Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Mexico

We have been in New Mexico for 11 days. Albuquerque has just had its biggest snowstorm...well...ever. It is so beautiful! Despite the snow, the birds are relentless!

I fought the supervisor and won!

As I mentioned before, my relationship with the Supervisor was a constant source of stress during my first year of teaching. This all came to a disasterous point. Our relationship was getting increasingly negetive. As I said before, she allowed me to leave school early each day because lunch was my last period. This was complete against the rules, but I didn't know this. One day, she doubled up my class again as there was a teacher out and we didn't have money for subs. Instead of my usual class, I was faced with double the amount of kids with no warning. As before, many of the kids didn't have seats, and I didn't have an emergency lesson plan. I somehow got through the period and prepared to leave. The Supervisor appeared at the door. She told me that she had had it wrong. I wasn't allowed to leave early and she needed me to stay with the kids longer. This was with no warning and no assistance. I told her that I was leaving and she blocked the door. We started having a confrontation in front of the kids. I finally got out into the hall. We continued to argue heatily. I then went in the office to calm down and left school soon after. That day, I felt completely out of control. I felt like I was trapped in a box. I refused to leave teaching. I had put a lot of time and energy into it and I was close to many of the students. But, I could not get away from this woman's constant barrage of criticism. I contacted the Fellows numerous times and they would not or could not change my school. I was starting to get physically and mentally ill on top of being exhausted and pregnant. I went home and called the prinicipal (the one who never stepped foot in the school.) He was sympathetic and told me that I could take the next day off as a personal day. Then I went back. I was a glutin for punishment.

Note: I also forgot to mention, when I joined the Fellows I was given a $2000 stipend for the summer. Because I was new, the DOE took forever to process my paperwork. I started working the day after Labor Day. I got my first paycheck on Nov. 15th.

O. was a Fellow too. Finally, she was the one who got a representative from the Fellows to take a trip to the school. A few weeks later the Supervisor was replaced. The rest of the year was okay. I was distracted by the fact that we were buying a condo and preparing to move. The only problem I had was that I was supposed to go on maternity leave as of September (the Fall semester). I tried for two months to get the paperwork sorted out, but was never able to accomplish this simple thing. Actually, the DOE's slowness in this case would later work out to my advantage.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Back to poetry for just a moment.

I am anxious awaiting the publication of WOMB at
This is Michelle Detorie's new online journal which should be online on 1/1/07. I am lucky enough to have Michelle publishing fragments from A Natural History of California.
Throughout my teaching career my students have shown me various kinds of hostilities. They have called me bitch, retard, stupid. They have critized my teaching. They have told me they were bored, I was boring, the lesson was boring, and I couldn't teach. I have had students tell me that they were not going to do any work no matter what I did or said. I have had students do major drug deals in class, harrass girls, fight verbally and physically with other students. I had a student steal my purse. I have had students throw books out the window into a rainy parking lot. I have had students who turned the conversation to drugs and sex no matter the topic whenever a disscussion was started. I have had students answer their phones and start talking openly in class. Some students were 1/2 late to school day after day. Some never arrived at all. One student bragged about a robbery he had recently done to the entire class. I have had students tell me that the only reason they were in school was because their grandmother or parole officer made them come. I have had students who came to class and beligerantly stared into space while the hour passed.

But, my kids the first year were not that bad. They were pretty young - although sadly, older than they should have been. They were technically in the 8th grade and between 14-16 years old. We weren't supposed to take 17 yr olds, but a few near this age slipped in. As a reference point, I was 17 my Freshman year of college, which is pretty routine. The law in NY is that a youngster is able to attend school until their 21st birthday, 22 if they are special ed. The common graduation age seems to be getting pushed back and it is perfectly normal for a 19-20 yr old to graduate from high school.

Christmas came and we had our first graduation ceremony. My favorite student Carlos graduated with a few others. Again, these students weren't too bad. They were just exhausting and most of them weren't preforming THAT low, not compared to students I would have later.

When the semster turned, they took away one my literacy classes and gave me social studies. Now I had to prepare for 3 classes, I was going to college which was an 1 1/2 commute each way, and I was pregnant. I want to make a point about this because I really struggled to make my teaching career happen. I think I've struggled and stuck in there longer than most of the people who wanted me to stop or doubted my ability.

I had some social studies books, but they were really old. I liked teaching SS though because it was fact driven and easier to teach than literature. I had to study a lot though. I finally decided to rely on the two easiest subjects for me: geography and civil rights. I could teach anything because my students had little history training. I taught them a long series on Emmit Till. I went to the NYPL and rented photographs of the race riots and had the students write responses. Then, I decided to show Do The Right Thing by Spike Lee and have a lesson around it. I got permission to watch the film through my assistant principle and the parents. Most of the students had seen the film anyway. The day I showed the film, the infamous supervisor came into my room (as usual) and flipped out. She turned the film off and started screaming at me "who told you that you couid play this?" This woman's attacks on me where so out of hand that the students were starting to rebel against her. I told her that the AP gave me permission. Luckily, the AP was across the hall and she backed me up. The "supervisor" actually had no real power at all. She was a teacher put at the site to run things. The AP visited about 3 times a week. The pricipal came to the building once in the entire year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Introduction to M.

The main problem at 8 Plus was the supervisor. She decided she had it in for me and there was little I could do. It is hard to remember specifics. I think I've blocked most of them out. But, she just harrassed me constantly. And harrassing is not an exaggeration. She never smiled, she never helped, she never said anything positive. She critized my lessons and teaching technique endlessly. She would come into my class DURING my class and start critizing me in front of students. She would stand with a student and me while trying to resolve a conflict and dispute everything I told the student. When she was told to back off and stop coming into my class while in it was in session, she starting writing me notes and have people bring them in and put them on my desk.

I was supposed to have a mentor for my first and second year as a teacher. This never happened. They decided I could have a paraprofessional but all he did was come in and read the paper. When I asked for him to help with discipline, he made a big fuss. Then, he stopped coming.

What were the kids doing? Actually, this group wasn't that bad and I liked many of them. Actually, my first year teaching is the only year that I can remember all of my student's names! I live in their neighborhood too, so I know what happened to many of them.

The best way to describe my students is that they were completely HYPERACTIVE. They didn't sit in their seats, they talked incessently. It was exhausting to quiet them to get a one word sentence in. They bickered with me and each other. They threw things. One student that I didn't like pretentded to go shit in the corner. There was plastic shit there that I didn't know was not real. He had actually simulated going poop in the corner. I was stupidly horrified and they burst into laughter. They ran around the room. They cursed like truck drivers. Shortly after I got pregnant a boy and girl were fulling around while I was bending down helping some kids. The girl threw a dictionary at the boy and it hit my stomach.

My First Fight

I apologize for all of the grammar/spelling errors. After all, I am an English teacher! However, I am trying to write this fast....

Finally, everyone's schedule was made and we had kids in the classes. I actually don't remember there being a math teacher and there was some talk of assigning math to ME - someone who can barely make change. Ultimately, I was given a schedule of two 90 minutes literacy classes and a creative writing class. I had about 15-18 students. My literacy class was horrible. First of all, it's impossible to keep the attention of even college students for ninety minutes. The DOE still has such classes. Also, remember we had NO books. The only books I had are old ones I found in the closet from the previous teacher. The creative writing class was better. I came up with a list of daily tricks to keep the students occupied and they wrote a fair amount. Their writing was very good.

My life was this. I arrived at school at 7:45. Miraculously, I was never late. I lived two miles away and it was a short bus ride. We were reguired to have a meeting before school. This was the Supervisor's idea. The problem was that the supervisor never came to the meetings. She was always late. Usually, it was me, O, and the counselor having coffee. Then, I taught (or had a prep) for about 8-1:30. Then, I went home. I went to sleep for 1 1/2 to 2 hours the moment I got home. I watched Oprah at 4 for an hour and then I lesson planned for 1-2 hours before my husband arrived home. I was in bed by 9. This is the thing that people don't understand about teaching. There are layers and layers of work. People think teachers work 6 hours a day and then galavant off to happy hour. They forget the following:
1. Maintaining order in a class is physically and emotionally exhausting. You have to be "on" for certain hours of the day. It's like being in a play really. When you eat, drink, rest, or go to the bathroom are all pre-scheduled for you and you can't get away from that schedule. If you have a class at 1, you have to walk into a room at teach at 1. It doesn't matter if you need to poop or want a cup of coffee or have the flu. I cannot think of many other jobs like this. Also, the audience is literary hostile. They don't want to be there and hate you just for who you symbolize. So, not only are you perfoming, but you are also managing the audience and forcing them to pay attention to you.
2. Lesson planning. Teachers cannot walk into a classroom and just wing it (although I often did). You are supposed to/ required to have a play-by-play lesson plan. This usually has to be devised at home. We do get 1 "prep" time a day, but this is an hour filled with all the aforemetioned necessities: resting, coffee, bathroom, and an endless pile of phone calls to students houses.
3. Emotional impact. Endless you are a rock, you cannot go home and "forget" your students. I had students with dead fathers, fathers in jail, kids from jail, drug dealers, kids who were probably abused and it's hard to go home and shed that all like a coat.

My introduction into the true violence of the city came two weeks after I started teaching. I had my class. There was a teacher absent and the supervisor "doubled" my class without warning. This means in the middle of my lesson she brought in 15 other kids for me to teach. All the students didn't even have chairs. I was completely disoreinted and the class fell apart. There was comotion in the back. On of my kids and an African-American started a vicious fight. They started fist fighting. The African-American (who I did not know) really slugged my student who was white. I bring this up because I hear later that it was a recial issue. I also heard that these two boys had had a history of being enemies at another school. The supervisor put them into my class with no warning. I did not see it coming at all. My student was bleeding all over and I was freaking out. The supervisor came in and started yelling at me!

Welcome to school!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Early Days at IS 49

I arrived Intermediate School 49 the day that school began. I went to the prinicipal's office. No one had hear of me, no one knew who I was, and no one had heard of the 8plus program. I waited. I waited all that day, All the next day. And all the next day. I sat in a chair reading a book, collecting a paycheck for three days. Finally, someone from 8plus arrived. They still only vaguely acknowledged that I was supposed to be there. Also, we got another literacy teacher, a really funny science teacher, a counselor, two paras, a math teacher, and an administrator, We had six class rooms at the end of a hall where the eight graders had their classes. We had no books, no phone, no fax, no paper, and so on. We also had not students. All of the logistics were up to the teachers. We were supposed to help arrange the students schedules, as well as our own. We even had to name the school. I ended up suggesting the final idea - Cesar Chavez - since much of student population would be Hispanic.

It was a little fun getting to organize everything. But, it was so far from what I expected. I thought that I would walk into a school and be handed a schedule, a class, and start teaching. Beginning this way was very daunting to me. The administrator was trouble from the beginning, but the teachers and secretaries were okay. I had a particular fondness for O. She was a little younger than me. She was startingly beautiful. She came from a large Catholic family, many of whom were nuns. She was really a good teacher, though only a fellow in her second year. Her first year had been spent in an infamous Brookyln high school were she reported that students pushed pornography in her face and threatened her. Teachers were caught having sex in the stairway, and students attempted to throw a teacher out the window.

Now, that I had a position, as disfunctional as it was, I had vowed to help my friend in the Fellows get a job. I went to the school lobby to call him. The pay phone was dead. I asked to use a phone in the office. This was also dead. I went upstairs to our planning room. The science teacher said "A plane hit the world trade center." I thought (literally) "Boy, that's odd." And we all went back to work. A few minutes later the entire situation came to light. The IS 49 teachers had to remain at the school. Luckily, we had no students, so we were released. When I went outside, I had a clear view of the burning towers. Luckily, I was on a bus route and the buses were running. I got home quickly. I could go on and on about these events: the hysteria, the panic, the slowness, even the comedy of it. For example, my dad in New Mexico convinced me that ATMs might close so we got 300 out of the bank. He also said we needed water and supplies so we bought water, wine, and potato chips. School was canceled for 2 days and we stayed in the house that time. Finally, I went back and we continued where we left off with our organizing.

I think it was early to mid October that we finally got students.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Then I Met B, NYC DOE Cont.

Here is the happy part. Then, I met B. I was moved into the English teacher program. Here, I found a wonderful mix of people who were just like me. They all had interesting backgrounds. A few were gay. One had a Master's in music. One was a very grumpy guy from Vermont. They all loved books and were highly intellectual and strange and they all loved me. What really held it together was our mentor B. B was studying to be a principal and had had five years experience as a successful teacher in Brooklyn. He was nothing like Winny. He was our age, mature, gung-ho, and most of all supportive. The classes were fun. Despite this, I still had difficulty. The Fellows did not want to help me find a summer internship. So I found my own. I went to a school in Bed-Sty and convinced the principal to let me assist in a summer literacy class. This is an entire other story, but this was positive too. The teacher I taught under was so viverant and funny. The kids (largely Jamaican) were just wonderful to me. They threw a buig party on the day I left. But, the days were long. I had to be at the school in Bed-Sty at 8 AM and remain there until 12. Then (no lunch) I had an hour train ride to Brooklyn College for classes from 1-6. Then, another hour train ride home. In the midst of all this, I got the flu and was out a couple of days.

I made it through the summer program! Near Fall the trouble started again. We were all supposed to have jobs by the end of July (remember the Board was supposed to place us). In time, everyone had a job except me and one other person. As persistant as ever, I tried to find my own position. I was also persistant with the Fellows sending emails and phone calls on a dally basis to no avail. Meanwhile, school was rapidly approaching. I finally went down to the Director of the Fellows office. I didn't have an appointment. I more or less burst in her office. This was when I learned that she had had no teaching experience. Whatever judgements she was making on me were purely based on some mysterious philosophy. She was trying to place me in Alternate High Schools. The powers that be had decided that I wasn't capable of "handling" a full clasroom of 25-30 kids which is a "normal" amount for high school in New York. Their answer? They believed that I should teach in Alternative High Schools. Then, I would only have 10-15 kids. There is a catch. The Alternative High Schools are for students who are very low-functioning accademically and behaviorly. They are students who have failed or otherwise left regular high schools. Interesting concept. As a person with a disability I couldn't function in a class of 30 regular kids, however, I should be able to do well in a class with 15 highly difficult kids.

On the first day of school I was given a position. I was told that I was going to teach in 8Plus. This was a program the Chancellor devised as a helpimg mechanism for students who had flunked 8th grade. They could not be held back, nor promoted. In other words, it was 8th grade pergatory. 8Plus had different locations. I was placed in one near my house in IS 49. I

My Life in the New York City Department of Education

I am going to start a series about my five years as a teacher in the NYC DOE. I think this might interest people as many don't have access or understanding to what's really going on in there! I hope it will help enlighten some of my readers who are parents with kids in the school system, people who are curious about why the school system fails, or people who are interested in the difficulties of being an employee with a disability.

I was employed by the NYC DOE in 2000. I had always wanted to be a teacher. My dad was a highly successful professor and my mother, although now an accountant, tried teaching from time to time and enjoyed it. I have always been strong connected to kids. I had three sisters and a brother and made money most of my life off of babysitting. When I was in undergraduate school (at age 20) I studied to be a special education teacher. My first experience with this was that I had blue hair at the time and people in the department ridiculed me for this. I took one year (or was it a semester) of classes. I wanted to teach special education. I got an internship at on of the local schools assisting with the spec. ed. class. It was a small class and the teacher assigned me to work with one student. I think I helped the boy a lot. But we also became pretty good friends. I don't think it was anything inappropriate. I went out during recess to play ball with him. We also chatted a lot. His father (or step-father) was in jail. I just had a lot of empathy for him and felt he needed some attention in addition to accademic help. The teacher I was studying under was livid. Without giving me much of a chance, she told me she was going to give me an "f" no matter what I did. I stopped going and that was that.

Years later, I was working as an editor in New York. I really struggled to work my way up the ladder in NY. I started as a temp, then a secretary at JCC, then an editor at WeMedia, a now defunct website/magazine for people with disabilities. I knew that WeMedia was going to fold and my career there was limited. In the New York Times, I saw an ad for the NYC Teaching Fellows. In this moment, my life would change forever.

I applied for the program. We had to go to a mass interview at Washington Irving High School. We had to do a lesson plan in front of other applicants (about 15 people) and (I think) two DOE people. I did my lesson plan on rhyme scheme. We also had to write an essay and have short interview. It was pretty stressful. I was sure I wouldn't get hired. I was very nervous about my disability and my speech. But, I got in. My idea was that this would be an easy path to becoming a teacher. Basically, everything was set up for the Fellows. They were SUPPOSED to be told where to work and what classes to take for our Masters and so on. It was not easy. But, you had a map. It turned out to be more complecated as time went on.

I had decided from the beginning that I wanted to teach elementary school (the connection with kids). When I entered the Fellows, we were told to decide what we wanted to teach and we were going to be placed accordinely. We had to take a comhensive summer program offered by the Fellows plus college classes and an internship at a school. This amounted to working about 12 hours a day plus homework. I was put into the elementary program.

The first part of the program was to have 8 hour sessions run by a "mentor" with classes by DOE members. This would last about two weeks (then we would add our internship and college classes). Our mentor was a young African-American teacher who taught sixth grade in New Jersey. Her name was Winny, I think. The idea of the mentor was that it was supposed to be another teacher teaching us about the system; dicipline methods, grades, and so on. And it was done in a Socratic method. Remember, there were also DOE classes that were more geared toward teaching methods. This was actually kind of fun. About a week went by and then trouble started.

I got an email (or was it a call) from the director of the fellows that said I was being removed from the elementary program. I contacted her and she said something to the effect of I was suited to teach elementary school because of my disability. When I asked her for a concrete reason she said that I would be "unable to model handwriting." I went to our mentor for support and she told me that she knew that I would "not be able to handle a classroom full of kids." I went to one of the Fellows for support who had a child. I asked her "Wouldn't you be happy if I were your child's teacher?" She bluntly said "No." It is hard to remember all the details, but I went around and around with numerous people. None of which would support me. I was frustrated and heart-broken. They knew they couldn't get away with removing me from the fellows, so they kept pushing me to go into special education. Finally, they compromised and agreed to make me a high school English teacher. This was after the college classes had already started. I had to return all my books from the elementary classes at one college and start at another college. I later found out that the woman who was director of the fellow had never been inside a classroom.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Saint Elizabeth Street (the magazine) has been off line for about a week. We apologize to our readers/writers. We are coming up with a plan to remedy the situation.

Monday, December 18, 2006

This is interesting!

The Midas Touch (NYT)

Published: December 18, 2006
IN a ruling in a lawsuit last month, Judge James Robertson of Federal District Court said that United States currency discriminates against blind people because bills are all the same size and cannot be distinguished by touch. His decision was applauded by some advocates for the blind, including the American Council of the Blind, which brought the lawsuit. But as president of the National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of the blind, I believe that Judge Robertson’s ruling is wrong.

Discrimination occurs when the blind are barred from enjoying benefits, goods or services. This definition of discrimination is what most people understand the word to mean. If a landlord refuses to rent an apartment to someone because of race, color, creed or disability, then discrimination occurs. Sometimes people with disabilities are barred from certain facilities or services because of the way they are designed. A person in a wheelchair cannot climb the steps of a public building; if the building does not have a wheelchair ramp, that person is prevented from entering it. In another example, my group is suing the Target Corporation because the company’s Web site doesn’t accommodate the special text-reading software that the blind use to surf the Internet. In both cases, a person with a disability is kept out of a public place or denied use of a service, just as African-Americans were not welcome at whites-only lunch counters.

But while blind people cannot identify paper currency by touch, that does not prevent us from spending money. When we hand merchants our money, they take it and provide us with the goods or services we have paid for, no questions asked. People with whom we transact business provide us with correct change if needed, and we then organize the money in a manner that allows us to identify it in the future. We transact business in this way every day.

There is no evidence that the blind are shortchanged more often than the sighted; if a question does arise about a particular transaction, it is the responsibility of the blind person to sort out the matter. Identifying money by feel, as the blind are often able to do in many other countries, may be more convenient, but inconvenience is not the same thing as discrimination.

While it is crucial that minorities have a voice in society, it is also the responsibility of every minority group to use that voice wisely and not to cry “discrimination” when no discrimination has occurred. The blind of America will fight discrimination wherever we find it, but we achieve nothing by falsely portraying ourselves as victims and engaging in frivolous litigation.

Marc Maurer is the president of the National Federation of the Blind.


I hate self-publishing. But sometimes I put up something that I know probably won't get published. I just found this in an email to my dad.

All over the city

the sky is relentlessly silent.

People dress for dinner,

put their kids to bed,

live throughout buildings

masqueraded as stars.

Still, the knowledge that war exists

pervades everything. Guilt

settles down on the innocent

so that even going about one’s business

becomes an act of defiance.

But the war is over.

Isn’t it?

A few men circle the main square

giving the illusion to the common eye

of a cast of thousands.

On the final day

of coverage, rain drenches

the desert like God

forgiving propaganda of its sins.

The camera lingers

on a bewildered face,

a wife knows before the phone rings,

before the words are spoken,

while men in turbans break down,

while a mother screams to emptiness.

Five thousand miles away,

even my own son is not safe.

And I can not bring myself to love

this world anymore.

Hero of the Day.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

More On Singer

I have been thinking about Singer's assumption that People With Disabilities will be unhappier that others.

I think this largely comes from the fact that Singer (and others) are looking in the wrong direction for the reason that PWD would not be happy. When Singer says this, it has occurred to me that he believes physically limitations are what cause this unhappiness. This is not true (at least for me). I can't ride a two-wheel bike. My balance is off. I am sometimes hard to understand. I get tired. But, the lack an ability to be a waitress is not the thing that makes me depressed - it's prejudice. By this line of reasoning parents should also have the opportunity to kill any baby who is a not a white, hetro, Christian male in the hopes of getting a baby who will be happier. Because anyone who is not of this "catagory" is going to suffer at some point too.

I find it hugely upsetting that Singer was voted one of Time Magazine 100 most influencial people and was able to land a job at Princeton. I think he has made strides to made society better through his activism regarding animal rights and distribution of wealth, However, think about this: Would someone racist be able to gain such power in America? I also find it troubling that animal activists are unable to see Singer in a mixed light. To many, he is a hero plain and simple. People who admire his animal rights stance are willing to look away from or deny his views on PWD.

But, perhaps I am taking it all to harsh. I am sure that Singer would not consider himself prejudice. In fact, I think he probably thinks that he is trying to be "good." If you don't know it, his idea is that infancide for severely disabled babies should be legal. He is a Utlitarian. He seems to believe that this is a form of compassion. That killing severely disabled babies will save everyone a lot of pain and hassle (the parents, child, and society).

From a reader Q &A in the Independent Singer writes:

Would you kill a disabled baby? KAREN MEADE, Dublin

Yes, if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole. Many people find this shocking, yet they support a woman's right to have an abortion. One point on which I agree with opponents of abortion is that, from the point of view of ethics rather than the law, there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby.

It makes me think of the obvious....How do we know how that child's life will unfold? The doctor's told my mom that I'd never walk...and low and behold I do! But, Singer's smarter than me...of course he's thought of this:

In the Journal of Disabilities Policies he writes, "we have make decisions based on probabilites, not certainties."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Peter Singer: Saint or Devil?

There was a good article the the Times today by Peter Singer advocating for people (particularly the rich) to donate money. I really respect him...but whenever I hear his name I can't help think of how he has also advocated for killing infants with disabilities because there is "less chance disabled people will be happy."

Here is an excerpt from an article HARRIET MCBRYDE JOHNSON wrote about her exchanges with Singer.
Note: McBryde is has a severe disability, is a lawyer, and is active in the group "Not Dead Yet."

Singer seems curious to learn how someone who is as good an atheist as he is could disagree with his entirely reasonable views. At the same time, I am trying to plumb his theories. What has him so convinced it would be best to allow parents to kill babies with severe disabilities, and not other kinds of babies, if no infant is a ''person'' with a right to life? I learn it is partly that both biological and adoptive parents prefer healthy babies. But I have trouble with basing life-and-death decisions on market considerations when the market is structured by prejudice. I offer a hypothetical comparison: ''What about mixed-race babies, especially when the combination is entirely nonwhite, who I believe are just about as unadoptable as babies with disabilities?'' Wouldn't a law allowing the killing of these undervalued babies validate race prejudice? Singer agrees there is a problem. ''It would be horrible,'' he says, ''to see mixed-race babies being killed because they can't be adopted, whereas white ones could be.'' What's the difference? Preferences based on race are unreasonable. Preferences based on ability are not. Why? To Singer, it's pretty simple: disability makes a person ''worse off.''

Are we ''worse off''? I don't think so. Not in any meaningful sense. There are too many variables. For those of us with congenital conditions, disability shapes all we are. Those disabled later in life adapt. We take constraints that no one would choose and build rich and satisfying lives within them. We enjoy pleasures other people enjoy, and pleasures peculiarly our own. We have something the world needs.

Pressing me to admit a negative correlation between disability and happiness, Singer presents a situation: imagine a disabled child on the beach, watching the other children play.

It's right out of the telethon. I expected something more sophisticated from a professional thinker. I respond: ''As a little girl playing on the beach, I was already aware that some people felt sorry for me, that I wasn't frolicking with the same level of frenzy as other children. This annoyed me, and still does.'' I take the time to write a detailed description of how I, in fact, had fun playing on the beach, without the need of standing, walking or running. But, really, I've had enough. I suggest to Singer that we have exhausted our topic, and I'll be back in touch when I get around to writing about him.

Near our "home" in Oregon

Grim weather plagues Mount Hood search
COOPER SPUR, Ore. -- Searchers looking for three lost climbers on Oregon's Mount Hood are just hoping for a break in the weather.
Helicopters, aircraft and cell phone tracking technology have been helping with the search, but wind, snow and ice have hampered rescue efforts.

Today's plans call for two staging camps on the north and south sides of the mountain so teams could head to the summit quickly if the weather breaks.

Winds near the summit today are likely to top 100 mph before easing, and daytime temperatures above 10,000 feet are forecast to go below zero.

On Sunday, a "ping" from the cell phone of one hiker tracked him to between the 10,000- and 11,000-foot elevations when he made a four-minute call to his family.

Weather predictions indicate searchers won't be able to get near where that hiker is thought to be until the weekend at the earliest.

Morning in the SES house

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Idea of Political Correctness

It was pointed out to me recently that I am inconsistant in my views. Yes, I'm very guilty of such. In one post I'm bashing PC, in the next I'm criticizing the Times for their language. I think it's very human to look for and demand consistant behavior. People want patterns. I think it's also easy to be of two (or four) minds on any given issue. For example, I often hate being a mother. AND Jeff is my FAVORITE person and I'd throw myself in front of a truck for him! So there you have it.

My issue with PC is that it's fake. It makes people overly sensitive and takes them off the hook a little. It has also generated some pretty silly terms like differently-abled. I think the illimination of prejudice cannot be surface. I think it's got to go way deep. I also think the way to gain equality is not to eradicate differences. I think differences should be embraced and we chould move on. I do take up the cause of PWD simply because so few are. I think (as I have written so many times) it is the final frontier in Civil Rights. We are still not privy to the respect that many others have so rightly earned.

I think a great way to start is with kids. When I tell my four year old son that many of my friends are gay...I tell him that's just the way it is. I try to normalize things for him. We saw a child with severe Cerebral Palsy in the doctor's office. Jeff kind of freaked out. He said why is she like this? What are they doing to her? I told him that she's just has cerebral palsy - she has a disbility like mommy and it's no big deal. Then, we moved on. I think that the key is to acknoledge the difference and then not make it a big deal. I want him to be able to accept everyone and believe that, yes, people are differ, but ultimately it does not matter and it certainly doesn't make anyone better or worse.

But, on a daily basis the presence of my body can be painful. I want to say it because people don't KNOW. Yesterday, I was walking out of the Brooklyn Art Museum and there was a big group of teenagers walking down the street. One started SHOUTING "Hey look at her, look at her! She's..." Before she could go on I glared at her, which always works for adults but only egged her on. She started "Yelling ha ha look at her face," To wit I yelled, "Hey you shouldn't be making fun of people. Grow up." Not the most ideal response but. Then, today at Jeff's school I got the typical condesending treatment from the Parent Teach Coordinator who (for some reason) feels its appropriate to call me "Honey." This "Honey" feels very different from the warm one I recieved from my older neighbor 1/2 later.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On A Personal Note

It's been a nutty two weeks. I had to donate my beloved Susie (my auto). The entire PTA of Jeff's school resigned. My new tooth fell out (& got put back in). Jeff's dad and I had a falling out with Jeff's kung fu teacher. And we just completed our 2003 state taxes. Time for a vacation!

Women's Political Panel Continued

I have been having an interesting discussion with Veronica from the Seriously Squared blog. I'm no good at links, but you can link to her blog from the SES sidebar. I know it's a dangerous topic -- but come on chime in!

I am realizing how inconsistant I am in my views. I complain endlessly about rights for PWD, and yet I am crazily anti-PC.

I hope that if people read the blog on a consistant basis they will start to find a narrative!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Today's Mail: My Friend Caitlin Reporting From Africa

So Maputo. This place is undeniably a colonial city which grew up largely before the civil war. The war started in the 1970s and lasted until 1992 – fueled in large part by the apartheid movement in South Africa. The war resulted in a terrible division of the country north to south, the country north of the Zambezi River controlled by one party and the country south, including Maputo, controlled by another. One of the major tactics during the war, like in Angola, was to use land mines, and apparently there were millions planted throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands persist, but at least today you can travel outside of Maputo on main roads without the risk of encountering a landmine. Even six years ago that was not the case. Interestingly one of the tools that has been developed to find and remove landmines is rats that can sniff them out. Can you believe it, rats!

The city is still recovering from the war, physically and economically in particular. There is not much industry here in Mocambique and less than 10% of arable land is used for agriculture. Great potential, but large strides left to be made... and of course the toll – now and in the future – of AIDS/HIV is serious and devastating. Like in most African countries struck hard by the pandemic, the patients in our project are young, the median age being around 30 years old. Moreover, the death rate among seropositive children is very high, the majority of whom die before their second birthdays. But of course there is great hope that the progress of this disease can be halted, or at least slowed dramatically. So as one can imagine, the presence of NGOs, multilateral agencies and big donors here is enormous, and in turn so is the pressure felt by the government to act, rapidly and with broad powerful strokes. And not a day goes by that there is not one or more articles in the local newspaper about HIV/AIDS. Yet, something which is not surprising, the topic is not one of everyday casual conversation. While understandable that people are not motivated to talk constantly about things that are quite dark in many respects, nonetheless, HIV/AIDS is certainly something that touches everyone's life.

Still in my work I feel somewhat removed and without a deep sense of the reality of the epidemic here, since the majority of my time is spent at a computer looking at numbers. Sigh. Hence I really enjoy the days in the clinic, seeing patients with the doctors and other project staff, and getting a better sense of the situation and the work that goes on. It is incredible really how many patients are treated - thousands at one clinic, one small clinic. The manpower and resources necessary to deliver what is quite complicated care that will last a person's lifetime are extraordinary and immense.

There are an estimated 1.5M in Mocambique with HIV, and 1/3rd of those people likely are in need of treatment with antiretrovirals (500,000). Currently there are a bit less than 40,000 people on treatment in the country, and the efforts to manage just that are huge. To fill the gap is nearly unimaginable, at least to me in this moment, and I don't think that I am alone in that feeling. And the reality of that gap and the ever-growing and continuous need creates a political, cultural and economic sense that HIV and AIDS is big business, here and abroad. A reality that does not sit well with the public health hippy in me. Bom, as we say in Portuguese, such is life. The road ahead is uncertain, but the level of commitment of many (for better and for worse) is really quite something.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cleaning House...

Put 5$ (cash)in an envelope and send it to 136 Freeman st. Apt 1A Brooklyn, NY 11222.
We will send you three back issue of SES with poems by poets Andrea Baker, Charles Bernstein, Bill Olsen, Jim Stewart, Nathaniel Tarn, Robyn Art, Fanny Howe and many others!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Helen Vendler, Young Poets, and A Mother Poetics

There is a really interesting article in today's Times's book review about Helen Vendler. I like Vendler. When I was a cheeky twenty-something in Boston, I burst into her office one day to get advice about becoming a successful poet. I don't remember her concrete advice, but I do remember that she said something to the effect that "interesting work can appear out of nowhere." She pointed out a book that she had just gotten in the mail from a poet who went to Boston's Museum School who had had no previous success. Vendler then agreed to let me sneak into her poetics class for free. I went to one or two sessions which were great - then life got in the way. Looking back at this exchange, I was frustrated that I couldn't get her to somehow HELP me, or give some magical advice on how to get "known" as a poet. But, in retrospect, I think she was overly generous by merely inviting me (Joe-Blow off the street) into her office and class.

There are things in the Times article that I agree with, and those I don't. Dare I say it, I am of Vendler's opinion regarding "Edgar Allen Poe & the Jukebox," the posthumously published Elizabeth Bishop book edited by Alice Quinn. Although I believe Quinn had all best intensions, I thought the publication was a little disrespectful. As Vendler points out, "for Elizabeth Bishop had years to publish the poems included here, had she wanted to." To my knowledge, Bishop was an obsessive wordsmith. I once heard a story that she pinned poems to her bullietin board for years waiting for one word to complete them. It is ironic that such an obsessive poet have work published without her stamp. And I think Vendler is right in her discomfort.

I do take issue with the fact that Vendler doesn't review poets under 50 because "They're writing about the television cartoon they saw when they were growing up. And that's fine." Strangely, the only poet Jim & I know of who writes about TV is Robert Pinsky, who is over fifty and moves in Vendler's circle.

I do think it's interesting that Vendler notes a "great lack of poetry about motherhood, though Sylvia Plath, she said 'makes a beginning.'" Poetry about motherhood is something that has interested me in the last few years as I write and read about it myself. I think "great lack" might be an exaggeration, but I think Vendler's on to something.

There is a great history of mother as poet and poet as mother. Levertov, Graham, Mayer, Waldman, Rukeyser, Hillman, Harryman, Howe, Sikleionos, Notrly, Plath, and Sexton all had/have child/ren. And this is just to name a few. But, motherhood is lacking in these poet's (and other's) work. I think this generates from the great Rukeyser quote:

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.

I think motherhood as a topic has been ignored simply because it is too loaded. Pre-feminism, women's lives were systematically ignored. But feminism hasn't helped mothers much either. I wonder if some feminists schools look at motherhood as a symbol of patriarcal repression. There is such a backlash against motherhood. it is amazing to me that in 2007 women are still fighting over the concept of mom working outside the home, mom working in the home, and the more oblique catagory of artist-mom. Then, there is the whole "childfree" I mentioned earlier that somehow seems to equate not have children with being a more powerful woman. It's no wonder poets are loath to "go there."

But, some do. One of my favorite poets, Jorie Graham, writes of her daughter Emily in Dream of the Unified Field:

On my way to bringing your leotard
you forgot to pack in your overnight bag,
the snow starting coming down harder.

And later,

You turn the music up. The window nothing to you, liquid, dark,
where now your mother has come back to watch.

The poem begins with a sort of quiet brutalness of motherhood. The dailiness, the labor of keeping up with small things that have been overlooked. It sort of has the feel of the endless failure of motherhood and wanting to do good. Then, in later lines, the mother spies on the daughter. The mother wants to keep that intimacy. Oh, how accurate.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The problems of a Disabled Poet

I have been doing a little research on poets with disabilities. I found a blog called Dispoet that's pretty good. But, really, there's just not much out there. I would argue that poets with disabilities are marginalized as much as people with disablities are in general society. The only poet I have on my shelve with a disability is the great Larry Eigner. To my knowledge, Eigner never wrote about having cerebral palsy -- but his poems are so much like I assume his body and breath to be - short and disjointed and labored. I have thought from time to that God would throw me a poetic bone because I'm a minority. Let's be real, as an artist you have to use all your chips. It seems grants exist for women, gays, and people of color who are artists. No such luck. Comprehensive research over the years has taught me that the only stuff for artists with disabilites is scary fluffy pat-on-the-head stuff. Oh, this makes me sad! I've even had poems rejected from magazines that highlight people with disablitities. Huh!

Passing-A Rambling Essay

I have always felt a kinship with gay men. I think some of this has to do with the idea of "passing" or pretending to be something you are not in order to be productive in society. Fortunately, I think gay men are having to "pass" (for straight) less and less. Yet, it is still something that people with disabilities have to deal with constantly.

I have always felt that in order to get a job, I've had to prove myself far above the average person. I think I have to prove that I can do what normal people do, despite the fact that I have a disability. More, I've felt that I've had to prove that I WASN"T disabled (i.e. I had to pass). But, I am disabled. That is the fact. I can't do physical things as well or accurately as the average person. I tire VERY easily. But, I am educated, sharp, and one of the best writers around. But, somehow it feels as though these things don't count - even in my chosen career as a teacher. The society is so fixated on looks that this is that only thing people see anymore. Whenever I applied for a job, I was basically put in a situation where I had to say "don't look at me. Only see my brain." Most people cannot do this.

I feel uncomfortable even as I write this. I find it akeward and distressing to admit to my physical limitations. Why is this so? Why can't people see my limitations and it be okay? Why do people have to hide themselves?

Friday, December 08, 2006

This is absolutely intense and beautiful

Forgive Iraqi captors, former hostages plead
Last Updated: Friday, December 8, 2006 | 7:44 AM ET
CBC News
Two Canadians and a Briton held hostage in Iraq last year said Friday that they have been asked to testify at the trial of their alleged captors, but are reluctant to do so because they are opposed to Iraq's death penalty.

James Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Norman Kember, all members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, told a news conference in London that their alleged captors should be forgiven instead of punished.

James Loney was among four Christian Peacemaker Teams activists taken hostage in Iraq in November 2005. Three were released after 117 days, while the fourth was killed. (CBC) Freed in March, the three peace activists had been held hostage for 117 days in Iraq.

"What our captors did was wrong. They caused us, our families and friends great suffering. Yet we bear no malice towards them and have no wish for retribution," Loney said.

"We would like to know more about the court process, how it works and how we could speak to leniency. We are very, very concerned about the death penalty. It would be the worst possible outcome for us."

Bedside Table: David-Baptiste Chirot

Pol Pot--by Philip Short
My Life is My Weapon A modern history of suicide bombing--Christoph Reuter Translated from the German
Machete Season The Killers In Rwanda Speak
a report by Jean Hatzfelde w/afterward by Suan Sontag, translation by Linda Coverdale
Guy Debord Revolution in the Service of Poetry
by Vincent Kaufmann translated by Roberto Bonnomo
The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (first edition)
The Information Bomb--Paul Virillio
In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities--Jean Buadrillard
Politics of the Very Worst --Paul Virilio & Sylvere Lotringer

The Talented Mr Ripley--Patricia Highsmith
Four Days in a Lifetime--Georges Simenon
The Killer Inside Me-Jim Thompson (reread)
Kiss Me, Deadly --Mickey Spillane

Amulet by Roberto Bolano (Readers advance copy)
The Savage Detectives--Roberto Bolano (readers advance copy)
After the Quake--Haruki Murakami
Moby Dick--Herman Melville

Saint Ghetto of the Loans--Gabriel Pomerand
Rimbaud--Complete poetry and letters (rereading for millionth time)

Please Donate

Some oraganizations Saint Elizabeth endorses for Christmas donations:

The Samartians

The Samaritans of New York is the local branch of the international humanitarian movement with over 400 branches in 38 countries. A non-religious, non-profit organization, Samaritans is devoted to helping those people who are in crisis and feeling suicidal through our volunteer-run programs that practice a communications-based response we call "befriending," which emphasizes listening to what a person in crisis is feeling and thinking without expressing personal judgments or opinions.

A homeless shelter for gay and lesbian teenagers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Throw a brick in this place and you'll hit a screenwriter. And do me a favor, Barton, throw it hard.

Bedside Table: Alexander Dickow

Kate Greenstreet, _case sensitive_, yes indeedy.
Janet Holmes, _F2F_
Max Jacob, _Ballades_ (with many other collections)
Agrippa d'Aubigne, _Les Tragiques_
Jules Valles, _Le Bachelier_
Jules Supervielle, _La Fable du Monde_
James Sacre, _Coeur elegie rouge_
Joyce's _Ulysses_
Hommage to Walt Whitman bilingual anthology from
Turtlepoint Press and Editions Joca Seria,
pens and pencils with a paperclip or two,
assorted old bits of paper with things jotted on them,
some pennies and change,
and a little cloth bag with a drawstring.


My new pet-peeve (as per Bust magazine) is straight women who call other straighrt women "breeders." This is a group of young(ish) largely women who don't want to have children and feel they need to make a huge fuss about it.

As a mother who is/was largely involved in the gay-boy community, it was painful enough hearing the term drip from the mouths of the guys. As a concequence, I felt like I had to DEFEND my decision to have a kid, like I was betraying the gay cause or something. Now, ironically, things have turned around. Most of my gay friends are involved with little children in some way, and even Dan Savge has become a dad.

Some lovely comments copied from the Mindful Things blog at

I would say that only a small subgroup of bitchy queens use the term breeder. And with so many gays and lesbians having kids--one way or another--it would be like the pot calling the kettle black nowadays.

7/24/2006 11:29 PM

Marko said...
If it wasnt for "breeders" our gay asses wouldnt be here! I dont use the term, I think its a pretty lame term. There a certain portion of gay people eho use that term and I dont agree with it. Not all of us use it, its really ignorant in my book!
I havent seen you at the planet forever!

Ironically, now I've been hearing the term breeder from straight women. This is even more offensive.

1. Do they KNOW it's a gay term?
2. A hetrosexual woman, whether she has kids or not, is a breeder. She has sex with men, therefore she has the potenial to have kids. This might be a wacky logic - but I think it's where the word comes from.
3. The use of this word is not "taking back a derogatory term." THAT would mean turning it into a positive term, which they are not.

Final Note: Women who don't want kids - I could care less, I'm fine with that! But, I don't put you down, don't put me down because I'm a mother and don't put kids down. After all, you had one and you were one.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Like Her

PS -Breeder

I would like the "childfree" community to be aware that "breeder" is ironically a negetive term stolen from male homosexuals to refer to hetrosexuals. Ahhhh. I am not sure if a hetro using the word "breeder" even make sense.


This is a topic that interests me....I'll be dipping into it periodically.

Evidently, as per Bust magazine, there is a part of the population that thinks their decision NOT to have children is worthy of a movement/ webculture. Here is such a posting from such a website

"If you ask me, no one under 12 belongs in a sit-down restaurant. Let the kiddie crowd hang out at Chuck E Cheese and fast food restaurants — places they’d be more comfortable. There is absolutely no point to children being in sit down restaurants. People with kids who want to eat out can get a sitter or get take out. Or better yet, they could grow up, face their responsibilities and realize that until the kids are older, eating out just isn’t an option. It’s called “making sacrifices” and “consequences of your choices”. Maybe they could learn to cook — something other than frozen chicken nuggets and fish sticks, I hope!"

To me, this belongs in the catagory of people who want to make society into a 20-30 something Disneyland.


Yesterday, I wrote a piece that about babies with disabilities. I wrote the line, "Women rutinely abort handicapped babies and no one bats an eye." I decided to take that line out because it in too glib. Often, mistakes occur in the womb that would make the child/parent's life so physically and emotionally wrought that....

What I was referring to was an article on the cover of the Times two years ago that made my skin crawl. Women on the upper east side abort children that they find less than perfect (kids with cleft pallettes or missing a finger). THIS is what I meant.

More On The Women's Political Panel

Anonymous send me a comment a couple of posts down on the lack of African-American poets at the small press fair.
You can read her/his comments at ( I urge you to read it's pretty interesting.

I just wanted to add a post-note to what I wrote. (By the way, I'm a really nice person. I just like to make waves.)

I just wanted to note that the woman who mentioned the absence of African-American women on the panel has a logical point. I do think, though, her tactic was too agressive and too urgent. The question should ABSOLUTELY not have been directed at the panelists. They did not put together the panel. I also think the common was misguided. Does there have to be absolute representation when acceptance is implied?

As I noted, there was also not a person with a disability on the panel (and there never will be). I am frustrated that when people strive to equal things out (affirmative action and so on) they SPECIFICALLY DO NOT MEAN DISABLED PEOPLE. (Well, except Sesame Street). I would really like to see this change.

I think people (including myself) who are part of the world of ideas get too caught up in the world of the theroetical. My point is that when there is currently a genocide in Africa and a brutal war in Iraq it's kind of less important that there are not people of color and PWD on a poetry panel.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wanting Babies Like Themselves, Some Parents Choose Genetic Defects

In today's Science Times there is an article about parents "trying" through science to have "handicapped" babies in order to have children that are like them. My first response is Thank God! Someone who not only accepts people with disabilities, but actively WANTS them. But, I am of two minds about this.

I wanted my son to be gay. I'm not gay...but most of my favorite people are. I feel I "fit into" gay society more than straight. I also loved the idea of having a cute young son-in-law to hit the dance clubs with,. No avail, my son makes Bruce Willis look queenie. I guess I also harbored fantasies about Jeff having CP. How cute would that be? This in fact has been more difficult than the fact that Jeff is straight. He is TOO physically fit, and I can't keep up.

The two cases in the Times article spoke about deaf parents and parents with dwarfism. They, like me, want children like them and are willing to use science to do it. I'm not so sure about this.

Part of me says "Hey, why not?" Let's fill the world with people with disabilities. Why should these people bed critized. If they want handicapped kids, more power too them. Maybe it will balance out all the people who put down handicapped kids.

But, part of me holds back. I think that the best hope we can have for our children is that they have a fine easy life. Because of the horribleness of the world, gay, disabled, black, adopted and so on children do not have an easy time. While I would not be bothered if Jeff had a physical limitation, I would be bothered by the masses of idiots who would give him a hard time (note: when I was 1 1/2 a STRANGER when up to my 19 year mother in the park and said "what's WRONG with your baby?") I also am not too thrilled about the exclusionary nature of the deaf community. As I have said many times in these pages - I hate excluding. I think it's small-minded.

I think we all need to start loving our children on THEIR terms for who they are.
Unless they want to join the Army -put um in one-way mail to Canada.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Amy King is a nice person.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Politics of Poetry: Women Inventing New Grounds

Last night I went to the best panel at the Small Press Fair on 44th Street, the topic of which is the title of this post. The panel included four great poets (two established and two emerging) speaking of political poetry: Anne Waldman, Eileen Myles, Jen Benka, and Matthea Harvey with Erika Kaufman moderating.

Eileen Myles (who I had never seen speak before)was particularly generous and witty. She brought up the parallels between being a woman and a poet. She said she was somehow always having to justify both. As much as I argue that men and women are equal in the poetry world - Myles had a good point - why do all women reading/panels still have "woman" in the title? Myles suggested something to the effect that if there was an all white male panel about poetry - yawn, bore. No one would come!

Jen Benka also brought up an interesting idea about the merely the act of writing poetry as a political act. I want to explore this more in my interview with her next month. Matthea Harvey challenged her by asking if writing poetry as a white male was a politically inherant act. This is a good idea to explore further. I think I know what Jen means though. Writing poetry is subversive in that it has no market value in the US. It is choosing to completely live/work against the grain in society which so values "the norm." Poetry is not the norm. Just by writing a poem or calling oneself a poet, one says "Okay...I'm going to live as an outsider."

There was one disturbing moment in the program. As someone who dated a curator/filmaker and has sat through countless Q&A's I inherahantly know that the Q&A is really BAD news. Last night, in first question, an African-American woman got up and challenged the panelists with the fact that there were no Black women on the panel. This would have been an okay question and perhaps she had a point....but she was so angry and confrontational. She really put the poets on the spot, and I felt like these women do their best - Anne's Poetry Project and Naropa are both very diverse institutions ansd I know Jen works directly with poor women. Come on!

The question wasn't completely out of wack - but so badly timed and disruptive. I am not even convinced the questioner cared about the color of the panelists - I think she just wanted to turn the show on herself, but it does bring up interesting questions.

1. The wasn't, never is and never will be a crippled girl on the panel.(Until they invite me!) In fact, the "outsiders" mentioned in the discussion were "queer, women, and race." So, there! In this situation I feel everyone IS doing their best. It's implied that we all are included/fought for/represented.

2. Does everything have to be a numbers game? Well, if there's not a woman, well, it's all women...but no one's queer....wait! one's Chinese...where are the transexuals? HUH! Get it? I think it's too bad that society has been so bad that it had had to come to this insanity. It's a reverse prejudice in a way. People can't even listen to what these genius poets (I'm sorry...Anne is a genuis) are saying because they're checking out their races and taking out the measuring stick.

To bore you further, I think when we consider exclusion, we have to think it over more....These poets were choosen because 1. They write political work and/or are activists. 2. They were in New York and free. Was there a Black mid-late career poet who writes political work and was free in New York? Then, that's woman's right, she should have been invited too.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

New York Rears It’s Ugly Head

I’ve had a pretty hard two days. I got a bill from a missed appointment that is grossly overcharged. I am having trouble going on temporary disability (more later). I have car on the street which I’m getting tickets for because it won’t move. I got rejected from 3 adjunct jobs. I also have a friend who was turned down for a more permanent just at her school – her peers rejected her work. Meanwhile, another friend told me something I didn’t know gallery dealers only show twenty-somethings.

Needless to say, I’m cranky.

I love New York so passionately. But, sometimes I wonder if this passion is misplaced. New York City sometimes rears it’s ugly head, and even people who aren’t in the loop feel the pressure.

Adjunct jobs in New York pay (typically) $3600 a class for semester. There is no job security. There are no medical benefits. I haven’t done it yet, but I imagine (depending on the school) you have 20 students. This is English comp and many of the students have just come out of the wacky NYC public school system (code: they don’t know how to write or behave). One friend called “babysitting.” Another friend said it’s basically the same work load as high school. So, if it’s such a crap job why are they so hard to come by & why on earth would someone want one?

My father was a professor at the University of New Mexico for 20 years. He was the youngest chair (I think he was 40) and he stayed chair for five years. I asked him what it took for him to hire an English comp teacher – he said “a pulse.” You may read this (particularly from NY) as well of course, what kind of school is UNM? Actually, if you’re a photographer or print maker – you know it’s one of the top schools for these things. If you’re a poet, John Nichols, Joy Harjo, and Bob Creeley have all taught in that English Department.

Which leads me back to New York’s particular horribleness. I think in New York you have to constantly prove you are “someone.” There are so many people competing that what is “the best” becomes obscured. I think the quickness of New York has created an environment where people are much more aware of surface qualities. i.ehe. are you 1. young 2. good looking 3. a Harvard/NYU graduate? I saw it when I was first a teaching fellow. I went to a job fair and all the kids who looked like the just stepped out of a Gap ad immediately had jobs – never mind the fact that I had more education and life experience. This better than tho attitude even makes us turn on each other. Strangely, I see it at my pre-k son’s school. For example, there is a woman who is very beautiful, tall, and some form of European. Not only will she not talk to most the parents, she won’t even look at them! OR they’re’s the snot students in the snot bullshit art review who give my friend harsh criticism. OR The public school in the Bronx that had students interview me and tell me I wasn’t good enough for the job. Where does this sense of entitlement come from? Do they have it in Iowa?

I would love some comments on your take.

Friday, December 01, 2006