Sunday, May 24, 2015

Julia Bloch, Valley Fever




ALLISON CORPORATION

Outside the city is a thick line of thinking
and outside that line of thinking is a strip
of water and outside that strip of water
is a muscle. Lengthen the muscle.
Show restraint and perfect tension. That is
Allison Corporation.

California is not new.
California is not new.
California is not new.

This is a poem for you for you
for spontaneous flight
Because we live underneath some helicopters.

I’m rewriting the plan.
I’m rewiring the plan.

And outside that muscle is fat and bone
and a car that carries the body elsewhere.

We love the drones.
We love that they all have heads and
arms to fight with. All their
arms are united. You were not
born in California but neither was I.
I am angling at the surface larger

than your actual face, a not
corporate body. This is a love poem
and I did not do any research.

Philadelphia poet, critic and editor Julia Bloch’s eagerly-awaited second poetry collection is Valley Fever (Portland OR/San Francisco CA: Sidebrow Books, 2015), a book that appears three years after the publication of her Letters to Kelly Clarkson (Sidebrow Books, 2012). There is a precision to Bloch’s dense lyrics that is quite compelling, one that is constructed out of an accumulation of sharp sentences that accumulate, despite the appearance of narrative disjunction that exist between those sentences. As she writes to open the poem “FOURTH WALK”: “Don’t believe in writing as possession. Don’t / believe in bylines like slimming wear.” It is as though the sentences in her poems less leap from point-to-point than somehow float across and even through their own trajectory, seamlessly incorporating a wide array of ideas and fragments together into a single thread. As she writes to open “VISALIA”: “An allergy to / bone, this weather. / That’s how deep.”

Bloch’s short lyrics have an incredible compactness. To call her poems “quirky” or even “surreal” might do them a disservice, but both elements exist in Valley Fever, alongside a deep earnestness, a wry self-awareness and an engaged critique of everything she observes. As she writes to close the poem “UNSEASONAL”: “Once someone said love / turned off like a faucet. // I didn’t want this / to be that kind of party.”

HOSPITALIST

New definitions of
doing poorly dewing
up on the face.
Not always facing up,
not always aware
of corners, sad
and lite-jazzy.
Aristotle says
thought by itself
moves nothing. No one
decides to have sacked Troy.
All the sounds are in miniature
but the room is large
in ruined light.

Constructed as a collection of short lyrics, Valley Fever presents a curious shift from the epistolary poems that made up her first collection, Letters to Kelly Clarkson. Given the book-as-unit-of-composition element of that prior work, it is tempting to read this new book not as a grouping of stand-alone poems but as a thoughtfully-conceived single work, and perhaps the real answer might be that this exists as a combination of the two. Somehow, her poems encompass an expansive curiosity, a healthy distrust of what she sees and knows, and manage to include just about anything and everything you can imagine, in a series of poems sketched as notes towards understanding how it is one can live, and be, better in the world. As she ends the poem “RIGHT OVARY, LEFT OVARY”: “I want to know all the things. / I want to know all the gods.”

LISTENING TO PAUL ZUKOFSKY PLAY PHILIP GLASS

On Locust Street with its low steps
I thought I saw a pastel hotel
settle its elbows onto the walk.
When I talk to you sometimes my tongue
bubbles out of my mouth—I wanted
to say forth but it doesn’t march, it starts
and stops. The mouth rooted and frothy, lit
with an everyday flavor. The string skips. Paul
Zukofsky’s violin stutters. L. says a way
not to feel nervous is to look at the eye.
Hopefully there is a salted sea when you
look there. Horses marching
under their hands. It’s never
going to happen.



Saturday, May 23, 2015

Oana Avasilichioaei, Limbinal




The lines were drawn without our consent. This is an empty statement, for the drawing of the lines did not require our consent. We shored the river but turned away when we realized our subjectivities were seeping into it. We fought unfairly. Overgrown like wedges of land covered in weeds. With our jugular appendages, we intoned coarse sounds. Ventured to look past our moss-ridden thighs. Mostly, our soundings were futile, husked. But there were moments of lucidity, even resonance. Then our hands would reach out to touch each other’s throats as though in recognition. Or acknowledgment. Petals of thought blew gusts around us. Small creatures guarded our solitudes. Which churned in the cavern of our guts. The vastness of our intention was a material we could not fathom. We asked questions that had no answers and as such perpetuated into quarries of language. (“Line Drawings”)

Montreal poet and translator Oana Avasilichioaei’s new collection, Limbinal (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2015), is built as a series of lyric explorations of borders and partitions, attempting to articulate the no-man’s land between fixed ideas, solid objects and a variety of poles, from geography to genre, even moving into footnotes and beyond, into the margins themselves. As she writes near the beginning of the opening section, “Bound”:

The geography keeps shifting into bloom and decay, thus daring to future. Periphery disrupts the dialogue. Floundering, wet lines linger. Fish bend the river into its undulations, spring curves. Will these trajectories double back, mislead us? We leave unnoticed through a back gate to make a country elsewhere. We pass the perennials and smile softly. What is our spatialized intention?

The author of four previous poetry collections—Abandon (Toronto ON: Wolsak & Wynn, 2005), feira:a poempark (Toronto ON: Wolsak & Wynn, 2008), Expeditions of a Chimæra (with Erín Moure; Toronto ON: BookThug, 2010) and We, Beasts (Wolsak & Wynn, 2012)—as well as five translations, Avasilichioaei’s work has evolved into a series of inquiries on how and where multiple sound, language, meaning and ideas overlap, shift and blend, allowing the borders to shimmy and bleed, and somehow illuminate the differences through highlighting the similarities. Her prose is incredibly fluid, even liquid, managing to easily flow and shape itself around a variety of thoughts and ideas.

Silken Shore

Lake asleep in a dusking leaf, the hair of a peasant I killed awaits to strangle me. Its ridicule on this final step feverishly summoned, the mane’s adroitness won’t pass down to my successors.

I am a flamed wheel, visible to those who have enemied me for a long while.

Somewhere, in the pleasure of the great distance, a vaporous flag ascends and descends; soldiers bloody their nakedness, hands grasping convulsively; sky, unused to incidents of this kind, blooms too soon.

We can’t expect hospitality, though we wear melancholy’s gloves. We trench in, we are the despotic fanfare of a blind platoon. We refuse sleep.

Tears march embittered through the snows. We watch them approach, soldier the urge to run off with a shadow, this night on the eve of a new flag.

Constructed in ten sections, the book includes “Itinerant Sideline,” a section composed entirely of photographs, highlighting Avasilichioaei’s engagement with the between-space, and the space that connects two opposing or conflicting spaces. A further section, “Ancillary,” is a translation of the only poems Paul Celan composed in Romanian, composed between 1945 and 1947, during Celan’s own evolution. As part of her notes at the end of the collection, Avasilichioaei writes: “[…] Paul Pessach Antschel became Paul Celan during his years in Bucharest, having first attempted to translate himself into Paul Aurel and Paul Ancel. Written in one of his adopted languages, in the desolation of the war, a war he survived in a Romanian labour camp while his family died in another, these poems are thresholds, existent and impossible, invented and possible. Limbs disarticulate and wander their syntax in the estranged language, lose control of their articulations, stir in the aftermath of an inhumane civilization.”

Poem for Mariana’s Shadow

Love’s mint grown like an angel’s finger.

You must believe: from the soil sprouts an arm twisted by silences,
a shoulder scorched by the glaze of smothered lights
a face blindfolded with the black sash of sight
a large leaded wing and a leafed one
a body wearied by rest soaked in waters.

Look how it floats amid the grasses with outstretched wings,
how it mounts the mistletoe stairs towards a glass house,
in which, with enormous steps, rambles an aimless seaweed.

You must believe this is the moment to speak to me through the tears,
to go there barefoot, be told what awaits us:
mourning drunk from a glass or mourning drunk from a palm—
and the maddened weed falling asleep hearing your answer.

Colliding in the dark the house’s windows will clamour
telling each other what they know, but without discovering
whether we love one another or not.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pete Smith, Bindings with Discords




Evensong [Coventry Cathedral]

In this place, this slow mausoleum
space held by cold stone & glass
angles criss-cross
into shifting
open-occult wings.
Where sunlight strikes
air bleeds multi-coloured psalms
and when, in service, the choral voice
raises William Byrd, feathered
quavers trace the arcing roof,
fan
a rainbow of harmonic hope
then fall to ground, flame-tongued.
Profound expectations fibrillate
the hearts of the faithful. Some glimpse
doors in stone & burning air beyond; some
fixate on the eagle rooted
to the lectern’s edge, freedom tethered
in its held wing,
law nailed
in its
claw

Kamloops, British Columbia poet Pete Smith’s latest offering is Bindings with Discords (Bristol UK: Shearsman Books, 2015), a book uniquely influenced by British experimental poetry as well as a variety of Canadian writers, especially those around the Kootenay School of Writing. Born and raised in England, Smith emigrated to Kamloops in 1974, where he was able to slowly start interacting with a number of Canadian poets and their works. As he writes as part of an interview forthcoming at Touch the Donkey:

In Britain, no direct engagement beyond being a consumer of mags which provided different sets of outlook:  Stand – toward Europe largely; Agenda – Poundian modernisms; Grosseteste Review – openings toward USA, combo of projective & objective ‘schools’ filtered through a very English light.

Attended readings at the then Cariboo College where I heard but didn't ‘meet’ Birney, Newlove, Bowering et al.  (A long parenthesis, 10 to 15 years, takes me into a North American cult/church community where I become an elder & preach regularly – until finally reading my way out of that wilderness – picking up while there some useful self-discipline for essay writing & a preachiness in my poems that I have to guard against).

Real connections began on three fronts in the 1990s: firstly, through the Internet & an email I sent to Nate Dorward I connected up with British & Irish poets I felt at home with & led to the publication of the first Wild Honey Press chapbook; through Nate again I learned of a reading at the ksw whose venue I failed to find then but, thanks to Rob Manery, found it for the next time; the Kamloops Poets Factory where Warren Fulton’s energies created a local scene & we brought in some good writers to read & conduct workshops (my contributions were all through the ksw connection: Mike Barnholden, Aaron Vidaver, Ted Byrne on one occasion; Lissa Wolsak & Lisa Robertson on Easter Sunday, 2000 – Lisa read from The Men.  Not so many personal meetings really, lots of recruits I bring in from my reading, not in order to name-drop, but to share my experience in a particular text-world. Exploration & celebration.

Smith’s poems favour a kind of narrative and tonal discord, pounding sound against meaning and sound in a way reminiscent of some of Ottawa poet Roland Prevost’s recent writing. As Smith writes in the poem “From the Olfactory”: “Swamped by irritants / air-borne and scoped / he defended a weakened immune / system, set about mopping up / incontinent emotions, / secured HQ in the lachrymal ducts.” Composed over a period of some twenty-plus years, the collection is constructed into two groupings each made up of three sections: “Part One: Pointes & Fingerings,” that includes “One-Eye-Saw: ‘in the sure uncertain hope,’” “20/20 Vision” (an earlier version of which was produced as a chapbook through Wild Honey Press in 1998) and “Evacuation Procedures,” and “Part Two: Three Fancies in the Key of BC,” which includes “Strum of Unseen” (an earlier version of which was produced as a chapbook through above/ground press in 2008), “48 Out-Takes from the Deanna Ferguson Show” and “Mother Tongue: Father Silence.” Perhaps due to the extended composition of the collection, Smith’s variety of structures holds the book together incredibly, shifting his punctuated collage-works from short fragments to prose poems to poems that break structure down altogether. Interestingly enough, Smith’s writing comments on the visible absence his writing creates, as he publishes quietly, nearly invisibly. In “48 Out-Takes from the Deanna Ferguson Show” he writes: “Let me introduce you to my anthology. Your absence will guarantee you pride of place.”









one:       desire & music are a vortex
two:      the rhythm the rhythm the rhythm
the rhythm three: dithyrambic
celebration collapse
bottom fish sit this one out
on top of the news
four:   slow dance among the picnic debris
lives measured out in steps
portraits of soles on the move
            & at rest
waltzing through wilted lettuce
            crusts of cheese
            crumbed stones of bread
dancing away from stilled life (“Third Movement”)

There’s an incredible density to Smith’s work, one that comes across as a narrative collage, excising unrequired words for something built as both incredibly precise and remarkably open to a variety of possibilities. In his review of the Wild Honey Press edition of 20/20 Vision for The Gig, Nate Dorward wrote:

The wit catches the ear: not the deadpan standup comedy sometimes the fate of the New Sentence, but a mode of inquiry into poetic style and into cultural authority.  There’s a wish to avoid “the poet shrunk to a witness”, reproducing the personal, religious and social nostalgias on offer: “technes create / instant nostalgia, break you and your dear ones / into timed fragments: zoom, smile, cut; / in your pram with soother, in your graduation / gown, in your senile frame with demented smile.”  High prophecy may be unavailable, but one can be “eloquent” in “disbelief” […].

There is much going on here, in a poetry that builds upon responses to writers, writing and artwork, including photographer Fred Douglas, poet Deanna Ferguson and the late poet, artist and musician Roy K. Kiyooka. Binding, as he tell us in the title, with discords: one can’t be any more direct than exactly that.

Bamboo-heart, water-heart teach us the meanings of friendship. Between heaven and earth, a journey to share – everyday home. Be with until public law – BC Security Commission, March 4 1942 – states you are decreed nisei, sundered by stained metal blade of fear-hatred-greed. “Relocatable persons” are asked to be rootless, artless, homeless &, best self, lifeless. Everyday home claps you into its pure bamboo, empty water jail. Be your own best friend – a shade yellow, simulacrum/b of white (boss) man – bereft of former chums.

                                                            claw metal clap (“Mother Tongue: Father Silence)



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with TC Tolbert

TC Tolbert often identifies as a trans and genderqueer feminist, collaborator, dancer, and poet but really s/he’s just a human in love with humans doing human things. The author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press 2014), Conditions/Conditioning (a collaborative chapbook with Jen Hofer, New Lights Press, 2014) I: Not He: Not I (Pity Milk chapbook 2014), Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (co-editor with Trace Peterson, Nightboat Books, 2013), spirare (Belladonna* chaplet, 2012), and territories of folding (Kore Press chapbook 2011), his favorite thing in the world is Compositional Improvisation (which is another way of saying being alive). S/he is Assistant Director of Casa Libre, faculty in the low residency MFA program at OSU-Cascades, and adjunct faculty at University of Arizona. S/he spends his summers leading wilderness trips for Outward Bound. Thanks to Movement Salon and the Architects, TC keeps showing up and paying attention. Gloria Anzaldúa said, Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks. John Cage said, it’s lighter than you think. www.tctolbert.com

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I grew up Pentecostal.

The Holy Spirit would sometimes send people running up and down the aisles (unclear if they were pursuing or being chased), it might make their bodies convulse. There was a kind of inspired and terrifying celebration that undulated between laughter, pleading, weeping, and cheers. But those most filled with God could be identified by how they were filled with language. To speak in tongues was to be spoken through – a language both intensely private and necessarily shared – glossolalia – a kind of benevolent wildfire on the tongue – to receive the most excruciating, exquisite untranslatable articulations as a gift.

I suppose I came to poetry first to speak my body out of and into existence. I write to speak in tongues and to prophecy. To know something I can’t know. To surrender. To be a good-bad body written into. To be read. To be a good-bad body gone bad-good.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?


5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
In Queer Space, Aaron Betsky says, we make and are made by our spaces. In this way, where I read a poem (and by where I mean the physical location - which includes the architecture and the bodies the poem interacts with and the spaces made by the poems around it) shapes how I read the poem. And since I also believe what Stein said (There is no such thing as repetition. Only insistence.), every reading is different. And so I don’t think of them as readings, so much, because I think that implies something stable about the text that I want to avoid. I get much more excited about what can happen when people gather in a room and trade noises. I absolutely love the collaborative process of showing up. Of creating installations.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
In the early 70’s, gay and bisexual men began using a hanky code to signal to other men what they were into (SM, fisting, oral, anal, etc), what they were looking for (tonight I want someone to hold me, or would anyone be willing to piss in my mouth?), and how they identify (bottom, top, or switch). This is known as flagging. Not only a way to clarify and communicate desire, but a public acknowledgment of a possibly dangerous combination of attraction and identity hidden in plain sight (queerness was, and often still is, met with social and individual violence). As a trans and queer writer, I say. And then: this is different, I think, than a writer who happens to be trans or queer. I am particularly interested in flagging and how this relates to language, audience, and accessibility. Can the subversive still be subversive if it passes into the realm of widely legible? How do we share the obscured, public confession? How are intimacy, desire, and connection wielded in common space? What passes as a body? What is the desire of form? What does it mean to be out?

Pema Chodron says, Everything that human beings feel, we feel. We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are. How passing, for me, can be both a protection from violence and can perpetuate violence. A necessity and necessarily enigmatic. I write to experiment with passing, with being a self I can know, with flagging, with turning on. I think of the textual body as a gendered body. My trans(gender) body is an unreliable text. The narrative is ruptured. Trust may be built or it may be broken. The veneer of coherence and safety completely gives way. Kathy Couch says there is a difference between props and objects. She says, prop is a shortened form of property and we never expect our property will teach us anything. A poem isn’t exactly a performance. I hope it’s not a prop, either. But there’s an audience. And I worry about showing off instead of showing up. A reckoning with the ambivalence of form. And people are objects, too. Surrender and struggle with constraint.

As a body in a person, as a poet, as these lines in this order – white skin and male passing privilege, breasts I used to bind but no longer want to, soft belly, hips that could easily carry children but never will, facial hair that refuses my jaw while absolutely flourishing on the underside of my chin – I’m continually interested in the architecture we find ourselves in. At what point does construction become didactic? What is the space between container and constraint? What happens when we try, and is it possible, to subtract formula from form?

Also, there is generosity. And this is different, I think, from being nice. I want my work to be inhabited by vulnerability, experiment, risk. I want to be visible. A kind of accessibility that has more to do with being encountered than being understood. I want collaboration. And failure. And delight.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

For me, the worst that could happen to poetry would be that any given poet’s work (whether it be poems, criticism, or some combination there of – I inherently consider poetry to be political and personal, even though I recognize the shortcoming in that) the worst that could happen would be for poetry to end at the page. How do we compose in the moment? If attention is action? If one wants to undermine systemic violence, racism, capitalism, and/or compulsory heterosexuality through syntax or some other poetic project, one shouldn’t be a dick in real life.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I’ve encountered challenges with everything I truly care about. It’s an incredible gift to be read closely, carefully. I’m blessed. I’ve experienced all of these things.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
“I know I’m in real trouble when I start to judge my insides against someone else’s outsides.” – said to a friend in Chattanooga at an Al Anon meeting.

Annie Dillard said: “How you live your days is how you live your life.”

John Cage said: “It’s lighter than you think.”

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (your own poetry to collaboration)? What do you see as the appeal?
Relatively easy, I suppose, in that I genuinely think of genre as gender. I’m not a theorist, or rather, critique is just my affection in drag. For a few years now I’ve been working on a series of lyric essays in which I am writing my body into existence though not necessarily through content. I’m looking for a textual body expansive (and constrictive) enough to inhabit. I want to live (t)here. For now, I find that space in hybrid forms. Utilizing elements of poetry, research, and personal narrative, I think of these essays as embodied meditative investigations on the trans body – my trans body – and its relationship to architecture, intimacy, and public space. They are, to me, genderqueer bodies, much like my physical genderqueer body – nonlinear, dynamic, a kind of textual bricolage, sometimes awkward or halting, passing as narrative at one turn, then full of ruptures in logic, vulnerable and visible and joyously so.

I not only think of the lyric essay as an assemblage in artistic terms (utilizing some found text and placing it in new contexts) but also as an extrapolation of Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of assemblage and “nomad thought” as open-ended - that parts of one body can be placed in a new body and still function. I’m especially curious about order and organization, when a piece of text is relevant, which component parts impact the entire body. When is the range of motion extended (or impacted) by relationship? What is a component part? What is a (w)hole?

I definitely think of these pieces as collaborative. I need you to help me make sense of them. This is similar, I think, to how we collaborate to create meaning from each of our gender expressions and identities, trans or not. But public space is often a dangerous place for trans and genderqueer bodies (most specifically and brutally, the bodies of trans women of color): what could be collaboration, or celebration, becomes violence, oppression, and control. My hope is that reading (and writing) these essays is a practice in shifting that dynamic. That we can play, be curious, wander among tangents, delight in the previously undefined, decorate, find connections where they are not obvious, unhinge our expectations, say yes to what we don’t yet know, investigate the relationship between proof and prose.

In this way, I want to celebrate trans and genderqueer bodies – how we pass and sometimes don’t, how we spill over, slip, call out, miss the point. Much like J. Halberstam, I believe failure on one level creates a grammar of possibility on another. But this failure is different, I think (I hope), from being sloppy. Or careless. Or lazy. Lisa Kraus, a dance critic and former dancer with Trisha Brown, says that rigor is no longer about the pointed foot but about the precisely timed collision, the exact harnessing of weight falling through space. These essays, I’m afraid, won’t defend anything or even prove a good point. They bump into things. They might make illegible what was just starting to come into focus. The appeal is that they are rigorous in their failure – I hope.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
Right now my days aren’t nearly as regularized as they have been at other times in my life. (That’s both true and not true.) My days begin with a banana and peanut butter. And that’s how they’ve begun since 2002.

For 5 years I would get up every morning and do my “morning pages” based on The Artist’s Way. Like so many constraints, this practice taught me the kinds of boundaries I need to feel safe enough to let go.

(I might be in a period of letting go.)

(I might always be in a period of letting go.)

(To always be anything may be a way of not letting go.)

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I get out of my own way and get out in the world. I get off the internet. I go for a hike.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Icy hot. Salmon patties. Mentholatum rub.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Modern dance. The body. The body in relationship. The body in nature. Architecture.

The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Button says: The significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are different people in different places and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be. I look at my house, my relationships, the things I’m writing, my body. These are synonyms. And I wonder how non-trans people (and other trans people) experience these things. Is your body an architecture? Is your name? What are you constructing now? Can you visit it, and therefore, can you leave?

Also: Compositional Improvisation (which is different from, although related to, Contact Improvisation). (Although neither of these are comedic improv, all three are grounded in the practice of paying attention to exactly what is happening right now and figuring out how to say yes.) 

Compositional Improvisation (a phrase coined by Katherine Ferrier and the Architects) explores intersections of text, body, architecture, space, collaboration, and attention in order to expand the range of what is possible for composition – specifically composition with the body. I think of all of this as just another way of saying “being alive.” It is built on the chance, (Soma)tic, conceptual, and collaborative techniques of poets, dancers, and musicians from the last 60 years and emphasizes composing (individually and collaboratively) in the moment to create dynamic, rigorous, complex, and fully realized pieces without rehearsal or planning.

For me, it’s a practice in embodied consciousness that is experimental, risky, playful, vulnerable, and radically open - an opportunity to experience Jack Halberstam’s “queer art of failure” (as if I somehow don’t have enough of that in my life!). 

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
All of them. I mean that.

The fact that people write, and dance, and put paint on things, and grow gardens, and create exquisite compositions out of a few vegetables and grains (I know absolutely nothing about food). That fabrics are dyed. Stones are laid side by side and rooms are arranged. Re-arranged. That there is singing.

I’m housesitting for a friend right now and all I can see when I look over my computer screen is 5 pieces of telephone pole stood upright – no longer useful for keeping words off the ground but somehow this little pile of desert sand is now a yard.

Malebranche said that Attention is the natural prayer of the soul and as long as something singular can become multiple, I feel ok about the world. CA Conrad is right: It’s all collaboration. I need all of these others to collaborate.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Honestly, I’m both audacious and naïve enough to attempt just about everything I’ve wanted to do. That doesn’t mean I always get it right, just that I’m fool enough to try. I’m happy to sleep in my car and/or camp all summer if it means I can go wherever I want to go. And so I do. Most of my “to do list” is more interpersonal right now – practice more intimacy, ask for help when I’m scared, be more vulnerable with my mom and dad, stop trying to prove my self worth all the time, let myself be seen...

I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2001 (yep, all of it, with my dog, Isabella) and I’d like to do another long trail. I’d like to run a marathon. I’d also like to travel internationally but I’m not that interested in being a tourist so I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate that desire. I like doing things that scare me. I recently fell in love again and it had been almost 4 years since I dated anyone so this feels scary and exciting. (and may be small.) (but also may be huge.)

One time, when I was on staff training for Outward Bound, we did this reflective activity where we had to identify our gender, race, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, name, and one life goal. Then we had to give up one of those identities. Then another. Then another until we were left with just one identity. In my life goal section I had written, “publish 3-5 books.” I got rid of that rather quickly. The thing I couldn’t part with was my name. But that wasn’t true for anyone else. For them it was “to be happy” which, as it turned out, was a completely allowable life goal.

I want my life to be meaningful. I want to contribute to more tangible and intangible goodness in the world.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
My first answer would be a dancer. I also always wanted to be on Broadway. But I think I’m cheating. When you say, “what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?” I think you are asking me to consider what would I do if my art were more objectively measurable.

I’d be a doctor for Doctors Without Borders. Or I’d help build houses for Habitat for Humanity. My life isn’t over so I still may do one. Or both.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

Well, I tried to do something else. I mean, I was in my last year of undergrad getting a degree in English Education – I was just about to start student teaching and was well on my way to becoming a high school English teacher. It was 1998 and I was a 23-year-old white, Pentecostal woman. I was married to a pretty great guy and I was about to become the first person in my family to earn a college degree. Still living in my hometown - Chattanooga, Tennessee - I had never really spent time outside of the south.

That spring I took a feminist theory class. Even though it wasn’t a required text, my professor gave me her copy of This Bridge Called my Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.  In my first poetry class, we read the poem “Fiddleheads” by Maureen Seaton. Both This Bridge and “Fiddleheads” did something with language that I needed. They exhilarated me. Made me feel less alone. These were women’s voices, queer voices – marginalized and fierce. They held me accountable. Showed me how silent I was becoming (had become, had been forced to become, had been expected to become).

Both of these said: OPEN YOUR FUCKING MOUTH.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Citizen by Claudia Rankine and New Organism: Essais by Andrea Rexilius.

I wish I watched more films than I do. I don’t know if this is a great film but it’s a film I can’t stop thinking about – particularly the opening sequence – Melancholia, directed by Lars von Trier.

20 - What are you currently working on?
Becoming better friends with god.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;