performance · poetry · progress · school

Of indeterminate weight

I met with my thesis advisor for my last meeting with her
before I hand it in to the school library to be bound and put on a shelf with
all the other theses that won’t be read 😉 No, but really, I see the light at
the end of the tunnel finally. It sort of looks like a disco ball, or
headlights – in other words, it doesn’t look normal. But I suppose none of this
is normal for me.
The general feedback I got from both my advisor and my
faculty reader were both rather generic. One said, This is indeed a poetry thesis
(great, it’s not an aardvark). The other said, It was actually interesting
(great, glad you didn’t drool sleep spittle on it). But, really, I didn’t get
much constructive feedback, which is a) a little relieving, and b) not very constructive.
For all the work and mental crises, a check mark, basically.
But, c’est la vie. I have a few things that are room for improvement to
edit/revise before she sees it again for the final sign-off before April 20th.
Also, I have it out to two poetic friends of mine for their eagle eyes on it –
for, hopefully, some specific feedback.
But, for all it is now, it’s a bit anti-climactic. Which, is
better than drama I suppose.
Drama will come both literally and figuratively in the two
final performances I’ll have in May. The performance poetry piece I’ll write
(….???) and the acting scene. I met with the poetry teacher yesterday to talk
about performance persona vs. character. Theater vs. performance art. And it
was helpful. If only to confirm that the “amped up version of self” that I
consider performance art is actually what he also means. He clarified that it
doesn’t mean to do as he does and dress as a chicano in drag with a sombrero
and a dog collar. That’s his amplified
version of self – for me to do something like that would be … well, who knows,
maybe one day – but for today, something else.
I’m not sure what the work will be about. But I know how
I’ll dress. If you remember from the Performance Persona blog, I said that the
most authentic persona I could be right now was myself – well, I intend to wear
a nude body suit, only.
I’d had this thought way earlier in the semester. Something
about both the vulnerability and yet boldness of it appeals to me. With so much
work that I’ve been doing to get comfortable with my body, present in it, a
part of it – well, why not?
The only stipulations the school has, he told me, was no
full frontal nudity. And he said he’d never tell me to pull it back. So, now I
need material that will warrant that. Do I need to go that far? Is it sensationalism? Does it matter?
I wrote a few poems for performance yesterday, but they
don’t have quite enough meat to support the visual. But like a great pair of shoes – sometimes you build the outfit around them instead of the other way around — and so I will just have to build a performance around this visual, costume/non-costume.
I had the strangest dream that two friends insistently brought me over
to do my laundry at my ex’s, and I was reluctant, as his new girlfriend
might be there. She wasn’t there, but he was on the phone with her, and I felt all
awkward, but everyone else seemed to think this was fine.
Random side-note. 
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acting · authenticity · discovery · performance · poetry

Performance Persona

The first week in May, a few things will happen. On the
Tuesday, I will be performing some of my poetry with my creative writing class in an end-of-semester performance in the actual theater at school – for somewhere
between 3-7 minutes. And on the Wednesday, I will be performing a scene with a
partner for my acting class final performance, where people will be invited in to
come see us.
This reflects back to me something I sort of already know about myself and my passions – I have a
hankerin’ for perfomin.’ Some folks do; some don’t. – I do.
In my creative writing class, we’re supposed to, or invited
to, work on a “performance persona.” I’ve been marinating on this, and not to
use what’s apparently become my catch phrase – “Yeah, but…” – I have realized
that so much of the work I’m doing and have been leading up to is to drop the
persona.
Most of my life, I’ve walked with a persona on of some sort
– the shy girl, the drunk wild girl, the promiscuous girl, the “nice” one. I’d
like to come back to center for a moment. Or longer.
Basically, I think that my greatest performance persona will
actually be my authentic self – that seems to me, for myself, for now, to be
the bravest person I can show you on-stage. Now, of course, it is performance, so it’s a bit of an amplified version
of self, but it’s not obscured, which I think is how I’d been before.
So, I love the intention, and think it’ll be simply fun to
play with a persona, that’s, to me, what acting is about, not performance
poetry. In acting, I am someone else,
with a different history, mannerisms, inflection. I am shy or wild or
promiscuous or nice, and I call on those parts of me that understand that
experience, but it’s also
acting.
An interesting distinction was made by my performance poetry
teacher on Tuesday between the two – he said that he likes to use the
microphone and the music stand still in his performances as opposed to without
it, as without it he thinks indicates theater, and with it indicates the
tradition of poetry and writing. I don’t know that I fully agree, but I
understand his point, and it was interesting to then ask myself what do I
consider the difference, if I’m using my own work?
What is performance poetry, and what is theater? Do I
consider them different if I’m speaking my own work? I actually think I don’t.
I think it’s, like I said, an amplified, perhaps more emphatic self, but I
don’t think it’s removed from the writerly tradition to not use pages and a stand. When I’ve performed…
there it is – I was intending to say “when I’ve performed my poetry in the
past,” and that’s what I consider it. I don’t really consider it “reading,”
unless, really, it’s reading.
Even when I stand with my papers in front of me, and a
podium and a mircophone at a poetry reading,
it’s still performance. This isn’t just “reading,” as I would read to you from
the phone book, or a text book. It’s enhanced, it’s intensified, it’s amped up
inflection and emphasis and meaning and pause. I want you to be moved to emotion. 
Seems like theater to me. 
Although, it’ll also be nice to let myself play with the
extremities of a performance persona, just to try it on and have fun with it (who doesn’t love a good wig) –
I still maintain that my boldest persona is just me, micced. 
gratitude · honesty · joy · love · poetry · school · time

Cacophonous Joy

Yesterday, I finished my draft of my poetry thesis. It is
dark, and humorous, and sad, and scared, and thoughtful, and loving, and aimed
toward health. It represents a period in my life, which I’m glad to recognize
as not current, even though the feelings may arise as current.
This is a memoir of sorts. It chronicles a period of time
which, I see now, I do have a degree of distance from, in order to be able to
write about it so fully. I know too it leaves gaps and holes, but I don’t mind
– it’s show, don’t tell, right?
Yesterday, I sort of fell apart around 3pm, as I knew I
needed more time to edit it, little visual changes and some word sorting here
and there. But, I was also supposed to be at class from 4-6:30, and be at a
poetry reading/open mic at 5:30 – 9. How was I to be in so many places at once?
Well, I couldn’t. And the reality of that fell on me at
about 3pm. I made some phone calls; I was told that my main job right then was
to finish my thesis – perhaps you remember some of the craziness when I hadn’t
turned one in, and may not have been graduating in May? Yes, the thesis was my
main job – all other things were secondary.
I spoke briefly to a few friends, wrote emails of apology to
my class teacher and to the organizer of the open mic, and got back to work. I
was not to use the club of
self-flaggellation on myself, I was told. I was not to think that I’d done it
again and over-booked, and I’m a bad person, and here was this opportunity to
put my work out, and I’ve missed it.
I had one job. Thesis.
So, I left those internal critic voices at the door.
Strangely enough, when I did, something miraculous happened.
I finished my thesis. I sent it in multiple document formats
for maximum readability; I cc’d and bcc’d to ensure maximum accountability of
the documents. I sent it off. It was now out of my hands.
I called two friends, let them know that I had sent it, as
I’d told them 3 hours before that I would. And I felt relief. I felt relief as
though it were that cartoon image of someone getting hot, and the thermometer
level inside them fills up with red from the bottom all the way to the top and
bursts out their head. I felt swallowed with relief.
I told my friend, Now, I’m going to drink some water, make a
nice healthy meal, and watch a Disney movie. – That was going to be my celebration. She found that
hilarious: “I’m going to drink … some water.” How times have changed.
So, I did, but as I was cooking my chicken and broccoli and
yummy organic pasta, I had my iPod on shuffle, playing my joy into the kitchen.
And Metallica came on. And for why, who cares, it was that moment. I began to bob and jam and jump around
as I stirred that chicken. Then I abandoned the chicken to just rock out in my
kitchen to the raging flare of electric guitar and passion.
The song finished. But I wasn’t done. I placed my delicate,
hearty, thoughtful meal on a plate, and went into the main room of my studio apartment. I
proceeded to happy dance. That thermometer level radiated out of me and I
DANCED – I shimmied and kicked and ska danced and booty danced and jumped as
very high as I could. I waved my arms like a lunatic and smiled till all of my
teeth shone bright.
This was more than relief at finishing a project for school.
This was pride and gratitude incarnate. This was my joy at having released a
clog in my emotional arteries. I’d moved something. Something big. And I danced
until I couldn’t dance no mo’.
I have released something big here – truth, despair, hurt,
trauma – I’ve let it go. And I’ve opened it to you. I’ve let it have its own purpose outside of my
experience. I’ve given it, and myself, life. It feels like I’ve surrendered
something I’d been holding on to. The clogged artery metaphor feels pretty apt.
But more, it was my throat, my voice, constricted by these stories – and now
that they’re out, birthed, something new can be said, or seen, or felt.
I am humbled by the process of putting this out into the
world. I do hope people enjoy it, or get
something out of it, or find their own voice through reading it. But the
personal gift I have gotten, I could not have predicted: the grin of sheer
bliss as I tucked into my bed last night. … and woke up with again this morning. 

friendship · gratitude · poetry · progress

Toodling Along

So, perhaps it’s the marked decrease in my caffeine intake,
but I feel pretty good. I’m about a 3 or 4 cup-a-day girl, and have been for a
very long time. But, since Monday, I’ve been trying to make… 1 cup a day. I’m
supplementing as much as I need with black tea – but that’s been not all that much. And although I was in bed at 8pm on Tuesday, and had a massive nap on
Monday, I’m wondering if the worst is over or not?
Partly, this is a health thing, partly this is a vanity
thing – I read a few message posts from people saying their skin cleared up
without caffeine, and as embarrassing as it is to say, I still have mild to
moderate bad skin on my back and shoulders, and have since I was a young
teenager. In fact, when I was about 13 and at summer camp, I was so embarrassed
to take of my shirt at the pool that I made up a story that my best friend had
recently drowned and now I had a fear of water. … I don’t think they bought it,
but I never had to go in. I will say, at this point in my life, I’ve given up the hiding – it is what it is, and I do my best, but c’est moi.
The health thing is pretty obvious. Despite the copious
amounts of water that I drink a day, it was recently suggested that I’m still not hydrated enough – Whaddya want me to do,
mainline it?? Caffeine is one of the main culprits in cancelling out my
hydration level.
And so, here we are. It’s an experiment, and we’ll see. But
I liked reading things like “I don’t crash at 3pm anymore” or “Once I was past
two weeks, I felt fine, like I had energy throughout the whole day.” I’ll let
you know.
Other things that may be contributing to my general sense of
calm or low brain activity may be:
I’m almost done with my poetry thesis draft, and will hand it in TONIGHT! It’s basically
a book, is what we have to turn in, and although there are some things that may
be objected to (“It’s not long enough”), I’ll take my chances with what I’ve
got. I actually -almost- like it. Although I’ve been washed overboard by some of the
emotions it arises in me at time, I’ve also found a few moments when I’ve
actually been able to look at it like an editor – with a mildly detached eye
from the content, and more to the flow, what works, what’s extraneous, etc.
That brings me a great amount of relief. And maybe was/is
what this whole project was about. To allow me to get to a place of detachment,
not rejection or dismissal, but of curious observation. Hm, that’s an
interesting poem. Or, yes, I remember that – I’m glad it makes a good piece of
work now. Sure, it’s still my experience, and at the moment it’s still got the
capacity to chuck me off my groundedness, but, I’m learning to dance with that
a little.
Coincidentally, I’m using the “20 minutes on – 5 minutes
off” technique I learned when I was training to be a live art model, although I
didn’t pursue that. But the technique works for writing for an hour (or an hour
and 15 minutes, to be exact). Enough time to get into the work, but not long enough to get mired by it.
And then, 5 minute break. Sometimes I’ve just sat and stared, glassy-eyed and
spun for the 5 minutes. Mostly, I get up, make tea, use the bathroom, move
around a bit. It’s been a useful technique.
And just to round us out, other things on my mind are pretty
positive: I am reading at a poetry/open mic on campus tonight – although what I’m reading I have NO idea, and I haven’t advertised
or invited people mainly because I’ve been so concerned about what on earth I’d
read – not sure if I want to read from my thesis or not, in a 3-5 minute slot, but I might. But I’ll
be happy to be up and out there again.
Also, today is the day that I perform my monologue for my
acting class. It’s Dennis Shepard’s speech from The Laramie Project, about Matthew Shepard’s murder in Laramie, WY back
in 1998. I still remember when it happened, a few folks in the class do, but
most are too young to know about it, being 10 years younger. But the teacher
chose this play, and we each chose a monologue, and I’ve actually, SURPRISE!,
been practicing and reading it over the last two weeks – as a marked difference
from previous auditions when I tried to cram the few days before.
And last, just to say, my very best friend, whom I’ve
written about here before, is coming out to visit from New Jersey in just two
weeks. I’m really excited. Also a bit nervous. 5 days in a studio apartment
with anyone is a lot, but I’m sure it’ll be alright. I’ve learned that
Enterprise Rent-a-Car is actually cheaper than Zipcar if you need it more than
4 hours, and it also takes a debit card, so we’ll be some mobile cats around this fair city.
So, that’s about it. Feeling generally good. A mite nervous
about what on earth I’ll read at tonight’s open mic, but I’m sure it’ll work
out just fine. (I’m even bringing my old chapbooks from last year’s Art Show to
sell – who knows!) 

change · courage · poetry · vulnerability

We have Lift-Off

So, on Wednesday, I called my girl friend from school, and
my first words on her voicemail were, “I need help.” She called me back immediately.
I asked her if I could just come over to work on my thesis
in her presence, just to have another human around as I was attempting
to compile and sort and order my poems into a cohesive whole.
I used to do this as a kid, have a parent just sit nearby –
I didn’t need their input or help, just needed a person there to help me feel
calm enough and supported enough to do the work. She said sure.
So I went over with snacks, like a good Jew, and actually,
she did begin to read it. Some are poems she’d seen before, some are
new. She really liked them. Moreover, one of my concerns is that because my
thesis is basically about me and my story, was it too “myopic,” too personal to
reach anyone else besides me? She said no – she said, in fact, reading my own
stuff helped her to think about her own – she said it was important, and that
she liked how it was written.
She had some good insights and points about how to make it a
cohesive whole, and although my innards scream, “REALLY?!?! YOU LIKE
IT???,” she did.
Yesterday, I went to a coffee shop with everything I’ve got
and began to edit some of them, and to look at the few edits my friend made. It
was interesting. She’d suggested that I consider, as I’m editing and working on
this, to remember that this isn’t “my” story, this is a work I’m giving to
others. That perhaps that could help to take some of the emotional charge and
swept-awayness out of it. Because it’s the same as most “selfish/self-less”
work – I get the benefits of sharing this and someone else gets the benefit
from hearing it.
I tried to keep some of that in mind yesterday. But mostly
what I was struck by was, indeed, how much my writing has changed over the last year. It was a year ago around
this time that my professor “accused” (she says still slightly burned) my
writing of being melodramatic and cliché.
So, I wrote in reaction to that comment, and began to write
in the most “non-emotional,” facts only way that I could.
Turns out – it’s good. My friend asked me this week if I
knew that my strength lay in minimalism – I said no, I had no idea! I had no
idea this writing, this style would come out of me or this master’s program.
But it has. And I like it. She said, she likes that it’s snarky. And indeed it
is. I like that that comes across. It’s quite tongue-in-cheek. Very “lay this out in front of you without any affect,” because the affect is
in how you are absorbing it, what it arises in you – When someone tells you something horrific in a
flat tone, you think serial killer. Well, it’s sort of something like that. The
non-emotionalism is allowing me to tell the story.
Perhaps, one day, if I choose to come back to this content,
I will flesh it out or approach it differently, but for now, this is the only
way I can let you know what happened without freaking out. And you don’t need to know how I felt. Your reaction is likely the same as mine – and that’s the
important part for this writing, or maybe any. To get the reader to feel
something.
So, as I sat, surrounded by other people, my safety blanket,
at the café yesterday and began to chop off whole parts of my earlier work, I began
to see that this body of work may actually work, and that perhaps my writing is
worth while. 

generosity · growth · humilty · poetry · school

Back to Basics.

Sorry folks, for the interruption in my daily musings. I
have been under the weather, and yesterday morning slept in right until I had
to run out to do ‘first things first,’ and then over to school. This morning
was similar. So, thanks for your patience 😉 and for reading. 🙂
Yesterday, I had to run over to school in order to get my
painting professor to sign my “drop form.” Yes, I am dropping painting. A
number of things contributed to this decision. One of which was that I was
unable to do my morning practice on those Monday and Wednesday class mornings – the commute to class
was at an ungodly hour to me.
Another of which was that it wasn’t fun. It came as a
surprise to me to realize that I was feeling pinched by the instruction and
parameters that the class was offering. Surely, part of it was that my work wasn’t being “well received” and my ego was being hurt. But
part of it was that I wanted to do the work I wanted to do – to have fun – and I wasn’t. I was being told things like
“not formally correct” and at this stage of my painting game, I’m not concerned
with things like that. I’m concerned with expression, not correction. When she signed it though, my professor did tell me I have good instincts and to follow them, but that I need some development on my ideas (which I concur, and will do so with more “play”).
Lastly, for dropping painting – the class I was so looking
forward to taking – I have to focus on my “real” thesis. Despite my mental
flights of fancy into ideas for the thesis such as a visual and language art
project, or a 20 minute ballet, my flights have been grounded. For now.

The reality is… that I’m in an MFA program
and that
program has certain prescribed requirements. This is not a free-for-all, however much I’d been playing it as such. So, I have
to play within the rules for now.
As I mentioned in the Reluctant Poet blog, I’m going back to
my original school work and am going to flesh
that out. In truth, some of the poetry I’m producing for it now 
could not have been written any earlier. I wouldn’t have had
access to writing about this a month ago, and certainly not anytime before
that. I’m doing a lot to free my voice and self, and it’s showing up in the
writing… now that I’m being forced to go back to it.
So. It turns out maybe this isn’t such a bad thing after
all. This “having to write a formal poetry thesis” thing. Which is good,
since I’m having to do it anyway, I may not as well see it as torture.
With the graciousness and generosity of the Universe,
yesterday before I went to get my drop form signed by the painting instructor,
I went to see my academic advisor for her signature, and to check in. This woman, is NOT the same as my “thesis advisor,” and
has known me and things about me for almost 2 years. I have a wonderful rapport
with her, and I value her immensely. She’s like a guidance counselor for grad
students ;P
And, that was precisely what I needed yesterday. The first
question she asked was “how’s the thesis,” and although at first I was
reluctant or cagey about the state of distraught I’ve been in over it, it
eventually all came out, tears and all.
She smiled. Kindly. She said that if the work wasn’t pushing
me, if I wasn’t coming up against blocks against it, if I wasn’t kicking and
screaming and being activated by it – then I wouldn’t be doing good work. I wouldn’t be changing as a writer. She
said that this reaction is normal; she
said that she had an all out break-down during her own dissertation. (Which,
btw, she’d shared about briefly at our student orientation, which is why I
then asked her to be my advisor. Her own journey and humanity made her feel
like the right person for me.)
She said that I needed to tell my thesis advisor what was up
with me and the work – why it has been so
hard for me to reapproach it. What’s been going on. And I sort of freeze up,
and say, Yeaaahh….. I know…..
And she says, I’d be happy to write her an email note as to
what’s going on. A short note, just to inform her. The relief I felt was
palpable. I had an advocate. I didn’t even know I needed one, but I said yes.
That I feel tender around all this, and get defensive, and that yes, I’d really
appreciate that.
See, my last interaction with my thesis advisor was that I’d
bring her all my work on Tuesday and we’d see if we can cobble something
together. So, I show up on Tuesday, and spend the half hour before our meeting
on the floor of the hallway with all my poems spread out, and I shuffle them
into an order, and I realize, I really do have a “body of work” that makes
sense – that has a theme, is coherent, and has a message, or a story arc. A
theme that is in perfect alignment with the work I’m currently doing.
And then, at 2pm on Tuesday, I knock on her office door, and
she’s not there. I wait. I fume. I’m all defensive in advance. And she doesn’t
show. … Turns out, she meant next
Tuesday, and I thought this one.
But, it all works out. I get to work through my resentment
some more before I see her; I get to have my academic advisor as my advocate, helping to calm
the waters; and I get to see that I might actually have something to say. In
poetry. 
art · fun · letting go · poetry · recovery · school

The Reluctant Poet

I had the wonderful opportunity yesterday to sit in a park
with one of my best girl friends in the SF sunshine and shade and download the
mental vomit of my thesis bananas.
She had some interesting perspective too. She said that it
seems like I’m meant to be a poet right now. That I’ve tried to hand in and do
something else, and I’m being blocked, and that perhaps, I’m supposed to write
poetry right now.
I don’t want to. I have ALL these “thoughts” and “opinions”
about “poets” and “poetry.” I can’t tell you how rankled I am at conversations
that have included the following after I reluctantly reveal what it is I study at school:
Oh, I hate poetry. (my dentist’s receptionist…)
I don’t really like poetry.
I don’t know any poetry.
What are you going to do with that?
There’s no money in that.
Uh, I don’t know anything about poetry.
I hated poetry in high school.
I think I read Walt Whitman once.
I. Don’t. Give. A. Fuck. I don’t give a fuck what you think
about poetry. And, further, I ought to not give a fuck at the moment what I think about poetry.
I have some messed up ideas and beliefs about poetry. Like it’s not cool;
nobody likes it; nobody cares. Why can’t I be a painter, or a musician, or some
other “acceptable” form of artist? Why do I have to write like that?
So, yesterday before I met with my friend, I went into the
nearby indie bookstore, and I went to the poetry section – which although
toward the back, was not underlit (!). And I began to pick up titles that
interested me. I got to put some back … skip over the Walt Whitman, and … buy two I’d skimmed and thought I’d like. I bought two books of poetry.
I never buy books. Ever. (Well, unless you count the Harry
Potters
, but they’re always OUT at the
library!) I therefore never buy books of poetry. I’ve had the opportunity
through school these last 2 years to read a lot of books of poetry, and buy a
lot of books of poetry. But, they’re not “for me.” They’re not ones I’ve chosen,
ones I’ve looked at and been sparked by. My hand, like Moses, was being pushed
away from the gold. And I burned my tongue — I lost my taste for it.
I’ve been so steeped in poetry, and the language of poetry,
and the analysis of poetry, and the conversations around poetry that I could
probably puke enough letters to make
poetry.
Therefore, it is not suprising that I have not been all that
enthused to reapproach the project I’d vaguely been working on. I know what I
was working on. I know that it’s raw, and honest, and revealing, and
vulnerable. I know that it talks about trauma, and I don’t really want to talk
about trauma. I know some of it is revealing of my parents’ human fallibility and I don’t want to come off as a thirty year old woman blaming her parents. 
My friend asked me what the work wants or needs right now. I said … it wants to be honored. I thought it would
be enough to write some of it out, have some folks read it in class, and shove it away as random pages in random drawers. But apparently this work wants to be held differently.
Apparently, it wants more of a laying to rest than that. That’s what the work
is. It’s an honoring of the past. Like the purpose of a funeral to provide a
space and a container for grief and letting go, this work wants to
be compiled, honored, and set to rest. Not left as it is, scattered parts
of a whole.
Which I suppose is its own metaphor.
So, I, the reluctant poet, got to read some really good,
funny, poignant, clever, honest poetry from my newly purchased book yesterday, one which I bought with my own sense of attraction and desire, not assigned, not suggested reading, not a professor’s newest book. I got to sit on that train with a slight grin, reading art with a perspective shift about my own work that I’m not completely on board with yet, but which apparently is happening anyway.