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Sometimes, A Gal’s Just Gotta Rage

from Flickr user Thoth, God of Knowledge

from Flickr user Thoth, God of Knowledge

By now you’ve heard about the SCOTUS  Hobby Lobby decision.

SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of The United States, but during the past few days, I’ve been rather startled by the acronym’s similarity to the word SCROTUM.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, here are some links:

They Want More

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is THA BOMB

Hillary’s pissed.

Corporations are people but women are not

What the actual *profanity* *PROFANITY* PROFANITY AT INCREASING VOLUME!!!!!

Then, Jon Stewart quoted Hillary saying The Bible is the most influential book of her life. Honest to god, I can’t believe the transparency of the pandering. What the hell, Hills? Are you strident or not? I say the answer is not.

Maybe she went on to describe the ways in which The Bible has been bastardized by Christian rhetoric. Maybe she means the parts where Jesus is an all-around good dude who had positive ideas about how to be a human in the world. But what is more likely? Her team of Election Manipulators have encouraged her to say shit like that so as not to fully alienate the Religious Right (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days).

It pissed me off.

Other things that pissed me off?

Hobby lobby has no trouble paying for viagra. Sort of like Medicaid has no trouble paying for Penis Pumps.

Nigerian school girls are still missing.

There have been 74 school shootings in the last two years and Gun Lobbyists are still bastardizing the second amendment to “protect” a regular citizen’s “right” to bear arms.

Sexual abuse and assault is still rampant in our culture.

Which, as a mother of a female child, TERRIFIES ME. I’m scared to leave her out of my sight when not in our home. I’m scared some mentally ill person she goes to school with will decide this fall is the fall to tote a little firearm to school and rain bullets.

I’m pissed that I have to worry about that.

I’m angry at how powerless myself and all the other people in the whole country who are worth less than several million dollars are.

I’m angry that the Clintons have the gall to declare themselves broke-ass after their stint in the White House.

And today I’m really fucking sad because a kid I grew up around (our grandmas were BFFs), went to school with, who had loads of friends and was a genius at fixing cars, killed himself.

He killed himself because his dad shot his mom when he was 4. He was there. He killed himself because of domestic violence. He killed himself because of somebody else’s mental illness and gun violence.

I am so wound up today that, after I couldn’t locate my previously existing Yoga DVD, I went to Target and bought two. I did about 50 minutes worth of cardio Yoga and Yoga for stress relief and I feel reasonably calm now. For the rest of the afternoon, I am going to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love, and I am going to try to figure out how to move to space in between frustrated crying jags.

Hopefully I will be refreshed and calm enough to lead tonight’s writing workshop.

What do you all do when you’re full of rage? Am I the only grownup who gets enraged to the point of distraction?

 

 

 

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Snotdrops on Roses and Scissors on Kittens

From Flickr user takomabibelot

From Flickr user takomabibelot

My number 1 favorite thing about residency is that I get to spend a week not explaining myself or enduring weird faces from people because all the other humans there are precisely my sort of weird/neurotic/thinky.

A close second, however, is that a lot of people there call me April Line.

I have a really cool name for a writer. Perfect, even. It’s as if my parents knew. Hell, maybe they did.

And then there’s the pursuant wordplay: April Line, you so fine; April Line, where’s my wine? Of course, I am in a tribe of people who, like me, enjoy the sounds words make when they scrape across tongues. We enjoy rhyme for its own sake. We slide words together in lines because they are fun, because of the sounds, because because words. The words do not have to be true. I am not fine in an objective sense nor do I make a habit of fetching wine.

My favorite thing since I got home? The thing that gives me more joy even than particularly delicious beer, running, or good food?

My Writing Workshop, the first of which happened last night. I met a new student. I had an hour of that lovely thing where I can talk about being a writer like it’s normal. I can explain to people who get it about the weird writer brain thing. I can help them cultivate their own, give them guidance for how to overcome their inner critic, I can talk about all the articles I read about writing and writers to people who are interested.

I am knowledgeable and there’s huge power in knowledge. It’s energizing. I got home feeling excited and light and right.

It is micro-residency. It is how I’m sure I want to be a writing teacher forever. Because to teach writing is to always have a way into that world, the world where I’m not just a loon who has a big vocabulary.

Come join the tribe. The workshops are fun and affordable.

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#YesAllWomen: How The Interwebs Blew My Mind + Cracked Me Open w/ Rage

screen shot of quick Twitter Search

screen shot of quick Twitter Search

I’m sure you’ve heard all about Elliot Rodger and his misogynist manifesto followed by an array of violence where seven people + Rodger lost their lives.

In case you didn’t, here’s a recap.

I’m not glad Rodger is dead. I feel badly for his parents. I think the whole thing is awful and probably, in its rawest most elemental parts, not even Rodger’s fault. I feel awful that I live in a world that would foster an Elliot Rodger and his manifesto. I feel yucky that not enough people (including therapists and police) Rodger reached out to in his time of misogyny said, “Dudebro. Chill. Someday, you’ll have sex and it’ll be great. For now, concentrate on being smart and kind. Let me help you. PS, women are awesome + smart people just like you, not property, merchandize, or beasts to be tamed.”

Honest to god, I didn’t get the #YesAllWomen thing the first time I heard it. I was like, wait, what? Yes All Women What? What single experience could possibly read across cultures for all women? Clearly I was not spending (any) time on Twitter.

Then, a dude explained it to me.

Then, OH BOY DID I GET IT.

I began to pay attention in my own life. I wait tables for money in a brew pub. I love my job. I love people. I typically have a great time at work. But sometimes, way more often than it seems I notice, I act to protect myself. This behavior is ROTE. Most of us don’t even think about it, we just act. To be nice. To be ladylike.

Unfortunately, a lot of us are still casualties of bad socializing or psychosis or whatever other code name  for misogyny is applicable to the male rage that ends so many women.

Anecdote: I waited on a table of a big family. A sweet older woman grabbed my arm and read my tattoo. She looked at me quizzically. She said, “You don’t look like a feminist. You look cute.” #YesAllWomen

At the brew pub, I waited on a pair of old guys visiting from a big city. One of them, after most of their second pitcher of beer and about three hours of bossing me around (read, taking up a table through the dinner rush), told my tits that he’d treat me like a queen if I ever visited his city.

Instead of saying what I wanted to say, which is “Stuff it, Perv.” I mustered a phony laugh and a “Sure!”  from my reserve of phony laughs and crazy-agreeable lady speak. Jack ass didn’t even tip 20%.

I asked myself why I did that.

I did it because of fear. Because I was scared that if I told the old guy to go fuck himself, he would wait for me and do something mean and shitty or just stalkery and frightening to me after work.

I started to pay attention to my feelings around men I don’t know all the time: when I’m running, if I’m alone somewhere, if I’m picking up my kid at school, if I’m walking across a parking lot.

I realized, unconsciously, I give all strange men, regardless of their race or age, a wide berth. Yesterday, I was at the park running and there was an old guy sunbathing with his newspaper. I was a little frightened of him because I couldn’t reckon out why the heck he would be hanging out at the park with half his clothes off, reclining like it’s his fucking living room. He coulda been the sweetest dude on the planet, but the alternative was too horrifying to attempt to find out. #YesAllWomen.

In fact, I might even be a little more tentative around white guys because frankly, they have way, way, way less of a reason to strive to understand what it is to be marginalized in any way. Hence, #NotAllMen, a knee-jerk response to the twitter explosion of #YesAllWomen.

Which brings up two things. 1) my personal belief that if we are going to end sexism, racism, and all other bigotry, we must accept that we are complicit and begin to see ourselves as part of the problem (that means, stop saying, “but I’m not a racist,” because it’s just not true); then act, moving forward with empathy, with a conscious desire to change our thinking, our emotional responses, and our unconscious and intentional reactions to the subjects of our bigotry. Here’s a humbling appeal from a woman of color to us white women who do not always provide the empathy we demand. And 2) some men, those who would doubtless put themselves in the #NotAll category, do not see this problem for a number of reasons, but the two main ones are lack of empathy + lack of visibility. Here, give this a think.

Anecdote: YESTERDAY, I drove in my car past a very beautiful young woman who was wearing a pair of short black shorts and a sheer tank top with a black bra underneath. My first thought was, “she looks great, I love her outfit.” My second thought was, “But is she trying to get raped?” My third thought was “Ohmigod I can’t believe I just thought that bullshit. Followed by a long self-hating lecture I’ll spare you all from outlining how she can wear whatever she wants and she is powerful and beautiful it is not her job to act to circumvent rape and rape is not a result of women wearing awesome outfits and so on. WE ARE ALL PART OF THE PROBLEM.

And as a counterpoint to lack of empathy? Of awareness? Some men, young men even, are starting to notice and want to help to affect change. Here’s an appeal for more empathy, for all people to be feminists. Let’s all try to be more like that writer’s son. Like that writer for raising a son who can look at himself unflinchingly and honestly.

I’ve been crabby this week. Short with the people I love + generally feeling full of rage. I have these periods occasionally. Ones where, when I learn things about myself and the world around me, I am pissed off. I don’t think this huge social problem is all that’s making me grumpy: I’m at a transitional period in my life + I’m sorting through stuff in my mind that I don’t always understand until I talk it over with my therapist.

And here’s the bullshit thing about my crabbiness: I’m pretty fucking privileged. I get to feel crabby on nice furniture in a house that has plenty of space and always food in the fridge. The ridiculous and horrifying things that have happened to me at men’s hands are pretty minimal compared to what other women have experienced. I know that where I work, there are at least a dozen people who would have my back if some stalkery nonsense happened. I happen to be heterosexual and white, so I live with a nice, tall white dude which is a fine asset. I have a baller education and the freedom to get more, which is also a huge, huge privilege.

I guess the thing that makes me mad is that it matters I’m white and heterosexual. I just don’t understand why it can’t be the same for all humans, regardless. I mean, I can explain why, I can regurgitate the things I have learned (in college, not in my conservative upbringing), I can even sort of understand the fear that makes some of the bad stuff happen.

But here’s the part that I don’t get: We live in a culture where we can use a device that has enough advanced tech in it, it can tell when it’s laying on a table, in a purse, or check your pulse. It can teach you anything you can ask it about. Why the hell can’t we get our shit together to teach our children, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances that differentness is not a cause for oppression. Differentness doesn’t mean that another person’s experience is invalid. All humans have experiences that exist even if we can’t see or understand them. And differentness is a thing to be honored and experienced and edified by. All of us with the same opportunities, working together to make the world awesome? If I could snap my fingers and make one thing happen, I would eliminate hate. We would be so powerful and so. much. happier.

And I’m not the only one trying to make sense of this, weighing in on the Blogosphere. I hope I’m not the only one who’s working hard to abolish her revolting racist, sexist, classist, ageist, internal garbage with which I’ve been acculturated.

One brave journalist spent 8 hours in the chat room Roger Elliot frequented. Another woman tried to make sense of it by writing about her own experiences.

And for some vaguely related historical tidbits, read about the sadly departed Maya Angelou’s history as a sex worker and how uncomfortable book people–the people whom I would wish to be least narrow about acceptable behavior, sexuality, ideas from women–are with her stint as a prostitute. Or about how the Christians are trying to stop Harvey Milk’s Forever Stamp legacy. Because, y’know, he was gay and stuff, and as Westboro Baptist is so fond of reminding us, “God Hates Fags.”

GAAAAHHHHAHAHAAHA!

Scream in the comments if you want. Tell me which link you liked best. Share your #YesAllWomen story. Or tell me how I can be a better ally if you are part of a group my straight, white brethren are so fond of oppressing.

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21 Lies I Tell Myself to Avoid Writing

From Flickr user emdot

From Flickr user emdot

1. You really should check in on Facebook.

2. You really, really suck.

3. You need coffee first.

4. You can do it later.

5. Oh my god your ass is smaller! Peer at yourself in the pre-dawn window for a time. Honest to god, it’s smaller than it was yesterday.

6. It is a good day to put a big chunk of something in the crock pot, but first you’ll need a recipe.

7. You don’t have to write today. You wrote yesterday and the day before. It won’t kill you to miss one day. You deserve it.

8. That e-mail cannot wait, you must answer it.

9. Everyone hates you and you should probably just give up.

10. Writing is a waste of time. You should quit now while you’re still young enough to become an expert on something else.

11. Instagram needs an update. You haven’t photographed anything recently, now would be a good time.

12. Have I mentioned how awful you are?

13. The dishes need doing, now.

14. You can still do it later.

15. Writing is boring.

16. You are ugly, you should go contemplate that fact in front of a mirror.

17. You really need to take out the trash.

18. You need to pack Child’s lunch. This second. You will forget to do it later, and she won’t dream of reminding you.

19. You should take a quick second to check your blog stats.

20. You don’t tweet enough, all the best writey people tweet often. You need to go analyze their tweeting and promise yourself you’ll do better.

21. You need to have a sandwich this instant. If you don’t, you’ll get a cramp when you run later.

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Workshop Stuff + Hooray!

Lookee! I made a banner.

Lookee! I made a banner.

Click It!!

That’s my newsletter. I send them maybe four times a year, at the absolute most one per month, depending on whether I have something super exciting to share.

I use MadMimi dot com.

I spent a lot of time this week figuring out details of my summer workshops. So you ought to spend a lot of time deciding how many of them you’re planning to attend.

New? Saturday morning workshops for kids about Poetry. Involving tactile making stuff as well as thinky word stuff. It’s going to be so fun.

Also, Writing Residency is ONLY THREE WEEKS AWAY. I can barely contain myself.

If you want to subscribe to my newsletter, shoot me a note using this form:

**I won’t sell your info or even share it with anybody. I promise.**

 

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The Mind of a Feminist Poetry Judge: Tips, Tricks, and a Rape Stanza Ugh

It's fuzzy on purpose

It’s fuzzy on purpose: protecting anonymity.

About twice a year for the last few, I’ve had the privilege of judging poetry contests for NFSPS and its organizations.

One year, I judged the unrequited love category.

I’m not going to lie. A lot of those poems were intensely bad. I believe there were upwards of 400 of them. But finding the few excellent ones makes the whole thing worth it, every year. I get to choose nine. Sometimes, it’s really, really hard. Sometimes I wish I could choose twenty or at least twelve.

Sometimes, I want to write the poets who finally do not win long admiring letters about how much I like the way they paint with language or their rhythm or diction or just the words they choose. I want to encourage them to keep writing, to live and dream and be in the cold, scary ocean of words.

I want to explain that at a certain point, especially when dealing with poems of high literary merit, it becomes only about taste, that their poem was good and worthy and probably would’ve won if the judge were different.

Note 1:  Writing an unrequited love poem in second person is a pervasive impulse, and perhaps one to avoid, at least as an experiment or in early drafts–we always need to dig deeper than our first impulse because the first impulse is usually the easiest one, and the easiest thing is nearly never the best thing.

This year, I’m judging the Social Issues category and though I have made it through less than a quarter of the pile of around 200 poems (pictured above), I have read many about Wall Street, about how kids these days don’t pay any attention to nature because they’re too plugged in, and about war.

Note 2: When writing a poem about Social Issues, or anything really, remember that everyone else has been disturbed or illuminated by the same news as you have, lives in the same world you do. A fresh take is warranted, a new perspective, turning an issue on its head to look at it from the genitals down. If I wanted Fox News, I could just watch it. If I wanted NPR, I would just listen. If I wanted SARK, I would’ve read her.

At the risk of seeming indelicate: this year, I am especially glad that the poets remain anonymous to me.

One of the poems is by a right-wing gun rights person. It imagines a dystopian future wherein all people’s guns have been confiscated by the government. The final stanza closes with a woman’s imminent rape because, you guessed it, her gun is no longer in her bedside table drawer. As if a gun is her only option. As if a gun would absolutely save her. As if she wouldn’t have locked her doors, the feeble minded, wibbly, bad-at-life woman who needs a firey phallus of protection.

If I knew who wrote this poem, I do not think I could possibly keep myself from writing him a rant.

Note 3: If you know or can find out who the judge is for a contest you want to enter, use the Google. Unless you are genius like Billy Collins or Harryette Mullen, you have very little chance of winning with a poem that strips a woman of her agency when the judge is openly feminist. 

I only read all of some of the poems. There has to be something in the first line or stanza to keep me going. A baffling number of poems open with passive voice or with a tired, tired metaphor, or they blow the load in the first line. A lot of poems exit the gate with heavy handedness and some of them read like a person put line breaks into a news story.

In my system, I run through the poems quickly the first time. I make three piles: No, Yes, and Maybe. Marked N, Y, and M. The N pile is always the biggest, then the M pile. The Y pile typically has fewer than five poems, and often, not always, the top three prizes come from these.

In my first read, I’m also looking for poems that don’t follow the guidelines. These are easy to identify, and the upper line limit exists for good reasons. First, it’s fair. Second, if the poem will appear in any sort of publication, the organization running the contest knows its formatting limitations. So if the limit is 34 lines and you send 35, I am afraid you get a N, even if I think your poem warrants something better.

Note 4: More than half the poems get less than a full read. You get one chance. Sometimes, poems have great things going for them, but they are riddled with bad grammar and misspellings that are not intentional. This has been written many times before, but first drafts are almost never good drafts. And a proofread first draft is still a first draft. And poetry contests (and all writing contests) are competitive. You must send your best, most polished work. Even if you are sick of it. Especially if you are sick of it because that means you know it like your own soul and it’s probably as good as you can make it.

Friends who’ve judged writing contests, what is your method? If you select writing for a literary magazine, do you do it differently?

Poets, how closely do you look at the contest guidelines? Is it helpful to know that sometimes even good poems can’t win?

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Follow Me Down the Rabbit Hole

from Flickr user Smath.

from Flickr user Smath.

This morning, I got knocked on the chest by equal parts nostalgia, outrage, and WTFship. It was the sort of morning where spending an hour on Facebook made me feel like a more informed citizen and reminded me how big the world is. Sometimes, facebook is good like that.

First, let’s talk two icons from my childhood/pre-early teen years: Monica Lewinsky writes about her affair with Clinton + Rob Lowe’s moving essay about sending his older son off to college.

Two sentences from the tiny amount that’s available from the Lewinsky piece without subscribing to Vanity Fair really got my feminist hackles up. 1) Lewinsky saying she regrets it, but that it was consensual. Fine, fine. BUT WHY DOES SHE HAVE TO SAY IT?? If it were a male intern + a female president, we’d be way angry at the female president and talking about what a stud the intern was. I don’t remember a single person saying “shame on President Clinton.” I remember lots and lots of people slut shaming a very young female intern. 2) Lewinsky says she heard Mrs. Clinton blamed herself for the affair because she was “being emotionally distant.” Women blaming themselves for the bad behavior of men (and men blaming women for the bad behavior of men) is a huge part of the reason I need feminism. <– Rage, Nostalgia, WTF?

The Lowe essay? I wept. Just read it. <— WTF. And a little bit of nostalgia.

And then, THIS BULLSHIT. A whiny white boy from Princeton “checking” his privilege. This is thematically relevant because I was young + dumb and clueless (even if I was intellectually apt, as he clearly is) like this kid around the same time Lewinsky + Lowe were pretty omnipresent in the news/entertainment/network TV world. I also would’ve once pulled a stunt such as this: misunderstanding the entire point + then using my stunning awareness of multiple meanings of words to take “check your privilege” to mean “examine the history of your privilege, then act like an indignant asshole” I am sure I also participated in slut shaming Lewinsky at the time. I am ashamed. <— WTF + nostalgia over being young and stupid once, too.

And then the lovely open letter followup from a saner, more reasonable, less Fox-News-Informed voice. <— relief.

And this video, while clever and entertaining, filled me with rage. Ignore the year-ago date and spend 1.5 minutes of your time. I watched it with Child leaning over my shoulder, and she asked me “what is that all about?” While I was explaining it to her, saying it out loud with words that I made with my vocal cords and tongue and teeth, I got so. Friggin. Angry. <— WTF.

Anybody else refreshingly enraged by Facebook rabbit holes recently?

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