Welcome To My Bed

On The Quarter-Life Crisis, or, Why Liberal Art Schools Poison Your Expectations of Adult Life

Summer is more than half over and there's been little occassion to breathe.

I have an office job now.  It isn't the best situation on earth, but it also isn't the worst, and they've recently told me they're making me a full-time employee in the fall, which means my second raise since I started in April.  What comes with salary?  Finally beginning to chip away at my student loans, which have been languishing in deferment for the past year while I got my act together.  I, by no means, regret this deferment.  I am of the mind that working a minimum wage job for my first two years in the real world gave me a very concrete understanding of the bare minimum amount of money I need to be able to survive happily.  Now that I make almost double what I was making only a few months ago, I appreciate the wiggle room more.  I can afford to take a cab home some nights if I want.  I can buy my less-flush friends drinks.  I can go to a concert on a whim.  All luxuries I may not have seen as such had I gotten a "real" job right out of college.

I've come across a lot (or at least what seems liek a lot) of commentary on a phenomenon commonly refered to as a quarter-life crisis.  Up until this point, I'd only heard such bizarro terminology in a John Mayer song.  (No, seriously, he has a lyric where he tries to justify a non-commital attitude by saying he might be having a quarter-life crisis.)  But apparently this is a thing people my age are talking about.  Let me just say right now that this concept is UTTER BULLSHIT.  Dear twenty-somethings: you have yet to live; thusly, your life cannot be in crisis.  Just because your parents have stopped paying your bills and sending you care packages and generally holding your hand through all possible hardships does not mean that your existence is awful or oppressive.  It means that you are required to take responsibility.  You know what's excellent about being our age?  How simple it is to change direction.  Don't like your job?  Quit and start fresh.  It's not like you have a decade invested.  You can survive on less money than you think.  Wait tables.  You'll make a lot of money, feel no obligation to anybody you work for or with, and can leave at any time without ruffling anybody's feathers.  Don't like your friends?  There are a million new people waiting to be spoken to in all of the places you go on a daily basis.  Don't like your hobbies?  Stop participating in them, get new ones.

All of the problems discussed in these post-college crisis acrticles miss the point.  It's not that our lives lack meaning.  It's just that we are convinced that everything we do must be meaningful.  So that we can tweet about, make a Facebook event, compose a Kickstarter to fund out dreams, tumbl-blog pictures of our awesome life where everyone is gorgeous and nonchalant and still so impossibly talented and way more interesting than anybody else that has ever existed.  How boring have we become as a society that an exciting life is one that is defined by being able to boil down what we are most passionate about into 140 characters or less?  Dear twenty-somethings: if you think your life is over already, you are the only one who sees it that way.

I'm tired of reading about college-educated young people who are apathetic about circumstances that others might find desirable.  the problem is college.  The problem is a culture of exceptionalism.  You know those awesome jobs everyone promised you could get as long as you got your four year degree and worked an awful unpaid internship and busted your ass?  They are not handed out with the diplomas.  In the work world, you have to start at the bottom, build a skill set beyond writing papers synthesizing critical theories regarding your chosen field of study (be honest--did you really think this would be useful in any arena beyond academia?), and send out resumes whenever you see something that even remotely resembles your dream job.

Here are some true facts: working for a living sucks, being a person is too expensive, and emotional connectivity in our generation is becoming more and more impossible.  Want a remedy?  Me too.  So does everyone.  The best advice I can offer is this--if there's something about your life that is eating at you, change it now before that nagging feeling of defeat becomes the norm.  If you want to make art, make time to make art.  If you want to see friends, make time to see friends.  There may be a finite number of hours in the week, but how many of those do you spend complaining about having a pretty-okay life?

I am more than guilty of ranting and raving about everything I wish could be different, if only I had the means to make change.  But I do, and so do you.

Anyway.  Speaking of twenty-somethings working hard at being awesome instead of griping about how the scholarship for getting stoned and writing poetry ran out after four years, I'm showing my paintings in public for the first time ever at this event, the official Booze Époque launch party on September 15th, as well as reading a bit of booze-themed poetry.  If you're in the Somerville/Cambridge/Boston area, you can get on the guest list by donating $20 to the cause.  Beyond that, there are exciting prizes for your support--at the $150 dollar level, you get one of ten 8"x10" panels I've been toiling over.

Here they are in the early stages.  At the gallery, I'll also have several more small paintings for sale, as well as a few 18"x24" panels.  I am beyond excited to have people see my art somewhere other than at my apartment, where typically a canvas sits on my easel for upwards of six months without much changing.  September 15th in Central Square, Cambridge.  Save the date, donate twenty dollars, drink delicious boutique cocktails with locally-sourced ingredients, and see a bunch of music and poetry performed.  Sounds like a perfect Saturday to me.  I'd love to see you there.  So I can hug you and remind you that there is no such thing as having an easy time all the time.

Orchids, intertextuality, and doctoral programs.

Everywhere, orchids.  In the mystery man's house when Donna takes over the Meal-on-Wheels program on Twin Peaks; in The Orchid Thief (obviously), driving people mad with covetous desire; in poems I read by accident.  Everywhere I turn, these strange plant aliens have popped up.  For two weeks, all that I consume has been nothing but orchids.

I like to think of texts (a term a define broadly as anything that can be read, where read means consumed and interpreted, so books, film, TV, songs, etc. are all texts in one way or another) as creatures that speaks to each other if you let them.  This probably stems from any critical work I've ever done: I don't believe in writing on a text by itself.  There always has to be another text to let it talk to.  Blame this on my college experience.  Hampshire doesn't just read books.  Hampshire reads books in context of other books.  Change the context, and the entire experience of a novel shifts.  Typical assignment: read your assigned novel of the week and come up with an essay topic, then look for articles supporting your thesis; if there are articles supporting your thesis, pick a new topic.  This is how you keep critical work from stemming only from the hybridization of two formerly held notions about a text.

I got into a conversation recently about graduate school.  (I have a lot of these higher education talks while half-daydreaming at my minimum wage barista job.  Call it wishful thinking.)  My conversation partner seemed to believe that holding an advanced degree meant you were some kind of brilliant, original thinker.  If only.  I've met plenty of people with advanced degrees who aren't worth the paper their diploma was printed on.  And here's why: a PhD program can't teach you to be an original thinker; it can only teach you to organize your thoughts in an academically acceptable scaffolding.  No one needs to be brilliant to be called, "Doctor".  They only need to be observant enough to find where critical lines about any given topic intersect, then point out those intersections and move the conversations about the given topic a slight stumble forward.  Simple and plain, most dissertations do little to advance their fields other than repackage information.

But the fact remains, I get dizzy when I imagine completing a doctoral program.  Something about being not only allowed, but required, to spend that amount of time rooting around in a library looking for unarticulated truths reminds me of Indiana Jones.  In a much more musty, sedentary way.  But the adventure is still there.  Conversation between two texts assists in interpretation of both.  Conversation between more than two texts creates an exciting web of interconnected ideas that helps sift out new things from my brain, and also helps mine for images I didn't know I had in me.  Textual excavation is also a process of self-discovery.  Regardless of the acceptable critical perspective on literature or any text, my own favored method of interpretation has always been emotional.  How does a piece of art make me feel?  It is that gut tug that makes any piece of art resonate past the year it's written in.

Back to orchids.  They grow in the most strange ways, latched onto the sides of trees and the edges of cliffs, roots dangling in the air.  They don't bloom for their first seven years of life.  They have odd, ugly faces, wear funny hats, die easily when removed from their misanthropic swamps.  How like artists.  We know little about how or why they grow the way they do, but the more strange and rare they are, the more eagerly they're pursued.

Sourcing shrapnel.

My favorite song of the past few days (to be sung along to, LOUDLY, while dancing in the shower, or the kitchen, or the car, or anywhere really):

I think that settles the fact that I need to own a fringe dress as soon as possible. For New Years this year. And then every day.

And then there's this gem, which I found while procrastinating the other day and then subsequently fell out of my chair laughing. I dedicate it to my sisters. And Cass. Cos she hates this song with a fiery passion.

Speaking of procrastination--I somehow managed to turn in both pieces of my final on time, despite going to Boston for Cantab and getting riotously sauced and sleeping maybe three hours in total. My advisor congratulated me this afternoon in our meeting, then asked me if everything was alright. I guess I looked a little drawn. Behind my eyes, there was a waking dream of the night before--so so much booze, Fame playing on the wall of one of the bars we went to, burlesque night hosted by a Nick Cave wannabe in a velvet suit, and my Thriller shoes getting their curse broken. Right now, after a seven hour nap, I feel a lot more like this:


Or this:


Or this:


And as my own semi-private happy dance, I named the poetry manuscript after a line of Plath. I am just a big ol' nerd.

A big ol' nerd graduating college in a month. Shit is REAL. I feel really weird about it. But we can talk about all that later. For now, check the new tour dates! Soon I'll be on the road, my favorite of all places. This is apparently what it looks like to live the dream. Who's got the champagne?


This is more of an organizational thing for me but...

...I have a lot on my mind that I need to organize and you all get to see the thoughts un-knot themselves because typing into a blog window is the only way I can consciously turn off my filter and just think out loud. Okay. Here we go.

Since the beginning of my year-ish-long thesis project, I have said that the thing would happen in three parts. The first part was to be my novel. Novels are large and difficult to get along with (at least while writing them), so I gave that aspect most of the weight. The second two components are a poetry/essay collection about my relationship to language, along with a recording of selections from whatever writing I wanted to read aloud. The novel continues to be the main impetus for this project, but the other pieces refuse to pipe down about their importance. For example, my entire summer has been dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of poetry and its performance. I was on my first slam team, and I dealt with all of the joys (and equal pains) of that process. And then, suddenly, it was over. In the process of thinking a lot about the processes of how poems are born, how they grow to be the best they can be for the stage, and how the stage can best serve the poetry, I have had a lot of serious talks. Now that it is August, and all of the "official" poetry business is through, I have the tapes of these talks playing on loop in my mind. I hear myself, in echo, stating in various permutations, "the separation of the mind and body is what kills, or at least tortures, the artist" and "slam, for me, is the recombination of the mind and body for the poet" and all of it sounds pretentious and scholarly and detached from what I actually mean.

What comes from hearing these conversations repeating and repeating themselves to me is a compulsion to reason all of it out. To follow my logic wherever it takes me and write it all down--a transcript of a summer of thought, if you will. I think that I might need to do a series of interviews with my artist friends (especially those who are or have been involved in slam) to compile some data to bounce ideas off of. Which means I need a tape recorder. Which means I should probably go to the store and buy one.

I have made a list of topics. I will write a poem for each of these topics, then arrange the poems in a way that makes sense. I think this is how you make a poetic essay? (I am not good at remembering how to do real school things.) It will argue, in its final form, that my experience of slam is an approach that allows me to involved both my mind and my body in the writing process. Hmm. The idea seemed so much larger and more nebulous before I had it written down.

Everything is clear now. I must tell someone.

Digging in for the long haul.

Remember how I had New Years resolutions? They've been nagging at me like hungry puppies because I've basically been ignoring them. Especially the one where I said I'd read a book every two weeks. That's not been happening quite the way I'd planned it. But I did happen to finish I Am Not Myself These Days (in tears) last night. The need to rescue someone. I know that impulse well. I'd say the last fifty pages of the book would have destroyed me for the next few days had I not read them at a ridiculously late hour and thus dulled my sense of anxiety at seeing shades of my own behavior in a memoir about someone else's life. I wrote the title on my calendar, just like I did Maragaret Atwood's The Penelopiad when I finished it back in January. And now I'm not quite sure where to begin with the rest of my stack.

For my thesis, I have been compiling a bibliography of all of the things that may of may not end up influencing what i write and how I write it over the course of the next year. It's daunting to make a list so bid and broad and general, but I'm trying to be thorough. There are mix CDs for each of the characters and locations in the novella, poems of invented sexual histories, every used page from the notebook I take orders in at work, and then this giant stack of books that will only get larger as this project rolls along, slowly getting larger than me.


Sorry for the crazy eyes. It's early yet.

Thus far the list of the texts most immediately next to me is as follows-- Communion: The Female Search for Love by bell hooks, A Brief Stay With the Living by Marie Darrieussecq, How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers, Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf, The Path to the Spiders' Nest by Italo Calvino, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (great name, right?), Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter, and An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski. Don't ask me what feminist perspectives on love have to do with method acting. These are books I still have to sit with, so give me some time for the connections between them to materialize.

Also, it's funny (and frustrating), but lately I haven't been able to write without some kind of order to do so. I had to use a Rachel McKibbens prompt to get myself going for a class assignment yesterday afternoon, and though I really liked what I got out of the effort, I was pretty miffed at myself for needed the assistance. But then again, I suppose these things happen to the best of us. Someone told me once that writer's block is just a fear of telling your truth. I'm desperately trying to get over that fear.

But I shouldn't worry too much. In my final committee meeting at breakfast yesterday morning, my advisors both told me outright that they really respect and admire my work over the past year and a half. It felt really good to hear that after all of this toiling.

Magic morsel #3.

I'm trying to do a bit of research on sex work, mostly on the performance field of business, for my thesis (it will all make sense once its finished, but for now, its a bit hard to explain). A while ago, my cousin suggested I pick up a copy of I Am Not Myself These Days, which is a memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, a drag queen who gets romantically entangled with a male escort. Besides the author being both snarky and incisive about absolutely everything, Kilmer-Purcell really has a way with pacing. In one of my favorite scenes thus far, he describes the process of sobering up in the middle of an afternoon advertising meeting and grasping around the corners of his formerly blacked out mind for what he was supposed to be pitching to the execs--every excruciating half-detail and hazy movement from the night before is spot on.

And the cover has a goldfish.


But most importantly, Booklist says, "Again and again in this rich, adventure-filled book, Kilmer-Purcell illustrates the truth of Blake's proverb, 'The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.'"

Who knew a Harper Perennial paperback was the kind of place they throw around proverbs and weighty names? "Not I," said the frog.

Anyway, I'm loving this book. And I'm definitely including it in my thesis research bibliography. Contempt of the academy be damned!

Bulleted and busy.

This week I

+ quit being a librarian (Katie exclaimed "But that's such a huge part of who you are!" and I agree, but I was getting ragged)
+ wrote a piece of prose fiction for the first time since December
+ wrote a poem I was scared to read in public for the first time since December
+ impressed the manager who's leaving us for a video game company with my knowledge of RPGs
+ met with my writing mentor, cried, got a list of books to read and an admonition about my tendency to sensor myself in the face of the academy
+ turned in my FINAL final portfolio, which entailed having tea with my advisor at her kitchen table and chatting about her hopes that I'd go to graduate school
+ saw Tara Hardy perform//got told I was killing her "with awesome"//melted into a puddle
+ embarrassed myself in front of Charley's dad at least three times
+ was described by a professor as intensely motivated and amazing (I wasn't even in the room for the compliment)
+ watched my friends rally around one of our own in the face of some sidewalk racism
+ locked my keys in my car for the billionth time (you'd think I'd have copied them by now)
+ ate a giant pretzel with honey mustard and smiled a lot

My schedule has shifted into a space I am not quite sure of. Working lunch shifts is a pretty big change of pace for someone used to being in an office in time to meet the newspapers. I'm more than happy to upset that routine.

Also, since discovering it, I've been saving half the image feed from DETHJUNKIE* in a folder entitled "marry me". I really just want to lie on the kitchen floor with a boge.


Or brush my teeth with JD and hit the town on a low-rider in with my cowboy boots and yesterday's unwashed hair.

Kat calls her "Taylor Swift gone wrong", which I think is fairly accurate. The opposite of a Nashville-born crossover album is totally an auto-tuned dance pop one. She used to irk me, but this girl is ridiculous in the way 3OH!3 is ridiculous (which is probably why they guest on her next single)--she can't be serious right?? RIGHT?! "The dudes are lining up cos they hear we got swagger/but we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger"??!!!

I'd like to remind our friend Ke$ha of this particular jaunt:

What types of moves are those, Mick? Clearly the right ones. The mullet! The silk shirt! The utter lack of concept! How existential of you, boys. As an aside, I want your jumpsuit Bowie. And your haircut. And your life, so I can have awkward dance parties with Mick Jagger.

Brevity is a burden.

Today is:

twenty pages I must pare down to ten
no natural light strong enough
lazy hours in mountains of paper

an old professor suddenly psyched on my thesis

rereading critical papers from last year
wondering how much more I've forgotten

wanting to give up on physical proof

praying with closed fists to break something


In short, all of it to wade through and no idea where to begin.

Nerding out, newly incognito.

1. I have work in five hours, so this will be brief. I finished my first final tonight, the one that is due last. I guess we'll call today working backwards? I'm very proud of the thing though--a big manila envelope full of poems from one of my workshops. I did revised drafts for almost all of them and turned in a few other extras. One item knocked off the to-do list.

2. The last meeting of Woman & Poet took place in the Smith rare book room this afternoon. I got to listen to recordings of both Virginia Woolf reading aloud from an essay of hers and Sylvia Plath being interviewed by Peter Or on the BBC about writing. A favorite quote from Ms. Plath, on her recently discovered affinity for the novel: "I can't put toothbrushes in a poem." I kept looking over at Cassandra giddily the entire session--if I am completely honest with you, I had to resist the urge to clap my hands in sheer delight, and I also found it difficult not to interject biographical knowledge into the lecture, even though it was being done by Karen Kukil, who just so happens to have been the editor of Plath's unabridged journals. Today was a day made in heaven, that is, if it weren't for the slush storm.

3. I was precluded from driving to the Cantab tonight by virtue of the fact that someone decided it would be a good idea to heft a large bucket of slush over the Northeast. Snow is pretty to look at, sure, but I was up to the tops of my Docs in it leaving the house this morning. The only reason I am forgiving the universe for this foregone road trip is because I already have one lined up to replace it--on Friday after class, I'm driving to Providence for my sister and her roommate's Christmas party. I foresee large amounts of wine and Christmas shopping this weekend.

4. Speaking of which, I am deadly behind on Christmas gifts. I can't go into specifics here because I'm sure I'll spoil someone's surprise, so let's just say that there's lots of leg work to be done and leave it at that.

5. You may or may not have watched the video blog, but if you have, you saw that I was in the process of dying my hair. I am proud to announce that is now fully dyed (duh) and is quite seriously RED. I feel a bit like an anime character. I'm not sure if that can be in a good way, but I still like it. On the other hand, I feel like I shouldn't wear pink for a little while. Next stop, platinum blonde cotton candy hair like GaGa at the end of the "Bad Romance" video. Maybe. If I keep feeling restless and aesthetically ambitious in the same breath, I'll keep exploiting that cross-section.

The fever pitch, and swing.

1. My thesis is a giant, diabolical machine sweeping all in its path up into its arms like children lifted into Santa's lap: it's terrifying, and there will be pictures, and many people will be involved. Or I guess that's just my imagining of it this week. They FINALLY posted the list of faculty assignments for the Creative Writing department, and now I know for absolute certain that Nell is going to be my committee chair. That is a sigh of relief, one tiny box checked off the list, and counting. The next order of business: find a committee member. I suppose these things happen in increments, hence the time-based nature of life? I am rambling and hungover and unprepared to be fully in the day, even though it is nearly two o'clock in the afternoon.

2. Last night Corrina Bain featured at Slam Collective, and as has become our colloquial phrase for such seriously awesome poetic experiences, she melted my face off. I catch myself using this colloquialism most frequently in reference to female poets, maybe because this is my year of epic feminism and woman love (I say this tongue in cheek, but also mostly serious), but also because it is most appropriate to the synesthesia that I have during the very best performed poems. And lately the very best have been by women. Then on the page, so much Sylvia, and right this very minute I'm having tea with Sexton. John Berryman's Dream Songs is buried next to Clarabelle on my desk. I borrowed it from Cass months ago and have yet to read more than one because of how many ladies have taken up residence in my big hollow head. I lent her my James Tate and she's done much better with it, but she always liked men writers better than I did. Like I've said in several recent posts, men just are not a large part of my reading life. Sorry boys, step your game up maybe?

3. But the boys are not to be forgotten about either. I've been spending lots of time listening to wordy records while I live fully immersed in my thirty or forty library books (my nest has grown quite massive and beyond its usual, already overflowing, bounds)--Adam Falkner's hip hop album Control the Circle, Sean's Pornography Diaries, the 2009 Cantab team's CD, and Connor and Ian's album The Narwhal's Revenge Song (beats and goldfish, mmm mmm mmm). It just so happens that most of the wordy tracks in my library are by men, which is acting as a nice balancing force while I've crawled into the life of Sylvia Plath and refuse to relocate until after the actual end of the semester. Even though my paper is due in rough form this Friday. And I should not be so fully amenable to living inside Plath. I am way too comfortable with the vocabulary of her existence. I need counterweights to keep me from disappearing into the abyss.

4. Continuing to put off the remaining New Jersey posts. Hopefully I'll get to them before I'm back in New Jersey again. In lieu of going to Puerto Rico for break, Georgie may or may not end up staying at 82 Columbus with me. If it happens, I expect extra debauchery, along with lots of angsty poems that will probably never see the light of day. When the two of us are in a room too long, shit gets deep. Or giggly. One of the two. Either way, break is beckoning with long bony winter fingers. I'm excited. I feel like I might be in my childhood house for the first serious snow of the year.

5. As an after-thought, my new book (Spindle, which is described in greater detail here) came back from the printer yesterday. It's $5. Ask me about it when you see me, if you want.

Words of the Day.

Several posts about Jersey happenings still need writing, but in the meantime, here is a quote from theory on modern confessional poetry from the collection Modern Confessional Writing: New Critical Essays, from a chapter by Tracy Brain entitled "Dangerous confessions: The problem of reading Sylvia Plath biographically". I think it applies to all confessional writing and wish people would remember these kinds of questions when attending slams, or, I dunno, talking in class about Plath as the definite speaker in ALL OF HER POEMS when that is so clearly not the point.

Who provides the 'details from
life' of a supposedly confessional
writer that we then base our
reading of their poems upon?
How do we know what 'situations'
were '"real"'?  How can we ever
hope to distinguish the 'extreme
diction and address' that is
prompted by lived events
from a vividly imagined
drama that is the result
of an expertly assumed style?

Five things (11.17).

1. I gave myself a haircut today. I keep getting indecisive about whether or not I want to venture growing the stuff out, but the scissors are always triumphant.

2. I have a headache that will not quit. I am not happy about this. I have to drive to New Haven to retrieve Sean from the train (somehow, this train station business sees fit to plague me on a semi-regular basis) and I'm not looking forward to it. I must keep the gas money in mind.

3. Ticketmaster has to be one of the worst and most disorganized companies EVER, and here's why: after selling my sister our Lady Gaga tickets not without much strife and page-reloading (I won't even go into the ludicrous pre-sale issues we faced and eventually gave up on), they contacted her several days later to notify her that they had accidentally given us handicapped seats and thus had to cancel the sale, and sadly could not provide replacement tickets because the show was now sold out. Now, besides being sloppy and aggravating, they were basically lying. TicketsNow, a resale company that they own, is still selling tickets (although the "cheap" seats are upwards of $130). Now, I don't care how much red tape they'd be sidestepping, if we made a big enough fuss, we could probably have tickets. But who wants to sit on hold for hours at a time only to be told by multiple representatives that no one is at fault. UMMM EXCUSE ME: if your computerized ticket-choosing system gives us tickets you cannot technically sell us, then I'm pretty sure it's your fault. No wonder they have lawsuits on their hands. So much for scalping being illegal. FAIL, Ticketmaster. EPIC FAIL.

4. After deciding to go home to Jersey this weekend for happy, carefree reasons (getting writing done, spending time with my family, etc.), I found out yesterday morning that a family member passed away and now the weekend will be spent in funerary ways. On top of the already awful impact that had on me, I also had to grapple with the fact that no one even told me he was sick, and his death wasn't exactly sudden. I'm getting very tired of my family try to "protect" me by withholding things. It's amazing-- sometimes I feel like I absorbed all the emotional sensitivity in the house, so that I can be sad enough for ten people, whereas the rest of them act like robots and don't discuss anything that isn't Jesus or dinner menu. I was really looking forward to a little R & R, and now I'm dreading this trip; I'm probably going to spend the whole weekend biting my tongue to keep from reprimanding my parents.

5. In happier news, I just had an aimless meeting with my committee member about community service, concert tickets, writing process, and slam poetry. I never thought I would be discussing the aforementioned Lady Gaga disaster with one of my writing professors, but I'm just so frazzled today that that's where the conversation ended up, besides discussing Bob Dylan and scamming seats at a Cream show in Albany back in the day. The conversation eventually turned to our final meeting for me Div 2 (this whole thesis thing is basically happening NOW), and then we realized she'd be free to be in Boston on Wednesday night for once (she lives in the city and commutes west for little chunks of the week to work at Hampshire). Just so happens, that particular Wednesday is the Cantab semi-final for season champ, which I could potentially end up competing in (if I EVER win a Cantab slam, that is). Regardless of whether I end up slamming then or not, it'll still be exciting to introduce one of my professors to my unofficial writing classroom, especially because many Hampshire poets love her dearly. And there I go, talking about her as if she's some retired old fogey. She isn't. She's really rad. She has a framed picture of Joe Strummer above her desk in her office and a doctoral degree in anthropology. Sometimes she makes me seriously consider what my life would be like if I became an academic. But shh, don't tell anybody.

Lazy unseasonably warm Sunday.

The weekends last so much longer here than the actual week. I feel as though I haven't been to class since last Monday (even though that is a bigger lie than saying I saw any respectable hour of today's morning). The days keep spilling into one another, which is probably symptomatic of the amount of writing (read: editing) I've been doing. If this is how much I get done while still taking a more-than-full course load, I'm not quite sure what exorbitant ridiculousness I'll manage once we are fully into December. Oh, Thesis Project, be afraid! Be very afraid!

Besides seeing George Watsky perform on campus, followed by a basement black light party, I spent last night sober and incredibly exhausted. Today I slept late and decided to do some housekeeping. I shifted my furniture around, grouped drafts for revision, made a burrito, took out the recycling, blah blah blah blah. Also, I picked up a book of poetry for a short breather.


I don't spend nearly enough time with all the bushy-bearded old men on my bookshelf. Virginia has scared them all into a corner by talking to her sparrows in Greek.

I'm taking a little road trip to New Jersey this weekend to trap the magic of these crazy-long weekends and harness their power-- I have a chapbook to pull together, a retrospective essay to write, and maybe twenty or thirty books to plow through for that pesky final paper (the last of its kind before we plunge headlong into Creative Writing Land). Everyone keeps asking me about graduate school. IDON'TWANTTOTALKABOUTEDUCATIONTHANKYOU. I am already overwhelmed enough by this leg of college, let's not jump the gun. I need to wait tables all night and write all day for at least three years solid before I think about subjecting myself to further lecture hall torture sessions.

Cheers from the land of academia!


The fever pitch of the week has somewhat subsided, and now Cass and have confined ourselves to the living room (mostly because the cold is party prohibitive, or maybe we are just already spinsters) to do research for a final paper not due for another month. She is reading Christina Rossetti: A Literary Biography, and I am reading Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath. I suppose our friends don't refer to our place as the Lady Poet House for nothing.

Other than that, peppermint schnapps and hot cocoa all around, and I welcome winter-- I dare the cold to breathe on me like it's January. Just watch, Western Mass, I will defy you. I will continue wearing slip dresses under my wool coat until the bitterest of nights, and there is nothing anyone can do about it!

We are perhaps bordering on a cautionary tale: buried in library books, enthusiastically reading passages aloud to one another, making exclamations about the ways in which women of the canon were crippled by the expectations of their environments but still somehow managed the life of a writer (too frequently at the price of great personal strife), and then, on a lighter note, getting mildly delirious--

Me: "You can't italicize a picture..."
Cass: "It's not done. It's just not done, Emily."

Ten things about today.

1. I am reading a psychoanalytic perspective on Sylvia Plath's work at the reference desk called Sylvia Plath: Poetry and Existence. It is very wordy and from the seventies. I am not sure if the writer is angry at Plath for her suicide or defending her behavior in talking about her schizoid personality and its manifestations in her work. Basically nerding it out for the first time in weeks. I have a taken a turn towards the academic, a process of throwing myself back into books that I tend to restart every time I get seriously overwhelmed by the rest of the world. Case in point: last winter, from about January to early April.

2. I am concerned that all of this reading about Plath is going to make me psychoanalyze my own writing. I don't think I'm ready for that, but I'm also pretty sure I wouldn't even know how to go about it in the first place. David Holbrook, in the aforementioned text, has thus far talked a good deal about Plath's reliance on an interior world to support her when her articulations were not understood by their intended audience. To be plain, she retreated inside of herself looking for answers when no one else had any for her, because no one understood her questions. He argues that her answer was the wrong one, quite passionately, saying a bunch about the glorification of modernist literature in the current (1970s) school system being responsible for rampant narcissism and nihilism.

3. The facsimile of the original manuscript for Ariel is one of the required texts for the class I'm doing all this research reading for. We haven't gotten to it in discussion yet, but we will soon, and I have to do a presentation. All the included scans of her type-written final drafts (in the order that she originally intended!!!) live at one of the Smith libraries. I suspect that I will soon make a pilgrimage, so that I may cry, and swoon, and wonder aloud what has changed about Smith since she went there on scholarship forever ago.

4. My aunt sent me a Halloween card from West Palm Beach. I never get mail, and I was definitely not expecting any from her. It had birthday money in it, which made me wonder why she didn't just send a birthday card.

5. I skipped work this morning because the pile-up of exhaustion from the events of the past week proved too crippling for me to get out of bed. I literally opened my laptop, which was next to my face, wrote a two-line email to my supervisor about feeling "under the weather" and hit send, promptly falling back asleep with my hand still on the keyboard. I did not write anything while asleep, but I kind of wish I had.

6. Every Thursday we end up talking about some aspect of space in our poetry workshop. I mostly blame Charley for this. Today's space topic was the space program during the Cold War. Sophia whispered to me that "cosmonaut" is one of her favorite-sounding words, much better than "astronaut". I would probably agree that "cosmonaut" sounds better to me, but that's probably only because I am less familiar with it.

7. I am getting very tired of my vocabulary. I need to read a book translated from another language so that I can think about sentence constructions differently. This method usually yields great results-- last semester, my seminar on the contemporary European novel drastically altered my writing. I produced some of the cleanest prose I ever have as an indirect result of the reading I did over those few months. I think I'll email the professor and ask for some suggestions, although she'll probably just recommend that I read more Sebald, and then I'll get terribly depressed and have World War nightmares that only subtly hint at what is truly going on in the background.

8. Kat Mott is sitting in my living room waiting for me to leave work. I feel like an over-acheiving employee for staying ten minutes past the end of my shift, especially because there's no one here to even see if I show up or not.

9. Cassandra bought groceries, the (arguable) best of which is my current favorite snack: Ruffles and Philadelphia cream cheese. Esme and I discussed the delightfulness of chips and cream cheese today, and it seems like we three have stumbled onto a goldmine of simple yet delicious snack food. Although Cass keeps buying fat free cream cheese, which sometimes creeps me out if I think about it too hard.

10. I have to do a presentation on the origins of microfiction tomorrow afternoon and have not done a lick of work for it. Time to slave over some photocopies of Baudelaire.

The brain is a labyrinth.

Anxiety issues are something worriers like us (okay, maybe just me...) are born predisposed to according to this New York Times article.

Now, I'm not typically heavy into psychology, but the ways of the brain fascinate me; the fact that our levels of reaction to outside stimulus as infants remains on some level consistent as we age is compelling because I've always heard of the brain referred to as "plastic" or constantly changing. If something like potential for anxiety remains consistent, what does that mean for people who are crippled in their daily lives by worry?

Questions of consciousness, bodily experience, temperament, and the ways in which humans are still such scientific mysteries were among the topics of conversation last night after I got back from one of my all-time favorite nights at the Cantab. My friend Kat's academic concentration is based on a holistic approach to the brain, and we did a little talking about the nature of memory. If there was a science I'd like to sit in on simply as a curious observer, it would be any and all sciences involving the study and theorization of the human mental experience.

And speaking of anxiety, I have a writing assignment weighing heavily on me at the moment; enjoy the article!