Love, dirt, being of use, and why I wish “intuitive working” were possible

raised bed garden with green leafy vegetables

My friend Bethany recently wrote a beautiful meditation on transitions, rituals, and love. She argues that, contrary to our mainstream cultural narratives, graduation is not the only time when we can embark on new journeys and adventures, nor is marriage the only valid expression of love.

To illustrate of the many ways that people can express their love for each other and the world, she describes her current job on a farm:

Farming is teaching me more about patience and cycles and transitions than anything I may have ever done before. I see, almost daily, how the labor of my body—led by the love in my heart for the world and my place therein—interacts with the plants in the ground. On Friday, I pounded tomato stakes, hoed potatoes, weeded chard, broccoli and kale, helped uncover beds and beds of cabbage, ate the fruits of last year’s harvest for lunch with the farm team, hoed squash and cucumbers and basil, hand weeded dill, listened to the plans made for the coming weeks, and cleaned the tools at the end of the day.

When I read this, I could barely keep from crying.

This is the work I want, achingly, to be doing.

I know my body feels best when I’m moving around. I know my mind feels best when I’m engaged in meaningful work, work with tangible results. I want, as Marge Piercy puts it (in the title of a poem that I saw on the subway on my way to my office job), to be of use:

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

close-up of strawberry plant Continue reading

A few poems for National Poetry Month

April is the month of crocuses, light jackets after an endless season of heavy coats, and poetry.

Poetry and I have a complicated relationship. It used to be my Thing, a long time ago.

Poetry is a reminder of paths I didn’t take, paths I only half-took, paths I could still take someday.

Poetry is a reminder that the internet, for all the good it brings (and it brings so much), changes my brain in ways that make it harder to connect with something deep in my core. With the silence that I need to move beyond prose.

Sometimes, in an ironic twist, the internet even brings poetry.

And so, I present a few of my favorite poems that I’ve come across recently, in no particular order:

Hala Alyan: Dear Gaza

Scherezade Siobhan: colored girls won’t be televised

Audre Lord: A Litany for Survival

Naomi Shihab Nye: Gate A-4

Emily (who I know through Boston’s fat community): Dead Women Litter the Sidewalks of Manhattan, 1911

Suheir Hammad: First Writing Since (Poem on Crisis of Terror)

Kamilah Aisha Moon: Imagine

Autostraddle interviews Lauren Zuniga (contains videos of multiple poems)

Joy Harjo: Deer Dancer

Aimee Nezhukumatathil: After the Auction, I Bid You Good-bye

Leah Lakshmi Piepza-Samarasinha: the city of my desire

My reading challenge: 25 books by women of color in 2014

Inspired by this post, in which Victoria Law plans to read 50 books by writers of color, mostly women, I’ve decided to do my own reading challenge.

I’m going to aim to read 25 books written by women of color this year, of any and all genres. In the past two months, I’ve read only one–Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, which I recommend highly–so I have some catching up to do!

Both Law’s post and this essay by Aimee Phan have good recommendations for books by women of color.  I’m also looking forward to Roxane Gay‘s novel An Untamed State, which will be coming out next month.

A few other books I am hoping to read:
The Summer We Got Free, by Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous
Ash by Malinda Lo
Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism by Jessica Yee (unfortunately, my library doesn’t have this one, and I really don’t like to buy books unless I already know I like them, but I will try to get a hold of it somehow)
-Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Sarasinha’s Love Cake and Consensual Genocide (my library doesn’t have these either, sigh)

And here are a few books by WOC that I’ve read in the past and recommend for anyone doing a similar challenge–or anyone who likes good books, period:
Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I was first introduced to Adichie’s writing in college, and it’s been so exciting to see her become more and more popular, to the extent that Beyonce sampled one of her speeches in the song “Flawless.”
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Cereus Blooms At Night and He Drown She in the Sea by Shani Mootoo
Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni
A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar

What books by women of color do you like?

Friday links, 7/13/13

Happy Friday! As usual, feel free to link to interesting things you’ve read or written this week in the comments.

Fa(t)shion
-I love this queer vintage photo series.
-Etsy rounds up plus size designers who sell clothing on their site.
-Domino Dollhouse’s totally adorable strawberry dress is now available for pre-order! Also, I’m loving their pearl-covered kitty ears headband.
-The wear-all-white sunset cruise at New York’s Full Figured Fashion week looks like so much fun, and everyone has such creative outfits. I would love to go someday!

Fat Activism
-Check out Ragen’s awesome fat activist history project, In Our Own Words.
-If you’re in Berkeley, check out this amazing-looking bellydance benefit performance.
For fat patients and their doctors.
-Mary Lambert’s (yes, the singer in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love”) debut poetry collection, 500 Tips for Fat Girls, looks really interesting.
-Big Libery has a great list of references for debunking fat hate and misconceptions.

Climate and Sustainability
-An important reminder: fossil fuel divestment is about more than reducing emissions.
Quebec’s Lac-Megantic oil train disaster was not just a tragedy, but a corporate crime.
-If you’re in Massachusetts, tell your legislator to support a ban on fracking in the state.
500 million reasons to rethink the parking lot.
Water works: communities reimagine ways of making every drop count.
-A powerful piece about fighting for life: Solidarity is unstoppable.
-I love that there’s a group of mothers and grandmothers fighting climate change right here in Boston.

Climate Summer activists asked people why they care about climate change, and this is one of the answers.

Everything Else
10 queer rappers you should check out.
Is 12-year old Willow Smith’s new video totally inappropriate, or are we just reading sexual stuff into it that just isn’t there?
Criminality, urban living, and race: when my students get locked up, I get angry.
Dirty Dancing is a subversive masterpiece, and here are four reasons why.
-In a great guest post at Captain Awkward’s blog, A. Raymond Johnson provides support to a transgender man who is sick of dealing with both external and internalized transphobia.
Gay is not the new black: the Supreme Court and the politics of misrecognition.
Rachel Jeantel’s language is English–it’s just not your English.
-The upcoming Netflix series Orange is the New Black looks promising for many reasons, including the inclusion of a transwoman of color (played by an actual transwoman).
The Kreayshawn complex: cultural appropriation as counter-cultural expression.
-A cake that says “YAY” on the inside? Yes, please.

Blog announcement #2

So….after reading Issa’s post about NaBloWriMo (i.e., writing one blog post per day for the month of November), I’ve decided to switch to that from NaPoWriMo.

Which means, lucky readers, that you’ll get more posting instead of less!

I have somewhat conflicted feelings about this. On one hand, blogging is where my heart is right now. It’s what inspires me. It’s where my creative energy wants to go.

On the other hand, it feels like a cop-out. I love poetry, and have a hard time getting myself to write it. So the idea of devoting myself to it for a month sounded like a wonderful opportunity and challenge: a way to get away from screens, slow down, turn inward.

The problem is, I don’t want to turn inward right now. I want to turn outward, to connect.

Continue reading

Blog announcement: posting will be light in November

In my neighborhood, we don’t just have pumpkins. We have three-eyed hipster pumpkins.

Next month, I’m going to be attempting NaNoWriMo–except that since I write poetry rather than fiction, I’m actually going to be doing something more like NaPoWriMo.

NaPoWriMo takes place in April, but I’m joining in with the November novel-writers in order to get some social support and structure. I haven’t been writing as much as I would like lately, so I’m hoping that going to meetups regularly will help me kick my own ass into gear.

Therefore, posting will be pretty light. I’ve scheduled some posts in advance, and I’ll try to schedule a few more before the end of October, but there will still be fewer posts than usual (and fewer, if any, Friday links).

Happy writing to my fellow WriMos, and I’ll see you all in December–just in time for all the glitz and glamour of the holiday season. 🙂

Weight and talent

You know what sucks? The amount of talent that’s lost when society requires its artists to fit a narrow standard of beauty.

Ragen at Dances With Fat has a great post about it here, mostly pertaining to performing artists.

But even writers face pressure to be pretty or be ignored. One of my favorite writers, Cheryl Strayed, talked about it in a recent interview (unfortunately, I can’t find the link).

As a fat writer,* it just makes me want to smash things. Continue reading