Wednesday, March 22, 2023

evolution & revolution: machines vs. creatives


My social media feed these days is littered with AI woefulness and warnings, as well as people's forays into either just playing around with it or using it to help them do whatever it is that they do. Also articles about the revolutionariness of it, likening it to the printing press or the internet in terms of global, holistic changes that will transform our lives, not just in work, but in play and leisure.

While I think chatbots and AI art generators are interesting, I am not yet sold that they are anything but the latest novelty The thing you've realized after being on this planet nearly a half century is that lots of things come and lots of things go.  I can see it being revolutionary if it has real-world applications in people's lives in the way, say FB or Twitter, did. The way social media has embedded itself in the need for constant content and communication, something which has been satisfied throughout history, albeit in slower or faster ways. Plays and dramas led to novels led to movies led to television led to streaming and Youtube and Tik Tok. Letters led to telegraphs led to telephones led to e-mails led to texts. The content one would get by visiting a museum or flipping through a magazine became the content you can now get in your palm. 

They succeeded because there was a need. Maybe not a need we even knew about. Having seen technology evolve and change since the 80s I feel a certain sense of wonder at its scope and escalation.  The cassette tapes I would buy with birthday money and the videos I would wait to catch on early MTV are now at my fingertips all the time.  The movies I could only see in a theater or after a video store trip I can now watch in seconds.  Pretty much everything (if I am willing to pay for it.)  The need for content, for stories and visuals and human expression--those things are made better and more accessible by technology. Same with communication, developing so fast it makes your head spin if you ever used a rotary phone.  The same with developments that offered speed and efficiency. Online reservations and bill paying or banking. Online shopping satisfied a need so that we could spend the time we'd normally spend rolling through stores doing other things (apparently that thing was maybe watching Youtube thrifting vids while you wait for Amazon Fresh to deliver, but I dig it.)

I've also seen a lot of fools gold. Things that seemed cool, but didn't have practical applications. Simulation games we were told would be the next big thing in education,. Books pushed out by kindles. Google Plus. Cryptocurrency and the Metaverse. They failed to hit a certain amount of momentum among most of the population because they weren't particularly useful at satisfying a need unless maybe you were a gamer or dudebro trying to get rich.  Kind of like the avatar designers everyone was using circa 2024 and internet fads that fade within a few month. Even the AI selfie generators crested and died as a novelty a couple months back. People used them, said "oh yeah, cool!" and went back to doing whatever they were doing.

For designers, for content writers, maybe these things are stickier and more freight with danger of replacement. But for most people, even the technologically savvy ones, they'll be onto the next thing when it comes around whatever that is, the next novelty, unless like cell phones or social media, it can somehow become necessary and useful to living a better life. Unless its sticky somehow. I've no doubt, on larger scale, AI will solve problems our tiny human brains cannot.  I'm not sure though that people will find applications, maybe beyond cheating on college essays, that really make it worth it (and even this can be remedied by better assignments.). Also accuracy is still not something you can completely depend on,.Though you could say the same about humans (and since many of these programs draw from collective knowledge, we all know how that goes.)

As for artists, as for creative writers, so much of artistic endeavor is about ego and the self. I mentioned in an earlier post the sci fi journal inundated by AI stories, and I suppose there will always be charlatans, especially when money is involved, or maybe "fame" whatever that is,. People who want the praise without doing the work. People who have no voice or creativity and somehow want the attention of being a creative. Or hell, even creative people who lack time to make their visions real without the assistance of something that will do the hard parts for them (see below). Except no. It's hollow and I doubt you will actually get those feelings you want. Will not get the work you want that satisfies those desires. Even with the shortcuts. And even then the shortcuts may not always render what you want. Case in point, in the midst of working on the sea monster collages, I knew exactly what I wanted, but wasn't sure how to make it work. I was going to see if I could get the robots to make it for me   I'd had some interesting generative pieces that spawned collages an gave me pastable bits with an earlier series.  I must have typed variations on the phrase "dress made of sea" or skirt made of water"  3-4 times before giving up.  Lots of seas, lots of skirts, but not even close to what I wanted.  


Saturday, March 18, 2023

notes & things | 3/18/2023


This week has been chilly weather on the cusp of spring and a feeling of being rattled by randomness, which is part of general anxiety and also uneasy feelings that bloom when things seem on the surface to be going entirely well.  Monday was a strange day, which included the news from another high school friend that my best friend from age 14-18 had died last month. I would occasionally interact with her on facebook but hadn't really been close to in the intervening years due to distances and changing kinds of lives. I vaguely recalled some discussion of health problems in the fall, before my own world slipped of its axis and I spent less time on social media for a while, but apparently the facebook algorithm, while it shows me all sorts of non-important things daily, neglected me to show that she had slipped away, including numerous memorial posts on her page. It was also her birthday on Monday, which is probably how our other friend made the discovery when she went to wish her a happy one. 

My parents were often obsessed with obits, first in daily papers and then online. My dad's weekly call usually included the sentence I saw XYZ died with a name I wasn't familiar with, some schoolmate or past co-worker, which at his advanced age, happened on the regular as people reached their late 70s and 80s. My mom jokingly liked to say all along she liked to check to make sure she was still alive because she felt dead sometimes due to various aches and ailments. It seems impossible that as I get older, this becomes a thing. not checking the obits, but watching people your age die around you more and more. I am not quite ready for that.

In my 20s and 30s it happened occasionally, usually drugs or suicide and occasional tragic accidents. But the increase will steadily be not just these anomalies, but cancers and illness and heart problems that takes all of us out. It will become routine and less shocking, but I still don't see how.  Even covid, which skirted the fringes of my family and social groups, taking out parents and grandparents, seemed a freakish set of circumstances, and not just the regular effects of time and decay.  In fact, it had been my mother that alerted me that the friend in question's parents had died, her mother while we were in college, her dad in more recent years. She had gone on to have three daughters in their pre-teen and teen years, and had actually somehow become an environmental educator just as she'd been planning in high school (and her ravenous interest in science had been one of the factors that fueled my own.) A few months back, when cleaning out my dad's house, we'd stumbled on a box with letters I'd received in college from high school friends, including a stack from her, in the years before e-mail. I thought about keeping them, maybe taking some pics and tagging the friends on socials, but wound up just tossing them in all the overwhelm.

As for grief, full-bodied, it lives in the house of my mind, but I spend a lot of time creaking open doors and slamming them shut, particularly before I fall asleep, which lets all the anxiety monsters out to play. There may be a time when I am not so quick to shut the doors, to sit in those rooms,.but I don't know. Some have been locked tight for years. At the same time I sometimes also have trouble falling asleep because I am excited about things, about the next day and what I get to do or write about or make, so it's good and bad in equal measure. Another friend is having a hard time due to aging parent dementia fragility stuff and I haven't even the slightest clue what to say or how to help her beyond sending random dumb texts to make sure she's alright. Things like my own grief and other people's grief makes me feel like the world never quite prepared me to be a real human.  Otherwise, I am just waiting for proper spring and April and another birthday. I occasionally kinda sorta forget how old I am and am startled when I realize it again. When I turn 49, it will actually be the beginning of my fifth decade alive--a whole half-century. Most days I feel like I hit peak adulting at 26 or 27 and am still there. Sometimes all of it seems so heavy I need to take a nap. Like one of those goats that frightens easily and faints.

So I guess the theme of the week is that I am old as hell, and everyone is probably dying, even me somehow, but there are strange new collages and new poems, Italian sodas and fun slasher movie dates. Sweet, needy cats I spend my days with and new dresses and new paper goods in the shop.  Plus getting to make money writing about feng shui and kitchen knives and Renaissance scientists. And maybe if you fill life with enough of these things, enough to distract you, you'll forget that hourglass in the corner that eventually runs out with a trickle. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

process and artifact

I realized the other day that I am coming up on 20 years of blogging--since 2005 here, and before that on the now defunct Xanga.  In the summer of 2003, I was just familiarizing myself with the word "blog" at all and distinctly remember learning about these strange online journals in late 2002 through someone I had met on a dating app who wrote one about random miscellany. A fiction writer with whom I had some nice flirty back and forth but ultimately nothing came of it. But a year later, I had claimed my own. I had already started creating very basic websites, including my own and a lit journal, but this more social and immediate medium appealed, largely because it allowed interaction and conversation. I think Myspace had already surfaced, but facebook was just a twinkle in Zuckerberg's eye. Blogs, especially as more poets started using them, became the place to be, especially after I moved out of the more closed community of Xanga and to blogger.  2005-2007 were kinda the golden days of poetry blogs.

Those Xanga blogs were mostly just writerly news and an extension of the print journals I had been keeping since adolescence. I don't think I had much deep-literary content, and certainly not the process-oriented posts I try to write now. There were memes and surveys done in rounds, publication news, maybe occasional opinions on po-biz. Somewhere, I have the downloads of that first online journal in my dropbox, salvaged when they were shutting down, but I've never looked them over. Maybe I never will. It still seemed important to save them somehow before they vanished. 

I was recently watching a vlogger who mentioned keeping extensive paper journals, but never actually going back in and looking at them again.  It was especially strange for me, since I am consulting my blog all the time. Sometimes it's just a temporal thing, trying to figure out when something was happening.  Other times, I just scroll through certain periods out of curiosity, to remember what was happening at any given time and to remember things I would otherwise forget. Occasionally, I even haul out my old Mead composition books, though they are a special kind of mess.  Even still, they are a record. A chronicle. 

On one hand, I understand the need to commit to the process. To the journey. The experience of getting things out as a purging or meditative activity. I tend to use the blog as a way of thinking out loud about things mostly, but also as a record. Also to foster discussions, even if they are only just for my own ears and typing fingers.

I took rather easily to pubic blogging, and for a while, was determined to keep a print journal less for other's eyes, but really, they wound up being similar. I decided that if there were posts I didn't want to share, I'd just make them private, but even this I never really took advantage of.  In some ways, making my thoughts coherent enough for other eyes, for whoever may be reading this, helps me be more concise and thoughtful of what I am saying, and by extension, thinking. I am probably far more personal in my poems than I am here, so maybe that is part of it.  Private is a whole other thing when you use it as fodder for art. 

I occasionally check the back-end stats and it does seem there is traffic, more than I would have guessed, but even writing here, like social media these days, seems like shouting into a void. So in some ways, it almost is like writing for a limited number of eyes.  Possibly only mine and the few people who still read poetry blogs. But even if no one reads it, it's still a record and a conversation. Both process and artifact.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

serial offenders

I was thinking recently about my love of series both in writing and art, and this has always pretty much been the case, barring a couple years in the beginning of writing seriously with an aim at making a "career" of it. There are the type of poets who can write a single perfect poem about something and just be done with it and move on. They said what they said and are onto something else. I am much more obsessive. I have to approach things from a few different sides at a few different times. Kick the tires, stand back. Form arguments and contradictions, tell my own lies and call myself out on them. Try going another way entirely only to get back to where I started. Obsess for a couple weeks or months or sometimes, years, particularly if there are words involved.  Not just within a single project, but hell, even years later, circling back around to things, dredging up obsessions and passions. (This may be why there are the broken carcasses of mermaids and mothers everywhere you look.)

It's especially true with art, which usually involves choosing a subject matter, however loosely, and then building a visual scheme around it. Sometimes there are false starts, and pieces that don't pull their weight and get cast aside.  Poems are probably similar, a subject matter (though not always clear at the beginning), loosely centered and then the pieces spinning haphazardly around it.  A few poems in and I start to iron out a form and a scope--things like the shape of the stanzas, which can change as I go. Some poems start out as prose and wind up in lines.  Some, longer lines, then cut shorter (this was true with granata.) Once I have that more difficult dozen or so, I begin to see the shape of what I am trying to make. The getting there is sometimes the hardest and most perilous part.

Once I get there, the project builds momentum and becomes much easier to form. It actually becomes more difficult to not write it. It continues as long as I feel I have more to say and as long as my interest holds, and usually comes swiftly if I am keeping up with my daily writing practice well. For other things, I've been writing about slasher movies and thinking about franchises, how each new incarnation is a new approach, better or worse. A chance to approach something at a new angle. To fuck it up or make it better. It's also why I love anthology series so much, things strung together subtly and moving toward a greater idea or point.

Often the length varies. hotter, for example, I knew would be short, not only because it was intended to be just a little palate cleanser after writing about mythology all last summer, but also because it was interrupted by several months not writing in the fall and winter after my dad's death. I decided to release it on V-Day, so of course decided 14 seemed like a good number to finish it out. granata, just under 40 pages, on the other hand, hovers still possibly unfinished, possibly finished, we'll see when I go back in for more in-depth edits and start sending more of it out possibly. This fledgling thing I am at work on now, the as yet untitled thing I've focused on since February for the past two months, still remains around 20, though I feel like there is more there I'd like to round out over the next few weeks before I turn my attention to something new for NAPWRIMO (just what I'm not sure.) If it's not finished then, I'll probably return to it in may or sneak out some April daily poems in its confines.

Today I was playing around with collage stuff idly waiting for a pitch to be approved by an editor, and randomly made the above bit of weirdness. I am pretty sure she's not a sea monster like the others I've been working on recently, but she may be something entirely new. 

A beginning...


Monday, March 13, 2023

ruinporn: on books and birth

vision / inspo board

I feel sometimes like putting together a full-length book happens for me in one of three ways.  The first was probably the most maddening, which was writing a whole bunch of poems that may or may not be tangentially related, then trying to make them make sense together, an approach often done by writers when they put their first collections together (or at least how I did.) The second, which I guess could be called project approach is to know what you are writing about before you start--either in detail or vaguely with the whole book written with those goals in mind  My third and fourth books were like this--one being my thesis manuscript for my MFA (girl show), the other a narrative experiment (the shared property of water and stars.)

It's the third one I use most often and its less really about intention, but more about constellations of poems and series and ideas that begin to come together.  Right now, there are actually three of these, or maybe more like two and half because one is a little slippery and may amount to nothing. I tend to write and publish things in smaller increments as chaps and zines or other bookish things, but often they exist in a vacuum at the time I'm working on them. Only later do they start to pair up and speak to each other. Or maybe they always were and I just get better at listening. It usually takes one series that makes it all make sense and I feel like I may have crossed that line with some new poems this week that make some of the other more recent projects hang together and solidify it under a single title. That title above was rattling around in my brain since the fall when I was working on other things but suddenly things started to make sense with the latest series (which still doesn't have a title, but the individual poems mostly do.) They may form a nice book with some other recent series of poems (particularly memoir in bone & ink and maybe unreal city (which I initially had earmarked for elsewhere, so we'll see.). 

Sometimes projects overlap and move back and forth between potential books. My Walter Potter poems were like this. I wrote them with the intention to put them amongst automagic's Victorian feel, but thematically they wound up better suited for animal, vegetable. monster. I have several series that seem as yet to have no identifiable home, that is, until something new somehow draws them into orbit. 

ruinporn is actually very much about decay, about aftermath, and maybe it's actually a fitting follow-up to collapsologies, which besides the Persephone book, is the last full-length I completed. It was just one of several possible titles for the next book project I was kicking around, but this weekend, it just seemed inordinately right for the work I've been penning lately, especially since some of those take their inspo from other kinds of decor writing I've been doing the past year. I have not yet put them all in single manuscript yet, which is probably what I will do when I finish these new pieces in a couple months. Somehow the books don't feel as real until you have a stack of white pages in front of you. 

(If you are interested in seeing a peek of the newest unreleased poems that form the spine of this book, you can check out my Patreon or my Tiny Letter, The Paper Boat, where I've been sharing some on occasion...)

Saturday, March 11, 2023

of evil


Earlier this week, I got a little distracted in my collage experiments with sea monsters and decided to play with dissatisfied-looking 18th-century women in paintings, which are a lot of fun...I liked them so much I decided to order some postcards for this shop, so keep an eye out for those in the next couple of weeks..

Friday, March 10, 2023

fomo, romo, and awp

On the return trip from Seattle, 2014 w/ Carol Guess and Kristina Marie Darling's X Marks the Dress

It's that time again of the year when some city or another is overrun with writers. They're everywhere, in the coffee shops, in the bars, standing on the street holding tote bags and thick stacks of books. When I realized it for the first time, there was this rush and the feeling that it legitimized my it was an actual profession for reals--like dentists or accountants or podiatrists. Not just unicorns or mermaids or ghosts who occasionally rattle typewriter keys. In that respect, it was always cool, and I remember my first in 2004.  I was in the first year of my MFA program, who was kindly footing the bill, and spent several days at the Palmer House wandering the book fair, which seemed huge and overwhelming but got even more so in subsequent years. I gawked at "famous" writers and went to really cool panels on e-poetry and novelists vs. poets, and small press publishing. I knew no one and nothing then and was wide-eyed and amazed. The next time I would go was in Atlanta in 2007, having in the meantime somehow started a fledgling little chapbook press and was sharing a table with another small full-length press. It was far bigger, and there was travel involved. And it was the first time I actually did an off-site reading. I didn't want to fly, so volunteered to take my parents, with my dad doing the driving, on my adventure and just paying for everything (not that AWP was especially lucrative that year, only that I had extra student loan money to fund it that semester) We stayed at a fancy hotel (two of them) across from the convention center with amazing views of Atlanta and ate every night at the same restaurant that had really good chicken pasta I loved. I met people I only knew online, and my publishers who had released my first book the autumn before, and drank in bars with Chicago poets I hardly ever saw here while my parents hung out at the hotel and had a great time. I didn't get to any panels that year and mostly hid behind my table, but did go home with lots of book fair spoils. 

Over the years, I caught others when they were in Chicago. 2009 when I shared a two-table span with two other presses and went to a few offsite readings. In 2012, when I didn't have a bookfair table, which had been getting steadily more expensive, but did host signings and an open studio at my space up the street, did some offsite readings, and participated in my first panel on chapbook publishing.  The first, and probably the last travel-AWP I participated was Seattle in 2014, which was great fun, but sometimes I look back and think how it was a lot of work, including a train trip that on the return went seriously awry (an avalanche and 19 hour delay). Also, how ridiculous I was toting about 50 pounds of books across the country all by myself, two and a half days in the train.  I had a great time though, was happily drunk through most of it, staying with Kelly Boyker in her amazing house. Especially this year, with her gone, it makes me a little sadly avoidant of other people's Seattle AWP pics, since so much of my experience there was with her--the readings, the panel we did, brunches and showing us around Seattle, carting us all back and forth to the convention center. I did actually sell a lot of books and thankfully went home with a much lighter suitcase, but even staying with another writer, it was expensive. While we'd paid for tables months before, I had depleted completely the shop funds that hadn't been eaten by studio rent that month buying lots of supplies for stocking more books in advance and paying for my train tickets, which left everything else to my day job paycheck, which was abysmal and usually hanging on by a nail by the end of the month.  I remember when I arrived in Seattle everyone was surprised I took a bus with my enormous suitcase to the house from the train station in a strange city, thinking I was just hardcore and fearless. Really, I had about $15 in my bank account mid-week and was waiting to make cash at the book fair the next day to finance the rest of my stay until I got paid on Friday (and even most of that was going to be rent and then some.). 

In the years since, I sometimes made initial plans to go--to Minneapolis, to Tampa, but the plans fell through due to money woes--as in maybe I could swing it, but going would have put me in serious financial peril. Because chiefly, my biggest problem with AWP is money, for member participants, for panelists, for book fair tables. Every year, higher and higher.  I get that largely many people are funded by programs, which makes it similar to most professional conventions I suppose. (ALA is the same). You pay to play, and at AWP you pay A LOT to be a part of that party..I just took a loss on my share of the Minneapolis table fee because I couldn't afford the trip and hotel to get there as we got closer. For Tampa, I was planning to just do an off-site book fair and readings, no actual conference. This would have saved some cash, but even travel is too much to spend for someone living paycheck to paycheck, (which I did and still pretty much do, though things are a little better freelancing than they were before.) I'd also just lost my mother and was white-knuckling it mental-healthwise through that winter, so I gave myself a break and canceled the hotel room I'd booked the previous fall.

Most years, I watch from afar and feel like I am missing out. that everyone is getting to hang out with people I'd love to hang out with, the feeling that THIS is where it is all happening. That everyone is in one place, which is of course, deceptive.  Most people can't go for the same reasons I can't. Many writers give no shits about AWP.  This year,  there is also a real feeling of relief to NOT be there. It's a lot of work to be only one person lugging books and manning tables, organizing events,  and orchestrating travel plans, even if you can afford them.  It's also just a whole lot for this frightened little introvert heart to handle. I don't think I am up for it. Or maybe I am choosing to not be up for it. .Maybe this is evidence of new boundaries and trying to live a less stressful life and not be always throwing myself enthusiastically into things that are ridiculous when I look back on them.  I've also learned that I don't travel well at all.  For one, I don't want to or like it and it makes me anxious.  Kind of like a fine potato salad. This is true of everything but maybe occasional weekend car trips where I don't venture too far from home.

I'm sure the conference will come back to Chicago at some point (though I heard somewhere they thought they'd outgrown the Hilton, so maybe McCormick? which just isn't the same.) I'll be tempted to do or share a table, but since I am more careful with money now that I don't have a guaranteed paycheck, I probably shouldn't. Really. Maybe something elsewhere for dgp authors would be cool, or just going to some offsite stuff. I love the idea of panels and book fairs, but I am really resistant to paying the price when that just means I am consenting to something that I'm, not sure I want to encourage. Something most of us can't really afford.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

sea monsters


A couple weeks ago, I was doing a lesson and a lot of research on sea monsters and historic sightings and somehow, some inspo leaked over into my collage exploits. I don't know how many of these there will be, but I will keep going until I run out of ideas I suppose. See the rest HERE...

Monday, March 06, 2023

notes & things | 3/6/2023

The past few days have been very March and blustery, with the wind howling outside my windows most of the day. Today, I wanted a little fresh air and quickly had to close the open window, as if mother nature was like not just yet. When I was a kid, at the first school I attended, inevitably one day in the spring, they would roll in the film projector (because I am that old) and play us "Winnie the Poo and the Blustery Day", and it was one of my favorite things about springtime--though I am not really a fan of Winnie the Poo in general. But there was something about the chaos of the sequence that I appreciated, growing up under the shadow of the midwest's tornados. 

Today was a lighter day, which I am not calling "bare minimum Mondays" but more like "low expectation Mondays." I've been busying myself with postcard designs, both packing up the Iphigenia series ones, restocking the bird artist set, and plotting some new ones. I took detailed notes for a lesson on a Hindu god shaped like a turtle who helped churn a sea of milk that granted immortality. I wrote more about slasher movies (we'll be seeing Scream 6 this weekend.).  I took a nap. In between, I busied myself with new ice trays and throw pillows and blackberry syrup for Italian sodas. 

The new poem project is moving much more smoothly now with less wind resistance. This always happens about 10 poems in. I am aiming for closer to 30 or 40, but I'm at around 15 now I don't hate, so that's something. On the horizon is what to do about COLLAPSOLOGIES, which I would love to get out this year. It's my 2020 dumpster fire of a book and I remember thinking that by the time it was published covid would be a distant memory. Not quite, and still things are a dumpster fire, but perhaps its time to put boots on it anyway and send it out into the world. Perhaps this summer. I forget how enjoyable some writings are when I don't look at them--the alternative facts poems are ones that I forget how much I love them. They are in there mixed with The Shining poems, the grimoire project, things specifically about the pandemic, and my Wasteland inspired series. It's about money and economics and unrest and only limitedly about the actual pandemic itself.

It's impossible, but I realized this week that we are closing in on three years of pandemic life. We actually went back onsite pretty early, so my tenure in isolation was not quite as long as others.  Still, the last day before the lockdowns started, I got coffee in the morning before work. Despite it being St Patrick's Weekend, S. Michigan Ave. was deserted in the way it often was on colder spring mornings. It actually had nothing to do with the virus yet, but there were two men in front of me lugging large bags filled with toilet paper, so much they were having trouble walking. It was a strange sight, but probably one that became increasingly familiar in the weeks after. I was mostly freaked out since I needed to get groceries but was waiting to get paid, and already there was this sense of urgency and scarcity. I was just recovering from the studio move the previous autumn, so things were already tight. The book probably comes a lot from those feelings and the uncertainty of a world tipped on its side while you were already in a leaky, unstable boat.  By noon, we'd been told to work from home starting the next Monday. 

It seems like a decade ago. It seems like a week ago. In between there was much political turmoil. the weeks we spent under curfew over that summer due to riots where we had to move around before 9pm. The fall where I was terrified and wore double masks. The relief (temporary) of vaccinations in the spring. The two years since that still seem unsteady and most people apathetic and still dying in larger numbers than is comfortable. The time I spent fearing that worst thing would be for my dad to get it and wind up on a ventilator (he did not, but still somehow wound up on a ventilator, only in this case, was not even as likely to get off it.)  It's all like a chunk of time that seems dreamlike, or slow nightmare like. And I imagine I am not alone.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

the rise of the machines

The internets seem abuzz these days with fears and embrace of AI apps. On one hand, the people who are struggling with lazy undergrads using them to cheat or lit mags struggling to deal with an influx of AI- generated stories (even more interesting, a SCI-FI mag).  In the news last week, a bizarre convo in which a an AI persona, Sydney, tried to convince a programmer to leave his wife. On the other, people who are using it to play around with as a creative exercise itself. It's fascinating and slightly horrific at the same time, especially as I see numerous ads--in social feeds, on youtube--as a content writer touting the ability of the technology to help you do your job for you. Increased profits, less time. Or actually DO your job, which, of course,  means you may no longer have one. If all we have between us and the bots is speed and word counts and productivity, humans are severely lacking.

My opinion is that if people are gonna cheat and be shady, they will always find ways to do it. And just because its a lot of output, that doesn't mean it's quality or interesting content. Many have cited the easily identifiable ticks of AI, which may become less as formulas and programs are finessed, but it's strange in a world where so much is based on the cult of personality that AI would seem at all appealing. 

It's the same whenever I see a headline or discussion about plagiarizing one author's work by another. Maybe its bigger in fiction, where the "I" is so much less important than in poetry. Poems are expressions of truth and individuality, and without those things, I don't think they fly very well.  But then experimentation with language is also cool--including experiments with google and translators and even something as analog as centos and blackout poetry that mix up and mess with existing texts. I think somewhere in all the AI stuff, there is a possibility for experimentation.  I have a project I might delve a bit more into this when the time comes--a series of poems about technology itself and strange 70s technogrotesque films I've been wanting to do, like a series of love letters between humans and computers. 

As for visual art, I have already played a bit with Canva's text-to-image generator, and while I've gotten some interesting results, including the above masterpiece (office+ victorian woman+cow+ duck), mostly I got a lot of fragments that while not my style (obviously) were somewhat useful in collages. You can tell the machine to make something, but it'd be hard to convey the things that make your art, well yours. I did a series of prompts about "antique women + deer" and got all sorts of things, about 4-5 of which were salvageable. I was able to cut and paste into other collages with my desired elements. Others were imperfect on their own, but were prompts for me to recreate them as I wanted. Others just spun off a single detail or a slice of the image.  Others just inspired by the subject matter and out of my own head. There were also a lot of weird faces and six-fingered hands, which is where AI falters a bit. As I started the sea monsters series this week, I ran a few prompts since I was already working in Canva but it wasn't quite giving me anything of use, so I'm going it alone.  It's a nice tool, perhaps. I may even have gotten a book cover option for granata that I played a bit with and added things. to and tweaked.

I imagine maybe it will be like this for writing once all the hoopla dies down. Profs will figure out ways to gear class writings toward more individualistic topics (which really should be better for students anyway.) Us content writers will hopefully still have jobs when the bots prove to be not only highly inaccurate sometimes but kind of boring and lacking in persona (and still take someone human to edit out the kinks.).  

As for the poets, considering the strange "poetic" end-rhymed results I've seen, ie, exactly what the internet somehow thinks a poem would be, I don't think we have anything to worry about.

Friday, March 03, 2023

where we plant our feet, part 2

Sometimes, rather than different lands or worlds where you plant your feet it feels more like different sides of your brain that take the wheel contentiously or cooperatively. I came to visual art much later than writing. A lot of it was just a lack of skills.  In elementary school, my art class projects were always highly innovative, but terribly unsound, as if my hands could never quite translate what my brain wanted. Lots of crooked pinch pots and bent wire sculptures, and I kind of gave up and moved on to other things that didn't require as much manual dexterity.  I am messy and inexact. Also clumsy and move too quickly.  My best friend is an artist who does her research, makes studies, and takes her time.  I am not that kind of artist. When I was a kid, my mom spent good portions of her day painting bisque figurines with tiny pots of paint.  On the rare occasion, she shared her precious supplies or allowed me to help, I was as messy, terrible, and impatient as expected.

By the time I'd graduated high school, I had plenty of other creative interests to spend my time pursuing, so the lack of the visual arts wasn't really missed. I liked art well enough, swooned over paintings and masterworks but recognized I was never going to be able to make them myself. I made little artist books and collages for my junior year English class and felt that first flicker of frisson between writing (other people's anyway) and art. In fact, made lots of collages cut from magazines but always saw them as image and inspo boards, never as artmaking. I saw with an artist's eyes, but lacked the artist's hands. I could paint a little, and practiced painting scene drops for theater productions, but they were large swathes of color and not much detail. My sister, who was one of those rare creatures, the art kid, was a mystery to me, though I once became obsessed with a book art project she brought home. Again, cool to pore over, but not something I felt like I could do or knew anything about. But I was weirdly obsessed, which is telling now.

By the time grad school had spit me out and I took my first job, I was solely fixated on writing. My second job, however, was at an art school library, so I was surrounded by visual artists and books full of art. I was also designing simple webpages and doing rudimentary graphic design for writing purposes that worked some visual skills--my first website, wicked alice. Our director had launched an art show for library staff and a co-worker encouraged me to submit something. At first I was flummoxed, not sure how to turn writing into art.  I was 29 and already set in my ways of seeing text and image as two very different things. Numerous discussions and urgings happened and the product was a text installation, crudely done, that involved poems, three of them from some of my current work then, on sheets of rice paper, wound around the walls, up the stairs, and around the gallery space. It was cool, later leading to a couple other similar projects involving muslin banners and card catalog cards hung from the ceiling.  I still felt like I needed something more.

At the same time, I was just starting my MFA program and looking to start the press. The next summer, I took a weekend workshop down at the Book and Paper Center on collage and it was like a match had been struck. Because collage mostly involved vision and paper and glue, this was something I could do, just as I'd pasted up inspo boards and collages about the Crucible in high school.  I was actually kind of good at it, or I thought so.  Like writing, I look at some of that work and cringe a little, but slowly I started exhibiting those, then later, an artist book collage project at a local gallery (the book of red, which was the first time I had a textual component inspire a visual thing.) it also coincided with more experience designing those first couple years of covers chapbooks and thinking about different manifestations for the printed word. Later, I added in practice and skills in printmaking, painting, and book sculptures and suddenly I was kind of an "artist." When people called me that it always shocked me a little. As if it happened by accident, which was very different than the dogged pursuit of writing my entire adult life. Suddenly there were gallery show invitations and requests for teaching workshops. I was taken aback, but delighted.  

In those years after my MFA,. I made a lot of stuff for my etsy shop that was purely visual when I was writing less-shadowboxes, assemblages, visual zines and paper goods designs. Also earrings and hair clips and other visually oriented things. I began to fund the other less lucrative publishing endeavors and the studio space by selling these things. Slowly, as the writing came back, and things changed again. The visual pieces weren't always accompanied by text, but sometimes those words collided, one birthing the other.  A set of collages would become a series of poems.  A chapbook of poems would spawn a cache of collages. I became a little more comfortable moving back and forth more effortlessly. Things would dovetail nicely when it came to book design, to other book-like things that weren't necessarily books, but boxes of letters and folios of ephemera. Eventually, it led to delving more into zines and zine-culture, which vibed with my DIY-publishing spirit as an indie press. They would eventually become one of my favorite ways to put work into the world, whether printed or digital. 

Just this month, I've been fiddling with collages more--mostly digital. Now, those visual efforts are split a little between video poems and more static work, but they scratch a similar itch. Sometimes I go months in a less visual space, even when writing a lot.  Sometimes, the art is easier.  Sometimes its harder. In February, I started a new manuscript project that doesn't feel at all like it will have a visual component, so it's freed up some other experiments that are completely unrelated, the Iphegenia Series that plays a bit with AI generated bits, or a new bit of sea monster inspo (see above). Both of these feel entirely visual, which isn't to say I will be able stop myself from writing things should the urge strike, but only that I have no current plans to.

Sometimes the visual realm and the written one feel less like countries or lands and more like languages I speak, sometimes both at the same time, sometimes alone. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

the virtues of monotasking

By virtue of social media algorithms and clicks, I keep encountering some articles by a tik tokker who has been talking up "Bare Minimum Mondays" as a way to combat weekly burn-out, the Sunday scaries, and the general feelings of overwhelm which most of us greet the week. It's something other people I know have mentioned as a way to combat these things, starting off slow and then with a more productive push toward the middle of the week that winds down to Friday.  Because I have more time to pay attention to energy levels and what I do in a given week, I probably already do this just a little, or at least feel like my Tuesday and Weds. are a little more intensive in getting things done. My Sunday scaries are much kinder now, and lately,  I sometimes work through the weekend if I have no other plans with slightly shorter days. It gives all my days a more enjoyable pace (ie with room for naps in all this cloudy weather and dawdling a little more if I feel like it)  I get more relaxed workdays in general and still get the same amount accomplished without feeling too crunched. There's also flexibility if I feel like I need a day off any day of the week without impacting my income too much. 

That same tik tokker also talks a lot in her reels about monotasking, which I guess I've never considered that word for it, but this makes such a difference for me. It was one of the best things about working the night shift even when I was at the library--very few interruptions and spans of time to actually get stuff done without interruptions and phone calls and e-mails coming in. I could deal with all that stuff til around 5pm and then actually get work done after everyone else went home for the day and desk traffic/assistance waned. The days I worked earlier, especially those dreadful 9-5s, but even the 11-7s (I actually learned to abolish some early shifts over breaks entirely by taking well-chosen half vacation days and negotiating a later stay if possible after we closed.) Those days, no matter how much I tried to be productive, I left each day feeling rushed and disorganized and not as focused as my evening spans of time allowed.

The benefit of working on your own, is, of course, you have total and complete control, barring deadlines over rhythms and routines. There is still a lot to do--creative work, editing, design, paid writing.Keeping that monotasking in mind, I try I divide things up as much as I can--certain kinds of writing on certain days, lessons on Mondays/Fridays, design/DIY on Tues/Weds/Thurs,  Antiques stuff on Sat, food writing on Sunday. I fit other projects in and around these focus areas just to mix things up, but those kinds of work have priority with the largest portion of time devoted to them that particular day. The only thing I do make sure to do every day in the week is the entertainment writing pieces since those are more time sensitive and in the moment, but they only take under an hour and are usually how I kick off my 5-6 hour writing blocks in the afternoon and warm up the engine. I usually start the day with creative and press things for 3-4 hours before I take a lunch break and move on to paid work. This gives my initial "morning" energies to the places that probably need it a little more. I do occasionally work on some collages or write an entry here after dinner before I clock out for the night, but the more productive parts of editing my own work and writing poems still happens in those first couple hours of the day. 

When I first branched off on my own, it took a while to find and establish the rhythms, but even with the press work, I find it helpful to devote each day to one aspect. Mondays are slower and more-admin days. Tuesdays are layouts and Weds are cover design. Thursdays are edits and finalization of galleys, while Fridays are website work and updates. Saturdays are usually just e-mails that require more in- depth responses and printing loads of author copies. Sundays are for shop orders & assembling books. This way I can cycle through the things that need to get done without feeling overwhelmed by so much and switching gears.  For writing and art, I do tend to jump around and work on whatever I feel most drawn to, but I may develop some sort of system here too in coming months,  ie, a day specifically for making reels or video poems, a day for editing, a day for submitting.  I try to just pick whatever I feel drawn to do --which today, was pretty much just a rough draft of a new poem and this blog entry.There is also less pressure there to get things done and move more leisurely since I am the only person involved or cares that it gets done at all. The problem is that this freedom sometimes makes me place the creative stuff at the bottom of the priorities for the day, something I have vowed to not let happen in 2023 with some specifically outlined goals in that arena each month. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

hustle and slowness

I spend a lot of time listening/watching youtube videos while doing other things, mostly since they involve less investment than a show or movie and I can just put them on as background noise I can listen or not listen to as my hands are busy folding or trimming books. Most of it is plus-size fashion bloggers artist vlogs, and thrift store-related content, but I stumbled recently into a strange land of videos of women, mostly in their thirties, talking about their rejection of hustle culture, which is countered by the crazy morning routines and discussions of productiveness and goals and hustling by another set of women, usually in their twenties. Like on instagram, there is a lot of workout gear and yoga and juicing. Journaling and 6AM wakeups,and reading that Atomic Habits book everyone somehow has. The thirty-somethings live in idyllic places like France or some countryside somewhere, drink a lot of tea, read many novels, are usually married or partnered, and talk about "slow" living. They may make a living off youtube ads or selling art on etsy shops. One does something with astrology for money that I don't think I understand.

Maybe it's a decade-of-life thing, and I'm not sure where I stand as a woman in her forties on this equation or if it matters where I stand at all.  Truly, I can see both sides, but also tend to roll my eyes at people who talk about rejecting hustle who seem to be enjoying a financially stable existence that doesn't depend on whether they hustle or not (likely family money or a working spouse) It reminded me of a recent article about a woman who was encouraged to step away from hustling but feared the ground she'd lose if she did as a writer and whether or not she'd be able to pay her rent or eat and I related so hard. There isn't really a safety net sometimes, so all you have is hustle. I also have a similar eyeroll for discussions of minimalism, which are easy to have if you have the cushioning to replace the things you threw out if you need them later. 

But also I think the hustle I've always done, even when working for somewhere else. There was a sense of stability (well not much) but I needed to hustle, to cram in as much as I could, do as much as I could. And in many ways this is still true.  Because I don't have that stability anymore, I hustle quite a lot to make sure I have pillars of income to keep things afloat should any of them fail. I want to keep things humming along with the press because it feels like important work, so I wind up hustling there. I need to hustle with my own writing and art because these are the things I am most passionate about and feel I should spend my time doing. It's not about awards and publications so much as it is about putting work out and being creatively productive as an artist and writer. This is the most valuable way--the most content way--I can think of being in the world.  I want it, and only parts of it even seem like work. I'm not sure that deciding all I was going to do was drink tea and read novels, tempting as that is, would make me quite as happy as making things, doing things. Maybe the key is finding balance. 

One of the vloggers talked a lot about the danger of seeking validation outside yourself and always longing for the next rung on the ladder, and here might be where I might agree, but I'm not sure dismissing hustle is the right culprit. You absolutely should hustle for the things you love and that are important to you.  And you may have to hustle for things that are less important but keep food on the table (right or wrong, it is what it is.) But you might want to examine if you are always constantly seeking the next things--this is true in art, professionally, in life. I've known so many people who hit a goal (a book deal, a big money prize)  or a milestone (a marriage, a child)  and then, discovered that it didn't scratch the itch they thought it would. Immediately, they think the next one and the next one will guarantee the happiness they crave. This also seems like a maddening existence, though there is nothing wrong with working for what you want. For setting goals and having ambitions and things you want. The trick is maybe not hanging your happiness on them like a coat that fall to the floor at any moment--especially what you don't have control over.

So of course, the goal might be only hustling for the right reasons, but then I suppose those reasons are going to vary according to what you want and maybe not what you've been told you should want. I want to work hard, don't mind working hard, but I want the gains for that hard work to be mine, which, after years of working in a job I wasn't remotely compensated for, that I invested 8 hours a day and endless mental real estate, at least now I feel like I am hustling for me, so I guess that's as close to slow living as I can

Thursday, February 23, 2023

more from the iphigenia series

I loved this short little series of collages so much, I decided to make them into a limited edition postcard set that will be in the shop next week. Keep an eye out on Instagram for more details on how to snag one. Here are a couple more pieces from that series...

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

where we plant our feet, part 1

I recently chimed in on a question that a friend on FB asked about moving between disciplines, which garnered a whole bunch of great answers, from writers who not only play in visual arenas but also music and other arts.(and in fact someone suggested that really everything from art, from gardening to cooking to decorating your home.)  As someone who has spent a lot of time with my feet in more than one field--not just the arts--it got me thinking about how I move back and forth and between things historically, whether it's just natural or intentional or if there is resistance and an attempt to readjust with each shift.

My first love, of course, was writing. Which started very young and persisted through my young adulthood with nary a nod into other things. I wrote long novel plots in notebooks in junior high and poems in my journal and geeked out over newspaper articles and English class essays.   Words were the thing, That is, until I sort of accidentally enrolled in a drama class my senior year.  I had carefully chosen my classes for my final year only to get a call over the summer from the assistant principal asking me to change something in my schedule that couldn't work.  I'd intended to beef up my sciences and take a zoology class but it conflicted with the 4th year French class I planned on taking, so I needed another elective. As he rattled off the list, I sprung when he said Beginning Drama, mostly since it sounded like an easy respite from more challenging things like Trig and Anatomy. I had no idea I would be so into it.

I had taken a drama class as an elective in grade 8, but all I really remembered were some fun field trips to see shows in Milwaukee and lip-syncing Debbie Gibson's "Foolish Beat" on stage. Because it was a first-year class, it was nearly all freshmen, which had me often being the oldest and most favored with the teacher, who allowed me to spend most of the period not in class, but in her office grading tests with a red pen (I have no idea what we were being tested on( and helping to mend costumes. She encouraged me to try out for the fall play, which I only have vague memories of what it was about, but I landed one of the leads in a pretty small show to my own amazement. I fucking loved it of course, and as I dipped my toes more into the "theater kids" that year, joining the chorus of the spring musical, I had idle dreams that I should maybe throw my lot in show business. Which of course was ridiculous and the dream of every other 17-year-old caught with the theater bug, but it seemed like an option. 

I was going to be a scientist after all, and if not a scientist, a writer anyway. And so I held these things like three balls in the air that last year.  In one hand, my college plans at UNCW and an obsession with the sea, In the other, newspaper articles and essay writing and occasional poems.  In the air, the glistening orb of chucking it all to go join the cast of Les Miz. Sounder thoughts prevailed, and since the other two, making a living and a career of them was so far from my frame of reference, I went off to NC the next fall, but still boasted an obsession with both writing and theater I indulged on the sides occasionally by typing drafts of stories on my electric typewriter and taking in campus productions.

When I landed back in the midwest, having cast off my pursuit of marine science, writing is where I turned most of my efforts, but I still would feel the theater bug churn in my chest every once in a while, drawing me to genres like dramatic lit and any performance I could find in the area. By my second year of college in Rockford, I had successfully infiltrated the theater department, mostly working backstage and stage managing rather than acting, but it was where my primary social group was, even though I was technically an English Lit major. I loved most the classes that melded the two, things like seminars in drama and theater history which produced my first true acquaintance with the Greeks. For a while I thought I might want to be a playwright, though I was no better at that than fiction. I was a minor in theater eventually, but I took nearly enough classes for a double major, including credit hours painting and building sets and costumes. We would have raucous cast parties and go on field trips to Chicago shows and had a great time for my final three years. When I graduated, it was lit I decided to keep pursuing for my MA, but so many of my electives at DePaul were based in writing for the stage. As I was getting close to graduating, I interviewed for a front-of-house and administrative job in a local theater company, but ultimately decided to leave the city. 

Of course, post-grad school life can take chunks out of you. Theater was of course an easy one to give up, especially when working long days made it hard to imagine spending nights in rehearsals. Later, I would work nights, which made even seeing performances rare. Not that I did not use my skills, both as a performer and a stage manager.  They came in handy for reading to elementary schoolers and later for reading poems of my own aloud in bars and cafes and galleries. My project management skills, while learning in a very stressful environment, made me good at them in less stressful ones like running a press and later running library programming with all the balls in the air. Nothing seemed as stressful after all, as live theater.

As someone whose partner is an actor (more film than live, but sometimes on stage) and as I watch from a distance, the directing and orchestrations of performances, it all takes me back, but kind of makes me happy that writing and art are less stressful. I loved theater in college, but I also was wired out, sick a lot, and just exhausted from late nights/early mornings. What I could do at 21 I don't think I could do at 48. Over the holidays, because I spent more time with J, I also spent more time with other performers, and though it was an adjustment to their high energy compared to writers and librarians that have formed my social group for two decades, I eventually felt very at home. Not enough to want to DO theatre again, mind you, but maybe to make seeing it more a part of my life now that I have a little more freedom. 

As for the initial question, I think theater and poetry are not all that far apart, even the Greeks would agree. There are times when I entertain the idea of writing a performance piece for the stage, or a poem/play, using dramatic conceits and elements from live theater in written work. The idea of the verse drama or drama-in-verse. When I was working on granata last summer, there is a little of this in the chorus and other elements of Greek literature, but not enough to make it in any way a drama, but it does mean that that's not completely off the table.  One thing about live theater production is that it's time-consuming and more structured as a group activity, so writing and doing theater like for real, don't mesh well, since both are time intensive, far more so than visual art in my experience. So doing both at the same time wouldn't be in the cards. But writing for the stage perhaps may be something that would be an interesting direction nevertheless. 

(stay tuned for part 2 where I talk about moving between visual art and writing, which happened a bit later...)

Sunday, February 19, 2023

writers and failure

I have been enjoying the week promoting and making fun little content bits for the latest zine, some of which are almost as enjoyable as the writing of the poems and the making of the images themselves (my little animations are especially fun via reels to pair with piano Taylor Swift covers I have been listening to on repeat while writing freelance stuff the last couple of weeks.) I've done a couple of recordings, but actually like working more with text and image than voice, or at least, hearing my own voice.

This week, I was reading an essay about failure and writers that was really good in talking about how writers, in the digital age, don't have the same markers and consistencies in the world of letters. That things are constantly changing, and therefore the playing field of being a writer constantly shifts.  I feel this, especially as I see so many authors doing interesting things in new mediums. As I try to do new things in what's available to me, the logistics of which are also in flux. The process of my pursuit of publication and sharing work is so different now than even 20 years ago. Definitely different than those SASE's I was sending out 30 years ago.

I guess talking about failure, like Joyce and Melville, and the ultimate folly of trying to gauge your own legacy or famousness as an author, is a capricious endeavor and a waste of time. If you cannot gauge what success is even now, how can you gauge failure? Is it not all one grand experiment? Throwing something at a wall and seeing if it will stick? I see a lot of churn in the literary world, the bending to and fro to get something like success, but I often wonder if we are speaking the same language at all when we talk about it. 

I think it takes a while and perhaps an entire career to get anywhere like peace with the striving, especially when it comes to poetry where the gates seem high and unscalable, even though the kingdom is frightfully small and no one lives there but the poets themselves. You can occupy yourself with throwing yourself at the wall repeatedly. Finding a bridge over the mote or looking for others to hoist you over, but what happens once you are inside looking out? Instead of breaking your teeth on the bricks or trying to lob yourself over the parapet, you could also just go wander off into the woods instead. Carve out your own little cave or hollow. The longer you go and the farther you get the less you look back.

I feel like I used to stand across the river and gaze at the walls. That I too bloodied myself just a little trying to get over or through them. But it feels good, though scary, sometimes to walk off into the distance a little way, Even if the woods are darker than you'd imagined, lonelier, and sometimes all you hear is an echo. But occasionally something makes contact and lights up the forest like a storm.   

Friday, February 17, 2023

the iphigenia series


This new set of digital pieces, the Iphigenia Series, based on Agamemnon's doomed daughter, are some experiments stemming from AI-generated images, in many cases, picked apart and collaged with textures, ephemera, expanded on, or in some cases, rebuilt with other parts if they were weird or wonky...(oh the hands!) 

see more experiments here as I continue to work with them...

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

notes & things | 2/15/2023

While I've no doubt had enjoyable Valentines as an adult, the holiday completely conjures childhood--classroom celebrations and red and pink construction paper hearts. Conversation hearts and sugar-dusted gummies. Choosing just the right valentine from a variety pack for your close friends or crushes. Deciphering later what the cards given to you really meant. Who gave you prime ones or boring ones or obviously their least favorite. It's all doilies and foil heart stickers. The year my mom and aunt, on a snow day, made us an impromptu V-Day celebration at home with whatever candy they had on hand (random Christmas chocolate and red hots I believe.) and heart-shaped sandwiches. Later, in junior high and high school candy grams and colored carnations presented in classes from friends. 

While my Valentines have been a little more romantic lately, with movie dates or at least date nights at home, my routine was once an annual zoo visit with my parents, who would come in around the holiday bearing heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and other gifts. We'd hit the zoo, usually in mildish weather, then go have dinner. This mostly ended with my mom and I don't remember the last year we did it. I only remember 2017 Valentine's Day was when she had her first heart attack that started the downhill slope of that year.  Three years ago, J and I went to the movies to see Parasite, not realizing it was the last movie we'd see due to covid for another two years. I used to work on most Valentine's evenings, so would mark the occasion with chocolates and little presents to myself.  This I did this year as well, some new tea, a floral dress, a new piece of art, a new satin kimono to replace the one I recently ripped. 

J arrived last night arrived at my place with both truffles and very strong edible treats we enjoyed while watching Infinity Pool on streaming, a wild trip of a movie even without the enhancements of weed. It was fun, but made today a little more legarthic than usual. I did manage to do some writing-about the I Am Legend sequel coming and how to decorate your indoor spaces like outside spaces when you live in a city. This week's lessons are about seas monsters and dryads, so are extra fun to be researching, but I am moving slower through the middle of the week than usual.

It was noisy and blustery today, with some snow expected tomorrow. Hopefully, this is the last of it, though I know March can also be quite a beast when she wants to.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

on exes and exorcisms

Love is tricky mistress. When I was in my mid-to-late twenties I acknowledged that the fairy tale dreams were bullshit, even while occasionally going on dates and having minor flings.  Because it's what you did if you wanted romance (and obv. sex in the pre-Tinder age). Because romance was both terrible, but also kind of fun if you didn't take it too seriously. Part of my ambivalence was just circumstances of being really busy with other things--college, grad school, finding jobs and writing. I met men, some in person, a few online, and there were short-term liaisons and uninspiring strings of dates in coffee shops and art museums. I liked some more, some less. These were usually of pretty short duration. I was too much or they were too much or we were both too little.  Early on, I drew a little from them for poems, which didn't happen all that often since the kinds of poems I was writing were definitely based more in a persona-focused style of writing. Ie, my stories were woven in the larger web of things happening in any given poem. 

This changed in my thirties, when I had firmly embraced solo-poly life, which I was just beginning to understand as my ideal relationship style. I was dating a lot more. I was also getting more comfortable in my body and with my desires. Some lengthy entanglements, others shorter. Sometimes several at once, sometimes just one. One better relationship that spanned both decades was mostly about four years of scandalously dirty e-mails and occasional but infrequent visits. Another, 10 years of high drama and passion with short gaps. Another, on/off so much I wasn't sure it actually qualified as a relationship. A crush on a male friend I spent an entire year chasing that never materialized. Weird short bursts, some dramatic, some tepid and fun but not really sustainable. Lots of 2-3 date series getting to know people and discovering I really didn't want to know them. Some were internet dates and meetings in bars. Some literally showed up at my door in the form of delivery men who asked me out. (okay, just the one, and it wasn't really the porn scenario he'd hoped

These men made it into poems, though sometimes, I created a Frankenstein of their worst traits. My major characters in minor films book had a lot about the 10-year ordeal. As did dirty blonde, which I used as a way to ill-advisedly re-open communication between us 5 years later. The shipwrecks of lake michigan poems were about the delivery man / engineering grad who I turned into a physicist because it was sexier. There were also longer relationships that never quite made it into poems, or only in small details and situations. Emily D's more slanted truth.  Some weren't memorable enough to earn a mention at all.  These men merge together to prove a point, or just slip in anecdotally in a poem about something else entirely. Nothing is purely autobiographical. Nothing is not.

This was true even in good, long-lasting healthy relationships. I tried to write a book of love poems for my current partner of 8 years as a Valentine early on and even that, due to some strange circumstances outside the relationship, morphed into a book about men and women and the me-too conversations in society at large and navigating romantic relationships with men in general. I think the initial impetus and details of those poems came from that framework, but they wound up being about something else. As far as I know, he's never read these poems, but knows the contents of them and that they exist. Some day we will have a laugh and I'll show him. Outside of that, the better relationships, the sounder ones, have far less appearances in poems, but I think that's just a condition of culture. 

And of course, that current long, actually healthy relationship has deepened over the years, and in the between, wasn't really captured in poems. This may change. I also haven't been writing as many autobiographical things, but then that's probably not really true.They are there, just in poems that seem to be about other things entirely. Some that current relationship, others details that make sense to include for some reason. I was thinking of these other things--these other entanglements--these other men--when I started writing HOTTER this past summer. I kept joking that it was an exorcism, so much bad stuff and bad karma that needed to be wiped out and brought into the light. So many things I wanted to finish writing about and be done. Even Taylor Swift is probably tired of making art from pain and it shows in her newer albums. 

But then are we ever finished? As writers? As women?  I saw a reel on Instagram lately about the humor of women in totally healthy relationships loving songs about bad ones (in this case, Miley Cyrus's "Flowers"). A comment brought the comments thread to a full stop for a second about women and their tendency to be able to sympathize with even fictional relationships and sadnesses and heartbreaks. Even about entirely made up and fictionalized situations or ones made up in our heads.  Or even the possibility of heartbreak that may come at a future date.  I think about Taylor Swift and how much pleasure everyone, but particularly women, in sound relationships or not take in her songs drawn from autobiography (and even the ones not. which are sometimes my favorite--I'm thinking "No Body, No Crime" here or "Ivy."  Someone else said this is why women like love songs and romance novels, and I think they are on the money. I rather like to trot out my ghosts, stand them up and dust them off every once in a while even though I have been happily partnered for years.

At the same time, I feel weird about the fact that some (though not all, mostly the worst) of the men who show up in the poems take up even a slight bit of real estate in my mind. Or worse that they would know this. I imagine some might, but most will never know. Still it's strange and slightly cringe to me for some reason.  Even in their Frankenstein bits and parts and odd scraps of story.  Even if they are unrecognizable to anyone but me and them. More than likely, though I have made like ART out of them they probably don't even think about me very often at all and certainly aren't turning me into poems (very few of them being creatives at all.). Which seems strange and unbalanced and kind of sad on my end, no?  But then again, it's just a scrap, a fragment, like a piece of mental ephemera. Like a ticket stub to a movie you liked for a while or a newspaper clipping ragged at the edges that falls out of a book every once in a while. 

But what else to build from? This the "ex-orcism" part, the purging, the getting things out.  But it's also a book about me, and the versions of myself that were cast off just as much as a lover in certain kinds of relationships and entanglements. The past lives and past detritus can be sloughed off to make room for new things, which I felt was important as last summer ended in a year that already had brought so much change, and would eventually bring far sadder changes but also happy new possibilities. All of it seemed to call for something,. and since it's a little bit of anti-Valentine in many ways, I thought it might be perfect to drop this month, this day over all others. 

You can read it here (unless we ever slept together, then you might not want

Monday, February 13, 2023

hotter: a little book of ex-orcisms

This little anti-valentines zine is now available to appease all the dark little hearts.

Read it HERE...