Wednesday, August 31, 2022

in a name

The other day, I was sourcing DIYs on youtube about cork boards and stumbled across a young girl named Elsie, my mother's name, and not a common one for anyone under 60. Definitely not beyond the 1940s when she was born. A name that she hated with a fiery passion, particularly since there was a Borden's mascot named Elsie the Cow, who had a statue in nearby Harvard, which my mother was teased endlessly about as a chubby child. Like her body, my mother hated her name her entire life, which equally seemed kind of sad to me. 

I have been a bit neutral to my name.  One one hand, I feel like its a name perfect for Texas cheerleaders who peak in high school and whose mothers murder their cheer camp rivals. There were variations on Kristy--Christys and Christinas and Kristine's aplenty. Maybe one similarly spelled variation in high school I only knew of. My freshman roommate in NC, which led to a lot of phone confusion. My sister was a more staid Rebecca, who had gone by Becky when younger but the longer version as an adult.

My grandmothers were an Eileen and a Carol. I always said if I had children by some accident or change of heart I would name a daughter Chloe, after my great grandmother, a tiny stylish woman who lived in a tiny, tidy house with a pink bathroom and cat eyeglasses with homemade chocolate chip in a Folgers can. She outlived both my grandmothers and lasted well into her 80sThe others were lost early to illness and accidents, but she was definitely the most stereotypically grandmotherly of all of them.  We would visit her on weekends, mostly sitting on the breezeway between the house and the garage. Every year, gather for Thanksgiving in her knotty-pine lined basement with strange secret compartments under the stairs. 

I've often longed for a more adultish or glamorous name. When a cousin and I were younger, we'd choose names and pretend to be entirely different people under them. They were either actresses or characters from movies. We'd plan entire mansions and lives and movie-star husbands in our lavish imaginary lives with better, more interesting names.

In the end, I think I just accepted Kristy because I had to, having known nothing else. Even still, seeing something I like seeing on a byline or a book cover, but still a strange disconnect. between how you see yourself and how others interpret you. The expectations our names elicit--whether it's heritage, class, age (ie, there are not many Kristys entering the world today, though Christina is still kind of popular.)  I laugh watchng Stranger Things every time when someone calls Eleven Joan, because it's so dated and plain. But then that is the point. All the female names in the series so very eighties (and actually I would argue even out of date for teens then...Nancy, Barb, Maxine.   )The only ones that would have been really popular in that age bracket would have been Erica and maybe Robin (though Robin had a renaissance in 80's births.) I was in school with a lot of Lisa, Michelles and Jennifers. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

endings and other uncertainties

Yesterday I finished a poem for GRANATA--a poem that felt like it was the final missing piece in the project.  I sighed.  I fretted.  I had of course initially intended to keep going, at least another dozen or so poems to get it to full-length mss length, but then, pondering what more I could possibly add that was not just fluff and filler. I admonished myself for being so intent on the long-haul of a book instead of a perfectly acceptable chap. 

Part of it is, of course, I've abandoned what started out as longer poems before. Usually about halfway in, around 20-25 pages.  This time was a little different...I have about 36 pieces, all pretty good and likely sticking around. In the long run, since I will likely be issuing it myself and appeasing no editor but me, it doesn't matter if it's full-length or chapbook-length.  I can even make the finished project have a spine should I choose to let someone else print it instead of DIY. But it felt like a failure yet again to cross some arbitrary finishing line. Like that I set out to finish a book--a whole book--this summer and I was throwing in the towel before the finish line. 

Of course, I tried to figure out the why? of my temptation to call her done.  I think she is, for all intensive purposes. It is September almost, a time which I imagined I'd be starting new. (and actually I have in bits and pieces I am excited to  move to if this is it.)  But not at the expense of Persephone and the sirens I have spent three months with now, sometimes moving fast, sometimes not moving fast at all. If I call it done, it's still going to require a bit of reordering, line edits, and just proofing my shitty typing to be anything like ready to show anyone.  I have been sending some of the early, already edited pieces out for publication and snagged an acceptance for September, so they will likely start filtering into the world. 

Of course, nothing says I can't set it aside and maybe return, but I never really do.  I have a strange relationship with work in which I will write like mad and then shut it away for months and months to come back to it fresh, so by the time I circle back around, it will feel done whether it was or not.  I will have already moved on to some new nonsense, no doubt....

Monday, August 29, 2022

film notes | persuasion


If the truth be told, I am not really a huge Jane Austen fan.  There is something of female writer respect and solidarity, but the novels themselves are not swoonworthy in the way that say, the Brontes or Henry James are for me. I once took an entire semester-long class devoted to her work my final semester of undergrad hoping, amidst a slew of mid 90's adaptations, to find more to love, but while I can't say I hated the novels I was less familiar with, they didn't sparkle quite enough, certainly not as much it seemed every female young undergrad English major thought they did.  There was more to love in the adaptations, which I did love, for their period drama, sets and costumes.  I would give it to  Jane, they translated well--not only into period pieces, but modern ones like Clueless. 

So when I saw there was a new adaptation of Persuasion on Netflix that looked historical, but felt contemporary, I was in, despite having already glimpsed a lot of handwringing over whether the more contemporary overtones and quotes worked or besmirched a classic.  I like period pieces in general, and if I had to choose one of Austen's novel that was my favorite, it would be that one. Despite the quotes from the movie that Austen fans have delighted in hating, I actually felt like its tenor was very Regency.

Then again, I may have been spun by the sets and costumes which had to be the stars of the movie despite convincing, layered performances from Dakota Johnson and others who are new to me. I actually liked it more for those modern touches and think Jane Austen would have approved in terms of addressing social etiquette and feminism.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

notes & things | 8/28/ 2022

Though I woke up to some cloudy, muggy weather, fall seems to be encroaching, so close I can taste it. In late August, the trees, much deeper in their greens begin to yellow just slightly and will stay that way through September.  It's a month that is probably my favorite...though depending on the season, I may usually say May--the polar opposite, one the beginning of something, the other, the end of it. Next week, most kids will be back to school. I have a weekend trip home for my dad's birthday, but am otherwise playing the fall by ear to see how much being out and about will be safe --though it IS high holy season for horror releases, so no doubt I'll be hitting theaters, even if it's late, late, no peopley screenings, which are usually what our schedules permit anyway (and by which I mean J's schedule since I am pretty open.)  

If the Covid numbers were down, I might even be sneaking off to see things on my own in the afternoons, esp. when I'm downtown, one of the things I used to love doing, and now making a little bit money specifically writing about movies, I might be able to justify it to my wallet. I think about how we used to pay $1.50 at the second run theaters as a kid, back when new movies were probably only $7 and occasionally get sticker shock at ticket prices. I would gladly forgo the cushy seats and giant screens if I didn't have to budget for a major purchase every trip. If new things are available, unless it's a date night or something that seems important to witness on the big screen, I'd much rather stream it anyway where I can wear my pajamas and the snacks are far cheaper. 

This week, I picked up some pretty new postcards for September release in the shop, so look for those soon (see above.)  I am really happy with the printing at Staples, and though I occasionally faint dead away at the cost when placing orders, I remind myself I am saving money on botched prints, endless toner, and cardstock, and I do not have to cry over my printer--I leave that to the professionals.. I still print older release covers on the inkjet, but doing larger amounts for author copies and new designs (that are able to do things like large amounts of dark and black text with no streaks) is nice. I have not cried b/c of my printer in months. I also like that I can get small batches of things like postcards when I don't need to be storing 100-500 of them. 

I spent the first hours of my day this week doing some tricky-track things for the new writing jobs so my daily poem endeavors fell off, but I will be back to it this week, and hopefully can put a bow on the manuscript the first couple weeks of September. Things are moving faster since I solved my p-o-v issues, so it hopefully smooth sailing on through.

Friday, August 26, 2022

words and the world


This morning, as I was lying in bed, half awake and trying to decide if I should just start the day or sleep another couple of hours,  I found myself thinking about words and media, about literature and books and all the ways we take in information now.  Also the nature of that information, particularly when it seems all is possible and there is an outlet for everyone. How it can be misused and handled badly.  How the good has a sturdy platform, but also the bad. 

When I was a teenager and young adult, the world touted the danger of televisions..of the downfall of reading and literate culture. It seemed inevitable.  Even among people my age, not all were readers, which was strange to me, having had books in my hand since before I even understood what was in them.  The same child who scribbled in notebooks and said I was writing when I barely knew the alphabet. The Mother Goose volume I carried around until it fell apart despite not being able to do much beyond read the pictures to discern the story unless I convinced my mother to read it to me.

My parents, especially my dad, who were only high school graduates, were still readers.  My mom liked stories and painting, but her reading was mostly magazines. Still, words were something always available in some form. Whether it was mags and novels passed off from my aunt (one of the most prolific readers in the family) or our weekly trips to the library, books were just always present.  My dad read the newspaper daily, and books about everything--not just novels. No one read poetry of course,  or maybe even knew people were writing it, but words in general were not foreign. I only learned about poems in junior high and high school, though it depends on what you consider poems. We all fought over Shel Silverstein books in the 5th grade, so maybe I guess I just didn't think of them as poems but rhymes. Poets were like unicorns and outside of some teens who wrote poems and professor, I didn't see a real poet until my second year of undergrad (in some weird confluence of stars,  I later got to publish her.)

I am not sure if any of us would have seen the internet coming, or realized that reading would actually be more important (though I suppose it depends on what you spend your time taking in.)  Most of the news I get I prefer to read since videos don't always load and I  prefer a quieter experience. Since I now make a living writing things for the internet I suppose things have turned out better than we thought. In many ways, print culture died a slow death as magazines and publishers dwindled and fell. New electronic mediums rose in their stead. As something like journalism became less sound of a career choice than something like social media marketing (even though they use many of the same skill sets.) The places I write for now, all newish concepts since the 90s.. An online learning platform. An electronic dictionary covering antiques. Neighborhood guides for a real estate site.  Lifestyle and home decor content for websites. All things that did not exist when I was 20 and pondering future career options and whether writing was a sound one.  

Hell, 20 years ago, while the internet was fast becoming a place to market and publish poetry for me, no one could see social media coming,.I guess a year or so later, I would start a blog, which was a step in that direction.  Even still, I was not on FB until 2009. I was also a late adopter of both Instagram (2017) and Twitter (2018, though I started the press one a decade ago, and auto-posted chap-related content on occasion, but I didn't spend time there myself.). Generations that came after mine supposedly had even more readers than my own due to things like Harry Potter that addicted kids early to the printed word.  These kids, the same ones I mediated fights over for the first couple books at the elementary school, they grew up, the oldest of them now coasting into their 20's, the youngest, well out of college. 

Every once in a while I fall into a bookstagram-heavy pocket of recommended reels and it seems that people are still passionate about reading, particularly genre fiction--young adult, smut, horror.  All still alive and kicking. Look at the news and I would tell you we have devolved into a idiot society of the lowest common denominator, but my social feeds show something else entirely.  A place that still clings to words..electronic or printed, but still holding on.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

we live inside myth, it sings in us

detail from John William Waterhouse, Ulysses and the Sirens

In my first book of poems,THE FEVER ALMANAC, there are a couple poems that reference Greek mythology.  One, a modern interpretation of "Cassandra." The second, called "Beneath" a nod to Persephone, Daphne,  Ariadne or really all imperiled women in mythology. In earlier chapbooks, there are additional nods to Daphne and Helen of Troy. In a later book (MJCMF), I wrote a poem "how to re-imagine your life through mythological characters, where I reference several myths and end with a passage on Iphigenia's magical transformation into a deer.  

Today, as I was penning a GRANATA piece, I was thinking about "Beneath" in particular, since many parts of that project echo similar sentiments. Particularly since I added the choral elements of the sirens-which depending on the version you read, were either punished or gifted with their monstrousness. Punished by Demeter for not paying attention and allowing Hades to abduct her daughter. Or gifted to be able to fly in search of her. Their winding up on the rocks and cliffs and luring men to their death came later.  The interpretation of them as sexy sea creatures even later.  At first they were winged and more like harpies. Common representations vary, even among singular artists (Waterhouse, for example painted them as both, as winged monsters and sexy sea nymphs--though even the winged variety still had beautiful Pre-Raphaelite faces.. )

The Greeks are something I've always strangely gravitated to, even now seeking out lessons to write on mythology, epics, and classical drama. This week, it was Hippolytus and a meddlesome Aphrodite. It probably started with just watching Clash of the Titans one too many time as a child (a favorite) but carried through college and a lot of theater history classes supplemented by mythology, and just a literary education in general that loves the Greeks--in poetry particularly. Though not a writer but an artist, my sister took an interest and actually majored in it--learning to read and write classical languages, a feat that seemed really challenging watching her undergrad years, esp while my time at the same institution was flitting around and reading plays and novels (or sometimes skipping course novels to read other, better, novels and then pretending I had.). I was more there for the stories, and this is what stuck with me. 

The first poems, or the first poems that were any good, were steeped in the classics.  one of the first poems I published at al was about Calypso. More were written later, some, like the Daphne and Helen of Troy ones making it into chapbooks, but not collections. That first ill-concieved manuscript written in my early 20's would feature those early female interpretations of myth that was pretty terrible, but I would revive that same title, taurus  later for a contemporary Ariadne myth set on a farm in the midwest that I was actually pretty content with. 

I was doing another lesson this week on Sanskrit theatre, which started later, after the first century AD, but was performed much longer than the Ancient Greek variety, up til the 1400s, though less is retained in full versions and much was lost or is uncertain in its dating.  It occurred to me how much western lit is rooted in what was only a few centuries of classical output.  How over 2000 years later, here I am, nowhere even near the Mediterranean, still writing obsessively about them. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

notes & things | 8/22/2022

Today, I was awake strangely early, and after lingering in bed for a bit, decided to just get up and on with the day.  The drowsy humidity of the weekend had vanished and the sun out in the kinds of days that are clear and bright and just right. I can always tell well the atmospheric pressure is low, because I am generally sluggish and take more naps and for longer. I spent the weekend while I was actually awake eating chocolate croissants and working on poetry-related things, including three actual submissions to some newer journals I discovered via Twitter, as well as another video poem and some final edits on the early poems in GRANATA. If I can manage to sneak in a few more poems this week and maybe next, I think I will be happy to set it aside as done, at least for now, and move on to something new. Next week I start some final edits on AUTOMAGIC--whatever is needed to get it ready for publication.  The manuscript has been sitting next to my desk in the living room, ignored, since early summer when I printed it out, along with the COLLAPSOLOGIES book probably slated for next year. I rifle through them every once in a while, but haven't given them the attention they need by any means.

I've ordered some fun new postcards for the shop I'll be picking up today with some covers, featuring collages from the bird artist series.  I haven't added many new paper goods this year and am trying to get my ducks in a row for fall offerings, which will include more prayer candles and some new prints. I also need to get my storage of said offerings under control and the metal shelves in my studio area back under control since they are a mess of stacked boxes, loose inventory, and random supplies. While I am working, I occasionally tidy up the area by the printers, but the rest of the shelves have never truly been well-organized since moving everything here (not like it's been almost three years to do it in, but it just hasn't been a priority.)

There are a couple new hopeful possibilities on the content writing front,  one of which I have an interview for this afternoon (lifestylish blog writing) and the other which is film & entertainment related that's a YES I am super excited about and am just waiting to hear back on particulars. . If I manage to land both, it should round me out on the days I don't have as many assignments and help me get to what I'm hoping to make weekly, and also just beef up my portfolio, which is already far more populated than it was in the spring. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

postcard from a thousand miles

Even though I had made plans to be in Rockford in case I wanted to go to my 30-year HS reunion a couple weeks back, covid did not quite make that possible or desirable at all. But I've spent the weeks since thinking not necessarily about high school, but more that 30 years ago this week, my whole family piled into a rental Lincoln Towncar with a giant, body-sized stuffing trunk for all my belongings, and drove to Wilmington, North Carolina where I was set to start college the very next week. We left in the middle of the night, driving through Chicago and into Indiana as the sun was rising over the smokestacks in Gary. Through Ohio with a stop overnight in West Virginia and then into Virginia and the Carolinas. 

We spent the week until I moved into my dorm sightseeing--beaches, of course, Cape Fear, a battle sight museum and the aquarium (which at the time was in line with why I was there in the first place--the UNCW Marine Bio program, the destination of every girl with porcelain dolphins on top of her dresser. )  I want to be a scientist, but science didn't necessarily want me. So months later we would pack everything back up and deliver me back to the midwest, where I would eventually study things I was far more suited for.  

Last week, I was finishing up a lesson on Rachel Carson and Silent Spring, a woman who started off an English major and wound up switching to Biology, the reverse of my trajectory. I was once a bright-eyed 18-year-old convinced she could save the world by saving the oceans. A year later, being terrible at math, I sought other ways to save the world. By the time I graduated I was less bright-eyed and fighting to live in the world, let alone save it. I feel like this happens to most of us.

I spent my first night without my parents at a terrible frat party, the only one attended at the bequest of freshman boys in my dorm who were pledging. I was so green I didn't understand the other girls' terror when one of us went missing (she was just getting high in the woods, but it could have been bad.) After that night, boys, who I had never really been part of my social world in high school,  were something to be wary of. Including the one later in the semester, a friend of a suitemate's friend from home,  who would try to break the lock into my room after a night out after drunkenly making advances on a beanbag chair in the lounge. 

But I fell in love with other boys, just a little, a roommate's older sweet paramedic boyfriend. A theater boy from another girl's hometown who was very gay and on the verge of coming out. A history major who was never quite my boyfriend who was my unceremonious first, an experience that always felt like it was just an awkward way to cast off virginity like an itchy sweater and just get on with it. We hung out a couple times after just out of politeness, in my dorm room, in the dining hall,  but I was on the verge of leaving. I don't remember his last name. 

In North Carolina, there were a lot of all-night rummy marathons with suitemates and beach trips to a pier that was open 24 hours with a couple video games and an air hockey table. The pier was destroyed by a hurricane four years later then rebuilt --this time from concrete not the original wood. I would eventually write a terrible poem about watching the fishermen setting up there at dawn on the other side of my own night watching the sunrise. Not then, but a couple years later. It would win a college poetry prize my senior year at RC. That morning, I crawled into my bed and three hours later, was back up to take a government class exam at 9am. When you are 18, who needs sleep? 

In the dorm, I ate a lot of bad pizza and good dining hall fare. Endless Doritos and Mountain Dew. I wrote letters home, to my sister, my high school friends, carried fat care packages sent by my mom from the post office to my dorm. The internet wasn't even a flicker for me in 1992, I think I accompanied a roommate once to a computer lab to type a paper, but typed my own on the electric I bought with graduation money.  Same with my first sad forays in fiction and plays that semester, though I don't think I was writing poems.  I kept notes and a diary in a floral tapestry blank book that is kind of embarrassing to read now. 

Most weekends, my roommate (also a Kristy, also a marine bio major)  was visiting her hippie boyfriend that smelled like weed and patchouli in Myrtle Beach. I spent time in the room listening to her much better CD collection--where I first discovered Pearl Jam and NIN albums, which I carefully dubbed to cassette tape before I left and then wore out within a year.  I spent time between classes, like always, in the impressive library, where I found the stash of lit and writing mags on the first floor, but never ventured much further. 

As for school, I did well enough (gen eds weren't particularly challenging and I really liked my History of Film and Intro to Marine Science courses)  but I failed the remedial non-credit math I needed to take to start my major. By then, I had already relinquished my science plans and planned on returning to the midwest to save money and homesickness and all my other afflictions. In hindsight, the semester seems superfluous and a detour from the path I wound up on, but it also feels necessary somehow in getting me to the path. 

In hindsight, I was always that same girl, adrift in a new place, almost a thousand miles, from home...

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

the nos and maybes of writing life

I've been planting a few smaller writing gig seeds here and there, mostly to fill in on the days where the obligations are less and make some more cash. I've been thinking about things I could/would like to write about and seeking things out.  Over the weekend I submitted a sample piece for one site, but got a (very nice, but still a ) rejection this morning. It was followed by a lit mag rejection I'd been waiting on for some of the GRANATA poems. Later in the day, another e-mail from something I'd impulsively applied for and I thought for sure before I opened it, it was surely a no, being a long shot, but to my amazement it was a request for an interview next week, so it was not, at least yet, a three rejection day. 

As a writer, I am used to rejection, and now that things are much more stable anyways in the freelance department, they are not tied to buying groceries and paying rent. But most would just be nice things to add to my roster and thicken my portfolio and bank account. But the nos still sting with that old sting. Poems matter less in the grand scheme of things, since those are always unpaid and shots in the dark, no matter how well I feel my work fits a journal. But since I submit so little, and am usually super jonesed about where I do send work, they seem far crueler than if I were just making a circuit of journals and ping-ponging (like I used to do.)

Meanwhile, I wrote more poems about Persephone, and pieces for the gigs I have landed--today, one on Bridgerton inspired interiors for HD and lesson notes about Euripides Hyppolytus. Finalize and submit a dictionary entry for Worthpoint on antique school textbooks I drafted yesterday.  Think more about things I would like to write about if given the chance. I'm hoping to finish GRANATA's first draft by the end of the month or at least mostly be done, largely because another project has been creeping in some days and I am excited to give that my full attention. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

notes & things | 8/15/2022

Mondays are slow days, as are Fridays.  Most days in the mid-week, I have a scheduled batch of hours writing for House Digest in the late afternoon into evening, so other projects get put at the front of the day, but on these days, I lay in bed late and move slowly into my writing projects, today, the very last proof of a lesson devoted to Hester Prynne. Then a draft on another children's book category for the antiques site.  I will probably finish early then start working on chapbooks I've already started printing a I do other things and reading manuscripts.

Today, it happened, and early in the month at that, the day in August when you wake up and the light precludes fall.  I remember this, particularly from childhood and teen years, in those weeks right before the semester starts. When you'd probably already gone on the yearly expedition for Trapper Keepers and new notebooks and secured the clothes from lay-a-way at K-Mart or soon would. The excitement in the air when you'd go pick your school ID, the coming year filled with so much promise and wide open space. You'd probably be over it by October, but for a few weeks, that new school year glistened.

That day in August has come later or earlier in the month depending on weather. This year, we've been blessed with cooler temps the past week, so as I noted the light this morning at around 7am, I also burrowed further under the covers and went back to sleep in the coolness. I keep realizing with a start again that this is maybe the first year in my entire life that I am divorced from the academic calendar since I was 5 years old and was trotted off to kindegarten.  I always wondered how time moved for folks in non-education and non-academic fields and I guess will be finding out. If you do not measure in terms, how else do you measure?  In months?  in quarters? in years? So weird...(cues Rent song in my head.)  But yes, from grade school to junior high, from high school to college to grad school at DePaul.  Then starting at the elementary school, then Columbia (doubly when I was also getting my MFA), and every fall has been marked by the same rhythms and routines. The same starts and launches. 

I suppose I will find my own fall routines and benchmarks.  Reading manuscripts for dgp, for example.  Or embarking on new writing projects (I have one slightly underway for attention after I finish draft 1 of the Persephone poems, and another making tiny clicks in the gears of my brain.) Releasing Automagic will take some fall, more serious energy as soon as September hits. So maybe it isn't that different after all....

Friday, August 12, 2022

summertime monsters and more to come...

As we move quickly through August at breakneck speed,  fall is feeling imminent , especially since we finally hit a spat of cool for the month temps, I've been thinking of what's been happening this summer and what is coming in the next few months, including the new book in October as well as my #31DAYSOFHALLOWEEN offerings, which I am plotting already--video shorts and short fiction and poems. I'll be posting the last handful of the memoir series early in September and beginning to edit and layout the new book. There is also another possible fun little zine due for November, and of course, this year's art advent project. 

As the new book prep begins, I've been staring at this spring's release, which turned out to be better looking and more successful than I'd dreamed here in this tiny corner of self-publishing endeavors.  I'm a little shocked and delighted. Even though I now have full-time to devote to things I want to, I still get busy, and I feel like April was kind of chaotic before I settled into routines and appeased my $$$$ anxiety by taking on some more paid work. So the release of AVM felt like something that went down without much fanfare, especially since its not like you can really have a reading safely (or at least one I would enjoy and not be anxious about.) I feel calmer and less like I am crashing into things this summer, and hopefully that feeling will keep going through the fall.

I was thinking this morning about the EXTINCTION EVENT part of that book in particular since it's been a couple years exactly since I spent a couple days wandering with a notebook around the Field Museum and making notes for what would become a series of poems about climate change and museum diorama artists, about birds and dinosaurs and what we leave behind as artifacts.  In many ways that series formed the spine of AVM more than any other series within, some written earlier, some later. Late 2019 was also a weird time for me.... a financial free fall after trying to pay the rent on two expensive spaces, the decision to move from the studio, general money anxiety that carried through the new year, and then, BOOM! PANDEMIC!  I don't think walking through the evolution exhibit, I would have known how close we were approaching to our own life-changing earth-wide event in just a few months, or how disappointed I'd be when we got there about our subsequent behavior. Little did I also know that would be my last in-person reading for a while tucked amid the Hall of Birds cases there at the North end of the museum, so I am glad it was a highly enjoyable one.  

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

the great resignation and no regrets

There's been a clip going around on socials about The Great Resignation and the number of people who regretted their decision, which many pointed out only asked those who currently were still seeking jobs instead of those who just retired or found better jobs elsewhere. So the numbers were a little skewed, even as they were, but I thought about this and laughed yesterday, signing some lease paperwork,  when I realized for the first time that I have finally hit the point where my rent is the advised 1/3 of my total income. Like for the first time ever, after two decades of being at about half (a number that required a co-signer on my apartment, but that I was willing to do since I save on other expenses like not having a car / gas/insurance.) And that's even with my rent going up this year.

Last night I dreamed that I went back to my old job--why wasn't exactly clear, but I got the feeling it was because I felt guilty for leaving.  I don't anymore, not now, when things worked out so much better than I even thought they would, but maybe somewhere in my subconscious I do for more personal reasons that have to do with friends that still work there and less with the job itself.  Most of the time I am a little angry I allowed things to go on as they did for so long without doing anything about it.  Granted, I was sad the whole dream that I had went back, but it was too late to do anything about it, and this caused me to wake up in a funk I only was able to shake by diving into my morning's work and refreshing myself with the excitement I know feel working on the things that provide me an income.   Like a good income and probably at a wage I should have had years ago. 

It does not hurt that I feel so much more present in other areas in my life that aren't the freelance work--in the press, in my own writing, in just my tiny household where I actually get to be at home with the cats and cook actual meals and keep the place from being as messy/chaotic as it once was. What I struggled with in the beginning, a structure and routine, I now pretty much have got nailed down, or at least a couple variations depending on how I spend my days. I do not miss venturing into the world, and outside of a smattering of people, do not miss my coworkers or the work itself.  Nor do I miss the way my skills and abilities were taken advantage of without anything like reasonable pay (and the complicated thing is some of those people are the same people.). The jump was scary--you have no idea--my stability loving Taurean heart was in nots all through late last year, but once I made the decision, the relief never stopped flowing, even now. 

Sunday, August 07, 2022

notes & things | 8/7/2022

This week, I wrote in the afternoons about ash trees and fall gardens and longed just a little more for September, especially since we keep having these stretches of swampland temperatures--heat yes, but also humidity that makes every surface in my apartment damp, including my bedsheets.  Every paper left out begins to curl and ripple. As for the trees, I feel like all these garden assignments I've been picking will eventually start to add more flora and fauna to my poems than there already is, which is a lot.

I am making a journey downtown tomorrow to pick up some covers and am already apprehensive about the lack of masking on the CTA. Each week, it gets less and less as the numbers climb more and more, as if someone silently made us agree that if we don't talk about it, don't pretend its happening, its not happening.  Except for the dead and dying, everyone else carries on much as they did pre-2020. I texted a friend recently that had I known 2019 was the last time I would be drunk and extroverted in a bar, I might have done so more frequently that year. We hit the movie theater bar back in March, but it was deserted. Had cocktails with some people outdoors in the fall of 2020, but not too many.  It was a brisk October evening and even the fires weren't keeping us warm so we didn't linger too long.  There have been windows where it may have been safe, but I tend to stupidly think each is the beginning of the end.  Now we are looking at a fall of no-fun whatsoever, no doubt.  Once school is back in session and the already high numbers creep back up, we will be much in the same position as last winter.  I am exhausted, not with covid, which is just doing its thing, but people in general.  

I've moved into a new range of neighborhood guide assignments, back on the northern end again, with Wicker Park. one of my favorite destinations, but just so damned far on public transportation. I did discover a shot south on the Damen Bus from Foster does make the trip a little quicker, so when we are actually going places and doing things again, I am ready. I haven't been to Quimbys or Myopic in a few year. I think the last time I was even in the area was a reading at now-defunct Danny's in 2018. The neighborhood guides are indulging my love of Chicago neighborhoods and history, though, and I am excited with each new neighborhood I am assigned. Wicker Park has this 90's glory day halo, when it was still cheap to live there and all the cool kids were there in the bars and the bookstores and the coffeeshops.  It's different now, and way expensive. But I love the ghosts of it. Even in the aughts and the last decade or so, so many readings were always in Wicker or Bucktown--including my own release readings at Quimby's on occasion. The cool kids have moved on to Logan and Pilsen, where they can afford the rent. But some things still hang on through the changes.

This week, I plan on polishing up the remainder of MEMOIR IN BONE & INK pieces and figuring how I want to share the rest of them--zine? recordings? e-zine?  mix of all of them?  I am back to feeling a special kind of poet lonely of late, like no one is reading but me, so maybe it doesn't matter. I did cheat on the GRANATA poems with something new, which I really shouldn't do, but it just happened, and maybe it will happen again. I would like to have a draft of the larger, more serious project done by the end of September to have some time to let it sit before the new year when I dive back into it. So I really need to stay on task, but it's hard for me with longer things, it's amazing I've gotten as far as I have...

Saturday, August 06, 2022

film notes | monsters & money

When I was in my last semester at DePaul getting my MA, I took a class called "Writing As a Women's Profession." It was a strange, chaotic time in which I was moving back to my hometown and trying to finish my degree. I spent the last month and some change commuting into the city (driven to weekly classes by my very gracious parents) because my lease on the studio in Lincoln Park was up at the end of April and I had already moved into that terribly brief apartment near downtown Rockford and was job hunting (which did not work out so well at first.)

So, my focus was not necessarily on those last two classes, that one that met Saturday mornings and a Monday night seminar in Milton that I ended up barely passing because I missed the final due to traffic stand-still near O'Hare. I managed to get my degree nevertheless since I had, up til that point, straight A's in the Milton  but the writing professions class I did do well in, I no doubt would have benefitted from being far more present for than I really was.  We spent a lot of time taking about writing and economics for women, particularly in the 19th century, with authors like Brontes and Kate Chopin and Sarah Orne Jewett. How women traditionally made money out of words, when sometimes words were one of the only ways women of certain classes and stations could acceptably gain anything like financial freedom (and even then not always.) I was thinking of this again when I watched Mary Shelley a few weeks back, a movie that somehow had escaped my notice when it was released. 

The most interesting moment in the film is the morning after the ghost story challenge when Polidori and Shelley encounter Percy and their host, Lord Byron, at the breakfast table after a rough night in which Mary reportedly dreamed her famous monster into being (and in which the Doctor began what would eventually be the story of Dracula). The poets, of course, are hungover and mocking the only two writers who seemed to understand the assignment and produced something solid from the endeavor. Over the next few months, Shelley would expand and develop her story and then, in her initial anonymity, her husband would get credit for it until she revealed herself (but then even some still scarce believed such a masterpiece could be penned by a woman. )

The success of Frankenstein, though, of course helped them where Percy's poetry and debts had mostly not, which was something I had not thought about until this film...the success of her novel granted stability in income the couple had not seen before, and though they were at turns estranged over the course of their 8-year marriage before he drowned in a boating accident, Mary would live another three decades, writing several more books that were eclipsed by her most famous. I've also read before of her assistance to his career, both before and after his death collecting and transcribing, much like the unpaid work of many women writers on behalf of their literary husbands, even while their success in publishing was funding the coffers.  

Friday, August 05, 2022

how it started, where it's going


I'm a little bit half past the way through the MEMOIR IN BONE & INK video poems, which are turning out to be a fun (although a little bit spookier than intended ) project. If you recall, the poems themselves are the spoils of NAPOWRIMO this spring, that I actually did not finish, but did get around 20 or so pieces I liked and was looking to do something with them. Enter the video poems, which outside of a couple of trailers and art things, I hadn't really dug into since finishing SWALLOw a while back. They, like most of the things I do, are experiments, so I never quite know where they are going.,  The last couple have a decidedly darker, more horror-feel vibe, which dictated the music I chose for them, which of course only enhanced those vibes.  Nevertheless, I am pretty happy with the results so far and have a few more to tackle before mid-September., when I  hope to take what I've learned and make some killer trailers for AUTOMAGIC coming around the bend. I will also be releasing the entire project as a zine towards the end of this month if all goes well. 

You can see the whole series thus far on YouTube...

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

finding our forgotten selves

When I was in my early 20's, long before I had an actual apartment I could decorate of my own, I read magazines--lots of magazines, most handed off, like the horror novels I hoarded, by an aunt. Elle, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Cosmo, occasional chunky issues of Vogue. Because no one else wanted to read them and my mother was happy with some of the cooking and home mags, I would cut things out, making large collages in a giant spiral sketchbook.  There were two actually, one with clothing ideas and another with interior design stuff..the outfits I wanted to wear, the houses I wanted to live in. Really, it was just an early, more mono version of Pinterest, which I still use today. 

I also spent a lot of time watching my parents' satellite tv in the middle of the night once they had gone to bed and I took over the big screen in the living room.  While I did watch some shows and movies, I pretty much would turn on HGTV and let it play all night while I worked on other things--homework, poems, writing in my journals, cross-legged at the coffee table in front of the couch.  When I was in college, my mother and I would spend a lot of time and money redecorating rooms we hoped my father wouldn't notice were different (though he paid the credit card bills, so I imagine he totally knew.) Even my tiny grad school studio had a lot of thought put into posters and furniture in the two years I was there. In Rockford, I lived in a gorgeous place with a sleeping porch and dark cherry-colored floors, but had to leave when I didn't find a job quickly enough.  When I moved into my current place of the last 20 odd years, I've slowly evolved a look I like, mixing vintage and modern together.  

Today, I was working on some recent pieces for House Digest and laughing about how much I somehow absorbed from that network, from the magazines, from other decor books I loved to check out from the library. When I was younger, I was very particular about my surroundings and things I wanted and still pretty much am, even though my apartment, with its battered thrift store pieces and cat-scratched upholstery, is hardly a showplace, Its still very intentional in where I put things and how I want them to look, even if my budget is low. I remember being 15 and thinking I would love to be an interior designer but then backing away when it occurred to me you had to work with other people a lot. 

When I work on these pieces, whatever I'm writing about, today, ash trees for your backyard fall color and decorating with sage green, I feel like I'm connecting with the girl who ripped pages out of Elle Decor and watched entire marathons of Curb Appeal. (and it still amazes me someone actually wants to pay me to write about home decor every time the money hits my account.) It's also a testament to  the circuitous path that wound up with me landing this job in the first place--of leaving the library, and taking on writing more architecture lessons as the art ones ran thin (I was hired to write about both art and lit, but I liked to alternate them because the books are much denser work.) Those architecture lessons in my portfolio sent me down this particular path I may never have otherwise gone down. Only to wonder where this is where I would have loved to have been all along. 

Monday, August 01, 2022

notes & things | 8/01/2022

When I was younger, my mom had a hibiscus tree that sat in our living room for years. She would haul it outside in the summer, but it was too delicate to leave out in winter, so it claimed its spot near the front window where it was bathed in sun every morning and daily dropped large blooms and leaves all over floor. The past couple of years, there have been a profusion of hibiscus bushes near my dad's garage.  They are a different color than my mom's and that tree is long dead, but these get bigger, both in girth and bloom size every year and I am surprised they survive the winter to reappear. No one really seems to know how they got there, and yet, there they are.

I am back from the weekend away, dodging covid at every turn in a mostly maskless world. on the news, warnings of polio and monkeypox and we seem to be heading full-on into four horseman territory this year. These days, being in public feels like a big contagious mess and it probably is, given the amount of sickness I see in my social feeds. I am happy to be mostly away from it if I can help it. At times, I feel like people are impatient with my reticence( to go out for dinner, to parties, to anything that doesn't work with a mask, or even if masked, seems kind of crowded and risky.) I was never a germophobic person in the least, but I refuse to be caught off guard if things get really dangerous again. 

This week I will be finishing up a batch of new releases, reading some submissions, and working on some new paper goods designs for the shop for fall. Becuase yes, it's August 1st, which turns my mind immediately to back-to-school thoughts.I will also be starting the final edits phase for AUTOMAGIC, which needs clean-up for typos and such before I begin laying it out. I've been avoiding looking at it for the past few months hoping to have fresh eyes.  This helps, especially since that book came together at a weird time (but then all time feels weird.)

I think I solved my p-o-v issues on the Persephone poems I was struggling with--every epic needs a chorus to make sense of things and I may have found mine in Persephone's maidens--aka, the girls Demeter turned into sirens--either to help find her daughter or to punish them for not looking out for her depending on who you ask. The original sirens of course, were not necessarily the fish-tailed beauties, but more like harpies with wings.  The medieval era gave them fins, but then again, it all comes down to birds and mermaids to me, so maybe this is the perfect blend. A new strand wound through the project that til now has mostly focused on Demeter/Persephone and Hades/Persephone might be a good infusion. It will also give me some forward momentum and something to write toward as I round into the second part of the manuscript.