10.31.2004

Out for Blood

I just read an article in last week's issue of The Advocate that described the phenomenon of Blog Active, a political blog site that "outs" gay & lesbian members of congress—especially (exclusively?) those who support or espouse anti-gay legislation or rhetoric into the American political arena. Their message is simple: "Those who use power to legislate against a group they are secretly a member of must be exposed for their hypocrisy."

My responses to this are emotional and mixed.

My first response is that confronting hypocrisy is necessary, especially when people like Ed Schrock are allowed to live hate-free, uncomplicated lives because they play straight with others, but queer it up as soon as the lights are out. For so many, the closet is a stifling, oppressive convention, but for others, it's warm blanket. In powerful political circles, pantomiming heterosexuality reinforces and supports a system that devalues homosexuals, that cannot put a human face on homosexuality, and that seeks to eradicate homosexuals from the populus by legislating us into oblivion. I'm personally fed up with being a second-class citizen—and if you think I'm overjoyed that policies like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" mean I can finally die for my country and be honored because I might have been a heterosexual,, well, that's really not me at all.

On the other hand, I find Blog Active's strategy to be disgusting. By using the closet against these legislators, Blog Active is also recognizing and supporting gay shame, reinforcing the belief that homosexuality is shameful and wrong. It's obvious that Blog Active is not engaging in this activity to strengthen or support these legislators, to offer them a safe space to exist; instead, this invasive, privacy-busting exposure of secret meetings and behind-the-scenes affairs keeps those meetings secret and the affairs behind-the-scenes. As more and more leaders are outed by Blog Active, won't that encourage other closeted legislators to become even MORE concerned about maintaining their privacy?

Coming out is never easy, and that's because you have to choose to do it every day. Several times a week I have to decide whether or not I'm going to correct someone's assumption that I'm a heterosexual. Is it flattering to pass as straight? No. Because being a gay person is something don't feel any shame about.

So, Blog Active: yea or nay?

10.29.2004

Is My Abstract Too...Abstract?

Therapist with a Dream Inside encapsulates the development and socialization of the American neurotic. At once confused about his or her place in the world, concerned with issues of guilt and innocence, constantly revising his or her own history, this neurotic can’t stop talking—but nobody’s getting cured.

In the shadow of the writings of Sigmund Freud, the poems explore themes of self-division and duplicity, the desire for love or death (or both), and the gerrymandering of identity that occurs from childhood through adolescence into adulthood. The self and its shadow disagree over which of them is real, unable to reconcile their shared experiences. Narcissism replaces lost or unknown objects of desire; the dead speak or bear witness on the present. The self—confused, confronted with its behavior, desperate to feel whole—succumbs to the placating, nervous narrativization that characterizes a talking cure.

In the end, it seems, we are not our bodies, not our histories, but the stories and anecdotes we give to the world—those flawed, distorted visions of ourselves that, in the end, become our memories.

10.28.2004

Euphoria & Negation

My relationship to my own work is neurotic. Maybe it is for you too.

After I finished a poem, I generally feel a sense of completion, of pride, a lingering sense of accomplishment—a writerly euphoria at having translated something intangible into tangile language. A lot of times, I read poems I just wrote over and over during the first 48 hours, like I want to make sure it's still breathing.

And then the honeymoon's over. It will probably take two years for me to like a poem again. In fact, it wasn't until I put my thesis together that I actually started liking some of them again, and even now, already, that euphoria is wearing off and I think things like, "This will never go anywhere." "This is an obvious attempt to subvert irony, which every good editor will see through." "This is too cute." "This isn't cute enough." "This poem is like a rocking chair without legs." "These sections are too obvious." "My images are trite." "Nobody cares about stuff like this." Etc.

10.26.2004

Corners (Turning Them, Not Working Them)

Most of the poems in my thesis manuscript, I'm noticing as they "age," are not what I thought they were.

Where I thought I was writing autobiographically, I was lying, embellishing, revising, reversing. And so the voice sounds honest but is actually a big fiction.

Where I thought I was being important and political, I was actually being boring.

Where I thought I was being experimental, I was being especially pompous.

Where I thought I was being least relevant, I buried secrets.

* * * * * *

The last poem I wrote for the book was my 11 page collage poem (which I've mentioned before) involving Madonna lyrics, the "Coming Out to Your Parents" link in my links list, some journal entries, and some lyric moments. It's especially all about me and probably the most honest, difficult poem I've written.

After finishing it, I stopped writing for several weeks and when I started again, I noticed: none of the poems are about me, or are in a voice that could be me, or somehow relate to my life.

And I thought, Thank God.

10.25.2004

Halloween Help

For Halloween this year, I'm going to be a very naughty, very scantily-clad gym teacher circa 1983.

I'm going to make an iron-on of some kind of funny name and "dept of phys ed" or something like that.

What should my dirty gym teacher's name be? It should be something punny.

Here, fill in the blank: Mr. ______________ .

Poets & Writers

P&W putNorman Dubie on the cover this month!

Hooray!

10.24.2004

Mary Hart & John Tesh

Tomorrow Sarah Vap and I—the "Mary Hart" and "John Tesh" of the poetry world—will interview Beckian Fritz Goldberg.

For more info, click here.

And obviously, I'm the Mary. Sarah's the Tesh.

10.22.2004

Graduation Scavenger Hunt

Here are the steps I have taken to apply for graduation over the past two weeks:

1. Arrive at Office A to turn in signed copy of Program of Study. Office A receptionist tells me to walk outside to Office B next door where they can help me.

2. Arrive at Office B, where receptionist looks at me confusedly, looks at my Program of Study, and tells me to walk across campus to Office C, where they can help me.

3. Arrive at Office C after brisk walk in AZ heat, slightly sweaty and losing time to prepare for teaching in a short while. Office C receptionist asks me to walk down short hallway and through threshold of Office D, where a woman is waiting who can help me.

4. Arrive at desk in Office D, where woman sitting behind counter takes Program of Study, which I just realized was never signed by the Dean in Office A, but I decide to risk it. Woman looks it over, takes it, says she'll take care of it for me. When I ask her what the next step is, she directs me to Office E.

5. Arrive at Office E, which is further away from Office D than either Offices A or B, and pay my $25.00 fee to graduate. Clerk in Office E hands me mandatory Graduate School Experience Survey and informs me that I cannot "apply" to graduate until I have completed said survey in full. Clerk hands me a golf pencil.

6. Walk to Office F's waiting area, which is only place in Office E's building that has writing surfaces and I take 15 minutes to complete mandatory Graduate School Experience Survey, most of which has zero to do with being an MFA student. Pocket the golf pencil for my trouble; walk to Office G.

7. Arrive downstairs at Office G, which is triumphantly called "Graduate Office." Hand receptionist my graduation fee receipt and survey and she tells me to have a seat. Moments later, another clerk calls my name and asks if I know where my Program of Study is. I say, I turned it in to Office D. Oh, clerk says, well we need it. You can either go back to Office D and walk it over here or wait a few days until it arrives here for processing.

8. I go home.

9. A week later, as I'm driving to school, I call Office G and ask if my Program of Study has arrived. It has. Having a brainstorm, I ask if they need to see my payment receipt again. They do. I return to my house, grab my receipt, and leave again.

10. Arrive back at Office G, where receptionist takes my receipt. I have a seat. They call my name. A woman review my Program of Study to make sure I'm not a big liar, then hands me a display folder for my diploma, which will eventually be mailed to me. I sign a paper that says I'm not a liar. She says, Congratulations.

I think, for what? For graduating or for finding the hidden cheese?

One Art? Or Not So Much?

Over the past two years, I've been teaching myself how to play acoustic guitar in my "spare" time. It's something I've really come to enjoy about my day—making a space for music. I've been pretty musical my whole life—I used to tinker around with a keyboard when I was little, then I started playing the trumpet and later took piano lessons. I was also in my high school choir and the musicals each year.

Now I pull out the guitar whenever I'm in the office and I need a break, or if I'm about to spend some time writing but am having trouble with whatever I'm working on. I strum for a while, warble along, and then get down to the task of writing (or grading).

Do many of you have a "second" or even "third" art that you're involved in? Do you paint on the side? Take photographs? Etc.? I'll admit that for many of my teenage years, my dreams were not to be a poet—I wanted, on the surface, to be a filmmaker and, secretly, to be the lead singer of a rock band.

I stuck with poetry because I figured no matter what else I was doing, I could always find a way or reason to write without giving it "special" attention in my life.

So how about it? Any graphic designers out there? Sculptors? Etc? Let's hear about the other arts.

10.21.2004

Metroblogging

If you enjoy blogging or live in Phoenix, please, please, please sign up to join this collaborative writing opportunity:

Metroblogging your city.

Just like IKEA, Minneapolis got this before Phoenix. Why am I so cursed?

Gettin' On the List

I just had my interview with the Arizona Commission on the Arts to become a member of their Arts Education roster for Creative Writing.

The application process has been tough, which may be why the only people from the MFA program still working at it are one other person and me. I felt like the interview was more than I was ready to handle in some ways: a lot of questions about working a residency when I have no experience doing such. I had to spin every answer out of either how I teach composition, how I form relationships with students, or what I did to teach Intro to Creative Writing. Tough, tough, tough.

I was happy, though, because sitting next to me was the interviewer who tends to smile and nod his/her head when you give the "right" answer, and I saw a lot of that going on. *wipes sweat off brow*

And I had a lovely time chatting with a dear friend before the interview, which probably saved me from being a complete nervous wreck.

Notes on Queer Culture as Culture of Appropriation

What's interesting to me about queer culture in general is that is really doesn't produce anything for itself. It is, by and large, a culture of appropriation, absorbing into itself elements of the dominant culture that then become "queered" by their association with queer culture.

I'm hard pressed to think of anything that queer people produce solely for other queer people. I guess you could consider porn to be in this category, but you run into the trouble of porn stars who are gay-for-pay, which dequeers it a bit. Is there a "For Us, By Us" presence for queer people?

Let's see if I can try to break this down a little bit.

Queer culture seems especially attracted to the following heterosexually produced cultural isotopes:

1. Decadence. Queer culture loves a good example of heterosexual decay. Who is more loved: Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz, or Judy Garland as the boozy, sleepy-eyed, fuzzy-lipsticked chanteuse she was before her death? Heterosexual culture seems to devalue this kind of personal decay, expelling it from the culture proper and relegating it to the margins. Queer culture, though, is a culture of rescue in terms of the decadent. We pick them up, dust them off, and provide a new life down the street—our street.

Consider also: Valley of the Dolls, novel of four actresses' descent into the ultimate forms of decadence: moral decay (drugs, unwed pregnancy, occupational ambition, loveless marriages, female pattern baldness, etc).

The decadent aren't devalued in queer culture. In most cases, the decadence itself is what appeals to queer culture.

2. Camp. We'd be nothing without our drag queens. Drag (literally an acronym for Dressed As a Girl) provides a critique of dominant culture by demonstrating the conventions of gender roles through their extrapolation. That is, drag queens comment on femininity by being at once OVERLY-feminine (big hair, big boobs, big makeup, flashy dresses, etc) and ultimately masculine—we've all seen the drag queen with the enormous biceps or linebacker shoulders. And, once the dress is off...well, you get the picture.

A teacher once explained the notion of camp to my by saying "Camp is the lie that reveals the truth."

Camp and decadence often go hand in hand, as ultimately decadence reduces a cultural product to its most important, most revealing conventions. Poetically, consider Frank O'Hara's revisioning of the Romantic mode of writing in a queer, urban, context: comments on the immense drama in that mode by overly-dramatizing emotion and experience.

3. Kitsch. I'd say kitsch is less universally loved as camp and decadence, but important nevertheless. If camp is "the lie that tells the truth," kitsch is "the lie that masquerades as the truth." To paraphrase, anything kitsch is a copy of something genuine in culture. Ace of Base provided a compelling kitsch of ABBA, which itself was pure kitsch of typical American pop music. I'm sure we all recognize that the quality of copies becomes reduced as we make copies of copies, and copies of copies of copies....Ace of Base, etc.

I'd actually hazard to say that enjoyment of kitsch products is actually a more heterosexual impulse. However, adoring kitsch for BEING kitsch is queer. In this way, it's very much like camp and decadence: it's not necessarily the cultural object that is valued, but the history of the object.

The difference between camp and kitsch is that camp wants you to recognize its campiness, while kitsch wants to fool you into believing it's the real deal. Since queer culture loves kitsch AS kitsch, only the most faulty, devalued, and repulsive forms of kitsch are absorbed. Anything mass produced is kitsch. Anything poorly mass produced is queer kitsch.

4. The Inane or Avant-Garde. Literally meaning "forward-looking," avant-garde culture is often rejected by dominant culture because it appears non-sensical or culturally incongruous with current values and mores or culturally-enforced modes of production. Dominant culture rejects the avant-garde as inane. However, eventually everything that began as avant-garde becomes conventional or outmoded over time.

Non-narrative, avant-garde film of the 50s and 60s—such as Yoko Ono's "The Fly" or Maya Deren's "Meshes of the Afternoon"—is probably the largest cultural force behind the advent of music videos, our most inane, non-narrative form of visual culture. Videos may have revolutionized meaning-making for the dominant culture, but before that, Yoko and Maya were making people scratch heads for decades.

Male grooming used to be avant-garde as well. Only queer culture was recognized for a meticulous form male grooming, which provided an overlap between modes of production of femininity and modes of production of masculinity. In fact, this trait alone was oftentimes enough evidence to evaluate a given man's sexual orientation. However, the rise of metrosexuality has normalized these practices, which, read backwards, identify these grooming practices as formerly avant garde.

More as I continue to collect thoughts...

10.20.2004

Dorkedelic

One of my new favorite things is my site meter, which I look at about two or three times a day. I see where people come to my site from, how long they stay, what pages refer them here....I feel like a little detective sifting through miles of data, looking for that one elusive clue...

I'm done defending Madonna now. If some folks out there prefer Cyndi Lauper, I guess they deserve that and I won't comment anymore. Unless Eduardo keeps me on the Shit List. ;)

10.19.2004

You do Madonna, Madonna, Madonna (but you do it inside)

I've started a new blog for everyone who wants to comment on how Cyndi Lauper is more culturally valuable than Madonna:

http://www.QuestionableQueerTastes.blogspot.com

Also, I've filed an incident report with the National Council on Queer Ethics and Cultural Consumerism to investigate this further, and I anticipate someone on my blogroll having their "Membership Card" revoked.

Cross-blogenation

Yesterday I stumbled upon Geof Huth's wonderful blog. What a wonderful blog idea he has. Compare to Lyn Hejinian's blog.

And I wonder: what do people think about specialty blogs or theme blogs?

10.18.2004

Bookshelf

Comments on what I'm reading, now and recently:

1. Mutsuo Takahashi's 1,000 line "Ode" contains section headings like "Groin Odor," "Prick or Head," "Gropeteria," "Forecome and Come." I'm loving it. It's a strange, fascinating, dream-like approach to gaining and understanding of the male physique, without shame, without excuse.

2. Ronald Johnson's To Do As Adam Did was recommended to me but I haven't liked it. His mode of writing is too intangible for me—too thinky, if you will; not thingy enough—although I enjoyed his concrete poems. Why is concrete poetry so devalued? It's such an interesting phenomenon, a strange marriage made of visual and textual arts. Instead: I'm moving on to his book-length poem Ark.

3. Understanding Movies. I just started teaching an online section of an Intro to Cinema course at an area community college and have been jogging my memory with our text book, getting excited about films I saw and was awed by (Krzysztof Kieslwski's White, Soderberg's Traffic, Truffaut's Jules et Jim, etc.) Having a stronger film presence in my life is a beautiful thing.

4. Vanity Fair's November issue features a focus on music and a cover shot of Johnny Depp. I devour VF's juxtaposition of high culture & politics with celebrity gossip and goings-on.

10.16.2004

Sweet, Beautful, Nameless You

Thinking more about queer yous again.

One of the responses I received to this post was from LeeAnn Roripaugh. LeeAnn says that one of the functions of the you in queer love poetry is to create a safe, ungendered space for the beloved. She continues, saying the reader, then, is offered an opportunity to both eavesdrop on the love poem and also identify with the beloved/as the beloved, and that by the time a gendered pronoun appears, it would be too late for the reader to confront their gender/sexuality assumptions in the poem—or, at least, too late for them to do much about it.

First, I really appreciated this comment because I hadn't given much specific consideration to the love poem, and I think the notion of a "safe space" is critical to understanding what queer writers need to consider when inviting the beloved into a poem, both for the beloved's safety and their own.

The "safe space" of the poem, then, reconsiders the "unsafe space" of the actual world, in which the act of loving is not precious but dangerous. This is a specific consideration that I think most non-queer writers can avoid. This also assumes, though, that there is one kind of safe space but many unsafe spaces. For queer writers, the safe space is by necessity a non-gendered space because Americans inextricably link gender and sexual behavior.

But the "safe space" of these poems is complex. By supplying the beloved with a space which requires anonymity, the identity of the beloved is sacrificed—destroyed. The identity of the speaker remains intact by virtue of maintaining a voice: the poem itself.

One of the primary examples of power is the power to name. Adam receives it in the Bible and it is emblematic of his dominion over the creatures of the earth, and of Eve. In language, the power to name is the power to oppress: linguistic domination of people is the preface to their dehumanization. It is through language that queer people have sacrified their identities to a reduction based on their behaviors (buttfucker, cocksucker, pillow-biter, muffdiver, carpet muncher, et al.) or their purpose (faggot's origin apparently refers to the practice of having homosexuals gather their own pyre before being burned at the stake--a faggot is "a bundle of sticks, fuel.").

Is it survival or oppression that guides queer writers toward you? Without you there'd be less queer love poetry, absolutely. Seriously.

10.15.2004

Like High School Dating All Over Again

I'm experiencing a lot of rejection.

Probably no more than I'm due, but for a while there I was ratioing acceptace:rejection about 1:4 or 1:5, which felt really great. I barely even noticed rejections for a while. But it's actually been a really long time since I've gotten an acceptance for some of the poems I've mailed out this year.

I'm still waiting to hear back from places I sent to in April. But I guess that's a better sign because when the answer's a For-Sure no, it's NO right away, not no eight months later. That's more like an Almost-Yes no.

I'm probably just not sending to the right places. But I am sort of tired of my poems appearing in tiny, tiny journals. When I got into the Colorado Review, I thought I was entering a new phase or something. Moving up. But I've been static.

So, let's open up the circle, folks:
How much rejection is healthy for a poet?
Who was your favorite rejection?
Which rejection hurt the most?
Who surprised you most by NOT rejecting you when you were sure you would be?

I'm looking for blood.

The Poet Sarah Vap

Sarah Vap and I have just undertaken an ambitious collaborative project.

Well, we've had collaboration on the brain lately. Both of us have written some sort of collage/"absent collaboration" poem recently (I mentioned mine—it involved Madonna lyrics, which Eduardo considered essentially "especially gay"). We've also been doing an epistolary interview with the luminous Beth Ann Fennelly, which turned into an odd collision of collaborative poetics and process.

So now Sarah and I, amid conversations about "personal language," "internal language," etc, have decided to translate each other's poetry from the author's personal language to our own.

This may entail a series of back-and-forth translations of the same poem, or it may end up being one translation of many poems.

In any case, I just got back from working at babyGap and my hands were filthy. So I washed them with my tangerine-scented GapGirl glycerine soap. Suddenly, everything's just a little bit brighter.

BTW, Sarah Vap is a genius and a beautiful poet—you'll definitely be seeing her everywhere soon (if you aren't already).

10.14.2004

The Death of Figurative Language

A simile or metaphor is a comparison or equalization of two dissimilar things made through language.

The two requirements for language are: that its signals (words) be arbirtrary (unrelated to their object) and conventional (accepted and upheld by all users).

A requirement of language, then, is that there be nothing "rose-like" about the word "rose." That any other word, given convention, would work as well.

The phrase, "My love is like a red, red rose," then, becomes: "My love is like something that is nothing like a rose."

Project

I'm still writing very slowly these days, but I've written four poems based on (in tribute to? because of? in spite of?) Almoóvar's All About My Mother: "Second Esteban," "Barcelona," "The Field," and "Rosa."

Suddenly, I'm speaking a lot of Spanish in my poems, and I'm frequently using the word "tetas" (tits) and "caballo" (slang for heroin).

I'm writing more cautiously now, too. I think it's because I'm not sure where I'm going or what's even going to come out.

10.13.2004

100 Most Powerful Poets in America

Victoria Chang was wondering in her blog today about the proliferation of business school rankings and the rarity of CW program rankings. As I replied to her post, I found myself asking, Wouldn't it be interesting if Poets & Writers compiled a list of the 100 Most Powerful Poets in America?

And who would be on that list?

Certainly I'd expect to see C. D. Wright there, as she just won that enormous prize, and Billy Collins, Louise Glück. I think I'd have to tip a hat to Jorie Graham and some Iowa folks. Is there room for Adrienne Rich over at Stanford? What about non-academe poets?

I guess I'm also asking what a powerful poet is and what he or she does.

Is it the degree to which the poet reinvents or subverts language? Then add Lyn Hejinian, Kathleen Fraser, Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman to the list (for starters!).

Is it the size of their sphere of influence? Who among you have met Norman Dubie and not been indelibly changed? He's on the list.

What about the anthologists? People collecting and organizing current and past poets into contexts? Or Donald Lehman for orchestrating the annual "Best American Poetry" series? Would the guest editors of those editions need to be on the list?

Are they the most prize-winningest, most oft-booked for readings, most sincere, most influential?

Who do you think they are?

10.12.2004

America Trains Its One Good Eye

I don't usually talk about politics in my blog, but I'm in the midst of a hurricane here.

I'm at ASU, teaching today, holding office hours, and outside, CNN and MSNBC have set up enormous media tents. About twenty minutes ago, there were at least a thousand students on the library lawn, equally divded into Kerry supporters and Bush supporters. CNN was filming the crowd and broadcasting live.

Most parking spaces near (and not so near) Gammage Auditorium have been closed for the debate tomorrow.

Folks are walking around, their clothes bumperstickered and pinned. Some are wearing effegies of Bush danging from their waists. The air is tense.

My bf was here, taking pictures and rallying (yes, for Bush—he's the other gay Republican). He said a Kerry supporter—older, hippie-ish type—ran over the foot of a Bush supporter—young, hulking jock-type—with his bike and they nearly came to blows.

It's a strange day.

Everything seems crucial.

10.09.2004

Poetics of Dominance

Based on several comments I received and the reading I recently did by Kathleen Fraser ("Line. On the Line. Lining up. Lined with. Between the Lines. Bottom Line."), I'm starting to take my WHeMa poetics theory to a new address.

In Fraser's essay, she polarizes American poetry into a male/female dichotomy. The male mode "appear[s] as seamless events, unruptured, smoothly in control" while the female mode "hesitancy, silencing or speechlessness, continuous disruption of time, 'illogical' resistance, simultaneous perception, social marginality." (153-54) When I questioned the necessity of gender binaries, my teacher and colleague agreed that it's okay to translate these terms into the less biological categories of "masculine" and "feminine."

Even my teacher agreed the gender binary is a bit dated in terms of thinking. It doesn't allow for the simultenaity of gender expression or identity. I have joked in the past that I am "practically a woman" in terms of how I'm viewed by heteronormative society and that I have the cultural and aesthetic tastes of a "14-year-old girl." But complexly, I don't feel this makes me less masculine; I feel more masculine. Polysemously masculine.

When gender is polarized into two points, the ultimate effect is that not only are there only two options, there can only ever be two options. That is to say, it does not allow for competing masculinities, not to mention coexistent masculinities. Pluralism is the enemy of the binary.

Even after the discussion, I'm still troubled not only by Fraser's easy deliniation of poetic modes into gender terms, but my own, under the auspices of the WHeMa poetic model. Although my model accounts for more diversity of identity in forming dominance, it still restricts notions of gender, sexuality, and race. And that just won't do. We're back to the drawing board.

Interestingly, Fraser makes a point that I think really complicates gender & poetics. She says, "One idea that several women were drawn to was the on-the-run notational form of the journal or daybook—a private recepticle for distilled observation—something not so finished and official as a poem..." (167) She goes on to exemplify this mode of writing as being a sort of feminine found language, the language of the self. Private speech, if you will. The private speech, the internal language, then, creates a safe space in which the feminine may exist without marginalization, may assert (her) own sense of self without risk.

What interests me here is that notion of the internal language, which I believe we all have access to if we choose to. By creating an internal language that divorces itself from the parent ("masculine") language, the feminine then creates its own language system in which the FEMININE exists as master, not the masculine. Like this:

Language forms communities. We delineate borders based on our linguistic commonalities and differences. Culture is absolutely informed, shaped, and changed by language. Anyone who exists outside of a given language is made to be Other when immersed in that system: no meaning can be made.

Therefore, internal, feminine languages cause the Masculine to be Other, which inverts the political dynamic inherent in culture. Of course, everyone but the author is Othered upon entrance to the language system as well.

But this model allows for—instead of a polarization—an infinite number of personal language systems existing outside the system of dominance. Which means that eventually, the masculine can no longer claim explicit dominance over the feminine, which ultimately, then, destroys the necessity of the gender binary.

The masculine would then become just another member of the infinite number of language systems. It's already the case, in Fraser's terms, that the masculine has Othered the feminine by causing the hesitation, speechlessness, etc. The feminine cannot engage in the masculine language system without first sacrificing iteself the feminine.

10.08.2004

Being a ___________ Poet

There have been so many fascinating posts about being considered/considering yourself an "ethnocentric" poet lately among Eduardo, Victoria, and
Tony
that I thought I'd add some experiences to the mix as well.

I used to avoid reading gay poetry for an embarrassingly long time. In my head, I'd already categorized it into discrete little boxes: in the 60s, gay poets wrote cautiously about love; in the 70s, blatantly and profanely about man-on-man action; in the 80s, it was all AIDS poetry; and the 90s were entirely rehashings of coming-out narratives.

I refused to consider myself a gay poet, even though I think I desperately wanted to explore queer issues through writing. I've talked a little before about how my instinct early in my MFA program was to be the sort of "trained dog" whose poetry pleased the straight folks in the room, poetry that—even when it contained queer elements—did not ask for any "special treatment" or special consideration. Safe poems. Poems that supplicated to the dominance. Masochistic poems? Poems that slighted the self as whole.

I never hear anyone say as a critique, "Oh, his poems are so heterosexual." It would seem that, percentage-wise, we've probably heard all we need to hear about the heterosexual experience, yet the impulse to not only box queer poets, but to dismiss them because "we've already heard that story" is so pervasive, it even affected my scared little queer self. I bought into it! Yes, I said. I've heard that story before too.

I had a teacher ask me once, after I discussed with her my ideas surrounding queer poetics, which queer poets I'd read. My list? Frank O'Hara.

She recommended I read some queer poets—if only for no other reason that to get a better sense of the diversity that lived there. So I started: D. A. Powell, David Trinidad, Wayne Koestenbaum, David Groff, Jim Elledge, J. D. McClatchy, James Merrill, Thom Gunn, Aaron Surin, Justin Chin, Allen Ginsburg, Mark Doty, Timothy Liu, Langston Hughes, Jack Spicer....

Around that time I got off my high horse about being considered a queer poet. Because that's what I am: a queer who writes poetry. I know the label is used to limit me—coming from the wrong lips, maybe—but it doesn't. The label justifies me. Situates me in a context. A moment. A movement. Connects me to other people.

I do not want to be mistaken for a straight poet (no offense—some of my best friends are straight poets!).

Queer culture is, for me, my way out of academia, out of poetry, out of art. It balances my life so that I am not constantly living a life where my head is plunged into the cold water barrel of poetry & poetics. I don't solicialize solely with poets.

I understand how political this conversation can get—for me and for others. I'm not here to make judgments on how other people should feel about their relationship to the identities that make up who they are. But I feel like I have a responsibility to ask questions about the heterosexual dominance of American poetry.

I'll also say that it feels so nice to be the queer poet invited to the straight party. But I'll also say I'm sure it's very lonely there.

10.05.2004

A-L-M-O-D-O-V-A-R Is How I Spell Relief

Over the past two nights I got in touch with a movie I love—Pedro Almodóvar's All About My Mother. There's so much to love: Almodóvar's use of color and pattern in the frame is matched or surpassed only by Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge), in my opinion. Almodóvar's shots erupt with life: bright reds, volcanic oranges, thin yellows, rich earthy browns and greens. The film takes place mainly in Barcelona, which is beautiful in its own right. Add in the beautiful Cecilia Roth and Penelope Cruz (in her pre-homewrecker/rat-face days) and you've got some pretty things to look at. Lastly, the film features probably my favorite transgendered character ever—the whore Agrado, whose monologue on reality & artifice could be the abstract of a wonderful dissertation.

Anyway, the film spurred a poem. Actually, it wants to spur a series of poems that respond to the film, but they're not ready to come out yet. They may never come. In the meantime, though, I have a really awful, painful-to-read poem that is obviously transitional as I move toward wherever I'm going poetically from here.

It's sort of language-poetry like, although I think it prizes intuitive movement through language more than an academic deconstruction of it.

Stay tuned.

Two Things

There were two moments when I felt something revoluationary happened to me poetically.

The first was when I started a poem with a question. And not just a rhetorical question, or a question asked of the reader. It was a question that wasn't justified by the response, the lingering, unanswerable question. I let the question exist. And after it following a million more questions asking to be pursued.

The second moment was during a panel discussion on political poetry earlier this year. I sat there, listening to the discussion, and I suddenly found myself filled with...something I'd never been in touch with before. Like stepping on a landmine, where the mechanism pops up out of the ground and you have a few seconds before the bomb explodes.

I've been living in those seconds.

More WHeMa notes

From Kathleen Fraser's "Line. On the Line..."

Often, when students are slipping into poetry with the help of a university education, they will be taught the rules of prosody from such expert guides to English verse as John Hollander's brilliantly succinct and witty "rules of thumb," Rhyme's Reason. While Hollander makes it clear that an accomplished mastery of these rules and traditional forms does not a poem make, this point is unfortunately often missed in the classroom.

His own originally composed examples of verse—pure accentual, pure syllabic, free verse of a dazzling variety—are formally impeccable, fun to read, and leave one struck with admiration at the control and mastery so apparent in his rendering. There is no hesitation showing, no evidence of ambivalence, no disturbed stutter of a voice either unable to speak or chaotically pouring forth after being self-edited or deleted over an unbearable length of time.

One experiences Hollander's pleasure in accomplishment, not his resistance to tradition's fond embrace. His guide embodies the authority of historical privilege.


My bolding.

LA Story.

The fauxhawk is alive and well in Los Angeles.

I just got back from five days spent there, where my bf and I participated in the annual Gay Day at Disneyland. It was a nice experience—all gay people who participate in the day wear a red t-shirt to the park. As you walk around, you begin to notice an overwhelming sense of...solidarity.

Ironically, it's the day we're most visible and the day we face the least amount of discrimination.

I held my bf's hand.