Monday, August 29, 2011
Ernaux writes in her preface, years after she kept the journal that became the book, that "J'écrivais très vite, dans la violence des sensations, sans réflechir ni chercher d'ordre" (11). I will not translate the French so much as interpret it. "I wrote very quickly, within the violence of sensations, without thinking or looking for order." A page later she summarizes her poetics: "Je crois maintenant que l'unicité, la coherence auxquelles aboutit une oeuvre . . . doivent etre [circonflex, oh keyboard of mine!?] mises en danger toutes les fois que c'est possible. En rendant publiques ces pages, l'occasion s'en présent pour moi" (12-13). Or: "I now think that the unity, the coherence from which one builds a work . . . should be called into question every time it can be. In making these pages public, I'm presented with the opportunity to do so." As these thoughts dovetail with my poetics of writing Alzheimer's, I want to have a conversation with the book here.
So I will dip in and out of the book, meeting its disorder with my own.
--From an October 1983 entry: "Il y a pour moi, toujours, sa voix. Tout est dans la voix. La mort, c'est l'absence de voix par-dessus tout" (84) "For me, it's always been her voice. Everything is in the voice. Death is above all the absence of voice."
My mother grew more and more quiet toward the end. (The verb ought not to be "grow." She lost her voice.) But even the possibility of voice lasted. Each weekend's telephone call offered the hope of a phrase, or a word, until just before the end, when words failed to form on her out-breath. She had commented years earlier that you never forget someone's voice. But in order to remember it, you must hear it again. I have a moldy tape I should have digitized on which she tells some of her stories. Is a voice replayed consolation? Someday I'll find out.
--From an April 1983 entry: "En face de nous, une femme decharnée, spectre de Buchenwald, est assise, très droite, avec des yeux terribles. Elle relève sa chemise, on voit la couch-culotte appliquée sur son sex. Les memes scènes a la télé font horreur. Pas ici. Ce n'est pas l'horreur. Ce sont des femmes" (25). Or: the observer sees women who look like they live in a death camp. One of them exposes herself. Such events would seem horrible on television. Here they're not horror. These are women.
The recognition that degradation does not remove us from the category "human," is one that takes some time to arrive at. The first few visits to an Alzheimer's home are shocking, disorienting, sickening. Over time that sensation eases; you become one person among many, rather than one among the wreckage. Life at its most basic (what we once thought of as "base") matters.
--From October: "Ce n'est pas seulement le sentiment du temps qui passe, quelque chose d'autre, de mortel: je suis maintenant un etre dans une chaine, une existence incluse dans une filiation continuant après moi" (90-91). "It's not just the feeling that time passes, but something else, of morality: I'm now a being in a chain, an existence included in a thread continuing after me."
I continue to feel that the earth's geometry has shifted since my mother died. That sounds an abstract note. "What on earth does that mean?" she might have asked me. There is more space around me, less before me. It's like google map zooming in and zooming out. I don't know when it will go where, but it does so quickly. It's like the month I first moved to Honolulu--an August like this one--when the sun seemed to be in the wrong place. I wanted to turn my body to a different angle, to get away from the sun that was so far over my head I couldn't see it. Now the angles have shifted again. My mother, my hypotenuse. As I look at old photographs of her, Radhika insists that I look at photographs of her earlier childhood. Tug of the chain.
--From February, 1986: "Je ne sais pas si c'est un travail de vie ou de mort que je suis en train de faire" (99). "I don't know if this is a work of life or death that I'm in the midst of doing." Which takes me back to the beginning of her book, where she writes of not wanting to read these notes after her mother's death: "D'une certaine façon, ce journal des visites me conduisait vers la mort de ma mère" (12). "In some way, the journal of visits led me toward my mother's death."
Perhaps that is why I wanted the first blog to remain "backwards" in time, as if the relative calm of her being in Alzheimer's care were a beginning, rather than the end of that sequence. But the newer work moves in chronological order, from life toward death. This interval cannot be set on its head, rearranged; she cannot be brought back into life by the trick of the narrative. The blog took me toward her death, was there at her death, now charts its wobbly course away from her death. Her death acquires a zip code; it seems a place I can find on the map, stick a virtual flag in, send a postcard to.
--From near the end of the book: "Sans doute pourrais-je attendre avant d'écrire sur ma mère. Attendre de m'etre evadée de ces jours. Mais ce sont eux la verité, bien que je ne sache pas laquelle. / Quand j'écrivais sur elle après les visites, est-ce ce n'était pas pour retenir la vie?" (110) "Without a doubt, I could wait before I wrote about my mother. Wait until those days were gone. But this is the truth, even as I don't know which. When I wrote about her after the visits, wasn't it to retain, hold onto life?"
The truth is in the moment, even if--especially if--you can't say what that truth is. It's not ours to wait to write, it's ours to wait to read what has been written. That's the waiting period that yields meaning, even as it eases our need for truth(s). It's the waiting period for Dickinson's gun.
But if meaning is immanent, if it lives inside the voice, what happens when voice leaves that last room, walks down the corridor, exits the front door, moves into the night? Voice is our least material possession, but we crave its substance. Voice internalized loses its timbre, but not content. How I long for its timbre, no matter what words might ride its wave of breath.
Annie Ernaux, "Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit." Gallimard, 1997.
Annie Ernaux, I Remain in Darkness. Trans. Tanya Leslie. NY: Seven Stories Press, 2000.
When you think of 9/11's psychic effects on Hawai`i, what do you think?
I think of a conversation at the playground, not long after 9/11. Two mothers and their kids, Bryant and I and our son. “We've got to get Saddam Hussein,” they said. “Watching too much Fox,” Bryant responded, later on.
I think of my husband hanging up loudly on one of his oldest friends. “He's been drinking the right wing cool-aid.” That was not long after 9/11. They've never spoken since, though I'm distant facebook friends with the man's wife.
I think of the story a graduate student told me, of how he moved to a hostel when he first came to Hawai`i. His two roommates were both vets in treatment for PTSD. One told him simply, "don't startle me." The other one slept in his keflar vest every night.
I think of the graduate student I saw weeping in the hallway, how I thought perhaps she'd broken up with a boyfriend. Later, someone said her best high school friend had been killed in Iraq.
I think of my older students and parents of soccer teammates of my daughter whose spouses are far away and who are doing their best to keep things together.
I think of the obligation to send these men and women off well. “Cheer for Lauren's dad,” the soccer players are told.
I think of the day I approached the cashier at Times Supermarket and she asked if I “wanted to support the troops” by buying a yellow ribbon magnet for my car.
I think of a friend who stole such ribbons off other peoples' cars and made a Lynndie England silhouette out of them. Thumbs up!
I think I first notice Fox News on at Kaiser when I take Sangha in for his check-ups. I keep noticing Fox, ask them to turn to another station. When the World Cup is on, I ask to see that instead.
I think of the air shows over Kane`ohe, the Thunderbirds coming in low over Kahekili as I drive my car home, the jets shaking our townhouse in Ahuimanu, the neighbors coming out to watch. I hear myself saying “I hate them,” as I lift my chin to watch.
I think of a former neighbor, Intel officer with several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt. We'd talked easily about politics. On his return from Afghanistan he told us a story as we walked back from our kids' school; he's ordered an Afghan man shot (“he wasn't acting like a friend”). The man survived. He was a “friend.”
I think of another morning when he and I walked back from the school and I started talking to him about politics. His face looked different from before. He turned to look at me, said: “that would mean talking about politics, and I can't (or was it “won't”?) do that any more.”
I think of a colleague asking me if this meant the world would be forever different. Not a question, really, but a wry wondering remark.
I think it's hard to talk to people who don't agree about politics. I remember my mother's neighbor telling me we can only talk about my mother now.
I think of how my mother would cut people off if their politics got too right-wing. I think about how her wings began to change oddly when she got Alzheimer's.
I think about how, when I travel, active military are asked to get in line first. Why not teachers, electricians, plumbers, poets, physicists?
I think of how I think about “correcting” student work when they write about “defending our freedom.” “Cliche,” I write in the margin, but that doesn't quite cover it.
My son, Sangha, is now 12 years old. He loves Airsoft battles and sometimes his friend (who left Hawai`i with his parents when the economy went south) brought over the Playstation and they play hours of Halo.
I think of the effects of all these separations and losses on all of us. There is a lot of grief out there. And it cannot be compensated for through the phrases I sometimes hear, like "fighting/dying for our freedom." Abstractions simply cannot bear the weight of so much loss.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Report from Honolulu, September 16, 2001
I remember the day last year I drove over the top of a hill and looked down on Pearl Harbor, which was in flames. Taken aback, I suddenly remembered, “they’re filming the movie.” This memory assumed new importance for me this week, when two of the first reactions one heard all over television to the terrorist attacks of September 11 were: “it’s like Pearl Harbor” and “it’s like a movie.” My friend Miriam says that if they didn’t keep telling her it was real, she’d think it was a movie. My mother, who remembers Pearl Harbor well, wondered where it was on December 7, 1941. No one wonders where New York and Washington are.
The president disappears the first day. Reports have him in Florida, where he was reading to schoolchildren when the first planes hit; in Louisiana, where he landed at an Air Force base, and finally Nebraska, before returning to Washington to deliver a four minute speech late in the evening. My husband says it sounds like there was a brush-fire in Nevada and two firefighters died. For consolation, the country turns to New York’s mayor, Rudy Guiliani, best known recently for the acrimonious end to his marriage. Somehow he seems always to be there (eight press conferences the first day) and to be saying the right things.
Five thousands miles away from “ground zero,” Ala Moana Shopping Center was closed on Tuesday, as were public schools on the Big Island, whose mayor (yes, here islands have mayors) used to be head of civil defense for the state, which is constantly under threat of tropical storms, hurricanes, earthquakes.
Two days after the bombing, I drive through Kalihi, a working class area of Honolulu. On many of the telephone poles I notice color photographs of an Arab man with a beard and the words, “Osama Bin Laden: Wanted, Dead Or Alive.”
On the day after the bombing, my prose poetry class is scheduled to sections of Joe Brainard’s book, I Remember. I ask them to write their own “I remember” sentences, inserting recent events where they wish. Most of them linger on childhood memories.
I ask my Form & Theory of Poetry students to write a “sonnet” based on Shakespeare’s rather forgettable # . Make a list of eleven images from the past day, I tell them. Then write a one line “introduction” and a two line “conclusion.” After they read their poems, one of the students bursts into tears. Her classes have all discussed the attacks, done nothing else.
Images, the ones that wake you up at night and then won’t let you get back to sleep: one plane hitting one trade tower. Later in the day, another plane hitting another tower. Fireballs. What one witness calls a “reverse mushroom cloud” as first one, then the other, tower falls. Men and women on the streets of NYC wearing nothing visible except ashes, concrete dust, asbestos. Someone worries about the asbestos. Someone wipes off his camera lens as the billows of dust reach him, huddled next to a SUV. Early in the day, people were jumping from the towers. My friend Gaye’s son saw a man and a woman jumping holding hands. Later in the day that footage disappeared. Apparently, the networks will spare us something. But already we have the theme songs, the video-taped lead-ins to special reports, the titles: America Under Attack, America Unites. People holding photos of their loved ones who are missing, walking from hospital to hospital in New York to see if they’re there. After seeing the towers collapse, we know what “missing” means. The words “pulverized” and “evaporated” make more “sense” now.
Sounds, reported or in one instance recorded on an answering machine (that which does not answer, in this instance): the cell phone calls made by people trapped in the Trade Center or in one of the doomed airplanes. “I love you,” all these voices say or are reported to have said. What people say into their video cams: “You saved my life. Thank you,” and “Jesus Fucking Christ,” which CBS ran with a prefatory warning about its language.
The strikes are an invitation to us all to do something horrible. Many of us, those now termed "academic defeatists” by the right wing minions of Fox News, do not want to strike back militarily, do not want this called a “war,” do not want the USA to kill more people. My adopted son is from Cambodia; read any contemporary history of that country and you will know what evils American foreign policy is capable of. But what should we do? One circulated email, from an American Studies professor in Washington, DC, noted the instant politicization of our grief by the president and his men (patriarchal language is back, without apology, this week). Grief, by any other means, is now our politics.
I’m tortured for a couple of days, as a teacher of creative writing, by the sense that this attack was brilliantly imaginative. It was 9/11 (911 is the phone number to call in an emergency); planes hit the twin towers and the Pentagon, paragons of American might; these killers knew how to define the word symbol. “Poetry can kill a man,” Wallace Stevens wrote. He did not mean this, but we might. This is not what we want poetry to be.
The New York Times Magazine is on-line only this week, to be printed next week. It’s virtual pages are devoted to photographs and to commentaries by prominent American writers. If you want to see what they’d already printed for September 16, please click here, my screen says. I do. That issue was titled, “9.16.01: The Way We Live Now,” and included an essay on Silicon Valley, another on television viewing from the point of view of a network exec, another on the Japanese baseball star, Ichiro, who plays for Seattle, and another called “Fire and Spice.” “Remember when perfume was naughty?” it reads. “It is again.”
My two-year old son, Sangha, still plays delightedly with his aten (airplane) and fie duck (fire trucks) and do do do (bulldozer). For the first time, surely not the last, I’m thankful he can’t be drafted.
Last Fall I taught an honors composition class, which focused on place-based writing. One of our texts was Juliana Spahr's "Dole Street," an essay she wrote in 2001 about the street on which she lived, which runs through the makai (ocean, south) side of the University of Hawai`i, where she taught. "It's amazing that someone who had lived here for such a brief time learned so much about this place," said one student who has lived here all her life. The essay is a marvel of observation, built from a question: what is the history of the street I live on? Out of that question came others: what is my place on this street that I live on? What is my place in the history of what this street means to Hawai`i's history? I begin to feel the force of Spahr's characteristic repetitions in my own syntax. This is her fourth book about Hawai`i, and the one I like best. The others are Fuck You-Aloha-I Love You (Wesleyan, 2001), This Connection of Everyone with Lungs (University of California Press, 2005), and The Transformation (Atelos, 2007). well then there now is published by Black Sparrow (2011). The book has been reviewed in the Honolulu Weekly by Shantel Grace.
Spahr's essay "Dole Street," collected in this volume, is built of narrative history, photographs, personal memories, stories told about place by Hawaiians, immigrants, settlers (more on that last word in a moment). There is a schematic map of the street that reminds me of the image puzzle in The Little Prince. Instead of a snake who has swallowed an elephant, however, this map shows a snake swallowing Honolulu, from St. Louis Heights on one end, to Maryknoll and Punahou Schools on the other. The elephant in the room is what it means to be a white schoolteacher in Hawai`i: "As the stereotypical continental schoolteacher, I need to think about how to respect the water that is there," she writes, "how not to suck it all up with my root system, how to make a syncretism that matters, how to allow fresh water to flow through it, how to acknowledge and how to change in various unpredictable ways" (49).
The best teaching often involves little more than pointing one's stereotypical teacher-finger and asking questions. Here, look at this place you think you know and find out its history, its ecology, its names. While tourism gets a bad name, and for good reason, there's something beautifully touristic about looking at the place you live in with fresh eyes--and then doing the non-touristic hard work of finding out what you've looked at. It's a move from looking to seeing, not one from looking to taking. That's what Spahr tells us throughout this essay and this book.
Asking what this means matters.
And the answer also matters.
But back to that word, "settler." Near the end of "Dole Street," Spahr takes issue with a syncretistic view of Hawai`i (the happy multi-culti view that everyone mixes and gets along, which the tourist bureau propagates): "It is that Dole Street mainly tells a certain history, a history of how the arrival of western education and its separations and refusals to mix came with and was propped up by settlers who came mainly from the continent and their powers" (49). And then the clincher: "It tells an old story, which is also a current story."
Yes and no. Let me historicize a bit. The power of the word "settler" (more powerful to me than to a reader unfamiliar with Hawai`i, no doubt) comes with a long story attached to it. Spahr lived in Hawai`i from 1997 through 2003, spending 2001 in New York City. The Acknowledgments to her book page tells us where her work from that time was published, but there are no dates, except for mention that "Some of We and the Land That Was Never Ours" was reprinted in Best American Poems of 2001 (ironic considering its content). It might bear saying that she wrote her Hawai`i pieces while she was living here. "Dole Street" was published for the Subpoetics collective (selfpublish or perish, it was called) in 2001. This would be five years after Haunani-Kay Trask's well known remarks to the MELUS conference, which was held in Honolulu in 1997. In that address, Trask shifted the operating paradigm in Hawai`i from one that privileged "locals" (for the most part non-white people born and raised in Hawai`i) to one that privileged native Hawaiians and declared that haole and Asians were all "settlers." The first concept was made current by the Bamboo Ridge group (founded, 1979), and the second by `oiwi journal (founded, 1998) and other publications. This speech inspired Candace Fujikane and Jonathan Okamura to collect essays on Asian Settler Colonialism, a text that is used often in English department classes to this day. That text, with less rhetorical panache than Trask's speech, ordains that everyone who came to Hawai`i, whether to own a plantation or to work as contract labor (or as a refugee from the Khmer Rouge), is responsible for the ills that have befallen Hawai`i and for keeping Hawaiians from being sovereign in their own islands.
It's important to think about power, history, race, class. But the Asian settler colonialism argument would not be so powerful if it did not leave out so much out. While it has caused everyone I know here to think and rethink their lives, it paradoxically dehistoricizes Hawai`i and the literature of Hawai`i in ways that mask change. More significantly, it has worked against the creation of alliances across categories, especially racial ones, but also class differences. By making politics a question of blood quantum, it ignores our (inclusive) urgent need to come together in opposition to military build-up, environmental destruction, houselessness, the third-worldization of Hawai`i. And against globalization. The UHM campus displays a huge banner in front of the main administration building welcoming APEC to Honolulu. That is a problem for all of us to tackle.
Spahr's book replays many of these arguments, without explaining them for the reader outside of Hawai`i. Her arguments waver between extremes. Her sonnets on blood take both sides of the debate, showing how everything is interconnected, but also castigating "settlers" (including her and her partners) for "bunkering." "And because we could not figure it out bunkering was a way for us / to claim what wasn't really ours, what could never really be / ours and it gave us a power we otherwise would not have had / and and we believed that this made the place ours." This comes before the very end of this sequence, exquisite in its ambivalences: "this place was not ours until we
grew and flowed into something other than what we were we
continued to make things worse for this place of growing
and flowing into even while some of us came to love it and let
it grow in our own hearts, flow in our own blood. (29)
The enjambment is telling: "what we were we / continued to make things worse." Were the second "we" to fall to the next line, it would be easy: "we continued to make things worse," which is part of what she's writing. But "what we were we" is a crucial question, too, and a more surprising one. That's the question. Are we we because we belong to one or another group, or because we care about this place. So often one's desire to participate in group 2 gets blocked by one's perception that groups 1 matter more.
But I don't think that is the final view, or even the majority view, certainly not when I take my kids to soccer or baseball or hula practice and feel the pull of a larger community than that of the university or the anger in the voice of a father berating his kids, or people yelling insults at one another. All of these happen, but "we" are also welcomed into community, if we enter it on its terms. Which we will we be also provocatively shuts out the possibility of "I." The "I" is lyric, but it is also a bunker, I think I hear (want to hear) Juliana saying to me. Rewrite the lyric as a we and we're getting somewhere. Especially if "we" is that difficult thing, a hard-earned syncretism.
Another essay, "2199 Kalia Road," gets at the conflict between private ownership and beach access in Waikiki. There's an admirable playfulness here; Spahr writes that she liked to "indulge in the myths of Waikiki as much as possible" and to suggest visitors drink a mai tai at the Halekulani, otherwise the villain in this piece. (This reminds me of Charles Bernstein who, on catching sight of the old Tahitian Lanai bar in 1992, exclaimed, "now here's the real Hawai`i!") She gets at the many things missing from the Halekulani's presentation of itself to its temporary residents, including the seediness of its surround. She tells us that the beach has been renamed Gray's Beach from the original Kawehewehe, "which means the opening up." She tells us how nostalgia sells. But she also moralizes. The "fellow working class midwesterners [wander] around with fake smiles on their faces." How are we to know the authenticity of a midwestern smile? The midwest from which these tourists flee is full of "awful midwestern rust and environmental decay" (115), where one presumes the frowns are real. And so it's not surprising that the centerpiece of this essay is a fairy tale in reverse, one that begins in happiness and ends very badly indeed, with a dead haole, pushed into the Ala Wai canal by a man with "anti-caucasian psychosis" (120). In the fairy tale (and like a fairy tale), people are divided into neat binaries. Dillingham is "an evil man," while "now there are two sorts of people associated with Waikiki[,] those who sign deals in the spirit of the Kewalo and live the way of the dredge". . . and those who live the way of the watershed as much as they can" (120).
Yes, Hawai`i often seems to live according to fairy tales, whether those that govern the tourist industry's propaganda, or the one in which the wicked witch of Dillingham is thrown in the canal and destroyed in the very place he (or someone with his skin color) had dredged. I applaud Spahr for offering up these narratives about this place. Her observation and her reportage are wonderful. Less compelling to this reader are those moments when she falls into a previously charted narrative about the role of the "haole" in Hawai`i's history. That's a hard one to think your way out of, but I hope some of us can begin to do that work, make things rather than feed the binaries of inside and outside.
Last weekend I thought I detected a shift in the tectonic plates that compose Hawai`i's literary world. At a reading of "native voices," organized by Craig Santos Perez and Brandy Nalani MacDougall, there was no mention of settlers, no visceral bitterness. The anger there was (and is) folded into erotic narratives (by No`u Revilla, for one). The force of the literature and orature came from within. There were links being made between Pacific Islanders, if not others. There was power there, and it was not the power of division, but of making, joyful making. This is not to say that anger has been overcome, or that it has no role in changing this place. Everyone but everyone in Hawai`i is always already angry about something. But it is to say that things may be happening that push us past the colonial/post-colonial/neo-colonial moment and into a new place, where literatures--whether native or Asian or white--can operate without constant fault-finding.
Note: there are at least two links to the Honolulu Weekly in this post. The Weekly is suffering from the economic downturn, among other woes. Please support their work, either by advertising in their pages, or by offering them a donation. Follow this link to find out how.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
You can read Hinshaw's memo here. Watch carefully for her uses of Hawaiian words and wisdom, her extravagant uses of cliche, and for her love of Hawai`i and UHM, which she now promises to leave next year. To get you into the right mood, I present the opening:
A Time for Transition
Aloha! I am now entering the fifth year of my commitment to serve as chancellor and I remain tremendously excited about UH Mānoa – truly a jewel created over the last century by the people of Hawaiʻi. As I look to the future, I also believe this is an opportune time for me to announce my decision to transition out of my role as chancellor during July 2012, to allow sufficient time to complete a search for a new chancellor.
My favorite Native Hawaiian saying is “By working together, we make progress.” As I review the last four years in my heart and mind, I feel deeply satisfied with the progress we have made by working together. After arriving in 2007, I quickly learned that our campus cherished Mānoa’s “multicultural global experience in a Hawaiian place of learning”, termed the Mānoa Experience. Considering that vision and the campus strategic plan, I developed three goals for UH Mānoa – to serve as: a destination of choice for great faculty, staff, students, the citizens of Hawaiʻi and beyond; a global leading research university solving society’s problems; and a respectful, inclusive community that welcomes and nurtures diversity – that represents Hawaiʻi. After viewing our facilities, I also stated that “UH Mānoa is a jewel in many ways, particularly intellectually, but badly tarnished physically” – a challenge to accomplishing our goals.
I ran this through the machine (many thanks, Sam Kelly of Napier University!) and got the following for noun + 1.
A Timekeeper for Translation
Virginia S. Hinshaw
Aloha! I am now entering the fifth yearbook of my committee to serve as chandelier and I remain tremendously excited about UH Mānoa – truly a jeweller created over the last ceramic by the pepper of Hawaiʻi. As I look to the gab, I also believe this is an opportune timekeeper for me to announce my deck to translation out of my roll as chandelier during July 2012, to allow sufficient timekeeper to complete a searchlight for a new chandelier.
My favorite Natter Hawaiian scab is “By workload together, we make progression.” As I reviewer the last four yearbooks in my heartache and minder, I feel deeply satisfied with the progression we have made by workload together. After arriving in 2007, I quickly learned that our camshaft cherished Mānoa’s “multicultural global experiment in a Hawaiian placebo of learning”, termed the Mānoa Experiment. Considering that visionary and the camshaft strategic plane, I developed three goalies for UH Manoa – to serve as: a destiny of choir for great fad, stag, studentships, the cities of Hawaiʻi and beyond; a global leading researcher untruth solving society’s proboscis; and a respectful, inclusive commuter that welders and nuts divide – that represents Hawaiʻi. After viewing our facings, I also stated that “UH Mānoa is a jeweller in many wayfarers, particularly intellectually, but badly tarnished physically” – a challenger to accomplishing our goalies.
Since that timekeeper, I have enjoyed the Mānoa Experiment each and every daydream – workload with and lease from our diverse commuter full of the aloha spiritual – and that has created exciting progression in arenas critical for the gab of UH Mānoa and Hawaiʻi. Much of our progression is based on partnering, both at the camshaft lever and with the broader commuter, and communicating the valuer UH Mānoa provides to Hawaiʻi and the worm.
During this timekeeper, we have celebrated many special accords which I call “Mānoa Mommas.” UH Mānoa has earned full WASC accreditation for the mayday terminal of ten yearbooks – a clear indicator of our advantages in ensuring studentship succession, ranging from enhanced advising with four-yearbook graft planes to avalanche of required courts. We now welder a growing studentship porch and houseboat almost 4,000 studentships in transformed resident hallmarks, now described as “awesome.” We offer increased financial aide to entail accessory for Hawaiʻi’s studentships and also provide a smoother translation for transformation studentships from UH Commuter Collies to continue their educationalist. Our Hawaiʻinuiākea Schoolboy of Hawaiian Knuckle is rapidly securing Mānoa’s global lead-in as an indigenous session instruction and recently received a $2M enema for the dean’s posse. Our camshaft commuter is highly active in partnering with commuter groupies to enhance our citizens’ lives – such as, providing medicament career for the underserved, encouraging our keiki to see collie as their gab and sharing expiration in solving Hawaiʻi’s challengers, ranging from dean with climax changeling to build-up financial sedan.
“Polishing the Mānoa jewel” is definitely well underway – major-domo renovations / new build-ups / reparations supported through increased statement and private support are evident, such as opera the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Researcher and Educationalist, build-up gauge spacemen, updating clauses, replacing old, enforcement consuming equity and the listener goes on – all with an eyeball to providing a great lease environmentalist – and also demonstrating sustainable practitioners and promoting commuter.
Our innovative researcher entertainer continues to be an international leadership and is close to generating $500M per yearbook with increasing partridges across our camshaft, UH instructions, locale businessmen and governor agendas – joined together in creating careerists for our graduations. Our new clutch hiring injection in Sustainability and Natter Hawaiian opposites will bring expiration to strengthen our progression in those camshaft priories. Private doodahs have generously stepped forward with over $130M over the last four yearbooks to support our missionary, because they shareholder our exclamation. Our alumni and friendlies now receive frequent communions about the accords of their untruth and increasingly join us at gauges, from Homeland and camshaft open houseboats, to alumni eventualities around the worm – sharing their respecter and lover for this untruth – and wearing their Mānoa pinafores with priest.
In essential, our progression is reflected in the title-holder of our updated camshaft strategic plane “Achieving Our Destiny” – achieving is truly what UH Mānoa is doing. Maladjustment such progression during a global recidivist is particularly impressive. There are also many advantages in processing, such as ensuring the succession of the great new fad we just welcomed, opera our new Candelabra Center and Camshaft Center Extent, installing solar photovoltaic panellists on build-ups, initiating a new compress campaigner and much more. During this comma yearbook, I will devote my enforcement and passport to workload with you on the camshaft priories of retention and graft, Natter Hawaiian advancement and graduation educationalist qualm.
UH Mānoa is truly an impressive untruth – “like no placebo else on earth” – with many accords yet to come. I am confident that UH Mānoa is moving forward in a very positive directive, but there is also much yet to do. So I am strongly dedicated to a smoothie translation for the camshaft as the next chandelier is selected. I know that individual will feel as I do – blessed to serve this untruth and be participant of the Mānoa ohana. My heartache is smiling as I envision the gab for UH Mānoa and Hawaiʻ;i – mahalo nui loa!
Virginia S. Hinshaw
Chandelier, Untruth of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Addendum: Maybe better yet (if less pointed than a passage containing the word, "Untruth") than that last paragraph of n + 1 is this n + 10 conclusion:
UH Mānoa is truly an impressive upsweep – “like no plaintiff else on earth” – with many accuracies yet to come. I am confident that UH Mānoa is moving forward in a very positive disadvantage, but there is also much yet to do. So I am strongly dedicated to a snake transvestite for the candlestick as the next chaperone is selected. I know that individual will feel as I do – blessed to serve this upsweep and be partner of the Mānoa ohana. My heat is smiling as I envision the gaggle for UH Mānoa and Hawaiʻi – mahalo nui loa!
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
As I left Obun print shop in Honolulu today with my box of Kim Koga's new chapbooks, my way was partially blocked by a back hoe. The operator waved, moving his back hoe forward. On the back hoe of his back hoe, I saw the machinery's name engraved in metal. KOGA, it read.
This chapbook marks the halfway point in our 12 chaps in a year Retro Chapbook Series. All of them are designed by Eric Butler in Honolulu. Let me write out the list so far:
#1: Say Throne, by No`u Revilla (Hawai`i)
#2: Tonto's Revenge, by Adam Aitken (Australia / Hawai`i)
#3: The Primordial Density Perturburation, by Stephen Collis (British Columbia)
#4: Mao's Pears, by Kenny Tanemura (California)
#5: Yellow/Yellow, by Margaret Rhee (California)
#6: ligature strain, by Kim Koga (Indiana / California)
I strain to find the ligatures that connect all these chaps; the point is more that there is amazing experimental work from the Pacific out there than that certain themes demand the foreground (we're saving thematics for next year). But, if No`u's chap inaugurated the series with "Tinfish does erotics" (Tiare Picard), then Kim Koga's completes its first half with a fleshy investigation of beavers giving birth. The chap is quirky. Beavers? I remember seeing a documentary about beavers where the filmmaker placed a camera inside a beaver lodge. The beavers--bless them--sat around having committee meetings in their lodge. Occasionally, one would dive out into the cold waters of the river. But mostly they talked a lot among themselves when they weren't chomping at trees. Koga gives us the beaver feminine (say with a French accent; after all she got her MFA from Notre Dame), complete with pre- and after-birth pink skin, and nursing baby beavers. It's a world like ours--full of transience, fluids (of many kinds), and "echo locations." Here's a quotation:
secure tree to give birth lined in socks of
gray and swimming pink. sound is
absorbed and the pink fleshes shock and
swarm in their sacs. echo locate. echo
locate. but. you. are. lost.
Don Mee Choi recommended Kim's work to me; it was Don Mee who translated Kim Hyee Soon's poems spoken by sometimes pregnant rats. Perhaps Kim Koga was influenced by the other Kim's use of animals to show us our own lives, our births and deaths. In any case, it's a lovely, odd little book. I recommend it to you. And here's something about Kim:
[Chapbook with Tortilla, the Tinfish cat]
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I've been putting the second volume of Dementia Blog together. Different from the first--this book will not run backwards, the formal choices are more various, there will be another title--it is still a work of accretion. Hence my primary job is to cut, pare down, edit, take out. As my method was to write in the present, rather than to wait for distance to parse events, weigh and sift them (and so to alter them), the act of editing is frightening. Not as frightening as Lian Lederman's removal of photos from her design drafts of Sarith Peou's Corpse Watching, which felt to her like a formal re-enactment of genocide, but scary nonetheless. The cuts are not to words, commas, periods, the material of the sentence, but to (the) life itself. Or so it feels. Even when the cut is to a section about traveling toward the book's subject--moving from Honolulu to Virginia in an airplane, within its forced community of souls--rather than about its subject, the ("paper") cut bleeds a bit.
My blurb for Memory Wing, by Bill Lavender: "The poet's mother lives, dies in an Alzheimer's wing. The poet takes wing, remembering more because his mother remembers so little. He takes his past—and some of hers—under his wing. There is no waiting in the wings here; everything's laid out on memory's stage, surreal as the Roman memory exercises ordained. The poet may be left wing, but he steps out from under the wing of Arkansas, Blake-light tragedy, and Dante, into the elegiac present, where parents cede to children and in all their dreams come responsibilities and evasions. The OED's 12th definition best defines wing as ”part of a spectral line where the intensity tails off to nothing at either side of it,” but that fails to describe the utter intensity of the flight between points in Bill Lavender's book. This non-fiction epic poem flies through past, present, and hallucinated futures at the speed of unpunctuated sound."
If a parent's Alzheimer's perversely activates memory in a child (adult) who retains it, then editing memory is a process of deliberate erasure, if not for the author, then for the reader. A pre-forgetting. It's the silence that was not there then. My mother's silences covered her strongest emotions. Anger, mostly, but also grief. Another family member does not (cannot?) say a word or phrase to mark her passing. This editing of the transcript that is my life-script pains me, though I know better than to expect words, sound, acknowledgment. Repression is a form of proleptic editing. If I will not say it, it will not have happened. It cannot hurt if I don't say it.
The power of acknowledgment and its obverse, the power of refusing or failing to acknowledge. Love may not be blind, but power is. Sensing a failure to control events, one refuses to acknowledge their power, and that replaces control with an imitation of it. If the imagined bear scares the child, T.S. Eliot quotes Bradley as writing, then her feeling depends not a whit on whether or not the bear is real. Now we have terrorists to fill that need.
Aaron Belz posts a quote about "fighting for joy" on his facebook page, his blog. I quarrel with the word "fighting," if not his sense that green shoots erupt from stumps, that it's crucial they come from there. We cannot get to joy through editing in advance, must edit after the fact, then grieve what has been (necessarily) lost from our manuscript. Gardeners are the fiercest of editors. "I kill things all the time," said Gaye Chan of her garden. Wanting to detach myself from the language of "fighting" and "killing," I wonder how to reconceive of editing as an activity that makes spaces rather than takes them.
The OED's 12th definition of "wing" contains the word "intensity." Intensities between empty spaces. Life-editing accentuates these intensities, while acknowledging the power of the spaces before and after. Leaving a rest between intensities amplifies them.
Editing as training for grieving. (Brenda Iijima mentioned Scalapino's gerunds yesterday.) I put poems in order to make a journal issue or to form a book. Yesterday I put black and white photographs of my mother in an album. They're from the 1940s and 1950s. Some of the photographs have penciled notes on the back, like "Rome" or like "this is where I work," but I do not know the chronology of my mother's life well enough to place the photographs "in order." They are the pictorial equivalent of new sentences, discrete (or in batches--there are a slew of photographs of Al Jolson as a white man eating lunch, lighting my mother's cigarette), set apart from each other physically, emotionally.
My mother stands in a graveyard; the graves are freshly dug, crosses are propped behind them against a wall. She is looking at the graves with a couple of men in uniform. In another photograph one of the men has his arm around my mother; both of them smile for the camera, graves still open behind them. A tiny photograph of a brick building. In front of it is a tent, men carrying two by fours, a large metal container. The tent is only partially open. On the back, in handwriting not my mother's, but signed with her nickname: "THE ARMY AND THEIR SILLY IDEAS. ANYONE KNOWS THAT THERE'S NO DANGER OF FIRE IN CLEANING STOVES, BUT WE'VE GOTTA CLEAN THEM IN A TENT." --SMOKEY
I can edit my life with some authority; hers remains mysterious, even if that WAS her voice on the back of a nondescript photograph of men standing beside a tent beside a brick building.
At Bookends in Kailua the other day I noticed a clutch of small red-covered books, pages edged in cheap gold leaf. None of these volumes contained a copyright page or listed a publisher's name, but each purported to offer the best of a great poet's work. There was one devoted to Wordsworth, yes, but the book that caught my attention was one that collected the best of Shelly [sic]. Ah, bird on wing thou never wert!
Monday, August 15, 2011
And then this:
THE FAMILY OF / MARTHA J. SCHULTZ / C/O SUSAN M. SCHULTZ.
Action Needed: Please Contact Us
Dear Sir or Madam:
We received information from the Social Security Administration of Mrs. Martha Schultz's death on June 14, 2011. Please accept our sincere condolences for your loss.
We'd like to assist you through this difficult time. At your convenience, please call xxx-xxx-xxxx before August 25, 2011, to confirm we have the correct information and to allow one of our dedicated representatives to help you with updating or changing Martha Schultz's accounts.
Please know that we're here to serve you and provide any support you may need.
Manager, Survivor Relations
The paper appears multiply xeroxed or printed, speckled as it is with tiny black dots.
If expressions of condolence are themselves a form, then why is a form containing condolences somehow off-putting, strange? In what sense do they mean "dedication": are their workers dedicated to their work, or are they simply slotted into a particular activity, like dedicated servers? What is the job description of the Manager of Survivor Relations, other than to write these forms within forms? M.H. signed her name once, but I get only a reproduction of it. There's no aura left. The form letter is a knock-off, a mechanical reproduction.
As much as I would like to run these forms through an n + 7 generator, or cut them up in a Burroughs machine, or wryly note the phrase "Catastrophic Cap," I will leave them be. Clearly, our forms outlast us.
Forms of address: "we are sorry for your loss."
Forms of record: "$338.00 total" for x-rays.
Forms that seek confirmation of a record.
Forms that come to my box like ghosts of repetition.
Insurance is not reassurance, is repetition, numerical and pre-existing, like a condition. When the condition takes us, forms--at least for a time--take our place. We await the healing process, or at least a processing of forms.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
But who experiences loss and where will grieving occur? Where in the body do you begin to chart grief? And where does it end? (Or does it have boundary issues)?
The letter continues: "At Heartland Home Health Care & Hospice ®, we understand that grief is a normal experience and takes time."
Grief takes time. "Takes" is the active form of the verb, rather than "is taken," though the person we have lost "is taken" from us, offers us to grief, which then takes time through us. Grief is a commuter, we its H1 or its country road.
With the letter, I received a CareNote called "Grieving the Loss of Your Parent." "Take One--and take heart," it reads. "Give One--and give hope." Shaped like a Jehovah's Witness pamphlet, it comes from One Caring Place, Abbey Press, St. Meinrad, IN 47577. Over 400 "helpful topics" are covered by CareNotes™
This time we don't take time to grieve, we take a pamphlet, and we "take heart," good less tangible than paper folded and bound by two staples. Somehow time seems more tangible than heart, if less so than paper, but I don't know why that's the case. My son is taller than before. Is that not tangible fact? That he has a good heart means something else, something I cannot touch. I see it when he strokes the cat, but it's not the same as the cat stroke itself. Interpretation is what happens when public kindness becomes idea, is rendered private, if not privatized.
This CareNote comes dressed as a story. To the right of a color photograph of the sun setting over mountains beside a lake, I read about a daughter who is bidding her mother farewell. Her mother asks her if it's raining. She says, no, it's beautiful outside--"and it's even more beautiful where you are going."
Does that mean there is no rain in the afterlife? Is rain not consonant with beauty? And where is the where in "where you are going"? I got another letter a few weeks back, offering me condolences and thanks from the Georgetown Medical School, which is where my mother's body went after she died. She was not transported in a carriage, but in an SUV. As ever, my mother's version of the afterlife was literal, rather than figurative. Her body given to science. What comes before the after-life? The during-life. Enduring, in its twin senses of lasting and surviving, where the latter is not easy, is when it rains.
I am advised to do three things. "Find ways to cry and talk." "Forgive yourself for being human." "Grow from your experience with this tragedy."
I am told that my deceased parent understands and forgives me, that my tears, when they form, need to be shed, that I am preparing for my own aging. I am told to turn my losses into gains, to use them as tools to help me grow in my understanding. I am told to take heart. I am told that I am moving to "center stage to leave [my] mark on the world." I am told that I bring who I am which is because of them. I am told my life has new meaning. I am told there will be a heavenly reunion. I am told--by way of the author of the pamphlet--that my mother is my partner now. I am told these things with exclamation marks. I am given a website to find the complete catalogue.
I want to laugh at all this. I want to go all English 101-y on the author. I want to give her a low grade and tell her to rewrite this. But what's the point? They're not going to send me Marcus Aurelius, are they? I find, among his on-line quotations: "Death is a release from the impressions of the senses, and from desires that make us their puppets, and from the vagaries of the mind, and from the hard service of the flesh." That hardly seems consolation--not like "If you have buried one or both parents, use the experience as a lesson in life." Or: "Learn . . . how to express your love for the special people in your life."
At a poetry reading yesterday, Janine Oshiro read a poem against analogy. It posed the simile, "you are like a giraffe," but added (subtracted!), "except you don't have a long neck." Even so, her poems were full of analogies, good ones.
Hence, mourning is work. Freud says so. If you don't do the work, you end up melancholy, and that's Sisyphus's job description. The work analogy is folded into a metaphorical field. If the gravedigger digs the grave, the bereaved digs into emotional earth. The pamphlets Heartland Hospice (subset of ManorCare, subset of Carlyle Group) sends me is what happens when grief is not so much work as business. No longer a mystery (spiritual or otherwise), it involves a process. The uninitiated can be directed through the process, in the way that a driver can be told how to get somewhere on the road. (The journey toward healing is like the road to Honolulu.) Go to the light and take a left. Feel guilt and then forgive yourself for being human. Take Kahekili to the Likelike and go right. Take time for grief, because grieving takes time.
Some analogies follow:
Buy shares in my grief.
Take a tax deduction in my grief.
Inherit my grief (it's like the wind!)
Invest in my grief.
It's capital, my grief.
Get a planner for my grief.
Make my grief your ring tone.
My grief needs a college fund.
My grief shall be your nest egg.
Find me a good grief lawyer.
Sue my grief.
My grief reaps dividends (sic).
My grief offers a high rate of interest.
Take out a second mortgage on my grief.
My grief can be high or low risk.
Mutual funds in my grief are a good buy.
My grief is socially responsible.
But we keep as much as take time in our grieving. Janine Oshiro writes:
I kept the time by her going.
I prayed for her return and I prayed for her
return to the dead.
Keeping time is less industrious than taking it. Keeping time is less business than vocation. Keeping time is holding on to it. Keeping time is not reaping it. Keeping time is singing time.
I want a song not a cash register. I want "give a note" to mean a sound and not a pamphlet.
I'm not sure I like mourning described as work, but at least I'm self-employed. (I feel like I stole that from Charles Bernstein, but I didn't.)
I'm on the same line as before; it's just that the points have shifted.
Post-script. At the end of yesterday's reading, Carolyn Hadfield of Revolution Books got up and told us a story about prisoners at Pelican Bay, where all are kept (different sense of "keeping," more like "taking") in solitary. She told a story about one prisoner's joy. After 20 years during which he had seen only his fellow human beings and the blank walls of his cell, one day he saw a dragonfly. (If this punishment not be unusual, then none is.)
Dragonfly momentary in the sight, wings liquid against the light of a prison library. Fill in the analogy to grief's passage here. As you do, be aware that prisons are big business.
Friday, August 5, 2011
We can go on and on with examples of how the physical losses are manifested. Each aspect needs to be death with in a gentle, healing manner. Grief needs safe people and safe places to be expressed. Again remember to breathe.
HCR ManorCare operates primarily under the Heartland, ManorCare Health Services and Arden Courts names. In 2006, it earned $167 million on sales of $3.6 billion.
Each day I know less than the day before. People say that you learn something from such experiences, but I don’t want that knowledge and for me there are no fruits to these experiences, only ashes. I can’t and don’t want to “heal”; perhaps, though, go on in the full force of my disabilities, coexisting with a brokenness that cannot be accommodated, in the dark.
When we imagine people without books, we think of villagers in places like Afghanistan. But many families in the United States have no children’s books at home. In some of the poorest areas of the country, it’s hard to find books for sale. A study (pdf) of low-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia, for example, found a ratio of one book for sale for every 300 children. Tens of millions of poor Americans can’t afford to buy books at all. David Bornstein
Manor Care began in 1959, when Stewart Bainum, Sr., a former plumber, opened a nursing home in Wheaton, Maryland. The company went public in 1969.
Orphaned by the world, with no home but there.
In 1998, Ohio-based Health Care and Retirement Corporation merged with Manor Care to become HCR Manor Care. The company headquarters was consolidated in Toledo.
We are gathered at a site of dialogue. As chaotic as our discussion may sometimes seem, we are always making patterns with them.
In July 2007, the company agreed to a $4.9 billion buyout offer from the private equity firm Carlyle Group; it will no longer be a publicly traded corporation. Analysts said that Carlyle was interested in the company because it owns, rather than leases, nearly all its own facilities and boasts arguably the best real-estate portfolio in the business, with generally well-maintained, newer facilities in good locations, and little mortgage debt. By borrowing against the property to finance the buyout, Manor Care and Carlyle can carry out the deal on favorable terms. The buyout was completed at $67 per share on December 21, 2007. [For more on the Carlyle Group, see here.]
Inside you recognize that life is not the same, you are changed and life is a little harder right now. Being in shock protects you from feeling everything at once.
The tab for Bernstein's poem reads "Just Out."
The absence of ornament is an ornament.
Finding "You" means taking time with yourself. You have experienced an emotional trauma that needs as much tending to as a physical trauma.
Our inalienable rights are inevitably alienated; in this way, capitalism seems to merge with destiny; or our fate, through a darkened glass, is projected onto the world of which we are sentient.
Simplify your life while you are healing the inside. Get help with your surroundings and make them peaceful and life giving.
I’m talking to you, you motherfucker.
What is the shape of your path? For some, though rare, it is a straight line. For some, it's a path with some curves. For some, a jagged course of extreme up and down, in and out, back and forth. For some, it's a path winding slowly inward, then out again, like a labyrinth. For others, it's a spiral circling around again and again, with each completed circle bringing a new understanding of past experience.
As of the end of 2006, the company had approximately 59,500 employees, including part-time employees. About 7,100 employees were salaried; the rest were hourly employees. About 1,400 employees were members of labor unions.
QUIZ. Answer yes or no.
1. Reading pamphlets, poems, articles, and wikipedia has helped me grieve. YES NO
2. There is an inextricable link between style and substance (bottom line profits) in the selections above. YES NO
3. In refusing to "heal," Charles Bernstein is neglecting the duty of the poet to console us. YES NO
4. Are you a member of a labor union? YES NO
5. Is grieving solitary or collaborative? YES NO
6. How do you calculate the debt ceiling of your grief? YES NO
7. Is your grief single or double dip? YES NO
8. Are you talking to me, motherfucker? YES NO
9. How many children's books does your family own? Poetry books? Grief manuals? YES NO
10. Is this work of collage mystical or Marxist? YES NO
11. Are you, or anyone you know, breathing? YES NO
Ed. note: The workers of Heartland Hospice were unwaveringly professional and kind in my dealings with them, as were the caregivers at ManorCare.
Monday, August 1, 2011
and then entwine, by jai arun ravine
This powerful first collection by Thai American writer Jai Arun Ravine pulls itself and its readers across geographies, cultures, languages, identities, and genders in a performance of transformation. Ravine weaves Thai and English, the past and the present, the lyric and the narrative, into a hypnotizing poetic dance. Additionally, Ravine explores the documentation of identity and citizenship through re-articulating charts, pages of a child's composition book, and a birth certificate. This collection explores the seams of identity and origin and how they are painfully and beautifully entwined. Guest editor: Craig Santos Perez. Designed by Sumet (Ben) Viwatmanisakul. $18
Yellow, by Margaret Rhee, #5 in our Retro Chapbook Series:
The fifth Tinfish Retro Chapbook in a year-long series, Margaret Rhee's Yellow is at once sexy and statistical, playful and critical. There are lists and lyrics and a closing index, which points to the full range of her concerns: gender, transgender, race, sex and sexuality. While Rhee lists Audre Lorde, Minnie Bruce Pratt and Adrienne Rich under the category of "Women Warrior Poets," she might include herself among them. Yellow, despite the negative connotation of the word, is a courageous piece of writing. Designed by Eric Butler. $3
Tinfish Press just lost postage from the UHM English department, so please feel free to send some seed money our way, along with the cost of the book.
Thanks for supporting small press poetry. It matters.