Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Self-Help

From the onset, I promised I would never turn this blog into a journal in which I whine about why I'm too busy to write or provide a general overview of my day.  Who cares why I'm not writing?  I've always wanted this to be the space where all of the me's come together and talk about things that are important to the whole me.  Essays on raising a teenager butting up against pictures of and links to nice things you can make at home, or thoughts on writing and poetry.  But man!  I have been so busy that I can't even think, let alone hate myself for being a whiner!

Here is a funny thing that never shows up on my blog: my full-time job.  Perhaps it's because my job isn't a part of who I am, but just what I do?  In any case, it seems almost dishonest to pretend it doesn't consume gigantic proportions of my days.  By never mentioning it, I'm sending a message like, "Hey, MFA kids, you can get your degree then hang out and blog about things you're doing and things that matter to you, and that totally pays the bills!"  (Maybe that's true, actually... but not in my case.)  

Let me tell you a secret: working full-time takes up 40 hours of my waking week (45 if you count travel time).  It's a lot of time.  In the summer, this isn't too terrible.  And when the workday is not insane, it also isn't too terrible. But, when it's a crazy day at work, then you leave and it's dark outside, it's hard not to come home, curl into a small ball in the corner of a dark room, and pretend you are a hedgehog.  So sleepy! 

In spite of all of this desire to sleep at 7pm, I've actually come home and gotten lots done after work this winter.  Sadly, writing poems is not one of those things, and writing on this blog is not one of them, either.  To feel better about this, I will now list my accomplishments here and give myself a gold star:

I put a chapbook together in December! 
I put a WHOLE BOOK together today!  That's right. Today. I finished it on my lunch break.
I proposed and will be teaching two workshops at UW Writers' Institute, and I'll be providing one-on-one consults.
I proposed and will be teaching two workshops at Rhinelander School of the Arts this summer.
I will be teaching "How to Write a Love Poem," with the amazing poet Rita Mae Reese in February.
I have been steadily submitting poems places. 
I bought tickets to AWP. 
I'm writing a poem based on the work of Ellsworth Kelly and reading it at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in March, the night before I leave for Boston.
I'm working on a collaborative art/poetry project for a Monsters of Poetry reading at the end of March.
I've also been working on this essay since the beginning of January about Carter un-vegetarianizing.  I really want to finish it!  But, alas. It is still a misshapen baby potato sleeping in the dirt.  
I made marmalade. Oh. And I handmade most of my Christmas gifts. Including the adorable puppies to the right. Ugh. Christmas.

I heard there is a kind of post-holiday depression that happens to some folks after Christmastime.  When the season ends, they look around wondering what they used to do:  Where did I start?  How did I finish anything?  I was feeling that way, I think.  Not that I miss Christmastime at all or that I'm sad or depressed or anything. I promise.  But it's just that I was so wrapped up in doing for two months, that I forgot to be a person.  

Now I remember writing and that starting with something terrible that you want nobody else to read (but will publish on your blog nonetheless, not that anyone really reads it anyway (wink, wink to you, secret reader-friends)) is fine.  I've read "Shitty First Drafts" enough times to know this by now, but sometimes, I get caught up in silly living, and I forget.  Starting can be small and ridiculous (and include pictures of stuffed dogs...).   It just needs to be honest and trying to find something. And I think found something, so I'm done here for now.  

The high temperature for today was 8 degrees, but he sun was still shining when I left work today and when I got home.  It was a good day.  




Sunday, January 6, 2013

Two Poems in Midwestern Gothic

In Boston, I met &/or became friends with people from Brazil and Malaysia and Haiti and Greece and Mexico and Portugal... I could go on, but I won't.  On the 1-milke walk from my house to the T each day, I passed the following: 1 Mexican restaurant, 1 Turkish restaurant, 1 Tibetan restaurant, a coffee shop, a creperie, 3 Indian grocery stores, a Greek pizza place, a vegan restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a Thai restaurant, and an Irish pub.  This is just on my way to Davis Square, which is known for its restaurants and shops and whatnot.

All of this to say: there are a lot of people in Boston with fascinating histories and traditions (and food!) and ways of looking at the world.  As a girl from Wisconsin, I grew up eating things (usually) that came from cans or the freezer (think chicken breasts and mushroom soup and instant rice, baked).  In Boston, I became mildy obsessed with trying to whittle my childhood in Wisconsin down to its barest parts. What does it mean to grow up in the Midwest, and in Wisconsin, specifically?  Did I also have traditions and a history rooted in place?

I am a perfectly proportioned product of Wisconsin: I have German ancestors and Polish ancestors (and a few Bohemians, for good measure).  My paternal grandparents owned a bar and resort in the Northwoods and my maternal grandparents owned a farm, and I grew up in a small suburb of a not-city-- Appleton.  I have corn fields and cows in my blood.  I enjoy the smell of manure. I love nothing more than driving on the highway, passing green hills dotted with red barns as the sun sets.

While living in Boston, I wrote a lot of poems about what it means to be home. What it means to be from or of a place. And it seemed that every time I picked up a lit mag or anthology and found a poem that spoke to me, the writer was a Midwesterner and usually had some tie to Wisconsin. It's an odd thing, because while I don't necessarily feel proud to be a Midwesterner, I discovered there are things unique to Wisconsin that are funny and great, and that I'm really happy to be from Wisconsin.

When my friend, Nancy Reddy, shared an interview she'd done at Midwestern Gothic's blog (which is great, you can read it here), I was excited to find a journal dedicated to Midwestern writing. The cover art of each issue is so genuinely Midwestern.  Each cover feels like home.  So, eventually I got around to submitting, and they took two poems: "Painting the Garage" and "Bake Sales, Anyway," which are now published in Issue 8!  I'm so thrilled about the cover.  It's as though someone tapped into my memory while I was dreaming and found a photo of my childhood.