Formidable Women

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, Amy McDaniel has declared today “Formidable Women Day” and asked people to celebrate “by making your own list of the formidable women who are alive to you.” There’s even a hashtag, #formidablewomen.

I’m (almost too) scared to make a list because lists are exclusionary. Lists are hegemonic; order is patriarchal. But of course it’s fun to think about, and enriching, and I do want to take an opportunity to name some people I admire. So I’m limiting myself to ten, though I could go on and on. And these ten, of course, are in no order. They are also very personal, which is why I talk about myself so much in the annotations.


Amy McDaniel is not only the founder of F.W.D. but also she tops my list. She has been one of my favorite writers since I first read her posts at HTMLGiant, and she’s an easy but probing conversationalist. She talks through ideas with me for hours until, finally, I start to understand an ethical perspective that she seems to have arrived at automatically years ago. I’m lucky in love with her!



Bethany Hamann was one of my first female besties—so smart, adventurous, and snarky—and as I grew up without sisters or female friends (I was sheltered), just being around her helped me understand women as people, not just “other species.”


Continue reading “Formidable Women”

One Week in Panama

In which Amy McDaniel and I visit Panama for a week.

Adam and Amy horseback riding in El Vallé de Anton
Adam and Amy horseback riding in El Vallé de Anton
Takeaway: For a country the size of South Carolina, Panama has a huge variety of place. Panama City is urban, towering, vibrant with history and culture. Just outside the city, the canal is popping with wildlife (and canal). The San Blas Islands, on the Caribbean side, are postcard paradises, and El Vallé de Anton is a verdant volcano.

We went because of frogs. Kind of. A month ago I sat down to read The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert, which begins with a look at the golden frogs going extinct in El Vallé de Anton. Unrelatedly, Amy said something about taking a trip. I said, “Let’s go see these frogs.”

And Amy’s dad served in Panama when he was in the Army, so she’d always wanted to go. She started putting together an itinerary.
Continue reading “One Week in Panama”

Units & Increments and poetry

This week I figured out why, in InDesign, I might want to set my vertical and horizontal units differently. Previously I set them both to inches. Changing that under Preferences > Units & Increments is always the first step in my workflow.

I understand that some graphic designers are trained to think in pixels or picas, but I’m not. Those are basically a foreign language to me; I could get by passably in that country, but I’m not fluent.

Horizontally, inches make a lot more sense to me. When calculating a book’s spine width, for example, I’m very good at setting my vertical guides by inch marks. I even know my fractions.

Vertically, I hardly look at any measurements—until recently, when I decided it was time to finally conquer aligning paragraphs to a grid. Continue reading “Units & Increments and poetry”

“Power Chord” Scratch Track

This is a song I recorded so I could share it with my old band, Sweatpants. It was a long time ago, so I feel like I can listen to it with some detachment. And objectively I can say it is fierce and shredding.

“Get up on the stage and fight
Behind the drums and flashing lights
We’ll rock

“Give big gifts to your friends,
you’ll find yourself with happy ends.
Bill burns me CDs,
he knows the songs that will please,


Not Elves Exactly

On Saturday I had the opportunity to lead a poetry workshop at The Letters Festival here in Atlanta, at the Goat Farm (that’s the beautiful place where the picture above was taken). I chose to focus my workshop on the question of meaning in poetry, which is something I always shy away from (in past workshops, lectures, and panel discussions I would always opt to talk about specific things, like the use of sentences in poetry, or jokes), but this time I decided I’d tackle the essential question head on. Here are my notes.

Not Elves Exactly

John Ciardi, poet, fighter pilot, translator, etymologist, TV personality (d. 1989), says we shouldn’t ask “What does a poem mean” but “How does a poem mean.” This was in his 1960s book, How Does a Poem Mean. Continue reading “Not Elves Exactly”

The Sonnets by Sandra Simonds


The Sonnets
poems by Sandra Simonds
from Bloof Books

I love the poems of Sandra Simonds (like, here’s one from Everyday Genius), and so can you. This is a great book. I tore through it. Am tearing through it. That’s not a nice way to put it. I love these poems. I love the way they combine ordinary moments but make them strange with language.

“isn’t that what’s / awesome about being an American poet? / You can just take your ignorance / and run with it or rename it bravado.”

Mathias Svalina’s Wastoid


poems by Mathias Svalina
from Big Lucks Books

I just got this beauty in the mail. It’s poems. It’s sonnets, even. But they are in paragraphs. The book is called Wastoid and every poem in there is also called Wastoid. Guess they didn’t want to wastoid any time doing up new titles. (The acknowledgments notes that the title was inspired by a metal band from Lincoln, NE, named Wasteoid.)

This is a pretty hefty book, at 154 pages. Sara Woods made the cover. It’s beautiful. 

Most of the poems begin “My lover is” something.

Meg Ronan’s “The Obligatory Garnish Argument”


the obligatory garnish argument
by Meg Ronan
from Spring Gun Press

Meg Ronan sent this to me months ago, but when it arrived I was moving and it was packed up before I even knew what it was.

What it is is the obligatory garnish argument, which sounds like the best Guns n Roses album ever. Not that, though. Instead it is a book of little tiny word nuggets to rearrange your mindspace, like:

the obligatory garnish argument

this glob drought          requires
liberal sub-global oxygen garden policy
here, take all my cable knits

Which is writing I like a lot, lot, but me personally I cannot read many in one sitting even though they’re not long and the book is not long. (Are there patterns to these pieces? How were they composed?) But Ronan, smart, inserts what I take to be found text that plays with the “are you still reading this” trope of tl;dr patterns. That’s what this book is! It’s a question about reading. “If you’re still reading this you’re pretty serious about your car audio.” It’s a thing about endurance. It’s a question about beauty.

“Don’t read any further.” “Stop suffering.”

the obligatory garnish argument

born for this barging this constant charitable
luxury mirage        more serious shards please
change me for the ragged flora and the boredom

I don’t endure poems like that! I refresh myself with them. Poems like that hand me back the thoughts I had that I didn’t get. I like what Sandra Doller says in her blurb, “What happens when text is filtered through the meaning machine? What will stem the exhausting tide of linguistic proliferation?” This! Henry Miller referred to “the sieve through which my anarchy strains, resolves itself into words.”

Check it out.