Saturday, July 23, 2005

Some of the Best Poets Are Sincere. . .Or, Why I Don't Often Write Prose,

Almost Never—About As Often as I Anger

But, some things you just gotta say; I wrote this this morning:

"Please recognize that my comments are in response to numerous comments Tony made on *my blog* and in his in response to my blog, and most offensely & defamatorily, all culturally & ethnically loaded comments: assumptions & presumptions about me & my work based upon what I represent to him as a Chicana poet. Beginning with this in a post from early June

"There is a period style (or maybe it’s a sub-style of the Wonder Bread style) that I’ll call the “Tortilla style.” This style takes one’s ethnic, racial, sexual, economic, or political identity and fetishizes or ghettoizes it. There are several MFA programs that specialize in this sort of writing. One, which I will not name, even calls itself “The MFA of Color.” Is there any innovative or even interesting writing coming out of programs like this? Not much. What good there is flies extremely low to the ground, and leaves the airspace as soon as the two years are up. Features of this style include obligatory poems about grandparents (and how they’re different from white people), foods ( and how “exotic” the foods that the poet ate growing up are), living oppressed and poor (most of these poems are written by rich kids who got a SUV for graduation and who have never seen the ghetto in their life). This period style holds hands with the “working class style” that serves the same function as the Tortilla style—to fetishize, exoticize, romanticize, the lives of poor white folks. These poets long to publish in the “Best” magazines—the ones run by upper middle class white folks, i.e. the oppressors. Hm."

Some of us can't help what we are or how we grew up or the languages we speak or, most fixedly, the socio-economic class to which we are born. Some of us don't have the luxury of having a name, a face, a hue, a gender, the punctuation which allows us to pass from being a mere shadow on the dime of the field. In other words, I am constantly reminded of the forefather of "New Sincerity" movement, Chicano poet Orlando Ramírez: "Being a Chicano bores me" and "the pressures are just the same/ when it's your raza who are/ screaming at you to miss."

Tortilla style???!!! Bro', we don't have blogs enough to discuss that one. And, how you get the Cultural Revolution out of my offer to look at your manuscript (for free) is an offensive mystery to me. If Li Young-Li offered would you scream "fortune cookie" poetry! And accuse him of trying to turn you into the Red Guard? Do we screen, as well, all bagel eaters who do not reside in Manhattan? The original post and these comments came following the death of, and before the public memorial for, my father, which is why I didn't comment right away.

I NEVER leave negative remarks about anyone's poetry, anywhere. Nor do I ever write prose. Period. This 4-month old blog is my foray into that frontier. And, along with my former colleague, Ed Dorn, I am vehemently against all forms of criticism of one's own age, and even language. Let the poem stand for the poem. Nor do I ever link to blog poets I wouldn't invite to my home or hearth, my library. You indicated that you had no idea who I was or that I was a regular reader. Since yours was the first visitor to my own home, my blog, begun in early march, and one the first links I put up on my site & the first to link to mine, I assumed your attack on writers of color, and Chicano writers, specifically, an attack upon me, personally.

"Why waste your time?" My husband asks me. And I have to stutter in the reply. "Because, there IS something there." I have dedicated my entire life to knowing, seeking out, nurturing and promoting developing *poets* who are *good*. (The humble fact is, now stepping well out of my Emo self, none of you would have ever heard of Sandra Cisneros, Alberto Rios, Jimmy Santiago Baca or Ray Gonzalez had it not been for me, and the MANGO aesthetic stamp of approval. And the schools be dammed; schools are for fish, and I prefer mine on the platter. You accused me of trying to gather students. Huh? That's why I point out to you that if I wanted students I'd hang up my shingle, that I do receive good money for helping people with their first books & early poetry. I've never self-promoted (but my academic situation in the current economic climate demands that I do) and am used to being ignored by the dominant classes. But, dang it, it's like growing up hearing "Beaners stink" all your life, and you devote your adult life to scrubbing everyone around you, and *yourself*, only to get way-laid from within by the voice in the corner, with a megaphone for a personality, chanting, "She stinks, she stinks, Beaners stink, I'm one, I stink, I know. I've been to their houses. They all stink. Here's a whole barrio MFA of them, and they definitely stink." I have been holding on to these last five books for just this reason, that I am one of the only poets held to what I've written at age 18--and not because I am Baudelaire. It's living with insult my entire literary career. I'm tired of being pegged, especially when so much of the pegging, for this bird, goes on in a shooting gallery. (btw, it will be an interesting surprize to Univ. of Pitt. & Arte Publico/Univ. of Houston to know that they are defunct presses. Me, I don't care, as long as I get the royalties from 2 books still in print.)

Fíjate, there's a buried battle in that abuelita. There may be your definitive poem in that hand stirring the wooden spoon in a pot of beans.

The only reason I care is that I am Xicana, the helper class. I want to be of service to the suffering. Listen, I have read *all* your pages, and frankly, I was worried. "Classic shell-shock" is what I thought, what I saw in Provincetown WC, the walking wounded from Iowa who, if they never saw a poem in their lives again it would be too soon. Poets who live among the taxidermy of their own damaged muses. I share your shudders. But, don't assume that that's where I'm coming from. You talk, in the blog, as if you hate your own poetry, you say, over & over, that you think it's bad. That's okay. We all write 100 bad to one good. So what. Long as you write. that's why manifestos & self-proclamed movements are bad. (I never said I didn't like the poetry--show me the poems. I'll show you eclectic.) You shoot your own muse for the sake of the stuffing. Get a few eggs first. I was offended, again, that you assume that "crit" from me means turning you into, oh, any number of things you accuse me of saying in the single word "crit" so it seemed easier to demonstrate on a poem that was, finally, a poem and a good one at that what I mean by crit (yes, anon, close reading: paying attention to the words on the page & the order in which they appear; something I wholeheartedly welcome on any poems I post to my blog or the Cafe. That's why I post. And, it's a safe assumption that when a poet posts an unpublished new poem on a bog that allows comments & anon comments like my own or this one that s/he wants them. Because no poet can work in a vacumn. Language artists, all, we deal in matter which is both personal & private at the same time it is social & communal--the latter the dominant classes have the luxury to ignore.

I was attempting to compliment you and to acknowledge how you have chosen to define yourself on your blog. (a latent tortilla eater) Then, you went ethnically ballistic. Like a "homophobe" being approached by a gay urologist. Cálmate, carnal, nobody's trying to turn you into anything not white, or transparent. As I voiced to Diana Delgado & Rigoberto Gonzalez, as many times as I could, "It's not what you write about that makes you what you are" and "don't ever censor yourself."

Nor, by the way, did I call you a red butt baboon, but that's my point. Pay attention to the words on the page, particularly your own. "Love the words" as Dylan Thomas said, when it comes to your own work. And what you display here is a ton of self-loathing. My question is what good is sincerity at the expense of authenticity?

Just trying to help. I would hate to lose a potentially good poet to depression. Needlessly."


10:28 AM

lucky error
 
"cashing in on (my) ethnicity"??? show me the line
(thanks for the 'in-coming', Poetzie)

3 Comments:

Blogger Peter said...

Lorna: Well put, and bravely put.

PS: Alberto Rios was up here at Centrum. What a sweet guy. Speaking, among other things, of the "marvelous real."

23/7/05 15:04  
Blogger Tony said...

Calmate, Lorna.

We should be in this together. All of us.

23/7/05 15:11  
Blogger 666poetry-finchnot said...

It's not what you write about that makes you what you are" and "don't ever censor yourself."


amen lorna /

i love your words

~jennx

24/7/05 14:29  

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