Friday, June 29, 2012

On Creativity (featuring Anthea Krook)

Issue 7 of Spoonful
Anthea Krook is a freelance designer, illustrator, editor, and writer based in Sydney, Australia, and her creative energy and enthusiasm are contagious. We first knew one another through our blogs (hers is For the Visionaries) and an overlapping project (the now-defunct Mankind Mag). In 2009, Anthea asked me to contribute to her zine, Spoonful: a happiness companion, and ever since, it has been an absolute pleasure to know her and work with her. She describes Spoonful as a “short, inspiring little publication which, in light of our insanely busy lives, can be finished by the end of a train ride.”

Her work is delicate, smart, and subtle; most of all, I appreciate how unabashedly she celebrates the ordinary (and how pretty and inviting she makes it look). As viewers and readers, we can’t help but join in!

Illustration for Spoonful

Q: How would you describe your relationship with your viewer/reader? Do you picture your work being received while you make it, or before, or after? How does this affect your process?

A: Well, I think my answer criss-crosses and contrasts between the way I write and the way I draw or design....

When I write, I seem to have this inner-critic or perception of what a reader might be thinking as they read the words I write. It is a constant, ever-present audience that reads with me as I work. I change, edit and shift to try to impress them... engage them... seduce them into what it is I'm trying to say. It's probably silly, but I can't seem to help myself. I reread what I write often, too... editing yet again, so that my reader can fluently and immediately get what I'm trying to say (that is my aim, anyway!).

I have a different relationship with the viewer when I design or draw, though... The funny thing about truly immersing myself in the creative process is that everything else falls away, prospective audience included. I become completely drawn into the detail of the moment--the angle of a line, the shift in colour-ways or gradients, the overall composition of a piece--so that only when I am finished, can my relationship in my mind with the viewer begin. Often I will finish something and stand back and realise it is not good enough for my reader. It does not inherently have the spark or beauty or idea I am trying to express to my audience and so I go back to begin again... I think my relationship with the viewer/reader is something which pushes me further and makes me want to create work that captures something deep within them.

Works that I feel truly have a potential to spark something in someone else are the ones I feel proud of at the end of the day :). So the viewer is an important part. I confess, part of me feels guilty about that a little... like I should be a 'free' 'true' artist obsessed and only caring about where it is the WORK feels it should go... but so much pleasure for me is connected to finally sharing a work, that I am unable to be so focused and forget the 'other'.

Interestingly, if I'm writing a poem (which I write few and far between) it is more of an immersive emotional process, much like drawing or painting for me. I delve into the beauty and brush strokes that language, full stops and line breaks have to offer, and often I've forgotten all about the audience until right at the end, when I polish things to try to ensure (& hope) that the reader will feel as I have felt and be able to immerse themselves as I have in the literary moment of writing and experiencing.

From a series of bejeweled notebooks created by Anthea.

Note: All images are courtesy of the artist.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012



Black and blue
is not what a bruise
looks like. More accurate
to say lobster-colored,
live lobster, dark greenish-
brown. There is a name
for the animal, sometimes
a different name if we are
eating it, pork, veal, beef.
If it swims or is a bird,
we can eat it and call it
by its name, lobster, turkey,
but if it is soft and walks on
grass, we muddy its name.
Don’t Google bruise,
don’t Google cured meat.
It’s not the body that repulses
me, just how the flesh reacts
to how we treat it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Plus One

Plus One

When you are alone,
who are you with. Who
can you babble to about
the building’s missing
epidermis, the red bricks
tumbling out at the roots.
Thinking is a type of
telling, of tattling.
Not like a megaphone,
more like how the air
above a flame crinkles
and blurs with energy.
Your halo is showing,
yo. A man once stopped
me, told me he was worried
about my aura, it was all
orange around my shoulders,
a bright backpack of pain.
How much do you hurt
right now. What if every
thought we stomped out
smoldered along our heels.
What might that mean
for the thoughts we allow
and how we advertise them,
would we be fire hydrants
dribbling image, hoses
spattering the sidewalk under
us with undeveloped film.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Door Number 3

Door Number 3

The lady and a tiger
she’s trained to like humans
and not just for dinner.
They are close friends
because the tiger stopped
needing power. Behind
them, the path you walked
four years ago, five,
soon six, cherry blossom
trees, gray-green skyscrapers,
mirror water it grows from.
Back porch, 10 PM, neighbor
kids running in next door
for the night, telescope still
up in their yard. Good lord,
you can feel full and filled,
whatever you came out here for
isn’t here or fled to those hills.

Friday, June 22, 2012

On Creativity: Your Very Own Intern

Creative types don’t necessarily have a reputation for being punctual, organized, or efficient. That’s not usually our specialty (note: though some of you are naturally talented when it comes to the administrative part of the artist’s life---and I am very jealous of you.)

As a poet, I have no trouble writing often and making the process a priority. The challenge for me is after I have a whole bunch of work, when I need to decide what to do with it. Where will I submit individual batches of poems? What kind of collection could I shape my work into? What are the submission deadlines for contests and publications, and what format do they prefer the work in? Who do I need to follow up with or respond to in email?

Here’s the irony--I hate being micro-managed in my job (and in my teaching and editing work, I’m lucky to feel mostly autonomous, with support when I need it), but when it comes to making creative work, it is easy to wish we had a taskmaster telling us what to do and when. It can be overwhelming to know that ultimately, we are accountable for our art, and what we do with it.

No one else is going to do it for us. Unfortunately and fortunately.

I don’t mean that artists should suddenly transform into marketers, accountants, lawyers, CEO’s, editors, web designers, and PR coordinators. We aren’t that lucky. Wouldn’t it be great if we could?

A large part of being an artist feels like an unpaid internship. I am my own intern (not to be confused with being my own Grandpa--see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Dial Tone

The Dial Tone

Two pieces to the telephone.
You’d lift the receiver from the base
and hold it to the side of your face.
The receiver was hard as a bone,

and the cord could stretch or retract
like a muscle. It looked like a spiral fry,
the cord, like a ringlet curl. Hi,
this is Hannah
, I’d say, and would ask

to speak with my friend. Because
there was no way of knowing who
was on the other end, reaching through.
To answer, you’d ask, Hello, then pause.

The caller could have been anyone.
It was exciting. A voice could surprise
you. It was easier to memorize
phone numbers. No, it was fun,

I’d make a little song out of the beeps
their sequence of keys made, the pitch
varied based on the key. You couldn’t switch
between calls. You would have to keep

the line open if you were expecting
a call. You knew that the phone
was working if there was a dial tone.
You could take the receiver, bring

it to your ear. Like one note hummed
by a robot, unwavering, like a vacuum
gargling, like a fridge in an empty room,
almost like music, dumbed down, numbed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It’s a Mood

It’s a Mood

I want a surfer’s easy way of speaking,
sounds drifting from my mouth like
droopy helium balloons, yeah, man,
yeah, dude, it’s not your name I need
or even you. I want a French girl’s
vaulted ceiling mouth. I want to drag
my language over the sidewalk to stop
me from slipping on the tile. I tried
to train my handwriting once, sixth grade,
into the perky lower-case e’s of other
well-liked girls. I played with the dot
over my i. I wish I didn’t care how I
sounded. I would like to adjust that
part of my brain that lets in language.
I wish I could get my French back.
I wish I could get my inexperience
with French back and then learn it
again, Madame teaching us how to
say what we would like by saying
The Conditional, it’s a mood.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012



Erasing is not
not drawing,

just moving
around what

you think you
didn’t mean.

Might as well
hang a sign

in the smudges:
We’ve removed.

If you dig up
the garden,

you don’t get
fresh grass,

you get mud,
holes, worms.

The best way
to make sure

the little girl
finds the old

wardrobe is
to drape a sheet

over it and tell her
not to go in that

room with the
big old ghost

We can’t get
blank back,

just as good as
new but not

the same as
before you drew.

Monday, June 18, 2012



How many flash bulbs. How much film.
How many pictures will I want to take.

How much paper, how many pens.
Who will be there, will someone

lend me a pen if I need one.
What will I think while I look

around the room, who will I notice.
Who is selecting a dress, like me.

Who will arrive at the nightclub
when I do. Will we notice

each other, whose coat will mine
rub up against in the coat check.

All of you could be anyone,
I want to be ready for you,

for your bone structure and
the way you close your eyes

during that song. How do I prepare
to meet that moment I will want

to yank out of line by the collar
and slam my light against.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Text Art: It Happens Here

Thank you for reading this week! While making this, I kept envisioning a Christopher Pike book cover---I used to love his books when I was younger. Maybe the tilted writing? And color scheme? Not sure why I was thinking of it.

Have a magical weekend.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Scientific Method

Scientific Method

In the floor
in the study
in the house
in California,

when we used
to live there,
a strange

a tiny mound
of dirt, or sand,
or soot, thumb-
print sized,

dark particles,
like coffee
grounds. I’d
sweep them up

and make this
sound, Hmm,
how did they
spill from the

ceiling each
day, what was
this cairn in
memory of.

What was the
message. Then
I waited three
days to sweep,

and when I did,
I made this sound,
Ah. A pinprick
in the floorboard,

termites under
the floor, chewing
steadily, calmly.
The house wasn’t

going anywhere.
When we told
the landlords in
California, they

said, Oh yeah,
termites, bet we
have those,
concern or fear.

The house was
not falling down
yet, is still not
falling down yet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012



Baby, all the best come-ons
start with baby, because when
you want somebody they become
smaller, more adorable and
attainable. Miss Universe onstage
and Miss Microbe in her robe
in your bedroom. It’s awfully
cavernous in the Milky Way,
so we make our houses into
swaddling cloths. This is
where the magic happens,

we’re joking, but we are also
forced to say it by our mouths,
and sex and sleep and dreams
happen to us and this is the magic
we chase and chase. C’mon,
baby, come back to my crib,
my place that is as beautiful
as a baby’s bed, walls to keep us
from toppling out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

To Make a Long Story Short

To Make a Long Story Short

A fast forward button and a steady
finger. A trash compactor and a strong
stomach. A sense of peace about losing
every detail that once mattered. Not
the way it burned down, not the heat
from the flames touching your cheeks
like flushed embarrassment trying to
find a way in. Not the rope ladder that
the infomercial tried to sell you
at age ten, in case of fire, and not the plan
you discussed with your sister for
getting the dogs and cats out of your
house on fire, through the window
in your bedroom, making a soft landing
out of stuffed animals and pillows.
Not the ability to ignore, that would be
impossible. The ability to let go
of all that you noticed, to pick just
one item for show and tell and to say
only one thing about it. A fondness
for timelines, for knowing how to title
them. An appreciation for a dying pen.

Monday, June 11, 2012

There Is the Wingspan

There Is the Wingspan

Kill no birds
with sixty stones,
with one thousand stones.

How is a bird
an inconvenience.
Their songs, that are

not about us.
Are fallen feathers
troubling. Why do we

take them home,
then, collect them
like sand from beaches

we have been to,
dirt, rocks, seashells,
photographs of water.

In no eulogy
has it been said:
she was efficient,

marvelously efficient
It is not useful
to remember

how a person made
you feel, or how
they looked,

but that is
what we keep
of them, how

she struggled with
the umbrella that day,
laughing, how he

hummed with the
headphones on,
never noticing.

The title from this poem is taken from a line in the James Tate poem, "The Eagle Exterminating Company."

Friday, June 8, 2012

On Creativity: Time

When I took my first Philosophy courses in college, I remember thinking, “Holy crap. Other people have been thinking about this stuff, too?” (Dear Dr. David Goldberg and Dr. Lee Braver, my professors--thank you!). When I read philosophical texts, thought about them, talked about them, and listened to talks by professors, I could feel my brain responding in strange and surprising ways (twirling, or plummeting, or recoiling, or climbing the walls). I learned to read and think in new, slower try to chase down ideas in order to understand them.

I took a seminar on Heidegger’s Being and Time, which was both maddening and very enjoyable. My little joke is that they got the title wrong--(spoiler alert!); it should read Being = Time (the sequel is, of course, Being on Time).

Thinking about the way time affects us (and the way our experience of time is shaped) has long been an obsession of mine. A famous story in my family is about me on my third birthday, when I cried at my cake with a “3” candle on it, saying “Where’d my ‘2’ go?!” And my parents told me, “It went inside of you.” Maybe all artists identify with this.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Royal Cellular Ballet

The Royal Cellular Ballet

Four ladies in the corps in a row,
ivory leotards and silk skirts.

They bourrée across the stage,
foreheads tilting down to look

at the cell phones in their hands,
thumbs bourréeing across alphabets

on their screens. They are texting
each other. One posts to Twitter,

Finishing up tonight’s show.
Sold out. The clarinet is late

on her solo, has to set down
her phone, but recovers swiftly

and the audience forgets a few bars
in. They look up, hold their phones

out toward the stage. Everywhere
the dancing girls look, little red dots,

as if hundreds of laser pointers were
watching them attentively. Click, click,

, the sound of a baton against
a music stand, but the conductor’s

hands are raised, swooping like seagulls.
His ringtone. Who could be calling now.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Headed for the Rhubarb

Headed for the Rhubarb

Latitude and longitude, dude,
platitudes and longing. Diet
and exercise. You can be in
control of yourself. Write
an article called “Five Easy
Steps to Fulfillment in Five
Minutes with Five Illustrations
Symbolizing Happiness.” No
research needed, use words like
plenty and make sure to. Be vague
so you can forget how bad
the brambles and briars sting.
It’s not meaning we are after,
just the sound of meaning,
Drink eight glasses of water.
Sleep eight hours. Leafy greens
and friends, and family, and
oxygen, and vacation. Get away
for the weekend. Even Shiva
the Destroyer feels despair, and
needs to be sent home for the day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Not Constellations

Not Constellations

The Wretched Scythe. The Broom.
Penelope. The Great Tent. The Lesser
Tent. The New Visiting Professor.
The Human Skeleton. The Tomb

Figurine, Standing. The Tomb Figurine,
Dancing. The Cowering Servant.
Broken Arm. Shield with a Dent.
The Scribe. The Xerox Machine.

The Big Ear. Ophelia Wearing Flowers.
The Cow Skull. The Suspension Bridge.
The Apple Core. Half-Sun on the Ridge.
The Crumbling Chimney. The Tower

of Pisa. The Shattered Window.
The Half Dentures. The Pinky Toe.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Centerfold Material

Centerfold Material

A living room. Brown couch,
microsuede. Flat-screen TV
with a five o’clock shadow,
a film of dust. Two coffee mugs
on a coffee table, one baby blue,
one black, with the tea bag tag
dangling its leg over the lip
of the cup, twitching slightly
in the breeze. Often, furniture
is named for what it holds
or does, with no embellishment:
entertainment center, coat rack,
coffee table, recliner. fireplace
poker. We just want something
that works. A large picture
window, sprawling grass and
broadleaf maple obeying
the rule of thirds. Not looking
out, a woman, stretched out
on her side across the white carpet,
propped up on an orange pillow.
She’s smiling (think devoured
canary), but not at you, not
because of you. She’s smiling
down at her hands in her lap,
at the phone in her left palm.
With her index finger, she
strokes the screen slowly, softly.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Text Art: Spitting Image

A happy weekend to you, full of images and reflection.

I pass this building/water feature on my way home often, and keep envisioning letters floating above it (Thanks to Photoshop for helping with my low-budget installation!). While I was taking the photo for this, the security guard for the building wandered over, asking, " are you doing?" I told him, "No need to be alarmed....I just like the way this looks, so I'm taking a picture." He was friendly, but I'm sure a bit confused. I have to confess that it's a little fun to unintentionally weird people out sometimes.
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