You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2012.
Note: Although I want to keep this blog focused on writing and the more exciting facets of my life, I’ve worried that in the past few months, I’ve become disconnected from feminist issues and activism that mean a lot to me. With that in mind, I’ve decided to devote Fridays to feminist people and organizations that make the world a better place. I might even discuss a feminist issue close to my heart. I think that this will help in part to make me feel more engaged with the feminist community, without making this blog more political than I’d like. Thanks for reading!
The nomination was given by Women in Film and Video, an organization which promotes professional development and achievements for women in film, television, multimedia, and related disciplines. WiFV also nominated He’s Only Missing (Robin Smith, 1978), A League of Their Own (Penny Marshall, 1992), and Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990).
To support the WiFV nominations in the Registry, you can fill out the survey here. Alternately, you can write to Donna Ross at the Library of Congress. You can email her at email@example.com, or send a letter via postal mail to:
National Film Registry
Library of Congress
Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation
19053 Mt. Pony Road
Culpeper, VA 22701
Attn: Donna Ross
Please consider supporting these great films and filmmakers.
Via Drew Myron:
It’s pretty well-known that writers are their own worst critics. I’m no exception. I might have just a touch of type-A personality traits. I might be just a smidge overambitious. I might have a slight tendency to set overly ambitious goals. And I might possibly be too hard on myself when I don’t meet them. Plus all that self-criticism that writers already have about their own work. (Certain members of my inner circle often hear me complain that not only did I not accomplish enough, but that what I did accomplish wasn’t done well enough. Certain members of my inner circle are very patient when listening to such complaints again and again.)
So I was excited to see Drew’s link to Molly Spencer’s blog, where she has an entry about this sort of negative thinking, and a list celebrating what poets actually do accomplish. I’m sharing the list, because I’m sure at least one reader here will find value in it.
So here is what poets actually do:
1. Read and study a wide variety of good writing, especially contemporary poetry
2. Keep up with the news of the po-world
3. Draft poems
4. Do research, legwork, word-work, and notebook work to nourish the drafting process
5. Revise poems
6. Connect with other poets and readers and writers and artists
7. Swap poems for critiques, and critique others’ poems
8. Read Poets&Writers
9. Attend readings
10. Give readings
11. Spread the poems
12. Read a wide variety of literary journals
13. Research places to submit work
14. Submit work
15. Attend arts events to support the local art scene and for cross-pollination purposes
16. Read essays to learn more about specific craft elements; generally, study elements of craft
17. Attend classes, workshops, retreats, etc.
18. Get enough sleep, healthy food, exercise, and recreation (good self-care)
19. Apply for mentorships and grants
20. Errands in support of writing (office supplies, post office, etc.)
21. Get editorial experience, if possible
22. Set goals and track progress toward goals
(Drew riffed on this list as well, designing it so it’s applicable to all writers, not just poets. I enjoyed both of them.)
Yes, we are an accomplished bunch.
On any given weekday, I work an 8-hour day, draft a poem (revision is for weekends), and go to dance/kung fu/both. Add to that the fact that I’m putting serious effort into a novel, write for two blogs, I attend a bimonthly poetry critique group, I run a bimonthly fiction critique group, I frequently take on editing projects to help friends with their manuscripts, I submit poetry every single week without fail, and the fact that things like laundry and bills won’t take care of themselves, and I sometimes am amazed at the fact that I sleep at all.
So yes, I should be more appreciative about what I manage to accomplish, and focus less on what I don’t. I’ve been making a conscious effort to improve on that this year, but it’s a slow-going change. I think I’ll print this list and put it in my writing space, just as a reminder.
Dos Gatos Press is getting ready to kick off its reading series to promote the Texas Poetry Calendar. The Calendar readings will take place in bookstores between Dallas and Houston. I had fun at the Houston and Georgetown readings last year, and I’m looking forward to adding the San Antonio and Austin events to my list.
Below is this year’s lineup. The ones with a double asterisk are the ones where I’ll be reading.
Blue Willow Book Shop
14532 Memorial Dr.
Houston, TX 77079
Benbrook Public Library
1065 Mercedes Street
Benbrook, TX 76126
Georgetown Public Library
402 W. Eighth St.
Georgetown, TX 78626
(This reading is part of the Georgetown Poetry Festival.)
The Twig Book Shop
200 E. Grayson St., Suite 124
San Antonio, TX 78215
603 N. Lamar
Austin, TX 78703
4650 Nasa Road 1
This is what convertibles were made for: waking up early and heading out with a friend to get possibly the best bagels in the entire state of Texas from Hot Bagels in Houston. And then putting the top town, heading out on I-45 South, and driving to Galveston. And as you’re heading down the highway, knowing you’re probably already getting too much sun even though it’s only 8:30 a.m., but accepting that this is a fact of living in Texas, and deciding it’s worth it to drive down with the wind blowing all around you.
Sunday was my first time in Galveston, and also my first time on a Texas beach. I’d seen the Gulf of Mexico from Florida, but was looking forward to see some of my state’s coast for once.
We hung around the seawall and spent the morning relaxing, alternating between the water and the sand. The waves were small at first, but they started to pick up, and I had a ton of fun playing in them. There were also schools of fish that kept swimming by and jumping out of the water, as though just daring the gulls to try to eat them.
When the sun started getting intense, we headed out to get some food. Being on the coast made me want oysters, so we ended up at The Spot, where I indulged my whim and ate a full dozen oysters. Which I realize is not the most well-balance meal ever, but it was delicious, and exactly what I wanted.
Finally, it was time to head on back. Meaning more time driving my wonderful car, listening to good music, and enjoying the wind. And winding up with quite the sunburn, despite liberal applications of sunscreen. Welcome to summer in Texas.
Last night, the above joke appeared on my Google+ stream. At one point, a woman made a comment about how the “how can u” people didn’t do “any meaningful work.” Since I had insomnia anyway, I pointed out the classist assumptions in her statement. Education (both grammatical and sexual) and employment are both associated with poverty level. To automatically assume that the “how can u” group doesn’t do any “meaningful” work is highly problematic. Working two part-time service jobs to make ends meet is certainly not what many people would call “meaningful,” but it doesn’t give us the right to call lower-class people lazy and make fun of them.
This woman and I tussled for a bit, and ultimately, she gave me the “it was just a joke” line. She told me that this joke, and discussions of poverty and education, were two different issues.
Words matter. I know this. Words matter because they are the building blocks of human communication. They are how we transmit ideas. The are how we teach. When we think, we think in the language we know. Words are one tool we have for developing our worldviews. It’s almost scary how much power they have.
Words always have meaning. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a joke. It doesn’t matter if you’re being serious. Words still always mean things, and those meanings cannot always be erased in context.
But words also are not always overt. In the picture at the top of the page, the punchline is that “Grammar Matters.” Now, I love good grammar. I love good punctuation so much that I have a tattoo of a semicolon on my wrist. I do believe that grammar matters.
However, this image isn’t just saying that grammar is important. The words don’t just literally mean that. They are also implying that if you don’t have good grammar, you’re the kind of person who gets STDs and doesn’t do anything meaningful to improve the world.
As I mentioned above, poverty can have a huge impact on education and employment. I signed a bunch of confidentiality agreements at my day job, but I can tell you that I spend 40 hours a week seeing the disparity of education levels between wealthy and poor communities. There is a huge gap between Dallas and Brownsville. Houston is so big and diverse that there are huge gaps within the city itself. Depending on where you are in Texas (in the USA, in the world), you may or may not be learning to write. You may or may not be learning about safe sex. You may or may not be learning basic concepts in math and science. You may or may not even finish high school.
The image above makes fun of the huge disadvantages that economically disadvantaged people face on a daily basis. On the surface, the words are saying, “Ha ha, let’s make fun of all the stupid people who don’t know how herpes is transmitted.” (Let’s not even touch on the fact that you can come from an economically wealthy community and be taught, in public school, that abstinence and religion is the only option you have available and doesn’t actually educate you.) But what it implies is that if you have not had the advantages of a good education, if you are poor and struggling to make end’s meet, if you don’t have energy after working 60 hours a week to fight global warming, or any spare money to invest in stocks, then you are less of a person. It implies that if you haven’t had the advantages of a middle- or upper-class person, you don’t measure up.
I don’t see this image and discussions of poverty and education as separate issues. The reason this image exists is because these disparities exist, and somebody thought it was funny to mock them. This is funny because there is class inequality in this country, and some people like to try capitalizing on that for their own amusement.
This image is not “just a joke.” It is a reflection of the way we view and judge the undereducated in the United States. And I, for one, am uncomfortable with laughing at those who haven’t had all the privileges I had growing up.
I believe that language has the power to change the world. One of the ways it can do that if if we stop using it as a tool to mock others who are undeserving of our scorn. Thing before you speak. And when you do, don’t just think about what your words say on the surface. Think about what they suggest. Think about what they imply. Think about what you might be really saying.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of poetry chapbooks — small collections, cheap enough that you can buy a bunch at a time and discover something new. That’s one of the reasons I also enjoy zines. They’re an easy, inexpensive way to discover someone or something new. I’ve never made one of my own; working on the chapbook is enough for now. But my friend Quinn Collard makes zines, one of which is called Ephemera. She just released issue #5 last week, and I have a poem called “Bonded” in it. My contributor’s copy arrived on Monday, and I’ve enjoyed flipping through it. I’m really excited to be included, and to have contributed work to a friend’s project. If your a friend of poetry, typewriters, and other miscellany, check it out!
My friend Quinn Collard
I love farmers’ markets, but despite the plethora of them in Austin, I admit I’m a lazy about getting out to them. With all of the HEB locations, opened way more hours, I end up choosing convenience over awesome, sustainable, always-local food.
My friend Amanda just moved to Austin, and texted me on Monday asking if I’d scope out one of the many farmers’ markets. We both have commitments on Saturday, so I suggested we hit up the Wednesday evening market in the Triangle.
The Triangle market is smaller than the big Saturday markets, so we were done with our shopping fairly quickly. But although we didn’t browse for long, we came away with some delicious finds. I splurged on a pound of wild hog ribs (I love wild game, and farmers’ market meat means I don’t have to worry about factor farming — totally worth the price). I also came home with a large box of okra, some delightfully savory Italian peppers (one of which wound up in my omelet this morning), and eggplant. I’m looking forward to fried okra, and also to doing something with the ribs in the slow cooker.
After we finished, we sat in the shade and talked for a while, and came up with the idea of visiting all the area farmers’ markets this summer. Here’s what’s in store for us over the course of the next few months:
- The downtown market
- The Sunset Valley market
- The east side market
- The Barton Creek market
- The Burnet Road market
Those are the farmers’ markets in Austin proper. And if we get through all those, we can also check out these:
- The Georgetown market
- The Texas Farmers’ Market in Round Rock
- The Texas Farmers’ Market in Cedar Park
- The Pflugerville market
It looks to be a summer full of great food and buying local. I can’t wait to explore.
When I went to my poetry group on Monday, Scott Wiggerman handed me my contributor copy of the 2013 Texas Poetry Calendar. This is my second year appearing in the calendar, and I’m thrilled to be included again. My poem appears the last week of May this time around, sharing a page with the lovely “Crossing” by Elena Lelia Radulescu.
“290 West, Top Down” was inspired, of course, by the highway mentioned in the title. It was written in mid-September, after a late-night drive back to Austin after spending a day in Houston participating in one of the 2012 Texas Poetry Calendar readings, and then going dancing. I did a couple of late-night, post-dancing commutes last year, and it was thrilling to drive for several hours with the wind blowing around me and the stars bright above. Certainly a scene fit for inspiration. Perhaps I will have to make another drive like that soon, and see what transpires.
This past Saturday, my friend Carly and I went swimming at Deep Eddy. Carly is leaving Texas soon to take an amazing teaching job at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and while I’m thrilled for her, I’m going to miss her so much. She was one of my first enduring Texas friendships. So any time I get to spend with her this summer is especially important.
While I’ve been to Barton Springs fairly often (last year, when I worked in the ’04, I even had a season pass), and have been swimming at Lake Travis several times as well, I’d never been to Deep Eddy. But I’m glad we chose to swim there. Although the parking is just as frustrating as any other Austin hot spot, it was otherwise a smaller, more laid-back vibe than Barton Springs. As much as I enjoy Barton, it gets incredibly crowded on summer weekends, and Deep Eddy drew a smaller crowd. Plus, it’s exciting to say that I got to swim in one of the oldest (if not the oldest) public pool in Texas.
Carly and I spent the afternoon just hanging out and talking. The sun was out, the water was cool, and the air wasn’t even all that hot. Though you can tell I’ve gotten very used to Texas when I describe mid-90s as “not that hot.” I don’t know what my Ohio self would make of me.
Deep Eddy is definitely a place I plan to visit again. It’s charming, laid-back, and relaxing. I need more summer afternoons like this one.
My first encounter with Ray Bradbury was Farenheit 451. It was part of my ninth grade English curriculum. At the time, I fell in love with Bradbury’s writing style, but I came away with a fairly superficial understanding of the text (it wasn’t until my twenties, when I began to contemplate just how many hours I spent in front of a screen each day, that the novel became much more than an anti-censorship story). However, I was hooked enough to read more.
The summer between ninth and tenth grades, I read The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine. I adored both, but it was Dandelion Wine that made me want to be a writer. In fact, the second I finished it, I put down the book, opened my journal, and wrote several pages about my future career. (Of course, it hasn’t gone the way I envisioned it when I was fifteen; for example, I didn’t see myself as more focused on poetry than on fiction. But I’m not complaining.)
Part of me wishes I still had that old notebook, so I could go back and read the words I wrote on the day I realized my true commitment to writing. However, when I moved to Austin in 2008, I threw out all of my old notebooks, with the exception of two that I kept because the books themselves were too pretty to go in the trash. At the time, I wasn’t writing much, but I planned to start again after the move. I’d decided that everything I’d written between ages twelve and twenty-four was no longer serving me. I couldn’t rely on my juvenilia and old ideas. Plus, dragging all of those notebooks across state lines, and from apartment to apartment, was literally going to weigh me down. It was time to be rid of everything. So I got rid of the notebooks and emptied the hard drive, and started fresh. (And I might do it again in my thirties.)
The purge of my old writing was in part inspired by Dandelion Wine. Back when I was fifteen, I was haunted by the character of Mrs. Bentley, an elderly woman whose house is packed full of souvenirs of her youth: record albums, theatre programs, hair combs, photographs. The neighborhood children, however, refuse to believe that she was once young, or that she was ever “Helen” rather than “Mrs. Bentley.” I know the denial of Mrs. Bentley’s identity is the true heartbreak of that chapter. But for me, the horror was found in the image of an old woman weighed down by her past. That image constantly comes back to me. So when it came time to move, I took a cue from Mrs. Bentley and got rid of my work, let go of what was no longer serving me. So I don’t have that old entry to look back on, but I do remember writing it. And the fact that I don’t have it is because of the mark Bradbury left on my life.
But back to Farenheit 451. A few weeks ago, on a hike, my friend asked me what I would do at the onset of the apocalypse. Rather than suggest something practical (I am probably doomed at the end of the world), I said I’d immediately decide which five books I’d take with me. (Books are heavy. I would only allow five. Except poetry volumes are slim, so perhaps I could double up on a few of those and it wouldn’t be too heavy.) But the next day, I remembered the closing of Fahrenheit, where it is revealed that people have been charged with committing books to memory, as that is the only way to preserve them. Which made me wonder: in the event of the apocalypse, which book would I commit to memory?
It’s a hard choice, and ironically, I don’t have a Bradbury book as one of the finalists — but I imagine that in the apocalypse, there will be no shortage of volunteers who want to take on his work. Meanwhile, I linger undecided between four books: Orlando by Virginia Woolf, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Sula by Toni Morrison, and Montgomery’s Children by Richard Perry. These are four books that I constantly recommend to people, all the time, no matter who they are. Orlando is delightfully feminist, modernist, and speculative. Their Eyes Were Watching God is — well, I can’t explain why I love it without spoiling at the end. Sula is my favorite of Morrison’s novels, and is a beautiful discussion on the complexities of friendship. Montgomery’s Children is a beautiful meditation on race and memory, and to top it off, it’s out of print (though I suppose everything will be out of print in the apocalypse).
By nature, I’m indecisive. So I think that, in the event of the apocalypse, I will have to make room in my mind for all four. And that’s all there really is to it.
So thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for helping me let go of the past before I became old. And thank you for making me love books so much that I have tasked myself with the difficulty of being the steward of four of them in the event that the world collapses.