Welcome To My Bed

Send Yourself to Summer Camp

orange flowers

One of my students brought flowers for me to our last class!  I'm not much of a flowers kind of girl (people tend to only give them to me as an apology), but these made me feel so special.  There's nothing more lovely than feeling like someone truly appreciates your time.  I've been having a rough few weeks and the extra thought really made my day.

Teaching has been having that effect on me in general--turning the volume down on all of the stress I wrestle with and amplifying all of things about the world that make me excited to live in it.  Which Is why I want to make sure you know that I'll be teaching two writing courses at Boston Center for Adult Education this summer and would love to spend them talking about writing with you.  The first, on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 PM beginning on 7/15 and running for six weeks, is focused on short story writing.  We'll be digging in deep with your own writing in a workshop format and getting peer feedback on the stories you've been working on and want to get out into the world.  There will be some light reading, as well as weekly generative prompts to get the ball rolling on new drafts.  The class maxes out at 12 students, so expect a focused and intimate look at how to be the best prose writer you can be.  Click here to register.

The second class, on Thursdays from 6 to 8 PM, beginning on 7/16 and also running for six weeks, is a more open format creative writing workshop.  Think the same peer feedback environment as the above class but with more options--we'll be discussing successful poems, stories, and methods that can sharpen your approach to any piece of writing, no matter the genre.  Light reading, weekly prompts, and in depth workshop time for everyone, as well as some fun exercises in re-imagining your own writing process.  Click here to register.

Let's write together!

Pelican

Somewhere in the high school years of my vast library of diaries, there's a to do list entitled "WHEN I GROW UP I'LL BE STABLE," after a Garbage lyric.  The list is full of hopes, some of them wild, some of them only pretending to be.  Hair dye, piercings, and tattoos factored heavily, along with road trips and other "get out of this one traffic light town" angst.  I wanted to love more than advisable and live loudly, a tall order for the shy, solitary person I was then.  Among the mostly attainable items on this list, there was also a dream-the-impossible-dream moment: publish my first book by the time I'm 25.  And it's happening.

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My first book, Pelican, has been selected as the inaugural recipient of Yes Yes Books' Pamet River Book Prize, a new award given annually to a debut collection by a female-identified or gender queer poet.  Yes Yes makes absolutely gorgeous books and champions so many authors I admire, and it's still overwhelming to think they'll be the ones shepherding my words into the world in a book with a spine for the very first time.  Working with KMA Sullivan and Stevie Edwards on this project has been nothing short of joyful, which is really saying something, since the content of the book leans heavily towards exploring one of the most painful losses I'll ever experience.

In 2011, my father passed away after a long, complicated battle with diabetes.  I had recently finished college and was still struggling to find my footing.  During my final semesters of school, as my father's health had worsened, my writing had veered away from the performance pieces I'd written since admitting I wanted to be a poet.  The new work was shorter, more spare, and a lot of the poems I wrote at the time scared me beyond all reason because each of them tried to capture a different facet of what losing my father felt like.  How sad I was.  How angry I was.  How alienated I felt from my peers.  How impossible it was to imagine myself fatherless.  The chapbook I turned in as a part of my thesis project at Hampshire, Quiet is a Brand of Noise, was peppered with tiny worries of what would become of my family and our stories once my father succumbed to his chronically poor health.  My partner at the time was pressuring me to start submitting my writing to be published, and though I was excited to imagine people reading my work, I was equally terrified of exposing my grief to the scrutiny of strangers.  It felt shameful to be dwelling so heavily on my father's ever-approaching death, and even more shameful to do so in public.

our last family photo

our last family photo

Against my better judgment, I started sending out the work.  It was and is messy for me.  I go back and forth between being proud of myself for being able to lift the curtain on what is, for many people, a very private dance between the chill of loss and the glow of nostalgia, and terrified of what making this dance public says about me.  Now that we're wrapping up final edits on the book, I just feel tired.  When my father was in hospice, a family member asked my then-fourteen-year-old brother Owen how he was doing with everything.  He said, "How am I supposed to feel?  He's been dying my whole life."  Barely out of middle school, and already an existentialist.  In seriousness, when he said it, something clicked about how oddly we'd grown up.  My father's health problems started long before we were born; they were impossible to separate from our experience of him.  The earliest draft of the oldest poem in Pelican is from the fall of 2007, but the stories present in the book are as old as I am, and some of them much older.  I've only ever known my dad as someone never quite within my reach, and writing about losing him has been a powerful reminder of how much of his life I still get to share in.

My father's stories, especially the ones he used to tell after a few drinks (ask me sometime about Grace Jones and the Bicentennial), have always been my favorite ones to tell to strangers, so this book was bound to fall out of me in one form or another at some point.  Pelican is full of birds and booze and stories (both real and imagined) I've told myself and others about my dad in order to better understand him and me and how we helped and hurt each other.

This Sunday is the three year anniversary of his death, and it's hitting me much harder than it ever has.  I'm not sure if that's typical.  I'm not sure I could grieve typically if I wanted to.  It didn't occur to me until a friend brought it up yesterday, but the anniversary is probably much more present for me this year because of how much time I've been spending with these poems.  Another friend tried to console me by saying that at least no one can accuse me of running away from my feelings.  In the future, if I ever try to run away from my feelings, I suppose someone can just chuck a copy of this book at my head.

Though the project won't be published until December, poems from Pelican (and work from the new manuscript I've been working on) have been popping up all over the internet recently.  The Adirondack Review gave a home to "The Right Words;" "Wishes For The Full Moon" found its way into Cactus Heart; "I'll Admit It" is living over at Word Riot, along with a poem called "I Didn't Mean to Swear in Your Church" that I wrote after watching both versions of the movie Footloose consecutively; and The Bohemyth's most recent issue includes "Rosary For The Blood Moon," the last of my moon poems, as well as "I Remember Loving You Through The Internet" and "I AM HOLDING YOUR SCREAMING BODY WITH HARVARD SQUARE."  And at 7 PM on July 12th, I'll be joining a bunch of fabulous lady writers (including my beloved roommate and partner in crime, Cassandra de Alba) for Vector Press's third issue release party at the Moderformations Gallery in Pittsburgh.  I have three poems in the issue: "The Age of Instability," "knife play," and "& when the canary stops singing."  There will be free food, free drinks, and there's no cover.  Come talk about sea birds with me, please please please.

It Isn't Worthwhile If It Doesn't Terrify You

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Let me tell you a secret: I'm a painfully shy person masquerading as a performer.  I get loud because volume is a terrific mask.  If I tell you the brashest, most shocking story possible, chances are you'll think you know me, and you will know me, but only one version.  

Underneath the stage persona, there are something like dozens of layers of story.  Like any person, I have more stories than I know what to do with. When I teach, another place where I wear a mask, I am constantly urging my students to keep in mind why they want to tell stories.  What do they want to communicate?  Who do they want to communicate with?  What is at stake if their story goes un-told?  I ask them these questions because they are questions I ask myself constantly, and also the reason I have so many masks.  The mask that lets me be loud is the mask that helps me tell my stories even when they terrify me.

Another secret, this time as a poem: "Conditional," is the true story of a miscarriage I had before I was old enough to legally drink.  My dear friend and comrade in arms, Stevie Edwards, asked me if she could publish it in the company of her own words and those of our friend and champion of women and all the masks they must wear to survive, Rachel McKibbens.  I never thought this story would find its way out of my mouth.  I never intended to claim it so publicly.  But Stevie spurred me towards revising the piece from an open letter to myself in the second person to a poem solidly in my own voice.  Replace every "you" with an "I."  Tell the whole truth.  She asked me to take off the mask and be myself, and I trust her, so I did.

As a writer and performer, I have extreme control over how I'm perceived and what I choose to share with an audience, but again and again I find myself drawn towards telling stories so close to my bones that they seem nearly impossible to articulate without drawing blood.  In a space where I could become anyone, I routinely choose to be my ugliest and most broken self.  My readings are not the most comfortable places, and that sometimes makes me self-conscious.  I'm scared of being off-putting, but I continue to write on grief and trauma as a way of dismantling the masks I wear.  We tell our own stories to share our experience and we listen to stories hoping to see ourselves in the experience of others.  Sometimes it's hard to recognize how necessary this dialogue is to our humanity, but I think Stevie's introduction to my poem is a good reminder of how important it is to talk about the things we'd rather bury:

At the end of the 2013 Pink Door Women’s Writing Retreat and Good Idea Summit, Rachel McKibbens arranged a ceremony, where we all got to tell partners the following words, “You’re an important person and your writing is necessary.” You were my partner. Telling you these words was easy; they were true. But hearing them back from you forced me to stare the need for my own writing in the face, to accept worthiness. We held each other; I think that’s what our poems can do for one another. When I think of your poem “Conditional,” beyond being beautifully crafted with a mastery of language far beyond your years, it holds a space open for me to face the female body, complex feelings about motherhood, the grief of miscarriage—all without shame. I want to write you room after room where shame has no currency, rooms to be brave in, rooms to love yourself fiercely in, rooms to survive in, rooms Rachel has unlocked the doors to. This is how we can hold each other in poems: by being generously and generatively disruptive enough to make rooms for each other’s work, by knowing these rooms are holy and worth making noise for. Emily, you are an important person and your writing is so necessary.

If telling a difficult story gives even the most distant stranger comfort, it's worth it.  A life without masks is near impossible, but we can certainly make spaces to be more nakedly ourselves.  Tell even one person a terrifying secret and I can guarantee you'll feel more whole.  You are an important person, and your stories are necessary.

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

Emily O'Neill & the restored Ariel.jpg

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