31 January 2013

the body as receptacle of language

think of a cup. or a funnel. 
the liquid is words—see how they pour // 
from your father's mouth // multnomah falls // 
six hundred twenty feet between its two drops // a tumble of words

your body the cup // wide brimmed (in a tropical sense) // 
the liquid fills // soaks in // now you carry it // now it is yours.

29 January 2013


as mentioned, I'm experimenting with maps & images & thinking on ways to incorporate them into the structure of my graduate thesis memoir... I did some interesting things with illustrator this evening, this basic digital collage being one of them:

The US Geological Survey awesomely allows you to download some of their incredible collection of cartography. This particular map is an 1897 rendition of Portland, which I combined with a digital scan of my hands. I was testing out opacity levels, & overlay techniques (I'm still very much an illustrator novice). 

I was able to build a few more interesting pieces, but I think I'll keep those to myself for now... best to retain some mystery. 

28 January 2013


found this interesting & brightly coloured map of the scablands caused by the Missoula Floods... part of my research surrounding my graduate thesis. I think it's quite beautiful.

I'm also fairly stoked to have discovered that the US Geological Survey allows you to view &/or order historical maps online. I'm currently working out how to use cartography within my project, & how to expand/juxtapose the uses of image & text in my work. 

Since the text of a memoir is a map in another (more esoteric) way, I'm curious how I can add physical maps, & physical landscapes to a text largely about the interior landscape. As I mentioned in my blurb, the missoula project is about shaping. Shaping of children into adulthood & shaping of geography by catastrophe. I'm wondering how cartography can play a role in the shaping of the project. 

Experiments to follow I'm sure. I've already tried a few things with anatomical drawings... another increased interest of mine is the idea of the physical body as receptacle of language. & really, anatomical drawings are merely maps of another kind.  

26 January 2013

on the new common core standards in literature

Listening to Studio360 on this new common core curricula which some have feared would significantly reduce the role of literary fiction in high school classrooms.

Forgive me if my thoughts aren't completely sorted, I've just listened to the podcast & I have recently found myself thinking more & more about the importance of literature in juxtaposition with its consistent devaluation.

The statement from David Coleman, one of the primary authors of the new curricula, on the podcast reassured me. He states that the new standards are meant to ensure literary non-fiction is addressed with the same strict attention to author choice as fiction, & that the new core steps up the intensity of the expected reading in high schools. These are both good things from my seat in Brooklyn.

While I was in high school, my English classes were often (always) reading the abridged versions of the literary canon. This is clearly problematic. Dumbing down course material doesn't help students learn. As Mr. Coleman says in the interview, the only way to learn how to read a difficult text is to read that difficult text. It's also disturbing that American high school students are reading about four grade levels below where they need to be to succeed in college/the world. Obviously, this is incredibly disappointing. The entire education system in America seems to have been reduced to the lowest common denominator, & for what?

There are obviously also many other issues at play when it comes to the reading comprehension of our students. Institutionalized discrimination based on race, economic status, geography etc... play a large role. But perhaps part of the answer is toughening up standards... or at least requiring students to read the actual texts & not some sanitized, dumbed down version. Critical thinking is more than reading, it's discussion too. If students can't have a common core on which to base the discussions needed to achieve real education, then we have a serious problem. This is why I think the three kinds of reading are so important. They facilitate this critical & analytical thought.

21 January 2013

on words in two translations of sappho

The Poetry of Sappho, translated by Willis Barnstone and Anne Carson

These two volumes actually cover the same expanse of work by Sappho (namely all of it that is left), but they have very different approaches. Whereas Carson emphasizes the fragmentary nature of the surviving texts by structuring them on the page with their missing lines displayed as blank space, Barnestone writes out each piece as if it had been completed, as if Sappho had structured them the way that we have them now. Both are important for my poetics. I cannot think of a poet who has inspired me more than Sappho. Fragments have a power that so called “complete” poems do not. Their words hang in the air, and you are forced to think about their language from every conceivable direction and angle. Take Sappho fragment six, as translated by Anne Carson for example:

so we may see
of gold arms

Each word lives within itself as well as within the poem. Each word must be digested by the reader on its own. What does “doom” mean here? Is the lady of gold arms doom incarnate? Does she foretell some kind of impending doom? There are possibilities in each word and line, which is something I actively try to bring over to my own work.  When a word is by itself, but still in a larger context endless possibilities spring up. 

18 January 2013

a playlist & a reading list

I decided to make a sad hipster playlist last night... here's what I came up with:

& my reading list for spring 2013 is pretty rad:

  • Life on Mars - Tracy K. Smith
  • My Emily Dickinson - Susan Howe
  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • The MS of M Y Kin - Janet Holmes
  • The Guardians - Sarah Manguso
  • Threads - Jill Magi
  • The Book of Beginnings & Endings - Jenny Boully
  • Near to the Wild Heart - Clarice Lispector
  • Autoportrait - Edouard Leve
  • Humaninal - Bhanu Kapil
  • The Red Parts: A Memoir - Maggie Nelson
  • Walking Through Clear Water in A Pool Painted Black - Cookie Mueller
  • My Life - Lyn Hejinian
  • Everybody's Autonomy: Connective Reading & Collective Identity - Juliana Spahr
  • The Quest for Christa T - Christa Wolf (trans. by Christopher Middleton

You can follow me on goodreads if you're interested in what I'm reading. 

12 January 2013

instant (return)

After a week in the wild frozen tundra of northern Vermont, it takes a little gettin' used to to be in the wild dank city again. My second residency at Goddard was all I could have hoped. It wasn't even that cold.

I jumped in a snow bank, exchanged energy with classmates, listened to poems, chilled wine in snow drifts, ate my weight in tofu scramble & home fries, talked about ethics & equality in education, explored creating a hybrid from the body, was blessed with rose water, told & listened to ghost stories, sifted through library books, lost an earring, read poems, wrote poems, submitted some things to a magazine, & talked talked talked. A good way to spend several days.

08 January 2013


 Currently in the wilds of snowy Vermont, I'm enjoying my second graduate school residency so far. Today I was in a workshop about writing a blurb for your book, & this is what I came up with.....

Through expanding the intersection of science and emotion, missoula traces the ice-age floods responsible for the geography of the Pacific Northwest, and outlines a woman’s struggle with identity after an abusive childhood. Juxtaposing the findings of J Harlen Bretz—the rebel geologist whose 1928 explorations led to the development of a catastrophic flood theory—with stunning moments of sparse imagistic poetry missoula asks how fathers can shape their daughters in the same way these catastrophic natural disasters once carved the physical landscape. 

01 January 2013

Happy New Year!!

Hope everyone had a stunning new years eve!! I spent it with some friends in the lower east side, where we rang in 2013 at the Motor City Bar in true Detroit style. Here's to 2013 being exponentially better than 2012.

Stormy spent her NYE doing the same thing she always does,