Saturday, December 30, 2023

goodbye 2023


You were actually a pretty good year compared to your predecessors, starting out quietly and tiptoey in the wake of loss and tragedy and then blooming a bit through spring and well into summer. It was a productive year on a number of fronts, including creative projects, which yesterday, I rounded up into a short reel of some highlights (though they barely scratch the surface.)

While I did not keep to a poem-a-day rate all year, I did practice daily writing in enough spurts to garner around 100 or so poems I can be happy with when all is said and done. Lots of other fragments and bits that may still prove useful.  Less than other years, but still a solid showing, especially when you consider how much other kinds of writing I was wrapped up in. I also landed some poems in journals when I would light a fire under my ass to send out work, including peeks of new projects in Sweet Tree Review, Aura, and Grimoire, plus some older work in a couple anthologies and some pieces set to debut in 2024.

I made around 160 collages or paintings, nearly 300 reels and video poems, released one zine project, and two full-lengths (technically AUTOMAGIC was the last week of 2022, but all my promo and sales happened in 2024.)  There are several zines that are in the wings (some of them waiting for poems accepted by journals to come out.) I also put a wrap on GRANATA, the Persephone poems, for release this year and finished RUINPORN which will also likely be coming this year if all goes well There are also two half-completed manuscripts I would love to finish by the end of 2024. For the press, I edited, laid out, and designed around 30 titles, with more in the works, and made and assembled too many to count. I was successful in adding quite a few bits of paper loveliness to the shop, including several different postcard sets and some blank book journals. I am still wading through submissions from summer, but so far have read around 300 manuscripts in the queue.

I feel like I really came into the year going full speed on freelance writing. I am writing more now, but not necessarily for the same clients. The new year brought an end to some short-term things. Others, like the antiques dictionary, were mostly on hiatus for site redesigns. In their wake, I took on more hours with House Digest, writing about DIY projects, kitchen designs, paint colors, and all manner of things. There were also assorted lessons and study guides, restaurant round-ups, gift guides, and food articles.  I haven't done my taxes yet, but at least at the later end of the year, I was happy with my income levels after an initial year of wax and wane. There are still days that I chide myself for not taking the leap sooner..for spending about 3 years at the library I could have been elsewhere..would have preferred to be elsewhere most of the time...but it is what it is. 

On other fronts, it was a busy year, particularly the latter half, when a job change for J (and my forever more energetic stance working at home) meant we suddenly had all this time to go out, something we'd lacked during the previous 8 years. So there were countless movies, plus musicals and ballets. Zoo outings, creepy museum Halloween parties, and multiple trips to the planetarium. Karaoke nights and time spent with friends old and new. Weekend trips out to the drive-in, which is officially one of my favorite places and activities. Also, my (first) 5 tattoos and perfecting my beef and noodles recipe. 

There are impending plans of living together fully, which pretty much just means he will be here all nights of the week instead of just most of them. We'll be spending the next month divvying up household tasks, finding a rhythm for things like shopping and meals, and organizing spaces. Luckily he doesn't have any furniture he's bringing or much stuff, so it's a less arduous task than it could be. We christened his desk area with a vintage Pink Floyd poster, are outfitting the kitchen for an actual chef, and getting bigger shared bookshelves to replace my failing ones and a new bed. But most of my closet space remains untouched (the boon of loving someone who is fairly minimalistic in his wardrobe.)

Tonight, we'll be downtown at the bar he DJs for and I will no doubt, like last year, be silently grumbling about traffic or crowds, lines at the bar, or amateur drunks.  But I will have a sparkly dress and get to watch the fireworks over the river, so it's a good end to a good year. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

notes & things | holiday edition

Christmas, for the most part, was quiet and close to home, which despite its ghosts and nostalgia, is not a bad way to spend a holiday. We had a couple shorter visits with J's mom (who only lives a few blocks away) on the actual holiday. Christmas horror marathons at home with snacks and turkey/stuffing sandwiches. An overnight visit out to Rockford with gloriously comfy hotel beds and many assorted treats. I got a new digital camera for taking better art photos, some cute mugs, some tea and edibles. I also bought myself some new plates that look like bowls (after breaking one recently), some sugar scrub, a journal, and a new (or another) black floral georgette dress. Christmas has Christmas-ed, and I considered taking down the tree and lights today when we returned, but took a nap and then got absorbed in some writing for upcoming deadlines. If it's any indication of how fast things move along, the first piece that I already wrote for Valentine's Day paper crafts and such debuted, so no doubt we will slide through these wintry months (hopefully) at a steady and swift pace. 

I am planning on working most days later this week to make up for my days off, the curse of freelancing being no real PTO. But then again I remind myself that for all the PTO I had at the library, due to terminal staff shortages, I couldn't even really take it most of the time. Holiday breaks (usually one, sometimes two if the dates fell right) would be spent recovering from the stress and staring shell-shocked at the internet or streaming and dreading going back.  I no longer feel like I need quite as many breaks and can take them at my leisure when I do. I don't dread going back to work after time away but actually look forward to getting back to my little daily routines. On the other hand, the Trello boards and Slack are quiet this week, so it feels like I and a few others are the only ones cobbling away (mostly since I probably spent too grandly in December and now need to the extra cushion of this last week at full-pay to not come up short in January.)

I did manage to finish out the advent project on the 25th, and will probably now turn my attention toward something else-maybe some tiny miniature boxes I've been hoarding up supplies for late this year. I'm hoping to keep moving forward with the witch house poems and finish them up shortly after the new year. I am not quite sure where I'll be directing my focus after that creative-project wise, which is freeing but sort of terrifying feeling all at once.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

dolls and monsters


Since I keep seeing best of and award nomination lists including both Poor Things and Barbie at the top, it got me thinking about where they overlap. About female agency and male aggression and entitlement. About sexuality and lack of it. Poor Things was a dreamlike whirl of a movie.  No expense in creating this gorgeous steampunk world through miniaturized sets, lush colors, and over-shouldered Victorian costumes was spared. Nor were the performances of Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo, who may be one of the most reviled male characters I've seen in a movie this year (which is a hard bet since I love me some Mark Ruffalo.) Poor Things obviously has more sex and lots of nudity from both genders. Barbie is much more PG-friendly and its adult jokes much more veiled. It's a beautiful spin with Frankenstein vibes but from a distinctly feminine viewpoint. (even stranger that its' from a male filmmaker.)

Barbie, however, too was also about a woman set adrift in a strange and beautiful and sad world. While Bella's world was a lonely and isolated mansion full of adorable and strange hybrid animals, Barbie's was cheery colors and endless optimism in the before world. The real world for Barbie was less vivid and colorful, but for her, somehow more beautiful because of its imperfections. While Bella's world was colorful and awash in surreal imagery, it was darker on the underside and more filled with shadows. Both encounter many of the same obstacles and rewards, though Bella's are far more sensual and violent.

On the other hand, one is a multi-million dollar blockbuster many times over, while Poor Things is a movie based on a novel from the 90s and is still gaining its wings. It's telling that even mid-week last week, at a late showing, the theater was practically full at the Alamo and people seem to be talking even more about it as we close out the year and the Oscar buzz mounts. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

nocturnal turnings

 Yesterday, the solstice passed and we now work our way towards daylight, though it seems an afterthought, now that the past couple of weeks have found me wholly nocturnal in my habits and wanderings. Slow early afternoons give way to work sprints peppered with scattered movie outings. Making pot roast in the middle of the night and writing poems when I've finished my design articles. Most days I go to bed shortly before dawn, only to rise around 1pm for coffee and pastries and then dawdle for a bit til J leaves for work, getting down to more serious business around sunset. As I watch the light creep into the sky, it reminds me of my college summers, when I would meet my mom getting up as I was going to bed. Some days necessitate earlier risings, especially if we have plans that happen in the early evening or god forbid, afternoon, which are rare but happen occasionally. The last week has been enormously heavy and gray and devoid of sun, so it is not like I am missing anything. 

Somehow, we are a mere two days from Christmas, which has felt strange for years now with my mom gone, and now with both parents lost, even stranger. We are planning on staying close to home, cooking some things, and watching some Christmas horror. We'll be headed out to Rockford mid-next week for a short visit with my sister, and once again, I'll be out downtown on New Years complete with a sparkly silvery dress already in my possession. I am hoping this milder, rainy and wet weather holds and we won't be snow-bound til January hits. 

While I've been working on books, I finished listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, which makes an excellent point about the idea of struggling and miserable artists. The tortured creative is such a trope we can scarce see past it. For writers, there are probably a million things to be miserable about, and some people let it consume them to the detriment of artmaking. Rejection, feeling invisible, feeling insecure in your abilities. There are any number of demons and very few saints who did not perish in some terrible way. But then again, that too is wrong, especially among poets, who for every Plath and Sexton, there are dozens of women writers who managed to keep going, many afflicted with similar mental or physical illnesses. They do not get as much attention, and perhaps it's our own myopia, but they surely existed. Exist even now, struggling to write in the middle of the night around other work obligations, over cradles and dinner tables at dawn. It's certainly nothing to be miserable about, especially in a world where there is too much misery outside us that threatens to swallow us whole. 

I did not light a candle for luck on the solstice, but I did string up another set of lights and replace my LED candles in their tiny holders. A few weeks back, I invested in a tiny lamp that looks like a moon for my desk since the bigger work light is always shadowed by my monitor, making it hard to read anything not on the screen once the sun sets. That is the best I can do in all the darkness. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

holiday horror

 One of my favorite holiday horror offerings, perhaps only second to the original Halloween, is the 1974 Black Christmas, which, like me, has the honor/terror of turning 50 next year. I re-watch it every few years, appreciating it for its slow burn home intrusion terror, its misogynistic weirdness that is only compounded by never quite being explained, and its strangely feminist take on undergrad life in the early 70's --a time where I often forget--women were finally granted the ability to have their own credit cards and bank accounts independent of men. 

The women in Black Christmas are beholden to men--to fathers, to boyfriends, to the almost comically incompetent police department that fails them when they need them most.  That explains away disappearances of women like swatting a fly. A movie that touches on choice and abortion, and whose final girl, though she is failed in the end, is brave enough not to go out the door when the call is coming from inside the house, but decides to fight back years before Laurie Strode was on the tongue of slasher fans. Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out the same year, though I do not love it half as much, mostly cause there feels like so much more horror in danger in familiar spaces than unfamiliar ones. A cozy sorority house over break than the wilds of rural America. Places you are supposed to feel and be safe versus obviously dangerous ones. 

This week, over at the Logan, was the first time I ever caught it on the big screen, and I noticed things I may not have before in terms of camera work and suspense building--how much this little film would influence the slashers that followed in the next decade and a half. (also Margot Kidder, though she doesn't make it out alive, is one of the best loose-cannon bad girls of horror in this.)

Friday, December 15, 2023

notes & things | 12/15/ 2023

Despite closing in on the holidays and indulging in some of the usual fanfare-like my tree and apartment decor, some new twinkle lights, peppermint milkshakes, and some trashy Christmas rom-coms, I still have moments in the whirl of things where I'm like "of yeah, right, it's Christmas." I have procured most of my presents, sadly easier now that I have less people to buy for. One big present to ourselves was to get a season pass at Alamo Drafthouse theatre, which means we'll be able to see all sorts of things each month for the cost of like two movies if we were paying the regular price. (of course, we still manage to spend too much on soda and popcorn --and occasionally their mozzarella sticks that I am obsessed with.) Not only do they show regular new releases, but lots of revivals and some series that are horror or queer-focused, so we plan to go 1-2 times per week. December is serious, Oscar-heavy fare, so we're looking forward to seeing some quieter, less horror-driven options.

In between movie dates, I am working, working, working. Writing, writing, writing. Mostly design articles, DIY pieces, and some restaurant guides for far-off (Asheville), and not-so-far-off cities (Milwaukee). The weather has been milder and kinder than previous Decembers, with even the nights not to frigid since a cold snap around Thanksgiving.  I hope the snow holds until after Christmas at the very least but I have a feeling it's only a matter of time. Meanwhile, the darkness comes swifter and deeper as we hurtle or creep (both it seems sometimes) toward the solstice and the longest day in just a week. 

Plans for GRANATA continue, with some perusing of options for how I want the finished project to look, hardcover vs. softcover, full-color artwork, trim size, etc..I'm hoping for a release sometime in February or March. The fledgling part of spring seems like a perfect time to release a book about Persephone, so watch for more news there. I also have a couple zine projects I will be pulling together finally after the new year..surely something in time for Valentine's Day, perhaps the urban crypto poems that feel a little like dysfunctional valentine's in spots. Yesterday, I did launch my mini-advent project over at Instagram, so follow along there to see daily new pieces. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

expectations and altered courses

This week's cinema outings have included two films that feel like they form a sort of bookends in my mind and counterpoints (endpoints?) to my thinking this past year.  All of it based in films like The Menu, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, and other fish out of water films that put ordinary people among the monstrousness of the "other"-- be that socially, economically, or just someone far cooler. Earlier this week, Saltburn, which I went in thinking that it was a Dangerous Liasons-type thriller about the corrupting forces of the wealthy on some young Dickensian everyman, which was very much NOT that. And then last night, Eileen, which seemed to be about a young girl pulled under the influence of an older and more glamorous and very blonde Anne Hathaway who surely would be a corrupting force (also very much NOT.) It got me thinking about expectations and how we subvert them across all genres, especially the sorts of books and movies that seem to change course subtly midstride. 

While it's not something I ever intend to do, so many writing projects have somehow went on this trajectory. I begin with an idea, a kernal, a small little flame. I may try to guide its path and hem its fences, but pretty soon, it's gone and burned the house down in an an entirely different way. A series of Valentine's love poems becomes a nod to the me-too movement. An ode to my favorite horror movie becomes about class and labor. Sometimes I don't even notice the shift until the drapes are on fire. But then of course, you look back at the beginnings of the work and it was there all along. The matches too close to the fire. The smoldering furniture. I've often tried to track back and see exactly when things changed. Overlook was not just a love letter to my favorite horror movie, but was written smack dab in the middle of covid lockdowns, when the rift between those who had the luxury of staying home and safe were pitted against those who still had to mind the trenches. Even when I was home for a few months, it was written under the shadow of eventual return. The entirety of COLLAPSOLOGIES is informed by that dynamic, which carried through the next year and into the fall of 2021 when I was contemplating leaving my job as part of the great resignation.  It's there in the plague letters and working girl's grimoire, and of course, bloom, which is specifically about the pandemic. It's probably even in unreal city, though that is set to be part of another book entirely. 

I always laugh when asked about intentionality in my poems or even in my art, and think about all those years of college and grad school studying literature and how much of what we read is probably not at all what the author intended. Or maybe they intended something wholly other, and yet, here we are.

Friday, December 08, 2023

not an exit


 One of the boons of having a little more discretionary income in the past year and less exhaustion (and J's new freedom from a crazy schedule) is that we've actually gotten to see some live theater with some more to come in the next few months, Beetleljuice was the touring Broadway production at the Auditorium while this weeks adventure was on the other end of the spectrum entirely when we saw American Psycho in the tiny little black box stage on the lower level of the Chopin Theatre. 

As a former theater kid, it was appalling how many years it had been since I had seen any live show, much less a musical, but this was a good one. There is much online of the ways this once successful London production faltered when it hit the States and could not manage to keep its footing in an uber-competitive pre-covid Broadway season. I am actually not much of a fan of Easton's novel or work in general, and had met the film version with interest but was sort of meh, which was surprising at how much I loved this musical adaptation dripping with blood (well metaphorical), 80s consumerism, and music. 

I've watched most of the Broadway production, which was a bit slicker and bigger than what I saw in the Chopin basement with interest, and listened a few times to the London recording, and have to say it lent itself equally well to the tiny runway stage in the black box with basically no set and very few props. Since I used to do occasional readings in that basement space in the mid-aughts (also the mainstage upstairs for the Gwendolyn Brooks event one summer)  I wondered what exactly this was going to look like. Instead of blood, it relied on glitter and confetti. The audience was practically in the show, with the actors moving and dancing around us in the darkness which made it almost an immersive experience. 

What was perhaps most surprising, however, since I have little tolerance for toxic masculinity (which this whole franchise is about constructing and deconstructing) I may have felt the first flickering of sympathy for a character the novel and the movie had failed to create in me. So much so that I was nearly in tears by the final musical number--an especially bleak ending (especially compared to Beetlejuice's cheery one.) The lyrics, which I've listened to several times today are a knife in the gut. The original compositions by Duncan Sheik (whose CD from the 90s I have rattling around somewhere) are rounded out by great 80's throwbacks like New Order, Tears for Fears, and Phil Collins, songs that have never been my favorites but are somehow perfect in these contexts. 

Sunday, December 03, 2023