Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crying in Public: It's Really, Really Cool

On Tuesday of this week, I was given the opportunity to participate in just one part of SHORE, Emily Johnson's multi-day performance. The part of SHORE I got to take part in was a curated reading. I gave a short reading along with seven other talented writers at the Loft in Minneapolis. A new and exciting thing for me! The rest of SHORE features volunteerism, dance, and feasting (probably my favorite of all four things). I saw the call for submissions on the Loft website. Emily curated this reading and asked that we send in pieces that were strongly tied to the idea of home, place, and land.

The town where I grew up is called Oak Harbor, and it's very small. When I say very small, I mean very small. The 2010 census clocked in around 2,500 people. I have friends who went to high schools bigger than that. I thought I really hated growing up in such a small town where everybody knew everybody's business, but then a few years ago, I pretty much barfed and all these poems about Oak Harbor just started coming out of me. I read four of them at the reading

The last poem I read was called "The House Does Not Look Burnt." It was published in an earlier version in Issue 27 of Neon Magazine in 2011. Three stanzas from the end of the poem, I just burst into tears. I made it to the end but kept apologizing and, thank God, there's even a video of this.

I was so embarrassed. I had never read the poem aloud at a reading before and had no idea that was going to happen. But after the reading, a lot of people came up to me and said "Hey, that's happened to me. Don't worry about it."

I'm not really sure what to do with this information. I did watch the video, like a scary movie: with a see-through scarf in front of my face, as if it would shield me from the embarrassment I felt. But it wasn't as bad as I remembered. I didn't have red snotty cry face, like I do when I cry at home. I just figure, when else am I going to get the chance to cry in front of a big group of strangers? So I'm posting the video here, because this is the true meaning of yolo.

If you want to see me read all the poems, I'm near the end of the reading. I get introduced around 1:03:48. If you have time, you should watch the whole thing--especially because at one point, Paula Cisewski reads three dazzling poems. If you just want to see the public crying, skip to 1:08:14. Also, if you've cried in public you now owe me a story.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Writing About Writing: Everyone's Favorite Least Favorite Thing

First of all, thanks to Kathleen Kirk for tagging me in this blog tour thing, and an apology to Molly Sutton Kiefer, who asked me to do this several months ago and I said I would and then didn't. Oops! I'm not a bad person, I just get distracted by TV shows. The two writers I'm tagging to do posts about this next are Joe Stracci and Erica Anderson-Senter, two fantastic writers and fantastic friends. Joe recently published a novel, Whitney, which you should definitely check out. At his book launch, I fell over a table and got a massive bruise which I nicknamed "Shame Bruise." It was there for many weeks as a reminder of how dumb I am. Erica is going into her second term in Bennington's MFA program (!!) and her poems drink diesel and scratch wherever they want, even if they're in public.

Erica hasn't actually agreed to do this yet, but you should check out her blog either way. I know if I waited for her permission I would get distracted by TV again and this post wouldn't transpire for another 3 months, my eyes glazed over with 3 seasons of Luther and a front to back rewatch of The West Wing.

Anyway, there are four questions here that I'm going to answer, and which Kathleen also answered, and which in theory, Joe and Erica will answer as well. Let's get to it then?

What are you working on?

That's always an interesting question for me, because I feel that the answer could likely be "nothing." I'm not really a planner when it comes to my writing. I do try to sit down and write at least a few times a week, but I don't have plans to finish anything in particular. I have a list of projects I flit between and work on whenever I feel called to. I'm trying to write poems named after each episode of The X-Files (I'm about halfway through season 1, writing-wise). I'm also writing a batch of poems based loosely on French New Wave films. The other thing I'm working on is a series of poems about the weird little town where I grew up. I assume it will be many years before any of these projects comes to a close.

How does your work differ from other writers in your genre?

It's hard to say. When I write poems I'm often inspired by other poets and the work of my friends and the members of my writing group, so I think that my poems are essentially tied to the work of many other writers. But then, I'm super weird (just check out the list of new things I did every day for five months in high school if you don't believe me), and so I think that on a fundamental level my poems are going to reflect my personality: weird. I like to try wacky stuff and write poems about the things that I find myself obsessing over, like stigmata and ghosts. 

Why do you write?

I've always been a writer. In second grade I wrote a poem called "FAT TURKY" [sic] in which I plot and execute a Thanksgiving murder (it was a turky, obviously), then eat the victim. In the end of the poem I get sad about having killed it but realize the turky is still alive in my "stumack" and we cut it out with a butcher knife. The details are murky but I don't hold grudges and now I like most birds. Anyway, I'm still writing.

What is your writing process?

My process isn't fancy. I just sit down and write. I pretty much only write poetry. I spend a lot of time thinking about poems and I have a lot of books full of ideas and words that I like. When I have thought about an idea for long enough, I sit down to write a poem about whatever that thing is. Sometimes I spend a long time procrastinating, and sometimes I give up right away. When I don't give up right away, I write a poem. It's either good or terrible. I hardly ever revise poems, because I'd rather just write a whole new poem than spend time making bad poems okay. That's probably the reason I've written about 700 poems since 2007. Because most of them are total crap.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

101 in 1001

I realize this is going to be my second list post in two days, but I was inspired yesterday by my friend Jaime's post about her progress on something called "101 in 1001." I was intrigued and looked into it a little more. The idea is simple: make a list of 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days. If there's anything I love, it's making a good list, and the mother of all lists is obviously the to-do list. What I liked about this project is that it gives you a time limit for the accomplishments, and it's also a great way to aggregate long- and short-term goals into one big list. So I made a list of my own.

I just finished the first thing on the list, which was to finish the list. And scarily enough, I'll be completing a second task on the list tonight: teach yoga. I'm going to be teaching my first yoga class this evening at Ambiente Gallerie in northeast Minneapolis. I'm both nervous and excited. I'll definitely keep you posted on how it goes!

Below is my list. What would be on yours?

101 in 1001: June 4, 2014 – March 1, 2017

1. Finish list of 101 things

2. Read a book together
3. Spend nothing for two weeks
4. Create list of life goals
5. Go canoeing
6. Go to a scotch tasting
7. See the orchestra
8. Bike ride & picnic
9. See a live sporting event
10. Go to 4 concerts
11. Go camping
12. Go sailing
13. Visit a museum
14. Get a pet
15. See a meteor shower
16. Ride a tandem bicycle

17 Practice yoga at least 12 times per month
18 Take 30 yoga classes in 30 days
19 Hold crow pose for at least 5 breaths
20 Teach yoga
21 Participate in a race of some kind
22 Bike or walk to work when possible instead of driving
23 Work toward full splits on both sides
24 Try a new kind of exercise or class

25 Go to my 10 year high school reunion
26 Get a passport
27 Go to France
28 Visit 3 new states (Maine, Alaska, TBD)
29 Go backpacking
30 Take a cross-country road trip
31 Visit a famous landmark I've never been to
32 See something that claims it's the “world's largest” of whatever that thing is
33 Do something that scares me
34 Go snowshoeing
35 Go skydiving
36 Visit the Boundary Waters
37 Go to the zoo
38 Meet somebody famous
39 Ride in a hot air balloon
40 Go to an amusement park
41 Visit the Mall of America
42 Swim with a dolphin
43 Visit a national park I've never been to
44 Go somewhere haunted

45 Participate in at least 4 poetry readings per year
46 Read at least 4 books per month
47 Write down all books read & movies watched for the duration
48 Get into at least 1 top-tier journal
49 Write at least 15 poems per month
50 Put together a solid full-length manuscript
51 Get 100 rejections per year (magazines, contests, etc.)
52 Get head shots taken by a real person instead of selfie-ing
53 Go on a writing retreat
54 Enter & win a writing contest
55 Take a class at the Loft
56 Publish another chapbook
57 Apply for a PhD program in creative writing
58 Write a short story
59 Attend at least 30 readings

60 Try to buy mainly used clothing
61 Try 10 new board games
62 Do a new thing every day for 1 month
63 Go through my clothes & donate what I don't wear
64 Host a dinner party
65 Take a photo every day for a month
66 Get my weird tattoo covered up
67 See the Northern Lights
68 Go back to vegetarianism for at least a month
69 Sing Men In Black at karaoke
70 Throw something into a wood chipper
71 Milk a cow
72 Say yes more

73 Give up all social media for a week
74 Keep blog updated
75 See all movies on AFI top 100
76 Go to the drive-in
77 Watch all the movies we own that I haven't seen
78 Give up internet games for a year

79 Cook 20 new recipes
80 Try being vegan for 1 month
81 Try 5 new foods
82 Eat something I grew myself
83 Be diligent about composting and recycling
84 Cook all my own meals for a month (no dining out)

85 Tackle the books
86 Organize the kitchen
87 Plant something
88 Get a huge bookshelf
89 Wall art
90 Get a new computer
91 Get real bedroom furniture (dressers)
92 Decorate the bedroom so it doesn't look like a prison cell

93 Try 10 new restaurants
94 Go on a brewery tour
95 Go to the Minnesota State Fair
96 Minneapolis movies in the park or music in the park
97 Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight showing
98 Go to the farmer's market
99 Go to 4 different summer festivals
100 Explore Minneapolis & St. Paul on my bike
101 Have dinner on a rooftop patio

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Doing New Things

I recently made a pact with a friend to try and do a new thing every day and see how long I could run with it. The conversation came up while we were at Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge in Minneapolis, because we ordered a huge drink that was on fire; something I'd never done before. I remembered having done a similar challenge when I was in high school as a new year's resolution and I've been thinking about that list ever since. Today, I found it, and I'm typing it up: all the weird stuff I did in 2004. I only made it to May, and the list is incomplete. Many days are missing, but this is truly too weird not to put up on the internet.

I'm not changing the way that I wrote anything down because it's just living proof I've always been super weird. Also, a lot of these things seem pretty unsafe, or they are just gross. Some of them I have no idea what they mean.

1. Ate paste
2. Gauged ears
3. Drank Dr. Pepper Red Fusion
4. Called the last person listed in the phonebook & told him he won six dollars
5. Made a collage
6. Walked on tables during College Composition class
7. Gave a dog a barnacle
8. Threw a full pop at the side of a moving train
9. Bought CD of a band I've never heard of
10. Drove home from work with my knees
11. Smashed an egg in my fist
12. Cut my eyelashes
13. Screamed "FOOD FIGHT!" in the cafeteria
14. Wore 21 shirts at the same time
15. Danced in the street
16. Ate a post-it note
17. Rode in the trunk of a car
18. Tipped Denny's waitress $50
19. Wrote all over my body with Sharpies
20. Punched somebody
21. Got a professional massage
22. Ate a spoonful of cocoa powder
23. Did our own Mystery Science Theater 3k @ Brad's house
24. Sat in cemetery @ night & watched stars
25. Busted a gallon of milk
26. Wrote my name in blood
27. Wrote a threatening message on the mirror
28. Danced about my my unda-wears
29. Wore a lampshade on my head
30. Naked snow angel
31. Went poo in a bag

1. Yelled YAHOO! real loud in a New York Walmart, danced with parking cone on my head
2. Snowboarded
3. Farted in a jar
4. Wiped dry-erase board clean with face
5. Got a swirlie
6. Took No-Doz
7. Won a cake, smashed Sam's face in cake
8. Pierced fingernail
9. Shoved a friend into a door
10. Read book backwards
11. Asked strangers for food
12. Played flute in hotel lobby
13. Went inside a Krispy Kreme truck
14. Dyed hair black/brown
15. Serenaded Melissa at her window at night
16. Drank toilet water
17. Won a pageant for Miss East Oak Harbor. I hate you Laura.
18. Took a sleeping pill
19. Received anonymous gift
20. Two hour Mad Libs
21. Lied & got away with it
22. Watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force
23. Wrote on Grant's forehead with marker
24. Told customer to have a bad day
26. Depansted Alana
27. Took part in a successful surprise party
28. Witnessed a man leg waxing
29. Broke into abandoned insane asylum

1. Stood under a helicopter as it took off
2. Sang Josh Groban song @ lunch while standing on chair
3. Wore nametag at work that said "Funk Master B"
4. Hardcore papercut
5. Saw MeWithoutYou, signed up for PETA
6. Scootered all over town
7. Knocked over toothpick container @ Denny's
9. Dressed up like a secret agent
12. Sent mass amounts of letters
17. Box fort
21. Freezer crisis
22. Got trophy
24. Handcuffed to somebody while driving
25. Wore makeup that made it look like I was beat up
26. Acted in a play
27. Went to a bar
28. Told somebody exactly what I thought of them
29. Started a fight with a kid I didn't know
30. Got a tattoo
31. Read a comic book

1. Ran down the street in the rain screaming
2. 50-person game of Mad Libs
3. Drove through gigantic puddle
4. House sat
5. Threw up orange soda
6. Made soup for a sick friend
7. Chased somebody like a zombie
8. Recorded a song I helped write
9. Shot a music video
10. Sat on the roof
11. Put candle out with fingers
12. Got accused of breaking into the high school (I did)
13. Took all the labels off a friend's canned food and taped them to the wall
14. Made 20-foot chain out of coat hangers
15. Interviewed kindergarteners, ate part of a crayon
16. Shook hands with John for five minutes
17. Pillow fight with myself
20. Franklin Park boobs
22. Brushed teeth w/ grape soda
26. Yelled at boss
27. Witnessed an explosion, filed police report
28. Changed pants in car
29. Showered with clothes on

1. Played hide & seek in cars
2. Dance Dance Revolution
6. Went to Chicago
7. Saw Blue Man Group
8. Ate at Medieval Times
11. Bandage arms!!!
12. Walked around with zipper down on purpose

That's where it ends. The new things I'm trying this year, ten years later, are a little less weird. Maybe.