Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Desktop poetry from another Adrienne (30 days of blogging day 8)

I accidentally let it get to almost 10pm without coming up with a topic for this blog, because I have wasted the entire day on frivolous thing like job hunting, playing accordion music on the piano and making chocolate ripple teabread. These things all went pretty well, except the chocolate ripple teabread went in for a little too long and got stuck in the oven and I gave myself a massive burn trying to rescue it. I regret nothing. Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that this is going to be quite short and most of the words will be somebody else's. There will be something a bit longer and more rigorous tomorrow!

Along with the Windows Sticky Notes I have on my desktop reminding me of important things like my government gateway password and the chinese word for "pervert" (色狼), I also keep my absolute favourite Adrienne Rich poems. If you don't know anything about Adrienne Rich ‒as I didn't, for a shockingly long time given that she comes up every time I google my own name (i.e. often) ‒ you should start at the obvious place. The short story here is that she was an incredible poet who had an incredible life, wrote "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" which is an important piece of feminist writing on the position of lesbians in the movement, and also wrote several decades worth of poetry books, the vast majority of which I have not yet read. This is a bit silly given that what I have read, I loved. There's just so much!

A better Adrienne.
But here's the best of what I have read. The first poem on my desktop is "Ghost of a Chance":
 You see a man
trying to think.

You want to say
to everything:
Keep off! Give him room!
But you only watch,
the old consolations
will get him at last
like a fish
half-dead from flopping
and almost crawling
across the shingle
almost breathing
the raw, agonizing
till a wave
pulls it back blind into the triumphant

This is quite a pessimistic sentiment to start one's all-important "inspiring poetry" Sticky Note with, but I absolutely love it despite identifying with its situation depressingly often. Like every self-identifying feminist, I've dealt with my share of man-ostriches, armchair anthropologists,  "egalitarians-not-feminists", outright sociopaths and otherwise awesome friends who just can't see how I could ever find love with hair on my legs, ew. When this all gets too much, it's nice to have words to fall back on as a sort of structured despair about the world. Yes, some men are terrible and even the good ones say terrible things. Forgive them, because you are asking something that the rest of the world makes almost impossible. Thinking is hard. Feminism is hard. Harden up, Adrienne! All will be well. Moving on.

The second, equally depressing thing is an excerpt from "My Dream of You":
What if I told you your home
is this continent of the homeless
of children sold taken by force
driven from their mothers' land
killed by their mothers to save from capture
-this continent of changed names and mixed-up blood
of languages tabooed
diasporas unrecorded
undocumented refugees
underground railroads trails of tears
What if I tell you your home
is this planet of warworn children
women and children standing in line or milling
endlessly calling each others' names
What if I tell you, you are not different
it's the family albums that lie
-will any of this comfort you
and how should this comfort you?

I keep this one because it reminds me why I study development. I don't really have anything more to express about it, to be honest; the whys and wherefores of my development career path is a navel-gazing entry for another time.

Three is "Delta", which is somewhat more uplifting:

If you have taken this rubble for my past
raking through it for fragments you could sell
know that I long ago moved on
deeper into the heart of the matter

If you think you can grasp me, think again:
my story flows in more than one direction
a delta springing from the riverbed
with its five fingers spread

If "Ghost of a Chance" is a response to most men some of the time, this is a response to a few men all of the time. It is a reminder that sometimes people have useful criticism and provide chances to grow, and sometimes the chance to grow comes from learning who to ignore. In particular, I learned to ignore That One Guy who once told me I was obvious and predictable and he was deep and complex, and this was one of many reasons why he is going far in life and I am just wasting my own gifts. I expended more energy than I should have wrestling with this, and his other proclamations on my worth as a person. But in the end, it didn't matter whether it was wrong or right: the important part is that he was irrelevant. I long ago moved on. Thanks Adrienne Rich!

The final excerpt is probably that affected me most, because it's addressed to me! It's part of Contradictions, which is a long series of standalone stanzas dealing with love, life, pain and age (Rich had bad arthritis for a lot of her life).

Dear Adrienne:
I'm calling you up tonight
as I might call up a friend as I might call up a ghost
to ask what you inted to do
with the rest of your life. Sometimes you act
as if you have all the time there is.
I worry about you when I see this.
The prime of life, old age
aren't what they used to be;
making a good death isn't either,
now you can walk around the corner of a wall
and see a light
that already has blown your past away.
Somewhere in Boston beautiful literature
is being read around the clock
by writers to signify
their dislike of this.
I hope you've got something in mind.
I hope you have some idea
about the rest of your life.
In sisterhood,

Dear sister ghost: I don't know what I am going to do with the rest of my life. Neither did you, I assume. But in a small way, you make my choices and my path easier. So that is something for both of us. Thank you.

Oh, readers! Are you still here? Well, if Adrienne Rich was not your cup of tea, maybe try some Hollie McNish?