29 January 2013

Atomic Age

As Month One in this year of poetry, January is a month primarily dedicated to generating new material: WRITING. My poetic meditations this cold month have been on the implications of a certain fun, little homophone: 

atom = Adam

So naturally, my thoughts have been on the gaps and surprising bridges between world creation and mass destruction, Christianity and chemistry. I'm sure that does not sound very poetic, but these linguistic explorations have led to some very interesting conclusions and possibilities. 

Note: Objects not drawn to scale.

In February, I will be polishing these new poems and deciding where-oh-where to submit them. Here's hoping I stay on track.

22 January 2013

Be my (Olivetti) Valentine

This past week I made my third custom typewriter cozy, commissioned through Etsy marketplace. Today I took it to the post office and wished it well on its flight to Zurich. Yes, the one in Switzerland. 

When it arrives, it will be snuggling up to one of these pretty red Valentine typewriters made by Olivetti. And if the customer is as pleased as I hope he will be, I will be making two more for him. Because this typewriter-lover has THREE of those pretty red Valentine typewriters: one for home, one for the office, and one for the other office. Makes perfect sense to me.

I really love making these custom cozies for fellow typewriter-lovers. Want one? Just follow the instructions here and I will make one for you, too!

15 January 2013

Typewriter tune-up: household cleaner edition

DISCLAIMER: I am not, by any means, a professional typewriter restorer or repair(wo)man. I am just an enthusiastic and practiced amateur. And I am honing some self-taught skills.

First, go to the office and fetch that most efficient electronics duster--the compressed air canister. If you don't actually have one of these lying around the house, well, you should. The detachable, narrow straw-nozzle blows powerful gusts of air into the tiny nooks where dust collects but fingers cannot reach. The compressed air canister is the perfect companion for basic typewriter maintenance because that collected dust can cause some rather frustrating sticking and jamming of keys and carriage and other things.

They are complicated beasts underneath.
Then, go to the bathroom for the nail polish remover. The acetone in nail polish remover, an organic alcohol compound, is a very effective solvent. 

 ***SECRET KNOWLEDGE OF A FORMER LIBRARY ASSISTANT: when the gross books landed on my desk, I would pull out the nail polish remover to attack the nastiness gumming up the mylar covers. After a little scrubbing, even the toughest grime came off with the acetone.***

I identified my problem area as the typebar: the metal arm between the key button you press on the keyboard and that actual piece of type that hits the ink ribbon, paper, and platen. I applied the acetone to the bases of the typebars with a narrow paintbrush in order to free up some sticking keys. You really can't be delicate about this business though because working away that grit requires some friction. So I tried as best I could to thread the brush bristles through the slots for the typebars. I would also recommend that you not use cotton swabs for this process because pieces of cotton will be left behind and just gum up the works even more.  NOTE: Be careful not to drip any acetone on the exterior body of the typewriter (top cover, etc.) as it will eat through the pretty paint job.

Under the hood

Lots of patience is required for this process, as it will probably take many repetitions before you finally see that nice smooth type action of a grit-free typewriter. But in the end, it is so worth it! All of my keys are typing nicely now and I can feel a sense of pride at having solved the problem myself, and with things I already had around the house!

09 January 2013

Another book review: Red Army Red, by Jehanne Dubrow

Little Red: a book review
A review of the new poetry collection from Rose O'Neill Literary House Director, Jehanne Dubrow. Red Army Red from Northwestern University Press, 2012.
Before I begin, I should admit to my biases. I like Jehanne Dubrow. She is a kind and intelligent person with a wonderfully irreverent sense of humor (that is very similar to mine) and I consider her a friend. But I am also a poet, and in this capacity, I have been following Jehanne’s work since the release of her first collection, The Hardship Post, in 2009. Each collection of hers is a poetic study, a project. String the poems together and you will see a loose narrative formed there in between.
In Red Army Red, Cold War’s Communism appropriates all shiny things for propaganda the way a teenage girl accessorizes. They are magpies at heart. Dubrow, in turn, collects these glimmering metallic details and nests poems in them. Of course, not all of these details are beautiful but they have a certain shine that draws us in anyway. In “Moscow Nights,” “rose perfume…smells of piss,” and another perfume smells of “pickled beets/ and turpentine.” And as in the mind of a teenage girl, all of these details are sex or innuendo, “the romance of objects.” Things that Communist dictators would hold just out of reach.
The first section of the book, titled “Cold War,” although packed with vivid images is a stark landscape full of old objects. Not just old, but old-world. Something that the speaker has clearly outgrown. Shirts and shoes are two sizes too small and all pleasures are taken in secret.
Section two, “Velvet Revolution,” is a rebellious adolescent testing the limits of her own body’s dictatorship. Although taken from the actual historical context of nearby then-Czechoslovakia, the phrase taken out of time seems tailor-made to capture the melodrama of teenage rebellion, with another nod toward an adolescent’s newfound fashion-consciousness. The poems of this section take the melodrama of an average American teenager and place it within a nation in flux. Let’s just triple the anxiety-level. The poems “Five-Year Plan” and “November 1989” capture this juxtaposition best. In the latter, the speaker has locked herself in the bathroom teaching herself to shave her legs and underarms while “Outside our house: Warsaw, avenues/ named for generals…Everything was falling down.”
In the last section, “Laissez-faire,” our speaker is in the full bloom of her new womanhood. And the world has opened its commercial doors to her (and her parents’ credit cards), with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Communism in the Eastern Bloc. This section is populated with satirical poems praising the wonder of merchandise and variety and everything that money can buy: “Bag ‘N Save,” “Our Free-Market Romance,” “Warsaw IKEA,” “A History of Shopping,” “As Seen on TV.” Little Red is all grown up now and flung from starkness into a post-Communist rumspringa. It is overwhelming and disorienting, but there is still the underlying philosophy of sex as commodification. Our speaker is left to navigate her way through this new Poland, flipped like the tornado-thrown bus in Dubrow’s “YouTube” poem. Because flinging a nation so quickly and jarringly from one extreme to another cannot come without casualties.
This review has been re-posted from the Literary House blog.

08 January 2013

LibraryThing Early Reviewers: Swallowing the Sea, by Lee Upton

Swallowing the Sea: On Writing & Ambition, Boredom Purity & Secrecy,  
by Lee Upton 

Lee Upton's essays explore the sequence of emotions that torment every writer. It is more a book of writers' therapy by way of intelligent reflection than a book of advice for writers, which I found rather refreshing. Don't most of us prefer commiseration over being preached at? Upton's tone throughout is humorous and sympathetic and commonsensical. Swallowing the Sea is also full of fun literary references, so you always feel you are in good company. 
I gave it 5 stars.

01 January 2013

Something old, something new

Highlights of the Year 2012:
  • I simultaneously landed my dream job and escaped the grueling 7-day workweek that is having two jobs. On September 20, I became the new Assistant Director of The Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College and I haven't looked back. 
  • I got up the guts and hosted my first-ever type-in and letter-writing social with my good, good friend Annie of Scribbling Glue on December 7. It was a blast! And we are already receiving offers for hosting future type-ins. I love creative collaboration!
  • I saw my second tiny batch of poems published in the wide world of lit mags. Read them here in the Fall 2012 issue of The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review!
  • I successfully completed my poetry version of NaNoWriMo in November: writing a poem a day for 30 days. A beautiful project emerged about a week into it and I love what I ended up with. I have just submitted select parts of this project to Muzzle Magazine, decomP magazinE, and Paper Darts. Cross your fingers!
  • I got my Chandler & Price Pilot printing press up and running! I even took on a couple printing commissions and printed some things of my own.
  • My typewriter cozies got a blog feature on UPPERCASE magazine, by the fabulous Janine Vangool.
  • I paid off the credit card debt that I consolidated in January, a year-long goal that I set for myself, in which I used all of the "extra" money (babysitting wages, Etsy sales, cat/dogsitting wages, bakery tips, other freelancing earnings, etc.) brought in each month to pay toward it. Granted, I racked up a few hundred dollars in new debt this past month for Christmas gifts, but that doesn't count! The old burden is gone.
  • My pets are all still here and happy and healthy. Kione, my little black cat, gave me a good scare when she got inexplicably sick just before Halloween. She is doing much better now, although she still needs to gain some of her former weight back. Karma, my troublemaking dog, is on a diet after putting on a bit too much weight. But we're all here and doing fine. Kevin, my Siamese-tabby cat, seems to be in perfect health (knock wood).

 Hopes for the Year 2013:
  • I want to try out a new poetry-writing schedule this year. My plan is something like this: one month will be spent with the focus of generating new material, and the following month with the focus of submitting work to literary magazines, and then back again. I'm hoping this alternating system will prove a more productive method for staying on top of both writing and submitting goals.
  • On a related note, I would like to set a goal of having my poems accepted at a minimum of three literary magazines in the next year. More is certainly better, but we'll see how it goes. 
  • I hope that Annie and I will have at least one, if not two or three more successful type-ins in the next year.
  • More printing projects.
  • Healthy and happy pets.
  • Time with friends.
We'll see what else comes this way in the near future. Some of the best things, I've found, we don't even know to hope for until they have already arrived. Happy New Year!