JADE

Have you developed or revisited any pandemic hobbies?

First, it was getting back into yoga. I started with Sky Ting livestreams and Karin Dimitrovova courses.

My next project was planning our move across the country, from New Orleans to Berkeley.

After we settled in, I was on the road to a promotion (which happened), and I also recorded a bunch of film footage (one poetry film, one documentary profile), but I have completely fallen on my face as an editor, so it's all sitting in a metaphorical vault.

After failing to learn Adobe Premiere Pro, once again my focus shifted—this time, to painting.

Painting has been fucking amazing. I used to paint in high school, mostly acrylic and watercolor. I used to paint objects, too. I painted my bike, my classical guitar, and random household goods. I still have a few relics from those days.

So when I decided to order paint, canvas, and brushes, I already knew exactly what I was looking for. It had been over 10 years. It was actually a hobby I picked up during my time in a mental hospital in high school. It was one of our teen ward group activities.

(Sidebar: In a way, being in a mental hospital is like being in lockdown. You have a lot of free time to occupy. You're isolated from the outside world. Most of your interactions are limited to the people in your immediate vicinity or your therapist.)

But back to painting—picking it up came so naturally. Since, I've been painting a lot of abstracts. I haven't done any larger pieces yet. My focus has been honing my skills on smaller canvas boards. The bigger canvases are still sitting in my closet. I've been playing around with color and composition. As a photographer and filmmaker, a lot of those composition skills have been easily transferred to abstract painting.

Most of all, though, it has felt like pure freedom. It's like being a child and playing. I have such a rich, dense writing education, that at times I become preoccupied with perfection—perfectionism feels directly opposed to freedom.

That factor is what stunts my writing the most. There's also a lot of fear of failure, since I've been trained around so many 'career poets' who I simultaneously admire and am intimidated by.

By contrast, I have no stake in the outcome of my paintings. At best, I'll post them on my portfolio or they'll decorate my house. Maybe some will be gifted to close friends. That's about it. Poetry is different for me. I want to write well, and I want to get my work published.

I think there is a lot to learn about my writing from the process of creating a painting. I hope to adopt those lessons in freedom and transfer them to my writing.

But fuck, writing can be challenging. It's not the writing, but rather plumbing one's own depths, facing one's own shadow. I've been doing that in my meditation practice, but it's so vulnerable to think about anyone seeing it.

I have been writing a lot, but I haven't found any public homes for my work because of the level of vulnerability. I don't even like being on social media anymore because I've been enjoying my privacy.

I've recently attended several writing workshops. It is something that feeds my soul, yet for a long time it felt so inaccessible. I have always struggled with burnout from working too hard at jobs, and I also actively avoid interacting with strangers, which always made it an easy decision to avoid in-person workshops.

Now with everything on Zoom, I could suddenly attend numerous workshops across the country. So far this year, I've taken workshops with Echo Park Film Center, Kundiman, (W)rites of Passage, and (soon to come) The Home School—all incredible organizations to support, by the way.

I also started film photography on a old 2002 point-and-shoot and got into the extremely nerdy hobby of mechanical keyboards. As a writer, mechanical keyboards have this typewriter-esque nostalgia. Or 3rd grade typing class nostalgia, perhaps.

(In case you were curious, I have Drop ALT keyboard.)

I used to use a shitty Apple Magic Keyboard that has a gross, tinny sound when you type on it. My typing experience is much more elevated since switching. Elevated is an understatement. It has been glorious. It is almost ecstatic, that feeling of typing on my custom-built mechanical keyboard.

I also recently got a reMarkable tablet, basically a skeuomorphic e-notebook that you write by hand on. That's where I've been doing most of my reading and writing—but I've been hoarding all my writing on there instead of transferring it to my computer.

(Also, I just learned the word 'skeuomorphic.')

I remember how enthused I used to be about sharing my work, sometimes on social media or when I'd get a new poem published online. Now, I'm like, wow, this is forever. The internet is forever, and anyone who searches my name for all time will see my work.

That's one benefit of having your work in print: only the people who really want to see it will.

It's a question I've been pondering for the last year. If I did start one, it would be something small and accessible for my immediate poetry community. Say, for example, a curated poem once per month via email.

There's no money in poetry, so it'd have to be something with a relatively low impact on my day-to-day life that is also scalable in case I want to adapt it into poetry e-books or something of that nature. But it should also live online so that those featured in it can link out to it to showcase their work. As a poet myself, I know there's a lot of value in that.

My friend Polina West runs a Substack newsletter called “Lollipops and crisps”. She just migrated over from TinyLetter, and I love the email format. It's more intimate, and you know exactly whose reading your work. Plus, there's an archive that lives online, which I find important.

Polina also recently released a very zine-like, DIY-style, hella punk collection, IRL IRL 005, published by Human Trash Dump. IRL IRL was started by her and April Vendetta, who runs Human Trash Dump.

One of the notes in its archive.org description is, “IRL IRL is looking for less anxiety inducing or habit-forming methods of sharing ideas and communicating amongst ourselves & with 'the public.'” In other words, Polina and April are geniuses, and IRL IRL takes on a very “fuck social media” stance without actually saying it. . . which is essentially the same sentiment behind writing a low-traffic blog instead of harnessing the power of social media to get my 4,000 followers (spread across various platforms) to consume my work.

Now, Polina can say anything she wants, and the people who consume it have already opted in. They want to see her work. And that's the power of email, a power social media (arguably) no longer holds. She's not under the thumb of the algorithm, and neither is her work. I'd also like to note that IRL IRL submissions are via ProtonMail, which is consistent with her values.)

I've even faced a dilemma about starting this blog. Are blogs dead? The truth of this space is that I want to talk about process and showcase what I'm working on for anyone who is curious about work. It's for the select few who are peeping my work, maybe those who want to collaborate or are just straight up creepers.

Honestly, I'm not even sure what it means to talk about “process.” I often think of the cerebral, inaccessibly “cool” poets and writers, especially those deeply steeped in academic circles all jerking each other off intellectually. I also think of how empty that feels to me.

Since CAConrad has had an immense influence on my work and life, I immediately think of their (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals, which is a form of discussing process that is non-pretentious and also very punk.

I just need to decide what suits me when I discuss process in this space. I guess in a way, that's what I'm already doing.

So, start a press or not? I guess we shall see.

If you know of any writers or artists owning their spaces like CAConrad and Polina, please let me know.

If you're interested in publishing a poem through my future press, please reach out to me, too.

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.