Saturday, August 29, 2020

notes & things | 8/29/2020

We seem to have crawled out from under the swampy late-summer air, and this weekend, into something cooler, milder, and less likely to have me tossing and turning in the sheets to find a cool corner of the bed. Summer, corona-style, was barely a summer at all, and I can't say I am sad to see it go.  Mostly it was just heat and work, with side helping of anxiety. Fall is at least enjoyable when you don't leave the house much, so I am already queuing up my horror movie and planning to make soups.   I did learn that beginning next week,  we will be open the usual hours at the library, til 10pm,  which gives me back my late mornings entirely instead of sliver of time between waking and heading out the door. Since we've gone back, my writing happens in this flurried space over breakfast watching the clock to make it downtown, then exhaustion by the time I arrive home in the evening. This will feel a bit more like normal, if normal is even a thing at all anymore, which means I can get back to design and layout projects that have been drifting while I try to catch up on orders and tend to other dgp business. Also reading manuscripts for next year (which if you haven't submitted just yet, you have another couple days.) At the library are also getting a new staff member (finally) in our department which means I may eventually be able to take a vacation (not that I can go anywhere, but a week off work, as I learned this summer, is sometimes very much needed.) 

Today, I woke up and made myself a big stack of french toast and now, coffee, and am settling in to work on another swallow video, check in on my submissions like little chicks, and maybe do some edits on the tabloid poems. The collapsologies manuscipt/project is coming together fast and furious and I can't wait to show you.  I still have some pieces to work on the final section (the plague letters) but I love what I have so far.   Whatever it's final incarnation (book?  box set?  something else?  all of these things? ) I would like to unveil it within a year from now,  since it feels like there is a pressing immediacy to it. Like, is another year passes, it will be less fraught with the angers and anxieties which spawned it. It's definitely a snapshot of a moment in time, a moment that hopefully will pass and be better. It's all we can hope for. 

Before then, I do have some little things planned for the witching season I am excited about (writing about horror 80's movies, strange little oracle cards), and as soon as i have them all assembled, the poets zodiac.I've even had a couple of journal acceptances for bots of a couple different series so those will be coming down the pipeline., breaking my recent rejection streak.  Impending autumn always makes me feel more ready to buckle down to more serious writing business, so there's that. 

I've been poshmark shopping, as a talisman against another quarantine, for some fall things for my closet, sweater dresses, moody fall florals, and way too many things in that shade of dark olive green I've been obsessing over the past year (including a steal of a green suede jacket I'd certainly never be able to afford new.)  My fall wardrobe is only slightly less rambunctiously unruly than the summer one, but hopefully Chicago keeps numbers down and I actually get to leave the house to wear it all. 

While I feel pretty safe about the library protocols, I don't know how that will change as more people show up on campus (or will they even show up on campus? and if they don't what does that mean for the library?) People on transportation seem to be all wearing masks, even if distance is only minimally possible as it gets fuller and more people are out and about, including the influx of students city-wide. I have grabbed coffee and a breakfast sandwich a couple of times and ordered pizza in the neighborhood, but you certainly won't find me in a restaurant or going anywhere else I can avoid going in public since pretty much anything I need can probably be ordered online (I do occasionally miss movie theatre date nights and all those thrifting expeditions, but not quite enough to risk getting sick more than I already have to.) 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

video poem | swallow #1

Over the course of the next month, I'll be making a series of video poems of my swallow series.  Think of it like a chapbook, but in video form! Enjoy!


Friday, August 21, 2020

snapshots | august



This one is only available in snippets of memory, my mother's sadness after my grandmother's sudden death, getting glasses briefly to correct a far-sightedness problem that may have been entirely made up to account for a tumultuous third grade year prior that found me inside during a lot of lunches and struggling through homework.  Girl scout camp renditions of "Betty Davis Eyes" around a campfire.. Matching jersey dropped-waist skirt outfits and finally being able to walk to school a few blocks away entirely alone for the first time and loving that freedom (it being the free range 80's and all). At home, my slanted attic room in the Loves Park house and my walkman endlessly looping Rick Springfield and Duran Duran cassettes (bought with birthday money, of course). I'd spend most of the summer on the backyard swingset lost in my own little world. 


Right before school starts, we spend a week at a cabin near Black River, with am amazing purple armoire tucked into the corner of a sleeping porch where I spend most of our time there popping jolly ranchers into my mouth and reading Sweet Valley High books in an effort to prepare for high school, which is this vast unexplored territory in front of me. Despite driving through fires on either side of the highway  on our way north earlier in the summer, this trip is rainy and cooler and our last before summer vacation ends.  High school turns out to be nothing like Sweet Valley High, but I adjust pretty well.  Later, I mine this summer of droughts and fires shameless for the poems in my first book.


It's my second year of college, but my very first at RC.  I've just successfully dyed my hair from blonde to dark red and wear things like broomstick skirts and tapestry vests (becuase, hey, it's the 90's.)  I love my classes that first semester and most after--Shakespeare, social psychology, philosophy. After long waits in registration lines, I spend most of my time on the patio outside the library, where they've set up long tables with metal folding chairs. I've no idea if they are intended to stay there, or if they are left up after an event, but that year, they are up through Thanksgiving break, and protected from sun and weather by an overhang, are where you would would find me studying between classes and eating vending machine snacks and carefully packed sandwiches from home. .  When it got cold, I moved inside to the library's second floor and started scavenging books from the stacks, where you will find me for the next four years.


This is the fall the tap comes on fully for poems, and most of the fall is spent writing the work that would land my first publications and form that first ill-conceived book manuscript. I'm starting my second year of grad school at DePaul and enrolled in a course on Modern British Poetry, which isn't very modern at all, but very British, except for the weeks we spend on TS Eliot, faux British by way of Missouri  I become obsessed with Eliot's recorded voice and soon, cannot read The Wasteland without hearing his voice in my head.  Later, at Columbia, a similar thing happens with Anne Sexton.   While I had read bits of it before as an undergrad,  this time The Wasteland loosens something in me that becomes a flood of poems that next year, and ultimately leads me to abandon any other plans--to teach, to continue Ph.D. studies, and just find some sort of day job and focus on the writing. Basically, I blame Eliot for everything. 


Weirdly or not, I am back in grad school again. After a several year gap wherein I landed at the library and started publishing in earnest, i decide to pursue my MFA. My poems are good, but a little overwrought. I feel like an oddling most of the time amongst my classmates.  People love my poems and then grown to kind of hate them, though I'm not sure there is any sort of change whatsoever.  By the next semester, I am stashing my acceptance letters into my notebooks to fortify myself against the carnage during workshops. I read for the first time by myself at Myopic Books to an audience of two people in the basement. That fall though, I start the Cornell project and spend a lot of time sneaking over to the Art Institute.  I've just started compiling the first version of what would eventually be the fever almanac and dancing girl press is a glimmer at the back of my mind that's getting a little brighter.


These are years where the writing is hard to come by.  I spend a lot of time working on shop offerings--jewelry, paper goods, flasks--also reselling vintage finds--to cover the studio rent that isn't paid for in book revenue.  I do write a poem occasionally, but mostly I make collages.  Romantically, I am chasing someone I will be chasing for years, but sometimes he chases me. I have two demon ginger kittens in the house, who do things like break things and TP the living room. My second book, in the bird museum, debuts that fall with a reading at Quimby's right before Thanksgiving.  It will be another five years before book #3, but I try not to panic at how little desire I have to write. How when I run into MFA cohorts, I get nervous when they ask how the writing is going.  It's not at that point, and I begin to wonder if it ever will.


By that summer, of course, ye of little faith, the writing has returned and the year is thick with projects, with upcoming books and things underway.  I spend some time  with my parents up at my cousin's in northern Wisconsin in August, the sort of pine addled, desolate, wandering bear country, but also dotted with tiny town famous for their antique stores.  I come away with a stash of old postcards and a vintage Brownie camera I'd never find in the city. the shared properties of water and stars is released and gets a flurry of reviews. I get another kitten, this time the tiny grey Zelda, procured after I lose an older cat in the spring.  We spend the fall with her running back and forth across me on the couch while I huddle under a blanket and watch endless episodes of Pretty Little Liars.  


Much of 2018 was a flurry of distraction and writing after I lose my mother at the end of the previous year.  By August, I had been writing daily for months, so there was just a lot going on--Slender Man research, exquisite damage, the strangerie pieces and collages. Our library programming is devoted to women in horror movies, so my head is there much of the semester. My posts on the blog are frequent and range from writing discussions to outfit obsessions.  Despite being a little sad and rudderless, it's a good year for a number of things. I was reading a lot and thinking a lot, and so many projects came to fruition, including preparing the final version of sex & violence for Black Lawrence late in the year and writing the bulk of both feed and dark country.


Today, I discover we are, after some hesitation on hours and services, throttling full force into the fall semester. (Albeit it in a careful and socially distant way.)  Chicago seems to be holding in the Covid madness, but who knows what will happen as schools start back up. In the morning, I plot the newest manuscript, collapsologies,  and make plans for when I finish it--something a little different--probably by the end October likely at this rate. The book projects are starting to pile up alarming since I am not quite sure what to do with them--three finished, one almost so, another halfway there, and only one actually out in submission (animal vegetable, monster).  It's giving me a chance to pause and re-evaluate what I want to do with my publishing life--my writing biz life (in a good way).   At the library, a friend (inspired by this) gifts me a monkey paw she sculpted and placed carefully in a bell jar to ward off (or perhaps invite) evil this semester. When I get home order pizza and watch the new Creepshow to celebrate surviving another week in the madness without completely losing my mind--a feat mostly due to napping when I get stressed and for which my comfy new bedding it well suited. The country, the world, is still a bit of a dumpster fire, but I do find myself hoarding new fall wardrobe pieces and looking at the Dem convention with a little something like hope.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

blogoversary #15

It occurred to me the other night, as I was wrapping up my last post, that somehow in March (becuase you know, apocalypse) I forgot to celebrate this little blog's 15th birthday.  She's a teenager now, and I feel better the past couple years for not neglecting her quite so much as previous years  Her earlier sibling, a Xanga (a sort of low budget Live Journal, was her predecessor, where from 2002-2005, I began my online journaling exploits completely new to the interneting game, it being at least another year before I dipped my toe in MySpace and several more years until I joined facebook.   The posts on Xanga, which only exist somewhere in some files in my dropbox rescued from the platform before it shut down, are mostly filled with personal diary-like posts and maybe occasional drafts.    I met a lot of poets I would get to know in the blog world later there first, but my 2005 or so, blogger was the place to be, so I picked up my tent stakes, pitched them here, and have been here ever since.  

Of course, facebook came along and most poets who had blogs moved onto shorter form content, but some of us stayed, even though it wasn't always clear that anyone was reading (I get a decent amount of hits in my analytics, but hard to know how many are readers and how many are bots.)  Over the years, the subject matter changed a bit, ranging from MFA and po-biz rants in the aughts to more thrifting and style related content when running the etsy shop.  I still did a fair bit of diary writing, but posts now feel more coherent and less rambly than a decade ago.  I post less drafts, but do talk about process a bit more on individual projects. When I began in 2005, I was just beginning to make forays in visual mediums, so those develop over the years. The press, when we only released a handful of books per year to a more regular schedule of titles. While much of the newsier bits and random linkage have moved to facebook or twitter, I still like the long form and the stillness and depth of blogging. 

So here's to another 15 years of content, whatever that looks like...

Saturday, August 15, 2020

rejection junction, what's your function?

Typically, my Saturday mornings start out with breakfast.  Since I've gone back to the library and my morning routine is a bit more rushed, I've saved the more elaborate breakfasts for the weekend--bacon and an omelette, or maybe french toast. Coffee of course, and hot when I have a little more time to make it in the french press. I was a little spoiled during quarantine I to sleep to my leisure,  make breakfast, then start working. It would have been lovely if not for the constant anxiety and doomscrolling.  Nevertheless, I now save my more leisured starts for the days I have off, and Saturdays are always writing days. 

Well maybe that's a misnomer.  I've been trying to write daily--and while every day may not happen--I'm about 4/7. Which is as good and productive as I need to be, especially since the poems tend to pile up regardless. Saturdays are more for fine tuning and revising, pulling projects or manuscripts together. Checking statuses on submissions and sending more stuff out. For planning out promo for books and making weird little poem videos.  Today, I'll be printing up the poets zodiac later on and getting the first copies assembled. Maybe "writing business" day is a better description. 

As I was perusing my submissions, another no  from a journal in my email, I puzzled over my recent rejection streak.  I've long ago gotten used to rejection, the fate of being a writer being that you will get rejected more than you will be accepted. I myself send out endless rejections as an editor.  Mostly, they may not be a commentary on the work itself at all--more whether or not I really liked it enough to move to the top of the pile, to stand out as desirable in a sea of other poems.  I would say 70-80 percent of what I get is publishable.  It comes down to whether it shines above the others whether I choose it for the upcoming year.  Which is of course, completely subjective and outside of work that is just unapologetically bad, is completely subject to editorial whim.  

My puzzlement was less that I was rejected, of course,  but more that it caused me to question whether or not my appraisal of my own work is entirely accurate. If you asked me any given day, I would tell you that the stuff I've written in the past two years is the strongest I've every written--both thematic-wise and technical proficiency-wise.  I am better at yielding image and sound than I ever was. When I compare them to past work, they are so shiny, but what I don't know, and what rejection causes me to question, is whether they actually ARE, or whether I just think so because they are the newest apples fallen from the tree. These particular poems, from "extinction event," are particular points of pride..not all of them were genius, or even necessary, but after a culling, what is there is very strong. . 

And it may be entirely that people are tired of armageddon poems in this armageddonish world. But it was similar with "swallow" which I think is one of the best things I've written, but barely even a nibble. There were years where I was writing rather okay-ish poems and they were snatched up immediately.  But then again, I can't remember if I thought those poems were especially shiny at the time.  Journals always encourage writers to send their best work, but I think I usually wind up carving longer series into submission batches sort of randomly, so there might be a couple really sexy poems, and a couple that just follow along, but are necessary for the whole of the project.  What's even weirder is when those wallflower poems get picked up leaving the sexy ones behind.  This happens often, which then causes me to question whether i really know what's good at all in my own work. 

And maybe we ARE poor judges. I've written many a bad poem that made me cringe later. I like to think I moved out of that in my 30's and beyond, but it still occasionally happens.  The difference now, I suppose, is that the rotten apples are easier to spot and chuck from the basket before anyone sees them. 


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

notes & things | 8/12/20

I've gotten to the point I think where the news is so horrifying that new terrible things barely phase me. This weekend, mad amounts of looting in the Loop & Mag Mile that left windows smashed and closed up downtown.  A crazy storm that apparently spawned a tornado (or at least a funnel cloud/water spout) a few blocks north in Roger's Park. I am waiting for plagues of frogs and locusts and would not be the least surprised to find them in my headlines tomorrow morning.

As for the looting. I'm less concerned about plundering of bougie high end merchandise than the general level of chaos and the way things like this are used to put down Chicago as this crazy crime-addled shithole (which it in no way is, even the rougher more dangerous, under-resourced parts of the city.) Gangs & drug trade are a problem,  but I feel safer in Chicago when it comes to random crimes, like someone mugging you in the Walmart parking lot or breaking into your house.  Also that people are looking out for each other, ie wearing masks and conducting themselves appropriately in public, which may be the result of being such a tightly constructed community.  When the quarantine hit, one of the first things that happened was someone organized a mailing list/discussion board in my apartment building to keep people informed, publicize rent assistance, help elderly people get what they needed.  There are neighbors I've lived amongst for two decades and never spoken to.  Also an endless train of Loyola-ans who stay for 1-2 years and bounce. Some families in the bigger units.  The key to living close enough to people to hear them through the wall is to not really know them (as apposed to the burbs where I would feel like people would be up in my business. )   The woman across the hall has lived here as long as I have.  We smile and nod and sat hello on our rare encounters. I feel like there is a general feeling we are in this together, but separately in our own little introvert bubbles and this is good. The couple neighbors I have talked to are the more extroverted ones I've encountered frequently on the bus, but they all live higher in the building. 

As for the storm, I figured I was safe enough herding the cats into the bedroom with the option to dive into my closet, the most interior space, if things got crazy.  I'm on a lower floor in he L-shaped crook of a solid brick building the back of which took all the wind, so on the rare occasions of storms like this, feel pretty safe. .Usually, I've been in the library or the studio when storms like this hit and the most terrifying years ago found me in the with giant 9th Floor windows that were shaking in their frames and no way to easily get downstairs. I would have to choose between the elevator or stairwells with giant skylights--yikes!  I wound up hiding in the bathroom across the hall, whose windows were at least sheltered by the courtyard..  It did get really dark and the wind was giving quite a lashing to the one tree I can see from that window, and it was raining sideways at one point, paper and trash flying through the air, but nothing alarmingly large or heavy.   I though maybe I felt my ears pop, and this may have been evidence of the suspected funnel a few blocks away.   Today, so many trees and limbs down in the cross streets and in the park along LSD. I think it might have messed up construction sites and knocked out some power, but the trees took the brunt of it. 

Despite the turmoil, both civil and natural,  today, the good announcement that Biden chose Harris as his running mate, which actually makes the ticket more appealing (not like I wouldn't vote for a trashcan to replace the current administration, but it's good to be excited about who you're voting for.) I think she might be centrist enough to possibly one day be the first woman president, and I would be behind this in a second.Also, an exacting, presidential polish (and an ability to eat Pence alive in the debates, which I am going to love.)

As for me, most of my time this weekend has been working on dgp titles and shipping copies to get ready for some new releases. Also napping.  Also writing (the tabloid poems are proving to be glorious fun.) Also planning for more poem videos and putting finishing touches on the galleys for the poets zodiac. Also planning ARTIVISM 2020 exhibits & programming in a weird space where we're not quite sure what will be happening on campus. Much is afoot, but I do feel that while the spring broke me a little, was breaking me, even before quarantine, but what has come back is more tenable and intentional.  Maybe rebuilt more carefully with awareness of limits and boundaries, or at least I hope so.



Sunday, August 09, 2020

video killed the poetry star

My experiments with video poems continue.  I'm liking, in this era of no public readings, the opportunity to record audio of some of the poems (though I am still struggling to get decent quality recordings.)  I am also loving the ones that are text-based and over music. I think often about the ways art is changing in the era of social distancing, and while poetry can obv. be enjoyed alone in your house, much of the experience of poetry was sometimes readings and performances (even though, in all the crazy of the past year, I only did like one actual reading.)  Since I didn't get to do an actual release party for SEX & VIOLENCE, I instead made five different book trailer-ish video poems that turned out nicely, one from almost every section of the book, as well as aligned with the cover design and general tone of the book.

I think "what's inside a girl? is my favorite of these for it's nod to the slasher movies in the /slash/ section, and it's horror movie music. It's almost like a trailer to a movie that doesn't exist.  The "how to tell a love story in a time of war" have a more turn-of-the century feel, the clips culled from a 1923 nature video about bees and spiders.  "the honey machine" video pulls from some weird public domain family film footage of a taxidermy collection. "dirty blonde' is old shampoo videos and an infectious song. The process takes a while, sometimes an entire afternoon of preparing still slides, collection images, splicing films, and waiting for things to upload. (toward the end of the month I have terrible internet since I use my phone as a hotspot and run low on high-speed data.)  Then there is getting things to match timing-wise with the music or recorded reading. Friday, I made a video to promote the library and ended up working from around 6pm til 3am. It's not easy, but I really love the results.  And again, it keeps me from doomscrolling the news for awhile. 

And of course, there is something of collage about it.  I find myself randomly scrolling through public domain offerings and saving bits for later videos, much in the way I tear and cut paper things for collages. Or even saving bits on my computer for digital manipulations for art or covers.  Different mediums, but the same impulse. I also appreciate weird matchups--the strip-tease in "what's inside a girl?" combined with the creepy still photos and music. Plath's re-worked cento lines and the dizzying taxidermy footage. Looking toward fall, I have a couple video-centric projects plotted, including a series of videos for the "swallow" poems--almost a digital chapbook but with videos instead of still-art.  I'm excited to get to work on this, plus maybe some smaller projects that go with other things ( I recorded the above  audio bit for the summer house last weekend that accompanies it on the website.)I love that this is a new tool in my arsenal and am curious what will come of it. And perhaps, if I can master After Effects, those animated poems are just a little bit closer..)

Saturday, August 08, 2020

dancing girl press notes | august 2020

The pandemic has this way of both stretching time so that it passes really slow, but also, like a snapping rubber band across a room, really fast.  We are entering mid-August territory, which means the end of summer is upon us.  Normally, I would be relishing in back to school vibes, though the idea of "school" is this strange uncertain thing that feels the same, but is entirely different.   Soon, I will walk outside and find the one tree at the end of the block has dropped its leaves over night, almost embarassingly early. Already the light and weather is different. 

For the press, that means the open reading period will soon be ending and I'll no longer be dipping my toes in the pool for an occasional read, but diving in wholeheartedly.  I also feel like we are in a weird place, not necessarily just the pandemic, but the fate of the USPS, on which the press depends wholly (and which corrupt politicians seem to be trying to quell for their own nefarious purposes) . If things go sideways there in terms of shipping options for single copies, it may require revamping the entire business model and format of how we issue books (it could be done--digital chapbooks, which of course would be free, maybe giving authors the option of print volume in larger orders that could be fed exed.  Which would make the books more widely available and affordable (a plus of course, but also harder to keep us in toner & cardstock--we depend on single sales as much as author copies), but I still also believe too much in print to let it go entirely. Hopefully it won't come to that, but I'd like to have a bit more certainty before I take on books for next year so I know what to be able to promise authors on publication offers- business as usual with regular single copy distribution, or something more hybrid, more electronic, but still solidly in print. Losing USPS functionality would put a serious dent in publishing in general, so let's hope it doesn't come to that.  It would also make it much harder to ship artwork and prints cost effectively, or anything reallly..

Instead I choose to focus on the goodness in my inbox of potential manuscripts (which is a little harried, if I owe you an e-mail, I am wading through a morass.) There are still a sizeable batch of books to come for this year, a little bit behind schedule because of my pandemic brain and struggling to get orders for existing tites out after delays, but they are still coming this fall, hell or high water, when after November, the world will hopefully be a better, sounder place.]

Until September....

Friday, August 07, 2020

friction | image & text in the summer house


A while back, I was charged with the task of designing a cover for Naomi Washer's very awesome Phantoms for the press, and what evolved was not just one image, but several related in a short series of digital collages. Once I had the images, I felt like they needed a written component to accompany them.  So what started as the act of translating text to image in the form of designing the, then became translating that back into my own writing. While the poems in the series weren't necessarily related to the original writing that inspired the cover, there was a similar feel and texture to them that hinged on the visual manifestations.  The entire project was titled the summer house, which, like the longer manuscript FEED it is a part of, deals with mothering from a variety of perspectives, in this case, the changeling child and the isolation of the motherhood in the summer house, or maybe the isolation of motherhood in general. 

"Who can be a good mother amidst all this hum, the summer house thick with hives. 

The lives you've given up to get there."

What evolved was a tight little bit of a ghost story of the best kind.  While I have on occasion wrote the text portion of things after the images were finished (and vice versa), more often lately they tend to evolve in tandem.  In this case, the images were done and sat for a minute before I began translating things back into text, and therefore, I had some time to think about the story I wanted to tell and how to tell it. It is also kind of short for my usual length on series, mostly since the collages themselves are smaller in number. While I've often had book designs wind up being the impetus for longer series (radio ocularia sprung from the design for Lisa Cole's tinder // heart), and in some cases incorporated (my design for Kathy Goodkin's Sleep Paralysis was incorporated into taurus, the design for MK Brake's The Taxidermist's Girl was pulled into /SLASH/, which was then the model for another variation on my cover of SEX & VIOLENCE.)  And of course, I've oft used my own images in cover designs after the fact I am notorious for using ghost landscapes ate at least 5 of them.)

In some ways, it's simply killing two birds with one stone, but in many ways, one feeds the other, the design and the writing.  Because so much of the imagery in the collages is victorian, the text of course has this feel, though it's actually set in the present. They form bookends of sort in FEED with plump, which is similarly filled with bees and the supernatural, in that case witches (particularly the one that kidnaps Hansel & Gretel), but which are also mentioned more generally in the summer house. As a whole, the longer book is about mothers and the body, but also about the creep of the natural and the supernatural into the kitchen and the cradle, and this plays a big role here with the unruly baby made out of bees. 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

the summer house

check out this little  appropriately very end-of-summerish virtual chapbook of my series of poems and collages....enjoy!

"My mother was made of smoke, every Virginia slim catching her dress on fire while she waved from the dock mouthingI love you. Come back."

Stay tuned for post this week with a little more info on the creation and inspiration behind the series...

Saturday, August 01, 2020