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  • Our Interests, Ourselves

    Here are a few things: Honey Boo Boo, random trendy Korean(?) dance guy, Lil Wayne, Portlandia.

    I couldn't tell you anything about any of them. I am 100% ignorant, save for that I've heard people mention these blips of popular culture in my periphery. 

    Does it matter? Do you care that I have no idea what any of these things are? 

    Some people care a lot. Friends have gotten mad and even insisted that I was lying when I expressed my lack of familiarity. They are offended by my ignorance, like it's a personal insult that I don't know these things and don't have the same knowledge/interest that they do. 

    (No glass houses here. I yelled at this guy - at his own event, no less - for never having read Ender's Game. To me, the very idea that he hadn't was UNFATHOMABLE.)

    It's odd, this resentment of others for not knowing or loving the things that we do. I hope that my resentment here stems from my passionately wanting everyone else to experience the same sensations and joys as I.

    But I expect that this anger and resentment actually comes from a fear of isolation. Wait? What? You don't love this, too? How can that be? Am I alone in the world???  Grrrr Smash!!

    Sharing. Culture of Sharing. Climate of Sharing. Social sharing. Social graphs. Collective experience. 

    Is "collective experience" giving us anxiety? Like when people don't know or like what we do, we panic a minute to wonder if we've somehow strayed from what everyone else is knowing and liking? If we "share" things and no one "likes" these things, does it give us a little sense of dread and uncertainty? 

    There's something here. Something to this performative way of living and being that I want to understand better.

    It's almost hostile, sometimes, the demand that people share and be shared with. Share, or it didn't happen? You MUST receive my information or .... I don't exist?

  • eros and my psyche

    Late in August, Silvia and I finally visited The Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, California. We'd only been talking about it for the last couple of years since I moved to San Francisco. Eventually, we always get where we want to go.

    Miller. Most people read him first -- Tropic Of Cancer, most likely -- and then gateway into Nin. I went the opposite direction.

    I found her first when a teacher insisted to me that Emily Dickinson was one of the best erotic poets of all time. Really, I thought? First, I have to endure Salinger saying she's the best war poet (in Catcher), and then a creative writing teacher tries to tell me she is erotic, too?

    Don't get me wrong. I love Emily. I do. That mysterious, prolific woman. Legendary. 

    But "erotic," she is not. I count only one poem of her's that I find mildly sexual, and it's clearly about losing virginity, buds blooming, nature being nature, etc. It's vanilla and romantic. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) It's safe. It's sweet. 

    So I disagreed with that teacher. At that point -- teenage romantic that I was -- I considered Elizabeth Barrett Browning to be the most "erotic."  I had learned the etymology of "Eros" and could only imagine it as courtley and beautiful. Browning, therefore, was whom I considered the ideal embodiment. 

    But I wanted another example, and when I asked a librarian at UCSD, she brought me a pile of Anais Nin books. 

    Ohhhhhh.

    Nin wrote erotic. Erotic in every meaning. Every journal entry oozed with it, whether she meant it to or not. And no wonder, as she was writing short stories for that unknown benefactor that later ended up in Delta of Venus and Little Birds. 

    And for her, eroticism and sensuality surpassed what our generation's mainstream sexual preferences would categorize under "hot." She was of the "tell, don't show" mindset, but in the most evocative and visceral way possible. 

    One of my favorite quotes of her's comes in the form of an outraged letter she wrote to her writing benefactor. 

    Dear Collector:

    We hate you. Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices, personal ties, deeper relationships which change its color, flavor, rhythms, intensities.

    You do no know what you are missing by your microscopic examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of others, which are the fuel that ignites it. Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex its surprising textures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac elements. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood.

    If you nourished your sexual life with all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality, you would be the most potent man in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity, passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all of the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.

    How much do you lose by this periscope at the tip of your sex, when you could enjoy a harem of discrete and never-repeated wonders? Not two hairs alike, but you will not let us waste words on a description of hair; not two odors, but if we expand on this, you cry "Cut the poetry." Not two skins with the same texture, and never the same light, temperature, shadows, never the same gesture; for a lover, when he is aroused by true love, can run the gamut of centuries of love lore, What a range, what changes of age, what variations of maturity and innocence, perversity and art, natural and graceful animals.

    We have sat around for hours and wondered how you look. If you have closed your senses around silk, light, color, odor, character, temperament, you must by now be completely shriveled up. There are so many minor senses, all running like tributaries into the mainstream of sex, nourishing it. Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.

    (Source: The Diary Of Anais Nin, Volume 3; 1939-1944)

    (P.S. Why haven't I ever started a letter with the line, "We hate you.")

    I love cataloging my journey of discovery from one writer to the next, so I am finally going to get to my original reason for writing this post. My newest delight. 

    At the Miller Library, I found a new book by an old (friend) author, whom I never considered to be particularly erotic before. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention enough, or only reading and re-reading my favorites of his that leaned more towards the wistful and absurd than the sexy. 

    But man, seeing them all together in this collection, and gorging myself on this book in one sitting, I exclaimed, "Holy crap, Cummings is a beast!"

    may i move said he
    is it love said she
    if you're willing said he
    (but you're killing said she

     

    Why is it so amazing always to peel back people's words and find new meanings? Countless meanings and layers all at once? Why does this happen so infrequently in real life, as we (I) race to try to find out everything I can as quickly as possible. Racing to explain and over-explain everything as quickly as possible so that I can control the messages. 

    There's a lot in my head about this. I'm thinking not just about having discovered the erotic side of Cummings, but also of the how. The curation of this collection of his. Would I have gotten there myself by one day re-reading one of my many Cummings poetry books and noticing an erotic theme, or did it have to be curated and packaged and featured prominantly in a significant place for me like this? 

    What does that say about the other familiar things in my life? Truths about people? Opinions that I haven't altered for years?

    Maybe all of the writers I know -- or even people I know -- could have a collection of "erotic" words, if someone combed through carefully enough. Maybe I could, too. 

    We are the sum of many parts and layers. And we are fluid. And it should be enough sometimes to tell people, and hope they care enough to listen, believe and understand, rather than having to show them everything all at once. Share everything all at once.

    Maybe when we do that, we really are "shrinking your world of sensations. ...withering it, starving it, draining its blood."

  • all my seasick sailors


    Oof. Thank you, Lynn Crosbie.

    I needed this, today.


    all my seasick sailors

    Sly and second-sighted, my friends have abandoned ship. Rats,
    escaping in small grey
    lifeboats, their annular tails turn the tide, their lambent eyes, like the
    moon, dictate its flow.
    The violinist plays Autumn as the masts unfold, water lilies in the
    pitch of the sea.

    A message in semaphore, what I have always longed to know — to stand
    by the stern, and
    with courage, let go. Nostalgia’s poison

    love spreads out like a sheaf of photographs, memory without blood,
    a fluked anchor,
    undone. The line that breaks when the storm comes, the truth that
    sailors know:
    red skies without delight,

    a bad sign. To navigate you must know where you are going, with an
    exact chart,
    pin-stuck with ellipses. Accidents, typhoon, the fibrous stakes of sea
    monsters, the diamond ice caps,

    miracles that have changed course, carved passages into the new
    worlds, where sailors
    arise. In white militia,

    letters come like gulls flat on the crest of waves, infatuation coursing,
    like a science of chaos,

    they appear in envelopes of ice, intermittent ghosts — to remind me
    that love is spectral,
    unforeseen.

    The rapids were turbulent toward the Asian corridor, sailing into
         Lachine. It is China, after all.
    Rare and fragile, esteemed from a great distance,

    protected in shelf-ice.

    I touch this china from rim to stem, and feel its raised flowers,
    brought to me from the ocean’s
    floor.  In spite of the danger, the mariners have garlanded the stingray
    —as the lashings narrowed,

    they retrieved me from the wreck.


  • Ah, they'll never, they'll never ever reach the moon, at least not the one that we're after; it's floating broken on the open sea, look out there, my friends, and it carries no survivors. But lets leave these lovers wondering why they cannot have each other, and let's sing another song, boys, this one has grown old and bitter.

    Leonard Cohen, "Sing Another Song, Boys"
  • Anais Nin and The Anti-Blog

    It's funny. When I first started publishing my poems and diary entries to the www, it was because I was obsessed with the diaries of Anais Nin. I wanted to replicate her life. The life she had lived seemed so real and passionate and expansive, and at 17, I assumed the key to imitating this was living as truthfully as possible, and trying to chronicle it every step of the way.

    Publishing private things meant that every action, conversation, nuance and experience had to happen in absolute truth, or people would know I was lying. I thought this would also force me to live an amazing life -- who wants to read the diary of a boring shut-in?

    Only in the last year, where I've committed myself to re-reading Nin's diaries, have I realized how I went about this all wrong. Nin didn't have the internet. She didn't have a blog. She didn't set out to publish her private thoughts. In creation, her entries were only ever meant to be private, and it is their inception in privacy that makes their tone and depth un-mimicable.

    Later in life, she decided to publish her diaries. And why not -- by then, the secrets probably felt faded. The stakes weren't as high. Maybe there were some fears, but I can't imagine they compared to the fear around blogging. 

    This is the fear that ultimately makes it utterly impossible for blogs to be 100% authentic. You are not coming at writing from a direction of complete candor and privacy, as you would in your little lock and key diary under your bed. You are writing with an audience in mind. A publishing strategy. An understanding that your words will immediately be indexed. Searchable. 

    That makes you choose words and phrases much more carefully. The euphoric emotions you have for something, well, maybe other people will think they are silly, so you tone them down. You stop yourself from gushing. You take what would have been a wild-mind of thoughts and ideas and recollections in a diary entry, and you turn them into an "easily digestible bit of digital content that can be shared and amplified across the social platforms." And maybe it'll even GO VIRAL.

    I thought about all of this again today, when Silvia alerted me to this post on Brain Pickings.

    No Dream-Laden Adolescent: Anais Nin Meets Young Gore Vidal, 1945

    In one passage, Nin describes Vidal: 

    He is full of pride, conceals his sensitiveness, and oscillates between hardness and softness. He is dual. He is capable of feeling, but I sense a distortion in his vision. He has great assurance in the world, talks easily, is a public figure, shines. He can do clever take-offs, imitate public figures. He walks in easily, he is no dream-laden adolescent. His eyes are hazel; clear, open, mocking.

    Nin's descriptions of people in her life -- from the obviously brilliant and famous like Vidal to the perpetually unknown -- always make me want to meet them. Her blunt, stream of consciousness style feels effortless and unedited always. I believe this to be entirely due to these being her "private" thoughts.

    Yes, there are many great writers today. Yes, a lot of them have blogs or write articles where the descriptions are wildly raw and beautiful.  Yes, an audience raises the stakes and, save for the case of boneheaded plagiarizers, should keep a writer honest.

    But, writing. Writing for no reason other than to write. Writing for nothing. Writing because you don't know how to get the emotions out otherwise, and you don't give a fuck how much sense they make....

    Well. I'll continue to publish things now. It's the web! Everyone's a publisher! (God help us.) But I know that the things I write down and never show to anyone are the things that someday, someone will find and say, "Ohh! The life she must have had!"