Monthly Archives: January 2007

Mardi Gras Indians

The best thing about Mardi Gras are the Indians. These are some very authentic ones, from 2006. It is downright thrilling to be sitting at your kitchen table, or executing some other entirely mundane activity, and to hear a tambourine in the distance . . . Indians coming!



Filed under Songs


. . . in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie (Tolkien).

When Frodo Baggins threw the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom, the only place where it could be destroyed, the Shadow lifted.

One year in late spring I found the Ring. Having it was exhilarating until early fall. I have been trying to get rid of it since. I ditched it in rivers, wells, pools, and oceans, I cast it among dried leaves, and I buried it in holes. I said, “the shadows will disperse now,” but they never did. I would soon find the Ring again upon my hearth.

Now I have thrown the Ring into the crater of Mount Doom, and the Shadow has lifted.



Filed under Poetry

One Hundred Years

There is always at least one student fascinated with One Hundred Years of Solitude. Today one such student said that in this novel, the characters are impelled to act according to a series of paradigms, with which they work but which they do not control. The containing and shaping influence of these paradigms does not give the desired results or indeed, any desirable results. The repetition of paradigmatic acts holds the characters together while at the same time isolating each.

The novel ends with a kind of return to its beginning. Ursula Iguarán’s fear that too many incestuous unions will cause the family to produce a child with a pig’s tail is realized. Yet at the same time the curse upon the family, if one wishes to call it that, is lifted. The tribe which was condemned to a hundred years of solitude, will not have a second opportunity on earth.

That is what the student said. And there is much to say about this novel, and much has been said. I myself have said a great deal on occasion. And yet in the end, I never really know what to do with this text.

As my student spoke today, I found myself thinking of Tarot cards. I saw the strongest characters accepting their cards, writing their roles large, and fulfilling them.



Filed under Poetry

On Voice

In one of my comment threads yesterday, Colorado Bob talked a little bit about how he thinks of his blog. This is, of course, a question we all consider often, and much has been said about it. I will not attempt to link to, or to summarize, the ongoing discussions of this matter.

My anniversary is coming up, however, and I have considered re-posting and perhaps reflecting upon my very first posts to celebrate the date. For now, though, I will only note that I am much more sure now than I was then of what I am doing, both in this space and elsewhere.

People blog for all sorts of reasons. My most assiduous readers will know that this blog was established so that I could recover my voice. I thought it might work, but I did not realize how well it would. It is a space of play, but with parameters, and that is why I like it, as I like my art studio. I am noticing its good effects today, as I revise an article that was difficult to work on during my voiceless period.

When I was voiceless, writing was hard to navigate. I had surrendered my rudder to reeducation, so that although the words, my playmates, still swirled and surged around me, I found no way to sail through them. In the weblog, with no constraints except those I choose, I learned to work with words again – not only the words I write in secret, or those which will appear only in semi-public forums like these, but all words. I have not felt as tranquil, or as energized, in some time. Aum shantih shantih shantih.



Filed under Resources

On Odes and Songs

I wanted, but did not have, an English version of Garcilaso’s canción To the Flower of Gnido. I wanted it for people like Stephen Bess, who has a poetic and artistic blog, and likes old texts, but does not read Spanish. I also wanted it out of mere curiosity, to see how such a translation might have been done.

I did not expect to find one but the Sonetero, in Mexico, directed me to a book by one Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen, The Works of Garcilasso de la Vega, Surnamed Prince of Castilian Poets (London, 1823) providing not only translations but a biography and a critical introduction.

This book is physically located in the library of Stanford University, but the wily Sonetero knew that it had been scanned into Google Scholar, where we can all read it. The poem I sought is on pages 305-308. The introduction is interesting, as Wiffen is concerned to bring greater attention to the astonishing, but neglected literature of Spain. His epigraph reminds us that Lord Byron did read people like Garcilaso and Boscán.

Here are the first three stanzas, in Wiffen’s translation. The Spanish original is far more lithe, but I am still impressed with this English version – especially of the amazing first strophe.

Had I the sweet resounding lyre
Whose voice could in a moment chain
The howling wind’s ungoverned ire,
And movement of the raging main,
On savage hills the leopard rein,
The lion’s fiery soul entrance,
And lead along with golden tones
The fascinated trees and stones
In voluntary dance;

Think not, think not, fair Flower of Gnide,
It e’er should glorify the scars,
Dust raised, blood shed, or laurels dyed
Beneath the gonfalon of Mars,
Or, borne sublime on festal cars,
The chiefs who to submission sank
The rebel German’s soul of soul
And forged the chains that now control
The frenzy of the Frank.

No, no! Its harmonies should ring
In vaunt of glories all thine own,
A discord sometimes from the string
Struck forth to make thy harshness known
The fingered chords should speak alone
Of Beauty’s triumph, Love’s alarms,
And one who, made by thy disdain
Pale as a lily clip’t in twain
Bewails thy fatal charms.



Filed under Poetry

Exhuming Banes II

1. Mirror, Mirror…

Lakshmi Chaudhry clearly does not read the blogs I do. She believes blogs, and YouTube videos as well, are fame-crazed Americans’ attempts to attain a form of micro-celebrity. Voyeurism, narcissism, and exhibitionism are the order of the day. I would not say that about the blogs I read, any more than I would say it about the books, journals, newspapers, and magazines I read, or the poetry readings I occasionally attend.

Chaudhry’s article is entitled “Mirror, Mirror On the Web,” and the title, at least, is descriptive of what I am doing here: setting my thoughts out for myself. I wrote about seeing your oppressor because I have spent several years trying to see my own. Mine, as assiduous readers of this weblog know, came to me most ferociously in the sheep’s clothing of Reeducation. I have been attempting to identify and categorize the tools of this master, or this demon, so that I can cast them out. Many times I have been told, do not think about them, just shrug them off. I find that it is much more of a surgical procedure: one wants to identify and remove the foreign body, repair the failing organ or tooth, and then sew everything back together, just so.

One blogger I read regularly is Heart. She offers radical feminist analysis of life in general. I read her because she is interesting, and also because her perspective, clear but somewhat different from my own, helps to refresh my own analytical skills. One of the main points Heart makes about the news and other societal phenomena she discusses is, “This is an instance of women’s oppression, folks, no matter how else you analyze and/or justify it.” She gets a fair amount of flak for emphasizing gender, in a radical way, over everything else, but I actually think it is useful to look at just women, or just gender, sometimes (and also just race, or just class, or just any one thing) before attempting to put it all together.

2. Banes, Oppression…

I have spent a great deal of time attempting to comprehend the purpose of my infamous Reeducation. All of the possible answers seemed too convoluted, too far-fetched to be real. There is a much simpler answer, which I had guessed at but which reading Heart’s blog has really helped to clarify: reeducation was an instance of the oppression of women, in this case myself. Seeing my oppressor: reeducation: what was the oppression: oppression of women. And seeing this, I can more easily just shake it off, since I know what it is I am shaking.

As Moksha says about Barbie, Pegasus, and Medusa:

Medusa is murdered. Why? For being Medusa. She was not running around terrorizing unsuspecting people. Perseus had to go find her off in a remote part of the world. Most of the trouble associated with Medusa did not start until after Perseus beheaded her.

Medusa is a woman with whom no man can make eye contact without turning to stone. Such a woman is murdered because that type of female power cannot be tolerated. Yet, three thousand years later the new and improved version of the ideal woman, Barbie, the plastic representation of female perfection, rides on the horse that is born from a murdered woman’s blood. How ironic.

3. Marginal, Central

When you throw on the potter’s wheel, you must first center the clay. You must breathe, calm your body, and lean steadily into the center of the mass, no shying away, no loss of concentration, no flinching. You must do something similar in yoga.

I do these things and feel the thrill of transgressive pleasure, since I have been taught all my life that I must decenter myself. I rebelled against this in graduate school, and I was right: it is well and fine for the whitemen to decenter themselves, but I was not willing to claim that the [further] decentralization of non-European literatures in Comparative Literature curricula was liberating. Neither was I willing to participate in an increased marginalization of women, and women writers, in departments of Spanish and Portuguese.

In reeducation we were also expected to decenter ourselves, and I tried it. It sounds perfectly virtuous, on its face. As long as it does not mean annihilation of self, or strangulation of voice. I was, however, participating in my own beheading, as it were. This was a feminist issue which I did not see.

I have only come to see it now, after years of attempting to identify the malaise. I called it other things, and attempted to combat those things. This, of course, never solved the problem. And that is how ideology works, to imprison the mind in a foggy veil.

4. Et nunc

Now, to refresh ourselves with some words not entirely unrelated, we will look at Melanie Rehak’s interesting essay on the life and work of Modernist poet Hart Crane. He apparently wrote to Waldo Frank in 1924:

That window is where I would be most remembered of all: the ships, the harbor, and the skyline of Manhattan, midnight, morning or evening, – rain, snow or sun, it is everything from mountains to the walls of Jerusalem and Nineveh. I believe I am a little changed – not essentially, but changed and transubstantiated as anyone is who has asked a question and been answered.

And this article, on Waldo Frank himself, is interesting as well.



Filed under Banes

Le jeu du samedi

I found this chez Bint Alshamsa.

Your Heart Is Purple

“For you, love is about establishing and developing a deep connection. If it’s true love, it brings you more wisdom and inner strength. Your flirting style is sincere. Your lucky first date is an afternoon at a tea house. Your dream lover is both thoughtful and expressive. What you bring to relationships is understanding.”

Now you, too, can discover the color of your heart. But do not forget to choose your Muse as well.



Filed under Juegos

On Seeing Your Oppressor

Once when Operation Rescue sieged clinics in New Orleans I spent an intense Labor Day weekend producing a movement newsletter with Xavier, a very gay English professor from another institution, and Little Robert, an anarchist. He was known as Little Robert because he was short, mild-mannered, and very young.

Every kind of activist had converged upon the city to struggle against Randal Terry and each other. There were hip hoppers, punk rockers, Goths, socialists, radical feminists, NOW, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Communists, transsexuals, lesbians, sex radicals of different styles, and drag queens, only some of whom were local.

All parties were very active but when it came down to such sober and meticulous actions as typing, layout, and other matters related to newsletter production, only Xavier and I had computers, and in the end only Xavier, Little Robert, and I had the kind of tenure-track stamina it took for me to renounce the beach, Xavier to give up Southern Decadence (an important drag event), Robert to miss the more colorful forms of activism, and all of us to condemn ourselves to a three day weekend of intensive work.

We did it in shifts, one person always sleeping eight hours. One afternoon Xavier was asleep and Little Robert and I were sewing the newsletters together somehow on the kitchen table. We were gossipping about the statements and antics of all the different forms and styles of activists. I said to Robert at one point, “Why do people like BDSM?” He said with certainty, “Because in an S/M scene you can actually see your oppressor, and it is liberating.” I do not know what a BDSM person would say about that, but I learned from it the importance of actually seeing your oppressor. I have always remembered it for that reason.



Filed under Theories


This sonnet “in praise of a poetess called Antonia” is a tautogram: all of the words start with the same letter. It is not clear to me whether I understand it. I may have to translate it, and/or look up a commentary. A summary, as Antrobiótica points out, would be to join the first and last phrases: “Antes alegre andaba; antes amaba” [I was once happy; once I loved].

Antes alegre andaba; agora apenas
alcanzo alivio, ardiendo aprisionado;
armas a Antandra aumento acobardado;
aire abrazo, agua aprieto, aplico arenas.

Al áspid adormido, a las amenas
ascuas acerco atrevimiento alado;
alabanzas acuerdo al aclamado
aspecto, a quien admira antigua Atenas.

Agora, amenazándome atrevido,
Amor aprieta aprisa ascos, aljaba;
aguardo al arrogante agradecido.

Apunta airado; al fin, amando acaba
aqueste amante al árbol alto asido,
adonde alegre, ardiendo, antes amaba.

–Francisco de Quevedo (1648)

And now, since we are reciting classic texts, I will give the names of the Muses: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Polymnia (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Erato (erotic poetry), Terpsichore (dance), Euterpe (lyric poetry), Thalia (comedy), Urania (astronomy). I know these names very well, because they are street names in New Orleans.

Which Muse would you like to be? I am Urania, of course!



Filed under Poetry

Calling All Professors

What are your very best techniques for convincing graduate students that:

a) their theses and dissertations should have a well defined scope: they should be narrow enough, and then deep;
b) their committees should include the people in the department whose expertise most closely matches their topic;
c) each project they undertake can only address one portion of their heart’s desire;
d) their life work is their life work, not this particular thesis or dissertation (which should, nevertheless, be one part of their life work);
e) they will surely have chosen their topics based on personal tastes and proclivities, but their project should still be an academic project – meaning that its design should take academic needs and standards, and not just personal intellectual interests, into consideration?

I need some new techniques, for I have exhausted mine.



Filed under Theories