Saturday, December 29, 2007

Skating into 2008

2007 was a really big year. There are four events which have defined this year for me.

1. I learned how to ride a bicycle. Boring right? Not exactly. I'm a 38 year old with cerebral palsy. This happened late in the summer in front of the gasping stares of the neighbors. The bicycle is a miracle event for me in three aspects: it made me closer to and more worshipping of my husband, who is an avid bike rider and, after getting sick of my endless whining convinced me that I could do it. Then, there was just the pure pleasure of riding the bike. Finally, my bicycle has forced me (and others) to think of myself in a new way. Instead of defining myself by what I CAN'T do, something which I've done all me life, and others have been more than happy to go along with, I have had to have sort of a re-adjustment in attitude.

2. My book arrived.

3. Thanks to the poet Robin Art and my wonder boss, Emily, I have had my first semester teaching composition. This has been much different from what I thought it would be, although equally pleasing.

4. I finally (after six years) had the strength to resign from the Department of Education.

There have been smaller things too: hanging out with Jill, Bruce and Reb was great. Meeting Lisa Jarnot changed my life. The death of my poet-friend Mary Higgins. Getting closer to my mother, my grandmother, my son, and my in-laws.

I have some resolutions for 2008. Most of these are centered around poetry.

I have spent this year writing and struggling to find a place to fit in the poetry world -- which is a place that feels very divided to me. The fact that my work doesn't fit into any particular place as made me feel like an outsider of sorts. Some say my work is too experimental, others say it isn't experimental enough. Some people dismiss work because you're a woman, others perhaps because I'm disabled, others because I'm not disabled enough. I've been told that my work is sentimental, or that it's oblique, or that it's perfect and will find a place in the world. My anger has led me to (perhaps unnecessarily) to get in some heated discussions. After a one disaster in particular, I went list-serv free.

What I need to do is find a quietness. I need to separate the ego from the artist. Art is not (or shouldn't be) a way to make friends or find validation in the world. Whether one is in magazine x or magazine y or included in such and such group doesn't make one a better person and it certainly doesn't make one a better artist. There are plenty of 'known' poets who write like shit, and plenty of 'great' poets who never get their due. But, I've bought that mythology. I think most of poets have. If we haven't, why are so many poets (myself included) vying to get in certain journals, certain MFA programs, even certain jobs. Who has come up with the power to convince people that once they are published by x press they've arrived. The truth is the stakes are so little in poetry that there is no arriving. As dad likes to say, poets are not rock stars, you will always be able to go to the grocery store without being recognized.

My perceived (oft real) rejection of my body has seeped into my life as an artist and that's not a good thing. I've been bothered by (poetic) rejection in the past simply perhaps because I see it as an extension of my incapability to fit in as a young woman (in popular circles, in ' normal' circles, even (believe it or not, with disabled the world). My body places me in a strange place. I have all the capabilities of an average person, but I look slightly 'off,' so I can't what we call in the gay world 'pass.'

But, I am finally ready to divide the two. I am not my work and my work is not me. I just happen to be the person who wrote the stuff. Any pleasure or distaste that people get from my work does not have anything to do with Jennifer. I think many, many poets and editors are unable to make this distinction. I know it sounds trite, but it's what I'm dealing with.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


We just came back from the "Water" exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. The show is primarily a plea for conservation. It didn't quite have a profound effect on me because I think about this stuff all the time, but I was thrilled that the message might get through to other people. Some facts about water:

The average price of tap water is .01 cent per gallon.
The average price of bottled water is $10/ gallon.
40% of bottled water is from municipal water supply.
In some parts of Africa women are required to walk ten k a day to fetch the day's water supply.
Argriculture uses most of our fresh water.
It takes 600 gallons of water to 'raise' one commercially raised hamburger.

Here are a few things our family does to try to help. I wish we could do more.

We are not vegetarians, but we limit our meat consumption and try to buy organically, humanely raised meat.
We buy mostly organic food.
We use energy efficient light bulbs.
We try to turn the lights off when not in use.
We don't own a car.
We do not buy bottled water, at all.
We recycle everything.
We don't flush the toilet after every pee.

If everyone did a few simple things, we might get somewhere!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Shopping as per Revend Billy

I don't know what Jesus would buy, but it wouldn't be from The GAP!

I continue on my Rev. Billy, politically correct shopping ventures. Jeff's list is nearly done. He got a slew of various items from the Natural History Museum ($195) and a few books from our local bookstore, Word ($35). I did sin, yes I did, I bought the husband a CD from Amazon ($12) and Goodness he wants a phone-thing (I think I may have to give AT&T some money), ughh.

Today, December 17th, is the OFFICIAL release date of Derivative of the Moving Image, which means, if you ordered it from Amazon, it should be in the mail. If you didn't get a copy yet, there's only about 100 left. Act now!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've been mulling over what I want for Christmas, As someone who tries to maintain a non-materialism lifestyle, I've been hard-pressed to come up with anything. I mean, I would like Rufus's Judy Garland album, but that's about it. Then, it occured to me that I was greedy, I did have a list, a long list. I will share it, but you can't get it at the Gap.

The List

I want Bush and Co. to disappear. I want Obama and Oprah to run the country.
I want people to stop being mean to homosexuals.
I want my friend to have her sight back.
I want my sister to be alive.
I want Lisa and Thomas to be eternally happy.
I want the hipster mom who sent her kid to school with lice to be cosmically punished.
I want my son's teacher to stop harassing him for picking his noae.
I want my two snotty students to grow up.
I want to be in Oregon.
I want my friend Jeff Hoover to re-appear.
I want my house to be clean.
I want people to read my book.
I want my cat, Lucy, to stop pooping in the tub.
I want the guy who killed a bike rider to go to jail.
I want everyone to spend one day in a wheelchair.
I want someone to build a New Mexican restuarant next door to me.
I want Will Alexander to feel better.
I want the roaches to go away.
I want the dollar to get stronger so that I can buy a dress at Agnes B.
I want all children to have health care.
I want every New York to teach in an inner-city school for one day.
I want Jill Essbaum to get the job of her dreams.
I want Ms. Weiss to retire.
I want to be on the Brian Lehrer show.
I want the poetry world to be a kinder place, where people are supportive, not vampish.

Wait these's more!

I want my husband's class to behave.
I want my husband to find an agent.
I want my grades to be done.
I want my son to behave in the mornings.
I want to see my dad, Anne, and retarded Sammy (ITS A CAT).
I want to see the new Schabel film.
I want my cat Muffin to survive a little longer.
I want my student's Blaise and Jesse to make pro (swimming and football).
I want Apogee Press to answer my emails.
I want AB to get all 'A's in school.
I want my student K. to hang in there.
I want HIV to go away.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Poetry's Best Of 2007

Best books of 2007:

Nancy Kuhl, The Wife of the Left Hand
MaryRose Larkin, Book of Ocean

Rock Star of Poetry: Kate Greenstreet

Best Host: Bruce Covey tied with Sommer Browning

Hardest Working Woman in Show Biz: Reb Livingston

Sexiest Poet: Jill Alexander Essbaum

Most interesting non-poetic text: The Dangerous Book for Boys

Best Poetry Teacher: Lisa Jarnot

A New/Old Poet I read: Duncan and Olson

Most Poetic Film: Short Bus

Most Long Awaited Book: Mine -- 15 years!

Saddest Poetry News: The deaths of Gene Frumkin and Mary Higgins

This year, we are going to follow Rev. Billy's good advice. We are going to cut our Christmas shopping down. We suggest you do the same! We suggest making things, donating money or stuff on other's behalf, and avoiding the big box stores. We know it's a lot easier in New York, but we buy from the local bookstore (Word), local toy stores, the local bike shop, and the Natural History Museum. We highly recommend buying poetry books!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I was number three on "Word" Bookstore's bestseller list. Thank you Christine!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A New Saint Elizabeth Street

After five years as editor of Saint Elizabeth Street, I have decided to change the format. Although I'll be sorting through the number of submissions I have currently, after this issue, I'm going to stick to invitation only.

The life of a small magazine is a difficult one, as all editors know. Every editor, no matter how popular, has their crosses to bear. Saint Elizabeth Street has always been a small enterprise. Although we've published many fabulous people, we've never had the time or knack to make it into something popular or 'famous.' This comes largely from the restrictions of having a small child, a full-time job, two cats, and my own writing career. Mainly, I'm just not that good at tooting my own horn. At first, I had illusions of SES rivaling Paris Review, Fence, and so on. Since then, I've grown up a lot.

I have been realizing things about the poetry world that my older mentors have been telling me for years. Poetry is and isn't a hierarchy. Within reason, young poets are all the same to me --no matter how many books, what job, or what awards they have. The real imporrtance is in the work. Is it good? Does it offer something to the world? If the work is mediocre, it is irrelevant who publishes it. There is a believed hierarchy within my generation that I just don't buy into. At the top of the poetry hierarchy, if such a thing exists, are the older poets: Tarn, Bernstein, Notley, Waldman. I don't have to list them all. The folks who have really been around the block more than once.

I have also realized that many poets regard poetry as a horse race. The game is to see how many poems you can publish in x amount of time to get x award or x job. I'm not saying anything new. Tarn writing about this all extensively. People who live in glass houses, of course, shouldn't throw bricks, and I have fallen into this trap as much as the next guy. However, it has really started to affect my work as an editor.

Poets submit work and write back a day later and say the work has been taken elsewhere -- or they want to edit it -- and so on. There must be lots of mags. Who is taking all this work? Poets who I publish often don't write back to say thank you or give positive feedback. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to work hard to publish the work of a poet who you never hear from again. I am sure there are numerous reasons for this, but it often feels like the poet is just off to the next thing...the next publication, the next submission. They are moving too quickly to look back. I cannot tell you how wonderful the small world of appreciation is. I HAVE worked with some wonderful poets: Howe, Olsen, Tarn, Baker, Richard K., Dabid Abel, Gil F, Kate Greenstreet, Jen Benka, Meredith Quartermain, Stephanie Strickland, Marcella Durand, Aneta B, MaryRose Larkin, Gene Frumkin, Mary Higgins, Lee Bartlett, VB Price, so on and so forth. I feel guilty for leaving people out, it would be too long to list them all. David Wolach has been particularly fabulous. George K. in the Gene Frumkin issue has been a lovely soul. There seems to be a correlation between success and graciousness. There also seems to be a second link. Ultimately, the best poets, no matter their quality of writing, don't seem to give a fuck about getting ahead. Rather, they live and die for poetry.

Once the initial shock was over, I was thrilled with being a small publication. I don't mind being read by a small audience. It has made me feel part of the poetry community in a way that I never did before. I have met so many wonderful people and read great work. But, it's really starting to take an odd turn. I find that I DO mind not being read by the people I publish. It may seem selfish -- but it's just not fun. I asked Reb Livingston if I should keep plugging along. She said that it has to be fun. I'm not so sure so anymore.

I have to admit that I'm not the best editor either. I lose maniscripts, I take too long to reply, I spelled Stephanie Strickland's name wrong, I published the same Susanna Fry poems twice. On and on. Poets should be protected from me! But, I do have to say in my own defense all these things have happened to my own submissions too. I've never had a poem published without a typo! (except in Coconut!).


Speaking of killer cool poets, I just had the luck of reading with Reb Livingston, Jill Alexander Essbaum, and Bruce Covey at Emory University. I've never met a group of more fabulous, kind, warm folks, and fine, fine poets too!