Monday, March 27, 2023

home improvements

I think I may have reached the end of my recent series of poems. Which is to say, today's offering felt like a final one. A closure. This means it has topped out at 21 poems, not unhealthy for a chapbook-sized series. Longer than some, but shorter than others. It makes a nice length as well the longer manuscript in progress, which still allows room for more growth on that without getting too long and cumbersome (I like to keep collections in the 100-page range, with these it's currently sitting just over 80.) 

I have solid drafts of the poems, and some titles for pieces, but am still working on some others I will cement as I edit them into something less messy. While the titles of these in many ways inspired and drove the project, playing off some of the paid decor content I've been writing this past year, I am rather rusty on titling individual pieces, usually opting to title the series and let the pieces go untitled. Titles are rough, especially if they don't cement when you first put the words down on the page.

I'd intended to go a few more days of daily poems and then dip into a new project come April 1st for NAPOWRIMO (possibly the technogrotesque series), but this buys me a few days of a break from daily writing and a chance to firm some of these up and maybe, if all goes well, send some before spring is over. It also gives me a chance, in my collage experiments to mess around with possible visuals (see above, though this one may be way too inspired by watching the entirety of available Yellowjackets episodes and feral teenage girls doing weird-ass pagan rites in the woods..). But we'll see what else they yield...

Sunday, March 26, 2023

notes & things | 3/26/2023

This week, I've watched as they've been emptying and cleaning out the house of the Polish couple that lived across the courtyard for the past 20 odd years, both of whom are gone now. (Finally confirmed by a loud conversation I heard between a neighbor and a utility worker through my window after months of noticing subtle changes in how many lights were on/off.)  Unsurprising, but still sad, since they were easily already in their 60s when I moved in. I also watch the now elderly man in another of the townhouses mount the front steps with the help of a ramp and his wife and daughter, his arm in a sling. People in this building come and go mostly, largely students here for a year or two, but the residents of the townhouses, except for the two at the front, one of which is a rental, have stayed the same. I spend more time near the windows to notice things than I used to when my workspaces were elsewhere in the apartment and when I was gone most of the day into the evening, but I'd catch glimpses of kids or teenagers that have now somehow become adults coming or going. Dogs that came and went. 

There's a line in that Taylor Swift/Pheobe Bridgers song about feeling time moving, and it's more a sensation that I have been standing still and everything else moving at a steady churn.  I suppose it's a hazard of staying in one place for too long, time becomes this long line or rope instead of short strands.  I used to wonder at the library, which had a mix of long-termers and short-runners, what do you lose in a department when the turnover is constantly in flux. What knowledge and perspective is missing if everyone is just getting the swing of things? When there is no collective experience that spans past a couple years. I could not stay, but at least some of those people are still there (though admittedly some of those people are part of the problem.) Because sometimes things need to be let go. Last summer, when heavy rains flooded the freshly laid carpet in the first-floor hallway of my apt. building, I was chatting with someone in the office as I picked up a package and they seemed thunderstruck when I said, "oh yes, that happens every few years." No one apparently knew this was a possibility (the drains in the alley clog up and the water has nowhere to go but down the loading dock ramp and into the building) They did later install tile, which was probably what the old management should have done long ago. But when people leave (or quit, move out, or die) so does their knowledge and memory. In my orphan state, there are things I will suddenly think of, childhood memories or family stories, and before, would have asked my parents to confirm or deny my memories. But now, there is a huge body of information just vanished from the face of the earth.

So today, I think about time and projects and seizing the day. Today, I make blueberry muffins from a box mix and drink coffee and sort through print jobs I picked up earlier in the week like these great little collage posties soon to be in the shop. I think about the next book, collapsologies, and its overall concept and visual ideas for covers and such.  Yesterday, I scanned some analog artwork I've had in mind since the beginning that's been sitting on my shelves for over three years, basically since the book was conceived during the strange summer of lockdown, though the poems took a little longer to finish. I've been working digitally entirely lately, which always feels more polished, so its always strange to look at paper pieces cobbled together from stacks of vintage magazines. Their imperfections.  Glue spots and ragged paper. But then again, the greater limitations of working with what you have vs. what you can find and manipulate are two very different kinds of creating sometimes.  Sort of like a game with defined pieces vs. a scavenger hunt.

So that book needs to be finalized in April or May, and maybe, just maybe, will be ready for the world in June or July. Meanwhile, I am closing in on the end of the short series of poems about houses I've been working on.  They are still very rough and need some serious clean-up time after I'm done, but at the moment, I am liking them very much.  I have found over time that my relationship to my own work is fewer highs and lows and more of an even keel.  I feel like I am writing better than ever, but I also feel like people care less and less. Or less than before. Which is of course, a folly to judge oneself by, and is totally my own fault at spending too much time on social media platforms, whose exodus and algorithms are always affecting internet attention spans.  The danger of embedding your creative life in something where everyone is jostling for space, which is true of the publishing world and less true on the internet, but still kind of works the same. 

So I try not to think too much about and go on endlessly appreciating the people who I know are interested in reading my work. Or maybe reading it and I don't even know it. And more that I should just look to satisfy myself anyway, to make sure I am happy with what I am putting out there in the world. To take pleasure in the experience of writing and its rewards and maybe a few little connections it makes with other people in this short amount of time I, or anyone, is plodding along on this planet. 

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 2014 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 fraught with danger of replacement. But for most people, even the technologically savvy ones, they'd 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 and 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.