Sunday, April 29, 2007

By the way, I'm done with my proof! We mailed it Friday afternoon. As a consequence, our life was a shambles: laundry, housekeeping, groceries, my computer broke...and so on.

I am very shocked/excited to have gotten a response from the head of Art Education at the DOE. She was kind enough to call and apologize. The principal was alerted. The teacher is being dealt with. This is a huge, small step for me!

More on Cripple-ness

I was thrilled to get this response from Vernon Frazer in the comments -- which I am reposting here:

I don't know the nature of your disability. You may or may not know that I have Tourette Syndrome.
Havng paid a high rice in social and economic terms for my condition
and established some pretty decent writing credits over the years, I think if I were in the situation you described, I would tell them I didn't like being patronized, to Google me if they cared to learn what they missed, then go home and write. I would neither volunteer nor serve if asked in the future.
Best, Vernon

Dear Vernon,

Thank you so much for your comment! For me though, the issue is and remains difficult. In this one instance, I was asked to volunteer with the DOE as a poet through NYFA. But, I am actually also an employee of the DOE. I was hired six years ago through the Fellows program and am now a certified permanent English teacher. This is only one of hundreds of problems with the DOE's problem with my disability. i have been turned down again and again for jobs I should have gotten. The minute people hear my voice on the phone, they freak out.

So this a constant battle for me. This year I took a leave and went on Social Security? Should I take the Disability (which is a sizable amount) and say fuck it! Surely, people who are a lot less crippled than me live off Social Security and don't even try to work. But, for me this creates ethical problems. How many crippled people do you see at work, on the train, with their children? Why do people allow themselves to be pushed into their houses? Why is the disability movement the weakest in the county? I answer my own question just by the fact that people stare at me, dismiss me, and make fun of me on a daily basis. I am NOT that crippled. I have a very slight speech impediment and an akward gait. You would think I'm the elephant man! But the fact is that there are so few PWD in jobs, the streert, the media, that people just aren't used to us being around.

Now I am going to share some dirty little secrets with you about the DOE:

1. The first priority for hiring teachers is that they are young and went to Bank Street or Teachers College. All these kids get jobs in a minute because of theirr status and youth. NONE of these kids stay with the system. They are not dedicated and leave w/in a few years. The older, smarter, more dedicated teachers aren't worth much. (Forgive me if you went there!) But these guys aren't just hired on their good looks and good school, it's economics too. Why hire a teacher who will make it to retirement when you can get one who won't!

2. The DOE's other priority is classroom management. This is a big reason I get passed over. I'm small, I'm handicapped = no classroom management. But, (again) they don't know me -- it's looks alone.

3. The DOE doesn't give a shit about talent. Books you've written? Ha! I got a major poetry award and they didn't even announce it at the faculty meeting! But God forbid if someone has a baby -- they rent out a hall! Also, there is no pay raise for a PhD.! Most teachers don't have PhD. -- Hell, why should they?

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I got a wonderful response to the good people at NYFA. Needless to say, I have yet to hear from the Dept. of Ed., and probably won't. You, dearest reader, probably think I'm making this stuff up -- or at least exaggerating, but I'm not. I cannot tell you how sick I am of going through this. Where to put this anger? How to be heard?

The good news is I saw my friend and old teacher William Olsen read tonight -- an absolutely brilliant poet. My manuscript is about 2 hours away from being done. I'm spent. Tommorrow Jeff & I will see our Peter. Yeah!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Latest NYC DOE Adventure

I was invited through the New York Foundation of the Arts to present a workshop/reading for Poem in a Pocket Day at Forest Hills High School. What follows is an email (written by me) reaccounting the response I got:

Dear Mr. V.,

I recently volunteered to participate in Poem in the Pocket Day in the New York City Schools through New York Foundation of the Arts where I was a 2005 Poetry Fellow. I was assigned to work with Ms. Lipton, the special education teacher at Forest Hills High School. When I called Ms. L. to make arrangements to visit the school this Friday, she was clearly taken aback by my voice. I have cerebral palsy and have a slight speech impediment. Despite this challenge, I am well-known poet and am a permanently certified NYC DOE English teacher.

I told Ms. L. that I had a disability. She was unable to look past her assumptions and grilled me on my qualifications as a poet. She then insisted that I explain whether I had worked with Special Education students. She said that she didn't think that her students would give their attention to poetry. I then asked her why she signed up for the Poem in a Pocket Project. She made it clear that I was not what she expected. Then, she asked me the date of the program. She didn't even know that it was being held Friday. Finally, she told me that she would be absent Friday, and I would have to work with a substitute.

The way this unfolded is very disheartening to me. I am very busy working on the proofs for my manuscript which will be published in October. I was more than happy to help, but am frustrated that I was put in a position where I had to convince a teacher to let me volunteer.

Most of all, Ms. L. students really miss out. Ms. L. kept them from having an opportunity to see that people with disabilities are successful.


Jennifer Bartlett

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Poetry is not a hobby.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My work on my book remains relentlessly difficult. I got the first proofs yesterday Friday. Just today, have I been able to begin working. I was just carrying it around and staring at it. I was up all last night obsessing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Derivative of the Moving Image

Anyone who wants to glance at my book can look here. This is not what I posted a few days back. This is the pdf. file for the actual catalog. which will be in mailboxes next week. The book is on page #32. The catalog says the book will be out in Dec., but the Press tells me October -- or sooner. It is up for backorder now.

  • Derivative

  • I can't begin to say how grateful and thrilled I am. It took me a long time to get this thing published. Some of the poems go back to my undergraduate degree! I'm not 37 years old! I was sure that I would have my first book out by 30. I was off by seven years. I have always had a difficult relationship with poetry. I have wanted to be a writer since I was a small child. I have written all along, but I have never fully devoted/immersed myself in poetry. As a person with a disability, I have always felt the need to prove myself in the world. My life has been a system of pulling away and pulling toward poetry. What I mean is that I always took on second MAJOR endeovors that became primary: being an inner-city school teacher, being an editor, being in a bad, obsessive relationship, starting a magazine. For the first time, I can be a poet. Just this. I hope it lasts......

    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    My book is now up at the UNM website!

  • Derivative of the Moving Image
  • Untitled

    We have to write poems.
    We have to wash up the dishes
    and we have no clean clothes.

    The children need to be taught.
    They need to be picked up after school,
    given healthy snacks, and have
    their TV time monitored.

    The churches need to fill
    with prayer, with that
    particular silence,
    and then empty again.

    And yet, how can we?

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007


    Horrible beyond belief. Thirty-three 18-24 years old lost senselessly yesterday at a college in Virginia....How many 18-24 year old soldiers have we lost. Do their mommies and dads and friends feel less pain?

    Monday, April 16, 2007


    Torrential rain in Greenpoint. I have been working around the clock to prepare for the birth of my book in October. Let me tell you...having Jeff was easier.

    Through ingenuity, we found Peter Bear his twin matress. Now, Peter and Christopher can go ahead and plan the opera. Art is saved. Life is good.

    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    Catechism, a translation*

    Did you refuse to eat food untouched by fire?
    Did you waste what was offered to you?
    Have you eaten or considered eating the wings of birds,
    or bones, or twigs, or forms of ivy?
    When you prayed, in what way did you do this?
    Did you use the right words?
    Have angels appeared to you in unseemingly places?
    At this time what herbs were offered to you?
    Were words the thing that meant the most to you?
    What other symbolism enchanted you?
    Have you believed in the significance of certain birds
    or other omens relating to the body?
    Do you consider tattoos to be an art form or merely a chaos of the skin?
    When your wife were to give birth did you consider your participation in this event a sin?
    Do you believe there is an organic reason for your wife’s suffering?
    Has your husband considered women or men other than you?
    Have you bathed or fasted with the intention of his return?
    Have you harbored desire?
    Did you kiss someone?
    Becoming pregnant did you use herb, hand, or other sharp object against the intended?
    Are you someone who cures the sick?
    Have you taken advantage?
    Have you used nontraditional methods to cure the sick?
    Have you laid hands on them?
    Have you lured married women from their beds? Did they follow?
    Have you had intercourse with a man as a man?
    Have you taken belching to be a form of suicide?
    Did you dance, sing, or pray in order to alter weather?
    Is a bird on the snow a sign that someone is speaking your name?

    *Catechism is a translation of the professors and students at the College of William and Mary’s translation from the Spanish of Francisco Pareja’s 1613 Confessionario: A Documentary Source for Timucuan Ethnography.

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    from A Field Guide to Domesticity

    Today, the children are hysterical.
    What I mean to say is that
    the children are in hysterics.
    I don’t mean to quantify the children
    or the children's behavior --
    just objectively describe it.

    The bus (too) toddles aimless around Queens.

    Perhaps it is because she uses the wheelchair
    that he cannot decipher her body language.
    He calls to her, Miss, Miss,
    and when she turns from him,
    Hey you! Wheelchair!
    She obviously doesn’t want this
    particular bus.

    The children watch the mother’s face change.
    The mother moves in strange directions.
    Her body is never silent,
    she is angular and confusing,
    but the children know that look too well,
    and they breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not
    pointed right at them.

    She’s about to blow.

    Her desperation to make the world right.

    And Now For Some Poems....

    Cranky Part 2

    I'm also upset about goings on at my son's school. Many parents are leaving his school because it didn't meet up to their expectations. I'm heartbroken in fact. I am believing less and less that the NY school system will EVER work. I think all sides work to racially and economically segregate schools. I have to say, some parents have been really involved and worked hard. Others have put countless hours into "school shopping" and going to 3 or 4 tours of the same schools instead of putting any effort into helping the school their child attends.

    What will be my family's punishment for putting my own hippy ideals above giving my child the so-called best education? Will we stick with this school, which like all others has it's wonders and flaws? Will he go Catholic? Will we end up at the local school which is run by Nurse Ratchet and has no recess or sports, but high accademics? Today, I hate New York.


    I'm cranky today. I'm really pissed about the Don Imus thing. I've been watching too much TV. So, this man insulted some women (which happens every five minutes). Is it horrible? Of course. Am I glad his ass got fired? Thrilled! BUT, as usual, the media is turning our heads away from real issues. Does anyone remember there's a war? Does anyone remember it's getting worse and worse and our 18-20 year old boys are dropping like flies? How about Wolfowitz? Isn't the loss of his job a little more newsworthy than a shock jock? Sure, it's all a metaphor - but in the word of the great Woody Allen, bricks work better with Nazis than biting satire.

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    for eric

    I study your back.

    My hand hovers above
    you/as examine
    the plaid yellow and pink shorts.

    Boys get really fancy in PS.

    Perhaps you can teach me
    the importance of beauty
    a lingering surface
    the irrelevant fact of whether
    it is real or fabricated.

    Dear One, please live long enough
    to wear all those underwear.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    The Punishment Begins

    You are weary. You
    do not want to be drawn into
    this narrative of light
    and yet, you lean into the body of the story,
    his tendency to scrape the bottom
    in order to find humanity’s real voice.
    The world is merely what we are used to.

    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    from A Field Guide to the Body

    for tara

    What you don't know is that
    this body can collapse at any moment.
    We are unable to predict this fragility,
    the moment when the body
    will have to reorganize itself.

    In the museum you were so kind
    when my knee gave out.
    You wheeled me around
    while I chased the boy in and out
    of the fake earth exihibits
    with my voice.
    Believe me, I may look weak
    but I have my own system
    of running around.

    From this vantage
    the world is more legible.
    My akewardness is no longer
    a show destracting from the glorious
    minerals, the long dead animals,
    the dinosaur bones.
    Rather, I am completely ignored.
    The only noise I make is
    the bulkiness of this machine,
    you running me into ankles.

    In the chair, I am no longer a threat to society.

    Saturday, April 07, 2007

    Poem for people who hate people who write poems about their kids

    I thought I'd have a girl.

    I thought I'd never let my kid watch TV.

    I thought I'd never let my kid watch anything remotely violent.

    I assumed I'd bathe my kid everyday.

    I thought I'd make him brush his teeth.

    I thought I would only by him gifts on Christmas and his birthday.

    i thought I'd never give him Coca-cola.

    I never thought I'd serve cocktails at his first, second, third, and fourth birthday parites.

    I never thought he beg me to go to the bar at age 4.

    I thought he would be gay.

    I thought he might be a priest.

    I never thought he'd be right-brained.

    I never thought the vegetarian thing would take.

    I never thought he'd get a Game Boy, which he did, in my deparation to silence him for five minutes. It worked, for two.
    Some things are blurry,
    others mark themselves with specifics.

    He reaches his hand into my sleep,
    he insists on pulling me from dreaming.

    When is the anxiety going to end?

    My body leans toward the beach, my body leans toward the ocean, I don't
    need to go toward the water, just sit near it, just move toward the sound.

    My dreams are a list of the ocean.
    The trying to sort the thing out.

    Friday, April 06, 2007


    I don't know if anyone reads these things! Is anyone out there? Anyway, the poem a day thing has been very difficult. I am forcing myself to post icky, unfinished stuff. Some is okay, some is crap. Usually, I don't put anything out there until I've put it through the wringer and hung it out to dry. i.e.
    A Broadside of Letters For Jeff




    Frank O’Hara

    goodness hell
    I (wanted to)

    Jeff&Jim & (the) Kat

    (so(we took the) L (track)


    (Jeff) squirmed, seat, said,

    “train – uptown
    wow y


    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    There is a house.
    There is not a house.

    Sometimes you are in the house.
    Often you are not.

    There are corners and
    the corners are lit.

    Sometimes the corners are gritty.
    Below are Parts 1,2, and 3 from the "pool" section of A Natural History of California. This is the final section of my book-in-progress. The Didion is part of the poem.

    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    from A Natural History to California


    So Dad decided that we should have a swimming pool. It was particially because it was a cool thing to do, but it was also because they were cheap. He found out that he could buy a Doughboy for something like $80 at Sears. First, he would built a deck, so we would have a deck and Emma would paint the deck. She planned to paint the deck red, but not “real” red, more like brown-red. And this was an unusual occurrence because Emma rarely left the television. This, needless to say, was before Emma died.

    Tuesday, April 03, 2007


    “When it became generally known a year or so ago that California was suffering severe drought, many people in water-rich parts of the country seemed obscurely gratified, and made frequent reference to Californians having to brick up their swimming pools. In fact a swimming pool requires, once it has been filled, and the filter has begun the process of cleaning and recirculating the water, virtually no water, but the symbolic content of swimming pools has always been interesting; a pool is misapprehended as a trapping of affluence, real or pretended, and of a kind of hedonistic attention to the body. Actually a pool is, for many of us in the West, a symbol, not of affluence but of order, of control over the uncontrollable. A pool is water, made available and useful, and is, infinitely soothing to the western eye.”

    --Holy Water, Joan Didion

    Monday, April 02, 2007


    It was very important to my dad to be able to calculate energy he would put into setting up the pool plus the cost and energy on maintaining the pool in relation to what would be the ultimate use of the pool – that which would have to rely solely on my sisters, my stepmother, and I, as my father had no actual interest in swimming. My father called me every day with a litany of questions: How many months a year could we use the pool? Could we extend my sisters’ summer visit for two weeks? How often would I drive out to the pool? Was I sure that I wanted the pool? So on and so forth.

    Much like Joan Didion, [see previous] my father liked the idea of having a pool, rather than the actual pool. The pool as a conceptual idea. The scandal of having a pool in the desert. Though, at this time, we did not live in California.