Friday, February 28, 2020

notes & things | 2/29/2020

Another week down and now we're cresting March, which at least means my mental state will be improving.  Sometimes I feel mired down in drudgery and yet there are good things,,including the final layout on the poet's zodiac, submitting my NEA application, and curating the Future Tense exhibit that we will be hanging this week. Otherwise the week has been some zine talks and workshops, and a lot of hiring committee business, marathon phone interviews and the like. This weekend, outside of a Saturday shift, I ill be working on books most of it and maybe even get around to some other artwork.

The news, is troubling, of course, more than usual and I'm not sure whether to be annoyed or concerned over corona virus coverage.  I realize, as someone who lives in a major urban area and rides public trans, works at a college, it's not as simple as avoiding crowds if it turns out to be a dangerous thing. I can wash my hands and try not to get sick like I do any other winter, but it's not like you can just avoid people. I have a pretty sound immune system as long as I'm getting enough rest, so am less worried about it killing me off, but still it's troublesome with a society fundamentally trending toward the lowest denominatior and ripe with misinformation.

Meanwhile. maybe a little spring will lessen the spread. I could certainly deal with not freezing everytime I step outside.  As I mentioned, we've been lucky, but it's been a little bitter the past week or so, mitigated only by some occasional sunlight filled days that get warmer. Next week is another moderately busy one, so things down't calm down til mid month, but by then, we should have some good weather.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

ordinary planet

I'm hoping, if space allows, to include some pieces from ordinary planet in the upcoming FUTURE TENSE show.  ordinary planet, my little steampunk inspired series,  is so much about a post-apocalyptic world where society has regressed to victorian morality and spiritualism.  I have to admit, things like Handmaid's Tale were very much on my mind as i was working on the text portions. It's also a little sci-fi, since it envisions a future non-earth based civilization, not progressive, but regressive.

"The world as we knew it was and then was not. 
Men fiddled the machines into a frenzy 
and still the city blackened and blitzed like a roman candle."

Eventually the text pieces will be part of my automagic manuscript, which is about 2/3 completed., which creates it own little reality and victorian-steeped world   This project actually came significantly after the poems that form little apocalypse, but between this and extinction event series, you would think I write way too much about the end of the world and I probably do.  Between climate change and nuclear anxieties when a complete idiot is in the vicinity of the trigger, I can't say its something I don't think about often. (and this does not even include weird diseases and zombie plagues).

Saturday, February 22, 2020

library happenings

While a lot of my days at the library have been filled up with meetings and clerical randomness and never ending hiring committees (two for our department, one for Reference)...I have also been working on some funner things, including a zine workshop at the Chinatown branch, and another coming up on the north side, as well as prep for the upcoming Future Tense exhibit, which has a lot of submissions to wade through. . I will also be doing a small session on zines for a faculty member and her class, a project that will continue throughout the rest of the semester, and pulling together a lib guide on Afrofuturism. 

Perhaps the largest of fun A of R related endeavors is the above which was vacated by another department and is set to be our workshop space.  It needs some work and organization, but we're hoping to host our first workshop (with our Artist in Residence) in a couple weeks. Since most of our zine nights and how-tos have been happening on the first floor awkwardly near the circ desk, it will be nice to stretch out.  It was also nice to unload some supplies up that that have been threatening to subsume me in my usual workspace.  My A of R co-conspirator also has some larger projects (like big things for the Manifest parade)  underway with classes & student groups that need the extra room we now have to play with.

Other things on the horizon include a workshop on campus about libraries and art practice and a possible poster session at the upcoming ALA conference on the uses of library social media for teaching and learning.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

notes & things | 2/17/2020

February is rough on all fronts..winter has lost every single bit of it's charmingness if it ever had it, my apartment is chilly,  and I'm tired of dressing in so many layers.  My skin is dry, my hair is dull, and sunlight isn't terribly easy to find most days.  We've been lucky that winter started early, but was actually pretty mildish, until this past week of super-cold and more snow. I am also drowning at the library in hiring committees, reserves processing,  and a few weeks of a bit more activity than the last in terms of exhibits and programming.  Even my little sketchbook with it's post-it notes looks chaotic and frightened.  I am still chugging away on the order backlog at home each night, but have scarce had time to work on new layouts or releases during the day, let alone write a poem myself.

Nevertheless, we are over the hump and headed toward the end. I went with my sweetie to see Parasite on Valentines Day, and it was so, so good, but left me in a mental slump  yesterday thinking about money and class and the ultimate futility of always struggling on the lower end of the economic stratosphere.  I was watching a commentary video yesterday and they mentioned the death of the daughter as esp. important--the one who seemed to fit in most with the wealthy family and significant in that she was the artist, who historically have, according to that Queen Victoria quote about their danger, mixed in all levels of society.  The flood scene absolutely gutted me, so it's hard to climb out of those feelings this weekend.

I've been working on correcting my leaning bookshelf problem by  tearing them down and integrating all the poetry into the lower set by my desk and preparing to weed out a lot of Barnes & Noble bargain bin fiction I've been holding on to for two decades I really don't need.  If I can fix the shelf supports there with pieces from the tall one, it it will be much more functional and better to hold more.  There are also a ton of reference volumes that can go..because, you know, internet...Since I've been storing boxes of books and larger things like folding tables and chapbook racks in the entry way closet and it's tight in there, I bought a proper wardrobe rack ( a smaller, pipe version of what I have in my bedroom) and put it where the taller shelves used to sit near the door to hold coats/jackets in a more easily accessible way. (which means my tendency to throw attractive outerwear at seasonal depression has a bit more room for new additions should I find anything to my liking as these late-season sales begin.) It also gave me an excuse to find something to go above it, which resulted in the above awesomeness.

Luckily, it's a short month and March is on the horizon, which will still be cold enough and prone to bits of snow, but much more forgiving...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

poetry and vertigo

Pietro Longhi

Doing the #authorlifeonth tag over on instagram, I encounter very few poets.  Mostly, it's a lot of YA and romance novelists, with a few sci-fi & horror writers thrown in.  As such, their realities seem remarkeably different, their bookish bucket lists filled with film options, foreign rights, agents, and all the ideas/language that seem entirely unrelated to what poets do.   I was reading an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed bemoaning the downfall of the humanities as a subject, and was mentioning a few ways that universities were trying to appeal to students whose minds are in every place but there--new intitaives and programs, but there was mention of one that dealt with many genres of work & media but "no poetry."

I was crestfallen--how to build an audience for poetry when you've already dismissed it as too complicated or uninteresting.  It's not like students come out of the womb hating poems, but years of either neglect or over vivisection make them stay away from it.  I hope things like Rupi Kaur, bad as the work is, will change their minds and get them interested in more substantial work, but most of the world, even the literary world, kind of just forgets we exist.

At AWP and other book fairs, the dgp table is repeatedly met with folks who were interested in the visuals of the books, but move away once hear the word "poetry."  Even though I would venture we publish as much prose format work as we do lineated stuff.  So even if the sight of broken lines sets you into a spiral of confusion and disorientation, you'd probably find something to like. Many of our authors in turn are also CNF people, and I, myself,  tend to deal in prose poetry.

I've been thinking about this as I work on something that feels more short story like--mostly because writing it feels a little different.  I've been trying to keep in mind the things I learned while editing the hunger palace last summer with the help of an editor at The Journal..basically reigning in the poetry-ness to make it more kind to everyday readers who might be put off by huge metaphoric leaps.  Fiction of course, is somewhere between these two, prone to some leaps, but perhaps ore measured ones.  How to dazzle your reader without giving them vertigo.   Without going too far off the trail that no one can find their way back.

I 've been thinking heavily about how the work differs, esp. since I consider narrative a pretty big part of poetry, lined or unlined,  and maybe its more that poetry occupies this strange space between writing (via words) and music (via rhythm) and visual art (via imagery), whereas language is less material in things like short stories and novels.  But then again, some of my favorite fiction does use language as material in interesting ways, but that may just be the poet in me.

Saturday, February 08, 2020


All during February, I'll be posting #authorlifemonth photos on instagram, so follow along and join in!  I made the above collage thinking about one of the current manuscripts in progress, animal, vegetable. monster,  which includes the text portions of the strangerie project, my series of pieces based around Renaissance dog-girl Antoinetta Gonzalez,  the artists statement pieces, and a couple other things I still have up my sleeve.  

Thursday, February 06, 2020

sex & violence

We are inching ever closer to this lovely being in the world...
you can still pre-order a copy before the release in April here...

"Kristy Bowen is a master of conjuring the treacheries of femininity. In sex & violence, she draws upon such diverse sources as Plath’s Ariel poems (here collaged piece by piece to make her own poems so much stranger, and newer, and hauntingly “eerie,” as in the absence of the missing, familiar words, and the missing, familiar woman) and, to conjure the contrary, poems set to dumb blonde jokes, where the result of two blondes “fall(ing) down a hole” is that “the wishbone of their throats harbor tiny fish and assorted birdery” and that, after murder, their bodies can be found “placed so careful in their beds each morning.” Here is a book to beware of, dear reader. You’ll find yourself trapped inside Bowen’s “enormous wedding cake—a claustrophobic swirl of sugar and lace,” with “Horses and house fires” placed right next to it, and in its feverish dream of kisses and ruin, you won’t want to ever escape."

—Gillian Cummings

"Bowen is a poet on fire the way that Dali’s giraffes are on fire, the way our overheated Earth is on fire, the way Sylvia Plath was on fire the year before her suicide. Her poems happen in a time when “men continue to do terrible things to women,” and yet women are poets with magical and persistent powers. “[E]ach night I am remaking something with the thrum of a hundred thousand wings,” she writes. “I am waiting with a screwdriver behind the wardrobe’s mirrored doors…waiting for the bite.” Her blondes turn their dumbness into blunt instruments. Her dead girls pen letters to their murderers: “You know us writers, turning everything to grist…” This is a not-to-miss book, even for the jaded. In a time when “everyone [is] drinking tea and going on and on about art,” Bowen wrestles her tight-edged poems into new startle."

—Devon Balwit

"Kristy Bowen’s sex & violence with its attention-getting title delves through body, self, woman, with knife-sharp darkly humorous phrasing and opulent imagery that has become her trademark. Bowen uses a palette of ekphrasis (Salvador Dali’s “Inventions of the Monsters”), allusion to pop tropes and slasher movies, and anaphora (a blonde …) to deliver her inimitable and startling exposition of love against its backdrop of brutality. She repeats haunting lines: /I love it like history/, populates her poems with magical images in ironic settings: little blue dog, honey drudgers, a huge camellia. Bowen presents a dichotomy that balances the lustful body and its corporeal yearning with the ethereal, spiritual agape love. /How I would like to believe in tenderness/. Then: /I do not know how to write about love without a little bit of pain/ she says in “how to write a love poem in a time of war.” Bowen’s latest book of poetry etches itself in the reader at a cellular level."

—Cathryn Shea

Sunday, February 02, 2020

notes & things | 2/02/20

Today, there is sunlight, which seems like a first for WEEKS  (and I actually think this is not just hyperbole--January was super gray and cloudy, but thankfully less winter-horrible than previous years, so it's a trade I'll take. )  We have reached February, after a long beginning to the year, and a new semester, which is already underway in terms of planning and exhibits.  Tomorrow night is our first zine night devoted to Afrofuturist art & media and Friday, I spent some time compiling my research from this week into a resource zine and some exhibit materials.   Submissions for the exhibit on imagined worlds opens in early March and already things are looking lush and promising.

I am trying not to get swept under in the meantime with reserve processing and ILL duties still, but hopefully not for long at all now, on my plate.   I've gone back to an older system of dividing up tasks through the week--at least the more involved ones--by focusing on one area per day, so last week felt productive, though there was still a lot of looses ends come Friday, especially since this is the probably the most intense my library work gets on a semesterly basis (last October's self-imposed crazy withstanding).

This afternoon, I gave the poets zodiac a final once over and tightened a few screws, which means I plan to start layout on the books & objects project this week.  I've penciled in Friday if it kills me.    I did not hit even a fraction of my January goals, when so much feels like surviving, but I've moved them to February.  While I didn't write everyday it was harder during J-Term, which shortened my morning hours at home I did get a bunch of pelt fragments, and two new starts on other things.  So far I haven't submitted a stitch, but there are some things that are ready, and maybe I'll be able to get to them this week.