Thursday, June 30, 2022

the land of gods and monsters


I've been knee-deep the past few weeks in the GRANATA manuscript and the poems are looking pretty good, though there is still a bit of a ways to go in this female-driven epic. This has included making the final decision on the title, which not only references pomegranates, but the Italian word for grenade. after discovering that little fact, there really was nothing else the book could be called. 

It's not of course the first time I've written about Greek mythology, of course, the beginning perhaps all those mythology poems in my very first chapbook, THE ARCHAEOLOGIST'S DAUGHTER. Then of course, there was TAURUS, a modern retelling of the minotaur myth that took place in the midwest. This is perhaps the first with a classical setting, though that may not exclusively be the case.  Or more, maybe that takes place in the realm of gods and men and monsters. While my minotaur story is about a boy who thinks he's a monster, there are literal monsters, spells, and all sorts of spookies in my Persephone story. 

Obviously, there are lots of Persephone poems out there in the world, and this almost made me pause and write about someone else.  Io maybe, or Iphigenia. Daphne seemed too obvious, as did Leda. All adventures and epics must have a sense of journey and quest. Of movement.  Persephone seemed rife for this sort of epic adventure.  

Meanwhile, I've been consulting sources and reading other takes on her story (Rachel Zucker's Eating in the Underworld has always been a fave, as is dgp-er Shannon Ratliff's chapbook from a couple years back, Arch. It's too early to have sussed out all the themes that will be important in the book, but some are the idea of captivity and desire, mothers and daughters, death and sex.  It's a little smutty so far, and I think this may be lingerings of my prose erotica experiments back in the spring when I wasn't sure what to do with my new expanses of creative time. (Idle hands and the devil's work and

I would like to complete a first draft by the end of the summer, so we shall see how it goes...

You can see a little inspo real on instagram  I posted a couple days ago...

Saturday, June 25, 2022

for the love of research

Lady Mary Wroth

My first official (non-trial) assignment for the antique site I am writing dictionary entries for was devoted to collectible children's girl scout books, mostly handbooks, but other scouting-related publications. The history and evolution of the girl scout manual are interesting, going all the way back to when Juliette Gordon Low started the organization and penned the very first, a slender 16-page pamphlet. I followed it up with children's biographies, and while a little more complex and less sourced a topic, I managed to cobble together enough to make a go at it. It occurred to me as I backtracked info on things available in places like eBay, Ruby Lane, and Etsy, different books, and publishing imprints, how much I enjoy that sort of research and always have. I always joke that it makes ample use of my web stalking skills, which I've used in many ways, nefarious and less so, over the years. Not only was I excellent at seeing what old flames might be up to for my own curiosity, but also found a dress I may have seen on the street but had no details on.  Or a cool vintage dish or lamp I spotted in a decor magazine. I am usually pretty successful in my hunts. Some of it is surely my librarian-ish heart and past jobs, my experiences in graduate school, and just being a poet who uses research as a huge part of her process. 

This week's writing jobs were a mix, from the antique site to finishing up text and video script for the Chicago neighborhood guides I'm contributing to. My lessons were a mixed bag--Egyptian ruins, Macbeth and Othello, Sustainable Architecture, Demons. Sometimes it's things I know a lot about, but sometimes, it's entirely new.  I took a lesson this week on Lady Mary Wroth's "Pamphilia and Amphilantus," which I was completely unfamiliar with, strange considering she was one of the first women to write a sonnet sequence during the Renaissance and the first to write it from a female character p-o-v.  While admittedly my working knowledge of Renaissance lit is pretty much just Shakespeare and Milton, I was surprised to discover her work and spent an afternoon researching her and reading the sonnet sequence, which was published as an addendum to a novel, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania.

One of the pleasures of the work I am doing is such discoveries. To spend this time researching and writing almost exclusively some days. The writing itself is more arduous sometimes depending on my mood, and I put in long days so I can devote other days to creative things during the week,  but it is an enjoyable sort of work and one I am very good at. I've learned so much, be it architectural styles, artist biographies, girl scout memorabilia facts, or the delicious and intriguing existence of a garlicky plantain-based Puerto Rican sandwich you can find in Humboldt Park I am going to have to go in search of ASAP. 


Friday, June 24, 2022

let's not do the time warp again

I am always a little shocked each time I remember this fact that it wasn't until the year I was born--1974--that women could own their own credit cards.  That women actually could be distinct financial beings independent of men. I grew up in what felt like a feminist world--maybe not one that was as progressive as I'd like--and still moribund in so many 3rd Generation issues like media portrayals, slut shaming, unequal pay & opportunities, diet culture, marriage and family expectations--but one that at the very least guaranteed women fundamental rights to their own bodies, and to like vote. Numerous times, we were promised that the ERA was just over the horizon, but it never really was, and today cements that firmly.  

This morning, I saw my boyfriend off, climbed back into bed and opened Instagram to suddenly discover we had regressed nearly 50 years in not only feminism but human rights. I used to have a lot more compassion for conservatives. Or at least the pro-life conservatives.  Since Roe v. Wade was in the books, and in my understanding of it mostly gleaned from fashion magazines as a youth, I was certain was that those rights should be assured and I would definitely feel safer, as a woman, as someone who would eventually have sex, would eventually be making those sort of possible choices that they would exist. I would occasionally glimpse pro-life propaganda in the 80s--a billboard somewhere, a bunch of people with signs on the corner of a catholic church we passed frequently.  As a woman in my 20's and 30's I would have been more tolerant of the abortion issue as an issue--convinced that the while my own bodily autonomy was important to me, I could see why people would be concerned about fetuses if they were really into preserving something that was (they believed anyway) alive. You could say I could see both sides of the issue.

Except they weren't.--these people were usually also pro-death penalty and pro-guns. These same people would balk at restrictive measures when things like school shootings happened. Were it about the children, about babies, they surely would not make it so easy for people to just randomly pick them off one by one once they were out of the uterus.  It took me longer than most to realize it was about CONTROL--over women, their lives, their bodies.  We've all heard the story of the mythical woman pricking holes in condoms with a needle, and maybe these women exist, but a friend told me about at least two men she knew talked about rogue impregnation of women in order to secure their relationships or at the very least, link themselves to a woman, via a child to fuck up her life and ensure the trauma they wanted to inflict would last. (see this movie for an excellent example of this.)

The supreme court, the government --at least the government under Trumpf (and probably even still the government now in many ways) wants that control. Women who have reproductive freedoms revoked can be controlled and manipulated much easier than those free to choose.. I am thankful that I live in a blue state, and am probably long out of childbearing age anyway, Thankful that I never had a daughter of my own who would have to live under these conditions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

notes & things | 6/21/2022

This is that point in summer where the day is the longest, and somehow the past few mornings, I've woken early no matter how late I went to bed, most likely driven by that earlier sun (or sun at all since the spring / early summer was kind of gray and cloudy most days.)  The birds begin making a ruckus around 2 am, and I can see the light coming at around 4 when I finally fall asleep. The days that I am up exam up early allowing allow for a productive burst, but I usually need a nap mid-afternoon, especially the days that are godawful hot.  But its summer, and there are time for afternoon naps and still a good amount of day left afterward. This is the stretch of days I love and miss so much in the winter months. That 5pm-8pm time that spends a good part of the year in darkness, but during the summer lingers a bit longer. 

It seems fitting to be working on poems about Persephone right now. The series is going very well, and there seems enough there and within to go the whole mile and be an entire book.  I am notorious for thinking something may be a longer project, intending it to be so, and then reigning in.  Either there just isn't enough momentum or ideas or I get bored with it. The highway is littered with shorter projects once meant to be long ones. Many wind up in this strange space hovering around 40 pages. A little long for a chapbook and too short for a full-length. I've marked off June and July to keep at it. Possibly August. There are bits of things I intend to turn to after, plus a few things on the horizon for release.  Soon, I will start thinking about automagic, which is well-ordered and sound, but needs proofing and a cover design. I hope to release it in October in time for Halloween since it's a spooky little victorian feel book. 

Meanwhile, I've been stuffing myself with raspberries and spacing out my days with more freelance work, with edits and chapbook designs, with some painting over the weekend. So many good things are happening that it's good to feel excited again. I mean for real. Which seems like it would have been impossible even just a year ago. It was surely a case of convincing myself I was fine without actually being so.  I wrote it off to depression, to anxiety, to approaching middle age, to the general malaise we all feel, to covid, to the world just being incredibly stupid. All of those things are mostly still true and yet I feel different. I am not plagued by slow-burn anger and resentment that has been the general tone the past few years. It is not just more of the same, and the same old shit, but new things to look forward to. It's a lot of work, going it on my own, but I don't feel taken advantage of anymore and at the same time, have more focus where I need it to be. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

all work and maybe more work

One thing I've been thinking about quite a bit the past few months working on my own is the concept of leisure. What is it? Is it important? What legally constitutes leisure activities and what does not? Do hobbies count? Maybe, but what if you're hobbies are in some way like a job? It's especially wrought and all wound up if you are an artist, since so much of your way of being in the world is a kind of are never NOT being an artist, even if it's just thinking like one? 

I remember as a child longing for the sort of job that would be very different from my parents. Both worked long days (sometimes nights for Dad) and would arrive home exhausted, dragging through whatever obligations of the night (cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn) and then watching tv in the evenings, then going to bed.  My father was, and still is, a reader, so he would augment his watching with reading (  I have not quite been able to double task like this.)  My mom, when she worked in the home babysitting neighborhood kids and relatives, painted endless bisque objects (small figurines but also large pieces like lamps.) Later when she worked as a phone operator/mail person, she was too exhausted to paint and mostly would watch tv. Weekends meant housework and yard work but also things like long drives and camping trips on occasion. 

Granted my own schedules were different from my parents working evenings, but so much of my non-working time over the past 20 years has been devoted to creative work. It guided what I did around my job...either in my mornings at the studio or my late nights and all my weekends. If it wasn't the press and the shop, it was my own creative work. It pretty much guided even what I might have considered leisure...trips to conferences and university visits, readings, and outings with writers.  I had occasional dates, but not frequent enough to feel like something taking a lot of time outside my normal routines. My relationships were guided by stolen time, literally and just in a general sense of  long lunches and midnight movies. Ditto friendships, .most of my friend group were people I worked with in the library or met in the writing community. My relationship of the past few years is someone also trying to balance the same things with multiple gigs and pursuits. (though admittedly as an actor, his are occasionally paid quite a bit more.) 

One of the goals of leaving the library was of course to free up time to work on those creative things, or at least, work on creative things  (the content writing work is not the same as poems obviously, but still a kind of writing.) The first few weeks, as I figured out how to structure my days, I was careful to leave time in the evenings after 9pm or so for "liesure" and to block off my weekends. Nights would find me making dinner and maybe doing a little housework, but really, I wasn't quite sure how to spend this new unharried time. I wasn't ready to settle in with a movie or something on streaming.  It was too early for bed.  Shouldn't I be using this time for something productive?  Working on more poems, or maybe working on fiction? Planning social media content? Should actually be trying to squeeze in another paid assignment for extra money?  I did all of these things, but then would chide myself for not taking my new, freer, more leisurely life seriously.  Wasn't I supposed to be having some other kind of workj existence that I always wanted before but couldn't have working a full-time job?

I'm not saying I've figured it out by any means.  Lately, I work later on days devoted to freelancing, so usually finish up well after 10pm depending on when I get up and how quick I progress through assignments.  I'll be starting a new gig with a defined shift, which will give me a bit more structure in terms of needing to be online in 4-5 hour spans a couple times a week. . On press days, I may work a little shorter a shift but I rarely finish before 8 or 9. I give myself permission to keep going if I need to. I spend weekends if I can working on solely writing-related business, editing, and art things, making videos, and polishing the week's daily poems that I write over breakfast usually, though sometimes later if I get swept up in e-mails. . Somehow this feels okay, but then I worry that I traded one kind of overworking for another. But then again, some things that are work feel like leisure. Writing poems, making art. Even book assembly days technically feel liesurely, mostly cause I watch youtube videos while dong it. It also  doesn't quite feel as mentally taxing as layouts or design projects that demand detail-focused energy.

Weekends, though I am painting and making video poems, editing poems and making videos or reels still feels like leisure vs things done directly for money like freelance assignments. (The press and shop falls somewhere in the middle) In so many way, artmaking still feels like leisure except when it doesn't.  This is particularly true, not necessarily in writing or even editing, but more in the writing business side--the submitting and manuscript assembly and answering e-mails portion of it. Otherwise, it's more like play.  Perhaps this sort of quandary is also a necessary one when you make your hobbies side hustles, which I am notorious for on all fronts..(says the girl who once turned even thrifting into selling vintage on

Part of me wonders too, if everyone feels a bit like this during the pandemic, because even had I a huge going out places social life (I did not) any of that would be seriously curtailed now. So much of the complaints I hear of working at home is that it feels like you are always working because very little else naturally breaks it up unless you are super intentional about logging off and tuning out. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

the submission wilds

Today, I finally sat down and did something I've been meaning to do for weeks, and every week, I change my mind. Which is, of course, submitting poems out into the world, which I feel like I haven't done in more than a year. Last summer I had a couple days each week I took as vacation, days that were specifically supposed to be for writing business. but I don't remember any acceptances beyond solicited work. Most often, as in the last few weeks, I would look at the poems, then waffle over where to send them.  For one thing, they are usually pieces of a larger or smaller project, so it's hard to divorce them from context.   Also, when I look at my list of potential journals, there are many pie-in-the-sky publications I have been trying on and off to gain entrance into for years. Then  I start to feel like if they were into the kinds of poems I write, wouldn't I have already succeeded? I do have a list of new places I've found via twitter, and these seem hopeful, but sometimes the labor of producing word files and pulling together guidelines, and just making a submission happen seems like a momentous task I don't have the time for. Really, I should be editing my incomplete work, or better, writing new poems. 

Last week, I fully intended to submit pieces from the UNREAL CITY project, but then looking it over, thought it'd be better served to publish it somewhere in it's entirety, which was like 15 pages long. It seemed unlikely anywhere online would want such an unweildy length, let alone a print journal. Then I thought about timelines and waits and really, I wanted it to make a zine debut this year since it's the 100th anniversary of The Wasteland which inspired it. So maybe I should just make the damned zine myself and get it out there to read, which is really what I wanted. It solved the problems to just cut out the middle man.

But then again, I love placing poems in journals, if anything as sort of breadcrumbs. Even if it's just a little taste of a project, sometimes it leads a reader to discover the whole or directs back to my website where they read other things and maybe even buy a book on occasion. Like my entry on gatekeeping and community a while back, I remember how it felt in the early days, when all I really had were journal publications as away to share work and connect with readers and writers. At least with online journals--what I remember of the 90's and submitting--via mail no less--was how isolating the submission process was. You'd place your meticulously printed out pages and SASE in an envelope and it'd usually come back months later with a generic slip, maybe with an ink signature, but usually not.   It was both exciting and devastating to check your mailbox. 

So I pulled together the few pieces from the new project that I feel are really done and assembled them into word docs and sent to three places, two print journals I've tried occasionally for years, and another new discovery online pub I'm really excited about. So we'll see how things go...

Friday, June 10, 2022

notes & things | 6/10/2022

Today, I got a late start after a somewhat later night, but I struggled through a single lesson on Greek tragedies that for some reason I kept abandoning to other tasks and took some more notes on schools for the neighborhood guides projects. But I am now calling it a day and am going to lie down and do more of my excessive Bridgerton rewatching. I keep eyeing the lengthening days and this time of year, as we stretch toward the solstice in a mere ten days, I am already a little sad about their impending decline as the summer wanes. Especially since it feels like it's almost over before it's actually even begun. But truly, the nights I can actually have my windows open and still be able to burrow under covers, however chilly I get, are the happiest nights. 

The good news of the week is an impending possibility for a new freelance job for a home site that seems really exciting about what I may get to write about judging from their content.  This will set me solid and less to the bone financially for the next few months as my rent increases a bit in September and I eye the mostly definite move in a year or so as they renovate all the units in my building (I have a while, there are more than 100 of them) While I will miss my apartment, I am kind of excited about fancy new upgrades, though I will most certainly pay for it, having been paying under market value the last decade or so. Also, I will have a door I can close to keep cats off my computer while I am trying to get things done (as my dining room is a bedroom already in most units per renos more than a decade ago). Something becoming increasingly necessary since Daisy quite regularly both attacks the screen and insists on laying cradled like a baby while I am trying to write. Also, I'll be getting a more open kitchen plan and another closet to store art stuff in, and more wall space in my studio area.

I keep thinking I feel isolated and strange about not going out very much, but as the covid waves still crest every once in a while, it's probably for the best. I see so many people, even the careful ones, getting sick now, and while it wouldn't be the near-death adventure it may have once been, I really don't feel like getting sick in the summer. (also there is no such thing as paid sick leave when you work for yourself.) I don't want to have to sacrifice productivity to days feeling like shit. There are still adventures to be had.  I felt pretty safe when we went to a couple movies in the last few months since they were late showings with no crowds. Also, outdoor dining is something I need more of in my life while the weather supports it. 

Things are progressing well with the new poem project, what I am calling the "smutty Persephone poems" in my head, but also whose real title I am almost settled on. I am uncertain and vacillating back and forth between the first and second person (that latter one just likes to slip itself in where it doesn't need to be, but I will see which I want to use as I go.) So far there are around 10 pieces, and I intend it to be book-length, so there is a long way to go, but I am pretty happy with it so far.  I am about to get started on a new series of video poems for some of the writing I did during NAPOWRIMO, so that is the next non-book endeavor. They'll probably be longer videos for youtube and not just reels, though I will be making some more of those. A couple did really well. I'm not sure if they will eventually translate into book sales, but here is hoping. (I didn't notice an uptick, but sales usually slow after month when something is released anyway.)

Tomorrow, I'm breaking my no-work-weekends rule since I totally slacked today and have a fun lesson on Macbeth sitting in my queue and want to finish at least the research for the neighborhood guide. It will make next week kinder and less unruly on the writing writing-focused days if I am not playing catchup. In the meantime, I am excited about my grocery order, in which I am getting appropriately summery dinner options including brats, sweet corn, and a whole boatload of peaches, raspberries and blackberries which will hopefully be as delicious as they look.

Monday, June 06, 2022

letter to my 18 year old self

(While I knew my reunion was coming up courtesy of the facebooks, it startled me to realize that it has been 30 years to the day that I donned a scratchy weird red polyester gown and walked across a stage on June 6, 1992. That girl feels inaccessible to me, mostly because what journals she kept are intermittent and mostly sort of vapid and annoying the way teenage girls usually are. The pictures show me a girl who needs to stop cutting her own bangs and badly needs a proper bra. But I wrote her a letter nevertheless...}

Dear Graduate,

Though you will leave the midwest like you so badly wanted to, you will be back within the year. The good news is your semester in North Carolina will teach you a whole lot about being independent as an adult,  as well as how to play cards and engage in a lot of underage drinking. Don't worry that your favorite drink is coke & Malibu, it will transition to whiskey, and later tequila. The South will introduce you to that delicious perfection known as banana pudding and a tendency to  say y'all, which you will continue your whole life.  

The bad news is you will not become a marine biologist as planned. You're too bad at math and too good at other things like words and books and that pretend play we call theater. Later, you will badly want to be a lawyer, a politician, or a psychiatrist. Then a teacher. You will read so much you never would have thought possible. The poems you wrote in your little blue diary with the lock, the ones you scribbled on pen pal stationery, they will become your own kind of gospel, and you will pick them up at intervals then put them down. In a year, you’ll typing skinny, hopeless poems on the electric typewriter you will buy in the next few weeks. You'll send them out. They will all be no’s, and you will get a lot of no’s in your life, so you’ll get used to it. College will be a lively time full of late night rehearsals and hours crouched in a cubicle in the library reading.

Things not to do:  Don’t be a joiner just to plump up your resumes and award applications. Much of it is just wasted time.  Don't ride in pickup truck beds driven by southern boys. Don't fall for goateed philosophy majors who have no interest in you and never being a pen to class. Don't get your grandmother's wedding ring remade into a more modern ring, you will miss the original vintage style and want it back. Stop hating your body and undertaking strange diets of bare chicken breasts and Nutrasweet smoothies.  Your mother did her best but set a horrible example that will take decades for you to unravel and learn to be at home in your body. Just do it now and save yourself years of angst and unhealthy habits. And your mother was right in all those fights, you will miss her when she's gone. You will dye your hair red in a few months, which will never be your color, but you  will settle with dark brown with a few short forays back to blonde.  You will learn to love clothes again in your late 30's  after years of hiding your body and never being sure how to dress it. You will even learn to love the color yellow.

Your friends will drift and not always be your friends.  You will make new ones, but most will drift, too over time. The internet, that strange thing you won't hear about for a couple years yet will pull things in a bit, and though you're not close, you will see their lives unfold in photos and memes and updates. You will scarce imagine how important those connections will help you feel like your life is a continuous history and how important that will be. Men will come and go, and though you will always feel like you got a late start, it will matter much less. You will try men on through your late 20s and 30s like dresses, some ill-advised and some downright painful, but in the process will learn exactly what you want and don't want . Those relationships good and bad will provide endless fodder for writing projects, so keep at them.

You will live in the city you fell in love with just a couple short years ago. It will take a few years to get there, but you will want to stay forever. You will live alone, with lots of cats, and while this one would have seemed a sad desolate sort of life to you right now, you will absolutely love it.  You will work in the libraries that built such a huge part of your infrastructure, and then eventually, you will leave them to work on your own. You will publish poems and books and start lit journals and presses. You will do readings and travel to give workshops, and people will give you money for writing things, and while very small, you would never have guessed this.  You will start a journal next year in mead composition books and it will eventually become this blog. You will discover a passion for visual arts and bookmaking around the time you turn thirty, something which will surprise you as much as it does others. You will spend the rest of your life between those two worlds --the visual and the written and it will deeply inform what you make and do. You will also, in the next couple of years, become enamored of thrift stores and vintage, and will become a lifelong obsession, along with the horror movies you already love, and the books you are just beginning to hoard. 

This summer, you will spend hours staring at the materials sent from college, the socials and schedules and campus maps, plotting out what your life might look like this semester and none of it will probably really happen. But so much else will, and mostly better than you even imagined it. ..

Your Future Self

PS.  While you'll say no to weed this fall offered by your hippy roommates like a good DARE child of the 1980s, it will eventually be legalized and become one of your favorite vices in your 40s…

Saturday, June 04, 2022

film notes | spooky little girls

 A few weeks ago, I got really excited at the news that there was going to be a new Firestarter film, and what's more, that it would star the young actress who killed it (literally) in the last season of AHS as probably the most irredeemably evil character in AHS history (and that is saying a lot considering one of those villains was the antichrist himself.) I eagerly joined Peacock premium to stream it, and sat down to watch it and...well..meh?  Not that I think it was terrible, and it was well-acted, but somehow it was missing something that made the original something I watched over and over again as a child.  So much so, that I could quote it, verbatim, all the way through. While I was obsessed with it at age 8 or 9, I don't think I ever really crossed paths with it as a young adult, and definitely not in the last couple of decades.

I finally sat down to rewatch the original after not being all that impressed the new,  and I think I've narrowed much of it to the actress in the new one, who while super talented in some respects, doesn't quite garner as much sympathy in her plight that tiny Drew Barrymore fresh off her ET debit did.  She's younger, or at least it seems like it, and far more a victim of her circumstances (and therefore what happens to her seems even worse.) There is also Rainbird, the George C Scott character, who is much less pedo-creepy in the new one, something they veered entirely away from to make him more sympathetic and I imagine set up a sequel. It's the characters' creepy evil and the "The Shops" string-pulling and corruption that makes the original movie worse somehow and brings you fully to understand how it all goes nuclear at the end. 

I always lump Barrymore's Charlie in with Carrie as one of Stephen King's vengeful little girls, just at different stages of their lives, and this makes them two of my favorite King novels for the same reason.  It was something I was thinking about in particular as I watched the most recent season of Stranger Things. While I admittedly was only half on board for seasons 1-2, I've been much more enthusiastic about the last two, and part of it truly is that female characters play a larger role--mostly in the screen time given to the female characters and the cultural reference points of my own childhood like mall trips and roller rinks. And of course, Stranger Things feels like King even when it's not--the comparison's to IT, of course, and just the general trope of youngsters saving the world while adults (mostly) seem oblivious.  Eleven, like Charlie in Firestarter, is a little girl with great power at the mercy of a corrupt system. Are little girls capable of great power they may not even have a handle on themselves. And worse, that evil will gravitate and try to control it at every chance. And I think that may have been what was missing in the new Firestarter, which definitely refers to that system and places her within it, but it's not quite evil enough to work that kind of magic


Friday, June 03, 2022

vintage miscellany | chicago fieldhouses

Humboldt Park Fieldhouse

One of my newest freelance gigs is writing neighborhood guides for a real estate site, which includes overviews of Chicago neighborhood highlights in general and specific info about parks and schools, something understandably important to homebuyers.  As such, it led me into investigating corners of the city I might not otherwise –like Humboldt Park and the Ashburn neighborhood. As such, I’ve become singularly obsessed with Chicago Park District fieldhouses of late (Humboldt has a huge and rather impressive one.).  The park nearest my apartment, of course, has a similarly lovely one–though technically more of a mansion (actually two of them) rather than a fieldhouse proper.

Chicago is definitely a city of parks. From small pocket parks in unexpected locations to beautiful lakefront expanses of green space, the Chicago Park District oversees just over 600 different parks– from the tiniest playlots tucked along residential streets to the huge expanses of  Lincoln and Grant Parks. Much of this emerald wonderland is owed to the great Daniel Burnham, whose plan for the city of Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire encountered a nearly blank slate of urban planning and design.  It is from Daniel Burnham we get our open and expansive lakefront, but also that we get another, very Chicago structure--the park fieldhouse. 

McKinley Park Lagoon and Fieldhouse

In numerous park locales, you will find them, from the smallest simple utilitarian structures housing restrooms and drinking fountains to sprawling architectural wonders featuring luxe event spaces, a gymnasium, meeting rooms, and auditoriums.  There are over 240 fieldhouses in the Chicago city limits, many historic structures designed by some of the most famous architects of the early century like Burnham, Beaux-Arts style architect Edward Bennett, and Chicago’s own Clarence Hatzfield (who was famous for Praire Style and Arts & Crafts style homes.) 

Around the turn of the 20th century, what was then known as the Chicago South Parks Commission created a vast new system of parks--the goal being that all children, particularly children in the South side neighborhoods of tenement apartments and working-class homes, be within easy walking distance of at least one open green space for recreation and relaxation. .  The fieldhouses were hatched as permanent structures that would allow the park to be useful all four seasons of the year–even during Chicago’s long winters.  While the Industrial Age had resulted in population booms in the city and the rise of urban sprawl, city planner Daniel Burnham, inspired by the 1893 Columbian Exposition, imagined a system of beautiful parks with public facilities meeting not only recreational needs like workout rooms and indoor courts, but also as a place for social service programs like hygiene, wellness, and educational programs. Many field houses would go on to contain not just gymnasiums and showers, but also classrooms and lunchrooms for the distribution of meals. 

Interior, Sherman Park Fieldhouse

The first park of Burnham’s Southside initiative was the sprawling McKinley Park in the neighborhood surrounding the Chicago Stockyards. which featured a large lagoon and sizeable fieldhouse. The south side parks grew in popularity and flourished throughout the city. Burnham would later bring in landscape architecture Frederic Law Olmstead to design more parks and Beaux-Arts architect Edward Bennet to design fieldhouses,, Through the early half of the century, the fieldhouse had proliferated throughout the entire city, with many northside fieldhouses designed by Clarence Hatfield in Frank Lloyd Wrights famous Prairie Style.  

Further Info:

bats with baby faces in the violet light

This long poem zine project is now available absolutely free to read online.  Taking its inpo from TS. Eliot's Wasteland, UNREAL CITY  includes text and collages.  You can read it here, or check out instagram for some upcoming snippets and videos. 

Thursday, June 02, 2022

dancing girl press notes | june 2022

cover design for Liz McGehee's LOUSIANA ALCHEMY

Yesterday, I woke up to a mild sunny cusp of June day and was greeted with already a dozen or so submissions waiting in my inbox of new things I can't wait to read. Yes, it's that time again, the open submissions window for the dgp chapbook series, and one that feels a little less overwhelming now that my inbox is less of a morass and there is a bit more time weekly to devote to the press operations (including hopefully being able to read things throughout the summer as they come in and not just in a mad dash in the fall.)  

Today, I devoted an entire day to cover design exploits on handful of books that are in layout stage and it was nice to be able to actually finish what I was intending to do without running off to do other things like work or errands.  While my weekend will be focused on my writing and the next couple days devoted to freelance work, I at least will return to editing work mid-next week not feeling quite as behind as before and a couple new things are almost ready to start printing.. Tuesdays are for author copy and order fulfillment and shipping things. While initially I was doing a bit off all things each day, I find I am more productive if I center my days in a certain kind of task, even if it takes the majority of the day.

My enjoyment of different parts of the process has increased, even rather staid unexciting things like copyediting and typesetting feel more focused and grounded now that life is a little less hectic and subject to daily chaos. Or if it's chaos, it's more definitely orderly and self-guided chaos. 

some other highlights:

* I am working on the last few straggles of books delayed last year (the never ending covid delay saga that domino-like has affected the past couple of years.) This year's titles are mostly on schedule, which means I should actually be able to remain on schedule through the fall with new releases and dive right in on 2023 after the new year. There are a handful of tardy books coming out in the next couple of months, as well as a couple releases from this year's offerings due very soon. 

*Now that I actually have some time to do social media promotion a bit more regularly for the chapbook series, keep an eye on twitter, where I'll be posting samples and sneak peeks of both new and older books weekly.  I also post occasional production shots or reels on my instagram page along with other dancing girl press shop goodies, more of which will be coming over the course of the summer.

* Keep an eye out for news on some other new exploits including more anthology projects and a mini-chap series (it will be sort of a box set built around certain ideas or topics..still working out the particulars. I've been working on getting things together to make the long-delayed mermaid anthology book art project an actual thing, as well as thinking about more regular trade paperback anthology projects.