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.
This morning the first batch of two week residents for January left VSC, and this afternoon the residents who will be here for the second two weeks of the month arrive. It was difficult to say goodbye to new friends, especially Amanda, Laurel, and Steph, who will finish her MFA at George Mason University (my alma mater) this semester. (I didn’t even attempt to say goodbye to Lee Ann. She just needs to stay in my life forever. Burlington and Boston are not that far apart.) In Maverick, we also lost Marie, Pam, and Lisa, so right now the studio feels empty and full of ghosts.
I wore my Camp Fox shirt to protect me from lonesomeness.
Since everything here felt quiet and ghostly, I also worked a little on my private Jane Eyre project, and then I decided to try out my Deletionist button on the Project Gutenberg text of the novel. In this tiny post at The Millions, Nick Moran explains what the Deletionist is:
“The Deletionist is a concise system for automatically producing an erasure poem from any Web page. It systematically removes text to uncover poems, discovering a network of poems called ‘the Worl’ within the World Wide Web.”
I took some screenshots of some of the most interesting early pages (click to enlarge):
So far I really like the way these “deletionist-ed” pages have turned out. I have been listening to Nick Cave, and I think he agrees with me.
My knee looks much, much, much worse today than it did yesterday, so I’m elevating it while I drink coffee and poem. Poem should be a verb as well as a noun.
I am also listening to Taylor Swift. Of course I am.
The title of this blog comes from the following sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my poetic kindred souls. I love the line so make the most of this, your little day and often recite it to myself as a reminder to focus on the present moment while remaining bold enough to embrace the vastness of long creative projects.
When I look up from my blank computer screen or paper, I can look out the window (beautiful but sometimes distracting) or at my bulletin board (ugly and sometimes depressing). My bulletin board is not as blank as it was when I first arrived, but I would love to have something lively to hang up there and inspire me. If you have small(ish) children, I would welcome their artwork or letters, as well as their book and music recommendations. I also accept photographs, postcards, tiny animals, books, adult beverages, homemade cookies, and gifts of all sizes. You can send me mail c/o VSC by the overworked yet reliable U.S. Postal Service (P.O. Box 613, Johnson, VT, 05656) or the recently maligned UPS and FedEx (80 Pearl Street, Johnson, VT, 05656). I leave VSC on January 31st.
Also, if you are someone who happens to have my email address or telephone number, you should know that both my cell service and my internet access are somewhat precarious. If you send me an email, I will definitely get it sometime that day. I may or may not be able to take your call or call you, but I can almost always receive and send texts. It is very hard to use Twitter and Tumblr, since the internet is shared by so many people, so you may not see me on those sites as often as usual. And you will see me on Facebook as often as you ever do, which is to say rarely if ever.
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.