My new chapbook, Doll Work, is in the works

A Doll by Morton Bartlett

My new chapbook, Doll Work, is currently being written. I hope that this is available this summer on my website, Keep checking in there and here for an update!

The chapbook is born out of a project I did in a class about the Archive, and focuses on the phenomena of doll collectors and enthusiasts. But the collection has evolved into poems about bachelor doll artist, Morton Bartlett.

Keep checking back, but it the meantime, please listen to me reading my poem, “The Crimes of Cat-Calling” just published in the journal, The Lineup, issue 3,

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quick Little Update

So after switching from the Masters in Art History, Theory and Criticism, I am now working on my Masters in New Arts Journalism.  This was a perfect move for me at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago because I can take studio classes and art history classes along with my journalism classes.

The journalism card was a good one for me to choose (you were right as always, Psychic Kim!) … I am already playing the role of an arts journalist — interviews at openings, art criticism, and features in my near future for Chicago Art Magazine. Check out their website:

So, tomorrow, I get to buy a new camera!

I am just so excited about this new phase of my life … I am dancing in the belly of the Chicago art beast and loving it. And I think it is loving me back …

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  

May the Doll Work begin …

a detail of a doll created by Morton Bartlett

After a nice long hiatus of adjusting and appreciating my new life in Chicago, with one semester at The School of the Art Institute under my garter belts, here I am revisiting my room as a poet. One of my classes was a study of the Archive — the creativity and passion that exists in research. I was shelving books at the school library and a book threw itself off the shelf into my arms … well, onto my book truck … but still … amazing. The book was called Family Found by Marion Harris.

In this moment, I met Morton Bartlett.

In all my years, my whole life really, with this penchant for the petrie dish that is the world of dolls, I never found Morton Bartlett. I had never heard the name. Never knew one thing until this fast little moment during a Wednesday night shelving shift at my school library. And as these things usually happen … I needed this to happen.

At that moment, I was suffering another long bout of crying in public. Not the best thing to be doing, by the way, on a crowded subway at rush hour feeling the belt buckles of strangers in my back, on my hip, hands holding on all around me as if we were worshiping something. But, it happens to me. I have accepted my melancholia, my anhedonia again. I had to do it again, staring it all in the face when I made the move to a new city, returning to a school of very intense study, the love of my life being responsible in Michigan … I was completely alone. Alone. That word. That word again. Alone. In those first several months here it seemed even my cats were sick of me sleeping all day, staying up all night and staying out all night. I was searching in any way I knew how for something that would be keep me intact Monday through Friday, till I saw my Love on the city street waving to me with purpose in his step, purpose that was all for me. To see me.

Then Alone was gone.

But Sunday night, it returned after my love left for Michigan. And that still happens. It is still gut-wrenching to see him leave every week. I tell myself it is for the greater good of our future … me to finally be able to write as a career in the art world.

Then, I found Morton. Or, he found me.

Morton Bartlett was a orphan who grew up to become an eccentric bachelor who never left his native Boston. He had no one. He acknowledged this and I would love to know which midnight in the 1930s that moment occurred. So, he created a family for himself. A family of dolls. Bartlett was an untrained artist, attending Harvard for a stint before reality forced him to take odd jobs in the Boston area. Untrained, but blessed with a gift, the gift of touch and hands and keen eyes.

So when my Archive project began, it began as a study of doll collectors. It became the beginnings of a chapbook about Bartlett. I am tentatively calling the collection, Doll Work and hope it will be complete sometime this spring and definitely by summer.

The catalyst poem has become, “The Lonely Bachelor” and begins,

Your room is small and warm like socks.
There should have been an invitation to a party
in your mailbox today, sitting there in wait
so that you could have the power
to throw it away.

My identification with him was unreal. The loneliness, the search, the creation. I hadn’t felt anything like this since discovering Hans Bellmer when I was working on my Masters in poetry. And even this was different. Stronger. Lovelier. Quieter.

My overall plan for the book is to also incorportate my poems on children’s author, Dare Wright, who never left her doll, Edith out of her sight throughout her life. But, they may need to be separate collections … this will work itself out.

This is where faith comes from for me. Love and Poetry … that constant striving for fulfillment only Art can give.

I search for you now among my own obsessive piles,
desiring something lovely at noon and at 5:00.

Go to for more news and work and updates on Doll Work.

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 4:04 am  Comments (1)  

always coming back to dolls …


Always coming back to the nights as a little girl staying with grandmother and grandfather McGath, that room that had been my father and aunts’ room … the room where the bed fit into a perfect little alcove surrounded by shelves of dolls. I was at once comforted and terrified every time I slept over there, invariably ending up between my smokey grandfather and my cold-creamed grandmother. I was always comforted upon first lying down, there beneath these hundreds of doll eyes staring at me, around me, through me, then my comfort turned to terror and paranoia. I also think these nights with my granparents were very formative in what seems now to be an obsession of sorts about the life of the Doll. My maternal grandmother was also a fairly avd collector of dolls. The active making of dolls on the part of my grandmother Foley-McGath and the active purchasing of dolls on the part of my grandmother Woods-Kirtley, also demonstrates a kind of cultural difference present in my family tree — that of the sad and struggling Irish versuses the afflulency of the British side of my family tree.

Now in graduate school again … taking a class on the archive in research and art, I feel great nervous excitement knowing we are meeting as a class in an archive in Chicago in the morning. I desire my project to be one of poetry and the lives of doll collectors. Something that could very easily continue and become my Masters thesis.

While working in the SAIC library last week, shelving books and feeling exhausted and drained and rather depressed, a book literally jumped off the shelf at me. This is not the first time books have jumped out at me and ended up being about a subject that has become significant to me.

It is a slim book about a man named Morton Bartlett … the book was called Family Found by Marion Harris. It is the story of a self-taught artist, a Boston man in the early-mid 20th century who was an orphan and always alone throughout his life, save for his doll creations. He constructed the dolls (learning his technique through trial and error, not formal art training) and photographed in contexts that to me beckon family photographs. The image above is a doll by Bartlett. I am very much intrigued by Bartlett and plan to go to Boston this spring or summer to further research this man, the man behind these amazing companionable creations.

But I guess the general notions of my research project, my archive project, is one of collectors and collecting, our affinity to the comforts of dolls. How something grasping to be human brings out our own humanity.

Hoping for an intriging and prolific morning at the Newberry Library archives.

Published in: on October 21, 2009 at 5:56 am  Comments (2)  

2 weeks without the love of my life …


Since I moved to Chicago at the end of July, my sweet love, Don has come to stay with me every weekend. But the realities of life is making a 2 week absence necessary. After a truly amazing and transformative weekend with him, I have 2 weeks without him near my flesh, holding me, and making me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Well, I am still the luckiest girl in the world, but I am sans his physical comforts for 2 weeks.

Part of me believes this to be a good thing for us as individuals. I have lots of work to do for sure. In addition to working as a t.a., working in the Library, being a conscientious graduate student, writing reviews, and now an amazing internship at The Art Institute of Chicago, I am a busy woman. But work is good for me and I welcome it and this work is all so very right for me.

I am planning to finally get myself to some poetry venues to read. And maybe this absence will get me writing poems again. I have only written 3 poems since moving here, not nearly enough time with my Remington Rand typewriter.

I love you, my sweet dove and dare not wash your pillowcase just yet … it smells like you, something inexplicably beautiful.

I cannot sleep when Don’s not here, but perhaps his pillowcase shall help? But right now it is midnight and I feel at once like collapsing in tears of exhaustion and doing 14 or more projects simultaneously and never needing a pillow again.

Will poetry prevail in this absence? I am presently at work on a major research project about melancholy and art, reading now Julia Kristeva’s book, Black Sun. I am very much intrigued as an artist and as a scholar about the creature of melancholy and its connection to not only the depression sufferers among us (myself being one), but its connection to the object of creation and the loss that follows its creation. So in this loss of physical contact for 2 weeks with the love of my life gone from me … will creation prevail? In this current mania of creation, will I create? And then what? Loss? A black sun?

I can only wait and see … thinking of Don over there in his Michigan corner as the first man to ever truly love all of me … black sun, bright sun and all.

Published in: on September 22, 2009 at 5:24 am  Leave a Comment  

finally, sleep came but tinged with terror …


I have been taking photos of my eyes when I sleep becomes a mystery to me. This is day 3 or 4 with no sleep (losing track of days). I played with the black and white and sepia tones to make evident my circles under my eyes. I feel I am garish.

So, I finally find my way to sleep last night. I was reading reading reading for hours and finally just had to close my eyes, then sleep came. It was a mercy.

But it was interrupted about 4:30 this morning (seems to be the usual time this occurs … as evident in my dream journal) with a terrifying nightmare that would make Andre Breton proud … a surreal nightmare. I was here, in the city of Chicago sitting in my apartment. Then I was suddenly compelled to go outside after hearing the sounds of horses outside. Lots of horses, a neighing procession, and pigs snorting. It sounded like I would imagine a morning in a zoo or on a farm may sound … not city sounds. Once I found myself outside, nothing. No horses, pigs, animals, people, nothing. I thought about the neutron bomb … I started panting. Feeling suffocated. A full-fledged panic attack. I ran to the beach and saw one person … his organic form standing there like a dislocated daffodil … smirking. The only other form that was present is the ever-present faceless man in the navy suit who is always there just watching me suffer. Is he a guardian? Is he a sadomasochistic misogynist loving the show of my suffering soul? I was chased to the pier by the daffodil bad man and jumped into the lake caring for nothing anymore. I remember thinking, “I care for nothing anymore. This is it.” I awoke in a sweat soaked through my tank top, my sheets, my hair was wet, I couldn’t breathe.

I have been experiencing immense amounts of anxiety with a move that was hellish beyond belief, an anxiety of being alone without the protection of my sweet love, Don. The oneness of being alone with my thoughts. No more nightly chances to kiss him, be held by him, to make him steaks that make him blush.

I have spent a great amount of time just sitting. Listening to the outside’s constancy. A city at my feet … the sounds all day, all night. So any silence is terrifying. My total terror. I have been worried about fire overtaking my building and killing my cats … so I spend the nights I am up all night feeling the walls, the door, the floors, feeling for heat, for fire, sniffing for smoke while I burn sage and chant for our safety and happiness.

Then Don walks up to me in this city every weekend and my heart falls into happy pieces and comes back together, red and hearty and true as anything in the world.

But then I dream of a bad man from moons passed … and he reminded me for the first time as an awkward daffodil and I couldn’t get over his awkwardness. Why I wanted this … wondering where my soul was in this time. I know it was gone as the Shaman told me in my soul retrieval. He said he had seen my soul part on a porch step crying. She came back to me and I knew that second … I was in a bad way, a bad place in all ways. I felt her peace when she returned to me. Felt a bit like a strong handshake followed immediately with a long and genuine hug.

And now, this dream.

My fear (like I need another one) now is that she has left me again. That my last depression was too much for her. That I had betrayed my promise to her to never let anyone or anything hurt us again. Is she gone?

And now, this dream. And so today I am being followed by it still, the feelings of it, evoking feelings of fear, panic, and that horrid feeling I have only genuinely felt once of truly being detested by another human being. A man who detested me enough to rummage through my panties like I was a poke shop tinged with that feeling of complete indifference toward me … like I was on consignment as a lawn chair tattered from too many storms. I wasn’t new. I wasn’t anything real at all.

Why now? Is the anxiety I feel daily in these last weeks bringing up dated feelings of anxiety and emptiness those years ago? That daily feeling of stupidity I was coerced into feeling … and letting it all happen was the worst part of it, what is really scarring. I think I am also noticing not having sessions with doctor.

There’s nothing scarier than: What is happening to me? Meaning it as much as reality, the reality of a chair I sit in right now, the reality of my hands, of my eyes watching a man argue with someone on his cellphone like he’s the only one in the world.

I saw the light after my shamanic counseling and meetings with my psychic. With doctor. Finding myself again. And now, this dream.

So today I will go to The Modern Wing again. Art always puts everything into perspective, manageable pieces of truth that deliver peace to me.I will sigh with it all today.

And then my sweet Don will be here tonight. I will have him next to me tonight and tomorrow as my protecting soul and sleep may come to me uninterrupted and safely now.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 6:37 pm  Comments (2)  

pondering crime with poems …


I know this is old news, I believe first reported in December of 2008: A piano found by a woman strolling in a wooded conserve in Massachusetts near The Cape. Having been invited to potentially contribute to an upcoming issue of The Lineup, a chapbook of poetry about crime, I am revisiting this news story. This story that has been marinating in one way or another in my mind since I first came across it last year.

I am also revisiting The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death about the creations of Frances Glessner Lee. The notion of a small world in the literal sense has always and always enticed me. I am attempting visual art in this medium, but also in my poetry. Here, in particular, is an image, a crime that is inspiring me to write a poem. I desire to give a voice to this murdered woman, allegedly a prostitute, to give a voice to pain, to vice, to our human existence in the dark room.


Lee, a Chicago aristocrat who was also amazingly talented in sewing and miniature work with dreams of a career in law (a dream stumped by her social standing and her being a woman of course). So Lee created macabre nutshell studies of crime scenes to train detectives in finding clues. The original scenes are still, to my knowledge, in Maryland, and still, to my knowledge, are being used in training still today. Thanks, Mary Ruefle Love, for recommending Nutshell Studies … you are a dear heart.

I arrive at these news stories with imagery, with a poet’s eye in a sense. I needed something, a poetic goal, and thank the dear editor of The Lineup for sending me back into the caves of poetry, a room of clues to figure …

My first poem since living in Chicago, “The Crimes of Cat-Calling” is on its way to fruition … beginning with what all of this really means to me … does to me.

It’s a crime, men having the time of their lives,
cutting me down to the humidity of my panties.
How am I supposed to handle this disaster?

And it is a disaster to me to feel a crime wave coming on because of the pig-minds of strangers. They don’t want me here, that’s how it really feels.

But I am home now. Is it a crime to think that is now mine?

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

observations of today after days of learning and leaning into the soul of Francis Bacon


Look at Bacon here … Francis Bacon … the man who always mentioned hating his face, his look (thanks in great part to disparaging parents). And here, now, today, this man, dead since 1992 … a year I was likely correcting my family’s grammar and generally being a little cow to everyone around me thinking I knew everything. And here, now, today, his face fills me with intense life, sitting here now before me like a most beautiful parakeet sensing its own difficulty with intensity and color.

My sweet love, Don bought me the Michael Peppiatt biography of Francis Bacon titled, Anatomy of an Enigma. It is apparent to me that this book is written by a man who shared much time with Bacon since it is written so genuinely and compassionately, but also truthfully as only a friend could see and tell truth. I am finding myself staying up into the wee hours unable to pull myself away from Bacon, what I am beginning (and only beginning) to decipher of the true Modern genius.

In reading the biography, articles, and staring intently at his work, I am finding the world to be a different place in my eyes. This is the moment, for me, when art turns into the capital “A” Art … when it questions, alters, and forces one to reconsider their perceptions.

So today, I am in a coffeehouse in Chicago, watching the hipsters flit around like little birds manifesting absurdity. I say this being a poet and an artist myself, knowing there is a level of narcissism in me, and definitely absurdity and all of this is okay as long as there is a great amount of time you walk out of yourself as if you would a room, moving through the doorway, shutting the door, and out to see, to be, without any in BE-ing in mind at all.


Bacon’s main predilections that give life and intensity, and that uncomfortable Truth, to his work are the elements of Chance, Disguise, Pleasure / Pain, and Chaos. As this photo of his studio illustrates, Bacon thrived and needed chaos … in his room to work, in his life to function. The revolving door of pubs, lovers, and gambling was a necessary aspect of Bacon, necessary to explore and that he did, amid massive chaos all while his nanny (who lived with him till her death in the 1950s) slept on his kitchen table.

Chaos in my life is necessary as well. As a child and a teen, especially after 16 when I was diagnosed with Bipolar, I created chaos, drama, anything to keep my world from getting right-side up. And everyone around me suffered because of it — family, friends. I avoided lovers until I was 22 years old … having had only a couple “dates” which basically meant I was perusing books at the local bookstore with my “date.”

In college, I was told again and again to cease my chaos in my poetry. And tried. It was so unnatural for me. Herb Scott at Western Michigan University where I received my MFA, allowed me again, encouraged me, to have that chaos if it was needed. Chaos can still be chaos even if it is controlled chaos. And in higher education began the lover card, my little shows of intensity to a man who was attracted to my chaos, and as the first man to break my heart put it whilst screwing another woman behind my wild back, my eyes are always “scavenging”and for a while it is nice then awfully bad. I only remember for sure his word “scavenging” to describe my eyes. I remember also thinking it was wondrous for him to say that, but then realizing it would doom me for years with men, especially the textbook narcissists who flocked to me and I to them.

And like Bacon, part of my chaos has been hating my face, my body, especially the unduly tearing through my chest by strange men. I don’t want to hate them, and especially do not want to hate myself, my face, my body as I often do.

Bacon may have disagreed with my view of Chaos, something I had not thought much of until now, till learning Francis and Chaos. He probably would not have agreed that to me, Chaos to be pure, pure Chaos, must also have a level of peace, or trying for peace, just never pure peace. There must always be the chaos but the wiles of it must be permeated also by a seeking for peace. I have been making peace with my body, my face, my hair as I tangle it into “sculptures” of pins all over my head. I will wear my chaos and be it.

Chaos for me is necessary because it is the only moment in my daily life that I feel my heart be mangled like a piece of paper. As if my heart has been taken out of me, put on the top of an open door and then closed upon till I can “control” the chaos again, in poetry, in my artwork, in looking at the mirror, in the mirror, to myself, as I now look also to Bacon, my sweet Francis, he and I standing in my tiny bathroom looking in the mirror at ourselves and each other, at chaos. Me making a sculpture in my hair and Francis piling on the lipstick and rouge. Ah, lovely chaos.

And in this vision, I also feel him staggering somewhere in my upper right arm right now. This moment, coughing out his desires and his missives of chaotic beauty.

Published in: on August 19, 2009 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

my city life … and myself as visual artist?


Living now in a large city instead of a small one is bringing many odd little imagistic parallels and feelings to my disquieted surface. While I am loving the senses that are so constant all around me, I find myself terrified a few moments during each day and night even if only for a few seconds at a time. Aaron, maybe a little like you said to me last night? The overstimualtion curse? But it passes like a breeze. Never long. Brief as quick encounters.

Wanting to hide under the mesh of mind and thickening humid winds, wanting to proclaim myself as a new fixture here, all the while wanting to only be an observer. This is why I love to be with Art, write about and study Art, but tend to hide that visual artist part of myself. My art is usually about my personal relationships, illness, past lovers from hell, and my family’s beauty. Now as I know the truth of a real man and real love, a series, My Lovers from Hell thus begins its germination in my mind. Think: a sardonic playground menagerie of deviant mood killers pretending to be Casanovas? A visual poem of the forced learning experience of hellish hearts.

The only regrets that exist come as majorettes of time, a parade of normal hate.

And I sit here and I ponder my sadness in being without the love of my life most of my life right now. And I think of this knowing this lonesome time is good for everything in the Beautiful.

And I am dreaming of living in a pie-shaped room with the love of my life in Marina City, never having to leave the confines of a white bed if not desired. My ultimate life that is so far away from me today. Steaks made from my heart to slap a smile on my lover’s face. The hums of the subway and the fridge giving us goosebumps we absolutely earned in our time as the ones with lovers from hell that saw us like a convenience of toilet paper and cocktail party bravado.

And now, in walking the streets thinking intently, noticing the shapes in life, I am being interrupted by urban men who “want to talk” to me. I hate this and being a well-endowed woman is sometimes the greatest karmic curse of reincarnation. I was a cat-calling pig in my former life, right?

My heart aches today with a want to be invisible, wombed and loved in a big bed white with astute observations.

I never want to dread a walk home.

Someday I want to make someone cry with only 6 words.

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Love Lovely in White Rooms


Most often, he puts us in white rooms. The love of my life carrying me to the city with the proverbial lumbar vertebrae of  a giant, and we are in white rooms that hum with the light. The photos here are in the Allerton Hotel in Chicago. Every moment there was a poem. And every moment was a love lovely with the strength of tombs in a midday with only a few birds looking like confused little balls of music.


And now as the cusp of my second life stands before me in the coming week, I know I am okay if only because I am finally truly loved by someone who also does not believe it is all a game. And those like us know the value of life for our own unique reasons, mine often being the thoughts of my almost taking it so quickly, so aimlessly really, for reasons of losing something, usually something I never even wanted to begin with like bad love. Mad love.

Andre Breton wrote, “Convulsive beauty will be veiled-erotic, fixed-explosive, magic-circumstantial, or it will not be,” in Mad Love. My convulsive beauty is here now, guiding me into the white still deeper, sometimes in the forms of hotel rooms, a vicuna overcoat pretending to be white, or in the  form of a detour second-guessing the white moon.

I have already hated and been hated once. Never again. So there it sits and nonexists like god in our backbones.

Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment