There's a beauty in sadness? I am thinking of Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl" were horrible Holocaust imagery is juxtaposed by images of light and springtime. I think most literature that appeals to me brings together such polarities. And they say that no literature is "great" anymore? Chicano/a literature is merely anything written by a Chicano, or someone who identifies as Chicano or moreso Latino? Do we trust our tastes, our cognitive beliefs about what is great art? Or is it, as the C says, like pornography; you know it when you read it?
With all the talk about conceptual art and all of the anti-narrative slant that is so extremely popular now, I feel a disconnect a splitting if you will betweeen the work I like and what one is expected to like. For example, I like Billy Collins. He has a doctorate, I believe in Romantic Literature, and I do not believe for a second that he is always lighthearted and uninterested in our mortality. He seems to be a rallying point for the disgruntled. Thank god we are not all alike. I think if anything his focus is more on living and dying than joking around. People also dislike Tony Hoagland for some of the same reasons. Some readers find his work unnervingly sexist, but I like some of his work too. I don't believe that one's work must be inherently political to be moving to readers. I think there is a place for lightheartedness and humor. I so wish I could find it in my own work, or my lack of work, for I haven't written in years. I mean, I wrote at Yaddo, but it was fleeting and I haven't had the time or inclination to revise.
Does this make me a "bad" poet, one who is uneducated in the proper manner towards experimentation and linguistic play? I don't believe I am uninterested in language or lyricism, but it seems that one must be swept away in the "now" to appear credible as a poet? I remember interviewing with Notre Dame and the hostility directed towards me because I wrote at times narratively and it was assumed I didn't know what was going on in the "now". Is that a word? narratively?
Recently I finished writing an essay about Diana Garcia and if you will, Chicano/a literature. Is there a place for greatness among Chicano literature or is anyone who writes anything considered an artist writing for la causa?
I am not down with it. I am suspect of any writing that comes flowing out being viewed as literature. I am concerned that most, in my current estimation, do not differentiate literature or art from mere propaganda and politics. There is a difference in my opinion, and I add the little "in my opinion" to cushion my growing isolation, my growing desparateness from other Latino/a writers and poets.
Maybe it is simply a reaction to the fact I will not be teaching. I am taking a real hiatus from teaching and I do not know how long it will last. It may be forever. I will be applying for social security and find the Latino "community" quite non-communal. This is not necessarily true on the whole as I do feel I have particular "allies," but they tend to be fiction writers.
I find the work of poet as a solitary thing. I mean one can participate in writing groups, collectives and discussions, but the work of a poet is still to me like the work of a long distance runner, solitary. I find the pooling together of resources potentially helpful, but the reality is that there are some of us who do not fit into the group? Perhaps it is our own feeling of being disconnected to it more than anything real.
The idea of being part of a team does appeal to me, but the fact of the matter is that Latino/a poetry or poetries (and I remember a non-poets eye roll at that term) does not seem some unified front where everyone is treated well or even acknowledged. The bias for instance that I see at one time drove me crazy, but now, I sense that there's not a lot I can do about it other than to try to keep on writing.
Today people slammed Denise Levertov for appropriating the Vietnameese experience of war and conflict. I am often taken aback at the disinterest people have in lyricism and what is beautiful. Is beauty dead? Archaic? Why then to I still find light contrasted with darkness so necessary, so urgently calling out to me?
I should spend more time on what I write here and write more critically, more specifically of particular poets and what they have written I suppose, but over all the sense of jaded-ness I feel towards what we call American Poetry is probably simply my sense of outsider-ness among my own kind? I am the silence I wrote about in Pity the Drowned Horses, a book that most definitely fell through the cracks into oblivion. I do have someone interested in publishing my second collection, which I feel strangely ambivalent towards. I feel outside of it in a strange way, yet others do like it, but the reaction seems mixed, uneven.
For I have never been all Mexican or all American. I haven't even felt accepted by most Latino/a poets. I find them fair-weather at best; behind me when things are going well for me, yet they are utterly disinterested in one's traummas, difficulties, financial or emotional, for this is after all a business. This is one thing that I hope to separate myself from others.
I may not be a teacher, nor a politician, nor a mover and shaker, but I think and hope that I am to some degree a poet. It took me years before I could call myself a poet, much less a writer, and throughout grad school I was told I was not Latina. I didn't I suppose fit into some mold. My identity as Latina is something I chose? Was it thrust upon me while running the streets of Lubbock and being told to "go back to Mexico." I don't know.
I feel this concept that there is no greatness or relevance any longer to be somewhat disconcerting. Someone once responded on this blog that they just wanted to read about other culutures sometimes and did not care if was "good" literature.
I also was challenged once to define "good".
So possibly I will revise my essay outlining what is good and what can be viewed a "bad" or mediocre. Overall, I feel a disparity between publicity given to some "friends" over publicity given to those we are not feeling particularly close to, and it is this very disparity that used to upset me so.
But now, I am simply wondering if I will ever write again. I think I will soon. The difficulty of teaching has come down on me hard this semester. I can not under any circumstances continue to be an "adjunct" instructor. It has simply taken its toll. I will take a hiatus and try to write some poetry and some criticism.
So I have blathered on the blog. But over all, I am disappointed in what is called the "community" as I have gone through some rough times, with no member, no "activist" out there giving a damn. I have learned therefore that business is simply business and there is little truly "communal" about it.
The heirerachy's exist and there is still marginalization and there is even further marginalization among the marginalized themselves.
I have put up with some humiliating comments and posts from people who have felt it was their place to scold me and get me to shut up. The silence demanded is no different that the silence that was demanded of me, in terms of being political, when I was a grad student.
But the world has little to no interest in us poets. Maybe being political is the way to go? I find political talkers often to be the first to be disinterested in other's true traumas or difficulties. They hold their positions of power and invite one another to readings all the while disowning the poor among us. These are simply realities that can not and do not shadow the joy of writing.