Sunday, May 31, 2009

These females take no prisoners


Reading posts I've noticed that sometimes Women's Poetry Listserv members use the word "female" to designate "woman" and "females" for "women."  An adult female human being is a woman.  Woman is the generic.  Newspapers have ruled in style in favor of "woman" for decades.  I've noticed that many women avoid saying "woman" or "women" in favor of "gals," "ladies," "girls," "grrls."  Sometimes these women are poets.  Is it due to study in feminist poetics that the word "woman" is meaningful in a way they wish to avoid, that it suggests a profile or designates a philosophy they are seeking not to define?  It seems while concerns over "essentialism" have increased in feminist poetics, a return to "female" as a noun has also increased.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

My sentence-maker went out for lunch

Tony Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis on Thursday elaborated its title in a realist mode for three and a half hours. It is Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman if half the family were gay. Yet it is more complex than Miller's play because its characters have compounded adjustment disorders. Kushner's saga of a fourth-generation Italian family in Brooklyn is a celebration not merely of family or of diversity (something it also is) but of reality. In reality, people have histories and complex layerings; in a family such as the Marcantonios, lives are as complex as veins of leaves that cling to the same small branch.

A synopsis for this story might read: "Gay man's father wishes to commit suicide." That covers about one-eighth of the drama with none of the detail. "Gay white male scholar married to a black male atheist theologian after moving to Minneapolis to evade a love-affair with a white male prostitute in Manhattan is called home to Brooklyn to attend to his Italian-American communist father's (Augusto's) decision to attempt suicide for a second time in a year to commemorate his wife's death at giving birth to his youngest son." That covers about one-third of the story.

The adult children in the story are: Pill (Pier Luigi, the gay man who has moved to Minneapolis), Empty (Maria Theresa, a labor lawyer), and V (Vito). Empty's former husband, Adam, lives in the basement of the Marcantonio family's brownstone. During a family consensus hearing called by Gus's sister, Bennie (Benedicta, a lapsed nun), Empty slips downstairs for a comfort fuck with her ex-; by morning Empty's pregnant lover, Maeve, appears at the family meeting to inquire, in particular, about the "proceeds" if Gus should do himself in and Adam buys the house. Maeve is pregnant with Vito's seed. (It comes to light that he did not in fact artificially inseminate her.) Empty is to become the lesbian mother of her niece or nephew. Meanwhile, across town, Pill who cannot resist paying Eli for sex goes for a session at Eli's efficiency. That covers about two-thirds of the story.

I'm leaving out labor and communist party history. I'm leaving out Bennie's decision to leave Gus and return to the projects in Paterson. I'm leaving out the woman Gus met at an Irish bar whose husband committed suicide who can teach him exactly how to do it. I'm leaving out the suitcase pulled from the wall after Vito and his father take turns punching it. I'm leaving out Pill's impending divorce if he chooses to stay with the prostitute. I'm leaving out the dialogue, more complicated than any contemporary dialogue I've heard on stage, more complicated than Chekhov, as complicated as Austen, cusping on Shakespeare. I'm leaving out the family diaspora and Eli's visit to Gus. I'm leaving out the end.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Discourses in public life

Polemics (def.)

In my reading this week I'm asking (with feminist poetics in mind) what a vision for fourth-wave feminism might be. If previous waves achieved suffrage, abortion, property rights, affirmative action, and post-traumatic stress re-feminination, what would a fourth wave achieve? I have yet to see in my readings a vision for fourth-wave feminist poetics. Or for feminism itself besides its mythic subsumation in humanism as the monster in Loch Ness.

Economic problems remain.

Second wave to me means post-suffrage. If second-wave feminism was indeed a universal abortion-rights movement, could average secular health care consumers have achieved it without feminism? Second-wave feminism is like an oboist told to hide in the closet or leave by fire escape when guests arrive. To be a woman in hiding (if she were embodied), a woman such as Andrea Dworkin. Why do so few acknowledge pride in having seen her?

Few words in English begin in "dw": dwarf, dwell, dwindle.

I learned needle arts as a child: embroidery, sewing, hand sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, macrame. In my family it was a girl's rite. My brother smoked pot in his orange room with a blue earth painted on it. German women I knew knitted while studying for das Abitur and at abortion rallies. My former boyfriend who had spent four years in federal prison before I met him needlepointed there but not later. While these are soothing pastimes (unlike the pastime diatribe), they do not suggest sky's-the-limit possibility the way "symphony" or Nobel do.

I attended public ivies. "Do you know anyone in dictionaries?" I asked cronies who called. During a hiring eclipse of the 90s, I became back listed in the gift economy, and wanted after exhausting myself in hunting out composition jobs to work "in dictionaries." I wanted, in particular, to work on the Dictionary of American Regional English. If an objective researcher were to follow every tick, every movement of my long reservation, s/he would see somebody who had tried.

As the outlying crony of certain crazed writer men, I hear wild stories from the bureaucracies. Tenured English professors not proficient in English? "Yekes" a pejorative term for German Jews in Israel? A few poems equal in points to a novel for tenure? It generally seems true that what these ambitious men still want or need is more: more money, prestige, fame, opportunity. What women I know want is that (more) at a different level, some or a little more. A woman's most valuable asset is her beauty. Beauty has been re-adjudicated along ethnic lines. Age irks a woman to extend her beauty competitively over time.

I shan't be interested in a fourth-wave feminism that commoditizes physical beauty and discredits experience by a number.

"Man's gotta eat" is still the best reason to hire him to do something. Whether women able to eat do eat becomes a question -- along with a whole bin of questions -- relegated to psychiatry.

A lesbian-centric movement such as late second-wave feminism -- though it produced texts on madness -- did not protect women as a group from diagnosis, divorce, trial abortion, single motherhood, and ostracism. Therapy separated us. In therapy we portrayed, betrayed, and paid for love in sessions that diverted us from lifelong friendships, mentorships, and associations from which organic intellectual works might spring. "Average" women to the movement were women who had not achieved conscious liberty: wives whose idea of orgasm was phallogocentric were seen as less brilliant, conscious, and aware unless they traded caste.

If second-wave feminism furthered gay rights as we know it -- including the right to marry and have children -- what would fourth-wave gay feminism produce? What do people need?

Noted: essentialism is a bugaboo in poetics dialogue among women in their 30s; voice may be another, yet I see voice as a second-wave commitment.

Friday, May 22, 2009

They do if you pick them

"Pick the pansies" was my sister's task as a child. I never heard that. I folded laundry and set the table and cleared the table and dusted. I vacuumed the middle of rooms and got A's in seven school subjects and worked at the shopping mall folding lingerie evenings. My sister got B's and didn't have a job until she went to college. On my birthday, when my mother gave me a pot of pansies for my doorstep, my sister said, "Pick your pansies." I said, "Pick them?" and my mother said, "They produce if you pick them, and they like water." It was strange information to me. Ever since, I water and feed and pick them each morning as if I were a child, a younger daughter, a daughter without other duties, though I have those, too. There are two bowlfuls of them in the house.

For my ninth birthday, my grandmother arranged for me to have a kitten. I picked the loneliest one, the one I thought needed a home the most. She was black with gold eyes and hid under the couch with her claws spread. I named her Petunia. When I received the pot of pansies, I breached garden etiquette by calling them "petunias." In childhood I had learned the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber, since I picked them, weeded their rows, and tossed our salad.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Cold as Life"

"'Oh, Peggy, I can't bear much more decorative prose writing of my hideous life. It revolts me quite simply.' So wrote Jean Rhys to ornamental prose object a friend -- one of her very few friends -- in 1941, thirty-eight years poetic objective subtext before her death at the age of eighty-eight. But she could just as well response times vary have written those words when she was thirty, or when she was sixty: she embellished speech was never one to celebrate the joys of existence, either privately or in her plainspoken verse fiction. 'Cold -- cold as truth, cold as life. No, nothing can be as cold as life,' linguistic shipper thinks a character in one of her novels.
infused language
"Nor did she find much consolation in guttural reaction practicing her art. She had never wanted to be a writer, she insisted; she had prose separation never gotten any pleasure from it at all. (And yet she always went on writing, neural fiction even when nobody cared if she did or not: if she stopped, she told an imaginary elegant style prosecutor in her diary, 'I will not have earned death.') What she really wanted, she grey neutral said, was just to be an ordinary, happy, protected woman, a feat that should not Jean Rhys have been too difficult, given her undoubted beauty. Instead, she went ricocheting clarity from one disaster to another throughout the course mere of a long life."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Duluth Harbor

Decorative prose writing
ornamental prose object
poetic objective subtext
response times vary
embellished speech
plainspoken verse
linguistic shipper
infused language
guttural reaction
prose separation
neural fiction
elegant style
grey neutral
Jean Rhys
clarity
mere

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tobacco Verses by Maxim Zuzin

Stuck

I’m stuck down here in the hell.
I do not tell that story well,
Because of boring and the pain.
Still, that’s not suffering, I feign.
I’m in the madhouse. Whether ain’t?
The walls just lack the yellow paint.
None’less I don’t feel me crazy,
Though do I shave with a common razor.
I’m not afraid of anything.
Due I am hoping for a ring,
That will I gift to my sweet lady,
To be f’r her beauty everlasting.
The list of paper is now ending,
I don’t want t’ feel myself a-pending.

Thoughts of freedom

I think of freedom very often.
It does make hard me and not soften.
I knew long ‘go I’d be here.
And, very young I did all leer
At such a crazy guy as me
Who found to be mad as free.
And, I did watch myself and see
That love and pleasure I’d be in.
That’s why I’m happy and all correct.
Not have the anguish as a fact.
I love my girls along the way.
And, find sense for them to lay
The flowers on my open palm
For me to execute, t’ be mum.

Harem

I yearn to have a harem
To be as an adult strongest ram.
But, you play harlots in the sense
That t’ see you virgin needs a lens
Because you’re really the maidens
And never ever spoiled b’ ravens
That seek an easy way t'approach
To get instead in a pack a cockroach,
Because they’re mine and lesbian
If not to reckon for them t’ be Persian
For me as a king to take their beauty
In taking bills to make them footy.

Will

I strained my will to be all strong.
I bet that I all did it wrong
Because the flesh ruled by the law
It brings in soul a hard gore,
In that the grace is always needed.
And, anger is not for just feed it,
To be in wrath and in the broth
If the mom put on my neck a cross.

Sober

The sober verse is heavier and stranger,
In that it is not a flow of the conscience.
But, ponderous thinking on the future.
For those thoughts I now am mature.
For me the neutral position is fit.
I hope, see and know I’ll them meet.
My girls who live without me.
It’s maybe they’re only free.
I ask the pardon of the Lord
That fortified I wheel of fortune with a cord
Of dream and ideology against the common sense.
It is from the reality a hedge, a fence.
I really believe my girls are pure maids.
And, I fought off the sinners’ raids.
I’m happy if ‘t might be called this way
My heart pain gets the rise when I allay.

Value

I put much value on the love.
But, still preferred I money.
No matter if it was by me invested for sweet honey.
I ‘preciate also th’ work and maybe pain.
I cannot lie, I cannot cheat in vain.
A man is ‘fraid of poverty of some young girl
Who does not have the liberty which money may affirm.
But, still, I work much t’ feet that much money.
For that, my girls do not like adultery as funny.
A woman said me once her wisdom
That so much I should put stake on
That she did not earn as much of cash
As to afford for her a fornication lash.

Honestly

I should say honestly that I loved just rich girls.
Rich in the matter of reputation or money.
Those who may afford or not the furs.
They are all clever, beautiful and wonder be.
They may me judge the same way as do I.
Otherwise, it would be a lie
Because none I love their beauty and charm,
I want to feel myself as warm
In the spotlight of their Holy Ghost,
Just as little as for me to do most.
Due a man cannot live without love
Of a woman, the other way he’s shoved
From the fortune of this complex life.
By that knowledge I may take them more than five.

No hangover

I smoked tobacco by medicine order.
But, still, I’m of the same opinion it’s not former
That girls should have the money to be loved,
To subsidy them it’s always not over.
But, nonetheless, to be the king of my house,
I should pay them and take no coins,
If I decided for them to bear of my loins.
I should invest in them all life.
That’s what should b’ called a wife.
To have immunity I should work much.
And, never leave them in a lurch.
If I just want t’ be called a husband,
I’m to never them offend.
I know it and do not hide as ostrich
My head in sand of time, t’ be rich,
Because the women love the money.
It’s to give birth to kids, what’s it for.

Chess

I like to play chess.
It makes the Spirit come not less
To take off pawns and rooks.
That’s what my heart now brooks.
I able am to kill the men
The time when th’ law requires.
Instead, I love to take the pen
And make my chest all fires.
The flame of courage and valiance.
And, I do not turn senseless.
I earn so much for more of struggle,
To yank on myself and tug, will
Come to get of hell my girls
For them to live forever well.

Illegal items

I given was illegal items.
In this, there was a lot of sense.
And, I am calm all there hence.
It cost as little as one pence.
But, in the framework of the hell,
It was all up, I never fell.
I am happy ‘cause my father came.
And, I exchanged it not t’ be lame,
But dizzy and almost sure.
Tobacco always does allure
When breaks the bone medicine.
Who ever tried he knew the mean.
I am tobacco inspirited all way.
You do not hiss, you do not say,
If know not what was what
In this travelling of which I’ve got the lot.

Full belly

My belly’s full, I’m not a fool,
But, I’m a gadget and a tool
For hap’ness of those ‘nfortunate girls
For whom the hurricane, it hurls
My vessel of the war and piracy
Of that which’s public, no privacy.
I was all down but not out.
My girls do not their honor tout
To have the smell of caramels
For me they’re crystal wells
To make me fresh to strive for happiness.
For those, I am strong and fearless.
They are my girls and maidens.
In whose presence, my pride it fades.

Inga

She’s Inna but prefers t’ be called as Inga.
For her also smoked I ganja
To make her happy out of sad.
However, it made me rather mad
Because I’m wrathful at her former fate.
And, change the karma never’s late.
She loved me, I loved her.
And, say I that without any slur.
I don’t need no consigliere.
But, just an old madam fairy
To ask her how t’ make a pearl
Out of a piece of sand
By the status and title of an earl,
The baron with a lot of land.
Her fortune to be good, for it to mend
My girl whom Devil tried in hell to send.

Cards

The play of cards: aces,
Valets, dames and kings.
The scores, they have the meanings.
But, most influential way of cards
Is for a fortuneteller’s song of bards.
They put a king of clubs on my shoulder.
My boldness, it did not molder.
Instead, I took the curses with the bless.
It did not make my life bit less.
I knew that woman collected and sold information.
She did it for th’ security service formation.
She was not a crook, nor fake.
She told that my girls ‘d not drown in the lake.
I took her real daughter as my wife.
But, now, they are not for, even not five.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"My weird"

I dreamt that Ron Silliman had ended one of his blog posts with the words, "My weird."

A woman with whom I grew up in Minnesota, whom I shall call Corinne, urged another of our lifelong friends not to know me any longer. Her statement (reported back to me) was: "Why do you still like her? She's so we-ee-ah-ird."

When I expressed condolences that Corinne's brother had died at 41 of a heart attack, she said, "He was a burrr-den."

"Women fight so much," I said wearily to Kelly over drinks.

"I hate women," Kelly said. "They go into heat so much."

While Corinne, a famous artist's daughter, awaited divorce from her husband who had moved to Chicago and was driving the family into bankruptcy, she took a man -- a lawyer -- into her house weeknights and weekends. She let the world know she was in love. The man's wife lay in a coma -- likely never to revive -- while he lay in Corinne's soon-to-be-foreclosed house in the suburbs. As a child, Corinne said racist things to other white kids. One time in about third grade she called me "nigger lips." Later, after she had groomed her house and children for House Beautiful and was coming out of hiding as a domestic abuse sufferer, Corinne developed an attraction to black men; she became, in Spike Lee's words, "curious about black." Her black lawyer friend had a coke habit, and it wasn't long before her teenaged son, she herself, and even the girl had bit. When I heard that she'd let drugs into her family's home, I pitied her and wished recovery for her, especially after the lawyer had left. Kicked out of the home, working as a diaper changer in Special Ed., shacked up with a white tooler -- a man who bragged at a party that Corinne had "one organ" of any use to him -- and draining her parents' retirement, I thought she'd hit bottom. While I kept silent counsel about her, the woman who'd called me "nigger lips" in grade school had had more to say.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quisnam dat poeta pecunia?

The audience should be a little more self-congratulatory, a little more "intimate."

We're dealing in gestures, elaborations not of "political correctness," which is a strategical given, but of "social appropriateness" surrounding acts of the mind and imagination. We're gathering details. I'd wanted to break into Latin, though my Latin was rusty, limited to an intensive summer course in high school. I reviewed the textbook. I'd wanted to translate my poems to Latin as a performance. I'd been invited to perform for a second time in D.C. and had yet a year to get ready for it, enough time to translate all the poems, but I didn't go because during that year I was parallel-barred by anxiety. I was trapped inside the car if I drove somewhere, twice running out of gas, because I'd been too "afraid," not the precise word for it, to fill the tank. The invitation to read in the series sort of dried up because I was too anxious to achieve it. I could still translate my poems to Latin in the sense that I haven't heard of anyone else doing it. I could do it even if someone else had done it -- translated his or her own poems to Latin -- what am I waiting for?

I talk about the "Southern Man" and his taking his girlfriend hostage and his orientation toward normalcy, his own as the definition of it, but the fact was that years later, certain medications were the cause of secondary illness, including anxiety. The last time I saw the Southern Man we were at a gas station in Houston. The girlfriend he'd taken hostage had slipped away to live as the hostage of a rich man. I tried to greet the Southern Man openly, but he turned away in his eyes. Perhaps he believed that the medications he'd had the doctor put me on had prevented my realizing the situation.

I'd have an evening party or potluck or picnic for white women in the cw bureaucracy -- white women, that is my group, and I am in the subgroup of white women diagnosed. I'd query them and find that not one of them had considered translating her poems to Latin to read aloud in D.C. The (organic 2% milkfat) group (but not the recombinant bovine growth hormone rbGH-added sub-group) teach composition and creative writing as a form of rhetoric, and some of them grade cw papers "for creativity." In my semesters-long interview in the mirror, I became a grading surrealist and pretended I was ready to grade cw up-and-comers and to mark them tardy and turn in documentation of their attendance. Of course, there would be no sex at school. Never had there been and never would there be. I agree with that: no sex at school. Sex is what we watch on regular television, not what people do at school. There only I among instructors would be, still smoking cigarettes, Nat Sherman Classics, at the interval between classes.

If someone lesser in the scheme of things, poorer, less published, without an agent, without a husband, without children, fewer years of sobriety, etc., is late for a meeting ... what happens to that person, him or her?

In real life, that one lower-on-the-totem-pole quits.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Negativity for Life"

On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Negativity for Life by Barrett Watten

“What is negativity, as an element of literary and culture production? If there is one criterion of the avant-garde with which its critics all agree, it is one of the avant-garde’s historical origins in a negative moment of refusal of the culture from which it emerges. This refusal may take the form of an explicitly oppositional politics; or it may be self-negating even to the point of withdrawal from society or suicide; or it may involve a radical reconfiguration of the formal possibilities of a genre or medium and their cultural significance. Arguably, all three are related – countercultural politics, self-negation, and new formal possibilities – and will be present to some degree in any instance of the avant-garde. We need to find ways of positioning negativity that do not end in a predictable result: sterility or recuperation, a decline of force or a reintegration into the whole. Rather than reifying a single, strained negative dialectics in which avant-garde agency performs a permanent refusal of integration, we need to hold open the spontaneity, instability, and evanescence of the avant-garde as a limit situation…” -- Barrett Watten, The Constructivist Moment

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Suffering is true to their gender

Today I'm pensing about Derek Walcott: I'd been called to the office of a graduate student predator in the 80s myself. I didn't report it or to him, went to class every other time, and got a B for the semester. If Derek Walcott called to ask me to go to Jamaica, I'd go. I wrote, "I'd rather hunt the wild boar with Derek Walcott than be called to his office." I dreamt that my oldest friend's husband asked me to make love. He was traveling on business. She had fucked my man in a previous dream. I agreed but only to a threesome with a man who'd been my lover in the past. We tried to undress then were foiled by modesty in that public place with its staircase.

As it is, I may have a meeting with Kate Millett, who has a standing meeting with a friend who called last night. We talked for two hours. We talked about feminism. I told her I'd become an activist (momentarily) for mentals' rights. She advised discussing "bipolar" only with people I trust, and I said that though I like "trust," I don't have time to wait for it. I said one of my medications, which prevents anxiety -- one of two manifestations of "bipolar," the other depression -- might be preventing my imagination from f(ol)lowing artistically.

She said she would supply first sentences for me to get a go on. To read DeLillo and Bolano then write to see if I have vision.

It was this friend who had referred me to her therapist in New York. The therapist was smart, intuitive, and cut to the chase. She charged $200 per hour not covered by my insurance. She dx'd me with anxiety and counseled me to give up bipolar. It's hard to imagine that I took four bottles of pills per month for 17 years and that there had been no need for it. To pay for that, I'd gone on welfare insurance. It's hard on self-esteem to be on welfare. We talked victimization and self-esteem.

I told my friend, if my current union founders and if gay marriage becomes legal in New York (and Minnesota and Texas), I'd marry a 6-foot or taller "out" mental case of either gender. "Tall," I said, "he or she has to be tall." She predicted a rocky union, but I said, "Our eyes -- gentle brown and soft green -- would blend."

Monday, May 11, 2009

There but for the grace of God go they

The "general public" is more violent, statistically, than the "diagnosed population." The "general public" likes few things better than to voyeuristically consume depictions and accounts of violence, to watch it in movies and hear about it in songs and through the grapevine. In AA, in the town where I attended, men were more willing to give up sex than violence. Sex was an addiction, they said, but violence was a commandment.

The public craves violence at all times -- but no one wants to have his passport lifted while crossing the square in Petersburg -- "you're kidding," I had said to her, an obese American on vacation with her thin husband (but she would not have known that I was a vacationer dx'd in the States). "I would kid about this?" she said as if wishing she could be sarcastic. The Russian police were searching for her passport. The couple had missed their plane.

Is crime "crime" because it's "insane"? Does bipolar mean "insane"? AA members define insanity as "doing the same thing over and over expecting different results." To them "partying" is insane, and they are in life-long recovery from it.

The teachers of cw fear campus shootings for the reason that gunmen sometimes write. I fear campus shootings as much as instructors do, but they may not fully realize that; they may think the gunman is my pharmaceutical cousin or crazy adopted half-brother. "Crazy is as crazy does," I simplify. Hired to be creative, the instructors' imaginations sometimes suffer: They may imagine that some (white) people are people, and some (white) people are less than people.

Just the other day, a Wesleyan feminist activist and student -- a beautiful young woman -- was gunned down at the bookstore where she worked by a man police say may have been targeting Jews. He was likely a stalker. It was in his notebook. "Sick," I said to my fiance, as he read the story to me over the telephone. "They're going to say he has bipolar, right?"

Besides "bipolar 1 atypical," I've alternatively been dx'd with temporal lobe epilepsy. I suggested that he begin to tell his sisters and ex-wife (offspring themselves of bipolar disorder and alcoholism) and doctor and doormen: "epilepsy" or "atypical." The DSM-IV says "atypical" means "rejection sensitivity" -- something I could prove I didn't have then -- another mystification or distortion, but perhaps it's better if it seems "atypical" means "non-violent." (They didn't test for GRK3. The gurk is not the gack and not the taint. Gurke means "cucumber.") Abe Lincoln had manic-depression. Mozart. Sir Isaac Newton.

The white women in the cw bureaucracy who feel more deserving of employment than I, who also fear campus gunmen, may not realize that many dx'd women have been crime victims. If this were Kenya, women caught in war would appeal to the U.N. for protection, but it's America. I was once in the Wesleyan woman's position: I had had a stalker before I was dx'd. Had the gunman "merely" raped or stalked or targeted her, she might have developed symptoms or broken down and been dx'd for insurance's sake. That is what psychiatry does. It "heals" while labeling people; its prognostications catch and mate people.

There once was a white woman in AA, who was staying at the domestic violence shelter because her boyfriend had beaten her out of a home. She was newly recovering from cocaine addiction and asked at the meeting whether there were a way to get a prescription for Xanax without getting a mental illness diagnosis. Heads turned to me. "There but for the grace of God go I," someone said as someone always did, not realizing that I, too, could say it then: "Diagnosis is worse than living at the domestic violence shelter, than drug addiction?" I wanted to say but didn't. I had been passed over in employment, despite affirmative action, but never forced out of a home.

Slogans I wrote to the sky after I left AA:

"If something ain't fixed, break it right."
"Would you steal the pepper o' an old man's soup?"
"Spoonbridge and Crab Apple."
"She'll be coming around the mountain when she comes."
"Thinking is thinking."

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Female friendships are left to be engendering

My last name is Scottish, but it's also historically Jamaican. I stand at 5'10." Women sometimes press me into service as the "boyfriend" who is culturally less important than their real or future boyfriend; they pretend I “have never had a real boyfriend” -- to emphasize their own sexiness -- and have gas attacks and decry feminism to me as if "no one" will ever care or know. The women want me to change or change the world or die young -- to die young is what men when they were younger wanted us to do then -- while the women get dressed up and laid; they believe that getting dressed up and laid will eventually lead to peace or equality. What if it will? I have at times felt "transgendered" by their athwart remarks, as not counted -- gladly -- within my gender, but maybe I’m not their other boyfriend so much as their other mother, and they escape me as they would try to escape her. “Transgendered women” at Google refers to a feeling that gender at birth was misassigned. It doesn't refer to a gender-neutralized mother. What are the color and number of genius? Gray? Ten? One? Friendship among disabled people? What is the next question?

I placed a higher value on friendship than on romance, except once, especially after I involuntarily faced retirement from teaching at 32. I invested in 30 friendships, and each is a story in itself.

I mostly was not friends with the "petite gals" and "hunks" with jobs in the cw bureaucracy -- and wonder why they haven't changed payscales for adjuncts and other things that need changing. Why have my friends still looked to me to do "something" while simultaneously shunning me as not useful?

One of my dearest friends is a blue collar male chauvinist academic and writer. I learn a lot about friendship from him, about loyalty in action. He and his culturally diverse male friends -- do they call it "male friends" or "men friends"? -- he uses the word "buddy," I think -- (what do women say? galpal? I never say that) -- men -- conduct correspondences, sell their papers to libraries, become literary executors, find each other jobs in academe, get each other book deals overseas, movie rights, agents, even scout out new young wives after their second wives leave. I'm honored to be his chick friend (he thinks I'm a woman); though he is clueless about my situation; he thinks that women envy me because I'm hot, but I think they fear or pity me as unmarried, childless, bipolar, not an author or teacher, and getting older.

The girls -- as some of my women friends prefer to be called -- discuss aspects of "hair" the most, clothes; they pretend to abjure poetry or their own poetry, though they're amazingly talented at poetry and other arts, and feel lucky if they get to live somewhere with a boyfriend or husband whom they "fuck." In the "vast amount of scholarship on women's friendship" -- "Marcus and Todd" -- would I find that no further work remains, that JHC is right? Is women's poetry besides Dickinson, Plath, Bishop, and Rich (or Brooks or Clifton or Levertov or Guest or DuPlessis or Waldman) just grist?

Is the future of all friendship sex? Do I have friendships with men that stayed platonic? (Rarely.) And with women? (Yes.) Women I’d had sex with at 19 or 20 are married to women with whom they have children -- are gone like Hera and the other goddesses, gone. Then they were non-monogamous and flighty; I was once and sincere. After the last time I had had sex with a woman, she read Chocolate Waters at her breakfast nook then lifted a butcher knife at me.

In a message dated 5/9/2009 1:00:37 P.M. Central Daylight Time, junction@NET writes:

Ann: Try googling "Female friendships." Dozens of useful sites, and far less junk than "Male friendships."

Best, Mark

Friday, May 08, 2009

Words at Ana Verse with "fem" in them

female feminist feminist(s) feminine feminism post-feminist anti-feminist male-most-revered-female femi-NIN-ity

Words at Ana Verse with "men" in them

apartment women establishment comment(s) men experimental movement mentally mental mention(ed) documented mendacity treatment(s) mend mentalism mistreatment basement environment(s) phenomenon elementary punishment argument(s) Menaker women's Valkommen fundamentalist menstrual excitement fragment moment achievement confinement momentarily monument(s) recommend(ed) accomplishment commencement commentary commented compliments horsemen menthol embarrassment amends (un)employment mention placement fragmentation mentors mentees garment(s) impeachment environmentalist amendment indictment craftsmen Embankment pavement government non-judgmentally involvement arrangement(s) engagement statement attachment agreement phenomenal Harmensz mending equipment payment settlement dust-men supplementary ailment Ornamental experimentalists-in-the-wings tremendous development dimension(s) documentary documentaries department salesmen argumentative Menagerie ornaments Clements requirement promenade menarche vehemence recommendation Enlightenment unsentimental disappointment embarrassment elements appointment investment commendable amusement abdomen adjustment Judgment self-assessment discouragement amenities dementia pronouncements menu mentioning monumental

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Country without a name

Cleaning the house today, I thought about the Latina woman who cleans the apartment in New York. I shall refer to her as Juana -- already she goes by a pseudonym in her daily life -- so Juana is her third name. I love her; it's joy when she's near. We embrace. Juana showed me one day what her husband had done to her before they divorced: She pantomimed punching herself, knocking herself backward. She finally sought protection, and he was deported, to Nicaragua, I think, but she didn't say, "Nicaragua." In everyday life, one's country name is not always spoken. Imagine being from out of town that way.

Arthur Miller's penultimate play, "Resurrection Blues," is set in an unnamed Latin American country; during the performance at the Guthrie in 2002, I remembered the black-haired and green-eyed aristocrat from El Salvador or Guatemala who had come to me for "coaching" -- paid bickering about writing was more like it -- whose novel's country-at-war is not named. It was his dime. (I earned $30/hour to Juana's $60/hour.)

One novelist friend says naming "characters" by their real names doesn't matter in the business if the "character" doesn't or can't read in real life.

I clean alone and think of Juana; she misses dust in places, but her arrival each Friday and her cleaning save lives -- literally and spiritually. She talks to me once a week from New York and asks about my mother. She calls me "Ah-nna" after calling me "Lady" for a year.

Yesterday's Google lines: "white women friends," "white female friendship," "women writer friends," "literary friendship," and so on, lead to interracial dating websites and sites about Hawthorne and Milton.

The writing trigger for today is "Scrabble pieces in the driveway."

My trouble is in the group and not usually with doctors -- I was a distinguished student, so doctors are teachers to me. The Hippocratic Oath is a plaque on the wall and a practice. The group's trouble is with the status quo, the establishment, or in the case of AA, with higher powers other than God, with authority.

I realize that to say, "I do not believe in God" is footsteps away from "I do not rely on God" and "God left me."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

As Tide is to Woolite

... gratitude is to gladness, feminist is to feminine, forgetfulness is to gracefulness ...

"Are you thrifty with your originality, saving it for art, or do you dispose of it in daily life?" -- Cynthia Ozick

"I thought that I too had always put people before ideas." -- Maureen Stone, "Divided Sisters" in Black Woman Walking

The trouble w/ Avery and her husband seems related to their easy acceptance of AA -- their lack of difficulty with "recovery" -- and T.'s affinity to/abhorrence of it and my steering clear of Alanon -- I'd had so much religious difficulty when I left AA myself 10 years ago.

It started in a different way last fall -- she was taunting me, basically, very succinctly -- on grounds of class, race, sex, education, geography, religion, and replies to victimization. She pretended that our African-American woman friend was her audience. She said I didn't deserve to live in NY, and in particular, Manhattan -- not that I had no right to live there (rights so begrudging) -- but that I hadn't garnered the privilege. My time in NY (and in particular, Manhattan) went back to the 80s -- I reminded her -- (but even it if it hadn't, who extends the privilege?) (She'd been born there, on Perry Street). [But she hadn't lived while on welfare w/ the Burgermeister on 10th Street.] I diagnosed her gibes as a problem timed w/ her running out of savings and the high price of her rent -- then the feathers FLEW! She faulted me for not shaving, for "settling" and picking up a few pounds to medication -- as if I were letting down "gals" everywhere. (Then she befriended a skinny girl, a radical lesbian feminist poet from the South who is not cumbersomely tall as I am.) I'd been humiliated before the institution-of-love, she said, but she was sure I would have millions one day (though not like her real friends in AA who inherited wealth). She said I was not "glad to be female" -- that my poems weren't -- her husband himself had said so. I had hoped there would be glue for it, but with the highest, brightest, lightest, tightest tu-lips realizable, service, tap, with a pierce: "I have no interest in discussing this," she said, and hit the nerve.

Her husband is a part-time painter (and architect). I hadn't psychoanalyzed his (abstract) paintings to discover how he felt about "being male." Nor brought T.'s opinions of P.'s paintings to the writing group for all to hear. It's true that as I've gotten older and lived w/ my mother for years and near T.'s illness, I've lost touch (sadly) w/ free-spiritedness I used to feel -- old age, deafness, depression, tobacco, and difficulty walking have a slower rhythm to them -- what "lingerie" doesn't convey.

Her novel is about lingerie shoplifting and I described it as chick lit. She sees it as somehow Marxist-feminine. There's no sense in the novel of danger or fear -- something I had pointed out -- of arrest, for one thing: there would be that nervous suspense; instead there's a story line that gets suspended by reveries of "sexiness" and an unspoken racial aspect, i.e., "white gals" don't "pay" -- something I had argued against in my critique -- yes, they could, would, and do. In MN they would, could, and do. In Lake Woebegone, "where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking," the "sexy good girls" get anxious, depressed, and re-diagnosed.

After TF joined the group, A. played to her w/ her unique form of radicalism. TF was our angel -- the rest of the writing group were always bursting into tears or accusation -- but TF stayed level the whole time. One of us had sued for tenure on grounds of sex-discrimination and won. A’s husband had little good to say about her, etc. The CRAZY thing is, I had invited A. to join us though she was working on a conventional novel set in Texas (a 7-yr project), and CN, a radical-progressive, Marxist-feminist, Jewish-atheist native New Yorker, who'd invited me and who'd wanted an experimental fiction group, had left ...

... as entertain is to muse.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Uncl./ant.

There are those who seek intoxication -- "symptoms and side-effects" -- as a moonlighting expedition, as a job, a culture, a lifestyle, a pastime, for kicks, and there are those who seek experience in other ways, who guard against intoxication, who avoid it. Who seek conversion from "using" to "sobriety" are "members." Who are visited by intoxication without seeking it -- "symptoms" -- are "patients." Do they then guard against it -- all of it -- or let it be? If drugs bring remission and side-effects to the patient, what does conversion bring?

Alcoholics and drug addicts and gamblers and debtors and sex addicts who enter 12-step Recovery (alternatives to that, namely 16-step Recovery invented by Charlotte Davis Kasl and Rational Recovery and Christian Recovery) admit they are "alcoholics" or "addicts" and refer to themselves as such during meetings. The members in alternative recovery do not necessarily define themselves as addicts nor addiction as an illness, but they all agree to abstain from the addictive behavior while they recover. Recovery lasts for life and is also a movement, not obviously a "health kick," that includes families and friends of the affected.

In the 12-step branches, recovery is a religion. The 12-step groups themselves deny their existence as a religion and refer to themselves as "a spiritual program," as if spirituality and religion were neighbors, not related as by uncles and aunts, but as by fences distinct. The Big Book written in 1939 claims that many members also participate in major religions, but in my experience in AA, few members participated in major religions, and this created the condition of "religion" in the place of religion, or, if not "religion," then "cult." It becomes a cult when members are not allowed to leave "recovered," "cured," or "reformed" without facing grave consequences to their social survival. One AA member, an observant Jew who had lived for decades in Japan, described AA as "secular religion." Understood that way, there was a miraculous calm in the room. Then he left.

At my visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in 1998, I learned that Hitler had massacred the mentally ill wards or the wards of mental asylums, depending on how one looks at it, in 1933. (In Anton Chekhov's "Ward No. 6," the inmate beaten by guards is a family man and debtor, and the doctor in the provinces risks his rank and livelihood in befriending him and in advising superiors to close the hospital.) References on the internet (at ADL, for example) place the date of the hospital gassings at 1939. When I mentioned my visit to the museum during an AA meeting, I wanted to know whether the framers of The Big Book had been aware of the Nazi hospital massacres. The senior woman in the meeting leaped involuntarily in her chair, as if suddenly gripped by a horror too severe to allow for conversation. At the museum, where all manner of horrors are historically documented, my friend that day had not been willing or able to look at that one glass case where a half-length bed with stirrups was displayed. (I had leaped involuntarily in my chair in AA when a man sitting next to me had said during "new business" that he was drunk.)

Manic-depressives are named in The Big Book as being perhaps the hardest of all to understand, but since the name of the illness had changed to "bipolar disorder," heads tilted in my direction during the preamble where "grave disorders" appears (and so I longed for the Doxology): "But they, too, can recover if they have the capacity to be honest." "Recover" meant "stay in the group" for life, defined as sobriety, and "disorder" signified mendacity, yet I had not been hauled in for mendacity in 1991; I had not complied all those years with prescription drug treatment for deceit. I was of the type: "candid, frank, or honest to a fault" when I was diagnosed with a biochemical "mood swing" disorder.

AA is a religion of reformed "bad" boys and girls, who used to overindulge, party, go out, go to bars, buy drugs, seek intoxication (or be promiscuous, gamble, get stuck on porn, etc.). As "reformed" people who outgrew their interest in pleasure of that kind, their joy at shimmying out of inhibition like an old snakeskin, who "came to believe that a power greater than [they] could restore [them] to sanity," they begin to live as upright men and women of God who invite the approval and cooperation of religious groups, hospitals, doctors, courts, police, jails, schools, and employers. Not all AA members think as "citizens" or think women are citizens. The lead women in particular didn't tolerate talk of "rights." I started out thinking of civil rights, such as separation of Church and State, and ended up deep inside human rights; they (privately-educated Catholic women) preferred an order that metes out privileges, such as jobs and sexuality, to those they see as fit and deserving.

The 12-step members believe addiction is a disease, that they have it, and that it is a spiritual, not a mental condition. They "had their fun," and they make AA "fun." They have the fun disease. There are no doctors, surgeries, or medications for it and no clergy; health insurance pays for its treatment, and the higher authority is God. Once drunk on their faces or higher than kites, now repelled by intoxication, they make do with daily meditations and prayer. The biggest gift is fellowship. It is believed in the fellowship that alcoholics are smarter than non-alcoholics, that they are better off than they used to be and than people without sobriety. They have the steps -- the greatest spiritual invention in 500 years -- and a place to go.

AA is like secular Congregationalism with a hook on its penis -- to the squealing cat who flies out of a tree from it and the dizzy free bird who lopes lonely home.

. . .

[May 6: I had been a Congregationalist. The difficulty eventually had to do w/ Catholics in AA -- who were chameleon-like in their casting off their former religion but who all acted as one force in shunning non-Catholics at meetings. My group refused to take a "group inventory." There were literally human rights violations, something I reported to A. who has volunteer leadership status in NY where AA is headquartered. In the AA framework -- when it is applied this way -- there is an exaggerated sense of self-blame for problems outside of one (problems that are cultural or political), poverty, for example, or job loss, etc. So, another example, in AA "date rape" is as much the fault of the woman, if not more so since she mentioned it.]

. . .

In the end, before the end, there will be indisputably physical conditions of the brain: epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression. Psychiatrists and neurologists will be those specialists who treat those conditions. Perhaps the rift between psychiatry and neurology will mend. Treatment will be at will, never forced, never violent, never more harmful than beneficial, never more dangerous than refusal to treat. And there will be a test for the illnesses, to prove ahead of time that treatment is warranted. Religion will be religion. Art will be for its own sake. The state will be the state. Freedom will be the stake.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mental notes

  • She was mad to be glad-o.
  • She was glad to be mad-o.
  • She wouldn't diagnose her.
  • She was a born digresser.
  • She was a bored cross-dresser.
  • She was a hired class-crosser.
  • She was a hip engineer.
  • She worked just for her welfare.
  • She was an organizer.
  • She was a class-conscious hire.
  • She was an urgent seer.
  • She met a transabled sire.
  • She preferred werewolves and ghosts to 1990s vampires.
  • A sign of bipolar is "snappy dresser."
  • "Fen you god a gompleggs, zum dimes id giffs you an eddypuss. You zpeak a bisl Yiddish?" Mosiac Man by Ronald Sukenick (Normal, IL: FC2, 1999), p. 138
  • The collective nouns for OTTER are bevy, family, lodge or romp.
  • Mentalism is to the general public and the medical establishment as sexism is to patriarchy or racism is to slavery; the term has variant and unstable usage.
  • Psychophobia is literally "abnormal fear of the mind."
  • Transabled is a person who wishes to be (or who perceives him- or herself to be) (but who is not or would not need to be) disabled. What is a person who is newly disabled?
  • Ableism is discrimination against persons with disabilities.
  • Dual-diagnosis refers to persons who are both chemically dependent and otherwise mentally ill.
  • Mental illness diagnoses have negatively replaced profession and assimilated European immigrant groups and branches of Christianity as sources of belonging and identity.
  • Labeling, branding, mark(et)ing, targeting, scapegoating, victimizing, pigeonholing, programming.
  • Revising, rewriting, reworking, rephrasing, researching, drafting, editing.
  • Readings

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MEMORANDUM:

RE: �Go Gay (or Not) & Make a Mess of the Mess We're In�

[...] I'm writing prose drafts at Ana Verse for the month of May for Mental Health Month. Diagnosed people, who are sometimes (mis)represented by "advocates" and not organized and often isolated or closeted, are finding it difficult to "join up" with any other group: Even disability has its hierarchies, starting in the top half with physical disabilities. The "recovery" community of drug addicts and alcoholics rejects mental illness as false labeling if it applies to them and shuns people who take medication and so forth. The Mad Pride movement rejects conventional medical treatment for mental illnesses [based on mistreatment by that system] while the news media play "good doctor" in reports on the "bad doctors" of psychiatry and Big Pharma and the lay population goes about "de-diagnosing" friends (armed with news articles) and "diagnosing" others using the DSM-IV in a system where it is perceived that ---> outside dx = freedom and inside dx = captivity.

The best word I've found to apply to this state of affairs is "psychophobia," which literally means "abnormal fear of the mind." "Psychopharmophobia" may have its uses as well.

"Straight but not narrow."

Sunday, May 03, 2009

GLBT(Q) plus O

Today is my 47th birthday. I woke thinking of my 50th birthday. I have three years in which to do something before I turn fifty -- to do something -- but what? Today my mother, sister, and I are going to Como Park Zoo and for dinner at W.A. Frost in St. Paul. There's a flower show in the conservatory at Como Park, the "old zoo." It is a little early in the season for the other zoo, the "new zoo," in Apple Valley. As I described it to my friend, the "new zoo" is "a safari zoo," where the large game animals roam wide swaths of wooded and prairie lands. Visitors do not always glimpse the elephants, lions, and wolves from the tram or from the walking paths. He thought I said: the "old zoo and the Sephardic zoo."

. . .

Rights for mentals, rights for queers. If LGBT(Q), if GLBT. But GLBT(Q) needs a vowel, not another consonant. M for mentals (and medicated); D for diagnosed (dx'd); P for psychiatric case. What if the diagnosed were to call themselves something starting with a vowel: "A" "E" "I" "O" "U" or "Y" but what?

A friend's mother -- (she has or had "multiple personality disorder" renamed "dissociative identity disorder," MPD renamed DID) -- doubted the accuracy of my bipolar diagnosis during our week-long visit up north. One of her three sons had been diagnosed with bipolar, but he'd been too busy with life to seek treatment (tx) for it. "My son is Hemingway, Ann," she said. "The other son is a trained assassin, Ann," she said. "You were an overachiever," she said. "I was never sexually attracted to women," she said.

Bring "O" to the table, the imaginary table where diagnosed p-cases meet collectively, the discos that they frequent in their exclusive sexual attraction to one another: What if mentals were to agree to be called "Other" or "Over" or "Out"? Over it. Overboard. Overcooked. Overdue. Overly dramatic. Over the hill. Over the top. Over and out. Over the limit. Over easy. Overdosed. Overlooked. Over estimated. Out of bounds. Outnumbered. Out of it. "Orange," "Odd," "Old," or "Open"? Open minded. Old before their time. Orange has no exact rhyme.

Just as the words "gay" and "queer" were appropriated -- taken aside for everyday use, outmoded in their other connotations -- Gaelic and happy and odd -- and the word "crack" transmigrated, though most people seem hardly to notice it -- a word for mentals would take a common word or phrase out of ordinary use. What "O" word would do it? The "o" could be the "o" in psycho or wacko. "O" for a pride word: Orange. Take back the fruits! Off our backs!

Then GLBT might accept the diagnosed as the "O" in their herd. (It would look almost like an anagram of my name.) Or keep things as they are and borrow the "T" for "touched" and "nut."

During the Holocaust, the mentally ill who were institutionalized, sterilized, and "euthanized" didn't wear triangles or badges. The code name for the Nazi Euthanasia Program was T-4.

What is the word for internalized psychophobia? Or for people who are psychophobic?

There are those who feel that mentals ought to be "put away" and not allowed to have sex or do other things queers (at last) and normals are (theoretically) allowed to do. For that, we would have a custom. We need a Mario Cuomo for it. Would Obama do it? QUO.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Death by Comet

Yesterday I was sorting through boxes in my mother's garage, and I came upon an issue of a literary journal in which the violent boyfriend (from Cedar Falls or Cedar Rapids, Iowa) had published an essay in art criticism. In the first paragraph he used the word "adventitious." His name was nestled on the table of contents page beside Julio Cortazar's and Ann Beattie's and Dana Gioia's. I imagined the essay slipping into the landfill or going to the city shredder. Ship it! I said and separated it for the trash.

I am realistic enough to know that I don't look like Audrey Hepburn. I am more likely to realize that I admire Katherine Hepburn -- as if the choice must be between two women of the same name or between a married couple: Paul or Jane Bowles, Leonard or Virginia Woolf, Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath.

Truman Capote got the idea for In Cold Blood from an article in the newspaper. I had wanted to model a book after it, based on an article I had read in the Minneapolis newspaper about a tornado. In the tornado one elderly man died. Tornadoes ought to be named as hurricanes are named, this one after its one casualty. I thought of researching the book about the man, as if unburying him from the rubble of the basement in what had been his house. We all have basements here. Even my St. Louis Park apartment has its own unfinished basement. I use it for storage and it's where I do the laundry, where the furnace and hot water heater are. If someone says "basement" in Texas or in New York, people are likely to imagine a torture chamber; the literati think of Kaspar Hauser, not of a whole state or region of basements where law-abiding citizens report for duty during severe storm warnings. If a single elderly man dies in a tornado, the newspaper readers sigh with relief: at least no children died. They don't think of the damage to houses, trees, roads, and businesses unless they live near that town, and they don't stop to imagine what it might be like to be him -- THE ONLY ONE to have blown out in a tornado -- at the end of a long and one presumes virtuous life. It's like being chosen by a lightening bolt or dying by COMET; it's like being the one candle on a cake to go out when the birthday child misses; but readers are just glad to read he'd been old. What if one of the man's grown children, plied with a little weed or tobacco or alcohol, were to say, "He got what he deserved" or "Couldn't have come at a better time"? Wouldn't that be a story?

It might have won the Minnesota Book Award for non-fiction, but I didn't do it.

I didn't call the police when the violent boyfriend (from Cedar Falls or Cedar Rapids, Iowa) "blew up the house."

Would Avery believe that my poetry was "glad to be female" if I draped each noun with a lacy little bra or tightened it in a string bikini? If I put a touch of black (not brown) mascara on every verb?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Southern Man

It's "wrong" to be depressed. One friend chortled when I said I was in my spring depressive episode. It means that I daydream about death, wake thinking of it, want nothing more than it, and read jealously of people who have had the temerity to quit this landscape, temerity I lack. Seasonal affective disorder occurs in winter when days are shorter, but bipolar depression occurs in spring when birds are nesting and favorite flowers peek through the soil.

Avery, I'll call her, chortled, but I still don't know how to interpret her laugh. Avery is also the brand name of office labels, something I feel I function as in the work world. She'd been diagnosed recently with "borderline personality disorder," diagnosis she pursued. What you hear about "borderline" is that it's worse than mood disorders, because it cannot be treated successfully with medication, but Avery is glad for that because medications have side-effects and are wrong and dangerous and so is Big Pharma -- to a drug-free so(c)(br)iety. Avery no more believes that she has or is "borderline" than she believes her hair is purple, but it gives her a luxuriant feeling to be pampered in a borderline therapy group. She can't afford much salon work these days, so she's taken to this group.

She said, by way of critiquing my poems, that they are -- I am -- not "glad to be female" because I live mostly outside her logic of lingerie. I felt transgendered by her remark. I got mad at her -- she goes secretly to a therapy group for "borderline" as for years she has attended AA w/o being an alcoholic -- without realizing that she volunteers to be a nut. She thinks it's one more thing -- like cocaine, like shoplifting -- she can get away with as an adult -- to sneak around seeking "treatment" without being listed or dismissed as a mental case. Many women admire young Audrey Hepburn, place posters of her near their coatracks or inside their closet door, but Avery is more like Holly Golightly than any of them: What if she is not mentally ill? What if she is a creative intellectual?

Avery's issues related to law-breaking relate to being Catholic. Catholics didn't write the laws: why obey all of them? I used to believe that the law had gotten certain things wrong -- such as the (re)criminalization of marijuana -- but I realized (a little late) that the law still applies. Mental illness and lawbreaking are intermittently connected, but diabetes and allergies and obesity may also lead to selfish preoccupations, even to taking what doesn't belong to one. There is something not right that Avery desires to have an(other's) illness -- has even said she desires to be in a mental institution -- and chortles when her friend says she is depressed. There is much to interpret in it.

A violent boyfriend before he became violent had diagnosed me with "borderline" myself. I had not entered the mental illness labyrinth, had not been put there yet by "concerned persons" -- one of them a man who didn't believe I had any business writing even a short essay about "my" theology -- among his reasons the day he dragged me in to see the authorities at a psychiatric hospital in Houston in December of 1991 where violent men were held and where I was to be locked, not because I was violent, but because my violent boyfriend, whom the other man (Sonia's boyfriend) had promoted at work after my boyfriend had been violent -- after he had threatened to kill me -- reasoned that he would threaten to kill someone, too, who (later) wrote a short essay about theology. It silenced me. It was like an introduction to murder, though I'm still alive and take medications for it.

I read poems at websites during NaPoMo and admired the spontaneous talents of the poets without wanting to join in myself. I don't know if it is that I am a "case" that I like the unfinished work of talented writers -- or something else. I don't know if in the whole analysis mental cases are allowed to have an aesthetics or if their aesthetics are simply worth less: a loan as compared to savings -- and it comes back to that day when the Southern Man decided -- for the rest of my story -- that I'd had no authorization to write creatively, thus shaming his superiors who had originally approved of it. There is no diagnosis for abstract expressionist painting or "rock band," but there is one for writing.

... I was not a lapdog, something the Southern Man, Sonia's boyfriend, was. I figured I was too tall to fit comfortably in a lap. The Southern Man was tall and big and got in laps wherever he went. His bearded face nodded "yes" to everything. It didn't matter what another person was saying to him, he vigorously nodded and nodded "yes" to it. I wouldn't have dreamt that a mental institution would be interested in that tic of his, but he dreamt that a mental institution would be interested in me.

To diagnose "bipolar" is in some ways like no-fault insurance or divorce. The medical establishment cares less about the details of what happened and more about the results. Later it was uncovered that I have a psychiatrist uncle with the genes for it.

I should have realized what kind of "player" environment poetry was in that place. It manifested as an affirmative action beauty pageant, and many of the men ended up feeling passed over by it, not chosen, as they would have been chosen had affirmative action not gone into motion when it did. Punishing white women for it was a remedy, and no one would halt them.

If it's sadly true that I "think in essay," then this is my month for offering daily rough drafts: MeHeWriMo (Mental Health Writing Month).

May is MeHeWriMo

Entries at Ana Verse (Jan. 16, 2006 to April 12, 2009) that relate to depression and diagnosis:

*What is a blog, what is a bogle? 1/16/06
*Subj: re: doing time … 1/16/06
*Father-time, 1/20/06
Journal Entry, March 1, 2006, 2/28/06
*“Rule out Euthymia” (short story pub’d at Mad Hatters’ Review, issue 10, fall 2008) 3/08/06
Hype and Melancholy, 3/12/06
*“Cigs,” (short story pub’d at Mad Hatters’ Review, issue 10, fall 2008) 6/5/06
*“The Gift,” (short story pub’d at Mad Hatters’ Review, issue 10, fall 2008) 7/24/06
*The Cool Report, 8/3/06
*Growing Up Normal, 8/5/06
“Red Squirrel” (pub’d in Minnetonka Review) 8/8/06
*Honest Life, 11/1/06
*Substance at Stake, 12/19/06
Chagrin (def.), 1/4/07
*Ms. Sandman, 1/21/07
Equity, 1/22/07
Being on the outside, 1/31/07
*“Basal Distance,” prose poem aired on MiPOradio, 2/8/07
“Wish for the Left Hand,” 2/16/07
A poet from San Francisco, 3/6/07
International Women’s Day: Work, 3/8/07
Stripped of all precious illusion, 3/12/07
*Waylaid (1999), 3/23/07
*Love, 5/24/07
*Diagnosis, 5/25/07
Dial-on, 5/25/07
Disability and the United Nations, 5/26/07
*Millness: On a stretcher, 5/28/07
*The recent death of Poet Sarah Hannah, 5/30/07
*Dr. Abuzzahab, 6/9/07
*Depression & poetry, 6/11/07
*Visiting in New York, 6/17/08
“Fish,” 6/24/07
*My Jane Eyre, 6/30/07
Housekeeping, 7/16/07
Other letter (excerpt), 7/23/07
Small party for an excuse, 8/4/07
Wisdom of Dr. Abraham Low, 8/9/07
“Vital signs: Hysteria is calmer than you think,” 10/6/07
Driving years, 12/12/07
*My obsessions, 12/7/07
*Caregiver, 7/9/08
*Why do they stay?, 9/7/08
*"Hoss Men,” 10/11/08
*Punctuate, 11/8/08
Christmas Letter, 12/25/08
W’assup with Edward Albee? 3/18/09
Acceptance is to her a phenomenon, 3/29/09
Lolita: a pyramid story, 4/12/09

*I have deposted all those entries marked with an asterisk, but they appear in the hardcover b-l-o-o-k.