Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Martha Deed : My (small press) writing day; December 4th

1.  What counts as writing?  Thinking about writing while sweeping up the mysterious grit that mars a peaceful walk from the bedroom through the kitchen to my desk?  The sweeping?  Is this preparation or a diversion from my task?  (What task?)

2.  Try writing about the unexpected big splash I witnessed over the top of my monitor and on the edge of the woods where there isn't supposed to be any water?  A deer leaping?  (I saw no deer.)  A hawk swooping?  (I saw no bird.)  Another tree falling?  Four in the last week, drowned in rising water table, then knocked six ways to Sunday by the winds.

A. R. Ammons got famous writing quotidian texts memorializing Florida garbage and his days.  Was he any more interesting than myself?  (probably)  Here at least arguably a shard of a writing life:  a detoured reading:  The Poetry Foundation take on Ammons.  The point:  This melding of the personal and the social is something I try to do. Ammons becomes an inspiration even when I have not re-read him lately.

3.  wrestle with this too literal and concrete.  Qualities that assist the historian or journalist in me; qualities that make poetry. . . difficult.

 4.  The poem that was rejected in under 48 hours?  Just before bedtime?  Did I lose sleep over it?  I did not.  What sort of a writer am I that I took this unjust rejection I think the poem is pretty good with equanimity?

5.   Is my curiosity about that fall of water a good sign or a bad sign?  It does not leave me alone. And as the wind keeps blowing and as there are 40 foot-long hangers waiting to drop on the unwary in the breeze oh, plus the trees still standing it does not seem wise to go outside even in my galoshes to get the facts, to see a carcass perhaps or maybe a few feathers a bit of fur, or maybe a branch that dented the earth just enough to lie unseen from my writing window. Would any of that make a decent metaphor?  Do I really need to see what fell?  Shouldn't the mystery be enough to start my fingers on the keys?

There is is again that unfortunate search for facts, which is enough to destroy any piece I could fathom today.

BTW caged by Covid, every day is my writing day.

6.  Checked out BlazeVox Fall 2021 Journal.  If I ever fitted in there no more.  Entertaining hour. Geoffrey Gatza as enthusiastic as ever.  Michael Basinski as wild and brilliant.  Me, too buttoned-up.

A touch of golf.  Why?  Have you bored yourself?  Poets play golf?  Probably.  Do they write poems out there if they do?  Only when they bogey?  Are there hymns of triumph?

7.  Does it count that I am reading Maggie Doherty's The Equivalents oh, so slowly and carefully? If I finish it today will that count for this writing day?  Or will it count only if I make use of it in some writing way, not simply that it informs me, but that it also causes me to make writing?

8.   And this evening a book launch of TKS books 2021 collection?  That I already have in hand two of those pieces?  Messy Archivist #2 which is glorious and I've been corresponding with M C Kinniburgh who wrote it plus the bonus of Gil Sorrentino's Tomato Sauce aerogram to Ammiel Alcalay, which Kinniburgh included in her elegant packet of paper and stickers and whose archivist's career encourages me along a faint path.  Will she teach generosity to me?

9.   Making my mother's recipe for hard sauce (which is neither difficult nor alcoholic) this afternoon for plum pudding to have after the launch does that count for archiving?  I pulled my favorite recipes out of her collection and typed them (pre-computer) and distributed them to my siblings an early exercise in archival preservation, requiring delicate discrimination.  I did not retain the liver-and-onions recipe.

The archivist may, on occasion, exercise her own taste as long as it does not twist her project out of shape.  And can do so honestly by defining the project properly “desserts only” in this case defines the borders of the project and eliminates the liver.  Such moves, no matter how passionately driven can cause the loss of her stew, but not if the pressure cooker recipe book is preserved.

10.  The screech of Canada Geese passing overhead reminds the writer not to forget sound.  Her readers are not deaf.

11.   Should note that the writing day begins with a journal that registers correspondence, phone calls and writing progress a day-book rather than a diary occasionally early notes for a poem, but failed to note so tell it here I drive brother to his booster shot only to find the appointment was never recorded in the database.  No booster.  He remains caged, as am I.  Also, weather, and try like an Eskimo to describe the sky outside the upstairs window as the Eskimos describe snow.  “Raining” is not enough.

If you don't write it down, it will never become a poem.

12.   Sarah Thomas.  In the Shadow of a Giant:  Elizabeth Bishop's Key West Legacy.  History Magazine.  Fall 2021.  Pp 14-15.  My tastes are coming through.  I like the comparison of Bishop's The Fish with Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, the personal connections.  Difficult to imagine more disparate personalities.

Soup is cooking.  Ten minutes until TKS begins.  Trot.

13.   TKS https://www.granarybooks.com/pages/books/3007/tks-2021-complete-set
           
A presentation of artists' books that feed the writer's soul.  M C Kinniburgh, Ammiel Alcalay, Miriam Nichols who handles Robin Blaser's literary estate, two daughters of Steve Clay.  When the discussion drifted to archiving and preserving digital work, I spoke about the Electronic Literary Organization and its efforts to archive, Millie Niss's and my experiences with work that was published and well-received and which now is beyond anyone's vision and hearing unless they go someplace special, like the computer media lab at University at Buffalo.  I came to think of this work as similar to a magazine printed on very poor paper.  It disintegrates and is not retrievable.  The result for me:  I have returned exclusively to print.

Perhaps I should have kept these thoughts to myself.

            What I didn't say I am not known in this circle and it was off-subject in any event is that the digital and video work that I did with Millie has fundamentally influenced the way I use the page in print a cross between the visual and the lines of text. The use of space white space especially. The Last Collaboration (2012) in  particular was constructed like an interactive website with symbols leading the reader through the book, not necessarily in page order, but with the option of following threads. 
           
This theme has carried through to my most recent books, making each page into its own independent work, the links, the mix of graphics, texts, sources and opinion.
           
And, of course, this all works off high school days of editing the school paper, learning to lay print before there was digitization, learning to check layouts in hard type.

           
So, it all came around today, although I did not write a single line of poetry.
           
What I did do, however, was to set up a series of steps toward deepening my use of poetry.
 

I hope.

 



In the last two years, Martha Deed has published four books and re-set another.  The pandemic has given her the unbroken period of time necessary for this work.   Her Writing Day essay depicts her coming up for air and re-setting poetry as her primary writing a week after finishing five major writing projects in the last two years. Two poetry projects in process.  Welcomes ideas for single poems as well.  Two Pushcart nominations egg her on. 

Much of Martha Deed's recent work has been triggered by her exploration of hundreds of family documents -- many dating back nearly 200 years-- that have made their way into her house.  She has been making poems of some, digitizing many, constructing sets of what-merits-preservation to libraries and museums, including 40 Civil War letters of a Union Army Private to New York State Military Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY, a set of letters from two school teachers who traveled to Italy, Germany (where they attended a Hitler speech), and Japan as WW 2 was breaking out to the Rockland County Historical Association, bird records of Rockland County, NY, from 1840-1980, compiled by her father, to the Ornithology Laboratory at Cornell University.

Investigating personal history and its far deeper social and political meaning are themes that grab her imagination.  This is a good thing, because she still has three boxes to unravel. 

Finished 2019-2021:
           
Chasing Whitman.  Huntington Historical Society. 2019. Results of research on  her family's connections with Walt Whitman.
           
Under the Rock .  FootHills Publishing. 2019.  Poetry collection. 

           
The Kingston Mystery. 2021.  Based on family papers and research.  Non-fiction genealogical mystery.
           
The Notebook and Diary of Flora Brewster (1879-1899).  Transcription, annotation and index of a  Flora Brewster (1849-1939) diary Martha discovered in a box at Kingston (Massachusetts) Public Library's Local History Collections and published with permission of the library.

           
Birth: Where Medicine and Culture Meet.  The Pierre Vellay Portfolio.  2017, re-set 2021. Meeting Lamaze successor Pierre Vellay in Paris, attending his childbirth education classes and performing a longitudinal study of women's childbirth and breastfeeding experiences at his maternité clinique, made famous by Marjorie Karmel's Thank You , Dr. Lamaze.  Booklet contains the interview protocols and report of findings to Dr. Vellay.

Blog: https://sporkworld.tumblr.com/ 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Claudia Lundahl : My Writing Day

My writing day starts with a large mug of coffee - milk, no sugar. I recently bought an electric brewer which I can program to start at a specific time, so (if I remember to set it…) I get to wake up to the sound and smell of coffee brewing. It’s a small thing but it’s been kind of revolutionary. I often have very vivid dreams so I spend the first part of the morning just trying to reacquaint myself with reality and trying to feel grounded. Sometimes I’m successful. Hah. I try to ease into the day so I usually read something, a book or the newspaper, while I have coffee instead of looking at my phone right away. At the moment, I’m reading a book called “Impressionist & Post-Impressionist Drawings” which is about the process of sketching and how it related to and informed the painting of the preeminent painters during those movements and it’s very soothing. I was a preschool teacher for eight years before moving to London in early 2020 so I used to wake up before sunrise, get dressed and rush out the door to start my commute. Since I don’t have to do that anymore, I’m really valuing my time in the morning and appreciating the slowness of my new routine.

            After coffee, my husband and I take our dogs out. We don’t have any outdoor space so they force us to take a walk around the neighborhood every day which can be a drag if it’s raining or if I didn’t sleep well but I’m always grateful for it afterwards. I’m still very much getting used to living in the inner city. Even though I lived most of my life in and around New York, I’m at a stage where it feels somewhat overwhelming for me to be in the center of things. My threshold for chaos used to be much higher, now I just want to chill. Being out with the dogs, who are old and slow, in the early morning before businesses open and traffic starts is a nice way for me to dip my toes in and experience London in a way that feels good for me, appreciating the way the early light hits the red brick on the old buildings, the mist that slicks the cobblestone streets, the sound of seagulls cawing to announce dawn as they circle overhead. It’s more gentle, more sensory.

I recently finished writing and editing my first novel which had been circulating inside of me for the better part of ten years. Now that it’s finished it’s like, a weight has been lifted. It feels good, like it’s freed up some of my brain space to work on other things. It was a complicated story to write and I hope that I did it justice but I don’t really have any interest in querying it or trying to get it published. It just exists and that’s enough for now. We’ll see. I think my relationship to my writing has changed a lot over the past two years. My first published collection, An Accumulation of Vapors, is forthcoming from Gob Pile Press in the spring and the whole experience of working with Bram Riddlebarger has been enlightening and rewarding. Being connected to supportive people who have the same vision and sort of ethos around writing and publishing is the saving grace of this industry. I’m very grateful for the experience of putting my work out there for the first time this way. It’s all been very positive.

I’m working on a translation project which takes up the most of my writing time these days. I found a chapbook tucked into an overstuffed shelf in an old bookstore down an alleyway in the ancient city of Alghero, Sardinia a few months ago. It’s a thin book with a fairly nondescript black and white cover so the way it just sort of appeared to me felt intentional. I’m not religious but everything about Sardinia feels very spiritual to me. An Accumulation of Vapors was born from my experiences there (it’s sort of about communicating with ghosts, connecting with the past) so I can’t help but feel like I was meant to find it in a way. The book was written in the seventies and it’s the only published work of the author. The press no longer exists, it’s a true relic, and I’m just very inspired by the whole process of doing this. It’s an arduous undertaking, like solving a puzzle, but when you sort of unlock one piece of it, it cracks the whole thing open and it’s the most beautiful moment. It’s inspired me a lot in my own writing, to play with language more, to do something unexpected.

My writing ideas usually come to me at surprising moments, like when I’m standing in line for something, taking a bath, or listening to a piece of music. Often they appear as fragments instead of a whole concept, like a combination of words that sound good together, or the beginning of a paragraph and I have to sort of figure out what it means, then I can start to write.  I used to try to hold on to all these fragments in my head until I could dedicate time to writing but I was talking to someone who is sort of a mentor to me and she gave me a valuable piece of writing advice which was to just get it down and save it somewhere at the exact moment when it comes to me whether it’s taking notes in my phone, jotting them down on receipts or napkins, making voice memos, essentially doing whatever it takes and not worrying if people look at me askew. That’s what I do now and it’s part of how I put my book together. I get it down and assemble it later. Thank you, Niloufar.

I’m also a painter so my work area and creative process are very multi-experiential. My work as a painter kind of necessitates a plethora of equipment. In an ideal world I’d have an art studio or at least a garage or something but that’s not the reality of where we are right now. I’m grateful for this little nook that allows me to organize the things I need so setting up and disassembling is easier. While this one bedroom flat that I share with my husband and two sixty pound hound dogs can feel cramped, it’s actually the most spacious apartment I’ve lived in and it works for us. My husband is very musical so there’s stuff everywhere, every inch of this place is being utilized. Between the paint and the piano and the guitars, there’s a lot going on... I’m used to small spaces, it just means I have to be more intentional about how I work which is ultimately a good thing. This little writing nook with the built-in shelves really sold me on the place when we first saw it.

I don’t write every day but I do try to do something creative. If I don’t, I feel sort of depleted and restless. My approach to everything I do is to try to trust myself and be graceful with myself. I try to meet myself wherever I am on any given day and just go with the flow.

 

 

Claudia Lundahl is an artist and writer from New York who currently lives in London, England. Her work has been published in many marvelous places including Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Maudlin House, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, New World Writing, HAD, STORGY and others. Her first collection, An Accumulation of Vapors, is forthcoming from Gob Pile Press in 2022. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

small press writing life : Leah Claire Kaminski

 

A look through my open tabs (a hundred fellowships, submission opportunities, books to read, courses to take, courses to teach) will show you the hope of my writing days—and the stagnancy of those open tabs (often closed en masse, in a panic, when my computer starts to slow) will show you how often that hope remains misaligned with reality. Because for better or worse, my writing days are most often formed in the margins of…the rest of my days (the toddler, the paid non-literary work, the ADHD, the depression, the migraines). So a writing (“writing”) day can look like this:

o   Wake up to toddler screaming his bad dreams in the middle of the night, comfort him in shifts

o   Later (too late), blearily get toddler up, march him to preschool

o   Home for leftover pizza and social media—with work tabs open in the background

o   Continue for several hours in stressed-out ADHD working/not working limbo until mad dash to finish work before husband picks up toddler

o   Prop eyes open for a few hours before bed with phone plus iPad (the better to both read the news and watch Netflix with)

Or this:

o   Attempt early wakeup, manage semi-early wakeup. Cold leftover coffee, couch with laptop, document open, type some pap about feelings with half my brain on the up-too-early toddler’s singing and/or moaning

o   Get toddler up 10 minutes in; attempt to keep writing while toddler jumps on belly

Or this:

o   Wake up with migraine, drink endless coffee before giving up and taking prescription which tires me out, slug through the day until

o   Early evening submit work while sitting on the hard floor outside toddler’s room because he’s suddenly decided he can’t sleep without us in sight

o   Late evening eat leftover pizza and talk to husband worriedly about mysterious new leak soaking bathroom wall

Or this:

o   Wake up early, depressed, cold leftover coffee, couch with laptop, write something okay

o   Toddler whiny and I exasperated until school

o   Spend hours overthinking work, overtired because of waking up too early for writing

o   For lunch leftover pizza, funk

o   Work until eyestrain gives headache

o   Bring toddler home, watch tv until throwing boxed mac and cheese in him

o   Toddler finally asleep, late, because I started bedtime late, because tired/depressed

o   After bed, depressed “relaxation” on couch with snacks/streaming/ice pack, reminders to myself and husband not to get up that early

Or this:

o   Days and days and days of nothing but parenting, migraine, house emergencies, leftover pizza, self-flagellation, social media, migraine

None of this approximates or even gestures towards what I always plan for, which is (still assuming I will have paid work to do for the bulk of the day, because even in my wishful writing life, I’m reasonable):

o   Wake up before first light, coffee pot on a timer, go outside on the porch and write something new. An actual poem with a purpose, or a story, not some nonsense about how I’m feeling

o   Immerse myself for an hour in existing pieces

o   Eat healthy breakfast as family, kiss toddler goodbye (in this fantasy, someone else feeds and drives him to preschool)

o   Work in a focused yet relaxed way

o   With plenty of energy left, eat an energizing lunch while reading a serious book or chatting with husband, then half hour new writing

o   Continue to work cheerfully and efficiently

o   Before toddler arrives home, spend an hour submitting work or reviewing proofs for my many accepted pieces

o   In the early evening, toddler happily asleep and house already clean because in this house in this fantasy we clean as we go, read serious book, watch serious movie, do dreamy and creative tarot spread, and/or delve into longer work

o   serene bedtime at reasonable hour

Some days, adding up to maybe two or three weeks out of a year, writing somehow hangs on as the pulse of the day. Those days, I get a skeleton, a semblance, a hint of the above. But most days—those many adult days that are moved forward by exigency alone—keeping my writing alive relies on bursts of energy, love, luck, insight. Those days, it’s only got to work well enough to keep me hanging on, planning for those rare bright moments when the schedule, my energy, my mental health all align.

The other night? My writing life looked like this (I won’t bore you with the daytime, which was barren of writing):

o   Early “bedtime”, false starts on two stories followed quickly by twitter, news, HBO.

o   Within an hour, scuttle back to crying toddler’s room, sit on rocking chair.

o   Watch projected stars slide over the walls and listen to hum of noise machine until two stories arrive fully formed, borne out of the galaxy-ridden little ship of this room

o   An hour later finally slip out, write stories till too late.

Next day, I had a full-on migraine. Couldn’t do much but eat leftover pizza. But it didn’t matter, and it doesn’t, and won’t: as long as writing visits once in a while, keeps its key, doesn’t need to knock—I can still call it mine.

 

 

 

 

Leah Claire Kaminski is a poet, writer, and editor living in Chicago. She holds degrees in poetry from Harvard University and UC Irvine’s Programs in Writing. Recent work can be seen in Prairie Schooner, Fence, Rhino Poetry, Vinyl, and ZYZZYVA, among others. The chapbook Root is forthcoming from Milk and Cake Press, and Peninsular Scar is available from Dancing Girl Press. Find out more at www.leahkaminski.com