Sunday, April 28, 2024

notes & things | 4/28/2024

I have returned from  Rockford, where I had an excellent birthday weekend that included pizza and cake, a jaunt out to the drive-in for some 80's horror fun in the form of Poltergeist and Creepshow, and a round of D&D yesterday. An excellent start to a new decade in which I am somehow older than I feel or imagine. 

Before I left town, I saw to a few creative things, including ordering a batch of new journals for the shop and making some fun pieces that may be accompanying a new series of poems that is underway for this latter half of NaPoWriMo. I also mocked up a cover for my next longer book (see below) even though it is pretty far out on the horizon, though I suppose it's good to get a jump on it since next thing you know, the spring and summer we wait so long for will be ending. Not sure on the font just yet, but the image is locked in. I'm also considering which project will make up the May zine, which I will start pulling together next week. It may well be the governess poems that have been just sitting there for months. I've been culling inspo from things like Haunting of Bly Manor, Jane Eyre, and Rebecca for my haunted dollhouse visual project, so these poems and collages are definitely in a similar vibe. 

As for spring, it seems to have finally dug in its roots, so today is a mild 70 and I've been able to open the windows at least for now. The more enthusiastic trees are blossoming and blooming everywhere you look as it usually is by the time the end of this month rolls around. Still, it also seems impossible that we have made it to May when it feels like the year has just begun.

I have been making the last of the decisions on the batch of books coming the second half of this year as soon as I've finished the remaining books in the queue. Though May of course means that a new cycle of submissions begins for next year's books. If you have not heard from me yet and still have a submission out, it's likely because I am still re-reading the second-round qualifiers and you're among them. I'm hoping to have those all ironed out in the next couple of weeks. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2024

bots and book covers


Yesterday morning I was waiting for the plumbers to come fix my kitchen sink and working through some cover designs for the press and started thinking about my own next book, RUINPORN, which likely is not due til early 2025 since it needs a firm editing hand, proofing, and interior design that isn't yet a priority. But I am loving this impromptu mock-up using some of the images I have been futzing around with with the bots. I initially planned to use one of the home improvement collages, but this spooky little bit won my heart over and feels madly appropriate for a book about deaths and endings ( as a human, as a daughter, as a poet, as a lover, as a society coming out of lockdowns amid a strange, strange world.)

Sometimes mining the bots for usable images and entering complex prompts is like fishing and hoping you will actually get something good (tilt shift photos are particularly prone to oddities when you start mixing people in. ) I usually find only bits and pieces, but this bit of loveliness came out of set of prompts that wasn't looking for this much weirdness (though the bots occasionally surprise me.) Somehow it's just right. 

haunted dollhouse


I've been working on a set of haunted dollhouse AI experiments that are turning out to be great fun and getting some weirdly creepy and atmospheric results. Take a look HERE for the ones finished so far...

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

poetry and po(v)erty


When I was in grad school working on my lit degree in the late 90s, my final semester I took a class called "Writing as a Woman's Profession," which looked at the careers and work of female writers through a lens of economics and discussions of making a living with them (or patronage or spousal support or generational wealth.) I was reminded of this course a couple weeks back I clicked on an article about the lit world (at least the fiction lit world) and how economics and money plays very little role in the writing of many of today's in-demand writers. Mostly because they typically come from (or at least have) the kind of money that gives (or at least once gave) them the freedom to spend their lives devoted to words vs being the sort of writer who struggles to balance financial concerns against artistic ones. Money is not an issue in their work, mostly because its not an issue period.

I always knew, having grown up with parents in the lower third of middle class (or the upper third of lower/working class depending on the year) being a writer would not be easy. That even saying you wanted to be a writer made you sound like you were saying you wanted to be a mermaid or a ballerina. Completely unrealistic and unlikely. Despite having a fairly bookish childhood where reading was prioritized and creativity encouraged (my dad a huge reader of many things and my mom was a hobby painter of figurines and decor items when I was younger.)  While my mom stayed home and babysat neighborhood kids in my early years, she later went back to work as a mail clerk/ phone operator for a manufacturer. My dad, who was laid off from a payroll job as computers hit the scene in the mid-80s, later worked as an airport janitor and postal worker.  Between the two of them, they somehow managed to produce two very artsy children (my sister, who works for a non-rpofit,  is a visual artist and into random craftiness.) So while there was a certain bit of whimsy or fancy allowed, I was still expected to turn my interests into something like a solid career. My first plan was, of course, to teach, either high school or college. When I discovered I was very unsuited to that, it was libraries. Writing was intended to be something done on the side for enrichment and enjoyment, but certainly no one was making any money from stories or words.

And perhaps I should clarify that no one still makes money from writing POETRY. However, to my own amazement sometimes, I've been lucky enough to hobble out a living the past couple years writing other kinds of things--design articles, DIY tutorials, neighborhood and city guides. The world of journalism that once supported writers like Hemingway or Dorothy Parker is probably long gone, but there is still writing work to be had with some experience, hunting, and SEO savvy. It is a vastly different world than the one of printed magazines and newspapers. I can eek out something of a living by writing, but its certainly not like "middle-class comfortable" by any stretch of the imagination.

And yet this morning, I woke with the knowledge of how lucky I am that I get to spend my day among words, if not my own poems til later today, still pieces that are engaging and interesting to me. Or even that, when I was working a 40-hour-a-week job, I was able to do the sort of things poets do--publish work, write books, get my MFA in creative writing, do occasional readings, engage in community--all on the side. They are two very different ways of existing, and believe me, I like this one far more. I am a little more in control of income and my head is clearer and less stressed. I still put in long hours when you combine poems with editing and freelancing, but it feels more realistic and tenable. 

But the article did bring up the ever-present question of how economic class plays into who has time to devote to things like residencies and fellowships, and just the ability to take time away from work or family to devote to creativity. And who gets shut out of those places and conversations because they are too busy trying to survive. An example being that even if I approved of AWP charging such exorbitant fees for booksellers and attendees, I could not take off the days of the conference from writing and still make my rent or buy groceries as a freelancer with no paid vacation. The numbers just don't quite reach to miss several days of income in addition to registration and travel costs. While I have encountered far many more poets struggling their way though caregiving obligations and day jobs, I am still somehow not all that surprised when I learn a new favorite writer is like the child of Hollywood parents or the New York publishing industry, or even just the children of doctors and lawyers. It makes it easier to drop everything to attend a grad program or do a free internship that leads to the sort of networking it takes to really push hard on your writing career. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

tortured poets

This weekend you will no doubt find me, headphones on, listening my way though TS's mammoth release, which I usually partake in bits rather than all at once to full process.  The news on the web, however, is that it is much more about a short and heated relationship more than her big break up of a long relationship we all thought it might be (I would argue we already got that with Midnights.) I am not one to follow all the tabloid particulars and am more interested in the songwriting itself, but as I was scrolling social media and thinking about using writing/songwriting as a catharisis and a purging, I get it completely. The good relationships, or even the ones that just run their course, are not the ones that haunt you. 

While there is art to be found in good and healthy relationships, there is just much less. Or maybe that happiness makes you need to purge less on the page. In almost 10 years, I have one short series and a handful of poems about my current relationship, the latter which are just mentioned in poems entirely about other things. Even the series that started as a Valentine became something else entirely. Compare that to another bad relationship that spun me for quite a while that cropped up in MAJOR CHARACTERS IN MINOR FILMS and then again in SEX & VIOLENCE, at least in terms of specifics. While many of the men in my poems are amalgamations, that specific one gets mentioned more than others. Another relationship/situationship appears in SALVAGE, but not really anywhere else. An ex from the early aughts who recently kindly bought a copy of my recent book shows up in maybe two passing mentions in my entire body of work, though we knew each other and remained amicable afterward. Other men, including one, a work friendship one summer, I could have loved intensely had things been different, pop in and out amid the waves. Most men I dated, around a dozen over two decades, get a detail pilfered and Frankensteined onto other poetry storylines.

Last year, I wrote a series called "hotter" that was subtitled "a little book of ex-orcisms" because it felt like a purge, a release, and it sounds much like that's what TS was hoping TTPD would be.  I don't know if it worked, because sometimes, when I am writing poems more tied to personal experience (rather than Persephone or Alice in Wonderland) picking at those scabs and fingering the scars is the easiest habit to fall into. And I can say pretty much I doubt any of my exes, even the one who remains a friend, reads things in this space. Besides that one who has always supported my writing, I don't think the other ones read my work at all, which is probably for the best. 

Sometimes it makes me feel very foolish to think how little they probably think of me at all, and yet here I am, rearranging the ghosts dutifully whenever I write, even from a happy and content place in real life. The creative landscape is still a rocky and dark place even if the real life one is very different, even now when I am definitely writing more horror-focused work.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

milestones and memory

  I was musing today about turning a half-century old in a little over a week and how these milestone birthdays continually feel like I should be having some sort of massive birthday crisis with each turn of the decade. But mostly I do not. 30 feels like I was still sort of a child, and 40 was actually a happy time.  Of course, the crises have come at various points along the way, but most were much less crisis and maybe just points of growth or change. I go back to a few years ago, pre-covid, when I was having sobbing breakdowns with a friend over how things were good, but that they only could get worse. Like I was settled in my life on so many counts and this felt fraught with danger and uncertainly, not familiar and comfortable like it should. Only that there would be more loss than gain. And of course, there has been a lot of loss certainly--the kind that everyone begins to feel this far enough along in life. But I was kind of wrong about gains and change, because that has come too. 

I usually say that I quit the library as part of The Great Resignation, or at least the tail end of it, but really those seeds were being sewn as early as 2019 I suppose. It just took covid and lockdowns to speed it along. It was the scariest and possibly the best decision I've made in a very long time and has bought a wealth of things my way, including more money and freedom and ways to stretch my skills. Even creatively, having cast off or changed the ways I think about publishing and audience have made a huge difference in my relationship to writing and art. With the freedom that freelancing brings in terms of time and flexibility, I've had more time to devote to creative things, as well as have something like a life outside these things, which I never suspected I would. And the creative work, it feels like it's in such a good place, even if that place feels a little lonely sometimes. 

I also didn't foresee the good things that would come even amidst the bad things. In the past decade, I managed to lose both parents, a couple of cats, saw the firey end of a couple bad relationships, but also the start of a new one that has stuck. I still get itchy thinking about the precariousness of happiness and luck, but try to enjoy the good and keep anxiety brain at bay. The brain that says it will all come tumbling down at some point even though you have no reason to believe it will. I've also learned to look for what feel like losses but actually are gains in disguise (moving out of the studio in the Fine Arts was a big one of these.)

I barely remember turning 20, though it must have happened. Somewhere, my handwritten journals are no doubt more specific, but I remember reading a lot and doing a lot of campus activities like leadership seminars (they obviously did not take.) I remember having a class on lit and psychology where we read Turn of the Screw and Heart of Darkness. I remember my first creative writing class devoted to short fiction, during which the teacher, a visiting writer, suggested my long sentences were far more suited to poetry. Otherwise, that spring is a blur of late-night Denny's coffee, sleeping on the floor of various dorm rooms on occasion, and rehearsing directing class scenes. 

When I turned 30, in many ways I felt on the cusp of something. I'd been back in the city almost four years at that point. I was still bright and shiny in the library and just thankful I had a job at all. I was still in my first year of my MFA program and working on my first book manuscript and looking in vain for a publisher. It would take another year, but I was doing a lot of cool creative things like local open-mic readings, placing poems in journals, and winning contests with tidy cash prizes and getting a fair bit of attention (well at least as much as poets ever get.)  I would also be releasing my very first dgp book later that fall and making my own chapbooks. I was just starting to make art and installations, all new for a girl devoted primarily to words. It all felt very much like a beginning to something like the career I hoped to make happen. The things I wanted to create. 

A decade later, at 40, I was certainly more comfortable in that skin, having published a couple more books and established the press. Having done many of the things poets do in the intervening decade in terms of publishing and sharing work. Of exploring new art mediums and crafty things like jewelry and soap making for a while when I had the etsy shop. Much happened in that decade on the personal front, mostly bad disguised as good, but that was all still shaking out in that next year or so.

As for 50, who knows? Even just this last year alone has brought some great things. New writing and art projects, new adventures in other genres. The freeing up of J's schedule that allows us to do so much more in the world besides work and sleep, as well as actually get to spend more time together since moving into the apartment.  My first tattoos (5 total and more on the way as I work on the patchwork sleeve.)  Other things that are coming down the pipeline that aren't yet nailed down in specifics to speak about.

My impending birthday plans include a visit to my sister and a trip out the drive-in again (especially exciting given that the last trip was snowed out.) In my head, I still feel like I'm 26 and just bobbing along, despite my more obvious signs of middle age (squinting when looking at receipt numbers, the body cracking like a glow stick when I stand up after sitting too long, not really wrinkles, but more noticeable shadows on my face in certain light. Surely more grey hairs under the dye I've been applying monthly for the past three decades,. (Though I swear to god even those have abated a little after leaving the library, along with my feelings of constant overwhelm and dread.)  

Monday, April 15, 2024

home improvements


April's free e-zine is this little missive of poems and collages written early last year. Check it out HERE .

Saturday, April 13, 2024

napowrimoing: part 2

 Another handful of bits from over on Instagram of NAPORWRIMO yields, which have actually also resulted in some more bot collab Alice series images I thought I was finished with...

Friday, April 12, 2024

mothers and monsters


 The past week's movie outings have included, as I mentioned, a screening of Ti West's House of the Devil (a great 1980s throwback that doesn't miss a beat at feeling like it is truly an 80s satanic panic film) as well as two similar, and somewhat related movies about nuns. One, The Omen prequel The Last Omen and the other Immaculate. Both are movies that feel, even in their basic premise, very similar. Young novitiates arrive in Italy to take their vows and give up the pleasures of the world only to find that the church and the people in it have far shadier and possibly demonic intentions for their bodies. 

I was thinking about this in relation to choice and abortion and how the themes in both are very much about not having control over your own body and what happens to it. The women in the movies are potential vessels, who are tortured, tied down, assaulted, and all manner of horrors in the interest of producing a Christ-like child or an anti-Christ depending on the movie, but both feel very much like feminist takes on possession/birth movies and the church itself. Particularly in the brutality of the ritual and birth scenes in both films.

The First Omen

They have very different outcomes, though the women do escape their captors in different ways and with different twists (one startlingly brutal, the other triumphant, but hinting at a potential sequel to come in The Omen canon.) The gist of both seems to be that people within the church, sometimes even the church itself, for all their deference to God, are very apt to play God themselves when it suits them, while women get wrapped up in the story as birthing machines (actual or potential.) This was, of course, brought home with House of Devil, in which the heroine escapes the house full of Satanists, but winds up in a hospital pregnant with some sort of demon spawn we're led to conclude. It's incredibly interesting, considering the legacy of similar movies like Rosemary's Baby, how embedded the idea of demonic pregnancy and the fear around it are woven into the culture. I am halfway in to AHS: Delicate, which is working toward a similar vibe. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

notes & things | 4/9/2024


I meant to write this post earlier in the day, but the day somehow got away from me amid pesky writing deadlines and then a movie outing for a screening of House of the Devil. Now, I am making lasagna at 1am and tying up my loose ends and to-do list.  But it was still a day in which we watched the light change with the eclipse from the apartment window, how it cast shadows differently on the surrounding buildings. With no clouds, how the light was darker, yet remarkably clear. I feel like I missed the last eclipse in the windowless gloom of the library, so this was getting to see a bit more. We are still here, nevertheless, despite a few moments of twilight and the conspiracy-crowd promising the rapture. A few moments of eerie shadows, but the sun, as expected, returned to produce a rather sunny spring afternoon. I realize that I have witnessed, during five decades on the planet, quite a few eclipses and also several planned apocalypses that failed to happen. Nothing is all that new under the sun or moon, including these convergences of all the celestial bodies lining up.

Otherwise, I've been working on several chaps that are ready for printing, slogging away through the Alice poems that go with the images (see above) for NaPoWriMo, and making some fun art bits that may or may not be related to a writing project I want to do (and also some that are just for fun with the bots.) I am fine-tuning prompts and edits and getting much closer to what I am looking for than I was earlier this year. Every once in a while, the generator throws something at me that is freaky weird and ultimately unusable, but still lots of fun nevertheless. 

Today, despite the midday eclipse, was actually one of the first days I did not need a more wintry jacket, which hopefully means I can put them away and swap out some warmer weather duds for what's hanging on my clothing rack currently. Spring, despite the colder days recently, appears to be rising, with more stalwart flowers like daffodils and tulips fully in bloom. I suspect a few mild days and the buds will be more noticeable on the trees, which may be green by the end of the month. Even now, the birds start making noise around 2am, as if they, too, are getting ready for longer days. For me, it's much easier to stay productive for longer when it's not dark at 5 or 6pm.  

This week brings my next tattoo appointment on Wednesday for a bit more botanical loveliness on my arm., more movies at the end of the week, and trying to finish up my taxes, of which the rounding up info is done, but the tallying still needs to be finished to know the extent of the damage. My income last year was split between a slower earlier part of the year and a heavier load of assignments and writing hours after August, so I didn't quite hit my freelance income goals, but am on track to do so this year. Still, I was able to muddle through doing progressively better each month The shop still managed to eek out a tiny profit according to the calculations I did make over the weekend, despite releasing a smaller queue of chap series titles and outsourcing all covers, which I worried might be something that dipped me into the red. My own books helped, as did some of the postcard and journals that were new last year. A couple of chapbooks in the series sold well, so we are in good shape for this year's titles anyway regardless of what happens.

Friday, April 05, 2024

celebrating successes, both big and tiny

Writing that last post got me thinking how I've often written about the YESes and small successes that were important in helping your carve out your poetry career (though this always feels like a strange word to use as there is rarely any money in this job, nor is there any definable way of charting success when achievements and goals are all over the map.) I guess I can speak for myself..those moments that felt somehow important in a slew of other good things, and they might not be the ones you expect. But as such, I've put together an informal list of moments or small successes in my creative life I felt like were somehow extra sublime to experience as a writer.

1. The time after a gallery reading when another Chicago poet told me that my work was like Sylvia Plath and David Lynch had a baby. 

2. My first book signing at the swanky SAIC ballroom with the Poetry Center of Chicago after I won their contest in 2004. I was terrified with very little reading experience, and went with my little handmade copies of Bloody Mary and was somewhat aghast when someone handed me a pen and asked me to actually sign them. While winning the prize earlier in the year was very shocking to me, this experience sticks with me even more. You can actually listen to that reading at The Poetry Center site about halfway down the page here

3. Reading for the biggest audience I possibly ever will at the Guild Complex's Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic circa 2005, which made me feel like I was sort of out of my element as more a page poet than a stage poet, but loved the huge and energetic audience nevertheless.

4. The morning I received a phone call in late 2005 from Ghost Road Press saying they wanted to publish my first book, THE FEVER ALMANAC, then later getting to sign that very book at AWP in Atlanta the spring after it was released.

5. While the spring of 2007 brought many things, including my MFA completion, it was the little colllab project with Lauren Levato Coyne, at the hotel andromeda, based around our shared love pf Joseph Cornell, that feels like one of the projects I was most proud of, We debuted it that summer at WomanMade Gallery during a reading themed around collages with the late Maureen Seaton.

6. After my chapbook feign with NMP/Diagram was released, I ran into an author who talked about how she had had her class sit in a circle in the dark by candlelight and read portions from it, which seemed like the way all my poems should be read for best effect really...

7. One of the most popular things I've written was actually in some ways the most fun and ridiculous. In 2012, Sundress released my little series of missives to a James Franco to much attention. When I ran into Erin  a couple years later at AWP, she told me that downloads numbered in the thousands, and I realized that may in fact be the most readers I had ever reached or ever will.  Those poems would eventually appeared in my book with Sundress, MAJOR CHARACTERS IN MINOR FILMS.

8. After it had been dropped when my first publisher closed up, I had begun to wonder if my thesis manuscript, GIRL SHOW, would ever be published so was very stoked/relieved when Black Lawrence accepted it in late 2011, the first of three books they would eventually release in the coming years.In some ways, it brought me back to writing seriously after a couple years of writing very little and drifting. 

9. In the year after my mother died in late 2017, I started a more strident daily writing routine, mostly to give myself a focused task to start each day with rather than spiral into my own thoughts. I was able to keep it up, and while I do take occasional breaks (no longer than a month usually) I have managed to keep a steady stream of output in the years since, which has resulted in 6 longer books of poems and 3 others in the works in just 6-7 years, over double what I was writing prior to that. 

10. In the late summer and fall of 2019, amidst studio moves and general chaos, I got the chance to spend some research time and do a reading at the Field Museum of Natural History. I was charged with writing some work inspired by the museum, and wound up with a chapbook of poems, extinction event, that I really do love and enjoyed immensely reading from tucked amid the Hall of Birds (even though I had to pause the reading twice to let groups of pre-schoolers in school uniforms pass through hands all linked

11. In 2021 I published my first self-issued full-length collection, FEED, which turned out amazingly and was very rewarding to see through from start to finish. While I had to get used to doing the heavy lifting work of publishing like design and promotion that had been handled by the trad publishers I had been working with previously, there was something great about having full creative control on a project. 

Thursday, April 04, 2024

fake it til you make it

 On the heels of writing my post about penning a letter to my former poet-self, I stumbled upon a discussion on Threads that seemed to correspond well with that vein. It was a question about when you feel like you are finally "making it" as a writer, or that you have "made it.". While most of the posts were fiction writers, there were a number of common responses. That first major YES--be it an agent or a publishing deal. Or releasing your first self-publishing venture.That first glowing review. A community of readers built around your work. Being able to support yourself as a writer. And, my favorite, enough of a cult-like following to a)have fans and b) have them make fan art of your characters.  

I imagine this often changes depending on where you are in any given career. When I was struggling to place poems in the early years, making it meant an acceptance (or even a favorably worded rejection.) Making it meant that first chapbook or that first full length-book. Maybe that prime grant or residency or reading gig if you pursue those sorts of things. Making it rarely coincided with money, maybe only in the case of fellowships or book prizes. With poets, not really royalties, though if you were famous enough (think Rupi Kaur or Gwendolyn Brooks) you could make some money touring and reading your work in front of audiences. If you were lucky and liked to teach you could get a job teaching poetry or facilitating community workshops, or some other administrative job related to poetry.  Maybe you could work for a publisher or a mag, though these rarely pay you for your effort unless you reach a certain scale. 

Without money, the making it markers probably move continually like goal posts as a couple writers in the discussion suggested. You do A which leads to B which is eventually supposed to lead to C. That prized first book, the book prize, the poems in what people always call A-list journals. The residency that allows you to write or the prime teaching gig at a university. In all the discussion only a few praised the intangibles of "making it.". Finishing a project you love or writing the perfect poem or short story. Or feeling like you've gotten a book or project out of your system to your immense satisfaction.

I've always felt that really making it would you had readers, even a few, (ask me any given day and I will tell you whether or not I'm there Someone to enjoy (or at least ignore purposefully) the work that you do, the world you create. People who if not eagerly awaiting a new project, don't turn away when you show it to them anyway. I feel like the internet has both allowed this better connection between author and reader and at the same time, made it harder to feel like anyone sees you at all. Sometimes both of these at the same time. 

As for the goal posts, I did the first books and some chapbooks and at least one measurable cash prize for a local contest in the aughts. I've read some really cool places that occasionally even involve an honorarium. Every once in a blue moon, I land in a paying journal. In the past couple years, I have transitioned into a professional writer who makes a living with words, but of course that's lifestyle and culture writing, not poetry. My royalty checks from traditional publishing are still pretty negligible, but I do make a tidy profit on self-published books.these days. Not enough to break the bank, but enough to buy some dresses and books and other treats for myself. 

And yet, beyond readers, if you asked me today, I may say that it's balance. Feeling like you have it, which in turn can make you feel like you've "made it." Between the creative work and the other things you have to do to survive, the general life stuff, esp. if you have a kids or spouses or other obligations. To be able to balance being a creative with, I dunno, being a person in the world. To be continuously writing and thinking about writing. To center it in your life, but not to the neglect of everything else. 

I'm not there, just yet, but maybe someday...

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

napowrimo-ing along

 I will be posting my NaPoWriMo offerings over on Instagram all this month, but will pop in here to share some every once in a while. This is a set of texts designed to go with some of the Alice images I was making in collab with the bots which were lots of fun. As for the poems, they are raw and un-cured and going up as soon as I have them drafted, so I promise nothing in the way of At the end of the month, I will pull them all back in and do any revisions needed and make a little zine for May of them along with the images, so stay tuned...

dear poet, revisited

 April, if any time of year, seems the perfect time to write a letter to your past poet self. To that 19-year-old addressing SASE's frantically  over summer break. Or that 15-year-old writing poems about flamingos as dead seagulls in her diary. (Even then, so many birds.) Or maybe to the poet who looked at the world one day, amidst grad school and other plans, and said THIS. This is what I want to be doing with my life. This is what I am good at. I've done it somewhat before. A letter to that girl, or maybe to poets in general. A calling out across time and inky pages. A holler across great distances.

Truth be told poet, this poetry thing will bring you as much occasional angst as it will joy. You will get better, but mostly readers will probably care less as the shine wears off and the newness wanes. Getting that first book will be hard, but sometimes the subsequent ones will be even harder or may even never happen for some, so be grateful if it does. You will probably face down the specter of quitting at least a half dozen times, sometimes when the world, either yours or the world in general, will be in upheaval. When poetry seems like the most over-indulgent way to spend time or exist in the world. When you will wonder why you've sunk years and resources and mental energy into something that usually takes more than it gives by far.

When people talk about the "poetry world" it really doesn't exist. Or more that it exists, but as a loose cancellation of different circling and overlapping poetry worlds. You will fall in with at least 3-4 different communities of writers, of which sometimes you are the only overlap. Sometimes you will feel like you belong to no community at all. Or that you must make one, carve one out with your own fingers, through journals or presses. Sometimes, things will feel like transactions and this is when you will hate it all the most and be most in danger of tipping over the side and into the drink.

You will be tempted to blame the poems, but really, it's not the writing's fault. The writing will become gentler to wrangle and easier to handle. To get it to do what you wanted, mostly by giving up wanting everything at all. To merely follow rather than lead.  You will wander, your hand gripping its tail for miles and across decades. You will alternatively feel like you are writing too much or not even remotely enough. That if you are writing too much, people will get bored with you and your books and all these words. That you are just TOO MUCH sometimes with all of it, though also at the same time, not enough.  That maybe the gains you've had are simply luck and timing and chaotic change, and really, you don't belong here, wherever here is. Or worse, that there is something inherently wrong with everything that comes out of your fingers and to the keyboard. That somewhere, the doubters were right in workshops and gossipy clutches of grad students, you just aren't that good. Showy and ambitious, yet just not good.

And you may begin to think this too. So, of course, don't. Also that maybe THIS is why you've failed to garner many of the keys to the kingdom--the journals and accolades and attention. Which is of course, wrong, since so many keys are based on class and education and who you know or hang out with. That of course, even if they weren't outside your league, there is never enough of them for poets many of whom are probably better/luckier/more hardworking than you.

So you go on like this for years possibly, at turns ecstatic about your work, but also slyly doubting it's quality. Thankful that its easier to get what you want from words now after all these years, but also highly suspicious that it all may be for naught. You remind yourself how many great writers from centuries before probably felt this way about their work, some rather famously, so it may just be par for the course for writers in general, but especially poets. Where the stakes are high and startlingly small all at once.