Thursday, December 31, 2020

the same auld lang syne

I am really not sure whether resolutions are for writing New Year's Eve or New Years Day, though perhaps it doesn't matter.  Later, I will put on my sparkly blue velvet snowflake dress, the one I bought two years ago, but have yet to wear to the parties I always turn down going to (because even at their best winters are hard.) Later, I will ring in midnight playing a new drinking card game with my sweetie, though for sure it would be much more fun in a group of people and one day hopefully soon it will be. Before he comes over, I will make some dinner and watch something fun.  Maybe take a long bath and organize my cardigan collection after tackling the top half of the built in earlier today. 

These are usually the way my pre-midnight NYE rituals go if I am in the city. (even before I always seemed to be dating men with jobs like bartenders and karaoke hosts who were stuck working til the wee hours) I've always said I would much rather be cozy at home than out at parties and crowded bars with a whole lot of amateurs, but this year feels different.  Like the lack of festivities isn't by introvert choice and more like something is being stolen, much as the whole year was. Suddenly I am pausing, mouse hovering over the gold shiny party dress that I would love to wear to some crowded party where the drinks are endless and the music way too loud to have a conversation. It would be too cold, slick with ice, climbing in an out of cabs and ubers. I would be mostly awkward all night, then much less awkward, but a little too drunk.  Then just sort of sleepy. I would hate it and long for home. Confirm uncategorically I should have stayed in.    But when it isn't an option--the sparkle and champagne-- I miss it. It makes no sense.  It makes all the sense in the world.

Yesterday, when I was writing my recap of the year, I scrolled back through other years just for fun and realize that while the bones of the year are here--commuting, work, my weekends at home--there is a lot less texture--outings, movies, short trips. This is why, I suspect the entire year feels like one really long day in which nothing all that exciting happened and in which we were just short of anxious all the time. March became May became July.  I celebrated a birthday in April and I suppose got another year older, but it doesn't feel like it counts,.

When I was a teenager, my parents would sometimes host game nights and card games for various family on my mom's side on NYE.  On the eve of the millennium, when I had moved back in while working at the elementary school,  we made a time capsule of all-things-2000.  About a decade later, at Christmas, we opened it, which I'm pretty sure is too short for a capsule, so it lost some impact, but it's strange to think we are now not one, but two decades away from the beginning of the century. I somehow blinked and this time passed,  and that was with a lot happening over the years. I can't imagine what a decade of 2020's would look like, all the same and all the fear, the stationaryness and stillness. NYE is a completely arbitrary marker of time, but it does put something to bed. 

Here's hoping for 2021.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

goodbye 2020, the year in review

There is some I could write about the pre-covid year, which was moving at a crazy pitch and reaching a definite breaking point of understaffing at work, but also included an unusually busy social calendar.  The last movie I saw in a theatre-- Parasite on a frigid Valentines Day.  The last dinner out --a brewery bar in Evanston that possibly gave J food poisoning in late February. In the week's before lockdown, I plucked the King Cake baby in the middle of a staff meeting and thought it boded well for my NEA application I'd completed that very morning (dear reader, it did not.) But there were zine workshops and art opening panels and hiring committees, and then basically a full-stop, heads down on desks. It took a week or so staring in horror at the news to recalibrate, and  I can't say I have completely.  While my inner introvert loved working from home and hanging out with the cats, the more I did it, the more I feared and dreaded the outside. Feared the world itself and all its bad decisions. To cope, I watched disaster movies, good and bad--apocalypse scenarios for every taste (zombies, aliens, meteors.) I saw no one but my boyfriend, an occasional outdoor drive-by from my bestie bearing things like birthday cake and booze, and made two visits to Rockford in late summer/early fall to see my dad & sister. Outside of a sparse, socially distanced group of co-workers, this has mostly been my entire social circle for months. Again, my inner introvert is down with this, but I do occasionally miss conversations over dinner and movie-going which are nice breaks from the usual solitude. 


It's probably a good thing I went back to work in July, and though cautious, being in the world helped manage my fear and anxiety a little (and with things in the library slower and part of the staffing problems remedied, the workday was better than we left it). There wasn't really time for freaking out and the usual structures and routines returned.  There were reserves to be processed and ILL materials sent out, but everything slower and less hectic. Though I was probably in more danger commuting and moving about in the world, it felt less like I was. Or the fear was more manageable.  Library project-wise, while not the banging year I'd hoped,  but I was getting pretty decent at transitioning exhibits and programming for the library into a virtual endeavor and experimenting with online formats. I wrote an article about it in the spring and it all bodes well for future programs, even once we're back to normal. There was a also an ILA poster session and a profile at LIBRAS to round out the professional year. But also tinged by fears of academia free-fall during covid and what that means for the people who work there, especially when we were off-site and less indespensible. 

press & studio things

I spent a good portion of summer and into fall playing catch up on orders for some titles that had been languishing since the studio move and subsequent chaos.  I started the year woefully behind on shipping and with too many new releases to navigate well, so have been whittling away at the backlog the past few months and decreasing the shipping times on newer books (and in fact, slowed new releases completely, which I will be struggling to catch up early this year for the stragglers, but at least order processing times will be better, when they are out, which is something.)  It's harder though, in a year where my concentration is everywhere. my moods unstable,  to fixate on the things I used to thrive, to perform the detail work like layouts and cover designs so I am going a bit slower in these things than I used to. Sometimes, I lose my commitment to sparkle motion. Sometimes, I wonder if it's worth it, but then remember how important the independent press is, let alone a feminist series, and I feel like it's necessary to keep going.  To remember that quote about knowing when to rest, and that resting is not quitting. This year, has been a lot of rest, but next year, I am coming for you. Many of my abandoned goals had to do with shop offerings and other fun little paper things and zines, so these are on the docket for 2021 as well. 

creative work

Despite some very particular things I haven't been able to do--to read fiction or concentrate on visual art things or detail work, I was eventually able to write, and this may be what has saved my brain endless doomscrolling and unravelling.  Despite my carefully laid out sketchbook/planner, the only goals I actually managed to hit have to do with that endeavor.  And it's pretty much the only thing that keeps 2020 from being an entire wash, at least in things that matter the most .  While spring was slow, summer and early fall was very productive, and I managed to rough draft a new book project in under a year (collapsologies). I also compiled & submitted another manuscript in early summer (animal, vegetable, monster) and got another one print-ready (and soon to be available)  this fall on my own (feed).  There are other things in the hopper still, including two other partial manuscripts I'd like to finish in 2021. 

And of course, sex & violence was launched by Black Lawrence in June, and actually seemed to be selling pretty well. It spurred me to create my first book trailer and video poems, which have been a huge enjoyable thing when everything else seems dreary.  Late summer and fall brought many small projects, e-zines and sometimes paper zines for the summer house, eleanor and the tiny machines, the poet's zodiac, exquisite damage, licorice, laudaunum, bloom, and overlook.  Also re-issues of paper things digitally like necessary violence and dreams about houses and bees.

I didn't have any submission goals proper, but I did have occasional bursts of activity, and managed to land some pieces from new projects in some journals--Pedestal, The Account, Tupelo Quarterly, Jet Fuel Review, Rogue Agent, and Stirring. (and one forthcoming soon in Pretty Owl Poetry.) In addition, I started my Paper Boat newsletter, set up my Patreon, and navigated the territory of how to actually make money as an artist but also make considerable content available for free (I'll let you know when I figure this out.) Also formed some shifting opinions on what matters and doesn't matter when it comes to writing and art. What I want, and how to take steps to get it. 

While it feels like a year that was not really a real year--no real summer, no real holidays. Also terribly long, but also somehow breakneck quick, like rubber band that pulls and snaps. At the same time interminable and vanishing as fast as it appears.  So here's to 2021, may you be better all around, even if it takes a while to get there. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

conspiracy theory and the poetic imagination

I intended to take a writing break this week after finishing the redrafting of unusual creatures, largely since I didn't have a clue which of the tiny seeds for projects I wanted to nurture after the new year.  I also intended to spend this week laying low and working slowly on press stuff and not pushing myself to draft poems daily between the two holidays, that weird, time-free zone where you never know what day it is. (but then again, many could say that of 2020 entirely.) Also to take some stock in terms of goals and intentions and what went right this year and what was like beating one's head against the wall. And really, what were goals and intentions worth in upheaval and uncertainty anyway?

In my sketchbook are lists for potential projects or things I want to investigate further in terms of subject matter, format, structures. There are projects that have stalled out for years--the Blue Swallow poems, for example.  Last year's nbsp project I mean to get back to eventually.  And I suppose I will, eventually, though some things I am better at getting to, particularly if it catches my attention with a little bit more sparkle.  Earlier this week, I was scrolling and my attention was caught by a discussion in someone else's thread.  I don't even know what prompted it, but someone they new used the opportunity to engage in a long, strange laying out of a pattern that tied the Nashville bombing to voting machines and all sorts of other weird coincidences and connections.

Suddenly I was obsessed with the syntax and rhythm of conspiracy theorists, their longing to impose patterns on chaos and randomness. almost Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-like logic. What if you were to impose those patterns and logic twists on the everyday? Because isn't that what poetry does, anyway?  Imposes rhythms and patterns in language? Tries to organize chaos? To find meaning where there is little meaning by making connections? Anyway, I little seed started to sprout and that's what I've been working at this week and we'll see where it goes. 

Otherwise, since I sleep late with no alarm the past two weeks, my daylight hours are much shorter, only a few scant hours of sun which I notice less when I'm working in the library, where with no windows in my immediate workspace, and  scarce know if it's day or night. All spring into summer, locked down at home, I played a game where I resisted turning on lights in the apartment until it was too dark to see.  Now that is around 4:30, but in June, it was after 8 pm most days.   Yesterday seemed brighter and I woke ti unusual washes of light across my living room.  Across the dining table workspace where the cats were enjoyably lolling in it on their backs and sides.  Today, there is apparently a snow storm brewing. Mostly I just keep telling myself that even if the world only gets marginally better, spring will still come and the days will get longer and whatever is happening in the world will be happening, but at least there will be sun. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

writing through

A couple decades ago had you brought up the idea if writing being a therapeutic medium, I may have scoffed and rolled my eyes. Perhaps even a decade ago, the same reaction.  After all, weren't we writing ART (tm) and not journal entries.  Weren't we striving for the universal, bot the personal? There is of course, lots of bad autobiographical writing coming out of writers the world over in the name of self-help and repair. But then again, when we think of great art, how much of it is a purging of sorts--whatever that looks like?  Confessionalism, or Anais Nins journals, Woolf's diaries. Whether explicitly autobiographical or not, isn't there some value for the writer in the act of writing, even if the subject matter is far removed from experience?

Despite my scoffing, writing has always been a way of thinking for me.  I am grappling with something, I write it down (first in notebooks in my teens and twenties, later in blog entries such as these. This covers everything from craft and po-biz discussions, and random other things, personal and not personal. I always think that the writing, whatever the form, whatever the medium or audience, is a large part of what centers me when things begin to tilt.  Writing was enormously helpful in pulling me out  the worst depression in my early twenties (it wasn't at all what I was writing, just that I was), What helped me through relationships, navigating both good and bad, whatever I was actually writing about at the time. Also, what helped me in the months after my mother's death. Actually, even in the days after she died--I was tasked to write something for the funeral, during the drafting of which was the first time I actually cried after being frozen and panicked for two days.  Somewhere the draft of it is saved on my studio laptop, but I've never revisited it, but know that it's there. Almost as if the sadness needed words to make it real. 

This year, it took a minute to get the tap going again, but writing, again whatever that may be, has kept me sane and given me rudder to the ship that threatens to go down more than I like.  Obviously, this shows up in the writing as echos and threads of what is happening in my mental state--how they bend even other subject matters into meditations on my concerns (The Shining poems did not initially start off as critiques of capitalism, but there you go.) There are moments where another series, another fragment, digs into some emotional deepness in me and catches and those are also a kind of purging, a dark wriggling bit of yuck dragged out into the light. 

I like those moments best.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

poems as snapshot and document

Sometimes the more personally rooted in experience a project is, the more it serves as a snapshot into my own history, which doesn't always become apparent until later.  The first book, out of all of them, that felt more personal was major characters in minor films--a book, which up to that point, had the most "me."  I was,  of course ,present in bits of other projects in bits-particularly the fever almanac and in the bird museum, but less so in others (the shared properties of water and stars, which was steeped in fairytale, or girl show, which was set in another time period and world entirely.) Subsequent projects were a mix--the mermaid poems of salvage, or the love poems in sex & violence, which were wrapped tighter in my own experience than other parts of the book. Looking at all these things now, they provide almost a time capsule of the time of their writing--the relationships (good and bad) that generated them and which they are about.  The other life circumstances that form them.  Even the poems that are not about my own experiences are, at the least, littered with truths and untruths, with obsessions and observations. While something like the apocalypse book seems to be it's own world, the existence of the projects that make it up form a framework of how i was feeling about the world, just as much as anything autobiographical does.

Perhaps I've been thinking about this in regard to feed, since a huge percentage of the book is autobiography--particularly swallow and the hunger palace,.  Even the imaginary daughter poems, surreal as they are, feel very close to a certain internal dreamlike landscape they stem from. If you were a stranger who wanted to get to know me, I might suggest you read this. My sister once told me that the most true thing I'd written--the closest to my own personality--was the james franco series, but I feel like the imaginary daughter poems are a close second. I've also been thinking a lot about the idea of documentation as an artist, especially in these strange, turbulent, historical times.  How what we write, if we're lucky (or sometimes unlucky) becomes part of a certain cultural fabric.

When I started bloom in the spring, I was in that stalled out period of writing.  I had managed to muddle through The Shining inspired poems, and actually liked what I was getting by the end, but I suppose, like everyone, I felt I needed to also be writing about what was happening in the world--about anxiety and fear and upheaval.  Mind you, I've no doubt we are still there..I finished that series of poems in late summer, after I had gone back to work and the world felt more stable.  In the time since, we've fallen to more darkness and uncertainty and it looks like we live there now. Another series of poems, still in the revision phase, the plague letters, is a little less about corona specifically and more generally about society and connectedness, but I don't know if I really have any more corona-inspired poems in me. I feel like bloom captures the moment, or at least that moment in a nutshell...a time when we were still feeling out quarantine in the spring and what a disease that severs the human connection as we know it, could mean. Also, how nature just goes on without us, while simultaneously undoing us. You can read read the entire project here.

Monday, December 21, 2020

notes on process

Sometimes, I think there are two kinds of poets. Or that poets can be one of two kinds of writers. I used to be one and not so much of the other. Now, I am the other, though not quite so rigid..  Some poets will swear that one must wait to moved to write, to be inspired. I always watched these poets with a certain amount of curiosity, wondering if, and when the muse struck, how was it to be forced to stop, to sit down, to pay attention, since attention seems to be the hardest part. Room for the sort of attention one must pay.  And yet some poets work this way, sometimes producing the most interesting work.  I am not that poet. 

No, even before, most of my time in inspiration time was collecting.  I would go about my daily routine,riding the bus downtown, eating lunch, shuffling books around the library, but always scribbling notes and ideas--on paper, on catalog cards, in notebooks, and the backs of work forms. Eventually I would sit down and write five poems in a sitting, culling and building from the notes.  There might be days between sessions, several might happen in a week and then nothing for months. And I was reasonably productive, though sometimes life could easily get in the way and I'd lose the better part of a year to no-writing. I'd remind myself that even the note-taking, the research, the dreaming was "writing" in some ways, which kept me from feeling like a fraud.  Or that the work of writing also included the business of "being a poet"--writing blogs, social media, submitting, compiling grants, applying for things. 

All this too, was important, as well as the stillness of just observing and being present, though I felt more accomplished when the words were making it to the page and not just floating in the clouds above my head. I would dally on projects for years and then finish them in a weekend.  I would have long lists of things I wanted to write about, but was forever waiting for the door into them.  When it opened, I would politely step through, but never before. I would never rush it, or jump in before I felt ready, or "inspired" and while I wrote some books this way and got better as a poet, it was slower and more prone to fits and starts.

Around the beginning of 2018, I decided I was going to do NaPoWriMo, something which I had tried in previous years, but usually made it half way in and bottomed out.  I don't know what was different in 2018 that made me succeed.  Perhaps it when I was writing (at the top of my day instead of the end of it. ) Or that I had a good list of projects to plow through.  Or that I was spurred by a feeling of mortality after my mother's death that I would never write as much as I had words in me. Or maybe all of the above.   Whatever it was, I finished 30 poems/30 days and kept on going, through the summer and into fall.  Into winter, where I slowed a bit around the new year, but persisted, if not every day, then at least 3-4 days a week. Until I moved out, I would write over breakfast in the studio.  In summer,  I was at the library earlier in the day, I would draft a quick poem while drinking my coffee and before opening my e-mail and starting the day. At home, I wrote while I waited for the kettle to boil and then longer if needed.   Sometimes it took a half hour, sometimes I had a draft in 10 minutes.  On Saturdays, at home, I would regreoup and revise and see if I had something I could use. And most of the time I did. 

And while never what I would call "easy," writing did become easier.  Maybe not easier, but easier to show up to, which was sometimes half the battle in the early years.  And I got better..I think one has to, just by doing it more--like playing tennis or chess. Even if I only showed up a few times a week, I was still there and present in my writing life, which felt good and right and less like I was wasting time by not being engaged or working, whether or not it was producing anything that would become a poem or book.  Mostly the bad poems are like a missed shot or a thrown match, but there is something to be gained there, even if it were only harvested for parts. 

I still made notes, but instead of carrying them for months folded and refolded in a notebook, I turned them into poems immediately and threw out the endless scraps of paper. What I didn't use immediately, I would secure for later in my sketchbook.  Around the time the pandemic started, I wrote "collapsology" in the front of my sketchbook on a post-it, the study of how buildings fall, and this later became the title for the new manuscript as collapsologies, most of which was written during and shortly after quarantine Every time I switch sketchbooks, I move whatever is lingering into the new one, along with lists of ideas and things I might want to write about but don't yet know how to make it happen. 

As I finish my revisions on unusual creatures, I find myself in the strange free-fall of not knowing what is next and it's exciting but also a little scary. It's there somewhere, I just need to show up and find it.

longest night

There is usually a slight uptick in my mood on the winter solstice, since no matter what sort of horrible wintery weather follows in the next two months, the span of daylight persist in getting longer and pushes us toward summer. Today, I woke up to some sun, the low but bright kind that seems to already, at 2 in the afternoon, be vanishing to clouds.  Small worries and big worries all troubling me that have nothing to do with darkness or winter, but the world in general and the people around me, troubling news from the UK, half a government who decried the virus as a hoax, but line up before anyone to get the vaccine. I have a hard time finding more good in the world than bad, but surely it has to be there behind the headlines and doomscrolling.

I've been tucked away the past few days quarantining as much as possible before I visit my dad for the holidays. Outside of extended family celebrations that are postponed this year, and usually happen around and not necessarily on the holiday itself, we will have our usual small celebration this year with my sister & co. It's strange, but the smaller the gathering the better the past few years. Holidays are weird.  My mother is obviously a missing piece of these configurations, but the hole seems larger the larger the gathering if that makes sense. Or maybe the feeling that you have to put on a more public face is what is more distressing. I think when it's just the 3-4 of us, my mother's presence feels like it's still there, more like she just stepped out of the room but will be back in a second.  Larger gatherings, her absence is more pronounced. I find myself telling people I don't like the holidays now, that they're just too sad, but it's not really that either, and the feeling is there at other types of gatherings, not just ones laden with family traditions. Or maybe it's just I'm low-key sad all the time and it notches up at the holidays. I don't know. 

Earlier last week I was thinking about the concept of Santa and how strange the idea is that a fat man in a suit visits your house (and how creepy) , but also how heartbroken finding out he wasn't real.  I was probably around 9 when I cornered my mother in the bathroom after school one day and demanded the truth. First, she asked me what I wanted to believe.  I think there were tears on my part, and finally, she conceded that yes, he didn't exist. I think she thought I was crying over presents, and was quick to assure me I would always get Santa gifts (which I did and kinda still do via my dad.) But I'm pretty sure I was crying, becuase if you take Santa out of the world, other things go with--not just the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy (also creepy AF) but also fairies and magic and maybe even God himself. Maybe all we need is magic, or even just the illusion of magic. 

So I am hoping for a little magic, which is all we can ask for, here on the darkest, longest night...

Sunday, December 20, 2020

creativity and pandemic bain

It occurred to me earlier this week that I have not,  outside of a slew of dgp manuscripts this fall, been able to read a book in about a year (give or take a month ) Submissions are easier, since chapbooks are short and poetry uses a different kind of brain for me, but even that experience was more like looking for the kind of work I like to publish normally and less about immersing myself fully in the book, as one does with fiction, which is what I've been lacking the past 10 months or so. What I've been missing is that immersion in fiction I usually crave, but it takes a certain kind of headspace that the pandemic seems to have stolen (the ultimate irony is that with extra home time and everything closed you'd think it'd be the perfect time for tucking in with a book, but most nights I am much more interested in doomscrolling on my phone until I fall asleep.)  Besides,  am far too anxious and alert on public trans, where most of my novel reading gets done to read at all.  it's a strange absence for me, and one it might have taken a couple months to notice. I thought it would come back in late summer when I went back to commuting, but it apparently did not. 

Visual art is similar, though it's less about immersion and maybe more about creative impulses.  I've been thinking about the ways in which my writing brain differs from my visual brain and the key may be a certain creative flow that crisis mind doesn't allow to happen.  Outside of a few watercolors and some things for my Patreon, and maybe the video poems, I've been much less inclined to pull out the markers or collage goods or even work digitally, which applies to cover designs and graphics for the library in addition to my own pursuits. This weekend, I did some postcard sized landscape paintings for my subscribers and it felt good, but it was like pulling teeth to actually get me in the right headspace. I do have a couple ideas for projects that have sprung up in the past couple of weeks, so maybe this is changing.  Maybe I need to just put the pedal to the metal and make it happen.

Back in the spring, writing, too, felt this way, but 2020 actually wound up being reasonably productive in that arena. My writing process always feel more like creating pieces of a puzzle in small bursts that add up to a whole, and it's easy, once I have the overall vision, to create those pieces. Launching a new series is always hard, which is why it helps to have several things going at one time.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm set to mostly finish up the unusual creatures revisions by the New Year, so will be moving onto something entirely new (there are a couple options, but I'll see which one is speaking to me more in January.)  Writing sometimes feels like running laps, so digging into the routine is what gets things done, and each new lap is easier. (I say this as a person who hates to run, so maybe that's a bad analogy.)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

notes & things | 12/17/2020

The blog post I started yesterday was an anger-fueled rant about people not doing their part to stall the virus and contained a few, unbridled strings of expletives, but no one wants to read that, least of all you, dear reader, so I tucked it carefully away in my drafts folder until I am in a better mind set (maybe by 2023 or so). I'm thinking that now that I have settled in at home for a few days before the break starts officially next week less of my mental energies are focused on not, you know, getting covid, so now they've spiralled into white hot rage.  I am angry at Americans.  At sociopaths who refuse masks.  At people too inconvenienced by the pandemic to be careful and thus put others at risk. Even, the the otherwise good-intentioned folks who have blind spots when it comes to close friends and family gatherings.  It's exhausting and I'm exhausted by that anger. And now, in absence of immediate danger, I have time a bit more to think about it.

Still, ever the optimist, I ordered my new spiral sketchbook for 2021, though last year's carefully laid out and tabbed version was less serviceable and more like mocking throughout the course of the year, with it's tiny project lists, neat grids of post-its,  and monthly goals laid out neatly in black ink.  I carried a slimmed down version with my weekly post-it to-dos once I was back at work but sort of stopped looking at the sketchbook entirely mid-year or planning in any holistic way for the remaining months. The new sketchbook arrived yesterday, but I'm not ready to set it up for 2021 just yet, so maybe just after the new year when the taint of this one begins wearing off.  

I have some library and dgp details to attend to before I am truly on vacation starting Weds.  as well as mailing out this months Patreon goodies and drafting the December Paper Boat. The galley hard copy of FEED will be arriving right after Christmas so there is that to make any final changes on before I release it into the world, so it will be nice to hold it in my hands as a tangible thing after all this time. 

I went to run a couple errands yesterday in the neighborhood and was amazed that the street poles had been bedecked in large red ribbons and tinsel, mostly since I inexplicalbly at moments forget its Christmas entirely somehow, though I am trying to enjoy the season. Christmas gifts have been ordered and shipped to their desired locations, and I'll wrap most of them when I get there.  I will be headed to Rockford for a few days over the holiday proper to see my dad & sister, but otherwise not much is on the docket.  I've accepted that this will be a sort of non-Christmas in the way summer was a non-summer and Halloween was a non-Halloween.  It does take some of the festiveness out of it nevertheless.   


Saturday, December 12, 2020

notes & things | 12/13/20

December seems like a slippery hill, but so far maybe less icy and just kind of muddy.  Thankfully, the snow that they promised overnight, kind of failed to show, or at least to stick.  The week was one that left me feeling a little live wire kind of exposed.  There is the usual trauma of news headlines, but I also witnessed (or more HEARD, then saw the aftermath) of a confusing hit & run crash at the bus stop intersection. It didn't make the news so I'm guessing no one died, but that good news is tempered by the thousands of people dying everyday.  I'm already really nervous about everything, so anything like that is only going to make it worse. December is always weird mental territory for me, and this year, amp that up about 400%.  

I am looking at a couple more days in the library this week, then some time at home.  I'm still trying to decide whether I want to work from home  (I'm quarantining as much as I can before I visit my dad for the holiday)  or just take vacation and am torn, since much of what I need to do offsite can wait til January no problem.  I will have to decide this week which it will be, but either way, I'll be settling in for a week or so before leaving the city for a few days for the first time since September. I am looking forward to getting back before NYE.  I will probably be spending it  at home much as I spent it last year, though that was more by choice than circumstance. I joke every few days about being sad I can't really buy dresses for parties I will talk myself out of going to anyways. 

My plans for that week off include a few household things like organizing my linen closet and my art supplies, all of which I should have done during the quarantine earlier this year but did not. Also making a whole shit load of new chaps that are getting close to being finalized after months of being in limbo.  Normally, I'd be dying for a chance to stay at home, but this year, I feel like I'm getting what I yearned for for the past 20 years, more time at home and less commuting and working, but I just wish it were under better circumstances.  I'll also be plotting new writing projects, since I am, once I've wound up the saga that is unusual creatures, looking to pen something new.  Plus launching feed and making some more swallow series videos before the year is up.

2020 feels like a year that was lost, but actually quite a bit happened within it, but it's hard to put a finger on it without the usual markers and routines.  While all my carefully laid out goals in my shiny new sketchbook then didn't all quite happen, I'll be plotting out new ones over the next few weeks and hoping 2021 brings better things for all of us. 



It's looking like this lovely will be available by the end of the month and in the shop with some fun little paper extras to go along with it....stay tuned...

Monday, December 07, 2020



If you've been following along over at my instagram, you may have noticed I have been posting daily with the #artadvent tag.  While some artist use this as an opportunity to do new daily drawings or pieces, pandemic brain is making that a hard sell this year, but I am posting some bits and pieces of projects and series, which will hopefully bring on a little creative joy (even for me, whose hoping digging out some older bits  and engaging with the past work will bring back my impetus to create new  work. )  Especially this little snipped from a series I made for a Krampus-themed show at Elgin Arts. Enjoy!

book notes

I woke up, sans alarm, having a dream in which strangers were re-arranging the furniture in my apartment and am feeling a little frazzled (well, more than the usual).  There are slow, thick snowflakes that won't amount to much, but the radiators are running and it's warmer than usual in here.   There is bacon and coffee and today, working from home this afternoon on a couple things as I wrap up the year.  Later, I'll finish up a batch of dgp orders this evening that need to go out and finish up sending out contracts for 2021, which, despite 2020 being two decades long, is around the corner. My head has not been completely in the game on creative matters, and they are layouts that need to be finished for books languishing this year that have been delayed by circumstances. This week, I will also be finalizing my galleys on feed, and hope to have copies available for the shop  as soon as they are printed by the end of the year (after some thoughts about the many headed hydra that is Amazon and the publishing landscape, I decided to just do a smaller run via POD and avoid them altogether. I can always print more as I need them.)  I am also working on some promotional stuff for that, including a book trailer. But again, I am at about 10 percent battery these days and things are slow so maybe not. 

Last week as I was going over proofs, I was thinking about work and progression and how well some things come or hang together.  Much of feed was written in 2018 as a kind of therapy, though the title and my notes for the hunger palace, or parts of it, existed earlier, though it took Christmas break that year to come together.  2018 was a productive year in general, that writing out of grief, so of course, those projects would wind up speaking to each other.  I had just come off writing the love poems from sex & violence, and that book was coming together in November 2017 , so I was ready to dive in on something new anyway.   Since daily writing was happening much of the year, there was a lot of other projects mixed in as well, other manuscripts that were started.  Some are finished mostly (dark country & animal vegetable monster).  Others, not so much (automagic).  Either way, it's just a lot of output, some of it still living in a weird formless stack of random poems.  While 2019 was slightly less so, amazingly 2020 has been a productive year, though it has felt like pulling teeth sometimes.  While I can't say I've had the focus for actually reading or making much art, I've been writing, which may be the only thing saving my mental state. As such, I find I have almost the whole of an entirely new manuscript (collapsologies). I look at the poems in one slant of light and hate them, but in another, they feel like the most interesting, important thing s I've written.  It goes back and forth.  

I also feel like different projects speak to different poetry concerns.  feed is far more personal, while something like animal, vegetable, monster and collapsologies are more externally oriented. I sometimes feel like each new thing brings out a different poet in me, but at her core, she is still the same. Every once a while, I bring out old poems in the files I keep in the bureau next to my desk for a giggle at how awful they really were, but how i took them so seriously. If I say my real pursuit of writing (anything decent anyway) began in  1998, it's been over 20 years at all this.  If I start at the very beginning, freshman year of high school, it's been far longer. 

Saturday, December 05, 2020

notes & things | 12/05/2020

Another week and my mental state is holding somewhere between giving a shit in general and saying fuck it all.  I spent a lot of time on zoom this week for various planning and staff meetings, including a committee that I lead and usually greatly enjoy, but I was having a hard time again being human enough to trot us through the agenda. I did a virtual class visit on the history zines, but the students, the few who even had their camera even on,  look tired,  In fact the room felt tired, and I as I gave my usual spiel and tried to feign enthusiasm for the subject matter and projects, I suspect they all realized that we all are sort of faking it.   That we are all faking it while a couple thousand people die each and every day (and in a way that is usually very horrible at that.)

I mentioned earlier in the week to a friend that it's now sort of like 9/11 is happening again.  Just every day and everywhere all at once.  Also without the illusion that what is happening will pass soon and we can move on after some mourning time. It's too late to make a difference, even if we rally, for what will happen over the next few weeks. What we do now can hopefully get numbers lower in early 2021 and tie us over until the vaccine is widely available, but there are a lot of sad, lonely deaths between then and now that are already in motion. 

If this were any normal year, I'd be thinking about perfect gifts for family & friends.  I'd be spending a lot of time watching bad holiday romance movies and eating cookie dough before it makes it to the oven, and I am doing these things, but they are less like things I enjoy, but more like shreds of normalcy I am clinging to with every fibre of my brain and it's exhausting.  Even on the days I don't have to leave the house it's harder to get out of bed.  Early in the pandemic there was an infographic that designated a line between "thriving" and "surviving" and we are all feeling it right now. 

So I light my little tree and put a wreath on my door and make chicken soup and try to conduct myself as if the world is not falling apart in every emergency room and hospital and in so many homes. I think of our softness in terms of living through major historical events.  During the zine workshop I wanted to tell the students to pay attention and to document everything they can, because unlike most of the time I have been alive as a Gen X-er, "history" was something that happened significantly before I was born.  But really maybe it was always happening and there are only certain really bad points where the future textbooks are watching and waiting. 

Friday, December 04, 2020



I had initially thought to debut this little project around Halloween for my #31daysofhalloween endeavor, but it took a little bit longer to get in order.  Again not sure how I set out to write a series of poems about my favorite horror movie and wound up writing a series of poems about capitalism and the role of artists within it (but somehow it happened. )

read the rest here...


Tuesday, December 01, 2020

library life

It's been more than a hot minute since I've talked library things, and mostly, it's becuase things seem to be happening at a slower, lower pitch.  So much time is spent seeing to day to day functions that much of the more fun, creative work gets set aside, and truthfully, operating at about my own 50 percent enthusiasm capacity makes it rougher and less shiny than usual,  ILL books still need to be processed and packed (and we're still working on that hire), and our reserve collection, though a bit less used with folks mostly off-campus, still needs upkeep.  So much of my day outside the house is spent worrying about covid and the world it's amazing anything happens at all I had a lot of momentum happening over the summer that thankfully carried into fall, including our ARTIVISM 2020 programming (exhibits, lib guides, social media content) and setting up exhibits for our Artist-in-Residence.  I also designed the page for a CC faculty art exhibit that took a chunk of time in early October.  We did some fun random socially distanced things--Frankentoys, horror trivia via Zoom, but it's hard to feel engaged myself, let alone to get students engaged. and I feel for their instructors doing all this weekly. Mostly it seems we're head down and holding our breath and waiting for all this to pass. 

So, mostly trying to get through these last few weeks alive and illness free and that's about it.  I'm off campus half the week and on the other. We are beginning to talk about plans for next semester, though we suspect it will be a lot like this semester until the vaccines are widely available.  Our loose idea is to devote that spring focus to urban legends, which if I were more enthusiastic than I actually am, is really cool.  Today, I get to spend some time talking to a class about zines, which normally would also have me very excited, but this time, I am "meh" (see my earlier post about pretending to be human.)

We did get to do a virtual poster session at the ILA conference this year, and  I did get a little library related interviewage in the Libras newsletter, so check that out.

the slow burn

Mother was afraid of ghosts, but I am afraid of mother. She appears at night

in the corner of the room, starving and moaning.  Foaming at the mouth

and in need of bread.  I feed her and she grows fat on fear. 

-unusual creatures 

(you can see a couple past posts about this project here...) 

In the fall of 2011, an aunt bequeathed to me a box of old family cabinet card photos that had come to her by way of relatives in Nebraska.  She had held onto them for a few years, and had only vaguely identified many of the people as cousins and such on my grandmother's side of the family. While some of the faces had been lost to memory, there were a couple of my grandmother as a child I had seen before, but otherwise, no one I would recognize.  She had grown tired of them and wondered if I might be able to use them for creative purposes. 

Unlike my dad's side of the family, which was sprawling, but rather orderly in its genealogy records, my mother's by virtue of the rather early deaths of both grandparents, was much less clear.  I had come upon some information during grad school that traced back a few generations on my grandfather's side with some interesting points of note--the lineage of "Marie" as  (my own middle name, as well as my mom's).  A legendary circus bareback rider from Michigan named Ida Marie Van Brunt. But while my dad's side was largely collectively encapsuled in Wisconsin, Nebraska was this far off place.  When I was really little, we'd visited my grandfather's sister, Aunt Marie often in Blair.  I only remember that she made excellent banana bread and owned what I remember was supposedly a haunted breakfront in the corner of her kitchen. Also, a basement filled with creepy school desks (her husband worked for the district--a couple of which went home and sit still in my dad's basement to this day.)  Also, that they had lots of rabbits in a hutch behind their garage. 

The cards were cool, but it took a minute to figure out what to do with them.  I didn't want to destroy them, so wound up scanning and then collage-ing over them. I wound up, courtesy of thrifting, some cool old frames and soon had a collection of "family" portraits I started calling unusual creatures.  All along, there were some plans made for text pieces to accompany them. Possibly a book-in-a-box project off in the distance.  While I made notes and did research on various things like folklore and taxidermy, the framed images themselves made it into a more general library exhibit and then into our Creepy Curiosities A of R exhibit in the fall of 2015.  Here, they appeared in a cluster on the wall like some strange family's staircase gallery, and opposite, I created an installation piece that is still one of my favorite pieces of work--involving anatomical drawings, bones, creepy dolls, and all sorts of weirdness. 

I still didn't have much in the way of written content then, but over the next couple years, I filled a notebook, handwritten with notes and snippets of letters, diaries, etc.  I spent the summer of 2017 finishing what I thought I wanted for that book, intending to type up much of it that fall, except my mother got really sick and had to be hospitalized, and by the time I returned to it early 2018, my enthusiasm had worn off and it seemed weaker than I remembered it.  So it sat, in it's raggedy orange spiral notebook next to my desk since then, and I'd pull it out sometimes, type up various bits, but on the whole, was unenthused.  And besides, I had moved onto more interesting projects than this strange story of a family of women told from three points of view.Still,  I imagined, when it was done, a box of letters, diaries, postcards and ephemera. 

In the spring of this year, Tupelo Quarterly featured some of the bits in an issue, but I still wasn't happy altogether with the text portions.  This fall, after finishing up some newer projects, I  decided to rewrite and re-imagine the project in fits and starts, and that, in recent weeks have been where my head is.  Maybe not so sprawling and large, but smaller and tighter, but the same story.  I've been mining that notebook for jumping off points and inspiration. And truthfully, I'm not hating this newer, slimmed down version at all, and that's a positive sign. 

It occurred to me that if I manage to finish it after the new year, it will have been a project 10 years in the making, which is strange for me, someone who actually turns things out pretty fast most of the time.  But I like the twists and turns of process in this one, so am content to hold on a bit longer to get it exactly right.