Sunday, March 31, 2024

poetry: pantsing vs. plotting

 Spend enough time in spaces occupied by fiction writers like YouTube and Instagram and you may be familiar with the idea of "pantsers" vs. "plotters." Recently I came across this piece on how process and poetic routines differ for writers. I hadn't thought these things applied to poetry at all, but then I wondered how I could have missed that they very much do.  In my early days as a poet I was probably more of a plotter than I've ever been since, starting out with ideas of what a poem should be and where it should go. This, of course, led to a lot of disappointing results and failed endeavors when what you had in mind and in your head failed to come together on the page.  I could have went on like this for years, decades even, writing a fair number of decent poems that met some internal set of standards. I would say its possible my entire first book, THE FEVER ALMANAC, written between 2001 and late 2004 or so, are these kinds of poems.

In the mid-aughts, I was enrolled in an MFA program, which definitely had a more experimental lean at least in terms of students if not faculty. A lot of what I was reading seemed so much more effortless and fresh than what I had been writing. I was also beginning my first forays into visual art and collage, which was subtly changing the way I wrote. Soon, I was definitely more of a pantser, not quite sure where poems were going as I mixed and matched snippets culled from notes and lists I kept of lines that I assembled into poems.  

This was also true of collections, both shorter and longer ones, that were usually assembled around some general loose framework of thematic or narrative concerns, but which, for the most part, I didn't quite have fully fleshed out until the project was finished. Writing this way made it fun again and much less angsty than my first years as a poet, since much of what I discovered was far more interesting and just better in quality than what I carefully planned. 

Probably a decade later, I sensed another shift in process, this time more driven by sound and rhythm than imagery, but still surprising in the results, even if I had a general idea of what I wanted to do with a given project. This of course meant, very often, what started as one thing very quickly could morphed into something else entirely, whether plot or persona or theme. A series of love poems became about the me-too movement. A set of poems about a favorite horror movie became about waiting and class disparities. A chapbook intended to be about a serial killer became more about the women whose lives he unraveled. 

This was especially satisfying when creating a narrative or engaging in world-building from scratch. Which is of course perhaps when you may need the plotters the most. But I especially love the feeling of making it up as I go along, which gets me far more satisfying results than if I knew what was going to happen all along. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

notes & things | 3/23/2024

Our springtime drive-in outing yesterday was thwarted with a sudden profusion of snowfall this late in the year after virtually nothing much all winter. Of course, we'd already made it to McHenry and checked in at the hotel, so alas spent the evening not at the outdoor theatre as planned for opening night, but instead eating massive amounts of snacks in the hotel room with its little view over the snowy vista of the river and making our way through the first three John Wick movies neither of us had seen. 

It's been a busy week that began with seeing The Penelopiad at the Goodman, which was just the sort of female epic I would have loved to have seen when I was in the midst of working on the Persephone poems. There were quite a few movie outings, including a French film where people inexplicably turned into animals (The Animal Kingdom), some monster-laden Korean sci-fi (The Host), and the remake Suspiria, which was as confusing and dream-like as I remember from watching it before. In between there were late night diner meals, lots of writing, and slow, but productive, mornings. 

In this last week or so of March, I am gearing up for April, which seems odd to call a national poetry month, since every month is poetry month round here, but it gets an undue amount of attention each spring. April is always a month of note for me with my birthday and in general, just a new momentum as the weather changes and days get longer. I am still waffling over which of a few ideas for series I want to tackle to start off NaPoWriMo, which I always have mixed feelings on. Not the daily writing, of course, but more the daily posting, which feels like dropping a dime into a deep well and never hearing it hit bottom. I post a lot of work, usually after it's had some time to gel and gain its footing. Those new drafts can be rougher, and infinitely more vulnerable. And it's all shouting into a void, a void that gets more echoey during April. However, some of my favorite series have had a birth or been completed in Aprils past. 

Today, after we got back, I spent some time making up the decor writing I took yesterday off from, then delved into making April's monthly zine, HOME IMPROVEMENTS (see cover above), which is mostly about grief and ghosts and how homes become haunted by both the living and the dead. The poems, which have collages, are also the center section of RUINPORN, which I will be properly pulling together later this year and probably sending out into the world in 2025. There is still another section that needs some more poems and more work, but it is already a longer book, even with just four parts.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

poetry killed the radio star


In the summer of 1996, before my last year of undergrad, I was on a writing spree.  It had all started, of course, before that, when I was 19 and pumping out terrible slender poems, or maybe as early as age 15, scrawling those terrible blue diary poems. The interest continued, but the practice waned a bit through a couple years where my focus was more on studying lit and doing theater stuff. But that summer a poetry workshop the previous spring had launched me into writing more frequently (if not better.)  This meant that I spent the summer, free of other obligations until some play rehearsals started up in August, devoting myself to poetry in a way you never really get time to again. Both the writing and the submitting, which was mostly to slightly dodgy publications listed in the back of Writer's Digest

I would hand-write poems, then type them up on the navy blue electric typewriter that sustained me all the way through college (that is, until I started spending more time in the computer lab that last year.) It was a cumbersome machine and I could never find the right correction tape, so mostly awkwardly  hauled it and a tiny bottle of white out around the house with a box of poetry stuff to work on the floor in front of the sofa, outside on the deck, or at the dining room table (I had a slender desk with shelves in my bedroom, but it was more a place to store stacks of books and a drip machine that made tea. )

The poems I was writing had relinquished, thankfully, the tendency to want to rhyme I'd sported all through the workshop.(I was actually good at it, making the rhymes, but the poems were pretty bad otherwise.)  I call this my fiercely terrible Emily Dickinson phase. The things, sans rhyme, I wrote that summer would win me a couple of poetry prize nods (honorable mentions and second places) for college prizes the next spring.They weren't exactly amazing, but they were better.

The biggest thing I remember from that summer was recording every poem when I was done drafting it. I used a portable boombox I also sometimes carried with me from workspace to workspace. Listening to my voice reading me helped me write better in a way, hearing how the words sounded off the page. Somewhere in this apartment I still have the tape I used, though nothing to play it on. Who knows if it would even play after close to 30 years. I'm also not sure if I could handle meeting my 22-year-old self again, much in the same way my old paper journals make me cringe.

I think of this every time I make a recording now though. On my easy little oval mic that plugs into my computer. 30 years later and my voice is actually still probably the same voice--a voice that I always wish was deeper and more mature, but still sounds clear like a bell and soft. I remember hearing Plath read her own work the first time after being seeped in her work for years and being surprised that she sounded nothing like I would have imagined her to. She was not the flustered girl of her diary entries and letters, but her voice rich and bone serious. I also remember sitting in my Modern British Poetry class at DePaul, listening to Eliot read The Wasteland, scribbling notes and doodles in my spiral notebook and all the gears in my head turning.

When I am recording a poem now, I usually try not to listen too carefully to the audio, since that voice does not sound like how my voice sounds in my head and the disconnect is a weird one. I remember being so surprised though the first time I heard someone else reading one of my poems in an audio file. It almost became a different poem in someone else's intonations and rhythms entirely. 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

book birthday | feed

Today, the Facebooks reminded me that this little volume turns three, which feels impossible and so long ago all at the same time. It will probably always hold a special place in my heart since it was the first voyage on the self-publishing journey, that involved a whole lot of learning curve in terms of formatting, designing, and editing my own work. 

This was also, of course, the book that took shape in the year after my mother's death, and is in many ways, is about mothering in general, even the series of poems written before that awful fall, like the summer house and the science of impossible objects, but especially those written in early 2018 like the hunger palace and plump, and of course, swallow. The book always feels like a purging, a sort of therapy, and I'm grateful for that. 


Soon, the baby is full of bees.  Bees in the bathtub, bees in the bassinet. Floating the surface of your coffee each morning without fail, tiny wings sticky with cream. Who can be a good mother amidst all this hum, the summer house thick with hives. The lives you've given up to get there.  Every tiny shoe, every tiny spoon slick with honey. Who can be a good mother to a child made of wax, even now softening in the sun. 

Friday, March 15, 2024

fragments and voice


Every once in a while I will read a poem I like in a journal or online and it is such a tidy little knot of a poem, all of its Ps and Qs in place, Ts crossed and Is dotted. It's like a thimble full of honey. It exists in a vacuum of space around it, and somehow addresses some big question or thematic issue. While I am not a Mary Oliver fan, her poems were often like this. Observation----> Conclusion.

I do not write those poems. Maybe I did, once upon a time. There are certainly poems in THE FEVER ALMANAC like this, maybe even in IN THE BIRD MUSEUM. But in the mid-2000s my writing became much more fragmented. This coincidentally was around the time I started working in collage, which is all about fragmentation. I cannot help but think these two things are related. 

There is rarely a single voice, even though sometimes it's me, or sometimes a persona. More often it may be a series of voices, a fragmented conversation coming from another room. This is probably why I feel most comfortable writing in series, since as a whole, they make sense (sometimes) in a way that I would never be able to achieve in a single poem. I was excited when years ago, I learned there was a word for--polyvocality. Even when it's a singular subject or voice, that voice is often fractured or fragmented in a way that works similarly. I felt this when writing GRANATA, which was why the p-o-v changed so many times throughout the project. Similarly, when I was working on PELT and could not decide who was telling the story--Antoinetta or Lavinia. The dog girl or the portraitist. In the end, it wound up being both.

I remember reading an essay once on poetic voice and fracturing of self that resonated with me. That the human voice is fractured no matter what. That all points of view are subject to error and fragmentation. Sort of like Picasso trying to present all points of reference in a painting. This may be why I am always reluctant to overly use "I" in poems, since really, I am a collection of fractured thoughts and impressions, just as much as a piece of art or writing is. 

My poem series always feel like an approach at something. From all sides and angles. A whole delivered in fragments and shards. It's something I've been thinking a lot about with the GHOST BOX project, which is set to include written fragments and visual work, both regular collage and AI generated images like the one above, all of which work together to create a world and a story.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

four years out

 Yesterday, I realized that it had been exactly four years since lockdown started and the covid madness began. On March 13th it seemed like a temporary pause that would move off over the water. It had been buzzing in the news like a far-off alarm the previous 2-3 weeks, causing enough ruckus that the college decided that Friday to go completely online. We were wrong about the brevity, of course, and it would be months until I returned to the library. Months more until we had the shield of vaccines. Actually, a couple years still until I felt comfortable going out, masked, then eventually unmasked.  

In hindsight, the lockdowns weren't especially effective, and actually an immediate mask mandate probably would have been better. But the knee-jerkers would have also not complied with that, so who knows. We'd have been fucked either way. As such, the pause brought a lot of people full stop. Out of the routines and pressures that life had become in those lead-up years. My situation was particularly strange, since we had reached a critical mass of understaffing and extra work that two people in a department could not hold the door on for much longer. When we returned, the pace was slower and starting to build when I left. Most staff, the librarians, had not even returned, so still much fell on the folks who were on-site. This was another nail in the coffin that was my leaving in addition to lots of excuses on how positions couldn't be filled because of covid shortfalls and pay increases that we were told were now even more impossible. 

When I look back at my journal entries from that period, there is this stunned stillness. It was a while before I could write or really accomplish much. But it came back. That summer, I worked on several projects and did a lot of work-related things like online exhibits, workshops, and presentations over zoom. I was talking to J about this weird time and he mentioned that the lockdown was the first time we got to spend more time together since both of us had slightly freer schedules, already five years into the relationship. It was also riddled with social unrest and curfews that had him coming over earlier to comply. 

By summer's end, I was back at work with shorter weeks and hours, but by fall, we were open the full slate. Sparsely populated, but open. Things began to ramp up as vaccines were issued over the next year, people began to return to masked normal, just as I was closing the door on that chapter of my life. I did not get to see the full return, but by spring of 2022, even I was taking my mask off in movie theaters I now had time to go to. I've had a few colds since early 2023 and isolated plenty each time without testing (which actually, going out, would probably expose more people). They could have been covid, or just as likely could have not been. 

Sometimes, it seems like a bad dream, but really, so many say, bad as it was, that it was wake-up call. That it gave a moment for contemplation and change. A course correction. A metaphorical (and sometimes literal) brush with death that caused you to question how you were living. And all of this is true. Having come out of a tense situation where mortality seemed always to be six feet away, how many people realized that they weren't exactly living the best version of their lives? Or that how they'd been doing things was not how they wanted to be doing them?  I felt this first with art and writing related things, but later with work-related things that ultimately set the wheels of leaving in motion. All of 2021 I kept telling myself that if I decided to stay, it would be because I wanted to, not because I HAD to. When I finally made the plans and put in notice, it was just this enormous rush of relief that I had done the right thing. 

Yesterday, my day was actually not unlike the covid era. I woke up for breakfast and coffee before digging into work at home, where my days are still lots of work, but more leisurely and less stressful with zoom meetings and nonsense. Later, I made fun AI art weirdness and drafted a poem before making fajitas for dinner, a pandemic favorite of mine when I finally had time to cook in my kitchen. While we have been going out quite a bit, this week has been quiet, so I haven't left the apartment in several days and I am okay with this. What is missing is that anxious doomscrolling and perusal of the news (always unsettling, but it feels less fraught to not be following infection and death numbers.)

I'm not sure what life may have looked like without that pause and reconsideration. likely something would have eventually broken things down, but it may have taken longer and I would have been less likely to jump into the maelstrom of freelancing. We all thought maybe the world was ending as we knew it and that, if it wasn't, we'd best be damned living better, doing better, and being kinder to ourselves. 

the alice experiments


Working a bit more with the bots this past week to generate and manipulate images (see the cabinet card pieces below.) Sometimes you get some really cool results, sometimes not so much (and sometimes you get terrifying results that are just not good enough quality to even work with.). I was working on some fun little Alice in Wonderland images and it has me thinking of returning to the Alice poem project I started a few years back and that has been languishing since waiting for me to pick it back up and just it off....I'll be finishing up the ghost box poems (which you can catch in progress snippets of on IG), so maybe that is where I will turn my attention next...

You can see more of them here...

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Saturday, March 09, 2024

notes & things 3/9/2024

Tonight we spring ahead an hour and into the thickest part of March, where the weather this year varies from day to day but overall is milder than the usual end drags of winter. One day we have the windows open while we sleep and work and the next, firmly shut against what sounds like a steady and angry train whistle of wind blowing constantly between the buildings. I am taking my spiffy new camera, courtesy of J for Christmas, to the bar tonight to take some shots of him hosting karaoke for his soon-to-be-website, so will likely still be out and about for the sudden shift of the witching hours. 

Today I've made some goofy images in AI that can be harvested for collages and am settling in for some new layouts. I also packed up the first round of orders for GRANATA, signing and writing notes to the gracious friends who have bought a copy. I will still be posting snippets and audio poems on Instagram for the next few weeks to, of course,  entice you to purchase a copy if you haven't yet.. (I don't make a huge amount of each copy since I pay for printing costs, but it's still more than royalties with traditional publishing, so any amount helps me keep doing what I do.) I will also be doing a sale in April for my birthday on older titles with more info on that available soon. 

As for creative things underway, I have been having fun with digital images and collages and making strange little bits for my own amusement (see above.) I've also made progress with daily writing on a new series of poems that will probably eventually be a zine. So far, there are about a dozen salvageable pieces shaking around with some more to come as I gear up to start something entirely different for NaPoWriMo next month. Which something is still up for debate, but it may be the Mary Shelley/ Frankenstein-inspired project I've been waffling on starting up for months (I wanted to work on it and share some of it in October for #31DaysOfOctober, but it just never happened.) 

Each spring I question whether I should commit to 30 poems (I write daily sometimes, but definitely skip some days and take the weekends off.) The imperative does keep me moving, and some of my best shorter writing projects were either finished or started in April of some year or another, including the villains series that recently became a zine

Otherwise, life lately is fancy croissants and tea when we can afford them, a couple new sundresses that are still too scanty to wear, and lots of decor and DIY writing on everything from Victorian architecture to using vintage suitcases and trunks for storage. We had a brief lull in outings this week and next, but will be heading to the Goodman to see The Penelopiad on St Pat's Day and out to the opening of the drive-in the following week. April is shaping up to be a bear, but mostly good things like another tattoo appointment and many movies (the time capsule has moved onto 1994, plus there are some new things we'll definitely be seeing horror-wise.) Also, of course, my birthday---and a milestone one at that. It feels completely and utterly impossible most of the time since I mostly feel like I turned 26 and just have been sort of floating here. Also I feel like I have de-aged in the past couple of years (including the lessening of grays when I look at my roots each month) since leaving the library. It's amazing what removing constant stress, bitter quiet resentment, and money worries will wreak upon the body in a good way. (well I still have the last of those in this economy, but things are much better being able to control my freelance income)


Monday, March 04, 2024

now available in the shop

 This lush and sensuous modern retelling of the Persephone myth juxtaposes her journey to the underworld with that of the girls who were transformed into winged monsters in the wake of her abduction.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

selling out: branding for poets

A few weeks back I bookmarked this Vox article with the aim of reading it through more thoroughly. Revisiting it today, it got me thinking about this weird dual state most writers or artists find themselves in. It may be a modern age thing, since many of the artists we know from the distant past, particularly literary ones, had other people doing the heavy lifting of issuing, promoting, and curating the work. While the artists could simply hide in a garret all day and then turn up at a bar or cafe occasionally for appearances or readings (or getting in fights with other writers.) 

This is, of course, not the lit world that baby poet me was born into in the 90s and early aughts. Even the machines that put work out into the world, like journals and small presses, relied much on the author's own promo, platforms, and appearances to sell work. Maybe if you landed a Big Five publisher or were financially stable enough to enroll a professional PR person, you could sit back and solely focus on the work itself, but that was not even an option. Especially for writers who not only had to split their time between writing and promoting but also whatever else they were doing to actually make a living--teaching, freelance, or other day jobs. Many writers like to talk about the good ole days when you could just bow out of the process mostly once you're genius had been manifested and move on to the next project, but I don't think that was true for most authors, no matter your genre, and hadn't been so in a while. 

I took to finding ways to promote work early when I actually didn't have that much work, and maybe that's why, now, two decades in, it feels much less arduous.  It takes time, of course, time you could probably be writing. But since I find all sorts of ways to waste time (streaming bad TV shows, scrolling reels, watching thrifting hauls on YouTube) and not writing, I suppose it could be a far worse way to spend my time. In 2001, I made my first author website, along with my first curation project, wicked alice. I had just begun publishing frequently in similar online journals and wanted to start my own. I used a free website generator that had ads for at least another two years before I bought a proper domain.  In 2001, even MySpace was in its fledgling days, though later I did have one of those briefly. What we know of social media was still years off for most of us. 

That early website was mostly just a way to corral an internet presence into one place as more and more poems wound in more and more journals. It provided a place to direct people to, a landing spot if readers were interested in reading more. I didn't start blogging until late 2003, on Xanga, which was much more community-feeling, sort of like an early mix of Live Journal and what Tumblr would eventually be. Between 2003 and 2007 or so, I like to think of as the golden era of poetry blogs. I hopped to this space in early 2005 and have been here since. On those blogs, many people stuck to craft discussions and reviews and strictly writing-related topics. But this space has always felt like partly that, but also part diary or journal, part sounding things out or thinking out loud. It was also part of a general conversation with other writers before short-form social media became the norm around 2009-ish.

Those same authors would later move to things like Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter. I used Tumblr as my domain forwarded homepage for a while in the 2010s, and I liked the shareability of it, but left when new no-porn guidelines kept getting collages with even slight nudity blocked by bots. I moved that homepage to another Blogger account since I needed a slightly different set-up than what I have here. It's not a site that gets a lot of traffic, even as much as this blog, since most of my direction to things comes via social media, but it's a nice landing spot to get to everything else to include in bios and business cards and such. From there, you can get to the shop, my YouTube video poems, my portfolio on Flickr that I use for art, and Instagram (where I post most of my content these days). I still spend a good amount of time on Facebook, but it's more for keeping up with friends and family and occasional randomness. I do put links to books and share things to keep folks apprised of what I'm up to, along with other freelance writing bits, but promotion is not its main purpose. It's also behind a friend wall to keep out trolls and mansplainers. 

Instagram is where you will most often find me doing promotion-like things on the public side of the internet, though much can be said to approaching even that platform a little differently the past couple of years. More as a way to share work and creative "content" and not just purely as a promo or "branding" (whatever that is or means to you) vehicle. It's maybe more the aims of what I post there vs. what I actually post there. Instead of just directing people to publications and book sales pages, I try to create more meaty things that can be enjoyed wholly via the medium like reels and video poems and poem postcards. While I veered away from TikTok after a month of trying it out last April for NaPoWriMos (it felt a little too wild west and random for continued use, but maybe I will return this April for that. ) I do like video as a potential delivery for words, be that text-driven pieces or audio readings. I actually get a great amount of joy creating the things themselves, which while not scratching the same itch as actual writing or artwork, still is enjoyable in the same way graphic design is or building a website.

As for the "brand, " I'm not sure. It's a gross word when it seems wrapped up in commerce, but it's probably more innocuous when you view it not as limiting and cutting off parts of yourself but as a way to exist on the internet as a creator in an authentic way. I get that those two things may seem completely incongruous, but I don't think they have to be. I don't believe there is anything to selling out unless you find yourself doing things you don't want to do or for all the wrong reasons. I also think not all platforms are right for all writers. I hated Twitter mostly, so it was easy to walk away amid its downfall, but I do like creating for Instagram and YouTube a lot, so the importance is finding one you like and figuring out how to enjoy it. Many writers prefer not to have an internet presence at all. I think you should have something, even if it's just a link to a public portfolio in Google Docs that tells people where to find you.  

Friday, March 01, 2024

secret agents


Last week, I was talking to my lead editors at HD about some recent work and they startled me a little by mentioning that I was a poet (it's not currently in my bio there, which is focused more on decor/DIY writing, but it was when I started) It's obviously not, of course, a secret. since anyone who looks at my website or socials can see it or buy my books. But I also spend a lot of time writing things for other people, far more time than I spend on creative work. And it is a mix of subjects and publications, most of which have their own unique style and voice.  But, then again, I'd never considered how the "poetic voice" of my writing impacted those. My editors thankfully encouraged me to bring more of that poetic voice into my pieces, the idea of which I loved, since I had tried, these last two years, to stamp it out completely. 

At first, it seemed necessary since a lot of my work was academic lessons, ie there wasn't much room for me in those. Or by-the-book dictionary entries for the antique site or passages for the real estate site in a sort of breezy neighborhood tour tone.  Even my film writing for the gamer site had a sort of formula and media tone we all shared. Then later, even in lifestyle spaces, I read a lot of other pieces to try to match what I saw there. I guess I didn't know writing in my own voice was an option.but I'm glad it is.

My surprise that I had been found out as a poet was the more curious part, especially since, from the time I started writing when I was a teenager, it sometimes felt like a secret identity outside certain spaces. I was writing poems all along, but I was known more as a newspaper staffer. Then a theater kid. In college, as a lit major or theatre techie, not as much a writer myself, though I did things like public in the litmag and take occasional workshops. I went to grad school solely devoted to lit, then started working in libraries, where I was even more undercover. I'm pretty sure I never talked much about writing when I worked in the elementary school, though I must have since I did get invited to a couple classes to talk about poetry and was picked to judge/coordinate our entries in the district-wide writing contest. (the very same one I bailed on in 8th grade when I tried to write a horror novel and instead turned in an alphabet book.) 

I was pretty slow to reveal it to my fellow co-workers at Columbia. The exception being the librarian, an interim department lead and later a friend, who hired me, who was really excited I was a creative writer and I think, in hindsight, probably hired me becuase of that since the pool was no doubt filled with people with more academic library experience than I had at the time. But soon he was in another department and it was a while before my other co-workers were aware I was even a writer, much less a poet. I was working really hard and doing things like founding lit mags and submitting work, but it probably wasn't until I started the MFA program that anyone knew what I was doing when I wasn't clocking long nights at the circ desk.  It still was something I didn't really talk about, beyond requesting occasional nights off to attend readings. 

In my personal life, it was perhaps even more on the down low. My parents and sister knew, of course, though my mom always said she didn't really understand any of it until she came to my first reading in like 2005. Some extended family members understood more than others.But only a couple ready my books. I was winning contests and getting my degree and finishing book # 1. I was seeing someone for a few years who I occasionally shared work and accomplishments with. The only people who really knew me as a poet, however, were other poets. Even as that relationship mostly ended and others began, I didn't exactly lead with the fact I wrote poetry, though if they were around long enough, I eventually at least talked about it, though only a couple ever really read my work in detail. Many were not particularly literary-minded to be honest. This was refreshing and disappointing all at once.

Even later, when I felt like my poetic exploits were more out there among the people I knew, poetry felt like this thing that belonged to another world, even though I did much to entwine it sometimes with my job, mounting readings and panels and exhibits that occasionally featured my work. There was library-me, who wrote articles and presentations about library programming and promo strategies and how to create a murder mystery. When I pretty much solely drafted our award-winning ACLR application in 2017, a feat that involved countless hours of work, the head of the national organization nearly laughed out loud at the fancy reception we'd earned when our director revealed a poet had wrote the entire thing (though I still think this, and the unending engine of my resentment over many things happening then and not being taken seriously, is why we won--a particular kind of word witchery.)

Still most days, I don't go about in the world exclaiming I am a poet. My mother, right before she left the care facility a month or so before her death, was one day boasting to the aide who was helping her, that I was a poet and it seemed sort of ridiculous in light of the sort of important work this woman was doing. Somewhat are frivolous, as all art is, and not at all necessary. Mostly because I always feel that no one cares. Or that that sort of work isn't valuable in the world. The real flesh and bone world, not the poetry world. Which I know isn't true, but if I wanted to be valuable I would have persisted in my desire to be a scientist or teacher, both things I gave up and decided to forge a life with words. There's a line in the American Psycho musical that always hits a certain way when I listen to the soundtrack:

"You're not moving mountains. Or changing lives.

You're just killing while you're killing time." 

Still, sometimes it does feel like I am a secret agent. That I'm like Batman, except I write my little lines and tell my little stories instead of solving crime. Like there's a secret code word all of us poets know and reveal ourselves accordingly.