Monday, October 30, 2017

Kate Siklosi : writing day

i’m calling this a day in the life of my (small press) (writing) writing life, because i am a poet and co-editor of a small press - with a day job. i’m a writer by day, a poet by night, and an editor by dawn and dusk. here’s the inbetween.

6:43 am –’s 3046 and people have waffles for heads including me and a trumpasaurus rex is running after me with syrup and just as they’re gaining....

6:45 am – my saint bernard puppy starts bawling in her crate, wanting to start the day. i take her to pee and then crawl back into bed for another half hour until

7:17 am - i wake up to the cat licking my eyelid and then my armpit. get out of bed and throw on some espresso – think to myself, is the grind too fine? and then laugh out loud because life is a fine grind, innit?

7:25 am – shake my hair out and dust a little face powder on and maybe some blush while i have an internal dialogue about whether my choice to wear a little makeup voids my entry into true feministdom or whether it’s the choice that counts.

7:36 am – i’m out the door headed to the car to drive to work, meeting my overweight grey tabby friend on the sidewalk and of course, stop for a few belly scritches. drive to work in oakville today (in my work week i rotate between working in our toronto office, oakville office, and my home office). as i round the winston churchill bend on the qew i wonder why on earth i’ve yet to put my name in for this radio contest where you get to be on the station’s payroll at $100 an hour. seems easy enough for some quick money, no?

8:10 am – arrive at work. as in my day job. as in my job in the day. my day as in my job. in the day job as my. as job as my day in.

8:15 am – check all my emails – work, personal, gap riot press. we’ve just gotten our chapbook cover mock ups for canisia lubrin’s new book coming out with us, augur. looks sooooo good and i think to myself – this small press thing is something i’m most proud of lately, and I’m so glad i have the time and energy for these projects post-phd. i muse about the community i’ve built in both my daylit and moonlit double life. i am a sucker for community, or so i think. or is it the commons. communis as duncan would say ripping off kant one moment then telling olson and creeley to piss off the next. i like that guy.
life affirming moment of my writing day [check.]
and at this early hour! [check. check.]
enough to stave off the omnipresent existential funk [question mark. question mark.]

[As I will later discover that night, YES, yes it is enough. my affirmed self will indeed live another writing day.]

8:10 – 4:15 pm – i’m at work. as in my day job. write write write. meet meet meet. think about anarchy in the workplace and play around with titles for a piece. think about the sunlight crossing its heart as i walk to lunch.

4:15 pm – drive back home to toronto, thinking the whole way that i could have been making $100 per hour if i just signed up for this stupid contest. july talk comes on the radio, and i still can’t believe that robust bearish voice comes out of that slight steve buscemi body.

5:00 pm – get back home. take bonnie aka bon bon aka roberta bondar aka bonnie m aka nina bonina brown aka banana pancakes out for a walk to the park up the street. get mad inside but smile every time (EVERYTIME) someone “reminds” me how BIG my saint bernard will be as if i had no idea as if i did not understand that a bernard is a giant breed as if i did not anticipate being eclipsed with love and slobber and 150lbs of a weighty cuddly couch.

5:45 pm – get back home from the dog park, then run back out in search of a ripe avocado up the street. get cat called, even in my sweat pants i think, by old portuguese men loitering on sepia toned pasts outside nondescript sports bars. stare their masculinity right back down into the pavement, clench my fists and remind myself that they do not even know who the fuck they are dealing with. lament about the world and how gender is so tied to one’s spatiality. think about space. think about place. think about how men will never know this same intricacy between.

7:00 pm – make dinner – tonight it is ratatouille. the garlic skins scurry across the table (resurrected by the wind of the open fire escape – the cat desires to be out) and as the knife cuts the squash into coins i can’t stop thinking of emerson’s self-made man slicing zucchini so thin and so fine.

7:40 pm – eat the ratatouille and sing about it aloud as i serve it because life’s short and it’s a funny word.

8:10 pm – get out the letraset and a blank page. rub on an M. rotate page. rub on an X. rotate page. rub on a g. rotate page. rub on a line using a border. rotate page. think that y should maybe have been an A but then do it anyway. lament half-rubbed on letter until i own it as part of the thing. rotate page. rub on a J but make its tail kiss an i.

8:45 pm – a shape emerges. it looks like a clitoris, i think to myself. i couldn’t be more ok with that. it’s done. finito. this one is small, doesn’t take up too much space or just enough to know it’s there. you can always add more and can’t take less but the wisdom’s in knowing when to stop.

9:00 pm – check email again – adeena karasick is writing from the catskills (what a great name for mountains – as if soft little pads and retractable claws could masterfully form peaks out of granitite). speaking of cat, cat seems happy on my lap, so i decide to look at my love songs to hibernia material – a book of experimental poems to the hibernia oil platform in the jean d’arc basin. reams upon reams of lines i’ve stolen from the canada oil & gas operations act. the words that take more than they could ever give. the ones that have taken advantage of all of us without taking us to dinner first but goddamit, paid for and provided us with the gas to get there. i take the authorless words or is it authored by canada and slice them open like a maple-flavoured aspic. a meat jelly that includes cream is called a chaud-froid. how canadian, i say to myself and get back to the stolen goods. to make oil slicks in muddy language so slippery and so fraught even your chelsea boot would trip. i take and take and take from the act until i finish off section 4.5.9 and decide that is enough government bullshit for a day—for a night—’s work.

10:20 pm – richard and i, plus our two cats (doggo is now crated and snoring like a groggy toad at dusk) settle into bed with an episode of master chef. me, tucking into a snack of korean japchae sweet potato noodles worried with sriracha. him, skor ice cream. typical. gordon ramsay yells something about raw duck meat migrating to brazil. outside, a blaring siren signals air too hastily dissolved in salt.

11:33 pm – i lay down for bed to sleep. mind turning over minutes into memories – did my tone to the fellow dog mom at the park about not taking my puppy to puppy school seem overbearing? who is bob anyway and why is he a thing-a-ma? where should i use my arts council grant to go on a writing retreat? prince edward county is so hot right now. what if we all had lego hands and clipped into everything with our uni-digit cylindrical grips? i really should publish more. i haven’t read that yet. climb out of bed to write a fast line about grief and pomegranate seeds on a post-it. i think i have do to more. i’m content with where i’m at. i’m so happy i’m not in vegas right now and not necessarily just because of the guns and the terror but because of the whole sea of greedy mermen thing but maybe the desert is a great time especially with maybe a little peyote andor some ayahuasca. weird that that shit is brewed from the banisteria vine as if it needs some help getting down the stairs. burroughs - kick is momentary freedom from the claims of the aging, cautious, nagging, frightened
flesh. fuck that guy. a certain violence. the drugs, kick and junk, 
running with bulls, machine gun dick swinging. or
maybe it’s me who needs the extra
support. who i am. frig.
okay. tomorrow
i’ll. now

Kate Siklosi lives, writes, and thinks in Toronto. She holds a PhD in English Literature but has defenestrated from the academic ivory tower in search of warmer climes. She is a writer by day and a poet by night. Her first chapbook – a collection of really neat letraset poems – is coming out with above/ground press this spring. She is the cofounding editor of Gap Riot Press and is currently working on a manuscript of experimental petro-poetry, Love Songs for Hibernia.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Kristina Drake : My (Small Press) Writing Day

In my living room is a lovely desk with a lovely view. I like sitting at that desk. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to write there. The space is consumed by the needs of the family, by the tasks waiting to be done, the bills needing to be paid or filed. As Robyn Sarah wrote, “things you couldn’t call poems.” To write, I must escape.

This past year, I have been a creative nomad. Every couple of weeks or so, I stay out late one night after work to have what my husband calls “a creative evening” – I escape the house and the family to write in anonymity surrounded by people. We don’t say “Kristina is spending the evening writing” because I might feel pressured to produce. As in many areas of life, euphemism eases me toward the truth.

I need to escape myself to write.

The main floor of our house is an open space that combines kitchen, dining area and living room, and its walls are lined with bookshelves holding books I adore, books I haven’t yet read, books I won’t read again. Their presence is comforting, like family photos, but oppressive when I sit to write, like photos of judgmental relatives whose expectations you could never hope to live up to.

And then, there’s the actual people in the house who need attention and feeding and reminding and answers to questions.

I have a room of my own, upstairs. It has a window to the outside and another that opens into the stairwell to help with airflow and light. Perhaps, eventually, I will find a way to write there. For now, I must seek out public places: a restaurant in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue with a terrace looking out onto the water; a couple of breakfast places near Papineau; three West-Island pubs. The list grows longer as the months go on. One of these has become my regular haunt. I sit at a corner table on the second floor where I can plug in my laptop. Even on Wednesdays in the dead of winter when the upstairs is closed, I’m welcomed. The manager turns on the lights and the heat for me alone. He calls what I’m doing “working” and I don’t correct him. 

I have a Lug Tread and, later, a Lagavulin. Sometimes I eat, but I find the business of eating interferes with that of writing at the most practical level: I need my hands free and my paper or laptop close.

Usually, I start by reviewing a piece in progress. Like euphemism, it eases me into the necessary mindset, as if the act itself of improving something gives the thing value. By focusing on improving the already-written, I enter the headspace where writing isn’t folly. The work of creating takes on legitimacy, which is a concern I’ve often struggled with.

Here, I am no one. I am only the woman who arrives every so often with a laptop and work to do. No one asks anything of me. No one judges. When I leave, the manager asks me, “Got a lot done?” and I say “yes” because sometimes just choosing to try is an accomplishment.

To start a new piece, I often start with a free-writing approach, writing with pen and paper. Oh, I may start with a nugget – a phrase or an image – that has sparked me. These I jot down (if I can) when they cross my mind, or I repeat them over and over in my head until I’ve memorized the key words. But to dig into a new piece, I write freehand with as much free association as I can manage.

I prefer spiral-bound notebooks of lined paper and pages of a certain weight and smoothness. The texture of the paper under my hand helps coax me into the words. The page size, too, affects the frame of the work, the line length and breath and units tend to conform to the parameters of the page, at least initially. I may recopy a piece a couple of times by hand before typing it up. This continues as a dance of paper and computer: writing on paper; editing on screen; printing it to review and edit; back to the screen.

In the same way, writing helps me move into and out of myself – a dance of identity. Although I may go for days and even weeks without looking at a single moment through my lens of poetry, when I am writing, I am able to slip through walls and shells and frames of self into formless anonymity, becoming a wisp of words before returning to the parameters of life.

That’s the moment when I pack up my computer, slide my notebook back into the bag and pay my bill. The drive home eases me into my regular life, readies me for the transition to the other parts – the ones that may not be poems, but that are just as essential.

Kristina Drake writes and edits in the wilderness of East Hawkesbury, Ontario. Her poems have previously appeared in Carte BlancheSoliloquies and Yalla!, as an above/ground press broadside, and as a Tuesday poem on DusieIn 2017, Kristina published Ornithologya chapbook with above/ground press.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Larkin Higgins : My (small press) writing day

What is stable about “my writing day (life)” is its movement.
A writing day becomes.

I’ve always imagined one day I’d have the perfect writing room. At home, in my small galley kitchen, I grab a Prismacolor pencil to quickly write thoughts down for a poem. Often the kitchen is where I create/make text-based artworks too. There was no “office” or “studio” or “den” in my childhood home. The kitchen table, a place for eating, was speedily cleared for creative work: typing, sewing, painting, carving linoleum blocks for printing, etc. The kitchen was the creative center. Everything handy.

My “writing day” is a matter of grabbing an opening of time/energy without knowing when this will exactly happen. I begin each day with intention of writing. Often it starts at 6:15 AM in prep for my teaching job, a 144.8 km/90 mile round-trip commute I drive (no convenient alternative transportation so far). Three different routes I take, dependent upon blockages discovered before departing Los Angeles. On this day most of the northbound freeways are entangled due to accidents, I must take the slowest non-direct route--drive west all the way to Pacific Coast Highway, meander north along the coast, then inland upward wiggling through curvy canyon roads. Driving seems analogous to writing. Sometimes one can choose a direct approach, other times a more circuitous passage--editing along the way. I just make it to my 9:15 AM class, yet the view accompanying the drive has a cleansing effect, it initiates an opening of observing and thinking as my daily writing practice base…

…for instance, at the beginning of my journey, an image while waiting in the left hand turning lane--local birds lift off boulevard power lines, soar undulating murmuration patterns, a contrast amid the city’s dingy concrete grid. This motion uplifts, I enter the freeway flying.

Currently, it is about the line in my morning drawing class--following contours of the hand, with one hand holding a pencil recording its partner held still in pose. An exercise in seeing--the language of the body in curvilinear run-on “sentences”, interior crevices and exterior outline. These daily teachings remind me of writing’s pliability, how a sentence, word or poetic line can wrap around, or break.

With the intent to actually write on “my writing day”, I take a brisk walk to the college cafeteria for lunch with a plan to longhand notes a bit before my next class at 1 PM. I carry my writing tools everywhere, just in case.

Preliminary notes and drafts are on paper, including source material. I prefer graph paper, its blueprint quality, ripe for mapping out; diagrammatic; a blank slate for structural possibilities with its non-photo pale blue lines running both horizontal and vertical. The tiny faint squares, visual cues, remind me I can line things up or float words anywhere, not following a particular recipe within the malleable schematic of language. Drawing out the words, literally. Movement and line.

As I am finishing my meal, a student (who has taken two classes from me) walks by and says hello. We both share double interests, writing and visual art. We’ve had extensive talks involving his philosophical/symbolist/surrealist/fable-esque imagery in both his writing and painting/drawing. He joins me with his lunch. Donaldo’s routes are in Oaxaca--his indigenous language, Mixtec; and learned excellent English in school. So instead of writing, I find myself nourished by our conversation. Acquainted with his use of particular creatures in dream symbolism, I mention Leonora Carrington’s short stories and paintings. I Google her artworks and most recent book, Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, on my smart phone to show him. I describe one of her stories, his face beams. Within this discourse we are both energized by the possibilities of imagery--adding substance to “my writing day” progression. Conversation with kindred spirits fuels the reason to write.

I run, from the cafeteria to over the bridge to the art center and I teach two more 2-1/2 hour courses, exiting the studio-classroom at 6 PM. I head for dinner close by the university, to a place that automatically comes fitted with temporary “writing table”…

…as I land my car within the restaurant parking lot, my cell phone rings. It’s my dear 90-year old dad. He likes to converse in the evening because, he says, he sleeps better at night. He shares his day like a list, summarizing. To visit him is an 80.5 km/50 mile round-trip drive from home (opposite direction), to check-in regularly. He was a volunteer teacher for many years…an avid reader, painter and printmaker. Our chat delays my eating/writing evening time, yet I cherish our talk.

The restaurant waiter greets me familiarly. After I’ve wrapped my delectable “make-your-own” tacos topped with guacamole and salsa, gobbling them up, I gaze at the vivid interpretation of scenes in Mexico carefully painted on the walls/ceiling:  brilliant parrots, tropical greenery, waterfalls, vibrant flowers, fountains, beaches, agave, cobalt blue sea, wispy white clouds. Although an imitation, the scenes transport me. The day’s responsibilities fade. Now I write, here in this surrogate paradise, where the tacos are a bargain and the scenery is brushed on. And my temporary wooden writing table comes with my beverage of choice. Ideal.

Larkin Higgins is a poet/artist/professor who traverses genres in text-based explorations. Her poetic and hybrid pieces can be found in Diagram, Eleven Eleven, Visio-Textual Selectricity (Runaway Spoon Press), Yellow Field, The L.A. Telephone Book, Vol. 1, and Vol. 2 and elsewhere. Mindmade Books published Of Traverse and Template (poems and logographic drawings) and with Dusie Kollektiv she has two chapbooks, Of Materials, Implements and c o m b - i n g  m i n e - i n g s, plus the broadside “Soil Culture, Frankenstein--Grafted.” Higgins’ visual poetry is included in the Avant Writing Collection/The Ohio State University Libraries and has been exhibited at Skylab Gallery (Columbus, Ohio), New Puppy Gallery (Los Angeles), Otis College of Art & Design, and Counterpath Gallery (Denver, Colorado).

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sacha Archer : Writing Day

I think probably interest in the process and place which some people have concerning writers, artists et al is likely because there is not necessarily a typical model, and so it becomes difficult to associate the product with actual work, i.e. in relation to, for instance, a construction worker we can see on the building site, a teacher in the classroom, a lawyer in their office and the courtroom, etc. Further complicating matters is the chance that a practitioner of the arts might themselves not have a typical or even consistent work place. Often enough it happens that the writer has their desk, their signature objects, books on hand, and the visual artist their studio, be it a studio proper, or a basement. But certainly not always. Also, likely, one hopes to learn something about the creator via the personality of their workplace. A portrait of the artist as… an artist.

I recently picked up a catalogue for a past show of the Canadian land-artist, Marlene Creates. What is interesting in regards to the catalogue and its accompanying essays in relation to workplace is the sense one gets of the lack of one. She probably has some consistent space somewhere (by which I mean an enclosed room), but even making the assumption that she does indeed have a consistent space, it seems to me that it would be secondary to the real sites of creation, which are the natural sites which she intentionally visits, or which she comes upon in a practice of walking.

My own practice as a writer finds the site of composition equally transient—though not always. As such, a typical writing day depends on the project at hand, as well as the job I have at that particular moment to bring in some money.

I will refer to a few projects of mine from the past two years to show varying examples of possible writing days.

Beginning with the project which finds me in the most expected setting, Sites of Contemporary Meat, a collection of poet bios with salient information redacted, being a project composed entirely of material gathered from online literary journals, keeps me, consistently, at my laptop.

Working at a before and after school program caring for children, my writing time, at this moment, falls between two bouts of the job, giving me about five hours of rich open time between, usually. A day or two each week might disappear into a call to supply as an ESL instructor. When that call does not come, I arrive home around 9:30am, check my email and facebook while drinking some coffee and having a few smokes. After that, I might read, or do the dishes which have piled up. I typically sit down with my guitar, after this, and play/ practice for twenty to thirty minutes. Then it is time to sit down and begin. Is it warm out? If it is, I bring my laptop outside. Soon it will be fall, and then winter. Then I will be inside at the kitchen table, or alternatively, in the living room, sitting on the floor, or even perhaps in the basement working on some visual poetry which requires more tools. Outside, as I am now, I work in the shade of a black walnut tree. For how long? As Sites is a painful project to write, I might only go at it for an hour, hour and a half tops. Then I probably return to facebook, or a real book. Or I begin looking for submission opportunities, seeking journals that will publish the kind of work I do. Answer emails. Pay bills. It’s really just a mess. At any time, while home, I jot down notes on a number of large pieces of paper which I have hung on the kitchen wall. I will, at some time, return to Sites of Contemporary Meat and work for another hour. Then back to the school.

Other projects at different times have necessitated different routines. When I was composing upROUTE (above/ground press, 2017) last year, summer 2016, I was unemployed. I would start my day with a proper breakfast, something small, but something—sometimes. Coffee, of course. Following that, again, checking the virtual world for signs of life. I hadn’t returned to my guitar at that point, sad to think. I would then probably browse online job sites to see if there was anything in the field of ESL magically appearing. On one day I would visit a job centre and get advice, or consult with whomever I was facing about my resume. Another day I would not. Instead I would focus on submitting to journals. On yet another day I might drive down to Mississauga to hand out resumes, or go into Toronto for failed interviews (which would erase any chance of writing). Had I not been out to some horrendous group interview in T.O, and instead there were hours presented to me, then, when I returned home, I would begin. I would collect a notepad, pencils, my iPad, and make sure I had my phone. Then, at first, I would walk the mostly empty suburban streets, copying down the alphabetic portions of license plates. Then, that evolved into the simpler method of photographing them, with my phone, and lastly, driving around town and through parking lots while dictating them to my iPad. From there I would return home and transcribe them, in a room.

Before both of the above mentioned projects, I generally wrote at night. At one time I was working nights in a grocery store and this made for a wonky schedule. 3am was the time when I would produce my best work, given I had the night off. Now, with family and job, that is not possible, which of course, is for the best. At that time, then, my typical writing day looked dark. Reading and TV would precede writing. In fact, TV and film lurk throughout everything I’ve written here, believe it or not. Drinking would accompany writing—then more than now. The time I spent writing was concentrated. No significant break. I might write for three hours, maybe four. It was more traditional writing at that time, which asks for longer durations of time, a totally different thought-process and method of composition. When I was finished writing—I was finished. Sleep came heavily—or not at all.

The writing day is dictated by numerous variables, and they change frequently enough. It adds another dynamic level—or at least makes me wonder what’s around the bend.

Sacha Archer is an ESL instructor, childcare provider, father and writer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as filling Station, ACTA Victoriana, h&, illiterature, NōD, Blaze-Vox, UTSANGA, and Matrix. Archer’s first full-length collection of poetry, Detour, a conceptual work with the Dao De Jing as the source text, was recently published by gradient books (2017). His most recent chapbooks are The Insistence of Momentum (The Blasted Tree, 2017), Acceleration of the Arbitrary (Grey Borders, 2017) and upROUTE (above/ground press), with another chapbook forthcoming: TSK oomph (Inspiritus Press). A collection of broadsides from his work Ghost Writing is his latest publication from The Blasted Tree. One of his online manifestations is his blog at Archer lives in Burlington, Ontario.