Monday, October 26, 2009

Thoughts on Hybridity~


“My form is always an odd amalgam taken from painting, sculpture, theory, film, music, poetry, dance, mathematics, even fiction sometimes.” ~Carole Maso


There’s all this talk about getting rid of the “I” in our work. About staying away from personal material and first person narration. I suppose the idea is that somehow we ourselves aren’t interesting enough to write about and that to do so is self indulgent and boring.

Well, sometimes, yes. But also sometimes, no. Like Maso. She is unequivocally my favorite writer. And what’s more, my favorite works of hers are the essays she writes on her own experience. I have found a home inside her writing and through the telling of her stories, I’ve connected with my own.


“If its expression concentrated itself in the individual, completely saturating him with substance and experience garnered from its own loneliness, hen precisely this speech becomes the voice of men between whom the barriers have fallen.” ~Theodor Adorno


“The desire of the novel to be a poem, the desire of the girl to be a horse. The desire of a poem to be an essay. The essay’s desire, its reach towards fiction. And the obvious erotics of this.” ~Carole Maso


As I put this piece together, I realized most of the quotes and ideas I was turning to had to do with writing. This is a project on hybridity Allie, I kept reminding myself. And then, one light bulb moment later, I realized that to me, writing (the act as well as the product) is a hybrid. It is an amalgamation of thought, dream, language and the individual…not to mention the innumerable influences gathered simply by living. So really, what this project has become are a sampling of the things that have influenced me and then things that first jumped to mind when I asked myself what HYBRID means to me. And I share them not because I think they’re soooo important, and not only because I’m assigned to present and this is what I came up with, but because I relish other writers thoughts on themselves, their lives, and how their practice takes form and grows. I seek out and enjoy essays centered around an interesting “I” and feel perplexed when we sit around and pooh pooh writers who focus on themselves like they are self indulgent and limited for doing so.

Because it’s actually pretty hard to connectively write about one’s own experience. Or to connect to oneself in the first place. The “I” focused writing that flops is the stuff that’s penned without proper introspection, investigation, self exploration. Because just like a critical paper, just like a report, writing about the self takes research, if only the living of life and the feeling of feelings.


“We write to find what we believe or want to believe or think we believe” ~George Oppen


“You write it all, discovering it at the end of the line of words. The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illumines the path just before its fragile tip. You probe with it, delicate as a worm.” ~Annie Dillard


Annie Dillard. I read her for the first time in high school. Her An American Childhood is, in a way a memoir, but also, a collection of essays investigating the nature of memory. Of child’s time. Of the intersections of philosophy and feeling.

She writes with tactile care the details of growing up and I, reading her at the port of embarkation from my own childhood, internalized her words. They became part of my body and my work so that now, years later when I pick up her books, I find her memories have interwoven with mine.

What I’m trying to say is that good writing about oneself can pull readers closer to themselves and merge the gap between author and audience….create, in a way, a hybrid.


“Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?” ~Annie Dillard


“Cinema is not a series of abstract ideas but a phrasing of moments.”~Jean Luc Godard

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A series of impossibles hung over the railing.

We washed them with our underwear in the bathtub,

lay them on the window sill to dry.

Bleach spotted pink cotton next to potted begonias.

Magnolia was my name then.

I sprawled spread eagle on the bed,


Pamplemousse juice from the mini bar.

Fresh from the shower, wrapped in terry cloth, she picked up the phone.

Yes she said into it. Oh God we’ll fly home.

No no no no.

She shook her head.

Hung up the phone.

We stayed in Paris another week, as planned.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


…with the written word:

Writing is, at its essence, a generous art.

It is, essentially, what I want to do.

But I feel like I’ll be wrong, no matter what I write.

Here’s a reason: the word, “FEEL.”

Here’s another: the word, “I.”

I can’t shake, can’t shake, can’t shake this sense of NOT ENOUGH. Of no match for your mind and the question of whether you’ll be kind enough to like me…to like these words I share.

‘Cause maybe you’ll call me gratuitous. Self involved.

Maybe you’ll ask, “Who cares?”

But I write anyways. Take the gamble that you will care. That you’ll stick with these words, these stories from my mind, my experience. Because through me, you may know yourself.

Because someone once said, “It is through others that we know or love ourselves.”

Don’t ask me who, I don’t remember. Can’t prop myself up on a history of other people’s words.

But I can give my own.

On Generosity with the written word…on Generosity in ART:

Art is generous. The turning of our insides out.

Why do we have to JUSTIFY our credentials to do so?

I feel my words into being, into shape. I cannot quote you Semiotic theories.

I can feel together a sentence or two.

Well what good is that? The inner critic asks. He is trying to bring me to a stop up. A halt.

All I can tell him is I’ll take the theory AND the heart. Let the two marinate together in my mind. Steep in generous juices then seep into the words I write.

On Generosity with the Written Word…with the Female SELF:

I want to be generous, loving with myself.

I want to be generous, loving with my reader. We are connected, you know.

Webster: Main Entry: gen·er·ous

Pronunciation: \ˈjen-rəs, ˈje-nə-\

Function: adjective

Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French genereus, from Latin generosus, from gener-, genus

Date: 1583

1 archaic : highborn
2 a : characterized by a noble or forbearing spirit : magnanimous, kindly

b : liberal in giving : openhanded c : marked by abundance or ample proportions : copious generous nose — Richard Zabel

The Latin stem gener– is the declensional stem of genus, meaning "kin," "clan," "race," or "stock."

In short, we’re kin. Kindly connected. Don’t ask me to prove how, I don’t find it important to try. What I do find important is generosity and the green light it gives me to write.

To write despite my academic (dis)qualifications. To write even though I’m a woman penning prose about her unconscious self and how predictable is that?

Carole Maso: “The future is feminine, for real, this time.”

I’ll take it. For real this time. Take the risk you’ll brand me. Brand me another emotive woman, writing only about herself.

The risk that if I muster all my memory and shape it on the page, you might find it familiar. Might use it to find yourself.

We are connected, after all.

On the Generosity with the written word and…

Its absence:

Too much academia, it worries me.

Perhaps because past a certain point I fail to understand its language. Start to see it mostly as consecutive strings of impressive, albeit wholly incoherent words. These words are the jeering boys at the back of the bus. The in-crowd designed to alienate, intimidate, include solely the Select Few.

Alongside the Select Few, I feel so small.

Recall old uncertainties – a decade’s dormant fear of the professorial red pen. Of disapproving notes scribbled next to disappointing letter grades. Quantifications of one’s mind applied to the contents of one’s heart.

Perhaps such is why I find the Academy applied to Art similar to the search for new paths with old maps, through aged lenses.

The use of new words to speak old languages.

Side note:

I had a professor not too long ago who continuously repeated the necessity of “writing for one’s readers” instead of for oneself. Sea, a student in his class, brought into workshop a stream of consciousness piece that was neither prose nor poetry. It was, for lack of a better description, more strings of senses (female urges, yearnings, thoughts) than scenes and as such, constituted a kind of unknowing rebellion to our professor, an Iowa-grown authority on traditional stock fiction. He was enraged, offended.

And so, the hybridity of Sea’s work was considered self indulgent, publically labeled as such and warned against.

I wondered why.

Now I think I maybe know.

Now I think Sea’s words shaped a voice less linear, more dreamlike. And believe it when I say many of us have bad dreams. Believe it when I say many of us don’t want to delve into our unconscious selves. The in-crowd in particular.

“You’ve given us too dense a word thicket” the professor said, referring not only to Sea’s writing, but to mine as well. He admonished us for ignoring our readers.

Maybe he was right. But maybe not. Maybe meaning can be made out of splices and sound bites pieced together. From motifs repeated and shapes formed with words more than lock stock sentences and fully fleshed out scenes.

And anyways,

Gertrude Stein: “I write for myself…and strangers”

Lesson Learned: writing that is necessarily Other is angering to containers of the norm. It is also an insurgence, a rebellion, subconscious or staged. In this case, a reemergence of the Female voice, in others, the song of the Oppressed.

What to do what to do?

Well, I am going to insist, yes, insist through violation of some unspoken academic contract that these words gain respect. And maybe by doing so, I can insist my way out of other reductive deals.

Maybe I don’t have to change my writing to undo the pigeonhole it’s shoved into. Maybe I’ve just got to quit apologizing for it. Start insisting instead.

Could it be so simple? That we’re all so afraid of exposure that we build up barrier walls? Prickly fenced defenses out of academic words, intellectual ideas?

That we ward off criticism with the very concepts, the very schools of thought most likely to critique?

To be clear,

I do not want to control you, make you think this or that.

I want to nurture you. Serve you generous potions of words, ask you how you like them and smile with your praise.

Simple, I know. Predictable, maybe.

Certainly not high minded.


But I’ll tell you a secret - all this intellectualizing, all this masculinizing of the written word… it kills my buzz.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It’s seven o clock and I’m straining noodles in my new kitchen.

Outside, kids are laughing, screaming, shrieking with glee.

They make cannonballs into still pool water, shattering brief moments of stillness with their splashes.

I go to put music on and realize I don’t want any.

I love these sounds.

Writers, has it ever happened that you become someone you’ve written of?

Maybe not wholly. Maybe only for a moment.

At night the sun sets like a blood orange in the sky, bleeding red and rusty over the blue. She watches it out her kitchen window while she washes her dishes, or full heads of lettuce, red leaf and dirty.

Tonight I strained noodles, listened to the kids laugh and later, put the dishes in the sink and walked barefooted out onto my balcony.

Squatting ripped seams into these old jeans, I cradled miniature roses in my palms and pulled them gently from their temporary pots. Separated root from soil. Transplanted. Settled them into a new home in the sun.

The roses are finally planted and she stands back to see them, symmetrical and soldier like, positioned in perfect proportion to each other. She is satisfied, despite her dirt encrusted body. Weeks pass and each evening, she slams out the screen door to see her plants. It surprises her, the degree to which the roses continue to please her, and not because they are so perfectly arranged, but because she’s put so much into their planting. Most likely, had someone else done the digging, wrestling, lugging and sweating it took to get the plants from their individual pots into the soil, they wouldn’t be so lovely. As it is, she waters them daily and watches them with care. They bloom beautifully for weeks on end, changing the timbre of their yellow, from pale to red rimmed.

Maybe that she was part of me. All along.