After two months of commuting, droning, and working a useless job, I have congealed into a blob of nothingness.  I have yet to write or to be happy.  I find myself feeling empty working and feeling even more empty not working.  Hence, I have become the alienated laborer who only values him or herself by the money made from his or her labor.  Because of this thought, I find myself rereading Marx on the train and during breaks at work just to let myself know that these feelings have been around for years and years and will continue to be around for the years to come.

Along with these feelings of seemingly endless feelings emptiness, comes the dreary drive to save, save, and save some more.  These feelings of anguish and panic are fed by news of the broken housing market, the impending recession, and, as the NYT’s puts it, “America’s Obsession with Debt”.  In short, I feel that if I do not work and save all of what I have earned, I will fall behind and become a person who is a drain on society or, worse yet, an example of someone addicted to excess.  But this need to work and this need to be alienated by labour is an excess in itself.  I simply accepted alienation labour and its result, money, as a means to free myself: 

“Political economy hides the alienation in the essence of labour by not considering the immediate relationship between the worker (labour) and production.  Labour produces works of wonder for the rich, but nakedness for the worker.  It produces palaces, but only hovels for the worker; it produces beauty, but cripples the worker; it replaces labour by machines but throws part of the works back to the barbaric labour and turns the other part into machines  It produces culture, but also imbecility and cretinism for the worker” (Marx). 

But because of all this, I sit in anticipation of teaching jobs this coming Fall hoping to break what alienation I have experienced this summer, hoping to live so below my means that I can earn enough that the culture of the classroom and its adrenaline rush become my “works of wonder”, “palaces”, and “beauty”.

The things I hate about New York City are slowly being replaced by the comfort of stability.  These hates are its lack of greenery, one’s inability to own any part of it, its impossible silence and stillness, but, most of all, I hate New York City for its expense.  But now, its stability, its job opportunities, its friends, and familiarity outweigh its cons.  Even more, I can now afford to buy a part of New York City, I afford this part by greenery, and this greenery can give me stillness and silence (the only way I can afford a place is to far away from its epicenter of Manhattan).  So I want to call this place home.  Even more, I have fallen in love with New York City, especially the Bronx.  

The last five years I have spent here have educated me, inspired me, and taught me that moving away from where you are at a current moment is absurdly hard and painful.  I do not regret the jump from Wisconsin to New York — I just wish to be happy with here and now.  I wish to enjoy this place and change the things I do not enjoy.  I guess it may possibly be laziness for my not wanting to leave, find new jobs, new friends, new homes, or is it the exact opposite that I am going to establish a home and work to change New York’s expenses, hidden greenery, and lack of stillness and silence.

“each correspondence rich in the instant as we were,

 

we four breathers together in all weather,

we prayers taking on the sight of other,

these sights outlasting all the fathers and mothers,

mothers and fathers, and daughters, and uniformed sons

out on the farthest reaches of chemical diamonds slurping kamikazes,

orange mixed with grape —–

 

just as in the eastern skies —-

Gary, Indiana — smog sifting spectacularly down.

Petroglyphic tire treads, lick and fawn the highway’s double lines…

 

sun, twice over dead and alive, please please us, pretty please, shine.”

                                                        –  “Gegenschein: 1959” by William Olsen

In writing, or in any art, reality inspires.  Yet, as a reader and a writer, I strive to avoid reality through my readings and pieces of writing.  I embrace the absurd while staying away from anything that may tether me to reality.  This fear of reality is recognized by many who write.  Nabokov skillfully convinces readers that his reality is placidly absurd; Humbert Humbert is sane and a sympathetic protagonist.  Gabe Hudson writes of a war hero surviving six holes in the head while his daughter’s soul harbors herself in him.  Kafka’s apes speak and humans turn into responsible bugs in his stories.  Likewise, poetry reeks of the absurd.  The idea of comparing two dissimilar things to illustrate a relationship is absurd.

Yet, when faced with how to define the absurd — I simply trip over “unique and original”.  But after minutes of contemplating this on the treadmill, I come to T.S. Eliot’s “Mankind cannot bear much reality.”  I want the absurd to be something we do not encounter everyday or something in which we fear an encounter.  I want the miraculously illogic of the world to prevail in pieces of writing.  I want the wildly unreasonable to work itself into the lines and the characters of each piece I read.  I, myself, cannot bear much reality, but ironically, reality is what inspires the absurdity in writings.

Poetry is tethered to the absurd.  Unlike drama or fiction, poetry does not have to be linear or logical.  If poetry is too logical, it is called “prose” (“lyrical prose” if music is evident).

I try to have my students embrace this “absurdity” through metaphors.  Metaphors are the most absurd, irrational device in the writing.  How can one know what another is writing of by comparing two dissimilar things?  Yet, writers and readers depend on the metaphor because language lacks.

The constructing of these metaphors is an art.  Yet, most take the metaphors people live with for granted like sweat in July.  Of course, my students listen to hip hop before their 8:30 am class – “raw as a dirty needle” never enters their definition of absurd.  “Love you like a fat kid loves cake” and “brushing the dirt off your shoulder” are not literal, but abstract uses of language that bring the reader and writer closer.  Of course, like anyone who needs the stable and the controllable in his/her life, each of my students complains that these metaphors are really similes; one cannot be the other or else why would language assign a separate term to one another.  My frustration stems beyond wondering how these students cannot let enough control go to let smiles and metaphors coincide yet they allow “raw” to be a “dirty needle” or problems as “dirt on your shoulder”.  Do they lack the sophistication needed to recognize a relationship between two dissimilar things or is their trained obedience to terms learned in high school the extent of their critical thinking skills?

I am re-reading Lorca’s lecture, “Play and Theory of Duende” from In Search of Duende for class tomorrow. I am comforted by the frustrations Lorca cites in writing:

“The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, “The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs ups inside you, from the soles of your feet.” Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation,” (Lorca 49).

Of all of my frustrations with writing (its spontaneity, its instability, its rejection, its loneliness) my writing has never lacked its sincere respect for its aggravations. When Lorca spits, “All that has black sounds has duende” onto his audience in Buenos Aires, 1933, it was not for shock value, but because writing forces him to acknowledge his mortality, his failings as a man, the barbarous ways of the world, etc. These acknowledgments add to the frustration of their rendering. So when I pray (writers spend years praying) for Duende to climb up inside ourselves, “from the soles of our feet”. I picture myself being grabbed from behind by my ankles, biting my tongue as I hit the floor, and the itching of the soles of my feet causing my body to whither on the floor. I picture writing with demonic Duende to make me claw at life with my fingertips. I picture this demonic Duende allowing me enough strength to struggle with, enough time to scribble a few words. Suddenly, it leaves and I am back to the struggle against, not Duende, but myself. If only writing was so easy…

I think we hear, more often than not, of many people who are “very sexual people”  — with feminism, these words are buzzwords encountered often.  It seems as we think of these people as horny, promiscuous people.  But I want to argue that this image of a person who seems to get off easily and exerts sexual energy when doing the most monotonous of tasks is wrong and we must reprogram ourselves to think otherwise:

 

“Eroticism is first and foremost a thirst for otherness.  And the supernatural is the supreme otherness.  This is perhaps the most noble aim of poetry, to attach ourselves to the world around us, to turn desire into love, to embrace, finally what always evades us, what is beyond, but what is always there – the unspoken, the spirit, the soul.”

Octavio Paz

 

I would hope that after this class, even before its end, you think of sexual beings as people who consistently seek a connection with others.  Not just people who arouse others, but people who consistently seek out a sincere connection with others. 

 

This sincere connection does not mean you are out healing the sick or helping the wounded (which would be great), but celebrating and embracing the flaws of humans: our ugliness, our absurdity, and our beauty.

 

Thus, the success of an author lies in his or her ability to make readers sympathize with his or her characters.  This sympathy is a facet of connection.  Some may call connection the only facet of sympathy.  This connection is the most “noble aim” of writing and, as we all seem to feel at one point during our writing that when the voice inside of our head aligns with the voice we capture on paper and then when this captured voice is read by a reader as his or her own – it is sublime and worth those moments of insecurity and insanity.   

A lot of happiness has happened since I last blogged. I have gotten engaged. I have become more comfortable with my job at MSU. My distaste for my other teaching job has not wanned but it has been managable. NYC has become a friend, not a great friend, but someone who you have fun with every so often.

Currently, I am in VT at the Post-Graduate Writers’ Workshop. It is great up here. I cannot bring myself to proclaim myself a writer or that it is “fabulous” to be here, but it is great to meet such motivated, talented people. I am the youngest here, but not in a bad way. I am young and am encouraged and given great advice. Most importantly, though, it has renewed my energy when it comes to writing. It has re-introduced me to the wonder of reading and writing poetry.

Also, as a young person, I am so conscious of getting myself stuck in a certain style of writing. Because of this, I often work against myself and my writing becomes insincere and a chore to read (as well as to write). Here, the participants are confident in their styles and see writing as a release, not a chore or a puzzle to work out in your mind. I am quite happy I have found this little pocket, if only for just five days.

I was picturing my life in NYC: beans added to Mac and Cheese (only 50 cents a box, so Jay bought twenty of them!) to make the dinner more filling. Plus, beans are cheaper than tuna or anything else you can add to the mac and cheese. My clothes made of polyester and rayon because I cannot afford better clothes and do not have the patience to fight people on the subway or in the stores. Us living in crappy apartments with no yard out back to plant a garden or sit outside in. We cannot travel because it is spending precious money we would otherwise save for a house (a house which is really an apartment with no yard but has smelly neighbors who cook curry day in and day out and play loud music until three in the morning). But, of course, I could quit teaching and get a real job where I work sixty hours a week for some jerk who thinks he owns the world. I sit at a desk, fixing his grammar mistakes and having him berate me for telling him he is wrong in his use of who vs. whom. But yes, Jay is happy working a job he thought he would get to plan at (He loves NYC because he likes to tell people he lives in NYC). And me… Well, I love Jay.

“A good rule before one goes marching or signing anything: Whatever your tug of sympathy, you have no right to a public opinion unless you’ve been there, experienced firsthand or on the ground and for some considerable time the country, the war, the injustice, whatever you are talking about. In the absence of the such firsthand knowledge and experience: Silence.”

Yet Foucault deems silence essential for discourse. So is academia doomed to be passive participatians in the world’s toils by its decree to discuss and be silent?

(another draft of this poem)

Writing

… is locked in its black and white:
stone building a wall. Each stone
is a word hard to break in two, difficult
to haul away, and impossible
to sleep with at night. Each word
depends upon the other. Take one away –
you must take them all. Yet, still envision

these words, these stones, as piles at our feet.

“A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; -- not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself.” - Henry David Thoreau
September 2016
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