Archive for the ‘Guest Speaker’ Category

Have Some Pride

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

mood: cheery | drinking: juice
rainbow-flag

It’s Pride weekend here in San Francisco. The rainbows are out in full force.

And although I’m not attending the parade (or the Backstreet Boys concert to follow), I’ve got my pride on all the same.

Today my friend Sarah B. wrote down some thoughts about Pride, and I asked her if I could borrow them to share here. I don’t know where you stand on the issue of gay rights, and this is not intended to be a soapbox. Just one person’s view of things, from a very personal perspective…

Shine on, you homosexual diamond

“Years ago, before I finagled my first design job, I worked a horrible gig as an Administrative Assistant for a temp firm in downtown San Francisco. Most of the women who worked there were Marina Girls — you know the type: plucky little boobs, skirt-suits, and those ubiquitous drink-cups with the oversized straws. They were nice, for the most part, except for one — Melanie — who once asked me about my father, who she’d heard was semi-sorta-famous in some obscure way.

She said “Someone told me your father is gay, is that true?” I said yes, yes it was. She said “Oh my god, what was THAT like?”

I told her, “I didn’t mind his being gay at all. What I minded was that he was born in 1931, when it was forbidden to be gay, and that made him hate himself, which made him an alcoholic, and an alcoholic self-loathing father is no fun. But the gay part was fine, really, once I got over the surprise… he just liked other men, that’s basically it.”

Melanie replied, scornfully: “You mean, he just liked a big dick up his ass.”

I can’t remember how long I sat there staring at her in disbelief. Never mind that we were in SAN FRANCISCO, somewhere in the early ’90s. I just couldn’t believe how rude she was. It was almost admirable, in a weird way. Finally I said “No, actually, he was more of a top,” which was, I’m sorry to say, completely lost on her, but I’m glad I thought to say it.

There is so much hatred and meanness in the world. Another adorable homosexual, Morrissey, said it in one of his many witty songs — “It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.”

Raised around gay people in San Francisco, going to Pride marches with my dad and his boyfriend Randy (real name!), I think I was in a privileged little bubble. I assumed homophobia was a thing of the past. I was young and naive.

Since then, years of hearing about Fred Phelps, or the recent anti-gay legislation in Africa, or oh, so many horrible incidences of some poor, terrified boy or girl being bullied or beaten or killed, have cured me of the misapprehension that Those Days are Over.

I’ve heard some people lately asking whether we still need a Pride Week. What’s the point? Everyone knows they exist — why must they keep “shoving it in our faces” (a bizarre turn of phrase, when all you have to do is not look, if it bothers you that much)?

And why DO they keep looking? I think it’s because insecure people need someone else to kick and abuse. It is a shameful but true thing, that looking down on other people, mocking them, asserting your superiority to them, feels good. We’ve all done it, in one way or another. It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.

My father died in 1996, of alcohol-related cirrhosis. I remember many nights, alone with him at the dinner table in his SF house, when he’d get so drunk he’d break down and sob and tell me how much he hated himself — how he was a disgusting freak and didn’t deserve to live. Years of inculcation into the society of gay hatred had done that to him.

He knew he loved men from as far back as he could remember having romantic thoughts about anybody. He married my mother because he loved her and desperately wanted to be straight, but that fell apart pretty much the day I was born. He tried so hard — he dated women, and snuck off to have illicit romances with men, and hated himself for it, and drank himself to death.

Fred Phelps and his mob would applaud my dad’s self-hatred as appropriate. What it was was terribly, desperately sad. He had a few lovely years, when the Castro scene started up and he became friends with Harvey Milk, when he felt better about himself, and I remember those times as being a huge relief. He was happy! He came out (to Dave MacElhatton, in his living room, on Channel Five, a scene I walked in on with my little Monkees lunchbox, coming home from school — surreal).

He had boyfriends, and hung out at the Twin Peaks, and in misguided solidarity, even bought a gross (!) of The Village People’s first album (I gave them out as Christmas presents for years). He wrote embarrassing masturbatory fiction for First Hand Magazine under the pseudonym of Jack Hoff. And yes — this was all a little weird, but what wasn’t, in those days?

It was enough, for me, to see happiness replace the constant, haunted misery in his eyes. It was enough when I would come down on my motorcycle for a visit, and me, my dad, and Randy would all go to lunch on our bikes, like some kind of ultra-PC Hell’s Angel’s. Dad was much more affectionate with me and Dylan, because he was okay with being who he was, and didn’t see us as evidence of failure as much anymore. How is that not preferable?

Ultimately, though, he died because the drinking habit that had gotten him through the years of self-hatred in the closet had become a real addiction, and it ate up his liver.

He was a brilliant, weird, talented man, who could play twenty-some-odd musical instruments, had gone to Paris on a Fulbright, sang opera, was a Stormtrooper and the Voice of the Death Star in Star Wars, acted, emceed, made musical instruments, and so many other things… what a waste, for someone that talented and full of possibility to hate himself for so long.

I think of him every Pride Week, and also of his boyfriend Randy, and the various young men who traipsed in and out of his Victorian house on Waller Street. I miss him. I wish the world had been different when he was born and growing up, even if that would mean I wouldn’t have been born.

Pride Week makes me think of all the hundreds of thousands of young people out there right now, maybe not lucky enough to live in a relatively enlightened town, maybe hiding who they are from everyone, or braving it out and suffering the hell of being shunned during the time of life when social approval is most important. I wish I could scoop you all up and tell you to be okay with yourselves…

We definitely do still need Pride Week. Every rainbow-painted set of boobs on a Harley, every wiggling butt on a float, every shiny happy face, gives that terrified kid in Oklahoma hope.

Okay, I’ll stop now, but I love you, Gay People. Have a great Pride Week.”

-written by Sarah B.

-and Lo, wishing a very happy Pride to all her gay peeps out there.

Excessive petals, excessive seed

Monday, February 15th, 2010

mood: stuck | drinking: lemonade

dandelion

I’m borrowing a poem from Elizabeth Bradfield today, just for you…

Nonnative Invasive

Lupine, gentian, chocolate lily. We’ve been
naming, been exclaiming, been looking up
in our guidebooks the alpine flowers.
But
look at these! Amy says, pointing
to bright dandelion at trail edge, heads

like airplane aisle lights. How pretty! Don’t you
want to pick bunches and bunches and bring them
home? A swell of roadside by my house
yellows with them now, excessive petals
turning to excessive seed. Curbside,

I’m glad they are not lawn. But they’ll invade
this meadow, push out with brash cheer
forget-me-not and wooly lousewort. I want
to reconcile them, but I can’t. I hiked up
to see anemones and saxifrage, to get away

from landscaping and what landscaping
weeds out. I think of how they arrived, seeds
embedded in boot-dirt, stuck to our socks and the fur
of our dogs.
Praise their tenacity, says Amy.
But she’s just arguing a point. None of us

is glad they’ve hitched a ride up here.
None of us knows how to accept
the way love changes what it’s drawn to
—smudging self across what’s seen—
when what thrilled us first was difference.

-Lo, pondering the inevitability of smudges.

Even the azaleas are anxious…

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Mood: half-anxious, half-resigned | Drinking: dreams

fret_wall

Fear and love sometimes feel the same, like a thousand violent butterflies beating their wings against your stomach, shredding their way out.

Hope, as I’ve said before, is a knife edge. And I am currently quivering with hope and fear. Knives and butterflies.

I think my current state is quite aptly described by the word “anxious”, with a side of “nervous” and a pinch of “fretful” thrown in. But I’m working, oh so hard, to be zen about it. To say, “what will be, will be.” And be ok with that.

It’s just that I don’t know what will be. And in the not-knowing lies the anxiety.

Let me be all cryptic for now. I’ll explain on the other side. Deal?

Until then, a little Kristy Bowen to make us all feel better. Or at least to make me feel better…

fret
by Kristy Bowen

Lets say a woman’s heart
is like a windup bird.
The conservatory filled
with oranges and the cellar
disordered, unstable
with the pull of thieves

gathering outside the windows.
I’ve invented this: the panic,
copper tongued and shaken.
I’m dizzied, dulcet.
A thin layer of graphite
blooming beneath my skin.

And here, my sleight of hand,
my tour de force,
skirts come all undone
and tapping out code beneath
the dressing table. I am
impossibly lovely, impossibly
fixed against the horizon.
Any attempt at flight
ruining all the furniture.

***

-Lo, beating wings and biting nails.

The Trouble with Poetry

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

mood: Billy Collins-ish | drinking: raspberry tea

statue

I’ve been taking my sweet time reading a book of Billy Collins’ poetry aptly named The Trouble with Poetry. I’d like to borrow two of his poems to share with you here — they just seem to fit the day.

Statues in the Park

I thought of you today
when I stopped before an equestrian statue
in the middle of a public square,

you who had once instructed me
in the code of these noble poses.

A horse rearing up with two legs raised,
you told me, meant the rider had died in battle.

If only one leg was lifted,
the man had elsewhere succumbed to his wounds;

and if four legs were touching the ground,
as they were in this case –
bronze hooves affixed to a stone base –
it meant that the man on the horse,

this one staring intently
over the closed movie theater across the street,
had died of a cause other than war.

In the shadow of the statue,
I wondered about the others
who had simply walked through life
without a horse, a saddle, or a sword –

pedestrians who could no longer
place one foot in front of the other.

I pictured statues of the sickly
recumbent on their cold stone beds,
the suicides toeing the marble edge,

statues of accident victims covering their eyes,
the murdered covering their wounds,
the drowned silently treading the air.

And there was I,
upon a rosy-gray block of granite
near a cluster of shade trees in the local park,
my name and dates pressed into a plaque,

down on my knees, eyes lifted,
praying to the passing clouds,
forever begging for just one more day.

Building with Its Face Blown Off

How suddenly the private
is revealed in a bombed-out city,
how the blue and white striped wallpaper

of a second story bedroom is now
exposed to the lightly falling snow
as if the room had answered the explosion

wearing only its striped pajamas.
Some neighbors and soldiers
poke around in the rubble below

and stare up at the hanging staircase,
the portrait of a grandfather,
a door dangling from a single hinge.

And the bathroom looks almost embarrassed
by its uncovered ochre walls,
the twisted mess of its plumbing,

the sink sinking to its knees,
the ripped shower curtain,
the torn goldfish trailing bubbles.

It’s like a dollhouse view
as if a child on its knees could reach in
and pick up the bureau, straighten a picture.

Or it might be a room on a stage
in a play with no characters,
no dialogue or audience,

no beginning, middle and end –
just the broken furniture in the street,
a shoe among the cinder blocks,

a light snow still falling
on a distant steeple, and people
crossing a bridge that still stands.

And beyond that – crows in a tree,
the statue of a leader on a horse,
and clouds that look like smoke,

and even farther on, in another country
on a blanket under a shade tree,
a man pouring wine into two glasses

and a woman sliding out
the wooden pegs of a wicker hamper
filled with bread, cheese, and several kinds of olives.

-Lo, sitting in the dark and waiting “for a little flame to appear at the tip of my pencil.”

Beautiful Bowen

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

paperwings
Mood: Pleased
Drinking: Diet DP

I don’t fall in love with other poets very often. My list of favorites is a very short one.

But Kristy Bowen has made it into the top 5.

I read her Ghost Road Press book, The Fever Almanac, a few months ago, and I dragged the reading of it out, on and on, just snippets a day, to make it last longer.

I’m doing the same thing now with Feign, and I have to share it with you, because this poem just makes me happy.

And this week we could all use a little happiness, no? Black predictions on the left and on the right, sky falling in and Wall Street crumbling and whatnot.

I could use a little extra beauty mixed in with all the truth. A heavy-handed dose of sugar and paper wings.

So here we have some beautiful Bowen. It just might do the trick:

HOW TO READ THIS POEM

I suggest a system. A lifeboat. Or at the very least a bathtub.

I suggest you sit down.

I suggest the bird at your shoulder be ruby-throated with a milky eye.
That it say inappropriate things at inappropriate times.

I suggest bringing something ruined. Or broken. Or drunk.

I suggest you take the south road. Slip beneath the piano and
out the trap door. Sneak up on it from behind.

I suggest you take a snack. An umbrella. A dictionary.

I suggest you start slowly.

I suggest you read the red skirt as a metaphor for sex. The fistful of poppies
languishing in their vase.

I suggest everything is a metaphor for sex. Even the bird.

I suggest you mind the foil, toiling in the background. It’s all very
Shakespearean. Even her red hair, Shakespearean.

I suggest you take the setting into consideration. Or here, where the
narrative slips off its track.

I suggest you look askance when the woman opens her arms and lowers
them.

I suggest you be kind. But distracted.

-Lo, in need of many, many more lovely things.

In the Leaving

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

zurichstation
Mood: Exhausted
Drinking: Water

I’m in the mood today for this lovely thing:

it is in the leaving
by Nicole Blackman
(from Blood Sugar)

it is in the leaving that the agony begins
— hope and skin stretched too far

time enough for words
borrowed and weighty

eyes that glisten in the knowing of what comes
always comes
after

airports
train stations
bus stops
take us apart

but we keep knitting together
strangely inevitably
even we don’t question it anymore

it is not in the reuniting that we are together

no kind of kiss binds us
each greeting
each meeting
is new is full of searching
of notsureifitwillbethesame

it is not in the continuing

not in the birthdays anniversaries new years
(although they’re very grand)
nor in the letters calls poems

the miss you’s are careless because they are common

it is not in the waiting

the day-counting
the trip-planning
the bag-packing
no kind of agony that shreds days makes us together
(calendars are cruel)

it is in the leaving

in the last look
last touch
last kiss
one more
will i ever see you again
rip
that makes me sure
that makes him sure
that this is a great love

it is in the leaving

Lo, taking her leave.

Daybreak

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

starfishes
Mood: Crabtastic
Drinking: Water

A lovely poem today from Galway Kinnell:

Daybreak
On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it as slowly
as the actual stars across heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and, as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity, they sank down
into the mud, faded down
into it and lay still, and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.

-Lo, fading down.

Newborn

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

jude_hand_crop
Mood: Sweet
Drinking: Chai

There is a new person in the world. Small and innocent. His miniature feet are like velvet. His head smells of meadows and milk.

I am utterly in love.

My sister is a miracle worker, bringing such a perfect wee thing into being. I am so proud. So proud of her, and so in awe.

“You’re a woman now,” I said to her in the labor room. And we both laughed. But I was serious.

She has gone beyond. Someday, perhaps, I will follow. But until then, I’ll stand here in wonder that such a thing is possible. Nothing, and then life. Emptiness, and then a perfect small person.

It’s shaping up to be a wonderful Christmas.

Over the last few days, with the phone call that it was happening, it was happening Right Now! And then the trip to the hospital, the chaos of it all culminating in the arrival of new flesh and blood… It’s such an overwhelming experience. Over the last few days I kept thinking of a poem that I discovered in a poetry workshop earlier this year.

All I could remember was that it was written from the perspective of a newly born baby, and that I was deeply moved the first time I read it.

So I dug through my piles of poetry and found it there among the heap. It’s called “First Hour”, by American poet Sharon Olds, from her book The Unswept Room (2002)…

That hour, I was most myself. I had shrugged
my mother slowly off, I lay there
taking my first breaths, as if
the whir of the room was blowing me
like a bubble. All I had to do
was go out along the line of my gaze and back,
out and back, on gravity’s silk, the
pressure of the air a caress, smelling on my
self her creamy blood. The air
was softly touching my skin and tongue,
entering me and drawing forth the little
sighs I did not know as mine.
I was not afraid. I lay in the quiet
and looked, and did the wordless thought,
my mind getting its oxygen
direct, the rich mix by mouth.
I hated no-one. I gazed and gazed,
and everything was interesting, I was
free, not yet in love, I did not
belong to anyone, I had drunk
no milk yet, no-one had
my heart. I was not very human. I did not
know there was anyone else. I lay
like a god, for an hour, then they came for me,
and took me to my mother.

-Lo, who is celebrating the season of miracles.

Finally Awake

Monday, November 19th, 2007

apresunreve_alice
Mood: Catatonic
Drinking: Water

You’ll be happy to know that you can now (or later) gather ’round the computer after consuming large quantities of holiday bird and sink into a peaceful, even catatonic state while you watch the newest cinépoem.

It’s better than football.

Unless, you know, you’re one of those freaks who actually likes watching football. But if you are, chances are you’re not reading this website. If you love football and read this website, well, you must be ambidextrous, too, you crazy fool.

Back to the point of the post: new cinépoetry.

Après un Rêve (After a Dream) is the 18th cinépoem to arrive on our scene. It was inspired by a couple of things… the poem itself was written shortly after I found out my sister was pregnant. The title is borrowed from a musical piece of the same name by composer Gabriel Fauré.

The Fauré piece is also the musical score for this cinépoem, and adds a great deal of melancholy ambience, helping to create the dreamlike state we were shooting for.

The look and feel cinépoem itself was inspired by a recent trip to Ireland. Boy and I decided to shoot a photographic cinépoem abroad, as we’ve done before in Paris and in Venice. This time, instead of letting the cinépoem loose throughout an entire city, we stayed within the lush green confines of St. Stephen’s Green, in Dublin’s fair city (where girls are so pretty).

We shot the series within an hour’s time, early one fine Friday morning. I’m sure the Dubliners thought we were very strange tourists, but they were polite enough not to mention it.

I’ve only recently discovered the other words to Après un Rêve (the musical version). Here is the translation based on a French text written by Romaine Bussine (1830-1899), which is apparently based on an Italian poem by an unknown Tuscan artist:

In a slumber which held your image spellbound
I dreamt of happiness, passionate mirage,
Your eyes were softer, your voice pure and sonorous,
You shone like a sky lit up by the dawn;

You called me and I left the earth

To run away with you towards the light,
The skies opened their clouds for us,
Unknown splendours, divine flashes glimpsed,

Alas! Alas! sad awakening from dreams
I call you, O night, give me back your lies,

Return, return radiant,
Return, O mysterious night.

They’re all beautiful, I think. The cinepoem, the music, the anonymous Italian. I love them all.

Go visit the waking dream here. Non-mac people can check out the YouTube version here.

-Lo, who dreamt last night of spaceships and sparrows.

Borrowed Horses

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

fantasia1Mood: Tasty
Drinking: Canned

Someone in a poetry group I belong to recently shared a poem by Cecilia Woloch.

I’ve never ready any of Cecilia’s work before, but this one is very lovely, and reminds me a lot of my own memories of bareback rides through woods with my sister.

So I thought I’d borrow it and share it here, because it’s exactly the kind of poem that should be out there in the world, garnering all kinds of accolades and adoration…

(A technical note: A “pantoum” is a form of poetry similar to the villanelle. You can find the definition here, if you’re interested.)

Bareback Pantoum
by Cecilia Woloch

One night, bareback and young, we rode through the woods
and the woods were on fire —
two borrowed horses, two local boys
whose waists we clung to, my sister and I

and the woods were on fire —
the pounding of hooves and the smell of smoke and the sharp sweat of boys
whose waists we clung to, my sister and I,
as we rode toward flame with the sky in our mouths —

the pounding of hooves and the smell of smoke and the sharp sweat of boys
and the heart saying: mine
as we rode toward flame with the sky in our mouths —

the trees turning gold, then crimson, white

and the heart saying: mine
of the wild, bright world;
the trees turning gold, then crimson, white
as they burned in the darkness, and we were girls

of the wild, bright world
of the woods near our house — we could turn, see the lights
as they burned in the darkness, and we were girls
so we rode just to ride

through the woods near our house — we could turn, see the lights
and the horses would carry us, carry us home
so we rode just to ride,
my sister and I, just to be close to that danger, desire

and the horses would carry us, carry us home
— two borrowed horses, two local boys,
my sister and I — just to be close to that danger, desire —
one night, bareback and young, we rode through the woods

-Lo, who can feel the hoofbeats pounding beneath the lines.