Quotables: Philip Levine

Curious what this “Quotables” thing is all about? Check out the first post here.

Photo courtesy of www.poets.org

Photo courtesy of http://www.poets.org

“You don’t need permission to write about life on Mars. You can do whatever the hell your imagination is gifted with.” —Philip Levine

In 2012, I attended the Dodge Poetry Festival. While I saw a bunch of incredibly talented writers speak, this particular quote from Philip Levine has stayed with me to this day. Perhaps it’s because I shared this quote with my first composition class. Perhaps it is because I included this quote in a prior blog post. However, I think the main reason this quote has stayed in the forefront of my mind for the past few years is because it hits the core of a construct I have struggled with nearly all my life—the need for permission.

As kids, we all need permission to do certain things, like go to a friend’s house or eat a cookie. It wasn’t until around 2009 or 2010 (while in my MFA program), however, that I realized I was holding back when writing. There were delicate subjects I wasn’t writing about. There were certain things I wasn’t allowing myself to feel. And all this because I felt I didn’t have permission. I had a wealth of emotion, but I told myself, “Who am I to feel it?”

Many people and events have helped break down the crud to get my “dam of creativity” flowing, but permission remains a funny thing. I feel free to write, but what about to live a life with a flexible work schedule? What about feeling anger?

What I love about Levine’s quote is that it’s sort of a “catch-all” permission slip to do “whatever the hell” you want. Indeed, it’s a permission slip to do, perhaps, what you must.

And those last words. To do what “your imagination is gifted with.” Yes! The feelings, daydreams, talents—all that we feel is a waste, not practical, or what others won’t accept or may dismiss as silly—is actually a gift. Share it!

What do you feel you need permission for? What would you do if you used this quote as your permission slip? Do you have any moments that acted as a sort of “permission slip” for you to do something you wanted?

 

The Resolution Game: 2015 Edition

Image courtesy of becuo.com

Image courtesy of becuo.com

We’re almost two weeks into the new year. I figured it was time to not only wrap up my previous year’s resolutions but to also share my goals for 2015.

2014:
I’ll admit it: I didn’t do as well with these goals as I had hoped. It may have been due to the fact that I had so many goals. It may have just been apathy. It may have been because I planned a wedding in 2014. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I finished what I did, and I’m looking ahead…right after this recap.

1. Read 5 classic books
I read The Hobbit. The problem I found with this goal is that I read one or two more classic books in 2014 but couldn’t count them because they weren’t on my list. The particular list I made was pretty limiting, unfortunately.

2. Read 5 books I already own
Yeah, didn’t do to hot on this one either. There must be a phenomenon among readers where we need to have the shiniest books, but once we own them, they get lost in the shuffle and we go on to shinier books.

3. Read 10 books on my Goodreads “To Read” list
OK, I rocked this one and finished out the year having read 20! Really proud of this.

4. Read and review the ARCs (both digital and hard copy) that I’ve received in the past two years
Aaaand right back into resolutions I didn’t do well with. I’m almost done with one ARC, but didn’t quite finish in time for the new year. I’m hoping to keep my Netgalley review average to about 70-80 percent this year. (It’s currently hovering around 1 percent. Dismal, I know.)

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

5. Read the four Gospels
I started this one. I got up to chapter 11 in Matthew, chapter 9 in Luke and John, and didn’t start Mark. This is getting depressing….

6. Send chapbook out to at least five different contests
Yay, a pick-me-up resolution! Not only did I submit to more than five contests, my chapbook, Field Guide to Fire, was picked up for publication by Finishing Line Press. Booyah!

You can pre-order your copy here.

7. Spruce up my full-length poetry manuscript to send out to at least two fall book contests
This didn’t happen. I kept meaning to and wanted to send out to one or two November contests. I forgot how much time putting together a full-length manuscript takes.

8. Acquire a full-time teaching gig
No dice, unfortunately, though I did apply to a few positions. Also, this is largely out of my control because I can only apply, not hire myself (though that would be awesome if I could!).

9. Work on a piece of art every other week
This one went fairly well. I broadened my idea of what “art” is and took off the pressure of having to work on a piece I wanted to sell. I let myself play and got some fun doodles in the process.

10. Blog at least twice a week
*Sigh* This did not happen either…at least not consistently. Many life events derailed me. BUT I made a shiny editorial spreadsheet at the end of 2014. Hopefully it will guide me to a more consistent blogging schedule in 2015.

11. Pay off one of my two major credit cards
Ending on a high note, woot! This one’s done and done.

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2015:
Mmmmkay, I want to keep this year simple. As I worked through last year’s resolutions, many people made the good-natured comment, “I get overwhelmed just looking at your list!” I realized I did too, but tried to plow through anyway. The result was much frustration and a lack of focus.

With that in mind, I picked a word for 2015 (“gather), and I’m focusing more on creating habits in areas that are super important to me. Here is my (more manageable) list of resolutions:

1. Cook a healthy meal once a week
Toward the end of 2014, I got super sick. During that time, my husband and I ate a lot of

Picture courtesy of sexyeatz.com

Picture courtesy of sexyeatz.com

takeout food. I don’t feel great about that decision, though I realize there were circumstances in the way of cooking healthy meals. I want to be more conscious of what I consume in 2015.

I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself because I still love chocolate. I want this to be fun. The goal isn’t to lose weight; it’s to take care of my body. I plan on being around for a while! Plus, I love cooking and want to indulge in this practice more.

If you have any recipes you’d like to pass along, feel free to e-mail them to me at michelle.e.greco [at] gmail [dot] com.

2. Meditate once per day
Taking care of one’s spirit is just as important as taking care of one’s body, in my opinion (or IMHO, as the kids are saying these days). My goal here is to be mindful of God each day, whether it be through prayer, yoga, reading the Bible, talking a hike, doodling, etc. I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to sit in silence to be close to God. Sometimes I like to sit still, but sometimes I’m too antsy for that. Keeping the way I meditate open will, I think, help me with succeeding with this goal.

3. Work on art once per week
I’m upping the ante a bit here. I want to work on art once per week, which hopefully won’t be too hard since I’m OK doodling once per week all year.

However, I’d love to work up to arting three times per week and focusing more on selling my art. My vision goes something like this:
Start out: Once per week (work on doodles and sketchbook ideas, visit craft fairs to get ideas, and make artist contacts)
Continue to: Twice per week (work on both sketchbook ideas and starting art I’m willing to display to build body of work)
End the year at: Three times per week (sketchbook ideas, have several finished art pieces in whatever medium or in a theme, begin forming a plan to sell more art seriously/exhibit more of my work)

Photo courtesy of clipartpanda.com

Photo courtesy of clipartpanda.com

I’ve also given myself a hashtag: #arteveryweek2015. If you want to join in with making art every week, tag your work on Instagram!

The goal with the hashtag (and this goal in general) is to have fun and, hopefully, build a bit of a web presence. I just want people to talk to me about art. I’m not fishing for compliments; I’m just looking for an online community.


4. Read 60 books
 I would love for this number to be broken down as such:
20 books on my “To Be Read” list on Goodreads
20 books I already own
20 ARCs I’ve received

Ideal? Yes. Realistic? I’m not sure. I’m going to shoot for it, but as long as I have read at least 60 books in 2015, I’ll count it as a win.

5. Keep a steady writing practice
This one has steps too. Sort of. There are many things I would like to do this year as far as writing. Here are a few items I’ll keep in mind when I think of this resolution:

  • Celebrate my chapbook!
  • Revamp my full-length collection and send it to two fall contests
  • Aim to have one new draft of a poem to read at each reading I go to (which may translate to writing a new draft per month
  • Work on a piece of fiction or nonfiction (gotta spread the wings a bit sometimes)

Your turn to share: What are your goals for the new year?

Have You Found What You’re Looking For?

Photo courtesy of elitetrack.com

Photo courtesy of elitetrack.com

A while back, I read this post over at Radio Silencer. It’s so funny what people look up…and how it all can somehow lead to your blog.

When I look at the search terms now, I mostly see “unknown search terms.” Boring! So this post is dedicated to the good ‘ole days when I could see what hilarity led people to my blog:

  • Presidential badassery – …I…what? I mean, it seems like two words that don’t necessarily go together, unless you are referring to Ronald Regan riding a velociraptor. Then that all makes sense.
  • Distomance – A fun word that combines dystopia and romance. And I did write about Divergent, so yeah, this one makes sense.
  • Joe Weil poems – Another that’s reasonable. I have read a poem by Joe Weil on this blog.
  • комиксы predator – I can’t even. A Russian predator? As in, Predator wearing a fuzzy black hat and kicking out his feet to folk tunes? Now that I can get behind.
  • My 2014 new year – Another one that makes sense. My resolutions posts usually get good traffic.
  • Wesley Mcnair – *shoulder shrug*
  • Barefoot business – Ah yes, always be businessing…barefoot, if possible.
  • Dr Who and Jesus – Did I write a post comparing Jesus to Doctor Who (the tenth to be exact)? Yes, I did. You’re welcome.
  • How tall is Rachel Frederickson – I weighed in (see what I did there?) on this controversy because people bashed her because she was thin. I know that feels. Apparently many other people wanted opinions on this as well.
  • Dear Sister AK Press – I end on one I’m the most proud of because it was a huge step for me in a lot of ways not only to send my work to the Dear Sister anthology, but also to be published alongside some great artists.

 

What are some odd search terms that have led to your blog? Or what are random search terms you’ve entered?

Poetry Monday – Mark Strand

Photo courtesy of poetryfoundation.org

Photo courtesy of poetryfoundation.org

The book from which the poem is taken. Photo courtesy of oxonianreview.org.

The book from which the poem is taken. Photo courtesy of oxonianreview.org.

Too many talents have died this year. Among them is poet Mark Strand, who passed this Saturday. I’d like to dedicate this Poetry Monday to his work and memory.

“The Coming of the Light” by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

What I like about this poem: I first heard about this piece when I took a workshop with Jericho Brown a few years back. He featured this poem in a really cool prompt. Since that time, I’ve used this poem in a few workshops with high school students. Because of these experiences, I associate this poem with playfulness and wonder. I often think of the surreal imagery in this poem, particularly the “warm bouquets of air.”

Bonus! Prompt: Here is the prompt Jericho Brown gave us in that workshop I mentioned earlier–
What is the opposite of “up”? Down.
What about “left”? Right.
What about “green”?
What about “the”?
Starting to get more difficult, right?

The prompt is to re-write this poem. The catch is that you must re-write it word for word using the opposite of each word. For example, write down the opposite of “even,” then the opposite of “this,” and continue in this manner until you’ve finished the whole poem. It’s OK if you are not certain of a word’s opposite. Make it up! “Opposite” can be interpreted in so many different ways. This is a great exercise for letting go of expectations and being surprised!

Poetry Monday – Sam Sax

The man himself. Image courtesy of samsax.tumblr.com

The man himself. Image courtesy of samsax.tumblr.com

The book from which the poem is taken. Image courtesy of www.buttonpoetry.com

The book from which the poem is taken. Image courtesy of http://www.buttonpoetry.com

“The Hunger Artist” by Sam Sax

the boy ate from my hands
then ate my hands,

finger bones making old
noises between his teeth,

my arm in his mouth down
to the elbow, the shoulder.

he gnaws through the sinew
strung up in my neck

like a white upright piano.
it sounds terrible

when he eats, all those
depressed keys

making music. each organ
forging sound. his windpipe

a well that drowns bright
boys like coins with dead

blues singers’ faces stamped
in the metal. fathomless pit,

cannibal ditch, the father,
the son, & the holy spirit

spread across his fingers
& lips.

the job of any competent
parasite is to convince

its host of the their relationship’s
symbiosis. i loved him even

as the anesthetic went in,
hatchet lifted from a hymnal,

& when i was at last inside him,
i couldn’t make a sound.

What I like about this poem: I love poems that give me the creeps sometimes, and this one certainly does! (Also, I thought it was appropriate since Halloween is coming up.) I love the coupling of both the religious and the macabre—like hymnal and hatchet, as well as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on the artist’s lips—which I think is what makes the poem so good at being spooky. I like that this poem is irreverent (even down to the refusal to use capitalization.) Lastly, the following lines get me every time:

the job of any competent
parasite is to convince

its host of the their relationship’s
symbiosis. i loved him even

as the anesthetic went in…

It can be tempting to think that one is just entering into a gross poem, but those last lines show it’s something more—the manipulation, the love even as the lover is being hurt by the beloved. I mean, it’s just the grittiness of life!

I recently discovered an earlier version of this piece, which, I think, has a much different vibe than the one printed here. If you’d like to hear an earlier version of this poem, click here.

An Update, Some Great News, and a Poem for Your Monday

Hey gang,

As I shared in my resolutions update, I’ve been wondering how to restructure my blog so as to better facilitate posting more regularly. One of those ways involved making a three-sheet spreadsheet. Another includes making some tweaks to featured posts.

On this note: I’m trying a new format for Poetry Monday. Rather than posting a video of me reading the poem, I’m going to still share a poem, but in typed format, then give a few sentences as to why I like it. If this goes well, I’ll keep doing it. If not, I’ll go back to videos in a few months.

The great news: I got word on Friday that my chapbook,”Field Guide to Fire,” will be published by Finishing Line Press! No word on a publication date yet, but I’ll be sure to post when I know! Now that I’ll be on the author side of things, I’ve got a kick in the pants to support other authors and catch up on reviews I’ve been dragging on.

velociraptor_FINAL

Why raptors? Why the heck not?! Thanks to Beth Colletti for helping me with this image.

Speaking of reviews, I know I don’t usually post star ratings, but I’ve come up with a system. I’ll give books “Raptor Ratings.” The highest rating is five raptors. Why raptors? Why the heck not?!

Now for the poem. I’ve posted quite a few poems by Kim Addonizio on my blog, but given my recent publication news, she’s the first that comes to mind. I’m over the moon with this news, so I want to share a poem that makes me feel unstoppable!

“What Do Women Want?” by Kim Addonizio (from Tell Me)

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Photo courtesy of goodreads.com

Kim Addonizio - How badass is she? So badass. Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

Kim Addonizio – How badass is she? So badass.
Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


Why I like it
: My word, the sass! I love the no-holds-barred brashness of the language. “I want it to confirm/your worst fears about me.” I mean, damn! Addonizio dives head first in the face of what is expected of women and says, “Screw you!” I love those last lines. They’re so affirming, as if to say, “This is who I am, and I’ll be this ’til I die.” I read this poem and I have insta-confidence. And, of course, I just love red dresses.

Poetry Monday – Teresa Carson

Thanks for joining me for the last Poetry Monday until September. Today I’m reading two poems from Teresa Carson’s latest book “My Crooked House.” The poems are “To My House” and “My Crooked House.” Enjoy!

One Second Every Day – April

Here’s the fourth month of my One Second Every Day project. This month includes baking, my cousin’s sweet rollerskating moves, and lots of Cards Against Humanity.

The song in the video is Matt Nathanson‘s “Birthday Girl” (in honor of my birthday).

(Curious as to what this project is all about? See the first post.)

Artist’s Spotlight – Robert Garcia

When I first met Roberto Garcia a few years ago, what stuck out to me was his incredibly easy-going and fun personality. As I got to know him, I realized he had much insight as well. These qualities make their way into his artwork. Enjoy the interview with my good friend, Roberto Garcia!

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Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Roberto Garcia: I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. As a kid I’d take my toys apart and combine them. GI Joe’s with Transformer body parts, and stuff like that. Then I tried my hand at comic books and portraits. Recently, I’ve been working with acrylic paints, markers, and newspaper. Let’s see where that goes.

RO: What first inspired you to art?
RG: Hmm. I suppose it’s just something I had to do. Writing, drawing, and music just called to me. It didn’t hurt that my mother had all kinds of books on hand at home. I was just moved to do it all the time.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites and why? Is there a different type of medium that you would like to try in the future?photo1
RG
: Writing is my favorite medium, but I love painting with acrylics. Something about what you can imply with the colors. I’m no expert, I just enjoy it.

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
RG: I like to explore my world and see what it gives me. It could be an article, a scene, a photograph, or a moment. I try to complicate whatever it is that inspires me, and present it in a thought provoking way.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
RG: I spent a year on a really terrible piece of art! It was pastel chalks, acrylics, an actual poem glued to the canvas, and it was horrible. I finally let it go, but after that I painted four to five pieces that I really like. So, I guess I had to get that ugly out. Haha.

RO: Your chapbook, “Amores Gitano,” was recently published, which is very exciting! Could you speak a bit about putting together the chapbook as well as the publishing process? How would you describe the feeling of holding the chapbook in your hands for the first time?photo2
RG
: Most of those poems came from an erotica themed reading a friend of mine put together. I worked them and worked them, and sent them to the editor of Cervena Barva Press, and the rest is history. It’s a fun book because it morphed so much as I revised it. They could be read as poems of desire and longing, or the artist’s struggle with art, and the muse. I was fortunate to deal with a professional press, and they made everything smooth and painless. When I finally held the chapbook in my hand I was like, Wow!! The publish date was right before AWP, and the Cervena Barva press had issues for sale at their table, so it was surreal. I was at AWP Boston and copies of my chapbook were on sale. Wild!

RO: Your chapbook has a Spanish title, which means “Gypsy Loves.” Please speak a bit as to why you chose to have a title in a foreign language for an English market. What does that title mean to you?photo4
RG
: Might seem cliché, but everything sounds better in Spanish, and French. The title is a nod to Garcia Lorca. These are passionate poems full of longing, searching, and the mysterious. I had an English title for the book, just in case. Thankfully Gloria Mindock, the Editor/Publisher at Cervena Barva Press, insisted I stay with the Spanish title. I think it captures the feel and passion of the poems. I should also add that the title is in no way a slight to the Romani people.

RO: How does your background as a writer inform your visual art? Conversely, how does your background in visual art inform your writing?
RG: Sometimes a line of poetry will spark an image, and I find myself kicking a painting around in my head until I put it on canvas. However, art greatly inspires my writing! I write a lot of ekphrastic poetry, and flash fiction pieces based on art work I see.

RO: Every artist has subjects that pop up again and again in his or her work. What are those subjects for you? Is there a different subject you’d like to tackle in future work?
RG: Race always pops up in my work. As I study race relations in America I’ve begun to realize why. Everything in America is hypersexualized, and hyperracialized. So in a way it is inevitable for an artist to either write/draw about it, or avoids it. Relationships are also a subject that comes up in my work. I find interpersonal experiences fascinating, and that comes up a lot.

photo3RO: If you could spend an evening with any writer, living or deceased, who would you choose and why? On a similar note, if you could spend an evening with any visual artist, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
RG: Wow. Can it only be one? That’s impossible. However, I’ll cheat a little. I’d really like to go back, and hang out with the Harlem Renaissance artists, the whole crowd, at one of those big band jazz swing clubs!  I believe that the artists of the Harlem Renaissance are the American version of all those European writers that wrote under communist, and dictatorial regimes. The conditions they endured, (racism, brutality, being marginalized, economically) and they still produced amazing work. Yes, definitely the Harlem Renaissance.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
RG: I like to collect old stuff, but nothing handmade that I can think of. I have an old Olympia typewriter from the 60’s.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
RG: Easy, a healing factor. Wolverine is one of my favorite characters for that reason. Yep, indestructability, if I could have a second, The Force! I want to be a Jedi slash Mutant!!

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
RG: I’d like artists to know that working at your craft every day strengthens the muse. It’s nice and whatever to think about the muse. However, hard work is the best muse. Or maybe it is the best thing we can do for the muse. Thanks Michelle!!

 

And thank you, Roberto, for sharing your insights! If you’d like to follow Robert’s happenings, visit him on Tumblr and Twitter.

2014 Resolutions Update

Now that we’re a little more than a quarter of the way through the year, I figured it was time for an update on my 2014 resolutions. I’m kicking butt in some areas and lagging in others, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I’m not being as hard on myself as I was last year, which certainly helps. I mean, I’ve got a year…it’s natural for my focus on certain things to ebb and flow.

Anyhoo, here’s the update:

1. Read 5 classic books
Have not started this one yet. I have read Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” this year, but I didn’t put it on my classic book list. Le sigh…

2. Read 5 books I already own
Haven’t started this one either….

3. Read 10 books on my Goodreads “To Read” list
140213_001…because I’m focusing on my Goodreads list! Two down, eight more to go! (In case you are curious, my Goodreads book reading goal this year is 50 books total. As of the time of this post, I’m eight behind but am determined to catch up!)

  1. Damn You, Autocorrect! – Jillian Madison (January 2014)
  2. Cinder – Marissa Meyer (January 2014)

4. Read and review the ARCs (both digital and hard copy) that I’ve received in the past two years
Haven’t started on this one either (wow, I’m really not doing to well with my reading goals. Now I know what to focus on in the next three months).

5. Read the four Gospels
Is it awful I forgot I made this resolution? (Sorry, God!). Once again, another resolution to really focus on in the next few months.

6. Send chapbook out to at least five different contests
I’ve actually been pretty good with this one. I’ve sent my chapbook out to two contests so far. Last weekend, I went to a chapbook workshop to get feedback on my book from professionals. They gave me some really good advice. My hope is to tweak my chapbook in the next week or two and send it to a few more contests. I’ve got a list of about five or six more to send to, so that’s my creative project for the rest of the month.

7. Spruce up my full-length poetry manuscript to send out to at least two fall book contests
Even when I wrote this one down, I knew I wouldn’t get to it until the summer. By the time of my next update (late June/early July), I’m hoping to have at least started the sprucing up process.

8. Acquire a full-time teaching gig
I think this one is turning into the “publish a chapbook” goal from least year. By this I mean that I can’t possibly control whether I get a full-time teaching position or not. I can only apply and interview. I’m OK with this. I have been doing my part. I’ve applied to a few positions and have had one interview so far. I count that as a win.

My attempt at sketching a mug. I'm hoping to sketch a little bit every day.

My attempt at sketching a mug. I’m hoping to sketch a little bit every day for the rest of the year.

9. Work on a piece of art every other week
I’m also happy to say that I’ve been doing really well with this one also. Last year, I felt like I had to paint something on canvas, but I’ve broadened my idea of what “a piece of art” is. I’ve worked on videos, sketches, and poetry as well (I’ve even done some MS Paint drawing). I think broadening my definition of art has really helped me be consistent with this goal because I’m not limited to using one medium.

10. Blog at least twice a week
I’ve tried, I really have. Lately it’s been tough for me to post something that isn’t part of a series on my blog. The semester is almost at an end, so I’m going to try to get better with writing posts that are not parts of a series as well as scheduling posts. (I’m a little ahead of the game on this one. As of the time of this post, I’ve got three posts scheduled. Woot woot!)

11. Pay off one of my two major credit cards
I’ve technically accomplished this. By technically, I mean I took out a low-interest personal loan to pay off my two major credit cards. So, both of my accounts say nothing is owed, but I still owe the money. So…partial win? On the upside, I won’t owe nearly as much interest on the loan, so baying back this debt will be much easier and faster (hopefully!).

If you’d like to keep up with my goal progress apart from my quarterly blog updates, check this page out. I update it when I’m making progress with my goals (particularly the reading ones).

What resolutions are you working on? Which ones are you doing great with and which need a little more attention?

Poetry Monday – Jon Woodward

Thanks for joining me for Poetry Monday! Today’s poem is from Jon Woodward’s book “Mister Goodbye Easter Island.” The poem I am reading is called “Cello.” Enjoy!

Poetry Monday – Jan Beatty

Thanks for joining me for Poetry Monday this week. Today’s poem is “The Waitress Angels Speak to Me in a Vision” by Jan Beatty. The poem is from her book “Boneshaker.” Enjoy!

Artist’s Spotlight – Dave Williams

Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features an artist and blogger I’ve been following for a few years: Dave Williams. I never quite know what to expect from Dave’s blog, and I love that! He was gracious enough to let me interview him. His answers feature his delightful simplicity and humor.

DaveWilliams

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Dave Williams: In the mid- and late 90s, I wrote a lot of fiction—but then stopped to focus more on graphic design, which was paying the bills. About five years ago, I started drawing cartoonish stuff and writing silly poems in the attempt to make my twin daughters laugh (some of it was actually successful). Doing this led to the wonderful habit of sketching and writing regularly. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a paintbrush after one of my daughters was finished, and I really enjoyed painting with it, so I bought some acrylic paint and canvases and did some more. Then, a few years into my blog, I rediscovered writing through flash fiction. By simply having fun creating things, my kids inspired me to try out my personal creativity rather than just using it for client projects in my graphic design work.

Underwater-LightRO: What first inspired you to art?
DW: I had a couple of influences as I was growing up (although some would say I haven’t done that yet). Having an artistic mom who creates beautiful artwork and who encouraged my brother and me to draw was a huge influence. She still continues to come up with projects that amaze me. The other big influence was growing up working in my grandparents’ bookstore. I filled many an hour with my nose stuck in a book when there were no customers in the store. That was usually in the middle of the day, as we were in a beach town, and all the tourists were soaking up the sun then (some possibly reading as well). All that reading caused me to fall in love with the stories and adventures of books. And it made me want to become a writer to make up my own stories.

RO: What types of media are your current favorites?
DW: I feel most comfortable with a ball-point pen and a sketchbook. These help me turn down that inner skeptic that throws doubts at me while I work. With lots of sketching, I’ve grown to enjoy making mistakes. They become part of the process. Screwing up over and over has helped me avoid striving for perfection or “just right” and instead focus on simply drawing and writing, and then seeing what comes up. There are surprises and frustrations in that. I keep coming back for the surprises. The frustrations are just part of the deal.

engarde_avantgardeRO: Your blog is not only delightfully quirky, but also has a great name: Zooky World. What inspired that name and what does it mean to you?
DW: I wanted my blog to be something different from my name, so it might be easier to remember. I first thought about calling it Chewy, since that’s the nickname my daughters have called me for many years, and it’s more fun than my name. But since a large part of my effort to make money with my own work has been through t-shirts, I worried if Chewy T-Shirts would cause people to scratch their heads and wonder if the shirts were supposed to be edible. Zooky World came out of my wish to have something easy to remember and sound fun. A wide variety of animals at the zoo, and a variety of projects I publish on my blog. It reminds me of my want to keep pushing myself to create new things.

RO: As mentioned in the previous question, your blogs a very unique flavor to it. That is in part because of the name, but also because the entries range from flash fiction and poetry to cartoons and photography. Is it difficult, delightful, or a mix of both being able to work carnivalswingswith so many different types of media? Is there one medium you feel you work best with or is a personal favorite?
DW: Delightful, for sure. Since I started working on my own projects, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different formats of expression. There are times I like getting outside with my camera and seeing what my eye is drawn to that day and taking lots of photos. Or I’ll draw for a couple of hours. I probably draw more often than work in the other formats. Ideas hit me when I’m at a sketchbook or walking or driving or any time, and it’s a curious journey to see in what form these ideas will end up. Some drawings I jolt out, and I like how it looks. Other times, the ideas I thought would be a simple cartoon shifted, as I continued drawing, into a strange illustration that was different in mood than when it began. Working in these various formats has helped me keep asking questions of how I feel about things, and they give me avenues to come up with different answers. Lately, I’ve been trying to blend formats. Could an illustration or photo with a sentence written on it become more like flash fiction and give a hint of a larger story that the reader conjures? Things like that.

As for favorites, I’ve mentioned sketching being comfortable. Beyond that, my favorites would have to be writing and painting. These are the ways I’m most likely to fall into the page (or canvas), like how the writer in Stephen King’s novel Misery described. When the work clicks right, I lose track of time, and my focus immerses in the project. It’s a beautiful thing. Doesn’t happen every time I’m working, but it’s a great high when it does. And I’m usually proud of the result that comes out of it.

fishman-atpartyRO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
DW: It all begins with sketching. Throwing down ideas lets me capture the things bouncing around in my head. Lots of sketches aren’t used later, as I’m not satisfied with how they look. Yep, a lot are corny and childish as hell. The ones I’m satisfied with are published on my blog. Often, an idea leads to another idea, and I explore some “what ifs?” and the second and third images are more interesting than the initial one. This is a big reason why I enjoy working in different modes of expression, as an idea can go in various directions, and I can try them out and see which sticks. I suppose the process in a nutshell is try, try, try, and make tons of mistakes until the project resonates for me on some level. Could be a simple laugh or could be making me think about something in a way that’s different than before. There’s the hope it will resonate for someone seeing it, but that’s a whole different matter.

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
DW: I spent many, many months writing a novel in coffee shops. This was in the late 90s, and I never finished the novel. It was a very personal thing, and it helped me work out some of my feelings about different relationships at that time in my life.

RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?redrhino
DW: Loads of artwork done by my daughters. I love their creativity and their willingness to run with it. A cartoon of an alien creature who devours princesses? Check. Mobiles of neon pipe cleaners? Check. Jackson Pollock-type abstracts? Check. Anything seems possible in their art. I want to keep encouraging that. I fear the day they say, “Nah, that doesn’t make sense” and start putting limitations on themselves, the kind that seems to come with growing up.

RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
DW: The ability to fly. I’m seriously jealous of those damn birds up there.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
rivercurvesDW: Creating art has helped me see things literally and figuratively. In drawing and painting something, I’ve noticed details I didn’t see before. That was first the case when I painted a sunflower, and the design of the flower’s center stunned me. As for the figurative “seeing” part, art has helped me explore questions to work out some of my feelings. There’s certainly a therapeutic aspect to it. I recently read Miriam Engelberg’s graphic memoir, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, and it’s a good example of this. Miriam used the combination of handwritten text and simple, direct drawings to simply, directly convey her experience of undergoing treatment for breast cancer. In it, she talked/showed about how others in cancer treatment were finding comfort in activities like meditation and yoga, but these didn’t click with her. What did click was drawing. I think she was brave for publishing her artwork. It was open and vulnerable, and it resonated with me. I bet it resonated for many others, too. My thought to share would be that creating my own art and viewing the art of others has been wondrous on many levels. If you try it, don’t worry if it doesn’t look “perfect.” Push for something genuine instead of perfection. Have some serious fun with it.

Dave, thanks so much for sharing. Love your perspective on art and the creative process! If you’d like to see more of Dave’s work, check out his blog, Zazzle store, and Society6 prints.