Monday, April 30, 2012

Meet Librarian/Zinester/Lower East Sider Jenna Freedman

Editor's Note:  I kind of didn't know where to stop with the post's title, because one needs a lot of words to describe Jenna, who is also a bike rider, blogger, cat lover, vegan, and writer of popular and scholarly articles on the subject of zines (those often "tight-place" publications), zines and feminism, and zines and print culture.  She also founded and oversees the famous zine collection at Barnard College (where I proudly served as her zine intern for a semester) and is a founding member of Radical Reference.  In addition to this, I admire how out and about Jenna is, how dedicated she is to zines and libraries, open access, DIY culture, and preserving riot grrrl history and feminist movements:   she has been on panels regarding  these and related subjects at Bluestocking Books, the Lower East Side Girls Club, ABC No Rio, and libraries, infoshops, and zine fairs not only in New York, but all over the country.  Last summer, she and three other zinester librarians went on a super cool ZINE TOUR (in a van, punk rock style) which you can read about here.  Check out what she's doing this week at the Brooklyn Museum's Elizabeth Sackler Center (home of Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party, btw).

In Conversation: Jenna Freedman and Josh MacPhee on DIY Feminism
Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 7 p.m.Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Forum, 4th Floor.

Jenna Freedman, librarian at the Barnard Zine Library, and Josh MacPhee, founder of Interference Archive, discuss the evolution of feminist print culture. They trace its trajectory from activist poster making, offset printing, and graffiti in the late 1970s and early 80s to the rise of the feminist zine in the 90s.This program is free with Museum admission.

And now, Jenna answers our four questions:  

1. Are you in a tight place? If so, what are you trying to do about it?
At about 600 square feet, my current one-bedroom apartment is the biggest I've lived in since a three bedroom I shared with my then-boyfriend and two roommates in Greenpoint right after college. I live on Rivington St. with my spouse and two gray tabbies. While I wouldn't mind having my own space, I don't consider my apartment a tight place. My mind, however, is a very tight place. What I'm trying to do about that is unplug from work just a teeny bit--let go of my perfectionism and accept that there are limits to what I can get done, which sucks.

2. What do you want to get done this year?
Mostly I just want to catalog zines.

3. What inspires you?  That's kind of not how I am. I admire other people's accomplishments, but rather than inspire me, they make me feel like I'm not doing enough.

4. What is your favorite legwear?  Aside from black tights, which I assume is a given, lately I'm really into socks with toes. My spouse bought me two pairs for my birthday (so I could wear socks with my slippers!). A friend made a comment about how some of the best things come from the intersection of ridiculousness and love.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mitt, Money and My Mormonism (Plus, a Secret CIty Report)

As you may have read in yesterday's post, I hadn't been to The Secret City in awhile, so today instead of my regular service (more about that later), I rushed over at the last minute, was almost late.  

The Secret City, which I've written about here before, is a monthly gathering/communal sharing of art/music and spoken word.  Structured like an Episcopalian service, every act on the program responds to each month's theme.  Today's was money--terrifying theme for me, actually, but a metaphor that I'm trying to be less terrified of as I attempt to work my way out of my over-arching tight place.  

(Is our theme getting a little old?  Not to me!)

Today's program included:

Look At This:  Peter Simensky--an artist, whose collages are assembled from the gorgeous currency of dying economies.

A Taste:  Barrett Washburne's black-eyed peas and collard greens.  I found out today that both of these items are prepared and consumed for luck and prosperity on New Year's Day in the South.

A Song:  The traveling troubadour Andru Bemis' "Two Dollar Bill"

Watch This:  Caroline Woolard's "A Disappearing Act." (What happened here was too controversial to make public, but it was right on theme.)  She is AMAZING:  I could write a whole blog post--a book!--on her.  For one thing, she started Trade School . . . .

A Reading:  Artists on Money, Read by Charleigh Parker

A Story:  "Ashes"--The Secret City founder Chris Wells' monthly personal essay installment.  Always brilliant.

The Secret City band and choir performed the following songs before and after the service:  Pink Floyd's "Money,"  "Money (That's What I Want)" (covered by many), and "Pennies from Heaven."

I've wanted to write about my other service for a long time.  I've been a lifelong member of the Mormon Church.  Like Mitt Romney (speaking of money) my Mormon ancestry goes back many generations on both sides, to the beginnings of Mormonism.  My great, great, great, great??? grandfather was an English immigrant who converted to Mormonism just after its founding/restoration (depending on who's reading).  He hung out with Joseph Smith and eventually moved to Utah with the others and practiced polygamy.  He had a son who Brigham Young sent down to Mexico to start one of the Mormon colonies that Pancho Villa booted out at the beginning of the last century.  Mitt and I have that in common, too.  Only our respective money pools and politics divide Mitt and me.

I was born into Mormonism and raised in a fairly Orthodox family.  I was brought to church every Sunday, and graduated from the Brigham Young's university.  However, due to a variety of circumstances, I did not go on a proselytizing mission, have never taken out my endowments, and have had periods of inactivity and estrangement, particularly when I've lived in Utah.  I also married a Jewish man.  Politically, I'm a Dennis Kucinich/Angela Davis/Bernie Saunders kind of liberal--if that makes sense, so politically, at least, I feel at odds with the majority of my Mormon brothers and sisters.  I am pro gay (and LBGTQ, for that matter), pro feminist, pro choice, anti-war, anti-gun, pro tax the rich, pro civil rights, pro art and artists, pro cycling and recycling, pro community.  In fact, in many of these things, I am not so different than the founding Mormons.  Most contemporary Mormons I have a hard time finding points of connection with.

Less so in New York City.  Part II tomorrow.   

Tights spied at The Secret City

Troubadour Andru Bemis

game on: the locust salon

lalage performing at karnatic lab in amsterdam--with pre-show dutch yahoos & steven ricks

woke up this morning & cooked.

it felt good.

here's what i made:

lemon tart (from the chez panisse dessert cookbook given to me by me dear friend and kitchen mentor, the artist alice dubiel)

red lentil dal

cucumber raita

hummus & hand made pita

this is all in honor of tonight's locust salon.  i wanted to go all out because

c. has composed a set of the most beautiful bassas which he's playing tonight with drummer jesse quebbeman-turley & bassist zoe jorgenson,

our piano's tuned,

we have some new lalage sounds,

& it's spring time.

every change of season sends me to the kitchen to cook & the notebook for new poems.

that's my inspiration for today.

tonight's outfit is yet to be determined.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

burn/game on/what i did today

burned out on outfits--overwearing my striped t-shirt dress

not burned out on vegetgables--asparagus-potato salad with lemon cream dressing
 1. primary series yoga with russ.  c.'s back is better, so he's coming with me again.  (and julie, i know exactly how you feel! i admire that you practice at home.  i can't seem to do an unguided practice.)

2.  chorizo breakfast burrito at beto's after yoga then

3. to provo bakery to get donuts for kids. on the way home i found a lost crying toddler & rescued him.  he had escaped from his backyard without anyone noticing.

4. shopping for yogurt to make raita (i'm making dal for the salon/fireside tomorrow night).

5. practiced with c. for salon/fireside tomorrow night.  i'm approaching music practice more like yoga these days--trying not to think about the gap between where i am and where i want to be, how much better other people are, how different it feels today than yesterday.  musically staying on the mat, if you will.

6.  thought about making a lemon tart for tomorrow night using the huge bowl of lemons we brought back from arizona (c. and the kids picked them from my mom's neighbor's tree.)  didn't make tart because

7.  i suddenly got completely exhausted and burned out.  so

8.  i took a nap.  planned on waking up, doing laundry, cleaning out the kids drawers for spring/summer season but

9.  woke up still exhausted & binge-watched 5 episodes of restaurant impossible (that's what's on in the background of my picture.

10.  mustered enough energy to make dinner (pictured above) and eat with the family.  but still no game on, still feeling the burn, still no lemon tart.  what do you do when you get slammed with burn-out & you really need to get your game on?

legwear:  none

inspiration:  sucking at yoga & other stuff, but doing it anyway

looking forward: to shucking off burnout

Why I Kind of Suck at Yoga

I attended a yoga class today for the first time in months.  I rarely get to a class due to the fact I'm holding down the fort alone at home so much; plus, the fact that I'm still in a tight place makes it difficult for me to justify the expense, even for just one class here and there.  

So today in class I couldn't help but feel "behind" everyone else, that I was trying to join a class and catch up when the "semester" is actually almost over.  Once, even twice a day, I do yoga at home on my own mat, but it's never the same.  At home, I don't do things I don't already know how to do.  I don't think of what I do at home as real, somehow--like it almost doesn't count as a yoga practice to be proud of.

But going to class was actually bad because I left feeling bad.  In elementary school, I was always the last one picked for teams during physical education classes.  I was the smallest, the scrawniest, the slowest, the weakest.  In fourth grade, it took forever for me to get the volleyball over the net.  I lost the races, was always behind.  So everyday, I left P.E. feeling bad, fantasizing about being better, but physically unable to make that happen.

That's how I feel when I feel bad about yoga.  That what I'm supposed to be doing in class is never going to happen for me.  There is a lot of talk about being "where you are" in class and that the breath is everything, the most important thing, but that's not the way it feels when my fellow classmates swing into their asanas and vinyasas.  They move quickly and with intensity, and I can't seem to match them.  And I can't stop watching them.

I've been doing yoga on and off for about 20 years and when I first moved to the city I had a yoga teacher who was strangely bothered by my seeming inability to be "awesome."  (This was before there was a studio on every corner.) It actually made him angry, my yoga suckage--pushed some  major buttons in him--and for years and years I never attended class again.  

And I've always wished that both he and my '70s-era PE teacher knew how awful they'd been.

It's too bad I'm feeling so negatively, so tight about this, because I'm counting on yoga to help me through many things in my life (ironically, to get me out of my tight emotional places); on the other hand, sometimes I wonder whether I should be doing yoga at all

What about you?  What do you consistently practice that you still kind of suck at?

Sometimes I feel judged by the others.

talking about race/eating more vegetables

what do vegetables and race have to do with each other?

asparagus with lemon zest & cold creek farm artisan butter
a question i have, and it's not really rhetorical:  when you want to get healthier you eat more vegetables, or drink more water, or exercise more, etc. according to concrete, scientifically proven methods.  when you want to become less racist & contribute to a more racially just world, what actions do you take?

i read "a complete guide to 'hipster' racism"  in jezebel today by lindy west (i'm in love with this woman!)  , and she articulated so well the problem with denying racism, with accepting the benefits of belonging to a dominant racial group in a racist society without acknowledging or taking any actions to rectify the situation.

one thing that really struck me was when west said she works every day to be less racist.  since i'm spending this year focusing on small daily practices, i had the thought what daily practices make a person less racist, or contribute to the creation of greater equality in the world?  

that is not a rhetorical question.

here's what lindy west says:

When people are trying to be sensitive about race but they don't know what to say, they usually go with, "Well, race is a complicated issue." Except, no, it's not. Race is one of the least complicated issues that there is, because it's made up. It's arbitrary. It's as complicated as goddamn Santa Claus. Oh, that guy's mom was half-black, which makes his skin slightly more pigmented than mine, which therefore means that he's inherently 12.5% lazier than me? Science! Um, no. What's actually complicated is our country's relationship with race, and our utter ineptitude at talking about it. We suck. I mean, I work on it every day, and I'm still a total fuck-up*. But this new scheme someone came up with—where we prove we're not racist by acting as casually racist as possible? Not our best, white people. Not our best.

so read the whole article. it's great--very incisive and saying some things that need to be said, and then tell me what you think about the whole daily practice thing.  for me to make changes i have to
mushrooms, cabbage, spring onions & chicken over yukon asiago mashed potatoes served in pottery made by lula

a) believe there's a problem that needs to be fixed, b) have a plan of action that i will actually adhere to (not too overwhelming or discouraging, in other words) and c) believe that my actions will be efficacious.

*it's been a week of posts containing the f-word.  in totally necessary ways.  we can talk about it some time if you want.  if you haven't already, please read guest blogger natanya ann pulley's post from monday--it goes with the theme of the week.  also--

**read something that proves there's still racism, in case you're doubting, from this week's news.  rad writer ana castillo was banned from a visit to a tuscon high school.  surely not because she's a chicana, right?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tenacity, Exuberance, and Tight Places

All week, I had been looking forward to Luisa Caldwell's show in Williamsburg at the b. conte boutique.  I first interviewed Luisa before I knew her--around eight years ago--for our respective kids' elementary school's newsletter, but now since Luisa's kid graduated, our paths don't cross, and our lives are pretty parallel.  And I hate the structural things that take you away from people.  

I have long admired Luisa.  It's difficult--to say the least--to have an art career anywhere, but New York is probably one of the tightest places an artist can live and work:  rents are outrageous and the competition is amped and fierce; the New York artist is in fact, competing with the world.  But Luisa is tenacious.  She gets noticed and she gets stuff done.  

I love Luisa's art.  Her central medium--what she has been working with for years--is the ephemera of the produce department:  fruit stickers.  She makes the quotidian beautiful, radically re-contextualizing what is so familiar that we don't give the humble fruit sticker a second's thought as we peel and discard.  But she makes us look at them, gives them a second astounding,  exuberant, sumptuous and permanent life.

Tonight she was exhibiting her work on rescued materials, and she had lined them up like an "architectural frieze" (she told me) above a rack of summer frocks in a boutique.  The opening itself was a lot of fun, with a little bluegrassish duo.  The live band element actually reminded me of an opening at the old Deitch Projects in Soho.  

I really do need to get out more, like Luisa.  I hope to be less parallel with her again soon.  (Luisa's show is up until May 23rd!)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

pocket-sized, baby-o

student tights, photographed at sammy's

in honor of poem in you pocket day, i did three things (i've really tried this year to emulate my festive co-blogger, who observes so many holidays so very well):

1) read sections of christopher smart's enormous, rambling, mad, brilliant jubilate agno.

2) had my poetry students find and agree upon one small poem to distribute to the pockets of walden students.  they chose this blake poem.

3) printed out this diane di prima poem.  it is pocket-sized, with it's tiny lines and it's condensed emotion about the outsized mother love that even a crazy dame like d.d.p. is not immune to.  also found out that she's having health problems and actress/poet!!! (i didn't know tamblyn was a poet, did you?)  amber tamblyn's been holding a fundraiser for diane di prima, who has been touted as the "only feminist beat poet."  do we know if this is the truth, that di prima is the only feminist beat, my scholarly friends?

 anyway, here's the poem:

Song for Baby-O, Unborn

Diane di Prima
when you break thru
you’ll find
a poet here
not quite what one would choose.

I won’t promise
you’ll never go hungry
or that you won’t be sad
on this gutted

but I can show you
enough to love
to break your heart


the first stanza kills me!  the criteria for liking a poem shouldn't be that it says something that you would say, but that's how i feel about it anyway.

& here's something di prima wrote about motherhood (pardon the french), that also reflects my own feelings, at least in part, on the matter:

“I wanted everything—very earnestly and totally—I wanted to have every experience I could have, I wanted everything that was possible to a person in a female body, and that meant that I wanted to be mother.… So my feeling was, ‘Well’—as I had many times had the feeling—‘Well, nobody’s done it quite this way before but fuck it, that’s what I’m doing, I’m going to risk it.’”


inspiration: julie's devotion to festivity

legwear: no tights, just boots

looking forward: to cecily's violin recital, then a break from lessons. . .

Yellow Tights and a Poem in My Pocket

How could this not be a win/win day?  

The coat I had on was blue.  The poem I had in my pocket today was this.  I was actually really excited to discover this poet, Natalie Diaz, and still am.  I hope you all have experienced such joy this month, National Poetry Month.

Who have you read this month?  It's still April!  (Did you know that my co-blogger is a magnificent poet and one of my favorites?)

I also carried the book pictured above around today and let people tear poems from it.  I'm only sorry I didn't keep track of what I gave away.

As the photo above indicates, I spent my subway commute reading poetry.  I had been neglected it all month for some reason.  I was reminded again of what it can do, how it can reorder my experience, and take apart how I experience language.  (Just to be really facile about it.)

To reference a previous blog of mine:  What are you reading?  

Tights:  yellow for the gray day.  Also, I boldly wore them with a teal coat.  
Inspiration:  poetry about tight places

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This day had lots of promise, a lot of hours in which to get some grading and writing done, but one small oversight seemed to derail it all:  I forgot to charge my computer before leaving the house and then couldn't find a cafe that would let me plug in.  Housing Works had an outlet that had no power flowing to it.  Psych!  The volunteer counter gal told me she goes to Starbucks, doesn't buy anything, and plugs in.  Starbucks felt too far to go.

I sat and used the power I had.

Then, one of my bondings that I had put on my chipped front teeth years ago, fell off, which increased my feeling of being out of control.   So now I look something like this.  Not a good look for job hunting:

This is not my mouth.
I do envy your perfect teeth, if you have them.  (I chipped my teeth when I was eight on a Payson, UT playground, and they weren't fixed until '04.)

Then at home our wifi wasn't working.  I couldn't unlock the locked desktop keyboard, and my perfet minutes rushed by, dwindling.

Now I'm trying to rescue the shards of the day by finding a poem for my pocket tomorrow.  Like Simon and Garfunkle say:  "I've got my books and my poetry to protect me." Wish poetry could do something about my tooth.

And I'm also trying not to feel like the day was a bust.  Actually, after all this happened, I ran into a  friend, who told me she's doing really well lately, that things were getting more perfect for her.  I liked how happy hearing that made me.  No envy at all.

(And Lara, that should be my one of my daily practices:  refusing envy)

chance operations

 almost swerved into mcdonald's for a double cheeseburger, but resisted, came home, and made this instead

today i had lunch with a wonderful composer.   we talked about chance, randomization, happenstance, choice, improvisation and all that.

you know.

the stuff composers think about all the time.

my composer said:

the mind craves

both order & chaos

& i think he's right.  we're only comfortable with chaos for so long.

we're only comfortable with order for so long.

we need both.

here's my book balloon poetry prompt for today, inspired by the composer.  in the spirit of loving the order and the chaos equally well:

Poetry Prompt #4—Aleatory
A theme has seemed to emerge this month (thank you so much, Janet, and Book Balloon, for having me!) as I thought about practices that encourage innovation and progress in poetics:  that of lessening the over-determination of the poet.  It seems, at least in my own practice, that the more I focus on a specific outcome, the less successful my work, my life, and even my own heart feels.

This is not to say that there are not good times, places, and reasons to learn technique, to study hard, and to put your self through some rigorous training.  But there’s also a time and place to admit that words are much more powerful than the poets who use them, and we’d best step aside and let them do their work in the world.

With this in mind, I turned to composer John Cage & his practice of using the I Ching and chance operations to create new compositions.  Although Cage’s method of randomization was complex and ever-changing, we can simplify it and use chance to tap into the power of association, random happenings, and the smells, sounds, and smoke rings that emerge when words stand next to each other, no matter what the author’s intent.

This prompt has two phases:

Phase 1:

Roll a pair of dice.  Write down the number you roll and then compose a line inspired by that number. 

Your line must start with that number. 

If so inspired, you may continue and create a couplet, tercet, or a quartet.  (You may decide to continue working in couplets, tercets, etc., or you may decide to change the number of lines with each roll of the dice.)

Repeat for a total of ten rolls.

Phase 2:
Despite your intention to not have intention, themes may have begun to emerge,  and you may have begun controlling your text in all the devious ways we’ve been trained in, so phase two will help you to loosen your grip on the need to control again:

Roll the dice.  When you roll a number corresponding with a number that begins one of your lines, that line or group of lines becomes the beginning of your poem.

If you have more than one line beginning with that number, choose the group least likely to make a “good” beginning to a poem.

Your subsequent rolls will determine the order of the subsequent lines.  Each time a number corresponding with a group of lines comes up, that group will be next in the order of the poem.

Again, if you have more than one line beginning with the same number, choose the lines that seem the most out of order to go next.

Repeat until your poem has found its own order.

legwear: my favorite olio yoga pants

inspiration: randomness & vegetables

looking forward: to the tasty dishes my girls always bring to bookclub

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blog, I Love You!

The view from Bowery Coffee
Yesterday, despite my impetuous pairing of pink tights with red boots, it was a day which will be largely unremembered when I look back on 2012 from the vantage point of Dec 31st.  Today was even worse, with quotidian concerns and activities.  It doesn't help that there's been a pronounced spring chill; for the past two days I've pulled on my beyond dull puffy winter coat.  Which is why I was so keen on the tights/boots combo below.  Would I have paired the two if not for this blog?  Probably not.  
So, thanks, blog.  I love you!

The other two photos were taken at Bowery Coffee.  My ersatz observations follow:  

Coffee:  Counter Culture
Unexpected tea:  White (Two kinds)

Pros:  Super friendly and accommodating staff.  (Not that I'm demanding.)  They have white tea on the menu!  Credit cards accepted with super low minimum.  Doughnut Plant doughnuts.  No wifi (means I get writing done).  Very aesthetically pleasing

Cons:  No public bathroom.  Limited seating.  No food.  No wifi (means I can't grade papers there).  No electrical outlets.

Unexpected amenity:  A lovely view of the ever-changing Bowery mural.

Distorted leg action
Super skinny, kind of shiny jeans

practicing sanity, health, gratitude, creation

eat your veggies--monday's salad

what keeps you sane?

what keeps you healthy?

what keeps you creative?

what keeps you gracious?

(am i weird for needing to work at these things constantly?)

or gets you back on track when you've lost your way?

isn't it fascinating how people work things out differently?  how what works splendidly for one person doesn't work at all for  another?

i have a short attention span and intense obsessions followed by intense burn-out, so i have to change up my practices all the time.  when i realized this, strong practices became a much more regular occurance.

(well, it did take forever for me to learn i needed small simple practices in the first place.)

here's one practice, that i already blogged about.

& of course you know that girls in a tight place advocate living deliberately through legwear choices.

another practice is eating my vegetables.  this week i resolved to have one mostly vegetable meal every day.  it went well sunday and monday.  today, josh the sandwich boy offered me half of his tuna salad studded with celery & dried cranberries on toasted jalapeno-cheddar bread, so my mostly vegetable lunch went uneaten.  but it's a practice, right?  meaning some sessions are stronger than others, and when the universe offers you a terrific sandwich, you would be stupid to not accept that gift.

over tuna salad, i asked josh about his practices for creativity, and he gave me this one:

i keep folders of ads, photos from magazines, newspaper clippings,
pressed flowers, leaves, interesting texts,  etc.  

rocks, bugs, sticks,
and feathers go on my window sill and mini-shelves, 

making my environment visually rich.

color palettes, the way handwriting looks, anything.
but it has to be tangible, has to be in a folder, 

it can't be digital.
electronic files never get looked at.

i asked a few more people who have interesting practices, and i'm waiting for them to get back to me.

i also really liked this idea from brenda miller's blog spa of the mind, and started working on writing my intentions and blockages this week.

i think i'll work on this a little every day this week in addition to eating more vegetables.

feel free to post your practices & your favorite vegetables in the comments.

Monday, April 23, 2012

guest blogger: rad rioter & writer natanya ann pulley

socks.  this year she will socks.

 NATANYA ANN PULLEY's maternal family home is near Tuba City, AZ. She is half-Dine of the Kiiyaa'aanii (Towering House Clan). Bicheii is Tachiinii (Red Running Into Water Clan).

i briefly intersected with natanya in an instructor training several years ago, then one day a link to this totally rad hilarious/serious piece she wrote for mcsweeney's, open letter to johnny depp's tonto, popped onto the radar and i knew girls in tight places had found their next guest blogger.  natanya has a slew of cool projects going on:  she's co-editor to the forthcoming good medicine: an anthology of native american humor.  she is currently working on her phd at the university of utah in fiction writing. she is an editor of quarterly west, and her work can be found in: western humanities review, the florida review, moon milk review, the collagist, drunken boat, and the los angeles review.  she just ordered her copy of and is excited to read walking the clouds: an anthology of indigenous science fictionyou can find out more about natanya and her work at gapp's basement.  

in the mean time, hear the words she has graced us with here:

“Colonizer Bunny” by Bunky Echo-Hawk

Red Riot: Emerging Native American Voices and Poetics

I’m still feeling something out. The edges of it, a little like static in my hand. I feel the charge, know there’s a fabric. I want to tell you about it. I want to invite you to feel it with me. But I’m not sure what it will become. Imagine it is very large and we will continue to be warmed by it. Or it becomes heavy? Oppressive? What if it is just a small thing? Rare … or forgettable?

I have held the edge of this fabric for long amounts of time. I have clutched it. I, at times, pull it towards me … and it comes: 

There are many emerging voices from Native American writers, poets and artists.

And the things they say!

The way they say!

The way they are heard! It is something … new.

[Left:  Leather “Indian Chief” postcard stamped: “Oct. 5, 1907 Southbend, (PA).”
Found April 2012 at an antique store near Salamanca, NY (Allegany Indian Reservation)]

[Right:  “Feather Lollipop” (Cherry/Blue Raspberry/Grape) purchased April 2012 at Smokin’ Joes Trading Post near Sanborn, NY (Tuscarora Indian Reservation)
I have always felt there are great voices among my Native American families. But they seemed larger than life (than my life). Steadfast. Honest. Brave. Oh yes, the meme plastered on Facebook! You have seen it. Jpeg: Native Some-Chief in traditional dress. Quote of great wisdom. Over 1,000+ likes.  Shared. Forgotten. This is not to say that our elders were not wise, were not brave or were not steadfast and honest. But that they loom.

To me, they are untouchable.

For many years, I did not confess this even to myself. I did not want to oppose the power of the wise quote next to a sacred sepia (always sepia—antique brown complementing brown-brown) image. Who can defy a poster? It exists in more than one place, on more than one (virtual or not) wall. It is obstinate! And recognizes only the building that holds it up.

Then … well, fuck it. Sorry for the cursing, but truly … fuck it. I can’t feel my self with that poster looming over me. I can’t write my experience and understanding of my heritage when the poster threatens to wrap itself over me. I can’t join this discussion—this landscape of looming figures. And (I will say it) not just the landscape of warriors and chiefs, but the landscape of larger than (my) life Native writers and artists as well. The generation between the weight of the people as they held their traditions and the age of the Internet which speaks to us all from anywhere, anytime and in all ways. The Native American renaissance of the 1960’s and 1970’s, both a call and a threat. They made the images, the language, the phantoms that would tromp through Native American literature for the first time. They exploded the quiet and filled it with our elders’ lives made familiar, strong and solid. Wordspaces that bounded forth, but fell to replication (as all great things do). To tropes.

"redmen" by steve judd
Fuck it. I began to write non-fiction without the pressure to speak to/for a people held in, between or from tradition. I wrote for me: the me that threw my arms up and said, I don’t know how to do any of it! How to recover a heritage—how to speak to a past time—how to hold it all together. My mother left the Navajo reservation when she was five to live with an LDS family in the Indian Placement Program.  There is too much in that one line for any one story, for one book, for one life. There is too much in it and I have learned to respect it. To respect that it is a still-beating thing. That my heritage shifts in color, size, texture. It sings many songs and continually cuts its own legs off to start again. It boils to steam and drifts to airs and comes back to me in rain, wind, in breath. In smog.

And, here is the secret: I am not alone. This, a blessing. The consoler of the racist bullshit, of the lightness of my skin, and the image of my grandmother’s bent spine under crushed velvet as she lie dying in a rest home far from her hogan. The confidantes of my fluxing world, my mis-speaks, my confessions of liking cyborgs, horror movies and the soothing feedback of post-punk shoegazing music while still bound to some of the stories and sands of Dinetah (no matter how cloudy or misheard or mislearned they were).

Tiffany Midge. Layli Long Soldier. Orlando White. Sherwin Bitsui.

My support system when I wrote what I thought was my final word on the matter of my heritage. When I wrote why and where it hurts (not in society or history), but where it slayed me in my home, in my memories, in my losses. My mother’s words even, and often. I wrote an essay to explain why I could never think myself as Navajo, woman, self again. Why I’d split too much in all my ways. I wrote in an effort to say I was done trying; I give up. I was and could only be this mismatched, undone and redoing self. Just a modern, half-breed mess. My heritage pacing inside me or splashed back on me like varied lights from a projector. Spoken, blood, and dream ties within and around me to the rez, to my family, to the land-the people. No two-world being, like my mother’s war and art. But instead, a many-world being, road-worn. And kinda weird. Grouchy, but okay, but fine. Whatever.

The modern Native voices—these ones sought me out. Their names, their work, their invitations and support. Our discussions. We speak of new Native Voices rising. There are many. A Red Riot. They are everywhere. It is brewing—this new (dare I say) aesthetic. It’s not just coming, it is here and, it is not finished. It will one day be made into tropes and someone else’s wooden indian, but for now … these new Native Voices … well, they say … everything. Fuck it. We’ll say it all; we’ll say it new.

Tell us about yourself. What would you like "Girls in a Tight Place"
readers to know about you?

Confession: I watch a lot of late night terrible cable T.V. I know this because I wake with this jingle in my head:

Am in need of a brain scrub.

Are you in a tight place right now? If so, what are you doing about it?

I just got out of a tight space. I didn’t do anything to make it happen other than to let time happen. To breathe; To say, I’m just going to do what I do and keep moving forward. And then the universe relaxed. It was all just birthing pains. I do not know what will come of it. But it is something new and raw.

What do you want to get done this year?

I asked this question aloud to myself and heard myself say: socks. I don’t know what that means, but my goals are too large to speak of just yet. The act of hearing them inside and then out would burst me all open, split at seams. It turns from a goal to a dream to a path to a Life. I want to get done with another year of Life (the kind that adds up to some particular set of songs, to some particular image or motif, the kind of Life that adds up and onwards). And I want to get done with socks. Whatever that means.

What inspires you?

Sound. Rhythm. I feel hollow sometimes. Mostly, I feel heavy with junk. Then there is a song, a tone, a beating and I know I must follow. When I do: magic (writing magic, but also the other kids of magic). When I don’t: it builds to a haunt or scream or croaks and dies. I try to follow the sounds. It can be difficult to do so. 

What is your favorite legwear?

Late 80’s. Black leggings. Ending at the ankle. Black lace. Under cut-off jeans. The Cure’s Disintegration. Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration. Lost Boys and Heathers, but Less Than Zero wasn’t the book. Nachos. Slurpees. Love letters to Christian Slater. Black leggings, a dark coccoon.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


"We were BORN THIS WAY!"
I knew Gaga had lived around me somewhere--post NYU and pre "fame monster" (in her "tight place" period)--but I had never known exactly where.  Today however, I stopped on my way to a grand opening of a yoga studio to examine some graffiti that intrigued me:  tiny messages, all addressed to Gaga, that had the look and tone of yearbook inscriptions.  I had found her old digs!  The messages are terribly sweet and touching in that they felt so private, and if you aren't paying attention you will miss them.

The bottom photo is from the yoga opening.  The place was packed to the gills when I arrived and they had run out of chai and vegan cupcakes much to my disappointment.  I also felt like I didn't belong with the other pilgrims:  mostly white people dressed for the occasion in traditional Indian garb, sweeping skirts and half shirts and saris.  Plus, everyone had taken off their shoes and put them into a pile.  I couldn't leave my Fryes like that!  Some people were straight up Krishnas, in peach robes.  It made me feel out of the loop, so while everyone else sat in kirtan, I hung out on a puffy bench and pretended to meditate. 

P.S.  Thinking of Lara's post today:  Gaga's fans seems so open hearted and full of love, at least when it comes to Gaga.  Also, when I went to the yoga studio, I started to resent the people I felt so alienated from in that moment.  Did this have more to do with that I had been shut out of the cupcakes?  Clearly, I have a lot of work to do. 

"You helped me find creativity."

"You made it sweety!  Fame NEVER STOP!  You will always be my Queen!"

Sweeping skirts were de rigueur

sabbath schooling

to continue the burlesque show of GITP (legs! legs! legs!), here are my legs walking themselves to church
 we were schooled on this radically beautiful text today in an excellent and strong sermon:

love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

this seems so hard to do.

i think, though, that it is one of those challenging postures that, once you achieve it, if only for a moment, you'll realize is the easiest thing in the world.

that continuously practicing and falling will take you to a point, finally, where, without effort, you are suddenly filled with love, hate falls away, and, i imagine, you are filled with the most expansively beautiful liberation a person could ever experience.

what is the practice that gets us to this place?

i want to hear your methods and inspirations, and would love some more sunday school in my life from diverse persons and readers.

the tulips, who lead such wildly brilliant and brief lives, are up

 i'm committing to a week full of vegetables.

what's on your menu this week?

le petit déjeuner, chez moi
legwear: bare, in honor of 83 degrees

inspiration: sermon on the mount

looking forward: to monday's guest blogger

Saturday, April 21, 2012

cherry tights, vinyl, byu make-out spots

cherry tights from paris
1) stayed inside all this incredible spring day, grading online, until 5.55 when c. & i went to dinner.  i donned cherry tights, carted back from paris by one of our incredible guest bloggers, because i didn't realize how warm it was.
on Y mountain.  wondering what julie ever did up there.
2) after dinner, we went up to Y mountain and looked at the view.  it was one of two famous make-out spots for byu students, the other being squaw peak.  as i looked out at the valley, i wondered if julie had ever made out with anyone up there.  i'm sure she'll never tell, but you might be able to make some inferences based on her hilariously terrific series of short stories set at byu in the '80's.  maybe she'll share an exceprt on the blog some time?

3) on our way back from dinner & making out, we saw some super adorable children on bikes.  as we drew nearer, we noticed that they were probably the cutest kids we'd ever seen.  turns out they were ours.

terribly cute children

does this album look familiar, anyone?

5) on thursday night at muse we bought a vinyl record from eyes lips eyes, some of them former students of c.'s, and former members of elizabethan report.  they now live in l.a., and are very good.  definitely check them out cuz they're awfully tasty.  also, their record jackets are individually hand-painted.

our vinyl.  we're nerds. hand-painted eyes lips eyes record cover on upper right.

5) record store day! (and julie wrote a rad post about it.) i love all those stores julie mentioned, and being married to a musician, it's quite a topic of conversation and we have quite a collection.  the trade-off for not being able to live in nyc is that we have enough space for a big record collection.  the kids gave c. radiohead's in rainbows for christmas 2011 and the whole family loves it.  if you come over, c. will give you the analog/digital sound test--he'll play the same track on vinyl, cd, and mp3 (he abhors the sound of mp3) and have you guess which is which.  almost everyone can tell.  seriously, there's nothing like radiohead on vinyl.  (i used to live on the same block as tower records in ny on the corner of b'way and 66th.  what a store that was for a classical music nerd like me!)