Well, Hello, 2017

I knew eventually I’d only end up writing once a year, and here we are. I have plans to go out “celebrating” with one of my closest friends tonight, but I woke up with some kind of stomach bug, and she also isn’t feeling well. Either we’ll rally or I’ll spend the evening in bed with a book. I have no one to kiss at midnight.

I began 2016 optimistically, imagining that finally this was the year things would start happening to me. By “things” I seem always to mean “a book deal, a boyfriend, and professional direction.” And while I love the job I’ve got, “things” didn’t even begin to happen this year. I’ve been feeling unmoored. This, I am learning, is fine. As I mentioned last year: I do not need a book deal to be a poet.

There’s small comfort in my being neither alone nor the worst affected: 2016 was disastrous for so many people I know, and I don’t think it’s ridiculous to say that 2016 itself killed a lot of celebrities too soon. There was something in the air. I think it’s important to grieve for celebrities as one would a friend. Regardless of physical access, people spent hours upon hours of their lives with Prince, David Bowie, and George Michael in their ears. Knowing they won’t bring additional joy to our lives is worthy of grief.

There’s little to say about the injustice of the election that hasn’t been said better elsewhere, except I was surprised by how personally attacked I felt by those who voted for Trump. Time will tell what his administration actually does with the all-but-unlimited power it’s been given, but in the meantime I’m finding it incredibly difficult to even talk on the phone with those who voted for him. Horrible, horrible things have become possible.

This video nicely sums all that up: https://youtu.be/YpSOtX4S4zo

In 2016 I read 81 books. I don’t know why I compulsively enumerate my reading, but it’s been a habit for half a decade now. My favorites (in order of reading them):

  • Joy Harjo’s How We Became Human
  • Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You
  • Catherine Bowman’s Can I Finish, Please?
  • Blas Falconer’s The Foundling Wheel
  • Derrick Austin’s Trouble the Water
  • Lily Hoang’s A Bestiary
  • Tommy Pico’s IRL
  • Aaron Smith’s Primer
  • Amy Fusselman’s The Pharmacists’s Mate / 8
  • Elisa Gabbert’s L’Heure Bleue, or The Judy Poems

I also guiltily read a few Star Trek pulps. One , L.A. Graf’s Ice Trap, was a very interesting / unique look at climate change, and if I ever get the chance to teach an ecological literature course I will for sure assign it.

In 2016 my essay “On Locker Rooms and Looking” was listed as ‘notable’ in Best American Essays 2016.

In 2016 I landed an essay in Salon, “Love, Loss, and What I Would Sing.” Talk about dream publication…I even got my first haters in the comments!

In 2016 I had my second solo photo show, Draping and Motion Studies, in the Treasurer’s Gallery at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center. It was worth all the work just to see several straight men walk into the gallery, see a few male nudes, and turn right back around. “There’s nothing in there for me,” one said to his wife.

In 2016 dozens of people trusted me to take their photograph. I am still growing and learning how to do this properly, and I am very grateful for their time and energy.

In 2016 I started writing a novel. I have no idea how long it will take me to finish, but it feels nice to have something brewing.

In 2016 I spent a lot of time thinking about déjà vu and how to manipulate my experience of it for the sake of art.

In 2017 I will practice that a bit more.

In 2017 I will work a little harder and hopefully work some things out.

Know anyone?

Upon Us, 2016

I’m hoping in a few hours I’ll feel the welling of excitement for the new year that I usually do, but right now, sitting with my coffee in the late afternoon of December 31st, I don’t. Like any other year, 2015 had its moments, but I’m leaving it feeling disappointed about what could have been.

The lesson: Things can’t get better unless you force them.

Real talk: In 2015 I worked really hard on two full-length manuscripts and wrote a third and sent them all out and hoped and prayed and paid much more in submission fees that I should have (given my income level), and though there were a few encouraging rejections and finalist spots, I did not get a book deal. And it’s safe to say I tied too much of my emotional energy into getting a book deal, said too many times “this won’t matter when I get a book deal.” I’m hoping that’s over now, hoping that in 2016 I will again do what I can do, then more, and let the universe work it out. Never mind the folder of cover art ideas sitting on my desktop, it will happen when it happens. I do not need a book deal to be a poet. I don’t.

In 2015 the job I loved turned into a job I tolerated. I stayed as long as I did because I adored a few of my talented coworkers, but when I realized that wasn’t enough I said goodbye.

In 2015 I was in love, but when I realized that wasn’t enough I said goodbye. This was huge and complicated and difficult, but it’s a lesson I needed.

I am quite pleased, however, with my 2015 reading: 82 books, many of which changed what I thought I knew about _______. A few favorites:

  • Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
  • Heather Christle’s Heliopause
  • CAConrad’s Ecodeviance
  • Monica McClure’s Tender Data
  • Heidi Julavits’s The Folded Clock
  • Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things
  • Ben Fama’s Fantasy
  • Mark Doty’s Still-Life with Oysters and Lemon
  • Shane McCrae’s The Animal Too Big to Kill
  • Joy Harjo’s Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

I’m in the middle of Joy Harjo’s selected collection How We Became Human, and Lord, she is exactly the poet I need in my life right now. More on this later.

In 2015 I published my first two chapbooks: Something to Hide My Face In (Seven Kitchens) and College Town (Porkbelly Press). They are beautiful and I am so thankful to Ron at 7K and Nicci at PP for bringing them into the world.

In 2015 my essay “The Only Boy in Indiana” was listed as ‘notable’ in Best American Essays 2015.

In 2015 I shared my house with four incredible writers and human beings, and thank you, thank you, thank you to them for listening to me rambling on about poems and actors and music and decisions I should have made much sooner than I did.

In 2015 I realized karaoke was not about how you sounded singing but about how you felt singing, and Lord, I tore through “You Oughta Know” that night and everything was all right.

In 2015 I took a lot of photographs.

In 2016 I will take more photographs.

In 2016 I will throw myself headfirst into my new job, which after two days seems like a much better environment for me to be in and filled with wonderfully eccentric people.

In 2016 I will take better care of myself.

In 2016 I will take the time necessary.

Word Riot Favorites, Year Two

The publication of the new issue of Word Riot marks my second year as poetry editor. I love it. As I did last year, I’m going to celebrate by alphabetically presenting my ten favorite poems published in the previous twelve issues. Because feelings.

Last week someone found my blog by googling “What kinds of poems does Word Riot look for?” This is as close to an answer as I can provide:

Lyn Li Che’s “Ascent

Patrick Dundon’s “Poem Written While Being Stood Up

Catherine Gonick’s “Assisted Living

Luther Hughes’s “Clay

Gina Keicher’s “Date Night Climbing

Safwan Khatib’s “Icarus

Anna Meister’s “I Say Your Name

Jamie Mortara’s “Q&A

Chris Philpot’s “This Is Not Goodbye But You Should Go

Satarah Wheeler’s “Love on Mars

Upcoming Show: The Men in My House

I’m glad to announce that the photo series I’ve been working on for the last few months, The Men in My House, will be having its first showing at Royale Hair Parlor as part of Bloomington’s Gallery Walk. The opening is June 5 from 5:00 to 8:00, and will hang until July 30. Here’s the Facebook event page.

Prints will be available for purchase at the show. If you’re unable to make it but are interested in purchasing prints, you may contact me at dougpaulcase@gmail.com.