Sunday, May 19, 2013

Song to Woody

A beautiful day in CO. Read some more interviews in POETRY IN PERSON: Twenty-five Years  of Conversation with America's poets. Many of these poets were interviewed in the late seventies and early eighties, and they seem to remove themselves from the first person lyric I, which I addressed a few posts ago in regards to trauma and recovery and the fragmented self. Healing involves finding and celebrating that self and reconstructing an identity based on new core beliefs about one's self.

The collection I am working on, as a press has noted, successfully meanders through internal landscapes, once again tied to trauma and recovery. A bit at odds with this view that first person I or internal landscapes are a bad or immature thing to do. We do what we must do as writers. I understand how such self-involvement without concern for the external world is viewed as immature or something young writers do, but again I stress those narratives that have been suppressed and taboo in not only the larger society but in the literary world are necessary. Recovery helps others who have gone through the same thing. These issues are not mere family drama; they devastate lives, harm psyches and objectify women.

Poetry is not an exercise in cleverness necessarily where narrative is something to sneer at because it's been done. So much depends on the poet, what his or her art is doing (hopefully). This is one reason I am glad Sharon Olds received the Pulitzer, though I haven't been crazy about STAG'S LEAP, which I've been unable to read. I do remember in grad school, the guys making fun of her. I think omission and dismissal of violence, sexual abuse and trauma is inhuman of late. When I hear such dismissals in the future people will discover I have found my voice.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I really have second doubts about what I posted yesterday. My displacement in academic settings is however real, and most everyone I know believes I will be a better peer specialist in the mental health field. Letting go of ambition, unhealthy ambition is difficult. But I have for the most part let go of any hope of having an academic career. Yet, I am still writing and this is a good thing as there is time now to write. My third collection, recently rejected by a very well known press, has me feeling giddy as the press sent some very encouraging words about the manuscript. This manuscript was at the outset very rough, but I sent it out on a whim. Just goes to show core concepts which are negative self observations need to be thrown out the window!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bob Dylan's "Day of the Locusts" is my new theme song for my experience in higher education. Yup, he sums it up quite nicely, my experience. I pursued four degrees, trying to learn how to write. It was definitely a mixed bag of magic and dust. The magic came from reading every poem I could get my hands on; the dust came from trying to be somebody.

Competition in academia, at least in the backward provinces, isn't pretty. I am relieved for the most part that I have escaped the strange distances between people that occurs. This is partly from rejection, partly from needing to find some recovery for my illness, and partly from the current the universe has me gliding quite nicely through these days.

Someone close to me insists that part of my difficulties came about due to the fact that I am not upper middle class. He believes selling oneself is a learned behavior from the economic background of the individual. I spend the majority of my time interacting with people who have had no higher education in a different way than than my failed efforts to communicate with academics. I am quite successful among meth-heads, crack smokers, brilliant schizophrenics and the roller-coaster moods of a friend. I can negotiate this landscape. It is difficult after being in school forever and NOT in this world-- a world of honesty, anger, open rudeness and yelling!

I mean this stuff quite seriously. I do not believe the language of the educated is superior, it's just a different language. It's a privileged language, a language deemed necessary for success. And oh success, that two headed snake, that lying son-of-a-bitch, that mummified fate. But the question here is how much does economic background affect "fit" and "comfort" in such settings?

A friend's father is a prof at Berkeley and he, the father grew up quite poor in New Mexico, but he too had to learn the lingo. The friend speaks up and feels what he has to add to a conversation is pertinent, necessary and meaningful. Usually what he says doesn't make a lot of sense, but once in a while he'll pull off a zinger wit-filled comment. It's amazing how many people will nod and approvingly compliment him when he makes no sense. This is academia at times.

I just now recognized that the father didn't let go of his straight forwardness, and this perhaps has hampered him in academic settings. Mostly he put his nose to the grindstone and published like a mad man. This too works?

Watching videos of David Foster Wallace discussing education is interesting too. He too seems to believe there's something dry and distant and that many people teaching aren't into the teaching.He is critical of avant garde fiction, calls it "un-fun." I don't know. I know there's often a sense of supremacy in the academic ideal, that one be producing, hustling, marketing, networking, interacting, schmoozing (you hear this openly!) And yet, I think the story, the "real" story in my life lately is working-class people, downtrodden people, people who live simply. And yes, this can get frustratingly difficult. For example, I don't watch much TV and this makes me appear alien and out of touch. How can I NOT watch American Idol like an addict needing a fix? But fact is, I love my friends. They are cool. They don't write and yet come to every reading cheering me on, and even though they can't afford a book, they are there genuinely, happily and best of all they like my poems, especially my curse poem to 7-11. They get it. They get me, and this makes me a million times healthier than dealing with someone at CU coming into my office, snubbing me about not having read so and so.

No. I read people.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The ordeal the women in Cleveland went through and are going through also unnerved me. Many people are horrified how a human being could take control of another human being's freedom. The bombing at the Boston marathon was also sad and horrific. I want to write today about sexual assault, rape, and childhood sexual abuse and healing, how women are objectified in the media and by men and pornography daily. We can become numb and move on quickly regarding these acts of violence and oppression. Society has a move-on to the next act of insanity brief attention span. There are some sick individuals, some damaged individuals who oppress and abuse. It is often a cycle. There has always been such individuals throughout history.

But there are some individuals, as a friend stated, who seem to have no reason for their being aggressive, hateful and violent.

As a survivor of rape and childhood sexual abuse, I can only say that I truly believe negative thought patterns emerge because of society's right wing extreme religiosity that a woman should be pure or a virgin, demure, quiet, amicable and non-verbal, or at least non-confrontational. It's not just religion, double-standards and sicknness, but it is also the objectification of women in mainstream media, pornography and society in general.

I have found a voice through writing, and it is there that I have gained my power back. I am working on doing so in other aspects of life. I am okay where I am at because I am learning to be compassionate towards myself and shed those harsh views, those core beliefs that are entrenched in one's psyche often through such abuses.

I believe Healing is a means of taking one's power back. Negative thought patterns often emerge when one feels victimized by trauma. Healing involves changing and re-framing the shame, humiliation and distrust that occur when one is abused. This is a difficult battle, one that should not be dismissed or discounted in any way in my opinion. Yes, we acknowledge darkness, which I feel I do in my new collection, SEVEN (3: A Taos Press), but there is the issue of taking one's power back, finding one's voice, shedding those negative core beliefs. For me, this is the core of transfiguring what is dark into beauty.

It is in acknowledging darkness or violence occurred that one can develop an awareness and self-concept,  which has often been damaged and distorted. For me, through my writing, I see the beauty that comes from such triumphs as gaining one's self-esteem and healing as transforming.

Healing is a slow process. It takes strength, fortitude and commitment. It is in my opinion more important than focusing on that darkness, that which is meant to dis-empower an individual.

This is one reason I argue for the lyric I in my poems. Fragmentation, loss of a sense of power, all these things can emerge when one is a survivor of long term abuse. Such stories can reaffirm the experience of others, which I have found as women who have read my book share similar experiences and relay that to me. All in all, there is light, hope and power in such striving.

This month is mental health awareness month, and I am working on being an advocate for mental health issues. PTSD is one issue I feel needs to be addressed in order to combat the abuse of young girls and women.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

I have been watching too many David Foster Wallace videos on YouTube tonight. Brilliant mind. Such a loss! Here he discusses television and commercial entertainment and says avant-garde fiction is "academic and cloistered" and among other things "un-fun." I tried reading Infinite Jest in the nineties but found it too thick and overwhelming to read. I think I will be trying again. Just heard a video of him reading a short story and it blew me away. I have recently written or I should say drafted three stories. The fourth one is really not a story or a poem. In any case, I have written it, and I will lay claim to it even though I'm not sure what it is.

My reading last week went well. Friends and people in my art class said when I read it's like I'm a different person. They say this mostly because I am quiet and shy or as my friend says, unassuming.

When I read the poems it was as if a new me came out because I am learning to trust my language. Once in grad school, a friend said, why don't you have confidence; you have a solid grasp of the language. Still at times I lean towards self-effacement because that is what I've been entrenched with for nearly half a century, but none-the-less, I feel more whole when I am engaged with language whether it be poetry or fiction or some sort of cross between the two genres.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Love this video!

Trying to sell a book of poems is like trying your whole life to avoid suffering. Trying to sell a book of poetry is like trying to teach pigs to fly, talk jive to a turtle, sing sweet nothings to every loss you’ve had. There’s a seaside burden in such loneliness. You walk to and fro, hoping to sell a bit of your wounded and triumphant soul and nobody gives a damn it seems. So you try to sing louder too. You try getting religious even with pleating prayers to a foreign god. There’s wind-chimes and all the lies come like a new kind of wind-song. And luck comes to you like freedom and you too breaking bread and drinking wine, and there’s an infinity of truths dancing through your mind. Every shadow a blessing in summer’s hot throat. Yes, you too nothing but a brief season.