Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

On my magnificent good fortune

Tonight, sitting in the 32-degree cold and rural dark outside of my sister's house, I saw three shooting stars.

"One for each of us," I thought. Nora, Patrick, and me.

I am extraordinarily lucky to have these people I so admire and love as my siblings and ballasts.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Good idea or lack of sleep?

It could well be the lack of sleep that's behind this idea, but I am really taken with it.

One of the theories about what was so unnerving about hysteria in the 19th century was that it disrupted language, so that signifiers and referents would become blatantly unhitched in the mouths of the patients. This relationship to language was part of the reason I wanted to write the series of poems in the first place. What better than poetry to deal with this sort of fear?!

I've struggled off and on with insomnia for my as much of my life as I can remember. It wasn't really until I was older, though, that it started to make me panic when I couldn't sleep. As a child, it just seemed like one of those things that sometimes happens - and it allotted me time to myself that was still and quiet, something I've always already needed anyway.

I hardly slept at all last night, maybe and hour and a half - 5:30-7:00 a.m. It's 9:44 p.m. right now.

Halfway through this morning I had the idea to start of cycle of poems only written when extremely exhausted. Exhaustion unhinges my ability to use language (I can't tell you how hard I am concentrating now to write this!) just enough that interesting things begin to happen. I'm not certain that the poems from these cycles would end up finished in themselves, but they are certainly things I'd be hard pressed to come up with in other states.

So, here's the idea that makes me excited. What if I created a new section of the hysteria/Charcot book based on these insomnia poems? They certainly mirror the radical disjunction of the language the patients used (at least insofar as how it's represented in the medical journals).

It seems like a really good idea now. I shall have to put it to the test when I've slept.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Old Suzy made me stand where I was and came over and brushed all the snow off of me."

About a year ago now, I wrote a poem about Thumbelina and the early days of my parents' courtship.  Today, I read this remarkable post by my beautiful friend Sarah.  It's about Champlion's General Store - the place both my mother and I worked in our early twenties, the place my parents lived when they first got together, the place I learned how to start a fire in a woodstove, and the place I was cured of many, many ailments.

I'll be thinking of Bob a lot through this season.

It might be time to revise that poem with some detail from the Daily Campus article.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Amongst ourselves

I've been thinking and writing a lot these days of home.

The other weekend, waiting for a friend in New York, I was very struck by the observation that even in the city I find myself surrounded by hay. It's not that there was hay pervading my childhood, but I've come to associate it with home, since they got the horses. Now the smell of hay - musty, grassy, and warm - makes me think of being curled up on the couch with my folks.

My father commented recently that I only ever write about the bad stuff. It gave me pause. It just really hadn't, I think, occurred to me to divide life into good things and bad things.

I've been working more on my Archaeology of Wonder essays lately. One is about the woods I grew up amidst - the methods my family and I utilized to navigate our relationship to it. The other is about the time, as a toddler, I almost drowned.

Here's how it came about.  I was walking up my driveway with Melissa and Felisa on a recent visit from them.  Felisa had never been to my home before, so I was telling her stories about the woods.  As we passed by the pipe I was sucked through as a 15-month-old, I told the story that my family always tells amongst ourselves about how it happened.

It's a short story, really more of a skeleton of a story than anything.  Something in its manner reminds me of the schematics of myths that are in Edith Hamilton's Mythology.  I guess I had neglected to tell them the story before; they had a stronger response to it than I had anticipated.  I figure that, since the primary mode through which I know this event is through our truncated little sketch of a family story, my response to it is mitigated by the way it's told.

It made me think about the soothing role of repetition.  It made me think about narrative and trauma, and about how we might align ourselves to different narrative threads throughout our lives.

I know that the idea that I'm writing about this thing that happened makes my parents uncomfortable.  I wonder if perhaps it is harder for them because the trauma of the event was post-linguistic.  For me it was pre-linguistic, so any story I tell myself about it remains just that - a story, no more or less moving than a novel.

I have never had an interest in those wretched water slides though.  I can't think of an amusement more horrifying.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Jessica, you make a terrific hologram."

I am working on an election poem. I know that sounds a little ridiculous, and I know that ordinarily this sort of poem would lurch dangerously close to Hallmarkism, but, my dear readers, we live in a world of talking head holograms!

Anything is possible.

Can we write election poems that aren't oozing with sentimentalism? Yes we can!

[Oh, dear...]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cake and Cute

I have a little election day essay up on It examines cuteness, exploitation, Sarah Palin, race, and Shirley Temple. And cakes.

Please give it a read, if you feel so inclined.