My Month(s) of Reading, Part I

Not a lot of writing has been done, obviously, but there has been a lot of internet surfing. And reading. I'm not going to put all of it here, in one post, because it would go on forever. But here's a sampling what I found that I thought was kinda interesting:

  • This article at The Poetry Foundation by Afaa Michael Weaver titled "My Walking Shoes." Clearly there is much in Weaver's experience that I cannot relate to, as he focuses on being an African American writer who went from being a part of the working class to attending an Ivy League university (none of which I've come close to), but something clicked when I read this line:
"I realized travel as the interface with self, and in that space, I was able to turn my lyric eye onto myself in a way that I had previously dismissed as bourgeois."
I never even thought of the "lyric eye" turned onto itself as being "bourgeois" (I actually thought of it, if I thought of it at all, as the privilege of the rich, better-educated classes -- the good lyric stuff, that is). It's the first part of the sentence that I identify with -- "travel as the interface with self." Interface is a horrible word in an otherwise elegant essay, but it does the job, and it sounds, for all of its clunkiness, right. Living in London for 6 months by myself and being absolutely fucking miserable led me to the realization that 1) I didn't like myself very much and that 2) if I was going to live, I needed to like myself. You could also chalk it up to being in my early twenties and some kind of late coming-of-age thing, but I don't believe that's what happened. There's something more intense and more revealing that occurs when you take yourself out of your familiar surroundings and squeeze your identity into the tight corners of a new landscape -- as one must when one changes residence to a foreign place.
What makes ME such a sad sorry sack is that England is hardly a foreign landscape, particularly since my mother is British. I suck.

Anyway, moving on!

  • I want to like this formal poem by Amy Greacen because 1) it was chosen by Mark Doty, whose work and taste I admire, and 2) it's written formally, and well, which I kinda dig and 3) it was published by Measure Press, and I really like Measure magazine and the work they publish (usually). But, despite all of these things, this poem kind of leaves me cold. (So, you know, I thought I'd share . . . good god, I'm awful.)
  • Here are some lines I highlighted from an article/review/essay about Heroines, which is a memoir-cum-reader's notebook about the modernist wives that I read just before the baby was born.
"I have a job and carve out time to write, which comes from years of compromise and discipline, and yet I often feel that my independence is provisional, that my voice may one day be taken from me."  My writing life is indeed one of compromise and discipline . . . but I tend to think this is just adult life, in general. We compromise and exert (or succumb to) discipline in order to accomplish whatever we find important as adults, no matter our profession, and also no matter our gender. Perhaps I do make compromises because I'm a woman (for instance, having just given birth, there are things I cannot or will not do), but I rarely resent or feel regret for having made those compromises. I can't tell right now if I'm lucky for feeling that my independence and my voice have never been threatened, or if I simply haven't thought enough about my life and circumstances. My gut reaction is that I'm lucky; I know that other women have felt (and still feel) censured and restrained by their relationships (familial, romantic) and by society. So maybe I'm just oblivious . . . but at least there's one less thing I worry about. I think I have more than enough post-modern anxiety, thank you.
"Even though I rarely write directly about my private life, I recognized these dynamics of silencing." I do see this, the silencing of the female perspective. There are many, many women who write about their private lives which more often than not (not always, but quite frequently) involves the realm of the domestic -- motherhood, suburbia, the female self in relation to the male partner. The problem is that very few of us are doing it well, or well enough for the craft/skill of the writing to transcend the content or, perhaps the real aim, to elevate and support the content. So the silencing of this voice comes from, I think, an aversion to all of the crap work that has flooded the inboxes of all the publishers out there. I could be wrong. But I think the problem is that even the good writing (about the domestic) that's out there is shunned because there's such a glut of the poor writing. Content isn't enough. You have to have craft, too. And yes, there's an obvious divide between well-crafted writing and poorly-crafted writing, and yes, that divide is important.
"Now I see that it is a reply to the central question of Heroines: Whose stories are remembered, and whose are erased?" This is the tragedy of the modernist wives, but not the tragedy of contemporary women. Zambreno (the author of Heroines) makes an incredibly convincing argument that the modernist wives/women were seen as threats by their partners (the Fitzgeralds epitomized this model) and stopped from creating before they even had opportunities to develop their craft. And the tactic of the modernist man, his defensive stance, involved psychological warfare against his partner -- a kind of "I love you/I'm doing this in your best interest/your best interest is to take a backseat to my work".
"[Fitzgerald] enlisted a psychiatrist to certify her unfit to write, using, among other things, her poor housekeeping as evidence of her insanity." I'm not arguing that Zelda wasn't fucking crazy. She clearly had issues with anxiety, and neuroses, and quite a few of her "ailments" are ones I can relate to, actually. It seems, though, that she and Fitzgerald actually suffered from some of the same neuroses, but they were more acute in her. Also, I'm not arguing that she was a better writer. But it was quite clear that Fitzgerald didn't like the idea of her being a writer, period. He didn't allow her to be even a sub-par writer, a second-string to the modernists -- he wouldn't allow it, for a myriad of reasons. In a different life, however, her craziness, her anxiety might have been channeled differently. She might not have been the sad, sad woman she was died. She might have been a writer, one dismissed by history, in the long run, but she would have been a writer.
Also, both Fitzgeralds were dicks when it came to parenting. Self-involved, neurotic, narcissistic dicks. Way to go, assholes.
Also, if anyone were to use my own housekeeping as evidence of my insanity, I'd be writing this post from the inside of a rubber room.  
"A role of the critic: shaping the discourse on what is worth remembering." I just liked this definition.
I have so many more links that I'd like to share/comment on. But as it is, this post has sat stewing in my blogger account for the past, I don't know, three weeks? No, longer. I began it somewhere in April, maybe. So I'll just save the other stuff for a later installment.

I'm sure you can't wait!

Oh, and once again, happy solstice, you hippies.


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