Friday, April 28, 2023

notes & things | 4/28/2023

I am headed out this weekend for a couple days at my sister's, but spent the morning working on the final three pieces of NAPOWRIMO, which I suppose is flouting the poem-a-day rules a little in my favor. But I also didn't want to have to write and post while I was technically on vacation, or as close as I get to a vacation. And I wanted to actually finish since I am so close to the end, so while they were coming, I let them come and prepared reels and blog posts here to go up while I am on the move. 

I think I was really feeling that drag of the last third when I am always most likely to throw in the towel, no matter how good the momentum was initially. But I worked through it and lo and behold 30 pieces. 15 of one project (and maybe the whole project) and 15 of another (that I think I'll continue to work on into May.) Switching gears did help a little.  I always eye the many poets using prompts for NAPOWRIMO and am always tempted to try them, but I think I am helped by knowing a bit more specifically what I'm working on. Both of these series will eventually likely be zines or chapbooks, and segments of longer collections (two different ones I am thinking at this point that are still in their infancy.)While I initially thought they might fit in the RUINPORN manuscript, the more I wrote them, I thought maybe not. 

I may write a few more villains pieces in May, but the brunt of my writing activities will be getting COLLAPSOLOGIES in shape and ready to layout and design. I already have the cover design cobbled together from some paper collages I made a while back (before the poems were even written) but they are a great fit. It's a far more modern feeling book and these collages are still vintage as usual, but also midcentury-esque. Stay tuned for the reveal very soon. 

It is again impossible that is May, just as impossible as it was April.  The leaves have been filling in on the trees and even the one in the courtyard that blooms late is slowly starting. In the realm of flowerings, I did manage to confirm and set a deposit for my botanical tattoo that will be happening at the end of June so that is firmly on the horizon. 

Earlier, going over some final edits on a lesson on the Greeks I was thinking about a word we were discussing whether it worked, the idea of "netting" Zeus's daughters in the story of Pirthous and Theseus,  who set out to kidnap an underage Helen and Persephone from Hades. Obviously, it did not work out so well for them. I'd used the word offhandedly in my roughest draft, but it seemed perfect--to catch like fish--more than "kidnap" or "steal"  I found myself having a hard time explaining the associativeness of language, however, how that was the exact word to describe it to my editor. Payday deadlines are nigh, which means ideally less time for back and forth, and it's easier just to switch it to other phrasing that was more layman-friendly. 

But the question got me thinking about AI and poetry and all the ways that language works with metaphor and the associative brain. How computers will never quite be able to tap into that associative logic or dreams and subconscious things that propel actual poetry. I say the word "doll," for example,  and it brings up childhood, motherhood, perfection and gloss. The uncanny or creepiness of still objects. Passiveness, play, inertia. I'm not sure a computer understands that.  I say the two heroes were trying to net goddesses (or demi-goddesses anyway) and picture two men holding a net and a girl running into it, captured, which was how things usually worked among the Greeks.  The deceit and the sweeping up like a net. I think this needs a longer entry perhaps, but this will do for today. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


I am probably someone who tends to take stock at various times of year, perhaps obsessively and a little too much. New Year's obviously. Or every fall which seems like a new year, or at least did when I was beholden to academic calendars. Birthdays too, and this one finds me entering what impossibly is my fifth decade, a half-century, at age 49. This is one of my favorite birthday photos, complete with a much-coveted Barbie cake I had been pestering my mom for.  Judging by my hair length and color, I was probably 5 or 6 here. Earlier, my sister posted a photo of me hovering over a terrible cake I decorated myself with an ocean theme and horrible bangs, still blonde and sweatshirted as I always was then, and turning 18. It's amazing that photo exists, likely snapped by my mom on my camera (I vaguely remember photos with friends later playing ski-ball with my friends, but those may have been among our prom weekend photos.) I don't remember much about that 18th birthday other than that photo and that sad cake. That girl thought she knew everything. But really she knew nothing. 

Today, I wake up a little earlier and instead of the usual muffins, eat the final slice of the small square frozen grocery store fudge cake I bought a couple days and have been working through each night steadily for dessert. I make coffee. I finish up the dishes I left in the sink last night. Today, I have quite a bit of work to do, but it's good work and I am trying to clear my queue since I am spending the weekend at my sister's. I start the day by making arrangements with the artist I've been talking to about finally getting the botanical tattoo I've been talking about and planning for almost 4 years that got delayed due to bravery and money and then Covid. I have articles to finalize and decor things to write, plus my daily NAPOWRIMO piece to somehow make materialize. I will figure out what to make for dinner. Tonight, J will come over and maybe bring more cake and cocktails and we'll probably try to watch a movie but may fall asleep. (mostly because its late and we'll be no-doubt high and neither of us are 18 anymore).

I will, of course, for the first year, be missing both my parents from the equation. My mother, who would have called me at night no matter the day. My father, who didn't necessarily call me, but would, days before or after, be like "That's right, it's gonna be / it was your birthday!. He would then, next time I saw him, hand me a card filled with cash (some of the same cash I've been hoarding to finally get that tattoo.) It's the first birthday I've been entirely parent-less and it feels strange and not quite right. 

What 49 will bring, who knows?  There is a new book on the horizon, collapsologies, aka the 2020 dumpster fire book we've all written, that I will start some final edits on in May and release over the summer. I have plans for more postcards and bookish things and getting through the tardy chaps that were due out in the fall and were delayed. There might be more surprises and good news shaking around that will eventually spill. 

That 5 or 6-year-old would be stoked as hell to see the new Barbie movie when it drops this summer. The 18-year-old would be happy to know that those silly poems she scribbles in her diary and on pen-pal stationery and lined notebook paper will somehow make up a huge portion of her life one day. That she will live in the city she so badly wanted to.   She didn't know about the internet or streaming or online shopping or any of the things that would play a big role in her current life but would have told you you were making shit up if you described them to her.  She still liked horror movies and cats (another photo I have somewhere from this session I think has me holding my cat in fact.). My fashion sense was not developed and I was knee-deep in diet culture hell, but thankfully things would get better on both fronts.  She would have told you she would be a scientist but instead would be a poet, which sometimes feels like the same kind of thing.

Monday, April 24, 2023

the accidental artist: 20 years of art-making

I came to the startling realization this week that it's kind of the 20th anniversary of my very first art- making endeavors. That is visual arts, not necessarily the arts in general, which boast a much longer history of writing and then some theater. I was one of those kids who both hated art class and loved it. Loved it because it was a creative break between boring things like math and social studies, but also hated it because I wasn't very good. Or maybe I was really good at thinking and conceptualizing cool projects, but my hands and eyes were not necessarily up to my brain's endeavors. My pinch pots were lopsided, and my wire sculptures hilariously crooked. Don't even ask me to paint or glue things because even the best results would be ruined by my clumsiness and just general difficulty with being patient and working slowly.  While writing was not something I grew up around, art was not entirely unfamiliar since my mom was a longtime painter of bisque figurines as a hobby. She never let us touch her supplies, though both my sister and I watched her and longed to get our hands on them. Wisely, she never let us. My sister later studied art for a while before switching to classics, and still occasionally makes things. I, however, went in another direction entirely.  

A couple things happened in 2003 and early 2004 that had me wander down a different path. For one, I was working in the library of an arts college and surrounded by visual arts people.  When our newish library director suggested we start a library art series featuring staff, I didn't think, however, that I had much to offer. I was just beginning to see the fruits of a budding poetry career. Within a year or two I would continue publishing, win some awards, put together my first book. I would start doing regular readings and enroll in an MFA program that fall. But I had not a clue in the world how to make that a visual thing. To translate writing through a visual medium. Later I would become more acquainted with the installation and book arts, but that spring of 2003, I was stumped. 

What my contribution to one of those early exhibits was actually kind of terrible and wonderful. Terrible because it was sloppy, ill-conceived, and just not all that clever. Basically, I wrote out by hand several poems on a roll of wax paper, melted two sheets together with an iron, and strung a continuing role of words around the first floor of the library, up the stairs (admittedly this part was kind of cool, though its amazing I did not fall to my death) and into the 3rd-floor gallery space. It took forever both to do and to install..and I only remember that I was doing it around my birthday. I considered abandoning it halfway through, especially as I was balanced on precarious ladders at various points, but I stuck it out. I think there is maybe one photo somewhere of a segment, but as far as I know, no others.  But it was a beginning. If you want to know what melting wax paper and sharpie ink smells like when heated, trust me, it's not good and possibly caused me some brain damage.

Fast forward to 2004 and I was already in my MFA program, and probably at that moment, unhappily. I took a small press publishing class over in the Fiction Writing Dept. and ended up making not only a print issue of Wicked Alice, which I'd been curating online for a couple years at that point, but a chap of my own. With the logistics in hand, I decided to start the press, basically with some cheap supplies and some writers willing to let me issue their work.  Those books, of course, needed covers. Some I was able to get artwork from kind visual artists. Some I designed myself.   Becuase I wanted to learn more and had some extra cash available from a local writing prize, in the summer of 2004, I took a brief summer weekend workshop down at Columbia's tragically closed Book & Paper Center, which I have long suspected would have been a better alternative for MFA study but I was already in to far to switch those gears. I learned some cool techniques I still occasionally use. I made my very first official collages, one of which hangs on the wall above me even now.

At the same time, I continued with my strange library experiments. One, a series of tea-stained muslin banners with poems written on them in a continuous stream (see above). Next, a series of library card catalog pieces on recycled cards strung from the ceiling. Based on these, a very kind new friend, Lauren Levato Coyne, who I'd met in the poetry community and who was also an artist, invited me to be part of a show she was putting together at WomanMade Gallery about sacred spaces in early 2005. The result of that was an artist book of collages and poems fashioned crudely from a blank book I think I'd bought at Borders, the fairytale-inspired The Book of Red (the poem portions of which you can actually find in my FEIGN chapbook from NMP a couple years later.)  By 2005, while I wouldn't have called myself an artist if you asked, things were happening there that were delightful and unexpected, particularly as the internet as a means of sharing work were burgeoning, especially in the blog world. I made some cool things like this box for a vis-po assignment in a poetry class, these collages, an initial one-off version of errata that featured a cool corset-bound cover.  I continued to design up a storm on covers and actually got pretty decent at digital design, even using very inexpensive platforms and software. (ie. not the  Adobe suite.) Lauren and I issued at the hotel andromeda in 2007, which was a mix of poems and postcards and ephemera in honor of Joseph Cornell, with whom we were both obsessed. 

Then came Etsy.  I was actually a shopper first, for about a year, before I opened a shop myself and still managed to spend a not inconsiderable amount of money on postcards, paper goods, art prints, tote bags, and ephemera packets for collage. When I launched the shop that spring of 2007, it was mostly to sell chapbooks, which offered me a better storefront than the individual Paypal buttons I had been using. The fall of 2007, however, was a weird time.  I had finished my MFA that spring and was asking what next? I decided to rent the studio space in the Fine Arts with the last dregs of that student loan money I am still paying back, but was hoping not only for a space to expand the press and the shop, but also host events and workshops. (which we did the first year, but the shop and press sort of ate the studios' event space pretty quickly.)It was a leap of faith and I knew I had to expand the shop offerings to pay the rent.

Etsy Shadowbox

Under the wire to find ways to bring in additional income, I tapped into the burgeoning Etsy market of artists and soon, I was making so many things. Not just collages, but shadow boxes and other little art things. This led to other art shows and exhibits and boutique invitations. And what was crazy and amazing was that I was selling originals and prints regularly from the shop. Not just a little, but a lot. along with notecards and postcards, and eventually things like jewelry and handmade soap. I also was selling vintage and thrifted things for extra money, which really didn't feel like work but more like shopping. It was a crazy couple years, during which Etsy was on a growth spurt that would eventually make it less lucrative and more competitive for everyone, especially artists and vintage sellers (and why I would eventually leave for greener pastures.)  I realized at some point I spent a lot of time making things, but less time on the things I had initially wanted to make. Time that I wanted to spend amping up the chapbook offerings and making zines and artist books was spent running a brisk business in any amount of spare time I was not working my day job.  

By around 2011, I wanted to get a little closer back to my intentions, was kind of on the Etsy downswing, and decided to set up my own independent storefront, which was mostly books and more zines, but also still some art things I continue to offer, though not as much jewelry and I mostly stopped selling vintage. I never quite got back to the income heights after that, but I had more time to enjoy making the things I wanted--zines, chapbooks, collages not necessarily for sale, and also writing, which I was finally returning back to after that post-MFA slump. Eventually, things ramped up a little as people found me outside the internal traffic of Etsy. 

I continued to make collages, exhibiting them regularly, both in the library and elsewhere. I also started learning how to do other things...esp. watercolor (both paints and pencils) which I took to well. Also printmaking and monotype prints. Then digital collage work, mostly as a result of designing so many book covers. Later,  I got to teach some workshops on things I was already doing, like nature prints, book sculptures, and thrifted/assemblage art. One of the nice things of this past year of self-employment is it has, in the off times, I am not writing for money or doing press business or writing poems, the chance to play with visual things again, and also to do things like format new postcard sets and now, awesome new journals for the shop. To just have a bit more clarity and intention when it comes to making things in general, but esp. visual art, which sometimes got the shaft in recent years. Video, which I am still getting a handle on, is another medium that offers great possibility to bring visuals and writing together in the same way zines do. (and admittedly, I might as well do something creative with it with all the wasted time I spend on Instagram reels.)

It was a long time before I was willing to claim "artist" as part of my title, and still sometimes imposter syndrome is a beast. Far moreso than in writing poems, which I generally feel pretty comfortable and confident about. Maybe because I have a bonafide history of getting past gatekeepers. Or have college and grad school degree-age to back me up. Even though if you look at it from a "professional" financial standpoint, I've easily made 20 times the money on art as I have on poetry. Why imposter feelings? Because I have little training or pedigree. Because I am terrible at drawing even still. I don't have the carefulness and planning and precision of some of my artist friends. I kind of dive in and see what happens (which is harder, however, when you're working with limited or spendy materials, so I try not to.) One of the reasons I took so easily to digital collage is no cutting and no glue to fuck up, and fuck up I do quite readily with those materials. My trashcan beneath my paint table is littered with false starts and botched collages. I did a series of very messy flocked black velvet pieces that I exhibited in fall 2021 and then ripped from the walls and threw in the trash because I hated them and didn't want to transport them home. (though I did get some nice notecard designs from them.) It's a journey, always, when it comes to the visual stuff.  I can't say the same about my writing, which is subject to far less dramatic swings and feelings. 

But then again, 20 years ago, if you told me I would be an artist someday, or hell, even that the writing would work out as well as it has,  both as a creative writer and a content writer paid to do it, I would possibly have not believed you. The girl, who at 29, would have told you she had so much figured out, would be surprised at how much she did not.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

self-elegies and imaginary daughters

A few years back, the awesome Kara Dorris asked me to contribute to a project that did not yet have a publisher but that she was compiling on self elegies.  This month that bit of beautifulness dropped into my mailroom as Writing the Self-Elegy The Past is Not Disappearing Ink published by SIU Press and fostering all sorts of goodness therein from a huge bevy of writers that are familiar and unfamiliar to me.

The past half-decade has been a strange dream of stretchy time, so it was hard to remember when I sent these (luckily, my little process note that proceeds a writing prompt that relates to my poems notes that it must have been early to mid-2018) The poems are two pieces from the science of impossible objects, aka the imaginary daughter poems, I had written earlier that year. I think the topic of the anthology was definitely in line with my feelings in 2018, the year after losing my mother, and the period in which that series, and the greater span of poems that became the longer collection FEED took root. Which is to say, I was searching in poems a lot that year and grappling with grief and loneliness much more acutely. Losing my father this past fall was rough, but not quite as decentering as that initial loss (or at least I tell myself this, though sometimes not sure if it's true.)

As a child-free person, I both feared and was at the same time curious about alternative lives, the sum of the life of my mother, the sort of things you lose from your own childhood when a parent is gone. This is especially true in my fully orphaned state, where I will think of something and realize that there is no one who knows the answer to a question.  No one shares certain early memories and information--barring my sister, but she's younger and therefore less reliable. I have a couple of aunts left on either side, ample cousins, a friend of my mother. But if they do not remember things, who besides me does? Who will when they are gone? When I am? I supposed the great thing about being a writer is that, well, everyone will.  Here in this blog, in our books, in our poems. In the stories we tell. I would have been a terrible mother--impatient and probably resentful of the time suck of raising children-- as well as I was at least. I don't have a nurturing bone in my body. But sometimes I wonder what turn things would have taken under other circumstances and conditions. Definitely not regrets (enough harried stressed mommy instagram reels and I am wondering how and why anyone has children ever. I mean, EVER.)   

These poems probably came from these feelings, which are deeper, but also just a hilarious interest board where a woman bougie-ly outfitted an imaginary child in baby Ralph Lauren and beige Montessori toys. They're some of my favorite poems (though, like children, I say that about all my poems.)

You can get a copy of the anthology from SIU Press here...


Friday, April 21, 2023



Wednesday, April 19, 2023

where the machines fail

 I think it may just be my social algorithm, but so many articles coming through my feed on AI and the dangers, like strange apocalyptic dangers and just creative dangers. Yesterday, a discussion of an artist who won a photo contest with an AI-generated pic and withdrew from the contest. Photography does seem like it may be the most difficult to identify, though some types of writing, like articles and essays, if you don't peer too closely to see the cracks, could masquerade as human results. Tonight, I watched a hilarious video of a writer trying to do a writing routine created by Chat-GPT, proving that AI may be the worst boss ever and seemed to forget that humans need water and food and sunlight in our sorry little biological states. It was productive for her in a machine-like precision, but good lord...

I started a series of collages tonight while thinking of the TECHNOGROTESQUE poems, but the results above were too old-world and maybe I need something more modern. Still fun and kind of pretty. Those poems sort of wrestled from some of those headlines and things I was reading the first half of April. Earlier today, I played around with the text-to-image generator and nothing was anything remotely what I wanted. This afternoon, it was much the same trying to source photos for an article for HD on vintage milk glass in Shutterstock. I got a lot of glasses and a lot of milk, but not a single incidence of what I was actually looking for, as Shutterstock sometimes quite often fails me. I am usually more likely to find exactly what I want accidentally while looking for something else. Luckily, Instagram hashtags came through for me where the primitive search engine available to me could not. Writing and researching the article took less than hour. The image sourcing, another good 40 minutes. 

I love playing with the graphics and stock images available in various cache's, and there's a lot there, but finding the exact search terms to find them takes some work. The more specific, the more difficult. I think what people forget is the machines only work as good as humans can speak to them, tell them what to do, and set parameters. Communication with the robots is a whole lot more difficult than making them do things.  

Monday, April 17, 2023

the muses

  I have been working in this new set of collages this week that have both classical and Picnic at Hanging Rock vibes aplenty....

Sunday, April 16, 2023

who gets to be a writer?

When I first saw someone post this article last week, I actually thought it was an older piece. Especially since every once in a while I see similar discussions and have been historically seeing them since the first years of poetry blogdom and everyone I knew trying to land first book contracts way back in the early aughts. If the number of presses with open reading periods was abysmal then, its probably more abysmal now,  which meant, and continues to mean, that if you are intent on publishing traditionally as a poet, you are likely going to try the contest route. This fact makes the findings of these sorts of studies even more abysmal of course. The odds of winning one seem small, not only because there are actually hundreds of other great poets with books probably better than yours. But also because, it seems, the deck is always stacked in some kinds of pedigree and connections favor as the article reveals. At least for poetry. Especially for poetry,

I think what is interesting, however, is the phrasing in the paragraph intro-ing Spahr & Co's study--"Who gets to be a writer?" which got me thinking about the sort of scope I have now that I lacked back in the earliest days of my career as a writer trying to find a publisher, trying to land in journals, making my way in the lit world. Because of course, the answer, or more specifically "How does one get to be a writer?" has no real answer. Or, better, has a million answers.  

The good thing is that you really only need to worry about the unfairness and inequity in the publishing world if you are intent on being a certain kind of writer with a certain kind of set of priorities. Unfortunately, this set of circumstances is also the one that often leads to things like grants and fellowships and teaching positions that allow you to actually be in a career (financially) as a creative writer and not have to make a living elsewhere. These are the poets and the circumstances that speak as if they are the only game in town as if these are the only gains, which is something I believed at 30, but now, not so much. 

For me, most of my book publications came from presses with open reading periods (Ghost Road, Black Lawrence), or nudging my way into established relationships with presses who had published smaller pieces of work by querying if they wanted to see more (Dusie, Sundress) Once, miraculously by invitation and the serendipity of being at the end of a project (Noctuary). But those opportunities are less frequent now, more competitive, and they may cost you a lot in submission fees and elbow grease. As I delved into self-publishing the last couple of years, I don't know, however, if I would have been as successful at it without having had those experiences with other publishers beforehand. To have learned how to market books and myself. To get to understand how things work, but also the perspective to see that they are not the ONLY way.   

But I will say again, there are so many ways of being a writer. For existing as a writer in the world. Some of them even make some money Ask any slam poet who moves a good number of books and makes money touring. Or Rupi Kaur and other famous Insta poets.  Ask the fiction writers who do very brisk sales on self-published multi-volume novels in just about every genre. The cool thing about doing zine fests is how many really good writers you meet DIY-ing it. The audiences for these, even if the money is not there, is often far greater than even the Iowa and Ivy-pedigreed writers who win book contests. 

Perhaps the better question should be more "Who gets to be a certain KIND of writer?"  The answer is obviously skewed toward white, upper-middle or wealthy class people with Harvard degrees. Not all obviously. I know a few poets winning contests whose backgrounds are far more modest., but they are the exceptions rather than the rule. I also know Harvard or Iowa-degreed poets who are awesome and would have succeeded even without the degree gilding the path. I also know lots of poets with stunning books still trying to find a publisher I worry never will. Mostly I've learned that there are actually infinite ways of being a writer and finding an audience and enjoying the work you do, and thankfully, much more equitable and open ones than you will find behind the book contest system and all its nonsense. So if the system is broken, find a new system. 

Saturday, April 15, 2023

imperfect oracles

The last couple of days, I've been drawing the TECHNOGROTESQUE series to a close. Which is to say, it feels finished right now, though who knows. It's currently at 15 poems, all written this month, and I feel like I've driven it to an ending of some sort. I'm finishing off with the pieces referencing the inspos that got the wheels turning on that particular project in the first place. Who knows what order they'll eventually be in once I get them edited and in final shape, but they're working right now in the order they came in. They still feel a little odd to me with their short narrow lines, narrower than I've written in decades probably. Uncomfortably narrow. 

The last thing I worked on but haven't shared much yet  HOME IMPROVEMENTS was lineated. but longer and more spacious. My first inclination on anything is prose, which may be where I am going next with what I wrote for today's poem I'll be posting tomorrow.  Sometimes, it's not the lines, but the stanza breaks that trouble me and make me question if I even know what the hell I'm doing. Sometimes things will sound fine but look unbalanced on the page. Sometimes, the opposite.  When I read things aloud, they're even more subject to variation. Many times at readings, people who listen are surprised to see they are prose poems on the page, certain I had some sort of intentional meter and rhyme. Mostly I just play it by ear. 

We all start out in lines I suppose, in stanzas.  I wrote my first book entirely in lined verse, but by the second and third, the prose crept in and then completely dominated much of my work for the next decade. Books that were at least 75% prose poems. The last two have been about half and half, and I've slowly been going back to lines, but prose feels like it's the most home-like. Like there is less artifice involved. Less orchestration. Sometimes, I need to get the words out and just type randomly with barely spaces or lines like some kind of incoherent oracle. Like its a spell to be rearranged later. 

I'm not much of a reviser, but I definitely am a tweaker. These napowrimo poems have less time to simmer before I post them, usually only a night, and the days I'm behind, possibly a couple hours. I will move things around in the lines and change words for sounds and sense, and fix my terrible typing mistakes (well the ones I see.) I hit post and lately, drop a segment into a reel for socials.  But the true test will be in a couple months when I go back in and see if they still are doing what I want them to. That needs some time. I do a lot of punctuation changes at that stage sometimes..those long poet sentences that never serve me well. I might cut out something that seemed clever but now seems stupid. Something that seems way too sentimental. But mostly the poems still look generally the same as the first draft. 

When I was in workshops, I remember the suggestions for revising and always thought that what they wanted was an entirely different poem from the poet--not just me, but everyone. Wanted to rewrite the poem in their own image. But I've always considered the next poem the revision. The things that later seem to be mistakes something to avoid next time. This one, I can tidy up the kitchen and put out fresh flowers, but I am not rebuilding the house. If its a disaster, I'll do it better next time. 


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

notes & things | 4/13/2023

 Another holiday weekend that seemed surreal, though his was a bit different and less sad since I rarely spent Easter with my parents.  It wasn't usually a holiday where much was happening anyway, particularly in more recent years. With the family rift on my mom's side and my dad's side of the family never really gathering for Easter, most the holidays most often found me in the city and gnawing the heads off chocolate bunnies and making zombie jesus jokes aplenty.  This time, I was at J's boss's house again with groups of new people and more familiar strangers, which was the same sort of chaos as Christmas, just with more guests.  I hid a large part of the pre-dinner mayhem outside on the patio having an introvert crises and watching the planes take off over the sky from nearby Midway,  where it was warmish as the sun went down, but eventually the cool air forced me back inside. 

My windows have been, however, open the past two days, and last night, I slept like the dead and woke up earlier than usual.  It's amazing how much open windows and sunny days impact my mood and energy levels..almost as if I was an insect in a jar you suddenly took the lid off for. I wrote articles all morning and worked on cover designs all afternoon. I wrote a poem. I made art reels and graphics. I didn't hit that 5pm wall where I need a nap. In a week or so, I suspect we will start to see some green on the trees if its not there already. 

The NAPOWRIMO poems continue to go well, but I may switch up projects in a few days and move on to something else. I suspected this might be a shorter series, so am planning where to turn my efforts next. I will be deleting each one after a few days to edit and polish next month perhaps. At this point I do not yet know if they are a fit with the RUINPORN mss. or maybe something entirely new. Thematically I think they fit, but tonally I'm not sure. May will be for editing and regrouping and then turning my attention toward COLLAPSOLOGIES, which has been sitting printed out on my desk since the end of last summer. I am hoping to get it into shape and ready for publication by mid-summer, but we'll see how it goes. I also am thinking of making a new series of video poems for summer since last year's project was so much fun (I've been making shorter bits, but they're just mostly reels and social media content.)

I am also going to start submitting individual poems to journals now that I've been getting more organized and systematic about creative things in general, which seems like the antithesis of art, but more that I am better at sticking to routines and structure and have made room for time to do some research on markets and guidelines and actually get some poems out there in the wilds. I also have a lot of work built up that has not, and will not for awhile, see the light of day..mostly GRANATA pieces from last summer and the HOME IMPROVEMENTS series I was working on at the end of this winter (and that go along with those most recent collages.) 


Wednesday, April 05, 2023

a love letter to all the things I could have been instead

Today, I was revising my official decor-related bio for House Digest and remembering not only the years I spent watching HGTV shows in the middle of the night, cross-legged on the floor by the coffee table all through college, but also a very particular camping trip in which I once decided, at 15, that I was definitely going to be an interior designer. Admittedly, it was only after one of those aptitude career tests you take had revealed a predisposition for that particular line of work somehow.  While I was enamored of decor magazines even as a teenager, I soon chucked that idea, largely since I came to realize that designers very rarely got carte blanche in making spaces. Even then, I knew I really didn't want to have a career catering to other people's desires. It was one thing to go shopping with my mom every few months and completely redo entire rooms in the house without my dad noticing until the credit card bills arrived. It was another to have to fight tooth and nail over drapery fabric. 

It was one of a long list of things I wanted to be or might have been at various points when you are still figuring things out, most of them probably totally doable--law school, psychiatry, politics or activism. Some were impractical, like the several months senior year I wanted to be a Broadway actress. And a couple that I wanted to do--tried to do even--but was ill-suited for--marine science (those shoddy math skills) or teaching (not a nurturing bone in my body and pathological introversion.) The first would land me in North Carolina upon graduation and wind up just not happening. The second would still take me years to figure out. 

Writing, while something I did, was good at, and enjoyed greatly, never seemed like an actual career option, though I checked all the requisite boxes--stellar English class essays over four years, a newspaper section editor position, a spot on the yearbook staff. In college, an English major, lit mags and awards and film reviews in the college paper. Writing was something one did, could be good at, but no one I knew, not in person, not even tangentially, made a living actually doing it.  That included even things as basic as a newspaper or magazine writing and definitely novels unless we were talking like VC Andrews, Christopher Pike, or Stephen King. Later, the Ernest Hemingways and Emily Dickinsons. The Sylvia Plaths or the Shakespeares. This is to say, not something I thought was in any way open to me here in the midwest, where reading, even then, wasn't something people did much of. 

Poetry was maybe something teenage girls scribbled in journals, girls like me anyway, but not something one could pursue even as an art form, much less a career or avocation. I knew by the time I finished my first go-round in grad school that I wanted badly to keep writing it, but needed something more solid to build my financial foundation on. I set out of my MA program, knowing teaching was completely wrong for me, but still looking for some sort of bookish, interesting job I wouldn't hate that allowed me time to write.

While I was a library-lover since childhood, that career also did not seem like something you could just pursue. I had looked at MLS programs around the time I was thinking I might like to get my Ph.D, but neither seemed right. I actually stumbled into my first library job in one kind of randomly after searching months for bookstore or writing-related work in my hometown. I basically took a poorly paid public school job that no one else wanted.  Then a poorly paid college library job that I stayed in for two decades. I was actually good at being a librarian even though I stubbornly refused to subject myself to a professional program I knew I would hate. I instead decided to get an MFA, which I also sort of hated, but probably less. And in the end, refused to get a library science degree almost out of spite, even though I did "professional" things like write articles and award applications and present professionally.  But I just couldn't stay in the end.

The cool thing about writing is that you sometimes get to live different lives. When I write decor or design articles, I get to be that designer I wanted to be at 15 just a little. When I write horror articles, I get to be the film scholar I sometimes wish I became to just sit around and talk horror 24/7. When I write about restaurants and cooking, I get to play the gourmet I am most definitely not, or the full-time traveler I wish I wanted to be (even though I don't actually like traveling much.) Writing online lesson content, I get to be the budding architecture and art scholar. The smart lit professor. The expert in folklore and mythology (that particular one took hold after watching Virginia Madsen in Candyman as a college freshman.). Writing about vintage and old things, I can imagine I am the mysterious (possibly cursed) antiques dealer in a rather questionable spooky town. 

And of course, I also get to be the poet the rest of the time. And the artist and designer. The editor and curator.  All of which I guess, miraculously, I somehow am for reals. And sometimes all of it seems impractical and I'm not sure how I got here exactly. Or how that 15-year-old just setting feelers out in the world wound up here. Only that it is exactly the right place. 

Monday, April 03, 2023

Saturday, April 01, 2023

notes & things | 4/1/2023

And in the realm of impossible but much-awaited things, it seems we have stumbled into April. Last night, rain in a springish kind of way, and miles to the west, tornados and blown-off roof a town over from where I grew up. Next weekend is Easter. This week, my mother's birthday, what would have been her 76th were she still alive. Time floats and races at equal increments.

A couple days this week were bright and sunny if not necessarily warm and I could tell the difference in my mood and energy levels. Even inside, the sun has me waking early and not hitting a wall in the late afternoon as I work. I've been adjusting my wake-up time and my bedtime and still around 5pm all winter long, I feel badly in need of a nap, no matter how long I have been up. On the sunny days though, this legarthic afternoon slump was non-existent, which bodes well for summer. I don't even always fall asleep if I lie down, sometimes just sort of doze covered in cats who also decide the bed is the best place to be. Then usually I somehow rally an hour or two later and return to the usual things that occupy my nights, making dinner, writing poems or blogs or fiddling with collages,  before hitting streaming offerings around midnight. 

Today launched my NAPOWRIMO adventures and I'm liking the first poem so far. I may move off the technogrotesque project later in the month and on to something else. I may stick it out and make it a chapbook. I may abandon daily poems entirely. April is always an unpredictable month, but also I feel so much less ragged than I used to when usually, the library would be hitting full stride in terms of programming stuff and just general work, at least before the pandemic anyway. The absence of academic rhythms is still something I am getting used to, after an entire life subject to its ebb and flow. 

I am still sometimes finding the rhythms of my days to myself, and it also changes seasonally and by mindset.  This week, I wrote about Virginia Woolf and A Clockwork Orange and coyotes in Native American myth. About ceiling medallions and slow design and substitutions for corn starch. This too is an enjoyable rhythm--the research, the drafting, the polishing. The later afternoon is about editing and designing, steadily moving through the chaps delayed from late last year, of which there were many (and thankfully, I pushed everything new this year to the end since I suspected this would be the case.) I sometimes write poems when I first get up, sometimes later at night. Used to be, the mornings were key since the rest of the day would leave me with little to work with, but it's far better now. Even after a full day of other kinds of writing and editing, there are still words left shaking around at the bottom that can maybe be made into poems.