26 January 2016


At the beginning of the year, I posted that I'd use this space to reacquaint myself with writing (long form writing, anyway, which I've neglected since completing a dissertation on Decadent writers). I began with short posts, but they were regular. Then David Bowie died.

The Internet, of course, is well stocked with pieces written by people grieving for this man, and I sat down on a Wednesday at 6:30 AM to commit my own eulogy to the WWW. Unexpectedly, I ended up researching an AM radio station in the Idaho panhandle--my only musical source in the 1970s--which lead, in turn, to writing about that station's effect on my interior life (pretty much the only "life" I had as a child). I grew confused about chronology ("when did we move from Arizona to California to Illinois?" "What year did 'The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.' come out?" "How old was I when they filmed Heaven’s Gate?"). I opened a old, empty notebook and began an outline. I wrote out each calendar year and proceeded to fill the outline with generalities, question marks, and some details. I texted my mom and asked about key events. I looked at dates on old photos, and finally, some order appeared. For the first time, I can see my life, and, for the first time, I've started writing about it.

I've spent some time every day writing. My writing schedule is time consuming, but it works for me. In the evening, while my partner writes (he is a poet), I curl up in a chair beside an Ikea Jansjö lamp, open my moleskin, pick up my Black Warrior, and write for at least one hour. Each morning, I boot my HP Pavilion desktop and transcribe the previous night's longhand. I add details from memory, my mother's memory, and from what I research. So far, it's been a stimulating and kind of astonishing experience.

I've blogged  the occasional personal post, but largely I've avoided "confessional" writing, and I think it's because I've always chosen to believe that the personal past is best left unexamined. The terrain is too awful. It thunders with isolation, bleakness, and physical pain that can, at the very least, debilitate you before you're half way across the territory. I saw confessional writing as the domain of those unwilling or unable to "let go" of trauma, and maybe I've accused them of wallowing in it, enjoying the crash of misery. My philosophy asserted: “It’s done, move on. Can’t change things. Forget it.” Such ideas emerged from my own unwillingness to frankly address the various choices I’ve made. Writing about them means focusing on shame, anger, addiction, poverty, pettiness, vanity, jealousy . . . essentially each one of those miseries that flew out of that Greek woman’s jar.

To this point, I fail to see my writing as "therapeutic." It doesn’t relieve or provide previously-unknown insights. My goal isn't to force my life into some narrative arc (life is more episodic than narrative, isn’t it? Well, it seems so to me). Actually, right now I don’t know what the goal, what "the point" might be. Perhaps, right now, the only “point” is that I’m writing. And I am certain that, eventually, a “so what” response will emerge.

At least, I hope.

TL; DR: I’m writing again. And this time it’s personal.

13 January 2016

Bowie, Briefly.

My response to David Bowie's death may be melodramatic and some might say frivolous.

My partner woke me at 05:45 on Monday, 12/11/16 to tell me that Bowie had died; immediately, I fell into the grief-pit. I began sobbing, and I spent a significant chunk of the day weeping.

My response has several components. Much, of course, is sincere mourning for a deeply valuable human being and artist. There is, as well, nostalgia and an awareness of my own mortality. However, I think the majority of it may be that Bowie's death "triggered" my widow's grief.  While I was crying for Bowie, I was also crying for my late husband. 

I'm working on a longer piece about Bowie's significance "to me" (because, you know, we don't have enough of those just yet), but I wanted to mark his passing now. 

Thank you, Mr Jones, for all that you've given. Your work (in art, music, film, fashion) has impacted our culture profoundly. I will miss knowing that you're in the world.

07 January 2016

Plus ça Change -- "January, 1795" by Mary Darby Robinson

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.

Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.