kitchen table

from the book I’m currently reading
December 2, 2006, 1:16 pm
Filed under: books, Gender, Literature

It was all very well to insist that art was art and had no sex, but the fact was that the days of men were not in the same way fragmented, atomized by indefinite small tasks. There was such a thing as woman’s work and it consisted chiefly, Hilary sometimes thought, in being able to stand constant interruption and keep your temper. Each single day she fought a war to get to her desk before her little bundle of energy had dissipated, to push aside or cut through an intricate web of slight threads pulling her in a thousand directions–that unanswered letter, that telephone call…

May Sarton, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing


a nerd’s dream auction
November 30, 2006, 12:19 pm
Filed under: Literature

First, there was Britney Spears’ homework up for auction. And now, something much cooler, via Feministing.

Some of the items up for bidding:

Katha Pollitt edits your manuscript
Novelist Thisbe Nissen names a character in her next book after you
Former Head Writer for Six Feet Under Jill Soloway edits your script
A shooting script from SCRUBS, signed by all the lead cast members
Legendary cartoonist Jennifer Camper designs your tattoo
An evening of conversation with Cynthia Enloe
A signed limited edition broadside from Margaret Atwood

Hot shit. Go start bidding!

journal of popular studies
November 29, 2006, 1:11 pm
Filed under: Activism, America, books, Literature

My lovely friend Brynn sent me a package yesterday with the red & black thigh-highs, a new skirt, and many recent issues of the JPS.

“What?” You may ask. “That is Us Magazine, not JPS or whatever you call it.”

If you’ve ever read Mountain Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, you know that we are stealing “JPS,” short for Journal of Popular Studies, from the book’s subject, Dr. Paul Farmer. The book is among my favorites–I sincerely think everyone should read it–and besides the kick in the ass it delivers to Westerners about our lifestyle, it also shares with its readers many of Farmer’s brilliant maxims and nicknames.

Journal of Popular Studies, which he reads on planes from time to time, is one Brynn and I celebrate.  Seriously though, I kind of wish I wasn’t including Britney Spears in the same post as Paul Farmer. His work, as Kidder describes it, is a moral compass for me. A welcome, consistent kick in the ass.

billy boy, billy boy
November 21, 2006, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Buffalo, Literature

Originally uploaded by I Sing

Meant to write about this over the weekend. Boyfriend and I went to see poet Billy Collins read on Friday night at UB. It didn’t take much convincing but we both acknowledged that Mike was hesitant to jump for joy. He wanted to go because I was excited but otherwise, I believe he felt indifferent at best.

He majored in business and finance. I majored in English.

And it’s not that a business major–and now, a law student–wouldn’t find joy in literature, but I know from past conversations that poetry has intimidated Mike. He feels about as connected to it as he does Saturn: it’s out there, it’s untouchable, it doesn’t really matter. What’s more, can anybody really blame him? With the exception of four or five poets, I feel fairly distant from the craft and art of poetry myself. In fact, I often feel like a fraud for not “getting” the Great Poems of All Time. Or for just not being interested.

They’re out there, they’re untouchable, they don’t really matter.

But then we saw Billy Collins on Friday night and we learned, for what felt to me like the first time for both of us, that it is touchable and it does matter. It’s also fuckin’ funny.

Before Collins went on stage, award-winning poet Carl Dennis gave the introduction and I grabbed Mike’s arm with one hand and gripped my seat with the other, fearing we’d both jump ship. Dennis’ speech was well-intentioned–probably even brilliant–but also excruiating and the epitome of a stereotypical poetry reading: white, male scholar droning into his sweater vest about the truths and mysteries of humanity. Blah.

Billy saved the day though and from the moment he stepped up to the podium, the mood in the auditorium was light and open. The very first poem he read, the name I cannot remember, made Mike laugh. And so did the second, the third. The fourth. He read from past works as well as new poems. I turned to Mike many times throughout the night, so delighted to see him smile–he was enjoying a poetry reading! When I wasn’t looking towards the stage or to my side, I was scrawling ideas for poems in my notebook. The kind of inspiration that comes from hearing other people read, by being reminded of how the craft works–from the pinprick of an idea to the excessive sweating of its birth to the polished neatness of its completion, the clean up, the end.

As we were driving home Mike asked me if I had any of his books so we could read them that night, in bed. When I finally got my copy of Sailling Alone Around the Room into his hands he read it like he was hungry. I told him about Billy Collins’ project, Poetry 180, and his other, numerous attempts at making poetry accessible. We both agreed that Mr. Collins was successful within our small world and reread our favorites of the evening, “Forgetfulness,” “Snow Day,” and, of course, “The Trouble with Poetry.”

P.S. Billy Collins is totally Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.