Dear Diary

Rewrote two stanzas of Charles Bernstein’s “Foreign Body Sensation” in preparation for my reading tomorrow.

Ironed the black wool Morticia dress with the sleeve cutouts also in preparation for the reading. I bought it several years ago at Love Saves the Day in the East Village, a kitsch vintage store that is soon to close. I had wandered in there with Tonya Foster, was not “looking for” a dress but there you have it. It hasn’t fit me in several years but I’ve lost a few pounds and can now get into it, even if I can’t breathe all that well once it’s zipped up. Well, I’ll hardly eat tomorrow.

It’s a fabulous dress. G. accused me of looking like Adeena in it. Here it is, with me squeezed into it:

Tried to write another poem from the “words of the day” on my yahoo page. These poems are not very exciting, I think. Mere finger exercises.

Lightly researched Louise Colet and Emmy Hennings, as they were both mentioned in Chris Kraus’ book. Louise Colet’s letters to Flaubert have all been destroyed. A pity. She took up with Alfred de Musset (wasn’t he the guy who stabbed his hand with a fork?[later note: no, he appears to have stabbed his brother’s hand with a fork, at least in the movie version]) after she broke up with Flaubert, who really wasn’t all that nice to her.

I chided Gary today for his daily beer habit. He just came in smelling of it. Boys always smell like beer. I have never had a boyfriend who didn’t smell like beer.

We went to 86th St. and ate at Nyonya. I had these incredible curry mee noodles ( I know that’s redundant as “mee” means “noodles,” but perhaps most readers of this blog, all six of them!, won’t know that). I took many photographs as I always do these days, one reason being that when I take photographs I feel less of an urge to buy things, and yet I can still take something home from my travels. Here are the noodles (did I mention that Noodle was my childhood nickname?):

Atop the soup: “young” tofu, a hot pepper and a slice of eggplant both stuffed with seasoned fish paste, and roasted shallots. Divine.

Besides ironing and the Charles poem, I am procrastinating REALLY preparing for the reading. Perhaps I will do that tomorrow. I am also procrastinating on a huge project I’ve set for myself, which is creating a book partly from this blog and partly from uncollected & recent poems. It’s just so daunting. but I have made some progress.

Feeling keenly that my blog has not always been all that intelligent (I haven’t tried to make it so). At least not compared to Chris Kraus’ book. I am so easily given to a kind of gee-whiz breeziness. Maybe the book needn’t be all that intelligent? Like, it might have other virtues?

Gary discussed memoir writing with Kenny and Christian. Both Kenny and Rodney have urged me to write a memoir, and I like the idea very much, except that I would have to focus. Gary says my strong points are memory and description – anecdote, not so much. I am afraid of having to somehow connect or analyze the events of my life. It occurred to me that the events could be discretely described. Why not? Like I Remember without the I Remember. But then that might become a constraint, too. Kenny reminded me that Swoon was a kind of a memoir, at least in parts. This blog was too, at the beginning.

I have a drawer of diaries from I don’t know age eleven or so all through my time in Japan. Every time I think to “do something” with them, something literary, I find myself getting completely absorbed by nostalgia and thus paralyzed.

Apropro of journals, here’s a quote (that itself nests a quote) from the first page of my M.A. thesis on Bernadette Mayer:

Mayer demands from her writing a formal plasticity that matches? mimics? uses? the fluidity of experience. In this she emerges from a tradition of modernist realism whose foremost aim is to capture, in Baudelaire’s words, “the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent.” Here is an exaggerated, internalized realism — Proust or Woolf without the scaffolding of fiction, for she focuses on the details of the quotidian. She aestheticizes her own daily life in her writing, but her writing is not diaristic because it is designed to operate in a public sphere, conscious of itself simultaneously as art and as diary: “you better start doing things, like, the diary as book — ‘the lowest form.’ Everything’s high or low, Germans, everything’s perfect.”1 In his essay, “The Distribution of Discourse,” George Steiner writes about the “fantastically loquacious world of the diary,” claiming that “loquacity, copiousness and temporal duration characterize the idiolects of diary writers” — as they do the writing of Bernadette Mayer. Also, the diary has a history as a “woman’s form”:

Barred from public expression of political, ideological and psychological conviction or discovery, the intelligent woman in the ancien regime and nineteenth century makes her journal the forum, the training ground of the mind.2

The journal form permits the integration of the process of writing into everyday life, using daily experience as the stuff of the writing, but it also permits the inclusion of otherwise ineffable material, and a way out of a repressive world.

It’s funny, but when I look back at that thesis, written more than two decades ago, I realize that my concerns and enthusiasms haven’t changed all that much.

Apropo of enthusiasms… a chapbook is in the works… called Interests… composed of lists of interests culled from Blogger profiles of people whose interests linked to mine. A chapbook, ugh! A chapbook!

Too many projects all at once, and the new semester around the corner, I’m like some kind of crazy poodle, really.

Every Rebel Has Its Period

Favorite lines from Bruce Andrews’ reading last night:

Vastly cute absentee father

mermaid neckbone

the first lady: that condom

ironic extra ass

the guano of moral value

impeach the mind

do the new pluperfect awful inside of the inside

anal glaucoma, as in “I can’t see my ass coming into work today,”

Is he a house president or a field president?

penis sings water water [here he stopped to take a drink]


body sushi

[and my personal favorite…]

Every rebel has its period


chris cheek also gave a great reading, but I was so interested in his projections and his outfit that I forgot to write anything down. I am interested anyway in his obsession with “partials”… phonemes that suggest, but don’t complete, meaning, and how his work forefronts how compulsively and sensuously we read any text, no matter how fragmentary. Dig the groovy checker effect of his woven text/images…

Please to note, even though the photo is dark: KILT, KNEE SOCKS, BLACK BOOTS. Love it. Love it.

My costume is coming along nicely.

Thinking about Suzanne’s recent post at Stephanie’s blog about shyness. It must be excruciating to be truly shy. I think I may be shy, in a way, but I have managed my shyness by morphing it into an extreme and parodic form of self-consciousness. Pure shyness strikes me as a form of hostility in that shy people seem only to be thinking of their own anxiety and discomfort instead of focusing on what their interlocutor might be experiencing. They block the two-way flows of energy between communicators, and to me, this is a kind of hostility. I tell this to my shy students, and sometimes they overcome the worst of their shyness by focusing on the other, sometimes not. I do try to be a model of not-shyness for them so that they can feel freer to communicate. I think I try to do this for the writing community as well, but it’s less easy to measure my effectiveness in that area.

What I do experience that is something like shyness is the horrible sensation, sometimes, of practically seeing my words come out of my mouth and hang there like leaden speech balloons. In an ugly void, where everyone’s staring. Somewhere (maybe quoted in a book review? recently?) I read a passage of fiction that described this phenomenon very cogently. I guess that writers in particular are prone to this syndrome; and I remember never feeling that way so much as in the Bay Area in the 80s. There was something almost pleasurable about that hyper-consciousness, but it was also stultifying. It’s fine to be self-conscious when I say things that come out winsome and snappy, because then I can be charmed by what’s in the balloons, but sometimes, especially when I’m in the midst of some rhetorical battle (not, perhaps, my strongest mode), the statements that come out of me seem wooden, wrong, and other.

Is my extreme self-consciousness in fact a kind of “false consciousness” (a phrase I was reminded of reading a review of abook on poverty in the Times today, in which a woman rationalizes her extreme poverty and alcoholism by saying that she must have committed some grave sins in previous lives)? Am I deceiving myself that I am reclaiming roses and ruffles, and that because everything I do is steeped in performative irony I am not buying into received notions of womanhood? That my parade of images of myself is not in fact a true narcissism but rather a going-to-extremes of self-consciousness in order to work through it, as an aspiring Buddhist might lose himself in alcohol and promiscuity on the way to enlightenment? Aw, hell.