Welcome To My Bed

Trolling *ItisWatitis*

The next time someone texts you from a number you do not recognize and tries to engage in monosyllables, can I recommend leading them on a quest?

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When it became clear this person was under the impression they were speaking with somebody who actually wanted to talk to them, I decided to put on my dungeon master hat.

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Happy New Year, n00bz!  Check back soon for some actual news. <3

In Case You Missed It

Yesterday afternoon, I was a guest on Spoken Heard Radio, where I read a sestina written using the liner notes from Taylor Swift's Fearless  and "de Los Muertos."  If you didn't catch the interview, the broadcast is available as a podcast here.  I've been invited back to the show on 10/27 at 1 PM EST to talk more about upcoming shows and how poetry fits in to my everyday life, and I'm really looking forward to it.  Writing is something I make space for daily, so sometimes it feels a lot more like work than I want it to.  Opportunities like getting to read to the internet (which means all of my faraway friends can click through and hear me from Minnesota, California, THE WORLD) make me more giddy than they probably should.

In honor of being giddy (and on the radio), I present to you my first-ever EP, Feed The Dead , now available for download on Bandcamp.  Feed The Dead was recorded during a summer thunderstorm and is full of ghost stories slash love poems and includes audio versions of poems that have appeared in ILK, Whiskey Island, Nailed Magazine, and The Pedestal.  Fun fact: "Nursery" is the first poem I ever got paid for publishing.  I still read it at the end of a lot of my sets, first, because it is a story about home and sharks, two of my favorite things to discuss, and second, because it is one of my favorite things I've ever written.  Another fun fact: "How to Feed Your Ghost" is the opening story in a collection I've been cobbling together about the relationship between food, grief, and ways the dead appear to the still-living.  The seven tracks of ghoul-seasoned word experiments are available for $4 all together, but you can also buy single tracks for a dollar each if you take smaller bites.

If all this talk of records is making you hungry for an in person encounter, I still have a bunch of shows coming up in the next few weeks where I'll be reading these poems (and many others).  Next Thursday, 10/24, at 7 PM, I'll be one of the featured readers at Lorem Ipsum in Inman Square for the monthly 2 x 2 Reading Series.  The theme is Sweet Tooth, and I don't have one, so the brand new set I'm writing is going to be exceedingly strange.  Expect completely new work, and possibly a reference or two to the lovely young man who baked me a pie a week one spring as part of the most wholesome and ill-fated courtship I have ever experienced.  In November, I'll be doing back to back features at the Emerson Poetry Project on 11/18 and at Northampton Poetry on 11/19.

And perhaps the sweetest announcement I get to make today--I found a new job!  I hope you're having as delicious a day as I am, because everything just keeps coming up candy corn.

Laid Off (Set Free)

Last week, I got laid off from my job.  Thankfully, the news I have to share is not all that grim color.

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The day after I lost my job, I was blessed to read to a sold out room at my poetry home, the Cantab.  When I started attending the Boston Poetry Slam's readings 7 years ago, I didn't call myself a poet.  The Cantab is the place where it all began for me, and it was hard not to cry through my set; I was so overwhelmed by the show of support and attention to my work.   So many people I love were in the audience, and since I didn't get to personally thank everybody who came (though I did hug quite a few of you), I wanted to make sure I did so here.  THANK YOU.  I am so grateful that there are those who would give me a slice of their time and a stage from which to speak.  Being on stage gives me the courage to tell stories that are scary, and to heal by exorcising them, but performing is also just plain fun.

Wednesday was a big day--just before the show, I found out that my poem, "de Los Muertos," was selected by Jericho Brown as the winner of the 2013 Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest.  It is a short love letter to the language of grief, and also a love letter to my roommate Cassandra.  Look for it in the January 2014 issue of Gigantic Sequins, and stay tuned to their website for a forthcoming profile of my weird poetry brain.

Roger Mindfucker models my new chapbook, where to begin

Roger Mindfucker models my new chapbook, where to begin

In the meantime, you can hear the poem on my EP Feed The Dead  or read it in the limited chapbook, where to begin, I've made for the string of New England shows coming up this fall.  The EP is mostly ghost stories and was recorded during a thunderstorm.  where to begin is a bit different--many of the poems came from my road trip to Tacoma this summer.  Have you driven cross-country?  It is the most gritty and glorious of experiences.  True, sometimes the sheer amount of corn in the Midwest is overwhelming, but the big sky is worth it.  I saw a whole herd of elk in the middle of the night and squealed out loud about it and that is the honest truth.  The poem the book lands on is called "Witchcraft" and was written from shredded fairytale pages I collected from a pinata at Rachel McKibbens' Pink Door writers' retreat.  The Summer of Yes is well-represented, and I'm proud to say I've even penned a few things that lean in the general direction of happiness.  Or at least mischief.  Mischief I can definitely handle.

It was kind of an accident, but I suppose this all means I'm on tour for the next few months, albeit a leisurely tour.  Check below to see when I'll be in your city, and if you're a slammaster or poetry organizer and have an upcoming show you'd like to bring me to click over to the contact section of the website and let me know!

September 17th -- Brandeis University, TBD, Waltham, MA, 7 PM

October 3rd -- Slam Free or Die, Milly's Tavern, Manchester, NH, 7 PM

October 6th --  Worcester Poets' Asylum, WCUW, Worcester, MA, 6 PM

November 18th -- Northampton Poetry, Hinge, Northampton, MA, 8 PM

 

Seven Days a Week

Hands up if you're out there hustling for your art.  Hustling feels like all I ever do.  I even wrote about for the Billfold: check out my article on the limited financial options of a working artist here.  For a more detailed picture of the arts economics ledger, check out this detailed breakdown of how much money I've spent on being a writer so far in 2013.  Despite what some article commenters seem to believe, this constant hustle is more than okay with me, because running myself ragged often has very lovely results.  Get out your news kazoos: I have LOTS to report.

for real though, I'll make you a dinosaur crown as awesome as this one (for a modest fee)

for real though, I'll make you a dinosaur crown as awesome as this one (for a modest fee)

I'm hard at work painting ghosts as prizes for my Indiegogo campaign.  If you haven't already, please take a look at what's on offer and help me fund my West Coast summer tour; there are only 28 days left to donate!  I will write you a personalized poem and snail mail it on a postcard for only $5, and the rewards get exponentially more fantastic from there.  There are out-of-print chapbooks up for grabs, as well as my forthcoming poetry EP "Feed The Dead," and the aforementioned ghost paintings.  Give what you can; share if you can't.  And if none of the reward tickle your particular fancy, could I possibly interest you in a handmade dinosaur crown?

Also deserving of fanfare and your support: the new issue of Printer's Devil Review (my first as nonfiction editor) is out and proudly strutting its stuff on our fair internet.  It was a joy to put together, even in the proofreading.  The design is gorgeous, the writing is superb, and the art makes me think and smile and then think some more.  It's free to read online, so please please do, and know that we have just reopened submissions for our next issue.  I want your true (mostly factual) stories and essays, but the other editors will take your lies and shepherd them into the world if fiction or verse is how you do.

Speaking of shepherded lies and mostly factual truths, I have two poems in the latest issue of ILK, "Stars in Arles" and "Wedding Soup."  The first may mark the beginning of a series of van Gogh poems (I am obsessed; have you read his letters?), while the second is a love letter to my first Providence summer and the many loves therein.  I'm working on a collage response to one of the other poems in the issue, but which and why are a secret for now.  Stay tuned!

I Like My Rock Gritty, Plz&Thnks

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Groggy morning conversations at my place run the gamut: sometimes I sing Rihanna songs with a gob of toothpaste in my mouth, sometimes my dude has finally remembered a dream and wants to share, sometimes we just grunt at each other and pretend it's a conversation.  The other day, we kicked off our morning with the Bad Seeds cover of the song "Black Betty" and the listen sparked a conversation about who would be in the Justice League of aging rockstars.  Nick Cave--because he is already a cartoon character--was a given; Patti Smith, another we added to the list without a second thought.  Iggy Pop warranted a mention because he will never age beyond deeply tanned hide, and has survived living in Florida, so he's pretty much immortal.  David Bowie would be invited to meetings and promise to come, but he'd never actually show up since he hates flying so much.  Any member of the Beatles or Rolling Stones is disqualified from participation because they have become t-shirt icons at Wal-Mart and have thus lost most of their credibility.

I will be the first to admit that I thoroughly enjoy pop music.  I love to sing, and there are few things better to belt along to than an Alicia Keys or Lady Gaga single.  But I also like to feel bass in my lungs on the regular, and there just aren't big rock acts cracking the Billboard Hot 100 the way they used to.  There is an awful lot of Pink, though.  She has at least five songs in the rotation on the Boston pop playlist.  Recently, I took my mom to a Pink concert at Madison Square Garden and returned home for a Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds show on the following Sunday.  Pink has an attitude that's always read as rock and roll to me, even though she started out making R&B records about "real love."  There are songs on her most recent album I would love to hear on the radio.  The ones with guitars and sneering.  Not the one with the fun. frontman whose voice has made me cringe since he was in a band called The Format. In my perfect world, Pink and Nick Cave would duet instead, and pop radio would be far better for it.

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The radio is playing from 8 to 5 at my office job Monday through Friday, and any song they play that's termed as rock just depresses me.  I think, "If this is what rock music sounds like now, I am no longer a fan of rock music."  If you listen to pop radio with this level of frequency (I don't recommend it), you'll find a serious dearth of hot blooded rock music.  Plenty of Maroon 5 and the like, but nothing that hasn't been neutered before being broadcast.  Pop radio has been much of a rock and roll stronghold anytime in the past fifteen years or so, but a girl can dream, right?  In my perfect world, Ke$ha and Andrew WK would live on the same station playlist, and they'd be partying with Queens of the Stone Age and Ryan Adams and Nico Vega and Warpaint.  In my perfect world, Brand New would never have disbanded and Fall Out Boy would never have erred on the side of such sparkly production on their new album and the acts playing the TD Garden would still have guitars in them at least half of the time.  I wouldn't have to listen to the same fun. song every 45 minutes or hear the radio talking heads refer to them, in seriousness, as "rock."

There's an annual mini-festival in the Somerville square where I live called Deep Heaven.  A bunch of psych-rock bands play at two venues and you pay for a wristband to wander back and forth between shows.  As the city was settling down from a manhunt, I ended up at Deep Heaven to see some friends play, and their set was the best rock I've heard in a long time.  Hard, heavy, unpretentious.  Good sounds I could feel in my chest.  No anemic anthems for the disaffected bar crowd.  There weren't even any lyrics.  Just a wall of sound the be listened to and felt at once.

It's been a year since FNX went the way of the dodo, and nothing has stepped in to fill the gap.  I'm not worried about the state of rock and roll--I know there are bands out there doing it loud, rough, and right--but I am worried that the music we consume on a daily basis has become a lot like fast food.  There's a product that sells, and for some reason it is full of banjos and faux-earnest crooning.  The future of popular rock better not be Mumford & Sons.  Or fun.  Or any other such nonsense.  There's no heart there.  None of it bleeds.  There are no junior members of the Rock and Roll Justice League with label support and radio play fighting the good fight, and it's a damn shame.

Crowd-Funded Courses in Art & Letters

I've been accepted to the Tin House Fiction Workshop.  Woohoo, right?!  Except that it will cost over $2000 to get me there.

But there is good news.  I think you can help, and all you have to do is give me money for art.  Simple, right?

the infamous "Brown Lady" ghost

the infamous "Brown Lady" ghost

I've set up an Indiegogo for this trip.  I'm hawking my wares at a variety of price ranges.  For the cost of a coffee and pastry, you could have a poem written especially for you sent to you by snail mail from Portland, where the workshop is being held.  For less than a movie ticket, you can fall asleep to the sound of my voice nightly, listening to my poetry EP "Feed The Dead."  For the price of a late-night pizza, you could receive an out-of-print chapbook from my archives.  If you can part with $25, I'll send you a limited edition chapbook of the story that got me into the workshop in the first place, "Sleepwalk," available only through this funding campaign.  For $50 I will paint you a ghost to haunt you until you are also a ghost.  For $100, you can have a painted ghost, a postcard poem from Portland, and my "Feed The Dead" EP.

I will take whatever you are willing to spare.  Even if I don't make my funding goal, you will still get prizes for your spare change.  Give what you can.  Let me love you through the mail!

I Want YOU in the Teen Angst Zine!

the author, age 16

the author, age 16

Most of us are deeply familiar with the way a shift in hormones amplifies even the most benign moment into a life-or-death situation requiring extensive livejournal*** rants and a deeply over-wrought soundtrack, a la any scene from the teen angst gospel according to My So-Called Life.  There is something about collective experiences like these that begs to be documented.  I want to know what playlist you made for your first day of high school.  I want to know what movies you returned to again and again at sleepovers with friends.  I want to know the particulars of what came before partying was the rule of the day--who did you confide in, who did you idolize, who did you want to be, who was in your garage band.

I want to know so badly that I'm curating a zine called, simply, teen angst.  The idea for the zine came from a string of poems I've written for my National Poetry Month 30/30 challenge.  In writing a poem every day for the month of April, I've produced several related to the music that got me through my teens.  I've given prompts to friends asking them to do the same.  The project grew legs from here, as music is not the only signifier of teen angst, only the most obvious.  There are plenty of other places to go: the way we dressed, the arguments we had with our parents, the friends we made and lost during times of adolescent tumult.  I can guarantee that every artist I know (and probably every artist I don't) has a tale of malcontent from growing up.

So we're going to make a zine about it.  There are barely any rules for submissions.  If you think it relates at all to the concept of teen angst, then it probably does, and I want to see it.  I want your writing: poems, prose, flash fiction, scanned journal entries, screen-capped internet angst, any and all of it.  I want your art: photos of your teen bedroom, paintings from your high school art class, collages of your favorite pages of Tiger Beat, comic strips, notebook doodles.  Most of all, I want to see YOU as a teenager.  Every accepted contributor will be asked to write their bio about their teenage self, and all contributor photos will be of the individual as a teenager.  The zine will be a snapshot of the moment in our lives before we begin to come into our own, the moment when we are trying on all the different selves we could be.  Depending on response, there may be several issues.  teen angst: prom edition.  teen angst: parents just don't understand.  teen angst: first love.  teen angst: the first song for your mixtape.  The possibilities are endless.

Send your tales of teenage woe to submit to teen angst AT gmail DOT com.  Follow the teen angst blog on tumblr for inspiration and updates on the project.  Email me via the contact page and let me know if I'm forgetting anything essential.  But most of all, I want to collect your stories for posterity.

***Speaking of livejournal, below you'll find the first entry from my high school livejournal, "leakslikeasieve," unfortunately from my junior/senior year.  I wish there was some record of my freshman/sophomore tumult, but I'm pretty sure the Modblog platform I used back then is now defunct, and even if it wasn't, I wouldn't even know where to begin in trying to locate my login information or domain name.  Enjoy!

my own teen angst, circa 2006

my own teen angst, circa 2006

Do you believe in Date Night?

The relationship controversy everybody is talking about lately has a lot more to do with the Supreme Court than methods of courtship, but I am a little horrified about something slightly less earth-shattering than whatever that pink equal sign thinks it's fixing.  My boss just teased me about the fact that tonight is my Date Night.  He says only married couples have date night.  When did this become true?

My attitudes towards dating are hardly conventional.  Have an awesome monogamous partner?  I'm proud of you.  Want to be non-exclusive?  Go for it.  Want to organize sex parties and tell me all about your wild shenanigans?  I'll give you a high five and remind you to use protection.  Want to write a whiny article about how your pink bedroom scares off the men-folk?  Okay, my leniency ends there.

But regardless of having an open mind towards the many styles of coupling, I've always been under the impression that dating involves actual dates.  Maybe the name fooled me; I am a huge proponent of direct language.  To my mind, dating somebody means you go on actual dates.  If you don't have some sporadic public activities, how can you learn and grow from new experiences with your beloved partner?  At the very least, orchestrate a communal meal every once in awhile and actually look at and talk to one another at the table sans smartphones.  It will be romantic, like it is when you get to spend one on one time with somebody you love.  This philosophy extends to platonic partners too.  I have date nights with my best friend on a near-weekly basis, and they are magical.  We eat giant sandwiches, watch Drag Race, and talk shit.  It is essential to our unbreakable bond to have this dedicated time.

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The same is true of my romantic partner.  We've been dating nearly three years--we count our anniversary as the night we first went out to dinner together one on one.  And even though we've been sharing an apartment for about a year, that doesn't mean that we are exempt from needing that dedicated one on one time that dates provide.  When we're around the house, we're working on our personal projects most of the time.  We both write, and after we get home from our day jobs, most of our time goes to towards generating new drafts and revising completed work for publication.  On nights when words don't take priority, there are poetry readings, drinks with friends, and plenty of social engagements that we attend both together and separately.  A busy week leaves little time for us to nestle into the couch and watch a marathon of The Wire.  Scheduling the occasional date night into the calendar of events is the best way to ensure we'll be fully present and engaged with one another for a chunk of time that no one else can touch.

Have you ever noticed that you have a different kind of conversation with a person when you are sitting across a table from them?  I don't know what it is about restaurants, but I am able to talk meaningfully about my goals there in a way I am completely incapable of on my couch.  I feel equally at home going off on tangents about Van Gogh's letters, whether or not I want an MFA (it changes daily) and what kinds of wild things I want to try cooking in the near future.  Sharing time with my somebody in a setting that honors that person's important role in my life is essential to maintaining affection, friendship, and a sense of closeness.

Who in a dating relationship doesn't want those things?  Who says married people are the only ones who need to do some preventive maintenance when it comes to their relationship?  It's not a sign that we need to reignite a spark; I think of dates as a kind of Olympic torch situation.  If you make sure your torch is carried in dedicated and determined hands, the flame won't go out in the first place.

To put it another way: my grandmother once countered my claim that I had a relationship with God in spite of avoiding mass with, "You can't have a relationship with somebody you never make time for."  She was right.  I'd be doing my partner and the three years we've spent supporting one another a disservice if I just expected past experience and momentum to bear us forward indefinitely.  And, duh, date night is an excuse to regularly make an appointment for fun.  You do believe in FUN don't you?  So how can you say you don't believe in date night?

Spring Cleaning FIRE SALE!

Come hither looks for a fraction of the price.

I saw an "I Support Local Artists" bumper sticker on a fancy car yesterday while walking home from work, and it occurred to me that there is absolutely no way of verifying if that statement was true or not.  I know the driver didn't stop for me in the crosswalk, but who knows if she'd buy my paintings or not?

One thing I do know is that YOU can, and for a discount!  In honor of the vernal equinox (hurry up, Spring), I've knocked $20 off the price of all the paintings for sale at my Etsy store, SickDomestics.  Prints have been discounted too, and for the time being, they're all buy one, get one free.  You can't afford not to look.

Take me home tonight!

Take me home tonight!

And as a super special, blog-readers-only incentive, if you buy anything from Sick Domestics before April 15th, I will throw in a free copy of my classic chapbook Quiet is a Brand of Noise, which is out of print and only available if you read about it here.  Work from Quiet If you order before the end of March, I'll throw in a copy of the No More Ribcage tour chapbook, featuring poems by myself, as well as has appeared in Sugar House Review Cassandra de Alba, McKendy Fils-Aime, and Sam Teitel.

If you like pictures and poems, you know what you must do.

The Worst-Read Poet in Boston

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I am unofficially the worst-read poet in Boston, but I have been doing a lot of literature-related things in the past few weeks.  Beyond the regular endless submission marathon, I have news of leaps and bounds forward in my word world.

First, AWP happened.  As the third writer convention I've attended (CUPSI 2009 being the first, and NPS 2010 the second), it had big shoes to fill, especially since all my writer convention situation up to this point involved performance poetry, which can be a great deal more engaging than academic discussion panels and networking events.  Happily, my apprehension about being bored was overwhelmed by the fact that I was busy every minute of all three days and found it nearly impossible to juggle both the panels I wanted to see and face time with all my favorite people.  The book fair was enormous (it spanned two floors of space) and even more intimidating than seeing Nick Flynn walking around wearing a lanyard and backpack like the rest of us.  Other writer-celebrity sightings included Cheryl Strayed on an escalator, Roxane Gay slinging schwag at the book fair's PANK table, and Rebecca Lindenberg helping to make a large dent in the bourbon available at the offsite reading I attended on on the 7th.

Speaking of which, I kind of ignored the networking aspect that everyone was on about, content instead to spend time clinging to my already-established friendships and taking copious notes, but for one new friendship.  The host of the aforementioned offsite reading, G.M. Palmer, is the one new friend I made at AWP.  He lives in Florida and writes excellent poems that repurpose mythology in a way even non-poets can appreciate (ask my friend Wayne--he is on his way to chef-dom and LOVED Palmer's set).  John Mortara is the one old friend I ran into at AWP.  He lives in North Carolina, runs this excellent project called Voicemail Poems (910-703-POEM), and we pretty much spent our adolescence together in various New Jersey parking lots while somehow never discussing that we both wrote poetry.

I'll be blogging more specific thoughts on AWP over at the Printer's Devil Review blog  this month in anticipation of our spring issue.  Please read, especially if you are interested in the panel where a mountain man wished death upon young lovers, or if you care about Sylvia Plath (I've got both lascivious gossip to talk about, as well as deeply compelling critical views).  I will also be sharing my pictogram notes from panels, which I'm pretty damn proud of as far as doodles go.  The first entry is live today!

Speaking of live today, My poem "Litany For The Waning Moon" can be found in Word Riot's March issue.  It's about space travel and guilt, among other things, and belongs to my as-yet unfinished series of moon poems.  So far, only its brother "Truces For The New Moon" has found a home for itself, but these suckers just keep multiplying like Gremlins after midnight, so expect more of them to turn up soon.

Finally, I signed up for a Monday night fiction workshop that starts in the month of April. I can't wait to get back in the classroom for the first time in nearly three years.  On that note, I've been researching fiction MFA programs, trying to ascertain if I could make such a thing happen for myself.  With full funding, of course.  As always, big plans, even if I am deeply under-qualified.

Things About Lifestyle Blogs That Make Me Uncomfortable

Blogging has become ridiculously big business, and perhaps rightfully so.  We spend plenty of time online digging for images of what we aspire to be and nuggets of crowd-sourced wisdom.  But there is a certain breed of blog that smacks of privilege by its very existence: The Lifestyle Blog.  Lifestyle blogs package expensive living as "attainable" with DSLR photo shoots and Polyvore sets and mood boards and endless hemming and hawing about how best to decorate your exorbitantly over-priced studio apartment.  They are often run by models or model-looking "average" people with a taste for designer furnishings and shopping habits that necessitate keeps several off-site storage units as second and third closets for seldom-worn petticoats and out of date handbags.  This regularly updated army of webpages is a monument to conspicuous consumption that, though at times a welcome distraction from the death and destruction that is endlessly discussed on more serious-minded websites, has veered towards a "let them eat cake" mentality that makes me feel really gross.

Here's looking at you, internet.

Here's looking at you, internet.

I should preface this list by saying that as a rule, I try not to read lifestyle or fashion blogs, at least not those dedicated to clothes with an eye to the label name drop, or lifestyle for lifestyle's sake.  My time on the internet is best spent reading literary magazines or social criticism, not taking in the finer points of home decor or the latest in platform shoes.  But there are a few lifestyle stops I've read for years now because of eye candy photography and interesting copy that I am just now abandoning, and here's why.

Recycled Content

I've read the "blogger tips" post about how revisiting/re-posting content from your archive is a great way to keep from getting overwhelmed by your regular posting schedule or getting content you're proud of to readers who have joined your audience after the original post date, but if you find yourself defaulting to this trick of the trade more than once a month, I am going to delete you from my RSS feed.  Ever since blogging became a business ( firstly, WHY THE FUCK, and second, monetizing your boring idle thoughts makes me gag), plenty of creativity went out of the internet writing game.  When you're writing over a thousand words at least three times a week and trying to stay relevant, perhaps it becomes difficult.  Perhaps I am simply unforgiving.  But it really sticks in my craw when I notice a blog repackaging old material as some new revelation that will totally change your life.  It is just as bad as when Cosmopolitan runs their 800th permutation of the "Blow Your Man's Mind" article that acts like nobody knew blow jobs exist.

Link Round-Ups

If I am reading your blog, it means I have an internet connection.  If I have an internet connection, there is a good chance (at least nowadays) that I have a Facebook accoun, a Twitter handle, a Tumblr, or some combination of the three.  This doesn't even begin to cover k-holes like Pintrest.  If an article sparked your interest, that's great.  Post it to one of the aforementioned sites that are all about aggregating knowledge into some weird, internet-based knowledge oversoul.  It most likely does not belong on your blog, especially if it is just a dumb gif of a kitten scratching at a carboard turntable or the most recent music video from your favorite culturally irrelevant musician.  Why not, instead of a weekly link round-up, fill in the holes in your post schedule (you know, the one plagued by thrice monthly re-posts of old ideas, as discussed in figure 1) by writing responses to the articles you found so interesting?  The logic of this pet peeve follows the same template as my earlier observation: if you have nothing new to say, you should probably not be talking in the first place.

Gushing About Celebrities

If I wanted to hear about how much somebody loves or hates a certain famous someone, I would be reading a tabloid (or the fabulous weekly tabloid round-up, by the equally fabulous Molly Lambert at Grantland).  What grosses me out the most is that a certain blogger I used to think was pretty fly went on a rant several months back about how toxic tabloids and celebrity are to our self-image, but continues to go on strange tears about how much she loves hanging out with Betsey Johnson or publicizes Will.I.Am's bizarre, nonsensical business ventures alongside a glut of photobooth pictures she took with him at some exclusive event.  Betsey Johnson, I can condone.  She is a self-made lady who has made a multi-decade business out of her unique point of view, something a lot of bloggers would like to claim they are also doing.  But Will.I.Am?  The very existence of that man's career disgusts me.  Somebody uses a computer to make some vacant robot sounds and then slaps his face on the front of the single--boom, radio hit.  Lady, he doesn't need your blog shilling for him.  He already makes billions of dollars being boring without your weird I-stood-next-to-a-famous-person outburst helping him along.  Stick to writing about your actual life, not the "important" people you swill drinks with at sponsored parties.

I'll Tell You About My Fabulous Trip Later, Don't Worry!

Yes, you have a dedicated readership that is genuinely curious about where you have been, why you went, and what you did there.  But there are better ways of whetting an appetite than posting a single selfie and a brief blurb about how you just soooo jetlagged and promising to post later in the week.  If you know you're traveling but want to keep posting regularly, maybe you schedule content like anyone who has ever used basic blogging software?  Or you could simply forego posting until you have the energy to write something worth reading.  Even worse than the So-Tired-Travel-Post is the Sponsored-Advertisement-of-Hotel/Airline/Product-From-My-Trip post.  I don't care about your boutique accommodations or your upgrade to extra-super-luxury-first-class or your BRAND NEW Clarisonic.  Know why?  Because somebody paid you to tell me about it.  These posts are the same things as those "articles" in women's magazines featuring the Latest, Greatest New Product that say "paid advertisement" in gray, unobtrusive font the hope you won't notice at the top of the page.

Print Media is Dead, So Buy My Digital Book!

This is where my writerly cynicism really bubbles over and lights the whole goddamn stove on fire.  If you want to write about design or fashion or decorating or whatever else on the internet, go for it.  If you want to use your successful blog to leverage book proposal, be my guest.  There are internet writers I deeply respect who've done exactly this, and to great succes.  (Take a look at Orangette for an example of a blog that made that crossover with aplomb and class to spare.)  By the same token, there are plenty who decide to digitally publish, and that's cool too.  The market is diverse!  People read this shit on their phones now anyway!  More power to you with that Kindle Single!  That being said, no book you have written is worth upwards of $100 for 12 chapters of blog reiteration, and more if you buy the chapters singly.  If you have so much faith that you will make bank off what you have to offer your readership, write a book proposal and shop your ideas to possible editors.  You already have your internet celebrity making you at least semi-bankable.  Bypassing the publishing system is just aiding in killing the literature you claim sustained you as a wayward teenager.

It's possible I'm just easily offended by blatant pandering, money-grubbing and/or laziness when it comes to what I've been reading, but then again, I'm not the target audience of these blogs anyway.  To put it another way, the books that make it onto the best seller list are rarely the most timeless books of a given year.  The same seems to be true for blog content: the viral posts are hardly vital to the fabric of our culture.

Gallows Humor

Has everybody read Molly Crabapple's "Shooter Boys and At-Risk Girls" over at Vice?  Ok, good.  Because I started this week off with my first talk therapy session as an adult, and that article was in the front of my mind through the whole snot-filled hour.

adolescent Emily, forever terrified
adolescent Emily, forever terrified

It's no secret that plenty of artists had odd childhoods of one sort or another, and it seems that the general consensus is that most makers spend their formative years on the social outskirts.  Whether than manifests itself in merciless bullying, targeting by school administrators, or just plain, unadorned introvert/outcast status is where the differences lie.  There are lots of factors that went into me feelings marginalized as a child, but the one that came up most when I gave a truncated synopsis of what life was like for me growing up was how difficult it was to connect with others.  I am the middle child in a family of three sisters,  I cried at the drop of a hat, and they teased me mercilessly for it.  My parents wanted me to toughen up.  I spent entire school days in the nurse's office with stomachaches (often the childhood manifestation of stress-induced migraines).  As I got older, this disconnect with the support system in my life made me desperate to find where I belonged.

Like Crabapple, I disappeared into music.  When I was 11 or 12, my favorite album was Everclear's "Learning How To Smile Vol. 1" which might as well be called "The Divorce Album."  As a teenager, I listened to punk, hardcore, and whatever other guitar-and-scream-heavy sounds I could find.  The fast and loud records were angry out loud in a way that I could not be.  I am an introvert, and at the time was painfully shy and unsure of myself.  I had a lot of anger towards people who were either unwilling or simply unable to understand me, but no way of expressing it.  I wrote bitter poetry in dozens of notebooks.  I stopped eating regularly.  I fought with my parents, with my sisters.  I was ditched by childhood friends and started hanging out with the girls who traded prescription pills at lunch.  I dropped out of my private high school and started at public school, where I sank even further under the radar.  Most people knew me as nothing other than the girl with the shaved head.  This isn't to say that there weren't good times too, but the feeling of being isolated overwhelmed me to a point where I couldn't recognize even the smallest social success.  I was desperate for something to take me away from the life where I so clearly didn't fit.

In college, even after I had found my tribe, I continued to make reckless decisions in hopes that something would suddenly click and I would be the well-spoken and sought-after person that people felt close to.  I wrote poetry at a feverish pace, because weekly open mics gave me a place where I could talk to my peers much more honestly than I was capable of one on one.  This was the hinge for me.  So much of that early writing still lives in my archive, and I've slowly been drawing up old drafts and dissecting them to build new, publishable poems.  The process isn't without pain, but it's as if I'm seeing myself for the first time.  I was a morbid mess for a long time.  There are so many references to death, suicide, and self-obliteration through substances or questionable relationships contained in the old work that at times it is tough to get through.  But the thing about seeing your own anger from a new perspective is that things you took so seriously become hysterical.

I've spent a lot of time writing as a form of grieving.  I've grieved my father's illness and death, and for the angry little girl I still am some days.  But that constant sadness and heaviness is exhausting for both writer and audience.  I can't keep writing dirges forever.  It feels like time for something new.  In my revisions, I've been focusing on the funny moments where the  anger bubbles over into absurdity.  It's a lot like the songs I used to shout out car windows at the top of my lungs.  The lyrics were so serious and I can't hear them (or sing them) now without laughing.

Because they have impeccable timing, Fall Out Boy is going on tour this spring.  This coincides perfectly with the winking earnest I'm trying to get to in my writing.  Their songs are so deeply steeped in angst they can't help but be grinning through it.  I will be on line for tickets.  It's important to remember that no matter how intense something seems on the surface, there is humor buried somewhere.

Most Smartest

Photo on 2013-02-02 at 23.29 #2.jpg

It's tough to read backwards (and in low light) so I'm just going to tell you outright that I hold in my hands a contributor's copy from my first anthology, Best Indie Lit New England, or BILiNE.  This is the most concrete evidence I have of how excellent a writing year 2013 has been for me already.

In addition to the arrival of the anthology, I have two poems over at The Bakery and a third at decomP as of this weekend.  And though most of my publishing news is typically in the poetry vein, this month I also celebrated the publication of my first nonfiction article by a major outlet with the appearance of "It Happened To Me: I Grew Up In A Hospital" as an entry in a contest sponsored by XOJane.  Dance break!

In preparation for AWP's impending arrival in Boston this March, I sent out a ton of new submissions this afternoon so that I'll have work to make small talk about when I meet all of the potential publishers.  I never thought of myself as a fastidious person until I started maintaining spreadsheets regarding my writing (and filing taxes when there's a big refund in store).  A week from today I'll be in Pittsburgh on something of a self-imposed writing retreat; I am so antsy to just get on the plane and be there already.  One of my main goals this year is to carve space out of my calendar for solid blocks of time dedicated to making art in other places.  Now that I've been stable and financially flush for more than just a few months, I've had time to think up plenty of excuses to strap on my traveling shoes.  Fingers crossed that my work gives me the legs to see more of the world.  But in a sense, I've already been traveling extensively--at least as far as the me in my poems is concerned.  There are copies of BILiNE floating around all over right now.  I am giddy with trying to imagine the living rooms and bedside tables I've never met that are now homes to my tiny, quiet poem.

Transient

Special Bitch Academy

Still, this story has the best possible ending, because I am telling it.

This was the moment when I had to pause in my hate-read of Elizabeth Wurtzel's recent article and take a deep, cleansing breath.  I'm not sure what I expected her to say that would make me anything besides annoyed or sad, but I went into the article hoping for the best.

When I was young, I had this mostly-inexplicable tendency to put successful women on a pedestal when I knew very little about them.  Wurtzel was one of these women.  She published Prozac Nation at 25, and I wanted to do that too; I wanted a successful book out by my mid-twenties.  I wanted to be played by Christina Ricci in the movie based on the book based on my life.  I wanted to be important enough to be a public storyteller.  I built these strangers up--they ranged from Shirley Manson of the band Garbage all the way to Margaret Atwood (the most repeated name on my older sister's bookshelf)--as idols simply because they were allowed to speak in public, and often.  This was in a time before a seconds-long web search could turn up the details of even the most obscure person's life.  Most of the power I gave these people was imagined.  But it felt real.

Wurtzel's book Bitch lived with these titles I spooned at night during college.

Wurtzel's book Bitch lived with these titles I spooned at night during college.

It still felt real when I was in school and reading for my thesis project.  I spent a long time winding my way through sections of the library, reading broadly and trying to find voices that resonated with me.  Wurtzel's book Bitch came onto my radar because of some list of essential feminist reading, but I was almost instantly discouraged by her hateful tone.  I made it through three chapters before realizing that I was internalizing all of the anger inherent to the text.  Granted, the book is supposed to be a history of difficult women, but instead of delighting in that history, there is very little substance beyond the anger Wurtzel has towards society for labeling these women difficult in the first place.  That anger is important, but another thing that's important when rewriting history is to make sure you produce a more dynamic picture than the one you are seeking to replace.  Instead of replacing a history written by men with something more complete, she simply swapped it out for another incomplete retelling.

I returned the book to the library and have not read Wurtzel since.  Until, that is, this article showed up in my Twitter feed.  I was curious.  It's been years since Bitch; so had she moved past being so enraged at the world around her by now?  The image I had constructed of her was one she could never live up to; I had already dismantled it trying to read Bitch.  She is, after all, a person, not a deity.  And as any writer knows, everything you produce cannot be perfect.  But I held out hope that there was some place I might connect in the rambling essay.  As she sorted through the many unconnected reasons she is glad to be rid of 2012, I waited for some kind of clarity.  She didn't seem as angry anymore, which was positive.  But her anger seemed to have been replaced with a weary disdain, which is just as destructive.  Instead of reflection, there is inventory.  I'm not happy in the conventional way, or maybe at all, but kindly read on as I'm not yet through complaining.    What a dismal thing to celebrate in thousands of words in a major publication.

"Still, this story has the best possible ending, because I am telling it."  With an outlook like hers, there doesn't seem to be a best possible ending at all.  There isn't even a clear ending at all.  Anger doesn't die, it only transmutes into some other toxic thing.  My main complaint about Wurtzel is how angry she seems in her writing, but here I am being negative too.

I am angry.  I am angry at myself for admiring her before I knew her writing, most of all because when I see her by-line, I feel compelled to give her another chance.  I am angry for having such a visceral response to everything she wrote.  I cannot deny that she is talented.  But I can't abide writing so deeply narcissistic that the author deifies herself.  It's one thing if a fan makes you a god; it is quite another if you drink your own Kool Aid.  Anyone in the public eye for as long as she's been is bound to have some warp in their self-image, but it seems that she has a very consistent self-talk loop dedicated to affirming her decisions in the face of continued unhappiness.  There is one place that I agree with her--you don't have to live life by conventional wisdom in order to live fully.  But, at least from the picture her article provides of her life, she hasn't yet found a healthy alternative.

Parting Clouds

When I went to my new doctor the other day (my first visit with a GP in my life, since my last non-specialist doctor is a pediatrician I last saw before I left for college) we started the work of sorting out how we wanted to dispatch my anxiety from its place as overlord of my life.  Up to this point, I hadn't considered that my chronic fatigue and migraines had anything to do with my mental health.  I took for granted that I just need more sleep than other people.  The world exhausts me.  I've taken frequent naps since birth.  I've had the headaches nearly as long.

Transient

But here's what blew my mind.  I assumed that the lab would find some evidence of chemical or hormonal imbalance to explain the 20 pounds I've gained in the last year, or the headaches, or the forever case of the sleepies.  I thought maybe I had anemia, or an iron deficiency at least, if not chemical depression.  But there's nothing wrong with me.  The way doc put it to me, my anxiety is a product of my thin emotional skin.  He doesn't know me very well yet, but I started crying when asked me to confirm that my father was in fact deceased.  It was a simple yes or no question any normal person could answer without so much strife, but so much of my disdain of doctors and medicine in general is tied up in what my dad went through with his health that I could not maintain the membrane between what was happening to me in the moment and what I remember from the past.  I am empath.  That's my thin skin.  I take on other people's emotions, and I am a slave to my own.  Though there's nothing chemically wrong with me, that thin skin means there might as well be.

I'd never considered drugs before, but consented to low dose medication at our appointment just to see if it might help give me a thicker skin.  It's not supposed to have any noticeable effects until about a month from now, so maybe this is just a placebo effect, but that fatigue I battle daily is entirely gone.  I'm going to wait on say the medicine murdered my migraines, as it is a bit soon, but generally I feel like I'm operating at the speed of an average person.  I went to a party full of strangers on Saturday night and instead of drinking too much for social lubrication or chain smoking on the porch as a way of avoiding social situations altogether, I participated without completely freaking out.  It was more than that though.  I had a great night.  I don't know that I've ever felt relaxed at a party before.

It might just be the knowledge that I'm on my way to getting better that's pushed me into a higher level of functionality, but even if that is the case, it's really gratifying to not be crippled in the presence of fun.  I feel so zippy, I even went running over the weekend.  This is the most astounding thing of all.  I hate exercise, but my doctor told me I should try to improve my lung capacity, as my breathing is a real problem during panic attacks.  I planned to run once, just to say that I tried, and then retreat into my cave of potato chips and cigarettes, but instead made it through a mile without flinching.  The following day, I did it again, just to see if the first run had been a fluke.  But it wasn't.

In November, when I was trying to make light of terrifying making doctor's appointments was for me, I told a friend that 2013 would be the year of self-care.  At the time, it was meant as a joke about how I wanted to put everything off for a few more months because of how stressful it felt.  But now that the wheels are turning and I am stumbling (somewhat bravely, but mostly just hopeful) forward, it seems true in a genuine way.  I am taking gummi vitamins every morning, I am making breakfast smoothies with spinach and bananas and honey and yogurt.  I am giving myself the tools to feel better.

Why So Serious?

The turnover of a year has a way about it that makes people take an inventory of things: what's working, what needs repair, what can be excised.  I am more than guilty of this.  Over the course of the last month, most of my reassessment energy has been spent on my writing.  What do I want to write more of?  How can I get the ball rolling and start churning out new drafts at the rate that I used to?  Why have I fallen so out of practice?  These are tough questions for me, as I didn't think much about what to write, or how I wrote, or why, until very recently.

Transient

In college, I wrote a poem a day for a year (quite literally) and didn't think it was all that exciting until other people made a big deal out of it.  It was a goal, and I made space in my day to get it done.  (Like this guy, who read 366 books in 2012--if you make the time and take the commitment seriously, you can get through anything.)  I got an email invite to this year's installment of the 365 Project blog--a project I say 'yes' to yearly, though I've only finished that once--and almost declined following through.  I didn't want to be reminded of how few new poems I've made in the late months on last year.  In 2012, I wrote something near 150 poems (inclusive of both newly generated work and revised drafts) and posted them there.  I'd say more than half were revisions of drafts from the first half of the year, if not cobbled-together creatures resurrected from the writing folders on my hard drive marked 2007-2011.

Since I've been keeping track of my progress via the closed internet workshop Frankenstein, it's getting harder and harder to finish thoughts.  I don't know if it's the writing online aspect, or the fact that writing semi-publicly puts a specific pressure on me to produce coherent verse on the first go.  It could be either, but I think it has more to do with how little my hands are involved in the whole process anymore.  I don't journal the way that I used to--my notebooks are bland and colorless.  I am a very visual person, and the act of writing longhand makes me feel capable magic: I made those lines, and those lines made words, and those words made sentences.  It is almost embarrassing to leaf through the pages of a journal from even a year or two ago, when I would sit doodling, brainstorming, and drafting wherever I was.

Maybe working in an office sterilized my brain.  I still feel creative, and I also continue to write a lot more than many of my peers, but it is daunting to see such a serious decline in what I am able to produce.  The quality is still there, but the rapid change in quantity is nonetheless alarming.  Maybe this is what happens when time is ever more limited.  I am learning to say no to social engagements (my chronic anxiety is a strange ally on this front) in favor of staying in to work through drafts.  I send out submissions during lulls in my work day.  I am making the space.  But the aforementioned anxiety seems to have overtaken large parts of my brain that did not used to be so encumbered.  I fall into obsessive thought patterns without terminus: tragedies play out in my mind, and then I worry about why I would think such horrible things, a thought closely chased by another about something being terribly wrong with my brain or my disposition in general, and then the pattern circles back on itself.

The pattern is a clear indicator of distress, but even worse: I haven't been able to read anything longer than 20 pages in months.  I just forced my way through Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil All The Time, which blew the lid off of my anxious inability to sit still long enough to get through a novel by inducing an anxiety about the fate of the characters that canceled out my own worry.  When I finished the book on Monday afternoon, I almost cried.  It was such a relief to simply make it out the other side of a book again.  I can't remember the last novel I read from cover to cover.  Before I moved to Boston, I was reading at least a novel a week.  Again, this precipitous shift in numbers is scary.  But I'm trying to right the ship.

I've had three poems accepted for publication in as many weeks, the most recent acceptance letter pinging into my inbox late last night as I was wrestling with thugs in Migraine City.  The smaller my list of poems that are ready to be sent out for publication gets, the more compelled I feel to replant the rows and see what comes up.  I wrote something funny the other night: a research poem to be performed at next week's Encyclopedia Show.  I don't usually write funny, and it felt nice to move through a space without self-imposed rules of engagement.  I got silly.  Talked about acrobats falling off ladders, Nazis, New Jersey, ways disaster can be avoided.  I had fun.  It reminded me to take the words I put in rows a little less seriously.  And I can't say enough how refreshing it was to not sit down once again in hopes of saying something different, only to detour back down the road of grief and loss that I've been treading and retreading in my work for over a year.  I finally wrote something wry, and funny.  It felt great.