I’m so happy to have my poem “hallowed art thou” in the latest issue of the pdf zine A Handful of Dust. View Issue 5 here!
Monthly Archives: October 2011
Recently I had a birthday, a celebration of my birth, my life, marked by the month and day I entered this world. I have been thinking about the circumstances surrounding my birth day …
Before my conception, my parents had tried to have a child for nearly ten years. They were told that they would not be able to have children. They had given up, and were making plans for adoption when it was discovered that my mother was pregnant with me.
It was a difficult pregnancy in which my mother gained no more than twenty pounds throughout her term. Then, at the end of August, her father died suddenly and unexpectedly. He was the patriarch of the family; a beloved man, husband and father of five. His death at such a young age from a massive heart attack was devastating to all.
The doctor who attended to my mother – Dr. Joyce – had delivered the last two of my grandmother’s children. He was quite old and had delayed his retirement in order to deliver me. I was to be his last birth.
During my mother’s labor, so many things went wrong. There was a handshake in the hallway between the doctor and my father on who to save. This may have sealed my fate had my grandmother not interrupted – there would be no choice, she said, Dr. Joyce would save us both.
The umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck three times, and my heartbeat was lost. I was born twenty days late and paradoxically premature at 5 lbs. But I lived.
My family called me the “miracle baby” – I was the child my parents were told they would never be able to conceive. I was the light in the darkness after my grandfather’s death. I was the one who almost died while being born.
Today, I am wondering about my spirit, how I struggled so hard to enter this world – to live – in this place, this time. Am I living my life to its fullest potential? Am I doing the work I struggled so hard to get here for?
I am 38 years old. I began the celebration of my birthday in my lover’s arms, encircled by his generous and passionate love. Throughout the day, I was surrounded the love of my children and my family, and all the thoughts and birthday wishes from my friends. After dinner, my children sang to me, watching me with bright eager faces as I blew out the birthday candles and made a wish. The night found me lost in my love of language, reading and writing ~ happy.
There is still so much work to do. But I am here, I am present; I am awake and alive. I wish I could live every day with this heightened awareness of just how precious of a gift life is.
Each day we have a chance to be thankful for our blessings, to share and express love, and to do our work. We were given a chance to live, to die, to experience all that life has to offer, to make mistakes, to reach our goals, and to create our worlds anew. Each day, we are reborn. Happy Birthday xo
17 October 2011.
Storychord’s Around The Campfire @ HousingWorks Bookstore Cafe.
Tonight online literary/music/visual arts journal Storychord’s founder, Sarah Knowles, presented an evening of spooky stories, spookier songs and — this part’s the spookiest — S’MORES. It provided a perfect transition into the impending madness of CMJ week.First worth noting is the intimate venue, HousingWorks Bookstore Cafe in New York’s Greenwich Village. The old-timey structure boasts wrapping staircases, walls stuffed with books and a pious vibe. That last part’s likely thanks to the establishment’s charitable roots. Absolutely all proceeds generated from book, media and cafe sales go to benefit those affected by AIDS and homelessness. Now ain’t that just the coolest?
Painter Andrea Sparacio contributed the event-specific diptych featuring a toasty outdoor fire. The piece set the night’s Halloweenie mood.
Fiction writer Mile Klee went up first to bat. He recited a flowery, winding piece set in the 18th century. Klee mentioned a friend once asked if the story specifically investigated an addiction to the Internet. Giggles abounded following the quick share, but Klee never confirmed nor denied this claim.
Katie Mullins brought her ukulele and oversize Jewish harp to the stage after. She sang a four-song story following a freshly-fallen couple throughout the first three-word exchanges to the inevitably grisly camping trip to… well, the theme was spooky, right? Mullins coaxed a lavishly creeping quality from her handheld harp and married it sweetly to her Andrew Bird-challenging whistle. It was her voice that shined as the standout feature of her set, of course, though… it dripped from the raised platform one part woodland nymph battle-cry, another part flaming phoenix yodel. Each time time her mouth opened, she seemed reborn — an event mirrored through the rekindled, astutely attentive audience.
Tim Mucci uttered the most terrifying tale of the evening. He airily delivered a macabre plot twisting around a child’s early-life scaring glimpse at death during a family roadtrip. Mucci coiled the following words to cap his story off with a house full of goosebumps.
Another reader, Michelle Augello-Page, stood the stage next. Her prose morosely danced throughout a forest of deceit and infidelity. The words hung ornate, impossible to understand without its cousins. Augello-Page’s story cradled a complex beauty that perhaps would better be appreciated when printed. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan to look up just that, y’know.
A guitar and its master, Will Stratton (buddy of Sufjan Stevens, NBD…), closed the night’s curtains. Strumming his strings as if they lived on a banjo, he belted ballads of murder, hexing love and — of course — mercury poisoning. Nothing screeches scarier than abundant mounds of fresh yellowtail or cracked thermometers (guess on which he sing-song waxed). Hear his record, New Vanguard Blues, recorded in Queens just last summer via Bandcamp. He also mentioned a new full-length due in November — something worth an eye-out.
To make matters better, the show yielded a decent 100-something turn-out. Fingers crossed it raised some funds for HousingWorks’ good aims and those good aims of Storychord, too. The evening proved a fine start to a wild week, this time, in the tune of tasty twang.
Many thanks to BBQCHICKENROBOT for this review!
I’ve always loved this photo of Anais Nin. Many photos of Anais Nin portray her as young and beautiful. In this photo, she is older, yet I feel that her age does not detract from her sensuality. Her age in this photo is mirrored by her placement in the vault; she is surrounded by her journals, a lifetime of work.
Anais Nin is best known for her journal writing, in which she explored the world of her life. She was an extremely intelligent, artistic, and independent woman. She is remembered for her writing, her beauty, and her lovers. She had studied psychoanalysis and had a keen interest in human psychology. She is also known for her erotic writing and her open exploration of sex and sexuality.
I feel that the popularity of her journals speaks to her fundamental power as a writer – using language as self-reflection, making the internal external, and then moving from the individual to the universal.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection.” ~ Anais Nin
Although one can see the specific tie of this quote to memoir and journal writing, this is true for a writer of any genre. When we write about the past, we must relive the experience; in the reliving, our minds begin to analyze, to make connections and grasp at patterns, and to further our understanding of ourselves and our worlds.
When I first started this website, I knew that I would spend some of this time writing blog posts, and I knew I would be basically creating a public journal. I think and write in a similar way online as I do in my private, handwritten journals.
However, in my private journals, I do not edit myself at all. Sometimes I write raw and wild things, silly and boring things, things I know that no one will ever see. But there is this compulsion in me, the need to write. It’s been like that for me for as long as I can remember.
When I was a child, before I was able to read or write, I was obsessed with drawing. I have always been a visual-tactile learner, and the action of putting a pencil to paper is a very concrete way to process the world. My discoveries with written expression caused nothing in the house to be safe. I used to draw and write my name on the walls and furniture, compelled by the physical action of writing, and this need to imprint the essential nature of my self on my enviornment.
I am more conscious of this need as an adult, the need to move my thoughts into words, the necessity of transforming silence into language and action. In journal writing, it is very reflexive and the process of retrospection happens naturally. But in my creative writing, I do not necessarily have the luxury on relying on past experiences with which to tell stories, and to further see them in retrospection.
In creative writing, I open my mind to experiences that live in my imagination. I taste life the moment these dream-like states enter my mind and I translate thought into language. Sometimes these are vestiges of the past; I do believe that all of our experiences never leave us and come out in a number of different ways. In writing fiction, moments of retrospection come in terms of revisions, literally re-seeing the whole experience, and recreating the vision as a functional story.
I write to taste life twice… I write to taste life. Writing is my way of interacting with the world, of giving myself to the world. Recently I came across a quote by Buddha: “Your work is to discover your world and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it.”
We all have gifts, though we cannot understand where they come from, or why. We need only discover what they are. We all have work to do, specific to our talents and desires. Our work is where our passions are stirred, where we love, what causes us to move outside of ourselves – to explore and discover, evolve and change and grow, learn from our experiences and fully live in our worlds – to taste life, to savor it.
I’ll be reading one of my stories, Dream-Lover, at this event on Monday, October 17, 2011, 7:00pm – 9:00pm @ Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
Kick off your CMJ week and Halloween holiday with art/fiction/music journal Storychord.com. Every other Monday, Storychord.com features one story, one image, and a one-song “soundtrack”.
Musical guests WILL STRATTON and KATIE MULLINS will perform spooky sets in front of an exclusive display by artist ANDREA SPARACIO. Fiction writers MILES KLEE, TIM MUCCI, and MICHELLE AUGELLO-PAGE will read eerie tales. And last, but not least, the Cafe will serve S’MORES for full campfire effect.
FREE ADMISSION / OPEN TO ALL … and proceeds from book/cafe purchases during the event will support Housingworks’ amazing outreach & fundraising efforts for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
The 99% are poor, angry, and educated. We are those with student loans, who could not pay for higher education without them, only to be faced with no available work in our fields, debt compounded with interest, and still no jobs open. We are those with low pay, cut hours, and an increased workload, told we should feel thankful – at least we have a job. We are the single parents, the elderly, the homeless, the jobless, the families afraid of losing their homes. We are America. We are the problem, and the solution. Stand up and represent.
I wrote that while struggling with the idea of Occupy Wall Street, and trying to find my place in the 99%. I had been talking with a friend about the movement and our complex feelings about it. I was feeling so powerless. I didn’t see myself as being able to make a difference. I didn’t see a solution being presented and I had no idea what could happen to make things better. I actually felt that my presence, my voice, wouldn’t matter.
I told my friend that I would just be going to occupy to just … go. I’d be one more person standing there, powerless to do anything. And he said, I think that is the point, to just be there, to be present. It was as if a lightbulb went off in my head. “You’re right,” I said. That is exactly the point of occupying wall street, and the countless other cities, towns, and villages that are now being occupied.
And a movement that seemed so outside of myself suddenly became who I am. I am one of the 99%. I am one of the many faces of poverty; I am one of the people for whom the system is not working. I am a single mother. I do not own anything, neither house nor car. I’m ridiculously poor.
I stand with the thousands of Americans who are under the yoke of student loan debt – and in my pursuit to rise from a lower economic class through education, I have actually encountered just become another form of social reproduction. Yes, I am educated. But I am still poor, and in many ways my education has prevented me from being hired for even the most menial of jobs that I have applied for, hoping for any type of full-time employment.
I would be lying if I said that it does not hurt my pride to say that I am poor, to say that I am a single mother receiving food stamps and government medical insurance for my children. I’ve been raised with a worker ethic, and it hurts to feel that I cannot provide for my family. And no matter how good of a parent I am, I feel like a failure.
Like so many people in the 99%, I have been silent about my economic reality. To some degree, I’ve felt that it is my own fault, my own problem. I’ve thought that maybe if I work harder, try harder, I can find a breathing room. Maybe one day I can own a home. Maybe one day I won’t worry about money, and I’ll be able to buy new clothes and nice shoes and all the other little things that seem so trivial to me now.
And even though I know all about social reproduction, even though I know there is a built in system that is keeping me here, even though I fear there is no way I can ever make enough money to repay my student loans with the accrued interest that only gets deeper each year … Even though I know I am a good writer, a good person, a good mother, a good teacher, a good friend … I am trapped in an economic nightmare. I am one of the 99%.
What can be done? I don’t know. I am not an economist or a political scientist, and I do not have the answer. But I do know that I am not alone. I live in a country where a very small percentage of the people control the majority of wealth – and there are certain things in place that encourage this disparity, that fuel the concept we call social reproduction, and keep these economic divisions. And it at this crucial place where the 99% are hoping to make a difference.
So what can I do? I can stand up and represent as one of the 99%. I can speak out. I can occupy my silence. And perhaps if enough of us transform our thoughts into language and action, and speak as those whose voices have not been heard … there can be real and positive change into how the majority of Americans live and work.
I’m going to share an excerpt of Audre Lorde’s essay, The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action. It is a powerful piece of work, important, and necessary:
I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.
I was forced to look upon myself and my living with a harsh and urgent clarity that has left me still shaken but much stronger. Some of what I experienced during that time has helped elucidate for me much of what I feel concerning the transformation of silence into language and action.
In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak …
I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.
What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears … because I am myself, doing my work – come to ask you, are you doing yours?