Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Some experiments I am working on for video and animation purposes..


for the love of zines

Once or twice a semester, I get to teach what I call my "Very Brief History of Zines" workshop, where I give a run-down of zines and indie publishing and then help students brainstorm and facilitate the zines they are making for class.  While I am not a very good teacher from a pedagogy standpoint (or a patience one), you can easily  get me to talk enthusiastically about things I care for, so this works somehow. I start with the invention of the printing press right on through the internet and what it's done for zine culture.  I show lots of samples collected during my years of running the Library Zine Nights and the Zine Exchange (which are sort of on hiaitus during covid, but will return full fledged in the fall.)  We talk about seizing the means of distro and production. About marginalized voices.  About the possibilities of the form.  The classes vary--African American History, Sustainable Fashion. But the results are always amazingness when they come together. 

I came to zines much later than many of my 90's counterparts.  I remember hearing about them in the aspirationally cool world of Sassy magazine in 1991, but I probably didn't see one until my sister and her art-class friends started publishing one in the mid-90's. At the time, me and the other editorial section eds of the paper liked to fancy ourselves like the Sassy editors, and had a similar zine-like feel to our pieces, but it was a while before I held one in my hand. .  It's hard to remember what pre-internet teenage America was like--but my sister's zine, printed on her friends home printer, was pretty cool and incorporated art and music and all the usual 90's obsessions.  I was already in college at that point, mostly hanging out with theatre people, not writers or artists who would have been making zines, but I was still intrigued.  (My sister also bought home this strange handmade book covered in glittery vinyl she made in art class and I was a little obsessed with it's possibilities--and deeply sad that I had forwent art classes in favor of journalism and french. .)   Even in those days, my creative output seemed destined for lit journals and, one day, chaps or full-length books, as the traditional publishing pipeline flows. 

A decade or so later, I was very much into indie publishing when it came to writing--a ripe field from which wicked alice had sprung years earlier as an e-zine, and then the press in 2004. So many interesting things were happening, writing and design-wise from small presses and artists. I was also foraying further and further into visual art and design, and it seemed natural that zines would be a good vehicle for the work I wanted to produce. While I would consider my first artist book project to be 2007's at the hotel andromeda, which was a collab with another artist, my first zines were small edition booklets of visual art.  The bird collages of miscellaneous.  The altered panoramas of landscape/architecture. At the time, my visual and writing projects were mostly still happening separately for the most part.  I made collages and paintings, but my poems were still something separate.  Sometimes, like with the spectacle series & girl show, there were counterparts created afterward (it worked out nicely that I had a ready-made cover when the book was eventually published. The first combined art & text zine I created together must have been shipwrecks of lake michigan and it continued on like that, a little more in tandem with subsequent projects--radio ocularia, ghost landscapes, dreams about houses and bees.  I do on occasion create simple chapbooks that are just writing.  And art zines that are just image, sometimes mixed with found text.

In workshop I always say the lines are blurry--between chapbooks, between zines, between artist books, at least when it comes to my own practice.  that they, along with other things--political pamphlets, indie comics, are all cousins to each other  Chapbooks, I would say are usually just writing, zines a mix of both, while artist books demand a certain fanciness of materials (or a scarecness.)  Things like the Cornell project and lunarium with its box of letters feels like the latter. Or the poet's zodiac with its glittery cover. Other's, like my monthly zine night creations, are more simple and haphazard. Or something like /slash/ with its rougher more photocopied feel.  Lately, I've been creating print versions and electronic versions to make them more widely available. The random tiny editions I create during zine nights are just photocopied in about 25-30 copies and when they're gone, they're gone. 

Most of the time, I feel much more at home among zine culture practitioners than I ever did poets, and it may just be that my DIY ethos has never fit well in a system where such things are frowned upon. Where I have sat on panels arguing about self-publishing that are the exact opposite of zine panels.   Fellow zinesters are welcoming and excited about indie publishing, where many poets are just looking for the "acceptable" routes of work dissemination--academic journals, fancy presses, the things poets have been fighting over since the early 20th century and maybe before which have more to do with "legitimacy" and less with actually cultivating an audience.  Zinesters have to tale the means of production into their own hands by definition, so the results are much more varied and diverse. 

And perhaps it is that seizing I try to convey to the classes the most. The idea of authorship and creating media in spaces and from voices that don't always get heard. I am excited to see what comes of this year's programming once we are back in the physical stay tuned..

Monday, May 10, 2021

extinction event


A couple years back, I was invited by to the Field Museum for a reading.  My task was to write poems about the museum's collections and then share them.   I would be granted access to everything, even behind-the-exhibit spaces, though I mostly spent my time that summer in the Hall of Birds.  I initially wanted to avoid the avians, mostly since they make me self-conscious as a subject (as someone would be with a book actually titled IN THE BIRD MUSEUM.) I wanted to write about dinosaurs initially, and as I rounded my way through the evolution exhibit, the world's eras were marked in between by large placards indictaing "EXTINCTION EVENT. No. ____" It seemed ominous that one day, like the dinosausrs, like the other extinct creatures of yore. we also might be extinct eventually (this was pre-covid and even then things seemed bleak for humanity.)

There was also the evolutionary train of dinosaurs to birds.  their infamous Sue skeleton referred to as "Murder Bird" which had me in giggles for days. I've also always been interested in the Field's dioramas and their exhibit cases, which are the epitome of early-mid 20th century design porn for me.  So what to do with all of this--how to digest it into poems.  The Field Museum is also something that seems luxe to me...filled with museum-goers by day and gala balls at night (I am forever indebted to Relic for this impression.)  The idea of calling the series "extinction event" came to me, the sort of party that no one wants to be invited to.

I've written about the apocalypse before, obviously, though these poems have a more ecological version of the end than the ones in LITTLE APOCALYPSE.  There is a certain feeling of excess to them, of humans grown fat and careless. And of course, there were birds, and ultimately that was where, out of many corners of the museum, where I chose to give my reading. Birds as descendents of dinosaurs., which maybe is less bleak--the ability of creatures to evolve into entirely new things over time.  Also, how museums capture a moment but never completely accurately. How we reconstruct the past by clues and theories and an attempt (like the Dodo I mentioned a few posts back) to capture what is already gone.  What role museums play.  What role art plays (this is why these poems are central to my ANIMAL,  VEGETABLE, MONSTER manuscript.)

During my museum visits, I also took a number of exhibit photos, so I though these might complement the text pieces. The lights are dim in many exhibits, so these were the better of many.  I've mentioned before how a trip to the Field my freshman year of high school was what decided me on living my life in Chicago, so it seems fitting.  It is still one of my fave places in the city, so this is a little love note of sorts.



poetry and economics, 101

Poetry rarely pays.  When it does, it's more of a delightful anomaly. This year, I've been lucky enough to be both paid for a reading and get a check for a poem in a journal, and this will probably be all the money I will really make from poetry in traditional ways this year.  I have sold quite a few copies of newer books and zines that when cleared of expenses, is a little poetry mad money (mostly going back into new projects or, in the case of full-lengths, new author copies.) Sometimes, I get larger or smaller royalty checks, but mostly smaller. But ultimately, I made far much more selling art and paper goods than I ever will as a poet, even with a couple cash prizes under my belt from years ago. 

Many poets teach to make a living.  Or work jobs decidedly not related to poetry at all.  If you're super famous, you might get some sweet reading/performance income.  If you hustle, fellowships and residencies that can support you enough to write in peace.  Prizes are nice, but like a casino, they take money to make money.  (If you're really lucky, you are independently wealthy or have a spouse with a good  Still, for most poets, when it comes to words, the fiscal rewards are few and far between.  I had a moment last year, struggling with covid whiplash and and a hard knock realization that I've spent my years giving energies to writing and meanwhile I am not all prepared for emergencies in my life financially (not becuase of poetry per se, but more from the choice to not pursue another more stable career.) In fact, I was just coming off the monthly hemorahage of the studio rental for more than a decade. .  I almost bowed out completely. Said fuck it on my creative pursuits.  Why give the creative world my best when it gives so little in return? 

Granted, it was panic talking, and fear, and that particular wave retreated by mid-summer, but it also forced some thoughts on how we balance the economic factors and production.  Also the things and thoughts we take for granted in terms of what is expected of us as writers (and of course, this varies depending on who you are talking to and what communities you run in.)  I decided I would not throw in the towel, but that I would also try to retrain myself on thought systems that don't serve me well as an artist.  What sustains me?  What drains me?  What inspires me and what do I hate about po-biz and publishing and how can I navigate those things? 

I've been making monthly zines for awhile for my books & objects series, and while it's a nice bit of extra income that spurs me to create more zines and projects, it's not a huge influx.  While it's been a little too spendy to buy all at once in the shop some years, I've recently added a more monthly-installment based patreon that I am still trying to launch to make it more tenable. but I also realize not everyone has the sort of money to support such endeavors, so I've also been trying to find ways to make work more readily available to people who might be interested in my creative output.  I've spent the last couple years making electronic versions of older projects that are out of print, and with new ones, making an e-version available either before or at the same time I make the print ones available in the shop. Since these zines--more than individual poems in journals or even full-lengths is my primary output, I really do want people to read them. 

So then the question becomes whether you want to make money by holding things behind a paywall or do you want to get a wide readership, and I think we all navigate these questions. I don't have an answer except maybe that lately I've been settled on poetry more as a gift economy. Whether we give the gift of our creative work, our attention, our publishing efforts.  I've mentioned before ways to support your favorite poet, and sometimes they don't even involve money.  Write a review, write a fan letter. Suggest a purchase at your library. Start a journal or a blog and solicit your favorite authors.  Sometimes, all it takes is time and attention. 

As creators, do what you need to do, but don't necessarily be bound by money. At least not in this space, where the perceived value and the stakes are embarrasingly low in a world that is obsessed with sports and pop stars and movies about superheros and not really with words at all.  Least of all poems. 

Sunday, May 09, 2021

the motherless wilds

I would never have described myself as lonely. There were years where things like moves and job changes uprooted me. Where I made really bad romantic decisions that did not (could not) work out.  There's a Sara Bareilles song from the Waitress soundtrack with the lyrics I was obsessed with for a bit a few years with a line about being lonely most of the time. I loved the song and sung it aloud often, but that line seemed like a sad, but relatively unfamiliar concept.  Despite (or because) of near-pathological introversion, it's a word I never would have used to describe myself, even at my most friendless, my most single or my most isolated. When I wanted company, I could find it.  When I didn't, I was completely comfortable with my own. While there were hundred words I would have used to describe myself, that was the farthest from my mind..even in new cities, new places. I tend to go places alone--movies, poetry readings, restaurants-- more than I do with friends or coupled up and I like this sort of freedom. 

But, suddenly, my mother's death was like this hole that sucked all the air out of my sails and left me floundering.  Suddenly, loneliness was like this palpable thing that I'd never had before. Someone in the months afterwards described grief like a ball inside a box, sometimes it was pressing whole up against you, but sometimes it was just rattling around inside and this seemed like a good description for how some days were terrible and others, only slightly unpleasant. But loneliness was altogether different.  It wasn't the ball in the box.  Or maybe it was the box itself. Something that had once been full and unnoticable, but now was yawning and gaping and empty. 

I did not live in the same city as my parents, so actually physically saw my mother at most 4-5 times a year for any stretch of time.  We talked twice a week, sometimes longer calls, sometimes shorter ones.  We occasionally took trips together or weekends in Wisconsin.  They'd visit occasionally for the day in the city for basketball games and zoo trips.  I think how terrible it must be to live near your parents and then lose them, to have them in your life and then gone on a daily basis and it seems so much harder.  After she died, my life on the surface went on mostly unchanged in the city and this was part of what made it more bearable, but also more surreal. More unreal.  It took almost a year for the dreams of her to stop--her not realizing she was gone at all until I said it. My own crushing realization over and over again while I slept.   It still happens sometimes even now, though her appearances are more often less remarked upon. She's just there, neither alive nor dead, but somewhere in between. 

I eventually discovered that the saddest moments were not in the house where she lived and lived no more, even with her ashes prominently displayed in an urn on the fireplace and many of the things she loved littered about.  The garden she worked hard to make lovely every year. There I still felt close to her somehow. The house still smells like her, even though my dad is not the type to burn candles and scented things, so  it must be burned into the walls and furniture.  But the worst of it was more in social situations where she would have carried and dominated the conversation. That was the yawning, gaping hole.  The absence I felt most acutely. To the point that I longed to avoid holidays and parties (and truthfully, when covid was happening, it was kind of a relief to see no one but my dad and sister for a whole year.) 

So what to do with this lonely..I don't know. I still have ample family and friends and a sound relationship, but none of it does anything but amplify that emptiness and make it all the more noticeable.  If I were lonely in general, it would be just a part of the texture of my life, or something I could fix, but ultimately this is something unfixable.  Something I'm not even sure I articulate very well or at all.  

Saturday, May 08, 2021

notes & things | 5/8/2021

It's been the sort of chilly week where I found myself wishing I hadn't so hastily packed away my winter coats, but everything, nevertheless, is greening--even the stubborn tree outside my apartment that is the last to get its leaves and the last to lose them. We are coming into the final week of the semester and our Manifest celebration on campus (virtually this year and last) and I have been busy working on an online exhibit for a couple of our student staff artists and pulling some other end-of-year things together. 

Walking around campus is still a surreal business, even a year later.  This term definitely more populated than last, there are big hopes for fall if all goes according to plan.  We may even be opening the stacks fully for the summer. (right now, upper floor access is only via appointment.)  I've been plotting out the summer and planning some long weekends with the stack of vacation days I've wracked up during a time when it wasn't possible to really take vacations. It's looking like 3 on/ 4 off is a possibility, which will give me time for working on things at home--both poetry and housekeeping things like installing new bookshelves and caulking the shower, all of which have been on my list for awhile. I'm also planning at least a couple weekend trips to Rockford.  

I do know that summer is usually just this mirage I look toward for getting a jump start on next year, which seems itself to be a slippery thing.  I'll wake up soon and we are creeping on September. But I intend to at least try to make the most of it while it's here. We're working on programming for next fall's focus devoted to "bad art"--which includes things like kitch and camp and black velvet paintings, but also discussions on canon and who gets to decide what is "good" art (and how gendered and white that typically is.)  Also, the boundaries between "art" and "craft."  

For my own stuff, there will be time to get to the backlog of chap releases. I've been trying to stick to the schedule for 2021, but there are still a few things that were due out last year that are still due out.  My decision to take on less titles was good..bourn more from necessity and being able to keep up on orders and the chaos of late 2019 , but has also worked out for a pandemic year where I have not been fully functional when it comes to creative pursuits. So my behind is not quite as  disastrously behind as it would be in a usual year, so that is a good thing. 

As for poems, I'm treading a bit in the water still as I ponder where the bird artist series is going ultimately and also what is next--something new or a return to other things that remain unfinished. I will also be finalizing dark country and getting it ready for July release. There will be much to be done design wise (it's always trickier it seems with prose blocks that lineated poems when it comes to margins for me, and this mss. is mostly prose.) I'll be writing here a bit more about the process and design. which may be helpful to other writers hopefully if they are interested in issuing their own books DIY-style. 

Keep an eye out this week for the newest monthly zine, my extinction event pieces and photos taken during my time at the museum a couple summers back. I'll be doing a limited print version for the shop and books & objects subscribers, but also an e-version available for free. (I have another post I've been plotting about money and poetry and accessibility--ie.."why buy the poet when you can get the milk for free"  but also know not everyone has funds to spend on poems, especially right now. I also have a few more re-issues in the hopper, things that are now out of print, but will be coming your way as virtual content in the next couple months.  Also another round of video poems for another project provided I can brush up on some simple animation skills. All of this seems possible when summer stretches out like a sun-drenched field in front of me, but is actually highly deceptive in its vast endless.

This week brings a reading Wednesday on zoom, for The Poor Mouth Writer's Series, if you're looking for some poetry action--there's an open mic and I'll be the feature. I think I'll be reading from feed--maybe the imaginary daughter poems and some from swallow


Sunday, May 02, 2021

on writing and not writing

 Toward the end of last week, I was feeling the not all too unfamiliar feeling (doubt? restlessness? ennui?) about my work (more specifically writing more than visual work), It comes and goes, that feeling that feels like spending your whole life shouting into a canyon that comes back with only your own echo, but I was feeling it by Friday and questioning everything.. I don't think it necessarily has to do with po-biz, and more maybe with a certain writerly loneliness in the world. I don't need fancy pubs and awards and attention, but I do like to feel that my words are hitting some sort of mark out there in the universe. (Maybe not the mark I intended, but something at least.)

That canyon is so big, and so filled with other writers also shouting.  And also, there is this huge rushing whir that may be the wind, but may also be terrible very-real world things like raging pandemic attention spans and  a world that barely reads at all. I sometimes go back to a blog entry I wrote in 2010 about feeling completely and utterly creatively happy and fulfilled, which is especially funny considering my non-creative personal life was a shit show and my work life tolerable but undynamic. I also was barely writing, and it occurred to me, this may have been why I felt so happy.  I was anxious about it--the NOT writing, sure.  But while others were shouting, I was hiding in the bushes. Being ignored was okay because, really, I had nothing much to offer.  

In those years post MFA, I was devoting much more time to the etsy shop and visual things, and these felt like something people actually wanted, you know.  Not just things I was throwing out into the silence. These things took up time/energies later better spent on my own projects and the chapbook arm of the operations and eventually I scaled the retail end back in favor of these endeavors. These are a harder sell than paper goods, vintage, and jewelry--all things in high demand in those days when etsy was still small enough to forge a following. The output/reward system was more direct and involved less effort. So it could be that--the satisfaction in making things for which there is a demand in the world outside of poetry, which is so small but also large but sometimes highly capricious.  

I joked to a friend via text as I was unpacking these feelings that maybe writing itself makes me restless and unhappy given the 2010 factor.  Maybe I am a happier Kristy NOT writing. Not screaming into a void.  But that doesn't seem right either, given the not-writing anxiety. So I am stuck, not being completely happy when I am writing, but also not happy when I'm NOT writing. I do not quite no which is worse, but only that both are really uncomfortable. So I soldier on, mostly because not writing pen to paper feels like giving up, and there is so much left to write. There's a quote by some dead male author (Rilke maybe?) about writing and choice that I've always thought was over dramatic. Really, sometimes I would rather do anything other than write. But eventually, the desire comes back around, and it's worse not to do it than to just do the thing. I would not fact I'd probably be a lot more financially stable and angst-prone. But something would be missing. 

notes on re-entry

In my close-to-fully vaxed state, I've been thinking about what it means to be out in the world again--I guess I mean REALLY in it.  Since last July, I have been somewhat but always with a carefully guarded veil of caution. As rates fell last summer, I did dine-in at a suitably-distanced restaurant for my Dad's birthday. One breezy outdoor night of drinks out in the burbs in the fall.  I went into like a half-dozen stores all year--occasional stops in CVS to use the ATM, a quick stop at 7-11,  Binny's to buy booze, the Dollar Tree when I was in Rockford at Christmas (I hated stores pre-covid, so this was not a sacrifice). Mostly, I tried to avoid other even slightly risky things because I was already kind of at risk doing things that were required--commuting and working. 

This is probably no real indication of my actual risk, but moreso my generally high level baseline anxiety.  At work, we are only a department of three with 1-2 student workers, but we have a bit of room to stay out of each other's way. Outside of the bus, no one usually was even within 6 feet of me except for like a second in passing. This felt reasonably safe, though my blood would still run cold when we got contact-tracing e-mails about cases in the library (mostly patrons I had no contact with) but at least once, one of our student staff. I watched the campus and city counters like a hawk.  My building is a shit show of ever-partying Loyola-ans, so this was also troubling in shared spaces like elevators and the lobby. November was particularly wrought, and I avoided a family Thanksgiving in the interested of planning a visit at Christmas when I could quarantine beforehand a bit. I saw my family a bit less, but not drastically so...

Things I've missed?  Thrifting.  Movies. Cocktails in places that are not my apartment. I hate meetings in general, but I hate zoom ones more than real ones, especially when I'm leading them. Conversely, I like zoom poetry readings slightly more for reasons I've mentioned before. I didn't get outside much last the time it seemed ok to be out, they'd actually closed the beaches, so the lakefront areas like parks were uncomfortably full.  I also felt like I had to be ever-vigilant and couldn't relax, so really, what was the point? This summer looks a bit more rife for summertime pursuits.

At the same time, I may be crazy since I like the world a little less populated with people and outings I have to say no to for whatever reason.  The tyranny of extroverts and extrovert pursuits. Without the danger an death toll, a little isolation is good for me, and were circumstances different, highly enjoyable, The task now to retain my solitude as the world opens up as much as I need it and still be free for roaming. 

Saturday, May 01, 2021

the road out...

The past few days have been a blur of real-life things like vaccinating and library things like our Urban Legends trivia (plus I worked from home Thursday in case I got sick from my vax, and didn't really, so Friday was a catch-up). As such I have stalled out a bit on my napowrimo-ing and the bird artist pieces I have hope for, but not only things getting in the way, but also me getting in the way.  I know where I want it to go, but am having a hard time connecting the dots. So I stall.

One of the things I appreciate most about writing is play, how it feels sometimes like I have no idea where I'm going until I get there.  Which work for awhile, but at some point, the trip is over and you have to get yourself home somehow and finish the damn thing. I've written myself down a lovely  road and now need to get back and so I lay in the grass a while and dally.  This happens every time, though usually it doesn't matter unless I'm purposefully trying to finish something in an allotted time  I am all about cutting myself some slack.  It will happen eventually. Last year, due to the pandemic crazy, I actually didn't finish the series I started until well into July, and am determined it turned out the better for it. As such, I will keep sharing them here, April being over be damned. But it might be a minute before the next installment. 

I have some other ideas in the hopper, both written an visual, I am hoping May yields. If I were responsible in tending to my projects, I would return to the things that forever languish uncompleted (&nbsp, the blue swallow project) but just as likely I'll dive into something new that I also may never finish.  Though the odds are about 50/50 at this point.  Writing is also a little like crossing a high perilous bridge and doing fine until you actually look down. I reach a point with every project...sometimes I'm closer to the other side, sometimes it seems very far. 

I'll be working on this months zine, extinction event (aka the Field Museum poems) in the next couple of weeks, so watch for that. The text has been solidified for awhile, but there are photos and other elements that need to all be in place to make it work. I  have terrible at submitting, so I will also be trying to get some work out to some journals and beginning to prepare the final layout of dark country, which appropriately seems like such a summery book in subject matter, even if it's also still very gothic and spooky.  

Thursday, April 29, 2021

napowrimo day no. 25


The women in the garden hide knives in their smiles, stones in their pockets.

                    After lunch, rip each other limb from limb, sugar in the sockets,

                                     but poison in their mouth.  This one, a wayward husband, 

the mute daughter and wandering dog. Another, the barren womb.  

                        The tether that won't hold. Soap in her insides nightly, 

                                    rubbed til she's red.  The bed he placed inside her, where nothing

quickens, nothing licks the loins like the boy in her youth, Fists full of wildflowers. 

                    All the spirits gathering nightly, but nothing in the belly but feathers 

                                          and dirt. What hurt in his stare where the blood blooms

cleanly between her legs. What hope, the way she sings softly, knitting 

            the smallest things for the tiniest children that slip out of her 

                    in the night. The red sheets on every line

cover love | found materials, pt 2


Many dancing girl covers have their impetus in found materials, ephemera, & public domain materials, and they make some of our most striking cover images. Postcards, natural history illustrations, vintage photos and more...  Enjoy! 

i haven't met the new me yet

"I hope she'll be a beautiful fool.

who takes my spot next to you"


Like many Swifties the past few weeks , I've been listening to the re-recorded version of Fearless, and as such, revisiting my own past life in listening to songs that I loved more than a decade ago. Mostly when I first listened and thought, despite initial bias that TS was a country popster like many, that she was an actually an amazing songwriter, especially as later albums like Speak Now, Red, and 1989 attest.  While I've always been a musical omniviore, enjoying many genres of music, it's only in the last two decades that I've embraced a love of country after years of rolling my eyes as my parents listened to iit.  As such, I was a perfect audience for TS's cross-over creations, and while I didn't like everything in every album, there was still much that I did like on Reputation and Lover.  Of course, Folklore and Evermore are so good which actually pushed her back more toward country roots than previous albums. Especially since one of the things that makes country more appealing to ne is narrative and storytelling, which is as much true in poems as it is in songs, so I'm here for it. 

With all this revisiting of old music, it occurred to me how strange it must be, as a songwriter (or a writer or a artist or creator) to dig in intensely on work that's more than a decade old, and as such, come face to face with that older self and how it fits in among newer work.  For a few days I was giggling at the juxaposition of the princess-wishing of "Love Story" with "No Body, No Crime", a song about murdering your besties cheating husband. Or the difference between something like "White Horse" and "Illicit Affairs" in their take on infidelity, the latter more nuancesd and sad, yet also somehow simpler.  The span of age from 19 to early 30's is one of the most treacherous, and the early songs while very enjoyable, definitely less complex emotionally than the latter.   

As someone who was writing crap when I was 19, and, in my early 30's just beginning to figure out how to be a better a writer, I'm envious that TS was doing so well even at that age, which made those 10-12 additional years even better for her. going forward as she moves into the middle years of life.   I sometimes look at my first book, published in 2006 when I was 32, and while I am proud of it and dont hate it too much, it still doesn't seem like me who wrote it.  Or that the writer I am now would have written it at all.  Other times I look at it and thing that it what I write now is planted there as seeds., so 15 years later is reaping those plantings. Sometimes I've wondered if I just rewriting the same poems just from different angles and in different lighting.  

The poet who write the poems in the fever almanac is not the poet who wrote major characters in minor films, though some of the themes are the same when it comes to romantic poems. Ditto with sex & violence. My last couple book projects have been less about relationships, but then again, my relationships have been much more stable, and as such, seem less rife with material.  The &nbsp project is the closest to talking about intimacy and loneliness, and talks about the past, but it's still just notes at this point. But those are using the same subject matter and experiences of earlier books with a new lens--I've been thinking of it as an exorcism of sorts.

But then again, all books feel like exorcisms of some sort of ghosts-major characters... and feed feel most like this (and as such, are the poems I feel weirdest about letting people in my real life read.) The other books are more narrative and therefore distanced from me as a person who exists in the world, whether it's the sideshow women of girl show or the women of salvage (barring the mermaid poems, which were closer to home at points.) The longer you write and the more things you put out in the world, the more people begin to build a framework of your own life independent of the actual art, as many scandalous posthumous biographies will attest. On the other hand, there is something to be said of leaving audiences guessing. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

napowrimo day no. 24


In summer, my lover brings me things. Pigeon feather, moonstone, 

                    silver locket. Once a stolen pie from the baker, fat with cherries 

                                    and way too sweet. I make him a water whistle shaped like a warbler 

out of wood,  then hide it carefully in my skirts.  But nothing good can come of afternoon, 

            sun sticky and damp with breath.  Death so close we could still smell it, 

                                wafting from the tanning room. Creeping up from the kitchen.

I'd undo my dress and underneath, the marks on my body make him cry. The belt,

            the broom, the back of a hand. All written exquisite on the skin. The thin

                  membrane between my hand and thumb, a burn I rub salve  on,

but it never seems to heal.  The warbler presses into my hip as he takes me rough

               on the carpet. Over the chaise lounge. Warps in the humidity and won't sing

                       a single note. Only black water in it's craw, where no good can come of night.


Monday, April 26, 2021

napwrimo day no. 23


In the beginning, there was scarcely room for birds or children or even love.

                The ghosts took up too much room, walking the floors and knocking

                                        into tables.  We'd take turns opening our mouths and the creatures

would fly out single file. The doubt we harbored in the belly, so far down, 

                       but the doubt persisted. As children, my sister and I would whisper between

                                        us in the bed. Draw sticks from each other's closed fists.  This one,

the man with the magnificent house.  This one the penniless artist. 

                       The babies, fat-cheeked in the bassinet. Cupboard full of dresses

                                    and a kitchen full of cakes.  But the body would scarce produce.

Sheeted in the attic, dusty as a field.  The woman with the crystal ball and the son 

                    with a limp held my hand in the dark and forecasted a passel of squalling infants. 

                                    Sill, when they arrived, a surprise, each one. Plucked from the wraiths

                                                    in the cellar.  Each one prettier, but far angrier than the last.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

notes & things | pre-birthday edition

It being my birthday tomorrow and prime taurus indulgence season, I've determined to nothing much at all except maybe some bare necessity cleaning to keep the place from being a disaster, but that's about it.  J and I will have our usual stay-in date night tonight and maybe some tequila. I am making ribs tomorrow in the crockpot perhaps, and some cinnamon crumble cake. I got a giant canister of my favorite black currant tea as an early gift, which I was nearly out of, so I will drinking lots of that. Like last year, there won't be any outings, but this week, I get shot #2, so perhaps I'll feel a little safer (at least maybe with outside dining, which apparently will be more palatable since we're set to climb into the 70's, possibly 80's this week after a chilly mid-April.) 

As I've mentioned, it doesn't really feel like a real year, though outside of rising and falling infection worries, it still looks much like any other year--working, writing, introverting, The prime difference was that I didn't really go to restaurants or movies like I may in another year, and maybe I visited family a little less (though I still did when I thought it was safer last summer or after quarantining at Christmas.)It's 's difficult to get me out socially and work usually interferes with much of a social calendar, but I do miss occasional bbq's or beach outings, which will hopefully feel more comfortable this summer than last. I do miss reading books, which is something it's not been easy to do during the pandemic--hard to focus or immerse myself--esp. during my commute which is when I usually got most of my novel-reading done. For awhile all I'd been reading were poetry submissions and things online.  I have returned to reading some poems in actual books while eating breakfast before I start writing for the day, so baby steps.  And I do read bits & chapters of non-fiction now for research purposes here and there.  It's mostly a concentration thing.

So I'm not sure why it feels like a non-year when it hasn't been drastically different since going back to work last July, but maybe it's just more the tenor of a year that was so much encased in fear and anxiety, and then crazy things like social unrest and political turmoil--a completely insane administration, a contentious election, the Capitol attack. Constant police violence. I've never watched the news as much as I have the past year and now I know why. Also the way I have become more conscious of the distances between people, the dangers in any given space. Danger in all spaces.  It may look like a typical year on the surface, but it's really not.  Last week, I taught a zine workshop in person in a giant room of about 20 students spaced in a felt like teaching in an airport hanger.  Weird in that it's pretty much the same workshop I'd taught the week before lockdown for another faculty member in a regular classroom when it was already dangerous but we didn't know how much.  Everyone seemed kind of bored and really far away. I think when it comes to programming and really anything of my own going on--publishing, readings, lectures,--it feels hard to get anyone's focus for long..or maybe I'm just projecting my feelings onto others. But the year of 46 also bought some really good things.  I wrote many poems and finished two new manuscripts.  Made zines and many poetry videos if not a lot of visual art. I released two books of poems. Did a couple of fun readings (and even got paid for one.) 

So another year.  I found myself thinking about the spring I turned 17.  Around the beginning of May, I won $300 for an essay from the local bar association on the 1st Amendment. I'd spent the day of the luncheon at the courthouse for some sort of program I'd been chosen by my Government teacher to participate (I charmed him by writing a stellar paper on government response to UFO's I still have somewhere.) I spent the prize money on clothes and cassette tapes and whatever, but also to redecorate my bedroom with a quilt covered in thick, large, roses and framed artwork of a pastel girl in a field from K-Mart (or maybe it was a girl in a boat. Or a boat it a field?).  In a year, I'd switch it out to black an teal and an ocean theme, but in that moment, it was everything I wanted.  This was the spring I first read The Bell Jar lying on that quilt after school (actually I wasn't all that impressed.  My Plath fascination was a couple years off).  I was writing poems I kept entirely  to myself (some of which I also still have--I'm pretty sure it was then I wrote the seagull one in my earlier post.) I spent a lot of time listening to The Bangles Everything and Concrete Blonde's Bloodletting, both of which I was obsessed with. 

Time is stretchy like a rubber band, and of course this feels like it was another lifetime, but then sometimes not.  Today I woke up, not under roses, but my cozy gray comforter,  I didn't write something, new, but I did look through the week's progress on the bird artist daily poems. I put the Bangles on while I swept the flours and cleaned the bathroom. I read a review of the newish Plath bio, Red Comet, I saw mentioned not once, but twice in my social media this morning and added to my reading list for when I'm more able to read again. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

napowrimo day no. 22


The man who sells magazines has the largest hands I've ever seen.  

               Keeps licking his fingers, fondling the pages. His tongue darts out, 

                                  then back in and my knees ache with spring. With the hinges in my haunches, 

the feathers in my lungs.  The whipoorwill spins on its weathervane

                in every direction. What is desire, but a soft turning of every gear

                                  in the body? The wrought interior, where the prism shatters with sun.


What is want,  but a fistful of pennies in the mouth?  A slap, a kiss. 

               The cabinet where the shelves are always empty. How do we determine 

                                 the border between lovers, the levers that twitch and release? 

The space behind the garden shed where my head bent against

                  the paint and left a mark. The hand prints on my thighs 

                                   and the bluebells in my hair. The ticking of the metronome 

inside the heart that pulls the wire that shakes the rattle 

                   that breaks the glass again and again. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

a friend of a friend

Last week, during our Urban Legends artist panel, one of the artist mentioned that urban legends were kind of like creating a creature after the fact like a dodo bird--something recreated from bones and fossils and speculation, but without actual pictures or existing specimens. Something wholly a product of the interpretations that came before it.  How urban legends and folklore in general are exactly like this.  Most of them start in some murky area of something that may or may not have happened, but change and get built upon with new details. Something changes in the story, or a version of the story, and shows up hundreds of miles away in another tale. 

Outside Rockford, there's this place called Bloods Point Road, whose name just seems to be asking for legend. I wasn't aware of it until after high school--my friends definitely being of the slumber party sort and not the exploring and drinking sort, but apparently many of my peers made trips out there.  The details vary, but a few things reoccur in the tellings--a spooky bridge, a phantom truck, a cemetery. Long after I had moved to the city, I did a little digging into the stories--one thing that kept cropping up was a bus accident that involved a bunch of children who were said to haunt the bridge they went off of.  Or maybe a train hit them.  Or they fell of the bridge and were hit by a train. The story was then that if you parked your car in idle on the bridge, honked your horn a set number of times, you would feel the car start to move forward as if the children were pushing you to safety.  

I later encountered a library student staffer who hailed from Rockford and confirmed that she and her friends had done this very thing, down to the practice of covering the trunk and fender with flour to spot tiny handprints for proof. I can't remember if they succeeded in their experiment, only that I later encountered this same story from another location entirely in the US, which was sure proof that Bloods Point was maybe not entirely its own legend, but an amalgimation of many different ones.

I had this loosely in my mind as I worked on conspiracy theories this winter.  There are some traditional urban legend types of things that appear--Bloody Mary, Lovers Lane cautionary tales-- but also it's about the sorts of mythologies and patterns we encounter and build in our own minds.  The things we use as a framework to build our histories and stories on.  I think as children and young adults we are more in that world than the actual world.  Or at least I was.  The things that we deduced to be true--the things we believed in like tooth fairies and women in the mirror. As we get older, we realize that legends are based as much in fictions, if not more than facts.  But I still won't do Bloody Mary in the bathroom mirror even on the verge of 47...not because I'm afraid she'd necessarily appear, but more that I'd be a little sad if she doesn't..



napowrimo day no. 21


The cellar, by now,  is damp with rot. Plump with insects skittering beyond the lamp. 

                        We frighten them as much as they frighten us.  How we tighten our spines

                                           and descend. The hem of our nightgowns dragging the dirt. 

First, the daughters.  Then the sons.  We play backgammon in the gloom, where there's barely room 

                            among the discarded trunks and broken chairs.  The selves we cast off every spring, 

                                        every dress tightening our middles. Little shoes.  Little bonnet. 

How we lost it, then found it, covered in dust.  The doll was an argument, so they cut her in half 

                        with kitchen scissors.  Smashed the train on its tiny track.  Burned the ears off 

                                            the velvet rabbit.   How we squeezed ourselves into our old life, topside, 

but left part of us in the shadows,  How you'd catch the girls laughing in the corner 

                        and the boys mumbling in their beds.  The ghosts we brought back with us.

                                           We frighten us as much as we frighten them. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

the poet's zodiac | e-version

 It is officially Taurus season and in a few days, my birthday.  That means you can now read an e-version of THE POET'S ZODIAC for absolutely FREE!

read it here:

(You can also still pick up the print version in all it's sparkliness in the shop..)

napowrimo day no 20


The first bird was, by far, the best bird.  The tiny clicking of the gears, 

            bright-eyed and warbling. In the workshop, a miracle that set the heart 

                        into panic,   the frantic beat of it's wings.  The children oohed and ahhed

while the creature banged again into the ceiling.  Dropped to the floor. 

                Took turns fetching it from the corners. The sink.  Underneath the divan.  Still humming 

                            and chirping.  The second bird wouldn't fly, though we oiled it's wings  and whispered 

sweet nothings.  It sputtered on the table  and fell into the trash.  The third was a monster, 

                hooked beak and ragged claw. Black as the back of the closet where the children

                                  hid it to frighten each other. Not even mothering could save it,  terrible thing.

 I buried when it nearly took one of their eyes.  But it kept rising up through the dirt,

                    clogged with earth and leaves, Barely moving, it could croak all night

                                     from the garden, spite-filled and seething.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

notes on poetry and horror

I am deeply enjoying my daily poems, the bird artist (or at least what it's tentaively titled at present.)  There were some threads I had separated out of another project that I wanted to  play with when I got a chance, and that chance was somehow now.  With the pressure on to produce daily, I think it stretches me to travel a little further into the project each day. To build the bits and pieces and find some sort of framework therein.  This is true with all projects I suppose, especially those that are more on the narrative side than the lyric.The premise?  There were elements of mechanical creatures in unusual creatures, but I culled many of those bits out on the rewrite.  That story, about two sisters had enough going on without another storyline mucking up the works, especially since as it first existed, was just way too long and unruly. .  It's definitely a close cousin to that series, and will no doubt fit nicely into the automagic book manuscript eventually.  

As with a lot of projects, from that book particularly, things got dark kind of fast. When I first was writing victorian-feel poems back in the early aughts, things were a little less overly gothic. You had errata, which in so many ways was about genre--especially the victorian gothic--but the poems were less bloody and filled with violence. I sometimes, when things get dark,  think about how my writing is more influenced by horror novels and films than actual "poetry" most times, and this makes sense. (and definitely something that I talk about in dark country.) It's a violence that was always there, even in the fever almanac, but it was less overt. It may be that my first introduction to poetry I actually liked was Poe.  And yet, I'm not sure I would call my work horror poetry, becuase it's not all that, but it may be the world I am trying to create. Even in a lighter book like major characters in minor films which is set more in a contemporary, urban setting where there are less ghosts of the usual kind. 

Perhaps one thing that lends itself well to horror and gothicism in poetry is certain temporal freedoms you don't always get in more traditional storytelling, A-B-C type plots. Not that this can't be done well in other genres (and some of my favorite horror movies and shows play with time.) but poets are much more likely to do this by their very nature as fragments rather than wholes.  I could write a story of the plot details of something like the bird artist (though in this case, I am discovering them as I go) but it would feel different..more like I story I am leading the reader on than one they are collecting breadcrumbs as we go like a fairy tale. There is the treacherous path through the woods and the very cold children, but each new bit is something to be discovered rather than laid out politely.

napowrimo day no 19


Eventually, I learn to tighten the screws with minimal damage.

                                The breakfast oranges, the daylilies from the garden, all rife

                                                        with success. The way the babies fat  and their accoutrements

bleach white in the sun.  For fun, we cover them in blankets and are always surprised

                    at the game. They squeal with delight at everything. The deer. 

                                        The foxes sniffing round the porch.  The tiny metal cuckoo

in the box with the broken spring. They finger it's gears and smash it on the table    

            but still nothing comes from it--no movement, no sound. It's dead the way

                        all shiny things die eventually from disuse. The way all things

slow through the afternoon, songless by nightfall.   The cuckoo jerks sometimes

            and comes to life, but only if you crush it in your palm.  The babies crying

                    and the kitchen filthy, only when we whisper hush.

Monday, April 19, 2021

notes & things | 4/19/2021

This past week has been deceptively sunny, but chillier than it seems like it should be, though by now everything is blooming, even the slowest things. I have to remind myself daily how nice, even despite covid fears, it is to be out in the world to appreciate spring. Last year, I was shut inside, far more than I probably needed to be and felt like I missed so much.  It was also a busy week, with finishing up the online exhibit, a zine workshop on Weds, and finishing with our artist discussion Thursday night (and then of course, Friday in which I had a lot of daily things to catch up on that had fallen by the wayside earlier in the week.)  

While I did pretty good at daily poems the first half of the month, and am determined to see it through to 30, if not in April entirely  yesterday I gave over to loafing about and watching fashion videos and doing much of nothing (that is, except pondering whether I can possibly pull off metallics in my wardrobe and napping).  I am okay with this.  While I sometimes edit things on Saturdays when my brain is a little quieter, usually I don't push myself to actually write on those days, and lately, I've been careful to make sure they feel like days off--and that includes even my more creative pursuits, which are still a kind of work. Mostly Saturdays get eaten up in housekeeping and self-care and then just happily existing on Sundays with no productivity expectations.

This week is quieter, though I have a lot of press work to do on forthcoming books. Some cover designs and web shop updates. Firming up our Manifest plans for May and some Urban Legends trivia action in a couple weeks. In a week, it's my birthday day and a few days later, my second vaccine shot.  I'm feeling good about 47, though 46 seems to have barely happened.  I managed to score a green floral peasant dress I'd been stalking for a bit that kept being out of stock for my official birthday dress, though since it falls on a Sunday, it may have to wait for Monday wearing if it's actually warm enough (they are expecting some snow tomorrow, even this late in the year.)  


napowrimo day no 18


In dreams, the hunter comes at dawn, dragging a rifle across the grass. 

                A trail of blood  and a pheasant fat with maggots. Eggs shake 

                    on a high shelf.  The selves we thought to invent grow dodgy

with spoiled milk and infants at both teats. The hunter that eats his way 

                    through pantries and icebox, through bedroom sets and lace underthings. 

                            Frightens the cat who, one day, eats her stillborn kittens down to bones. 

So much birthing and dying overnight, it makes us mad.  Frothing over tea 

                    and  speaking in tongues.  Dead things everywhere, even in our boots.

                                Red in my hair, my mouth, my hands where I hold the babies 

in the river to save their souls from their father's boots. From the stench of rotted deer

                    that emanates from his throat night after night. The wheezing sound that precedes

                                his waking and roaming hands.  The silence that places a palm

                                                around my throat and squeezes til it all goes black. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

napowrimo day no. 17


In the afternoon, we empty the cages. It's all seed and shit, but the feathers 

                        are so soft between my fingers.  The bones so fragile as I set them in teacups 

                                            one by one.  What fun when we'd chase them through the house,

the top of the drapes where they'd wait. Once, my mother opened a window

            and a pair of finches went missing for days, turned up in a town hours away.

                    Who can say what distances we travel while everyone else sleeps in the house.

How many times I carried them to the garden and begged them to go.  But every morning, 

            hungry on the ledge. They'd roll over and over in the dirt. Sip the tiny bits of water

                          in a bowl. I'd wrap the cages carefully in towels at dusk and they'd quiet,

but still I could hear them cooing softly in the dark.  The world circumscribed 

                     by need and even the trees so far from the house. We could never imagine 

                                      making it there before night or hunters got us.  

                                                        Our hearts stopped, so tiny in our chests.

Friday, April 16, 2021

a year of self publishing

I've been working this week on preliminary design for the next book project, which is my collection of midwest gothic awesomeness, dark country.  Over the past couple of years, I've finished an ungodly amount of full-length manuscripts (well, it's just 4, but it feels ungodly when they are sitting quietly unpublished.) I decided this year, since I don't have any book releases on the immediate horizon, and it had been a year since Black Lawrence released sex & violence, that I might as well get them out in the world.  It's been a learning curve--and something altogether different than publishing zines or chapbooks, which I am used to. A full-length book is just so much more unruly than a shorter book. More editing, more proofing, more design hits and misses.  And also, the after work of actually getting it in the hands of readers and getting any sort of blip on the promotion side. It feels hard with anything I write and put out there, but especially something like a full-length collection. 

I've spoken before on my reasons for self-publishing this series of books--mostly that my current publisher passed on a couple of them during reading periods (and obviously, they can't publish everything I write, cause yo, I write a lot.) I'm not feeling like sending to other contests and reading periods is really something I want or have resources to do.  I am also aware of the space I take up as a mid-career, already reasonably well-published author when there are so many other emerging writers out there who could have those opportunities. (I think this sometimes when I'm on the self-pity train, the why not me? train, but really sometimes, things like publishing luck seem really capricious and obviously skewed toward the privileged--whether it's age or gender or ethnicity.) We should all take up less space. Or at best, try to make room through our endeavors. But you also have to balance this with a desire to find your readers and thrive as a creative. 

Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty when you don't have someone--and editor, a publisher, backing you up.  Lots of doubts that you're not just putting more crap into the world.   Other people who probably think your work is crap.  But one thing I hope I've gained as I get older is not so much blatant overconfidence (which is totally true sometimes) , but moreso an ability to discern what is good, what is crap, what's worth launching into the world, and what should just stay safely on my computer for awhile or needs more work.  I also know how to put a book together now, more than I ever did.  Have even been able to help other authors with their through manuscript consultations.  Consultations which actually have taught me as much as I've helped the other author (hopefully I may have just muddied the waters).

So I find myself with a handful of unpublished projects, an ability to make them publishable, and a small audience that (the most awesome thing!) wants to read them.  I was hesitant before, but if covid has taught us anything, it's that certain things that used to matter, don't really all that much anymore. Or matter differently now.  The expense, which at the time was covered by some reading income, and in the future, stimulus funds wasn't all that prohibitive if you do al your own design, use POD small batches (less if you choose to sell through something like Amazon or the B&N site).  Also, that we have no idea how long we have in the world, so what the hell...

All of that is to say that dark country is coming.most likely in July if all goes well on the final edits and interior design front (margins, my friend, are a bitch when the format varies as much as mine does from section to section). feed, which was a longer time coming turned out to be a delicious little book, so I hope this one will as well. More soon...

napowrimo day no 16


You can pluck out the heart and replace it with ash.  The thrashing 

                of wings and feathers lasts only a second. Wire tongued, stiffed 

                            with news print, it almost seems like a real living bird. 

A real living girl. Or the one made of wood, poised outside the pharmacy.  

                    Her ornate box.  How she could tell your fortune for a dime, spit out

                                     between her lips.  Nothing below her hips but a deep cavern filled with coins

and paper. Nothing beneath her dress but spookiness and nesting sparrows. 

                    You can pluck the song out and replace it with static, like a radio signal coming 

                                         far across the valley and down into our mouths.  The houses

we burned to find the one with just the right amount echo. The men

                        whose hands forced open our throats and planted the seed.  

                                                You will go on a long voyage. You will find love when you least expect it.


                                                               Ask again later.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

napowrimo day no. 15


 One morning, they dragged the river for the woman whose husband 

                may have killed her. The children still in their beds come sun-up. 

                                        Come swallow song.  The small shoes they clamored into

and out onto the lawn.  The fawns that wandered through the fence.  

                and were shot summer before, blood everywhere. Even in our ears 

                            as they cried. The children clutching blankets and bears, bleary eyed 

and blinking.  The birds outside were so bright that day they could have been

                  angels, godless, flailing. Could have been shadows, spotting the retina,

                                Could have been our own hearts, thrumming in our chests.


                                                                Diving blindly toward the windows.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

napowrimo day no 14


At dawn, my husband takes out the birds.  Puts them to bed. 

                When we wed, a percussion of wings in the courtyard, but now, 

                                they sputter and rust from the damp. Clutter the tops of cabinets, 

the kitchen pantry. I find one, one morning, tangled in my hair. 

                Small, leaking oil in my palm. Crushed in the hush of sheets 

                                   and blankets we pulled back and forth between us all night. 

How to account for such broken things, this wedded life.  

                   The knife we put to love each evening, then took away.  

                                   The bride cake and it's frosting teeming with ants at the reception. 

                                                            Spoiled in all that sun.   

Not only can you peruse my conspiracy theories pieces the online version of the Library's URBAN LEGENDS:  FROM PLAYGROUND LORE TO CULTURAL NORMS exhibit here, but it's also the debut of April's zine project offering of the same name, which also includes a slew of text pieces written this year.  I read a few of these at the Pretty Owl Poetry release reading a while back, but otherwise, this is their official debut.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

birds and drafts and juvenilia

 Yesterday, I switched gears on my NAPOWRIMO exploits and started something I have a few notes for that's a bit more narrative in focus.  I was laughing all morning that, yes, here I was writing mostly about birds again, then remembered this little draft tucked away in my drawers.  Written so long ago, the paper, three ring notebook and lined, is yellowed and more brittle than it was originally.  I think I was 16 when I wrote it after waking up from a dream about a dead seagull on a beach.  I had moved on from drafting short poems in my blue diary and at that point, had taken to writing drafts on notebook paper and odd bits of pen-pal stationary. I still have most I imagine--all really, really bad, though maybe a bit better than the diary poems when I was 14. I didn't write anything like regularly in those days.  Most of my life was school and otherwise lounging on my bed listening to music or reading.  I probably would have told you I wanted to be a teacher of some sort (this was before my marine bio obsession.)  The year before, it had been an interior designer. 

"Poet" was not something anyone actually did, of course.  Writer maybe...and I loved writing for the school newspaper and the very next year, would be a section editor. Maybe a journalist or a novelist, but never a poet.  Not in my world. But still, I occasionally turned my attention that way--to verse--long after I had started writing for school assignments. This was also around the same time I made my very first artist book endeavor for our Scarlet Letter, though I really didn't know that's what it was.  As I became involved with theatre my senior year, I thought maybe I could be a playwright. (though if you'd asked me,in my dreams, I was a Broadway songstress--hilarious since i am a poor singer.)  There was a burgeoning Poetry Club that met after school with about 5 people in it, but I kept missing meetings due to rehearsals. 

By then, by virtue of a charismatic AP Bio teacher I was being pulled toward science and environmental concerns, and the pieces I wrote for the paper reflected this, as did my decision to go to school in North Carolina that year. But still, I carried the writing with me--along with my electric typewriter and a penchant for perusing lit mags in the UNCW library between classes. A roommate, having again found me cross-legged on the floor of my dorm room again, typewriter in my lap,  said as much as I seemed to write, I'd surely be a famous writer some day. I guess I  am still kind of waiting to get there...but until I returned to the midwest, it was mostly prose and plays I was trying to write. 

Sometimes, I think I should throw out all these drafts--those and the ones on wafer thin typing paper from college and my first submissions.  The ones scribbled on random student government flyers, boring lecture programs,  and class notes.  The ones written during that last year of MA where i was finally making progress--some handwritten, some typed on my little word processor. Or after, the folders organized by year up to the point where I started organizing by project electronically in the mid-aughts.This  makes it harder to determine exactly when something was written except by memory--everything lumped together in a book manuscript, largely since I write a lot of poems in a blogger file or dropbox doc and then just organize them by project, but rarely do I print out and retain individual poems. And ultimately, I suppose, once there were books, those are the final record of a span of work. Obviously those early drafts are really embarrassing and just take up drawer space, but they are also kind of endearing. They help me remember the years of trying to get where I am now, even when I have doubts it's where I belong or should be at all. 

napowrimo day no 13


Begin with screws and wires. The song is in the slide of metal gears, 

                    the whisper of friction where the song lives, deep in the belly of the beast.  

                                         Out east, we slept through winter, feeling out the dark, coldest corners 

of the house only in the middle of the night.  My sister swallowed a bird 

                    that eventually killed her. Willed her onto mountainsides and train tracks. 

                                        No one could wrest it from her throat, though we tried.  Plied her with honey 

and milk and still, she whimpered all night beneath the covers. Her lovers 

                    slipping in and out the window. If you tighten the gears, you can approximate 

                                          singing but only to the untrained ear.  After all, we were listening to the wrong 

                                                            animal, the wrong music.  By June, everything rusted over and out of tune.