Saturday, January 28, 2023

new collages


notes & things | 1/28/2023

Because its January,  I sleep like the dead no matter what time I tumble into bed. As such, I wake up groggy and achy in the arms from wrapping them around the pillows and not moving them all night.  I've read two articles lately that good news, sunset is happening after 5pm now and the speed of the summer solstice is slowly inching up--by the end of February, the days are easily two hours longer than they are in December. Still, another rash of cloudy days, and quite often snow, which has actually managed to accumulate this week just when we thought after a terrible end of December, we were going to get off light. It's better now that I don't have to really go anywhere, still, I eye it warily since later, I need to take out some trash and Amazon boxes to the dumpster in the alley, which is rarely plowed or adequately salted. 

I finished the week off yesterday with a couple lessons devoted to Indian temple architecture, the Golden Temple and The Lotus Temple. I always love the architecture ones and grab them when I can from the queue..though lately there has been more mythology which I also love.  I also have, on the heels of the fortune-telling one, a history of tarot I'll be working on Monday. The literature offerings come and go, depending on how quickly the outline editors in various subjects are working, but I haven't seen much there that has caught my eye, nor has there been much in the visual art vein the past couple months coming through, so architecture and myth are keeping me occupied these days with a smattering of history. These are also new lessons entirely, not rewrites, so they are a little freer to write without matching up to existing quizzes and lesson plans.

In other writing things, I have been pitching quite a bit more at HD, which has resulted in some fun articles on whimsical woodland cabins and vintage dishware (on my mind amid my recent scoping of Ebay for green and brown antique transferware which you may have spotted over on my Insta.) I have a lot of mid-century floral stuff and some pyrex, most of which was just thrifted, and my ever-growing collection of dripware, but these pieces are rarer and more expensive and usually not as readily available.  I am also terrified of breaking them though, being over a hundred years old (that is, until they met me and my They are one of a number of strange little obsessions of late, including new art (yes, more) and finding the perfect dark olive green velvet chair. 

I am working on contracts for dgp today, and responding to some more submissions after a solid week of getting more stuff out the door and into the mail, which usually involves me donning a coat and my giant canvas totebag and shuffling to the end of the block's little blue mailbox while careful avoiding snow and ice. I am still paused on what to move onto creative-wise next, though I have been enjoying some daily (or almost) collage work in lieu of poems and making some final promo video content for automagic.  There are still a couple more days to get a free set of the bird artist postcards in with your book order if you take advantage now

Friday, January 27, 2023

film notes: men

It's incredibly rare that a horror movie will invoke the feeling of "what the fuck did I just watch?" but I started watching The Men a couple weeks back, and I actually paused it about 20 minutes in. Mostly since I was looking for a bit lighter fare as I was eating my dinner that night (the opening scene begins with a high-rise suicide of the protagonist's estranged husband, so it seemed a little more than I was looking for). I knew it might be an odd one, it was an A24 release after all, who has brought us the strangeness of movies like Climax and Midsommar, and, in fact, I had seen the preview in the theater last spring before the genius Everything Everywhere All At Once, itself a strange little movie. But I returned to it a couple nights ago to find this one far weirder and disorienting than I expected and yet somehow also really good.

The plot follows the widowed woman, released from an abusive marriage and seeking respite in a rural cottage. There, she encounters several men, pretty much all threatening (and portrayed by one actor) which grow steadily more disturbing and bloody, leading to one of the most surreal and strange finales I have ever seen in a horror film.  While I was left thinking "what?" on further reading and thinking I shook off my confusion and began to understand what the movie was trying to do.

There has been much discussion of folk horror of late, not exactly a new subgenre, but one that has been proliferating in recent years, particularly feminist folk horror. Folk horror is that which draws its terrors from the natural world and the human place within it. Think shadowy forests and churning oceans. Think rot seeping through idyllic rural or wooded landscapes, cults, witches, and legends.  The Witch, of course, is a great example, as is the sun-drenched world of Midsommar. Or older movies like the Wicker Man, Phenomena, or The Woods. Or of course, Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Men begins with Garden of Eden metaphors and a joyous walk through the woods that becomes terror-filled after a naked man, who slowly turns into a wrathful pagan Pan-like figure begins to stalk the main character. She is also terrorized by an angry young boy (super freaky through CGI), a priest who blames her for her husband's suicide, and a "nice" landlord who proves to be anything but.  The slow creep dread of the first half descends to a quickly paced and steadily bloody and horrific. There were moments that made me angry, moments that kind of made me nauseous. Others that elicited an "ew!"  Moments that made me cheer as the main character fought back with knives and axes and eventually, as it all kept coming, gave in to resignation. Because, of course, it all keeps coming, a fact as women, we all know. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

what poets want : part 2

In part one of my thinking out loud about what poets want, I mentioned that my biggest want as a writer was a larger audience, or maybe not even a large one, but just knowing that there is an audience at all for what I write.  Every once in a while, I encounter poets who stress that we should not be thinking about what happens to work once its out in the world, that it's all about process and enjoyment and delving into the soup of your brain to make ART  Mostly I think this depends on your goals for yourself as a writer--why you write, what you do.  Do you write to be therapeutic? To ponder big questions?  To tell stories? All three?  (and maybe this points to another entry altogether.)

But ultimately, writing is about communication.  Which implies that there is a communicator and an audience. When I was moving in more academic crowds, I realized there was a huge difference between them and the poets I knew on the internet and in the open-mic communities. There, you certainly did not write with an audience in mind (which is strange since they emphasize workshops so much) but were supposed to be focusing on your CRAFT (pronounced with a long ahhhhhhhh).  It was declasse to talk about submissions, that is unless it was to certain high-profile journals and contests (likely judged and managed by their friends and teachers). Definitely uncouth to talk about having a website or (later) using social media to build an audience.) I once had a fellow MFA student fill me in on a supposedly informational coffee that was supposed to be about writerly biz things, only to find the poets involved, both professors, only said to focus on your work-- not publication at all. At an art school whose supposed goal was to help make artists career-ready, which I saw happening in other departments, this seemed incredibly remiss. 

I was an oddball, at least at first.  I had a website from the first year I was steadily on the internets and began publishing in online journals.  I came to creative writing as an academic subject rather late, almost 30, having majored in literature in college and grad school.   I took easily to social media things like myspace and blogs and tumblr and later platforms like FB and Instagram (though maybe not Twitter). I could build a crude website and manage a blog and this was not true of many of the poets around me. The promotion of work was how you got readers. How you formed community with other poets. Why wouldn't I immerse myself in that in the interest of doing that all-important half of creating art? Communication.

Of course, communication happens in a lot of ways. In journals. At readings. On social media. There was a resistance by many, especially poets older than me.  So many people I talked to acted like the business of their work, getting out there, happened through no effort of their horrible self-promotion.  That awards and publications and readings just landed miraculously in their laps while they kept their eyes down on their work.  I suppose this could work if you were well-connected, and many were. Or if you were publishing with giant publishers and had promotional teams and agents close at hand.  But if you're not, if you don't, you spend a lot of time reminding people that yes, in fact, you do exist. In fact, you may spend far more time doing this than writing.    

There was an interview I once read with an academic poet who talked about avoiding the internet. Like all the time, and writing by hand, and only checking e-mail at the public library. And yet somehow, this poets work was still being published and given awards and I wondered how it was possible. Especially since this person's work wasn't really to my taste and so many better writers struggle with finding these things even being more connected to the world.  I still don't have an answer, but only know that has never been my reality, or the reality of anyone I know.

Maybe it means that, yes,  the writing has to happen in solitude.  Recovering from the workshop system from my MFA taught me this more than anything--all those fingers in my poems and it took me years to unfreeze the gears. To loosen the hinges back to regain the enthusiasm I had going in. But once the work is done, the second half, if you 're going to fulfill the communication part, begins to happen. It may in fact be more challenging than writing a good poem. It may make you frustrated, or jealous, or unable to tolerate it for very long. Of course, you don't have to. Many people write poems for themselves or their own enjoyment or therapy. For friends or lovers or their cat. Or write to enjoy the process and want nothing else. I am not one of these poets, though sometimes I am one of those visual artists (as evidenced by the art I make just to hang in my kitchen) 

But writing for me is inherently about communication. I write to be read. Therefore, my task, as I see it, is both creating the work and finding someone to read it.  

And maybe there is an art to be found in both.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

what poets want : part 1

I've been loosely following a discussion over at Jeanine's facebook page about goals for our poetry. Or maybe more specifically not the work in and of itself, which is a separate conversation that is going to get a whole lot of wildly different answers, but perhaps maybe more what we want the poems to do once they are out in the world. Or what we want them to make happens in "careers," whatever that means to you, be it readership, validation of prizes, tenure, reviews, or that shifty little beast--income--that us poets only spot through the trees every once in a while like Bigfoot. Ie, it's out there maybe (like Rupi Kaur's massive royalties and touring fees), but most of us will never get a really good photo let alone capture it.

My first thought was merely audience, which feels like a tough enough nut to crack. I've talked about ideal readers and feeling like you're shouting into an abyss you're not even sure has a bottom. I think what I've wanted of this thing called poetry or writing has changed as much as my work has over the past two decades I've been writing seriously. In the beginning, I really needed validation, or some indication that I wasn't kidding myself and that I didn't suck (which admittedly at first, like all young poets, I did somewhat.)  This may vary according to what being a poet, or a writer, or even a creative at all means in your world.  If you grow up in a world where those things are familiar and common, there is less of a leap and less of a need to prove yourself in this strangeness.  I was literally the third person to go to college on both sides of my sprawling extended family.  (I have an uncle, my dad's youngest brother,  who studied biology at a state college and later learned that my paternal grandmother was briefly enrolled in a teacher's college in the late 1930s before she left to marry my grandfather and have like six children.)  My dad worked in payroll until computers took over his job in the mid-80s.  Then he was a janitor at the airport, then a postal worker. My mom was a phone operator/mail clerk at a manufacturing company, a job she left to have me, then returned to when my dad was briefly out of work. In the intervening years, she made some money by babysitting kids in the family and the neighborhood. Both of them only graduated high school (and my mother barely, at that.)  My dad was  a big reader.  My mom, not so much, but she did paint,  mostly bisque figurines for decor purposes, in her spare time for many years. For both of them, these were leisurely and encumbered by jobs and bills and family. It is always amusing that two rather practical not particularly artsy people birthed an eldedst who studied writing and theater and a youngest who studied art and classics. 

I was ambitious from the minute college even seemed like an option but was expected to go on to study something sensible like teaching or science or maybe law in more in my more ambitious moments.  Not writing, and certainly not poetry. To dedicate a life to writing seemed frivolous and ridiculous in the regular world.  My younger cousins followed to colleges and universities, but definitely studied more sensible practical things like elementary teaching and banking and medical trade school programs. So of course, proving that poetry, that a life in pursuit of it, was something that needed to be validated. to be proven like a complicated equation. So how to do that?  Publications. Programs. Awards. And I got them, nothing major, but something. I went after some things rather ferociously, including pursuing an MFA I probably didn't need and publishing that first book. Doing readings and teaching workshops and doing all the things poets do to earn some sense of belonging. This, of course, is ridiculous since already I felt I was becoming part of a writing community, both in Chicago open-mic circles and online, but it didn't seem like it would be enough. 

In some ways, all of it had nothing at all to do with the work itself. And it actually doesn't ever go completely away, or maybe it's just validation's close sibling, imposter syndrome wreaking havoc because some things, some moments, can trigger those needs again. For some people, they're still striving, even several books and awards, and accolades in. Maybe they like that part of the game, though I never really never felt at home there, or that it was getting me where I wanted to go personally. In some ways, these things can be good for developing and growing audiences in a world where it seems in short supply. In many ways, these things make it easier to find audiences and keep them. Add in the extra kicker that these things are often required to get some of the things aligned with making an actual living possible for many writers--prime teaching jobs, grants/residencies/fellowships, and paid speaking/workshop gigs.  But then again, what experience has taught me, is they are not the only way to do this thing called po-biz. 

And of course, the longer I was at it, the more I felt comfortable in the waters. While books certainly don't make you any more a poet than those without, those collections, combined with publications, some tiny awards, some good reviews, a writing degree, readings, etc went a long way at the time toward making me feel like I belonged.  Also, maybe just getting older in general and definitely in seeing some of the cracks in the system.  Also, maybe just knowing that I am a better, stronger writer than I was two decades ago.  But things changed for me when I started to think about what was serving me best in what I actually wanted, mostly sharing work and connecting with audiences. I think the past 5 or 6 years, that's what I've been navigating. Am still navigating all the time and making choices about how I want to publish and promote my work and where time is best spent in the pursuit of those things. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

dancing girl press notes | january 2023

I had intended to make an overdue run downtown today to pick up an order of covers, but woke to persistent drizzly snow that had me postponing until tomorrow. Even still, it was intended to be a day fully focused on press things, which I am still slowly treading back into after several months of pause--at first for logistical reasons and a lot of back and forth, then for mental health reasons that had my life pared down to the minimum I needed to make a living. 

Which means backlogged orders, and in process books to get out, and yes, the final round of submissions reading and responding, which with still a couple hundred completely untouched and another 50 at least set aside for further reading. It's made the response time lengthier, but it's looking to be a great schedule of chaps that have already been accepted, with probably another 15-20 I'd like to add to the list (though which ones is still up in the air.) Also, sending publishing agreements and more schedule info on what I have accepted for late 2023 /early 2024.

It occurred to me suddenly last week that next year, we are coming up on the 20th anniversary of the first dancing girl press chapbook. There is no way this could be at all possible, and yet, there it is. It also means that 20 years ago this fall, I was just starting my MFA program. While wicked alice existed prior to those years, the press is somewhat tied to that program, not really the poetry classes, where they all seemed slightly horrified I had the audacity to start a press (or at my audacity in general,) but a brief dip into the Fiction Writing programs Small Press Publishing class where I created first a print annual of WA, then my own little chapbook project as a test runner for bigger things that fall. Granted, that class imagined far larger goals for starting a press than a tiny chapbook operation.  I remember my classmates coming in with grand schemes and even grander budgets, none of which quite lifted off the ground. My tiny little print annual flew..mostly because my expectations were small..a saddle stapler, some cardstock, some paper, a word file. I did it all for less than a $100 for both the annual and my little chap. This was proper to social media, prior even to this blog (I was still on xanga at the time.) And yet, people found their way to the website, the crude little initial version I had built on Angelfire  for like 10 bucks a month where I hosted other early sites (where it still lives, more or less, at least the landing page, which then gives way to the shop hosted elsewhere.) 

The success of course, depended on the smallness. Keeping things manageable financially, with each book paying for the next. This is still the model that works, with other funds coming through from the shop goods in general. It's a lot more solvent and in the red than when I rented the studio space, but its still very much a micropress. Occasionally, I entertain the idea of full-length offerings, which are do-able as my own self-publishing endeavors attest, but I still love the handmade factor, the smallness factor, of publishing chapbooks. It's still a low-overhead endeavor, which makes it possible to continue even in times when many other presses and publishers went under. (Ie even if traffic is low and the economy shit, books can still make their way into the world, even if I am paying out of pocket myself.)

I also like that not much investment means that I can afford to take chances on authors who might be publishing their first work but aren't going to be big sellers, at least not right away. Or strange little weird books no one but me may love. Or books by authors who release a lot of work, but because their fans are split across so many new projects, they might not sell well initially (I sometimes am this author, I know what its like)  There is a pleasure in being small, but also really free. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

writing routines : structure and chaos

There have been stages in my life where I have had very strict writing routines There have also been stages where I had no routine whatsoever and still, somehow, the writing got done in some strange confluence of chaos and magic. For the past few years, I've been a fan of writing poems in the morning, usually while I eat breakfast, knocking out haphazard drafts in whatever project I am in the midst of while balancing coffee and getting muffin crumbs in my keyboard. It was a habit I had in the studio, where I would grab my Dunkin breakfast downstairs, then devour it while typing as I waited for the printers to warm up. Later, at home, things were a little more measured and less rushed, even during covid lockdowns and day job dysfunction. Here, my mornings were a little slower, so I'd settle in to draft something over coffee still in my robe after I climbed out of the shower. Mostly this was to accomplish what felt like one of the most important parts of my day--sometimes THE most important thing, before the day got its hooks in me. This was after years of struggling to fit writing around work and editing and failing most of the time--or at least failing the output I wanted, the projects I longed to do. 

Before that, I would have hot and heavy periods of productivity, like the fall and spring of my second year of grad school, where, while reading for my comp exams, I was hurriedly finishing what I wanted to be my first book before I turned 25 (lololol).  The aim was ridiculous, but the steady writing made me better. Ditto in 2001-2002, where I was writing a lot to keep up with all the amazing online journals that I was discovering and beginning to publish in and submitting like wildfire.  Or my MFA years, where I was writing poems for class, either while I was working endless Saturdays or waiting in a coffee shop between classes. There was a fallow period after grad school ended, but things picked up again in 2012 and continued on for the next few years in spurts and jumps, but not really with any regularized practices.  The result were projects that stalled out, then were finished hastily before publication (like the shared properties of water and stars or beautiful, sinister.)

I did somehow manage to get things down on paper or screen--enough to fill a couple books, including major characters in minor films, salvage, and sex & violence. These poems were often written in chunks when I felt a fire under me, but not in the more methodical draft per day way I started writing in 2018. In some ways, it was therapeutic, particularly since many of those poems written over breakfast were helping me process my mother's death at the end of 2017. If everything else was spiraling out of control, at least each morning that poem, and then the one after it, was down on paper and ready for revision. The more recent books came from this practice, including automagicfeed and animal, vegetable, monster, as well as most of dark country. I have periods, like this fall, where I barely write at all due to other circumstances or lack of the right mood, but try to keep steadily working on projects.

Since leaving the library last year, I've gone back and forth, sometimes writing in the mornings first thing, other times saving it for the midnights. Since there is less knocking around my head and stressing me out, writing at night before bed is possible and doesn't feel like a strenuous thing.  I find, however, that the poems are better in the mornings when my head is fresher, so have gone back to doing this.  Mostly, it's a matter of getting something down, which I will then go back in a few times and tweak before it's finished.  Sort of like a painting where you make the outlines and go back in with a finer tip brush to make it better. Sometimes, nothing is even remotely recognizable.  Other times you can make out a bit of tree, a sliver of sky.

Despite my measured progress on most things, I wonder sometimes if it might not be interesting to spend a weekend with a singular project, getting a draft of something down in one fell swoop.  It seems daunting and over ambitious, and I'd likely fail, but who knows what might bloom there...

Saturday, January 21, 2023

new year, new projects

This week, I was able to finish up the last of the poems for the smallish series I started at the end of last summer after not touching it for the last few months of the year. It's a strange, surreal little romp through romantic history and intimacy and kind of just a little bit of humor and nonsensicality I appreciate.  it also goes dark a few times, but I love it all the more for it. I considered possibly sending some of them out into the world, but realize that my desire to send out work is even less than normal. To write it, yes, that is returning, but I also feel like I serve it much better by just sharing things on social media on occasion.

This may no doubt change, since my satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the literary world, or at least the space I personally inhabit in that world, my little corner of it, changes on the day to day. One one hand, I love journals--both publishing in them, reading them, and for their sense of community building, On the other hand, I get impatient with the process of building submissions and waiting (not even the rejection part really, since that is woven into the process) but just the work of it for very little gains even when you're successful (and paid markets, while they exist are still tiny bits of income at best.)  Ie, the rewards are nice and one of the major building blocks of community, but I begin to feel less and less over time that they are worth the energy, especially when time is short, of researching guidelines and keeping track of open reading periods and keeping tabs on submissions, to the point that there is almost a sense of relief when I don't have anything out in submission to fret over or keep track of.

It's also strange since I once loved the submission and publishing process, especially when I discovered the vast world of online journals.  It also may be this vastness now that makes it a little daunting--so many journals to keep track of and who knows where to send .  Maybe I just need to sit down and make a coherent list when I finally have some work to send out.  I do have the granata poems, only a couple of which I sent out in 2022 (one of which was published in DARK WINTER). I still feel like they need to sit a while before I go back to them, maybe this spring.

So I will probably issue the new little project around Valentines Day for just a little zine fun with some visuals. I have multiple courses for what is next, including some humorous decor writing language things I've been plotting and perhaps a return to the starlet pieces I also abandoned quite a while ago.  Also, the haunted hotel project that has been in the works for years. Since I've been spending so much time amongst the Greeks in my lesson writing, it occasionally makes me want to spend some more time with myths (as if there aren't enough mythology poems in the world, but somehow I want to write more. ) Each year, when I switch out my sketcbook/planner with all my tiny post-it notes, these projects and notes about them get moved, but somehow I keep getting distracted by new things.  But then again, I should be happy there are new things, even as long as I've been at this, that I still find exciting projects to want to work on, or at least putter around with for years before they come to fruition...

Thursday, January 19, 2023

notes & things | 1/20/2023

In the realm of amusing/not amusing, my NYE outing appeared to have landed me with a cold about a week later, which could have easily been covid, but also could totally not have been covid (I wasn't sick enough to warrant a venturing out to get a test and just thought I'd be better off isolating til it went away either way). Mostly it was just nasal stuffiness and later, a snotty kind of cough, but nothing screamed any dreaded familiar variants.  Whatever it was it came on quickly the next weekend but has mostly vanished since. It also followed the usual path of most pre-2020 illnesses I used to land once or twice per year, so probably was just another particularly sticky virus. On one hand, knowing for sure would have made me feel at least like I'd gotten it and not died, but also I worried that it would make me risky and complacent at a time when I am not sure we should be just yet.  Also that perhaps my masklessness on NYE that felt moderately safe was obviously not, and even if it wasn't covid, it could have been. So wearing one in larger gatherings still probably necessary (and maybe even smaller gatherings in certain places and certain times of the year.)

I do hate being sick, even if it's minor, so I rested a lot, drank a lot of tea,  and worked slower on the whole with later starts, which means I need to kick it into high gear for the rest of January to meet my income goals. I did land a new writing job in the vintage/antiques niche, which should prove interesting and give me something else to work on certain days.  Still,, there were lessons on the history of fortune-telling and Arthurian legends, articles on desserts and Victorian conservatories, and a must-have list for decking out your home library.

I hung some new artwork I procured over the holidays (including the beauty above courtesy of Caryn Drexl), made some new promo video content for the new book, and steadily worked on the tiny series of poems and collages that will be coming as a zine around Valentine's Day.  I've been making a dent in the chaps that were paused in October and the orders that have come in since then, as well as shipping out the signed copies of my book. January and February always feel lengthier than other months, though ts mostly just the gloom and lack of light. The weather, while occasionally chilly, has been rather mild compared to other, harsher years, hovering in the 40s during the day. Whenever we are milder, it seems the weather is doing strange things in other parts of the country it usually doesn't do, so it likely means the jet stream is out of whack.  

Today, I noticed that there was still light in the sky at 5 o'clock, which is something...

Saturday, January 14, 2023

automagic teaser


You can still pick up a copy of my latest AND through the end of this month, get a bonus set of postcards from the bird artist series of collages...order now at

Monday, January 09, 2023

eggs and baskets: on jobs, art, and love

I've been thinking about this Parker quote in regard to jobs and hobbies, but also maybe personal things.   The great thing about polyamory traditionally is that you have the option for multiple relationships, multiple support structures, multiple relationship types.  The negatives were of course, that sometimes they could all be imploding or dwindling at the same time, but that was extremely rare. I suppose now, these past 7 years,  I am probably as close to a monogam-ish relationship as I have ever been (ie, we're open by definition/philosophy, but closed mostly in practice and by circumstances ) But I think the way this translates into the greater world of work and art is that, even still, I have always had my hands in many things. Writing, art, publishing, social media. Have always moved back and forth between things as my interest and attention spans desired. Some things, like writing and art, were lifelong, others, like making soap and jewelry and selling vintage were momentary interests. Even in creative projects, I like to be able to move around.  To set something down, to pick something up. People are obviously more complicated, but still my relationship practices were always similar.

Today, I read an e-mail from one of my freelance positions where the editor was remarking on the departure of the other person in her department, who I dealt more directly with in my finalizations. This person, very good at her job, had been cut in a slew of layoffs.  This would happen sometimes in the library, sometimes justified (ie poor performers) and sometimes not at all so. Academic budgets are tight and unlike other area universities, tighter at Columbia than anywhere else (and partially the reason I am no longer there.) Still, there was a relative cushiness to academic jobs where you did not expect to be let go on market whims like you might in a corporate environment.  In 20 years, I think they laid off like 2 or 3 people I didn't understand why, the rest, I would have booted if I had the power immediately. 

Moving into the freelance market, you know its all kind of tenuous. Freelance work is never guaranteed and sometimes hard to find. It's a nice thing to have for a company, but not often where they strive to keep hands on deck.  Some are just temporary. This was the tragedy of my real estate site neighborhood guide gig..they were intent on the eventual hire of full-timers for their office in Richmond, VA. Great company, overly generous pay for fun work, and actual merit raises, but only about 7 months of employment total. But luckily, it was only one of the things I'd taken on, with the other sources able to close the gaps that left when it wrapped up in early December. 

Even if you discount the benefit of being able to move between various projects daily and not get bored, there is also the benefit of not having those eggs in a possible leaky or tippy basket.  More importantly, not only is there security in knowing you have a number of different avenues that can be dialed up or down as needed, but that also no one job can treat you shittily and expect you to still work for them. Whether its low pay or understaffing or just general disrespect, you can bounce.  More importantly, you have something to bounce TO....

Part of my hesitancy to leave full time work was fear. I'd had the same job for 21 years.  I was never really entirely sure how I'd been lucky enough to land that job in the first place.  At least in the beginning.  Because I was scared to try something new, I stayed longer than I should have.  In fact, under different circumstances I may still have hesitant to leave.  I've heard friends say this about bad relationships. It wasn't working. or he was abusive, controlling, but they were afraid of making their way in the world alone. And while I admit I stayed in bad relationships for a number of reasons (usually impulse control, masochism,  or thinking I could change things) this wasn't one of them. I've had entirely single spans, most of my 20's, in fact. But then, later, when a relationship was in the death grip, there were other people and things to occupy my time. I was okay with alone, but rarely was I actually without something going on in that arena, even if it was just a crush I wanted to become something more. 

And this is true of art and writing.  The years where the words were more fallow were some of the best years for art, and maybe vice versa. Even now, I don't get much time to spend with collage or painting, but I do spend a lot of time making video poems and designing covers.   I like having many options, especially when some options are more fleeting than others.  Other things have to earn their way into your daily practice. Or seem like a good thing for awhile but then you move on. 

There's a lot of talk these days on the potential harm of the gig economy and people working multiple jobs to make ends meet--driving uber or deliveries--and actually not getting the sort of stability of things like paid sick days, insurance, etc that traditional employers provide. But then again, you have a certain amount of freedom and discretion you don't get being beholden to one workplace, so I totally get it.   Everyone, coming out of covid lockdowns, wondered where all the workers went.  Could it be that many of them were willing to trade certain securities for lower pay, but more freedom and more eggs in many baskets. That when you decide you're getting screwed, you can find somethings else. When the alternative was sometimes tyrannical bosses, unweildy shifts, unsafe workplaces, and toxic corporate culture. Could be. 

Saturday, January 07, 2023

grief and forgetfulness

I have these strange moments, particularly as things have settled after the holiday chaos, that I have something very important I am totally forgetting to do. It slips in around the time I fall asleep, around the time I wake up.  Or randomly in the middle of another unrelated thought or conversation.  I have a strong suspicion it has to do with the missing phone calls with my dad since November.  

Those phone calls, with my mother, then with just him, were a bi-weekly touchstone since I first moved to the city and started working nights. The Wednesday night convos at 11pm. were shorter. The Sunday night ones around 6pm. longer. With my mother, there was the usual dose of family activity and gossip. Then sometimes my rants about work or other things.  Then chit chat about movies or food.  These continued, although perhaps with less range with my Dad, during the months she was hospitalized and then after she was gone. They were also tinged with anxiety once he was living alone as an older person--who I worried would fall or suffer some strange calamity, which more than once led to panics when I couldn't get answer. (somewhere, if there is an afterlife, my mother is surely laughing at all the years she worried when me or my sister missed a call.) The tables did turn.

Three nights before my dad was hospitalized, I had the last normal conversation with him.  Or at least it seemed normal across the distance, though my sister says in those days physically he was worse and having a harder time than usual getting around (though he did put me on hold while he walked out the kitchen where they were working on a ramp solution granting access to the deck). The next night, the phone rang slightly before bed and he had a question about his laptop, which I think I successfully managed a work around to his problem, but my phone range a few hours later in the middle of the night, my sister letting me know he'd fallen and had to be helped up by paramedics but was ok. By Wednesday, the next night I was supposed to call, he was in the hospital with a pretty scary infection.  Things got worse from there. 

The weeks since are this strange span of time without those markers I've had for more than two decades. It's compounded a little by working on my own--having only limited contact in person with anyone but J--mostly text messages with friends and my sister, or maybe messenger convos, but I am not especially a phone person.  And yet, those were sort of the recap and unload of my weeks, so missing them seems like a phantom limb that gone but still, nevertheless, aches. Like I haven't checked in with anyone. Like I'm just out here doing things, living a life, but there's no tether to something else, to a past, anymore. 

It's not even as if I have anything important to talk about, just random things, like I was thinking about making chili. Or I watched a new season of something on Netflix. Or I bought some new silverware or a new tablet. Covid stats. That I started working a new writing job, or that I was applying for something that was really exciting.  That I went out for New Years and the drivers and accidents were terrible afterward. This strangely mild weather for January and ordinary cat antics. I'll make note of things in my head, and for a second, remember there is no longer that check-in. 

It's actually less traumatic than the wake of losing my mom, which mostly involved a lot of dreams, months of them, where both she and I came to the starling and devastating realization that she was dead.  I'm pretty sure this had to do with not being there when it happened and never having seen the body before cremation (I would still make that choice, though.) I was there when my dad passed, which at least, seems to have kept him out pf my dreams, at least thinking himself alive. 

Thursday, January 05, 2023

word counts and strange weather


A new thing that I have been doing since delving into the new year is keeping track of word counts in addition to income tallies each writing day.  Partly,  this is just for my own curiosity, but also, as I take on new jobs, helpful in figuring out what to charge for my time. I quickly realized I was running around 5K per day the past several days, which set my slow, little poet heart aghast.  Granted, some days one piece is like 2500 if it's longer, and lessons tend to be 1000 or more, with everything else slightly shorter, so it's actually easy to hit.  I've often speculated I don't have the endurance for writing long things like fiction or novels, but these counts are promising, though I imagine creative prose, like poetry, is a little tougher going.  I can write a 1000 word lesson or article in the same time I write a poem around a hundred words, each using a different part of my brain and a different set of creative muscles.  That poem, like they always have, takes much more out of me. Sometimes I need a nap even though I've only been up an hour. Last summer when I was writing some fiction I could get maybe 1000-1500 words out of a block of several hours.

We've been plagued once again by dreary cloudy days this past week, though the weather is holding pretty mild this first week of the year compared to past year, or hell even last month when we were slammed with snow and frigid cold. Because there isn't any sun and everything feels like sunset all day long, it's harder to get moving and functional and some days are more productive than others even with those good word counts (being motivated to do other things being in short supply). I have had the windows cracked at intervals and swear I heard thunder a couple days back. I did see something online that said in only a few sparse weeks the sun will be setting at 7pm. Those weeks cannot pass swiftly enough.

I am working on the series of poems I started in October that have been languishing since I put them on pause. some strange little relationship poems that number around a dozen at this point. I would like if possible to finish them up around Valentine's Day to make a little zine, but we'll see how swiftly I can get them where I want them. After that, I think I know where I want to go next on something new, though I am not sure how to start. I also need to return to the Persephone poems and see what that project looks like after a bit of distance since late last summer. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

fortune tellers and mechanical birds

Since the first copies arrived in mid-December, I have not been able to stop staring at the gorgeousness that AUTOMAGIC turned out to be. With this past week devote to some marketing stuff, including social media posts, trailers, teasers, and some recordings, I love the book a little bit more with every gesture of getting it in the hands it needs to be in.  I've also been thinking about where it stands within the whole body of my work, which if you go from book number one to current, spans 12 books and over 16 years. That's a whole lot of poems, and I feel like AUTOMAGIC is an inevitable book in that sequence. 

It's definitely a less personal book, far less so than say FEED or DARK COUNTRY, which were firmly rooted in autobiography, or even ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MONSTER, that wove some more personal stuff in with a larger discussion about artmaking and monstrosity. This feels like maybe a sequel book to IN THE BIRD MUSEUM in its predominant victorian themes, but also very different in its sets of concerns, but also, distinctly more narrative-focused.  More so than other books, at least recent books, these are stories in poem-form.  The woman who makes frightening mechanical birds, the fortune teller in an apocalyptic landscape, the whirl and decay of the HH Holmes poems. The text portions of unusual creatures...a set of letters between parted sisters. The strange little beating winged thing that is the eleanor and the tiny machines series.  All of them set in this same world that may or may not be victorian, or is maybe just an ornate victorian-inspired world floating without literal time (as in ordinary planet).

The oldest poems here were written in 2018 (ordinary planet) the newest, late 2021 (the bird artist). It was a book I was compiling in rotation with other longer manuscripts like AVM and the forthcoming COLLAPSOLOGIES, but was always its own book with its own themes and feel, though there were some bits that were plucked for other projects ( the Mr. Potter series I was sure was part of this project as I was writing it, but wound up being an entirely different thing despite its similar subject matter.) The Eleanor poems weren't always part of this book, but kind of floated around looking for a spot for a while. The initial draft of the book surfaced during the months of lockdown as a much shorter manuscript that still had some growing to do. 

As with much of my work, the majority of the book are prose fragments and prose poems, though there are actually a couple rare sections of lineated verse. which feels like something I return to a bit more with each new book, though not always intentionally.  (Though currently, the series I am working through is prose-bound again.) I feel like AUTOMAGIC is in many ways the book I wanted IN THE BIRD MUSEUM to be, but which was far less intentional in construction and much earlier, shaky work at times. For all the discussions and fretting by poets over the inadequacies of early work, I've always been proud of that book, maybe a little more so than my first, but felt like it was far more chaotic in construction and sometimes it shows its seams.  The beautiful thing about writing many books is you get endless new chances to do things in new ways and more intentionally once you have things better in hand. The poet who wrote that first book, she is almost unreachable and blurred by memory, but no doubt she would love this new book. 

You can pick up your very own copy here....

Monday, January 02, 2023

hello, 2023

We rung in the new year downtown amid the glistening riverfront (there were fireworks, but from my angle, I could only see them reflected in the tower of glass opposite.)  I wore my new amazing teal fur coat and a black 40s dress and drank wildly weak and overpriced whiskey & cokes.  I felt very old and very new at the same time (even though many bar patrons were easily my age and then some) and, listening to the thumping, slightly too loud music, I kinda remembered why I historically like staying in on NYE. The most terrifying bit of the night's outing was not, in fact, the crowds and amateur drunks, but the drivers afterwards, combined with slick, rain washed roads that had us spotting/dodging erratic drivers  and creeping past at least a half dozen accidents of various severities on our journey downtown, then to the south side to drop off equipment, then back home way north in the wee hours of morning .  We promptly then spent the first day of the year tucked in bed, eating pizza, watching streaming and getting high on edibles, which is not too terrible a way to launch into what I hope is a promising year. 

As for 2023 resolutions, they are the usual ones I put forward. Be happy. Be healthy. Be productive. Drink more water. Take more pictures. Take more walks. I was closer last year than I ever was to the first, but the second still needs some work, esp since I am out less getting less movement in in general which I can feel in my creaky knees when I stand up after hours seated at my desk.  I was creatively productive, in some respects, but fallow in others (my visual art adventures feel like they weren't getting enough attention the past two years.) There are still shop things I want to make and anthology projects I have on the roster as soon as I deal with the backlog that the past two months have wrought.  

I plan to issue book #13, ie the pandemic book, aka the 2020 dumpster fire book, COLLAPSOLOGIES, around my birthday perhaps, with maybe another project, which one has yet to be determined,  later in the year.  I also have a fun V-Day release of a zine on the horizon if I can finish it in time. I plan to bolster up my freelance efforts with maybe one more gig, work a little more on short fiction things I started in 2022.  

This year, I have occupied this space far less than I always intend to, so that may also perhaps be an achievable  resolution for 2023.  I was strong on weekly notes and round-ups, but didn't write as many standalone entries on writerly subject matter, which I always hope to do.  It may just be that my prose writing skills were directed elsewhere and I need to occasionally send some this way. With social media always in flux (it feels lke FB/insta are a dead stick and I left Twitter completely amid the nonsense) this is still my favorite means of speaking aloud on the internets, so it definitely needs more attention than I give it. 

Here is a to great start to a clean slate.....