Thursday, January 25, 2024

notes & things / 1/26/2024

The cold weather has mellowed a little, leaving fog behind that makes every day look a little like some English mystery. I half expect hellhounds and Loch monster to emerge at dusk or dawn. Even with the warmer (and by warmer, I mean leveling out slightly above freezing) I hope we've had the worst of it, but experience tells me otherwise. Februaries and even March can be snowy if not quite as frigid. Outside a couple movie outings (the time capsule screenings at Alamo for Audition and Galaxy Quest) and a couple more this weekend. I have been staying close to home writing and making books and working my way on my own slowly through AHS: 1984, which is much better than I expected given reviews while it was on. 

I am about ready to finalize the publication file of GRANATA in the coming week (hopefully) and if so, will be on schedule still for a late February release. There are images involved, so it will no doubt be a little more complicated than previous book projects. On Instagram, I've been mostly sharing some older work from my early collage days, many of which I only have digital files of, having sold most of the collages in the early Etsy days. There are regular paper collages, assemblages, an artist book, and some installation projects. All created when visual exploits were very new for me, so they are a little rougher than work done later. 

I am floating in between written projects currently, having finished up the very last of the witch poems I started in the fall and have been sharing regularly over on Instagram as well. I am still uncertain where these poems belong..there are a couple longer manuscripts crudely constructed, but this may not fit in either, but I don't know until the second one tales shape more fully. RUINPORN, the one that is mostly done, still needs a lot of work and help later this year. The second I've been turning a title for over in my head, is maybe two series so far, the villain poems and the urban crypto series. The witches and the governess poems may be a third, or may just as likely not be. 

I've been thinking about the concepts of wintering and hibernation but also noticing that at 5pm, there is now a bit more light still left in the sky when a few weeks ago, there was none. Winter may not have its hooks out of us yet, but its time is more limited. I did (finally) put my tiny tree and wreaths and garlands away  (the tree had burned out shortly after the new year and I was loving the lights on the garland near the tv too much to remove them.) But as usual, after the holiday stuff comes down, the living room feels bare and darker than usual, much like the landscape outside. I've been fending off most of the winter blues with tea and fancy meatloaf cooked by J and more Game of Thrones carefully tucked under the more serious winter comforter in the bedroom. 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

time capsules

One of the reasons that we have been catching so many older films is a series at Alamo that takes a single year and programs selected films from that particular year. Currently, it's 1999--so we got a chance to see Being John Malkovich last week, which will be followed up by Audition, The Matrix, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and some others in the next month or so.  While my own personal 1999 is tucked away in print journals for the most part, it was a strange year of transitions. I didn't catch most of these movies in the moment in theaters. 1999 was the year I finished up my MA degree and started my summer-long search for a job. When I moved back to Rockford briefly and into a gorgeous apartment with a sleeping porch and glorious floors I eventually could not afford to keep. When I took two jobs I left after the first day (one at lunchtime the day I started)  The first selling ad space in a film publication, the second as a production assistant at a small local rag under a tyrannical editor whose staff lived in fear of him. I was only 25, but even then, I somehow knew to get out of bad situations cleanly and quickly. I remember my mother telling me work was not something you enjoyed but something you endured. 

I would start working at the elementary school library that fall, and I think our only trip to the movies in my broke-ness was to see The Blair Witch Project with my sister. Summer was long that year, split by moving back in with my parents and into the room I had vacated two years before. That fall, and through the next year, I was always tired from getting up for school hours, but the work days were interspersed by things like day-long fishing trips, where not being a fisherman, I would lay under trees and sit at picnic tables and write stories in notebooks I still have. I read a lot of young adult books I brought home for fun, made a lot of amazingly creative bulletin boards. Read stories dramatically for rapt K-5th graders. Mediated battles over the first couple Harry Potter books. That winter, we rang in the new millennia and everyone was only half worried that the world's technology would come grinding to a halt (it obviously did not.) 

While the internet was familiar, with no computer at home, I would spend my brief lunch break and sometimes after school using the web to check in on Poets & Writers forums. I still read magazines and books and the newspaper, though, for the bulk of information. I didn't submit much during that year, though a few publications came out that I'd lain seeds for the spring before while still in Chicago. I detailed my days and thoughts in one of the many Mead composition books I kept through college and beyond. I felt like I was treading water, and I really kind of was. I would turn 26 the next spring and have a crying fit in the DMV parking lot over my sorry financial circumstances. A year later, around Thanksgiving, I would put in my notice, and move with only a mattress and a few pieces of furniture to the apartment I still live in now. To the job I just left a couple years back and ultimately the life I enjoy now. 

It would be several years until my first book or chapbook was published. More years until my experiments began in visual art. 1999 was more a year of floating. I remember I was determined to complete my first book by my 25th birthday that spring, and oh what a book it was, thankfully gone with the floppy word processor disc it rode in on. It was also the year of my first real journal acceptance and publication (that was not a subscriber's issue, vanity anthology, or related to a college lit mag.) I wrote a lot of poems in the spring (some survive in my first chapbook, The Archaeologist's Daughter) but turned my eye toward fiction in the summer. By fall, work/life balance made it hard to write at all.

Many of the films we are seeing this winter,  I caught in the intervening years on DVD or streaming, but just as many not, but in their age, they feel like remnants of a time that doesn't exist, of a world that we only remember existed a certain way, but then again, maybe it never really did...

Friday, January 19, 2024

the importance of story

 I've been thinking about narrative lately and the importance of story and storytelling in my work. Especially in light of some more fiction-ish forays I occasionally dabbled in last year and have hauled out for some edits, but also when it comes to essays and poems and even visual work.While they use slightly different muscles, even the things that don't necessarily have a language or text element to them still feel like a narrative or story of sorts. It is still a way of creating and delving into an imaginative world, just coming out in a different form. Like if you took an apple and made different things from it--some juice (a poem), applesauce (a picture)  a cake (an essay), a pie (fiction). Different things combine in different ways.

I am always curious about the education of fiction writers, having only taken one fiction workshop when I was 19. I was in no way as absorbant at that age, and really would have preferred it maybe a decade later when I feel I would have been more open to take things from it and use them wisely in my main genre. Instead, somewhere, there is a file folder of bad short stories about the sort of things you write about as an undergrad--maybe not terrible, but certainly not that good. The instructor once commented that my sentences were way too long and Faulknerian and perhaps I was better suited to be a poet. I sort of already was, sending out terribly skinny and spare missives (though thankfully, the year of rhyming *yikes* I was saving for a couple years later.) I had written a one-act play that won honorable mention in a contest for young playwrights at the very end of high school, but, beyond quite a few drama and theater history classes in college, I was no better in that genre. By the time I took poetry classes, I was very good at some things, but also terrible at others. This did not change until I was in grad school, despite a steady dose of reading and novels in the intervening years, but very little poetry beyond the usuals--Dickinson, Whitman, Eliot. And of course, Plath.

To hear most of my classmates--both in undergrad and my MFA classes in poetry-- story and narrative was not important (and dare I say wholly unfashionable in the sort of experimental lyric or langpo world I was steeped in.) This may have been part of my difficulty in finding people who could agree on what a decent poem was. Or even other poets to talk with about story and storytelling when it came to this genre. Perhaps it may be also why I historically gravitated more toward prose poems and hybrid work than traditional verse. 

But poems are perhaps the best place to find stories and narratives beyond the lyric moment or experiments in sound and language. Or maybe poetry has a space where something can be all three at once, Or at least I hope so. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

movies about writers writing movies

Last night, after a week's delay due to our colds, made it out to see American Fiction, which looked to be comedy-heavy in the trailer, but actually turned out to be both a great satire of the literary and film world, as well as the bonus of a really good family drama. Some of the struggles in the movie were related directly to the black experience it is centered around and the ridiculous expectations for black African-American writers, but other parts were painfully familiar I imagine for all writers of all races and cultures.

Writers on film are always laughably unrealistic and sometimes at the same time, sobbingly familiar. A couple months back, we watched Adaptation, and though the genres are different, both of these felt similar in their critique of the publishing world (especially where it links up with the film world and its own ridiculousness.) Poets rarely make the screen, and when they do, it's morose biopics of the most tragic and/or glaringly idealistic (ie, the husband in Mother!)

At the same time, after I watch these sorts of movies--the discussions centered around audience desires and trends and how to conduct yourself as an author in the world, my occasional feelings of invisibility actually feel like a relief. Yes, no one is paying any attention at all to the poets in the grand scheme of things, and yet, *gleefully whispers* nobody is paying attention. It's the ultimate place of freedom when the steaks are so alarmingly low. If my next book is drastically different from the last "successful" one, it's probably the difference of maybe a few hundred bucks in direct book sales, not a steep advance that will never pay out and critical annihilation that can taint you going forward. For every reader you may lose, you may gain more. I remember when the fever almanac, my first book came out, a couple reviews mentioned that they did not like in the bird museum as much. But other people ignored the first book and loved that one. Or loved the next.  (though the joke is on book #1 because guess which one is still actually in print?)  What is probably my bestselling book (and by that I mean maybe 300 plus copies) was girl show, which more closely resembled my first book, but which recently fell out of print with the publisher after a strong decade. The rest trail behind, though it was shared properties of water and stars, published in 2013,  that perhaps got the most critical attention, but not the most sales. At some point, I stopped looking for logic and took whatever came as it may. 

With self-published titles, I can see a little the dynamics of driving book sales. The more work I put in, the more it usually yields in terms of copies sold (I haven't yet took any of these books on the road to readings since the pandemic hit and everything has been zoom since.) The results and failure are a little bit more immediately visible rather than waiting for publisher statements and royalty checks (tiny ones at that.) Becuase no one is hoping to make money on poetry in general, least of all me, it's almost a relief. There will be more books. They will sell or they won't sell. I will keep on writing. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

notes & things | 1/10/2024

 The beginning of this week has brought colder weather, spotty snow, and sickliness in the form of stuffiness and coughs for both of us. The boon of co-habitating is I do not have to make my own chicken soup (at least not from scratch) so we have been working our way through Game of Thrones' first couple of seasons, episodes of Community for lighter fare and mostly avoiding the world and anything that looks like work. There has also been lots of tea, strawberry shortcake, and raspberry sorbet.  Blankets and cats and warm showers. I've pushed off writing assignments til the weekend when I will be powering through on design articles and some looming food piece deadlines. Yesterday, I was happy for isolation and canceled plans as the snow was falling in huge and hefty chunks outside the windows, all very nice when you don't have to brave errands and bus stops.

Today, however, still sniffling and coughing, it was back to the usual grind. The days seem really short no matter what time I get up, and dark, as if the sky is low and gray, hovering just over the highrises over by the water. It's hard to get productive or be useful beyond the required things (those involving money and deadlines), but I did manage to draft a new poem and send some others to a newly discovered horror-ish journal. I have a boatload of press things to get back to work on since its been slow going since I took a couple weeks off over the holiday on that front. This includes another 100 or so submissions to read through and then make final decisions on the second round reads, which, as usual, is tough going. 

In other creative news, a new switch-up at the platform I use for posting e-zines forced me into paying for what used to be free, which means, in an effort to get as much out of it as I can each month, I may be posting a lot more zines a lot more regularly (I've been hoarding them the last few months waiting to get a chance to work on them. This ideally will mean monthly zines, which may be writing, may just be art or other random nonsense, but will still be fun to see what unfolds. The first offering?  This short series of poems and collages I made late last year, URBAN CRYPTOZOOLOGY...

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

the year of wanting nothing


As the last year closed out and another began, I was hesitant to set anything like creative resolutions beyond some loose plans. Some zines, a couple new books, to continue publishing poems and pictures and making videos as I spent much of last year doing. 2023 was a lot about looking at the ways I engage with the literary world. Or maybe more about the way the work itself engages with the literary world (whatever that is or means, since, in fact there are many, multiple, literary worlds. ) Moreso, my own attitude and feelings of invisibility, of not quite fitting some sort of established route or bill, a feeling that I've always had, but that intensified once I had the freedom to consider it a little more. To turn it over in my mind a bit more since leaving the library, where much of my creative endeavors were much less focused and intentional and much more mimicry, established paths, or winging it. 

Where then to go when you set out to be more purposeful, when those established paths and roads seem not at all right or, even if right, not really getting you anywhere. Or rather, discovering that there really is nowhere to get to.Or maybe more not really anywhere that you really want or need to be. About mid-way through 2023, I had a dream, which I don't really remember the contents of, only that I woke up a with a distinct sense of how much it sucks to be a poet. To face things like rejection or invisibility, all things that come with all genres. But worse, to face these things for poetry, which has no real audience or gains beyond maybe the works itself. I go through these stages where I think of quitting it entirely and moving on to write other things like stories and essays, and yet, somehow, like a 3am drunk dial, wind up back at poetry's door. 

The first few years of this feeling, which intensified after the pandemic, were troubling, though now I've come to expect these waxings and waning. That despite my occasional desire to throw out the bathwater, that the baby is still good, even better, is still squalling and breathing and more filled with life than anyone knew. 

One intention that I started in 2023 was to expect nothing. To want nothing. At least to want nothing beyond good work and a chance to share it with others. To only strive to find new ways to connect with readers directly (especially since that seems to work the best I've found). This didn't mean I didn't put myself out there for journals, publication opportunities, etc (I actually sent out a slew of things in the summer that landed a few publications late this year and forthcoming)  but moreso the way I viewed submissions and the process of sending them. Less as a way to distribute work (which I can do myself) and gain editorial validation (which don't really want anymore.) More as a way of connecting with other writers and community  (which is also how I see my work with the chapbook series and the press), sort of like a gallery show in the art world. Something curated and nice, but not the publishing bottleneck it sometimes can be. Certainly not necessary to connect with readers. The end result is probably the same, but it feels less hopeless and demoralizing somehow and has returned some of the joy with which I engage the world. It's a tiny difference in framing no doubt, but it has made a world of difference in my enthusiasm levels when it comes to distributing and sharing work. 

Thursday, January 04, 2024

cover reveal


This little beauty is a sneak peek at the GRANATA project now in the final stages of proofing that will be topside near the end of February. The series of text pieces were written (the bulk of them) in the summer of 2022, so there is definitely a lot of summer about them, as is fitting for a book about everyone's favorite goddess. But it's also a book about the Furies, which many believe were the punished friends of Persephone who failed to save her from abduction (or conversely, were gifted with wings and a craving for vengeance to help find her.) It's a book about lost innocence on all fronts, about sensuality and sexuality, about the girl world and all its monsters and ghosts. 

The art pieces that appeared were actually created a year later and mostly over the course of a single week, sometimes several a day. While I initially had planned the book to be a text-only cover, this summer's spurt of visual work prolificness had other things in mind. Once I started I could not stop, until there were around 20 collages that accompanied the text pieces perfectly. 

Watch for more details later this month and follow along in the editing and layout process as I get this one ready to leave the nest. 

Monday, January 01, 2024

hello 2024

 Last night, we stood at the windows looking out over the river and kissed our way into a new year with a plastic glass full of free champagne. We couldn't quite see the fireworks unless you were out in the cold along the railings, but I was happy to stay cozily inside the bar, which had emptied most of its patrons temporarily into the street along the water. We did not get home til much later, then delivery ordered McDonald's breakfast before falling into bed around dawn. So far, we are slow-moving today and destined to go see a late-night screening of Fargo (which I've never seen) at the Logan, but I've spent this afternoon getting my January ducks, shivering and frozen as they may be, in a row. Adding things to calendars and plotting out early-year writing plans.

I do not know what kind of year 2024 will turn out to be in the end, but mostly plans involve maybe stretching a little more of my poetry efforts into some other creative genres in an intentional way (and not just fucking around for funsies.) More video poems. More writing in this space. If 2023 taught me anything, it was to enjoy the process and yield and worry less about being invisible (or feeling that way sometimes.) So I hope to continue that into the new year, along with a little more discipline to meet the demands of genres that require more from me than a few lines every day.

I would also like to do more painting and analog papery things, after spending a lot of time this year in digital spaces making collages and art. I've been hoarding some very sturdy dispensary packaging all year, which made wonderful boxes for tiny dioramas and assemblages, maybe some accordion books. There are a coupe of tandem art/image projects I've been shaking around in my brain for years I'd like to make more progress in.