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.


Saturday, May 16, 2020

egress


The past few days feels maybe like a door opened, or maybe a window or maybe a wound.  Some release of pressure and a flowing of something that wasn't here a couple weeks ago. . Maybe it just takes time, or maybe just numbness to what goes on around me.  I feel less paralyzed--with fear? with dread? Nothing has changed and yet maybe something has changed.  And while I don't know if it's permanent, I'm gonna go with it and see what happens. The world out there is still crazy and toxic and possibly contagious, but in here, I am feeling more like myself at times.

I've been puttering a way on The Shining series, trying out titles, and have at least a chapbook length segment of them, and at least a half dozen more still coming maybe.  They are not bad, even the ones I wrote robotically and less-than-inspired at the beginning of April. The project as a whole is beginning to have a shape--a voice--that I am liking.  I've been working on it a bit daily first thing over breakfast, before the scrolling through social media poisons my brain for the day. Write the poem, then check facebook, because inevitably, you will find things to be at best, annoyed about, at worst panicky or livid. Things that make it harder to write, to concentrate, to care.

As the project takes shape, I begin to see a pattern, and end  to it, or a path toward it  and maybe that's what we lack in this pandemic world that we so badly need. And not just any path, but one guided by science and humanitarian concerns and not by profit and the incel nation who refuse to wear masks in Costco. I can't do much about the world beside wear my mask and stay away from people, but I can shape The Shining project into something interesting, so here's to controlling the things we can and not too much worry over what we cannot.


soon




"I don't know how to write erotic poetry without using sex as a metaphor for distance, for all the spaces between..."

from how to write a love poem in a time of war

Soon, this little book baby will be hatching , and I was so enamored of my first view of the full spread cover that it might have cured my poetry ambivalence of late. So keep an eye out for a trailer and maybe some readings..there are Plath poems and blonde jokes and love poems aplenty...

You can get your very own copy here.

Friday, May 15, 2020

libraries and the age of anxiety




These days, my social media feeds are rampant with worried academics. And the worry is real as colleges and universities begin furloughs, across many departments and corners  of the institutions.  I've felt uneasy, especially since so much of my job, as it's currently defined, depends on access to physical collections and the business of keeping doors open. (Collections which are inaccessible at the moment and doors which are shut for at least another month or so).  I'm torn on wanting things to get back to "normal" and this strange state of "working from home" that is not altogether unappealing for someone like me.  Moreso than a return to my work environment, where we are discussing a host of approaches to be safe and limit contact, I worry largely over my reliance on public transport and how safe that is as we come back into the world.  On the other hand, being back in the library would ease my fears about my own indispensability should things linger into the red zone for the college this fall. Our particular department has long been bare to the bone--mostly because folks have left for elsewhere and not been replaced--but who knows what happens long run as colleges revamp their priorities and as libraries change to accommodate virtual learning and depend less on physical collections? Or if colleges decide they don't need libraries at all?

In terms of work, there is plenty of it even without those physical collections, though I worry what value other's find in some of it--and if it's enough to save my head when furloughs or cuts come along. Over the past few years, my responsibilities have grown tenfold. What started as simply processing the reserve collection turned into a lot of programming and exhibits stuff (my favorite parts of my job) but then also supervising and processing ILL, then later, some equipment set-up things, then some random clerical tasks after a co-worker went on medical leave in January.  Much of the latter half of those duties fell away with the quarantine--there are no events that require mics or projectors or other random set-up details.  Processing physical ILL's has paused, both borrowing and lending. I am useful in that I can track down electronic materials that other libraries are willing to lend, mostly for faculty, but these are pretty light in traffic (compared to physical lending). Since we gave up actually housing electronic reserve  materials a couple years back and now only help prepare and offer guidance on fair use and such,  there is not much reserve collection usage or processing happenings, though we are purchasing more e-books when we can now and into the future.  There's a lot of cleanup and summer reserve weeding  business, but only a fraction of it is possible working from home. We are getting a new operating system this summer, and a chunk of my time has been perfecting my knowledge of that. so we are ready to go when it's live.

In terms of programming, as I laid out plans in my article, it's gone relatively smoothly and I've learned and tried a lot of things that might still be useful, even when we're back, but engagement still feels low. It's not surprising, given that students are adjusting to upheaval, and it's hard to play creatively now for a lot of us.  I plan to continue some things into summer--zine Mondays, our Book to Art Club, another fun little project me and some staffers hatched.   So much seems lost, but also so much opens up new possibilities. Still I worry.  Worry if it's enough.  Am I doing enough?  And in the most anxiety loaded moments, begin to freak out and make lists of more things I want to do, but even here, don't have nearly enough time or energy to do them.  Somehow, some days still get swallowed whole in trivia. We spend a lot of time recently in zoom meetings,  mostly hriring, which we are still try to make happen if the college allows it, which are draining.. Also, some prep and practice runs for the new system eat some of my time, though both these things should be lessening as we get closer.

Still, in the quieter, less hectic time at home, I have had time to work on some things that get de-prioritized usually in the chaos of a given day--writing projects and grant applications, new endeavors (my cohort yesterday suggested perhaps a return of the Artcache adjusted for pandemic times.)  So there is something to be said of this pause-I am not spending a significant percent of my day amid book returns and purple I-share bags, or chasing down items upstairs,  So that adds some extra more creative time for things that will be good to have done in the long run, especially as we come back to an uncertain future. I'm not sad those things are not in my day, but it nevertheless makes me anxious that they are not. If those tasks are dispensible in the new world, then aren't I just a little?  Even though we still work on revised job descriptions and pay raises, interview new people for ILL & Equipment positions, all good signs, still I worry.    In my less angsty moments, I dismiss it as ridiculous. .  In the bad moments, I am terrified.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

finding the way back in


This morning I was once again awake unusually early.  Or maybe now it's becoming the usual early.  I will be ready to nap a couple more hours this afternoon before I settle in to other paid work, no doubt, but as such, I took it as an excellent time to try to wedge in some writing related tasks that have not been a priority.  Or maybe that is an understatement. Mostly since those things have not (in the mode of creeping panic, social media scrolling, survival, library work, press orders, etc. ) even been in my thoughts much at all.  But then maybe that too is not an entirely correct statement.  The lack of them has perhaps been in my thoughts. Or maybe a small (or large) bit of almost resentfulness toward it. Not the writing itself, which when it's good can be quite enjoyable (I think.).  But the "world of poetry" and the futility of believing in words. Of finding myself feeling unstable and vulnerable, and then blaming this creative life for not having stability, of stringing things together in this precarious time.  The what if monster.  Has living a creative life made me happier or has it just made me vulnerable.?  Months ago, I would have given you one answer, but I've been thinking about the other.  Not just me, but all of us. Surely, non-creative lives are also vulnerable, with none of the perks. But I watch enough people struggle around me, and feel my own creeping unease, and it's hard to make poetry matter.  It's also hard to imagine yourself in a trauma situation when things are so cozy and relatively comfortable, but while things are okay and I am lucky that I can both work from home and that I (for now anyway) have work to do, but even low-key traumatic situations are still traumatic.

This space, obviously,  has actually been very useful from a therapeutic stance, and I feel like that is still important. The writing out as a tool to think things out. I always think of that  famous quote from Flannery O'Connor about not knowing what she things until she reads what she writes.   But poems and more creative work? Does the world need poems right now?  Do I feel like it's important to write them? I don't have answers here, but, again, I'm hoping to fake enthusiasm til I make it. So this morning found me opening up the document for my dark country manuscript, which is mostly finished, but needs a little fine tuning in terms of ordering sections and a good proofing.  I have no plans to send it out, not exactly, since now is not the time to be squandering money on entry fees (if ever is a good time to be doing that.)   But I would like to have it in the finished category, especially since the subsequent (animal, vegetable, monster) is lapping at its heels. While I set goals in January to get these both under wraps, we are midway through the year and I have a hard time even caring about the goals I set at the beginning of 2020, any of them, but particularly the ones related to poetry

But I opened the document at least and fiddled with it a little.  Then drafted another Shining poem quickly and closed it before I deleted it and will look again tomorrow and see if I like it more.  Then sent a couple extinction event pieces off to a journal because I would really like to start sharing those. It's feeling a little like putting one foot in front of the other, but I will keep doing it and hope it sticks.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

mothers and the worry monster

Today is another Mother's Day. There is probably nothing more to be said from me I haven't said already on losing mothers, and I've written a lot about it already, but I tend to vascillate these days between wishing my mother was around to help me navigate this strange time and at the same time, incredibly thankful she is not.  It's a complicated feeling, and I don't dare say it aloud (though I guess this blog is exactly doing that--saying it out loud--but there's safety in never knowing if there's an audience. )

On one hand, when she was alive, I felt a lot more stable and a lot less lonely.  I've talked before about different kinds of lonely, and I'm not sure what difference in this time her presence would take, but even just an extra touch point, and extra ear, would be helpful to anyone no doubt. I still talk to my Dad on the regular, and those are different sorts of conversations that I'm glad I get to have (my mom historically tended to be the sole fielder of those calls home.)  For years, she was the go-between, and now it's direct conversations.   I imagine what she would think of all this happening had she lived. How crazy it would have seemed to her. She'd not doubt be just as angry at Trump, and sad that basketball season had been canceled.  But much like me, her and my dad were mostly hermits and would have appreciated this time to sit on the deck and work in the yard with no social engagements to interrupt them (even though my mother was more extroverted than the rest of us, she'd have managed as long as someone else were around to interract with.).

On the other hand, if you've ever admonished me for being a worrier, my response is usually "have you met my mother?" Hers was an obsessive kind of worry-always--and worse later in life. I feel sometimes that while yes, her heart problems and the infection were what killed her--worry was helping all along.  That said, right now, if she were alive, she would be at tremendous risk. not just as someone whose compromised by age and health conditions, but how she would be a ball of anxiety and fearful for everyone--not just me and my sister or my dad, but the whole extended family and her friends. This would make her more compromised, of course, the stress of that.  I worry about my dad, of course,  because of his age (78), but he's actually pretty healthy and mobile, with some healthy long-life genetics on my grandfather's side. And enviably calmer compared to the rest of us. But my mom would be a whole other thing, especially with her health problems the last year or so.

I sometimes think, had things gone a different way, had the doctors not botched it royally when they didn't stop or detect the infection til too late, had she not ended up hospitalized and in the nursing home. she might still be here, but she'd sill have heart problems that wouldn't get better with age.   But then I also think if she had not been having such a rough couple years up til the heart attack in terms of extended family drama, she might have had a better, healthier heart.  But there is no way of knowing if that is true. One of the complicated feelings I wrestled with  wen she died was this incredible relief that nothing bad could happen to her anymore.  Nothing could go wrong anymore, when things just kept going wrong in that last year. As such, she's one less person I have to worry about in this world right now.  But then again, that makes me feel sad and complicated as well.

There have been many moments in the past two months when I was again thankful about not having my own children. About the choices I've made.  Not just the more practical reasons of wanting time for myself, now more than ever, when I see other's struggling with work and homeschooling and children that really don't want to be inside and are going stir-crazy.  That would be another life, of course, but I'm not sure I'd be as content in it as I am in my current one.  Those desires could probably be called selfish by some , and maybe they are, but it's a kind of selfish I think is okay.  Women shouldn't have to not be selfish if they don't want to (and men don't feel that sort of pressure at all, nor are they burdened with as much of the child-rearing.) But also, the whole other thing-- the worry of having children in this world, whether they're locked in the house, or worse out in the world.  How I'm not sure my heart could handle that sort of strain, so endless hats off to all the mother's who manage it without their hearts utterly breaking in half.



Saturday, May 09, 2020

certain slants of light


Getting to a place where poetry or writing seems to matter in the grand scheme of things seems hard.  For awhile, every day just bought a certain amount of futility feelings, others maybe a little less.  It's good to have other  things to do that are more routine and don't involve having to put thoughts together creatively--assembling books, library work. Layouts and proofing are touch and go and require more concentration, so some days are decent for those, but others not so much at all. But a certain amount of joy --that living in the world of words--is missing.  I think this has less to do with being at home, which you would think would allow for so much room to play, but moreso with that anxiety about what is happening outside.  What happens next?  Then after that?  What can I control? What can I not?  Creativity, for this Taurus, means stability and a bubble in which things happen, and it's a bubble I feel everything pressing in on and it's no good.   I'll open the file of the Shining poems, and maybe I get something, but I don't find my usual joy and energy surge.  Writing a poem feels like doing the dishes or putting a load of laundry on. It's nice to have done it, but I don't revel in it.  Similarly on discussions of po-biz and readings and the things months ago I would enthusiastically taken part in.

And yet the poetry worlds goes on.  Today I had to take a look at the final designer proofs for SEX & VIOLENCE, and what struck me most was a small section of the book that I pay I pay much less attention to--the Dali -inspired pieces that, in the context of the manuscript, are more about art and violence, but in this light, the more apocalyptical themes seemed at the forefront.  Granted, I wrote a whole book about the apocalypse, and even last fall, the extinction event series came out of my time at the Field Museum. I see folks rushing to write pandemic poems, and I don't think I can or will, at least not anytime soon. But I've written a lot of poems about the end of the world. Obviously not that this is the apocalypse or extinction, but even for the luckier who have not gotten sick or lost jobs or love ones yet, in some ways life will be changed from what it was.

But poetry seems a tiny arbitrary world where the stakes don't seem to matter when our government is filled with idiots who just keep lying. And more idiots who line up outside capitol buildings with guns and believe them.   Where the huge infrastructure problems are being uncovered body by body of those who have fallen through it.  Where I vascillate between being afraid for my life and yet. sometimes, not all that tethered to survival at all.  A world that seems both too small and too large for a poem to matter. And yet, we've put all our coins into the faith that it does. 

Still I sat down with my proofs and dutifully went through them, the final check before going to print to make sure formatting was correct and things all matched up. The book will be out soon and I plan on making some sort of trailer, and despite extreme zoom meeting fatique, maybe a reading.  I drink more coffee and as I was finishing the light was fading in my apartment, but the sun hits that sweet spot where it reflects from one of the glassy lakeside high rises to the east and floods my living room with gold for about 10 minutes every day.  I'm not usually here to notice this, would usually be at the library this time of day,  so I do and take note for a poem that may or may not happen in the future.


Friday, May 08, 2020

life and work and other work


About once every couple weeks, we are warned, either from the internets, or the weekly e-mails from HR, of the importance of drawing firm lines between life and work. They use phrases like "work-life balance" which seems as an artist and someone who runs a business on the side of a full-time job like a foreign continent or a unicorn I've never quite understood to exist. Perhaps the greatest difference between pre-coronatine life and present is that I do not travel anywhere to do certain kinds of work. This does cut a couple hours of commuting from my day. Even before, my hours not at the library were surrounded by other kinds of work--either writing and editing, making books, making art. My "life" if separated out, was more like eating and sleeping, maybe occasional social outings or family visits, but even these were littered with other sorts of mental labor attendant with something I was working on--a manuscript, a cover design, some library scheme that was exciting but involved more concentration than a busy service desk area can provide.

When I was in college, I was terrified at the idea that one had one's "work," where most of your day was spent toiling, and then a "life" where the other half of you existed.  It seemed a sad lot, especially if you were an artist.  Because then you not only had "work" but also "more work" and maybe "life" happened in those in-betweens, on the fringes.  But then maybe you were sustained if your art was also your life, which blurred the lines a bit more. Since I am a super introvert anyway, it's even rougher to parse out what that life means, especially since my wants there are pretty simple. Sleep, food, ample horror movies on Netflix.  Occasional outings or date nights, weekly visit from my signifigant other.  A few family visit trips per year.

When I gave up the studio, people would occasionally ask if I would miss the separation between home and work, and I wondered if there really was one.  When I had the etsy shop, I would spend weekends posting and creating things for the shop on the weekends,  Later,  I spent my weekends working on covers and art things.   Sure there were tasks that specifically had to be done there, but much of my "work" is more a way of breathing, in and out, but not really defined. Surely, 20 years ago, the lines were a little firmer before the press. Before my library pursuits were interesting enough to devote time to them off campus. Then I worked and came home, but even still I spent that time writing mostly. I always laugh when I see memes about being a writer and basically committing to having homework your entire life.  Because its pretty much true.

These weeks have been odd.  I don't feel like I have firm lines.  Nor do I clock in and clock out in any regular fashion.  While I don't check email on the weekends for the library or do zoom meetings, I do still work on things is their pressing or the mood strikes me.  Outside of  creative work, which is hard right now, I split most of my days between library and press work.  My "life" time is about the same--meals, cleaning/organizing,  Netflix, sleep. Even so, with nowhere to go, there doesn't seem to be more of it..this mysterious "life" that is separate from "work"  There is just work, and work, and another kind of work, for different things and with different aims, some paid, some unpaid, but still all the lines blurry.




Wednesday, May 06, 2020

snapshots


1987

I'm in seventh grade and head over heels for the first boy who probably ever broke my heart.  There are all the usual hallmarks of junior high courting--shared lunches, meetings at lockers, awkward dancing at school dances, daily walks to the bus. His friends in the cafeteria and their teasing comments about both my height (I was taller) and my chest (which of course was happening. ).  In June, we are supposed to go on the yearly field trip to an amusement park and make plans to sit together on the way there, which involves paperwork and making special arrangements for me to ride with him and his group of friends, but somehow he decides not to go. I awkwardly hang out with that group until we get separated then find a group of girls I hadn't hung out with since elementary school and have a wonderful time.  While I'd had crushes before, it was the first time I fell for a funny boy and the first of many times a funny boy failed me.  In 8th grade, we share a math class and while I am willing to toss the occasional barb his way for the previous offense, things are never really the same.  Later, he goes to a different high school and I never see him again.

1992

I am graduating, and pretty much checked out, going through the motions, and my eye trained on venturing to North Carolina in the fall.  I am still planning on being a marine biologist, still restless in the midwestern way for the coast.  There were all the usual hallmarks, prom activities (though I skipped the date part and hung out with my friends), graduation parties, yearbooks, and award ceremonies.  I nearly fail trig for a second time, but I get out. I wear baggy sweatshirts over rolled jeans and off-brand keds and my hair is still blonde. Other than that, it's a lot of gazing longingly at my college brochure and wanting badly to get to that beginning, so much so, I barely paid much attention to the ending.


1997

I am graduating again, and again, my eyes are on the future. Again, more awards ceremonies and a sticky, rainy commencement forced indoors. We are apartment hunting in Lincoln Park for the beginning of June, where I plan to live off credit cards and some sort of part-time job until grad school starts sometime in September.  I find a tiny studio with it's bathroom in the closet and start making moving arrangements.  By the time the trees are blooming on campus, I am already mentally elsewhere.  I am still thinking I want to teach then, and a year later, it will have become less clear.
I listen to Fiona Apple's Tidal on repeat and buy dollar store dishes and pots and pans. I spend the first night with all the lights on, waiting for someone to break in and murder me. My first night really alone for the first time. It's scary, but within a week, I am loving it. I am writing a little and submitting work, but still a year or so out from writing anything worth publishing, but spend a lot of time eagerly checking the mailbox for acceptances.


2002

 By now, I have settled back into Chicago, into my job at the library, into my larger apartment, and have been a little more successful in terms of writing ventures.  I publish mostly online, but this is also the year my first chapbook is accepted by a small, local feminist press.  I place third  in a local juried contest and read my poems in public for the very first time. Two years later, I win that very same prize, but with very different poems.  I don't have internet at home, so I read and analog journal a lot more, and write reviews of novels for a couple different websites that send me free books.  I am single until later that year, but spend the summer meeting up a couple times for awkward online dating I don't really talk about in real life.


2007

I am graduating.  AGAIN. This time, my MFA--that strange four year journey of going to school part-time while also working 40 hours per week.  I don't go to the commencement, but my parents come into town for a departmental reading during an unusually sunny, mild weathered Manifest celebration. That spring, I am still on the mend from a rather tormented past year that included recovering from mono & various after illnesses AND having my heart broken by another funny guy, but one who is a hole I keep falling back into again and again and will for the better part of a decade. According to this very blog, it's a year of summer cicada storms,  bit otherwise, life is pretty good, a summer filled with collages and working on the final details of the Cornell project, as well as ramping up on the press once my MFA program was out of the way. I am restless of course, and by Sept. am making plans for moving into the studio.


2012

Is one of those years with less hallmarks, but the usual sort of steady.  We spend a lot of Friday nights drinking margaritas, and of course, I am trying all summer to get over my infatuation w/  yet another, (this time mostly indifferent funny) boy, but still trying to maintain the friendship in the awkward aftermath. There are other romantic dalliances during this time, only one that outlasted the year, and itself, full of its own sort of dramatics. I am, however,  back in deep with poetry after a while of being away from the thick of it.  It is a good year for projects and releases..the James Franco pieces, the mermaid series release, and a feeling that maybe I could do this again. The previous summer, I'd closed the etsy shop and pared down the offerings to focus more on books now that things were more financially sustainable (well for the moment it seemed but not all that much really. )  I spend some time giving up regular soda and making better choices and managed to drop a significant amount of weight over the next year or so, which, if anything, has me feeling physically better and buying more clothes to the detriment of my wallet.


2017

This year was a hum dinger that started out bad, got better, then got far worse.  My mother in the hospital with a heart attack.  My mother recovering at home, but with a gash on her foot from a fall  and nasty painful rash on her legs from a latex allergy. My aunt dies, and her mood plummets, but it's still a reasonably happy summer where we cart my other around in a wheel chair and things are as close as they would be again to normal. I also lose a cat, but am still in good spirits. Then a bad decline--infection, hallucinations, a long hospital & nursing home stay. Then she was gone.  A fall of back and forth visits. A fall trying to hold things in balance.  There were other things but they are blurry.  In January, my efforts at writing & compiling win us the ACRL Award for Excellence in Libraries.  In April, me and my sister have a fun trip to NOLA, where I read the poetry fest with a cold and am so very broke I should not really be traveling.  So broke that my lights are shut off when I return for a few days until I get paid.    I charge my devices when at work and the studio and spend a couple days stealing my neighbors internet and  eating peanut butter sandwiches and leftover library party fare by candlelight. After my mother's death, I pull together the sex & violence manuscript hurriedly in November and send it to Black Lawrence where it's accepted the following spring, but outside of that remember very little about the year besides hospital rooms and funerals.


Today

I wake up early because the sun is blazing, reflecting off the building across the way.  I do this often, my body, getting enough sleep, doesn't need to catch up, but while I am raring to get started at 8am, I get really sleepy at around noon, then nap for a couple hours and start again.  Instead of eight hours, it's more like 6 and 2. When I'm awake, I do library work, usually til 11pm or so, my usual schedule, or midnight if I'm working on something interesting enough. I make breakfast, some sausage links and a cinammon swirl bagel and, of course, coffee. I work on some less exciting ILL work, then stop for a nap. Then I work on some more things before an ILL hiring meeting late in the afternoon. There are some other things I'd like to finish before the day ends, trash to take out and a package to collect from the lobby. While I am only good for certain types of less creative work, I am actually still enjoying the solitude of my days and not having so much to and fro, though I miss wearing my clothes and going out into the world sometimes. While I'm not a social person at all and don't miss that aspect, I am trying to get out for a walk at least every few days. The lakefront is still closed, but I can see it glimmering at the end of the cross streets, so I know it's still there and very, very blue. Tonight, I'll make fajitas, one of my favorite quarantine meals, a time when I am actually cooking in my kitchen and not just microwaving.


Friday, May 01, 2020

may




Today, I woke to rampant sunshine and the feeling that maybe, after a couple false start days, but not even enough of those, that spring may finally be going to happen out there with or without us. And at least without me for another month or so. But at least, it's happening.  On the whole, I'm finding I can feel a little more normal when I avoid the news and social media until later in the day and dive into work--whether that be library or press related immediately when I get up, which sometimes is weirdly very early for me (I'm guessing I finally, after ore than a month have caught up on sleep deficit) or sometimes after a nap due to that early rising. I find I can concentrate best if I turn something on that I enjoy, but doesn't need too much of my attention (I've been revisiting The Office this past week.) So there has been more web-curation, and blog posts, and some other things in the hopper.  When I do read the news it's as troubling, at least nationally, as it was before, even though Illinois seems to continue to be wiser and more cautious than the rest of the country.

Today, a bit of happiness in that my little phone tripod arrived.  It's very little, but I won't be balancing my phone on my laptop stacked on books to get the camera at a good level and then using the other laptop to type if necessary..  After a couple zoom calls on my slow-ass laptops early on, I discovered the phone was my best option, but I 've been improvising set up ever since. Most of the zooming action is hiring interviews for positions that will hopefully still happen even if the future is otherwise unclear.  With another month of this at the very least, I figured I might as well spring for a cheap one.  At worst it would be good for possible OOTD photos into the future post-zoom necessity.  It may even spawn me to stop hanging out perpetually in pajamas.

Nevertheless, we are still in a holding pattern as to whether anything creative will happen during this span of time. I'm becoming reasonably more productive in term on non or semi-creative things.  I can't paint or collage, but maybe I can make a website look less horrible. I can't write a poem really, but maybe I can write about libraries. Baby steps, I suppose. This is normally my most favorite month of the year, but even though we are all stuck at home, I am determined to make it count.