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Terreson Profile
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Author as Intruder


It has been a good Thursday. I took the day off to see to errands and personal business. It is a damn good thing I put off until age of 50 getting regular, taking on a full time, year round job. In the box there would only be notes and wishes, not manuscripts. But it has been a good day and I got enough brain alacrity left for a lit topic to chew on.

I've touched on the topic before in a bunch of different places, here and elsewhere. A friend, a woman, someone with whom I've locked arms twice in the old Poetry Board Wars faught against board managers, and someone whose intellect I respect, has more than once taken me to task for my poetry portraits of women. If I understand the crit rightly it amounts to this: since I am not a woman my portraits amount to projections about something experential I cannot be privy to. On the face of it the crit makes sense. She's right. Not a woman, how can I not only know but feel and experience what a woman knows, feels, and experiences?

The crit forces me to think, throws me back. How does any poet, novelist, sculptor, painter, dramatist, persuasively bring forward characters of another gender or another race or another ethnic group or another religion without getting inside the "other"? How did Flaubert persuade us of Madame Bovary's corporeal existence? How did the Bronte sisters so convincingly portray their men characters? List goes on.

I do not buy into my friend's arguement. Art is more then one's personal experience. At its tallest it is transformative by virtue of the archetypes it dives down into, what makes it universal. My conclusion is that, yes, the author is an intruder. But without the intrusions, sometimes dangerous for both author and subject, the transformative is not even a possibility.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Oct/29/2010, 2:36 pm
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libramoon Profile
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Is it an intrusion? Is it observational skill mixed liberally with empathy, understanding the commonalities rather than being distanced by cosmetic and experiential differences? It is so difficult to even truly know our own motivations, hidden desires, papered over wounds. Projections onto others can be a journey to the self.

Perhaps its not that you are not a woman that is your friend's complaint, but that your portrayals don't meet her projections.
Oct/29/2010, 4:32 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Author as Intruder


I just remembered a story the topic brings to mind. A funny story I still chuckle over. One for which I am sure my critical friend would consign me to Dante's ninth ring, just above Lucifer's tenth

Back in the wild and unruly days of poetry chatrooms I met a man named Donald. He was in his seventies, since deceased. Wild and unruly those online, live rooms could be. Not infrequently they attracted people posing as poets and whose motives were less than honourable. One guy's m.o. was to track down emotionally vulnerable women, often just divorced, and who eventually became prey to his sex games. More than one woman would travel to his home in Seattle.

Donald was a kind man and very generous, always giving things to people he liked. He was also an interesting fellow. He lived in Bismark, that's Dakota. He worked for a local NPR and Public Television affiliate. Very involved in the arts. always creating space for young artists too. Years ago he had taught in an American university in Istanbul. This would have been when Americans were more welcome in the region. He said he had been married seven times, which is four more than I could ever handle. He was clearly a worshipper of women. I suspect that on some level he was a prisoner to his own anima complex. I've always thought the same true of Henry the Eighth.

In the poetry rooms he had two personas. When he was there as Donald his screen name was P.R. Target. But he had an alternate identity. Her name was red jammies. She was a teenager and she wrote the kind of suggestive poetry bound to attract the wolf types on the premises. Attract them red jammies did. And inevitably the contacts would spill over into private messages. A real sting operation. And he never let on. I think he enjoyed frustrating a type of man he despised.

That must have been how it began, what led to the literary hoax he invented. He invented an eighteen year old girl named Tonya Thibidaux, pronounced Tibbeedough. She lived in Metarie, just outside of New Orleans. She was a high school drop out having earned a GED and working as a waitress. She was the product of parochial school, she wrote poetry, and she asked questions of adults that made them uncomfortable. She was quite a keen observer and something of a critical thinker. She could make fun of one teacher, Sister Constapatia. She knew why priests were wanting to fondle her. The cathedral she attended was called Saint Whogivesashit Cathedral.

One poem is entitled Why Did Man Make God. It ends with the words "We are lousy inventors." Her depictions of a parochial school environment ring true, match with my two years in the setting. Beastly cruel nuns, physically cruel and sadistic. The nice nuns so nice we students tended to pick on them. The ineffective priests. One priest, just off the boat from Ireland and I suspect a supressed homosexual, was so weak kneed we made his religion class a holy hell for him. You get the idea. Tonya captures it well. Tonya also has a keen sense of social injustice, and the constant attentions from the boys bore her to tears. She doesn't have to go there to know were it will lead.

When I met Donald he was making his book of Tonya poems. I met him through the woman I was seeing in those years, the woman for whom I left my beautiful Northwest Pacific home. Thank the goddess it didn't work out. Only needed two years to run for my life. Were there still a debtor's prison I would have been incarcerated a long time ago. Never met a person whose sense of situational ethics was as exquisite. Come to think of it, it was through a phone conversation with Donald I learned a year after the split she had remarried. Found herself a realtor up in North Carolina. I almost told Donald he had become senile. I almost told him he must be full of !@#$. Then he sent the photographs. But back to the main story.

Donald asked me to write the forward. The whole thing tickled the beejusus out of me, so I did. Here is from the first paragraph:

~In a good century the unexplained poetry phenomenon appears on the scene maybe twice. In a bad century not at all...Now, only four years into a new millennium, there appears on the scene this nineteen-year-old girl whose Cassandra voice for clinically saying the unhearable things simply cannot be explained.~

And the s**t gets deeper. I write as how the Holy Prostitute has decided to speak for herself, tired of all the men speaking for her. I liken her to Dylan Thomas, Sexton, Rimbaud and Emily Dickinson. I predict her career will cause a tectonic shift in the course of poetry. It goes on and on for two pages. Donald gave me a great pseudonym too: V. Beauregard Aquila des Plaisis.

So far my hands are relatively clean, actions only consigning me to a temporary lay over in purgatory. Donald had asked my then lady friend to make something of a self-note in Tonya's voice. She said she would and never got around to the task. She owed him big time too. He was a good friend to her and to her daughter in a rough time. Finally, Donald was getting anxious. He was ready to take the project to press. I figured what the hell. I offered to invent Tonya's self-note. He said to go for it.

The self-note is short. Knowing it will seal my fate, here it is in its entirety.

~It is so hot here. What makes them think I know anything except to leave bayou teche and my brothers? That man in town who saw me writing and wanted to see my poetry now says my voice is like the red of the river. But I don't know what he means. Cousin Felicity said she knows, but when I asked her to explain she went quiet and looked at her baby. I just know I am hot and I'm not in the mood to say something about my poems tonight.

I read somewhere that a poem is only finished in despair. So, is that why so many people write poetry? Anyway, it doesn't make sense. I know when I've finished a poem. It is something I just know the way you know when the band closes down and you stop two stepping on the dance floor. I guess music makes more sense somehow. Besides, Sister Robaine showed me the last lesson in despair I need to know. I never got the G in writing class right. When she gave up, so did I, and my hand no longer got rapped with her ruler.

The man in town says I should talk about myself. He says it will give people something to go on when reading my poetry. But I don't know what to say. I don't know about me. I'm hot tonight. I like better when a hurricane comes up from the Gulf. The interstate noise gives me a sense of direction. The library doesn't have enough poetry books. And I guess I see things Felicity says are strange to her. Well, really, I don't want to be anymore personal than that. He will just have to be satisfied.

I don't think about my poetry. It is the lagniappe of my soul.~

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, poets like Donald and me are guilty on all counts. What makes the crime even worse is that its commission is flagerant and intentional.

I think the greatest stopper to poetry amounts to all the boxes we invent, then place ourselves in. Programmatic boxes. Ideological boxes. By any other name a box is a box.

I always come back to something Yeats said, read over thirty years ago:

We have lit upon the gentle, sensitive mind
And lost the old nonchalance of the hand;
Whether we have chosen chisel, pen, or brush,
We are but critics, or but half-create,
Timid, entangled, empty and abashed,
Lacking the countenance of our friends.

That's what Yeats said. That's what the last universal poet said. I see no reason at this late date to second-guess the admonishment.

I really miss Donald. Two brothers with simpatico.

Tere
Oct/29/2010, 5:18 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Author as Intruder


Libra, we cross-posted. Just now catching yours. Truth is you say it better, more succinctly, than I do. Empathy is the thing. How else do I/You cross the space seperating us? It is what it comes down to, ne's pas?

Tere
Oct/29/2010, 7:59 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
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Tere,

I am coming back to this topic at long last. My response is going to take a roundabout route, so bear with me:

In response to the VIDA count (“Numbers don’t lie.” “What counts is the bottom line.”:

http://vidaweb.org/the-count-2010)

poet and novelist Eileen Myles writes:

. . . frankly in the poetry scene the women are the ones who are generally doing the most exciting work. Why? Because the female reality is still largely unknown. And language is the thrill that holds the unknown in its vague and shifting ways. That’s writing. But despite the fact that there are more females in the poetry world, more females writing their accounts somehow only a fraction of them are able to bob to top of the heap. So the poetry world is in effect performing a kind of affirmative action for men by giving their work a big push ahead, celebrating men’s books at a much higher ratio to the amount and quality of work actually being produced. And I’m not entertaining for a moment that this is because male work is better. I’m female and I don’t so much think female work is better. Female reality is not better. But female reality has consumed male reality abundantly—we have to in order just to survive so female reality always contains male and female. That seems interesting as hell so at the very least I think it’s a lot more interesting than a monotonous male reality. Which seems just sort of staid and old. Tapped out. Female reality (and this goes for all the “other” realities as well—queer, black, trans—everyone else) is more interesting because it is wider, more representative of humanity—it’s definitely more stylistically various because of all it has to carry and show. After all, style is practical. You do different things because you are different. Women are different. Maybe not the women who routinely get invited to take part in the men’s monolith. They are another item. But women as a class are different. That’s how I dispense with the quality question.

http://www.theawl.com/2011/02/being-female#more-71928

So, women "generally doing the most exciting work" is not to be confused with female work being "better"? Likewise, female reality isn't better than male reality; it's just more interesting than stald, old, tapped out, monotonous male reality due to its abundant consumption of male reality and to the fact that "it is wider, more representative of humanity"? At the risk of being considered "another item," I have to say that some of this attitude may be behind the objections raised about you, or men in general, daring to depict female characters.

Last edited by Katlin, Feb/16/2011, 10:56 pm
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libramoon Profile
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Synchronously, I had just been surfing off an astrology post about Elizabeth Bishop's 100th:

http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2011/02/elizabeth-bishop-the-birth-date-as-synecdoche.html#tp
Elizabeth Bishop: The Birth Date as Synecdoche


http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3229/the-art-of-poetry-no-27-elizabeth-bishop
Elizabeth Bishop, The Art of Poetry No. 27
Interviewed by Elizabeth Spires


Feb/16/2011, 4:01 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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posting again to get the links live:

Synchronously, I had just been surfing off an astrology post about Elizabeth Bishop's 100th:

http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2011/02/elizabeth-bishop-the-birth-date-as-synecdoche.html#tp
Elizabeth Bishop: The Birth Date as Synecdoche


http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3229/the-art-of-poetry-no-27-elizabeth-bishop
Elizabeth Bishop, The Art of Poetry No. 27
Interviewed by Elizabeth Spires
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Katlin Profile
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Hi Libra,

Thanks for the Bishop links. She sounds like she was quite a character. This made me laugh:

"I’ve always considered myself a strong feminist. Recently I was interviewed by a reporter from the Chicago Tribune. After I talked to the girl for a few minutes, I realized that she wanted to play me off as an “old fashioned” against Erica Jong, and Adrienne [Rich], whom I like, and other violently feminist people. Which isn’t true at all. I finally asked her if she’d ever read any of my poems. Well, it seemed she’d read one poem. I didn’t see how she could interview me if she didn’t know anything about me at all, and I told her so. She was nice enough to print a separate piece in the Chicago Tribune apart from the longer article on the others. I had said that I didn’t believe in propaganda in poetry. That it rarely worked. What she had me saying was “Miss Bishop does not believe that poetry should convey the poet’s personal philosophy.” Which made me sound like a complete dumbbell! Where she got that, I don’t know. This is why one gets nervous about interviews."

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Terreson Profile
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Thanks, Kat. I had forgotten about this thread. Having had dealings with Myles on line I had also forgotten about her and her ideological penchant for reductive reasoning, a penchant that has always put a blip on my radar, no matter the ideology, the science, the slant on reality. But I could no more have a fruitfull conversation with a woman who thinks this way than with a member of the Tea Party or a Marxist.

I don't know. It all gets skewed, what we think, by perspective and experience. That worries me sometimes. To what extent do I think the way I think because of bias and experience? Conversely, what am I missing because of bias and experience? That is the big question, maybe the biggest don't you think, for all artists. I suspect there is a reason why the univeral artist, the one who speaks to all, is the rare specimen of the species.

Confessidally, some of the biggest tricks I've learned at writing have come from women, gays, and from other ethnic groups. But isn't that the thing?

Tere
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Early this morning I watched (again) The Kiss of the Spider Woman. I found myself marveling at Bill Hurt's capture of the in a sense divine, trembling vulnerability of feminine sacrificial love in his portrayal of a gay man.
Feb/16/2011, 10:14 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
Terreson Profile
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Oh, but I remember Hurt's performance. Before then I responded to the quality of his acting. After that movie I got that it is less a power for projecting and more a capacity for empathy that marks a great actor. Excellent, excellent example, Libra, of the kind of universality artists, perhaps only artists, are capable of, what may, what?, what may make art a transformative act.

Don't think I mentioned this above. In our forum, Chalkboard and Billboard, I am posting my first novel for fun. Soon after it was written I wrote a second called In The Cedar Weave. Its protaganist is a woman living alone on Puget Sound. Her name is Ena. I thought it would be more difficult to make than the case turned out to be. The key was simple: try to process information the way a woman might. Procedure even more clear: draw on all the models surrounding me from birth.

Something else. In art history there is a new controversy that is more a rehash of a question brought up time and time again. Some Italian has proposed that Da Vinci's Mona Lisa model was a young man, I think a worker in his studio. The question about the model's gender has cropped up from time to time, and for good reason. Find online a picture of the Mona Lisa. Then search for a picture of Da Vinci's John the Baptist. Clearly there is a sibling relationship between the two images. This to me speaks to that same capacity for transformative actions. Both haunt.

Tere
Feb/17/2011, 7:40 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
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I don't know. It all gets skewed, what we think, by perspective and experience. That worries me sometimes. To what extent do I think the way I think because of bias and experience? Conversely, what am I missing because of bias and experience? That is the big question, maybe the biggest don't you think, for all artists. I suspect there is a reason why the univeral artist, the one who speaks to all, is the rare specimen of the species.

Amen to all of that.

Feb/21/2011, 11:09 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 


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