Friday, April 27, 2007
The Oral Exam is a curious tradition in academia. I became convinced at one point that it amounts to a type of cruel, protracted hazing ritual. A good friend of mine developed hives while studying for hers, plus a few allergies from which she hadn't previously suffered. Still another was driven to therapy for the first time after experiencing her first anxiety attack (ah, remember the days?), while your very own pea quit all her meds, isolated completely in the middle of Brooklyn with only her books and an devilishly addictive video game called Animal Crossing, and lamented the fact that her therapist was on maternity leave.
What could be the possible use of this exercise? As researchers, we are trained that intelligence rests not in stuff you know, but in knowing how to formulate interesting questions and seek out answers to them in languorous, creative ways. College may teach us to "cram," but grad school is supposed to teach us to relax and dig in, to value depth over coverage, to submerge ourselves in the minutiae of words and images and ideas. The orals, on the other hand, drive us to distraction, to watching movies and reading Cliffs Notes, to relying on summaries and dust jacket blurbs and outlines we gratefully find via desperate Google searches. The orals make us hate books a little (or maybe a lot; why are they all so fucking long?), though we're supposed to be learning the art of more responsibly loving them.
On the day of my orals, I felt plugged in. Completely crazy and wired, yes, but plugged in, grown up, able to think about wide swaths of literary history in some rough and provisional but still viable frameworks. I spoke in broad terms about centuries and dynasties and movements without being full of shit. Mostly, I made it through, and felt OK on the other end.
I have been watching you from afar, pea. I have been reading about your frustration, but also about your happy discoveries. I have seen the photos of your books and your piles of notes, and you look great together. I have thought about you at that lecture, feeling plugged in and at home while still recognizing the shabby ridiculousness of academic pretensions. I have seen the images that drive and move and inspire you. I have no doubt that you'll get through it, and even have hopes that you'll think maybe it was worth it.
I am so proud of you, my poet and academic and best of all friends.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
p, i would so like to write about this day, this feeling, this stuff, this... what it means to have so many people love me and support me, especially you and how overwhelming life can be, and oranges (i think i may actually have that O'Hara 1/2 quote right!) instead I have to finish up some things, write my little introductory comedy routine for tomorrow and cry a little. but first, i wanted to show you this picture I found: it is Leslie Scalapino, a wonderous writer, whose website i needed a peek at because, well, Professor Scalapino, I haven't read your book.
When I saw this face, I got choked up. I hope you can see why. Has anyone ever looked so forgiving? So toothy and gentle? So like the woman I want to walk into this room right now and read me some funny poems? About dogs and about the drive-thru at Wendy's, maybe. I wouldn't know if she has any poems of the sort. But she sure looks like she should. Thank you, Leslie Scalapino for being born with particular soothing-appearance genes. And thanks for the huge book I haven't read.
thanks for thinking of me every minute, p. i need it.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
work and pictures of Mina Loy, an amazing poet, but even more amazing is that she never considered herself a poet at all. she made things. that's what she did. she made clothing, lamps, jewelry, drawings, paintings, "assemblages," hats, things. things that she wanted to surround her. she loved love and sex and dressing up and going out and hiding out and being coy and being a bitch and being smug and being humble and being like nobody else.
I see you this way.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
P: this from an article about CIXOUS, which is unpublished but available from a smart, concise, U. Colorado Boulder professor.
"--in order to become subjects in language, Cactus argues, is it possible for a woman to write at all?"
INDEED! Thank you, my prickly French philosopher, for taking up such crucial matters. I am thankful for your insight. Would you care for a glass of water? You look parched!
love and missing you,
p.s. photo included in case you had forgotten for a second how fucking gorgeous our cactus hero is. not that it matters or anything. god.
Monday, April 16, 2007
2) realize that your pea, whose attention you had hoped to draw to your recent flickr activity, had already been looking and commenting and sending love
3) delight in the fact that your pea's lovely eyes are drawn to all the same beautiful and crazy shit in your neighborhood that you love the most, dream of future walking (and talking) tours
4) confess to your pea that you haven't looked at her flickr site since your jealous, private, three-year-old tantrum about her trip to Zim's without you
5) devise, with the help of your darling brother whose birthday just passed, a new favorite game. it's very simple, and basically consists of inserting, with complete conviction and passion, random cliched movie quotes into daily conversation, apropos of nothing. examples:
Co-worker: Hey, I like your hat!
Me: I don't even KNOW you anymore.
Stranger on the bus: Pardon me, do you have the time?
Me: I was BORN ready!
Stranger on the street: Can you tell me how to find 5th avenue?
Me: You can't HANDLE the truth!
Friend: Hey, did you read that article about Donald Rumsfeld?
Me: Rumsfeld is my MIDDLE NAME.
Waiter: Here's your omelet.
Me: My omelet...AND MY CURSE.
missing you and thinking about you every day,
- go online to see what-the-fuck about the Virginia Tech shootings
- feel sad, scared, etc.
- have an ADD moment and click on story about Kate and Wills
- read that many Brits have been disdainful of Kate, calling her "common"
- feel guilty for being a stupid American who just looks at pictures and doesn't read
- think that, as it turns out, she seems like a sport, given that Will's friends were apparently never very nice to her
- feel like inviting her over for a cupcake
- decide to broadcast my feelings about Wills and Kate
- feel disturbed that I am not saying something smart right now about the Virginia Tech massacre.
- think to self that maybe i'm not writing anything because college campuses feel like home and maybe this is just too close to home
- sign off, a little teary-eyed now
2. Go to SOMEONE'S flickr sets and gleefully discover one million new pictures. Make numerous comments on said pictures.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
thought of you a gajillion times this week. most fondly did i think of you when i went to a discussion session with a poet/critic who is a big fat deal everywhere, but especially here. since said poet/critic is on my reading list twice, i felt i should abandon the social anxiety disorder and go sit in the back of the room with a giant hat and sunglasses on.
earlier this week, i was bitching about this poet/critic: she's boring, she's not smart so much as she is disorganized which seems to be passing for "fragmented." additionally, yet again, a poet/critic has built a cult of personality based on opacity, cleverness, and postmodern chic. And yet...
when i saw her, i was charmed. she is a tiny woman, older than old, sensibly dressed in a properly boring new englandish outfit. around her, at a large conference table sat the graduate students and other tag-alongs dressed as if their appearance needed to be a poem published in the most fashionable rag. all haircuts, shoes, jewelry, scarves, glasses, "rag tag" clothes, adding up to a personal style that felt no more personal than a workshop-gone-bad poem-- each only slightly different than the next-- but all easily identifiable as part of a club. and a rather boring club, i'd say. i remember something different when you were around, but maybe i remember wrong. no i don't. we had the gamut: the lord of the rings pair, the button-up all american guy, D.D with socks with sandals and hemmed jean shorts, lord l.l. bean, and we (as a group) weren't really all that attractive, either (except you and me, dur). none of us had hip glasses yet.
but so. it's not about clothes, exactly, but what they mark: a very particular style of thought and language that often feels like a performance. a comment that purports to be "struggling with a concept" is not struggling at all, but is the bobbing and weaving of a voice that is of a particular tenor (not the one used at the bus stop) that says "i am complicated, i am modest about my brilliance, when i am done stammering, i will punctuate with a wrap-up that is not a question for the poet/critic, but a beautiful aphorism." and the poet/critic responds, kindly, but without the dressing, as she were at the bus stop telling the guy next to her about planting tulips.
i felt so apart, and for once, it felt so good. the students were smart, sure, but no smarter than me. i feel like i am, late in the game (i know), learning what i wish i had learned in jr. high, which is that the cool kids aren't so special-- they just wear matching clothes. and i've also learned that i should hold out judgment about poet/critics until i get to know their work and, better, them. because this woman was outstanding. she is considered a premier dickinson scholar-- who never went to college. never. never. just like emily. and, like emily, her work seems, on the surface to be something it's not.
all you poseurs can kiss her ass.
and you, sweet pea, can hold my hand and skip off into the sunset, triumphant in our dorkiness. and also our smartness.
and so. please forgive my usual rant about the state of affairs in academia. it was a visit with Uncle Tom that reinforced my belief in the off-the-beaten-track way to learn. you've learned it. i'm learning it too.
missing you terribly,
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Friday, April 6, 2007
P- as a kid, I was always mystified and humbled by the accounts that when Christ died, the skies darkened like night and there were earthquakes and scary things. I am not religious at all, but the story of the crucifixion is full of possibility and real emotional complexity. I'm not thrilled by the resurrection stories-- they are boring to me (BLASPHEME!). What is not boring is the drama of the cross and of the friends and family of Christ who had to watch, and then bury him. How did it feel for Mary to hold the dead weight of her child? Did they know anything about the end of the story? Seems not, and so what did they do Saturday? It's a story of pain, heartache, politics, and beautiful, thick symbolism. I felt this as a kid and always made a point of praying a lot on Good Friday-- I even had my own kind of rituals, which I've now forgotten. I wondered where all the other Christians were on the anniversary of Christ's death. Perhaps they were dyeing eggs, or stuffing plastic eggs with jelly beans. But I waited, thinking that if there was a god (I was only half convinced, despite my dedication to the story) I'd see the skies darken, if only for a minute, that god must mark his mourning somehow-- wouldn't any father?
with much love and contemplation on this strangest, most intriguing of Christian holidays,
Other forgotten egg possibilities:
In the end, it's really all about this:
Enjoy your eggs!
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Monday, April 2, 2007
(cowering in corner) please don't yell at me! i just peed my pants.
DEAR (supervisor), YOU NEED E-MAIL ETIQUETTE SCOOL. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YOU'RE A LICENSED THERAPIST! CAN'T YOU THINK OF A MORE CONSTRUCTIVE WAY TO SAY, "write your notes, please. It's very important for funding. Also, I'm afraid that because there have been some infractions (NOT ME!) there will be consequences if this doesn't happen. Please contact me if you need help" THAT'S ALL IT TAKES, DOUCHEBAGUETTE!
So, can I open an e-mail etiquette business?
Burning with righteous indignation (and love for you),
your next-to-perfect p.
time for another self-indulgent crazy post! i know that i'm nuts, but when i woke up in the middle of the night with a grand idea for how to redeem myself to others who have to play that game with me, i think i reached new crazy heights. here's the problem (just one of many, of course): April 27 is coming up fast and as it does, i simultaneously get completely panicked (random sweating, heart-racing, shaking, etc.) and paralyzed (numb arms, the ability and urge to fall asleep anywhere, anytime). this wackiness leave me little time for studying and even less time for being an even semi-decent friend, which makes me crazier because now i'm convinced that everyone i love thinks i'm a complete tool. here was the idea: send an e-mail to all of my friends and family explaining all this to them. sort of an "i'm sorry i'm an ass, it's all the exams' fault, etc.) until i realized how COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS that would be. for one thing, if you want to show that you're not completely self-involved, you don't send an e-mail to explain that you're really not. especially an e-mail that gets sent to a large group of people. "dear fans, i'm sorry i'm not available to sign autographs this week, but..."
i think the best idea is to remain in my self-imposed seclusion until this business is over and then i focus on my friends without talking exclusively about all the nuances of my feelings about my future and how my dissertation is going to work, etc.
also, fucking itunes will not let me make an istore account. fuckers. and there's no way i'm calling customer service. so i guess that Nelly Furtado single i want will just have to fester away somewhere else.
i love you. i know that you are patient with me and for that, i'm extremely thankful...
falling apart and taping myself back together on an hourly basis,