Some thoughts while traveling by subway

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

1.  Some days the East River sparkles like any other body of water in almost fall in the late afternoon. 

2.  My grandmother says that when my mother was a young woman, she once jumped in a van with some other young people and drove all the way from North Carolina to New York.  She called on a pay phone from Times Square to say, "Mom, I'm in Times Square!"  Then she drove back.  This story was reported with a mixture of incredulity and admiration.

3.  It's the year of the water dragon.  The last year of the water dragon was the year my mom was born.

4.  The phrase "delicate condition."  I was born in a delicate condition.

5.  Frau Lyrakis saying "puzhalsta" to get our attention in Russian class.  It means please, and you're welcome, and here you go.  Puzhalsta.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Admit One

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some Notes on Footnotes

Sunday, August 19, 2012

1.  Last night I was re-reading Maggie Nelson's Bluets, and I realized that part of the reason I like it is that it reads like footnotes to a larger text-- one that is just out of view, that we can't have access to.  

2.  I was also thinking about Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely, and how the footnotes in that book form a parallel narrative, an exploration through apparent ephemera of personal and national experience at the turn of the twentieth century.  The footnotes become their own story, which is in part a story about how the story needs to be told through accretion and indirection.

3.  See also the work of the poet Kristina Marie Darling, who I met at the Vermont Studio Center.  She is drawn again and again to the form of a poem in footnotes, and, like Nelson and Rankine, the work becomes a circling around some other version of the story.  Darling's work is, in part, about the female poet's debt to and obsession with the pre-existing narratives, but it is also a sly wresting of control.

4.  I have long been interested in footnotes.  For years I considered it my job to read novels and books of criticism very closely (and to make incisive and slightly peevish marginal comments).  This is because I was in a doctoral program in literature.  I grew to enjoy my own incisive peevishness.  It even extended to arguing with or becoming overly fascinated with footnotes. 

5.  I have some ideas about how footnotes are a good form through which to think about Emily Dickinson.  This is in part because I really enjoyed the footnotes in Alfred Habegger's biography of Dickinson, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books, when I read it a few years ago.  I would like to go back and read those footnotes.  There is also Susan Howe's My Emily Dickinson, which, like Nelson's Bluets, reads like a book of footnotes.  Collage-like.  I actually need to read that book more closely.  I've been circling around it for years.

6.  Perhaps footnotes are a good way for thinking about Dickinson because her poems share certain qualities with footnotes.  They are fragmentary and authoritative at the same time.  Contained power. 

7.  Since earning my doctorate, I have learned that there are many ways of reading closely in life, and only some of them involve books. 

8.  At the same time, embracing non-academic ways of knowing and perceiving does not have to mean forgoing an enjoyment of one's own incisive peevishness (as I am now thinking of my critical faculties).  I am beginning to feel that the footnotes are a way back in, a way of wedding my critical and creative interests. 

9.  These thoughts have to do with the following:  Something about accretion; something about the building of scaffolding; something about the indirect revealing of argument and voice; a satisfying skeletal architecture that points to something else beyond the page, a more complex narrative than we can express in words; leaving space.

More quotes from Mom

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's ridiculous.  It's like building a transistor radio. 

You're the only person I know who uses Twitter, and I never understand your tweets.

[On why she hates Facebook:]  I don't want to see your kitten.  I don't want to hear about Jesus or how you think Obama is a communist.  Or a big picture of the American flag-- "the most beautiful colors in the world."  Half the nations in the world have the same colors in their flag! 

I'm trying to gather my strength so I can be normal tomorrow. 

Modern Times: An Occasional Poem

Friday, August 10, 2012

(Photo: Tina Holmes)

(for Andi) 

This week my little brother went to a '90s party dressed in a pink shirt and faded jeans, as if that happened in the '90s, which it did because they were his father's old clothes.  My brother is the one who will drive me to the airport-- even though he has computer simulations to work on and I still call him "the baby"-- and he's the one who will keep turning the air conditioner down one notch for every two that I turn it up.  Mostly he understands me.  On the airplane home, I read in the literature that "everyone deserves a working TV on a flight," so I begin flipping through the channels to exercise my right.  I will watch anything that doesn't turn my stomach sideways.  One man on the television asks, "If the spirits can produce enough energy to move someone's hair, what else can they do?"  I worry about these things, too, and about what happened to the child-faced 25 year-old I was in the '90s.  But mostly I think we should honor our dead and tell them it's ok to feel peaceful around us.  If they ever move your hair, they're probably just telling you it's ok to be present right here and to live your life in the 2010s-- or whatever decade you find yourself in-- with as much joy as if you always wore a Blossom hat from the '90s, one that made you laugh and that only you and they could see.
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