Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Curtis Rogers

Curtis Rogers is a Washington, DC-based poet and graphic designer. I first met Curtis when we were both at NYU and had a craft class together where, if I'm remembering correctly, we made some sort of human sound sculpture together. Curtis was then and is now whip-smart, sensitive, and an incredible writer. I hope you'll check out some of his poetry after reading this interview! 


Who are you? I’m Curtis. Never Curt. Sometimes baristas write “Kurtis” on my coffees, although I’ve been off caffeine for a bit. My pharmacist calls me Rogers, my last name. I got a lot of Mr. Rogers jokes as a kid and still do. When I’m creating profiles online often I go by mrcurtz, a nod to Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now. I’m a book lover and a film lover. I’m a writer and self-taught graphic designer. More than anything, I’m a dog person.

Where can you be found online? I don’t blog anymore, although it was definitely an important part of my life at one point (more on that below). I also don’t have a personal website or any other central location online for my writing, yet. I’ve been working on one! Right now, you can find my writing online in journals such as Phantom Limb, ILK, Vinyl Poetry, and DIAGRAM. I also write frequently for my friend Jeff Berg’s blog, and share my artwork there.

As for how I would describe my work: obsessive, finicky, potty humored, potty mouthed, repetitive, droning, childproof, once-a-day, probed, defensive, strenuous, tenuous at best. A classmate once said my work “hated the reader,” which I think is true, for better or worse. Not that I hate for anyone to read my poems! But more that many of my poems follow a sort of embarrassed or evasive logic, with the reader playing Tom to the poem’s Jerry or vice versa. They are very cartoonish, in fact, in my head, although often they are also rather dark. Of course, what readers get from the poem is more important to me than how I see them in my head. I hope my poems can take readers somewhere new, if not to a hot tub on a clear night.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? When I was a teenager I was fanatic about blogging. I had a LiveJournal, GreatestJournal, DeadJournal...I’m sure I’m forgetting some. I wasn’t so much inspired to blog as I was coerced by my friends at the time. When you’re a teenager in the Florida exurbs, there isn’t a lot for you to do offline, especially if you’re as beach-phobic as I am. In fact, I first started writing poetry because of my involvement with certain communities on those sites. Now, my only blogging consists of guest posts for friends’ sites. I still write poetry regularly, but the poems stay offline until they’re published. I think both my blogging and my poetry started with a desire to connect with people similar to myself, because, like most teenagers, I felt misunderstood and isolated. As I’ve gotten older, my inspiration for writing has less to do with self-expression than it does with helping others misunderstand themselves.

Why do you write? I write because I feel compelled to write. Writing isn’t fun for me, or pleasurable. Not really. Although I love to read, writing feels more like a hygienic practice, like peeling off a band-aid for hours at a time. I often get headaches when I write. My method involves consistent dead horse beating—a line must feel “just right” before I am willing to move on in a poem. And I have such a fascination with obsession and echo … it’s a miracle I ever finish drafts. Perhaps the real reason I write is simply because it’s how I feel best equipped to process my ideas and participate in greater conversations. I’m thinking of the O’Hara poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” although I’m not an O’Hara fanatic. The reasons are murky, but their influences feel instinctual.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? You inspire me. To be a poet today requires enormous dedication and creativity, and there are so many poetic conversations going on at once, I get inspired left and right. A lot of the talented individuals I met through my MFA program inspired me greatly, and continue to do so. Ai, Richard Brautigan, Yusef Komunyakaa, Hart Crane, Gertrude Stein, and Rae Armantrout come to mind as poets who I can’t stop re-reading, whose voices always stick in my head. I’m inspired by music of all kinds. When I’m writing a poem, I usually pick a unique song to listen to on repeat while working on that piece. Peggy Lee has been hugely influential. When I’m feeling down I like to listen to her version of “Is That All There Is?,” and when I’m feeling up I like her “Fever.” My MFA thesis was called “Is to a Fire,” referencing the former, and my working manuscript title is "Fever’s Mr.," playing off the latter. Graphic art and paintings have had a great influence on me. I’ve been a freelance graphic designer and low-grade graphic artist since high school. For a while, I used to google paintings by Yves Tanguy as part of my poetic editing ritual. I’ve written a number of ekphrastic pieces based his work. Film roles and directors, especially from iconic and cult films, have held a lot of my poetic and artistic real estate. TV characters. Video game characters. Drag queens. The list is always growing.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? For a few years, I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland. That would be at the top of my list. I’m attracted to cold environments, largely because I often feel like I have a mild fever (another source for "Fever’s Mr."). When I was a kid, my family lived in Barbados, but I haven’t been out of the country since we moved back. I’d like to fix that. My boyfriend has had considerable experience studying and traveling in the Middle East and parts of Africa. If this all-expenses paid trip included a guest, I would probably forgo Iceland to see Istanbul with him.

What is your favorite place on earth? Maybe CVS. Maybe Strand. Maybe Philly.

Anything else you'd like us to know? Speaking of Peggy Lee, I recently found out she inspired Miss Piggy. How cool is that!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weekday Wanderings - Snow Day in Brooklyn

For NYC, today's blizzard turned out to be less historic than was expected, but the day working from home let me take a nice long walk to Prospect Park to see the city playing in the snow. I was especially impressed with the folks I saw cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. I really wished I could join them!















A Southern New Year - Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA

Wednesday, January 31, 2014
The next morning, we woke up and my hair looked great!


Ha! We got an early start, and headed out to Angel Oak, which is thought to be the oldest southern oak in South Carolina. It was down a long dirt road, and a very secluded, quiet place. It was a lovely early morning stop on the way to Savannah.





We drove for a while down Route 17 toward Savannah, and stopped on Edisto Island, which was beautiful and nearly empty in the off season and cold. We gathered some sea shells and walked along the beach before hitting the road again.


It was around this time, about a third of the way to Savannah, that we realized if we wanted to see the sweetgrass baskets we'd come for, we actually should have gone north out of Charleston. So... we turned around! The nice thing about vacation is you can do whatever you want. And we did. And it was awesome. On the way to our first booth, I heard a knocking sound I'd never heard before and when we looked up, saw my very first woodpecker! It was an incredible sight!



We hopped from booth to booth and spoke to some incredible basket weavers. Because it was after Christmas, and because the weather was a bit chilly and rainy, there were a lot of empty stands, but that made it all the easier to spend extra time talking with the artists we met. We ended up buying a few baskets from three weavers, each of which is beautiful in a unique way. Roger fell in love the with the elephant ear baskets and I loved the double-loop ones. We couldn't afford any of the really big pieces, but I'm glad we went back to buy a few smaller ones.

It also let us head to one last Charleston restaurant, which turned out to be the best meal we had the entire time! We ate at Martha Lou's Kitchen, and it was incredible. Any disappointment we'd had about missing the fried chicken the night before was totally alleviated when they brought out our platters. Every thing we ate there was perfect, from the (not overly sweet) sweet tea to the chicken to the lima bean sides to the spectacular pecan pie with a flakey crunch crust. Even thinking about it a month later as I write this, I just want to burrow down into that food. Another highlight is that Martha Lou herself was hanging out in the kitchen and dining room, and the waitresses were incredible. Seriously one of the best meals of my life.



After lunch, we made our way south to Savannah, again, and stopped for the most amazing boiled peanuts ever on the way back. I'm not sure what the name of the booth is, but it's on Rt 17 South and SC-174 and they were extremely tasty. After that, we drove straight to Savannah and had a little time to park and settle in to our hotel before we went to Kinzie's amazing apartment for a little New Year's Eve fun!


Kinzie and her husband, Donnie, had set up a little snack table and we all hung out and chatted there for a bit before joining them at one of their friends' houses for a little beer pong.


We headed back to Kinzie's just before midnight, and spent the evening chatting about our goals for 2015 and beyond. It was so great to hear how eclectic all our hopes and dreams are, because there's nothing more inspiring than hearing what brilliant people hope to accomplish, and how they plan to do it.



It was seriously one of the best New Year's Eves I've ever had. It was so much fun and so low-key. I can't think of a better way to ring in 2015 than with delicious food and brilliant friends in a new place to explore. Thank you so much, Kinzie and Donnie, for hosting us!

Next Up: We spend the day wandering around Savannah!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - The Wyckoff House Museum

Back on January 2nd, Roger and I were talking about our #museolutions for the year, and I realized that 2015 was the perfect year to start visiting all the Historic House Trust houses in NYC. See?




So on Saturday, when we woke up to a few inches of snow and no real plans, we checked their website and decided to visit our first one, the Wyckoff Farmhouse. I'm visiting them in chronological order, and the Wyckoff house, built in 1652, is actually the oldest house in New York City. We grabbed a quick brunch in Park Slope at Dizzy's, and then headed to Atlantic Avenue to catch the train.


It's a lot easier to get to the house than I'd originally thought it would. Located at 5816 Clarendon Road; Brooklyn, NY 11203, we took the 3 train to Church Ave and then took the B47 to Clarendon, but you can also take the 2 or 5 train to Newkirk and then the B8 bus to Beverley Road at East 59th Street. It was a very easy trip, so don't let the lack of a subway stop you from visiting! Just remember: they're only open for tours on Friday and Saturday at 1pm and 3pm.


Because of the snow, we were the only visitors for the 1pm tour, so we got a very personal experience as Lucie, our guide, led us through the six rooms of the house. She was very knowledgeable about the house and its history. Pieter Clasen, the man who built and lived in the home, was originally an indentured servant who emigrated to Rensselaerswyck—which, at the time, was actually three times as large as modern-day Rensselaer County—when he was 12 or 13. He built the house as one room in 1652 and today it is one of the ten oldest wood houses in America, and the oldest house in New York City. It also has an excellent example of a Dutch jambless fireplace, which you can see here, since I don't have any photos of it.

The first addition to the house was done two generations later, by Pieter's grandson, and shows some of the popular styles of the time, including built-in shelves and porcelain. The room was likely used as domestic kitchen, while the original room was used primarily for commercial work.


Toward the end of his life, Pieter's grandson added a third room to the house, which became more of a formal room, with tiles around the fireplace, built-in shelves, and very wide floorboards.



Three bedrooms were added to what had previously been the back of the house in the 19th century, and it was used as a working farm until 1901. At the end of the tour, Lucie showed us some incredible photos of the house through the 20th century, when it fell into disrepair and the neighborhood around it was built up, particularly after WWII. It's shocking that the house is even still standing given that much of the area was bulldozed and turned into a junkyard, and that there was a serious fire there, but it's a survivor and was restored late in the 20th century and opened to the public for tours in 2001.

If you're looking for an interesting site to tour, I would definitely check out the Wyckoff Farmhouse. Especially in the summer, when the gardens are blooming, it's a great place to spend an afternoon! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Vanessa Steil

Vanessa Steil is the author of Living in Steil (pronounced "style"), a lifestyle blog about fashion, food, health and wellness. She is a 2009 graduate of The American University and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. Her articles for Living in Steil include "Coming to Grips with Thyroid Cancer," the personal story of her cancer diagnosis at age 26, and "Twenty Things I've Learned in My Twenties." She is also a contributor to The Glamour Department where she writes about beauty and skincare products.
 

Who are you? I am Vanessa Steil. A native of Long Island, New York, graduate of The American University in Washington, D.C., and author of Living in Steil (pronounced "style").

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? I write the lifestyle blog Living in Steil. My posts cover, for example, fashion: the perfect sweater dress; food: how to make lobster quesadillas; health and wellness: why you should have your neck checked. I am also on Twitter and Pinterest, and I share photos from my escapades on Instagram.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I began writing in 2013 when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 26. I had been relatively healthy, but after having cancer I found my voice. I thought that by sharing my story (which you can read on my blog), I could offer hope to other young cancer patients and survivors. It was a cathartic way for me to document my journey and path to recovery with my passion for creativity and style.

The first blog I started following, which inspired me to start my own blog, was Wearing White After Labor Day. Its author was a fashionable law school graduate who shared my love of horses and rode at the same barn as I did many years earlier. I looked forward to her outfit posts and considered her blog my daily fashion survival guide. Now she writes a blog called Musings of a Mom, Esq., and I am happy to say that we have become friends.

Why do you write? I write as a creative outlet. I look forward to sitting down to write, and find that planning content for the blog makes me prioritize my days. Living in Steil is where I share my restaurant reviews, tips for what to do on Long Island, and advice for other twenty-somethings. It has also introduced me to a wonderful community of bloggers. I am so grateful to other bloggers who have answered my questions as a novice, and of course, to my readers.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? Thank you. I'm inspired when I read interviews from The Everygirl and Career Contessa about people following their dreams and launching their careers. I've always believed that if you love what you do then you'll never work a day in your life, and I think it's very encouraging to read other people's success stories

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Somewhere warm! To me a vacation must consist of three things: a beach, good weather, and time for relaxation. Hawaii has been on my travel list for a while, so this might be a good opportunity to go there -- and fly first-class! Or I would love to go back to Portugal (Cascais has the most gorgeous beach!). I visited in 2011 and I fell in love with the country. The people, food, and weather were fabulous.

What is your favorite place on earth? I'd have to say my favorite place is the beach. I grew up going to the beach on summer weekends, and it's something I still look forward to doing when I have the time. The sound of the water is so peaceful, and lounging on the sand under the warmth of the sun never gets old. Sometimes when I am longing for summer, I take a quick stroll to the nearest beach just to get my fill of the water until it can be appreciated in all of its glory. Plus, I love landscape photography and there is nothing better than sunset shots at the beach!

Anything else you'd like us to know? Yes! I say this a lot now, but please get your neck checked at your next doctor's appointment. Thyroid cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the United States. In 2014, 62,980 people will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer, an increase of 4.6% from 2013.