Posts tagged ‘writers’

August 20, 2017

Time for Words

by lisa st john

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.                                                                                                                                —Buddha

Maine.

Homemade bluberry (picked that morning) pie with a crust so lovely it needs a better name (than crust).

I’m in a kayak floating around the lake when I see a loon taking his morning bath. I wonder if he and his mate were the ones who brought on evening yesterday with their haunting call and response. He flips around and cleans his white underside, neck impossibly agile; he twists and flutters and shakes off the water that he is not floating in. I don’t want to get too close and disturb his routine but I like watching him.

I am reminded of my beautiful daughter-in-law saying that the living by the water is magical because it’s alive, full of life above and below the surface. Just like she and my son are—in love with life and knowing how important moments are. It’s a gift and I am filled with joy that they discovered it at an early age. That’s another word that should be different: daughter-in-law. The etymology isn’t interesting and the connotation is mechanical. The Spanish la nuera is prettier.

Words are powerful in a way no other form of communication can match. They stay with us, haunt us, remind us.

When the news blares hate over and over and over in baleful repetition I turn it off. The violence of the language and images of what happened (is happening) in Virginia is not going to stop violence.

In Toni Morrison’s essay, “No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear” she evokes the power of words, of art. I know that watching the talking heads postulate about what could happen and what should have happened will not help us heal. Rather than “what if-ing” (which is what most mainstream media seems to do lately) Morrison gives us a task: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

Artists give strength to the idea of positivity and mindfulness and creation as tools against hate.

Lady Gaga: “I know we are not created to hate each other, but to help and love. Use hashtag #BeKind #ThisIsNotUS to tweet positive messages.” #Charlotte

Photo by Sarah St. John

Dave Matthews Band: “The multicultural tapestry that is America must come together, acknowledge our very difficult but remarkable history. We must move away from the racist and ignorant elements of our past toward an inclusive, kinder, more intelligent future.”

In response to a video showing a Neo-Nazi in a Johnny Cash tee-shirt, his family “sickened by the association” posted that, “Our dad told each of us, over and over throughout our lives, ‘Children, you can choose love or hate. I choose love.'”

The Presidential Arts and Humanities Committee resigned. They didn’t start a fire or blow up a building. They said, “No.”

Sara Benincasa provides a list of places to support.

Here are a few more ideas.

  1. Love each other and say so.
  2. Support artists who support peace and denounce hatred.
  3. Spread kindness.
  4. Refuse to be silent.

Remember: THIS IS NOT NORMAL. We cannot get used to this.

September 15, 2015

Two for the Price of One

by lisa st john

 

Two for the price of one. What if I only want one?

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Life or death; prosperity or poverty; winter or summer; light or dark—no. We get both, not either or. As King Lear says, “I have taken too little care of this.” Tom o’ Bedlam may not be my problem to “take care” of, but my mindset sure is. Leave it to Shakespeare to create a “semi-apocalyptic” world hundreds of years ago. My own chaos is never black and/or white. Whose is? The glass isn’t half empty OR half full; it’s both. Paradox or no, it’s both. Maybe there are two of Schrödinger’s cats, but that’s a question for another blog post.

When I Google “two” I get “Two player games.” By the way, Google (the noun) doesn’t want us using Google (the transitive verb) unless we really mean we are using their search engine. I think that’s hilarious. As if I would stop saying, “I need to Xerox that handout,” or “Please get me a Kleenex.” Humph. Who do they think they are trying to control language? Good luck. Not going to happen. The word “too” gets me to ToonTown, and “to” is, of course, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (Not “How to Kill a Mockingbird” unless, maybe you are one of Schrödinger’s cats.)

But if it’s about “and” instead of “or” why are questions like the following still coming up? Can we be both a mother and an artist? (Why don’t men have to ask this question?) Follow that last link to Amanda Palmer’s awesome open letter. Can’t mouse back over there? Try here. It’s worth a read. Kimya Dawson knows. Virginia Woolf knew (before she put stones in her pocket anyway). I guess we all know it’s possible We could get all existential (slash absurdist) over it and realize that, “What is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying,” but Camus wasn’t a Goddess. What the fuck did he know about “and?” Women know “and” inside and out. lilygoddess

“Would you like to feed your child or get some sleep?”
Uhm…and.
“Would you like to have a job or stay home with your kid?”
Again…and.
“Are you depressed or joyful?”
Uh…yes.

I want to look both in and out of my windows. It’s not easy being human.

missy looking out

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can still buy my poetry book Ponderings, HERE.

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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