Friday, June 30, 2023

into July we go...

Usually during my morning routine of checking email, socials, and plotting out my day in terms of tasks and assignments, I will briefly consult the news--usually CNN and then the local Chicago WGN for more immediate things and weather. If I have a little lengthier time before I need to get started, I will look at the NYTimes since my subscription is currently live. Other bits filter through social feeds I will scroll through when I eating lunch or dallying. It's a regular thing, probably since my 2020 doomscrolling days, even though I once used to eschew the news entirely, after a bad stretch in the mid-aughts where every headline was a dead woman or at least something horrible happening to women or kids. Mentally I couldn't handle it.  There have been necessary breaks since, but since I feel like I never know what's going on and sometimes things happen so fast, it's part of my usual routine to start the day. 

I usually start to realize I should go on a news break around the time the headlines begin to look like Onion articles (cage fight, anyone?) or have really concerning things like, you know, the current SC unraveling any gains that we have made toward progress in my entire lifetime. While I grew up raised by pretty liberal parents (an older silent generation father who came out of very working-class Democratic Wisconsinites, and an early Boomer mother, who while never part of the counterculture, had much more liberal attitudes than most of her extended family) I was not unaware that the freedoms and moves toward equality were not very much new things. I was most shocked in my 20s when I discovered that women could not hold their own credit cards until 1974, the very year I was born. 

I was under the mistaken conception, having come of age in the 90s, that we were on our way to a kinder, gentler world. Or at least were making steps in that way, though from other ranges I see so much that was still very much wrong beyond my field of immediate vision. Social programs and EPA regulations, loosening attitudes about sexuality, greater consideration of equality and inclusion.,  And everyone my generation and younger more evolved. Except we weren't.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when Bush won in 2000. I was like but how?  But at least it was close. My generation were well above voting age, and though we were a small group, passionate (well as much as X-ers will ver be.) I wrote it off that we were still outnumbered by Boomers and older, by big corporate money. And then in 2004, wrote it off as fear after 9/11 and a desire to maintain the status quo. What concerned me most was a swell of conservatism, or also bad, apathy, that followed in millennials beneath me as they reached voting and workplace age. That seemed to pervade many in my own generation, both the order set born in the 60s and my own 70s cohort. 

I was paying less attention to the groundswell of conservatism on the internet and in the news, but I thought it all might be okay during the Obama years, which still weren't perfect but marked a tide change. Except, yeah, it didn't. If anything it made people like my racist cousin in Oklahoma even more amenable to block-worthy rants and falling in line with someone like Trumpf. You would think by this age I would be able to gauge what the reality of the world was, but even now I continue to fail. Offer optimism and then regret it later when it proves to not be true. And in fact, perhaps true progress is more fragile now than it even was in the 80s--via social media, and dubious news networks, and just the general decay of a really bad educational system that just keeps failing. 

As in, it feels like it's a rock you thought you were rolling down a hill easily through the final decades of the last century, but now it's rolling you. I am regularly infuriated by calls, usually from those with little investment, in unity, except that why would anyone ever want unity with people who do not see other people with basic human rights because of their skin color or orientation. I am also similarly disheartened by liberal friends already taking of third-party voting, because while I respect your idealism, most people can't risk it not working out and the alternative, while the Biden admin is not that great, we've seen far worse. Even outside policy-making and leadership (and the fact that we look like idiots to the rest of the world) the confidence of the worst sort of people only grows until they do things like shoot up churches and attack the Capitol when they don't get their way. I feel like the Democratic party itself, since it's a pretty wide spread, needs to show some unity for any hope that they can keep that kind of evil at bay.

Which is to say, maybe a news break is warranted when I start to get hopeless and doomspirally. I saw that one of the Republican runners was appealing to the bygone days of America, of childhood, which of course was great because you were a child and had no job or responsibilities. But also, if you peeked in the shadows under that idyllic little tree in your childhood backyard, there was all sorts of nastiness lurking just out of the sun--racism, police violence, gay bashing, misogyny, and general silence. It's all still there, but I thought we were working toward something better. But we're not. And it's only gonna get worse as the election gets closer.

Once again, we do not really have that much to celebrate, now as we crest into the 4th of July weekend filled with patting ourselves on the back and setting off fireworks. America, as a meme I saw today said. I'm not sure you deserve a party because you're awful...

Thursday, June 29, 2023

fuck the bread

I've been slowly listening to audio books as I make, well, actual physical books instead of my usual youtube watching, most recently Sabrina Orah Mark's HAPPILY, which takes on fairytales through a contemporary lens. She has been one of my fave contemporary poets ever since someone in a class recommended I read The Babies in grad school, and I caught bits of the book as essays in The Paris Review, where she was publishing them pretty regularly the last few years. They were all amazing, of course, and just the sort of fairytale nonsense I adore. However one of them may have well changed completely how I thought about the pandemic world and what came after.  So much so that I kept posting it on facebook multiple times every time I encountered the link to get folks to read it all that rest of 2020.

As I was listening to it this time read aloud a few days ago, however, I was so aware of how much it probably changed my approach to poetry and poetry business and the literary world. It was actually a mantra I say sometimes when considering poetry-related things and where to invest my efforts. Fuck the bread. Granted, they were shifts that I was feeling over the years, and maybe shifts I was always working toward, but the essay sort of set me free of some preconceptions and expectations I always had in navigating a world I never really felt at home in.  In Mark's case, she is perhaps she is more talking about the academic world, but in some ways for me, the academic is wound with the creative, at least as I have experienced it the past three decades of writing and publishing. 

Maybe just the attitude that for every door you knock on, for every acceptance or entry granted, there is another that bars the way. There are rooms you will just never be able to get into. Not only will there not be a way to get in, but possibly secret doors that are accessible only by handshakes and code words. That the world is set up with system of rankings and hierarchies and bottlenecks.  Certain utterances and opinions grant entrances, draw people to you, while others will send them fleeing. Certain agreements can be made and favors to be traded. You may follow all the maps and guidelines and think that eventually you will find a destination you feel comfortable only to find yourself back at the beginning, or worse, trampled underfoot. 

And of course, the gist of the essay is that it doesn't matter. Fuck the bread. The bread is over. If the world doesn't suit you, maybe its time for a new one. Or at least a new path in a different direction. In late 2020,  I made a pact with myself that I wouldn't let certain attitudes and constraints stop me from doing what I basically wanted to do..share my work with the people who were interested. Find new and engaged readers at the most. I'm not particularly interested in awards or fellowships or reviews or book sales rankings. More readers are nice. But I'm not even sure these things bring them beyond a glimmer of attention that gets lost in the general glow and fade. Fuck the bread. It doesn't actually make you any less hungry. Maybe they are good to leave as crumbs for others to find you, but they can also be gobbled up by birds.  

I somehow found myself in my own weird funk during the pandemic and afterward even while writing poems like crazy. But I almost stopped writing as I finished each project. The fear that hit me in March 2020, over getting sick, losing income, not being able to survive made me question why I was investing so much time and energies into something that was not really satisfying me at all.  Part of this was my job, of course, though I didn't know it.  But even outside that, as I struggled financially, I almost stopped bothering. To write, to send out work, Why bother?  Who cares? 

It wasn't the poetry's fault, of course, that was completely unfair. The poems aren't the problem. And it couldn't be the money, because, god knows, there wasn't any. But what was it--the hoops, the hierarchies, the unspoken rules and systems that make absolutely no sense to anyone outside the systems? I was in a strange place, having just released a traditionally published book at the height of the lockdowns, one that actually did well in sales figures compared to my other titles with the same press, but though I loved my publisher and the book, it felt hollow in a way I couldn't explain. And maybe it was the pandemic or maybe it was just me. We all got a dose of feeling like we were much more mortal than we'd had been before. Why shouldn't we want the things we want and do the things we want to do? Before the next terrible thing that will certainly kill us strikes--plagues, war, climate change? Before it's too late?

In early 2021, I self-published my book-length collection, FEED, then another. Then more in 2022 and now another one, whose lovely little proof copy is sitting here beside me as I write this. My newer books actually sell reasonably well given my tiny little corner here and my small, but dedicated readers who I love. Enough to keep publishing more, which is the point. I guess I write a lot. Daily almost unless I'm just editing. I know how to make books and edit galleys and design covers, so it's the most natural thing in the world to me and feels really good. Even after having been very fortunate to have had other presses take chances on me for book-length projects. But they honestly can't publish as much as I write, and I really want to share it all--I'm greedy/exhibitionistic like that. In Instagram posts and blogs and reels and e-zines, but also in books. That's the point--not the climbing and the hitting the marks and signposts, but sharing the work. The bread, while nice, is not the point. You can take it or leave it. But don't put your survival as an artist on the bread. The bread is dead. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

summer and smoke

I was so distracted by tattoos and rapidfire deadlines for articles topping the week that only yesterday afternoon did I realize that the Canadian wildfires had determined it was the midwest's turn for its smokiness, and that what I just assumed was Chicago weirdness fog (the kind when heat meets the coolness of the lake) was in fact smoke. It explains why occasionally Monday, I caught a whiff of what smelled like roadkill (not that I am sniffer of roadkill, only that occasionally our dogs would roll in something dead as a kid and to me, it always smelled like smoke and garbage had a baby.) Not strong and just a trace, but also why my eye was doing its watery thing Monday when I woke up it usually only does when I try to use new hair products. 

While it does not seem here on the ground as bad as it was in NYC a couple weeks back, and much less apocalyptically orange, I can see it in the obstructed photos of the skyline and the general grayness, even though I've either gotten used to the smell or it's not blowing in the windows anymore. I've resisted getting an A/C for two decades with the purpose of actually having the windows open, which I live for, and the lake's usual mitigating effects on the heat, but if this becomes a regular thing I may reconsider. It's supposed to blow outta here in a day or so, with the similarly apocalyptic heat bubble affecting the southwest blowing in in its stead, so I am not sure which I prefer smoke and cooler air or scorching heat and humidity, but both are likely to become more and more frequent.  

I've been writing writing writing, and planning more tattoos to get and plotting collage series, and sleeping deep like the dead when I finally get in bed. Today, I expect the proof copy of COLLAPSOLOGIES to arrive, so will set to finalizing that this weekend and should be in good shape as we round into July. There is also another little bookish-related surprise for the shop coming in the form of another journal design. Now that I have the hand of design elements, it moved much faster. Also, some new 11x17 prints coming and maybe postcards. 

Time moves with its usual swiftness, and tomorrow, I will once again be closing out the month,  tallying time sheets, sending invoices, and plotting goals for July. Monday, I wrote the first Halloween-related crafty article since, like retail, editorial calendars are always ahead of the curve. The 4th is next week, and once it passes, the summer that is already plodding swiftly gets much faster and vanishes into September. Soon, there will be fall decor in stores if it is not already. Every fall, I do look forward to the occasional slight waft the scent of woodsmoke from cozy neighborhood fireplaces and not, ya know, Canada on fire, so maybe it's a good thing. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

magnolias and method


Today, I spent the afternoon emblazoning this beauty on my forearm. Magnolias, chosen for my love of the trees around the corner near the Catholic school and their perennial longing for springtime that start with the tiniest buds in late February and bloom full in mid-late April. In full Taurus season, usually shortly before or around my birthday (unless it's an unusually warm spring, in which case they're earlier.). While I've been plotting possible lush peonies, my fave flower,  or maybe sprays of wildflowers, when I saw this design last fall, I knew instantly this would be the first. They also remind me of that famous photo of Millay, which satisfied my poet self immensely. I actually plan some more around it to build a half sleeve, or maybe on my shoulder or ankle. Blackberries, butterflies, maybe moths.

Loose plans for a botanical tattoo have been in the works for probably 4-5 years at this point, through various ideas about flower and placement and other mitigating facts like available funds and, you know, the pandemic. Through an entire summer of wearing temporary ones to get used to the idea of having one. Deciding whether I wanted color or no. Through low-grade fears about pain tolerance and sitting still for too long. I've been harboring a stash of cash since I left the library, scared to spend it in case I needed a back-up fund for lost income if I needed it. I had been stalking the artist on IG I wanted since last summer, but only this April decided to contact her, and only now, at the end of June, did her demanding schedule have an opening. My process was approached scientifically, almost methodically like a scientist trying out a new theory. 

I am thrilled with how it turned out, and am already thinking how to save up for more (it ended up being less than estimated, so I am already on my way.)  Her style is very delicate and vintage looking and the studio experience quiet and soothing (and for awhile at first, completely silent with no other customers.) I was apprehensive up until the first line, but after, not really anything I'd call actual pain beyond a little pinch as she did the inside part. Probably another situation where my anxiety made something big that was actually very small. I worried, in such a highly visible place, that it would look unfamiliar, or feel surprising and strange after having a blank canvas for so long. Maybe because of the practice temporaries, it looks and feels like it's totally been there forever. 

Friday, June 23, 2023

sunken ships and eating the rich

The news of Titan's discoverd demise clogged up my newsfeed, mostly with memes about billionaires and the stupid things they do and orcas attacking yachts. Some chimed in to say that it was horrible to poke fun at people who really did experience a tragedy, though others would argue it was a tragedy that they needlessly created by joyriding to a mass grave. Some compared it to the climbers who die regularly on Mt. Everest, though this seemed so much bigger and newsworthy and perhaps a sign of the times when the rich do terrible things and continue to break the backs of the rest of the world. While I feel bad, especially for the teenager whose father was the reason he was there, I also laughed at the meme-age, mostly because it's all so ridiculous and wasteful and so much an allegory of the age in which we live (and oh, the hubris.)

It's especially interesting that it was the Titanic and not some other unreachable sea depth or disaster site (Chenoble tours, anyone?) since I have a poem in COLLAPSOLOGIES about the class disparities on the Titanic (okay it's about the tabloid story of underwater babies and their maids) but like much of that manuscript, it's as much about politics and economics as much as it is about the pandemic. The whole book is. The things we do for money as women and our value. The role of the caretaker and the artist in The Shining.  Capitalism and its rot. I think it's been on everyone's mind since the pandemic it affected some people more than others. Those who could not stay home and paid with their lives in the early days. Those who did not have the luxury of holing up vs. the ones who did. I was lucky, even though I was coming out of my own economic struggles of the fall at that point that had me abandoning the studio to be able to pay my apartment rent fully each month. The campus closed temporarily with everything else education-related for a couple months.  I do remember panicking over groceries in the earliest days and waiting to get paid amid the frenzy of empty shelves and binge buying. Worrying with like $7 in my account til mid-month.

In the early days of the pandemic I could stay home, though in the mid-summer, we went back. It felt dangerous to be out there, not so much at work where the campus was kind of deserted and lots of protocols had been put in place, but to be on the bus and out in the world. In the pre-vaccination days, everything seemed terrifying and fraught with infection. I also felt gross inequities in the treatment of staff where I worked, and even though my job was not long-term doable from home, I also noticed that the people who would have been safer by far (having, ya know, their own offices and little public contact) were allowed to work from home while those of us, paid the lowest incidentally, at service desks in cubicle land were expected to be on site. On one hand, it was necessary, On the other it made us feel expendable when we already traditionally shouldered more work in an environment of vast understaffing and under-compensation. The "We're in this together." sentiment quickly vanished by autumn.

This is to say, even I recognize my good fortune and whatever privilege gleaned by being able-bodied and employed, housed and not trying to survive genocide or a war-torn country. There is always someone less fortunate than you to be punching up and poking fun, but billionaires, who control 99.9 % of the world's wealth, fuck over their workers and the earth itself, are, to me, ripe picking for pointing out their ridiculousness and finding humor in grave situations (particularly ones they get themselves into entirely.) I really feel it's why shows like White Lotus and movies like The Menu and Infinity Pool are doing so well with audiences recently. And ultimately, why we are having these conversations now more than ever.  


Thursday, June 22, 2023

aloneness vs. lonely | the introvert heart

First memories are always dodgy. Things are snippets that seem almost dreamlike, so much so they may have never happened unless you can confirm with someone else they did occur. Mine are an odd assortment.  The Mother Goose book I was obsessed with that was falling apart.  A wooden toybox and an assortment of toys and stuffed animals. The bad paneled walls and green shag of the trailer we lived in the first 4 years of my life. My dad bribing me with Rolos to learn and recite the ABCs. A neighbor who trimmed our poodle's nails and had a siamese I was constantly hunting every visit. A fire at the end of the road in the middle of the night demolished another trailer.   

There is definitely a divide--a marker--with the birth of my sister, around which I have several memories of staying with my grandmother while my mom was in the hospital. We also moved that year, shortly before she was born, into a small blue house in town and walking distance to the school I attended through grade 4. My maternal grandfather who died when I was two, for example, I have no memory of outside of photos and maybe a flicker of a moment. A plastic piggy bank with devil horns he set up for me and slipped silver dollars inside that I later claimed. But I remembered more the pig than the man who gave it to me  

One thing I do remember, and it was later confirmed by my mother, was that my favorite thing to do most afternoons was put a large beach towel or flat sheet over our long mid-century coffee table and hang out under there with my coloring books and toys. I'd spend hours there, sometimes with the end raised up so I could see the tv (Sesame Street and The Brady Bunch were early favorites.) I think as a child, you spend so much time with others obviously, but that little fort was my way of gaining a feeling of aloneness...of independence, of a secret life of my own that was outside of my mother, who at the time, stayed home with me all day. Or my dad who return mysteriously in the evening from an office job he would later lose to a computer. My grandmothers and cousins on weekends and camping trips and other outings. Compared to my adult self, I was a loud child, an opinionated child, possibly demonic. But I still was an introvert at heart from the beginning.

Of course, siblings change things, but then again, not really. I enlisted my sister regularly in my fort making, my outdoor play, but I still feel like, because I was older, I played more often on my own until she was out of the toddler stage. Spent more time with books in my bedroom, on the swingset with a pair of headphones, in my room dressing and undressing Barbie or "writing" scribbles in notebooks. Because it was the 80s I walked to school alone once I was 8--about three blocks. It felt brave, and exhilarating to be so free and independent (though I learned the lesson for dallying a second too long--my mother was furious at my lateness and convinced I was dead.)  Still, she sent me alone with money to the end of the street for tacos and donuts and sometimes as far as the Mcdonald's as long as I didn't have to cross any major streets. (she apparently feared not that I would be kidnapped or murdered but that I would get hit by a car. Her fears eased when I actually became a crossing guard assistant in grade 4 and was avoiding death with safety training.) 

After we moved to the country, to wilder territories with no sidewalks, I took the bus to and from school, but spent a considerable amount of time biking up and down the street, including my cousins and I's habit of careering down a steep curve at high speeds. I once took a launching header into the ditch and broke my bike chain.  Amazingly we survived--no cars were coming though they easily could have been. With no streetlights but one and no sidewalks, it was, and still is, a dangerous road.  We also had a huge yard--actually, three of them carved into land my grandparents owned--with free reign to fields and woods at the back that abutted the wall of the highway. Or we would walk to the end of the road and take the steep path down to the river. When I was 14, I would go with the neighbor girl who wore copious blue eyeshadow and was expelled from school more than she was in it. We'd climb up underneath the overpass of the highway and listen to the trucks rumble above, but I was too scared to go down there alone. There were possibly snakes and trucks full of boys who were uncertain bargains. I knew better than to tempt fate and what really to be afraid of. 

For all my time with others, I still feel I move about in the world alone--this is true when it comes to writing, to social things, to work, to love. Even in love, I am resistant to giving up parts of myself--my peace and privacy that only usually exists when no one else is in the room. It's never really loneliness, not in the moment, though I have been lonely. Acutely so after the death of my mother especially. Like a gaping hole of loneliness. Cosmologically lonely, if that makes sense. Absolutely lonely, though I was surrounded by family and friends and partners. It was like someone had torn a hole in the universe and all the air was bleeding out. Time closed it, but it still yawns and gapes every once in a while, though just as often in a group as alone. Sometimes more so in a group of people, especially ones where she should have been. My dad is different..a more acute and situation-specific kind of lonely, but still with shape edges. 

I frighten myself sometimes, with my love of being alone, which feels enjoyable yet wrong somehow. Articles crop up in my feed occasionally about the importance of being social animals. How much I relish my days alone and uninterrupted with nothing but cats for company. I enjoy the company of people, some exquisitely, some more than others, but I am most myself when alone. It's the baseline. The blank state to be returned to necessary for creativity and productivity. Which may be why introverts love midnights so much when it seems the entire world is sleeping but them. 



The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1849) by Sir Joseph Noel Paton, 

My sleep schedule has been strange but still like clockwork. At around 2 am, some of the birds begin to chirp outside, completely convinced it must be dawn. I am up usually to see the first cracks of daylight spreading from the direction of the lake, though usually unconscious by sun-up. It reminds me of my summers in college where I quite regularly was heading to bed just as my mother was getting up to go to work at 6. I usually wrap up the creative tasks I begin after dinner around midnight, so spend those last few hours of the day watching streaming or scrolling Instagram from either my bed or the sofa. It's as close, I suppose as I get to daily leisure time since I am usually waking up at 10am, and after some tidying and a workout, getting to work immediately on writing or editing things, which I'll wrap up around 5 or 6. 

Becuase I am up later and getting up earlier this summer due to the ample sunlight, I find I hit a slump around 6 pm, and need to grab those couple hours of sleep as I can, usually on a bed surrounded by lazy cats who have no doubt been snoozing there all day. If I have a lot to do, I will down a couple iced lattes and persevere, but more often, I give in to my drowsiness wholeheartedly at least for an hour or so, which almost gives me another fresh start to the evening--making dinner, running things out to mailboxes and dumpsters, digging in on my own projects. Sometimes, J will come over late, having lingered at the acting studio til after midnight, both us luckily with the same sleep schedule and up around the same time. We will (try to anyway) watch or movie or make strange cocktail experiments and get high and will usually be asleep by dawn. 

Last night we were awake late and I was up as soon as he was, so after a rigorous day writing one big article on botanical painting and two little ones on decor,  plus a short blog for here, I was late in my nap, but decided to take it nonetheless. Somehow, I managed to sleep through into actual darkness, which came the latest it will for an entire whole year. It made me sad like I'd missed something, but I was an unusual kind of drowsy and a little chilled from the open windows, which made me think of fairy rings and the inherent dangers of falling asleep in the forest. The idea that dozing off in the wrong place on a sunny afternoon could mean you'd be lost forever. Summer will obviously stretch on, and the nights will still be long til September, but creeping up slowly into afternoon until suddenly it's noticeable. I love fall, but winter is forever and I feel like I barely survived the last one, so I am not looking forward to yet another. It's also sad to me that many define summer's beginning today, which somehow feels more like an end before its actually started (especially this year with the coolness, though with no A/C, I am not really complaining.)

Of course, which is how I find myself making pasta now at 1am, making collages, and writing this entry. I will no doubt will be awake to see another dawn since I napped for a languorous 3 hours tonight. Also thanking my lucky stars for being able to make my own schedules and routines after two decades of working within everyone else's. I find that the hours between 10 and 1 am are often my most productive and creative, which no doubt may be a little fairy magic all on its own.   

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

into the deep

When I was 12, I remember falling prey to the idea that one could be anything they wanted to be if you worked hard enough. This meant a lawyer, a doctor, or hell, even an astronaut. Because why wouldn't you want to explore the stars? That belief held fast til the moment we watched the Challenger explode in an arc over the ocean in our sixth-grade classroom, then over and over again on the news. My fifth grade teacher the previous year had been one of the semi-finalists to be in that coveted spot. Luckily she was not chosen.  The next day, I quietly crossed "astronaut" off my list of potential future careers. 

When I was in high school, I fell under the spell of a very charismatic and smart AP Bio teacher combined with a best friend who was fanatic about environmental issues. It was a good kind of peer pressure, and soon I was penning self-righteous environmental editorials in the school paper and planning to study marine biology in North Carolina.  Because who wouldn't want to study the depths of the sea? Sadly, while I excelled in bio and zoology and even anatomy, my chemistry was abysmal and my physics just so-so. Even worse, my math skills were seriously dimmed by what I now suspect is the very real learning disability of dyscalculia.  I reached a point in my studies beyond everyday geometry and all went dark. At UNCW, through a tangled mess of prerequisites, my math was going to, down the line, encumber my supporting courses in things like chem that came along with a bio major. I bailed. 

I've oft seen the joke that there are two kinds of teenage girls. Horse girls and dolphin girls. I was definitely the latter, especially in those last couple of years of high school. A fascination I'm pretty sure sparked by watching Jaws 3 and maybe The Little Mermaid. It was no doubt for the best, me being a much better writer than scientist. I also am sure an innate tendency toward anxiety and claustrophobia would not have served me well underwater in the field--close dark spaces, limited air, and big slimy sea bugs. It actually would probably be the stuff of vaguely Lovecraftian nightmares. So marine science's loss was poetry's gain. Now I live in the midwest.--in a city perched politely on a mammoth lake that is almost like a sea, but not so deep and treacherous and filled with strange beasts. Instead, I write poems about mermaids. It's a fair trade I suppose. 

Flash forward 30 odd years. To this morning, where we all watch for news updates on the men who thought of journeying to the Titanic wreckage in a tin can driven by a video game controller and bluetooth. Numerous discussions have surfaced that people threw red flags all over the endeavor, how despite a monumental price tag, its serious  lack of actual engineering and science, of any real safety precuations  It seems those things would be absolutely required when dealing with the sea, which is almost as large a mystery (and as dangerous) as space. On one hand, I humorously chide the ridiculous and dangerous things that rich people will do with their money. On the other, I imagine the terror of being trapped in a small dark space with no hope and no air that even your millions cannot save you from.

The distrust of science was not really on my radar until the pandemic. I had assumed, despite the religious zealots who doubt Darwin, most people since Sir Isaac Newton were on board that science was the one thing that could help us understand the universe and our place in it. To keep us safe and control whatever mother nature threw at us. Because it was what separated us from our ape forbears and other creatures (though this is debatable the more we know about animal intelligence.) But people dismissed science in favor of their neighbors, dubious discussion forums,  and social media propaganda at every turn. Every extra death a failure to give science its due. 

I think about what may have been possible with the money both spent and paid to ride in the tiny tin can under the sea--to go toward actually safe and monitored marine study. Not to see the remains of a ship --esp. one that I have never been all that sure why its more fascinating than any wreckage under the surface of the ocean. Just maybe that it had better PR or had the right (rich and elite) kind of people on board for people to care that it went down. As money is spent and energy expended on finding the travelers before they run out of air, it's constant news coverage, despite boats that regularly still and historically have sunk off Mexico carrying immigrants and the poor (and good god, how many slave ships in the Atlantic). How much energy and attention spent on five people who really could have done better things with $250K than seal themselves into a watery coffin for an amusement park thrill.

Because that's what we do. As humans. Embrace science when it seems to benefit us, dismiss it when it doesn't. When there is money to be spent or clout and attention to be had. It's why the world is burning and flooding in equal measure. A world that has a steadily ticking doomsday clock of our own devising.

Monday, June 19, 2023

some new experiments....


see more here...

Sunday, June 18, 2023

view from the rear: book design

I've been working on some new chap designs this weekend and thinking about the backside of books and how sometimes they are just as important in engaging readers as the it blurbs, or design elements, or even author photos. I tend to go simpler with chapbook designs. It sort of depends on what is happening on the front. If an author has a piece of artwork in mind and it's not a wraparound design, I will usually just pick a color in the existing artwork and leave it blank unless they have some short blurbs (recently we opted for a sample poem instead.) Sometimes, the author will be working with a designer they know and they'll create a beautiful full spread that all I have to do is adjust little formatting things and add a press logo (which is actually just text).

Where things get more interesting is the covers I make from scratch based on author direction.  These I will always plan as full spreads, which is what I usually do for my own projects. I opted just to grab some graphic elements from the front collages on COLLAPSOLOGIES as you can see a couple posts back, but left things a little simpler. In the past, I've integrated other graphics I decided not to use on the front (AUTOMAGIC)  or even other collages that were part of a series (ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MONSTER). My favorite, however, may be DARK COUNTRY, where I wrapped the public domain image of a deer mount, which contains a kind of sinister reflection of a man in a glass frame just leaning there.  I didn't even notice it at first, but was thrilled when I was laying it out and saw it. 

Usually the covers for the full-lengths (and the journals I recently printed for the shop) have a rather unsightly barcode (even without an ISBN--B&N puts a product barcode on the back of things) But I've gotten good at working my designs around where it will be. Blurbs are nice, but I am so damned awkward about asking for them,, and even though my blurbers were awesome, it was one of the things I hated most about the books I traditionally published. (it's also crazy since I love writing blurbs for other people, but feel like I am imposing on others A couple of presses forwent them entirely..thank god,, and one (Sundress) actually kindly rounded them up FOR me.) I think the only book with my author bio & p[ic  on the back was my first--the weird bathroom selfie I took with a digital camera way back in 2005. I'm pretty sure I am wearing a slip and have strange streaked highlights everyone thought was cool in 2005. in other words--weirdly appropo for that book.). 

For chap designs, it's a bit easier, since the spine is thin. So designing all one file as a wrap-around is easy to do from the beginning stages.  I usually use either MS Publisher or Word augmented by other (mostly free) image sites to get what I want.(there were some brief periods of InDesign and Photoshop usage when CCC footed the bill for it, but I've found lots of places I can get the same effects for much cheaper or even free.) So I'm starting with a standard-size sheet of cardstock from the beginning as the template, which works well with a little allowance for where I'll be trimming the white from around the edges). 

Some recent examples:

notes & things | 6/18/2023

I noted with a little bit of horror that we have somehow crested the middle of June. Part of it is that summer, real summer, seems slow in coming, since my windows have more often been completely closed against rather cool and ungainly weather for the season (at least the meteorological designation of its beginning.) There've been a couple days where they were all open, but then a couple days where I had to run the space heater for a moment. Still, I open the windows. I close them. I put on a sweater to run packages to the mailbox. I got a new quilt at the beginning of the month that is less bulky than my duvet, but seriously thought of pulling the other out of the trunk a couple nights recently..  It's not rainy or wet really, just breezy.  

I wrapped up the governess series last week and have embarked on a new little something that's still murky in its nature, though I am liking what I have so far. They are wild little poems about cats and cryptids and heartbreak. My main writing goal for the rest of June is to get COLLAPSOLOGIES at least to the point where I have a physical galley in hand, which will vary in timeline depending on the printing and shipping, which can be as long as a few days to over a couple weeks. Once I have that, I can make the final adjustments, one final sweep for needed edits, and maybe have a book in hand by mid-July if all goes well. I loaded in the cover (see the post below) and she's looking fabulous so I cannot wait to see the finished product. 

Since we are technically halfway through the year, I've been plotting what I would like to see happen before the end of 2023. The new book, obviously, but also some image/text zine projects I've been planning (the governess-inspired series, the home improvements stuff, technogrotesque), a video chap similar to what I did last year (with villains), an advent project with art for December. I feel like once we hit the 4th of July, summer slides down the hill at a much faster pace into autumn. So I want to be ready and not flailing about quite so much come September.

Other things happening the rest of this month--my tattoo appointment on the 26th, which I am super excited for and counting down the days. This week, some deadlines--articles about painting flowers and brown sugar substitutes and the usual decor stuff. Today I am packing orders and winding down the last couple dgp projects that are tardy and getting ready to embark on the 2023 books slated for July and August. Also, maybe dipping my toes into submissions which are already stacking up for next year. (and for which I will thank myself for not leaving everything til September to look at.) 

I am trying to mostly avoid social media scrolling to not be thinking about Father's Day, though of course, am pre-occupied with the endeavor of NOT thinking about it. Otherwise, there are strange little artwork configurations in my bathroom and endless afternoon iced lattes from my new tiny stovetop espresso maker.  Later, the rest of the new season of Black Mirror and perhaps the better part of a container of potato salad for lunch to occupy my hands and heart.

Friday, June 16, 2023

tightening the screws

Today, I spent a portion of the day working on getting the inside galley of COLLAPSOLOGIES ready for print--a feat that becomes a little less difficult each time on this self-publication go-round, but each book seems to bring its own set of challenges. While I make less of the mistakes I made with the first book, I find the possibility for new ones--even outside of margin tweaking and spotting typos. This one, the challenge was some longer line poems that needed to be dealt with, as well as just strange formatting choices I made when initially working with the poems. 

My main task, of course, which I actually do before I drop the mss. into the appropriately sized galley, is to go through and make any changes I want since I initially sealed the poems in finished form, essentially unsealing them and looking at them with fresh eyes. These poems are a couple of years old at the very least, the first of them (overlook) written during lockdowns in spring/summer 2020 and the last (working girl's grimoire) written in the fall of 2021. They were polished up for submission in some cases, or for zines in others. But then again, perhaps as with all my work, it's never "finished."  I found myself still tweaking punctuation this go round. Shortening sentences that seemed okay then, but felt clunky and cumbersome now. I shifted a few line breaks in the stanza-ed poems, and a whole bunch in the long-lined tabloid pieces that were extra difficult to jam into the smaller dimensions of a bound collection. Luckily, I am never that married to my line breaks as a poet who has written most of her life in prose blocks. Some other break will almost always work, sometimes for the better. 

Most of my revising even of new work is these sorts of adjustments. Not that things come out perfect in any way, but more that I have never been much for revising. At least the content of the poem. A word here and there, or removing something stupid or unwieldy. More trimming than adding. More like tightening or loosening screws than ripping out the struts. I did manage to get a file ready to submit for a proof copy, so I was far more productive than I set out to be this afternoon., good since I will likely not get back to it til next Friday (it's all press work over the weekend and several freelance deadlines coming up early next week).  July, though, is coming at me faster than ever. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Monday, June 12, 2023

the imposter syndrome monster

This morning I woke up thinking about a dream I had last week, in which my waking thought was something akin to how poetry was tremendously demoralizing. Or maybe, more correctly, BEING a poet was demoralizing (the dream was long and confusing and involved a competition in which I, from the audience, totally knew the winners in advance. Yet I also knew I would never be among them and had just resigned myself to it.)  I probably jinxed myself, because, today,  I woke up to two journal rejections, one in submittable and one in e-mail, but neither was particularly welcome first thing of the day. And yet, all of writing is about rejection, and decades into whatever this career is, I know it's a massive part of it. I also know that poems fail to land for any number of reasons with editors, including they were just bored with you or hated your name or how you phrased your cover letter. That they'd ready 33 poems about ex-lovers or dead parents and yours was the 34th.

And I know things from the other side of the gate as an editor myself, but that doesn't stop me from immediately doubting myself or my work or asking why I even bother.  That I will never have that thing that makes one really successful. That I'm not clever enough, well-connected enough. That I didn't have the right childhood, go to the right school. That I'm not sparkly enough. That, worse, I'm not good enough. Or even worse than that, think that I'm good at poeming but really suck. That everything I have achieved over the years has been some random fluke. Or some feat of trickery. That I slipped in under the wire. That I wandered into the wrong classroom, but they let me stay only if I stayed quiet and didn't demand too much attention.

Perhaps it's just time and experience. I was once an avid submitter, flinging poems out into the universe and not caring when they came back. Volume definitely seemed the way to go. A numbers game, like spinning a roulette wheel or pulling the lever on a slot machine that doled out the occasional acceptance.  Now I am definitely more selective, more careful, and usually never do simultaneous submissions since I have a hard time keeping track of them. And yet, it doesn't seem to have gotten easier, but somehow it seems harder.  I look at older work and actually can't figure out why certain journals published certain older poems because I can see their holes and failings, and yet, those same journals are quick to reject new work when I send it, better work, stronger work. It makes me doubt my own assessment of what is even good. 

It puts me in a disgruntled mood, but then perhaps the thing that comes with time and experience is to talk yourself off the ledge. To believe in what you're doing even if at times it feels like maybe no one else does. The nice thing is, I have to remind myself that while I love the collaboration of journals and publications, which serve as promo and community, they are absolutely not always necessary to get your work out there in these days of social media obviously. But that doesn't change how you feel when someone, inevitably, says no. 

Friday, June 09, 2023

the year without fathers

Today, I was thinking how dare the world celebrate Father's Day and Mother's Day so carelessly close together. Especially here at the top of the summer, where I feel like I am finally climbing out of a dark hole. And yet there it is. In the months after my mother's death, I wrote an entire book of poems. I don't have the urge to do so for my dad, though the home improvements series references parental losses more generally. Really, my father and I's relationship was far less fraught with the stuff poetry is made of, though maybe it's just a different kind of poetry I don't really write. 

Through much of my adult life, I had a tiny inkling fear that we'd never been particularly that close. But I also had not a single clue how to breach patterns that persisted since childhood. Overall--it was a good relationship and my father was the type of person who would do anything for his kids,--like ridiculous things like driving me to multiple states, moving me several times, financial support in younger years, dealing with dead cats, and general life stuff. But my mother was someone who took up a lot space by her nature--talkative, extroverted, always moving. While we all had our moments when I was a teen especially, I grew into an adult who had a sound relationship with both, but my dad was always in the background while my mother and us daughters were the main show. For all the years I lived separately from them, my mother was the receiver of phone calls, which sometimes included my dad's commentary from the side of the room. But like in the car where he mostly drove and nodded along silently, we were a group of women who were constantly talking. 

After my mother slowly started losing her mind due to an infection in the fall of 2017, I found myself on the phone with him for the first time, which was strange--at first all our conversations about her. But after she died, he took the mantle of the twice-weekly calls and eventually we fell into a groove. I feel like I had more conversations with my dad in those final last five years than the entire four decades before. So at least there was that. But it doesn't make things like Father's Day any easier. I actually rarely spent the holiday with him since I would normally be planning a summer trip to Rockford in the surrounding weeks and we would just celebrate then, but there would usually be gifts sent via Amazon, the usual weekly Sunday call. But I will still be reminded all of June no doubt of fathers and it will pull and drag and threaten to drown me. Jealous and angry in a way I am not usually about anything else.

A few weeks ago, on Mother's Day, I was so woefully sick with a cold and in a mood to smash just about everything even after all these years, so I don't know what next Sunday will bring mood-wise. I also find myself perhaps without the catharsis of a writing project about my dad, which seems a strange thing, but I don't know what those poems would necessarily be about. What they would look like. Perhaps, it's a book already written--my love of horror that charts so many projects, but particularly DARK COUNTRY is all him. As is perhaps my reading and writing habits in general.  I am thankfully a little less shell-shocked than I was all of 2018..maybe because it's easier somehow to lose the second parent than it is the first?  Or is it that we were there with him in the last moments?  His illness and death came on and went out even more suddenly than my mom's. He was there and then gone in a matter of a couple weeks I have often debated in darker moments whether it was better to be there in the final moments or to not to be there in the final moments. I've decided both were just their own special kind of horrible. At the very least, my dad does not appear in dreams thinking he is still alive. He doesn't appear in my dreams at all, though my mother still knocks around from time to time. But then again, his absence is another kind of sadness. 

Sunday, June 04, 2023

who we once were, who we will be

I have a very early collage I made that I keep stuffed in my college writing scrapbooks and occasionally pull out for amusement. Not from my first forays into artmaking when I was in my thirties, but created probably around age 20 judging from the images. Lots of 90's standpoints like The Cranberries, So I Married An Axe Murderer, and a young Brad Pitt (who was not really anyone I saw as a heartthrob at any point, so I am not sure why that's even there.) Also lots of words detailing my obsessions--coffee (obviously), theatre, books, vintage, Shakespeare, poetry, art. Russia is in there I'm pretty sure because I was intensely enamored of Chekhov at that age. Other random abstractions like "muse" and "mind". Images of victorian ladies and illustrations of girls in black turtlnecks.

If I remember correctly, this found its way into a scrapbook of clippings long since thrown out, but I think may have once been framed above my desk as an inspo or vision board, much in the way I use Pinterest now. I had many sketchbooks--large format ones full of clippings for an apartment I would one day have, clothes I would like to wear. Of course, once I was out of college, it was many years before I had the money to buy the things I so carefully cut out and glued down. And even longer before I properly learned to dress my body and that the fashion industry was smart enough to realize plus size clothes are a good place to invest their efforts. I had some of these sketchbooks in tow when I first lived here, but I suspect I may have tossed them at some point in the past two decades in a cleaning purge.  

Like my diaries and journals, however, they are an artifact to the people we once were, good or bad, stylish or unstylish, tasteful or tasteless. I see this collage and I instantly think of the time I spent in my room while an undergrad, happily introverting between classes and rehearsals, listening to 90's music and making lots of tea and bad instant cappuccino. Those long unencumbered summers I'd stay up til dawn watching my parent's satellite tv and journaling or writing poems cross-legged at the coffee table. That girl was at the beginnings of things in every way.  Every once in a while I stumble on comments on Instagram reels of people certain something sinister is afoot because time goes faster.  It's called getting older. And its sinister as hell.  I think about the time drag of childhood, and even my college years, though scheduled out, still seemed long. But grad school, less so. The work world, even less. 

Even now, with a much less hectic pace to my days, it's still remarkedly fast. Earlier I remembered myself just a year ago happily sitting here enjoying the noise of summer outside my windows. how much has happened good and bad in the past year that moved fast/slow/fast/slow. Not just this year, but probably the last several, though I am not sure if the pandemic has to do with it, the simultaneous creep and speed of lockdown, or just years for me personally in which a lot of things shifted and changed after many years of the same. 

I still keep a vast system of Pinterest boards, some just decor things I want to emulate or write about, or art & design things to inspire me. Clothes and outfits I'd either like to buy or find similar looks. I keep boards for different art and writing projects. A whole board I like to look at when I need cover ideas when working on books. It's probably just more evidence that while things change, nothing really does. I still make moodboards and listen to 90s music. Still write poems and journal, albeit here and not a blank book. I still drink too much coffee and tea and while I don't have a coffee table to sit at, spend my introverting time instead at my work table. I can still can be found watching horror movies at 2am. (though at least I get to choose what they are now.)

Friday, June 02, 2023

art, rarity, and economics


I've been thinking this week about money and art, and mostly, how very little there is in it overall.  A small amount from shop sales (though unless its artwork alone usually these are largely eaten up by costs to make things--supplies and paper and toner and color printing jobs) Some book sales of my own full-lengths (actually a nice profit on self-published, negligible returns from trad published books royalties.), Occasional tiny payments from magazines (and these are like unicorn sightings in their rarity.) Occasional honorarium for readings.  A handful of manuscript consultations. I still make the overwhelming majority of my income from the freelance work that replaced my library income.

Overall, I've made 1000% more from selling art and paper goods than poetry, especially during the etsy years, when it was compounded by selling vintage and other crafty things. But writing and art alone--the creative work I do--has a far lesser return. And yet, it is often the thing, barring things I do for money and to pay the rent, that I spend most of my time and attention on.  I imagine this is true for all of us...unless you've carved out sweet reading gigs that pay a lot or are an artist making huge sales and commissions or have a really successful shop. Most of us will never make a living solely from the thing we love most. It gets harder as time goes on and markets become saturated and social media algorithms fuck us over.  What worked just a year or two ago can easily stop working on a dime.

Which also made me think about how I mostly feel okay about it, because the alternative is perhaps less desirable. I've always felt like a creator who is just too much. Too open about the process. Too prolific, perhaps. Too loud and show-offy. My creative work was tied very much to the business of submitting and promoting my work from its very beginnings. Before I'd published even a handful of poems, I had built a crude website to showcase them. Had started an online journal / blog to talk about my experiences and share work. I marvel at the writers who keep things close to their vests and occasionally drop a poem or a book into the world and then go back to the quiet. The rare foxes that can be seen in the forest only occasionally. Meanwhile, I feel like a peacock screaming at the top of its lungs waiting for someone to notice. People get tired of the peacock.  I get tired of being the peacock. 

But at the same time, maybe I am just too stupidly enthusiastic. I create something and I immediately want to show someone. To make that audience connection, even its just a handful of people. It's as much part of my process as the writing and art themselves are.  Usually, you will know what's going on in my head as soon as its happening. Will at least know the outline, the shape of it, even if not the particulars. I "overshare" a lot. One thing I miss about Twitter though I never really found a way to use it well, was sharing snippets from poems in progress daily. 

But eventually, it's all out there, maybe the exceptions being things I am trying to submit to journals when I am actually doing that, but otherwise I would likely just be posting every poem I write. I usually do this during NAPOWRIMO, posting my drafts daily, but it also sometimes make me feel even more downtrodden if it feels like no one is reading them. Occasionally I get my undies in a bunch and decide to send out work and some stuff crops up in journals, otherwise you will eventually see most of what I do somehow--in video poems, in the print or e-zines I create a few times a year. 

The last few years, I've created more electronic zines than print ones. Part of it is just being busy with the chapbook series in terms of assembly and its just easier to make an electronic file and share it unless I want to do something special and paper-laden (ie, the poets zodiac, for example.)  I could easily make it print only and ask people to purchase. But I feel like I already do that too much. Even those print projects eventually usually end up with some electronic version since I want to share them without people having to buy things, since no one really has the income for that. I want what I create to be available to anyone who is interested, not just those who have extraneous income to purchase it.

I often see the work I share as the museum itself, my little corner of the internet, while the saleable goods are the gift shop. With the full-lengths, most often you can find the shorter series that compose them in zines and chaps freely available, but the book is there is you want something to hold, to collect, to read in the bathtub screen-free. Or to support the overall work I do by sending a few dollars my way.  I've reformatted my Patreon recently, another platform I never know what to do with, allowing subscribers to get a copy of signed printed things when they come out, but also just providing general support. Many creators do exclusive content, and I'd considered it, but there is more joy to be found in sharing more widely than in any amount I may make by putting things behind a paywall. I've been trying to create a social content calendar that makes sense throughout the week, but really, I make something and I want to show you immediately. 

I think about rarity and value a lot..can something be less valuable because it is not rare at all? Is widely and readily available and therefore less interesting somehow? Maybe the answer varies according to what you're talking about and who you are...During the pandemic, when it seemed things were really hard for a lot of people, I thought about transforming the print operation of the chap series into e-chap one,  and completely free, though part of me still loves the physicality of paper, and I feel like other authors do as well. Someday, I'd like to figure out a hybrid solution to this, offering older chaps online. For chaps since 2014, this would be easy to format, though the first decade of books, how I laid them out, would require a complete overhaul of the design elements I don't have the time for now. But it's on my list of things to do. I would also have to arrange logistics and permissions with authors who even want their books available online, but it could be done. 

But if it's free, will people see it as less valuable and worthy of their time?  Is it an American thing, so tied up with capitalism that we can't see past it? Does rarity and exclusivity solely determine value? What room is there for art amid a system that doesn't seem to serve it at all? Is it better to see art as a gift and not a transaction at all? But then how does one eat or pay the bills or even survive as an artist at all? 

When I was moving out of the studio in the Fine Arts rather begrudgingly in 2019 (after I realized I was greatly in peril financially from stretching myself too thin as rent costs went up and up and everything else income-wise for me stayed the same) I passed daily under the sign over the door I'd passed under every day for more than a decade that said "All Passes--Art Alone Endures." To which my response, as I sadly packed up my things to move them back to my apartment and my considerably smaller dining room studio space, was how much bullshit that was in the context of most people's lives. (Granted a few months later, Covid lockdowns made me happy I had given up the space after all, but it still stung and felt like a loss and setback that previous fall.)