Friday, October 09, 2009

United Cerebral Palsy

Yesterday was my first day (this year) teaching poetry at UCP. We studied Joe Brainard's 'I Remember' and wrote our own remembrances. Here are some of the most startling lines:

I remember when I was a child.
I remember my mother used to carry me and walk to the stairs up and down.

I remember my mom cry because I was stubborn.

I remember the days that I could see.
I remember in the early days when I could walk.

I remember when I used to walk with crutches.
I remember learning Arabic.

The most disturbing lesson I learned yesterday was about how the medical system taught people with cerebral palsy in the 1950's. One of my students who uses a wheelchair told me that she walked until she was 8 yrs. old. Then, she had surgery to 'help' her. She never walked again.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Portland Update 4

Last night we had the luck of eating at Navarre in Portland. Navarre recently got voted the best restuarant of the year in Portland, so we thought we'd give it a try. The first shocker, for me, was that there was no line to get in on a Friday night. I told jim that if it had been silly new york, you wouldn't be able to get a table for 3 years after such a review. We also, shockingly, got into the new Harry Potter movie (the theatre wasn't even full!) and for seven dollars to boot!

There is this thing I love about Oregon. New York is so hard everywhere. Everything is hard, so that when you come to Oregon, you still have NY standards and problems stuck in your head, so you feel blessed when say; all the poets are super nice or it's easy to get into a movie. I wouldn't give up that struggle that is NY for anything, but it is nice to escape for awhile.

Anyway, Navarre has a menu of small dishes (kind of tapa size) with many, many different choices. You have to order by checking your choices with a magic marker. The choices were a bit overwhelming. I had the salami plate, au gratin, salad, bread with 'grass' olive oil. Jim had buffalo, cavier, and beet greens with gruyere. I have to say that the food was probably the best I've ever tasted (outside of new mexican and my husband's). The ingredients were so fresh (a very oregon thing). But, disappointly, the service was absolutely horrible. We felt ignored most of the dinner. They forgot to bring all of our dishes. We had to wait 15 minutes for desert and I had to go up to the cash register to ask to pay the bill. They had 2 waitresses for a completely full place (about 25 tables) and no busboy.


I will be offline for a few days. During this time, I will be reading Duncan/Levertov Letters. I got an amazing letter from the Portland poet Michael Weaver a few days back. In it, Michael notes (info I didn't know) that Levertov is dismissive (at first) of Eigner's abilities. I have to go research this for myself. Ordinarily, I would be pissed at Levertov, someone who I have idolized for years. I have always respected, not only her poetry, but her activism, her close friendships with Duncan and Rukeyser, and her questioning of feminism. I am not mad, though, as her potential Eigner comments fit into my 'evil plan.' The idea of the Eigner book just doesn't go away. I constantly question my ability to make something worthwhile. I know that there are so many other living poets/people who lived with Eigner and they are much more capable of speaking than me. However, I do think that because I have cerebral palsy and am intimately aware of the prejudices, I have a different perspective.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Portland Update 3

From Steve Fama, I stand corrected on funky Spicerean notes: Everson knew Spicer, Norma knew Duncan (which I knew, but wanted to be safe) and Killian didn't know Spicer. For those who don't know the actual origin of this game, my husband taught it to me today - it's Erdo's number - with a hat over the 'O.' For the record, my grandfather had a Erdo # of 1.


Today at the farmer's market, we scored berries (blue and ras), a chunk of fish, fresh artichokes, berry havarti, pickles, fresh tomato and cucumber, and chipotle pesto. We ate at South Park - which we recommend highly! The best food, service, atmosphe, and cocktails.


Here is today's bus story: There was a couple waiting for the bus downtown. The man was pouring a Colt 45 into a big gulp plastic cup. I just glanced at him and he yelled at me, 'You're just jealous!!" The bus ran out of gas!!! I am not joking. Luckily, another #12 came quickly. I met the most beautiful woman with three absolutely charming children 6,8, and 15. But, she didn't have a lot of money and this made me very sad. Dear Maryrose, we remain committed to TRIMET, even though it drives us nuts. Now, I want a car - but too late. Neither of us have licences (it's a long, boring story). But, I'll just say it's not from drunk driving (we WALK HOME drunk, thank you very much!) Now, we have become stubbornly opposed to getting our licenses (or perhaps just lazy).

As a last note: Please buy the new Peaches and Bats. The magazine is fabulous and so is Sam!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grumpy Portland Part 2

A couple glasses of wine and a visit to the public pool (tho not in that order) have put me in a better mood. On Pg. 165-166 of the Spicer bio, Ellingham and Killian write:A victim of cerebral palsy, Eigner had been in a wheelchair all his life. Perhaps that's my problem -- I'm a victim of cerebral palsy. They do admit to Eigner's cheeky side tho; (Quote from Eigner) "He asked me if I knew Josphine Miles, and the idea amused me, like a branch of Poets in Wheelchairs Anonymous.


Here is our bus report from today. My bike lost it's breaks. So, they make a good idea to put bikes on the front oF buses. We waited 15 minutes for our bus to go to the bike shop. But, the driver tells us, in the most impassively voice humanly possible, only 2 bikes on the front of the bus. So I say, well, the kid's bike is small, we'll just bring it on the bus. Driver says, 'no' and drives away. I just can't get my way on these damn buses!


I'll be reading in the next Spare Room Reading. Here's the info:

Jennifer Bartlett
Sarah Mangold
Lindsey Boldt

Saturday, July 25
4:00 pm

4903 SE Rural (south of Woodstock, between 39th and 52nd)
for directions, or other information:

NOTE: This is a house reading and potluck hosted by Maryrose Larkin and Eric Matchett; all are welcome.
Parking is on the south side of Rural, or in the driveway.

We suggest not taking the bus, if you value your sanity.

Crab report from Portland

Yes, I'm cranky!

I have been reading Jack Spicer's biography -- eating it really at 50 + pages a day - I'm usually a slow reader. Last night, I had a dream that I was in Paris and carrying the book around. I went into J Crew (yes, in Paris) and gave them my credit card - I think you had to get a credit card to get in there. My card was bad, so they said,;'we'll have to take your book away.' I FREAKED out and ran out of the store. It was raining and my book got wet. This is the third dream 'in which I was a poet' in two weeks. I also dreamt that Eileen Myles was my boss at the Department of Education and that I was trying to write a poem like Mei Mei Berssenbrugge writes a poem - with collage pieces all over the table.

I'm exploring the idea of whether every writing poet today can claim they know Spicer by six degrees of separation. I'm still working on the rules. My primary idea is to connect the people through intimate relationships - not sexual - meaning long friendship, relative, mentor or other. I've found out that Jack and I are pretty close. Here are some lists I made last night which I'm not sure are accurate:

Lee Bartlett
Bill Everson
Robert Duncan
Jack Spicer

Norma Cole
Robert Duncan
Jack Spicer

Lisa Jarnot
Kevin KIillian
Jack Spicer

Monday, July 13, 2009

Portland Update 2

Portland is starting to grate on my nerves a little. We have to take public transportation and, regardless of what people say, many normal Portlanders don't seem to 'bus it.' Either that or there are just an unusual amount of insane people per capita. Today, on bus#1 I asked a young man for directions..he wouldn't even look at me. I was sitting right next to him and kept saying 'excuse me, excuse.' He just continued to stare at his text messaging. Ruda! He had a pierced cheek and was a hipster (as compared to a hippy). I felt like saying - 'Look Mr. I've lived in Williamsburg since you were in fifth grade - so don't be giving me attitude.'

Because I didn't give the boy a talking too, I was all worked into a tizzy. On bus #2 a woman stared talking about - oh look at the handicapped woman! She's not handicapped now - look she's not even drooling. I had my ipod on and attempted to ignore her, but she was persistent. I told her, 'Look, I know you are psycotic, but could you please leave me alone.' She said, 'You don't even know what that means because you're.,...' and she made so-called mentally disabled faces and waved her arms. I said, 'Fuck you, lady.' And then, 'I'll have you know, I'm a professor.' To wit, she just stared and I got off the bus. Geesh, the insane people in Brooklyn just talk to themselves! I'm not even she was totally insane because she reacted to my comments. Boy, I wish the so-called able-bodied folk out there were more aware of this stuff that goes on. It's nuts! It's still painful even though I have a good job and she's just a woman who spends her time riding the bus making fun of 'the disabled.'


Last night, I saw the poets Farrah Field and Jared White as per the Spare Room reading series. I also got to spend time with the fabulous Maryrose Larkin. I enjoyed Farrah and Jared's work. I particularly enjoyed an unpublished work that Farrah read - a mystery. poetry, novel, sort-of thing about 2 (or 3) girls who ran away from their mother who I think Farrah said was involved in orgies...or was it orges. Anyway, it was great! It reminded my of the Vivian Girls for some strange reason. I also looked up Farrah's fake syllabi on her blog, which are fabulous too.


If you happen to still be reading this dribble, chances are that you have corresponded with me at some point. If so, I have tried to sell you electronics or asked you to take a chinese class with me recently. Know that this is not me, it's actually little elves that broke into my hotmail and hacked it and think I can get you to buy a wide-screen TV. Joke's on them - I can't even get a poem in FENCE, let alone sell someone Chinese language lessons. Anyway, I am in the process of so-called archiving all these hotmail letters so that I can close the account. O it's a tedious affair. If there are any techies out there who know how to archive hotmail, give me a ring.


Finally, on TV, they are listing the new rules in Seattle for washing your car.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Portland Update

Last night we had dinner with the poet Sam Lohmann and were treated to a new issue of Peaches and Bats. I am trying really hard not to like Portland, but it just isn't working - I love it here. I am spending my days compiling lists of why I like Portland and why I like Brooklyn. I had the worse Spring (nearly) humanly possible - and I thought there would be no hope for a happy summer...and yet. Things I don't like about Portland are relaxed laws and a bad economy make for a big sex worker trade - which I'm not too keen on. Yes, I'm one of those conservative feminists who think women should make art or a cure for AIDS rather than using their bodies to entertain (largely married) men. O, but that's just me! I also am discouraged by the amount of 'homeless' teenagers.

Speaking of fiesty children - last night we were walking home and Jeff asked us if we were going to stay in the' Whole Milk Motel.' I was like, 'huh?' He said, 'No, Hotel Motel - you know where your poems are!' O, he meant Reb Livingston's No Tell Motel and he thought we could go 'stay' there with mommy's poems. Then, without another word, he turned to his father and said, 'Dad, what did you mean when you said George Bush tortured all those people?'

I have lost the capability to write so-called poems. I just finished reading Brainard's 'I Remember.' I made my own attempt at remembering and quickly found that I didn't really want to remember anything.

In his interview on Bookslut CA Conrad has the best quote EVER! 'It's safe for me to say that I haven't just been ridiculed in this life, but have been persecuted at times, ruthlessly so, but I'm finding ways to live with this fact so that I'm not consumed and destroyed.' Yes, CA, that's kind of the narrative of many of our existences. You're right on the money.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Collection of Silence

I had the honor of, before leaving New York, participating in Eileen Myles' Collection of Silence. The Collection of Silence was Eileen Myles wonderful collaboration where artists, poets, performers, monks, and school children would come together to 'perform' simutaniously and in silence. The performance was supposed to take place outside in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society, but rain drove the event (at least temporarily inside).

I was in Charles Bernstein's group with one poet more fabulous than the other - Frank Sherlock, CA Conrad, and Danny Snelson. My first reaction in starting was that I wasn't going to be able to maintain silence without laughing. Charles was so absolutely funny, I couldn't even stand near him - although I did glance him reading a certain point with the lovely drag queen. The task was a little daunting for me, and yet important. I found out so much about my body, my reading style, my poems. I felt so akeward reading silently. The power of the word seemed so tried to the verbal. Reading the poems over and over silently quickly became painful and tedious. Words started to blur. I felt useless. At one point I started reading Charles poem!

I felt much happier as a spectator. I took a break and wondered the rooms. The two events that caught my eye the most were the monks and Monica de la Torre's 'film.' The monks were meditating, but they were facing very funny objects (I can't remember what they were) but I remember thinking 'gee, it must be more difficult to meditate looking at x.' One of the monks charmed me because he was older and appeared to have fallen sound asleep! I, then, followed strange white dots into the library. Monica's 'film' was impeccable. Part of the reason it worked so well is that it fit perfectly into the containment of the small library. Everyone was wearing white. Monica was walking around with headphones and posters that said stuff about language. A performer was playing with a guitar with a large white dot over it. They seemed so focused. The effect was, in that, it was LIKE a real film.

But, the beauty in such an immense event is watching all over little ticks - behaviours or misbehaviours of a mass of people attempting to co-exist silently, for even a short period of time. For better or worse, one of my favorite incidents was a guard TALKING ON A CELL PHONE! I glared at him and he got off. But, I started laughing too because I couldn't believe how oblivious people can be! It definitely didn't harm the performance, in fact it added to it in a fashion because it was so human.

After that, I came to the stairs and all my poet guys were going outside - it was really hot in the building. I thought that everyone was giving up but I realized that I was walking into an outside of silence. It took me awhile to realize that my group was in the bottom of the courtyard, reading from the statues, where I joined them. Slowly, slowly, each group moved outside. Time moved toward that breaking note. Finally, Eileen waved, the opera singer began his one note. It started small and became ear crushingly loud. I can't begin to describe the beauty of it. And the realization that we all talk far too much.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Portland Update

Today, a visit to the Japanese garden... you can hear my reading from Segue at Penn Sound here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hello From the Great NorthWest

Today is our sixth day in the NorthWest. Other Jen & I took a quick trip up North. We did learn that Seattle is a city full of rules, particularly surrounding 'adult beverages.' Other Jen got carded for trying to buy water in the liquor store. Other random rules that you might want to watch out for in Seattle are - you can't drink in a strip bar, you can't be naked in a strip bar, you can't take a child into a bar , even if the bar is actually a restuarant - in fact if you are under 21, you can't be 500 feet near alcohol, you can't be a surrogate mother, you can't buy booze on Sunday, and you can't get married if you're gay - although there are strange rumors of many microsoft mail-order russian brides running around.

I did make it to the more than fabulous Open Books. Even though they were closed, the fine folks let me in. They had Black Sparrow first printings of Eigner books for $12, beat that with a stick! Also, Duncan's Collected Essays, The Spicer biography, Marcella Durand's Traffic and Weather, and Joe Brainard's I Remember. Tomorrow, a full report from the Japanese Tea Garden.

Tonight, on the phone, my father used the word 'google.' I said, 'Who taught you that word?' He said, ' O, I've known it for almost a year!'

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Collection of Silence

Tonight, I'm taking part in Eileen Myles' Collection of Silence at the Hispanic Society of America,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I let my kid start a blog. It's called

Some good poems there.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Larry Eigner

Below are my thought today on the LE book: Note there may be typos as in process; also, I hope I didn't use any quotes people didn't want me to use. A bibliography will follow:

My Larry Eigner

What started this essay was a curiosity of the lack of discussion of the influence of 'restricted movement' in Larry Eigner's work. There exists a sort of a claiming that Eigner's body was secondary or not influential in creating his voice. What is interesting is that, as I research Eigner's letters, ignoring the issue was not how he dealt with cerebral palsy. He begins letter after letter stating that he is 'in a wheelchair.' This explanation is always matter of fact.

Eigner was a poet who was loved intensely. To read the essays by Jack Foley, Ron Silliman and others is to find words full of understanding. Many of these poets admit the obvious difficulties. Jack Foley, Eigner's friend of ten years, writes, 'I was able to stay friends partly because I didn't live with him and partly because I understood his speech as well as anyone. This was more something I willed than something I learned.' I am assuming that this relief at not living with Eigner may have been from, not only not having to take care of Eigner, but from getting rests from his intensity which seems to have rival Robert Duncan's.

Foley explains Eigner's will, not just to write, but to speak. This is apparent in the radio interview that Foley did with Eigner. Foley attempts to interact -- to translate. Eigner just keeps talking without pause. In Eigner's passion to communicate through copious letters, poems, and conversations one is forced to see the true situation of cerebral palsy -- or any other disability. While the different body becomes so-called less than, the will becomes more than.

For the poets who loved and surrounded Eigner, however, to name this body would mean to have to deal with the constant barrage of idiocy that comes - not from the actual body, but the reaction to it. This societal bigotry is much more tedious than disability itself. It is much easier to cope with society by ignoring the crippled self - to make Eigner one of us. There is a subtle distinction to be made here. The difference is to accept Eigner fully as a person with cerebral palsy and to accept cerebral palsy fully in the way one would claim to accept homosexuality or race or any other 'different' given. Not as less than, but as is.

In a defense of the poet who is disabled, the so-called able-bodied community is forced to defend the poet on two fronts. The first of which is dispell society's attempt to 'cutify' the poet's work. A disturbing example of this would be Eigner's New York Times obituary 'Poet Who Saw the World From His Wheelchair' which condescendly overplayed disability in Eigner's work; "As a result of a birth injury, he developed cerebral palsy, a condition that confined him to a wheelchair. His disability had a profound influence on his poetry, which often captured, in emotional bursts of language, fleeting impressions received through the window of a house, an airplane or a car window." Rather, Eigner's case is, as Silliman notes of an earlier event, "The interviewer wanted to make of the occasion an uplifting "my left foot" kind of tale, amazed that someone so afflicted with cerebral palsey could write poetry at all. But that of course was NOT the story. The story might have been this: that one of the great poets of the 20th century -- no further qualification needed -- happened to have had cerebral palsy." And Sillian might have noted that 'My Left Foot' wasn't exactly even a 'My Left Foot' story; Christy was a obnoxious drunk who played on the streets as child equally with his neighbors and brothers. But, O how society wants to manifest things. To package stories into something 'we' can accept.

The task in the poetry community to protect Eigner's work from 'cute little handicapped poet syndrome' is a valid one and I think it why poets such as Curtis Fayville are hesitant to through disability into the mix. But, the work is powerful and oblique enough that it manages it's own task. In Eigner's own disjointed lyric, he gives permission to explore the role of disability because the work isn't about disability itself. This also brings into play the fact that the other always has whether/how/and how much she will let this otherness gain attention for her work. Some poets go the opposite spectrum. One such poet is Paul Guest, who has chosen to make disability the forefront in his work -- to the extent that he has a pending autobiography. This willingness (or non-willingness) creates a tension in every disabled poet's life and work.

The second difficult role that the able-bodied critic as friend or admirer of the fully realized poet with a disability is forced into a position of defending. It is shocking how, within the poetry community with all our freaks and outsiders, prejudice abounds. While I don't suffer fools lightly, I recently came across an 'essay' written by Kirby Olson's from last December where he claims, "I remember Eigner had been brought up in Larry Fagin's class at Naropa University in 1977. That was the only time I had heard the name. I remember too hearing that he had a disease or a disorder of some kind, and I didn't know what to make of it. I think it's cruel somehow to think that a defective mind that is unable to process words properly is therefore "poetic."' Here, is an example of the so-called able-bodied speaking liberally about something he know nothing about. The person with cerebral palsy is put in the tedious position of explaining that CP is a 'disability' not a 'disease' and cerebral palsy, itself, is a physical condition, not a mental one. And then one must deal with the fact that people are unable to understand such distinctions and their meaning.

The primary barrior is that the able-bodied critic simply does not know what it means inherently to be disabled. People argue that by association, one can come to realize what disability truly means, while functioning on a dally basis in a body that society endorses. One wonder whether having a disabled child, for example, might give the parents a new understanding. Although I am sympathetic, my estimate is that, with the exception of the Deaf community who don't accept Deafness as a disability, the able-bodied parent always longs for their child to be cured instead of truly accepting them.

Can disability be sexy? Not sexy in meaning I want to fuck you - but sexy as Peter Littlefield would use it ; attractive in the global sense. Can disability be anything other than the old metaphor we have assigned it ; weak, ugly, distasteful, less than, messy. Can it be translated into something new and powerful? Can a disability pride exist?

Of course, for much of Eigner's life, so-called disability pride or even understanding was farfetched, as it still is by most today. In Eigner's day, people with cerebral palsy (and their caregivers) were merely involved in the struggle not to be abused in institutions such a Willowbrook. Eigner's situation was so vastly an exception.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NYFA 2009

The NYFA's poetry Fellowship list was released today. An extra congratulations to my loves - Lisa & Marcella - Mothers of the world unite & take over! Meanwhile, I'm putting the final touches on (a) lullaby without any music & looking into my next project which is probably going to include Larry Eigner in some fashion. I also have to figure out the best way to get a bicycle from Brooklyn to Portland Or. I wonder if I should just ride it.

Here's the full NYFA list -- someone's having champagne tonight!

E.J. Antonio (Westchester)
Edmund Berrigan (Kings)
Tina Chang (New York)
Monica de la Torre (Kings)
LaTasha Diggs (New York)
Marcella Durand (New York)
Alan Gilbert (Kings) – Gregory Millard Fellow
Jennifer Hayashida (Kings)
Lisa Jarnot (Queens)
Mara Jebsen (Kings)
Suji Kim (Ulster)
Anna Moschovakis (Delaware)
Willie Perdomo (Kings)
Julie Sheehan (Suffolk)
Patricia Smith (Westchester)
Sue Song (Queens)
Paige Taggart (Kings)
Anne Tardos (New York)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

This -n- that

Atlantic City Mosque By Julia


This is what a feminist (and goddess) looks like.


And some words on Catholicism from my home-girl Fanny Howe:

The atheist is no less an inquirer than a believer. In living at all, she is no less a believer than an unbeliever.


The New American Writing is out!


Finally, I'll be reading (or not reading as the case may be) on June 30th inThe Collection of Silence project curated by Eileen Myles at The Hispanic Society of America.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A.I.R. Fellowship in memory of Emma Bee Bernstein

A.I.R. Gallery is honored to announce the permanent naming of one of its yearly A.I.R. Fellowship Program Awards in memory of the artist, activist, writer, and feminist Emma Bee Bernstein (1985-2008). A.I.R. Gallery’s Fellowship Program supports the burgeoning careers of six emerging and underrepresented women artists each year. In recognition of Emma’s significant contributions as a young artist, writer and feminist, each year one Fellowship Recipient, under the age of thirty, will receive the additional honor of holding the A.I.R. Emma Bee Bernstein Fellowship.

Contributions towards The Emma Bee Bernstein Fellowship can be made at or can be sent to A.I.R. Gallery, 111 Front St., #228, Brooklyn, NY 11201. A.I.R. Gallery is a not-for-profit 503(c) organization. All donors will be acknowledged on A.I.R. Fellowship Program materials.

Emma Bee Bernstein graduated from the University of Chicago in 2007, receiving a BA with honors in Visual Arts and Art History. She exhibited her work at the Smart Museum in Chicago, the University of Chicago, as well as A.I.R. Gallery. Her writings on feminism and art were published in M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and in a tribute volume, The Belladonna Elders Series #4. In Emma's Dilemma, a film directed by Henry Hills, Bernstein interviewed dozens of artists from the downtown NYC art scene. GirlDrive, a book of interviews and photographs on the younger generation’s relation to feminism, co-authored with Nona Willis Aronowitz, will be published by Seal Press in the fall of 2009. Bernstein worked as a curatorial assistant at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Renaissance Society; as a docent at the Smart Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum; as a Teaching Artist at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art; and was an involved mentor and teacher for the Step Up Women's Network. Emma Bee Bernstein was the daughter of A.I.R. gallery artist Susan Bee and poet Charles Bernstein.

Critic Carey Lovelace wrote in Art in America in 2007: “Since 1972, the trailblazing A.I.R. gallery in New York, the world’s first women’s gallery, has provided quiet support for those operating outside the art world’s market-obsessed precincts.” The A.I.R. Fellowship Program for Emerging and Underrepresented Artists, established in 1993, has helped launch the careers of over 35 women artists. Each year the program offers six women artists the opportunity to have their first solo exhibit, or first solo exhibit in ten years. Recipients participate in eighteen months of professional development workshops, receive a studio visit with an art professional, and are mentored by A.I.R. artists and staff members.

Monday, May 25, 2009

No Tell Motel

I'm the pin-up girl this week with a poem in five parts/ five days at Reb Livingston's No Tell Motel. Thanks ReB!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Today's Mail!

The 2009 edition of New American Writing arrived today with my poems in it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Larry Eigner Biography

I am beginning to explore the idea of writing a biography of Larry Eigner. I'm not sure what form this would take, or if anyone is undertaking such a task (although I know that his Collected Poems are coming out this year). Would anyone with thoughts, ideas, or interest in being interviewed please leave a comment or write to me @

Friday, May 08, 2009

My Larry Eigner

My Larry Eigner

Lately, the thought has come to mind. Can one fully appreciate the life and work of Larry Eigner without a deep understanding [or at least a sensitivity] of disability, what this means, and the current disability 'movement?''

Of course it is possible to explore Eigner's work while ignoring his disability, but it seems like a missed opportunity. Many insist that Eigner seriously downplayed his disability and never confronted it in his work. This seems completely impractical as a poet's body and 'breath' inadvertently go into the work. As James Galvin once told me, 'Don't write about your disability directly. It isn't needed. Your disability is there in every topic. It cannot be removed from your voice.'

Eigner's limited motion, along with the poetic mind, were what created his intense vision. People with slow or limited movement are forced to see the world, to examine, not to rush through.

In his so-called autobiography, What a Time Distance, one sees this wildly maniacal examination of place. A work where the body cannot move -- or is at the mercy of being moved by others. And yet the mind is able to examine and translate. Did Eigner have a high IQ? Not necessarily. He could and did write amazing poets like many other poets. Language and translation were his gifts, to question his IQ seems like beside that point for how many so-called able bodied 'genius' poets have their IQs questioned? To question his intellegence in particular seems to be saying that a 'crippled' body MUST be of superior intellegence in order to create.

I guess I want it both ways: I guess I want critics to treat him as 'equal.' AND to realize that, by society's standards he wasn't.

I have yet to hear people discuss the fact that Eigner probably could not feed himself or use the bathroom alone. He almost most assuredly had few romantic connections. If he hadn't had a doting family, he would have ended up in an institution like Willowbrook where most people with cerebral palsy in that age did. Few people seem to know about such institutions where people with cerebral palsy were basically disposed of and lived in their own shit and piss. Without a doubt, Eigner suffered daily prejudice and cruelty. Eigner, himself, said an interview that "physical exercise was the hardest part of his life, everything else was a vacation." It IS probably true that Eigner downplayed his disability in his work and life. That is what 'we' do. That is what we have to do.

I do argue however, that Eigner DID approach 'disability' in a concrete way throughout the poetry. I would argue that, although disability is not central to the work, it is all over it. It's only that someone without a disability may not be able to or may choose not to see it in this way.

Eigner writes:

But I grow old
because I was too much a child


I say nothing

when asked

I am, finally, an incompetent, after all
to have the time

And in portions of Open

But, I flower myself.
or can't change

As i dream, sight
I have been on all sides
my face and my back

o i walk i walk

the pavements
assume they are yellow

the flowers seem to nod


I am getting used to this
my shoes hve been the same

I wonder if people want to downplay Eigner's biography simply because, as impossible as it sounds, they are still uncomfortable with disabilities. But, I don't believe that Eigner's contemporaries denied or ignored his disability. I think they either accepted him or, more likely, as 'outsiders' and narcissists themselves, didn't really care.

Here is my primary point. If people can accept Eigner, this is stride in accepting so many others like him.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

From WWC

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Women Who Care Luncheon

Thank you to all the wonderful staff and those who came out and donated to the Women Who Care Luncheon. It was quite an event! I was thrilled to be the company of my wonderful students/poets. Anyone who may be interested in my work can purchase Derivative of the Moving Image from the University of New Mexico Press here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


New poems from the [Husband] collection up at the Raleigh Quarterly.

And, the press release for the United Cerebral Palsy Benefit:


New York, NY, April 28, 2009 – United Cerebral Palsy of New York City (UCP/NYC) will hold its Eighth Annual Women Who Care Luncheon on May 5, 2009, to celebrate the professional and personal accomplishments of women. Guests will assemble at Cipriani 42nd Street to honor six extraordinary individuals and raise money to support UCP/NYC’s extensive network of more than 75 individual programs serving 14,000 children and adults with disabilities and their families.

The Luella Bennack Volunteer Award will be presented to Dan Rather; Martha & Ellis Winston will receive the Karen Hansen Caregiver Award.

The Loreen Arbus Opportunity Scholarship will be awarded to the art and poetry programs at UCP/NYC. Special guest, poet and UCP/NYC poetry teacher, Professor Jennifer Bartlett will read from her inspiring work.

Journalists Paula Zahn and Maria Hinojosa, 24 actor Nestor Serrano, Chad L. Coleman of The Wire and Broadway’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and stage star Jennifer Damiano of Spring Awakening and Next to Normal are among this year’s attendees and presenters. Special guests include Patricia Duff, Francine LeFrak, Susan Fales-Hill, Judy Gilbert and Ellen Levine, Editorial Director, Hearst Magazines. Donna Hanover will once again serve as Master of Ceremonies.

The efforts of honorary chair Cathleen Black, President, Hearst Magazines, founding chair Loreen Arbus, and co-chair Joan Jedell will surely help make this year’s Women Who Care Luncheon a rousing success.

About Women Who Care:

Women Who Care was created to honor female role models representing various segments of the community. It is a celebration of women who have blazed new paths, broken glass ceilings and inspired others through their professional and charitable endeavors.

About United Cerebral Palsy of New York City (UCP/NYC):

United Cerebral Palsy of New York City has a more than 60-year-history in the disability field and currently serves 14,000 individuals and family members through more than 75 programs. Its mission is to provide the highest quality services in health care, education, employment, housing, and technology resources that support people with cerebral palsy and related disabilities in leading independent and productive lives. For more information on our programs and services, please visit us at

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

NaPoWriMo [Cont.]

Musical Garden II

Can’t give you up yet gin and tonic, oh magical, magical drink & the city lights rather than the stars.

Can’t give you up, dreams of a long dead boy drifting into my body, keeping me hidden from waking, puling me down into the death insane mouth of the world

Can’t you up, Muriel, you crazy mother-us-all political poetess, purveyor of peace.

Cant’ give up Fire Island.

Can’t give you up, cheddar, Swiss, American, Gorgonzola, Limburger, Gouda, feta, goat, blue, Brie.

Can’t give you up, ideals & fantasies of vastness.

Can’t give you up, America, you motherfucking rotten boyfriend, breaking my heart over and over.

Can’t give you up New York with all your filth and rats and splendid light.

Can’t give you up beautiful small boy resting on your bed that is too large, all your day’s naughtiness floating off into the night’s air.

Can’t give up poetry – no way!

Can’t give into this sadness that flows through the body like any uncertain movement of listless stars.

Cant’ give you up Oregon mountains to stare into like a million of random trees.

Can’t stop clamoring.

Can’t give up dreams of your gentleness that may or may not exist.

in the tradition of Anne Waldman

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Today, I met a woman with a severe disability in poetry class who lost her young son in addition to having a miscarriage.

Yesterday, while at the hospital, D., who is under heavy sedation, opened his eyes at me.

This is my poem for Tuesday.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Monday's Haiku

for d.

leaving the hospital
the daffodils are blooming
april, don't torture me

Spring is nearly here
nearby in the hospital
you rest and rest and


It is fucking cold
the shuttle bus is late
I need a shower


for Mr. Eric

born on a spring day
mr green jeans o how I love you
let us get married

dearest mr. green jeans
you are so sexy, please come to BK
and do my garden

dearest mr. green jeans
send me a letter on FB
with photos of yr pool

for jeff

In the AM child mis
behaves I am so stressed
give me a ho-ho!

Now: words from our sponsor, Susan Sontag: 'Neither is the crisis created by AIDS a 'total' anything. We are not being invaded. The body is not a battlefield. The ill are neither unavoidable casualties nor the enemy.'

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Poem for Sunday

It was such a wonderful reading. Thank you to Ron, Lisa, Tim, Kristin, & all who attended:

Here's NaPo for Sunday.

Poem based on letters/imterviews between Bernadette Mayer and Bill Berkson
'What's your idea of a Good Time'

Are you a Marxist? I like to believe, utterly. The idea of capitalism makes me what to throw up. I can't stand the fact that some people have $700 handbags while others are starving. I can't stand how America's society is steeped in having rather than loving. I can't stand the fact that my students go to college 'to get a good job' rather than to learn.

Have you ever gone to Mexico? Twice. Both were bad experiences. The first time I ate turtle soup and went to a very boring nightclub. The second time we got stopped and bribed by the police. Then, we couldn't find a hotel. We decided to drive home that night. I fell asleep, my friend took a wrong turn and we ended up lost and five hours out of our way. I hate Mexico.

Where do you draw the line between messy & livable in your house? I'll be honest. My house is very messy. Sometimes it's livable, sometimes it's not.

What are your favorite New York restuarants? Mary Ann's, La Bonn Soupe, The Odeon, and Black Betty.

Do you shock easily? Not as far as sex and drugs. People's cruelty shocks me and people's copacity to be emphathic shocks me. My student's apathy sometimes shocks me.

What detail in your life is most facinating to write about? My relationship with my husband and son. How indepth a relationship with a child is. How it makes you look at the entire world differently. How relationships over the years unfold. You never truly know someone completely. How language makes its way into the conciousness of babies. They are born looking with the inability to describe.

What jobs (other than poet) have you taken on? Data entry, museum gift shop clerk, dishwasher, nanny, babysitter, editor, adminisrative assistant, professor, middle school teacher, GED teacher, poetry teacher to people with disabilities, bookstore shelver, daycare attendant, libarian assistant, customer service representative, freelance writer, pta vice-president, mother, elementary school volunteer, gallery assistant.
Jack Spicer Quiz (in partial form), for norma cole


What is your favortie political song? Rock and Roll N -er
If you had to choose to eliminate 3 political figures in the world, who would you choose?
Dick Cheney, that guy from Korea, George Jr.


1. Which religious figures had or represented religious views nearest to your own?

Nearest: Jesus, Buddha Furthest: Dionysus

2. Classifiy this set of figures in the same way:

Nearest: I'm hip to Marx, Aquinas, Augustine, Gandhi, Yeats, Proust and de Sade.
Farthest: I'm pretty unhappy with Luther and Hilter tho not in that order.

History: Pass


1. If you were editing a magazine and had an unlimited budget, which poets would you ask for contrabutions:

Betsy Andrews, Andrea Baker, Charlens Bernstein, Anselm Berrigan, Edmund Berrigan, Mei Mei Besrssenbrugge, Norma Cole, Bruce Covey, Marcella Durand Jorie Graham, Brenda Hillman, Robert Hass, Lisa Jarnot, Maryrose Larkin, Reb Livingston, Alice Notley, Michael Palmer, Eleni Sikelionios, Nathaniel Tarn, Kristin Prevallet, Anne Gorrick , Anne Waldman, Jaques Roubaud,Sam Lohman, David Abel, David Wolach with art by Susan Bee, Carol Diamond, Lee Bartlett, Thomas Evans, Amy Evans, and Jennifer Urban. Also, Bill Olsen and Nancy Eimers


Name: Jennifer Bartlett Address: Brooklyn
Age: You wish you knew Sex: Sometimes

Height: 5'2 Weight: 125

What animal do you most resemble: pig - smart, salty and messy
What insect do you most resemble - why, scorpian, is that an insect?
What star do you most resemble - Parker Posey

I don;t know tarot cards: but I fear death, elevators, anxiety, sadness, insanity, insane asylums, the police and cabbies.
I desire world peace, happiness for children, to write good poems, a world where people with disabilities are not freaks, a writing job at the New York Times, a Mini, and a ho-ho.

The funniest joke I know is hawaii, fine thank you.

Exercise 1


With the gums gone I longed for longing
are complete And though the nose is nothing
the eye can only see what it chooses

And now the birds lift from the surface
of the radiator spauled across my floor
is given the even row of it
fit to raise
my wild children.

Friday, April 03, 2009

NaPoWriMo [Cont.]

My mother would be a falconress
and I her breaking wing
bloodied at her soul
the doubling of us becomes.

She cannot blame me.
For it is her that taught me
to claw and claw
and request at the world.

Mother, bend at my will.
I, who, so decidedly do
and do not love you.
I do cripple your wing.

Prepare for flight [singing]
the torn open
cling to the hem.
You will crack at the middle
the scratches still upon you
in between the living and dying
a grasp at the blurring earth.

Stillness not escaping
my hand reaches into
only my reflection is mirrord
upon the mirror of her
I glow in her space
little etching that I am
little burning

The damage at the wrist is mine
want and want.

* I hope I don't embarrass myself. This is a nutty attempt at a Duncan/Antony combo. Note: because Mom reads the blog; the mother & child here are me & jeffrey.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Some Haiku for you

leaving the hopital
it is spring again
when will you see it

she leaves a branch
on our kitchen table
all spring petals drift

my light green knit hat
it keeps my dirty long hair
off my face

my son seems to have
an enormous amount of misinformation
about hippies

Segue Reading

Through the kindness of Lisa Jarnot, I'll be reading at the Segue reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club.
The reading is Saturday the 4th at 4 pm.
I'm reading with Ron Silliman.
Be there or be a circle.
Tin House

Stillness turns in its well, the summit moves with the tide.
The house is constantly unfinished, the desire a cold nest to rest in.

The reservoir is trying [attempting] to freeze over
with an expanding map shaped like an angel.

It sooths and rejects.

I wonder if seasons were create by our brains [memory].

In winter the house will not have us. In summer, it opens.
We are considered innovators of all things.

Moths swarmed the elm tree
one year, and bees the next, so I thought

we misinterpreted the meaning of the word home
in the yard, alien voices

it was the teeming.

The third year brought butterflies.
I found an explanation for the phenomena in the poem.

It reflected the light moving across her black and orange wing.

in the tradition of Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

*a few lines are, in fact, Mei Mei's. The 'tin house' is my imaginary recollection of Mei-Mei and Richard Tuttle's 'summer house.'

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Missing Paragraph of 1st Letter on Georges

We saw many kinds of animals. Some appeared to be dead, others living, It was as though they followed the pattern of the storm and were trying to warn us. Many of the men were having a hard time imagining the prospect of being saved. The night was so black. The water blocked out any possibility of stars.

in the tradition of Charles Olson

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


In addition to 'regular' so-called blogging, I'll be doing a poem a day for National Poetry Month. The way I've decide to do this is to write a poem based off, in the styles of others. I will include the name of the poet who I am imitating.

A Mother’s Work

The mother rushes off to work clutching her coffee.
It spills into her suit sleeve.

At home, the second daughter curls in bed with a fever.
She has nearly a stranger to take care of her.

The mother travels toward the pulsating city,
In her business clothes, she looks so pretty.

As the bus flies through the tunnel
she leaves behind her most domestic funnel

Into the island of six figure salaries and
Women who count their calories.

Perhaps she is lonely for the life she misses well.
She might one day tell the boss to go to hell.

For now, she is satisfied to live her complicated life
Despite the daily grind of strife.

in the tradition of Deborah Garrison

Monday, March 30, 2009


Coming attractions: I am hoping to soon get up reviews of Nathaniel Tarn's new book and the Belladonna Elder series on Emma Bee Bernstein. Stay tuned.

I have been reading Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. While somewhat academic, I find this collection utterly soothing. What is particularly interesting to me is the concept that illness is deserved, that cancer is the fault of the patient, brought on by unhealthy living. It reminds me of how some new-ageish people predict that disability is 'punishment' for 'bad kharma.' Yesterday, we went to a brunch with my ill friend's family and friends. This was absolutely comforting.

But, I am still having those dreams where my 'car' is out of control. Last night, I was driving through Albuquerque along the arroyos in the pitch dark. Jim was next to me and I kept trying to wake  him up. He kept sleeping.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


It seems not kosher to write about this on a poetics/disability blog, but I am a writer. I write.

I have had a friend in the hospital for two weeks. He is seriously ill, although improving slightly. This friend has been in and out of my life for twenty years. Someone who I consider in my inner-most circle, almost family. This event has left me guilty, distraught, obsessed, angry. 

In my short life, I have lost four people intensely close to me -- a sister (her age 17), a boyfriend (his age 21), a stepmother (her age 35), and my dear grandfather (age 80). My corresponding ages were 18, 22, 30, and 35. Way too much grief for a young person. I am practiced at grieving.

I am convinced that I never grieved my sister fully, despite writing numerous poems based on her and getting a tattoo with her name. Despite the fact that there are at least four children floating throughout the world named after her. My sister's death was the worse case senerio; she was happy and loved by everyone. Her death, although by illness, was sudden. She changed many, many lives and I am just now, 15 years later, beginning to process the change her death caused in so many; not only profound changes in her parents and siblings, but her grandmother, her own friends, my friends, even the entire generation of children who never met Aunt Emma. 

My anger with my friend now comes from the amount of isolation I feel. I feel like, where are the people who I thought loved me? At the moment, I feel so uncared about. This is because when I mention what I'm going through to person after person; collegues, even relatives and close friends, they quickly change the subject. So, I am in a bind. I want to be quiet, I want to draw into myself, take to my bed, but I know this is not healthy. Yet, when I 'reach out' I don't get a great response either. 

I know how hard it is for people. I know when illness is brought up that people don't know what to say. They feel uncomfortable. Getting sick is something people don't want to think about. But, I wish people would. I wish people could deal and it makes me angry that they don't. This is the fundamental reason that society cannot deal with people with disabilities, of course. 
I wish schools would teach this stuff. Perhaps Kubler-Ross's 'Of Death and Dying' should be required reading. How can we live, if we don't know how to deal with illness? 

Friday, March 27, 2009

*Wheelchair Bound

I wanted to add a note here. On my statcounter, I have been finding hits regarding the word wheelchair bound. To add another time, there is no circumstance in which wheelchair bound should be used. The correct term is a person who uses a wheelchair. A person who cannot walk, uses a wheelchair for her own needs, just like a person would use crutches, a walker, a boyfriend's arm, a cane (for blind people). We don't call blind people 'cane bound' do we? Of course, 'bound' implies that the person is tied up or completely controlled by their chair. Believe it or not, most people do not use their chairs at home THAT much. They don't go to the bathroom in them, they probably don't watch TV in them, they certainly don't sleep in them and they don't have sex in them, unless they are kinky.

The term wheelchair bound is still, somehow, making the rounds. The New York Times still feels free to use it, although yesterday, they wrote an article on the Mexican drug wars and the tag was 'Blunt talk on drugs.' BLUNT! So, who knows what they have been smoking. I was also shocked to use someone use the term at United Cerebral Palsy last week! But, the entire culture has to be re-educated. The primary public has no idea about the power and intimacy of language. That is perhaps why the word invalid floated around for so long -- in/valid.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The poet as prophet

As usual, I'm dealing with the unraveling of my own consciousness. Where does poetry fit into my life? What about academia? Activism? Religion? These questions led me to look back at Naked Heart, William Everson's book of interviews and essays edited by my father, Lee Bartlett. I am just going to quote a few passages. The first of which is an excerpt from Nathanial Tarn in an interview with Bartlett and Everson. This was conducted at Kingfisher Flat in 1986 (the year that I was 16).

Tarn: Of course, Erza Pound had this same kind of regard for the poet, and it seems to me that one of the primary reasons he was so tragically disappointed in life was that his vision really was beginning to encounter the wall of silence he had not wanted to perceive before. So, my question here would be rather brutal. Do you think that the coming generations are going to have all that elevated notion of the poet? My sense of what younger poets are doing today does not imply that prophetic idea of the poet at all.

Bartlett: I'd agree with that. Certainly I think Michael Palmer would deny a prophetic vocation, as would a poet coming out of Iowa's MFA Program.

Everson: Poetry goes through changes from primitivism to decadence: we happen to be in a decadent period right now. However, mythic possibilities will always be there.

I would like to invite poets to revisit this discussion. I realize that calling the poet (i.e. oneself) is problematic. It stinks of idealism. Still, I think it's an important question. I read somewhere a few days ago about poets being 'forced' to take jobs outside of academia, but when did poets become so tied into academia to begin with?

I would define the poet as prophet in, perhaps, more benign terms: one who writes out of pure desperation. Twenty years later after Tarn and Bartlett made this assessment, I have to say that I believe there is hope in the pure poet. If I had to name names, I might name Andrea Baker, Reb Livingston, Kate Greenstreet, Jill Essbaum, Lisa Jarnot, and Maryrose Larkin. Poets who have virtually nothing to gain (or lose by writing). I would also think back to Nathaniel himself, who, all these years later is purely dedicated to the venture. Also, Fanny Howe, who I think most closely approaches the tradition of our dear monk, Bill.

Turning at an academic for a moment, I'd like to quote Marjorie Perloff from Belladonna's new Elder series book 'Emma Bee Bernstein.'

In an interview with Emma and Nona Willis Aronowitz, Perloff questions,

'There are too many artists, too many poets. Sometimes, I think if I hear about another poet, I'll shoot myself, even though I'm the one who writes on poetry. What does this glut of so-called poets and artists do for society? I'd be much happier if the women in question became social workers or teachers or medical workers...... Seriously, whatever happened to improving society? If someone really has a vocation, she will make her art no matter what......At best, they're going to end up teaching at art schools, and the process just perpetuates itself. And there are a lot of things this society needs. We need good elementary school teachers....Nobody wants to do that now - it's considered declasse' - but that's what we need."

However harsh Perloff's words, I know she knows the issue is not without complexities. Some poets have been our country's best advocates: Ginsberg, Rukeyser, Levertov. The two vocations, advocacy and poetry are not at all mutually exclusive. And yet, is the poet hiding behind her academic job in order to build the fortress for her other vocation?

Everson states, 'Find the archetype of what you are, and then if you are a poet, you'd better not compromise what you can't be.'

I think academia and poetry have become so tied in the culture that these are questions every young - and not so young - poet has to face.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I went to Paris last month. I didn't write about it because I couldn't find the lyricism. In short, I had no idea what to say. I was so completely happy and overwhelmed. I was so over taken with what I saw an inherent beauty and civility. I was afraid to write too, in that any observation I might make, might be an incorrect one. But, here's what I saw.

I felt most comfortable in the museums, simply because that is where I feel most comfortable anywhere. The first night we went to the Orsay. I was surprised when I tried to pay that the woman kept pointing to me say, 'No, No.' O, le handicap. It seems 'le handicap' and their helpers don't pay to get into museums, and I didn't. Any of them. For wrong or right, I took full advantage of this and didn't pay to get into much. It seems le handicap (and pregnant women) strangely also go to the front of the line in the grocery store. What kind of country would think of such practical practices? How about France? When I noted to a drunk guy in line buying beer that this would never happen in America, he noted, 'America sucks.' In New York, of course, it's every person for themselves and people will push you out of the way!

I needed to do a little more research, so I asked my friend Tracey, who lives in Paris, if she had had much experience with 'le handicap' in the grocery store. She said that she did. Once she was asked to move behind a mother with an son with a disability. To me, it's mere practicality. How long should a child with a disability have to wait in line? How long should their mother? And who wants to wait behind any child at all? The other strange thing was that no one stared at me! I couldn't get over it. In Czech-Republic, the stare quotient was 100%. In New York, everywhere I go, people stare at me about 50%. In Berkley, it's a little less. Actually, everyone in Berkley is handicapped or weird. In Paris, I think two people stared at me the entire trip.

The 'free' museums are still a bit of a mystery, though. I also noticed that the Louvre lets in people who are unemployed for free. The conclusion I came to is that art is so important, all should have access to it. This also might account for the well-behaved 3 year olds sitting and drawing. 

Tomorrow, how architecture can make you believe in God.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brian Lehrer

Today ended up being a huge day. Through a course of events, I ended up getting in touch with a producer of my favorite radio show, Brian Lehrer on WNYC. I pointed out that, while the show is excellent about diversity, they rarely, if ever, included shows on people with disabilities. I sent them a list possible topics. Today, the show took one of my ideas and did a program on Obama's promise to people with disabilities. You can listen as a pod-cast here.  

Monday, March 09, 2009

Happy Birthday MOM!

My Favorite Catholics, For My Mother

Roxann Foley, Emma Bartlett, Marisa and Danny Kelly, Thomas Merton, Bill Everson, Pope John Paul, Carolyn Kennedy, Alex Kelly, Jeffrey Stewart, Mary Fabili, Fanny Howe, Jack Kerouac (probably lasped), Michael Foley, Andy Warhol (most favorite!), Andy Warhol's mother (Julia Warhola), Father Mychal Judge, Vassar Miller, Dante.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

13 Favorite Things About My Mother, More to come

1. She always answers the phone and listens no matter how busy or cranky she is.
2. She loves my son completely, is patient with him, and dotes on him.
3. She made me look at the Metropolitian Museum of Art in an entirely new way.
4. She loves comedies.
5. She gets along well with children.
6. She worries about me.
7. When she visits (or I visit her) she waits on me hand and foot!
8. She understands my husband.
9. She buys all my son's new clothes.
10. She is a good Catholic.
11. She is in theology school.
12. She does my taxes and calls them a 'work of art.'
13. She is dedicated to her family.

Things you can read

In the current issue of Brooklyn Rail a review of Susan Bee's recent show at the A.I.R. Gallery. Looking at Charles Bernstein's images of the Amory Show, we are very unhappy that we didn't make the trip.

Meanwhile, if you would like to check on the promises that Obama has made to people with disabilities go to my favorite (current) website Politifact. Here's a hint. He actually hasn't done anything. But, I'm not giving up hope yet. 

Saturday, March 07, 2009

I find myself, lately, starting sentences with, 'As an activist...' I now realize that I am actually an activist. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

My 20 favorite things about my father

1. He loves his cats.
2. He can quote most of Eliot's 'Wasteland' and when I'm mad at my child he tells me 'why did you get married if you didn't want children?'
3. He says, 'You are the best poem I have ever written.'
4. He is an intellectual who loves sports and bad television.
5. He babysits a dog on Thursdays and takes it very seriously.
6. He makes excellent burritos and salads.
7. When I ask him for coffee money he gives me $60.
8. He believes in omens, signs, and conspiracy theories.
9. He says, 'We speak in a kind of shorthand you and I.'
10. He is a great collage artist.
11. He introduced me to Liz Phair and Antony.
12. Jennifer's book and Nathaniel's book.
13. He taught me to say 'Indian' not 'Native American.'
14. He is good to AF.
15. He says,' Well, you saved money on your airline ticket, so now you have more money for books!'
16. When Andy Warhol died and I cried hysterically, he surprised me with a can of Campbell's soup.
17. When I tell him poets are mean to me, he gets it.
18. He owns all the Smiths 12 inches, even though Thomas inherits them, not me.
19. He says, 'Well, Emily Post believes 'bad boys' grow up and rule the world. So, don't worry about Jeff.
20. He met Seamus Heaney at McDonalds.

And, Finally

Today is Dad's birthday! What age? Your secret is safe with me! Email birthday messages to  They will be passed on. I promise!

The New Baby in Our House

Photos from Peaches and Bats House Reading Photographer, Vicki Pollack

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Great Orr What?

In last weeks Sunday Times David Orr's proclaims 'What will we do when Ashbery and his generation are gone? Because for the first time since the early 19th century, American poetry may be about to run out of greatness,' Orr's comment is startlingly dismissive and embarrassingly small minded. By the looks of it, Orr's definition on a 'great poet' is limited to someone who wins the Nobel Prize or is acknowledged regularly by the Times. Orr does not seem to be examining the work itself, but rather the laurels and how well one fits into the narrow box of so-called American poetry. If I am wrong, I would be interested in knowing Orr's opinion of Michael Palmer, Fanny Howe, Brenda Hillman, or Nathaniel Tarn and the list does not stop there. 

In their blogs Amy King and Reb Livingston address the issues of greatness in poetry. Here's my two cents. In each poem, the poet should strive for 'greatness.' For the poem to be all that it can be. But, that should not be the most important thing and is rarely achieved. For me, the most important part of poetry in intension. In my small mind, a poet should write because they have no choice. Some poets, many poets, are committed to that lifelong goal. I am suspicious of people who write in order to get teaching jobs, attention, fame, girls or boys, or whatever. And I think, in these cases the poetry suffers. Also, when a poet doesn't meet a certain goal, the poet often gives up. The poem in itself is the means to an ends. A poet is not great. The poems are. People have to learn to divorce themselves from academic success, personality, and so on and at the end of the day, just say these are good poems (or they are not). Particularly in academia, the quality of the poems has become so beside the point. Now, the point is, where did you go to school? Who do you know? What kind of a mover and shaker are you? Even, how good looking are you?

Lots of people don't like me because I'm so opinionated. I try to tell them, who cares what I think? I'm just a cranky mother typing in her dirty house next to her toothless cat. Read my poems or don't. They are what matter and they are all that matter.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Things said by my family.

This conversation took place this morning in reference to Lent.

Mom: Who agreed to give up sweets.
Jeff: Me.
Mom: And who is helping you stick to that?
Jeff: You.
Mom: And who left a lollipop on the table.
Jeff: Daddy
Mom: So, who should you be mad at?
Jeff: You.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reading on Saturday

Hi All,

I've resurfaced from the great land of Paris. I'll be upstate on Saturday reading new(ish) poems.

Jennifer Bartlett & Richard Rizzi

The Gallery at R&F Handmade Paints
84 Ten Broeck Ave.
New Kingston, NY 12401

$5 suggested donation

Hosted by the lovely Anne Gorrick

*The Bengali children upstairs sound like they are burning the building down.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Things are about to get more difficult for people with disabilities getting around. As reported in today's NY Times, fares for access-a-ride in New York may rise to $4-$5 a ride. It seems grossly unjust that people who are at a disadvantage in some many ways will pay more than their so-called able-bodied, employed brothers and sisters. One might argue that is unfair that PWD get a 'personal ride,' and this is a good argument, yet it is flawed. As I described before, one must order A-A-R 1-2 days in advance, pick-up time is not guaranteed and drop off time seems random. One would be better off taking a cab, if only they were accessible. 

Part of the issue, of course, is poverty. PWD are, without argument, the poorest of society. PWD have a 70% unemployment rate. If one is 'able' to work, one must overcome numerous prejudices in order to find a job. Unlike African Americans, there is no official Affirmative Action for people for disabilities. To my knowledge, there aren't many placement places either. Getting SSI or disability isn't easy either. Many people wait up to THREE YEARS in order to receive funds. SSI is for people who can't work at all, and like many welfare(s) it is a joke -- $900.  When I had SSI in my early twenties, I was given $600 a month. Supplemented with baby sitting and students loans, this was enough, but for most people it's beyond ridiculous.

Three years ago, I was pretty much forced out of my job with the New York City Dept of Education -- yea, another good teacher bites the dust! At this time, I was allotted about $2000 for SSDI. The difference between SSDI and SSI is that the former is for people who did work and 'became' disabled. 

I choose to work, when I can get it/do it. In this I forfeit my disability money. I have always wondered whether (morally) I should get that money because I am (mostly) 'able' to work. What is my moral obligation? Here is the problem, it is about 100 times more difficult for me to get a position than a so-called able-bodied person. This is even taking into consideration my lengthy publishing record, two Masters degrees, and seven years of teaching experience. The government sees SSDI as help for people who cannot work. And yet, aren't there two types on 'cannot work.' Here, many of us are dealing with physical and/or mental issues that disallow us to work. But, also we are dealing, more profoundly, with a society that 'disallows' us to work for you can't work if you can't get a job and you can't get a job if people judge you on how you move rather than your resume. 

The reason I've (usually) had a job is that I have such steel head persistence. For example, when I was excessed by the DOE, I sent my resume to about 50 schools. I also went door to door to many Manhattan high schools asking if there were openings. This was despite the fact that I was being paid anyway. I was glad that I was getting paid full salary for subbing, but I REALLY wanted my own class. Here, I got some interviews but no job. 

I can say, without a doubt, that the NYC Department of Education does not value teaches with disabilities in the same way that the university might. As a minority, I see my own 'limitations' as a plus, rather than a minus. As a PWD, I can teach different and tolerance and understanding as well as grammar and writing. Somehow, most folks don't see it this way -- or don't want to. They continue to see the body different as the the body weaker.  I have even had paranoid rumblings of dissatisfaction at United Cerebral Palsy from time to time because the staff often assumes that I am a client, not an employee -- I suppose this might be an easy mistake.

The exception for me has come in academia. At my current university, you will find teachers and students of all abilities and the campus gets my award for accessibility. I have been treated as a 'less than' by some students looking for excuses for their own bad grades, but luckily, my wonderful boss doesn't go for such nonsense.  We all know, however, that academia comes with its own contests and being a minority (and even more so, an unpopular minority) can only go so far.

I dive in periodically to blogs about people with disabilities, and I wish people would be more open, provide more of a framework for their daily existence. How many people have jobs (outside of Disability Studies) and how did they get them?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr. Leonard Cohen

I've finally found a way to put my disability to the greater good. I bought handicapped seats for my husband and to go see Leonard Cohen. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

MLK Day, Reb Livingston, and New Poem

Over at Home-Schooled by a Crackling Jackal, Reb Livingston has a wonderful post about the effect of the recession on poetry. Yes! Support Reb. She has wonderful books. Some of our other favorite presses are New Directions, Rope-a-Dope, Coconut Books, Shearsman, U of California, and, most of all, Kelsey Street

MLK is volunteer day...keep in mind people with disabilities.

Finally, here is a poem sample from my work in progress [Husband]. This is dedicated to my husband Jim and further parts are coming in New American Writing and possibly others.


standing before the closet
at the end of each night

a body full of light

your glowing from within

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Paris and Eleni Sikelianos

Next week, I'm headed for a short to Paris with my friend and neighbor Julia. What has become an intension to visit any number of museums has quickly become a shopping opportunity.

There are two poets that remind me of Paris. Of course, Alice Notley who has been a long-time resident and Eleni Sikelianos who lived there during her NEA year. Eleni is a one time friend, editor, and great writer. I picked up here Body Clock recently at Moes in Berkley.

Body Clock follows the recent trend of mother-poets using children as inspiration. This 'movement' for my money is one of the most important trends in poetics. It is, of course, hardly new. Levertov, Rukeyser, Notley, Mayer, Ostricker, and many others have written about their children in years past. But, now women are beginning to be more and more open with their experiences in a number of forms. Body Clock, for and about Eleni's daughter Eva Grace, is one such book and a splendid one it is.

Sikelianos's poetry to straddles many worlds -- it has qualities of academia and experimentalism. She is one of the few poets who has managed to find readers across communities. Yet, at heart, Sikelianos is a most talented lyricist. She is the kind of poet who notices, who sees the world and translates it into her own particular language. Here, the music is not just in language, but in images. This is what has always made me love her work. How to say it? Sikelianos so perfectly describes what is like to be pregnant -- to give birth to the other -- in the most base, romantic, violent ways. 

This house is a little haunted, it's
my body body-house  

How the mother's body splits.

Sikelianos says:

the soul with the body's first double

Finally, the book ends with my favorite lines:

in the quiet sleep of animals
from the balcony of a belly
say your speeches
no cow licked you 
I do

Sikelianos's work, to me, provides an opportunity. To my knowledge, so may young poets and male poets are hesitant to read poems relating to children. As with other 'feminine' issues the poetry of motherhood is often disregarded. This needs to change on all fronts. Writing about motherhood is the ultimate act of feminism. It means to speak ones experience. Resisters should know that poems about 'motherhood' are never just that. Particularly with the work of a philosophical poet like Sikelianos, motherhood is merely just the backdrop. The work is truly about philosophy, time and timelessness, death and lyricism. They are about body --all of our bodies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If you are crippled, don't plan on getting milk

There are so many 'wrong' things happening in our world. Yet, for me, the primary issue is how grossly unaware people are on the plight of people with disabilities. Not only do PWD suffer from sigma, prejudice, unemployment, and general mistreatment, in New York, at least they deal with the issue other minorities take for granted -- movement.

Yesterday, at United Cerebral Palsy, one of my students simply wanted to go across the street to buy her favorite coffee. Yet, mobility issues and a lack of help prevented her. Since when should going to the grocery store be a privilege? Later, some friends and I had a discussion about New York's accessibility for people who use wheelchairs. I argued that the system is disrespectful and impossible to navigate. So, I called New York's access-a-ride to find out for myself. (Note: it is virtually impossible to use the subway in NY with a disability. There are very few elevators and these rarely work).

I got the reservation number for access-a-ride off the net. When you call, you have to push through two buttons to get to a person. Not bad. But, the first time, my call was disconnected. The second time I got someone right away. Here's the lowdown. You have to reserve 1-2 days in advance. There are no 'same day calls.' So, evidently PWD have to plan ahead. Say, if they are going nuts and need to get to a movie -- they are out of luck. Next, you can request a time, but there are no guarantees that the van will arrive on time. Also, this is a 'shared' ride, so when you are dropped off is up in the air. Evidently, PWD don't need to be on time. Finally, I asked if I could use the service daily to go to work. I was told I needed to call another department. The BEST thing was that the operator was nice.

Here is the message: People with disabilities are unlikely to need to be on time. They live in a timeless universe and yet, they should plan ahead, and they aren't expected to have jobs. 

I really would like people to see these problems. Why do we go on about so many problems and yet people right in our neighborhood are denied basic rights? 

Note: the bar that we were at is not accessible.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Deborah Garrison

There was recently a discussion on the Wom-po list of my review of Deborah Garrison's 'The Second Child.' Looking back at the review, it does strike me as particularly scathing, and I feel the need to perhaps amend some of my comments -- not in defense, per se, but further explanation.
The most notable comments was that my review was sexist. Although I have certainly been called sexist before, I am unsure how it relates in this context. I hope the review shows, not that I am critical of Garrison's content (domesticity), but rather her 'poetics.' As I pointed out, Garrison's techniques are sophomoric and her language avoids lyricism. Many of my own poems focus on domesticity as does some work of my favorite poets: Jarnot, Baker, Notley, Hillman, Graham, Zucker, and so on. My complaints, in fact, are primarily a defense of the aforementioned poets who, with the exception of Graham, are significantly ignored by the mainstream media. What I was trying to uncover is my frustration at the mainstream media lauding a poet, not because she is fabulous, but simple because she is part of the corporate machine. I mean, when was the last time a poet was in Elle? The review also was based off a portrait that the 'New York Times' did of Garrison portraying her as a hard working mother. 
When the media lauds wealthy people as 'hard working parents' it brings into question issues of race, disability, and class that make me uncomfortable. I tried to make this clear in the review by requesting that the media portray more women who 'have' to work versus those who 'chose' to work.

The review was not meant to insult Garrison nor 'drive a stake through her heart.' The review was meant to question poetry that I find incredibly weak and show that the emperor(ess) has no clothes.  I think that people read my comments and think that I am trying to be cruel. I am not. When I speak of poems, I speak of just those. The 'person' who wrote them is superfluous in a manner -- not in a mean way. 

One example that I might compare Garrison to is Jorie Graham. Jorie has has privileges that many poets will never see. Like Garrison, she has been lauded by the mainstream. Graham teaches at Harvard, publishes regularly in the New Yorker, and has a contract with Ecco Press. Those who know Graham's biography know that Graham didn't quite work from the ground up.  However, Graham's poetry is mind blowing. It shows a sophistication that few modern poets can match. Does one's lineage matter entirely? I am not necessarily arguing that it does. Ultimately, the poems are what matter.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Man on a Wire

as he lays down
suspended in light


beauty, sometimes must take the place of love
to have its own form
that certain brokenness

and after being released from prison
he fled into another

narcissism got the best of him
that lingering

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wheelchair Bound

In my so-called stat counter someone asked is the term wheelchair bound politically correct?
Here's the answer: no. The only 'proper' word to refer to people with disabilities is thus, people with disabilities. Wheelchair implies slavery to a wheelchair. It implies that the wheelchair is  boss of the person, not vice versa. People always come first. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What kind of mother am I?

A few weeks ago in the NYT Lisa Belkin put up a quiz on what age would you let your kid...

Below are the questions & my answers.

See a PG-13 Movie- 6
Wait in the car -- in the West 6, in NYC, 10
Babysit siblings - 14 (but he's siblingfree)
Babysit Neighbors -14
Walk to the Store - 10 (only if he buys me beer!)
Have a Credit Card - Never
Ride a Bike to School - in NYC - Never
Stay up later than I do - 6
Use the stove - 5 (with supervision)
Stay out after I've gone to bed -- 17
Have a cell phone - I don't know (probably 10/but I'd rather not)
Watch TV without monitoring - never
Use a computer - 6
Use a computer w/o parental blocks - Never
Use a computer in room - 13 (no internet)
Date- 16
Wear make-up -- ?

It's interesting how much a few questions can tell you about your parenting priorities. Mine make me notice that I'm paranoid about injury, sex, and technology. I think the internet is the fall of Western Civilization. I'm pretty conservative about dating -- I think it's for adults.  I'm also conservative about money -- I hate credit cards. Cell phones and computers 'bother' me although I use them both. Makeup was a big issue for me too. Many of the parents listed that they would let their girl wear make-up at 13! I thought, what a scandal. Then, I realized that I don't really understand the meaning of make-up. I don't wear it, and neither do most of my friends. My 6 year old son recently asked me what it was. To my simple mind, make-up is to allure men, which 13 year olds certainly shouldn't be doing, but perhaps it has some other, secret meaning that I'm not privy to. 

They didn't ask the questions that would should my more liberal self -- Does my son know what sex & war are - yes. Does he know what it means to be disabled or gay - of course. Do I care if he he is always clean and well-dressed - not really. Do I insist he wear underwear - I probably should. Do I let him play with plastic -- only if it can't buy anything. Do I let him stay up too late- well, yes, only if he let's me sleep.