Readings

Jun. 30th, 2007 03:23 pm
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Last week, I put a pear and a long, red Jonathan Edwards commemorative pencil in my bag as I went to wait for the bus to Amherst for a reading. I didn't eat the pear, which, because of the heat, got so soft that I could peel it with a spoon. So I did and put the pear mush in the freezer, and, just now, put it in the blender with cinnamon and yogurt to make a frozen pear smoothie that I just drank the last swallow of from a tall glass. It was good.


  • Mark Doty read poems that are staying with me, including a fierce one about a guy deliberately almost running him over, and what it felt like to be carrying his anger and image of that around with him, it ends, I think, "When did I ever put anything down?" And another poem I really loved about a confrontation with the sublime -- the terrible, tempting danger of it -- climbing a wild, weird Gaudi temple and getting safely down again, belly to dirt, all the while sitting clapping in a room.

  • Paul Lisicky read very new work: short pieces filled with animals, woods and a kind of dangerous intensity and shifting sense of the real that reminded me of Rebecca Brown's The Dogs and Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch and The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits. They made my skin tingle up and down the inside of my arms, which only happens when the work is touching a deep vein in me.

  • Thomas Sayers Ellis was an amazing reader.

  • Grace Paley was looking a bit more frail than the last time I'd seen her, read a lot of poems, and said of a story she read, "I think there's another page, but, oh well." And that's really how it felt -- she had offered us plenty, for sure.

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There are some great readings at UMass this week at the Juniper Writing Institute.

Tonight, I'm going to see Mark Doty and Grace Paley, two writers whose work I love and whose very different presences as readers knock me out. My friend Chaia Heller, who has asked me to do fat liberation workshops as paid gigs way more than anyone else has over the years -- she asked me to do my first one, as a matter of fact and the most recent one, too -- once invited me to give a reading with Grace Paley at the Institute for Social Ecology, and it was utterly delicious, even if Grace did get mildly annoyed at the way I raved about her work before I started reading. I couldn't help it, though. I read her early short story collections when I was haunting the University of Colorado library in the early eighties, partly because I didn't get along with my dorm roommates and needed somewhere to be, and partly because I was looking for models of fiction writers and poets who were women, and those stories were funny, ardent, heartbreaking and political in ways that left me practically bruised with the desire to be able to write like that.

Mark Doty is a poet whose new books I always order as soon as they're published. He once gave a keynote at the OutWrite conference that left me crying in my seat with his evocation of the reasons to write and the things that poetry (counter to what WH Auden wrote) actually can do. I've just started his latest book, Dog Years, a memoir about his dogs Beau and Arden.

In response to a comment from a stranger, about facing the prospective death of his aging dog, he writes:

Just now death remains an interruption, leaves me furious, sorrowing, refusing to yield. Too easy an acceptance seems, frankly, sentimental, an erasure of the particular irreplaceable stuff of individuality with a vague, generalized truth. That's how sentimentality works, replacing particularity with a warm fog of acceptable feeling, the difficult exact stuff of individual character with the vagueness of convention. Sentimental assertions are always a form of detachment; they confront the acute, terrible awareness of individual pain, the sharp particularity of loss or the fierce individuality of passion with the dulling, "universal" certainty of platitude.

I'm also particularly excited about Paul Lisicky's reading coming up on Tuesday, when Thomas Sayers Ellis will read as well. Paul is a novelist and memoir writer --I especially loved his memoir, Famous Builder, very much.
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So, I'm getting on a Peter Pan bus tomorrow and going to read a little as part of the Fat Studies series of panels at the PCA conference in Boston. It's at the Marriott Copley Place, if anyone local is having a last minute itch to stop by -- I think that's very easy to do. Read more... )
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I'm giving a presentation tomorrow for an anthropology class at Mt. Holyoke College, and am listing resources here. Read more... )
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The reading last night was so good that I feel protective of it, almost as if I don't want to write about it, but only to keep trying to let the work I heard soak into me. These were both works in progress, and both taut with feeling and meaning.

Judy Frank read from Noah’s Ark -- which is a novel about a gay couple in the U.S. who take in two Jewish children orphaned by a café bombing in Jerusalem -- and the scene she read was an evening in a newly grieving family, with a six-year-old girl who cries all night. There is such awkwardness and tenderness with the density of grief in those rooms, which comes with explicit acknowledgment of Palestinian children feeling the same loss, the same grief. I can't do justice to the clarity of the domestic detail that gives these relationships such life, but it does, it feels like wild luck to get to hear from a book like this while it's being made.

Alex Chee read Queen of the Night -- set in the 19th century, an opera singer pledges to forgo speaking in order to communicate only through song. It was an utterly beautiful evocation of hunger and song, what it is to give voice, what it is to be silenced. I can't wait to read it.

I started shaking while Judy was reading. I had to rush out after it ended to catch a bus (the next one wasn't for almost an hour), and found myself on the bus, still trembling, more full of feeling than I knew -- and I knew that I was feeling a lot. Once we got to UMass, a sophomore (she said) and a senior took the seat behind me -- a straight man asking a lesbian about her new affair with a still married other woman her own age (to me, now, they all seemed impossibly young) -- the women were a week into the relationship, both falling in love. His questions were specific and fairly relentless, and she answered every one.

Probably because I had just come from an extraordinary reading, and readings like that really do change how I see and feel and experience everything (at least for a while, and, me, I think that lingers), their conversation seemed like a deep rite.
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I'm ready to admit it. I'm in love with a bookstore. Even though the bus I was on broke down and I was stuck next to route 9 for an extra half hour, and then had to wait on a bench for another hour or so to get home at ten from a seven o'clock reading, I don't care. Because that is one welcoming bookstore with a fabulous selection -- plenty of fiction! plenty of political edge! -- and they have a bunch of just great events. Tonight, there were leaves blown in and scattered on the floor, how endearing is that? It's a workers' coop. They will personally deliver books to Northampton! It's a fabulous store.

And tonight...  )
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Here's a link to a brief excerpt from the novel that I read yesterday. It's about Jonathan Edwards' love of writing letters.

One good thing that came out of letting people know about the reading is that Ken Minkema from the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale has offered to post the excerpt on their website. I'll post a link when it's up.

And I was invited to come back and read in the gorgeous First Churches sanctuary, complete with the chair made from wood from the elm tree that used to grow in front of the Edwards' house, when the book is published.

Another good thing is that I got to read this for [livejournal.com profile] amarama when I was in San Francisco. She taped it and responded to it, and having had that experience with her is such a great thing to carry with me in these other settings.
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Under the cut below is the schedule for the Jonathan Edwards event this Saturday. It's free, at First Churches in downtown Northampton. I'm reading at 2 pm.

Both "soon to be published" and the description below of what the book is about are not exactly the story, but, anyway, it's the first time I'm reading any of the work in the context of an event centered on Jonathan Edwards, and, as I said before, this is at the congregation where he preached for more than twenty years in the 1720s through 1750, so it's moving to me. I hadn't been completely believing that it was really going to happen. But, it is. And I feel honored to be a part of it.

Last week, I read that in 1741, Jonathan Edwards was given use of half of the minister's sequestered land, in addition to his salary and a yearly supply of firewood. (The family used 92 sled loads one year, and access to wood on public lands was a hotly contested issue as the town moved from the "commons" model of its first 100 years or so to more exclusive private ownership.) I read that in the cemetery, where I love to work and read and walk, and realized that the sequestered land was part of this land abutting the old burying ground. You know, the land where I was at that very minute. Not only are family members buried here, but the family must have regularly walked where I ride my trike almost every day, from their house on King Street to the land. Reading that with light coming through the leaves of my favorite maple and gnats darting like specks of light -- specks of annoying, amazing, ungovernable, creaturely life -- it moved me.

Here's the schedule for the day. I'd love for folks to come, if you're interested. )
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I had dinner with two very dear friends last night, J&V, who made five spice chicken and squid salad and baked a pumpkin full of raisins and spices. I brought them eggs and wine in the basket of my trike. It was so restorative and good to talk with them.

J gave me a copy of the new edition of Field Guide to the U.S. Economy, which he wrote and edited along with Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, Nancy Folbre, and the Center for Popular Economics (where I worked for many years).

I love this book, because it's so full of very easily accessible information about the US economy, designed to be of use to activists. (Plus, it's got cartoons. And charts.)

There's a book party at Food For Thought in Amherst this Thursday at 7. I'm going! And, wow, they've got a bunch of amazing events coming up there this fall. (E, an events programmer there, used to work for CPE, too.)

Thinking about economics and health )
susanstinson: (reading)
Saw Charles Simic read at Smith last night. He was unassuming and funny, and I liked his work. (One of the poems he read is behind the link.) Also, he said that the last time he had read in Northampton, it had been a long time ago, at Jonathan Edwards' memorial service. This was a joke, as Jonathan Edwards was dead in 1759 (and, well, actually, died in New Jersey), but it pleased me that this good poet said his name, even as I watched people in the rows in front of me turn to each other, asking who he was, and then shrugging.

Also, Lesléa and I saw the Poetry Bus, with exhausted and travel grimed poets trying to sort through poetry books on the grass. The part that usually holds luggage on a Peter Pan or Greyhound was open and full of books. It didn't look that fun, but the bus with "POETRY BUS" painted huge across its side was pretty great, and they'll be reading around here at various spots today and tonight, and then moving on to NYC, Philadelphia, etc. There's a picture of the bus at the links if you scroll down.

I'm editing to add: the poets were looking very wiped out and possibly sick of it all, but if anybody ever asked me to go on a poetry bus tour, I would SO do it. Poetry! Bus!

Good writing with Sally yesterday. And I have a bunch of squash, chard, kale, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, parsley and tomatoes from my love's garden.

Wow

Jun. 5th, 2006 10:11 am
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Info about the Saturday cabaret at the femme conference in August is now up on the website. Friday night is up, too. Kind of makes my heart pound.

Bonus: I hadn't been able to figure out how to shrink that trike photo small enough to be an icon, but I think this might do it.
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Have I mentioned that I’m going to be reading in the Saturday night cabaret at the Femme Conference in San Francisco in August?

I love this from Esther Newton, whose work I’ve only just now heard of. The essay, "My Butch Career," ended in a way that utterly thrilled me, but this quote is from midway through. And to “the better butches look” below, I’d add “the better anybody looks,” in the urgent desire for all of us to take the risk of being seen to pulse and shine :

Yet I am hostile to representations of queerness as antithetical to all order, to all categories, to queerness pressed into the service of romantic individualism. )
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Three ways of looking at fat bodies:


  • There will be a screening of the short film Nothing to Lose by Robert Y. Chang (oops, I mean tonight!) May 8, at the Landmark Theater on East Houston Street in New York City. Robert (who has a quiet, engaged, respectful presence) did some filming for this at the Fat and the Academy conference, but I think that the central focus in on fat activists who are members of the NYC NAAFA chapter.

    The screening is part of a group of short films called Docs on the Edge, and he says that anyone just interested in his film could come at intermission, shortly before eight, to see his piece in the second half of the program. But the rest of the program (click "events poster) looks pretty fascinating, including what I think might be a documentary about the owner of [livejournal.com profile] beccawrites' favorite hot dog stand, if he's from Bangladesh...


  • I'm going to the ASDAH conference in Cleveland in June, which has a Health at Every Size focus on alternative ways to think and practice about fat and health.

    Here's a summary from their website of the basic tenets of Health at Every Size )

  • I haven't seen it, but my brother sent me an email this morning to say that in this week's People magazine, in the middle of an article about a woman recovering from exercise bulemia (page 166 or so), there's what he thinks is a photocopy of the cover of my first novel, Fat Girl Dances with Rocks in her journal about her recovery.

Links

Apr. 21st, 2006 08:31 am
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I went last night to a reading at Smith to honor Adrienne Rich, a poet whose work has pushed and thrilled and changed me more than I can say, and, I think, through my failings, not enough. Sometime I might try to write something about what her poems mean to me, but right now, I just want to say that some of her friends were there, too, other poets -- they were referring to themselves as three sisters who grew up in the women's movement, and their younger brother. Adrienne talked a little about relationships between poets (which I always hear as artists of all kinds), what that's been like for her, why it matters. Made my heart thump. Each of the other poets read one of Adrienne's poems that had mattered a lot to them, and one of their own.

Joy Harjo read "Diving into the Wreck," from the book by that name, and sang -- so hauntingly -- her own very beautiful poem, Grace.

Ed Pavlic read "Trying to Talk to a Man," also from Diving Into the Wreck and I didn't get the name of his poem, but there's some beautiful work of his at the link to his name.

Cheryl Clarke read that unbelievably painful and necessary poem, "The School Among the Ruins" , which is about children at a school during a time of bombing, from her most recent book, The School Among the Ruins, and also a poem of her own (not this one) inspired by picture in the New York Times of a woman holding up a photograph of her sister, killed as a soldier in the U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

As a lot of you already know, there is such urgent, beautiful work to be found through these links.

FATA

Mar. 29th, 2006 09:26 pm
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It's getting near to last call for registration for the Fat and the Academy conference at Smith in Northampton next weekend, but it's still open right now. I'm not listed on the website, but I'm giving a brief welcome at the beginning and doing a reading on Sunday. Some of you, I know, are planning to come or are speaking or performing, and others already know that this conference includes a bunch of great folks, including Paul Campos and Marilyn Wann. If you didn't know about it, or have been thinking about coming, now's the time to take the leap.

Sadly, I can't be there on Saturday, so I'll be missing a lot of good stuff.
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  • Read for Size Matters and Love Your Body Day at Smith on Saturday, which was lovely. It was good to meet [livejournal.com profile] sheana and the other folks there. Doing the reading is giving me the impulse to do the Dickens thing of posting daily segments of a talk I gave in Seattle a few years ago. It includes poems that I've posted here before, but I haven't put anything at all extensive about fat up here in a while, and doing the reading put me in the mood. Might do it.

    I structured part of the reading around a tribute to three women I know who've loved their bodies in complicated, active, gorgeous, generous, far-reaching ways, including my friend lg, Sondra Solovay and Judy Freespirit. I love that part of reading so much, the part where I can speak of things and work and people who move and amaze me, can linger over them and try to get some piece of them, of my response to them, into words that have enough bend and toughness to hold it. Holding and releasing both -- it's such a feeling.


  • Sometimes, I like to get dressed up for a reading. It helps me get emotionally ready for the energy and the vulnerability. So I wore this little black dress under a thick black sweater with a white stripe along the hem and these marled socks because it's winter, after all. Only problem is, I was also bringing heavy books and needed to ride my trike. I should have worn jeans and changed there, but instead, I jumped on the trike and headed through downtown Northampton with my bare knees bouncing in the air in icy, icy, icy wind -- eventually, the temp was below zero, and the wind chill was way below that. That cold bit into my legs, especially on the way back.


  • [livejournal.com profile] cherry_midnight has posted a call for proposals for a Fat Studies Reader.

    Sondra Solovay and Esther Rothblum are excited to announce the upcoming book: The Fat Studies Reader! This comprehensive, interdisciplinary anthology seeks to map the contours of the emerging field of Fat Studies. The first textbook dedicated to fat theory and fat studies, The Reader will include disciplines where we have sufficient scholarship critiquing the negative assumptions, stereotypes, and stigma placed on the fat body.

    This is a first, and the proposal deadline is coming up quickly, at the end of February.


  • On Thursday at UMass, [livejournal.com profile] pitbull_poet will be giving a talk with a title that I respond to with relief and recognition: Gaping, Gawking, Staring: Living in Marked Bodies

    Disabled people, trans people, fat people, and people of color all know what it's like to be stared at. Through words and images, Eli Clare will explore the internal experiences of living in marked bodies and the external meanings of oppression and bodily difference.

    I'm looking forward to it.

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