Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bouquet of Puffy Hearts for Mom

My latest big creation: a vase full of puffy hearts on sticks. It was a birthday present for my Mom, so I couldn't post about it until she got it, which was just a few days ago. She loves it. I had such fun making it, so it's very rewarding that she appreciates it so much. It was my brilliant idea to put them on sticks, like flowers, because I know she loves flowers. Each one is different, and they are even different sizes. Each side of each heart has a different fabric. I embellished them with ribbon, buttons, charms (see the birthday cake hanging out of the pink silk flower near the back?), felt, brads, and beads. The sticks I used were long q-tips for the small hearts and chopsticks for the big ones. I colored the sticks with markers so they wouldn't be plain wood. To make the vase a little bulkier, I smushed up a big piece of purple tulle, then to weight down the bottom, put aquarium-type blue rocks inside the tulle, and stuffed that inside the vase. Then I glued little blue glass cabachons around the outside of the vase, and some interesting green ribbon around the neck. Ta-da!

Monday, October 27, 2008

When Poetry Got Ruined for Me

Okay, first of all, this dog has nothing to do with poetry. But J. complained that my last post didn't have any pictures, so I'm putting a picture on this one. This is a great thrift store find from last month. It's a bank. And it's a dog. And it's cute. It makes me happy.

So, about poetry. September 11 kind of ruined poetry for me. Here's how it happened. It was such a momentous event, probably the most emotional historical event in my lifetime (so far, I should say), and the way I tried to comprehend it, make sense of it, was to turn to poetry. Because I was writing poetry at the time, and working on my Masters thesis in writing. I went to a local event with some great poets and listened to their poetic responses to the event. I particularly remember Emily Carter, a fabulous writer, using the f-word a lot in her presentation, because she was so pissed off about how everyone on television was already talking about healing not even a week after this horrible thing had happened, and why was America so obsessed with healing, why couldn't we slow down and feel the pain?

Then Patricia Kirkpatrick stepped up and read a horrible poem (I hate her, she was one of my writing professors and I demanded I be removed from her class after she tried to intimidate me--long story) in which she not only called out to make sure her pre-teen son was in the room listening while she read it, but then she had him in the poem. She used her children in her writing. While they were still children. I personally think this is wrong. And abusive, in a way. Anyway, that made me sick. There were some other brilliant poets (Jim Moore, for one) that had words of inspiration, and I left the event feeling somewhat better, if you can call it that. I felt connected, anyway, to a community, to my people, other writers, in this strange time.

But it wasn't enough. I wanted more. I looked for more poetry. I looked online. Mistake. Lots of bad poetry. I looked then for poetry that had already been written about other tragic events, to see if it mattered, if it had to be about 9/11 for me to feel some current resonance with it. And I just started collecting these poems that I thought were effective measures of grief. A lot of them were about WWII. In Flanders Fields gives me goosebumps.

When this was all happening, I was still working on my Masters degree. After I graduated, I decided to propose a class to teach at The Loft Literary Center, as many Hamline MFA graduates had followed that track. And I was feeling pressure to follow that track, as I've said in my previous post. But I also wanted to do something that was meaningful to me. So I proposed teaching this class about writing poetry out of grief. It was a little difficult to draw a line, I didn't want to be a therapist, I wanted serious (oh, here we go with the seriousness of it all) writers who wanted to use the craft of poetry to make meaningful art out of an experience of grief, whether it be a public event, like 9/11, or a private loss.

My idea was summarily rejected. It was thought to be much too ambitious. They were worried I had no idea how much I was proposing to accomplish in one class. So I was crushed. I really shouldn't have proposed it. I didn't want to do it. I mean, I wanted to prove I could do it. But I didn't want to do it. So when they said I couldn't, that knocked the wind out of me.

I used to write a lot of poetry. Back when we first moved to Minnesota, I was all aglow with the wonder of the seasons and everything was beautiful and I'd just married this prince of a guy...since then I got a bit jaded. I've written maybe 2 poems since I've been out of school. But I've been through all kinds of grief. You'd think I'd have oodles of odes. Nope. I find it hard to approach. And I don't read much of it either. Sometimes I will pull one of my poetry books out and read a couple poems, and I'll think, yes, that's it. That's exactly it. But other times I read someone who's supposed to be this great poet and I'm just not willing to slog through all the allusion and metaphor and I just think "what a load." Does that make me a bad writer? Or reader?

I think some serious poets are full of crap. So there. And some are posers. Billy Collins, I remember when he was Poet Laureate, one of my poetry professors was just so annoyed about it, said he wasn't a serious poet, and the more I read his poems, the more I see what he means. Collins is cheeky and always reserves the right to step out of himself and join the boys, not stay committed to his emotional investment in the poem. Does anyone understand what the heck I'm talking about here? American culture is all about satire. We hate ourselves. We make fun of ourselves all the time. We think we're making fun of each other, but it's us, too. I just read this really interesting article about a new book called Why We Hate Us, about "a complex society that is drawn to its culture and also repulsed by it." I think I need to read this.

Will I be able to read poetry again? I think so. Maybe not in whole book-length doses, but that's okay. I remember like 15 years ago when I was writing a zine, I got this poetry zine from this guy, and it was so hilarious, every poem was funny enough to make you pee your pants. I wish I could find that. Now that was some good poetry. I remember he made fun of my dreams, how I would take them too seriously. He drew this cartoon of me looking really serious, talking about how in this dream "I had a piece of toast," and he's standing next to me listening, trying not to fall asleep. It was done in a sweet way, like hey, Merc, lighten up. God, I wish I could find those poems.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dreams of Inadequacy

Oh, for Chrissakes. Or as Charlie Brown would say, "I can't stand it. I just can't stand it." I keep having these dreams about school. Which is nothing new. And yet...It used to be that I'd dream I didn't really finish my Bachelor's degree because I had this one incomplete on a math class that I never completed and I felt the most horrible perfectionist guilt about it (that part is true), so I'd dream that I had some class I'd forgotten to go to all semester and now it was finals time and I knew I was going to flunk out. Then it was more than one class. Then it just became a hopeless chase in which I couldn't find the rooms or even a piece of paper or pencil to write with when I did go to class.

Now I'm having dreams that I didn't really complete my thesis for my Master's Degree. Which is not true. I completed it with flying colors. My thesis panel even told me I should send it out to publishers, that it was that good. But I'm not doing that, and I haven't felt like going back to that piece of writing, more than 5 years later. It's complicated. I lost a baby just a few weeks before my thesis was due. I was so happy to be pregnant, and it was huge blow to lose that baby. So there's a lot of grief associated with that time. And because of that whole event, I turned in other directions, found other creative outlets. Like knitting, sewing, altered art, and so on. And yet part of me feels guilty that I haven't gone on to publish a novel or a book of poems. I hear my thesis adviser telling me about the responsibility we have as poets not to waste that talent... Is it a waste that I'm spending my energy and time being a mother now? Absolutely not. And doing art instead of writing? Or even doing some writing that isn't what my adviser might have expected of me? It's like I always have to feel inadequate in some way. I always find some authority figure to attach to an expectation, whether or not it's really their expectation or just my perceived expecatation. But even if it is their expectation that I should be doing something else with my life right now, SO WHAT? Why do I have to get so bogged down with other people's expectations of me? When does it end?! What a pain.

I think all artists go through this, and if I didn't have any doubts about my talents then I'd just be an obnoxious boob. But it's hard to find a balance sometimes, to get out from under those demons. The better dreams are the ones where I decide to just take off and fly above it all, and I do literally fly like a bird, above all the chaos below me. But I have to really believe to be able to even get up off the ground, much less rise up to great heights where my body becomes something else entirely, larger, lighter, and more expansive than I could possibly imagine. I have to feel the force, Luke.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fabric Postcards

I love making these, too. I really worked hard on the quilting on these, and the picture of the single red one is my favorite. This is just me guiding the material, I'm not even using a quilting foot, I just wanted to follow some of the lines of the design in the fabric to make it more interesting, and I think it came out great here. I also embroidered chain stitch on the edges of the different fabrics I sewed together. The fabric is all Moda from my favorite, The Fat Quarter Shop.

Halloween Hearts

Aren't these fun? I just got this great packet of Halloween fabric for my birthday and I made these for a friend who loves Halloween even more than I do. She loved them. She is on a very restrictive diet so I told her to fill her candy bowl with these instead of candy. She liked that idea.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Call for Stories

This is a shot of a great reading spot in the library I used to work at. You can see the bookstacks reflected in the windows. So let's talk about books. I still need stories for my next issue of Bookstore Thief.

Can you email me a true story that happened to you that has something to do with either working in a bookstore or a library, or a story that has something to do with your reading life?

Maybe you burned a book, why? Maybe you read a particular book once every year, why? Maybe there's a book you hated in school and it scarred you for life. Or there's a book that saved your life when you were 12. Maybe you had a brush with fame in a bookstore. Met your future spouse there? Did something crazy?

It doesn't have to be a long story, just a few paragraphs. Heck, I'd even take a few lines if they're interesting or funny.

If your story is ten pages long then obviously you need to write your own zine. My hope is that I get enough stories to make another zine that's a compilation of these stories. I will of course give everyone credit for their stories, and even provide plug space for your Etsy shop, blog address, etc. Or if you want to remain anonymous, you can do that, too.

I just think this will be really fun reading for bibliophiles like me. I got the idea when I read this great zine called 12 Items or Less that I bought off Etsy all about working in grocery stores and shopping in them. I thought it was fascinating. You're only going to find things like this in zines, little vignettes that don't fit anywhere else but are fun to read nonetheless.

For now, I'm going to have a deadline of February 2009, so you have plenty of time to stew about what you'd like to write. Meanwhile I'll be working on other articles for the second issue of Bookstore Thief, the first issue of which I hope to have done in a week or so and on Etsy for sale. If you have any questions, email me . Thanks for reading my humble blog!

My Birthday and that Giveaway Thingee

Here's my delicious gluten-free chocolate cake that I had on my birthday, from Bittersweet Bakery, which I highly recommend. As far as my giveaway, boo hoo. Only one person sent me a story. Actually, she sent me two stories. So I'm going to ask Rita which prize she would like (or all of them). I did have a nice birthday, and now I can be happy in the thought for a whole year that I am the answer to the universe (42).