October 28, 2012 § 1 Comment
Getting ready for the big one, what Philip Bump of Grist.org dubbed the Snor’eastercane. Sandy. I think she should be at least Sandra, if not Cassandra, warning us of what life will be like most of the time in the near future (try getting anyone in power to talk about that). I’m almost ready to vote for Jill Stein. There’s a big climate change demonstration planned for tomorrow, right before the transit system is shut down; maybe we’ll go. Probably not. We aren’t ready for the storm yet.There’s still laundry from Charles’ illness, food to buy. And I never wake up before noon. That’s why I can write blog entries at 3 am.
Charles told me 2 days ago that we had lots of flashlights—which I took to mean he’d brought some from Florida—but in fact we only have one crappy one and by the time I realized that, there were no more to be had, except six-packs of mini-lights: what you’d buy for a school-kids’ camping trip if you don’t expect trouble and want them to have souvenirs.
But one old, cheap flashlight, with extra batteries and candles, will do unless there really is a power loss for a week, which is hard to believe in NYC, center of the universe, but if you can’t believe that…well, you’ll be in for a shock as the Northeast USA takes the brunt of nasty weather over the next—what–hundred years? Thousand years? I haven’t researched the arctic-ice-melting-gulf-stream-big-storm connection as far as to get a sense of duration, only to know that I’m living in the sweet spot of the upcoming trainwreck. Though not quite the sweet spot of the Maldives or Bangladesh.
There’s a lot I want to think and write about how we all are viewing this; by all I mean those who believe in climate change and that it’s happening now and will get increasingly worse. There’s the science, which is full of uncertainties about timing, tipping points, mitigation, etc, and then there’s temperament—those apocalyptically minded and those who can’t help focusing on the positive. Having been both–I find it hard not to be both, since cold reason and depression pull me in one direction, and love and the wish for the world as it has beautifully been pull me in the other—I believe it’s impossible to find one scientist who isn’t being pulled in several emotional directions at once. The uncertainly is real and deep (we barely know our planet and its systems) but so is the human incapacity to cope. We’ll never really know what’s coming until it hits, and maybe not even then.
This is far beyond denial or the question of whether it’s better to give people hope or scare the pants off them. It’s about how we perceive the world and how we can’t help but perceive it in multiple ways simultaneously. If you’re me, that makes you confused and full of insecurity, assuming you’re cooking the books, even if they aren’t your books; others take sides and shut out the noise from their other half.
All I have to offer, if I take this investigation seriously, is a history of prolonged suspension in psychological indeterminacy. A way with words. An interest in science, a love of nature, a lack of young beings I am personally responsible for (other than the felines, who’ll be dead before the worst of it).
In order to do this well, I do have to step out into the world more. Ugh. I don’t fit. Never did, more so now. Type faster, Juris would say. Write better, I tell myself.
On that note, I read my poetry Wednesday at The Cornelia Street Café’s Perfect Sense series, curated by Alyssa Heyman. The reading was a one-year anniversary celebration for Red Glass Books, the chapbook series created by my dear friend and publisher, Janet Kaplan. The other readers were E.J. Antonio, Brian Clements, Patricia Spears Jones, Edwin Torres, & Janet Kaplan read the world of Kate Greenstreet. All terrific. It was a remarkable evening and not just because I felt like a real participant for the first time. Everyone was good; everyone was listened to.
I’ve always been phobic about public speaking. A sad tale: lots of lost opportunities, many weeks of sobbing before some inescapable event, reliving a panic I didn’t understand. But I’ve finally gotten over that. I attribute this largely to age but also to Janet. Having someone who understands exactly what that fear is like, has overcome it herself, and is actively and always rooting for me made a big difference.
My mother said today, when I was telling her about the pleasure of reading, and the compliments I received, “You’re an actor, I’ve always known that.” I was greatly surprised. I’ve always known it too—though I would say performer rather than actor—but as long as I was too scared to perform, there was no point talking about it. And it’s still iffy, because experiencing the rush and then the letdown afterward was difficult…I felt thrust back into the void…and all the familiar feelings, it’s too late, it’s too late, which have been plaguing me over the last year slammed me hard yesterday.
But it’s not just about the pleasure of being on stage. I also had the satisfaction of communicating my work better than the page alone can. My poems about the breakup with Philip are angry/painful, but also funny. My friends and family saw the anger and pain; my sister remarked, after reading my chapbook, “I’d like to grind him to a fine powder.” She’s got a way with words too, doesn’t she? I keep thinking about that image; my very capable sister carrying out that rather gruesome task, which I have no doubt she could do if necessary.
But the humor was what I was most interested in. It’s always darkest just before the joke, in my experience. And strangers laughed and wanted more! Anger’s great, they said. Go for it! Do I have more? Oh, yeah. The sad sweet stuff I’ll save for some lyricist to put to music.
But enough about me. I just discovered this poet. She’s fucking brilliant.
You are mistaken if the language furthers your sense of devotion.
You are a fallen person now.
They care more about their language than for you (you, the real person you).
Line after line, a private, unmediated act done to you with a confusing abandon,
its flailing in its substance however deceptive this might be.
It will point out your own directionlessness,
you will be harmed.
You cannot mediate it with caress.
Do you think because they understand what meaning looks like,
they have more meaning than others?
They are the protectors of a sense of feeling, mere protectors— earnest?
No. They are protectors of the flawed, filling zones of bereft.
The aftermath of pleasure. A contested zone for all.
What about the lawyer who loves the law?
Aren’t they the same, a poet with a larger book—
the way they protect and subject language
to a sense-making?
A kind of cognitive patternization.
Ultimately, both undertake the hijack of language,
they won’t love you the way
you are; it’s in this inability to love—
unless you embody the poem—
you embody the law and its turn of phrase.
Unless you see the poet clearly: loving utterance,
an unadulterated utterance—seized and insular.
You must entice with otherness.
You must catch the poem as a muse does.
You must muse and muse and muse.
All the thralldom of poetic encounters that stand in for sexual ones,
all the ways we terrorize with sense-making,
allowing it to stand in for intimacy.
For it to stand in and suggest that all other kinds of feelings
and declarations must yield to it.
It will move you if you ask for permission
to exist within its confines,
and you move the poet toward you and you hold the poet’s head,
wrapping your arms around them
strapped in your wordless hold, but soon words do come
and in the trailing off of speech, you will be permanently lost.