Welcome To My Bed

How I Fell Out of Love With Manhattan




Some days, I envy the kind of people who are born, go to school, raise a family, grow old and die all in the same metro area.  I used to think I'd be one of these people.  My family is from a tiny one traffic light town a stone's throw from Manhattan.  When you start out that close to what many people claim is the greatest city in the world, it doesn't seem like much improvement could be made to your location.  I came of age on NJ Transit: every weekend of early high school meant days-long sleepovers with my best friend at her family's place in Weehawken and PATH trips from Hoboken to Lower Manhattan; later, another friend and I would stash his car in the lot behind an Asian restuarant in Fort Lee and walk across the GWB, or take the tiny privately run buses from one side of the river to the other.

When I was a teenager, the world was a vast, uncharted place that I could do just fine without.  I had my future laid out right in front of me.  I want to go to Cooper Union, live in Alphabet City, take the bus home to visit my little brother with spoils from street fairs and flea markets on alternating weekends.  All of my closest friends planned to move to New York after graduation.  We spent nights in friend-of-friends apartment watching FLCL, using up endless rolls of film taking pictures of ourselves, playing a game called 'brackets' where we pitted pairs random nouns against each other head-to-head until we were only left with two options to defend.  Analog versus digital.  Britney versus Christina.  Diesel versus unleaded.  As the list narrowed, things became much more bizarre.  Hair cuts versus spare tires.  Whiskey versus toothpaste.  The Lakers versus table salt.  But never once did we pit New York against anything.  There was no contest.

When applying to colleges, I went through several rounds of rigorous extracurricular art classes trying to get my portfolio up to snuff for the review process inherent to applying to straight-up art schools.  Whenever a rep from one of the big schools came through, I would give them my work to look at, hoping to get early feedback and keep honing until I was unstoppable.  I got accepted to several school based on these reviews my junior year of high school, but I wasn't ready to accept, because none of them were in Manhattan.  (I apologize for the ill-disguised humblebrag.)  But even though I didn't take any of the offers, it woke me up to the possibility of other cities.  Baltimore.  San Franciso.  Boston.  It had never occurred to me that there were other places I might want to cut my teeth.

My last year of high school, Meredith Lippman told me she would hunt me down and kill me if I ever stopped making art.  She also told me to apply to Hampshire, a now-infamous nudge that resulted in me moving the middle of Western Massachusetts dairy farmland and finding the room I needed to breathe.  Hampshire got me hooked on slam poetry, introducing me to poets from everywhere.  I housed roughly half the people who came through for features on my living room couch.  And barely any of them were from New York.  They loved their cities as fiercely as I thought I loved Manhattan and defended them as such.  When I cycled through Gotham on my way home for holiday breaks, I realized that some of the glow was gone.  It didn't seem so special when compared to the way my new friends talked about Chicago or Denver or Madison or Portland or Vancouver.

While at Hampshire, I made near-weekly pilgrimages to Cambridge for readings at the Cantab.  The magic of a single bar basement (that admittedly spells like rat piss) overtook any remaining love I had for New York and replaced it with a deep-seated fondness of the two-hour slog down I-90, the endless open mic, and the alley behind the bar where I have had more exquisite, hysterical, illicit moments than I dare to recount to the internet.  Many more memorable nights than Manhattan had ponied up during our time together.

I moved into the living room of my sister's one bedroom Providence apartment for a summer between semesters and had more free time than I knew what to do with.  I befriended a gang of singer-songwriters and spent my evenings hanging out windows of the 3rd floor at AS 220 with a cigarette, wandering the tiny downtown laughing loud enough to wake the dead.  One of these new friends gave me knife when he heard where my apartment was.  Another introduced me to the loop pedal.  I had met the city with a severely broken heart and when I went back to my cow field the following fall, I was good as new.  The city wasn't what I was used to--a bit unfinished, busted up and dneglected anywhere beyond the mall or College Hill--but that rough charm made me feel charming too.  I hadn't even seen the change happen, but I was assertive, convinced of my worth.  Where in Manhattan I had always defered to some near-stranger to tell me what I was worth, Providence taught me that your value as a person is only what you believe it to be.  If you can sell yourself as a success story, anyone listening will nod their head in agreement.

With school winding down, the decision about where to lay down roots was present, but suddenly unanswerable.  So many places had my heart.  I stayed close to school for six months, unwilling to go back to any city at all.  As a teenager, I'd been convinced rural living would be the end of me.  But more and more, abandonning New England became the thing I feared.  Manhattan was a foreign country.  Rhinestone and neon and teeming with so much I could no longer call familiar.  I had a friend nagging me to move back so we could get some tiny space in Brooklyn and "live the dream".  After a lot of excuses, I finally just said no outright.  It was bizarre to hear the words leave my mouth.  I don't want to move to New York.  I'd outgrown the fairytale.

I always took for granted that my twenties belonged to the fat glut of light across the river from my family's house.  I spent so many years praying to the shine there.  Make me special, make me interesting, make me one of your hum.  I remember a morning when I woke up at 6 AM on the floor of a dorm at the New School and thought, yes, this, every single day--this!  Certainly, I could've been happy there.  But I also know how grounded I feel here, in Boston.  And how affectionate I feel towards Providence, and Portsmouth, and Pittsburgh, and a handful of other underrated cities that all live in my heart.  Manhattan is supposed to be the best, but for me, it hasn't be in contention for quite some time.

Poetry: what I think I know.

I do not claim to be an expert on anything literary.  I am, at best, an enthusiastic novice.  I like words.  Words and I get along REAL WELL.  I'd say I read roughly one novel and one poetry collection a week. This is probably more than the average person, but I'm lucky enough to spend most of my time at work leaning against a counter with a book in hand.  Roughly five years ago, things were very different: I was new to the parentless world, at college as an art student, journaling furiously, showing none of my writing to anybody.  I read the same few books religiously (The Bell Jar, Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Please Don't Kill The Freshman), mining them for clues on how the whole words thing works.  But I did not read poetry.  Poems were a nebulous form that seemed almost evil because of how powerful people claimed they were.  You could memorize them, carry them around mentally, spit them out at anybody else like a spell, sing them to the tune of popular songs, wrap them in a love letter and use them for personal gain.  As a teenager, that power in economy was terrific and horrific at once.  I wrote poems every day, excruciatingly bad poems saturated in angst that made my few friends uncomfortable and my teachers shockingly proud.  A few of them ended up in the high school lit mag, but I had no delusions about grandiosity or success in the form.

At college, slam happened to me.  With all of its flawed format and silly hierarchies of rock star poets and gimmicky performance styles, it was exactly what I needed to make poetry accessible to me.  To make poems a scary, evil power that I too could possess.  This is what I sounded like in my early slam days:


It is embarrassing to hear myself rush, to hear how little control I have over my voice, how many things I repeat.  But this is exactly where it happened: where I found the power of poems.  The poem in the video is nowhere near my best work.  It isn't even something I can watch or listen to without cringing.  If I went back to it, there is so much I would change, so many thing I would arrange differently.  But showing this is important because it shows how much things had shifted by February of my first year as a writer admitting she is a writer.  Here, I am playing with language, repetition, a circular narrative that grows and changes and builds in a small, three minute arc.  This is important.  This play is how poems happen.  They are games you play with language to say something unexpected, but, like anything worth the effort, you have to be willing to be bad at them before you can ever hope to be good.

The immense power inherent to poems is in the things they allow you to say.  A poem, at its best, is a transgression of silence.  There is a reason why poets have been enemies of the state in countries and culture the world over since the beginning of language--poetry gives us license to say dangerous things, to say them quickly and starkly, to pare away all the white noise surrounding the heart of what we mean and present just that heart and only the heart to be consumed and sometimes these hearts make us sick.  They have an intense power when it comes to protest, witness, and education because they are so distilled.  Poems are the kind of writing that works in small strokes and creates big changes in thought.  They provide a space where huge leaps of comparison can be made, where two things before unalike are suddenly the same.  Poems travel great distances in single steps because of the way the images in them enter into a conversation, because of the way a line breaks, because of the multiplicity and music of sounds, the connotative and annotative meanings of words, the suggestion of a world much larger and more complex than what is said.

In less than two weeks, I am responsible for bringing what I now know about poems to students at my former high school.  I've been given five hour-long sessions to read poems by other that I love, poems of mine that I feel proud of, poems that might help people like me (latent writers scared of the magic they might produce) understand that poetry is far from dead.  I'm not going to talk about Billy Collins or Ezra Pound.  I'm not going to beat over the head with history.  The best way to get a kid to fall in love with poetry is to show them that it is a way to find voice in a world where everyone talks but few listen.

I could hem and haw about poems for a week-long workshop and still not be winded.  But I want to know what other people might say.  Writers, friends: why were poems an important discovery for you?

"The poets are coming."

The way things unravel never ceases to amaze me, but the way things come together is even more astonishing. I got a rejection letter today and was not devastated. My skin has gotten so thick about writing--four years ago, not even a handful of people had even seen my poems. I just talked my sister's ear off about Blind Huber and themed manuscripts (I'm working on two). I have yet to even complain about a 30/30 poem; I just wake up at 8 AM every day and write one.

Which reminds me--it's National Poetry Month. All of my friends are posting their work and tagging me in notes on the good book. Well, not all of them. The brave ones. The disciplined ones. The crazy ones. (Those words tend to be interchangeable when it comes to the people I love.) And then there's this thing happening in one of my adopted cities this summer that drawing closer every day. You should be as excited about it as we are. The National Poetry Slam is coming to Boston! I've known about this for awhile, but shit just got real the other day. April Ranger put together a great show of music and comedy that led up to a slam grudge match between Boston and New York City. Melissa gave me this postcard:

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...in which the NPS logo is both the moon AND the poetry Bat Signal. She's also curating a tumblr for the event, which is currently chock-full of performance poem videos worth watching.

To top all this word-love off, I have a show tomorrow night in Portland, ME with Sam and Mckendy. I haven't shared a stage with them in months. I anticipate sheningans of a tall order. Or, at least we'll perform some poems and yell "Get it in!" and "Only off jumps!" at one another for a good chunk of the evening. If you're going to be in the area, come give and receive hugs. I am very good at those.

In closing, this song makes me really really really happy.

Perpetual motion machines.

Hello from our last morning in DC! Our time here has been both relaxing and exciting. Sam, Mckendy and I went to see the slam at Graffiti DC and got a feature by Rudy Francisco (this year's Individual World Poetry Slam champ) thrown in, all for the price of FREE.

Yesterday we went on a sight-seeing adventure on the National Mall, which involved hot pretzels, atrocious coffee, bitter wind, and a chill sesh with honest Abe. Sam got a proof of his first-ever book with a spine. I got my final evaluation for college. We have a workshop/interview/show in Richmond tonight, leaving only two more future cities for us on the road trip leg of this tour. But fear not! There are still a handful of shows in New England that will commence upon our return (one of them in Providence, the city of my heart, the day after the big ol' V-Day). The month of February will be far from a return to normalcy. I'll most likely make some drastic change to my hair--it's getting overdue for one at this point--and the Ribcage Kids will tear it up.

Speaking of which. Below, you can view the first video of me performing since the Providence Grand Slam in '09. I'm pretty proud of this one. It sold books and all that good stuff.

Vomiting rainbows.

Art is more important than brushing your teeth! I have spent the better part of my day off listening to estrogen-heavy hip hop and assembling the team chapbook, and man am I amped about both of those things. I got to arrange things in space, make use of my drafting table (and long-dormant drawing skills), and reread all of the team's wonderful poems. Happy, happy Friday!

And now, a quick sneak peak at the soon-to-be-printed book's cover (and one of my three new pairs of glasses):

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Running over to Duplications in a few minutes to make this shit real. Promise I'll brush my teeth beforehand.

Who doesn't love it when My Little Pony goes bad ass? Exactly.

VLOG # 9 (part 1), + plenty of news.

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+ One of the last visual memories of the old tree house AKA the first half of the move documented on video. Or really, Cass and I making a final procrastination push before jumping ship from campus housing and entering the real world. We're not going to have internet in the new tree house until at least a week from now, so the second half will either be slow in coming or posted to the internets via this coffee house internet connection. If I don't find it too disgusting to be posting video blogs while sipping rooiboos.



+ Moving is tough. My whole body feels like it's made of old tires. I have at least six bruises all up and down my thighs from carrying couches up stairs. I had a sad moment when I returned the U-Haul. I liked driving that monster a little bit too much. Maybe my true car love will end up being a pick-up truck (but shhhh, don't tell Wendeline). Over the past few days, I have driven at least 500 miles all over New England gathering my belongings, biting my lip, and hefting an endless parade of boxes into my room to be unpacked and sorted into their appropriate locations. Through all of that driving, I thought a lot about how disturbed I was every time a radio DJ mentioned that a song I'd just heard was by Justin Bieber, mostly because his voice hasn't changed yet and thus he sounds like he is Miley Cyrus's new competitor for Britney reincarnated. Speaking of which, Miley's new-ish single sounds a bit too much like Britney circa the album Britney for my taste. As a home remedy for the amount of top 40 pumped into my system, I have only been spinning Sage Francis's Human The Death Dance and a lot of French shoegaze. I know it doesn't make sense, and I have no well-thought out justification for why it should.

+ I built a five shelf bookcase last night after work and an afternoon of swimming. Being able to look at all my reading material in one place makes me feel slightly more organized, even when the floor is still covered in clothes because I have yet to pick up my dresser from Wayne's garage. Furniture is a general problem right now for me. I won't feel settled until I have all my things with me (I am far too attached to worldly possessions to have ever become a nun, as I had planned in the fifth grade).

+ I have a show coming up this Tuesday in Newmarket, NH (event info here), which is a literal stone's throw from my beloved Portsmouth. I think a late night visit to the Friendly Toast will probably end up happening, and I will finally buy that t-shirt with the squirrel on it. I am avoiding thinking, talking, or pressuring myself about this show which is definitely not okay because I have half of my set list left to memorize and polish, in addition to the new chapbooks that need to be printed. But I finally brought my printer into the house from the car this morning, so I suppose we can call those baby steps. I am so excited to be performing in front of audience for an extended period of time again--I haven't had a feature since last June at Got Poetry! Live. I'm looking forward to the quiver in my stomach just before the first poem, and the drop that will come just before the last poem, when I realize that it is almost time to quit speaking. Incidentally, I'll be performing again on Thursday for a BARCC speak out organized by the Phoenix Charter Academy in Chelsea. I've been talking art and the politics of speech with just about everybody who will engage the topic and these performances will be a satisfying space to work out the energy I've had on reserve for public displays of artistic enthusiasm.

+ But the thing nagging at me the most these past few weeks isn't my apartment coming together or my show going well. It is my dad's health, as it has been for months now. Yesterday he checked back into the hospital (his language, as if it is now such a familiar action that it is on par with a hotel stay for him) because of an excess of fluid in the lung they collapse when they did his sextuple bypass. That "excess" ended up being 2.3 liters. When my sister told me, all I could see was a large bottle of RC Cola or some other such nonsense jammed up into his ribs. I have not been much for praying in my life over the past few years, but I have gotten very good at holding my breath over these things. When I was home last week and took him out to lunch for his birthday, he barely ate half of his seafood sandwich, couldn't even finish a pint of Harp. This is my father, more salt and pepper by the day, twenty pounds lighter than the last time I saw him, a network of scars, a cocktail of pills, and now all of this little bumps in the road that make recovery much slower going than anyone wants it to be. I wish there was something I could do.

Ink, other ink, and moving (shuffle-style).

+ Got tattoo #4 Thursday after work. Thrilled with the results.

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However, my artist is moving back to AZ come August, which bums me out. My first color piece, I love it, everything goes great, and then I remember he won't be here past the end of the summer. When I go on tour (I say this as if I have one planned or something), I'm going to have to go to the desert and find him. In the meantime, I'll be back under the needle again some time in July to get my ribs finished (FINALLY!). I thought this was an itch I'd eventually get out of my system, but I'm starting to think it does not work that way.

+ Half of my life is packed and stacked in my living room. My mom is coming up this afternoon to steal it while I'm at work. I most likely won't even see her. It has been strange, sorting through what I need for the next week and what can go into basement storage until I get a more permanent place. The apartment that's mine on June 1st is only mine through August, so I should probably be looking for a place to hang my hat come September. I hate moving more than anything. I just want to curl up in my car with one suitcase and my shark and have that be it. However, I have one suitcase that is entirely full of shoes and that's only the stiletto portion of my collection, meaning that I will never lead a simple life. Or rather, I won't be doing it anytime soon.

+ I am itching to dye my hair again, but I've been holding out in favor of giving it a little break. The orange has been washing out slowly, and now I look more off-kilter blonde than anything else. I think I might play towards that and work my way up to platinum by the end of the summer. Or else I'll get restless and make some drastic change. There's a box of blue-black dye sitting on the bathroom shelf in case of emergencies.

+ I have a show coming up (June 8th in Newmarket, NH) that I am trying to pull together a chapbook for/rehearse for/feel confident about. I'll be honest--I haven't had a show in a year. I hope I'm not too rusty. I should probably not put my full length mirror in the pile of things for my mom to take back to Jersey, because it's clear that a lot of practicing must go on. If only so I can get a feel for what my set needs to be. Time to tape a sheet of legal paper to the wall and start making lists.

Little happiness.

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+ I am writing so many poems that I am overwhelmed with pride to read on stage. When people come up to me after an open mic, be they friends or strangers, I can take the compliment gracefully and start a conversation. Not so ugly duckling anymore. More of a goofy, blinking owl trying to turn my head all the way around so that I can see absolutely everything, hooting and hollering whenever there are words to be shout at and with. I am more than okay with that.

+ C Rudz told me last night that I have a delightfully unique laugh, and to never lose it.

+ C Rudz and April Ranger are going on a tour of the West Coast, bringing their sucker punch sunshine to the Sunshine State (no, not Florida) and its neighbors. If you can catch a show, you must. They will melt your faces with their talent and overwhelming goodness.

+ Speaking of face melting, Karen Finneyfrock featured at the Cantab last night. Not only is she a phenomenal poet and a charming lady, she will sell you socks. I kid you not. Ask her about it, cos she'll be in New England for a minute on tour.

+ I haven't even gotten to St. Paul and I'm already thinking about NPS 2011, which is coming to Boston. I am absolutely thrilled by this. NorthBEAST advantage? I think, yes. J*me quoted Mark Twain on the mic last night--"In New York they ask 'how much money does he have?' In Philadelphia, they ask, 'who were his parents?' In Boston they ask, 'how much does he know?'" I like to think the bit about Boston holds true. Regardless, that week of August will be nuts.

+ All my happies today are poetry related. I guess it makes sense, being that it's National Poetry Month.

The briefest of briefs, late night delirium edition.

1. Yesterday was finals night at CUPSI. I yelled a lot. Hampshire won best writing, which, in my opinion, is more valuable than winning finals. I also drank a lot of rum. It was nice to run around a hotel and give lots of hugs and not worry about things for a hot minute. Also, observing people, especially poets, is one of my favorite pastimes, so I was sitting in the nosebleed seat at the Cutler Majestic and practically in heaven. I'll write real things about this later (maybe).

2. Papa Bear is out of the hospital now, which is a relief, but things are not what I wish they were. He has something like seven stents in the veins and arteries around his heart. The artery on the front of his heart is 98% blocked, which means that if anything changes for the worst, it's for the absolute worst. He needs robotic surgery, which is highly specialized, and most of the doctors capable of performing the surgery are either booked for several years, reluctant to take on such a risky case, or just plain disinterested in a first-time patient with such a complicated condition. I am beside myself on a daily basis. People ask me about it at work and I shut down and talk as matter-of-factly as I can to keep from absorbing what I am saying. People ask me about it at home and I end up crying. There is nothing to be done, at least not that I can do. I want to go home so badly, but I know I'd only be restless and not know how to spend my time there. I don't want to give this anxiety permission to rule my life, but it comes up in everything.

3. Cass and I are scrambling for apartments. Because of circumstances beyond my control, time has gotten away from me in the worst way. I want to find a place and get settled already. I am tired of my physical living space being on someone else's very rigid terms. I want John Lennon's bed-in-the-floor from Help! and bookcases that required climbing to reach the top. I'd be happy with a roof over my head for now.

Ooh-la-la, or, I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M GOING TO NPS 2010.

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This about sums up my shock and awe at the events of last night's slam as accurately as anything else, although I must say that I am not wearing a hat that fabulous. But the sentiment is definitely the same.

In the final bout for the Hampshire County Slam Collective's third ever NPS team, we came up with a first in the history of HCSC (at least as I know it): an all-lady team. Christina Beam, Anna Meister, Katie Frank, my lovely roommate/partner in committed friendship Cassandra de Alba, and yours truly will be storming St. Paul this August for some serious shenanigans, and also some serious poetry business. As a fundraising ploy, we are going to have a photo shoot as pin up girls and then make a calendar. I am very excited about this whole thing. The road trip, the estrogen, but especially the calendars.

In other, semi-related, poetry news, I submitted some poems to Write Bloody last night as part of their yearly call for new authors. I am also terribly excited about this, especially because of how soon I find out whether or not I've moved on to the next round. So many big steps to take in one week.

Papa bear is still in the hospital getting stronger (I told him we need to have a Rocky-style training montage replete with egg drinks and Philadelphian stone steps, etc.), and my sisters are working overtime looking for various heart surgeons to get second and third and fourth opinions from. Ever the glamorous one, Chrissie is going to get in touch with Oprah's very own Dr. Oz (she has more connects than any other working class 19-year-old I've ever met) and Kaitlin is inquiring with old friends who've had heart surgery who may be able to point us in more productive directions. I feel useless, as I know absolutely nobody who's had these types of problems, and thus cannot ask any doctors, famous or otherwise, for help. I just have to keep crossing my fingers. I hope they don't get stuck this way. But then again, even if they did, at least I'd have that extra luck.

Magic morsel #15, and a mini slam update.



I have no idea who it was, but somebody got this song stuck in everybody's heads over here at the treehouse and we don't even know more than three or four lines of the lyrics. But the ones we do know are the ones that matter, such as, "I keep you open all night like you IHOP". Cass and I were semi-horrified/concerned when we realized how much we still have crushes on Justin Timberlake, the residue of boy band love back in middle school. We've been asking each other NSYNC trivia questions from an old board game, and I now know what Mr. Timberlake's ankle tattoo is of, as well as what kind of underwear he wears both on and off stage. I did not need to know any of this.

In other news, the NPS finals (part one) took place last night, and we all had such a good time. I went into the night knowing that no matter what, I'm going to St. Paul this summer regardless of whether it is as a team member or entourage. And the poems everyone put up made me so happy. New things, things that had never been off page, things that had never been seen by an audience before. In the midst of all the awesome happening (and there was a considerable amount of awesome), I realized that the whole thing is really anybody's game. That being said, there is a very serious possibility that we might have an all lady poet team. Excuse me while I go do a happy dance.

Next week, post-slam, Christina and I are planning a Star Trek after party. Hopefully I will have a different song stuck in my head by that time.

This week is the bomb (like "tick, tick").

1. I'm ill (not sick, says Weezy), sinus pressure, no-sleep-til-Brooklyn ill. I forget why I hate campus Januaries, and now it's all coming back to me with a surge of phlegm and a few too many cartoon sneezes. Maybe I'd feel better if I grew my hair out a bit and died it brown again?

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no, that can't be right...


However, I have been making the most of things in spite of this minor speed bump. Exhibit A:

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note the importance of wearing a particularly girly hair clip into battle


On last week's Providence visit (this is becoming an almost-regular occurrence), Kait and I went out for a night of substance-free fun (read: nostalgic reclamation of childhood followed by hot cocoa with schnapps and heaping helping of General Hospital) and ended up at an elementary school-turned-arcade that boasted indoor paintball and airsoft, along with a convoluted laser tag course that had my legs sore for too many days afterwards. We lost three rounds of laser tag to a group of fifteen-year-olds who had been there every night that week, played as many rounds of House of the Dead as we could justify, traded in our skee ball tickets for monkey tattoos that didn't stay on for more than a half hour, and were generally pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. From the road, the place definitely didn't look like much. But then again, we were in Attleboro, where a weeklong stay at the Pineapple Inn clocks in around $150. Don't ask me why I know that.

2. Exhibit B: last night at the Cantab was one of the best Cambridge nights I've had in awhile. The open mic was a stacked deck of awesome with a surprise visit from vintage heckler Eric Darby reading a persona poem involving a Yankee's fan on Sox Talk, day 2 of J W Baz's brief Hampshire-guided adventure in Massachusetts (we've nearly convinced the man to enroll), Melissa ranted about breast monsters and catcalls, DJ Muse played me on with an electronic track that made me feel like a super villian, and then there was this whopping moment where Tom Daly lumped me in with Brian and April as one of the venue's exciting voices (I promptly crawled into my scarf and/or melted into a puddle of my own blushing under the table where I remained for quite some time). Will Evans featured and blew me out of the water. Erin Jackson won a highly entertaining slam, the final pairing of which was against Sam Teitel. Oh Hampshire, look at you, making me proud. And then, we said, "Let there be IHOP!" And there were pancakes, and endless coffee, and so much shouting of stories down the line that I suggested we all play telephone. It felt like the best kind of family dinner, the kind you eat with the family you've chosen. And all 20-something of us (yes, we did break their seating limit something awful) said it was good. Cos it was.

3. I'm still waiting for my notebook to return to me via the mailroom (yes, I am forgetful enough to abandon my journal in another state), so I've been writing down things on a very long piece of paper towel, among various other places.

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why yes, I do have the smallest of all handwriting; thanks for noticing


Most everything I write down is either for my retrospective, or a quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I picked up on a boring afternoon at work earlier this week on a whim and cannot put down. I read this passage last night right before the open mic and had to hug the book to my chest and not move for a solid five minutes to keep from being completely paralyzed by it.

She felt attracted by their weakness as by vertigo. She felt attracted by it because she felt weak herself. Again she began to feel jealous and again her hands shook. When Tomas noticed it, he did what he usually did: took her hands in his and tried to calm them by pressing hard. She tore them away from him.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"Nothing."
"What do you want me to do for you?"
"I want you to be old. Ten years older. Twenty years older!"
What she meant was: I want you to be weak. As weak as I am.


It may not be as effective if you haven't read the book. The only thing I can say about that is that you should probably read the book. Lara Bozabalian has this poem called "Music Box" that references the novel, which is how I ended it grabbing it off a library shelf, and have not regretted a second of rapt reading.

The briefest of briefs.

Today: got a somewhat inconsequential piercing, watched Star Trek, threw out all the old cheese in the fridge.

Tomorrow: hawk my soul (and middle school CD collection) at the mall for gas money, coffee with Crystal, last hurrah with Button.

Tuesday: high-tail it back to Hampshire, give roommates late holiday gifts, pray for spring.

I got such a kick out of this the other day. Betcha can't guess why.

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I'll give you a hint: my life is consumed by poetry, and now the internet knows about it.

I'm starting a church.



Made my dad listen to these poems at the breakfast table this morning while eating a grapefruit that was mailed to my house from Florida. He cried, several times. Soon my whole family will be converted. Also, incidentally, I met a friend for coffee this afternoon and apparently he lives on 13th and 3rd now, which means I am kidnapping him to Bar 13 some Monday in the near future so that he knows what I spend all of my time doing. He commented that it was funny that I'd finally picked a "thing" to focus my energies on. He was the first person I ever actively wrote poems for or about. I gave him my book; it felt like things came full circle.

Slam poetry is clearly insidious.

You will love it too one day, that much I can promise.

Hello, world. No, I am not dead.

1. So much for ever talking about my life in public. The retreat to solitude (or rather, life without much internet posting) of the past week is in direct proportion to how much anxiety I have over the end of the semester. However, this anxiety is apparently unwarranted--I had a peer review of my critical/creative paper on the dangers of reading Plath's poems as solely inspired by biography that went incredibly well. Everyone told me that the paper was basically finished, but for a bit more textual evidence in a single paragraph. So perhaps all of this will be properly finished, on time, and handed in without any major panic attack? Maybe??

2. This weekend was the NorthBEAST slam regional, and I am proud to say that I drove out to Manchester for both nights of competition, in spite of incredible busted-ass-broke-ness and then a pretty gnarly snowstorm. Sophia made the individual finals, which I was absolutely thrilled about. I guess that statement loses a bit of its strength though, considering I was pretty syked to see most people who were competing. I really love living in the midst of the things that I do. Even if it does mean I lose my voice roughly once a week from yelling affirmations at poets (and admonitions at unsatisfactory judges), it always seems to be worth it. For most of the weekend, the question everyone asked me was what team I was on, followed by "Wait, you're not on one? REALLY?? Well, that just beats all..." Okay, so maybe not exactly like that, but the general feeling I got from such interactions was that the world at large wants me to be on a slam team. Driving back to campus late Friday night/early Saturday morning, Charley told me that he would be disappointed in our venue if I didn't make the NPS team this year. All of these remarks have my head spinning a bit--in my own mind, I was still hiding safely in the background--but my own compass about such things is point towards an August vacation to Minnesota. We'll see what happens.

3. Tonight, Sophia features at the Emerson Poetry Project. I am very excited to finally see what they do, as I've never been to another college's poetry thingamabob. And spending free time in Boston is second only in my mind to spending free time writing. Judging by my personal writing history, that's probably why I write so very many poems where Boston figures largely. Although, judging by the catalog, I haven't written one of those in a LONG time. Maybe tonight is the night for it to reoccur.

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.

The mouth fills with string.

1. I have a toothache, a condition that implies an abscess that must be drained (ew), a wisdom tooth that needs pulling (ow!), or a possible future root canal (ugh...). None of these options is desirable, and nothing I've tried as a pain remedy has helped. I've done several suggested home techniques (dissolving a baby aspirin over the tooth, holding a mouthful of whiskey in the cheek of the affected side, biting down on a hot Tetley tea bag, using mouthwash, etc.) but they're not as effective as I need them to be. I doubt I'm going to sleep very well, if I can ever get to bed. I just drove to the 24 hour CVS in Chicopee to buy Orajel as a last resort, and even the maximum strength stuff has only slightly dulled the throbbing. And when is my dentist appointment? Sometime after December 17th, when I'm next in Jersey for an extended period, and then at the end of December, my dental insurance goes poof! Hopefully, this swollen, painful situation is resolved by then. I would scream very loudly, in hopes that making a loud noise would distract me from the pain, but Cass fell asleep hours ago, so for now I will just mime screaming, and you will get the idea.

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2. While in Jersey, I went to Loser Slam for the first time. Any other time I've spent in Long Branch up to this point has been in service of a family reunion. I much prefer being there for poetry, even if poetry in Long Branch is not at the beach. I ended up winning the slam, much to my surprise. Read about that, and other poetry exploits of mine, here.

3. My G-ma went on a tirade this afternoon while I was hanging out with my family in our kitchen about my nose ring. She asked me if the money it took to pay for the piercing couldn't have been better spent feeding a starving child somewhere. Chrissie (who also has her nose pierced) and I just looked at each other and bit our tongues to keep from laughing. Couldn't the money spent on anything be put to better use feeding a starving child?? A direct quote from the rant: "You're not jungle bunnies." I'm glad she didn't start in on tattoos. I'm still not sure she's seen the 82, and if she has, she hasn't mentioned it. I'm fairly certain she disapproves of almost everything about my lifestyle. I cannot imagine what kind of conversation will ensue the first time she and I discuss touring poets or other such semi-starving artists. But she did give me a bunch of bananas and some vegetable lasagna to take back to school, so it was difficult to be mad at her.

4. The Posthumous Voice in Women's Writing from Mary Shelley to Sylvia Plath by Claire Raymond is one of the most intellectually pretentious collections of essays I have ever laid eyes on. It does have the word "posthumous" in the title, so I suppose I should have known better, but I was holding out hope that there were big, thoughtful ideas to back up the massive, wordy titles, and no cigar. Just lots of reliance on Derrida (blech), among other pretentious academic fall-backs that typically prevent an essayist from having an original, inspiring thesis. Sample sentence:

Indeed, the self-elegist claims her understanding of the cultural mechanics of mourning, her exquisite schooling in private poetics.

Seriously, Claire Raymond, what does that even mean?! You go on for twenty-five pages, and I made your same argument (that Plath's "The Rabbit Catcher" both takes agency from and gives it back to the speaker of the poem) in less than two pages. D. H. Lawrence, or Keat's treatment of antiquity really don't have anything to do with what you're saying, nor does the imagery of the rabbit from Alice's Wonderland, nor the discussion of Aurelia Plath's elevation of her collection of Emily Dickinson poems to the status of family Bible that you open the essay with. How do these things even get published?

5. It feels silly to be back at school only to be leaving again on Wednesday afternoon. I wish I could go to the Cantab this week. I am dreading Christmas break because of how totally it will separate me from the things that have been making me creative lately-- the Cantab, the Lady Poet house, the umbilical cord connecting me to the Five College library system. I promised my parents they would see me read poetry in public at least once this winter (I should have swallowed such a promise before I ever uttered it, but it's too late to go back now...) and I am scared of what they will think of me. They nod a lot when I try to explain my experience at open mics, but I know they don't really get what I'm trying to articulate. Maybe once they see it (if I don't die of embarrassment in the middle of the experience) for themselves, we'll be on more level ground. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever stop feeling like a foreign object shoved uncomfortably into the middle of my family that doesn't belong there even out of irony.

Ten things about today (Tuesday edition) 11.10.

1. "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" just came on shuffle. Today is going to be a good day.

2. I am pulling together a new chapbook, tentatively titled any number of ridiculous things, although at the moment, I'm thinking of calling it "Spindle". Thus far it is comprised of several imagined biographies of Sylvia Plath (blame my reading Rough Magic with the fervor of a woman possessed), the eyelashes poem I wrote for my sister this summer, my first stabs at persona (from the voices of EBB and ED, what can I say, I am just that nerdy), "Yes, Virginia" which previously appeared in the zine I sold at my Providence show, and an as-yet-unwritten poem called "Ted Hughes Bakes a Cake".

3. The last of the poems I have collected for this new book is a love letter to my typewriter called "Smith-Corona", which will immediately follow this epigraph, a line from a letter written by Eddie Cohen for Sylvia Plath:

And will your husband, whoever he may be,
find contentment in talking to you or making love to you
while you are banging on a typewriter?


It was too perfect. And I had already written the poem. I love the way the stars align sometimes.

4. I have a stack of library books at least the height of my leg, all of them for a final that needs to be roughly eight pages. To say that I have actively planned on going overboard is an understatement. I am horrified at myself and apprehensive that if I allow this behavior to continue on unchecked, that I will end up miserable in a graduate school library somewhere writing a dissertation on madness in the canon of women writers with a focus on the twentieth century. Or maybe that apprehension is excitement. Or maybe I've just been awake for too many hours without breakfast.

5. Tonight is Slam Collective, as is every Tuesday. Steve Subrizi is featuring. It promises to be highly amusing, with a sprinkling of quiet profundity. Tuesdays have turned into weekends-- last week, we finished my handle of bourbon, played several debauched and raucous rounds of Apples to Apples, and stayed up much later than my normal threshold. My living room is the apparent hangout spot, and now that it has been cemented, I feel a little overwhelmed by that. I am not a hostess the way I used to be a hostess. I feel all flustered and underprepared whenever such a large group of people plant themselves in my house and drink out of my glassware.

6. I am taking a course on the Bloomsbury Group. I know I mentioned this yesterday, but I am still geeking out about getting to spend classroom time with Woolf for the fourth time in my college experience. Not that I don't spend countless personal hours talking about her work, but that's just because I cannot help myself. Cass was presenting on Christina Rossetti in our Woman & Poet class yesterday and besides laughing where I knew wombats could (and should!) fit into that conversation, I also had to laugh when she brought up Coleridge's addiction to opiates because I knew that somehow we could work in her "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" tattoo if we really tried. And then a small part of me got sad that my Woolf tattoo wasn't finished (and won't be for awhile) and also will never be visible to the bulk of the population. Whenever someone sees it in its natural habit (my ribs, for those of you who don't know), it is always something of a surprise. I can't wait to get more work done on it, even if it's just for me.

7. Moz says, "most people keep their brains between their legs."

8. I am getting seriously apprehensive for next semester. I only have one major assignment left for this one - that paper I'm seriously over-researching - aside from turning in my general portfolio, and I am antsy to finish all the silly paperwork and just GET ON WITH IT ALREADY. I hate hate hate hate hate red tape.

9. After spending so much time cruising New England last week in Wendeline, I kind of miss driving. Not that I'd want a week like that again, at least not in the near future, but I am a little too happy with the open road to say I'll never do something like that again. I keep erecting dreams off in the distance - of tour next January, or a road trip at all after I graduate next December - and though they are still so far off, I know I'll get there eventually.

10. I find myself missing Providence more than ever lately, and there's really no explanation for it beyond the understandables (my sister, my summer, getting writing done like nobody's business). But in addition to all of that, there's something more, something I can't put my finger on. Maybe I just miss feeling at home. Hampshire is comfortable, especially in this unseasonable warmth we've stumbled into the past few days, but it isn't home. It's trying though.

Dress-up box, and the historical girl-crushes of the week.

Playboy U named Hampshire # 21 on the list of top party schools in the country this year and while I'm not sure if that's entirely accurate (I mean, since when does a predisposition to decriminalized smokables a party school make?), our biggest party of the year is tonight, and I still have no idea what to wear.

Halloween is an event I change my mind about until the very last possible moment. But here's what I'm thinking at this sleepless moment:

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Edie Sedgwick is what most biographers would call one of the Silver Factory's first "superstars". I am more likely to call her one of Warhol's many casualties. Regardless, she seems an appropriate costume, being that I've been living in my fur hooded coat and black tights lately. The only thing left to accomplish is the silvery hair and the eye make-up, and man, did she know how to do up her eyes. Yes, yes, this is who I am dressing up as tonight. I just wish I had a leopard-skin pillbox hat.

And then, there is that business of the Dead Poets Slam, which throws a kink into everything. I made it to the finals as Denise Levertov (a feat that flabbergasted my poetry professor, who said he was sure that Levertov would never work in a slam; however, I was one of the high scorers of the night) and so I have to show up in the library gallery looking decidedly un-"superstar":

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Even if they may have both been stars in their various cosmos around the same time, that's about the end of the similarities between my two chosen Halloween personas. Incidentally, they are also my girl-crushes of the week (but really of forever: my eternal style icon and my first favorite poet of college who made me fall in love with sharks all over again).

Anyway, I'm off to turn in my thesis proposal and then do some serious writing for my last class of the week, which frustratingly absorbs the bulk of a much needed afternoon -- Georgie wants a haircut, Charley wants me to take him shopping for costume supplies, and then there's this whole business of the slam that I have to prepare for. A few extra hours in the day would probably be nice, but wait a second, isn't Daylight Savings Time this weekend? Oh wait, it's the bad version. Fuck.