I asked the talented and witty John Berry to document our second resident reading, and he did a lovely job. Voilà:
I’m participating in a resident reading tonight, and a lot of people asked if I would be projecting images of the visual poetry I’ve been working on here. I immediately thought of pictures I’ve seen of Jessica reading her poems as they’re projected on a big screen behind her. I would like to be like Jessica.
But, since no other readers will be using a projector tonight, I decided to wait until the final Open Studios of the month to try and share some of my visual work. In the meantime, I promised to post some pictures of my daily Tarot card erasures here. (As always, you can click on a picture to enlarge it.)
I am less interested in the fortune telling properties of Tarot cards than I am in their origin. I like the idea that a rich Italian aristocrat might have commissioned a hand-painted set of playing cards that included extra allegorical trump cards on a whim. I like to imagine a world where people play ordinary card games with Tarot decks. I also love seeing depictions/interpretations of Tarot cards in popular culture. For instance, a particular Tarot card plays a major role in the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. You might not know this, because you are possibly an adult person who does not read large quantities of YA fiction and/or watch a lot of television and films whose target audiences are adolescent girls. But I watched City of Bones while I was knitting the other night, so I know all about it. Those cards were hand-painted, too. Everything comes full circle.
I have wanted to do a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center since I first finished my MFA program in 2000. Obviously, once I learned I’d been accepted, I started plotting and making plans for my time here. I have high hopes for them all.
Writing plans and projects:
- My year in Tarot — For several years I have been receiving a tarot card accompanied by a very generalized reading from www.astrology.com/tarot every day in my email. I believe that everyone who subscribes to this service receives the same card, which seems to be a flaw in this particular divination system. Since the cards, as in any Tarot reading, are pulled at a random, it is also possible to receive the same card two days (or more) in a row. I thought it would be interesting to do an erasure of each day’s Tarot card/reading over the course of a year. So that is what I’m doing and will be doing for the foreseeable future. Right now the erasure I made for the card I received on January 6th (the Devil) is my favorite.
- Taylor Swift sentence poems — Honestly, I am always looking for ways to write poems about Taylor Swift. I would argue that I am not (yet) obsessed with Taylor Swift, but I am awfully interested in her/her work/listening to her songs on repeat/watching her videos on YouTube/wearing my official Taylor Swift shirt that says “Like Ever” on it. I am also always looking for a new way to approach writing a poem. I’ve recently become interested in writing a poem that consists only of one grammatical sentence. So I’ve begun a series of one sentence Taylor Swift poems. So far, my favorite one is called “If I Were 14 Years Old, I Would Think Taylor Swift Is a Genius,” which is also a line I once used in an OK Cupid profile.
- Secret Jane Eyre poetry project — I am obsessed with the novel Jane Eyre and the Brontës, and lately I’ve become more and more interested in experimenting with visual poetry. I’ve been doing quite a bit of erasure poetry lately (You can see two examples here at Printer’s Devil Review. Be aware that the cover of this issue is a little provocative and perhaps even NSFW, depending on how prurient your workplace is.), but I think I want to push my boundaries some more, and I think Jane Eyre will help me accomplish this goal. There’s not much more to say about this project other than I made two separate trips to the art supply store here in Johnson, VT.
- Complete erasure chapbook based on the collection of Cornell University nature-study pamphlets I found on Project Gutenberg. While visiting my mom in San Diego this summer, I discovered this amazing collection of nature-study pamphlets curated by Liberty H. Bailey, Jr., a renowned “plantsman” who apparently created “nature study” while teaching agriculture at Cornell. The language and style of these pamphlets both delight and baffle me. I brought 10 completed erasures based on these pamphlets to Vermont, so now I want to edit, order, and expand my collection with a few more poems.
- Create a full length poetry manuscript, tentatively titled In the Past You Were the Future. I would like to try and fit my chapbook Focus on Grammar, my Letters from the Future series (read two of them here at Anti-), my apocalyptic postcard poems, and some other poetry into one cohesive manuscript. I also imagine I will have some editing of individual poems and some writing of new poems to complement the existing poems to do. Wish me luck!
- Reorder and revise All About, my manuscript of loosely linked prose poems. I love these poems, and they have been well received by editors and audiences (at poetry readings), but this manuscript needs some work. Because I wrote it over a year and a half, and usually wrote a short series of 3-5 poems each time, I’m having a lot of trouble ordering in a way that creates a logical, engaging narrative. I also suspect that when the poems are in a new order I’ll discover some continuity errors and overused words. I’ve already found the word suddenly in at least six places.
- Write new poems. Maybe about the future. Maybe about the hit television show The Voice.
- Work on some prose projects I’ve been considering. Why not?
If I finish all my planned projects, or take a break, I plan to read some (if not all) of the books I brought:
- The Babies by Sabrina Orah Mark
- Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
- Building Writing Center Assessments that Matter edited by Ellen Schendel and William J. Macauley, Jr.
- Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir
- ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors edited by Shanti Bruce and Ben Rafoth
- The Haiku Handbook by William H. Higginson
- In the Pines by Alice Notley
- Isle of Youth by Laura Van Den Berg
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- The Life of Poetry by Muriel Rukeyser
- Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Frasier
- The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
- Night Film by Marisha Pessl
- Paterson by William Carlos Williams
- The Pillow Book of Sei Shnagan translated by Ivan Morris
- A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
- The Self Unstable by Elisa Gabbert
- Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams
- Tsim Tsum by Sabrina Orah Mark
Some of these books are ones I want/need to read for work. So, I suppose that, as a last resort, I could also do some work for work while I’m here.