summer canon
July 15, 2014

When it reaches 100ºF in the afternoon and the only activity that is both free and not sweat-inducing is taking the bus to the public library, it makes sense that one would spend most of the summer reading in the safety of air conditioned rooms. This is exactly what I have been doing. Despite my lack of recent posts, I have been writing, too, though I am hoarding away my new poems until I have made it past the usual all-my-writing-is-terrible phase of the revision process. In lieu, then, of posting anything original, I am very lazily offering up a list of the things I have read this summer so far. I would highly recommend all of them. 

by Anne Carson:  

Glass, Irony and God 
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
Autobiography of Red 

by Jeanette Winterson:

Art Objects
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? 

by Virginia Woolf:

A Room of One’s Own
Mrs. Dalloway

On my desk is also Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, which I have been reading only a few pages at a time when I’m in the mood for theory, and I also have a daunting stack of Derrida that I checked out last week in a moment of extreme readerly optimism. I will in all likelihood read 20-30 pages of a random chapter of Writing and Difference before losing my scholarly resolve and switching back to fiction. Woolf’s Orlando and To The Lighthouse are piled underneath Derrida’s essay collections, and they look inviting. In the course of writing this post, I have also put two of Winterson’s novels, The Passion and Written on the Body, on hold through the magic that is online cataloging. Give a bibliophile a library card…  

from Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?:  

“I picked up my pile of books for shelving. The library was quiet. It was busy but it was quiet and I thought it must be like this in a monastery where you had company and sympathy but your thoughts were your own. I looked up at the enormous stained-glass window and the beautiful oak staircase. I loved that building.

The librarian was explaining the benefits of the Dewey decimal system to her junior – benefits that extended to every area of life. It was orderly, like the universe. It had logic. It was dependable. Using it allowed a kind of moral uplift, as one’s own chaos was also brought under control.

‘Whenever I am troubled,’ said the librarian, ‘I think about the Dewey decimal system.’

‘Then what happens?’ asked the junior, rather overawed.

‘Then I understand that trouble is just something that has been filed in the wrong place.’”


“File me under W…
August 11, 2012

…because I wonce was a woman.” -from “The Secretary Chant” by Marge Piercy

“To say that gender is performative is to say that nobody really is a gender from the start. I know it’s controversial, but that’s my claim.” -Judith Butler

Watch this video.  Pretty please.  Judith Butler is brilliant and eloquent, and her claims about the creation and perpetuation of gender through performativity are what inform the ideas in the following poem, a poem that I wrote because I don’t like the idea of being a “woman.” I don’t like the baggage that comes with it, and it has never been a word I feel comfortable using to describe myself, despite the fact that I have always accepted being female. Butler’s ideas help to explain that although I might be female-bodied, no part of me is inherently feminine – womanhood was never inevitably tied up in my two X chromosomes with which I was born.

On the days I wear skirts

They are taking me and
making me a mannequin,
setting my limbs to allure,
my stiff arms slipped through
lacy silken sleeves.
They are teaching me to
smile and hold the pose,
blush, brighten and whiten
until I shimmer and blind
the stranger out of myself,
until I lose the words
I would use to name
my own budding body,
until my silence is perfumed
and packaged – the Latest Model –
and my batteries are included
for convenience.

I am earning wolf whistles and sideways smiles.
I am kissed and prodded and praised.
I am gathering dust.
I am giving birth.