Hold It All

Category: Writing

A Love Letter to Grief by Jessi Dyer

Grief you motherfucker,
You robber of joy,
You thief in the night,
Stealing and killing.
Burning my village to the ground.

Grief, you backpack full of rocks,
You unrelenting burden I bear
Just when I think the weight has lightened, you get heavy again
And again,
And again,
And again,

Grief, you incessant mosquito buzzing in my ear.
You lingering bug bite, swollen and itchy.
Just when I think you are gone, you itch again

Grief, you scab,
You scaly piece of shit
A kiss on my skin I never wanted,
A reminder I never asked for.

Grief, you bastard,
You unwelcomed visitor that won’t leave,
Filling my home with rotten fruit and flies.
Drawing the shades and blacking out my windows.

Grief, you rapist,
I did not consent to you being here,
I did not consent to the constant envy of new mothers with new babies,
The envy of perfect families
The envy of those who have never known loss.
The deep ache of a mother’s empty arms,
I did not consent to this unrepairable womb,

Grief,
You motherfucking cocksucker.

Jessi is participating in the class, Writing Our Own Histories.

Writing Our Own Histories/Untitled by Gail Piva

And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is hundreds of years of oppression 
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the violent sobs of my soul
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the images of black men dying
And now I can’t breathe the knee on my neck is the voices of women pleading 
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is my blood splattered thoughts 
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the fear that I could be next
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the silence of good men
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the ignorance of my white friends 
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is America’s ripened racism
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the burden of fatherless children
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is a perception of my black meaningless life
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the sound of sirens pulling me over
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is watching another cop go free
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is captured cell phone videos
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is a confederate flag being carried through the streets
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is waking up to nigger written on my driveway
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is having to work twice as hard with an illusion of getting ahead 
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is a white woman’s fear and crying
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is another televised funeral procession
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is a white man standing behind a podium making racism look sexy
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is an article in the New York times
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the sight of peaceful bodies bombed with tear gas
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the exhaustion of running this endless race
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the absence of phone calls from my white friends
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the virus that they refuse to test me for
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the continuous sound of a propeller circling my block
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the disproportionate rate of imprisonment 
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is an underfunded inferior education system
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is a check cashing place on every corner
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is the lack of nearby grocery stores 
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is repeatedly being accused of stealing from a store
And now I can’t breathe, the knee on my neck is being crowded into a concrete jungle
And now I can’t breathe, and the knee is the deep pounding of my heart
And now I can’t breathe, and the knee is the nausea producing knots of my stomach 
And now I can’t breathe, and the knee is the weariness in my bones
And now I can’t breathe, and the knee is being born with brown skin
And now I can’t breathe, and the knee is the realization that my voice is now heard only from a distance 
And now I can’t breathe, and the knee…
Mama…mama…
Mama…I…can’t…
Breathe…

Putting Marginalia to Use

for Danielle Mackey

Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces
31 Saturday October 2009

I reread this book for one reason:  To see if it could help me generate some ideas as to form and content for my third book, which still will deal with Palestine.

So, all I scribble below is from marginalia—ideas, chapter or unit titles, possibilities—I  have made as I read these short, lyrical, lightly dense meditations that still make me think: Ah, this is my form, too!

Today as I finished the book in Borders waiting for Sharifa and Dania, it occurred to me: 10 themes each with 10 chapters, fractured and sequenced, with the ten chapters on Hedy being the “spine” of the work: a link between Shoah and Nakba. This is reflected below in the end of these notes.

It really will be a meditation on history.

Lexicon entries
The Occupation
What Prison can do to a Man [Hitler story]

Ghadeer, 400 words [tell me your story]
Different fonts of Arabic words…. Calligraphy
Reading Chomsky/1/2

Take a quotation and revise it to tell my story
Transformations/1 [Halper]

People I Know: The Actor
People I Know: The Survivor
People I Know: The Professor Read the rest of this entry »

Writing Our Own Histories: A Spring/Summer Class

“First We Read, Then We Write”
–title of Robert D. Richardson’s study on Emerson’s creative life

“Something that you feel will find its own form”
–Jack Kerouac, U.S. novelist and poet

“You have to write your own history, nobody’s going to do it for you. “
—Allen Ginsberg, bard, activist, professor

This class invites you to experiment with several creative forms that I have found engaging, energizing, and intriguing. The practice of imitation can lead to fresh inspiration for embarking on new work or for reclaiming work we’ve been putting off.

During class sessions we will examine the structure of works by Alice Walker, Svetlana Alexievich, Eduardo Galeano, and Joe Brainard. We will cover each book in two sessions. We will do relevant writing practices in and outside of class, for example, getting in touch with our vast storehouse of memories (Brainard). Also, by the end of each session we will make plans for writing on our own in the week ahead. Possible areas for exploration are personal and collective memoir and autobiography. Participants will be encouraged to connect during the week, and share how the writing and reading processes inter-are. I will be happy to meet up, listen, and share when it is convenient for you. Read the rest of this entry »

My Nocturnal Pleasure…

Reading Lauren Sharpe.

 

 

 

“Action Needed, Goethean Action”

Allen Ginsberg, Journals: Mid-Fifties 1954-1958, edited by Gordon Ball

During winter and spring of 1996 I went on a binge of poet Allen Ginsberg’s books: poems, letters, photos, journals (I was taking a break from Elie Wiesel dissertation preoccupations). This volume documents his inner/outer life in the period when Howl emerged and just before he created Kaddish. I took note of the following passages…

On the New York literary establishment: “There’s no room for youth and vitality in New York. It is a city full of guilty academicians.” —Gregory Corso. “Too big, too multiple, too jaded.” —Jack Kerouac. “We want everyone to know that we had to leave the Village to find fulfillment and recognition.” Ginsberg.

“And so I thought for the benefit of posterity to keep a record of everything — don’t lose any information.”

“…the best I thought I could do was just keep a record of my own changes of self-nature and perceptions — you know, intermittent perceptions, spots of time. So my notebook is thoughts, epiphanies, vivid moments of haiku, poems, but not a continuous diary of conversations like Virginia Woolf, or Anais Nin, or Boswell.”

“Exaltation (what is the precise word for the sensation of love acceptance?)”

“Creating out of myself the strength to continue in some kind of force, some kind of uncanny care — though I have nothing to give actually but a cheerful spirit now and hands for dishwashing — to give force for my own & others’ pleasure — to learn to give love without despairing of the consequences.”

“…before it drags itself out and I get lost in confusions and imagined rejections.” Read the rest of this entry »

Anne Waldman on The Art of Writing, Reading, and Sharing—Winter Class/Arco-Online 2020

Imagine you are not alone. Consort with other writers. You are in a League of Writing. You are part of a conspiracy to lift the discourse and practice of writing higher. Think of your writing as a way to alleviate the suffering of yourself and others. To make the world more beautiful and interesting.
—Anne Waldman, “Creative Writing Life”

If you writing life needs a recharge, if you want to reconnect with your writing practice and other kindred spirits, please join us in this class as we will engage the accumulated wisdom of Anne Waldman, poet, teacher, cultural activist, anthologist, and subverter of the patriarchy.

In her inspiring book, Vow to Poetry: Essays, Interviews, & Manifestos, Waldman has short chapter entitled, “Creative Writing Life.” It’s nine pages long and this will be the chief text for our class. Each week we will read, discuss, and write off of a page of Anne’s prompts–both friends who want to share via a class blog, and those who can meet up in St. Louis. We will spend our time in and outside of class experimenting, practicing, and integrating what she has to offer (I count 136 specific suggestions). Perhaps you will discover that 10 of these are really what you matter to you at this time in your life.

For Saint Louisans, outside of a 90 minute weekly class, you will need at least another 1.5 to 2 hours. Friends joining us via the class blog count on 2 to 3 hours a week. Make room in your schedule for cultivating creativity, clarity, and community.

We meet on Thursdays from January 30 to March 17, 6:45 to 8:15 p.m. at the home of Andrew Wimmer, 4400 Arco Avenue 63110. Online participants will receive an agenda on Friday mornings to direct their activities for the week.I will be frequently in touch with you, and try to connect people in the same city. The more we share, the greater our learning and expansion!

All you need are your writing materials and/or devices and, ideally, a copy of Vow to Poetry, or one of Anne’s other books, such as Fast Speaking Woman, Beats at Naropa, Civil Disobediences, or Outrider. Check out your bookstore or public library, or contact me for assistance–I have access to university libraries.

Tuition for St. Louisans, $100.
For online participants, $50.
You can send tuition to me by Paypal or by check at the first class.

For those of you who have done a class with me before and found it worth your time, please pass along this announcement to anyone you know who may be interested in this class, especially the online version.

Penny Smith, Northwest Coffee, Central West End

Start a club/”study group” around the work of a deceased writer or writers or a literary movement or a book. Meet once a month and plan to read aloud (or translate), write “off of,” and examine texts. The Sappho Club, the Niedecker/Zukovsky Salon, the H.D. Room, the Beat Trope Circle, Robert Duncan Lab, New York School Gallery, Black Arts Solarium…
–Anne Waldman, “Creative Writing Life”

Reading Roth on Writing and Reading

George Searles, editor, Conversations with Philip Roth
Literary Conversation Series
University Press of Mississippi
1992

I settled in this morning with a collection of interviews with Philip Roth, from the bright beginning of his career in  1960 t0 1991, just before he produced a steady stream of powerful books (e.g., Operation Shylock, for one), many of which I read with appreciation throughout the 90s. What follows are passages that reveal his reflections on the art of fiction and the practice of readers.

 

My work does not offer answers. I am trying to represent the experience, the confusion and toughness of certain moral problems. People always ask what’s the message. I think the worst books are the ones with messages. My fiction is about people in trouble.  2

For me, one of the strongest motives for continuing to write fiction is an increasing distrust of “positions,” my own included.  60

For everything in my fiction that connects to something I’ve known personally, there are a hundred things that have no connection, or connections of only the roughest and vaguest sort.  103

You should read my books as fiction, demanding the pleasures that fiction can yield. I have nothing to confess and no one I want to confess to. 121

My job in a work of fiction is not to offer consolation to Jewish sufferers or to mount an attack upon their persecutors or to make the Jewish case to the undecided. 129 

The difficulties  of telling a Jewish story—How should it be told? In what tone? To whom should it be told? To what end? Should it be told at all?  183 

Novels provide readers with something to read. At their best writers change the way readers read.  That seems to me the only realistic expectation. It also seems to me quite enough. Reading novels is a deep and singular pleasure, a gripping and mysterious human activity that does not require any more moral or political justification than sex.  186 Read the rest of this entry »

“If Not You, Who?”

Having recently read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism and Deep Work, I thought of Marcel Proust’s Time Regained, volume 7 in his In Search of Lost Time.

1.

As for the inner book of unknown symbols… if I tried to read them no one could help me with any rules, for to read them was an act of creation in which no one can do our work for us or even collaborate with us.  How many for this reason turn aside from writing!  What tasks do men not take upon themselves in order to evade this task!  Every public event, be it the Dreyfus case, be it the war, furnishes the writer with a fresh excuse for not attempting to decipher this book:  he wants to insure the triumph of justice, he wants to restore the moral unity of the nation, he has no time to think of literature.  But these are mere excuses, the truth being that he has not or no longer has genius, that is to say instinct.  For instinct dictates our duty and the intellect supplies us with  pretexts for evading it. But excuses have no place in art and intentions count for nothing:  at every moment the artist has to listen to his instinct, and it is this that makes art the most real of all things, the most austere school of life, the true last judgment.

2.

So that the essential, the only true book, though in the ordinary sense of the word it does not have to be ‘“invented” by a great writer — for it exists already in each one of us — has to be translated by him.  The function and the task of a writer are those of a translator.

3.

The artist who gives up an hour of work for an hour of conversation with a friend knows that he is sacrificing a reality for something which does not exist (our friends being friends only  in the light of an agreeable folly which travels with us through life and to which we readily accommodate ourselves, but which at the bottom of our hearts we know to be no more reasonable than the delusion of the man who talks to the furniture because he believes that it is alive)…   Read the rest of this entry »

Gratitude/909

I spent the afternoon in Benton Park with exuberant Penny Smith  who, last night, pulled out one of her notebooks, opened to a random page and found this advice she’d scribbled down during one of our tête-à-têtes at Northwest Coffee two plus years ago– “Don’t read books by Dostoevsky; read your own journal! — Mark Chmiel”