Friday, October 15, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | the working girl's grimoire

 


 

spell for the wicked 

Blessed be the exes. Sex damp and wasted. Fastened into feathers and plump with whiskey. The sticky bar back with his twisted fingers. Double fisted archivists and mad chauffers. Real estate brokers and floaters. The grifter with his busted spine, a line of stitches sewn up the back of him and stuffed with rags we set fire to one by one over the city.  Everything was burning sometimes, the building a block over that turned the sky black as a headache.  You were so sick and so lovely when the ashes found you, settling over your dark coat. Floating over the river.  The construction worker had no furniture, so you fucked on the floor. Harbored windswept spaces in all your cavities. The vending machine owner who bent you over the couch in his highrise. The city lit up outside like a circuit board. 


read it here..


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Monday, October 11, 2021

Saturday, October 09, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | archer avenue





The Willowbrook Ballroom is sadly no more and it's been forever since she's made an appearance out on Archer, but my little series of Resurrection Mary poems from way back in 2005 is still a lot of ghosty fun...

notes & things | 10/9/2021




Last night, I slept with the window open and the fan on, instead choosing to burrow deeper under my comforter rather than get up to turn it off.  The weather in general seems not sure if it wants to be warm or cool, and we've had a string of mild, but weirdly humid days. It seems warm for this far into October, but the trees have in most cases taken on a tinge of yellow at the very least (even the tenacious one outside my window) and already some are losing their leaves.  In a week, we'll be mid-month, and Octobers are always a little crazy for me. This week brings hanging a physical exhibit, building another online one for faculty work, and presenting a session on zines and DEI at the end of it.  Though for the past two years, I am always grateful I am not at the same time trying to move the studio as I was in 2019, or that my mother was not slowly dying (as it was in 2017) so I'm good. By November and the holidays things seem to settle down at least in the library exhibits/event arena.

In press and art news, things are getting underway in layouts of 2020 holdovers and the final releases for this year.  I''ve also made it through the first round of reading submissions, so am giving what I haven't passed on and may accept another round of reading. I'm hoping to finish by the end of the month so I can spend November entirely on orders and releases, since there is usually a slight holiday uptick--not so much in books, but other shop things. My experiment in outsourcing the printing on some of the cover printing  is going well. I haven't yet transitioned completely, but will get there, at least on new releases. It has saved me much printer angst, especially on the more color-intensive ones. (ir huge swathes of dark colors and black that like to streak and get lines on my printer.)  The quality on them is equal to my Lexmark I used to have in the studio, though that was the most ridiculously expensive toner to keep up.  The price differential is minimal (about a $1 more) and the quality is really nice. I also have some new shop offerings I have supplies for and am finally getting to in the next couple of weeks. 

After winding up the spell poems (and you will be seeing those sooner than you think in zine form *spoiler*) I actually did something last week I had not done in over 20 years, which was finish a piece of fiction--horror fiction at that.  It still needs some work, but it isn't half bad.  I also started another story. This week was filled with early and late starts, so my daily writing schedule went to shit, but I'm going to work a bit on them in the mornings in the time I usually devote to poems and we'll see what happens. I still feel like i am ill-suited for the genre as I ever was, but maybe it's not terminal. The sort of world-building that one gets to do in fiction is very pleasurable for me, so it's something. Also, what month is more appropriate for writing ghost stories than October?

On a visual front, I did finish the final version of my black-velvet pieces (they are really faux velvet, created with vintage images on paper and some very tricky flocking). I'll be exhibiting them in the Bad Art exhibit debuting at the end of the week. I also want to make some Halloween collages for patreon again, as well as finish up some shorter poem/film things on the burner. My latest addiction is making spooky instagram reels, for both my instagram and the Library's, which lately feels like a form of self-care I badly need, so definitely watch for more of those--some artful and some just pure silliness.   


Friday, October 08, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | plump



My little zine retelling of the Hansel & Gretel Story can be read here.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | alternative facts

 




"After all, /  everything's a catastrophe when you're knee deep in machinery. 

Everything monstrous when you're a monster. / America like a spider in its mechanical web / while the markets grew fat and fell. "

If anyone has heard me read via zoom or spotted anything I've published in journals in the last year or so , my pride and joy has been this little series of poems based on tabloid headlines of yore, which seemed to be the perfect subject matter in an era an fake news and other nonsense. Since they are filled with monsters (both real and metaphorical) this month seemed the perfect time to pull them together into an e-zine as a #31daysofhalloween offering to the poetry gods. 

You can read it here. 

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | ghost landscapes



One of my first efforts in using watercolors was a set of postcards that eventually became the prompt for a series of poems about a train station in the middle of a town in the middle of nowhere and the strange landlocked pull of it. Initially available only in print, and later included in my longer book, SALVAGE, you can read the text alongside the images in this digital version.

the things we leave behind


Last week, for the first day of #31daysofhalloween offerings, I finally unveiled the culmination of something that was 10 years in the making--something that had various components and a few different conceptualizations of what the finished form would be.  Initially it was just the collages (2012).  Then the larger installation that included them as a part of a library exhibit. (2015).  The text components were initially planned as a sheaf of letters and other ephemera tucked into a box (not unlike the Cornell project.) 

I spent the summer of 2017 writing those parts and doing research on things like taxidermy and hungarian legends and by fall, had a badly beaten spiral notebook full of text portions--letters and journal entries--full of research notes. Then my mother spent the entire autumn in hospitals and rehab centers and then was gone, and try as I may, though 2018 was a productive year for writing and art to keep my mind occupied, I did not return to the project. Every time I started transcriing what was in the notebook, I grew frustrated that it wasn't what I wanted.  I returned to it during the first weeks of quarantine, again to distract myself from other things, but it wasn't working out. Finally, I decided to ditch most of what was in the notebook and distill it down to the bare minimum I needed to tell a story.  

A story of two sisters haunted by a house full of dead animals and cruel men.  By ghosts and their own unborn children.  I liked the sparer version much better, and realized that maybe the orange notebook had been instrumental in the process and not just a bulk of wasted time and effort to get to where I wanted to be. Though I had envisioned it on a grander scale and a much more intricate project, it was already quite large if you counted the visual components--the collages, the installation. What felt like a failure to get it where I wanted it to be began to feel more like this was what it was intended to be all along.

It is also strange in that the collages are steeped in my own maternal family history.  Exactly a decade ago, I returned home for a weekend to get an alumni award from my undergrad school and my aunt, before I left, dragged out a box of cabinet cards & photos she had been sent from relatives Nebraska. She only knew who a few of the faces were (including a picture of my grandmother as a child (above).   I had seen other prints of this photo in the albums my mother inherited from my grandmother herself. One of the first feelings of dread when it comes to mortality I remember as a child was navigating a huge stack of photos on my grandmother's coffee table after her death--photos of family, but also friends, trips, places and people we weren't familiar with.  I was only 8, but it made me uncomfortable. 

What happens to someone's life --not the body or the soul but the million pieces one leaves in the world.   Where does it go?  Who does it belong to?  The saddest and most interesting things at thrift stores are the caches of random photos and ephemera, no doubt rescued from someone's house.  These cabinet cards felt like that.  My aunt told me there were mine and to do with them what I would, but I could not bring myself to wreck them, so carefully scanned each one and tucked the originals away.  A few weeks ago I came across them straightening my studio area at home and was tempted to toss them again.  I did not. But then I wondered why not? Some day, when I am dead, because I have no children, someone will find them and throw them away. 

Stuff makes me anxious..even more personal stuff.  While the thought of someone one day packing up clothes and books for donation is less frightening, I think of my photo albums. My journals. Yearbooks from middle school and junior high. Several scrapbooks--writing related, theatre related. My folders full of poem drafts. Where does this go/  Who owns it when i am gone??  Who even wants it? Will those same victorian photos of people somehow distantly related to me wind up in the hand of another artist like me. A collector of odd random things. 

Which of course, brings us back to the project.  The letters (fictional) from one sister to another across time and distance. Somewhere I have a few odd letters from high school penpals.  Some notes from friends in the years before e-mail.  Letters sent from family when I was living in North Carolina and badly wanted mail. There were some love letters I once kept-- from an ex who spent time incarcerated for the better part of a year and wrote often. (though I briefly and unwisely  revived this entanglement a couple years later, the letters I tossed in 2013.)  As e-mails and text became the prime ways to communicate, the paper trail has dwindled. Thankfully, no one will read my letters when they are gone.  As a writer who wonders how much of famous authors writings they actually would shiver to see published now, this is a big relief.  


Tuesday, October 05, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | halloween postcard



This winter, in my year of self-publishing endeavors, I will be releasing another homeless full-length project, ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MONSTER. This little spooky collage is the tentative cover option for the book I'm just beginning to plot design-wise. (and one of my favorites from some I made for my Patreon subscribers  last Halloween.)  I plan on making some more this month in a similar vein, so watch the set unfold here

 

talking about strawberries all of the time

 


"Sex, the siren turned dowager who donned her hat and maidly umbrella and set sail for further shores. No one knows where she drowned, there amid the pans caked with sauce and the lonely olive floating a spoon."

______________________________________________

I am super stoked to have 5 brand spanking new pieces up at:


Monday, October 04, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | errata




Way back in 2005, I wrote and published a series of poems based around victorian literary conventions that definitely had a gothic feel (and some were specifically about gothicism and gothic literature itself.)  One of the pieces that was included in the chap, but did not make it into my second full-length collection IN THE BIRD MUSEUM, which included most of that project as a section, was this little poem in three voices. ( I was helping the editor with the typesetting it was proving too complicated for my InDesign skills so I cut it out)  It's a nice little poem though (esp. if you read it in three voices at the same time overlapping. 

You c an read a pdf of the original, uncut chap here.







#31daysofhalloween | the summer house

 



"We went on for this like years til the child looked like any child.  Like any other life.  Play dates and fruit punch.  In the dark, we could pretend she was one of us, until she'd sigh or cough. A hundred drones escaping from between her lips."


Friday, October 01, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | unusual creatures

unusual creatures is a three part project / installation / zine created over the last decade devoted to the spooky history of two sisters.  The work was created with and inspired by victorian era cabinet cards inherited on my mother's side of the family. 


unusual creatures zine

unusual creatures portraits

creepy curiosities installation

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

becoming who you are



As we are nigh upon true spooky season (though some of us are always there..lol..) I've been readying myself for #31daysofhalloween, where I'll be sharing bits of projects and things I've created that fit with the season,.  Which of course, each year, grows with new projects and endeavors--maybe not always supernatural, but sometimes creepy nonethless.  Looking at my list of zine & artist book offerings I was laughing that so much of it fits the theme you might think I specificially set out to be a horror-ish writer and maybe you are not entirely wrong. 

Over the years, there has been plenty of non-horror, non-creepy/spooky work for sure (well maybe everything is tinged by it a little.  I've written books about love, about disconnection, about mothers and daughters. But even still, it wouldn't be my work without a few ghosts and a little bit of haunting action.It's inevitable no doubt, as much time, as a consumer I spend consuming horror or  sci-fi and talking about it enthusiastically (with friends, my sister, my boyfriend, anyone who will listen and is similarly minded.) In fact, I have entire friendships based on a shared love of horror.  A few semester's back, we had a couple panel discussions on women and horror and I wanted them to last all night and was sad when they ended.  Sometimes, I entertain the notion of going back to grad school to study horror in a cinema studies context. I am, in a word, obsessed. My dad continues to surprise me talking about him and his friends writing monster stories instead of doing their classwork back in the 50's.. Apparently, it's in my blood.  

No one would be surprised, since I've been living and breathing such movies since I was old enough to even be conscious of movies. While I spent much of my youth checking out whatever even touched horror from the school and local library, and hoarding novels far above my age appropriate range given to me by an aunt, my first experience of horror in poetry was Poe, who I encountered in 8th grade, a time when I was also trying to write my own attempts at a horror novel. It was a love that carried me through high school where I was mainlining Stephen King, but it never occurred to me to combine poems and horror myself, most of my own efforts devoted to the sort of things all 15 year old girls write about--boys, cats, flamingos.

When I set about seriously writing poems in my mid-20's, the bedrock was there.  Though I wrote poems about many things, there was definitely a darkness to even the lightest subject matter. It was how I moved in the world and all my points of reference. I wrote a lot about mythology and history, but my best poems were about witch trials and Bloody Mary.  After a reading in the mid-aughts, someone told me they loved my work because it seemed like a melding of Sylvia Plath and David Lynch, which seemed like the highest compliment I would ever receive. 

They say, as we grow older, we don't really change, but really only become more and more of what we already are.  The great thing about releasing DARK COUNTRY a month or so back was launching a book so well suited for my teenage girl self  (the one who devoured King and Christopher Pike and loved horror that it was pretty much the only thing she wanted to rent from the video store every Friday night.) So maybe, inadvertently, I've become a horror poet somehow. Not only a horror poet, surely, but somehow more than I am any other kind of poet I suppose. I can live with that. 




 


Sunday, September 26, 2021

art and monsters


 It seemed fitting, as the first half of the double-feature AHS season came to a close this week that we screened the classic  A Bucket of Blood at the library, which too is about art and fame and how both make monsters of us all. Also fitting that I am just about to start work on finalizing animal, vegetable, monster for publication this winter, and that book's particular themes on artmaking and monstrosity.  Also, online conversations about the "art monster"  cropping up occasionally. What is it that makes creatives sort of monstrous in a world that either at turns adores or ignores, depending on your genre and level of success?

AHS, in very Stephen King set of characters and setting, offers us the comparison on genius to parasitism, putting at it's center a failing screenwriter taking pills, known as"the muse", to not only be prolificly brilliant, but financially successful. Ditto his daughter, one of the best/worst AHS villains ever--one with not even a single redeeming quality (rare in that universe--even the anti-christ in Apocalypse was a bit more likeable.) The artists on the drug, mostly writers of some breed,  spend a lot of time justifying their terrible behavior in the name of their own importance in the world.  Their derision for the ordinary people, or the pale hacks who take the pill but lack the genius, goes deep. So much can be said of writers and their social vampirism--feeding and regurgitating the stories of others. The screenwriter's wife, who takes her interior design cues from instagram, predictably, becomes one of the pale people, assisted by her violin protege daughter, who repeatedly berates her mother for being talentless.  Other characters, better characters, with talent but also with some sort of conscious are either murdered or self-destruct--a sense of moral right and wrong seemingly incompatible with the world of art and commerce.  

I have a theory sometimes that scarcity is what makes the monsters monstrous...and nowhere does their appear to be more scarcity than poetry, a genre mostly ignored by even the tiny number of readers who actually read books at all. In some circles, the prizes, the accolades, the attention one may gain my climbing to the top of the pile of bodies is worth kicking a few other's down the side of the hill. It's this that makes poets snarky and mean, sometimes sheltering tiny egos that barely make a flicker.  I've never seen the sort of fighting in other creative pursuits as I saw in various poetry pissing contests in the early aughts. Even now sometimes, though I am less in it, I hear world of some argument happening somewhere over things no one else in the poetry world cares about, one reason I have always preferred the company of other creative fields,  They surely have their monsters, but still it seems different and far less shark infested waters.   

Saturday, September 25, 2021

notes & things | 9/25/2021


Now that I am in the thick of working 5-day weeks and the swing of fall at the Library and all it's doings, there has been a bit less time for occupying this space, but I hope to get back,. In truth, I've barely written anything the past two weeks, not even poems,  since I was requiring a bit more sleep due to exhaustion and a weekend away with no real rest. Most days, I was sleeping well past my alarm and until the very minute I had to get up and get in the shower lest I be late and getting breakfast downtown. Rinse, repeat.  Finally, I landed on this weekend, so hope to re-orient myself to saner habits. 

It has been a week of being a bit more back to social normal, though I am not sure the anxiety that comes with it is worth it. Last weekend, an impromptu party for my dad.  The next day, a dinner out. Things that normally would not be as tinged with low-grade anxiety for me, but nevertheless were.  At the library, another quick tour for the SSD office (though smaller than the one at the beginning of the month.) and then Thursday night, a screening of bad horror and collage making, which drew in a good number of people who seem starved for actual-life things. I kept a bit of distance from them and worked at another table on the flood of work that increases as the semester begins. My moods have been extra swingy, and I feel about 5 seconds or 5 wrong words from meltdown. I am determined to enjoy things, so near the end, I sat down and made a few strange collages and it lifted my mood temporarily at least.  There is more to do, in terms of selecting work and hanging exhibits, choosing this years Artist in Residence for the library, but this is the work I enjoy mostly. 

Otherwise, there is just some tedious work (ILL) and more enjoyable work--then other non-paid work as I get the later half of 2021 books under way, along with the final stragglers from last year put off because of covid. As I read through next year's submissions, I find myself reeling in my desire to even take on as much as this year, so the list may be smaller still, since I am still struggling for time to keep up on orders.  I had a moment of teary eyed printer battling that forced me to make some production decisions I will share in a longer post, but let's just say I am working on fixing some parts of the process that make it far more labor intensive than it has to be. 

Despite moodiness and exhaustion, I am trying desperately to enjoy fall.  One day, the humidity lifted and, right on schedule, around the equinox with it's giant Harvest Moon, it was autumn again. One night, not only did I have to turn off the fans, I had to close the windows. The trees don't know it just yet, but the air and the slant of light does. I'm a bit late pulling out the fall wardrobe, because it was so warm and I've been busy, but I may even make soup tonight or tomorrow. Last night, lit all the candles in the house, turned out the lights,  and began to watch Midnight Mass on Netflix, which in typical Mike Flanagan fashion, did not disappoint. It's high spooky season, so I've been queing up even more horror than usual, which is a lot. (I will also have another full post about this season's AHS coming soon.)

This week, as I intend to finish the spell poems before the end of the month if I can get back to writing daily, I've been pondering where to go next in poem adventures.  There are a series of video poems I've been plotting.  A project re-mixing TS Eliot. The hotel series I need to get back to. Another full-length project that will be unveiling at the end of the year (animal, vegetable monster)--though I haven't yet started getting the final version ready just yet. A couple of zine releases.  And of course, October, where I'll be dropping a few creepier offerings for consumption.Stay tuned....

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

black velvet goodness




 




















My other endeavor for the upcoming BAD ART exhibit are some black velvet posters of these botanical collage lovelies. See more here....

Monday, September 20, 2021

notes from the submission wilds


Sometimes, there are parts of the poetry world (the biz, the establishment, the whatever) that frustrate me in particular. Some I've cast off and left for dead in terms of my own work.  And actually that is an inaccurate statement, since there are multiple poetry worlds, some of which touch an overlap, some of which never do. But whatever corner of this world, whatever the circle and its orbit, I'll occasionally happen along an interesting  new journal or a new press, and yet, rather than finding new voices I see the same ones. Like the same 20 or so people.  People I already see everywhere else.  Or in the last editing project of whoever is in charge.  This, obviously has partially to do with the poets who submit their work a lot and get carried in many places.  These are familiar names usually, either because of frequency of popping up here and there or knowing that they work really hard getting out there because they talk about the process and successes/failures of doing so. But while I see these folks a lot, there are certain pockets of the poetry world that seem to only publish the same few names--usually friends or mentors or former students of the person or people making the selections. While I also know it's hard to get something rolling and very often those first issues are all solicitation, it becomes strange if the list of contributors never really changes long after the submissions start rolling in.  The work is usually good, but it's also something I've seen so much of. (I say this knowing full well that I myself occasionally oversaturate publications when I'm submitting alot and people get sick of me..lol..)

Obviously, if you go through the effort of doing the mostly unpaid labor of curating a literary project, you can publish whoever you damn want.  This may be why we do it.   Our own collection of poets like rare birds. Like stones in the hand.  And obviously I too have published people I know, mostly becuase in knowing them--the reason I know them usually--is BECUASE I am interested in their work. However, do this too much and it seems a little circle-jerkish, no?    I'm not saying the task of the editor is to be impartial, or front that the quality of the work, or THEIR judgement of it, is objective.  I obviously publish things I like.  Things that excite me for some reason (and those reasons vary from project to project.) I make no claims otherwise, no gestures of superiority as a gatekeeper. Publishing is not The Hunger Games (though some people act like it is.)  

But I also think we have, as gatekeepers, and obligation to promote new voices.  More diverse voices--to seek them out. Voices that aren't getting published everywhere at once. I've been thinking of this tonight as I dig further into the summer dgp submissions for next year.  What I am looking for.  What I am particularly excited by.  And while I spotted a half dozen past authors amongst the offerings (who I will always make room for if I like their project--because I like supporting the authors who support me), I was most excited by the people I had never seen work from before. Some of them writing for decades.  Some of them still in undergrad and just beginning to send out work.I want to see these manuscripts, even if they are not for dgp, becuase I want to know who to look out for next. If something doesn't appeal to me but is promising, I will ask them to submit again next period. I would never want to be the press that just keeps publlshing the same coterie of poets over and over again.   You will  of course, find some familiar faces next year, but I try to publish a much larger ratio of poets I know nothing about. Who have somehow found this little press and think their work might have a home and harbor here. Judging by what I have read and earmarked for second reading, next year will be amazing and contain quite a few surprises and new authors.  I can't wait to share them..

Friday, September 17, 2021

the only way out is through

I thought of this last night as I was making my way up Michigan trying to find a bus home  during the nightly Mexican Independence day impromptu festivities.  For a couple nights each fall, they snarl up traffic to the point that everyone just decides to party in the street. Weds. I took the train, but was trying to avoid doing it again, so I just kept walking north on Michigan , through the partyers, through the fireworks in the street, through the cars, hoping to emerge across the river. When I stopped to rest a couple times and people watched (it's a considerable walk to the river) it was still a lovely night with lots of people around--some drifting music, a nice breeze, and glittering lights.  Though I ended up on the train and got home two hours later than intended (and still had to catch the train at Grand.) it was not the worst way to spend the night, though I was exhausted from the walking (about 14 blocks total)  and am paying for it with sore calves today.  The only way out seemed to be through, and this I feel is my mantra lately for everything--stacks of incoming ILL's now that the semester is in swing.  My ever growing to-do list.  Bustling dgp business.  Various crises, big and small. 

When I was on the train Wednesday, it was packed with Sox fans going back to the north side (I did not know that Sox fans existed in Cubs territory, but apparently they do.)  They were loud and obnoxious bros, but were suddenly quelled when a man pulled a cell from a case as we emerged from underground  and started playing  (something classical and familiar, but I  don't know enough to know what.)  He was pretty good.  It would have been a beautiful moment had I not been tired and annoyed and it struck me this how most things go.  I rarely enjoy things--even my favorite things becuase I am too rushed, too tired, too anxious. Always moving on to the next thing and the next.  I sometimes feel like I've a built a life--tried to build a life out of the things I enjoy, but somehow along the way, have ceased to actually enjoy them properly.  

It may be a sign of the times, the drag of covid, everyone feeling some way or another of the same feelings..I have no solution, only to make an effort to change it...

Thursday, September 16, 2021

rhymes and other youthful indiscretions


 I was around 21 when I took my first poetry workshop as an undergrad.  My first one had been fiction writing at 19, where I was told understandably that my sentences were just too long and windy and prone to losing the reader entirely. The instructor, who was an alumni who had at some point won some major award for prose, does get credit for introducing me to Lorrie Moore's work--a longtime favorite. I slogged through vapid short stories that I don't even remember the details of that semester--made most difficult by the photocopies we had to make and bring to class every couple of weeks and which were a bitch to get in the early 90's--most printed on a slow xerox in a copy store nested in a strip mall between the failing video store and a dry cleaner. Also typed on my sad little typewriter and clotted with correction fluid. Since my focus was the lit track--courses in American and British lit--with a lean toward drama and minor in theatre, the workshops were mostly just for fun.   While I had been writing a bit my freshman year after I came back from NC,-skinny little poems mostly about social issues--I had taken a break on verse.

When I landed in the poetry one in the spring of 1996, I was a little older, though maybe not wiser.  My other classes included my senior seminar devoted to Paradise Lost and a course on Greek mythology that would be more helpful than I imagined. The poems, when I began to write them, rhymed in a way that I thought was reminiscent of Dickinson, but was more likely reminiscent of Hallmark cards and dirty limericks. .  I was by no means the worst poet in the class, but then we were all pretty bad. If you'd asked me--I thought I was a genius. Because my only references were about one to hundred years in the past, the poems I was writing mirrored those, having no conception of what modern poetry even looked like. Most were broken into four end-rhymed stanzas.  But I was good at that minicry--clever even , in my slant rhymes and ear for rhythm. By the summer after, I was shaking it off, like a butterfly shakes off a cocoon and the poems were better--worth of a couple writing prizes my last year there. This was the summer I took to submitting again.  Took to reading my poems into tape recorder as I revised. By that final year, my fifth, I was in deep for the long haul. .

I often talk about my grad school self making that decision to do this poetry thing as a pursuit (if not a career proper.)  That was the year I studied Eliot and something broken open in terms of voice. But it probably was a couple years earlier when I began to pursue it seriously, if not well. Somewhere in a  file folder, I have all those college poems --most typed on that same typewriter and dispersed among my workshop mates--all English majors themselves though none of them would become writers.  Later, when I was applying to my MFA program in 2003, , I would ask that teacher to write me a recommendation and she would decline, saying she did not remember me. Since she had at one point, my freshman year, been my advisor, I wondered if she was just being nice.  . (I instead garnered glowing recommendations from the editor of my first chap and a dramatic lit teacher I had during my MA years at DePaul.) I got into the program and four years later, emerged an even better a writer with a first book already under my belt. 

I don't think you can guage a writer by what they are producing at 21, any more than the poet I was I was at 27 is the same poet I am at 47, or the same I was at 37. I still rhyme, just in different ways, and probably more now than I did a decade ago--just more internal rhyme that helps power the machine of the poem and helps to keep it rolling. Whatever I wrote then honed skills in rhythm and movement that only propelled me along after I'd shed the end-rhyme. Sometimes I can hear that 21 year old poet in a lien I write, and it makes me happy to know she's still there.


  

Saturday, September 11, 2021

living inside history

Yesterday, amidst the 9/11 memorials and remembrances I saw numerous people say that it was one time Americans pulled together to mourn and take on the bad guys.  And basically following with an inquiry as to why its impossible now.  Which is strange because while I think we were together in our sadness and shock, how we all reacted was very different. Many turned inward in mourning, began fostering anxieties they may have never had before. Suffered a feeling of vulnerability we, as Americans somehow thought we were immune from (if we thought about it all.)  Others took that shock and turned it into flag waving patriotism and muslim bashing. Actually middle eastern bashing, since anyone who was Arab-looking or non-white was suspect, subject to all sorts of abuse. An indian family who owned the fast food chain where I usually ate lunch in the loop closed for weeks scared out of their mind.  A Pakistani grocery store, that had just opened around the corner debuted the week prior, then promptly closed, only to re-open with a sign emblazoned with a huge flag and re-branding themselves as "American Food Mart."  The sneering and jeering filtered even into the city, into my rather diverse neighborhood where a huge population hails from all over the world. It happened again of course with Covid, this time with Asian-Americans, one of whom, a student whose work we were putting in an exhibit in March, was too afraid to come downtown to deliver it. The more things change the more they stay the same. 

I myself occasionally, though it dips into crazy conspiracy theories I have not really delved into, wondered in those months afterward--as Bush's approval rate went up and it launched a war we were just itching to get into--whether or not it had been an inside job. This seemed crazy. I more thought about how easy it might be to look the other way.  It was neither here nor there.  It had happened either way. When I mentioned it, people seemed taken aback. How dare I? There were obvious bad guys.  Obvious villains.  It was maybe just my general Gen X distrust of authority.  I had no crazy theories, definitely wouldn't die on that cross,  just a healthy distrust of Republican governement in partticular--the same one that was ruled by the rich, war mongering, and had abused power in the past (McCarthyism anyone?) Had ignored the AIDS crises.  Had done super shady things left and right. I am always willing to entertain more realistic theories when the spoils and gains of such nonsense are apparent.  If it was true, we'd probably never know. It it wasn't true, then it didn't matter. Distrust is natural.  Doing so in a way that causes harm to others is not. 

I occasionally try to wrap my head around the Covid deniers, the Q-Anons, the government officials who insist that thousands of people are not dying as we speak.  That it's a worldwide conspiracy to plant chips or 5G or get us to wear masks..well, for what? To comply.  To be obedient.  This seems, on either side of the party line, to be sort of a useless plot with no goals-all it did was fuck up the economy and send people further down the rabbit hole. And you can't hide or manufacture stacks of dead people. What is the gain?  Where is the why? My other favorite conspiracy theory I like to think is true has to do with powerful men, their dirty secrets,  and Jeffery Epstein. The sort of strings you can pull with that leverage.  Again, I have no proof either way, but that's how conspiracies work.  For a lark, last weekm I scanned the headlines of Fox News and found only one tiny mention of coronavirus and it was a piece on how Fauci lied about Wuhan---not about the hundreds dying in Florida daily.   Of course people who rely on certain news outlets don't think we're in a pandemic. Becuase according to the news, we're not. 

What was worse, and more insidious, was the facebook anti-vax articles in my feed the following day after that visit.  This, I imagine, is how misinformation spreads among the gullible.  How one bad source leads to more.  How people, left at home with more free time in lockdown, were mobilized and radicalized in bad directions.  It had everything to do with the January 6th riot.  Everything to do with people injesting horse parasite remover instead of getting a free shot in the arm.  I don't think unity is possible when a good percentage of Americans don care at all about other people. What startled me was some of them were in my own extended family. When Trump won all those years ago, I was less afraid of his policies, having weathered republican regimes before, but more afraid that it gave the monsters a hero-something terrible to get behind and bolster up. The assholes creeping from the corners and free to be assholes.  Also, I look at America and it feels like such a waste in a land supposedly so free--not from the things they think we need to be from (gun control, mask mandates) but from literal nazis. Where the rich get richer and the poor just are dying--of sickness, of hunger. Lack of health insurance. Poverty and socionomic conditions that favor gun violence and mental health disorders.  A world moved by misinformation and "fake news" and mob mentality.  

I am so very tired of living inside history..and a very dysfunctional place in history at that. 

#authorfashion notes


Truthfully, even before covid I rarely shopped in store for clothing.  Actually, for much of anything besides quick stops for shampoo or hair color at Walgreens or CVS.  Thrift stores and the Dollar Tree sometimes in Rockford. I think I was in a Target in the fall of 2019 when I needed an alarm clock and somehow left with a bird skeleton Halloween decoration and mallow pumpkins. I remember wandering briefly through the clothes section, but spotting nothing that caught my eye.

Part of it is I rarely am able, even if the stores offer extended sizes online, to buy them in store.  For years this was true of Old Navy, who are finally making good on offering a larger range of sizes in their stores in addition to online. Even the plus size retailers like Avenue, which used to be a staple, rarely have their entire lines in store, most deplorably not all their dresses. In the aughts, when I was a couple sizes larger, I would occasionally shop Lane Bryant downtown or find some gems at Filenes Basment or TJ Maxx.  I most often left with nothing.  Fashion Bug was sometimes a winner, but not in the city. I usually couldn't afford Nordstrom or Macy's. At the time, Torrid dress offerings ran super short--fine in the winter with tights but a poor idea in the windy city, where I would certainly spend most of the day trying to keep my ass covered (this has changed over the past few years as their target audience grew up.)

Around 2013, I stopped drinking regular soda, worked on controlling my binge disorder,  started walking more, and dropped some sizes, and suddenly the door to fashion opened a little more.  Modcloth was expanding their offerings, and though sometimes it depends on the brand, I could find a lot that worked. Eshakti, an India-based company that does customizeable dresses was growing, so many of my clothes were coming from there. I also started prowling Ebay for second-hand, which gave me a huge selection of various labels at good prices, some of them still sporting tags or worn only once. I started building a wardrobe that I love rather than settling for whatever fit and I didn't exactly hate. All of which rekindled my childhood love of clothes, which I'd sort of lost in my years of first hating my body, hiding it, then later, paying not much attention to it at all. 

It's probably genetic. My mother was intent on filling her closet, first with discount store blouses, then with thrift store finds. Was a fanatic about matching her earrings perfectly to whatever she was wearing. I would borrow her clothes in junior high, her loose blouses perfect over leggings and a tank top in pure late 80's style. In high school, while I longed for mall shop attire, I mostly bought jeans and men's sweatshirts, which I wore with ubiquitous faux Keds.  When I got to college in North Carolina, I mostly swapped the jeans for khaki and olive shorts w/ Birkenstocks, then for leggings and long hippy skirts and lace up boots when I returned to the midwest. It was the 90's by then, one of my favorite fashion decades now, but I was kind of limited in my own style.  I liked black turtlenecks and floral broomstick skirts. The long skirts stuck, with occasional jeans through my first jobs and all of my 20's. By the mid aughts, my uniform was a long black skirt and layered tees, or in warmer weather, with tanks and a cardigan. Lots of black and grey I feel like I was still covering up though--rarely did I bare my arms or my knees.  Trying to blend in or disappear entirely.  

I would not be able to tell you what changed, but as I moved into my mid-30's, my skirts got shorter, the ankle length swapped for midi. Even at my heaviest weight. While I did not feel as comfortable bearing skin as I do now, I occasionally took off the cardigans in the summer,  I developed a love for layering lacy vintage slips, which I was just starting to sell in my etsy shop, peeking out beneath my skirts. The more vintage I sold in the shop, sometimes tiny dresses that barely fit my Size 8 mannequin, the more I began to hunt for similar things--similar flavors--in new things that would fit me.  Fashion Big had an amazing line called Studio 1940 that I bought a couple of my oldest and favorite dresses in my closet and still seek out even now long after the retailer closed. I discovered Modcloth and it was all over for my wallet.  

I still love knee length things best, though I will venture into sweeping maxi's if they aren't too cumbersome. I now wear colors and patterns I never would have even looked at in my 20's. Polkadots, stripes, wild florals. I regularly go without sleeves pretty much anywhere in warm weather. I discovered I looked pretty good in red, so you'll find about a dozen red dresses on my rack, as well as various shades of yellow depending on the season.  And yes, even some orange. In a city where most folks still wear a lot of black and grey I am sometimes the brightest thing in view   I am okay with this now, though for years, it terrified me. (Though I also love me some black even still, though it's a choice now rather than a default.).

A decade later, I still get most of my clothes from Ebay and Poshmark, augmented with some new things (mostly Old Navy lately, though I did get a cute sweater dress for fall from Lane Bryant recently.)  I keep my eye on pricier places, though mostly to keep track of things to look for second hand later. My summer prizes were a couple of spendy Anthroplogie dresses at 1/3 their original price I'm excited to wear in cooler weather. They, like most retailers are finally seeing the light that fat girls actually want beautiful clothes. Who'd have thunk.. 


Thursday, September 09, 2021

tragedies and stories...


On the morning of September 11th, I had woken up, like any of the morning of the previous year to get ready for work. It was still technically summer hours, the semester then beginning the last week of September, so I was 9-5-ing it groggily, though at 27, I was better able to manage being tired all the time.  The previous week, we'd gotten a torrential rainstorm that had flooded the libraries basement and sent water spoutng from a now-removed 2nd Floor water fountain, closed the subway and forced the red line to the elevated tracks. But that Tuesday was clear and sunny and much like these early September days. I had a television then, and a cable hookup I wasn't paying for, so daily I watched the local news as I showered and got dressed, mostly as background noise. As I was rounding up my keys and getting ready to turn off the tv, it flashed that there was a plane crash in New York--that an aircraft had plunged into the WTC. It crossed my mind as I flipped off the set, already a little late to leave, how it was strange it didn't happen more often--all that air traffic, all those tall buildings. It did not even cross my mind that something sinister was afoot. 

On the train, which I then took daily to get downtown, I read.  I don't remember what--most likely one of the novels I reviewed for a website that once sent me free books. I could hear murmurings around me before we went underground, where the noise drowned out most things, in the fellow passengers talking about New York and a plane crash, but in those pre-cell phone days (or at least MINE..I didn't have a mobile til 2004) once I was out of the house, I was mostly disconnected.  I arrived in the Loop, climbed out of the subway, and walked to the lobby of my campus building--my first indication that anything was really going on being the security guard standing rather rapt in front of the lobby tv watching coverage as I passed through.  Inside, I stood talking to my co-workers about a surly patron interaction from the previous day..none of us looking at the internet or really aware of what was happening.   Inside, I still had no idea anything was going on besides a plane crash until a few minutes later, when the guard rushed in to talk to the desk staff,, which seems strange in this world now of constant internet and news. But we were unaware until suddenly, everyone was aware.  The second crash. The Pennsylvania Plane.  The possibility of more. Then the towers falling one by one.  By then, the internet wasn't working, no doubt just too much traffic, and I somehow found myself upstairs on the A/V desk waiting for slow news pages to load. (we didn't even have computers at our personal desks at that point.)  Soon the campus was closing--though it actually freaked me out a little more since I wasn't sure I wanted to be out there in the streets if something was going on.  My coworkers eyed the proximity of the Sears Tower--which way it would fall if it went down. 

I'm not sure I would have felt as vulnerable as I did if I was living elsewhere, but the city seemed a perilous place to be. All those buildings and transport systems. All those people.   Before even noon, we all erupted outside into the sun--into crowds the density of which I have never seen outside of things like Lolla and sports stuff. Every single building in the loop emptying at once--people who gradually made their way in the morning, but now all left at once..lots of men in white and blue work shirts, women in smart heels and blazers, eyes narrowing in the midday sun.   The train was crowded, and scary, and I remember, as we came out of the underground on the north side looking back to make sure the city was intact. It was, and remained so, but while 9/11 was a New York particular tragedy, it reverberated through every urban area. In the weeks after--the months after--I had terrifying dreams of planes and terrorism.  I jumped on and off the train many times because of a single foreboding dream message.  (and eventually abandoned it entirely for the bus.) I still do not watch coverage or documentaries about the attacks. 20 years later, I avoid them, even with my love of apocalypse and disaster movies.  Twenty years later that wound is still open a little, which was more, from this distance, a wound to my psyche and sense of safety in the world.  A loss of innocence.  A feeling of vulnerability that never went away. I was also put off by the rabid patriotism that followed  more than any kind of mourning.  By the rush into a war that even now, we are still seeing repercussions from. There are images that stick..the victims jumping from the towers.  The streets covered in ash.  The pancaking buildings.  I cannot help but feel a catch in my breath when NY-set shows of the 90's flash on the towers.  And that's from several states away--I can't imagine how New Yorkers feel when they see these things.  

But then again, it occurred to me that the daily covid toll for one day last week was rivalling the death toll of 9/11 and I could not escape the irony..how the same people--many of the very same people--who waved their flags and demanded retribution in the form of war  are responsible for letting thousands die in hospitals every day..not only allowing it,but contributing by not getting vaxxed and not wearing masks. And this tragedy keeps happening, will continue happening.  We are living these days every day, and really everywhere. Sure, there is much less fire and dust, less explosiveness, less of a villain than our own stupid natures.  When I was in Gulfport, MS. and then NOLA a couple times years ago, everyone I talked to, about anything, at some point came around to the phrase "Before Katrina..."  So much loss--in lives and property and history. It circumscribed their days. Charted their paths even a decade or more later.  While less deadly on a personal level, less destructive, we all say things now like "Before Covid..." and what follows ranged from the serious (death. job loss) to not-so-serious (entertainment, social things, hobbies and pursuits. Obviously some things are more tragic than others.  The lives we used to live that we no longer live.  The things we hope to get back to.  The things we cast off.  I don't know what will stick.  After 9/11, everyone still had to remove their shoes and check their liquids when flying.  That gaping hole in the city sat empty for years before it was rebuilt.  It's hard to judge what will remain and what will be forgotten. 


Tuesday, September 07, 2021

oh, poetry....

 I've been trying this summer, at least once a week to have more writerly focused content--at least one post per week devoted to solely that, and I find I still have a lot to say on projects and my own process and history, but today, as I sat down on this final day before plunging into a new semester, I found I had nothing at all to say. The world feels heavy and I feel uninspired, so this may be part of it. My focus was everywhere last week, and nowhere good, so while I usually jot down a few ideas for posts, nothing stuck. But then maybe that subject matter is a post in itself.  How heavy the world feels and how that heaviness makes it harder to write.  

There was some buzz I was barely following on Twitter (becuase I still haven't figured out how anyone follows anything on that platform), but the gist was a that a poet seems to have been talking about how poetry matters to no one but poets.  Which then was taken as an offense, by, you know, poets. Poets who have a lot of words, thus much buzzing,  I've been scheduling tweets in advance, so don't hang out there as much as I do on that old dinosaur facebook and instagram,   But I can't say that the initial poster is wrong, as book sales and public interest in poetry, particularly academic poetry, attest.  But then, she is probably wrong about poetry in general, which seems to be having, as I mentioned a few posts ago, a "moment." (not my poetry but someone's poetry.) Poets like to buzz about things like this every so often, and no one is really wrong or right.   No, it seems a hard lot when the thing you are most passionate about is mostly ignored in a world where very few people read at all, even fewer read "literature" and even fewer than that, poems. Someone will usually come along and say that poets need to be more (insert accessible, political...etc.) Or that it's our fault that we've wandered do far down this path--our own navel gazing, inaccessibility, cliquishness, lack of audience.  Some blame Ezra Pound and modernists for making poetry so damn hard. 

I don't know.  I suppose I've looked at the greater world of poetry, which is more an interconnected set of various worlds and communities, some of which are more insular than others. I suppose the writing that I create has a much smaller audience than, for example, the collages or paintings I make .  Than anything that is battling for anyone's attention on the web. I could write the sort of poems that have a certain kind of appeal, but those aren't really the poems I want to write.  Probably the best comparisons come in other art forms entirely.  People flock to see the next comic book blockbuster, buy the next NYTimes bestseller, listen to the newest album by their favorite musician, but so much also happens in those genres that are not drawing millions. Indie films and books and music releases.  The difference might be in audience, though.  I can love an indie film or record, without being a filmmaker or musician, but you'd have a harder time finding one of those artists who are down with contemporary poetry.

I think poets fight a lot because the resources are pretty limited but the stakes so high and low at the same time so the goal might be to change that and interest will follow.  Or maybe not...the world is so fucked up and so obviously stupid because people don't read anything but what they are fed by the algorithms that are spreading misinformation like wildfire. Let alone poems (or just the humanities in general,) which may be the only thing that could save us.  

Monday, September 06, 2021

notes & things | 9/6/2021


I've been, and was fully aware of it, extremely toxic and argumentative this past week, due to a combination of factors--some related and some unrelated at all. Considering it was the last of my short weeks at the library, it's amazing I managed to work myself into such a state over three short days, but I did. I was thinking about the word "toxic" which is something I usually use to describe a person or situation which is destructive in it's nature, but I think it can also mean taking on toxicity and negativity, like groundwater as it passes underneath the toxic landscape around it. As it's day's are polluted by terrible news, high death counts, blatant disregard for science and public health.  By natural / man-made disasters in every corner of the country and world.  By legislation made by old white males claiming dominion over women's bodies in ass-backward states.  

Also by certain things in my workplace--people shirking their own responsibilities to an already overloaded department where most of it's inhabitants are downing (or at least I feel like I am.) By problems there that are unable to be solved.   By general anxieties over students returning full-force to a campus, filling classrooms and spaces--and while everyone is vaxxed and supposedly safe, the uncertainty in HOW safe is still rattling me. By just a whole lot of work in my corner as we enter the semester as well, and feeling like I am sliding down a hill more than climbing up it.  By lots of things circling in my head with the press and less mental energies to devote to the things I WANT to devote time to and no time to do it. 

There is an obvious solution to some of these things (increasing workloads, lack of time and mental energy) , and I don't dare speak its name, but I've vowed to not make any rash, hugely financial decisions during a pandemic, during a time when my own mental health and stability are fragile. I also can't be, on one hand, worrying about my retirement savings while at the same time, giving up a stable job that allows me save for it. So I sit it out, wait and see,  though the demoralized way it makes me feel sometimes is taking a physical toll in terms of emotional ups and downs. My taurean need for stability makes it impossible to perform without a net.  There was a time when I loved my job for freedom and the mental space it gave me outside of work, for the creativity it allowed me when there, but this has not been true for a very long time. 

In other news, things still go on--the good things I badly need to focus on. I managed to finish up the clue installs for the BAD ART scavenger hunt to begin this week. Gave an informal library intro tour to a group of students and some stray parents.. Had a poster session accepted for the ILA conference on zines and DEI.   I am trying to find happiness wherever I can--bingeing Sex and the City (one of my comfort shows and one due for a revival soon.) Eating strawberry hibiscus sorbet. Making fun, kitschy stickers and candles. Adding things to my fall wardrobe, which I will be swapping out in a week or so. I am headed to visit family around my dad's birthday the weekend after next. This week, I'll be wading into more dgp submissions and sending out responses. Also, starting the legs of a new writing project with my newly unencumbered mornings. 

I just need to keep my eyes on the road ahead of me and calm the fuck down..


Saturday, September 04, 2021

beautification efforts

 



The past couple of days I've been doing a shop tidy and making room for some new offerings in the art and paper goods arena, as well as some design services I've been plotting to offer (mostly for writers--promo & social media graphics & trailers, but also mss. critiques I've been offering for the past couple years.). While I've had a lot of branding shifts over the past 15 years or so, I hope to widen the window to include all these things, as well as still make it easy to find things in the dgp series in the morass of the shop.   Luckily, the platform I use has an excellent search function and I need to study how to maximize that better.  The info is actually housed in the shop pages, but sometimes get lost in the menus. The storefront then includes everything else--the services, art, paper, etc. and now everything is in a nifty side menu that looks much better than it did before, both on my laptop and my phone. 



I also have been tweaking socials.  I took a break this summer from updating our Twitter, but will be returning to that this fall as I have a little more time in the mornings before work, (posting to three accounts when I already was doing two (my own and the library's was a bit much.).  So I will be using that to share snippets of books mostly, old and new.  I'll be showcasing new things on my instagram as per usual, but my goal in the fall is to post there more than I currently do (and more actually content than cat and outfit photos..lol..)  Also, offering more behind the scenes content in this space as well, including more advice on submissions, what we look for, and such and maybe a little advice on chapbook compiling in general. So stay tuned...

Thursday, September 02, 2021

20 years

I realized when I was writing Wednesday's post about instagram poets that it was exactly 20 years ago this summer  I published my very first poem on this crazy thing called the internets. It was actually two poems, though I'd have to dig to remember which ones since the journal, Poetry Midwest,  is long out of commission. Somewhere I have a binder where I printed all those early web published poems out to slip them into plastic sleeves and marvel at my genius. (I had a lot more free time in 2001). 

It was not technically my first published poem, having fallen into a couple vanity-ish anthologies and college lit mags previously, at least one subscriber's issue and one "legit" acceptance (Moon Journal, who published numerous poems in other issues and eventually my first chapbook.) But, of course, the internet was different.  Not only in the quickness of submission--acceptance--publication timelines, but also in reach.  For the first time, I felt like I could reach readers more immediately and directly. And indeed, I did.  It was the first time I would ever get kind notes from readers and other contributors in my inbox.  To be able to share the poem quickly with friends and family. (print journals were nice, but I only had a couple copies and the likelyhood of people in my non-poetry life buying issues/subscriptions not likely or possible.) I was so enamored, I not only started sending all my work to web journals, but decided to start my own.  Our first issue of wicked alice, which included a few poets I solicited and an essay by my sister on art she'd written for one of her classes, was small but lively.The audience grew, reverted to print,  and eventually became what we know as the dgp chapbook series. 

It was not easy, though.  In 2001, so many poets poo-pooed the web and the doors it was opening up to reach readers.  When I tried to solicit poets for WA, the response was often that they didn't want to "waste" their good poems on internet publication.  I found most of my potential authors in discussion boards/ list servs  (later replaced by blogs). People who already spent a lot of time on the computer.  (I also just realized that many of the poets who said no are no longer writing or publishing (though I wouldn't know it...maybe their work is only in print journals few subscribe to.) I'm sure some have surrendered wholeheartedly to the beast, especially once budget strings closed up so many print publications completely or forced them to the web. I sometimes laugh hysterically when I see someone who once told me I was unwise for publishing on the web totally publishing madly  on the web. It's the best kind of self-care.  

I'd be the first to say that without the internets, I don't think I'd be a poet.  Or at least the poet I am.   Sometimes even publishing on a platform of millions feels like dropping a dime in the ocean.  Print culture would intensify that. I love me some of my fave print journals, and have been a part of many over the years, by submitting or solicitation, but I usually go for web publication in most circumstances when sending out new work.  It feels more immediate and far reaching. Like someone is actually reading and responding, which is really all writers want to feel. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

#poetry

 A couple weeks back, I stumbled in my YouTube wanderings on this excellent little piece about the rise of poetry's popularity in the last few years. This happens every once in a while.  The rest of the world who mostly likes to pretend that poetry doesn't really exist in the present and always in the past (the Beats, the Romantics, E.D., Shakespeare, etc.) suddenly gets a match lit under their asses and notices us.  In this case, that match seems to be the rise of insta poets and the popularity of Amanda Gorman's inuaguration piece, but it's happened before (anyone remember the 90's flick of slam and how even MtV noticed?.)  Poets, of course, have always been here, hammering out poems for very small audiences (mostly of other poets.) We're usually are a little like WTF?  Poetry is cool, but I was here even when it was uncool. Writing the shit out of it when absolutely no one at all was noticing.  One day, I stumbled on a book a student worker in the library was reading on the circ desk, someone who I did not know was interested in poetry at all.   Rupi Kaur. I sat if back down like a bomb that might go off. 

Becuase poetry is a THING now.  And we should be excited, but what I hear more often is complaint. That social media is a poor vehicle.  That the poems are shit.  That the taste for these poems and their purveyors are sort of akin to sugar rushes and frosting--pretty, but with no substance. That they are warping the world's view of what poetry is and who has claim on those distinctions. And indeed, I would ask, as the video does, who DOES?  One of the best parts is the discussion is about how the rise has been been, by and large, among female writers and readers. Especially women of color.  Writers who felt that the traditional/academic doors were open to them, so they made their own on places like instagram and YouTube. As an indie publisher--as someone who has oft self-published for many of the reasons these writers talk about, I am partly "Hell, Yeah!"  I am also partly jealous as any of us would be who toil forever in obscurity.  Though at the same time,  cringe over how bad the poems sometimes are--or maybe not bad--but how some seem more like something you would write on on inspirational chalkboard than a poem. Live Life Love-poetry. 

But I get it. In fact, I've watched many interviews with Kaur, and though she falls into dreaded "poet voice" in her readings, I like her in her more casual interviews--one in which she talked about people telling her to avoid self-publishing lest no one take her seriously.  To which she responded "No one tales me seriously now." And she certainly is a model for business savvy and using social media as a bridge to audiences. I like her and her work much more than when a celebrity writes a shitty book of "poetry" and it's immediately a best seller.  

But it all does bring up some questions.  Why can't their be "popular" poetry.  Why does academia seem to think it holds the bar? Sets the bar?  What does poetry for the people look like?  How much does gender play into it--how women always struggle to justify the things they like because men set the standards? Are certain venues and forms taken less seriously and written off simply for existing in one form and not another?  For appealing to this audience and not that one?


Monday, August 30, 2021

oh nostalgia...


 It might just be the back to school yearnings that hit every year late August (or it might be that the world feels like an end-of-days shit show) but I've been thinking about the 90's.  About my own college experience in that weird time where the internet was only just becoming a thing, but most of us didn't really have access to it. I would never be bold enough to say that it was a better time, because I'm not sure that's true, but there is something comforting about a world where racists and idiots had fewer platforms, or at least those platforms you had to seek out, and not just streaming, full force onto your screen one after another, telling you reject masking and vaccines and instead take livestock medications. I like to feel the world was smarter then, but maybe I am just putting a gold-toned rosey hue over the past. 

Occasionally, I'll try to imagine what my life was like then before so much time on screens.  I was in school of course, majoring in English and  minoring in Theatre, and so much time was spent in classes, reading for classes, and doing various set building and stage managing tasks for the college theatre dept. In between, I spent a lot of time in the library, either upstairs reading bits of things that piqued my interests (Beat poets, Anais Nin, and the Bloomsbury Group) or in the basement reading lit and theatren magazines.   The first year, coming off high school habits, I was a joiner--an SGA officer, on the Activities Council, doing some volunteer work.  This shifted as I became more focused on theater and had less time for extra curriculars, but these were one way, as an off-campus student, I made friends and connected with people. Otherwise, I was probably at home with my parents. I wrote and read of course, sometimes more than others--my summer's being especially good for more liesurely uses of my time. While I made a little money here and there--set work, running lights, proofreading anthologies for professors--my education was mostly paid for and my living expenses low. My parents threw some cash my way for housework and various tasks, including a few dollars for lunch, which I sometimes hoarded up and bought books instead at the newly opened Barnes & Noble.

For leisure, I liked listening to music and flipping through magazines, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmo, Glamour-- usually passed off from an aunt with lots of subscriptions (and who also fueled my horror novel addiction.) In many ways, this is probably no different than what I do in my free time on a computer--watching fashion hauls, persuing pinterest, and listening to Taylor Swift on repeat.  Just a different mode. Nights, after my parents went to bed, I would lay claim to the single large tv with satellite connection and watch whatever was on (horror / paranomal if I could find it, but sometimes the weather channel or HGTV). Sometimes til dawn, while writing--in my journal, bad poems or short stories. Also plotting out where to submit. and reading copies of Writer's Digest checked out from the public library. Also, not different from my current life, just switch out satellite for streaming and more options.

While most of my social interactions were related to theater friends, my dating life was parse most of time outside a couple crushes and brief ill-concieved hookups,  I can't say I spent much more time with people unless we were forced together for creative projects. I did like to hang out with my sister on the weekends,,who was still in highschool, and we would go to movies and the mall, or to B&N to peruse the bargain bin and then to Taco Bell. We'd also hit flea markets, garage sales, and thrift stores with my Mom. But mostly I was home doing my own thing. 

At the time, I kept a written journal, in those Mead marbled composition books, which I still have a stack of squirreled away in my apartment. I wrote about the things I was studying and reading, about what I was doing, how my writing efforts were faring.  I also kept a notebook filled with cut-outs from magazines--clothes I wanted, hair styles, home decor (my own analog version of pinterest.)  Somehow over the years, I threw these out, though I wished I kept them as a way to connect with that girl in the past. I do have a vision board collage I made in 1994 that is a hoot to look at.  Also, all the poems I ever wrote, which also paint a fuzzy picture of my obsessions. 

Somehow, the 90's feel so vastly different, though by the above, you wouldn't be able to much tell. My parents did not not have a computer in the house until I was well out of it in the early aughts.  I myself, though I spent time online at work, did not have a laptop at home til 2005. Culture felt different--more geared toward smart people, though that also may have just been my frame of reference. Somewhere in the 90's is a girl sitting in a room with lava lamps and a black velvet Jim Morrison poster, drinking flavored coffee and reading constantly--everything--, or trying to undertstand her three semesters of  philosophy coursework (my interest in those classes less the reading and more the philosophy major dude I was crushing on.). I was convinced I would be smarter if I listed to classical music while I studied, though I would have preferred NIN. One summer I discovered my mother's Janis Ian records and listened to those and Tori Amos cassettes in tandem for three months.

It was a different world, but still sort of the same...