People always ask me if they can buy my book, and I’m always like, “Oh yeah, I have these beautiful books I made, I should definitely make them available online somewhere so you can get one.” But then I never do it!
I loathe when people complain about the weather. It’s like complaining about being in a body. Being in a body is 1) the only choice we all have, and 2) essentially a miracle. I’m bored by easy negativity because it’s not creating anything. It simply laments what IS.
Weather is the main way that nature touches us. Even if you live in a city, the weather affects you. One of my favorite things about living in the country is how big of a character the weather is in my life, in the lives of all my friends and neighbors. It’s something we all share, and yet it affects us differently—where Justin’s snowdrifts pile up is different from where mine do, but both of us have blocked windows.
That being said, February is not an easy time to be alive in the northern hemisphere. It’s cold, it can be dark for days. Which is why, two years ago, I created something called Patti Smith Month. It started when I decided to reread her book “Just Kids,” because my friend Scott had gone to the St Mark’s bookstore in search of it (we had recently seen Patti Smith do a reading there in frigidicecold winter). When he got to the bookstore, he couldn’t find it anywhere. He wanted to buy it because I’d told him how much I love it, and because we both loved the way Patti Smith looked at her reading, with her boyish body and her black beanie. We both loved what she said.
He finally asked a clerk at the front of the bookstore where he could find “Just Kids.” In my head, she looked at him like he was an Effing Idiot (because this is how clerks look at you because you ARE one and also they’re tired) (I’ve been there), and said “Her books are all in the back, next to her.”
Patti Smith was in the store at that very moment signing books. Instead of buying the book for himself, he bought me a copy, which he had her inscribe. This is one of my most prized possessions.
As I read this book two years ago, it lit all those little flames inside of me. Some of those flames have to do with being an artist, which has practically become a dirty word these days. Some of those flames have to do with the talismanic powers that we all have to instill our lives with meaning. Some of those flames have to do with wearing menswear and necklaces. Suffice to say: that book is a world I need.
And so I decided that every February, I would re-read it. That’s the beginning. That’s the kindling. Because when I reread it, I relive and remember my own dedication to art-making. I am reminded. I am refreshed. I refurbish my altars and don my Patti Smith shirt, the only shirt with a face on it I’d ever wear. I drink tea in the dark nighttime house and tear up pages of notebooks with words. Sometimes I commit to writing more letters, or revising a long piece, or improving the art on my wall.
This year, I will write a poem every day for the month of February. I will write a letter to a new penpal in the hopes that she wants to write back. I am in the process of beginning an exciting new literary project with a friend of mine, so that will come to fruition, too. I don’t know what else will happen. Patti Smith Month is about saying, I am a maker. And: there is no time but the present.
I believe Patti Smith Month is one of my best ideas. Not only because what it inspires, but because in making February a special month for myself, I have improved my own life. Patti Smith Month is the opposite of complaining about Feburary. It means I look forward to February and the way I’ll spend the month leaning in to the artistry inside me. Remember how environmentalists sometimes tell you that you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem? I disagree. You are both the problem and the solution. So even if Patti Smith Month isn’t what will make your own personal February awesome, find out what will. Then buy yourself a t-shirt and get to work.
I went to AWP last week, for what felt like a week. For you nonwriters, AWP is the biggest literary conference of the year. Workshops, lectures, readings, a bookfair big enough to kill any sane person’s love of books, famous writers all around, lots of glasses, lots of beards, lots of notebook scribbling, lots of beers. I schlepped apricots, trail mix, water, my phone, notebooks, and about ten pounds of books around the city of Boston for three days straight. Other things that occurred: lattes, reunions, inspiration, Anne Carson, free chocolate, free pens, free buttons, literary journals, poet swoons (see: Anne Carson), and I met my pen pal for the first time, with whom I have been corresponding for a year. Magic! Below are some tidbits from the weekend too good (read: weird &/or awesome) not to share.
“I believe that the future of poetry belongs to dead poets.” -Valzhyna Mort (poet)
“I prefer myself to Charles Simic.” -James Meetze (poet)
“You’re some kind of something and I like it.” -Dara Wier (poet)
“They will try to make you choose between the things you love but you do not have to choose.” Muriel Rukeyser, as quoted by another passionate woman
THEY WILL TRY TO MAKE YOU CHOOSE BETWEEN THE THINGS YOU LOVE BUT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE.
“For nonconformity, the world whips you with displeasure.” -Emerson, as quoted by a college professor dude
“I am just another person in all normal regards except for my love of lemurs.” -James Tate (poet), as quoted by another poet
“Lanyards are a great way to humble people.” -Jacob Otting (poet & comedian)
“This wig is terrific.” -Terrance Hayes, reading one of his poems (SWOON)
And here are some patterns I am loving this week, by Phoebe Wahl.
And that is all for now. Besides for the joy of another friend engaged, the speed of a new (old) car, the sound of the rain (rain! not snow! woah!), the crunch of breadcrust littered with seeds, and the feel of a hot mug in my hands.
This is a call, a calling-out, an offer, a request, a hopeful question posed to the wind (to the internet):
* Do you know how to use a letterpress with agility?
* Do you live in the Northeast?
* Are you interested in the woods? Do you like cabins?
* Are you willing to work for free?
The last question is the ugliest, this I know. This is really a call for a friend with letterpress skills. Are you interested in being my friend? I have a frequently-updated blog and a really cool boyfriend! I have a lot of eggs to give away! I enjoy dancing even outside of dancehalls! I am short but can jump high! I don’t care if you have a weird haircut, in fact I like it! Do you want to embark on a literary project together?
Here’s the deal: I had a letterpress dude, Sean, who was going to be Head Typesetter but now he has to move back to Arizona. Sean’s a poet, we took a book arts class together in grad school, he excelled at it (big time), whereas I just hammered along, finishing with some pretty but unskilled books. I don’t have the real letterpress abilities that would allow me make books I’m proud to sell. That’s where YOU come in.
This is a project in its early stages. The state of Vermont has given me their seal of approval: the company is Press House Press. The vision for the press goes something like this:
Envision a small cabin where, in previous times, a family may have pressed their apple cider during autumn. Envision inside it: good lighting, a cider press, a letterpress. Perhaps a chair or two, or a small bed. No big equipment. Just enough to make some cider to quench our thirst (and the thirst of visitors) and a small letterpress to make pamphlets, chapbooks, cards, mini-broadsides.
Please note: the press house does not yet exist. The letterpress has not yet been purchased. This is a project on the road to actuality. If you help me build it, it will come.
If this wild, insanely human, deliciously rural and thoroughly unpaid position interests you, we should meet up at AWP and talk. If you’re not going to AWP, we can meet up on the internet. Either way, you should email me. I can tell you a little more about myself and a lot more about how this press is going to happen. Maybe you’re just the person to collaborate with me. Maybe we’re going to make some gorgeous and inspired little papergoods together. Goodness, I hope so.
White River Junction is where I live, and work, and eat. It is also where I yoga and latte and gossip and discover treasures. It is where I mail letters & where I show off my extensive hat collection. Joe Brainard passed through here on a bus once (probably more than once), and he wrote about it, and these days I’m reading Joe Brainard again because I think of him as a pick-me-up, even though he was mostly sad and worried about being too skinny and anxious about the concept of being a “painter” and the concept of love lasting. Then how does he make me so happy? Because he enjoyed being alive and wrote a lot just to do it and he drew pictures of things on tables and hung out with James Schuyler, one of my gay dead loves. And he had a good attitude, he did his exercises and illustrated books and drove places with friends. He was one of those charmers, I think. Here’s some of him.
*top image is from The Best American Poetry blog and the bottom image is from my phone’s camera, taken while drinking black tea with milk & honey.