Monday, September 29, 2014

sistahs in zion & a mormon moment part 2 ::: on missing out on kumbayah

sistah beehive and sistah laurel
this weekend a black woman, that is to say a woman of african descent*, prayed at the opening session of the very important international meetings mormons call "general conference."  this was a historic event, as it was the first time a black woman had prayed in a session of general conference. this was an important time for showing the world that mormons are trying to overcome racist practices that have haunted our legacy, a legacy that,  to my mind, should be much more radical and inclusive than it currently is.

sister dora mkhabela, "natural hair diva" of the young women's general board.  the first woman of african descent to pray in general conference. 
i listened to the sistahs in zion radiocast this morning, and really felt how deeply white sisters, and especially progressive white sisters who espouse inclusion and progress so vocally, have failed black sisters.

"i wanted to celebrate.  i waited.  time will tell, and time did tell.  there was nothing." (on the silence in social media from white mormon sisters, particularly mormon feminists after sister mkhabela's prayer.)

nobody put out a hand to start up the kumbayah circle (an african song, the sistahs said.)

white mormon feminists did not speak about this historic moment until their black sisters started the ball rolling.

this was not okay.

it is not okay.

a caller on the show phoned in to say that we shouldn't be surprised--that american mormons should be expected to enact racism in the same way other americans enact it--with awkwardness and silence.

the sistahs defended their pointed attack on mormon feminists, saying that mo fems, of all people should be on this--should be a lot better than we are--because we are so loud in our criticism of inequality.

i hold mormons to a higher standard, just like the sistahs expected more from white mormon feminists in recognizing the milestone of sister mkhabela's prayer.

when you're raised mormon, you're taught from early days that there is something special about your religion.  that with mormonism, you can embrace the entire globe of humanity, future and past, with the gospel of jesus christ.  the mormon gospel of jesus christ, the one that is both similar to and different from other christian congregations.

the one of supposedly the ultimate inclusion.

like the sistahs in zion, i have always expected more from my mormon brothers and sisters.  maybe i shouldn't, but i do.  i was raised to be aspirational and idealistic, because of my religion.

it might be okay for people "of the world" to be hypocrites, but mormons should be less hypocritical, far less hypocritical,  because we are so loud at proclaiming and proselytizing our ultimates.

so it's not okay with me when mormons:

1) embrace & enact racism
2) vote to deny health care, food, clothing, housing and human rights to our brothers and sisters
3) embrace capitalism above the care of individual human beings and the health of our planet

being a mormon is pretty hard.  it might be why mormons succeed in such large numbers relative to our tiny minority status (14 million members, according to official mormon church data).  we learn to sacrifice by spending a lot of hours at church, in service, in donations to the church, in trying to be better every day, and in learning to be part of a community that we didn't necessarily choose to be a part of, from the day we are born, for those of us who are born mormon.

we can do hard things.  we do hard things.

and we can do even harder things.

i expect us to.

despite all of my questions, doubts, and the tiny amount of understanding, or maybe even the complete lack of understanding, i hold about god, the universe, this planet, the weirdness and majesty of humanity & nature, i stay a part of my religion because of its aspirational qualities.  listening to the sistahs in zion, i was struck by their devotion even within a hostile environment--a racist and largely white american mormon setting where they nonetheless have found truth and the motivation to serve, teach, and work to be better every day.

we aspire to hold all things equal (our doctrine says this).  we aspire to be a zion people in zion (meaning the utopic time when jesus comes again and the lamb lies down with the lion)--and we aspire to that NOW, not only when jesus comes again.

sistahs in zion once again don't get to rest.  they must be exhausted.

they have to tell white sisters that we hurt them again, especially the ladies who are working for gender equality and should know better. we need to give them a break.  they can't keep up the work on their own.

we owe them, the world, all our sisters, a break.  and a kumbayah.

*mormons historically denied "peoples of african descent" the priesthood, and some prophets reinforced teachings about the "mark of cain" as reasons for the priesthood ban.  so it's important to note that sister dora mkhabela is of african descent, not a "woman of color" as some are calling her.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

& thus we see

what i wore to my reading last friday night.

i love fall, so julie inspired me to throw together an impromptu rosh hashanah dinner last night, in honor of another new year.  we talked about how fall is so much more appropriate for celebrating new year's than january.  i made anna's brisket, 

if i had a jewish grandmother, would she approve of my fancy sterling silver?

and quickly tried to learn about the 100 shofar blasts. turns out it's not a quick learn.  i'm still thinking about this:

tekiah, moan-ululation, tekiah
tekiah, moan-ululation, tekiah
tekiah, moan-ululation, tekiah
tekiah, moan, tekiah
tekiah, moan, tekiah
tekiah, moan, tekiah
tekiah, ululation, tekiah
tekiah, ululation, tekiah
tekiah, ululation, tekiah

apples & honey=sweet new year

i'm in a fight with myself, or my body, or mind, or sickness or a big black dog.  the good thing now is that i know we'll make up and be at peace again someday, because i've been through this so many times before.  

thanks to julie's coaching, i've managed to stay fairly productive, and keep reading and writing every day, working on projects, and keeping up with teaching, kids, etc.  

i'm still reading susan howe's the birthmark and for fun, a book of essays by nora ephron, i remember nothing.

re-reading adrienne rich's blood, bread, and poetry.

working on mormon lady times essay and moby dick poems, mostly, and it's time to start on the third installment of the moby dick puppet opera libretto.


i'm excited for the weekend.  we're going to see brecht's galileo tomorrow night, then leaving for l.a. on saturday to hear anthony braxton play.  

it's good to have things to look forward to.


here's a little ditty from the moby dick project.  it's silly, and entirely lifted from moby.  i have a lot of other new poems, but they're still in process.  i don't know if this is anything, but i thought i'd try a concrete poem of sorts.  it's from the chapter on the measurement of the whale's skeleton.  ishmael talks about how unlike the whale its skeleton is.  he looks at the spine tapering into marble sized bones, and says that the priest's children stole the smallest pieces to play marbles with.  i wanted the poem to look like it's subject. so i tapered it.  

just a silly bit of fluff.

dead attenuated skeleton stretched in the peaceful wood
(chapter 103 “measurement of the whale’s skeleton”)

even the largest
of living things
tapers off
at last to


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ephemeral Fall Inertia

The view from my computer
 I had a big beautiful perfect fall day in which to work, and got not that much done.

One thing I realized is that my fiction--now all in Google docs--is a mess. Completely disorganized. I can't find anything. I was supposed to send some stuff out today, but did not.

But I did randomly pull up a story--my life feels rather random these days--and began to work on it again, and tried to pull it away from its original inspiration--an old friend, no longer living. He died around now--in 2001--a couple of weeks after September 11th of drug-related causes. And I've never gotten over it.

So maybe pulling up that story wasn't so random after all.

Inspired by Lara, several hours after this, I went out to read more in Stuart Dybek's recent collection of flash fictions.
The view from a tippy chair.

Friday, September 12, 2014

to not add a last line

god fugitive: a bosom friend outfit.  no, not that kind of bosom.

i'm on the downswing after the debut of god fugitive: a bosom friend.  

accomplished nothing yesterday.

today i hope to work on my essay on O, for dialogue's pink issue.  i hope it works out.

i also need to work on a stupid little thing called laundry, teach my online class, and get together an email list to invite people to my reading next friday.

spend some quality time with my children, who have been neglected for the past week.

figure out something fun to do for date night.

last night i did readings for a 9/11 memorial recital.  i feel weird about 9/11 memorial stuff that happens outside of nyc.  the recitalist chose the readings, but asked me to add one to it, so i did.  and that was tough, too.  i was trying to avoid anything that would have weird connotations in the context of the music and video feed that went with the readings.  

turns out everything has weird connotations in that context.  but, score one for poetry!  the recitalist told me that when she sent in the texts to the people making the programs, the whole office stopped to read this poem. 

so haters who hate poetry, take that, and read this.

They jumped from the burning floors—
one, two, a few more,
higher, lower.

The photograph halted them in life,
and now keeps them   
above the earth toward the earth.

Each is still complete,
with a particular face
and blood well hidden.

There’s enough time
for hair to come loose,
for keys and coins
to fall from pockets.

They’re still within the air’s reach,
within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

I can do only two things for them—
describe this flight
and not add a last line.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

mellow'd my harsh

anne hutchinson.  foremother.
rough day yesterday.  luckily some cool collaborators helped me mellow my harsh when i had a little melt-down during moby dick puppet opera rehearsal.  i remember now why doing guerilla experimental opera is for the young.

queequeg and ishmael are married.  photo from hannah johnson, aka the coloratura.

tonight, the deseret experimental opera collective (DEXO) is performing part two of the god fugitive, "a bosom friend", my moby dick puppet opera.  

late night rehearsal last night, up early to get kids to school, took a morning nap.

not super productive today except:

1) break-through on essay for this journal that i've been trying to figure out for weeks.

2) reading about anne hutchinson via susan howe.

3) off to practice and get some last minute stuff ready for avant-garawge tonight.  have to come up with an outfit!


CHARGES AGAINST HUTCHINSON:  "the Flewentess of her Tonge and her Willingness to open herselfe and to divulge her opinions and to sowe her seed in us that are but highway side and Strayngers to her"

a bit like kate kelly, right?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday: library clothes at the library

Don't tell me I can't wear my Judas Priest belt to the library.
If I hadn't been doing this blog with Lara, there is no way I would have opened a Google doc at the reference desk, between being asked by students how to find their text books tonight, and started a story based on something silly I did in Salt Lake City in 1990. 

Already, this blog is motivating--even at my most frenzied and exhausted.

Self-portrait above from my bike about to take off for my second work gig of my Tuesday. 

Reading Kate Atkinson's Like Life, a narrative that keeps restarting like this day.


it's cold and rainy so i can bring back my tweed dress.  i know my head is obscured.  i like it that way.

today read susan howe again.

slowly devouring her.

i now feel sufficiently prepared to begin a ph.d program.

made dinner already, because i had food that needed cooking.

no writing as of yet.

taught online courses, comforting and encouraging students about their topic choices.  one wants to write about the tiny house movement!  hurray, because that means i don't have to read about video games and violence, how evil the federal government is, or the nfl.

sidebar:  i mentioned to my tiny house betopic'd student that no one seems to be examining this so-called tiny house movement. don't most people in the world already live in tiny spaces?  i totally get the desire to keep things simple, believe me, but i just find the whole thing weird--mostly white, middle-class people fantasizing about living in darling little trailers and such.

okay.  i don't know if i'll get to write anything new today on account of the number of pieces of new music i have to woodshed between now and kid time and rehearsal time.  today felt like a battle in my head:  if i don't cook dinner, the food in my fridge will go to waste and we'll have to scrounge for dinner (we've been doing that a lot lately).  if i do cook dinner, i'll have to choose between writing and practicing.  if i don't practice i'll be humiliated tomorrow night.  if i do practice, i'll be putting my writing at lower status than everything else i do today.  if i don't make dinner, i'm a bad mother and citizen.

suddenly the entire world of possibilities is in flux.  is there any there there? etc., etc., etc.

oh, shoot.  that sounds really whiny and privileged.  i guess it is.

so i'll leave just leave you with these equally overwhelming notions from howe:

"the margin submerges phonic substance.  a mother's thread or line is ringed with silence so poems are"


susan howe/jakobson:

"why do certain works go on saying something else? . . . . jakobson says: 'one of the essential differences between spoken and written language can be seen clearly.  the former has a purely temporal character, while the latter connects time and space. while the sounds that we hear disappear, when we read we usually have immobile letters before us and the time of the written flow of words is reversible.'"


"a poem can prevent onrushing light going out."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday: Pantera Shirt in Cafe Ost

I had no idea that hours from this moment, random Pantera fans would  throw me the devil horns
from their car waiting for a light on the Bowery. Very rejuvenating!
I don't why I have this expression.

Me, breaking, in Cafe Ost.

Writing is slippery. I can't think about what I'm doing too much. I can barely blog about it.

I ingested an Americano AND an iced coffee. Super decadent writing day.

Also, I recorded in my notebook the names of lit mags that had been encouraging in the past.

I ended this session by reading a few of Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems, some of them written in the neighborhood where I wrote today, where I always write.

I'm not writing about New York, though. I never write about New York.


today i'm wearing a nightgown. still. at 1.59 p.m.  friday i wore my two favorite colors (as ingrid says):  leopard and red.

i hear it's flooding in arizona, where my family lives, and where i grew up.

it's also flooding up in provo, utah, where i have more projects on my plate than i can handle this week.

& i will handle them, although.

friday got crazy.  i read and wrote a lot, but had no time to report in:  finished olson's call me ishmael, a worthy, worthy read, and read some other stuff.  lots of psalms.  both kjv and robert alter translations.

most notably, i finished the second installment in the god fugitive, my moby dick puppet opera that everyone seems to think is just a gimmick BUT IT'S SUPER NOT--it's my current spiritual home.

gave the libretto to christian on saturday morning at 11.30 am.  he spent the day and night composing, and stayed up most of last night writing.  we rehearse this afternoon, perform on wednesday night at the avant garawge.

sunday i sang with the raddest musicians i know.  a dream team of people who love creative music and early music just as much as i do.  we sang machaut, hildegard, and asplund.  all thrilling.  it's seriously celestial.  splendid gems in those manuscripts.  and my soul feels like it's back in my body now that i'm doing music again on a more regular basis.

one of the things that struck me hard during the reading phase of my doctoral program was how inseparable musical and poetic practices are for me.  and the question of how they became so opposed to each other is one i haven't really answered, but wish to explore for a long time yet to come.

today i'm writing in my nightgown, still.  just finished my lunch of cheese & tomato sandwich and diet coke.  no more pecan sandies with dark chocolate chips.  i'm trying to wean myself from those, so i made do with a spoonful of nutella for dessert.

began susan howe's the birth-mark, recommended to me by this fine poet, and i'm gobbling it up.  i wrote a stupid poem based on "the candles" chapter of moby dick (i may have already told you that christian's mom, aka bammy, the funniest woman i know, calls it "mobile dick," right?).  i was quite taken with the image of the crew of the pequod frozen during a scary typhoon in which the ship is struck by lightening "in enchanted attitudes" like the skeletons of pompeii--in mid-stride, or jump, or run, or walk.

also, this from my shero susan howe:

"emily dickinson's writing is my strength and shelter.  i have trespassed into the disciplines of american studies and textual criticism through my need to fathom what wildness and absolute freedom is the nature of expresssion. . . . poetry unsettles our scrawled defences; unapprehensible but dear nevertheless."


Friday, September 5, 2014

Pen and Paper

Short work day meant I could get some writing done. I was floored, however, to discover that Think Coffee on the Bowery has no wifi. I just needed a little to open Gmail do I could get on a Google doc, with which one can work offline. But no.

Luckily, I had a pen and notebook in my bag. Hurrah for pens and notebooks.

I worked on new fiction--a new short story. Not inspired by the Kate Atkinson novel I'm reading.

Later, I worked on old fiction--the novella. If it's any good, I don't know about it.
Where I wrote--indecipherably

Dirty hair alley selfie on the way to some sad novella writing

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Minimal After Work Rambling (Trying to Stay Connected to Lara and Our Blog)

Again, work.

I feel like I'm in the mines. 

I push my bike home against traffic.

I think about words that I never get to write down. 

I press my face up against bookstore windows.

My dangling helmet drops off and crashes to the cement. 

I wear it, compromised. Dirty.

I'm reading a lot of women writers this year. I read two back to back, set in the 1970s. Both depict the decade as pretty crummy: one urban, the other--white trash suburban. Both respective authors (Dylan Landis and Darcey Steinke) sketch out the decade as bad for girls. Darcey Steinke, the author of Sister Golden Hair is on Twitter, waiting for my review. Well, i'm hoping she is. I tweeted I was reading it. And she tweeted back that she was happy I was reading. She interviewed Kurt Cobain in the '90s and her '70s novel is full of rock references. Really though, she just mentions Skynyd, the Allman Brothers and Cher, over and over again.

Darcey Steinke, born in 1962. I met her at the Book Expo and she was so nice. I doubt she remembers me.

tiny hand, holding mortal frame to eternal spirit, or something

what i wore:  uniqlo house dress, h&m lace up HIGH boots, bicycle chain necklace, earrings from harmony, vintage cameo ring from antoinette's. mac russian red lipstick.  ralph lauren men's cologne.  don't know what it's called.

i wore clothes and shoes and jewelry today.  and lipstick.  AND SHOES.  that i wore to the mailbox.

i ate my current daily lunch--open face cheese sandwich in broiler (so it gets those beautiful brown bubbles in the cheese) with sliced tomatoes, mayonnaise, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, a diet coke & pecan sandies with dark chocolate chips.  sometimes i eat the same thing for lunch every day for months.  and then i hate it and never eat it again.

i read:

**nathaniel hawthorne's "the birthmark" which is as awesome a story as you might ever read.

**zadie smith's essay "some notes on attunement," which also kind of blew me away, especially the section on abraham and isaac.

**marcia aldrich's essay "the art of being born," enjoyable, and sad.  where was her doula?  where was my doula, way back when?

**chapter 33 "the specksynder" and chapter 34 "the cabin-table" from moby dick.

i wrote:

** the poem "poor & butterless," and the poem "remove your shoes"

i submitted:

**three poems to a journal who encouraged me to resubmit once, but has nonetheless rejected my work seven times now.

i would write so much better in this kimono & peach mules.
i thought about proposing a performance art project wherein i enact a year of proustian living. the first item in my budget would be this emerald kimono, followed by these kitten slides, which i would only wear to the kitchen to get beverages & snacks.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

business time

photo i took at last summer's writers' residency.  it was so productive that it tempted me to abandon my principles for the day.

i kind of told myself i wouldn't spend a lot of time on writing business (i.e. grant applications, proposals, etc.) vs. writing, the production of work.

all artists are doing it these days.  you have to be a careerist as well as an artist to "make it" (whatever that means--for my purposes it means getting published, winning awards, getting gigs, jobs, residencies, and readings. usually for tiny amounts of money and recognition.)

and then you realize that "making it" means you don't have as much time as you need to "make it."

got it?

so, last year, i was not "making it" in either sense of the word, but was getting a ph.d  instead.  so in 2014 i decided to stop thinking overly much about my career and to instead think about work.

i don't know if this was a good decision.

today i fell off the wagon and applied for a writer's residency, and if i get it, i might have to reconsider this resolve.  however, i do feel kind of sad and empty and insecure inside now.  i seriously feel really depressed after pushing the "submit" button, not satisfied that i completed something.

and jealous of people who have "made" it,

and questioning my purpose, and choices, etc.

this bad feeling has affirmed my choice to focus away from this business stuff, to choose so carefully how i spend my time.

i have my own projects, my own work space, my own group of local artists and musicians to work with, and that's lucky and good.  here and now.

a residency is a splendid thing.  i've only done one, and i think i got a year's worth of work done in ten days, but getting them takes a lot of time, and they're very competitive, so your chances are slim.

so back to thinking about what i'm gonna do back in my d.i.y. head-space tomorrow.

report::::  today i:

**finished parts 3 and 4 of olson's  call me ishmael (done with that book)

**revised tuesday's poem

**applied to hedgebrook

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

habit schmabit

guilt trip

i got one thing done today.
actually at 3 a.m. during an episode of insomnia.
the rest of my day was taken with various obligations, some commitments i had made, some unforeseen little family crises.

at 3 a.m. i got ravished by an uninvited muse and wrote a new poem, and it was a sweet, sweet moment.

so i won't complain about the thwarting of my plans, because in sum, it was a difficult day and also a better day than i could have predicted.

a stanza from my muse:

i was young then,
and that was all.

more later, when time has passed and i can vet the whole thing with some distance from the newly birthed verses.

also, this pesky chart and analysis showing the relationship between the time an author arises and how productive that author is.  i still want more proof of a cause/effect relationship between early rising and excessive artistic prolificacy.

nonetheless, barring proof, i will continue to fret that i will never be as productive as the compulsive 4 am risers.

Tuesdays? Gone?

Tuesdays will bring me down semester. They will be the death of me.

Working for 9 am to 9 pm--in between, a small window in which to swing in to the grocery store on the way home from subway, wave to famed street photographer Clayton Patterson from across the street and get an iced coffee at Cakeshop--fuel for biking to work and working through my night gig.

I did not write. Only thought about the writing of others. And the songs of others.

Beginning of semester. Needy swarms of students. You know how I love to help.

What inspiration can I steal from Skynyrd, circa 1976? TUESDAY'S GONE! Emotional indulgence? Should I throw a train in somewhere? Look out how the keyboard player segues seamlessly from piano to organ--how can I translate THAT to the page?