Thursday, May 30, 2024

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

carnival games | part 2


see more HERE....

Monday, May 27, 2024

cicada summer


 The first time the cicadas came, I was 16. It was also the summer of fighting endlessly with my mother and shiny new driver's licenses. Of boxes full of kittens and heat waves that knocked out the power on the regular. I spent a week at a camp during June  in the woods, where we picnicked in a grove in Lake Geneva with husks thick on the ground and cicadas flying into the potato salad. Later, an older boy would clumsily kiss me for the first time behind a boat house along the lake where I was certain hockey-masked serial killers watched from the woods. He had belonged to someone else the summer before, and would never belong to me, but it perhaps set a pattern in motion. 

The second time the cicadas came, I was in my early 30s. I'd fallen in love the previous fall with someone who was, unbeknownst to me, secretly married. After a fit of anger and no-contact over the holidays, I had fallen back into it that spring, becoming somehow, the "other woman" so often reviled. The draw was that he was fun and good in bed, and would be among a slew of bad romantic choices in my early 30s. I was poly and had practiced ethical nonmonogamy for years, but this was highly unethical and not my finest moment. He was very normal and suburban and not at all like anyone I'd slept with before. But he had a wickedly lovely sense of humor, He was also possibly the first person, in the early days, I could see myself existing happily with forever. Which up to then had never been true of any partner prior. 

I sometimes say that particular situationship was the root of much wanton behavior in my 30s as a result, but it's not fair to blame it entirely. Later, he would turn out to be a compulsive liar and wound up in jail  for a bit for white-collar crimes, during which we exchanged long multi-page letters I scented with pear perfume as if it were all so normal. I highly suspected it was some sort of game between him and his wife. He would cheat and she would catch him and then he'd cheat again. A cycle that went on over decades until they eventually divorced. Over the next several years we would drift and reconnect, sometimes through my volition, sometimes his. That summer, visiting a zoo in the suburbs with my parents, the racket of cicadas was so loud we couldn't hear ourselves speak. One would fly down my dress and may have shaved years off my life, its wings thrumming against my chest for a second outside the aviary. 

The lifespan of cicadas is fascinating and slow. The steady burrowing under ground for 17 years. The few days topside. The molting and the screaming. The mating and the inevitable death. The intervals feel like check-in points. Between the 16 and 33, I did many things like go to grad school, write poems and books, move several times. There would be apartments and more cats and other brief or long entanglements. Between 33 and 50, even more, including reviving and re-animating the corpse that long dead love 6 years after it had ended in one of many angry e-mail exchanges in which his wife accused me of all sorts of things that were mostly true. More than anyone, he appears in poems every once in a while. Sometimes, he is a hybrid monster with other men who have drifted in and out of my romantic life over the years. He doesn't deserve it. But it happens. 

I realized the other day that 17 years from now, and luck willing, I will be in my late 60s. Another 17 and I will be in my early 80s if I make it.. This go round, I likely won't see much of them thankfully, the trees having been planted and replaced many times in Edgewater due to parasites and beetles. Nothing gets a root in, much less cicadas. The ground turned and returned with each new planting. It's kind of like the city itself, always changing. Buildings come down and rise again. 150 year-old houses disappear over night. 

I could say, I too emerge and re-emerge new every 17 years. As J and I make wedding plans for next summer, despite us both considering ourselves poly and my vow to never marry (I also vowed tattoos were too permanent and now have several, so take that as you may) , I am in many ways not the 16 year old girl with blonde curls always fighting over laundry and dishes kissing the wrong boys. I am also not the younger woman who mistook forbidden fruit for something like love. I am something wholly new but with all those things rattling inside her. 


all along the ballyhoo | part 2


see more HERE...

Sunday, May 26, 2024

notes & things | 5/27/2024


from broken places

Today's afternoon Time Capsule film offering was Back to the Future, which seems on point given the weird experience of remembering my 11 year old self in 1985 watching it vs. my middle age self watching it now. (I had not seen it in at least a couple decades)  Granted, then I was likely shoving Milk Duds down my throat and watching with my cousin at a mall vs. eating a fancy bougie breakfast club in recliner seats in the middle of bustling Wrigleyville with J, but still the same experience. 

Things stand out to me more now, especially about the unfulfilled potential of the parents, and that whole attempted rape scene in the school parking lot, which would not have registered in the 80s. It was especially relevant since last night found me watching a YouTube video that mentioned a series of TikToks where an Air BnB host has footage on a ring cam that a man entered his backyard shed and emerged a day later decades older. Sometimes I feel like that man, except there is no shed filled with broken washing machines and empty detergent bottles to serve as time machine. Just time.

Tonight, after a rainy morning and bright afternoon, the sky opened up again and cast a Mars-like orange glow. Outside of our afternoon outing, I am working better to get more done in the week in favor of at least one weekend day off, but it doesn't always work out that way. I did make a good dip into the remaining layouts for upcoming chaps, as well as mailed out some decisions for the coming year.  The days are so long and wind to twilight so nicely in a way that I am already simultaneously mourning for come fall, all at a time when the heat and languor of summertime have not yet set in. (I actually needed a jacket when we were out today..I'm guessing the wind was off the lake.)

I am in the final throes of the broken places" series and pondering where to turn next amid a slew of half conceived, abandoned, or fledgling projects in the hopper, all of which would be completely reasonable to work on this summer. I've also made the decision on which zine to issue for June, so keep an eye out for that after the first of the month. 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

story, narrative, & the tools of a poet


I've spoken before of one of the most useful conversations (sadly, oh so few) in grad school about poetry and goals and intentions. How every person in the room had different aims with what they were doing with writing,. Or what they were specifically doing with THEIR writing. What they were reaching for or where they were trying to land. It was that moment I realized that my goals were vastly different as a poet, and, for a while it seemed, barely like a poet at all. 

After we'd all gone around the room, the convo was cut short by having to get to the week' steadily uninspiring task of workshopping, but for a moment, things started to make sense. I, of course, had said to tell a story. Over the years, this has been a guiding force--equal parts mood, and narrative, and voice. It's probably why I love persona poems and always have. Why I tend to write about things outside my experience through my own lens and with my own obsessions in mind. 

Of course, maybe its that I probably started out as a fiction writer. Well, if you count trying in vain to copy the stories and plotlines of the horror novels I was devouring in early adolescence. I was bad at it, of course. I would write on notebook paper and spiral notebooks by hand and plot out these intricate stories that I would abandon in the actual writing of. (while I have a fiction writer's spirit, I have a poet's attention span sadly.) I would abandon them and move onto the next thing. In college, my first workshop was in fiction, in which I wrote kind of boring "literary" stories, mostly about college students,..I never felt like they were the best, serviceable for the class, but hardly genius and proof of early talent.

Poetry sort of slipped in like a burglar and stole all my attention. Those early high school diary poems. Later, all the terrible skinny minimalistic verse and bad rhyming of my undergrad days. Unlike fiction, however, I was getting nominally good at it and would get better. By my mid-twenties, good enough to begin publishing and doing readings. When I return to fiction now, as I have often tried to, it feels less interesting. Like poetry has spoiled me for ordinary prose. My stories are good at their base, but the conveying of them through the language and structure seems lackluster.

I've been thinking over the past year or so about my love of stories and still feel like it guides me, apart from more lyrical forays every once in a while. Where they combine is perhaps where the magic happens. I've been thinking of it more like having the aim of a fiction writer with my work, but using the tools of the poet., the language, the meter, the metaphor. These feel like the best vehicle to get where your going, which I think is why my fiction always seems to be lacking some important thing that poetry always gives, but only the best kind of prose can.  In truth, probably art works this way as well, a way of telling a story, be it collages, photos, or video.

When I look at the span of my work over the past two decades, there are definitely things that feel more novel-like. GIRL SHOW and SHARED PROPERTIES and GRANATA, while others feel more like assemblage of short stories in the form of poem series that hang together to form a whole. The latest manuscript, RUINPORN, is definitely this, as were projects like AUTOMAGIC and FEED. 

In 2022, when I was first blessed with more time as freelancing allowed (well before I took on a lot of projects to not starve) I wrote the beginnings of what was to be a smutty novella called THE LOVERS. It's been sitting in google docs for two years, about 2/3 completed. I pull it out and look at it every once in a while, and while I can do smut very well, its the rest of the narrative that seems less inspiring. It occurred to me that it would make a much better series of poems, so maybe down the line, I should try dismantling it for that. There are other shorter horror stories you could probably say the same about, so we shall see. I've also been thinking about the poetic luxury offered by lyric and braided essays. There are many possibilities here that I am trying to harness for the thrifting memoir-ish thing I've finally begin looking at in more detail. 

Friday, May 24, 2024

carnival games


see more HERE....

snake charm, fire dance, sword swallow

This week I turned my audio recording project toward GIRL SHOW, which has actually recently gone out-of-print with the press that published it.  I still have a good sized stash of copies floating around in the shop. however, though when those are gone, I may issue a second, self-published version. Sometimes I think about how there were a long seven years from the time I finished the mss. at  the end of my MFA until it actually came out in 2014. Three of those years were spent under contract at Ghost Road before it went out of business, another year in submission, before finally it was picked up by Black Lawrence in late 2011. 

It was my first full project book--not individual poems pulled into a book (like THE FEVER ALMANAC) or several smaller things corraled together. (like IN THE BIRD MUSEUM.)  While it was technically the fourth book I released, its completion preceded book #3,THE SHARED PROPERTIES OF WATER AND STARS, by several years, that little book having been completed, solicited, and released in a brisk couple of years in 2013. I still consider GS my third bookish child however, since the poems mark a very particular moment in my style that would change again in the years after my MFA (well, when I was writing at all those years.)

I've been working on some visual carnivalesque things (see here and here) the past few weeks that run a strong parallel, one of which may result in some textural pieces down the line.  I've spoken often of the flip-flopping tendencies of visual things to follow written ones, or vice versa. Some hitting that sweet spot and happening all at once, though this is rare for me. In GIRL SHOW's case, there were a small number of collages I made in 2005 that preceded the first poem, the title one, but those were kind of sloppy in both technique and conception. I had only been making paper things for around a year at that point and was just dipping in my toes. The collage on the cover, however, was from a much later set of experiments with paper cuts.

I would finish the book manuscript mid-2006, just in time to begin organizing the unrulyness of it into sections in my thesis seminar. While my classmates were helpful, I was less inspired the following spring working on the fine tuning with my thesis advisor, who made a lot of suggestions I changed to get final approval but then submitted (and had accepted) the original early 2007 version. (It was just easier to agree and turn in an alternate, lesser, version at that point. I was coming off my year of mono-related sicknesses, wrapped in ridiculous romantic drama, and just needed to be done. ) It does kind of irk me that I didn't stand my ground, especially since that version exists in CC's archives in all its tamed down mediocrity.

But the version that was accepted by a press (not once, but twice) and eventually published was my intended one. They are still some of my favorite poems, which is saying a lot having written over 30 years of them. Sometimes it feels like a bridge between styles of writing I felt I was trying on like dresses in those years. It was written pretty fast, the first poem in earlier 2005 and the very last in late 2006.  

Thursday, May 23, 2024

wallflowers and writers | part 2

I spent some time over the weekend devouring the newest episodes of BRIDGERTON, the wholly smutty Jane Austen meets Downtown Abbey series based on some kinda crappy novels that create delightful television that I have watched the earlier seasons of at least thrice.  They are usually filled with heat and swirling balls and exquisite set pieces and dresses that set my little pretty-obsessed heart aflutter. (Not to mention an awesome soundtrack that mixes swing quartets with pop music renditions.) On the whole, this season doesn't feel as wrought in the chemistry department, it being focused on wallflower Penelope and her long-time neighbor crush Colin Bridgerton (as well as her falling out with her bestie Eloise).

In many ways, Penelope is the center of the whole BRIDGERTON universe...the infamous and secret Lady Whistledown, who spreads the noble class' gossip succinctly and on the regular. Socially awkward, plumper than other girls, dressed in bright canary or orange, and mistreated/often overlooked by her mother and sisters, Pen has ambled through two seasons of unrequited affections and season 3 is finally her turn. 

Much has been said in the media over the body of the actress, Nicola Coughlin, who plays her.  One one hand, she is not exactly a larger body-positivity champion, her actual short frame being at most a size 10-12 in a world of actresses that are 4-6.. Part of it may be the costuming up until this season, which favored empire dresses she looked like her top half was stuffed into with little to no waist definition.  Or maybe her red hair, pinned up and girlish vs. the long red tendrils of this season. She actually has a pretty standard-shaped body, but her voluptuousness and chubby cheeks read as an unusual representation of the female form on screen and in Hollywood.  

Either way, like Eloise, Pen had a spot not among the husband-hunting crowds, but along the borders of the room, watching and taking notes. Some have suggested her physique is the thing that kept her at bay, though this is not mentioned in the show, but anyone who feels that she doesn't fit in among the "ideal body" likely has felt the same. When Pen puts herself out there, in the show, her spinsterhood after three available seasons is commented on, though it could just as easily be that her family is scandal ridden, her mother kind of horrible (but very interesting) and her conversations awkward. No one says it, but you can feel her body may be part of it, even in an era that likely would have historically cared less about slenderness. 

Nevertheless, body-laden or not, she is a popular identifiable figure among chunky, bookish girls who feel like they don't quite fit in, and I think that is where the genius of her portrayal lies. Penelope tries to check all the boxes, to keep her secret identity as London's Gossip Girl hidden (which of course we expect will all come tumbling down in part two of the season in a few weeks.) While I wasn't sure the Colin/Pen seasons had the heat (particularly of the Anthony/Kate pairing of S. 2), even with the tryst in the back of  carriage ending this batch, but  maybe the last episodes will make that happen. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

a beautiful monstrosity


Working with AI prompts has been interesting the past few months. Tweaking the variety and tenor of images and what you actually want from them has been a learning curve. I realized a couple weeks back when I was generating a series of carnivalesque dioramas that I had perfectly somehow recreated (or actually more credit goes to the bots) the spider lady from our 2018 Beautiful Monstrosities series at the library. A sort of simple bit of graphics manipulation then when I photoshopped a vintage clip art head on a spider illustration, but a fully fleshed character now with even the same hair and eyes. People talk about the algorithms of AI generators pulling from existing work and images, but I doubt my basic pared down image spawned this, so I am guessing its just a serendipitous bit of chance, but I love her so much. I will be posting the results of the all along the ballyhoo series this week on IG  (you can also see some in yesterday's post.)  They do not currently have a textual component, but I am working on some early  poems to go with another similar project that is photographs rather than dioramas, so stay tuned for that..And of course, you never know, the perfect slew of text pieces may just be inspired by these odd little dioramas yet...

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

all along the ballyhoo


These were immense fun to generate and there are many mroe to be found HERE...

Monday, May 20, 2024

sweet | an audio poem


another bit from THE FEVER ALMANAC (Ghost Road Press, 2006)

Sunday, May 19, 2024

notes & things | 5.19.2024


Warmer weather has moved in, though it comes and goes this close to the water, making a slight haze of fog along the beach where the warm air meets the still very chilly Lake Michigan. The days are long and dwindle to twilight rather than the sudden plunge of other seasons, for which I am appreciative, especially on longer days when I am writing until 9 or 10pm easily, whether its decor articles or poems. It's hard to imagine this summer marks two years writing for HD and over 2 years since taking the freelance plunge. The other day, over coffee, we were complaining about his gig work (J drives for Uber/Lyft in addition to karaoke hosting and occasional acting stuff) and my freelancing deadlines and started laughing because though the hours can be long and the pay not particularly spectacular, we have a certain amount of very nice freedom and flexibility. (I do work hourly on contract for HD, but have the option of changing my hours or taking days off in a way I never could at the library.) Plus no commuting and I can work at home in my pajamas if I desire. All of which I understand the good fortune of having after having not had it for over 20 years. 

I've been spending some time doing more audio recordings from older collections, all of which are nice to revisit from time to time. To look at something and think the younger poet version of me was not as far off as she sometimes seems when I consider what I was writing then versus what I am writing now. Often, poems will ill like re-dos or revisits, based on subject matter or themes. I like the idea that every poem is just a new gesture at getting toward or through something. Or tinkering with with words and parts to build a better machine. 

I've also been combing this blog or bits and parts as I start a loose outline for a more memoirish project and revising the past decade year by year. There were years when I blogged pretty infrequently and others where I always seemed to have something to say. (even if it wasn't particularly profound or interesting.) I have a few posts that can definitely be included as bits in that project or, if not, something else that's been stirring in my head of late. 

Otherwise, my creative time is filled with tinkering with bits and collages. Some AI experiments come out fully formed and feel like delightful found images (less about me and my prompts and more about the bots and a role as curator) and others that demand more from me in terms of collaging and appropriating that stuff into stuff of my own. I keep seeing so many takedowns of AI generative stuff in social media spaces, of which so many people are against, whether its some reverence for human creativity or the sketch way the machines have been trained on everyone's artwork (including my own, but I also know that once you put things on the internet (be they words or images) you lose a certain amount of control). I also don't think that what the bots do with images is much different than what I do with collage in the end (just based on algorithms and not expression or creativity.) It can be misused, just like text generators, but as a tool, I really like playing with it. Not stealing, as some level against it, but remixing, which in many ways is much how art works over the centuries. So much of being an artist or creative is expression and meaning and the bot images really only have as much meaning as we, and our tiny human brains, confer upon them, either as the people using them or the people looking at them. They feel more like collaborations with an easily malleable artist that follows your commands and knows how to use photoshop more

Saturday, May 18, 2024

breath & render | part 2

see more HERE...

Friday, May 17, 2024

bloody mary

In that last post, I mentioned the 20 year birthday of that very first fledgling chapbook I put together in the spring of 2004. Part of it was trial run for the chapbook series I would eventually launch, to see how expensive and difficult producing a slender pamphlet could possibly be. Part of it was that I had my first chap, The Archaeologists Daughter,  accepted in 2002, but it would not be out until the fall of 2005. Meaning that I really wanted/needed something to bring with me to readings, which I was staring to do more and more often. People (somehow!) started asking me if I had a book and where could they get it? Like WHAT? I was riding high on new poet vibes then, so wanted to make it happen. 

There was a a lot happening in those year on the micro-press front, with lots of small presses originating in what was a much smaller, but strangely more lively, community among those publishing in online journals and writing poetry blogs. And while the internet as a venue for verse was just getting rolling, there was still this desire for the printed object. For the heft and papery-ness of it. I sat in a panel in one of the tiny jewel box rooms of the Palmer House at AWP 2004 and listened as people talked about how physical books were likely to move away from merely being vehicles for content and more toward being looked at as objects and artifacts. Another where they lauded sites like Poetry Daily for making poetry available to everyone and others expounding the virtues of HTML and web poetry. Another where Stephanie Strickland (who would later be a visiting poet in my program and one of the only useful workshop experiences while there) talked about starting and running Slapering Hol Press. In another panel, showed off her, at the time, revolutionary html projects. Everyone, including her and me, posed between these two media. One, thousands of years old, the other barely in its infancy. 

I left that conference thinking of ways to bridge the online poetry community, of which wicked alice, the web journal I started in 2001, was a part, and the more tactile world of paper and print. Mind you this was before booklet format printers, so the layout was very crude in the same format I would use for the first few years of the chapbook series that allowed me to print duplex on one-sided printers. I was already in that small press publishing class and working on a print annual for the journal, learning the ins and out of budgeting and planning. So when that was done in later spring, I turned my eye to this.

Granted she's a little rough. That first version probably had typos galore, formatting errors, and was wrapped in parchment resume paper from Staples that really didn't even have any heartiness to it. When I had given away, traded or sold, those initial copies, I made a second run that was even smaller but more polished (see photo above.) In which, I added a couple of poems, and used heavy watercolor paper I picked up at Utrecht as a cover. The cover phot was courtesy of Alaina Burri-Weir, who would also provide other artwork to dgp publications later, as well as the eventual cover for THE FEVER ALMANAC. 

There are poems that never quite made it into the longer manuscript, which I was beginning to send around that same year. In it, there's a poem about Little Red Riding Hood that would later be expanded and become the book of red project. There's another about Daphne changing into the laurel tree, and another about a missing twin.   The title comes from a poem I later included in the first full-length about urban legends and childhood games and family trauma, much of the same soup I would be drawing on for years in terms of subject matter (and probably still am.) The booklet begins with some lines of Anne Sexton from "The Breast":

I am unbalanced - but I am not mad with snow.
I am mad the way young girls are mad,
with an offering, an offering…

I burn the way money burns.

I took my crude little chapbook everywhere I was reading, which was suddenly everywhere after winning a local prize with a hefty cash prize that April from the Poetry Center of Chicago ( funds which helped produce more books and start the chapbook series that fall.). I even took them to the fancy SAIC ballroom when I read as part of their regular series, and it was the first time I ever not only sold books(I had been trading and giving them away all summer) but the first time I got to do the very authorly thing and sign them. Funnily enough, you can actually still listen to that reading here--it's like the ghost of baby poet me speaking across the last two decades.)

Thursday, May 16, 2024

dancing girl press & studio notes | may 2024

Over the next week or so, I plan, hell or high water, to get all responses out for books from last sumner's open reading period and all the delayed titles from late 2023 out into the world. It's been rough balancing the work, mostly since one factor (how quickly I move through the already-accepted books) determines how many I will actually be able to fit in this year at the end. Add in in unruly freelance work obligations (which can sometmes be more intense than when I had a full-time job, just for shorter periods) and some books that required a little extra work in terms of formatting to get print-ready and this year has been enormously slow moving in terms of the publication schedule and manuscript reading.  With the upcoming crunch of new work coming in after June 1st for 2025, I at least want to get the submission box cleared completely.

Making decisions from among almost 500 manuscripts can be tough. Some are immediate "no"s, of course, but others move past the initial quick skim through onto the more detailed second round read through.  This year, I had around 120 that I nudged into the second round, perhaps more than most years. While normally I would have stressed myself out trying to get responses out before the end of the year, I decided to be kinder to myself by allowing simultaneous subs and taking a bit longer. So much of the past year has been restoring boundaries when it comes to certain things and being gentler on myself, even taking breaks (gasp!) during the holidays and intermittently. Not running full throttle one thing to the next. Being more intentional in where I put my energies.

Somehow, I realized the other day that this year is an anniversary of sorts, it being 20 years ago this November that the first DGP chapbook came into the world. The late and amazing Adrianne Marcus, who I had been publishing in wicked alice from early on, asked me if I knew of anywhere she could submit a chapbook she was finishing up. That spring, I had been slumming over in the Fiction writing department (at that time separate from the English/poetry department,) in a great Small Press publishing class. I did not go into the semester planning to start a press, but somehow came out of it that way. The goal that spring was to publish a print annual of the online zine, as well as a chapbook of my own (I had recently had the first accepted, but it was going to be a couple years til publication and I wanted something to sell or give away at readings.) When I made those two things happen courtesy of a cheap home printer, some Paper Source cardstock and some staples, it occurred to me that I could do this thing. 

So when Adrianne asked the question I was ready with an answer. That book came out in November of 2004. It was slow going at first, with less than a dozen submissions that first year we were open in summer of 2005. Mostly, in those days before social media, I posted to a lot of list-servs and email groups populated with women writers. Starting a press in the middle of my MFA program all the while working 40 hours a week, may have been a stupid thing, but it did not feel that way. I muddled through the next few years and then grew it a bit more after I graduated, moved into the Fine Arts and such. 

Along the way I've gotten a chance to publish so many amazing writers, some of whom have released multiple books in the series. Others that have remained friends in real or online life. There have been years that were very productive, and others, where things have been much slower due to things like pandemics and personal losses and just general chaos. 

Today, I found myself ridiculously excited over the books I am saying "yes" to for the upcoming slate. I also have about a dozen late books from 2023 that I can't wait to get out into the world, so keep an eye on the shop for those. In shop news in general, I also have a new batch of notebooks coming later this week...I am hoping, now that I have more dedicated time for blogging daily to offer monthly updates here on new titles and newsy bits., so more soon... 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

audio bits and pieces

 As I mentioned a couple posts back, his past weekend's creative exploits included recording audio for a few more older poems. This time, I decided to take another walk back through THE FEVER ALMANAC, my first book child and perhaps one of the hardest ones to corral into what it wound up being (let alone the submitting and querying that actually got the book into the world. ) These poems always feel like poems written in the infancy of of my publishing career, some of them stemming back to 2002 or 2003 when I was just starting to place poems in online journals and do readings in the city. Some poems, I remember the first time I read them at some open mic, or the kind words of an editor who accepted and published them. Some, I have read so many times that I could recite them by memory (this is definitely not true of work from later or now.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

creative mothers and strange bedfellows

As the weekend was celebrating mothers and mothering by others, I was thinking about literary mothers. Those figures that feel like they had some sort of guidance and direction on what we create. While mostly these mothers would be defined as women, sometimes they are men, which I supposed makes them fathers, but as a group, they feel very much like parents of the creative you eventually become. 

As a poet, I've always considered Poe a father figure of sorts, those being the first poems I encountered in school. The first things to catch my attention in literary vein, not to mention I already was enraptured with horror, both written and on the screen (so maybe a more fitting early creative father may have Stephen King who I was obsessed with.) Then came college and a love of Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Emily Dickinson. In general, the Greeks, Mary Shelley, Henry James, EM Forster, and the Brontes. In grad school, my singular obsession with "The Wasteland" and Eliot that opened up my first insight into what poetry could be rather than just what it was. Later, there were other influences, in both poetry (many my contemporaries) and lit in general (Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier, for example, who I came to love in my 30s.)

Outside of lit, there were other creative influences in other media. The singer/songwriters who populated by plays lists through the 90s and beyond.(Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Stevie Nicks, Sam Phillips, Suzanne Vega, Lisa Loeb, Jewel, Heather Nova.) Bands like Concrete Blonde, Hole, Belly, and Veruca Salt.  It was a long time before I would come to realize what had been there all along...that music probably fed the muse just as much as lit. That what I was listening to over and over formed my personal voice just as much as what as I reading. Or what I was watching, horror films always being a big influence on my creative process, even the stuff that doesn't specifically talk about horror movies among my work. Joseph Cornell had an influence on my writing as much as he did my art. While I finished the project specifically dedicated to his work in the mid-aughts, the collage process and fragmentation is something embedded in my process in all genres. 

As a mix of influences, I think they all speak well to each other somehow, strange bedfellows as some may seem, in the work that comes out of my head and hands...

Monday, May 13, 2024

breath & render


The past weekend brought this new series of collages, using a bit if bot imagery and other collage materials. I am liking their soft colors that feel very spring-like and Bridgerton-esque. I will be no doubt making more, so follow along HERE to see some more as they develop. 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

mothers and other losses


One of my mother's most often and memorable quotes during my rather difficult teen years was "You will miss me when I'm gone." Usually flung about in the midst of a fight, or sometimes, just jokingly. I was not a particularly rebellious teen in the way of boys and bad grades, but more in that I had a particularly stubborn streak I swear I inherited from both parents and a very smart mouth. This led to squabbles over cleaning and laundry and dishes that lasted through most of my teens, waning as I entered the latter half and went off to college for a semester states away. This was almost a release valve, and when I returned my second semester and remained for four more years as I finished my degree, things occasionally bubbled, but were mostly calm.

In 2018, I wrote a whole book about mothers and daughters and the havoc they can wreak on each other. I worried I was being too harsh sometimes, my childhood overall having been very good, even with those turbulent teen years. But there were patterns of behavior and attitudes toward bodies and food and diet culture that had been laid in the groundwork on childhood and festered through my teen years and early adult life before I even realized they were there.  I don't blame her, anymore than you can blame weather. Her own struggles persistent through her entire life. In the last weeks of her life, she often criticized the body that was failing her, even as she ate less and less and dwindled. 

It was definitely probably a book I would not have showed her were she still alive, and in many ways I was processing my own grief through that book. (there is a little of this in the RUINPORN manuscript as relates to my father and the more recent loss of a second parent. Though my relationship with him was not even remotely as wrought or complicated.) I think in the wake of my mother's death, we were actually able to grow closer. And even perhaps being there at his death was a better circumstance, horrible as it was. I did not dream, unlike her, that  he was alive night after night and I had to break the news to him of his demise over and over again. Each time, in that moment, remembering it again myself as if I had forgotten.

Every year since 2018, I have skirted Mothers Day like its a pool of quicksand, mostly trying to avoid it entirely. (This year, we have some plans to get takeout and watch a movie with J's mom, who lives just a few blocks away, so I'm not sure how open those wounds will be.) last night, I was recording some more poems from my very first book and wound up selecting "Nebraska"--a poem of which there are probably around half a dozen versions floating around in journals, diaries, and chapbooks before it was included in THE FEVER ALMANAC. Before my mother first came to any of my readings in the early aughts, I was careful to tell her beforehand that the mothers in my poems were not her. That they were slippery and sometimes fictional. That they were sometimes dead or missing or even just ghosts of mothers. 

"Nebraska" was a little closer to home...a speculation of sorts on the very real details of my grandmother, her mother, who had died when I was 8 of a blood clot following a freak accident. This poem, however, finds her much earlier, as a teenager in Blair, NE, where she met my grandfather at 14, 5 years older than her, and married him. How different the world was and her life than even my mother's, who had met and married my dad in her late twenties. Or me, who planned at the time to never marry.  The sort of limitations that starting down that path so unbelievably early  Of birthing three children over the next few years when you were still one yourself. 

Anyway, it seemed a perfect poem to post on Mother's Day somehow, even though I have an entire book of poems, FEED, that sorts things out with my mother and me. That book still feels raw, even three years after publication.  

Saturday, May 11, 2024

notes & things | 5/11/2024

The past couple of weeks have been busy with outings and, in between, writing for many deadlines and trying to stay focused when the world outside is doing that beautiful May thing like populating overflowing lilac bushes and the sort of rain that just appears out of nowhere in the middle of an otherwise clear day. Springtime feels a bit more like springtime finally, and though I realize it may be brief (late May sometimes feels more like summer.) I am holding onto it. Our schedule of concerts and theater and movie screenings has calmed at least for the next few days, which means I have a little more time at night to get up to things like website redesigns, video editing, and hopefully knocking out something like a final set of press responses for books that will come out the latter half of this year. (which would be nice before we open up reading for next year at in June.)

Meanwhile, I am forging ahead on the set of poems I started on tail end of April poem-a-day in collab with this set of images, which are turning out to be some of my favorites in my adventures with the bots. When they are a little more done, I will probably either be sharing them on Instagram or throwing a few out into the wilds of the publication universe . Compared to many of my other projects, these seem better able to stand alone than some series where it feels almost ridiculous to try to place 1 or 2 fragments. No doubt there will be a slew of rejections coming my way (given the numbers game that is publishing.) But its worth a shot to land a couple in places other than my own platfoms and built-in audience (tiny as it is.)

I am still trying to get over my lonely little funk as a poet from April by trying to remember periods in my life where I took immense joy from writing regardless of audience or the chance that anyone was reading what I put there. In the late 90s when I first made the decision to do this strange thing, when I would draft out poems in notebooks and type them up on my word processor. Or in the days before social media when I somehow never minded the feeling that no one may ever read my work but focused instead on just making it regardless. 

Friday, May 10, 2024

audio bits and pieces

Last weekend I recorded some audio poems from older work, in this case, poems culled from IN THE BIRD MUSEUM, my second book, which has somehow miraculously been in the world since 2008. The poems, most of them written a little earlier than that (circa 2005-ish mostly.)  When I was revisiting them, a couple recalled heated beat downs in workshops where I was told to change everything about them. 16 years later, I am so glad I didn't listen very

check out more over at Instagram.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

website rework

 I have been working on updating my website this week (first photo) and thinking about how I built the very first one in the early aughts by tweaking Angelfire templates within an inch of their life to NOT look like Angelfire templates. I've been using Blogger for the past decade or so, which gives you far more design tools for free than Wordpress, but I think its looking good. My HTML skills have no doubt increased over the intervening decades no doubt, but actually the platforms make it much easier and don't even require much coding unless you want to alter them significantly.

See it live here:

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

in the deep


See more HERE...

Monday, May 06, 2024

things terrible and unguessable


The May e-zine has dropped and with it some creepy poems and collages inspired by governess novels in general with definite nods to Henry James and the Brontes...

Sunday, May 05, 2024


I was working on a poem in the new series yesterday and thinking about endings. Those last couple of lines or the stanza that seals the deal. I came across a discussion of how to end poems a few weeks back  and I wanted to contribute something to the conversation, but then realized I could scarce put into words the weird confluence of words, image, and rhythm that ends any given poem.

I actually could probably say the same about any given series. Granted some things just wear themselves out and I'm like "Yer done." but others come to what feels like closure with a given piece, and rarely, in rearranging for zines or book mss. do I move it out of its place. There is nothing ins specific that makes a final poem a final poem, in a shorter series or even in a book. Here it's more about energy and intent than rhythm. But it's a similar feeling. 

As for individual poems, there are lines I write and I'm like "This is a beginning." or "This belongs in the middle." and rearrange accordingly. But sticking that ending is very much dependent on the rest of the poem that came before it. I always joke that I am a poor baker, terrible, in fact, since I hate measuring and timing things, so mostly rely on sniffing out when something--a cake, for example, is done. Of course, I am wrong sometimes, though often I am right.  Poems feel a lot like this, except it's more reliant on sound and rhythm than smell or touch when you take something out of the oven. 

When I was in grad school, I remember having a discussion with a faculty member that my poems had a maddening tendency to be too shellacked and perfectly composed. At the time, I would have disagreed that they were just polished (lol) but I can see it when I look at older work. The endings are less perfect now, and there are some poems, in their fragmentation, that defy ending at all. You could probably say the same about entire series. (These are the ones I possibly revisit later on intentionally or unintentionally.)

Of course, the balance is how to get the reader to follow you to the conclusion, rather than forcing them down a hallway or a path. How to make it feel natural and not forced. Like it's their idea, not yours. I fail sometimes here too. But luckily, that is what revision is for.  

Saturday, May 04, 2024

april, the loneliest month


 As the end of the month closed out earlier this week and NaPoWriMo adventures were abandoned to meet unruly freelance deadlines, birthday outings, and just some general chaoticness, I could not help thinking how much poetry in April makes me hate both poetry and April just a little. Every April, it feels like poetry as a whole should be getting more attention, it being dedicated to National Poetry Month and all. But I can't feel that amid all the racket and hurrahs, that being an individual poet putting work out in the world feels more solitary than ever. I'm pretty sure it has more to do with posting poems, not writing them or reading them, and maybe the vacuum of social media.

I tend to post a lot of work (in this space, FB, Insta), but it's usually just a way to share what I'm working on. Those daily posts during April, however, feel like an imperative (and obv they aren't, many poets just draft daily and keep them to themselves) But I used to love the community feel of NaPoWriMo a decade or more ago. More recently,  it hasn't felt this way. More like every poem is again a dime dropped into the ocean. At the same time, every other poet is doing the exact same thing mostly with similar results. All of us, feeling the same sinking feeling each time we hit post. 

And maybe its totally just me and not everyone feels this way. In fact, I occasionally feel this way in other parts of the year, but its more acute during April when it's supposed to be our month to shine. The work of being a poet feels harder and with always diminishing returns. This may also be why I only made it up to day 24 this year before I bottomed out.  I have plans to continue that series, and drafted another piece for it this morning, but probably won't be posting them for the time being in favor of some older work that has yet to see the light of day. 

Nevertheless, I am very happy with both the Alice poems, which will be a zine at some point, and the other unrelated pieces I was working on as the month ended. I will keep on trucking away, however, behind the scenes where at least I don't end every poem with that sinking feeling every April brings. 

Friday, May 03, 2024

broken places

 A peek at some new visual accompaniments for the set of poems I started this latter half of NaPoWriMo and will be working on through May...see more HERE.