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.

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