Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thinking about poetry reviews

My father once told me not to read reviews. He says that they will say positive things for all the wrong reasons and negative things for all the wrong reasons. I have been thinking of this lately. I used to review poetry books and loved it, but had to quit because life got in the way. I worked for Jewish Book World, Harvard Review, St. Marks and a few others.

I have very particular ideas on how to interact with poems. I believe that a reader should let a poem unfold to him or her. I think a reviewer/teacher should figure out what the poem/poet is trying to do. I think the reader should set aside their own prejudices and expectations. One will not read a Michael Palmer or a Jill Essbaum or a Mary Oliver poem in the same way. All have their failings and successes -- note, I haven't seen a poet who only writes good poems, although Palmer and Rilke probably come close. When reviews/teachers have rigid expectations -- say, I only like trendy post-language poetry or the poem MUST have a narrative -- the review is going to be, ultimately, unfair and not as complex. I wish poets were more flexible. Why can't we cross all the fake barriors we have set up. The barriors actually have nothing to do with poems themselves. They are reflections of snobbery, academia, and personalities. 

That's today's two cents.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 Roundup

Everyone has been writing lists of books from 2008. I've decided to jump in and make a list of some great books I read this year -- most of which were not published in 2008. Like my father likes to say -- I go in and out of them. I've read all of some of them and some of all of them.

Paul Auster: Timbuku, New York Trilogy, Leviathan, Music of Change.
Kate Chopin's The Awakening, Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum 

Poetry: Howl, Before the War (Duncan), Patterson (WCW), Your Ten Favorite Words (Reb Livingston), Most of Frank O'hara's collected poems, Midwinters Day (Mayer), Night Scenes (Jarnot), Book of Ocean (Larkin), Elegy (Bang), Modern Life (Harvey), The Introduction to My Vocabulary Did This to Me (Spicer), The House that Jack Built (Spicer) --note this was the most important book I read this year --What's Your Idea of a Good Time (Mayer and Berkson), parts of Utopia (Mayer), Transformations (Spahr), Horace (Tim Aikens), Black Dog Songs (Jarnot), Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers (Tarn).


Copious New York Times articles, far too many first-year English papers, enough Peter Singer discourse to make me vomit, Harriet McBryde Johnson's autobiography, many feminist books (in an attempt to find disabled women-- which I didn't), Of Woman Born (Rich), Women Poets on Mentorship (Greenberg and Zucker), the Children's Bible, The I Ching.

The best things that happened to me this year: visiting Yahauts, Oregon with my family, spending time with my mother and sister in California, my one day trip to visit Rachel in San Francisco, getting poems into New American Writing, my literature class last semester, watching 'Milk,' 'Short Bus,' and 'Man on a Wire,' reading with my father in Los Alamos, being in Lisa Jarnot's poetry class, my friend returning from Africa, seeing Equis, coffee with Andrea, spending a weekend in the Poconos (that was a big one), spending most of the summer with my in-laws in Oregon, the Jess show at Reed College, driving in Portland with MaryRose Larkin and her father, swimming lessons, my birthday at Temple Bar, the PRESS conference in Olympia, and listening to Rufus Wainwright. 

The hardest things (since I am a fatalist) were my son's behavior problems, fighting with my mother over gay marriage, making a recommitment to Catholicism (not sad, happy, just complacated), my grandfather Beyer's death, my neighbor's dog's death, not receiving the NEA, not even getting an interview for a poetry job at my own school, driving from Oregon to California with only me driving and the boys bitching all the way, anxiety, not being able to grow anything in my garden, and spending six weeks away from my husband.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Stotts 'review' of 'In Company'

A rebuttal to Stotts review of 'In Company: New Mexican Poets After 1960' appears at galatea resurrects. Before you start singing nepotism, hear me out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Politically Correct Clothing

I'm not politically correct. But, finally, my wardrobe is!  I've finally - more or less -- accomplished the near to impossible task of avoiding sweatshop labor. My latest three pieces of clothing are: a dress from Pip Squeak Chapeau ($200), a skirt from good-will ($2.99) and a knit hat from the local yarn store ($39.00). How, you might ask, can a girl spend so much on clothes? It's a sin! Well, is it? The $200 dress was designed and made it Brooklyn. I know the design, her kid went to Jeff's school. I also happen to know that she just had a baby, so that cash is going directly to a good cause. Thrift store skirt: It's from 'Mexx' probably made in China. But, with thrift store stuff, I think you get a waver. The money goes to charity and the clothing is not being 'wasted.' For $2.99, you can't beat it with a stick! Even if it makes you look a little fat. My glorious hat: hand knitted by a woman in Greenpoint. The thing doesn't even have a TAG in it! Now, if I could only find shoes!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

MOMA Pipilotti Rist: Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters

Yesterday, we went to MOMA to see Rist's Pour Your Body Out exhibition at the MOMA. Watch out, grumpy patrons. This exhibit is extremely so-called 'kid friendly.' Downstairs, we place bets on how many more old ladies Jeffrey would piss off before we reached the door. It was only twenty feet and my odds were that J could make it. But, alas, Jim won this one! Jeff pause before the revolving door and a lady gave him a tsk and look of utter impatience. Jim wins!

On the way home, Jim told a joke we didn't quite connect with an Jeff said in a very earnest voice, 'Maybe someone else will think it's funny.'

Monday, December 08, 2008


Today, Jeffrey discovered Duncan and Jess. When he came home from school, we made collages.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Now a word from our sponsor about Lisa Jarnot

A few days ago, I was thrilled to see that Lisa Jarnot put a mini-review of Derivative up on the Lisa blog, I have been friends with Lisa for about two years. During this time, she has been a relentless help and poetic navigator for me through the world of poetry. Lisa and I have different views on a couple things, but not many. She is a protester against the death penalty, an political idealist, an environmental activist, and a gay rights supporter. Lisa is the kind of person who is always looking to make the world better. She makes soap, she plants trees and prunes them, she knits hats to symbolize fallen soldiers, she tries not to waste food or electricity and, of course, she writes fabulous poems. Things we should all be doing.

In the world of poetry Lisa is not afraid to question academia. She seems intolerant of an concept of 'scenes' or 'cool' notions of poetry. She truly cares about poetry, not as a way for a job, money, or popularity, but as a crucial being in its own right. Poetry for the sake of poetry. Nothing else. It seems that this is a hard quality to find in some folks today, and many of us are too worried about getting in the 'right' magazine, getting the 'right' award, and having the 'right' people accept us. I, myself, divide the poetry 'world' into a number of facets: Ecco Press, academic, Iowa, Naropa, Fence, West Coast, East Coast, Middle Coast, and so on. I've felt accepted in some ways by all of them and rejected in some ways by all of them. I worry that many of us have, but aren't willing to go vocal on it, or run off and start our own scene. 

I think my tendency to fall through the cracks maybe for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is because I'm handicapped, but not handicapped enough to provide an interesting story. Perhaps it's because I'm too aggressive or too obnoxious or am conflicted about homeschooling and feminism. Perhaps it's because my work is too lyrical and too oblique and not oblique enough. I probably went to the wrong schools. Perhaps it's because of my father somehow. Perhaps, as Rebecca Wolff of Fence proclaimed, my work is just 'bad.'  

Lisa's support has helped me make it through this crazy life.

Friday, December 05, 2008

If you are looking for my father, he has no online presence. He is hiding in the mountain in a cave in Las Cruces with a spledid woman and three splendid cats. He writes poems, makes art, watches a Indian's dog on Mondays. That's about all the information I am at liberty to provide.

I'm happy to pass on messages, but only if you are willing to stop and say hello to me! Preuse awhile, read a poem, buy a book! After all, the great man's talents have been passed down!
The intranet is giving me a headache. I have joined Facebook, goodness knows why...I guess it's a last ditch effort at joining the poetry community. Thomas also convinced me to do it. Now, I have a very public face of silliness. I don't watch TV, so I guess I have an excuse. However, meanwhile, Spicer, Grass, and papers sit unread next to the bed.

I have been swamped with work and getting ready for a long rest. Today, school was a nightmare. Some nitwit called in a 'bomb threat' to our building and it disrupted everything. This is also not the first time I haven't felt safe on campus. How ironic, I'm standing in rural Jersey thinking ...I don't feel safe, I want to go back to Brooklyn!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

I met Bernadette Mayer yesterday. This changed my life...more on this later.

In the meanwhile, things my family has said of late:

Jen: I hate Thanksgiving. I don't like a holiday based on killing a bird. Don't I tell you that every year?
Jim: You tell me that every five minutes!

Jen to Jeff: Sit up, this is the subway, not Air France.

Mom: I know my grandson...he probably tricked the teacher.

Nancy: Wow! I haven't had a drink in Manhattan in five years (a mother from Brooklyn). 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Today, I taught my United Cerebral Palsy students the Haiku. I wrote a few myself on the way to work. (Note: Ours do not follow the 5-7-5 pattern).

These crippled bones
on the subway
won't someone give me a seat?

Give me candy 
to sweeten 
my bitter son.

Birds drift in light
cathedral windows.

Dear Library,
I lost the books.
Go ahead, charge me.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Unlike those around me, I can't conjure up much excitement for Obama's election. I am more excited that we did not elect McCain, a man who, in my eyes has proven to be unethical in every aspect of his existence. It is undebatable that having an African-American President is one of the best things that has ever happened to this country. But, I don't have much faith that Obama will directly affect me or those around me. I am not trying to be negative. I guess I am attempting to say that when I hear the word 'change' this means to me something that goes beyond barely comprehensible laws in the neitherworld. It has to be palpable. 

I know City Government is vastly different than National, yet when I look around New York City I can see all of the good, bad, and neutral things Bloomberg has done. Merely by leaving my house, I am affected by my city's decisions: to make bike lanes, to ban smoking, to improve parks, to lower or raise taxes, to lower or raise the pay of city workers, so on and so forth.

I'm not the most savvy political person. Jim says the president can't just 'do stuff.' You have the Congress and all that, but a person who runs on 'change' surely must have some kind of plan.

Here's a few changes I would like to see.

Dear Obama,

Be Brave.
Negotiate with Iran. Be tough on Israel. Don't start anymore wars. Get us out of the one we are in.
Get rid of the barbaric death penalty.
Appoint a Supreme Court that will respect the ADA.
Start affirmative action for people with disabilities.
Make the entire country substanible.
Provide health care for all children under the age of 18 despite their parents income
Triple the NEA awards.

And, my goodness, PLEASE do not make another narrative poet Poet Lauerete: I have some recommendations; Brenda Hillman, Nathaniel Tarn, Charles Bernstein, Bernadette Mayer, or Barrett Watten.
That should get you started!

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I was turned down for the NEA. I was really disappointed at first. I've recovered.

Poetry Class for PWD

Last class, John returned. I have really started to connect with some of the assistants. I think that some people are doing their best. We still have a lack of scribes and this makes class slow and laborious, but also intimate and intense. I feel like my students are being challenged and respected in new ways - we all are really. For example, last class we spent most of the class discussing the election. All of my students, except for one, were registered to vote and planned too. They were all fans of Obama (and are a largely, but not exclusively African-American group). I wasn't sure whether they would be voting or not. I suspected they would, but wasn't sure.  

Monday, November 03, 2008

Things said by my family in the past two weeks

Jeff, we need to go vote tomorrow.
Mom, I'm voting for Obama. Who are you voting for?
Cheese doesn't go bad; you just have to cut off the mold. (Jim)
I'm glad I didn't get into New American Writing AND Conjunctions. I'd pass out. (Jen to Dad).
Shut the door. (Jim)
Why are you two going to have SEX? (Jeff).
Why can't people just be for stuff, not against stuff. (JH on Proposition 8)
Jeffrey and Lucy sitting in a tree kissing, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. Hey, that's not all, the baby is drinking alcohol. (Jeff as per learned at 'school).
We're not Nazi parents. Just show up on time and don't let him burn the house down. (Jen to babysitter)
If you are channeling Robert Duncan, you better tell him to speak a little louder. (Dad)

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Saturday, November 01, 2008

As promised, S.'s note from class. It says:

I can't talk did you get my email about the last class I sent you the 1 1/2 pages...(Later) I come in and the first thing I here is dropping acid?

Dear S,

Wit won't get you an 'A,' but it will get you extra credit!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Today, my student's confessed that they 'googled' me. Evidently, they figured out that I have the same name as a painter and a woman running for office in small town New Jersey. In my third class, S. came running in late, and wrote on a piece of paper, am sick, can't speak. And M. said, "That guy is wierd.' S. gave me permission to post the letter -- forthcoming.

Last night was the child's sixth birthday. Nancy says, 'Six is the new two.' I'm still attempting to process that comment.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I have been dipping into my Statcounter to see the so-called 'key word' activity. It seems Paul Guest is more popular on my blog than I am...uggg. Other key words are: Lee Bartlett, Saint Elizabeth Street, Kate Malone ceramic seahorses, Diane Arbus, sucessful meeting poem, and, my favorite, crippled bitch disabled. That last guy looks like he has low blood sugar and needs to study redundancy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It has been a month since I have begun teaching poetry at United Cerebral Palsy. The position has been, at turns, wonderful and difficult, but absolutely not what I expected.

My students have numerous limitations. Most use wheelchairs. Some have only partial hearing or vision. Many need assistance to write. Some have mental challenges. The latter are the most difficult for me to work with, solely because I am not used to them. Being around people with disabilities does take some getting used to. But, soon, the silly thing people say about me ... 'we forget you're disabled' actually becomes true. Very quickly, what rises to the top is whether you like a certain person (or don't) and whether you are truly understanding what they are about. My students can be difficult to understand because of speech barriers, but certainly no more than a so-called able-bodied person, just in a different manner.

Here's what does surprise me, for reasons that are unclear the staff and clients don't seem to have any experience with a person with CP in a so-called position of power. Believe me, I'm just teaching a poetry workshop and I use that term lightly. But, it's interesting to me that when I walk in the building both clients and staff confuse me with a client. There seems to be a real segregation between able-bodied (i.e. helpers) and disabled (i.e. helped) people. Other than one janitor, I have yet to actually meet anyone with a disability who works there. This is not to disparage UCP at all. I am just, well, pretty surprised. I thought in such an atmosphere, the lines between able-bodied and disabled would be more blurry.

Tomorrow, more on language poetry, channeling Robert Duncan, and the I Ching.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Last night, I sent out poems to Sam Lohman's Peaches and Bats and Joanna Furhman's Boog Reader. I can't say enough good stuff about these fine poets. I also (to be a harpy) can't say enough about the importance of the East Coast recognizing the West Coast. Robert Grenier's lecture on Larry Eigner at the Poetry Project tomorrow night might be a good place to start. I am going to make my best efforts to go...but it's also opening day of ice skating in Bryant Park & two trips to Manhattan just ain't happening for me. 

Today, Jeffrey said, "Don't fight with my father. But, if you do, be sure you win." What a little Bartlett!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This -n- that

I've had poems accepted to New American Writing. 

The same week, I received a handwritten rejection letter from the Senior Editor of Conjunctions.

Jeffrey told his teacher he wants to be God for Halloween. Wherever are we going to get the costume?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Election

This seems as good a time as any to begin blogging again, as short lived as it may be. 

The actions of late with people and groups of disability have begun to worry me. Today, the NFB came out with a statement against the new film 'Blindness.' We all remember the protests as well against 'Tropic Thunder.' I believe that, as the election approaches, groups are targeting the wrong people. I believe we should be using all of our limited time and energy to assure a better quality of life. Some questions I'd like to consider are:

Why do people with disabilities still have a 75% unemployment rate?
Why is McCain's treatment of his first wife not a larger issue in the media?
Why has there not been a protest of PWD of any major proportion since the early 1990's?
Why aren't PWD more vocal about the fact that Bush Sr. attempted to surpress the new ADA Law?
Why does receiving SSI still put PWD way below the poverty level?
Why do programs like SSDI encourage people not to work?
Why aren't PWD (a major voting bloc) tirelessly working toward electing the best candidate?

On Sept. 30 Riley Ramsey did a complete list of the laws that both candidates want to promote for PWD (his blog is licking Calcutta). 

Saturday, August 09, 2008

This -n- that

I resurface from vacation. Here are a few things that have turned up this summer:

There was a great review of Derivative by Patrick James Dunagan atgalatea resurrects and by Lisa Jarnot of the Lisa Blog at Lisa Jarnot. Today, we headed over to the famous University of Davis duck pond and a tasty lunch at Murder Burger. On the way to Calfornia we stopped for two blissful days at the Oregon Coast. We went to do research on William Everson in Waldport where he resided at the CCC Camp --also known as the 'Conchies' and hardly affectionately.

In disability news, I'm off the the Conference on Cognitive Disability and Moral Philosophy and following the debate about the word retard in the movie Tropic Thunder.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Harriet McBryde Johnson

Harriet Johnson, 50, Activist for Disabled, Is Dead

John R. Polito, 2007

Harriet McBryde Johnson
No cause has been determined, her sister, Beth Johnson, said, while pointing out that her sister had been born with a degenerative neuromuscular disease. “She never wanted to know exactly what the diagnosis was,” Beth Johnson said.

The condition did not stop Harriet Johnson from earning a law degree, representing the disabled in court, lobbying legislators and writing books and articles that argued, as she did in The New York Times Magazine in February 2003, “The presence or absence of a disability doesn’t predict quality of life.”

Using a battery-powered wheelchair in which she loved to “zoom around” the streets of Charleston, Ms. Johnson playfully referred to herself as “a bedpan crip” and “a jumble of bones in a floppy bag of skin.”

Rolling into an auditorium at the College of Charleston on April 22, 2001, Ms. Johnson went to the microphone during a question-and-answer session to confront Peter Singer, a philosopher from Princeton, who was giving a lecture titled “Rethinking Life and Death.”

Professor Singer had drawn protests by insisting that suffering should be relieved without regard to species. That, he said, allows parents and doctors to kill newborns with drastic disabilities, like the absence of higher brain function or an incompletely formed spine, instead of letting “nature take its course.”

In Professor Singer’s view, infants, like other animals, are neither rational nor self-conscious.

“Since their species is not relevant to their moral status,” he said, “the principles that govern the wrongness of killing nonhuman animals who are sentient but not rational or self-conscious must apply here, too.”

Ms. Johnson had been sent to the lecture by Not Dead Yet, a national disability-rights organization. Describing the event in The Times, she wrote: “To Singer, it’s pretty simple: disability makes a person ‘worse off.’ Are we ‘worse off’? I don’t think so.”

She added: “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.”

An e-mail exchange followed that encounter in Charleston, leading to an invitation to debate Professor Singer at Princeton on March 25, 2002. Their two encounters were the subject of the 8,000-word Times article, which brought Ms. Johnson considerable attention in the disability rights movement and from the general public.

“Her impact came mostly from her writing,” said Laura Hershey, a disability rights activist with several organizations, including Not Dead Yet. “Millions of people by now have read that article, and it was reprinted in her book. Dozens of people who read the article told me, ‘Wow, I never thought about it that way.’ ”

Ms. Johnson’s memoir, “Too Late to Die Young,” was published in 2005. Her novel, “Accidents of Nature,” about a girl with cerebral palsy who had never known another disabled person until she went to camp, was published in 2006.

Born in Laurinburg, N.C., on July 8, 1957, Ms. Johnson was one of five children of David and Ada Johnson. Her parents taught foreign languages at colleges. Besides her parents and her sister, Ms. Johnson is survived by three brothers, Eric, McBryde and Ross.

The fact that her parents could afford hired help was a salient point in another Times Magazine article Ms. Johnson wrote in November 2003, “The Disability Gulag.” Describing institutions where “wheelchair people are lined up, obviously stuck where they’re placed” while “a TV blares, watched by no one,” she called for a major shift from institutionalizing people to publicly financing home care provided by family, friends or neighbors.

“I sometimes dare to dream that the gulag will be gone in a generation or two,” she wrote. “But meanwhile, the lost languish in the gulag.”

Early on, Ms. Johnson was a troublemaker. At 14, at a school for the disabled, her sister said, “Harriet tried to get an abusive teacher fired; the start of her hell raising.” In her memoir, Ms. Johnson describes how, after watching a Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethon while in her teens, she turned against “the charity mentality” and “pity-based tactics.”

Ms. Johnson graduated from Charleston Southern University in 1978, then earned a master’s degree in public administration from the College of Charleston. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1985 and soon went into private practice.

Humor laced her writing. The “crippled children’s school” she attended as a teenager, she wrote in a Times Op-Ed article in December 2006, once considered staging a play based on Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” But who would be Tiny Tim?

Ms. Johnson quoted directly from the Dickens book: “Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!”

“Alas!” Ms. Johnson exclaimed. “A little crutch! An iron frame! In our world, the crutch-and-brace kids were the athletic elite. They picked up the stuff we hard-core crips dropped.”

Some thoughts-- the NYT is still clinging to that expression -- 'the disabled.' When are they going to get it?
Also, why are three paragraphs in her obit about Peter Singer? Huh?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


What were you doing five years ago?

-dealing with postpartum depression
-teaching in a very difficult school
-preparing to go to Oregon (same as now!)
-finishing my masters in teaching
-writing longer poems

What are five things (in no particular order) on your to-do list for today?

-meet Reb and Gideon Livingston for lunch
-apologize to my husband
-read Paul Auster

What are five snacks you enjoy?


What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?
-buy houses in Oregon and New Mexico
-hire a housekeeper
-give my husband money so he could write full time
-buy all Agnes B. clothes

What are five of your bad habits?

-getting in fights with poets on the internet
-being too didactic
-playing devil's advocate
-getting angry
-avoiding writing poems

What are five places you have lived?

Davis, Ca
Atwater, Ca
Great Falls Montana

What are five jobs you have had?

-half-time professor
-inner-city high school teacher
-museum shop customer service

Which five people do you want to tag?

-Reb and Gideon Livingston
-Ron Silliman
- Jim Stewart
-Paul Guest
-Danielle Punfunda (I hope I spelled it right!)

Friday, May 30, 2008


I am just back from the PRESS conference in Olympia. I am new to 'conferences' but I am beginning to realize their importance. Being around people thinking about poetry, ideas, politics and such is so crucial. I think many poets are or do look for connections on the internet -- myself definitely included. It is refreshing to meet people face to face. One idea that I'm contemplating via the conference is the idea of cross-genre work as a way to protest the system. This would never have occurred to me. My friend Nick came up with a brilliant idea, life does work like a short story -- with rising action, climax, and such -- so why do we write as such?

Thursday, May 29, 2008


This Condensery: Poets On Mentorship

curated by Jennifer Bartlett

Featuring interviews with:

Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker
Joanna Fuhrman and Susanna Fry
Shin Yu Pai and Renee Rossi
Jennifer Firestone and Eileen Myles

Essays and poems by:

Jen Benka
Susanna Fry & Joanna Fuhrman
Renée Rossi
Shin Yu Pai

And excerpts from Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts & Affections by Rachel Zucker and Arielle Greenberg (University of Iowa Press, 2008)

Elizabeth Treadwell
Katy Lederer
Kristin Prevallet

Friday, May 23, 2008

Off to the PRESS conference in Olympia!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Poetry and community

I've been reading Jack Spicer's lectures. I am struggling to understand the difference between community (positive) and society (negative). He writes, "I think every poet has to create actively his (her) own community." Later, 'well, community is a good word. If you make your own community, which you can't...but if you could, that would be ideal."

I am also thinking about whether and how one can create poetry community. And, if not, can a poet thrive in isolation?

Monday, May 19, 2008


I rode my bike seven miles on Saturday.

My husband, the hero

As my husband trudged off to yet another job interview today, he broke my heart. I can't help but, in my own tiny way, try to expose the condition of the NYC Department of Education. As my husband left, he expressed dismay in missing teaching today because his students have the regents coming up and they need him. Who makes it impossible for my husband's students to have their caring teacher? Why, the school's principal, of course. This administration basically pushed my husband out of this job because my husband 'can't control the class.' Well, no wonder. There is no support and the principal can't 'control' the kids either. So, this administrator, is giving up a teacher who is brilliant, caring, and would rather go to work half-dead than miss a day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Anxiety, Disability and Paul Auster

I'm obsessed with Paul Auster's books. This is part of a longer story. However, last night I was at a local new bar in the greater GNPT/WBG area with a friend. I left my Auster book...well...somewhere. So, I called the bar and said 'Hey, it's Jennifer. Did you find my book?' The person on the phone was not the owner {who knows me} but some girl who said, "Hey, you know that girl, like with MS, did she leave her book her." O.k. Miss brilliant. I don't have MS -- I have cP -- and I not a 'girl' I'm nearly forty and have a kid. I don't like being described as 'the handicapped girl' anymore than you like like being described as the brainless hipster.

Where is my book!?

Sunday, May 11, 2008


In a few weeks we will leave for our yearly summer in Oregon. I have to say, I've got one foot out my New York door. Moving from New York seems an impossible task, yet one that lingers. Partially, this desire to leave comes from my perceived inability to find a home in the New York Poetry world. I find I can't fit in, and I can't completely hide either. The west -- a kinder, gentler place -- might give the opportunity for one ... or the other.

Friday, May 09, 2008

I just saw a fabulous poetry reading: Robyn Art and Erica Ehrenberg. Two witty, wonderful poets.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Paul Guest/ John Ashbery

In a blurb for Paul Guest's new book, Ashbery calls the book 'invalid's rage.' My question, why would Ashbery say such a thing and why would Guest let him? Invalid (or in valid) in my book is one of the most offensive terms (short of retard) that a people with a physical disability can be called. It would be likened to putting a blurb on Ashbery's book calling him a crotchety old fag. And it is untrue. While I am conflicted about Guest's work, I hold him in the highest esteem as a person. Not only is he attractive, friendly, smart, and warm but he has also gone far, far beyond where most able-bodied ports will: books with Ecco, a good professor job, and so on. Guest is in no terms an invalid, So, I wonder what's going on. For starters, I think the politically correct police need to give ole John a good kick in the head. He's a poet, after all, doesn't he know the power of words? Perhaps I am stupid. Perhaps it is mean ironically. If so, will other get the joke?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections

Finally, Rachel Zucker and Arielle Greenberg's long awaited "Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections" is out. You can read an interview with Zucker and Greenberg in How2 shortly, along with a few 'samples.' Also included in my How2 piece (This Condensary) are interviews with Susanna Fry and Joanna Furhman, Eileen Myles and Jennifer Firestone, Shin Yu Pai and Renee Rossi and an essay on Rukeyer by Jen Benka.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Which Books could Poetry not Live Without?

I have been following Ron Silliman's writings about the Williams Carlos Williams award. Silliman says he wanted to pick a book that would "was a book that would change poetry itself, deeply & permanently." This led me to some thinking. What does this mean exactly and which books do I hold dear accomplish this?

First, one could argue that every poem (with a captured reader) changes poetry deeply. They may only change an audience of one (which in the poetry business is not uncommon) but a change occurs none-the-less.

This is what led me to differenciate between my 'personal' list and my 'global' list. Some poems I credit with 'altering my life' are (titles may be off, as I am writing from memory) Akhmatova's Monday Night, Michael Palmer's Dearest Reader, Mary Oliver's Wild Geese, Rachel Zucker and others poems on motherhood, Robert Hass' poems from "Human Wishes," parts of Patterson, Before the War, and Maximus poems, Howl AND Kaddish, From this Condensary by Lorine Niedecker, The Greenhouse Effect by Lee Bartlett (and his biography of Bill Everson), any number of Jorie Graham's poems, everything by Muriel Rukeyser, and the lines (close to them)
I don't know how the hip hop kids do it
but I love it.
By Fanny Howe.

This, of course, is a beginning list. However, have any of my little poets 'changed' the course of poetry history? If not, who has? Ironically, Sillman, as he knows!, is a good place to start with changing poetic history. He pretty much 'invented' the poetry blog and has been sucessful at being the best source, although I see Reginald Shepard inching in. Sillman also, of course, did "In the American Tree." Need I say more.

However, he can't be entirely credited in this 'changing.' There are, of course, all the poets in the anthology and my father who wrote the seminal 'What is Language Poetry?'

Onward, I'm not sure if Mary Oliver's poetry, as much as I love it, can "change poetry itself, deeply & permanently." But, she has done something miraculous in the culture. In 2008, Oliver has convinced over 500 people at any given time that they will go to a poetry reading and pay $25 to do so. Now, that's a miracle. Is she getting advice from Mick Jagger? Even Michael Palmer who, in my small opinion, is the best looking, smartest, nearly most talented poet alive, only got a hundred or so people at the New School.

I know many people might argue, but the only possible answer to the question did Ginsberg, Olson, and Duncan change poetry history is Well, Yes. I know this may not seem feminism enough, but the fact that they were men (and in Olson's case, an asshole) does not make their talent less. Rukeyser, Dickinson, and Stein all had their influence as well. One might even ask, would there be LP if there were no Stein? Would there be Graham or Oliver if there were Dickinson?

This brings us to the 'heavy social' hitters. The guys with Ecco Press and big jobs. Jorie Graham. I think she's a fucking genius -- also very good looking. But, where does she fit? What about Robert Pinsky? Stanley Kunitz? Billy Collins? They all write (or did in Kunitz's case) solid, good books. But, will they "change poetry itself, deeply & permanently." I'm not sure, and perhaps it's too soon to tell.

I think some one like Mei Mei Berssenbrugge might have a better chance.

Perhaps poetry is like The Bible. You get to have it good in this life or the next.
You get to work at Iowa or Harvard OR toil in obscurity.

What poets have changed your life -- globally or personally?

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Frida Show

Ron Silliman got me interested in seeing the Frida Kahlo show. Yesterday, a friend and I traveled to Philadelphia to see it. With a little luck and good timing, we managed not to wait in line and the audience was sparse. As Silliman said, the paintings were nothing less than spectacular. My exhaustion from the trip keeps me from writing much, but a few things did strike my interest.

I adore Kahlo, In my small, stupid opinion, she was one of the last century's most important painters. The fact that that list would, unfortunately, largely dedicated to men, is part of what makes Frida a great feminist. As Silliman notes, unlike Plath, Kahlo didn't kill herself. Instead, she made art. As a young-ish handicapped woman prone to constant mood swings, this realization was very poinent for me yesterday, particularly after falling into a morass because a woman turned to my friend (referring to me) and asked her "How does she make it up the stairs?" A more appropriate question might have been, "How does she make it through the world?"

But, I digress.

In this respect, and many others, Kahlo is a champion of feminism. More importantly, she is also a champion of crippled people, of pain, of the alternate body. People never say it, and she wouldn't herself, but she is a disability activist. A crippled woman who was powerful, sexy, and had a string of men on her arm.

That said, I do find Frida's relationship to Diego as making her 'feminsist status' problematic. She did pine after a guy, after all.

More Soon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Andy Sez

There are two kinds of people: my kind and assholes.

For April Writing Month

This means to say, I want to avoid the world.
Oregon wraps her body around mine.
A list of dailiness, the fragmentation,
the problem in a business of poetics
and one self-crippled young person.
Embarrassed to say, this morning,
I ran across a picture of Frank O'hara
in the New Yorker.
I kissed it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Feminist Art

Yesterday, after seeing the PS 1 feminist show, I went to panel discussion "Beyond the Waves: Feminist Artists Talk Across the Generations." The talk included the fine artists and critics Carolee Schneenmann, Mira Shor, Brynna Tucker, Susan Bee, and Emma Bee Bernstein. I was looking for answers, but like any good thinking, the talk led me to more questions.

First, I want to note, among the topics discussed -- and they made a point of recognizing them -- were racism, gender, ageism, feminism, sexism, transgender, and so on. As usual, disability was the glaring absence. We have entered a culture where artists will speak about transgender BEFORE disability. I think the problem is not maniacal. I think that people tend to focus what is on their radar. I think people with disabilities (and their problems) are still very oppressed in our society -- so that even the most sensitive thinkers aren't aware. I find this to be a problem.

The question I asked was what makes the WACK show a feminist show a feminist show? I felt like there is no answer -- even the artist who attempted to address the question weren't sure. That brings me to my further question -- what is feminism and am I one?

My understanding is that feminism is about treating women equal and supporting their decisions. If this is true, why is there so much devision and oppression BY women going on? Let's pick on the suicide girls for a minute. I have read that they believe they are dispelling myths about feminine beauty. Oh really? After a short cruise through their photos I am pressed to find a black woman, a disabled woman, a woman with small boobs, a woman who weighs over 105 and a woman without an enormous amount of makeup on. I'd like to see a naked overweight black lady with one arm. Of course, then, they'd label it 'fetish.'

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wack at PS !

Yesterday Julia and I went over the bridge to see WACK!: Art and the Feminist Revolution. The first wonderful thing was seeing Thomas who runs the bookstore. I didn't know he had that job -- cool. The second thing was that we were surprised by how wonderful the show was. There was a fair amount of work that was tedious, including the pieces that said 'Angry Marilyn', 'Angry Jennifer' and so on. Okay, you're angry -- we get it. Others bored me a bit. Some were so powerful that they were painful to look at -- particularly collages of neato sparkling houses with war scenes out the window. For me, some of the highlights were the 'stone' painting, the woodcuts, the Aunt Jaminina with a gun. And a few artists I already new about -- Aliice Neel, Eva Hesse, and Francesca Woodman. I must note that we only saw the first floor.

But, as much as I liked the show, I have a few questions. More notably, what makes all of these pieces 'feminist'? If I think and think, I might be able to attribute some feminist qualities to each piece perhaps, although that is not necessarily how I would think of them. I found myself wondering what made this or that work feminist. The work struck me as coming from many different points of view: anti-racist, sublime, figurative, abstract, feminist, and anti-war. Some were just, well, art works by women.

Julia pointed out that they probably used 'feminist' as a marketing scheme to draw in the crowd. This has worked. An unnamed source tell us that this has been one of the most successful shows ever. But, I am very uncomfortable with using the term 'feminist' to market stuff -- if this is the intension. Isn't this going against feminist ideals -- we are ultimately 'marketing women' because of their gender. Our household feminist, JIM, argues that men have had their shows for years, and women have been excluded and he's right.

Here's my very radical feminist idea...why call it a feminist show or a women's show? Why not slap the men in the face and just call it a show? Isn't that what men have been doing for centuries?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I am resurfacing from two weeks in New Mexico. The readings went amazingly well! They were kind of like a whose who in New Mexican poetry with Nathaniel Tarn, Gary Brower, Joy Harjo, Dianne Edwards, VB Price, Miriam Sagan, David Melzlener (sp?) who is an amazing Los Alamos poet, Janet Rodney, Lee Bartlett, Miriam Sagan, and others. VB's and Miriam's books by UNM Press are amazing. It was nice to pull myself into a new reality. I have tendency to get so tied up in the 'New York Scene.' It's important to be reminded that poets all over are doing real work. It's my poetry wish that one day the two 'coasts' (and the middle) of poetry will be able to acknowledge and respect each other.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


If you're anywhere near a B & N in the coming week, my dear husband Jim Stewart has the cover story in the new Apex.

Time for vacation, ya'll.

There is a Santa Claus

This week, the NYT has redeemed it's failings. They mentioned my girl Jill Alexander Essbaum in the book review -- yes!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The NYT and 'Language' Poetry

I wrote a letter to the NYT last Sunday night in response to James Longenbach's review of Salter's latest book. Since the Times refuses to run the letter, I've decided to recount it here.

Letter #1
Dear Editor,

In regard to James Longenbach's review of Salter's work, anyone who believes that the so-called Language Poets are merely 'part of the niggling history of taste rather than the grand history of art' hasn't been reading many poets of the last 25 years. Further, this 'movement' of poetics was not exactly 'named after' the magazine which, by the way, was called L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, not 'Language.' Since Longenbach can't even get the name of the magazine correct, perhaps it would be better to suspend his opinion.

Letter #2 : Response from the Times. I do not have permission to 'show' their letter and I'm paranoid, so I'll paraphrase.
A 'staff' editor from the Times responded to my letter saying that Longenbach could not be 'taxed' as it is the Times editorial policy not to 'reproduce stylistic quirks in titles.'

Letter #3

First, I am flattered at your response.

With all due respect, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E is not a 'stylistic quirk.' That is the NAME of the journal and partial to that 'groups' poetics. This oversight, along with Longenbach's obvious jab at this group either shows a gross naivete of American poetics or a very narrow view that no 'good' poetry is written beyond the walls of Iowa University.

Letter #4

There was no letter #4.

My question: Did Longenbach actually KNOW the name of the journal? Did he write it correctly and the editor's changed it? Was it a 'jab'? Or just an honest miseducation of 20th century literature? Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Great, Happy News!

The first printing of Derivative of the Moving Image is nearly sold out! -- Only fifty more copies in the warehouse. If you're into first printings -- jump on it! Here are some great vendors:

Word, Brooklyn NY
St. Marks Bookstore, New York City
Powells, Portland, OR
UNM Press
Bookworks, Albq, NM
UNM Bookstore, Albq, NM
The Grolier, Cambridge, MA
Bluestockings, NYC

Thank you so much! And happy reading.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Same Sex Education

In this weekend's New York Times magazine, there is an article on the emerging system of same-sex education in US public schools. Elizabeth Weil describes Leonard Sax as the leader of this movement, which has particularly taken off in the South.

Sax explores different biological concerns of the genders: girls hear better than boys, are more visually adept, and so on. The other side of the coin is that some people examine the social differences, rather than biological of the two genders.

Some people (for example the ACLU) are highly offended by these ideas, and I can see their point. Michael Younger of Cambridge University called Sax's proposal 'sexist rubbish' saying that Sax 'might have well said boys should go out and have jobs, girls should stay home and have babies."

Should you read the article, you might, as I did, find some of Sax's ideas questionable. However, I totally agree with same-sex education and this is hardly the first time it's occured to me. A life-altering book for me was Raising Cain about the differences of boys. I have attempted to get my son in an all-boy school (the ones in NY are too far and/or expensive). If his local PS went single-sex, I'd be thrilled.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I would guess that those against same-sex ed. either have girls or no children. If one has a girl, parents must consider equality and upholding feminist standards. If one doesn't have kids, well, their knowledge can only be limited.

I wish opponents would see it from my side. I have a hyper-active 5 year old boy who is required to go to school and behave and learn in ways that are TRADITIONALLY feminine and completely against his nature. He is expected to sit in his seat, raise his hand, not push, not play, not talk in the hall, and have good penmanship. Of course, these are too strict standards, which should be less if he went to progressive school, but not wholly....and what about the boys who -- for whatever reason CAN'T go to progressive school.

People will probably attack me for not being 'feminist' but I believe school behaviors and expectations are geared toward the feminine. This doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of kids who don't cross the line. My nephew, for example, does very well in school. By people should be able to be themselves, not on Ritilain.

Friday, February 29, 2008


That's all I have to say.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Arbus, For Example

I always thought that Robert Frank was my favorite photographer. The Americans was a seminal book in my own development as a poet. After I saw the Diane Arbus show last year at the Metropolitian Museum. I had seen many Arbus photos in books, but had never seen them in person. The show was, for me, kind of an "ah,ha" moment. This is when I realized that the language of photography is human pathos, and Arbus was a master at capturing it.

As a person with cerebral palsy and all the misunderstandings that go with that, I was particularly interested in Arbus's photographs of the mentally retarded women at a home for people with disabilities. These photos, needless to say, were very controversial. I observed the audience looking at the photographs (which were segregated to one room) and they were clearly uncomfortable. The most obvious argument against the photos is that Arbus was taking advantage of the women. But, clearly the women were enjoying themselves. I think a more immediate issue is that "normal people" have a difficult time looking at people with disablities. Many (most?) people are prejudice against PWD because we show a fraility that is best ignored. After all, many people are disabled twice in their lives -- at infancy and at old age. People want to believe the illusion that they are in control of their bodies ansd minds - particularly in America's image obsessed culture. Art that shows PWD provokes prejudice that people don't want to admit to having because it makes them uncomfortable. This is why a certain TOP museum in NYC refused to buy my friend Jim's piece with images my labored running -- too controversial.

Maybe Arbus was a creep and she meant to "exploit" the women. But, when you look at the photos, it is much easier to believe that the women are being celebrated in their own strange beauty.

The best Arbus photograph, though, was another that no one wanted to look at for different reasons -- because anyone but a poet would find it boring. It was an image of a drive-in theatre at night with clouds at night on the screen mirroring the clouds in the actual sky behind the screen. What brilliance. How can I explain it? You've got a fake image (the photo) recording another fake image (the movie screen) which mirrors the reality of the sky.

I have been looking quickly through my archives on some early stuff I wrote about visual art. I want to bring a few of these back: see below. It's interesting to look at how I and my perceptions have changed over just the past two years. More on this later.

I'm realizing that my main problem as a professor is that I don't want my students just to 'get through' poetry, I want them to LOVE it. I want them to want to send Valentines and roll around in the mud with poetry. As Jeff would say, 'boy are you stupid!'

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NYC Department of Education

To add trama to my five years of hell with the NYC DOE (plus one year of recovery) I got a letter from the good ole' DOE yesterday stating that I OWE THEM 3,000$ for days taken during my pregnancy. I don't want to do it, but I'm inching toward writing a memoir! Writing is the only way I know to release my story. But, ah how to get people to listen! I wish someone in power would wise up to the insanity that is going on in our lovely NYC school system.

Meanwhile, back at the factory, I have a bunch of college students who have never heard of Allen Ginsberg and didn't know Walt Whitman was gay (tho, at least they heard of him!). As Jeffrey would say, "Handicapped-girl to the rescue!"

A Victim of One's Own Passion, Part One

People tend to attribute a hierarchy to things. This just seems to be human nature. It seems logical, then, that people who are interested in the arts have their own preferences. I had a friend once who argued that poetry, film, and math were the highest art forms. As a poet, I won’t disagree with this assertion. I am nuts about text (poetry, fiction, and non). I also have a strange fixation on the NY Times – yes, that’s me dashing out naked in the snow to get my blue bag! But, I have also always been drawn to the visual arts. I love painting, film, and instillation art. However, above all, photography is the thing for me!

What is so special about photography? I love people. I love looking into their lives, seeing the bizarre quality of human nature, and comparing to my own. Whether set up or spontaneous, photography is always very real and immediate in a way that other arts aren’t. Of course, photographs can be skewed and manipulated by their taker, but I’m usually able to suspend my disbelief. Photographs show how beautiful and ugly and complex the world is. In short, they define pathos.

Last Saturday, I had my own pathos when my four-year-old son had a nervous breakdown in Union Square. The details are superfluous. Let me just say it turned in to hell on the streets of Manhattan. At one particularly low moment, I was sitting on the ledge outside COSI with my head (literally) in my hands. The boy lay on the sidewalk kicking and screaming. It was quite an image. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this. A young photographer (most likely a NYU student) stopped and snapped away. Gone is the anticipation of developing a roll of film, the darkroom, and a contact sheet. She had a digital, and she viewed the photos with pleasure as her and her boyfriend walked away. Now there’s an “A” in critique! I was left feeling curious, duped, hysterical, laughing, and, well, a victim of ALL my passions.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Poets and teaching

Today, I've been wondering about this: How do poets without books get jobs teaching creative writing? Awhile back, I thought that ONE had to have a book out to get a teaching job. It's turns out that I was mistaken.

I don't want to put too much stock in the all powerful book. To do so would mean that ED was not a poet! But, I do thinking there's something valid in the experience of birthing a book. It is torture and makes having a baby look like a cake walk (at least that was my experience!). Birthing a book (excuse the mama metaphor) is kind of like experiencing the death of a close person -- you (I) just don't know what it's like until it happens.

I expect poets without books are getting hired because they went to a 'good school.' But, this doesn't quite add up. Poetry is not law, going to a good school does not make one a poet -- writing poems does. Again, I'm not refering to the object of the book (although that's cool too) I'm refering to the PROCESS of making/publishing a book -- an experience that the professor can share with her students. Of course, if most students knew what being poet was REALLY like, they'd run for the hills.

Note to readers: I'd love to hear some comments! Do you think I'm right on -- or just taking too much crack?

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Working Disabled

However, what we see in the poetry movement -- and in the university -- is still only partially happening the what we like to call the 'real world.'

I was looking at job listings for my husband -- largely in private NY high schools. I noted something very interesting. Even schools -and certainly everyone else -- are still putting notes at the end of their hiring listings that they WANT minorities, that they don;'t exclude minorities. Ah, except for one! People with disabilities. Surely more women, African-Americans, and Asians have more jobs than PWD, so, in all fairness, shouldn't companies be hiring the least represented minority?

Read carefully. I'm going to tell you why it doesn't work that way.

Awhile ago smart people decided that there was no real reason to exclude women and race groups from the work force. They decided that this prejudice was unfounded and based on stupidity. Black people are not dumb. Women are not helpless. PLEASE do not think I am saying the system is perfect and all groups don't have trouble -- I'm not.

However, people believe that they can rationalize not including/hiring people with disabilities. These people are disabled, after all! Doesn't that mean they can't work? So, isn't the prejudice logical. Guess what, no! Now think of a list of jobs -- which of these jobs include a. walking b. walking straight c. hearing (remember one can use a computer) d. heavy lifting e. running track f. giving a speech to 1000 people g. seeing. If anything else, all disabled people could be movie ticket sellers. Those guys don't do shit! Seriously, 75% of jobs today involve some form of thought (usually VERY low-level thought) and a computer. So, why can't we hire PWD?

I hate to blame the victim, but PWD have to stand up too. The reason the other 'groups' have gotten so far is because they marched, died, and voted for their rights. I can tell you from experience, though, its hard to be rejected again and again. It's hard to be sitting across the desk from a person (say, Vicki Bernstein of the NYC teaching fellows or the lovely folks at Bronx Letters) and know that you are way smarter than this person and you know what they are thinking and there ain't nothing you can do 'bout it.

But, if my story isn't enough to convince you of the world's/NYC DOE's evils read this from today's New York Times: NOTE: Mr. W is a Hasidic Jewish man:

"Mr. Waronker, 39, a former public school teacher, was in the first graduating class of the New York City Leadership Academy, which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg created in 2003 to groom promising principal candidates. Considered one of the stars, he was among the last to get a job, as school officials deemed him “not a fit” in a city where the tensions between blacks and Hasidic Jews that erupted in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991 are not forgotten.

“They just said he may be terrific, but not the right person for that school,” Chancellor Klein said.

Some parents at J.H.S. 22, also called Jordan L. Mott, were suspicious, viewing Mr. Waronker as too much an outsider. In fact, one parent, Angie Vazquez, 37, acknowledged that her upbringing had led her to wonder: “Wow, we’re going to have a Jewish person, what’s going to happen? Are the kids going to have to pay for lunch?”


Young Poets and the Diversity Model

Despite my rants that the politically correct model of publication and hiring should -- and doesn't -- include 'the disabled,' I have never been a big supporter of this idea. I think poets should be published solely on the merits of their work -- something that almost NEVER happens in American publication. For proof, one has to merely look at the memoir phenomenon. Why is every Tom, Dick, and Harry who had a bad childhood or worked as a waitress at Per Se on NPR while poet X (insert name here) never is?

But, I'm getting off the topic. As I went through the list of poets in my mind to endorse for president (see left) I have (a little) expanded my reading to poets of different abilities, races, and religions. This is largely because I'm meeting some many young poets (under 40) and the PC movement is starting to have the trickle down effect to 'normalize' diversity in the poetry world. It is finally moving past the 'forced' stage.

The next post Might be contradictory.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New Manuscript

I'm been keeping a few secrets, which is HIGHLY unusual for me, I'm a big mouth. I have a second manuscript called (a) lullaby without any music. It's 90% done. I sent to to Apogee Press (on their request) and they rejected it. It was the nicest rejection letter I have ever gotten. Now, I'm thinking over the next step. The manuscript is really good. I like it better than my first one -- but doesn't that always happen? I just can't find a stopping point with it.

I have four books in mind after that: a book of letters, a book of hip-hop poetry (with Jim), a book of essays (based on the blog) and a third book of poetry. Boy, am I tired.

A Kinder, Gentler Jennifer

Thinking of my last post...I didn't mean to criticize academic poets. I should have used the word 'I' more. 'I' don't think tenure is the place for me. Ironically, I am a professor, but I use that term loosely. I teacher comp part time, and I am thrilled with my job for the most part.

I think I warn people from putting too much stock into their career (career versus vocation) because I did and I got burnt. I worked so hard at being an inner-city school teacher. I sacrificed my family, poetry, and mental and physical health. I wanted to help people. I wanted to be sucessful. I wanted people to look up to me. The whole thing was a bitter failure. The system didn't care, the administration didn't care, and only a few of the students cared. It chewed me up and spit me out. I spent a year staring at a wall, recovering. Don't get me wrong, I love my students now, and I bend over backwards to help them. But, in the words of the lovely Liz Phair, I'm gun-shy.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Do Poets Belong in Academia?

The AWP has made me revisit some things that have been lingering in my mind for awhile. As an emerging poet, I feel like I want to define my life and how I fit into this world of poetry.

I am still of the mind that, in general, poets do not belong in academia. However, poets have to eat, right? And it is good that academia has somehow created a space for them where they can make a decent salary and discuss the thing they love. To pursue this is a perfectly decent activity. However, I am getting at something different. Academia should not be a trap for poets. Poets -- and I hope most don't -- shouldn't write books or publish in order to gain tenure. It should be the opposite. They should use the freedom that the University offers to write more poems. They shouldn't write more poems to advance their career. For poets, the poetry always comes first. We are blessed to have the schools to create magazines and teach our work, but that only goes so far.

The university can be a trap. The university validates poets, particularly ones who do abstract work. Poets are humans and they need validation. Some might feel that if they are not in the university system, no one will pay attention to them. They are probably right. American society doesn't give a fuck about poetry. European, Indian, Pakistani, Iranian, and South American cultures do care about their poets -- enough to make them heros or execute them or put their children in jail. The USA just isn't like that. We are the land of Britney Spears and American Idol. Somehow, jazz, rap, and the Abstract Expressionists managed to slip into the culture, but who knows how.

But, I feel like poets have to try. If we just give up on the average public we're committing a crime into order to make ourselves safe. The academics might love poetry, but, in the long run, what does that mean? Poetry isn't about safety. Life isn't about safety. If one is in the po-biz to get kudos, money, or fame, they're making a mistake.

Time to match the boy's socks.


I'm fussing around with the blog. Please be patient with me. Today, I voted for Obama. I just couldn't pull that Clinton ticket.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Chicago Review

I have been purposeful ignoring the debate deriving from the Chicago Review on women and publishing. Yesterday, however, I dipped into it a bit. I have had simuliar debates over the issue of feminism in the past year. My main thought is why does the feminist movements and other crucial movements like it, continue to rage when a movement for people with disabilities is ignored?

Denise Levertov once said in an interview, "Not to deny the history of women. But women who see exclusively the opression of women tend to forget other kinds of opression. 'But my opression is better than your oppression.'" This is not to pick on feminism -- one could say this about any group. Levertov was championed by feminisms of all kinds but found the label problematic. She (with Rukeyser) was a strident anti-war activist. She felt frustrated that many women felt frustrated by men in the anti-war movement and, in a sense, felt pushed out. She said that she was upset with women who left the anti-war movement to create feminism while there were still 'babies dying of Napalm."

This is kind of how I think of the problems surrounding disability. I am a woman. Certain issues have derived from that. However, the problems and prejudices that I experience as a person with a disability are so much more profound than those posed by my womanhood. It's kind of like disbility is MY napalm.

The CR centers are the numbers game of how many women and published and/or given accademic jobs. No matter which way you cut it, men are still more sucessful than women. But, here's the rub, people with disabilities are not sucessful at all, compared to men, women, or any other group. 75 percent of PWD are still unemployed. Mentally handicapped people are legally paid $1 hour. I can name about 7 disabled poets. Inclusion has become the trend. But, let's take an anthology like Not For Mothers Only by Wolff. The anthology includes women of all ages, aesthetics, religions, races, and sexual orientations, but where are the handicapped poets?

If we are going to make a fuss about who publishes and who doesn't, let's expand our minds a bit.

Reading on Saturday

Saturday at 3:00 2/9/08
326 Spring Street (west of Greenwich Street)
New York City

See you there!

Color Vs. Gender, The Great Debate

In her editorial in the New York Times, Gloria Steinem makes some interesting observations about race, gender, and the democratic race.

Steinem writies, "What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age."


"Why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race."

But, if one was listening to All Things Considered last night, they may have gotten a different perspective. ATC had a piece with South Caroline female, African-American activists in light of Clinton's stupid MLK comment.

The Marvelettes, three powerful political insiders in Orangeburg, S.C. — Labrena Aiken-Furtick, Gilda Cobb-Hunter and Baraka Cheeseboro — spoke with Michele Norris about negative reaction to the injection of race into Democratic primary politics.

The Marvelettes say that most of their difficulties come, not from being a woman, but for being black. Baraka says, "they speak of the question, am I black or female? Black women are being forced to chose. Most of the problems that I have had come from being black, not a woman. They also speak about what legacy they want to leave their children and the question of whether they are willing to vote against someone who will advance the lives of people of color."

This is why I have had an easier time relating to the civil rights and gay movements than the feminism movement. I will not be disrespectful of the feminist movement, but, like these African-American activists, what has happened to me a disabled person has been so profoundly worse than what has happened to me as a woman. I can't even see any gender prejudice, because I'm so busy dealing with the other. If I had the choice between a able-bodied woman and a crippled man, I'd probably vote for the guy too.

Our country is in a strange time. While it is exciting to see two 'minorities' running for president, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. Who will stop the war -- not matter if their skin is black or they wear skirts.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Now, that I'm concious, mostly and AWP

Now, that I'm concious, mostly, I'm going to go back to the previous posts and fix some errors and add here and there.

The jury is still out of what we think of the AWP. As I noted before, paying for poetry and paying to go buy books, just strikes me as odd. I found out, boy am I stupid, that a concrete reason for AWP is that academics can give papers to add to their resumes for tenure. On the one hand, this is a clever idea. On the other hand, it sounds bizarrely contrived.

I'm going out on a limb here. I think I'm one of the few academics (and I use that term lightly) with little to no interest in tenure. I would kick a tenure job out of bed, and I just might have one one day, but it isn't my goal. I am not bashing people AT ALL who want tenure. It stikes one as a necessary evil. People have asked me why I want to teach so bad if tenure is not my goal. The short answer is teaching is fun. I love writing. I love young people. And I love being on campus.

I spent my entire life aware of tenure in one way or another. My father was a professor for years and my ex-boyfriend was once turned down for tenure and is on his second go around. My attitude toward tenure is that I am trying to "make it" in so many areas of life: motherhood, work, and poetry -- all with a disability. I don't need one more competition. My goal is to write good poems, have people read them, and have the least anxiety possible. In the short term, my goal is to decide what I want my students to focus on in their Joycean paper and to find my kid some socks that match.

Back to the AWP. On the other hand, the AWP and surrounding events was kind of like Caligulia for me. All I do is think about poets, poetry, poetry gossip, poetry ideas, etc. I pretty much do this in a vacuum. I do know plenty of poets in New York, but everyone is always so busy. I never go to reading because I'm too tired. The AWP gave me an opportunity to be around people 24/7 for a few days. It let me neglect my real life. That was good.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

More AWP Report

I lag behind, sometimes the world is so dangerous.

Last night I went to Reb Livingston's fabulous poetry pageant. I love Shanna Compton, Bruce Covey, Reb Livingston, and Jill Essenbaum so much. They are endlessly talented, but they have no pretense about them. This 'group' of people moves in a world that is so exclusionary, yet they are so down to earth. I told Jim that the pageant was probably the first reading I'd been to where I was actually entertained.

Then, today, the boys and I went to the AWP book fair. On the last day, it was a complete madhouse. Everyone at the tables had candy out and Jeff kept running up and grabbing stuff. Then, he went into sugar-super high. I ran into Jeff from La Petit Zine, sans baby, Jill Essenbaum, Katy and Matt Hendrickson. and the fabulous Amy King. After the guys left, I went to a reading for Bowery Women Poets with Anne Waldman and Brenda Coultas. At this point, no one was checking badges and it had turned into an AWP free for all. The book sellers were thrusting books at people. And, true to New York form, a voice came over the loud speaker saying "HEY BOOK SELLERS YOU'D BETTER HAVE YOUR BOOKS PACKED AND READY TO GO AT 5:30." The only things I bought were Brenda's book and Kate Greenstreet's chapbook. There was a lot that I wanted, and I had cash to spend, but I just found the whole thing so overwhelming. I couldn't make a decision.

Friday, February 01, 2008

AWP and Cash

What struck me as really ugly about the AWP is the money situation. Okay, the atendees have to pay $100-$200 to get in. There the presses, which are already suffering financially, have to pay for these tables. Then, people don't really buy the books, which, if they do sell are sold at a discount. Then, the AWP 'sold out' which means many people who want to go can't. And there has to be a lot of badge trading and sneaking around, not to mention, no one poor can go. And who is all this money going to? Of course, they have to rent the place, right? But, my husband goes to Sci Fi conferences at equally swank hotels and the fee is $45. I don't think the readers and panelists get paid, I think they have to pay to go.

This AWP person isn't very smart. Want to make some real money on poets? Buy a bunch of booze and coffee and set up two card tables. You'll have the entire thing paid for in two hours and everyone can attend poetry readings for free!

Motherhood, AWP, and all

I did 'get' into the AWP yesterday. More on the details of that later. The panel I saw was on disability with Paul Guest and a few others. I can't stress how wonderful it was to be in a room with people with like-minded idea. They take disability culture -- and mainstream's rejection of it -- very seriously.

Last night we went to Matt Hendrickson's "Steal This Book." All of the readers were wonderful.

As I type, I am half-awake, and heading out to teach. I was all set to slow down this morning and take Jeff to school late purposefully, just to buy time. Then, I open his notebook and there's this big ole note saying JEFF HAS BEEN LATE TWICE THIS WEEK...BLAH BLAH BLAH. Okay, panic attack. I called Dina and she was able to swoop by and fetch him. He goes to school screaming, "I don't want to leave TV" with one sock that is dirty and no mittens. The teachers -- Dina agrees -- have no idea what it's like to be a mother. The only kids with their hair combed have mothers who put all their energy into that. We constantly limp along. There is no cat food, the house is a mess, off to the university!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

AWP, Part Two

New York feels like the calm before the storm. Tomorrow, floods of poets will take the streets of Manhattan, and the cooler sister borough of Brooklyn, specifically the Greater Greenpoint-Williamsburg Area. Poets visiting GPT for the first time, watch for dog poop, and be sure to visit Claank Design on Franklin and Huron AND Word bookstore on Franklin and Milton. Bring money.

I did not get a pass for the AWP. Now, I wish I had. I went back and forth. It is REALLY expensive and $200 seemed a lot to go spend $200 more on books. The only panel that sounds interesting is Paul Guest panel on disability. I am going to try to sneak into the panel on Thursday morning (my vacation day from Montclair). I was telling Andrea that the GOOD thing about being disabled is that people feel sorry for you, or are dismissive of you. If you look dishelved and cute, which is pretty much my constant state, you can get away with a lot. I can't tell you how many times I've ridden the city bus for free. Is this fair? No, of course not. But, a good friend of mine who was a full-blooded Navajo once told me, "They took all of our land and culture, but we get free dental care."
Last night I was reading a book on Martin Luther King with Jeffrey.

I am so conflicted over who to vote for. I don't like Clinton, at all, But, Jim points out that she will be tough and stand up to the Reps. when they give her hell, and they will. But, he's not voting for her either. I am scared that Obama isn't quite sure what to do, but when I look at what black people in this country have been through, it appears that there must be a black president. It is time. It might help reverse the racial horrors that this country has committed and is still committing.
Happy 80th Birthday to Dear Gene Frumkin

Sunday, January 27, 2008

AWP = Experimental Poetry?

In Jacket 12, in an article called "The Story of Fence," Rebecca Wolff writes about turning away from the workshop style of writing (she has an MFA from Iowa) toward an more open, experimental form of writing. Wolff writes of feeling of the publication of her early poems a "confused pleasure of seeing my poem printed in an obscure, unattractive journal alongside a brand of poem that I had come to realize was the dominant paradigm of the day: the mediocre narrative lyric." She saw the current market of poetry journals as "on the one hand you had the thoroughly unremarkable brand of poetry as seen in the scores of undistinguished journals limping their way out of universities around the country (Southwest Review, Missouri Review, etc.)"

In forming Fence Wolff claimed, "I’m starting a magazine for idiosyncratic writing, poetry and fiction that is not easily categorizable in terms of camps of schools of thought and which therefore is unappealing to the current market place."

For me, Fence, which has published many fine poets and some great ones, could be catagorized as an "experimental" magazine, one which tried the exceed the boundaries of a workshop poem. Although Wolff can come off as hugely too self-confident at times, she does have very good taste.

One wonders though, what Wolff's and many other's intentions are as the AWP falls upon us. Fence is one of the major players in the AWP. Wait, a minute. Doesn't Fence go against the grain of the workshop system? Has Fence given in? Can you reject the system and then vie to be part of it? Or, perhaps, I have it all wrong. Perhaps Wolff intends to change the system from within.

These questions are old, of course. Ten years ago, two famous poets sat in a restaurant and had the very same discussion. Friendships have nearly been lost because of it. But, what interests me is that the SAME thing is happening now.

The AWP is a great thing on the one hand. Lots of my friends are coming to town and there are many great off site readings. Many poets with a lot of integrity are ambivalent about AWP or dismissive of it all together.

Can you reject the system and be part of it? I don't see Ron Silliman packing his bags for New York.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Five years ago, I was obsessing over how to get students to stay in their seats, not steal my purse, and stop calling me white, crippled bitch. Today, I'm obsessing over how to make my students understand James Joyce. Life is wierd.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Review of my book!

The Santa Fe New Mexican has reviewed "Derivative of the Moving Image" here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Other Rooms

I'm really starting to like poetry readings. You go, you read, you get free drinks, you hear others read, and if you're really lucky, someone buys a book. The Other Rooms reading last week was particularly fun in that it was 2 blocks from my house and Other Rooms gave me a pile of chapbooks.

I fully intended to write about all the chapbooks, but the semester is encroaching, I do want to mention the work of Chip Livingston. Ironically, Chip was the only reader who didn't show up. The other poets read his work, and it caught me. Livingston's chapbook is called Alarum. The poems are at turns lyrical, funny, narrative, and experimental. Livingston is a poet not trying to follow any form or trend. My favorite poem in the book is poem to my boyfriend's human immunodeficiency virus. The poem is lyrical without making any abstract moves. Livingston is able to 'live' and write 'in' his topic. The intensity is there. He does not have to divorce himself through language for the sake of the academic or to spare his own emotions. Some lines:

you are not a small bird very near the beach

you are not a boat

you are forgotten, sterile

you are not the cinematic equivalent

As one reads through Livingston's book, they can see that he has what it takes to be a fine poet. They can also see that he is just beginning the journey. Many of Livingston's poems are on their way to a mature voice, a many are already there. I look forward to a book.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Poetry Update

Even though my mothering is a mess, the poetry is moving right along.

If you live in the greater GreenPoint/Williamsburg area, I'm giving a short reading tonight for Other Rooms.
Van Gogh's Ear Lounge
Franklin and Java streets --On Franklin

The new West Wind arrived in the mail yesterday --it looks great. It may be hard to find on the East Coast, though.

How2 is nearly done.

A review of Derivative of the Moving Image will be out next Sunday in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Look Mom -- Glasses!

Friday, January 11, 2008

My recipe for the New York City Utopia

1. There would be no private schools. People would be forced to put their money and time in public schools.
2. The top salary would be say 3 million a year. No one would be able to make more than that. People who made over 1 million a year would be required to donate 5 percent of their salary.
3. Most streets would have bike lanes.
4. The medium rent would be $1000 -- in Manhattan.
5. Central Park would be closed to cars, permanently.
6. Let's get rid of some laws and make new ones. Alternate side of the street parking would occur twice a week. Parking tickets would be greatly reduced. Let's give $100 tickets for littering, hogging subways seats, not giving handicapped, elderly, or pregnant people a seat on the bus, driving in the bike lane. Let's fine kids for ditching school.
Let's get rid of the stupid laws that you can't dance in bars or sell booze before 12 on Sunday. The worst law is the 'no cats' in bodegas law.
7. People who molester children or kill bike riders get life in prison, no exeptions.
8. Let's house all the homeless people. We can do it.
9. Public bathrooms.
10. $15 tolls to bring a car into Manhattan.
11. All museums should be free.
12. The subway should be $1.
13. The opera should one night with all seats $5.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I'm about two minutes away from being done with my guest editing of the March How2. It is on mentorship and includes essays/interviews with/by Zucker, Greenberg, Fry, Furhman, Benka, Myles, Firestone, and others.

Next stop, syllabus.

My ideas for teaching poetry this semester are taking two paths, I've decided to have my students study political poetry largely pertaining to government and war. This might include Baraka, Benka, Ahkmatova, Rukeyser,Forche, and Levertov. It is also tempting to throw feminism and disability in there, but I don't want to confuse them. I am also considering the 'ethics' of having people write about poems in translation.

The second idea is even wackier. I'm thinking of the body as seen through nature. This would include Oliver, Larkin, my own work, Tarn, Niedecker, etc. But, some of these are heavy hitters and my kids are afraid of poetry.

Jeff's awake now. He says I want to call dad because I have a miracle for him. Jeff says the dementors are helping Valdimort. I say, what else? He says, nothing, just that.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thank you SC

I want to thank Shanna Compton for the mention of my poetry in the LemonHound interview.

Shanna you rock!
I'm tired of being judged, I'm tired of judging. Lately, I've gotten a lot of flack for my son's behavior which is less than perfect, but he hasn't killed anyone yet! This judgement gets me down, and then, I think, perhaps I deserve it. I too have sky-high expectations, they are just different. A mother who I barely know asked some else the other day about how Jeff deals with having a disabled mother. The part of me that wants to fit in thinks this is a totally inappropriate question. I mean would some one ask the same of a black mother, a queer mother, a Mormon mother, any mother that doesn't fit in the norm?

But, the other part of me thinks: okay this is valid.

I think Jeff's difficulties with having a disabled are not unlike difficulties and nerosis that any other child goes through. Some mothers work too much, some are very religious, some do drugs. Part of the child's path is to deal with the parents. I do think Jeff has taken on (without being asked) the role of my protector from other's criticisms. We have to watch this, it's a hard boat to row. But, it's also good, because he has an real empathy that is sometimes lacking in small children (or anyone).

Part of my resolution this year is to move away from anger and turn into something productive. To stop being judgemental.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I'm looking for places to read at the AWP. It's hard to connect with people, now that I'm list-free. If anyone has an idea, ring me up! Thanks!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I love Ron Silliman's blog post today. He writes:

"My goal in blogging, back in the dark dinosaur days of 2002, was to get other poets going in the process of thinking out loud in public, creating a public discourse. On that point, I’ve been successful beyond my imagination. A secondary goal was to talk about the books that mattered to me – if I haven’t had any success with that, I have only myself to blame. A third was to share my sense of where we were & are in the history of poetry, particularly in the United States. A fourth and not unrelated goal was to raise awareness of the School that Dare Not Speak Its Name and its institutional role in American poetry. A fifth was to have fun. In all, I can’t complain – but I’ve got a comments stream for that."

For me, the internet has become a way to argue with people. I have a knack for finding people who don't agree with or realize my life choices and getting into arguments with them. One of my new resolutions is to approach the poetry world in a new way. I think we can all thrust aside our disagreements and be more accepting of each other in this small land called poetry. I hope we can all learn in the coming year not to be 'exclusive.' Because this exclusiveness is not anything real in the world. Some people (talent aside) have the where-with-all to convince other people that they are special when they are actually just like everyone else. I think it is good to look up to people like Silliman and others, and not make a hierarchy within your own generation.

I probably have it all wrong. It's a bit over my head, but today I finally think I see what Silliman means by the "School of Q." It seems to come from a desire to 'save' poetry from academia and the endless 'reward' system. As Martha Stewart says: It's a good thing.