Lively and entertaining, the discussion considered whether cats or goats are lords of the meme world (depends where you’re at), the ways Chinese citizens use memes to work around the country’s internet restrictions, decoding memes and the importance of translation for a deeper understanding of culture, and how spreading misinformation isn’t that different from digital marketing. I’m excited for the chance to read this book and to dive more deeply into memes and the power they have in the world.
Last night, I slipped out of my routine and to check out the Well-RED poetry showcase, featuring poets published in the Spring Mother Tongue anthology at Works/San José. The event was hosted in part by Poetry Center San José, a rad organization and a great place to turn to for more on South Bay Area goings on in poetry. It’s the first time I’ve been out to a literary event in months (probably, maybe, at any rate it’s been a rather long time).
Spring Mother Tongue is an anthology edited by Arlene Angeles Biala, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate. The collection provides a space for poets to share the stories behind each of of their own names. “You may recognize yourself in us. You may recall your own name(s) and stories around it/them and be moved to use your own poetic voice. I hope that you do,” writes Biala in the introduction.
The readings present a nuanced and layered exploration of names and what they mean. Some are funny, some are sweet, some explore the ways names are used to strip power away from us, and some are reclamations of power. It’s a beautiful anthology, one I recommend picking up, especially if you’re a local to the Bay Area, California.
What I’m Reading
I am about halfway through and entirely loving Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which is about vampires in Mexico City. The story is told from multiple points of view, both those of humans and the vampires themselves. I’m loving learning about the different species of vampires, each with their own evolutionary traits of abilities, strengths, and drawbacks. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer, quickly rising to the top of my list of favorites.
What I’m Writing
Over the past week, I completed a draft of a six page poem — the longest single poem I’ve ever written. Most of my poems tend toward the shorter side, 30 lines or less, and I’ve thought of myself as a poet who just wasn’t the type to write longer pieces like that — but apparently I’ve proved myself wrong. I’ve set it aside for the time being, letting the original flow of idea rest, so that I can come back to it for an edit later.
I also have episodes of a web series in progress — episode one has been done for a while, and I’ve started in on the opening scene of episode two. If I can focus and not get distracted by all the shiny poems I seem to be wanting to write this week, then I can probably finish drafts of at least two more episodes before I head out on my next big bit of travel in a week and a half.
The Running Life
Got my first run done in over a month on Saturday. It felt great to hit the pavement, good for my muscles and good for my soul. I was able to run a bit farther than I expected considering how long it’s been since I last went for it, which was reassuring. I need to get back into the routine. I can tell that my body needs it.
Total miles in the last week: 2.20
Total Miles for 2017: 70.84 miles
“a poem is an utterly free space for language; no objective and definite criteria could possibly apply to evaluate it. In fact, poetry is the only utterly free space for language that I’m aware of, and that is what makes it indispensable to me, and also what makes writing it and reading it a political act: Any act where freedom is urgently at issue is a political act, and any space that makes us aware of our innate freedom is a radically political space.”
Leah Schnelbach’s fantastic essay “Sometimes, Horror is the Only Fiction That Understands You” is a wonderful exploration of what Stephen King’s writing has meant to her in life — and as someone who read every King book I could get my hands on in high school, I completely resonate with this.
Welcome to my first Weekly Update of the year. I post these because they provide a good way for me to hold myself accountable, both in terms of meeting my writing and reading goals, as well as making sure I post regularly on the blog.
Lately, there seems like there’s so much to write about, so much to resist and fight against, so much to do and say and act on that at times it feels overwhelming. Sometimes you can only do what you can do, so today, I’m going to talk about the Uptown Fridays event hosted by Nomadic Press that I attended a couple of Fridays ago, because it was wonderful and inspiring.
It was an interesting challenge getting to the event that night, involving an hour long car ride from my work to Oakland — only to find when I arrived that I had left my wallet back at the office, which meant that I had no cash or cards on hand to buy dinner or books from the reading. I considered returning to my office and coming back over the bridge (which would have made me late to the event), but decided to roll with it. Since I had an apple left in the car, I knew I wouldn’t starve and I let go of the idea of otherwise needing my wallet on hand. I let go and gave myself to enjoying the event I came for.
Thomas Nguyen performed a set of songs that were moving, some mixed with speeches and sounds from a tape recorder to wonderful effect. (He was also my hero of the night, reminding me of the toll on my return trip to work for my wallet and giving me a fiver to make it back without a wicked ticket.)
Isobel O’Hare read both from new work and from her chapbook The Garden Inside Her. I’ve known her from the online Facebook world for some time, so it was great to meet her in person. Her work is great and I’ll have to buy her chap the next time I get a chance.
Caits Meissner, whose work I’ve been following for years, was a delight to meet and hear read. She read both a new experimental piece that gave me chills and from her new book Let It Die Hungry. I was so grateful that my checkbook was in my purse, because it allowed me to buy Caits’ new book and have it signed. The book includes poems in both text and comic form — I can’t wait to read it.
For all the frustration of getting to the event and leaving my wallet behind, it was worth every bit of panic and frustration, because the night was a blessing. And it’s clear to me that I need to attend events like this more often, more events where people speak and address the world — both because it’s important to support artistic communities in times like this and because I find such experiences soothing to the soul.
What I’m Reading
My reading pace has been abysmally slow this month, has in fact been getting slower and slower over the course of the past year. I think this is partially because I’ve been reserving my lunchtime reading for getting some writing work done and because I’m too mentally distracted when I actually get home.
I’m currently working my way through Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, two very different books that I’m enjoying quite a bit. One is a collection of darkly beautiful short stories, the other is a novel about dragons.
If I finish on book this month, it will have to be Tim Burton: Essays on the Films by Johnson Cheu, because I’ve been working on it for several months now.
What I’m Writing
I have been off and on sticking to the 15 Minute Rule more or less over the past couple of weeks, especially during the last week when I launched into that wonderfully productive time of deadline panic. Poor Belly Press is closing for chapbooks in two days and I would love to have my Twelve Dancing Princesses chap picked up by them, because their chaps are so beautiful — which has lead me into desperately trying to edit and polish up my work in order to make the deadline. In fact, I should be getting off the blogging and back to work right now. (But allow me just a moment more.)
Goals for the Week:
Finish chap edits and get it sent out
The Running Life
Since one of my goals is to actually accomplish a half marathon this year, I’ve decided to add running to my weekly updates.
I’ve been keeping with my routine of getting up hella early and making it to the gym two days a week for some short runs before work. These shorties are at about 25 minute, or 1.5-1.6 miles. Good small starts in preparation for the buildup, and they feel make me feel energized and cleansed in the morning. However, I have skipped my long weekend runs the last couple of weekends. I should be pressing past three miles into four miles at this point, but I’m dawdling.
I’ve been gathering links for weeks, so this is going to be a longish list.
In How To Keep Your March Momentum Going (regarding the amazing, inspiring event that was The Women’s March), Catherine Pearson recommends actions like signing up for e-mail updates from your local legislators and calling Congress daily.
“What comes next for the anti-Trump resistance will depend on how consistently these activists will engage and turn out for causes that are not their own; whether they’ll continue to phone their federal and state representatives after the inauguration and confirmation hearing hubbub dies down. It’s quite possible that what was started as an arguably superficial gesture at unity will evolve into one that holds the most powerful dissenters accountable for the least powerful,” writes Devon Maloney in Some Inconvenient Truths About The Women’s March On Washington.”But to do so, resisters must first reckon with complex issues of intersectionality.”
In Before You Celebrate The Zero Arrests At The Women’s March, Zeba Blay writes: “Of course, it is always a good thing when citizens are allowed to exercise their right to protest without anyone being harmed or detained. But there’s a question that should be asked and acknowledged, even as we celebrate the success of the protest:Would the outcome have been the same if the march had been exclusively organized by and mostly comprised of women of color?”
Admist a great many other things that happened last week, on Sunday I attended and performed at the All Womyn’s Showcase — which featured five hours and more than 20 performers of poetry, music, and art, as well as booths for artists and community activism. It was a stellar day, one that I felt so honored to take part in.
Some of the amazing poets included Arlene Biala, Santa Clara Poet Laureate, with two moving pieces; Christina Springer; Jaqunasty, a spoken word poet with a powerful voice and words full of feels; and Aasha, who performed several kick-ass poems, as well as co-hosted the event alongside Estrellita Munõz. Also, Nicole Henares shared a poem from Madrid with Bianca Rodriguez performing flamenco alongside — there was something powerful about seeing two such different forms of art performed side-by-side, with ever staccato-ed flamenco step punctuating the words in the poem.
There was so much great music, too — Socorra floored me with her foot-stomping rock; Claymoon wowed me with the growl of the lead-singer’s voice and the emotion in their lyrics; Astralogik made me want to sway to their soulful electronica; Bird & Willow shared some lovely folk; and as always Q&A made my world a better place with their beautifully strange, folky tunes.
One comedian, PX Floro, also took the stage and she was hilarious.
This is really just the short list, as there were so many other amazing poets and artists who gave wonderful performances at the All Womyn’s Showcase as well. Thank you so much to Robertino Ragazza and Quynn Nguyen for organizing and hosting this amazing show!
In other awesome event news, I also attended Cito.FAME.Us hosted by the hella famous Lindsey Leong on Thursday night for the first time in many months. I read a few poems and listened to a variety of comics, musicians, and poets share their works. There have been some changes with Cito — the event remains a weekly, free open mic taking place at Iguanas in San Jose, but the hours now run from 8:30 – 11:00 pm, with signups starting at 8 pm. It a great venue for South Bay poets and artists to come share, with all forms of work welcome, from poetry to music to comedy and dance (as long as it’s family-friendly, i.e. no cuss words). Sometimes they even set up a screen to share short films and other media — as they will be doing this week with the screening of Through the Walls, a 45-min documentary filmed at San Quentin State Prison that shows how inmates are healing through music.
What I’m Reading
I’ve come back to Gateway by Frederik Pohl, a book I started reading many months ago but only got a few pages into before the time limit expired on my library loan. The story seems to center around a man, who continues to be haunted by his time working on Gateway, some sort of space travel station (though I’m not clear yet on how it operates, since I’m still in the beginning).
Still reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and the nostalgia is strong.
What I’m Writing
I honestly can’t remember what — if anything — I wrote last week. So, that basically means that I didn’t write anything, which is not where I like to be.
Goals for the Week:
Work on that short story or one of the poetry collection projects
“Many complain when the word ‘awesome’ is used to describe things that are not, in fact, deserving of awe. Yet few object when ‘awful’ is used to mean something other than ‘full of awe.’ … There have been a number of people who have inveighed against this loose sense of awful over the years, but their ranks are thinning, and most of us seem to not mind its use very much. If you have taken these conflicting positions about awesome and awful, you needn’t feel bad about it (and you probably don’t); one of the only things that is as resolutely illogical as the English language is the way that most of us feel it should be used.”
Last Tuesday, I participated in Get Lit #10 at Ale Industries in Oakland. This is a great event for two (of many) reasons — first, it hosts a ton of great writers who are encouraged to read something they’ve never read before (first drafts, recent edits, something hidden in the back of their closet for ten years, etc.) and, second, because Ale Industries is a fantastic space, part brewery, part tasting area, in an old warehouse. I was feeling all nervous and awkward at the start of the event, but the event was full of great people reading new stuff and I soon settled in to the groove well. I even talked to some new people and made some new writerly contacts. I’ll definitely be back, if only just to sip beer and have a listen.
The weekend was consumed with a plethora of hard labor, as I stepped in to help my sister and her husband paint their kitchen and bathroom, while their children began to reenact scenes from Lord of the Flies after being left to their own devices in the living room. I can’t exactly say this was fun (although I love any baby time I can get). It was more hours and hours (a total of something like twenty-five hours spread out over three days) of grueling work leaving me work out and exhausted — but their house looks amazing.
And … week three of the March Around the World movie watching challenge, I watched: A Better Tomorrow (Hong Kong) and Juan of the Dead (Cuba).
What I’m Reading
This post actually catches me between books. Up next I have either A Step from Heaven by An Na or The First Part Last by Angela Johnson — both were Printz award winners. But I haven’t decided which one I want to launch into first.
What I’m Writing
Another slim writing week, with the exception of ongoing collaborative projects. Although I did finish a draft of a new poem called “Grandpa on the Stairs,” which I read at the Get Lit event. The poem is almost there and with another edit might be ready to send out.
I’m going to have to get kicking with the short stories this week, since there are a couple of deadlines looming.
Goal for the Week:
Finish one story and/or one poem draft.
“…who doesn’t hope occasionally for some brilliant blast of insight, some perfect kick in the ass?—only to be left strangely deflated by the advice I’ve just received. In fact, I’ve come to suspect that the likelihood of these pearls of wisdom stymieing a writer—aspiring or otherwise—is quite a bit greater than the chance of their helping her at all,” writes Danielle Dutton on Terrible Writing Advice From Famous Writers.