Monday, April 9, 2012

Waxing Poetic the Tenth, Poetry Month Day 9: Just Give Me a Chance

I don't want to jinx things, so I'll just say that the title and some of the sentiment of today's choice is all I want to scream.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Waxing Poetic the Ninth, Poetry Month Day 8: "We Didn't Vilify White People..."

Continuing with my spoken word series here, I present you the amazing Suheir Hammad, a woman of Palestinian heritage with more talent in her little finger than I have in my whole head.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Waxing Poetic the Eighth, Poetry Month Day 7: What Teachers Make

I have had some brilliant teachers in my time, both as a kid and in college. Not only that, but I have some awesome friends who are teachers. AND I have discovered just how much I love to teach while guest lecturing to Women's Studies classes. So needless to say, I adore Taylor Mali's poem "What Teachers Make." If you haven't heard it before, you are in for a treat, and if you have, do yourself a favor and check out some of his other work. You will not be sorry. I heard him last year on campus, and it was one of the best readings I have ever been to, bar none.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Waxing Poetic the Seventh, Poetry Month Day 6: Why So Damn Serious?

According to some of my former workshop members, poetry is not supposed to be funny. When faced with a perfectly brilliant verse about how some other girl's shoe ruined everything or an equally awesome one in praise of asses, they turned their noses (already in the air as it was) up and declared them unworthy. And while I am no expert, I am capable of identifying good poetry, and these were great. But they weren't serious. They weren't good enough to join the "He-Man Stuck Up Poets Club." Well, pardon my French, but fuck them. Poetry is the language of humanity, and we are not serious all the time.

In that vein, here's Beau Sia:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Waxing Poetic the Sixth, Poetry Month, Day 5: I Do

As a poet, I never think I've written about certain aspects of my life enough. My OCD is one of these, but I have at least done some nonfiction and blogging about it. The lesbian aspect of my identity has not appeared nearly as much in my writing, which is why I am particularly excited about my newest news. I've never done a public reading at an open mic or anything. The closest I've come is reading a poem at our friend Violeta's memorial service. Buuuuut...during this year's Pride celebration, I'll be reading with 5 other local LGBT writers! I'm really excited (and a bit scared), and I wrote two new poems specifically addressing my lesbian identity, or at least the growing up with it. I think they're pretty good, but we'll see how they go over on the 18th.

In the meantime, today's selection is from the awesome lesbian poet and activist Andrea Gibson. FSU's Pride Student Union is hosting her on campus on the 14th, and she is going to be amazing. This is "I Do," which is beautiful and heartbreaking and well, here it is:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Waxing Poetic the Fifth, Poetry Month Day 4: What Women Deserve

If you don't know that certain people are leading a war against women, you haven't been paying attention. Being a woman in this country right now is no easy thing, and minority women have it even worse. On the one hand, politicians don't want standard healthcare because that would be too much government control for their taste. On the other, they want to legislate women's health at every turn. You can't have it both ways.

With all this in mind, today's selection is the incomparable Sonya Renee with "What Women Deserve."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Waxing Poetic the Fourth, Poetry Month Day 3: Southern Heritage

Even though I am terrible at memorizing my own poems, I adore Slam Poets and Spoken Word Poetry. Def Poetry Jam is one of my all time favorite shows. How could you not love a show dedicated to the beautiful, funny, amazing poets they feature? As a matter of fact, I don't know how anyone could not love spoken word, but there are those that don't. Having semi-recently graduated from a creative writing program, I can tell you that there are those that not only don't like spoken word, they look down on it. They claim that "classic" poetry is more complex and better than spoken word. While I get that everyone has different tastes, but this is more than that. It's elitism, pure and simple. I love poetry in general, but I tend to identify more with poets who come from my sort of background and also those who come from other minorities and oppressed groups. Not to say that these people don't write "classic" poetry, but spoken word seems to provide more of a haven for us. There will likely be much much more spoke word in these poetry posts, so get ready. :-)

Jason Carney's "Southern Heritage" is a particular favorite of mine. He is brilliant, and I love all his work. But something about this one speaks to me specifically. Whether it's the Mawmaw or the Native heritage or the outrage, I don't know. I just know that I get chills every single time I listen to it.

Waxing Poetic the Third, Poetry Month Day 2: The Mustn'ts Can Stuff It

So, it's Poetry Month again, and as I am a poet...well, I write poetry. Calling myself a poet makes it seem a bit more solid of a vocation than it is right now. In any case, I write the stuff and love reading it as well. On terrible days, I can feel raw and exposed and pained, but then I read certain poets or poetry, and I'm good at least for a while.

In celebration of this awesomely nerdy month, I'm going to try to post an awesome poem of the day. Whether or not this happens is another story (note the italics and use of the word "try."As we can see, it's the 2nd, and this is just the 1st post...) To sum up: there will be poems, though how many is not for sure. Enjoy! And if you have an awesome suggestion for a poet or poem for me to check out, let me know please!

Today's selection is a short and simple one: my favorite Shel Silverstein poem. I've had it memorized since about age 6 and have threatened to get it tattooed somewhere on my person, although this has not yet happened.

Listen to the Mustn'ts

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS.
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS,
Listen to the NEVER HAVES,
then listen close to me--
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

I still love this poem. While I have been told (both as a child and an adult) that it reinforces unrealistic beliefs in the "Dream It, Be It" philosophy, I choose to ignore that. Sometimes it's about wanting to grow up and be a cowgirl/astronaut/writer/teacher. Sometimes it's about grad school, but sometimes it's just about paying the rent when you are sure you will never have the cash by the 1st. Lately it has been more of the second and third. In either case, Shel has always been a comfort to me, and for that I will always be thankful to him.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Life 23: Reading Like a 5-Year-Old

For those of you who don't know, I have been employed at the Tallahassee Scholastic Book Fairs Warehouse since August. It isn't nearly as fun as it sounds, as I'm one of the grunts who fills and totes boxes all day in the cold/heat of the warehouse, but it is a rockin company to work for nonetheless. Not to mention, I end up feeling like I've done something decent at the end of the day. After all, I'm sending books to kids; can't be all bad, right? I mean, think about it...especially if you grew up in a rural area pre-internet (yep, old) like I did. Book Fair week was like fucking Christmas morning! Suddenly, where there had been only Wal-Mart to feed your book buying cravings, there were these shiny silver cases sitting in your school library! (And let me note that this was pre-Wal-Mart Supercenter. All we had was a very dinky regular WM with a very dinky book aisle. And yes, I practically lived at the city library, but there's something about owning your own books, you know?) Anyway, I digress...It was like Christmas and your birthday all rolled into one...well, it was for my geeky ass anyway. I never failed to get in trouble during book fair week. In junior high, they would let us go down to the library a couple at a time during English class to shop everyday. The teachers soon learned to make me wait before sending me, because I would spend the WHOLE class wandering down there. As a poor kid, I only had a very limited amount to spend, and by God, I was going to get the most out of every dollar. Screw those posters! Hand me Sweet Valley High, bitches!

With all that said, working at the warehouse has screwed with my reading list somewhat. Between the gift certificates we got during the winter sale and random things along the way, fully half of the 38 books I've read since January 1 have been classified as YA or children's literature--some old classics I'm rereading and some new and interesting discoveries. No, I have not quit reading "adult" literature (sounds like porn, huh?), but reading all this kids' lit has made me think about a few things. When we were little, there were a lot of people who viewed book fair day or library day as a revelation, as a beautiful, exciting thing, but as they get older, they lose the fascination they had so easily as a kid. Books lose that spark. Now, for me they never have. I can be just as excited wandering into a bookstore now as I did going to the book fair or library then, but I am a super book geek of the highest caliber. So I don't count. Take some of the people I work with for example. Scholastic implemented a "Stop, Drop, and Read!" initiative last season for all its branches. For 15 minutes a day, we stop
working and read. For me, this is fucking amazing! Pay me to sit and read? Yes, please! But for others there, it seems to be a chore...just one more thing that must be done before going home for the day. Some even seemed horrified by the idea, which I just don't get.I've noticed a couple of people, however, that have started reading during breaks or bring their own book now instead of just grabbing one of the ones from the warehouse since we've been doing this. It made me smile before, but now that I've been reading so much kids' lit, I think I understand it even better.

Reading children's literature is unlike reading any other genre. The stories are meant to be engaging at all times and to slip teaching moments in when possible, almost covertly. That way, kids are entertained and find themselves understanding new things without a lecture, and that makes a child feel amazing--to feel like they have figured something out without an adult leaning over their shoulder, regardless of what it is. I'm not saying these co-workers necessarily learned anything from reading the books at the warehouse, though I'm sure they did. What I am saying is that, just like I have been the past few weeks, they are being reminded of what it felt like to read as a kid, when every page felt like an actual door opening and we weren't so hard to impress. In turn, this is making them want to read more outside those 15 minutes.

I bitch and moan all the time about grown ups who claim to hate reading. I'm of the mind that no one can truly hate reading; it's just that they haven't found that one book that will just blow their minds. Maybe the problem isn't even that they haven't found the magic book. Maybe they just need to be handed a copy of Bridge to Terabithia or A Wrinkle in Time or Little House on the Prairie to remind them how awesome reading and books are. In short, they need to read like a 5-year-old. But you don't have to take my word for it...go find a kids' book you loved. Read it again, and I guarantee you, you'll see what I mean.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Adventures in Women's Studies: Purity-Mongers Strike Again

Earlier this week, I guest lectured in a Gender and Pop Culture class using the research I did for my honors thesis--the Duggars, Quiverfull, purity movements, and the like. It went quite well as usual, and we ended the class by watching the new 45 minute documentary of Jessica Valenti's The Purity Myth. She analyzes the obsession with a woman's purity and how this in fact sexualizes women and girls even more by placing their entire worth between their legs. Excellent watching. Find a way to view it.

In any case, it just so happens that Valenti was also just on Anderson Cooper debating with Randy Wilson, who is the male half of the couple that created the infamous Purity Balls, ample footage of which can be found on you tube. The usual arguments were made (brilliantly on Valenti's part, weak and insane on Wilson's in my humble opinion), and much merriment was had by all the feminists. Then they discussed a you tube vlog that went viral at the end of last year, posted by a 13-year-old Canadian girl about slut shaming.

Slut Shaming: the act of shaming a woman as a slut for her actual or perceived sexual activity based on rumor, attire, or knowledge of her personal life; most important to note is that it is solely aimed at women

She should be explaining this to a majority of the grown women I know. She breaks down how it contributes to sexism and rape culture and basically does the universe a service by putting this out there for her audience. The after-show "continued discussion" featured several audience members quietly losing their shit over how this 13-year-old was discussing sex and sluts. "She's so young." "She's advocating sex at 13." "She's too young to know anything about this." Okay, I usually have some issues with the current youth movement's insistence on supporting youth rights as extensively as they do. Don't get me wrong. I do think that young adults should be taken seriously, but they are still young adults, which means they do still need guidance and not all of them are as capable and mature as the movement would have you think. However, this girl is obviously quite knowledgeable, and the fact of the matter is that she never advocated sex for 13-year-olds. Not once. She never said she was having sex. Not once. She never even said that all her friends were having sex. Again, not once. What she advocated was well-informed, consensual, safe sex for those who are mentally and physically prepared to deal with the act and its possible consequences--an excellent thing to stump for as far as I can see. These women (and notice that it was only women) who basically attacked her mentally blocked everything she said except "have sex," instantaneously morphing a mature, well-thought-out, brilliant message that should be standard fare in any household into a blanket endorsement of child sex. In the process, they absolutely lost the message, one that they would have done well to absorb. There are kids having sex at 13 (and younger in some cases), and they have internalized the larger culture's ideals that a woman having sex at any age is a slut but a man is a stud. This is not new, but it is still a problem and needs to be addressed as such by women of all ages.

Valenti's main argument is that by focusing our attention completely on whether or not a girl or woman has had sex or not is painting her as nothing more than a sexual creature, which is exactly what the purity movements claim that larger society does and what they claim to be fighting by shoving the purity ideal down the throats of people at every turn. What they need to understand is that no one is attacking the idea of not having sex. That's fine. But they also need to understand that they need to stop attacking the idea of having it, which is also fine. A woman is not only the area between her legs, not just the number of times she's been intimate, and not solely the length of time she remains celibate; she is a complex creature with wants and needs every bit as important as her sexual activity or lack thereof. In short, can we please start telling our daughters and sons that the body is an amazing thing that houses the wonders of the mind and soul, which are truly the markers of a person's worth, and that there are better things to worry about than how many times the kid in the next row has or has not done the deed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's a Small, Disordered World

My entire life I have fought to conceal my OCD and its weirdness, the oddball compulsions, and general insanity accompanying it. I never wanted people to notice me checking the door locks over and over, the way I have to walk on sidewalks with cracks, and the way I can't function properly on brick or cobblestone walkways. Now I find myself expounding and expatiating on every bit of minutiae associated with it--in blogs, essays, and (at least attempting) poetry. On the one hand, this makes me vulnerable to comments I would otherwise be able to avoid, and on the other I'm making myself part of a community. So, what's the point? Earlier this evening, I read some comments on another OCD blog asking for help. The person was dealing with a particular type of obsessive thought and was trying to find out whether he was alone. While it is true that every person experiences their disorder in different ways, obsessions and compulsions repeat themselves over and over. I used to have the very kind of intrusive thought the commenter was worried about, and I was able to reassure him he is not alone.

Honestly, I have no other real point here...just that I am constantly amazed at how freakin' small the world gets everyday.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scary Numbers, or What is Wrong with These People: A Brief Discussion of Rape Stats

While driving home today, I saw a billboard posted by a group called FSU Measure Up. In short, it's a "social norms initiative" which aims to "correct misconceptions about male students in regards to promiscuity and sexual violence" (from their "About" page). Anyway, the text read something like "FSU Men understand the importance of getting consent before sexual intimacy." First of all, let me say that I certainly support the idea that the men at FSU have figured out this apparently esoteric piece of knowledge, I went and poked around the Measure Up website and found the following bits of info:

"88% of FSU men have gotten consent before sexual intimacy."
"97% of FSU men would do something to help a woman if they Saw her being mistreated."
"93% of FSU men would respect someone who intervened to prevent abuse or sexual assault."

Again, good, but...Since when did the notion that one needs consent before sex become such a revolutionary idea? And who are these 12% that did not get consent? Because, hello, that's rape and a crime, and my first inclination is expulsion. Except of course, these were, I assume, anonymous surveys, and so the people conducting them don't know which ones were the miscreants. Who are these 3% who would ignore the mistreatment, and why did so many of the 97% lie on this question? I'm sorry, but it's a valid question here. And the 7% who would not respect someone who intervened need their asses beaten. Here's one more thing to ponder: Why don't these numbers add up? These appear to be all from the same survey, so in theory, the men who got consent would have answered positively on other questions.

I'm just absolutely floored by the need for this campaign. As my friend Eric said, "What ought to be basic human decency is now award-winning behavior: 'Don't I get pie for not raping you?'"