LOCUSPOINT needs a little help from its friends

Please pass along and share.

LOCUSPOINT seeks 1-2 co-managing editor volunteers.

LOCUSPOINT, an online poetry journal that explores creative work on a city-by-city basis, seeks 1-2 volunteers to join the team of managing editors who support the magazine's production and forward momentum.

The perfect teammates will have an interest and investment in contemporary American poetry; be knowledgeable of its practitioners, both established and emerging; have an interest in developing skills in literary magazine production and publication or marketing/promotion.

Based on interest, the position would be broken up into production tasks and promotional tasks.

The new managing editor(s) will assist me with:
> communication and follow-up with guest editors in various cities (production)
> follow up with authors on edits to galleys (production)
> long term: assessment of past cities' links sections (production)
> oversight and management of LOCUSPOINT blog (promotion)
> assistance to editors in arranging local LOCUSPOINT readings (promotion)
> entrepreneurial efforts to widen the readership of LOCUSPOINT (promotion)

These are unpaid, for-the-love-of-it positions as LOCUSPOINT has no annual budget.

To apply, please send a resume and brief cover letter that describes your interest in working with LOCUSPOINT to charlesDOTjensenATgmail.com by December 1, 2009.


Death, Poorly Reheated

This week I was clobbered by the flu.

I thought it was a mild flu, so I slept for a day and then went back to work.

And then I lost my voice, so I stopped going to work again.

I hope today is my last day of being poopy sick because I am tired of being tired.


What I Have Never Told You

On Monday night I was one of "tens of thousands" of people in an audience to experience a staged reading of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, an "epilogue" to the original play created by the Tectonic Theatre Project in the aftermath of Matthew Shepard's murder at the hands of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.

For the play, members of Tectonic went back to Laramie in 2008, much as they did in 1998, to interview the residents of Laramie and absorb and process their responses to the event to understand both why and how an event of this both--both horrifying simple and inexplicably complex--could come to pass anywhere, much less in a small Western city like Wyoming.

Unlike the first version, the epilogue featured illuminating interviews with McKinney and Henderson, both imprisoned in Virginia and serving consecutive life sentences.

It also repeatedly addressed a 20/20 segment that poo-pooed the hate crime angle of the murder and focused more on drug and theft motivations, both of which had been disproven in court when the defendents tried to put forward their "gay panic" defense (that Matthew had made sexual overtures to them and they, in their outrage and panic, killed him in response).

It was an amazing production. Annette O'Toole was one of the cast members. Amazing job. To be in that audience, for me, was an honor I almost cannot express. That the play was performed concurrently (at 115 or 150 theatres, I couldn't quite make it out) made it the largest simultaneous theatre production in history.

I live in a world where my personal rights are debated every day by people who are unlike me.

I live in a world where the decision to get married is not mine to make.

Where my partner does not automatically share my health insurance.

Where--to make it personal--nurses could keep me out of the room in which Beau is dying.

I live in a world where, in some states, my employment is not protected and I can be terminated for loving Beau.

Where Beau and I can be on the same car insurance policy but cannot file our taxes jointly.

Where every day people around me and on television are asking each other, "Should Charlie Jensen have the same rights and privileges as me?"

Where they are really asking, "Is Charlie Jensen worth as much as me?"

Where they are asking, "Does Charlie Jensen love Beau in the same way I love my spouse?" Where they wonder if their love matters more.

What I have never told you is a small thing.

It's a small thing that for many people would be forgotten, or laughed off, or disregarded.

That's called "privilege." It means you have some choice over what affects you at your core. To be without that choice, to be oppressed, is to lack privilige. Because I am white, and because I am, on the surface, many other things, I can access many kinds of privilege other people cannot.

I never told you about the phone call.

It was 2002. Matthew Shepard was dead for four years. People had flown planes into the World Trade Center and there was a lot of grief and sadness in America, and a lot of fear.

It was 2002 and all of this was going on and people were forgetting things and they were distracted by new things and then a man called me on the phone. I wasn't home. He left a message.

The message said: Hi faggot. You're a fucking faggot, I know you are. I'm gonna come over and rape you, you stupid faggot. How would you like that? It went on. The rest I don't remember. The rest I don't want to remember.

Picture me where I lived alone, hearing this. Hearing it be a thing that I wondered if it was a threat or a promise. Then, uncertainly, calling the police.

Picture me standing in my living room with the male police officer as I played him this message. Imagine my shame and embarrassment, my anger and confusion. Imagine me wondering if he thought I was overreacting. Wondering if I really was a faggot. Then, me wondering if he thought I deserved it, or if he pitied me, or if he felt nothing at all.

Place these pictures into a world in which a boy like me was kidnapped, beaten, and killed. Place them into a world where significantly larger things were happening.

The worst part wasn't what he said to me. That was not much new. I have been called it to my face virtually my whole life. I have been shamed for it virtually my whole life. I have been pushed aside and ridiculed for it virtually my whole life.

The worst wasn't what he said.

It was that I hesitated. I hesitated and I thought, "What if?"

And then the fear set in.


The Hills Are Alive. But Just Barely.

I can't believe I haven't yet had time to talk to you about the return of The Hills.

I'm sure you've been concerned about what's happening on the show now that Lauren Conrad has gone off to pick trash up off the beach, write YA novels, and design clothes for Kohl's.

I have been too. Friends, I've been worried.

When I first got in touch with my love for The Hills, I went back and got caught up on the show that spawned it: Laguna Beach. That's when I first met Kristen Cavallari. In that show, Lauren quickly became one of the moral and narrative centers of the show. When she left, Kristen took over and pretty much killed it.

I fear the same fate for The Hills now.

The producers have tried to swap out Lauren for Kristen, but it's a bad swap. Lauren played the show like an everywoman who experienced great privilege but never seemed to rely on it or need it. She was like us, only rich, and she still (seemed to?) worked her ass off in kinda crappy jobs (hello, intern at Teen Vogue much?). She was surrounded by craziness in the forms of trainwreck Heidi, vaguely-autistic Audrina, cracked-out Stephanie, megaloSpencer, feisty manbitch Brody, and coldtongued Lo. Lauren was always the nice person, trying to do the right thing, without putting up with needless lies or bullshit. Which mean that she was pretty busy.

Kristen is a whirlpool of the crudest form of selfishness. She's like a Lauren Conrad knock-off: she looks a lot like her, but carrying her around on your arm would just make you look cheap and stupid. She's mean, spiteful, quick to anger, vile, "a maneater" (thank god we resurrected that term), and an all-around horrible person.

When you put a truly horrible person into a sea of pretty unfortunate people, what do you get? Suddenly, a lot of tepid co-stars. Even the crazy people are sort of getting together over coffee to say, "Wow. That girl is actually crazy." When crazy points a finger, you walk in the other direction, okay? That's a life lesson.

So now we will spend 24 episodes watching Kristen Cavallari slowly tear down The Hills stone by stone, street by street, testicle by testicle. It's really unfortunate. Just after two episodes, I was already wishing that, instead of bringing Kristen in, they'd given a starring slot to Lo Bosworth.

Lo, also of Laguna provenance, seems to have taken up the mantle of Lauren's normalcy. She's nice to everyone--even Kristen sometimes--and she's gained a comparable level of grace under fire that Lauren always had (tear-soaked raccoon mascara incident notwithstanding). I like Lo now. I like that she's gotten her shit together. I like that she doesn't have stupid boy drama.

I'm also liking Stephanie. Yes! I'm serious. She can be crazy, but she's a crazy who means well. She just often fails at it.

And that's one to grow on.


The Gossip in DC

Last night I stayed up waaaaay past my adult bedtime and snuck out to see The Gossip in concert. They played with Men and Apache Beat at the 9:30 Club, an awesome little venue here in town.

I thought Men were pretty cool; I'd never heard them before, so I bought their sampler CD. It was fun dancey music.

But I wasn't fully prepared for how awesome The Gossip were going to be. Beth Ditto, the band's zaftig singer with bright orange hair, was both kooky/charming and a beast barely contained. Her voice was perfect in performance, and the rest of the band turned in a really great performance. It's one of the more fun shows I've been to, partly because the audience was into it.

You can hear the show on NPR's All Songs Considered.



This Sunday teh awsomenezz of Merrill Feitell reads with me at The Writer's Center at 2 pm.

In celebration, I share this, my vaguely stalkerish tale of discovering Merrill's work:

How I came to love Merrill Feitell—and her work.

In one of my undergraduate writing workshops, my instructor told our class we should read new literary magazines to get a sense of what was being written “right now,” so that we’d have a better sense of what was being published if that was something we ever wanted to do.

I hardly ever had two nickels to rub together while I was in college, but one morning I walked to Dinkytown, the funky neighborhood situated alongside the University of Minnesota’s campus, to see what there was to read. The Dinkytown News was a tiny shop squeezed between the Purple Onion coffeeshop, which was rarely fully visible through the haze of smoke inside, and a narrow used bookstore presided over by a very fat cat who sat in the front window. Most of Dinkytown News’s business was in StarTribunes and packs of smokes, so it must have been curious that day when I walked in, crouched down to examine the miniscule lit mag selection, painstakingly fretted over which to choose and then, perhaps reluctantly, chose Sonora Review because it promised new poems by Mark Doty.

I took it home and flipped through it, my eyes catching on a short story in the issue. I began reading slowly, interested in the present tense second-person narration (“You do this, you do that,” etc). The story concerned a college-aged woman who, despite her better judgment, falls for a charismatic and charming college guy who is, of course, the wrong guy. Not just “wrong” in the sense that he wasn’t right for her, but maybe for someone else—this was a guy in a spiral of rock music and heroin and booze. And despite her better judgment, she thought she would be the one to pull him up.

The story had a line that I couldn’t shake: For all your questions, you are someone’s answer. I wanted to know why I liked this story so much, so I read the story again, and then again, marking passages I’d wished I’d written, highlighting “significant lines” that I liked because they stepped outside of the story, seemed to be saying something to me, the reader, about the world within and outside of the world of the story. For a while, I carried it around in my backpack. I thought of that line often: for all your questions, you are someone’s answer. At 20, full of my own questions, I simply hoped that it was true.

I’d hazard to say that most literary magazines don’t have a long shelf life. They are, by definition, periodicals, meaning they’re designed to be consumed “periodically.” Each issue is designed to be replaced by the next, newer version. But that issue of Sonora Review never went anywhere. Over the next 12 years, I would move annually. I would carefully divide what was essential from what was trash and pack them both up and take with me only the essential things. That Sonora Review always went into the essential pile.

Of course, I wondered about the author of this story. Who was she? What was her life like? How did she write such an amazing story? Eventually, I found her name listed among some AWP panel participants and attended her session to find out. But, too shy to say anything, I snuck out without introducing myself, afraid that my enthusiasm for the story might make me seem like, you know, a stalker.

After the conference, I blogged about loving her story and my failed attempt to meet her. One of my blog readers knew her and conveyed my message, sending back Merrill’s reply: “Oh my god, that is the coolest craziest thing ever. I can't even believe it. Thanks so much for sending that to me. That was the story that made me feel like an actual writer--though I never thought anyone ACTUALLY read it. Thanks for that. You made my day.”

Merrill and I did connect some time later, and I got my chance to act awkward and crazy around her until I realized she was a human being after all, and that my awkward craziness was doing nothing but make me appear both very awkward and very crazy. When she and I ended up living and working relatively close to each other, it felt like to ask her to read with me at The Writer’s Center. I know you’ll love her work when you hear it, and you’ll definitely want to pick up her Iowa Prize-winning collection of stories Here Beneath Low Flying Planes. Although the story I love isn’t in there, Merrill has assured me it will be in a future collection with work that is similar to it. I can only hope she finishes it soon.


Alotta Vagaga

On Monday Beau and I went to the Lady Gaga show in Richmond. It was awesome.

I know that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who love Gaga, and those who think she's gaga. I'm clearly in the first camp, but don't disparage those who won't join me (so do me the same respect by not leaving your snarky comments here).

The show opened with a short film starring Gaga, called Who Shot Candy Warhol? Gaga combs her hair with a Hello Kitty brush while answering an interviewer's questions. The whole thing is very Truffaut, until somebody gets shot! In the heart! Gaga appeared onstage in all her pant(y)less glory and sang Paparazzi. And she danced. And she was actually singing while she danced. It was impressive, and authentic, and fun.

Gaga is an ethusiastic performer. After each number, she'd chit chat with the audience, telling us how wonderful her fans were and how excited she was to be there. I think she kind of got off on being on stage, though, because while singing, she'd intermittently shout, "Scream!" And the audience would scream. Or "Hold your guns in the air and shoot 'em" (during "Beautiful, Dirty, Rich"). She loved telling us what to do...and then watching us do it.

The show was sparse, stripped down. The set was almost austere as far as pop shows go, and she only had three back up dancers, three men who'd been traveling with her for two years. The biggest set piece was a real scooter they pushed her in on before she sang "LoveGame."

Yes. She wore the bubble dress, for a while. She wore it while she played the lucite piano and sang stripped down (pun intended) versions of "Brown Eyes" and "Poker Face."

Although the show was fun, it was short. No opening act (yay!). She didn't sing all the songs on her album (losers included "Paper Gangsta" and "I Like It Rough"). But she gave 110% to what she did do, and, like a honest-to-real diva, she showed up 60 minutes late for the show.

But, she said she was sorry.