Tuesday, July 16, 2024

#authorfashion | yes to the dress


As we have been making wedding plans for next summer, of course my first thoughts, perhaps even more than elopement and party plans have been about the dress. Tea length seemed obvious, since we will be doing it at the height of summer on the solstice, which is usually pretty hot, plus I don't want to be weighed down with a full-length dress downtown, where the odds of dragging it through dirt, getting caught in doors, and all manner of clothing tragedies may befall it. I wanted something vintage-ey, but  not any particular decade. A little wispy and romantic, but also a little boho, but not exageratedly so.  Lace probably, either ivory or champagne. Informal more than formal since it is a City Hall ceremony and dinner, but nice enough for pictures. Bridal, but not TOO bridal, like a girl on top of a wedding cake. Something with a nod to the styles of dresses I wear all the time (and ideally a piece could potentially wear again) in the $100-300 range. Also, it has to be available in a plus size range of sizes, and good quality, soft fabric, especially if its lace. 

I've been pinning like a madwoman since April, dresses of all sizes and price points for inspiration, as well as some actual buyable options. One longer one was lovely, but felt like a little much for a downtown elopement and low cut enough that I didn't want to be adjusting my bodice all day lest I spill out. Another, a cute dress with cap sleeves and a beige underlay was a contender at a nice knee length, but the top felt a little too high. Another, I liked but the sleeves were longer and I worried it was just too much fabric for summer. I often thought I wished I could Frankenstein together the perfect dress. This hemline. These sleeves. This lace. This exact color.

Of course once you are googling anything about weddings, all you see are weddings. The dresses that would crop up in ads on social media were not for me, but I occasionally caught sight of a contender. Sundress style with adjustable sleeves. White lace over a beige underlay. With tiers like a peasant dress, but more subdued and fitted at the top. Very soft and swishy, with panels of lace woven spaced with chiffon. Romantic, but also casual and totally wearable again in a more casual context. It was the perfect solution, but when I clicked it kept taking me to a dead page to my disappointment. Weeks passed and I forgot about it, but then there it was again. This time on both on the Nordstrom site for around $150 and steeply on sale at the manufacturer's website. The latter had the dress at a steal, but only in a couple small sizes. Nordstrom had a single dress in my exact size saying there was one left. But then I was a week from getting paid and didn't want to spend the dregs of my bank account on a dress I won't need for a year. 

I worried though that someone would buy it out from under me, and checked in daily the past two weeks to make sure it was still there, each time thinking I would have missed out and would have to find something else. Today, I finally had enough in my account and lo and behold, it was still available so I bought the damn thing in all its perfection. Granted, brides get all coy about revealing their dresses and whether the groom should see it before. (he actually won't--not being a big reader of this blog.) Also that most brides spend hours in try-ons and fittings (though I have gotten really good at going by measurements and knowing the cuts that look best on me, the benefits/challenges of being plus sized.) . But I also could not wait to share..

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

winged things


see more HERE...

Monday, July 08, 2024

notes & things | 7/8/2024

While there does not seem to be much to celebrate about being an American these days anyway, our plans for cookout fun out of town were thwarted by automotive issues and vet visits for J's mom's cat. Still there was karaoke on Saturday, which I went with to take photos for his impending website/social media, but afterward wound up at the emergency vet til well past dawn yesterday with a very sick feline, who the jury is still out on the prognosis. Which means we slept the rest of the day away yesterday and accomplished nothing of note. I also may be getting a cold though it could be a/c-induced dryness. I am staying in the next few days regardless just in case its the vid, which is apparently running rapid this summer.  So far just some throat weirdness and no fever or achiness that indicates anything serious. Which means we've also postponed our plans to see Maxxine until next week, which is fine since I am on the broker side of brokeness this weekend til I get paid again anyway.

Today, J is making me soup with matzah balls & beef pierogi (after he unfairly got me addicted to kreplach and its harder to find unless you go to a deli.) I once took pride in my chicken soup recipe, but have learned I would much rather have his version. Since I am home, I still do most of the cooking for us, which I would be doing for myself anyway, but he is always much fancier and gourmet than me (I am a fan of many, many shortcuts, including frozen microwaveable mashed potatoes and pre-made sides.) For the holiday, I made ribs and sweet corn in the oven, which is not quite the huge fried chicken picnics we had before my mom and aunt were gone, but still tasty.

Outside the karaoke bar near on the river walk, the city was pretty lively on Saturday night and the crowd inside large, though at some point after he was packing up equipment, I looked around at a pretty huge group of people, all of whom were silently signing to each other (likely a convention or gathering on one of the hotels downtown.) Since we were fielding phone calls about the cat after a few hours of loud music and singing, it was a relief. When I am out in crowds, I often realize how much I am profoundly uncomfortable and unable to think with too much stimulus happening all at once. I kept escaping outside to sit by the river in the quieter night as the late tour and party boats passed by. 

Midweek, we did get to see the musical version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a movie and book I was mostly unfamiliar with. As a musical, like some of the ones I've seen on stage and screen lately (Mean Girls, The Color Purple, Death Becomes Her,)it lacked a cohesive musical thread, but was still enjoyable for the plot and performances. Plus we scored inexpensive box seats that even still had pretty good views off to the side. We've been trying to plan for a theater night at least once a month, though fall is piling up with options and we may wind up with many more. Goodman and Chicago Shakespeare are the more cost friendly options, as well as the storefronts and academic venues, though there is some cool stuff coming through Broadway in Chicago--including Les Miz in December which we are definitely springing for since I haven't seen it in over 30 years. Having occasional nights free and clear is not even one of the best things about working for myself, but after two decades of second-shift alone, is definitely a bonus. Costly though, even high in the balcony, especially the musicals with redonculous and unavoidable Ticketmaster fees.. Any mad,  non-essentials money, is currently competing between new tattoo plans and and wedding savings, so it likely means we won't be able to do everything on the tentative list. 

Today, I am writing, writing, writing, and working on some chapbook assemblies that need to go out this week. J was up early for another round with the cat at the vet, so I slept in and just rolled out out bed and made coffee in time to start working the rest of the day. In addition to articles on DIYs and antiques, I'm hammering away on the carnival pieces, and experimenting with some new ideas in the image generator I'll be sharing soon (see above for a peek.)


Friday, July 05, 2024

from technogrotesque


read more HERE...

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

the bone palace


See more HERE...

Monday, July 01, 2024

notes on process

Occasionally, I will be working on a poem and the words do not even feel like my own. Maybe some communication from the ether or the netherworld that channels itself through my hand, down into the keys and onto the screen. Other times, the lines are hard wrought and feel more like sowing something, planting something in a dark little garden that may hopefully bloom by the end of the poem. Or other times like a machine that clicks and winds and begins to purr. I never know which of these things will happen in a given piece of writing. Or if any will. Or, if I am really lucky, all of them at once. 

Different things have taken precedence at different times in my career as a poet. The early poems were so hard and so fretted over. I barely knew what I was doing. I slogged along and each line felt like pulling something out of my body. I knew what I wanted and went hunting for it. Later, I would jumble the words and images and spangled contents in a bag and shake them out onto the page, much in the way I would make a collage. While this was not as difficult as the first few years of writing anything worth reading, it was still hard to have them fall into line in a way that made sense. That seemed like I wasn't just randomly making word salad.

There was a shift slowly over the last decade toward poems being more sound generated than image-or content generated. Like if I could just get the first few lines rolling, the poem would almost unwittingly write itself--that tiny machine--that hopefully would get me to the end point. Unlike the order of the early poems, or the chaos of the later ones, these poems somehow assemble themselves according to their own logic and feel much smoother going. So much so, I never quite trust them. 

There was a time when I was an undergrad that I loved rhyming. I call it my Emily Dickinson phase, since I was doing that ballad format end-rhyme shit that is kind of terrible, but I was very good at rhyming. While I moved thankfully past end-rhyming by the time I got to grad school,  I am still a girl who loves internal rhyme and slant rhyme and repeating sounds. Consonance, assonance, anaphora and all those other tasty poet treats. 

The other night, I was working on a piece from CARNIVAL GAMES and relished the particularly delicious combo of "strangle" and "mangroves," that scratched a nice little part of my brain and it was one of those moments I have occasionally, despite log days writing other things, of thinking and pining over writing other things, of feeling frustrated that poetry has such a small audience, that being a poet feels exactly right. 

Sunday, June 30, 2024



At the very close of the month, June's zine offering is fresh off the virtual presses. Check it out HERE:


Thursday, June 27, 2024

notes & things | 6/27/2024

Summertime likes to swallow the weeks. It's already Thursday and so far mostly what I have to show for it are some decor articles, a couple poems, and a new tattoo (this time some adorable mushrooms to round out the backside of my patchwork sleeve. ) The hum of the a/c is a strange beast. I am so used to hearing birdsong and passing traffic in the alley around the side. It's been quieter since they felled the tree in the courtyard (MY tree as I like to call it bitterly.) but still the shut windows feel like something I am getting used to, though I have to admit sleeping in the coolness is a delight, as is the ability to actually run the oven for anything but shorts bursts during summer, and in which now I am cooking a pork roast as I finish up the days assignments and sit down to write this blog as the sun dwindles to nothing. 

Otherwise, we caught a couple movies--this which was a delight and then the late night Logan screening of possibly the most LGBTQ-coded horror movie in existence. A few years ago, I sat at a horror conference and listened the keynote speaker, its producer, talk about how they had no idea they were making such a queer film, which is why its on the docket for Pride month. At home, we were working our way through the first season of House of the Dragon (J's first, my second) and plunged into the second season's first couple of episodes which we'll be watching weekly henceforth. It was a little surreal to watch again the death of the king, which I watched just weeks before losing my own father in fall 2022, so close in fact that I kept telling myself that horrible last day in the hospital that if Rhaenyra could lose her father, give birth to stillborn by singlehandedly pulling it out herself, be crowned queen, have the title unfairly stolen, and lose her second child to the jaws of a giant dragon, my situation was not quite so dire or difficult as all that.

I was toggling back and forth between two writing projects last week, but have dug a bit more deeply into the carnival series. I'm thinking I may submit some of them, at least once, to some of my favorite journals, so am only posting snippets over on IG for those. This means I will probably move forward with the midnight garden later on. I was doing most of my drafting in the earlier part of my day (I don't dare say morning, since my mornings are usually happening around noon.)  I've had a lot of new freelance work this week I am eager to get started with, so am writing in the dark of midnight more and more and always wonder if it makes much of a difference--those early day poems or the late night ones. If there is something different in the way my brain works or processes depending on how full or empty it is.

Next week, on the docket are a musical version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil at the Goodman, then a short trip to Rockford for some 4th of July grilling action. We all know that the summer moves even swifter once the 4th passes, so we'll be holding on as fierce as we can. 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

the long journey

Today I was packing up some new orders for copies of GRANATA and marveling the two years it took to get from project inception to finished book. Or nearly two years, those very first poems in the series written during my first summer of freedom in 2022 and finished before fall. Or the collages that started coming hard and fast just last summer that form a good portion of the book. While I love all my books in their own way, this is the first full-length project that fully integrates text and image in the same way my zines have done in the past and it turned out lovely, the printed images far better than I can do on my little home printer. While it was costlier, both for the full-color images inside and the irregular shape of the book (similar to DARK COUNTRY in its larger, squarish-ness) it was more than worth it. While I initially toyed with making it hardcover, I settled on paper since that would have added several additional dollars to the bottom line and nearly erased any profit. I may however use it for future projects or special editions in the future. 

In early 2022, I was doing a lot of lesson writing work about the Greeks and Romans with epics like The Odyssey and The Aeneid. There was so much talk of the hero's journey and formats and centering of the male experience even while the stories of the women, both goddesses and mortals, were so much more interesting. I started thinking, what does a female epic look like? It's structure and tone? Episodes and trajectories? I'd written about mythology before, poems about figures like Cassandra and Daphne and Calypso. Or the modern re-imagining of the minotaur myth set in the midwest in my Taurus series, which coincidentally bore the same name as the now lost and thankfully forgotten first book I ever pulled together in the late 90s, not specifically about myths, but full of them at a time where I had very little to write about the world in my own experience at only 25. 

The road was both swift and long over those two years. First there was actually writing the poems, which I remember penning with an intent for a longer project, though in the end, the project felt finished a little below standard length for a full-length. With only the text portions, I thought I might just have a chapbook on my hands, but once the images, over 20 were in the mix, the book was much larger and was possibly worth doing a full-length format for. The title, the Italian word for "grenade" came from a line in one of the early pieces, 

"A girl is a grenade, is a garden full of bramble and weeds."

The cover was initially a collage using a classical Persephone image, but in one of my first forays into playing with image generators, I reproduced a similar image, which I then combined with other clips and stock images to get the cover we see today. At that point, the square format seemed to be best for that cover design, so I went forward with plans for that.

When it comes to self-publication, whatever your genre, there are some tried and trues. While I am not the best editor for my work, those years of terrible workshops have made me hesitant to ask for advice on the writing itself, but do always at least try to get a second set of eyes on the mss. before I start laying it out to get rid of typos and punctuation eras. This was true with traditionally published books that involved editors. Each new pass, whether it was the pre-pub version or the final galleys, inevitably leads to more pesky error discoveries. I've learned to accept, months later, I will discover something else that made it though many sets of eyes, whether the publisher's or my own. The great thing about ordering books in small batches is I can adjust for future printings.

Marketing a self-published volumes is perhaps the most difficult part, though there are times when I would say the margin adjustments are the things that are killing me. Like with chapbooks, I get the hang a little more with each go. However, the formatting for a perfect bound is a little trickier with gutters that are deeper and require more care. While publishers deal with things like advance promo, review copies, distribution, all of these things fall on the author, though they too grow easier with each new book. There is something lovely to making significantly more on every book than conventional royalties allow and having complete control over details and timelines that my brain likes particularly and now, while I love my past publishers, the ones that still exist,  I am not sure I will go back to traditional publishing unless its a project in a wholly different genre that I think would benefit by having a much wider scope than I can provide, like essays or memoir or fiction. Poetry feels like such a small thing, and I love being able to sell signed copies directly and exclusively. I also get to include bonuses like postcards and prints that fit each book. 

I've been thinking a bit about these things as I begin prep work for RUINPORN, for which I already have the manuscript ready for a round of editing and a prelim cover design. Depending on how that process goes, it could be out before the end of the year. While I like a little more spacing between longer project releases, they are beginning to fell like they are piling up again, with another couple of projects nearing completion as we speak, so we will see. 

Friday, June 21, 2024

fauxtography outtakes

Every once in a while I wind up with some images that don't quite fit my current project, but I want to save and hang onto for whatever reason These were a few of the bit more nightmarish ones (for a decidedly creepy, but non-monster laden project that were worth sharing to prove that AI image generators may in fact be more cursed than we thought.)  

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

notes & things | 6/18/2024

Here on the cusp of midsummer, the days are groggy and in the 90s with no cool evenings the past couple of nights. While most summers, I've been content to white knuckle it through hot weather (smaller electric bills and I love open windows) J procured us a couple A/C units that are making their way to us as we speak, his tolerance much less than my own. As such, I've been doing low effort things like making sausages and wings in the crockpot and lots of cold salads for dinner (macaroni, potato).  Its rare, this long a spate of 90s this earlier in the summer, which does not bode well for July/August, though Chicago is, if anything, highly unpredictable in climate.  

Spurred by this movie, this morning found me postponing my poem work in favor of generating some fun little fairies, some of which are definitely more insect-alicious than humanoid. Last night, the heat made it hard to get to sleep, so this afternoon found me napping for a little while between writing tasks. The kind of summertime nap as the sky lingered toward sundown, where, if outdoors, you could snatched away by the fae so very easily. 

Thursday, we'll be catching the director's cut of Midsommar on the big screen as a special A24 showing. They did it last year as well, though it was in October and just an extended cut, but not the full shebang. It inevitably leads to a long disagreed plot point over whether its a happy ending for the protagonist or a bad one, of which i am leaning more toward the former, J to the latter. It might be gender or general outlook, I am not sure. Nevertheless, it's a movie I've seen three times previously, twice in the theater where those sunny landscapes and surreal scenes are heightened, and one via streaming. It quickly became one of my favorite horror films.

Monday, June 17, 2024

from carnival games


The past few days have brought new poems for a couple different projects, one spawned by the carnival-themed fauxtography experiments, another from a different visual project that is more story-centric (as opposed to these, that are more mood-centric, I suppose.)  Some days, I am even getting two poems rattled out of my head in the first few hours of the day before I turn to press and writing work. I don't know how long the momentum will sustain, but I hope it does. 

Saturday, June 15, 2024

wallflowers and writers / part 3


As expected, I spent tonight devouring the remaining episodes of this season of Bridgerton and it only occurred to me in the very last episode what I had not realized about how this season differed from the previous, both of which followed pretty standard romance novel tropes. The fake relationship of season 1. The enemies-to-lovers of season 2.. While on the surface of season 3, you might have mistaken this for a friends-to-lovers trope, how the season was structured seemed to bely this, which may have been the reason I was thinking all along that the pacing was off.  Because yes, we do finally get a Penelope/Colin match-up everyone was waiting for, but I don't feel that was the crux of this season--or where the characters were heading, or at least not merely so. 

Once it seemed pretty obvious they would end up happily together, the finale episode was far more about Pen claiming her identity as Lady Whistledown and, as a result, her claiming a future as an author. No small feat in a world where women are designed to be sold off to the highest bidder each season. To forge no identity of their own outside the patriarchy. And perhaps that is the true love story of season 3. Penelope and her alter ego, which she sheds at the end in favor of writing more openly as herself.

Her speech at the ball was very in line with what I talked about regarding writers as passive observers, and it made me think of a conversation last week at a karaoke bar, in which, despite J's urging that we should do a duet at the mic, I had reminded him that I always have much more fun not as the center of attention. More as an observer that blends in and sees all. And I like karaoke, but its more that I like watching and listening to it (well, not all of it, but some, this being mostly a good group of theater people with fine voices.) I am not a performer, which is something I have always known, even despite a love of theater (and probably why I pretty much only was on stage in high school and spent many years after backstage and in the booth.)

It was a conversation we picked up later at the wedding downstate, where I expressed relief that our wedding plans as they currently stand are very small and informal, especially since I am not sure I can could stand such a hug focus on me and actually enjoy myself at a traditional wedding. It sounds terrible and exhausting, which might negate some of the fun of what is supposed to be one of the best days of your life. When I was graduating high school, I remember my mother threw a giant party in a tent and invited everyone she knew, including co-workers and people I may have not seen since I was a baby. I remember I had a mini anxiety melt-down right before it and a desire to hide during it, my little introvert heart not comfortable with all that attention and conversation with little escape. A few years later, my college party was just family and very informal like any other occasion and it was so much more my vibe. 

This feels like it may also be a factor in my relationship to doing readings. I haven't done an in-person reading since before the pandemic--the last one at the Field Museum in October of 2019, then a few virtual readings over the subsequent years,  but over that time I've come to accept that I actually do not enjoy reading my work (live anyway) in front of an audience as much as I may have had to convince myself of before. Granted it was a little better in group readings where I was one of many, but a whole event focused on me was apt to give me hives and a racing heart rate. I hate that when I tell people about this, the reaction is often to have more confidence, which of course is kind of insulting since I have plenty of faith in my abilities. I am just more comfortable being an observer. A listener. This is perhaps why I always volunteered to go first, since after I read, I was much calmer and could actually listen and enjoy what came after.  I did it because I do like sharing work, and socializing with other writers, but there are many other ways to do that that don't emotionally exhaust me, so perhaps I am leaning into those a little more. 

the collection


Friday, June 14, 2024

freelance life milestones

Today, I was updating some stuff in my portfolio over at Contently and realized that the number of entries I had had recently crested over 1,000, which was crazy to me, since it seems only a moment ago it was the summer of 2021 and I was in the final throes of thinking of throwing in the towel at the library and deeply unhappy with what I saw continuing to happen there. To have somehow in three years not only left that job far behind, but amassed quite a large portfolio of writing for actual money still astounds me when I really think about it. 

That was the summer things were slowly starting to get back to normal after covid, which meant more ILL traffic, more library traffic in general. More expectations in programming and exhibits, which had mostly been mostly online during the pandemic. We had gone into covid times with a short staffing situation of 2 people in a department that was once 6 or 7, and while one of the positions had been restored post-lockdowns, the important one that I was filling in for since 2018 had not. This meant, in addition to my actual job and the things we did just out interest and fun, had to be balanced with continual, more dragging kinds of work I thought would be temporary at the start, but as the years stretched on, it was most definitely not. Amid more obligations, my supervisors did their best with the provost office to try to secure a raise, not just for me, but for everyone in the department doing double and triple duty, but no go.  With half the staff still offsite and gross inequities in workflows and pay, I had been determined to stick it out, but by fall, just couldn't. 

It seemed things would not be changing anytime soon, so when I had any way of making a living elsewhere (thank god for online learning and the humanities lessons I took on) I peaced out and said my goodbyes. .Last week, news came through that they had just laid off several staff members (some more useful than others) and around 70 other people in the college, which is apparently in a nose dive of debt and dwindling enrollment. Talking to someone still there, it occurred to me that had I stayed, while my job would probably have been safe since we keep the library, ya know, OPEN, it would still be all the same bullshit. 

Not that it was all roses, and was actually very scary in the beginning. There was also a lot of work to gain some footing and stability and figure out what worked and did not work as a freelancer. Even now, sometimes deadlines and word count expectations collide and it gets a little harrowing with very long days (though admittedly things are much less harrowing in your comfy clothes with no commute.) I have done some really cool and interesting things as well, and written about all manner of things. Still, hands down it may have been on one of the best choices I have ever made. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

summertime poeting

Summer always feels like it should be a time for writing things. When I was a freshman in college, freshly sprung from my semester at the community college and starting RC in the fall, I spent those days poring over issues of Writer's Digest checked out from the library. Typing my way though drafts of slender, terrible poems on paper thin typing paper rattled with correction fluid. Every afternoon would find me waiting til after lunch, when the mail delivery crept past, to run, usually shoeless and cutting though the grassy field, down to the boxes at the end of the driveway waiting for those thin or thick envelopes back in the day when many publications still returned your drafts to you with a polite no. The "no"s were plentiful, as they should have been. But occasional vanity-esque anthologies bit (the kind of places that published in the back of WD.) Paperback anthologies that would publish you, but you had to pay for your copies, which usually contained many poems jammed on a single page. 

I feel those anthologies were a necessary step, though they are often poo-pood by "legitimate" writers. They were terrible, good god, but they satisfied my baby poet desire to feel like a writer. One, called "Living Jewels" was technically my first such publication, and included a tiny poem about television static and political angst. Somewhere it's still on my shelf. A year or so later, I would place another poem in a college lit mag. Then more anthologies, then finally, in grad school, my first non-anthology journal. It was summer again, when working at the library, I started publishing pretty widely in internet journals at a time when "print" writers were still on high horses about them. I often wonder where those writers are publishing now that so many print journals and presses are gone. Probably the web. More likely, not at all.

There was the summer I spent before my final year of college, still typing poems on that typewriter and mailing them off. The summer I worked at my parent's dining table and recorded every new piece to get to a feel for the sound on a tiny boombox.  I was getting better, freed from my tendency to want to rhyme a year earlier, and on the verge of snagging a couple poetry prizes around graduation with the pieces written that summer. Other summers I spent, not writing maybe, but definitely reading and journaling in those Mead notebooks I kept at the time. 

Another summer, 2005,  I spent ripping my first book down to the bare bones after a two years of submitting a couple different versions of it here and there to contests. That summer found me often escaping the heat and distraction at home in the air conditioned interior of a Barnes & Noble cafe downtown, going poem by poem, page by page, and reconstructing the house. Other summertime projects over the years like the exquisite damage poems and overlook. Two summers ago when I took a deep dive into the Persephone series that makes up my latest book. Or the summer I spent a portion of wandering around the Field Museum, writing extinction event. 

There is always a renewed seriousness in the fall, with big projects and plans, but summer always feels like stolen time, particularly when I was entrenched in an academic calendar, which meant a lighter load of obligatory work June-August, and even still now. This morning I wrapped up the final piece in the series I was working on and am set to move onto something else, which I may choose tomorrow morning when I sit down to draft the first piece, there being a list of potential directions and paths. One of which I will just choose and start off into the woods. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

notes & things | 6/12/2024

We are back from a weekend down in the southern Illinois hinterlands for a family wedding that included lots of woodland charm, sparklers, good food, and much revelry, plus a 5 hour road trip journey each direction, so I have spent today regrouping and lining up my tasks for the week. Whenever I leave the city, it takes a couple minutes to acclimate myself back to general dailyness, so I have been taking today slow, answering some press emails, mailing out some packages, and working through articles on birthday parties and which table scraps you can safely feed birds. (in other words, the usual.) This week is much slower than last week, which also brought cocktails with a friend I don't see nearly enough and a karaoke birthday party for one of J's friends.  I need a couple of these long, lingering summer days to get some poetry things done, so am looking forward to that. As I returned, all the technology I touched seemed to want to break, so I will be replacing my phone and one of the printers later this week as well, alas. 

I am working slowly on TECHNOGROTESQUE, the June zine offering, as well as some other little content bits for here and there. These poems feel like they were written a lifetime ago, but I realize it was only last April during NAPOWRIMO. So much has happened since, and time is doing that strange stretchy thing, where some things seem like they happened yesterday and others feel like forever ago. A lot has happened since last spring, including J moving in, quitting his terrible job, finally being able to go out on the regular (previously prevented by both my work schedule and later, even when I was freer, by his.)

Another development that seems to have occurred this weekend was that we finally let it slip to a few more people about our own wedding plans for next summer, which were under wraps to everyone but J's mom, who we told a couple weeks back. The original proposal and subsequent discussions started about two years ago, but were waylaid by schedules and money (the latter is still a consideration, so a small budget is key.) Only a few weeks ago did we say, okay lets do this next June which will be our 10 year anniversary so it seems fitting. Current plans include a City Hall ceremony and lunch or dinner for a smaller group of family and close friends, then a larger barbecue-style picnic gathering for a larger group somewhere between the city and the Rockford/Southern Wisconsin region where most of my family live.  As the girl who said she was never getting married, these developments seem strange and unusual even to me. But I think we mostly have spent many of the last few years of this decade thinking "Why the hell get married?" til the question eventually became "Why the hell not get married?" I do admit I already have my eye on a 1920s style art deco engagement ring with tiny diamonds and a 1930s-inspired dress that I worry will be slightly too warm for June. I have become one of those women who has a wedding Pinterest board and I am okay with that. 

Saturday, June 08, 2024

carnival games | part 3


see more HERE....

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

bits and bots

On Threads, which I can only take in measured doses, I've been idly following some of the discussions around AI (the actual discussions, not the handwringing and moral posturing about what is "real art," which still make up the bulk of most criticisms.) More the ethics of image scraping. At this point, with over 20 years of making things that could be called art in various mediums(and sometimes probably more on the "design" side of things than great works of genius) I mostly roll my eyes at those who question the authenticity or skills of people who use AI image generation, or embed it inside other creative work. Whether they are "real artists" or "posers" playing with a new toy. Granted some people are just having fun, as they should be able to in a world as messy and chaotic as this one. Others have more specific outcomes they are looking for. I've often, however, gotten the most interesting results entirely by accident.  

Sometimes, I am just running prompts and tweaking them to get exactly what I want, which sometimes turns out awesome maybe 10 percent of the time, 90 percent not so much. I wouldn't say its hard, which I feel like some people distinguishes "real art" from "fake." It feels more akin to creating a website or using found graphics for book covers. Or maybe even more like curation, running and changing the prompts and then choosing what I want to use. It takes a little bit of knowledge of terminologies like camera types and processing, but even here I only have a little bit. More it takes having some sort vision and direction for what you want to produce. Or having that elusive thing, a "good eye."

Again, much more "design" than "ART."

The handwringers will tell you that AI will be soon eliminate all artists, which doesn't seem possible. I'm not sure anyone who fears being replaced by some code is actually creating from a place that is all that genuine in the first place. You still have creativity and vision. Nothing can really take that from you. Still want to express what you were put here to express. The discussions feel a lot like painters worrying that photography would eliminate them.  Or that film would eliminate photography. Of course, it all comes from a scarcity mindset rather than an abundance one. While image generators are far more sophisticated than other LLM's (the results of bots writing poems are about what you would expect from high schoolers who've not read much poetry beyond the 19th century.) The one field where the fear may be genuine and concerning would be non-creative types of writing can be bolstered by AI's tendency to just get things wrong, make shit up, and just in general sound weird (or bad at best.) Not that they are replacing "real writers" who will always be necessary for any sense of voice or vision, but more the rampant spread of misinformation it may create in their absence. Still, I don't blame the AI, I blame how people may misuse it for deception.

I understand a bit more the artists who are angry that venues like Google and Meta are using their work to train their models, but really, I've long suspected that everything anyone ever posts on the internet, while it may remain yours by basic copyright, becomes part of the internet consciousness and therefore moves a bit beyond your control. It's kind of already in the terms when you join many sites. Someone I saw today that this actually a good thing for culture in general, that the internet collective should be vast and varied and a stew of everything happening. That its a little cool to be part of that collective (since I too have images everywhere online that are part of that dataset.) No one should steal your work and pass it off as their own, obviously, but everything is influence and very little is new under the sun. Sometimes I will glance at the most ardent naysayers and they are totally violating trademarks by drawing like Pokeman fan art or some other big IP, so I kind of take their arguments with a grain of salt when they talk about "stealing" and "theft."

I think a lot of discussions lack a certain nuance and understanding how LLM's work to create images. It's not like collage, where I quite regularly work with appropriated graphics and images. I try to stick to public domain and stock imagery to not step on toes and honor copyright, but everything else is fair game for collage fodder. The only exception often being physical collages, whose materials I sometimes lift from magazines and books willy nilly without attribution, as generations of collage artists have done before me. And really, most of my sources and materials are vintage anyway and not even related to contemporary artists. 

Generators like Midjourney, of course, produce things based on the language of the prompt and the AI's understanding of what something looks like. So if I issue a prompt for a woman in a white dress, the algorithm of the AI creates an image based on its understanding of what this is supposed to look like. It's not pulling from any one or even 100 artists, but a collective understanding of what constitutes "woman" and "white dress." And its sometimes just wrong or weird about images, especially when you start adding in stylistic prompts and types of photo. The woman and the dress don't exist elsewhere, but they exist now based on those parameters and understandings.  It's not another artists work, but they did potentially provide the dataset that helped create it. Many feel they should be compensated as such, and this would be awesome, but I don't really think that will ever happen. Because capitalism and all. Most actual  "theft" is intentional, done by unscrupulous rival artists and corporate greediness, not the result of 1000 monkeys typing Shakespeare 

totally real photo of the Jersey Devil...

I may be alone in thinking this all makes AI a great tool for world building and story generation, where you have greater control and diversity in what you can use without violating copyrights for mimicking other artists. And, since most of my work exists a bit in unreality, I actually appreciate what some people criticize as the uncanny effect of most AI art. I want it to look artificial, and it does most of the time. But then so does  a lot of painting and other mediums. Some things look very real, so it's actually things like deep fakes and public manipulation we should be worried about rather than some AI artists funny "hedgehog in space" image. Of course, I am also a little artistically mischievous, so immediately did things like make faux cabinet cards of cryptids..lol..One of my favorite art exhibits we ever did  at the library was about hoaxes, including an exhibit that staged a full alien autopsy down to newspaper clippings, so I think there is room in art for it as long as you're not trying to, ya know, overthrow democracy or slander people. 

There are also discussion of copyright when it comes to the generated images, having been created by a machine, do the generators have a claim on them. Probably not.  I would not consider my AI experiments to be "mine" anymore than using a clip of a public domain video in a videopoem is mine. But I can make it into something else. Add context and purpose and create world or a story. While some of my AI generations are just for fun and inspo (see image above), some may eventually, like any stock image, become paired with text and poems (The Alice project is something that uses AI generated images that mostly, outside of some editing things and removing extra fingers, are as the bots intended.) Other pieces, like the Poe tarot cards, use a mix of found graphics and AI elements arranged digitally. Today for a book cover design, I simply needed a basic unicorn illustration with specific colors in its mane. I initially did it crudely with found graphics and it would have worked fine. But then put it in the hands of the bots and loved what they generated, but then inserted it in the design that I composed originally.  It's much less creation, more collaboration with a bodiless artist who always agrees with me and with much better Photoshop and rendering skills.  I can live with that.

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

the fox heads, the heads of dead rabbits


With the reminder that SEX & VIOLENCE is turning four, I dusted off one of the first videopoems I ever created way back during that weird pandemic summer. This is from the series of Plath centos that populate a portion of that book. ]

Pick up a copy HERE.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Sunday, June 02, 2024

notes & things | 6/2/2024

Poe Tarot design

It's been a week of horror movie screenings (one so bad it's good, and the other bad, just bad.) Of fun musicals in gorgeous and ornate theaters awash in pink and violet light. Of spending the latter part of the week catching up on work that I did not do at the beginning (including two 12 hour writing days that made my eyes bleary and exhausted). In the mail some new dresses, including one for an out-of-town wedding next week, and another just to celebrate summer. Also crochet totes (well, two seems excessive but I wanted a cream and a black one.) Somehow it is June, which seems impossible to be closing in on the middle of a year that just started.

Also in the mail, a stack of new journals that can now be found in the shop with a deer maiden theme and blank pages inside. Yesterday, freed from writing obligations, I spent the morning and better part of the rainy and grey afternoon eating my way through multiple croissants J had sneakily ordered for delivery from our favorite bakery and working on a set of Poe-inspired tarot images that may become a whole series, possibly designs for a whole deck (or at least the major arcana.) I like the way they are turning out and have been employing a mix of collaged and AI bits for them. 

I am still waffling on where to go next, though I suspect the current series of poems I've been working on, broken places, may still have a couple of poems to be squeezed out, unruly and wriggling. I had a spate of daily writing mid-May, which was upset by the hurriedness of this past week, so will be getting back to it this week. These will likely form a section in RUINPORN, though the final shape of that books changes from month to month, as well as my release plans for it, which, if all goes well, may be later in the fall. The Facebooks reminded me today that SEX & VIOLENCE came out exactly four years ago (albeit in the midst of covid lockdowns and downtown practically on fire from rioting.) So I will also be sharing some bits from that over on Instagram this week.

I did finally decide on the zine project coming your way in June--my strange little series of poems about humans and technology, technogrotesque with its accompanying collages, which I will be laying out this week. I'm in the midst of final corrections on a bunch of chaps that will be dropping as well, as well as more responses, more straggling layouts, and sorting the 2024 submissions, which have started trickling in today for the open reading period. (I likely won't get to these til late in the summer, but they are there and ready to start.) Meanwhile I am still dealing with which books will make the final line up for this fall. 

This week brings plans for some more late-night movies at the Logan (this, which I haven't seen) and cocktails with a friend downtown. Summer feels like the city is opening up properly (as the traffic we witnessed this week attests.)

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

carnival games | part 2


see more HERE....