Wednesday, June 30, 2021


 As writers, we all, of course, have our favorite words. Both just in general and the words we use in our poems.  Or maybe just the kinds of words. A poem and the entire section of my first collection were titled with the above word, something as world and concept I had discovered and loved.  Something that fit very well in a book that was about the intersections of body and language.  The things I was striving for in my work of that time. The concept for speaking in tongues being essential to the task of writing itself, particular in creating characters and scenes and writing outside our narrative and voice. 

I, in fact,  have  many favorite words, as all voracious readers and English majors properly would. The title of this blog, for one, it's variation on "dulcet"--sweet or pleasing to the ear. Initially if was a title for a poem project (what ultimately became beautiful, sinister.) When I was starting the etsy shop in 2007, I was aiming not to just sell dgp stuff, but also vintage & jewelry, so I called the shop "DULCET".  While this blog had a number of names and titles in the pasr, I decided to rename it with a variation, since here too I wanted a comprehensive sort of blog that encompassed all the things I love (writing and art but also vintage and pretty clothes.)  

There are other words that appear and reappear in poems.  Boat is one I joke about in the science of impossible objects. Blood, flood, minnow, pencil, kettle, whiskey, ghost. In my MFA workshops, someone once suggested I stop using the word dark, particularly hilarious since the title of the upcoming book has exactly that word blazoned across it's cover. (this same person also would dismissively write things like "Please write another poem." when mine apparently all sounded too similar.  yeah, fuck that dude.) Matches, sliver, silver, rabbit, monster.  

So often, the words I use are generated by what comes before them in the poem. I have become a big fan of internal rhyme.  When I was 21, I wrote terrible poems for my undergrad poetry workshop, but my end rhyme and rhythm was ridiculously on point, and while they were terrible, I feel like it really prepare me for fostering a good sense of rhythm and movement in poems.  Even my prose works along similar lines with similar rhythms and attention. I like words that are similar.  The delight , in the Potter poems, of 

                                        "hooked claw and bric-a-brac.

                                         Slack mouthed with feathers and mud"

While I write in many forms, when I can pull some sound action like that off is when I feel like I am achieving peak poet goals. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

little windows | on blogging

 When I first took it into my head I might want to start one of these strange things called a "blog," it was 2002.  I'm pretty sure I'd met a guy online that summer (in those days via the Salon,com personals), who'd casually let slip that this was what he did for a living, writing a blog about music. (He turned out to be wholly disappointing when we met for coffee, but it did, in my cluelessness, force me to look up what such a strange word was.) I was about a year in on publishing my first poems in online journals, and a few months past the first issue of wicked alice, so the web was not a totally foreign place. I had already started doing some very simple coding and webpage building for the journal and my own homepage. I was, after looking it up,  intrigued by the idea of journaling online--having kept years of marble mead notebooks on my own. 

On one hand, the eyes that could be potentially reading it would form it differently than a private journal, but also make it better and perhaps a bit less navel-gazy. Also, so much of life goes undocumented and unremembered if you don't note it and write it down. So in late 2002, I started a blog on Xanga, which was mostly cool in that you could, like with Livejournal or later, Tumblr, follow folks easily.  At the time, I didn't even had a computer at home, so most of my entries were brief and newsy and written when I had spare time at the circ desk in the evenings. Over time, I made some writer friends there who remain friends as we all moved through social media platforms. Some, even local enough that we became real-life friends.. By the time they closed the site, I'd long moved to blogger, but somewhere in my dropbox are the old files. 

By 2005, poetry blogs seemed to be where all the conversations were happening and all at once. There were frank discussions about publishing and insight into my favorite author's lives, Writing tips and advice. We commiserated on rejections and writer's block and it was probably more like a long-form facebook in those days. It was where we shared news of publications and readings.  How we kept track of what our friends and favorites were doing and thinking about in the literary world. Not to say it was all all roses--there was a lot of pissing contests and trolling, particularly if you were a female blogger. Many people left entirely because of such unpleasantness.  As shorter, easily maintained platforms arose, many abanadond longer form writing for shorter. By 2012 or so, over 70 percent of my blogroll had ceased publishing. Even my own entries had changed..most of the newsiness I would have shared there having moved onto facebook where everyone seemed to be at the time.  Now, as facebook dwindles, most are using instagram or twitter to engage the way they once did with blogs.

While many of the poets had left blogging, it was still flourishing for other things in other worlds--lifestyle and fashion and decor blogs replaced the writing ones in my bookmarks. Fiction writers seems to still be going strong blog-wise, maybe because they are more comfortable in long forms.  There was and still are still some poetry blogger holdouts-those of us who still like a more open space to occupy. We blog about writing but also about other things in our lives. I remember an argument in the mid-aughts, incredibly sexist, that the reason male authored poetry blogs were more well known & respected  than women's was because women tended not to limit their content to reviews and discussions solely about poetry and po-biz, but becuase their lives and personalities were too much in the blogs.  They wrote about their children.  About what they were reading.  What they were struggling with.  What they had for breakfast.  But these were always the most interesting things about these little windows into author's lives.  While your review of the latest releases might be a cool skim through, I wanted to know what you were writing about, thinking about.  What scared you, because I was was probably scared of that too.  

In truth, my greatest opus, even with those earliest three years under lock and key, is this very space you are standing in. It's not all genius or valuable.  Some of it's insecure and whiny and cringe-worthy in retrospect.  Some of it helpful in guaging how my opinions have changed over time--my routines and general mood levels. Some of it useful for remembering things--almost like a photograph in words. The way the moon looked or the color of the lake. Sometimes, when I read old entries, they make me also think of what is not there--what was going on that I didn't write about happening in the wings. Good things and really bad things. Things that I was too afraid to talk about lest I jinx them. Things I was too afraid of to put into words. But even still, so much is here--my giddiness over my first book being accepted. My MFA rants. The first photos of the empty studio space I spent so many years in. Readings and publication woes and notes for projects I was working on. Books I was editing and assembling. My first zine projects and collage exploits.  Snippets of poems in progress here and there. 

One thing that my couple days off these summer weeks is the chance on writing days, to spend a bit of less-interrupted time in this space, and be a bit more varied and intentional in what I write about.  There were years where much was just dailyness journals, though I love these parts. But I also like a little more serious literary & art content sprinkled in. Maybe some snippets and advice from my experience in the writing world (I have, it feels sometimes, been at this forever. ) Sometimes I forget things I wrote and rediscover them with delight.  I've even, when writing certain things, mined my blog for snippets for poems. There are, in the annals, poems that exist nowhere else but the blog. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

more writing day exploits

I've been languishing a bit in the luck of these Monday mainly writing-focused days (even the Tuesdays are nice-- I usually do mostly press work and maybe some painting or collage.)  While the circumstances of all these extra vacation days were not great (first, short staffing at the library that prevented being out at all, then, you know, a pandemic) I am appreciating the luxury of not just having one span of free time, but small bits weekly. It works better for the library (we are still short staffed, but managing, and also because I can miss a couple days tasks and catch up the rest of the week, but being gone longer would require cross-training others who are also also short on bandwidth.)  I am not one for travel much anyway, so these mini-vacations suit me perfectly, especially when so much of the weekend gets eaten by other things--cleaning, organizing, recovering from particularly exhausting weeks.  I get a weekend even after my usual weekend, which is glorious. 

Today, I woke up around noon (I actually was up a bit earlier and was starving, so made a frozen breakfast bowl at 7am and watched a bit more of Annabelle: Creation I started last night.) ) I fell back to sleep around 9, then got up and had a second breakfast/brunch of peanut butter toast and some coffee, then set about plotting this weeks blog content--something I've had time for now with these days. I also usually spend a bit of time reading other poetry blogs in my bookmarks (and others courtesy of Dave Bonta's weekly round up.) On the docket for me today were posts about blogging itself and my favorite words. Some notes on last week's binge watch of The Stand. The main task of the day was a final look through of dark country as I get ready to format the galleys for printing. I say "final" look, but spotting typos probably means I should look one more time. Also making sure I like the order and it makes sense. (I actually swapped out my final poem for another I thought ended the collection better.) Also, started at least beginning to plot out my trailer for the book, for which I have only vague idea of what I want at this point, so there is much to do.  I have more a sense of themes and random visuals, but not a coherence to make them happen.   I wound up with some bits and a plan, but the rest will likely have to wait til next Monday for any sort of concentrated effort. 

At around 7pm,  I made some pasta, washed some dishes, and put away my work in favor of some Youtube videos (mostly fashion & thrift hauls)Then, of course, writing this recap of my day. I'll soon soon headed to take a shower then to couch or bed for  more in the Annabelle sequels. I did not get to drafting this months Paper Boat newsletter as planned, but I think I should have some time tomorrow while the printers are doing insides on the new releases.   Sometimes, the days are more packed (next week I am doing some submissions of newer to some journals perhaps, since I have nothing currently out.)  Also, some revisions on newer work from my daily writing. Sometimes, it's one thing--editing, revising, laying out--all day. Sometimes it's many bits of things. In a couple months I'll be back to doing all these things in bits and starts around other tasks, but for now and feeling a bit more intentional with things. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

the magic of midnights

 A few FB folks recently posted this article and it got me thinking how, despite the tyranny of early-rising advice in media, I was lucky to have figured out I was never meant for 9-5 life.  This is not to say I wasn't mean for an 8 hour/ 5 days kind of work  (though longer is pushing it) but more that when the hours fell was key. Since around 2000, I have been fortunate to have worked a job where my late to bed / late to rise lifestyle was actually useful in a second shift capacity, where the library, during regular semesters, closes at 10pm. It's a a shift people always seem to surprised to hear I actually desire and like, yet I miss it terribly when we close earlier.  

My mom always talked about what a well-slept baby I was. While my dad worked early, she stayed home when I was really young, so apparently not only did I sleep the night, but sometimes as late as noon. When I remember school, I just remember that I was never quite as rested and sharp as I could have been. Summers, during high school and college were my golden time, when not only could I sleep as late as desired, but could also stay up late reading or writing or watching the one good tv in the house. When possible in college, I'd stick to afternoon classes, then be on campus pretty late for rehearsals.   In grad school when I got my MA, most of my classes were in the evenings (designed for people with jobs, which outside of brief Starbucks stint, I was living on loans and credit cards.)   The year and a half that I worked at the elementary school was an anomaly, but I remember coming home at 3 and sleeping for a couple hours to even function in the evenings and actually be awake for dinner.  Again, basically always tired all the time. I was relieved when, at Columbia after a few months, the night-shifter gave up the late shift and I could take it.  I've been in it ever since. Even still, on weekends or when we were working at home for covid, I creep toward starting my day later and later, to staying up later and later.  

So much advice on productivity hinges on that early-rise. But I would argue that I trade my late-rising for productivity under the cover of night.  I am my most energetic and able to concentrate in late afternoons. Have my best creative brain from around 6-10pm.  When I get home after work, I usually will eat dinner and watch or listen to something while working til I go to bed around 2 (this changes a bit during the academic year, and I flip flop my routine to doing press things  in the first couple hours of my day instead of the last. ).  There is something rebellious and illicit feeling about being productive while the world sleeps.  In summers, I occasionally see sunrise, thought it's from the other side.  

I have benefitted productivity-wise from writing first thing in the morning when my head is clearer and less cluttered, but my "first thing" is actually around 10am. Until 2018, I tried to write at night before bed if nothing else, but many times, it didn't happen.  I'd be too tired, or my head to filled with other things that had happened.  There is a certain magic to the first hour of the day, whenever that is. It could be 10 am, or it could be 2pm if I've stayed up til sunrise. Lately, I've been showering and getting ready, making coffee, and then writing, but sometimes I do just go straight to my laptop and get something out of my head and then get on with the usual business of the day. Late nights are for other things--I've been known to build webpages and layout chapbooks at midnight. When working at home during covid's early days of lockdown, write grant & project proposals until the wee hours because I was on a roll and didn't want to stop (though my primary beef with work-from-home was a lack of boundaries, though this was entirely my fault.)

In ordinary-life things, there is a certain feeling of accomplishment in closing out the bar (2am or 4am) In late night movie dates where you are the only two people in the theater. In midnight tacos and all-night diners. I forget the non-urban world that falls asleep at 9pm. and am a little surprised outside the city that nothing ever seems to be open past 10. When I was in college for that semester in NC, we would go out to the beach watch the sun rise over the Atlantic with the fishermen just setting up, then crawl into bed for a few hours before stumbling to class. Later, back in the midwest, rehearsals til midnight and coffee at the Denny's across the road from campus (theatre people are always vampires). Even now, just the introverts paradise of not many people out and about when I am moving around in it.   The city at night is my favorite city--all lit up and glimmering.  In some ways, it's less safe obviously, but I am always vigilant and aware of my surroundings.  Most of the crazy interactions and moments of danger i have felt in this city have been in broad daylight.   

So here's to all the late risers and midnighters who get no respect in a world of early birds (I could also write a blog entry in the tyranny of extroverts, but we'll save that for later...)

Saturday, June 26, 2021

notes & things | 6/27/2021

Saturday, I woke up in high humidity to a delightful spat of rain (good, hard rain that the midwest seems to be in short supply of and the brown of the grass shows it. ) Maybe a single roll of thunder. It was followed by a tornado alert on my phone and sirens in the neighborhood, though it didn't actually seem to be that windy or stormy outside my bedroom window.  Last summer's tree-trashing Rogers Park tornado was pretty close (close enough to feel a pressure change in my ears) , so despite usually feeling safe in the city from twisters, I prepared to hunker down in my interior closet with the cats, but it was, thankfully, not necessary. I've seen the aftermath of some pretty serious microbursts (including a huge tent at the Printer's Row Book Fair lifted and moved several yards), but always feel a bit safer here among the solid brick structures than all that open space I grew up in. We spent many a night hiding in the basement under mattresses and watching the sky.  There were years where my re-occurring disaster dreams always involved tornadoes, though this gave way more to plane crashes and floods as I got older.  

However, I do love storms when they are not quite so deadly.  I miss a lot of them when I'm working in the late afternoons due to a lack of windows in my workspace. There is a feeling of excitement when I see a bank of clouds rolling in over the city. That smell that settles in the first few seconds of rain. (I usually smell it before I see or feel it.) It's also amazing how the weather can be so different downtown and on the north side.  I've left a deluge in the Loop and arrived to completely dry sidewalks near my apartment. Even the wind and temperature can be vastly different for just a few miles.  The worse winds usually happen in the winter, when if from the right direction, they create a howling noise that can keep you awake with their intensity. So close to water, it can be difficult sometimes to walk east on certain streets if the wind is off the water, but it's also the regulator that keeps the lakefront neighborhoods cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter (unless it's frozen completely over pretty far out.)  

While this week hasn't been blistering hot, it has been humid, which means I spend a lot of time turning the fans on and off and throwing the covers off/ pulling them back up. I don't sleep as well when it's like this with no A/C, and remember my dreams more (and have weirder ones) This week's highlight was having committed a random dude murder and gotten away with it, though fearing that eventually I'd be caught. It had some grisly details, including enlisting my sister to help chop up the body and burn it, then bury it in the woods.   All less troubling than the crushing fear and dread of the police finding the remains and figuring it out.  (Maybe, I've been listening to Taylor Swift's "No Body No Crime" too  I also repeatedly dream of a vague realization of something I was supposed to be doing and keeping track of, but can't remember what it is that startles me awake sometimes. I even had a school dream in the past few weeks, about my locker being on a beach, and yet I am unable to remember the combination to open it.  Somewhere, there is a key to what this all means in my subconscious, but it's all over the place. 

Troubling dreams aside, I am feeling more organized and purposeful than usual--all no doubt related to working the shorter weeks and getting time to work on things that I had been neglecting. With a lessening of covid anxiety, I feel more creative and like I am just waking up after a long sleep. The past year was just a sort of head-down dullness with so much space occupied by worry.  While it's entirely possible, due to variants, it will be short lived, I'll take it. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

film notes | beauty and terror

 This past weekend, I was in Rockford visiting my dad, and of course, nights included some horror movie picks (he is where I get my love of them after all.)  We decided to re-watch The Conjuring, and then it's sequels, including the new one, as well as some Warren-universe adjacents, The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona. (the only one we didn't touch on was Annabelle and its sequels, but I am planning to revisit those soon on my own.)  I remember the hype was so very big on the first film and it's scariness, it initially dissappointed me--not all that scary, with a couple good jump scares, but nothing like, say Insidious, which scared the crap out of me first time I watched it with no real expectations. What I've noted on rewatches, however, is how beautiful a film it is visually, and how much attention is paid to camera angles and long shots and set decor. Looking at it it, it's a really visually appealing film, full of vintage patterns and soft pastels and seventies music. There are moments, when the house full of daughters, seems very Virgin Suicides-ish.  The sequels are similarly specific in their camerawork and design--the moldy house in London, the early 80's decor of the new one.  There are also great visuals in the spin-offs. 

One of my favorite juxtapositions in all genres is something beautiful that is also tinged or shot through with darkness. The Conjuring does not look like a horror movie usually would. Even something like Haunting of Hill House, while dark and lovely, seemed like a haunted house from the get go, with crumbling statuary and dark corners. But there is so much light, so much floral wall paper and sun swept floors in this film. How could ghosts live in something so filled with light?  Some of the most horrific scenes--the hanging witch over the shoulder, the sheet scene, happen in broad daylight, not in shadowy dark.  One of my favorite horror films, It Follows, does this well and has a similar seventies feel--lots of light and daylight and horrific things that live in it.  

I have a line in my website's artist statement about this juxtaposition of the beautiful and the terrible, and I think it may be one of the things I am always striving toward, both written and visual. Collages that seems pretty but are darker (the conspiracy theory pieces for example.)  The whole of dark country flirts with this, scenes that seem pretty and subdued, but with a darkness underneath them. (My promo pieces for it are actually set alongside vintage wallpaper samples, and the footage I'll be using for the book trailer has a similar feel.)  The book itself, playing off the photo,  is pink--a color I was hoping to be reminiscent of a teen girl's pink bedroom. And yet, it's very much a book about horror and things that go bump in the night.  Sort of like if you scraped away the floral wallpaper and found the devil underneath. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

mr. potter's museum of curiosities


"We build our bones around hope. 

Sure-footed on the branch. The way 

we sang each morning to let everyone 


know we were still there, still alive. 

After the blackness we plunged into 

and out of intact. So many things 


that could still us in the darkness,  

but didn’t. So many that loved us, 

but couldn’t."

My work on unusual creatures, the box project, continues and will be available a little bit later this summer, but I put together this little lovely with all my creepy victorian taxidermy poems written this spring.  

You can read it fresh off the virtual presses right here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

spells and word witchery


My morning poems for the last few weeks have been in the form of spells--or maybe not really spells, but they feel that way (and are titled as such--"spell for married men" "spell for the lonely" .  Maybe more like exorcisms than spells, bits that need to get out on the page. (I was inspired a bit by this essay)  While I left most of my wiccan interests firmly in the 90's, and consider myself a slightly pagan-leaning agnostic, I have always loved the idea of word-witchery.  The power language has to change real things in the real world.  To create alternative worlds.  While I was never one for ritual, writing is it's own kind of ritual and summoning, which is why writers get really particular about writing routines and processes (and the pens they use as specific as any candle or crystal used by practitioners.)  And in truth, even outside the word, I've been fortunate to be able to harness my writing skills for actual good in my day job pursuits. (and this is not even counting how much writing helps me--while I've never been on board with sharing my deepest darkests, with a therapist, I will totally share them with the page and complete Writing is often a way of processing and understanding for me (actually usually prose more than verse, which feels more raw, with much less artifice.) Which is, I suppose, it's own kind of magic-weilding.  Also, it's own kind of meditation. 

Even my morning writing routine is it's own sort of ritual.  Most mornings I get up and shower, putting the coffee on while I get dressed and popping whatever I am having for breakfast in the microwave (usually breakfast bowls or croissant sandwiches, unless it's a day at home when I'll cook some bacon & scrambled eggs or an omelette.) As soon as I sit down at my desk and laptop, I just start writing, at a point when my head isn't cluttered by other things. I'm still a blank slate. Sometimes, i'll reread the segment I wrote the day before, though sometimes not even that.  There will be time for editing and revising when most of the project is finished, so now, I am still in the early stages. Much will eventually be cast out or recombined with other things. I don't usually write on weekends, so how long it takes to get a draft depends on how much is good, how much is trash.  A chapbook length series can take a couple months, depending on the finished length. Some things are fast (the bird artist was fairly swift and helped along by the latter half of  NAPOWRIMO. The first half of April's pursuits was the Walter Potter pieces, which are a short series of only 10 poems.)

When I'm done writing, I'll tend to other things like responding to e-mails or posting to socials for promo purposes, but I  occasionally share teasers on Twitter of what I'm working on. And then I go on to start my non-writing days (usually filled with library work and press work and other kinds of real-life nonsense like commuting and errands) at least with the knowledge that I have written and tended at least a little to the thing that is most important to me. And so it's a little like religion. It centers me, and before, when I wasn't writing regularly, I always felt like I was off kilter. Always pulled in a million directions except the one I most badly wanted to go. At the end of the day, even if I am treading water and tasks and frustrated by my productivity, I know I've done the most important thing for the day in the grand scheme of things, which is enough.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

the self publishing diaries | the elusive audience

 As I prepare to launch another book into the world this summer, I've been thinking a lot about audience. Mainly how to reach one, or maybe more, how to harness interest in a world where everyone's attention is less on things like art and writing and more on covid and post-covid anxieties. The joy, but also the surrealness of re-entry, both in a literal sense for those who've mostly been home for over a year, and more a change in orientation for those of us who haven't.  (I, for example, had to commute and work since last summer, but have done little else in terms of going out or socializing with family or friends.) Also, how to rebuild the things that weakened the structure of our lives pre-pandemic. I was in an untenable situation that would have broken me if covid had not happened.  I know this now and have been postulating ways to avoid doing it to myself again. (It should not take a deadly pandemic to save you from burnout. It should not have been almost a relief.)

And yet, books have been coming out, and people have been buying them all along. sex & violence did very well last summer  and even feed, which had a much smaller release on my own this spring, sold enough copies to make me happy.  Chapbooks, now as I've amped up new releases and gotten back on the horse are doing brisk business.  Even I am reading a bit more here and there as my concentration comes back (still mostly poetry, not yet the long haul of novels.)  Though I have noticed that while usually I'm keeping an eye on new and interesting releases, I've missed a lot of books coming out from folks I know and want to read and am now regathering from the past year.

I think about audience a lot when I think about self-publishing in general.  I suppose in many ways I have the luck of having built an audience through a variety of means (some would call these "connections" (gross) though I like to think of it as "community."  I know a lot of poets through having published them, published alongside them, or gotten to know them through social media.  These make the task of self-publishing much more successful than I would have been two decades ago when I knew no one and nothing. And really, all you have to do is look at the insta poets and see that social media has made audience gathering and sustaining so much easier than it would have been before.  Or the novelists (I follow quite a few in the YA genre) who do very well self-publishing on Amazon and are able to create buzz and interest in their work.  It's a vastly different publishing world than it even was a decade ago and that's exciting.  I've been re-thinking how to harness those energies for my own purposes. Also, how to discard the portions of po-biz that don't suit or interest  me--is, the academic/poetry industrial complex, contest culture, traditional paths of "being a poet" that don't make sense, etc. 

Of course, poetry is a little harder than fiction, esp, genre fiction.  And hard if you do not write the sort of work that fits well in extracted instagram morsels. Many of these seem like inspirational sayings more than poems. And poetry is a hard sell anyway, even at a time when we seem to have these rising of interests--the Rupi Kaur factor, Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem fervor that made her an instant bestseller.  How to find your audience when you don't have those qualities--to be quotable, to be inspiring and positive  Most of my work is sort of dark and twisty and mostly of interest to other poets.  I'm not sure how I would cater to more general audiences, or even if I could or want to. I often compare poetry and filmmaking.  Everyone wants to success of a blockbuster, but most of us will, at most, get some kind of small indie festival attention, or mostly maybe nothing at all. Or maybe we're like horror in the 80's with little theatrical release, but that somehow made it on video into so many homes even still.    The thing about being in the poetry community this long is you've seen a lot of come and go.  This year's publishing all-stars and contest-winners sometimes disappear entirely within a couple years.  Many of us never got quite that height or that kinda elusive high, but we are still here churning out work. Maybe my books will one day be like that ragged VHS copy rattling around in the bin at a fleamarket, and maybe that's enough.

notes & things | 6/22/2021

This weekend was filled with restaurant outings and thrifting expeditions, in which I found a cache of lovely green and amber vintage dishes, a couple clothing pieces, and a wood mail sorter that I am thinking will help organize packing orders (which now are just an unruly stack of chaos most of the time.) It was not a huge yield, but the summer is young and I will be doing some more thrifting over the next couple of months. The rest of the weekend included some hang time with my sister and horror movie watching with my dad.  I miss my cats horribly when I am away and always feel uneasy being gone too long, so it was good to get home. 

It was also the summer solstice, which always feels odd in that summer is beginning officially, but also beginning it's so slide back into winter. By early August the light will be different and the day's noticeably shorter, a mirror image of their lengthening in late spring. While I had thought summer might feel shorter with shorter work weeks, it's actually feeling slower and more liesurely, which is nice, I think because I have a couple days more each week to unwind.  While it means I am busier the days I am working, I am loving being able to focus on writing, art, and some bookmaking on my days off. I've been very productive, but still feel like the days are mostly my own. Last night I was up late watching the new version of The Stand, so I got  up today around noon, made coffee and breakfast, and now am settling into some editing tasks and queuing up some blog content for this week.  After a bit of smolder and humidity last week and storms over the weekend, it's absolutely lovely today and mild (and the sort of summer weather that I wish was all the time.)

I also arrived back in town with some belated birthday cash from my dad, so have already procured a black floral satin vintag-ish bag and (another) pair of sunglasses for my hoard. (I am on self-imposed a dress embargo again due to closet space, but am free reign on 

Friday, June 18, 2021

film notes | late 70's techno-gothic

 I've read that we remember very little about our lives before age 4.  This is especially true for me, who feels like most of my memories began when my sister was born, 4 1/2 years in, and after we'd moved into the house in Loves Park.  Before that marker--things are just flashes.  The green shag carpet in the trailer we first lived in. My mother making popcorn in the tiny kitchen. Lying on the floor under the coffee table with a sheet draped over it as a fort. 

With my early intro to horror, its not surprising some of these flashes come from movies I probably was in the room for, but scarcely followed well.  One memory I held was some sort of alien baby movie, where a pregnant woman gave birth to a monster. Like everything, it was only flashes--the monster, dwarfish and covered in blood, with long hair in front of a backdrop of stars. A wall of early computers malfunctioning. It was so incomplete I wondered it it was something I invented entirely.  Years later, gifted with the internet at my fingertips, I tried to find it using all sorts of search terms--"alien baby" "demon baby" "70's evil baby".  Most results tended to bring up things like It's Alive and Rosemary's Baby. A Cronenberg film I don't quite remember the name of.  

I thought I was close with Demon Seed.  Basically a super computer sexually assaults the wife of its creator by trapping her in the computer operated house. It stars a lovely Julie Christie and like many similar movies, speculates on the dangers of developing technology. It ends with a strange, human-looking child that resembles their lost daughter, but inhabited with the computer's "soul". While a rather gripping,  trippy ride, this was not the right movie alas..

A couple years later, I was flipping randomly through a book in the library on 70's horror and saw a photo from The Manitou and got so excited. This was it! My search terms had been off--it was not alien or demon-but a Native American witch doctor--and the description was even weirder--a woman gets a strange growth on the back of her neck that turns out to be a witch doctor trying to be reborn to avenge the genocide of his people. At the end, it is, and the vanquishing of the creature that emerges involves harnessing the energies of the hospitals super computer, which sort of works the opposite of the other movie. There is also the weirdness of Tony Curtis as the lead, who almost delves into comedy, which makes things even weirder and more surreal. 

Even after I figured it out, I only recently was able to find it on Amazon and actually watch it--most of it, I don't remember at all in terms of plotline.  Only the end and its visuals--especially the computers and the star filled room and the witch doctor. I rewatched the other movie and was struck at the similarities in theme when it came to technology--the giant computer parts, the ominous monitors, how they could take over, or be taken over, by malevolent forces. A; especially funny considering we now carry a much more impressive computer in the palms of hands that controls our lives.  How are homes are inhabited by security systems and Alexa machines. Though our current technophobia films have a little less bite, I suppose, than it did when everything was new and threatening and suddenly in our homes. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

the books that build us


When I was a child, in that time before memory, I carried around a battered checkerboard copy of Mother Goose tales.  It was more illustration than text, but I knew there was something there in those unfamiliar symbols. A code I needed to break. At my maternal grandmother's, there was a complete set of New Wonder World Encyclopedias, which were differently arranged than other sets, into volumes by subject matter. My favorite one to peruse contained poetry and songs for children.  I don't remember the particulars--only the illustrations and the feel of the glossy pages and the cover with its luxe engraved surface. I was obsessed with these long before I could read them, but used to pull them out to play "school" at her house, which was something I only knew about from tv/movies and that I would one day go. Later, they were ours, and I kept them on a small set of bookshelves in my room,  (they may in fact be in my dad's garage even still.)    I later inherited a set of alphabetical World Book's from my other grandmother, but their charm was more in retrieval of information than the tactile joys of the other. I did however enjoy the accompanying free two shelf bookcase they came with well into college, when my own book collection outgrew it. 

The Wonder Worlds were similar in  material feel to the Peter Rabbit books I've often mentioned--my first library obsession I could actually read myself--in their little matching display case at Loves Park Elementary.  Textured covers, smooth gloss pages. They had a smell only those pages provide, different from the matte paper of most other books, but also different--thicker, more luxurious--than magazines. These were the first books I tested my newly developing reading skills on, checking out a different pair each week. While we had a small collection of Little Golden's at home--given as gifts and procured from garage sales--I much preferred Peter Rabbits. Later, they were replaced by Children's Illustrated classics in their little boxed set--the pink War of the Worlds I kept reading over and over.

Once I was reading, I was off and onto other things. More books from the library, from the Scholastic Book Fair magicalness. By the time I was in 5th grade, my love of reading was paying off in school, and while I lagged behind (and always would) in math, I was a voracious reader who took my library visits very seriously.  There were literal fights over whatever novel the teacher had just finished reading (The Phantom Tollbooth was a particular favorite..)  Stacks of Ramona Quimby and Judy Blume.   Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein  I checked out Little Women in the 6th grade, since it seemed to be the mountain few had successfully climbed, but had to return it the next week unfinished by directive of a bitchy librarian.  (I know enough of the plotline, I'm pretty sure I have never finished it to this  Later in my 20's, it was some sort of amazingness that I found myself in the position of being the school librarian, and myself, navigating conflicts over Harry Potter and RL Stine (I was much more generous.)

Of course, what I checked out from the library and what I was reading at home weren''t always the same  type of book.  Occasionally I would stumble upon a book about ghosts or a haunted house written for children and devour it, but at I had discovered adult horror novels around age 10, mostly courtesy of an aunt who passed them off to me secondhand. The first night in our new house, I had purloined my dad's copy of The Amityville Horror from a box, which I recognized from the movie. (not wise, but luckily we had a newly constructed /non-haunted home variety.) By the time I hot junior high, it was a mix of horror and teen romances, sometimes all at once, the marriage of which manifested in things like VC Andrews and Christopher Pike procured at the Waldenbooks at the mall. 

By then, my reading had broadened to non-fiction about weird things--urban legends and alien abductions. I came across a copy of The Bell Jar when I was seventeen and was unimpressed.  (just two years later, I would have said it was my favorite book.) I inherited a set of 70's Harlequin romances from a cousin and spent an entire summer reading at least one, sometimes two a day. By the time I arrived at college I had writerly inclinations, so devoted myself to Shakespeare and Faulkner and Jane Austen, all of which seemed rather tame compared to earlier reading materials, but enjoyable. I think my love of the Brontes came from that gothic, horror loving reader I had been (and actually continued to be, much of my college summer reading was still trashy horror and the entirety of Stephen King.) The love of books in general sent me seeking things that were "literary" and still horror--Poe, Hawthorne, Henry James, Frankenstein. Or more contemporary authors with a similar bent (thus my love of Toni Morrison.)  While I've read many books and many types of literature, I was always seeking the darker things--both in classics (Daphne DuMaurier, Shrley Jackson) and contemporaries (Jeffery Eugenides and Donna Tartt). 

All of these influences are pretty obvious if you look at my work as a writer, but so much of my development was not fancy highbrow "literature" and so much popular horror novels and that which would be considered "trashy" by many.  I've been thinking about this a lot as we get closer to our Bad Art focus topic this semester. Though I would also argue that some of it is very good--the Stephen King if not the VC Andrews, but still both formed me as a writer and story-maker. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

the painter and the poem

On weekends, my Youtube viewing schedule is largely plus-size fashion or thrifting hauls, a smattering of van and cabin life programming (aspirationally), some weird paranormal and urban legend stuff, and artist studio vlogs.  All of it happens while I am working on other things--cleaning, folding books, etc, so my concentration is rarely focused,  but Sunday  I was watching a painter do a study of a flower, kneeling carefully on the ground in her yard and it occurred to me how I very rarely attempt to render what is there in the physical world.  She would begin with a sketch, then moved closer to do more detail work.  While ultimately her pieces were a bit abstract and not true-to-life, it was definitely a different approach to creating that abstract object. While I have painted many flowers and trees and landscapes, they usually come not from something observed in the real world, but much more, the imagined. Or the developmental, what appears and can be finessed from whatever happens on the page when I start raking the brush across it.  Much is experimental and more about process--drips and smudges and color variations.  So much more about color and mood and a hint of realness, but no real efforts toward verisimilitude.

It occurred to me that my approach to writing is very similar, and poetry, by it's nature may be as well. So much is color and shade and music, maybe a hint of  story pulling it along like an engine. I've often thought about how my work is definitely split along the demarcation line--circa 2004, when I began my first attempts at visual work.  The poems before were like trying to paint that flower but always feeling like I came up short. I knew exactly what I was trying to do, what I was trying to say, but like that perfectly rendered flower, I failed. I was never happy with the work.  The writing process, while I liked to have done it, was tolerable, but scarcely enjoyable.  More like kneeling in the sun on my heels uncomfortably for hours, only to get back inside and find I'd done the bloom no justice whatsoever.  And so it was like this poem after poem--all the way through my first book manuscript.  I'm not sure I would have stayed in the game had it always been like this book after book, poem after poem. 

In 2004 and 2005, something shifted.  The process of writing became much more like an assemblage. Of words, of images, of feelings and fragments.  I did a lot of collage-style writing and incorporating found texts then.  Would keep a notebook close to me to catch the stray line or images for later.  I would pluck a few and stick them down on the page and move them around to see what developed.  Some of it was word-salad, but some of it took shape into solid things. The best part was never knowing what I was going to get, so I was always delighted when I got anything at all. It didn't have to look like a real flower or say the thing I most desperately wanted to say, mostly because it would create even more beautiful flowers, say things that i would never, with my intentions, think to say.  Sometimes, the most interesting narratives and themes came from the subconscious or the happenstance. There was a certain flow that made writing, if not always easier, highly enjoyable. Without expectations, everything was a success, no matter how small.

I could possibly argue I've entered a third era in my writing style the past few years.  I am not always as collage-writing driven as I was, nor do I need as much  material to make something new. And maybe this feels more like painting than collage--putting the paint down on the paper and then figuring out what is there that is of substance. When I was working on the honey machine Plath centos, this was the process, but that was probably the last time I worked with found material.  I still have notes jotted in my notebook, words and phrases and ideas, but I need them less now when I go to write and only turn to them when I'm stuck for a way to begin.  Typically, if I can get the first couple lines, the little machine of the poem will start turning enough to bring it to some sort of conclusion. Lay down the first few brushes of color and then keep going.  I don't necessarily know if this coincides with adding painting to my creative practice, or printmaking, which feels like another mode altogether. But I like it.  And it makes poetry more about process and discovery--and which I typically mostly happy with many, if not all,  of the things I create.   Sometimes, a flower fails to even resemble a flower, or a landscape is just lacking something, but each attempt makes the next one better.  

publishing and creative collaboration

 I've been thinking a bit about the collaboration that publishing often engenders--the push and pull of choosing work, preparing galleys and designing covers and how to mazimize that in terms of creating beautiful books and objects. Some of my favorite cover designs are not necessarily the ones I do myself (though that process is highly enjoyable) but the ones where the author has a role. So many dancing girl authors are also damn good artists and this makes their book even lovelier. (Check out Amber Rose Crowtree's recent chap, Harboring the Imperfect, as well as Emma Hyche's Picnic in the Abbatoir.) Other times, they have an image or a piece of art they'd like to use from a friend.  Or another designer who is willing to put something together that is print ready.  I like variances, since it keeps the series fresh and not too many books in the same vein.  (I try to switch it up, but I also tend to gravitate in certain directions and colors--lots of pale blues and greens.  Vintage illustrations and collage.(basically what most of my visual art looks recent case in point, the lovely cover for Loren Walker's neverheart)  

Sometimes, I am running off a concept or idea, but creating something from scratch to encompass those thoughts.  Early in the process, I will typically try to get a sense of what they like--how that manifests in their style.  Also what past covers appeal to them. Do they light bright or muted colors?  Photos or other media?  Simple or maximalist? What sort of fonts and colors should I avoid? What sort of imagery might we try pulling from the book?  What is too obvious or expected? What is surprising? If they have no preferences or idea where to start, I will usually try re-reading the manuscript and exploring directions. It's also cool if an author wants to use something I've already created (this happened with Elisabeth Workman's chap recently.  She had fallen in love with the conspiracy theories collages, so I created something in the same vein and style for her chap.)

In my own experience with publishers, I've been fortunate to have a similar collaborative relationship. In many cases, the editors ask for work I've made or can create.  In others, if I have no idea or appropriate images, they've made some really cool choices (major characters in minor films' design by Mary Ellen Knight  is an excellent example, as well as the lovely design Maverick Duck did for beautiful, sinister. ) For salvage, I had a vague idea of a mermaid tattoo that Black Lawrence was able to nail exactly.  Other books with them, I provided the artwork (girl show and sex & violence)  It's similar with the images I've been working with for the collections I've been issuing myself, as well as various zine projects over time. Of the three that will be issued this year, one is more illustrated (feed), one is a photograph (dark country) and the third (animal, vegetable, monster), a collage.

Even the insides of books are sometimes also a similar design collaboration, especially if there are visual elements inside or complicated formatting.  Sometimes, things just don't fit right and we have to make it work (we have literally sometimes turned poems on their We've also non traditional"books, including some decks of poems and a box project devoted to Emily Dickinson, and funds willing, I always hopw to do more of these non-book books in the future.  Even with the most simple design, there is a bit of back and forth on fonts and sizing and titles (to bold or not to bold? to make larger or consistent with the text?   how to handle footnotes and epigraphs?  All of it, a process I greatly enjoy.

Monday, June 14, 2021

the self-publishing diaries: dark country

Today, I was awake very early on one of those mild, sunny and breezy days this close to the lake.  Since I wasn't apparently going back to sleep, I started my dedicated writing day early and instead worked some final edits on the DARK COUNTRY manuscript and began to prepare a final galley.  I am hoping to have it to the printers after the beginning of July and available by month's end.  While the poems span at least few years work, it's always a little surreal how the self-publishing timeline varies from the traditional publisher route. The time involved in the process of compiling the manuscript, sending it out to publishers and contests, all that waiting that may only gather sparks of interest, and if you're lucky, a "yes." and then maybe up to couple more years before it sees the light of day.  (and that's if you're publisher doesn't shut down mid-process, which happened to me twice. ) While I wouldn't advise writing a book in a week and publishing it in the span of a few weeks, you probably could do it if you were doing it yourself. 

In the grand scheme of things, I'm in no rush, but I do feel an urgency to get these three books--this one, FEED, and ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MONSTER out this year, only because there are other full-lengths steadily queuing up behind them. If covid-year taught me anything, just grab it if you want it.  Is it too fast and too much?  Probably..but so is everything.  The work of all three goes back several years, during which I was rotating between the three different projects. Two of them, I sent out to my regular publisher who gracefully declined.  DARK COUNTRY is the only one that hasn't been out of the house, but it is actually the one with the oldest material. the beautiful, sinister poems, written between 2010-2012 and published as a chap in 2013 make up one section, the rest written somewhere between 2016-2021 (including the very recent conspiracy theories project, not initially intended, but when all was said and done, fit perfectly and now open the collection.  

While it has all along had a more narrative and story-like feel to all the bits, one thing I've noticed that I didn't plan for was the mixing of greek mythology with a contemporary spin.  Like many young poets that don't quite yet know what the hell to write about, much of my first work was mythologically based--Calypso, Daphne, Ariadne. I moved away from it eventually, but it still cropped up.  A poem called "Cassandra" in my first collection and the poem "Beneath" about mythological women in peril. While I tried to move away from the Greeks and subject matter that was too awkwardly "poetic" I still dallied in the worlds of folklore, and urban legends most of the time, if only the sort of personal mythologies we impose upon the world.  THE SHARED PROPERTIES OF WATER AND STARS, was after all, a retelling of the three bears set in suburbia. I used to write a lot of poems about Red Riding hood, and more recently, Hansel & Gretel.  And of course, mermaids, which make their way into almost every book somehow (if only by way of Plath in SEX & VIOLENCE)

DARK COUNTRY is definitely more contemporary, but so much of it's backbone is some sort of myth or folklore--urban legends, Slender Man, the minotaur retelling, the sisters in beautiful, sinister named after the muses.  And then of course, horror and late 20th century gothic in the context of suburban america.  The myths and stories are framed by our love of the haunted, the violent, the blood-soaked ground of parking lots and shopping malls. Of Illinois and Wisconsin, where everything takes place. Combustible prom queens and creepy little girls. You could probably say I've written this book in other books--especially certain poems in previous collections. And maybe, as I often fear, I am just writing the same book over and over til I get it right. But sometimes, the focus shifts and you get a more nuanced view, which is what I hope is happening here. 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

notes & things | 6/13/2021

Another week, and the humidity of the past week seems to have ended in a massive storm system yesterday that only cracked thunder a couple times, but had sideways rain for a good minute.  I found myself hitting the weekend, even after only working three days pretty exhausted, and I'm pretty sure the weather had more to do with it than any other factor. It wasn't even that warm near the lake, but humid enough, even inside, to have papers wrinkling on the walls and the cats sprawling out on the floors and tile.

It's an even shorter week this week with a visit to Rockford at the end of it, the first of probably a couple this summer, including one in August for my dad's 80th. It's still strange, even though I've been fully vaccinated for a month at this point, to think of moving about in the world as we did previously--travel, stores, restaurants, family gatherings. All of the things that in early 2020 became part of a past we weren't sure when we'd get back.  The city opened up fully on Friday, removing capacity limits and re-opening hotels, some of which had been closed for over a year. There's been a building of people and traffic over the past two months, so I'm not sure I noticed a marked difference on the streets, but it's surely there.  I just read that only 42% nationwide have been vaccinated, but look at the marked difference even those numbers make.  Here in illinois we were around 1500 cases a day in early April as appointments opened up to all.  We are now less than 300 (and that's with people moving around more) at about 60% on their way to being vaxxed.  Even this time last year, as we were at the lowest point coming out of lockdown, we were hovering around 1000, which only went up as people left their houses. Vaccines work, yo..

I, however, am a homebody at heart, so my forays into social worlds will probably still be relatively infrequent.  I am also noticing my social anxiety spiking in weird ways and some strong avoidance tendencies. Even a bit of panic when it comes to turning down invites. I am also determined to not stretch myself too thin in the ways I was failing circa 2019 (You know you're fucked up when it takes a pandemic full stop to right your mental state and shift your priorities.) I need to say "no" and set boundaries a lot more, and I'm getting used to the sound of it in my mouth and in my e-mail. 

But still, what do with a glorious, sprung free summer?  I do plan some 6th dating anniversary shenanigans with J at the end of the month--perhaps dinner and a movie.  Also some evening beach going since I get off work earlier. I'd also like to visit a museum toward the end of summer--perhaps the Field or the Institute.  I'd love to take a weekend and just do touristy Chicago things like Navy Pier and boat tours and all the things I pass by every day but rarely do (though these might be better plans for after actual tourist season.) Maybe stay in a cabin for a couple days when the rates go down in September. 

The benefit of shorter work weeks means I can do weekendy things and then still get a couple solid days for writing & art related things Mon & Tues and it makes a big difference.  I am not out doing things and thinking I should instead be writing or making art in those rare, non-working hours, which impedes my enjoyment of them a bit.  This weekend has been a bit of cleaning, but mostly recovering from my exhaustion and watching movies.  Today, I am cooking porkchops in the crockpot and working on some author copies for the press, but nothing too taxing. Tomorrow, I am working on finalizing dark country and getting this month's zine project in hand. Maybe submitting some work from newer projects that haven't yet seen the light of day. I am, with those Mondays all about writing, penning many more blog posts, so keep an eye out for steadily more content here--some about writing and art, but also about movies, and now that I feel I can read again, books.  

Friday, June 11, 2021

cover love | collage edition, pt 4

Thursday, June 10, 2021

#authorfashion fridays

(I used to write a lot more about fashion and style, but feel it's fallen off a bit as my moods settled into more somber and serious things in a serious and somber world  I don't know if we'll be here every week, but we'll give her a go...)

For the past month or so, inspired by some of my favorite plus size vloggers, I've been posting #OOTD's on instagram--not every day--since the days I stay home I vary between the same 4 or 5 sundresses I wear at home (some ore nightgown-ish than others.) But any day I actually get dressed and leave the house, I've been posting very no-frills outfit photos.  (I have goals to actually post them as full outfits with shoes and bags and hair not still wet from the shower.  Maybe even lipstick once we're wearing less masks.  But baby steps.) What I've liked is taking pics to see if how I want certain clothes to look is how they actually look (ala Cher and her polaroids). Also, just showing off some of my favorites and trying new combinations. 

Since summer and fall are my highlight seasons for wardrobe (winter is rather ho-hum and spring feels like a continuation of that with maybe a few pastels.) Summer is sundress season, and I have a lot of them. This weekend I pulled out the underbed bins and we are ready for it (it being probably not all that much, but I at least wear things to work.)  Summers are pretty simple in my uniform-like dress and cardigan combos.  There were years where I would have avoided sleevelessness because (egads!) fat arms, but now the cardigans are an add-on usually tucked in my bag til I'm in the library's chilliness--not an armor to hide too much flesh (my mother's voice chimes a warning at me everytime I wear something too bare or form-fitting, or that (gasp!) actually shows off my curves instead of hides them. I've learned to silence that voice.) I feel confident enough that I know how to dress my body in a way I like. Actually sometimes it's a problem-- I spend way too much money on clothes, when 20 years ago, I stuck to the same basics and tried to blend into the scenery. I shop sales and buy 2nd hand most of the time, but it adds up.  Still clothes are something that bring me great joy--the sort of joy I had when I was 8 or 9 before I became too body conscious and shut it down.

So if you like clothes or want plus size dressing examples, check out instagram the latter half of the week. I will also be showing off some other bags and accessories if I can manage to get ready early enough before I have to rush out the door...

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

film notes | horror doumentaries

I fell down a hole this past week searching out horror documentaries.  A few months ago, mid-pandemic fall, I watched a lot of them that showed up in my streaming options, mostly since it was hard to concentrate on anything with a narrative line. I enjoyed many of them, including the very awesome Horror Noire, about black horror, and In Search of Darkness, a year by year account of 80's movies . This past week's delve included Crystal Lake Memories, a whopping six hours devoted to everyone's favorite hockey masked killer, and Room 237, which framed various critical (I say that word loosely)  takes on The Shining. 

The former was rather more a nostalgic delight in a 6+ hour journey, film by film.  What struck me was the difficulties in bringing horror to the screen, esp in the Reagan era, when it seemed so much wound up on the cutting room floor to appease the all powerful MPAA, including elaborate and finely crafted gore and violence scenes, not so easy pre-CGI. This reminded me what I talked about a couple weeks back re: the power of the FCC in Pump Up the Volume and the tyranny of the Christian right on entertainment (such snowflakes!) Also, the struggle to get good critical coverage, or any at all really for the films to get audiences in movie theater seats.  The very first Friday the 13th is one i have fuzzy memories of watching, either on VHS or HBO probably in the year after the release. I would have been 6 or so, and I don't remember being scared of the killer, so much as, of course, Jason popping out of the water at the end. Most of the others, I would have seen on video over the years--I think my only theatre outing was  to see Jason Goes to Hell when I was in college.  The 8th one, Jason Takes Manhattan has a fond place in my heart since I was obsessed with it when I was 14 (it's not the worst, but definitely up there.) I do like that, #4, in casting Corey Feldman in the lead, roughly the same age, they ensured that everyone our age would both see themselves in and gravitate to horror if not already (my cousin had a subscription to Fangoria and I remember closely following such things with relish. )

I of course, have a special interest in "the final girl" and how she evolved over the course of the franchise, and of course, final girls in general. They definitely were coming off the riff of Halloween at the time, but it was interesting how the character shifted in the late 80's with the addition of telekinetic and psychic powers (7 & 8)--the more supernatural possession elements in #9.  The doc also gave some love to the series, which was required Friday night viewing for me in a tie when, outside of things like Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Dark Side, you didn't get much of in 80's television. I remember being so excited about it, but having no one who stayed up that late on Friday nights to watch it and talk about it on Mondays oustide of mys sister, who at 10, usually fell asleep mid-episode. How dd we even find our people pre-internet?  (Luckily in my adult life, I have many, many friends --in person and online-- who love horror and such things.) I think what struck me most about the study was how much fun each cast, no matter how bad the film, had in creating it--to have been part of making something so legendary. Also the tension of trying to do new things to keep audiences interested, but criticism from those same audiences when you varied from the formula.  How to do both successfully at the same time and usually failing. 

The Kubrick doc, of course, tales a little bit more of a fan & scholar focused approach, presenting several takes on the film--The Shining as allegory for the treatment of Native Americans. As Holocaust commentary. As Kubrick's apology for help faking the moon landing (yes, really.) What stuck out here was the amazing ability to, whatever Kubrick's intentions, to impose and find echos in a film that many just think is a story about an abusive husband and a haunted hotel. The coolest part was a guy who talked about how the film is a mirror image of itself, and if you overlay the thing going both forward and backwards, scene by scene, it gives you so much to talk about visually, in terms of narrative and visuals. They also spoke with the woman I've referred to in my Overlook research who attempted to map the hotel as it exists in the film with little success that makes sense--the nonsensical cottage-ey window in the orange office at the beginning that doesn't fit with the hotel design.  The decor was something that I am particularly obsessed with--how the Native American inspired motifs of the Colorado Lounge give way to the deco of Room 237 and that gorgeous celadon bathroom,  To the claustrophobic floral of the help's wing. The Gold Room itself and it's 20's glamour.   Another critic talked about the minotaur myth and the labyrinth. It's amazing that so much can be interpreted from a single film, but also some things seemed a little bit stretchy.  Some really do, even with the filmmaker's careful eye, to have been continuity errors--a chair that is there then gone. Danny's positioning on the carpet pattern that shifts in a cut.  The way a poster on the wall in the game room looks like a horned creature. I am intrigued by the change in the typewriter color mid-film.

Someone did mention that whatever Kubrick's intention, the text of the movie exists beyond him, and that things, intentional and unintentional hold a similar weight in the long run, which of course got me thinking about writing--my own, that of others, the books I read in college, where we were just coming out of the New Critical stance and into a more cultural studies based approach. Also how, when I was working on Overlook, the film lent itself to my own examination of class and violence and the role of the artist, whether the filmmaker intended these things or not (I would say he did--the devil in the details) Or whether, at a time when I was thinking largely about how people experiences the pandemic differently on an economic scale, these were things subconsciously rising to the surface.  To the point where I got the end of the project and was like, hey, that's not what I was thinking going in, but it makes it even better.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

night scavenges our cellars : writing and thrifting

 As I've mentioned, one of the things I am looking most forward to this summer is my return to the thrift stores.  While I occasionally hit up the ones in the city, I have far better luck at finding gems out in Rockford and environs (which are never quite as picked over as urban thrifts.)  What I'm looking for varies.  Sometimes it's just frames for artwork or vintage dishware. Sometimes it's another cardigan for my unruly collection.  Sometimes purses and baskets and midcentury tchotchkes.  When I sold vintage on etsy, I'd be looking for very specific things--like slips that I would alter or dye different colors. Occasionally cute dresses in very small dainty midcentury sizes.   Dishes and salt and pepper shakers shaped like woodland creatures.  Wooden plaques and framed embroidery pieces. I also hunted ebay for listings of vintage eyeglasses, typewriter keys,  and clip-on-earrings to make into hairclips. The fiercest bidding wars came from these and sets of vintage keys when I was putting together the Joseph Cornell editions.  Some things, if I loved them too much or they just didn't sell, would wind up in my home. I have a cupboard full of floral 1960's dish designs, a few pyrex bowls, and a growing collection of dripware china.  My favorite framed embroidery pieces and lots of pressed flowers. I have old cameras and typewriters and a herd of old industrial stools and chairs, as well as some 70's furniture finds procured when I was first decorating my apartment--avocado green cabinets for my tv and record player. A garage workbench which once yielded a vise still attached that I use for painting. Recent acquisitions include a mustard yellow vinyl jewelry box and metal drawer file set I use to house paints in. A black floral candy tin I keep bedside necessities in.A painting of a geisha I brought on e-bay and a weird black velvet cat with sad eyes and too many toes. 

Clothes, at least for me, are dicier and harder to find in larger sizes. . I once found a cute hand-sewn day dress from the 60's that fit, but it basically, due to some shoddy seeming, tore and fell apart around me the second time I wore it. I've had better luck with the 1980's when plus size manufacturers were stepping things up a bit.    I have cute blue dress that is lovely, but sometimes the itchy polyester bothers me if I get too hot.  I have a floral midi dress with a lace collar that I love, but also have to be careful of the fabric, which is non-breathable and gets too warm. I much prefer imitation vintage--the lines of 30's/40's dresses but in modern or natural fabrics.  70's notes but in 100 percent cotton. This year, I am enjoying some very Gunn-Sax-like florals due to the rise of cottagecore, and lots of ditsy prints and peasant sleeved smocking dresses I love. Other favorite "new, but looks old" things--my turntable that looks like a 40's radio. An atomic-inspired metal fan I keep on my desk.  While my handbag collection has a lot of vintage pieces, including some that are almost too fragile to carry, I enjoy newer bags with similar feels, including some lovely asian satin and quilted pieces that are slightly roomier than they would have been decades ago. 

When I was in college, before thrift stores, it was flea markets, huge outdoor ones where I'd come back with stacks of paperbacks and decor things for my room all delightfully inexpensive. Later, we'd hit thrifts, where my mother bought most of her decor, which she loved to switch out continually. While my first & second  apartment was a lot of gifts and hand-me-downs, my next (which is also my current) was mostly thrifted--down to the very 80's couch with paint splatters I covered up immediately (sadly, she was uncomfy and I eventually replaced her with my aunt's blue velour cast-off, which is what i have now under my neutral slipcovers) .  

I still have the media cabinets I always said I'd paint (but grew to love the avocado green.)  All the chairs and trunks and tables found at Goodwill and Salvation Army.  Slowly, I built up my collection of artwork and decor, dishes, various chairs, a green industrial school trashcan to catch paper shavings. Part of it is nostalgia--many things remind me of my grandmothers.  My dad's mom collected animal salt and pepper shakers. My great grandmother wore cat eye glasses and dainty floral dresses and collected velvet souvenir pillows from the places she visited. My mom's mom had an enormous collection of costume jewelry she'd allow me to play with, which spawned my obsession at making them into hair clips. But so much gets lost.  My mother and aunt burned my grandmother's jewelry and clothes in a grief-stricken bonfire because they were angry she died so young. My great grandmother's goods were sold off my an unscrupulous uncle. We salvaged some things from my paternal grandmother's house--including a couple of diaries and a porcelain jewelry box I've broken and glued together three times.   It sits on a mirror tray on my built-in, but the salt-pepper shakers didn't survive the years. 

In my first book, I wrote a piece called "the blue dress poems" which was about how we haunt such things as much as they haunt us. A fictional blue dress that holds not only personal memory, but the decades of its history before me. A tipsy woman in a boat. A war.  The seamstress who sews it.  I have a frequent dream where I inherit my maternal grandmother's house, which was torn down decades ago, but it's filled with all the things she left behind, completely intact.  I've written about this often and it crops up in poems and blog entries. Sometimes, the nostalgia isn't mine (I once wrote a line in another poems "filled with a nostalgia that wasn't even my own" and I feel this way sometimes. There are things that remind me of the past, but less in a personal connection way.  The metal green trash can echoes the gray and putty colored ones in every classroom throughout the 80's.  I don't have room for collecting them, but I'll fondle vintage metal lunch boxes and remember my own. Show me something old, pre-1980's--and I'm sure to love it.

But then what are objects but vessels for ghosts of some kind or another. Not always spooky ghosts, but sometimes, yes.  A friend once told me of a thrifted wooden box he threw out because it gave him "bad vibes.'  I bought a blue suitcase off e-bay that held a psychiatric unit paperwork and a greyhound bus ticket that smelled so much like mildew I was certain it had been submerged in a lake. I hid it in the closet for a few years and the smell seems to have dissipated.  More recently, I filled it with sweaters, but every once in a while, I'll catch a whiff, despite the lavender sachets tucked inside.  Another friend bought a victorian wheelchair at an antique shop in Kentucky infested with spiders and that she's still too afraid (of spiders, of ghosts) to bring upstairs from the basement.  And yet, she kept trying to buy a funeral home gurney to use for art supplies to no avail off craigslist. Sometimes, these things bring both fear and fascination in equal measure.