Thursday, November 30, 2023

notes & things: 11/30/2023

I return to you, dear reader, having been remiss the past couple of weeks. In the cracks and dark spaces, much was happening despite the radio silence here. Much of it was in the flesh outings and endeavors squeezed around a lot of writing (both holiday craftiness, gift guides, and Black Friday sales). There may have been a few poems, cover designs, and manuscript reading in the quieter parts. Also some cleaning and organizing in prep for J inhabiting the Barbie Dreamhouse early next year. Plans for new shelves, a larger bar cart, and a new desk area for him in the living room. Plans to turn my takeout and frozen dinner-friendly kitchen into a place where actual cooking may now happen on the regular. (I am trying to be generous about closet space, but the dresses and shoes seem to think otherwise.)

There have also been road trips to Rockford, not one, not two, but three Thanksgivings (two with turkey, one with meatloaf). Two hotels. A strange echoey ache that I know now will probably not ever go away around the holidays that are nostalgia-centric. Lots of impromptu movie outings during the weeknights I now have free. (the Alamo Drafthouse has become a favorite haunt...we saw Dream Scenario and Wild Things, which was part of their Queer 101 classics series and is still as much of a trashy hoot as it ever was.) Eli Roth's Thanksgiving elsewhere, which was actually fairly decent despite low expectations. 

Tomorrow, we are heading out to the drive-in again to see Gremlins and Krampus, complete with a thermos of boozy mint hot chocolate and two very fluffy new throw blankets. We may freeze, but hope that running the heat a little combined with multiple layers will keep us cozy enough to enjoy the movie and that it's not too chilly to venture to the concessions at intermission. Also that it may be nice enough to sit out on the little balcony at the hotel out there even for just a little while and gaze at the darling view of the river. 

Since I hate November, I am actually glad to see Decemeber, though I know this is only the beginning of forever-long winter. We've had some sticky snow already, and some bone-chilling cold outside of the city, but Chicago, as always, is fickle and unpredictable. I have not gone so far as pulling out my Christmas decor, but perhaps when we get back on Saturday will haul out the box in my closet and go about adding a little more glimmer and light to the apartment. The early dark always feels like a heavy hand pressing down on my head so it can help, at least for a while, to focus on pretty things about winter I do appreciate and ignore the ones I don't.  

Thursday, November 16, 2023

notes & things | 11/17/2023

Somehow it was the beginning of November and now it's mid-month and I am not quite sure where the last week vanished to. It was a busy one, filled with movie outings to see Christmas horror offerings in near empty screenings. Filled with Beetlejuice: The Musical in the grandeur of the Auditorium Theater. Late night diner meals, karaoke outings, and my tattoo appointment yesterday adding to the patchwork sleeve I am slowly building in increments. Writing has been crammed in around the edges to meet tighter pre-holiday season deadlines, and now a slight breather and the usual pace, but then this week, Thanksgiving somehow. I'll be heading to a few meals over the next week with J and his mom, the Bowen clan, and at a friend of my mom's who usually invites us (even though my mother and now my dad's absence at each are strange holes that occasionally start bleeding.) The holidays are still a season for several year, where nothing seems quite real. At the karaoke bar last night, they had up lights and all the holiday finery and I almost felt startled that yes, we are going into the holidays. While I eagerly throw myself into fall, November is a strange time. Suddenly its Christmas again and I still have bats on my windows and skulls in my living room.

I did start a new poem series in bits and starts to accompany the witchy collages I was making in September and October. I am also beginning plans for the sprawling mass that is GRANATA,  the Persephone series, both the text pieces and art, which will be coming in the next year (more details in December, but you can read a snippet in the new issue of AURA). I am doubling down on both new chaps and getting all the responses from the summer reading period sent. The days I devote to reading manuscripts are good but overwhelming with so much good work. 

I did notice that the leaves of Chicago trees are hanging in there unusually long, though the one in the courtyard has given up the ghost a couple weeks back after a couple of blustery days. Mostly the yellow trees, which I think are ash trees, that I noticed as we drove slowly up Clark St. through the city up from downtown after the show Tuesday night. It's actually been mild since we had a noticeable amount of early snow on Halloween, so let's hope it continues. We have a drive-in outing planned for the first weekend in December and hopefully won't freeze while watching Gremlins/Krampus

Friday, November 10, 2023

chaos and magic

 I am guessing that, like me,  most poets read articles about the trials and tribulations of fiction writers or non-fiction authors snorting a little to ourselves. Mostly, those are conversations we will forever be left out of, with pretty much no poetry publishing houses offering things like advances or serious promotion, largely since the money is just not there. A friend recently shared this great article on the deflated feelings that sometimes can accompany traditional publishing even if you do manage to sell a large-ish number of books to earn out your advance. That you put a book out in the world, even with a tiny advance, but not a lot happens after the book comes out, except a whole lot of work/expense on the part of the author. We poets are familiar with this, especially a couple books in. But somehow it still shocks other genre writers, how little you make on your creative product. How little anyone cares.How everyone is always on to the next thing. That maybe you should move on too.

In some ways, there's actually a lot of freedom. But also heartache. Since most poetry books that even sell comprise so tiny a margin in the overall publishing industry (which includes the biggies, the academics, the small presses, the micropresses) we don't have that much to lose. But then again, we don't have anything to gain. There is still, even with poets, a desire to help along the press and editors that had faith in your and you work. However small that may be. To do the work that gets books in hands. But it is frustrating when no one seems to be paying attention or listening. 

Of course, the upside is that in self-publishing the last few years, my sales figures are not all that different from the more recent traditionally published books. Maybe slightly less, but still solid for someone who doesn't really do in-person readings anymore, go hard on socials, or hire paid help for promotion. I've no one to apologize to or congratulate but myself. The pressure is off and those books, months and months later, continue to sell in tiny bits and spurts. Outside of the printing costs and shipping, I make a small profit. It's usually just enough to fund the next title and maybe some other nice little shop offerings like postcards and journals, which is pretty much the case with the chapbook series and the press operation in general for years. I can live with this, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept that I will never, even if I try my hardest, be able to make a living at writing creatively. The largest sums I've made have come from contest winnings and reading honorariums. Occasionally, when I still did public readings, I could maybe buy a nice dinner and round of drinks with the night's income. None of us are getting rich. Mind you, these were discounted books I usually had to pay something for beforehand to have copies to sell, but poet math is a weird science. 

One of my goals for 2023 was to want nothing from my creative work but good work. I mean, obviously, we all want things, book sales, publication opportunities, someone to just acknowledge that we exist and don't suck. And partaking in things like social media and promo is part of it. But earlier this year I decided that those things, that kind of scrambling, was not where my best efforts lay and maybe I get more enjoyment from sharing and letting the chips fall as they may. I would continue to write and share things and express myself and create tiny strange world. It was freeing, but also think it kind of tripped me up. What to do? Where to go? If I am not struggling to get people to buy my books, read my publications, come to readings, does anyone ever encounter my work in a way that makes me feel seen. I tried to channel those energies into the writing instead, bit what happened is that every great piece I wrote felt like yet another brick in a wall that made me lonelier. I am not sure I have crawled out of this funk just yet, but I am writing daily again. so we will see how I fare.

Maybe it's chaos. And maybe its okay that it's chaos. That it all means nothing. I will write and people will read it or they won't. They will buy books and read posts or maybe they won't. I will just keep doing my weird little things and take the joy from that. No one cares. It's terrifying and sad. But it's also kinda magical. Like tiny spells you throw out into the world and maybe one lands somewhere that needs it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

writing and devouring

This weekend, a few of the governess poems written this spring landed in the latest issue of GRIMOIRE, one of my favorite witchy vibe mags. which is definitely a great home for the dark little kernels of these poems inspired by Henry James and the Brontes and other gothic delights. Reading through them again during proofing late last week, I was surprised to find I still like them as much as I did during the spring--perhaps a little more even. With my recent waffling on whatever may be next and finishing off the crypto poems even more slowly than planned. I was surprised. Especially since I've spent all late summer and early autumn wondering why anyone, even me, writes poems when there are a million other ways we could be focusing energies. These poems, however, were sound enough that for a glimmer of a second, there was no doubt I was doing exactly what I should be doing. That my energies have, and continue to be, well-placed.  This feeling may fade in a day or a week and I'll go back to questioning, but for now, I cling to it like a tiny thread.

We took in a screening of Adaptation last night, which I had never seen, but which J promised I would like for all its perspectives on writing in general. I am always interested in writers on film, the good the bad and the ugly. Of course, they probably crop up all too often, as heroes and villains, sometimes as monsters.  Content of all kinds. including film, relies so much on them and their own interpretations of self and story. That stories of course exist without them. but there is a sense-making that filtering through writers makes happen. We closed out Haunting of Hill House this morning, when the eldest brother, a writer, is taunted by his wife that things do not really exist until they have been eaten, processed, and spat out (I believe she said shit out) by the writer in a story.

This space is a lot of that processing and sense-making, but it happens in poems, though perhaps less intentionally. With the anniversary of my mother's death falling yesterday. I think particularly of FEED. and how that book was very much a processing and sense-making in the months after her death, even though some of it was written and conceived before that.  Last year, through the winter and into spring, the home improvements series served a similar function for losing my dad, but was much shorter and less winding than what the longer book became. I do not know if I am done with it, but perhaps for now, I am. 

Even my freelance work, though I do not always choose what to write about. feels also like a way of digesting and interpreting the world, whether its DIY projects or art lessons, restaurants or home decor, I feel like sometimes experiencing the world is not quite real or tangible until I write it down, turn it over, make sense of it in keystrokes and pen marks. 

Friday, November 03, 2023

dark and winged


Halloween this year found me wandering the rooms of the Museum of Surgical Science dressed like a dark and winged thing. The museum is always delightfully creepy in the daytime but was made even more so by candlelight and spooky costumed wanderers at a Haunted Soiree event. There was a mystery we could solve that involved a giant Ouija board and a seance, but we wound up tipsy from the complimentary cocktails and way too warm, so decided to bow out early to try to catch Halloween at the Logan (unfortunately it was sold out.) Still, I appreciated the storytelling and world-building, which seemed like a smaller-scale Theatre Bizarre but a little more Victorian in aesthetic and inspired by Francisco Goya's work.  The seance was brief but involved calling out the ghost of a dead little girl named Little Magpie, watching her toys play and move on their own, and then a giant bird creature erupting from the table itself. It made me think of its kinship with my own work, AUTOMAGIC in particular, with all its seances and spiritualists and spooky birds.

It also struck me how much seances are like writing. Like listening very closely for some open door or rattling chain, some voice coming down and into you. How it can be gone as quickly as it appeared. I have not been devoting daily practice, only occasionally bleed something out onto the keyboard, but am kind of in a holding pattern since summer. I feel like the poems are maybe still in there rattling around like ghosts, but no one, not even me,is making a space for them to come out. 

Still, Halloween was snowy and tempestuous and very un-fall like. It felt very late--not just in the night, but also in the year.  This weekend is daylight savings, and it will seem even more disorienting come Sunday when dark lands squarely before 5pm. So I've been fending off the darker spirits that like to roost in my head with movie nights (last night, a screening of The Thing, tonight Priscilla.) With crock pot creations and chocolate and scones for breakfast. Today we lingered in bed late watching Haunting of Hill House, which J has never seen and I realized it's probably something way too sad to be watching in early November when the road already feels way to slippery. But I am enduiring.