rental space I could never really afford was a big part in beginning to heal that. 

Then again,  spring also had me floundering and feeling like I didn't quite know what the point was--to writing, to the press, to being creative in a world where people were dying en mass. Just a general feeling of hopelessness and disillusionment that made it impossible to write, To make things in general. To care about e-mails and ever growing to-do lists. . And just being terrified (of getting sick, of losing my job, of having no savings) and allowing it to fester.  I wanted to run away.  From everything.   But it occurred to me, especially as the summer began, how important, in these times, that we continue to do the work we do. The best we can do.

I hope to see you on the other side of this month more caught up on things and in remarkably better sorts. Also to dig in on reading subs for the next year, which are waiting in the inbox which feels far less scary and overwhelming now than it did two months ago. 

  Until August...

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

sex & violence update



Yesterday began with the rather delightful news that sex & violence landed smack dab in the middle of Small Press Distribution's list of June poetry  bestsellers, which is not bad for a book released during a pandemic.  I don't remember this happening with any of my other full-lengths, so I am, of course over the moon.  Good news being enormously hard to find of late.  Also something that makes me feel like all these poems--all these books--they are finding the right readers. Well, are finding any readers at all, enormous solace when increasingly the poetry world feels like dropping a dime in a well and waiting for it to hit bottom.  Because things have been a little upside down, there is still some promo things I would like to do with the book in the next couple months, even if an official reading/ release is not possible in covid world--including a trailer and maybe some instagram videos. 

Books, or any published project really, have this strange life that goes on long after you'be finalized the proofs and dotted all the I's. As I've mentioned, this book was pulled together in my own grief of late 2017, and birthed in the middle of a national crises (actually two of them concurrently.)  It was hard to spend the day she arrived mourning not just the upticking tally of virus victims, but also the ongoing murder of countless POC by the police and the unrest brewing that first Monday in  June. I'd actually taken the day off of work, emotionally exhuasted. I'd fretted and napped most of the day, but then landed downstairs to find her on my doorstep--all pretty and shiny and I was in love. 

It's been a weird year, and I say that including the last full 365 days that bought my own struggles last fall that then turned into world-scale struggles by spring. But the book, and the fact that it is finding its way to readers sustains me now that at least my own mental health appears to be on the upswing.  It's tenuous, but the threads are there...


Saturday, July 04, 2020

curvy girl fashion | stolen summer



One boost of headed back out into the world is getting to wear the clothes that have been languishing on the rack all winter and spring. I finally put my coats away in April, my winter dresses in May. I haven't yet pulled out my actual summer wear, though that will happen this week or next (I have a number of spring things that I am itching to wear before tucking them away in the bins under the bed.)  Amazingly, since I've been trying to save money for emergencies, I've bought very little clothing-wise during the quarantine, mostly since, really, I was just wearing comfy clothes in the house with no where to go.  Around my birthday I did indulge in a few purchases, including this dress from Loft which was finally on sale, as well as some leopard shades and a macrame bag for the summer I hoped might follow  (though the jury is still out on that). . Right before the shutdown, I found an amazing leopard bathing suit on sale that I may not get to wear this year, but it's nevertheless lovely should the beaches or hotel pools once again open up.

Fashion seems like a frivolous thing, but it feels like something I can control. Whatever happens with the rest of the summer, I found myself longing just a little for fall. as I do everytime this year when the humidity makes things sticky and inhospitable in my non-AC'ed apartment.  Though who knows what fall will look like, especially since inside pursuits seem more dangerous than outside ones.  I do feel like I was robbed of spring, so may fall feel a bit more like normal, even if that means netflixing more horror movies and just eating a lot of candy.  I did see a Japanese trend towards drive-in haunts, which sounds like glorious fun. 

state of the union


I woke up the other morning, and as I scrolled through the morning horror story that is my facebook news feed and just the news in general, I kept thinking about 10th grade history class. As an white, lower middle class (or maybe upper working class) girl in a suburban highs chool  I know there was so much that the late 80's/early 90's history curriculum left out.  We glossed over slavery and the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights movement and Jim Crow. We also were presented a skewed white historian view of those things, even though we had a decent BIPOC population at the school. In other classes, our reading lists were blandly white and male, and though things were a little more diverse by the time my sister was in high school 4 years later, still not by much.  It was notoriously a horrible school district that was actually sued in the 90's for closing and discrimination against minority populations. and regularly made lists of worse school districts in the US. I doubt, despite that, it is any better today.

But those things aside, I was also thinking  about our collective history.  That when we, particular Gen X-ers, looked the at the atrocities of the past, they were always in the past. At least at 16 or so they seemed that way to me.  The Gulf War would happen, but it would barely be a blip in a childhood that was actually pretty peaceful.   Or seemed peaceful from the distance of the midwest and what the media served up pre-internet. What we've learned from POC is that the atrocities continued, are still continuing. And yet, in my head, I believed, probably til about 4 years ago, that things were getting better. That Americans were getting more progressive and embracing of people who might be different from them--skin color, gender or sexual orientation,  religion, etc.  But I sort of noticed a slight ideological backswing on people slightly younger than me. I was aware of the frothing incels and tea-partiers skulking in their basements (or more precisely their mother's basements).  But they seemed like flies at an otherwise pleasant picnic.  

But when it came to horrible things, even something like 9-11 had easy villains.  You could always write off natural disasters as just something that happened.   As we find ourselves now, we are the worst enemies of peace.  Our legal and policing systems.  Our botching of coronavirus, which was going to be bad, but as other countries have proven, not necessarily apocalyptic. I never imagined myself living inside the history books, those sort of historic disasters and crises seeming, in my 16 year old brain  (and maybe even my 40 year old brain) to be impossible in a world where science and technology and how we can bend the world to our needs & desires.  We have vaccines and medical technology and  really, these are all much more complicated than the simplest thing of all--wearing a mask and keeping distance. But we can't as a mass of diseased humans, even promise that. 

When we learned about the Holocaust, I was sure, in my teenage brain, that nothing like that could surely happen at the end of the 20th Century.  I wasn't even sure how it happened the first time.  Were people not paying attention?  Were people afraid to speak up?  I though for sure, the world was too transparent now. Nothing could be done in darkness or the cover of night without someone taking notice and tweeting about it. Now, I just don't know...It's hard to celebrate the birth of a country that disappoints at every turn. Seems to wallow in it's own stupidity.  To be sort of ashamed and horrified of America itself and what it has become...

Friday, July 03, 2020

bloom



from BLOOM


"A body takes to other bodies like it takes to water.  When I was five, I stood in the Atlantic and let the earth move under me. That drop in the stomach between what we feel and see to be real. The keel of gravity and motion sickness.  Still,  we careen into each other in bars.  In the  subway.  Our fingers lingering on the necks of strangers.  Trailing along their hips. How to know what we touch in any given day, or what touches us. What we shed in the evening--eyelash, hair, epidermis-- comes back each morning. How to know where my hands have been when they have been everywhere. This body that collects other bodies in its crevices and nooks.  The hooks that string us together like fish on a line."            
  
_______


Despite saying I probably needed a certain amount of distance to write about the current state of events, and in fact a 2-3 month span of being unable to write at ALL really, I find myself mid-project on a series called BLOOM--named so because of the ways illness (actual, metaphorical) blooms in the body, in society, in the world. Also the way nature this spring, despite humans and their stupid diseases, continued to bloom while we were still dying. While people were being killed by the virus, by the governement, by the police. But even still, I usually need more distance, and who knows how much time there is for any of us.
 
I don't know for sure what will come of it, or if I'll hate it for awhile when I'm done. It makes a nice pairing with the OVERLOOK poems, that were less about The Shining and more about capitalism in America as told through the film. Also, maybe, with another series I have planned for later this year, might be an entirely new book project coming into being and taking shape (and because I'm weird like that, I think I already have a really good title I'm considering.)

This week has been a little wonky since my Chromebook was on the fritz and I was waiting for a new one, plus I was heading off to the Library and that ate up a lot of mental energy, but I hope to continue writing daily again through the remainder of the summer. We'll see where it goes...

Thursday, July 02, 2020

hello beautiful


Admittedly, I found myself a little teary as I ventured downtown for my first three days back at the library.  Not so much because I was scared (though no doubt I am a little ) but moreso that felt like I was back where I belong.  Maybe not just the library so much, which is still not technically open til next week and barely then, and which is currently more tomb-like and cool with only a smattering of staff. But just downtown and making my way through the city as I've done nearly every weekday for the past two decades.  And this is coming from someone who rather likes working at home (and will still be doing it some days of the week). 

And while I worried sometimes that it would never be the same, after Covid, after looting and some destruction, it is actually still very much the same downtown I left in March.  The streets are not deserted and overrun with coyotes. There are still some stuff closed indeterminately and some boarded up windows (though most bedecked with BLM artwork by now if not replaced just yet.)  People are out, though a bit less than a weekday afternoon in the summer, when Michigan Avenue is usually glutted with tourists.  But there are still people, all of them masked, or outside, at least carrying one to put on inside. Tuesday, I cried over seeing the skyline on LSD.  Today I nearly cried at how responsible and good our city seems to be when it comes to wearing masks and keeping people safe--a huge feat in such a large city that at times is actually quite small. (Recommendation:  Do not cry in mask.  It's hard and gives you sniffles and probably makes people think you have the rona.) 

But I said hello to the things I love--the lake I'd barely seen for months the lake from LSD,  the Wrigley Building, the river, Grant Park, the flower beds along the Mag Mile. The harbors and their boats and the steadily swelling pond near the zoo which has once again escaped it's carefully engineered banks.  It's like the city is waking up again.   The trees near the bus stop appear to be alarmingly filled with wasps, which is somehow a poem in itself, but the buses are not as crowded as they used to be, nor are the sidewalks in the south loop, with all the students gone. 

The news is still scary, but Chicago seems to be holding itself together. I am holding myself together.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020

breeding monsters



Today I put the finishing touches on animal, vegetable, monster to submit to an open reading period whose deadline is creeping up in the next week.  Initially, I thought I might try sending dark country, but there are bits that need smoothing in there that are weaker.  One manuscript is about horror-movie monsters and suburbia, the other about art and monstrosity, so in many ways they compliment each other. In fact, they might be some strange loose tryptic or trilogy with the currently half-completed automagic manuscript with it's post-apocalypic villains and victorian serial killers.  But then so much in my work of late is somehow monsters, esp. The Shining poems, though in that case it's more of an American capitalist monstrosity.

I realized, though I've been playing with the word doc version for a while, somehow a book is somehow less real until you print out that neat stack. As I do one last check for typos, today felt like a birthing of sorts. The disparate projects that form it--the artist statements, the strangerie poems, my dog girl poems, and the ones I wrote on extinction and museum dioramas, all form a tidy knot, threaded through with questions on art and artifact and mortality.   We'll see how this girl does, though I am really only sending her one place (BLP), and if no takers, I will likely just issue her myself eventually (see my last post re: the book mss. and possible self-publication.)  I feel like I still want to write and find readers, but don't really want to play the book submission game any more.  To sink effort and money into contests and reading periods when I already have a pretty awesome relationship with a press. (but also a press who obv. doesn't have room for every thing I write).  Also, there are so many books by other authors, I don't like taking up more space than I need to.  I've enjoyed publishing tiny editions of individual projects , esp with artwork, , but I do like when things coalesce and constellate into longer book projects. Because of my slow journal submissions for individual poems, much of this is not yet published elsewhere just yet, so there will be peeks here and there if those get picked up in the coming months.


The world feels even weirder right now than previously.  So much is happening in some parts of the country in terms of cases and hospitalizations, yet Chicago is somehow opening back up.  Other places like NYC as well.  Next week, I'll be back in the library. Back to daily bus rides a few days a week.  I have some masks of course, after trying several Goldilocks style for long-term comfort, and a straw hat with a face sheild for public transportation. It kind of makes me look like a mysterious victorian beekeeper. I feel like it all will get worse before it gets better, so may invest in a hazmat suit at some point. The irony is, of course, introvert as I am, I'd be mostly content staying home forever, but there are books to process and materials to send and they are the more practical aspects to my employment. Don't think I haven't oft thought of running away from it all and into the forest to live in a tree or something.  But if I want to pay rent or continue to feed myself.  I have the opportunity to work at home a lot, bu so much I need to do, I need to do on site.  So, I am stuck.

Monday, June 22, 2020

notes & things | 6/22/2020



Over the weekend, I spent the first amount of time away from my apartment in over three months. Getting  in the car was even strange, leaving the constraints of my block, which I've barely ventured from outside of a couple short neighborhood walks. It was sunny, and warm, and people were still doing as they do...crossing the street, waiting for the bus. Pretty much all, thankfully, wearing --or at least carrying--masks. The lakefront wasn't yet open, but will be soon if not already.  Traffic was slightly lighter on the expressway for a summer Friday, but still busy. I am trying to focus on all the good news for Illinois and not the bad news from other states where the deaths and cases continue to climb. 

Next week, I will be  back in the library at least a few hours a week.  I am not sure how I feel about it, alternating relieved to be getting back to normal and yet also terrified that normal is no longer a possibility.  I did not see much of Rockford outside of my sister's place and my dad's yard,  but was very happy to have some outdoor time and grilled food, which I've been denied since last summer.  I feel like spring slipped through or never even really happened, so what I can grab of summer, I hope to hold onto at least for a little while, especially since projections for autumn are dire, if not more dire than now.

This week, I will be back to library tasks from home after a much needed week off, including a hard press on things that won't be as likely to happen once we're back. Also new layouts and some author copy orders.  I did get a chance to focus on a lot of writing and revision related things, as well as send off some submissions of the work that was building up from late last year and early this one. I am still plotting ways to support and publicize the new book during the social distancing era and got a bit of a start on a book trailer. I've also been musing over what to do with the build up of other, newer, manuscripts --I am seriously considering publishing them through Amazon so they'll also be available via e-book, which seems more important now than ever.  I love the presses I've worked with but also like the autonomy of self-publishing, though the groundwork is a little harder than if you have a press sponsoring a release. Since I am finishing a lot of projects (feed, dark country, soon animal, vegetable, monster)--most of which I am itching to make available in a more timely matter--it gives me a bit more control.   And I have the layout and design skills to make a really nice book  (and if not Amazon, who I have complicated feelings about, another POD publisher.) I've also been self-publishing smaller projects for years, and while I initially struggled with the legitimacy goblin and what is "acceptable" in the poetry biz world--especially in this new world where we all may die of covid next week--fuck that shit. Fuck all of it.While I was creatively paralyzed and could barely write at all for a couple months there..I am writing again and want to find the most efficient way to connect with readers and some of the old models are sometimes not the best. 

Otherwise, I will be enjoying my last full week of relatively safety from the Rona, my leisurely breakfasts and endless cups of coffee all day to join the commuting masses (which will hopefully be a little less mass-like and all wearing masks.)








Friday, June 19, 2020

#cryptidsagainstextinction









As quarantine ends, either wisely or unwisely depending on where you are and how stupid people are, I thought I'd share some fun little things I made for our propaganda workshop I  put together virtually for the Library in April, which also scratched a need for a crypto society project I'd been lagging on getting to.  While I'm not sure they are either art, nor propaganda, they are a little bit of graphic fun.  I may do more but  focused on masks...

Thursday, June 18, 2020

writing the body


from radio ocularia



I was amused to discover this morning hat two recent samplings of the FEED mss. posted on my instagram both included the word "bicuspid." Strangely, unlike some of my favorites to overuse ("water" "dark" "blood" --my latent goth-girl sack of tricks) is a relatively new addition.  But then it made me think again of the ways we write the body over and over through various projects. The obsessions and impulses that come through subconsciously in the words as a translation of the physical. Sometimes without us even realizing we're doing it.

A good example, is how I once noted a tendency to talk about wrists a lot in my first couple books. No doubt this had much to do with some carpal tunnel pain I was experiencing due to both writing and working at the library. It's better than it used to be, but  I still have a little bit of achyness when the barometer is right.  It did not help when I hurt the other wrist after a bus fall that I stupidly convinced myself was fine, but may have, in hindsight been a minor fracture.  After I had mono in the late aughts, and a subsequent year of just very bad health, I was fixated on throats.  Throats in every poem.  Also just the general instability of the body,  which crops up in series like "radio ocularia".  Some years, my allergies are really bad in spring and fall, and this manifests as a face ache and tingly, sometimes painful, bicuspids. My first book, the fever almanac, was very much about the places where language and the body meet,  its section headings pointing to it:  "how to tell a story in a dead language"  "glossalalia" and "dialogue in blue"

But it's especially interesting to think about FEED in particular, which perhaps the most in any recent manuscript of the past couple years, is rooted in body considerations of another kind--body image and dismorphia.  I've written in bits and pieces in other projects about food and disordered eating, about the fat body, particularly the fat femme body in the world. But this is perhaps the most airtime I've given body issues in my poems, and the most raw material of my own  The most raw in general, I suppose.   It's a book about mothers as well, but also bodies, the mothers and the daughters , and the damage each can do to the other. You see it in obvious places like "plump," a retelling of Hansel and Gretel where the witch becomes a mother-figure to the starving daughter.    In "the hunger palace" which tries to reconcile my mother's death and issues she had with her own body and how those were my own inheritance. While the sections of "the summer house": and "the science of impossible objects" are more generally about mothers and mothering, the very first section "swallow" sets a tone that strikes some cords even within those differently pro-occupied parts. "swallow" is pure autobiography, as is "the hunger palace," but while the second is longer and more essayistic, it does the damage in short, barbed prose poems. One of them begins "As a child, we work to make me smaller."  (I've written a bit more on that segment in particular here... )

I think there is some of it in the newer projects like pelt, which is more about monstrousness and the body, though the chief concerns might be elsewhere. Or in the new corona-inspired poems series "bloom," with it's themes of contagion and connection.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

poems and ghosts

 


So say I was once a five year old who loved to scribble lines in notebooks and pretend they were stories.  Say I was 14 when I wrote a poem about flamingos for my frehshman english class and the teacher liked it enough to show it to the others as an example.   Say I was always in love with books--library young adult offerings, horror novels passed off from aunt. I was the middle schooler who was determined to be the next Stephen King or VC Andrews, only more feminist.  The teenager who filled her diary with bad, bad poems about the beach. Writing was something I was good at, so I did more of it. Stories, poems, high school newspa
per editorials about saving the dolphins.  By the time I landed at college on the coasts with an intent to be a marine scientist, I was already lost to books. To words.  To other depths than the Atlantic.

I returned to the midwest to study English and Theatre.  Banged out skinny poems on an electric typewriter and saved my money for all those SASE's. During college summers, you'd find me seated at the dining room table of my parent's house with a box of writing mags, poems drafts, and envelopes.  By the time I was in grad school studying literature and intending to teach English, I was writing enough to feel like I might be able to do this. Be a writer. And I was getting better each year.  By the early 2000's I'd found a job in a college library, and spent the rest of the time writing and publishing in online journals and things sort of arced from there, through chapbook and book manuscripts, readings, awards, getting my MFA. 
       

But these seem less like inspirations than circumstances.  My young writer self was inspired by all that horror and gothicism and sought to reproduce it.  .  I was 14 when I encountered Edgar Allen Poe for the first time. Was 17 when I found Plath. Somewhere between these two a match was struck. At the Field Museum in the fall, an audience member inquired whether I thought myself a nature poet, but maybe I am as much as any girl who spent her life growing up in the boonies of both Illinois and Wisconsin, but who was in love with the sea.Who wanted to be a scientist to study those depths. As an artist, I fall again and again to landscapes and botanicals.  Though I am probably more in debt to the supernatural than I am the natural. I feel, as I've been working on 
dark country, that this is at the forefront, but it's been there all along through the other books I've written.  Even sex & violence has it's ghosts--my own past relationships, Plath herself, Dali's little blue dog. 

And in many ways the writing is a sort of exorcism of ghosts, of stories, of the past dusted off and made shiny and new. I've been thinking of this as I look at the newest completed manuscript, feed, and how it was a writing out, a bloodletting in the year after I lost my mom. There are so many ghosts there, literal and just my own metaphoricals.  Or maybe less an exorcism and more of a seance--a speaking to and with the dead, either others or the self you left behind at various points of travel. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

notes & things | 6/14/2020


There are some years that seem to fall into a crack and never quite make it out.  This morning I was organizing some files in the dgp archives from 2012--amazing chaps from so many authors, and as I was flipping through their pages, snippets of laying out, designing and assembling those books come back to me.  If you'd asked me what I was doing in the summer of 2012, I'm not sure I'd be able to imagine it.  The years before and after are a little clearer. 2011 was spent mostly chasing romantic dead ends in a South Loop bar--a pursuit that consumed my summer, at least in memory.  The end of the year brough BLP taking on girl show. 2013 had bright spots--new books and chapbook, trips to Wisconsin. 2012 though is foggier. I did drink a lot of tequila that year..lol..so maybe I'm just missing chunks.)  There are glimpses--working on chapbooks with a new printer in Rockford I'd had delivered there while Max, still kitten sized,  attacked the paper.  The Printers Row Book Fair, where I landed a free table and spent the day eating fruit cups from the 7-11 and people watching. Making copies of shipwrecks of lake michigan and reading from it all that summer.  But a lot of these things are in my blog or on facebook, or otherwise I might barely remember them.

This weekend, I have been going slowly through things I have been putting off (tax final calculations to fill out my schedule C , organizing dropbox). It's chilly outside for mid-June, but bright and clear. I keep closing the windows and running the space heater near my desk intermittently as I work. Tonight I am making chicken soup, largely because I am trying to use up the mushrooms I bought at least a couple weeks back before they go bad in the fridge. And I've been sleeping a bit later since I have no one to answer to this week but myself and it's kind of glorious. The news, of course, still increasingly depressing and I feel like in a sort of helpless freefall in which I realize how absolutely hopeless and stupid humans are.  And becuase we are all so interconnected, their stupid is bound to have a direct or indirect effect on my personal safety and those I love. Someone posted something today about their being two pandemics at play--corona and institutionalized racism, and at least, it's beginning to look like we can--through reform--begin to do something about the latter.  As for corona, the answers seem to be even more simple (social distance, wear a mask, cancel and avoid the sort of super-spreading hot zones. )  But apparently these solutions are too much for the chest beating MAGA crowd.  It terrifies me to have watched while people I know buck against the restrictions and frolick mask-less in bars (some of them working in the health care industry, and should know better.) 

Nevertheless, I am struggling to control the things I can control and let go of those I can't and this applies so much on all fronts of my life right at this given moment. Meanwhile, I am learning to think and nap like an indoor cat that is only let outside for short careful pursuits. .  It's all I, or anyone,  can do. 





Friday, June 12, 2020

decentering and publishing in the era of #blacklivesmatter


Like many at this particular pivot point in history, I've been thinking about privilege and publishing and supporting Black writers, whether it's through the books one reads or buys or the books one publishes.  Where you center your canon,  whose work you support, where you put your money as an audience member.  I've been knee deep in working on some initiatives for the Library and A of R, on hilighting anti-racism resources and materials, developing programming and information on the subject of Black protest art through the ages, including BLM, and related subject matter, as well as promoting protest-related resources, particularly for our Columbia students, many of which have been involved in the efforts locally.  As I worked on these things, I've also been trying to find corollary ways to bring these efforts into dancing girl press and ways that might happen or take shape in the future, particularly as we enter our open reading period this summer and work to populate next year's publication schedule.

Years ago, I was talking to someone (white, male, older)  who had once edited a small print publication in the late 80's/ early 90's, and talking about diversity in publishing.  About the role and responsibility of editors to make sure that they are better representing voices across the spectrum, marginalized voices, etc.  His take was that he wanted to be more diverse in his efforts, that the journal would have benefited from it,  but the submissions just weren't there.  I asked him if he thought that was because a greater variety of submitters just didn't know about the journal, or was it that they didn't feel it was a place where they would be welcome.  I myself have looked a journal, and if it were overly male (in it's content, in it's editorial staff) I'd bypass it and send somewhere else. He disagreed when I said I felt that if the submissions weren't in the queue, you had to go elsewhere--that you kind of had a responsibility to pull that work in to reflect a greater span of voices.   To find those writers that might not be familiar with your publication or might not see themselves reflected in its pages and make it happen. In the end, we agreed to disagree.

I've been extraordinary fortunate with dgp in that, with such a large number of submissions, I have a healthy number of manuscripts coming across the desk--a variety of ethnicities, backgrounds, gender/sexual orientations, subject matter, experiences. Others come to me through recommendations of other writers or happenstance.   I can usually find a decent percentage of writers of color whose work I want to publish, but of course, there is always more work to be done if you truly want to reflect the breadth of work and decenter the glaring whiteness of the publishing world.   And these are what I've been thinking about in the past couple weeks as this is on everyone's mind and publisher's are examining how to do things better in the future--how to welcome more writers of color, particularly BIPOC into publications and presses.   How to find those authors, because they are out there,  and how to bring them to the forefront of publishing efforts as an industry (which includes the biggest of the large publishers down to the tiniest of the indies.)  And specifically, how I can make those things manifest through dgp, where while we do get to publish a somewhat diverse list, it seems like there is still more work to be done to have a chapbook series that truly reflects population percentages in general. I'd like to do a bit more soliciting and maybe pushing POC authors to the front of queue and making them a priority this summer.   In the meantime,  also championing and promoting the work of writers we have published is a useful thing as well.  More soon on this as I mull it around... 


Thursday, June 11, 2020

the necessity of taking breaks


Starting today and all next week, I am taking the entirety off from library work.  Mostly, it's because there are some press & creative things I'd like to be able to focus on without library tasks tugging at my sleeve.  Also, once we are back in the fray at the beginning of next month, we'll still be short staffed, and while we are opening with much shorter hours,  there is still a lot of work to do that makes time off less likely to happen. You would think that given all this time at home, I wouldn't need a vacation, but really, I think I need it more.

I was talking with my boss about the weirdness of having your work life happening in your home--entwined with it and inextricable.  So the frustrations and stresses don't just happen in the office, but they bleed a bit more into your non-work life.  If you''re stressed at work, you're stressed everywhere.  Every week day during the quarantine finds me waking up, and usually even before my daily horror show scroll through facebook, doing a quick check of my e-mail, usually still in bed and on my phone, to make sure no one needs something time sensitive or called an unexpected meeting. Since I start my days in general later than everyone else, and though that was always the case, I feel like I need to be available somewhat. It's probably only in my head, but with academic precarities afoot, I make sure that I am. 

Then I'll get up, make breakfast, do  some writing (well lately, but before it was just more frantic scrolling and news reading.)  If there are books I printed the evening before, I'll assemble those, and sometimes, do a corner mailbox run or short walk.  I have been starting my official day closer to my usual time --"official" meaning when I sit down and start work, anywhere from around 1-2pm  unless there is an earlier meeting. Then working through the evening, usually wrapping up before I eat make dinner around 8 or 9pm. But even other times outside that schedule, I feel on-call--even on weekends when no one is even expecting anything from me. I would venture it's not that different than running the press home, except maybe that I set my own timelines and routines and feel more like that time is mine. 

And of course, I hardly sit down and work straight through without breaks.  I make more coffee.  I'll play with the cats for a while.  Make a sandwich for lunch. Take a shower if I haven't yet. Wander down to take out the trash or check the lobby for packages. The nice thing, is without the physical aspects to worry about that involves books, I have gotten some things underway and off the ground that have been neglected or put-off in the melee of in-library life. There have been some article writing, some webinars about library programming, some grant writing.  Blog posts, social media updates, and online exhibit or workshop  building..  Also daily check-ins for ILL article requests.  If I don't have any zoom meetings, I can deep dive on projects a little more. Some days there are phone calls with my boss / best-friend  (well, these are a mix of work-related, non work related discussion) but since outside of my dad and my boyfriend, these are my only real social contact.

On the whole, I like the work and being able to work at home, but I do sometimes feel the stresses of that lack of boundaries.  Also the stress of going back creeping ever closer and what that means in terms of safety (less so at the actual library, which will be pretty dead as it is every summer anyway)  but more commuting via public transport and the safety of that.  And just being out in the world again, that everyone is saying is safer, but doesn't really seem like it is at all. 

Now that I am able to concentrate better on creative things, hopefully it will be a productive week. I might even get to that book trailer.   I'll be heading out to Rockford next Friday (my dad is fetching me from the city and bringing me back after the weekend) but otherwise, I am still maintaining my version of quarantine outside of whoever I see there.  Mostly because I am somewhat convinced this is all far from over, despite the world moving onto other headlines and the things people seem to want--haircuts and beaches and open bars and restaurants.  



Sunday, June 07, 2020

notes & things | 6/7/2020

I've spent a good portion of the weekend watching the Epstein docuseries on Netflix (of which I think the web of corruption is only the very tip of the iceberg among powerful men) , and last night & finishing later, the Hunger Games movies, of which I have only seen the first two.  (I love the books, but I just never have gotten the chance to get to the two final ones.) They are a strangely appropriate thing to be watching at this very moment and I was hoping they didn't just spike my anxiety higher, but so far I think I'm okay.  I am back to focusing no further than the end of the day. Especially as my anxieties & fear about going back to work are beginning to creep up on me.  There is so much we don't know and so much I feel people are paying attention to  (noteably that we are not expecting a second wave, and only that the first wave is still very much still happening, only that the news, understandably, is focusing on other things. )  I feel no safer out there than I did in late March. I feel esp. helpless about the decreased seriousness of people out there who seem to either be misinformed or just defiant that they need to wear masks and be careful. I actually feel like the mass protests actually look pretty safe and masked up, but the people in bars and on beaches not so much,

Inside, I am better able to focus on writing-related things than I was a few weeks ago. I have a new book, after all, and want to figure out ways to celebrate and promote it as much as I can. There are also a couple new series--one devoted to Weekly World News headlines and another that just might tangentially be  about the virus, but also about intimacy and connection.  Also just the notion of "viral" and things hi-jacking the body from a scientific standpoint. I feel like I need to tread carefully...I'm not particularly keen on most current events type writing since I think it tends to fall into cliche and hyperbole very easily.  The lit journals are filled with mediocre coronapoems right now. I think I, myself, need a little more distance.   There are few things I've set aside to return to for revising or expanding-- the dog girl poems, now The Shining pieces.  A couple months always gives me fresh eyes on things I've hidden away for a bit. Meanwhile I ten to the dark country manuscript. I get pieces of extinction event ready to send out. I hope the creative weather holds. 
Tonight, in my quarantine cooking adventures, I am making ribs in the crockpot, which can do no wrong. Also some elote, which I tried to make at least once before and need to perfect my recipe. The weather outside is lovely, though I've only been out a little bit in it. I am excited for them to re-open the lakefront soon, though I don't know how prohibitively crowded it will be (even though I tend for dusk visits and don't really like being out in all that sun during the day anyway, even before the virus.) Every so often I take a walk around outside and catch sight of that beautiful blue and make sure it's still there. I am so close, but so far.  If I lived a couple floors higher in my building, I'd have a view of it (though you pay handsomely for that view).  My daily routine was always mentally charting how high or low the water is (by the amount of beach/concrete visible in places and the surface of the pond near the zoo on my commute )  I miss even that a little.  How I'd occasionally say to my friends for just random conversational purposes "Woo-wee,  the lake is high today!" in the same tone you talk about all weather related phenomena.  Now,conversations are by phone or zoom, less prone to wandering and more specifically focused on sharing information. I am not usually one for small talk, but I did like talking about the lake and its many moods and fluctuations--gray brown and angry, sky blue and completely still.  Rain swollen and swallowing the shoreline.  Though she's block and a half away, I miss her most. 

Saturday, June 06, 2020

20 years of poems and projects

 
    
Today, I was arranging copies of the newest book offspring on the shelf amongst its siblings and thought about how those handful of books (seven here, though I've written several more) represent  about 20 years of writing collectively. Its hard to believe I managed to find publishers for them, but maybe even harder to believe I've actually written that much (and these do not even include the elevated productivity of the past three years.) Twenty years ago, I spent the summer, on break from my elementary school gig filling notebooks full of fiction, having given up on poems almost entirely. Within a year, I would be writing them like crazy and finishing my first chapbook. Time is a weird thing, especially now when we are living in a strange stasis.  I don't believe I've written 20 years of poems, and yet there they are.  The earliest in this stack were written in 2001, the latest in early 2017.  In between, there is so much happening...

Looking at my first couple of books, I am definitely better, leaner, less floppily "poetic: than I once was, and the poems are the better for it. I still like the books, but there were a couple years in the middle where I wished they were tighter, that I could rewrite them somehow. Then, a couple years later,  somehow circled back around to thinking they were better as they were. Even still, they are an excellent time capsule of where my head was at the time, where my life was and what I felt it important to write about. They can't really be anything else since the writer who wrote them barely exists anymore, These poems are a testament/memorial to her.

So I go forward, with more poems and more books, even during this weird time, plotting where to send or what to do with the books in hand that are ready, or just about ready, to think about sending out or publishing. Here's to 20 more years...

Friday, June 05, 2020

how I would like to believe in tendernesss


sex & violence
is a strange little collage of a book, and now that she's officially in the world and a real live girl, I thought I'd give a little backstory on the writing.  Where else could you find blonde joke poems mixed with Plath centos, slasher film pieces and love poem and a study of Dali's "Inventions of the Monsters." All of it built around the ideas of love and sex and marriage, but also violence and decay. I think the earliest portions were started in 2015, the latest early 2017. It charted me through the very end of one relationship and the beginning of another. It was pulled together in the month after my mother's death as something to focus on when I badly needed it,  and then promptly put at the back of my head until it was accepted by BLP the following spring. There are portions that are definitely truer to my own experience and others less so.  Some are based on fears and hesitations about certain life paths. Paths either just not traveled or carefully, pathologically avoided.  

So what you get is Dali (and his wife) and the violence of the little blue dog, barely a ghost in the frame of apocalyptic landscapes. What you get are blonde joke poems, the most mysogynistic and slut-shamey ones reclaimed for narrative. You get slasher films turned on their head where the final girl is the aggressor full of lists and letters to murderers. You get a swirly set of Plath centos that pare down so much the thesis statement of Ariel as I see it--the danger of marriage domesticity and loss of the self as a creator. And then finally, a set of love poems written after the worse election for women this country has every seen and the overflow of toxic masculinity that spawned the #metoo movement the year I was writing them, and  that still froths even now. (and a time when I was working out my own relationship issues--how to love men when most men seem to hate women).  Plath's line above  in the subject line echoes literally and metaphorically through every section.

When it came to the cover, I went with a modified version of one of the pieces that accompanied the /SLASH/ poems--a little bit bdsm, a little bit raw meat, a little bit creepy doll parts (all of which seemed highly appropro given the themes. The BLP  graphic designer, Zoe Norvell, did a gorgeous job placing the hot pink text, which on its black bars, gives a "censored" touch to the background image, so there's something very illicit about it, like an antique porn magazine.  



Wednesday, June 03, 2020

strange spring | the overlook poems

                     


                           "Artists are 
dangerous, mixing sugar-like
into the even the best masonry.

Put it on paper and it's there
forever. The rich men summer
in the mountain and you bring them

champagne. Maintain the forest
that threatens to eat them. The drains 
are always clogged with hair and small

animals that gnawed their way into
the pipes."

from Overlook




I was reading through the Overlook poems again today, having finished off what I think was the last of them 'over the weekend.  I've been musing over how strange it is that a project that just sort of started out inspired by a movie about a haunted hotel and an abusive husband turned out in the long run to be about capitalism and artists. But then again, it's been a strange spring. One of the things that always caused a certain disconnect whenever I watched the movie was the juxtaposition of the lux hotel lobby / rooms and the space the Torrances actually live in. The public vs. the more private areas of the hotel. The sleek lines of 70's decor and the disrepair and claustrophobic floral wallpaper. How larger spaces narrow to smaller ones. The decadence of the gold ballroom and the role of the caretaker--the male anger of both. The novel Jack Torrance can't write, his rage, his abuse of his wife and child, all tied together with the expansiveness of tourist culture.  And of course, capitalism, like the hotel, is haunted by the backs it broke to exist. All of these things came together as I was writing, and though it was a slow start due to pandemic brain, I also think the pandemic had a role in shaping the project too. While I don't necessarily feel as claustrophobic as a snowed-in hotel, I do feel the strain of capitalism pushing reopening probably before we should.  The division between the classes when it comes to people's experience of the last three months.  It turned out to be a nice little series of poems (about 20 I think) , and I think maybe I will start sending them out into the world soon.  Since it's not part of a longer book, and probably won't be, maybe I'll make a little zine in a few months after I give them some time to settle.                       

Monday, June 01, 2020

violence and more violence...



Some days are mentally rougher than others. Even from way out at the far edge of the city, it's a roller coaster. My general fear and dread about what will happen with the virus is now coupled with anger and frustration at the cops inciting violence (in some cases, actually STAGING it ) as well as the right-wingers infiltrating what would probably otherwise be peaceful protests.  And now, a president sending in heavily armed military, as if that has ever made things better. 

Today, the news had me not sleeping so well through the morning hours and fighting the urge to check my phone for the latest horror story. so when I did finally get up, I was tired and sluggish. I had a student staff meeting early-ish, which I muddled through, not really giving a shit about anything we talked about--corona-proofing when we get back, schedules, tasks for them to do in the meantime from home.  Meanwhile I was doing more frantic scrolling of the terrible news and stuffing ice cream sandwiches for breakfast into my mouth and refusing to turn on my camera..  None of these things are good. 

Faced with an entire day of random library tasks and not really caring about them at all, and feeling kind of gross from all that ice cream  on an empty stomach, I told my boss I was taking a vacation day and going back to bed, and have been depression napping through the day off and on.  Because good things have a way of showing up in strangely unfortunate moments, later, when I went downstairs to fetch the giant cat litter, I found some very lovely copies of sex & violence waiting for me. It's gorgeous and on another day I be singing excitedly about its release (and will,  no doubt, soon) .  But then again, his book has that sort of aura, especially since I pulled it together in the darkest days that November after my mom died and then broke into sobs when it was accepted, not because of happiness it was taken, but because the first person I would have told would have been her. 

I will post a proper book-related post in a few days when I can and a longer entry about it's arrival. It's not that unusual that a book about violence toward women shows up on a day when we are  all talking about violence toward POC. The perpetrators are typically one and the same and two somewhat related symptoms of similar illnesses (ie. toxic masculinity vs. institutionalized racism, of which these killings are a bit of both).   We are currently under  a 9pm curfew and downtown all but closed off, but fires and violence are erupting in pockets of neighborhoods.    I don't know if tomorrow will be better or worse, but until then..

Saturday, May 30, 2020

saturday randomness

After a few days of a strange mix of humid weather that left things sticky in my apartment and felt warmer than it was,  today is rather mild and sun-filled.  I was awake early, and unable to get back to sleep, so continued designing a new banner for our A of R blog, which needed a refresh and some more promotion of our physical space (even though it's really just a virtual space at the moment, we had time to host exactly one workshop in there before everything went to hell.) The news is insanely troubling, and not even about the virus and its repercussions.  I was talking on the phone with a friend about how things like this hadn't really happened in our lifetimes and so seem extra jarring to our softness.  For other generations, in other countries that were not the US, not unfamilair. As X-ers, we came into a world where the greatest threat was Russian nukes, but there was always a clear villain.  Ditto, 9-11.  The virus is not vilified or really figtable.  Our institutionalized racism and treatment of POC is our own creation.  You can't rally patriotism when patriotism is the problem.  Now, the news is that white radicals are fueling the violent parts of otherwise completely legit protests. The terrifying thing is this is not all that surprising.  I am both rapt at attention with the news and horrified by it.

My anxiousness is now dually split between anger/social unrest and the virus, which is still, though it's not at the top of the news, killing people, surging exactly as we said it would into those places that opened too soon.  The police are killing people.  People are killing people. We are planning to be back in the library at the end of this month, which also feeds my anxiety, not about Chicago, which is doing really well, but everyone else. So until then I'm determined to make the most of these next few weeks in terms of projects I otherwise don't get to. I hesitate to say, in case I get sick and die (which is being dramatic, but you never know.) I do have plans to visit Rockford over Father's Day since I haven't been back in six months.  I plan to keep close to home until then as I have been, as as distanced as I can from my dad while I'm there unless masked, even though we're supposedly in the clear for visiting other houses than our own.  He seems to be much more out in the world than I am (stores and such), and actually it could travel both ways, but he's the older one with worse odds.)  Plus, I'm pretty safe until I go back to work. 

In my apartment, things are the usual quiet. Cats and meals and the entirety of the Friday the 13th franchise on streaming late at night. My sleep patterns are weird and in flux and sometimes I am awake at dawn.  Sometimes in bed through the early afternoon.  Sometimes a combination of both. This week, I've been working on summer virtual book clubs for the library and the very last of the Overlook poems.  I might even get to some submissions later today--older and new stuff.  (I'm trying to devote Saturdays to writing things since the week gets eaten up by library and press business. ) So time goes on and summer still happens, with or without us out in the world. I can control my little bubble in the work--this apartment, these cats (sort of)-, these poems--but not beyond it, and for now, it will have to be enough. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

another dgp summer

messes and mascots

The onset of summer usually sneaks up on me.  I'll be busy with books and work and poems and one day I look up and the trees are budding their first leaves and blossoms.  The magnolia near the bus stop is always an early and flirtatious guest, but somehow, usually as my attention is focused on closing out the semester, the other flowering trees flush with color.  I am missing much of Grant Park's loveliness this year hunkered down on the north side, but have been watching the trees on on my block that I can see from the windows of my apartment.  Every day, a little more green, and by now, almost full coverage.  Barring the smaller tree in the courtyard that both gets and loses it's leaves about a month after everyone else, it definitely looks like summer out there, and the humidity in the air and occasional crazy flash thunderstorms confirm it.

Whether it FEELS like summer is another matter, so much of my experience over the past two decades dependent on a certain rhythm that I can't quite get during this strange time.  Normally, that mad dash to the semester's end would be followed by a couple weeks of recoup and settling into summer patterns, but without knowing what those summer patterns are yet going to be, it's hard to feel grounded.  And it being summer, of course, means dgp will technically be opening to submissions next week. I thought about postponing the open reading period until my mind was in better sorts, when futures were more certain on all fronts. But there's really no reason to that, since we don't know that things will necessarily be more a less stable than they are now.  (or my focus more or less promising in the coming months.)

Until the past couple weeks, it's been hard to feel enthusiastic about anything poetry related, which is a poor state to begin reading manuscripts. But then,  I usually let them build up a bit before delving in later in the summer, so it might not matter. (And with a lot of writer's with their minds elsewhere than poetry,  a smaller submission pool might not be a bad thing--the deluge doesn't usually get rolling til August.)  I've been slowly rolling back into layouts and designing covers, though things feel really slow and my mind scattered in a million different places, so it's hard to keep track of all the moving pieces.

I am just not good at life lately, let alone keeping a million cats in the air that is dancing girl press. So things move more snail-paced, but I take comfort in the fact that after a couple months of creative paralyzation, the blood seems to be coming back into my limbs bit.  I was looking forward to being able to work on press things at home this summer instead of the studio in the evenings, so there is at least that one bright spot.   Also, a whole bunch of titles that were set for spring release that are just now beginning to happen. I've been working in my more coherent moments on the backlog of January/February orders, so some titles that were new then are still waiting to ship from then, then I'll be starting on things that came after.

I've read some grim projections on pandemic publishing and we're definitely lower volume than normal sales since mid-March, but luckily I've had some author copy orders that kept me in printing without having to dip into my personal account.  Daily, I am thankful for having given up the studio and those high overhead costs.  Even if sales were super slow we could still survive as long as I can afford toner and cards tock, so it's good to be more bare bones. I still have hopes for things like the swim (aka the mermaid themed box projectanthology to happen this year when things get back to normal.

Until then, watch for new books by Brooke Larson and Sadie Schuck Hinkel I am putting the finishing touches on as we speak, plus about another half dozen coming down the pipeline very soon.   I would love to see what you are working on when we open for submissions, so send it my way starting June 1st...

happy reading and writing!


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

print vs. digital in a pandemic world



For a few years now, A of R has been exploring how artists use libraries (and in turn, how libraries benefit from artists and creative communities.)  This seems especially important as we come into a fast evolving online learning focus (either for the long or the short run.)  Further, a stress on the importance of print materials, especially true right now, when so much of our collection is inaccessible during quarantine. As easy as electronic materials are to use, so much is available only in print (including my own titles and most poetry unless they have distribution methods that involve electronic --most small publishers don't.)  Even, in the rush to accommodate,  our textbook reserves had only a few high-use titles that could be ordered as e-books. (Others my co-worker spirited away on her way out the door to scan some chapters for panicked faculty members from home.)  There is also the problem that while providers make such content available, you never really own it.  Thus, budget cuts, you discontinue, and you don't really have access to anything in the way you did in print. They also tend to be more expensive with less return.

Today, setting up our summer Book to Art club endeavor, the last moving piece of spring focus programming and devoted to The Handmaid's Tale, I went searching for a free electronic version for a re-read.  I have a couple of Atwood novels, but not this one (unless it's buried in the cases at the back but I'm pretty sure I initially read a library-owned copy.). As I perused the first few pages of a pdf, how strange I found my experience reading fiction online--how I immediately fell into how I usually read the web for content--scrolling and skimming.  I once watched a woman on a train back from Detroit with a kindle who was reading.  Only she wasn't really reading because every two minutes, she'd look at her phone, then go back to another 2 minutes of book. Phone, book. Repear. Usually, when I'm reading, I'm commuting, but if what I'm reading is good, I tend to get utterly lost in that 45 minutes or so and have to be careful lest I miss my stop.

There is also something to be said for physical browsing--approaching a shelf of books and paging through them--either choosing what you want to explore further or just skimming for inspiration. This is harder when entering search terms into a database without the physicality of the book there in front of you.  One would worry that a pandemic would kill the printed word, but people are still finding their way to printed books--be it via Amazon or curbside pickup at the public library.  The e-book thing never caught on like they thought it would, but I wonder if the current state will give it a boost.  Over the years, whenever I've asked students if they preferred electronic texts or print, it has overwhelmingly been the latter.

Of course, I say this with an obvious bias.  As an author whose books are very tied up in print publishing, and as an editor who makes print books that aren't available elsewhere. Of course, electronic mediums are also advantageous--I've been making more and more older projects available via the web, esp. the ones out of print, which give them new readers and new life.  What do we lose in such a format?  What do we gain?  Has the pandemic pushed print publishing further into the ground, or will people who read books still want, you know BOOKS, even when others cannot understand why everything isn't digital?  I don't have answers for these, only preferences.

Way back in 2004, I sat through an AWP panel that talked about how, as digital media rose to prominence, books would become more important as tactile, unique objects. About 15 years ago, someone high up in the college was allegedly quoted as asking why on earth a campus needed a library if everyone was reading on their kindle.  For a few years in the late aughts, I'd catch a lot of bus readers with their sleek little tablets, but it seemed the the newness wore off and soon people reading were toting print volumes again.   I got a Kindle Fire a few years ago for Christmas and can't say I've ever read a book on it (but I have watched a lot of Netflix.) While CD's died a quick death at the birth of mp3 & streaming technology, readers, those people really into books, are a harder lot to convince.  It's been almost two decades since the digital revolution and books are, since the days of the Gutenberg bible, still a thing.

A few days I was laughing over an article about the rise of the bookshelf backed zoom panorama,  which seems like it would be hard to pull off if all your books are digital. I am probably guilty of this, since my desk sits with my back to the shelves (less now than before, now it's just a shorter bank of shelves and now, where the others stood,  the coat rack.)  A house full of books is a sign of life of the mind, I suppose, though books can be ingested in all sorts of ways (some people are really into listening to audio books of late.)  But even still, I think the immersion in the world of a book, at least with fiction, is a little less deep electronically than on a screen.

I do take some solace in this--that books are still a thing, that indie bookstores, at least until this current predicament were actually thriving long after places like B&N and Borders nearly killed them.  While I don't miss grocery stores or department stores, I do miss bookstores (and, of course, thrift stores.) In  a world and a nation that seems to cater to the lowest common denominator and proves stupider every day, it's good to know people are still reading nevertheless.

Monday, May 25, 2020

tricks and trades


Sometimes I've managed to get myself unstuck creatively by trickery.  It happened after my MFA, when I'd spent about 3-4 years waffling and only occasionally sputtering out a poem like a firework that every quite went off completely.  There were too many people in my head, too many fingers in my poems, and it felt awkward and like it barely mattered. I was plenty busy with other things...that fall after graduating, I moved into the studio and started to hustle to make that rent--the etsy shop, growing the press, more forays into crafts and visual work.  All took away from the writing I'd been focusing on predominantly before that. I'd spend most of my weekend working on jewelry and soap and a million different things and a lot of time during the week filling orders for the shop. I was also pre-occupied by myriad romantic drama that cut across about three different entanglements that ate a lot of emotional energy, even while the library was pretty quiet in those days and my responsibilities considerably less. 

Mid- 2011, everyone seemed to be talking about the ridiculousness of James Franco and his writing.  Or maybe less his writing and more the fame-whoring that seems to be permeating the lit establishment that clamored to embrace him.  Also, just JF as a construct, a caricature even of himself.  Something very meta.   I started writing what I thought were just blog entries based on conversations spinning around and would occasionally share them. Even my non-poet friends seemed to like them a lot. What started as a fun little diversion became focused on the idea of art and celebrity and my own writing insecurities and experience.  I've always thought it was never about JF at all (who turned out to be kind of a creeper and most people lost interest). But more about me. I decided to pull them together and send them to Sundress as an e-chap and they were published in late 2012, at a time when I was just beginning to churn out work more readily.  By virtue of subject matter and easily accessed format, they may be my most heavily-read project ever. Later they would be included in major characters in minor films.

These past couple months have distracted me endlessly from creative pursuits.  There is the news of course, alarmingly fresh everyday.  And library work, which is now occupying my home and not just a set of hours spent elsewhere.  General dread and uncertainty. Also trying to keep the wheels turning with more rote pursuits (cleaning, cooking, assembling books) in the absence of creative roving.  While I've managed a few days where the writing feels good and tending to literary business seems possible--getting ready for sex and violence's release, submitting poems, working on the overlook pieces, outside of a couple graphic cover designs and some crypto memes, not much had been happening visually at all. 

Yesterday, I found myself wishing I had a larger landscape for my kitchen wall next to the fridge--perhaps a larger reproduction of the ghost landscape pieces that are all postcard sized.   It seemed easy enough, but as I started working this morning, I realized I really liked the colors I was mixing, and in an effort not to waste the paint on the pallet,  and eventually knocked off five different variations that aren't half bad.  We'll see what I think of them tomorrow, but it's a start and a move in one direction or another.  Meanwhile, the weather has been lovely the past few days and the windows all open overnight for the first time.  Let's hope it holds.


Saturday, May 23, 2020

space music and paper boats




I've been thinking a bit about the speed at which things spin past us wildly. About social media, especially in a world where our attentions are split in 100 different directions.  The things I followed once on the regular, blogs, you-tubers, litzines, get lost in the rubble of horrible news article and general mental scatteredness of living in crazy world where we may have never had control of it, but even the illusion that we did seems to be unraveling. I've been thinking about my own writing and art and how I feel like even when I am creating it, I am disconnected from the audience.  Or from even the idea of audience that I used to feel.  And yes, perhaps I think too much about audience (somewhere I hear someone yelling that only the art matters, the creation, not what happens afterward) but I think art needs an audience, or an awareness of audience at least, to be a full communication put out there into the universe. Otherwise, you're sort of like a table with only one or two legs and not the third.

I've always been the sort of creator that puts it all out there.  At one time, I was self-conscious about this.  I had a poetry website from the time I first started publishing.  It seemed important to have a web central for the work that was just starting to crop up in online journals. I think back on that time as exhilarating--the first time I got real-time engagement with work.  The online poetry community felt much smaller and perhaps it was..but so many folks took the time to write really nice messages to me.  It was the first time I really felt like a writer and it encouraged me to write and submit more.

This was before "social media" was a thing, but instead we connected via the lit journals, via listservs and discussion boards.  In 2001, I created a website with Angelfire, which was surprisingly simple. (the main landing page of my website s still hosted there, as is dgp, though both now take you to blogger sites.)  Over the years, I actually managed to tweak the design of pretty basic templates until I had something I liked. It's hoot to go back in the internet archive and see what the pages looked like over the years, what my tastes and visual inspos were. It was followed by a blog later--first on xanga in 2003, where I met some of the folks I am still poetry friends with.  Then on blogger in 2005 and still going strong.

Both venues and their content seemed to vascillate between diary-like content and the sort of stuff you use social media for now--publication announcements, recommendations, memes, links to cool things.  I also used to post a lot of drafts, some of which remain. (and some of which exist nowhere else.)  Probably from about 2005-2009, blogs were the center of my online lit community for, full of comments and interractions (good and bad) that dwindled once writers began to move to facebook for such things.  I joined Facebook in 2009 and that soon became the way you connected with other writers, while the blogs sort of dwindled down to the folks, like me,  who still loved long-form content too much to give it up.  But probably now and for the past decade, the blog feels like someone playing a record in space.  You know it's making music and broadcasting, but aren't quite sure if it's reaching anyone's ears.   And maybe it just feels that way because we're now trained to expect more interaction when we post things..a like or comment or a heart.  Proof that someone at least heard us.

But then again, writing might be a little like this itself.  You write a book, you publish a poem, and it blasts off into the universe, and only occasionally an echo comes back.  Someone writes a review or says a kind something that makes your heart soar,  You click with an editor or a something goes over really well at a reading. For poetry, it stills feels like there is a lot more silence than there is echo. But then of course, how can it be any other way?  Especially when you are but one record player in a sea of record players, all playing their own songs. It is, at the same tie absolute stillness and absolute chaos. But as readers, we are the ones out there in space trying to listen and there is not only the record players, but all the other space junk.  I feel the junk lately--some of it good--some of it good, some of it terrible, some of it just a hum, but ultimately distracting.

Until this pandemic, I was really good about staying focused on the center of things. The center of who I was--what was important--the rest of which revolved around that center.   But it's taken a bit of time to get back to being moored, and I'm not sure I'm even there yet. Some days I am there--but some days are lost in horrifying headlines and growing sense of doom that makes caring about writing or art impossible.  Also reading impossible, and even caring about poetry related things at all.  But I try to make use of the good days.  This week was eaten up by library work in long stretches--a presentation to other librarians about our virtual exhibits and a grant proposal deadline--but today I woke up determined to spend it writing, or working on writing related things at least since it's technically the weekend  (though what is a weekend anymore?)  While I was in bed and fighting the urge to check facebook or the local news for the latest terrible statistics and alarming headlines, I started plotting a new project instead.

A couple years back I started a Tiny Letter, at the time for sending out little missives of work.  I "published" off the bulk of two different series that way--exquisite damage and swallow--and collected  a small group of subscribers. Though not everyone read everything that came into their inboxes, some did.  I also enjoyed the ones I subscribed to--a mix of newsletters and writing samples and postcards from other writers delivered virtually.  And while the same info sometimes was available elsewhere--on facebook, on twitter, on author websites--it was nice that it felt a little special. It also felt like a moment of stillness.  The time it took to open an e-mail and peruse, that was different than scrolling past something in a feed. 

So it occurred to me what if I revived the Tiny Letter, not just as a news letter of what is happening or what I'm working on, but also as a way to share special things--little electronic projects and e-zines, if not totally exclusively, then in advance. Sampled poems from what I'm working on not posted elsewhere.   Or also offer special little collage images and printables.  I have the books & objects subscription. but that costs money, something none of us seems to have a lot of these days, so this would be free to whoever wants to join to receive it in their inboxes (monthly I'm thinking?)   I like the idea of calling it PAPER BOAT, because it feels like something carefully crafted and set off in the water every month and on it's way to you.  Something tangible and intentional (well as tangible as something electronically delivered can be.)

Today, I'll finish this post then I'll spend some time formatting the first one and making the webpage for people to join.  It's a scary world and a cloudy day that already feels a little sticky and storm swollen, but I have coffee and a laptop and lots of poems and pictures. So I'm feeling a little better able to focus today on the center, that for me anyway,  holds it all together.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

cooking for the apocalypse


I've been cooking more in my kitchen than I ever was during the quarantine--a lot of things involving tortillas, which are my favorite, but other things like crock pot experiments, pastas, pizza, soups. I'm not a successful baker, so you won't see much coronatine bread coming from my kitchen, but you may see some box mix cakes and muffins.  Prior to this, there were years where I kept very little food in the house.  I always got coffee & breakfast from a cafe or Dunkin, maybe a sandwich or vending machine fare for lunch.  Dinner was something microwaveable or a loaded salad, because the last thing I wanted to do at 11pm and working all day was cook or wash dishes.  Weekends for years probably meant a lot of takeout--all cuisines and all sorts of places. The frequency of delivery fare some periods can be measured by the fact that I once ended up involved for years w/  the delivery guy from a restaurant/bar  with amazing pot roast because he encountered me so much over about a 2 year span, he eventually facebook stalked me and asked me out.

My cooking, when it happened, usually happened on weekends.  I liked to make soup on Sundays, and homemade pizza on Saturday. If I was feeling adventurous, maybe fried rice or bbq ribs in the oven.  When I gave up the studio, I started having breakfast at home, but it was usually fast prep stuff even still-frozen croissant sandwiches, muffins, frozen waffles. On the weekends, I'd make omelettes, or bacon & fried egg sandwiches. Maybe pancakes or french toast.  The thing  about quarantine is that every day is a weekend breakfast now.  I'm loving omelettes almost daily, and toasted bagels slathered in butter. Yesterday, I had hash browns and made my mother's recipe for campers breakfast. Usually lunch is another bagel with cream cheese or a cold cut sandwich or maybe peanut butter, but my dinners have gotten a little more daring.  A couple week's ago, I made bruschetta. Last week, some creamy chicken sauce for pasta in the crock pot. Even simple pasta dishes are more elaborate--sweet italian sausage & peppers over rigatoni instead of the usual ground beef.  A lemon cream primavera sauce over fettuccine. This week, I'm going to try a pot roast. 

Part of it is just  the fact that there are simply more groceries in the house.  I hate shopping in stores even pre-pandemic, so have been amply shopping Amazon and Whole Foods (whose delivery slots seem to be getting easier to grab the past couple of weeks as people settled in).  Also, I am less exhausted from running around, so have more energy to cook and do the dishes. more time to slow down and enjoy the process as well as the results. (I've also been trying to save $ during all the uncertainty, so have forbidden myself delivery fare. )  I was eating erratically at first (a full pantry and fridge is a bad thing to have with a binge eating disorder) but I've calmed my ass down and can even keep some treats in the house and not gnaw my way through them all at once like a fiend (ice cream, chocolate, popsicles, even some baked goods.)

I have no idea if this will hold after I go back to old schedules of work and limited home time, but maybe. It'd be nice if I walk away at least with one good new habit in not relying so much on takeout and delivery.  Or so much on frozen food that is serviceable and edible, but not always that tasty and filled with extra sodium.