Posts tagged ‘poetry’

May 1, 2016

One of Those Days

by lisa st john

Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s my internal work clock (quarter four has begun). Maybe I really, honestly, thought I would get my sabbatical. Strike that last one. That would mean I no longer expect the worst in order to appreciate what I actually get. That hasn’t changed. Has it?IMG_4422

I could have gone to a writer’s retreat this weekend but I was beyond tired. I am glad I stayed home to rest but at the same time I am angry for not pushing myself.

Pushy Me versus Tired Me: A Conversation

“How are you going to be a writer AND a teacher if you can’t muster up the energy to drive four hours to Boston?”
“My hematocrit was 33! They wouldn’t let me donate blood. I must be anemic again.”
“Blah, blah, blah… .”
“I just got back from a long weekend in Cincitucky
           “Did you get any writing done?”
“No, but it was such a beautiful time—it felt so good to hang out with my son and see him thriving in his adult world and—
“Travel is good. Travel is fodder for writing.”
“Gee, thanks. I am going to Isla Mujeres the day after graduation, and to Provincetown in July, and to San Miguel de Allende in August and LBI after that and–
“What the fuck are you running from?”
“I am not running from. I’m running towards.”

Anaïs Nin said that we write to “taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Maybe Iraintulip2’m not ready. Maybe I’m too ready. Maybe Stephen King was correct about writing and teaching (not compatible). We’ll just have to see.

Until then, I live off the crumbs of what I can muster. A blog here, a poetry reading there, the Chronogram Word Café series, The Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking, you know. Here and there.

  1. POETRY READING Friday, May 6, 6 pm in the Reference Room of Stone Ridge Library. Join us as Tina Barry, Patricia Carlin and Lisa St. John read from their latest works. A reception will follow the readings!
  2. TRAVEL, write, rinse, repeat… .

p.s. (Was SO PROUD to be a part of Chronogram’s Poetry Roundup. Thank you Ninraintulipa Shengold, for your fab review. My favorite line: “Ponderings debuts a nonpareil poetic voice, lithe, quirky, and fanged.” I’ve always wanted fangs.)

Snippet from a poem that doesn’t quite exist yet:

I will buy the $110.00 bra without a coupon—without even checking with Ebates. Feel the power? The dollars I

give

away don’t count somehow. This much to the students in Isla Mujeres whose mother is homeless; this much to GOFUNDME so Mrs. ___ can stay home with her husband while he dies; this much to Amanda Palmer’s latest Kickstarter because without art what’s the fucking point?

This phase is supposed to be over. Hospice therapist said so.

Ponderings is available at Finishinglinepress or you can get a signed copy from me directly 15.00. paypal.me/lisastjohn

November 29, 2015

On Teaching Poetry and/or Humans

by lisa st john

How will we get this content covered? IMG_3730How we fit these standards in? Discipline is not my job. I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have time for this. I’m not their parent. That should really be “his/her parent.” Is grammar gender-neutral now?  I don’t teach reading–I teach “fill in the blank.”

Really?

I just teach kids.

I could pretend that grammar, punctuation and spelling were my muses and that a world without run-on sentences would be paradise, but that would be a lie.

I prefer to think of teaching young people a little more about what it means to be human a much more important (and infinitely more rewarding) endeavor. Mark Twain said to never to let school get in the way of your education, and I heartily agree.

I hear eyebrows being raised. That’s okay. If I’m afraid of being questioned than what am I doing trying to teach anyone anything? OK. I will stop this mini rant for now, back to teaching poetry.

When I hear a teenager say, “I don’t like poetry” I get excited because now my goal for this class has changed—they’ve upped the ante. Dear Student: I will find the poem that reaches you. I will find a way for you to make a connection to the world through words. I will help you see the lyrics of language as powerful. And yes, dear student, your song lyrics are poems. You didn’t know that? Let’s do some analysis. Do you want to start with Led Zeppelin or Lauryn Hill?

“I wish I was the full moon shining off your Camaro’s hood.” If that isn’t poetry, Sir Eddie Vedder, I don’t know what is.

Words matter.

And I can’t think of a shorter sentence that is as important as that one.

If the evolution of a giraffe’s neck is not poetry than what is?

If the Fibonacci sequence is not art than what is? And doesn’t that analogy make Pi the magical Pied Piper of the universe? Where is the Periodic Table of Element’s chemistry recipe that makes hope? Which impasto brushstrokes of a van Gogh dance someone awake at night?
Football’s perfect catch is poetry.
Learning the Spanish word for word (palabra) is poetry.

Lesson #1 The Myth of the Hidden Meaning

There is no correct answer to what a poem “really” means in the back of some dusty teacher’s edition. You speak English. The poetry we are going to study is written in English. All good?

Lesson #2 Poetry Can Mean Whatever You Want

Uhm… no. There are correct interpretations–many of them–but there are also incorrect interpretations. Richard Wilbur’s “Death of a Toad” is not about unicorns or war or peanut butter. It’s about…you guessed it! The death of a freakin’ toad. Of course, it’s also about death and contemplation and mourning and…yeah.

I love teaching. I actually miss interacting with kids when I am away from them for too long. They have so much insight and depth. People who don’t work with teenagers probably don’t understand that, but they (the teenagers) are soulful creatures.

If I could stop sucking on the glass nipple of television (as Stephen King coined) perhaps I could write more and still grade papers and still make phone calls and still fill out the paperwork and read every single word of everything. But there is something to be said for Jessica Jones and reruns of House and counting how many times I’ve seen Armageddon (I know, I know) but Bruce Willis and Steve Buscemi are brilliant, to say nothing of Ben Affleck, animal crackers, and Liv Tyler’s tummy. Plus it has a kickin’ soundtrack. Anyway…

Are the arts and the media so far apart? You know when you fell in love with Sawyer from Lost that he was named after Tom Sawyer right? The wild mischievous boy who got everyone else into trouble?

Ah…I am bending towards transmedia, and that discussion is for another time.

I have a few different blogs here all hanging out together like a Shakespeare salad (you know, that salad where Horatio tricks Iago into thinking that Benedick really loves Juliet and Othello wants all of Gloucester’s land, and… .). Sorry about that. It’s what happens when I don’t blog often enough.

I will leave you with a somewhat stolen poem.

“Poems Stolen from the Muses of My Students: A Collage of Class Write-Around Exercises and Then Some”

Textured moments crinkle into a powdery dust (that might be a church), and she reads the quavering shadows and knows that it was all real sometimes.

Run if you will, but know the ripples move regardless; they are the travelers. Whose routine is it to sweep the monkey’s cage? Who the lion’s den? My pre-alarm clock dreams are nothing like the silhouette of your bra through sheer white soaking wet lace. But neither is my breath a true wind. Riddles in sheet music, strangers in time—we are eating the microphone instead of the sword.

So, yeah. I guess you could say, “swallow,” but would that crush your stark circadian rhythm?

Damn it Helen. If only it were that simple.

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Oh, and please don’t forget to buy my chapbook, Ponderings, at Finishing Line Press or Amazon (and if you could, an Amazon review would be wonderful. I need them).

p.s. This post was almost sabotaged. Here is the evidence: erfy

September 20, 2015

Either, Or…Or What?

by lisa st john

I don’t want bears in my neighborhood. I love bears, but I would not feed them in order to see them in my yard. It would endanger the neighbors. It is not healthy for them to eat what we humans toss at them. I would much rather have bear than deer (who carry the ticks who carry the Lyme), but I don’t feed them.Black_bear_with_salmon

So when the local police department posted a picture of a bear (big giant black bear) and reminded people to keep their garbage covered, I shared the post and reminded people not to feed the birds yet either. They have plenty to eat right now. Well, I got slammed by a psychic who had dreams last night of starving bears. Yeah. Whatever. This person hopes that some kind people will bring fish to the forest for the bears (‘cause that’s where fish live—in…trees.) So either I feed the bears or I hate the bears? Why has the either/or fallacy become so pervasive? Either I vote for Hillary or I hate women. Either I recycle or I don’t believe in global warming. When did we learn to think so shallowly?

Have we forgotten the subtleties of thought? Have we abandoned the dialectic because we cannot fathom more than one choice at a time? Or is it because we have become too quick to decide things? Apparently it is easier to decide than to investigate.

Soon I will start The Handmaid’s Tale with my students. I hope they see the relevance, the relationships, between then and now. Maybe even glean something about why good literature is timeless. Tammy Faye Bakker is Serena Joy who is (fill in the blank with your favorite anti-feminist religious right fanatic of 2015).

It’s the 21st century and Planned Parenthood is under attack; the anti-feminist movement is underway and the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t been passed. So, yeah. I think teaching Atwood’s most famous dystopian novel is important right now. I think more critical thinking is important right now. I hope that my students think so. I hope they realize that I don’t feed bears because I hate them.

False Dilemma-thumb-300x254-153811[1]You can still buy Ponderings HERE!

August 25, 2015

Perforated

by lisa st john

Unlike some of my sisters out there in the world, I do not choose to wear the veil that covers me. My friend calls it a “Saran Wrap” of sadness. I didn’t realize that I had it until she told me. But it’s there. It’s a veil. It’s thin and breathable but it’s there. I’m not sad all the time anymore, but I wasn’t sure I could ever say, “I’m happy” again and really mean it. Not until now.

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It has been 1,006 days since my husband, Kent, died. But it’s also been 10, 588 days since my fabulous son was born. He will be 29 years old this year, and that blows my mind. He is handsome and gentle and intelligent and successful in every sense of the word. He has a beautiful fiancée and just moved into his first (fabulous) home. I have been hanging here trying to help out and trying not to get in the way. And I think the veil got thinner.

Have they put something in my drink? Did my own kid rufi me? Or is it possible that my sadness has found a quiet spot? Their joy is contagious. Even the German Shepherd, Missy, catches it. She ran sprints around the new house yesterday, almost knocking over the yet-to-be-hung bazillion-inch television. And I swear that dog was smiling. We call her “Soul Puppy” because her love is so curative. How could I cry when a sweet little pup was licking my face? What right did I have to be mourning when I could instead take part in the supreme joy that is puppy romping?

The breeze here is warm and inviting. The sky is bluer than I ever remember. The world is lush with life and newness and bliss. Now I not only recognize it, but feel a bit of it too. The veil is thinning. So all of you joyous people out there, please remember: SHARE. Dance in the grocery store and sing while driving and laugh and laugh and laugh. Those of us with veils need it.

p.s.: Thank you artists. Thank you for making “a joyful sound” and sharing the beauty.

p.p.s: Shout out to some of my favorite artists: Kaileigh Osarczuk, Amanda Palmer, Karhu Moon, and all the laughing children of the world.

I just got this message from Finishing Line Press: “Your book will be going to print very soon. I will keep you updated on when your file leaves for the printer.” Oh yea. You can get it here.

July 16, 2015

The Time for Warnings is Over

by lisa st john

“The Time for Warnings is Over”

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Watch out file cabinet. Here I come. Beware you unfiled pile of folded up receipts and reminders! I am coming for you. You push pins better get in line, and HEY! I thought I returned you Ethernet cables weeks ago. Hiding were you? Under the vocabulary lists and warranty registration cards, huh? We’ll see about that. There is a recipe for salad (yes, I need a recipe for salad) scrunched under a copy of Writers Digest and an electric bill cowering beneath a coffee-stained yellow legal pad. Enough. I can’t think with all this clutter.

And thinking really does need to commence as the summer runs (at breakneck speed) toward its apex. I have to stop thinking about doing things and start actually doing them. Easier than it sounds. I have to give myself some leeway though. I see three distinct pieces to an artist’s life. Number One is creating the art. This stage happens all over the place in any space and at any time. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s description of a Tom Waits interview in which he describes the creative muse at work:

He just looked up at the sky, and he said, “Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving? … “Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.”

Here we bless the beauty of technology. If I don’t have a pen or paper I usually have an iPhone that can take notes or voice memos. Super helpful. Number Two is editing and fine-tuning and making pretty. A bunch of scraps are just that—beautiful, lyrical scraps perhaps, but only scraps. Hemingway was dead on when he said that the first draft of anything is shit. Art is work. Art is not thinking about work. Number Three is getting the work out there—published, printed, talked about. Number Three is the least fun for me. Luckily, there are tools like Submittable and Writers Market. There are even markets for poetry. Who would-ah thunk it?

And so, cleaning out my writing space I came upon a pastiche I wrote sometime in the unknown past. I must remember to start putting dates on things. I almost must remember to thank Amanda Palmer for reminding me of the truth in these lyrics from Ukulele Anthem:

“Quit the bitching on your blog/and stop pretending art is hard…”

Thank you. Time to get back to work. And don’t forget to buy a copy of Ponderings from Finishing Line Press.

“The Time for Warnings is Over”

(with apologies to Jennie Joseph)

Since I am a middle-aged woman, I shall wear my Scrabble PJs,
with a comfy sweatshirt, to the car repair.
And I shall spend my paycheck on wine and overnight trips and concerts,
and say we’ve no money for cat food.
I shall lie on the couch watching Heroes when I am tired
and eat all the samples at Sam’s club on a Sunday and raise hell at work
and run my mouth at anyone who will listen
and try and forget the wildness of my youth.
I shall go out in socks and Crocs
and steal best practices from my student teachers
and practice growling.

You can wear rainbow tee-shirts and get fatter
and eat McDonalds three times a week
or only Chinese take-out
and squirrel away office supplies at home.

But now we must wear shirts without cleavage
and try to make the students do the same
and send them to the office when they are too naked.
We must talk to people and keep up with politics.
But I am beyond practicing.
So people who’ve just met me will not be traumatized
when my friends say, “She has no filter and loves Gertrude Stein.”

July 6, 2015

Doing Things

by lisa st john

IMG_2720I made coffee, fed the cats, drank the coffee, made the bed up with clean sheets, got dressed, paid two bills, did three dishes, started one load of laundry, put away one load of laundry (why this is my most hated chore next to cleaning out the kitchen drain is beyond me, but it is), took my vitamins, ate some cereal (with almond milk—“real” milk disgusts me), signed up for a short story writing class (online—obviously), put an open-mic reading in my calendar (just in case I actually decide to go somewhere), almost answered the phone when “no caller id” appeared, added my frequent flyer number to an upcoming flight to Colorado, renewed my subscription to The Academy of American Poets, began a children’s story about a sock, put stamps on envelopes to be delivered to companies who don’t use PayPal for some archaic reason, thought about typing out the latest poem in my head, chose to brush my teeth instead, and then the noon whistle went off. Yes. I live in a “hamlet” and the noon “whistle” (more like a sounding horn) goes off at noon every day except Sunday which is, presumably, a day of sleeping in past noon (or at least not caring that it is, in fact, noon).

Why the litany? Well, it’s occurred to me that of the many things we “do” on a daily basis the things we talk about are never the inside things.

“What are you doing?”
“Thinking.”

Shouldn’t this be a normal conversation? It’s not.

“What are you doing this summer?”
“Thinking.”
“Thinking about where you are going, huh? I don’t blame you I couldn’t decide if I should … [fade into meaningless babble].

I am thinking about thinking. I am thinking about writing and making new art and smelling fresh grass and wondering if color would exist as well without smell. Isn’t the grass a brighter hue of green when we smell the freshly mowed kind?
Time jumps and bobbles and I am writing a sequel to the sock story (that I haven’t finished yet) that begins, “Somehow the strawberries got involved…” I wonder, also, if it’s possible to live on fresh fruit pies alone. And then I am mowing the lawn writing a poem in my head that never ends.

A New Poem:

You would hate the way I mow the lawn—my line-ish things, my
lack of symmetry, my
desire to go over the same spot twice.

You would hate that I go right over the rocks you taught me to avoid. My
patterns don’t make sense and if I stop to flip a turtle or watch a baby snake periscope its new world, I can hear you asking. I can sense your puzzlement.

You told me once: “Lil, if there is an assbackward way to do something you will find it.” I smile, remembering running down the up escalator in the Paris Metro—you catching me in time for the free concert in Saint Sulpice. We made it. We always made it.

And now I hit the rock and it makes that crunching noise
and now I go over the rock
and over it
and let it make that crunching noise because something should be allowed to make noise.

You would hate the way I keep stopping the mower to get a drink or write a few lines.

You would hate the way I go over twigs of increasing size just to see how much the blades can take.

You would not understand why I keep it in first gear
only. And only you would understand why sometimes I mow the lawn more than once a week.

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Now I have poison ivy on my face and I am going to see Amanda Palmer at Bearsville anyway because I am supposed to do things. People are out there doing things. I am a person, therefore… .

Ponderings is still available at Finishing Line Press.

May 3, 2015

Tip the Scales

by lisa st john

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“Why do you like gardening?” she asked.

“Because I’m not serious about it. Because it’s my own tangible metaphor.”

When I feel like killing, there are weeds to pull.
When I feel like changing, there are shrubs to move.
When I feel like dreaming, there are seeds to plant.

When I feel like crying, there are seedlings that need homes.

And when I just feel like letting all the images of the days sink in, I sit around and look at it all. Then, hopefully, I write.

I dig out a nasty raspberry invader and see a sprouting bleeding heart and I am reminded of the girls on the beach last summer. Looking longingly at the older girls with bigger, prouder breasts the younger ones, with their newly shaved legs, saunter by trying to look aimless. But then the same longing look falls on the little girls building a sandcastle. Their shoulders are bare because the straps just don’t matter—the building matters. Their sandy, matted hair falls wherever it wants. They don’t need mousse. And the in-between girls want both. And I want to tell them they are already both.

When I feel like shaking people up…well, I haven’t found a gardening exercise for that yet. We take so much for granted. An amazing documentary about the feminist movement, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, shook me up—woke me up. I remember my older sisters burning their bras and going to rallies. My students and I live in a world paved by these women, and we forget.

My mother was very proud of having participated in suffrage marches around Chicago, and when I was a little girl she would always take me with her to vote. I decided later on that the two emancipators of women were the vote and birth control…” Virginia Whitehill

The feminists of the 60’s forgot the suffragists, and now we have forgotten the revolutionary women who forged Title IX (usually we think of Title IX in terms of sports, but it also ensures equal access to higher education like law school). The entire world is better because of the Women’s Liberation Movement. To paraphrase the film, “The Supreme Court didn’t hand us Roe v. Wade, individual women fought for it.” It’s 2015 and we are losing.

But somewhere along the road the word “feminism” got a bad rap, and our future is going to pay for it.

Now that I am all shook up—what to do? So I made a list.

Educate. Talk. The Equal Rights Amendment has not yet been passed. It’s three sentences long.

Check out places like:

Ms. Foundation for Women

Center for Reproductive Rights

List of Supporters of the E.R.A.

Women Organized to Resist and Defend

Feminist.com

Listen to more Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin and Amanda Palmer and Adele and Ricki Lee Jones.

Love the men and boys around you and let them know that they are as necessary to this movement as any woman. Be proud to call yourself a feminist regardless of your gender.

p.s. (If you are male or female or non-binary and you are against abortion, then don’t fucking have one; just know that abortion is an equal rights issue, a health issue.)

PLEASE buy my first chapbook, Ponderings. In case you did plan to purchase a copy but haven’t gotten around to it yet– now would be a propitious time to do it.

If you have signed up for a copy already I THANK YOU and hope you enjoy it. They will be shipping in July 2015.

You can click this link, or go to the website athttp://www.finishinglinepress.com/ (new releases) or send a check to:
Finishing Line Books PO Box 1626 Georgetown, KY 40324

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April 30, 2015

Poetry is a Deserved and Necessary Extravagance

by lisa st john

PoetryIsTheShadowCastByOurStreetlightImaginationsByLawrenceFerlinghettiInJackKerouacAlley

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives. (
Audre Lorde)

The workshop guru said we must fight. Poetry is dying because we over-test the students. “Where is the short story? Where are the poems in your curriculum?” she demands.

I teach high school students. I try and also integrate the language arts. I cannot do a poetry unit for the same reason that I can’t really buy into Black History Month. Poetry is embedded in all my units. Black history is American history, isn’t it? Do I wait to teach the syncopation of Langston Hughes until February? Do I hold off on Zora Neale Hurston or Toni Morrison until “their month” arrives? How do you read Frankenstein without reading Percy Bysshe Shelley or looking at the paintings of William Blake? How do you read Tim O’Brien without writing collage and found poetry? I guess I m not good at separating the arts into little egg cartons. Eggs are too easily broken.

So I go to writing workshops like Nina Shengold’s Word Cafe, and rejoice in the publication and popularity of Chronogram (in print no less). And I nod in understanding when Gretchen Primack describes poetic form as a “lattice for your roses.”

I smile at the incredulity of teachers when they find out my oh-so-optional Poetry Elective (pass/fail—no credit) is full.

I laugh a full belly-laugh when a students says, “Look at that kid—he looks like a purple crayon!” And then I tell the student that he has the start of a poem.

I take them on field trips to hear poets like Tina Chang at SUNY Ulster. I am thrilled when they buy her book or want a picture. Who says poets cannot be celebrities?

When I Google the phrase “21st century poetry” I get 11,200,000 hits. That’s not so bad. Google used to be a number spelled googol and then it was a noun and now it’s a verb. Poetry used to be oral, sung; it changed to include the written, recited, slammed, recorded (audio and visual), animated, mashed, digitized. The word “poetry” comes from the Greek, meaning “to create.”

It’s not going away any time soon. I need poetry like I need cooked food. If I only ate grass, I’d be a sheep.

My first chapbook, Ponderings, is being published by Finishing Line Press. In case you did plan to purchase a copy but haven’t gotten around to it yet– now would be a propitious time to do it.

The number of copies sold before May 8th determines the size of the pressrun, which explains this gentle reminder.

If you have signed up for a copy already I THANK YOU and hope you enjoy it. They will be shipping in July 2015.

You can click this link, or go to the website at http://www.finishinglinepress.com/ (new releases) or send a check to:
Finishing Line Books PO Box 1626 Georgetown, KY 40324

I wrote the following poem at a Word Cafe Workshop with a collaboration of teaching and writing and not separating in mind.

“Sonnet for Adam: Denied Donation”

I would leave off a line for you,
not a whole couplet, obviously, but—
a line. Oh Adam, you are not the first.
So many bled—ahead—to pave this way.

At least you had the guts to tell the truth.
You say, “Heighten your attention. See Me.”
“Come back next year,” they told you yet again.
You say, “Listen to truth with wider eyes.”

To savor your story will take longer
than one Stonewall and a few thousand lives.
For you, Adam, for you—oh! Not the first.
For you, the blood will come around again.

See me. See me. Anapest just this once.

April 11, 2015

Persephone is Knocking

by lisa st john

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Persephone is Knocking

There is something so fragile about spring. The little kid part of me that believed in fairies also sometimes believes that spring will never come—that we are doomed to grey snowpiles and ice-cracked puddles forever. Maybe I just watched too much Twilight Zone as a kid.

But April is a fierce beast too, hence the paradox. I have seen crocuses and daffodils bust right through leaves and snow and winter and announce their arrival with bravado. But the cold breezes—right through the sunlight—still whisper winter in the air.

Everything that was covered up for months comes out to haunt and tease and say, “You thought you got rid of me? Ha.” There is no hiding from spring. Leaf piles that never got raked, dog turds and cigarette butts, broken glass and moments too resonant to stay buried come back in spring. IMG_4309

Jeffrey McDaniel said, “There’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.” There is something sneaky about spring. She makes you believe in summer while letting winter’s frost in through the back door. Come on up Persephone. You must be starving.

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You can buy my first chapbook of poetry HERE at Finishing Line Press. It’s called Ponderings.

March 30, 2015

“Words, words, words” (Hamlet IIii)

by lisa st john

It was born
in blood, the word
grew in the dark body, beating
and flew through the lips and the mouth. (Pablo Neruda “The Word”)

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. (Edgar Allan Poe)

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I love words, yet I hate the way they can be used. I love their power even when destructive. I have loved watching and hearing them change over time. It’s exciting when new ones pop up or nouns get verbed. “I will Google this.”

But when did feminism become a negative thing? When did the belief of, and actions for, equal rights between the sexes get a bad rap? I was raised by older sisters—hippies who burned their bras and broke the rules and believed that we had to work twice as hard as men to get the same results. How did this change? I had to look, and I found this:

“The Waves of Feminism” by Martha Rampton, professor of history and director of the Center for Gender Equity at Pacific University.

1st Wave late 19th early 20th centuries: The goal of this wave was to open up opportunities for women, with a focus on suffrage. The wave formally began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, when 300 men and women rallied to the cause of equality for women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (d.1902) drafted the Seneca Falls Declaration outlining the new movement’s ideology and political strategies.

In its early stages, feminism was interrelated with the temperance and abolitionist movements and gave voice to now-famous activists like the African-American Sojourner Truth (d.1883), who demanded, “Ain’t I a woman?” Victorian America saw women acting in very “un-ladylike” ways (public speaking, demonstrating, stints in jail), which challenged the “cult of domesticity.”

2nd Wave 1960s-1990s : “The second wave was increasingly theoretical, based on a fusion of neo-Marxism and psycho-analytic theory and began to associate the subjugation of women with broader critiques of patriarchy, capitalism, normative heterosexuality, and the woman’s role as wife and mother. Sex and gender were differentiated — the former being biological, and the later a social construct that varies culture-to-culture and over time.”

3rd Wave mid 1990s – now: “The ‘grrls’ of the third wave have stepped onto the stage as strong and empowered, eschewing victimization and defining feminine beauty for themselves as subjects, not as objects of a sexist patriarchy. They have developed a rhetoric of mimicry, which reappropriates derogatory terms like ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’ in order to subvert sexist culture and deprive it of verbal weapons. Reality is conceived not so much in terms of fixed structures and power relations, but in terms of performance within contingencies. Third wave feminism breaks boundaries.

Where feminism will go from here is unclear, but the point is that feminism, by whatever name, is alive and well both in academia and outside of it. Some older feminists feel discouraged by the younger generation’s seeming ignorance of or disregard for the struggles and achievements of the early movement. They see little progress (the pay gap has not significantly narrowed in 60 years), and are fearful that the new high-heeled, red-lipped college grrls are letting us backslide.”

What saddens me are comments by young women today such as, “I am not a feminist because I don’t hate men.” I want to educate them. I want them to learn the history of the movement. I am going to take students on a field trip to see She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry in Rosendale next month. But that seems like such a limp effort. I am in the process of wrapping my head around how to raise awareness (even the phrase “raise awareness” sounds lame).

Did we raise awareness when “Healing the Hurt” conference changed its name to PrideWorks? Do young activists even know that the now famous NYC Pride Parade was first called “Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day” after the Stonewall Riots ?

I had to fight bureaucrats and bible-thumpers to get a Gay-Straight Alliance Club formed in a high school once upon a time. It was passed as long as we called it The “Rainbow” Club. It was a start.

Does knowing the history matter to the language?

“There is no more sexism,” a student told me once. “My mom is a lawyer, my dad is a doctor, and I am going to __________ for pre-med in September.”

“Excellent,” I replied. “When you are done with your undergraduate degree (or maybe it will take until grad school) I want you to come back and tell me how wrong I was; how you were treated just like your male colleagues.” She snorted and rolled her eyes, but she hasn’t come back. I wish she had. I wish I was wrong.

You can buy my first chapbook of poetry HERE at Finishing Line Press. It’s called Ponderings.

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