Monday, May 31, 2021

where we write

My entry this past week on summer writing got me thinking about my favorite places to write over the years. It has shifted and changed as my life changed, but also as my modes of composition changed subtly from handwriting to to typing. Those summers during college, my writing space was portable, with my typewriter and my box full of drafts.  I wound up many places, though a favorite was my parents' dining room table when no one was home. Or I'd be out at the table on the deck under the giant umbrella of trees. Night, cross-legged on the floor and working on the coffee table in front of the couch. Eventually, I typed my drafts on the electric machine, but they were composed on scrap or notebook paper.  I still have some of these initial drafts full of cross-outs and margin notes and they are all really, really bad.  

Later, in Chicago for grad school, I had brought an old dining table from the basement into my tiny Lincoln Park studio apartment. It took up a good portion of the room and doubled as food prep area in the tiny kitchen corner.  I worked more often here  than my desk, which was where I kept the word processor I used to type poems and my papers for my MA. Again, those years usually found me on the floor, back against my futon/couch, with the machine on a large cushion across my knees.  This was where I wrote the first poems that weren't terrible. Where I completed that poorly wrought first manuscript I just felt I had to finish before I tuned 25. 

When I lived in Rockford with my parents again briefly, I mostly was trying to write short fiction with hopes I could make some sort of living from it (I was making a sad little sum at the elementary school  library, but it left me the summer of 2000 mostly free.)  I wrote stories in stacks of spiral notebooks, which I often took on fishing trips outings with my parents to various lakesides (since I wasn't a fisherman).  I'd sit at picnic tables with headphones on, or lie on blankets under trees and write in my journal through long afternoons. 

Late that fall, I landed back in the city.  Here my writing happened in various places...the round table in my dining room with the really uncomfortable chairs. Sprawled across my bed. On my couch. I was still writing by hand, so could do it anywhere I could balance the legal pads I used to draft poems.  Since I moved around at the library, I took to scribbling bits on the backs of old catalog cards then typing them into my e-mail to save them.  I'd write blog posts at the circ desk at night and type up my drafts when things were slow.   I wrote in coffee shops when I was perpetually early for things. I edited and revised the entirely of my  final fever almanac manuscript in the Barnes & Noble's Starbucks where I had really good focus for some reason.  When I was working on my MFA-- I liked to revise and make notes on workshop poems at the Corner Bakery on Michigan on days I had class all days.  Weirdly, while I'd say I'm often distracted too much to compose poems in public, editing and commenting were feasible.  Some weeks, I'd sneak over to the Art Institute to make notes for my Cornell poems. 

Before I moved into the studio, I had my laptop set up on my dining room table, where I wrote and made books and jewelry and collages.    I'm not sure when the shift between hand writing and composing on screen happened, so it must have happened slowly, but by the late aughts, I was solely a typist and rarely a scrawler, unless it was notes and bits of idea. At some point, during a rearrange, I left the dining room table for messier pursuits like painting and printmaking and moved my laptop to the small writing/ vanity table I am sitting at right now. For awhile when I was doing my daily poems, I wrote them over breakfast in the studio, but now you will find me here each day with coffee trying to squeeze it in before I have to leave for the library. Weekends, I spend here editing and writing blog posts and assemblng manuscripts and such. (the dining room table is still for bookmaking and messier things, but I occasionally take the laptop over there to write near the window in the summer where it's cooler.)  Years ago, on a long train journey back from Seattle, I wrote a bunch of poems for ghost landscapes on a laptop in the lounge car speeding across the blackness of Montana, which planted the seed for a one day sleeper car trip across country just to write.  I also am weirdly enamored of writing in hotel rooms when I have the chance. 

Today, it being writing day off work and a holiday to boot, I got up and made a bigger breakfast involving actual bacon then sat down to write this post and work on getting the unusual creatures pieces ready for their zine debut. It is warm enough to have the windows open again, and I'm listening to my across the courtyard neighbors in the townhouses playing old Luther Vandross hits a little too loudly while they grill out. I suppose that is a sure sign that summer is here. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

summer landscapes

Over the winter, I tried to make an effort to love the winter landscape.  It's very difficult, mostly since you would most likely be happy observing it from inside a house or a car and rarely out in it.  I tried to pay attention--especially during the winter hates--the rich greens of non-deciduous trees and bushes.  The oatmeal colored whisps of wintering pampass and other grasses.  The white snow, the ground and it's browns and grays. The lake, at turns gray and startling blue depending on the day and the angle of sun.  It's a hard sell, so no wonder that I have been pleasantly lilting about in spring and summer's greenery (though for a week in April, I was convinced the pollen was trying to kill me.) 

I take way too many pictures of lakes and gazing up into the trees that sometimes make their way onto the instagram. I also like taking photos of Illinois flat landscapes in the summer, and when possible, Wisconsin's slow start of low hills as you head north into more wooded areas. Some day, I will collect then together and make a zine or book out of them.  Mostly, they look very much the same, just the colors vary.  A barn or some trees here and there.  The stretch of I-90 between Chicago and Rockford gets a lot of attention in the photos, especially when I was going back and forth a lot the year my mother was sick. 

Years  ago, I did my first real efforts at abstract watercolors, what eventually became ghost landscapes:  a travelogue and their strange little story of a town no on ever gets to leave, despite trains that arrive and leave on schedule.  My favorite of these is one that wound up on the cover of that project and looks like a haunted forest, though many are just flat landscapes. Somewhere in my studio mess, is a set of square lakescape canvases.  Other things I've painted just for me--including a couple of moody seascapes for my kitchen in browns and grays. Other small landscapes I've framed around my apartment. I tend toward landscapes and botanicals in general when I turn to paints or ink, mostly becuase they feel more familiar to me with more organic lines and patterning. Since I am a messy painter, the abstractness to me is part of the charm. I usually just start throwing paint on the paper (which I far prefer to canvas) and see what happens. Which of course, is not unlike how I 

Yesterday, I had a slow Sunday start and pulled out some paints and water and tricked myself into creating a few postcards for my Patreon and Books & Objects subscribers.  I love the colors I get the further I go and the more things start to mix unintentionally or intentionally. I'm pretty happy with this little set and you can see the results here.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

notes & things | 5/30/2021

This week, the weather can only be described as unusually angry--the wind that howls all night outside the windows and turns umbrellas into janky scraps of metal. The lake gray and monstrous and more like the sea than usual. Even on sunny days like today where I want to open all the windows, but have to keep closing them and cranking up the space heater next to my desk. A week ago, we were humid and sweltering, but May is often a season of opposites.  In a week, the heat will rise as it does every year, only to break in the afternoon into violent storms that seem to come from nowhere. Such is June. I'd planned to pull out the summer wardrobe, but I might wait til next week if this persists. 

Even still, green and chilly is far superior to bare branches, so I'll take it. After a couple weeks at it, I am settling into my low-stress summer plans and shorter weeks. Already, even the days I am working feel better and less chaotic for the most part.  I am, as such, progressing through things like manuscripts and galleys and cover designs at an even pace. I feel better rested and less stressed, though I am not sure if this is just summer or my easing covid fears...after a year of creeping fear  and a terribly long winter it could be a little of both. 

I'll be headed to Rockford in a few weeks for Father's Day and some thrifting exploits--one of the things I am most looking forward to returning to (along with movie-going).  I shop a lot for vintage things on ebay, but the serendipity factor isn't quite the same--walking into a store and finding something you didn't even know you needed or were looking for. Over the years, the midcentury gems are harder to find as they get buried by the 80s and 90's  stuff, but you can still find treasures sometimes. 

This week, I managed to come to a closing point on the bird artist pieces, so I will let them sit a bit before I return with a fresh eye.  I also have a decent idea of what I might want for the visual aspects, which I've been plotting to start. There are also some simple animations I have been working on for video poems for an older series of poems. After a pandemic year of little visual output beyond the poetry videos I created for book trailers and the swallow series, I am hoping the summer allows more collages and paintings to happen. I've been working on a lot of original art for cover designs, which wasn't possible last year, so things are looking up.   I also have older stuff that has been sitting in stacks in drawers and on shelves that needs to be scanned from late 2019. I also need a serious studio area tidy, mostly since I feel a lot of stuff was just shoved in various places during the move nearly a year and a half ago, but I've yet to uncover much of it, let alone use any of it. 

film notes: revenge porn for the bloodthirsty

If you're anything like me, you like your revenge flicks either cutting and devastating or bloodthirsty and violent.  I wasn't sure what to expect with PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, of only because I avoided spoilers and discussions of the ending, which all I knew was that many had either loved or hated it.  And it may just be I was feeling extra bloodlusty, but I felt a little robbed when the turn at the end the big comeuppance. It turned out to be clever, but not at all what I wanted in that moment, which made it far less satisfying.  

A few weeks ago, I watched another movie, THINGS HEARD AND SEEN that was brilliant in it's concept and casting, but screwed the pooch on how the retribution for evil and bad men went down.  (in this case, if you combined the bear suit boyfriend in Midsommar and Jack Torrance, you'd be on the nose, though both were even more redeemable.) I think what made them less satisfying was that the consequences were wholly biblical or law related, which didn't quite scratch the itch.  The more deplorable the man, the more I want blood and violence.  Think HARD CANDY.  Think AMERICAN MARY. Think THE PERFECTION.  I also want my heroine, my final girl to survive, so when she dies, I feel especially betrrayed in so many ways, particularly if it's at the hands of the villain (or villains.) 

I was thinking of another movie I recently watched SWALLOW., which I was expecting, given the circumstances to have a bad ending, but actually was very satisfying and felt (though the man she was escaping was not as bad as many of the above) still felt like justice.  He may have survived, but she both got to survive and do the final fuck-you.  So maybe it's not the bloodiness of things, but the karmic justice. Either way, despite my feelings about the endings, all three are worth a watch for many reasons..visual loveliness, casting and acting, the worlds they create. Also, the fact that the women, whatever their ends, are at the center.   

Friday, May 28, 2021

cover love| found materials, pt 3


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! 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

notes on writing summer

It might be the slow roll in of warm weather that makes me a little nostalgic for my own writing days of yore. Once, I was 19 and deciding that I had poems I wanted someone to see (I admittedly had poems before that, but little desire to share them.) The summer between my first and second year of undergrad, I would carry around an envelope box with those issues of Writer's Digest I mentioned last post and drafts of slender, shortish, poems banged out on the electric typewriter I'd scored with my high school graduation funds. I still have some in my folders--that almost translucent paper corrected with globs of white-out. I had just started submitting, mostly to the places mentioned in WD calling for poems. They were dubious in the way all things are found in the backs of magazines. When I was a teenage, my mother loved True Story and its ilk, where the back was littered with adds calling for people to submit songs or draw a turtle. These had a similar feel. 

But I made it my task, free of work or school, to devote my daylight and some evenings to being a poet, or trying to become a poet.  I would clean the house for some extra money even then--which I would spend on paperbacks and magazines,  but sometimes stamps to send all those SASE's. Within a year, I would be writing less and not submitting at all, my attention drifting back into the academic year and later theater productions that ate a lot of time, but a couple years later, after a rousing poetry workshop (well, rousing for me if not everyone else.) I was back at it. By then--same typewriter, different paper, but now I was reading P&W and looking for bigger whales.  The next year would bring a couple rewards--a couple poetry prizes and college lit zine publications. This was the summer I set about recording poems on cassette tape with a small boombox to guage the feel of them read aloud.  I'd stopped the terrible Dickinesque rhyming, but I still had a ways to go. 

While my academic years during that rime left less room for writing, summers were my jam, filled with a lot of hours to devote to words, which may be why I'm nostalgic for it when I don't have that much free time to focus as an adult. When I was 21, free of classes, of course I had the luxury of sleeping late and then dragging my little envelope box, my typewriter and my boombox out to the dining room table near the A/C or out onto the deck, where I'd spend the day drinking lemonade and eating peanut butter sandwiches and writing. Or the luxury of staying up all night, cross legged in front of the couch, elbows and journal propped on the coffee table, alternately writing and watching all-night television after my parents had gone to bed drinking endless cups of coffee before stumbling to bed at dawn.  It was a different life, and surely one I was lucky to have with a roof over my head and groceries I didn't have to pay for.   No real-life things getting in the way.  My next big bout of writing was my final year of my MA when suddenly I was writing better and more and seeing the spoils thereof, but by then, my anxiety about what would happen after graduation already had its hooks in me. I was taking classes and studying for my comp exams, but it still felt like a time with a lot more freedom--something I would lose in the next year as I started working full time and really, never get back, except for the in-betweens--the weekends and the occasional days off that I can spend --not with a janky typewriter and buckets of whiteout, but with a stack of pages and my laptop, which is still something. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


 As I've been making some submission plans for the summer with these writing-devoted days, I've been thinking, after reading this essay in Lithub, about the benefits of publishing in journals (I guess as opposed to just publishing work on a blog or other forms of social media, which I also do quite often.) When I first began writing and submitting in the early-mid 90's of course, the internet was just a fetus, so of course you had to look to journals to find out who was writing and what they were writing. I didn't find Poets & Writer's Magazine and their submission calls until I was well into college, but I spent time before that trying for biggies like The New Yorker, Poetry, and the Atlantic Monthly. (and indeed Plath's journals and letters guided my path here.) I also sent to a lot of "vanity" operations I found in the back of Writer's Digest, which I would check out and devour from the tiny Cherry Valley Public Library, then later, scooped up at the Waldenbooks at the mall. I didn't see a Poets & Writers in real life, let alone buy one,  until they opened the Barnes & Noble in Rockford.  

My first "real" publication was a couple poems in a tiny local-ish feminist mag.  I somehow stumbled upon Moon Journal who would also publish my first chap a couple years later.  There used to be a small free arts newspaper in Chicago called Strong Coffee and I'm pretty sure I found mention of it there. By the time I landed back in the city, internet journals were blossoming all over, and my first publication there (a site called Poetry Midwest)  was just as exciting as the one in print.  I was all in for sending out work at the rewards of publication, especially in those pre-social media days. Somehow, the community felt more connected then, or at least, the online journal community did.  Journal publications would be met with fanfare and sometimes fan letters from other poets. Some of the people I met in those years are still my online friends now, decades later and across several states. Some of the journals are still publishing, some faded into internet obscurity and 404 errors.  (Stirring and Pedestal Mag, for example,  are still going strong.)  At first, some poets scoffed at the online word, poets who now embrace it pretty regularly. I learned quickly that print journals were nice, but online was where things were more likely to get read (esp. by non-poets.)

The poetry world was, and still is, a constellation of communities.  I moved in several for awhile and at different points.  The online poets, the blogger poets.  The open-mic poets I did readings with in local bars and coffeehouses.  The MFA poets I was meeting at Columbia. Each community had their bibles.  The most exclusive online journals were the ones I couldn't get into, but I kept trying and eventually did, though sometimes it took years.  (A couple others I am still trying to get  The open-mic crowd had their own local pubs and presses. The academics had a ranking of "high tier" and "lower tier" that I will never quite be at home with or understand. Community journals, academic housed journals. Journals run by one person and some html skills (wicked alice was very much this.) As such, I moved through journals in all these communities and met many different people in them. Even more awesome, was often invited to submit by editors who liked my work that landed in places I might not otherwise even thought about sending to. 

Ultimately, I have always kind of sucked at the submission game.  I was better a decade ago.  More often than not, even when i am writing a lot, I will go months without sending out a thing, then fire off a round to some familiar favorites and some pie-in-the sky places I'd like to see word.  Maybe some new discoveries I think are cool (Twitter has been awesome for this.). I stopped trying to get into places it didn't really seem like my work was a fir for or whose work or values I didn't esp appreciate..  At some point, I stopped trying to build a resume or appear in the sorts of places that got a certain kind of attention  and more just wanted to see if I could reach new or existing audiences with them. I began to think of poems as breadcrumbs you leave out in the world that lead back to a larger body of work, either just in general or to specific projects. This has made all the difference. 

Or maybe it comes down to how many people will see your work, but also WHO will see it.  Years ago, dgp was profiled in P& W, which was awesome, but it led to about two years of people sending work, out of season, in the wrong genres and from the wrong genders, as if the readers of mags like that just throw world widely at journals/presses and see what sticks. As a press, we've done far better by word of mouth than we ever would by calling for submissions in high profile places and I feel like this goes for my own work and its disemination.for example,  (The New Yorker might be nice, but I don't think my audience is there, nor do they publish work like mine )

so be it

Sometimes the things we loved in our youth don't hold up.  One of my favorite movies as a teenager was, of course, Heathers--for all its mean girl preppiness, Winona Ryder's sarcasm, and Christian Slater's psychotic hotness. Later, as an adult, it seemed to take itself far too seriously--to be too aware of itself. .  To be so over the top (and this is probably what was intended.)  But by the time I was in my 30's, mopey boy nonsense just annoyed me and school violence, which was this vague abstract to me in my teen years, became all too frightening as a real threat. It wasn't funny or entertaining to me anymore.  I still love Winona Ryder, but this is not my favorite performance of hers.  As for mean girl sliciness, Jawbreaker was better.  Mean Girls, a decade or more later, did it better with more heart. Sometimes its hard to enter a space you loved as a teen as an adult and this movie was a serious case of that problem, despite, at one point, being a able, with my friends, to recite the dialogue on command.  

Around the same time I saw Heathers, another Christian Slater film was hitting the theaters, and if Heathers seemed a last gasp of the 80's, Pump Up the Volume was a prelude for the 90's.  This film is not as readily available on streaming, nor did I have a dvd copy, so it's something I was almost afraid to revisit and ruin--something I loved as a teen but wouldn't age particularly well..  I became aware of the soundtrack before I ever saw the movie--I was already a Concrete Blonde fan (who got some radio play)  and their cover of of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" was being talked about (where I'm not sure--teen mags, fashion mags?  Whereever it was we got our info pre-internet?) So I bought the soundtrack and made note to check it out when it hit video. (My movie going funds were mostly limited to the second run $2 theatre, where it never played.) The soundtrack also boasted bands I was becoming marginally aware of like The Pixies and Soundgarden.

When I finally saw it, of course I loved it.  Not just for my shirtless crush and his angsty ways, but it felt important somehow, though I wouldn't have been able to articulate it at the time. It was required viewing at slumber parties with my friends.  Not only was it a culture shift in terms of attitude and music (within a year or so, Nirvana's popularity would rise out of the northwest like a wave and even mainstream radio wouldn't be able to ignore it. ) But also a zeitgeisty moment of young Gen X-Gen Y anxieties as the Reagan/Bush era breathed it's last sighs. If the 80's, at least in middle America, was a time of conformity for most of us (mall culture, Top 40 radio, glossy teen magazines.), the 90's boasted something new and this film captured it.  For a lot of teens, it was a switch from that perfect 80's gloss to something more subversive.  Sassy magazine leading the way, it was accessible even to the uncool and uninformed-- zine culture, shifts in fashion and entertainment.. It happened slower in the midwest than on the coasts, but it was happening. (In 1992, my Florida hailing roomate arrived with a NIN CD I rpomptly dubbed and listened to over and over again.) Even my sister, who was just hitting high school hung out with art class kids who listed to bands like Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins and made zines. Back in Rockford, I wore a lot of black and hippy skirts and put blacklight posters I bought at Spencers at the mall.   While a couple years before, I'd listened to Mariah Carey and maybe some trashy hair bands, my music collection now sported Hole and Mazzy Star.  I put away the Madonna and listed to Tori Amos ( "alternative" music now being a marketable commodity.) 

Culture aside, it was a weird moment.  I remember watching Tipper Gore's pursuit of the music industry and the 2LiveCrew censorship debates. There was a lot of 1st Amendment and NEA dustups. (so much so I thought I might want to be a constitutional lawyer for one brief moment.) In an age where the FCC and other government agencies still had the reigns of dissemination, I would not have predicted the internet and their freeing, only because it didn't seem possible.  The ripples and viral-ness of the  movie's pirate radio dj-dom, in a decade, would become the early bloggers and myspacers and internet heroes. Spreading beyond zines and radio broadcasts, everyone had the opportunity to have a voice and to be heard, something that may seem surprising to Millennials and Gen Z-ers who've been swimming in it much longer. 

Of course, while it seems cool and is definitely a spurrer of the sort of DIY spirit of the affected generational group and an opening up of culture, such freedom of voice and platform is probably also what allows hate groups and nonsense to spread just as easily.  If you can, and do indeed, say just anything you want on the internet (truth or lies) there might be consequences, which this movie reinforces at the end, where the dj is arrested but his listeners take the helm and start their own stations with their own things to say. When you consider Gen X's role in the development of the internet, in the media and platforms that sprung up from the ashes of the early 90's, it totally makes sense. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

showing up

An artist whose studio vlogs I follow wrote the above words on her studio wall as a daily reminder to keep working and good things will come from it. Poets often have a false reputation of flitting about in the countryside in long dresses waiting for the muse to find them, but all that flitting probably doesn't lead to many words on the page.  For the normal. non-poets of the world, sometimes the work of the poet is this ethereal, un-pinnable thing that happens when we are moved to genius. Films where the poet leaps out of bed in the middle of the night to write a sonnet. The drunken scrawl after a night of indulgence. Coleridge's opium dreams.  And yet I imagine our lives are still different from novelists. I was watching the rather brilliant movie about Shirley Jackson that captured what it's like to live in the in-between world--the real one and the dream world of a story or a book, and I imagine poets sometimes spend time here as well. Where something we see sets the film that runs in our heads that spills onto the page. Almost like a hallucination.  If you didn't know we were writers, you'd think us addicts or delusional (and maybe this is what makes writers often all of these things on sad occasion. (Luckily, I'm a more social drunk & cannot form a sentence under the influence, and weed mostly makes me amorous and sleepy. Outside of coffee, tea,  and chocolate, my writing vices are minor.)

I talk often of the importance of showing up. Years ago, I always felt like I was never writing enough.  I had ideas--lists of plans and projects--but things would happen in fits and starts.  I wouldn't write for months and then spend an entire weekend on something. You would think genius was at play, but it was more deadlines and desperation.  Sometimes panic. The work was okay--publishable, sometimes enjoyable--but it felt elusive most of the time. Like a million grad school essays penned the night before, capable of genius, but we would never know. Before Trump ruined the phrase, I said often--about everything--"It is what it is." There is a lot of fear in working slower. In overshooting, in being ambitious. More opportunity to fail--or maybe more to fail with the excuse that it was the best you could do in such limited time.  But I suppose it's all limited time.

And maybe that, in hindsight, was exactly what made me start, and mostly sustain, daily writing. in 2018.  My mother had died and I felt like I'd been bitch slapped by carpe diem. .  I'm not sure some of my projects would have developed as they have had I had to write them in one weekend. There's less room for experimentation and less time for things to develop and be fleshed out. My overlook project is the perfect example.  Had I decided to write a series about my favorite horror movie in a weekend, it would be a very different series than the one that developed through and beyond several months of lockdown in the middle of a pandemic (I started in April and finished in August.)I can't say I was writing daily in all that, but it was regular enough, esp. once I was working again and had a sense of routine. 

I do take breaks of course--between projects (sometimes mid project if I am stuck, which is where I am right now.). rest is important, but it's also tempting to get too comfortable. It helps to be able to switch gears between genres or art forms. I didn't make much visual art in the pandemic year outside of bits here and there, but realized I did make a lot of video poems that use the same skill sets and impulses, so that was something. Maybe just leaving the conduit running and the doors open, even if the world felt chaotic and scary, which is a hard place to make art in. But maybe exactly the place you should. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

notes & things | 5/23/2021

This weekend, we've had the first spot of heat--or maybe more that it's just sort of swampy outside.  Luckily, having had my windows shut most of the week, it's stayed moderately cool even without putting the box fans in the windows. Friday, the number of people out downtown was the closest I have seen it to pre-pandemic crowds (there was also a pro-Palestinian protest happening in the park, so that was a lot of people.) Yesterday, they switched on Buckingham fountain, which sat out last year's dance, but it means the lakefront is officially open for business.  Though the water is cold as hell I'm sure, there were still a lot of people out on the beaches, though no one actually in the lake just yet.

I have another long weekend, and as last week, will spend one day working on writing/art related things, and another, a whole day devoted to the press & shop. I was busy once I was back on site and pushing through a lot of end of semester returns, but it was manageable.  With my boss/bestie flip-flopping days off with me, it's quieter.  Even campus e-mails were sparse and interruptions few.  They've started giving instruction on how many of the staff who haven't yet returned to campus will be returning, so it will doubt get much livelier by summer's end and by the time the students come back in September. I did enjoy very much getting sprung a bit earlier and having a bit of daylight left when I go home.  While I can take or leave the heat, the long slow dusks of summer are one of my favorite parts of this time of year.

Since I'm not going to be as exhausted in the evenings, I am queuing up my evening wind-down before bed film watching.  Last year, during lockdown, I ended every day with a horror or post-apocalyptic movie, sometimes a couple, and had I not also been doomscrolling, I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more. Since I'm not walking in the door at 11pm,  I have a bit more time to spend. I am still navigating the slightly earlier mornings (I have to leave at 10am, which is usually when I'm waking up.) It robs me of my liesurely breakfasts and longer writing time, but I am working out a solution.) 

On the project front, this week I hope to finish the website edits I started last week and get a finalized draft for dark country.  I also need to create my Patreon postcards for May, and I'm obsessed with watercolors and trees, so that's what I'm thinking. I'm getting the last batch of dgp 2020 titles production ready, so look for a whole batch of them to drop soon as I get their pages up. A couple 2021 titles have also been hitting the site. It's also the end of May, which means next week, we'll be opening for submissions for next year, and this seems wholly impossible.  I think I blinked and entire year went by, but also it dragged heavy, especially through November and beyond. I am still getting used to not being afraid as much moving about in the world, and it opens up so many doors in my mind that have been shut for so long.  

Saturday, May 22, 2021

horror and middle class anxiety


As I've been spending a bit more time with the manuscript of dark country as I get it publication ready and thinking about summertime and horror movies and drive-ins (which are experiencing a renaissance during the covid-era, but I haven't yet made it to one.) When I was 6 or so, my parents took me to see a double feature that included The Shining.  Or more accurately, I fell asleep through parts of it, so it remained fuzzy as to what actually happens in that movie until I was older.  My dad has a similar love of horror, so once we had a VHS player in the house, I saw everything he did--Funhouse, Ghoulies, Friday the 13th, Ghost Story. My mom, on the other hand, claimed she hated them, but never denied I and my sister the chance to watch things that most children would be forbidden from. At around 10, Friday nights weekly involved a trip to the video store for a stack of horror movies, then the drugstore for candy to keep us occupied while my parents went to bowling. My favorites--Sleepaway Camp, Nightmare on Elm Street.  Adolescence included convincing my Aunt Nancy, who also loved horror, to take me and my cousin to see new releases that were always R rated. Later, as my friends landed drivers' licenses, going to the discount Belford theatre where movies were under $2 and they never carded to see things like Silence of the Lambs. 

Of course, it was the 80's and there were many real things to be afraid of. We had a lot of freedom as kids-but the narrative was continuous as what could go wrong...poisoned trick-r-treat candy, satanists killing cats in the park, men in white vans, disappearing girls and women.  Slashers that waited in back seats and under parked cars. For a decade in which there was so much to be worried about, we actually had a lot of freedom. I walked to school alone at 8. Had run of our neighborhood at 10 and was left to babysit my sister.  When my mom went back to work when I was 11, we were alone in the house after school on the regular--not just us, but also my cousins who lived next door. I remember another cousin and I riding bikes at full speed over and over around the curve at the end of the road that had a downhill slope, something my mother did not know about, but that was probably pretty dangerous.  We were left alone in parked cars more than we were not.  I walked back and forth between a friends house every night before dinner and had to get past an angry doberman that could very easily have attached.  By the next decade, no one would have given kids the freedom and responsibility we had.  I would argue it made us more adult and independent and resilient at a younger age, something that did us well as we transitioned to adolescence. I've always said it made me less afraid, but also more afraid.  (I knew what dangers lurked in the world, real or imagined, but I also knew what to do about them--where to seek help, how to fight back.). 

As I initially wrote the poems in dark country, for all it's feral children and domestic dangers, the world now seemed so much more frightening.  I may have had to be afraid of lurkers in white vans, but I did not have to worry about school shooters. About men shooting up the theatres and malls where we had free reign. All of the made up fears I parents had in the 80's were nothing like real fears today. So in many ways, I came out of that decade innocent.  I remember being shocked, when I arrived at college in NC that we had to be careful to watch our drinks and make sure no girl was out of sight for too long. My high school social circle had been mostly girls til that point--I had  little clue of the danger in male-dominated spaces like dorms and frat parties.  When a friend of a my suitemates friend from home got drunk and tried to casually break into my dorm room while I was sleeping alone, I learned my lesson pretty quickly. 

A couple years ago, a friend I went to a conference about slasher movies, and the keynote speaker was taking about gothic novels and the victorians' love of scaring themselves. In a world where you had some measure of safety--real or perceived--people long to be scared.  Long to be horrified.  It makes things less boring. It sets your pulse racing, but like a roller coaster, it's something with safe parameters.  You might think you're going to die, but you likely won't.  There's a certain level of safety you need to feel to enjoy horror. To enjoy being scared by pretend things as opposed to the very real things. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Monday, May 17, 2021

writing day exploits

Sometimes I daydream and wonder what it would be like to just make art and write full time.  It's probably not something that will ever be possible.  Even when the etsy shop was bringing in a lot of income selling vintage and paper goods, I was still quite a ways off from quitting my day job.  The press is way to small, even in good years.  Breaking even is possible, but a profit or a wage is something that seems less likely even having given up the higher overhead with the studio.  I make enough to keep us in envelopes and printing supplies, and hope to one day pay some sort of royalties out, but this pandemic year has slowed that roll a bit. 

There are other things I might be able to maximize--critiques, paid workshops, writer services like publicity and design, but while still working full time, these are hard to devote sufficient time to get them rolling enough to be a steady income generator. Ditto on maximizing visual art exploits for profit. But still I wonder and watch enviously the lives of people who get to spend their days tending to the things that are a little more creative than day job drudgery (and I say that knowing that I am fortunate that I get to be a little more creative with my day job pursuits that many. Or maybe there is still a bit of drudgery, but also some fun.)

With my longer weekends officially in effect, I am planning on devoting a much needed entire day to writing-related things each week, something I rarely get, and if I do, it's usually gobbled up by other things that need tending. Even weekends lately have been devoted to either cleaning, organizing, or press work.   So much I get accomplished creatively happens in a chaos of bits and starts and not really with a plan or intention. Today,   I got a late start as usual when left to my own devices, but after getting up and making a largeish breakfast and ample coffee I settled into the day with actually writing something new for the bird artist. I've taken a break from my morning writing routine the past couple weeks to refresh and think more about the series and how to wrap it up. I am still waffling over what may be next in terms of projects. I'm mid-research on a series loosely about Hollywood starlets, plus there are other things began, but not finished. Plus a notebook filled with potential things that may or may not shake out.

Writing, of course, has been the one thing I have been able to do the past year, so there is also a lot of rough material to be revisited and possibly revised (and maybe even submitted.)  Lately I've been torn between sharing some new work on social media (mostly instagram) and sending it to see how it fares in the submission wilds.  I ultimately decided to share the plague letter pieces there since I am sure journal eds are sick to death of pandemic poems, and though these are not solely that, their title gives them away. (Some did make it into our Artist in Res. at the Library awesome zine project by invitation though, so check those out.) Keep an eye out on instagram for the rest. 

After I finished the day's writing, I turned my attention to some website navigational tweaks that I'd been meaning to get to for awhile and just didn't have time, one of the things where updates fall through the cracks more than not if its something that involves a bit more sustained effort. There is still a bit more to do, but if I break it up and work on it weekly, it will be easier to manage in small bits and not one fell swoop.  The rest of the day I intend to devote to editing the unusual creatures letters and getting them ready for the June zine offering.  I've gone back and forth on format, but at this point am leaning towards a box or sheaf of letters, an accordian book of images, and bits of ephemera in an addition of about 25.  Since it's a little more complicated, I probably won't do an e-version straight off, but maybe eventually.  (I am plotting my lunarium project, which was also a box,  in some sort of electronic version though, so watch for that later this year.)

 Later, I'll make dinner and maybe play with the dark country manuscript, which I want to have publication ready by the end of this month if possible since the layout will be what's on tap for June, as well as preliminary bits of promotion like a trailer of some sort. Somehow I can get several rounds of proofing in and still find typos I've missed in other pass throughs. It helps to print things out instead of working on screen which seems especially apt for misreadings.

All in all, a productive Monday in which I feel a little more focused and hopefully more will follow...

Sunday, May 16, 2021

notes & things 5/15/2021

 In Chicago, with the wind out of the east and off the lake, we are still waiting for warm weather, but the days are bright and clear and have the possibility of being nice at least. Friday. I managed to break my phone screen on the way to work, so am feeling a little bit more out of touch than usual. I keep opening windows and shutting them when it gets chilly, and alternating that loveliness with the space heater. Becuase the world feels a little better, at least immediately, I woke up well after noon thinking of projects and plans and not dreading the news, so it's something.  

I am also, courtesy of vacation days I haven't had time to use the past two years, taking every Mon & Tues. off, which will give me only 3 day weeks at the library. These glorious long weekends will allow me to use the time more usefully (a long stretch would be nice, but I am not yet ready to travel, nor am I that productive with long stretches.) I have many creative projects and press work to keep me occupied, as well as some home things that have needed tending to.  And this Monday, my taxes to take care of.  This may be a big fail if I'm feeling overwhelmed at work because of the shorter weeks, but lesser ILL flow and nothing afoot programming wise except planning for fall looks fortuitous.   So summer, and just perhaps a real one this year with the beaches open and the possibility of DOING things in a way we haven't been able to for awhile. Or at least enjoying the things already safe to be doing (like thrifting) because I'm in the headspace to enjoy things again. 

One thing I've gotten back since giving up the studio space is to be able to go home earlier at night and enjoy my ride home along the lakefront (when it's not just pitch blackness.) This was one of my fave things about earlier closes at the Library in summer time in my early years in Chicago, but when I was putting in hours in the Fine Arts, I gave up that extra daylight. I have occasional moments of wishing I didn't have to be constantly moving cats off my projects and book assembly that a separate workspace would afford, but mostly, moving the operation home was the best decision, especially in light of the past year.  I definitely slowed things down during covid, but I would have had to shut down completely during the full lockdown if I'd kept the space, nor could I afford it even with a slight downturn in business.

I also feel calmer and more focused with everything in one place in terms of equipment and supplies, which has been important in a year when my mental health has been rockier. I might not always have been able to create, but knowing I could when so moved, with everything  at hand, gave me some comfort. There is less room, and I certainly have to put things away less they be covered in cat hair (ie no more piles of paper shavings building up on the floor) but overall it's been great. I feel like the return of fairer weather in my mind will make this a productive summer that was sort of stolen last year by the pandemic.  

 June's zine offering, after a little bit of prep, may just be the unusual creatures box project if all goes well.  I have all the raw materials, so it's a matter of pulling it together.  It certainly the thing longest in the incubator and with the most switching gears, but I am looking forward to crossing it off the list.  I've also been experimenting with some simple animations for another project (see a couple posts back.) So stay tuned for more on that...

Saturday, May 15, 2021

on slow-burn trauma and creativity

The last couple of weeks, I've been slowly realizing how much mental real estate worrying about covid actually took up in my head the past year. It's probably only because it's been lessening as the realization that I am safe (or safer) has kicked in, that world is starting to feel safer. Or I knew it was, but didn't know how much it was impeding me. Suddenly, I can make art with the drive and passion I had before. I can think creatively about future projects and plans for the library. I can write (not only because I've managed to open the vein and trick myself into doing it first thing in the morning like a set of sit-ups, but because I enjoy the process. Designing a collage or a sign or a book cover is not like pulling a tooth. I don't feel as gray and adrift.

Lessened and nearly gone are the thoughts that I could get really sick at best, could possibly die (I have a risk factor in simply being overweight, though usually I have a pretty sound immune system.) Almost worse that I could inadvertently be responsible for killing someone else, or at best, even getting someone miserably sick. I worried about my dad, whose age puts him at risk. About other older relatives. About my sister, who works in a domestic violence shelter and was essential the whole time. Covid did not wreak havoc as close in my life as it could have. Some cousins with moderate cases (based on their own selfishness, loudly touted, and poor choices I'm sure.) My boyfriend had a rather mild case toward the end he prob picked up at working on a film in March (just luckily we had not been able to get together for awhile beforehand due to other factors, and then stayed apart for another couple weeks just in case. ) He was lucky. I was lucky. Other people not so much.

I wasn't able to stay at home--by last summer, I had to be back at work There, I felt reasonably safe, but to get there, had to travel by buses, where even with reduced capacities, people were far closer to me than 6 feet. The end result is that all of my daily worry ate up so much brainspace I did very little of the things that I enjoy, or enjoyed the things I did for the past 12 months. Sure, I went to work, I wrote, I made some things happen and kept the engines running and the books moving. But there was little joy. and what I thought was just an terrible bout of seasonal depression in Feb, has been lessening along with that, and as such, a whole new fucking world where I actually get to enjoy things, am present in the moment, and feel creative again (writing, which I was eventually able to do, doesn't count since most of that was tricking my brain to write mornings before the dread settled in.)

And it's obv. not just me--and it's all still happening--in India, in other countries. People have been torn up by covid far more than this corner of the world. Peoples lives have been impacted by loss, even here, of close to 600, 000 dead. Every once in a while someone I know in the writing community still gets sick or loses someone. Meanwhile I watched selfish people go on as if nothing was happening. And Loyola students hold giant parties in my building. And that was it's own kind of trauma that felt just as crushing. The realization that people are worse than I suspected when it came to taking others into account. Of being selfish and stupid.

I don't know how quickly I'll shed my mask, despite what the CDC says because it still fills unsafe. Not everyone has gotten a chance to be fully vaxxed just yet. Or maybe I'll be fine, but I want other people to feel safe. Or maybe those numbers are still just a little too high and the wounds a little too open still. Regardless, I am looking forward to some cautious opening up of my mind and my life--thriftstores, movies, maybe the museum. Novel -reading on my commute would be nice again, not just warily eyeing men with their masks under their noses and freaking the fuck out. That would be nice.

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.