“What is the story that I tell about myself to others?"
“What is the story that I want to tell?”
On a slightly different, but oddly related tack, I am amazed and gratified that "Mail Order Bride" continues to circulate new energy as found on a recent post by Eileen. Richard Bach once told me that once a story is finished, he finds they create/have a life of their own, going places that he never imagined. "MOB" is turning out this way and it's just really cool to watch it happen.
Her thoughtful review and placement of the poem in current issues is the highest compliment this writer could hope for.
I am very appreciative to Eileen and Meritage Press for their support. The e-publication of this one poem has opened many doors for me in the past few months!
So these thoughts on Isis, the Isis Foundation, and most recently Voice/Witness/Censorship have all come around to a moment back I guess over ten years now, while I was sitting in the office of Lance Olsen, then director of the Creative Writing program at the University of Idaho. After having worked there as a secretary for a couple of years and discovering, as a staffer, I could take classes for $5 a credit, I decided to take another, more serious step on my writing journey - formal workshops. I went to talk to Lance first to get permission since I wasn't a 'real' student but to also find out the magic formula...not so much the gestures and incantations necessary to be a 'real writer' but rather I was looking for a litmus test to see if I had to potential to be a writer.
The conversation was much like two people who apparently spoke the same language but couldn't actually communicate. Finally he asked me what I wanted to get out of writing classes and I said something wonderfully pithy like "To find my voice." To which he looked at me blankly and said, "What do you mean by voice?" A question that has haunted me ever since...I knew what I didn't mean. I didn't mean Point of View for narrative, but that other thing...that distinctiveness that makes a piece by Toni Morrison different than Mary Shelley or Danielle Steele different from Isabelle Allende. I've often asked writer friends and mentors to describe to me what it looks like when I write well, to which I get blank stares much like Lance's expression of "what the heck are you talking about?"
Then it hits me reading my blog entries... I said it, came full circle to it.
When I express my take on anything, prose, poetry, whatever, write my one inch square experience, then that's my Voice, distinctive from any other.
And yeah, after 10 years, it's really that obvious...which must mean it's true, at least for today. *grin*
I came across a message from Katinka who's blog and work on Fiercewomen resonate with much of what I'm trying to communicate too. So I'm adding her to my sidebar - very overdue, but I'll be glad to catch up with her work!
I'm reminded too of something Ernesto mused about in his blog awhile back, about why folks blog...and how his wonderings triggered a memory of mine of a series of emails I exchanged with a writer/editor who was warning me to be careful what I posted on my blog.
Voice and Witness and Censorship are all things I think about when I blog...as a writer, I come to the screen with a certain deliberateness...I need to say something...this blog (Binding...) was to be something more 'professional,' a personal column of sorts, with a small readership (likely one or two), but with view toward communicating with a larger audience should they come wandering by. I write very little of my personal stuff...I have another blog else-net for that...at the same time, this blog has turned out to be less tailored than the blog-zine's out there are very slick and well-thought out.
The thing I'm realizing recently, though, especially in revisiting Katinka's and Grace's blogs, is that there are times when I just need to bear witness to my own experience.
Here I have to put a nod in to Barbara Jane's musings on the Literature of W(h)it(e)ness...Having viewed myself as white for a great many years despite my skin color, there's an odd juxtaposition for myself in the idea of burying white/dominant culture within the act of revealing/celebrating that which has been oppressed/abused/hidden.
So, in a sense, I skate here to my own music...I cannot control what an editor who wanders here might think of me and my work, and thus I cannot allow my space to be yet again, a place of self-censorship. At the same time, by only revealing a certain set of experiences here, I'm creating that 'one inch square' detail of my life as proposed by Anne Lamott. But that square is of my own choosing, and thus my choice, which is, to my thoughts, what Voice is all about.
Because memoir is about re-membering, realizing that what we don't know about our selves is also seeing ourselves as fragmented, and that by putting one part next to another part in the act of memory, then we create new meaning for ourselves and experience.
But again, it's about details, about taking the smallest bit of our lives, making a metaphor of it (say a random meme), to link all those bits into something new, even if, just for ourselves. It starts small then is allowed to go wild, random, free, then comes back again, recursive, like a refrain, like a pattern. There's comfort in that.
I've loved Isis since the days of the Secrets of Isis and Shazaam!, the first of many superhero women I would fall in love with...Wonder Woman, Storm, Xena, Buffy... But with Andrea the Archaelogist, here was a geeky girl who became something strong and wonderful with a few words and magic amulet. If only I could find the words, if only I could discover the amulet, I could save the world...
The later incarnation of this wish came in the 90's when I was broke, in debt, and desperate to find a place where I could be a writer...actually, I'm still broke, in debt and desperate to find a place to be a writer, but back then the 'fix' was to Win the Lottery. Back in the day, it wasn't MegaMillions, it was PowerBall and the higher winnings were in the 100's of millions less often. I imagined I could conjure the right numbers, align myself with the destiny of winner, then I would become philanthropist, setting up the Isis Foundation where not-ready-for-prime-time artists of all sorts could find free studio space and all the supplies they would ever desire in trade for teaching the general community about their art. Isis was the goddess who brought all the pieces of her dead, dismembered husband back together and breathed life back into him.
I wanted to do the same, bringing all the pieces artists needed together to bring new life to art. I envisioned writers happily tortured in front of computers, musicians jamming in studios, and painters slathering acrylic and guache on bolt after bolt of canvas. There would be children and elderly who came to share their stories too, learn from these young artists how to make their own art between growing up and growing old. There would be mentors too who would help these emerging artists break into the big time and ...and...
Yeah, so I haven't won the lottery (yet) and the dream has permutated over the years sometimes getting smaller, sometimes bigger, but always about community and artistry. And over the years I've found emerging writers and mentors both, some generous, most funny, and above all passionate. It's nice to be reminded though, that there was a central image to my madness, and she is strong and capable, and somehow, a little meme discovered that she still lives inside of me.
Indeed, you are 83% erudite, 83% sensual, 37% martial, and 45% saturnine.
| This Egyptian supreme Goddess is certainly the most influential deity on subsequent cultures. She was the ideal figure of womanhood, usually compared with the Greek Goddess Demeter or her Roman version, Ceres.|
Isis was one element of a Holy Trinity, the remaining two figures being her brother and husband Osiris and their heroic son Horus. She was the Goddess of Magic for her brilliance, as well as the Goddess of Love because of her tenacious devotion.
She is often shown with wings, curving to caress coffins and sarcophagi of many a king. In certain papyri she is shown with her falcon wing headdress, covering her ears. One of her sacred symbols is the sistrum, a musical instrument that was believed to ward off evil spirits. Isis' sistrum was carved bearing the image of a cat and was representative of the Moon.
Isis was the High Priestess and an omnipotent magician as well as the only being ever to discover the secret name of Ra. She invariably carries the ankh, the symbol for eternal life. Her name is, by the rules of numerology, adding up to the number “2” and she just so happens to be depicted on the tarot card “Key 2 – The High Priestess”.
The Fifteen Goddesses
These are the 15 categories of this test. If you score above average in …
…all or none of the four variables: Neit. …
|My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:|
|Link: The Mythological Goddess Test written by Nitsuki on OkCupid Free Online Dating|
To which, I have to wonder...what the *?! is a terza rima? To which Google replied It's this thing. To which I replied, "Oh that's....weird...ummm...kinda uptight...complex...so that means I must be..."
And I remembered how just the year before we had driven through the Pine Ridge Reservation, had seen the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre/Battle, had visited the sculpture-in-progress of Crazy Horse. The culture of the Northwest is still very tied to the First Peoples, with names of towns like Puyallup, Tullalip, Spokane, Seattle. I went to Lakota Junior High and lived where the Palouse Tribe grazed their horses. I know the stories of Coyote, Raven, and Salmon as if they are my own heritage, and in many ways, they are my first heritage because I have lived on this land for so long.
Later, when I sorted through memories like old photographs, I put that manong's story next to the story about the mangyan child, and wondered, would this old timer see this child the same way he saw the Native American? Would he recognize a member of the First Peoples of the Philippines? How they too are forced off their lands in favor of farming and commerce, and that to be so poor is not a defect of nature, but a result of prejudice and suspicion?
No easy answers to be found. Even Christ said that there would always be poor around us. I just can't help thinking that He also meant we should act where and when we could, to bear witness to poverty, and be an agent of change wherever we identify as home.
I've just finished drafting a poem that was lovingly nurtured by my poet-mentor. It centers around a memory of mine from 1995 when I visited the Philippines. It was the first time I had visited the PI since I was six years old, and I travelled with my husband, brother, and parents. We were celebrating my father's birthday there that year, even though his birthday is in November and we were there in June during of all things, a heat wave. My parents are your typical post-WWII success story - immigration in the late 1950's, college educated professionals, living in a middle class neighborhood by the bay, two kids...that's about where the success story stops, since my brother and I have not taken the perfect road promised by all that success. We're a couple of sometimes lost artists, me the writer-mom, him the musician-computer tech. I've produced grandkids, thankfully, but we live too far north to make visits easy between my parents and I, and actually that's where I'm most comfortable.
In 1995, though, we didn't have the kids, I didn't have my degree, and I worked as a secretary. We couldn't afford the plane tickets ourselves, so my parents bought them, paid for everything actually, from tickets to food to cab fare. Hubby and I had debt and lived paycheck to paycheck, but still we took the opportunity to travel, even if it meant posing as the successful children my parents made us out to be during so many phone calls back home.
When we were there, our relatives hosted us like royalty, food everywhere, song and dance too, picnics at Puerta Gallera and on the beach. We could only afford to spend a few days there, our own vacations limited - it seemed like we had only just arrived when we had to leave again.
Two things stick in my mind still - the sight of a young mangyan child dressed in a man's shirt standing by the roadside holding a stick with a wheel on it, a makeshift wheelbarrow for his small satchel, and the Peace Corp volunteer from Montana who was being hosted by my father's best friend.
What in the /world/ were we doing there, with all our American richness, eating food and being hosted in a place the Peace Corp sends volunteers? What's the alternative - never see our relatives overseas? How could I explain to my cousins that we were not so different, each of us just trying to make a living the best we could, that being US-born didn't mean perfection or a silver spoon? How could I explain how more opportunities does not mean we also have the wisdom to make the right choices at the right time, that sometimes there are no 'right' choices, just the best we could do at the time?
Reading Nadine Sarreal's story, writing my poem, remembering how I grew up, how my US cousins grew up, imagining how my PI cousins grew up makes me just ache inside.
Oh they're there on the screen mind you, but my brain is broke...I broke it yesterday running around with girl scouts at a Hands Across the Border event involving oh a few thousands boy and girl scouts all swapping nicknacks with each other. I hate it when I break my brain with tiredness.
*sigh* Perhaps tomorrow my brain will be better.
Part essay, part advert, the piece is chockful of interesting details that draw the experience of skyflakes out that much more.
"They will immediately sense the tin's potential as a conversational centerpiece, photographic subject, and/or future receptacle for items such as calculators, pens, erasers, and paper clips."
*beams* I experienced the joy of skyflakes because Ver mentioned them in her blog. My life will never be the same again.
Oh sure, there are the wonderfully domestic moments Ver talks about, but its more a level of the defense of certain mothering rituals like cupcake baking while still being somewhat concerned about damaging her children for life. Sort of like Anne Lamont meets Betty Crocker...or something...
But then there's Rochita talking frankly about her own childhood and what she wants to give to her son echoed in the yearnings of Grace as she navigates being home again.
It's a strange thing being a writer mom, having that dual consciousness of mother and child, of trying to parent well, but realizing that much of one's parenting skills came from the very folk we often feel estranged from either physically or emotionally. For myself, it's difficult to find myself in a mental space I recognize as "tired parent" or "frustrated parent" and my mother's words spill out my mouth and I see the hurt, confused child I was in my own child's eyes.
As a mom who hasn't quite resolved her childhood, I've tried to give my gals what I think I lacked - a certain autonomy for instance - but that means dealing with all my imprinted fears. Recently our oldest, age 7+, went on her first two night campout with her Brownie troop. The camp was a two hour drive by car and then another hour by ferry. Given the frequency of said ferry, if I felt the need to retrieve my child, say for my own mental health, we were talking about a 5 hour trip there and a 5 hour trip back. In other words, I was pretty cut off from my oldest...my baby...my two month premature child...
Yes, there was panic...yes, I wanted to back down (she's only 7 for goshsakes!)...if it hadn't been for my lovely hubby who assured me that not only had he camped that young with his scouting troop, but had lead campouts with such youngin's, I'd have never gone through with it.
And chewed my nails for three days straight. What kept me sane was the memory of my mother wringing her hands in our kitchen when I approached her with the same idea when I was 7ish. The memory of my dad getting all my gear, and how all that stuff is still at my parents house having never touched the dirt. I can't blame my mother's panic, because I /felt/ it myself and then when I layer what I know of her experience 'camping' during the war, all I have is terrific compassion for her.
Whether I tell her I let her oldest grandchild out of my sight for more than a moment, let alone to a place I couldn't rescue her from very easily, is another thing altogether.
So I raise a toast to all the writer moms out there who are as amazed and confused as I am that 'they' allowed us to have children even before we'd understood our own childhoods, who realize they don't have to be 'fixed' or 'well' to properly parent, who have the strength to face their fears and /write about it/, who learn every day and every moment how to forgive their parents even as they forgive themselves. And for their children who really are the best teachers of parenting there are.
And it's got me thinking about writing as artifact...
Art in fact
Art made concrete
Art left behind like bones
Solid yet only hinting at a greater being
Always a record of what/who was
The urge to push a key, to push a pen
Over paper, a brush revealing bones
Drawing bones, thowing bones
Throwing dice, a chance, a risk
Never knowing where it will land
or if it will be covered over again
to melt with rain, become soil
for living things
art is fact
*There are no lost words, even the forgotten ones, for once written they exist where none was before, a record and recording*
This just points to both the rising challenge of writers looking for places to publish as well as the importance of supporting small presses such as Meritage Press and the other society/university presses that carry quality work at smaller press runs.