Saturday, December 30, 2023

goodbye 2023


You were actually a pretty good year compared to your predecessors, starting out quietly and tiptoey in the wake of loss and tragedy and then blooming a bit through spring and well into summer. It was a productive year on a number of fronts, including creative projects, which yesterday, I rounded up into a short reel of some highlights (though they barely scratch the surface.)

While I did not keep to a poem-a-day rate all year, I did practice daily writing in enough spurts to garner around 100 or so poems I can be happy with when all is said and done. Lots of other fragments and bits that may still prove useful.  Less than other years, but still a solid showing, especially when you consider how much other kinds of writing I was wrapped up in. I also landed some poems in journals when I would light a fire under my ass to send out work, including peeks of new projects in Sweet Tree Review, Aura, and Grimoire, plus some older work in a couple anthologies and some pieces set to debut in 2024.

I made around 160 collages or paintings, nearly 300 reels and video poems, released one zine project, and two full-lengths (technically AUTOMAGIC was the last week of 2022, but all my promo and sales happened in 2024.)  There are several zines that are in the wings (some of them waiting for poems accepted by journals to come out.) I also put a wrap on GRANATA, the Persephone poems, for release this year and finished RUINPORN which will also likely be coming this year if all goes well There are also two half-completed manuscripts I would love to finish by the end of 2024. For the press, I edited, laid out, and designed around 30 titles, with more in the works, and made and assembled too many to count. I was successful in adding quite a few bits of paper loveliness to the shop, including several different postcard sets and some blank book journals. I am still wading through submissions from summer, but so far have read around 300 manuscripts in the queue.

I feel like I really came into the year going full speed on freelance writing. I am writing more now, but not necessarily for the same clients. The new year brought an end to some short-term things. Others, like the antiques dictionary, were mostly on hiatus for site redesigns. In their wake, I took on more hours with House Digest, writing about DIY projects, kitchen designs, paint colors, and all manner of things. There were also assorted lessons and study guides, restaurant round-ups, gift guides, and food articles.  I haven't done my taxes yet, but at least at the later end of the year, I was happy with my income levels after an initial year of wax and wane. There are still days that I chide myself for not taking the leap sooner..for spending about 3 years at the library I could have been elsewhere..would have preferred to be elsewhere most of the time...but it is what it is. 

On other fronts, it was a busy year, particularly the latter half, when a job change for J (and my forever more energetic stance working at home) meant we suddenly had all this time to go out, something we'd lacked during the previous 8 years. So there were countless movies, plus musicals and ballets. Zoo outings, creepy museum Halloween parties, and multiple trips to the planetarium. Karaoke nights and time spent with friends old and new. Weekend trips out to the drive-in, which is officially one of my favorite places and activities. Also, my (first) 5 tattoos and perfecting my beef and noodles recipe. 

There are impending plans of living together fully, which pretty much just means he will be here all nights of the week instead of just most of them. We'll be spending the next month divvying up household tasks, finding a rhythm for things like shopping and meals, and organizing spaces. Luckily he doesn't have any furniture he's bringing or much stuff, so it's a less arduous task than it could be. We christened his desk area with a vintage Pink Floyd poster, are outfitting the kitchen for an actual chef, and getting bigger shared bookshelves to replace my failing ones and a new bed. But most of my closet space remains untouched (the boon of loving someone who is fairly minimalistic in his wardrobe.)

Tonight, we'll be downtown at the bar he DJs for and I will no doubt, like last year, be silently grumbling about traffic or crowds, lines at the bar, or amateur drunks.  But I will have a sparkly dress and get to watch the fireworks over the river, so it's a good end to a good year. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

notes & things | holiday edition

Christmas, for the most part, was quiet and close to home, which despite its ghosts and nostalgia, is not a bad way to spend a holiday. We had a couple shorter visits with J's mom (who only lives a few blocks away) on the actual holiday. Christmas horror marathons at home with snacks and turkey/stuffing sandwiches. An overnight visit out to Rockford with gloriously comfy hotel beds and many assorted treats. I got a new digital camera for taking better art photos, some cute mugs, some tea and edibles. I also bought myself some new plates that look like bowls (after breaking one recently), some sugar scrub, a journal, and a new (or another) black floral georgette dress. Christmas has Christmas-ed, and I considered taking down the tree and lights today when we returned, but took a nap and then got absorbed in some writing for upcoming deadlines. If it's any indication of how fast things move along, the first piece that I already wrote for Valentine's Day paper crafts and such debuted, so no doubt we will slide through these wintry months (hopefully) at a steady and swift pace. 

I am planning on working most days later this week to make up for my days off, the curse of freelancing being no real PTO. But then again I remind myself that for all the PTO I had at the library, due to terminal staff shortages, I couldn't even really take it most of the time. Holiday breaks (usually one, sometimes two if the dates fell right) would be spent recovering from the stress and staring shell-shocked at the internet or streaming and dreading going back.  I no longer feel like I need quite as many breaks and can take them at my leisure when I do. I don't dread going back to work after time away but actually look forward to getting back to my little daily routines. On the other hand, the Trello boards and Slack are quiet this week, so it feels like I and a few others are the only ones cobbling away (mostly since I probably spent too grandly in December and now need to the extra cushion of this last week at full-pay to not come up short in January.)

I did manage to finish out the advent project on the 25th, and will probably now turn my attention toward something else-maybe some tiny miniature boxes I've been hoarding up supplies for late this year. I'm hoping to keep moving forward with the witch house poems and finish them up shortly after the new year. I am not quite sure where I'll be directing my focus after that creative-project wise, which is freeing but sort of terrifying feeling all at once.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

dolls and monsters


Since I keep seeing best of and award nomination lists including both Poor Things and Barbie at the top, it got me thinking about where they overlap. About female agency and male aggression and entitlement. About sexuality and lack of it. Poor Things was a dreamlike whirl of a movie.  No expense in creating this gorgeous steampunk world through miniaturized sets, lush colors, and over-shouldered Victorian costumes was spared. Nor were the performances of Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo, who may be one of the most reviled male characters I've seen in a movie this year (which is a hard bet since I love me some Mark Ruffalo.) Poor Things obviously has more sex and lots of nudity from both genders. Barbie is much more PG-friendly and its adult jokes much more veiled. It's a beautiful spin with Frankenstein vibes but from a distinctly feminine viewpoint. (even stranger that its' from a male filmmaker.)

Barbie, however, too was also about a woman set adrift in a strange and beautiful and sad world. While Bella's world was a lonely and isolated mansion full of adorable and strange hybrid animals, Barbie's was cheery colors and endless optimism in the before world. The real world for Barbie was less vivid and colorful, but for her, somehow more beautiful because of its imperfections. While Bella's world was colorful and awash in surreal imagery, it was darker on the underside and more filled with shadows. Both encounter many of the same obstacles and rewards, though Bella's are far more sensual and violent.

On the other hand, one is a multi-million dollar blockbuster many times over, while Poor Things is a movie based on a novel from the 90s and is still gaining its wings. It's telling that even mid-week last week, at a late showing, the theater was practically full at the Alamo and people seem to be talking even more about it as we close out the year and the Oscar buzz mounts. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

nocturnal turnings

 Yesterday, the solstice passed and we now work our way towards daylight, though it seems an afterthought, now that the past couple of weeks have found me wholly nocturnal in my habits and wanderings. Slow early afternoons give way to work sprints peppered with scattered movie outings. Making pot roast in the middle of the night and writing poems when I've finished my design articles. Most days I go to bed shortly before dawn, only to rise around 1pm for coffee and pastries and then dawdle for a bit til J leaves for work, getting down to more serious business around sunset. As I watch the light creep into the sky, it reminds me of my college summers, when I would meet my mom getting up as I was going to bed. Some days necessitate earlier risings, especially if we have plans that happen in the early evening or god forbid, afternoon, which are rare but happen occasionally. The last week has been enormously heavy and gray and devoid of sun, so it is not like I am missing anything. 

Somehow, we are a mere two days from Christmas, which has felt strange for years now with my mom gone, and now with both parents lost, even stranger. We are planning on staying close to home, cooking some things, and watching some Christmas horror. We'll be headed out to Rockford mid-next week for a short visit with my sister, and once again, I'll be out downtown on New Years complete with a sparkly silvery dress already in my possession. I am hoping this milder, rainy and wet weather holds and we won't be snow-bound til January hits. 

While I've been working on books, I finished listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, which makes an excellent point about the idea of struggling and miserable artists. The tortured creative is such a trope we can scarce see past it. For writers, there are probably a million things to be miserable about, and some people let it consume them to the detriment of artmaking. Rejection, feeling invisible, feeling insecure in your abilities. There are any number of demons and very few saints who did not perish in some terrible way. But then again, that too is wrong, especially among poets, who for every Plath and Sexton, there are dozens of women writers who managed to keep going, many afflicted with similar mental or physical illnesses. They do not get as much attention, and perhaps it's our own myopia, but they surely existed. Exist even now, struggling to write in the middle of the night around other work obligations, over cradles and dinner tables at dawn. It's certainly nothing to be miserable about, especially in a world where there is too much misery outside us that threatens to swallow us whole. 

I did not light a candle for luck on the solstice, but I did string up another set of lights and replace my LED candles in their tiny holders. A few weeks back, I invested in a tiny lamp that looks like a moon for my desk since the bigger work light is always shadowed by my monitor, making it hard to read anything not on the screen once the sun sets. That is the best I can do in all the darkness. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

holiday horror

 One of my favorite holiday horror offerings, perhaps only second to the original Halloween, is the 1974 Black Christmas, which, like me, has the honor/terror of turning 50 next year. I re-watch it every few years, appreciating it for its slow burn home intrusion terror, its misogynistic weirdness that is only compounded by never quite being explained, and its strangely feminist take on undergrad life in the early 70's --a time where I often forget--women were finally granted the ability to have their own credit cards and bank accounts independent of men. 

The women in Black Christmas are beholden to men--to fathers, to boyfriends, to the almost comically incompetent police department that fails them when they need them most.  That explains away disappearances of women like swatting a fly. A movie that touches on choice and abortion, and whose final girl, though she is failed in the end, is brave enough not to go out the door when the call is coming from inside the house, but decides to fight back years before Laurie Strode was on the tongue of slasher fans. Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out the same year, though I do not love it half as much, mostly cause there feels like so much more horror in danger in familiar spaces than unfamiliar ones. A cozy sorority house over break than the wilds of rural America. Places you are supposed to feel and be safe versus obviously dangerous ones. 

This week, over at the Logan, was the first time I ever caught it on the big screen, and I noticed things I may not have before in terms of camera work and suspense building--how much this little film would influence the slashers that followed in the next decade and a half. (also Margot Kidder, though she doesn't make it out alive, is one of the best loose-cannon bad girls of horror in this.)

Friday, December 15, 2023

notes & things | 12/15/ 2023

Despite closing in on the holidays and indulging in some of the usual fanfare-like my tree and apartment decor, some new twinkle lights, peppermint milkshakes, and some trashy Christmas rom-coms, I still have moments in the whirl of things where I'm like "of yeah, right, it's Christmas." I have procured most of my presents, sadly easier now that I have less people to buy for. One big present to ourselves was to get a season pass at Alamo Drafthouse theatre, which means we'll be able to see all sorts of things each month for the cost of like two movies if we were paying the regular price. (of course, we still manage to spend too much on soda and popcorn --and occasionally their mozzarella sticks that I am obsessed with.) Not only do they show regular new releases, but lots of revivals and some series that are horror or queer-focused, so we plan to go 1-2 times per week. December is serious, Oscar-heavy fare, so we're looking forward to seeing some quieter, less horror-driven options.

In between movie dates, I am working, working, working. Writing, writing, writing. Mostly design articles, DIY pieces, and some restaurant guides for far-off (Asheville), and not-so-far-off cities (Milwaukee). The weather has been milder and kinder than previous Decembers, with even the nights not to frigid since a cold snap around Thanksgiving.  I hope the snow holds until after Christmas at the very least but I have a feeling it's only a matter of time. Meanwhile, the darkness comes swifter and deeper as we hurtle or creep (both it seems sometimes) toward the solstice and the longest day in just a week. 

Plans for GRANATA continue, with some perusing of options for how I want the finished project to look, hardcover vs. softcover, full-color artwork, trim size, etc..I'm hoping for a release sometime in February or March. The fledgling part of spring seems like a perfect time to release a book about Persephone, so watch for more news there. I also have a couple zine projects I will be pulling together finally after the new year..surely something in time for Valentine's Day, perhaps the urban crypto poems that feel a little like dysfunctional valentine's in spots. Yesterday, I did launch my mini-advent project over at Instagram, so follow along there to see daily new pieces. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

expectations and altered courses

This week's cinema outings have included two films that feel like they form a sort of bookends in my mind and counterpoints (endpoints?) to my thinking this past year.  All of it based in films like The Menu, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, and other fish out of water films that put ordinary people among the monstrousness of the "other"-- be that socially, economically, or just someone far cooler. Earlier this week, Saltburn, which I went in thinking that it was a Dangerous Liasons-type thriller about the corrupting forces of the wealthy on some young Dickensian everyman, which was very much NOT that. And then last night, Eileen, which seemed to be about a young girl pulled under the influence of an older and more glamorous and very blonde Anne Hathaway who surely would be a corrupting force (also very much NOT.) It got me thinking about expectations and how we subvert them across all genres, especially the sorts of books and movies that seem to change course subtly midstride. 

While it's not something I ever intend to do, so many writing projects have somehow went on this trajectory. I begin with an idea, a kernal, a small little flame. I may try to guide its path and hem its fences, but pretty soon, it's gone and burned the house down in an an entirely different way. A series of Valentine's love poems becomes a nod to the me-too movement. An ode to my favorite horror movie becomes about class and labor. Sometimes I don't even notice the shift until the drapes are on fire. But then of course, you look back at the beginnings of the work and it was there all along. The matches too close to the fire. The smoldering furniture. I've often tried to track back and see exactly when things changed. Overlook was not just a love letter to my favorite horror movie, but was written smack dab in the middle of covid lockdowns, when the rift between those who had the luxury of staying home and safe were pitted against those who still had to mind the trenches. Even when I was home for a few months, it was written under the shadow of eventual return. The entirety of COLLAPSOLOGIES is informed by that dynamic, which carried through the next year and into the fall of 2021 when I was contemplating leaving my job as part of the great resignation.  It's there in the plague letters and working girl's grimoire, and of course, bloom, which is specifically about the pandemic. It's probably even in unreal city, though that is set to be part of another book entirely. 

I always laugh when asked about intentionality in my poems or even in my art, and think about all those years of college and grad school studying literature and how much of what we read is probably not at all what the author intended. Or maybe they intended something wholly other, and yet, here we are.

Friday, December 08, 2023

not an exit


 One of the boons of having a little more discretionary income in the past year and less exhaustion (and J's new freedom from a crazy schedule) is that we've actually gotten to see some live theater with some more to come in the next few months, Beetleljuice was the touring Broadway production at the Auditorium while this weeks adventure was on the other end of the spectrum entirely when we saw American Psycho in the tiny little black box stage on the lower level of the Chopin Theatre. 

As a former theater kid, it was appalling how many years it had been since I had seen any live show, much less a musical, but this was a good one. There is much online of the ways this once successful London production faltered when it hit the States and could not manage to keep its footing in an uber-competitive pre-covid Broadway season. I am actually not much of a fan of Easton's novel or work in general, and had met the film version with interest but was sort of meh, which was surprising at how much I loved this musical adaptation dripping with blood (well metaphorical), 80s consumerism, and music. 

I've watched most of the Broadway production, which was a bit slicker and bigger than what I saw in the Chopin basement with interest, and listened a few times to the London recording, and have to say it lent itself equally well to the tiny runway stage in the black box with basically no set and very few props. Since I used to do occasional readings in that basement space in the mid-aughts (also the mainstage upstairs for the Gwendolyn Brooks event one summer)  I wondered what exactly this was going to look like. Instead of blood, it relied on glitter and confetti. The audience was practically in the show, with the actors moving and dancing around us in the darkness which made it almost an immersive experience. 

What was perhaps most surprising, however, since I have little tolerance for toxic masculinity (which this whole franchise is about constructing and deconstructing) I may have felt the first flickering of sympathy for a character the novel and the movie had failed to create in me. So much so that I was nearly in tears by the final musical number--an especially bleak ending (especially compared to Beetlejuice's cheery one.) The lyrics, which I've listened to several times today are a knife in the gut. The original compositions by Duncan Sheik (whose CD from the 90s I have rattling around somewhere) are rounded out by great 80's throwbacks like New Order, Tears for Fears, and Phil Collins, songs that have never been my favorites but are somehow perfect in these contexts. 

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Thursday, November 30, 2023

notes & things: 11/30/2023

I return to you, dear reader, having been remiss the past couple of weeks. In the cracks and dark spaces, much was happening despite the radio silence here. Much of it was in the flesh outings and endeavors squeezed around a lot of writing (both holiday craftiness, gift guides, and Black Friday sales). There may have been a few poems, cover designs, and manuscript reading in the quieter parts. Also some cleaning and organizing in prep for J inhabiting the Barbie Dreamhouse early next year. Plans for new shelves, a larger bar cart, and a new desk area for him in the living room. Plans to turn my takeout and frozen dinner-friendly kitchen into a place where actual cooking may now happen on the regular. (I am trying to be generous about closet space, but the dresses and shoes seem to think otherwise.)

There have also been road trips to Rockford, not one, not two, but three Thanksgivings (two with turkey, one with meatloaf). Two hotels. A strange echoey ache that I know now will probably not ever go away around the holidays that are nostalgia-centric. Lots of impromptu movie outings during the weeknights I now have free. (the Alamo Drafthouse has become a favorite haunt...we saw Dream Scenario and Wild Things, which was part of their Queer 101 classics series and is still as much of a trashy hoot as it ever was.) Eli Roth's Thanksgiving elsewhere, which was actually fairly decent despite low expectations. 

Tomorrow, we are heading out to the drive-in again to see Gremlins and Krampus, complete with a thermos of boozy mint hot chocolate and two very fluffy new throw blankets. We may freeze, but hope that running the heat a little combined with multiple layers will keep us cozy enough to enjoy the movie and that it's not too chilly to venture to the concessions at intermission. Also that it may be nice enough to sit out on the little balcony at the hotel out there even for just a little while and gaze at the darling view of the river. 

Since I hate November, I am actually glad to see Decemeber, though I know this is only the beginning of forever-long winter. We've had some sticky snow already, and some bone-chilling cold outside of the city, but Chicago, as always, is fickle and unpredictable. I have not gone so far as pulling out my Christmas decor, but perhaps when we get back on Saturday will haul out the box in my closet and go about adding a little more glimmer and light to the apartment. The early dark always feels like a heavy hand pressing down on my head so it can help, at least for a while, to focus on pretty things about winter I do appreciate and ignore the ones I don't.  

Thursday, November 16, 2023

notes & things | 11/17/2023

Somehow it was the beginning of November and now it's mid-month and I am not quite sure where the last week vanished to. It was a busy one, filled with movie outings to see Christmas horror offerings in near empty screenings. Filled with Beetlejuice: The Musical in the grandeur of the Auditorium Theater. Late night diner meals, karaoke outings, and my tattoo appointment yesterday adding to the patchwork sleeve I am slowly building in increments. Writing has been crammed in around the edges to meet tighter pre-holiday season deadlines, and now a slight breather and the usual pace, but then this week, Thanksgiving somehow. I'll be heading to a few meals over the next week with J and his mom, the Bowen clan, and at a friend of my mom's who usually invites us (even though my mother and now my dad's absence at each are strange holes that occasionally start bleeding.) The holidays are still a season for several year, where nothing seems quite real. At the karaoke bar last night, they had up lights and all the holiday finery and I almost felt startled that yes, we are going into the holidays. While I eagerly throw myself into fall, November is a strange time. Suddenly its Christmas again and I still have bats on my windows and skulls in my living room.

I did start a new poem series in bits and starts to accompany the witchy collages I was making in September and October. I am also beginning plans for the sprawling mass that is GRANATA,  the Persephone series, both the text pieces and art, which will be coming in the next year (more details in December, but you can read a snippet in the new issue of AURA). I am doubling down on both new chaps and getting all the responses from the summer reading period sent. The days I devote to reading manuscripts are good but overwhelming with so much good work. 

I did notice that the leaves of Chicago trees are hanging in there unusually long, though the one in the courtyard has given up the ghost a couple weeks back after a couple of blustery days. Mostly the yellow trees, which I think are ash trees, that I noticed as we drove slowly up Clark St. through the city up from downtown after the show Tuesday night. It's actually been mild since we had a noticeable amount of early snow on Halloween, so let's hope it continues. We have a drive-in outing planned for the first weekend in December and hopefully won't freeze while watching Gremlins/Krampus

Friday, November 10, 2023

chaos and magic

 I am guessing that, like me,  most poets read articles about the trials and tribulations of fiction writers or non-fiction authors snorting a little to ourselves. Mostly, those are conversations we will forever be left out of, with pretty much no poetry publishing houses offering things like advances or serious promotion, largely since the money is just not there. A friend recently shared this great article on the deflated feelings that sometimes can accompany traditional publishing even if you do manage to sell a large-ish number of books to earn out your advance. That you put a book out in the world, even with a tiny advance, but not a lot happens after the book comes out, except a whole lot of work/expense on the part of the author. We poets are familiar with this, especially a couple books in. But somehow it still shocks other genre writers, how little you make on your creative product. How little anyone cares.How everyone is always on to the next thing. That maybe you should move on too.

In some ways, there's actually a lot of freedom. But also heartache. Since most poetry books that even sell comprise so tiny a margin in the overall publishing industry (which includes the biggies, the academics, the small presses, the micropresses) we don't have that much to lose. But then again, we don't have anything to gain. There is still, even with poets, a desire to help along the press and editors that had faith in your and you work. However small that may be. To do the work that gets books in hands. But it is frustrating when no one seems to be paying attention or listening. 

Of course, the upside is that in self-publishing the last few years, my sales figures are not all that different from the more recent traditionally published books. Maybe slightly less, but still solid for someone who doesn't really do in-person readings anymore, go hard on socials, or hire paid help for promotion. I've no one to apologize to or congratulate but myself. The pressure is off and those books, months and months later, continue to sell in tiny bits and spurts. Outside of the printing costs and shipping, I make a small profit. It's usually just enough to fund the next title and maybe some other nice little shop offerings like postcards and journals, which is pretty much the case with the chapbook series and the press operation in general for years. I can live with this, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept that I will never, even if I try my hardest, be able to make a living at writing creatively. The largest sums I've made have come from contest winnings and reading honorariums. Occasionally, when I still did public readings, I could maybe buy a nice dinner and round of drinks with the night's income. None of us are getting rich. Mind you, these were discounted books I usually had to pay something for beforehand to have copies to sell, but poet math is a weird science. 

One of my goals for 2023 was to want nothing from my creative work but good work. I mean, obviously, we all want things, book sales, publication opportunities, someone to just acknowledge that we exist and don't suck. And partaking in things like social media and promo is part of it. But earlier this year I decided that those things, that kind of scrambling, was not where my best efforts lay and maybe I get more enjoyment from sharing and letting the chips fall as they may. I would continue to write and share things and express myself and create tiny strange world. It was freeing, but also think it kind of tripped me up. What to do? Where to go? If I am not struggling to get people to buy my books, read my publications, come to readings, does anyone ever encounter my work in a way that makes me feel seen. I tried to channel those energies into the writing instead, bit what happened is that every great piece I wrote felt like yet another brick in a wall that made me lonelier. I am not sure I have crawled out of this funk just yet, but I am writing daily again. so we will see how I fare.

Maybe it's chaos. And maybe its okay that it's chaos. That it all means nothing. I will write and people will read it or they won't. They will buy books and read posts or maybe they won't. I will just keep doing my weird little things and take the joy from that. No one cares. It's terrifying and sad. But it's also kinda magical. Like tiny spells you throw out into the world and maybe one lands somewhere that needs it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

writing and devouring

This weekend, a few of the governess poems written this spring landed in the latest issue of GRIMOIRE, one of my favorite witchy vibe mags. which is definitely a great home for the dark little kernels of these poems inspired by Henry James and the Brontes and other gothic delights. Reading through them again during proofing late last week, I was surprised to find I still like them as much as I did during the spring--perhaps a little more even. With my recent waffling on whatever may be next and finishing off the crypto poems even more slowly than planned. I was surprised. Especially since I've spent all late summer and early autumn wondering why anyone, even me, writes poems when there are a million other ways we could be focusing energies. These poems, however, were sound enough that for a glimmer of a second, there was no doubt I was doing exactly what I should be doing. That my energies have, and continue to be, well-placed.  This feeling may fade in a day or a week and I'll go back to questioning, but for now, I cling to it like a tiny thread.

We took in a screening of Adaptation last night, which I had never seen, but which J promised I would like for all its perspectives on writing in general. I am always interested in writers on film, the good the bad and the ugly. Of course, they probably crop up all too often, as heroes and villains, sometimes as monsters.  Content of all kinds. including film, relies so much on them and their own interpretations of self and story. That stories of course exist without them. but there is a sense-making that filtering through writers makes happen. We closed out Haunting of Hill House this morning, when the eldest brother, a writer, is taunted by his wife that things do not really exist until they have been eaten, processed, and spat out (I believe she said shit out) by the writer in a story.

This space is a lot of that processing and sense-making, but it happens in poems, though perhaps less intentionally. With the anniversary of my mother's death falling yesterday. I think particularly of FEED. and how that book was very much a processing and sense-making in the months after her death, even though some of it was written and conceived before that.  Last year, through the winter and into spring, the home improvements series served a similar function for losing my dad, but was much shorter and less winding than what the longer book became. I do not know if I am done with it, but perhaps for now, I am. 

Even my freelance work, though I do not always choose what to write about. feels also like a way of digesting and interpreting the world, whether its DIY projects or art lessons, restaurants or home decor, I feel like sometimes experiencing the world is not quite real or tangible until I write it down, turn it over, make sense of it in keystrokes and pen marks. 

Friday, November 03, 2023

dark and winged


Halloween this year found me wandering the rooms of the Museum of Surgical Science dressed like a dark and winged thing. The museum is always delightfully creepy in the daytime but was made even more so by candlelight and spooky costumed wanderers at a Haunted Soiree event. There was a mystery we could solve that involved a giant Ouija board and a seance, but we wound up tipsy from the complimentary cocktails and way too warm, so decided to bow out early to try to catch Halloween at the Logan (unfortunately it was sold out.) Still, I appreciated the storytelling and world-building, which seemed like a smaller-scale Theatre Bizarre but a little more Victorian in aesthetic and inspired by Francisco Goya's work.  The seance was brief but involved calling out the ghost of a dead little girl named Little Magpie, watching her toys play and move on their own, and then a giant bird creature erupting from the table itself. It made me think of its kinship with my own work, AUTOMAGIC in particular, with all its seances and spiritualists and spooky birds.

It also struck me how much seances are like writing. Like listening very closely for some open door or rattling chain, some voice coming down and into you. How it can be gone as quickly as it appeared. I have not been devoting daily practice, only occasionally bleed something out onto the keyboard, but am kind of in a holding pattern since summer. I feel like the poems are maybe still in there rattling around like ghosts, but no one, not even me,is making a space for them to come out. 

Still, Halloween was snowy and tempestuous and very un-fall like. It felt very late--not just in the night, but also in the year.  This weekend is daylight savings, and it will seem even more disorienting come Sunday when dark lands squarely before 5pm. So I've been fending off the darker spirits that like to roost in my head with movie nights (last night, a screening of The Thing, tonight Priscilla.) With crock pot creations and chocolate and scones for breakfast. Today we lingered in bed late watching Haunting of Hill House, which J has never seen and I realized it's probably something way too sad to be watching in early November when the road already feels way to slippery. But I am enduiring.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

a thousand novembers

 I am approaching these last few days of  October and the first couple of weeks of November quietly and unobtrusively with my head down, careful not to touch anything. It occurred to me this summer that this period, particularly early November, has historically been a strange time for me that has either brought amazingness or tragedy, but it's hard to know which. 

In 2000, I got the library job that would basically move me to this city and keep me occupied for slightly more than two decades at a time when I was struggling both mentally and financially. I interviewed for it the day after Halloween and was hired on Veteran's Day. I almost didn't go since we'd been up late watching horror movies and gorging on candy the night before. Even in the city, almost talked myself out of the interview since I felt like it was a long shot. But I went, and it entirely changed the course of my life.

In 2005, I'd spent the past couple of years submitting various incarnations of my first book to contests and open reading periods, and while I would occasionally land a bridesmaid spot, was beginning to lose hope. I'd done a massive restructuring over the summer and had queried and submitted the manuscript, by then officially called the fever almanac, to the press ultimately said yes the second week of November. I was getting ready for work and my sister, who was staying with me intermittently, picked up and passed off the phone which I always let go to voice mail.  Exactly a year later, that book was coming into the world, though it was slightly eclipsed by the euphoria of a relationship that would prove very long and very toxic and a recent bout of mono that left me sick on and off for a year. November was a weird month for romance other random years in various degrees as well, alternating between ecstatic and comically abysmal.

Though my mom's health problems had begun the previous February, she died that first week of November in 2017 after a quick end-of-summer decline and a seeming rebound in October. My dad followed five years and a week later. A year ago, he went into the hospital and did not come out. If your parents are going to die any time of year, this time seems worse since that early encroaching darkness and daylight savings always make me a little stir-crazy under even the best of mental circumstances.  So it's a severe, acute sadness and depression on top of a general lower register annual sad and I am sometimes amazed I was even able to weather it (mostly) intact at all.

I've never quite known what to do with that gap between Halloween festivities and the distraction that is Thanksgiving and the commencement of the holidays. All I know is that it's dark and filled with sharp things hopefully I make it out alive. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

happy endings and horror


There has been much more pre-Halloween horror on the big screen this week, both favorites in my top horror films that I have seen (and in The Shining's case, many many times.) The other was the Midsommar director's cut, which we initially saw the shorter version in the theaters in 2019, which with covid running amuck since, may as well have been a decade ago. There are things about the two films that seem to make them fair companions, including those glorious creative aerial shots. The scariest part of Midsommar is actually probably the first few minutes, while I would say the last part of The Shining, when Wendy is under attack and sees the hotel's ghosty secrets, is the most horrific part of that movie. In between there is a lot of slow creeping dread on the part of both. 

Midsommar of course feels like a movie with a weird, but kind of happy ending when Florence Pugh's character sheds her douche-bag gaslighting boyfriend, probably in the same way The Shining is a happy ending in that she loses an alcoholic abusive husband trying to drive an ax into her. Of course, I think while most would agree that Jack Torrance is a villain all along, well before the hotel, not as many are willing to say Christian got his karmic resolution in the sacrifice. And yet, he fails spectacularly at being a good boyfriend or friend, or even a good person, long before he does anything as mundane as cheating while under the influence of a sunny Scandinavian cult. The cheating is sort of irrelevant at that point in the movie.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

notes & things | 10/21/2023


It's been a whirl of a week, that included not two nights out in a row, but three, with a concert at the Salt Shed, the Frankenstein ballet at the Lyric, and another trip out to the McHenry drive-in and an overnight stay to avoid driving back to the city so late. My tiny introverted heart that prefers to stay at home is exhausted, but each was fun in its own way. The concert was music I was not at all familiar with going in,--another project from the lead singer of Primus, one of J's faves.  The ballet was creepy and beautifully danced and made some interesting choices in how they adapted the novel.  I found myself still always marveling what Shelley created at only 17 and its embeddedness in our culture.

McHenry was awash in fall foliage almost at its peak if not already, and we managed to land a room at a little non-chain hotel that sat perched on the Fox River with a balcony view that was much nicer than last time's Super 8. We saw the new Exorcist (meh) and Nightmare on Elm Street, which was strange to see on a big screen after almost four decades of smaller ones. We managed to stay pretty warm just closed up in the car with snacks and a thermos of boozy minty hot chocolate. We'll be headed back in early December, but we will definitely need the heater and some blankets by then.

This week before Halloween brings a couple more movie nights, it being the high season of horror and us having our evenings free this year after almost a decade of conflicting work schedules. We're heading over to the Logan for a late-night screening of The Shining (which I watch every fall and which I have seen on the screen, though I was only 6 at the drive-in) and then on Wednesday to see the director's cut of Midsommar that is back in theaters (we saw the original when it came out, but neither has seen the full uncut version and its one of my horror favorites from the last few years.).

Otherwise, I have tinkered with a few chap layouts whose releases are nigh in late October and thinking about projects and book manuscripts, including when I might like to release GRANATA which is looking to be a more art-oriented publishing project than text (which is there, obviously, but it will be accompanied by full-color collages in a format that is more art-book than traditional poetry collection.)

The drag I was feeling when it came to writing appears to have abated and maybe it's all because I have been consuming more than creating for a couple weeks..horror films and the Poe series and Frankenstein through dance. If these things have enduring value centuries later, maybe not all is lost in a sea of feeling unseen and unheard in the moment, a struggle all artists and writers feel at some point. 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

darkness and bluster: thoughts on Poe


I spent parts of the weekend digesting the whole of Netflix's Fall of the House of Usher, something I have been waiting for for over a year, being a huge Mike Flanagan fan and lover of Poe in general. It was everything I expected and more--a modern day gothic chilling tale of corporate greed and evil, of extreme moral ambiguousness, set within the frames of Poe stories and poems. And so many poems, enough to make this writer and one-time English major, quiver with delight. I found myself thinking about Poe and how well it all holds together, even nearly 170 years later. How influential his work still is on the literary consciousness of writers, despite his entire life and career riddled with depression and addiction. How Flanagan takes the work and bends it into something new, yet immensely true to the original. 

I first encountered Poe in junior high--in things like "The Raven" and "The Telltale Heart" (both of which get great treatment in the series) but it was "Annabelle Lee" that caught my attention as a fledgling diary-scribbling poet of 16. So much so that I briefly joined something called  the "Poetry Club"  led by my junior year English teacher who taught it the next year, though my involvement was limited due to play rehearsals and newspaper obligations.  I remember a couple of meetings with desks arranged in a circle while other students read their work. At the time, I was writing but would have been too terrified to share. Later, in college, I would spend a spooky cider-sipping Halloween evening reading Poe's "Cask of Amontillado"  at an English Dept event in the lounge what was later rumored to be a haunted dorm. Throughout my two literary-focused degrees, Poe was a constant companion, including in a grad class devoted entirely to the American Renaissance of the 1850s. Even in the past couple of years, there have been Poe-related lesson assignments--about American Romanticism and some of the short stories. 

I often think about the Greeks and how pervasively their stories remain in Western thought, but Poe is up there on the list as well. For all of Poe's wraith-like rants against other writers and his worry that he was an utmost failure (all too often related), he manages to stick. Beautifully horrific things still bear his fingerprints. While if you asked me who I liked more, I would say Nathaniel Hawthorne (who examined similar ideas with a little more subtleness), I still love Poe for all his darkness and bluster, which make the series an especially delightful experience that also got me thinking about my recent waffling in regard to writing poems. How I often feel like no one is listening and maybe no one is. But then Poe thought this as well. So maybe I just need to leave my worries to time and allow the chips to fall where they may. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

windswept, reckless

 Tonight, I recorded an older poem as one of my #31daysofhalloween bits. A poem that I realized with a start was probably written exactly 20 years ago--given that it's about fall and dusk and cemeteries and just very Octoberish. I believe it was workshopped in my very first MFA workshop, but I think the shine had worn off by October. Up til then, each week the instructor had everyone vote on their favorite, all the poems passed out with no names, and for the first 6 weeks, each week I was the awkward winner. It was something I wanted but also did not want. Granted, the poems were decent, though not spectacular, and there were better poems on the part of a couple others, though they were more experimental and less liked by all. There was no ribbon or prize, but it did mean some people really started to hate me for it and then were gunning for me the rest of the semester and into the next. 

Because I kept winning, the instructor discontinued the voting, later saying in a conference at the end of the semester that it seemed like my classmates had grown tired of my poems. And maybe he was right.  That first semester in my MFA program, I was already doing the things poets do, publishing and entering contests and shopping around that first crude version of the book. I was also a few years older than my peers, it being my second rodeo of grad school with a small gap between. It got worse before it got better. By the spring, things were so vicious I carried a printed-out copy of a really nice journal acceptance letter to stop myself from bursting into tears. 

The poem in question, "fugue," (which you can also read here at Tryst) is not really the best poem in the now long out-of-print THE FEVER ALMANAC, where it later appeared, but it is quite appropo to the season. so I chose to record that one specifically tonight on my little microphone before making a short video for it. It's also not the worst (incidentally that poem before it in Tryst was so bad it didn't even make the book.). It was strange to hear my voice move over the words--so familiar and yet strangely unfamiliar. There are a few creepier poems in that first book, including one about Bloody Mary legends. Others about ghosts and rundown hotels and flooded subways. There were times when I liked that fledgling first book less, but in recent years I look at it far more generously given everything that has come after it. There are even a couple of poems late in the book like "sangria," "night drive" and "predictions" that I really love. 

Over the years the poems have piled up and piled on. And of course, they've gotten darker, if that's possible. I took the opportunity to read aloud just to myself, but not record, several other pieces in that book and maybe I should do it more often. Maybe just as a way to connect with that past writerly self to keep going. I read some pieces and maybe get just a little charge like I did back when it was all shiny and new. Not huge, but maybe just enough....

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

fall and memory

Time bends and flips back on itself sometimes.  In Lincoln Park where I once lived, it's always fall. I am always 23 or 24 and taking grad school classes in Victorian novels and middle English romances. The leaves are always red or yellow or brown. Always on the ground or just barely hanging on. The past couple movie outings have taken us to theaters in that neighborhood and every time it's like a trip back into memory, especially this time of year. 

Different neighborhoods have different smells and sometimes its hard to discern what makes each unique. While obviously, certain places smell different in different seasons, LP always smells like crushed leaves, Italian food, and peppermint tea for me. That first fall, I remember waiting anxiously for my excess student loan funds check to come in the mail, mostly so I could buy food, but also so I could buy books, which I would read, prone on my single mattress, later a futon, devouring novels and bagels with cream cheese and tea while the city turned to fall for the first time outside my windows.  When my sister was visiting, we'd walk around the streets at night and look in all the wealthy people's windows..the huge greystones and brick 3 stories lined with Pottery Barn furniture and big screen TVs.  Meanwhile, until the following spring, I watched what few channels and a handful of VHSes on a small black and white screen in an apartment that barely fit a bed and my bathroom was technically in the closet. 

In a year, I would be writing poems hardcore and sending out what would garner my first acceptance. In two years, I would have my degree and be back in Rockford, working at the elementary school. But that first fall, I floated a little more aimlessly. By spring, it would be obvious to me teaching was not for me, but then I still thought it was a possibility. I'd moved in over the summer, working briefly at a Starbucks before just kind of floating on credit cards till the semester started.  

While that neighborhood is far too bougie and expensive to live in as anything but a student, its still one of my favorites for its tree-lined streets and tiny parks. Edgewater is bigger, newer, and the trees, a lot of them re-planted in the past three decades due to the ash-borers that terrorized the neighborhood. It's also cheaper and closer to the water.  But the larger trees in Lincoln Park still stand and drop their leaves every fall on luxury SUV's and the occasional brick alleyway. In LP, it still smells and looks like 1997...

Monday, October 09, 2023

glimmers and shadows

When I have dreams about poetry, about BEING a poet, they are never good ones. While I once embraced all the work of writing and getting one's work out there, engaging in communities that were new to me, and embracing opportunities (or trying to), I have a hard time finding a path back to the excitement of my late 20s, even though what I am writing, the meat and potatoes of it, feels stronger than ever. And that may, in fact, be the rub. When I was a baby poet and gained any sort of ground, I was simply so grateful to be invited to tables and conversations. By this far down the road, nothing is new, not even me or my work. And while it's probably better than I was, the shine has long worn off. I've seen too much of the ugly underside of po-biz, the patterns and backscratching that calls itself community but disappears once the deal is settled and the ink is dry. Have seen authors behave terribly to each other. Have confirmed that what I thought was an uphill path is probably blocked and bottlenecked and maybe isn't even a path at all but a roughly wrought patch of mud we mistook for a path. 

So the poems still come, and when they do, they do not usually disappoint, but the why becomes foggy and too obscured. I will wake up and vow to become a different kind of writer altogether--a screenwriter penning horror movies, my other great love, or a novelist, making real the stories that exist nowhere but my head. I say I will write memoir or design books. Film criticism or play scripts. Anything but this medium I chose wholeheartedly when I was 24 and that has guided the course of my creative life. It's like soul mate you know is going to be a nightmare down the road, that its attentions are fickle and filled with emotional booby traps. You know it would burn you to the ground before you stop it. 

And yet, there are days when you get a crumb. A glimmer in mostly sand. Yesterday, it was an acceptance from a round of summer submissions--a journal I'd been in before but a favorite. There are several still lingering but the writing gods and odds dictate they will likely be rejections if those responses come back at all.  I knew going in, even when I was 19 and shuttling off work, that rejection was part of the game. But somehow I suspected things would get easier, not harder down the line. It's only gotten harder, and as time goes on, even with a steady little diet of successes, the monster called hunger is at the door. 

Many writers do a good job of separating the creative process from audience and engagement entirely. This has never been my way. And perhaps that is the problem. I do not know a way out any more than I know a way in. 

Thursday, October 05, 2023

scary little girls

Last night, we got to see the original The Exorcist on the big screen for its 50 anniversary in preparation for viewing the latest on in a couple of weeks out at the drive-in. I hadn't seen the original probably since I was in high school, so there were things I noticed now that I would never have noticed then, including that the first approach, even before counseling and psychiatry was to put the poor girl on ritalin as a way to address behavior problems, which then spiraled through spinal taps and medical interventions toward its inevitable conclusion. What to do with a misbehaving child, demons or no..a point emphasized by Father Damien's mention that exorcisms were no longer the norm given all we know about the human body and mind coming out of a much darker age when psychological and physical disorders like bipolar and epilepsy were labeled demon interference.

Exorcism and possession movies are much less my jam than other types of horror, perhaps because I am not really religious enough to fear things like demons and the devil. While any number of ghosts and monsters can still set my heart racing, I have little patience for many of the demonic possession movies and all the Catholic mechanization that usually accompanies them. But they are an intriguing genre as a whole. 

I also couldn't help noticing the idea of single motherhood that sometimes accompanies horror.  I would have pegged certain kinds of movies that cast it in unfavorable light as 80s things, but in The Exorcist, you have not only a single mother, but a single wealthy mother in the entertainment industry. One whose child is mostly looked after by assistants and butlers and for which things go horribly awry. That feminist age trope or idea that while you are bringing home the bread and in the workplace, your children are getting up to all sorts of horrifying activity (hello, Satanic Panic.)

Sunday, October 01, 2023

notes & things | 10/1/2023

This weekend included a jaunt out to Rockford--old movies and terrible new ones, some edibles, and a mini-golf outing under a giant moon (at which point I think I overestimated my mini-golfing abilities on said edibles and wound up just hanging more than playing.) The hotel had a beautiful view of the highway and the steady thrum of trucks, but it had a strangely comfortable bed for a sufficient bargain. We have somehow reached October, though the temperatures and clear, bright sun tell a different tale the past few days. 

I am working on plotting "31 Days of Halloween" social media content tonight for a good chunk of the month. I'll be sharing bits and pieces both old and new from my spookier work (which is of course most of it--either intentionally or no.) Some new bits will be coming this way in terms of more video poems, some spooky reels and artwork some new publications, at least one new zine, and maybe some news regarding upcoming things on the way. While a couple new poems have wriggled their way out of the ground, I am still not back to full productivity, but October can sometimes be a fruitful time even with the landscape dying off and folding in for the winter. November is never particularly kind to me, as the last few years have attested, so I am determined to enjoy thoroughly what comes before it.

October does mean horror movies in abundance and we're starting tonight with one of my favorites that J has not seen--Trick R Treat. Later this week, we hope to catch a 50-year anniversary screening of The Exorcist  which seems chronologically impossible, and yet there it is. We'll be seeing the new one at the drive-in mid-month, when we plan to scrounge up enough blankets and hot beverages to weather the double feature, which includes the original Nightmare on Elm Street--a movie I saw first on VHS as a kid. There are also ballets and new releases, and a haunted soiree set for Halloween that I landed tickets for last week at the Museum of Surgical Science to round out the end of the month. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

notes & things | 9/25/2023

It's been a whirl of an early fall week which included the new peony tattoo on my shoulder, impromptu afternoon movie dates, and a brief trip to meet some friends in Indiana for what was possibly the most Indiana karaoke bar experience (smoking still somehow allowed, lots of country songs, lots of strange characters). Then, on Saturday, a journey out to the drive-in in McHenry to see back-to-back Wayne's World and sequel preceded by a Queen cover band. Once again, the drive-in is all nostalgia and childhood, and it was a hoot to see kids now rocking out to Queen songs and so excited by movies that were likely part of their parent's childhood. I kept thinking that maybe for them, like with me, the memory of drive-in nights will be like a bit of shattered glass you'll turn over and over decades from now when parents are gone and memory is really all you have. 

Today, riding back to the city, and drinking my first PSL of the year, I noticed some trees were somehow bright yellow amid still plentiful green and remembered we had crossed that official threshold into autumn--the equinox. That early dark creeps in slowly, but starts racing toward December about now, helped along by the time change that will come in early November.  I have not started my fall decorating or swapped out my summer clothes for cooler weather but possibly this week I will do both. 

This week is less thick with writing than last week with lots of deadlines and the first draft of the poetry study guide trial assignment. In addition to the usual lifestyle and design stuff, it was really nice to spend some time, deep diving on a single poem (Sharon Olds' "Rite of Passage)" and putting all that literary analysis education I paid so much for to good use. There were chapbook orders and layouts on new books that will be coming. There was one new poem in the cryptozoology series, but it feels halting and stiff like I haven't written enough in the past couple of months, poetry-wise, sort of like clearing your throat after a long silence. 

Friday, September 15, 2023


I talk often of those sorts of tether points that connect certain eras or memories of our lives with others. My past self, 19, and just beginning to send out poems and my current self, also sending poems out in submission and the vast ocean of time between them.  Or my 90s self, listening to certain songs or doing certain things and suddenly there is the same song and I am doing much the same thing, just 30 odd years later. At the drive-in last week, there was a string between my current self waiting excitedly for the movie and my child self waiting for the sun to set in the back of the car while my parents sat in the front. 

The other afternoon, as I finished up a slew of design articles for House Digest, I suddenly pictured my high school and college self poring over magazines, some fashion and beauty but many design and decor, passed off from my aunt who had subscriptions to almost everything.  How that girl would never imagine that I would be writing similar things now to make a living (albeit for the internet, a technological wonder that I would not even be able to conceive, let alone foresee if it was the late 80s or very early 90s.) Very often, spending a whole lot of time flipping through pages on my bed, drinking endless cups of tea, and ripping out the clippings (ala a very primitive Pinterest board) that I would tuck in one of two scrapbooks I kept (one for fashion, one for the home I would eventually have.)  

People always talk about our lives and how we spent our time pre-internet. How we went and did BIG things and lived LIVES out in the world and how children played long and imaginative hours outdoors until the streetlights came on.  The last one, I very much remember, but I'm pretty sure my adolescent years, barring roller skating, occasional movies, slumber parties, and mall outings, were spent mostly alone in my room listening to my collection of cassette tapes, reading trashy novels, and flipping through magazines. Or maybe, sometimes life was big, but sometimes it was also small. I did things out in the world like go to classes and play rehearsals and peruse bookstores, but I also lived a quiet little introvert life not all that different than I do now, just with better technology. You are apt to find me, in spare moments I am not working or writing or making things with headphones on scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram.  Somehow there is a tether between that girl and the person I am now. 

There is probably a string connecting this blog and me writing it to 19-year-old me scribbling in the marbled composition books I kept as journals. Or a string between my late-night binges of design shows once my parents went to bed and my current article research, which often includes many of those same variety of HGTV shows and clips. The same girl who knew that she was good at writing from an early age and the girl who makes a living at it now. Or the girl writing bad poems about flamingos and the woman writing at least decent poems about cryptozoology. 

The things form a web, a structure and framework that somehow holds everything in place even while time seems to threaten to capsize us.

Monday, September 11, 2023

time capsule

Saturday, we drove out into the hinterlands of Illinois to McHenry to see a double feature at the drive-in that included two of my childhood/adolescent faves--Labyrinth and Neverending Story. The entire visit felt surreal, only in that I have not really been to the drive-in since the early 90s. The last drive-in theater in Rockford, which had been slated for years to be demolished, briefly reopened for a couple seasons while working out the particulars of the giant multiplex built in its place. I went a few times with both high school friends and my parents when I was in college, but the bulk of my drive-in experiences were much earlier in the 80s. 

While my dad wasn't keen on movie-going in indoor theaters, many weekends we'd be found at one of the dwindling number of drive-ins that still dotted the area around my hometown, all of which eventually shuttered (or were destroyed by tornados.) You can still find an abandoned one in the southeast corner of the Rockford environs, its' lot still unsold and the frame of its mammoth screen peeking through the trees that fully grew up around it in the intervening 40 years since it closed. For a while, urban explorers would sneak onto the grounds and take pictures of the crumbling concession stand and projection booth, though I don't know if they are still there now. Every once in a while, someone tries to reopen a drive-in, there or elsewhere and never gets zoning approval to make it happen due to neighborhood complaints and the ever-present potential for high traffic and crime.

Each summer in the late 70s / early 80s, we would load into the car, the four of us, with grocery store paper bags of popcorn my mom made at home, canned sodas tucked in a cooler, and candy to avoid concession stand prices. We saw many things, including a viewing of The Shining when I was six, which I kept falling asleep in parts, but left wholly changed and in love with horror. We saw other things, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. Coal Miner's Daughter, the Loretta Lynn biopictraumatized me far more than any horror movie ever would with the idea that people, in this case Patsy Cline, could somehow die in plane crashes. 

When we pulled up to the ticket booth on Saturday, it was like stepping through a portal in time.  The McHenry Drive-In opened in the 1950s' and much of it is probably not all that different.  The picture and quality are better and the sound is more advanced surely, but the poles with the speakers still dot the gravel lot and look much the same (though you can use your radio as well.)  The low-slung concession stand and projection booth looked the same as they surely did then, albeit decorated with modern murals now. In a world where everything constantly changes, and even entire city blocks are raised and rebuilt in a year, where most of the remnants of childhood have been snatched away and replaced with new things, this was very much the same. 

We went early to get a good spot and brought along sandwiches and chips and ate while we waited for dark, augmented during the intermission with popcorn peppered with M&Ms.  If I weren't certain I was a middle-aged woman, I could easily have slipped back to being six years old and expectantly waiting for the film to start. Which was especially not that far of a reach since the movies were from the 80s as well.  Labyrinth is a frequent annual rewatch fave, but I hadn't seen Neverending Story since I was a kid. Despite what they call the dwindling audiences and extinction of drive-ins, the lot was crowded, just under completely full. Currently, it's pretty much the only one left in northern Illinois. It was very late when we drove back and the roads were dark and curvy til we got back to the expressway that shuttled us back to Chicago, but we'll definitely be going again. 

On Sunday night, we also caught the 40th-anniversary screening of Christine here in the city, after having caught They Live last week with a couple other horror remastered versions coming in October. While I read the book as a teen and surely saw the movie when I was young, there was much I forgot about, so it was like watching a brand-new movie at points on the big screen. 


Thursday, September 07, 2023

villains | video poems

All this month, I will be unveiling new video poems from VILLAINS...see new ones on Instagram and Youtube...

beginnings and endings

Yesterday signaled the first day of classes where I used to work, and like last year, my divorce from the usual rhythms and wanes of the academic world feels strange. Last week, I woke up from a dream about the library--the kind where work was being piled on and on and no credit or compensation given--and it put me in a cranky funk all morning...perhaps only angry at myself for letting myself endure much of it and other nonsense leveled over the years (including trying to make good things happen -good things that required no funding and only my own labor--and still were met with nonsense and resistance.) How good work only led to more work. The carrots that were dangled, maybe not intentionally, but always out of reach. Things that I took on willingly but that in proving my capabilities, only meant shouldering more. The stupid hope I had that it would all be righted and remedied and just hang on a second longer. I have been free of it a year and a half and I still occasionally am like "Wow, what the fuck was that?" 

Today I got the yearly contract renewal on the lessons gig, and though I take on less since my time is more occupied by other writing jobs, I still occasionally grab something in the queue, this past week on Egyptian dance and a Brueghel painting  I was thinking how stressed and angry I was two years ago this time. How I'd spend my free time pouring over Indeed listings and thinking about leaving, but also scared to. That I couldn't make it happen. that without a full-time job, everything would fall apart.  Instead, I pretty much changed everything for the better.

As we come into fall, the cicadas are loud outside and constant from the afternoon into the evenings. As soon as the heat clears, it will no doubt feel more like autumn and I'll probably feel that same excitement that occurs every year, beholden to the academic calendar or not. That new seriousness in new projects and maybe a push to finish others. Every year around now for decades, my parent's house would be overflowing with harvested tomatoes. On the deck, piled on tables and counters and in baskets. A few days in the overheated kitchen and my mother would turn them into jars of salsa.  I feel like I am still in my gathering phase when it comes to new poems--piling them in a basket and hoping for cooler weather and a greater sense of urgency. 

Despite not working on the urban crypto poems that have been languishing most of July and August, a tiny nut of a kernel has formed in my brain about a new fall project that is maybe less poetry than essay or maybe something else entirely.