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nj's annotated bibliography

For my thesis program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I was required to have an annotated bibliography. It helps to place your creative practice in a historical context and shows readers the relationships you have to key sources. It is ideally an living document, reflective of central questions, focused topics and evolving concerns that you explore in your work.


Because it's very reflective of the work I do, I will be continually updating it here on my website for all to see and take from, to see what I'm taking inspiration in and what I'm currently thinking about.


 

Amberson, Joshua James. Slow Motion Heroics. Two Plum Press, 2021.

Slow Motion Heroics is a collection of short stories, essays and prose poems. It collects work written over the span of decades into one collection. It explores the theme of unplanned futures and existentialism, which was a timely read for me as I neared graduation. Joshua James Amberson is a great example of what publishing and being a writer in the Real World might look like for someone like me, who isn’t really interested in being famous or publishing with big, traditional houses. He teaches, publishes small chapbooks and zines and overall takes life one day at a time. Slow Motion Heroics is the blueprint for what I want my thesis project to look like — “mixtape-like, perhaps: a little unruly, unlike other common types of collections, but ultimately (hopefully) interesting or fun” (pg 9). I really enjoyed reading it and I think seeing examples of what small publishing houses can accomplish was and is so helpful and makes me hopeful for where my thesis project could go outside of SAIC and this year.


Carson, Anne. Float: A Collection of Twenty-Two Chapbooks Whose Order Is Unfixed and Whose Topics Are Various. Jonathan Cape, 2016.

Float is a collection of 22 chapbooks that can be read in any order given the way they are bound together. Each chapbook is saddle stitched and all 22 are collected together in a clear plastic case. Anne Carson is a renowned poet, essayist and translator. When I was recommended to look at Float, it was because I had wanted my thesis to see my thesis in an unfixed order. I spent a majority of my time with Float analyzing the way the binding and page choice added in the reading and functionality. It’s able to be a choose your own adventure because the chapbooks are all, at the very least, folios. Each book can stand on its own. The box reminds me of a box of cards, specifically tarot cards where you might shuffle the cards to see what you get. Even outside of my thesis, this is something I like to play around with a lot, and Float has inspired me to lean more into it in my practice. 

D., H. Trilogy: The Walls Do Not Fall, Tribute to the Angels, the Flowering of the Rod. New Directions, 1998.

Trilogy is a book composed of three book-length poems: The Walls Do Not Fall, Tribute to the Angels, and Flowering of the Rod. It was written during the Second World War and that colors a lot of the material being covered. It takes place in the mystical realm, with a lot of talk of angels, Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythologies, and Biblical references. Trilogy plays in the space that I want to make a home in with this thesis project, but in other endeavors. I’ve always been drawn to the supernatural and spiritual (being raised a bible kid and also growing up on Harry Potter and Percy Jackson). Lately, I’ve been giving myself a lot of leeway to let the religious nerd in me come out in my writing and it’s taken me to places I would have never imagined, a few examples from my own thesis being a rat-shaped hole in Chicago, Mara is introduced to the town and Psalm 23. Outside of my thesis, Trilogy’s ability to make source material something new has inspired me in my endeavor to write a long poem of my own, Eve and Her Daughters, which could be said to be a retelling of the Bible in my own voice. 


Davis, Lydia. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Penguin Books, 2013.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis is a collection of short stories from four of her previous collections of short stories: Break It Down (1986), Almost No Memory (1997), Samuel Johnson is Indignant (2001), and Varieties of Disturbance (2007). Lydia Davis is a short story writer, novelist, essayist and translator. If you learn nothing else from this annotated bibliography, know that when I am interested in a writer, especially one who is farther along in their practice, I am very interested in seeing all of their work gathered together to witness the journey of their creative endeavors. The Collected Stories, takes her four oldest collections and puts them in one place, in a book with over 700 pages. Lydia Davis has mastered the art of the short story. In her stories, she picks a thread or theme she wants to speak about and writes until she is finished. She doesn’t bloat her stories with unnecessary details. She keeps it concise and straight to the point. I think that’s something I’m trying to navigate as I get back into writing more prose. 

Dickinson, Emily, et al. Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Gibbs Smith, 2019.

Hope is The Thing With Feathers is a complete collection of Emily Dickinson’s poems broken up by themes. Emily Dickinson as a person and historical figure and writer is inspiring to me because she spent her whole life writing and collecting her writing and her publishing did not do her output justice. I think in today’s culture, the desire to be famous and rich is pushed heavily in every aspect of life and to not have that desire or want is revolutionary. Hope is The Thing With Feathers, and in general Dickinson’s life, just gives me so much hope for my own work. This collection has everything – the good and the bad, and it makes me appreciate her dedication to her craft so much more. I hope to produce even a 10th of what she did. Good and bad. Seeing it all laid out on the page has given me more appreciation for the work I create that may not be revolutionary or entirely thought-provoking. The act of creating, of writing is what’s so amazing.

Huidobro, Vicente, and Eliot Weinberger. Altazor. Wesleyan University Press, 2004.

Altazor is a long poem written from the perspective of someone falling from an airplane. Divided into seven cantos or songs, the poem is fast-paced, racing towards the end. It is the magnum opus of Vicente Huidobro, a Chilean poet who led his poetic movement of Creationism, which is the idea that a poem is not written for anything other than itself. Similarly with Trilogy, Altazor was a big inspiration for my long poem and I wanted to include it because it literally changed my brain chemistry. It also uses religious subtext to create characters in the poem, and the way it breaks form in each canto is magnificent. I don’t remember the last time I had such a fun time reading something. I have no words for the love I have for this poem. I aspire for my own poetry and writing to be as fun and provocative and enjoyable as Altazor. 

Kaur, Rupi. Home Body. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2021.

Homebody is a collection of poems and drawings by Rupi Kaur. Rupi Kaur is Canadian poet, illustrator, performer and photographer. She is one of the largest names in the genre of Insta-poetry and her rise to fame can be attributed to social media, specifically her post about period blood in 2015. She was one of the first poets I felt seen by when I was younger and to this day she continues to inspire me because I want to see more brown and black women allowed to be, what some would say, mediocre. And I’d like to add that I personally think a lot of the hate Kaur receives comes from the fact that she’s a brown woman. Kaur is like a lot of other names here that show that publishing small or on your own is revolutionary. Especially as a brown woman. Especially as someone who’s practice centers around making her work accessible and digestible for people who aren’t intellectuals by trade, and aren’t in those spaces. 


McCurdy, Jennette. I’m Glad My Mom Died. Simon & Schuster, 2023.

I’m Glad My Mom Died is a memoir by Jennette McCurdy which details her life as a child actor and Nickelodeon star. At its core, it’s a story about a woman learning how to decenter her mother in her life. It’s relatable for a lot of women who were seen as extensions of their mothers (myself included). I also appreciate how it’s written from a technical standpoint. As a reader, I could tell that this was written by someone who works a lot in screenplay. It didn’t feel like someone trying to fit into the box of memoir writing, at least from my point of view (I haven’t read a lot of memoirs). It’s a good reminder to speak in my voice and not get swayed by other perspectives. At the end of the day, my writing is my story to tell and those who want to listen will and those who don’t won’t, which is what memoir writing is all about. 


Niespodziany, Benjamin. No Farther than the End of the Street. Okay Donkey Press, 2023.

No Farther than the End of the Street is a poetry collection. All of the poems take place on a neighborhood street, creating a story arc throughout the book. Benjamin Niespodziany is a Chicago based poet who publishes with small publishers and prioritizes his journey in art making and writing. In his journey, he has fostered a community where writers can come and talk about craft and inspirations. While the book is amazing and makes me think about the parameters of my own thesis and the limitations I can put on it, I think the author himself is where I get the most inspiration. Speaking to Niespodziany during a class visit made me think a lot about sharing poetry and writing and how social media has changed that game. Social media has taken away the power from traditional publishers and given some of it back to writers. You’re able to connect with your audience and community on a personal level and make your work more accessible, which is what my practice focuses heavily on. But, there’s also a fine line between writing as content and writing as art and I think talking with Niespodziany really opened my eyes to the possibilities that the line allows us in the digital age. I also think the ability to see someone in Chicago who is publishing with local small publishing houses like Okay Donkey Press, and much like Joshua James Amberson in Portland with Two Plum Press, has really helped me see where this project might go outside of SAIC and in the larger Chicago area. 


Seuss, Diane. Frank: Sonnets. Graywolf, 2021.

Frank: Sonnets is a collection of modern sonnets that play with line length and how far the line can go. Diane Seuss is a poet who grew up in Michigan (which is what called me to her as someone who also grew up in Michigan). As someone who doesn’t write a lot of poetry in structured forms, I’ve found that restrictions can help breed new possibilities in poems. I’ve been really playing around with the sonnet in particular, as it still allows for me to keep the shape I’ve grown accustomed to. Seeing how Diane Seuss makes the form her own through the modern version shows and reminds me that we can take what we need and leave the rest. It’s your poem – why can’t you have your cake and eat it too?


Smith, Danez. Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems. Chatto & Windus, 2018.

Don’t Call Us Dead is a collection of poetry, with the poems’ themes ranging from race, to HIV, to queerness. Danez Smith is a nonbinary poet, teacher and performer. Smith’s mind… I’m in awe. The way Don’t Call Us Dead utilizes music and other secondary sources as a way to help generate ideas is something I do a lot in my other works. It reminds me a lot of my projects like Poetry Wrapped, which is a series of scrolls featuring poems based on my Spotify Wrapped playlists, and Individualism v Collectivism, which is a series of installation pieces of black out poetry with the source material being president’s speeches. I think it’s also inspired me to branch out and try different forms for my poetry such as couplets. I didn’t start trying out the form until I read this book and so it’s important to add it here, since the rat shaped hole in Chicago wouldn’t be what it is without this book coming to me now. 


The Holy Bible. American Bible Society, 2002.

I’ve included this is my bibliography because as someone who grew up heavily religious, the influence this fucking book still has on me to this day shocks me. When I graduated from high school and moved away from home, I told myself I was shedding that bible girl persona and being free. But closing myself off from that part of me has led to my creative practice being stunted. This project, I’ve allowed myself to see The Bible as source material, as a book written with gems in it I appreciate and enjoy. Past this project and as my practice continues throughout the years, I expect to dive deeper into the stories and poetic verse that shaped me. I think the most important thing about using this book as a creative jumping point is that I let it still be through my lens, as only I can tell it; if I start thinking about what others would think or say, it’ll be tainted and negate the reason for even pulling from the Bible. That will be the line I walk as I continue to write. 

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