Where are you from?
I am originally from Iowa, but currently live in Nebraska.
Where are you at in your career?
My third chapbook BRANDING GIRLS was just released from Finishing Line Press this year. BRANDING GIRLS is a collection of poetry that delves into consumerism, brands, and advertising while using the ekphrasis to respond to contemporary American and international artists and their work. These poems reclaim the commodified and objectified self as they interrogate the effects of commercialization on the global landscape. Stemming from my investigation into the work by the French artist Camille Solyagua whose series Collection: 92-06 explores plants, animals, and human body parts entombed in specimen jars in the nineteenth century and saved by a museum in Paris, BRANDING GIRLS questions the ways in which we seek to preserve beauty, desire, and curiosity in the name of science, culture, and marketing. International journalist Naomi Klien writes, “After all, if a brand was not a product, it could be anything,” pointing to the fragmentation of the self and the dislocation of political, social, and personal ideals via branding. Other poems in BRANDING GIRLS respond to work by photographer Lauren Greenfield’s examination of the hyper-sexualization of girls in Girl Culture, artist Melanie Pullen’s critique of fashion and violence in High Fashion Crime Scene, and Japanese artist Miwa Yanagi’s look at the objectification of elevator girls in the Hankyu railway line connecting cities such as Kyoto and Osaka in White Casket. I’ve posted clips from recent readings I’ve given in Nebraska on YouTube, as well as someaudio recordings on my website. BRANDING GIRLS is available at Amazon and Finishing Line Press.
What made you want to apply to Prairie Center for the Art’s Residency Program?
I’m currently working a project on the nineteenth century suffragist, lecturer, and poet Matilda Fletcher, who is also my great-great-great-grandmother. Seeking to preserve a voice that might otherwise be lost from the historic record, QUEEN OF THE PLATFORM is a collection of poetry based on Matilda’s life. Told from a variety of perspectives and based on extensive research, these poems use experimental and received forms as they seek to invoke the political, educational, and suffragist landscape of the nineteenth century.
I applied for a writer’s residency at the Prairie Center of the Arts because I hoped that I would have the opportunity to continue my research and writing on Matilda because of her connection to the Midwest, specifically Illinois. Matilda was born in Winnebago County, Illinois in Durand and educated in Rockford. During her forty-year career on the platform, she made frequent stops in Illinois. For example, she lectured before the Military Institute at Fulton in October 1869. In January 1872, The Chicago Tribune covered her talks, “Men and Their Whims” and “Civil Service Reform,” in Champaign, Illinois. That same year she stumped for the reelection of President Ulysses S. Grant, giving over one hundred lectures in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and Nebraska. Though she continued to return to Illinois each year, she came back in earnest when her brother was charged with murder and sent to the state prison in Joliet. Between 1905 and 1909, she battled the Illinois court for his freedom, a task that culminated in the publication of her third book, The Trial and Imprisonment, and her early death in Rockford.
Recent poems that I’ve already published from this series can be found online in The Floorboard Review, Generations of Poetry, and Redheaded Stepchild, in the print journalCompass Rose, and in the anthologies Knocking at the Door and Flashlight Memories.
What is your length of residency?
About a month and a half.
What are you working on during this residency?
As I mentioned above, I’m working on researching and writing about Matilda. I’m also working on another poetry series and a few essays.
What is the best part about this residency?
My studio in PCA is perfect! It’s quiet and that’s just what I need as a writer. The facilities here are great. The founders, director, and other staff have all been so helpful with information about PCA, the local area, and getting in and around Peoria. It’s the perfect time of year to write—with all the July humidity and heat—because it keeps me inside working in a comfortable, safe, relaxing, and friendly environment.
What are you doing after you leave Prairie Center?
I’m teaching in the English Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Tell me about your creative process and work habits as a professional?
My creative process changes, project to project. When I was writing my third chapbook BRANDING GIRLS, I used photography to inspire my poetry. With my work on Matilda Fletcher, I let facts and family legends guide my writing. My first chapbook MY IMAGINARY(Dancing Girl Press, 2010) was driven by the voice of a character, an imaginary friend that also happened to be a body part. My second chapbook GHOST GIRL (Pudding House, 2010) explores the recovery of memory after relocation, and seems to bridge the work I did in MY IMAGINARY and BRANDING GIRLS; some of the poems in GHOST GIRL are ekphrasis and respond to art and literature, while others are character driven.
Do you have any advice for future residents who are considering residencies?
I really enjoy attending residencies. It’s a time where you can devote yourself to one project or several smaller projects. If that’s something you want—time to work—then you should apply to residencies. Every residency I’ve attended, I’ve left with new work, new friends, and new ideas for future projects.
Where can we look at more of your work and keep in contact with you?